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Freemasons, Webinars, and the Golden Dawn

This post was written by Donald Michael Kraig
on July 29, 2013 | Comments (13)

There has been a debate on the internet concerning the future of magick. I saw a discussion about it on Aaron Leitch’s Blog. There, Aaron  discusses comments by Jake Stratton-Kent concerning the future of magick.

One of the problems in this discussion is the use of jargon. Aaron reveals, “Jake is a goetic magician, but that doesn’t mean what you probably think it does. When Jake uses the term “goetia” he’s not talking about the Renaissance grimoire of that name (which we will refer to as the Goetia of Solomon) – nor about something so simplistic as “working with demons”. Instead he is referring to one of the most primordial foundations of Western occultism: the ancient Greek Goen.” He later writes that Goen “was the word for shaman in Greece before the Olympian cults existed.” As a result of these different meanings of “goetic,” some of the posts I’ve seen on the internet seem to misrepresent Mr. Kent’s ideas.

The basic thrust of Stratton-Kent’s argument is two-fold. First, it’s that “The whole Secret Society model is not only unhelpful, but actively counter-productive.” He claims that they don’t have any secret information and the fights between groups over false histories are harmful.

The model of the secret society he focuses on is that of Freemasonry. And it’s very true that groups like the Golden Dawn have rituals that are similar to, if not based upon, those of the Freemasons. This leads to the second part of his argument. Stratton-Kent contends that the dependence upon this structure has removed us from the sources of magick: direct links to the spiritual realms and spiritual entities, which he believes corresponds with aspects of Shamanism.

I think it’s absolutely great that Mr. Stratton-Kent has brought this up for discussion. I think he’s absolutely right and, at the same time, completely wrong.

Why Magickal Orders?

As I’ve frequently seen in discussions on a wide variety of topics, it’s common that writers on all sides make certain assumption and accept them as truisms that are simply accepted as valid. Sometimes, even the people holding opposite opinions accept the assumptions as truisms. Until those accepted presuppositions are questioned, it’s like arguing over who makes a better burger, McDonald’s or Burger King, without discussing the health risks of diets heavy with meats and saturated fats.

The secret society, as Stratton-Kent stated, can be “unhelpful” and “counter-productive.” But unhelpful in what ways? Counter-productive to what? Stratton-Kent writes that he hasn’t really learned anything from these groups. To me this is a common approach of many students. It’s the attitude of “Here I am; teach me.” This is a presupposition of how a school, or secret society, is supposed to work.

This is not meant to be a denunciation of Mr. Stratton-Kent so much as a denunciation of those running schools and the media who have made this attitude a part of our notion of educational systems. Just throw people in there, keep them locked up, and somehow, they’re supposed to be taught something. No wonder so many schools are failing. No wonder so many magickal orders remain small and have quickly changing memberships. “I’m here, teach me. If you don’t, I’m leaving.” Students with that attitude, often reinforced by parents who have the same attitude, are too often the worst students. If you don’t teach them exactly the material they want and they way they want to learn it, they reject everything.

The best students tend to be those with an attitude of: “How can I make use of this potential learning situation?” I don’t know the groups Mr. Stratton-Kent was a member of nor the quality of their leaders. If they were poor quality, I’m very sorry for Mr. Stratton-Kent’s experiences. However, if they had a great deal of knowledge and Mr. Stratton-Kent failed to take advantage of it because of preconceptions as to how such orders should work, then I’m sorry that the influences on Mr. Stratton-Kent resulted in his not taking advantage of available resources.

Many years ago I was a member of AMORC. At the time, they said they were not a secret society. Rather, they were a society with secrets. I attended ritual after ritual and observed little in the way of magick. I tell people that their teachings are a good way to get a very basic liberal arts education. However, I kept seeking, not for what they would give me, but what I could find.

At the lodge I was with, they played a horribly scratchy recording of some music during the meditation period that occurred in each weekly ritual. As a musician, the poor quality was driving me up the wall. I talked about this to a member whom I respected. He didn’t agree or disagree with me, he just started telling me a story:

Many years ago there was a man who learned meditation. One day, he started meditating and went deeper and deeper. Soon, he was deeper in meditation than he had ever been before. He kept going deeper. And deeper. He knew that in a few seconds he would be at one with the universe and have untold secrets of wisdom unfold before him. 

