Tag Archives: anton szandor lavey

The Secret Life of a Satanist

The Secret Life of a Satanist: The Authorized Biography of Anton LaVey [Amazon, Abebooks, Bookshop, Local Library] by Blanche Barton, reviewed by Majere, Pr.ODF in the Bkwyrm’s Occult Book Reviews archive.

Barton The Secret Life of a Satanist

This is the “authorised” biography of the late Anton LaVey, as penned by his Mistress and High Priestess of the Church of Satan, Blanche Barton. It covers most of his life in considerable detail up until the founding of his Church in 1966, then moves on to examine his philosophies and observations of the world around him. Initially, after the publication of this book, quite a few voices arose to challenge the authencity of it’s contents – among them “Rolling Stone” magazine. Especially held in doubt is LaVey’s alleged “fling” with pre-fame days Marilyn Monroe (no biographies of Monroe have ever mentioned such a relationship). So therefore (also considering the obvious bias of the biographer in purporting the contents are pure fact) it is suggested that the reader keep tongue jammed firmly in cheek. Having said that, it is of considerable interest to those who are keen to read more about LaVey’s observations and ideals; in this respect, he is – as usual – forthright in a no-bullshit manner. Basically, it has to be admitted that whether you like or loathe LaVey, he doesn’t pull punches as to what he is and what he stands for – whether you find such agreeable or not. Includes photos. Recommended primarily for fans only, or those who are simply curious.

The Satanic Witch

The Satanic Witch [Amazon, Amazon (2nd Edition), Abebooks, Bookshop, Local Library] by Anton Szandor LaVey, introduction by Zeena LaVey, reviewed by Majere, Pr.ODF in the Bkwyrm’s Occult Book Reviews archive.

LaVey The Satanic Witch

The third volume of LaVey’s writings is aimed more directly at female readers, being a guide to his concept of Satanic seduction and “bitchcraft” techniques. As usual, it is written in his usual flamboyant style, and covers a broad range of subjects from make- up and fashion tips to methods of sexual manipulation through glamour (ie. “Lesser Magic”) . Also introduced is the “LaVey Personality Synthesizer”, used apparently to judge compatibility between the witch and her potential partners, and the volume also contains additional writings on magick – including methods to invoke familiars and send succubi to potential “victims”. Many have found some of LaVey’s suggestions in the book rather distasteful – the use of menstrual blood as a “perfume” being one regularly mentioned. And naturally, the material of the book is likely to offend many die-hard feminists and so-called “white witches”. Therefore, it is probably safe to say this book is only recommended for those with certain tastes – and if readers hold similar tastes to Anton LaVey himself, then no more need be said. Everyone else should look first before buying.

The Satanic Rituals

The Satanic Rituals: Companion to The Satanic Bible [Amazon, Abebooks, Bookshop, Local Library] by Anton Szandor LaVey, reviewed by Majere, Pr.ODF in the Bkwyrm’s Occult Book Reviews archive.

LaVey The Satanic Rituals

The Satanic Rituals is the “companion” text to LaVey’s “Satanic Bible”, and is an expansion of the material given in the last two sections of the latter. Included in the book are a variety of rituals and ceremonies derived from French, German, Middle-Eastern, Russian, and fictional sources – as well as Satanic baptisms, and including a version of the Black Mass. LaVey gives informative forewords to each ritual, explaining the origins and nature of the rites. Perhaps the only tenuous inclusion in the volume is a rite based on the Cthulhu Mythos of H.P Lovecraft, which may make HPL purists squirm (although LaVey reworked it from it’s first “incarnation” in a Derlethian-style Christianized context as penned by Temple Of Set founder, Michael Aquino). Overall, this is worthy of a read.

The Satanic Bible

The Satanic Bible [Amazon, Abebooks, Bookshop, Local Library] by Anton Szandor LaVey, reviewed by Majere, Pr.ODF in the Bkwyrm’s Occult Book Reviews archive.

