Guest post: Journeying into Deep Space, by Steve Dee

This time, a guest post on demand… about Dread and related topics.

Steve Dee is a magician from Devon, UK. How a School or Initiatory Organization can support the Left Hand Path Initiate seems to be a perennial theme for our blog, and we more than welcome Dee’s take on the topic. He’s the author of the books The Gnostic’s Process and The Heretic’s Journey, and co-author of the book Chaos Craft. Links to where to find these books, as well as more essays by Steve Dee, can be found over at The Blog of Baphomet.

One of my earliest spiritual experiences was one in which I became clearly aware of my smallness in the Universe. As a fledgling meditator of 12 years of age I panned back from my room, my street, and my country until I felt as though I was looking down on a distant blue ball suspended in the dark vastness of space.

I was recently reminded of this experience as I watched Neil Degras Tyson describing the unfolding story of the Universe’s development. In listening to his wonderful reworking of Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos”, I was left awe struck at the scale of the Universe both in terms of its expanding dimensions and the relative brevity of human evolution when mapped against known time.

As I gaze out at the night sky, I find myself unable to find lasting meaning in any prevailing Metaphysical position, be it a theistic one or that of the strict rationalist. The mystery and expansiveness of space seems to empty me of the trite and obvious. My sense of awe seems to both induce a sense of mild panic as I glimpse the limits of my control and understanding, while at the same time beckoning me onwards into the depths of the unknown.


Maryhill Stonehenge Monument on the Columbia River in Washington, photograph by Ben Canales.

While I personally find little of value in the astrological preoccupations of many ancient civilisations, I can appreciate the sense of power and significance that they attributed to the movement of heavenly bodies against the silent blackness of the night sky. In the midst of life’s busyness and apparent chaos, the steady track of the stars told us stories of an on-going struggle and cosmic return.

The occult sciences as an expression of our humanity have attributed an almost endless array of complicating correspondences. Whether the planets become gnostic archons or we are trying to glean the significance of “Saturn being in Taurus”, in our attempts to invest meaning and divine causation we may be in danger of producing even more cognitive clutter.

If we can set aside our constructs and schemas in order to embrace a Zen-like “beginner’s mind” what might we find ourselves encountering? Far be it from me to dictate your experience, but in gazing at the darkness of Space, I continue to experience a sense of vastness, transcendence and dread!

In grappling with the limitations of what we can perceive, we cannot help being moved by vastness. Concepts and control are threatened by the limitations of our knowledge and the sense of mystery that Space seems to hold. Our longing to explore these realms, whether via high powered telescopes or space-travel, mirrors the initiatory drive to create and explore a greater sense of spaciousness within ourselves. The Mystery or Runa that we see out there parallels the initiate’s deep hunch regarding the unknown realms of the psyche.

Such exploration has been a key part of my own spiritual journey, and the desire to explore this terrain informed the rationale for integrating Zen sitting into our Odinic Hearth meetings that I have been involved with for the past 20 years. The integration of such apparently disparate Heathen and Buddhist inflected perspectives has allowed our entry into these expansive realms and from a Setian perspective aims to enable us to both embrace the Self while acknowledging the benefits of loosening our hold on certainty.

Gazing upwards at the Cosmos, at that which appears spatially “up” and beyond our lives in all their messiness, our creative engagement with Space can also fuel our longing for the transcendent. In both Ken Wilber’s integral teachings and Gurdjieff’s neo-hermeticism, the Cosmic (or Kosmic) represents a move away from the temporary material realm and toward the unified and eternal.  Personally speaking, while I tend not to buy into such dualism, these spatial metaphors can provide us with potent psychological tools for triggering personal transformation. The sense of “otherness” and potentiality that the Cosmic “up” can represent, need not be a move away from our Earth and our bodies, but it can act as a catalyst in driving us on toward those goals or aspirations that currently feel so distant. Cosmos contains within its “spaces” the chaotic potentiality of the void; as we shape this dark matter through the skillful application of will, so strange new things become possible.

