Tag Archives: James Wasserman

Aleister Crowley and the Practice of the Magical Diary

Bkwyrm reviews Aleister Crowley and the Practice of the Magical Diary, edited by James Wasserman, in the Bkwyrm archive.

This is a great reference text for any magic-user, be they Pagan, Wiccan, or of an entirely different tradition. The work primarily consists of two sections from diaries that were published in The Equinox many years ago, “John St. John” and “A Master of the Temple”. John St. John is a section of Crowley’s own diary; first published in The Equinox (Volume 1, Number 1, 1909). A Master of the Temple is one of the first magical records by Frater Achad, with comments by Crowley, also published in The Equinox (Volume III, Number 1, 1919). These excerpts are introduced by a brief essay by James Wasserman, who explains the purpose of a magical diary, and the importance of keeping accurate records of all magical activities. He provides excellent suggestions on what kind of records to keep, when one should make a record, and what kind of information goes into a magical diary. The usefulness of the information aside, it’s a great read. Both of the diaries are fascinating glimpses into the minds of two men working to achieve magical goals, and the essay by Wasserman is clearly written and entertaining.

This book is highly recommended for anyone of any tradition who is interested in keeping accurate and informative magical records. [via]

Art and Symbols of the Occult

Randall Boyer reviews Art and Symbols of the Occult: Images of Power and Wisdom, edited by James Wasserman, in the Bkwyrm archive.

It’s an attractive occult coffee-table book, with slightly cooler pictures than most other occult coffee-table books. The text of course is Really Basic, in the way of such books. The author is obviously enthusiastic about Crowley (something rare in this genre), but still misquotes him just like King or Cavendish or Maple or those other guys. The dust jacket promises an “extensive bibliography of classical occult works,” which has perfidiously been replaced by a one-page reading-list. Oh well, it still looks nice on my coffee-table. [via]

In the Center of the Fire

Hermetic Library fellow Colin Campbell reviews In the Center of the Fire: Memoirs of the Occult, 1966-1989 by James Wasserman.

Wasserman’s In the Center of the Fire: Memoirs of the Occult, 1966-1989 strings together like a fantastic rough and tumble road movie, an occult version of Easy Rider. Wasserman lays it bare; everything – personal, professional, sacred and profane. A long time advocate of the practice of keeping a magical diary, the work clearly shows the fruits of Wasserman’s careful notes in reconstruction.

Yes, it does appear that I have been on an O.T.O. history kick as of late, though this is partly due to a number of new books released in and around that topic. It started with Kaczynski’s Forgotten Templars, followed with the Collected Writings of Phyllis Seckler (Vol. 2) by Shoemaker, Peters, and Johnson, and finally Wasserman’s In the Center of the Fire. Interestingly, Kaczynski’s work is about the pre-Crowley era of O.T.O, Phyllis Seckler’s time intersects a late and post-Crowley era, and Wasserman’s completes the trinity with the re-emergence of the O.T.O. in its modern form. So, between the three, you get a great view of the history of the Order from a number of different viewpoints. I highly recommend each of them – but we are here to discuss the latter.

There were a number of threads that resonated strongly with me. Most so was his insight into the Motta/Weiser trials that solidified the (for lack of a better word) legitimacy of the late Grady McMurtry as the head of the Order. Moreover, his reminiscence of Weiser’s bookstore and Donald Weiser himself were heartwarming. (I still remember my oldest son pulling at Donald Weiser’s beard as a youngster when I would visit in the bookshop!) All of this while detailing various publishing efforts, his own personal struggles, and the evolution of Tahuti Lodge of OTO, makes for a very entertaining read.

