Tag Archives: islam

Antichrist

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Antichrist: A novel of the Emperor Frederick II by Cecelia Holland.

Cecelia Holland Antichrist

Historical novelist Cecelia Holland is the author of Antichrist: a novel of the Emperor Frederick II (1970). The British issue of the same book had a more timid publisher, it seems. The title there was Wonder of the World, in reference to Frederick’s renown as stupor mundi. The US Primate of the Gnostic Catholic Church identifies Frederick II as the “Frederick of Hohenstaufen” enumerated among the saints of Liber XV, and he points to Frederick’s notable antagonism with Rome, but he fails to note the item that gave Holland her title: a tradition of identifying Frederick as the Antichrist.

Antichrist is an inherently prophetic figure, and the prophecies of Frederick’s Antichrist status were initially derived from Joachim of Fiore’s writings. Holland observes this fact with a brief notice in her prefatory “Note” (ix). The Super Hieremiam was a pseudo-Joachimist work that identified Frederick as a head of the apocalyptic dragon and as the emperor whose death would inaugurate the age of the Holy Spirit. The prophecy regarding Frederick is one of the elements that made Joachim’s work topical for the Franciscans who became interested in it during the 1240s.

Holland’s story is set in the 1220s, with Frederick’s prosecution of the Sixth Crusade. She depicts the Franciscans in Outremer as opponents of the Emperor, and she has them accuse him of being Antichrist. Whether they would have done so at that time, before taking up the ideas from Joachim, or whether the accusation in the novel was anachronistic, I don’t know.

Besides the Franciscan Order, Antichrist includes a rough and caricaturing treatment of the military Orders of the Temple and the Hospital. Of the former, Holland writes that they “were beyond doubt Satanist,” choosing to take the French court proceedings as gospel on this count (xiii). She depicts both Orders—who were, after all, opposed to her protagonist Frederick—as corrupt and malevolent. In fact, her depiction of them is much in keeping with the villainous roles that they play in the novels of Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832).

An important aspect of the novel (and the events it attempts to describe) is the relationship between Christians and Muslims, both in southern Europe and in Palestine. The idea that Frederick was Antichrist had much to do with his perceived and actual intimacy with Saracens and Islam. Holland creatively adds a member of the Order of Assassins to Frederick’s bodyguard in Palestine. This touch on her part leads to a historical error, in which she has the “Assassins” in question refer to themselves as Hashishiyyun (164). The Muslims associated with Alamut whom the Crusaders called “Assassins” were sometimes called hashishis as a term of derision by their Muslim antagonists, but they were in fact, and knew themselves as, Syrian Ismailis of the Nizari sect.

Holland’s book was great fun to read: it has a lot of witty dialogue and vivid description. If handled respectfully, it would probably make a terrific movie. Although she makes some outright errors, the author provides the unusual courtesy among historical novelists of pointing out which principal features of the story are her conscious interpolations (xii-xiii). As far as the broad outlines of her narrative go, there is nothing to contradict any of the history I have read. [via]


Imagining Karma

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Imagining Karma: Ethical Transformation in Amerindian, Buddhist, and Greek Rebirth by Gananath Obeyesekere.

Ganath Obeyesekere Imagining Karma

Obeyesekere works through a project of “comparative structural interpretation” (354), using simplified and idealized models of the processes described by rebirth doctrines within and among various cultures. One of his goals is to demonstrate that reincarnation “eschatologies” are not unique to Indic religions, as is sometimes supposed. The societies that furnish Obeyesekere with ethnological data are Vedanta and Upanishadic Hinduism, Theravada Buddhism, West Africa, Trobriand, Northwest Coast Amerindians, Inuit, Tlingit, Kwakiutl, Classical Hellenism (as Pythagoreanism and Platonism), “Heterodox Islam” (as Druzes and Ismailism), and Bali. He omits the kabbalistic metempsychosis of mystical Judaism, as well as some Australian and Asian cultures of reincarnation, noting that he is especially interested in those who hold beliefs permitting cross-species rebirth of humans. This latter idea he ties to the notion of “species sentience” (his term) and relates structurally to vegetarianism, by means of an endoanthropophagy (cannibalism) taboo.

