Friday, February 24, 2012

The Reality of Reality

Regular readers of this blog know that I am quite fascinated by the nature of reality. I have in fact argued that the true essence of magic is reality, the manipulation of which constituting a magical working. Much more on this topic can be found here. Of course, many will scoff at the notion that reality is malleable thing, as though it can be shaped like a piece of metal. But at the end of the day, reality is only what we tell one and other that it is. This was a concept not lost on the CIA as they boldly embarked upon a kind of 'world view' warfare against the Soviet Union in the wake of WWII.
"All of these techniques -hallucinogenic drugs, hypnosis, acts of terrorism, disinformation -share an ontological purpose: to manipulate perceptions, to recreate reality. As we noted above, the German word for psychological warfare translates as 'worldview warfare': a battle of perceptions, of consensus realities... As the men of the OSS, CIA, and military intelligence developed from the armchair scholars and academics that most of them were before the war years into soldiers fighting the Cold War on fronts all over the world, they became -in a very real sense -magicians. As we will see, the CIA mind control projects themselves represented an assault on consciousness and reality that has not been seen in history since the age of the philosopher-kings and their court alchemists."
(Sinister Forces -Book One: The Nine, Peter Levenda, pg. 144)
As the years advanced, this 'worldview warfare' has spread to every aspect of society long after the Soviet Union was cast into the dust bin of history. Case in point, the 'War on Terror.' We tell one and other that terrorism constitutes the greatest threat to modern society in the world today, and that at any given any one of us could find ourselves under siege. This was the meme that was getting a lot of play on February 17th, anyway, when it was announced that the FBI had foiled yet another terror plot, this one revolving around an attempted bombing of the Capital. This was the headline that I saw scrolling across MSNBC when I awoke that morning, anyway, and that is the reality to countless Americans. But when one actually considers the specifics of this terror plot, its much harder to tell who the real terrorist is: the Moroccan man arrested for the plot, or the F.B.I., who engineered it. MSNBC 'reports':
"Within the last week, authorities say, Amine El Khalifi's plan to wreak havoc was proceeding as hoped: An al-Qaida associate handed him an automatic weapon to kill security officers inside the U.S. Capitol. A bomb-laden vest would detonate the building. He would die as a martyr. 
"But there was a problem: The explosives were inert, the gun inoperable and the supposed al-Qaida member was actually an undercover officer, according to court documents. 
"El Khalifi was arrested Friday in a parking garage on his way to carry out an attack the FBI says he kicked around for months, even detonating a practice bomb in a quarry, all with varied targets in mind. 
"An FBI affidavit traces the evolution of the plot from a vague plan to prepare for the 'war on Muslims' to more clearly articulated visions of attacking a restaurant and synagogue to, finally, a goal of obliterating the seat of American government. The document alleges a weeks-long flurry of final activity by El Khalifi, monitored by the FBI and coordinated through an undercover agent, to scope out the building, train in explosives and arm himself for a suicide attack."

Mr. Khalifi

Springing this plot on the 17th was an especially nice touch. Regular readers of this blog know that the number 17 is extremely important in the occult. It has special significance in Islamic strands.
"In Islamic tradition, seventeen is the number of the liturgical gestures (rak'a) employed in the five daily prayers and it is also the number of words used in the call to prayer. In Muslim folklore, the symbolic number seventeen constantly recurs, especially in legends, 'more particularly the seventeen pieces of advice whispered into the king's ear during his coronation and the seventeen components of the standard...' 
"In Shi'ism, above all, and through its influence in the religious epic poetry of the Anatolian Turks,
a quasi-magical importance attaches to the number seventeen... Shi'ite mystics from a very early period held the number seventeen in veneration, a veneration stemming from far earlier Pythagorean speculations based upon the Greek alphabet... Seventeen was the number of those who were to be brought to life again, each of these individuals being bound to be given one of the letters of the alphabet from which the supreme name of God was composed."
 (Dictionary of Symbols, Jean Chevalier & Alain Gheerbrant, pg. 866) 

Perhaps the date then helped convince Mr. Khalifi that his resurrection was imminent, though I daresay he didn't come up with such an apt dating on his own. Sadly, this is hardly the only suspect aspect of Mr. Khalifi's 'terror plot.' Despite their best efforts, MSNBC can't cover up what a pathetic figure Mr. Khalifi truly is. Continuing from the MSNBC article:
"...Authorities have released only basic biographical details about El Khalifi and haven't described how they believe he became intent on destruction. He was born in Morocco and came to the United States in 1999, when he was 16, overstaying his visitor visa and remaining in the country illegally, court papers say. He is unemployed and is not believed to be associated with al-Qaida..." 
"The investigation that led to El Khalifi's arrest started last January on a confidential informant's tip to the FBI. The informant described a meeting inside an Arlington apartment, where a person who produced an AK-47, two revolvers and ammunition said the war on terror equated with a 'war on Muslims' and urged the group to prepare for battle. El Khalifi, the FBI learned, expressed agreement. 
"The FBI doesn't believe he was conspiring with anyone else, and court documents in El Khalifi's case don't give further details about the meeting in the Arlington apartment and the other people who were there. Police are investigating others with whom El Khalifi associated, but not because they believe the associates were part of a terror conspiracy, a counterterrorism official has told The Associated Press. 
"By December, authorities say the sting operation and El Khalifi's own plans were taking shape. 
"That month, he traveled to Baltimore with a man he knew as Hussien to meet a person who was introduced to him as an al-Qaida associate, authorities say. He told the man, Yusuf, that he planned to blow up a building just outside Washington in Alexandria, Va., that contained military offices. Handling the man's AK-47, he spoke of wanting to 'use a gun and kill people face to face,' according to the complaint. 
"Unbeknownst to El Khalifi, the man who called himself Yusuf was an undercover law enforcement officer. Hussien was an operative working undercover with investigators."

As one reads further into the saga of Mr. Khalifi, it becomes apparent that he was practically the only one involved in this 'terror plot' that wasn't linked to the F.B.I. or some other branch of US law enforcement. Essentially the F.B.I. found an unhinged Muslim immigrant, began indoctrinating him with radical Islamic beliefs, then suggested he begin plotting his own terror attack, which they were more than happy to provide him with the tools to do so.

This is of course a notion totally foreign to the average America who, thanks to hours upon hours of propaganda from film and TV, believes that the F.B.I. is an infallible organization, comprised of squeaky-clean agents working tirelessly toward their safety. But what other conclusions can one draw from the F.B.I.'s actions taken toward Mr. Khalifi? If Mr. Khalifi was truly a ticking time bomb just waiting to go off, then why not simply deport him to his native country and bar his reentry into the US? The man had only been living in the US illegally for over a decade, after all. Why wait an entire year for some kind of Byzantine entrapment ploy to unfold if Mr. Khalifi was such a threat to the average American?

