Much as I enjoy Hancock’s other books on ancient history, I still find this to be his best, not least because of the personal significance his quest assumed. To say that Hancock was searching for the lost Ark of the Covenant of the Israelites is a little inaccurate. Hancock started by learning that the Ethiopian Church claims to possess the Ark in the city of Axum and then trying to establish a) if they are right and b) how it could have gotten there. The first question remains unanswered since no one is allowed to examine the Ark, but the second question took Hancock all over the Middle East and Africa in a fascinating quest with all the unexpected twists you could wish for. It will come as no surprise that the Knights Templar and Freemasonry wind up playing a crucial role here, and I will assure the reader that they were certainly not tacked on to fullfil a conspiracy-hunter’s agenda. Over the course of the book Hancock builds an excellent circumstantial case for the Ethiopian claim and provides some remarkable insights into early Judaism, which was very different from its modern form. This is required reading for anyone interested in the subjects covered.
This latest in a long line of H.P. Lovecraft pastiches is a sequel to Hay’s bogus Necronomicon of the 70’s, and it reassembles all the usual suspects from that project for … more of the same. Mr Hay’s editorial style is unusual in that, whereas the editor’s normal job is to prune irrelevancies leaving a concise text, here he has left nothing BUT irrelevancies to baffle the reader’s mind. From the crocodile-infested cover to Colin Wilson’s rambling introduction to Patricia Shore’s oblique concluding essay we are left feeling strangely … unfulfilled. It is especially ironic to see that Robert Turner is behind this, as he spent a good portion of his Elizabethan Magic fulminating against the Golden Dawn for making “inauthentic” additions to Dee’s Enochian system, and now he’s marketing THIS as the decoded contents of Dee’s cypher manuscripts! The supposed “main text” itself is rather inadequate and certainly nothing compared to the original it attempts to ape.
(Quite honestly, if these people continue to take their own insipidities and pass them off as my work, I will have no choice but to take the matter up with my Patrons.
– A. Alhazred )
Julianus reviews The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles: Their Nature and Legacy by Ronald Hutton in the archive of Bkwyrm Occult Book Reviews.
This overview is based mostly on archaeological and historical remains (meagre as they often are) with special reference to the “claims” of modern Pagans. The main problem with the author’s approach is that he simply worships at the altar of Documentation, making the unwarranted assumption that “no evidence = no possibility.” He also fails to realise that the “latest scholarship” he takes such pride in using is undoubtably just as much a product of intellectual fashions as the “out-dated” work he criticises so profusely. Admittedly his critique of the “Female-Supremacist” version of pre-history is quite good and perfectly reasonable, but one wishes he could have done a better job with other areas. His discussion of Earth Mysteries is particularly off-handed. Like most establishment scholars he simply does not know enough about occult view-points to argue with them effectively; he can only attack his own erroneous preconceptions. In discussing modern occult history he makes more blunders than one could hope for in a careful professional historian, having been led astray by Francis (the-Third-Evil) King, among others.
Actually the book is not as bad as all that, especially considering it is such a wide-ranging production involving more specialties than the author had at his disposal. It is certainly nice to have all this archaeological data in one convenient place. Still, one waits for a superior and more sensitive treatment of the subject.
Julianus reviews The Occult and the Third Reich: The Mystical Origins of Nazism and the Search for the Holy Grail by Jean-Michel Angebert, translated by Lewis A M Sunberg in the archive of Bkwyrm Occult Book Reviews.
This is based upon the researches of a fellow named Otto Rahn (1904-1939), whose book, Crusade Against the Grail, earned him a job in the “Ancestral Heritage” bureau of the S.S. Rahn’s thesis was that the Cathars were the keepers of the Holy Grail, which was a stone tablet inscribed with secret knowledge. This was kept at the Cathar fortress of Montségur and later smuggled out and hidden before the place was taken by the forces of the Albigensian Crusade.
So far so good, but Rahn evidently linked this to Nazi-style “Aryan” racial theories, and Angebert (apparently a pseudonym for at least two people) uses this to derive a whole “system” of Nazified occultism that makes Hitler the heir of the Cathars, Manichaeans and Gnostics. All this is accomplished with a grasp of religious and occult history that makes Kenneth Grant look good! In fact if you snip out the occasional moralising on the horrors of World War II, this book could be a “primer” of Aryan-supremacist mysticism. Now, even assuming that Adolph and company were really hard-core Black Magicians (which is more than a little doubtful), it is obvious on the face of it that they must have been blithering incompetents, (think about it: they sacrifice tens of millions of innocent human beings and they can’t even win a lousy war!)
The main problem with this book is that Angebert (whoever they are) has effectively accepted a Nazi racial interpretation of all occult lore as unquestionable fact. That there might be a non-racist interpretation of anything does not even occur to our author(s), who seem ready to assume that any reference to an “elite” or “elect” group in any tradition in all of history MUST pertain to some sort of Nazi-style “master race” doctrine. Never mind that this is clearly not the case, or that even the concept of a “biological salvation” (if we may so call it) is virtually inconceivable before the Nineteenth Century and thus is more a product of the Scientific Revolution than any “occult tradition.”
