Taylor Ellwood

by Michael Szul on 2004-06-17 19:18:34 tags: taylor ellwood

Taylor Ellwood is an anomaly amongst occultists. He walks a fine line between academia and mysticism, intermingling biology, literature, and magick into a coherent piece of theory highly approachable in practical work. One of the true experimenters in the occult sciences, his written work is constantly pushing the boundaries of magick in new and exciting directions.

Pop Culture Magick [PCM] takes the fictional and semi-fictional world of popular culture and examines its use in magick, a principle that has been in existence in chaos magick for quite some time. Do you feel that the relevance of such magick has eclipsed traditional Judeo-Christian mysticism in effectiveness and relevancy?

Actually, I feel that if anything such an approach to magic can be used to take the Judeo-Christianity mysticism and modernize it. I perceive pop culture magic as a complement to older approaches to magic. It’s not supplanting those older approaches, but it is offering a fresh perspective for the magician to utilize. At the same time, I also feel that pop culture magic has an edge on older forms of magic, in the sense that the current culture embodies the context of our times and we magicians can relate to that culture and language through pop culture. It makes sense to use what we know and are enmeshed in, within our magical practices. The effectiveness and relevance of any system of magic is found through the work of each magician and how the magician chooses to pursue an effective working of magic. Pop culture magic doesn’t eclipse traditional forms of magic, but it does provide an additional tool for making those forms of magic even more effective and relevant to a person’s workings.

Are the pop culture figures of today the mythological legends of tomorrow; or are they simply renamed and re-embodied archetypes of ancient lore?

The pop culture figures of today are the new mythology of tomorrow and the re-embodiment of ancient archetypes. You will find in a lot of pop culture, a remaking of an older archetype of ancient lore. The character of Hercules has been remade in comic books, TV shows, and movies. At the same time, the character of Xena is not one you’ll find in classic Greek or Roman myths and so is a new mythology. Pop culture allows for both forms, because people are constantly inspired by older forms of culture, and yet at the same time are also inspired by contemporary culture, which offers a vision of reality that didn’t exist in ancient times.

Your first book, Creating Magickal Entities [CME], was a collaborative effort. Explain the process and events that led to that collaboration.

At the time I got into that collaboration, I was actually experiencing a “dark night of the soul,” in regards to occultism. I’d chosen to drop out of sight, going offline and living in a place where there were no other occultists. I was feeling very pessimistic about occultism in general, and about my own reasons for being an occultist. I was still on one or two e-lists, and David Cunningham happened to mentioned that he wanted help with writing Creating Magickal Entities. I was the only person on the e-list who emailed him, besides Amanda. I knew practically nothing about entity work and saw the writing of the book as an opportunity to push myself into a new direction magically. In fact, in general what inspires me toward a particular subject is the desire to research and find out more about the subject and how it can be applied to magic. I quickly learned a lot about creating entities and soon after began to write my own perspectives and thoughts of what we were doing. It did help that both David and I had an extensive background in hermetic practices, which gave us a lot of common ground and dialogue to work with. Amanda offered her own unique perspective which resulted in some truly intriguing appendices. We only met once in person during the actual writing and revision of the book, but we were able to communicate effectively online and not only talked a lot about the writing, but ended up doing a lot of collaborative experiments, including the creation of our first pop culture entity, a divination god-form based off of Miss Cleo. Even to this day that particular entity has continued to exert an influence on my writing.

Space/Time Magic is your third book. How have you grown as a writer and an occultist now that three books are under your belt? Has writing about the occult changed the way that you view the occult in general?

Writing three books has changed my writing style a lot. My writing has progressed from mediocre to relatively readable, though I’m still working hard on cutting down on repetition! Also the amount of academic writing I do has had a big effect on my writing, both in terms of how I approach defining my terms and claims I make, but also very importantly with the in-text citations that I use to reference other authors. I definitely much more secure as a writer than I did when I first started the collaboration on CME. I think, as with anything else, it’s a process of practice and I practice writing everyday!

In terms of growth when it comes to being an occultist, I’d like to think I’ve grown a lot. I’m a lot less pessimistic about occultism, though I still have a fair amount in my attitude toward the subject. I’d have to really say though that my growth has arisen from taking a very non-conventional approach to occultism, drawing on resources and approaches that most people don’t seem to usually draw on when it comes to magic. I usually look at occultism and ask myself where the gap is in current magical works. As an example, with Space/Time Magic, I noticed that a lot of work was done on retroactive magic and a melding of science and magic, but virtually no work has been done when it comes to writing and space/time, music and space/time, or art and space/time. So my growth has arisen as a result of finding the gap in occult works and addressing that gap, so that people can find new approaches to magic. Certainly, the amount of research and experimentation I’ve been doing over the years has been prompted by the gaps I’ve noted and it consequently led me to some intriguing experiences.

Retroactive magick is seldom touched upon in occult literature even though it has gained notoriety with the popularity of chaos magick. Why do you think this is? What are some of the points in Space/Time Magic that you bring up to flesh out this subject matter?

