Last night I went to a workshop with Lon Milo DuQuette in Copenhagen on Goetic magic. There were about 30 people attending, and it seemed that I was the only one people hadn’t seen before. Except for Lon. He gave me a big hug and we talked about the most neutral American accent: ‘Indiana,’ he suggested. ‘People from Indiana don’t sound like anything in particular, just American.’ Right. I knew Lon was in good shape. The rest asked me: ‘How do you know Lon?’ And I said, ‘I read him.’ ‘Have you met him before?’, they wanted to know, and I said ‘yes.’ And then to the million-dollar question? ‘Why aren’t you part of the lodge?’ I gave a long answer.
At the end of the day, however, I thought that my answer tied in with the very point that Lon made, namely that since this is the only ONE universe we’re part of and work with, there’s no point in hierarchies, or making distinctions between working with God and the angels, the Devil and the demons, or for a lodge. ‘You have to rise above it all,’ Lon said, and then continued: ‘Solomon did it too.’ ‘And by the way,’ he also pointed out in a rant, ‘there is no historical figure named Solomon. It’s all fiction. But we’re all hard-wired to the archetype. The builder of the temple. The one who commanded the demons to help him achieve God’s great plan. So he’s real enough’. Indeed.
One of the questions from the audience at the end of the talk revolved around the relevance for today of using antiquated rituals in works of conjuration. I liked Lon’s answer, that although anyone is free to use whatever works for them in a magical circle, it is worth considering how ‘we are all 19th century magicians with a penchant for medieval magic. We are all Chaldeans. We are all already antiquated.’ Now, what Lon was talking about was time, and how time in magic is something other than what we make of it in our daily lives. In magic, cause can easily come before effect, and some other things can also occur simultaneously even in spite of whatever we happen to enunciate, conjure, put a spell on, or act theatrically for the sake of appearing cool about living.
I liked where this thought led me, namely, to considering what we know about time, both in physics and then also metaphysics. If you take the quantum physics idea about time, then you get what Lon was saying. While time itself is not an absolute quantity, time bound with space forms ‘spacetime’ that allows us to determine how different physical processes in different spatial locations interact. In this sense, time by itself is ‘no-time’. Hence, if you don’t consider this aspect of time to also be no-time at the same time, then you’ll be looking for ‘relevance.’ This, in magic, you can never ask for. This is the very rule of magic. What you do is not ‘relevant’ in the time or context that makes sense to you or anybody else. What you do is not ‘new’ or ‘antiquated,’ but rather, bound up with the sense of being the very ‘spacetime’ that you also try to observe or influence.
But there is also a paradox at the heart of this. In ‘spacetime’ – let us call it your own head, to keep with Lon’s great dictum: ‘It’s all in your head, you just have no idea how big your head is’ – what you think that you’re doing, a magical act, a conjuration, spell work, heal, kill the vicar, and so on, is in fact nothing. As you’re already all this work, part of all this ‘spacetime’, you have no influence whatsoever. Or rather, you have influence, but not in the sense that you think you do. I think that this is the part that gives the chaos magicians a hard time, as they think that they can ‘influence’ everything. Bullshit, in my humble opinion. The whole point is to work magic out of the consideration that you’re both the observer and the observed, and that in fact at neither point do you have a say in it. You can step into that circle, and order the demon to sit nicely in the triangle, but at the end of the day, if there’s any magical working that’s working, then that is the magic that you put on yourself. Not the universe as external to yourself. Not hell as something you so awesomely can visit and come back from. You only always work on yourself. You ‘mutate’ yourself, as Lon put it. That’s the magic, and that’s the point.
‘Goetia is you,’ Lon said, and this instantly made me think of why I’m not in a lodge, asking for initiations and following dogmatic rules. For all of Aleister Crowley’s love talk, which I hope I get, I don’t get the point of there having to be an adept head bestowing blessings on the aspirants. Ruling and commanding. If the point is to mutate yourself, then you can only achieve this in your own aloneness.
Pertaining to Goetic magic, what I get from Lon’s talks and writings is the following: When you conjure demons, you conjure yourself. You work with yourself as a God or as the universe. For better or worse. It’s all in the confrontation with your shadow – to speak psychoanalytically – though this shadow is not a lesser version of yourself. Consequently, what we call a confrontation is actually not. Either you are part of the universe as one (even when there may be several of them), or you’re not. If you don’t think that you’re part of the earth you tread on, the telluric forces that you work with, then you’re stuck in making dualistic distinctions: good and evil, angels and demons.
In a way, Lon’s approach to Goetia is an old shamanic approach. When you ask for something in your life, or when you ask for your life to turn around, whatever you invoke, evoke, or banish will change YOU, not the thing you ask for. Here I appreciated Lon’s insight that what constitutes the magic is your own adventure. Your being mutated, your having changed, is the adventure. That adventure is the magic.
In other words, Goetic magic is very simple. There’s no such thing as evil in the grand picture. Evil is invented because people have a specific agenda. As it disturbs most people to NOT have an agenda, they invent all sorts of systems, dogma, hierarchies, and power relations. The idea is always to get ‘nothing’ out of it. Nothing is the very ‘spacetime’ of your own head, and the only thing that will get your magic going. Anything else is called involved magic, biased magic, or magic for an agenda that’s invested in personal interest.
Now, this may run counter to all discourses on magic, or the power invested in engaging in symbolic action with intent, but as far as I can see the whole idea of nothing is the very way to go about it. Call it Zen magic. Call it being part of Georg Cantor’s real numbers line, the line of the greater infinity than the others we know of. Call it being Lon Milo DuQuette. Call it Lon Milo DuQuette being myself. Call it being touched. After his talk, Lon changed his profile picture on Facebook with a picture in which I look like I’m photo bombing him. What a great touch. That is precisely the very point.
For more magic, read Lon’s books. Read his Low Magic book – one of my favorites. Or buy them all, like I did. Go and have a chat with him, or participate in a workshop. Or listen to him sing. You may find out just how lucky you are and how mutated you are in his gyroscope. Be the universe. Be Lon’s Datura tree, the one that spoke to him on his walks after he lost all that fat, and which he now refers to constantly. Be everything. Be nothing. Be magic.
Due thanks go to Fortune Buchholz for this one. If she hadn’t reminded me of Lon’s schedule while in Denmark one hour before his talk, I would still be sitting in my living room, perhaps reading one of his books instead of being in his actual presence. Always grand to see the man. Thank you all.
Photo: Mike Ditlevsen