Category Archives: The Hermetic Library

The Hermetic Library

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

The Filth

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Filth [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Grant Morrison, with Gary Erskine, Chris Weston.

Morrison Weston Erskine The Filth

I read The Filth as a complete bound collection, rather than the thirteen individual comics issues. In that format, it amounts to probably my favorite graphic novel. It includes science fiction, satire, superheroism, sex, drugs, and violence. It’s something like The Matrix reconstituted on the basis of a scatological rant from Antonin Artaud. It has a completely freestanding mythos, not dependent on any prior superhero or comics franchise, highly coherent when it’s not completely mind-blowing. Despite its evident balls-out insanity, The Filth tackles serious issues and ultimately offers a sense of profound redemption.

I’m not an unequivocal fan of Grant Morrison’s work: sometimes I find him indulgent and meandering. But when he hits his mark, he’s awesome; and I’ve never read anything where he has hit it as hard as The Filth. Weston and Erskine’s art is both surreal and gritty while strangely conventional, just the mix of H R Giger, William Blake, and Joe Kubert that the story requires.

Edited to add: Morrison is on the record as having written The Filth as a companion piece to his earlier and longer series The Invisibles, even though there is no narrative continuity between them. There is certainly a lot of conceptual and thematic overlap. They can be seen as perfectly complementary, though, if viewed through the cops-and-criminals dichotomy that each eventually collapses. The Filth works initially from the cop’s end of the spectrum, while The Invisibles does from the criminal’s.

There is a law governing all things. There is a connecting link between earth, air and sea, between flowers, beasts and birds, between mankind and all animals, and inanimate things, a mysterious joining of mind to matter. It is an intangible something, perhaps an electrical current, but certain it is that the line is there and unbroken, and between every human creature whom God has made, there is the same unbroken chain, which can be followed up link by link, step by step, until we find ourselves on the boundaries of the next world and perhaps beyond; who can tell? The chain may be unbroken even then.

Lydia Leavitt, Bohemian Society [Amazon, Amazon (Dodo Press), Bookshop (Dodo Press, Gutenberg, Local Library]

Hermetic-quote Leavitt Bohemian Society law governing all connecting link unbroken chain next world perhaps beyond

But—unhappy as you see me—crushed, overwhelmed with deep affliction as you behold me—anxious, but unable to repent for the past as I am, and filled with appalling dread for the future as I now proclaim myself to be, still is my power far, far beyond that limit which hems mortal energies within so small a sphere.

George W M Reynolds, Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf [Amazon, Amazon (Dover), Gutenberg, Publisher, Local Library]

Hermetic quote Reynolds Wagner Wehr-Wolf unhappy crushed overwhelmed deep affliction anxious unable to repent dread for the future still is my power far beyond that limit

Night-Gaunts and Other Tales of Suspense

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Night-Gaunts and Other Tales of Suspense [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Joyce Carol Oates

Oates Night-Gaunts and Other Tales of Suspense

This relatively recent collection from Joyce Carol Oates offers a half dozen “tales of suspense.” They are not supernatural horror, despite the title’s allusion to the monstrous phantasms of H.P. Lovecraft. Although all written in the third person, each is thoroughly psychological, tracking the thoughts of villains and victims on the cusp of horrible events. There is a lot more person than plot in these stories, and the substance of them is the interaction of character with circumstance.

The first story “The Woman at the Window” was (according to its prior publication) inspired by an Edward Hopper painting, and I’m sure the painting in question must be 11 A.M. (1926).

These tales tend toward novella length, typically on the long side of what can be read in a single sitting, but often subdivided into chapters. The longest story in the collection is “The Experimental Subject,” which is trained on the interior world of a scientific researcher seducing an undergraduate student into being unwittingly inseminated with chimpanzee sperm. Strangely, it is probably the closest of any of the stories in the book to having a “happy” outcome.

