Tag Archives: Randall Bowyer

The Light of Egypt

Randal Bowyer reviews The Light of Egypt, Vols. I and II: The Science of The Soul and The Stars by Zanoni (Thomas H Burgoyne) in the Occult Book Reviews archive.

Burgoyne The Light of Egypt

T. H. Burgoyne (co-founder of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor) speaks with an unusual level of authority on occult matters, in the second volume at least. If I understand the situation correctly, Burgoyne published Volume I in 1889, died in 1895, and then published Volume II in 1900 through the mediumistic assistance of Henry and Belle Wagner. I understand that after the deaths of Dr. and Mrs. Wagner, they collaborated with Burgoyne on a third volume which was channelled through their son, the publisher H. O. Wagner. I have not yet had the pleasure of seeing Volume III, nor have I been able to discover if H. O. Wagner has yet “crossed over;” if so, I do hope he will join in the family business, and give the world a fourth volume via the next generation of Wagners.

Anyhow, the best parts of volume I are reprinted in The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, and those who are only interested in the stuff written before the author died can get by with those reprinted selections. Personally, I liked what Burgoyne had to say after he was dead better than I liked that Great Cosmic Cycle goo he emphasized while alive: death seems to have made his outlook more practical and his style a little, well, livelier. I can think of a few contemporary esoteric writers who would do well to repeat Mr. Burgoyne’s experiment.

The Law Is for All

Randall Bowyer reviews The Law Is for All: The Authorized Popular Commentary of Liber Al Vel Legis Sub Figura CCXX, The Book of the Law by Aleister Crowley in the Occult Book Reviews archive.

Crowley The Law is for All

Back in the 1970s, everybody and his dog decided to publish Crowley’s commentary on Liber AL: Grant & Symonds did Magical and Philosophical Commentaries on the Book of the Law in ’74, then Regardie produced The Law is for All in ’75, and Motta joined the fray with The Commentaries of AL in ’76. All these books are abridgements of Crowley’s voluminous commentaries, and all differ according to the views of the editors.

Twenty years later, Hymenaeus Beta has given us the abridged commentary which Crowley himself intended to publish. Intended for the layman, this “Authorized Popular Commentary” brushes aside Qabalistic complexities and metaphysical fuzz to focus on the central message of The Book of the Law – just the thing to give your favorite Minerval!

The one thing I really dislike about the book is that it uses Regardie’s title from 1975, The Law is for All, instead of the straightforward Commentary on the Book of the Law which Crowley intended. Of course, Crowley bibliography has never been a simple matter, so I suppose the existence of two distinct books on the same subject, with the same author, same title, and same publisher, will only confuse a few tyros.

The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor

Randall Bowyer reviews The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor: Initiatic and Historical Documents of an Order of Practical Occultism by Joscelyn Godwin, & al. in the Occult Book Reviews archive.

Godwin The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor

This book certainly provides more information about the H.B.L. than did the previously available sources: the first half of the book gives historical information about the colorful personalities involved in the order, and the second half offers a heap of primary-source material by and about the order.

The H.B.L. secret documents are pretty disappointing, and consist mostly of the sort of metaphysical gup that was popular in the nineteenth century–you know, vague pseudo scientific theories about magnetism and verbose yammering about Great Cosmic Cycles that guide the course of history. There’s some stuff lifted from Levi which will be familiar to students of Crowley or the G∴D∴, and there’s some occasional stuff about sex to revive the reader’s interest. More interesting and more entertaining, though more frustrating, is the historical section. Unfortunately, the material is not organized chronologically; instead it is grouped anecdotally around the major figures in the order’s history, which makes it a little difficult for the reader to keep in mind what was going on when. I suspect the authors chose to present their research in this odd fashion to give the impression of a connected story, since it seems that they really don’t know much about the chronology of the order. Even a century ago the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor was pretty obscure, and modern researchers just don’t have much to go on. For example, O.T.O. initiates would be very eager to learn more about the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light, which was somehow involved in the early history of O.T.O. The entire discussion of this H.B.L. offshoot is one sentence on p. 67, which informs us that the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light was either founded or reorganized in 1895, at either Chicago or Boston, and that it “fed the streams of sexual practice flowing into the Ordo Templi Orientis….” While that is more than I knew previously, it is not quite as much as I had hoped to learn from this book.

The Goetia

Randall Bowyer reviews The Goetia: The Lesser Key of Solomon the King: Lemegeton – Clavicula Salomonis Regis, Book 1, translated by Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers, edited by Aleister Crowley and Hymenaeus Beta, from the Bkwyrm archive.

Reviewed: the illustrated second edition with new annotations by Aleister Crowley, edited by Hymenaeus Beta.

