Tag Archives: oto

On being a letterpress printer

William CaxtonFor some reason, I decided I wanted to be a letterpress printer in the mid 1970s.  Being a letterpress printer, autodidactically, is a baptism of fire.

OK, you got the press, you got the forme, you got the reglets, you got the type, you got the text. Surely all you do is assemble the type, use the quoins to put it into the forme with bits of wood and that, apply the ink and press, press and press again.  No such luck. My first attempt was a disaster.

Quel catastrophe. I learned how to put the letters of the alphabet, all made of a lead alloy, upside down into the instrument of mass journalistic destruction, five lines at a time, separated by lead for the lines and lead as spacers, all beautiful fonts designed by Plantin, Gill and the rest.  And came up against a huge dilemma. The fonts are “type high”. That’s a type lie.

Apart from the fact that unless you had a Linotype machine you were condemned to buy more and more fonts, again and again and again, letterpress printing on a small press, at least,  is not a matter of pure pressure. As the rollers turned and the form with a page of lead in hit the press, it took hours, days to get the print to print regularly. Basically, you made an impression, and then got little bits of paper to make sure the so-called standard bits of lead delivered the right impression.

My first impression was really not very good at all. I printed an edition of 200 copies and sold them all, but I was very dissatisfied. These days you can buy Khephra Press books at a considerable premium.  Even a SOTHiS postcard costs £20. The Wild Ass is £23. One of my better attempts at hand letterpress printing.

Over the next two years, my technique improved but as I was  a solo letterpress printer, another problem presented itself to this solo printer. I could not afford the fonts. In those days, in the mid 1970s, you could actually go down to Fleet Street and buy whole trays full of the fonts you needed. But as I had a cash flow probbo at Khephra Press, I swiftly realised there was only one thing I could do. After I had printed two pages, and put them on drying lines, I had to carefully disassemble those carefully made pages in the form with the reglets and that, and start all over again. Then there was the paper that you had to choose carefully – and the pagination. The printed sheets had to dry before you could print and print again. That gave you time to disassemble the forme and start filling the quoin again.

In this way, at the Khephra Press, I think I put together eight or nine books – a labour of love. Or perhaps just a labour.

Being a letterpress printer is being like a top notch bricklayer – every piece has to fit together – if it doesn’t work out right, you have to disassemble the whole lot.

I do not regret one single bit of putting together a book bit by bit. It taught me patience. Although I should have had more sense.

The first book I created was Aleister Crowley’s Leah Sublime. The edition was my first experiment, so much so that I created a second edition which built on the first.  Meantimes, David Hall, Jan Bailey and myself were creating a magazine, SOTHiS which is still remembered. And produced using offset litho and then rather modern techniques of printing… and then there was SOGAT, NALGO and the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).

I flogged my books to the bookshops interested in the sort of books I was printing. One of these was The Equinox bookshop, owned by Jimmy Page. The big problem I had – as I hinted before – was that you had to buy all the materials up front and then wait for the bookshops to pay up. This sometimes took some time. The Equinox, once, rather than paying, invited me to take the value of my invoice in books.  The Equinox also took multiple copies of SOTHiS magazine and produced editions of occult books.  A negative review of one of these books led to the chap running the bookshop cutting out the pages with the negative review before putting them on the shelves for sale.

In this way I managed to get hold of Sir John Woodroffe’s English digest of the Tantrarajatantra.  This, I guess, was 1976 or so.  I am still struggling to translate the Tantrarajatantra, nearly over 40 years later. It is written in beautiful Sanskrit and I am only any good at ugly Sanskrit.

This text has been, for me, one of the most important in my development.  It is a fusion of Indian jyotisha and severely impressive practical spiritual values – it is so shakta that even your dad is a form of the goddess. I’ve explored some of these ideas on www.shivashakti.com. I was still a member of Kenneth Grant’s OTO at the time – but in 1974 I had had a spiritual experience that jolted me so much that my being was yearning towards India.

I am often asked why a technology hack – that’s me –  is interested in India. It’s too hard to explain so I fall back on the excuse that my Uncle Mac, in Ballater, used to run the railways in the Bombay Presidency. His house was jam packed with Indian curios.  My dad’s Hindustani was more than passable and he told me this  story once. When he was in the RAF in India, on sentry duty, a sadhu came walking in his direction. “Halt! Who goes there”. The sadhu explained that this was an ancient track that he and his kind also took, but my dad, with bayonet drawn, refused to let him pass.  The sadhu cursed him and said that because he refused to let him pass, his second son would become a sadhu.  I haven’t written about Dadaji yet.  Life is interesting.

