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Wednesday 23 January 2019

Real Magick in RPGs Cont.: Aliens!

So yesterday I left off talking about Kenneth Grant.  You might remember him from an earlier blog entry as the one-time leader of a movement in occultism that argued that Cthulhu and all of Lovecraft's other creations are real.

Again, the fact that he died peacefully of old age in his bed a couple of years ago and didn't end up splattered all over the walls of his temple, or simply disappear without a trace, is pretty much proof that Grant was wrong about Cthulhu being real, in my eyes.  But in any case, long before he was a Cthulhu-loon, he was an alien-loon.

Now, you can take all of what I'm about to tell you and, for your own RPGs, postulate "what if its real??".  That would be the easy path.
What I'm saying is, I dare you instead, to ask "what if its all total bollocks and the dudes who believe this are just nuts?"; potentially with the addition of "but what is real, and interesting, are the kind of spiritual forces that lead one to this madness".  If you're running an occult game, to me its way more interesting to talk about the Qlippoth, about these broken shards of never-reality that do not exist and yet can have an effect on reality; and that drive insane those fools who call out to them for power.
If you're running a horror game, then the real horror is if its absolutely all in your head.  Note that one of the things magick teaches is that "it's all in your head" doesn't mean what we think; it doesn't mean that the thing doesn't actually exist, or that it can't do stuff in the world.

All of that is way more interesting than little green men, but let's get back to them.

First, some context: the mid-1940s.  Aleister Crowley was a very ill old man by that point, and practically penniless, having given all of himself to magick.  He had, to quote his own words, "little left but pipe and wit" (something I suspect I'll end up saying when I'm that age too).

Kenneth Grant was, in 1944, a 20 year old weirdo; he'd been interested in the occult from puberty; and had been reading  Crowley from the age of 14.  Finally, he had gone to meet the great old wizard, and Crowley immediately hired him to be his secretary (and de-facto general butler and caretaker).
What's all this to do with aliens?  I'm getting there.

What happens next really depends on who you believe.  If you read Grant, Crowley and he had an idealized guru-chela relationship, they were both crazy about each other, and Crowley clearly meant for Grant to be his successor.  If you read Crowley's letters and writings from that period, Grant was one of several students, clearly one he had some hope for, but there was always a sense from Crowley that he was making use of Grant as one of the few hopefuls of a bad crop; by that time, almost all of the O.T.O. and the A.'.A.'. (the two magical orders Crowley had run) had collapsed.  Crowley's original students who could have been his great successors, particularly Frater Achad (but also people like Victor Neuberg, J.F.C. Fuller, and a little later Israel Regardie) had all betrayed or abandoned him.  Now, many of Crowley's steadfast remaining students (like Karl Germer, Jane Wolfe, or Gerald Gardner, the founder of wicca) were of near-equally advanced age to his own.    Crowley was looking for a long-term successor, a spiritual heir, and there were three good candidates: Jack Parsons, the brilliant rocket scientist (but he was unpredictable and Crowley felt he was often immature), Grady McMurtry the soldier (but there was a risk he might die in the war, and he was the least tested of all the students), and finally Kenneth Grant.  I think that Crowley felt Grant was weird; he knew Grant was always a social misfit, he probably saw the glimpses of obsession and the risk of delusions in the boy even then.

In any case, Kenneth Grant, on visiting Crowley's home, noticed and fell entranced with an old picture piled up among the things in his cramped quarters.  Specifically, this picture:

See where this is going?

Now, this is a very interesting picture.  Crowley drew it in 1919 (note, decades before the whole "grey alien" thing became a big deal; and it sure looks a bit like a grey alien). The picture was titled "LAM".  As far as anything else we know about it? Once again, the story differs whether you listen to Kenneth Grant, or to anyone else.

According to anyone else (including Crowley, via his diaries): The picture was something Crowley drew for a hipster art exhibit while he was living in the U.S., then he used the image once for one of his books (to illustrate "A lama"), and then never paid any attention to it ever again. He never again mentions it in his diaries, for example, except to mention the day he gives it to Grant (where he once again calls the painting "the lama"). He had originally refused to give the painting to Grant until he passed a basic magical test, which Grant failed; but eventually relented and gave it to him anyways (clearly, Grant had been quite obsessed with it) when Grant helped Crowley overcome a severe asthma attack (probably by getting Crowley medically prescribed heroin).

According to Grant: Crowley and Grant engaged in a powerful working on the astral plane. Crowley's giving Grant the portrait was of extreme significance, because it in essence singled Grant out as Crowley's true heir. The figure of "LAM" is an extraterrestrial entity from the star Sirius, who was also Crowley's "holy guardian angel" Aiwass, the two were one and the same.   LAM is meant to guide mankind to some unspecified transformation.  Later on, it was revealed that he was in contact with Yuggoth and the Great Old Ones.    It is also connected to the "Tunnels of Set" which can be voyaged by "Tantric Time-Travellers" through "intra-cosmic Cthonian capsules".

After Crowley's death, Kenneth Grant ended up becoming the de-facto representative of the O.T.O. in England (the official successor in England was supposed to be Gerald Gardner, but a serious illness and a trip to the U.S. for health reasons disqualified him at the time).  He started a new lodge, which he ended up quickly turning into a kind of cult (possibly the closest thing to a real life mythos cult that ever actually existed), and got himself expelled from the international O.T.O., only to claim that he was in fact the one true worldwide head of the order (in what was only the first of several major schisms in that group following Crowley's death).  Then he spent the next sixty years of his life writing book after book about Sirius, tantric time travellers, the dark side of the tree of life, Cthulhu, and LAM.

Most occultists think he was absolutely crazy; but there were quite a number of occultists, and still are, who actually believed every word.  Of course, most of these don't actually do any work.  Nor did Grant go into great detail about practices to actually do (with LAM, for example, he outlined a very basic ritual that involved doing a banishing, devoting your aspiration to the "great old ones" and then staring at the picture for a very long time while chanting "Lam lam lam, etc.").

Anyways, there you have it.  Some occultists actually think that when they do magic, its to speak to aliens.  Most occultists make fun of them.  Do with that information what you will.


Currently Smoking: Castello 4k Collection Canadian + Image Latakia

(Originally posted March 21, 2014)

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