Tag Archives: dion fortune

The Occult Novels of Dion Fortune

Alex Sumner reviews the works of Dion Fortune at The Occult Novels of Dion Fortune in Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition, No 0, Introduction to the Western Mystery Tradition.

The Occult Novels of Dion Fortune

Introduction

“Dion Fortune” was the pen-name of Violet Mary Firth, 1890 – 1946: it is derived from “Deo Non Fortuna” (“By God not Luck”), which she adopted as her motto when she was a member of the AO.

Dion was (along with Israel Regardie), one of the most prominent members of the first wave of occultists who joined the Golden Dawn tradition after the split at the turn of the 20th century. A former member of the Theosophical Society, she was inspired by Annie Besant’s description of the later Masters, and believed that she herself had made contact with two of them. It was whilst attending a Theosophical meeting that Fortune discerned she had a gift for psychism. Indeed, when she later joined the AO, it would appear that Fortune already had enough confidence in her abilities to believe that she didn’t have to thank her superiors in that Order for them.

It is crucial to understand Dion Fortune that she was a “Free Thinker”. She developed her own views on the Qabalah, on mystical cosmology, paganism, etc which were unlike those taught by either Theosophy or the AO – in this she relied purely on her own genius. It was this tendency to be a Free Thinker which eventually got her into trouble with Moina Mathers, the head of the particular lodge of the AO to which Fortune belonged. Moina pointed out that the writings which Fortune was channelling from her occult sources were not consistent with AO teaching – this lead Fortune to leave, and eventually set up her own occult organisation, the Society of Inner Light.

Dion’s writing career can be divided into two phases, corresponding to her AO and post-AO periods. It was in the first part (which lasted up to about 1930), she seems to be careful to appease her superiors, and conform to the loyalty and confidentiality expected of a “good little initiate”. However, this was completely against her nature, and towards the later part of this first phase one can recognise Fortune asserting her own Will and her own ideas through her writing, leading inevitably to the confrontation with Moina. It was during this time that Dion wrote Psychic Self-Defence, and the fictional works The Secrets of Doctor Taverner and The Demon Lover.

In the second, post-AO phase, from 1930 until the end of her life in 1946, Dion gave up any pretence of toeing the line as just another initiate, and was quite blatantly using her writing to set out her own magical manifesto. It is from this period that her classic work The Mystical Qabalah dates, as well as her fictional novels The Winged Bull, The Goat-Foot God, and her pièce de resistance, The Sea Priestess. Dion also worked on a further novel, Moon Magic, though this was unfinished in her lifetime, and published posthumously in 1956.

Fortune herself said of her fictional output from the post-AO period:

“The ‘Mystical Qabalah’ gives the theory, but the novels give the practice. … [T]hose who study the ‘Mystical Qabalah’ with the help of the novels get the keys of the Temple put into their hands.” [1]

The Secrets of Doctor Taverner

Dion’s first attempt at fiction was this collection of short stories. John Taverner MD is a Harley Street physician, and the proprietor of a sanatorium in the west country. He engages a young doctor, Eric Rhodes, who has been discharged from the Army following World War One. Rhodes soon discovers some strange things about his employer: that he belongs to some kind of secret society, that he believes in astrology, that he regularly deals with paranormal phenomena, that mysterious people address him as “Greatly Honoured Frater”, etc.

In short, Taverner is a powerful Hermetic magician, who uses Magic to cure the afflictions of the patients that come to him. It appears that “Taverner” is based on a real-life character – Theodore Moriarty, a 7=4 of the AO under whom Fortune studied – whilst the character of “Rhodes” is Fortune herself in the thinnest of disguises.

Fortune therefore uses this scenario to relate a number of incidents which she apparently witnessed whilst under Moriarty’s tutelage. For example, in the story “Blood Lust”, Taverner deals with a Vampire, which is in fact an etheric being or ghost which is sucking the vitality of the living: an incident which Fortune later stated happened in real-life.

Fortune uses the various stories in this book to outline her views on reincarnation: not just the fact that it occurs, but that previous lives exert a strong influence on the present one. Unusually strong in fact: it seems that the characters who become involved in the various plots of the stories are usually destined to have done so by their “ante-natal” activities. Fortune takes this to the extent that people who were lovers in former lives are again drawn together by their karma.

There is at least one incident inspired by her connection to Theosophy. In “Recalled” Fortune writes about a messianic child, The Reconciler between East and West, described as a “mahatma-soul”. The imagery is pure Besant, with “the Reconciler” being modelled on the concept of “the World Teacher” which Besant was grooming. Indeed in The Training and Work of an Initiate Fortune admits she believes in this concept. However, this dates the story terribly, as “the World Teacher” idea disappeared in 1925 when Besant’s protegé, Krishnamurti, publicly disowned Theosophy. Yet in this story we have a quote which reveals another of Fortune’s ideas. When a woman discerns, through occult means, that her husband has had an affair with a native girl in India – and that the girl, pregnant, committed suicide – she says of the girl:

“…[I]t was a woman, and I am a woman, and it seems to hurt me because it hurts womanhood. I can’t put it plainly, but I feel it, I feel it as a hurt to all that is best in me.”

