Friday, November 18, 2011

"Dangerous Knowledge."

The Necronomicon - Archetype of Dangerous Knowledge

I do my best not to shy away from any topic here. I feel that shying away from something in a medium as non-confrontational and hopefully tone-neutral as a blog means that I can't discuss it calmly and I don't like that idea one whit. I've discussed insanity, self-sacrificial magic (twice), and a myriad of other stickiness hidden in the bowels of my blog. And I'll be adding this one to the heap.

There has been a recent spate of blog posts about "dangerous knowledge" and/or "oversharing".The crux of the arguments being that if one shares knowledge and experience, "teh noobs" are immediately going to go out and get themselves all fucked up on it. Except... it's just not that damned simple.

The issue of "Dangerous Knowledge" is not easily summed up. Not even a post with 30-odd comments has yet managed to rectify the misunderstandings, benefits and/or pitfalls of concealing information. A dozen other posts broaching the issue hasn't clarified it either; it's just muddied the water and made a few people rather cross.

To Know.
When I first started getting interested in woo-woo things, it was not for spiritual advancement. It was because something was doing it's best to end my life, and I wanted the power to fuck it up. I had already attracted the fabled worst-case-scenario by EXISTING. I never did any of the things people claim attract that attention. I never invited presences, or toyed with magic/k prior to it's arrival. I never so much as touched a ouija board, or watched The Craft.

See, I was happily reading one night, and saw a shadow slice through the corner of my room. It scared the shit out of me. It came back, and every time it did it showed itself a little more clearly. And every time my mood changed a little more. It attached itself to me, and parisitized me for, all told, about three years. Nothing I did made it any better, and it became so persistent, and so constant, that the dread, depression and helplessness that came with it began to feel almost "natural" - and that's when intrusive thoughts about self-harm began. It was my internal monologue, but it didn't have my flair for the English language.  I realized what was happening, and I began praying... and it didn't work.

To Dare. 
So, I got online and asked around - of the people that would give me the benefit of a doubt, not a damned one would offer any help. They would just sort of waffle about dark magick, how unprepared I was, and how I was courting disaster. They were blaming the victim for the rape.

One phrase that kept coming up was "Banishing" - and when I did searches for that, Wicca and Paganism kept coming up. I went to local stores that were "woo-ish" and asked the owners (Gods bless them). They actually offered some help, albeit minor. And you know what? Shit got better. I actively engaged with a demon, that one thing everyone and their grandmother's familiar tells you not to do, and shit got better. I held it at bay, but it never went away. Still it tried, demanded, insinuated that I wanted and needed to die.

Nothing in the mamby-pamby "banish with light" bullshit I'd read told me how to KILL it. How to teach it the goddamned lesson it needed to learn. Nothing told me what it was, or what it was -doing- to me. GROOMING me to accept it's commands. No one would help "Thems bad dealings, kiddo. I won't have it on my head" And so ... one time I actually got very near to offing myself just to end the daily torture. By this point I was maybe fourteen.

To Will
One night, that bastard wormed it's way through my wards, and shields, and membranes. And it came at me. It was either going to possess me long enough to make me kill myself, or just long enough to displace me. And lemme repeat: I never did anything to invite it, I never did any of those bullshit stories people like to share to pat themselves on the back about their Uber Secrets. It came spoiling for a fight and I was unarmed. All I had was my claws and teeth - so I used them. I ate the motherfucker. I chewed, swallowed, and turned that thing to shit. The shit that it always was, the shit that it made me feel like. I drained it's vitality to heal the wounds it had inflicted on me, and whittled away at it's hold on this world as it tried to do with me. And it ran screaming, 'intestines' trailing like rubbery snakes.

To Be As Loud As I Fucking Please.
I learned the value of silence. Silence is what almost had me dead, or worse. I know what to play close to the chest - and true Work is not one of the things to cow and veil.  Had no one been willing to help me, I would've ended up dead. Having someone give me even the smallest arsenal was priceless. But, just eating it's viscera wasn't good enough -  I wanted to know why it wanted me - so I summoned a demon.

Yeah, you read that right. I summoned a demonic entity (an Incubus, which seemed a good place to start) and demanded to know why one of it's ilk had laid into me. And the demon said "I will tell you this: I did not send it, none I know sent it. It had your scent - magic in your blood, and all around you, and wanted to take you for it's own. But you did it before it could do you. Our kind will never bother you again. Where you go, we will flee. When your name is spoken, we will tremble."