And then a fly landed on his nose and he instantly came out of the meditative state, never to achieve it again.

The member finished the story, then turned and walked away. I was humbled. It wasn’t the bad quality of the music that was keeping me from meditating, it was me.

A few years later I was in a group that was associated with a Golden Dawn branch. Some of the members had been there for years. Officers carried around huge books to read their parts of rituals, stumbled through movements, and could barely read their speeches, even though they had been through them dozens of times. I kept hoping for more, but it was thoroughly disheartening.

Eventually, I achieved the position of Dadouchos, representing the carrier of elemental Fire. At the beginning of our regular ritual, the opening of the “Hall of the Neophytes,” the carrier of fire and another person, the Stolistes, who carried Water, go around the temple purifying and consecrating the space. In the past, they had just wandered around at their own speeds, sometimes almost bumping into each other. I intuited that, being opposites, they should always stay opposite each other as they went around the temple. I simply did this, and for me, and for others whom I talked with, the result was electric. The entire feelings of the temple changed as rituals became more powerful and effective.

There is absolutely no way I could have learned this or experienced it by reading or practicing on my own. The opportunity for learning was there and I took advantage of it. I did not wait for someone to teach me.

It’s a Different Thing

I would contend, then, that Mr. Stratton-Kent is quite right. It’s quite unlikely that secret societies/magickal orders are going to teach you magick. Those that claim they do often quickly vanish or turn into personality cults. However, what they can do is give you the opportunity to learn through observation and participation, through asking questions and by going through a formulaic set of instructions. Mr. Stratton-Kent is 100% right in that secret societies are not providing what he’s looking for. But the problem is not with him or with the secret societies. Rather, it is simply that he has made an assumption of what should happen in secret societies and is disappointed when he doesn’t get it.

So I would say it’s incorrect to look for a chiropractic treatment at a chiropodist’s office. If you try, you’re most likely to be disappointed. That’s what has happened here. In the East, this concept has long been known: reality is unlikely to meet one’s expectations, and that loss leads to disappointment and unhappiness. No wonder Mr. Stratton-Kent wrote what Mr. Leitch refers to as being close to an online manifesto.

So What Good Are
Magickal Orders and Secret Societies?

Instead of looking at what such groups can’t do, let’s look at what they can do:

  1. They give you a place where, if you are wise, you can choose to learn. You do this not only by learning written teachings, but by observation, experience, and through asking questions.
  2. They give you a place to meet and commune with others who have similar interests. Humans are social animals, and without such contact and feedback you can lose interest and direction.
  3. They give you a place to learn by experience and example. This isn’t just about learning what to do, but also learning what not to do.
  4. They link you with a current of energy not available outside of the group. Other such currents are certainly available, but they’re not these particular energies.
  5. They give you the chance to meet people with knowledge or access to knowledge you don’t have.
  6. They give you the chance to work with people who are better in certain magickal and spiritual skills than you.
  7. They give you a chance to hear discussions among people who don’t want to spend their time debating on social media.
  8. They can trigger new interests by an overheard word or thought.
  9. They allow you to participate in rituals, giving you the chance to experience what does and does not work.

These are just a few of the benefits that may be found in a secret societies/magickal orders. It’s possible the ones you meet won’t give you some or all of these. It’s possible they may give you different ones.

Sorry, But This Isn’t Exactly New…

I am very lucky and grateful for the massive acceptance of my book, Modern Magick. Several years ago, a person asked me how it would feel knowing that decades from now, people would still be using it. I replied that I hope by then there would be new writers who would share updated versions of what I had written in a new voice, a voice that would appeal to new generations.

This is a common occurrence. People like Mr. Stratton-Kent study magick, become disenchanted (no pun intended) with what’s available, and reinterpret it. I’ve seen this happen many dozens of time, as people discover or reveal the “true” secrets of magick. Most of them have been forgotten.