Clearly, Dion is an early Feminist, and is using this story to put forward her beliefs.

However there are a number of problems with “The Secrets of Doctor Taverner” which mark it out as Fortune’s least successful venture into Occult fiction. Firstly, it is written from the viewpoint of a non-psychic (Rhodes). All the interesting phenomena happen to Taverner. Thus whilst Taverner is off in the various regions of the Astral plane, we are often left with Rhodes’ description of these incidents, i.e. that he watches over Taverner lying on a couch. This is quite a serious flaw, as the plots of several of the stories rely on the fact that Taverner gets a number of psychic messages via his astral contacts, and often works his cures on the astral. Hence most of the action is happening in invisible realms which, because the narrator is a non-psychic, we are unable to observe.

Secondly, Fortune unwisely decided to tone-down some of the more interesting incidents. For example, in “Blood Lust”, the Vampire is dispatched in the following manner:

“Then the end came. Taverner leapt forward. There was a Sign then a Sound.”

This is the extent of the detail concerning the method which Taverner used to destroy this fearsome entity, and note that neither the Sign nor Sound was defined. Taverner makes a lot of undetailed Signs throughout the book. Yet in Psychic Self-Defence, Fortune goes into much more detail about what Moriarty did: apparently he surrounded it with Love, and absorbing it into his own aura, he neutralised the creature by meditating on Peace. As a result of this venture, Moriarty lay unconscious for three days – but the Vampire was successfully consigned to oblivion. Clearly, the version in Psychic Self-Defence is both more dramatic and gives a better idea about the magical principles involved. It would appear that Dion was still trying to observe her vows of secrecy and loyalty at this point: hence, she was unwilling to give away anything that might be construed as a secret of the order.

Read the rest of this JWMT article at the library!

Psychic Self-Defense

Bkwyrm reviews Psychic Self-Defense by Dion Fortune in the Bkwyrm archive.

I always wondered where people got the idea that they were being pursued or harassed by some kind of “black coven” and needed “heavy shielding” to be protected from these evil people. Now I know, thanks to reading this book. I won’t say it’s complete crap – this is Dion Fortune, some of the stuff is going to be useful. If you can get past the “when I was twenty, I was a victim of a psychic attack that led to a nervous breakdown” twaddle, some of the material is pretty useful. Actually, it wasn’t until the third section (the book is divided into quarters) that I found material that could be useful in a way other than whipping normally sane humans into hysterical omigodthey’reafterme paranoids.

Part one is devoted to types of psychic attack – the signs of it, examples of it (somehow I wonder if Dion was really pursued by lesbians constantly, but that’s another story altogether), a look at astral travel titled “Projection of the Etheric Body” that is really not that bad, information on psychic vampires (I’ve yet to meet one), information on hauntings, things about danger from non-human entities, and a section on the risks specific to ceremonial magic.

Part two is actually interesting, in a sociological-study kind of way. It covers “Differential Diagnosis” of psychic attack – the “distinction between objective psychic attack and subjective psychic distubance”, for example. Also contains a section on the non-occult dangers of the Black Lodge, which is not likely to be of interest to people who don’t think the world revolves around them and their tremendous psychic powers. Ahem. Anyway, Part two is interesting enough.

Part three is about the diagnosis of a psychic attack – essentially, says Fortune, you have to know that you’re being attacked before you can defend yourself. Which is true, but the criteria she uses for diagnosing psychic attacks are somewhat suspect, at least to me. I still can’t get past this whole concept I have that one must have a firm belief in one’s own attractiveness (psychically speaking) to believe that an attack by a “Black Lodge” or a “Black Coven” is likely. The two chapters on motives behind psychic attacks all seem to center on her own experiences of being attacked in this way for a variety of reasons – indeed, it is amazing that Ms. Fortune had the time to write this book, as she was so busy fighting off so many attacks. I’ll stop being snide now. Part three is really kind of pointless, unless you want to entertain yourself with the stories of Ms. X, Y, and Z and their psychic adventures. Hey, it got me through a plane trip to D.C.

Finally, at long last, we come to the actual useful material – “Methods of Defence Against Psychic Attack”. First the reader has to get through the physical aspects of psychic attacks and defenses (which are actually worthwhile, if the reader has never dealt with this topic before), and the methods of diagnosing the nature of an attack. Strangely enough, the diagnosis here seems much more reasonable than the entirety of part three. Four chapters of methods of defence follow – they include a strange mixture of folklore, superstition, and ceremonial magic. Some of it might be handy. Some of it sound like complete hogwash. Up to the reader to decide, however.

All in all, not too bad. But Dion Fortune was writing at a different time, and her audience was comprised of people with much different (I hope) mindsets than contemporary magicians. I’m inclined to be forgiving about much of the hysterical twaddle that accompanies the actual information in this book – I have hopes that it was included to make the book appeal to a wider audience. In closing, then: if you need a book on psychic self defense, there are much better ones than Psychic Self-Defense. It is, however, a classic, and you could do worse. Avoid it if you’re easily excited, or prone to thinking that others are attacking you – Fortune feeds right into the martyr we all have hiding in a corner of our soul.

