“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.
Surrealism, Satanism and Witchcraft
16 May 2014
Surrealism celebrated Satan and the witch as powerful agents of social rebellion, and tonight’s speaker argues their inspiration came from Jules Michelet’s 1862 book La Sorciere, which was violently anti-Catholic as well as shockingly erotic. Some women Surrealists confidently cast themselves as witches, and the talk looks at three of them: Dorothea Tanning, Leonor Fini and Leonora Carrington. Dan Zamani is completing his PhD in art history at Cambridge; he returns to Treadwells by popular demand.
Time: 7:15pm for a 7:30pm start
Crowley’s Liber Nu
23 May 2014
Tonight a longstanding magical practitioner of Thelemic magic examines one of Crowley’s most magnificent ritual texts, Liber Nu (‘The Book of Nuit’, a rite for attainment of the Goddess Nuit) and relates the extraordinary experience of preparing and then performing the rite at Gosse’s Bluff in Central Australia. He goes on to interpret Liber Nu as Crowley’s “how to write and do a high magic ritual.” Bob Stein has been a member of O.T.O. since 1983 and has been involved with the organisation since then in a range of capacities.
Time: 7:15pm for a 7:30pm start
Abraxas 5 Launch Party
30 May 2014
Please join us for to celebrate Issue Five of Abraxas, the journal of esoteric studies issued jointly by Fulgur Ltd and Treadwell’s. We will have fascinating people, art, poetry and short talks. This issue has contributors worldwide on surreailsm, the Fellowship of Isis, Platonism, spirit-summoning, David Blank of the famed Oracle Magazine, an occult manuscript, Peladan, Bertiaux, and the wonderful ancient gods Antinous and Glykon.
Free, but please RSVP to email@example.com
Time: 7pm to 9:30pm. Short talks at 7:45pm
Elias Ashmole: London’s Forgotten Adept
2 June 2014
Elias Ashmole (1617–1692) is famed for founding the first public museum, the Ashmolean, a fact that overshadowed his importance in the history of occultism. He was the astrological advisor to Charles II, an early freemason, an alchemical secret-holder. He collected rare esotericism texts and even saved a fellow astrologer from the gallows. Tonight revives him from obscurity, celebrating his secret life. Ruth Clydesdale is a writer and astrologer with interest in the history of astrology and its links to magic, alchemy and art.
Time: 7:15pm for a 7:30pm start
Walking Tour: Occult London
7 June 2014 (and again on July 5th)
London’s secret occult history comes alive as you traipse the cobblestone streets of the West End, and you learn the secrets behind some of the area’s past magicians, witches and sorcerers: some famous, some infamous. Delianne Forget is a London registered Blue Badge Guide with a solid grounding in London history. A white witch herself, she also knows her cauldron potions from her good-luck charms. These tours return after a two year hiatus, due to popular demand.
Time: 2pm to 5pm, starting at a central London tube station. Look for the lady in the witch hat.
Aleister Crowley on Rock’n’Roll
19 June 2014
Join us for a summer party to celebrate the launch of Gary Lachman’s new book: Aleister Crowley’s influence on rock-and-roll giants from the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, to Black Sabbath and Blondie, of which Lachman was a founding member. Gary will give an informal talk for about 20 minutes at about 7:45, and as ever we give most of the evening over to socialising, book-signing and gentle revelry. Please join us.
Free, but please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
Time: Come anytime 7pm – 9:30pm. Short talk at 7:45.
Love Magic in Seventeenth-century England
20 June 2014
This talk explores the occult theories and magical practices which grasped both the divinity and madness of love. Al Cummins takes us into the world of elemental humours, psychological notions of the passions, and the spiritual and physical mysteries of the heart. We will delve into the love magicians’ toolkit, examining means of seduction: from aphrodisiac herbs to conjuring matchmaking spirits … and onto bindings, leashes, and “erotic malefic” workings. A vibrant speaker, Alexander Cummins recently completed his PhD from Bristol: he is an historian of early modern magic, astrology and the passion. He is also a professional poet.
Time: 7:15pm for a 7:30pm start
And, Treadwell’s comes to New York!
New York City — The Night of the Witch
25 June 2014
Two illustrated lectures on witchcraft in a vibrant double-bill. Witch Pictures — Pam Grossman and British Witchcraft — Christina Oakley Harrington.