Some, however, not only last, but become important and influential. In 1976, two men had a meeting that would forever change the face of magick. They wanted to get rid of everything that was not needed (like Masonic-style rituals) and get to the core of magick. Originally named “Results Magick,” with the idea being that they wanted to get to the very minimum that would produce maximum results, it eventually become known as Chaos Magick. It has helped to spark an interest in magick by tens of thousands of people. You can read about the basic concepts and some of the basic techniques in Lesson 12 of Modern Magick.

I would guess that the energies behind the rising phoenix of magick that inspired Carroll and Sherwin, the founders of Chaos Magick, are the same energies behind Mr. Stratton-Kent’s comments. This, in my opinion, is a good thing for magick.

Webinar!

Yesterday I presented a webinar that allowed me to speak, live, to people all over the world. Thanks to all of the people who attended! The topic was Tarot & Magic. One person asked if the Cicero’s were the best at presenting the ideas of the magickal order, the Golden Dawn. 2884

Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero

What I responded was that the books that had been written by the Ciceros had done more to advance the concepts and training of the Golden Dawn system than any other author since Israel Regardie. The moderator of the webinar stated that he had used pathworkings given by the Ciceros on a daily basis. And the truth is, that although people had occasionally written about the Golden Dawn, the Ciceros have done more and gone beyond the basics found in Regardie’s books, than anyone else. Until the Ciceros, the Golden Dawn had become stultified. Many leaders had an attitude of, “That’s what’s in Regardie’s book. Don’t do anything else.” With the Cicero’s books, the biggest advances in sharing information on the Golden Dawn in decades, the traditions of the Golden Dawn ceased being “that old stuff” and became enlivened once again. They helped bring life and vitality to the old Order. There are now many groups that claim to be “the” Golden Dawn. I don’t think anyone would care about them if the works of the Ciceros hadn’t brought the magickal current of the Golden Dawn back from the abyss.

The proof of this is not just in the popping up of Golden Dawn groups everywhere. Rather, it is in that very discord Mr. Kent discounts as being “unhelpful” and “actively counter-productive.” True, some people have formed groups for money or personal power or ego. But others argue/discuss minor points of practice and theory. New books on the Golden Dawn are beginning to appear from a variety of authors.

The spark that triggered the Golden Dawn in the late 19th century seems to be starting another fire at the beginning of the 21st century.

Reader Comments

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#1 
Written By Aaron Leitch
on July 29th, 2013 @ 3:54 pm

Wonderful blog, Mr. Kraig! I think you’ve added another layer of depth to this discussion – not just “are secret societies relevant?” but also “just what can you expect to gain from them, and how?”

I also wanted to add a thought, for all of those who have been placed under the misconception that “ceremonial magicians” and Golden Dawners can’t have a disagreement or debate without being nasty about it. Just take a look at this post and all of the other bloggers who have chimed in on this issue. There’s a healthy amount of disagreement *and* agreement going on here – and not one bleeding hint of hostility. Not one accusation of Satanism, Nazism, fundamentalism or evil conspiracies. Even in response to a man who began this debate by claiming we should all abandon our very orders as “unhelpful hindrances!” This is what a fraternal debate between adults looks like, boys and girls. ;)

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#2 
Written By Carlos
on August 1st, 2013 @ 7:25 pm

In such light, Mr. Cicero has done alot to further the Golden Dawn ideology and given much wisdom to those outside of the current.

I was pleasantly surprised to find he has other affiliations which are not so well known and found his contributions there as equally as enlightening.

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#3 
Written By Jake Stratton-Kent
on August 7th, 2013 @ 5:03 am

Whoa, a mention on Llewellyn’s site, my diatribe really did go viral! :D

Before I get down to business, let me clarify something.

I was *never* a peeved neophyte who left in a huff; that imputation – which has arisen more than once – is close to suggesting I was frightened by a man in an apron as a child. Sheer nonsense and a blatant smokescreen. I was a high ranking member of a couple of Orders, as well as a long term observer of events outside my own occult interests (an Overview, something else it is plain the insular Secret Society model seriously impedes). That’s why my comments were so close to the knuckle, as is obvious with a little thought.

