EP101 Clergy, magic and witchcraft with Mal Strangefellow

This long overdue episode was record back in the summer. 

Andrew and Mal talk about the nature of magic, initiation, religious practice and more. They talk a lot about how to know if you are on the right track and the pitfalls of walking a magical path. The upsides and pitfalls of gnosis. How to become a bishop by chance and much more. 

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Andrew

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Transcription

ANDREW: [00:00:02] Welcome to another episode of The Hermit’s Lamp podcast. I am joined today by Mal Strangefellow. And I’ve been following Mal online for quite a while. And recently, he’s gotten into starting a church. And [00:00:17] a lot of the dialogue around that has been very fascinating to me. So I thought that inviting him on to talk about some of these things would be really entertaining because I think there’s so many fascinating questions about legitimacy, legacy, [00:00:32] lineage, and all sorts of stuff that people are or ought to be thinking about as they’re going about in various traditions right now, and at the birth of something new, seems like a great place to revisit those conversations. So, for people who [00:00:47] might not know you, Mal, give us, give us the introduction. Who are you? What are you about?

MAL: [laughing] Oh, wow, um, you know, and I don’t mean this to sound, sound like I’m bragging. It’s mostly just because [00:01:02] I’m getting older and my memory is lagging, but when you, when you’ve done, I don’t want to say so much, but when you’ve done enough, at some point, it starts to become difficult to figure out how to answer that question. [00:01:17] [laughing]

ANDREW: Sure. 

MAL: I got my start in esoterica during the mid-80s. I’m solidly in that, you know, Boomer cusp/early Gen X region. [00:01:34] Went into, went into the army right out of high school, and after that, got it into my head that I wanted to be a Buddhist monk. 

ANDREW: Mm-hmm. 

MAL: And ended up doing [00:01:49] that for a number of years. I was a Tibetan Buddhist monk, a novice and, and fully ordained getsu and gelong. After a few years, or early 90s, wanted to go and get a college degree, [00:02:04] went to the University of Oregon–go Ducks!–and you know, discovered that it’s a lot harder to be a celibate monk in a university than it is in a monastery!

ANDREW: [laughing] Uh huh. [00:02:19] 

MAL: Go figure!

ANDREW: I imagine.

MAL: And ended up returning my vows, and, at that point, just kind of wandered back and forth among a number of different things, sort of exploring [00:02:35] alternate routes of spirituality, continuing to practice magic. Of course, the Internet was really just sort of starting to become popular at this time. You know, we were moving beyond the [00:02:50] text-based, green screen kind of stuff and actually getting a graphical interface to the Internet discussion boards. Alt magic, of course, was going like gangbusters. This is just at the cusp of the, the [00:03:05] infamous Golden Dawn Wars of the early, early to mid-90s, and ended up getting involved with the Golden Dawn. Was–actually, my neophyte initiation in the Golden Dawn was done [00:03:20] with Israel Regardie’s handmade tools, and I believe a mutual friend of ours, Poke Runyan, was the keryx for that and gave me his flu. 

ANDREW: [chuckles]

MAL: So. 

ANDREW: That’s a magical blessing, indeed. 

MAL: [00:03:35] Right? And kind of . . . There was some floundering, I would say towards the late 90s. Got involved in the Temple of Set, stayed there long enough to [00:03:50] be recognized to the third degree, their priesthood, at which, and this, I bring this up because it encompasses sort of a pivotal event for me. James Grabe was [00:04:05] also a member of the temple and a member of the OTO, and at the time, when I actually met him in person, there, he was on the outs with the current leadership. I [00:04:20] mean, he has made, I don’t know if I’m saying that right, I’ve never done any OTO stuff. So. That guy. And I don’t know what there was, so I don’t know if they were, I think there was some sort of lawsuit or some– Anyway, they were pissed [00:04:35] off. We were at a conclave, which is an annual temple gathering, and we were in the hotel bar, and just sort of chatting, and you know, I was a second degree adept at the time, and so I was star struck at his degree and [00:04:50] his history. And we were just talking and he was mostly talking. And he had mentioned that he had apostolic succession as a bishop, and one of the things, among other things, that the current leadership wanted from him was consecration [00:05:06] as a bishop for their EGC. 

ANDREW: Mm.

MAL: And he was basically just inviting them to peruse the fine example of the back of his middle finger on that.

ANDREW: Mm-hmm.

MAL: And you know, he said, “You know what, basically, [00:05:21] I’ll consecrate, you know, anybody else, anybody but them. Right? Hell, you want to be consecrated?” and I was like, “Um, yeah, okay.” He’s like, “All right, cool.” So we actually made a plan for the next night. He [00:05:36] had a suite in the hotel and I showed up and we went through deacon priest and I was consecrated a bishop that night. And it was like, “Here you go. Now, you’re a bishop.” I was like, “Well, awesome. Thank you.” This is [00:05:51] 1998-99-ish and, which, oddly enough feels like, you know, maybe five or ten years ago for me, but . . . 

ANDREW: Sure. 

MAL: Yeah, I was like, you know, “So what do I do with this?” It was like fuck, [00:06:06] I don’t care. Can I say fuck? I can say fuck, right? 

ANDREW: You can say fuck. It’s fine. Go ahead.

MAL: All right, cool. Fuck, yeah. [laughing] He was like, “I don’t care,” you know, “here’s some stuff,” and I got like loose leaf print outs, you know, some ideas that he had had [00:06:21] about sort of a Johannite spirituality and you know, I got, you know, an old Xeroxed copy of his succession, apostolic succession, and stuff like that, and I just sort of filed it away and did nothing with it. [00:06:36] 

ANDREW: Mm. 

MAL: Until I resigned, after I resigned from the temple as a priest. It was, you know, interpersonal political stuff.

ANDREW: Isn’t it always, right?

MAL: Right, you know, it’s, there was a group that was up-and-coming [00:06:51] in the temple. They have since been, been purged out, but I was not in that group, and ended up just resigning rather than dealing with all of the, the people bullshit that comes with that, and [00:07:06] in trying to figure out, all right, what the hell do I want to do now? Said, you know, well, I’ve got these kind of things to fall back on. I wonder if I could do this? And so I pulled out all of James’s stuff and decided [00:07:21] you know what, fuck it. I’m, I’m a start a church! 

And that’s how the Apostolic Johannite church was founded, [laughs] and I ended up posting on a couple of message boards online at the time: “Hey, are [00:07:36] you interested in an esoteric organization and an esoteric church?” And got a couple of hits. One of the very first ones was, of course, the current patriarch of the AJC, and you know, the rest there is history. [00:07:51] I ran the AJC for a couple of years, and at that time, kind of felt like I had some unfinished stuff that I wanted to do elsewhere. Plus, [00:08:06] I feel like, at least for me at that time, it took a different personality to run things than it did to start them, and I didn’t know that I had the personality to keep that [00:08:21] thing going, and I feel justified in making this statement, you know, in hindsight 20/20, but just in looking at how well they’ve done, you know, since I, since I handed it over to Sean McCann, their current patriarch, you know, I think [00:08:36] it’s the, like the largest, fastest growing international gnostic church on the planet right now, some crazy crap like that. 

ANDREW: So. Let me ask you a question. 

MAL: Yeah, yeah!

ANDREW: Cause you’ve talked about so many things here and I want to . . .

MAL:  I know, I’m sorry. 

