“No offense, man, but you’re a fucking idiot.” “I’m aware.” “Fucking,” Anil says, ticking it off on his thumb. “Idiot,” he concludes, ticking this one off on his pointer finger.
This novel is a sort of loose sequel — through the character of Colonel Verney — to the Wheatley book To the Devil a Daughter, which I haven’t read, though I’ve seen the Hammer film (and thought it markedly inferior to The Devil Rides Out). In fact, this was the first Wheatley I had read. Verney is perhaps the third most focal of the protagonists: the center of action oscillates between the earnest and ambitious aspiring government agent Barney Sullivan and the vengeful and comely young widow Mary Morden.
I was somewhat surprised by the extent to which the Cold War context dominates the story. The Satanist of the title is not just a Satanist, he’s the Satanist at the pinnacle of a global cabal, and he aims to bring about the downfall of the Christian world by actualizing the mutually assured nuclear destruction of the NATO countries and the Soviet bloc.
The book is prefaced with a caution to the reader, assuring that the author only learned about the (indisputable, he assures us) facts of modern occultism through his library study, and that actually to pursue any such thing in personal experience would lead to “dangers of a very real and concrete nature.” The London Satanic sect uses a little Theosophical circle as one of its recruiting venues. In the course of the tale, his Satanists espouse the Law of Thelema; though they don’t call it that, they repeatedly recite the Summary, “Do what thou wilt shall be the Whole of the Law” (Wheatley’s capitalization). Experimental music and modern art are classed as Satanic enterprises. Native American tribal religions worship “Our Lord Satan,” according to the Indians’ own claims. Wheatley also asserts through his most knowledgable and sympathetic characters that telepathy is scientifically proven!
The characters are vividly drawn, if sometimes reliant on stereotype, and Wheatley provides us with a great deal of their interior reflections, exhibiting a bourgeois morality which was perhaps Wheatley’s own, or at least that which he expected his popular readership would find sympathetic. One of the villains is described as being of gigantic stature, and yet having served with distinction as a US Air Force pilot, which seemed a bit unlikely.
And so, unsurprisingly, the reward for me here was mostly limited to camp. There were, as I had hoped, a number of set pieces of diabolist ceremony, Mary Morden’s preliminary initiation being the best of them, and I could take a certain unironic pleasure in these. It wasn’t so unsatisfying that I wouldn’t perhaps pick up another of the author’s “occult thrillers,” but it was in fact a bit longer than I could justify based on the contents I did enjoy.
The Brotherhood of Satan is the novelization of a 1971 horror movie of no great critical note, and it certainly reads that way. While I haven’t seen the movie, I suspect that the book is very faithful to it, because it fails to offer any details that couldn’t be represented on film. (Author Jones was a member of the cast and assisted on the script.) The characters are cut-outs with little or no interiority. Despite that superficiality, some of the scenes are difficult to picture, particularly ones in the Satanists’ lair that involved passage “through” a fireplace. Supernatural occurrences get a gee-whiz treatment that makes them feel cheap.
As far as the Satanic conspiracy goes, it has a lot of liturgical action, which is what attracted my attention to the film/book in the first place. But the liturgy is decidedly uninformed and clumsy, with addresses to “Ye who penetrates the future” (ouch!) and “Satanacus.” The choice of an “ansate cross” for the principal insignia of the cultists is somewhat spoiled by the fact that the book cover and movie stills show a figure that is not really a crux ansata. The “Satanic” rites involve an unseemly level of self-abasement among the worshippers, and a practically Christian sense of penitence.
SPOILER: To its credit, the story ends with the triumph of the evil forces, with the hapless “protagonists” merely lulled into a grateful sense of having survived the episode, while their daughter has been spiritually possessed (presumably for life) by one of the creepy old cultists.
“I’ve prepared a PowerPoint presentation that will cover the basics of what I wish to discuss with you,” Lucifer begins, opening up the ThinkPad. “Stop,” Billy says. “PowerPoint?” “It’s my preferred medium,” says Lucifer. “No,” Billy says. “Just no. You want to talk? We can talk. But I’m hungover, I’m annoyed, I’m still kind of losing my shit, I’m not watching a freaking PowerPoint presentation.” “PowerPoint is actually quite unfairly maligned,” Lucifer says.
