Monthly Archives: December 2020

Omnium Gatherum: 30dec2020

An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for December 30, 2020

Here’s a variety of notable things I’ve recently found that you may also be interested in checking out:

This post was possible because of support from generous ongoing Patrons and Members of the newsletter. Both Patrons and Members get access to Omnium Gatherum immediately and directly via web and email. On the blog, this will be exclusive to Patrons for one year, after which I’ll make it publicly available to everyone so they can see what they’ve been missing.

Omnium Gatherum: 27dec2020

An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for December 27, 2020

Here’s a variety of notable things I’ve recently found that you may also be interested in checking out:

This post was possible because of support from generous ongoing Patrons and Members of the newsletter. Both Patrons and Members get access to Omnium Gatherum immediately and directly via web and email. On the blog, this will be exclusive to Patrons for one year, after which I’ll make it publicly available to everyone so they can see what they’ve been missing.

“Dearest princess!” I replied, “I do not know what you are talking about. I am not luminous, and I never saw a luminous man. In our country nobody has a light of his own.”

“Alas!” said the princess, “what a fearful fate it must be to have no light, and to live in a country of perpetual darkness.”

Franz Hartmann, Among the Gnomes

Hermetic quote Hartmann Among the Gnomes to live in a country of perpetual darkness

She had found a nasty, forbidden little book in the great Ninth repositories of nasty, forbidden little books, and all the Houses would have had a collective aneurysm if they knew she’d even read it.

Tamsyn Muir, Gideon the Ninth [Bookshop, Amazon, Publisher]

Hermetic quote Muir Gideon the Ninth nasty forbidden little book

The Tourmaline

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Tourmaline [Amazon] by Paul Park.

Park The Tourmaline

I was dubious about the “YA” designation for the first book of Paul Park’s Roumania series–a label not asserted by either the author or the publisher as far as I can tell. This second volume demonstrates that it just doesn’t apply. The story is a decidedly mature fantasy, even if it includes some youngish characters. I don’t know if it makes much of a difference now that there is a significant reading demographic of “old adults” who prefer “YA” books, but since I’m not one of those, I figured I might question the label.

It took me over a year to get to this second volume after reading A Princess of Roumania, but the narrative was able to bring me back into the plot efficiently enough, and my slight fuzziness on what had gone before actually kept me sympathetic to the main characters whose perspectives were stressed and transformed over the course of the story.

In The Tourmaline there is a considerable development of definition and detail for the alternate-historical aspects of the Roumanian world. Africa is more technologically advanced than Europe. Christianity, such as it is, seems to be a hero cult within a persistent Roman paganism. This book also provides more clarity on the properties and powers of “the hidden world” that is the basis of its supernatural magic.

The end of this book is the mid-point of the four-volume series, and it resolves in a peculiar way, seeming to present the defeat of the principal villains, without corresponding triumph for the heroes. I’ll be taking a breather before The White Tyger, but hopefully not for as long as I let pass between the first two books.

The Middle Pillar

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Middle Pillar [Bookshop (2002), Amazon (2019), Amazon (2002), Amazon (1970)] by Israel Regardie.

Regardie The Middle Pillar 1970

I first read Israel Regardie’s The Middle Pillar in my teens, and it was then one of my more useful sources as an autodidact in ceremonial magick. I have since had occasion to recommend it over the years, but have only recently returned to it for a full re-read. My more recent impressions have been decidedly mixed. I am here reviewing the “second edition, revised and enlarged” of 1970 with immediate reference to the 1986 fourth printing.

To reflect first in favor of the book, it supplies more detail on the subjective elements of magical practice than most primers are willing to afford, and for students without the benefit of personal instruction these details are precious. It is grounded in highly conventional techniques of Hermetic magic stemming from the Order of the Golden Dawn, and it communicates these intelligibly. The book is short and not over-ambitious, supplying sufficient materials for preliminary training and emphasizing the need to walk before running, while offering a larger context for motivation.

A keynote of the text is its advocacy for analytical psychology as an adjunct to magick. On the theoretical level, Regardie uses psychoanalytic jargon in an effort to clarify hermetic-kabalistic spiritual anatomy. In my own experience, this gambit was only slightly effective. As a teenage reader, it was largely a matter of ignotum per ignotius, and I doubt whether most readers today are any more familiar with psychoanalytic theories than I was as a teenager. Moreover, Regardie is entirely too willing to credit secular psychology as a novel scientific undertaking, evidently heedless of its religious functions and Kabalistic genealogy. (Those interested in the latter topic should read David Bakan’s Sigmund Freud and the Jewish Mystical Tradition.)

