Greer, John Michael 1962-
Greer, John Michael 1962-
Born 1962, in Bremerton, WA; son of John David (a teacher) and Jo Ann Maxine (a teacher; maiden name, Smith; later surname, Jordan) Greer; married Sara-Ellen Clare Carroll, 1984. Education: Attended Western Washington University, 1980-83; University of Washington, Seattle, B.A. (magna cum laude), 1993. Religion:"Druid." Hobbies and other interests: Martial arts.
Home—P.O. Box 387, Ashland, OR 97520.E-mail—[email protected]
Freelance writer, 1995—.
Ancient Order of Druids in America (grand archdruid, 2003—), Order of Bards Ovates and Druids (druid companion, 2002), Masons.
Mount Hoemus Award for druidic scholarship, Order of Bards Ovates and Druids, 2003.
Paths of Wisdom: The Magical Cabala in the Western Tradition, Llewellyn Publications (St. Paul, MN), 1996.
Circles of Power: Ritual Magic in the Western Tradition,Llewellyn Publications (St. Paul, MN), 1997.
Inside a Magical Lodge: Group Ritual in the Western Tradition, Llewellyn Publications (St. Paul, MN), 1998.
Earth Divination, Earth Magic: A Practical Guide to Geomancy, Llewellyn Publications (St. Paul, MN), 1999.
(Translator) Gerard Thibault, Academy of the Sword(martial arts book; originally published 1630), Fir Mountain, 1999.
Natural Magic: Potions and Powers from the Magical Garden, Llewellyn Publications (St. Paul, MN), 2000.
Monsters: An Investigator's Guide to Magical Beings,Llewellyn Publications (St. Paul, MN), 2001.
Techniques for Geometric Transformation, Llewellyn Publications (St. Paul, MN), 2002.
The New Encyclopedia of the Occult, Llewellyn Publications (St. Paul, MN), 2003.
(With Earl King, Jr., and Clare Vaughn) Learning Ritual Magic: Fundamental Theory and Practice for the Solitary Apprentice, Weiser Books (Boston, MA), 2004.
A World Full of Gods: An Inquiry into Polytheism,ADF Publishers (Tucson, AZ), 2005.
The Druidry Handbook, Weiser Books (Boston, MA), 2006.
The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Societies,Harper-Collins (London, England), 2006.
Contributor of articles, essays, and reviews to more than thirty periodicals, including Gnosis and Journal of Asian Martial Arts.
WORK IN PROGRESS:
Oracle of the Elements: The New Geomancy, occult nonfiction; a practical book on Tarot meditation; a translation of Giordano Bruno's 1582 manual of the magical art of memory, On the Shadows of the Ideas; research on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Neopagan druidry; research on Pythagorean sacred geometry.
John Michael Greer told CA: "My writing is informed by a persistent skepticism toward the grand mythology of our time, the faith in perpetual progress. I grant that nowadays we're better than any earlier age at making the kind of gadgets we happen to be better at making, and therefore consider important; so? That hardly justifies the common modern notion that all older ways of envisioning the world are nonsense because they disagree with ours.
"Thus my work is deliberately retrospective, even anachronistic. Like ‘dumpster divers’ on the mean streets of a modern metropolis, I walk the back alleys of intellectual history, picking up discarded treasures. Much of this salvage work offends today's notions of common sense, but few things show more clearly through the history of ideas than the mutability of such notions and their unstated dependence on agendas of prestige and power. A willingness to challenge prejudice masquerading as common sense is central to any attempt to meet the great need of our time—the re-enchantment of the world, what the poet W.B. Yeats called ‘the revolt of the spirit against the intellect.’
"Most of my work has therefore focused on the theory and practice of magic, drawing on occult traditions from the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and modern periods. Few topics reduce today's pundits to spluttering incoherence more quickly, but the fact remains that traditional psychosymbolic ritual drama can have potent effects on the experienced reality of the participants—which is simply a complicated way of saying that magic works.
"The focus of traditional occult disciplines on developing the innate powers of the human body/mind also offers a welcome corrective to a society that seems obsessed by the quest to replace human capabilities with technological prosthetics. Similar issues shape my involvement with Pagan nature worship, and in particular with the modern Druid movement. It's fashionable to dismiss such concerns as irrelevant to the crises of the present, but it's the attitude that dismisses such things as irrelevant that has made today's crises inevitable. If we are to find a humane and livable future we must seek it in a different way.
"It's always a risky proposition for any writer to pass judgment on what's most influenced his or her own writing; so often it's the little things— a turn of phrase here, an image there—that have the most sweeping effects. My work has obvious roots in the last four hundred years or so of occult literature, and a little less obvious ones in the literature of American nature spirituality from Thoreau and Aldo Leopold straight through to the visionaries of the 1960s and 1970s. Some of the themes that have dominated my work so far, though, I first encountered by way of science fictionand fantasy novels I read in my teens. Frank Herbert'sDune, with its ecological consciousness and its vision of human possibility transcending today's prosthetic technology; the later novels of Edgar Pangborn, which first helped me formulate a challenge to the modern mythology of progress; above all else J.R.R. Tolkien's "Ring" trilogy, which informed that challenge with a vision of the rightness of living nature; many others—I think much of my nonfiction work unfolds in a dialogue with these works of fiction, or better still a quest for a place where these fictional visions touch the realities of human experience.
"Writing is a core part of the way I explore the world. More often than not, when I start a book project I have only the vaguest idea where it's going to end up. I've done some preliminary research, maybe, and I know I have something to say about, say, traditional monster lore, or Renaissance natural magic, or the nature spirituality that came out of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Druid Revival. Once the research and writing starts, though, all bets are off, and the book that comes out the other end has as many surprises for me as for anyone else.
"The other side of the exploratory dimension of my writing is the desire to teach, to show other people some of the strange territory I've discovered and encourage them to put those discoveries to use in their own lives. Magic is not a spectator sport, any more than life is. I've been reproached on occasion for writing in the allegedly lowbrow field of contemporary occult nonfiction, but today's occult community has an openness to personal experience and experimentation that, for me, makes up for its admitted flaws. I'm not interested in turning the traditions I write about into neatly pickled corpses ripe for dissection and analysis. A book of mine has succeeded if some of the readers put it down halfway through because they want to try out some of the techniques it explores. If they find one of those techniques leading them to their own discoveries about themselves and their world, and never quite get around to picking up the book again, all the better."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 15, 2004, review of The New Encyclopedia of the Occult, p. 1091.
Library Journal, November 15, 2003, Mimi Davis, review of The New Encyclopedia of the Occult,p. 58.