Joseph of Arimathea and the Soul Poetry of Glastonbury

Joseph of Arimathea

 

Today March 17th, as well as being the famous Feast of St Patrick, is also one of the feast days of Joseph of Arimathea and it is a date on which I always pause to contemplate him.

There are a number of legends entrenched in Glastonbury, stories concerning Joseph of Arimathea and King Arthur, that no amount of academic debunking can dislodge. This can annoy the hell out of historians, especially when hearing such stories uncritically retold as if they were of the same level of data as the Battle of Hastings or the Fire of London. The infuriating or inspiring thing about Glastonbury is how the real history, and it is indeed a remarkable one, and the mythology, are so difficult to separate. They feed into each other.

I try and appreciate what it might be about Glastonbury that could not only support the creation of such mythology but powerfully sustain it through the catastrophic destruction of the Abbey during the Dissolution of the Monasteries and on into a modern regeneration. It is really not as simple as the base motives of forgery and a desire to make money from pilgrim credulity.

In Avalon of the Heart Dion Fortune wrote ‘that the poetry of the soul writes itself at Glastonbury.’ I have happily adopted the term soul poetry for celebrating the numinous charisma of the place. I believe that the landscape of the area can have a profound effect on what might be called the higher emotions, the part of us that can appreciate a work of art, poetry, music. A sunrise or sunset seen from Glastonbury Tor hits the same spot. The Glastonbury myths are a work of art. A work of art that is alive and mutable for each new generation but carrying something distinct and eternal.

 

 

It is at the beginning of the Roman era that one of Glastonbury’s greatest mythological events is supposed to have occurred. Joseph of Arimathea, who the New Testament tells us provided the tomb for Jesus, journeyed from Palestine to make his home in Somerset, either in 37 or 63 AD. No written forms of this story exist prior to the Norman Conquest. This mythos has become perhaps the most enduring of all Glastonbury tales, resolutely refusing to dissolve before the sceptics. It’s one of those classic Glastonbury stories that attracts or repels people with equal force. Geoffrey Ashe makes the interesting point that academics often react just as irrationally as mystical space-cases to this material. The derisive tone of many detractors can be every bit as emotive as the devotional mystic. The Joseph story has left us with perhaps the last functioning medieval-type saintly relic. Supposedly he arrived at Wearyall Hill and planted his staff into the ground. It sprouted and became the famous Holy Thorn. The current form of the story doesn’t appear during the days of the Abbey but the thorn is of a type originating in the Middle East. Perhaps a Crusader brought it.

The Arimathean mythos has impacted significantly on the greater life of the nation. An extreme form of the tale has Joseph as the uncle of Jesus. He comes to Britain with the young Christ as part of an involvement in the Cornish tin trade. It appears to be this idea that inspired William Blake to write the words that, now known as Jerusalem, have since been set to music and become our “second national anthem.”

“And did those feet in ancient time

Walk upon England’s mountains green?”

It is a measure of the potency of the mythos that when the tree was decapitated in 2010 it made newspaper headlines around the world and saw people crying in the streets of Glastonbury.

I’m not quite sure if the sceptical academics and general haters of Glastonbury would like to remove all such manifestations from our culture. I would refer them to the works of Jung, Joseph Campbell, and Mircea Eliade concerning myth as a vital natural human function, necessary to the health and sanity of the individual and body-politic, and a measure of the well-being of the society it arises from. I would affirm that there exist certain special numinous places, somehow able to inspire the tribal tales that any culture needs to understand its identity and needs, its potential destiny. As Geoffrey Ashe connected me ever more strongly to its history, I became increasingly convinced that Glastonbury seems to be such a place, a place where history and mythology, two hemispheres of one greater brain, are almost impossible to separate.

Early on in her magical career, Dion Fortune worked as a medium for Frederick Bligh Bond. In an anticipation of her later opinions concerning Arthur, Merlin, and Morgan, she stated that Joseph of Arimathea was not a solitary individual but a title. Likewise, the Holy Thorn tradition predated Christianity. There had once been a major mystery cult centre in Glastonbury on Wearyall Hill. People came from the Middle East in ships of the tin trade to receive initiations there. There was a strong Druidical elemental flavour to the work. This is of course seemingly crazy Glastonbury stuff but it has a strange potency that clearly partakes of the magic of the landscape and offers another entry point into the Avalon of the Heart.