Obeyesekere distinguishes a “karmic eschatology” from the basic “rebirth eschatology” according to the presence of two features, which he groups under the process of “ethicization” of the reincarnation process. The first feature is a differentiation of post-mortem otherworld experiences based on the ethical status of the deceased. The second is the ethicization of rebirth per se, so that the ethical value of one life has the determinative effect on the identity and quality of the next life. (He notes that this latter feature correlates to a devaluation of animals, when compared to rebirth schemas that lack it.) Tied to this ethicization is the establishment of a salvation that lies outside the cycle of rebirth altogether. Obeyesekere also asserts a parallel process of “axiologization,” by which preexisting local values are conceptualized and universalized. While outlining his model of the “karmic eschatology,” he counters Western descriptions (or “inventions”) of Buddhism as essentially and originally “rational” (151 ff.).

Having constructed the model of Buddhist rebirth ideas, with reference to those of “small-scale societies,” Obeyesekere compares it to other cultures under his consideration. He also discusses instances of deviance from the model within Buddhism (e.g. 132), and variability within the other cultures. None are presented as static or uniform, but the structure(s) described by Obeyesekere serve(s) as a strange attractor around which the instances group themselves, according to “expectability” and its circumstantial thwarting. He emphasizes (e.g. 139) that “popular” features durably contradicting “pure” doctrines are as likely to be survivals from the religion’s first codification as they are to be “contaminations” from a subsequent, alien source.

He explains that his methodological goal is to demonstrate that while cultures as wholes may be “incommensurable,” comparison of important aspects or dimensions of culture can be undertaken productively. Although I found plenty of his more specific arguments questionable (often provocatively so), I think he succeeds on this most general plane of his ambition. [via]


Religious Outsiders and the Making of Americans

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Religious Outsiders and the Making of Americans by R Laurence Moore.

R Laurence Moore Religious Outsiders and the Making of Americans

The clumsy-sounding “Americans” of Moore’s title is intended to highlight the issue of like-it-or-not pluralism that pervades the book; there is no unitary America on the plane of religion. He characterizes ecumenism as a Protestant appetite, and emphasizes the recurrent usefulness of religious particularism and dissent. In many respects, he provides a historical and philosophical structure to comprehend the “supply-side” assertions of Stark and Finke’s later Churching of America, while transcending their focus on the statistically predominant Protestant institutions of American religious history. He also places himself in opposition to the expansive insider paradigm advanced in Robert Bellah’s theory of American civil religion, which Moore describes as “inexplicable” in its attractions, absent the ecumenical motive developed by Protestants and imposed by misreading onto Herberg’s Protestant, Catholic, Jew. (pp. ix, 18-19) In fact, Moore points out adroitly enough that “Civil religion…like more ordinary religions, may have split Americans into separate camps as often as it has brought them together.” (p. 202)

While apologizing for an apparent lack of narrative development or thematic unity in his relatively short book, Moore maintains throughout a consistent perspective highlighting the essential nature of the outsider position in American religion, to the point where a reader may suspect that to be genuinely religious in the US requires being an outsider of one sort or another. Reading the book provokes the question: who are “religious outsiders” in America? Moore starts with a clear-cut instance; in their origins and early history at least, Mormons were a tiny minority undoubtedly cast as deviant and progressively alienated from the national establishment. But his next two chapters, on Catholics and Jews respectively, implicitly demarcate all non-Protestant religions as “outsider.” And in his essay on “The Protestant Majority as a Lost Generation—A Look at Fundamentalism,” he depicts the numerical bulk of Protestants adopting or being cast into the position of outsiders for much of the twentieth century. Ultimately, the pluralism described and advocated by Moore is a circumstance binding on all Americans, and an ideal held by few, if any. In such a situation, a conscious embrace of “outsider” status offers both a measure of authenticity and tactical advantage. Religions can preserve their truth claims while excusing a lack of universal acknowledgement (thus Protestant fundamentalists). Even more importantly, they can reify social and cultural niches that provide their adherents with places in a nation that has never been a utopia.

