Abdicating responsibility: Can we still blame the devil?

Posted in religion with tags on March 8, 2009 by onyxdrake

The phenomenon of a school murder is certainly not new. There’s a good chance that you may have heard about the notorious Columbine High School massacre that occurred when two teens, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, took it upon themselves to remove some of their fellow students from the gene pool. The first thing that people started asking was why did it happen? When answers weren’t forthcoming immediately, some reason had to be found and talk abounded about the effects that the gothic subculture, bullying, violent computer games and the availability of guns have on teenagers.

In his 2002 movie, Bowling for Columbine, filmmaker Michael Moore interviewed “shock-rocker” Marilyn Manson.

Michael Moore asked Marilyn Manson, “If you were to talk directly to the kids at Columbine or the people in that community, what would you say to them if they were here right now?”

Marilyn Manson replied, “I wouldn’t say a single word to them, I would listen to what they have to say and that’s what no one did.”

This, in my mind, is perhaps a telling reason why some youngsters feel the need to look toward the occult or “darkness” in imagery when they choose to express themselves. But to say that all youngsters who tend toward this are, at heart potential killers, is a display of faulty logic. By the same measure, fingers can be pointed to other religious affiliations, whose adherents commit crimes of violence. What then, can be asked, about so-called “holy” wars? This is a social quagmire.

Issues of social alienation, a fascination with the occult and “dark” subcultures, have often been blamed for abhorrent behaviour in youngsters and, from time to time crop up closer to home. Not too long ago, during August 2008, a Krugersdorp learner Morne Harmse, who attended Nic Diederichs Technical High School, took a sword to school and aimed a few swipes at his fellow learners, slashing young Jaques Pretorius fatally through the throat before going on to injure three others.

The uproar was phenomenal, making front-page news in many newspapers in South Africa. So, why did he do it? The name of the band Slipknot was mentioned in the same breath as the word as “Satanic” and that the boy was somehow “possessed” by an evil spirit due to his dabbling with so-called occult forces.

According to an article published on www.iol.co.za, Christian pastor Marc Bredenkamp felt quite strongly about that there was a link to Harmes and Satanism. By observing Harmse’s reported behaviour, Bredenkamp believes that the boy is a self-styled Satanist. This term refers to people who follow a form of Satanism which they evolve themselves and are not governed by any other group or individual. 1

In the same article, Bredenkamp is further paraphrased speaking about the evils of heavy metal. Bredenkamp says death metal or heavy metal music can play a role because the lyrics are hopeless and make the listener believe there is no hope in the future, but he added that this did not mean that the music was entirely to blame.

So, was the devil behind it? Does dabbling in so-called “evil” forces and listening to heavy metal music result in an instant desire to go out and mutilate, main and murder? Ask upstanding Christians about Satan and you’re bound to receive a range of reactions, mostly of disgust and fear. You don’t have to go far on the World Wide Web to dredge up opinions too countless to deal with in the scope of this article.

According to Dr Attie Lamprecht, senior superintendent at the SAPS detectives’ head office, “Satanism is not a crime, it is a belief system that leads to crime. There are some of the Satanic rules that will get you in trouble sooner or later. Satan represents all of the sins, and young people apply them to their lives.” 2

But, so far, has anyone bothered asking one of the major Satanic organisations what its opinion is?


Magus Peter H Gilmore, High Priest of the Church of Satan, a religious organisation founded by Anton La Vey during the 1960s, kindly added his five cents when contacted for comment on the Krugersdorp incident.

Saffron: Do you see a link between Morne’s actions and Satanism?

Peter: I currently see no relation to Satanism in this incident. Certainly such killings are contrary to the philosophy of Satanism. There is no rational way to speculate as to what motivated this student to commit his crimes. Until one had statements by him or had the chance to interview him, any opinion would simply be pure theory, and weak theory at that since it wouldn’t be based on any data.

Saffron: Any religion, if taken to an extreme, can be dangerous. Where do you draw the line between right and wrong?

Peter: Making broad statements about religions and extremes is simplistic and pointless. It all depends upon what religion is in question and what could be defined as an extreme – and whether that extreme is supported by the philosophy and scriptures of the religion or if such extremes are in fact contrary to the philosophy of the religion which then makes them acts which are OUTSIDE of the religion in question.

