Serpent on the Cross: The Ancient Occult Path to Liberation is a pioneering account of a secret spiritual tradition that is the Western counterpart of tantra. As well as providing an accurate history of this tradition, the author - an academic expert on the occult - also describes his own experimentation with its alchemical and magical techniques of healing and inner transformation.
Serpent on the Cross will be available as an eBook and as an A5 paperback with colour illustrations:
Dealing primarily with the summoning of angels and demons, the techniques detailed in Serpent on the Cross have been passed on within an esoteric lineage stretching back in history to the early Christians, and beyond them to the primeval shamanic past. You might think of this tradition as a great tree, its branches stretching eastwards to tantra and westwards to practices we describe today as ‘occult arts’.
Unlike its cousins in the East, however, the Western branch of the ancient tree of gnosis has withered as religious and rationalist zealots alike have vilified and persecuted its practitioners. Surviving largely as an underground spiritual current, it has only occasionally surfaced into Western intellectual culture, most recently via the work of Carl Gustav Jung.
As your guide to this magical tradition – and to the legendary Order of the Rose Cross at its heart – there are two basic elements of Serpent on the Cross. The first is an accurate historical account of the tradition.
This account will introduce you to the lives and teachings of the tradition's greatest exponents. The life stories of its founders are the stuff of legend, and I'll take on the difficult task of distinguishing historical fact from symbolic truth as I relate them to you:
Passed on orally or in manuscript form, the restricted teachings of more recent exponents of this secret spiritual lineage are also shrouded in mystery. Some of these teachers are well-known, while others may be unfamiliar or surprising to you:
The fruit of twenty years’ study of rare books and once-secret manuscripts, this historical account will be based upon the teaching material for my courses at the University of Exeter. You can find my academic CV and some samples of my scholarly work here.
However, if you wish to understand an art you must also practice it. The second element of Serpent on the Cross is a first-person experiential account of my own travels along this spiritual path. Drawing on my experimentation with Rosicrucian magical techniques and alchemically produced entheogens, I'll be offering my personal thoughts on very practical questions such as:
- what does an angel look like?
- which language do angels use?
- how do you safely summon an angel and assume its nature?
- how are demons mastered?
- how do you create and use a talisman?
- or summon the spirits at sacred sites?
- what is the Philosophers' Stone?
- and how do you harness the divine power of the sun?
- what are the seven seals of the Book of Revelation?
- and how can you contact the Order of the Rose Cross?
The integration of this second element into my historical account should transform a dry scholarly work into an entertaining – and hopefully enlightening – travelogue of sorts.
In accordance with these two elements, Serpent on the Cross will be divided into two sections:
1. The Tree of Gnosis
This theoretical section will introduce you to the great tree of gnosis, and to the spiral serpent we find winding its way up the various branches that have spread through the lands and ages of the earth. We’ll begin in the ancient Near East, at the fork in the tree where Ophite Christians and proto-Tantrists ‘to the east of Babylon’ were still identified as one and the same heresy by a nascent Church hierarchy. This is a discussion of gnosis – a ‘knowledge’ or remembering of our divine origins that involves an ascent through the seven planetary spheres (you’re probably familiar with these spheres as ‘chakras’ in the microcosm of the human body).
The chapters in this section will ask:
- Who was Christ? And who are the true Christians? Here I’ll consider ongoing debates concerning the genuine teachings of the historical Jesus Christ, and the extent to which those teachings are reflected in the doctrines of the ancient Gnostic Christians. This struggle to prescribe what it means to be a Christian has persisted for two millennia, and I’ll argue it’s very relevant to the decline of Christianity in the contemporary West, and to a dangerous spiritual vacuum that threatens our future.
- What is the Kabbalah? The medieval Jewish Kabbalists were the chief conduit of ancient gnosis to the Christian spiritual lineage described in Serpent on the Cross. In the course of the Renaissance a new branch on the tree of gnosis - the Christian Cabala - sprang from this older Jewish tradition, and from that new branch there eventually emerged post-Christian ‘occultist’ forms of Qabalah (Éliphas Lévi, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Thelema, etc.). Here I’ll describe the transmission - and transformation - of Kabbalistic doctrine and practice, focusing on the central role played by
- the Order of the Rose Cross. Commonly thought to have its origins in the early seventeenth-century writings of Johann Valentin Andreae, this lineage of magicians pursuing angelification through Kabbalah and alchemy is actually older than Andreae, and did not include him among their number. The Order took on many forms, and counted persecuted 'heretics' and kings alike among its secret followers; what is more, it constituted the 'historical nexus' of
- the psychotherapeutic system of Carl Gustav Jung. Here I will explore the kinship of Jung’s ideas and practices – particularly as we find them expressed in his Red Book – with the Rosicrucian ‘path of the serpent’. Although Jung contended that alchemy formed the historical bridge between ancient Gnosticism and his own healing paradigm, the true precursor to analytical psychology is the Kabbalah in its Christian and post-Christian forms.