While my star-gazing has thus far has sounded quite chirpy, it can also be dread-filled. To experience a sense of our smallness and brevity can trigger all sorts of existential despair! No one ever promised that the process of waking up was either easy or pain-free. Unsurprisingly, I am not the first initiate to make such observations and my own experience of dread has been profoundly enhanced via the horror filled vision of Howard Philips Lovecraft.

For me the world of Lovecraft embodies our sense of terror in response to the Universe’s vastness and uncertainty. The monster-gods of the mythos – Azathoth, Nyarlathotep et al provide us with a potent set of shadow archetypes that give form to our profound sense of dis-ease. On one level “the mythos” seems to have little sense of comfort or redemption, but I wonder whether they, like wrathful Buddha-forms, can be sat with and glanced at side-ways. By naming our terrors and giving them shape, arguably we accomplish some degree of containment. They may well still lurk in the stygian depths or in the blackness between the stars, but giving them form may make them (slightly) more manageable.

The vastness of Space invites us to both wonder and explore. Despite the dread that we experience, the sense of awe and mystery call forth the adventurer within that we might “boldly go where no one has gone before….”

I’ll conclude with some words of wisdom from the awesome doom-metallers Neurosis:

“Recognize this as your own nature

Abandon the fear

Abandon the terror you project

Let your mind rest beyond flesh and bone

Look from a place of understanding

Your mind is a conduit

Your mind is as vast as the universe

Rest in this

In the clear light of existence

This light is divine.”

“Prayer” from the Sovereign E.P.

Anti-Pavlov Rest

As Initiates, we tend to talk a lot about our Work. We talk a lot about our efforts at self-improvement. We talk about the friction we experience when we seek Xeper. We rightfully take pride in the consistency of our Work. Yet we talk very little about rest.

Rest from Initiatory pursuits seems counterproductive at first sight, a paradox. The worry may be: if I am not functioning at an optimal level of awareness, am I regressing, de-volving? If I take a break from my Work, am I falling back to sleep?

Yet rest, mindfully applied, can be a key to Initiatory success. Rest can be not just a fundamental asset to our Work – rest can be Work. (Another paradox!)

Here’s how.

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In the series “Stuff only others are guilty of”: Herd conformity


The inspiration for this blog post this came from re-reading the Nine Satanic Sins, of all things.

(If you wonder why herd conformity is seen as something negative, why it is called a Satanic Sin or even what a Satanic Sin is, you should probably read all of them in their context. But short version: It is what is considered sins for Satanists, not some epic type of sinful behaviour.


Surprisingly enough, this is about how you live and what actions you take (or not), rather than how much you talk shit about the sheeple or how many meme’s about True individuality(TM) you post on your fb wall.

“Social group” sounds a bit prettier when it comes to humans, but dressing up the language doesn’t change anything in this context so for the sake of this post I’ll write about herds. Human herds big, small and imaginary.

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Guest Post: On the Wisdom of Getting Schooled… by Steve Dee

We’ve never done a guest post before in Sacred Solitude – there is always a first. Steve Dee is a magician from Devon, UK. How a School or Initiatory Organization can support the Left Hand Path Initiate seems to be a perennial theme for our blog, and we more than welcome Dee’s take on the topic. He’s the author of the books The Gnostic’s Process and The Heretic’s Journey, and co-author of the book Chaos Craft. Links to where to find these books, as well as more essays by Steve Dee, can be found over at The Blog of Baphomet.

But let his text speak for itself.

On the Wisdom of Getting Schooled

One of the central paradoxes faced by those of us seeking to follow a psyche-centric spiritual path relates to how we balance the pursuit of our unique self-awareness with the need for connection and support so that our journey is sustainable. For those of us who choose to walk the Left-Hand Path, while the initial flame of our inspiration may come from our sense of difference and separation from the norms and expectations of the tribes and cultures we are born into, for our transformation to gain both depth and intensity we need to find the others.

