Episode 01, The Radiance
90% of what passes for magic is crap. It’s been that way since the beginning of the game, way back in old Mesopotamia, in the mysterious land of Magan. Slightly advanced shamans, which is to say practical imbeciles, made a bid for power that resulted in a big mess of superstitious snuff that’s been propagating itself through our world ever since. It works just enough of the time as to remain a nuisance to the scientific community and to boggle more intrepid mathematicians.
I know how much of magic is superstitious nonsense, but I still have to make a living and keep this store in business. Hence the witchcrap section. I can’t call it witchcrap of course, except among friends. I did want to label the bookshelf as such, but was told in no uncertain terms that I could not afford to alienate any more potential customers, especially white neopagans. They would be happy to go down to Santa Cruz, or up to Oakland and San Francisco for their needs. And most Latinos would just go to the Botanicas on the east side anyway, even if I do have a nice section on Santeria, Palo, and Candomble. I even speak Spanish and run this place out of an old deconsecrated church.
Truthfully though, this whole business venture has been a relative catastrophe, even if it’s always been a dream of mine. The turnout and sales have not been what I’d hoped for. Everyone has found something to get offended over, because I’ve tried to please them all on some level. It’s been disheartening to say the least.
The rent here in San Jose downtown has been atrocious. Everyone wants something for nothing, and I have to compete against entire online libraries of digitized grimoires and pirated PDF files. I even managed to piss off the Rosicrucians with a few harsh jokes about aging demi-Masons and what they’re really hiding in their secret tunnels. I’ve never been good with my mouth – I’m much better on paper. I have Saint Paul syndrome.
Tomorrow is comedy night in the back. It’s one more investment I’m running at a loss, but I don’t care because I know how important comedy is to the health of this corrupt, vile city, and it gives me a lot of joy to provide a venue for people to get things off their chest. I just wish they wouldn’t always attack me and the shop on the mic. No respect, these fools. And they wonder why they never get booked.
My family certainly thinks I’m a joke. They keep pressuring me to do something more profitable and productive with my life, like accounting or data science. Dead days like this, I wonder if they aren’t right, even if I find such prospects terribly boring.
I sit at the register, put away the ledger for awhile, and eye over one of the old classics, “The Black Pullet”. It’s a well-worn, almost cliché trope about a European seeker who finds a great spiritual treasure in exotic, tired old Egypt. He comes back home with the secrets of magic and alchemy, makes a fortune off of it, and lives happily ever after. The secret lies with God, an old Turk living in the Pyramids, a collection of silk talismans, magic rings with Persian God names, and a miraculous chicken raised in darkness to be able to find gold. Great stuff! The Chaotes have never been able to equal such literature in my opinion.
“Brother Ken” a voice calls out.
Pleasantly startled, I look up, because like ObiWan, I haven’t been called by that name in a long time.
My eyes rest upon a deep, ebony face, with bright brown eyes and a genuinely happy smile. For a moment I’m not certain who this is, but intuition, good old psychic sense, connects the dots of memory and deduction.
“My God,” I utter. It’s Edem Oladimeji. I skip out from behind the register and embrace my old friend warmly. We laugh in freedom.
Of the hundred something techniques outlined in the Vigyan Bhairav Tantra for entering enlightenment and peace, a simple one is often overlooked – reencountering a long absent friend. The truth of that opportunity impresses on my soul, and as I walk through that gate, I’m moved to tears.
All of my silly mundane worries and fears wash away with salt, and I am reminded why I follow the path I do.
“Aw, what a blessing!” my old friend exclaims. Indeed: it is!
I close up shop early for the day. Edem and I enjoy a walk down by the Guadalupe River, which is mostly dry at this point. It doesn’t matter. Our coffee is warm, and our hearts are warmer amidst the cold winter air.
I’d known him since 2003. We met on an old Yahoo group to study and practice the magic secrets of Moses’ 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th books. Well, the 9th was more of a tractate than a grimoire, but I did manage to take Julian Martinez on a trip to Holy Toledo for Qabalistic initiation. That was one of the better days of my life, and a good source of pride in my art.
Edem and I had never actually met in person, which was reasonable considering he had lived in Ghana and then New York. But our spirits fought together in wars against his aunt’s witchcraft, depressing poverty, racist persecution, and our own human shortcomings.
He had been through so much, my friend. Overcome so much adversity and hardship. And now here we were, having coffee on a winter’s day in San Jose.
