Category Archives: Hermetic Library Reading Room

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition, Hermeticism in a broad sense, and Aleister Crowley’s Thelema. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

In conversation with Jesse Heikkinen

I recently had a chance to talk with musician Jesse Heikkinen about his music, which I think will appeal to the audience of the library quite a bit.

Jesse is a 30-year-old musician from Tampere, Finland. He has lived most of his life in the Northern part of the country, where the winters are fierce and dark, and in the summer the sun never sets. Jesse plays the guitar in such bands as Hexvessel, The Aeon, and King Satan. He has toured and made records with so many bands that he can’t even name all of them. But, he also has a solo project, Iterum Nata, with two recently released singles from his forthcoming second issue, due in December. All of these bands are heavily influenced by the occult, although from totally different perspectives. Besides being a musician, Jesse also teaches the guitar and works with the disabled.

 

John Griogair Bell, Librarian: Take a moment to introduce yourself! Who are you?

In conversation with Jesse Heikkinen photo by Antti Haapapuro

Jesse Heikkinen, photo by Antti Haapapuro

Jesse Heikkinen: The boring answer would be, I am a musician from Finland, lately focused on more or less occult-themed music. On the other hand, aren’t we all just a divine manifestation of eternal Gnosis, consisted of ancient stardust?

L: Sure. Infinite sparkly dust. That’s everything. Done. No need to keep going with the interview, as we’re all one! Or, you know, at least that’s one way to think about it, from one mote of dust to another.

J: Yes, you could’ve just checked this stuff out from the Akashic records – the Wikipedia of collective consciousness!

L: Ugh! Homework? Pshaw! Other than music and dusting, what are you up to in the world?

J: Not much, I work as a social counsellor and occasionally worship the Devil – just like all decent Finns do. That’s why we have one of the best social security systems in the world!

L: You’ve got an upcoming solo release! This is your second solo album? Tell me a little about that.

Iterum Nata The Course of Empire

J: Yes! I’ve been in the music business for years now, but my first solo album was released just last December. Now the second album, The Course of Empire, is ready and will be released a year after the debut. I’ve been writing music since I was a kid but I never really got the time to express myself through my own songs until last year. My solo project, Iterum Nata, was born as I moved to Tampere on July 2017.

L: And, you’ve been in a number of other projects, I understand. What have those been? Are they ongoing?

J: In the last ten years I’ve been doing stuff from children’s music to jazz to black metal. Maybe my next solo project should be a mixture of these three! Nowadays, I have three main bands besides Iterum Nata; Hexvessel plays beautiful psych folk/rock, The Aeon’s musical path is dark acoustic folk, and King Satan is loud and provocative industrial metal. There are also few other projects which shouldn’t be discussed here.

L: I’m wondering if you’ve have any realizations or breakthroughs in the time since, or if the change is continued growth not he same path. What’s changed for you since your last solo release?

J: Well, yes — so much has happened! It never stops surprising me, how we seem to be unlimited in our potential of growing and learning. There really is a huge gap between the first and this album, in many levels. The first record was kind of an experiment, where I tried out different kinds of sounds and studio tricks. It wasn’t so much about playing songs, it was more about just creating soundscapes. The lyrical themes were about gazing inside and trying to find the Godhead within. It was written in an enchanted state, where I felt that I really connected with the true nature of being; “Wake up, You are Nothing and All”. That’s actually pretty nihilistic approach, but with a positive twist! To be honest, I never actually thought that my weird solo music would interest anyone. After the first album was released I got tons of great feedback. Shortly after that I joined King Satan and Hexvessel. There was also lots of stuff going on in my spiritual growth and I absorbed lots of metaphysical ideas from many different schools. I started to record The Course of Empire last May. I wanted to make it more aggressive and darker album than the debut, again to mach my own thoughts during that time. I also let go of the idea that I should do everything on my own, so there are some featuring musicians on the album as well.

L: Aggressive and dark? From Finland?! How can this be?! I mean, really, what is it about Finland? Are you near Lemi, the Capital of Metal?

J: We Finns like our music as we like our humour.

L: And there’s a single that’s out now from this upcoming album that people can check out. I understand you put a lot of thought into each track, with ideas and symbolism you’ve got in mind for each. What’s this track about for you as the artist?

J: I think this was the first track I wrote for the album. The whole writing process is covered in a haze, but I do remember having serious Kingston Wall vibes as I wrote this song. I have always felt a certain attraction to number seven and in this song that number plays a huge role. In Hebrew the number seven means a sword or “to arm”, so this song can be seen as a battle cry. On the other hand it is an ode to the never-ending dance of birth and death and it describes the message of the whole album pretty comprehensive way. There’s also another single that came out on Nov 8th!

