Jesus saw infants being suckled. He said to his disciples, “These infants being suckled are like those who enter the kingdom.”
They said to him, “Shall we then, as children, enter the kingdom?”
Jesus said to them, “When you make the two one, and when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside, and the above like the below, and when you make the male and the female one and the same, so that the male not be male nor the female female; and when you fashion eyes in the place of an eye, and a hand in place of a hand, and a foot in place of a foot, and a likeness in place of a likeness; then will you enter the kingdom.” -Gospel of Thomas
Let me tell you a tale as it was told to me by an Initiated Man; as it it passed from his lips to my ears and beyond, into the very Foundation of my being.
Let me tell you a tale, by wyrd words and Art; a tale that is true when the rain falls and the thunder rolls, when the lightning flashes and the night is dark; when the sun is but a hope in the winter’s cold, a dream of warmth, and the cool of the evening is a balm from the blazing pitiless sun!
Let me tell you a tale dear friend, as you read my words and hear them spoken by the voice within, shape traced by eyes now long used to the task – for you know how easily you read all the letters placed before you, don’t you? You know how reflexive that has become, and hence how you draw near to listen even now, as I am about to begin.
How well you recognize the storyteller’s flourishes! How excellently you can perceive the hooks in the preamble, watching as they sink into place, flowing like a river as it enlivens a dry stream-bed. Drink deep therefore, and if you would, allow yourself to see, to feel and to experience all that is to come – listen good and well…
For he waited there, in that room alone, until they came for him. Dimly, faintly, he heard them moving in the temple; preparing with word and voice, with barbarous names whose syllables slid across his awareness like raindrops on glass. He sat alone and prepared, stilled his mind and opened his heart; he matched his breath with the beat of his heart as sand moved through the glass, a dry rustle of the desert there inside that place.
When they came, when the door opened and they asked if he was ready, he spoke:
So by those words he gave them license, commended himself to the hands of those who would work upon him on that night. First to depart was his vision; a blindfold made him sightless as he was led through the corridor. The temple door was opened, and he was announced. Where before there had been only darkness, now light lay just beyond his vision; flickering firelight and the thick, warm, scent of frankincense hung in the air, flavoured with further fragrances that were unknown to him.
They were others there, as he was drawn into the rite – a voice spoke of Earth; a crushing weight placed upon his head, the inexorable nature of that element brought forth; flesh yields to Earth in the end after all – it provides us our final home, our base and ground. So it was that Earth was laid upon him and he was bound with rope, the hands of man forcibly stilled by fibre and weave.
On then, to the spirits of Air; all-present and all-penetrative comes the whispered word, the touch of blade marks the way on skin as the sharpness cuts away the gross matter. He flinches at the cold kiss though he has steeled himself for such an ordeal; the sound of his breathing harsh, the bite of the bindings about his wrists a constant presence as Air passes through him in sharp purity, like the wind through the hollows of his bones.
On then to Fire as dim candle-flicker marks the path; a shrieking voice assails him in an alien tongue and the sting of agony announces his arrival. Scourged and assaulted again and again, until the skin of him is burning and that shrill shrieking sears his nerves as the blows seem to come from all directions. Fire is hungry and pain blossoms in scarlet flame, alternately soothed with scented oils of heated places; soft hands touch skin and wield the way of pain against him, until at last it passes.
At the sudden urging of Silence where before stood Rage and Passion, so passes he into the cool of the Deep Waters. Here his wounds are bathed and sweet refreshment is raised to the lips of the blind and bound figure. Sweet it is, this water, this mead of inspiration, these slow dark rivers made from the blood of gods. Calmness descends then, the calmness brought by the awareness of the vastness arrayed all about him; a single drop in the great watery Abyss.
Cleansed then, he returns to Earth to find the ground of all Being, to emerge and stand naked upon that distant shore which lies beneath all things. He moves with it beneath his feet, strengthening his every movement; he moves to stand amidst the roaring storms of intellect and thought as they batter his essence with their crushing fury.
Yet still he endures, and endures as he passes beyond into the burning heart of flame, and as the pain comes, as the agony hungrily plays across his nerves, he answers it with a hunger of his own. Greedy, he burns with it, draws the flame within, ignites himself, burns joyously on the pyre – a laughing conflagration descending from the Aether to plunge into the Beyond.
