Phil Hine is one of the more widely-known exponents of Chaos Magic—a (post)modern magical current that has caused much controversy and debate, and has undoubtedly helped occultism catch up with the upheavals and innovations in late twentieth century science, philosophy and culture. Gravitating to Chaos groups in West Yorkshire in the eighties, Phil published a series of booklets on “Urban Shamanism”, and a magic primer that recently became Condensed Chaos (New Falcon, 1995)—described by William Burroughs as “the most concise statement of the logic of modern magic.” That this high accolade came from Burroughs is appropriate, as Phil draws as much inspiration from cultural and literary figures like Burroughs, Brion Gysin and H.P. Lovecraft as he does from the ‘classic’ magical sources like Aleister Crowley and Dion Fortune. He has also written Prime Chaos (Chaos International, 1993), and edited the now defunct Chaos International magazine, as well as Pagan News, Britain’s first monthly pagan magazine, which has also now finished.
This interview was originally going to form part of a book of interviews with magicians, artists, musicians and researchers about how their relationship to the natural world has informed their work – hence the initial focus on nature. It was first published in a slightly edited form in Towards 2012 Parts 4/5: Paganism/Apocalypse (The Unlimited Dream Company, 1998).
I met up with Phil in October 1997 at his home in south London. With the big black curtains drawn, surrounded by yoni sculptures and other oddities, we cracked open some beers, poured the tea, and jabbered on into the small hours…
Forces of Nature
Gyrus: What was your first experience of nature, that you can remember, that made you think “Wow!” or got you interested in it? I don’t know, did you grow up in an urban area?
Phil: I grew up in Blackpool. So I think my first “Wow!” encounter with nature was seeing the high tide. We used to have high tides in Blackpool, a couple of people killed every year, that sort of thing. So I think my first contact with wild nature was looking at the sea, just thinking… that’s a very powerful thing.
Gyrus: Is that a vivid thing from childhood, or was it something you thought of just because of that question, thinking back?
Phil: No, that’s a vivid thing from childhood. I started swimming in the sea when I was about ten. For a long time it was a very, very powerful force for me. Still is, I just don’t get to go to the sea very often. Whenever I get the chance, I always enjoy looking out at the sea. I actually quite enjoy watching the waves in the sea, I think that comes from those early experiences. I’ve nearly come a cropper a couple of times when I was a kid, swimming in the sea, and I learned to respect it the hard way. It’s one of those things that I think struck me at a fairly early age, about how we’ve got this idealized picture of nature that actually is pretty far away from the reality of nature. I think that’s an awareness that’s stayed with me ever since.
Gyrus: And that was the main aspect of it that struck you, its wildness—
Phil: Its power, its uncontrollability, and the fact that we often take nature for granted. We take the sea for granted, but we can’t, we shouldn’t; we should respect it and be wary of it.
Gyrus: Has that fed into any of your magical work?
Phil: I think so, yeah. I think it’s taken me a long time to see it. Like a lot of people starting out in magic, I went into all the very heavy symbol systems. A lot of magical systems, you have these ideas for mapping out different elements and things like that, and they’re all kind of really nice and cut-and-dried… And water isn’t like that; to me water is wild and uncontrollable and can kill you if you’re not careful. And I think a lot of magical systems actually take you away from a direct contact with nature, because you’re not dealing with nature, you’re dealing with an idealized picture of it. So I think it’s taken me a long time to recover from all that, and to start to see how my relationship with nature comes into my magic, and comes out of my magic.
Gyrus: When did you first start twigging that difference, when you were into ‘symbol systems’ and doing magic—
Phil: Well, I think the first notable experience I had was when I was about nineteen or twenty. I was into the Cthulhu Mythos, which I’d got into purely from reading Lovecraft and thinking, “Oooh, this is git ‘ard magic, it’s things with tentacles that don’t go away when you try and banish them.” My awareness of the relationship between nature and the Great Old Ones is something that’s only come out since. But the key experience I had with that was that I decided to go and do an invocation of one of the Great Old Ones on top of the highest peak in the area I was living in, which was Huddersfield. I was actually living in a village on the edge of the Pennines. So I went up the top of this mountain—it wasn’t like a hard climb or anything, I could get up it in my walking boots—to do this invocation at the dead of night. I did all the business, shouting and screaming… I think I cut myself, and did symbols on the stones, like you do. And as a result of that I got totally freaked out. I remember seeing—well, ‘seeing’ in inverted commas—seeing this beam of light coming out of the sky, coming down to where I was, so the next minute I was like “Fucking hell! I’m out of here!”, and running down the mountain, seeing sheep with red eyes and being really freaked out by it. And I turned up at this friend of mine’s, who knew what I was into, about an hour later, and he said, “Oh, I told you this would happen, blah blah blah, don’t mess with them things.”
But that really hit me. Again, it’s the difference between what you think it’s all about, and it what it actually is all about. And I think I was scared by nature. The fact that I was on my own up a… it was a beautiful view… I think I was hit by the raw panic of nature, y’know. Confrontation with the unknown.
Gyrus: Was that something you learnt to use and integrate? Do you think there’s still… whatever level you get to there’s a point where you’ll think “Shit!” and run away screaming?
Phil: Oh yeah. And I think I actually value that experience. One thing I used to talk about with Paul Bennett was—we were both into ghosts, spooky stuff—and I said, y’know, it’s alright dealing with haunted houses, ‘cos if there’s something horrible in the basement, you come out the basement, go in the living room and have a cup of tea. What happens if you meet something in the middle of Ilkley Moor in the night? You can’t run away! There’s nowhere to go, y’know. I think in that sort of situation I would be scared. It might not stop me doing whatever I wanted to do. It might, I don’t know.
This is a recurring thing coming out, that we idealize nature, that we make it safe. People bang on about ‘natural laws’, and yes, we know that the seasons have their cycles. but we can’t actually map them on a computer. They don’t conform to logic. I know from my magical studies that a lot of powerful magic is related to wild nature—not the nature of communities and the safety nets we put around communities, but out there in the wilderness. Anything can happen, you can meet gods, demons, spirits, horrible hairy things that leap out from behind bushes and scare you silly. And I think that’s a very powerful experience. I don’t go looking for it, but when it comes I’m… “Yeah, alright.”
A couple of years ago I was walking through some woods in the rain with some friends, who were ecologist musicians I guess. And this friend of mine was saying, “Look at that tree! That’s Cthulhu that tree is!” It was late autumn, all the leaves had dropped off, and this tree was like a tentacled thing, pouring up from the earth. And I thought, “Yeah, he’s right.” And I’ve started to think about the Great Old Ones like Cthulhu, and the other things that are all tentacles and hooves, as being, certainly on one level, our repressions of nature. Of this wildness. You go up into the Peak District on your own, and that wildness hits you. I think these beast/animal forms are our way of repressing all that we fear and don’t like about nature: its chaotic side, its frothy, bubbly, maggots under stones side, that we don’t quite like to deal with all the time—
Gyrus: Which is something that would obviously come from being an urbanized culture. But from what you say about never getting to a point where nature wouldn’t be able to freak you out, it would be a part of tribal cultures who live—as far as humans can—as part of nature. There would still be that beyond-human, untamable aspect of nature.
Phil: I think so. The Greeks… this is where the idea of panic comes from. One thing that Pan, I think, symbolized for the Greeks, and I think still does to a large extent, is the fear of the wilderness. People nowadays say, “Oh yes, Pan, he’s got a big dick,” and they don’t look past that. But Pan is god of the mountains, the wild valleys, the sea even, and represents this fear that can strike you at any time. Which is something fairly understandable when you’re one little person all alone in a vast landscape. I read some time ago that when urbanized people started going out on trips into the countryside—it became popular at the beginning of the last century—people from the great urban conurbations, these delicate middle class ladies go out to the Lake District to have a look around, and they faint. Just because of the vastness, the expanse… they can’t take it. Algernon Blackwood wrote some very good horror stories in which the whole subtext is this thing of people confronted with the vast spirit of nature, the sense of place, being terrified by it. And I think that’s a very powerful experience, a very valuable experience.
Gyrus: Do you think that losing the sense of the value of that fear and awe is part of why we’ve tried to control nature so much, tried to box it out of our lives?
Phil: Yeah, I think so. One thing Christianity did was take fear and awe away from nature and put it ‘up there’ somewhere. All those monotheistic religions directed the attention to some hidden force up there who blasted you with a lightning bolt if you didn’t do what he said, basically, rather than leaving us prey to the wild forces, who can be placated, and sacrificed to, and worshipped, and spoken about in hushed voices, but you never quite know what they’re going to do. I think that’s something that’s been progressively happening for a very long time, and still is. A lot of magicians will talk about being able to control spirits, but the idea that spirits have an independent existence away from the magician is a bit… I tend to see spirits as independent entities, apart from the ones I’ve cobbled together myself for a specific ritual. But if I meet an elf in the woods, I’m not gonna say, “Oh, that’s just a part of my Self.” It’d probably pull my nose off.
Gyrus: Paul [Bennett] talked about that. There are times when you go to places in the wilds, and come up against a sense of a force pushing you back. At first, you’re trying to get past your fear of it, and you think, “No, I’ll just push forward, stay here and overcome it.” But in the end you come to realize you’ve got to respect that, and there’s sites, stones, parts of nature that either you’re not meant to be there yet, at that point in your life, or whatever. You have to respect that there are things out there to work with as things other than you. Not everything out there is something you’ve got to integrate into your Self and take full ‘control’ of.
Phil: I think that’s certainly true. If you venerate nature, as a pagan, then that entails not wandering about trying to impose your will on it because you think it’s the right thing to do. If you say, “I respect all living things,” everything has a soul, or everything has a spirit, then you have to act from that premise. I think for a lot of people it’s just a word game they play with themselves. For some magicians I’ve known and worked with, and I’ve been like it myself, nature is like, “Oh, let’s go outdoors and do a ritual ‘cos it’d be nice outdoors.” Without actually thinking, is it appropriate to do the ritual outdoors? Might something object? What are we getting into? A friend of mine called Barry the ex-Pedant did this wonderful little book called Finding Your Way In The Woods. I really like what he recommends—if you’re going to work in a place, go and see it in all the seasons, become part of its place… We had a conversation once about ecological hyperspaces. It got very technical, but I think what he’s saying is basically sound, that you have to become part of the landscape that you’re working with. Otherwise, you’re just imposing your will on it, and that’s not very far from Christians going around saying, “We’re the caretakers of the Earth.” Or, for that matter, some New Agers saying, “We are the consciousness of the Earth.” Again, that’s a way of saying that we’re top dogs, we can do what we like. You say to them, “Well there’s a lot more insects than there are of us, insects have got equal spiritual rights—if not more so, ‘cos there’s more of them and they’ve been around a bit longer.” We’re just like a ‘blip’, on the scale of planetary evolution.
Models of the Earth
Gyrus: When did you get into what most people call ‘earth mysteries’, and how did you find the earth mysteries community?
Phil: I think I first got into earth mysteries when I first moved to Leeds in the late eighties. Meeting Paul, and Andy Roberts, and a few other people. That’s when I started to get into earth mysteries as a ‘thing’. I’d been aware of things like The Ley Hunter for a long time before that, but I first started to get into the ideas of people like Paul Devereux at about that time. I actually did a talk at the Ley Hunter’s Moot one year in Hebden Bridge. Paul had asked me to talk about my ideas about how magical spirits relate to the whole earth mysteries thing; ghosts and UFOs and the whole thing. I’d been doing a lot of work with spirits at the time, and what I did was got up on stage and presented my thesis. And in the middle of this I was hit with the appalling thought that nobody in the audience could follow what I was talking about. Not because it was ‘brilliant’ or anything, but because I was coming from a totally different paradigm. Some people liked it, and a lot of people didn’t.
I think one thing I got out of the earth mysteries community is that it’s like any other ‘genre’ with the whole occult paradigm; there’s a lot of suspicion between earth mysteries people and yer magician types. I think a lot of earth mysteries people want to be respectable, and magicians are very rarely respectable! It’s fine for them to talk about ley lines, but not fine for me to talk about Goetic demons. What I was trying to do was draw a connection between the two. It’s still something that interests me, but I wouldn’t call myself an ‘earth mysteries’ person. “I find the Earth a mystery,” is probably a very trite answer to that. I do read stuff on it occasionally.
Gyrus: When you were heavily into it, what were your working models? You wrote ‘The Physics of Evocation’ [published in The NOX Anthology, New World Publishing, 1991]—
Phil: Yeah, that was the talk I did at Hebden Bridge that sank like a lead balloon. What I was interested in, and what I’m still interested in now, is how we construct meaning out of our experience. I had been corresponding at the time with a guy who was a ‘chaos mathematician’ magician, who got into this idea of information structures being localized in certain areas, brought about by various arcane processes, and that these information structures could be interpreted by people—I think Jenny Randles calls this the “Oz” Factor—as ghosts or UFOs or balls of light. One thing that Paul did tell me was that when he was mainly into UFO research, when he saw things he saw UFO-type phenomena, or entities that conformed to UFO-type phenomena. And when he crossed over into earth mysteries, he started having things that were more cognate with earth mysteries-type phenomena. And I find that very interesting. That made me think, well there’s obviously some level of interpretation here. That your belief system helps you interpret the experience in different ways.
