The Invisible Web

Your Trip Into the Chapel Perilous

Phil Farber and Meta-Magickal Currents

Posted by invizweb on February 14, 2008

Philip H. Farber is a man of many talents. In the past he has written for the Disinformation Company and the Green Egg publication of the Church of All-Worlds. Currently he is known as a lecturer and author on the subjects of altered states of consciousness and magick. In 1995, he wrote the now out-of-print collector’s item FutureRitual, a book that merges Neuro-Linguistic programming with Ceremonial magick techniques, which has a forward by Industrial Music pioneer, Genesis (Breyer) P-Orridge. This summer, Weiser Books will release Farber’s Meta-Magick:Book of Atem. What does this book entail? Find out in the proceeding interview. We also discuss his past with Genesis and Robert Anton Wilson, his theory of magick, one-eyed monsters, and unicorns. Phil’s website is:: He also teaches an online course at

Interviewer:  How are you Phil?  Can you tell our readers what your family background is in regards to your childhood?

Phil Farber: I grew up in the 1960s on Long Island, which was at once both a very ordinary kind of place and a very weird one. Ordinary in the sense that communities there were supposed to typify post-World War II suburban life and the American Dream of owning a home, a car, and commuting to a job; weird in that if you really tuned in to what was happening you realized that the place was trashed and was only becoming more crowded, polluted, and socially stagnant.

My parents were both scientists. My mother was a mycologist, one of the very few women PhDs actually working in the sciences at the time. She worked in pharmaceutical laboratories that specialized in allergy products and when she couldn’t find a babysitter, I’d come along to the lab. Quite a bit of my younger years were in that setting. My father was a physicist and worked mostly as an electronic engineer. He was the inventor, in 1965, of the first computer-based color scanner and the four color separation process that we now know as the CMYK protocol. This was an invention that literally changed the world of media – enabling major magazines like Life, Look, Time, Newsweek, etc. to specialize in photojournalism and bring images of the wider world into the homes of millions. And yet he rarely talked about this.More to the point, my father had worked his way through college, in part, as a stage magician and our house was filled with books not only on the art of illusion, but also on hypnosis. I was told not to read the hypnosis books, that they were for adults only, etc., and of course I read most of them by the time I was 10 or 11. I began practicing hypnosis at that age with friends who were willing to experiment, and my interest in altered states continued on from there.

Interviewer: As people of science, what were your parent’s theories of spirituality?

Phil Farber: “Spirituality” is one of those fun words that means something very different to everyone and in different contexts. A Christian may identify spirituality with going to church and reading the Bible while a Zen Buddhist might identify it with sitting and allow the mind to quiet. For some it is about good deeds, for others it is about self-transformation.

Science is a little easier to define, although, again, it does mean different things in different contexts. Science is sometimes thought of as a body of knowledge, as a method of inquiry, and as a synonym for technology.

Selecting any of those definitions, we might say that science can be applied to spirituality (for instance, understanding the action of the brain during meditation)… or that spirituality can be applied to science (for instance, by inducing states that produce revelation and new information). Science as a method of inquiry presupposes a measure of objectivity, that the experimenter can observe without influencing or being influenced by the experiment. Spirituality is more about interaction of the individual with the world – that is, in this case, it might be all the parts that scientific inquiry leaves out – personal change that can only be understood on a subjective basis.

My parents were good people who were involved in their community but probably wouldn’t have identified themselves as “spiritual”. They were certainly more interested in science.

I think the scientific attitude that I inherited from my parents gives me a tendency to test and verify things a little more than most. When I’m exploring magick, I pose my explorations as experiments and work toward replicable results. While it is usually impractical to set up traditional double-blind experiments, especially when working with self-change, I do think that clear-minded observation is vital.

Interviewer: Would you identify /label as a agnostic or any with any philosophical/theological system?

