The Pylon System

by Don Webb

I am a graduate of the Pylon system of the Temple of Set. I would like to describe my own experience with the system and comment on the purpose of Pylons in the Temple of Set. I am limiting my discussion to the local Pylon rather than the correspondence Pylons. I hope that the coming years sees the establishment of many more local Pylons.

The need for a School has been eloquently described in The Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution by Peter D. Ouspensky, and I won’t attempt to summarize his ideas here. I read the book years before I came to the Temple of Set, but I didn’t understand it. There were two reasons for this. Firstly every occult group I had encountered was a bit flaky. The best way to judge an organization is to interact with its members. If the members of the School are getting the kind of results you want, then it’s the School for you. Secondly I was too ego-weak to submit to a School. In my heart of hearts I thought I was smarter, more powerful, just plain better than anyone I had met. So I stagnated without challenge. I had been a practicing occultist ten years before joining the Temple. I was, and am, a better magician than most you can meet.

My awakening came from meeting Stephen Edred Flowers. Here was a person of substance—scholar, magician, linguistically gifted—someone I could look up to on several levels. I had at least gotten over my ego-weakness sufficiently to learn to admire. He was a member of the Temple of Set. He had founded the local Pylon. Admiration is a form of self-possibility. At first I found the idea of a Pylon questionable. I knew then as I still Know now: the first steps of Initiation always begin when you are alone, and the most significant changes occur then also. I wasn’t sure of myself enough to work with a group, I doubted that a group could teach me anything, and I had philosophical reservations about the notion of group magic. My curiosity overcame my arrogance, and I decided to join.

The first ritual was a tightly scripted piece of pseudo-Masonic work that was pretty dreadful to someone like myself coming in from a background of neo-shamanism. But during that Working I found a Purpose. A Purpose is the magical side of the intellectual understanding that you might also possess.

The next two rituals were more effective. Then I was asked to write the next rite.

There were a IV°, a III° and three II° members and myself, a I°.

I knew then (because of my years of practicing magic) that for magic to succeed it had to have precision and passion. Now this put everything in a new light. I knew how to create successful material for me, but in order to write an effective group Working, I had to discover a great deal more about human motivations than I had ever bothered to learn in the ten years preceding. I had to univeralize my approach in performance. If you have ever had to teach anything, you discover first off that teaching is the best way to learn—that is, to Internalize knowledge. So I had to begin to learn about human passion—not because it was a required subject, but because it was Needed for the Work. As far as precision, I decided to do a invocation to Tezcatlipoca. There were two reason for this, one I had always been fascinated with Aztec myth and two it gave me a chance to show off. I did a great deal of research on Tezcatlipoca and I fortunately found The Fifth Sun by Burr Cartwright Brundage, an excellent scholarly study that gave me important clues as to the archetype of the Prince of Darkness. Now would I have found this book otherwise? Sure. But I wouldn’t have read it with the intensity I read it. I wouldn’t have internalized the knowledge. I lit the copal, beat the drum and we did the Working.

The purpose of Pylons is to provide a focus for the Initiate, a place for her to Internalize knowledge. This seldom occurs in people unwilling to put their knowledge and training out for discussion and critical appraisal. I was a better magician than some of the members of the Pylon, and more knowledgeable in certain areas. So what? I wasn’t as focused. With the Pylon I now had a whetstone to sharpen myself against.

The rite was published in the Pylon newsletter. So I met other people interested in Aztec thought. The pebble I cast as a I° has grown in the Temple. Brundage is on the Reading List, there’s an Element called The Smoking Mirror, and at the Set XVI Conclave in Las Vegas I read an invocation in Nahuatl.

The Pylon serves the same purpose as movements do in the Gurdjieffian system. They become a chance to Awaken, See, and Act.

Pylons are the place where you find your Teachers and your Students. Most Pylon members will play both roles for you.

Two years after joining the Pylon, I Became its leader or Sentinel. We underwent a great deal of growth—for a brief time we were the largest Pylon save for the Gates of Hell. Then one of the members in another city felt that he was ready to run his own Pylon and founded a group out of the Initiates there. When one of the members of the local group felt that she was ready to run the Pylon, I stepped aside.

Pylons are sponsored or led by a III° Initiate. The III° has the job of seeing that the group stays focused on Setian philosophy and magic, and that ethical guidelines are maintained.

