Category Archives: Hermetic Library Reading Room

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition, Hermeticism in a broad sense, and Aleister Crowley’s Thelema. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

Doctor Strange 4

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Doctor Strange 4 by Roy Thomas, Stan Lee, et al., part of the Marvel Masterworks series.

Roy Thomas Stan Lee et al Doctor Strange 4

This fourth collection of Doctor Strange comics in the Marvel Masterworks series covers the period of my own infancy to first literacy, as well as some of my very favorite early adventures of the comic book magus. This 1969-1973 span includes the cease of the original Doctor Strange (nee Strange Tales) title, key appearances in such other Marvel mainstay books as The Incredible Hulk, and the Master of the Mystic Arts’ domination of the early issues of Marvel Premiere. It also coincides with the end of the period where Strange wore a mask and worried about having a “secret identity.” (As an element of working out this aspect, the omnipotent Eternity made the sorcerer into a Pooh bear, living under the name of Sanders.)

There is a truly awesome variety of art talent included here. P. Craig Russell, Frank Brunner, and Barry Windsor-Smith are all before their respective primes, but it’s a delight to have their distinctive styles applied to this character. Gene Colan offers some groundbreaking art that would define Doctor Strange as much as any artist since Steve Ditko. Writing on the end of the superheroic secret identity arc comes from Roy Thomas, but the later Marvel Premiere run features an elaborate Lovecraftian pastiche kicked off by Archie Goodwin and further developed by F. Gardner Fox.

I own most of these comics in their original issues, but I’m very pleased to have them also collected in this high-quality reprint volume. [via]

Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales

Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales by Marie-Louise von Franz, a C G Jung Foundation book, a 1995 revised edition paperback from Shambhala Publications, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Marie-Louise von Franz Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales from Shambhala Publications

“Fairy tales seem to be innocent stories, yet they contain profound lessons for those who would dive deep into their waters of meaning. In this book, Marie-Louise von Franz uncovers some of the important lessons concealed in tales from around the world, drawing on the wealth of her knowledge of folklore, her experience as a psychoanalyst and a collaborator with Jung, and her great personal wisdom. Among the many topics discussed in relation to the dark side of life and human psychology, both individual and collective, are:
· How different aspects of the “shadow”—all the affects and attitudes that are unconscious to the ego personality—are personified in the giants and monsters, ghosts, and demons, evil kings and wicked witches of fairy tales
· How problems of the shadow manifest differently in men and women
· What fairy tales say about the kinds of behavior and attitudes that invite evil
· How Jung’s technique of Active imagination can be used to overcome overwhelming negative emotions
· How ghost stories and superstitions reflect the psychology of grieving
· What fairy tales advise us about whether to struggle against evil or turn the other cheek ” — back cover


Of Prophets and Prophesy

Of Prophets and Prophesy: Visionaries or Voices for Definitive Political Policy by Walter C Cambra, a 1984 monograph, has arrived at the Reading Room courtesy of the author.

Walter C Cambra Of Prophets and Prophesy

“Detailed reading and analysis of the Old Testament books suggest that the term ‘prophet’ refers to a character who voices definitive political policy from within the context of his own generational milieu, rather than the traditional notion of them as visionaries into the circumstances of distant centuries.”

Dance of the Damned

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Arkham Horror: Dance of the Damned by Alan Bligh.

Alan Bligh Dance of the Damned

Here’s another novel rooted in the Arkham Horror gaming milieu of pulp-era Yog-Sothothery. The prose is not always good. In fact, it can be pretty awful: “He hefted the heavy shotgun onto his shoulder. Pausing to turn the light off, he cursed once and left it. Better to light a candle, as they say” (301). The book is littered with eggcorns and misplaced apostrophes. But author Alan Bligh cultivates some fine moral ambivalence in his characters, and his story is genuinely intriguing and scary. I read the closing arc of the book with real excitement, and found the ending satisfying.

Like fellow Arkham Horror novelist Graham McNeill, Bligh divides his action among locations in Arkham, New York City, and Kingsport, and both authors deploy the terrible old man of H.P. Lovecraft’s eponymous tale as a character in the last location. Of the two, I found Bligh’s old man to be more engaging and better woven into the fabric of the story.