While I will not join in Regardie’s evangelistic enthusiasm for the institutions of modern psychotherapy–Freudian, Jungian, or Reichian–I think that the underlying sentiment is sound: Magick is not therapy. No one should take up these practices without some preliminary self-criticism and awareness of personal limitations. Profane defects should be remedied through profane means. “If thou thyself hast not a sure foundation, whereon wilt thou stand to direct the forces of Nature?” (Liber XXX)

There are a few terminological peculiarities in this book. When introducing the Four Worlds of the Kabbalah, Regardie gives their usual English names (Archetypal, Creative, Formative, Active), but he does not provide their Hebrew names and instead gives terms from “the Hindu system”: TURYA, SUSHUPTI, SWAPNA, JAGRATA (65-7). Perhaps his aim here was to demonstrate cross-cultural validity of the metaphysical ideas, but he is not explicit about that, and succeeds only in muddying the waters with irrelevant jargon.

As in Regardie’s other early published works on occultism, The Middle Pillar uses Sephardic transliterations from Hebrew rather than the Ashkenazic ones that are more common in modern Hermetic literature–a superficial issue that does not really impair the text. In fact Regardie dismisses the need for any working knowledge of Hebrew in these basic techniques (144-5). As a minor (?) technical point, he is inconsistent with respect to the pronunciation of Tetragrammaton as “Yod-heh-vav-heh” in the pentagram ritual (95) and “Ye-hoh-voh” in the Middle Pillar (115). No rationale for the difference is offered. (I cannot say I am a fan of either of those pronunciations.)

The sequence of practical instruction in The Middle Pillar is a little jumbled. After the preliminaries of the first two chapters, Chapter Three seems to be a fairly full accounting of the pentagram ritual. At the head of Chapter Four, readers are admonished to spend two or three months on twice-daily work with the pentagram ritual before advancing to the Middle Pillar technique. But it is only at the end of Chapter Four, after describing the Middle Pillar ritual, that Regardie addresses the issue of attention to breath and breathing (125-9). Surely, these directions could usefully have come at the top of Chapter Three. Even more strangely, Chapter Five is principally instruction in the technique of projective vibration to be used with god-names. In the vertebral curriculum of ceremonial magick as I have come to appreciate it (see Crowley’s Liber O, for example), this latter technique is absolutely integral to the proper performance of the pentagram ritual. One might hope that readers would finish the whole fairly short book before undertaking the actual practices, but there is still no clear direction to apply the later details to the ritual outlined earlier in the book. In fact, there is a recurring emphasis on proceeding in the sequence in which the text introduces the practices.

What I found most off-putting on this read was Regardie’s coyness regarding his sources. For example, he dedicates nearly an entire page to an extensive quote regarding the formulation of telesmatic images, which he attributes to “One very clever expositor” (102). As it turns out, the quoted text is from Dion Fortune’s The Mystical Qabalah (Ch. IX, § 20), published in 1935, just one year before Regardie wrote The Middle Pillar (per the first edition’s foreword). Why not give credit where credit is due?

More significant is his failure to acknowledge the Law of Thelema despite his patent debts to it. He expresses a sort of removed approval for “one system nowadays” which “conceives of the Great Work as the partaking of the recognition of the Crowned and Conquering Child Horus” (25). He places in hard quotation marks a phrase taken from Liber Legis II:6–“the flame which burns in the core of every man”–but cites no source for it (93). (The slight inaccuracy here suggests that he is quoting from memory.) Nor does he explain the source for his quotation of Liber Legis II:70 (150-1). Perhaps he thought the still-living Aleister Crowley was just too scary for his readers in 1936. He had relaxed by 1970 though, admitting in his introduction to the second edition that The Middle Pillar “is an attempt to simplify and combine the practices both of the Golden Dawn with the insights and later developments of Aleister Crowley” (vii). Later still, Regardie would come to write of the Middle Pillar technique itself,

“It seems to be, as far as I can discover, a specific development of the Stella Matutina, in which case Dr. R. Felkin was its originator. This might explain why there is no trace whatsoever of its usage in the technical writings of Aleister Crowley, who has certainly made good use of most of the Order techniques, and who would surely have used this had it been available.” (The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic, Vol. III, p. 51).

This admission of the relative novelty of the practice casts something of a shade over Regardie’s earlier attributions of “negligence” and “failure” to magicians who had neither used it nor supplied it as an instruction to aspirants (110-1). As far as Crowley is concerned, I believe he did design a comparable technique into the Elevenfold Seal of Liber V.

