Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Taboo A Legend Retold from the Dirghic of Sævius Nicanor, with Prolegomena, Notes, and a Preliminary Memoir by James Branch Cabell
Cabell’s novel Jurgen was the subject of an obscenity case brought in 1919 by Anthony Comstock’s New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, then headed by John H. Sumner. After two years of highly-publicized trial, the court found in favor of the defendants, Cabell and his publisher Robert M. McBride and Company. In 1921, McBride published a short work by Cabell in hardcover. This book Taboo: A Legend Retold from the Dirghic of Saevius Nicanor was dedicated to Sumner, with the claim that the notoriety conferred by the prosecution had rescued Cabell’s commercial prospects as a writer. He called Sumner a “philanthropic sorcerer” whose “thaumaturgy” had not only generated public interest in Jurgen, but resurrected prospects for the author’s other books (11-13). The hilarious little story of Taboo is set in the country of Philistia where it is the height of indecency to speak of eating, and a writer is accused of the “very shameless mention of a sword and a spear and a staff,” culpable since “one has but to write ‘a fork’ here, in the place of each of these offensive weapons, and the reference to eating is plain” (26).
The sword and spear and staff were in reference to Chapter 22 of Jurgen, “As to a Veil They Broke,” which Cabell had in large measure lifted from the Gnostic Mass of Aleister Crowley, and Cabell also mentioned these weapons in his later “Judging of King Jurgen” episode, where the tumblebug Philistine prosecutor indicted Jurgen as “indecent for reasons of which a description would be objectionable to me, and which therefore I must decline to reveal to anybody.”
The entirety of Taboo is an attack on hypocritical pearl-clutching regarding sex. Its satire is constructed around a conceit in which eating (a human activity no more essential than sex, if perhaps more frequent) receives the sort of conversational proscription that Cabell’s contemporaries sought to impose on sex. Still, an appreciative reader must admit that such constraints led Cabell to write some very entertaining prose. These are not limited to the absurdities of Taboo and the literature around Jurgen, and they include the clever and hilarious encounters with the cult of the Holy Nose of Lytreia and that of the shaggy goddess Koleos Koleros in Something About Eve.
Anthony Comstock figures in the tale as “St. Anthony Koprologos” and Sumner is himself “John the Scavanger.” The set-upon protagonist of Taboo is not Jurgen but the Cabell alter-ego Horvendile, whose writings are “suspected of encroachment upon gastronomy” (30). Throughout the text, the reader may profit further by converting references to eating back into references to sex, for another, more familiar-seeming, but still equally absurd story.
Even though it concludes with a lament for the persistence of moralistic censorship, Taboo was a very amusing victory lap for Cabell and McBride.
Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Private Labyrinth of Malcolm Lowry: Under the Volcano and the Cabbala by Perle Epstein.
Since its publication in 1969, Perle Epstein’s book-length study The Private Labyrinth of Malcolm Lowry: Under the Volcano and the Cabbala has served as a point of reference for scholars interested in Lowry’s cabbalistic ideas. Unfortunately, she barely touches on the works of Lowry’s cabbalistic instructor Charles Stansfeld Jones, and she fails to discuss the aspects that made him distinctive as a cabbalist.
The one book by Jones that Epstein refers to by name in the body of her text is The Anatomy of the Body of God, and this book she painfully mis-characterizes as dealing “primarily with forecasting and manipulating the course of world events” (100). The only political language in Jones’ entire book is in the course of the last few pages, which include an exhortation to “those in whose charge is the Civil destiny of the Nations,” among other potential readers. There is no discussion of any sort of divination or prediction, regarding world events or otherwise. The Anatomy of the Body of God is in fact concerned primarily (and almost exclusively) with the geometric aspects of the diagram of the Tree of Life, its projection in scale and dimension, and the symbolic corollaries of Jones’ innovations in this regard, applied to alphabetic and numerical correspondences.
Epstein does devote a fair amount of attention to drawing a line between Jewish cabbalistic traditions and their Christian and hermetic derivatives, in order to point out that Jones and by extension Lowry were in the latter camp (14-44). (William H. New calls this section of Epstein’s book “factual, earnest and flat.”) But perhaps even more significant than the religious and doctrinal differences that distinguish what Epstein calls “The Two Cabbalas,” is the epistemological divide between these expressions of traditional mysticism and the modern hermetic cabbala of Jones and his instructor Aleister Crowley. For such Thelemic cabbalists, the purpose of the elaborate system of the Tree and the Paths is to afford heuristics by which any and all knowledge can be interrelated, with extrapolations to higher states of consciousness. Accordingly, it needs to be personalized with reference to individual experience in order to function.
