Now cometh from every side at once a voice, terribly great, crying: Close the veil; the great blasphemy hath been uttered; the face of my Mother is scarred by the nails of the devil. Shut the book, destroy the breaker of the seal!
What the man in the street means by Atheist is the militant Atheist, Bradlaugh or Foote; and it is a singular characteristic of the Odium Theologicum that, instead of arguing soberly concerning the proposition, which those worthies put forward, they always try to drag the red herring of morality across the track. Of all the stupid lies that men have ever invented, nothing is much sillier than the lie that one who does not believe in God must be equally a disbeliever in morality. As a matter of fact, in a country which pretends so hard to appear theistic as England, it requires the most astounding moral courage, a positive galaxy of virtues, for a man to stand up and say that he does not believe in God; as Dr. Wace historically remarked, ‘it ought to be unpleasant for a man to say that he does not believe in Jesus’; and my dislike to Atheism is principally founded on the fact that so many of its exponents are always boring me about ethics. Some priceless idiot, who, I hope, will finish in the British Museum, remarked in a free-thinking paper the other day, that they need not trouble to pull down the churches, ‘because they will always be so useful for sane and serious discussion of important ethical problems.’ Personally, I would rather go back to the times when the preacher preached by the hour-glass.
for it is no secret that the falling away of all nations from religion, which only a few blind-worms are fatuous enough to deny, is due to the fact that the fire no longer burns in the sacred lamp.
Aleister Crowley, Concerning “Blasphemy” in General & the Rites of Eleusis in Particular.
Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Hellfire Clubs: Sex, Satanism and Secret Societies by Evelyn Lord.
I thought I was sure to love this book, but it didn’t live up to my expectations. The title offers “hell-fire clubs” as an organizational genre, but the study never does a very good job of delimiting what they were. Author Lord basically seems willing to give consideration to any membership society that fostered street violence, blasphemy, or clandestine sex, within the historical span of her study, which covers the entire 17th through 18th centuries, in the Anglophone world generally. She repeatedly invokes a hypothesis regarding “outlets for masculine energy” as though it were self-explanatory and evidently credible.
On p. 94, she writes: “The reason for painting Dashwood as a friar will never be known….” It seems to me rather that there are a variety of perfectly obvious motives: the pun on his given name, the reputation of friars for sexual misconduct, Dashwood’s role as the founding “Saint” of the Medmenham “Order,” and so on. She often seems to pose as a skeptic when she’s merely suffering from a lack of contextual information or insight. In general, I found her treatment of the Medmenham Friars—a necessary central feature of any book on this topic—to be less thorough and less perceptive than that of Geoffery Ashe, whose work she often cites.
She mentions Freemasonry in passing a few times, suggesting that one or another of the clubs that serve as the object of her study were aping or mocking it; but if she actually knows anything about the workings of Masonry, she doesn’t bother to explain how or why this verdict would be of interest.
The prose style is pleasant enough, and the photographic plates are excellent. The book is shorter than it seems: its 214 pages are in a generous font on heavy stock. A real strength of the book is the chapter on Scottish hell-fire groups, focused on the sex society of the Beggar’s Benison. The ending is abrupt and rather inconclusive. All in all, it’s not a waste of time for anyone genuinely interested in the topic, but it’s far from everything I’d hoped it would be. [via]
You may be interested in “Thing in the Attic” by James Blish which was recently added to Project Gutenberg.
“The reputation that they had given him, too, had helped to bring him to the end of the snap-spine tether. They had given weight to his words among others—weight enough to make him, at last, the arch-doubter, the man who leads the young into blasphemy, the man who questions the Book of Laws.
And they had probably helped to win him his passage on the Elevator to Hell.”