So what I suppose I was interested in at that time was trying to come up with a general model of how we construct meaning out of our weird experiences. . . . It’s something that interests me from time to time, how people explain things. People bang on about energies, “I felt this weird energy.” I think, well, did you actually feel a weird energy? You had a sensation, was it an energy? Was it just a tingling sensation?
What else I was getting into at the time, I was getting into Spiritualism, in a very kind of ‘objective’ way. I talked to this guy who had been to a Spiritualist meeting. He said that various spirits had manifested, including this person who wasn’t dead yet! How did they explain that? Well, they couldn’t really. That’s where their belief system started to shake at the edges. Again, I found that interesting. I’ve got this idea that people’s beliefs contribute towards a situation, but their explanation for how that situation arises isn’t necessarily a valid explanation. But having that explanation in their heads helps them have the experience.
Gyrus: You were obviously doing magic where you were living in the city at the time. Did you see any relationship between what you were doing out in the wilderness and what you were doing in your basement?
Phil: Yeah, I think so, because I don’t think you can ever get away from the wilderness—it creeps in to the city. You know this yourself from living in Leeds, it’s a very green city. We went out and did stuff in Meanwood Park, stuff along the Ridge, over in Chapeltown, everywhere. What I was also interested in for a long time was forming relationships, for want of a better term, with the spirits in cities. Not merely the ghosts of haunted houses, but maybe the ghosts of old industrial buildings. The weird things that hang around electrical sockets when nobody’s looking. I think how we frame and interpret and allow spirits to be there… “Oh yeah, there’s earth spirits and water spirits and fire spirits.” But are there electrical spirits? Are there nuclear energy spirits? Are there spirits of gas and petrol and plastics and things like that? I was very caught by the realisation that we have lots of metaphors for dealing with magic in the outdoors, but we didn’t have very many metaphors for magic in the cities.
Gyrus: That idea of spirits for urban things came from traditional models of there being spirits of the woods or whatever? Did you find that and think, “Hang on, I’m living in a city and this is my environment.”
Phil: Well it was more the realisation that I was living in a city and this is my environment, I’m working in the inner city with people whose problems are beyond my magic. Somebody comes to you and says, “I’ve got a bit of a bad knee, can you do some healing on me?” “Yeah, alright.” Somebody comes along to you, as somebody did once, and says, y’know, “I need to detox. Got any ideas?” And you think… that’s not in the books! What the fuck do I do? So I was really aware that I was in unknown territory. That again relates to the whole nature/wilderness thing, ‘cos you have to keep putting yourself in unknown territory. In some ways every new situation is unknown territory once you take the blinkers off. And even when you’re down in the basement, some basements are really scummy places… you’re in a very enclosed space, but it’s also very dark, it’s a bit gloomy down there; again it’s a way of moving yourself somewhere… If someone’s told you there’s a spook in there, you’re walking into unknown territory. For me, I always get very physical reactions. My hairs’ll go up on the back of my neck or my eyes’ll start watering, so I go by very physical cues.
Gyrus: Psychedelics—did they play a part in what you were doing when you first came into magic?
Phil: No, not really. I mean I’d done psychedelics before I started doing magic. I’ve never had a good relationship… I’ve done mushrooms and acid, and all that stuff, but I’ve never been able to get with it. I find it good for passive visions. I’ve had some great encounters with various goddesses, who I haven’t been working with or interested in but turned up during acid trips, and said various things to me, but then I forget them. But I’ve never been able to get good working relationships with psychedelics for magical work. I know people who do, and that’s fine, it’s just something I’ve never particularly been into.
Gyrus: A lot of people I know and a lot of people I’ve read hold a lot of store by idea that doing mushrooms out in nature is a totally different and more valuable experience, doing them where they grow for a start.
Phil: I went up to Arbor Low a few years ago with some TOPY friends, and we did a load of shroooooms, and I remember being really freaked out by the cows. This cow was stood at the other end of the… everybody else had gone off to do something and I was sitting near the campfire, and there was this cow staring at me, and it was coming forward and I thought, “Fucking hell! Freak out!”
I think for me, psychedelics cloud things. My most intense magical experiences have not been with psychedelics, that’s all I can say. If that’s what people want to do, it’s fine, but… it doesn’t work for me. All my really intense magical experiences… I think a few years ago in Austria—I think this is maybe a stress related experience—I had to go out into the local forest to abreact all this stress with this friend of mine. And I was walking through and… “What’s THAT?!” And she goes, “I can’t see anything, Phil.” “Oh, it’s… it’s a spirit, dear.” And I was seeing Pan-type figures and satyrs and old women coming out of trees, hallucinating totally, wildly, more intense hallucinations than I’ve ever had with any psychedelics. And that was just a physical thing for me. I was completely out of my head, y’know… “What’s that?” “I can’t see anything.” “Oh it’s a spirit, ‘s alright, ‘s alright.” That was just a thing that came out of my head as a result of the stress, and I needed to have that experience. But as I say, psychedelics just don’t do it for me.
Changes of scenery
Gyrus: This was in Austria? I’ve heard you’ve travelled to many different countries. Have you had much experience of the natural landscapes in other countries, what places around the world have really struck you?
Phil: Well in Austria it was rather restricted ‘cos we were staying in this 15th century castle that had a nice landscape around, so that was just that area. I’ve been to Italy, but I spent most of the time doing museum, art gallery things. When I was in America, spent some time driving through Arizona, and that was quite interesting. The vastness of the desert. I remember something that really struck me from flying over American cities is that things are crowded in. You fly over a British city and it’s all spread out like a big cow pat, but American cities are grid-planned, more modern. In America I got a sense of how vast the whole place is. I think that really helped my understanding of the difficulties people have in America making contact with each other. Britain is probably smaller than some states, y’know. And there I was travelling thousands of miles across America just to go and do a workshop. I think that was good ‘cos again it really got me into the vastness of the landscape, and how do we cross it, and how do we form relationships to it—
Gyrus: And how insignificant humans are in comparison—
Phil: Completely, yeah. I spent some time in Israel, and that was quite interesting because I very often get what I call ‘the call of Pan’, which is just like run off and go into the wilderness, which I had a few times. It was a problem ‘cos there were a lot of minefields around the area where I was staying… had to take great care not to go into the wrong field.
It’s almost like a feeling of renewal for me, when I really go up somewhere where there’s mountains, I feel revitalized. I think that’s from living so long in the north of England, I really love mountains. When I moved down to London I found it very difficult to feel at home here. I was in Leeds four or five years, and by the time I’d been there four or five years I had a sense of some connection, some vague relationship with the soul of what Leeds is. Bits of it I knew very well, other bits we were on nodding terms. But London is too big for me. Something I’ve noticed is that in Leeds I used to get things popping in all the time, for visits, or just breezing through, and now it just doesn’t seem to happen. Possibly because I’m in a totally different space, I’m working, and maybe I don’t allow that to happen ‘cos it disrupts the many things I’ve got to do. But I do miss it sometimes.
I have to keep on saying, yeah, well I did some really good stuff in Leeds, but on the other hand it was a totally crazy space, doing really mad stuff, and my life was pretty mad. So I allow myself to be nostalgic for that period, but think, “Nah, I wouldn’t wanna fuckin’ do it again.”
I think London is definitely a weird place to live for a magician. I know there’s a lot of ancient sites around, there’s a lot of power, all this stuff going on on various levels, but I find it really difficult to connect to. I’m starting to get a bit of a connection to Brixton in the sense that sometimes I’ll go out at night and think, “Go home. Not safe…” Something bad is out there or something’s gonna happen. But it’s not as strong as it was up north.
Gyrus: Have you consciously tried to relate to that? The London Psychogeographical Association springs to mind all the time. Are you interested in that, ‘urban psychogeography’?
Phil: Not really. I occasionally get ‘twitches’, but I think my real problem is that I’m pulled in loads of directions all the time. So anything that comes into my field of information has to really battle for me to stay with it for a long period.
Magic and ecology
Gyrus: You did some eco-magic workshops here in Brixton. When did you get into—
Phil: Eco-magic? Again I think this was ‘the Leeds experience’. As I recall we were sitting in… Fat Freddy’s Café?
Gyrus: Where’s that?
Phil: Obviously not there anymore. It was Call Lane, down near where—
Gyrus: Oh yeah, what was it called?
Phil: Fat Freddy’s. It was a really nice café, it was like a hut almost, with space for about thirty people in. And I was sitting in there with a bunch of the other Leeds magi, and we were talking about Starhawk and all this eco-magic stuff. I don’t know who thought it up, I know I was there when it came up. There’s an apocryphal story that during the Battle of Britain all the witches of England got together and did massive rituals involving self-sacrifice, to keep the Germans at bay. It was suggested that we do something like that again, a mass ritual with as many people as we can get involved, to raise awareness of the ecological crisis. And this became known as ‘Heal the Earth’, this was about 1987, I met Paul through this. I printed out a flyer—do you want me to see if I can find it?
(pause to rummage for flyer)
Gyrus: I think the road protest movement was in its early days then. I suppose Dragon—
Phil: Oh it was well before Dragon. 1987, summer solstice. We called it ‘Heal the Earth’ just as a name-tag, none of us liked the idea that you could actually heal the Earth. I think that’s a bit presumptuous. But the whole point of the mass energy-raising, as it became known, was to direct a pulse into the human mass-consciousness, just to raise awareness that there’s a crisis. Our reasoning was, until people are aware of ecological issues, they’re not going to do anything about it.
Gyrus: Your sense of this being a crisis, was this from intuition, feeling, or information from—
Phil: Nah, I think I was just a increasing awareness that we’re killing the planet. I think that’s something I’ve probably been aware of for quite a long time. I’d just read one of Starhawk’s books, and she’s very into political magic. Paganlink Network was getting going and there was a strong political magic thing within Paganlink Network. And I think all these things came to a point in Fat Freddy’s Café. So we ran around and designed the leaflet you’ve seen, and then we just put it out. Got people to photocopy it and take it down to festivals, I think somebody took some over to France. Me and my girlfriend at the time, and this other friend of ours, Colin, went up to the Buck Stones—
Phil: Buck Stones [on Ilkley Moor]. Not the stone circle, just a little group of rocks that’s been ritually used for a good few years by the locals; and we went and drummed for a few hours on the day, which was really nice. I got this sense of this energy going shhhhp! We chose the Ace of Cups symbol, the idea of all the energy pouring into or out of the cup.
Something I’ve noticed in recent years, because people doing these mass rituals, they’ve become really popular—I’m not saying we were the first—is that people very often say that what you have to do to raise energy is do this. This particular ritual or this particular meditation. We left it totally open, we said you can drum, sing, chant, fuck, do a ritual, whatever, but this is the ‘statement of intent’, if you like. We did that one in ’87, then we did another one in… I think we did three all in all, but I think the others were a bit later on. For me that ritual was really interesting because it was an articulation of… Again, a strange idea in magic is if personal politics and magic come together, which now I think is more accepted, but where I was at that time it was something that people . . . y’know, “magic is above politics” and all that stuff. So for me it was a great lift, and then that gave me a tremendous ego-boost, in terms of what you can do if you set your mind to it. For me one shah of the by-products of that ritual, that event, was Pagan News. I thought if we can do this, we can do lots of other things, and Pagan News took off soon after that, the next year.
Gyrus: And that was set up with the intention behind that ritual in mind, or what is just the inspiration that you could actually do this magazine?
Phil: I think the inspiration was… I was a great thing getting people from all disparate backgrounds, Wiccans, Earth Mysterians, Hippies, Thelemites, y’know, cooperating. I think what it was for me was this sense of reaching out to people. Just very simple things, like I went round to this guy’s house, Rodney Orpheus, who ended up doing Pagan News with me, and we talked to him about this Heal the Earth idea, and he went, “That a fuckin’ great idea!” And that feedback, that warmth, I think was a really powerful thing for me. Somebody coming back and saying, “Yeah, let’s go for it.” That is a tremendously empowering thing. It wasn’t like, “Oh we’ll do this and that’ll lead to that and that’ll lead to that,” but in hindsight that’s what happened.
Gyrus: So that was an inspiration as to how what people would call networking nowadays would work, rather than the traditional hierarchical structure of magical orders?
Phil: As I say, I was getting involved with Paganlink Network at the time, it was starting off, in embryonic form, around that period, and it started off the next year. I remember meeting Rich Westwood around that time, and talking to him, and he was one of the… I would say he founded Paganlink Network, some people would disagree with that, but I think he was a main man—certainly he was for me.
