Saturday, June 5, 2021
An Occult Investigation Into Joy Division - Part 1
"A sense of fear and oppression is very characteristic of occult attack, and one of the surest signs that herald it. It is extemely rare for an attack to make itself manifest out of the blue, as it were. We are not in our normal state of mind, body and circumstance, and then find ourselves suddenly in the midst of an invisible battle. An approaching occult influence casts its shadow on consciousness before it makes itself apparent to the non-psychic. The reason for this is that we perceive subconsciously before we realise consciously, and a line of creeping shade indicates the penetrating of the subconscious censor from below upwards. As the attack progresses, nervous exhaustion becomes increasingly marked, and there may, under certain conditions, which we will consider later, be such wasting of the tissues that the victim is reduced to a mere bloodless shell of skin and bones, lying on the bed, too weak to move. And yet no disease can be demonstrated." - Dion Fortune, "Psychic Self-Defence" There is no musical group more puzzling and disturbing than Joy Division; that both invites and confounds curiosity, and prompts the deepest attempts at analysis that yield almost nothing. Joy Division are both profound and impenetrable, such that any intiative to explain them is invariably diverted into panegyrics dedicated to the surface of their sound, which is a modernist hall of mirrors. But is there another means of approach that might yield more? Perhaps not, as I suspect that Joy Division will forever remain obscure, but it is maybe worth making the effort. However, just such an effort will require taking a different tack to all previous analyses, and viewing the world through a different lens than that previously accorded to any study of the band. In this instance, we will attempt to study them from the perspective of that school of occultism known as the Western Mystery Tradition, whose most notable contemporary manifestation is the Golden Dawn system of magic. The first two concepts that we will employ are in fact almost ubiquitous to all esoteric and occult systems, whether they originate in the Occident or the Orient. These are the concepts of reincarnation and of karma. The Golden Dawn magical system, and its offshoots, posit that each human soul is made up of two major components, which are known as the Individuality and the Personality. The Individuality is that part of ourselves that is eternal, and is reincarnated from existence to existence, while the Personality is that part of ourselves that is unique to each particular existence. The Individuality is also known as the Higher Self, and is a part of ourselves that is only very rarely encountered, if at all, during our entire lifetime. If it briefly emerges, it is usually at a time of great stress, or distress; if, in the middle of a crisis, you have experienced the phenomenon where a single wise voice enters your head, and gives you absolutely the correct advice on what to do, then you have encountered your Higher Self. It follows then, that the Personality is also known as the Lower Self, and the divide between these two selves is called The Veil, the purpose of much occultism being to cross this veil and unite the lower and higher selves. The Lower Self is the part of us that we experience in our day to day existence, and which encompasses all our personal qualities, both good and bad. The purpose of being born into different personalities is to learn the lessons that each particular personality, with its strengths and weaknesses, has to give. From an esoteric point of view, there is no point having the same personality forever and ever, as our inherent limitations and biases, not to mention our varying physical and mental abilites, will always restrict the knowledge that any one personality can accrue. As such, in each personality we grow, (hopefully) mature, and (sometimes very painfully) learn as much as we can, and then we die, and the knowledge accrued is retained by the Individuality ready for the next incarnation. The memories of the previous incarnation(s) are rendered inaccessible, although the skills, talents, and lessons learned are retained by the Individuality. This is the root of apparently innate talents, or abilities to comprehend particular facets of existence with unusual alacrity. As the Individuality accrues knowledge and experience, so each incarnation becomes easier to navigate at the most basic level, and the soul turns itself towards spiritual growth. Eventually, all the lessons of material incarnation have been learned, and the soul continues its journey removed from any physical constraints, this basic orientation being known as destiny. When this principle is applied to the personality at the heart of the great drama that was Joy Division, we should think then not of Ian Curtis, but of the soul that was temporarily incarnated as Ian Curtis. And it is at this juncture that the concept of karma assists our understanding. The term used for karma within the Golden Dawn system is fate, although karma is the term that has become more colloquially common