Having acquainted myself with this book’s weaknesses, I would no longer recommend it as a stand-alone primer on the basic material it describes, but I don’t think it is quite obsolete. (Even in the foreword to the 1938 first edition, Regardie was already mildly deprecating it as “an expression of myself at that time” when he had written it two years earlier.) It marks a distinct phase in the popularization of magick, and it still supplies interesting discussion of its concepts and suitable encouragement to aspirants, all in a digestible package.

Three Books of Golden Dawn Tarot

Jeffrey S Kupperman reviews Three Books of Golden Dawn Tarot in Divination, Vol 1 No 4, from the archive of Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition.

Wang An Introduction to the Golden Dawn Tarot

An Introduction to the Golden Dawn Tarot [Amazon], Robert Wang. 158 pages. Samuel Weiser, Inc., York Beach, ME. $7.95 USD

First published in 1978, An Introduction to the Golden Dawn Tarot was the first book available that discussed solely the tarot as conceived by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (GD). Now students of the works of Israel Regardie, who had a great deal of input to both this book and its corresponding “Golden Dawn Tarot” deck had a quick reference manual for all of “Book T”. “Book T” also appears in the Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic and the Golden Dawn, however neither of these works are known for their easy indexing.

An Introduction contains more than just the raw tables of “Book T”. The first 51 pages of this small book discusses several topics anent the history surrounding the Golden Dawn tarot. For instance decks produced by various members of the GD are mentioned as well as how and often why they differ from the GD manuscripts. There is also a section talking about the differences between “exoteric” and “esoteric” tarot decks. More importantly, at least from the practicing magician’s point of view, there is a discussion on how the tarot can be used in ritual and for skrying.

The majority of the book contains the information from “Book T”, which includes not only the tarot descriptions and their meanings but also associated astrological information and the complex tarot reading known as the Opening by Key. Also included in this work is a paper by Mrs. Felkin, the wife of the Chief of the New Zealand Smaragdum Thalasses, an offshoot of the original GD after its schism. The book concludes with A.E. Waite’s “Ten Card Method of Tarot – Divination”, originally published in his Pictorial Key to the Tarot and a two page recommended reading list.

Perhaps the only thing that is disappointing about An Introduction to the Golden Dawn Tarot is the tarot deck that Dr. Wang produced to go with it. While the deck is accurate to the imagery of the Golden Dawn documents the illustration and color work are lacking in brightness, making the deck appear dull and faded. From the perspective of the GD’s color theory this will cause the tarot images to be less useful tools than they otherwise could be. From an aesthetic perspective the deck fails to compare with decks such as the Thoth deck designed by Aleister Crowley and painted by Lady Frieda Harris or Sandra Tabatha Cicero’s New Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot Deck (discussed below).

Cicero The New Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot

The New Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot: Keys to the Rituals, Symbolism, Magic & Divination [Bookshop, Amazon] Chic Cicero, Sandra Tabatha Cicero. 235 pages. Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, MN, $14.95 USD

Published in 1996, nearly 28 years after Robert Wang’s Golden Dawn tarot book, The New Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot is the second of only three books released to the public concerning the Golden Dawn tarot system. Unlike Wang’s work, however, the Cicero’s have gone beyond the original GD documents to create an updated tarot book and deck, which is still based on the teachings of the Golden Dawn.

The New Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot, like An Introduction contains all of the material in “Book T” (minus the paper on the tarot projected into a sphere, which is also missing from Wang), though some of it has been rewritten in modern language. However, the tarot card descriptions go beyond the simple one or two paragraphs of “Book T” to discuss each card more in-depth. The only criticism of this is that these added descriptions seem to apply mostly to the newer designs developed by Mrs. Cicero and do not always apply to the GD tarot as a whole, though the creative student should have little problem in extrapolating from one deck to another or adding the new symbolism to his or her catalog of symbols.

This book also contains over 70 pages dedicated solely to ritual work and divination. Unlike in Wang, which aside from the Opening by Key only discusses ritual work in theory, the Ciceros give examples of rituals, divination and skrying techniques as well as the complete rubric for performing them. The book ends with a page on the 32 paths of wisdom, a later annotation to the Jewish Kabbalistic work the Sefer Yetzirah and a good sized bibliography.

Along with The New Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot there is a New Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot Deck, designed and painted by Sandra Tabatha Cicero. This deck contrasts drastically from the Wang deck. Its colors are bright and vibrant and for the first time in a Golden Dawn deck the flashing colors are used. These aspects add to the overall usability of the deck for magical work. However the artwork of the deck is very stylistic, almost cartoon-ish, in nature and may not be to everyone’s liking.