What's more, this isn't exactly the first time the F.B.I. has been caught fanning the flames of Islamic terrorism. In actuality, many of their most celebrated terror busts over the past few years have followed a pattern similar to Mr. Khalifi's 'terror plot.' Consider a 2009 'terror plot' originating from the Bronx that has just recently gone to trial:
"Special Agent Robert Fuller hoisted a six-foot-long heat-seeking Stinger missile launcher onto his right shoulder, gazed through the eye piece and aimed the gun towards the back of the federal courtroom in lower Manhattan. 
"No one flinched. If anything, the jurors leaned in for a better look. 
"That’s because the military weapon resting on Fuller’s shoulder was fake — rendered inert by lab technicians in an FBI lab in Quantico, VA, and designed solely to fool four Newburgh men into thinking they were a step closer to shooting down military planes at Stewart International Airport last May. 
"Fuller said he paid a confidential informant about a $100,000 to help catch the men plotting to blow up Bronx synagogues and military planes last year. But defense lawyers say the FBI agent came up with the whole plot in the first place
"As the prosecution's first witness, Fuller told the court how he told that confidential informant, Shaheed Hussain, to visit a Newburgh mosque to find radical Muslims. Hussain frequented the Masjid Al-Ikhlas mosque in Newburgh, NY at least 12 times, and met defendant James Cromitie in June 2009. Fuller instructed Hussain to tell Cromitie he was an import-export businessman and a representative of Jaish-e-Mohammed, a Pakistani terrorist organization. 
"Fuller testified on Wednesday that he coached Hussain to be 'passive' and 'ask open-ended questions' as he got to know Cromitie. But defense lawyers attempted to show on cross-examination that Hussain went much further than that and suggested that Fuller scripted out the crimes he wanted the defendants to commit.

"Over 11 months, Fuller testified, he supplied the four defendants — Cromitie, Onta Williams, David Williams and Laguerre Payen — with cars, cellphones, a handgun, digital cameras, three inert IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and two inert heat-seeking Stinger missiles. He located storage spaces for the weapons and held on to the storage key. Fuller also provided money to help the defendants — who were struggling with unemployment and have criminal records — with groceries, rent and cell phone bills. 
"That was the key, said Alicia McWilliams, the aunt of defendant David Williams. 'When you have ex-offenders coming home, and people don't have jobs, money plays a factor in our community,' said McWilliams, speaking with WNYC outside the courtroom. 'And the government should be ashamed.' 
"The defendants were allegedly promised thousands of dollars more and even a BMW if they went along with the plan. 
"Thirty five meetings between Hussain and the defendants were recorded by the FBI, and the contents of those audio and video recordings have still not been played in court. When defense lawyer Mark Gombiner tried to have one 57-minute video played of an October 2008 meeting between Hussain and Cromitie, prosecutors objected vehemently, arguing that playing the video on the second day of the trial would disrupt the order of the whole proceeding.  
"Gombiner argued that the video will show Hussain pressured Cromitie from the start to wage jihad according to the government's well-scripted play — and that prosecutors shouldn't be trying to get defense lawyers to play along as well."

An artist depiction of Special Agent Fuller testifying

Keep in mind the bolded part about all the defendants in this case being ex-cons, as I shall return to it a bit later. Otherwise, there's not much to comment on here. Once again we see a well-funded F.B.I. informer posing as a member of an international terror ring and seeking out angry, disillusioned, and alienated individuals, the type of which is most susceptible to violent indoctrination, and preceding to fund and arm said individuals. In addition to a headline-grabbing arrest, the F.B.I. is able to further validate the right-wing belief that all Muslims are budding terrorists that simply need a good nudge to take up the jihad with these kind of PSYOPs.

But why should the ring-wing have all the fun?

In recent months the F.B.I. has been seeking out a brand of terrorist that is much more acceptable to the left-wing, namely individuals that full under such labels as 'sovereign citizen', 'white seperatist', 'Christian Identity movement', and the like. In fact, the F.B.I. was banging the drum of this menace about ten or so days before foiling Mr. Khalifi's 'terror plot.' RAW Story reports:
"The FBI has said it is monitoring a growing extremist threat from 'sovereign citizen' movements, and is targeting their activities to prevent a repeat of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. 
Followers of 'sovereign citizen' ideologies reject all government authority, refusing to pay taxes, not recognizing US currency, and sometimes engaging in acts of violence, FBI officials told reporters on Monday. 
“'They could be lone wolves, too,' said Stuart McArthur, deputy assistant director of the FBI’s counter-terrorism division, who said it was the agency’s mission to 'deter and detect' potential acts of 'catastrophic violence...' 
"The FBI said the 'sovereign citizen' militants are distinguishable from other ultra-right extremists by their use of homemade license plates, documents and diplomatic credentials, as well as the terminology they use. 
“'The ideology itself promotes violence and encourages violence,' said special agent Casey Carty, who said the FBI had a duty to be proactive in dealing with the potential threat. 
"The number of convictions in 'sovereign citizen' cases rose from 10 in 2009 to 18 in 2010 and another 18 last year."

Sovereign citizen license plates, one of the high crimes the movement is accused of

Ten convictions to 18? Oh, the horror!

But this is nothing compared to the face domestic terrorism was sporting this past November. On November 1st exactly, the American public was given a glimpse of this latest threat. It was most curious to say the least, especially when one considers the date of the event. November 1st, All Saints Day, has a fascinating legacy in European paganism.
"Perhaps we may go a step further and explain in like manner the origin of the feast of All Saints on the first of November. For the analogy of similar customs elsewhere would lead us to suppose that the old Celtic festival of thew dead was held on the Celtic New Year's Day, that is, on the first, not the second, of November. May not then the institute of the feast of All Saints on that day have been the first attempt of the Church to give a colour of Christianity to the ancient heathen rite by substituting the saints for the souls of the dead as the true object of worship? The facts of history seem to countenance this hypothesis. For the feast of All Saints was instituted in France and Germany by order of Emperor Lewis the Pious in 835 AD, that is, about a hundred and sixty years before the introduction of the feast of All Souls. The innovation was made by the advice of the pope, Gregory IV, whose motive may well have been that of suppressing the old pagan custom which was still notoriously practiced in France and Germany. The idea, however, was not a novel one, for the testimony of Bede proves that in Britain, another Celtic country, the feast of All Saints on the first of November was already celebrated in the eighth century. We may conjecture that this attempt to divert the devotion of the faithful from the souls of the dead to the saints proved a failure, and that finally the Church reluctantly decided to sanction the popular superstition by frankly admitting a feast of All Souls on the calender. But it could not assign the new, or rather the old, festival to the old day, the first of November, since that was already occupied by the feast of All Saints. Accordingly it placed the mass of the dead on the next day, the second of November. On this theory the feasts of All Saints and of All Souls mark two successive efforts of the Catholic Church to eradicate an old heathen festival of the dead."
(The Golden Bough, James Frazer, pg. 385)

All Saints Day, a hold over from pagan times of the Celtic New Year?

If nothing else, 'festival of the dead' is an apt description of the alleged domestic terrorists the F.B.I. unearthed for the feast. MSNBC reports:
"Four Georgia men in their 60s and 70s were arrested Tuesday, accused of being members of a right-wing militia group that plotted to attack federal office buildings and to disperse a deadly biological poison in Atlanta. 
"Their alleged plot was revealed to the FBI by a confidential informant last spring, and members of the group have been meeting since May with someone they thought was a black-market weapons dealer but who turned out to be an undercover federal agent, according to court documents. 
"No attacks were ever attempted. Federal officials say the men were disrupted before they could act on the plot.

"The documents say the men, Frederick Thomas, 73, of Cleveland, Ga.; Dan Roberts, 67, Ray Adams, 65, and Samuel Crump, 68, all of Toccoa, called themselves 'the covert group' and began in March to talk about staging attacks against federal targets including the IRS.

