Category Archives: The Hermetic Library

The Hermetic Library

Archiving, Engaging and Encouraging the living Western Esoteric Tradition, Hermeticism & Aleister Crowley’s Thelema

Black Helicopters

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Black Helicopters by Caitlín R Kiernan.

Kiernan Black Helicopters

The “Author’s note for the definitive edition” appended to the paperback of Black Helicopters clarifies that it was written prior to the novel to which it has since been published as a sequel, Agents of Dreamland. Although the Signalman from Agents does make an appearance here, it is only in one chapter, composed after the main text and after Kiernan had decided to connect the stories. Immacolata Sexton does not appear. This book features shoggoths, rather than the mi-go of Agents, but it’s really the humans who are creepiest in both books.

Black Helicopters doesn’t actually feature helicopters very conspicuously, and the narrative is non-sequential and all over the map: jumping between 2001, 2012, 2035, 2114, 2152, and other dates more difficult to decipher. Its ludic theme is grounded in chess, more particularly, the chess of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, while scientific themes include chaos theory, quantum physics, and paleontology. This last topic is one of prior professional interest to Kiernan, who has worked in the field. In fact, she admits to a strong autobiographical streak in the paleontological characters, crediting them with her own scientific achievements (and getting paid back in their glamorous outre narratives).

I think I preferred the shorter and more focused Agents of Dreamland to Black Helicopters, but this book was still a pretty quick read and a lot of fun. It will be best enjoyed by those who can appreciate the author’s scientific and cultural allusions, and who like terse, cautious dialogue among mistrusting interlocutors. The appended “remix” of Chapter 9 supplies the English for a conversation that the body of the book presents only in French. Since the chapter is set in the future relative to most of the rest of the book, non-Francophone readers will appropriately read it only after coming to the end.

Since the “series” relationship of this book to its other seems to have been an organic happenstance rather than deliberate plan, I only hope that it has inspired Kiernan to work on further stories in the same continuum.

I looked to the back of my eyeballs as I tried to drift off in the waking darkness of my insomniac night, and then, it may seem crazy, but I popped out of my body as if on an elastic band.

Parker Gordon, Parallel Lives

Hermetic quote Gordon Parallel out

The Dark Labyrinth

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Dark Labyrinth by Lawrence Durrell.

Durrell The Dark Labyrinth

Lawrence Durrell’s second novel The Dark Labyrinth was originally published as Cefalu in 1947. It’s not clear why he uses the name of the Sicilian village for his fictional locale in Crete. An appended author’s note quotes at length the passage from Henry Fanshawe Tozer’s Islands of the Aegean (1875) that he says inspired the book. My Dutton paperback copy touts itself as an “early novel by the author of Justine” rather than an independent interest.

The main concern of the novel is with a sightseeing party from an English cruise, who are lost after an accident in a subterranean labyrinth in Crete. They enjoy a surprisingly wide diversity of fates. There is a flavor of allegory about the book, and the carefully constructed characters include a poet, a shorthand typist, a painter, an evangelist, a spiritualist-occultist, and a married couple. There is also a side story concerning a gentleman veteran rehabilitating his mental health and doing a bit of espionage.

Once I got the rhythm of the book, it was a speedy read. Durrell does not at all belabor the mythological allusions; there is perhaps just one mention of Ariadne, although the Minotaur is an active presence in the form of an indeterminate menace in the labyrinth itself–one which resolves differently for different characters. The Dark Labyrinth is not a genre novel, yet the later chapters swing rather dramatically among such strange attractors as horror and mystical philosophy, without being subordinated to them.

The Gospel of Philip

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Gospel of Philip: Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and the Gnosis of Sacred Union by Jean-Yves Leloup, trans Joseph Rowe, and foreword by Jacob Needleman.

LeLoup Needleman The Gospel of Philip

The Gospel of Philip is from the large and important Codex II of the Nag Hammadi Library, and it consists of mystical pronouncements having to do with salvation and the Christian sacraments, notably the nymphon (“bridal chamber”). This edition is one of a set of ancient Gnostic scriptures in double translation being issued by the Inner Traditions imprint; they are translated from the Coptic into French by Orthodox theologian Jean-Yves LeLoup, and in this case Englished by Joseph Rowe. I have previously read and appreciated Leloup’s treatment of The Gospel of Mary Magdalene. As in that case, the translated text is printed in parallel with a typeset version of the Coptic original. The sequence of the contents is different than I have seen in other editions of the Gospel of Philip, but it evidently follows the first translation by H.M. Schenke (1960). Leloup provides reference to the original codex pagination, and also supplies a division into 127 numbered logia (“sayings”) that may be original here.