The Secret Life of a Satanist: The Authorized Biography of Anton LaVey [Amazon, Abebooks, Bookshop, Local Library] by Blanche Barton, reviewed by Majere, Pr.ODF in the Bkwyrm’s Occult Book Reviews archive.
This is the “authorised” biography of the late Anton LaVey, as penned by his Mistress and High Priestess of the Church of Satan, Blanche Barton. It covers most of his life in considerable detail up until the founding of his Church in 1966, then moves on to examine his philosophies and observations of the world around him. Initially, after the publication of this book, quite a few voices arose to challenge the authencity of it’s contents – among them “Rolling Stone” magazine. Especially held in doubt is LaVey’s alleged “fling” with pre-fame days Marilyn Monroe (no biographies of Monroe have ever mentioned such a relationship). So therefore (also considering the obvious bias of the biographer in purporting the contents are pure fact) it is suggested that the reader keep tongue jammed firmly in cheek. Having said that, it is of considerable interest to those who are keen to read more about LaVey’s observations and ideals; in this respect, he is – as usual – forthright in a no-bullshit manner. Basically, it has to be admitted that whether you like or loathe LaVey, he doesn’t pull punches as to what he is and what he stands for – whether you find such agreeable or not. Includes photos. Recommended primarily for fans only, or those who are simply curious.
The Satanic Witch [Amazon, Amazon (2nd Edition), Abebooks, Bookshop, Local Library] by Anton Szandor LaVey, introduction by Zeena LaVey, reviewed by Majere, Pr.ODF in the Bkwyrm’s Occult Book Reviews archive.
The third volume of LaVey’s writings is aimed more directly at female readers, being a guide to his concept of Satanic seduction and “bitchcraft” techniques. As usual, it is written in his usual flamboyant style, and covers a broad range of subjects from make- up and fashion tips to methods of sexual manipulation through glamour (ie. “Lesser Magic”) . Also introduced is the “LaVey Personality Synthesizer”, used apparently to judge compatibility between the witch and her potential partners, and the volume also contains additional writings on magick – including methods to invoke familiars and send succubi to potential “victims”. Many have found some of LaVey’s suggestions in the book rather distasteful – the use of menstrual blood as a “perfume” being one regularly mentioned. And naturally, the material of the book is likely to offend many die-hard feminists and so-called “white witches”. Therefore, it is probably safe to say this book is only recommended for those with certain tastes – and if readers hold similar tastes to Anton LaVey himself, then no more need be said. Everyone else should look first before buying.
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.
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.
An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for June 11th, 2014
Mihai Mihu’s LEGO diorama for “Lust” from Dante's Inferno
- “The Householder’s Guide to Form and Deed” — Scott David Finch (author of A Little World Made Cunningly), Spiral Nature
“After putting myself in too many people’s shoes, and seeing the world through everyone else’s eyes for too long, I start to become a warped and weary alien to myself. I no longer recognize my own face and I need to recharge. This is when I head to my studio to sit.”
- “How to Become a Living Douche! The Impressively Embarrassing Occultism of EA Koetting” — Thad McKraken, disinformation
“I have to confess that what I’ve found mindblowing about exploring the Occult is that the church has slandered it as being daemon worship, and because of that, a group of gothed out weirdoes have decided that they love the idea worshipping Satan. Even though the Occult doesn’t actually involve that (it’s about mastering your daemons and making contact with your Holy Guardian Angel), they’re just going to make it about that anyway because they’re just…so…hard.”
- “Dreamscripts in the Waking World” — William Kiesel, The Brooklyn Rail
“One of the signs which has become a trademark of being in a dream is the inability to read the written word or at other times to decipher numbers on a clock face or elsewhere. Such figures most often appear to blur before the eyes. There are times when the oneiric traveller is blest with clarity of vision wherein the characters in the given instance are crystal clear, but such instances are typically rare. It is significant that there is a crossover between the experience of legible and illegible scripts in both the waking and dream worlds.”
“With the use of oneiric praxis, sigils of the wake world can be brought to the dreamscape, as well as drawing the dream texts upon the waking consciousness. No doubt the viewing of sigillic devices could produce the atmosphere of the dream in the waking consciousness of one unaccustomed to seeing such scripts.”