Find this book at Amazon, Abebooks, and Powell’s.

The Demon Lover

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Demon Lover by Dion Fortune.

I had previously found cause to compare the fiction of Dion Fortune to that of Charles Williams, and Fortune’s first novel The Demon Lover certainly supports that case. Unlike the occult sensibility of her more lauded book The Sea Priestess, that of The Demon Lover is not neopagan, but rather Christian. Needless to say, it is not a bigoted anti-magical Christianity, but an esoteric perspective that values the Christian tradition, and gives some credit to the possible benefits of a naive piety. Like The Sea Priestess, however, this book amplifies and explains the action of its main characters in terms of their reincarnations through history. Where The Sea Priestess had Atlantean and Celtic pagan backdrops, The Demon Lover offers the Roman Empire and Middle Ages. The story is told by an omniscient third-person narrator, and even more than The Sea Priestess does, it gives the impression of occult instruction illustrated by a tale.

My very worn used softcover has some curious jacket copy describing the state of affairs some 75% of the way through the book as if it were the inception of the plot. A more conventional supernatural thriller might have begun there in fact, gradually disclosing earlier events as they became clear to some less-involved protagonist. But Fortune tells the whole story chronologically, beginning with a conflict internal to an esoteric order in London, and only gradually reaching the country setting where the alarming phenomena occur. The climax of the book is very much engaged with an occultist rationalization of folkloric monsters: both vampires and werewolves.

The characters are composed quite vividly, although they do draw somewhat on stereotypes. There is a short but substantial denouement that completes the redemptive action of the plot, and also addresses its consequences for the secret fraternity and for humanity as a whole. In that passage, Fortune has one of her fictional initiates offer a tacit quote from the ethics lecture of the Neophyte grade in the actual Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Fortune herself had been initiated into its successor orders the Alpha et Omega and the Stella Matutina, but the “Fraternity” of The Demon Lover is clearly no mere mask for any of those, in part because one of its defining characteristics is the exclusion of women, and all three of those hermetic orders from their respective inceptions admitted both men and women. The story is implicitly contemporary, i.e. set in the 1920s, when it was written and first published, but it would probably have made more historical sense if it had been set in the mid-nineteenth century, before the precedent of the Theosophical Society inclined almost all significant occult organizations to afford women equal standing with men.

Although this book is a little clumsier than Fortune’s later fiction, it is still a worthwhile read. [via]

Omnium Gatherum: May 14th, 2014

An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for May 14th, 2014

The Magician from The Disney-D'Morte Tarot
The Magician, The Disney-D’Morte Tarot [HT Boing Boing]

 

  • Review: ‘Aleister Crowley’ explores the life and times of the notorious icon ” — Brooke Wylie, Examiner.com

    “Detractors of rock n’ roll have long called the genre, the ‘Devil’s music,’ so in some ways, it’s all too natural that Gary Lachman (known by his stage name Gary Valentine, to some), who is a founding member of Blondie, and has shredded with Iggy Pop, should eventually become an expert on mysticism and the occult. His latest work, Aleister Crowley: Magick, Rock and Roll, and the Wickedest Man in the World (available May 15) tackles not only the life and times of the illustrious figure, known by many as The Great Beast, but also the collision of Crowley’s legacy with popular culture.”

    The review includes this apropos and awesome typo (emphasis added): “Crowley’s word is a strange one indeed, and wrapping one’s mind around it can be a substantial challenge at times.”

     

  • Was Jesus a Magician?” — Helen Ingram

    “One of these lectures introduced me to the character of ‘Jesus the magician’ and the work of Prof. Morton Smith, who claimed that Jesus’ conduct within the Gospel material constituted a ‘coherent, consistent and credible picture of a magician’s career.’ The theory that the historical Jesus was actively practicing magic and that this behaviour is reflected in the Gospel materials was a very intriguing proposal and immediately stimulated a personal interest in this field of research. This curiosity culminated in the submission and acceptance of my PhD thesis …”

  • SATANIC BLACK MASS AT HARVARD, SATANIC MONUMENT IN OKLAHOMA” — Paul McGuire, NewsWithViews.com; from the RTFM dept.

    “But the software of God, which is the downloading of cosmic apps, should be understood as nothing more than a contemporary parable to explain in understandable terms the gifts and abilities that the Living God gives people on a natural and supernatural level, the gifts of the Spirit. Tragically, most of the modern Pentecostal and Charismatic movements which emphasized these gifts did so in a very distorted and degraded manner, so that these terms have become synonymous with hyper-emotionalism, crazy behavior and aberrant behavior. This is a degradation and improper use of both the software and the apps. They did not read the basic operating instructions provided in the manual.”

