Tag Archives: history

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]


The Legacy of Conquest

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West by Patricia Nelson Limerick.

Patricia Nelson Limerick The Legacy of Conquest

This history of the American West is a significant revisionary account, which takes as its foil the century-old thesis of Frederick Turner’s “The Significance of the Frontier in American History.” Author Limerick notes the effective obsolescence of any narrative about the West structured around a frontier, and she laments this conception as one that has caused a general eclipse of interest in the West as a historical topic. She then proceeds to raise a wide range of issues with which to demonstrate continuity between the ‘frontier’ West of the 19th century and the contemporary West of the late 20th. She seeks to portray “the West as a place and not a [completed] process.” (26) The innovation of the book is in its breadth of its perspective. Limerick has drawn principally on secondary sources written in the second half of the 20th century. Historical specialists had already come to factual grips with the individual issues and concerns that she constellates into an “unbroken past.” Her synthesis thus provides a new point of departure for historians and readers seeking fresh problems.

The book is divided into two sections. The first, “The Conquerors,” undermines heroic stereotypes of settlers and frontiersmen. Limerick provides resounding evidence against the savvy and independence that Turner attributed to those living a “frontier life,” and develops a counter-narrative in which settlers and developers of the West embraced naive hopes, and often came to view themselves as victims, tied as they were into commercial, social, and environmental nets of interdependence.

The book’s second section, “The Conquerors Meet Their Match,” restores narrative agency to the allegedly conquered forces of indigenous peoples, Mexican-Americans, other racial and religious minorities, and the wilderness environment itself. Limerick’s account firmly and convincingly contradicts the “composite nationality” of inter-ethnic solidarity asserted by Turner as a feature of the West, by pointing out racial conflicts and divides as significant and persistent as those chronicled in the South.

Limerick writes, “Simplicity, alas, is the one quality that cannot be found in the actual story of the American West.” (323) But on those occasions where she suggests a keynote, it is “the contest for property and profit,” (292) “an array of efforts to wrap the concept of property around unwieldy objects.” (71)

A chief feature of The Legacy of Conquest is its consistent success in tying its topics from the 19th century West to dilemmas of the same region in the late 20th century. While aimed at the reader in history, the book would be engaging for those whose ultimate interest is the contemporary American West. Like Turner, Limerick represents the stories of the West as the most characteristically American portion of America’s history, and thus reflective of tropes and trends common to the nation as a whole, and even to the entire project of European conquest of the Americas. [via]


Religion & the Decline of Magic

Religion & the Decline of Magic by Keith Thomas, the 1971 paperback from Scribners, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Keith Thomas Religion & the Decline of Magic from Scribners

Religion & the Decline of Magic is Keith Thomas’s classic history of the magical beliefs held by people on every level of English society in the 16th and 17th centuries and how these beliefs were a part of the religious and scientific assumptions of the time. It is not only a major historical and religious work, but a thoroughly enjoyable book filled with fascinating facts and original insights into an area of human nature that remains controversial today—the belief in the supernatural that still continues in the modern world.” — back cover


The History and Philosophy of the Metaphysical Movements in America

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The History and Philosophy of the Metaphysical Movements in America by J Stillson Judah.

J Stillson Judah The History and Philosophy of the Metaphysical Movements in America

Writing in the 1990s, Wouter Hanegraaff refers to this book as a “standard work” on the topic, and notes that Judah coined the term “metaphysical movements.” (See Judah, p. 7) The volume treats a set of “religious philosophies” in the United States, beginning in the 1840s, and progressing up until the date that the book was written. Although Judah provided no evidence for the claim, he asserted that these religions were growing in popularity at the time of his writing. (p. 12) He characterized these metaphysical movements by family resemblance, with a set of fifteen chief features, including: gnostic anthropology, divine monism, pragmatism, psychological interpretation, optimism, mental or spiritual healing, and preferring “principles” to creed. Even when explicitly Christian, these groups tended to view Jesus as a teacher, rather than as the unique human incarnation of God.

Judah’s first chapter is devoted to inventorying some aspects of the germinal milieu of the American metaphysical movements. Besides the transcendentalist school and its effects, which he remarks as their foremost precedent and influence, he observes the importance of American religious pluralism, revivalism, deism, Swedenborgianism, Puritan utilitarianism, and occultism (i.e. hermeticism and kabbalah). He then goes on to provide historical sketches, with representations of doctrines and practices, for each of the following metaphysical movements: Spiritualism (with its various institutions and sects), Theosophy “and its allies” (i.e. the Arcane School and the Astara Foundation), New Thought (with the precedent teachings of Quimby and Evans, and the progeny of the Divine Science Church and the Church of Religious Science), the Unity School of Christianity, and Christian Science. A closing chapter treats the effect of the metaphysical movements on Protestantism, especially through the avenue of notions of health and mental healing.

Judah repeatedly cites Frank Podmore’s history of Spiritualism, Charles J. Ryan on Theosophy, Horatio Dresser on New Thought, and several secondary sources on Christian Science. For all of the movements surveyed, he makes extensive use of their own doctrinal literature, and in several cases he has interviewed key leaders or their families. Perhaps it is significant that no secondary sources appear in different sections of the book, since Judah appears to have been the first to tie these various groups and teachings into a coherent tradition.