Witch Pictures — Pam Grossman
The witch burst into Western art in the late 15th century and never left: the likes of Durer, Fuseli, Goya, and Blake used the image of magical women to titillate their patrons or reflect their own anxieties — with results both grotesque and beguiling. Then in the 19th century women took up the brush to create works inspired by personal occult experiences, reclaiming the witch, and we see a female ‘witchcraft’ in action in Abstraction, Surrealism, Modernism, making a corner of art history where craft and Craft are one and the same.
British Witchcraft — the Fifties to the Seventies — Christina Oakley Harrington
British Witchraft revived in the 1950s and 1960s. To the horror and fascination of the English press and public, some of these witches gave interviews and even allowed secret rites to be photographed. They wanted the world to know a non-Christian basis of ethics, a radical concept of the sacred, and the power of altered states of consciousness. Both tradition-based and forward-thinking, they were paradoxical yet compelling. Tonight’s speaker comes from the UK Wiccan community, and brings these characters to life and shares insights into their vision of the Craft.
Pam Grossman is the Brooklyn-based guiding spirit of Phantasmaphile, and was co-host of the 2013 Occult Humanities Conference at NYU. Christina Oakley Harrington is founder of London’s famed Treadwells Bookshop and a former academic; she also co-edits Abraxas Journal and gives occasional lectures.
An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for May 14th, 2014
- “Review: ‘Aleister Crowley’ explores the life and times of the notorious icon ” — Brooke Wylie, Examiner.com
“Detractors of rock n’ roll have long called the genre, the ‘Devil’s music,’ so in some ways, it’s all too natural that Gary Lachman (known by his stage name Gary Valentine, to some), who is a founding member of Blondie, and has shredded with Iggy Pop, should eventually become an expert on mysticism and the occult. His latest work, Aleister Crowley: Magick, Rock and Roll, and the Wickedest Man in the World (available May 15) tackles not only the life and times of the illustrious figure, known by many as The Great Beast, but also the collision of Crowley’s legacy with popular culture.”
The review includes this apropos and awesome typo (emphasis added): “Crowley’s word is a strange one indeed, and wrapping one’s mind around it can be a substantial challenge at times.”
- “Was Jesus a Magician?” — Helen Ingram
“One of these lectures introduced me to the character of ‘Jesus the magician’ and the work of Prof. Morton Smith, who claimed that Jesus’ conduct within the Gospel material constituted a ‘coherent, consistent and credible picture of a magician’s career.’ The theory that the historical Jesus was actively practicing magic and that this behaviour is reflected in the Gospel materials was a very intriguing proposal and immediately stimulated a personal interest in this field of research. This curiosity culminated in the submission and acceptance of my PhD thesis …”
- “SATANIC BLACK MASS AT HARVARD, SATANIC MONUMENT IN OKLAHOMA” — Paul McGuire, NewsWithViews.com; from the RTFM dept.
“But the software of God, which is the downloading of cosmic apps, should be understood as nothing more than a contemporary parable to explain in understandable terms the gifts and abilities that the Living God gives people on a natural and supernatural level, the gifts of the Spirit. Tragically, most of the modern Pentecostal and Charismatic movements which emphasized these gifts did so in a very distorted and degraded manner, so that these terms have become synonymous with hyper-emotionalism, crazy behavior and aberrant behavior. This is a degradation and improper use of both the software and the apps. They did not read the basic operating instructions provided in the manual.”
- The Colbert Report on the Oklahoma Baphomet monument, including a call-in by Satan, Lord of Hell, himself [HT The Lost Ogle]
- “Real Satanists Don’t Send Press Releases” — Thomas L McDonald, God and the Machine
“The modern so-called Satanists who make all the noise are not really Satanists. They don’t actually believe in Satan. Most are atheists who couch their so-called ‘Satanism’ in terms of resistance or philosophy. It’s not a religion, but a critique of religion, or somesuch blather. It’s all theater.”
“The black mass emerged again in the 19th century in the salons, universities, and intellectual circles of Europe, which was the wellspring of modern occultism. Lacking much primary documentation, the upper classes mostly invented their version of a black mass influenced by literature and structured around a simple inversion of the Catholic mass. No real tradition directly linking medieval diabolism to modern so-called Satanism exists, which means horror movies, fiction, and imagination are at the root of most modern practice.”