What I did between Heal the Earth and Pagan News was this weird project called the Lincoln Order of Neuromancers.
Gyrus: Come again?
Phil: Well, I had some friends in Lincoln! What we were doing was poking fun at the whole Chaos scene at the time. We produced this free ‘chain book’. The idea was we sent out this unstitched A5 booklet, and said to people, “This is a chain book! If you like it, stick something in it and give it to a friend!” And that went really well, we had some people writing applications to join the Order, which of course didn’t exist, which was quite funny. I wrote some articles under various pseudonyms, and we created this whole mythos around this crazy magical order; stupid things, but also quite interesting things, I hope. And the idea there was to have a bit of a laugh, and to also sneak some interesting ideas in, under the counter. And that worked really well, in terms of networking and stuff, and again I think that helped me get the idea of Pagan News off the ground—let’s do something else! Let’s upset some more people, let have fun, let’s do things, y’know? With Pagan News, various ‘luminaries’, who shall remain nameless, said, “Oh you’ll never do a monthly pagan magazine, it’s impossible.” So I did it.
Gyrus: Had it not been done?
Gyrus: What’s this cynicism about doing a monthly pagan magazine, ‘cos there’s so few pagans or what?
Phil: No, ‘cos it’s so difficult, you don’t usually have to have a turnaround in three weeks. The first thing we did was a thing called Northern Paganlink News, which started out as a four-page newsletter. And after about six issues… we were doing silly things like we’d gone into that college—near Headingley? Not the university… can’t remember the place. Anyway, we’d go in there and say to the guy who ran the photocopier, “Look the other way!”, and come out with about 2,000 leaflets. Again there was the networking element, and we were sending these… it got silly, like we were sending two or three thousand of these leaflets all over the north of England. Eventually we decided we were getting so much good material from people that we decided we’d mutate it into a monthly news magazine. Costing 30p, back in them days! That was a lot of fun—it’s very, very hard work. Agitpress, the Chumbas [Chumbawumba] people did the printing for us. We did a ritual to find equipment that… worked very well.
Gyrus: So doing the magazine was part of… what magic you were doing? Crowley compared doing a ritual to publishing a book—you have your intent, the printers are your ‘servitors’ or whatever…
Phil: What magic was I doing? Anything and everything. Rodney was an ardent Thelemite, so I was doing a lot of Thelemic magic with him. I was unemployed, totally busy and stressed out all the time, doing whatever magic I wanted. Things I would not do nowadays, purely ‘cos I don’t have the space and time to recover afterwards.
(tape gets turned over)
The birth of Chaos
Gyrus: … how did it begin?
Phil: Well I wasn’t around at the time. I first came across Chaos Magic in 1980, something like that. I picked up the fabled white edition of Liber Null [by Pete Carroll] at Sorceror’s Apprentice. And I thought, “Ooh, this sounds good.” I didn’t actually do much about it there and then, but then I finished my course at Huddersfield at the poly and moved back to Blackpool for a bit, and, quite by synchronicity, managed to contact one of Blackpool’s witch covens. I got into doing things with them, in a modest witch coven, which was very interesting. Actually, on a side note, going back to nature again, what I always remember is that Kathy, the High Priestess of the coven, whenever she wanted to impart something that was particularly important or significant, we’d always go outside. We’d even go and sit in the garden under a bush, ‘cos she had this massive garden, and we’d play like kids in the bush or something, or we’d go for a walk on the sand dunes. Nature was creeping back into my life then, in a magical way.
Gyrus: When I went to this conference at the university in Leeds called ‘Thinking Alien’, the cutting edge of academia, or the strands of academia looking into stuff like UFO phenomena, stuff like that. You know the Rupert Beckett building? You walk up the stairs and the lecture theatres are like fucking cattle stalls or something that you go into. There was some good stuff, but it was what turned out to be one of the last really nice sunny days of the year. And I was sat in this lecture hall, listening to this guy drone on, and there were no windows at all. And I just started thinking, how much of the way learning is structured in our society is to do with total ‘boxed-offness’ from nature? And who would be bothered to follow what this guy was saying if we were sat in the park, and there’s a frisbee game over there and you go, “I’ll go and play that.” I just thought it was interesting that when it was something important that she wanted to impart to you, you went outside; and my thought about what was happening here was that what this guy was saying wasn’t terrifically important at all, and the fact of having this ritualized total enclosed environment which forced you to focus on what he was saying—which was of very little consequence. Sorry, carry on!
Phil: Yeah, so I was with the Blackpool witches and I got back into Chaos Magic at that point I think, probably as a counterpoint to what I was doing with them. Kathy said, “What’s this Chaos Magic all about then? Go and find out about it and come back and tell us.” So I got more interested in it. That didn’t really go anywhere for a few years, and then in the mid-eighties I went up to York to study occupational therapy. I thought, “Right, no magic, let’s go and get a degree and fuck off and get a good job.” Famous last words sort of thing…
Phil: The coven I was in—I think this probably explains things a bit—the coven I was in was very, very secretive. You couldn’t wear magical jewellery, you couldn’t have your books out, you had to have them under your bed in a box, and if anyone else started talking to you about magical things you had to… [??] And some way I broke out of this and just started gabbing at people. I had a lot of friends who were kind of like whacky punks, that was the sort of scene I was moving in, and they really got grabbed, excited by the idea of Eris, goddess of chaos. So pretty soon I was stopping doing the Wiccan rituals, I was keeping up and doing rites with Eris, goddess of chaos, and having all kinds of weird experiences with that. So this was Chaos Magic coming more into my main thing I suppose. And that all culminated in… there were two Eris rites, there was one that I actually did with the Wiccans, who’d moved to Macclesfield by that time. And that ended up with the High Priestess sitting on the floor of the room going: (rhythmic whooshing noises). And the next day I had a channelled communication from Eris—on Stockport station! Place of pilgrimage… And then I did the same sort of ritual again with a woman I was working with at the time, and I just had the most incredible ecstatic experience that was like becoming part of what Grant Morrison calls ‘the supersphere’—this realisation that you are linked with the macrocosm… just seeing all these lines of connected ideas and inspirations and streams of thought all merging into a point, somewhere above the top of my head… I staggered away from that.
I think that was important for me ‘cos then I stopped going along with other people’s prescriptions, and just did whatever felt good at the time. Which I think probably defines a lot of my approach to Chaos Magic. ‘Don’t do what other people tell you to do; go with it.’ I was reading a Dion Fortune book, something I’d probably read about a dozen times, and I started crying, I was really affected by this… crappy 1930s novel! And that lead into a whole series of working with Isis, that I found tremendously powerful. I went through a five-year trip of working almost exclusively with goddesses: Isis, Eris, Babylon, Ma’at, all these goddesses that are related to different symbol systems. And that evolved into my own personal system. So my Chaos Magic was kind of like bubbling along by the time I got to Leeds. As more stuff was percolating out about Chaos Magic, and as Leeds was basically ‘Chaos central’ in the mid to late eighties, I started meeting various other ‘names’ on the scene, and getting more interested in it. I’d be round at someone’s place, rattling on about Chaos Magic, and somebody’d say, “So what’s it all about then?” And somebody said it to me once in the right mood and I wrote this little booklet, Condensed Chaos. And that was my first move towards becoming associated, as an individual, with the Chaos current.
We had a little group in Leeds called MC Medusa & The Hydra’s Teeth, that went out and did silly, chaotic, whacky rituals. Leeds was crazy, we had The Hydra’s Teeth at one point; I joined AMOOKOS, the tantric cult, clan, tribe, whatever you want to call it, around that time; I joined the Esoteric Order of Dagon, the Cthulhu fanciers; and there was the whole Paganlink thing, I was involved in so many different magical streams all together. When I moved to London, as was probably inevitable, I hooked up with (hushed voice) the Illuminates Of Thanateros. It was kinda strange for me, ‘cos I’d already placed myself, not particularly as a Chaos Magician, but I’d actually written Condensed Chaos and Chaos Servitors about a year before, but I just couldn’t afford to get them published. So after those two, and then Prime Chaos, then Condensed Chaos, and now people say, “Phil Hine, Chaos Magician”; which I don’t think is true at all.
Gyrus: Any label that you’d like to attach to yourself at the moment?
Phil: No, not really… Labelling is a funny thing, because people very much go by what you write, and when I did the shamanic trilogy back in the eighties, it was, “Phil Hine, Urban Shaman.” And I never at any point said that I regarded myself as a shaman. But that’s just the label you get.
Gyrus: Have you used the labels people have associated with you?
Phil: Yeah, sometimes I think you have to. But I try and make it very plain to people that this is just a temporary structure. People say to me, “What are you into at the moment?”, and for the past couple of years it’s been more Tantra than anything else, although I’ve had a dip into the Northern tradition, and been doing stuff with Thor and Freyja. I think my problem… well, probably where people find it difficult with me is I’m into so many different things all the time that they have trouble pinning me down.
I’ve always hated labels, though. When I was in the witch coven, I’d done a lot of work with Kali, and people’d come and say, “Ah, Phil’s a priest of Kali,” and I’d say, “No I’m fuckin’ not!” I actually got an email the other day from a woman saying, “I’m writing to you with a problem because in the circles I move in you’re the most famous Chaos Magician in the world.” And I just thought, “Urrghh!” I don’t want to be a Chaos Magician really… don’t want to be known as a Chaos Magician, just that. You get that label applied to you and then people have a fixed idea of what Chaos Magic is—
Gyrus: Which is against the idea of what Chaos Magic is in the first place, a fixed idea…
Goddesses and gender
Gyrus: The goddess period you went through, relating this back to nature… What is your view on why nature, the Earth, has been feminized so much? People bring up the Egyptian Geb, god of the earth, and Nuit, goddess of the sky. How do you relate to those sorts of polarities?
Phil: I think that’s a very complex question, and I can’t give you a pat answer. I think on one level we tend to feminize the Earth because of all the stereotypical stuff. Gordon McLellan and I were discussing this whole idea of, when people says archetype, do they really mean stereotype? I think there’s a hell of a lot of that when we talk about mythic structures and magic and symbolism. Y’know, the feminized Earth is nurturing, warm, enveloping, and all those lovely, nice, safe, controllable female qualities. I think people have problems with the Earth as like, well she’s got her period, and a volcano’s gonna erupt and kill thousands of people. Was it Jeanette Robbins who did this book on sun goddesses? [Actually it’s The Sun Goddess by Sheena McGrath – Ed.] She really blew open the whole thing of lunar goddess / sun god. I forget the woman’s name but she did this marvellous book on sun goddesses which blew that whole thing wide open. It’s almost like we can accept… it’s like we put gods in little boxes. People say Pan is a sex god. But as I said, he’s related to the sea. You think of him—shaggy hooves, big prick, horns—you don’t think of that as a sea god, but he is a sea god as well.
I don’t know, I often feel that the myths that are used nowadays to describe our experiences of the world are, of course, being interpreted. So when we talk about the “Earth Goddess”, we’re not actually really relating to an Earth goddess in the same way that people were two thousand years ago, obviously not. Also what gives me a slight problem about the whole Earth Goddess thing is its anthropomorphism. Y’know, why should the sacred figure of the Earth be a human? There’s an artist called Alistair Campbell who did an interpretation of the Great God Pan, which I always thought was marvellous, this things was half-insect, half-mammal, half-reptile. And I thought yeah, that strikes me as a viable picture of the soul of the planet. Humans are like that (does ‘tiny’ hand gesture) on the planet, compared to all the other bits of the biomass. So why should we have human representatives to deal with the planet itself? We’re not dealing with the planet itself, we’re dealing with an idealized picture again.
I like goddesses. I think I’ve a much stronger affinity to goddesses than I do with gods. But I’m a polytheist. People say there’s the ‘One Goddess’. That sounds too much like Christianity to me. I say, “No! There’s lot’s of different goddesses, and they’re all different.” And you can’t say all the goddesses are One Goddess. You can as a limited metaphor, but only up to a point. You can’t really say that Isis is Kali. Yes, they have things in common, but they’re different. It’s like saying you and me are the same entity ‘cos we both wear boots—it’s stupid.
I don’t know—how does that sound?
Gyrus: Yeah, it’s one of those things that’s so complex it’s too easy to give—
Phil: A pat answer to. Well it’s just my immediate thoughts on the subject.
Gyrus: One thing that’s always struck me is, I think Robert Anton Wilson mentions it in Ishtar Rising, that however much you try to take a objective, relativistic view of the way humans have related to divinities, there seems to be something that brings origins, or basic religious ideas back to the feminine because of our biological position. Which is, we spend the first nine months of our lives inside a woman.