"A confidential informant secretly recorded some of the meetings for the FBI."

Terrified yet?

The media assures us that the senior brigade was a great threat to national security due to their backgrounds. Continuing with MSNBC:
"They allegedly obtained a silencer from the undercover agent and plotted to buy explosives. Crump claimed he could produce ricin, a deadly biological agent, and talked about dispersing it from a car driving on an interstate highway, according to court documents... 
"According to federal investigators, Crump had worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta in the past doing 'maintenance-type services' for a contractor, and Adams used to work for a U.S. Department of Agriculture agency called the Agricultural Research Service as a lab technician."
Yes dear reader, being a lab technician for the Department of Agriculture, or a glorified janitor for the CDC, apparently puts one in a unique position to create biological weapons. Thus, we as Americans must no longer live in terror simply of disenfranchised Muslims, but also of old, decrepit white people as well. The F.B.I. and its highly paid informants are no doubt hard at work recruiting the next right wing extremist and helping them plot their very own terror strike in the name of national security. Frankly, I'm surprised its taken this long for the militia meme to reenter pop culture considering how much mileage the Clinton administration got out of it. I suppose I should be thankful that this generation's Oklahoma City bombing hasn't occurred yet, anyway.

If recruiting unstable individuals and helping them mastermind various terror plots wasn't enough to ensure the War on Terror will groove right along, rest assured the F.B.I. is receiving ample help from local law enforcement to ensure that the well of recruits will not soon run dry. Consider this little nugget:
"Last year in three high schools in Florida, several undercover police officers posed as students. The undercover cops went to classes, became Facebook friends and flirted with the other students. One 18-year-old honor student named Justin fell in love with an attractive 25-year-old undercover cop after spending weeks sharing stories about their lives, texting and flirting with each other. 
"One day she asked Justin if he smoked pot. Even though he didn't smoke marijuana, the love-struck teen promised to help find some for her. Every couple of days she would text him asking if he had the marijuana. Finally, Justin was able to get it to her. She tried to give him $25 for the marijuana and he said he didn't want the money -- he got it for her as a present. 
"A short while later, the police did a big sweep and arrest 31 students -- including Justin. Almost all were charged with selling a small amount of marijuana to the undercover cops. Now Justin has a felony hanging over his head."

Justin's situation is even more dire than this article indicates. If he's convicted of a drug charge he won't be eligible for federally subsidized financial aid. Thus, his opportunities will be even more limited when he gets out of prison. Which will make it even more likely that he'll continue with a life of crime. And that will make him an especially appealing target to those highly paid F.B.I. informants, especially the ones that specialize in anti-government movements. Thus, not only is the American justice system turning a basically decent kid into a criminal, but its also putting him at risk of 'radicalization' (which American law enforcement officers are an ever growing part of). We already saw something similar to this play out in the Bronx 'terror plot' discussed above. And if the numbers are any indication, a rather large percentage of young Americans will know the ends and outs of the American legal system in the coming years. MSNBC notes:
 "Close to one in three teens and young adults get arrested by age 23, suggests a new study that finds more of them are being booked now than in the 1960s.

"Those arrests are for everything from underage drinking and petty theft to violent crime, researchers said. They added that the increase might not necessarily reflect more criminal behavior in youth, but rather a police force that's more apt to arrest young people than in the past."
Despite the fact that violent crime constitutes a low percentage of the total crimes the study researchers felt these arrests were essential to spot early warning signs of 'criminal behavior' in adolescents. Continuing from the same article:
"Though violent crimes might be on the rarer end of the spectrum of offenses, the study's lead author pointed to the importance of catching the early warning signs of criminal behavior in adolescents and young adults, saying that pediatricians and parents can both play a role in turning those youngsters around."

As an afterthought, these same researchers note that this may have a long-term effect on the prospects of the offending individuals.
"Arrests in adolescents are especially worrisome, he told Reuters Health, because many repeat offenders start their 'criminal career' at a young age...

"He pointed out that young people who have an arrest on their record might have more trouble getting jobs in the future. It's one thing if that's because they were involved in a violent crime, he continued, but another if their offence was non-violent, like drinking underage or smoking marijuana."
The numbers indicate that America is over run with hordes of marauding youth, yet violent crime has dropped to a 40 year low, according to the New York Times:
"The number of violent crimes in the United States dropped significantly last year, to what appeared to be the lowest rate in nearly 40 years, a development that was considered puzzling partly because it ran counter to the prevailing expectation that crime would increase during a recession.

"In all regions, the country appears to be safer. The odds of being murdered or robbed are now less than half of what they were in the early 1990s, when violent crime peaked in the United States. Small towns, especially, are seeing far fewer murders: In cities with populations under 10,000, the number plunged by more than 25 percent last year." 

I now return to the notion that I put forth in the opening paragraph about reality being subjective. The reality that mainstream media and authority figures wish the average America to believe in is that they live in a society breaking apart at the seams, where the scourge of drugs and terrorism are ever present, in which anyone, young or old, white or otherwise, could be a threat at any given time. But what are we to make of these threats? Could the destitute, often poorly educated Muslims the F.B.I. and like organizations parade before the American public in the latest terror plot have ever even conceived of such actions without the urging of federal authorities? Likewise for the geezers of the Georgia 'militia' and Justin, a lovesick 18 year old with less than a few grams of grass for sale. And what are we to make of a 40 year low in violent crime when indications, such as nearly one out of every three Americans under the age of 23 having a criminal record, point to crime being out of control. Is this truly reality?

Because it sure seems to me that the F.B.I., with its informant-laced terror cells, its money, and its state-of-the-art weapons, are a far greater threat than the rogue's gallery examined during the course of this article. But we all know that that can't be reality, just like all those fantasies about false flag terror attacks behind the Oklahoma City bombing and 9/11. That simply can't be reality. TV says so, as my dad would say.

And that, dear readers, is magic at its finest.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Lord of the Magicians Part II

In part one of this series I considered some of the occult aspects of the works of the acclaimed horror/fantasy author, painter, and filmmaker Clive Barker. As that piece wound down I began to examine my favorite Barker picture, 1995's Lord of Illusions. We shall further consider this film now, which is extremely rich in esoteric details. Barker has described the film as a hybrid of a supernatural horror film and private detective-centric film noir. Stylistically, that's pretty apt. But if such a genre as occult initiation existed, Illusions would certainly fit squarely therein. The film centers around two dueling magicians, a Manson-esque cult leader known as Nix, and his former apprentice, Phillip Swann.

Nix (top) and Swann (bottom)

As the film opens, we find Swann and several other ex-members of Nix's cult racing towards a desolate desert ranch. There Nix is holding a twelve year old girl hostage for reasons that are never entirely explained. Curiously, Nix keeps a pet baboon and uses it to terrify the the girl, named Dorothea. The baboon has been associated with the Egyptian god Thoth, who held dominion over science, writing, and magic. Sometimes Thoth was depicted with a baboon known as Babi as an attendant, and sometimes with the actual head of a baboon. Thoth was extremely important to the ancient Mysteries of Isis and Osiris.
"The goddess Isis married her older brother Osiris, whom she loved very much. Set, the old serpent of envy, hated their happiness and murdered Osiris by stealth. Then, to prevent all possibility of resurrection, Set dismembered the body of Osiris and scattered the pieces up and down the Nile River.

