Ο Τυφώνειος Κόσμος του KENNETH GRANT
[πρώτη δημοσίευση περ. mystery τ. 65/Οκτώβριος 2010]
Δεν υπάρχει κανείς που να ασχολείται με το occult και τις πιο παράξενες προεκτάσεις του που να μην γνωρίζει τον Kenneth Grant. Δεκαετίες τώρα όμως, ο διάσημος Βρετανός συγγραφέας και μαθητής του Άλιστερ Κρόουλυ ζει ερημικά, μακριά από τα φώτα της δημοσιότητας.
Προσπαθώντας λοιπόν να έρθω σε επαφή μαζί του, συναντήθηκα με το δεξί του χέρι και σήμερα αρχηγό του Τυφώνιου Τάγματος, Michael Staley. Ο διάλογος που ακολούθησε μεταξύ μας ήταν εξαιρετικά ενδιαφέρων, καθώς για πρώτη φορά, ένα Ελληνικό περιοδικό μπαίνει στα άδυτα της Τυφώνιας Παράδοσης…
Mr. Staley, could you briefly tell us how did you get into occultism at first place? What exactly drew you to this field?
As far back in my childhood as I can remember, I was always interested in ghosts and the like. As I entered my teens, it settled into an interest in Spiritualism, occultism and Eastern Mysticism, particularly Buddhism. I remember being fascinated by Lobsang Rampa at that time. In the middle 1960s I became increasingly aware of the name of Aleister Crowley. Soon after that there was an explosion of interest in Crowley with the hippies and psychedelia. In the early 1970s I came across the work of Kenneth Grant, and became extremely interested in it, to the point of joining the Typhonian O.T.O. Although I applied myself to Kenneth Grant’s work, it was some years before I began to understand the thrust of it, a process of assimilation aided by my magical and mystical work, and by becoming Grant’s publisher in the 1990s.
It was Kenneth Grant who encouraged me to launch a magazine, Starfire, the first issue of which was published in 1986. That grew into Starfire Publishing, which is now my principle tool in the propagation of the Typhonian Gnosis.
Since the early 1990s I have been increasingly interested in the work of Austin Osman Spare – the art as well as the writing.
When did you meet Kenneth Grant for the first time? What was your impression?
My Probationary term for entry into the Typhonian Order was successfully completed in January 1976, whilst I was living on an Israeli kibbutz. I finally came back from Israel in 1978, and met Kenneth Grant for the first time shortly afterwards. At that time he was meeting new entrants to the Order as a matter of course. My initial impressions were very favourable; he came across as an intense, articulate, intelligent and very committed Thelemite. In the early 1980s I became his right-hand man in the Order, a position which has been hard work but very fulfilling, and in the course of which I have experienced and learnt a great deal.
Can you tell us something about his character, his habits and his everyday life?
Kenneth is very keen to preserve his privacy as far as possible, so I can only speak briefly and generally. He is a man of great integrity and insight, and has become increasingly reclusive over the years. I don’t know much about his habits and his daily life.
In few words, what exactly is the Typhonian Tradition?
It is communing with what some have termed ‘Outside’, whether that be considered as the reaches of space beyond the terrestrial, or the sweeps of consciousness beyond the human. Consciousness is a continuum which embraces all, reaching far wider and deeper than human consciousness, which is a relatively superficial, transient phase. The Typhonian Tradition is concerned with encountering and exploring these depths. As Crowley remarked in a postscript to Chapter 30 of Magick Without Tears:
I thought it a good plan to put my fundamental position all by itself in a postscript; to frame it. My observation of the Universe convinces me that there are beings of intelligence and power of a far higher quality than anything we can conceive of as human; that they are not necessarily based on the cerebral and nervous structures that we know, and that the one and only chance for mankind to advance as a whole is for individuals to make contact with such Beings.
That is in my view a very good summary of the position.
The entries for the Typhonian or Draconian Tradition in the Glossaries to the volumes of the Typhonian Trilogies are quite diverse. None of them are definitions strictly speaking, but describe various facets of the Tradition. It’s best to take these various facets and try to intuit the basis from which they spring.
In what ways is the Typhonian Order (T.O.) different from the O.T.O.?
In Crowley’s day the O.T.O. operated in lodges where initiations were conferred in the course of group ceremonies which were quasi-masonic in nature; as far as I know, that is also the pattern with the modern-day O.T.O. In the Typhonian Order, initiations arise in the course of practical magical and mystical work.
As far as similarities go both the modern-day O.T.O. and the Typhonian Order derive from the O.T.O. of Crowley, and both have as their goal the establishment of the Law of Thelema.
How many active Lodges of T.O. are in the world today? Are there any in Greece?
At present the Typhonian Order isn’t organised into lodges, but is composed of individual members in several countries around the world. We don’t have any members in Greece at present. There is a lodge in London which has been operating for many years now, and which pursues work with Lam at a group level.
What do you think is Mr Grant’s general impact to Thelema?