LaVey The Satanic Bible

Where to begin? This is undoubtably the most popular treatise on Satanism that has ever existed – but is it any good? The main problem with the “Satanic Bible” lies in it’s commercial singularity – such has aided more than a few Church of Satan spokesmen over the years in arrogantly claiming they are the only “true” upholders of Satanism since other groups hold no desire to come forth into the public eye with a marketable introduction. But the real issue, of course, is what the book contains. It is divided into four parts – the first section being primarily paraphrased from Arthur Desmond’s “Might Is Right” and revised by LaVey. It is basically a collection of elitist proclamations presented in “verses”. The second section could be easily said to be the primary part of the book, expounding the philosophies of Anton LaVey and his Church of Satan in relation to a variety of subjects, covering “God”, love, hate, life, death, sex, and “psychic vampirism”. It’s an interesting read to be certain, although the actual personal appeal of LaVey’s philosophies depends mainly on the attitude and tastes of the reader. It has been often said that the appeal of LaVey lies mainly in his accessibility – especially to teenagers, who no doubt form a large part of his following. The language used, and the rationale LaVey applies, made this book pretty much an assured bestseller – and indeed it has been so. In essence, LaVey’s brand of “Satanism” is mainly a blend of rational self-interest (with emphasis on hedonism), materialism, and anti-mainstream sentiments – mixed together with a magickal system that is itself a blend of historical, cultural, and psychodramatic ritual applications (also borrowing from Aleister Crowley and other modern magickians). All this is nicely “packaged” together under the symbol of that age-old Christian archetype – The Devil, Satan. The third and fourth sections relate to the aforementioned magickal system, although the rites presented are basic ceremonies designed for the purposes of invoking lust, compassion, or destruction. LaVey outlines the principles of his system with a fair deal of (accurate) logic and explains the nature of the tools applied. The book is concluded with his own revisions of John Dee’s “Enochian Keys”, which are basically much the same as the originals save for the inclusion of Satan. In summary, whether you love or hate LaVey, the book is certainly worth a read. For those seriously interested in the doctrines of the late “Black Pope” and the Church of Satan, it is an essential purchase. For anyone else, it is a good reference text on the basics of American Satanism as well as an interesting read in it’s own right. Decide for oneself.

The Devil’s Notebook

Majere, Pr. ODF, reviews The Devil’s Notebook by Anton Szandor LaVey in the Bkywrm archive.

LaVey The Devil's Notebook

The fourth volume of LaVey’s writings is apparently a collection of articles penned by him over twenty years, covering a wide variety of topics from “Goodguy Badges” through to “Toilet Seat Meditation”. The majority of the material is not as “esoteric” as his other writings (ie. “Satanic Bible”, “Satanic Rituals”, & “Satanic Witch”), but presented more in a humourous fashion, with LaVey’s usual brand of cynicism and wit. Some might groan at the (again repeated) sections dealing with LaVey’s personal “android” fetish and the now-cliched “Five-Point Pentagonal Revisionism”, but otherwise the book is a worthwhile read if only because LaVey does have a keen and logical perception of the world, regardless of whether you like his Satanism or not. To be honest, if you totally ignored the Satanic references, you’d still be left a rather interesting and readable book.

You can find this book at Amazon, Abebooks, and Powell’s.