Amidst that nightblack place he swims, its crushing depths and pressures reconfiguring his shape and form, until the salt water in his blood matches that great and awful sea. Strange company he keeps there in the sightless gulfs, antediluvian creatures well at home beyond the realm of concious awareness.
Swims down deeper then, until the pressure compresses, until all that remains is diamond hard and shining with the light of a sun that dwells at the centre of the Earth. Thrice then has he walked the path, thrice judged, thrice refined; thrice and finally triumphant, he gains the right of vision.
Blindness disappears in and instant, the temple gleams and those present encircle him. They make the signs and ways of LVX and NOX; with words of power they send forth and awaken he who stands at the centre. Thrice again, aye thrice this is done, until he who is the centre beholds the shining reflection and ascends by descending!
So it is that he stands within the sphere of the Moon, at the Foundation of all things, who walks amidst the gardens therein, where all others see dry dust and airless cold. Walks aye, as those who wrought this work sink to their knees to hear his worlds and words. So it is that he walks in the roots of things, beyond the sphere of man. So it is that he stands with gleaming figures, elegant and slim, spindly and fierce – towering in cathedrals of the stuff that men foolishly call dream.
For that salt blood that runs in his veins is the same salty sea which roars and thunders along the shores of awareness, that shining ocean, that silver gleaming cornucopia of creativity!
“Behold then.” they whisper, these spirits born of star and moon, these gigantic astral presences, “Long locked away have been the thorns within the blood. And beneath the roots of things stirs thunder, for that which is forgotten does not lie quiet, nor shall memory buy you safety. Long lost be the powers, though we come again, for upon our backs mankind has built its world.”
Fierce the pain within his veins as thorns unfold, pierced from the inside out. Blood flows, and where its droplets fall, so spring up countless universes. With sharp inhuman smiles and fathomless ancient eyes full of the light of long-gone galaxies, they stretch out needle-thin fingers and he meets them with his own, all gleaming silver-bone and clothed in deep kosmic blue.
“The essence of power is this: Make your Lies into Truth and the Truth into Lies.”
Understanding blossoms then, a bittersweet fruit ripening in an instant, its ashes the base for an elixir of paramount wonder…
“Nothing is True. Everything is Permitted.” - Hassan i Sabbah
Thus spoke the Old Man of the Mountain, or so the legend goes, in the days when his fortress at Alamut was the nexus of lines of flight and burrowing both. The Hashashin roosted at the Eagle’s Nest; masters of asymmetric warfare they struck in ways which hit the hearts and minds of their enemies.
I have long written about war machines within the context of Deleuzian philosophy; particularly highlighting the notion of exteriority, I have suggested that the extra-ordinary is possessed of a greater variety of potentials than the ordinary. The well of potential is what makes a thing powerful, and while the words of the Nizari master echo down through a thousand years, it’s true that they have become almost a cliche amongst certain types of magicians and philosophers.
Yes, ‘Orthodox’ Chaos Magicians, I mean you. Do please stop parroting it – you’ve relegated it to a distasteful sound-bite, right up there with management buzzwords and things like synergy and paradigm. I mean, come on – paradigm? Have any of you even read Thomas Kuhn? I know I have. So hush, would you?
(I may feel strongly about certain things, can you tell?)
However, for all that it has become a tired old saw, I invite you to consider the statement in relation to the events I recounted above – to consider that the Weltanschauung – the wider world-view may be understood in terms of language and dreams, that the fundamentals of what you consider reality are inherently based upon the episteme born of your culture – and here I give a nod to Foucault, thus pleasing Jack and Gordon at least!
Consider if you will, that the very notion of that phrase implies possibility. I raise this because of the notion of things brought up by this post of Jack’s, in particular relation to this one over at Strategic Sorcery. The distinction between Truth and Lie has ancient roots – deeply rooted in survival processes. The words phantom, phantasm, fantasy and fantastic spring from the same source:
- early 13c., fantesme, from O.Fr. fantasme, from L. phantasma “an apparition, specter,” from Gk. phantasma “image, phantom,” from phantazein “to make visible, display,” from stem of phainein “to show,” from PIE base *bha- “to shine” (cf. Skt. bhati “shines, glitters,” O.Ir. ban “white, light, ray of light”). Spelling conformed to Latin from 16c.
