Friday, January 31, 2014

Peter Roche de Coppens – The Man Behind the Throne
(24 May 1938 – 12 June 2012)

Sometime in the spring – May I believe – of 1987, at the age of 23, I was visiting Dr. Meera Sharma at her home near Lake Scranton.  Dr. Sharma was a physician specializing in internal medicine who was very publicly active in the local Rosicrucian body, the Wilkes-Barre Pronaos.   For about half of its fourteen year existence the Pronaos even met in the waiting room area of her office on the fifth floor of the Bank Towers Building in downtown Scranton.  George Seman, also an active member and founder of the affiliated body several years earlier (1984) was also present, as such, it was little surprise to me when the two would later be married. At that time, her spacious and Indian accented living room had become a veritable salon where it was possible to meet all sorts of wonderful people at any time.  

On this occasion her father and mother were visiting from Bombay. “Sharma” as he preferred to be called, was a self-made man, having moved from Burma to Bombay sometime in his youth – although I am not certain if it was before or during the Second World War.  He eventually made his fortune after much hard work by designing a battery casing that could withstand the brutal Indian humidity.  In addition, having begun his practice at the age of forty, he was a profound clairvoyant, and was frequently sought out at home in Bombay and in Scranton for his advice.  Also visiting that day was a professor from East Stroudsburg University, Professor Peter Roche de Coppens, tenured professor of Psychology and Sociology.  

Peter was a tall, fit middle-aged man, just shy of 50, with a swath of hair pulled across his clearly balding head – on him however, it did not look bad.  He was congenial and smiling, in fact, when one met him he was always smiling, but it was as I would later come to believe, not because he was happy, but more because I believed, performing.  He portrayed his life as magical, spontaneous, and wonderful all of the time – even when confronted with obstacles. He spoke of love and its various manifest ions – he was like Anthony Robbins and Leo Buscaglia combined. 

Before leaving, we went for a walk down towards Lake Scranton, a favorite destination of everyone who would visit Meera, and upon returning he went to the trunk of his car and pulled out a copy of his most recent book, The Invisible Temple – The Nature and Use of the Group Mind for Spiritual Attainment (Llewellyn's Spiritual Science Series, 1987).  He inscribed in French the following, “Learn French to accomplish the Great Work”.  He followed it with, “find the woman.” Meaning, to find a woman that inspires you to greatness. The French version of the “dakhini principle” if you will.  I have succeeded at one, if not at the other.

The fact that Manly P. Hall was looking for a replacement to head the Philosophical Research Society was mentioned to me, that is, that Hall was looking for someone to groom. The implication was that I should pursue that line of inquiry, although no means of introduction was suggested or supplied.  Art Kunkin, who I would not meet until seven years later, was part of the PRS Board of Directors after the time of Hall's death  [see: Some Passing Thoughts on Dr. Joseph Lisiewski].  Like nearly every organization, esoteric and mundane, built upon the foundation of a charismatic creator and leader, PRS nearly imploded with his death.  For a critical look at Hall and PRS at this time see his biography, Master of the Mysteries: The Life of Manly Palmer Hall by Louis Sahagun (2008). 

After our meeting I read two of de Coppens other books, Apocalypse Now - The Challenge of Our Times (Llewellyn's Spiritual Science Series, published 08 Oct.1995), which was a semi-autobiographical work, and, The Nature and Use of Ritual for Spiritual Attainment – Great Christian Documents and Traditional Blueprints for Human and Spiritual Growth (Llewellyn's Spiritual Science Series, 01 January 1985).  The latter was more to my liking as it addressed the key Christian documents from an esoteric perspective while linking their ideas to the spheres of the Tree of Life.  This was the first time I had heard of this idea and was entranced by it. I later would learn that others schools had used it, but along with the collapse of Christian tradition, there was also the collapse of Christian esotericism. The two, as we shall see, go hand in hand – but that is for another time.

He was a Roman Catholic, a member of his local parish, and my wife Andrea and I even attended an Easter service with him, afterward we returned to his house for a light repast of fruit, and tea.  When addressing the altar he bent forward, nearly level with the floor, so that the top of his head was pointed at the altar. This he said, was to allow the energy to enter into his central channel or Middle Pillar.  This is also a very old and traditional manner of approaching the altar.  It is not surprising that in his later years he wrote mostly about Christian spirituality rather than directly addressing esotericism.

Peter was also an admirer of Padre Pio, the Italian stigmatic, and stated to me that Pio had the ability to be understood in whatever language the listener spoke.  While I have not researched this to see if it is reported elsewhere, it is an insight into de Coppens' life:  he was a collector of people, and of experiences with them.  Something I enjoy doing as well, although to a more limited and more intimate extent.  