  • The Colbert Report on the Oklahoma Baphomet monument, including a call-in by Satan, Lord of Hell, himself [HT The Lost Ogle]

     

  • Real Satanists Don’t Send Press Releases” — Thomas L McDonald, God and the Machine

    “The modern so-called Satanists who make all the noise are not really Satanists. They don’t actually believe in Satan. Most are atheists who couch their so-called ‘Satanism’ in terms of resistance or philosophy. It’s not a religion, but a critique of religion, or somesuch blather. It’s all theater.”

    “The black mass emerged again in the 19th century in the salons, universities, and intellectual circles of Europe, which was the wellspring of modern occultism. Lacking much primary documentation, the upper classes mostly invented their version of a black mass influenced by literature and structured around a simple inversion of the Catholic mass. No real tradition directly linking medieval diabolism to modern so-called Satanism exists, which means horror movies, fiction, and imagination are at the root of most modern practice.”

  • God is dead—What next? Searching for meaning in the age of atheism” — Alasdair Craig, Prospect [HT Arts & Letters Daily]

    “[Peter] Watson is more optimistic about the possibility of an emotionally satisfying atheism. His proposal is that we use art and literature to comprehend and re-enchant the world that science has made foreign. Science is one way of understanding the world; art and literature another, he seems to say. Science provides technology, medicine and abstract knowledge; art provides meaning, purpose and a different, more intimate and immediately relevant kind of knowledge. God’s death just means that we need to construct our own, non-authoritative narratives and art, replete with purpose and meaning. Instead of one unified story to which everyone subscribes, we should play around with a plurality of downgraded stories, which can form the basis of our day-to-day lives.”

     

  • Ancient Egyptians transported pyramid stones over wet sand” — Ans Hekkenberg, Phys.org

    “Physicists from the FOM Foundation and the University of Amsterdam have discovered that the ancient Egyptians used a clever trick to make it easier to transport heavy pyramid stones by sledge. The Egyptians moistened the sand over which the sledge moved. By using the right quantity of water they could halve the number of workers needed. The researchers published this discovery online on 29 April 2014 in Physical Review Letters.”

    “The Egyptians were probably aware of this handy trick. A wall painting in the tomb of Djehutihotep clearly shows a person standing on the front of the pulled sledge and pouring water over the sand just in front of it.”

  • Review: Limp Renaissance sex romp a poor Carry On indeed” — Rebecca Harkins-Cross, Brisbane Times

    Elixir is based on the escapades of Edward Kelley and John Dee, a famed occultist duo in Renaissance England who professed the ability to summon angels and to conduct alchemy. […] [Edward Kelley (Christy Hawkins)] concocts a cunning plan to unlock his colleague’s wife Jane’s (Naomi Takita) chastity belt and pacify the emperor simultaneously, convincing Doctor Dee (Stephen Weir) the elixir should be made from wizard seed and a cuckold’s tears.”

  • Scientists Confirm Vampires Were Onto Something” — Maxwell Barna, VICE News

    “New research published this week by two teams of scientists confirmed what Bram Stoker and countless philosophers, scientists, and cannibals have long posited — there’s an indisputable relationship between blood and aging.”

    “‘When we added young blood, the older mice not only looked better, but they became cognitively better,’ Saul Villeda, the principal investigator at UCSF’s Villeda Lab, told VICE News. ‘It’s like we can turn back the clock on some parts of aging.'”

  • Footage of Orson Welles’s ‘Voodoo’ Macbeth” — National Film Preservation Foundation

    “It had long been assumed that no sound or moving images survived from Orson Welles’s legendary ‘Voodoo Macbeth,’ the Federal Theatre Project’s 1936 Harlem stage production of Shakespeare’s play, set in Haiti with an African American cast. But priceless historical footage can turn up within unlikely places. This long-forgotten record of the first professional play staged by Orson Welles was found in another film, the U.S. government-produced We Work Again, a Depression-era documentary on African American employment.”

  • Stonehenge Discovery ‘Blows Lid Off’ Old Theories About Builders Of Ancient Monument” — Macrina Cooper-White, Huffpost Science

    “Last October, [David] Jacques led an archaeological dig at a site 1.5 miles from Stonehenge. His team unearthed flint tools and the bones of aurochs, extinct cow-like animals that were a food source for ancient people. Carbon dating of the bones showed that modern-day Amesbury, an area that includes the dig site and Stonehenge itself, has been continuously occupied since 8820 B.C. Amesbury has now been declared the oldest continually occupied area in Britain.

    The finding suggests that Stonehenge was built by indigenous Britons who had lived in the area for thousands of years. Previous theories held that the monument was built in an empty landscape by migrants from continental Europe.”

  • Ancient Desert Glyphs Pointed Way to Fairgrounds” — Sean Treacy, Science

    “Seen from above, the jagged rocks strewn about the Chincha Valley desert in Peru seem inconspicuous. But stand in the desert itself and these rocks form lines that stretch toward the horizon. Researchers have found that these lines were probably ancient signposts for the Paracas culture more than 2000 years ago, guiding people across the desert to gathering places for the winter solstice.”