- early 14c., “illusory appearance,” from O.Fr. fantasie, from L. phantasia, from Gk. phantasia “appearance, image, perception, imagination,” from phantazesthai “picture to oneself,” from phantos “visible,” from phainesthai “appear,” in late Gk. “to imagine, have visions,” related to phaos, phos “light,” phainein “to show, to bring to light” (see phantasm). Sense of “whimsical notion, illusion” is pre-1400, followed by that of “imagination,” which is first attested 1530s. Sense of “day-dream based on desires” is from 1926, as is fantasize.
An apparition, a spectre then – a sight seen with the Imagination. Compare this to the etymology of ‘false’ and ‘illusion’:
- c.1200, from O.Fr. fals, faus, from L. falsus “deceived, erroneous, mistaken,” pp. of fallere “deceive, disappoint,” of uncertain origin. Adopted into other Gmc. languages (cf. Ger. falsch, Dan. falsk), though English is the only one in which the active sense of “deceitful” (a secondary sense in L.) has predominated.
- mid-14c., “act of deception,” from O.Fr. illusion “a mocking,” from L. illusionem (nom. illusio) “a mocking, jesting, irony,” from illudere “mock at,” lit. “to play with,” from in- “at” + ludere “to play” (see ludicrous). Sense of “deceptive appearance” developed in Eng. late 14c.
I am sure you might begin to spot what I’m getting at here: that the issue is not one of truth, instead it is of deception and seeming. If one cannot trust something to act as it is obliged to by its definition, that thing becomes dangerous. It might do anything, and this possibility is something that requires that we keep an eye on it, just in case it tries to harm us.
This is a survival mechanism folks.
By nature, survival is easier in stable conditions where predators aren’t an issue and resources are plentiful. The shortcuts taken, the agreed upon assumptions about the environment which are shared by a group; these form the roots of the social contract – the bedrock of any given society.
The weltanschauung, the Focault-episteme – these give rise to taboos and laws which are rooted in survival in the environment that a culture inhabits and emerges from. The interactions of all forms of perception and understanding come together to create a pattern which informs and influences any given reality.
At the root of Indo-European culture – and others besides – stands the conception of a righteous order, opposed by a deceptive influence. In Zoroastrianism, this is manifested as the Asha opposed by the Druj, or the Truth vs. Lie. The fundamental distinction between the two can easily be traced to that which maintains the integrity of the status quo, as opposed to the deception which undermines it and threatens the integrity of the world – literally the ‘age of man’ or group.
Think about that for a moment, and then turn over the concept of an assassin in your mind, yes? What images does it conjure, what associations? I’ll lay good odds there’s an element of stealth, of dressing in black and moving unnoticed before striking and vanishing like a ghost. Or perhaps it summons images of poison, a knife in the back, sneaky indirect wet-work of dubious morality – a Black Operation par excellence.
Now, if you haven’t read that link to the article on the Druj – and you really should, trust me – then I’ll give you a supremely relevant quote:
Druj-, Avestan feminine noun defining the concept opposed to that of aša- (q.v.). Controversies about the meaning of the latter word have naturally had implications for the understanding of druj-. The corresponding verbal root in Indic (druh: dru‚hyati) seems to have the basic meaning “to blacken” (Mayrhofer, Dictionary II, pp. 79 ff.), perhaps preserved in Avestan in Yašt 5.90 and 8.5. In view of the opposition of the two words, if the meaning of aša- is “truth,” then that of druj- must be “lie,” but, if the meaning of the former is “order, justice,” than druj- must mean “error, deceit.”
Christian Bartholomae prudently gave both meanings: “falsehood, deceit” (AirWb., cols. 778-82). Considering that the meaning “falsehood” corresponds to a certain kind of derivation (see the discussion of draoga-/drauga-, below) and that the meaning “deceit” results from a specific contextual usage (cf. the verb druj:dru‘a-, below), the opposition was probably between “real order” and “illusory, deceptive order,” the first being linked to the lights of the day, the second to the shadows of the night (Kellens, 1991, pp. 46 ff.).