To the point: James Wasserman was there. He was there, man. I found it a fantastic read to peek (perhaps just a bit) into a historical period in the emergence of the modern OTO, a time that few speak about even now. I felt like I was given the opportunity to be a fly on the wall in a number of these pivotal moments, and I thank him for that. [via]

Undoing Yourself

Undoing Yourself With Energized Meditation & Other Devices by Christopher S Hyatt, introduction by Israel Regardie, preface by Robert Anton Wilson, cover painting by Sallie Ann Glassman, cover design by James Wasserman’s Studio 31, the 1989 fourth revised edition from Falcon Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Christopher S Hyatt Undoing Yourself from Falcon Press

“Sufism is only the largest of several Near Eastern and European ‘mystic’ movements which recognize the robotry of ordinary humanity but, unlike the Orient, attempt to Un-do and de-robotize those who have a dawning apprehension of their mechanical state and sincerely want to become less mechanical, as far as that is possible. I am not writing a recruiting manual for Sufism (which is doing quite well without my advertisements): I am merely using the Sufi school as one example of the tradition to which this marvelous book, Undoing Yourself, belongs.

Most readers, if they have encountered such ideas at all, probably identify them with Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, two of the most talented expositors of a school of neo-Sufism which they peddled under the brand name ‘Esoteric Christianity.’ The present book also owes a great deal to Aleister Crowley, who belonged to this tradition but sold his own brand of it under the label of Gnostic Magick. There is also a strong influence here of the bio-psychology of Wilhelm Reich; but all this tracing of ‘sources’ is ultimately trivial. The importance of Christopher Hyatt’s work is what you can get out of it and that depends entirely on what you put into it.

It works, if you work.”

“Aside from such ‘symbolic magick’ (as distinguished from magick ritual, which is a kind of Brain Change experiment), the main reason people prefer to read neurological exercises rather than doing the exercises is the dread and sheer horror which the word ‘work’ invokes in most people. Some great teachers, especially Gurdjieff and Crowley, have literally frightened away thousands of would-be students by insisting on the necessity of HARD WORK (as I also frightened a lot of readers by using those words several times in this essay.)”

“Hey! Catch this! A Secret of the Illuminati Revealed!

Here I want to let you in on a real Secret of the Illuminati, one that has never been published before.

The so-called ‘work’ involved in Brain Change is not like ordinary ‘work’ at all. It is more like the creative ecstasy of the artist and scientist, once you really get involved in doing it. Most people are afraid of it only because they think ‘work’ must be a curse and can’t imagine that ‘work’ can be fun.” — from the introduction by Robert Anton Wilson

The Egyptian Book of the Dead

The Egyptian Book of the Dead: The Book of Going Forth by Day, translated by Raymond O Faulkner, additional translation and commentary by Ogden Goelet, introduced by Carol Andrews, edited by Eva Von Dassow, and conceived by James Wasserman, the large format paperback from Chronicle Books, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Raymond Faulkner Ogden Oelet Carol Andrews The Egyptian Book of the Dead from Chronicle Books

“Written some 3,500 years ago, the Papyrus of Ani is the most complete, ornate, and best preserved example of Ancient Egyptian philosophical and religious thought. Presented here for the first time in its original form, with the hieroglyphic images matched to what has been acknowledged as the finest English translation of the test, The Egyptian Book of the Dead opens the door to one of humanity’s earliest and finest spiritual treasures.

O my heart which I had from my mother! O heart which I had from my mother! O my heart of my different ages! Do not stand up as a witness against me. Do not be opposed to me in the tribunal. Do not be hostile to me in the presence of the Keeper of the Balance, for you are my Ka which was in my body, the protector who made my members hale. Go forth to the happy place where to we speed: do not make my name stink to the Entourage who make men. Do not tell lies about me in the presence of the god; it is indeed well that you should hear!

Thus says Thoth, judge of truth, to the Great Ennead which is in the presence of Osiris: Hear this word of very truth. I have judged the heart of the deceased, and his soul stands as a witness for him. His deeds are righteous in the great balance, and no sin has been found in him. He did not diminish the offerings in the temple, he did not destroy what had been made, he did not go about with deceitful speech while he was on earth.

