Magick has a much more resonant frequency when talked about in the hushed tones of “BLACK MAGICK.” The following is the First Chapter from a fiction story I’m working on:
Part ZERO: Threshold
Stagnation is inevitable; entropy prevails.
At least that’s how I felt on that warm, hazily smogged March afternoon, which was the day of the night of my initiation.
With some effort I got out of bed that morning, freshened up my tawny hair with some water, put on cleanish clothes, and left in my car to do some research.
From my little home in Los Feliz, I took the 5 South to the 110.
I had at one point wanted to write a story called Lost Feliz detailing my unhappy travails in unfulfillable longing since I’d lived in the area. I liked the sound of it. Los Feliz. Lost Feliz. Lost happiness. I told my friend about it and she said I’d be the only one who got it. I took it to heart and never wrote the story. Still, maybe someday I’ll write one called Lost Angeles. And so it goes….
The traffic on the 110 was more crowded than usual, but I put it down to increasing congestion since I didn’t get down this way often.
I was restless and angsty, partly over my imminent initiation and partly over what was the general malaise and frustration I felt with my entire life.
Arriving at the university, I attempted to park in my usual spot only to find that street blocked off by police cars. Annoying. Probably an event.
I drove further down a few blocks, and ended up parking next to a closed “Smog Check,” carefully squeezing in between a barely-beat-up black Honda sedan and the brick side of the building.
It was a decently long walk back to the university library where I was to do my research, but it would be good exercise so I didn’t mind. I put on my backpack and trekked through various store parking lots alongside Figueroa.
Soon after entering the campus I noticed a sea of black and white cars. There must have been at least thirty LAPD patrol cars parked in a long row, but I made it to the library without further incident, and took the stairs up to the 4th floor to study various books I’d picked up on the previous three.
I flipped idly through a book on the history of the transistor, specifically diodes, but couldn’t find much interest in it at that exact moment. My mind wandered, becoming engrossed in the pessimistically philosophical.
Every day is a battle against impending decay, disorganization, kippleization. Nature left alone tends to chaos. It’s a constant battle for a man or woman to shape their universe into their own image, in a world they are happy with, in a world in which they want to live. As soon as we stop working on our life, as soon as we turn our heads for even one moment, life begins to disintegrate back into the unpleasant chaos of what-we-don’t-want.
And the worst–the absolute worst–are the mundanities: the drudgery of dusting, washing dishes, and doing laundry in a washer too small to complete a decent load at one time. Do some people actually find happiness in such a domestic routine? Perhaps. Or if not happiness, then security. And I guess for the less imaginative of our race, that is enough.
Clearly, it must hold more appeal if one has a family to come home to, to make it worthwhile.
I had no one. Well, not that I didn’t have friends. I did. Quite a few. Many of whom adored me. But lately I had felt an internal alienation toward all my friends. Towards all humans in fact. And I guess I’d been alienating them a little longer than “lately.” For about a year, I had fairly well isolated myself from just about all my friends, only keeping in occasional contact with the oldest and dearest of them.
I suppose the start of this trend goes back even further when my girlfriend died at age sixteen. Fatal car accident, you see. She died at the scene. Her family never allowed me a chance to see her body before she was cremated. I couldn’t believe she was dead.
The night after the funeral, in a fit of frustration, I conjured up the daemon Gargratziel, under whose dominion such tasks fall, to bring me proof she was dead. In fact, I very nearly taunted him to do so, so confident was the irrational part of my mind that she was not dead, but that the car accident story was just a scheme devised by her family, who never liked me much anyway, to keep me away from her.
And proof it was I received, less than two days after the conjuration, in the form of photographs from the accident scene. Where I found them left a foul taste in my mouth, however.
On my friend’s suggestion I was looking through a Usenet newsgroup called alt.binaries.pictures.tasteless to check out some really “nasty shit, man.” This was more out of boredom than morbid curiosity. He had told me it was full of things like autopsy photos and Kurt Cobain suicide pictures.
I pulled up the new messages in my newsgroup reader, sifting through the usual spam for things that were actually on topic. One set of posts in particular caught my eye: “YOUNG GIRL MANGLED IN CAR ACCIDENT (1/1)”
I clicked on the first post in the series, and waited a few seconds for it to load the .JPG.
And there she was, my Kari, dead at the car scene. She didn’t look mangled. She looked beautiful. She was wearing her favorite halter-top, which in the photo was pulled down on one side revealing a scratched and bloodied, yet still lovely breast. And as I stared at her once soft mahogany hair, now matted with blood, dirt and filth, I began to cry.
Well, I had gotten my wish.
I never bothered to investigate how it got on the Internet or track down who posted it if only for the reason that such searches would undoubtedly prove futile. I did, however, check the newsgroup occasionally after that, but I never saw another one of her photos.
With considerable effort I pushed myself up from the table where I had been idly flipping through books. I walked along the edge of the library, looking out the large picture windows at the university below, moving quietly, stealthily as was my nature, yet now also slowly and limply, which was not my usual custom.
My wounds from losing Kari were quite healed and well scarred over. My hurt and frustration was now just a cold mausoleum, which I only occasionally visited with reverence and wistful sorrow at what might have been.
Unfocused and bored I decided to call it a day. I left the library and began walking back to my car.
Walking back the same way I’d come, I now found it blocked off and guarded by a mixture of security guards and cops.
I groaned. What exactly was going on here?
Annoyed, I turned around and took a longer, much more circuitous route back to my car.
Striding along an access road through the university and cutting between some buildings into a little plaza, I began noticing all the people milling around. Kids, grandparents, and everything in between were crowding onto a little knoll and filling up the boughs of a tree next to it.
I continued walking, pondering what might be going on, and climbed up the knoll myself to have a look. I saw two giant Oscar statues and an Academy Awards banner across the front of the Shrine Auditorium.
“Oh. Now I see.”
Or rather I didn’t see–anything good that is. The statues and the banners were just about all you could see from the areas still open to the public. I couldn’t understand what the big draw was since the only good seats, the benches overlooking the outside procession where the stars entered, had been taken at least a week before by fanatics camping out.