Phil: I think that’s definitely an important thing. Yeah, I think that’s something very central. I remember when I was at a coven meeting, many years ago, I saw one of Kathy’s youngest daughters go up like that to her mum, and I thought yeah, we do that all the time when we’re invoking don’t we? “Pick us up, mummy!”
Yeah, there’s definitely deep socio-cultural, psychological, biological levels to everything. It’s just so hard to sort out the different threads. And it’s so easy to minimalise them and make something less vast and full of awe by saying, “Oh, it’s the Goddess, innit?” Because some conceptualisations I’ve seen of the Goddess just strike me as… Laura Ashley. ‘Laura Ashley paganism’.
Something I found interesting in the Tantric mythological system is that the goddess is sometimes very crone-like, what we in the West would see as crone-like goddesses. Like Bhairavi, who’s the dark goddess who’s related to the dark side of Siva. She rips people’s heads off and has them for tea. And she’s most often worshipped as a young girl. Which kind of breaks down that maiden-mother-crone structure which is so prevalent in Western forms of magic. Y’know, you can have the maiden, you can have the mother, you can have the crone. But to have the ‘crone’ as a 16 year-old girl I think breaks out of that, and for me that’s interesting. Again, we’re dealing with stereotypes as much as archetypes.
Gyrus: What’s you’re working definition of the difference between them then, stereotypes and archetypes?
Phil: Well since we only talked about it two minutes ago I don’t really have one! I was very, very into Jung for some years, and then I sort of went off him in a big way. Something I’ve re-read fairly recently is June Singer’s book Androgyny: Towards a New Theory of Sexuality, where she’s talking about the divine archetype of the Androgyne. But I noticed she’s very, very selective about who she ‘gifts’ with embodying that archetype. What I don’t like about that whole ‘searching for archetypes’ thing is that you get very selective about it. I’ve read books on… I read some awful book a few years ago on homosexual archetypes, and there was ‘the sissy’ and ‘the pansy’, and then there was the ‘male’ one. And it’s obvious that this writer’s looked at homosexuals through stereotype sunglasses, and said, “Oh that’s that archetype, and that’s that archetype.” What I find suspicious about anything like that is using a spiritual or mythological argument to justify not really thinking about what you’re looking at. Which I think is something we do very, very easily.
Gyrus: I’ve just borrowed that June Singer book off Paul, got about quarter of the way through it. It struck me that from the outset she seems to—as far as I’ve got—see homosexuality or bisexuality, in relation to androgyny, as ‘weak’, and not quite the ‘proper’ form of androgyny. Androgyny is this idealized female-within-male, male-within-female thing, but always within a biological male / female setting.
Phil: I was looking at this whole androgyny issue recently, ‘cos I’ve been doing some research into the androgynous form of Siva-Sakti, Ardhanarisvara. I was thinking, my big issue about this whole androgyny thing is it’s very, very limited in what we accept as androgynous. I mean, Ziggy Stardust is an acceptable androgyne. Is a woman with a beard an acceptable androgyne? A very pretty looking female-man is an acceptable androgyne, but is a butch diesel-dyke with a pasted-on moustache and shades? This whole androgyny thing is very much enmeshed in culture and what is acceptable in culture. We can accept a man who looks like a woman, but a woman who behaves too much like a man is still a problem. I was reading a book called Androgynes, Women & other Mythical Beasts by an anthropologist called, I think, Wendy O’Flaherty, something like that. And she really goes into the whole thing in India, about how it’s no problem for the men to become women, mythically and culturally, but woman behaving too much like men is a no-no. So I think this whole androgyny issue is very culture-bound.
It’s an interesting model, but I don’t think it says anything new. To propagate it, you need to unfairly establish stereotypes, like the fact that women are intuitive and men are logical. Says who? One thing the feminist critiques, like Mary Daly and other people, one thing I got from these feminist critiques is that these male and female attributes are culturally defined. So if you start projecting them onto archetypes and gods and goddesses, we’re in for a bit of a strange time of it.
Breaking a lack of taboos
Gyrus: The big thing I was going to ask about Tantra was related to the idea of being culture-bound. There’s a traditional Tantric rite—I can’t remember the specific name of it—the five—
Phil: The Five M’s.
Gyrus: Am I right in saying it’s the conscious breaking of Hindu or Indian taboos?
Phil: It does involve that, yeah.
Gyrus: As far as practising Tantra in the cultures, subcultures, we live in goes, that must be difficult.
Gyrus: ‘Cos there’s so many taboos that have just gone out the window.
Phil: If you’re a young Brahmin caste priest coming to me for a Tantric initiation, I’ll say, “Well, get a bottle of wine, some beef, and I’ll get a couple of girls from the port in the town, and we’ll meet down the cremation ground.” It would be like ultra-horror, because for a Brahmin in the fourteenth century, wine, beef, shagging low-caste women, and just going down the cremation ground would be big taboos. Nowadays we think nothing of wining dining and fucking, it’s like eating meat and drinking wine are a prelude to the sex. It’s not a taboo anymore.
I think the big problem in… My feeling about Tantrik magic is I’m not trying to recreate what some fourteenth-century Tantrik did. I’m trying to take principles and ideas and apply them to what’s relevant to me, here, now. I see an important element of Tantra being related to confronting your own personal taboos, your own personal boundaries, realizing the things that hold you back and trying to do something about it. It’s called ‘Klesha-Smashing’. Kleshas are knots, or fetters if you like, that bind us, that stop us from experiencing the world in a more spontaneous, natural way. For me as a man in late twentieth-century Western culture, I would totally [??] Kleshas. I mean, some things I’m not bothered about; some things I am bothered about.
I was reading the magical diaries of a friend of mine the other day, and he was saying that you can never actually decondition yourself fully, because you’re always going to pick up new bits of conditioning, that are just as nonsensical and limiting as the lot you’ve just got rid of. And I think he’s right there. I’ve met people who’ve said, “I’m completely deconditioned!” And I think, “Hmm, amazing! Worship!” I don’t have a sense that I can ever reach that [??] state.
Gyrus: What, delusion?
Phil: Well I am saying that I suppose. For me deconditioning is a continual battle of, I suppose, understanding myself. And, as an extension of that, understanding how I relate to the world. I think for me the core of the Tantrik magical philosophy is to engage with the world, to relate to the world in as joyful a state as possible. Not so much ‘stress-free’ in the everyday sense, but to relax and have a nice time in the world. And I think for me that involves a lot of Klesha-Smashing.
Gyrus: In whatever tantrik work you’ve done, as far as whatever culture you see yourself as part of, are there any specific taboos that you’ve tried to work with in a tantrik way? People might not have realized our taboos ‘cos we might consider ourselves a ‘taboo-free’—
Phil: Well something I would say about Chaos Magic, which I think is related, is that I got over my total fear of talking to strangers through Chaos Magic. Again, these deconditioning techniques. How I did it was that I was very shy and retiring as a kid—I think one of the reasons I got into magic was I had very few social skills, a very low opinion of myself. “Get the bastards!” basically. I was certainly like that in my late teens. By the time I was in my mid-twenties I’d realized that I wasn’t going to have a very nice time of it if I kept this up! So when I moved to York and started at the College of Ripon & York St John, I deliberately put myself in a position where I would have to talk to large groups of people. I remember the first time I stood up in the big college student’s union meeting and said something. I had a prepared speech and my voice was like, “eh-eh-eh-eh,” I was so nervous. Then I had to get up again and say something else, and of course by that time I was actually annoyed and all fired up, I found it a lot easier. By putting myself into a position of becoming student union rep for my department, I had to talk to the student’s union, the Academic Board, the lecturers and the staff and the teachers and the students and all that. In the course I was doing in occupational therapy I had to relate to various groups of people.
And in the end I moved from—I’m not saying I did it overnight, a few years I think—I moved to a position where I actually enjoyed getting up and talking to fifteen hundred people, y’know? It wasn’t a source of worry and stress and “Oh shit!” anymore, it was actually something I enjoyed doing. To me that was an extremely powerful personal transformation. That I think, for me, is something that I’ve seen as a strength both in the Chaos and in the Tantrik approach, in that you identify what for you is a Klesha, something that binds you, and you try and, not necessarily overcome it, but release yourself from it. (rustling as a cigarette pack is opened) I’m gonna try hypnotherapy, I think, to give up smoking. ‘Cos for a long time I thought, “No, I can do it!” Y’know, mighty magician, True Will, and all that sort of thing. Then I thought, well, maybe I can’t do it, maybe I need somebody to help me. Which is itself, I think, something that it’s very easy to ignore, that you need—
Gyrus: That would be a taboo within certain sections of magical currents—self-reliance leading to a taboo against… acknowledgement that you need help.
Phil: A lot of these taboos are little things but they’re important. One of my other much-used examples is getting over my fear of maths. I was a ‘maths-shy’ kid when I was at school. In fact my parents actually worked out that I was always ill on Mondays ‘cos I had a triple maths period. I studied statistics when I did psychology… I really liked the theory of statistics, but dealing with the numbers was just hell. How I eventually started to get around this was, by about—we’re talking fairly recently—by about the nineties, when I moved down to London, I got so much into computers, but I had this real ego thing—y’know, gimme a piece of software and I can do it, make it work, doesn’t matter what it is, I can get it to do something. I was given the job of writing some fairly mathematical databases that would work out things like author’s royalties and VAT returns and that sort of shit. I can remember actually dancing around the office because I’d successfully written this piece of code that would automatically work out VAT on a statement. “Yes! I’ve broken through something here…” And OK, it’s not like a really stunning example, but for me, having had that previous twenty-odd years of not wanting to do anything at all related to maths or figures or money, it was a real powerful thing for me. I think often the really powerful taboos are the ones that don’t look really big.
What I did there was use a powerful and positive ego-drive to overcome—like a strength to overcome a weakness, which I think is a good way to do it. I sometimes say to people, try and write down your strengths, write down ten strengths that you’ve got, and write down ten weaknesses. And then see if you can use the strength to deal with the weakness. Not to ‘overcome’ it or to ‘break through’, but to… to undo yourself from it. I really like this idea of Dr Christopher Hyatt’s Undoing Yourself, I think that’s a really nice phrase. It sounds better than overcoming. It’s not really about control, it’s more like shifting the goalposts, and I think shifting the goalposts is a really powerful magical technique. It’s like suddenly you open up the door and go, “Ooh, didn’t know this was here!” Go through it…
Gyrus: I think this is related to smoking, I’ve just been reading T.A.Z., Hakim Bey’s thing. And that’s a social, cultural model, but I think it can very well apply to the personal level, in that his idea is that a total all-out assault on the State will just lead to total crushing over whatever movement’s trying to oppose it.
Phil: Or that movement will itself become the next—
Gyrus: Yeah. So let’s not go for the idea of this turn-around revolution point. Even though that’s not a viable option in this situation, we can try to enjoy what we envision as what we’re going to enjoy after that point now, as a means of getting towards that state. I think I’ve tried to do that with thinking, “Shit, smoking’s holding me back so much, I’m never gonna progress until I give up,” looking forward to that point of giving up. And then thinking, “Fuck no!” Just getting on with what I want to get on with, within that framework, and break it down from within.
Phil: I really enjoyed that Bill Hicks tape, what he said about smoking. We actually borrowed the video from a friend and he said, “Smokers! I’ve got a message for you: non-smokers die every day!” I like that.
I like Bey’s stuff ‘cos he’s really into the idea of partying, when he talk about potlatch and things. That whole ‘immediatism’ concept really grabbed me when I was writing Prime Chaos—”Yeah, this is a ball I can run with.” The idea of play. Something kind of along the same lines that I picked up when I was in Leeds was Lionel Snell’s book… Thundersqueak: Confessions of a Right-Wing Anarchist, which I thought was brilliant. A really good piece of advice he had there for dealing with state bureaucracies, which I actually did try out practically in the Leeds DSS office—
Gyrus: Be really nice.
Phil: Yeah, to be really nice—and it works! If you go in there and scream and shout, they get that all day, so they just react in that normal way, as you do. But go in there and be really nice, and beg, and say, “Look, these forms are really difficult,” and if you can do it, burst out crying. And I tried that, I went in there and was really nice and polite, and “I want you to help me.” Somehow I managed to get these really burnt-out DSS workers to process my claim—in quite good time.
Another thing I find interesting about magic is the way people wall magic off: it’s something to be done outdoors, in your bedroom or in the basement… You don’t tend to do it in the DSS office or in a bus queue or when you’re standing on the tube train platform. Magic becomes an enclosure that you escape to. I can identify with that because I’ve certainly done that for quite a few years, and there is this thing in a lot of magical textbooks, the idea of your mundane life and your magical life—and the two don’t ever cross. I say, “Well, there’s just life.” Magic doesn’t stop when you take your robes off or put your trousers back on.
The magical borderline
Gyrus: How does that affect your attitudes to banishing before and after rituals?
