Showing posts from 2010

Stopping tobacco

'Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I've done it thousands of times.' Mark Twain About five weeks ago I stopped smoking tobacco. It was quite easy, involving no real suffering. I know, Mark Twain said 'giving up' was easy, but 'giving up' is doomed to fail, because you're depriving yourself of a source of pleasure. In my view, one of the purposes of being alive is to enjoy the pleasures of the flesh. Generally, if something is pleasurable, I see no reason to deny it to myself on a dubious promise that I may live a little longer. So, my giving-up efforts with tobacco were short-lived, and marked by the misery of the internal civil war brought on by self-denial. Of course, like Austin Spare, you can make magical use of the stress of giving up. Spare would cast a spell, then place his cigarettes on an 'altar', denying himself that pleasure until he got his result. So, if you're going to put yourself through t

A O Spare on YouTube

For those who missed the wonderful S London exhibition, or who would like to glimpse bits of it again, here's a short video with interviews with Alan Moor, Robert Ansell, Phil Baker, Stephen Pochin and Geraldine Beskin.

Soul in the Flesh; or, Where's the rest of my nervous system?

You will likely know what I mean when I refer to 'gut feelings'. These are a species of what NLP-ers call congruence/incongruence signals. Kinaesthetic - or more precisely, enteroceptive - sensations that tell us, very quickly, if some situation is good or bad for us at that moment. We all know them - the first impression that runs counter to conscious logic but turns out to be correct; the voice that, once heard, prophesies trouble, which only emerges years later. I taught congruence techniques to various groups for years, and nearly everyone's congruence signals consist of feelings located between the heart and the lower abdomen; the phrase 'gut feeling' is indeed a fitting one. What part of us is doing the feeling here? I always naively assumed that the brain was processing masses of fuzzy information about the situation below my conscious awareness, and then presenting me with a signal that, for some reason, was either a swelling or rising feeling around

Magical Thinking, Science and PostModernism

I remember vividly the first time I abandoned magical thinking. I was around 4, and my dad asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I replied: a magic wand, a real one, like Sooty's got, one that can do real magic. My dad told me then that magic wasn't real. I recall the moment precisely; we were facing a row of shops on a mundane street in the West London suburb I grew up in. At that point, something big happened inside me, and the next time I thought about that incident it was from the point of view of someone who had turned wholeheartedly towards science. The topic of magic exists in a strange half-light, some of its practitioners coming out with pronouncements that make religion seem sensible by comparison and others straining to bring some kind of intellectual respectability to their weird endeavour. Because weird it is; irruptions of improbable events are the language in which the universe talks back to the magician. The ideas that support magical belief are non-standar

Mysticism and the Northern Way

My new essay 'Mysticism and the Northern Way' is now available at Comments and discussion welcome!

Fallen Visionary, Rising Dark Star: Austin Spare seen in South London

Just in case you only read this far, I shall cut to the chase: If South London is at all reachable for you, do yourself a massive favour and, before November 14th, go to 'Austin Spare: Fallen Visionary', at the Cuming Museum, near the Elephant and Castle tube. Details at This exhibition is the first in a public gallery since Spare's death in 1956, and situated on the Walworth Road it brings the rich contrasts of his life into focus better than any I've seen. On the one hand, we have a description of Spare by one journalist as 'a scruffy tramp living in a cellar,' and on the other, we see a fantastically rich inner life, the world of a truly free man. This contrast between material poverty and artistic and magical riches is a central source of Spare's impact. He rebelled against the fame-machine of the art world, choosing instead to live among 'ordinary' people

Energy Healing, Breathwork and the science of life-energy

Two weeks ago I delivered a public seminar on energy magic, at a retreat centre in rural Germany. The thirty or so participants had, by the look of it, at least as good a time as I did, which is saying something. That's not all, though. After a warm-up and some open-ended playing-around with the glorious sensations of the energy (which for now, we'll call 'life-force'), we got down to the serious work. I called for volunteers who had pain, right now. Three brave people stepped forward, and we broke into three groups to transfer healing energy into their sick parts. The results were not a little impressive: two healees got instant relief from chronic sinusitis and a nine-month-old strained wrist, respectively. The third sufferer noticed little at the time, but had found considerable relief by the next morning. I followed up all three people for a week, and the healing persisted. The technique for raising the energy is extremely simple, and came out of my nineteen years

Paddington Farm and the Counterculture

Back in July I visited Paddington Farm in Glastonbury ( to check it out as a venue for my forthcoming weekend of breathwork - The Conscious Breath ( My friend who helps run the charity events there told me about the farm's countercultural history, gleaned from records held at the farm and stories from those who'd stayed there. In 1985 the farm, then called Greenlands at Maidencroft Farm, was owned by an extraordinary old lady who opened some of her fields to festival travelers, ignoring the protests of her neighbours. (Apparently, the incident is still talked about in that area). My girlfriend Judy immediately suspected it was the farm she'd stayed at, in the orchard at the bottom of the lane, when she was on her way to Stonehenge Free Festival in 1985. She went to look at the orchard, and indeed it was. Those of you who are countercultural history buffs will recognize 1985 as the year of the Battle of the

