In the middle of 1997 - an uneventful year in the midst of an otherwise dizzyingly complex decade - I received a message from Randall Packer, curator of the Multimedia Research Program at the University of California. Would I be willing, he asked, to give a lecture as part of a series he was hosting in the fall?
Randall and I have some history in this; as director of the Multimedia Studies Program at San Francisco State University, I delivered one of the "Multimedia Pioneers" lecture series, on Beltane in 1996. It was - as I remember it - a ninety-minute ramble through the landscape of my own thoughts, concerning, centrally, seduction and domination in mediation. In reality, I was just warming up for a presentation in Madrid at the start of the next month - CyberConf 5 - but the event seemed to be quite a success, and - luckily enough - garnered some good reviews.
As I had not delivered a standard VRML "dog and pony" at SFSU, I knew I had some lattitude; more, perhaps, than I had dared to take at any time before. Public lectures are equal parts performance and profession; you must speak of what you know, but it should be a spellbinding recitation.
So I considered what I knew. I had months to plan this - months in which I could think and meditate on what I might want to cover. I warned Randall that I would go "off the map" - fair warning being fair play, after all - and received assurances that whatever I said, whatever I did, would be acceptable to him.
One of the tenets of my spiritual education is "Say little; listen much". Even as much as I do talk (and yes, I do talk quite a bit) I have said very little in public about what I understand of matters spiritual. I feel that these issues remain essentially personal, and - far from any desire to be seen as a spiritual or religious leader - I keep my mouth shut. Mostly.
One of the great benefits of public speaking is that it allows me to air ideas which otherwise will only be echoed within my own head; that intellectual self-abuse is nearly always as sterile as its sensual counterpart. So I decided to take this opportunity to lay out - in very metaphorical language - an overall architecture of my own understanding of the universe.
That anyone could hope to accomplish such an undertaking in an hour's time seems foolhardy and impossible; however, the mythic form allows an immense compression in linguistic intensionality. One sentence could speak an entire volume, one stanza an encyclopedia, one work - that could represent one world.
I will not belabor the work with an unnecessary explanation - it stands on its own and most of what I could say about it would only detract from its purposively multiplicative meanings - but I will speak directly to its title and structure.
I have received some instruction from my mentors - in particularly, Owen Rowley, to whom this work is dedicated - about the sources of spiritual knowledge in the West. Although my own spiritual practices are a melange of Eastern and Western traditions (I practice Kundalini Yoga and Witchcraft), I consider myself an heir to the Western traditions. What I am about to relate must be considered in the context of European thought and history.
Christianity - when it came - did not immediately displace the older traditions of Europe. In many places, particularly in the Celtic lands, it co-existed with a folk spirituality that focused upon the Earth and its seasons. Some of this has been incorporated into the Christian calendar (All Soul's Day, Christmas and Easter, to name the three most vital dates in the Wheel of the year) while some of it was brutally supressed. The vicars of Christ wanted no rivals for their power - secular or spiritual - and as the church saw itself grow into the over-arching European power, it consolidated that power, driving the old faiths underground.
I need to be very clear on this point: the old religions did not die out. Like the crypto-Jews of Spain and Portugal, the folk religions disguised themselves, or simply disappeared from view. In matters spiritual, the practicioners of these faiths were vastly more advanced than their Christian counterparts. They knew what was coming; never anti-Christian in the sense of being anti-Christ, they saw the handwriting on the wall, and knew that - for a time - the Christian church would be ascendant.
I have often stated that the essence of Witchcraft is timing; these women and men knew what time it was. They could see the "dark age" decending upon Europe even as the cross rose over their villages. Yet the revealed knowledge of the old faiths - which spoke of the soul and our place in the universe - could not be lost in this surge of Christianity; that they could not allow.
The old faiths decided to wait Christianity out.
If this seems presumptuous, bear in mind that the old faiths are - in some cases - ten thousand years old. A thousand-year old faith will - of course - seem nearly infantile in comparison.
A decision was made to take the essence of the old faiths, and break them into three pieces, each complete on its own, but each reinforcing the other, a tensegrity of spirituality. Three traditions born in secret, each bearing a fragment of a jewel broken to keep it whole.
The first of these traditions, Witchcraft, stresses the circular, reflexive nature of all life, through the play of the eternal female and the temporal male. The next, Freemasonry, pronounces the extensive, perfectable nature of Man; we all work to finish the Temple of Solomon. The last, which reaches us today in the form of Rosicrucianism (and its counterpart in Qaballah), speaks to the essential similarity between the inner spark of life and the field of Mind which forms the Universe.
All of this was at one time one teaching, one tradition; but that time is past, gone for a thousand years. At the end of the Millenium of silence, the time has come to draw these pieces together, and learn again who we really are.
Go to "When the Three Were One"