2. Magia Metatrona
This practical section of Serpent on the Cross describes my self-experimentation with the magical and alchemical techniques of the tradition. Most of these techniques form part of the angelifying magia Metatrona (‘Metatronic magic’) practiced by the seven elders of the Mystical Order of the Golden Rose Cross of Jesus Christ, a Rosicrucian secret society with origins among Behmenist exiles in seventeenth-century Amsterdam. Among numerous primary sources, I will be utilizing a large cache of Order manuscripts at the Bavarian State Library, as well as a lost book of the Arbatel that has recently come to my attention.
My aim is to investigate the psychotherapeutic potential of these techniques, and to gain an insider's insight into their relationship to Jungian methods with which I am already acquainted. My experiments will also form the basis for an experiential, doctrinal and historical comparison with Buddhist tantric techniques (see below).
The chapters of this section will deal with:
- The summoning of a trustworthy guide. Here I’ll discuss various Kabbalistic techniques for summoning guardian angels and spirit guides, including the famed Abramelin operation. I’ve already completed this essential first step, and I’ll describe to you my encounters with the higher Self known variously as ‘Metatron', nous and 'Son of God', among many other names. With its aid I shall embark upon
- an ascent through the seven planetary spheres. I’ll be summoning the ruling angels or deities of these seven spheres by utilizing the consciousness-altering techniques detailed in the secret manuscripts of the Order, which include the use of seven-metal bells, dream magic, the creation of talismans and the ingestion of alchemical entheogens. Through this practice I will be able to supply you with
- a testimony to inner transformation from a phenomenological perspective. This will be an empirical account and meditative reflection upon transformations in mood, cognition, sense perception, physical condition and various other changes I will be recording in detail during my months of fasting, prayer and magical practice.
Section one already exists in draft form; however, there's still plenty of work to be done on section two, which requires more months of arduous spiritual practice and alchemical experimentation. This is where your pledged dollars – you might think of them as alms – are needed.
If this campaign is successful, I'll be crowdfunding sequels, beginning with a comparative work on tantra in Tibetan Buddhism.
As well as the Kindle/eBook and paperback editions of Serpent on the Cross, as rewards for your support I'm also offering some magical items that are the subject of my experiments. While some backers may wish to employ them in transformative magical operations, others may appreciate them more for their decorative or aesthetic value:
1. Bask in the divine powers of the sun with this round Philosophers' Stone pendant charm:
The Philosophers' Stone is the alchemists' legendary agent of transmutation. It was believed that this 'Stone' (in fact it was usually a liquid or powder) could transmute base metals such as lead into gold, and that it promoted health and long life in humans.
The particular form of the Philosophers' Stone I have used to create this charm was known among the alchemists as the Lesser Philosophers' Stone, or aurum potabile ('drinkable gold') - today it's described as a colloidal gold sol, i.e. tiny gold nanoparticles suspended in a fluid medium. In the terms of modern science it's simply gold, water and trace amounts of non-hazardous acetonedicarboxylic acid.
This pendant is 50mm in height - you can hang it from a necklace as a charm to maintain inner calm and good cheer, or place it near a window to catch the rays of the sun and amplify their life-imparting power.
I created the Philosophers' Stone for this magical artefact at an astrologically propitious moment in my own garden laboratory:
2. Here's a slightly smaller and more elegant teardrop charm created using the same Philosophers' Stone:
It's 38mm in height, and apart from its reputed ability to lift our spirits by drawing down solar influence, I think it's also quite an attractive item of jewelry. It should maintain its colour and properties for at least a year.
Depending on your mood, disposition and situation, you may wish to attract lunar influence as well, in which case you might be interested in
3. red and white Philosophers' Stone teardrop pendant charms:
Another form of the Philosophers' Stone was manufactured by the alchemists from silver, and was known as the white Philosophers' Stone or argentum potabile ('drinkable silver').
Like the red Lesser Philosophers' Stone, I created this white 'Stone' in my garden laboratory - this time under the rays of a full moon. Although it appears quite yellow in my photographs, in the flesh it's actually a little more milky in colour (as you can see in the project video above). This is also a colloidal metal: it contains minute particles of silver, as well as water, a salt known as trisodium citrate, and a little apple pectin to stabilize the nanoparticular suspension. The chain you can see in the image above isn't included in your reward.
The white Philosophers' Stone pendant charm is designed to cultivate creativity and procreativity, among other uses I will detail in Serpent on the Cross.
