Tag Archives: continuity

A History of Pagan Europe

A History of Pagan Europe by Prudence Jones and Nigel Pennick, a 2000 reprint paperback from Routledge, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Prudence Jones Nigel Pennick A History of Pagan Europe from Routledge

“The first comprehensive study of its kind, this fully illustrated book establishes Paganism as a persistent force in European history with a profound influence on modern thinking.

From the serpent goddesses of ancient Crete to modern nature-worship and the restoration of the indigenous religions of eastern Europe, this wide-ranging book offers a rewarding new perspective of European history.

In this definitive study, Prudence Jones and Nigel Pennick draw together the fragmented sources of Europe’s native religions and establish the coherence and continuity of the Pagan world vision. Exploring Paganism as it developed from the ancient world through the Celtic and Germanic periods, the authors finally appraise modern Paganism and its apparent causes as well as addressing feminist spirituality, the heritage movement, nature-worship and ‘deep’ ecology.

This innovative and comprehensive history of European Paganism will provide a stimulating, reliable guide to this popular dimension of religious culture for the academic and the general reader alike.” [via]

Experiments in Topology

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Experiments in Topology by Stephen Barr.

Stephen Barr Experiments in Topology

Quality has a quantity of its own, according to Stephen Barr’s accessible account of topology and related mathematical concepts.

This book is excellent for an intelligent adult looking to return to mathematical investigation, without building on a recent “core study” of algebra, geometry, and differential calculus. The issues of exotic topological surfaces, networks, continuity and discreteness, and set theory are all approached in a candid manner with efficient examples. Despite the informality of the prose, anyone reading this like a novel will get very little out of it. This is really a math book, and it often requires the reader to take considerable time to assimilate new ideas.

Part of Barr’s approach to the abstractions of topology is to encourage the reader to construct paper models to approximate some of the surfaces introduced. These exercises are quite worthwhile. Although there is no “test,” the book does include a number of interesting puzzles applying the concepts discussed. [via]

Tragic Posture and Tragic Vision

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Tragic Posture and Tragic Vision: Against the Modern Failure of Nerve by John A Ruprecht, Jr.

Louis A Ruprecht Jr Tragic Posture and Tragic Vision

This wide-ranging meditation combines several elements: a rehabilitation of the concept of tragedy, a condemnation of the “tragic posture” as a feature of modern reflection, and theory about continuity and discreteness in religion. Author Ruprecht first sets himself against his contemporary theorists Alasdair MacIntyre and George Steiner, whom he takes as exponents of the (false) tragic posture of fatalistic pessimism. Then, in order to clarify what he understands as the (true) tragic vision, he begins with the classics, focusing especially on Sophocles’ Antigone as an exemplar. He moves from there into Hegel’s ideas about tragedy, and then to Nietzsche’s. He is not in perfect concurrence with either of these thinkers, but he sees their ideas as a tonic against the tragic posture, even if Nietzsche seems to court it in his later works.

Finally, Ruprecht takes issue with Nietzsche’s “Dionysus versus the Crucified” motto, postulating instead (like some of the Romantics whom Nietzsche criticized) that Jesus was a sympathetic development of Dionysus rather than an oppressive reaction against the pagan tragic ideal. He makes his case by championing the gospel of Mark as a tragic “performance,” focusing on the garden of Gethsemane, and indulging in a full comparison of the four canonical gospels with respect to this episode. In this longest section of the book, Ruprecht conspires with Frank Kermode (whose Genesis of Secrecy he repeatedly cites, though not always in agreement) to get me to view Mark as the best of the four Evangelists, whether or not he is the most “primitive.”

Particularly in the chapter on Nietzsche, and in a related appendix regarding the history of the Parthenon, Ruprecht insists on continuity over discreteness in religion and human experience generally. His opposition to the “tragic posture” is in large measure an objection to a modern exceptionalism (even if what is supposedly exceptional about modernity is its suckitude). I am rather sympathetic to this argument, without taking it to perennialist extremes — and Ruprecht doesn’t — but he also seems to want to view the question of technology (yes, he’s read his Heidegger) as a more peripheral or even cosmetic aspect of the modern condition, with its most significant consequences in degradation of the natural environment. This attitude makes me want to protest: Moore’s Law isn’t just a river in Egypt. [via]

Conan the Bold

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Conan The Bold by John Maddox Roberts from Tor Fantasy:

John Maddox Roberts' Conan the Bold from Tor Fantasy


Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Cimmerian was not often motivated by vengeance, but many of the other authors who have offered stories about that character have decided that a revenge plotline is the best way to get him his due share of violent deeds. Perhaps such writing is under the influence of cinematic revenge drama tropes. Certainly, both the 1982 Conan the Barbarian film and the otherwise quite different 2011 movie of the same title ground Conan’s quests in revenge for the murder of his family and the violent destruction of his home village. The novel Conan the Bold by John Maddox Roberts offers a similar narrative.

In this case, we fortunately avoid the non-REH and now-cliche murder of Conan’s own parents. Instead, we get a sense of his barbarian honor in championing revenge on behalf of a Cimmerian family and village where he was a guest (albeit one with a prospect of marrying into kinship). For an extra helping of vengeance, Conan’s principal companion for most of the book has her own parallel revenge motive that draws the two of them into collaboration. Much of the story is suspended around set piece battles, which suggest a cinematic imagination as much as the revenge plotline does.

Conan is very young in this book, and a little wanting in the sense of humor that Howard gave him, but that so few later writers have managed to keep. His dour determination is quite consistent. After liberating the captives of some slavers, he is told, “We do not know how to thank you.” And then, He shrugged. “I am here because there are some men I must kill.” He turned and walked away (229).

Given how early it is set in Conan’s career, this novel is still an awkward fit in the loose continuity established by Howard’s stories, let alone any more tangled one that might account for the contributions of later authors. It references the sack of Venarium, but has Conan leaving Cimmeria for the first time on a journey that takes him as far as southern Shem.

The diction of the text is neither jarringly modern nor affectedly antique, and the descriptions of sorcery are in keeping with the better efforts of various Conan writers. One might object, however, to such a youthful Conan seeming to have an informed aversion to wizardry, which he has hardly yet had the chance to experience. Roberts does succeed rather admirably at evoking the sense of deep layers of civilization and barbarism that Howard cultivated for his Hyborian setting, without a lot of name-dropping “lore.” The novel’s conclusion has a minimum of denouement, but it is well-crafted for all that. [via]



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Concerning Death by Aleister Crowley in International, Dec 1917.

“Is not the ecstasy of Nuit the consciousness of the continuity of existence, the omnipresence of her body? All that hath hurt thee was that thou knewest it not, and as that fadeth from thee thou shalt know as never yet how all is one.” [via]