Satanism is a religion of atheism, scepticism, and reason, which supports law and order and complete secularity of government. It is NOT devil worship, does not embrace supernatural beliefs, and in fact feels that a social contract is mandatory for our species. Concerning situations of criminal behaviour, we insist that the punishment should fit in kind and degree the crime. This is very clear from our literature.

Saffron: How would you suggest helping misguided teens, such as this boy?

Peter: The following text is from an essay in my book The Satanic Scriptures called Victors and Victims: From West Memphis to Columbine, which answers your question about Satanism and disturbed students in commenting on the Columbine incident, where the killers were known to be intelligent and creative by the school officials and their fellow students:

One thing might have helped defuse the situation: Satanism. If Klebold and Harris had understood real Satanism and chosen to live by it, their vengeance spree would not have happened. Satanism would have taught them that, indeed, they were not like these others, and that such is a positive attribute. Satanism would have taught them that they had only one life, and that their intelligence and talent would take them along paths which would lead to their drinking deeply from that cup which is offered but once. They would have known that Satanists practice Lex Talionis, making the punishment fit in kind and degree the crime. With their superior intelligence, they should have been able to respond to taunting with verbal wit, and made responsible administrators aware of their pain. They would see that the herd cannot help their nature, and that the human who really flows with Nature learns to walk nimbly between these ponderous golems, to snatch the bounties that the dullards will never even see. The Satanist finds a way to prevent the torture, and means to be free to prosper, as living well is truly the best revenge. If these two had a Satanist’s perspective, they would not have seen the transitory period of High School as being such an insurmountable burden, and they would not have been compelled to commit heinous acts against innocent victims.

Instead, they saw no way out, and thus made their last stand, and perhaps did so as a gesture for those they thought to be like themselves. They are now icons for the alienated, and an example that sets up an Is-To-Be that desperate others may follow. Satanism can stop it. Satanism sees the futility of martyrdom, as what matter is it becoming a symbol while losing your own life? To the Satanist, his own life is the most precious. Let fools die and become symbols. Self-immolation is “herd think,” Christian life’s blood—the essence of their creed. And so in this siege, they essentially finally adopted the herd’s premise that one’s own life can and should be thrown away.

Saffron: Do you think that extreme music can influence your behaviour?

Peter: The idea that any sort of music, whether somebody considers it “extreme” or not, could influence behaviour of a sane individual to commit acts not congruent with their character and beliefs is complete nonsense. People are not robots who can be programmed into behaving in certain ways simply by listening to music. If that was the case, then we could broadcast positive tunes with happy messages that would make everyone behave like nice little automatons. That just doesn’t happen.

Individuals who have mental illnesses on the other hand can be influenced by anything, from a leaf falling to seeing secret messages in alphabet soup. You cannot base the validity of any aesthetic expression – be it music, art, literature, film or poetry – on whether a mentally unstable person has used it as motivation for insane acts. Responsibility does not lie with the artist or art form, it rests on the person who was looking for any excuse to justify the behaviour in question. People are horrified when a person snaps and kills innocent victims and they look for easy answers – there are none. At such times of shock and grief it is important not to scapegoat a song or a band or a religion to get a quick answer.

Studying what happened over the course of the disturbed person’s life might give some clue as to why that person finally acted in such horrific ways, but the responsibility for each person’s actions must stay with the person themselves and not be fobbed off on something else to make the victims feel better by providing an excuse. There is no excuse or simple cause when an irrational person explodes in violence. The emotional trauma has no simple or quick fixes. To think otherwise is classic lynch-mob mentality, which has no place in a sane society.

Saffron: Is belonging to a minority religion/sub-culture dangerous?

Peter: There is no inherent danger in participating in many minority religions or sub-cultures. Remember that most of the present majority religions and above-ground cultural forms began as small niche associations and, over time, those that had values that drew in more followers ultimately graduated to become the major generators of mass beliefs and practices. If a particular religion has life-threatening actions as part of its practices – such as the evangelical Christian sects that handle poisonous snakes – then that would be an exception and could be seen as being dangerous. The sexual sub-culture that practices auto-erotic asphyxiation would also been seen the same way. I’d add to that any sub-culture that encourages the use of addictive substances.