ANDREW: No. No, it’s [00:08:51] why I had you on, I want to have these conversations and I love hearing you chat. What, what kind of personality does it take to run these things? Because you know, I’ve, you know, I’ve been in my share of, you know, I was in the OTO [00:09:06] in several different groups that all imploded or exploded. And I was in the Aurum Solace for a bunch of time, and change of leadership and it, you know, my local group was excommunicated. And you know, I [00:09:21] was in the AA for a while and there are various, you know, things with that, that just left me, you know, with nowhere to go. What is it, you know, and I’ve seen my share of that in the, in the Lukumi traditions as well, you know, different places. [00:09:36] What does it take to run a thing like that well? Because I feel like there’s, you know, what I’ve seen is, there’s, like, if there’s a strong personality and they can kind of hold it together with their personality, [00:09:51] that works until it doesn’t, until they leave or retire or whatever. What actually does work? What makes sense when it comes to sort of bigger organizations around that kind of stuff?

MAL: You know, I think you [00:10:06] kind of hit on it with the, the big personality, not in that that’s the answer. But in that, that’s not the answer. 

ANDREW: Mm.

MAL: I think a strong personality, a willingness to get shit [00:10:21] done, to say, you know, what, screw it, we’re going this way. We’re doing it. Like that’s the kind of personality you need to start something, to really get it going, to gather people in, to inspire other people, but to keep it going, [00:10:37] I think you need somebody a lot more conciliatory. 

ANDREW: Mm.

MAL: You know, somebody, somebody who is open to, willing to, desirous of working with other people and incorporating them into the, [00:10:52] the, the living, you know, the daily life of the organization, a strong personality. You know, again, I think it’s absolutely necessary to get a thing started.

ANDREW: Mm-hmm.

MAL: [00:11:07] You know, there’s just so much inertia there, at the beginning of anything that you need to build up a certain amount of momentum to, you know, to, to overcome initial obstacles and you know, nothing kills [00:11:22] momentum faster than a committee meeting. 

ANDREW: [laughing] Especially if not much is already happening. Right? 

MAL: Right. Right! You know? So you need that strong personality, but after you reach a certain point, I think that strong personality [00:11:37] becomes detrimental, you know?

ANDREW: Mm-hmm.

MAL: And if you don’t have it within you to drop that and become more conciliatory, then you’re just kind of a, you know, you’re kind of a bully, you, you end up with, you know, strong personality clashes [00:11:52] with other people who, you know, who might be able to come in and do amazing things. Yeah, I think of . . . Okay. So, a perfect example of this going back to where I was and where Sean McCann was at the beginning of the AJC when I handed things over to [00:12:07] him . . . You know, he was, he’d only been a bishop for like a year. 

ANDREW: Okay. 

MAL: You know, I’d consecrated him and, to be fair, I had even gone, like right after his consecration, [00:12:22] I went on vacation! 

ANDREW: Uh huh.

MAL: Like six months! [laughing] And I was like, you know what, I just need a break from all of this. I’m tired. You run things. Call me if you need to, but I’m out for a while. So, you know, really, even that first six months, he [00:12:37] was kind of running things. Because of his age, and because of his natural temperament at the time, you know, sort of, you know, not really sure of himself, [00:12:52] not wanting to make a mistake.

MAL: Okay. So the current primate of North America for the AJC, Mar Thoma, was a bishop with [00:14:07] another organization who came into the AJC. We had become friends while I was still there, but he officially joined the AJC after I left, and he is a very strong personality. But he’s also [00:14:22] been, you know, has been just an amazing asset for the church and, you know, in looking back, I don’t know, like, would I have given him the same opportunity? You know, when you’ve got those, the [00:14:37] two alpha dogs clashing, right? The, you know, the two strong personalities, would, would the same results have come about? And I’m not so sure that it would have, you know? I think by me stepping out and by Sean coming in [00:14:52] and having that, that natural conciliatory manner and welcoming him in, [coughs] excuse me, as a, another leader. I think that was a huge part of their success. And so, what does it take to run [00:15:07] an organization? I think it takes the ability to find, to find that in yourself, to realize that, you know, you know, it’s not all about me. 

ANDREW: Mm-hmm.

MAL: If I care about this, if it’s going to run, I need to, I need to be conciliatory. [00:15:22] Does that make sense?

ANDREW: Yeah, I think so, for sure.

MAL: Oh good, cool.

ANDREW: Because you know, yeah, a lot of people just . . . A lot of what I’ve seen is, it gets to a point where people are just like, look, it’s my way or the highway, and then you know, and then you just [00:15:37] have, you know, whatever, right? Like, like the thing around the apostolic succession, where they’re like, will you please give this to us? And be like, absolutely never, you know, like you just end up in these things where it’s so stuck that there’s no, there’s no movement possible, right? You know?

MAL: Right, right.

ANDREW: [00:15:52] Mm-hmm. 

MAL: Yeah, and you know, when you lay down something, like it’s my way or the highway, you end up with a ton of fantastic people choosing the highway.

ANDREW: Yeah.

MAL: And, and you’re left with, you know, just the, the sycophants, [00:16:07] and what happens to your, the organization, then? I mean, you mentioned your experiences in the Aurum Solis, and I remember, you know, when Leon proclaimed it an all Christian organization [00:16:22] when he was still, you know, Grandmaster. And, you know, it was that, this is it, it’s my way or the highway. This is what we’re proclaiming. 

ANDREW: Mm-hmm.

MAL: A bunch of people chose the highway! [laughing] You know, and then he kind of pulled back from that a little bit and then [00:16:37] somebody else took over and then [garbled right before 16:43] Anyway. Yeah, I think that that’s a perfect example of what you were talking about. When you have leadership like that, [00:16:52] things tend not to grow organically and even if they do survive that personality, that type of personality, they don’t survive the end of that personality.

ANDREW: Mm-hmm. For sure. 

MAL: When that person dies or, you know, [00:17:07] converts to evangelical Christianity, and says, you know unicorns are bad or whatever. [laughing]

ANDREW: Sure. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, I think it’s interesting. You know? I also think it’s, it’s interesting how . . . I wonder how, [00:17:22] contrary to what people might think, that that sort of more conciliatory aspect actually works to sustain the teachings versus dissipate them?

MAL: Mm-hmm.

ANDREW: Because what I see where there, where there’s no [00:17:37] or nominal flexibility, is then there’s these sort of backlashes and waves that come back and forth, right? You know, the new group comes in and you know, they’re, they’re all, they’re all into witchcraft, and that’s it. And if you’re a Christian, you’re [00:17:52] out, right? In response to the Christians who are like, “Well we’re Christian,” you know. And especially in a group like the Aurum Solis that, at least sort of in its heyday was so founded on research, you know . . . I mean, I think that, you know, what’s, what are you losing, [00:18:07] you know, by these massive sways, right? So, yeah.

MAL: Right, right. You know and also you get, you know, you get buy-in from everybody when, you know, regardless of the kind of organization, right? Whether it’s a business or a teaching [00:18:22] order or a church or . . . You get buy-in with conciliatory leadership. You know, people feel like they have ownership, you know, they have a stake in it, and so they care about it. Whereas if it’s just: here it is, [00:18:37] it’s my way or the highway and then you know, well, okay, it’s your way. It’s never my way at that point, no matter where I am in the organization. If I’m not on top, it’s never my way. It’s always, I’m doing their way and you know, we as people, we [00:18:52] tend to like our way . . . [laughing]

ANDREW: Well, and especially more magically inclined people. Right? 

MAL: Right. Yeah.

