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.

Aleister Crowley and the Temptation of Politics

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Aleister Crowley and the Temptation of Politics by Marco Pasi, from Acumen Publishing.

Marco Pasi Aleister Crowley and the Temptation of Politics from Acumen Publishing

I had known about this book for many years, and while I am unequipped to engage the Italian original, I had more than once considered taking on the German edition. I am glad I waited long enough to benefit from the English version, though. Not only does it include the author’s revision and expansion, the timing has allowed it to come into useful dialog with Richard B. Spence’s Secret Agent 666, another volume drawing on an overlapping set of data. Pasi accuses Spence of overindulging in speculation and of oversimplifying Crowley’s motives. (I find myself more in agreement on the second count than the first.) Whereas Spence offers a picture of a Crowley whose loyalties to his home country are privately invariable, Pasi is more apt to take Crowley on the basis of his mercurial presentation.

Among the many variations in Crowley’s character and political interests as traced by Pasi, there is a single watershed point. Like Alex Owen, Israel Regardie, and Crowley himself, Pasi locates this change in the Algerian desert operations by which Crowley completed his passage of the Ordeal of the Abyss. Prior to this episode, Pasi observes, Crowley’s focus was on the adventure of self-development, while after it he pursued the mission of communicating his Law of Thelema and putting it into practice in society.

On either side of this biographical divide, however, Pasi notices inconsistencies in Crowley’s expressed political affections and associations. He tends to characterize these as a function of the magician’s “opportunism” or “pragmatism” with respect to political movements. Given how very contradictory some of these political positions were, however, a further level of explanation is required. Pasi has dismissed (perhaps too quickly, in light of these contradictions) the solution of double agency proposed by Spence, but he omits another possible rationale to which he should have been attentive.

For the younger Crowley-as-aspirant, radical change of political perspective was a magical discipline for spiritual development. He documents this practice in the form of an instruction in the technical paper Liber III vel Jugorum: “By some device, such as the changing of thy ring from one finger to another, create in thyself two personalities … For instance, let A be a man of strong passions, skilled in the Holy Qabalah, a vegetarian, and a keen ‘reactionary’ politician. Let B be a bloodless and ascetic thinker, occupied with business and family cares, an eater of meat, and a keen progressive politician. Let no thought proper to A arise when the ring is on the B finger, and vice versa.”

For the mature magus, on the other hand, there were the words of the Angel of the Fifth Aire whom he had encountered in Tolga, Algeria in 1913: “For below the Abyss, contradiction is division; but above the Abyss, contradiction is Unity. And there could be nothing true except by virtue of the contradiction that is contained in itself.” The Master of the Temple must thus finally comprehend in himself all political valences, expressing them as demanded by the finite conditions of circumstance. If, as the Thelemic scripture of Liber Porta Lucis avers, “To the adept, seeing all these things from above, there seems nothing to choose between Buddha and Mohammed, between Atheism and Theism,” then how much less between democracy and monarchy, capitalism and communism?

Besides a political biography of Crowley himself, and studies of his most politically significant close associates, Pasi’s book includes a special examination of the Beast’s connection with Fernando Pessoa, and the fake suicide that Crowley staged in Portugal. These events, interesting in their own right, shade into the final topic of “Counter-initiation and conspiracy,” the keynote of which is René Guénon’s allegation that Crowley’s Portuguese stunt was intended to allow him to slip off to Germany where he would become a special adviser to Hitler. As a matter of factual claim, this notion is laughable, but it makes an excellent anchor for a limited survey of others’ use of Crowley as a villain in political narratives.

Pasi’s Aleister Crowley and the Temptation of Politics was first published in 1999, but in its second major revision, it stands as one of the best examples of thoughtful 21st-century scholarship on Crowley. [via]

Arrive at Easterwine

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Arrive at Easterwine: The Autobiography of a Ktistec Machine by R A Lafferty.

R A Lafferty Arrive at Easterwine

I have read several of Lafferty’s novels. This one is one of the most opaque, and that’s saying something. The speaker-protagonist of this novel, Epistektes, is a machine created by and from the members of the Institute for Impure Science. Both the machine and the Institute figure in a number of Lafferty’s short stories, but this novel gives them a lot of room to play.

There seem to be obscure autobiographical elements for Lafferty in several of the characters, and I suspect the rambling, poetic and philosophical book of being an allegorical form of introspection. Still, it’s a fun tale eventuating in the discovery of the shape of the universe. It often sports with Christian myth in tantalizing ways, and it has a sort of Fortean jollity that I found enchanting. [via]

Cities of the Fantastic: The Invisible Frontier Vol. 2

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Cities of the Fantastic: The Invisible Frontier Vol. 2 by Benoit Peeters and Francois Schuiten.