Although there seemed to be a lot of different plots at the outset (partly resulting from a demand of the gaming novel genre, to involve multiple identifiable protagonists from the games), Bligh succeeded in pulling them together for a single coherent crisis with its resolution shrouded in mystery. Although it’s by a different author, I’ve already started reading its sequel in “The Lord of Nightmares Trilogy”: The Lies of Solace [via]

Golgonooza

Golgonooza: City of Imagination: Last Studies in William Blake by Kathleen Raine, a 1991 paperback from Lindisfarne Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Kathleen Raine Golgonooza from Lindisfarne Press

“The seven studies that comprise this book are the culmination of more than forty years of research into the meaning of Blake’s symbolic themes by a scholar-poet who is internationally recognised as one of Blake’s most profound interpreters. They are written so as to reach into the very heart of Blake’s symbolic thought and for this reason may be read as an introduction to the whole of his imaginative vision. The author’s extraordinary empathy with the learning of this imaginative knowledge has entailed her taking Blake as her Master, and from her revelation of the implications of his impassioned denunciation of the ‘single vision’ of quantitative, materialist thinking. Blake emerges as England’s great national prophet. Equally impassioned is the author’s demonstration of how Blake must be understood to be a key figure of our age, one in which the outworn materialist dogmas must give way to an age of Imagination—a vision of the sacred nature of reality itself.” — back cover


The House of the Octopus

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The House of the Octopus: Essays on the Real-Life ‘Cthulhu Cult’ of the Pacific edited by Jason Colavito.

Jason Colavito The House of the Octopus

Well, who knew? Jason Colavito has unearthed some late-19th-century accounts of cults involving an actual octopus god in the South Pacific. The sources are proto-anthropologists and scholar-missionaries, whose accounts often acquire the tone of a travelogue, and come close to the narrative tone used by some of Lovecraft’s scholarly protagonists. There is nothing here to contradict “The Call of Cthulhu,” and the notion of a sleeping-not-slain cephalopod deity is practically confirmed by these pages.

Of particular note is the Samoan temple ruin referenced in the title of the volume. The “House of the Octopus” (O le Fale o le Fe’e) was evidently distinctive for its stone vertical supports, a design otherwise absent in the island environment where plenty of trees were to hand for building pillars. Although the cuttlefish god continued to be reverenced, this site was already in long disuse by the 19th century, and the writers represented here had the opportunity of discovering it as a “lost” site (with the aid of knowledgeable locals).

Colavito has provided a rather minimal editorial service here, pulling the five source essays together into a single, brief volume that he has issued through lulu.com. His foreword provides little more than a reassurance that the materials are in factual earnest. He seems sure that Lovecraft didn’t know about the Samoan cuttlefish cult, but I have to wonder. See, for example, the reference to the Australian Buddai in “The Shadow Out of Time” for evidence of HPL’s study in this sort of material.

At some point, optical character recognition (OCR) was used to gather these texts, and they have suffered for it. Insufficient care was taken to eliminate artifacts like “rougli” for “rough,” and “cither” for “either” (both on p. 5, with many more to come). The cover design is attractive and appropriate, featuring a detail from an Enoch Arden engraving of 1869, and the book is a slim, convenient digest for the use of latter-day Miskatonic University students. [via]

Blake, Jung, and the Collective Unconscious

Blake, Jung, and the Collective Unconscious: The Conflict Between Reason and Imagination by June Singer, introduced by M Esther Harding part of the Jung on the Hudson book series, a 2000 paperback from Nicholas-Hays, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Amusingly, I also have a previous version of this same book, which I purchased on a separate occasion, but that has a different, more provocative, title and from another publisher: The Unholy Bible: Blake, Jung, and the Collective Unconscious by June Singer, introduced by M Esther Harding, a 1986 paperback from Sigo Press, is also part of the collection at the Reading Room.

June Singer M Esther Harding Blake, Jung and the Collective Unconscious from Nicolas-Hays

“More than ever, the time is ripe for June Singer’s penetrating commentary on William Blake’s work. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. For even the most devout literary scholars and art historians, much of Blake’s mystical visions and writing are perplexing. With his pen and brush, he gave birth to mythological figures and fantastic metaphors. Singer shows us that Blake was actually tapping into the collective unconscious and giving form and voice to primordial psychological energies, or archetypes, that he experienced in his inner and outer world. Blake’s writing and art was his personal dialogue between God and his own inner self—a reconciliation of duality—in which we can find clues to contemporary issues.

In the 18th century, Blake was a pioneer in finding, nurturing, and celebrating his personal connection with the divine, a search that still appeals to people who are coming to terms with the contemporary struggle between science and spirituality—the conflict between reality and imagination. With clarity and wisdom, Singer examines the images and words in each plate of Blake’s work, applying in her analysis the concepts that C. G. Jung advanced in his psychological theories. There is no more perfect lens with which to look at Blake’s work than that of Jung’s concept of the archetypes, the process of individuation, and the mysterium coniunctionis, in which consciousness and the unconscious are united.

This edition includes a new preface by Jung [sic!] Springer and a reproduction of 24 pages from Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.” — back cover


 

June Singer M Esther Harding The Unholy Bible from Sigo Press