"When Isis learned what had been done, She called upon Thoth, god of Eternity, to stop the flow of Time, so that she could find all the parts of Osiris before the sun set. And Thoth stopped the wings of time, and the universe stood still, and Isis went forth weeping and griefstricken to hunt one by one for the pieces of the dead Lord Osiris. And when she had found them, she performed the Black Rite, and eternity gave birth to Time again, and Osiris was alive.

"And the secret of the Black Rite is the Secret of Secrets, and even those who know it do not know it fully..."
(The Cosmic Trigger Volume I, Robert Anton Wilson, pg. 221)

Thoth, in baboon form

Apparently the priesthood centered around Thoth was then entrusted with the secrets of the 'Black Rite,' which has been the source of much speculation in occult literature. In the director's commentary to Lord of Illusions Barker states that he fought to have the baboon included after the studio essentially believed it to be to expensive for such a brief appearance. If it is in fact a reference to Thoth, then is it possible Nix was planning his own Black Rite with Dorothea as a participant? Of course, Barker claims his insistence on the baboon was due to its dramatic effect, but the symbolism seems to fit a little to well for mere coincidence.

Nix's baboon

Nix is hanging from a suspended cruciform in the same chamber as Dorothea when Swann finally encounters him. A mock-crucifixion is another popular rite in certain occult circles.
"It is a ritual symbolic of rebirth but, even more than that, it mimics the death and resurrection of the initiate in psychological -if not spiritual -changes. It also unites the initiate with the whole history of his tradition, going back through all of those grimoires and spellbooks, all that gematrai and incantation, all that sacred geometry, until a karmic balance has been achieved between the actions of the initiate's life (or lives) and the life to come, the life he will lead. The cross on which he has been crucified fixes him at a specific point in space and time, bleeds him of karmic debt, fixes him like the alchemists fixed mercury, so that he becomes the engine of his own transformation, his own X and Y axis, the center of his own dimension and, as such, the center of all dimensions. What is death and resurrection, after all, but a conquering -an abrogation -of the linear, unidirectional flow of time, and thus of space as well...

"This crucifixion ritual would be mirrored in a ceremony that was performed by Charles Manson in Box Canyon near the Spahn Ranch in 1968, while he was under the influence of LSD..."
(Sinister Forces Book I, Peter Levenda, pg. 261)

Nix on his cruciform

Ah, more parallels to Manson and Nix. The notion of an individual being fixed in space and time upon being crucified is also interesting, when we consider that Thoth was also said to have stopped time itself so that Isis could resurrect Osiris. Resurrection becomes a chief theme of Illusions by the end of the opening sequence as well, for Swann manages to kill Nix (with more than a little help from young Dorothea). Nix's 'death' involves having a bizarre metallic mask attached to Nix's head via self-drilling screws. Swann describes the mask's purpose as binding Nix. Death, then, effectively stops time for Nix, who goes into a kind of hibernation after having the mask placed upon his face (in addition to being shot a few times).

Nix's 'death mask'

The rest of the film will center around several devoted followers of Nix as they go about attempting to resurrect their master from the grave. This endeavour really begins to pick up 13 years later when Swann has become a world famous illusionists, a la David Copperfield, in addition to marrying Dorothea, whose grown up version is played by Femake Janssen. When exactly the courtship between Swann and Dorothea began is never mentioned.

Grown up Dorothea

In fact, the relationship between the middle-aged Swann and Dorothea is quite odd on several levels. Dorothea states several times throughout the film that she did not marry Swann for love. The audience is given the vague impression that it was out of obligation to Swann for saving her when she was 12. Swann is seemingly obsessed with Dorothea and one is left with the impression that this obsession stretched over many years. Clearly Swann stayed close to Dorothea after rescuing her from Nix, possibly obscenely close.

To say that Dorothea was unenthusiastic about her husband throughout the film would be an understatement. Despite being stuck in an utterly passionless marriage, things aren't all bad for Dorothea. Judging by the size of Swann's mansion, being married to a world famous illusionist is at least not without its benefits. For our purposes, the most intriguing part of Swann''s mansion is the entrance room, featuring a black and white checkered floor and a winding staircase. This is heavily Masonic symbolism, and in keeping with the theme of initiation which we briefly explored in part one. Masonic lodges and parts of initiation rituals are supposed to mimic the structure of King Solomon's Temple. They also at times feature checkered floors.
"In addition, the floor of the temple may be constructed or decorated in a checkerboard pattern of black and white squares, a motif that is found on many Masonic documents, tracing boards, and other illustrations. The checkerboard pattern has a long and illustrious pedigree, calling to mind instantly the game of chess and its origins as a sacred game between the forces of light and darkness. Today, it might be interpreted as a grid, a group of cells called a matrix -from the Latin mater for mother, from which we get the words matter, material, and even Demeter, the goddess of corn (which is also an important Masonic symbol). The prima materia is an alchemical term indicating the base material of the Philosopher's Stone. All of these meanings would be relevant to the Temple's design, since -as a replica of KST -the temple represents the universe, not the universe in a chaotic state but as an ordered cosmos, created and designed by the Great Architect."
(The Secret Temple, Peter Levenda, pg. 11) 
Staircases are especially important in the symbolism of the second degree, the Fellowcraft.
"The lodge room for this degree is said to represent the 'middle chamber' of King Solomon's Temple, and the central icon of this degree is the Winding Staircase...

"The EA is then instructed in a strange and awkward method of walking, raising his feet high with each step, and progressing from the west to the east in this fashion. After this, the EA is made to kneel and hold the VSL -the Bible or another appropriate scripture -and made to swear another series of oaths with terrible penalties for breaking them..."
(ibid, pg. 17)
Best image I can find of the Masonic lodge-like features of Swann's mansion

EA stands for Entered Apprentice, the First Degree in Masonry which virtually every initiate begins at. In the first degree, the lodge is said to be the first floor or courtyard of Solomon's temple. In the third degree (the final in basic Blue Lodge Freemasonry), it is said to be the third and top most floor. In the third degree the initiate imitates the death of Hiram Abiff as they are made to mimic walking up a staircase in the second degree. Keep this in mind dear reader, for we shall return to the Masonic lodge-like aspects of Swann's mansion a bit later.

When the film moves forward 13 years the main character of Illusions, private detective Harry D'Amour, is finally introduced. Barker has stated that D'Amour is his favorite character and has described Harry as a kind of altar-ego. D'Amour has appeared in several of Barker's works including the short story The Last Illusion (upon which Lord is based) and the novels The Great and the Secret Show and Everville. D'Amour is supposed to appear opposite Pinhead in Barker's long anticipated The Scarlet Gospels. Needless to say, D'Amour is a fascinating character on many levels. Even the tattoos upon his body, which are said to be talismans that become warm when evil is near in the novel Everville, hold meaning. One of these tattoos appears on the back of Scott Bakula, who plays D'Amour in Illusions, though it is never explained. I dearly wish I could have found something on this symbol while searching the net, at the very least its name, but nothing useful came up. If anyone knows what the symbol tattooed on D'Amour's back means, feel free to share.

Scoot Bakula as legendary Barker character Harry D'Amour

D'Amour's occupation, private detective, is quite apt as well. The private eye is one of the most iconical and romanticized characters in modern American fiction. Frequently the private detective is portrayed as a lone light in a sea of pit-black corruption, a champion of the dispossessed and desperate. The image is the result of writers such as Raymond Chandler and Mickey Spillane and films like The Big Sleep and The Maltese Falcon. While the private eye is frequently depicted as David in fiction, their real life association is clearly with Goliath.

