straightforward and reflect a preoccupation with darkness, danger, and the systematic and deliberate transgression of social and religious tabus.
But that is a psychological and anthropological perspective on the Tradition, which may satisfy some but which does not tell the whole story. Eventually, psychological and anthropological ideas go out of fashion and change with the times. New ideologies, new trends in intellectual pursuits mean that we keep looking at the same material from the point of view of where we are standing at the time.
The serious pursuit of magic—as of shamanism, of Tantra—requires that your point of view shift to that of the source of the knowledge. It requires that you abandon your safe place. Otherwise you are only standing at the edge of the Abyss and taking quick glances over the side. There is no information in that pose, no initiation possible in a state of suspended animation. You must enter a place where all the cool academic theories no longer obtain, where the comforting “it’s all in your head” platitudes and attitudes have no meaning—because your head, your body, your soul and spirit are all fully engaged in ways they never have been before, and it is not what you expected when you bought the ticket.
The above is true about magic in general, but in the case of the Typhonian Tradition it is especially important to understand these challenges. Because it is not a solar tradition but a stellar one that reaches back into the very origins of the human race, the Typhonian magician is working without a net. As in the case with the Necronomicon, normal modes of protection may not obtain. The entities one meets in the Tunnels of Set—as per Grant’s trilogies—are not those that were bound by the Seal of Solomon; they are older than Solomon, older than dynastic Egypt, older than Babylon. The only reasonable description we have of the realm and its denizens is what we come across in Lovecraft.
The Typhonian Order focuses on the Lovecraftian entities, especially those of the Cthulhu Mythos. The standard demons and evil spirits of the Judaeo-Christian tradition are unequal to the task of representing the deeper archetypes that are encountered in this high-intensity approach to the magic.
More than that, however, is the stated goal of the Order which is to make contact with discarnate and extraterrestrial Intelligences. This is perfectly in accord with the Lovecraftian tales which are concerned almost exclusively with this type of contact. In fact, by using terms like
“discarnate” and “extraterrestrial” the Order is changing the parameters within which traditional ceremonial magic functions.
Magic’s nineteenth and twentieth century European and American manifestations were still concerned with the medieval grimoires and their lists of demons and angels. It was a purely sectarian approach that was based on a Judaeo-Christian worldview. Groups like the Golden Dawn reinforced that approach but added Egyptian and other traditions to the mix, thus expanding their reach somewhat.
But the Typhonian Order grew up in the post-World War II era, in the age of atomic weapons, the Cold War, the space race, and UFO sightings. The idea of contact with entities other than human took on different meanings and implications. Magic was no longer limited to a traditional religious environment, but in the mid-late twentieth century took on more contemporary dress. There has been more technological development in the seventy years since the end of World War II than there has been in the previous thousand years, and this has affected the awareness of occultists in the West. What had seemed magical a hundred years ago— communication over vast distances in an instant, machines that can talk and answer questions, images transmitted through space without the use of wires, flying through space across the entire world, etc.—are now commonplace. The siddhis—the magic powers that are the result, or the side effect, of Tantric and magical practice—were now within the reach of everyone on the planet. Magic, then, had to reach further and farther to identify the source of its power and its utility, leading some to ask: Is magic useful? What does it contribute?
The art and science of psychology began to encroach on some aspects of the initiatory process. Add to that the use of hallucinogenic drugs and another secret chamber of esotericism had been breached by technicians and tinkerers and government grants.
Why do magic, then, when you can drop acid? Or undergo a few years of depth analysis? Or go into a trance watching television or listening to your iPod?
There was only one thing left and it was the hallmark of ceremonial magic.
Communication with the Unseen. Traffic with extraterrestrial beings. Dinner dates with the discarnate. As early as the 1950s, Kenneth Grant and his circle realized that the only thing separating magic from science was
the ultimate ambition: contact with the Otherworldly. Rather than sitting passively on a couch and recounting one’s dreams, Grant said let us become active participants in our dreams. Let us study and employ dream control. Let us revert the normal processes of mind and body until we pass through the Gate into another mode of being entirely.
Let us take back our souls before the scientists and the shrinks wash, rinse, and spin-dry our brains. Let us boldly go where no man, woman, computer nerd, or intelligence officer has gone before. The people running our massive, space-based telescopes are probing the universe in ways never before thought possible; they are looking at the beginning of the universe in the seconds after the Big Bang, and taking snapshots of it to show their kids.
The only alternative left to the magician is to (a) posit the existence of a universe invisible to human eyes (aided or unaided) and (b) go there.
It may be true that one day science will be so advanced that it will be indistinguishable from magic, but that’s not the point of orders like the Typhonian which put the human being back in the center of the cosmos. The world has become so enamored of its toys that it sits and waits patiently for the next new development, the next smartphone, the next flat screen TV. The toys have become the center of the universe; the tools are replacing the mind, and as they do they replace the spirit. Technology is replacing pure science.
But magic can be done on the cheap. All it takes is determination, discipline, and practice. It is not for the couch potato or anyone looking for a quick fix. And that is why it is safe from the sweaty palms of the technocrats. For now.
Grant’s thesis is the same as Lovecraft’s to a certain extent. They both concentrate on contact with extraterrestrial, supermundane creatures. Lovecraft fantasized about it; Grant tried to figure out how it could be done. But Lovecraft was a scientist and an atheist. The concept of sex with aliens frightened and disgusted him. Grant was a magician, and the possibilities of sex with aliens was like something out of Star Trek: weird, maybe, but not necessarily a bad thing. Orgiastic rites in the jungles to summon Cthulhu? “I got that,” says Grant.
But this is all much more important than that, more important than the author’s glib references. It comes down to more than how far magic or science can take the human race. It is about who owns the process.