I think a lot of occultists are uncomfortable with retroactive magic. The idea that you can manipulate your past is pretty mind-blowing especially if you inhabit a linear mindset. Even with a non-linear mindset it can still be uncomfortable to contemplate the potential paradoxes that arise out of using retroactive magic.

How I approach this issue though is to argue that there really is no past or future. When we use terms such as past and future we are already trying to organize a frame of reference that prioritizes when certain events occur, and as such we limit our frame of reference to a single moment. My argument is that the present exists in every moment of time and consequently you or I, or anyone else exists in the present, in every moment of time that we’ve existed in. In other words, the you of two years ago is still you that is in the present and that version of you can be accessed and experienced in its own present, by yourself. I often think that deja vu is a manifestation of this principle in that one version of yourself sends information to another version at another point in the present, where it can be used to deal with that particular present and enable a desired manifestation. Another approach I use, which is also favored by Brain Shaughnessy, is memory modification. The memories that we have our suspect, and as such, can easily be modified. I use my memories as a gateway to an earlier version of myself and then work through those memories to change my “past.” Comic book panels are used as a medium for that particular approach.

You seem to have a fairly solid relationship with celebrity witch Fiona Horne. She even included two of your essays in her anthology Pop Goes the Witch. How did that come about?

Through a bit of space/time magic…hehe. Seriously though she happened to read my infamous “Invoking Buffy” article that appeared in New Witch Issue #4 and when she put out a call for submission, I was on the list of people she got in touch with. Since then we’ve continued to stay in touch by email and occasionally phone.

You’ve been exploring a deeper understanding of (and communication with) neurotransmitters. What prompted this investigation and what do you hope to learn from your experiments?

The prompt for this investigation really goes back into my hidden past. For most of my life I had a genetic predisposition to manic depression and was depressed until age twenty. My first workings with Inner Alchemy were focused on changing the electro-chemical balance of my brain so that I no longer suffered from manic depression. I used a combination of shamanic vision questing, energy work ala Barbara Ann Brennan, and John Lilly’s paradigm of programming the Biocomputer. I was able to change the electro-chemical balance by adjusting the level of neurotransmitters in my brain, as well as delaying the reuptake cycle of certain neurotransmitters. Since that time, I’ve maintained an interest in what I call inner alchemy, which is manipulation of human physiology via the genetic, neural, energetic, etc ., structures that the human body has access to. My latest investigation into neurotransmitters is prompted partially by work on my current writing project, Inner Alchemy, and partially by an insatiable curiosity concerning the physiology of the body. I hope to learn from my experiments the means of intentionally working with the neurotransmitters to induce altered states of mind, enhance healing, and otherwise shape the physiology of the body.

Many in the occult community know about Taylor Ellwood the writer. Tell us about Taylor Ellwood the person.

The person Taylor Ellwood happens to have a fair diversity of interests. I’m a hardcore gamer, board and video games. I’m a fanatic for anime and also love Chinese culture. I enjoy reading Science Fiction, Fantasy, and occult mystery books. I’m a movie buff as well, but I’m also hardcore into exercising and keeping in shape. I’m also into industrial, jazz, classic rock, and electronica music. The majority of my focus is on the magic, experimenting with it and growing with it. Besides that I’m fairly approachable at events, etc. If you happen to see me at an event, come up and hang out for a while.

How do you feel your university pursuits will affect your occult writing and practice?

Well my use of in-text citations is an affect of the University. In academia, it’s always important to have a history of citations, a way of tracing where you get your ideas from and I think this is equally important in occult writing. Unfortunately the majority of occult authors don’t subscribe to this practice, and consequently our culture has lost a lot of history, as well as a sense of where authors are getting their ideas from. A bibliography alone doesn’t cut it and the occultists I’ve surveyed have usually told me they don’t look at the bibliography of a book if there are no citations in the text. Beyond that, the university has certainly tempered my analytical mind, helping me to focus on finding the gap and then exploring that gap. At the same time, I see within academia a stagnancy that I hope to keep out of occult writing and practice. The rehashing of theories can only take you so far, unless you back it up with practical experience and share those experiences with other people.

Your written work has gotten progressively more experimental with each publication. What can we expect from future books?

More experimentation and more innovation. I want to change the face of magic, so to speak. I’m very focused on not only writing about on the edge subjects, but inspiring others to write about similar subjects. I am now the head editor of the esoteric nonfiction line of books for Immanion Press, and our mission statement is to publish on the edge magic books that represent the next generation. The anthology I’m editing, Magic on the Edge, is a reflection of that mission statement. My future solo projects will likewise continue to be experimental. I don’t want to rehash what other people have done, so much as present either entirely new approaches to magic, or extensions of other peoples’ work. I currently have about the next four or so books planned in my head, and one that I’m currently manifesting into writing: Inner Alchemy. Of the four I plan to write, I’ll only say that one will be a grimoire and extension of PCM and one will be focused on semiotics. The rest will have to stay a secret for now.