Category Archives: The Hermetic Library

The Hermetic Library

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

Summary for the week ending Jul 8, 2018

Here’s a summary of activity for the week ending July 8, 2018.

I’ve received a package from Fiddler’s Green with things I’ll be sending out to Patrons with Postal Exchange and Publication Subscription perks. I should get those out this week, if I get them all sorted!

Don’t forget that I announced the call for submissions to Hermetic Library’s anthology album for 2018, Magick, Music and Ritual 14!

Hermetic Library Anthology 2018 Magick Music Ritual Call for Submissions

For some reason, I appear to have started doing some Iconomancy and Pilgrimage to Far-Distant Countries activity again, at least for now.

Still looking for help and others to join me in a working community around the library, of course.

Lots of new pages and work on old pages on the site, which is pretty much every week, really. You can always check the front page of the site which shows the most recent changes and new pages, or check out the Recent Changes special page for a full list.

Want to join me on this blog and create new art or writing for Hermetic Library? Pitch your Idea.

Help get some conversations started over on the BBS and Chat.

Be sure to check out the actual Hermetic Library, and drop a buck in the tip jar or become a Patron.

Consider also checking out what I’m up to on my personal blog and at Odd Order.

Here’s a summary of posts on the blog from last month

Some top pages at the library

Some top posts on social media

The Mystery of Numbers

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Mystery of Numbers by Annemarie Schimmel.

Schimmel The Mystery of Numbers

The Mystery of Numbers was developed by Annemarie Schimmel from an earlier text in German by Franz Carl Endres. Presumably, Schimmel’s version (for publisher Ulf Diedrichs) was originally in German also. No translator is credited here, but Miriam Rosen was the editor, whether in English or German is unclear. Schimmel uses “components” (e.g. on page 14) to mean factors, which is a little confusing in US mathematical idiom, and possibly an artifact of translation from German. German folklore and poetry does loom a little large in a book that on the whole makes serious efforts to be a wide-ranging cross-cultural survey. 

There are seven chapters of “Introduction” discussing the history of number systems and evolution of number symbolism. Generally, depth is sacrificed for breadth, in an effort to touch on systems throughout Western history, and also in Asia and pre-Columbian America. The historical essays are followed by “A Little Dictionary of Numbers,” organized in numerical order starting at 1. The highest value to receive an entry is 10,000, but even below 50, many numbers significant to me are not represented with their own articles, such as 23, 31, 34, and 44. 

On the whole, the book is a decent introduction to its topic, and it can be a useful supplement to other more specialized treatments.

Death’s Master

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Death’s Master by Tanith Lee.

Lee Death's Master

This second of Tanith Lee’s Flat Earth novels is very good, but not as cover-to-cover amazing as the first. The hectic fabulism of the previous book slows down to a pace more similar to Lee’s earlier novels, such as The Birthgrave. Azhrarn, the demon monarch of Night’s Master, is still important in this book anchored by his peer Lord of Darkness Uhlume, who is Death himself. The real protagonists of the book, though, are the ambiguous heroes Zhirem and Simmu. 

My favorite part was probably the wonderfully-imagined undersea adventure of Zhirem, well toward the end of the book.

Anyone who destroys more than he creates must be miserable beyond expression. Question what you see by all means, but believe in something first.

Ramsey Campbell, Demons by Daylight

Hermetic quote Campbell Demons believe

In Bad Faith

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews In Bad Faith: What’s Wrong With The Opium Of The People by Andrew Levine.

Levine In Bad Faith

Andrew Levine not only supports what scholars of religion call the “secularization hypothesis,” according to which religions are in a gradual and global state of social decline, but he also subscribes to what one might term a secularization agenda: approving that decline and hoping that it proceeds swiftly. In this brief volume, he traces a line of investigation through a set of nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Continental thinkers: Feuerbach, Durkheim, Nietzsche, and Freud. The question at issue for these four presumes the falsehood of conventional religion, and seeks to understand why it persists. 

Although I was in many respects entertained by and sympathetic to the treatment of the nineteenth-century figures, there was little new to me here. The one point in this book where I actually felt I was getting some fresh education was in Levine’s history of the emergence of liberal Judaism (175-180). This passage was set within a more general chapter on “The Liberal Turn” that provides accounts of liberalizing developments in Protestantism, Judaism, Catholicism, and Islam. 

The focus is exclusively on the European history of religion, along with its radiation to colonial and post-colonial environments. The book has nothing useful to say about Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, or other religions outside of the “Abrahamic” traditions. At several points it offers and uses an explanation of Deism that seems to make theism a specialization of the more general Deist principles (20, 130). While this might be a way of characterizing their relationship in the logical space of theology (with credit to Ioan Culianu for that paradigm), it is misleading in terms of their genealogy and intellectual history. The Deist creed–to which hardly anyone any longer subscribes as such–was an early effort at liberalizing Western religion, a fact which is obscured in this book where it ought to be highlighted. 

Categorically hostile to religion, Levine is willing to dismiss all mystical experience as pathology. In this, I think he errs. For example, he takes drug-based instances of religious ecstasy as demonstrating that mystical raptures generally have “no cognitive import” (120). The fact (supported by drug evidence) is that mystical experience is not theologically probative. However, the similarities and interplay between religious and psychopharmaceutical phenomena are worth more serious consideration. Ethnobotanical theories of religious origins are not trivial, and lie well beyond the Feuerbachian and Freudian concepts of god-formation. 

The moral of Levine’s story is that full secularization–the extinction of religion–is needed and inevitable, but may not come soon enough. The engaging and somewhat ironic dimension of his analysis is that the liberalized religious communities will be the hardest to break of their delusions, weak tea though they may be. Liberalism may serve as a vaccine against the godlessness needed to achieve human freedom.

Unfortunately, it is human nature to seek simple solutions to complex problems, and when a “solution” is found that is not immediately disastrous, it is often embraced with enthusiasm far outstripping its actual merit.

Robert Kroese, Starship Grifters

Hermetic quote Kroese Grifters solutions