Interview with Roger Williamson, Author of The Sun at Night and The Book of the Jackal
Oct 24, 2004
Author: Jason Kesselring
Roger Williamson originally from the town of Coventry in Great Britain, and has been running his own Occult bookstore Magus Books (www.magusbooks.com), in Minneapolis, MN since Sept. 1st 1992. His books The Sun at Night and The Book of the Jackal have both been reviewed in Dagobert's Revenge and are firmly grounded in the Western Occult Tradition. Currently Roger is working on a set of paintings based on the Major Arcana of the Tarot, as well as some other special projects. Recently, he was kind enough to sit down with me and discuss his writing and the Occult in general.
DR: When you first started writing The Sun At Night was it intended to reflect your own life? It seems at times to be autobiographical.
RW: It was nothing like I intended. I didn't intend to write a book like that initially. I have always been a fan of occult fiction and originally wanted to do a sophisticated horror story. But once I started writing, it took on a life of its own. It started to write itself, or at least thatís how it felt. Then the whole thing sort of pulled itself together from a lot of various directions. So by the end of it, it was more like an exorcism!
DR: One of things that really struck me about it was the whole theme of initiation and experience throughout the book.
RW: Yeah I think so. It was basically the story of somebody trying to find their way and I think that people who like the book initially relate it to their own experience. So there may be an appeal there. It did draw from a lot of my own experiences of growing up: things like shoplifting expeditions, and all that. So maybe people growing up can relate to these experiences, and thatís probably the appeal as well. They can relate to this character who is not a particularly likable sort of person - he's a bit of a self-centered individual. But he's somebody who asks something at the beginning then loses his way, and spends his time trying to find it, much like a lot of mythological tales. A lot of these Greek myths were essentially about a hero who has lost something and is trying to find it.
DR: That brings me to another aspect of the story. Mainly, the mythological figure of Lucifer and the Luciferian qualities of initiation struck me as the strongest themes of the book.
RW: Yeah. The mythology of Lucifer is that of the rebel, saying ďI'm not going to conform.Ē I think every generation should revolt. That's part of growing up, right? You have to revolt, branch out, and move things forward.
DR: Do you think that rebellion and initiation are somehow tied together in a strange way?
RW: I think so. But I think life should be initiating. You know, we can join these groups and go through these theatrical performances about what initiation is, but it should be related to the everyday world and that should be the real adventure and initiation, not to isolate yourself in the Lodge room or whatever. Real initiation takes place in the outside world. These experiences we put ourselves through should be a catalyst to initiation.
DR: And Lucifer who is the Morning Star? The Herald of Dawn. The Lightbringer?
RW: He can initially put you into a depressed state. The idea that you see things as they are and not as, perhaps, your ego would like to see them, or how society would like you to see them. It is realizing the state we are in and the world we are really in. Itís realizing, ďI'm not what I thought I was. So now what do I have to do to rebuild myself into something I would like to be?Ē Although we are using the term ďLucifer.Ē I didn't have a Christian upbringing so Christian ideas don't really exist for me. So often people use the Luciferian term as a reaction against Christianity, and it isn't really what I think this energy is. For example, if you go back to Egyptian society and you look at the gods of light and darkness (Horus and Set), you see them depicted together, weaving the plants of upper and lower Egypt: the lotus and the papyrus weaved into the Ahnk, the life symbol. So to them there was no good or evil, there was light and darkness. Both were needed for existence. Unfortunately we now have a ďNew AgeĒ technique that wants to cut things in half, so it only looks at the light area but it doesn't want to look at the sap which drives it.
DR: Getting back to your book: there always seems to be a dark veiled female presence throughout the story from the main characterís mother to his girlfriend Vivian.
RW: I think that one thing which it emphasizes is that we don't always appreciate things until they are gone. So at first he has this relationship with Vivian. He is obsessed about possessing her, and then once he possesses her, he looses interest. When she isn't there, itís all he can think about. So there is a growth and development there. Of course, by the end of the book we find that she may have been his mother. But maybe thatís what most guys are looking for. I'm not writing from a woman's perspective, which I unfortunately don't have an understanding of. But if you think about existence, women form a continual line starting with the Big Bang. There is no break. Mothers have daughters; daughters become mothers and so on. So there is no break itís a continual line. Guys are like sparks! Almost like rogue electrons.