A black thing indeed then, this Druj – this vision which ensnares and draws away from the Truth; a distorted mockery which sets you to question, to wonder if perhaps the fundamentals of the world are not as they have been illuminated before you. A garden of temptation, full of houris and rivers of milk and honey.
They say many things about Hassan i Sabbah. They say he would dose his acolytes with hashish and make them believe they had died, only to awaken in a garden he had created to present the illusion of Heaven. Then, once returned, they would be fanatically loyal to the cunning Old Man of the Mountain.
They say he could command his man to throw themselves from the parapets of Alamut, plunging downward to their deaths all unconcerned. But they also say he beheaded his own son when he found him with a bottle of wine in defiance of the laws of the Qu’ran.
They say a lot of things, don’t they? Did you ever wonder who They are, and where they get Their unimpeachable information?
It doesn’t come out of the Black Night; doesn’t emerge from the sightless, senseless gulfs. No, it comes out of the streetlight, the neon and the campfire, the fierce glow of rationalism and progress. From repeatable results and the bedrock of reality and generations of assumption that the chair you’re sitting on is solid and you won’t go through it.
The flaming sword guards the gates to Eden, held in the hands of an angel. Paradise is but a memory and mankind tills the soil and lives and dies, trying once again to bring it to being. It builds and creates, one thing on top of another, layer upon layer of solidity and structure. The blade cuts the black earth and the seeds grow.
What of the assassin then?
What indeed! For he too has a blade, and it is swift and silent in the night. He strikes and brings forth blood that falls upon the same earth. Cain slays Abel and is marked by YHVH – the first killer, now rendered untouchable.
There’s iron in the blood and the metal in your veins may gleam, oh so bright; opened up by the assassin as he moves unseen amidst the sheep – for as I’m sure you know, Abel was a herder of livestock, and Cain a grower of crops. So here we find the asssassin’s way in an interpretation of the doctrine of taqiyya – strategic dissimulation.
By taking on a seeming, the practitioner survives amidst the hostile or larger population, to perform in secret those things which are unacceptable to the masses. By embracing the lie, the truth is preserved – the truth of the inner nature. Without it, those that follow the call of that nature would be destroyed.
Thus we find a secret hidden in the heart of all things; that the notion of Asa-as-Truth and Druj-as-Lie are contingent each other for existence. You cannot have one without the other.
In the Black Night one finds the inner Light gleaming, shining silver in every cell. There is no neon, no street-light – no external source of Illumination. As the assassin strikes at the fundamentals of existence, his blade cuts deep into the heart of the world itself. He murders all that is known and understood, until all around is an ocean of shining blood and the sun and moon are eclipsed and torn down.
By now, you’ll have begun to notice the leaps and connections I’ve made, the associations and links – vaulting from one thing to another, a path that’s easily traceable across the rooftops of your mental metropolis. The use of metaphor to slip sideways through the cracks, easing behind your mind to stalk the shadowed corridors of your subconscious; the evocative conjuring of scenes – of souks and bazaars heaving with myriad ideas beneath minarets from which the wail of the muezzin calls forth strange things in the night.
Can you comprehend what phantasms and images might emerge in the darkness, what horrors and glories might be revealed at that time? Or what strange and terrible forms might wake from sleep and stretch out their hands to you; might speak in tongues no human mouth has ever uttered?
This is the essence of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights; Scherezade’s perfume fills the air, exotic in the desert heat. Stories within stories, concepts within concepts and words within words. Such power it has, the power to stave off even death itself, to ensnare even a king, to draw ever in, and ever deeper. A Labyrinth in the dark, and at the centre the monstrous Minotaur, born of Woman and Beast.
Will you walk those passageways, those paths guarded by djinn and ifrit, those netherworld paths buried deep within your consciousness?
Try it. Reach inside yourself, into the dark of your body, the space between each thought, voyage deeper and deeper, and do it now. Navigate the Labyrinth, sightless and blind. Go on, I dare you.
I’ll be here when you get back…
The chair is solid, isn’t it? The seat you’re sitting in is going to hold you up and the business of life will continue on, yes? After all, if things were different, that would be crazy talk. Certainly, you wouldn’t sit on a chair with holes in that you can fall through, would you?