In my video, A Glastonbury Abbey Dream, I try and evoke its soul poetry.

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Star of Ishtar True Will Self Divination Video Presentation

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In 1992, in the midst of a Babylonian past-life saga and the energy blast of initiation into Reiki and Osho Sannyas, I experienced a coming together of all my interests in time and synchronicity into a system of knowledge based on the eightfold wheel of the year that gave me a glimpse of a higher-dimensional form in which the mystery of my true identity resides, the ‘Star of Ishtar’. This is a presentation, given in Glastonbury in January 2017, of that material, full of typical tales, expanding on ideas from previous lectures, which contains many actionable takeaways potentially of use to anyone.
I’m currently writing a book entitled Atargatis. This is a major project, tacking a wide subject range, that attempts to do justice to one of the great adventures of my life. All of the material in the video will be included in the book.
I mention in the talk that listening to a particular track from Ozric Tentacles began the episode at the core of the material so I include it here to enhance the flavour.
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New Book: The Michael Line, the Qabalah and the Tarot

New Book: The Michael Line, the Qabalah and the Tarot.

 

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Buy the Book on Amazon UK

 

Buy the Book on Amazon USA

 

 

In the lead-in to my presentation at the recent Glastonbury Avalon Tarot Conference I wondered if it might be possible to rapidly manifest a short book on my presentation. I’ve been giving public lectures on this material for over twenty years and I have long felt that a book would result eventually. In the midst of crazy circumstances, I managed it.

 

From the back cover.

 

The Michael Line,

the Qabalah & the Tarot

is a unique adventure that brings together

the Earth Mysteries, Psychic Questing, magic, art, creativity,

 history, and mythology,

 in a powerful blend that presents

 a transformative way of approaching a sacred landscape.

Includes

The Archangel Michael and his Age.

The Paths of the Dragon.

A Maltwood Mystery and the Sun and the Serpent.

The Green Stone and the Lights of Knowledge.

Ancient Egyptians in Britain. A Qabalistic path.

Albion Rising: the 1991 Michael Line Rally.

Landscape tarot and artefact retrieval.

  1. General Election Cycles of Time.

Aleister Crowley and Dion Fortune.

  1. Royal Wedding Cross of St George.

Seven Barrows and the Belinus Line.

Featuring

Graham Phillips, Dion Fortune, Paul Broadhurst and Hamish Miller,

Rudolf Steiner, John Michell, Aleister Crowley, William Blake,

Andrew Collins, Katharine Maltwood.

 £9.99

Buy the Book on Amazon UK

Buy the Book on Amazon USA

 

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Avalon Tarot Conference

AVALON TAROT CONFERENCE

 

 

AvalonTarot

 

I’m appearing at a tarot conference in Glastonbury this coming weekend.

I will be giving one of my best presentations, The Michael Line, the Qabalah and the Tarot, on the Sunday.

This is set to be a powerful inspiring event. Do join us if you can.

 

Avalon Tarot Conference

 

 

 

Michael Leyline Temperance tarot card by Yuri Leitch

Michael Leyline Temperance tarot card by Yuri Leitch

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Glastonbury Romance 2003 Video

GLASTONBURY ROMANCE 2003:

THE DAEMONIC GENIUS OF JOHN COWPER POWYS.

Video lecture

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Here is a 40 min lecture I gave to the Powys Society Conference in August 2010, not long after Avalonian Aeon was published.

Thanks to Raymond Cox of the Powys Society for permission to reproduce.

Why did it take me over ten years to write Avalonian Aeon?  There are good answers here. I always knew that the book would feature John Cowper Powys in a big way as I wanted to convey the extent of his influence and inspiration upon me. It seemed likely that I would need to re-read his thousand-page epic novel A Glastonbury Romance again. I actually ended up reading it 3 times in a 12 month period. This seems absurd but quite remarkable events occurred during that time which seem inseparable from my readings of the novel. These events were powerful and disturbing. I make my case for the artist as magician and Powys as one of the great magi of Glastonbury in that he communicated something vital about the place that none of the other luminaries of his time, Dion Fortune and Frederick Bligh Bond for example, managed to do.

So here is a complementary telling of my story of Abraxas in the Abbey also told in my Crowley and Jung lecture and the story of a terrible murder.

The contents of this lecture have since been published in my Glastonbury Psychogeography.

