Fireside 2.1 ( Vayse Blog Wed, 14 Sep 2022 18:30:00 +0100 Vayse Blog en-us How to Start When You've Already Begun Wed, 14 Sep 2022 18:30:00 +0100 c52c691c-68fd-470e-b772-9acc060d2459 Starting anything worthwhile can be hard, sometimes starting is the hardest part of whatever that worthwhile thing might be. Beginnings are much easier, the comfort of passivity: a book you read when you were 8 years old, a dream you had a decade ago and never forgot, a casual conversation with an old friend over pizza one lunch time in spring – the flapping of a thousand butterfly wings that gently whisper you away from the road that you’ve been sleepwalking for years. A road that you had intended, without thinking, to continue walking, determinedly zombie-strong, to its inevitable conclusion for no other reason than it was familiar. But instead you find yourself lost and stumbling along some thrilling desire path, until eventually you’re in some strange, frightening and thoroughly unfamiliar place. A place where you can make a start if you choose. Or perhaps you have no choice - however difficult, awkward or embarrassing that might be.

Which is how Buckley and I found ourselves recording a rambling but heartfelt conversation on the evening of Thursday 16 June 2022 that, when we finished, we knew we would be the first Vayse Podcast. Not because we thought it was particularly brilliant or insightful or revelatory but because, after two attempts which had already fallen short, we felt that this one properly and accurately documented the start that we were making and how we were making it. To have settled for one of the earlier recordings would have been to catch us so unfamiliar with the process as to be unable to convey our situation and our nebulous intentions and ambitions – to have waited any longer would have been to miss an opportunity to capture that starting point in all its wide-eyed, cringe-inducing, slightly frenzied peculiarity.

Through hours and hours of discussions whilst walking through the Lancastrian countryside we’d honed down what we wanted to do – to document, in as close to real time as we’re able, what it’s actually like to take those first uncertain steps into the world of magic, the occult and the weird – and what it was like to take those first steps as 40-year-old children, putting that sweet midlife crisis to work for us.

Weird stuff has been a fascination for both of us since we were young kids, and that was how we had met, as ten-year-old ghost-hunters, chasing spirits with a my next door neighbour who was in Buckley’s class at school. That fascination had continued for both of us into adulthood but it was always just that – a fascination, a curiosity, distraction from the often-monochrome monotony of “real life”. Sitting in our armchairs reading about the experiences and theories of other people. This was always stuff that happened to other people.

Personally, as a determinedly lapsed catholic, I’d found myself floating lazily in the still waters of agnosticism, drifting slowly towards the shallow-end where waiting for me was, what I suspect to be, full-blown atheism - where I could touch the bottom and feel safe, unchallenged and comfortable.

And this in spite of the fact that through the course of my life, I’ve had many experiences that defy any sane, rational explanation. Somewhere in my mind I was compartmentalising these events, taking these little gritty memories that were staring to irritate my rigid materialist world-view and forming shining pearls of rationalism around them which I could proudly show off as evidence of my abundant normality. Any weird memories that I couldn’t assimilate in this way, I was learning to forget entirely, training myself to stubbornly ignore any phenomena that I might into contact with which would cause me a metaphysical inconvenience.

How and why this changed we try to explain in VYS0003.

It’s never a good thing to wear ignorance as a virtue but I hope it’s apparent from listening to our first effort that this is far from what we want to do with Vayse. If anything, it’s the exact opposite. We accept our current position as absolute beginners and we want to learn. And in order to learn we have to make mistakes. Then learn from those mistakes so that we can make better mistakes next time.

I recognise a similar attitude in the people that I chose to learn from, people with years and years of experience, but who never decide that what they know enough - they don’t stop questing, they don’t stop learning from their mistakes, they don’t stop making mistakes. This is vital. Everyone recognises those jaded magicians who steadily drip the poisoned words of gate-keeping and self-aggrandisement across their writing and social media presence while their own practice calcifies and languishes into barely enchanted coprolite. If I thought that was my destiny I would pack all this in right now. But on the other had you have the practitioners who realise that their study is more than can be achieved in one lifetime, who constantly strive to seek out new knowledge from the edges of this world and others, and who bring it back to teach those who’ll listen, like the archetypal Campbellian hero. There are many of these heroes out there at the moment but off the top of my head I can suggest Phil Hine (Twitter, blog), Josephine McCarthy (the free Quareia Course), Douglas Batchelor (the What Magic is This? Podcast, Twitter), Darragh Mason (the Spirit Box Podcast), Meredith Graves (Twitter, Instagram) and Aidan Wachter (I recommend you seek out the books of Wachter in particular if you’re an absolute beginner).

Listening back to VYS0003, even at the remove of only 3 months, is a frustrating experience because we’ve learned so much since – we could do better(!?!) - opinions have shifted, practices are refined or completely different, the arrogance of naivete has given way to a clearer understanding of just how much we don’t understand.

You can hear it in the way we rock up boasting that we’ve decided to just try to make something happen, bold as brass, devoid of any sort of plan, technique or concern for what we might do if in the terrifying event that we actually did make something happen.

It’s in the way we dismiss Crowley off-hand as problematic, without nuance or any kind of meaningful research. Of course, Crowley is problematic, that’s kind of the point. One of the great challenges we’re finding in exploring the occult is in understanding that some areas are always going to be grey. This isn’t in anyway an abdication of moral responsibility – but this stuff takes some careful thinking. A lot of very bad people can have ideas that are good, just like a lot of very good people can have ideas that are bad. Learning from any of these ideas does not mean aligning yourself with the personal views of that person, good or bad – this is where discretion is needed, thoughtful consideration of what you’re learning and the implications of learning it. This is thinking without a safety net. You’ve got to have a level of trust and confidence in yourself that’s still very much nascent in me and Buckley. The tendency is still to dismiss outright what we find problematic or difficult to rectify. We’ll try to do better and we’ll make mistakes. We’ll make mistakes and we’ll try to do better.

A large part of this reasoning behind this abundance of caution is finding ourselves, as newbies to the occult community, appalled by the extent of barely concealed or just plain fucking out-in-the-open Nazism and fascism which seems to have taken root. Much of this is played out with adolescent predictability on social media - I suspect the more terrifying face of this many-arseholed beast hides in relative secrecy unconcerned with such trivialities. That said, I’m yet to meet an occult Nazi in person, at least that I know of. Perhaps social media distorts and exaggerates the prevalence of this kind of destructive shit-brained thinking. Perhaps not. Perhaps it only acts as a distraction, a bunch of useful idiots shouting their idiocy from virtual rooftops whilst the major players and puppet masters take advantage of this staged act of misdirection to proceed without the inconvenience of ever being held to account.

By comparison the mistakes that Buckley and I are making are harmless and healthy and, if VYS0003 could be said to succeed in one thing, it’s in being a lovely big mess of rookie mistakes and enthusiastic confusion from which we can only improve. But, still, the truth is that we’re releasing it because we’re proud of it. This is a document of extreme personal importance, and we hope that the listener will recognise this and perhaps feel better about going out and making their own weird mistakes. One of our greatest hopes in doing this podcast is that Vayse might even be some small part of a beginning for someone else - a minor influence or subtle catalyst for some curious person who stumbles across it at the right time when they’re in the right place. And VYS0003 will always be there for us and for them as a snapshot of where we were at the start, what that was like and how fucking little we knew.

Peter C Hine 14 September 2022