Judah’s theory of religion is partly formulated in his closing chapter, where he insists that all religions can be analyzed in terms of three chief components: mental/philosophical, conative (relating to aspiration and conduct), and emotional. He insists that the conative component, the religious will as such, must be powered by an emotional experience, and he suggests that the historical transformations in American religion have resulted from the waxing and waning of emphasis on emotional experience. He points to the metaphysical movements as offering an orientation to the religious experiences of the individual during periods when mainline Protestantism has become abstracted into concerns about social justice. (pp. 291-2)

A significant part of Judah’s methodology in The Metaphysical Movements might be best characterized as comparative theology, even though that term has not been in vogue since the mid-20th century. He consistently attends to comparing the theological elements in the various metaphysical movements against each other, and against an implicitly normative mainline American Protestantism. But he has no evident chip on his shoulder, and his foreword includes an accounting of his own past engagements in the study and practice of Theosophy, yoga, New Thought, Spiritualism, and other “metaphysical” systems. The frankness of this passage shows a sort of scholarly reflexivity that is admirable in the early and mid-1960’s when Judah was writing. He cautions that any seemingly negative evaluations of the religions in his book “should be considered as constructive criticism offered in the same spirit in which the writer has also criticized the Protestant churches.” (p. 9) He does in the end refrain from offering either praise or condemnation of the metaphysical movements as a whole, but he opines that there would be ample justification for different parties to view them as revolutionary, restorative, or subversive of more customary institutional religions in America. [via]


Omnium Gatherum: March 12th, 2014

An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for March 12th, 2014

Little Wide Awake 1877 from Craig Conley, Abecedarian
An illustration from an 1877 issue of Little Wide Awake magazine.” — Craig Conley, Abecedarian

 

  • Ask Massively: And the money will follow” — Brianna Royce, Massively; from the two-pennies-to-rub-together dept.

    “My mother always told me, ‘Do what you love, and the money will follow.’ It’s not true. I wish it were. Sorry mom. It’s a dangerous thing to tell a geeky little girl something like that when she’s trying to decide whether to be a coroner, an international diplomat, or a butterfly. I did not become any of these things. I got a degree in what I loved, but the money followed only when I got a job I didn’t love to pay for my husband to do what he loved. My landing a job with Massively (almost four years ago!) was the product of an unrelated cross-country move, a lot of luck, and an unusual combination of otherwise mundane knowledge. It was not something I planned and executed meticulously as a career plan.”

  • #AmtrakResidency” — Amtrak; from the they-who-curse-the-bum-on-the-rods dept.

    “#AmtrakResidency was designed to allow creative professionals who are passionate about train travel and writing to work on their craft in an inspiring environment. Round-trip train travel will be provided on an Amtrak long-distance route. Each resident will be given a private sleeper car, equipped with a desk, a bed and a window to watch the American countryside roll by for inspiration. Routes will be determined based on availability.

    Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis and reviewed by a panel. Up to 24 writers will be selected for the program starting March 17, 2014 through March 31, 2015. A passion for writing and an aspiration to travel with Amtrak for inspiration are the sole criteria for selection. Both emerging and established writers will be considered.

    Residencies will be anywhere from 2-5 days, with exceptions for special projects.”

  • WIT researchers discover ‘lost’ Einstein model of universe” — Dick Ahlstrom, Irish Times; from the i-will-not-be-pushed-filed-stamped-indexed-briefed-debriefed-or-numbered dept.

    “‘I was looking through drafts, but then slowly realised it was a draft of something very different,’ Dr [Cormac] O’Raifeartaigh said. ‘I nearly fell off my chair. It was hidden in perfect plain sight. This particular manuscript was misfiled as a draft of something else.'”

     

  • Albert Einstein quote via “Albert Einstein, when he arrived in America, was shocked at how African Americans were treated.” — Emily, Dichotomization [also]; from the emperor’s-new-clothes dept.

    “There is a separation of colored people from white people in the United States. That separation is not a disease of colored people. It is a disease of white people. I do not intend to be quiet about it.”

  • On Gaia tests whether the hypothesis holds up to scientific scrutiny” — Scott K Johnson, Ars Technica; from the because-the-cosmos-is-also-within-us dept.

    “In the early 1970s, Lovelock—with the help of Lynn Margulis—developed the Gaia Hypothesis, which views the Earth and its ecosystems as resembling a sort of superorganism. Lovelock was working for NASA at the time, developing instruments that would aid the Viking landers in looking for signs of life on Mars, so he was thinking about how life interacts with its environment on a planetary scale. And Margulis was famed for her ideas about symbiosis.

    This intellectual background led to the idea that organisms are not just passive inhabitants riding a big rock that determined whether they lived or died. Organisms were active participants in the molding of their environment, tweaking and improving conditions as part of a massive, self-regulating system.

    In On Gaia: A Critical Investigation of the Relationship Between Life and Earth, University of Southampton Professor Toby Tyrrell sets out to comprehensively put the Gaia Hypothesis to the test, using everything we’ve learned about life and its history on our planet.”

  • Recreating the Cosmos in Our Druidic Ritual Order.” — Ian Corrigan, Into the Mound; from the we’re-made-of-star-stuff dept.

