Author Archives: John Griogair Bell

The religious instinct is deeply implanted in the hearts of men, and may be called the stepping-stone toward true spirituality – but it is not spirituality itself.

William Walker Atkinson, The Astral World

Hermetic quote Atkinson Astral spirituality

As great an actor to enact Crowley as this

Not only didn’t I mind Simon Callow’s Crowley, I thought Callow did a really good job … but in a crappy movie. Or, at least, I assume so. I really couldn’t watch the 2nd half of Chemical Wedding because it turned super stupid. I suppose it’s possible that the end managed to turn it around, but I gave up; and, when I talked with people that stayed for the whole thing I’m glad I left.

However, the first half really made an impression, which I was disappointed that the rest didn’t live up to. I kept thinking how interesting, as high concept, to ask what would it be like if Crowley were somehow brought back to life today. What would he say and do, and what would his personality and ideas be like, when placed within a current cultural context. What would he applaud and what would he lament and what would surprise and what would shock, anger, confuse? And what insights and breakthroughs could be made given more time in a new time?

For that matter, it’s an interesting idea which you could ask of any historical figure. Any of the historical figure re-enactments is an example of how this can be compelling. I’m thinking primarily of Holbrook’s Twain and Jenkinson’s Jefferson as these seem to be exemplars. Or, I suppose also the Riverworld stories of Farmer are also examples of this idea of moving historical figures into another context. Maybe some more good examples are the alternative history stories that come out every once in a while and even the recent trend of adding zombies or whatnot to historical literature.

Well, anyhow, I was watching the special features on Branagh’s Hamlet, and I was struck by how closely he seemed to me in some of the videos to resemble Crowley in some pictures.

Branagh [source], Crowley [source]

Admittedly the picture of Branagh above is not the most flattering, but he’s so often smiling that it’s the best I could find on short notice to show side-by-side.

Anyhow, leaving aside the high concept of time travel and resurrection, wouldn’t it be something to see a decent period bio-pic of Crowley done with such production values and acting that someone like Branagh could bring to it? There’s certainly enough material to be interesting. Like the life of Sir Richard Francis Burton which really has only ever appeared once, and then only a short bit, in The Mountains of the Moon (which is actually a really well-done movie that I recommend); a decently done movie about Crowley, with warts and all to be sure, of course, please, but not something that is just stupid sensationalism or worse a really crappy B-grade film, would really be something to see.

Originally posted over on my personal blog at As great an actor to enact Crowley as this.

This is why religion can only be advice and clarification, and cannot carry any spurs of enforcement—for only belief and behavior that is independently arrived at, and then chosen, can be praised or blamed.

Tim Powers, The Anubis Gates


Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus review Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human by Grant Morrison.

I’m a fan of Grant Morrison’s comics writing and I picked up Supergods when it was first published six years ago, but it took me a while to get around to reading it. Although he did fulfill his ambition here to write “a personal overview of the superhero concept from 1938 to the present day” (419), it is mixed with a personal memoir of his own comics career in increasingly liberal doses as the book advances. This feature, which some might find objectionable, is I think fairly inevitable given the reflexive and metafictional approach involved in Morrison’s creative work. His notion of the “fiction suit,” by which a writer can enter a fictional world exposed in those writings, is not only instrumental to many of his comics, but also to his novel perspectives on the superhero phenomenon.

Morrison’s verge-of-the-2012-apocalypse thesis is that we can all undergo apotheosis into the “supergods” of the title, if we are possessed of the sufficiently optimistic narratives he aims to supply. At the same time, he does observe the brutally frank counterpoint: “A growing population of ‘kidults’ could be sold on boys’ toys and the new, improved on-screen adventures of Batman, Spider-Man, the Hulk, and Green Lantern, helped along by books like this one–which would suggest some hidden value in the smeary power fantasies of the disenfranchised” (312). Other passages in the book reveal that his ability to see himself as a villain is part of what contributes to his distinctive comics vision.

The book does treat the emergence and maturation of superheroes across various media: print comics, radio, television, and film. It omits their entry into more literary, non-illustrated fiction, such as Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. In fairness, such expressions have been pretty marginal to the development of the collective, mass-mediated superhero concept.

The cover of the book showcases Frank Quitely’s art from All-Star Superman, which is in many ways the destination of Morrison’s story. Throughout the book, there are a smattering of covers and pages reproduced (in black and white, alas) from DC comics. Morrison does give comparable discussion to the rival house Marvel, albeit unsupported by illustrations. An engaged reader of Supergods will benefit from occasional ‘net searches to view the significant designs that are discussed, especially in the first half of the book.

Morrison is a practical occultist, and the second half of Supergods is full of his confessions regarding his engagement with ritual, drugs, and hermetic symbolism. I realize that he may have been trying to glamorize himself a little here, and that these elements may exoticize him for some readers. But as someone with similar (though perhaps less sumptuous) experiences, I found that these credible accounts humanized him significantly, contrasting with his magisterial “overview” voice. When he drops into the memoir format, though, he has a tendency to jump around associatively in a way that repeats or scrambles chronological items. On the whole, the writing is witty and entertaining, and I enjoyed my engagement with this rather hefty book. [via]

A Darkness Surrounds Him

Outcast, Vol. 1: A Darkness Surrounds Him by Robert Kirkman, Paul Azaceta, &al., collects the first issues in an interesting new story in just as dark and depressing a world as Kirkman’s The Walking Dead and the show. It’s an interesting take on possession horror, but here’s the thing: I’ve gotten tired of the depressing and awful trudge through mud that is The Walking Dead, and that’s not even mentioning the unappealing-to-me descent fully into torture porn, so the promise of another whole series just as persistently relentlessly repetitively rotten and dark just doesn’t do it for me. Beyond the gore in this one, given the way exorcism horror goes, more torture porn is sure to come as well. It’s not bad. It’s actually good at what it does. I just have trouble finding a way to want to go further in either story. But, if you’ve got the wanderlust for more dark travels without respite, this would no doubt appeal. For myself, I enjoyed it for a while, and again here, but I’ve moved on.

Originally posted on my personal blog at A Darkness Surrounds Him

I mean, after all; you have to consider we’re only made out of dust. That’s admittedly not much to go on and we shouldn’t forget that. But even considering, I mean it’s a sort of bad beginning, we’re not doing too bad.

Philip K Dick, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch