Tag Archives: review

The Satanic Rituals

The Satanic Rituals: Companion to The Satanic Bible [Amazon, Abebooks, Bookshop, Local Library] by Anton Szandor LaVey, reviewed by Majere, Pr.ODF in the Bkwyrm’s Occult Book Reviews archive.

LaVey The Satanic Rituals

The Satanic Rituals is the “companion” text to LaVey’s “Satanic Bible”, and is an expansion of the material given in the last two sections of the latter. Included in the book are a variety of rituals and ceremonies derived from French, German, Middle-Eastern, Russian, and fictional sources – as well as Satanic baptisms, and including a version of the Black Mass. LaVey gives informative forewords to each ritual, explaining the origins and nature of the rites. Perhaps the only tenuous inclusion in the volume is a rite based on the Cthulhu Mythos of H.P Lovecraft, which may make HPL purists squirm (although LaVey reworked it from it’s first “incarnation” in a Derlethian-style Christianized context as penned by Temple Of Set founder, Michael Aquino). Overall, this is worthy of a read.

The Satanic Mass

The Satanic Mass [Amazon, Amazon, Abebooks, Local Library] by H T F Rhodes, reviewed by Majere, Pr.ODF in the Bkwyrm’s Occult Book Reviews archive.

Rhodes The Satanic Mass

This is perhaps one of the most acclaimed books on the history of the infamous “Black Mass”. The author provides an insightful and unbiased account of the origins of this ceremony from ancient pagan times through to it’s more corrupt modern incarnations. Perhaps one of the most interesting theories put forward by Rhodes is that the “Black Mass” was actually pagan in origin, rather than an invention of Christian fantasies – he suggests that the early pagans performed rites which denied the Christian god in favour of their own ancient cultural deities – rites that were later to be considered “Black Masses” by the Christian missionaries who were shocked at such “blasphemy”. Other topics also covered include the “heresy” of the Knights Templar and Cathars, the Guiborg Masses, and “diabolism” in Freemasonry. Essential reading.

The Satanic Bible

The Satanic Bible [Amazon, Abebooks, Bookshop, Local Library] by Anton Szandor LaVey, reviewed by Majere, Pr.ODF in the Bkwyrm’s Occult Book Reviews archive.

LaVey The Satanic Bible

Where to begin? This is undoubtably the most popular treatise on Satanism that has ever existed – but is it any good? The main problem with the “Satanic Bible” lies in it’s commercial singularity – such has aided more than a few Church of Satan spokesmen over the years in arrogantly claiming they are the only “true” upholders of Satanism since other groups hold no desire to come forth into the public eye with a marketable introduction. But the real issue, of course, is what the book contains. It is divided into four parts – the first section being primarily paraphrased from Arthur Desmond’s “Might Is Right” and revised by LaVey. It is basically a collection of elitist proclamations presented in “verses”. The second section could be easily said to be the primary part of the book, expounding the philosophies of Anton LaVey and his Church of Satan in relation to a variety of subjects, covering “God”, love, hate, life, death, sex, and “psychic vampirism”. It’s an interesting read to be certain, although the actual personal appeal of LaVey’s philosophies depends mainly on the attitude and tastes of the reader. It has been often said that the appeal of LaVey lies mainly in his accessibility – especially to teenagers, who no doubt form a large part of his following. The language used, and the rationale LaVey applies, made this book pretty much an assured bestseller – and indeed it has been so. In essence, LaVey’s brand of “Satanism” is mainly a blend of rational self-interest (with emphasis on hedonism), materialism, and anti-mainstream sentiments – mixed together with a magickal system that is itself a blend of historical, cultural, and psychodramatic ritual applications (also borrowing from Aleister Crowley and other modern magickians). All this is nicely “packaged” together under the symbol of that age-old Christian archetype – The Devil, Satan. The third and fourth sections relate to the aforementioned magickal system, although the rites presented are basic ceremonies designed for the purposes of invoking lust, compassion, or destruction. LaVey outlines the principles of his system with a fair deal of (accurate) logic and explains the nature of the tools applied. The book is concluded with his own revisions of John Dee’s “Enochian Keys”, which are basically much the same as the originals save for the inclusion of Satan. In summary, whether you love or hate LaVey, the book is certainly worth a read. For those seriously interested in the doctrines of the late “Black Pope” and the Church of Satan, it is an essential purchase. For anyone else, it is a good reference text on the basics of American Satanism as well as an interesting read in it’s own right. Decide for oneself.