ANDREW: You know, I think there’s, there’s a tendency towards ego, you know, not necessarily in a bad sense, but just ego, that [00:19:07] doesn’t really, if it’s not addressed in some capacity, you know? So, how did, how did you find the transition of, how did you sort of manage that transition from Tibetan Buddhist practice, which [00:19:22] is pretty, you know, which is very structured, you know, to, to kind of your other practices, which sound like there are through lines, but they weren’t as rigid? If that’s fair. [00:19:37] 

MAL: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. [lost words–exception?] about that. Yeah, you know, actually, I think it was . . . Being on sort of those diametric poles was beneficial to me.

ANDREW: Mm-hmm.

MAL: You know, as structured and rigid as [00:19:52] Tibetan monastic life was, the Temple of Set, on the other hand, and I think why, why I enjoyed and sort of embraced what they were doing so much was because there’s so much [00:20:07] more open, right? You know, you show up and one of their, their primary tenets from The Book of Coming Forth by Night is, you know, “the text of another is an affront to the self.” You know, so, every, initiatory degrees, you know, [00:20:22] okay, it’s time for you to be recognized as a second-degree adept. They don’t confer initiations. They recognize after you’ve achieved something, and then they say, okay, well now, go write that initiation ritual, you know, go [00:20:37] do it. Go create it, you know, come up with your own, you know, have it, have it . . . You know, don’t, don’t just pull crap out of your ass, you know. There, there’s, there’s a very scholastic aspect to them. I think when I, when I [00:20:52] joined, I got a binder that was like, and I’m holding up my fingers. Nobody can see them. [laughing] It’s like an inch and a half to two inches thick and the vast bulk of that was a reading list.

ANDREW: Mm.

MAL: You know, so, and part of recognition [00:21:07] is, their recognition process is, go out and read these books.

ANDREW: Mm-hmm.

MAL: Go out and study this material. Go find more and then come back and tell us what you think about it, you know. You know, so there’s this, this, this scholarship and then this production [00:21:22] and it’s really, you know, and I don’t want to give the impression that it’s this loosey-goosey kind of thing. But it, it is very different from the structure that I experienced in Tibetan Buddhism. Right? 

ANDREW: Mm-hmm.

MAL: And [00:21:37] I think I tried to incorporate some of that in in my later work and it’s still something in my own personal practice and when I’m working with students, it’s still something that even down to, you know, giving them offhand a reading [00:21:52] list.

ANDREW: Mm-hmm.

MAL: And saying, you know, pick, pick six books, or pick three books, or whatever. Read them all from different categories, and then come back and let’s talk about how, you know, what [00:22:07] material from this book on this topic and this book from this incredibly different topic. How do they play together?

ANDREW: Mm-hmm. 

MAL: And what do you get from reading both of those back-to-back that you wouldn’t have gotten from reading either one separately, [00:22:22] right? In isolation. What, what new comes out of that? And I think that’s sort of been, that came out of that experience, of strict rigid practice with, with Tibetan Buddhism and then the [00:22:37] more open, but, but scholastically-informed Setianism, like, like this kind of was born out of that, and I think that has been, regardless of what I’ve done since, sort [00:22:52] of my, my entire method of, approach for things. 

ANDREW: Mm.

MAL: Does that make sense? I really feel like I’m just rambling on . . . 

ANDREW: No, no, not at all. It totally makes sense.

MAL: Okay cool. 

ANDREW: I mean, for me I kind of went in the opposite direction. You know, I was doing ceremonial [00:23:07] stuff, you know, throwing some chaos magic, and you know, all that kind of . . . different things and then I’m, as I moved into Lukumi, and you know, the Orisha tradition that I got initiated in, it’s, [00:23:22] there are just ways that things are done, you know.

MAL: Mm-hmm.

ANDREW: And so it’s been a move away from, from that kind of structure and a stepping into that structure, and what I see is that so many people struggle with that axis.

MAL: Yeah.

ANDREW: You know? Like, you know, [00:23:37] for people to accept that there is a way that things are done, or, you know, in light of a tradition, the way that things are done, and that that part isn’t [00:23:52] subject to conversation so much is very difficult for a lot of people, you know?

MAL: But it’s also a really important experience, I think.

ANDREW: Mm-hmm.

MAL: You know, I went from the founding of the AJC into East Asian esoteric [00:24:07] Buddhism, tendai [spelling?], and from their Korean Zen, you know, Seon Buddhism, and those are both, I mean, you don’t get more rigid than the Japanese.

ANDREW: Right. 

MAL: And, but there’s a purpose for that. You know, they, [00:24:23] there’s this idea that when you take all of these people together and you force them to do this sort of thing, this sort of way, we kind of polish our rough edges off.

ANDREW: Mm.

MAL: You know, and if everybody was just allowed to go off and do their own thing, [00:24:38] you would never find your rough edges, you know, and so in practicing tendai [spelling?] Buddhism and then in going through, you know, the Zen Buddhist koan curriculum, that was, it was very rigid, there’s a way [00:24:53] you do it. There’s even an entire different language almost for going through koans that if you don’t, if you don’t know it and if you don’t do it, you’re not going to pass. You’re not going to advance. You know, it’s almost [00:25:08] like learning that language, which is both, you know, poetic and performative. You know, there’s a physical aspect to it. But learning that language is what allows your brain to operate [00:25:23] in the way that it needs to operate in order to get the insight that you need to get. 

ANDREW: Sure. 

MAL: You know, there’s no book that you could read that, that, that, you know, could tell you that. There’s a story out of Daido Loori’s [00:25:38] place, Zen Mountain Monastery, back when he was still alive. They had a book with all the answers to the koans in it, and somebody stole it. And one of the head monks was like, you know, ran up to Daido Roshi and was like, “Hey, you know, somebody stole the book. What are [00:25:53] we gonna do? What if they publish it?” And Loori Roshi was like, yeah, don’t worry about it. 

ANDREW: Mm-Hmm. 

MAL: The answers aren’t in the book. It doesn’t matter what was written down. The answers aren’t in the book. 

ANDREW: Yeah. 

MAL: The answers are what we see in front of us. It’s like, you know, I live here in Cincinnati. [00:26:08] And, if you read a ton of books about Cincinnati, but had never been here, and then tried to pass it off, you know, in talking to somebody that was born and raised here, they’d know pretty quickly you’re full of shit.

ANDREW: Mm-hmm.

MAL: You know? [00:26:23] Whereas if you’ve both, you know, if you’ve been there, if you’ve visited there, if you’re talking about “oh, man, you know, did they finish the construction over on . . .” or you know, all of that sort of stuff that just, you know, then they’re like, “oh, yeah, yeah, you’ve been there.” So I think . . . [00:26:39] There’s definitely value to “this is the way things are done” for a lot of traditional things, just because, if you don’t do it that way, you don’t get the experience or have the effect that it’s supposed [00:26:54] to provide, you know? 

ANDREW: Mm-hmm. For sure. Well, it’s why, you know, my experience of memorizing tables of correspondences when I was doing ceremonial stuff, you know?

MAL: [chuckles]

ANDREW: I mean, on the one hand, it’s like, well, why memorize [00:27:09] it, there are books, but on the other hand, it’s, it preloads your cognition with a framework that stuff that wants to work within that framework can then work straight through . . . 

MAL: Absolutely.

ANDREW: As opposed [00:27:24] to, you know, having to attempt to bridge that gap without that extra framework there, you know?

MAL: Yeah. Absolutely.

ANDREW: It’s possible, anybody can have a vision of, you know, take your pick, and that might be authentic and whatever, but It’s [00:27:39] a lot rarer and it’s really atypical, as opposed to sort of the, you know, that that more you’ve done the work, [lost words at 27:48? sounds like “you’re fed up”?] and now they’re going to show you a thing in this way. 