I looked around, mildly curious, as I had been in Los Angeles only a couple years and wasn’t entirely jaded to such things just yet. There had to be a better way. I scanned around and noticed the nearby Phillip’s Hall, an eleven-story building. Worth a try, I guess.
I walked up to the glass doors of the building and peered in. I didn’t see anyone so I tried pulling. It was open. I entered the foyer and pressed the button for the elevator.
I had better things to do than obsess over what were, for the most part, under-talented, over-paid actors but since I was already down here, I figured what the hell? There might be a good view from up top. Besides. I always liked heights.
The elevator dinged at me as the doors opened. I stepped in and pressed the button labeled “11.”
After a relatively quick and uneventful trip to the top, I exited the elevator and explored the eleventh floor. This was a tall building, but not very big otherwise. The doors to the offices, or whatever they might have been, were all closed. There were no windows at the end of any hallways like I was hoping. I exited out onto the stairwell, and was pleased to find steps leading up to the roof.
I was even more pleased to find that the door to the roof, which was plainly labeled, “No Entrance Without Permission,” was unlocked. So after giving myself permission, I pulled the door open and stepped up onto the roof.
I made my way around, under, and through a conglomeration of pipes and other roof-type paraphernalia to another door, which led to a balcony running around the entire outside of the building.
The balcony was a tight, enclosed area, but with alternating glassless windows running along its length. The windows were large enough to be seen out of, but their width was too narrow to climb through. I guess the architect had the foresight not to allow distraught students to jump off before, or after, final exams.
I looked down at Oscar tableau. Nice overhead view, but too far away to distinguish faces so I had no idea who was who. Still, it was a nice panorama.
It was windy and rather cold that high up, and I crossed my arms as I looked down upon the red carpet processional.
A part of me mocked the mentality that worships famous people–mediocre humans obsessed with other humans whom they hold so much higher and of more worth than themselves. This in itself is contemptible, but consider it along with the fact that most of the stars are themselves uninspired hacks, and all of Hollywood is practically an abomination.
Like many, if not most, Americans growing up I had idolized TV stars, movie stars, and rock stars, looking towards them for inspiration and guidance–admiring them as the pinnacle of success and the things they had as the things that brought happiness. Looking down below me at the tiny stars walking between the two giant gold gods, I felt once again a glimmer of this, but it was quickly replaced by distress and disillusionment, knowing what will-o-the-wisps were the twinkling glow of these stars, who for the most part, were no more happy than I was, nor more fulfilled, nor even knew their own true purpose any better than I. The utter meaninglessness of the mutual back-patting and the glorification of their own mediocrity sickened and annoyed me.
Then again, another part of me could envision myself as one of the stars some day: a famous director of legendary landmark films such as Juliette, the first true-to-form big budget adaptation of a Marquis De Sade novel. And to be really shocking, I would show up in a designer dress, making history as the first Academy Award winning director to show up in drag.
I chuckled to myself and smiled wryly.
I had noticed a photographer with a telephoto lens at the corner of the balcony. I walked over to him and asked if I could take a look-see.
“Uhm, yeah sure. Just a minute,” he said kindly, but cautiously, and then fiddled around with the lens and tripod, as if making sure there was nothing I could futz up while I was taking a look.
Gazing into the telephoto lens helped things somewhat. The people on the carpet went from “tiny” to just “very small.”
“Is this as close-in as we can get?” I asked.
“Unfortunately, yes. This is just for some overhead shots I’m supposed to get for class.”
“I see. A telescope would probably do better,” I said, watching the processional trudge by. I still couldn’t make out facial details very well, but damned if that guy in the deep blue suit wasn’t Jack Nicholson.
I watched another minute or two, and then a peculiar thing happened.
A woman in a sea-green gown flowed along the path of the processional by herself. She was alone, I realized, because there was no one she deigned fit to be in her presence, much like a queen taking control of the center of a chessboard late in the middle game of chess–her allies giving her space to do her work, and her enemies just getting the hell out of her way. She wasn’t any actress that I knew of. I was sure of that. I would have remembered such regal bearing anywhere. Oh, how I wished I could make out her face.
The peculiar thing was this: she paused for no apparent reason, turned and waved up in my direction, and even though it was too far away for me to be certain, I got the chillingly uncanny impression that she was looking directly at me. Absurd to think so, I know, but the feeling was so intense that I got goose bumps and felt a cold rush in the back of my neck tingle downward through my body into every limb, finger, and toe. As I was about to wave back, she turned away and continued her graceful ambulation into the entrance of the auditorium.
I stepped back from the camera, “Thanks.”
Well, he might have no problems, but I sure did. My main problem, I thought as I turned away from the spectacle below and made my way back across the roof and down out of the building, was that I didn’t know what I wanted anymore. I had a decent income, decent friends, and up until recently, even a decent girlfriend. However, nothing was fantastic, extraordinary or inspirational. I felt myself becoming average and that made me sick to my very core. I wanted the exceptional. I wanted the extraordinary. I wanted to be friends with people like the woman in the sea-green dress.
Oh, the idleness of fanciful dreaming, the longing for far off desires with nary a thought of how they might actually be accomplished, how they might actually become reality. It is a brave man indeed who actually attempts to make his dreams into a reality and not merely use them as a pacifier for aching discontents.
This indeed was the reason I was allowing myself to be initiated tonight into the Sacred Order of the Silver Star, because, at very least, I was taking a step. And although this step might be a wrong one, at least it was movement. At the beginning, the accuracy of the steps is not so important as the momentum that taking steps builds. It is momentum focused towards a desired and consciously chosen direction that creates a karmic destiny that must some day become manifest.
I had been practicing magick alone for many years prior to my initiation. I drilled myself rigorously mainly in the Golden Dawn tradition, and then in Crowley’s Thelemic Libers. I had had some successes to be sure, especially with talismanic and sex magick, but still I longed for more. Much more. Something more tangible, more immediate, yet also more long-lasting. I wanted the black magick of faery tales and ancient legends. I wanted the magick of Merlin or Gandalf. And while I knew such things were inherently impossible, I could not stop questing for them.
