Below you will find an interview with occultist, author and magician, Mark Stavish.
Mark is a respected authority in the study and practice of Western spiritual traditions. He is the author of more than thirty books, including The Path of Alchemy, Kabbalah for Health and Wellness, and Between the Gates – Lucid Dreaming, Astral Projection and the Body of Light in Western Esotericism and has been translated into over nine languages worldwide. He is the founder and Director of Studies at the Institute for Hermetic Studies (Wyoming, Pennsylvania) and the Louis Claude de St. Martin Fund.
Q: What do you consider your greatest magical achievement?
A: Staying sane. It sounds a bit funny but I am serious.
Q: You have a new book coming out, can you tell us a bit about it?
A: My most recent book is “Egregores: The Occult Entities That Watch Over Human Destiny” and is published by Inner Traditions. Inner Traditions has been the finest editorial team I’ve worked with. I was stunned at their attention to detail and immediate enthusiasm for the book.
The book came about as I was having lunch in Binghamton, New York with Professor Joscelyn Godwin, when the topic came up. I mentioned to Joscelyn that was interested in writing a monograph on egregores and he enthusiastically supported the idea. Godwin is someone your readers should be familiar with, particularly his translating the works of the Italian occult society, the UR Group, also published by Inner Traditions entitled, “Introduction to Magic (Vol. II): The Path of Initiatic Wisdom”.
What makes this book interesting for me as its author is how the books came into being. Unlike my previous publications this one flowed in a very conversational style. In fact, while it progresses very nicely from topic to topic tying everything together, there were no actual chapters in the book. It was like having a very easy and informative conversation with a friend – which in many ways it was when I think about it.
While those involved in the project wanted the book to be a bit larger and include several more examples, when we tried to fit them in it broke the flow. So we stayed with what worked. This also explains the enormous reactions from early readers. Nearly everyone who was not familiar with the idea of the egregore, at least not in detail, stated that this book had changed their life. Now that is a quite a statement! We are talking about well-educated and even practicing esotericists saying “Egregores” is the most important book they have read.
Upon discussion of why they feel that way, it appears that this book answers questions that are always on the periphery of occultism, culture, and society. When you read it, suddenly everything is made clear, and the reader says, ‘Yes, I get it now. Just as I thought.’ I have written thirty books, all of which I am proud of, and I can honestly say that this book has the potential to change lives for the better. Even those who are not practicing occultists, but anyone involved in spiritual movements and organizations. This has been stated to me by several readers, so I am finally accepting that it is true.
Q: What is an egregore and how does a magician work with such an entity?
A: There are two definitions of an egreogore. First, an egregore is a collective thought form or consciousness of a group of people, regardless of their involvement in esotericism. A city, club, sports team, a school or college, or knitting circle can have a ‘type’ of person that associates with it, and therefore ‘fits in’. The second is the above, but it is intentionally created and connected to a spiritual entity at the other end. It is possible that people create or belong to egregores and do not realize that they are the feeding troth for a psychic being or beings somewhere in the sub-lunar realms. This is more often than not the case.
How a magician works with an egregore is completely up to them. Jean Dubuis, the French alchemist and founder of the Philosophers of Nature (PON) advocated freeing oneself from egregores to achieve maximum personal freedom on the Path of Return. Others may not desire to do so, so they need to fully understand their relationship to the egregore: what am I giving (your life force really), and what am I getting in return? What do you get for your time and energy because that is all you really have. If you like the answers, you know how to interact. The problem is many people get trapped in an egregore or the relationship goes toxic. In the book we have three very distinct accounts of personal experiences with egregores and what befell their members when the relationships went sour. We also have an account of the revivification of an egregore in Italy prior to the rise of Mussolini.
Q: How does a community go about creating an egregore?
A: As I said, either by accident or design, but for the most part, they will be created by any regular human interaction, they have a life cycle as well, and they can take on a life of their own. This last part is important and the cause of much trouble for people. Think of the Venus Fly Trap form “Little Shop of Horrors” saying, “Feed me!” all the time and you get the picture.
Q: How does a community go about dismantling an egregore?
A: You have to stop feeding it. There are also ritual mechanisms, and destructive acts that need to be undertaken, and we examine this in detail in the book. For the most part, however, egregores are not so much dismantled, as you as an individual disengage from it, or find one that is healthier for you and aids you on your journey. Not all egregores are bad, but all egregores are a relationship and therefore limiting to various degrees. You have to find what is good for you.
Q: What importance, if any, do you place on full visual manifestation of a spirit during evocation?
A: This is always tricky, and the more manifest something is, the more powerful it is, but also the greater your ability to deal with it as it is concentrated, thereby somewhat limited in time-space. If you cannot limit it, you cannot control it, and if that is the case, you may wish you did something else with your Sunday afternoon. The current obsession of evocation of demons in particular, and also elementals and shades of the dead is unfortunate. Everything has a place, but fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
Q: What was your first “oh fuck, this shit is real” moment in your personal magical practice?