MAL: Absolutely. Well, and you know, putting on my clinical [00:27:54] psych hat, in the middle of all of this I also went on and got various graduate degrees in psychology. We know that the thoughts that we think change the physical structure of our brains. 

ANDREW: Mm-hmm.

MAL: You know, and so, memorizing [00:28:09] tables of correspondences, it’s not just putting information in your head so that you can have it at quick recall. It’s literally making a physical change to your brain.

ANDREW: Mm-hmm.

MAL: Is that physical change necessary? Is that, [00:28:24] you know, an integral component to the experience that you’re trying to have? I– Maybe not, but maybe it is, and if that’s the case, if it’s not just about being able to have something on immediate recall, in which case, you know, why don’t [00:28:39] I just load, preload 777 on my phone? 

ANDREW: Sure. 

MAL: And then if I, if I need to know a correspondence, I’ll pick it up. But you know, if it’s not just about having that piece of information, but if it’s about the change that it’s affecting in your brain that is allowing [00:28:54] you to maybe perceive or experience, you know, something, then, you know, by not doing it, you’re either never going to get there, or, like you said, it’s going to be really damn rare that you get the experience that, you know, that [00:29:09] you’re hoping for.

ANDREW: Yeah. I think the, the, you know, the real answer is, the magic is in many, many parts of it, right?

MAL: Yeah.

ANDREW: And not just in the quote unquote secret word that activates the ritual or what, right? [00:29:24]

MAL: [laughing] Exactly!

ANDREW: It’s got so many parts of it that that are not, they’re not necessarily glamorous. They’re almost never talked about overtly in books or in other contexts, right?

MAL: Yeah.

ANDREW: You know, I almost never see anybody talk about [00:29:39] that when I read a book about magic. It’s like “yeah,” and then you just like, do this thing and it’ll happen. It’s like, oh, maybe, maybe so. 

MAL: [laughing] Yeah. Sure. It’s just the magic word. You just say the word, the word. 

ANDREW: Well, the bird is the word, right? That’s where we’ll go with that?

MAL: [laughing] [00:29:56] Yeah. Well, I was going to say, Aidan Wachter recently made a post that I think brilliantly comes to this point and it was a . . . Oh, how did [00:30:11] it go? [sighs] See, I brought it up. Now I should at least be able to remember it, but it was along the lines of you know, the vast majority of success comes from mastering the basics. 

ANDREW: Yes.

MAL: Not from some advanced, you know, rarefied thing, you know, [00:30:26] and he was coming from it from both an esoteric and a physical, you know, point of view. And I thought it was brilliant when I saw that.

ANDREW: Yeah. I remember that post. He was basically sort of saying like, you know, sure, some super custom tailored [00:30:41] fancy technique might get you this extra increase, because–it was coming from a fitness training point of view, the article that he linked to–but the reality is, you know, showing up four days a week and you know doing the basic things, [00:30:56] that’s going to get you almost everything and the other stuff is, you know, especially over the arc of time, right? So. 

MAL: Right. And that applies to so much of what we do, right? Just showing up and doing the basic stuff. And . . .

ANDREW: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Absolutely. [00:31:13] 

MAL: Oh crap, there was, where was I going to go? There was . . . ? Eh, never mind. It’ll come back to me if . . . [laughing]

ANDREW: Let me ask you this question, then. So . . . 

MAL: Yeah.

ANDREW: We’ve popped out this term a couple times here and there: gnostic. 

MAL: Okay.

ANDREW: What is, [00:31:28] what does that mean to you? What does that mean? You know, like I hear it a lot. I’ve seen it a lot. You know, I mean, you know, Crowley talked about it a bunch, you know different people talk about it, you know, there’s the knights cathars and you know, all that stuff or whatever. [00:31:43] But what does it mean to you? What does it actually . . . What’s the relevance of it at this point in time?

MAL: Sure. Well, so first off a caveat, I . . . Technically, I don’t even really identify myself as gnostic any more, [00:31:59] which, I suppose is actually kind of peak gnosticism, itself.

ANDREW: We live in a post gnostic era?

MAL: Right. And I’m glad when you asked, you asked, you know, “What does gnosticism mean to you?” Because it is [00:32:14] a . . . I mean it’s . . . We apply it retroactively to a lot of ideas, right? None of the ancient texts, like none of the Gnostic Gospels say, “And I am now writing this Gnostic Gospel.” 

ANDREW: Mm-hmm.

MAL: Or, you know . . . [00:32:30] Gnosis, for me, the way, the way I learned it, the way I taught it, and the way I experienced it, gnosis is knowledge as opposed to [00:32:45] information.

ANDREW: Mm-hmm.

MAL: And specifically, it’s that, it’s that noetic apprehension that comes after the sort of die neue [spelling?]. [00:33:00] After the intellectual information gathering and crunching and . . . It’s an apprehended knowing, you know, in the spiritual sense. More mundanely, it’s just knowing [00:33:15] right? It’s eating peanut butter rather than having somebody read off the ingredient list of peanut butter to you.

ANDREW: Mm-hmm. Yeah. The experience of it. 

MAL: Yeah, you can never tell somebody else what peanut butter tastes like.

ANDREW: Mm-hmm. 

MAL: You can taste it then and then from then on you will forever and always [00:33:30] know what peanut butter tastes like. And that is, you know, exponentially different from knowing what goes into it.

ANDREW: Mm-hmm. 

MAL: And, and so, in a spiritual and in a magical sense, then, gnosis is [00:33:45] that experience, just like we were talking about, that experience that comes from doing certain things. 

ANDREW: Mm-hmm.

MAL: You know, and, and it’s specifically that experience that can only come from doing certain [00:34:00] things as opposed to just reading about them. Whether that’s a, you know, an in esoterica or spiritual, religious, and, and oftentimes those are blended. You know, you can read about an experience [00:34:15] of the divine. Or you can have it. I think one of the most underappreciated esoteric texts out there is by St. John Chrysostom, in defense of the hesacasts. So hesacasts, heretic [00:34:30] Orthodox, not heretic but almost, near heretic Orthodox sect, who practiced hesachasm, this, this mystical combination of the Jesus prayer kind of a yoga position and breathing [00:34:45] technique that they said would allow you to experience the energies of the divine. 

ANDREW: Hmm. 

MAL: In fact, you know, advanced practitioners of this were said to literally physically glow, like they would just glow in the dark. And this got [00:35:00] a lot of bishops’ panties in a twist and John Chrysostom wrote this brilliant defense of them, basically laying out theologically why this, this theosis, this knowing of [00:35:15] God is not heretical. You know, they’re not saying they can know God, because you can’t wrap a finite mind around an infinite thing, but you can experience, right? Can you hear that humming right now? 

ANDREW: [00:35:30] No, from your side? No. 

MAL: Yeah, so, my mic, I’m going to flick it real quick. [thump] I fixed it. Sorry, I’ve got a loose connector there.

ANDREW: Uh huh.

MAL: But, you can experience it. You can have an experience of it and he likened it to a number of different things. [00:35:45] One of them was, you know, sitting in a ray of sunshine: you know it, you can experience it. It’s not all of it. Nobody’s saying it is. But that, that’s gnosis to me, [00:36:00] that experience. 

ANDREW: So, let’s, I’m gonna ask you a really unfair question. Okay?

MAL: Okay. Sure. 

