This is an excellent and complex fantasy novel based on Renaissance Hermeticism. It is set in a sort of archetypal world-city where humans are ruled by man-sized intelligent rodents and their huge incarnate stone deities (the rats and gargoyles of the title.) Ms. Gentle has done a splendid job of integrating historical Alchemy and Magick into a fantasy setting, with one interesting twist: she had deleted all references to Christianity. The religious background seem to combine elements of Ancient Egypt, late Antique Mystery religions and Freemasonry. One wishes she had gone into more detail on this point, but it hardly detracts from the book itself.
Baron Julius Evola (1898 – 1974) is the leading Italian representative of the “Traditionalist” school, whose better-known members include Rene Guenon and Frithjof Schuon. Evola seems to be a “difficult” member of this group, as much because of his popularity among the European far-right as for his championing of the Warrior nature over that of the Priest. As this is one of his more “political” works I was rather surprised to see it translated, although English versions of his books on Tantra and Alchemy are available from the same publisher.
Revolt is divided into two parts. Part one, where he describes the characteristic features of an ideal Traditional society is by far the better. His concept of Royalty as the centering force of a civilisation, combining the Warrior and Religious functions, and the distinction he makes between Empire and mere imperialism, are significant and fundamental. Part two, which is a “meta-history” of the progressive degeneration of Tradition over the past millennia, is rather weaker. Evola presents history as the conflict between the Tradition of the Northern Races of Hyperborea (a masculine, ascetic, individualistic, transcendental, solar, warrior culture) and the anti-Traditional Southern Races (who are feminine, sensual, collectivist, lunar, and dominated by priests.) As the above makes clear, Evola’s thought has a strong dualist tone with (ironically) a reliance on some rather un-Traditional turn of the century anthropology. He also displays a glaring misogyny that any psychologically-inclined critic would have a field day with. Still, there is much in part one to interest any Thelemite, and for anyone this is a good book for rattling your modernist paradigm.
P.G. Wodehouse created one of the great duos in humour fiction in the form of Bertie Wooster, the ultimate empty-headed British aristocrat, and his long-suffering omni-competent gentleman’s gentleman, Jeeves. Through eleven novels and 34 short stories they fell in and out of some of the most convoluted, absurd and delightful adventures in literature.
Now, imagine if you will that Jeeves and Wooster have been dropped into three stories by H.P. Lovecraft.
Worth the price if only to hear the line, “Most eldritch, sir.”
Looking at the title, one would expect this to be a collection of manifestos, instructions, rituals and other primary source documents relating to Masonry, Rosicrucianism, Illuminism, the Golden Dawn and other Western esoteric bodies. Naturally, in the great tradition of “blinds to deceive the profane,” this is nothing of the sort. What we have here is a collection of essays dealing mostly with history and literary criticism of authors who were somehow involved in esoteric movements– usually in the most tenuous fashion. As such the book is mostly an exercise in the academic practice of pontification by “authorities” who have no connection whatever to their subjects, and only the vaguest inkling of the complexities involved, mostly because they read each others’ flawed commentaries rather than the primary sources. Certainly they would never stoop to actually asking the advice of any modern secret societies.
That said, I must report that there are a few good things waiting here for the diligent reader. Ingeborg Kohn’s article on Joséphin [Sar Merodack] Peladan is an excellent introduction to this important figure in Nineteenth Century art and occultism, and Paul Rich’s study of Kipling’s interest in Freemasonry and its effect on his work (especially in Kim) is a real gem. These are balanced however, by such effluvia as R. A. Gilbert, who really must have a commission from the United Grand Lodge of England to make Freemasonry seem as dull and pointless as humanly possible. His piece on “The Golden Dawn in Popular Fiction” is a monument to the Art and Science of Missing the Point.
Sacramentally, dilucid, in fine, then, we must consider these texts to be, on the whole, extremely un-secret.
Julianus reviews Song of the Cosmos: An Introduction to Traditional Cosmology by Arthur Versluis in the Bkwyrm archive.
The thing to get straight about this book right from the beginning, is that the word “Traditional” in the title refers to the Traditionalist school of Rene Guenon and his followers. As such our author operates under the assumption that all “authentic” religions are descended from one unified “Primordial Tradition,” and so tries to somehow get us to accept any number of differing, mutually contradictory doctrines simultaneously. Now, while there is a great convergence among the world’s many systems of cosmology, Versluis tends to somewhat spoil the effect by insisting that relatively recent doctrinal developments are in fact part of the one original religion. He also has a tendency to fill in “gaps” in one culture’s worldview with elements from another wholly unrelated culture. He is also maddeningly vague on certain points one might think to be crucial, not the least being the literal existence of ancient “Titanic” races.
All this aside, this book is a fairly good cross-cultural overview, and we would recommend this as a starting-point for the subject.
This is a very interesting esoteric conspiracy novel written from an African-American perspective – the Prince Hall Illuminatus Trilogy, if you will – and it is certainly significant that they were written at about the same time. Mumbo Jumbo deals with Harlem in the Twenties, the birth of Jazz, dirty dancing, Voo-Doo, the Templars, ancient Egypt, Secret Societies, Shadow Governments, and any number of other endearing subjects. The treatment is highly original and makes this well worth dipping your head into.
Julianus reviews Painted Black: The Chilling True Story of the Wave of Violence Sweeping Through Our Hometowns by Carl Raschke in the Bkwyrm archive.
This book promises to to relate “from drug killings to heavy metal– the alarming true story of how Satanism is terrorizing our communities.” What it actually is an error-ridden compendium of all the usual conservative Christian Fundamentalist hysteria. Raschke seems incapable of getting his facts right; I understand that when Painted Black was first published one reviewer tried making a list of all the errors of fact and gave up after his list reached 50 typed pages. This is not the calibre of research you would expect from a college professor, which Raschke is, or was when he wrote this slop. I wouldn’t be surprised if he got his tenure revoked for gross incompetence. Mind you, there is plenty of unintentional humour in here and the chapter on “Fantasy Role-Playing Games and the Devil’s Bargain” is just plain hilarious.
The book does have some nice pictures, including three of a “recent satanic ritual.” Problem is that they aren’t: at top is a Gnostic Mass altar, below is a fellow doing the Mass of the Phoenix, and at bottom you see several people doing the very un-satanic Golden Dawn Neophyte Ritual. How can I be so sure of this, you ask? Easy: I’m the long-haired person on the far right.