To this day, the Incubus I summoned is one of my most helpful spirit allies. I only call him a "demon" due to his stock and trade in "sin". And to this day, if something demonic is bothering people - the mention of my name sends it running. So, I did everything wrong, and it turned out perfectly.

So, I guess what I'm getting at here is this: FUCK your dangerous knowledge. Fuck your morals and high ideals. Somewhere there is a teenager slicing thin strips of their forearms off because a parasitic entity tells them to, and no one will climb down off of their high horse fucking long enough to give them the tools to gut the fucker doing it to them.

I guess what I'm getting at is...
Had even one person stepped up to the plate of authority and knowledge that they claimed - my situation would've turned out a lot differently. I would have a lot less scars (mental and physical, especially physical) and a lot less trouble in my day-to-day life. If you spend long enough in a state of fear, you forget what it's like to not be afraid. If you are groomed to accept the instructions of an entity it's hard to block them out. Oh, sure, I can tell pretty quickly when someone "not me" is invading my meat - but I tend to have to listen to their yammering until I cut them off at the knees.  Your conscience can't take offering up something that might be used to cause trouble? My conscience can't take not saying anything. Different strokes.


  1. Hiding what you know from people doesn't make you any more powerful, it just creates the illusion of power by making you seem all super cool and mysterious. I find that the more people act like they hold the keys to the mysteries of the universe, the less they know about anything at all. They can usually be identified by a strong "thou shalt not" moral superiority complex.

  2. Standing. Ovation.

    And ditto everything Nightjohn said.

  3. An excellent post Scylla.
    The key, in my opinion, is knowing when to keep silent and when not. None of us want to blabber for the sake of blabbering, but surely we're meant to be intelligent enough to know the difference between the curious thrill seekers and the desperate?
    I, for one, will say what I feel needs to be said. I have a responsibility. I didn't chose this way, it chose me and it did so for a reason.

  4. While I don't think anyone should be pressured to tell anything about their personal practices beyond what they want to share, neither should anyone be made to feel inferior for sharing. I've gotten emails from well-meaning people insinuating that I was showing too much or telling too much. If you feel inclined to share information, even if it's something that could be used in a very destructive way, it should be shared. There shouldn't be this push to hide certain information, people need to be taught how to discern what's true and how to determine if they should be following someone's instructions or running the other way. If you can teach a child not to touch a hot stove or to pick up a kitchen knife and hurt themselves with it, you can teach a newcomer to magic not to wade in the deep water until they've got some kind of life guard to help call them back.

  5. Very interesting post and some really good points. I think many people try to withhold information for fear of hurting another. In some cases, there's a legitimate reason for it, like with using hallucinogenic plants. Nobody wants to get blamed for an overdose. But there are other times when people need to provide more information. Thanks for sharing!

  6. My feeling is that if someone knows how to use a specific technique then they have a responsibility for that knowledge. It must be used, if only to keep it sharp. A gun might look pretty hanging on the wall, but without practice at the range then it's near-useless.

    I can see some reasons for not teaching a technique, but in a situation like yours they should have taken it upon themselves to take care of business. That's part of what learning combat is about. I still don't know which is worse: someone claiming authority and power and not really having it, or someone possessing authority and power and refusing to use it or passing it along when it is necessary.

  7. Thank you. I dislike the culture of secrecy in anything really and I tend to speak very openly and frankly. I've been questioning lately if I should be doing that. And I believe in my heart that it's my path to do so and that magic can still happen without the desperate need for secrets (though perhaps discretion). This just cements that for me.

  8. Gosh, what a terrifying experience, Scylla. I am glad you had the strength to come out okay from it.

    I too hate the culture of secrecy, and as a former teacher, I have long felt that my job as a merchant in magic is to offer people the material and the information they seek. What they do with it is their choice, not mine. I cannot teach them ethics or morality, although I do point out pitfalls of particular actions, a la "if you do this, that can happen." Hearing the stuff about how we have to hide magical information from newbies so they don't hurt themselves just sounds like an excuse for censorship. And it reminds me of something I read years ago around the issue of dangerous information being promulgated on the web. In this case, it concerned directions for how to make a nuclear bomb. Someone in the nuclear bomb business said there was no reason to forbid the information of how to make such a thing from the internet, because most people could never accomplish it, and the ones who could don't need the directions. I feel the same way about magic. Let it be out there, let people see it and make their own decisions. When folks start saying we cannot let this or that magical info be out there for newbies, I wonder how much skill do they think is involved with magic, or if they think it is just something like a machine with no operator skill involved.