Phil: I think… That’s what you’re told isn’t it? “You have to banish before and after a ritual…” I think a lot of magical skills, and we are talking about skills here… again I think it’s interesting, thinking about learning, because if you learn to work with wood, if you learn to be a carpenter, you pick up a skill, but at some point you’ve stopped doing what your teacher has told you and you’re doing it yourself, you’ve made the skill your own. I think magical skills are exactly the same kind of process. Yeah, you follow people’s books and courses and things, but at some point you must make the skill your own.
My take on banishing is: there’s some times when you have to banish, there’s some time when you don’t. And it’s up to you to work out when, I can’t tell you. I think on the whole it’s a good idea, but there are situations when it’s not appropriate. There’ll be situation where you can’t banish. I’ve always found the idea of going out into the middle of the woods and doing the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram to be somewhat ridiculous. It just doesn’t feel right to me. What am I trying to banish? I’m not trying to banish, in fact I’m inviting things to come and watch and play, and have a dance and sing. Banishing, again, I think there’s this whole thing about closing off and shutting down, and putting your bowler hat on and taking up your umbrella and walking back into normal reality. For me the idea of a barrier between the magic and the normal isn’t really there anymore. It’s like the fairy stories where the fairy castle is a step away, if you can find out how to do the step, and for me the magic / mundane thing is a similar thing, and it creeps in when you’re not looking. Something that has become increasingly important for me is looking at the whole model of Chaos in terms of your everyday life. And how much one single chance encounter can colour your entire day, your week, your lifetime, y’know? Something creeps in that you’re not expecting, and it can throw you off or throw you on for the rest of the day. It can as simple as somebody smiling at you across the street, and you think, “I’m gonna have a real nice day today!”
Gyrus: If you take that idea of bringing your magic into your life in general. without these ‘bookends’, how does that affect your relationships to people, acquaintances, work colleagues, whatever, who have got no concept of magic whatsoever. It’s an easier thing to blend into your own life when the main people in your life are involved in magic, and understand those types of interaction—
Phil: People know I publish books on magic at work, one or two have even bought them which is really nice, but I don’t tend to talk about it too much. It’s a weird thing when you’re in publishing, ‘cos we’re turning out books every week, and I’ll maybe pipe up and say, “Oh look, I’ve got a new anthology out,” and they all go, “Oh wow,” y’know. But I tend to go on about magic at work. People who are interested, I’m quite happy to talk to them ’til I’m blue in the face and they’re completely bored with me talking about it. If they’re not interested in then yeah, that’s fine, it’s no problem for me. All I ask of them is they don’t bore me with their own little peccadillos. I don’t want to hear about cricket…
I’ve started doing a lot of sigil magic at work, which is basically, I get an idea for a sigil, put it on a post-it note, and just gaze blankly at it when I’m completely zapped from typesetting all day. Then the post-it note falls off the monitor, and that’s the sigil done. I find I can do quite a lot of magic at work, or going to work. I walk across the common every day, and it’s really nice to do a quick invocation of something, y’know, stretching your arms for a minute and imagining this lightning bolt coruscating down the sky into your body. I know people who manage to… there was one Thelemite friend of mine who managed to get a spare room in the set of offices he worked in cleared out so he could go and do his daily meditation in there. You can make people work around your strange ideas, but I think a lot of magic is about blending in the background. And if other people want to hear about it, fine; if they don’t want to hear about it, that’s also cool.
You have to realize that some people are scared of it. I lived in a communal space in York for nearly two years, and there was one guy who was freaked out by the fact that I had a book with a picture of the Horned God on it. He actually said to me in the house, “We don’t know what you do up there, we know you do strange things but we don’t know what you do. Why don’t you tell us?” And I said, “Well, you’re freaked out by a book. I’m not gonna reveal my innermost feelings about my other stuff to you.” I think he had to respect that. He didn’t necessarily like it, but he had to respect it.
I’ve met a lot of people on the London magical scene who are Magicians—you can just tell by looking at them, they’ve got a leather jacket, a big chaosphere on the back, and ‘Azathoth Rules’ written on the back, and loads of talismans and long hair and pierced nipples and noses and other things. And I just think, “It’d be really amazing to see you in a three-piece suit.” I used to play this game of turning up to meetings in a suit or in leather drag or something, and watch people’s conceptions of you completely change. I think for me a magician is about being a trickster, a rather amorphous character, somebody who can blend in with the background. It’s easy to be strange, and it’s really hard to be normal.
Gyrus: We were talking about personal politics coming into magic… Do you think there’s a case for being a bit more up-front about it? If you’re gonna set out to raise awareness about something in a magical way, you’re gonna have to be more up-front about it and specifically not blend in. Would that just be a tactic for a specific purpose?
Phil: Well it really depends what you want to achieve and how you decide to go about achieving that. The important thing for me in interacting with other people is: if I come out as a total weirdo, then that perception of me is going to colour whatever I say. If I come across to people as quite a nice, normal guy, y’know, then whatever I say, talking about more weird things, is gonna be more accepted, as the barriers don’t come up. If I walked into a room maybe dressed as a rabid TOPY-ite from the seventies with bolts everywhere and a big psychick cross and said, “Hail Satan!”, I’m sure people would just go, “What a fucking weirdo.” I’ve done that, I went through a phase in my late teens of dressing completely in black with an upside-down crucifix. I actually got banned from pubs ‘cos they didn’t want me in. I realize now that a lot of that was because I had a very poor self-image, so I was rebelling, and people’d say, “You’re not serious about that upside-down crucifix?” and I’d say, “Yes I am.” So for me what’s been important as regards relating to people is being socially accepted. Once you’re socially accepted, you can say whatever you like, and people maybe can’t merge their views with yours, but it’s a lot easier.
Something I’ve played around with from time to time is how people’s perceptions of me are affected because they’ve tended to categorise me according to some behaviour which they approve or disapprove of. A magazine editor once asked a friend, “Are there two Phil Hines? There’s this one guy who writes the shamanic stuff” (which she liked) “and this other one that writes all this dark, Left-Hand path stuff” (which she obviously didn’t like). After hearing this, I sent an article on working with Satan and Lucifer in to the ‘zine that I’d been writing ‘shamanic’ stuff for, and well, they printed it but it was somewhat controversial, and I felt like I was ‘barred’ from that ‘zine until I could submit something ‘shamanic’ again. There was this other ‘zine, Pagan At The Heart I think it was, that printed a story that I had become ‘celibate’ and then followed it up with the snippet that I wasn’t any more and that they could name the ‘lady’ who broke my vow. So I said to these people, “Not only have you got the name wrong, you’ve also got the gender wrong,” and like, the confusion on their faces was lovely, you know the way people edge away when it suddenly hits them that they’ve made a gaffe. This is fun to play around with, but there’s also a kind of power too. Once people think you’re okay, basically, it’s a lot easier to get your ideas across to them. Doing this sort of thing really brought home to me how much I was conditioned by these kind of assumptions. Like I used to think, “Oh, so-and-so’s into magic, they must be okay”—which isn’t always the case, is it?
Gyrus: Is the underlying thing, whether you’re trying to blend in or stand out, to change people’s preconceptions?
Phil: Well it’s to try and stop those preconceptions coming up so fast, I think. It’s all about charisma, I think, and confidence in yourself, and being used to being able to deal with other people. If you have to deal with people from all walks of life, then you become a bit of a social chameleon. I’ve met a lot of people who are fine at after-dinner conversation, but if you put them down the pub with a load of people who aren’t interested in magic, and it’s like, “What do I talk about?” I was like that, I used to gibber on about magic ‘cos it was the only thing I had to talk about, and eventually I realized that people were actually getting really rather bored. I tried to get to grips with this idea of what I call ‘people magic’, which is about learning to deal with other people. That’s a big part of my magic, and something that, again, isn’t really perceived as magical; but dealing with other people, not so much manipulating people, but learning to interact with people, as equals. Respecting other people. Being able to talk about really weird things and have people not go, “Ugh! Weirdo,” and turn off.
Gyrus: There’s a friend of mine who says he’s got interest in, but no real knowledge of ‘esoteric things’, magic, anything; but to me, I always think of him as a ‘social alchemist’. His skills in bringing people together, hosting a party, dealing with people from all walks of life, is just phenomenal, it’s amazing. Whether he’s gradually learnt it or finds it fairly natural I don’t know. It’s breaking down people’s conceptions of what magic is.
Phil: I think that’s very important because it’s a ‘scary subject’. Particularly for people who have been brought up on a diet of… well in my day it was Dennis Wheatley—black magic and Aleister Crowley, y’know? You have to be able to say, “No, I’m not like that. Alright, I do things with blood and sheep’s entrails, but… I’m not a monster!”
Gyrus: “Officer.” (chuckle, guffaw)
Naughty, naughty Chaos!
Gyrus: This is going back to Chaos Magic… bad reputation.
Phil: Oh, terrible reputation—
Gyrus: From the start, and even now—
Phil: From the start and even now, yes, twenty years on it’s still got a bad reputation. Why is that?
Gyrus: Why is that?
Phil: I think the thing is the word ‘chaos’ which upsets people. Because, as I said earlier, we don’t like to think of nature being chaotic, or our lives being chaotic. We like to think about order, and cycles, and “things happen because… fate, karma, the universe, God makes them happen.” Not because they just happen and we can’t explain it… In the eighties there were a lot of people muttering on about Chaos Magicians have no sense of ethics, and being ‘immoral’. And you know that statement ‘Nothing Is True, Everything Is Permitted’—sounds a bit… dodgy, y’know? That’s never been an issue for me because what I’ve always said to people is that the whole issue of magical ethics, or ethics in general, is that you create your own. What is moral for you, rather than relying on what somebody else says.
I think Chaos Magic also upsets people because there’s certainly people who’ve been attracted to the Chaos Magic idea who see it as a sort of ‘Satanism of the nineties’, and want to go out and shock people. These are the kids who wear ‘Hail Satan’ jackets and stuff like that, and go, “Whooaa! Chaos!” Which I think puts people off. And what seems to be a strong tendency within the Chaos community is this slagging off of other people’s belief systems. “Chaos is best and Wicca is rubbish.”—which is in itself, I think, a nonsensical statement. Hopefully they’ll grow out of it—maybe not.
Other than that, I don’t really know why Chaos has got such a… I think you’d have to find some people who are upset by it and ask them. Because my approach to Chaos Magic has been, “It’s weird! Let’s do some weird things and have a nice time!”, y’know? Rather than, “Let’s do something really dark…” Oh, I’ve done the ‘dark’ stuff as well, but I’ve always done it with a smile. [happy voice] “Hail Satan, Beast!”
My friend did a workshop at one of these outdoor pagan camps. And apparently she had a whole field of nice pagans all going, “Hail Satan!”, and really enjoying themselves. I think, yeah, cool, wish I’d done that.
Gyrus: What do you think about Chaos now, what with the last issue of Chaos International—
Phil: Well, (slightly comic voice) it’s the end of an era! Maybe something else will come forth, from chaos itself.
Gyrus: Did you think of it as that from the beginning? I mean TOPY, there’s far too many different points of view on what happened there to get a handle on it, but I assume most people involved in it from the beginning didn’t see it as something they would build to be a permanent institution. It would be a catalyzing thing. How did you see Chaos going when you were involved in it at its height?
Phil: Well some people say it’s still at its height. I’ve hoped for a long time that whatever Chaos mutates into will surprise me and inspire me and possibly even make what I’ve been doing look like nothing compared to the new generation of magicians. I’d like to see a new generation of magicians that make what I do and have done seem boring. I want to see new ideas and creativity and inspiration zapping out. I want to be surprised, y’know?
I’ve occasionally thought the Chaos thing will just become another ‘Thing’, in the way that we’ve got Wiccans and Fairy Wiccans and Hedge Wiccans and Qabalists and neo-Qabalists and Thelemites and Thelemites who don’t like other Thelemites; and it’ll just become another little sub-section within the Big Thing. Pete Carroll has this idea that—I don’t know if I read him right here—he has this idea that Chaos Magic will become a huge movement, it’ll totally displace all other magical systems. I don’t think that’s gonna happen.
Gyrus: It’d be far too much of a self-contradiction before it got that far anyway.
Phil: Yeah, I think so. I think it’s always been for me the nature of Chaos to mutate it in all directions. If we take the idea that any person practising or doing Chaos Magic to varying degrees is doing it from their own perspective that’s not going to be the same as mine, your’s or anybody else’s, then it has to explode into some pretty interesting areas. Where it’ll all be in twenty years’ time, I’ve no idea. And it’s not really something I think about. I don’t really know where I’ll be in twenty years’ time, so I can’t really saying anything about Chaos Magic.
The northern tradition, magic & politics
Gyrus: Norse mythology—is that your thing that you’re most interested in at the moment?