    “In my understanding, the basic steps of our Order of Ritual (OoR) amount to a recreation of the Indo-European cosmos. As in many traditional ritual systems, our rites are set in a cosmological diagram. Since our Order is written for modern, park-and-church-basement Paganism, we assume that this cosmic model must be rebuilt and reconsecrated for each ritual. Thus our sacrifices open with rites for consecrating the space and establish it as a gathering-place for the Gods & Spirits.”

  • A new “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, presented by Fox and National Geographic, guest appearance by Giordano Bruno in the premiere [also]; from the we-are-a-way-for-the-cosmos-to-know-itself dept.

     

  • Petra monuments oriented according to celestial events” — Past Horizons; from the summer-sunday-and-a-year dept.

    “During the winter solstice, the sun is filtered into the Monastery at Petra, Jordan, illuminating the podium of a deity. Just at this moment, the silhouette of the mountain opposite draws the head of a lion, a sacred animal. These are examples from a study where researchers from Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias and CSIC (Spain) showed how celestial events influenced the orientation of the great constructions of the Nabataeans.”

  • Research Suggests We Unconsciously React to Events Up to 10 Seconds Before They Happen” — The Mind Unleashed [HT Reality Sandwich]; from the wake-me-up-before-you-go-go dept.

    “Can your brain detect events before they even occur? That was the stunning conclusion of a 2012 meta-analysis of experiments from seven independent laboratories over the last 35 years, which found that the human body ‘can apparently detect randomly delivered stimuli occurring 1–10 seconds in the future’ (Mossbridge, Tressoldi, & Utts, 2012). In the studies, physiological readings were taken as participants were subjected to unpredictable events designed to activate the sympathetic nervous system (for example, showing provocative imagery) as well as ‘neutral events’ that did not activate the nervous system. These readings showed that the nervous system aligned with the nature of the event (activated/not activated) — and what’s more, the magnitude of the pre-event response corresponded with the magnitude of the post-event response.”

  • Scientists unlock mystery of out-of-body experiences (aka astral trips)” — Jordan Kushins, Sploid [HT Disinformation]; from the why-am-i-up-here-what-do-they-see-in-me dept.

    “The fMRI showed a ‘strong deactivation of the visual cortex’ while ‘activating the left side of several areas associated with kinesthetic imagery,’ which includes mental imagery of bodily movement. This is the part of the brain that makes it possible for us to interact with the world. It’s what makes you feel where your body is in relation to the world.”

  • Translation of Theodor Klauser at “Mithras scholar Vermaseren on the Mithras cranks” — Roger Pearse [HT rogueclassicism]; from the let-that-be-a-lesson-to-you dept.

    “Anyone who really wants to promote scholarship may not content themselves with uniting uncontrolled ideas and research into a seductive synthesis, written in an attractive form, for the slightest critical touch causes such constructs to collapse. The established rules of scholarly method cannot be ignored with impunity; even the most gifted may not skip over the necessarily lengthy process.”

  • Priestess Najah, via tweet.

    “Queen of Conjure, sacred Marie LaVeau. Her tomb needs restoration. Donate at http://www.saveourcemeteries.org

  • Maidens, Matrons, and Magicians: Women and Personal Ritual Power in Late Antique Egypt” by Meghan Paalz McGinnis, Masters Thesis, University of Louisville, 2012; from the sparks-fly-from-her-finger-tips dept.

    “Utilizing an interdisciplinary approach to a variety of material, textual, and literary evidence, the aim of this thesis is to shed light on the realities — rather than stereotypes — of an important aspect of late ancient women’s experience: the use of ritual power. Patterns of gender differentiation in late antique Egyptian magic are investigated and shown to be connected to the particular aims to which numinous powers were employed, aims which were in turn bound up with the social roles expected of each sex. The majority of this study consists of a series of case studies of different types of women’s rituals of power, which emphasize examples of significant trends in ritual iconography, praxis, and context, both those which were typical of late antique Egyptian magic as a whole, and those which were uniquely female in character. The fact that female practitioners came from a wide array of socio-economic, ethnic, and religious backgrounds is also addressed.”

  • Tutankhamun’s Blood” by Jo Marchant, Matter; from the blood-feud dept.

    “[Yehia] Gad isn’t the first to attempt to test Tutankhamun’s DNA, but he is the first to get this far. Previous efforts by foreigners were cancelled at the last minute. After decades of outside interference, Egypt’s politicians were reluctant to hand over the keys to the pharaohs’ origins—especially when the results, if dropped into the crucible of the Middle East, might prove explosive.”

  • Israel reveals eerie collection of Neolithic ‘spirit’ masks” — Ilan ben Zion [HT David Metcalfe]; from the starting-with-the-man-in-the-mirror dept.

    “With vacant sockets and jaws agape, they stare at you like the skulls of the dead. They are 9,000-year-old masks found in the Judean Desert and Hills, and they are going on display for the first time next week at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.”

  • Myrtle quoted in “Paganism in Israel: Where the Modern meets the Ancient” — Heather Greene, The Wild Hunt; from the grand-central-station dept.

    “Ever since the dawn of [humanity], even stretching back to the exits from Africa, people of different cultures have passed through this tiny country. There are places of worship to the Canaanite deities, Egyptian temples to Hathor, countless shrines to the Greek and Roman Gods, Phoenician influences and more.”