First of all, I must reassure you that the illustrations are not those D&D-style drawings that mar the New Falcon edition of the Goetia, but rather the adorable little engravings by Louis Breton that you’ve seen in all those coffee-table books; they are supplemented by a few of Crowley’s crude sketches, which have the advantage of having been drawn from life. The new edition irons out some errors which were present in the first edition, greatly increases the usefulness of the Enochian conjurations, and generally makes the book more convenient for reference; it even fixes the pile of mistakes in the Greek text of 365 from the 1994 edition of Magick. It is not, however, without its flaws. First, the book is printed on cheap, see-through paper. Second, the new edition introduces more than fifty new errors. Most of these occur in the Editor’s Foreword, and most are very minor problems like the incorrect accenting of several Greek words; others, though, are more substantive errors of fact. For all these blunders we can thank the Tepaphone’s own “R. B.,” who had a hand in the translating and proofreading work for this new edition. Despite his arrogance and the occasional shallowness of his research, I really expected more of this intelligent amateur. R. B. tells me that a corrected reprint on real paper is already in the works, and will appear under the imprint of 93 Publishing: perhaps serious students should wait for this improved version. Meanwhile, the new edition is still better than the first edition.

You can find this book at Amazon, Abebooks, and Powell’s.

The A∴A∴

Randall Bowyer reviews The A∴A∴ by Aleister Crowley (alleged) in the Bkywrm archive.

This is one of several booklets available from Mandrake which carry this note: “The above excerpts and fragments were copied by Cosmo Trelawny from a mass of papers and typescripts left in his rooms by Macgregor [sic] Reid. The originals were then sold to a bookseller, and lost when his shop was bombed during the war.” There is a faint aroma of herring about this.

I don’t know Cosmo Trelawny, but George Watson MacGregor Reid was Chosen Chief of A.D.U.B., a Druid order established in 1245 E.V., from which the Golden Dawn and Speculative Freemasonry are descended (no, really!)* . His MacGregor pedigree is exactly as legitimate as those of S.L. MacGregor Mathers and several other turn-of-the-century occultists: it seems that in those days it was as popular to be a MacGregor as it is nowadays to be the reincarnation of Crowley. One wonders why Reid was distributing the papers of his cousin (Aleister MacGregor Crowley, you know). It was certainly not because he had inherited them, since AC survived both Reid and the Battle of Britain. Of course, AC did frequently complain about the piles of MSS that had been permanently borrowed or simply stolen from him by various people (see the May 1995 Thelema Lodge Calendar for a fine example), but that is beside the point. So, regardless of how it comes to us, what is this little book about?

There are three introductory paragraphs explaining that the Golden Dawn and the Theosophical Society were the inner and outer schools of the A∴ A∴, and listing some 45 “Chiefs” of the Order from the XVIII, XIX, and XX centuries e.v. Blavatsky, prime mover of the Theosophical Society, does not appear in this list, but – surprisingly? – Macgregor Reid does. Then we are treated to twelve pages of vitriolic biographical sketches which sling mud at most of the illustrious chiefs just mentioned. Blavatsky appears here (“an exponent of semi-fake Occultism”), but – surprisingly? – MacGregor Reid does not. Eugene Vintras is listed on p. 1 as a Chief, but on p. 8 we are told that he was refused admission to the Order. Two of AC’s life-long heroes, Levi and Bennett, are dismissed as a traitor and a snake, respectively. And, best of all, we read of S.L. MacGregor Mathers that:

“Macgregor [sic] was a drunken sot,
in point of fact God’s incarnated snot.”

I have no idea what the point of this essay might be, other than to discredit the A∴ A∴ and make AC look silly. If it is true, however, that G.W.M. Reid was somehow involved in this nonsense, then I can think of one MacGregor who deserves to be remembered as “God’s incarnated snot.”

(* MacGregor Reid could also refer to G.W.M. Reid’s son. R.A.F.M. Reid, who became Chosen Chief on his father’s death in 1946.)

Magical Hearth

Randall Bowyer reviews Magical Hearth: Home for Modern Pagans by Janet Thompson in the Bkwyrm archive.

Don’t be fooled by that Ankh on the spine: Magical Hearth is actually a Llewellyn book in disguise. It combines two popular Llewellyn genres, the witchier homes-and-gardens genre (The Magical Household, etc.) and the Wiccan-family values genre (The Pagan Family, etc.), with a pronounced emphasis on herbal tea. The author displays the erudition characteristic of some Llewellyn authors, too: she writes “who’s” when she means “whose,” “imbibe” when she means “imbue,” and–my personal favorite–“Cabala” when she means “Sephirah.” It’s all so sad that I cried in my tea.