Phil Farber: I do consider myself a model agnostic and I like to explore a variety of different models and systems. Of course, there are only so many hours in a day and I do find that I limit my information intake and practice to the systems and methods I personally find exciting. Over the years I have spent time with Golden Dawn magick, Thelemic magick, occult Qabalah, Taoism, Sufism, Zen, Yoga, Discordianism, Fourth Way, and systems far weirder and less known. Ultimately, elements of these have gone to build up my own personal model, which is presently compiling itself under the Meta-Magick name.

When I was 15 years old, I had a bicycle accident and experienced a Near Death Experience. This included an out of body experience and awareness of entities. While this experience did not specifically tip me into a particular model, it raised quite a few questions about the models I was currently using. The questions addressed very basic presuppositions about consciousness and life that I had been taking for granted. I would suggest that this opened me up for exploration, piqued my curiosity, and launched me on a quest of sorts. However, rather than defining my ideas about the world, it pulled most of the definitions out from under me.

And I think I’ve had any number of “light bulb” moments exploring the works of Aleister Crowley, Robert Anton Wilson, Lao Tzu, George Gurdjieff, and so on.

Interviewer: You wrote a number of books on the subject of magick.  Before we delve deeper into those books, how would you define magick for your readers and when did you begin to see yourself as doing such?

Phil Farber: As a good model agnostic, I don’t have *one* definition of magick, but tend to operate from definitions that are appropriate to my ends.

Crowley’s very broad “…art and science of causing change in conformity with Will” probably gets used most often. That’s often rejected because magicians want to make a distinction between “mundane” acts (eating breakfast, for instance) and other kinds of acts. I tend to flip this around and begin to think of, for instance, eating breakfast *as* a magical act. How exactly can breakfast be contrived to support the aims of my Will? In Crowley’s system, ritual is used to encode information into the unconscious mind… AND everything we do during the day has untold layers of unconscious information. Do we leave that to random? Or do we begin to change what we do to ritually encode *everything*?

Another nice definition, propagated by the leading edge of chaotes, narrows the idea of magick down to events that have a non-local component. That’s fun, too, and helps us to concentrate on and understand the kinds of things that might make James Randi flip his wig. Under that definition, a lot of what I do remains “psychological change” and not necessarily “magick.” This prompts us to start pushing those weirdness buttons and finding out how they work.

Dion Fortune’s modification of Crowley’s definition to specific “change in consciousness” also gives us a tool to start investigating and experiencing things in slightly different direction. I think Fortune was being tricky, though, and in the end she probably was using the qabalistic concept that everything is consciousness. Nonetheless, this gives us a working definition that moves us toward refining our minds, initiating ourselves into mysteries, and meta-programming of various kinds.

Anyway… I first started thinking about magick as “magick” when I started reading Crowley. I remember thinking, “Now I have a name for what I already do.”

Interviewer: Last Saturday was the 60th Anniversary of Aleister Crowley’s passing (December 1, 1947).  In what way has Aleister Crowley’s work been an influence in your life and work?  What impact do you think he has had on the 20th and 21st Centuries?

Phil Farber: If you explore anything called “magick” in this day and age, it shows the influence of Crowley. The idea that we can “cause change in conformity with will” is wonderfully simple and also quite mindblowing. Crowley’s idea was akin to the idea of “critical factor analysis,” which is the art of finding effective and elegant strategies toward whatever your outcome might be.

Uncle Al opened my eyes to actual, practical usage of ritual. What really hooked me on his material was very simply that you could do it – perform a ritual, practice a meditation, or whatever – and something would happen. The results measurable, at least in terms of difference in subjective experience. His attitude was scientific, even if what he was exploring inherently transcends the bounds of models such as science.

Perhaps his greatest work, rarely discussed, is the memetic spin that he gave to ritual. By applying the “k” to magic, in effect, and by his writing and publishing efforts, he turned occult studies into something that could be discussed, evaluated qualitatively, and passed along. The enormous occult revival of the last 100 years can be largely attributed to this.