Again, consistent with the presentation in The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, the English edition of Leloup’s Gospel of Philip features a foreword by American scholar of religions Jacob Needleman. While I had found Needleman’s contribution in the Mary volume to be a bit credulous and underwhelming, I found him more restrained and effective in his remarks leading into Philip.

In Leloup’s thirty-page interpretive introduction, he is at pains to present the Gospel of Philip as standing in a mutually illuminating dialogue with the gospels of the biblical canon, rather than a heretical deviation or more authentic alternative. His reading (followed by Needleman) is that the nymphon is a mystically enhanced approach to the conjugal act of human sex. To arrive at this perspective, Leloup draws on more recent kabbalistic materials, including Abulafian doctrines, as interpreted by Charles Mopsik. Leloup reads a number of logia as enjoining what I would characterize as magical eugenics.

This understanding is at variance with an interpretation of the Gospel of Philip I have previously encountered in the work of Kurt Rudolph, who took the nymphon to be the site of “the union of the gnostic with his ‘angel image’.” I think the translation provided by Leloup can equally support either reading. Furthermore, I think that both readings are likely to be of value to esoteric practitioners of my own neo-gnostic stripe.

Odd Jobs: so called not because they were varied or petty but because they could only be collectively described as odd; Missions into a world of mysticism, the occult and sometimes even the horrific and nightmarish. A world beyond a war, beyond man and his understanding.

Nikolai Bird, Cthulhu – Something in the Mud

Hermetic quote Bird Cthulhu jobs

The Wizard and the Witch

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Wizard and the Witch: Seven Decades of Counterculture, Magick & Paganism by John Sulak, foreword by Carl Llewellyn Weschcke.

Sulak Weschcke The Wizard and the Witch

The Wizard & the Witch is a dual biography of Oberon and Morning Glory Zell, constructed as an oral history. John C. Sulak interviewed over fifty different people in order to assemble the firsthand accounts that make up the body of the book. Although most were almost certainly interviewed separately, the editorial process has set them into dialogue with each other as Sulak works through chronological and topical segments of the book. With one conspicuous holdout, he was able to garner input from a great range of family members, lovers, and creative collaborators. Not all of the accounts are complimentary, but all have the ring of sincerity.

The earliest sections reach back into the childhoods of the two subjects, and the story is told up to 2009. It traces the religious vocations of the Zells and the vicissitudes of the Church of All Worlds of which Oberon was a founder, and with which they are identified. Although first developed as a science-fiction-inspired “grok flock,” CAW became a vanguard of public-facing neopaganism in the United States. Oberon later gained some notoriety for his cryptozoological efforts concerning unicorns and mermaids, and these are treated here also. Morning Glory Zell is commonly credited with coining the word polyamory, and the book provides ample detail on the Zells’ unconventional sexual ethics, their amorous involvements, and the developments of their various households.

I was a personal acquaintance of at least one person named in this book, and I can recall having attended a modest-sized pagan festival in central Texas where Morning Glory was present, so I understand myself to be two degrees of separation at most from the people in this book. Although I am a generation younger than the Zells, I found it easy to appreciate their life experiences by relating my own to some of the accounts given here. Certainly, many readers might consider this story to be an exotic one, but the motives, ideals, and foibles characteristic of the people involved are ones that I recognize, and in most instances, respect. The book is an enjoyable read, and even for those who may understand themselves to have less of a personal interest in the events and persons described, it vividly recounts a valuable perspective on the development of new religious expressions in twentieth-century America.

Echoing all that has been written on and in favor of women, I am only trying to say that in the mystical and initiatory world “they do exist” also.

Hélène Bernard, Great Women Initiates

Bernard Women exist

Omnium Gatherum: July 9, 2019

An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for July 9, 2019

If you’d like to participate, head over to Omnium Gatherum on the BBS, or suggest something.

