Sunday, November 23, 2014

"Living God" Released from Purgatory

No, that headline is not figurative. It's entirely literal.

Matthew Lawrence, who writes books and sells magical paraphernalia under the name E. A. Koetting, has been arrested on drug and weapons charges in Utah. Koetting advertises himself with the tagline "Become a Living God," which implies that he apparently already is one. But I'm thinking that a real living god wouldn't find himself facing jail time.

As for the Purgatory bit, that's the actual name of the jail in St. George, Utah where Lawrence was arrested - Purgatory Correctional Center. So after his arrest this Living God was indeed released on bail from Purgatory.

Erin Cody Elder, 31, and Matthew Joseph Lawrence, 33, face identical charges: five third-degree felony counts for possession of drugs, one third-degree felony count of being restricted possessors of a firearm, and one misdemeanor count each for possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia.

They were released from Purgatory Correctional Facility on bail. Their arrest occurred a week after the task force received a tip from a confidential informant, Whitehead said.

After conducting the traffic stop, investigators searched the roommates' residence in the 500 West block of Los Alamitos Drive. The search uncovered cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana and other drugs, along with a gun, Whitehead said.

I am of the opinion that the war on drugs has been a complete debacle, and that throwing people in jail for possessing small amounts of controlled substances for personal use is a massive waste of prison resources. That being said, they got busted after a vehicle stop? Apparently this Living God lacks the power to turn his car invisible, or at least as invisible as you can make a car with a spell. Hasn't he read Modern Magick? Even Donald Michael Kraig could do that!

Seriously, though, in cases like this the possibility of police misconduct has to be considered and I expect any such allegations will come out at trial. Koetting bills himself as a Satanist, and Utah is a very conservative and religious state. I'm also wondering if that "confidential informant" is someone from the magical community with a grudge. But if the drug charges turn out to be true, thinking you're a living god is a common symptom of meth use. Could that be the basis of Koetting's entire business model?

I'll keep you all posted as the case develops and more information becomes available.

UPDATE: So today, the day after this got a lot of exposure, Raw Story has this article up documenting police misconduct in Utah. It's clearly alive and well, and as I mentioned in a Facebook comment, billing yourself as a Satanist and living there is a lot like standing outside the police station and daring the cops to mess with you. Still, Koetting makes some pretty fantastic claims, and it seems to me that anybody with that sort of power would have been able to avoid this whole situation.

There's a whole lot of schadenfreude going on over on Facebook regarding Koetting's arrest. Critics of that shitstorm have pointed out that Koetting never claimed not to use drugs, and that while he uses the "Become a Living God" tagline in his marketing he never actually claimed to be a "Living God" himself. I agree that in an ideal world the drug use by itself shouldn't be a big deal, and that possession of most controlled substances should be decriminalized. I also think that the police may very well be trumping up at least some of the charges.

At the same time, maybe Koetting never outright claims to be a "Living God," but the implication is pretty hard to miss in his promotional materials. And what's significant about meth being involved is that one of the most common delusions associated with amphetamines is the delusion that one has special powers. Knowing that, it becomes hard to distinguish which of the powers Koetting claims to have developed are based on magical successes and which ones are imaginary.

In an occult sense every magician is the "Living God" of their own reality, and being such doesn't necessarily prevent bad things from happening. I think it should reduce their incidence if done right, but not everyone agrees with me on that, and at any rate the effect is probabilistic rather than deterministic. Even good magicians can find themselves getting arrested or facing legal problems, especially if they belong to a group that is unfairly targeted on a routine basis.

What I don't like about Koetting, and what I'm poking a little fun at in this article, is that it seems to me he relies on semantic confusion between the occult meaning of "Living God" and the regular connotation of the same to generate notoriety and make sales. I'm sure not everyone out there sees it this way, but it strikes me as dishonest or at least rather hucksterish.

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Joe Willrich Lutalo said...

And that concluding paragraph of yours sums up all my concerns about E.A Koetting!