But outside of those rare exceptions, no, there’s no inherent danger in simply being part of something that is not embraced by the majority. The only historical exception to that would be if the majority had the power to put you to death for not sharing their beliefs – which was the situation for much of the past two thousand years when Christian churches worked with governments to exterminate anyone they considered to be heretics. That bloody history should not be ignored. Christianity – with its central image of a father God sacrificing his only son as well as offering rituals which claim to be the eating of their saviour’s flesh and the drinking of his blood – is currently considered to be harmless when in fact it was the motivating force behind centuries of slaughtering innocent people.

Satanism, unlike Christianity, does not advocate murder of those who think differently. We Satanists never forget that fact. Satanism embraces life, since it is fleeting and precious. For us, enjoying the one life we have is our goal and sharing it with the people we cherish.


In Closing, it is abundantly clear that each case of school violence or incident with supposed occult or Satanic influences must be viewed individually.

The crime Morne Harmse committed was deplorable. Reading the assorted newspaper articles, it is clear that it was premeditated and the act of an individual in control of his actions. 3

Morne knew what he was doing when he donned the mask and gripped that sword. Morne, alone, is to blame for his actions and we should not seek “easy” answers by pointing fingers. Morne needs help. He needs people to listen to him.

If it were heavy music, a subculture or Satanism that is to blame, why aren’t there thousands more involved in these things being found guilty of similar, heinous crimes? Why is there no hue and cry over the so-called “influences” of Christianity when a Christian murders his children, as in the case of policeman Marius van der Westhuizen. 4

It doesn’t matter what your religion or culture is. When the circumstances are right – or wrong, in these cases – any individual can take a life.

Media sources:

1: http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id=13&art_id=vn20080830090132803C149540

2: http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id=13&art_id=vn20080925054910111C569982

3: http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id=13&art_id=nw20081024101933125C343355

4: http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id=13&art_id=vn20090305124014181C107293


Seeking the Western mysteries – what, where and who

Posted in Magic, Philosophy, religion with tags , , on November 17, 2008 by onyxdrake

The nature of this article is not so much to give a detailed history of each esoteric organisation that is included, but to give a brief overview of a number of schools or magical paths that may be suited to the man or woman who is initiating him or herself during a quest for self-knowledge. If you want the full story, I’ve included useful links at the end of each sub-section. If you’ve found this article, then I’m taking it for granted that you do know how to use Google and drive a mouse.  Read, inform yourself and make decisions based on rationality rather than emotion.

As above, so below, by awakening and gaining self-knowledge, an initiate is better equipped to change reality in accordance with their will. Why? Life is, essentially, short and meaningless. As an initiate, whether it is in the school of life or some esoteric order, you seek to add value to your existence and reach beyond the limitations of your flesh.

Why join a school at all? There are a number of benefits. These included shared resources, a mentor system and the camaraderie of shared experiences. As an individual, it is so easy to get stuck in your own subjective universe that you can no longer function in the greater scheme of things. A school helps by serving as your reality check.

There are many schools out there that will suit different temperaments. I have attempted to collect a few. This list is by no means exhaustive and it is my hope that it will serve as a jumping-off point for those who are embarking on the most noble of all quests, to master one’s self.

Below constitutes my understanding of the relevant organisations and schools. I am, but human and my opinion is worth as much as you’ve paid for it. Make up your own mind.

Awaken! Seek the mysteries!


AMORC, short for Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis, seeks to help its members answer basic questions about purpose, self and the universe, and achieve mastery over their lives. Its followers seek attunement with life and heightened spiritual awareness. The organisation’s teachings aim to aid mastery all aspects of the self – physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. AMORC’s teachings look to the mystery schools of ancient Egypt and Europe, aspiring to move with the times. Its teachings are structured to provide knowledge of metaphysics, mysticism, philosophy, psychology, parapsychology and science.

Online resources:

Esoteric Order of the Golden Dawn

The old Golden Dawn that Crowley used to be a member of is no more. It has, however spawned a number of organisations that claim an initiatory lineage that has been influenced by the original organisation. While investigating my options, I sadly also picked up that there was a lot of bickering and fighting between the so-called “official” orders of the Golden Dawn but, if you are prepared to look past this, there may be some gems along the trail. It’s just a case of deciding which you prefer to align with.

