Tag Archives: George Bernard Shaw

Drudgery Divine

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Drudgery Divine: On the Comparison of Early Christianities and the Religions of Late Antiquity by Jonathan Z Smith.

Jonathan Z Smith Drudgery Divine

This fairly slim book consists of five lecture texts:

˙ “On the Origin of Origins” begins the discussion, using the Jefferson-Adams correspondence on religious topics as a point of departure. It also orients around the writings of Priestly and Dupuis, and pinpoints the question of Christian origins in “Protestant anti-Catholic apologetics.”

˙ “On Comparison” is a largely methodological piece, that incisively outlines the gambits of uniqueness and genealogy that have served the agendas of Protestant polemic and Christian supremacism in previous work on the topic.

˙ “On Comparing Words” discusses the philological arguments to date, and their subservience to theological efforts. Quite happily for me, Smith chose to use the term mysterion for illustrative purposes throughout this section. Among other things, I learned about the ancient Greek pun attributed by Athenaios to Dionysos Tyrannos: mysterion = mus terein, “mouseholes!” (p. 56 n)

˙ “On Comparing Stories” has a quick survey of “pagan Christs” literature, before focusing in on Frazer’s ‘dying and rising’ god motif, and its application to Christianity in the work of Pfleiderer; then a discussion of the problems of data for historically-oriented comparisons.

˙ “On Comparing Settings” applies all of the foregoing to the question of comparing early Christianities (note the significant plural!) to other religions of antiquity, also bringing in Smith’s locative/utopian distinction. Smith’s confessed appreciation for and dependence on the Christian origins work of Burton Mack is clearest in this section.

Smith writes, “The Protestant hegemony over the enterprise of comparing the religions of Late Antiquity and early Christianities has been an affair of mythic conception and ritual practice from the outset.” Aleister Crowley’s Gospel According to St. Bernard Shaw (a.k.a. Jesus sub figura 888) still deserves that same valuation, despite its opposition to the Protestant hegemony, as he was fighting fire with fire. It was not “a thorough revaluation of the purposes of comparison” in service to “the scholarly imagination of religion,” as Smith would prefer. But Crowley’s tack adds an additional dimension to the history of the enterprise, and for those who wish to soldier on in the mythic and ritual battlefields, Smith’s book is a stone that will sharpen any sword that can hold the edge. [via]


The Magicians of the Golden Dawn

Magicians of the Golden Dawn: A Documentary History of a Magical Order, 1887-1923 by Ellic Howe, with a foreword by Gerald Yorke, the 1984 second printing softcover from Samuel Weiser, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Ellic Howe The Magicians of the Golden Dawn from Samuel Weiser

“W.B. Yeats, Annie Horniman, Florence Farr, MacGregor Mathers, Fraülin Sprengel, Dr Westcott, Dr R.W. Felkin, Rev W.A. Ayton, F.L. Gardner, A.E. Waite, Aleister Crowley, et alii

The Golden Dawn story, with its cast of eccentric characters and its saga of faked documents, mythical ‘Rosicrucian’ adepts, ‘Secret Chiefs’ and bitter internecine quarrels, will delight amateurs of the unusual and fantastic. The Hermetic Order fo the Golden Dawn, whose heyday was during the 1890s, has an almost legendary reputation. Those interested in Ritual Magic and occultism suppose that it represents a preeminent source of authority and knowledge. A wider public has been intrigued by W.B. Yeats’ lengthy connection with the Order, also by the membership of his friends Annie Horniman and Florence Farr. Miss Horniman later built the famous Abbey Theatre at Dublin for him, while Florence Farr was G.B. Shaw’s mistress during her Golden Dawn period.

Ellic Howe is neither a magician nor an occultist but has an unrivaled knowledge of modern (post-1850) European ‘underground’ occult movements and sects. The Magicians of the Golden Dawn is based upon previously inaccessible contemporary letters and other papers. Mr. Howe has provided a most scholarly and detailed work. It is the first documentary study of this curious Order’s tangled and incredible history.”

 

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We Stand Above by Aleister Crowley in International, Dec 1917.

“THESE little minds have no conception of the great ideas which distinguish man from mannikin. They imagine that Rodin was a Frenchman, and Wagner a German. They do not understand that these persons were not men, but Gods. They do not understand that the creations of such men are in the nature of that image of the great Goddess Diana which came down from heaven for us men and for our salvation. They do not understand that Rheims is as sacred as Cologne; that the Kremlin should have been protected from the maniacs, who are trying to translate Bernard Shaw into action, as Jerusalem (if there be anything of artistic value therein) from the British. As a matter of fact, I believe there is nothing but a lot of faked historical monuments camouflaged by the wily Syrian for the exploitation of American tourists of the Chautauqua brand. If this be so, Allenby, go to it!” [via]