Private investigative agencies were born out of the labor unrest in America in the wake of the Civil War. These organizations, such as the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, were vast, featuring offices in virtually every major American city and employing thousands of people. In addition to detective work, many of these agencies also provided uniformed security guards for railroads, mines, and at times even towns (uniformed Pinkerton guards appeared on the streets of Chicago several years before uniformed police officers). They were also used to put down labor strikes (a speciality of the infamous Baldwin-Felts Agency) and to infiltrate labor organizations, which were frequently organized along the lines of secret societies. And so to were the detective agencies themselves, which laid the blueprints for both the modern Secret Service (the Pinkertons were in fact the original Secret Service, briefly serving as Lincoln's bodyguards) and FBI and heavily influencing the methods of the CIA in the process.
"The vital new ingredient in America that linked violence with revolutionary ideas was the flood of immigration that began in the mod-nineteenth century. As the country acquired new manpower from Europe to build railroads, tunnel mines, and fill factories, it also acquired a fresh infusion of ideas...

"Ireland played a particularly important role, providing 44 percent of the 3.5 million immigrants who came to America from 1840-54. The Irish brought with them a rich revolutionary tradition of secret organization and defiance of authority...

"After the suppression of the Ribbonmen in the late 1830s and the famine years of the mid-forties, revolutionaries in Ireland became more extreme and resourceful. Some new secret societies revived the old agrarian tradition of dressing in women's clothing ... and the Irish countryside began to talk about altogether new secret society under a legendary Molly Maguire.

"The Molly Maguires acquired an importance in the New World that they never had in Ireland. They became the defenders and organizers of the Irish immigrants who flooded into the newly opened coal fields of Pennsylvania. Anthracite mining was new to the Irish, who as Catholics were suspect and subjected to frequent unemployment, particularly in the recession following the Civil War. They looked for protection to the Molly Maguires, who organized largely in taverns as a secret, militant arm of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. They captured the imagination of America with their work stoppages climaxing in the Long Strike of 1875 against the Reading Railroad.

"A former radical Chartist, Allan Pinkerton, championed the counter-attack by the railroad owners, infiltrating the Mollies, and using 'flying squadrons' to break the strike and arrest its leaders. A sensational series of trails led to the hanging of twenty leaders in 1877, including the eight members of the inner, secret circle. Legends arose on the Left -and fortified a new literature of reassurance on the Right: the detective story. Just as Pinkerton provided a model of detective work in the service of the status quo, so Arthur Conan Doyle, after creating Sherlock Holmes, immortalized Pinkerton's tale of triumph over the Irish miners in The Valley of Fear of 1915."
(A Fire in the Minds of Men, James Billington, pg.434)

the actual logo of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency

In a way, American labor unrest of the 19th century can be seen as a war between competing secret societies, those of the labor unions and those of the detective agencies. What's more, the romanticized version of the private eye that would soon begin appearing in crime fiction was largely the construction of Allan Pinkerton himself, who became quite a prolific writer, in addition to the works by Dashiell Hammett (who wrote The Maltese Falcon, The Thin Man, and Red Harvest, among others), a former Pinkerton detective. But I digress.

Allan Pinkerton (left) with President Lincoln, making the sign of the 'hidden hand'

The New York-based D'Amour happens to be in L.A. working a divorce case when he stumbles upon the brutal murder of Quaid, a fortune teller who was with Swann during the confrontation with Nix 13 years earlier. Swann is deeply upset over the death of Quaid, spurring Dorothea to employ D'Amour on the sly to investigate her husband's past, allegedly. Of course, Dorothea is already aware of Nix, making her decision to employ D'Amour even more curious.

Shortly thereafter D'Amour and Dorothea attend one of Swann's performances at the legendary Pantages Theater in Hollywood. In the Director's Commentary on the DVD, Barker states that he was quite insistent that the Pantages Theater be used. This is most interesting, considering the odd history of the place. The Pantages was built by Alexander Pantages, a Greek vaudeville performer and early motion picture producer. Eventually he constructed a chain of successful theaters which RKO, under the direction of Joseph P. Kennedy, attempted to buy out. Pantages refused and shortly thereafter he found himself accused of rape by a 17 year old vaudeville dancer named Eunice Pringle. Initially Pantages was found guilty, but was acquitted during a second trial. Financially broken, Pantages sold his theater chain to RKO for less that what the motion picture company initially offered and for less than what was worth. Rumors have long persisted that Pantages was framed by Kennedy, the father of JFK and RFK.

Alexander Pantages (top) and Joseph Kennedy Sr. (bottom)

In Lord of Illusions, the Pantages Theater is the site where Swann opts to fake his own death. This is accomplished in one of the film's signature set pieces. Swann is strapped onto a revolving platform in the shape of a five pointed star atop a pentagon. Above him are numerous swords suspended from another revolving platform and on a timer. Every few seconds a sword releases and falls onto the platform below. As Swann is attempting to undo his bounds he falls behind the timing and the swords begin to fall into various parts of his body until they have all fallen and he is dead.

This sequence is symbolically important on several levels. As regular readers of this blog know, the five pointed star is a sign of Sirius, the Dog Star. Sirius is highly important in various occult strands. I've written more on this topic here and here. The five pointed-star combined with the pentagon on Swann's platform equals ten points. Ten was considered to be the most sacred number to the Pthagoreans.
"Ten was the number of the Pythagorean Tetraktys, the sum of the first four digits (1+2+3+4). It possesses a sense of totality, of fulfilment and that of a return to oneness after the evolution of the cycle of the first nine digits. The Pythagoreans regarded ten as the holiest of numbers. It was the symbol of universal creation, upon which they took their oaths, as 'the Tetraktys from which eternal Nature springs and in which it is rooted.' If all springs from ten and all returns to it, it is therefore also an image of totality in motion."
(Dictionary of Symbols, Jean Chevalier & Alain Gheerbrant, pg. 981)
Swords also have a curious symbolic meaning.
"The sword is the warrior's symbol, but it is also the symbol of 'holy war...' Holy war is above all else an inner struggle, and this may also be the significance of the sword brought by Christ... And it is also -in both its creative and destructive aspects -a symbol of the Word and of speech. While he preaches, the Muslim khitab holds a wooden sword in his hand and the Book of Revelation describes a two-edged sword in the mouth of the Word. The two edges relate to its dual powers, but may also convey the meaning of sexual dualism. The edges are either male and female, as an Arab writer explains, or else swords are ritually forged by a married couple or by a pair of smiths, in a series of operations which, as in Chinese legend, comprise a marriage."
(ibid, pg. 959)

I would venture to guess that the five pointed star is symbolic of the magical tradition, that of Sirius, that both Swann and Nix follow. Swann's (fake) death upon the ten points seemingly represents his failure to achieve perfection. The sword clearly indicates the struggle between Swann and Nix, and the two factions based around either. This struggle is a holy war in the purest sense, though Swann is totally ignorant of this. Swann has in fact failed to achieve perfection on many levels (even more so than Nix), which makes the ten points of his platform even more ironic.