and readily understood. It should be noted in passing then that fate is a very different concept to destiny. In esoteric terms, karma is a neutral, unpersonified principle in which the results of any action or deed are returned to the person who enacted them, the purpose being to serve as a lesson in conduct. Karma, the results delivered by our actions, is how we learn in each incarnation, should we be alert enough to recognise it. However, the fact that karma can span incarnations also means that it cannot be evaded; as we sow, so do we reap, and as all of us are flawed and prone to foolishness, so we all reap in abundance. This is particularly pertinent with regards to Joy Division, as they give every impression of having been a vehicle for the working out of karma. Although the allusions are always vague and indistinct, the overall sense that they convey is that many lifetimes previously, the soul that was temporarily incarnated as Ian Curtis made some terrible, fateful error, that unloaded a crushing burden of karma that has pursued and harried it ever since. What this mistake may have been is impossible to ascertain, but it would seem to have been spiritual and/or religious in nature, and was accompanied by a deep sense of betrayal, thus indicating that the protagonist may have been tricked into making it. Although karma itself is neutral, the means through which it is enacted can be very active indeed, and whatever error Curtis' antecedent made, it seems to have unleashed furies that have pursued it relentlessly, possibly for centuries. So what could these furies be? Some insight may be gleaned from Dion Fortune's invaluable guide to such phenomena, Psychic Self-Defence, in which she outlines, amongst other ailments, the problem of psychic attack. Psychic attack is probably the most common form of occult disturbance, its origin essentially lying in a suggestion made to the subconscious mind. which acts as the seed for an acute mental complex, filled with double binds, that will eventually erupt into consciousness. Such a suggestion is usually made by a person we know and can be made deliberately or accidentally, and acts on a vulnerability or fissure that is already apparent, but dormant, in the subconscious. If you know somebody, maybe at work, who acts pleasantly towards you, but nevertheless makes you feel uncomfortable or energetically drained, then you will have some idea of the kind of process at work. Nevertheless, Dion Fortune also pointed out that: "It happens sometimes, however, that a rapport has been formed with the attacking entity in a previous incarnation, and therefore it holds, as it were, the key to the postern. Such a problem is a very difficult one, and external assistance is needed for a solution. The difficulty is increased by the fact that the victim is often disinclined to allow the break to be made, being bound to the attacking entity, whether discarnate or incarnate, by bonds of fascination or even genuine affection." These latter kinds of psychic attack are essentially karmic in nature and tend to pursue the individual who suffers them from one incarnation to the next, the means of manifestation in each life essentially being the same. There are strong suggestions within Joy Division's music that such psychic attacks afflicted Ian Curtis, although it is doubtful that they were the most frequent, or most pernicious, of his woes. Nonetheless, what makes a song such as Digital so remarkable is that it is an almost perfect evocation of how a psychic attack operates, from a vague sense of disquiet, to increasing dread, and then to panic and full-blown immersion. There is also the sense of personal invasion, the word "digital" indicating a double, and repetition, the sense of the attack happening again and again with ever increasing force. Another principle of Western occultism is that each of us exists on a series of planes, which can be allocated in a number of ways, although the usual schema is to posit five basic planes, these being the material, the etheric, the astral, the mental and the spiritual. The first three of these planes pertain to the Lower Self, the material plane obviously corresponding to our physical body and physical surroundings. The contemporary Western worldview generally maintains that this is the only plane that really exists, the other planes being either epiphenomena or wholly imaginary. Nonetheless, the etheric plane refers to an animating general life force that is known in Eastern systems under such names as qi and prana, while the astral plane is the realm of dreams thoughts and emotions. The other pair of planes, the mental and spiritual, pertain to the Higher Self and are thus generally inaccessible to our normal consciousness. Dead Souls recounts an irruption of unbalanced and hostile psychic energy on the astral plane, dreams being a common arena for the staging of psychic attacks. Once again there is the sense of repeated assault, in Curtis' insistence that he is being continually called for. There is also the intimation that some kind of karmic account is waiting to be settled, that a debt is due. Possibly, even, that a sacrifice is expected.