Yet my mind — thanks be to the most high eternal gods! — can never rest for more than an albatross’s glide upon the slopes of the past. Today, writing my memories, I feel as if I were playing a sort of practical joke upon myself. I am hot on the trail of the future. I can imagine myself on my deathbed, spent utterly with lust to touch the next world, like a boy asking for his first kiss from a woman.
Demands for sacrifice lack appeal for those who have already sacrificed, and been sacrificed, too much and for too long. The future promised by the left looked to be – at worst, even worse – and at best, not noticeably better than the status quo. Why rush to the barricades or, for that matter, why even bother to vote?
These reactionaries preserved their moral purity (as reactionaries so often do) by not reading, so they didn’t have to see that Soviet writers had been using science fiction for years to write with at least relative freedom from Party ideology about politics, society, and the future of mankind.
The night that seemed endless hours before is now slipping from your fingers, ticking by as it falls into the past and pushes you toward the future.
Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus
All of Austin’s ambitions, his hopes and dreams for the future, drowned in the fear that he would never escape this forest.
Matthew Lowes, Old Growth
An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for March 26th, 2014
“Unconditional Forecast. It is a Black Sun. 100% Certainty.” — Space: 1999, “Black Sun,” November 1975 [via]
- Professor Bergman in Space: 1999, “Black Sun” [HT Unmann-Wittering]; from the thin-blue-line dept.
“There is a thin line between science and mysticism.”
- Reginald Dalton in Blackwood’s Standard Novels, Vol X; from the gpoy dept.
“Suddenly the clock strikes twelve, and the Frater Bibliothecarius whispers, ‘Dinner!’ […] the western sun staining with admonitory glories the painted window over against the successful negociator, the sudden half-sorrowful, half-ecstatic departure.—There is a life and truth about the whole affair that must send their charm into every bosom and force, even from the man that prefers a book to a title-page, a momentary echo of, ‘I should like to dine with this Nongtong-paw.'”
- “Before the Garden Gnome, the Ornamental Hermit: a Real Person Paid to Dress Like a Druid” — Allison Meier, Atlas Obscura; from the we’ll-make-great-pets dept.
“The ornamental hermit vanished at the end of the 18th century. In The Hermit in the Garden, [Gordon] Campbell chronicles the remains in a ‘catalogue of hermitages,’ listing whether they are destroyed, extant, or never built at all. However, the humble hermit may not have left us entirely. As Campbell argues, ‘the garden hermit evolved from the antiquarian druid and eventually declined into the garden gnome.'”
- “The future of the library catalogue“, a presentation from Facet Publishing about Catalogue 2.0: The Future of the Library Catalogue, edited by Sally Chambers; from the met-a-data-for-drinks dept.
- Amy Brose quoting presenters at Library Tech Conference 2014, via tweet [HT Nancy Sims]; from the golem dept.
“if there is a theme from this conference it is the library should help the community create things.”
- “Black Mirror” — Arts University Bournemouth; from the get-to-the-art-of-the-matter dept.
“Black Mirror is a new research network based at the Arts University Bournemouth. The intent of the network is to explore the influence and role of enchantment, esotericism, the occult and magic in modernist and contemporary art. […] To document the project, a special series of peer-reviewed publications will be issued by Fulgur Esoterica.”
- “Vatican Library to digitise archives with Japanese support” — BBC News Europe; from the but-what’s-the-cocaine-and-condoms-for dept.
“The Vatican Library has begun digitising its priceless collection of ancient manuscripts dating from the origins of the Church. The first stage of the project will cover some 3,000 handwritten documents over the next four years. […] Eventually, the library says it hopes to make available online all its 82,000 manuscripts.”
- “Snowden At SXSW: Encryption Is ‘defense Against The Dark Arts In The Digital Realm’” — Ellen Rolfes, PBS Newshour; from the gonna-wash-that-horcrux-right-out-of-my-hair dept.
“‘We need to think about encryption not as black magic but as something that works,’ [Edward] Snowden said. “It’s the defense against the dark arts in the digital realm.'”
- Laverna — “Store your notes anonymously and encrypted”
- Loomio — “The world needs a better way to make decisions together.”
