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The black lodge of Santa Cruz

by Satyr, Kaos-Babalon press, 2002.69pp PDF free e-text - check out availability at Joel Biroco Kaos page.

This review is a sister piece to the review of Joel Biroco's monumental Kaos 14 magazine online, Joel Biroco's Kaos. 'The Black Lodge' is offered as a supplement to that main document, but can be read separate from it as a standalone piece.

Since there are numerous living and real individuals and magical groups named in the article we should assume that legal or similar clearance has been obtained to represent them as such, as from the manner in which they are described it seems very likely that THEY will know who the author is. Or else, given the pejorative content of this piece in many places, Satyr just doesn't give a fuck... Either, both, neither- it's not important.

Ok; the story. It's California, late 1980s. The Caliphate OTO. Get the picture? Satyr details his initiation into the order, the personalities involved, and describes the rituals convincingly. It does not seem that this part, at least, is fiction. It then starts to become worrying: I've never been in the OTO, but I would start to get worried about an order who expect you to reproduce your scrying results absolutely verbatim to what should have been experienced according to some book- I think it was Jan Fries who said something like if you get visions exactly like Castaneda (or anybody else in print or otherwise well-known) you're probably fooling yourself and you should dare to be original.

It begins. Satyr and his wife were split up to be 'individually tutored' (ahem) in the Order. As you will have perhaps realised, as Old Crow would have put it "it was the usual confidence trick" to separate a man from his girl, and most likely his money as well. There are overall some pretty stupid uses of magic by the group - evoking a demon to ask who will win the baseball World Series, for example.... Especially silly as having summoned the thing they didn't afterwards take the opportunity to win some money by actually placing a bet. Other magickal matters are dealt with here, in great frankness, the painful personal dissolution that is the path of the initiate, for example...that area is gripping. If you've been there it's screamingly familiar, if you've not been there you wonder why the heck anyone would choose to go through such a process: "Of all that I lost in those days, losing my hero was the most bitter loss of all." It's the only way... as Satyr says elsewhere "as many of us learn sooner or later, there are no expedient shortcuts in magick".

Satyr describes how he took a magickal oath to know and do his own will, with no codicil to "harm none" as is common in some traditions. Harm was certainly done (and received) and one wonders why that codicil is ever used; as it prevents so much in the nature of protection from being done... as I've said elsewhere my preferred codicil to 'harm none', (under circumstances where outside interference is becoming troublesome or aggressive) is "unless it's in self-defence, then anything goes and it's last one standing wins, motherfuckers"; which is much the angle that Satyr seems to have taken in his fighting off the Caliphate's horrendous interference in his work and life.

It's a fascinating document; giving a lot of 'on the shopfloor' history of magickal orders in the US during the period, the clashes of personalities, sexual politics, communication breakdowns, 'holier than thou' ego-battles, earthquakes, police raids, magickal attacks (confounded with the necessity to love thine enemy), magical orders in conflict, fine detail of a very involved and innovative Enochian series of works and the like.

But one has to ask WHY? Why publish this? Why publish it now? There are doubtless good and sensible, necessary reasons, and things to be gained..... but in going through this process, Satyr seems to have lost his wife, possibly much of his sanity, his happiness, material quite what those reasons (and gains) are.....?

The last few pages describe Satyr's withdrawal from all things magickal, and paradoxically his realisation of the real, honest, pure, true and powerful magick in life as it is lived; without Orders, charters, magical degrees, copyright, officials, dogma and similar bullshit. Writing down his story has probably been both therapeutic and challenging, - it has maybe been the end point of an initiation, it will make you think about how you do whatever it is you do in magick or anything else; and I for one am grateful to be able to read it.

Francis Breakspear

Just as this review was being finalised, Joel Biroco informed Francis and myself that the e-text under review was, for the moment, temporarily unavailable as someone had complained to BT (Joel's ISP) and that as a result, they requested that he remove it from their servers.

And it's that easy to censor the internet? So it appears. Ever since a case a few years ago where an individual was awarded £250,000 damages from Demon internet, over a message which appeared on their servers (even though it did not originate with them), it seems that ISPs in the UK are held responsible for the content of their servers. So it seems that all one do has to do to get a website taken down is to complain, via a solicitor, to the service provider. A report by the BBC in this respect is quite revealing, indicating that ISPs will act to have material that gets complained about removed (or even remove it themselves).

It's Ironic, says Joel, that the last bastion of web freedom, is the former Soviet Union. And remember, we're not talking about anything illegal here - just one individual's critique of his experiences with a magical order. Okay, a magical order who's got a reputation for being litigious, but nonetheless, it seems a tad heavy-handed to use legal muscle to censor online material. - Phil Hine