Crowley’s impact on modern culture is pervasive, if often unacknowledged. As a British spy in two world wars he influenced world events. As a social pioneer he provided fuel for a sexual revolution. As an explorer of consciousness he inspired generations of psychedelia, meta-programming, and magick. Hell, ghostwriting books for Evangeline Adams, he popularized sun-sign astrology in the USA. Through his influence on the Beatles, Tim Leary, RAW, and many others, he helped return a sense of spirituality and consciousness to a wider cross section of the public. And so on.

Interviewer: Was there a moment in time where a light bulb went off in your mind or something clicked and you decided to become a more public figure in the magick/occult/altered consciousness community?  Did you think as a kid growing up that you were going to do what you are doing now?

Phil Farber: I basically just want to write books. My motivation for most of what I do is pretty much creating more time and opportunity for me to write. After I got past the “I want to be a cowboy” and “I want to be an astronaut” phases of life, I wanted to be a writer and have stuck with that ever since, in spite of a few forays into… what do you call those time-wasting, distracting, annoying things? Oh yes, “Jobs.” I suppose being a public figure in an obscure niche ispart of being an obscure writer, I mean, that is, if people actually read what you write.

Interviewer: Which publication, did you write for first?  Or did you begin with self-published work?

Phil Farber: I started local, with my college newspaper. After college, while holding other jobs and running other small businesses, some friends and I published an arts and literary magazine, “105 Magazine,” and I wrote quite a bit for those. I started picking up freelance work from local newspapers, usually lame-ass stuff for the “People” section. My first fiction to be published was in a cool, British occult/humor journal called “Aquarian Arrow.” In the late ’80s I got a gig as staff writer for a series of big, library-volume history books, followed by many more years of newspaper work, then High Times, Mondo 2000, and various other magazines. Somewhere along the way, I self-published an e-book version of my first novel, “Breaks,” a sporadic print newsletter, and the Paradigm Shift web ‘zine (which can still be found at ).

Interviewer: Back to the subject of consciousness, how would you define “altered states”? After your near death experience, at age 15, what are some of the other altered states of consciousness that you entered?

Phil Farber: All the famous books about altered states seem to deal with what I might define as “intense states.” Mostly the term evokes ideas of psychedelic experiences, significant dream states, hypnosis, meditation, and so forth. However, if we were to swap states of consciousness for a moment, you and I or one of us with a reader of this interview, even if these were what we respectively consider as “normal” states – they would seem psychedelic. That is to say, the way you experience things, the way your mind sorts and categorizes perception, is subtly or dramatically different from the way everyone else does it.

Now, our states of consciousness are not just different from person to person, but also different within each of us, from day to day, hour to hour, and moment to moment. In spite of an illusion of continuity through this ever-changing flux of states, every state is an altered one.

We tend to mark out some states as significant to us when they reach a particular threshold of intensity. Which, to my mind, suggests that brain change is based not on particular techniques, but on noticing what, uniquely and for each of us, pushes the various intensity buttons. This is an important concept, I think, because intensity appears to be one of the factors that stimulates neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to change itself and develop new neural pathways. In other words, intensity is necessary for learning. This is, perhaps, what chaos magicians seek in their idea of “gnosis” as an altered state, states in which radical learning, radical reorganization of the way our brain perceives and deals with the world, can occur.

With that said, it’s damn fun (and educational, too!) to ALTER states.

So, to answer the second part of your question, the kinds of intense states that I have explored included such “traditional” ones as state-altering chemicals, meditation, hypnosis, lucid dreaming, ritual magick and so on, and have also used NLP and Meta-Magick modeling techniques to create intensity using a wide variety of different “ordinary” experiences.

Interviewer: In 1989, you conducted the Brain Machine Symposium with Doctor Reverend Pope Robert Anton Wilson.  How would you describe Pope Wilson to the readers of this interview?  When you were first exposed to Pope Wilson’s works, which were the most influential on you, and what are your fondest memories of Bob?