- “Caveat Lecter” — Houghton Library Blog [HT Harvard Library]
“Good news for fans of anthropodermic bibliopegy, bibliomaniacs and cannibals alike: tests have revealed that Houghton Library’s copy of Arsène Houssaye’s Des destinées de l’ame [The destiny of the soul] (FC8.H8177.879dc) is without a doubt bound in human skin.”
- “Earth’s backup: Sending religious texts to the moon” — Paul Marks, NewScientist
“The first artefacts to shoot for the moon could be three religious and philosophical texts. The Torah on the Moon project, based in Tel Aviv, Israel, has been courting private firms to deliver a handwritten Jewish scroll, the Sefer Torah, to the lunar surface. If they succeed, later flights will carry Hindu scriptures called the Vedas and the ancient Chinese philosophical work, the I-Ching.
Each document will be housed in a space-ready capsule designed to protect it from harsh radiation and temperature changes on the moon for at least 10,000 years.”
- “The Samuelson Clinic releases “Is it in the Public Domain?” handbook” – UC Berkeley School of Law [HT Boing Boing]
“These educational tools help users to evaluate the copyright status of a work created in the United States between January 1, 1923 and December 31, 1977—those works that were created before today’s 1976 Copyright Act. Many important works—from archival materials to family photos and movies—were created during this time, and it can be difficult to tell whether they are still under copyright.”
- “Handbook to figure out what’s in the public domain” — Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing
“This is probably the most esoteric question that normal people from all walks of life have to answer routinely; the Samuelson Clinic has really done an important public service here.”
- Book of Soyga or Aldaraia sive Soyga vocor [PDF], edited and translated by Jane Kupin, Twilit Grotto [HT Joseph H Peterson]
“Here begins the book Aldaraia in accordance with that which our authorities proclaimed to us; they were from God and from the celestial parts and it was revealed to them in the desert about celestial matters.”
- “The Self-Sacrifice of Our Own Individuality” — Michael Gilleland, Laudator Temporis Acti
“We perform our task correctly only when we don’t force our own mind into every ancient book that falls into our hands; but rather read out of it what is already there.”
- “The Anagogic Role of Sunthemata in the Sacramental Liturgy of Pseudo-Dionysius” — Jeffrey S Kupperman
“The Neoplatonic writings of the 6th century writer known as pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite have influenced, and continue to influence, Christian theologians and esotericists, amongst others, to this day. Typically, a handful of Dionysius’ topics are discussed: his angelology, his sacramental theology, and his treatment of the divine names are on the top of the list. This paper treats one of these subjects, Dionysian sacraments”
- “Occultic and Masonic Influence in Early Mormonism” — Joel B Groat, Institute for Religious Research
“The evidence of Joseph Smith’s close connection to occultism and Freemasonry, and how this influenced the origin and development of the LDS Church is not well known outside of scholarly circles. This article summarizes the evidence for Joseph’s personal involvement in both Freemasonry and occultism, and their influence on the Mormon religion.”
- “Christopher Lee makes heavy metal Don Quixote” — BBC News
“Actor Sir Christopher Lee is marking his 92nd birthday by releasing an album of heavy metal cover versions.
Two of the songs come from the Don Quixote musical Man of La Mancha, which was a Broadway smash in the 1960s.
‘As far as I am concerned, Don Quixote is the most metal fictional character that I know, the Hobbit star said.
‘Single handed, he is trying to change the world, regardless of any personal consequences. It is a wonderful character to sing.'”
- “Of course Thelema is satanic” — Thomas Zwollo, Spiral Nature
“Thelema rejects all these notions that enslave humanity to a deity that would demand certain beliefs and actions and punish those who disobey. Satan represents the rejection of this belief system and the exultation of the individual. Is Satan central to Thelema? No. Is Satan mentioned in Thelema? Yes, frequently.”
- “On the ‘itch’ within the Witch” — Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold, The Starry Cave
“I believe Traditional Witchcraft is a poetic reality humming the nocturnal mysteries of Night. I believe the Witch is concerned with Solace and comfort, the same solace we find resting in the Night. I believe the Witch is a creature tied to the land whose heart is a crossroad where the fire of Need gushes forth from the fountain of the soul like a veiled spring of fiery droplets of gold and silver.”