- “God is dead—What next? Searching for meaning in the age of atheism” — Alasdair Craig, Prospect [HT Arts & Letters Daily]
“[Peter] Watson is more optimistic about the possibility of an emotionally satisfying atheism. His proposal is that we use art and literature to comprehend and re-enchant the world that science has made foreign. Science is one way of understanding the world; art and literature another, he seems to say. Science provides technology, medicine and abstract knowledge; art provides meaning, purpose and a different, more intimate and immediately relevant kind of knowledge. God’s death just means that we need to construct our own, non-authoritative narratives and art, replete with purpose and meaning. Instead of one unified story to which everyone subscribes, we should play around with a plurality of downgraded stories, which can form the basis of our day-to-day lives.”
- “Ancient Egyptians transported pyramid stones over wet sand” — Ans Hekkenberg, Phys.org
“Physicists from the FOM Foundation and the University of Amsterdam have discovered that the ancient Egyptians used a clever trick to make it easier to transport heavy pyramid stones by sledge. The Egyptians moistened the sand over which the sledge moved. By using the right quantity of water they could halve the number of workers needed. The researchers published this discovery online on 29 April 2014 in Physical Review Letters.”
“The Egyptians were probably aware of this handy trick. A wall painting in the tomb of Djehutihotep clearly shows a person standing on the front of the pulled sledge and pouring water over the sand just in front of it.”
- “Review: Limp Renaissance sex romp a poor Carry On indeed” — Rebecca Harkins-Cross, Brisbane Times
“Elixir is based on the escapades of Edward Kelley and John Dee, a famed occultist duo in Renaissance England who professed the ability to summon angels and to conduct alchemy. […] [Edward Kelley (Christy Hawkins)] concocts a cunning plan to unlock his colleague’s wife Jane’s (Naomi Takita) chastity belt and pacify the emperor simultaneously, convincing Doctor Dee (Stephen Weir) the elixir should be made from wizard seed and a cuckold’s tears.”
- “Scientists Confirm Vampires Were Onto Something” — Maxwell Barna, VICE News
“New research published this week by two teams of scientists confirmed what Bram Stoker and countless philosophers, scientists, and cannibals have long posited — there’s an indisputable relationship between blood and aging.”
“‘When we added young blood, the older mice not only looked better, but they became cognitively better,’ Saul Villeda, the principal investigator at UCSF’s Villeda Lab, told VICE News. ‘It’s like we can turn back the clock on some parts of aging.'”
- “Footage of Orson Welles’s ‘Voodoo’ Macbeth” — National Film Preservation Foundation
“It had long been assumed that no sound or moving images survived from Orson Welles’s legendary ‘Voodoo Macbeth,’ the Federal Theatre Project’s 1936 Harlem stage production of Shakespeare’s play, set in Haiti with an African American cast. But priceless historical footage can turn up within unlikely places. This long-forgotten record of the first professional play staged by Orson Welles was found in another film, the U.S. government-produced We Work Again, a Depression-era documentary on African American employment.”
- “Stonehenge Discovery ‘Blows Lid Off’ Old Theories About Builders Of Ancient Monument” — Macrina Cooper-White, Huffpost Science
“Last October, [David] Jacques led an archaeological dig at a site 1.5 miles from Stonehenge. His team unearthed flint tools and the bones of aurochs, extinct cow-like animals that were a food source for ancient people. Carbon dating of the bones showed that modern-day Amesbury, an area that includes the dig site and Stonehenge itself, has been continuously occupied since 8820 B.C. Amesbury has now been declared the oldest continually occupied area in Britain.
The finding suggests that Stonehenge was built by indigenous Britons who had lived in the area for thousands of years. Previous theories held that the monument was built in an empty landscape by migrants from continental Europe.”
- “Ancient Desert Glyphs Pointed Way to Fairgrounds” — Sean Treacy, Science
“Seen from above, the jagged rocks strewn about the Chincha Valley desert in Peru seem inconspicuous. But stand in the desert itself and these rocks form lines that stretch toward the horizon. Researchers have found that these lines were probably ancient signposts for the Paracas culture more than 2000 years ago, guiding people across the desert to gathering places for the winter solstice.”