The title story that concludes the book is an account of “Horace Love, Jr.,” a fairly transparent fictionalization of the biography of Lovecraft. It takes for its premise the same thesis set forth in this bit of criticism from Kenneth Callaghan:

“Lovecraft was masquerading, for the purposes of fiction, as both the son and as his own father, thereby giving himself permission to use his own father’s madness for fictional purposes, and informing both himself and us, the readers, of the secret facts of his pathology that his own father was unfortunately unable to provide to him. In his fiction, if not in his life, Lovecraft was able to assume the mask, and the role, of the father, and with none of the messy aftereffects of STDs, wives, or possession by an all-consuming and all-destroying sexuality.” (Lovecraft’s Dark Arcadia, 86)

There is a bit of thematic resonance between “Night-Gaunts” itself and the other pieces of the collection, particularly “Sign of the Beast” and “Walking Wounded.” All of these stories have vivid characters with their subjectivities unravelled in engaging prose. The endings are sometimes like a song finishing on a suspended chord–you know where the story might go, and Oates allows you to do the work of taking it there.

Then suddenly everything changed. That is, everything was just the same as before—I was crawling along the corridor in just the same way—but the pain and fatigue, passing beyond the level of endurance, seemed to switch something off inside me. Or else just the opposite—they switched something on.

Victor Pelevin, Omon Ra [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library]

 Hermetic quote Pelevin Omon Ra everything changed same as before but pain fatigue passing beyond endurance switch something off inside or switched something on

Lamaseries and lodges, orders, monasteries, convents, and places of refuge have been established, where people might strive to attain a higher life, unimpeded by the aggressions and annoyances of the external world of illusions. Their original purpose was beyond a doubt very commendable. If in the course of time many such institutions have become degraded and lost their original character; if instead of being places for the performance of the noblest and most difficult kind of labour, they have become places of refuge for the indolent, idle, and superstitious; it is not the fault of that principle which first caused such institutions to be organised, but it is the consequence of the knowledge of the higher nature of man and his powers and destiny having been lost, and with the loss of that knowledge, the means for the attainment, the original aim, was naturally lost and forgotten.

Franz Hartmann, With The Adepts [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library, Hermetic Library]

Hermetic quote Hartmann With the Adepts places refuge established strive attain higher life unimpeded external world illusions instead indolent idle superstitious original aim lost

Tantra for Westerners

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Tantra for Westerners: A Practical Guide to the Way of Action [Amazon, Bookshop, Local Library] by Francis King; newer edition Tantra: The Way of Action. A Practical Guide to Its Teachings and Techniques. [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library].

King Tantra for Westerners

King Tantra The Way of Action

Francis King’s treatment of Tantric practice in this volume is more attentive to authentic source materials and ethnography than most Neo-Tantric literature of the last few decades has been. Even so, he seeks to universalize it beyond its original south Asian context. His emphasis on what defines Tantra as such is not so much “sex” (as the typical Neo-tantrist would have it) as it is a dualist metaphysic and transgressive method.

Tantra is compared to ritual magic of the Golden Dawn school throughout the book. In particular, there is a claim that the tattwa materials that circulated in the GD were rooted in the Bengali Tantric text Nature’s Finer Forces published in English by the Theosophical Society. King carefully examines the correlations between the sat chakras and the qabalistic Tree of Life made by Aleister Crowley, J.F.C. Fuller, and Dion Fortune, rendering his own verdict and recommending related practices. He also weighs in on whether Crowley should be viewed–in King’s terms–as “an authentic, if unorthodox, tantric” (76), ultimately answering in the affirmative and citing (without details) various secret instructions of O.T.O. to support the point.

In this book, King has an awful lot of opinions for someone who does not make any direct admission to being an actual practitioner. Most of them sound quite sensible, but it’s reasonable to wonder about the nature of King’s authority when encountering his authoritative tone. His historical speculations on the relationship between the Tantras of different religious traditions (Hindu, Buddhist, Jain) fall within what I understand to be the range of current scholarly views on the topic.

A set of appendices cover such diverse issues and items as psychedelic drug use in “Western tantra” (King’s basically against it), a revision of the invocation of the “Bornless One” for goddess devotions, and a comparison of Taoist “internal alchemy” to parallel Tantric practices.