The Esoteric Order of the Golden Dawn claims to be true to the classical Golden Dawn tradition. It is an international fraternity that practices astral and long-distance initiations and is not tied down to a specific temple. Some of its teachings include the Golden Dawn system; hermetics and hermeticism, Qabalah; ancient Egyptian and Greek mysteries; Tarot meditation, magic and divinination; astrology, gematria and geomancy; astral travel/projection; Golden Dawn protection rites and banishing; scrying, clairvoyance and travelling in spirit vision; ceremonial magic and alchemy; Enochian and angelic magic and techniques; personal empowerment; complete grade initiations; the power of the elements (air, fire, water and earth); and talismans and amulets.

Online resources:


In a nutshell, Freemasonry lays claim to being the oldest and largest global fraternity dedicated to the brotherhood of man beneath the fatherhood of a supreme being. There may be an apparent dichotomy in its purpose, since it does not present itself as a religion, yet it does have religious aspects, urging its adherents to be true to their own beliefs.

Historically it is said to have originated among the craft guilds of medieval Europe. The organisation is made up of grand lodges, which govern set jurisdictions that contain lodges, where members regularly meet up. No single body rules all the grand lodges.

Freemasons are initiated into a lodge and may work their way through a degree system. Much signs and symbols are used to identify members and their various positions within the lodge. Lodges may be involved in charity and community service within their environs and membership to many groups is available only to men.

Online resources:

Gardnerian Wica

During the 1940s, Gerald Gardner, who can be seen as one of the forefathers of modern witchcraft, or Wica – as I’ve seen it called on the assorted resources – set down the tenets for his conceptualisation of witchcraft. It is interesting to note that he associated with Aleister Crowley and also had connections to the OTO. Gardner claimed to have been initiated into a traditional coven of witches supposedly surviving since pre-Christian times. Practitioners follow a nature-based, mystery religion that honours the Goddess and the Horned God, functioning within a coven that meets to celebrate festivals and work magic. Knowledge is passed down through “lines” that lead back to Gardner himself. Initiates keep a “Book of Shadows” where they record their rituals and spells.

Online resources:

George Gurdjieff and PD Ouspensky

George Gurdjieff and his protégé PD Ouspensky are both responsible for a dynamic school of thought that has had a great impact on modern Western mysticism. The teachings centre around teaching aspirants to awaken from ordinary life to “real” life, using what was called the Fourth Way.

According to Gurdjieff: “There do exist enquiring minds, which long for the truth of the heart, seek it, strive to solve the problems set by life, try to penetrate to the essence of things and phenomena and to penetrate into themselves. If a man reasons and thinks soundly, no matter which path he follows in solving these problems, he must inevitably arrive back at himself, and begin with the solution of the problem of what he is himself and what his place is in the world around him.”

Online resources:

Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn

Founded in 1977, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn looks up to the teachings of Dr Israel Regardie for its establishment. The organisation does not claim to be a religion, although it places importance on religious imagery and spiritual concepts. As a hermetic society, it dedicates itself to the philosophical, spiritual and psychic evolution of humanity. It acts as a school, maintains resources of knowledge and its students learn the basics of occult science, Western philosophy and magic. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn also claims to be tolerant of all diverse religious paths, teaching Qabalah, astrology, divination, inner alchemy, Egyptian magic, scrying and Enochian magic.

Online resources:

Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO)

As far as esoteric schools go, the OTO, as far as I can tell, is pretty big on the works of Aleister Crowley, underpinning its teachings with the great magus’s work with two of Crowley’s Laws:
“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law”; and
“Love is the law, love under will”.

Philosophy: The OTO offers a degree system and functions as a school, offering initiation into the mysteries and offering activities for its members. Perhaps it can be best summed up in Crowley’s own words:
“The OTO is in possession of one supreme secret. The whole of its system [is] directed towards communicating to its members, by progressively plain hints, this all-important instruction.” Of the first set of initiations, “the main objects of the instruction [are] two. It [is] firstly necessary to explain the universe and the relations of human life therewith. Secondly, to instruct every man [and woman] how best to adapt his [or her] life to the cosmos and to develop his faculties to the utmost advantage. I accordingly constructed a series of rituals, Minerval, Man, Magician, Master-Magician, Perfect Magician and Perfect Initiate, which should illustrate the course of human life in its largest philosophical aspect.” The initiation rituals after the V° are such that “the candidate is instructed in the value of discretion, loyalty, independence, truthfulness, courage, self-control, indifference to circumstance, impartiality, scepticism, and other virtues, and at the same time assisted him to discover for himself the nature of [the supreme] secret, the proper object of its employment and the best means for insuring success for its use” (p.701). (Source: Wikipedia).