I had heard from a friend of a friend of a friend of the Sacred Order of the Silver Star. Even within the occult community it had quite a mysterious reputation, known for granting dark powers and hidden knowledge, but only after rigorous trials and soul-binding promises of secrecy. Such tales of harsh ordeals and vows signed in blood did little to deter me. I would do anything for the sort of magick I desired, and I had no fear of hard work or painful sacrifices. Quite frankly, even my soul seemed like a small price to pay.
Even though incredible magickal powers were my wildest, most sought after fantasy, rationally I treated this whole situation with a healthy dose of skepticism and low expectations.
I’d worked with another magickal group once before, several years earlier. It was mostly Thelemic in nature, and at least as far as I knew, there was no sex magick involved; but really, that meant nothing as most orders horded their sex secrets greedily, and only allowed long-term or highly promising practitioners to be a part of their inner sanctums. We did, however, do group workings on all the major magick holidays: the equinoxes, solstices, Samhain, Beltane, etc. During these a great deal of energy was raised and sent down into the altar to charge whatever specific purpose was at hand. We were allowed to put any personal talismans in the altar as well, which I always did. The results had always been highly efficacious.
This was the bare minimum I hoped for with the S.O.S.S. And if I was really lucky I might meet a good partner for sex magick, which are difficult to come by. Uninhibited and compatible sex partners were still a bit of an effort for me to find, and acceptable magicians to work with as equals, or even as assistants, were harder still. To find both these characteristics in one exceptional woman was a rare find indeed, and I valued such a woman above all else. Because it was such a rarity, I had done most of my sex magick alone, 8th Degree workings, as it were.
I eventually made it back to my car, an unremarkable trip except for the intentionally disgusting posters of the anti-abortion demonstrators who were trying to garner the attention of the stars within their limousines.
Once home, I ate some Wheat Chex cereal, as that was all my anxious stomach could handle, took a shower, and brushed my teeth.
Naked, I sat down on the edge of my bed and picked up the letter I’d received just two days prior. The envelope was simply addressed to me with no return address. Inside was small
card with a unicursal hexagram engraved on the front, and on the back was written in Helvetica font, “Two days hence as K [gemini symbol] transits.”
When I had first received the letter I was a little confused as planets generally transit, not constellations. Booting up an astronomy program on my computer and examining the
constellation Gemini, I immediately noticed the star Kappa Gemimorum. According to the program it would transit at 7:18 tonight. 718 being an important number in the Book of the Law helped confirm my belief that I had ascertained the correct time.
A semi-cryptic message in an unaddressed envelope had not particularly baffled me since it was in keeping with what I already knew about the Order. I only received news from a friend of a friend whom I wasn’t particularly close to. He told me that even he himself was not in direct contact with anyone in the Order, but was in contact with a friend of his who did know someone inside. This friend of a friend had approached me one day and said the Order had heard about me through my now regular inquiries into their workings, and that if I wished to be considered for initiation into the Order, I must submit an essay on my personal theory of black magick, a ritual that I had designed myself, and a talisman that I had constructed and charged myself.
These seemed like perfectly reasonable requests to join an order of such a lofty reputation, so I submitted a 600 word essay comparing and contrasting Thelemic sensibilities with those of Ayn Rand, a personalized replacement for the Enochian Watchtower ritual I called Vis Maior, and a Jupiter talisman for the modest sum of $4000.
Some weeks later I then received the envelope with the card inside. I knew without a doubt it was from them. And I was fairly certain I knew what would take place. With such an illustrious group as the S.O.S.S, it was unlikely they would even condescend to speak to me until I had some sort of Neophyte Initiation, where I would, at the very least, pledge to uphold the sanctity of any Order secrets. So while I didn’t know with absolute certainty that tonight was an initiation, that’s what I assumed it would be. But really, I suppose it could have been just about anything. Possibly it would be nothing more intense than an informal sit-down meeting to see if I was S.O.S.S. material. Then again, the other extreme was possible: that I was about to rendezvous with my own demise. But in a way, it would be my death even if the proceedings were only an initiation, because all true initiations are a death…and a rebirth…of some sort.
I put the card back in the envelope and laid it on top of the bed.
I got up and looked around inside my closet. I really had no idea what I should wear. It would be silly to wear a magickal robe out the front door. As I really had no idea what would happen, it seemed that more mundane attire was in order. But casual or dressy? Something in between? I sighed.
Fuck it. I put on some black jeans and a black T-shirt.
I had also debated whether or not I should take my own magickal robe with me, but ultimately decided against it. I’m sure they would have a Neophyte robe they would want me to wear.
I gave myself the twice over in front a full-length mirror that I rarely checked myself in. Finding myself presentable, I did a little Pan dance of excitement.
I checked the time. Still too early. So I paced and fretted another ten minutes or so.
Five minutes before the transit I went to wait outside my apartment building on Los Feliz Blvd. After about three minutes a black limo pulled up in front and stopped. A nondescript chauffeur exited from the driver’s side and walked around to open a back door for me. I stepped up to the car and got in.
Common sense probably dictates that I would have at least asked where the limo driver was going to take me. Well, I could tell you the look in the chauffeur’s eyes brooked no room for disagreement, which was true enough, but the real answer was just that I felt no dread about the situation, only excitement. My gut, wherein my instincts reside, gave no warnings, and while not infallible, could be relied upon the vast majority of the time. Also, I had never before gotten myself into a scrape I couldn’t also get myself out of, and, believe me, I had gotten myself into plenty of bad places. I felt this time I would also be able to extricate myself from the situation should something untoward befall me. So really, I felt perfectly comfortable just letting myself be taken for a ride, as it were.
I tried to pay attention to where we were going, but the windows were pitch black, like looking in from the outside of your usual limo. The window to the front part of the limo was opaque as well. I felt as if I was being held within a blackened womb. Again, commonsense would suggest that I be a little frightened, and probably bang on the front window to ask the driver to stop and explain where he was taking me. But while my apprehension had indeed increased, I was willing to play along. This was an initiation and one is supposed to feel as if one is alone and stumbling blindly through an abyss. The more unsettling the trials of an initiation are, that much more the ecstasy of triumph when the light is revealed.
So I forced myself to lean back and to at least appear to be relaxed.