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Magical Battle of Britain Video

MAGICAL BATTLE OF BRITAIN VIDEO

 

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Here is a video of a recent Glastonbury presentation of mine on subject matter I keep returning to over a period of decades. It is nearly 2 hours long and features a brief visualisation about halfway through.
On this occasion I tried to cover some material I haven’t spoken about in public before. I believe there are some unique perspectives presented.
Dion Fortune is presented alongside Karl Maria Wiligut, ‘Himmler’s Rasputin’, the magus of Wewelsburg.
Wellesley Tudor Pole is presented alongside Rudolf Von Sebottendorff, the head of the notorious Thule Society.
I also discuss my modern revivals of the wartime Glastonbury workings.

 

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Mysterium Artorius available on Kindle

MYSTERIUM ARTORIUS NOW AVAILABLE ON KINDLE

 

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My first book, Mysterium Artorius, is now available on Kindle in the UK and USA.

 

 

Buy the Book in UK

Buy the Book in USA

 

Nine years on from first publication I’m still proud of this book and how much it contains.
Here’s a reminder of the mood I tried to evoke with it.

 

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Southend Glastonbury Cremation Ground Mandala

SOUTHEND GLASTONBURY CREMATION GROUND MANDALA

 

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Here is a 92 min video of my recent presentation for the Glastonbury Positive Living Group.
Glastonbury Positive Living Group. 
I thank Samia and Dave for inviting me to do it in full knowledge of the nature of the material involved.
Initial impetus from a conversation with Divyael.
Also yay to Chillfilms who recorded the basic footage.
  chillfilms website
I have added some imagery and music.
This is an incredibly strange, powerful, intense, potentially disturbing story. It is most definitely adult material and includes some strong language. If easily triggered, do not watch!
Twenty years after the events described I feel that I can’t wait any longer to get it out there in some form. I’ve always intended to write a book about it but I have no idea when I might find the time to do this justice and I have never felt that this extraordinary tale was just for me so I’m uploading it for all those who might be going through their own distinctly weird spiritual dramas in the modern world and looking for some maps of the territory to assist them.
After I turned into a dolphin in Glastonbury and took Reiki and Osho sannyas initiations in the same week, I was thrown into an extraordinary initiatory ordeal involving past lives, serial killers, Sai Baba, a Kali machete murder, the Southend werewolf, and the Whore of Babylon. This is a tale of how Shakti Kundalini does its thing in the modern world.

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Sleepwalking into War: Gurdjieff and Ouspensky

SLEEPWALKING INTO WAR: GURDJIEFF AND OUSPENSKY

 

 

Gurdjieff.

Gurdjieff.

 

 

Whenever this country gets involved in a war, I exhale wearily with the recognition that sleepwalking humanity is at it again. I am thankful to have encountered the ideas of Gurdjieff, expressed to the brilliant mind of PD Ouspensky, in the perfect circumstances of the Great War and Russian Revolution. They have provided me with a grim understanding of these situations for some decades now. I first read Ouspensky’s In Search of the Miraculous in 1982. It became my most-read book of the decade. Here is some material adapted from my Avalonian Aeon on the subject.

Gurdjieff’s critique of the general state of humanity seemed pessimistic at first. He stated that most of us can be said to be asleep in a trance of distraction. Each of us believes in a unique individuality but, on closer examination, most cannot demonstrate any real unity of functioning. We are full of small separate personalities. One part may proudly proclaim the intention to stop smoking, take up a regime of exercise, follow some idealised spiritual path etc. The “I” that likes to smoke or overeat or take drugs, be sexually deranged and so on, will later on assert its own claims and the lofty talk will be worthless. We have many I’s. They can all be “caliph for an hour”. Work on oneself involves the conscious cultivation of a “magnetic centre”. It is the responsibility of this aspect of oneself to seek out those influences conducive to the maintaining and expansion of its function.

What does that mean in the real world? The feeling of it can be better grasped by looking at it alongside another of Gurdjieff’s teaching ideas. Ouspensky discusses the concept of “food.” He takes it beyond the usual definitions. As well as what we eat in the normal sense, the case is made for regarding air as food. If anyone thinks it isn’t, try living without it for a while. Most stimulating of all was the classification of “impressions” as food. What we input through our senses can nourish or poison us. To take an extreme example, a person feasting everyday on splatter movies, hardcore porn and horror, someone who regularly read the literature of hate, racism etc, would be thoroughly poisoning themselves. Contrariwise, a person who immersed themselves in great art, literature, music, and the religious classics of the world, with a view to changing themselves for the better, would be getting some kind of higher food vitamins and protein. Although just what constitutes appropriate input is hugely debatable and variable, the basic principle is a call to some sort of conscious awakening. Gurdjieff suggested that once this process was really in motion, somehow one magnetically attracted to oneself the necessary higher influences. The world was full of them, but to the average tranced-out sleepwalking person they were all but invisible.

