Today we’re talking with author Phil Hine, who has been an integral part of the occult community for over 45 years. Here we discuss the evolution of magical communities, the time before the internet, and what influences his practice.
1. What first drew you to the study and practice of magic?
I thought the occult was rubbish until I was about 16. One day, I was in the school library, idly glancing through a bound edition of Man, Myth & Magic magazine – looking of pictures of nude witches. I came across a photo of a painting by Austin Osman Spare. I’d been reading Jung – probably Man & His Symbols – and something about the Spare portrait seemed to resonate with that (can’t remember exactly what it was) and that got me interested. I went to the local library and read anything I could get my hands on. There wasn’t a great choice – Theosophy, Spiritualism, Dennis Wheatley. Eventually I got my hands on David Conway’s classic “Magic: An Occult Primer” and everything sort of bobbled along from that point. If you want to know more, there’s some autobiographical essays in Hine’s Varieties.
2. What made chaos magic different from other schools and systems you had learned about?
When I first came across chaos magic in the late 70s it wasn’t really either a school or a system – really more of a bunch of vague ideas that were being largely discussed in ‘zines and amongst small groups of people. There weren’t many books either – three or four at the most, all published by small presses. One of the first things that I came across was a cassette tape of a ritual called “the chaochamber”. I guess you could call it a pathworking of sorts, but instead of the standard astral temple set up, you floated in the aethyr in a kind of steampunk vehicle. I thought this was great – really creative. That’s what attracted me to chaos magic – the permission to pull in ideas and themes from outside what then passed for “traditional” occultism, which was rather conservative to say the least. Just to give you an idea what it was like, I was doing a correspondence course in elementary magical practice (by post – no internet in 1980!) and the tutors told me off for spelling magic with a “k” and for experimenting with sigils.
3. How has your study of Tantra influenced your magical practice?
That’s an interesting question. I first became interested in Tantra in the early 80s, and since the late 90s all I’ve done is tantric practice – mostly a ‘light’ form of Srividya. Not only has that shaped my practice and understanding of magic significantly, but it’s also influenced some of my side interests. For example, a few years ago, I became interested in classical Indian literary and poetic theory. I decided I needed a better understanding of poetic and literary metaphors in order to better understand the tantric literature I was using in my practice such as the dhyanas – the meditative scenes that are a core component of the practice. It also spurred my interest in history, as I wanted to find out where all the misconceptions about tantra being entirely about sex arose – so I started looking into the historical processes that gave rise to those misconceptions. Frequently I find myself zooming off on a new trajectory just by asking simple questions. What are classical Indian ideas of beauty? How did 14th-century tantric teachers think of how the imaginative faculty worked? It’s too easy to approach tantra from the perspective of contemporary ‘western’ assumptions about standards of beauty or the imagination – I wanted to know what they had to say, and often turned up surprises or ideas vastly different to what I was used to.
4. Having been around to witness so much evolution in magical/occult communities and practices, what have been some of the biggest changes?
The internet, without a doubt. The internet has changed everything.
Also, people nowadays seem less likely to put up with the blantant racism, misogyny, and homophobia that’s present in a lot of “classical” occult books of the twentieth century. People are calling it out, and that’s a good thing, in my view.
5. How has life in northern England influenced your work?
I lived in Yorkshire between 1984-1991, although I spent three years there earlier, between 1978-81. For the most part, I was really poor, living below the poverty line during a period of mass unemployment. Still, I managed to keep busy, being an activist for networks like PaganLink and HOBLink (a LGBT pagan network), co-editing with Rodney Orpheus a monthly pagan zine, going to and organising conferences, and generally doing a lot of magic for myself and others – and continually writing about it. I self-published some small books and produced books for others. That early experience in publishing was foundational in my later professional life – working first in book publishing at Psychic Press, then spending 15 years producing magazines for a business-to-business Aviation publisher. In 2019 I set up my own press imprint – Twisted Trunk, and have released two books so far by Mike Magee – translations and commentaries on rare tantric texts. More about them at: https://enfolding.org/books/
6. Do you feel like there are fundamental differences between American and British magicians?
I wouldn’t say so. Some of my best friends are American magicians. Despite divergent cultural backgrounds and experiences we don’t seem to have a problem communicating.
7. What advice would you give someone just starting to explore magic?
1. Question everything you read.
2. Don’t take it too seriously – keep a sense of perspective.
3. If in doubt, try it out.
8. Recently your book “Hine’s Varieties: Chaos & Beyond” was released. What can readers find in this latest release?
“Hine’s Varieties” (2019) is a collection of essays from different points of my life. Since I’d been writing on occult matters for over 40 years, I thought I could get away with a “collected essays” book. But I wanted to do more than just shove a bunch of essays together. The book is divided into thematic sections: Chaos, Paganisms, Practice, Tantra, Sexualities, Histories, Fiction. For each section I’ve opened with some autobiographical reflections, and chosen essays that I hope, reflect how my ideas have progressed over time. I’ve tried also to provide context for each piece, why I wrote it, what had been going on in my life at the time – that sort of thing. The essays range from things written for small pagan ‘zines in the 1980s to very recent blog posts and anthology essays.
(Editors Note: You can find Hine’s Varieties here.)
9. What’s next? Do you have any upcoming projects our readers should know about?
I have a new book – “Queering Occultures” – that will be out in a few weeks time from Original Falcon Press. It’s a collection of essays exploring different facets of what it means to “queer” occult practices and concepts. It should be available early February, if not before. Also in progress is Delinquent Elementals by Rodney Orpheus and myself. It’s a collection of essays, news stories and humour from Pagan News – a monthly ‘zine Rodney & I created in the late 80s. That should be out later in the year from Strange Attractor Press. Aside from that, I hope to be doing more lectures this year, and there may well be some further releases from my own Twisted Trunk small press.
10. Parting shot! Ask us at The Magical Buffet any one question.
What’s the weirdest answer you’ve ever had from an interviewee?
Actually, I have a whole interview that was weird. I once interviewed author Deborah Blake’s cat, Magic. I mainly did it because I thought it would be cute, and it was. Here’s the interview.
About Phil Hine:
Phil Hine has been a practising Occultist for over forty-five years, with a career spanning Wicca, Ritual Magic, Chaos Magic and nondual Tantra. Together with Rodney Orpheus he co-created and edited the UK’s first monthly Pagan magazine, Pagan News (1988-92). He is a former initiate of the Illuminates of Thanateros, The Esoteric Order of Dagon, and the Arcane & Mystical Order of the Knights of Shamballa (AMOOKOS). He was an activist in Pagan networks in the 1980s such as PaganLink and HOBLink – the UK’s first network for LGBTQ occult practitioners. He lives in London, England.
His books include: Condensed Chaos, Prime Chaos, The Pseudonomicon, and Hine’s Varieties: Chaos & Beyond. He has also self-published lectures on the history of Chakras and Possession in early Tantric literature. In 2019 he founded Twisted Trunk, a small press specializing in publishing translations of rare Tantric texts.
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