Awhile later, perhaps twenty minutes or so, the limo stopped and the driver opened the door and let me out. And I knew exactly where we were! We were in front of an old Masonic Temple on Franklin and Vermont. Bizarrely, right in my own neighborhood, not more than a five minute drive away!
Well, now I was baffled and more than just a little annoyed. What did they hope to accomplish by driving me around for twenty minutes only to take me to a place five minutes away, a place that I would undoubtedly be familiar with? Were they just plain inept? This new fear replaced the old one. I didn’t want to get hooked up with a bunch of incompetents.
We parked, and the chauffer opened the door for me. I stepped out and sighed audibly.
I looked at the building in disbelief, and then noticed that the Masonic Emblem of the square and compass over the front entrance had been replaced. Now there was a silver circle. Within the circle was a silver snake in the shape of a loose letter “S” striving towards a large silver star above his head. Scattered around the snake were six other smaller stars. Well, now this was a little more promising.
Between the building and some rough foliage, the chauffer led me around back to a steel door, which opened promptly as a hooded figure in a black robe with red trim greeted me.
“Good evening, Aspirant. Welcome to the first night of your real life.”
Uh-huh, I thought. Could we be just a little more melodramatic?
The cowled figure escorted me through a black passage lit only with an occasional torch.
I was led to a modest-sized, yet rather stunning bathroom with an antique tub. I was told that I might bathe, if I so chose, and prepare myself ritually with whatever oils I saw fit. Then I was to dress in the robe hanging on the back of the door.
The figure bowed and closed the door behind him. I was left alone.
I examined the door, and turned the old-fashioned locking mechanism. I knew that it could be opened from the other end by one of those old steel keys I had loved as a kid, but still, I felt safer locking it.
There was just about every sort of bath oil and essential oil imaginable available upon several shelves along one of the walls. I began looking over a shelf that contained at least a hundred different bath oils. They were in variously sized, shaped, and colored vials, but all were clearly labeled with large capital letters: Amber, Musk, Civet, Myrrh, Rose, Benzoin, Dittany of Crete, and Menstrual Blood. Menstrual blood? Sheesh, I thought, they are hardcore around here. I closed my eyes and picked one at random, secretly hoping not to come up with menstrual blood. Not that I had anything against menstrual blood for magick rituals, but hell…not for a bath! And definitely not when I didn’t know whose blood it was!
Luckily, I came up with jasmine in a little vial shaped like a sphere on top of a pyramid. I opened it and took a small whiff. Definitely jasmine, and of very high quality as well, not that cheap synthetic stuff.
I began running the bath and poured in some of the jasmine. This was potent stuff, so I needed only use a little and the entire room began to fill with the sweet, soft, yet pungent smell of jasmine.
The scent reminded me of old rituals I had done in the past relating to the Sphere of the Moon, Yesod. The power of scents is that repeated use compounds their efficacy almost ten fold.
I undressed, gently folding my clothes and putting them on top of a bamboo hamper. At this point I noticed the beautiful tiles of the bathroom floor. Detailed and intricate, Byzantine perhaps.
I tested the water with my foot. Very hot, but tolerable. Just how I liked it.
I stepped over the rim, and slowly lowered myself into the tub, each part of my body being purged of all tenseness and anxiety as it became submerged under the hot, scented water.
When the water was up to my neck, I stretched out with incredible luxuriousness, leaning back and closing my eyes.
I was utterly relaxed, yet blissfully excited, a little like peaking on acid. Vaguely, I wondered if there weren’t something else in that bath oil–something I was now inhaling through the vapors.
I don’t know how long I lay there. I didn’t fall asleep, but I must have fallen into a trance, because the next thing I was aware of was that the water had grown quite cold. Shivering slightly, I got out of the tub and dried off with a towel, which was gratefully warm from a small wall-heater beneath it.
I examined the robe I was to wear. It was velvety soft, though not actually velvet. It was completely black, with no adornments whatsoever, except, as I was about to put it on, I did notice a tiny yellow Mercury symbol sewn into the inside back, where traditionally a tag would have been.
Dressed in the robe, I examined myself in the mirror. Perfect fit, I thought, but then again, robes are pretty forgiving as far as size goes.
Well, here we go then.
I unlocked and opened the door, looking out in either direction. It was deserted. Each way looked identical, except one way I’d already been before, so I chose to take the right side path. I followed the fairly nondescript black tunnel for hundreds of paces–a much longer straightaway than I would have thought possible from what I’d seen of the outside. The sconces were staggered from the left side of the wall to the right every ten or twenty feet. Smoke from the torches made visibility low.
Finally, up ahead I saw a door, and as I approached, a red-robed figure appeared out of the gloom.
The figure stood to attention and stamped a steel staff loudly to the black concrete ground. “Watchword?”
I intended to query with notable irritation, “What watchword?” But then it occurred to me that I should probably already know the answer.
“Trismegistus,” I said calmly, having no clue if that was right or not.
The hooded figure nodded and unlocked the sturdy, black door with a large steel key. The door opened inward.
I stepped inside to find my dear old friend darkness engulf me within clinging, outstretched arms. Before I could protest, the door behind me clanged tightly shut and I heard, with no small amount of dread, it lock again.
I was left to complete blackness.
But I was calm.
All part of the initiation, certainly.
Nothing to unnecessarily worry about.
Admittedly, my heart was racing and my throat parched. But whose wouldn’t be, right?
Ok, so it was pretty fucking freaky waiting alone in utter darkness, in an unfamiliar place, with unknown people about to do Mephistopheles knew what to me. This was definitely more unsettling that I had thought it would be.
I started meditating to quiet my mind, calm me down, and to quell the anxiety welling up inside my stomach before it caused me to start screaming hysterically like a little girl.
After a few minutes I attained a Dhyana, and was working on a Samadhi, when a door in front of me opened slowly upward, from floor to ceiling, revealing a gentle, blue light emanating from behind it.
I passed over the threshold, and beheld a large room of geometric shape.
A tall, masculine, yet fluid figure in a red robe gestured to a spot next to him, where I gathered I was to stand. I did so, and the door closed behind me.
Through some quick mathematical deduction, I believed the room to have seven sides even though a grey veil hid half the temple from me. The floor was white marble swirled with black. Embedded in the marble was an obsidian septagram whose tips poked the outer walls of the room.