We’ll be able to answer that question better in fifty years or so. In my opinion though he has moved Thelema beyond the confines of a personality cult centred around Crowley. When The Magical Revival was first published in 1972, it was refreshing to read something that wasn’t simply a rehash of Crowley. Grant has made more apparent the wider and deeper reaches of Thelema, and its affinities with other magical and mystical work, as well as affinities with activities which aren’t considered occult or magical.
Fundamental to Grant’s work is non-duality, an insight that underpins traditions such as Advaita, Sunyavada, etc. Consciousness is a continuum, within which entities are transient aggregations that have no separate, enduring existence; they are like waves — transient aggregations within the body of water. Inspiration and creativity have their origins here, in what some have termed the collective unconscious, and what might be considered cosmic imagination.
Grant has in my view developed the work of Crowley. It is the task of a successor to develop the work of his predecessor. In the course of that development, some elements of the work previously pursued are abandoned; conversely, other avenues of approach might be opened up. In this way there is a living body of work, perpetually redeveloped, which is passed down from adept to adept.
There need be no formal chain of succession for this to happen. For instance, Crowley considered himself to be continuing the work of Blavatsky, though I doubt that many members of the Theosophical Society would have agreed.
Nor need this redevelopment be something undertaken by a few illustrious persons only. We all of us take from a variety of sources and influences, and transform it through our magical and mystical workings. In this sense, we are all the successors of Crowley, Grant and Spare — to name but three adepts from 20th Century Western Occultism. We develop their work and in turn pass it on to others. Working within a tradition, we not only draw from that tradition, but contribute to it as well.
Some of the most mysterious aspects in Crowley’s magick, is the figures LAM and Aiwass. What do you believe were these, and what is Mr. Grant’s interpretation?
There are some differences between the two in my view. Aiwass transmitted The Book of the Law to Crowley, and it’s my opinion that the same Intelligence was at work in the Abuldiz and Amalantrah Workings; there were also some workings during the Cefalu period. I believe that Aiwass and Intelligences like that are greater or higher aggregations of consciousness. The portrait of Lam seems to be a quintessence of the Amalantrah Working, and in particular of the egg symbolism, rather than an Intelligence of the order of Aiwass.
On the other hand, I believe that Intelligence communicates with us through masks, and both Lam and Aiwass are masks.
Mr Grant wrote some very interesting things about the UFO phenomena. Still, 60 years have passed since Kenneth A. Arnold’s first contact, and we still don’t have any true explanation of what UFOs are… What are his thoughts nowadays for this subject?
These are probably not visitors from a galaxy four billion light years around the corner, but intrusions into our awareness from other dimensions of consciousness, and we interpret these intrusions as external. I’ve not discussed this at any length with Kenneth Grant, but I believe that a reading of the Typhonian Trilogies will lead to a similar conclusion.
In Grant’s books there is a lot of Yog-Sogothery! What is the relationship of the T.O. with the Cthulhu Mythos and the Necronomicon Current nowadays?
The Typhonian Order has for many years now had a formal affiliation with the Esoteric Order of Dagon. Yes, there is a lot of the Cthulhu Mythos in Grant’s work, but there is a great deal of misunderstanding about it, much of it deliberate. We don’t worship or raise Cthulhu or Yog-Sothoth or any of the other deities of the Mythos. Grant’s early position, as set out in The Magical Revival, was that there were interesting affinities between elements of Crowley’s work and that of Lovecraft. Later, we can see the outlook developing that these deities are masks of consciousness. Finally, Grant sets out his understanding of the Cthulhu Mythos in a passage in Outer Gateways which is worth quoting at length:
Like other accounts of unclassifiable phases of earth's history, the Cthulhu Cult epitomises the subconsciousness and the forces outside terrestrial awareness. It may be said in passing that true creativity can occur only when these forces are invoked to flood with their light the magical network of the mind. For purposes of explanation the mind may be envisaged as divided into three rooms, the edifice which contains them being the only real or permanent principle. These rooms are:
1) Subconsciousness, the dream state;
2) Mundane consciousness, the waking state;
3) Transcendental consciousness, veiled in the non-initiate by the state of sleep.
The compartments are further conceived as being connected with the house that contains them, by a series of conduits or tunnels. The house represents trans-terrestrial consciousness. The invoked forces — Cthulhu, Yog-Sothoth, Azathoth, etc — are then understood, not as malignant or destructive entities but as the dynamic energies of consciousness, the functions of which are to blast away the delusion of separate existence (the rooms in our illustration).
Do you believe that the Great Old Ones are actual entities or some kind of psychological archetypes?
They are archetypes, but not in the sense of being inner, psychological aspects. They are within the continuum of consciousness, and hence neither external nor internal.
Lovecraft had an extraordinarily sensitive constitution, and was able to register movements within these deeper swathes of consciousness. Most of this registering was done in the course of his vivid dreams, which he used as the bases of his stories.
Is it helpful for a modern magician to work with the Necronomicon Current, or do you think that it is dangerous?
I think it’s helpful if it helps to bring about awareness of reality — that is, the continuum of consciousness of which we are all transient parts — but not so helpful if it perpetuates the illusion of separate existence.