Thanks for sharing this with the community...

Sinister Angles said...

Well, actually he claims to be a living God in a very prosaic sense of the term in his introductory video.

Hence, your idea that he is just using the expression 'A Living God' in an usual occult sense, is not correct.

See his marketing wackiness here:

Scott Stenwick said...

I suppose that could be the case. My statement there was giving him the benefit of the doubt, as I'm not all that familiar with his work and couldn't give an honest appraisal of it without wading through more of his promotional stuff than I have any desire to see.

The consensus is mixed, too. Some people seem to think that he knows his stuff but uses those hyperbolic statements of his to draw people in and, of course, get their money. Others seem to think he's a complete fraud pushing a fantasy-novel version of occultism.

One thing's for sure, though - his marketing is incredibly cheesy and over-the-top. If he really does concretely and literally believe his own bullshit that's a big problem.

Sinister Angles said...

To be brutally honest with you, I have yet see one living soul who are able to make a reasoned argument for the benefits of Koetting's doctrines.

Yes, there are people who have fallen prey to his flamboyant rhetoric and marketing tactics, but have anyone ever attested to actually finding anything workable amongst his rhetoric and tactics? No, not really.

If look at it critically, you will see that it is, in fact, nothing more than an americanised consumer product produced by the member of the hoi polloi for the other members of the hoi polloi. There's no erudition or hard-earned wisdom - just recycled second-hand nonsense. That's all.

Scott Stenwick said...

Keep in mind that I am not saying that your assessment is wrong. I find most of the marketing crap pretty distasteful, and as such I have no desire to wade through it. I would never buy anything from Koetting for the same reason.

I have seen a number of people online, though, who have claimed to have gotten good results with his system. I am personally of the opinion that those claims likely are motivated by either a desire to justify money spent on Koetting's materials, or the fact that if somebody has magical talent they can make just about any system work - at least up to a point.

I will say that while the snake oil seems strong in Koetting's case, I don't necessarily think that that packaging can define the functionality of a technique. As I see it, magick is a technology and it either works or it doesn't. A technique that's aggressively marketed may not live up to the promotional hype, but that's not the same thing as being entirely useless.

Walter Kunz said...

"There is no god but man." - Aleister Crowley

Scott Stenwick said...

Yup, there is that too. So it is actually true that in that sense, he is a living god. But from a Thelemic perspective, so is everybody else. The point being that your personal godhood does not in any way depend on buying the stuff that the dude is (quite aggressively) selling.

I publish rituals and the like here on Augoeides for free, which anybody is welcome to pick up and start practicing. And I can attest that they work quite well. Maybe I should charge for them or something, but I figure if anybody wants to support my work they can always buy some books.

Mirawho said...

Hi Scott

It is unfortunate that people think if you look like the devil, well you must have something to do with him, kind of like LaVey. History points us in a lot of directions, most of which are completely confusing. The truth lives in you, not some clown like Matthew Lawrence. Years ago, telephone psychics were really popular, because people were lost and they believed that maybe someone could really read the future, present and past for them and tell them what to do with their lives. But, they were mostly charlatans and maybe the ones that had gifts were overshadowed by this.

These days, a lot have turned to "occult" practices to try to get answers for their lives. There are more different spells out there for the same end result, than one can shake a stick at. I used to belong to a site that exposed spell-casters and it is so incredible as to the extent that someone will believe in BS and pay a lot of their hard earned dollars to believe in that. I have even seen some "legit" websites using spells that are taken from games and telling people these are words used to conjure spirits, etc. And I am sure it is unwittingly and unintentional. They just believe in what they saw.

Anyway, I did like your article. Also, I liked what you said in your last comment, about giving others the chance to try your rituals and not ask for anything for that. And, if it works for them, maybe it will entice them to purchase a book. This giving a peek thing and then saying "If you want the rest, it will cost you" is pure BS. Anyway, thanks for a humorous and refreshing read. I wish others could see this article and maybe realize how most of these guys are just a big fail!