Online resources:

Process Philosophy

Process philosophy is an attempt at defining the nature of reality in the sense that natural existence is described in terms of processes rather than isolated objects – modes of change rather than fixed ideas. Change is examined in different aspects, be it psychologically, physically or organically.

Online resources:

Rosicrucian Order

The Rosicrucian Order structures itself as a school of light and self-improvement. Its members apply themselves to a progressive system of study and practical application of what they have learnt, mastering their lives and planning ahead to become fully developed human beings. They seek to master their own existence without being a slave to destiny. Those belonging to the Rosicrucian order seek to understand the relationship between all people, the cosmos and god (however divinity is named or perceived). The organisation offers progressive initiation and graduated studies, its members either choosing to work on their own or to affiliate with a lodge.

Online resources:

Temple of Set

Established in 1975, the Temple of Set, now a worldwide organisation, was formed by disaffected members of the Church of Satan who sought to align themselves with the essence of the Prince of Darkness as embodied by the Egyptian god Set. Setians seek self-knowledge in order to reinforce changes within themselves and, therefore the world at large. They work with many magical and philosophic systems that draw inspiration from relevant Western and Eastern traditions but, instead of seeking unification with the all and abnegation of the self, they aspire to align themselves with Set as an Isolate Intelligence. Their work is underpinned by a constant state of dynamic change as they evolve toward their own, essential divinity, worshipping individualism. This process is called “Xeper” which means to “come into being” and the Temple of Set recognises that the methods to experience Xeper are many and varied, differing between initiates and there is no fixed ideology.

Online resources:

Theosophical Society

The Theosophical Society is a global fellowship dedicated to promoting the unity of humanity. Helen P Blavatsky, Henry S Olcott and William Q Judge, among others, formed the society in New York City in 1875. The organisation encourages the study of religion, philosophy and science in order to better understand the self and the universe. It proposes complete freedom of individual search and belief. Some of its core tenets include the belief that a single life pervades and sustains the universe and that the universe is a manifestation of an eternal, boundless reality – the essential oneness of everything. Human consciousness is seen as being identical with the supreme reality that unites all of us. The organisation recognises a cycle of manifestation and dissolution in existence and its members seek to reunite with what they call the One Divine Reality.

Online resources:
http://www.metroweb.co.za/~graeme/ (Theosophical Society in South Africa)
http://www.theosophy-nw.org/theosnw/home/art-ol.htm (a collection of articles)

How do you choose the path that is best suited to you? Don’t be hasty. A good start is to look at the literary resources that the school you are interested in look toward. Buy and read a few of these books so that you can decide for yourself if there is some resonance with you. Afterward, I’d suggest contacting the administration officer of the organisation that you are interested in. Find out if there are any members who are willing to perhaps chat to you via email, to answer any questions. Then, sit back, have a good think, and if you’re still convinced that the organisation is the right one for you, then go for it.

As with anything in life, to attain success requires hard work and commitment from you. You will get out of an organisation only what you put in. If you begin to work with a long-distance group, remember that it may be more difficult to maintain your excitement. Be aware also that your fellows are also human and they are not infallible. No matter where you go, you will always encounter clashes in egos, controversy and disagreements. No organisation is perfect. There is always room for improvement and, perhaps you can become the change that you wish to see.

Lastly, I’d like to share an online resource that I find to be invaluable to serious seekers of truth:

This is my world

Posted in Philosophy, Travel with tags , , , , , on July 29, 2008 by onyxdrake

“This is my world,” says Miss Helen, her voice echoing through distance and time.


Nieu Bethesda draws me close, a tiny microcosm tucked away in a valley beneath the Compassberg, by my calculations, almost exactly halfway in the middle of nowhere, the way I like it.


Life takes on a different pace here, more relaxed, with doves adding their voices to the sound of a slight breeze ruffling the leaves above. The sky is aquamarine mantled with wisps of brushed clouds. Clear water still gurgles in the furrows for gardens and dogs laze in the middle of the dirt roads; the cars drive around the slumbering canines.