ANDREW: So, how do people determine what is different [00:36:15] between an authentic gnosis with something, with a spirit, with god, with wherever, and a more [00:36:30] psychological, or, you know, even intellectualized engagement with it, you know? Because there’s so many people who have experiences of different things, and you know, going back to your, your Zen stuff [00:36:45] and to your Tibetan stuff. There are very clear things that are markers, right? For what’s an authentic experience, you know, and I even remember when I was in the Aurum Solis, I came to my teacher and I was like, I had this, I had this experience [00:37:00] with one of the archangels, and they showed up in this way. And he’s like, “Great,” and then he pulls out a piece of paper and shows like, pulls out a book from his notes about it and shows me what I saw. He’s like, that’s, that’s [00:37:15] because you’re, you’ve moved beyond your own cognitive stuff being in the way of that connection. 

MAL: Yeah.

ANDREW: You know? So, how do people know that, though? How do people even begin to work with that if this is a new idea for [00:37:30] them?

MAL: You know, it’s, the easiest way is having a teacher, right?

ANDREW: Sure.

MAL: There’s the famous story of Gampopa and Milarepa, his, the yogi Milarepa, who was Gampopa’s meditation [00:37:45] teacher and at that time, you know, the Tibetans generally don’t meditate in groups. They don’t do silent meditation. They get the instruction. They go away, they practice, then they come back. And Gampopa came to his, Milarepa after some time practicing, [00:38:00] and he’s like, “I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m beset by devils constantly. This is what . . .” And Milarepa was like, “Just chill out, keep doing the practice, that that’ll all go away.” A few months later, Gampopa comes back again, and he was like, “Teacher, you’re, you’re so right. It’s amazing. [00:38:15] All the devils were chased off. Now. I’m visited constantly by angels and dakinis and it’s just wonderful and it’s bliss.” And Milarepa was like, “Uh huh, that’s cool. Just keep practicing, that will go away.” 

ANDREW: Sure. 

MAL: You know, having that that teacher that can that can guide you . . . [00:38:30] You know, in Buddhism, especially in Tibetan Buddhism, emptiness, shunyata, big deal, and having an experience of emptiness is a big deal. Like this is [00:38:45] one of the major mileposts and the literature is just scattered with warnings about, you know, don’t intellectualize this, don’t intellectualize this, because [00:39:00] when you do, when you get an idea in your head of what that experience is, you reify it and then you’re stuck, right? You’re stuck with that idea. And you think “Oh, I have had this experience and therefore . . .” You know, and without [00:39:15] sort of that external verification by somebody else who’s been there, right? Without talking about Cincinnati with somebody who’s also been there, you know and confirm: Yes. Absolutely. I know exactly the street corner you’re talking about, or you know, whatever, you can easily [00:39:30] be led astray. 

How, how does somebody working on their own do this? Well, that’s tough, you know, at that point, I think you have to, [00:39:45] I think initially approach, you know, unverified personal gnosis, UPG, with skepticism.

ANDREW: Yeah.

MAL: You know, I think that has to be the default when you’re on your own, no matter how amazingly lifelike and 3D [00:40:00] this apparition was, or like, initially approach it with some degree of skepticism, keeping in your mind, well, this could just be wishful thinking or this could be, you know, whatever, [00:40:15] and then give it time, right? If it was a teaching, if it was a practice, if it . . . Does it bear out?

ANDREW: Yeah.

MAL: Are there, are there, are there are external things that coincide with it? If you . . . You know, you’re given a vision of this, you know, amazing new practice [00:40:30] and then the very next day somebody randomly starts talking to you about, you know, a symbol which is exactly like the linchpin for that practice or, you know, you know, somebody brings you something that you [00:40:45] specifically need in order to . . . You know, you look for confirmation still from outside, even if it’s not from a specific like teacher in a lineage of a thing . . .

ANDREW: Mm-hmm.

MAL: You’re still looking for that external confirmation. [00:41:00] And it may not be for years and years and years that all of a sudden something happens and then it clicks and you’re like, oh my God, I had that dream, you know, three years ago about this and then here is this . . . [00:41:15] Holy crap. This is a, you know, okay, then you go with it. But no, if otherwise, if somebody shows up and just says, “hey, you’re the chosen one,” or you know, you’re yet another incarnation of Alistair, or you know, whatever, [00:41:30] you know, maybe keep that in your back pocket.

ANDREW: Yeah, for sure. Yeah. I think that that time will tell, right?

MAL: Yeah.

ANDREW: Time will tell. We’ll see if this holds the test of time, for sure.

MAL: Right, you know, and you can have, I think, amazing personal experiences that are meaningful [00:41:45] to you. 

ANDREW: Mm-hmm.

MAL: That you never say anything to anyone about or do anything with. And that’s okay. 

ANDREW: Mm-hmm.

MAL: They don’t have to be huge revelations. Or they don’t have to be, you know, even if it was something that was just the product of your own mind, [00:42:01] maybe it’s useful to you. But again, yeah, I think that in order to tell the difference between genuine, a genuine experience of gnosis, like that, yeah, it’s external confirmation.

ANDREW: And so, [00:42:16] that brings back sort of one of the other questions that I wanted to check in about: what role does lineage play, for you, in all of these things? I mean, I know in my Lukumi lineage, you know, lineage is everything. You know? I mean [00:42:31] you are, you are, in that, in my tradition, you are initiated into the lineage.

MAL: Right.

ANDREW: You know, lineage becomes your family, and, and that changes so many different dynamics because of it. You know, it’s not just like, it’s not just [00:42:46] about the information that was passed from person to person, but it’s actually the license to practice certain things, the requirement to practice them in a certain way in accordance with lineage, and a connection to all of those spirits who carried that [00:43:01] lineage forward, you know?

MAL: Right.

ANDREW: So it’s a, it’s a very living dynamic thing. What role does lineage play for you? And, and what do you see as its sort of values and challenges? You know? 

MAL: Wow. [00:43:17] I’m going to cheat and refer back to something that I wrote a while ago.

ANDREW: Which is always welcome. 

MAL: Okay, cool. I tend to think in terms of three different kinds of lineage for any organization. 

ANDREW: Yeah.

MAL: Physical lineage, [00:43:33] practice lineage, and, you know, ultimate or primordial lineage, right? Which, so, and what do I mean by these? The physical lineage is just the people, the stuff, right? The boots on the ground, the people doing the thing, the [00:43:48] buildings, the, you know, the institution. The practice lineage is the stuff they tell you to do. Right? These are the, these are the teachings that ideally have been, you know, tried, [00:44:03] tested, passed on, initiatory aspects of initiatory power, right? That are meant to facilitate things. Obeah or apostolic succession. These are all conferrals of a power [00:44:18] meant to facilitate something. Sorry. I’m going to thump the mic here again.

ANDREW: I think you might be picking up on the, someone’s running a shop vac or something downstairs. I’m also hearing that in the background. 

MAL: [00:44:33] Then I’ll trust it’s on your end and not mine. 

ANDREW: Yeah. 

MAL: So, yeah, the practice lineage there. And then the primordial lineage is what you’re ultimately connecting to via these three things, [00:44:48] right? So, the physical lineage exists primarily to transmit to the people it brings in. The practice lineage, which then facilitates connection to the [00:45:03] primordial lineage. And, you know, the first two exist ultimately . . . They function only to the point that they do those things, right? If at any point a physical institution loses its connection [00:45:18] to the primordial lineage, they’re dead. Right? It’s just a, it’s a fossil. It’s a club. It’s a, it’s, you know, it’s cosplay or whatever. If the practices [00:45:34] no longer facilitate connecting you to that primordial lineage, then they’re not doing their thing, right? They don’t work anymore. 

