By Adam Lovinus
By Lilledeshan Bose
By Gabriel San Roman
By Rachel Mattice
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Daniel Kohn
By Nate Jackson
By Mike Seeley
In his 64 years, Lon Milo DuQuette has hung out with Timothy Leary; has opened for Arlo Guthrie; has belonged to the same fraternal order once led by the "world's wickedest man," Aleister Crowley; and counts Watchmen creator Alan Moore among his fans.
Yet, when singing, DuQuette sounds more akin to a folksy Harry Chapin than a world-renowned expert on the occult. And though he uses "magick" daily, he doesn't wear a pointy wizard hat or sport flowing silver hair. Instead, he resembles an effortlessly laidback dude with a neatly trimmed white beard who should be sipping a piña colada poolside in Miami.
He is both mage and musician—though the twain don't overtly meet. DuQuette, who toured and recorded as part of a folk-rock duo in the late 1960s before abandoning music for 35 years, releases his first solo CD, I'm Baba Lon, on Friday.
His music is the obvious focus of his CD-release party. Though you won't hear much of what DuQuette has written and lectured about during the past 20 years in his tunes—sex magic, tarot, Kaballah—there's plenty of magick happening. "The most generic definition of magick is that it causes change to occur in conformity with a person's will, so any willed action is a magickal act," DuQuette says. "My music is just another way to [express] my magick."
DuQuette discovered music before magick (the spelling favored by those-in-the-know to differentiate it from popular conceptions of stage and witchcrafty-type bullshit), buying his first guitar at age 13. In 1966, while performing in the folk duo Charlie D. and Milo, he was turned on to Leary's Laguna Beach-based Brotherhood of Eternal Love, an epicenter of the psychedelic '60s. He "very seriously" took to elevating his consciousness. Around 1968, he ditched the LSD in order to expand his mind "on the natch," or naturally. That led him to eastern mysticism, including yoga and meditation, and then western mysticism, particularly esoteric, hermetic traditions.
DuQuette quit music in 1972 to start a family, but his exploration of mysticism continued. In 1988, he realized "that most of the people who knew as much as I did about this particular subject were dead," he says, so he began writing. To date, he has authored 15 books. Hailed for his deep knowledge as well as humorous writing bent (in 2001, his alter-ego penned The Chicken Qabalah of Rabbi Lamed Ben Clifford), he remains immersed in lecturing and writing about magick. "The purpose of magick in an individual's life is to cause the change of self-evolution," he says. "It is not a belief system or religion. It's a psycho-dramatic art form that turns all of your willed activity into a metaphor. The only difference between my kind of magick and yoga and meditation is that those are internalized meditations. Magick is externalized meditation. But the goal is the same: to reach a level of illumination."
You don't hear sorcerous incantations in his folksy, countryish singing or guitar-playing. And his lyrics and arrangements lean more toward Cole Porter and the Great American Songbook than The Necronomicon. But DuQuette is convinced magick infuses his material.
"Except for a couple of novelty songs, I don't write about occult subjects," he says. "But I think I'm starting to reach spiritual dimensions through simple love songs. The material is spiritual in nature, but not overtly, and I think I'm getting to more profound messages in a more generic way."
This article appeared in print as "Magickal Mystery Tour: Meet Lon Milo DuQuette, the occult world's folksy Harry Chapin."