The Fenris Wolf No 6

The Fenris Wolf No 6, edited by Carl Abrahamsson, cover art by Fredrik Söderberg, published by Edda Publications, Sweden, is available directly or, in the US, from Weiser Antiquarian

The Fenris Wolf No 6 from Edda Publications

“Edited by Carl Abrahamsson. Cover art by Fredrik Söderberg. The sixth issue of The Fenris Wolf touches upon topics as diverse as occult London, Tantric quests, rune magic and neurology, Cannabis, LSD, entheogenic influences on culture, the Mega Golem, Aleister Crowley in China, Bogomil Gnostics, decadent French author Josephin Péladan, the birth and death horoscopes of the Great Beast 666, Liber AL vel Legis, the psycho-sexual surrealism of Hans Bellmer, healing, death, the extraterrestrial origins of language, Ernst Jünger’s psychedelic approaches, recent Satanic cinema, the occult potential of contemporary physics, “Babalon” as a magical formula, the mystical art of Sulamith Wülfing and a never before published poem, The Litany of Ra, by Charles Stansfeld Jones a.k.a. Frater Achad. And more…

Contents

Carl Abrahamsson – Editor’s Introduction
Frater Achad – A Litany of Ra
Kendell Geers – Tripping over Darwin’s Hangover
Vera Nikolich – Eastern Connections
Carl Abrahamsson – Babalon
Freya Aswynn – On the Influence of Odin
Marita – Runic Magic through the Odinic Dialectic
Aki Cederberg – Afterword: The River of Story
Shri Gurudev Mahendranath – The Londinium Temple Strain
Gary Dickinson – An Orient Pearl
Derek Seagrief – Aleister Crowley’s Birth & Death Horoscopes
Tim O’Neill – Shades of Void
Nema – Magickal Healing
Nema – A Greater Feast
Philip Farber – Sacred Smoke
Robert Taylor – Death & the Psychedelic Experience
Michael Horowitz – LSD: the Antidote to Everything
Alexander Nym – Transcendence as an Operative Category…
Carl Abrahamsson – Approaching the Approaching
Renata Wieczorek – The Secret Book of the Tatra Mountains
Sasha Chaitow – Legends of the Fall Retold
Sara George & Carl Abrahamsson – Sulamith Wülfing
Robert C Morgan – Hans Bellmer
Genesis Breyer P-Orridge – Tagged for Life
Carl Abrahamsson – Go Forth and Let Your Brain-halves Procreate
Anders Lundgren – Satanic Cinema is Alive and Well
Anton LaVey – Appendices” [via]

That Old Black Magick Books, Magazines, and Curiosities

You may be interested in Weiser Antiquarian Book Catalogue #109: That Old Black Magick Books, Magazines, and Curiosities.

Weiser Antiquarian Catalogue 109 - That Old Black Magick Books, Magazines, and Curiosities

“Welcome to the one hundred-and-ninth of our on-line catalogues, this being devoted to books and magazines with a focus on Black Magick.

Fear not if the black arts are not to your taste, we are already working on another of our “Miscellany Lists” and are also making a concerted effort to add fresh titles to our website on a weekly basis. So don’t forget to click the “new arrivals” link at the left side of our homepage regularly.

Amongst the more unusual offerings in the catalogue are a copy of Le Triple Vocabulaire Infernal (ca 1840) by “Frinellan”, an occult anthology published (and quite possibly compiled) by Simon Blocquel, publisher of grimoires, and said to be the source from which Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin acquired the famous “Zoso” symbol. Other rarities include a truly fine copy of the leather-bound First Edition of the “Simon” Necronomicon (1977: limited to 666 copies), and an unusually good copy of the First Edition of Arthur Edward Waite’s The Book of Black Magic and of Pacts (Privately Printed, 1898: 500 copies), one of the first books on the subject to have been studied by Aleister Crowley, and instrumental in his joining the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Also listed — and also rare — is a copy of Waite’s reworking of The Book of Black Magic and of Pacts, entitled by him The Secret Tradition in Goetia (1911). Recent limited editions include two works published by Trident Books: The Treasure of the Old Man of the Pyramids (2002: Limited to 300 copies) and Demonographia (1999: limited to 1000 copies) as well as two titles by the Society of Esoteric Endeavour: Praxis Magica Faustiana (2011: limited to 180 copies);and Magic Secrets (2011: limited to 180 copies). Not books, but certainly unusual, are two decorative curiosities: a small vintage hand-painted miniature Toby Jug in the shape of a Demon or Satyr’s Head and an extremely unusual Japanese Mixed Metal Okimono (“Decorative Object”) of a Human Skull with Serpent entwined around it. Also uncommon are a number of British and Australian magazines and newspapers with often rather sensational — and sensationally illustrated — articles on the likes of Anton Szandor LaVey, Alex and Maxine Saunders, and Charles Manson, as well as more broadly on Witchcraft, Satanism and Magic. Similarly sensational, at least with regard to their cover art, are a number of pulp paperbacks from the late 1950s and early 1960s, whose artists seemed to be vying to outdo one another in their gruesomeness. ” [via]