Thus says the Great Ennead to Thoth who is in Hermopolis: This utterance of yours is true. The vindicated Osiris Ani is straightforward, he has no sin, there is no accusation against him before us, Ammit shall not be permitted to have power over him. Let there be given to him the offerings which are issues in the presence of Osiris, and may a grant of land be established in the Field of Offerings as for the Followers of Horus.” — back cover

Ishtar Rising

Ishtar Rising: Or, Why the Goddess Went to Hell and What to Expect Now That She’s Returning by Robert Anton Wilson, cover painting by Sallie Ann Glassman, cover and book design by James Wasserman’s Studio 31, the 1989 first edition from Falcon Press / Golden Dawn Publications, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Robert Anton Wilson Ishtar Rising from Falcon Press

Although this is the first edition of Ishtar Rising, the book was actually and originally published by Playboy Press in 1974 as The Book of the Breast.

“Psychologist, novelist and former Playboy editor Robert Anton Wilson takes you on [a] journey through esoterica and erotica, explaining why Eve in the Bible and Eris in Greek myth were both involved with nefarious apples … why the Great Goddess of the ancients went to Hell, and why most of us go to Hell in our dreams occasionally … why female pacifists baring their breast in front of the Pentagon were unconsciously repeating an ancient religious ritual … why celibates have burned so many ‘witches’ … and more!”— 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.

Cosmic Trigger II

Cosmic Trigger II: Down to Earth by Robert Anton Wilson, cover painting by Aiden Willard Cole, cover design by James Wasserman’s Studio 31, the 1991 first printing from New Falcon Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Robert Anton Wilson Cosmic Trigger II from New Falcon

“Since the ultimate map of all maps which includes all the territory of existence does not exist, and we cannot even imagine how to produce it, the best we can say of any reailty-tunnel—sensory or mathematically abstract, philosophical or ‘superstitious,’ created by our tribe or by a different (and therefore ‘inferior’) tribe, ‘scientific’ or ‘political’ or ‘artistic’—can only consist of, ‘This map here seems to work pretty well for my purposes, in most cases, so far.’ (Or, in more academic language, ‘The data does not yet justify revising the theory.’)

Every ‘reality’ remains relative to the instrument used in detecting or measuring it. In most cases, for most humans, in ordinary life, the instrument that determines our ‘realities’—or reality-tunnels, more accurately—remains our nervous system in general and our brain in particular.” (156)

“If I have managed to make Korzybski clear the reader should now understand that the redness of roses belongs to the realm of our sensory experience, while the no-color of atoms belongs [to] the realm of our most abstract brain software. You should also see why social scientists have largely given up the word ‘reality’ entirely and speak of glosses or grids or models or (the term from Tim Leary I find clearest of all) reality-tunnels.

To attribute ‘reality’ to any one level of abstraction, from the most sensory to the most theoretical, implicitly damns other levels to ‘non-reality’ even though they, too, represent normal human experience.” (157)

“One man from CSICOP recently wrote, ‘Wilson describes himself as a ‘guerilla ontologist,’ signifying his intention to attack language and knowledge the way terrorists attack their targets: to JUMP OUT FROM THE SHADOWS for an unprovoked attack, then slink back and hide behind a belly-laugh.’ (Emphasis added, of course.) You can see that this poor man feels under attack and probably looks beneath his bed at night to see if I or some other Witch might be lurking there. He also never had a teacher who told him using the same word three times in a short sentence creates a dull mechanical style suggesting a dull mechanical mind.” (215–216)

 

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.

Cosmic Trigger

Cosmic Trigger: Final Secret of the Illuminati by Robert Anton Wilson, illustrated by John Thompson, foreword by Timothy Leary, afterword by Saul-Paul Sirag, cover painting by Sallie Ann Glassman, cover design by James Wasserman’s Studio 31, the 1989 third printing from Falcon Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Robert Anton Wilson Cosmic Trigger from Falcon Press

“I DO NOT BELIEVE ANYTHING

This remark was made, in these very words, by John Gribben, physics editor of New Scientist magazine, in a BBC-TV debate with Malcolm Muggeridge, and it provoked incredulity on the part of most viewers. It seems to be a hangover of the medieval Catholic era that causes most people, even the educated, to think that everybody must ‘believe’ something or other, that if one is not a theist, one must be a dogmatic atheist, and if one does not think Capitalism is perfect, one must believe fervently in Socialism, and if one does not have blind faith in X, one must alternatively have blind faith in not-X or the reverse of X.

