The term Atavistic nostalgia is another name for a principle which plays an important part in Spare's system and which is sometimes also defined as Atavistic resurgence. We can take but a quick glance at it here, for otherwise we would be obliged to give a complete introduction into Spare's entire system, which is not the purpose of this volume. Thus, we shall concentrate on the basic structures of Atavistic nostalgia and its possible applications in practical sigil magic.
The fundamental rationale of this practice is Darwin's Theory of Evolution. I'm sure you are familiar with Darwin's theory that man is but the momentary end-product of a long process of evolution that has been going on for millions of years and which has led from unicellular organisms and reptiles to mammals, including ourselves. Unlike popular "Vulgar Darwinism" (which was mainly monitored by the Church), Darwin did not so much claim that "man derives from monkey" but rather that we carry in us the entire heritage of ail life forms and that we literally incor-
porate it. This "carrying in us" has been proved, f0r the most part, by modern genetics as weJl as by anthro-pology, physiology and other disciplines of human biology, although Darwin's theories underwent tremendous transformations and challenges within the last 150 years.
For example, the human brain did not develop steadily and smoothly. Instead, it shows several added variations in the form of "accretions" in the course of evolution so that in fact we unite "various" brains in our skull. These derive in part from very early stages of evolution, e.g., the so-called "interbrain" (dien-cephalon), or "reptilian brain" or brainstem. Once again, it would lead us away from the matter at hand to discuss the pros and cons of Darwin's theory or repeat all the objections which have been raised against Darwinism (e.g., by the partisans of the rival theory of Lamarck). In our context it is merely important to note that in Spare's paradigm our entire evolutionary history is still organically present in us. In other words, it is not as if we were completely finished with our former evolutionary stages, as if we had totally overcome them and laid them aside. Quite the contrary, in fact. The inf ormati on of these earlier stages of our de vel op-ment is stored in our genes up to the present day and, according to Spare and many other magicians, it may be revitalized and tapped. (The parallels to Carl G. Jung's concept of the collective unconscious—at least in one of its possible interpretations—should be obvious.) This is exactly what happens with atavism, which in biology denotes a retrogression of sorts into earlier stages of evolution.
"pare uses the English word nostalgia (New Latin nos-falgia), deriving from the Greek notos - "homecom-l|uig" and algos ~ "pain"; thus, "homesickness" is one of its meanings. It is also related to Old English genesan "survive" and to old German ginesan of the same meaning; Gothic ganisan = "being saved (healed)" I also reveals Spare's frame of reference when using h this term. He does not use the word so much in the
■ sense of "longing for something (the source)," although 'i this may be included as well, but rather employs it to signify an act of conscious revitalization of old, archaic , , structures of the consciousness.
Consequently, Spare tried to go back into early, pre-human stages of consciousness by activating ge-netic or hereditary memory. This, for him, was not an end in itself, for his basic premise was that our greatest magical power, probably even the source of magic itself, lies hidden in these early stages of evolution. This assumption is confirmed if we take a look at the
■ practices of Siberian or South American shamans or various African fetish priests, e.g., work with power animals, animal clan totems, etc. Practice also confirms this over and over again. Only when the magical will (which Spare is fond of calling "belief") has become "organic," meaning unconscious and carnal, is it, according to Spare, most effective. The deeper we go into our magical trance, returning to earlier stages of consciousness, the easier it will be for us to partake of its magical power and, most important, to direct and use it.
Nevertheless, it must be mentioned here that such a procedure demands a great deal of magical experience and a strong psychic stability. And let us not forget that with Atavistic nostalgia we enter prehuman stages of life, which, when brought to consciousness, may have catastrophic results. Thus, you might realize that not only your whole world view but all your usual ideas about morals and ethics might be drastically changed by Atavistic nostalgia. You might be completely overwhelmed by your animal-consciousness (for example, your "reptilian karma,4' etc.) or even become obsessed, which could result in particularly unpleasant consequences in our bourgeois, conventional society. On the other hand, this entirely meets Sigmund Freud's demand "Where Id was, Self shall become" and belongs, in Carl G. Jung's terminology, to the challenge of the "shadow" and thus to individuation itself. But you should always realize that you are dealing with extremely hazardous powers, and if you have the slightest doubt whether you are ready for this, by all means keep away from it, unless you are keen to experience one hellish trip after the other.
Spare did not leave us any accurate directives on how to deal with Atavistic nostalgia, but his magical pictures and steles (to which he usually added handwritten explanations and reflections) give us some idea about his possible mode of approach. As is to be expected, he achieved these changes in consciousness by employing sigils.
There are several methods of Atavistic nostalgia. For example, we may shift our consciousness into that of different animals by constructing and activating proper sigils. Spare is fond of the term karma in this respect, but his karma differs somewhat from the usual meaning of the word. Karma in his terminology means the "sum of all experiences." Thus, we may, for example, create sigils from the following sentences of desire:
—I WANT TO EXPERIENCE THE KARMA OF A CAT.
—THIS MY WISH TO EXPERIENCE THE KARMA OF A REPTILE IN MY DREAMS.
—THIS MY WILL TO OBTAIN THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF A BIRD OF PREY.
—THIS MY DESIRE TO BECOME A UNICELLULAR ORGANISM IN MY DREAMS.