Standing outside Miss Helen’s house, where cement owls with wide glass-bottle eyes watch me, I peer through the fence to gain a glimpse of the Camel Yard. Here an assortment of cement-crafted pilgrims and camels journey to a mythical East where bottle-skirted meisies and mermaids beckon for weary travellers to rest, to refresh themselves among glass-lined ponds, pyramids, sphinxes and smiling Buddhas.


Nieu Bethesda is this, a glass-encrusted house of mysteries, light and reflection, but it is more. Nieu Bethesda shines in the smiles of its inhabitants, of warm Karoo-style hospitality and a place in time where the ordinary cares of the city can be dusted from your feet.


Nieu Bethesda is a late-afternoon stroll along dirt roads that run forever through the scrubby veld. It is sipping on a cold beer or freshly ground coffee beneath giant pepper trees. Nieu Bethesda calls me with the scent of farm bread and goat’s milk cheese, of rosemary crushed between fingers, with the promise of rest and a place where time slows to the pace laid down by donkeys’ hooves.


Nieu Bethesda has more stars at night than anywhere else. Around every corner is a story, some tales set in stone dating back to the age of the therapsids, when our kin were but a dream. The little cousins to the dinosaurs – the leguan and the koggelmander – will dash across your path, saying: We are still here.


Unwilling, I must always leave, to live in the shadow of the Hoerikwaggo, but my bones, my soul, belongs to the Karoo, where my forefathers knew the meaning of the word “patience”. As always, my feet and my heart find the path that leads back to Nieu Bethesda, to a place where time stands still.

Cut the Crap

Posted in Magic, Philosophy, Writing with tags , , on June 13, 2008 by onyxdrake

There is nothing that I hate more than verbal leg humping.  I’ve seen it in pagan circles. I’ve seen it among ceremonial magicians. I’ve seen it among musicians, graphic designers, amateur botanists, dog breeders… No one group is immune.

It bores me to tears.

Oh, so you know everything about the eighth infernal legion of Zub-zub and understand the intricate meanings associated with scribing the entity’s seal. You’ve evoked it when the planetary alignments were in agreement with your ascendant stars and although you think you saw a puff of ethereal smoke coalescing out of the swirls of incense that night, you’re going around telling everyone that you successfully evoked the entity.


Now, what have you really done with your life? Are you so caught up in your own cleverness that you’re only capable of spewing vast quantities of big words but have lost the ability to actually communicate?

I prefer saying it like it is and I guess that this little piece is all about communication. In my day job, I work as a sub-editor, chiefly concerned with turning advertorial into readable newspaperese. You should see the dreck that people send me, especially attorneys and accountants. They obscure their meanings in big words that have readers floundering within the first paragraph.

Instead of using simple, concise words, they throw half a dictionary at their readers. The only other people who’d even have a remote chance at understanding what in hell’s name is going on would be another attorney or accountant. Magicians are no different. They share equal success at making my eyes glaze over with rambling essays espousing the true nature of reality.

Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t be poking around some of the odd places that I know of if it wasn’t for the fact that I gain something from being a having some sort of interest in esoteric matters. What I’d like to suggest is that if you’re simply burning up to share some sort of revelation with your fellows that you actually sit down and think how you can communicate this in such a way that:
1: The order of your thoughts is logical.
2: Your words grab your reader from the outset.
3: You don’t waffle.
4: You avoid jargon and clumsy words.
5: Edit and proof read.

Logical order is important. Ask yourself, what exactly are you trying to say? I find that making a list of points is helpful. I read through what I’ve jotted down and decide whether or not I’m making sense.

Once you know what you’re going to say, sit back and think of a way in which you can introduce what you’re trying to say in such a way that is different or will grab your readers’ attention. Maybe you heard a song on the radio the other day that had lyrics that stuck in your head that will illustrate your point. Maybe you’ve just read a novel and can pull a quote to use. Maybe something happened to you the other day, or you had a dream.

In most cases, when people read a newspaper, they’ll read the headline and perhaps the first paragraph. If you don’t hook your reader from the outset, he or she will cast a glance at what you’ve written, then move onto something that looks far more interesting. Your introduction has to be provocative, informative and must make your reader want to read more.

Then, there is nothing that I hate more than someone who waffles and never gets to the point. Take a lesson from modern media, such as magazine or newspaper editorial. An average column that you encounter in print media rarely exceeds 800 words. There’s a reason for this. Busy people don’t have time to sit down and read a 3 000-word epistle that goes on ad nauseam about complicated interplanetary relationships. Sum up what you’re saying by asking yourself: “What, where, how and who?”