- “The Rosicrucian Vision” — Christopher McIntosh, New Dawn Magazine
“The word ‘Rosicrucian’ is one that most readers will have heard many times. Yet if I were to ask for a definition of the word I would probably be given a wide variety of different answers. I might be told that it was something to do with esoteric Christianity, with alchemy, or with Cabala. All of these things are part of the answer, but not the whole answer.
So what is Rosicrucianism? For the time being let us call it a current of thought and ideas which has been flowing through history for at least three and a half centuries and probably quite a bit longer, sometimes underground, sometimes coming to the surface, but always pushing human beings towards certain goals. I say that we can trace the current back three and a half centuries because that was when it first came to the surface. So let us go back to that moment in history.”
- “Pagan God From Bronze Age Caught By Unsuspecting Fisherman In Siberia” — Yasmine Hafiz, The Huffington Post; from the it-has-the-innsmouth-look dept
“Nikolay Tarasov was fishing in a river near his home in Tisul, in the Kemerovo region of Siberia, when he caught something unexpected—and very old.”
“Museum curators dated the figure to over 4,000 years old. Carved in horn which was later fossilized, the Bronze Age figurine shows a pagan god.”
- “Circumambulating the Alchemical Mysterium” — Aaron Cheak, Reality Sandwich; an excerpt from Alchemical Traditions: From Antiquity to the Avant-Garde
“Alchemy may be described, in the words of Baudelaire, as a process of ‘distilling the eternal from the transient’. As the art of transmutation par excellence, the classical applications of alchemy have always been twofold: chrysopoeia and apotheosis (gold-making and god-making)—the perfection of metals and mortals. In seeking to turn ‘poison into wine’, alchemy, like tantra, engages material existence—often at its most dissolute or corruptible—in order to transform it into a vehicle of liberation. Like theurgy, it seeks not only personal liberation—the redemption of the soul from the cycles of generation and corruption—but also the liberation (or perfection) of nature herself through participation in the cosmic demiurgy. In its highest sense, therefore, alchemy conforms to what Lurianic kabbalists would call tikkun, the restoration of the world.”
- “Plaidoyer for historical-critical Steiner research. Using the methodological example of Rudolf Steiner as a possible character in the Mysteriendramen.” — David W Wood
“A main thesis of this paper is that one of the ways for Rudolf Steiner research to become more scientiﬁc is to proceed in accordance with a genuine historical and critical methodology. It attempts to show that even though some of Steiner’s chief critics support this method in theory, they often fall short of a historical-critical approach in practice. Using the example of the unresolved problem of whether Steiner could be a character in his own Mysteriendramen, the author provides a number of methodological, historical and biographical indications for approaching this problem. He tries to demonstrate the fruitfulness of this method by addressing the question of Steiner as a drama character from the new perspective of literary pseudonyms. In conclusion, he maintains that a scholarly historical-critical approach to spiritual science was advocated by Steiner himself.”
- “What Happens to the Brain During Spiritual Experiences? The field of neurotheology uses science to try to understand religion, and vice versa.” — Lynne Blumberg, The Atlantic
“Since everyday and spiritual concerns are variations of the same thinking processes, [Andrew] Newberg thinks it’s essential to examine how people experience spirituality in order to fully understand how their brains work. Looking at the bigger questions has already provided practical applications for improving mental and physical health.”
- “Intolerance and Fanaticism” — Michael Gilleland, Laudator Temporis Acti
“Men find it very hard to apply a little criticism to the sources of their beliefs and the origin of their faith. It is just as well; if we looked too close into first principles, we should never believe at all.”
- “Paradise Found: The ideal(ized) vision of Paul Gauguin.” — Daniel Goodman, The Weekly Standard [HT Arts & Letters Daily]
“Gauguin’s art depicts Tahitians as they are sleeping, worshipping, and engaging in other quotidian activities. But whereas Cheever, Chekhov, Roth, John Updike, and other literary artists used their keen perceptive abilities in the pursuit of sober realism, Gauguin put his artistry to the purpose of imaginative proto-surrealism.
