At last, I have some temporal and mental space to say a few further things about the Esoteric Book Conference.
Already today, some of my thoughts on the 2013 conference were posted on The Wild Hunt (and thank you, Jason, for allowing me to do that!), but I have a few further and more personal thoughts here for the moment that I wanted to get down on virtual paper as well before the experience drifts away entirely.
My trip down to Seattle (and back) was not quite as easy-going as I had hoped, for a variety of reasons. The single bus I took to get down there, which should have only taken about 30 minutes at the most, ended up taking me almost two hours in total, and involved a second bus and a walk around downtown with a large bag…not fun. The bus I got on happened to be one of the few which does not stop in the University District on its way down to Seattle that morning, which meant that I got off in downtown Seattle at approximately the usual spot where I do, then had to locate the “Bus Tunnel” and get a bus back to the U District, deposit my heavy suitcase where I was staying, and then go back via roughly the same bus route to downtown to meet someone coming in on the Greyhound from Canada.
The majority of Friday was spent going from place to place after I met with said individual, and we ended up trekking across the city, mostly on foot but also on the occasional bus or taxi, for a total of about six hours and at least five miles (if not seven or more in my case), from about 10:30 AM until a little after 7 PM (with a few stops for longer periods for food or conversation at certain points). I was not able to go to the presentation at Edge of the Circle that night, though I did actually stop into the store, met with some people, and then spent time with a different group after that. So it goes with these convention events…
We happened to get out a bit later than expected the next morning, since sleep had been minimal the night before, and that first night in town likewise didn’t turn up much decent rest for me either (even though we were “good” and were in bed before midnight every night!), and that meant that we got on a particular bus that a further friend of my colleagues happened to be on, with whom I’ve had some contact but had not yet met in person. We arrived in Seattle Center, I obtained my membership to the conference, and then the book-ogling and searching began…as did the search for a variety of friends and acquaintances that would end up at the conference over the course of the weekend.
I’m happy to say that most of the usual suspects were there, and were found and chatted with at least to some degree. I wish there were time and food-money enough to have had a meal or a drink with each of them, but it didn’t work out that way. I met a few further nice people as well that I hope to remain in contact with for the future.
One fascinating comment that someone had about my leopard-print fez with the peacock feathers in it, about which people both at the conference and in the community commented favorably on (and which is becoming something of a trademark for me at a variety of gatherings, including this one!), was that the blue in peacock feathers comes from seeds that they eat, but the arsenic is filtered out of it by their metabolism, and it is one of the things that leads to the blue color on their feathers. Because the feathers are on my head, sort of “sprouting” from my sixth and seventh chakras–so my interlocutor surmised–perhaps it means that I’m filtering out poisons and turning them into beautiful pigments energetically by wearing that hat. We’ll go with that!
My post on The Wild Hunt covered five of the nine presentations, and while I’ll mention one or two of those further here, I’d like to also just write briefly about the other four as well for my own devotion to Mnemosyne. The issues raised by some of these may, indeed, become further blog posts in the not-too-distant future.
Cole’s was called “The Nature of Consciousness and Time,” which seems a bit more vague than one might prefer, but which turned out to be based in his own expertise on Vedic astrology and Hindu practice. He discussed the various ways in which time is understood in Hinduism, and how it is not really the “non-existent” or abstract force that many westerners (particularly of an esoteric bent) seem to wish it to be. His definition of it is that time is the force that impels things forward and that can be measured through change, and that paradoxically the only thing that does not change is that everything changes. He also discussed deific concepts of time in Hinduism, including Mahakala–which is often understood to be Shiva–and of course Kali, whose name means “blackness,” but which also is the feminine form of kala, “time.” While the presentation was excellent, myself and many of my colleagues noted that being it was just after lunch, it was very hard to keep awake during it; alas, perhaps it was just the time for sleep then.
Shoemaker’s was the final presentation of Saturday, and it was called “Living Thelema: Reflections on the Path of Attainment,” based on his newly-released book of the same main title. As Shoemaker’s background is in various modes of (one might say “esoteric”) psychology, this perspective was rather prominent in his reflections…and, I find that to be a bit problematic, and symptomatic of a larger trend within a great deal of modern paganism and New Age thought–even though the latter two do not like to be lumped in together, but this is one of those areas where the one crosses over into the other far more often than it should and thus gives it its New Age character in those cases–of mistaking psychology for religion. (But, more on that another time!) Shoemaker discussed Thelema particularly in the A∴A∴ and its practices, and how the various stages correlate to different types of practice leading up to Knowledge and Conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel. There did also seem to be a bit more gender-dualism in this presentation than many of the others (though it was by no means absent from the proceedings otherwise, which is something of a worry, along with the male-heavy slate of presenters throughout the conference).