Except you are sitting on a chair with holes that you can fall through and what’s more physics agrees with me. So, if you think I’m crazy, if you think these are purely the ravings of a madman, then please consider how much space there is in an individual atom, and how many atoms make up your body.
After that, move on to your seat, and when you’re done, I’m sure you’ll join me in praising the charges on the particles for their sterling work in keeping things repulsed, and making everything seem solid. Because actually, there is an extraordinarily small chance that all the space and charges could align in a certain way and you and the chair might pass through each other.
It’s all right though, it probably won’t. So that’s fine…isn’t it?
Wait a second though, if that fundamental is only a seeming then what is the truth? What actually is? Honestly, several millennia of philosophers and scientists are still scratching their heads about that one. Some of the really clever ones have come up with good workable theories which have enabled many wonderful things – but all these are based on some fundamental assumptions.
I spent both my undergraduate and post-graduate time at university studying philosophy – and that certainly counts as being trained. Four years (3 year BA and 1 year MA course) learning how to think. It’s not as easy or as reflexive as you might believe, this thinking business. Along the way, I went a little mad and something broke. The apocalyptic and terrible visions of worlds burning, of millions marching in lockstep to unthinking doom that I have described here and in other places, were not simple metaphors.
They were things I actually experienced.
The bedrock of the world fell away, and I was insane by most standards. Yet somehow, I survived, and the transmutation into a kind of combat philosopher began like an alchemical process. Your fundamentals are not mine – the heritage of the epistemological assassin awoke in my blood.
Why am I telling you this?
The answer is simple – Jason’s post makes the interesting point that certain things work whether or not you believe in them – that the efficacy may very well be in the operation itself as opposed to the primacy of belief so beloved by modern magicians, particularly of the CMT variety.
At first glance, this is a step forward – an attempt to break free of the idea that we are at the mercy of external powers that require bowing and scraping. On the second glance, it’s only one step – and though its regarded as post-modern, we must remember that post-modern is the child of modernity, and that modernity is inherently anthropocentric (human centred).
Which, while a shiny view, does not take into account the interrelation of humans with the environment they inhabit. It’s a thing of narrow focus, and as anyone who’s been watching the news lately will tell you, this way of doing things has caused…problems.
But for all of you who hold to the view that belief is primary, and that changing beliefs is powerful, I’d like to smile and draw my blade. What is belief? What is this thing that supposedly gives such great power?
How can you use it, how does it work – these are things each of you needs to sit down and consider for yourself. Equally, for those who choose to hold that there is something inherent in a given thing which lends it power, I ask you, what is that?
Think on these things, and think hard. Reply in the comments if you want. If you’ve read this far, I know I have your interest and as such, I’m going to offer another way.
The way is this:
Neither operere ex operato nor belief are what you think they are. Truth, Lie, Asha, Druj - all these concepts have definitions and borders. Walls between them.
Imagine if you could walk through the walls or pull back far enough to see them laid next to each other as part of a whole. Picture that, and if you have a moment of psychic vertigo as you allow yourself imagine them as parts of a larger thing, then you’re with me and I’d advise you to keep doing it.
What if it is all seeming - what is solid then?
If you can imagine all things, everything you know, as a phantasm that shifts and dances and is always ever changing; if you can hear the roar of chaos all about you, primordial and protean; if you can feel the thunderous silence at the heart of yourself, the Black Night when there is the Void, and there is you; and if that same infinite Void welcomes you and you can begin to realize that you are a shifting phantasm with boundaries and definitions that can be passed beyond, then it has begun.
When understanding dawns and the vastness dwarfs you, the nature of yourself as a grain of sand on that kosmic shore, and what you call ‘belief’ is nothing of the sort, but is instead a grasping for the ungraspable. When the Self is known as as that which gives rise to you, that the personality which is considered you is but the tip of a nigh infinite iceberg?
Then belief becomes irrelevant, and all things brim with potency.
The chair is allowed to seem solid. It is allowed to be a chair-shaped space and also a symbol and a word in your mind. All these things and many more besides, nigh-infinite in its variety. All are permitted and none are exclusive.
Nothing is True, and Everything is Permitted.
So spoke Hassan, he who they say gave men licence to do impossible things. Think on that, would you; and then understand that the essence of doing the impossible is doing what others cannot…