He spoke vaguely of his involvement in various esoteric movements, never really pinning anything down or disclosing any of the details. He disliked the Rosicrucian Order (AMORC), yet had no problem mentioning his having been “invited to assist them [the French Grand Lodge] with a project” and something similar with Raymond Bernard's CIRCES [Knights Templar] organization, while stating that he had been involved with the Society Rosicruciana in America (SRIA) established by Dr. George Winslow Plummer. 

His calling card stated, “Knights of Malta Consultant”. The website for The Knights of Malta states, “The knighthood nature explains and justifies the maintenance of the noble nature of the Order, as most if its Religious Knights came from chivalrous and noble Christian families. Today the majority of Knights of Malta belong to all classes of society. The members of the Order may be defined as Catholics enlivened by altruistic nobleness of spirit and behavior.  All Knights of Malta must meet the traditional requirement for the bestowing of knighthood:  distinguished themselves for special virtues.  The knighthood nature of the Order has kept its moral value, characterized by the spirit of service, sacrifice and discipline of today's Knights of Malta.  Battles are no longer fought with swords, but with the peaceful tools of the fight against disease, poverty, social isolation and intolerance, as well as witnessing and protecting the faith.”  Once, as he sat to the left of me on a couch, arm outstretched in my direction, and laughed off the suggestion that Cagliostro might have been a legitimate adept, even a member of the Knights of Malta – stating, “he would never be allowed in, they would not have him”.  

Yet for all this talk of groups, he never invited us to participate in any group activity.  He mentioned having established groups, and groups using his works, but that was the total of it – nothing specific and substantial.  It was, all ideas.  He loved ideas and was in love with the idea of being important and influential in world shaping events.  He let it be known that he traveled on three or four passports:  Swiss, American, Italian, and Argentina I believe.  Consciously or not, he projected the image of being a secret agent man.  The United Nations was mentioned several time, along with other hints of intrigue and special knowledge.  One friend, who came to give a presentation and afterward spent the evening in the 'salon' remarked about de Coppens, “He does not want to be the man on the throne, he wants to be the man who stands behind him and whispers in his ear.” 

During our walk after our first meeting, de Coppens stated, as we walked the last few yards back to Meera's house, “I am an elitist.” Meaning, he believed that each person must achieve according to their own efforts and merits.  That there was a distinct hierarchy to life, even if not seen by others, nor understood by them.  He was, and at the time I was unfamiliar with the ideas, clearly an advocate of the Traditionalist school of thought, at least in part. At other times Peter also mentioned a quote Nietzsche, and another I thought was from Goethe's Faust but have not identified. I remember them well:

“Neither God nor the Devil respect a lazy man,” and “Human, all too human.”

The first supports the notion of elitism, the second the reality of our condition – vanity, pride, lust, avarice, and a host of human vices continually attack us as we attempt to better ourselves and the world.  

Oddly, it would be easy to compare Peter to Joseph Lisiewski. On first glance, they are polar opposites. Dr. Lisiewski was born into a working class family in the hard coal, hard drinking region of Pennsylvania and had all he could do financially to get through college. Dr. de Coppens was Swiss by birth, received his education at prestigious universities on scholarship, including a Woodrow Wilson Scholarship, and became a liberal arts professor.  Yet, both were adamant about the correctness of their views, almost to the exclusion of all else. This I believe is the Vice of Pride, raising its head, as these two very accomplished men approached even more deeply into the mysteries that lie behind the Veil, in what qabalists call, the heart of Tiphareth.   The accomplishments of both men demonstrate the ability to make some level of conscious contact with all of the elements of the Tree of Life and to bring them through – to move them from being abstractions into full manifestations, be they literary or scientific.  

However, both were, or are, genuine adepts in their own right. Accomplished in both the mundane and metaphysical domains.  Both men proclaimed a philosophy of elitism, and of a natural spiritual hierarchy, believing that one must first accomplish something worthwhile in this world, be able to act with decisiveness and power. This last part, is a key theme in Psychosynthesis which both men applied diligently. Assiah is the World of Action. Karma is “action and result”.  You must be a 'somebody' before you can approach the Nothingness.  A strong and healthy ego that was capable of acting and achieving in the material world is the basis for spiritual activity – as well as the result of it. Both men were generous in their own ways, yet had little use for what we think of as the widespread, cradle to the grave, modern public welfare state, and in fact, seeing it as detrimental to the very people its advocates claim it helps.  