DR: So you would say that men and women have a certain spiritual polarity?
RW: I don't know. I don't truly understand it. What is meant by spirituality? To me the idea of spirit is synthesis. When people talk to me about diversity or harmony I can understand that. But this talk of ďspirituality?Ē I don't understand it.
DR: In our culture especially spirituality is presented as something ďout thereĒ, or separate from the here and now. What is relevant to now?
RW: Right! You look at all of what are thought of as the great teachers through history and all of them say to us: ďYou find it within.Ē So these teachers will come through and charge you 0 every year just to tell you that you find it within! Because as a species itís always as though we are looking for someone else to do it for us. You want the sink fixed? Get a plumber! And this is no different. We sort of pass it on and are really looking for someone to take care of things for us. Perhaps as a species we are lazy. But at the end of the day itís down to you.
DR: Thatís interesting. You look at Buddha or Jesus and they both seemed to have faced and then integrated with the darker side.
RW: Or Gurdjieff or Crowley for that matter! You look at the way these guys treated people who saw them as some kind of messiah. I mean they treated them like crap! They were trying to wake them up, saying in a sense that they should look to themselves. Don't look to somebody else to give it to you. People can point you in the right direction and give you ideas, like through music or painting, but at the end of the day youíve got to develop it yourself.
DR: So often in the initiation of occult technique there is a confrontation with darkness or heresy. What do you think is the significance of this?
RW: Well it has to be something physically or mentally threatening. Itís the ability to face challenge. When you are confronted with a dilemma of some sort, do you fall apart or do you carry yourself in a certain way? Which then comes down to certain belief systems.
DR: You were speaking of Crowley earlier. What example do you think he had for people?
RW: Well he was a catalyst right? I mean there certainly wouldn't be as much published material around if it hadn't been for him. Of course, with a lot of it, he probably was publishing other peoples stuff and putting his name on it. But if you look at the time, in Victorian England, you had this very rigid society, which of course had this dark undercurrent. So it was just waiting for somebody to come along and crack it open. I mean, today would anyone even bat an eyelash? Probably not if he was doing it the way he was doing it. But back then, the guy was a terrible outrage. Though he certainly did move things forward. A lot of the material available today wouldn't be available if it wasn't for him.
DR: Do you think there were any faults to his approach?
RW: Well to me, there is a big difference between magic and religion. Because the magician is God. The magician sees himself as god. The magician looks on him or herself as being accountable. Their lives are what they've chosen. This goes back to a cleansing of perception: whether we are looking at things as an opportunity or a pain in the ass. Going through an evocation is an example. A lot of people put it in psychological terms, but summoning spirits inside of a triangle is far more entertaining than putting it into psychological terms. So when doing an evocation you are evoking or working with different aspects of you universe, much like God would be manipulating human beings down here. But if you look at religious texts, they are saying that man is made in the image of God. I don't see God bowing down to anyone else. So if you are made in the image of God, how can you bow down to Him?
DR: Do you think Magick can inadvertently manifest religion?
RW: Well, I think you see that in Crowley's case. But if you look at the Golden Dawn, who were the folks that trained him, there were no messiahs in the Golden Dawn. The idea is that you would go through a series of initiations and knowledge lectures and you would arrive at a point (Adeptus Minor 5=6 grade.) At that point you would be aware of yourself. At that point you either stayed to work within that framework or do you own thing, and I think itís failing was that not enough people left! The idea was that a magickal order like the Golden Dawn was a magickal entity in its own right, made up of the people within it. If you have a bunch of people doing different things within it, itís almost like a disease within the body of it. So really those folks should have left and done there own thing. And Crowley with his whole thing as being the Messiah of the New Aeon - I mean, I think anybody calling themselves ďThe MessiahĒ is a bit ridiculous. But itís really contrary to magick practice, because every magician is their own messiah. So how somebody could claim to be the messiah for all people, that I really don't understand. But then you read at the end of the Book of the Law that once you have finished reading it, you destroy it. What he is saying is: ďHere's an idea - now do your own.Ē Not that you have to build this into some religious institution. Thatís what it means to me at least. I think magick has nothing to do with religion really. Itís really more a shamanic approach.
