A very small glimpse into the High Priest of Set’s universe…
I recently came across an article about an incredible document – Leonardo Da Vinci’s to-do list. Written in 1490, the list enumerates a variety of tasks Da Vinci set out to complete (i.e. “Draw Milan”).
What struck me the most about this list, though, was how many times Da Vinci writes “Ask X to show you Y.”
Ask Benedetto Potinari (A Florentine Merchant) by what means they go on ice in Flanders.
Ask Maestro Antonio how mortars are positioned on bastions by day or night.
Get the master of arithmetic to show you how to square a triangle.
Over and over, Da Vinci states that he’s looking for people to teach him things. Keep in mind this list was written in 1490, when he was about 38 years old and well into his professional life.
Here we have a man who, by most anyone’s estimation, was a genius and a master of a truly amazing number of trades, crafts, and disciplines. One would think that he would be the source, the person everyone else came to for answers. Yet he never stopped looking to learn from people who knew more than he did.
There’s a common pitfall among black magicians, wherein we convince ourselves that other people are unnecessary or can’t matter to our Initiation. Because, if I am a god, why would I need someone else? There are two outcomes to this scenario, and neither one is pretty. First you have someone who lives a completely isolated existence, a legend in his own mind, convinced of his divine power, but with no real world mastery to show for it. Second, the guru who surrounds herself with an echo chamber of yes-men, who never question, challenge or teach her anything.
Photo by Jay Cross
For me, the purpose of the Temple of Set is to provide its students with an honest and effective feedback loop. We seek each other out to ask for advice and share references. But it’s also immeasurably valuable to have a group of people who will help you understand when you’ve failed, or call you out on your own bullshit. It takes courage to ask for that kind of feedback, to put yourself out there knowing that you might very well get an unpleasant answer. The ability to overcome failure and withstand scrutiny are a vital part of how we prove ourselves, how we come out of the other side a stronger person, and a better magician.
Setians often refer to Isolate Intelligence – that spark of consciousness which is uniquely and singularly our own. Yet there is a galaxy of difference between “isolate” and “isolated.” Isolate intelligence may, at will, interact with and enhance itself from interacting with others, whereas an isolated individual would not.
Photo by ideacreamanuelaPps
Ultimately, we’ve chosen the left hand path because we want to be challenged, and made stronger for it. What am I learning from my interactions? What can I gain from my shortcomings? What can someone else’s perspective show me?
If you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room.
Photo by Esteban Chiner
Death is one of the very few common threads that runs through the entirety of humanity’s experience. Every person who has ever lived has been touched by death, and eventually succumbed themselves. Most religions and belief systems seek to provide a sense of security around death, allowing their adherents to peacefully pass through life with some kind of assurance of what will happen to them after they leave their body behind.
Right hand path religions tend to provide answers that will keep their believers in line – heaven/hell, reincarnation, and the like. Behave yourself in this life, they say, and your great reward awaits you on the other side, ultimately becoming one with the universe.
Photo by BlankBlankBlank
The Left Hand Path provides no such promise, leaving it up to the individual to determine what they believe they will experience after death. Some of us staunchly believe in the immortality of the psyche, some take an agnostic stance, and others feel strongly that our time is over when our bodies die. Ultimately, of course, one has to admit that no one truly knows what will happen to their psyche after death, until they experience that transformation first hand – and those who have made that transition aren’t talking (at least, not in any objectively quantifiable way).
More important than positing and debating the possibility of an immortal soul, though, is the question of what each of us can do with Death while we’re alive, during the time that we know we have. How can we let Death into our lives, and let it teach us? How can it make us better magicians, and stronger people?
Each of us must confront their own mortality at some point. Really confront it. Stand before the vastness of the universe, attempt to comprehend its random, chaotic nature, and understand that you are infinitely small and insignificant within its scale. There is no greater force “out there” that loves you, nor values your existence. And, at any time, your life can be snuffed out, in any number of ways, for no reason.
Photo by Altug Karakoc
Many people would wallow in despair when confronted with this thought (before running into the welcoming arms of the nearest RHP prophet). A good Black Magician will transform it into something powerful, and use it to their advantage.
How that is done will be unique to each of us, as we are each ultimately responsible for finding and creating meaning in our own lives. It begins with meeting Death not as a destroyer, but as a teacher.