Moore’s introduction is reminiscent of the introduction to Ahlstrom’s Religious History of the American People, providing a wide-angle review of the historiography of American religion, though in Moore’s case with particular and critical reference to the idea of religious diversity. He observes that histories—whether because of the providential theology of the 19th century or the denominational theories of the 20th—have typically gotten their facts wrong because they trained their attention on the “mainline” groups that embraced insider status and promoted tolerance, even while outsider and intolerant groups did as much or more to define the overall picture of American religious life. Moore later also deploys Ahlstrom’s category of harmonialism, without collapsing occultism and the general run of non-Abrahamic religion into it as Ahlstrom had done; the effect is that he situates Christian Science among Judah’s “Metaphysical Movements,” although he uses Ahlstrom’s term. (p. 116)

The book’s essays are divided into two groups, of which the first concerns itself with “ethnicity and American identity” in the context of outsider religions. In one chapter, Moore casts the development of Mormonism as the crafting of a novel ethnicity. In another, he reviews the “Americanizing” controversy within 19th-century Catholicism. He explains “non-Americanizers” as participants in a conscious strategy by which ethnicity could be used to maintain Catholic ties while adapting immigrants to American society, and presents them as antagonists of the premise that Catholicism was inherently anti-American. The chapter on Judaism describes not only the novelty of the American experience for Jews who found themselves promoted from an object of extraordinary prejudice in Europe to an “ordinary minority” in America, but also the extent to which Jews were able to turn around and become a vanguard in the representation of America to itself through both entertainment media and social justice organizing. By emphasizing ethnicity in these religious identities, Moore brings notions of difference from their peripheries to their centers.

In the second large division of the text, Moore treats “religions for average Americans” under the title “the Progressive’s Despair.” His “average Americans” include Christian Scientists, pre-millenialists, Fundamentalists, and African-Americans. In the first three cases, he soundly makes the case for their ordinariness alongside their “outsider” status, refusing to stigmatize them on the latter account. In the final case, he documents the exceptional nature of Black Christianity in both cultivating and undermining the sense of social autonomy among African-Americans.

While I understand that Moore’s thesis requires him to cultivate sympathy for the religious groups about which he writes, I think he tends to cut too much slack for Biblical inerrancy, e.g. when he characterizes it as “the notion…that the Bible means what it says.” (p. 169) The dilemmas regarding popular hermeneutics of scripture didn’t begin with higher criticism or theological modernism. No text is self-interpreting, and the Bible is less transparent than most. In fact, I think it is rather easier to defend the intellectual integrity of denying biological evolution than that of denying reading.

Another terminological quirk is Moore’s repeated invocation of the “Moral Majority,” which must have seemed like something more than a decade-long political coalition in 1986. (Falwell’s attempted resurrection of a grouping under that banner in 2003 made little progress before his 2007 demise.) Still, Moore’s analysis of Fundamentalism’s persistence after Scopes—as contrasted with the illusion of its reconstitution by Billy Graham—is a sound one, and he puts his finger on the political dilemma that confronted both Fundamentalists and their sectarian pre-millenialist cousins at the close of the 20th century. Their relationship to “Caesar” is necessarily different than the one shown in the gospels, but what should it be?