Right this moment there are more than 30 (published) different versions of the Necronomicon all around the world! Which one of them do you think is better for actual magical workings, and why?
I can’t help with this, I’m afraid. I’ve read only a few of them. The Necronomicon doesn’t interest me very much to be honest, but from what I’ve seen the various versions are attempts at pastiche, bits drawn from here and there.
Nowadays, the Thelemic culture seems to be very strong and alive. Do you think that Aleister Crowley’s ideas and philosophy are more needed this days than ever before?
No, I don’t think so. With the lessening these days of family and geographical ties, more people are turning elsewhere in the search for meaning and substance to their lives. I do feel that the times we live in are more receptive to Thelema than in Crowley’s day, and the growth of interest in Eastern mysticism is to Thelema’s advantage.
Thelema is often regarded as glorifying individuality, on the basis that “every man and every woman is a star”, overlooking the fact that stars are integral parts of galaxies and nebulae, their orbits interlocking with the orbits of other stars. Again, some might find it paradoxical that Thelema is rooted in the tradition of non-duality; it has a deep affinity with Taoism.
Have you ever traveled in Greece? What is your opinion about our country, Greek mythology and our magical tradition?
I’ve been to Greece only a couple of times so far, en route to and from Israel in the mid 1970s. Later this year, my wife and I will be travelling to Delphi. Greek religion isn’t something I know a great deal about, other than the Elysian Mysteries.
Do you think that there is a future for the Western Occultism? What must its modern representatives do for it to survive and grow further? How do you as an Order operate in order to respond to the challenges of the modern world?
Yes, there is a future for Western Occultism, and I think that the growing interest in consciousness studies will lead to greater interest in Occultism in general. I don’t think that its representatives need to do anything special. I don’t think that there are any challenges of the modern world for the Typhonian Order to respond to; we carry on with our magical and mystical work and our writings.
What’s the general British belief for magic? Unfortunately, here in Greece every kind of magic is automatically considered as Black Magic and maleficia!
There isn’t really a general belief, though most people are probably sceptical. Having said that, three of the most prominent occultists of the Twentieth Century — Crowley, Grant and Spare — were English, so perhaps we are an eccentric nation.
In your opinion, what should be the purpose of magic? Could magic be so extravagant as it is presented in the movies? Are its results perceptible only in the astral level or are they actually a psycho-dynamic process of self-evolution?
As far as purpose goes: to explore consciousness, thereby becoming aware of our wider, cosmic identity. One of Spare’s aphorisms says that a mystic is someone who realises that there is more of themselves than they are aware of. I think that magic as presented in films is simply fantasy. I like the phrase “psycho-dynamic process of self-evolution” and I think it’s accurate.
If you could recommend 3 books that constitute essential readings for a beginner keen to learn more about magic, which would they be and why?
The Magical Revival by Kenneth Grant is an excellent survey of Thelemic magick. The Confessions of Aleister Crowley is a lively and informative introduction to Crowley’s life and work. The third would probably be Crowley’s Little Essays Toward Truth. None of these are really for beginners I suspect, but I think you have to plunge in at the deep end.
Would you like to share with us your weirdest paranormal experience ever?
By and large I don’t have paranormal experiences. There is one that sticks in my memory, though. Many years ago I was performing Crowley’s ‘Reguli’ or ‘Ritual of the Mark of the Beast’ on a daily basis. There were many problems in my life at the time, and towards the end of the period of daily working there was a lot of chaos and violence following me around. One day a car burst into flames as I was crossing the street, and there was a strong feeling of connection, like an umbilical cord to my solar plexus; I knew with absolute certainty that this incident was intimately bound up with my working of the ritual.
Could you tell us a few words about your daily life? What’s a magician’s daily life like?
I doubt that my life is that different from that of other people — sleeping, eating, drinking, socialising with other people, etc. The only difference is that I undertake magical and mystical practices, am perhaps more aware of patterns and synchronicities. It’s a difficult question for me to answer, since I don’t partition my life into magical and non-magical.
In my opinion all events are charged with oracular significance, and everything that occurs is part of a pattern. Cosmic consciousness, the remembering of cosmic identity, is always just a heart-beat away, did we but know it. Walking across Hampstead Heath, or feeding the cat, is just as magical as summoning the servitors of Belial.
Are you currently preparing any new book? Perhaps any unreleased works of Mr. Grant?
There are a number of new titles being prepared for publication by Starfire Publishing, including works by Spare, Achad, and a comparative study of Crowley and Gurdjieff. We will be republishing more books in the Typhonian Trilogies series. For some time Kenneth Grant has been working on a novel, Monolith: A Further Nightside Narrative, but I don’t know when that will be finished.
As far as my own work goes, I’ve recently finished writing an essay entitled ‘Lam and the Typhonian Tradition’ that has enough loose ends and areas for further development to grow into a book in its own right. Over the next few months I will be writing some new material for the coming issue of Starfire, and will be laying the basis for more substantial works in the near future.
This interview was originally published on Mystery magazine, issue 65/October 2010