The Sacred Prostitute

The Sacred Prostitute: Eternal Aspect of the Feminine [Amazon, Abebooks, Local Library] by Nancy Qualls-Corbett, reviewed by Magdalene Meretrix in the Bkwyrm’s Occult Book Reviews archive.

Qualls-Corbett The Sacred Prostitute

Dr. Qualls-Corbett claims that modern people are wounded by our separation of sexuality and spirituality and suggests that the study of the ancient sacred prostitutes and sexually oriented temple priestesses will assist in a conscious “union of opposites,” restoring sexuality to its rightful place in spiritual and religious thought.

While her alchemical view of sexuality is firmly grounded in Jungian thought, Dr. Qualls-Corbett tends to use sources that are far less than reputable for her historical information – foremost among them, the dread Barbara Walker. In many places where Dr. Qualls-Corbett is more accurate in her history, she often provides rather unorthodox interpretations of historical items, places or writings. Overall, the author’s view of temple prostitution in the ancient world is obviously colored by the last few decades’ trend towards feminist pseudo-scholarship.

If her history is taken with a grain of salt, however, Dr. Qualls-Corbett has written a fascinating and useful book about aspects of feminine sexuality in a Jungian perspective. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to explore notions of sexuality from a stance that empowers both women and men as well as anyone who is considering developing ritual work in a sexual vein, especially rites of initiatory sexuality.

The book is divided into five major sections:

“The Goddess and her Virgin: Historical Background” examines evidence of the sacred prostitute in the ancient world. Though the history here is often shaky, this section still contains much of value if one chooses to read critically. “The Psychological Significance of Sacred Prostitution” examines the archetypes of the Goddess, the Sacred Prostitute, the Stranger who visits her, and the “Heiros Gamos” or Sacred Marriage.

“The Sacred Prostitute in Masculine Psychology” examines the male view of woman, anima and sexuality. Dr. Qualls-Corbett discusses the dreams of some of her male clients as well as the relationship between the Jesus character and the Magdalene/priestess character in D.H. Lawrence’s “The Man Who Died” in an attempt to demonstrate that the healing power of consciously regarding the sacred prostitute is not limited to women.

“The Sacred Prostitute in Feminine Psychology” first explores four of Dr. Qualls-Corbett’s female clients – three single women and one married woman – as they explore their evolving sense of Self and sexuality. Dr. Qualls-Corbett then links these four stories together by relating them to the D.H. Lawrence short story, “The Virgin and the Gypsy,” a story of lost innocence and overwhelming sexuality in which the male stranger, the Gypsy, plays the initiatory role to a young virgin in much the same way that the passing stranger would initiate a virgin waiting at the temple in ancient times.

“Restoration of the Soul” examines the whore/madonna paradigm of the feminine and attempts to integrate these two aspects by using Mary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary as personifications thereof. Dr. Qualls-Corbett also discusses the Black Madonnas found throughout Europe, suggesting that the image of the Black Madonna holds a key to the integration of the feminine.

The book concludes with a thorough bibliography (which also must be explored with a discerning eye since many of Dr. Qualls-Corbett’s sources, as discussed earlier, are shaky – if not intentionally deceptive – in their “scholarship”) and index.

Peppered with beautiful historical images of the Sacred Feminine, from Aphrodite to Sophia, this book is not difficult to read. It is written in a scholarly style but it typically defines any specialized vocabulary, making it accessible to those who have never read anything in Jungian psychology before.

“The Sacred Prostitute: Eternal Aspect of the Feminine” is book number 32 in Inner City Books’ series of “Studies in Jungian Psychology by Jungian Analysts.”

The Witch-Cult in Western Massachusetts

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Witch-Cult in Western Massachusetts [Amazon, Bookshop, Author] by Matthew M Bartlett, art by Alex Fienemann.

Bartlett Fienemann The Witch-Cult in Western Massachusetts

Barely a book–more of a print-on-demand chapbook–this little 31-page document is conspicuously labeled “VOLUME 1,” so it is reasonable to suspect that author Matthew M. Bartlett has more of this sort in preparation. The text consists of single-page biographical vignettes, each about a different witch. As the title indicates (and a brief foreword clarifies), these notably wicked folk are neither from the Arkham country of literature, nor the actual Eastern Massachusetts known for its witch persecutions. They are situated in the genuine geography of the western part of the state, in periods ranging from the seventeenth century to the present.

There isn’t so much about a “cult” per se; only in a minority of cases are the relationships among the witches made explicit, or details afforded about their joint enterprises. The narrative voice is a pious one, seeking to “shine God’s light” on the matters discussed in the book. The comic effect is heightened by a sober historical tone, even when describing very recent figures, or recounting “facts” to which no secular historian could be privy.

Illustrator Alex Fienemann’s contributions to this volume match Bartlett’s in scale. For each witch’s single page of biography, she has supplied a facing full-page illustration in black and white. With their creative borders, symmetrical compositions, and juxtaposed figures, these consistently occupy a stylistic zone somewhere between cartoon and tarot trump.

The Witch-Cult in Western Massachusetts is a light novelty recommended to occultists and readers of weird horror.

Start with Why

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher] by Simon Sinek, book 1 of the Start with Why series.

Sinek Start with Why

There are no genuine new ideas in this managerial self-help screed. Rigorous adherence to advertising principles of repetition makes the book a chore to read, no matter how engaging some of the individual anecdotes might be. The main theses are more concisely expressed in the TED Talk version, where author Simon Sinek nevertheless comes off almost as a parody of a motivational speaker.

While Thelemic doctrine uses “Why” to indicate rationalization, Sinek wants to use it to mean purpose, aim, or will. Alas, often enough in his various case studies of corporate business CEO heroism, he accepts the self-serving rationalizations of such figures as their genuine aims. For example, he praises Bill Gates as embracing “a higher cause” summarized as “A PC in every home and on every desk” (194)–as if Gates were interested in empowering people with personal computers, as opposed to seeking 100% market share for MS-DOS and Windows by means of notorious anti-competitive strategies that distinguished Microsoft among its rivals. Siknek also adulates Sam Walton as a salt-of-the-earth type who “talked about building stores in rural communities so that the backbone of America’s workforce didn’t have to travel to the urban centers,” which is rich. Walmart’s willingness to set up shop in small towns, drain off the local economies, pull up stakes and move on is cast as a virtuous service to consumers.

Sinek’s “Golden Circle” is a model that he asserts is bolstered by neurobiological findings, but there’s little consequence to that justification, which is largely rhetorical. It does attempt to integrate the fact that effective decision-making is pre-verbal and non-rational. In light of models and nomenclature I prefer, I found his WHY-HOW-WHAT anatomy opaque and muddled. For my purposes, the three-part formula would be better expressed as Will-Work-Result (cf. CCXX I:44) . But I did think that the corresponding sequence of clarity-discipline-consistency was well formulated.

Near the end of the book, Sinek supplies a conversion account, in which he was saved by the power of “WHY,” brought through an entrepreneurial dark night of the soul to behold the power of the Golden Circle. This evangelical narrative helps to demonstrate his motive for identifying “WHY” with “belief,” which is again at odds with the ways in which I constellate these symbols or the ways in which I would seek to help others use them.

“If Will stops and cries Why, invoking Because, then Will stops & does nought. If Power asks why, then is Power weakness.” (CCXX II:30-31)

Nunquam

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Nunquam [Amazon, Publisher] by Lawrence Durrell, book 2 of The Revolt of Aphrodite series.

Durrell Nunquam

Nunquam is the second half of a “novel in two parts,” of which Tunc is the first. There’s no point in planning to read only one of them, or of taking them out of sequence. All of the critical stage-setting and character development for Nunquam takes place in Tunc, and Tunc opens numerous plot-lines without even artfully suspending them before their resolutions in Nunquam. The Latin titles are taken from the phrase aut tunc, aut nunquam, which is to say: “either then or never.” (53) Neither part is terribly long, and I would recommend reading them in the combined edition titled The Revolt of Aphrodite.