This idea that the cabbala is a set of generic conventions to hold individualized contents accords quite well with Lowry’s description of the Consul’s ability to “dodge about in the rigging of the Cabbala like a St. Jago’s monkey.” It also accounts for the manner in which Lowry was able to seize on Jones’ cabbala as a mechanism for literary composition. It is, however, at odds with Epstein’s reading of the Volcano as employing a “Christian Cabbala” as a set of codified (if haphazardly syncretized) doctrines under symbolic coverings. To the extent that mystical doctrines are included in Lowry’s Volcano, they are Thelemic ones about the Adventure of the Abyss and the Black Brothers, alien to Epstein’s learning. Although she notices Lowry’s attention to black and white magicians, her explanation of that distinction (8) cites no authority and provides no clarity.
(My own study of Lowry’s cabbalism and his relationship to Charles Stansfeld Jones can be found under the title “Bizarre Sons” in the volume Success Is Your Proof.)
Greater Feast of Pamela Colman Smith, Pixie, died Sept 18, 1951 at Bude, United Kingdom
Here’s a summary of activity for the week ending September 16th, 2018.
My trip to get the computer fixed went all snafu 1/3 of the way there. So … yeah. Still working on that. Some day, maybe.
Postal Exchange and Publication Subscription perks for Patrons when out, and should probably have all arrived by now. I’ll start working on the next one now!
I had a suggestion for a Research Topic from a Patron, and, oddly enough, that’s the first I time! A Patron suggested they’d like to hear more about the Order of Asiatic Brethren, So, I posted that specific call for submissions, and reached out to a couple of people to see if they had thoughts. This one might be a big hard to get more information about, as I’m told there’s a lot of unpublished material out there, but no one I talked to was able to add more new research. Still, we’ve got the call for submissions out, and we might get lucky and encourage new work.
I did create a new entry on the Hermeneuticon wiki for Order of the Asiatic Brethren which you can gander at. (This article is one of several brand new articles, and I’ll be working on more of those as I am able.)
Also, since this was apparently the first research topic that’s been suggested, I wanted to remind everyone about the Research Topics perk for ongoing Patrons of Hermetic Library. If you’re already a Patron with that perk, consider letting me know, if there are and research topics that you’d like to have posted. If you want to participate in suggesting new research topics, and help support the submissions process for new work on those topics, consider joining in!
I also have created a new short link http://research.hrmtc.com that will arrive at a list of all the posted Research Topics on the library blog.
This weekend I posted a brand new Omnium Gatherum to the blog. It’s been a few years since I’ve done that. When I created the Hrmtc Underground BBS, I’d started to move all my Gatherum activity over there, and that’s still a place for it; but, I haven’t done much of that even there lately. I kinda miss them. So, I’m going to try doing them again, but they’ll be collected posts on the blog, which will also be available over on the BBS.
Don’t forget the rapidly approaching September 30th deadline for the call for submissions to Hermetic Library’s anthology album for 2018, Magick, Music and Ritual 14! If you were waiting, now’s the time to send those in! Really, this time in the process is always so stressful, as I never know if things will come together until they do, usually at the last minute. But, there’s less than a month left. Only a couple weeks. Now’s the time to get on it!
Lots of new pages and work on old pages on the site, which is pretty much every week, really. You can always check the front page of the site which shows the most recent changes and new pages, or check out the Recent Changes special page for a full list.
Want to join me on this blog and create new art or writing for Hermetic Library? Pitch your Idea.
