Showing posts from 2021

William Blake vs The World by John Higgs

This is not the first thing that John Higgs has written about William Blake. He released a much slimmer volume in 2019 - William Blake Now: Why He Matters More Than Ever . That was a nice taster of where Higgs was going with his Blake work, but this new book is the long-awaited volume. Readers of John Higgs’s books will recognize a few familiar themes: a place for diversity and oddness; his ‘ pragmatic optimism ’, based in agnostic thinking and a long view of human ups and downs; an unusually sympathetic treatment of magick, mysticism and vision; his love of England, its landscape, its history and its peoples. These themes all come together in this book. Higgs brings out some profound and fascinating features in Blake’s thinking, and unpacks nicely his personal mythos. One of the most helpful things about this book is how it helps us to appreciate that none-too-easy symbol system. He is not the only writer to make up their own language - amongst philosophers, Whitehead and Heidegger we

MAGIA: The teachings of Alan Chapman

Available HERE . How do you write a review of a book which is about spiritual enlightenment, awakening, attainment, initiation or whatever you wish to call it? And not just about awakening, but an actual full scheme for attaining it? I shall of course outline the contents, but what about evaluating what is written here? I shall also try to give some of the flavour of Chapman’s teachings; but sadly for those who hate cliches, it really is the case that when the student is ready, the teacher appears. Ultimately, what draws a student to a teacher is itself part of the mystery. It seems to me that I can only evaluate what Alan Chapman is presenting as someone who has practiced the system; the only laboratory in which such writings can be tested is that of personal experience. So I shall have to tell my own Magia story.  The book is a transcript of teachings delivered over six days at a retreat in Greece. It consists of those twelve sessions, with some unpacking, all rendered in blank verse


I’ve been planning to write something about the weird and unpleasant phenomenon of QAnon for some months. I thought about it rather a lot because once I’d heard about it I felt as though I’d stepped in a puddle of cultural diarrhoea and couldn’t turn anywhere without smelling it. So the only way forward was through - I needed to read and think about it until I felt I’d got my head round what it consists of and why it attracts people. It turned into a much longer piece than I’d originally imagined, so it’s now too long for the newsletter and it’s here instead. So please forgive me these ugly metaphors for an ugly thing - here comes the boot-scraper, a Tinfoil Hat Watch QAnon special - the Cultural Diarrhoea Puddle. The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity. - W B Yeats, The Second Coming I’ll assume that the reader already has some level of familiarity with these ideas, so hopefully you’ll know what I mean when I say it’s baffling and frustrating w

Soul of the West: Magick, Awakening and the Hellenic Gnosis

(Originally delivered as a talk for Occulture Berlin, October 2019) I’m going to be talking about four things: Asking the question: During the last century, what happened to the place of awakening, the Great Work, in the world of magic?  How to examine the consequences of what we believe; maps of the realities we find ourselves in – i.e. cosmologies Awakening and the Hellenic gnosis, the origin of Western civilization, practices of the Hellenic gnosis What is awakening all about anyway? MAGIC AND AWAKENING What happened to magic in the 20th century? Of all the possible narratives we could build of that era, I am going to pick one about the loss and rediscovery of the goal of awakening for magic. Let’s start with Crowley, who birthed an initiatic scheme in a cultural context of scientific materialism. First, it’s worth making a distinction between science and Scientism. The former is a set of methodologies based on logic and experiment. The latter is a religion. The dominant religion of