D'Amour begins his investigation of Swann in earnest after the latter's alleged death. Among other places, the investigation takes D'Amour to Hollywood's legendary Magic Castle. It is here that D'Amour first hears of Nix, and rumors of Swann's involvement in Nix's cult. D'Amour also encounters the pompous illusionist Vinovich, played by the great character actor Vincent Schiavelli, who talks some jive about "divinity and trickery." Throughout Illusions I feel as those Barker takes several swipes at the shallowness of Hollywood and the buffoonish illusionists of the Magic Castle are used as stand-ins in this sequence.

Hollywood's Magic Castle

The oh-so-pretentious Vinovich character has actually witnessed Nix ad Swann perform actual magic, yet he holds his own illusions up to the level divinity and speaks of Houdini's 'spirit guides' (Houdini's legacy with Spiritualism is quite curious). This seems to be a reflection upon the 'magic' of Hollywood, and the importance the media and public alike attach to it, in comparison to the actual magic that is performed en mass daily across the U.S. As noted in part one, Barker has never directed another film to date after Illusions. It would seem the disillusionment was already weighing heavily upon him at this point.

the ridiculous character of Vinovich

As Illusions is part film noir it was inevitable that Dorothea and D'Amour would end up in the sack together. It is in Dorothea's bedroom, located in the top floor of Swann's mansion, that D'Amour and Dorothea are confronted by the still living Swann, in a de-materialized from. I will again remind the reader of the Masonic lodge-like structure of Swann's mansion, which I discussed earlier.

In the second degree of Freemasonry, the primary icon the initiate considers is the Winding Staircase, the 'middle chamber' of King Solomon's temple. Swann's mansion features both a checker boarded floor, as many Masonic lodges display, and a winding staircase. In making it to Dorothea's bed chamber, D'Amour passes through the second degree and is raised to the top most floor of Solomon's Temple. In the third degree, that of the Master Mason, the initiate reenacts the murder of Hiram Abiff, and is then figuratively resurrected. Here, D'Amour is confronted with a false resurrection by Swann before encountering Nix's actual resurrection a little later in the film. Is this whole sequence as well as the design of Swann's house meant to be symbolic of D'Amour's initiation, as well as the one the audience under goes as they view the movie?

This brief confrontation with de-materialized Swann is what drives D'Amour to seek out the actual Swann, which in turn sets in motion Nix's resurrection. In one of the film's most striking sequences, Nix's followers begin to head back to the desert ranch where they last encountered their master. Many of the cultist had settled into seemingly normal lives, but after receiving letters hinting at Nix's immanent return, they go about emotionlessly killing their families and coworkers before heading back to the desert. Talk about predictive programming.

It all leads to an inevitable conclusion with D'Amour and Swann rushing to Nix's desert lair, where the grown up Dorothea is once again being held hostage. Shortly before Dorothea was kidnapped by one of Nix's followers, she dropped one of the key lines in the film while paraphrasing Swann: "Flesh is a trap... and magic sets us free." Here again the subtle Gnosticism, as filtered through Crowley, of Barker's work once again makes an appearance. Of course, one of the deepest held Gnostic beliefs is that matter and the material world are a prison constructed by the Demiurge to trap the divine spirit of man. The Gnostic strand in Barker's writing is discussed much more in depth in part one of this series.

Nix, to his followers at least, is meant to be the ultimate embodiment of Swann's flesh/magic musings. It also seemingly brings the Masonic initiation allusions full circle. When considering the murder of Nix at Swann's hands, I can't help but be reminded of the legendary murder of Hiram Abiff in Masonic lore by the three 'unworthy' craftsmen.
"In the Masonic ceremony -and there are several variations but the main procedure is the same -the initiate listens to the story of the architect of Solomon's Temple, Hiram Abiff, as it is enacted with the initiate himself in the role of Abiff.

"The building of the Temple of Solomon involved two main personalities: Hiram, the King of Tyre, and Solomon himself. Hiram had been a friend of King David, and then of David's son Solomon, and when the time came to build the famous temple it was Hiram who offered assistance in terms of materials, labor, and even design. By allowing Jewish ships to use Tyrian ports, Hiram allowed Solomon to import many choice materials for the temple and the temple service. There was another Hiram -Hiram Abiff, in the Masonic legend -who was a craftsman in bronze for the temple. This Hiram is mentioned several times in the first Book of Kings, and is described as the son of a widow who was put in charge of bronze casting of the two pillars Jachin and Boaz and many other temple objects. There has also been speculation that the Adoniram mentioned in I Kings 5:14 as the one in charge of all construction labor at the temple was the same Hiram, and that the name Adoniram is actually a portmanteau of two words: Adonai Hiram, or Lord Hiram. Whatever the personalities involved, the skill of the craftsmen impressed the Jews greatly. All of the stonecutting and other stonework was accomplished at the quarry so that when the stones of the Temple were finally laid there was no sound or sign of hammers or other construction tools, and not metals at all. The stones were laid perfectly and joined seamlessly together on the site...

"There is no mention in the Bible of the murder of Adoniram, Hiram of Tyre, or Hiram the widow's son.

"Yet the legend as told in the Master Mason initiation ceremony is specific if allegorical in nature. Only Hiram Abiff was in possession of the word of the Master Mason -the 'Mason Word,' as it has been called since the seventeenth century. Other versions of the story say that Hiram Abiff was in possession of another kind of secret that he would not reveal. In any case, Hiram had knowledge that the others did not and they wanted it and would kill to get it."
(The Secret Temple, Peter Levenda, pgs. 20-21)

a Masonic reenactment of the murder of Hiram Abiff

In Masonic lore Hiram is murdered by three unworthy craftsman. In Illusions Nix is murdered by four individuals, all of whom are seemingly unworthy of his wisdom. One of these individuals is already dead before the 13 year jump, while another has been institutionalized. The third, Quaid, is a low rent fortune teller. Then there's Swann, a man blessed with divine knowledge who uses it to become a phenomenally successful night club performer. In other words, the four unworthy craftsmen are either totally broken by Nix's knowledge, or apply it to purely mercenary pursuits.

But what of Nix's himself? Coming off like an unholy merger between Manson and John the Baptist, he is the prototypical seeker. He has totally abandoned material comfort for the desert and filthy clothing where he can focus only on his magic. Yet Nix himself is every bit as corrupt as Swann. His ultimate life goal is to murder the world, as he confides in Swann. And he seems rather board with even this objective. He tries to show Swann the world for what it really is, in which human beings are nothing but vile clumps of matter, yet we can never be sure if this is a true vision, or an illusion Nix has convinced himself of.

Instead of spreading illumination to the worthy, he has become a de facto shepherd for a cabal of mindless, blood-thirsty drones incapable of discovering the Great Mysteries for themselves. Little wonder then that Nix murders virtually all of his followers shortly after his resurrection, telling them, "You waited like lambs. Well, I'm not your shepherd." In Nix's estimation, only Swann is worthy of his teachings and even Swann has long since lost interest in spiritual advancement. Nix is ultimately quite a pathetic figure, a man who has learned the secrets of matter and the mind only to find them to be utterly worthless. When Dorothea asks him what he is, Nix honestly responds: "A man who wanted to be a god, but changed his mind."

the resurrected Nix

Ultimately Nix is every bit as unworthy as the rest of his followers. It is only D'Amour, the most unlikely candidate, who passes through initiation. Over the course of the film three individuals are shown matter for what it truly is: Nix, Swann, and D'Amour. But it is only D'Amour that sees through this illusion and keeps sight of the spirit within matter. He is the only one not driven mad or mired in corruption as a result of Nix's knowledge. In the final moments of the film a dying Swann 'raises' D'Amour up like a god for his final confrontation with Nix. In Freemasonry, so to is the Fellowcraft initiate 'raised' to the level of the Master Mason in the final Blue Lodge degree.