My own opinion is that belief is the death of intelligence.”

Cosmic Trigger deals with a process of deliberately induced brain change through which I put myself in the years 1962–1976. This process is called ‘initiation’ or ‘vision quest’ in many traditional societies and can loosely be considered some dangerous variety of self-psychotherapy in modern terminology.”

“Briefly, the main thing I learned in my experiments is that ‘reality’ is always plural and mutable.”

“There is a great deal of lyrical Utopianism in this book. I do not apologize for that, and do not regret it. The decade that has passed since the first edition has not altered my basic commitment to the game-rule that holds that an optimistic mind-set finds dozens of possible solutions for every problem that the pessimist regards as incurable.”

“This book does not claim that ‘you create your own reality’ in the sense of total (but mysteriously unconscious) psychokinesis. If a car hits you and puts you in the hospital, I do not believe this is because you ‘really wanted’ to be hit by a car, or that you ‘needed’ to be hit by a car, as two popular New Age bromides have it. The theory of transactional psychology, which is the source of my favourite models and metaphors, merely says that, once you have been hit by a car, the meaning of the experience depends entirely on you and the results depend partly on you (and partly on your doctors). If it is medically possible for you to live—and sometimes even if the doctors think it is medically impossible—you ultimately decide whether to get out of the hospital in a hurry or to lie around suffering and complaining.”— Robert Anton Wilson, preface to the new edition

 

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 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.

To Perfect This Feast

To Perfect This Feast: A Performance Commentary on The Gnostic Mass by James and Nancy Wasserman will be available in October, 2013, in a further revised third, and they say final, edition.

James and Nancy Wasserman's To Perfect This Feast 3rd edition

“The Gnostic Mass is a hymn to the wedding of scientific truth and religious aspiration. It offers a truly modern spirituality. The celebrant is encouraged to leave superstition and dogma behind and join in an ecstatic tribute to the glorious nature of reality. Aleister Crowley wrote the Gnostic Mass in 1913. He described it as the central ritual—public and private—of Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.). Today it is being performed on a regular basis throughout the world.

The authors of this performance guide to the Mass are both longtime O.T.O. members and consecrated bishops of the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica (E.G.C.). They share between them over half a century of diligent practice and training with this rite. Their devotion has been rewarded with long-sought-after insights into its complex choreography.

The detailed instructions presented here not only provide missing keys to the geometrical puzzle of the Mass, but offer a wider window into the workings of magical ritual. This book will thus be of value to spiritual aspirants, as well as to scholars and students of ancient myth, modern religious movements, and contemporary Gnosticism. The authors believe the Gnostic Mass to be a doorway into the highest realms of spiritual development and make a compelling case for that assertion.

In addition to a detailed commentary, they offer a corrected, uninterrupted Mass Missal suitable for use by individuals and groups interested in working with the ritual, along with valuable insights into magical ceremonies in general, and the Gnostic Mass in particular.

From the new edition:

‘The primary insight we received that prompted the first edition of this book in 2009 e.v. began in December 2005. It is described in the Commentary to Section VI, starting on page 93. It perfectly resolved the mathematical imbalance that had troubled me for over two and a half decades. We were humbled and felt compelled to share it with the wider Thelemic community. We then worked diligently to solve some of the other performance puzzles of which we were aware in Crowley’s stage directions. That quest led us through two previous editions of this book.

“We feel we have here solved problems that remained in our understanding of the choreography of the children and Deacon in Sections III, IV, and elsewhere. We noted the occurrence of two additional ‘X-switches’ during a training session conducted in 2012 e.v. They are mentioned on pages 94 and 102. We have refined and explained our version of the Communion in Section VIII better than ever before. We ‘road-tested’ this text twice with a group of five officers who had never done the Mass (three were not even O.T.O. members). That led to several important improvements in the instructions, and to the creation of the Temple diagram on page 52. We hope Mass teams will find the checklist useful on pages 125–127. There are another myriad of minor changes and refinements throughout.'” [via]