- Kardbord — “Fast, simple, real-time collaboration.”
- Hermetic Library anthology artist Galen Wade‘s Iconoclast
- Hermetic Library anthology artist The Implicit Order‘s It’s Hard To Tell The Singer From The Song
- “How to become a Mage (or Fairy): Joséphin Péladan’s Initiation for the Masses” — Sasha Chaitow; from the art-you-here-to-a-muse-me dept.
“Immensely prolific, discredited during his lifetime, Joséphin Péladan (1858–1918) constructed a vast, complex, yet coherent oeuvre with the purpose of demonstrating the transformative power of art by manifesting the highest ideals on the material plane, in response to the social decadence he perceived in in-de-siècle French society. Central to Péladan’s vision was his conception of artists as initiates: select individuals who could bring a small part of the divine into the mundane sphere. […] His goal was to inspire his readers to seek a more ideal existence through a form of self-initiation that he dubbed kaloprosopia, an art of transformation of personality through a life lived as a work of art.”
- “When did Thelema become the Westboro Baptist Church?” — Nick Farrell; from the thelemites-as-tourists dept.
“Where were the Thelemites who disagreed? If these three are wrong in their interpretation of the Book of the Law then why aren’t people pointing out their error? Why is it left to outsiders to be horrified that a modern religion can go this way? If they continue to permit this sort of anti-evolutionary thinking, they will end up in same position that Christianity is.”
- “Embracing Questions” — Thomas Zwollo, Spiral Nature; from the thelemites-as-scientismists dept.
“For instance, Crowley was quick to experiment with rituals, invent news approaches to magic and initiation, and challenge established structures and groups. Now we find advocates within the Thelemic community bristling at any kind of experimentation.”
- Richard Feynman quoted in “We need more scientific mavericks” — The Guardian Letters; from the where-is-your-science-now dept.
“Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts”
- John Selden quoted at “Disputes in Religion” and “A Magnificent Feast” — Michael Gilleland, Laudator Temporis Acti [also]; from the mind-your-own-business dept.
“Disputes in religion will never be ended, because there wants a measure by which the business should be decided. … One says one thing, and another another; and there is, I say, no measure to end the controversy. … It is so: it is not so: it is so: it is not so; crying thus one to another a quarter of an hour together.”
“How glorious soever the church is, every one chooses out of it his own religion, by which he governs himself, and lets the rest alone.”
- Ovid, Metamorphoses, quoted at “Bumblehive” — Michael Gilleland, Laudator Temporis Acti; from the welcome-to-the-matrix dept.
“There is a place in the middle of the world, ‘twixt land and sea and sky, the meeting-point of the threefold universe. From this place, whatever is, however far away, is seen, and every word penetrates to these hollow ears. … Here is Credulity, here is heedless Error, unfounded Joy and panic Fear; here sudden Sedition and unauthentic Whisperings. Rumour herself beholds all that is done in heaven, on sea and land, and searches throughout the world for news.”
- And now, this important announcement from Mad Malik (aka Greg Hill) — Adam Gorightly, Historia Discordia; from the we-love-you-spider dept.
“In the event of severe political supression, a private communication system can still function for those who had the foresight to establish one. […] It requires little maintenance whether used or not, but the result is a large ‘spiderweb’ network.”
- “Learning Magic” — Ian Corrigan, Into the Mound; from the no-man-is-an-island dept.
“The new student should not plan on being a unique genius.
Instead, the new student should read traditional books and find a working teacher (that applies to learning magic, gymnastics or saxophone). Plan to spend a few years doing exercises and experiments, duplicating previous efforts, and building skills. Of course we all pursue our little personal schemes along the way, and eventually we get enough skill to actually try them.
There’s no short-cut. You can’t just ‘listen to your heart’. You have to listen to other people.”
- “Magicians are Opinionated Assholes” — Rufus Opus, Head for the Red; from the here-we-are-now-entertain-us dept.
“A group of powerful egomaniacs with really healthy levels of self-esteem are likely to behave a lot like we really do in real life.”
- “The Suitcase At The End Of The Earth” — Gordon White, Rune Soup; from the i-and-i dept.