Behind the grey veil, which gave a faux impression of transparency, I could see nothing.
In front of the veil was a septagonal altar about four feet high.
I looked to my left for a possible way of escape, but the figure in the red robe stood with arms crossed inside his robe, facing towards the center of the temple.
Glancing to my right, I was startled to find a figure in a black robe next to me in the same posture. I hadn’t been aware of his approach.
Sublime silence permeated the temple and I controlled myself so that even my breath made no noise for fear I would disturb the awesome ceremony I felt was about to commence.
After several minutes of blistering silence, a voice behind the veil pierced the quiet, and I felt intense magickal energy ooze forth from the wound.
“Hekas! Hekas! Este Bebeloi!” a voice intoned in a harmonic yet powerfully resonant pitch that at once suggested light, life, and love. There was no one where the voice seemed to originate; it was disconcerting.
“Fratres and Sorores of the One True Temple of the Silver Star,” he continued. “Assist me to open the Hall of the Neophyte. Frater Khaematron, see that the Hall is properly guarded.”
The figure in the red robe, whom now wielded a large spear, slammed the butt of it against the bottom of the steel door, then clanged the tip of the spear near the top of the door; he turned back towards the center of the temple, and thunked the wooden butt against the marble floor. The entire process was vaguely musical.
Frater Khaematron faced toward the center of the temple. “Very Honored Hierophant, the Hall is most assuredly well-guarded,” he whispered in a sharp, biting sibilant voice, full of both strength and irony.
The Hierophant continued: “Let the number of Officers in this degree and the nature of their Offices be proclaimed so that the powers whose images they are may be awakened and empowered in the Spheres of those present and in the Sphere of this Order, for by names and images are all powers awakened and re-awakened.”
Everything up to this point in the ritual seemed more or less familiar to me. It had been a typical Golden Dawn style opening. The “One True Temple” part seemed a bit pretentious, but not entirely unexpected, as egos in magick circles were probably some of the biggest outside Hollywood.
“Honored IAO Pater,” the Hierophant continued. “How many are the Offices of the Temple of the Silver Star?”
“Seven are the Grades, seven are the powers, seven are the children of the Most Sacred and Unattainable, yet oh, so desired, Star,” said a new voice off to the left of where I now heard the Hierophant. This male voice was magisterial, yet tinged with indulgence.
“Honored Gaia Mater,” the Hierophant intoned. “What are the names of these eternal and sacrosanct Offices?”
“The Seven Offices, one for each Planet of Old, are Saturn, Sol, Mars, Jupiter, Venus, Mercury and Luna,” said a female voice of wondrous beauty to the right of the Hierophant. Her voice felt like floating nude upon a warm, tranquil sea while watching dark storm clouds cluster in the distance.
“Shabba Va N’Gurrath, oh Ancient and Terrible Ruler of Saturn, what are the duties of thy sullen Office?” queried the Hierophant.
“I am Time and the persistence of Time. I am the Universe wherein all things happen, and wherein all actions are adjusted down to the smallest subatomic particle, therefore am I Karma. Yet also, am I known as Death. Upon this title much fear in the world is hung, and therefore is my shroud the blackness of Binah.”
“Khaematron, Triumphant Titan of Mars, what is thine Office?”
“Mine is the Office of Fire. Mine is the Office of clanging swords and crunching bones upon the battlefield. I am freshly spilled blood glistening in the noonday sun, the color of which there is none more beautiful. I am the Eye of Shiva, the opening of which annihilates the illusion of the manifested Universe. I am Destruction, yet thereby am I the harbinger of renewal,” he said as his whisper faded out.
He then kneeled down slowly, gracefully, the arms of his robe coming together in supplication, then within the same smooth continuation of movement, his robe fell to floor, as if he’d been teleported out of them. The red robe made a pile on the floor, which turned moist and glisteny and then entirely to liquid. The pool of blood then somehow seeped into the marble where it left a veiny dark purple stain.
“Patrus Morganus, what are thy duties as Magistrate of Jupiter?”
“My duties are to wield the powers of Luck, Wealth, and Prosperity. I am the fortress within which inhabitants may prosper and grow, safe from the rolling chaos without my stout and impenetrable walls,” said the voice I knew had also been the one called IAO Pater.
“And you, beautiful and fertile Diodella, what is your Office as Mistress of Venus?”
“I am Simple Love and the verdant green of botanical growth,” said the same female voice as before, however now as a new persona with a distinctly different timbre. “The ocean is especially sacred unto me; its tidal surface is a restless passion upon the mysterious depths of Everlasting Love. So also is the ocean sacred for its ability to originate devastating hurricanes that lay waste to all those impetuous enough to build their homes upon the beach.”
Her speech sent a few tingly chills trickling down my back as I felt, and smelled, a sea breeze blow languidly across me.
“And you Hierophant, also known as Rammesh Ha Nahil,” said the one called Morganus. “What are your duties as Progenitor of the Sun.”
“I am the Eye of the Maelstrom, the center of all centripetal force, the Light which illumes the Universal Pageant.”
“And of the Office of Mercury?” everyone asked in unison.
“There is no one yet prepared to take that office,” Rammesh said flatly.
“And of the lovely, gentle Moon who sheds the light that guides men’s hearts to the One True Star?” said Shabba Va N’Gurrath, seemingly usurping the Hierophant’s role. He spoke with sorrowful longing that bespoke of personal loss. This sparked painful remembrances within myself. Kari had been the one true star that guided my way. Without her…well, we can all see how well I was faring without her.
“She is silent, for the Initiate is not yet fit to hear to her voice,” Rammesh said with just a hint of contempt.
And this was saddest of all! So sad it took great self-control to hold back a pathetic wave of sobbing that threatened to overwhelm me and my composure, which I had so coolly kept until now.
“Yes. The Neophyte is foul and impure, not fit for the Godhood that lies now hidden behind the veils before him,” Khaematron whispered nastily.
“Yet,” the Hierophant interrupted, “since I have duly received a dispensation from the Secret Chiefs to admit Frater Mayan to the Degree of Neophyte, let him step forward and he himself remove the First Veil.”