  • Tweet by Alex Norris

  • The Curious Mystical Text Behind Marianne Williamson’s Presidential Bid. The New Age author was drawn to an esoteric bible in the 1970s. It made her a self-help megastar. And now it has gone mainstream.” — Sam Kestenbaum, The New York Times

    “Ms. Williamson’s debut may have appeared offbeat, a not-so-serious collection of truisms about love. But more was happening here. She was, in fact, drawing directly from a homegrown American holy book called “A Course in Miracles,” a curious New York scripture that arose during the heady metaphysical counterculture of the 1960s.

    This is not some homey book of feel-good bromides. Rather, it is taken by its readers as a genuine gospel, produced by a Manhattan doctor who believed she was channeling new revelations from Jesus Christ himself. And stepping into this unusual book’s story, in fact, is the key to understanding Ms. Williamson’s latest venture.”

  • Followers of occultist Aleister Crowley to be welcomed back to his former Highland home” — Alison Campsie, The Scotsman; from the it-shall-be-your-Wellness-Spa-for-ever dept.

    Campsie The Scotsman followers of occultist Crowley to be welcomed back Boleskine

    “The former Highland home of occultist Aleister Crowley is to be restored and converted into a wellness retreat where yoga and meditation will be taught – as well as the teachings of the notorious religious leader.

    Boleskine House on the south west banks of Loch Ness was destroyed by a fire in 2015 but has now been purchased by three as yet unnamed investors who paid a total of £500,000 for the property and gardens.

    The Boleskine Foundation has now been launched to drive the restoration of the property with parts of the historic estate, which was built in the 1760s, to be opened up to the public.”

  • Why a new generation is turning to Satanism. Devil may care.” — Olivier Pelling, Huck

    “In a time of chaos and uncertainty, when traditional belief systems no longer seem to have all the answers, more and more young people are finding comfort in Satanism. But these aren’t devil worshippers who drink blood or sacrifice animals. They’re just regular people trying to squeeze the most out of life.”

  • The Gnostic Apocalypse That Is Game of Thrones” — Miguel Conner, Aeon Byte

    “Let’s dare the metaphysics of Game of Thrones, now that the dust (and self-righteous internet outrage) has settled on its final season. Specifically, I want to talk about the show’s Gnostic features.

    That’s not as surprising as you might think. Epic fantasies tend to be spiritually eclectic in their massive world-building efforts. It happens, and logically, this can include some gradients of Gnosticism. As an example, it happened in Lord of the Rings. Don’t believe me? Check out Lance Owens arguing on my show that J.R.R. Tolkien’s cosmology is heavily indebted to Gnostic ideas.”

  • Thousands petition Netflix to cancel Amazon Prime’s Good Omens. US Christian group condemns Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s story as ‘making satanism appear normal’ – but petition wrong company.” — Alison Flood, The Guardian

    “More than 20,000 Christians have signed a petition calling for the cancellation of Good Omens, the television series adapted from Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s 1990 fantasy novel – unfortunately addressing their petition to Netflix when the series is made by Amazon Prime.”

  • Tweet by Amazon Prime Video US

  • ‘Hail Satan’ opening prayer at Alaska government meeting prompts walkouts, protest” — Owen Daughterty, The Hill

    “The Associated Press reports the prayer, where a woman declared “Hail Satan,” was given by Satanic Temple member Iris Fontana, who won the right to open the meeting with an invocation of her choice.

    “That which will not bend, must break, and that which can be destroyed by truth should never be spared as demise. It is done, hail Satan,” Fontana said to open the meeting, according to local radio station KSRM

    The controversial prayer Tuesday night started the meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough and prompted several attendees to exit.”

  • By the Book: Denise Mina” — The New York Times

    “What books are on your nightstand?

    ‘The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper,’ by Hallie Rubenhold; Peter Mansfield’s ‘A History of the Middle East’; ‘The Confessions of Aleister Crowley: An Autohagiography,’ by Aleister Crowley”

  • Jim Bakker: Christian Leaders and Politicians Will Be Murdered if Trump is not Re-Elected” — Kyle Mantyla, Right Wing Watch

    “End Times prepper pastor Jim Bakker warned on his television program today that if President Trump is not re-elected in 2020, Christian leaders and politicians will be murdered in the streets.”

