Jason Byron has been exploring the intersection of mystical occultism and contemplative practices for most of his life. He considers himself a lifelong student of influential occultist Aleister Crowley’s work and esoteric systems like Thelema and the Golden Dawn. But beyond simply studying rituals and magic on an intellectual level, he has actively worked for over twenty years to integrate these mystical pursuits into his daily practices. His steady Raja Yoga training has provided mental clarity and an intuitive boost to complement the energy work of ceremonial magic. Skrying, astral projection, divination – he’s deeply immersed himself in the hidden realities these occult systems unveil. If you enjoy this interview then please visit his website and follow his work.
PAA: Please briefly introduce yourself.
My name is Jason Byron. I am a self-published author of two novels and am slowly chipping away at my third. My fiction tends toward dark fantasy, magical realism, and horror, but I am also quite fond of humor. I write poetry, as well, and have contributed song lyrics to the band Kayo Dot for many years. I have been a massage therapist for seventeen years, which has honed my intuition and convinced me of the truth in the holistic model of health and the mind/body/spirit connection. I practice Raja Yoga and ritual Magick—which I also write about on my blog. I am a lifelong student of Crowley and Thelema, and the Golden Dawn system. I am a Freemason and a member of the O.T.O., though I am not currently active in either fraternity. I am also a Probationer in the A.:A.:. I never went further because I did not like the heavy leaning toward Crowley’s own writing in the curriculum. I have been practicing Raja Yoga just as long as ritual Magick, and now that I am in my mid-40s, I am feeling and experiencing the cumulative effects of my practice. My political leaning is Satanism. I am a left-handed, introverted Capricorn. I live in Salem, Massachusetts.
PAA: What led you to start incorporating occult and magical themes and imagery into your writing?
“Write what you know.” Stephen King—one of my longtime heroes—would disagree with this statement. King says that it is boring to write what you know, and to explore with passion the unknown. But I have found that any amount of knowledge in any subject can be very useful in writing convincingly. I used to compartmentalize my writing and my personal spiritual endeavors as mutually exclusive, but decided to marry the two while writing my first novel, Blasphemy back in 2018. While worldbuilding, I was able to utilize my knowledge and experience with fraternal orders and initiation and come up with a fictional Order of global government that was both religious and political. It’s got a structure and framework, an exoteric and an esoteric side, and a mythos of its own. If I had chosen to come up with a secular system of government, I would have to spend more time researching and learning enough about world government to hopefully create a semi-convincing system.
Besides a religio-political system of rulership and initiation, I can write about astral projection, skrying, divination, evocation, alchemy, qabalah, and ceremonial Magick. I tried my hand at writing essays on Magick many years ago, but found it tedious and unsatisfying. They always ended up sounding overly-technical, and that made me sound like a pompous douche. I write about my own experiences with Magick and Yoga occasionally on my blog, The Manifold Curiosity on Substack, but I suffuse it with humor and autobiographical anecdotes to make the subject more approachable and more accessible. So instead of writing a textbook of Magick—there are enough of these already—I make it a part of my stories.
PAA: As both a poet and fiction writer, how does your creative approach differ between poetry and prose works? Which comes more naturally to you?
Poetry definitely comes more naturally. I’ve been practicing and honing my craft since I saw Ken Russell’s Gothic for the first time back in high school over twenty years ago, so it’s not like I could just naturally turn a phrase like Shelley. But poetry feels like less of a commitment than prose. It’s not as time-consuming. Unless you’re writing an epic, a poem—even a longer one—tends to describe a single feeling, or a single scene, or an observation, or one “thing.” Poems aren’t necessarily linear.
I like to listen to instrumental music and electronica when I write poetry. Instrumental music
inspires me. Sometimes I listen to music and close my eyes and conjure up visions and scenes I use in
stories later, but poetry is naturally musical. Listening to music not only inspires the feeling of a poem,
but the meter. When I am working on a novel or story, my blog, or some sort of prose, I like to listen to
white noise. Sounds distract me—the television makes me insane. So instead of waiting until I was alone, or late at night, or waiting for some other impossibly ideal time to write my first novel, I listened to white noise through my ear buds. It worked spectacularly, and now I insist upon it whenever I write. It insulates me. It keeps me focused.
A poem is like a photograph and a novel is like a film. I love English, and I love words. I take a lyrical approach to my prose along with my poetry, and that is probably why I will never be seen on the New York Times’ Bestseller List. I put effort into nearly every sentence I write. I want each one to not only convey a general meaning, but roll off the tongue when spoken aloud, have a cadence and a flow.