From my side of the issue, one might wish that some GD spokesmen were better informed about work and workers outside their own niches (a measure of exactly the kind of insularity problems I complain of). I take the trouble to be well informed, why can’t they? There are honourable exceptions, but in general my charge of parochial insularity as a ‘built in’ feature of the model is fair comment, and the defence keeps proving my case for me!

It may be too much to hope for that they’d engage with what I”m saying rather than engage in mere damage limitation; that they had a clue about why I’m peeved with the Qliphoth inheritance they foisted on the Occult Revival; that they’d stop imputing personal motives for criticising their beloved masonic model; that they’d mention, if not examine, the other models on which an occult society can be based, several examples of which I have cited, etc. etc.

A little acquaintance with real goetia (not that of pop occultism, but as represented in academia, throughout real history and in the writings of yours truly) would also highlight some of the issues I’ve raised. That this is only really addressed by Aaron again shows the model is lagging behind, and probably incapable of any leadership in that sphere. Which is a serious problem, since it is the older levels of Western Occultism neglected by the revival that are most capable of permitting meaningful exchanges with living traditions of magic around the world. This is where ‘recovered’ Goetia scores highly and the Revivalist ‘Secret Societies’ do not and cannot, for reasons quite unconnected with my personal history, and solidly connected to their model and its insular vision.

And please folks, try and get my name right (it’s on the front of my books btw, which may be worth reading if remotely interested in getting half these points rather than going for ‘business as usual’ when the dust settles.)

it is yours truly, Jake Stratton-Kent

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#4 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on August 7th, 2013 @ 10:49 am

Thank you for the correction on your name. I went with what I had seen in print and have now corrected it (along with a couple of typos), in my post.

Please note, however, that at no time did I state or even imply that you were “frightened by a man in an apron as a child.” What I posted was that there was a miscommunication between what you expected and what you received leading to what you wrote. I also stated that his experience was not new and that the real source was with the way teachers and schools set up false expectations.

I understand your “wish that some GD spokesmen were better informed about work and workers outside their own niches.” (I am not a spokesman for the GD or any other group, order, etc.) That was your desire and expectation. If it was not fulfilled in your Orders, no wonder you wrote what you did. And as I pointed out, others have felt the same way.

I am in no way “imputing personal motives” (in the sense of a personal grievance leading to a general denunciation) to your presentation. In fact, I wrote that “the energies behind Mr. Stratton-Kent’s comments…[are] a good thing for magick.”

At the same time, I quoted Aaron concerning your differentiation between the common concept of Goetia and your concept of Goetia. And that leads to an interesting revelation. You’re assuming that your “recovered” Goetia is universally better than the “Revivalist Secret Societies.” I have no doubt that it’s better for you, but you’ve presented no evidence that it is necessarily better for practitioners at large. What you’re describing here is common logical fallacy of moving from the specific (It works for you) to the general (it must work for everyone) without support for that motion.

I would respectfully suggest that the basis of what you’re writing is that your personal path should be a replacement for the paths that involve Secret Societies. In reality, it is not a replacement, it is an alternative. There are many people who do very well spiritually and magickally within the Secret Society format. For those who don’t, I think it’s great that there are other options. There are many such alternatives, and you’re adding another one. This is a good thing; the more options, the better.

One of the things that is most challenging for any of us to see is that our paths follow our inner maps to a spiritual goal, and the map is not the territory. Some people have maps that involve Secret Societies. Other people have maps that abjure such groups. You refer to the maps of those who support/are part of Secret Societies as their “insular vision.” I agree with you 100%. At the same time, I recognize my path—which functions both within and external to such societies—is just my map, my insular vision. It follows that your path is also your insular vision.

There is nothing wrong with this! It’s great that we each have our own maps, our own insular visions, our own paths. Even better is that the multiplicity of available paths make spiritual and magickal advancement accessible to all who seek the path that will be the best for them. The problem is not with your, mine, someone else’s, or some group’s map or vision. The problem is when they don’t recognize that their path is only a map of the territory and not the territory itself. Their path is a way to move through the underlying, ineffable reality. When people miss this, they may become dogmatic and assert that their path is the best and only map for everyone,

So I would respectfully suggest that rather than appearing to want to tear down what works for so many thousands of people, you consider making your path more attractive.