Aleister Crowley and Western Esotericism

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Aleister Crowley and Western Esotericism, ed. Henrik Bogdan and Martin P Starr, from Oxford University Press:

Henrik Brogdan and Martin P Starr's Aleister Crowley and Western Esotericism from Oxford University Press

 

Oxford University Press has published a groundbreaking collection of academic studies concerning Aleister Crowley and his place in modern intellectual and religious history. The component chapters of Aleister Crowley and Western Esotericism had been written at various points in the last twenty years, and taken together they demonstrate the considerable breadth of relevant subject matter.

The Alex Owen chapter that follows the editors’ introduction is an earlier version of a paper that was eventually incorporated into her constructive monograph The Place of Enchantment, which provides a revisionary perspective on modern occultism. In this version, she seems to be at lesser pains to make Crowley out to be a villain against liberal ethics, but she has the same uninformed regard for his later career, using one or two references to conclude that he was broken and failed after his Algerian operations of 1909. The simple fact is that his most enduring and successful work was done after that: writing Magick in Theory and Practice, reforming O.T.O., designing the Thoth Tarot, and so on.

Marco Pasi provides a valuable primer for academic readers regarding Crowley’s ideas about magic and mysticism, elucidating a tension between the materialist theorizing of Crowley’s early work and the more metaphysical concessions of the fully-initiated Beast. Pasi rightly distinguishes between the Cairo Operation of 1904 and the subsequent attainment of Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel that Crowley claimed in 1906, observing that the identification of Aiwass as Crowley’s personal genius was a later development. He errs, however, in speculating that the equivalence was formulated as late as the writing of Magick in Theory and Practice in the 1920s. In fact, it is a feature of Crowley’s 1909 vision of the Eighth Aire in The Vision and the Voice.

Volume editor Henrik Bogdan’s contribution is a solid paper that fills a lacuna in the literature on Thelema by pointing out the positive contribution of the Plymouth Brethren dispensationalist doctrine to Crowley’s idea of magical aeons. While acknowledging the contemporaneity of occultist “new age” concepts (contrasted as largely pacifist vis-a-vis the martial Aeon of Horus), Bogdan does neglect to point out the important symbolic grounding of Crowley’s hierohistory in the Golden Dawn Equinox ceremony. (For that in detail, see my web-published essay “Aeons Beyond the Three“.)

Gordan Djurdjevic’s paper presents “Aleister Crowley as Tantric Hero” in a morphological, rather than a genealogical sense, stressing the notion of functional parallel between Thelema and Tantra. He makes a sound point about the confusion over Crowley’s Tantric bona fides originating in the secondary materials of biographers and students, rather than Crowley’s own claims. But he fails to address the younger Crowley’s derision of Tantra (“follies of Vamacharya [debauchery]” in The Equinox), and omits to observe that while the older Beast claimed to have studied “numerous writings on the Tantra,” he conscientiously referred aspirant Kenneth Grant to David Curwen for sounder Tantric instruction than the Prophet of Thelema could supply.