But then once that connection to the primordial lineage is made, at that [00:45:49] point, new practice lineages and new physical lineages can be instituted. Without that connection, they can’t be. You know, this is, this is one of those things that, like in Buddhism, people, [00:46:04] there’s this idea from people outside of it. For example, tons of sutra is attributed to the Buddha, but he, you know, we know historically he didn’t say these things. The Buddha didn’t write that. The Lotus Sutra isn’t taught by the . . . But no, technically, yeah, he did, because [00:46:19] within . . . You know, the game rules of Buddhism state [chuckling] that there is only one Enlightenment, right? Buddha means awakened. Once you have had that experience, right, once you’re connected [00:46:34] to that primordial lineage, there’s no difference between you and Siddhartha Gautama, right? So, if you have legitimately had that experience within the game rules, you can write something today and [00:46:49] say this is a text by the Buddha. 

ANDREW: Mmm.

MAL: And that’s, you know, 100% legit. There are institutions [00:47:06] where I think you can bypass some of this, but I find them to be so phenomenally rare. Right? The person that just [00:47:21] stumbles upon either a practice lineage that works to connect them to a primordial lineage, or, or, you know . . . Okay, a big example of this, you know, with what I’m doing now, apostolic [00:47:36] succession is a huge thing. Right? There is a conferral of authority and power with that, without which, none of the other sacraments will be there. Period. Full stop. Yet, [00:47:51] within broader Christianity, very few people question the legitimacy of Paul as an apostle. Because in the middle of his, you know, previous [00:48:06] life as a, and I don’t know if you can hear the air quotes I put around that, [chuckles] as a, you know, assassin for hire, he had this vision, on, was it, the [00:48:21] the road to Emmaus? [He means Damascus. The road to Emmaus is where Jesus appeared after his resurrection.] I think. Anyway, he had this vision of Christ and he converted and now he’s an apostle. 

ANDREW: Mm-hmm.

MAL: And I think most, most people in the broader Christian world: “Okay, we’ll accept that.” You won’t find any apostolic lineages, [00:48:36] I believe, tracing themselves back to Paul. I’d be surprised if you did, but you know, nobody lists him as an apostle with an asterisk by his name, kind of thing.

ANDREW: Right.

MAL: But you also then don’t hear about this happening [00:48:51] all the damn time. 

ANDREW: Mm-hmm.

MAL: You know, nobody spontaneously . . . Well, damn it, okay. The gnostic revival in France in the 19th century, [laughing] Jules Doinel. Yeah. Okay, he claimed it. But then, even [00:49:06] he went on to get actual apostolic succession. So. You know, I think it’s rare. It’s more rare than people think. 

ANDREW: I think there’s a big difference between a connection to spirit, [00:49:23] you know, and even a spirit that might have, you know, like, you know, I mean, I’m certainly not the reincarnation of Crowley, but perhaps, perhaps I could connect to his spirit in a way, and his, his Spirit could act as [00:49:38] a guide and an animating force in my work, you know? 

MAL: Absolutely, yeah.

ANDREW: I’m not saying that that happens per se, but, but that could happen. And that is not uncommon, you know.

MAL: Right.

ANDREW: [00:49:53] Like there, there are lots of things you know, where . . .

MAL: But, when those things do happen . . . 

ANDREW: Yeah. 

MAL: But when that does happen, there’s a lot that preceded that. 

ANDREW: Yes.

MAL: Right? It doesn’t, it doesn’t happen to, you know, the random grocery [00:50:08] store clerk who has, you know, never even picked up a copy of book four, or you know, whatever. Right?

ANDREW: For sure. And, but that experience is also not necessarily the same as the experience of the [00:50:23] connection to that primordial, you know, energy or the current even though if I was connecting to Crowley, I’m connecting to you know, the prophet of Thelema, that doesn’t mean that I’m actually connected [00:50:38] to that step behind that, you know?

MAL: Right. Right.

ANDREW: And I think that . . . I think that’s also an interesting distinction, you know, and that’s where lineage and traditional initiation facilitate that. 

MAL: Mm-hmm.

ANDREW: You know, because you may connect to that current, possibly, as you [00:50:53] say, there are examples, but I think there’s a big difference between connecting to a spirit that engages your work and guides you and something sort of one step further beyond that into that lineage, that [00:51:08] deeper force, you know?

MAL: Right. And, and access to one aspect of a lineage also doesn’t necessarily confer access to another aspect of lineage. So, for, you know, I have [00:51:23] apostolic succession via the episcopi vagantes, you know, right, the wandering bishops. And we may trace our lineage, you know, even up into, you know popes in Rome, but that doesn’t make me [00:51:38] a Roman Catholic bishop. Right, that’s the physical institution, and even though I might have access to both primordial or, you know, both practice and primordial lineage there, that grants me absolutely no standing whatsoever in the physical, you [00:51:54] know, lineage kind of thing, which is something I think a lot of people tend to forget, especially in the independent sacramental movement. They tend to not get that these things are [00:52:09] . . . They’re disparate. They’re separate. They’re discrete things. Yes. Generally they’re connected and hopefully, you know, if you get involved in one, it is, but yeah, if you stumble across it, if you just happen to meet up with some guy in [00:52:24] a, you know, hotel bar in Ontario and get, this sounds so bad now that I’m saying it out loud, get invited back up to his hotel room to get consecrated as a bishop one night . . . [laughing] Great. [00:52:39] You know, that doesn’t mean, you know, you can show up at the Vatican and be like, you know, where’s my room? 

ANDREW: Like, yeah, that dude. He initiated 50 people that week. Come on! 

MAL: [laughing] Right? [00:52:54] Yeah. So. It’s, you know, lineage is, lineage is important. And, you know, I’m sure you could make the case that even though I’m breaking it down into three different things that you could say, well, they’re really all the different aspects of the same thing, [00:53:09] and you could probably break it down even, you know, you could break it into four different aspects or two or whatever. But you know, in general, I think, for those three reasons at least, lineage is important, especially [00:53:24] in religious, spiritual, and, and esoteric bodies wherein the point is connection with something higher, with that primordial aspect. If, you know, if the point is just [00:53:39] education, then, you know, lineage is, you know, by-the-book kind of. Like the modern grimoire revival. There’s no living lineage, you know, Solomonic lineage that’s [00:53:54] passing this kind of thing . . . No, it’s: you find the book, you, as best you can, decipher what the hell they’re talking about. 

ANDREW: Uh-huh. 

MAL: You do it as best you can and you hope like hell you have an experience similar to what they said you’re going to have. And that’s [00:54:09] kind of it. The book, at that point, is the lineage until, you know, you make that connection. The book then is the practice lineage. There is no physical institution, you know, physical aspect of it. And then, you know, hopefully you do the practice until [00:54:24] you get that that connection that then continues in your work. You know, I think a physical institution could happen, but it’s not necessary. So I guess even in that [00:54:39] sense, there is a lineage or just accessing it through the information that’s passed on through both having the right book, having the, the brains to figure out what the hell it’s saying, and then having the guts to follow through and do what it’s saying. [00:54:54] 

ANDREW: Yeah, I mean I tend to look at some of that stuff as more, more technological, right? 

MAL: Mm-hmm. 

ANDREW: Like, I mean more in that second realm of the practice. 

MAL: Yeah.

ANDREW: Than the lineage, because I think [00:55:09] that you can, to some extent, plug some of that into whatever lineage you, you might have access to, right? Or whatever sort of primordial elements you would have access to, you know?

MAL: Right.