Phil: No, I went through a phase of it. It wasn’t a paradigm I was really very attracted to. I tend to be influenced by the people around me. At one point I was moving in circles where I was meeting a lot of people who were interested in that. I got interested, did some rituals, and did a six-month magical retirement working specifically with Thor, which wasn’t chosen by me, I would never have picked Thor to work with, but I actually found it very, very interesting. It was just a phase I went through. I like the myths, I like some of the stories. I think the whole Norse mythology, the way the Norse people thought about their deities, is extremely interesting. When you look at modern paganism… I think in Western neo-pagan currents there’s a lot of repressed Christianity. You can’t imagine Christians telling jokes about God or Jesus. I’ve met pagans who start frothing at the mouth if you start telling jokes about (reverent whisper) the Goddess. But of course the Norse people have all these funny stories about Thor having to dress up as a woman to get his hammer back, and Odin shafting people—one way or another. I find the Norse system very interesting.
Gyrus: It seems contrary to its more public image, as being very—
Phil: Right wing, you mean? Nazi, Aryan stuff?
Gyrus: I suppose, yeah—being very sombre and self-indulgent, self-important.
Phil: Well, yeah, there’s certain elements of that in it, but you can find that anywhere you look. It’s just that, because of its Nazi associations, the Norse tradition has that particular attachment to it. I’ve certainly met very extremely right-wing people involved in it, but that doesn’t invalidate the paradigm. I was talking about Edred Thorssen to some acquaintance of mine in Oxford a couple of years back, he goes, “Edred Thorssen! But he’s a Nazi! Why are you working with him?” I thought, “That’s interesting, isn’t it? Why shouldn’t I work with him? Some people seem to instantly equate anyone who’s into the Northern Tradition or the runes with being a Nazi. Do his alleged politics invalidate what he’s writing about?” It’s interesting to see, again, taboo areas in localized magical subcultures. Again it’s how people blinker things out. So it’s like the Northern tradition is a no-no ‘cos there’s a lot of people who have problems with their right arms involved in it. Tantra’s alright. But if you look at what’s happening with Tantriks in India now, ritually slaughtering children—
Gyrus: As part of what?
Phil: Well, I read a big report… (Phil flicks through a magazine) Yep—’Children of a Lesser God’: “The age-old practice of ritual child-sacrifice is once again taking place in India… Children snatched from their homes and ritually sacrificed.” Tantriks are involved in that. And some of these Tantrik gurus are actually members of the BJP, which is a large Indian nationalist party. Of which in the report it says that there was this really famous Indian artist, whose name escapes me, had an exhibition of his paintings in one of the big cities, and hundreds of these BJP stormtrooper kids turned up and set fire to the gallery. Their reasoning? Because he dared to show one of the goddesses naked.
Gyrus: Is that typical of current Tantra in India, or is it just a branch of it that’s become very—
Phil: Politicized. Well, Tantra is a dodgy thing. There’s all the New Age stuff and it’s all nicey-nice, and yeah it’s about sex and nice things, but there’s the dodgy side of it as well. It’s like Voodoo, which went through a heavily popular phase a few years ago in England. And then you look at Voodoo and the Ton-ton Macout. The really horrible things that Voodoo sorcerors have done, and do. That gets hidden away in the background. Something I was talking about with Gordon, we actually a bit slagging off Michael Harner and his shamanic teachings, ‘cos the first thing that Michael Harner did to get himself a name was do an anthropological study of the Jivaro [in South America], who are one of the most horrible blood-thirsty tribes on the planet. They’re head-hunters, their power animals are tarantulas and anacondas, and part of their magical system is that you’re not really a shaman until you’ve killed another shaman. And that all gets ‘edge out’ of modern Western shamanism. I think the whole thing about the Norse tradition and its right-wing antecedents is the same sort of thing. It’s just that it’s easier for people to see, to make that connection…
I think it also ties into people’s liberal fears about nationalism, a sense of cultural identity. What I find really strange in America is that a lot of my magician friends are very patriotic. They hated all the American stuff, but they had no qualms about being proud to be Americans. They hated the government, they were anarchists, but they were Americans. And I was thinking, if I went to a magical meeting and stood up and said, “I’m proud to be a British person!”, I’m sure the daggers would be flying across the room, astrally.
Gyrus: There’s a lot of people I know who, I think it’s part of being part of road protests or ecological movements, who are proud, not in the common sense, of the land we live on. As opposed to being proud of the state apparatus and the culture we’re part of. Do you think there’s a distinction there in patriotism or connection to your country? It’s a different thing I think for Britain because we’re an island. Do you feel any of that, patriotism in terms of love for the country—
Phil: Yeah, I think I do, I think I’d find it really difficult to live abroad. I feel I have a strong connection to the land. I’m not, I would hasten to say, particularly interested in state-patriotism, I just find it a really interesting idea to play about with. One of my friends at work really doesn’t like French, and I don’t like French either, having had bad experiences… It’s a barrier I’ve agreed to live with ‘cos I enjoy it. I think… Agincourt! We’ve always hated the French, and the French hate us, y’know? I like to play with that. But I don’t think I’m quite ready for a Union Jack T-shirt yet! It’s another taboo thing—saying “I’m proud to be British” is a taboo. Maybe standing up and saying so in the right public arena would be a real klesha-smash.
Gyrus: People like Morrissey got shit-loads of flak for that.
Phil: Freyja Asswyn, a few years ago, I think at a Leeds Occult Society talk, when asked, as was inevitable, did she think that black people could study the runes, said no. And a whole section of the audience got up and walked out. And I thought that’s a knee-jerk response. They didn’t pull her up on this, they just walked out. Why is she saying that? I don’t think she was right, and I don’t think she does anymore, she might not even have meant it at the time. But I remember someone saying to me, “Do you think white people can study Voodoo?” Well I dunno really—Voodoo is so much a pan-African tradition. I think you have to be in a culture where it’s accepted. Yeah, you can study Voodoo in your basement flat in Basingstoke, but things like Voodoo I think very much require some kind of cultural environment to relate to it—after all it’s a very community-based thing.
Gordon once told me that a Lakota shaman had asked him if whites had any spiritual traditions of their own, as all he could see was white folks ripping off his people’s beliefs. I think we have to be very careful when we appropriate chunks of living magical traditions, otherwise it’s Western imperialism all over again. The West has take their land, their culture, their dignity, and now we’re coming back for their spiritual beliefs. On reflection, Freyja was making a good point about the relevance for different people taking on ‘foreign’ belief-systems—of course it was taken as being un-PC, but again, this is us white folks making sweeping assumptions without looking more closely into the matter. One ‘black’ magician told me he preferred Western magic to his own indigenous traditions as he considered it to be ‘more powerful’ than them, which would horrify the PC-brigade, who I think like ‘natives’ to be ‘natives’—it’s unconscious prejudice in another form. Just recently I was talking to a woman about Seidr, and she was saying, “Well of course, you wouldn’t understand it—you have to be a woman or a gay man to understand it.” And I’m thinking, “So just because I’ve got a girlfriend she assumes I’m straight and therefore can’t do seidr. If I’d been sitting there with a male lover she’d have behaved completely differently.”
Tradition and Chaos
I think the Norse tradition, for a lot of people I know who’ve worked in the Norse tradition, to the exclusion of everything else, see where they’re living in Britain as relating to that tradition. ‘Cos there’s certain elements of the Norse tradition all over the country, in our language, in places…
Gyrus: That seems to be a very ‘un-Chaos’ approach to it—that you need that cultural framework within which to work with something… I thought Chaos was a sort of unrespectful thing, to read a book about an African culture, or Australian Aborigines, and use elements of the way they see the world in the way you go about your magical work or whatever, wherever you are. I ‘clicked that in’ as the Chaos approach. But what you’re saying is that you have some sort of respect for the cultural frameworks…
Phil: Again it’s different Chaos approaches… When I was doing my Northern tradition stuff, I was reading the myths, great stories, enjoying them, and I was working with Thor. I was trying to think, how will I behave in a way that Thor likes? I was doing Northern tradition magic, I was researching into the culture as it was then, and trying to understand what historical effect that culture has had on Britain. The good thing about Britain is it’s such a melting-pot place, Britain is such a pot-pourri of cultures. A great deal depends on your magical approach. Yes, you can have a bit from here and a bit from there and a bit from elsewhere; that’s not really how I do things. If I’m going to do a Tantrik ritual, then it will be an entirely Indian-based working.
Gyrus: Although you’re not Indian…
Phil: Although I’m not Indian, no. But I would make the working Indian-based in the sense that I would only use Indian ritual structures and symbolism—trying to recreate the ‘spirit’ of the ritual, and I think using Western ritual structures and formulations detracts from that. What I’ve come to realize recently is that when I’m doing Tantrik work, or when I’m trying to think Tantrik, if you like, it’s important that I understand the history of that culture. I try and get some understanding of what’s happening in it now; understand how Tantra contributes to the psyche of that culture. For me, it’s problematic just to take something from a culture without understanding how what you’re taking relates to that culture. It’s like what we were talking about earlier in terms of taboos. Yeah, you can do the rite of Five M’s, but it wouldn’t be powerful, because those Indian taboos are not taboos in Britain. So that rite is almost invalidated, you have to find some new taboos. For me a problem in modern magic is we tend to project things onto what we take from other cultures. I sometimes wonder if we’re so interested in taking stuff from other cultures because we don’t know anything about our own. The Norse tradition is helpful there because it is a magical culture related to Britain and northern Europe. It’s an interesting thing to get more awareness of. Because I’m tapping into our own history, it’s part of our own ‘dreaming’. The Aborigines’ Dreaming idea is interesting in itself, but it’s also useful to take things from our own history. For me an issue is respecting those traditions.
When I was doing the Thor work—I was doing it as part of my IOT work—one very popular approach to magic in the IOT, when I was in it at least, was invocation to possession. To be possessed by an entity. If I’d been just using IOT-accepted procedures, I would have done possession work with Thor. But because I’d done research into how Thor fitted into the culture, I decided, rightly or wrongly, that possession work with Thor wasn’t appropriate to how Thor was viewed. ‘Cos I would say that—again this is only my opinion—that possession work, in the Norse culture, would have been associated with Seidr magic. Which is getting very popular at the moment… No one quite knows what it is, which I suspect is one reason why it’s getting popular—’cos you can say, “Oh, this is Seidr! This is Seidr, this isn’t Seidr, this is Seidr, and this is a Seidr workshop—£75.” As I see it, Seidr was something the wandering loonies did—the sorceresses, the shamanesses, the gay shamans, however you want to define them. Not yer normal, everyday folk—which is what Thor was the god of, he was the god of the Thralls, of the common people. Because personally I didn’t find possession work, which is (frantic gibbering sounds) with Seidr—which is not the way of the common folk, it’s for special people—I didn’t feel that possession was appropriate. Y’see how I’m trying to fit the argument in?
I think that when we borrow things from this culture and that culture, we have some responsibility to find out: Is it appropriate to do that in the first place? Why is it done like that in that culture?
Gyrus: This respect for and responsibility towards another culture is emerging out of the Chaos view, in that—
Phil: Emerging out of my view.
Phil: Out of my Chaos Magic approach. Just to clarify it a bit more, I realized fairly recently that, although I’ve been interested in Tantra for some years… I didn’t know anything about India. I’d been reading about this Tantric cult who lived in Assam in the fifteenth century… I didn’t know where Assam was! It was a shock, and I thought I should know.
Gyrus: Because the relativist Chaos approach is that every culture, magical order, whatever, is part of a culture ‘cos it’s culturally conditioned… That relativistic approach actually leads towards wanting to find out about that culture, and respecting it…
Phil: Well, hopefully. That’s certainly how I would view it. Because for me a strong element of Chaos Magic is: if you’re gonna do something, why not pull out all the stops? I’ve seen a lot of people do rituals to gods and goddesses from other cultures, that have been like a very minimalist ritual, and for me they’ve had no power. If somebody’s gonna do a ritual with… I don’t know… Isis, I wouldn’t just put a black robe on and stand in the middle of the room and do something that goes on for twenty minutes. I’d probably make the room completely Egyptian, make myself up like Isis, the full lot. And take weeks over it if necessary. I would really pull out all the stops… make it powerful. For me the problem with taking a bit here and a bit there is that you actually lessen the power you can give to an experience. If you’re gonna do something that demands that you fast for twelve hours, that you actually put yourself out, that you maybe stop smoking for a week so you can afford this particular bit of magical apparel that you need for a ritual… y’know you have to sacrifice to get anything together… and that you really make it a powerful thing, personally for you. Rather than just going, “Oh I’ll do that”—and in five minutes it’s over and you do another ritual. I’ve never found that approach worked for me. This background reading, this research that I’ve been talking about, is part of making the process powerful for me.
You get things like… I’d been doing a mantra—and I didn’t understand what the mantra was about. Which for Indian magic would be nonsensical, because you have to understand what the mantra’s about before you can click with it. But people do it all the time. “Oh, that’s a really nice mantra.” “What does it mean?” ” I don’t know.” “Well go and find out.”
