There! there is happiness; heaven in a teaspoon; happiness, with all its intoxication, all its folly, all its childishness. You can swallow it without fear; it is not fatal; it will in nowise injure your physical organs.

Charles Baudelaire, translated by Aleister Crowley, The Playground of the Seraphim from The Poem of Hashish in The Herb Dangerous

Hermetic quote Baudelaire Crowley The Herb Dangerous happiness teaspoon intoxication folly childishness swallow without fear not fatal nowise injure physical organs

The Hellfire Files of Jules de Grandin

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Hellfire Files of Jules de Grandin [Amazon, Abebooks, Publisher, Local Library] by Seabury Quinn, see also The Complete Tales of Jules de Grandin series.

Quinn The Hellfire Files of Jules de Grandin

This 1976 mass market paperback collects a half dozen of the ninety-three tales about occult detective Jules de Grandin. This set were all written for publication in Weird Tales from 1926 to 1933. Although all of these books by Seabury Quinn under the Popular Library imprint boast “SCIENCE FICTION” on the cover, they don’t conform to the genre as it is currently understood. They are pulp-era action stories in mundane settings. The “Hellfire” title here is reasonably apposite, since each story has something to do with diabolism or a nefarious cult.

One yarn is called “The Great God Pan,” and although it compares unfavorably to identically-titled stories by Arthur Machen (1894) and M. John Harrison (1988), it is still a palatable romp regarding a neo-pagan cult in the wilds of New Jersey. This one is actually the earliest included here, although it appears second.

Quinn, in the voice of de Grandin, supplies a little occult theorizing around the notion of “psychoplasm.” (A likely proximate source for the term and concept was the 1920 Adventures of a Modern Occultist by Oliver Bland.) The supernatural element in the stories is highly variable, and the final pair of tales furnishes an admirable contrast between “The Hand of Glory” where exorcism is the effective solution to thwart genuine demonic influence and “Mephistopheles and Company Ltd.” where sleuthing and physical combat overcome a criminal gang who use superstition and trickery to terrify their victims. Both stories, like nearly all of these, derive motivation from a young woman in peril. Quinn seems to have preferred such ladies to be tall, slender, and pale.

The selections here include both a vampire story and a werewolf story. The latter, “The Wolf of Saint Bonnot” was the basis for the Hugh Rankin cover art of its December 1930 issue of Weird Tales (scene on pages 125-6 of this book). “The Hand of Glory” inspired the July 1933 cover by Margaret Brundage (pages 174-5). Both covers were racy illustrations typical of their genre and era, and pretty accurate to Quinn’s text.

The book includes an appendix by editor Robert Weinberg that furnishes full biographical sketches of de Grandin and his amanuensis Dr. Trowbridge, as abstracted from Quinn’s stories. For readers new to the de Grandin material, it might be helpful to read this end matter before the stories. Steve Fabian’s map of Quinn’s fictional Harrisonville, New Jersey appears at the start of the book, but the printing is a little muddy and hard to read in my copy.

They longed for philosophy, for synthesis. The erstwhile happiness of pure withdrawal each into his own discipline was now felt to be inadequate. Here and there a scholar broke through the barriers of his specialty and tried to advance into the terrain of universality. Some dreamed of a new alphabet, a new language of symbols through which they could formulate and exchange their new intellectual experiences.

Hermann Hesse, The Glass Bead Game: (Magister Ludi) A Novel [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library]

Hermetic quote Hesse The Glass Bead Game philosophy synthesis happiness pure withdrawl discipline inadequate scholar barriers speciality universality dreamed alphabet language symbols experience

Etidorhpa

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Etodorpha, or The End of the Earth [Amazon, Gutenberg, Abebooks, Local Library] by John Uri Lloyd, illustrated by John Augustus Knapp.

Lloyd Knapp Etidorpha

Etidorhpa is the vishuddha chakra of the long nineteenth century: It is a maddeningly metatextual initiatory fantasy, Masonic-Rosicrucian psychopharmaceutical philosophy to make steampunks cry, a hollow earth odyssey with laboratory experiments you can try at home, a vision of the End from which all arises. And possibly a key to hidden treasure. Supplemented with the awesomeness of J. Augustus Knapp’s illustrations.

“Science thought begins in the brain of man; science provings end all things with the end of the material brain of man. Beware of your own brain.”–I Am the Man (191)

Down on the Farm

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Down on the Farm [Amazon, Publisher, Local Library] by Charles Stross, cover by Craig Phillips, part of the Laundry Files series.

Stross Down on the Farm

The short “Down on the Farm” is perhaps the weakest of Stross’ Laundry stories I’ve read, but it’s solid fun for all that. It certainly has its moments. The principal faults were redundant exposition for the benefit of those unfamiliar with the earlier stories, and a finish that seemed a little rushed and unenlightening.

The Brotherhood of Satan

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Brotherhood of Satan [Amazon, Amazon Video, Abebooks, Local Library] by L Q Jones.

Jones The Brotherhood of Satan

The Brotherhood of Satan is the novelization of a 1971 horror movie of no great critical note, and it certainly reads that way. While I haven’t seen the movie, I suspect that the book is very faithful to it, because it fails to offer any details that couldn’t be represented on film. (Author Jones was a member of the cast and assisted on the script.) The characters are cut-outs with little or no interiority. Despite that superficiality, some of the scenes are difficult to picture, particularly ones in the Satanists’ lair that involved passage “through” a fireplace. Supernatural occurrences get a gee-whiz treatment that makes them feel cheap. 

As far as the Satanic conspiracy goes, it has a lot of liturgical action, which is what attracted my attention to the film/book in the first place. But the liturgy is decidedly uninformed and clumsy, with addresses to “Ye who penetrates the future” (ouch!) and “Satanacus.” The choice of an “ansate cross” for the principal insignia of the cultists is somewhat spoiled by the fact that the book cover and movie stills show a figure that is not really a crux ansata. The “Satanic” rites involve an unseemly level of self-abasement among the worshippers, and a practically Christian sense of penitence. 

SPOILER: To its credit, the story ends with the triumph of the evil forces, with the hapless “protagonists” merely lulled into a grateful sense of having survived the episode, while their daughter has been spiritually possessed (presumably for life) by one of the creepy old cultists.