  • Consult the Oracle! [HT rogueclassicism]; from the ask-me-no-questions-i’ll-tell-you-no-lies dept.

    “The ancient Delphic Oracle was the inspiration for a recent application created by the Department of Classical Studies at the University College of London. This application will give the user the chance to have a unique experience. The application is very tempting and attractive as one can ask whatever he wishes online.” [via]

  • Shape-Shifter” — Michael Gilleland, Laudator Temporis Acti; from the i’m-gonna-git-you-sucka dept.

    “Zeus became a swan, a bull, a satyr, gold, for love of
           Leda, Europa, Antiope, Danaë.”

  • Jesus Wept” — Michael Gilleland, Laudator Temporis Acti; from the dacryphilia dept.

    “Some in the ancient world might have interpreted the act of weeping as evidence that Jesus was not God.”

  • Grimoire” — Michael Quinion, World Wide Words; from the cook-the-books dept.

    “The shift from book of grammar to book of magic isn’t as weird as it might seem. Few among the ordinary people in those times could read or write. For superstitious minds books were troubling objects. Who knew what awful information was locked up in them? For many people grammar meant the same thing as learning, and everybody knew that learning included astrology and other occult arts.”

  • California’s drought is so bad people are turning to witchcraft” — Holly Richmond, Grist; from the liquore-strega dept.

    “Did you know that witches help make Two-Buck Chuck? Sadly no one from The Craft is involved, but water witches are increasingly in demand in California as the state’s epic drought continues. John Franzia of the Bronco Wine Company, which makes Two-Buck Chuck and a slew of other wines, regularly uses diviners to find water underneath his California vineyards.”

  • Aleister Crowley and the Temptation of Politics, by Marco Pasi” — Clive Bloom, Times Higher Education; from the piecemeal-social-engineering dept.

    “Pasi’s book, which has already appeared in Italian and German, proves an admirable introduction to the complex magical and political connections of this most elusive of figures. Ironically, what the book proves is the opposite of its title, which is simply that magical practice and practical politics have never mixed, and the attempt to fit them together was a doomed and ‘childish’ project. Crowley’s ‘political’ legacy lies more properly in the politics of personal liberation that he advocated and in the counterculture he helped to create.”

  • Alchemical Interpretations of Masonic Symbols in the Rituals of Russian Rosicrucians of the 18th-19th Centuries” (in Russian) — Yury Khalturin; from the watching-the-world-wake-up-from-history dept.

    “In the article symbolic mechanisms of the transmission of alchemical tradition within the Russian Rosicrucianism are analyzed. The main point of the article is the idea, that masonic symbols and their interpretations were not just a form of communicating the alchemical tradition, but also a mode of its transformation according to the principles of rosicrucian worldview. All the alchemical interpretations of masonic symbols in rosicrucian rituals could be reduced to paradigmatic and syntagmatic models. Within the ritual those symbols and interpretations realized two main functions — suggestive (creating the sacral atmosphere for getting the esoteric knowledge) and initiatic (initiation through the shift from one level of hidden sense to another), which changed social and existential status of the neophyte.”

  • Is there any super bad-ass Catholic weapon around out there?” — Benito Cereno, Burgeoning Lads of Science; from the ten-hail-marys-and-turn dept.

    “Some of these might be of dubious Catholicity, but they all at least have something to do with a saint or a relic, so there you have it.”

  • Mindscapes: The first recording of hallucinated music” — Helen Thomson, NewScientist’s Mindscapes; from the stop-children-what’s-that-sound dept.

    “‘It’s like having my own internal iPod,’ says Sylvia. While she goes about her daily life she hears music. It may sound to her as if a radio is playing, but it is entirely in her own head.

    Sylvia calls the hallucinations a nuisance, but they can be turned off, which has allowed researchers to work out what might cause them. The discovery paves the way for new treatments and hints at the cause of more common hallucinations, such as those associated with schizophrenia.”

  • Are Stonehenge’s Boulders Actually Big Bells?” — Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic [David Raffin]; from the everybody-must-get-stoned dept.

    “If you’re building a monument, why not build it out of stones that speak?

    ‘We don’t know of course that they moved them because they rang, but ringing rocks are a prominent part of many cultures,’ English archeologist Tim Darvill told the BBC. ‘Soundscapes of pre-history are something we’re really just beginning to explore.’

    It’s true. Academics and researchers are just beginning to think about what many historic places—both geographic and architectural—sounded like.”

  • Wagner & Me“, a movie with Stephen Fry, currently on Netflix; from the is-wagner-a-human-being-at-all dept.

     

  • Richard Wagner and his Operas, an online archive and resource.

     

  • Mathematicians Are Chronically Lost and Confused” — Soulskill, Slashdot; from the dazed-and-confused dept.

    “[Jeremy Kun] says it’s immensely important for mathematicians to be comfortable with extended periods of ignorance when working on a new topic. ‘The truth is that mathematicians are chronically lost and confused. It’s our natural state of being, and I mean that in a good way. …”

  • Roelof Nicolai quoted in “648 – Portolan Charts ‘Too Accurate’ to be Medieval” — Frank Jacobs, Big Think; from the maps-of-the-ancient-sea-kings dept.