The historical situation in Russia during the period that the two worked together was a perfect backdrop for the demonstration of the power of Gurdjieff’s ideas. It began with the archaic Romanoff dynasty still in place as the First World War broke out. Gradually, insane chaos emerged. Russia’s badly led, ill-equipped forces were trashed by the German war-machine. Morale nosedived. The rumblings of the revolution were heard. Before long, a whole dynasty and culture was swept away and Ouspensky faced exile or death. For people with a feeling for history those events in Russia are amongst the most mind-blowing of the twentieth century.

Ideas that may have seemed outlandish or pessimistic were revealed by the events of the time to be spine-tinglingly insightful. Ouspensky resisted at first but the horror of the situation helped him to understand. Gurdjieff had said that we are machines, slaves to certain natural laws and processes that are as mechanical as a motor car. If people were remotely awake they would never submit to going off to war and likely death. The leaders of great nations are likewise sleepwalkers through the strange workings of unknown dynamics.

Ouspensky had difficulties with these ideas until an event he witnessed brought them to life. He saw a truck loaded with artificial limbs on its way to the front. They were for legs that had not yet been blown off but it could be calculated that they would be. There was something so mechanical about this process, something so lacking in conscious awareness, that the insanity of the situation was revealed in all its ludicrous horror. If those legs hadn’t been blown off yet then why on earth did they have to be? The process was surely stoppable. On one occasion, when Gurdjieff was discussing the horror of the war and the hollowness of the ideals it was being fought for, someone asked him what he thought of the pacifists? “They’re even worse,” was his classic reply.

There was a particular function of the mass sleepwalking mind that helped perpetuate the trance that enabled the world-historical madness to continue. Gurdjieff called it “Formatory Thinking”. It is basically that process whereby people are compelled to think and feel in terms of opposites such as black and white, wrong or right, left and right, and so on. This manifests in rigidity in one’s personal life and in the greater horrors of religious conflicts and wars between rival political systems. I could see it being played out all around me. It had turned British political life into a vulgar cartoon. On the larger stage Ronnie “Rapture” Reagan stood against the evil empire of the Godless Commies and megadeath was a possible outcome. 

 PD Ouspensky

PD Ouspensky

 

 

When the first Gulf War was imminent I turned to In Search of the Miraculous again. It had never felt more potent. The 1990 equivalent of those trucks full of artificial limbs that had awakened Ouspensky to the horror of the situation were on their way to the front once more. This time it was helicopters loaded with body-bags. Casualty calculations were being made. All sorts of jargon masked the terrifying reality. It was gratifying when seeing Robert Anton Wilson lecture in London whilst the war was actually being fought also mention the very same point, Ouspensky’s trucks and the 1990 body bags.

And so it goes on. Our responsibility is to cultivate a centre of gravity beyond the pull of formatory thinking and to actually become part of the conscious circle of humanity.

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Crowley and Jung. The Book of the Law and Seven Sermons.

CROWLEY AND JUNG. THE BOOK OF THE LAW AND SEVEN SERMONS.

 

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A year ago today I gave a presentation at a conference in Glastonbury on some of my favorite material from my book Aleister Crowley and the Aeon of Horus. From the chapter Gnostic Revival I discussed the strange commonality between two fundamental experiences in the lives of the apparently very different Aleister Crowley and CG Jung. Crowley had been led in 1904, after a series of strange experiences to write, supposedly over a three-day period, The Book of the Law. This was the most important experience of his life and he extensively promoted it. In 1916 Jung also wrote a mysterious text, The Seven Sermons to the Dead. It was likewise a vital episode in his development but one that he kept very much in the background.
The video of my presentation that day, which I have posted on this blog, didn’t do justice to the visuals I had assembled so I wondered about making them into a video on their own. I have made considerable additions and adjustments. Text was obviously now necessary. A soundtrack of early classic Tangerine Dream was added. I’m very happy with the results. It’s just over half an hour long. I recommend headphones and dimmed lights for best results!

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