Where Lisiewski's main concern in his writings and personal contacts was about 'results' – physical and material - the Earth Element if you will, and how that relates to the unfoldment of the individual; de Coppens – coming from a place of greater financial security and class status - was concerned with the 'ideas'  - the Air Element - and their effect on the unfoldment of the individual.  Lisiewski and de Coppens based their teachings on the fundamentals of Christian theology, and then, like Traditionalists, worked their esotericism and occultism from there. Both men in their writings and spiritual practices sought to demonstrate methods wherein individuals could become effective, healthy, and independent – and from that place – work with and assist others in their Becoming on the Path of Return. While de Coppens spoke often of love, and defined it as “right relationships” he also stated that each of us must be able to “bring something to the table” of the relationship and not be dependent on others.  Each is a pillar that supports the canopy that covers all parties involved.

It may even be possible to sum up de Coppens' philosophical view with the inscription he wrote when he presented Andrea, who was just beginning her doctoral program in Molecular Biology at Brown University on a full fellowship with a copy of his book The Spiritual Perspective – Key Issues and Themes Interpreted from the Standpoint of Spiritual Consciousness (University Press of America, 1980), “To Andrea, Don't ever forget your Ph.D., to unfold, to actualize your highest potential in this life.”  [underline original] 

Also, de Coppens genuinely liked and enjoyed people, but it always appeared only insofar as they gave him an audience for his ideas. He wrote and lectured a great deal about groups, and with a degree in Sociology that is not surprising.  I had the impression that he loved, and wanted to be loved, for his ideas, rather than his actions.  Peter was someone who wanted to be looked up to, admired, to be important, to be loved.  This is not to say he was purely an intellectual, no, he was active and enjoyed sports in his youth (skiing, like a true Gemini).  But he never appeared to be the kind of person who would consider getting his hands dirty in a workshop or garden.  However, I maybe wrong here, as he participated in charitable relief for the nation of Ivory Coast, although the details of what occurred are not known to me.   

Peter's coming of age was at the height of liberal social idealism and its step-child, the New Age Movement, wherein it was believed that ideas would change the world and bring us all to enlightenment. The naive idealism of the Alice Bailey brand of Theosophy and its insidious influence on nearly every spiritual and psychological school of the mid-20th century appears to have had a large influence in his views.  However, in the end, these grand ideas did not, nor could they have, changed anything on a global scale, as good ideas are not enough. Now, a quarter century later we are seeing that the path to hell is paved with good intentions, especially when they are not backed up by real, deep seated wisdom, compassion, and strength. 

This is a critical point for me, in that it places de Coppens as a teacher, but not as a leader, as a man squarely in the psychological and spiritual mindset of his time.  I am not sure if he simultaneously held two contradictory views, but it appears that he may have: one of personal elitism, and that collective enlightenment, however he did speak of the usual 'cleansing' of the earth so common in those days – and even now – after which there would be a utopian world run by the spiritual elite.  Maybe he truly believed, as did Alice Bailey, that the United Nations would be the vehicle for such transformation.  Regardless, he was taking no chances and made it clear that Montreal was to be his retreat should things turn badly in the United States on this worldwide march towards utopia. Like his predecessors, the term “psycho-spiritual” is used extensively throughout his writings to demonstrate the blending of psychological and spiritual ideas and practices.  

Now it would be very easy to get hung up on de Coppens' personality, just as it would Lisiewski's, and repeat the mantra of the German adept, “human, all too human” when reflecting about my relationship to him, but that would be missing the forest for the trees.  

Despite this criticism of de Coppens, it is important to note that one of the most significant mystical, or meditative experiences of my life occurred working with one of the methods described in his book, The Invisible Temple. It had to do with discovering a powerful and inspirational archetype to guide you, the Divine Ideal, and is derived from the writings of Roberto Assangioli, the founder of Psychosynthesis.  

To Peter I owe my interest and in, and subsequent study of Psychosynthesis.  To which he stated, that Assangioli had told him, his greatest disappointment was his own students. Later, as part of my research for my Master's Project in Counseling at Rhode Island College in 1989, I would realize what this meant as the various organizational crises that would strike to the heart of the Psychosynthesis movement in the 1970s. I received an “A+” on the paper, and my written adviser comments stated, “An impressive paper!!! I like your willingness to select something 'different' for presentation and something complex and esoteric...well done!!!! Good!!!! [signed] Vin [Dr. Vincent Calia]”.

