Author, magician and researcher Don Webb is well known in magical circles for his work with the Temple of Set. In this interview, Webb discusses levels of magical insight, the Left Hand Path and other topics of possible interest to some disinfonauts.
Aonie Anfa: Thank you for speaking with me. Your work could be considered some of the most foundational in the modern Left Hand Path, and y our book Uncle Setnakt’s Guide To The Left Hand Path is lauded as a cornerstone resource in many LHP reading lists. What are your personal views and goals of the particular sort of Work you do?
Don Webb: First, let me thank you for your kind words. My writing is expressed in two main areas. I write fiction – science fiction, fantasy, horror and “experimental” writing – and I write nonfictional works of philosophy and magic. I also teach creative writing for UCLA Extension. Like most American writers, writing is not my day job. So I write at night, on the weekends, holidays. It becomes important to balance my time so that the goals of magic – pleasure, power and knowledge are enjoyed. Spending time with my wife is (for example) much dearer to me than writing. So I have to focus my mind on writing almost all of the time, so that when I sit down to my keyboard I can always type out the first 500 to 600 words of the projects I am working on. This method has two advantages. Dr. Michael Aquino, my teacher’s teacher, argues that magic is the art of changing the subjective universe so that a proportional change will occur in the objective universe. By hanging on to my writing for several hours it becomes deeply imprinted in – it leads to permanent change in my psyche, which is difficult to accomplish in our distraction-filled world. Secondly this filters my life – or to put in more New Agey terminology – it sets up for synchronicities. Thus everything in my life seems to weave itself into my words, and this makes the world – even such trivial commonplaces as queuing up at a check-out lane or scanning Facebook – a source of meaningful occurrences. Writing can be a magical act of making the world into your muse. For awakened humans, magic can be defined as the art of managing synchronicities.
I am very excited by my new book, Overthrowing the Old Gods, coming from Inner Traditions in November. It holds my thoughts on the magical and philosophical world of Aleister Crowley. I placed Crowley in the context of the modern Western Left Hand Path. My friends who have read the book – both Thelemites and non-Thelemites have said they found fresh insight. Inner Traditions is a wonderful group of folk to work with – I hope I can have future volumes from them. I am selling a book of my Lovecraftian short fiction – a 30 year retrospective to Hippocampus Press. Through Dark Angles should out in fall or winter of 2014.I am working on a second horror collection as well certain magical works, but it is not yet to time to discuss these things. Of course there is always the ongoing work to be a better husband, son, friend.
AA: Can you talk a bit about the Order of Setne Khamuast? Egyptian and Mediterranean praxis that honors the source of a tradition as closely as possible can be sadly rare in the modern occult scene. How public i s your Work, or is it strictly a behind-closed-doors scenario?
DW: In the sense of formal ritual magic, Setians only perform Workings among themselves. We try not to make magic into performance – and in an age where people post comments about their suppers, secrecy has power. In fact any consciously held secret will change the objective u niverse. However, in another sense, since magic is a form of communication of any conscious speech act – such as this interview – is a magical act. Whenever you cause the subjective universe of another to change – even if only to make her laugh – you are doing Magic. This is not a Hallmark clichÃ©, although your less conscious readers will think so.
Why should a magicians try and change other’s subjective universes? It is not for the adolescent dreams you might have had for magic – it will get you laid and the occasional extra dollar in your pocket. Although theses goals are obtainable, there is a much grander reason for magic. It is our best weapon against the forces of stupidity. If I can make one human look up from the next thing they are going to go deeper in debt over – I have won spiritual battle. I have gained power, and I have empowered those whom I love trust and respect.
Blessed is he that writes these Runes, blessed is she who reads them.
The Order of Setne Khamuast, of which I was Grandmaster until the recent Temple of Set Conclave in Providence this year, is devoted to r etrieving the magical technologies of the Mediterranean world and re-adapting them to our world. In this I have followed the lead of my teacher, Dr. Stephen E. Flowers. Most magical groups like a subjective approach to the past – “I think this is how the Egyptians would have done this or maybe it was the Lemurians.” In the OSK, we use real research. We use primary and secondary sources – firstly because the effort to gain these sources strengthens the mind and the will, secondly because it links our pysches with the past – the magician must seek to cast himself further and further into the past, the present and the yet to be, thirdly the art of research leads to a deep and powerful truth – the difference between inner mysteries (eg. “Why do I love whom I love?”) and outer mysteries (“Why did the Egyptians write the name of Set in red ink?”) is an illusion. You will find the mirror of your secret self in the places you must look the hardest to find – and you will find the answer to academic riddles within your black heart. To advance in the Order one must produce academically acceptable papers as well as spectacular magical workings. A few very respected journals have articles by my students in them. We will Open the Mouths of the Gods, much as Set did in the beginning of time.
Setne Khamuast was the fourth son of Ramses the Great, and the inventor of the library, the first Egyptologist – who researched Egyptian magic from a thousand years before his time and readapted the spells for current use.