In the postscript, I was struck by the following remark: “If Americans are now more religiously tolerant than they were in the nineteenth century, it is not because they are collectively more high-minded but because they care less about religion.” (p. 205)

My disagreement with the final clause of the apodosis preoccupied me for minutes, until I realized that I rejected the protasis. And it seems that Moore may as well, if we attend to his final suspension of judgment on whether “consensus as a myth” will continue to be supportable in the future of American religions. (p. 210) I strongly concur that the “invented oppositions” (p. 46) in which our pluralism is rooted are what nourish its religious dynamism. [via]


Aristotle’s Children

Aristotle’s Children: How Christians, Muslims, and Jews Rediscovered Ancient Wisdom and Illuminated the Middle Ages by Richard E Rubenstein, a 2003 hardcover from Harcourt, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Richard E Rubenstein Aristotle's Children from Harcourt

“The astonishing story of revelation and transformation in the Middle Ages. When Aristotle’s lost works were translated and available once again, the medieval world was galvanized, the Church and the universities were forever changed, and the stage was set for the Renaissance.” — back cover


Living Gnosticism

Living Gnosticism: An Ancient Way of Knowing by Jordan Stratford, the 2007 paperback from Apocryphile Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Jordan Stratford Living Gnosticism from Apocryphile

“Twenty two centuries ago in Alexandria, a sect of philosopher-poets fashioned a myth the strands of which weave through Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Greek philosophy, and inspired the legends of the Holy Grail. Long banished to the realm of notorious heresy, the myths of the Gnostics (‘knowers‘) took root in the fertile imagination of the nineteenth century’s artistic movements and esoteric circles, bearing fruit in the daily spiritual practice of thousands today. In 1945, a library of Gnostic writings surfaced from the Egyptian desert, allowing the movement—after 1500 years of propaganda and slander—to speak with its own voice. Rich in imagery, nostalgic in tone, Gnosticism quietly restores Wisdom to her place as Goddess in Western religion, reveres Eve as the first saint, and acknowledges Mary Magdalene as foremost of the Apostles.” — back cover


The Mysteries

The Mysteries: Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks, edited by Joseph Campbell, the 1990 fifth paperback printing of Bollingen Series XXX Vol 2 from Princeton University Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Joseph Campbell The Mysteries from Princeton University Press / Bollingen

“Since 1933, the Eranos Conferences have been held at Ascona in southern Switzerland. Distinguished scholars from Europe, Asia, and America have been invited to a ‘shared feast’ (eranos) and have lectured on themes chosen by the Director of Eranos, the late Olga Froebe-Kapteyn. The lectures originally appeared in the Eranos-Jahrbücher (Zurich) and selections translated into English have been published in Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks, of which this is the second volume. Thirteen scholars—including C. G. Jung, C. Kerényi, Walter F. Otto, and Hugo Rahner—are represented in this collection, which is drawn from the years 1936, 1939m 1940–41, 1942, and 1944. The volume is edited by Joseph Campbell and translated by Ralph Manheim and R.F.C. Hull.” — back cover

Essays included are:

  • Paul Masson-Oursel, “The Indian Theories of Redemption in the Frame of the Religions of Salvation”
  • Paul Masson-Oursel, “The Doctrine of Grace in the Religious Thought of India”
  • Walter F. Otto, “The Meaning of the Eleusinian Mysteries”
  • Carl Kerényi, “The Mysteries of the Kabeiroi”
  • Walter Wili, “The Orphic Mysteries and the Greek Spirit”
  • Paul Schmitt, “The Ancient Mysteries in the Society of Their Time, Their Transformation and Most Recent Echoes”
  • Georges Nagel, “The ‘Mysteries’ of Osiris in Ancient Egypt”
  • Jean de Manasce, “The Mysteries and the Religion of Iran”
  • Fritz Meier, “The Mystery of the Ka’ba: Symbol and Reality in Islamic Mysticism”
  • Max Pulver, “Jesus’ Round Dance and Crucifixion According to the Acts of St. John”
  • Hans Leisegang, “The Mystery of the Serpent”
  • Julius Baum, “Symbolic Representations of the Eucharist”
  • C G Jung, “Transformation Symbolism in the Mass”
  • Hugo Rahner, “The Christian Mystery and the Pagan Mysteries.”