Realise that the majority of the folks reading your writing may not share your depth of understanding about a subject and finding ways to communicate your knowledge in a way that won’t leave them floundering is a Very Good Idea.

Every interest group has jargon. These are words that are peculiar to a certain community, usually business related, that excludes those who are not “in”. It is easy to take it for granted that everyone’s on the same wavelength with regards to your understanding of words and terms that you use every day.

Once you’ve finished your masterpiece, ask someone to read it. Make friends with others who share similar interests with you and who will read what you’ve written and deliver constructive criticism. No matter how brilliant you think you are, you’re going to make a few mistakes or errors in logic. A fresh eye will fix that or maybe even add some observations that you missed out on.

There is a minefield of information that we have to sift through, not everyone’s going to be au fait with everything that you know. Simplify the way you say things. No, I’m not saying that you should dumb yourself down to the point of baby-speak, but keep it simple. Get to the point. Say what you mean. Cut the crap.


Posted in A Slice of life, Philosophy with tags on May 13, 2008 by onyxdrake

Egypt has held me in thrall since a young age. Perhaps the first time that I encountered this fabled land was when my mother used to read me bedtime bible stories. I didn’t care much for the plight of the disciples but I could hear about Moses over and over again. Egypt was a land of decadence, of linen-wrapped mummies, papyrus scrolls and animal-headed gods that paraded in rows on the walls of tombs. It was a forgotten land, a forbidden place, associated with idolatry and tumbled stone pillars. At the age of six, I was in love. When the pharaoh’s army succumbed to the waves when the Israelites made good their escape, I mourned for the young men; their bright chariots drawn by foam-flecked horses. The rest of the bible paled in comparison.

The next moment that stands out in my memory is a visit we made to the then Transvaal, to stay with family and friends while on holiday. I had a choice. I could either visit the museum that had a blue whale skeleton or I could visit the museum that housed a small collection of Egyptian mummies.

There are no prizes guessing which option I selected. However, upon arrival at the museum, I absolutely refused to enter that room with the dead people in it. I was convinced that I’d be confronted with an unwrapped Ramesside horror. After a storm of tears and assorted threats, my long-suffering parents succeeded in dragging a reluctant child into that chamber of horrors.

What a disappointment. The closest thing to dead limbs that awaited me was the toe of one of the long-dead inhabitants that poked through the bandages. No skeletal grins pulled into a rictus of pain awaited me.

The next chapter in my lifelong obsession with the land of Khem occurred during that fragile time in a girl’s life when she crosses that gap between childhood and womanhood. Bast was there for me, haunting me from the pages of library books with my fervent wish that the old religions hadn’t died with the advent of a martyred saviour. Of course it didn’t help that my sister kept cats, of the persuasion that were supposed to inhabit the temples and palaces of that faraway land.

In later years, studying art and esoteric literature, Egypt still calls out to me. It is not the Egypt of today, with busy Cairo and a buzz of dust-snarled alleyways. She is the Egypt of the soul, who speaks to me in dreams, of a land where the Nile still enriches with its annual inundation, where maidens dance, draped in the finest of gauzes, in time to the swish of sistrums. Nobles still raise lotus flowers to breathe in the intoxicating scents of the blooms. Fresh bread nourishes me. Beer refreshes me. Isis still smiles her secret, enigmatic smile and beckons for me to dance one more time in her sanctuary. When I look up to the river in the sky, the Lady of the Stars arches her back and upholds a thousand pinpricks of light. When the sun sets in the west, I am reminded of Anubis, the jackal who waits to guide me through the land of the dead. Ibis-headed Thoth presides over my writing, nodding in agreement as my fingers play out the words that will allow Egypt to live again in the hearts and minds of all those who still believe in her.

Of shifting sand and memories

Posted in A Slice of life, Philosophy, Travel with tags , , , , , , on February 24, 2008 by onyxdrake

Kolmanskop, Namibia
January 7, 2008

Driven by relentless winds, the Namib Desert was quick to reclaim the German mining town of Kolmanskop after its last inhabitants left in 1956. All that remains now, with some buildings half submerged in dunes, are the husks that tell of the grandeur of a past that is sinking beneath tons of shifting sand. When the diamonds became scarce, so did the dreams.