AA: I notice in a few spiritual organizations and traditions, there seems to be, at times, a sort of viscious feeding frenzy that occurs when there is a sudden influx of new interest. How vital do you feel t he integration of praxis/intellectual stimulation/compassion is and how do you feel we, as ethical practitioners, could best combat that? Also, what do you think is the most constructive way to offer peer support within and outside of tradition and philosophy?
DW: Humans are for the most part squirrels. They run off with new nuts and forget the ones that they have buried. If you want to make a real change in yourself, prolonged conscious work is needed. There is a rush when discovering new things – the whole occultnik industry is based on this. One week you’re awed at the Runes, the next week it’s the I-Ching, then the week after that it’s “Enochian Sex Magick.” Now that’s probably a harmless diversion as watching Star Trek – but it is not the royal road of becoming more than you seem. I don’t spend time trying to fight waves of fad-ism – in fact I would love it if my next book were a bestseller. I role model to the few who are drawn to my words and the importance of Will. Of course most humans won’t get it – the cosmic ecology is based on the notion that most acorns rot – or wind up as squirrel food. There will only be a few trees. The trees’ hard work does benefit humanity as a whole, but humanity seldom makes any but the smallest of steps forward.
AA: What basic scientific structure and critical rubric do you employ when examining research and work materials of past projects for photographic or otherwise physical forms of manifestation? What do you think qualifies photographic evidence of Work manifestation?
DW: Well artistic forms are easy – check out the video Lachusa Mundo
and I did on YouTube. (insert
As far as evidence of manifestation, what would I show? Being a college dropout, I could show the diploma I got at age 40, which was a magical Working, but in what way would it look different than your diploma or any of your readers? I know that in this age of renewed Spiritism, there is an urge to show “evidence” of the world beyond – much as was the fad during Victorian times. Evidence does not lie on the surfaces, but in the essence of things. You might hear of evidence of the Spirit – for example check out the late Frank Zappa’s “G Spot Tornado”, or see evidence of the Spirit when looking at a building designed by Gaudi. You might taste evidence of the spirit in your grandmother’s red velvet cake, or smell it in the frankincense burned during your rites. But the “proofs” of magic are methods of self-delusion – a way for humans to induce a deeper and more exotic Sleep in themselves, when they might have produced Wakefulness by turning their attention to what lies behind the phenomena, and ultimately turning the light back on themselves and asking “What part of me registers this miracle? What am I to know and need Wonder?”
AA: Synchronicity is a topic that I have noticed is recently gaining quite a bit of attention in LHP traditions, like the re-awakened Chaos groups,as well as what many consider high-level LHP organizations. By your personal cosmological standard, how big of a role do those amusing little coincidences and seemingly random events play?
DW: Synchronicity is an act of perception that uses the confluence of subjective and objective states to order the chaos of existence. Sadly, for most people it becomes merely a thrilling distraction. I’ll give an example of synchronicity that produces varying levels of energy and Intent.
Bill, on his way to work on an early winter morning, sees a brilliant shooting star in the sky. His sleeping wife Mary dreams of a meteor shower. Later in the day they both hear “Drops of Jupiter” by Train – Bill on the radio on the drive home, Mary at work when her cubicle mate plays it. Let’s look at different levels of action that this can have:
Zero level – Both wage slaves, exhausted by work, do not share nor reflect on any part of their days after work. No gain – this is the level of most people. No synchronicity has occurred – no one heard the tree fall in the forest of Magic.
First Level – They both mention the occurrences and muse for an instant that there might be more to the world than meets the eye. Awareness drew near, but didn’t overtake them. These are people who have cool bumper stickers – they don’t do the Work, but often energize those that do.
Second Level – Both are very excited at the synchronicity. They’ve read books about the idea and can even say “Jung.” They derive joy from the incident, are sure there’s more to the world than meets the eye, and post it on their Facebook status. Awareness in a feeble state has entered their lives for a moment – if they are lucky they will use this energy to separate a little from the world-machine and become freer. Some of their energy may improve sacred places or bring s some thoughtfulness to political decisions.
Third Level – They have a moment of true Awe. They compare their perceptions to the beings of Flatland that can observe a sphere passing through their dimension as a circle that grows then shrinks away. They realize that both their psyches have seen the edges of something bigger and stranger that is moving toward them. They decide to watch their lives carefully to See more. They admit that they don’t Know anything yet, but are filled with a long desire(aeonic ref?) to Know. They keep the incident just between themselves for a few days. They feel energized – and for reasons they don’t grasp now, they become more deeply drawn to each other. In a few days they are able to make different subtle changes in their lives that lead to more Joy and to seeing more of the Wyrd of the world. This is the level that the true magic of long desire begins.
I suspect there is a fourth level, but I have not been able to articulate it yet – but then I’ve been a practitioner for only thirty years. But perhaps one of your readers is Seeing it now.
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