Gyrus: It just struck me as interesting that the approach of ‘doing what works’, which is usually seen as…
Phil: Doing what’s most convenient.
Gyrus: Yeah. And that’s part of the ‘bad reputation’ that Chaos has got. If you actually seriously consider it, doing what works involves a lot deeper consideration of what you’re doing than most traditional approaches.
Phil: This is certainly where my thinking has gone for the last few years. That what works is what becomes powerful. For something to work is has to be powerful and you have to make it personally powerful, and that involves a lot of time and hard work and personal research and heart-searching. Only today I was keying in this essay from about 20 years ago on Huna magic. And in Huna magic there’s this idea that you formulate your statement of intent, but before you can do it you have to ask your unconscious whether it will—in this Huna system it’s the unconscious self that actually does the magic, you just ‘decide’ it—and you have to ask your unconsciousness if it will carry out this request for you. And I find that a really interesting point. ‘Cos so often somebody goes, “Right, it’s my statement of intent to do this,” and it’s not questioned. You never say, “Should I do that? Is it appropriate for me to do this? Why do I want to do this? Do I want to do it because it’s the right thing to do or because I’m just boosting my ego?” Again that’s something that’s become increasingly important for me over the years, this ‘think before you enchant’ kind of thing. Which I think is particularly important if you’re intervening in another person’s situation. Why am I getting involved in this… road protest? Am I doing it because I’m genuinely against what’s happening? Or am I doing it ‘cos I know that if I go there I’ll get spotted by the media’s cameras and I’ll look good? Surely there must be elements of this happening now as the road protests become more and more high profile. That people are turning up not because they have a firm belief in protesting against the road, but because it’s the in thing to do, or it’s become trendy.
Gyrus: I heard about harnesses becoming accessories in London clubs. Whether they’re protesters who’ve grown attached to their harnesses or non-protestors who’ve seen it in I-D magazine, you can never tell—but I’m sure that element’s there.
Phil: I use that as an example, but I think a lot of this happens with people in the magical scene. It can lead to a lot of quite intense discussions in groups. Like, I’ve been at a group meeting where a member of the group turned up and said, “I’ve got to do this ritual to heal somebody, I’d like you to all join in.” But you go, “I don’t like that person, I don’t want to heal them.” Or, “Why should we heal them. That’s your thing, you deal with it.” It becomes a big ‘monster’, almost. People turn up expecting that everybody else will fall in with them. And of course it doesn’t happen. What often happens is that people go along with the ritual ‘cos they’re too scared to actually make waves. But something that I’ve decided for myself is, if I really don’t agree with something, I’m not gonna do it. I don’t care how much bad blood it causes before afterwards and during, I’m not gonna do it. ‘Cos it’s about taking my own responsibility for what I do and don’t want to get involved in. This has lead to some quite strong arguments with people, and loss of friendship, ‘cos I wouldn’t support their ritual, I wouldn’t support their intent. I said, “I don’t care. Can’t you respect that I have a different view on this subject?”
Ask me another question, I’m just rambling on now.
Gyrus: Loads of the stuff that I’ve written down we’ve actually got to along the way. I’ve got ‘apocalypse’ as the last thing. We talked a lot about this last time, but… What do you plan to do on New Year’s Eve, 1999?
Phil: Haven’t planned anything.
Gyrus: I was really struck by Stewart Home’s thing about ‘Say No To The Millennium’ [London Psychogeographical Association Newsletter, Beltaine 398 (1997)].
Phil: I thought that was funny, yeah. He’s become really popular—I went into Books Etc. and his book was on the bestseller shelf! Mr Home is gonna become a ‘media figure’ I think, like Irvine Welsh.
Gyrus: I thought he’d gone in the other direction, that he was just becoming more and more obscure, studying Hegelian philosophy…
Phil: Well there’s that side to him as well, but he seems to be making it into the mainstream.
Gyrus: What I was interested in about that was: is it possible to be indifferent to the year 2000? And his article, saying ‘no’ to the millennium, and ranting against the Millennium Dome or whatever… I just started thinking, well, it’s been a thing for a while, just ‘cos it’s the year 2000. Friends over the past have said that we should arrange to do something on New Year’s Eve, so wherever we go, we’ll meet up for this point—just ‘cos it’s there, and it’s this round number in our calendar. I read that and it touched a lot of things that have been coming up over the past, I thought, “Yeah, I don’t want to participate in it.” But my decision to not participate in it wouldn’t have come about if there wasn’t some sort of—
Phil: Brouhaha about it all…
Phil: Well I don’t think you can ignore it totally. I mean millennialism is such a strong force, in Christian culture particularly. There was a lot of stuff in the Middle Ages when the end of the world was declared virtually every year. I suppose the best way for me to think about it now would be to relate it to the Princess Diana thing. Because I tried as hard as I could to ignore that, and I couldn’t. And in the end I sat down and talked about it to one of my friends, Jo, and we actually had a very interesting conversation about how Diana was a popular cultural symbol of the Goddess.
Gyrus: She was called ‘Queen of Heaven’ by so many people…
Phil: Diana, of course, Diana of Theseus…
Gyrus: I think her brother referred to that in the speech he gave at the funeral…
Phil: It’s almost like a popular symbol of the Goddess… (squelching noise) The Goddess is dead.
Gyrus: She’s being buried on an island in the middle of a lake…
Phil: It just screams Arthurian myths at you. As a cultural event, her death, the whole death/mourning thing was one of the greatest things to have happened, probably for a few centuries. A tremendously powerful magical event. I mean nobody, I think, could have predicted what happened. In the end I had to, I think, realize that it was a magical event.
I remember on the funeral signing on to my internet service provider, and they had this thing saying, “We hope all will join in the ten minute’s silence by staying off the net during the funeral.” And I thought, “Fuck that! It’s gonna be the fastest download time possible, ‘cos thousands of people won’t be on the net.”
Even at work, we still had to discuss fairly early on, “Well it sounds too neat that she died in an accident… C’mon, let’s talk conspiracy theory.” That became quite enjoyable. And then we’d be commenting on the thousands of tons of flowers… It’s just impossible to get away from it. And then I started thinking, “I’m missing something here.” I don’t feel grief for her. I’ve always been pretty much anti-Royalist. I’m not engaged on an emotional level, but on the other hand, it’s an intensely magical thing that’s happening—I should be at least taking note of it. I suspect I’ll probably start feeling like that about the millennium at some point, but when I do I don’t know…
I’ve noticed recently, I used to rigorously… I used to be so in tune with the moon that I could tell you what phase the moon was in without actually looking at it. I used to rigorously observe all the… Samhain, Beltaine, all that stuff. Nowadays people go… Paul said to me, he said, “William [Burroughs] died at Lammas, didn’t he?” And it never even occurred to me that it was Lammas. I’m kind of like out of tune with the seasons, in a way I’m starting to find a bit worrying. Again it comes back to the nature thing—I’m trying to be more observant. I think it’s a ‘London effect’, that I’ve been kind of like losing my touch to the rhythms…
The year 2000… Yeah, we can be cynical about it, like Stewart Home’s being, or we can get totally onto the bandwagon. In some ways… I’ve got very odd feelings about the Millennium dome, ‘cos it’s such an outrageous thing—everybody hates it, Tony Blair’s going for it… There’s something very weird and magical about this government. It’s almost kind of like… (big pause) There’s something odd going on.
In some ways I think I probably won’t get all happy-go-lucky about the millennium, but I might think, maybe the millennium will mark a shift. The eighties was all Thatcherite stuff wasn’t it? Not a good decade for those of us near the bottom of the heap. The nineties is a bit culturally dead and postmodernism rules the landscape. Once you get behind the gloss of postmodernism, there’s a lot of cultural decay and emptiness, the whole existential void thing. When I was very into writing about postmodernism and Chaos Magic, it was, “Oh yeah, Chaos Magicians are people who enjoy the postmodern emptiness.” And I’m not sure I’m into that idea anymore. That whole idea about ‘the end of history’, what’s the next stage gonna be? Nobody can say what it is… Maybe the whole millennium thing will bring something forward… I’m trying to be positive about it here.
About 10 years ago I heard a rumour that the Grateful Dead were going to play at the Great Pyramid of Cheops on New Year’s Eve 1999. And I thought, “I’d like to go and the Grateful Dead at Cheops!” But I strongly suspect that I won’t. I don’t know what I’ll do.
Gyrus: I thought I’d like to be travelling around somewhere other than Britain, and by Christmas be somewhere where I’d lose track of the days and I wouldn’t know what point at which it changed over. And even that would be a reaction to the event. You can’t be indifferent to it, unless you’re already living in a culture that is cut off from the Gregorian calendar and indifference or reaction to it isn’t even an issue. If it’s an issue then you can’t be indifferent to it.
Phil: It’s like Christmas, in a slightly different way, but Christmas you can’t get away from. You can ignore it, you can… For me Christmas is something that doesn’t really start to happen until about the week before Christmas, when you madly rush around and get into that horrible Christmas mood. It’s never been a particularly good time of the year for me anyway. But you can’t ignore it, and it’s not gonna go away. I think the millennium is a similar sort of thing…
Gyrus: I’m just gonna go for a slash, sorry… (pause)
Phil: It’ll be interesting to see how the loony Christian cults respond to it. Because you know all that stuff about the Rapture? And the eighties Reaganite Christians in the States who believed there was gonna be a nuclear war, and the Rapture would come and they’d all be taken up into heaven. We’re not living in that kind of doom-laden environment anymore, culturally—The Bomb has gone. It’s still around, but it’s no longer an overwhelming presence. It’s no longer something that gives me nightmares about what I’d do if there was a nuclear war. So I don’t think we’re heading for an apocalyptic 2000. I don’t think there’s gonna be a major spiritual revelation across the world that’s gonna sweep us all up into the New Age—at least I hope not. I wouldn’t be allowed to stay on the planet… One of the books we’ve just released is this book that drivels on about the New Age that’s gonna ‘awaken’ everybody, and people who are not ‘in tune’ with it will be ‘removed from the planet’. I’ll probably be one of the people who’ll be removed from the planet then!
Again it’s not something I’ve really thought seriously about.
Gyrus: It is odd how… it’s not really odd, it’s—
Phil: I’ll be 40, that’s probably why I haven’t seriously thought about it.
Gyrus: I’ll be 40 in 2012! Maybe fed into my thing about that—
Phil: Oh! Have you seen that web site on the web, ‘2013’?
Gyrus: Is it part of the people who do Desert Moon distribution in America? Some people over there said about, “Oh, we’ve been trying to get this ‘2013’ together, and we’re really interested in your magazine blah blah blah…”
Phil: I don’t know it’s some kind of… I found a link to it from one of the Chaos sites. It just had the most brilliant graphics stuff on there. They seemed to be forming some kind of cult thing, but I’m not sure whether they’re serious or not, it’s just a really nice site, real nicely engineered…
Gyrus: Have you seen—I may have emailed the address to you—a site called ‘Bert is Evil’? About Bert from Sesame Street…
Phil: Yeah, I got that today.
Gyrus: Absolutely brilliant. Some guy’s got loads of images of Bert from Sesame Street and all these conspiracy theories about him. One of the bits I looked at was Bert as the member of the SS who orchestrated the Reichstag, with a picture of him stood next to Hitler… It was really well done. And Bert sexually assaulting people…
Gyrus: Yeah… I thought about 2012 as a ‘countercultural millennium’. (Tape gets changed.) It might be mainstream by the year 2010… And then it’s the same argument all over again, about being indifferent to it, and what you’re gonna do on December 21st 2012. McKenna’s said that he’s gonna be camped out in Columbia, or wherever he was when he did his mushrooms…
Phil: Probably with a few thousand people lurking behind the bushes…
Gyrus: Well it just seemed strange that most of the people I know who’ve grown up outside the framework of school-work-marriage have your attitude: no idea where they’re gonna be in five years’ time, y’know? It seems odd that somebody who’s done so many psychedelics like McKenna, and obviously appreciates the chaotic nature of everything, can say, “I’m gonna be doing this in 15 years’ time.” It strikes me as very odd. [And then he goes and dies in 1999 – Ed.] It’s a totally paradoxical thing. The only way that what McKenna thinks is gonna happen at 2012 is gonna happen, is if people totally grow out of the idea of… going towards that date…
Phil: If we’ve all forgot about it, it’s gonna happen.
Phil: “Oh it’s 2012! Where’s McKenna?” In magical theory we have this whole spectre of the new aeon, which I think is probably a similar thing. This weird idea that there’s gonna be a new aeon. And Chaos Magicians have evolved this concept called the PandaemonAeon—Pete Carroll’s Fifth Aeon. For me we’re all actually already in the PandaemonAeon, it just that we haven’t woken up to the fact that we’re in the PandaemonAeon yet—it’s something that’s already happening, around us. I often think the idea of a new aeon is a bit like the Marxist conception of the Revolution: it always just around the corner, and I’m always working towards it; but I really hope it’s not gonna happen…
Gyrus: Carrot on a stick.