“One of chaos magic’s least-used constructs is the possibility that you lack an authentic self. If you are so inclined, it provides you with a gringo, late-capitalist variant of Buddhist ‘non-being’. Seeing the world this way offers you supreme performative flexibility.”
- Interview with Jim Morrison by Lizzie James; from the take-a-mask-from-the-ancient-gallery dept.
“The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your senses for an act. You give up your ability to feel and in exchange, put on a mask. There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.”
- “A triangular book about alchemy” — John Coulthart, feuilleton; from the one-less-corner-to-land-on-your-toe-tho dept.
“from the Manly Palmer Hall collection of alchemical manuscripts at the Internet Archive, not only a triangular book but one where most of the pages are written in a symbolic alphabet”
- “Where were globally known Religious Figures born? [1850 — 1950]” — Pantheon: Mapping Historical Cultural Production, Macro Connections Group at MIT Media Lab.
- Mentions of keywords Aleister Crowley and Thelema in books from 1800-2008 — Google Books Ngram Viewer.
“VRIL, mankind’s occult power of the future, and the kind of life and society created by its use in the interior of the earth, is the vivid picture presented in this book. Written 100 years ago by Lord Bulwer-Lytton, famous English Rosicrucian, statesman and author (see: Zanoni, a Rosicrucian Tale another Steiner-book), VRIL, his last book, stands as stern warning and reliable witness to his profound concern for the future welfare of mankind.
VRIL made today’s science-fiction books possible and interesting, but VRIL itself was a serious and prophetic testament that man today must pay heed to, if he is to survive, and become MAN.” — back cover
So, to help start things off on the right foot, for anyone who’s left behind, so to speak, now that everything is coming to an end, I thought I’d point you toward Hermetic Library figure Allan Bennett‘s The Faith of the Future, part I, RAGNARÖK, for something interesting to read while the world crumbles.
“Of all the apocalyptic visions of the ending of the olden days and ways that has ever been declared to humanity, perhaps the strangest—and in a sense the truest—is the story told in the Younger Edda of the coming of Ragnarök, the Day of the Twilight of the Gods. Of old the Æsir, the bright Gods of Day, deemed that they had destroyed all evil in the world. In many a hard-won fight they had overcome the forces of Loki the Evil, Lord of the Nether Fire, and had chained him to the rocks of the nethermost hell, to suffer whilst they caroused in glorious Valhalla, holding themselves secure to all eternity. Alone amongst them Odin the Wise knew that which must be—for had he not pledged his eye to the Norns, that the knowledge of the future might be revealed to his inner vision? But Odin was too wise to mock the joy of the Æsir in their world-sovereignty with the knowledge of the day to come; and so the Gods lived heedless in the Hall of Heaven, deeming that no sorrow could again come nigh them.” [via]
Here’s an excerpt, pages 1–8, from The Argument That Took the Wrong Turning: A Vindication of Priest/ess and Queer Gnostic Mass in Reply to T Polyphilus by Michael Effertz, which is offered at the Reading Room courtesy of the author. While you may have had a chance to read T Polyphilus’ review previously posted and heard various other responses about Priest/ess, unless you have had access to one of the few privately printed and distributed volumes, this may be your first glimpse of Effertz’s argument, as well as the tone and tenor, as it appears in the book; and unless you have acquired one of the new editions with which it is offered this may be your first chance to read some of the substance contained within the new pamphlet.
I thank E.G.C. Bishop T Polyphilus for his critical review1 of my book, Priest/ess: In Advocacy of Queer Gnostic Mass. Polyphilus kindly prefaces his critique with the observation that “significant expense and care” went into the production of what became an “attractive little book.” In writing and designing the private edition of Priest/ess, I resolved to evince the same commitment to quality that Crowley once stressed in a letter to Frank Bennett, writing that “it has always been a point of honor with us to make our publications physically worthy of their contents.”2 The Bishop may not share my estimation of Priest/ess’ contents, but his praise is nevertheless well received. It is for this reason that I have endeavored to ensure that the trade edition, handsomely bound in hardcover and released in both a standard and deluxe edition, will likewise please the reader in form.