ANDREW: When I was very interested in those kinds of things, [00:55:25] you know, I was, I was not interested in the Golden Dawn. I was very interested in Thelema. And, so I would just go through and swap out all the words, you know, the words that weren’t Thelemic for words that were Thelemic and do work in that direction, [00:55:40] and then use that, that sort of connection to that primordial juice and that piece of it to you know, you know, call up whomever and be like, hey, listen, by the power of Babylon you’re going to do this, or whatever . . .

MAL: [laughing]

ANDREW: You know, and, and [00:55:55] I think that’s possible, because it’s, it becomes, the grimoire stuff can be more technological maybe than sort of lineage-based necessarily. 

MAL In general, I tend to think tech is tech. [00:56:10] But you know, then again there are lineages where, without having the appropriate lineage, it doesn’t matter what knowledge or information you have, it’s not gonna work, or it’s not going to work the way you want it to. You know, when you look at, [00:56:25] you know, Tibetan Buddhist magic, or just Tibetan Buddhist practice, you know, if, if you’re, if you don’t have the empowerment of a particular deity, the practice is at best ineffectual [00:56:40] and at worst dangerous, because you’re in effect, you know, trying to contact these, these powerful personalities and they don’t know who the hell you are. 

ANDREW: Right.

MAL: Right? It would be, it [00:56:55] would be like showing up at, I don’t know, pick a, pick a powerful, a famous powerful person who could be dangerous to you. I immediately, I don’t want to make this political, I immediately think Trump. [laughing] [00:57:10] Not that you can, anybody, I don’t, you know what? I’m not even going to go there. Um, but yeah, you pick a person with temporal power. All right, prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau. He seems like a really nice guy. [00:57:25] Right? I mean everybody in Canada seems so super nice to us here in the hinterlands, but I bet as nice as he is, if I went to Canada, and I saw him on the street, if I came running up to [00:57:40] him at full tilt saying, hey Justin, let me . . . You know, trying to get . . . I’m thinking there’s some people that would tackle me to the ground. 

ANDREW: Exactly. Yeah.

MAL: You know, and so, you know, the empowerment, that connection to that lineage at that point is the facilitation of that contact, right? It’s somebody [00:57:55] coming in who has that connection, somebody who’s saying, hey, you know what? Let me introduce you to my good friend, Mr. Trudeau.

ANDREW: Mm-hmm. 

MAL: And then, once they facilitated the introduction and we’ve shared a couple of drinks or whatever, at that point, you know, I can then, you know, wave from him [00:58:10] from across the street and maybe he’ll remember me and then we bump into each other, you know, that sort of thing. 

ANDREW: Sure. 

MAL: And, and I’m absolutely convinced that Tibetan Buddhism can’t be the only place where something like that is, is [00:58:25] required, where if you don’t have the hook-up, if you don’t have the official connection to that lineage through the prescribed means, you know, best of luck to you. 

ANDREW: Yeah, yeah. Something might happen, but who’s [00:58:40] to say what it is and yeah, how it’s going to go. 

MAL: Yeah. And whether or not you wanted it! [chuckling]

ANDREW: Exactly, exactly, for sure. So, we’ve been, we’ve been chatting for a long time, because this has been really lovely, and I want to ask you one more question before we wrap it up though. [00:58:55] 

MAL: Sure.

ANDREW: Because there’s one other thing we haven’t gotten to, which I was delightfully enjoying on your Facebook, which is these various statements of gnostic belief, [00:59:10] you know, or the sort of, you know, where you’re discussing how you believe in, you know, this, the fallen angel, and the energy that comes with that, and how you believe in Christ in this way, and how you believe [00:59:25] in, you know what I mean? If we think about the apostles’ creed, we have a very clear example of a statement in that direction, but you know, all sorts of traditions have their own. But your seemingly contradictory, [00:59:41] from some people’s perspective, ideas about the nature of the universe, really both sort of tickled my fancy . . .

MAL: [chuckles]

ANDREW:  And, [laughing] if that’s, if that’s not a weird thing to say and reflected [00:59:56] a bunch of my own kind of contradictory or apparently contradictory notions about it. So I’m curious what, what you were looking to do as you were expressing that and sort of what kinds of beliefs you have around, [01:00:11] you know, the nature of the universe in that kind of construct. 

MAL: In general, I have a very dim view of belief. [laughing] I think they’re very dangerous things, people ought to stop having them.

ANDREW: Uh-huh.

MAL: [01:00:27] And when I post that . . . I think one of the worst things that ever happened to the world was–and this is ironic, I think, coming from me–is Christianity and its emphasis on creeds. You know, Christianity was weird for any number of things, when it arrived on the [01:00:42] scene, but one of the things that it was most weird for was that it was a creedal religion. It was, you know, it pivoted around what people believe as opposed to what people did. It wasn’t performative. And, you know, this idea of having right belief [01:00:57] then is something that came into play and, you know, I think history has shown us what a dangerous thing requiring right belief can be.

ANDREW: Sure.

MAL: And then determining that. When I post [01:01:12] shit like that, and I feel absolutely justified in calling it that, a lot of times it’s just to kind of work out for myself what’s been bouncing around in my head, what’s going on at the time, [01:01:27] and also looking for a little bit of that sort of external verification, right? If everybody responded with a what are you on? or did you not sleep last night? or is that . . . You know, then I know, okay, this is maybe a little bit out there, but then when I get responses [01:01:42] like, you know, that really tickled my fancy, or you know, that’s a sign that, okay, you know, maybe, maybe I might have figured a little bit of something out, or maybe I might have glimpsed a little bit of something here. And I think [01:01:57] having creeds that don’t fit together nicely works together well for me. And by creed, you know, having beliefs that are paradoxical, that, that aren’t, you know, that are sometimes juxtaposed [01:02:12] against each other, is beneficial. I mean, it goes back to, I think what I was talking about with my own sort of practice, where you know, you take these two disparate things, you take these two different books, two diametrically opposed . . . See what comes out of it. [01:02:27] See what, see what you make from it. And I think a lot of times, the thing that makes something paradoxical is really just a limitation of our language.

ANDREW: Sure.

MAL: You know, [01:02:43] I get a lot of, I think I get the most push back, for example, with the Church of Light and Shadow, which is, you know, my newest endeavor, because I talk about the morning star and people [01:02:58] are like, well, okay, you seem to be implying that this is both Jesus and Lucifer, which is it? And I’m kind of like well, yeah, you know, we have this tradition that Lucifer is the Fallen Angel. However, [01:03:14] there’s only one figure in the Bible who ever identified themselves as the Morning Star. 

ANDREW: Mmm. 

MAL: That’s Christ in the Book of Revelation.

ANDREW: Sure.

MAL: You know, and the more I sat with that and their specific [01:03:29] roles and functions, especially the. you know, not, not the, not the Satan of you know, the HaSatan or you know of, the opposer of . . .

ANDREW: Or Anton LaVey. 

MAL: Right. Yeah, but this . . . [01:03:44] more the Lucifer of Milton and Dante, and, you know, the very popular romantic Promethean myth of Lucifer that we have today. That is very much a Christ figure [01:03:59] when you look at the role that Christ played. Right? Christ did not show up and be like, “You know, what? All right, everybody just do what the temple priests say, and follow . . .” You know, he was very much an ego-driven [01:04:16] individual. I mean, we can consider the gospels as spurious as we would like as far as whether or not this figure, Jesus, actually said these things. But the [01:04:31] one thing that you know, like when you get to, like the Jesus scholars, that came together and try to figure out well, what’s most likely that he said? One of the things that they had pinpointed as most likely coming from Jesus, based on what we know of the context, and what got passed . . . [01:04:47] His doing away with the old law and saying, “A new law I give to you,” right? “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and love your neighbor as yourself.” [01:05:03] 

And what people gloss over here is, it’s not saying, love your neighbor, which by that he means that everybody, right, love everybody else. He’s not saying love them more than yourself. He’s not saying debase yourself before . . . He’s saying love them [01:05:19] as yourself. And if you don’t love yourself a great deal, you’re gonna be shitty at loving anybody else. 