    “Perhaps we should re-evaluate what we think was the state of science in Antiquity”

  • Scientists Revive a Giant 30,000 Year Old Virus From Ice” — bmahersciwriter, Slashdot; from the andromeda-strain dept.

    “It might be terrifying if we were amoebae. Instead, it’s just fascinating. The virus, found in a hunk of Siberian ice, is huge, but also loosely packaged, which is strange says evolutionary biologist Jean-Michel Claverie: ‘We thought it was a property of viruses that they pack DNA extremely tightly into the smallest particle possible, but this guy is 150 times less compacted than any bacteriophage [viruses that infect bacteria]. We don’t understand anything anymore!'”

Approaches to Greek Myth

Approaches to Greek Myth, edited and introduced by Lowell Edmunds, a 1991 paperback from Johns Hopkins, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Lowell Edmunds Approaches to Greek Myth from Johns Hopkins

“There was no simple agreement on the subject of ‘myth’ in classical antiquity, and there remains none today. In Approaches to Greek Myth, Lowell Edmunds brings together practitioners of eight of the most important contemporary approaches to the subject. Whether exploring myth from a historical, comparative, or theoretical perspective, each lucidly describes a particular approach, applies it to one or more myths, and reflects on what the approach yields that other do not.

Contributors are H. S. Versnel, on the intersections of myth and ritual; Carlo Brillante, on the history of Greek myth and history in Greek myth; Robert Mondi, on the Near Eastern contexts , and Joseph Falaky Nagy, on the Indo-European structures in Greek myth; William F. Hansen, on myth and folklore; Claude Calame, on the Greimasian approach; Richard Caldwell, on psychoanalytic interpretations; and Christiane Sourvinou-Inwood, on the iconography of vase painting of Theseus and Medea—and on a methodology for ‘reading’ such visual sources. In his introduction, Edmunds confronts Marcel Detienne’s recent deconstruction of the notion of Greek mythology and reconstructs a meaning for myth among the ancient Greeks.” — back cover


Sexual Ambivalence

Sexual Ambivalence: Androgyny and Hermaphroditism in Graeco-Roman Antiquity by Luc Brisson, translated by Janet Lloyd, a 2002 paperback from University of California Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Luc Brisson Janet Lloyd Sexual Ambivalence from University of California Press

“This fascinating book collects and translates most of the extant Graeco-Roman writing on human beings, divinities, animals, and other creatures who were both female and male. Luc Brisson provides a commentary that situates this rich source material within its historical and intellectual contexts. These selections—from mythological, philosophical, historical, and anecdotal sources—describe cases of either simultaneous dual sexuality, as in androgyny and hermaphroditism, or successive dual sexuality, as in the case of Tiresias (the blind Theban prophet), which are found through the whole span of Graeco-Roman antiquity. Sexual Ambivalence is an invaluable sourcebook that gathers this suggestive, yet hard to find, material in one convenient place.

In addition to including such familiar sources as the myth of Salmacis and Hermaphroditus as told in Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Aristophanes’s myth of the origin of the sexes and sexuality in Plato’s Symposium, Brisson also discusses cosmogonic mythology in Hesiodic poetry, the Orphic Rhapsodies, Gnosticism, the Hermetic Corpus, and the so-called Chaldean Oracles. He presents the manifold variants of the myth of Tiresias, as well as many other sources.

These ancient stories deepen our awareness of how strongly the polarity of sexuality colors our entire perception of the world and are profoundly relevant to our thinking today.” — back cover


Fifth International Conference of the ASE on Jun 19-22nd, 2014 at Colgate University

The Fifth International Conference of the Association for the Study of Esotericism on June 19th–22nd, 2014 at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York. The conference schedule has recently been posted and you will find quite a few presenters and presentations of interest including a couple by Hermetic library fellows:

· Mark Stavish, Israel Regardie and the Theory and Practice of the Middle Pillar Exercise
· Joscelyn Godwin, Esotericism in a Murky Mirror: Strange Practices in Central New York.

Do check out the whole schedule, but a selection of the other presentations, that catch my eye, includes:

· John L Crow (Thelema Coast to Coast), The Theosophical Shift to the Visual: Graphical Representations of the Human Body in the Literature of Second and Third Generation Leadership in the Theosophical Society
· Simon Magus, The fin de siècle magical aesthetic of Austin Osman Spare: Siderealism, Atavism, Automatism, Occultism
· David Pecotic, Building Subtle Bodies — Gurdjieff’s esoteric practice of conditional immortality in the light of Poortman’s concept of hylic pluralism in the history of religions
· Richard Kaczynski, Inventing Tradition: The Construction of History, Lineage and Authority in Secret Societies
· Wouter Hanegraaff, The Transformation of Desire in Machen’s & Waite’s House of the Hidden Light
· Sarah Veale, Disenchantment of the Vampire: Balkan Folklore’s Deadly Encounter with Modernity
· Gordan Djurdjevic, “In Poison there is Physic”: On Poisons and Cures in Some Strands of Esoteric Theory and Practice.

Omnium Gatherum: Feb 26th, 2014

An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together …

The "Apollo" of Gaza on a Smurf blanket
The “Apollo” of Gaza on a Smurf blanket [via, also]

 

  • Denmark starts meaty argument over animal slaughter” — Leo Benedictus, The Guardian UK’s Shortcuts Blog; from the we’ll-meet-the-meat dept.