Photo by photographymontreal
The following is a guest post from Pylon member Nachtriesander.
Photo by Happy Krissy
When I first discovered the occult, I was a kid in junior high living in a small, podunk town outside of Houston. The idea that magic was real and something that a person could use to enrich their existence, was compelling to a weird youngster like myself; the world suddenly seemed much more interesting and full of promise.
A lot of that early “magical wisdom” was ridiculous in hindsight – a common type of quick buck, 1970’s self-help sorcery, and goofy Wiccan tomes for hippies and collectors of quartz. Over the next few years, most of the people I encountered who were interested in magic were those types of occultniks – advocates of dancing nude in forests to honor Mother Nature, and quick to warn others not to dabble with Black Magic, lest they suffer the dire consequences of some silly three-fold law of karma. I endured a lot of admonishments and Wiccan stink eye on my way to the Crowley section in Houston’s occult book stores back then.
One thing a lot of those folks seemed to have in common was a tendency to blame external forces for any aspects of their lives with which they were unhappy. I get it, we all encounter adversity from time to time, but dissatisfaction with one’s circumstances should inspire a skilled Black Magician to change the things that are causing them consternation. There’s nothing wrong with doing magic to push things towards a more satisfying outcome, but I’ve also encountered lots of occultists who seem to feel like the reason their life isn’t satisfying is because of some enormous external obstacle that is unfairly keeping them down.
For instance, I’ve encountered male Magicians who seem to believe that their lives would be better if it weren’t for feminists. They’ll squeak and squeal about “misandry” and other injustices pushed upon men such as themselves by evil feminists, never once considering that their problem might be because they’re simply creepy to women.
Or perhaps they’ve been though some unsatisfying experiences with the opposite sex. Back in the 1990’s, a woman I’d been dating broke up with me because her guru had told her I was a “Dark Lord” (along with Madonna. We were both fallen angels, according to the guru).
It’s a tough world out there, and things don’t always work out when you’re in league with The Devil and Madonna. But experiences like that didn’t make me blame feminists or women for my bad romantic stumbles, and it seems to me that a Black Magician who allows that kind of thing to make them bitter and resentful isn’t really a very skilled Magician.
Photo by wendEwho! Thompson
I’ve also seen plenty of occultists who use the same sort of magical fixes over and over. For example, I’ve met people who’ll use magic to attract a romantic partner, but their relationships inevitably crash and burn. After everything has gone belly up, they’ll angrily curse their exiting lover, and then start the whole process over again, using magic to attract a new one. Rinse, and repeat. It’s a bad pattern to fall into, and anyone who’s known a magician like this has probably experienced that person’s psychic vampirism, too – they seem to go hand in hand.
The thing magicians like this have in common is the inability to look inward, to find what’s not working in their lives, and to use Black Magic effectively to change the pattern of failure they continue to fall into, and no amount of naked forest dancing and crystals is going to fix those things. Self-Work can, however.
For as long as anyone can remember, Austin has been a veritable magnet for magic, mystery, and high weirdness. Whether attracting artists and magicians like Elisabet Ney and Aleister Crowley, or spawning its very own legendary dark stars such as Roky Erickson, the current that flows here is undeniable and powerful.
Some say it’s the ley lines. Others, perhaps the underground caverns and springs. But there’s no doubt among anyone who’s spend a significant amount of time in Austin – it has a very unique and singular something.
It’s an oasis of freedom within a conservative state.
Sacred to the Left Hand Path is the principle of antinomianism, which simply means to consciously think and act against the accepted rules. Austin is, itself, an antinomian city.
So, it’s no surprise that this is the home of the oldest Pylon of the Temple of Set – the Bull of Ombos, of which I am the Sentinel.
Because we are fortunate enough to reside in this place, this bastion of free thought and the open exchange of ideas, the Pylon has decided to make some of our Work public. We are living in an incredible time and place. The purpose of this blog is to share what we do, both as a form of record-keeping, and to fan the spark of the Black Flame in others.
The goal of the Bull of Ombos Pylon is the enhance the very powerful, special magic of Austin and Central Texas, while also drawing upon this energy for our own growth.
For more information on the Temple of Set, please visit www.xeper.org
Questions about the Pylon and its work may be directed to email@example.com