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.

Cthulhurotica

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Cthulhurotica edited by Carrie Cuinn, from Dagan Books.

Carrie Cuinn Cthulhurotica

This collection of Yog-Sothothery has some stories with the sort of explicit sex the title might suggest, but in others, the authors simply offer stories of the “Mythos” where sex is not thoroughly ignored (in contrast to Lovecraft’s originals)! The vein most represented here is the Deep Ones lore of “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” (in stories such as “The C-Word,” “Transfigured Night,” “The Fishwives of Sean Brolly,” and “The Assistant from Innsmouth”), although of course stories inspired by “The Dunwich Horror” are not in short supply either, and there is a considerable variety overall. The one jauniste tale (“Flash Frame”) was unsurprisingly one of my favorites, but there were a lot of good stories throughout

Short fiction is not the entirety of the contents, though. There are black-and-white drawings illustrating many of the stories, mostly by artist Galen Dara, who shows some real versatility as well. There also three pieces of criticism at the end of the book, each of which has its merits. The first of them addresses the proliferation of Yog-Sothothery generally, the second anatomizes the erotic potentials of the Lovecraftian weird, and the third applies scholarly tools of genre and trope criticism to the actual fiction in the book. Also there are a couple of poems: Lovecraft’s “Astrophobos” is excerpted at the start and finish of the story collection, and the anonymous “Victim of Victims” is a filking of “Fiddler on the Roof” which really isn’t worthy of the rest of the volume. [via]

W B Yeats Twentieth-Century Magus

The librarian John Griogair Bell reviews W.B. Yeats Twentieth Century Magus: An In-Depth Study of Yeat’s Esoteric Practices and Beliefs, Including Excerpts from His Magical Diaries by Susan Johnston Graf, from Red Wheel / Weiser.

Susan Johnston Graf W B Yeats Twentieth-Century Magus

The author mainly focuses on Per Amica Silentia Lunae, and a couple other works, and there’s a surprising amount of repetition in the writing; but, the sustained analysis of themes and metaphors in Yeats’ work related to his occult studies and practices is quite interesting, such as rose, tower, vortex and others used for periods of time related to his specific personal working. Going back to the sources, and checking out the posthumously published Vision Papers is something about which I’m energized. Also, I clearly need not only revisit these works but also make sure I provide a number of these specifically esoteric works at the library. [via]

The Demon’s Librarian

The librarian John Griogair Bell reviews The Demon’s Librarian by Lilith Saintcrow.

Lilith Saintcrow The Demon's Librarian

Here’s me reading this book:

“Okay, here we go! Huh. Interesting take on the Order of the Dragon and vampires. Yep, definitely chicklit. Oh. That was interesting. Hey! Secret magical library! That’s great, and I sure wish I had one. Wait, I do have one. Man, my life is awesome. Back to the story … ooo, this would make great anime! Yeah, take that bad guys and good guys; don’t piss off the librarian!” [via]

Austerity and Revolt

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Austerity and Revolt by Werner Bonefeld and John Holloway.

Werner Bonefeld John Holloway Austerity and Revolt

This number of South Atlantic Quarterly supplies a wealth of Marxist reflection on the 21st-century relationships among capital, government, and populace. Several give particular attention to what I suspect of being an illusory question, namely, How is revolution possible? The “logic” of the dilemma is that since social oppression creates the political horizons for people, how can those people orient themselves to something beyond oppressive systems? But this bind is something of a Zeno’s paradox, premised on assumptions of closed systems and rigid continua. In fact, society is always changing, and no change in such a complex system is so deterministic as to foreclose on the possibility of enhanced liberty.

The “Against the Day” section of this issue is concerned with the recent uprisings in Egypt and Turkey. Even though there was no “happily ever after” to the events described here, their details are perhaps grounds for encouragement. [via]

Nymphomaniac

The librarian John Griogair Bell reviews the film Nymphomaniac by Lars Von Trier, with Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgård, et al.

Lars Von Trier Nymphomaniac

This is a dramatization of a conversation between the Old Aeon and New Aeon with the inevitable result.

The Sacred Rite of Magical Love

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Sacred Rite of Magical Love: A Ceremony of Word and Flesh by Maria de Naglowska, translated with introduction by Donald Traxler, from Inner Traditions.

Maria de Naglowska Donald Traxler The Sacred Rite of Magical Love from Inner Traditions

This slender volume is the third of Donald Traxler’s translations of the works of Maria de Naglowska, from her writings as a mystic and proponent of sex magic in Paris circa 1930. Its format is something of an inversion of the previous two volumes. Where those contain doctrinal instruction, with practical intimations in the form of fictional narratives about the initiation of a hypothetical candidate, this one is instead a murky pseudo-memoir, somewhat comparable to novels like Paschal Beverly Randolph’s Ravalette: The Rosicrucian’s Story or Franz Bardon’s Frabato the Magician.

A central feature of the reminiscence of “Xenophanta” (the book’s speaker, and the byline of its original serialization under the name Xenia Norval) is her encounter with what certainly appears to be a personified Lucifer character — this, despite Traxler’s continued quotation of Naglowska’s injunction not “to imagine Satan … as living outside of us, for such imagining is proper to idolaters” (xiii). “Xenia’s” attraction to this Other put me very much in mind of The Story of Mary MacLane — and it is not impossible that MacLane’s 1901 confessions (titled in MS I Await the Devil’s Coming) had been accessible to Naglowska, perhaps even in French translation. (As a translator of P.B. Randolph’s work, Naglowska could certainly have read MacLane in the original English, though.)

An enigmatic diagram called the AUM CLOCK is drawn by Xenia under praeternatural inspiration in the course of the story, and it serves as the preoccupation of Naglowska’s explanatory preface. Traxler supplies an appendix in which he analyzes the contradictory details regarding this figure, and then proposes an abstruse astrological interpretation of it. His astrological reasoning leads him to identify certain dates as being indicated, but he doesn’t even go so far as to propose why any dates would be highlighted in this arcane manner.

Another appendix from Traxler investigates Naglowska’s sources. It is gratifying to see him expose the Joachimist bedrock on which her teachings rest, and he is doubtless correct about the influences of Eugene Vintras and Henri Bergson. It was a little disappointing that he omitted the French occult tradition of Sophianic mysticism stemming from the Eglise Gnostique of Jules Doinel, which was even more consequential than Vintras for Jean Bricaud, whom Traxler notes as a possible transmitter of Vintrasian ideas in Naglowska’s milieu.

As with Traxler’s other Naglowska books, this one is an important contribution to the literature of sex magic as developed in the 20th century. [via]