“How did you find me?” I asked.
He reached for his pocket and drew out a small square of beautiful, polished wood.
On the square was a matrix of letters:
“AstroGlide, Ken?” he laughed.
“Inside joke” I replied.
It had worked. I wasn’t sure it would. I get all sorts of lovely crazy ideas when I’m communing with angels on acid. But my God – it had worked! I was immensely happy.
“How did you know to put French and Twi words into it?” he asked.
The joyous laughter continued. It was good to have some joy back in my life.
I was comforted with two implications of this gnosis. The first was that my friends in England and Canada, to whom I had also sent squares, would also be able to visit me soon as well.
The second is that Edem had achieved knowledge and conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, without which the square would not have worked this effectively.
“Then your angel – your principle is?”
“Right there in the top.”
Sandalphon himself. The Archangel of Prayer. What a beautiful gift! It was perfect! He would become a master of prayer and help many people. I gave him another hug.
“Blessed,” he said to me, “Have you forgotten the great gifts that our Lord granted you?”
“Perhaps,” I admitted. Lately I had felt so powerless, so poor, so out of touch and sync. Impotent rage, nights spent yelling at God for relief from my pain and suffering, begging him to keep his promises and be just in a world that never seemed to have any meaning to its hellish cruelty.
“Edem, you’ve come a long way, in both senses. You realize though, with sacred magic and the Sukkot rite: it’s a beginning, not an end. It doesn’t fix everything.”
He nodded. “But the Radiance, Blessed Ken. Have you forgotten it as well?”
He reached out and handed me another magic square. This one I did not recognize:
It was pretty – the combination of Hebrew, Spanish and Punjabi was ingenious. “Bahir” is Hebrew for “Radiance”, and also the name of one if the earliest and most famous works of Qabalah, which details the positive attributes of God: the “Saphires”, or Sephiroth.
“Sit down here for a moment.” He waved to a park bench.
“Hold the square, close your eyes, and pray to Our Lord to have your sight restored.”
I did as he asked, requesting of God that the scales fall from my eyes and that I’d be shown the way to the treasure I sought.
“Where do you go when you’re laughing?”
I’d heard that question before. It sounded like a Zen koan. It had that ring of truth to it that defies superficiality.
Watts. It had to be him, the old rascal. Dr. Alan Watts, the Roshi of Mount Tamalpais – English transplant, sinophile, tea master, and spiritual entertainer. And YouTube sensation thanks to a loyal fan base of Lofi hip hop DJs!
I laughed, and got the message. It got me out of my head, and my foolish efforts to manage the world and its problems single handed; an exercise in futility.
“Where are you?” Edem asked.
Sunlight. The forest. The beach. The park. Sun shining on the just and the unjust.
The light shone in Edem’s eyes. It was the light of a warrior grounded and centered in the place of no pity.
Shams. The Sun of Truth. The Light of the Soul. The Light of the World. Humor.
My angel. My principle. My essence.
“A city built on a hill can’t be hidden.” Edem quoted.
“Nor do people light a lamp and stick it under a bowl. They put it on its stand to give light to everyone in the house. Let your light shine before others, that seeing your good deeds, they may glorify your Father, Heaven.”
The New Testament. It wasn’t my strength, having grown up surrounded by fundamentalists who didn’t get the fundamentals. But hating Christians was a fruitless waste of energy and time. So many occultists harbor hate in their heart for Jesus and the church. We only make it harder for ourselves, kicking against those pricks.
Humor filled my soul. I levitated, rising above the sorrows and pain of space, time, and matter. I felt light as a feather. I smelled roses, and heard the flap of wings.
I remembered a passage from the Sacred Magic:
“Son, you’ll see how well you’ve done after all this time, when your guardian angel – the chosen messenger of Our Lord, a delightful, good spirit – appears before you in its radiance, and speaks to you in such friendly and sweet words, beyond what any human tongue can express.”
“Remember” Edem said. “Remind. Recite.”
I spoke the rest of the passage clearly.
“The angel will remind you what he has done for you and how you have insulted him in the past.
He will tell you how you please him in the future. He will explain to you the true wisdom, where it comes from, if and how you fail in your work, what you lack, how you should behave to control the evil spirits, and how to achieve all you desire. You will be overcome with so much friendliness that my guidance will seem like nothing.”