During one of my visits with Peter, over Andrea's spring break from her graduate studies at Brown University we returned home to visit with friends and relatives, and one Sunday morning I drove the 90 minutes to visit him.  We spoke about lecture topics, and the importance of being published, so as to be a “known quantity” someone recognized, rather than simply a local speaker.  To be published was 'to be'.  I can personally attest to the truth and power behind that statement and that is was among the best advise I have ever been given. When I published my first article, “Pow-Wow, Psalms and German Magical Folklore” in the Samhain 1993 Issue of Mezlim, suddenly, what I had to say had some weight to it.  I was published in a respectable esoteric publication with some scholarly as well as practical value.  This would only increase overtime with each additional article I would publish.  Later I would be able to send him a copy of my first book, The Path of Alchemy, to demonstrate that I had taken he teaching to heart. Andrea would we even ask on occasion, “Did you send Peter a copy of your book?”  Yes, dear, I did.  

While I never saw him pick up a dinner check, he did established a scholarship fund at the university, in honor of his mother.  Adhering to the traditional European perspective that teaching esoteric spirituality was an “avocation, not a vocation” he was ever active in that domain. Even after retirement, Peter organized a public program on spirituality and wellness at East Stroudsburg University (ESU), as well as hosted a local television program along the same lines.   Always the focus of attention. The center of activity, a whirlwind in fact, with his signature beret, pipe, and kiss on both cheeks.  Ever the teacher, the performer, bringing people together with ideas – he as a true Gemini, and if he did not have Leo rising, he should have! 

On the announcement for the seminar series he was running at ESU in 2010-2011, it states,  “There are three essential attributes that human beings have always and will always seek, both unconsciously and consciously. These are knowledge to provide meaning and understanding, love to provide motivation and appreciation, and will to provide energy and power. These are truly fundamental to express ourselves and create both our becoming and our world. In this series we will direct our attention and analysis to knowledge.”

“We will direct our attention to the analysis of knowledge” words well spoken, by a lover of ideas, of humanity, and love itself, and the Great Work still to be done.  Thank you Peter, for your ideas and the impact they have had on my life.  

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The following was initially posted in VOXHERMES, the electronic newsletter for the Institute for Hermetic Studies, and is being re-posted here because it addresses many issues currently being discussed in magical community.  

Enjoy, and Happy New Year 2014!

Some Passing Thoughts on Dr. Joseph C. Lisiewski
by Mark Stavish
Copyright 2014

Over the last year or so I have been receiving communications from individuals and publishers wishing to get into contact with Dr. Joseph C. Lisiewski, author of the now famous book, Ceremonial Magic and the Power of Evocation, originally published by New Falcon Press and currently available through The Original Falcon Press. When Ceremonial Magic his the occult scene in 2004 it caused quite a stir as its fundamental working principal was that one was not to change the words or instructions given in the traditional grimoires or magical books, and to work them exactly as given. For many who had grown accustomed to the New Age notion that ritual magic was something you could modify to suit your needs at the moment, or even make up as you went alone, this was a horrifyingly rigid and orthodox statement. To make matters worse, so Dr. Lisiweski also stated that to modify the rituals in any form risked both failure in the rite, as well as a trememdous psychic and physical backlash from trying to short cut the instructions or 'hot wire' it if you will for personal convenience. Lisiewski's writing style was equal parts of Paracelsian 'caustic bombastic thrashings' and clear instruction on how things are to be done with emphasis on getting the desired material results.
It is here, emphasizing the results, material results at that, wherein Lisiewski stood out from among many who would claim to be his peers in the field of ceremonial magic. You see, Lisiewski had a unique pedigree: he was one of a few people fortunate enough to have studies all seven years of alchemy with Frater Albertus at the Paracelsus Research Society (later renamed Paracelsus College) and for 14 years was a close friend of Dr. Israel Regardie. The relationship between Lisiewski, Albertus and Regardie is detailed in Israel Regardie and the Philosopher's Stone – The Alchemical Earth Brought Down to Earth, published by The Original Falcon Press in late 2008.
In his inscription to the signed copy he sent me, Lisiewski wrote the following:

