Rather than reinvent the wheel, and write something new about the relationship between magick, music and the occult for this week’s installment, I thought I would share an interview I did in 2009 on the subject.
Will: Abbot, how are you?
Abbot: 93, Will. I am doing well. Thanks.
Will: One thing that has always stood out to me about both of our spiritual journeys are the stark parallels in some of our past practices and pursuits. You and I both came from a Christian background but found that to be lacking in many areas, thus leaving us unfulfilled. Attempting to fill that void, we sought after a greater spiritual reality. We both studied and were involved in Rosicrucian and Martinist Currents. Then through much study of comparative religion and various philosophies we became more and more involved in the deeper aspects of occultism and the art of Magick. We both have shared in the studies of Qabalah, Ceremonial and Enochian Magick, and most of all the Art, Science, and Religious aspects of Thelema.
Do you feel the journey through these various schools and currents complimented one another and acted as building blocks for the next step, or do you feel that it was more of a process of shedding old thought forms and paradigms to be able to experience a greater spiritual reality? I suppose it is probably somewhat a combination of both. Would you expound on this on this a little and share your thoughts with us concerning your journey?
Abbot: Everything we experience in life leads us to where we are now and shapes the mask we wear. You know, it is strange. I expected that my studies would disprove everything I thought I knew about the universe, and in a way they did… but not in the way I expected. All the symbols that my parents, and the teachers and the priests and the nuns had saturated me with were valid, and my studies helped to confirm that, much to my surprise. It is a lot like having poor vision. You look at a horse and you know it’s a horse because of its basic shape, but then when you put on glasses you can see, for the first time, the fine details of that horse. That’s the way it was with the symbolism of my past. My studies required that I continue using them, but without the extra baggage and superstition associated with them throughout the ages. For example, we still use crosses in the LBRP and hexagrams in the Greater and Lesser Hexagram Rituals. But I quickly learned where the error was in interpreting those symbols. They needed to be reinterpreted in my own time, in a way that makes those old symbols relevant to me today. A lot of people want to wipe the slate clear and start all over from scratch. What they don’t realize is that there are no better symbols out there, and even if one could discover a new archetypal replacement in the form of a completely new symbol, it would require thousands of years of use before they could make their way into the universal unconscious. The Qabalah was an invaluable tool for me. It became something of a decoder ring to arrive at the real meaning of those archetypes.
Any system of magick worth its salt is supposed to cause a split in the magician’s psyche so that he can better understand himself. This is what it is to “know thyself,” or “heal thyself,” or if you prefer, come to the knowledge of your True Will. With regards to Enochian, I must say that at that time there was a lot of superstition attached to the system. It was feared by many, and perhaps rightly so. I remember attending a Golden Dawn conference at the Masonic Temple in Santa Monica. Their guest speaker was Robert Wang, who had written The Secret Temple. Several of the students there had complained of vomiting during an Enochian working. I was surprised to find that this caused them to abandon the working because they felt that it must have been some evil entity working against them. I couldn’t understand that. For better or worse, in my mind they JOINTLY had a physical response to a magical ritual. That should have been studied, but it was dropped. Robert Wang began to explain that there were some errors in the Golden Dawn Enochian system, and that there were current efforts to fix these, and that maybe that was the source of the problem. It was soon after that I met David Kennedy and realized he was the person with the task of making sense of these errors for Israel Regardie.
Will: Before we get into the discussion concerning Music and Magick, I just have to ask you; What was it like to have studied Enochian Magick with David Kennedy? I am sure you experienced some memorable events. Can you share a few things with us concerning these years? [For those who do not know, David Kennedy was Israel Regardie’s personal secretary, who was Aleister Crowley’s personal secretary].
Abbot: I met David in 1986 at, of all places, a survival bookstore. I was fascinated (and still am) by intelligence techniques, secret ciphers and codes and they had numerous books on the subject. He was a tall and large man with a rather imposing gate. The sort of guy that people moved out of the way for. His demeanor did not match his appearance at all. He was quite polite, articulate and warm. He was leaning against a bookshelf and noticed that he was wearing a beautiful gold pentagram ring with a diamond in the middle. Like an idiot, the best I could come up with to engage him in conversation was to ask him if he knew the true meaning of the ring. He looked at me and said “I know what it means. Do you?” That started the conversation and opened the gates for my brief relationship with David. Since we couldn’t talk openly about metaphysics there at the survival store we changed the subject to intelligence and guns. He had a thing for .45 caliber side arms. I did too. In fact, when he first invited me to his apartment on Aqua Vista St. in Studio City he showed me his stash. He had four of them strategically hidden in various places in his apartment. We became friends. We had an unspoken deal. I’d bring dinner, and he would tutor me on the Qabalah, Enochian, or whatever I would choose. We became close enough that we both felt comfortable enough sharing our problems and looking for magical ways to deal with them. It was then that he revealed the source of his greatest angst… his epilepsy. He said that he felt he had incarnated into an imperfect vessel and entertained the idea of ending this life, so he could (in his own words) incarnate into something more suitable for doing the Great Work. We engaged in many discussions about the ethics and metaphysics of suicide and I told him I felt that the body he incarnated must have been a part of his karma, or True Will and that he had to embrace it as such rather than running away from it. He came back with his unflinching belief in reincarnation, which I must admit he embraced fully. In my own way I was being selfish. In our time together, I grew quite close to him and we were true Brothers.