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

The Key to Solomon’s Key

The Key to Solomon’s Key: Secrets of Magic and Masonry by Lon Milo DuQuette, with an introduction by James Wasserman, the 2006 first edition softcover, from the Consortium of Collective Consciousness, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Lon Milo DuQuette The Key to Solomon's Key

This work has been published in a 2010 second edition with a different subtitle as The Key to Solomon’s Key: Is This the Lost Symbol of Masonry? that includes a new afterword by Hermetic Library fellow Mark Stavish.

“Controversial Secrets of Magic and Masonry

King Solomon is the central figure of both the secret rituals of Freemasonry and the forbidden rites of sorcery, The sacred traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam come together in the person of the wise magician-king of ancient Israel, and his presence in Biblical history is a key element in how these three disparate religions view themselves and each other. The story of Solomon has his magnificent Temple in Jerusalem is the keystone of the Bible that supports and connects Old Testament and New.

But is it true? Or do myth and tradition hold keys that unlock mysteries of human consciousness infinitely more astounding than history?” — back cover

“This intriguing look at intersections between Freemasonry and the Western magical traditions will be sure to evoke outrage from many quarters, but it poses curcial question that deserve close attention from Masons, magicians, and anyone else concerned with the nature of religion and reality in a post-Christian age.” — John Michael Greer, back cover

 

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 Drunken Universe

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry by Peter Lamborn Wilson (also known as Hakim Bey):

Peter Lamborn Wilson's The Drunken Universe

 

The selections in this volume are terrific and the translations are lucid. The commentary is fairly restrained—much more could be written about any of the poems—and readers without much familiarity with Islam will probably miss many allusions. The appended “bio-bibliographies” of poets are succinct and helpful. The one genuinely bad thing about the book is the calligraphic font in which all the poems are set; it makes reading them more difficult and distracts from the beauty of the language and ideas. [via]

 

 

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.

Memoirs of a Dervish

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Memoirs of a Dervish: Sufis, Mystics and the Sixties by Robert Irwin:

Robert Irwin's Memoirs of a Dervish

 

“In the autumn of 1966 it seemed to me that I had no destiny, for my future was blank. Now, as I write, it seems to me that my destiny is already mostly in the past” (122).

Robert Irwin is one of my favorite novelists, the author of such wonderful works as The Arabian Nightmare (his first), The Limits of Vision, and Satan Wants Me, and that would have been enough to interest me in his memoir. And indeed, this book discloses to a reader of Irwin’s fiction many of the crypto-autobiographical vectors in his writing. But the the promise of accounts of his experiences in the emergence of English counterculture in the 1960s and of his own involvement in Algerian Sufism made the memoir irresistable.

Irwin expresses nostalgia for his experience of the hippy sixties, while powerfully deglamorizing the counterculture. He is disenchanted and strikingly contemptuous of his younger self. In addition to drugs, mysticism, music, and romantic love, he recounts his academic odyssey and encounters with intellectuals such as R.C. Zaehner, Bernard Lewis, and the Perennialist school of religious scholarship.

Irwin professes his abiding faith in the message of Islam and the value of Sufi praxis, despite the horror with which he regards conspicuous portions of the global Muslim community. His respect for the ‘Alawi tariqa in which he was initiated has not been effaced. But the book almost reads as though it might have been entitled “Memoirs of a Failed Dervish,” because he confesses his own lack of attainment and inability to derive consequence from his mystical strivings. Still, he provides details of the perplexing effects of his aspiration. “Like body odours, ecstasy is something that nice people don’t talk about, but the hell with that” (78).

There is certainly a significant dose of melancholy in Irwin’s retrospection. “I cannot think of anything useful I have learned from dreams, or any instance in which a dream has served as valuable inspiration,” he writes (215). In a highly enjoyable reflection on his youthful interest in science fiction, Irwin remarks: “I have lost the capacity to be astounded and I am sad about that” (19). For me, his memoir was like summer sunshine filtered through browning autumn leaves. [via]

 

 

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.