Feb. 4, 2009

To my very dear friend and collaborator in these things, Mark Stavish. Thanks so much for the Introduction to this book, and for you encouragement in writing it. For if the truth be know, if it were not for you, it would have never been penned. Have a good (2nd) read!
Joseph C. Lisiewski, PhD.
On our work together for Howlings from the Pit – A Practical Handbook on Ceremonial Magic, Goetia and Theurgy, which is a compilation of articles from his highly successful newsletter of the same name. Dr. Lisiewski hired me to compile, edit, and add commentary to the material so that it would be more organized than it was in its original magazine style format. He stated that given the length, duration, and nature of our relationship, I was the only one he knew and trusted sufficiently to undertake this task of taking his at time difficult writing style and clarifying the ideas for a new and different audience – one not necessarily grounded in ceremonial magic or historical grimoire work. In addition to his generous payment for my work, an amount that would take a while to be returned on standard book commissions, I was also given complete rights to this particular title by Dr. Lisiewski. Howlings was published by The Original Falcon Press in April 2011.
As Lisiewski's close friend, co-worker, confident, and here even semi-official biographer. Our first conversation started late on a Sunday night, around 9:00pm and lasted for over two hours, I think closer to three. He called me weekly and eventually daily for over five years, and several times a week after that. His calls arrived like clockwork in the late afternoon, as Joe's schedule is to work across the night and into the early morning. I had the privilege of casting his natal chart, to which he compared to the reading Israel Regardie had done for him using the traditional Golden Dawn system of astrology. I heard all of his rants and ravings about a life spent – and at times wasted – in magic and alchemy and understood more deeply, clearly, and precisely than anyone how he came to be the person he was, and the important message he had to tell – no scream – to those entering the occult path. It is no surprise that there are many wonderful similarities in the personalities, temperament, and practical skill sets of Dr. Lisiewski and William Gray, a man described as 'wreaking of psychism like he wreaked of incense'. Gray was a formidable magician capable of very definite manifestations in this world. The same is true of Dr. Lisiewski. His magic was and is about power; his mysticism was and is about divine union as the way to that power. That was a hard lesson to learn, for him, as well as many current struggling magicians. “In the end, they all become mystics” as a favorite quote of Lisiewski's.
While our official meeting occurred in May 2005, we had in fact exchanged several emails in the late 1990s. Unfortunately, and I can remember is so clearly, my computer crashed, and I was left without means of contacting him. Lisiewski had emailed me informing me of his relationship to Albertus and Regardie, that he resided in Pennsylvania, and extended an invitation to open correspondence. Later, when I came across Ceremonial Magic I remembered his emails, or rather occult pedigree, and asked several of my old Philosophers of Nature associates, who were also PRS alumni if they knew of Joseph Lisiewski. Jack Glass, the only person to attend all seven years of PRS training twice and co-instructor of AMORC's alchemy classes in the 1980s, confirmed the name, his work, and stated relationships. Similar confirmations were given by others, and Pat Zalewski suggested in an email that I might find alchemical discussions with Lisiewski of value.  

Oddly, life like magic is rarely linear. Just as my contact with Lisiewski was delayed about six years, it was also after my initial contact with Lisiewski in the the late 1990s that I also received an email from an active duty chaplain in the US Army asking for assistance in preparing for the Abramelin operation. I prepared some guidelines for him, in addition we met one evening at the temple of The Wyoming Valley Society for Esoteric Studies, located on the third floor at 239 Schuyler Avenue, Kingston, Pennsylvania, to discuss his proposed work. During this time he briefly mentioned some work that he did earlier in his youth with a friend. Years later I would find out that the man standing before me was in fact Lisiewski's assistant in his very first evocation as outlined in Ceremonial Magic. I spoke once more with the chaplain, this time around 2008-2010 with, and the events as given by Lisiewski in were confirmed to me. All hell had broken loose, and it played no small role in his career choice.
Despite having withdrawn from the public scene, Lisiewski is still a controversial figure in the magical world – although less so than when he was doing his regular publishing.
In late winter or early spring of 2011 I went to Shamokin, Pennsylvania to visit a building owned by a good friend of mine. We had known each other in college and he was a guest at my wedding, but it was not until hearing from him nearly 20 years later as Worshipful Master of one of the most prestigious Masonic Lodges in the area that we got to go from being acquaintances to friends. The building is a beautiful example of late 19th early 20th century coal country wealth. With a retail store and offices on the first floor, the second, third and fourth floors were home to the Masonic lodge, and constituted a men's club that at one time would have included the business and political elite of the region. Walking through the building was like walking back in time as we examined several rooms that had seen little use in years. On one of the playing card tables there was a newspaper laid out as if it had just been put down while its reader went to the nearby 7-Up bottle vending machine to get a drink. The date was from the late 1970s. This was, and still is a beautiful building carefully being restored and is a jewel for the town. When I mentioned my visit to Lisiewski he immediately began to describe the unique interior of the retail space, as this had been one of his favorite haunts as a young boy. It also appears in one of his novels which takes place in a fictitious town in the Pennsylvania coal regions.

