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.
It seems that “W.H. Muller” is German for “Kenneth Grant.” In fact, Herr Muller has with typical Teutonic thoroughness surpassed his predecessor in the Art and Science of Magical Obfuscation, a feat I had heretofore considered impossible. He does so simply by writing a book about the Profound Insights of “America’s Secret Alchemist,” H.P. Lovecraft. That’s right: he really does believe that H.P.L. was a Practicing Occultist and that the Lovecraft Circle was a group of High Adepts! Even Grant knows that Lovecraft was a “mechanistic materialist” who viewed the Supernatural as no more than fiction-fodder at best, as even a cursory glance at his published correspondence shows, but Herr Muller has apparently ignored all this and forged ahead like the Prussian Infantry through Alsace-Lorraine. The book itself is a Vast Muddle of Mystical Verbiage that draws on Sufism, Theosophy, Rene Guenon, Robert Graves, and others to create a bizarre Syncretic Symbolism from “Phonetic Encodings” in Lovecraft’s work. The Linguistic Fog is comparable only to the work of Kenneth Grant, and it is truly strange that Herr Muller nowhere acknowledges his debt to the Typhonian Titan. The scholarship in this book is just amazing: he can’t even keep Lovecraft’s different stories straight, let alone anything else. Further, it appears that Herr Muller either wrote this in English or translated it himself as the text is riddled with Typos, Errors of Grammar, Awkward Phases, and Excessive Capitalisation after the German Manner that make this a Chore to slog through even beyond the other faults.
So, if you are having withdrawal symptoms while waiting for Beyond the Mauve Zone to find a publisher, this is Just the Book for you!
This book, along with its sequels “Lord of the Crooked Paths” and “Sons of the Titans,” form an attempt to translate Greek myth into fantasy fiction. They cover the reign of Kronos as ruler of the Gods and end with the boyhood of Zeus. The thing I really like here is that Adkins is actually writing about the Gods as the Greeks understood them rather than trying to explain them away as space aliens or mutants or some other such nonsense. While these books aren’t really great literature, they do a pretty good job and are worth picking up. It really is too bad the series ended prematurely since the next book would have to cover the War between the Olympians and the Titans, a great subject for a book if there ever was one.
This seems to be the seminal text of the Chaos Magick movement and is comprised of the instructional papers of the Illuminates of Thanateros (IOT.) Frankly, I don’t think much of it. Much of the material is best described as a paraphrase of Crowley’s Magick in Theory and Practice, without credit and so abbreviated that I doubt a beginning student could really use it successfully. Carroll does include a version of Austin Spare’s sigil Magick in the curriculum but there really is not much original material here.
Another thing that struck me is that, while Carroll talks so much about “Chaos” and rants against “dogma,” he is himself one of the most dogmatic writers on Magick I have ever encountered.
Julianus reviews Island of Bali by Miguel Covarrubias in the Bkwyrm archive.
Bali, for those of you who don’t know, is a small island in Indonesia famous for its art and the strength of its culture, and this is probably the best general study of traditional Balinese culture in print. Covarrubias was a Mexican artist who lived in Bali for many years in the 1930s, participated in the culture, knew the people as friends and neighbors, and probably had as good an understanding of Bali as any outsider could. This book is accordingly a classic of cultural anthropology notwithstanding that the author was “just” an amatuer in the field. The Bali of the tourist brochures is touted as a tropical paradise, which it is, but Covarrubias reveals that it is also one of the most civilized places imaginable.
Julianus reviews Kingship and the Gods: A Study of Ancient Near Eastern Religion as the Integration of Society and Nature by Henri Frankfort in the Bkwyrm archive.
Considered perhaps the classic study of Sacred Kingship in Egypt and Mesopotamia, this book is vital to any understanding of those civilisations and their religions. Frankfort has a marvelous ability to convey the thinking of ancient peoples and your time with this book will be well spent.
Now if I could figure out why this so-called “primitive thought” makes so much more sense than anything current today…
Enter Dr. Nicola (Master of Occult Mystery!)
Exit coherent plot.
Exit clear prose.
Exit believable characters.
Exit believable dialogue.
Exit anything remotely occult. and finally,
Exit your reviewer muttering maledictions against the fates for bringing him this book.
This is, of course, a prequel to Frank Herbert’s classic saga, written by his son. You really have to feel for Brian here, since he really can’t win as he sets himself to add on to one of the most complex and beloved novels of the century. As far as I’m concerned Frank Herbert himself never really did a proper job on his own sequels, so what hope do we have here?
Set about forty years before the events of Dune, this is basically a collection of interconnected narratives about the characters it that book and how they got where they were. Leto Atreides is a teenager being sent to an allied world for his education, Vladimir Harkonnen is thin (!) but still his familiar decadent self, Shaddam is an impatient Crown Prince, and the Bene Gesserit are just beginning to arrange the conception of Jessica. There is no real plot holding all this together, just threads leading to the start of the original novel.
The real problem here is that despite all the best efforts the whole book just feels wrong. Many of the events seem quite outlandish, the characters are way too familiar with secrets that were/will be hidden from them in Dune, and worst of all they talk wrong. In Frank’s novel we were transported to a milieu that was far removed from our own where people had very different attitudes and manners. Brian and Kevin make them talk like Americans and they even use catch-phrases like “think outside the box!”
If you’re a Dune fanatic you will probably want to read this, but I’d suggest you borrow a copy and save your money for something better.
This book uses an interesting methodology: it treats the Egyptian Gods as an ethnic group subject to anthropological study much as one might have studied the Egyptians themselves. The authors apparently decided on this approach after noting that most scholarship on Egyptian religion shed more light on the scholars’ biases than on the supposed subject, a phenomenon nicely described in the Introduction. The Meeks have therefore relied on surviving texts and inscriptions (a full participant-observer approach being rather difficult!) to describe the Gods, their origins, customs, and mode of life, as well as the human afterlife. Extensive reconstructions of Egyptian ritual are also included. This book thus forms an excellent detailed resource for students of Egyptian mythology.