  • Astronomers Identify the Sun’s Long-Lost Sister” — Becky Ferreira, Motherboard [HT Slashdot]

    “HD 162826 is 15 percent more massive than our Sun, and is about 110 light years away in the constellation Hercules. It’s not visible to the naked eye, but it is bright enough to be seen through binoculars.

    Astronomers had been observing the star for almost two decades without realizing it’s the long-lost sister of the Sun.”

  • LGBTQ Tolerance in the Golden Dawn” — Alex Sumner, Sol Ascendans

    “Say what you like about MacGregor Mathers, but on one point he was resolute: he would not brook gossip about Fratres’ and Sorores’ lives — this being a matter purely between themselves and their God. […] Mathers’ firm stand has led to a progressive consequence: the Golden Dawn was the first magical order to adopt a modern approach to tolerance. However, the Western Mystery Tradition was almost derailed by the efforts of Dion Fortune.”

  • Aleister Crowley, aliens, owls and Jesus” — Mike Clelland, hidden experience

    “Little is known of the origin of the big headed entity known as Lam. All that can be known for sure is that this image was drawn by Aleister Crowley to depict a being that was summoned during a magickal ritual titled The Amalantrah Working. This sketch later hung on a gallery wall at Crowley’s Dead Souls exhibition in Greenwich Village, New York, in 1919.”

    “Things get weirder, when the image is reversed, an image of an owl emerges! Granted, I’m seeing owls everywhere I look these days, but still.

    Also, the name Crowley has OWL embedded right in it.”

  • Black magician Aleister Crowley’s early gay verse comes to light: Notebook of poems written by heartbroken occultist in 1898 to be exhibited at antiquarian book fair in London” — Maev Kennedy, The Guardian

    “In 1898 the Wickedest Man in the World was feeling thoroughly sorry for himself. The occultist Aleister Crowley’s first great love affair, with fellow Cambridge undergraduate Herbert Jerome Pollitt, was in ruins, and he took to poetry as his only solace.

    ‘When my sick body in his love lies drowned/ And he lies corpse-wise on me, nor will rise/ Though my breath shudders, and my soul be dead,’ he wrote — and much, much more — in a tiny notebook of unpublished manuscript poems which has recently resurfaced.

    The actor and rare book dealer Neil Pearson, who will exhibit the little book at the Olympia antiquarian book fair in London later this month, concedes that this is not great poetry. ‘The verse is rather broken-backed, and vulgar where he is trying to be honest. But it was written at a time when he was feeling heartbroken and vulnerable and it does somehow humanise him — and God knows Aleister Crowley, more than most people, needs humanising.'”

  • Critical Thinking #5: Marina Warner: The critic and mythographer on fairytales, feminism, modern art, translation and the LRB” — Zeljka Marosevic, Prospect [HT Arts & Letters Daily]; this seems quite an interesting interview, but here’s a few excerpts that caught my eye

    “It’s often encountering the faith of others that I’ve found most disturbing. I don’t wish to scorn faith as it’s a universal part of human consciousness. But as such, it’s a deep puzzle, and I’m interested in its effects and manifestations. I worry about the effects of it, especially in our increasingly conflicted religious world.”

    “Grappling with myths has been my principal interest for years, even to a certain extent, my cause: to put the study of imaginative structures back into the frame when confronting important issues. Not to think of imagination and fantasy as merely childish, or to dismiss them as having no purchase on reality.”

    “Myth and fairy tale have definitely returned. First of all there’s a generation who have grown up on Dungeons and Dragons, Tolkien and Narnia, and now, Philip Pullman and Harry Potter. I haven’t read the Twilight stories so I probably shouldn’t talk about them, but I have watched one of the films, and it seems to me that it’s an example of the problem of attenuation: instead of getting richer, these stories are being told in a less rich way, and the vampires are being tamed!”

  • ‘I gather the limbs of Osiris’: Notes on the New Gnosticism” — Henry Gould, Coldfront

    “One way to think of the New Gnosticism, then, might be as the overturning of an analytical negation (Language Poetry). It includes, also, a reversal of the ‘old’ Gnosticism: which was itself a sort of skeptical deconstruction of canonical Biblical texts.”

    “The infinite starry realm of scribbling, scrambling poets every now and then produces a new galaxy, that is, a new movement or school. These emergent phenomena always generate a contradictory mix of enthusiasm and doubt.”

  • Do What Thou Wilt” — Brandy Williams, Star and Snake

    “The Law applies equally for everyone; each person, each creature, has their own will to do. It’s not my business to figure anyone else’s will out for them.”

  • Exploring Thelema and Chaos Magick, with Pete and Sef (Part 4)” — The Blog of Baphomet

    “‘Pure Will’ ‘unassuaged of purpose’ sounds like it can mean anything, everything, or nothing. I consider that people consist of the totality of what they do (which of course includes what they think). The idea of their having some sort of ‘being’ separate from their doing, or for that matter some sort of ‘will’ other than their total doing seems superfluous to me. I can however appreciate the idea that doing some things may tend to give better results than doing others, and to this extent I can understand ‘Do What thou Wilt’ as an exhortation to do the very best of what you can possibly do and love to do, as so many people settle for mediocrity and lousy compromises.”