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#5 
Written By Jake Stratton-Kent
on August 7th, 2013 @ 11:14 am

Hi Donald,

you’ve just dug the hole deeper for yourself.

No evidence for my position?

I suggest you first return to Aaron’s blog, the only source you appear to have consulted on my identity and work – a very cursory examination it would seem.

From there you might try reading something other than pop-occultism on the subject of Goetia. I can recommend a stack (and do in the bibliography of the Encyclopedia Goetica, three volumes out of five currently available).
Such a reading list would help you overcome the widespread misapprehension that Goetia concerns a 1640s MS badly edited by Mathers and Crowley. A misapprehension caused by the GD and now endemic across the scene.

When in fact it applies – firstly – to the grimoire genre as a whole, and reaches back to traditions informing them in late antiquity and beyond. Being the only genuinely continuous strand of modern magic prior to the revival, as well as the root of many of its traditions should confer some importance upon the subject.

Which brings me to another neglected point in responses to my position. I am not merely criticising the GD as it is now, in fact that least of all. I’m criticising the stack of misnomers their earlier errors have created in occulture, and indicating the need to pull their socks up, do their homework and help correct these false impressions.

It is quite clear that to date they are no wiser than the average newbie on this topic. So unfortunately I don’t think there is much chance of that happening. As underlined by the fact that my position is unknown to them; despite being largely in accord with both Primary Sources and academia. I could quote lamentably obscure passages from Mathers and Waite, major ones from Mirandola and Agrippa, and take you back through the Hellenistic world to remote antiquity – all of which are on my side of the case.

Thanks for the hyphen

ALWays

Jake

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#6 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on August 7th, 2013 @ 11:48 am

Sorry, but you are misstating what I posted. I NEVER wrote there was “no evidence for… [your] position.” I wrote there was no evidence supporting the generalization of your position moving from being right for you to being right for everyone.

I also clearly stated that there was a difference between what is commonly called Goetia and what you’re calling Goetia. In fact, I wrote that in my original post and in my reply.

You write that you’re pointing out the GD’s errors. As I also posted, what you’re doing is “a good thing for magick.” Now I’ve posted this three times.

I have no doubt that you could pull out quotes from past writers. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but any researcher could do this. I’ve seen many myself. But what you seem to be missing is that you’re mistaking the map for the territory. I no longer use paper maps. I use the mapping app on my computer and on my smartphone. Things change. Times change. I’ve written about this before and how I tried to say, “go back and use the original!” only to find that it’s like trying to hold back the ocean’s tides with a bucket.

I repeat, it’s good that you present an alternative. I’m sure it’s 100% right for you. It may be right for a few others or many multitudes. But it’s still just an alternative map, and I’m glad that there are alternatives so that people can choose what will work for them.

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#7 
Written By Jake Stratton-Kent
on August 7th, 2013 @ 12:13 pm

okay, yes, what I wrote is good for magic, and was meant to be. A fair few folks have accepted that; yourself included. Which is good – but a step or two further is not beyond reasonable expectation considering how long the several issues have been around, and where a good part of the responsibility actually lays.

Now, regarding historical and rich goetia versus the rather shallow form generic in pop-occultism (which, relevantly, originated with the GD); you wrote:

‘I have no doubt that it’s better for you, but you’ve presented no evidence that it is necessarily better for practitioners at large. What you’re describing here is common logical fallacy of moving from the specific (It works for you) to the general (it must work for everyone) without support for that motion’.

Now firstly, I’m more influential than you may think, or I’d never have got this sort of hearing in the first place. More importantly, you appear to promote the idea that a widespread fallacy (and bogus history was always part of my critique) is better for the masses, and the genuine article only for a few. I disagree, on various grounds. The truth is preferable, and in this case, also more satisfying. It is not inaccessible either – having many handles – certainly more than I personally need. These offer a variety of ways into a very rich vein indeed. Once opened up the field extends way beyond my own personal use of it. So it is not really about ‘my way or the highway’, anything but.

Moreover, it is real & I’m not a solipsist post modern occultist; but a research driven practitioner.