Here’s a summary of posts on the blog from this last week
- Omnium Gatherum: September 16, 2018
- Antagonists in the Church — Review
- Call for submissions on the research topic Order of the Asiatic Brethren
- Greater Feast of Dante Alighieri — Calendar
- Greater Feast of Leila Waddell — Calendar
- The Power of the Serpent — Review
- Claiming Knowledge — Review
- The Cassini Division — Review
Some top pages at the library
- The Magical Household — Bkwyrm’s Occult Book Reviews
- The Papyrus of Ani — Sacred Texts
- The I Ching (Yi King / Liber CCXVI) — Aleister Crowley
- The Seven Planes from The Astral World — William Walker Atkinson
- Enochian Temples: Invoking the cacodemons with the Temple — Benjamin Rowe
Some top posts on social media
- Hermetic Library is seeking help! New pages, translations, metadata, and more are needed; and gratis music downloads, an honorarium, and gratitude are all available for your efforts! Go to this link for more details — Twitter
- Hermetic Library is seeking help! New pages, translations, metadata, and more are needed; and gratis music downloads, an honorarium, and gratitude are all available for your efforts! Go to this link for more details — Google+
- Last few weeks before the Sept 30th deadline for submissions to Magick, Music and Ritual 14, the 2018 Anthology Album! Now’s the time! — Twitter
- Last few weeks before the Sept 30th deadline for submissions to Magick, Music and Ritual 14, the 2018 Anthology Album! Now’s the time! — Google+
- Only 3 weeks left until the Sept 30th deadline for submissions to Magick, Music and Ritual 14, so get on it! It’s time!
An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for September 16, 2018
- Occulture: Aleister Crowley & Rudolf Steiner, an on-demand lecture by Carl Abrahamsson
“Aleister Crowley and Rudolf Steiner were two of the most influential spiritual and religious teachers of the 20th century. Their respective philosophical systems of Thelema (Crowley) and Anthroposophy (Steiner) today engage tens of thousands of people in all regions of the world. When comparing their teachings, we can see both similarities and differences. But… the similarities weigh considerably heavier than the differences. Why is that? Were they tapping into something greater in their Zeitgeist? An overall cosmic, pro-individualistic philosophy they both simply developed in their own systemic languages? If so, then maybe their differences were just strictly personal, with one very distinct Dionysian character (Crowley) and one Apollonian (Steiner), according to Nietzsche’s categorization. In this lecture, I look at these giants and try to sort out what’s what and who’s who. Join me!”
- “The Chip Butty Is the Deranged Nonsensical Sandwich of My Dreams” — Alex Siquig, GQ; from the 93 dept.
“Blood pudding, mushy peas, Marmite, brown sauce, cucumber sandwiches, beans on toast: The British adhere to the ‘eat what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law’ custom of chowing down—that is to say, devouring whatever the hell bizarre thing they want and worrying about things such as caloric intake and dignity afterward.”
- Tweet by Dan Devorkin
million dollar idea: ouija board with unicode support pic.twitter.com/8F0HSMqWzP
— Dan Devorkin (@asap_devorkin) September 13, 2018
- Tweet by catposting™; from the Forest-Spirit-will-see-you-now dept.
— catposting™ (@kittiesbot) September 15, 2018
- Make your dream — The Auracle, YouTube
- Happy Birthday Teaser for Chilling Adventures of Sabrina — Netflix, YouTube
- Tweet by Doth; from the 93 dept.
It’s a perfect night to become possessed by a demon. Do what you want. You’re an adult.
— Doth (@DothTheDoth) September 5, 2018
- “‘Devil letter’ written by nun ‘possessed by Satan’ more than 300 years ago has finally been translated” — Courtney Pouchin, Mirror UK
“The letter, is said to describe God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit as ‘deadweights’ and states: ‘God thinks he can free mortals’ but ‘this system works for no one.’
It even goes as far as to claim that God was invented by man.”
- Tweet by Julie Bogan; from the Faster-Pussycat dept.
Was researching mass hysteria after the outbreak plane today. Found this and oh my god it is the best. pic.twitter.com/0Mu755H6DB
— Julie Bogen (@JaBogen) September 6, 2018
- “[ST. AUGUSTINE] shirt” — owen cyclops
- “WATCH: Can You Affect Another Person’s Behavior With Your Thoughts?” — Liana Simstrom, NPR; from the Spooky-Action-at-a-Distance dept.
“Do you think that the private thoughts in your head could influence how other people — or creatures — act? The answer is “Of course not,” right? Because to say yes would be to admit you believe in mind control or telekinesis or some other phenomenon usually reserved for superhero comic books.
But early in his career, a research psychologist named Bob Rosenthal wasn’t so sure. So to test his hypothesis, he designed a devious experiment.”
“Scientists are still studying this phenomenon in people, Dweck says, learning more about ‘things that are possible and mechanisms through which a belief affects an outcome or one person affects another person.'”
- Synesthesia Tarot Deck — Jana Walker, crowdfunding at Kickstarter; from the 17-Days-to-Go dept.