In regard to the first sentence of desire, Pete Carroll in Liber Null & Psychonaut mentions incredible results (p. 203.) It is advisable, especially in the beginning, to experience atavisms in states of dream only, until you have become more familiar with them. Only then should you experience atavisms in everyday life and, of course, in rituals. You could append the word "immediately" to the above sentences and then charge pentacles or steles with the help of the Alphabet of Desire for use in ritual for special workings (e.g., as "gateways" to an altered state of awareness). Again, this method calls for a lot of training and experience.
Another method consists of phrasing the sentence of desire less specifically but more comprehensively. This method should be understood as an augmentation to the aforementioned procedure and not as an alternative. Here again are some examples for sentences of desire:
—THIS MY WISH TO EXPERIENCE MY ATAVISMS.
—THIS MY WISH TO EXPERIENCE THE STAGES BEFORE MY BIRTH.
—THIS MY WISH TO EXPERIENCE THE SOURCE OF MY LIFE.
—THIS MY WISH TO EXPERIENCE MY REPTILE INCARNATIONS IN RITUAL.
The key words "reptile incarnations" show that we are moving close to another technique of regression—reincarnation therapy. But the intention of the sigil magician is different insofar as s/he employs atavisms to charge sigils further or to start magical operations. For example, atalisman charged while one is in a "reptile consciousness" will work more powerfully than a talisman charged while in a state of normal magical trance. Of course, we must bear in mind that all of these atavistic states of consciousness have their own shortcomings and strong points. It would be downright foolish to demand highly intellectual work from a reptile with its small, barely developed brain. The incarnation of a bird won't be suitable to give us a lot of knowledge about life underwater, and the karma of a fish is not responsible for problems of hunting in the steppes or buying a car (though it may be excellent for buying a submarine!). We have to learn to choose and to employ these specialists in the optimal manner.
Working with animals has a long magical tradition and most "primitive" peoples still do this. Even a |fcity magician" like Franz Bardon recommends it on l^e fourth level of the "magical mental training" in his ■ j^ook Initiation into Hermetics. Sujja Su'a'No-ta also povers it in the first part of her book Element-Magie. Remember the witches' familiars to which such inordinate attention was given in the time of the Inquisition. Modern technology has largely succeeded in Subduing the animal aspects in our lives. Thus, this jnagical art has nearly disappeared in our culture. On the other hand, we can, with its help, create a good counterbalance to the modern tendency of overemphasizing artificiality and technology.
It will usually take years and decades of practice until you are ready to work with Atavistic nostalgia in a predictable and reliable way. As a species, we had to struggle much too hard for evolution, so our consciousness and our censor will not stand by unflinchingly and watch as we scratch off our civilizing varnish, risking the possibility of destroying everything again. One reason why true mastership in this practice can only be achieved after many years lies in the fact that during this period a stabilization of the whole psyche has to be achieved. If not, our brain could never handle experiences which are dead, similar to Lovecraftian tales. Furthermore, if we endorse the evolutionary model, a new step in evolution must always be guaranteed or our own genetic alarm mechanisms would destroy the whole system of our organism. Finally, in evolutionary terms we are little more but parts of a general organism which cannot afford to allow uncontrolled regressions to a larger extent. Therefore, we will have to "offer" something to this general organism (when seen as a personification) for its collective development. Only then will we be able to use its huge power resources.
Despite all the dangers which are entangled with the use of specific or less specific animated atavisms, a small number of magicians will always consider this to be the crown of their art and one of their highest aspirations. Today is the product of Yesterday, and if we are inclined to take the gnostic questions "Who am I?," "Where do I come from?" and "Where do I go to?" seriously, we cannot afford to do without the sheer unlimited knowledge to be gained from this practice. Atavism leads us back to the source of all life, regardless of whether we call it the Big Bang, God, Ain, Bythos, Chaos, or whatever we like. In this respect, the magic of the "re-animated atavisms" also represents a mystical and philosophical method, a method which chooses the path "directly through the flesh" instead of, as is regular Western practice, employing the spirit only, without appreciating the vessel which enables its existence in the first place. To complete the picture, it must be mentioned that sigil magic is not the only magical way. Thus, the "path of carnal memory" may easily be combined with purely mental and mystical paths, if this is preferred.
Atavistic nostalgia offers us a variety of aspects which have yet to be explored. Here we find virgin land which has been waiting for millions of years to be discovered and charted!
Finally, I would like to mention that present ex-
has shown that sigils created with the pic-Siforial method as well as the Alphabet of Desire do bet-fter in Atavistic nostalgia than other glyphs. The reason ¿for this might be that these methods are somewhat more "pristine" (at least they appear to be so to us), : but, of course, this may only correspond to subjective structures. Nevertheless, I urgently advise experimenting with the Alphabet of Desire in this field ■because here its abilities can be developed to the fullest and because its energy seems to be best adapted to this line of magic. Working with a structured alphabet provides us with the additional advantage that our experience may gain more stability and, in some cases, more substantiality. On the other hand, an associatively constructed alphabet often provides us with very powerful, instantly successful, sigils because its glyphs pop up even more "directly" from the unconscious and the hereditary memory than those of other techniques with the possible exception of the pictorial method.
It's also true that these two different methods of constructing the alphabet may be combined with one another. Thus, we might, for example, (as did Spare) construct 22 basic glyphs (being the generic or basic terms) and then add any number of merely functional glyphs using the method of automatic association. There are no limits whatsoever to one's own desire for experimentation. Remember, who dares, wins.
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