Monday, May 9, 2011

Yep, even MORE on the Voudon Gnostic Workbook: For Fr. Barrabbas and Kojat

My postings on Bertiaux's Voudon Gnostic Workbook continue to attract controversy and page views. (I should have known better than to fool around with praeterhuman plasmotronic Afro-Zothyrian death computers).  I've been remiss in my responses, and wanted to get back to the ever-interesting Frater Barrabbas and talk a bit about his unflattering portrait of Michael Bertiaux.
I found him to be cruel, manipulative, ruthless, and completely without any human compassion whatsoever. This is not the kind of person that you could trust, believe in, nor would you place yourself into his hands for any reason. I would rather offer my head to the gaping jaws of a crocodile than give myself into the hands of this man.....
... Michael used a form of sexual terrorism to get his students into the right frame of mind for his various occult and magickal operations. He would select an approach that was guaranteed to frighten and unbalance his subject, acting as either a homosexual or a heterosexual lover, as it suited him. His unwanted advances would be rationalized as being the only manner that such occult knowledge and initiatory mysteries could be communicated. It was an excuse to sexually abuse and exploit individuals who came seeking knowledge and special teachings, and Bertiaux had no problem obliging those foolish enough to accede to his desires.
Based on what Frater B. says (and I've found him to be a reliable narrator), Bertiaux sounds like a singularly unpleasant person who is not above using his magical offices to get sexual favors.  This kind of  power-tripping and sexual predation is not uncommon in the magical community.  (Given our debt to Aleister Crowley, it could hardly be otherwise).  But Frater B's account is particularly important because it points to some thorny ethical and practical questions about magic.

Bertiaux's published work on Gnostic Voudon describes a number of sex magic practices.  It is not surprising that at least some GV initiations might involve sexual contact with the initiator.  While this is not done in Haitian Vodou (or any other African or Afro-Caribbean tradition of my acquaintance), there is definitely precedent for it. Did his bishops get anything out of their "initiations" besides a sore sphincter?  Uncle Al certainly experimented with the XIº from both sides of the fence. Was he transmitting esoteric knowledge or getting his rocks off with gullible acolytes? And could the answer to that question be "yes?"

Another question which comes to mind: is it wrong to trade sexual favors for spiritual attainments?  Most consider it acceptable to take money in exchange for teaching, divination and other services.  Why would it be wrong to accept a roll in the hay as payment for magic? If we are spiritual beings on a human path, we might as well use all our assets to better our position.  Is trading our bodies for wisdom more degrading than expecting it to be given to us for free? Again, I don't know if there are any easy answers to that one.  But it's definitely a question which deserves some thought, preferably after meditating on the mysteries of goddesses like Freyja and Aphrodite.

I've said that Bertiaux, like Grant, is a great Surrealist. There's also a healthy dose of Andy Warhol thrown into that mix.  He played the role of obscure, reclusive magician and used it to become an underground celebrity.  You can love him or hate him: you can praise his erudition, excoriate his racist and colonialist preconceptions, or scratch your head in utter bafflement. But sooner or later you end up talking about him - and that may be his greatest magical achievment of all.