A: Given my early experience I never questioned it, it was all simply a matter of intensity rather than reality or not. Now I have had some experiences that stopped me in my tracks and I had to think fast, these were nearly all connected with some form of exorcism or unplanned encounter with invisible beings. You need to relax, focus, and pay attention to the details – it is an illusion, a powerful and overwhelming illusion, terrifying even, but still something we need to buy into to experience it the way we do. If we understand our own mind, and the basis of phenomena, then we can control or extricate ourselves from that phenomena – evocation or egregore, it is no different – that is the basis of magic.
Q: At what age did you start practicing magic and why?
A: I started very young because I was always around it. My maternal great-uncle Edward Tischler lived next door to me and he was involved with a host of esoteric organizations from the turn of the century and his father Augustus Tischler was a braucherei, or practitioner of German folk magic. He was considered a hexerei as well because he could work with the Faustian aspects of “The Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses”. Joseph Peterson did a wonderful edition of this book to which I was asked to write a detailed back-jacket blurb. Those interested should get his edition. Also, Augustus was not the first, he learned magic from an uncle as well, and there is sufficient evidence to suggest it was in Posen (Pozen) prior to 1900. According to Stephen Flower’s book, “The Fraternitas Saturni” (also published by Inner Traditions), a proto-lodge of what would be the Fraternity of Saturn existed in Posen during this time frame. This is not surprising as Silesia was bit of a hot-bed of occultism. By the time I was seventeen I was involved in several esoteric orders and an officer before I was twenty. I was very fortunate to have good, solid, educated, and professional people to deal with. These were not people wanting to be professional occultists, they had day jobs and real lives, and life experiences few in the current generation can imagine.
Q: What is your advice to the young aspiring magician just getting started today?
A: This is not really an easy question to answer because it is contextual. To quote Charles Dickens from A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, …we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”
Students of esotericism have it easier than ever before, and yet no idea of where or how to begin. The amount of contradictory information before us is often paralyzing in its effect. Where to begin? Who to trust? How to sustain yourself along the way? These are the questions continually being asked.
The Institute for Hermetic Studies did its best to address these questions in its study guide, “Light on the Path”. It is a very useful book for individual and small group practice and is a good place to start. In the end we are all responsible for our choices and our path, so learn to listen, pay attention to what Nature is telling you, make haste slowly, and be patient. Impatience is what destroys our accomplishments before they are born. Most importantly, be kind and generous, without being foolish about it.
From a practical perspective however, spend time learning to meditate and understand your own mind. This is foundational because everything you do, even ritual, is in and through your own mind. With that, undertake dream practices as early as possible. Our dream life, be it lucid dreaming, out of body experiences, or so-called astral projection or Rising on the Planes, is critical for gauging our inner progress. It is easy to fool yourself about your abilities when awake, not so when only in the confines of your own mind. The work of the Night School is critical, and far more important than most ritual work. It is also particularly important if you want to undertake evocation because when your direct your attention into that area of action your dreams will change and you need to be able to deal with that in a meaningful manner.
Q: What are your current magical endeavors?
A: I do not discuss my spiritual practices with anyone not directly involved with them. To do so is the mark of a novice as it violates the most basic rule of occultism, “To remain silent.” It literally is a waste of precious energy to discuss works in progress. What I will talk about is our activities in public esotericism, primarily the Institute for Hermetic Studies. Our annual conference in May (2018) was a success and we are currently planning our 2019 conference. We have a series of four day slots and an extended evening program, with all of the presenters being top notch and usually published. It is a nice cross-over between the academic and practitioner realm, as well as bringing occultism, parapsychology, mass media, and academic disciplines under one roof for the day of information exchanges. We are working on publishing the presentations in an annual journal as well.
Q: What effect and focus do you think magic should have upon politics and world events?
A: Magic, or the power of the mind, is always being applied, as it is always a part of any human endeavor and this would naturally include politics. Now, should occultists tie their horse to a specific political doctrine or party? That is a personal choice. I suggest a good look at history to see how that has worked out in the past before rushing into that kind of marrying of egregores. The metaphysical children that come into being as a result may not be as beautiful and smart as expected as these types of arrangement are nearly always incestuous.
Also, you have to be clear on what your magical, that is ‘power directed’ objectives are as an individual. Are you after salvation? Illumination? Freedom from the Demiurge? Immortality? What are your personal goals? Does feeding your personal life force into a political objective help or hinder them?
Contemporary occultists have by and far been supporters of left of center and “Progressive” political programs and parties. This is an outgrowth of the Human Potential Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, and its spawn, the New Age Movement. Despite claims to appreciate the individual and democracy, it is very interesting that at their core most of these ‘spiritual political’ movements, and this would include various UFO cults as well, are essentially totalitarian and monoculture group oriented at their core. They are nothing more than giant egregores feeding off the naïve idealism of their followers. Jacque Vallee did a nice description of this in his book “Messengers of Deception”, and it still holds true to this day.
Wanting to do something to make the world a better place is laudable. So then actually go and do something: fix up your neighborhood playground, shovel your neighbor’s side-walk, donate from your own pocket to the local charity, library, or youth sports league. Start where you are at and work outward from there. Otherwise, using magic to attempt force other people to do what you feel is right through political action and its resulting policies and legislation, is just another form of manipulation and we call that ‘black magic’.