In seeking to work with this paradox, one of the books that I have kept coming back to is Ouspensky’s In Search of the Miraculous. Now anyone who has had a go at engaging with this book’s densely typed 400 pages knows that it is hardly easy reading. Not only do we have Ouspensky’s own vivid struggle to develop a relationship with the teacher/ anti-hero G.I. Gurdjieff, but we also have to wrestle with the detailed explanation/obscuration of their rather “out there” Gnostic cosmology. Part of the reason that I keep returning both to this challenging tome and the “4th Way” teachings that it describes, is the way in which they seek to grapple with the nature of what awakening might mean and also how we do this collectively.

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Self-Images and Open Minds

Ignaz Semmelweis (1818–1865) was a Hungarian obstretician working in Vienna. In his time, fatal childbed fever was a common cause of death, though more common in some clinics than others. Semmelweis’ big discovery happened when he instituted a policy of washing hands between patients or between autopsies and patient care. Comparing mortality rates shortly after the policy, mortality rates at his clinic were down from a staggering 18,3% to 2,2%. He concluded that hand hygiene had been a cause of many unnecessary deaths.

Semmelweis’ discovery was ignored and/or ridiculed by his peers. Even his wife believed he was losing his mind. But why would educated, competent doctors ignore such staggering data? The philosopher Nomy Arpaly believes that this is because the doctors were lacking in open-mindedness. Open-mindedness, here, does not mean being egalitarian or accepting of other lifestyles. It simply means being receptible to new information.

Being able to receive new information can be hard, especially when that new information is contrary to our self-image. Imagine being a doctor in Semmelweis’ time – a good doctor, someone diligently invested in the well-being of his patients. You see yourself as a healer of great learning and skill. The symbols and rituals of medical practice, such as the Hippocratic oath, bolster this self-image, as does the way townspeople tip their hat to you in respect of that skill.

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A Setian Working with Holy Saint Death

Several months ago, I engaged in a 9 week Working with Santa Muerte. The obvious question any sane Setian would ask is why did I undertake the nine weeks of devotion to Holy Saint Death? There answer to that question is complex. First, I felt and acknowledged the “gravitational pull Runa” that lead me to start researching Saint Death. I have come to trust that pull and engaged it through what I refer to as the Explorer Perspective or that approach to Initiation that encourages and thrives within the strange and tangential directions we are often presented with. Second, I can see a long pattern of working with Death goddesses in my Initiation. The dark feminine, the dark aspects of my anima we could say, has been an objective (or projected) part of my spiritual life for a long time and it felt like it was time to reinvest in that aspect of my Psyche. However, this approach was a difficult way for me to engage with that aspect of my Psyche since much of the language and many of the activities associated with a devotion to Santa Muerte are Right Hand Path practices. The Working also helped to remind me and encourage me to Play. I was also simply curious as to what the outcome would be. Holy Saint Death also provided me with an invigorated approach to practical magic. I love the visceral and aesthetic nature of hoodoo but I never really had a need to really practice it. Santa Muerte combines the folk magic aspect of practices like hoodoo with a heartfelt veneration at the core of it. In other words, there was a consistent momentum or ongoing reason for the practice.  The veneration aspect was the most difficult aspect for my Setian sensibilities to accept but it was an important part of the Working and one that I am glad I embraced and continue to embrace. However, I should mention that at no time was I venerating something other than a part of myself. I don’t posit an ontological entity called “Santa Muerte” but I do acknowledge that She is more than my ego-complex. Continue reading

World building…


..sounds very big and dramatic, and it can be. Over time. After a lot of work.

We tend to see the results of years and dedicated work and then wonder how it was done, since it seems like an impossible achievement when we only see the end result and not the beginning. It probably started with somebody thinking something should exist. Why else would they start, anyway? Their motives might be very different, but a main idea to bring something new into the world is probably rather common, even if it was hundreds of years ago.