In Richard Kaczynski’s chapter, the heroically thorough Crowley biographer provides a somewhat exhaustive exposition of a specific range of Crowley’s own sources, presenting Crowley as a synthesist of Rosicrucianism, Freemasonry, and phallicist theory of religion. These are certainly the ingredients that most saliently inform the O.T.O., and thus Crowley’s social/institutional legacy, and this chapter amounts first and foremost to a bibliographically-dense essay useful to readers interested in understanding precedents for Crowley’s work with O.T.O.

The Tobias Churton piece on “Aleister Crowley and the Yezidis” is admittedly speculative and conjectural, and terribly sloppy even so. Churton recklessly juggles the historical Crowley with the “‘Aleister Crowley’ of popular imagination,” while his comparisons to Yezidism are nearly all in the subjunctive. The paper goes from bad to worse as Churton provides a long concatenation of mixed-together quotes from Thelemic and Yezidi source material, distinguished from each other only in the endnotes! And then in a big wrapup, he writes like an episode of Ancient Aliens, letting loose a stream of absurd hypotheses in the form of questions (e.g. “Are Yezidis prototypes, or long-lost cousins, of Thelemites? … Was Crowley a Yezidi Prophet?”), and bashfully disdaining to answer them. As an “alternative history” video host might say: “Could these things be true??? The answer is: yes.” But they probably aren’t.

The “Frenzied Beast” paper by Matthew Rogers is excellent, but too short. The author’s conspicuous good looks are absent from the printed page, and the article would have been improved by adding further materials on Crowley’s orientation toward Neoplatonism. In particular, the augoeides doctrine in Crowley’s works should have been given more exposure in connection with the source material in Iamblichus, and there should have been a comparison of “astral travel” in Crowley’s modern occultism with its classical antecedents. Rogers is obviously aware of these features, and if he had known how long it would take this book to get to press, he probably would have expanded the scope of his paper to address them in greater detail.

Martin Starr’s chapter was first written for the prestigious Masonic research journal Ars Quatuor Coronati, and in it he attempts to explain Crowley’s relations with Freemasonry (originally to an audience composed of Masons who jealously assume the priviledged status of the United Grand Lodge of England and the “regular” bodies in its network of recognition). The chapter certainly presents a credible narrative to account for the development of Crowley’s distaste for and derision of Freemasonry. Since its original publication in 1995 however, this paper’s judgment of Crowley’s Masonic standing has received a considered rebuttal from David R. Jones, who also explains some of the technical terminology of Masonic organizing that Starr’s piece takes for granted. The relevant features of Crowley’s American period have been fleshed out in Kaczynski’s Panic in Detroit: The Magician and the Motor City.

The real opinions and motives in the relationship between Aleister Crowley and Arthur Edward Waite are a considerable enigma, and the chapter by Robert A. Gilbert provides as complete a picture of their interactions as one could reasonably expect on the basis of the surviving evidence, which makes for very interesting reading. Unfortunately, the closing paragraphs expose Gilbert’s hostility toward Crowley, offering condemnation in a nonsensical comparison with Waite. Supposedly, Waite left (in his writings?) a real means of attainment to later generations, while Crowley did not. And Gilbert derides the contemporary O.T.O. in terms that have had debatable applicability in earlier decades, but are certainly false now. Or is Gilbert here tipping his hand as an exponent for some survival of Waite’s Christianized “Holy Order of the Golden Dawn”? In the end, the matter is no clearer than the true sentiments of the dead occultists.

In another of the collection’s older papers, Massimo Introvigne offers a few startling errors about Crowley (e.g. claims that Crowley hated his father, that Leah Hirsig was his first Scarlet Woman), but none of them have much bearing on his fascinating central topic of Crowley’s admiration for Joseph Smith and Mormonism. Of the various papers in the volume, this is one of those which touches most directly on a larger theoretical issue of scholarship, in exploring the distinction between religion and magic in the inspiring and organizing of new sects. Sadly, Introvigne simply assumes the “magic” character (by his own definitions) of the revelation of Liber AL vel Legis, without any actual inquiry into or discussion of the Cairo working. In this chapter, Crowley ultimately serves as a hostile witness for the defense in an effort to exonerate Mormonism against accusations of having a magical basis. Not that Crowley was hostile to (his own notion of) Mormonism, but he would have wanted to see it convicted of magick!