Still, I found the craft of putting books together most interesting and satisfying, if not financially rewarding. I did a great deal of jobbing printing too.  Now that a font does not consist of a collection of “type high” alphanumeric characters, you can tote them all around on your iMad or your PC.  The fonts I still have require really heavy lifting, a relic of the past dot com.

Kenneth Grant’s thoughts on reincarnation

IN THE COURSE of many, many a pleasant conversation with the late and great Kenneth Grant, he disclosed his thoughts about his books and reincarnation more than once.

shriyantrapulseAnd how interesting he was on the topic. Basically, he said that one of the reasons for writing his books was that when he reincarnated, he’d be able to piece together his last life.

There was another reason for writing his books, he said, all to do with digestion.  He said that if you had loads of ideas and didn’t write them down, it was a kind of constipation. Scribbling was kind of like a laxative. Σ

Two editors of SOTHiS magazine pose with Kenneth Grant

HERE BELOW are two young people thoroughly enthralled by the Supreme Head of the One True Order.  This was before Mike had his so-called Indian experience.  Kenneth Grant is wearing that tie again. Picture, I think taken by Janice Ayers. It was all so long ago…. ♥

Some more memories and reflections of dear Kenneth Grant

AROGOGO arogogo ru abrio.  I wrote the words, Bob Ponton composed the tune, and Janice Ayers, Kenneth Grant and myself supplied the rubric to Scarlet Woman – a record with Crowley stuff  on the back which never delivered any royalties to anyone but the publisher. And other liggers. Steffi Grant did the artwork for the front, Jan Bailey did the artwork for the back. Nice sleeve!

Memories get telescoped and morph into each other, so I had better put down some thoughts about dear Kenneth Grant before I forget them and enter my senile years.

It was forty years ago – that is a long time.

Kenneth, as I have written previously on these pages, was up for me going to India and meeting Shri Shri Gurudev Mahendranath (Dadaji). So much so that he bestowed the VII degree of his OTO on him. Lawrence Miles did not feel the same fraternal good wishes from his lair in India. I sent Dadaji my copy of the Magical Revival – a fine KG book as I thought. Over the next year, Dadaji sent me all sorts of bits and pieces wrapped up in a Magical Revival that he’d taken apart and used in fine Indian manner to send delicate stuff around the world. Not newspapers, the book was cut up.

When I visited Dadaji in 1978 he was slightly more than scathing about Kenneth Grant and John Symonds – Miles claimed he had met Crowley during one of the infamous Crowley libel trials and often visited him at 93 Jermyn Street. I mentioned this to Kenneth. Kenneth, having a huge collection of Crowley diaries via, I think, Gerald Yorke, scanned the pages and failed to find the young Lawrence Miles recorded. Not that that matters that much to the magi.

There is a huge gap missing in the sedimentary record of the 1950s – both in terms of Kenneth Grant and also Lawrence Miles.  According to Dadaji’s own account, he tipped up in India in 1953 or so, and was immediately recognised by Lokanath as a man that should have been a Nath. Yet, according to Dadaji’s own words, registered in the now defunct magazine Values, he went to all sorts of places in Asia. He was in Australia for quite a while, as an agitprop. Dadaji – having fought in the International Brigade – had nothing but contempt for the British Army.

Strangely, Mr Grant wasn’t that hot on the British Army either. Having been conscripted into the war, Kenneth was forced to inhale lots of gas in a dark tunnel – he contracted asthma, and, I think, an interest in the dark tunnels of the mind that in his own words were the obverse of the bright and shining paths of the so-called Tree of Life.  Kenneth told me, as a young creature, it was one of the most frightening things that had happened in his life.

Mr Miles, having fought in the International Brigade, had nothing but contempt for the British Army – the Ministry of Defence had contacted him in 1938 when the mandarins realised something was afoot Hitler-wise and tried to award him a commission. Instead, as a physiotherapist, Miles fomented a riot on a troop ship to Cairo. He was, in his own words, arrested for mutiny, but turned it round and the captain of the ship got his come uppance.

Dadaji had little time for Kenneth Grant – perhaps he was suffering from an attack of the jellybags.  He did seem to know a lot of the same people Kenneth Grant did, including that strange woman in one of KG’s early trilogies who perished on a boat to Australasia.