  • Caesar by Plutarch and more, quoted at “Caesar’s reform of the calendar — some ancient sources” — Roger Pearse [HT Rogueclassicism]

    “2. For not only in very ancient times was the relation of the lunar to the solar year in great confusion among the Romans, so that the sacrificial feasts and festivals, diverging gradually, at last fell in opposite seasons of the year, 3. but also at this time people generally had no way of computing the actual solar year; the priests alone knew the proper time, and would suddenly and to everybody’s surprise insert the intercalary month called Mercedonius.”

    “5. But Caesar laid the problem before the best philosophers and mathematicians, and out of the methods of correction which were already at hand compounded one of his own which was more accurate than any. This the Romans use down to the present time, and are thought to be less in error than other peoples as regards the inequality between the lunar and solar years.

    6. However, even this furnished occasion for blame to those who envied Caesar and disliked his power. At any rate, Cicero the orator, we are told, when some one remarked that Lyra would rise on the morrow, said: ‘Yes, by decree,’ implying that men were compelled to accept even this dispensation.”

  • Phantom Time” — Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know from How Stuff Works [HT Wythe Marschall]

    “A few fringe professors have caused rumblings with their controversial claim that three hundred years of human history have been entirely made up.”

     

  • First life with ‘alien’ DNA: An engineered bacterium is able to copy DNA that contains unnatural genetic letters.” — Ewen Callaway, Nature News; from the either-way-more-boring-or-way-more-scary-than-it-sounds dept.

    “For billions of years, the history of life has been written with just four letters — A, T, C and G, the labels given to the DNA subunits contained in all organisms. That alphabet has just grown longer, researchers announce, with the creation of a living cell that has two ‘foreign’ DNA building blocks in its genome.”

    “‘What we have now is a living cell that literally stores increased genetic information,’ says Floyd Romesberg, a chemical biologist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, who led the 15-year effort.”

  • Gay Witches” — Masha Mel, VICE; a photo gallery

    Masha Mel Gay Witches at VICE

     

  • Article about EyeWire at “Computer Game Reveals ‘Space-Time’ Neurons in the Eye” — John Bohannon, Science

    “Researchers have known for decades that the eye does much more than just detect light. The dense patch of neurons in the retina also processes basic features of a scene before sending the information to the brain. For example, in 1964, scientists showed that some neurons in the retina fire up only in response to motion. What’s more, these “space-time” detectors have so-called direction selectivity, each one sensitive to objects moving in different directions. But exactly how that processing happens in the retina has remained a mystery. […] Enter the EyeWire project, an online game that recruits volunteers to map out those cellular contours within a mouse’s retina.”

  • Katherine Harmon Courage on independently thinking octopus arms and the awful Evil Dead-like tragedy of octopus boredom

    “The octopus’s nervous system is a fascinating one. Some two thirds of its neurons reside not in its central brain but out in its flexible, stretchable arms. This, researchers suspect, lightens the cognitive coordination demands and allows octopuses to let their arms do some of the ‘thinking’—or at least the coordination, problem-solving and reaction—on their own.

    And these arms can continue reacting to stimuli even after they are no longer connected to the main brain; in fact, they remain responsive even after the octopus has been euthanized and the arms severed.” [via]

    “Octopuses are so smart they get bored. Aquarium staff have learned to be wary of a bored octopus because they’ve been known to break the monotony by eating their own arms. That tends to scare the kids.” [via]

     

  • The Art World is Too Safe Now: H.R. Giger has Died” — Glendon Mellow, Scientific American

    “The art world has become safer, less dangerous and less disturbing than it ought to be today. The giant in the night, H.R. Giger, has died, it is being reported. […] Giger is dead. His shadow remains cast over our future. The shadow moves.”

  • L. Rock Hubbard: Revisiting the curious career of the ultimate cult musician.” — Nathan Rabin, Slate Culturebox

    “Hubbard’s sonic space opera is, as you might imagine, a staggeringly strange piece of work, a bewildering cross between Queen’s Flash Gordon soundtrack (whose hero is referenced in the shameless opening track ‘Golden Age of Sci-Fi,’ along with Superman and Buck Rogers), an amateur radio play, and a campy audiobook that goes overboard with special effects and musical cues. If you have not recently read all 1,050 pages of Battlefield Earth or seen the film, the album is completely incomprehensible; if you’re familiar with the story, it’s mildly comprehensible.”

Occult Conference in Glastonbury, UK on Mar 22nd, 2014

Occult Conference 2014 will be held in Glastonbury, UK on March 22nd, 2014, with tickets available online through March 16th. This event will have vendors, workshops, lectures, a Gnostic Mass ritual, keynote, an evening ball, and more.