    “In most European countries, including the UK, the slaughter of an animal is considered humane only if it is stunned before having its throat cut. Muslim and Jewish rules, however, require an animal to be fully alive, healthy, and intact before being killed, and this is often interpreted to mean it must be conscious. Many Muslims and Jews insist the swift technique of ritual slaughter prevents the animal from suffering. But animal welfare activists and their supporters beg to differ. … This is far from the first flare-up over ritual slaughter.”

  • Hermetic Library fellow Sam Webster quoted by The Wild Hunt, via tweet [also]; from the party-foul dept.

    “A libation without a prayer is just a spilled drink.”

  • Crystal Blanton quoted by The Wild Hunt, via tweet; from the inconvenient-truth dept.

    “We sacrifice humans every day.”

  • Will Arizona Go the Anti-Gay Way of Uganda?” — Jay Michaelson, The Jewish Daily Forward; from the freedom-fries dept.

    “‘Religious Freedom’ used to be a shield, not a sword.”

  • The ‘Religious Liberty’ Campaign May Be Backfiring For Conservatives” — Ed Kilgore, Talking Points Memo’s Cafe; from the spare-tire-and-a-muffin-top-to-go dept.

    “On many fronts in the culture wars, the momentum has usually been possessed by those who can best identify themselves with the ambivalent attitudes of a mushy middle ‘swing vote'”

  • Lawsuit: Calif. Christian missions tortured mentally disabled with Bible ‘punishments’” — David Edwards, Raw Story; from the agape-has-left-the-building dept.

    “Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer has filed a lawsuit against two unlicensed Christian mission homes for effectively torturing mentally disabled people if they refused to attend religious services, and forcing them to live in filthy conditions.”

  • “Zambia: Why Homosexuality Should Not Be Legalised in Zambia (part 4)” [no link because it’s heinous] — Charles Kachikoti, Times of Zambia via allAfrica.com; from the what-is-this-i-don’t-even dept.

    “[Reason #]17. Law and Order
    The mentality of homosexuals is anti-family and anti-marriage, which mindset is opposed to law and order.
    Aleister Crowley (October 12, 1875 — December 1, 1947), the father of modern day Satanism, who massively promoted Satan-worship internationally, and notably so among world music stars, spoke against family and promoted homosexuality.
    The mentality of his followers is therefore anti-family and anti-marriage.”

  • Witch hunting | Victims of superstition” — Ashwaq Masoodi, Livemint.com; from the she’s-got-huge-tracts-of-land dept.

    “These are women who are unsupported, either because they are single or widows. It is primarily connected to land. It happens with women who are economically well-off or self-sustaining.”

  • The Last of Us” — Frank Swain, Futures Exchange; so-logically-if-she-weighs-the-same-as-a-duck-she’s-made-of-wood dept.

    “They kept the [last Great Auk] tied up for three days until an ominous storm arose. Believing the bird was a witch responsible for their predicament, the men clubbed it to death.”

  • How Belief In Hell Directly Benefits The Elite — Matt Staggs, Disinformation; from the but-thinking-makes-it-so dept.

    “Just thinking about Hell makes people ill and out of sorts, and they don’t even have to think that it’s real. It’s worse for the true believers: Individual belief in what the researchers referred to as ‘supernatural malevolence’ (Coming soon to pay-per-view!) was associated with bad coping skills, low self-esteem and poor health resiliency.”

    “Hell isn’t just a religious idea, it’s a meme; an especially toxic one that we might be primed to believe in from birth — especially if you believe those studies that suggest we’re hardwired to believe in god. Hell is such a virulent, deadly little mind-virus that even secular minds have trouble fighting it off. And it seems that there’s a vested interest in keeping it strong.”

  • The Race to Save Mali’s Priceless Artifacts — Joshua Hammer, Smithsonian Magazine; from the operation-serapeion dept.

    “When jihadists overran Timbuktu last year, residents mounted a secret operation to evacuate the town’s irreplaceable medieval manuscripts.”

  • The Helgo Treasure: A Viking Age Buddha” — IrishArchaeology.ie; from the a-buddhist-a-copt-and-a-catholic-walk-into-a-viking-bar dept.

    Helgo treasure Viking age Buddha

    “Undoubtedly the most extraordinary find discovered during the excavations at Helgo was a small, bronze Buddha. This devotional figure dates from circa the 6th century AD … probably arrived in Helgo via Swedish merchants whose eastern trade routes were concentrated along Russian rivers such as the Volga.”

    “The Helgo crozier is probably of Irish origin and would have formed part of a bishop’s staff. Dating from circa the 8th century AD, it was most likely stolen during a Viking raid on Ireland and brought back to Helgo as booty.”

    “… a bronze ladle whose origins lie in North Africa, probably in the vicinity of modern-day Egypt. Decorated in small punch-marks, which define a Tree-of-Life symbol, the ladle was most likely used in ceremonies associated with the early Coptic church.”

  • When the Old Gods Died: A Note on Ragnarok and Evaporating Histories” — Jeremy D Johnson, Reality Sandwich; from the a-new-heaven-and-a-new-earth dept.