I have to come back to M. Isidora Forrest’s presentation one more time as well, because it was just so good, and the one most relevant for polytheists, I think. While I had certainly copped on to the presence of Isis in the story of Pancrates/Pachrates of Heliopolis, as related in Lukian of Samosata’s Philopseudes, especially because of what it says about Antinous, I had not really paid Isis’ presence too much mind, mainly because “Isis = Egypt” and “Mysteries” and “Initiations” was such a commonplace for late antique Mediterranean people in general, so I can’t say if we should put any greater stock in it than that, to be honest, especially since Lukian is dealing in as many ethnic stereotypes as possible in that work (and several of his others)…but, I’m also open to being very wrong in that regard. It would seem that Isis has something to do with nearly everything in Egypt at that point, and it would be strange indeed for her to have no role to play whatsoever in Antinous’ wider cultus (despite my not having a lot to say about her earlier when I dealt with that subject directly…which may now need some revision). And, of course, rather unexpectedly, this happened a short while back, which was an opportunity of sorts for a virtual introduction (beyond what we’d had earlier on her own blog) for myself and Isidora before the EBC this year. I shall be thinking a great deal more about Isidora’s remarks in the presentation, certainly, and how they may also have significance for Antinous; and, I’ll be eagerly reading her book when I have a few moments here and there (it’s big, so it may take a while!). Also, be sure and check out her blog, too!
Perhaps the strangest presentation of the entire lot was on Sunday, with Johnny Jakobsson’s “Zothyria: The Zothyrian Doctrine of Initiation. This set of ideas emerges from the work of Michael Bertiaux and his predecessors, and while it may have some roots in certain titles and concepts from the fictional worlds of Clark Ashton Smith, it is essentially a notion of an alternate universe and the alien beings who inhabit it (including Zothyrius itself–I was never clear on the gender of the being), as well as a time and space in the future in which it will be a reality…but, it already is a reality, along with its roots in the ancient past that likewise also coexist at the present time, in Atlantis and Lemuria. While Jakobsson was entertaining to listen to, and was one of the more dynamic speakers of the program, it does start to ring some bells of some sort when a presenter at a magical and occult conference has to caution the audience to “keep an open mind” when he is about to speak. Some of the imagery he presented could be put into the rebus of “spider-dancing on the soul train,” and if that image does something for you, you might consider it a triumph and trouble yourself with these things no further. Interestingly, the presentation by Jakobsson was far more specific and detailed than that of David Beth (who presented at the EBC in 2010), and yet like Beth’s presentation, likewise did not give any specifics on actual practice, or what any of this “means” or might be useful for. Given that the present universe and the present time is pretty damned interesting, I don’t quite know how useful it is to put too much energy towards things which are theoretical in their metaphysics at best at this point…but, many might say the same about any number of things within polytheism, so touché.
The very last presentation was by Fredrik Eytzinger, on “The Myth of the Swedish Books of Black Arts.” This was quite a good presentation, and involved playing some recordings of music and poetry, discussion of some of the creatures of Swedish folk belief, and the various Swedish Black Books themselves, as well as what has been said of their authors or users over the years. Many of the users of the books seem to have been priests, despite the apparently demonic and dangerous content of the books! The thunder outside was particularly amusing as it punctuated this particular presentation as well! Eytzinger’s book looks very interesting, but I was not able to afford it at that time…perhaps in the future, alas.
On my last morning there, I ended up taking a somewhat unusual bus downtown, and got off at an unusual location, and just walked (about a mile or two) to Seattle Center once again. I ended up following a route that I also walked from the train station to Seattle Center back in late May when I was on a college field trip, and took nearly the same directions that I did on that occasion, but encountered something entirely different, and which I didn’t even see the first time. This:
That’s a statue within a fountain (or, if you like, nymphaeum!) of Chief Seattle, the namesake of the city, and someone whom I have admired more and more over the last few years as I have learned more about him. I hope to come back and do proper cultus at this location in the future, now that I know it exists! I stopped for a few minutes and admired him, but was not able to read the plaque at the base because I couldn’t get close enough. Next time…
While I did not have the money to get more copies of my own books to sell, and didn’t manage to sell any of the ones I brought (though I had one offer from someone who then disappeared, and I ended up giving one away to an artist in the hopes that it might result in some future work), I’m not too upset about that.
I was also getting compliments, up to the very moment I left the book exhibit hall after the presentations had been over for a while, on my own presentation from last year, so that felt rather affirming despite my upset over how few people attended my session. I also had a question from someone I had never met, who told me the name of a friend of his, said the friend was in Australia, and that the Australian had asked him to show me a photo of myself from last year. The photo in question was of me at the book-signing table after my presentation, and my 3-D model of the Serpent Path “Square Side” glyph was on the table next to me. He asked me what that symbol was, and I told him what it is in our own Antinoan context, and some of the other things to which it is similar in my current knowledge. He said that his friend in Australia has been working with a symbol that is extremely similar to that one, and that it also emerged from some new spiritual context as well…so, needless to say, this is very intriguing indeed. While my own “gnosis confirmation” was well satisfied by the things I have seen that have been close to it over the last three years, this seems like a further indication in that direction. Fascinating!
Of course, there was a lot more to do, to say, and to buy during the course of the trip, but it didn’t happen. Perhaps another kala…