Even ugly things can be said prettily. Look at Mervyn Peake. Gormenghast is one of the finest novels I
have ever read because of this. The story is great, but the description and the word choice is otherworldly.
PAA: Your forthcoming novel is said to be in the genre of Lovecraftian horror – what specific themes, atmospheres, or Mythos elements from Lovecraft’s writing tradition speak to you most strongly as a writer? How do you strive to emulate them while still developing an original voice?
I have been a fan of H.P. Lovecraft my entire life. He has been an inspiration to my own style and aesthetic since I was sixteen. Lovecraft’s imagination was second-to-none, and the pride that he exhibited throughout his life and writing revolving around New England is a pride I personally share, being a lifelong resident of this haunted region of America. I have always emulated his approach in my own writing, and the overwhelming dread accompanying any prolonged meditation on “cosmic horror” can be enough to disassociate the mind from the body.
As with the writing of anyone I respect or from whom I draw inspiration, there is a balance between emulation and imitation. Imitation is the unfortunate result of both a lack of experience and a lack of confidence in one’s abilities. Early on in my own career, for example, when I began to read Shelley, Blake, and Keats, I wanted my poetry to sound as beautiful as theirs. But because I had no experience with poetry, and lacked a decent vocabulary, my first attempts were poorly-executed imitations. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I began to develop confidence in finding and using my own voice.
The Mindless Hour, which is the name of my forthcoming novel, is briefly described as “Lovecraftian horror.” It is actually a companion book to my last novel, Amalia. One of the main characters in Amalia is a writer enjoying his first taste of success in the publication of his first novel— The Mindless Hour. I only refer to it a couple of times, and I describe it as Lovecraftian horror, but it is a fantasy. A literary device. It is the equivalent of Tobin’s Spirit Guide from Ghostbusters. I just decided to bring it to life. It’s heavy on the Lovecraft vibe, but this is all conscious. It is not imitation because I am fully aware of my approach. It is supposed to be more fun than anything else.
PAA: What originally drew you to Thelema’s teachings? How did you first start practicing magick from a Thelemic framework?
When I was 22, I moved out of my parents’ house in Connecticut. While packing up my things, I came across a copy of Aleister Crowley’s Confessions, which I had never read. I leafed through it, and the various technical magical references—especially regarding the qabalistic framework of the Golden Dawn, mystified me. I had been generally fascinated by the occult since childhood, but had never applied myself in any spiritual method or technique for very long. This was due both to a lack of discipline and a lack of direction. The weird references to “0 = 0” and “5 = 6” caused me to begin wondering if there was some sort of secret language that could impart magical knowledge.
After moving, I began a sober approach to this inclination. I bought my first copy of The Book of the Law, Regardie’s The Golden Dawn, and Crowley’s Book 4, and was hopelessly intimidated by all of it. Eventually, I was able to wade through Book 4. Because of its style and approach to Magick, I feel that it communicated directly to my unconscious. After incubating for a time, the magical process rose to consciousness and consumed me. I developed the rigid disciplines of Thelemic Magick, and observed the Observances. I studied The Book of the Law and The Holy Books like any dutiful Thelemite, and adhered to the A.:A.: curriculum.
It wasn’t until years later—maybe when the gods decided I had adored the Sun in His four stations sufficiently—that I began to differentiate between what is commonly referred to as “Thelemic Magick,” and the spiritual essence of Thelema.
PAA: Thelema places a strong emphasis on self-mastery and self-discipline. How do these principles guide your spiritual development and magical progress? What self-transformative practices do you find most effective?
Crowley describes Magick as “the Art and Science of causing change to occur in conformity with Will,” which is an all-inclusive definition. My own observation is that if we apply ourselves in a consciously willed direction—such as writing a novel—we will make progress in that direction. It’s all pretty basic commonsensical stuff. It just takes discipline and self-awareness. It’s interesting to think about, though. We are technically formulating our Will mentally, which means that it has no substance. It is elusive, astral. As we nurture this Will, it begins to take shape and solidify. It gains momentum. And as we continue to nurture our Will, it will eventually crystallize in the material world. We have successfully manifested something, coaxed it down from a thought to a word to a deed, made something out of nothing. Worked our Will. Worked Magick.
The discipline comes in mastering the self. The process of Raja Yoga is a perfect way of doing this by directly confronting our own unruly minds and drawing our egos into abeyance to serve us, not lead us blindly about chasing any and every foolish whim. The basics of ritual Magick are equally helpful. We drill ourselves early on with a daily practice, and while this gradually gets our citta, or mind-stuff, flowing evenly in one direction, it also builds a strong foundation for later on in our careers. The daily drills will not feel as important by a certain point because we have firmly established ourselves. The Pentagram Ritual, for example, will be something we can always fall back on, however, and draw power from.
