An Artist’s Magical Journey: Tommie Kelly Discusses Spirituality, Music, and More

Introduction

For those intrigued by the magical, mystical realms of spirituality and the occult, this interview provides a fascinating glimpse into Tommie Kelly’s decades-long journey down those metaphysical paths. From an early awakening by an aunt’s interest in the esoteric to exploring varied teachings and practices over the years, Tommie has traveled some unique metaphysical terrain. While embracing profound insights, they’ve also maintained a refreshingly grounded, questioning perspective – acknowledging both the marvels and inherent puzzles of spiritual study. With that nuanced backdrop, you’re invited to learn more about Tommie’s multifaceted experiences with magic, art, music, and just where this magical quest has led them thus far. Huge thanks to Tommie for taking part, please be sure to check out his site to learn more.


Interview

PAA: When did you first become interested in the occult, magic, and spirituality? What sparked that initial interest?

When I was around 11 or 12 my Aunt used to come over from the UK to visit. She was big into spirituality in general, and Theosophy specifically. I was just absolutely fascinated by all she told me. She sent over some Stuart Wilde books and that started me on my journey. Later she bought me the full set of Alice Bailey books.

I really liked, and still like, Stuart Wilde, though his later output gets quite dark and weird. His early stuff is inspiring and very actionable. I owe him a huge debt. He taught me so much and in many ways shaped who I am today.

PAA: You mentioned reading works by authors like Stuart Wilde, Alice Bailey, and others in your early teens. What drew you to those particular writers and their teachings?

Well, like I said, it was because that was what my Aunt was into, and that was what I was exposed to. Later I go into other stuff such as Buddhism, Hinduism and some other bits and pieces, but it has to be remembered that very little of this sort of spiritual or magic stuff was available in the 1990’s in Ireland. The spirituality section of bookshops was very small if they had one at all, and I just had to take whatever books came my way – I had no other choice! And most of that was fairly standard New Age-type material.

PAA: How did they shape your early understanding of magic and spirituality?

Well, they shaped not only my early understanding but also my current understanding. I’m still very keen on Stuart Wilde and Alice Bailey. A couple of years ago I joined The Arcane School, which is Alice Bailey’s Esoteric teaching school. It’s very interesting and insightful and I’m enjoying being a part of it and doing the work.

PAA: You described your spiritual outlook as “It’s Complicated!”

Ah, the “it’s complicated!” is just a play on the whole Facebook relationship status thing and I didn’t intend it to be in any way serious. It’s more just to suggest that I don’t have a very clear label that I can put on what it is I believe mostly because what I believe changes a lot.

PAA: Can you elaborate on how your views and beliefs around magic and spirituality have evolved over time? What experiences or insights have led to changes in your perspective?

There is no real big change in outlook that I can describe for you it’s more a case of just getting older and maturing and seeing that the world, spirituality, and people aren’t what you thought or hoped it would be.Lots of introspection and shadow work and all that has helped me a lot to see things in a more rounded and accepting manner. But life is tough and some days everything can just be too dark to deal with. Other days it feels like a breeze.

PAA: You stated that for you, “creating art is the biggest magical act there is.” Can you explain the connection you see between magic and artistic expression? How does your creative process tie into your spiritual/magical worldview?

It’s not that I think there is a connection between magic and artistic expression – I think they’re the same thing. For me Magic = Expression &, creativity. Magic is the widening and expansive principle of the universe. It’s the core underlying drive of creation. Self-expression is the personal or microcosmic version of that. So, I wouldn’t see my creative process as something different from my spiritual path or practice. It’s all the same thing to my eyes.

PAA: You mentioned studying holistic health modalities like aromatherapy, reflexology, and Reiki in college. How did those studies intersect with or influence your interest and practices around magic?

To be honest, they didn’t to any large extent.

I went to college because at the time I was an unemployed musician / sound engineer and if I didn’t go to college or get a job my unemployment benefits would be stopped. I couldn’t get a job so Holistic Health Studies seemed like it might be an interesting area to look into for a while, but I never had any interest in pursuing it as a career.

If anything doing the course made me lose interest in Magic and Spirituality for a few years. It all seemed so shallow and mostly about money. Reiki seemed to have some merit as a healing modality but as far as I can see most people were drawn to it for the money you could get teaching it.

After I finished college I didn’t think about Magic or Spirituality at all for a couple of years.

PAA:
You described your previous unsuccessful music career. Did your magical/spiritual beliefs and practices play any role in your approach to or experiences with your music work at that time?

No, not at all. Magic and Spirituality were not considered cool at all by my friends and contemporaries. Most of the people in my friend circle were atheists – and aggressively so. And so, I tended to keep my spiritual interests to myself.


PAA: You created the “Forty Servants” tarot/oracle deck. Can you talk about the process of developing that project and how your magical/spiritual perspectives informed its creation?

Again, like going to college this came out of my life not going to plan.

I was pretty broke at the time as my art & comic business was tanking and I felt like I probably had a couple of months left at most before I’d have to shut shop and go get a “real” job. So, with the time I felt I had left, I decided that I would do something just for me rather than try to sell or make money from it.