With this supplementary essay, I offer a reply to Polyphilus’ review in the same spirit as the arguments given in Priest/ess. As such, I will neither speculate as to Polyphilus’ motives nor ascribe to him any ill will in criticizing my work. I cannot say with certainty, and so will not assert, whether the errors in his review indicate an accidental or a willful misunderstanding of my arguments. I will, therefore, focus on the content of the review itself, checking its claims against the facts of each case rather than dwelling on the character of the author or his possible intentions. Where a misunderstanding is evident, I lay the fault squarely on my own deficient exposition; this will require the occasional reiteration of points originally made in the Priest/ess, in which I anticipated several of the criticisms made in Polyphilus’ review.
In his brief review, Polyphilus makes a series of claims about Priest/ess, the Gnostic Mass, and related subjects, which I will address seriatim. These include the claims that:
- I am wrong about the purpose of E.G.C. clergy,
- Nobody has the generic right to ordination or to serve as an ordained member of the clergy in the performance of E.G.C. rituals,
- Clergy do not have the authority to impose their own interpretation on the Gnostic Mass, because it is not a vehicle for personal expression,
- I obscure and misrepresent E.G.C. policy concerning private and public celebrations of queer Gnostic Mass,
- For public Gnostic Masses, E.G.C. policy requires Priests who are socially masculine in their life outside the temple and Priestesses who are similarly feminine,
- Restricting queer Gnostic Mass to private celebrations enhances it, and
- Prohibiting public queer Gnostic Masses does not “closet” queer personal relationships.
In addition to these explicit claims, Polyphilus insinuates that there are still more issues at stake and criticisms to be made, but opts not to specify in the course of his review what those issues are beyond alluding to their magical and doctrinal nature. E.G.C. policy, he argues, is constructed with a view toward assuring the simultaneous fulfillment of three effects or purposes of the Gnostic Mass (magical, communal, and doctrinal), even when individual celebrants do not consciously comprehend all three. Polyphilus directs the reader to his essay “Discourse on the Sixth Article,” wherein he elucidates his views on these three purposes of the Mass. The essay genuinely rewards study. Contrary to settling the question of queer Gnostic Mass against its acceptance, the three purposes of the Mass proposed by Polyphilus provide us with fertile ground for defending the propriety of its public celebration. While we cannot scrutinize his reasons for dismissing queer Gnostic Mass on magical, communal, and doctrinal grounds, since those reasons are not divulged in his review, we can make our own assessment of the merits of public queer Gnostic Mass as it might pertain to these matters with reference to the wealth of published and publicly available writings by Crowley on the Mass, the Eucharist, the O.T.O. and its various degrees, magick, sex and gender, and other kindred subjects. As Polyphilus’ review is consciously informed by his concept of the three purposes of the Gnostic Mass, we turn first to an evaluation of the magical, communal, and doctrinal considerations at the heart of his critique.
The Magical Purpose of the Gnostic Mass
Polyphilus cites magical issues as under the purview of the E.G.C. in the oversight of its clergy, which issues motivate and guide the construction and enforcement of E.G.C. policy in prohibiting public celebrations of queer Gnostic Mass. In so stating, Polyphilus implies, without evidence or explanation, that public celebrations of queer Gnostic Mass could not fulfill the magical purpose of the Mass. Presumably, the problem of magical bankruptcy is evaded through private celebration.
Of the magical purpose of the Gnostic Mass, Polyphilus writes:
The Magical effect for the individual
Is the one that Crowley explains in Magick in Theory and Practice:
The communicant is gradually made divine,
Being brought swallow by swallow
Towards Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel
And to the ultimate attainment that lies beyond.
And this effect is secret in the sense that it is utterly ineffable.3
We may then reasonably infer Polyphilus to contend that communicants in a public celebration of a queer Gnostic Mass could not be “gradually made divine, being brought swallow by swallow towards the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel and to the ultimate attainment that lies beyond.” Such a suggestion is contradicted by Crowley’s teachings concerning magical ritual and the Eucharist, as documented in his diaries and other works. For example, in defining the universal object of magical ritual, Crowley instructs the magician to use ritual to confront weaknesses in his understanding and offers sexual identity as one such area for exploration:
There is a single main definition of the object of all magical ritual. It is the uniting of the Microcosm with the Macrocosm. The Supreme and Complete Ritual is therefore the Invocation of the Holy Guardian Angel; or, in the language of Mysticism, Union with God.