    “Yes, let’s build that Earth. Cast out the old gods and apocalyptic imaginaries as we work to build a new Earth, so desperately and agonizingly waiting, not for the passive, but for those ready to be born.”

  • New documents prove U.S. Army actively targeted leftist protesters, group says” — Scott Kaufman, Raw Story; from the every-breath-you-take dept.

    “New records obtained by the Defending Dissent Foundation prove that the United States Army used a multi-agency spy network to gather intelligence on nonviolent, antiwar protesters and to disseminate their findings to both the FBI and local police departments.”

  • How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations” — Glenn Greewald, The Intercept; from the secret-agent-johannes-dee-007 dept.

    “Using online techniques to make something happen in the real or cyber world”

  • Mapping Twitter Topic Networks: From Polarized Crowds to Community Clusters” — Marc A Smith et al., Pew Research Internet Project; from the a-place-for-everything-everything-in-its-place dept.

    “Conversations on Twitter create networks with identifiable contours as people reply to and mention one another in their tweets. These conversational structures differ, depending on the subject and the people driving the conversation. Six structures are regularly observed: divided, unified, fragmented, clustered, and inward and outward hub and spoke structures. These are created as individuals choose whom to reply to or mention in their Twitter messages and the structures tell a story about the nature of the conversation.”

  • Kurt Vonnegut on the Shapes of Stories” — David Comberg; from the e-stands-for-electricity dept;

  • The Shapes of Stories, a Kurt Vonnegut Infographic” — Maya Eilam; in-hoc-figura-vinces dept.

    The Shapes of Stories by Kurt Vonnegut by Maya Eilam

  • Atlas of Management Thinking by Edward de Bono, described on the Edward de Bono website; in the can-you-draw-me-a-picture dept.

    “Verbal descriptions of complex management situations are necessarily lodged in the left side of the brain. In order for us to be able to use the right side of the brain we need a repertoire of non-verbal images. That is precisely what this book sets out to provide. The images provided by drawings in this book enrich the perceptual map of the executive. The images allow him to add some right-brain thinking to his usual left-brain thinking. This makes it easier for the executive to recognise situations in a flash instead of having to build them up piecemeal.”

  • The Higgs Boson re-explained” — Jorge Cham, PHD Comics; from the hello-i-mass-be-going dept.

    “Without the Higgs Field, there would be no mass terms in the equations … and everything you know would disappear in a split second.”

  • Is the Universe a Simulation?” — Edward Frenkel, The New York Times’ Gray Matter; from the faith-trust-and-pixie-dust dept.

    “What kinds of things are mathematical entities and theorems, that they are knowable in this way? Do they exist somewhere, a set of immaterial objects in the enchanted gardens of the Platonic world, waiting to be discovered? Or are they mere creations of the human mind?

    This question has divided thinkers for centuries. It seems spooky to suggest that mathematical entities actually exist in and of themselves. But if math is only a product of the human imagination, how do we all end up agreeing on exactly the same math? Some might argue that mathematical entities are like chess pieces, elaborate fictions in a game invented by humans. But unlike chess, mathematics is indispensable to scientific theories describing our universe. And yet there are many mathematical concepts — from esoteric numerical systems to infinite-dimensional spaces — that we don’t currently find in the world around us. In what sense do they exist?”

  • An Introduction to Landscape Theology” — David Titterington, Reality Sandwich; from the my-hair-the-trees-of-eternity dept.

    “What is objective and universal may be called transpersonal, or ‘archetypal,’ in the Jungian sense; it is that more-than-human place we share with others, that ‘earthly ground of rock and soil that we share with the other animals and the plants’ (Abram 1996: 281). Merleau-Ponty: ‘My body is made of the same flesh as the world.’ Therefore, if we wish to look for the ‘real archetypes,’ we may want to pay attention to landscapes and their elements.”

  • Sleep’s Hidden Histories — Benjamin Reiss. Los Angeles Review of Books [HT Arts & Letters Daily]; from between-a-sleep-and-a-sleep the dept.

    “Things that we do or experience in private, things we might expect to read about in novels or talk about in therapy, have now generated a hidden-histories boomlet. The best of these works not only make the familiar strange, but they make us think differently about history and its intimate relation to our own lives.”

    “Sleep, on the other hand, assassinates the person who might think about it. It’s not just that it’s a stretch to imagine how our sleep connects us to other times and places; it’s that we’re not even there when it happens. Dreaming is a possible exception, since it’s sometimes recoverable by our waking selves — which is part of why dreaming has a much longer historiography than the other 85 percent of the sleep cycle. But the other aspects of the sleeping self — characterized by non-productivity, maddening lumpishness, and obliviousness — are about as unavailable to us as is being born or dying.”

  • The Church of the Paranormal” — Shannon Fischer, Pacific Standard [HT William Thirteen]; from the i-want-to-believe dept.

    “Don’t be shy. Depending on your poll of choice, anywhere from a third to nearly half of you either believe in ghosts or are pretty sure you do. And if not ghosts, then aliens, mediums, or astrology, for which belief has either held steady or risen over the last couple of decades. More than two-thirds of Americans hold at least one paranormal—unsanctioned by religion—belief, according to the Baylor Religion Survey. That’s more than voted in the 2012 presidential election.”

