Sunday, June 7, 2015
WELCOME TO MY BLOG!
My first book, H. P. Lovecraft and the Black Magickal Tradition, is to be published on September 1, 2015 by Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC. A full description of the book, along with other pertinent information, can be found on my website: www.johnlsteadman.com.
The primary purpose of this blog is to promote my book and to keep potential readers and interested parties aware of my activities in this regard. My publishers and I are in the process of setting up interviews and book reviews; I will post the actual dates of these events, as well as all information about them, as soon as it becomes available. Also, as the publication date draws closer, I am planning an extensive series of author visits at various bookstores throughout Michigan, all of which will likely take place during the autumn months of 2015.The dates of these events will be given here, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
I have a secondary purpose in writing this blog which is, in many ways, as equally important as the first. I want to indulge myself freely in discussing, elaborating on and clarifying key issues and topics associated with the subject matter in my book. By doing this, I suppose I will be promoting my book as well in terms of generating discussion and interest (hopefully, at least), but my intent will mainly be to articulate my views, my thoughts, and my insights about H. P. Lovecraft, Lovecraft scholarship and western occultism in general.
Initially, one very important issue is the difference between white magick and black magick. In H. P. Lovecraft and the Black Magickal Tradition, Lovecraft is associated specifically with the practice of black magick, as opposed to white magick. The term “black magick” has unpleasant connotations in the minds of some readers, who perceive this type of magick as being evil, or at least, morally reprehensible. Conversely, many readers assume that “white magick” is good magick. But there isn’t any viable reason why mere colors should be associated with such concepts as good or evil. Similarly, there isn’t any justification for associating light or darkness with good or evil. Such dichotomies as light and darkness, or white and black, are free from moral imperatives; they can, if the magickal practitioner so desires, represent different routes taken to achieve spiritual or psychological results. Indeed, determining whether or not a person or an action is “evil” depends solely on the person or the action itself when judged in terms of behavior or effects. Certainly, a black magickian can be described as good if he or she acts ethically, while a white magickian can be considered evil if his or hers actions are harmful to others. In Chapter 1 of my book, black magick is defined simply as magic performed for the purposes of gaining knowledge and/ or power, as opposed to white magick, which is centered on the goal of spiritual attainment. In Lovecraft’s works, his view of the magickian is definitely black, but not necessarily evil. Lovecraft’s magickal practitioners perform their craft either to gain knowledge or power; the fact that some of these practitioners end up becoming evil is largely beside the point. For example, Joseph Curwen, in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (1927), performs necromancy to raise the spirits of dead persons; this activity is not inherently evil. However, Curwen also commits wholesale murder; this, of course, classifies him as an evil man.
Two prominent magickal practitioners have elaborated on the black/white dichotomy in magick and tried to widen the traditional views of magick by arguing that magickal practice should embrace the whole spectrum of colors. The late Isaac Bonewits, founder of Ar nDraiocht Fein, the largest neopagain Druid organization in the world, in Real Magic (1993), Chapter Five, “Black Magic, White Magic, and Living Color,” argues that magickal practice can be defined to correspond to the psychic energies fields , or so-called auras, that are presumed to surround the human body. Bonewits’ system of correspondences introduces a variety of different “types” of magick: red magic, orange magic, yellow magic, green magic, blue magic, indigo magic, purple magic, ultraviolet magic (which he further identifies with traditional black magick), and brown magic. But Bonewits himself rightly admits that magick, in itself, has no color and that his system is merely a series of associational devices. As we examine the different types, it becomes apparent that such a classification is an unnecessary complication and elaboration, since each type of magick can be placed into the two categories that I identified in the previous paragraph. Red magic, for example, involves blessings and curses; this is, obviously, magick performed for knowledge or power. Indigo magic, on the other hand, is performed to control the weather, or to astral travel; again, this is magick performed for knowledge or power. Blue magic, unlike the others, focuses on religion and spirituality in part, and thus, this type of magick could be interpreted as white magick. After perusing all of the different types of magic articulated by Bonewits, it quickly becomes clear that such an elaboration is not necessary at all; the black/white dichotomy, as defined previously, is sufficient.
Peter J. Carroll, author of Liber Null & Psychonaut (1987) and Liber Kaos (1992), and Chancellor of Arcanorium College and Past Grandmaster of IOT Pact, posits a similar system in Liber Kaos, Part 2: The Psychonomicon, Chapter 4: Eight Magics. Here, Carroll raises the issue of auric energy fields, just as Bonewits did, but then he sensibly drops this issue, seeing that auric fields are largely irrelevant to magickal practice, and argues instead that there are eight different types of “magics”, as he calls them, which can be attributed to the seven classical planets, plus Uranus, and which signify emotional states. Carroll’s list is certainly creative: he gives us octarine magic (an instinctive drive toward magic); black magic (destruction and entropy), blue magic (material wealth); red magic (combat and aggression); yellow magic (changes to the ego or personality; illumination); green magic (love magic); orange magic (wit and intellect); and purple magic (sex magic). All of these categories, however, can be placed into either the white or black categories and thus, Carroll’s system is, like Bonewits’ system, an unnecessary elaboration. Yellow magick is clearly white magick, while the other seven colors are focused on black magick, i.e. on power, knowledge, or a combination of the two.