PAA: Some critiques of Crowley’s writings argue they promote self-indulgence over self-restraint. How do you strike the right balance in your own embodiment of Thelema’s “Do what thou wilt” maxim?
The funny thing about Thelema is that it means Do what thou wilt. Also, the Law is for all. So if a person wants to use it is an excuse for self-indulgence, then that’s up them. That’s where they are on their journey up the Tree of Life. The Book of the Law says so itself: “all is ever as it was.” I have known people who embodied this interpretation, and frankly, it disgusts me. I call it “Low Thelema.” Other than asserting the ego, it is the attitude of the slothful and unregenerate.
My earliest studies in Thelema clearly indicated discipline from the outside in, from the Building of the Pantacle to the Cutting of the Wand. There is no such thing as “perfect,” but it is oftentimes considered a Good Thing to better oneself in the name of perfection. I accepted this interpretation. The very fact that any of us are on a spiritual path of any kind is an admittance of our imperfections and shows a desire to change and grow and evolve. You cannot accomplish any of this without discipline and self-restraint. I have known many people who have spent too much time sharpening their intellectual Swords while neglecting the diet and exercise necessary in the healthy development of their Pantacles. I am certainly not speaking from any sort of elevated position, either. I am describing my own ideal, and a direction in which I have always striven—often failing. Self-awareness is a key, and self-love.
PAA: What originally inspired you to join the Golden Dawn tradition? How did your worldview shift upon being introduced to its teachings?
When I first became enamored of Crowley, I learned who his teachers were, where he came from, what his magical foundation was built upon. And that was the Golden Dawn. I felt early on that to understand Crowley, one should learn the language his entire system is based upon. That was why I bought my first copy of Regardie’s masterpiece. Over time, I developed a deep connection with the original system, and undertook the Great Work using a Thelemic approach to self-initiation with the Golden Dawn aesthetic. In other words, I dispensed with the formalities of cumbersome ceremonial, impractical for the solitary practitioner, and simply acknowledged my Grade when it was recognized in accordance with the circumstances of my life. I made it so simple to evade the pitfall of spiritual pride, going quietly about my business, recognizing the symbols and signs.
I have been studying, practicing, and meditating upon the Golden Dawn for over twenty years at this point, and I can say, without a doubt, that all any aspiring Magician every needs are the Pentagram and Hexagram Rituals. All Magick is based upon them. Thus, they are keys to all Magick. Also, the perspective gained by examining the trajectory of one’s life based upon the structure and arduous climb back up the Tree of Life has been a life-affirming, fulfilling, and enlightening process.
PAA: Many struggle with Golden Dawn-style ritual magic. What practices or mindsets best prepare one for succeeding with its initiatory workings? What advice would you give newcomers?
The transformative process of Patanjali’s Raja Yoga has been my lifelong bolster to the disciplines of Magick. Part 1 of Book 4 gives a concise description of the Eight Limbs of Yoga, and this was where I first became aware of its benefits and parallels with Magick. It has since become a serious practice aside from any magical benefit, but the degree of concentration that develops will benefit the Magician substantially in retaining at will the intricate visualizations demanded by the Art. What you are doing in your physical surroundings is secondary to what you are doing with your mind and how thoughts are controlled and directed.
I never wanted to join the Golden Dawn. I am a solitary practitioner and self-initiator, and this is exactly where my Thelemic influence shines. But I did want to get a taste of what a Lodge-style initiation was like. So, like understanding Crowley by learning about the Golden Dawn, I sought to deepen my understanding of the Golden Dawn by being initiated into the Mysteries of Freemasonry. I found a sponsor, was interviewed, and was made an Entered Apprentice on 12 April, 2004, immediately after a little magical retirement in Vermont celebrating the one-hundredth anniversary of the Writing of The Book of the Law. I was Raised to the Third Degree as a Master Mason that June, and experienced a vision the following day resulting in ten years of meditation and the writing of a short book of religious condemnation called The Sword of Satan.
Regardless of any accompanying mystical or magical phenomena, the Rituals of Freemasonry have proven to make more of an imprint on my consciousness than I might have earlier thought. The symbols are extraordinarily deep, and they imprint themselves on your mind and in your heart. I joined the Officers’ Line in my Lodge and went as far as Junior Warden, but my life circumstances at the time made it impossible for me to continue. I certainly feel I had fulfilled the wish to get my feet wet in Lodge-style initiation, and would, in fact, love to become active in a Lodge again. But I remain a solitary practitioner.