“The new and re-imagined Occult Conference will be investigating five Initiatory Traditions within British Occultism:
· Alexandrian Wicca
· Dion Fortune Western Mystery Schools
· Illuminates of Thanateros
· Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids
· Ordo Templi Orientis

We have brought together fantastic representatives of these Traditions, and will be offering lectures and workshops to allow attendees a glimpse behind the curtains, and to gain hands-on experience of the praxis within.

After a packed day, we will be converting the venue into a Temple for a very special celebration of Liber XV: The Gnostic Mass by Ordained Officers of Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica, under the auspices of O.T.O. All will be welcome to celebrate the Divine in Humanity, and the Generative and Creative forces of Nature.

The Jupiterian Ball will round off the evening with aplomb: Dance and enjoy cocktails to music from Swing to Rockabilly, decked out in your finest evening-wear or vintage dress. Separate tickets for partners or friends will be available for this section.

We will also be hosting Peter J. Carroll and Matt Kabryn as they launch EPOCH: The Esotericon and Portals of Chaos! Make sure to attend for an exclusive chance to buy signed first editions, and discuss this work with the authors themselves.”

The Magical Revival

The Magical Revival [also, also] by Kenneth Grant, the 2010 standard edition hardcover from Starfire Publishing, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Kenneth Grant The Magical Revival from Starfire Publishing

“When the original manuscript of this book was submitted for publication the author was told he had provided ‘too much material for one book’. This proved to be correct. The work here presented—in an enhanced edition—became the first volume of three Trilogies. They deal with a detailed analysis of certain occult traditions which existed long before the Christian epoch, survived its persecutions and anathemas, and reappeared in recent times with renewed vigour.

The continuity of this magical current as reflected in the work of Aleister Crowley, Austin Osman Spare, Dion Fortune and others is here traced through the Tantrik Tradition of the Far East, the Sumerian Cult of Shaitan and the Draconian, Sabian, or Typhonian rites of the ‘dark’ dynasties of ancient Egypt.

Sexual magick and mysterious rites have always been practiced; drugs and other substances have constantly been used to induce ecstasy, to produce visions and to facilitate traffic with the denizens of other worlds or planes of consciousness; but an initiated rationale of the process such as presented here has been rarely forthcoming.

The genuine magical tradition as revived by Adepts like Crowley is here related to its ancient sources and brought into line with phases of contemporary occultism that are evolving a New Gnosis to supercede the sterile superstitions bred of an aeon-long misunderstanding of the old.

As a contribution to occult lore, The Magical Revival and its companion volumes have become standard source-books in their special field.” — flap copy

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

What You Should Know About the Golden Dawn

What You Should Know About The Golden Dawn by Israel Regardie, with a foreword by Christopher S Hyatt, the fifth and enlarged 1988 printing of the paperback from Falcon Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Israel Regardie What You Should Know About the Golden Dawn from Falcon Press

Apparently, there’s also a 2011 ebook edition of this as well, which may be of interest, which includes at least some new material, from the 2010 New Falcon revised print edition, by Chic and Tabatha Cicero and Regardie’s 1934 Stella Matutina Enochian Examination from his personal archives.

“This fascinating book has been out of print and highly sought after for many years since its first publication as My Rosicrucian Adventure in 1936.

In this work Israel Regardie relates his own personal experience with those secret societies which have exerted such a great influence on the development of modern Occultism.

Regardie lifts the cloak of mystery which has shrouded The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, The Rosicrucian Fraternity, and The Masonic Lodge.

From his close personal association Regardie reveals the true nature and actions of such leading Occult authorities as Aleister Crowley, S.L. MacGregor Mathers, Dr W.W. Westcott, Dion Fortune.

‘Israel Regardie is the last representative of the great occult tradition of the late 19th century, whose major names include Madame Blavatsky, W.B. Yeats, MacGregor Mathers, A.E. Waite, Aleister Crowley and Dion Fortune. Even in such distinguished company, Regardie stands out as a figure of central importance.’ — Colin Wilson”

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

The Golden Dawn

The Golden Dawn: The Original Account of the Teachings, Rites & Ceremonies of the Hermetic Order by Israel Regardie, in Llewellyn’s Golden Dawn series, the 1989 sixth edition paperback from Llewellyn Publications, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Israel Regardie's The Golden Dawn from Llewellyn Publications

Apparently I purchased this on Dec 5, 1990, from Seattle’s old Astrology Et Al when it was on University Ave, according to the original receipt that is still bookmarking the LBRP. It’s extremely amusing to think about how long I dithered over finally making what was, at the time, a rather costly $19.95 purchase given what I’ve paid for other various volumes since … but, at the time, I recall it was quite a commitment. And, in case you hadn’t noticed before, check out the epilogue written back in 1986 by Hermetic Library fellow Sam Webster.

“AN ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PRACTICAL OCCULTISM

The Original Account of the Teaching, Rites and Ceremonies of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn as revealed by Israel Regardie, with further revision, expansion, and additional notes by Israel Regardie, Cris Monnastre, and others. A comprehensive index has been supplied by noted occultist David Godwin for this new edition.