L: Tell me a bit about this second track!

J: “Sacrificial Light” is a song about self-sacrifice, whatever that may mean. I got Anna-Kaisa from The Aeon to sing this song and Kimmo from Hexvessel to play the string ensemble. The classical four elements are hidden in the lyrics to form a certain alchemic formula.

L: Tell me about your esoteric studies and influences. What path are you on? What’s being on that path done for you?

J: There are many paths with different names, different gods and different ideals, but in the end all of that is just semantics. I believe we all create our own paths, but after all all these paths are united. I could say the main influence is my own inner knowledge, which is dynamic and all-developing. I have adopted the Thelemic philosophy (which is a nexus of many mystical and cultural schools) and I enjoy the main concepts of Daoism. These systems have helped me to conceptualise some metaphysical phenomena that I have always known they’re there, but never had the right names for. At this point I’d like to bring up Atheism. I know so many smart and nice atheists, but for some reason they can’t stand if one speaks about being on an esoteric path. I guess that’s because they forget that these paths can be (and often are) symbolic. The Gods, prophets and rituals may be symbols and thus could fit even the atheistic world view flawlessly. I believe we all are capable of finding our own paths, but at first we need to know who we truly are. And that’s where the symbols help us.

L: How have these occult influences informed your music? How have they influenced your ideas of music and have they had an influence on your technical music making as well?

J: In general I trust my intuition more and try not to be too hard on myself. When it comes to the writing, all of my lyrics are very much inspired by various occult themes and there are loads of known symbols and esoteric principles to be found.

L: What do you know now about your particular esoteric path and study that you wish you’d known before?

J: I really do believe that everything happens exactly at the right moment – that’s the only possibility. The Universe goes on exactly as it should, but we tend to forget that. And that’s mainly because we get so easily stuck in our human viewpoints.

In conversation with Jesse Heikkinen photo by Denis Charmot

Jesse Heikkinen, photo by Denis Charmot

L: How does this thinking affect you as you go about doing things in your life? Do you have a personal practice informed by these ideas?

J: I have had to learn to accept things as they come. For me it doesn’t mean that one should be passive and submissive, but rather humble and ready to move on. I try to practice what I preach!

L: What do you suspect is true, but can’t prove, about your particular esoteric path of study?

J: What a question! I can’t even prove to myself that I am true!

L: Well, let’s continue as if we are true, for some value of true that helps us make it through this interview!

J: Wow, maybe you can write the lyrics for my next album? The jazzy satanic children’s music record?

L: I’m down. Hit me up!

 

Thanks to Jesse Heikkinen for taking the time to talk with me about his work. Be sure to check out the two released singles and the self-titled Iterum Nata on Bandcamp, watch for the second solo upcoming release, and then head down the rabbit hole to find out about his other projects while you’re waiting.

Horse Under Water

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Horse Under Water by Len Deighton.

Deighton Horse Under Water

Horse Under Water was Deighton’s second novel and a sequel to his first, The Ipcress File. It continues with the same unnamed protagonist, told in his droll, often circumspect voice, singling out relevant details and allowing the reader to stitch the picture together. The plot involves a great deal of “frogman” action, largely off the coast of Portugal. But there is also intrigue in London, with a fair amount of travel back and forth. Chapters are short, often just one or two pages, and their titles all have the flavor of crossword clues, consistent with the obscurity of the facts as the man from W.O.O.C.(P) tries to discover the real narrative behind the malefactors he encounters.

Baix of the (Marrakech) Sûreté Nationale …: “In any narcotics investigation we are most enthusiastic that the criminal is apprehensive.”

“I know what you mean,” I said. (211)

You help yourself by helping others. There are no hermits in the desert unless they are thinking big thoughts that will eventually help others.

Edward De Bono, H+ A New Religion?

Hermetic quote de Bono H-plus help

Ancient Light

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Ancient Light by John Banville.

Banville Ancient Light

John Banville’s two previous novels about Alexander Cleave and his daughter Cass (Eclipse and Shroud) were synchronized with one another, so that neither was needed to appreciate the other, but either would “spoil” the other’s ending. I expected this third book, focusing on Alexander Cleave a decade later, to be a continuation of Eclipse for which Shroud would not furnish any explicit background. I had not reckoned on Banville’s ability to construct one of the most elaborate instances of dramatic irony I have ever encountered on the printed page. It started early, and continued for nearly the entire book within one of the two major plot strands. I don’t know how the book would have read in the absence of that very vivid irony, which depended entirely on familiarity with Shroud.