- “Astronomers Identify the Sun’s Long-Lost Sister” — Becky Ferreira, Motherboard [HT Slashdot]
“HD 162826 is 15 percent more massive than our Sun, and is about 110 light years away in the constellation Hercules. It’s not visible to the naked eye, but it is bright enough to be seen through binoculars.
Astronomers had been observing the star for almost two decades without realizing it’s the long-lost sister of the Sun.”
- “LGBTQ Tolerance in the Golden Dawn” — Alex Sumner, Sol Ascendans
“Say what you like about MacGregor Mathers, but on one point he was resolute: he would not brook gossip about Fratres’ and Sorores’ lives — this being a matter purely between themselves and their God. […] Mathers’ firm stand has led to a progressive consequence: the Golden Dawn was the first magical order to adopt a modern approach to tolerance. However, the Western Mystery Tradition was almost derailed by the efforts of Dion Fortune.”
- “Aleister Crowley, aliens, owls and Jesus” — Mike Clelland, hidden experience
“Little is known of the origin of the big headed entity known as Lam. All that can be known for sure is that this image was drawn by Aleister Crowley to depict a being that was summoned during a magickal ritual titled The Amalantrah Working. This sketch later hung on a gallery wall at Crowley’s Dead Souls exhibition in Greenwich Village, New York, in 1919.”
“Things get weirder, when the image is reversed, an image of an owl emerges! Granted, I’m seeing owls everywhere I look these days, but still.
Also, the name Crowley has OWL embedded right in it.”
- “Black magician Aleister Crowley’s early gay verse comes to light: Notebook of poems written by heartbroken occultist in 1898 to be exhibited at antiquarian book fair in London” — Maev Kennedy, The Guardian
“In 1898 the Wickedest Man in the World was feeling thoroughly sorry for himself. The occultist Aleister Crowley’s first great love affair, with fellow Cambridge undergraduate Herbert Jerome Pollitt, was in ruins, and he took to poetry as his only solace.
‘When my sick body in his love lies drowned/ And he lies corpse-wise on me, nor will rise/ Though my breath shudders, and my soul be dead,’ he wrote — and much, much more — in a tiny notebook of unpublished manuscript poems which has recently resurfaced.
The actor and rare book dealer Neil Pearson, who will exhibit the little book at the Olympia antiquarian book fair in London later this month, concedes that this is not great poetry. ‘The verse is rather broken-backed, and vulgar where he is trying to be honest. But it was written at a time when he was feeling heartbroken and vulnerable and it does somehow humanise him — and God knows Aleister Crowley, more than most people, needs humanising.'”
- “Critical Thinking #5: Marina Warner: The critic and mythographer on fairytales, feminism, modern art, translation and the LRB” — Zeljka Marosevic, Prospect [HT Arts & Letters Daily]; this seems quite an interesting interview, but here’s a few excerpts that caught my eye
“It’s often encountering the faith of others that I’ve found most disturbing. I don’t wish to scorn faith as it’s a universal part of human consciousness. But as such, it’s a deep puzzle, and I’m interested in its effects and manifestations. I worry about the effects of it, especially in our increasingly conflicted religious world.”
“Grappling with myths has been my principal interest for years, even to a certain extent, my cause: to put the study of imaginative structures back into the frame when confronting important issues. Not to think of imagination and fantasy as merely childish, or to dismiss them as having no purchase on reality.”
“Myth and fairy tale have definitely returned. First of all there’s a generation who have grown up on Dungeons and Dragons, Tolkien and Narnia, and now, Philip Pullman and Harry Potter. I haven’t read the Twilight stories so I probably shouldn’t talk about them, but I have watched one of the films, and it seems to me that it’s an example of the problem of attenuation: instead of getting richer, these stories are being told in a less rich way, and the vampires are being tamed!”
- “‘I gather the limbs of Osiris’: Notes on the New Gnosticism” — Henry Gould, Coldfront
“One way to think of the New Gnosticism, then, might be as the overturning of an analytical negation (Language Poetry). It includes, also, a reversal of the ‘old’ Gnosticism: which was itself a sort of skeptical deconstruction of canonical Biblical texts.”
