Below you will find an interview with magician, psychonaut, author and psychedelic explorer, Julian Vayne. Julian is the author of the book “Getting Higher: The Manual of Psychedelic Ceremony” as well as many other books relating to the practice of magic and psychedelic adventuring. In addition to his books, Julian is also a contributor to the phenomenal Blog of Baphomet.
Q: What do you consider your greatest magical achievement?
A: To be authentic in ceremony in the service of others, to be engaged in the process of making a soul, to be an initiate, to strive for beginners mind. To maintain a sense of my ridiculousness and fragile humanity while simultaneously seeking to cultivate a diamond pointed awareness. Being at one with the universe in a way that includes a witnessing consciousness, self-arising into multiple identities at all points within the Wyrd warp and weft of the world – all that kind of stuff. I guess if you want a more ‘real world’ magical achievements there are plenty of examples of what, in chaos magic jargon we called ‘results magic’ that I’ve accomplished over the years.
You know, the kind of spells to enchant the universe according to our desires. I’ve seen miraculous healing enchantments work for instance, and ceremonies that cause changes in political structures and situations within culture. However I tend to favor a self-arising model of reality, where agency is a distributed characteristic.So you see, when you say ‘your greatest magical achievement’ it’s only every partly something I can own as ‘mine’. I’m someone who loves group ritual, practice and collaborative working, so ‘my’ greatest achievement is to be a part of the social and cultural movements that are transforming our world.
One of these is the movement to liberate the psychedelic gnosis – the use of sacred substances which our species needs to heal, explore and re-create ourselves in ways that, I pray, will be kinder to the life of this earth. One might say that my greatest achievement is to be a medium through which magic can become manifest. In the case of the emerging psychedelic renaissance I’m glad that the magic is working.
Q: Who are your personal heroes, those who most inspired you on your own journey?
A: Dear Old Aleister Crowley. I read that great hatchet job of a biography by John Symonds ‘The Great Beast’ which I borrowed from the local library and loved it. I read it many, many times. I was fascinated by him from around the age of 10 onward and went on to read much of his writing as a teenager. Then there is the poetic mother of witchcraft Doreen Valientie, some lovely texts by her which again were key early influences. These days I’m honored to know many heroes of practice. I’ve got friends who are gold medal winning martial artists, esteemed yoga teachers, excellent parents, artists and scientists. Some are deeply versed in occult traditions as diverse as Druidry, Eagle and Condor medicines, Thelema, Gnosticism and many others. My friends inspire me all the time.
Q: What importance, if any, do you place on full visual manifestation of a spirit during evocation?
A: NN DMT will give you strong visuals, 5-MeO-DMT is (for many people) less visual but it none the less real. Just because you can’t see a thing does not mean a thing is less real.
Q: What was your first “oh fuck, this shit is real” moment in your personal magical practice?
A: My first spell was a candle magic working to help my Dad sell our old camper van so we’d have some money for Christmas. I did a practice based on one described by Michael Howard’s in his Practical Candle Magic The spell worked. During the period of exploring this phenomena, ie practical magic, one can have lots of fun considering various interpretations of what’s going on. Confabulation and confirmation bias, cognitive dissonance, terror management theory and all that. So for me it’s not about an ‘oh shit this is real!’ moment as much as it is about keeping a very light touch on the way magic works. Yes it’s real. It’s also bullshit. Magic crept up on me this way. Sure there are outstanding moments of initiation, rites of passage, the occasional bit of psychokinetic phenomena but mostly I just brush it all off, sure magic works, whatever… 😉
Actually I’m continuously astonished by the world, the fact that I’m a bunch of atoms, some of which were formed at the dawn of time, making these words…so rather than ‘oh fuck!’ My general attitude to life and magic is ‘wow! that’s so cool!’ rather than some trembling sense that reality has caved in. Reality is bigger and more awesome that many people remember (including me) so when magic, or psychedelics, or whatever reminds us of that fact I like to celebrate it.
Q:What is one piece of magical tech you could not live without?
A: Breathwork – literally.