All other magical rituals are particular cases of this general principle, and the only excuse for doing them is that it sometimes occurs that one particular portion of the Microcosm is so weak that its imperfection or impurity would vitiate the Macrocosm of which it is the image, eidolon, or reflection. For example, God is above sex; and therefore neither man nor woman as such can be said fully to understand, much less to represent, God. It is therefore incumbent on the male Magician to cultivate those female virtues in which he is deficient, and this task he must of course accomplish without in any way impairing his virility. It will then be lawful for a Magician to invoke Isis, and identify himself with her; if he fail to do this, his apprehension of the Universe when he attains samādhi will lack the conception of maternity. The result will be a metaphysical and—by corollary—ethical limitation in the Religion which he founds. Judaism and Islām are striking examples of this failure.4
Ritual offers the magician one avenue for symbolically uniting diverse elements within his being, though it is by no means the only method for achieving such union:
The doctrine here put forth is that the initiate cannot be polluted by any particular environment. He accepts and enjoys everything that is proper to his nature. Thus, a man’s sexual character is one form of his self-expression; he unites Hadit with Nuit sacramentally when he satisfies his instinct of physical love. Of course, this is only one partial projection; to govern, to fight, and so on, must fulfil other needs. We must not imagine that any form of activity is ipso facto incapable of supplying the elements of an Eucharist: suum cuique [Lat. “to each his own”]. Observe, however, the constant factor in this enumeration of the practices proper to “hermits:” it is ecstatic delight.5
The actual or symbolic union of the self with another, or even of different aspects of the self within oneself, is characterized by Crowley as the key to preparing the Eucharist, which process may be carried out through methods proper to the nature of each individual. This notion resonates alongside the previous passage with Liber A’ASH, which proclaims:
All holy things and all symbolic things shall be my sacraments.6
Among those Gnostic sacraments is semen, which Crowley says may possess different potencies depending upon one’s point of view:
Semen itself is mercury, the river of life flowing throughout the generations. That is fluid mercury. What is (from the point of view of life) waste, is knowledge. Hence the opposition between knowledge and life. One is homo- and the other heterosexuality. Those are reconciled in Mercury, who is wisdom.7
As with all opposing points of view, it is the work of the magician to reconcile these contradictions in a higher understanding. In this “fluid mercury” Crowley finds one resolution to the “opposition between knowledge and life” in a single Eucharist, which may elevate the communicant to divinity. Crowley provides us with an unambiguous illustration of the transformative power of this type of Eucharist in his notes to the Cephaloedium Working, which sacrament was prepared initially by two men together:
(7) Make Iacchaion God, by Ether.
(8) Sacrifice him to the Beast, who thus becomes God. Use here the accendat & the right Mantram, the Tu qui es & the Quia Patris.8
The “accendat,” “Tu qui es,” and “Quia Patris” all refer to the Grimorium Sanctissimum, ritual instructions for a mass along analogous lines to that of the Gnostic Mass (e.g., the consecration and dressing in ritual vestments of the “priest” by the “maiden,” speeches from “The Ship,” etc.) Another queer interpretation of the mass formula given in Grimorium Sanctissimum is provided in the Paris Working, during which Crowley assumed the role of “maiden” to Victor Neuburg’s “priest.” Throughout his diaries and instructions, Crowley evinces an understanding of the Eucharist that reconciles heterosexuality and homosexuality, life and knowledge, in one transcendent wisdom.
Polyphilus’ implicit contention that a Eucharist produced by a queer pairing cannot lead one “swallow by swallow” to Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel seems especially strange, given Crowley’s description of the relation between the Adept and his Angel:
In a secret code the Adept affirms that he is of the same sex (so to speak) as his Angel. It is not a union of opposites to produce a tertium quid [Lat. “third thing”], but a realization of identity, like the return to consciousness from delirium, whose ecstasy bears no fruit involving new responsibilities, new possibilities of sorrow, but is all-sufficient to itself, with neither past nor future.