Few can walk between these ruinous buildings without hearing the echoes of the past. Was that a child’s laugh in the other room? What caused the boards to squeak upstairs just a moment ago?  Did someone just walk past that empty doorframe?

In the absence of entirety, your mind fills in the blanks, seeking to complete a picture. People once lived here, eating, sleeping, laughing and talking. These were people like you and me, the only difference is that more than 60 years have passed and the continuity has been broken. Kolmanskop stopped moving forward. The ornate wallpaper has peeled off the walls, revealing a layer of coloured paint laid down by someone long dead. Signs written in German inform visitors that this is the accountant’s house or that that is the doctor’s residence or that the shopkeeper lived in this modest, two-bedroom home.

You can stand in the remains of a dining room and you can almost feel the swish of air as someone dressed in long skirts brushes by you. Or you could say it’s just the wind, nothing more and that for it to be something else is pure fancy.

You can close your eyes and imagine the men standing around a baby grand, laughing, as one of their party plays a Kurt Weill tune and they join in to sing along to a favourite tune from Die Dreigroschenoper, evoking old Weimar.

Now you hear the wind, that never-ending wind, that lifts rusted sheets of corrugated roofing to bang them in a mockery of the time that was. You lick your lips and your tongue comes away with a thin film of sand. Sand is everywhere. You can almost imagine the grains trickling now through cracks in the wall where the structure of the house trembles against the howl of air. You can’t escape the sand. It will find you no matter where you go.

I stood, alone, in the engineer’s house, or so I think it was, if my memory serves me correctly. I listened and identified the song of the wind playing on the slow crumbling of this building. I smelt old wallpaper, the dry decay. I controlled my breathing and went through the motions of a standard meditation. I allowed the silence between the spaces to speak to me, to tell me of the place that was.

I finished the meditation, suddenly afraid to be so alone, for my husband had gone to recharge his camera while I’d elected to stay here, silly and brave but insistent that this was the experience I had driven many thousands of kilometres to have.

I was overwhelmed by my need to surround myself with living, breathing company, to hear real voices.

As we continued our exploration, I came to the realisation of the why of my meditation. Any temple or structure that we build out of brick, stone, wood, cement or any material that is available means very little in the greater scheme of things.

Unless there are others to share your understanding of a building’s function, it is quickly reduced to the state of a thing, an object, a pile of rubble or a heap of stones that someone excavating will attach their own meaning.

This makes me think about one of the groups that I work with, why it exists and how it exists. It is not constructed using brick, stone, wood or cement yet it exists as a school, a living oral tradition. It has form, yet you cannot visit it at a location. It is its members. It still faces the ravages of time and, although its environment does leave an imprint on it, the attrition the group faces is not that of a slow crumble of matter. Not having a physical structure allows us to mould around our environment and gives us more flexibility.

Yes, this is dangerous, being intangible but it is, also, a strength to be as water that flows rather than a mountain of rubble slowly subsumed by a vast desert.

When I am told to build my temple, I must build its learning, give it meaning and add to its understanding in such a way that there will always be a legacy for those that follow in my footsteps. For, in forgetting, we allow the sands to sift and choke out our learning and all that we’ve done in our great work as we evolve.

Without passing on our wealth of knowledge and understanding, everything that we build becomes dumb stone scattered, left to explorers to discover and attach their own meanings.

Monday, an institution

Posted in A Slice of life with tags on February 18, 2008 by onyxdrake

I have a number of friends who’ll most likely agree with me that Mondays are universally best described by the word “blegh”. Or “ick”. Or, just a mono-syllablic groan. 

I tend for the latter, especially since I’ve had no “good morning” cup of coffee or a spinach-and-feta croissant today and am not likely to have one until the 25th of this month.  

Where do I start to have discourse on the litanies of what Monday brings with its post-weekend, post-idyll wibbles? Yes, and the word “wibble”. It’s a kind of combination of “wail” and “quibble” and is a perfect way to sum up those how you express yourself over those little events that all conspire to ruin the start of an otherwise innocuous week. 

Of course, eventually the good stuff that happened is all forgotten, along with annoyances such as losing your driver’s licence somewhere in Obz, having the computer at home go on the fizz or running out of money with another week to go before payday, when you get stuck into the nonsense that makes up your week. 

You get by, somehow. And the next thing you know, you’ll be back at Monday **groan**.