Originally published in four volumes of some 1200 pages, this 6th Revised and Enlarged Edition has been reset in half the pages (retaining the original pagination in marginal notation for reference) for greater ease of use.

Corrections of errors in the original editions have been made, with further revision and additional text and notes by actual practitioners of the Golden Dawn system of magick, with an introduction by the only student ever accepted for personal training by Regardie.

The Golden Dawn, once a secret order, was one of the most prestigious groups flourishing at the turn of the century. Membership included such notables as W. B. Yeats, Aleister Crowley, Dion Fortune, Algernon Blackwood, Arthur Machen, Lady Frieda Harris, Brodie Innes, S. L. MacGregor Mathers, A. E. Waite, Evelyn Underhill and W. Wynn Westcott. Its influence on 20th century spiritual science has been enormous!

Today there are independent lodges practicing the Golden Dawn system of Magick all over the world, and the Knowledge Lectures included in this book are fundamental to nearly all aspects of Western Esotericism.

Also included are Initiation Ceremonies, important rituals for consecration and invocation, methods of meditation and magical working based on the Enochian Tablets, studies in the Tarot, and the system of Qabalistic Correspondences that unite the world’s religions and magical traditions into a comprehensive and practical whole.

This volume is designed as a study and practice curriculum suited to both group and private practice. Meditation upon, and following with the Active Imagination, the Initiation Ceremonies are fully experiential without need of participation in group or lodge.

The Golden Dawn, a system for perfecting the raw material that is humanity; a system for awakening the consciousness within and uniting with that of the universe itself.”

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

Atlantis and the Cycles of Time

Atlantis and the Cycles of Time: Prophecies, Traditions, and Occult Revelations by Joscelyn Godwin, the 2011 softcover edition from Inner Traditions, which arrived courtesy of the author, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Joscelyn Godwin's Atlantis and the Cycles of Time from Inner Traditions

“Atlantis has held a perennial place in the collective imagination of humanity from ancient Greece onward. Many of the great minds of the occult and esoteric world wrote at length on their theories of Atlantis—about its high culture, its possible location, its ultimate demise, and their predictions of a return to Atlantean enlightenment or the downfall of modern society.

Beginning with a review of the rationalist writings on Atlantis—those that use geographic and geologic data to validate their theories—renowned scholar Joscelyn Godwin then analyzes and compares writings on Atlantis from many of the great occultists and esotericists of the 19th and 20th centuries, including Fabre d’Olivet, G. I. Gurdjieff, Guido von List, Julius Evola, Edgar Cayce, Dion Fortune, and René Guénon, whose writings often stem from deeper, metaphysical sources, such as sacred texts, prophecy, or paranormal communication. Seeking to unravel and explain the histories and interpretations of Atlantis and its kindred myths of Lemuria and Mu, the author shows how these different views go hand-in-hand with the concept of cyclical history, such as the Vedic system of the four Yugas, the Mayan calendar with its 2012 end-date, the theosophical system of root races, and the precession of the equinoxes. Venturing broader and deeper than any other book on Atlantis, this study also covers reincarnation, human evolution or devolution, the origins of race, and catastrophe theory.”

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

The Secret Rituals of the O.T.O.

The Secret Rituals of the O.T.O., edited and introduced by Francis X King, the 1973 hardcover edition from Weiser Books, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Francis X King's The Secret Rituals of the O T O from Weiser Books

“In recent years there has been a remarkable resurgence of interest in what is generally referred to as the ‘Occult’. Popular Sun-sign astrology has become a subject for cocktail party chatter; the ‘Underground press’ displays an intensive, although often ill-informed, interest in such subjects as Glastonbury, Ley Hunting, and Flying Saucers; and books — many of them owing what little merit they possess to the skilful employment of scissors and paste — on all aspects of occultism pour from all the presses.

In the shadow of such well-published aspects of the Occult revival can be dimly discernec the shape of an altogether more important phenomenon — nothing less than the rebirth of Magic. Magic, that is, in the sense that is was defined by that extraordinary occultist Dion Fortune: ‘The science and art of causing changes in consciousness in accordance with will.’

There is no doubt that the magical techniques, for which extraordinary efficacy is claimed, are almost exclusively derived (although sometimes indirectly) from those two extraordinary occult sodalites the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and the Ordo Templi Orientis. The rites and secret instructions of the former organization are easily available in Dr Francis Regardie’s Golden Dawn, a work which only now, thirty-five years after its first publication, is beginning to receive the appreciation it so undoubtedly deserves. Those of the latter, the Ordo Templi Orientis, have hitherto never been published, although grossly inaccurate and incomplete typescript versions of them have occasionally been sold for high prices.

Now, at last, this volume makes available to the occult student not only the symbolic-masonic riches of the initiate on rituals of the O.T.O. but the secret magical instructions of the Order’s seventh, either and ninth degrees, the full details of the techniques from which such occultists as Theodor Reuss and Aleister Crowley derived their mystic powers.

Here is a source book that has a place in the library of every serious student of the Occult.”

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.