I am happy with the fact that many thoughtful practical occultists, from across the spectrum, are turning to my way of thinking. Providing me not with under-informed followers, which are an impediment, but an effective peer group, which is mutually beneficial. A new generation of writers among them. An effective multi-talented peer group is – of course – another improvement on the Secret Society model.

ALWays

Jake

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#8 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on August 7th, 2013 @ 1:04 pm

Jake, as I wrote in my original post, part of the issue is that you had expectations that were not met. Further, among some Eastern traditions this is seen as a source of unhappiness. Now you are saying you have more expectations, albeit they are “reasonable.” Respectfully, they are absolutely reasonable to you. That doesn’t mean they’re reasonable to others, and having such expectations is going to lead to disappointment.

I never wrote anything about your level of influence. Even so, I find it interesting you would write about that as you earlier hoped people would “engage with what… [you're] saying,” something separate from any degree of influence.

I am not saying a “widespread fallacy” is “better” for the masses. Rather, you’re making the assumption that the only truths of value appear in archaic books and it’s impossible that those original books had errors or that more modern writers/interpreters could have come up with new interpretations that are every bit as valid. I’m standing for options and potentials whereas you seem to be standing upon dogmatic acceptance of old records, just as some Christians demand that the Bible is the truth and nothing else matters.

I do not agree.

At the same time, I’m glad that you’re presenting your alternative so that people have a choice. On the other hand, insulting people with alternate beliefs by claiming that people who do not agree with you are “under-informed” and “followers” whereas your people are a “peer group” and “multi-talented” is not beneficial.
We’re on the same path, just following different maps.

In Massachusetts, there is a body of water known as Lake Webster. It’s original name is Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg which very loosely translated is said to mean, “You fish on your side, I fish on my side, and nobody fish in the middle.” We can all fish. We can all be friendly. We can agree to disagree and that your path is right for you while the path of others is right for them.

You wrote, “I’m more influential than you may think, or I’d never have got this sort of hearing in the first place.” I don’t agree. Any good position deserves discussion, even those from people who aren’t influential. Further, the fact that Secret Societies have survived for hundreds of years, if not longer, and are still thriving indicates the validity of their approach for many.

Okay, respectfully, I’ve responded to your remarks. However you are doing what is called, “moving the goalposts.” If you want to stick to the topics covered with something new, fantastic. But if you are going to bring in new subjects to try and prove your position (“Well, if that didn’t work maybe this will”), I request that you post on your own blog.

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#9 
Written By Damon
on August 25th, 2013 @ 11:18 pm

Funny the GD is a Secret Society as far as I can tell, it DID NOT survive. The Freemasons are currently dying as we write, all other so called Secret Societies are about as ‘objectively’ real as Tradition witchcraft. Mr. Kraig I think you maybe overlooking the point. As a researcher I really don’t know how you can arrive at a conclusion without reading Mr. Stratton-Kent works on the subject.

Thank you,
D

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#10 
Written By Jaime Lombana
on September 30th, 2013 @ 3:17 pm

I have been following the Cicero’s books for years. Very good modernization of Golden Dawn practices, and very much needed since most of the material (Gods bless Regardie anyway) suffered from its Victorian origins. While some may reasonably argue that they have irreversibly changed and diluted it, but I disagree. An unchanging practice is a dead practice. Everything evolves.

On a lighter note, I found a humorous anecdote of someone inadvertently summoning up a demon. If anyone needs a quick laugh, check it out.

http://www.squidoo.com/summoned-a-demon

Best,

Jaime

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#11 
Written By Magnus Göller
on October 10th, 2013 @ 5:03 pm

Jake Stratton-Kent is holding up his case very well. Having only today found out that he is now valiantly taking on secret societies I could not but write this little piece on him and his deed on my page.

http://unzensiert.zeitgeist-online.de/2013/10/10/jake-stratton-kent-gegen-geheimgesellschaften/

He even puts it – he ain’t gettin’ old, is he? – mildly, or, say, still diplomatically; at least as far as I’m concerned (or dare interpret his ways of procedure).

Interesting discussion here.

No doubt at least about that.

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