“Then, established in the body of the mantra, he should practice the supreme concentration. The supreme mantra body is manifested in the succession of letters.”
The Purification of the Body, Gavin Flood, Tantra in Practice, p517
As one might expect, occasionally in my practice I encounter things I don’t quite understand. I put them aside for later and, occasionally, understanding ‘bursts’ forth at a later point. I’ve been practicing various forms of Bhuta Suddhi for some years now, and from 2004 have been working from various versions of this practice, of which the main two are the chapter by Gavin Flood in Tantra in Practice; the second in The Lakshmi Tantra. But, until recently, I’ve failed to grasp the idea of the mantra-body. It wasn’t really until I read Loriliai Biernacki’s Rewnowned Goddess of Desire: Women, Sex, and Speech in Tantra (Oxford University Press, 2007) that understanding went from a trickle to a flood – the stream joining other streams, as it were. Continue reading »
I am currently reading Zora Neale Hurston’s book Tell My Horse – Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica (1938). It contains the following interesting passage “… the medicine man… and the ‘God wood tree’ (Birch Gum) . He had a covenant with that tree on the sunny side… One day we were there to prevent the enemies of the medicine man from harming him. He took a strong nail and hammer with him and drove the nail into the tree up to the head with three strokes, dropped the hammer and walked away rapidly without looking back. Later on he sent me back to fetch the hammer to him. He proved to me that all you need to do to poison a person and leave them horribly swollen was to touch a chip of this tree to their skin while they were sweating. It was uncanny”. Reading this, it occurred to me that if that was the sunny side of the tree, I wouldn’t be at all keen on meeting the person with a covenant with the shadow side.
What does it mean to have a covenant with a tree? Western en-visionings of shamanism very frequently focus on relationships with animal spirits guides. What about relationships with plants? Continue reading »
I’m very pleased to announce that I have an article in the forthcoming inaugural edition of Abraxas – a new esoteric journal which is a collaborative venture by Treadwells Bookshop and Fulgur Ltd – so it will be both full of fascinating content and look fantastic to boot! Other contributors include Stephen Grasso, James Butler, John Callow, Daniel Schulke and Sarah Penicka-Smith. My own contribution is based on my Treadwells lecture from September 2008 – The Third Eye: The Fantastic World of Lobsang Rampa. There will be a launch party for Abraxas at Treadwells on the 30th October.
A great deal of contemporary magical discourse establishes a “hard” distinction between theory and practice – and between theory and experience. If you look on occult forums you’ll regularly see people indulging in a kind of magical oneupmanship by claiming that they have “direct experience” whilst others have only read books, so their views don’t carry as much weight. Equally, there is much bashing of so-called “armchair magicians” – people who have lots of theories or opinions, but haven’t yet made the leap into putting those theories into practice. There seems to be a general assumption that to be an occutist is to “practice”. This was pretty much my own stance for several years – I avoided “grand theories” of how various occult phenomena are supposed to work (whether they were based on jungian archetypes, “inner energies” or quantummery) and later, tended to avoid much of what I saw as the “theoretical overlay” of tantra as “unneccesary” to my practice. Continue reading »
Sometimes, when I look at tantric texts, I’m reminded of Joss Whedon’s description of Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a “fairy story” rather than a “driving manual”. If you look at the majority of magical “how-to” books written these days, they are often presented as “manuals” – “here’s an explanation of this concept” – followed by “here’s how you do it” possibly followed by some discussion of the author’s own experience. Some authors will assume a shared language, whilst others will take great pain to explain what they mean by a particular term or concept. There is a general assumption though, that the reader may be unfamiliar with what the author is writing about and so good authors take that into account and explain stuff, to varying degrees. So there’s a degree of expectancy amongst occult practitioners that written material will, on the most part, be accessible, and, to varying degrees, familiar. Continue reading »