The “peeled wand” is the creative Energy of the Angel, stripped of all veils, pointing to the Zenith, ready and eager to act. The Adept exclaims with joy that he has aspired to unite himself with this Idea, and has attained.
Thus concludes the description of the relations of the Adept and his Angel so far as the element of Earth, the concrete and manifest aspect of Nature, is concerned. The whole illusion has been destroyed; the bread has become the body of God.9
As was delineated above, the sacrament by which bread is transmuted into the “body of God” may take any of various forms. Heterosexual union, whether actual or symbolic, is a commonly cited formula for effecting this transmutation. In Liber Aleph, Crowley provides commentary on “the ultimate attainment that lies beyond” and the manner in which homosexual formulae are efficacious in achieving this attainment:
O my Son, behold now the Mystery and Virtue of the Silver Star! For of these Four Works not one leadeth to the Crown, because Tetragrammaton hath His Root only in Chokmah. So therefore the Formula of the Rosy Cross availeth no more in the Highest. Now then in the Pentagram are Two Lines that invoke Spirit, though they lead not thereunto, and they are the Works of Hé with Hé, and of Yod with Vau. Of these twain the former is a Work Magical of the Nature of Musick, and it draweth down the Fire of the HIGHER by Seduction or Bewitchment. Shall I say Enchantment? Shall I say Incantation? It is Song. But Bewitchment is a Work opposite thereunto, whose Effect formulateth itself by direct Creation in the Sphere of its Purpose and Intent. But there remain yet Two of the Eight Works, namely the straight Aspiration of the Chiah or Creator in thee to the Crown, and the Surrender of the Nephesch or Animal Soul to the Possession thereof; and these be the twin geodesic Formulæ of the Final Attainment, being Archetypes of the Paths of Magick (the one) and Mysticism (the other) unto the End.10
If we agree with Polyphilus and assert that the magical purpose of the Gnostic Mass is to lead one to the “Final” or “ultimate attainment,” then one may reasonably maintain that the formula of the Gnostic Mass must be, by that fact, robust and flexible enough to find expression in “the Works of Hé with Hé, and of Yod with Vau” as well as those of Yod with Hé and Vau with Hé.
Though it remains unclear why, from the standpoint of E.G.C. policy and its hierarchy, a private celebration of queer Gnostic Mass could adequately fulfill the magical purpose of the Mass while a public celebration could not, a thorough survey of Crowley’s writings on the subject of the magical effect of the Mass, as Polyphilus describes it, offers decisive evidence in favor of the efficacy of queer Gnostic Mass, public and private.
2. Crowley, Aleister. The Progradior Correspondence: Letters by Aleister Crowley, Frank Bennett, C.S. Jones, & Others. Ed. Keith Richmond. York Beach, ME: 2009. 84.
3. T Polyphilus. “Discourse on the Sixth Article.” Vigorous Food & Divine Madness. The Hermetic Library, n.d. 22 Feb. 2013. <http://hermetic.com/dionysos/art6.htm>. [Formatting and emphasis as in original].
4. Crowley, Aleister. “The Principles of Ritual.” Magick: Liber ABA, Book 4. 2nd ed. York Beach: Red Wheel/Weiser, 2004. 144. [emphasis in original].
5. New Comment to AL, II:24, Magical and Philosophical Commentaries on the Book of the Law. Symonds, John and Kenneth Grant, eds. Montreal: 93 Publishing, 1974. 200.
6. Liber A’ASH Vel Capricorni Pneumatici, 20. The Holy Books of Thelema. 1st ed. York Beach: Samuel Weiser, 1983.
7. “The Paris Working.” The Vision & The Voice with Commentary and Other Papers. Boston: Red Wheel/Weiser, 1998. 363.
9. “Commentary to Liber 65 – Chapter I.” Commentaries on the Holy Books and Other Papers. York Beach, Samuel Weiser, 1996. 98-99.
10. “On the Four Major Operations of the Microcosmic Star.” Liber Aleph. York Beach: Red Wheel/Weiser, 2003. 107.