Gauguin, who rejected European cultural and religious constraints, thought of himself as a savage in the eyes of the civilized world. Oviri (1894, his personal favorite amongst all his sculptures) and many of his other works were regarded as radical for a variety of reasons, not least because they subverted traditional, conventional ideas of feminine beauty.”
- “We need to talk about misogyny and sexism” — Psyche, Spiral Nature
“Equality. That’s the secret agenda, folks. Feminism isn’t about women first, it’s about women too.”
- “Congo: A Group of Chimpanzees Seem to Have Mastered Fire” — World News Daily Report; from the fake-news-but-wouldn’t-it-be-wild-if dept.
“It is however, the first time that a group of these primates develops some technical concepts as elaborate as these on their own. A few individual apes seem to have originally developed a rudimentary technique of rather poor efficiency, but the group gradually improved it through experimentation and observation over the last few months. They are now able to create and maintain a fire, which they have been using mostly to scare off predators and cook some of their food.”
- “On the Seventh Day, We Unplug: How and Why to Take a Tech Sabbath” — Brett & Katie McKay, The Art of Manliness
“Taking a weekly Tech Sabbath allows us to step off this wheel of endless sameness. It’s a ritual that pushes us out of the norm, to pursue different activities, and use different parts of our brains. In so doing, it refreshes and rejuvenates our minds and spirit. It provides the motivation to unhook our wired craniums from the matrix of cyberspace and explore the pleasures of the real world.”
- “Kircher & Schott’s Computer Music of the Baroque” — Phil Legard, Larkfall
“Here is a piece of music, which was composed with a sort of 17th century computer called the Organum Mathematicum, devised by Athanasius Kircher and fully described by his pupil and assistant Gaspar Schott”
- “Mihai’s Inferno: The 9 circles of Hell made in Lego” — The Brothers Brick [See also Boing Boing, MOCPages]
“Mihai Mihu completed a series of creations depicting the 9 circles of Hell. While staying true to the theme of poetic justice served to the sinners, Mihai portrays the punishments through his own interpretations. The recurring architectural elements and portrayal of the sinners tie the scenes together in a way that’s easy for the viewer to transition through. In this short interview, the builder talks about his project and the individual circles of Hell.”
- “Techne: The State of the Art” — Damien Wolven [HT Joshua Madara]
“If we really think that whatever kind of mind we generate from these efforts is going to be anything like us, then we’re probably in for a big surprise. We have to be prepared for—as opposed to scared about—the possibility that any machine intelligence will have vastly different concerns from us. “Occult Wisdom” means knowledge hidden from those who don’t know how to look for it and, without an understanding of how these new minds will experience our world, humanity will never know everything we might.
As I’ve explored these ideas, over the years, I’ve found that the most valuable approaches have often come from the intersections that others might overlook. The intersection that’s been most useful to me is at the center of weird science, philosophy, religious studies, pop-culture, and magic. I’ve written articles, taught classes, and organized conferences arguing that “The Magical” is one of the most useful-but-underused tools we have for rethinking and understanding these ideas.”
- “The Flaw Lurking In Every Deep Neural Net” — mikejuk, Slashdot
“If a deep neural network is biologically inspired we can ask the question, does the same result apply to biological networks? Put more bluntly, ‘Does the human brain have similar built-in errors?’ If it doesn’t, how is it so different from the neural networks that are trying to mimic it?”
- “We Aren’t the World” — Ethan Waters, Pacific Standard [HT Eleanor Saitta]
“The potential implications of the unexpected results were quickly apparent to Henrich. He knew that a vast amount of scholarly literature in the social sciences—particularly in economics and psychology—relied on the ultimatum game and similar experiments. At the heart of most of that research was the implicit assumption that the results revealed evolved psychological traits common to all humans, never mind that the test subjects were nearly always from the industrialized West. Henrich realized that if the Machiguenga results stood up, and if similar differences could be measured across other populations, this assumption of universality would have to be challenged.
Henrich had thought he would be adding a small branch to an established tree of knowledge. It turned out he was sawing at the very trunk. He began to wonder: What other certainties about “human nature” in social science research would need to be reconsidered when tested across diverse populations?”
If you’d like to participate in the next Omnium Gatherum, head on over to the Gatherum discussions at the Hrmtc Underground BBS.