Two people well known in the American alchemical community and former classmates of Lisiewski's at PRS are Hans Nintzel and Curt Kobylarz-Schmidt. Our discussions would often come back to these two men as I had known them both, but not to the same level of intimacy as had Lisiewski. Nintzel was a pivotal figure in the 20th century English speaking alchemical movement as the RAMS, or Rare Alchemical Manuscript Series books which he published were for decades, and for many still are, the working alchemical texts used in much practical laboratory work. At great cost to himself and his family, Nintzel obtained rare manuscripts and had them translated into English and made them available in photocopy form. According to Lisiewski, Hanz spent a great deal of his time at PRS in the library, leaving the practical lab work and reports to Lisiewski. Several other people have mentioned to me that while Nintzel taught practical laboratory alchemy he was more of a bookworm than a lab rat.
I spent some time with Hans at various PON conferences and found him to be a likable and sincere fellow, if not at times a bit abrasive more by accident than design. I am told that Jean Dubuis held Nintzel in a very special place in his heart for all of the work that he did to develop alchemy in the United States. I spent a weekend with Hans and a dozen or so of his close students at his house in Dallas, Texas 13 -16 January, 1995. His wife Jody was warm, kind, and a wonderful hostess to all of us sleeping on the floor, couch, and various spaces around her home. Hans spoke of his time at PRS, his relationship with Regardie, and initiation into a Hermetic order in Los Angeles. The experiences I had during the visit were very profound and stay with me to this day, including the fortuitous arrival of a Horsetail plant stone, made for Hans by a French alchemist. I was given a thin sliver from its black taffy like strip to try. On the back of the door to Hans's study was a wonderful poster which I hope to find a copy of some day. It illustrated a magician in ceremonial robes looking up at a huge demonic being, the text below read the famous line from The Case of Charles Dexter Ward by H.P. Lovecraft , “Do not call up that which you cannot put back down.” Good words of advice for any novice magician.
I later wrote and published an article entitled, “A Weekend With Hans: Alchemy the Old Fashioned Way” which can be read on the Institute for Hermetic Studies website. Several years ago one of Hans son's sent me an email thanking me for the kind article in memory of his father's contributions.
While I cannot say for certain, I must think that the work of Hans and others has weighed heavily in the formation of Lisiewski's attitude towards practical occult work, with emphasis on the word practical. At one point I sent Lisiewski a three-inch white three-ring binder containing a copy of various notes and instructions that Nintzel had compiled from his time at PRS and thereafter. It included a travel diary of his journey to France, an alchemical pilgrimage if you will, along with additional notes of experience he had with various practitioners of the Art. The material was given to me by Russ House, and given Lisiewski's relationship to Hans and Albertus I wanted his opinion on the laboratory material it contained. 

However, it is the reality that Hans devoted his life to alchemy, as have so many others that Lisiewski and even I know. Many are dead. They have not achieved the Philosopher's Stone, nor from their lives anything close to it. They have suffered tremendous indignities at the hands of family, friends, enemies, and worst of all – fellow Companions in the Art of Hermes. The speed with which the RAMS material was quickly scanned and dumped on the internet, with pirated copies of CDs containing the various volumes being sold by people who had nothing to do with its compilation, translation, transcription and formatting for publication when everything had to be done by hand or with a typewriter, is staggering. It, like so many routine thefts that happen within the 'spiritual community' is a condemnation that speaks louder than any squeaky 'blessed be' or 'namaste'. It is this disregard for the hard work of others, and disrespect for their sacrifices that truly irritated Lisiewski.
It was his 'all or nothing' approach to occultism that made Lisiewski the only person Regardie would recall as being second only to Crowley. Total commitment is what is required on the Path and students are told this often, however few actually grasp the meaning, or undertake the commitment. He was totally dedicated to his teachers – thus opening himself up to a certain degree of manipulation by them – as he would find out, Albertus could be very compartmentalized in his dealings with people. Lisiewski built a furnace as a challenge from Albertus. This furnace eventually came into the possession of Art Kunkin, who when I spoke to him about it was unaware of who had created it. I first met Art Kunkin at the Philosopher's of Nature alchemy conference held at the Wild Rose [Girl Scout] Camp Ground in September 1994. An article summarizing this event entitled, “Pass the Sulphur, Salt, and Mercury If You Please” appeared inGnosis Magazine. It was my first article to appear in Gnosis. It was also at this seminar that Kunkin gave me a copy of an interview with him that appeared earlier in Gnosis complete with an errata sheet he had compiled. Instructions for a furnace similar to it can be found in the booklet “Lil'l Bertha – A Compact Electric Resistance Shop Furnace” by David J. Gingery, Lindsay Publications, 1984.
Having come of age in the declining coal regions of eastern Pennsylvania, it would come of no surprise to say that Lisiewski was a 'self made man'. That is, despite tremendous personal obstacles he went to college, majored in a demanding field, obtained a BS in Electrical Engineering, and later went on to get a PhD in physics and mathematics. When I first met him he had recently returned to his hometown for a period of time. During our late night conversations he would make mention of what it was like growing up there as a child and how it had changed, something I can relate to having seen similar changes in the area where I was born and came of age. Occasionally our conversations would be interrupted by children who came asking for money, soda, or simply to talk. Apparently the street urchins had taken a liking to him, and he them. His generosity is not well known and he likes to keep it that way believing that charity is best done in silence. I know that he has sent considerable amount of books, printed materials, and CDs to his students, and friends alike. If he liked it, and he could be a very hard man to please, he wanted to share it with those he cared about. Lisiewski sent me a copy of his own edition of The One Year Manual by Regardie.
Lisiewski photocopied the Crowley Collection at Penn State University and sent it to Regardie. This was at a time when photocopies were ten cents a page and it added up very quickly in real money. According to Lisiewski, Regardie asked him to report to him about the various activities of fledgling GD groups and people, many of whom who claim the Regardie/GD banner, Regardie had little use for. Of course, Regardie as becoming very much the “grumpy old man” by this time. Lisiewski discussed his fall-out with the A.A. taking blame in part upon himself in part, for his immaturity regarding the relationship. He discussed having taken a student too early in his ability to teach, and the student's ability to learn and the fall-out.  