Zalewski The Magical Tarot of the Golden Dawn

The Magical Tarot of the Golden Dawn: Divination, Meditation and High Magical Teachings [Bookshop, Amazon] Patrick J. Zalewski, Chris L. Zalewski. 395 pages. Open Mind Publications, Hastings, Australia. $50.00 USD Limited to 150 copies.

Published originally in 1997 but not released until several years later, The Magical Tarot of the Golden Dawn is possibly the most impressive of the Golden Dawn tarot books. This book is a massive volume, almost 400 pages in length on A4 size paper. Like the previous books this one discusses all of the material in “Book T” (including a re-written tarot and the celestial sphere paper). It also goes beyond the published GD documents in its treatment of the cards, however it does so in a traditional manner. Instead of creating a new version of the Golden Dawn tarot, the Zalewskis recreate a version of the original deck, even using images from the Smaragdum Thalasses’s original tarot deck.

The tarot card descriptions within The Magical Tarot of the Golden Dawn go far beyond the original descriptions and are often two to three pages in length. These descriptions include previously unpublished material from both S. L. MacGregor Mathers and various members of the Smaragdum Thalasses’s Ware Ra temple. Like in the Cicero’s book a great deal of research has been done into the history of the GD tarot and the tarot in general. There is a great deal of new information developed by the Zalewskis as well, as their discussion of the cards on an alchemical level or from the point of view of both spiritual evolution and involution.

Another new feature to this book is the discussion of color and how the GD tarot was traditionally supposed to be colored. According to the Zalewskis, they have published for the first time the correct Golden Dawn method for card coloring, which is apparently closer to that used in Crowley’s Thoth deck than in any other Golden Dawn based tarot. Along with this is a printing of the four color scales as used by Ware Ra, which different in numerous respects to those which have been printed by both Regardie and Crowley. The final 80 or so pages discuss numerous tarot spreads, including the Opening by Key, tarot skrying and meditation, and the re-written Golden Dawn paper entitled “Celestial Tarot”. The tarot spreads include some spreads which are the creation of the Zalewski and the section on mediation and skrying includes what can only be called “tarot poems” for each of the Trump Cards. Two methods for skrying are given in full as well as several examples of skryings already performed. The final section, “Celestial Tarot” contains reworked diagrams by Chris Zalewski. Unfortunately there is no bibliography, though many of the books used for researched are mentioned in the extensive footnotes.

There are two or three critiques to be made about The Magical Tarot of the Golden Dawn. The first of which is that, it being a work of self-publication, the binding method is worse than usual bookbindings. The comb binding used is inadequate for the size of the book causing the outside pages to tear. As mentioned there is no bibliography but there is also no index for cross-referencing. Finally there is not as yet a tarot deck to accompany this book, though according to Mr. Zalewski one being painted by Skip Dudchus is nearly finished.

Omnium Gatherum: 23dec2020

An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for December 23, 2020

Here’s a variety of notable things I’ve recently found that you may also be interested in checking out:

This post was possible because of support from generous ongoing Patrons and Members of the newsletter. Both Patrons and Members get access to Omnium Gatherum immediately and directly via web and email. On the blog, this will be exclusive to Patrons for one year, after which I’ll make it publicly available to everyone so they can see what they’ve been missing.

Omnium Gatherum: 20dec2020

An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for December 20, 2020

Tomorrow is Winter Solstice, in the Northern Hemisphere! Winter Solstice, Sun in 0° Capricorn, December 21, 2020 at 10:02 UTC in the Northern Hemisphere; Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. Hope yours is great!

Here’s a variety of notable things I’ve recently found that you may also be interested in checking out:

This post was possible because of support from generous ongoing Patrons and Members of the newsletter. Both Patrons and Members get access to Omnium Gatherum immediately and directly via web and email. On the blog, this will be exclusive to Patrons for one year, after which I’ll make it publicly available to everyone so they can see what they’ve been missing.

the Daimon comes not as like to like but seeking its own opposite, for man and Daimon feed the hunger in one another’s hearts. Because the ghost is simple, the man heterogeneous and confused, they are but knit together when the man has found a mask whose lineaments permit the expression of all the man most lacks, and it may be dreads, and of that only.

Susan Johnston Graf, W.B. Yeats Twentieth Century Magus: An In-Depth Study of Yeat’s Esoteric Practices and Beliefs, Including Excerpts from His Magical Diaries [Bookshop, Amazon]

Hermetic quote Graf W B Yeats Twentieth Century Magus a mask whose lineaments permit the expression of all the man most lacks