Phil Farber: I started reading Robert Anton Wilson’s books in the early ’80s. A friend inadvertently left a copy of Illuminatus! at my apartment and I started to read it… and was hooked immediately. I read every one of his books I could find and all the new ones as they came out. Around ’85 or ’86, Wilson made some lecture appearances in New York City and my friends and I made a point of traveling down there. One that I particularly remember was a lecture on the tarot, relating it to the 8-Circuit Model, that an OTO group promoted.

Anyway, in 1987 my wife and I opened Thelemic Arts Center in Saugerties, New York and of course Bob Wilson was near the top of our “wish list” of presenters. I made a few phone calls, and we were able to book him for a lecture, “Religion for the Hell of It.” We had a big turnout and the event was a success, so we made a point of having Bob back on a regular basis. Over the next few years, he did a series of lectures and workshops at TAC and at a few other venues where we promoted events. This included the 1989 Brain Machine Symposium and also the FutureRitual seminar we did together in 1990. Bob would stay at our house when in the area and we always had a good time when he was around.

Fondest memories are simply about hanging out with him when he wasn’t on stage. We’d have a beer or two in our living room, or we go out to a diner and sit and talk.

Prometheus Rising was the book that blew my mind the most and I still hold that as the standard to measure any “magick” or brain-change book against. However, I love his novels. The Historical Illuminatus Chronicles books are masterpieces. Masks of the Illuminati is fantastic.

How would I describe Bob? Here’s what I wrote for High Times in 1991:

“Based on Robert Anton Wilson’s incredible and varied career, it’s hard to know what to expect when you meet him. This is a guy who spent five years in the ’60s as an editor of Playboy, then went on to coauthor (with Robert Shea) the mind-boggling llluminatus! (cut into a trilogy by its publisher), got his PhD in psychology, wrote the “new-age” classic Cosmic Trigger, collaborated on two books with Timothy Leary, wrote a whole bunch more on his own, released a punk-rock album, and toured as a stand-up comedian. Robert Anton Wilson has expanded as many minds with his books as all the Sandoz acid ever manufactured.”

“A small surprise, then, to finally see this white–bearded, Buddha-like man dressed in the same casual suit that your college physics professor wore-a slightly wacky Buddha, to be sure, cracking jokes and reciting Monty Python routines in a pleasantly gruff Brooklyn accent. Wilson’s conversation is startlingly like his books, his words tying together an amazing diversity of facts, theories and punchlines in a way that gently prods at your sense of reality.”

Oh well, as Wilson’s readers know well enough, it’s always fun to watch as your preconceptions are blown to little, tiny bits.

Interviewer: What is the Thelemic Arts Center and is it still active?

Phil Farber: Thelemic Arts Center only lasted a few years. It was a project that my wife, Djenaba, and I conceived in the late ’80s. It was an answer to a question we had been asking each other, which was – If we could do anything we wanted – what would it be? We decided we wanted a performance space and an art gallery and that we would book the best workshops, musical acts, theater, and visual artists we could find.

We rented a decrepit former factory building in Saugerties, New York and we started published a monthly newsletter and calendar of events that we distributed throughout the area. We had events every weekend and a new show in the gallery every month. Many of the performers and artists who appeared for the first time at TAC are now quite well-known.

At any rate, it was a blast of creative energy that continued until we ran afoul of a sleazy landlord. We then moved the center to Accord, NY and ran for about a year there, until we discovered, the hard way, that the new landlord was even worse than the first. We continued to promote events in other venues for a while after that, until we both got more involved in other activities.

It was a very intense period of time and includes enough weird events and stories to fill a book (which I might write one day).

Interviewer: A mutual friend of yourself and BOB is the British performing artist Genesis Breyer P-Orridge.  When did you meet Genesis?  Do you have any great stories that you can share in regards to working with Genesis?