A sort of memoir by a woman who claims she was seduced into the Temple of Set and had an affair with Michael Aquino. Aside from the insiders details of ToS, it is mostly a re-hash of the usual legends with an emphasis on the neo-Nazi connection and Satanic child abuse.
Unfortunately, the few details of Setian life and ritual that Ms. Blood (her real name apparently) shares with us seem far too shallow to give her narrative the required air of verisimilitude.
The Mystery of the Grail: Initiation and Magic in the Quest for the Spirit by Julius Evola, reviewed by Julianus, in the archive of Bkwyrm’s Occult Book Reviews.
This book originally formed an appendix to the author’s Revolt Against the Modern World, which he later expanded into a book in its own right. Evola’s thesis is that the Grail Cycle forms a Pagan “northern” mystery distinct from the “southern” Christian religion, and that this represented an Imperial “resistance” to the Church in the Middle Ages. I am not entirely convinced of this, but there is much interesting analysis of the Grail legends in here.
The Masters Revealed: Madame Blavatsky and the Myth of the Great White Lodge by K Paul Johnson, reviewed by Julianus, in the archive of Bkwyrm’s Occult Book Reviews.
Everybody in occultism has heard of the Secret Chiefs who direct world affairs from behind the scenes with their awesome powers. H.P. Blavatsky was probably most responsible for popularizing this idea and much controversy has ensued over whether she was faking those “letter from the Mahatmas” or not. Mr. Johnson takes a middle course between the two extremes on this subject; he concludes that HPB really was the representative of a world-wide network of Adepts which she deliberately mythologized for various reasons. The book is mostly a series of capsule biographies of real people that HPB was known to be in contact with (though some cases rest on circumstantial evidence.) These people range from European explorers, occultists, and revolutionaries to Sufi mystics to Indian Rajas. The fact that an overwhelming number of these figures were involved in revolutionary or anti-colonial political movements goes a long way to explaining Blavatsky’s concealment of their identities, and Mr. Johnson presents (for example) internal memos from British intelligence showing that she was watched by Colonial authorities in India.
Another interesting aspect of the “Myth of the Masters” is how it was inflated by HPB’s disciples, much to her annoyance. Mr. Johnson takes great pains to show how the most extravagant claims originated outside of Blavatsky’s control. The result is kind of an object-lesson in human credulity.
The two major problems with this book are, first, that it is really to short– the biographical material is so brief that one feels at time as if one is reading a “Cliffs Notes” version of the real book (indeed this is apparently a “popular edition” of the author’s Master’s Thesis.) The second problem is that many of the “Masters” listed really do not seem to have much real connection to Blavatsky or Theosophy except that the author seems to think they should! Perhaps this due to the above-mentioned abridged quality of the work, and if so I do hope he expands on these points in future editions.
Rene Guenon is the founder of the Traditionalist school of religious philosophy. They consider that all “authentic” religions are derived from the “Primordial Tradition” and spend a great deal of time denouncing the anti-Traditional trend of modern civilisation. This odd little pamphlet is all about Lord of the World who is sort of a Secret Chief behind all valid Traditions. Much of this material comes from Theosophy, which Guenon denounced as a “pseudo-religion” in an early book, and this edition is published by some Gurdjieffians, who Traditionalists abhor as horrid anti-Initiates. This strange bedfellowship suits the odd mix of Hinduism, Grail mythology, 19th century occultism, and Qabalah in the text. Not bad for a guy who looked like a dead fish.
A sort of modernised Cthulhu Mythos novel featuring a Black Magician named “J. Cornelius Wasserman” who is fond of saying, “Let thine own Will become the Law of Laws.” Like many such books, it starts out interesting and then succumbs to deus ex machina as the author lets the good guys win. File it under “fictional use of Crowley”, cross-index it with “Lovecraft pastiche”, then go reread the real things.
Julianus reviews The H.P. Lovecraft Dream Book in the Occult Book Reviews archive.
Despite all the rumours amongst the Junior Satanist League types, HPL was certainly not a practicing occultist, at least not conciously. He was a great dreamer who could hardly nod off for a second without entering some elaborate fantasy, many of which formed the basis for his best-known stories. This chapbook collects some 23 letters describing various important episodes in Lovecraft’s dream-life, sometimes giving varying accounts of the same dream to different correspondents. Some of these would certainly be classed as significant visions or past-life memories if the writer were a Magician, and a Qabalistic analysis of these would be interesting. Of special note is an extended dream of ancient Rome where HPL experienced something like a week of detailed coherent life (not the least bit “dream-like”) in the period. This was used almost verbatim as an episode in Frank Belknapp Long’s “The Horror from the Hills.”