Find this book at Amazon, Abebooks, and Powell’s

High Magic’s Aid

Randall Bowyer reviews High Magic’s Aid by Scire (Gerald Gardner) in the Bkwyrm archive.

This is a fun little story of sorcery in the Middle Ages. The fact that it often reads like advance-promo for Bro. Gardner’s later books on Wicca merely adds to its charm and interest for the student of occultism. The plot involves a fairly unlikely alliance between a Pagan Witch and a Christian Mage (yeah, right again), and just maybe a few too many sneers at the Church (or maybe not), but it’s still fun. Although it is. married throughout by, erros of punctuation and of orthografy; typical of Bro. Gardner. Or perhaps a pour jab ov edithing on teh pert of Samael Wiser.

Then again, since we are dealing not with an ordinary novelist but with an Initiate, we must not rule out the possibility that these are “Qabalistic Mistakes” which secretly point to mighty arcana. For example, on p. 268 a spirit is conjured through “HIM who half created all things.” The casual reader will giggle at the obvious misprint of “half” for “hath,” but the Qabalist will ponder deeply: if HIM half-created all things, then who created the other half? Perhaps HER? The Torah tells us that ELOHIM is the author of Creation, so we can conclude that if HIM created half, ELO created the rest. This interpretation is supported by the Scripture, for we read that the Creation is two-fold – “In the beginning ELOHIM created the Heavens and the Earth.” And ELOHIM perfectly expresses this two-in-one idea of Deity, as it consists of the feminine Eloah with the masculine plural ending -im. But I digress…

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Elizabethan Magic

Randall Boywer reviews Elizabethan Magic: The Art and The Magus by Robert Turner with Patricia Shore Turner and Robert E Cousins in the Bkwyrm archive.

About two-thirds of the book is devoted to Dee, Kelly, and things Enochian, with a good mix of historical background and actual Enochian Magical Stuff. Unfortunately, though, Turner follows the tradition of writers on Enochian magic: after mocking other writers on the subject and implying that he’s the only one who’s ever had an inkling about Enochian, he presents a text marred by simple errors of fact (e.g., on p. 17 two important dates are off by thirty years) and internal contradictions (e.g. on p. 4 he states emphatically that Liber Logaeth “contains not a vestige of text,” while on p. 22 he describes the contents of that text!). His work looks fairly sound overall, but such howlers make it impossible to trust him completely. One might adapt one of Turner’s own opprobria by suggesting that he displays the A.E. Waite brushmarks only too well.

The remainder of the book briefly discusses four other Elizabethan Mages, of whom one (Robert Turner, no relation, it seems, to the modern R.T.) was born some fifteen years after the death of Elizabeth I, and another (Thomas Jones) is considered a mage just because he was a cousin of Dr. Dee. The chapter on Turner is very interesting despite the anachronism, but that on Jones appears to be mere “filler.” The chapter on Robert Fludd is annoyingly brief, and barely mentions Fludd’s major works. I was delighted to read about the adventures of Simon Forman, a necromancer who amassed a considerable fortune as well as a considerable number of mistresses: he provides a refreshing contrast to pure-and-holy types like Fludd and the younger Turner.

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Commentaries on the Holy Books and Other Papers

Randall Bowyer reviews Commentaries on the Holy Books and Other Papers: The Equinox (Equinox, Vol 4, No 1) by Aleister Crowley Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, J. F. C. Fuller, and Charles Stansfeld Jones in the Bkwyrm archive.

Such proofreading! Such artwork! Such a spiffy cover! And hey, the contents are even interesting. This number of The Equinox does for the A∴ A∴ what vol. III no. 10 did for the O.T.O., collecting in one book a variety of articles which students of the A∴ A∴ system will find very useful and informative. Even if you’re not interested in the modern manifestations of A∴ A∴ , you may enjoy the previously-unpublished material, especially Crowley’s “illuminated MS” text of Liber DCLXXI vel Pyramidos.

Just as The Equinox vol. III no. 10 served as an important propaganda tool in establishing the legitimacy of our “Caliphate” O.T.O., the new number supports (though not as overtly) one of the several “lineages” of A∴ A∴ . The book opens with an anonymous Praemonstrance impugning some of the competitors; while no names are mentioned, it’s fairly obvious which faces are being slapped.

The big disappointment of the book is that it ignores the old editorial plan of The Equinox. Crowley only abandoned the original mixture of occultism with literature of all sorts (and those saucy book reviews!) when he ran out of money. I was very pleased when vol. III no. 10 returned to the original recipe, and I had hoped the trend would continue.

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