“Remember. Remind. Recite.”
I am young. There is so much light in my life, but I fear the dark within and around me. I am praised for my scholarship and writing, told I shine brilliantly, but none of the praise penetrates too deeply, because deep inside I am insecure. I hate myself. I cannot believe that God would love and forgive a wretch like me, at least not in any meaningful way. I am certain of damnation in this life and the next.
I travel. I write. I study. I gobble up the spiritual scriptures and literature of the world. I am a hungry ghost with a tiny mouth and a never ending appetite. Even as I depend on people’s approval, pleasing them with my cleverness and intelligence, I’m never satisfied, because I have no real center in life. I put on airs and summon up all manner of daemons to fulfill my cravings, serve my wounded ego, and defend the world as I interpret it. I see and experience many wonders, but the hole is never filled.
I make it all the way to graduate school. My academic achievements make me arrogant and foolhardy. I take on too much class work. I disrespect my ailing body, and fill it with drugs and junk food. I have many temporary ecstasies and exaltations, but nothing really lasting. My faith in God waxes and wanes like the moon. I am tossed and turned in the storms of doubt, and without faith, my prayers fail, fall short, and are thrown back in my haughty face.
Finally it all becomes too much. I crack under the pressure and am shown no mercy. School, my health, my hope – all disappear. I am left deep in debt, with no degree, and a reputation destroyed. Friends fall away or I push them away. Some conclude I’ve died, and even celebrate my just desserts and the success of their petty curses.
I survive. I work sometimes. I steal at others. I make the ends of shoestrings meet. I make new friends, then lose them too. Nobody gets too close, except for a couple, who feel entitled to taunt and demean me despite their own sins and vices. Not much has changed.
I meet up with a Sufi group in Palo Alto once a month or so. We listen to and read many pious diatribes and instructions. I chant Arab names of God until I am blue in the face. I pray for forgiveness. It isn’t granted because it’s still an act; still spiritual pride and exotic orientalism, the rich white privilege of playing at Sufism.
Despite this, I am gifted a book by a wise master:
He stresses forgiveness and purity, admonishing cleansing perception, advising clemency. Forgiveness is the antidote to rage, but the more I pray for it, the stronger the demonic djinn struggle. They won’t give me up without a fight.
I wash up on a beach in Santa Cruz’s Seabright Harbor. I drink too much. I snort cocaine so I can relate to my friends’ stupidity. It doesn’t make me feel better and my life is now shorter.
The burgers are decent. The beach is peaceful. The kids are friendly and share Buddha jokes. Homeless people show me how to find lost treasures abandoned to creek beds and rivers. They claim to sell back gold and silver platings for a good price. Maybe I should become a comber too. I already am in some ways.
Alcohol never really solves my problems, but it does make me feel as human as everyone else, so I continue drinking it, especially when depressed, hurt, despairing and angry.
There is an admirable equality in bars, but they can still be dangerous and ruthless places.
I have friends who love and support me still. I try to be there for them and return the favor. They feel as humiliated and ashamed as I do, and resent criticism or advice. I also wish to win for a change.
Avoiding alcohol will not be impossible. I can save a lot of money and health by not drinking or smoking. Psychedelics are beautiful luxuries, but not necessary.
I’ve had moments of Zen. Silence is still here for me. It is my ally, as is Death.
I have the knowledge of God: Strength and Mercy.
If I want mercy, I have to show it.
“Wake up Lord!” Edem intones
I come to from my reverie. The Nobility is within me; God and his heavenly court of knightly angels and principalities. All the old nobility of men; its here, in my blood, though mine is as good as anyone else’s. There’s an ancient power at work in blood and our chemistry, and it distills truth. I cannot blame anymore. I can’t pretend I don’t have the capacity for miracles; the ability to regenerate my life.
I have the power and I am that power. I am light. I shine; its my nature to do so. But I haven’t accepted that light. I didn’t believe in in because someone told me not to. Someone pulled a fast one on me, and convinced me I was inferior and dark. The Earth is dark and damp and full of caves, but it’s not Heaven’s inferior, it’s the Footstool of a Lord. It’s a beautiful lady, and bitches are beautiful dogs but not to be confused with people.
But enough bitching.
A Noble Spirit shining amidst the darkness of the world.
That’s the Radiance, and that’s the source of all real magic.
There’s my wisdom, ignored and forgotten.
I am Life.
I go on.