    The other issue is that at some point, we must demand that people act like the adults they in fact are. Treat people like babies and they will act like babies. Demand that people step up to the plate and generally they will. This was my experience with students and it has been my experience in magic as well.

    There have been some things I have quit selling on account of people consistently using them to poison themselves or others, like poison hemlock seeds. But I still sell stuff like belladonna when I have it, because it's a classic of witchcraft, part of our heritage, and frankly because it's a lot harder to physically kill someone with it. I also expect people to take responsibility for their use of it. What I found with the poison hemlock seeds was that people did NOT want to take responsibility for their use. They acted like since it was available, they had permission to kill someone with it and what's more, they had permission to involve the seller. These were people who were not involved in magic in any way, though.

  9. Yes, to all of this, yes!

    Thank you for writing this.

  10. Good on you! & fuck 'em.
    Completely agree with Nightjohn.

  11. This is a stance I really appreciate and wish more people took. A great deal of what I share on my own blog is also of a "sweet gods, why didn't anyone share this with me" nature. Fuck silence. Silence is an excuse for not helping with other people's problems.

    Right now I'm putting together a package of self-care rituals for a friend of mine. Their problems are nowhere near as severe as yours were, but I hope that if I'm ever in a position to do so, I'll have the nerve to /help/ someone going through something like you describe instead of hiding behind a veil of secrecy and superiority.

  12. I think people misuse and mis-characterize the four powers (warning strong opinions ahead).

    The powers of the sphinx were originally described as powers of the magi by various ceremonial magicians and encapsulate the necessary elemental ingredients for doing successful spell work. This article has a nice intro of the mentions by Levi: The four powers were also a favorite of Crowley, but my understanding is that the original source was Agrippa.

    Notice in the article that Levi describes the power of silence both as 'prudence' and 'discernment.' That is understanding when to speak and when not when it comes to spell work.

    Nowhere does he say that silence is about protecting the innocent or keeping dangerous knowledge out of unpracticed hands. In fact, I think that rationale is pretty much BS, and used for a bunch of ego-inflating reasons (like making someone or their tradition or group feel powerful and mysterious, making themselves look more special and l33t, and intimidating newbies instead of helping).

    In fact, I believe that the four powers have both an 'inner' and 'outer' manifestation. The outer power of silence is basically don't talk about the spells you've got going on. Why? Because it diffuses the power of the spell to be blabbing on about it (particularly to nonbelievers) while it's working. The inner power of silence has to do with shutting up your inner critic (do a money spell and then wander around thinking "I'm so broke, I'm always broke, I never have any cash" and see how well the spell works) and keeping calm in your mind (meditation etc.).

    I thought I invented this idea, but being as there's nothing new under the sun, I find that this guy has a similar point of view:

    Finally, this idea that young people are bringing it on themselves is the worst sort of victim blaming! What better target than a young person, without a support network, who happens to be magically or psychically gifted? I was very lucky in that my mom has a lot of latent talent in this area (you should see the unconscious protections on her house). But as I grew into independence and away from her influence I came into some trouble because I didn't know how to protect myself. Fortunately my own daughter won't have that problem. She'll have the tools she needs when she needs them and no one will be keeping stuff from her 'for her own good'.

  13. Thank you for writing this and raising this subject!

    I work in a sometimes-mystery tradition, and often struggle with what to share and what I cannot repeat. This has to do with respecting the wishes of my teacher, and he has his own reasons.

    However, we can and should speak often to those who are interested of our own experiences -- how witchcraft has shaped us, where it has led us and what practices have helped us to get there. It helps. It helps me to read the writings of others on a similar path when I am struggling.

    Your post also raises for me the importance of mastery when it comes to our craft. We should take this seriously, and speak only about things we know intimately.

  14. Absolutely agree. Denying knowledge or education in how to use the heavy duty ammo in magic doesn't do anyone any good. Foolish people will poke things they shouldn't mess with anyway, and the people who really need it don't have access to how to solve scary problems.

