Tag Archives: Christian – Classic & Allegory

The Place of the Lion

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Place of the Lion [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Charles Williams.

Williams The Place of the Lion

This novel is certainly the least accessible of Charles Williams’ novels I’ve read so far. Principal characters discuss matters like Neoplatonism and angelology in ways that I understood, but would likely mystify the general reader. There is also a little plot sloppiness: for example, trains become inoperable, and then a character takes a train on the allegedly impassable line, with no explanation of how it was restored. The conclusion lacks plot closure in some important respects, with the cause of the book’s central crisis never really explained, despite the exposition of how it becomes mystically resolved.

The central concern of The Place of the Lion is a class of theriomorphic “Celestials” that answer to the denotations of Christian archangels, Platonic ideas, Gnostic archons, and so forth. These are somehow unleashed on the countryside by a minor theosophical organizer named Berringer, and they proceed to sow terror and ecstasy among the locals. The first two Celestials to emerge are the Lion and the Serpent, as manifestations of archetypal Strength and Subtlety. 

Although the characters overtly reference Plato and Abelard, the theology central to the book’s plot is very much that of Pseudo-Dionysius, with the protagonist Anthony Durrant prosecuting cataphatic mysticism, while his complementary character Richardson is engaged in a severely apophatic aspiration. Gnostic elements are also conspicuous; the philosophy graduate student Damaris Tighe takes the role of the inferior Sophia in a redemptive process that also makes Anthony Durrant into a possessor of the Holy Gnosis. 

A friend recently pointed out the class-constrained character of Williams’ diction (which he finds off-putting), and I did notice that this novel was not only fully as class-conscious as the other Williams I’ve read, but that the omniscient third-person narrator seems to assume and validate class prejudices more often than overturn them.

On the whole, I enjoyed this book, but I found it to be the weakest of the author’s books I have yet read.

The Soul of Lilith

Randall Bowyer reviews The Soul of Lilith [Amazon, Amazon, Abebooks Bookshop, Bookshop Local Library, Local Library, Internet Archive] by Marie Corelli in the Bkwyrm’s Occult Book Reviews archive.

Corelli The Soul of Lilith

Corelli was Queen Victoria’s favorite novelist, which should tell you a lot about the book, but Crowley was also familiar with Corelli’s work and honored her with a reference to her toe-jam in one of his better poems, “Birthday Ode” in Snowdrops, owners of the 1986 Teitan Press edition will note that the editor has confused Marie Corelli with Mabel Collins, the book’s charm is more antiquarian than literary, i.e. it is quaintly Victorian but is no masterpiece by modern standards, it is, however, not without appeal to the occultist, as the tale revolves around magical themes, its main character is determined, Crowley-like, to master the secrets of life through the power of will, and there are several amusing jabs at Theosophy, there is also an unintentionally hilarious character–an idealized self-portrait of the author–who voices all of Corelli’s complaints about society, over and over and over, her style is long-winded and moralizing, and her characters and situations are none too believable, four of the main characters, e.g., are non-Muslim Arabs (three Christians and a pagan), two of whom are uneducated peasants who speak flawless English, and one of whom is blonde, but all her faults notwithstanding, we must hail Marie Corelli as a Past Master of the Bewildering Run-On Sentence, in fine, then, the book is entertaining, if not wholly in the way its author intended, I would, however, recommend that you not buy some arm-and-a-leg Kessinger xerox, but wait till you can find it for $1.50 in a junk-shop in Kokomo.