ANDREW: Mm-hmm.

MAL: You know, how Luciferian is that? You know, he . . . [01:05:34] And so looking at these two figures in that way, looking at them both as, as light bringers . . . You know, in fact, it was really, it was not until I looked at [01:05:50] the gospels and teaching of, teachings of Jesus from a Luciferian perspective, that they really started to make sense to me.

ANDREW: Mm-hmm.

MAL: Does that make sense? 

ANDREW: It does. It does, for sure. 

MAL: And so, I think there’s, [01:06:05] there’s, there’s definitely something there, and this, this perspective is not new. I did not make this up.

ANDREW: Sure.

MAL: This idea of having a, you know, a sacramental Christian Church practicing [01:06:20] folk magic is also not new, you know, magic and Christianity have been tied together for as long as they’re . . . 

ANDREW: Catholics everywhere. Right? 

MAL: Right. Yeah. I mean, I think I commented recently on Facebook that you know, if you’re not ready to accept that Christianity [01:06:35] is a weird necromantic cult, then you’re not ready to study church history. 

ANDREW: Yeah.

MAL: But when looking around for this, you know, for something that really embodied and [01:06:50] embraced that, I couldn’t find it. There’s nothing, you know, like there’s, there’s, there’s nothing out there. There are Catholic witches that are, you know, going to mass, and you know, practicing in private or in secret, [01:07:05] and there are Christian witches, but there’s no organization that’s embracing both of these things. And the more I kept looking for this, and the more I kept posting, you know, both things like, you know what? I believe this and I believe this and the more [01:07:20] feedback I kept getting from people saying, you know, yeah. Yeah, me too! Where’s that from? This ought to be a thing!

ANDREW: Mm-hmm.

MAL: And you know, I’m a firm believer that we have enough independent apostolic [01:07:35] Christian churches running around. I don’t know how familiar you are with the independent sacramental movement, but in general, you know, you end up with jurisdictions of one, somebody belongs to a church long enough to get consecrated a bishop. [01:07:50] And then they’re out of there so they can go do things the right way.

ANDREW: They had a great experience while they were in Vegas from somebody they met in the bar. 

MAL: [chuckling] Right? Next thing, you know, then they’re off. 

ANDREW: Yeah.

MAL: You know, and so, I get in trouble, I get [01:08:05] people in the independent sacramental movement angry with me when I tell them, you know, look, if it’s really about the mission, like you say it is, you would stop what you’re doing, find a larger church that’s actually already doing this, and doing it a lot better because they’ve got the bodies [01:08:20] and the resources, and you’d join them, you’re doing this just for the title. And so I was, I was loathe to start yet another church.

ANDREW: Mm-hmm.

MAL: You know. 

ANDREW: Well, and I think just before [01:08:35] you move past that point, too . . .

MAL: Yeah.

ANDREW: And I think there’s also value in doing a thing like becoming a bishop for yourself. 

MAL: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. That’s great too.

ANDREW: You know, I mean, many many Orisha practitioners become priests for their own [01:08:50] well-being, you know, and that’s fantastic, but be clear about that, and then go from there, you know. 

MAL: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely, you know, I went for years ordaining people and limiting their faculties. [01:09:05] So, when you’re ordained a priest, you receive faculties or permissions from the bishop that tells you what you can and can’t do, basically. And I would ordain esoteric practitioners who just [01:09:20] wanted that, that plug into apostolic succession for their own spiritual and magical practice. And I would, you know, I would tell them well, okay, great, but without any sort of pastoral education, I’m not going to license you [01:09:35] to do any sort of pastoral work. [laughs] You don’t get to go start a church, you can say mass in your home privately, that sort of thing, that’s fine. Just go be a private priest. And it took a lot to move me away from that [01:09:50] and, and decide, okay, you know what? I think I am. I think there’s enough momentum around this to do something about it, to found it. I’m a firm believer in, if you have an idea for something great, and nobody else has done or is [01:10:05] doing it, maybe that’s a sign it’s supposed to be you. And after poking around and getting enough encouragement, I decided all right, screw it, we’re going to do it. But if we’re going to do it, this is how it’s going to happen. 

ANDREW: You’re the person you were looking for. [01:10:20] 

MAL: I am. I was the person I was looking for. 

ANDREW: I hate when that happens.

[laughter]

MAL: It means a lot of work. 

ANDREW: It means a lot of work. It’s so much easier when you can find a person to be like, don’t worry, Mal, I got you! 

MAL: Right? 

ANDREW: I’m ready. Everything’s [01:10:35] all set up. Just bring a salad and some hummus. 

MAL: Exactly. You bring the dip and the soda. That’s like the lowest rung of . . . 

ANDREW: Yeah. 

MAL: Yeah, that would have been great. But in order to do this, I’ve done, I think some [01:10:50] unique things, you know. So for example, people have contacted me and said, you know, how do I . . . ? I love this idea. I’m on board. This is, this is great, this resonates so much with me. How do I join? Well, there is a self-dedication [01:11:05] right on the website. https://luxumbra.org/. You perform the rite. You let us know that you did it. And you’re in! That’s it. You’re already Luxumbrian. You know, that, that’s it. We are, we are, [01:11:20] we are self-proclaiming, because I really think that, you know, stepping onto this, this sort of via madea, [spelling?] this middle path between light and shadow has to be self- [01:11:35] instigated.

ANDREW: Mm-hmm.

MAL: You know, there is a lineage aspect afterwards, that, that you connect to, but I think it has to, that first step has to be self-initiated and, in keeping with the Luciferian aspect, it has to be self-proclaimed. [01:11:50] 

ANDREW: Yeah.

MAL: Nobody else can tell you that you are this. You have to come out and declare: This is me. This is my path. I’m one of you. And at that point we say, okay, you’re in. [01:12:05] 

ANDREW: Perfect. Welcome to the club.

MAL: Exactly. 

ANDREW: It’s fantastic. So, that’s a great spot maybe to wrap it up. 

MAL: Okay, cool. 

ANDREW: Where do people find you and where do people check out if this is the [01:12:20] thing that they want to proclaim to themselves and the universe?

MAL: [chuckles] Well people find me at Mac and Alley’s on the corner. You can find me on Facebook, you know, Mal Strangefellow. I think I’m [01:12:35] probably the only one. You can, yeah, the church, the Church of Light and Shadow, the Luxumbreon [spelling?] church is at LuxUmbra-dot-org, so that’s [01:12:50] luxumbra.org. You know, look under about, or I think maybe the link is, the navigation is membership, but it’s plainly titled self-dedication. Click on that. It gives you [01:13:05] the right to perform. Read through it. See if it fits with, with what you’re feeling, and if so, man, jump on in, the water’s fine.

ANDREW: That’s it, I’m leaving the Church of the Subgenius and I’m coming over to you. [01:13:20] 

MAL: Sweet. 

[laughing] 

MAL: We’re happy to have you! 

ANDREW: Excellent. Well, thank you so much for making time today. It’s been, it’s been a lovely chatting with you.

MAL: Oh, it’s been my pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.

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