    Secrets of one's tradition are one thing. Basic principles and knowledge, no matter how potentially dangerous, should not be secreted away and denied to people seeking them. Most of it requires a serious will to learn and understand, little of it is the sort of Instant Gateway to Doom that people act like it is. The things that are have plenty of warnings - people choosing to ignore them isn't the fault of the magical community any more than teenagers losing fingers is the fault of fireworks manufacturers.

  15. "If you spend long enough in a state of fear, you forget what it's like to not be afraid. If you are groomed to accept the instructions of an entity it's hard to block them out."

    /Yes/, and thank you. It's a huge relief to know that's a normal response.

    I say that as someone who had to claw his way back to (something resembling) sanity after it was decided, by people who essentially broke me and then staked me out for parasitic-entity-bait, that I was too much of a risk to have around. I didn't even /try/ asking for help - I'd been traumatized into expecting the sort of nonanswers and avoidance you faced at fourteen as a matter of course.

    The worst of it is that one of the two people involved in that mess /had faced down something like you describe above/ and would not shut up about how he had /lost/ to it when he and his "brother" tried to fight back. Somehow, my idiot self of two years ago didn't take that as a sign to run far, far away....

    But I'm digressing. Probably oversharing. I do that too much.

    I hate silence-interpreted-as-letting-someone-drown-rather-than-speaking-to-save-them, I hate that tangle of concepts with the entirety of my being. Thank you for articulating why in better words than I can. (Still putting the mind back together. Language isn't as much a friend to me as it once was.)

  16. Scylla,

    Thank you for writing this. I wrote recently about the Acrostic Eye, where you can see or aknowledge the mundane And Magickal aspects of a situation or phenomena. Where you see both.

    Your post reminds me of this because I sometimes get the impression that all too many folks on the New Aquarian Frontier get so occupied with making Magick safe and psychological and all inside our head. With clinging desperately to the Universe is a Friendly Place My Child attitude that they forget that accepting the idea of spirits and angels means accepting that not all spirits are going to be good or respect your privacy or intent. Nature is our mother, unfortunately she is a mother that sometimes wants to devour us!

    I imagine that those you turned too saw a troubled teenager and told themselves that it was all in your head, or that you must of done ~something~ to bring this on... because in their narrowed world view Magick is about what we do to/for/with ourselves and not something that can happen to us. The idea that something BAD or Evil might be out there, probably scared the shit out of them and they avoided dealing with the situation.

    I am glad you were able to defeat this thing.


  17. I've been thinking about "dangerous knowledge" for a week now. To my way of thinking, this is the kind of knowledge that actually nets results, whereas "sanitized knowledge" is the half-baked dreck that causes people to waste money on useless airy fairy books, and trappings for their altars. I say this from practical experience. Actually, a quote from Victor Anderson comes to mind, "White magic is poetry. Black magic is what actually works."

    You have to break some eggs to make an omelet. Taking the sanitized path, I'd be saying prayers to thank whomever for the eggs, and come away hungry and feeling like magic's a crap approach to cooking breakfast. The bigger secret in Secrecy is that the emperor is nekkid.

  18. You, good sir, fucking rock. I don't know if I've told you that enough.

  19. Another attitude that I've come across in this vein is one of unwillingness to help ease the way for another person simply because the way was not easy for themselves. This is actually a pretty common attitude across all life's genres. I've seen this attitude masked by the excuse of some knowledge being too dangerous or even just too advanced. It's the "I had to learn it the hard way and so should everybody else" or the "nobody helped me, so I'm not going to help you" mentality. So what could have furthered the practice for two people (because teaching is in itself a valuable lesson for the teacher) is instead guarded and hoarded. It is a miserly attitude, and one that I've seen breed a lot of misplaced self-righteousness and a lot of defensiveness and spite. And it's not uncommon for the denial to be in sentences with bemoaning cries of "spoonfeeding" and "newbs". Yet when it is clear that someone is working hard and yet struggling, why not help? Let's step out of the dark ages, please.

    But we should be careful who we take help from anyway. And maybe, in the end, we can be thankful that some take themselves out of the equation from the get-go. One less asshole to deal with. And that's a gift from the Universe, really.

  20. This. Through tears of "yes", Thank you!