Francois Schuiten Benoit Peeters Cities of the Fantastic Vol 2

This “Volume 2″ does seem to conclude The Invisible Frontier, with chapters that become shorter and more discontinuous as the story proceeds. Like the preceding volume, it is full of beautiful images. Shame on the publishers for cropping the English cover image so that the feminine form of the terrain is obscured. [via]

Images & Oracles of Austin Osman Spare

Images & Oracles of Austin Osman Spare by Kenneth Grant, the 2003 hardcover from Fulgur Limited, is part of the collection at the Reading Room. The only place that appears to have this still new in stock is JD Holmes, so the rare 1976 Weiser Books edition seems to have been joined in rareness by the 500 copies of the 2003 Fulgur reprint.

Kenneth Grant Images and Oracles of Austin Osman Spare from Fulgur Limited

Images and Oracles of Austin Osman Spare concerns one of the most unusual artists of the twentieth century. Frequently compared with luminaries such as Aubrey Beardsley, Albrecht Dürer and William Blake, the eccentric genius Austin Osman Spare (1886–1956) was fêted as an Edwardian draughtsman of exceptional power and ability—but he quickly gained another reputation—that of a practising sorcerer.

His early relationship with an aged member of the Witch Cult influenced his entire life, leading him into the more obscure byways of the occult world. Such was his knowledge and ability that Aleister Crowley claimed him as a disciple, but Spare was not born to follow. He turned his back on worldly ambition—the ‘inferno of the normal’ as he called it—and devoted his remarkable gifts to trafficking with the denizens of other dimensions.

Spare’s highly individualistic system of sorcery is applicable to daily life. His magical deployment of art and sex in the service of self-realization may surprise or mystify, but for those who test his methods they will prove certain means of self-knowledge and consciousness expansion—doors opening on worlds of strange beauty.

Written by Kenneth Grant, Spare’s literary executor, Images and Oracles is here reprinted after nearly thirty years in response to an increasing interest in the artist and his philosophy. It contains a biographical essay that includes many personal recollections, a practical introduction to Spare’s unusual system of sorcery—and many excerpts from his final magical treatise: The Zoetic Grimoire of Zos.” — flap copy

Liber Sigil-A-IAF

Liber Sigil-A-IAF by Aion 131, the 2010 library edition hardcover from Waning Moon Publications, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Aion 131 Liber Sigil-A-IAF from Waning Moon Publications

“A modern grimoire of New Aeon Magick that consists of a series of Major Sigils crafted as ritually manifested automatic drawings along with arcane writings ‘pertaining’ to them. Thelemic at it’s core, this work is empowered by the energies of the current Aeon of HORUS but is also deeply rooted in other Aeonic energies, most specifically the magickal current of MAAT: the aeon to come which is manifesting here and now as well. Together they form The Double Current. The book is organized by the ‘natures of the spirits manifest’ into five sections that fall under the major Thelemic/Aeonic Archetypes NU, HAD, HERU, MAAT and the Shadow which is PAN. They are representations of abstract laws, powers, and conglomerates of symbols with uniting elements that can be activated and used to access deep strata of the inner-being. They are not to be intellectualized. The Grimoire is both a work of art magick as well as a tool that can be used to help accomplish The Great Work by the open minded New Aeon Adept with Love & Will.” [via]

Jane Wolfe

Jane Wolfe: The Cefalu Diaries 1920 – 1923 by Jane Wolfe, commentary by Aleister Crowley, compiled and introduced by David Shoemaker, the 2008 deluxe edition from College of Thelema of Northern California (now International College of Thelema), is part of the collection at the Reading Room. The papercover version is still available via print on demand.

David Shoemaker Aleister Crowley Jane Wolfe The Cefalù Diaries from College of Thelema of Northern California

“A fascinating look into the training undertaken by Jane Wolfe, a student of Aleister Crowley, at the Abbey of Thelema in Cefalu, Sicily. This book collects the bulk of Wolfe’s surviving diary entries from Cefalu, most of which were typed, complete with handwritten commentary from Crowley on many pages. The diary is presented in grayscale facsimile format. Compiled and Introduced by Dr. David Shoemaker.” [via]

The Complete Magick Curriculum of the Secret Order G∴B∴G∴

The Complete Magick Curriculum of the Secret Order G∴B∴G∴: Being the Entire Study, Curriculum, Magick Rituals, and Initiatory Practices of the G∴B∴G∴ (The Great Brotherhood of God) by Louis T Culling; edited, revised, and expanded by Carl Llewellyn Weschke; from Llewellyn Publications, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Louis T Culling Carl Llewellyn Weschcke The Complete Magick Curriculum of the Secret Order G∴B∴G∴ from Llewellyn Publications

“Founded upon the revolutionary premise that High Magick can be distilled to a few powerful and efficient steps, Louis T. Culling’s original edition of this classic magick book broke all the rules.