One of my pleasures was on November 8, 2006 when James Wasserman spoke to The Masonic Reading Society on the topic of the Knights Templar. His presentation was at The Westmoreland Club, South Franklin Street, Wilkes-Barre (Pa). Prior to Wasserman's presentation Lisiewski called and I put the two of them on the phone together. It was the first time they had spoken since the early 1980s.  

While Regardie and Albertus played the major roles in shaping Lisiewski's occult life, among the 'masters of the Art' long gone, it was Eliphas Levi and A.E. Waite that he spoke of the most. Levi because despite his questionable reputation as both a historian and a practicing magician, he had managed to obtain a comfortable and respectable position for himself and was “without want”. A good place to be in life. He admired Waite for much the same reasons I do. Waite came from a poor background and struggled against the arrogance of wealthy snobs like Crowley, and while he had little in the way of formal education, had managed to carve out a name and place for himself in history. Waite knew what it was like to have dirt under his nails. He was someone both Lisiewski and I could relate to.
During our conversations I was given insight into the darker areas of occult practice, and by this I do not mean simply demonic evocation, but the stranger and more troubling areas of the human psyche and the cosmos. The psychic world is closer to ours, closer than most would like to admit, and once the veil is pierced, a host of invited and uninvited guests can come through. One of the more intriguing areas of magic written about by Lisiewski in his newsletter and later detailed in his book of the same name, Howlings from the Pit, is the ritual of “The Watcher”. The practice as outlined is extremely precise in the equipment needed – however, this is part of the defenses against someone simply working the ritual and getting success. You see, the ritual, like nearly all of the Solomonic magic is difficult, and it is in the difficulty and successful carrying out of the rituals specific requirements that the energy for success is derived. I have seen similar ritual practices and performed them myself, with similar results – all equally frightening when the unseen hand or presence is felt. But it is the ability to maintain one's composure at that critical moment that gives one mastery, not simply sensing the invisible presence. The words of Lovecraft echo in my ears, “Do not call up that which you can not put down” and are good words to place above the portal to one's temple just as Jean Dubuis stated that “Patience” is a good word to put above the portal to one's laboratory.
In addition to having written numerous books on magic and the occult, Lisiewski also wrote several novels. His book The Altar Path was a veiled magical reflection on his childhood in Kulpmont, Pennsylvania, and his other novel Nightshadow was a look at his research while in the United Kingdom (Wales) during his thesis defense. Here, he believes that the true nature of necromancy is not to raise the dead, but for the magus to be raised from the dead.
During one of our discussions regarding meditations on The Cube, a symbol commonly applied to Malkooth in Kabbalah, and sometimes to Yesod, as well as described in detail in the Sepher Yetzirah, as The Cube of Space, we noticed a peculiar phenomena. This was the appearance of a door and sense of the presence of other intelligences. Lisiewski felt that these beings were guardians of some sort – I called them Archons out of habit – and that this door was a trap one should never go through. I am uncertain of that point.

It is unclear if this phenomena has been written about by others, as neither of us has seen it.

If I am asked what is it that I learned from my relationship with D. Joseph Lisiewski, it is this:

Only the results matter.
This is a hard lesson. It is neither warm nor comforting, It offers little hope and much recrimination. Failure is seen for what it is – personal and painful. Success is hard earned, and not to be treated lightly. Such an understanding can make one hard if they let it. Yet the Path in part is designed to make us hard, hard so that we can support the weight of the cosmos on our shoulders, so that we can not only soar like the Eagle, but have the strength of the Bull as well. This is no different from what I have been told in nicer and more eloquent ways by Tibetan lamas and yogis. Yet, when Lisiewski says it, it is hard edged. The blood shed of decades of experience was always seeping though.  