“Cleave” is aptly named in this book, split between memories of his sixteenth summer, when he had an affair with his best friend’s thirty-five-year-old mother, and his first movie role fifty years later, coming out of retirement from his stage acting career. Just as the titles of the previous books applied to their contents in over-determined polyvalent ways, so too does “ancient light.” The other titles appear again, subtly worked in to the closing passages, where Banville also quite overtly opens towards a possible further volume.

I liked Ancient Light better than Eclipse and perhaps not quite as much as Shroud. Consistent with the others, the prose is writerly, but still tailored to the voice of the principal character, and the book is filled with sensuous observation along with both epistemological and emotional difficulty. Critic Keshava Guha derided Ancient Light for its “vagueness,” but I found it to have a real precision in the construction of its characters and the development of its themes.

it is no longer individuals only, or cities, that enrich themselves by distant commerce and export; but whole nations grow rich at the cost of those nations which lag behind in their industrial development.

Petr Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread

Hermetic quote Kropotkin Bread rich

Conan the Free Lance

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Conan the Free Lance by Steve Perry.

Perry Conan the Free Lance

I had honestly hoped–and with good reason, I think–that Conan the Free Lance would be the worst Conan novel I had ever read. But I’m afraid that distinction still belongs to the same author’s Conan the Indomitable. The two do have formal similarities that are worth remark in the larger world of Conan pastiche novels.

Despite frequent invocations of the geography invented by Robert E. Howard, Steve Perry’s setting for Conan tales seems more like the planet Mongo than it does the Hyborian Age. It teems with intelligent species of widely divergent origins, and he seems happy to introduce two or more exotic races per book. In this one, we have Pili (naturally-evolved lizard-men), Selkies (thaumaturgically-created fish-men), and other creatures formed by sorcery: skreeches, eels of power, and the Kralix.

There is more use of a comic narrative tone than is customary in Conan pastiche, and not with Howard’s original sense of black humor. The various sexual incidents, although not presented graphically, have a sort of juvenile camp atmosphere. And the climactic battle in this book has more than a whiff of farce about it. The chief villain, despite his vast sorcerous power, is injudicious to the point of witlessness. Also, feigned archaic diction is thrown in with some unwelcome regularity, and it manages to sound “wrong” even when it’s grammatically correct.

The characters are flat, and the plot is unremarkable. All I got from this book was the satisfaction that it was almost as bad as I thought it would be.

Unflattening

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Unflattening by Nick Sousanis.

Sousanis Unflattening

Unflattening is a book-length comics composition–hardly a “graphic novel,” since it is a work of non-fiction. Author/artist Nick Sousanis adapted it from his own academic dissertation. The contents are highly reflexive, and consist for the most part of a discussion of parallax and its value in perception, epistemology, social change, and even biology. It is an inspirational book that is entirely free of supernaturalism or speculative “woo.” Although its first and primary explanatory paradigm is the hypergeometry intimated by Edwin Abbott’s Flatland, Sousanis does not insist on a fourth spatial dimension, only further conceptual dimensions beyond those of the reader’s conscious orientation.

Although the book has only eight short chapters, the individual pages are “long.” There is an exhibition of parallax in the complementary but non-identical content of the the words and images, a phenomenon explicitly discussed in the course of the book. Part of the “distance” between the verbal and visual contents is the difference in the form of citation. When the text cites a writer (e.g. Buckminster Fuller or George Lakoff), Sousanis mentions the source at the site of the reference. But when the images cite precedent visual sources (e.g. the Mona Lisa or Doctor Who‘s TARDIS) these are usually just verbally identified in the endnotes, if at all. (There are some exceptions: “after Boticelli,” “after Watterson.”) One or two pages might be enough for a single sitting, if one “reads” them carefully–attending to the images, reading the words, and reviewing both to see the ways in which they inform one another. The reader should be attentive to the full page as the unit of composition, rather than allowing the gutters between panels to restrict attention. Sousanis emphasizes the value of simultaneity in visual presentation, as opposed to the linear seriality of text.

This volume encodes a lot of valuable concepts, but none of them were really new to me. It expresses an outlook with which I am in sympathy, and it does so in a manner that I think is really admirable.

They bore witness, in a serious and ceremonious manner, to the unravelling of this union.

Uvi Poznansky and Zeev Kachel, Home

Hermetic quote Poznansky Kachel Home unravelling