Spirit, Myth, and Cosmos

Nevill Drury

in Stealing Fire from Heaven

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780199750993
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199894871 | DOI:
Spirit, Myth, and Cosmos

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The idea that we all have within us a sacred potential is found in Gnosticism and Neoplatonism, and also in the early twentieth-century writings of Carl Jung, especially with regard to his concept of the archetypes of the collective unconscious. Jung’s mythic perspectives attracted a substantial readership among enthusiasts of the American counterculture in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and his framework of the psyche has also been widely endorsed by many practicing occultists—ranging from magicians in the Golden Dawn tradition like Dion Fortune and Israel Regardie through to the contemporary Chicago-based Gnostic Voodoo magician Michael Bertiaux. This chapter begins with an exploration of the mythic and archetypal perspectives of Carl Jung and describes its subsequent impact on the American human potential movement—with a particular focus on “Sacred Psychology.” Associated with such figures as Joseph Campbell, Jean Houston, and Jean Shinoda Bolen, this experiential perspective emerged within the American counterculture alongside the various forms of feminism that gave rise to Goddess worship. At the same time there was also renewed interest, from the late 1960s onward, in various forms of indigenous spirituality, characterized by widespread popular fascination with shamanism—the world’s oldest spiritual tradition. Prompted by the bestselling works of Carlos Castaneda, many spiritual seekers sought access to the visionary realms accessed in trance states through shamanic techniques. While Castaneda’s writings are now regarded as substantially fictitious, the American anthropologist Dr. Michael Harner developed practical techniques of applied shamanism that were suitable for a Western audience. Harner’s work—now known as neoshamanism—has in turn influenced visionary magical groups like Diana Paxson’s Hrafnar community in San Francisco. Paxson is interested in the northern European shamanic techniques of visionary seidr magic and has combined Nordic mythic traditions with Harner’s method of experiential “core” shamanism. Also considered here are the visionary states of consciousness accessed by Chicago-based magician Michael Bertiaux, whose contact with various Haitian voodoo spirit entities infuses both his art and his personal cosmology. Finally, this chapter explores the nature of Chaos Magick—an international “post-punk”’ development in contemporary magic that seeks to fuse such disparate elements as Taoism, sigil magic, Crowleyan Thelema, and chaos theory. Influenced substantially by the trance artist Austin Osman Spare and formulated initially by the British occultists Peter J. Carroll and Ray Sherwin, Chaos Magick is arguably the most revolutionary form of modern occultism to emerge so far.

Keywords: cosmos; Carl Jung; Golden Dawn; Dion Fortune; Israel Regardie; Gnostic Voodoo; Michael Bertiaux; Carlos Castaneda

Chapter.  13640 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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