“Traditional tarot cards tend to be heavily illustrated. However, this deck stems from my desire to create a modern and unique tarot deck that anyone can connect to. The cards still retain the meaning of traditional tarot cards, yet strip away the extra layers with clean and simple line drawings. I used this deck as a chance to fuse both my love for design and tarot, and believe it can serve as a companion deck for avid users, an introductory deck for a brand new user, or as a statement piece in someone’s home. ”
Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Antagonists in the Church: How To Identify and Deal With Destructive Conflict by Kenneth C Haugk.
This manual on management of “antagonists” in church settings was listed in a bibliography of leadership resources for my own religious body. I saw it objected to as “fascist” by other clergy, and a claim was circulated that its influence was to blame for the decline of a kindred sect. Naturally, I had to read it to make up my own mind. It was a fast read, with clear writing and straightforward structure.
By “antagonists,” the author means oppositional personalities who engage in disintegrative attacks within a group, usually aimed at the leadership. Anyone who has been involved with religious or social organizing for a decade or two is sure to have seen this phenomenon. At the same time, the nature of such work lends itself to an idealistic outlook where such hazards tend to be downplayed or ignored. Leaders often assume a commonality of motive among their membership, which is belied by the behavior of individuals who gratify themselves by vilifying their own associates, staging confrontations, and initiating whispering campaigns.
Nearly half of the book is dedicated to diagnosis, the identification of genuine antagonists within environments where constructive conflict is presumably welcomed. Author Haugk details twenty symptoms or “red flags,” none of which are conclusive in themselves, but which in combination can help to highlight individuals who warrant cautious interaction. The risk in this approach is to motivate paranoia and witch-hunts, but the text is leavened with caveats, and the innate tendencies of sincere leaders will be to under-diagnose this problem, not the reverse. Although I was not so keen on the use of psychiatric nosology in the section “Personality Characteristics of Antagonists,” the practical aspects of this part of the book were sound.
Likewise, I was impressed with the pragmatic details of the sections on “Preventing Antagonism” and “Dealing with Antagonism.” Contrary to the rumors I had heard about this book, none of the tactics recommended here seemed in any way coercive to individuals or likely to undermine the coherence of a group. They are explicitly tailored to the antagonistic setting, and wouldn’t be optimal for routine interactions with membership or fellow leaders. But the likelihood of abusive behavior arising from these procedures seems to me rather minimal.
The book is written by a Christian for fellow Christians, and it occasionally has recourse to theological justifications. As a non-Christian myself, I found it easy to elide the Jesus talk and to substitute my own religious symbols and ideology without in any way disrupting the practical advice of the book. In fact, Haugk has to struggle at several points to interpret and mitigate the Christian ideological imperatives of “forgiveness” and “turning the other cheek,” but these are moot in my own religious circumstance.
There is no discussion of digital forums or online behavior in this book, as it was written before religious groups had taken to the Internet in the way that they now do. Unfortunately, “social media” are in some ways optimized for the expressions and activity of antagonists. If a comparable text were written today, it would certainly give some attention to that dimension of the problem.
In sum, I found this book to be more helpful than not. In addition to the value of its practical advice, it supplies encouragement to organizers and group members who are faced with antagonism, to address it rather than avoid it. Such workers and their organizations should benefit from that approach.
I am announcing today an ongoing call for submissions on Order of the Asiatic Brethren, and related specific research topics such as Paschal Beverly Randolph, The Hermetic Brotherhood or Light, and so on. These are topics that would be of interest to the audience of the library, which includes academics, researchers, practitioners, and the curious.
If you would like to pitch a new work, please pitch your idea! Hermetic Library would like to encourage you to create your new art, writing, video, or … something else? Gratitude, gratis music downloads, and an honorarium payment, supported by the ongoing Patrons of the library, are all available for creators of successful submissions.
If you have an existing work, please consider submitting that to the Hermetic Library Zine. Hermetic Library irregularly issues a ‘zine with various materials, when there are enough submissions available.
This research topic was suggested by one of my ongoing Patrons with the Research Topic perk. If you’d like to participate in the submissions process, or help in developing research topics, become a Patron of Hermetic Library today!
Greater Feast of Dante Alighieri, died September 13/14, 1321 at Ravenna, Papal States
Greater Feast of Leila Ida Nerissa Bathurst Waddell, died Sept 13, 1932 at Darling Point, Sydney