And it is here I shall wrap up my examination of Lord of Illusions. I have tried to explain the rich symbolism of this film as best I can, though I'm sure I'm missing more than a few allusions. Most interesting to me is the Gnosticism that creeps into this work as it does in much of Barker's other works. Dorothea's line about flesh being a trap and magic setting us free is priceless in this sense. Ultimately the film questions the wisdom of this statement. Is matter truly a trap as Nix and Swann believe, or is it merely another illusion as D'Amour believes at the end? What's more, where do these notions come from in Barker's writings? Did he consciously pursue this theme, or did it come to him in a dream as he claims many of his ideas do?

And if it was from a dream, then where do such notions come from? As was noted in part one, Barker is hardly the first writer to be subjected to this 'Dream Gnosticism,' as I refer to it. But he has surely done more with it than many writers and filmmakers that have come both before and after him. Barker leaves his sympathies deliberately vague, but at least he makes us aware that such conversations even exist.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Lord of the Magicians Part I

Clive Barker needs no introduction as far as many horror and fantasy fans are concerned. For the more casual pop culture junkie, Barker is probably best known for the horror films Hellraiser (which he wrote and directed) and Candyman (which he co-wrote and produced). Both films were based off of writings of Barker's. The chief villains of both films, Pinhead and Candyman respectively, would go on to become modern horror movie icons, in addition to spawning several low grade sequels of which Barker had little to no involvement in.

While Barker is best known for his work in film he is also a prolific visual artist and novelist. He's even worked on comic books and helped develop video games. It is his novels that Recluse has had the longest association with. I, like many people, discovered Barker via Hellraiser and Candyman but it was novels like Weaveworld, The Damnation Game, The Great and the Secret Show, Everville, and the Imajica books that occupied so much of my teenage years. While Barker is primarily known for his work in horror, much of his fiction is far more fantasy oriented, displaying incredibly detailed worlds and mythologies. Think Neil Gaiman with an even darker edge.

Candyman, another of Barker's famous creations

Unfortunately, I do not remember much of Barker's fiction -its been nearly ten years since I've read one of his books and a lot of drugs and booze occupied that space. It's a pity, for Barker's book are quite good in addition to being rich in occult lore and symbolism. To make things even more interesting, Barker claims to have dreamed many of his key ideals. The Imajica books, for instance, are said to have been based off of a series of dreams Barker was having that took 14 months to transform into the 800+ page work. Imajica, a combination of imagine and magic, is heavy on gnostic and kabalistic ideology. Consider the plot summary, courteously of Wikipedia:
"The Earth is actually just one part of 5 connected worlds or Dominions, called the Imajica. Overseeing all of the dominions is the Unbeheld, Hapexamendios (God). However, Earth became separated from the other four worlds long ago. This explains both the appearance of extraordinary phenomena on Earth as well as the lack of understanding of magic and acceptance of the extraordinary as commonplace (as it is in the other four worlds). The void that separates Earth from her sister worlds is called the "In Ovo." Great magic users called Maestros have attempted through the ages to reconcile the Earth with the remaining Imajica, including Christ. This Reconciliation can only happen once every 200 years. All previous attempts failed; the most recent resulted in the horrific death or madness of those involved. A secret society known as the Tabula Rasa formed after this failure; its directive is to prevent the use of magic on the Earth, motivated by the fear that such a disaster may occur again. At the present time, the four reconciled dominions are ruled by the Autarch, who lives in the great city of Yzordderrex in the Second Dominion.

Imajica's concept of Dominions is similar to the notion of seven heavens found in esoteric Judaism as well as Gnosticism and the closely related Hermeticism. The figure of Hapexamendios is a purely Demiurge-like being that overcame and imprisoned the female deities that once benevolently ruled over Imajica. When this being came to power the physical Earth (the 'Fifth Dominion') became cut off from the other four Dominions. In Gnosticism, the Earth is also separate from the other realms for it is comprised of matter and was entirely the creation of the Demiurge. In many Gnostic strands the Demiurge is named Samael, which literally means 'blind idiot.' Hapexamendios lives up to this billing by inadvertently killing himself due to his ignorance of the circular structure of Imajica.

the Demiurge

That Barker largely conceived the Imajica mythology via dreams is most interesting to me. Another noted horror author whose work was largely inspired by night terrors also conceived a complex mythology steeped in Gnosticism and various other branches of the occult. That author was the great H.P. Lovecraft.

Lovecraft has only recently begun to gain a popular following due to the success of several horror films loosely based upon his short stories, beginning with the cult classic Re-Animator. Prior to the 1980s, when adaptions of Lovecraft's work became relatively common, his work was probably most popular with occultists, especially those influenced by the legendary (or infamous, depending on your mileage) magnus, Aleister Crowley. The mythology Lovecraft imagined bore striking similarities to the cosmology and practices of modern ceremonial magic. What's more, Lovecraft seemingly conceived this mythology in a vacuum -By all accounts he did not actively start researching real life occult practices until the end of his life, when most of his most celebrated works had already been written. In other words, Lovecraft essentially dreamt highly complex occult mythology that bore striking similarities to the real thing.
"Lovecraft was writing in the 1920s, when most of his more famous stories were published. He was writing of a New England that, in his imagination, had ancient roots in unknown cultures; where Druidic circles and pagan chants would infest the countryside; where a kind of subterranean culture existed, parallel to the world of own reality. He peppered his stories with references to the works of archaeologists and anthropologists (some real, some fictitious), and connected the American Indian culture to the worship of strange, perhaps extraplanetary or extradimensional beings who viewed humans as little more than uncooked hors d'ouevres. His work has attracted a great deal of attention in the past 30 years or so, oddly enough in France where -like the films of Jerry Lewis -he is an adopted obsession, but also certainly in America where he maintains a cult status even now, more than sixty years after his death. He has attracted serious, albeit fringe, attention from academics and historians of both literature and mysticism, and has even been graced with an anthology of his works prefaced by no less a literary light than Joyce Carol Oates. The blind Argentine author of many essays and stories on the macabre -Jorge Luis Bores -has written in the Lovecraftian mode in homage to the cranky Yankee master. In addition, there are several hardcore occult organizations in Europe and America that owe allegiance to the bizarre principles outlined in his works. They have taken their names and identities straight from his published work, with cults like Dagon and Cthulhu, and occultist emeritus Kenneth Grant has written extensively on the relation between the works of Lovecraft -an author of gothic horror fiction -and the rituals of modern ceremonial magic and communication with extraterrestrial intelligences."
(Sinister Forces Book One, Peter Levenda, pgs. 3-4)