One day I was telling him the story about how I got the Book of the Law by a perfect stranger when I was 15 years old and how that changed my life and so on. I also made a comment about how I wished that the OTO hadn’t died with Crowley because after reading The Blue Equinox, I thought that would be a really neat organization to belong to. He jumped out of his seat and told me that the OTO was indeed still alive and well and got the phone number for Baphomet Lodge in Los Angeles from (get this) the Yellow Pages. Who would have thought to look for a great secret occult organization there? I didn’t make contact. I don’t know why, I just didn’t feel like I knew enough about the organization to just go walking in there unprepared. Later that year I attended a magick class at The Psychic Eye Bookstore in Studio City and met David Cherubim, who was teaching there. He assured me the OTO was a good place and invited me to attend Mass. During my first Mass I met film maker Kenneth Anger, Marjorie Cameron who was an accomplished artist and had been Jack Parson’s wife as well and Phyllis Seckler who had studied under Jane Wolfe, was married to Grady McMurtry and had founded of the College of Thelema. Needless to say, I was start-struck and the first words out of my mouth after Mass were “where do I sign.” That was an adventure that would last for 20 years and continues today in strange ways.
Something strange happened with regards to David Kennedy at that time. I went to his apartment many times. I had some of his personal notes on the Enochian work he had just finished but no one would ever come to the door. I tried a bunch of different times, asked around at his apartment and his neighbors said they hadn’t seen him. I figured he was working with Regardie on something, and that he knew how to get hold of me when he was done. Shortly thereafter I was at a pawn shop looking at bass guitars and a ring in the case caught my attention. There was a ring in there JUST like the one that David wore. I recognized it as his due to an obvious flaw in the diamond. I thought maybe he had run out of money, but it didn’t sit well with me. I went to his apartment late that night, knocked at the door and once again, just like before no one answered.
So that summer an OTO Brother invited me to a party at his house in Burbank. There were a lot of people there that I hadn’t met yet: some OTO members, some not. A very nice woman walked over to me and asked me if I was David Kennedy’s apprentice. I said “yes! How IS David.” She said, “you mean you don’t know?” My stomach sank. “David went to the park a few weeks ago sat on
the bench and shot himself as the sun rose.”
I went back to that pawn shop the next day and bought that ring. I still have it today.
The range of emotions were wild. I was a Thelemite that had embraced the concepts in Liber OZ. Man has the right to live and die as he will… and yet a part of me felt that suicide was an act of cowardice. I pitied him for a long time until I realized that was just me pitying myself, and that he had every right to do what he did. All without much fanfare. In fact, I was there when he had a seizure, and it was bad. I remember trying to get my wallet into his mouth so that he wouldn’t bite his tongue… I had no right to think badly of him when I don’t know what it was like being him and dealing with his problems. I only wish I could have known him a little longer. He was really a nice person, and I learned a lot from him. I still think of him often… and I think about his commitment to his beliefs, and I respect him so much for walking his talk.
Will: After all those years of practicing Enochian Magick, I am curious as to what you would say you walked away with and what you attained from it?
Abbot: Truthfully, when I felt I knew enough Enochian to teach it, there were few people I really wanted to teach it to. There was so much superstition attached to it, and there were so many egotistic wannabe’s using it to make themselves look spooky, or to piss off their parents that I was largely turned off to that scene. It was fascinating watching people blow themselves up magically for treating the system with such little regard, but when it came to teaching, I preferred to teach Qabalah and magick derived from that system of correspondences.
Will: When thinking of the history of Rock and Roll and Heavy Metal, when you think of Music and the Occult, what comes to mind?
Abbot: The first thing that comes to mind are the old blues players that used to speak of The Crossroads: a place in the South where they would sell their souls to the Devil in exchange for musical fame… which makes me think of Robert Johnson, who influenced some of my favorite guitar players, like the legendary Jimmy Page, from Led Zeppelin. Heck, back in the 70’s even acts like Kate Bush were amused by the occult in general and used backgrounded names of power in their musick. Let’s see, the Beatles, David Bowie (even though he once claimed that Crowley was a charlatan), and The Rolling Stones. Some bands, which shall remain nameless (coughing: Sabbath! Cough! Cough!) only jumped into the occult band wagon when it was popular, but I doubt they had any real ties to the occult, and they have even gone on record to say as much. Some more recent tasty bands that ARE inspired by the occult in unique ways, Christian Death, Coil, Current 93, and Psychic TV, Tool, Fields of The Nephilim, and Sol Invictus, and are amongst my favorites. There are some brilliant bands out there that don’t get the accolades they should: Tiamat, Behemoth, and Rodney Orpheus’ project Cassandra Complex. Oh, man… have you ever listened to STOA? Talk about a band that gets you out of your skin: they are beautiful. But I should warn you, that if you were to look at my CD collection your head would spin. I have a wide range of preferences when it comes to musick, but I must tell you: I am a sucker for a melody. Right now, I have VNV in my MP3 player, and the song “Where There is Light” gets played 4 or 5 times a day. It is a beautiful song.