One of the author’s favorite thinkers is Michel Foucault. Now Foucault was a wild man himself. Check out his photographs. Read his books. He was French, but don’t hold that against him. Foucault knew that a central focus of the State was control of the human body. Humans are viewed as expendable assets by the State (and, as we know, by the corporations as well). Human beings are to be controlled, manipulated, exploited, but never respected or elevated. Humans are force-fed bad food, bad religion, bad politics, bad economics. They are sent by the millions to fight and die in inexplicable conflicts. They are told what to eat, what to wear, how to behave.
And for the most part, humans do behave. They are desensitized by media, threatened by governments, kept on subsistence diets, and generally lied to by everyone.
But Set, the Dark Lord, is not about behaving.
Thelema was brought to the earth as a means of spiritual liberation, as an announcement that big changes were taking place. It claims to empower the individual, to introduce that individual to his or her true potential to become kings and queens in their own kingdoms. But to some, the solar aspect of the New Aeon looked a little too much like more of the same: hierarchies handing down encyclicals, governing the Minervals, deciding what is and is not kosher. Kissing up to the Ninth Degrees. Nodding sagely when outrageous claims of advanced spiritual attainments were made. The same old song and dance, to some. Not what they signed on for.
Crowley became nervous when disciples started to take his message of spiritual independence seriously and acted on it. Goodbye, Frater Achad. Goodbye, Jack Parsons.
Control of the apparatus became more important as each decade went by. That is the way of all groups, all religious movements. It’s what happened to Christianity, which today bears little or no resemblance to the original. Two entire branches of the Church—the Catholics, and the Eastern Orthodox—split over a single word in the Creed and have remained separate for the last thousand years. Oh, sure, there was politics involved, too. What’s your point?
What Grant envisioned was a far-flung network of Thelemic cells— power-zones as he calls them—each investigating their own aspects of the Mauve Zone on their own but getting whatever help or support the home office can provide. As an international businessman in the last decades of
the twentieth century, the author had a far-flung network of power-zones himself: they were called representative offices and they were established in countries around the world. They were largely autonomous, but had to report to me on a regular basis so I could help them to achieve their goals. It’s a system that works, rather than having all the sales and marketing people sitting on their collective muladhara chakras in the home office, using the phone and trying to look busy. You need people in the field.
Grant knew this, and he put people in the field. It’s just that the field in Grant’s case was the Tunnels of Set.
The information these cells came back with was unintelligible for the most part, as one might expect. While in the Tunnels, everything seemed consistent and the experiences were genuine, and the synchronicties multiplied. Out of the Tunnels and trying to make sense of the experiences, the data often was baffling and the import uncertain. It would take years of attention to the minutiae of the experiences to render them at all useful to others involved in the same project. That is where Grant’s feverish, extreme form of Kabbalistic analysis came to play.
The words, phrases, numbers, and associations jumble, struggle, leap, and slither from Grant’s mind like the rantings of a schizophrenic on the subway. One wonders at times if the pages of the Typhonian Trilogies were written in crayon on the backs of flea market flyers. But Grant was sane. He was a lucid, functioning, and dedicated individual trying desperately to tell us something and realizing—as do all mystics—that normal human language is not equal to the task. So, sure, a lot of his gematria is suspect but then he knew that going in:
There can be no association of ideas, no correspondences of any kind, between numbers or the ideas which they represent, except in the consciousness of their subject, because no thing exists as an objective reality, … Numbers can mean to the qabalist precisely what he wishes them to mean within the framework of his magical universe. … This is the basis of the science of numbers, and the rationale of numerology as a creative art distinct from a merely interpretative gauge of phenomenal probabilities.203
Grant calls this “creative gematria.” It’s the point at which this author has the hardest time with his works, for it implies a breezy lack of concern with any kind of consistency, and is thus relatively useless for
demonstrating connections and associations to others. While his philosophical reasoning may be sound from the point of view of advaita or non-dualist thinking in which every number is the same as any other number, it is not useful for paying the bills. It may work well on a subjective level as the magician makes his way through unfamiliar psychic territory and uses these number games as a way of leaving breadcrumbs along the trail so he can find his way back, but when it comes time to try to convince the rest of us that these connections exist, then we are back to the crayons and the schizophrenic in the subway car. Reading Grant is often an exercise in stripping away the gematria—the pages and pages of it—in order to get to the straight prose, for it is in the straight prose that he makes his most astonishing claims, his most ambitious statements. The creative gematria adds little to the experience and, in fact, can be quite distracting.
There can be no Typhonian Tradition without Lovecraft, and I will tell you why. The stories of H. P. Lovecraft provide the narrative for this form of Thelema. The protagonists and antagonists one finds in his stories can be identified among the initiates of the Orders and their bewildering experiences in the Tunnels of Set. Lovecraft is all about Darkness, and so is the Typhonian Tradition.
But even more to the point, the very name “Typhonian” in Grant’s usage implies an ancient Tradition, one that goes back to before “monumental Egypt” as he calls it, before the days of the pyramids and the Sphinx— when Egypt was still really an African country with the combination of African religion and magic that would be distilled in later centuries into the Egyptian forms we know today. Grant’s project is to go back to the pre- literate, pre-historic times because there is where the money is buried. He wants to take us back to the ancient civilizations that he opines once existed on the earth, like Atlantis and Lemuria. And he wants us, at the same time, to go to the stars.
And that is Lovecraft’s project, as well. Lovecraft wrote about nothing else save this Tradition. The Great Old Ones, the entombed High Priest Cthulhu, and all the other creatures that populate his stories with horror and gore, are all atavisms of those times, and they share one thing in common: they came from the great Vastness of deep space and deep time. None of this penny-ante fooling around with the planetary spirits for Lovecraft (or Grant). Oh, no. That’s for the tyros. “Planets?” you can hear