The two were like chalk and cheese, but Miles spent a lot of his time in India and, like Ben Gunn in Treasure Island, all he wanted was a little bit of cheese.  Michael Staley visited Dadaji in India, and so did Mogg Morgan. I’d be quite interested to hear their recollections. [No such luck, Ed.]

My friends, the naths, attempted to find any record of Mahendranath, a white guru in Memhadabad. They couldn’t find any record. But then – who keeps these records? Mr Akasha?

Kenneth Grant to be obituarised in Independent, apparently

I HAVE received a request from someone who is apparently writing an obituary of Kenneth Grant for UK “paper” The Independent.

After asking for a high res picture of Kenneth’s study – the picture is not my copyright by the way – the mister then went on to ask all sorts of other questions about Kenneth Grant which stopped me in my tracks. The hack – if it is a hack – asked all sorts of weird questions about Mr Aossic Aiwass for the obit, details that I am somewhat reluctant to give. Because my 10,000 word biography is almost finished as well :)

Those included which football team Kenneth Grant supported. Well, I dunno. We never talked about anything apart from Count Basie, who Kenneth adored.  Can’t you do your own research without ligging off me, whoever you are? ♥

 

Kenneth Grant dilated upon Mathers’ and Gardner’s dicks

I cannot break my oath to Kenneth Grant’s OTO, and I won’t. Here he is pictured in 1974. We used to drink in a pub just round the corner from where he lived, and did so much that my girlfriend and I renamed it the KG.

As we lived in Golders Green too, I sometimes took a trip there on my tod. One night, I fell into a conversation with two Hindu guys – a Brahmin from Gujarat and a Brahmin from Bengal.

Should they have been drinking at all? The tapestry unfolded.  The Gujarati Brahmin was appalled at the fact another member of his gotra on the other side of India ate fish. The Bengali guy was appalled that the rigorous diet on the west coast was quite so vegetarian.

A Jain joined us. He said that day was a religious day in Jain tantrik culture. On one day a year, a faithful Jain could drink and do all sorts of things that they couldn’t do  on any other day in the year.

Kenneth Grant was a thelemite but as the Kaula Upanishad said, you must respect other people’s notions of what the heck any of it meant. He was very taken with David Hall’s notion that Beelzebub (Gurdjieff) and the Beast (Crowley) were two of a kind.

As for the Nu Isis Lodge. As I was inducted in the first degree of Kenneth’s order, I never got to meet these people in 1973.  Ithell Colquhoun was very nice to the SOTHiS people in her book about Mathers, but we’re still not sure where in  her book, Sword of Wisdom – the Mathers picture, is. She left it to the Tate but now, apparently, it is nowhere found.

Kenneth was witty about the witch Graham Gardner and about the s0-called Scot McGregor Mathers. To me he described the BT tower as Gardner’s dick, and Centre Point as Mathers’ dick. Which one was the bigger dick?

Or was it the other way round? He was a very witty man.

Kenneth Grant is dead, great

I am reliably informed that Kenneth Grant – born in 1924 –died two weeks back.

I have many memories of Kenneth, and will tell them, one by one, and over and over again. I have many letters from him, and will scan them in. Kenneth was a polymath, and said over and over again the power of words was the greatest thing on the planet. He tried to get me to give his letters back to him, but I was a bit of a refusenik about that – it was he who told me that when letters were sent they were the property of the receptor. What a man!

Kenneth lived in a Typhonian Tower,and a bit like the Lady of Shallott, was always looking out for strangers living in Golders Green, he lived there for a long time, with strange creatures outside the suburban semi he, Steffi and Gregori lived.

Grant was a genius in many ways, and an idiot in other ways. In his loft was a vast collection of Austin Osman Spare paintings but once he asked me to get rid of a vast collection of 1950s pornographic paintings.

My then girlfriend, Jan Bailey, a co-editor of Sothis magazine, helped me to dump Kenneth’s 1950s porn – it took five weeks – there was  so much of it. It all went in several bins.

Kenneth was eloquent about sex – his books are full of it. Once, he said, he shagged a Chinese woman on a graveyard in Soho – he said her tits were so small but her thighs so big that he came all over her face, almost immediately.

He was far less forthcoming about the Ordo Templi Orientis. This was Mr Grant’s Ivory Tower. He became a refusinek if you asked him anything about it at all – I’m kind of thinking he didn’t want to think about it himself.

In short, Kenneth Grant was a very nice person and I am totalled that he is dead. I loved him.