In addition there were other lessons learned, some a little more palatable to the weak hearted and gentile folk of modern spirituality, but still none the less, critically important once the above truth is branded into one's consciousness.
  1. There is objective and subjective. The objective reflects the subjective and is to serve it. The subjective is the world of causes, and the objective is the world of effects.
  2. If we cannot get the objective world to reflect our subjective desires and aspirations, then all occult practices are worthless from a practical point of view.
  3. Magic and Mysticism are not the same, nor do they share the same goals.
  4. Mysticism can be more powerful than magic, when the powers of the mind are applied directly without the intermediary of symbols and ritual.
  5. If magic and mysticism have no practical value, then life is just a bloody battle for survival.
This may sound somewhat materialistic, but it is important to remember that the Hermetic axiom is, “As above, so below; as below, so above. To accomplish the work of the one thing.” The material world is as divine and spiritual as the mental and psychic worlds, for in fact, there is no difference between them.
It is this failure to consistently get the desired results from magical and various occult practices that pushed Lisiewski to re-evaluate his work in the Golden Dawn system from which he came to the well known conclusion that “the Golden Dawn is an eclectically imbalanced system”. In short, it is top heavy. Too much is piled on – Hebrew, Egyptian, Enochian, Christian - all hoping that if you throw enough against the wall something has got to stick, or in this instance, work. Work being defined as getting the desired results – and not just as “changes in consciousness at will” but in the environment, in one's day to day life.
These changes were not only experienced by Lisiewski, but according to him, by his wife as well. He stated that during one operation a dark figure of a man was continually appearing on the edge of the property of their rented townhouse. Another time he went to obtain his 'dagger with the black handle' - a tool of Solomonic magic used only in rites of death and destruction which Lisiewski claimed demons feared only second to the so-called “Blasting Rod” described in detail in his publication “Howlings from the Pit” - when his wife noticed a trail of blood coming from his hand. Lisiewski stated that he did not notice cutting himself, but that the dagger wanted “to drink”. A similar remark was made by HH Shenphen Rinpoche regarding 'the demon of the weapon' that encourages us to act violently when we own weapons, and the reason why Tibetan practices are heavy on purification and offerings.
Prior to the financial collapse of 2007/2008 he informed me that it was coming, and that martial law was a very real possibility as a result. Representative Paul E. Kanjorski (PA – D) would later state this publicly as justification for the massive federal bailouts to financial sector. Lisiewski also stated that there was widespread ease dropping beyond what is commonly thought, and when, at the time, I asked several engineers involved in communications if this was possible they said no. In 2013 it was finally revealed that the NSA is reported to have actually recorded, traced, or tracked every electronic communication in the US and much of the world. He also stated that there was also a large, planet like object somewhere in or near the asteroid belt. This was recently stated in the news in either 2012 or 2013.
So, how is it that Lisiewski and I get along so well? Very simple, I accept him for who he is. I did not ask him or expect him to be anything or anyone else. He is a trained physicist. By nature this is an intellectually demanding field, and ego are made and destroyed in very heated arguments. I simply accepted that as his strength, not a weakness. While some of it definitely rubbed off on me, I do hope that some of my patience rubbed off on him. Having someone who looks at the operations of the mind, occult theory, and magical rites with the clarity of a scientist looking for causes and effects for consistent repeatability is exceedingly rare – too rare. The ability to have alchemical samples analyzed in a few days time for nothing more than the cost of postage, was well worth listening to the amusingly profanity laced tirade about a publisher, author, or occasional political candidate.

This inability to accept our teachers for who they are rather than how they stack up against our laundry list of expectations of what theyshould be like is a major cause for the often violent and damaging rifts between students and teachers, just as it is among friends. This does not mean that we should accept abusive and possibly harmful behavior from our teachers or friends when it involves us, only that we have to always be clear about what it is we are in the relationship for, and what it is we are getting out of it as well as bringing to it. This level of self-reflection is rare, but critical if we are to truly learn from anyone let alone a would-be-guide on the Path of Return. Not all guides can take us to the end of the journey, but many guides properly chosen, and properly left, can take us step-by-step along the Way.
When I say my daily prayers, and ask that all beings of the Three Worlds be freed from ignorance and suffering, just as Jesus had done when he entered into Hell to preach to the damned, and when I include prayers of gratitude to each of my spiritual teachers, as well as companions, I include Lisiewski as all three: teacher, companion, and friend.  

01 January 2014