Originally published in 2012 ‘The Book of Baphomet’ is jointly, and seamlessly, authored by Nikki Wyrd and Julian Vayne. Utilising elements of history, science, cosmology, drugs, personal experience and the occult, the book’s poetic blend explores the ‘occult deity of Life on Earth, Baphomet’ and paints a beautiful picture of how we might reimagine our world in the twenty-first century.
The opening chapter of The Book of Baphomet, named The Song of Life, describes the evolution of organic life on Earth. This wonderfully described process opens up the cultural space, both literally in terms of the bringing about of human endeavour, but also as a path down which the reader is led. On this journey, one is shown the image of Baphomet through the ages and how the figure—polymorphous, goat-legged and great horned—has come to be an embodiment of spiritual self-awareness; the figure that portrays an awakening from the various bonds we, as humans, have incurred and constructed over time.
“We have built walls to keep out the monsters of the wild, but these walls block out so much more. By opening a few doors, perhaps we can extend our perceptions beyond this prisoner mentality, and walk out of the institutional lifestyle which surrounds us. For we play a part in the world, a role that the world itself produced” (Wyrd 2012, 31).
The life of Baphomet is regarded through a number of stages. For instance, The Knights Templar. This military Christian order was founded in order to protect pilgrims going to the Holy Land, but which became a bloated and rich organisation that was eventually deemed as a threat to the main Church. When it was “busted” in 1307, however, it was already on a downward spiral; losing lands in the Middle-East and making powerful enemies. Interestingly, “The Templar trial provided the pattern upon which much of the post Medieval witch-hunt was based” (Wyrd 2012, 40). This episode, however, harbours Baphomet.
At the centre of the Templars was an esoteric knowledge, secrets that gave rise to jealousy, and a way of interaction that cut-out the Establishment middle-man; they took one another’s confessions for example. Baphomet, in various spellings, rises from the centre of their secrecy and becomes an elemental that pervades later bodies of esoteric knowledge. Alchemy, the occult, Renaissance magic and in the milieu of later secret societies, all appear to recognise the bringing-on of Baphomet—the personal path to spirituality but, more importantly, the self-embodiment of that which is spiritual. This element one might understand as consciousness but consciousness as a process of awakening.
Interestingly, the language of ‘being busted’ employed by the authors, is smartly utilised. The image of police busting Templars, people believed to have transgressed the fixity of Establishment, rings scarily true for our own day-and-age, when the techniques at our disposal, like certain psychoactive drugs, incur the same wrath. As I read that passage sad images of the alchemist Casey Hardison in cuffs came to mind. Yet, once upon a time, this marginalisation might not have occurred. Alchemy, the spiritual Philosopher’s Stone, had the opportunity to become a part of the mainstream world-view—yet consciousness lost out to measurement.
“Isaac Newton, mathematically obsessed with counting everything, presided over the Royal Society for over 20 years. Without his autistic preoccupation with graphs and measuring quantity, perhaps the qualitative measures of his contemporaries would have developed a statistical method of representation, and today’s science would appear very different. Many of the early members of the Royal Society, such as Sir Humphrey Davy, kept beautifully subjective whilst accurate observational records. If this first person approach had continued, the world today might look quite different” (Wyrd 2012, 75).
Yet, at the centre of this book, is a knowledge that the ability to evoke Baphomet is more than simply within our grasp. The appearance of bodies of knowledge like Chaos Magick, with great practitioners like Peter J. Carroll, alongside the great wave of interest in trance-states in the Western world over the last sixty years, are breeding with Baphomet’s fire: “Baphomet for me is this self-conscious process of knowing the techniques and topography of the trance state. That’s why there is the antinomian vibe in this figure. It is Lucifer, Promethea, and the Rebel of the Soul. Waking up to a religion in which mystical ecstasy and wonderworking are describable technologies rooted in the body. A religion in which physical sacraments are potent drugs that really do the job” (Wyrd 2012, 164). Of course, psychedelics are an important and powerful tool for the Baphomet trance.
Consciousness as an intrinsic part of the universe is the prevalent revelation one finds in the use of psychedelics; whether this be the exploration of the personal consciousness, surfing the noosphere or finding oneself in an out-of-body experience. Psychedelics give one the energy, the magical realms, in order to practice with the self-awakening consciousness. The deeply ecological and universal tones of tripping, personally and literarily, points towards an on-going relationship between the confines of our own day-to-day and being a motion within the greater waves of unfolding complexity—the chance to experience the beauty described in the opening chapter as a lived reality.
I greatly enjoyed reading The Book of Baphomet, not least because it is written to a very high literary standard. Mostly, however, because it is a book that is concerned with the sanctum of experience but which does not lapse into some internal monologue, or invisible landscape constructed by long dead psychotherapists. Instead, The Book of Baphomet turns the inner onto the outer and back again; it understands the dance between perception and affection and, as such, it breathes deeply as you read it and on after you finish the story. It is a text that faces the world, and at a time when many people appear to wish to escape to enclosed psychic spaces, it is refreshing and touching. A book, I feel, that is destined to be returned to.