PAA: Some argue Raja Yoga awakens dormant faculties like intuition or mystical visions. Have these or other psychic abilities emerged for you unexpectedly during concentrated practice?
If I have ever experienced a vision during my meditation, I would consider it a break in my concentration and would repel it like any other wayward thought. The mind will play 1,001 tricks and a trick on you to distract you from your practice. It is inevitable, and the ego is a cunning monkey to train. I once practiced dharana, or active yogic concentration, on a Tarot card, the Ace of Disks from Crowley’s Thoth deck. I experienced waves and undulations and patterns in the picture on the card, and an intense deepening of color. I can only describe it as psychedelic, and was very proud of myself for “achieving” this. It wasn’t until days later when I realized that it was nothing more than my ego playing a game—entertaining, yes, but worthless.
That said, I have found that regularly cultivated practice, patiently and over time, will still the mind, and gradually deepen the awareness; to the point that the intuition is greatly sharpened, and our latent psychic abilities will speak more clearly. Some people are born with more well-developed intuitions—the “gifted”—while others have no sense of it at all. I feel strongly that we all have it, and that it can be developed. It’s all awareness. If our awareness is deep enough, it is perfectly natural that we will perceive phenomena on a subtler level.
Alongside my Yoga practice, I have been a massage therapist for seventeen years. I would rather make my money as a writer, but in the meantime, I have made good use of my vocation. In that time, I have, in spite of myself, honed my intuition to the point that I can now easily read my clients with my hands, give them the depth of pressure they need, locate, focus upon, and release tension in areas the client may not have even known about. I’ve learned to use humor, tone, and body language in putting clients at their ease, and have confidence in my ability to do the same. This comes with time and practice. Yoga is the same. The expansion of consciousness and the strengthening of intuition occur perfectly naturally in accordance with the stilling and controlling of the mind.
I have never been particularly “good” at skrying. It’s something I have always been fascinated by, but beyond brief glimpses of scenes or landscapes and ripples of awareness, I was never really able to get anywhere with it. Within the last few years, after I had made definite progress with my meditation practice, my Ajna Chakra opened, to put it one way. I recognized my ability to receive visions. I began to skry the Thirty Enochian Aethyrs—which I have always wanted to do—and record my experiences. I’m stretching the process out because each subsequent Aethyr is harder to get into than the previous—at least for me. I am treating the process as self-initiation, so I need to be prepared and purified before feeling strong enough to traverse the distance between the edge of the universe and the furthest Aethyr outward. But I digress.
PAA: Some yoga scholars suggest Raja Yoga leads to nondual self-realization akin to Vedanta. Have you tasted or embodied any transpersonal or unitive experiences through your meditation yet?
Samadhi, the Eighth and final Branch of Patanjali’s system, either occurs spontaneously, or the exact qualifiers or triggers are still not known. Either way, it is the Union which is referred to as Yoga. Samadhi is the goal. I once heard it described as the disappearing of both the object of meditation and the meditator themselves, and only the meditation remaining. I have not experienced this, but right before Thanksgiving 2022, I did experience what I can only describe as a foreshadowing of samadhi. During my daily practice (I think I was up to 27 or 28 minutes at the time), I observed a break in concentration which lasted no longer than a second: I experienced thoughts being created by the egocentric mind. The brief altering in my mental vantage point, as simple and inconsequential as it sounds, was enough to completely annihilate any fear of dying or death that I ever had. It is impossible to describe mystical experiences, and when we try to communicate with words that which can only be experienced, we will either utterly fail or lead people astray. This is how I think of faith. It is also how I think of the Fourth Power of the Sphinx—to keep silent.
Let me just hop on my soapbox for a minute or two—I apologize in advance. One of the problems with any religious worldview is that they all depend on the blind belief of the religion’s adherents. The individual is told how to act, what to pray to, how to pray to it, what is important, what is good or evil, and on and on. This is the equivalent of Low Thelema. It’s laziness. It’s passivity. When we are considering life or consciousness on a cosmic or extra-cosmic scale, the words and impressions of others mean nothing. The universe is each of us, and each of us has the power to move inward and experience perspectives that are beyond the babbling of our ego. It’s not necessary to invoke the Source when we can experience the Source. Even these are just letters and words. I’m basically telling the reader to put faith in my words and experiences, which blatantly contradicts what I am trying to say!
Raja Yoga is a way to experience what is meant to be experienced. Words only go as far as the Abyss. I sometimes refer to Yoga as the spiritual path of the atheist, for it does not immediately recognize or venerate any deity. I only warn the atheist that one of the side-effects of applying oneself to self-mastery is that it may expand the mind beyond the confines of atheism.
PAA: Thank you Jason for sharing your journey with us.