  • Arnold Toynbee quoted at “Roadmap to an unstoppable strategy” — Stephanie Van Hook; from the i-love-it-when-a-plan-comes-together dept.

    “Apathy can only be overcome by enthusiasm, and enthusiasm can only be aroused by two things: first, an idea that takes the imagination by storm; and second, a concrete, intelligible plan for putting that idea into action.”

  • The War on Reason” — Paul Bloom, The Atlantic [HT Arts & Letters Daily]; from the let-me-hear-your-body-talk dept.

    “In a contemporary, and often unacknowledged, rebooting of Freud, many psychologists have concluded from such findings that unconscious associations and attitudes hold powerful sway over our lives—and that conscious choice is largely superfluous. ‘It is not clear,’ the Baylor College neuroscientist David Eagleman writes, ‘how much the conscious you—as opposed to the genetic and neural you—gets to do any deciding at all.'”

  • Does Reading Actually Change The Brain?” — Carol Clark of Emory University, Futurity [HT Disinformation]; from the i-can-go-twice-as-high dept.

    “‘The neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement systems suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist,’ Berns says. ‘We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense. Now we’re seeing that something may also be happening biologically.’

    The neural changes were not just immediate reactions, Berns says, since they persisted the morning after the readings, and for the five days after the participants completed the novel.”

  • The new theory that could explain crime and violence in America” — Scott C Johnson; from the taking-over-the-family-business dept.

    “When the analysis was complete, Meaney saw an intriguing pattern. For the most part, the brains of suicide victims had similar receptor levels to those of people who had died in accidents. But in the samples from victims of childhood abuse, receptor levels were lower — just as with the rats. When he homed in on the cause of the difference, things got even more interesting. Meaney discovered that the gene for the receptor was covered by a chemical blanket that effectively silenced it — exactly the same silencing mechanism as seen in the rats that suffered poor maternal care.

    The implication was significant: an abusive childhood might turn the volume down on this vital stress-response gene, leaving the abused vulnerable to stress, and perhaps suicidal impulses, later in life.”

  • Your Ancestors, Your Fate” — Gregory Clark, The New York Times’ Opinion Pages; from the upstairs-downstairs dept.

    “The notion of genetic transmission of ‘social competence’ … may unsettle us. But studies … support this view.”

  • Jim Jarmusch: how the film world’s maverick stayed true to his roots” — Jonathan Romney, The Observer; from the if-you-look-like-you-could-be-then-you-are dept.

    “The word ‘hipster’ invariably crops up in discussions about American film-maker Jim Jarmusch, not least because he looks the part. He is tall, lean, often wears shades and has a famous shock of hair that started turning silvery grey in his teens; his basso drawl completes the uncanny resemblance to a certain Hollywood great, which inspired Jarmusch to found a jokey secret society, The Sons of Lee Marvin.”

  • The Song of the Land: Bioregional Animism” — Sarah Anne Lawless; from the lay-of-the-land dept.

    “It is hard to care deeply about something without any personal knowledge of it. Walking this road can start as simply as purchasing a regional field guide and going for a lot of walks with it, photographing and recording what you find. It can be as fun as taking an identification and foraging course with knowledgeable locals who will teach you ethics and proper stewardship as well to make sure you don’t damage or destroy the natural resources you’re learning to identify and use. Go camping, go travelling, go exploring, go on adventures in your bioregion. Walk the trails, canoe the lakes, explore the beach, climb the trees…

    When you’re surrounded by nature, sit still, watch and listen.”

  • Teju Cole, via tweet; from the thank-you-no-thank-you dept.

    “You don’t decide to be a prophet. It happens to you, ruining your life, comforting distant people you’ve never met who may never thank you.”

  • Jenna Lilla, via tweet; from the i-roam-around-around-around dept.

    “The heroes are usually wanderers … a symbol of longing, of the restless urge which never finds its object of nostalgia for the lost mother.”

  • Magic and Your Lizard Brain: The Mind Tricks Behind Conjuring Ghosts” — Elizabeth Harper, Atlas Obscura; from the i-make-the-blue-cars-go-away dept.

    “Your lizard brain is so reliably persistent that knowing how the trick is done doesn’t stop the effect from working.”

  • Why Is Academic Writing So Academic?” — Joshua Rothman, The New Yorker [HT Arts & Letters Daily]; from the sesquipedalian-tergiversation dept.

    “Academic prose is, ideally, impersonal, written by one disinterested mind for other equally disinterested minds. But, because it’s intended for a very small audience of hyper-knowledgable, mutually acquainted specialists, it’s actually among the most personal writing there is. If journalists sound friendly, that’s because they’re writing for strangers. With academics, it’s the reverse.”

  • PantheaCon and the Growing Significance of Conventions as Spiritual Pilgrimage” — Crystal Blanton, The Wild Hunt; from the i-want-to-go-to-there dept;

    “Nikki Jardin states ‘A spiritual pilgrimage is a physical journey toward a place of sacred or religious significance.’ This definition fits with how many Pagans, Wiccans, and Polytheists have come to revere Pagan conventions and festivals: As yearly spiritual pilgrimages for transcendent and communal enlightenment.”

  • Sheep reproduction is beautiful.” — Sunshine and Bunnies!

    Sheep reproduction is beautiful