DR: Do you think people who work in magick or those who are more aware of this aspect of reality have a responsibility to help others along? To help one who is in crisis, or even help them to achieve synthesis?
RW: I think you can have sympathy. But you can't do things for them, can you? If you were to be a Yoga teacher, you can't stand there doing yoga for somebody. They have to do it for themselves. You can point people to ideas or even lay down a suggested curriculum for them. But itís up to them if they want to do it or not. If they don't want to do it, thatís their choice. For me, magickal technique helps me live this life fuller. Now for another, that may not be the case. Maybe Christianity, Buddhism, or something else will do it for them. To me the big key about magickal technique is that you not employing an intermediate. In magick you are tapping that energy directly. But there is always that urge towards re-enforcement by our own peers. The vast majority of people who get into ceremonial magick want to stand in a circle and evoke demons into a triangle, which I think is very entertaining! However, as soon as they get involved in it, they now have to give it this stamp of respectability and say its ďpsychology.Ē Me? I think evoking demons into a triangle is far more entertaining than psychology, which I find a bit dry.
DR: Looking back to Ancient Egypt, itís amazing how much of Western ceremonial magick comes from there.
RW: Yeah itís interesting. You know you hear about all those books on ancient bloodlines - Holy Blood, Holy Grail things like that - then you look back to ancient Egyptian civilization, and see how important it was to have the Pharaohís bloodline. I think it was also interesting that the family name was carried by the mother and if you look at the hieroglyph of Isis (the Mother), itís a throne, the basis of kingship. It goes back to this chain of flesh that women carry.
DR: Do you think that it relates to the Grail specifically being a vessel for royal blood?
RW: Yes, I think people are looking for a bloodline or a tradition. Look at the Golden Dawn. It was created to make people believe it was a tradition hundreds of years old. I believe itís been proved that the organization itself wasn't. Its ideas were, but as a single line it wasn't. I mean these ideas are really going back to 4000 B.C and earlier.
DR: Going on to that ancient tradition, when you think of the symbolic language of the occult, the two symbols that seem to be the crux of that tradition are the pentagram and the hexagram. Do you think these symbols unlock something deep within the subconscious?
RW: Well, I think that when we look at the principles that galaxies are built on, or how flowers unfold, they follow geometric principles. Therefore, can we by drawing a geometric figure access this part of life? Can we be opening a doorway just purely by drawing certain geometric figures? When we draw a certain figure of geometry it represents a certain aspect of energy. Let's say you are communicating with somebody one on one. Maybe by just visualizing a certain geometric figure you can control that conversation. So just by a drawing a pentagram you should be able to access that realm of reality. Itís sort of like opening up doorways. You can relate this to color correspondences and to music, specifically how music relates to geometry and its mathematical principles.
DR: Magick functions on correspondences.
RW: Right! I think thatís what we are talking about. We are talking about energy. So say something like the Egyptian god Horus. Nobodyís saying that this energy literally has a hawk's head. Weíre giving this energy an image to rationalize it and understand it. Now I think this closely relates to UFO's and alien abduction. You look through history with abduction into the fairy realm: the succubus, things like this. There is something going on here, and itís been going on for a long time. Our perception changes as our world changes. In the Middle Ages it was being taken by faeries and now its UFO's.
DR: Itís just manifesting into the language of the day. I have read something like that. I think it was Jung.
RW: But whatís interesting is that people want to use Jungian terms, yet these techniques and ideas he is talking about go back thousands and thousands of years. But because this guy happens to be an academic and has been working at the university a few years, so now itís OK! The ideas are not original. Itís interesting to me that people give this stuff a psychological bent because you are talking about changing your mindset and things like that. But at the end of the day you are still in a circle waving your arms around.