I had just finished doing some art for a divination deck and thought it would be quite fun and rewarding to make a divination deck that suited my favoured aesthetics and outlooks. It would be a tool that I could have that I could bring to the next stage of my life as something that I could say “At least I have that to show for it all”

So, I spent several months doing the art and putting the system together and then very quickly at the end I thought I better put some sort of manual together in case anyone else ever wants to use it, thinking that no more than a handful would.

And then I released it and it turned out that quite a few people were interested in it, which was a very, very pleasant surprise and the success helped to allow me to do what I’ve been doing for the last number of years.

PAA: You seem to draw inspiration from a wide range of philosophical and creative figures. Are there any particular magical or esoteric traditions or schools of thought that you find most compelling or that have had a significant impact on your own beliefs and practices?

As I mentioned a bit earlier, I’ve been a member of the Arcane School, which is a Theosphical school started by Alice Bailey, for the past couple of years or so. I find that very interesting. The coursework for the school is quite intensive too – there is a LOT of material to get through and you have bi-monthly assignments and monthly meditation reports to submit. While I don’t align with all of the teachings I enjoy the discipline of it and I quite like the study aspect of it. That said, I do align with a lot of the teachings.

Stuart Wilde’s idea of The Fringe Dweller also had a huge impact on my worldview and allowed me to be able to situate myself within a world that seemed to be populated mostly by people who didn’t think or feel the same way I do. It showed me that being weird wasn’t weird at all.

But, I guess overall I would consider myself a Chaos Magician or a Chaos Witch if there is such a thing. Chaos Magic has its positives and negatives as a philosophy but I really enjoy the freedom to explore that it allows.

PAA: You acknowledged that your past writings and statements on these topics may not fully align with your current views. What has led to those shifts in your understanding of magic and spirituality over time?

Time & experience.

Some of the blog posts are a decade old now and so I would hope I have learned and grown within that time. I think I’d be a bit horrified if I looked back on where I was 10 years ago and agreed with all of it – it would mean that I haven’t progressed at all since then, which would be an absolute shame.

The sad part is that it is very obvious that I haven’t progressed as much as I hoped as I have more or less the same frustrations and problems with my spiritual practice and day-to-day life as I do in those early blog posts.

I feel I went down a lot of corridors of spiritual teachings that didn’t really benefit me or help me with my actual goal (to have a better life experience) and so I feel like there has been a lot of lost time spent needlessly hanging out with the wrong ideas.

But every wrong turn is the right turn if you want it to be. At least I now know some paths are not my path even if I am not fully aware of what my actual path is.

PAA: As a self-described “student” rather than a teacher, what is your overall perspective on the role of magic and spiritual exploration in one’s life?
I really don’t know.

I often feel that magic has been more harmful than helpful in my life. In many ways, it’s designed to be like that, particularly the type of magic which is really mysticism in disguise. Magic and spirituality certainly hasn’t made my life any easier.

Somedays, I feel magic is nonsense and pursuing it has been a fool’s errand. On other days I feel quite connected to divinity and everything just feels just perfect. Often that can be the same day.

Ultimately do I feel I know anything more about the nature of Divinity or Creation now than I did before I read my first ever spiritual book at 12? I’m not really sure I do, but I have a much better appreciation of what I don’t know.

PAA: What advice or insights would you offer to others interested in walking a similar path?

Again, I don’t know. I’m not sure I’m entitled to give anyone advice as I don’t feel my spiritual or magical life to date has been successful enough for me to suggest that people should do what I did or whatever.

But, I can share my own experience of living a spiritual life as an artist, writer & Musician, and do on my podcast and blogs etc. But it comes with the caveat that I really have no qualifications to advise anyone else on what they should or should not do. I’m not where I want to be yet – far from it, in fact, so how could I advise anyone else on getting where they want to be?

People should do what feels correct and proper for themselves. Be a lamp unto yourself!

But I guess that’s massively unhelpful so maybe this: There is lots and lots and lots of bullshit touted by people in magic and spiritual communities. Try not to buy into anyone else’s prejudices, preferences or proclivities, and never trust anyone who claims to have exclusive access to divinity.

PAA: Are there any stand out magical experiences that made you stop and reassess reality afterwards?

Yea, I’ve been lucky enough to have quite a few. I spoke about three of them on a recent podcast called “THE LORD, THE LADY & THE CHILD” if people want to check that out HERE.


And then there are the BLACK COMMUNICATIONS sessions where myself and a couple of others started talking to a being that called himself BLACK. We used trance states and the Estes Method for that stuff. Super interesting and insightful but ya know, it often felt like he was telling us exactly what we wanted to hear rather than what we needed to hear. You can find all about that stuff and some of my feelings afterwards HERE and HERE.

A couple of other interesting incidents have occurred too but I’ll not bombard you with them. If anyone is interested they can check out the website, podcast and all that.

PAA: Is there anything else you would like to share in regard to your work or your personal magical work?

I don’t think so. I have lots of new projects coming up soon so expect to be sick of hearing about them soon!


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