Llewellyn is proud to present an updated and expanded edition of this pioneering work.

The G∴B∴G∴, or “Great Brotherhood of God,” was a magickal order founded by acclaimed magician Frater Genesthai. Louis T. Culling, one of the initial members of the G∴B∴G∴ in California, was instructed by Genesthai to reveal the Order’s magickal curriculum when the time was right.

Carl Llewellyn Weschcke, publisher of Culling’s original edition of this book, offers illuminating commentary, definitions, and discussion points to render these profound magickal philosophies and practices even more accessible and relevant for contemporary magickal practice. This new edition is also an interesting philosophical commentary, answering a number of questions about historical occult orders and figures like Aleister Crowley. The techniques taught in this curriculum include:

Dream Recall and Interpretation · Functioning in the Borderland · Finding One’s True Magickal Identity · The Retirement Ritual · The Invocation of Thoth · Ritual Divination · Imprinting the I Ching on the Body · The Three Degrees of Sex Magick · Thelema and the Magickal Will · Invocation of Human Quality · The Rite of Transubstantiation · Conversations with a God · Magickal Offspring—the Familiar · The Great Lunar Trances” — back cover

Vūdū Cartography

Vudu Cartography: The Autobiography of Michael Houdeaux by Michael Bertiaux, the 2010 hardcover from Fulgur Limited, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Michael Bertiaux Vudu Cartography from Fulgur Limited

Vūdū Cartography explores the mysteries of ‘Les Vūdū’ through chants, oracles, séances and a symbolic system of images—all connected by a descriptive narrative which leads us, like a dusty highway, through the shimmering landscape.

Drawn from his rich experiences in Haiti, Bertiaux’s own evocative voudon ‘art brut’ creates a map for those regions of ‘invisible power’, giving the reader strange ingress to the ‘mysteries and hiddenesses of an exotic theology, with its spiritist twists and turns and esoteric spaces.’

Golden Dawn Rituals and Commentaries

Golden Dawn Rituals and Commentaries by Pat Zalewski, edited by Darcy Küntz, from the Rosicrucian Order of the Golden Dawn, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Pat Zalewski Golden Dawn Rituals and Commentaries

“This is not another beginner book on Magick that so many large publishing houses tend to print. This book was designed for the intermediate and advanced practitioner of the Order of the Golden Dawn. Pat Zalewski was fortunate enough to work with original members of the Stella Matutina and was taught the inner secrets of the Adepts. Now for the first time, these secrets are being published so that those who could benefit from this knowledge will learn as Zalewski had done with his mentor, Jack Taylor. Also being released for the first time is the connection between the Admission Badges and the Temple floor diagrams. Zalewski also discusses in-depth the God-form assumption techniques he learned. Many significant lessons are contained in this book that you will not get from any other source.” — Darcy Küntz, back cover

The Voudon Gnostic Workbook

The Voudon Gnostic Workbook: Expanded Edition by Michael Bertiaux, introduction by Courtney Willis, from Weiser Books, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Michael Bertiaux The Voudon Gnostic Workbook from Weiser Books

“Available for the first time as a facsimile of the original, this edition of Michael Bertiaux’s rare esoteric text comes expanded with a new introduction by renowned Gnostic Voodoo scholar Courtney Willis. The Voudon Gnostic Workbook is a singular sacred work, comprehensive in scope—from how to be a lucky Hoodoo to how Magick and Voodoo intersect energetically to esoteric time travel. Complete with charts and graphs and instructive interdimensional physics, The Voudon Gnostic Workbook is an object of desire among students of the occult.

Voodoo derives from the Dahomean Gods called the Loa. Esoteric Voodoo is actually a highly practical procedure for leading us into making contact with the deepest levels of our being and most ancient modes of consciousness. Michael Bertiaux’s The Gnostic Voudon Workbook is the most comprehensive and illuminating contemporary book on the subject. Begun out of a correspondence course and series of classes for students and followers of Voudon Gnosticism and the OTO, this seminal text is at once one of the most mysterious and magnificent of all esoteric books.” — back cover