“Standard” local Pylon meetings go like this. (I could put a million quotes around “standard”; Pylons have done everything from skydiving to dancing at Amerindian shamanic sites to public meetings at occult bookstores. Now anyone, for any reason, can choose not to attend a Pylon activity. You can pay your fee at a gym and not use the weights either.) We gather at a member’s home. The Sentinel of the Pylon hands out a couple of 3x5 index cards. We each write down a couple of questions we want to discuss, hand them to the Sentinel who puts them together, shuffles the cards and reads them one by one. We each speak on each question. It’s a great way to rattle your cage—there will be questions asked that you never thought of; this is a great boost to Initiation. There will be answers made that you would have never thought of. This too is a great boost. After the Q&A we might have a presentation on magical technique. Someone will have researched something and desires to show off their knowledge. This too is a great boon for Initiation. I have seen several Pylon demonstrations on Neuro-Ligustic Programming or Runic magic or Vampyric magic that give better information than seminars costing hundreds of dollars. On some topics, such as Trapezoidal magic or Vampyric magic, of course you can’t get the information elsewhere.

The word Pylon refers to the massive fortified gateways of the temples of Egypt. You might wish to find a good photo of the Temple of Amen-Re at Luxor or Ramses II’s Abu-Simbel, and let your right brain feast on it awhile. You’ll notice that the gateway presents a passage to the outside world, a narrow gateway within, and serves as a secure wall to the persons within. This is a good metaphor for what a Pylon should be.

Pylons can (perhaps should) have an effect on the objective universe in a specifically Setian sense. If there is trouble against occultists, bad press or whatever—one letter might not do much good, but a campaign of four letters from different places might. The Temple of Set has no political goals other than encouraging free speech and tolerance of groups (such as itself) perceived of as “Other”. Various public projects can in fact be influenced by a very small number of people with coordinated goals. In addition to such obvious action, the Pylon itself should be conceived in such a way that its egregore is conceived of as having a constant influence on the geographical region. In this way the Pylon presents a message to the objective universe. A second good idea is for the Pylon to report its activities to the other Pylons, perhaps with a newsletter. This can be used to set up such endeavors as simultaneous Workings, and other magical feats that give lie to the laws of time and space. The gateway to Pylons is narrow; it is easily guarded by one man or woman. The role of the Sentinel is a guardianship role. Mainly this means that the Sentinel should set up a safe place for Pylon activities to occur. It may also mean the unpleasant task of removing disruptive elements from the Pylon. The Sentinel may establish whatever dress code or regulations he or she desires within the Pylon in order that it might meet without attracting undue notice. In this function the Sentinel must know his of her community. For example if you live in the student ghetto of a large town, Satanic drag might be OK, even ultra-cool for members to wear. If you meet in the heart of a white bread suburb, the yuppie look is probably better. Now how members dress away from the Pylon—who cares? Magical misdirection is a skill. There will be those whose individuality is so thin, that it is only clothes-deep—these people couldn’t pull off magical misdirection if their lives depended on it.

The Pylon serves as a secure wall to persons within. If the Sentinel has done his or her job, then the seriousness of the Initiates is all that matters. If they pursue their Initiation, they will seize upon the Pylon for their needs. They can write rituals, lead discussion groups, make road trips to museums, set up mini-conclaves, etc. The Sentinel should not have a greater or lesser role in this than the others, and should use his or her office merely to be sure that no one person takes up all of the time. The interaction of people—particularly people just ahead and just behind one another in Initiation—produces some of the greatest material for the Initiate to Work with. What Pylons do is up to them, the Temple’s only interest in Pylons is that they share the fruit of their labors. Pylons are a major tool in re-creating an Initiatory tradtion on Earth.

Each member should contribute to the magical Work of the Pylon creating such material based on his or her current Needs. The Sentinel should design Work for the Pylon to illustrate the major Initiatory questions rising out of discussion and to promote general good luck and prosperity for its members.

The Gateway to your own Initiation is in your Heart, but often Hidden there by circumstance and habit. External Gateways are Symbols you can use in making your rites of passage. Most of the rites of passage you need in your life you will have to create yourself. Pylons are one such gateway. Real Initiation doesn’t come from texts, it passes from Mouth to Ear; texts are supplemental.

Submitted Seven days before the Xepera Mundi Working XXXII.

Xepera Xeper Xeperu!

Useful Reading:

Van Gennep, Arnold. The Rites of Passage. Trans. by Monika B. Vizedom and Gabrielle L. Caffee. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960. A good guide for setting up one’s rites of passage.

Lloyd, S., and H. W. Muller. Ancient Architecture. History of World Architecture series. New York: Rizzoli International Publishers, 1982. Revised paperback ed. Great photos—also a nice discussion of how Set-figures became the gargoyles on Medieval churches.

Ouspensky, Peter D. The Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution. NY: Alfred A. Knopf. I would pretty much recommend this book to anyone thinking of joining the Temple of Set or any organization.

Szasz, Thomas S. The Manufacture of Madness. NY: Dell Publishing Co., 1970. A good explanation of what society manifests toward people who declare their “Otherness”. This clarifies the internal strength needed to join an “Other” group versus armchair practice.

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