I knew this was my cue so I began to step forward, and I did so, but it was surprisingly difficult. There was such leaden inertia in my muscles that it took an incredible effort to take even one step forward.
At the beginning of the second step, the black robed N’Gurrath moved in front of me and held out his hand to stop me.
“Nay! Thou canst not pass to the Second Veil of the lovely Priestess until thou canst conquer the abomination of death!”
He threw back his cowl and within its gaping depths I was confronted with a roiling black abyss of eternity. Its limitless primordial darkness enveloped me, and I envisioned a man in the midst of backbreaking labor in some dusty, red quarry. I saw his life in an instant, but the image was clear and I knew all the details at once: his endless years of toil for a cold, thankless family and frigid wife, his secret love for romantic poetry, his ulcers, his slipped disks, and his cornea cancer.
With horror, I realized his life was my own.
Another life appeared to me: a promising young writer, my life cut short with a bullet through the head, trampled into the mud–my bayonet stuck into someone else’s lifeless gut.
Another life: a diseased outcast lying sick and helpless day after day in the hot stench and filthy streets of Bombay.
And more and more lives stretched out before me, each connected by an invisible, indomitable thread of karma, tying me back to countless lifetimes, each of which I saw with hideous detail, at once, spanning ever farther backwards like a mirror held up to a mirror–infinity–so were my lives an unbroken chain leading from nothing to nothing, an endless sea of frustration, hurt, and madness in between. Oh, there were a few islands of safe haven scattered about, but they were just to make the horror of the ocean more real, more piquant, more terrifying. I felt myself drowning beneath the weight of the vision. It was worse than death. It was eternal, unending life! It was too much. I was crushed beneath its weight and fell to the ground.
Lying heavily against the cool marble stone, agonizing over the abomination of “forever,” I realized that the truly horrific thing was not that I had lived through so many awful lifetimes, but merely the fact that there was an “I” for the lifetimes to happen to, for this implied separateness, duality. To have “I” is to have “not-I.” To have “not-I” is to have desire for what one is not. To have desire is to have expectations. To have expectations is to know failure and disappointment. The only perfection is in Unity, where there is nothing other than one’s self. In fact, if there is only one, there is also none, since there is nothing to differentiate it from. Zero is God; God is Zero. I felt a little better.
I noticed a pattern in the marble beneath my eye. It suggested to my mind a man running. I was reminded of the kitchen of my home growing up, where all sorts of denizens had lived within the fake wood paneling upon the kitchen wall: a demon face here, a prancing horse there, and even a nude man running similar to this one. These things did not actually live within the wood, of course; but they were given life by imagination. I created them from the formless, meaningless swirls within the wood. I was heartened by the tie to my past, and by the power of my imagination.
I sat up to my knees, taking in more of the floor. I examined what I could see of the black septagram embedded into the marble, visualizing it within my mind in its entirety. I loved geometric figures. Form out of formlessness. Man invoking reason to shape chaos into the order he so chooses to inflict upon it. I was a Man. And I would not allow the curse of “I” to hold me powerless within its grasp.
I stood proudly, facing again to the center of the temple. The key to escaping the drudgery of infinity is not only to live within the ever-fleeting present, but to rise to the challenge of attempting to transform the ever distant future into one’s ever illusive desire. To do so is to transmute an eternity of stagnant sorrow into endless change, endless discovery, and endless bliss.
Here then is your Philosopher’s Stone.
N’Gurrath stepped aside.
“Thou art reborn out of death into life,” N’Gurrath said solemnly. “Thou mayest now continue along your path to the Divine.”
I smiled confidently and attempted to step forward, but with dreamlike torpor, found myself again moving disproportionately less than the amount of effort I was expending.
Eventually, and I do mean eventually as it may have been as long as several minutes later, I completed the step. As I started to lift my other foot to begin another, Khaematron stepped deftly in front of me and held the tip of a sai to my shoulder.
“Nay!” he roared loudly, which was especially shocking as at no other time had he raised his voice above a harsh whisper. “Thou canst not continue until you conquer me!”
“Who are you to halt my passage?” I asked, my voice fearless, though I knew not how or what possessed me to ask so fearlessly.
“I am Fire and Devastation, Force and Mayhem, Cruelty and Bloodshed. You cannot pass by me until you learn the secret of Wanton Destruction!”
His hand flashed out of his robe and stabbed me in the heart with the other sai! I yelled angrily, reaching to push his hand away, but he had already removed it, so quick was his stroke.
I dropped to my knees, vainly trying to stem the flow of gurgling blood, watching it gush out in obscene systolic bursts.
I gaped with manic disbelief at the scarlet sea forming around me, filling the entire room with blood.
“Too much,” I gasped, as the blood now flowed around my neck. I tried desperately to keep my head above the blood, standing on tiptoes, but it was no use, the blood continued to rise. I tried swimming, but my arms and legs were filled with a horrendous lethargy, and the more I struggled, the less force I actually seemed to exert. Hysterical, I screamed, causing me to choke on the blood. Gagging, choking, exhausted, I finally succumbed to my liquid nemesis and let myself sink.
The blood filled my nostrils, my eyes, and my throat. I swallowed again and again, gulping down my blood, which did not make me gag anymore, but rather only made me thirsty for more. Sinking, slowly, sinking, like an astronaut adrift in space, I was drowned in my own blood.
I was at peace. Yet it was more to do with exhaustion rather than lack of desire. I still wished to return to the world above, but I had no energy to do so.
I felt something brush up against my right hand and then across my back.
I opened my eyes, and found myself not in blood, but at the bottom of crystal clear waters. Near me were algae and a fake looking treasure chest that opened and closed of its own volition.
A beautiful sea-djinn floated in the water before me. She had flaming red hair, and red plate-mail shells over her bosom. Her lower body was nothing more than a swirling whirlpool. She smiled and handed me a fiery sword.
I took it, and felt myself sink even deeper, my feet now within the flowing silt at the very bottom of the fish tank.
I smiled and looked intently at the sea-djinn who now shook her head in fear.
With one last surge of strength, I swung the mighty blade around and lopped off the sea-djinn’s head, which went placidly floating away as kaleidoscopic swirls of blood spewed forth from her neck.