Will: You are an accomplished song writer and musician, having been an intricate part of many indy bands since you were in your teens, as well as forming your own band and current musical project “Ego and the Ids.” How does your magical training and occult history come into play when considering how you have approached these projects?
Abbot: Most magicians know that the sense of smell is tied into instant memory recall. Most of us can walk down the street on a spring day and get a whiff of something that takes us back to another time. And most of us know that musick works the same way and has the added benefit of intensifying ritual. I am not ashamed to say that I performed many-a-Star-Rubies to Metallica’s Don’t Tread on Me. I think I began to understand musick’s power when I watched all those documentaries about the 60’s and how the Anti-War movement effectively ended the war in Vietnam. I remember thinking to myself: “damn… that’s power!” I can say unequivocally that without musick I might not have come to discover magick… certainly not with the respect, enthusiasm or dedication that I hold it in today. I used to spend hours listening to musick. My interest in musick evolved into using sound to cause emotional responses in people. Two notes played together in the right sequence and for the right amount of time can jerk a person out of their everyday consciousness and put their focus on something important. That’s what I strive to do with Ego and The Ids today: make musick that will make people experience something real. I often listen to my own musick while meditating to see where my mind goes. I think this is important on musick without lyrics, for example… to predict the possible effect on some other listener. Songs with lyrics don’t require that sort of attention. All the songs on Almost Masons lacked vocal tracks. Another Sad and Bizarre Chapter in Human history has an Arthurian theme and three of the songs have lyrics… four if you count the poem on Lady of The Lake. I should also point out that Ego and The Ids is a cooperative… a project more than a band. When I created it, my intention was to have other artists collaborating. My partner in crime for those two albums is Delonde Bell. I met him when I was in the Goth band Once In The Sun. He is an amazing musician and I am lucky to be able to work with him still. We are presently working on a third album, this one called Kinemortophobia, which is a spoof on the zombie craze.
Will: I am very intrigued by musicians and bands who use their music as a magical tool. We know there are those who just use imagery and content as a device for show or as a front to appear mystical and mysterious. But when it comes to true Magicians and true magical work, what are some of the things which you have seen employed that you knew were authentic?
Abbot: In many ways musick is the perfect balance of art and science, so it is all magical in one sense. If I had to come up with an example, it would be in five words: The Song Remains The Same. That movie (as over-indulgent as it was) showed how to tweak the musick to visual ratio. And, come on… the way that Jimmy Page worked that Theremin… that was butch. I am not sure it has been done that well since. Also, The Wall is brilliant, and emotionally draining… and I think they wanted it to be that way. Mission accomplished. Diamanda Galas is authentic as one can get in my opinion. She and John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin regularly collaborate on some of the scariest stuff I have ever heard.
Will: Are there any bands which stand out in your mind as having true occult qualities or who really promote a certain magical current with their music?
Abbot: Current 93, Tiamat and Behemoth are effective in communicating a Thelemic vibe. Richie Blackmore is involved in a pagan project of sorts called Blackmore’s Night. If you are into the Celtic sounding stuff, you’ll love what he’s doing.
Will: Do you have any specific techniques to incorporate Magick into your musick?
Abbot: I allow a concept to stew for several days, sometimes weeks. Maybe something like Hamlet… maybe I will imagine what it was like being a real-life person living the play, and then thinking to myself: “What must have Hamlet felt when Ophelia drowned herself, and what sorts of things he wished he would have told her.” Then I’ll either pick up a guitar, bass or keyboards and something will come out, like “Ophelia, I…” in Almost Masons. It isn’t exactly magical in the ceremonial way, but it is the ritual I use. Other times, and this happens by accident, I will perform some ritual to achieve a thing. The result is that I feel connected to the subject of my ritual for many days after I have finished the ceremony. There is an internal dialogue with the invoked Deity which often provides much dialogue in the form of musick. This is very hard for me to articulate, but some of the best things I have written were under that influence.
Will: And lastly, what are some things which you could recommend incorporating music into one’s magick, be it in the ritual chamber or on in some other way?
Abbot: I don’t think I have ever performed a ritual to come up with a song… for me it would be kind of redundant because I am constantly exposed to the deities I work with. I simply saturate myself with the symbolism of the ceremony I am performing, incorporate as many of the senses as I can by using the right incense, appropriate gestures, candles, tools, etc… so that even after I have banished, the “spirit” of the operation is still with me. I will go to a quiet place and allow the musick to play in my head so that I can connect with that ceremony or entity musically. I ask it to speak through me while I write musick in homage. You can then use that song in your rituals.
Will: Thanks again Gerald for taking the time to share your thoughts and experiences with us. You are greatly, greatly, appreciated. We all look forward to what you have in store for the future, take care brother.
Abbot: Thanks for having me, Brother.