I want to begin this blog post with a disclaimer: I’m well aware that most of us need to eat, live somewhere, wear clothing, drink beer and much coffee etc, which usually means having a job and the time this takes out of our day. In this blog post I’m talking about the rest of your life. While there are things to be done about a bad job situation, even when you seem to be stuck in it, but that is a different blog post.

This is sort of a follow up to the Change part of the ‘Reframing vs Change’.. since if not reframing, then what do we do, and why? We can do things to make more of what you want.

If you look at the world you live in in your spare time, how does it look like? Is there anything you wish there was more of, something you’d want to learn, or something you miss?  World building in this context is about creating more of what you want in your world. Continue reading

Midsummer, or: the Magic of Tradition

Midsummer is the time of the year when the Nordic heathen tide runs highest. Swedes erect Midsummer poles, a variation of a Germanic maypole, while Finns, Danes, and Norwegians light huge bonfires by the water, adding a warm glow into the bleak light of the nightless night. By the pole or the bonfire, a raucous party is held, typically with dancing, swimming, a sauna, and copious amounts of alcohol.

All over Scandinavia, Midsummer is considered a time sizzling with magic. The old traditions survive, though few take them seriously anymore, choosing instead to partake for fun or out of a respect for tradition. It’s especially a time of fertility, romance, and even promiscuity. Magic reserved for unmarried women takes the center stage: most know how a maiden can use wildflowers in order to see her future husband in a dream, or enchant a crop so that bread made from it works as an aphrodisiac. But other magic is also done in midsummer, for wealth, good crops, healthy livestock, and for divination.

Finland was converted into Christianity fairly late, and even then, the new faith was mostly one for townsfolk. For a long while, the influence of Christianity was seeping into the old ways of the country folk rather than replacing them. Paradoxically, the thin layer of Christian frosting — calling Midsummer St. John’s day, for example — helped Finns preserve the old ways, at least partially, until the present day.

But why is a practitioner of the Left-Hand Path even rambling about traditions, pre-Christian or not? Aren’t we supposed to be Antinomian, discarding the bonfires erected by those around us in order for our inner truth to burn that much brighter?

In this post, I write about three good reasons to appreciate, and to make the most of, tradition. For Northern Europeans, Midsummer makes for an excellent case for each of them, but they can be applied to the traditions local to where you are. Continue reading

Reframing vs Change


Most of us have things we would like to change, something we are working to change, plan to change tomorrow, or when we move to a new town or when the stars are right and so on. Sometimes we believe that we have changed a lot, but our world has the audacity to not acknowledge this, even if we might be looking at it differently. Sometimes we are doing the same thing we have always done (or this is what we believe), but weird things happen. People seem to try to push us in strange directions for obscure reasons, our friends back away, and the job we loved suddenly begins to be a burden. It feels like a small-scale conspiracy going on.

It is not always easy to see when actual change has happened. The response from the world is not what one might expect, even if the change actually is for the better in the long run. Change often disrupts the current balance and threatens what is known as “normal” – and most people dislike that.

In this context I also want to write about Change with a capital C: a permanent difference in you that has made you into something more than you were before the Change happened. Initiation is about causing such Change, often through directed work towards a certain goal.

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Going it Alone: Initiatory Groups and Solo Work

“I’m not one for group work,” says the earnest Seeker. “I’d rather go it alone. My tastes are too weird and quick to evolve for sustaining any cohesive group, plus, I mostly Work on my Self anyway.”

“The Left-Hand-Path and being a member of some group are antithetic to each other”, says the ardent Antinomian.

So when a Novice Magician says, “I need the support of a magical group for my self-development, but I have no idea what that support could be in practice”, the former two balk.

“You don’t need it”, the Seeker says, “you only need yourself”.

“Don’t do it”, says the Antinomian, “you’ll lose track of yourself”.

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