I dropped the sword, and reached in through her exposed larynx to dig out her heart.
I bit into it like an apple, and sweet ambrosial nectar filled my mouth. I devoured the rest quickly, feeling vigor return to my limbs.
I swam powerfully, purposefully upward, soon crawling out from the center of the septagonal altar. I jumped out of it, completely dry.
I stood proudly once again, facing the front of the temple. I growled and ripped down the gray veil, which as I pulled at it, disintegrated into nothingness.
Though the illusion had been that there was nothing behind the veil, I was shocked to find a full tableau now before me.
In the center of the temple was the Hierophant, a tall figure bathed in brilliant golden light–so bright I could not make out more than a cloaked figure in yellow garb within it.
To his right was a column of fire, about a two-feet in diameter, from floor to ceiling. To his left was a column of the same girth, but from which cascaded water from ceiling into the floor. To the outside of this column was a woman robed in green. Symmetrically placed on the outer side of the fire column was a figure robed in purple.
Behind all this was yet another veil. This one was totally black. I could see nothing beyond it whatsoever.
“Your essence distilled through fire, and your Will fortified by obstruction, you are ready to ascend to the next level, are you not, Aspirant?” said the brightly glowing Hierophant. His tone had changed now that the veil had fallen: more intimate, yet also more goading.
“Yes,” I said. “I certainly am.”
“Very well, continue along your chosen path,” he said, and exploded into a million golden sparks that flitted, floated, and then finally winked out. I saw a spark up close before it disappeared, and it was not a spark at all, but a tiny faery folk riding in a glowing chariot drawn by miniature golden steeds bathed in yellow fire.
I stepped forward. Not as much resistance as before the first veil, but still difficult. I made it to where the Hierophant had just been standing.
As I began walking forward again, the figure in purple stepped over to me and slipped something into my hand. I looked into my palm and there were three little bones shaped like femurs.
It occurred to me that I needed to use them to divine my destiny.
I kneeled down and tossed the bones upon the marble where they rattled to a standstill. As I considered the curious way in which they had landed, I noticed vines growing out from infinitesimal cracks in the stone floor and slowly entwining themselves about my legs. I turned and looked to my left and the figure in green had thrown back her hood, revealing beautiful Diodella with long, silky-soft, flowing sea-green hair. She smiled at me and disrobed, revealing the most desirable and womanly body a man could ever imagine.
I heard the distinct sound of dice in a cup near my right ear and turned to find that the figure in purple was now a golden statue of a man with an apple in his hand. The look upon the statue’s face was that of resigned despair.
I looked down at the bones I’d rolled, but they were no longer there, instead there were three dice, all showing “3.” That number was terribly important for some reason, but I could not remember why.
My left arm was pulled roughly, and I saw it entangled with vines working their way all the way up to my shoulder. The vines led back to the arm of a dryad who now stood in place of Diodella. Her skin was made of the smoothest bark. She smiled wickedly and tried to pull me to her. I might have wanted to go to her under different circumstances, but I did not appreciate being pulled against my Will, so I now fought against her.
However, I was soon being pulled from the other side as well; I turned to find myself manacled by a large golden chain to Midas, who was now evilly reeling me in.
I was being painfully pulled in opposite directions, and I was pretty sure they had the combined force to rip me apart.
Angrily, I yanked my arms together, clapping my hands with such thunderous force it wracked the room like a jackhammer. An astral rainbow shot up through the ground and through my slightly parted hands to spew forth like a fountain high over my head.
As colored droplets fell all around me, I sensed that the energies of Jupiter and Venus had bonded together at a molecular level, becoming a compound that transcended its mere constituent parts.
I strode forward like the prodigal son returned and yanked down the Final Veil. It fell heavily to the ground.
Beyond was nothing but a blue hexagram embedded into the marble.
Inordinately upset, I fell to my knees and buried my head in my hands, sobbing. I felt cheated, but was too exhausted to become angry.
I felt a faint, yet distinctly cool breeze.
Nothing but silence and stillness for a long time. I hesitated.
Then another breeze, stronger and cooler than before, and I found myself giddily grateful for its caressing coolness upon my hot, sweaty skin.
I felt a gentle touch upon my head and looked up slowly.
An exquisitely beautiful and delicate woman with pale features was smiling gently down upon me. Slender and petite, she was wearing nothing but a simple silver dress that hung from thin straps at her lovely white shoulders. She stood in the center of the hexagram where her bare feet were painted with silver nail polish, which matched her dress.
I longed to kiss her.
She winked in a knowing manner, and kneeled so that she was at my level. She puckered slightly and closed her eyes. I moved in to kiss her.
I was grabbed roughly from behind, and a blindfold was bound tightly around my head. “Thinkest thou ready to possess the lovely Priestess of the Silver Star?” whispered Khaematron maliciously, and then it felt like someone brought a scorching branding iron down upon my forehead. I smelled burning flesh, but stifled a scream.
“You have shown courage, self-sacrifice, and spiritual equilibrium to come thus far, young Mayan,” said the rational voice of Rammesh. “But while you shall now have your first small taste of the Priestess, you have not attained the purity necessary to truly possess her, therefore are you now blindfolded.”
I was assisted to an upright position and stood in silence for several excited moments of anticipation. I was verily drooling.
“Now may you kiss the High Priestess,” the room said in unison, and my head was gently pushed forward until I felt the softest, most silky lips I’d ever known. I was deliriously happy! I would have given all in that moment, without a drop of regret.
“Enough!” Khaematron spoke bitingly.
“Seal up the Holy of Holies,” said N’Gurrath as I was roughly pulled backward several steps.
“Let the Veil be raised once again to keep the Holy safe from the profane,” Rammesh said.
My blindfold was removed, and I was led around to stand in front of the septagonal altar upon which was now a rolled-up parchment, an inkwell, and a feather quill.
N’Gurrath, Khaematron, Diodella, and Morganus dispersed to the edges of the temple. The Priestess was nowhere to be seen. I was left facing Rammesh across the altar.