Phil Farber: I first met Genesis in 1990. I had been a fan of Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV for some time. Psychic TV was on their “Infinite Beat” tour and they came to this part of New York. At the time, I was working as a journalist for a daily paper and I pitched the story to my editor, who agreed it would make a good piece. My wife and I met Gen and his then-wife Paula at The Chance, a nightclub in Poughkeepsie where they were performing. We sat outside the club in their tour bus, which was a very cool old school bus that was a sort of spiritual sister (if buses can be said to have such) to Furthur, the bus Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters rode across America.

We spent a good part of the afternoon chatting with and interviewing Gen and Paula. The interview ultimately exceeded what I could use in the newspaper and a big piece of it ended up in Mondo 2000 magazine.

Anyway, it was a few years later that I next met up with Genesis. We were re-introduced by Adam Walks Between Worlds, who was a writer and bard for the Church of All Worlds and who was working on a biography of Genesis. (Adam was murdered before the bio was completed, alas.) Gen agreed to write the introduction for FutureRitual, which was then about to be published.

One of the more interesting experiences I had with Gen involved The Process. Gen and Ogre (from Skinny Puppy) were playing around with magick and created a media virus/art collective that incorporated some of the symbolism from the old Process Church of the Final Judgment. The longest-surviving aspect of The Process collective was the online mailing list which generated some interesting visual art collaborations, offline gatherings and more. Gen nudged me into participating and some of the affiliations from those days still remain important influences in my life. Ogre described The Process as his lesson in Magick 101, and I will also say that it got my mind working towards an understanding of magick on a transpersonal level.

Some Process resources:

Interviewer: You earlier mentioned the Church of All Worlds and a member, Adam Walks Between Worlds.  Did Adam help you get work with Green Egg magazine, the Church’s publication?  What are your experiences writing for this Neo-Pagan publication?

Phil Farber: No, Adam wasn’t responsible for hooking me up with Green Egg. Most of my magazine credits back in those days were made via what was the usual way of the time. I typed or printed out an article, stuck it in an envelope and sent it to an editor on spec. At the time, I had very little contact with the Green Egg folks – I think I talked to Morning Glory on the phone a couple times when an article was accepted. Years later, I met Oberon at the Starwood Festival.

Adam Walks Between Worlds was a member of our old Ceremonial Magick Forum on AOL, back when AOL was the underdog of online providers and the forums operated more like or something like that does today. Adam and I had a lot in common, chief among these an interest in the connection between Robert Heinlein and Thelema. Adam did quite a lot of research on that score, some of which can still be found online:

Alas, Adam was murdered under mysterious circumstances in 1997. The top theory to explain his death involves a jealous husband.

Interviewer: As you wrote for the Church of All Worlds’ publication, Green Egg, what interaction did you have with its founder Oberon Zell-Ravenheart?  How would you describe Oberon to the readers?  What are some fond memories you have of working with Oberon, and his significant other Morning Glory?   Did you ever meet their unicorn?

Phil Farber: My interactions as a contributor to Green Egg were limited to envelopes and stamps and a couple phone calls. So, no, I never met the unicorn. I did meet Oberon years later at the Starwood festival. I can’t claim to know him very well, though I would say that even on a casual meeting he really fits the archetype of a pagan wizard.

Interviewer: Of all the people you met, did any play ribs (pranks) on you?  If so, can you share one that stands out in your mind?

Phil Farber: Of the people we’ve been discussing, I may have been part of their general cultural pranking at large, but have not been a target for specific ribbing (though I’m probably asking for it now!). Of everyone I’ve known, though, the best prank played on me (and a group of friends) was by my friend Steve Taylor, who once took a group of us on a tour of Poughkeepsie, New York. He showed us some fairly straightforward sights (“Here’s where the crack dealers hang out.”) and then took us to a local commercial bakery. Just before we went through the door, he explained to us that he had called ahead and told the bakery management that he was bringing a group of mentally retarded adults for a tour. After a few minutes of anger (“You did not say we were retarded!”) we went in and, compelled to fill the role, wandered around grinning and marveling over the big vats of ingredients (“Cheese!”). Apparently, we were convincing.

