WYRD Journal-Vol. IV
WYRD is a bi-annual peer-reviewed occult journal, published biannually by Three Hands Press.
It expresses both scholarly and heuristic viewpoints and serves as a vital interface with, and resource for, contemporary esoteric readers. Its concerns include magical philosophy, occult art, contemporary spiritual traditions, folk magic, witchcraft, myth, folklore, paganism, and entheogens.
WYRD Vol. IV -Summer Solstice, 2019 is available now and features new articles by Andrew D. Chumbley, Peter Lamborn Wilson, Richard Gavin, Corinne Boyer, and Martin Duffy. Images by Linda MacFarlane, Nicomi Nix Turner, Marzena Ablewska, Johnny Decker Miller, Joseph Uccello, and Claude Mahmood. Limited to 1,000 copies in total, softcover, 7″ × 10″, full color images throughout, printed offset lithography on heavy acid-free stock, 64 pages.
This issue also features the full length version of my paper: ‘The Harlot that Shaketh Death: Aleister Crowley’s “Babalon” as a Source of Innovative, Erotic and Phenomenological models in Contemporary Esoteric Practice’. As presented at the Association for the Study of Esotericism conference on ‘Eros, Sexuality and Embodiment in Esoteric Traditions’ in Houston, Texas, May 2018. The essay includes photography by the extraordinary Anima Nocturna.
To paraphrase from the abstract of the paper, the piece explores some of the interdisciplinary research strategies and methodology that I have developed in my practice that use the foundational motifs and definitions of Babalon found in Crowley’s Liber 418 (The Vision and the Voice) as a template for creating embodied sex-magical practices. This heuristic approach is driven by the perception that the embodied manifestations of Babalon as a revolutionary force, hinge upon women developing authoritive status as practitioners. This requires an ontological shift, that gives women autonomous agency in theory and practice. However, coherent practices that support this position are scare due to a paucity of sources and recorded accounts of sexual, magical practices authored by women, and the many androcentric biases found in esoteric traditions. The work of Irigaray on the subject of sexual difference is given particular consideration in this paper and the implications of recent scientific studies on sexual arousal in women are also briefly examined. In addition, a selection of extracts from Tantric sacred texts which attribute specificities to women’s subtle anatomy are examined in the context of the research and practice presented in this paper.
“Academic research is gradually shedding light upon hidden aspects of women’s history and the female magical body and its occult anatomy is in the process of excavation. This process has relevance to the evaluation of every magical system and how women’s participation is supported within them. The lived body of women and its sexuality presents a problem to pretty much every intellectual, philosophical, religious and esoteric tradition. Elizabeth Grosz highlights how modern theories on corporeality produced by Nietzsche, Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari have little of help in understanding corporeal, sexual difference and indeed that ‘none seem aware that the specificities of the female body remain unexplained’. This lack of acknowledgment of the specificity of women’s bodies and inherent erotic phenomenology continues to the present and is often perpetuated in esoteric systems, and if it is represented it is usually seen in relationship to male physiology/subtle body rather than a vehicle of magical transformation in its own right.”
Thus, a belief that a biognostic ‘Hidden Body’ lies within Babalon current has led my research not only into an examination of the historical participation of women in sexual magical traditions and the bio-politics of erotic, sacred femininity, but has also strayed into an examination of progressive feminist ontologies and epistemologies on feminine divinity and agency.
“Irigarary’s notion of the hidden feminine also has parallels with the definition of the 156 Current presented here, which Berry considers as representing not a mirror or vacuum but ‘a dynamic state of becoming’ that ‘serves not as the telos or goal of a feminist philosophy but as the instrument in the elaboration of a radically new nondualistic mode of physical, metaphysical and ethical speculation’.”
The paper also touches upon scientific discoveries on the female sexual response, from the pioneering work of Masters and Johnson through to recent data published by Dr. Beverley Whipple and Barry Komisaruk who used PET/ fMRI brain imaging of orgasms to investigate the neurological features of sexual arousal in women, which led to Whipple’s hyposthesis upon the existance of the ‘Extra Genital Matrix’. This material has generated some useful intersections with personal research findings.
“A key finding has been that although Crowley’s ‘156’ derivations from Arn delineate some of the broader metaphysical and magical principles within the current, the septenary formulas in Liber 418 relate very closely to female embodied practices and subtle anatomy of the priestess. In this way, the state of constant copulation, the magical ground of 156 as defined by Crowley, is perceived in practice as merely the mode of ingress, a gateway state of consciousness that is necessary to begin a deeper experience the path of 156, rather than the final goal. ”
The seven stringed instrument of the ‘Harlot’ as represented in Crowley’s vision of ARN, the 2nd Enochian Aethyr ‘, is interpreted in my practice as representing a multi-layered spectrum of orgasmic response. When consciously cultivated in the body, this magical form of erotic arousal can create a continuum of altered states of consciousness whereby the body becomes an instrument which mediates various erotic phenomenologies—generating multiple, ecstatic states of sexual gnosis. The research points to promising techniques that can be used by women for the development of practices of self-cultivation.
“Although the heterosexual magical formulas found in the many versions of Hieros Gamos in esoteric systems traditionally represent a route to the highest esoteric arcana, it can be construed that corresponding physical practices should not be perceived as mandatory to the sex-magical development of women, particularly in their current state. Arguably, before these formulas can be fully reformed it is important that female magicians move towards developing solo practices that result in adepthood as sexual magicians. In other words, authority is achieved through a life-long independent progression in the sexual mysteries as a woman, a Great Work which has its own trajectory and initiatic progression and is based upon active cultivation of magical sacraments and rites of initiation.”