Hardly any new characters are introduced in Nunquam. About a quarter of the way into this second volume, the narrator/protagonist Felix finally gets to meet in person the mysterious Julian Pahlevi, his elusive employer. The meeting is the occasion for a rather spectacular monologue on Julian’s part. (70 ff.) All the characters who do recur go through significant transformations, and this fact is a further point which demands that Tunc be read first. 

While carrying forward the contemporary setting of the first book (written in the late 1960s), Nunquam seems less modern, more grounded in archetypal narratives. Still, such grounding provides a basis for considering the cultural and psychological changes wrought in modernity. Nunquam has both explicit allusions to and thematic resonance with the Pygmalion and Faust stories, not to mention their prior modern synthesis in Frankenstein. The last invites as much contrast as comparison when it comes to the matter of sex and gender, which is not at all peripheral to The Revolt of Aphrodite.

Although Durrell wrote that in going from the first volume to the second he “tried to move from the preposterous to the sublime,” he does so by heightening the absurdities of his scenario. Durrell also described The Revolt of Aphrodite as an interpretation of the preface to Spengler’s Decline of the West. Having enjoyed the novel in both its parts, I’m now thoroughly tempted to follow up by reading its purported inspiration.

Antichrist

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Antichrist: Two Thousand Years of the Human Fascination with Evil [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher] by Bernard McGinn.

McGinn Antichrist

This accessible, well-documented history of the development of the story of Antichrist was surprisingly unexciting. Although a work would have to be much larger to treat exhaustively of the topic, McGinn’s is nearly as comprehensive as its scale permits. He proceeds at a steady pace from pre-Christian antiquity through the late twentieth century, and by the end, he proposes that he and the reader should be tired of the topic. (280)

Theologian McGinn dismisses mythicists like me as a “lunatic fringe” for being skeptical of the evidence for a “historical Jesus.” (34) But his fractious consensus of “New Testament scholars” is even less persuasive than the because-we-say-so of traditional clergy. And, although he is himself evidently a Christian (of the non-Fundamentalist sort, he is quite clear), he seems not to have faith in any sort of antichrist himself, nor to think that an incarnation of the Lie could be a constructive idea for modern believers. 

Writing in the early 1990s, the author may have anticipated a market for Antichrist related to the approach of the year 2000, but he certainly couldn’t have foreseen the Obama Antichrist rumor and ‘net meme that would arise later. Reading his account of the traditional ingredients of Antichrist legend, it is possible to see, for example, deep synergy between the Antichrist allegations and the charge of crypto-Islam aimed at the 44th US President. Another bizarre potential correlation is for born-again Christian George W. Bush to be the “Last Emperor” who is supposed to precede the reign of Antichrist. (The early medieval trope of the Last Emperor is typically absent from the Dispensationalist neo-Millenialism common to today’s Christianist chiliasts, though.) 

One significant element missing from McGinn’s treatment–in its modern phase at least–is the appearance of professed antichrists, such as Friedrich Nietzsche and Jack Parsons. While it could be tempting to excuse such an oversight by disqualifying such figures as lying outside of the spectrum of Christian belief, the book does actually include treatments of Jewish and Muslim Antichrist parallels, as well as a discussion of Jung’s secular psychological theory of Antichrist. 

Overall, the book is useful for readers wanting to get a historical handle on the Antichrist concept and its evolution. McGinn claims that Antichrist belief has become marginal and unoriginal in modern times, but he admits that there’s no way to be sure of the extent to which it formerly penetrated popular consciousness. And I would add that not all our current elites are as erudite as Professor McGinn, so his admission that Fundamentalist Evangelicals are “a limited, if powerful, segment” of Christianity should give the socially-reflective reader pause regarding just how irrelevant the anticipation of Antichrist may be.

Ghost Circles

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Bone: Ghost Circles [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher] by Jeff Smith, book 7 of the Bone series.

Smith Bone: Ghost Circles

I suppose it is a sign of Jeff Smith’s skill at developing his fictional world and its characters that I have read each volume of Bone in fewer sittings than the last, even though their length and complexity remains consistent. 

The end of the previous volume Old Man’s Cave made it seem as if the heroes had had a major victory, but Ghost Circles begins with almost overwhelming setbacks, and of all the Bone collections so far this one is easily the darkest in mood. Even a few scenes with the usually comical Ted the Bug are quite grave.