Q: At what age did you start practicing magic and why?
A: As I said pretty early. I was into that whole Left Hand Path thing when I was about 10. I know this because I had a pencil case upon which I drew a black and green inverted pentagram goats head thingy. The kind one sees in those cool 1970s pictures of Anton LaVey and The Church of Satan. This was definitely before I went to ‘Big School’ (age 11). I wrote DROL NATAS on it, LORD SATAN backwards. Thank god the Satanic Abuse Panic was some years off! My lovely and I suspect somewhat bemused parents must have thought me terribly weird. So I guess one might say that I started to do magic because I was weird. I’ve always been attracted to ‘the occult’, if I was being all romantic I’d say it was a calling, a vocation. Over the years I’ve explored lots of this esoteric territory, as I know many other magicians do – from spiritualism through to alchemy, from Qi Gong and energy work to dowsing, shamanism, goetic magic, Kirlian photography, Discordianism…the point for me is that awareness is a playground, especially if we learn to use our imaginations. Occultism is about pushing at the limits of reality by using imaginative structures that allow us to go beyond what we believe is possible. I enjoy it, that’s why I do it. I’m just incurably Psi-curious!
Q: What is your advice to the young aspiring magician just getting started today?
A:Make time to read some good texts on the subject, follow what fascinates you. Deliberately cultivate the practice of challenging your self with new material, new paradigms while still plunging deeply into your own special style. Do some bodywork, eat well, find good friends and a community of practice online and/or offline to support your aspirations. Travel, take drugs, explore your sexuality, cultivate kindness, try not to be a dick. Ensure you are nourished by natural spaces. Use the noose and goad (two of the magical weapons held by Ganesh, the God who breaks obstacles), that is the noose of mindfulness and the goad of introspection. Chill out, there is no rush. <Young magicians – including my younger self, hearing this statement from Brother RBB, magical tutor to myself, Phil Hine, Rodney Orpheus and others – will take no notice…>
Q: What are your current magical endeavors?
A: I’m writing a more poetical text about psychedelics. Getting Higher was a manual of psychedelic exploration, now I’m working on a book that will go deeper. I’m going to try for something as good as Crowley’s Book of Lies, Carroll’s Psybermagic or Dale Pendell’s Pharmako/Poeia. That and starting my own practice in the healing arts, using altered states such as those created by breathwork, hypnotic techniques, sound and other methods to allow people opportunities to re-arrange their minds. This can mean anything from working to cure addictions through to dealing with more complex health issues. It can also be about pure exploration or trait optimization too, but mostly this is therapeutic practice.I act as the facilitator, diagnosing and exploring which methods work best for an individual and then supporting them to create and use that altered state to make the changes they desire for themselves. I guess you could call it empowering trance therapy..
Q: How do you respond to Christian evangelists knocking on your door at dinner time?
A: Alas these days and in sleepy Devon they are a rare bird indeed. I expect The Rapture has already happened and God has abducted so few souls that the rest of us, dammed as we are, haven’t even noticed.
Q: What effect and focus do you think magic should have upon politics and world events?
A: Magic changes the world, if you want to transform stuff, especially in terms of human affairs you need to explore how information, art, symbolism and all those other imaginal constructs come together to create reality. Money is a good example of this, it’s based on belief and only vaguely rooted in the material world. Same with powerful forces that transform culture like advertising, nationalism or hopes and dreams. I don’t presume to know exactly how it all works, but I do dare to use magic to pull on the threads in the wyrd; warping the way the world works. I am lucky to be part of several magical networks where, among other things, we gather to do political magic. Which threads one pulls is a matter for the conscience and consideration of each individual and community. Personally I rather like the idea of upgrading and downsizing to a techno-eco Utopian culture of self-sovereign anarchism and interconnected hive minds. Fuck off Donald Trump! Fuck off Brexit! Burn the insufferable boundaries! Free the prisoners! Tear up the Bill of Rights! Pray for peace! Plant trees! Let’s stop killing each other, drop some acid, and get on with the journey of exploring inner and outer space together forever.