However, together with the red Philosophers' Stone it constitutes one half of an archetypal polarity present throughout nature. If you wish to contemplate this universal complementarity of passive and active principles, or foster their harmony within your own life, you may wish to receive these two
4. talismanic flasks of red and white Philosophers' Stone:
These little bottles are 63mm in height, and are sealed with wax. In order to increase their magical potency I've engraved them with the characters of the angels of the sun and the moon at the appropriate hours. I then traced over the engraving with paint containing small amounts of gold and silver, in accordance with the practice of the Order.
For those who prefer a more modern ambience, there are also
5. laboratory flasks of red and white Philosophers' Stone:
In the magical tradition I will describe to you in Serpent on the Cross, the red and white Philosophers' Stones of European alchemy are associated with the Five Holy Wounds of Christ. They also have a historical relationship with the red and white 'dew' described in the Zohar, and the polarity of the right and left pillars on the Kabbalistic tree of life; other historically related concepts on the great tree of gnosis are the red and white forms of amrita (nectar of immortality) of Hindu and Buddhist tantra, and the red and white sacraments of the Ophite Gnostics.
The Japanese flat-bottomed 25ml laboratory flasks containing these red and white Philosophers' Stones are 128mm in height. Like the charms and talismanic flasks above, these flasks are sealed and are designed for use as meditation aids only. Prolonged consumption of large amounts of colloidal gold and/or colloidal silver can cause chrysiasis and argyria, i.e. a permanent purple and/or blue discoloration of the skin and eyes. That's probably not the kind of transmutation you're looking for.
The universal polarity and its relationship to the path of the serpent is clearly illustrated in the following emblem from the Rosicrucian grimoire 'Key to Hell', which I have integrated into
6. a colour Serpent on the Cross poster:
This A1 poster (594mm x 841mm) is offset printed in Japan on 185gsm paper. It was originally conceived as a promotional poster for Serpent on the Cross, but it could also lend a sacred ambience to a ritual space for those who can't afford the more expensive artefacts integrating the same image. They include
7. the deluxe Serpent on the Cross poster:
This more expensive A1 poster (594mm x 841mm) is UV printed in Japan on Albright FXF190 reflective silver paper (@190gsm) using CMYK as well as white ink. The same UV printing process with white ink is used to produce this
8. Rosicrucian magic mirror:
You can while away the witching hours with this white magical artefact, which is perfect for angel-summoning, active imagination, visualization practices and assorted late-night occult activities. A historical relative of the fabled Urim and Thummim, I'll explain its origins and use more fully in Serpent on the Cross.
- Size: 400 x 400 x 28mm
- Materials: CMYK + white UV inkjet print on reflective acrylic and Bainbridge Black Core matboard; Nielsen aluminium frame and aluminium/polymer resin (Art Panel) backing board.
- Weight: 1.2 kg
I was born in northern England and grew up in Uganda and Australia. As a child I was predisposed to dreams and visions of a religious nature; through them I developed an interest in Carl Gustav Jung during my teenage years.
While studying his psychotherapeutic model as an undergraduate in the department of studies in religion at the University of Queensland, I was intrigued by Jung's description of his work's historical context as 'Rosicrucian' and 'Freemasonic', and I began a long quest to uncover the spiritual lineage to which he was referring.
This quest took me to Germany to write my PhD on the Rosicrucian apologist Michael Maier (1569-1622), and then on to post-doctoral research on the alchemist and Christian Cabalist Heinrich Khunrath (1560-1605).
Since then I've taught on alchemy, magic and Rosicrucianism in Renaissance and early modern Europe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich, the department for the History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents at the University of Amsterdam, and the Exeter Centre for the Study of Esotericism at the University of Exeter. During this time my research has focused on restricted teachings in the manuscripts of the Gold- und Rosenkreuz.
However, as the focus of my historical research grew progressively more narrow, and the pressure to conform to the barren doctrinal orthodoxies of the academy grew ever greater, I found myself straying further from the sacred path that first led me to the heart of Europe. With Serpent on the Cross I am returning to that path.
The images reproduced above from the Beinecke Library, Yale University, the Wellcome Library, London, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Library and the British Library, London are in the public domain.
Other images from my teaching materials are reproduced under fair use terms (cf. 17 U.S.C. § 107).
Risks and challenges
The historical research for Serpent on the Cross is essentially complete. However, I still have some research of an experiential nature to conduct, and this does not always run according to the best-laid plans of the profane world. Nevertheless, barring madness and death - two possible outcomes of this line of enquiry - I'm confident I'll be able to produce my book by year's end.
I'm currently planning on publishing print-on-demand with Lightning Source Australia; however, if demand is great I may move to a conventional publishing house, in which case that publisher's timetable will require a recalculation of the release date.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)