“Fratres and Sorores of the One True Temple of the Silver Star, since I have received a Dispensation from the Great and Holy Secret Chiefs, and since the Aspirant has duly passed the preliminary Initiations, I now grant permission to admit Mayan into our Ancient and Sacrosanct Order. Let him now put his name to the Oath of the Neophyte so that his Initiation might be complete.”
Rammesh gestured to the parchment.
I took it in my hands and unrolled it. Written in magnificent calligraphy was the following:
I, Mayan, in the presence of the Silver Star above me, and in the presence of the Secret Serpent coiled within my heart, do hereby and hereon swear to the following:
That I shall hold all rituals, manuscripts, and teachings, presented verbally or otherwise, in the strictest of confidence, never to reveal them to anyone outside our Order, and under no circumstances whatsoever shall I allow them to published in full or in part.
That I shall obey the commands of those in the Order of higher rank than myself, but if a request contradicts my True Will, I shall have fair and ample opportunity to have it appealed by higher-ranking members of the Order, all the way up to the Masters themselves.
That I shall learn all I can from the information provided to me by my superiors, but that I shall under no circumstances attempt to garner knowledge appropriate to Grades higher than my own.
That I shall treat all members of the Order with respect, and that I will do my best to help those lower than myself when called upon for help.
That I shall strive constantly to always arrive at a closer and closer approximation of my True Will, and do all I can to find more and more accurate ways to ascertain such.
That I accept death as a more acceptable destiny than to knowingly transgress against my True Will.
That I will remain sequestered in the Abbey of the Silver Star for one year of Probation, at which time I shall be deemed fit for Initiation into the next Grade, or released back into the world to continue my life in the mundane affairs of men.
Should I deliberately incur even the smallest infraction against any part of this Oath, may my magick turn against me, my daemons turn to demons, verily may my every thought breed scorpions and my every action turn on me like vipers. I shall be an outcast among all honorable men until I die reviled, destitute, and completely and utterly downtrodden in the street. So also may this curse be carried out unto seven generations, so dire are the consequences of this violating this most sacred of Oaths.
“Sign here,” N’Gurrath said, holding the recently dipped quill near the bottom of the parchment.
Okay now. This was apparently my last chance to walk away, if it wasn’t too late already. I was familiar with all variety of Magickal Oaths and this one, while severe, didn’t strike me as all that unusual. The only thing that troubled me was this year “sequestered” in the Abbey thing. Submitting to the will of my superiors was a little annoying too, but not uncommon in any educational setting. However, I had to admit, I was definitely intrigued by this Order and definitely wanted to learn more of their strange power, of which I had witnessed some pretty spectacular stuff already. Magickal Vows are binding so long as one makes them with pure heart and genuine intent. Otherwise, not necessarily binding at all. So I mentally crossed my fingers at the year probation part, thinking I could cut out if things got too lame. I also mentally crossed my fingers at the doing everything my so-called superiors wanted, as I did not take orders well. Ditto on the not acquiring knowledge above my Grade. Secrecy? No problem there. Pursuing my True Will without equivocation? Well, how could I disagree with that?
I felt a thousand astral eyes watching me with utmost interest as I brought the quill to the parchment and with a swift and secure hand signed, “Mayan,” followed by the date.
“So mote it be!” everyone chimed in unison.
N’Gurrath took the parchment, rolled it up, tied it with a black cord, and stuffed it into the folds of his robe.
“By the name of the Ineffable, by light of the Virgin Priestess, and by the powers of the Seven focused into One, hear ye all,” said the Hierophant, his voice loud and harmonious. “I proclaim that Mayan has been duly admitted to the 1°=10□ Grade as a Neophyte of the most Holy Sacred Order of the Argentum Astrum.”
“Kneel before the altar and observe the Fifth Virtue of the Sphinx,” Khaematron said to me. Well, that was just about the fanciest way of saying, “Sit down and shut up,” that I’d ever heard. However, I did as I was told.
“Fratres and Sorores,” Rammesh said. “Assist me to close the Hall of the Neophyte.”
I didn’t pay much attention to the rest of the ritual as it neither concerned me nor was particularly different than any other Golden Dawn style closing.
When I heard the words, “I now release any spirits that may have been imprisoned by this ceremony. Depart in peace unto thy abodes and habitations, and go with the blessings of the Silver Star,” I did indeed feel that many strange astral denizens, who had come to watch the proceedings just outside the protective septagram, now lose interest and begin to wander off.
After a few more highfalutin exhortations, the ceremony was at an end and I was hurriedly led outside to the waiting limo, where a well-dressed man was waiting in the back for me. “I’m afraid you’ll have to travel unconscious to the Abbey,” he said, opening up a small black case.
“Wouldn’t blindfolded be sufficient?”
“Then you would know how far it was from here.”
“Not if you drove around in circles wasting my time like the trip over here.”
He smiled slightly. “This is still all part of your initiation. This will not only foster trust in the Order, but also a certain confused vulnerability when you get to the Abbey. This will be conducive to your subconscious absorbing all you will learn there.”
“And I don’t really have a choice, do I?
He smiled again, this time noticeably wider. “No, not really. You do have a selection of administrations however.”
Inside the velvet-lined case was a bottle of pink pills, a small inhaler, a syringe, and little wafers individually wrapped in foil and plastic.
“Inhaler, shot, pills, or easy-dissolve tablets?” he asked politely.
“The easy-dissolve tablets I guess. Does anyone actually choose the shot?”
“You’d be surprised.” He peeled back the foil over one of the perforated sections and removed one little white wafer. “Open your mouth please. We can’t have any sleight of hand tricks.”
I did so, and he placed the tablet on my tongue.
Immediately, it began to liquefy, and within seconds it was gone completely.
“Go ahead and lie back. It won’t take long.”
I made myself comfortable, which wasn’t difficult, as I was starting to feel quite cozy all over.
I closed my eyes, falling backwards into a bottomless rabbit hole full of big, fluffy bedroom pillows with soft, clean linen.
Slowly falling, falling, falling, landing gently on some pillows ever so snuggly, then…
My weight just little too much and so I fall through the pillows into another set of even softer and more comfortable pillows than the first set, then…
Falling through those into some even more snugglyicious pillows. Falling and falling and falling through pillows and pillows and pillows….