H.P. Lovecraft

Kenneth Grant, an associate of Crowley's, was quite taken by the similarities between the mythology of Lovecraft and that of Crowley.
"Writers such as Arthur Machen, Brodie Innes, Algernon  Blackwood and H.P. Lovecraft are in this category. Their novels and stories contain some remarkable affinities with those aspects of Crowley's Cult... Whether it be the Vision of Pan, as in the case of Machen and Dunsany, or the even more sinister traffic with denizens of forbidden dimensions, as in the tales of Lovecraft, the reader is plunged into a world of barbarous names and incomprehensible signs. Lovecraft was unacquainted both with the name and the work of Crowley, yet some of his fantasies reflect, however, distortedly, the salient themes of Crowley's cult."
(The Magical Revival, Kenneth Grant, pg. 114)
One of the chief gods of Lovecraft's mythos was the being known as Azathoth, another Demiurge-like creature. Azathoth rules a group of entities known as the 'Outer Gods' and mistakenly believes that he is the supreme being of the cosmos. In actuality the Outer Gods pale in comparison to the Old Ones, extraterrestrial/extradimensional beings that came before them. Lovecraft describes Azathoth thus:
"...the ancient legends of Ultimate Chaos, at whose center sprawls the blind idiot god Azathoth, Lord of All Things, encircled by his flopping horde of mindless and amorphous dancers, and lulled by the thin monotonous piping of a demonic flute held in nameless paws."
(H.P. Lovecraft, "The Haunter of the Dark," The Dunwich Horror and Others, pg. 110)

Yes, Azathoth is also a 'blind idiot' god as well. Lovecraft conceived this being at least a decade before the Nag Hammadi texts were unearthed as well. This, combined with Lovecraft's ignorance of the occult, certainly argues strongly for some kind of collective unconscious transference. It seems likely that Barker, unlike Lovecraft, had actively researched the occult before he began his writing career, though to what extent I know not. But I see no reason to doubt Barker's claim that much of Imajica, as well as many of his other works, were inspired by dreams. I suppose the question then becomes, how much of his dreams come from the collective unconscious and how much is inspired by the writings he's consumed over the years. If much of Barker's vision does in fact come from the collective unconscious, then he would merely be another in a long line of 'Dream Gnostic' authors, of which Lovecraft is the most widely acknowledged.

So much, then, for Barker's literary output. Hopefully someday I will find the time to reread the various novels listed above and give you folks a more detailed account of Barker's Dream Gnosticism. For the time being, I would like to consider my favorite Barker film, the 1996 picture Lord of Illusions.

Illusions was largely a commercial bomb upon being its release, and is to date the last picture Barker has directed. One gets the impression that Illusions soured him to the whole Hollywood experience. In the film's DVD commentary Barker implies that funding for the effects laden film was a problem throughout while frequently noting that he was forced to edit the theatrical version of the film in such a way as to greatly altar his original vision. Illusions was conceived as a merger of supernatural horror and film noir, specifically the private detective subgerne of the latter. Curiously, two other modern films, Angel Heart and In the Mouth of Madness (which was loosely based upon several of Lovecraft's writings) also attempted this mixture and both are heavy in occult references. All three films are highly recommended for those passing through initiation.

It goes without saying that the Director's Cut of Lord of Illusions is the only version worth tracking down. The explanations of actual magic found in this version are priceless. The film itself centers around two dueling magicians. One of them is a Manson-esque cult leader named Nix. Regular readers of this blog know that I've had a lot to say on the strange life and times of Charles Manson. The neophyte is advised to read my original series on Manson, found here and here, and then precede to my series on Adolfo Constanzo, found here, here, and here. Nix's cult, like the Family, is based out of ranch located somewhere in the Mojave Desert. Thus, we find one of the numerous esoteric references dropped throughout the film, for the Mojave Desert is considered to be one of the chief centers of power in Crowley's magical system. More information on the occult significance of the Mojave Desert and the magical workings performed there can be found here.

Nix (top) and Manson

The name use of the name Nix is interesting as well. Nix is also the name of a German elemental beings similar to a merman. These beings are more commonly known by their Scandinavian name Nokk, while females are referred to as Nixie.
"...the Nixie loves to dance. As a frequent visitor to village dances, she always appears in the guise of an attractive young woman. There she entices many a victim and lures them home to the nearby millstream. In pagan times, she was given at least one sacrifice a year, so now she takes her own as her due. In fact, rescuing a drowning person can often cause a reprisal by the Nixie (who feels understandably unhappy about the food loss and disrespect). She expects to be propitiated not scorned.

"The Nixie can live on land for extended periods; she has been known to marry a mortal man, and even to raise an entire family. However, these long absences present problems among her original water demon kin, who sometimes come to claim her. Whenever a young wife vanishes, it is certain she was a Nixie if she is last seen sinking into a body of water, and the water turns the color of blood. These occurrences are not infrequent as the Nixie often chooses human mates to propagate her species, and her frequent intermingling has caused much talk of changelings...

"The male of the species is the Nokk. He lives in lakes, ponds, rivers, and waterfalls. He resembles an old man with green eyes, huge ears, and a long wet beard. The Nokk drags people down, especially small children if they play too close to the edge of the water or attempt to pick up water lilies. He is most dangerous after sunset, and to see or hear the Nokk means someone will drown. He is often heard shrieking during shipwrecks. The Nokk often takes the shape of a bird that perches on the surface of the water. He has also been seen as a horse or half a horse, also as half a ship, or a gleaming silver coin or ring. The Nokk plays music on a golden harp to lure his victim closer if his precious-object disguise doesn't work."
(A Field Guide to Demons, Carol and Dinah Mack, pg. 33)

a Nix/Nokk
 Despite being named after a water elemental, Nix is seemingly possessed by a fire elemental ("And the fire said to me..."). As noted above, his cult is based out of the desert, the chief region for fire elementals. He is shown manipulating fire through magic and even claims to engage in dialogues with it. For those unfamiliar with the concept of elemental beings, I shall direct you to a prior blog I've written that addresses such entities. It can be found here.

The striking opening sequence of the film drops some of the choicest occult references in addition to introducing us to Nix's magical revival, Philip Swann. The swan is of course one of the most loaded symbols out there.
"From Ancient Greece to Siberia, via Asia Minor, as well as among Slav and Germanic peoples, a great mass of myth, tradition and poetry has gathered in praise of the swan, the spotless bird whose whiteness,.. strength and grace have made it a living manifestation of light itself.

"There are, nevertheless, two whitenesses and two lights, the solar, male light of day and the lunar female light of night. The meaning of its symbolism depends upon which of these two the swan embodies. If it remains undivided and, as is sometimes the case, tries to bear synthesis of both, the swan becomes hermaphroditic and even more highly charged with mystery and holiness. Lastly, just as there is a Black Sun and a Black Horse, so there is a Black Swan, not desacralized, but charged with occult and inverted symbolism."
(Dictionary of Symbols, Jean Chevalier & Alain Gheerbrant, pg. 953)

swan and Swann

The thirty-third degree Freemason Manly P. Hall had a very specific occult meaning for the swan.
"The grace and purity of the swan were emblematic of the spiritual grace and purity of the initiate. This bird represented the Mysteries which unfolded these qualities in humanity. This explains the allegories of the gods (the secret wisdom) incarnating in the body of a swan (the initiate)."
(The Secret Teachings of All Ages, pgs. 278-279)
Thus, the swan is symbolic of the initiate braving the Mysteries. This is an apt description of the character of Philip Swann, who began as Nix's pupil until Nix's teachings became too extreme. Thus, at the symbolic level, the theme of initiation is introduced. It will remain prominent throughout. Indeed, the astute viewer becomes an initiate while watching Illusions. In the second part of this series we shall examine the depths of initiation the film takes the viewer too.