In Ronald Hutton’s book The Triumph of the Moon (2000) he provided in one chapter what was at that time the most fair and thorough study of Crowley’s influence on the origins of modern religious witchcraft. His chapter here does not merely rehash that material, but updates it with new findings and perspectives. Unlike Introvigne, Hutton does perceive the properly religious character of Crowley’s 1904 revelation and consequent activities. However, he wants to dismiss the religious dimension of Thelema on the (somewhat justifiable) basis of the magical-rather-than-religious orientation of many latter-day Thelemites. It is an understandable position for him, in defense of his slogan touting Wicca as “the only fully formed religion that England has ever given the world.” (In light of the patently and confessedly religious nature of O.T.O., I would suggest a different gambit to Hutton: The revelation in Cairo to the globe-trotting adventurer Crowley, the German roots of O.T.O., and the subsequent formation of the first durable Thelemic communities outside of Britain indicates that Thelema isn’t so much a product of “England” as it is an inherently intercultural, cosmopolitan synthesis.) As in The Triumph of the Moon, Hutton is here focused on English witchcraft, especially as formulated by Gerald Gardner. He consequently gives no attention to the witcheries of American Jack Parsons and Australian Rosaleen Norton, both strongly influenced by Crowley themselves, and not via Gardner’s work.

The case of Norton is taken up in a study by Keith Richmond, who does her full justice. Adding nothing substantial to the reader’s knowledge of Crowley, Richmond instead illuminates Norton’s regard for and understanding of Crowley. She seems to have been friendlier to Crowley’s work in private than in public, which is understandable, in that she had no need to borrow notoriety!

Hugh Urban’s chapter treats Crowley’s possible influence on L. Ron Hubbard and the Church of Scientology. Urban does some contextual violence to various Crowley quotes from Magick in Theory and Practice, but his readings may be consistent with the way Hubbard approached the material, so for immediate purposes there’s not much point in arguing about them. The chapter’s thesis is the conclusion that any dispassionate observer should reach: Hubbard was influenced by Crowley, but Scientology incorporates so many other elements — some others of which have come to predominate while the ones rooted in magick have faded — that it would be false to simply view it as some sort of crypto-Thelema.

The final chapter, contributed by Asbjørn Dyrendal, is an assessment of Crowley’s influence on two of the seminal organizers of contemporary Satanism: Anton LaVey and Michael Aquino, of the Church of Satan and Temple of Set respectively. Although there is a little confusion of the distinct notions of “black magic” and the “Black Brotherhood” in Crowley’s work, this examination is conducted with great care and accuracy on the whole, pointing out both debts to Crowley and explicit rejections by Satanists of some of his teachings. It is interesting to contrast the Satanists’ criticisms of Crowley with Urban’s appraisals of him, since they come to such different conclusions. (While I differ with their ultimate valuations, I think the Satanists are more accurate here.) Although Dyrendal touches briefly on LaVey’s successor Peter Gilmore, he keeps the discussion very focused on the two Satanist founder figures, and it would have been interesting to bring in some of Don Webb’s outspoken opinions on Crowley, for example (he wrote a short monograph called Aleister Crowley: The Fire and the Force), thus demonstrating Crowley’s direct effects on the enduring Satanist milieu.

With a few minor exceptions, the level of scholarship in this volume is impressive. More than that, the papers tend to be lively and challenging reading. As Wouter Hanegraaff points out in his foreword, the caricature of Crowley as a quasi-medieval Doctor Faustus conceals a figure who is quintessentially modern, and to give the Beast his third dimension places him in the same space that the reader inhabits. [via]

 

 

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