Interviewer: A reader of my blog wants to know, is Reality a one-eyed monster named Hugo?

Phil Farber: Absolutely not. Hugo has at least two eyes.

Interviewer: How would you describe your earlier book on magick technique, FutureRitual?

Phil Farber: FutureRitual was a fairly traditional exploration of ritual magick, with some of the material explored from a point of view of influenced by NLP. By offering some NLP concepts – anchoring, for example – it became possible to understand a few of the mechanisms of magick. The intent was to provide an introduction to Thelemic magick, a system for which there was, at that time, no simple introduction – though several other similar books were published around the same time.

After FutureRitual, I decided to take it all back to square one – I wanted to start studying magick not by researching traditions and theories – I had done that for years – but by exploring human behavior from the ground up. What behaviors, ways of thinking, and techniques are the bases of magick? Milton Erickson defined hypnosis as the conscious use of our usually unconscious natural shifts in attention. I was hoping to find the magical equivalent. What do we naturally do, what kind of behaviors do we engage in, that, in another context would consciously equal magick?

Interviewer: What was the thought process when you began writing the new Book of Atem, which is set to release in 2008, by Weiser Books?

Phil Farber: Since FutureRitual was published in 1995, I’ve had many opportunities to teach workshops and seminars for all kinds of audiences. I started isolating demonstrations of inherently magical behaviors and offering them at the workshops. My ideal workshop is one in which I can demonstrate everything I’m talking about. Quite a few workshops and seminars I’ve been to are ABOUT magick but are not themselves magical. They offer theory and systems and so forth and for the most part it is up to the student to go home and study for months before anything practical comes of it. So I started devising workshops that were themselves rituals or that demonstrated the principles discussed in practical, physical ways.

A few years ago I decided that I had enough of this kind of material for a book and the mindset carried itself over. I was going to write a book about evocation – and I wanted the book to not only discuss evocation, but to demonstrate that art. The result was a book that was both “how to” guide and was itself an evoked entity.  The act of reading the book takes the reader through the process of giving life to Atem, an entity charged with the ability to open the lines of communication between humans and entities of various sorts – call them demons, angels, gods, goddesses or memetic entities, if you will. Atem does this very literally, by teaching a variety of techniques and offering a program of exercises that shift thought processes in ways that make our natural tendencies and abilities toward evocation more apparent and consciously useful.

The result is now entitled “Meta-Magick: The Book of Atem” and Weiser Books will have it in bookstores this summer.

Interviewer: What are your thoughts now that you have completed it, submitted it to Weiser, and it has a release date?

Phil Farber: Working with Weiser has, so far, been an excellent experience. They have been very supportive. They created a really great cover for the book which you can take a look at on or on the Hawk Ridge website. They also brought me together with Douglas Rushkoff, who wrote a foreword for Meta-Magick.

I’m excited about this book because I think it really is something very different. Creating it was a mind-expanding magical process – and I think reading it and practicing the exercises will be as well.

Interviewer: Is there any parting words you would like to give to our readers?

Phil Farber: Of course, publishing a book is a slow process and in my own practice and in what I teach now, I’ve already moved on a bit to some newer material. Some of this newer material (which has an emphasis on invocation) will be available even before the book is in stores. Hawk Ridge will be releasing a multi-DVD set of a recent Meta-Magick Invocation seminar in the next few weeks – and I’ve already offered an advance look at some of this material in the Maybe Logic Academy Altered States course.

I will be teaching more Maybe Logic online courses in the coming year, as well as offline NLP and Meta-Magick seminars. Check it out at and

Interviewer: Thank you very much Phil for your time. I look forward to hearing more form you in the future.

Phil Farber: This was a good interview – you asked good questions. Thanks!

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