Podcast of talk 'Ginnung and the tools of concsiousness'

A podcast is now available of a talk I gave in 2008, entitled 'Ginnung and the tools of consciousness'. The event was a day of talks given by Eormensyl Hall of the Rune-Gild, at London's Conway Hall in September 2008. For anyone interested in the Northern Mysteries, there's lots of other excellent podcasts there too.
Lies and Statistics I never said I'd only be reviewing newly-released books; here's one from 2005*. Freakonomics, by Steven D Levitt and Stephen Dubner. I am by no means an economics buff. In fact I'm mildly hostile to most economics, parading its theories as science, often justifying the worst excesses of government economic policy with ideas that soon go out of fashion. This book is definitely not mainstream economics, though, and earns its subtitle - 'A rogue economist looks at the hidden side of everything'. This is a book which challenges accepted wisdom. Some of the results of Levitt's analyses are predictable. For instance, who doubted that estate agents lie, not only to buyers but also to sellers? Similarly, it comes as no surprise that the career structure in crack gangs is exactly analogous to that in McDonalds - a few people make serious money, the vast majority make almost nothing. The personalities of those at the top of the heap in either or

Online course review - The Essence of Germanic Soul-Lore

Here's an excerpt from my review, The Essence of Germanic Soul-Lore by Ingrid Fischer (taught online by Ian Read), Arcanorium online College of Magic ( The full version is published in the Rune-Gild's new online magazine, at . If you have any interest in the magical traditions of Northern Europe, then I urge you to go and take a look at this excellent publication straightaway. The fact that you, dear reader, are reading this is evidence of some degree of familiarity with the virtual worlds offered by the Internet. You are unlikely to let out a gasp of astonishment at the knowledge that such a thing as an online college of magic exists. However, considering the quality of much online content, you could be excused the cynical expectation that it's either a Harry Potter marketing stunt or just another Emperor's New Clothes, another fat tranche of cyberbollocks aimed at the occulti

Big Black Holes Found All Over Model

Last Friday night, on my way from the Old Kent Road to a meeting of advanced, pragmatic sceptics of the dominant worldview (chaos magicians), I took my seat on the bus and picked up the copy of the Metro that came with it. Among the news and celeb gossip was an article saying that science is entering a crisis in its way of viewing the entire universe. Unless you practise or at least keep up with science, you probably haven't been following the woes of the Standard Model of cosmology. Let me take you on a brief flight over the territory. In 1929 Edwin Hubble interpreted the redshift in the light from disant galaxies as a sign that the universe is expanding. In 1931 Georges Lemaitre proposed that the universe originated in a 'primeval atom', which idea led to the Big Bang theory. The idea was a contentious one until 1965, when the discovery of the cosmic background microwave radiation convinced nearly all cosmologists that the universe originated from a hot, dense start

Review - Phil Harper's Ritual Chaos Magic Workbook

The Ritual Chaos Magic Workbook by Philip Harper Phil Harper will be a new name to most of you, so the quality of information offered in this slim book may come as a surprise. Opening with the big questions - What is Magic and Why Do It? - he proceeds to an overview of Classical Western Magic and Chaos Magic. From the start, Harper writes with the authority of practical experience, in a competent no-nonsense fashion. The topics covered include reviews of basic Qabalah, basic magical training in the skills that will be familiar to anyone who has followed a well-rounded training scheme, the temple and tools, banishing rituals, sigils, divination and servitors. This selection of material is, of course, not entirely original; if you are writing about using Qabalah as your main magical model, you have to give at least a review of a tradition of at least a couple of centuries' worth of magical literature. So the book goes over ground you could find in other books, but brings it all tog
The Book of English Magic by Phillip Carr-Gomm & Richard Heygate. Some readers may have read an earlier and very brief review I did of this book. That was based on the pages I was initially sent - the Introduction and a breezy and lucid introduction to the life of David Conway, which sits at the end of the final chapter, 'The Wizards' Return', more about which later. The first impression I got off those few pages suggested that it wasn't the kind of book that tells you much about how to do magic, more of an amusing overview of the scene for an absolute beginner. However, when I received the full volume, I changed my mind. The intro promises 'suggestions for sites to visit and experiments to perform', and these invitations to actually get involved in personal magical research is one of the central strengths of the book. Each chapter also includes one or two personal accounts from a practitioner of that aspect of the magic arts. These mini-biographies give

Dave's new blog

Hello World, I decided to start this blog to create a new space for the reviews I'm writing, rather than cramming them onto the back pages of my website ( For my previous reviews, check out the 'Writings' page of I might think of other things to post up here at some stage, but for now here's my first review: Magick Works by Julian Vayne, Mandrake of Oxford Readers of books on paganism, chaos magic and psychoactive sacraments may well be familiar with Julian Vayne's characteristic mix of essay, ritual report and personal anecdote. This book reprises that blend – the subtitle is 'Stories of occultism in theory and practice' – and those who enjoy his vivid personal tales of magic will not be disappointed – he reveals a good deal of his personal magical history, telling how he came to magic and relating the magical dimensions of the birth of his son. The essays are also very interesting, Vayne engaging with theoretica