  • Tweet by Damien

  • Trump spiritual adviser says ‘demonic networks’ have aligned themselves against president” — Rachel Frazin, The Hill

    “President Trump’s spiritual adviser, Paula White, said in the opening prayer before his campaign kickoff rally in Orlando, Fla., on Tuesday that “demonic networks” have aligned themselves against the president. “

  • Put down the self-help books. Resilience is not a DIY endeavour” — Michael Ungar, The Globe and Mail; adapted from his book Change Your World: The Science of Resilience and the True Path to Success

    Ungar Change Your World

    “I, too, wish life were as simple as it is described in the first chapter of Eckhart Tolle’s bestselling book The Power of Now. It opens with the story of a beggar sitting on a box. A stranger comes along and asks the beggar what’s inside. The beggar, who has sat on the box for years, has never thought to open it. When finally he does, it is full of gold. Thus we are all beggars seeking something from someone else when everything we need is already there inside us.

    But stories such as this are misleading, if not dishonest. Personal explanations for success actually set us up for failure. TED Talks and talk shows full of advice on what to eat, what to think and how to live seldom work. Self-help fixes are like empty calories: The effects are fleeting and often detrimental in the long term. Worse, they promote victim blaming. The notion that your resilience is your problem alone is ideology, not science.

    We have been giving people the wrong message. Resilience is not a DIY endeavour. Self-help fails because the stresses that put our lives in jeopardy in the first place remain in the world around us even after we’ve taken the “cures.” The fact is that people who can find the resources they require for success in their environments are far more likely to succeed than individuals with positive thoughts and the latest power poses.”

  • Ancient Egypt link to The Beatles points to ‘Macca is dead’ conspiracy, theorist claims. A BONKERS conspiracy claiming legendary Beatle Paul McCartney is dead may have a compelling link to ancient Egypt, a theorist has claimed.” — Simon Green, Daily Star

    “Despite being one of the most recognised musicians of all time, a select few Beatle fans believe Sir Paul was killed in a car crash in 1966.

    They claim a body double was then used after his death, something the iconic band supposedly alluded to in their songs.

    Now, one so-called truth-seeker has offered a different view on the theory.

    This Paul is Dead thing, I am looking at it as an initiation.”

    Andrew stops short of suggesting what Paul was “initiated” into, but linked it to the infamous occultist Aleister Crowley.”

  • Konx-Om-Pax. Ways of Seeing.” — Kareem Ghezawi, The Quietus

    “In the original 1907 publication of Konx-Om-Pax, British occultist Aleister Crowley attempts to discern the nature of the transmundane through a series of esoteric allegories and enigmatic mystical rites. To some he was a spiritual snake oil merchant, while to others he was nothing less than a prophet. One thing for certain is that his personality, life, and works have been a major source of inspiration to artists and leftfield oddballs ever since.

    In that sense, Tom Scholefield shares common ground with the great beast whose work he has named himself after. Because like him, Konx, and his peers on Planet Mu and Hyperdub, are interpreters of the generation’s collective consciousness, it’s ugliness, as well as its beauty. In Ways of Seeing, Konx allows himself to be fully guided by his empathic intuition for the first time and the result is a record which reveals promisingly hopeful patterns in the void.”

  • Rivers of Babylon: 4 Unusual Facts About Cradle of Civilization. As UNESCO names Babylon a World Heritage Site, the ‘Post’ presents five little-known facts about how the fame of the ancient kingdom is still with us today.” — Hagay Hacohen, The Jerusalem Post

    “2. Babalon Woman – In the complex occult magical system created by English writer Aleister Crowley, a special place is reserved for the concept of Babalon. The concept includes both the principle of fertility and female sexuality as well as an actual woman who takes on the role of “scarlet woman.”

    In his own lifetime, Crowley expected romantic partners to take on the role of Babalon for his occult needs. Among them were Jeanne Robert Foster and Leah Hirsig.

    Crowley, who attempted to shock the norms of his day and age, might have been influenced by Jewish and Christian concepts of ancient Babylon as a place of sexual excess. The ‘Whore of Babylon’ is referred to many times in the Book of Revelation. Crowley also saw himself as ‘the great beast.'”