Gyrus: I’ve been at parties where, when I was really into the 2012 thing, where I thought, “This is pretty close to what we’re edging towards.” Looking really closely at Hakim Bey’s T.A.Z. stuff, I started to think, “That was IT!” It was happening, it was there, y’know? The idea—my linear map in my head—of reaching out towards this date is distancing me from what I’m experiencing now. Thinking, “This is really close to what’s down the road…” Whereas if I’d totally trashed that carrot on a stick, I wouldn’t even have been thinking that, I would have been there. Which I have been at times—obviously the times when I haven’t thought about it.
I’m well glad this is gonna be the last issue [of Towards 2012]. It’s a useful phase. I mean, McKenna always uses this phrase, “using the calendar as a club”. Which I took as the key point of it, of going, “OK, we’ve got this calendar, let’s utilize it to bash ourselves round the head and wake ourselves up.” I think doing that has done it for me…
Phil: Well what’s interesting of course is that the concept of the future is a fairly modernistic concept. Again, something that Edred Thorssen bangs on about in his expositions of the Northern tradition: there’s a past and there’s present. Those people had no concept of the future, in the same way that we do nowadays. The whole thing about Futurism—early 20th century?—this whole idea that we’re going into this ‘future’…
Gyrus: Science fiction is late nineteenth century at the earliest…
Phil: It’s a very late stage way of thinking about time. Which is why I like Hakim Bey and his idea of Immediatism, ‘cos it scrubs the future… I got into a good conversation with a friend of mine about the future that we were promised in the late sixties and early seventies that hasn’t come about. The lost future, where’d we’d have nuclear-powered toothbrushes and things and big gleaming white cities… I think William Gibson wrote a story about that, about that kind of ‘missing future’. It’s interesting the way the future is, it’s a carrot on a stick thing like you said, it’s a thing to keep going—the cheque’s in the post, basically.
This comes back for me to magical ideas about time. Something I really find joyful about Indian attitudes to time is that they’re so amorphous. There’s an Indian word for time, the kalpa. It’s a unit of metaphysical time. I actually looked it up in a dictionary the other day, and found out that ‘kalpa’ is the time that it takes a bird’s wing to wear away a mountain. It’s a lovely, lyrical metaphor, but it’s not a strict count in terms of years. One thing I do enjoy about Tantra is that a lot of its concepts are completely metaphorical. When they talk about a thousand, they don’t mean a thousand in terms of counting, they mean a lot… They don’t mean ten thousand in the way we understand it… Because our culture is so hooked into the literal interpretation of the word, we miss out the metaphorical, or the magical, if you like. My problem with the whole idea of the 2012 thing is, it’s a nice metaphor, but it can only ever be a metaphor. Because 2012 might be something totally different from what any of us can think about. We can’t predict the future in that way. The new aeon that I began believing in as a literal thing—”The New Aeon will dawn when every man and every woman realizes their True Will”—it ain’t gonna happen, y’know? And what is True Will anyway?
Magicians use a lot of very amorphous concepts, and this is something I’m increasingly interested in. On all levels, not only—it relates particularly to my relationship with nature—but everything, how we construct meaning out of magical experience, how we interpret something in a way that can be meaningful for us. Again, I was reading this friend of mine’s magical diary, and he said, “I bought Austin Osman Spare’s Complete Works, and it was £14.95. 1495 is the complete numerical value of the alphabet!” And I thought he’s making a structured link, to interpret an event that’s happened to him that’s completely… chance. He’s bringing it into his magical interpretive system. I think one of the great interesting, and probably dangerous things about magic is the way that you can connect events together to make them personally meaningful. You can have an experience of God, and then go off and become a High Priest of Jehovah or something, and decide to go out and save the world. Or you can just say, “That was interesting.”
Creating the ancestors
Gyrus: I’m writing, trying to write a huge thing about time for the ‘Apocalypse’ issue. Loads of it’s to do with archaeology, and how we project our ideas of time back onto past cultures. The thing I was thinking about when you said about the future being a new part of our consciousness or whatever, what would be called ‘traditional’ societies are very, very deeply concerned with the past, and ancestors, burials…
Phil: This is why I’ve always been very wary of the whole ‘tribal’ thing in modern culture, ‘cos tribes are very rooted in the past, and modern culture is not at all rooted in the past.
Gyrus: I thought a lot about this recently ‘cos of the people who’ve died recently—Burroughs, Simon Dwyer [editor of Rapid Eye]… I think this is the first Samhain where I’ve started to consider the traditional, or supposedly traditional idea of ancestors being associated with that time. And thinking in terms of cultural ancestors rather than biological ancestors. We have a ‘past’ of the counterculture now. Which is a new thing, there wasn’t in… well I suppose slightly, in the sixties—there’s always been people throughout history who you can draw from. But now there’s people within this Western counterculture who’ve gone through the whole thing and died and passed on. How’s that gonna affect how people… Is it gonna bring back this idea of the past, or… I don’t know, I’m just waffling. These are just undefined thoughts floating around at the moment. Do you have any feelings for that, of cultural ancestors?
Phil: Yeah, I think I do. Something I got interested in quite a while back, coming back to magic, was magical role models. I started thinking there’s not really a great deal out there. There’s Crowley as a magical role model, and loads of people still wanna be Crowley. I’ve met people who were doing everything that Crowley did, in chronological order, to be more like him, and so on and so forth. Which I found most amusing. I got very interested in—I suppose it stems from my sociology studies—I got very interested in how we think of ourselves as magicians. And I started thinking, “What role models are there out there?” There seem to be very few. Crowley’s a good one, but Crowley puts a lot of people off. Alex Sanders is a very good ‘ancestor’, ‘cos he’s a wily old trickster, who started the modern witch scene. He was one of the awful people who did weird things and put a lot of people off, and definitely had a sense of the ridiculous. Dion Fortune’s a case in point, ‘cos again, a very, very powerful figure as a magical ancestor. But her society, the Society of Inner Light, which is still going nowadays, I heard that they were trying to ‘edit bits of her out’. They thought she was too pagan, they’ve gone very Christian, white light… They can’t really take her very pagan approach, and they’re trying to ‘rewrite’ her.
Gyrus: Sounds familiar…
Phil: Yeah. I do feel a very close spiritual link to William [Burroughs], in the sense that he’s been a great influence on my life, so I was very sad when he died. I did think about doing a whole formal ritual goodbye, but then I realized that having Paul and Caroline around and playing tapes and getting stoned, and just jibbering about him, that was my letting him go. I know people who were really, really, just totally… thrown by it. He’s an ancestor, I suppose.
I think there will be other people who are perhaps not very well known now, but it will be realized that they’ve left their mark. I think there’ll be fictional characters as well that’ll come into that, media stars. We’ve got the electronic extensions of the media, which will boost it. And our past is much more complicated now because there’s so much more of it. The past is being rewritten every day. I keep hearing about some latest controversy about them finding new evidence of humans starting not in Africa but in Asia or in America. I haven’t kept up with it, it’s just that what we take as fixed in the past isn’t actually that fixed. Bits of it are being recovered and rewritten every day. And it’s almost like the past is becoming quite amorphous in many ways. Which again is interesting because we have this fixed idea that ‘the past has happened’. It’s almost like the more viewpoints you get on the past, the less fixed it becomes. You get the thing nowadays where you think, “The things the government has done, will we ever find out about it? Are they still lying to us about UFOs?” That latest series of excuses by the American military about why Project Blue Book was initiated. It sounds like they’re still lying… The chaotic-ness of the past that we’ve got nowadays, that we probably didn’t have a hundred years ago. It makes for a very interesting situation…
Again, my problem with the idealized pagan and magical cultures is, there’s the idea of the tribes, which I don’t think… The problem for me is that paganism is very new. The whole neo-pagan magical movement in the West is what? Probably less than a hundred years old. So we really haven’t had time to evolve, I mean naturally evolve, ancestors, tribal patterns… We talk about tribal patterns, but we know from anthropology that tribes goes on for hundreds of years—until we arrive with the common cold and syphilis, and destroy them. We know that these systems build themselves up over generations. We haven’t had that many generations, in our modern spiritual pagan culture. We haven’t had enough time really to build up ancestors. In the eighties there were these various movements to create pagan councils of elders. I discussed that recently with some friends, and we said that the only way that we’re gonna get elders is how elders would evolve in any natural community, it’s gonna be a pattern over time. And we haven’t given ourselves enough time to do that.
Gyrus: Do you think that’s a positive thing, progressing through time and developing a sort of ‘pantheon’ of elders or ancestors or whatever, in a modern context. Obviously we’ve got to treat it differently to how aborigines would treat it ‘cos we’re in a different culture, but within our culture, is it… a fear of moving forwards? Do you think it’s an innate human thing, that whatever culture develops, there has to be, for any progress to happen, some sort of lineage, or connection to the past?
Phil: I don’t know if it’s inevitable or innate, but because a lot of modern paganism is about making connections to the past, then I think we haven’t given ourselves, as a culture now, enough of a past. You start to see it in little ways, like I’ve got a friend who’s an hereditary witch. Which isn’t to say, as a lot of people are trying to say, “Oh, he’s part of a tradition going back to the witch trials…” His mum’s a witch. I’ve met her, she’s really nice. He’s a Chaos Magician, she’s a witch. He can say, “I’m a hereditary witch,” and people say, “Ooooh!” And he says, “Yeah, my mum’s a witch!”
Gyrus: Well it’s the same idea as saying that someone from India, whose parents moved over to Britain, and they were born in Britain, they’re British. It’s the same idea.
Phil: I think it’s great to start trying to assimilate these ancient concepts of ways of living, like tribes and clans, what have you, a lot of American Indian stuff. But we just need another few hundred years to do it, before it sinks in. Because a lot of the time we are borrowing from other cultures, and I feel for me there’s times when I have to drop it and say, “Yes, this is a borrowing.” The AMOOKOS thing is particularly interesting because AMOOKOS is part of the Tantric heritage that stretched back quite a long way. For me that is magically powerful, the fact that I can… Alright, I can’t trace my… I know my guru, and I know the guy who initiated him, and I know the guy who initiated him, and that probably goes back to about the 1950s. Before that, we don’t know, it’s a void, but we know that the tradition stretched back several centuries.
Now for me that is magically powerful, but it’s not… even though I find it personally powerful, it’s not the same as being part of that history directly. It’s kind of like passed on. It’s like a second-hand history. I feel that—perhaps I’m being unfair—but a lot of people who become involved in spiritual, esoteric, pagan things are looking for a connection with a solid past… that just isn’t there. It’s like all this stuff about ‘magical traditions’. You think, these traditions have written themselves into existence, and are now trying to say, “This traditions comes from ancient Lemuria!” Which probably never existed in the first place, and if it didn’t it probably wouldn’t have spawned people who run around doing what these people do. We try and give ourselves a connection to the past that isn’t there, why do we need to do that? You can say, well it’s ‘cos of modern rootlessness and ennui and all that stuff. We need to feel that connection with the past. So perhaps throwing out an anchor into the backwash of history is an important thing to us. Perhaps that isn’t innate, I don’t know. But nowadays I find it very difficult to do that without actually considering that I am doing it.
Gyrus: But you think that’s a useful and powerful thing to do as long as you recognize what level you’re doing it on…
Phil: Yeah, I think so. Again this is probably a reason why Chaos Magic upset people, because in the early days it said, “Chaos Magic is not a tradition. We’re not claiming that this comes from Atlantis, or ‘ancient Druids’. We’re making it up as we go along.”
Gyrus: And now it’s become some sort of tradition…
Phil: Yeah… I mean on the internet I’ve seen people talking about ‘Carrollian’ Chaos Magic, so Pete Carroll’s become a label for his own brand of Chaos Magic, which I’m sure he would not like. Or maybe he would like it, I don’t know… He himself talked about ‘techno-rational’ Chaos Magicians versus ‘artistic-romantic’ Chaos Magicians. He said that where he was concerned that the ‘techno-rationalistic’ Chaos Magicians were the people that he was going forward with, and the anarcho-romantics would be all dropping like flies. I suppose I’m an anarcho-romantic Chaos Magician, rather than a rational, technocratic one. I’m interested in models, and explaining things. But I see the explanations and models as models, and I’m not interested in the ‘equations of magic’, whatsoever. It’s nice to play about with explanations, but when it comes down to it, it’s just weird stuff that happens to us. And I prefer not to explain it. But I’d quite like it to keep on happening, thankyou.
Gyrus: I think I’m out of questions.
Painting of Phil Hine by Asa Medhurst (c) 2015