“The infinite starry realm of scribbling, scrambling poets every now and then produces a new galaxy, that is, a new movement or school. These emergent phenomena always generate a contradictory mix of enthusiasm and doubt.”
- “Do What Thou Wilt” — Brandy Williams, Star and Snake
“The Law applies equally for everyone; each person, each creature, has their own will to do. It’s not my business to figure anyone else’s will out for them.”
- “Exploring Thelema and Chaos Magick, with Pete and Sef (Part 4)” — The Blog of Baphomet
“‘Pure Will’ ‘unassuaged of purpose’ sounds like it can mean anything, everything, or nothing. I consider that people consist of the totality of what they do (which of course includes what they think). The idea of their having some sort of ‘being’ separate from their doing, or for that matter some sort of ‘will’ other than their total doing seems superfluous to me. I can however appreciate the idea that doing some things may tend to give better results than doing others, and to this extent I can understand ‘Do What thou Wilt’ as an exhortation to do the very best of what you can possibly do and love to do, as so many people settle for mediocrity and lousy compromises.”
- Caesar by Plutarch and more, quoted at “Caesar’s reform of the calendar — some ancient sources” — Roger Pearse [HT Rogueclassicism]
“2. For not only in very ancient times was the relation of the lunar to the solar year in great confusion among the Romans, so that the sacrificial feasts and festivals, diverging gradually, at last fell in opposite seasons of the year, 3. but also at this time people generally had no way of computing the actual solar year; the priests alone knew the proper time, and would suddenly and to everybody’s surprise insert the intercalary month called Mercedonius.”
“5. But Caesar laid the problem before the best philosophers and mathematicians, and out of the methods of correction which were already at hand compounded one of his own which was more accurate than any. This the Romans use down to the present time, and are thought to be less in error than other peoples as regards the inequality between the lunar and solar years.
6. However, even this furnished occasion for blame to those who envied Caesar and disliked his power. At any rate, Cicero the orator, we are told, when some one remarked that Lyra would rise on the morrow, said: ‘Yes, by decree,’ implying that men were compelled to accept even this dispensation.”
- “Phantom Time” — Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know from How Stuff Works [HT Wythe Marschall]
“A few fringe professors have caused rumblings with their controversial claim that three hundred years of human history have been entirely made up.”
- “First life with ‘alien’ DNA: An engineered bacterium is able to copy DNA that contains unnatural genetic letters.” — Ewen Callaway, Nature News; from the either-way-more-boring-or-way-more-scary-than-it-sounds dept.
“For billions of years, the history of life has been written with just four letters — A, T, C and G, the labels given to the DNA subunits contained in all organisms. That alphabet has just grown longer, researchers announce, with the creation of a living cell that has two ‘foreign’ DNA building blocks in its genome.”
“‘What we have now is a living cell that literally stores increased genetic information,’ says Floyd Romesberg, a chemical biologist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, who led the 15-year effort.”
- “Gay Witches” — Masha Mel, VICE; a photo gallery
- Article about EyeWire at “Computer Game Reveals ‘Space-Time’ Neurons in the Eye” — John Bohannon, Science
“Researchers have known for decades that the eye does much more than just detect light. The dense patch of neurons in the retina also processes basic features of a scene before sending the information to the brain. For example, in 1964, scientists showed that some neurons in the retina fire up only in response to motion. What’s more, these “space-time” detectors have so-called direction selectivity, each one sensitive to objects moving in different directions. But exactly how that processing happens in the retina has remained a mystery. […] Enter the EyeWire project, an online game that recruits volunteers to map out those cellular contours within a mouse’s retina.”
- Katherine Harmon Courage on independently thinking octopus arms and the awful Evil Dead-like tragedy of octopus boredom
“The octopus’s nervous system is a fascinating one. Some two thirds of its neurons reside not in its central brain but out in its flexible, stretchable arms. This, researchers suspect, lightens the cognitive coordination demands and allows octopuses to let their arms do some of the ‘thinking’—or at least the coordination, problem-solving and reaction—on their own.
And these arms can continue reacting to stimuli even after they are no longer connected to the main brain; in fact, they remain responsive even after the octopus has been euthanized and the arms severed.” [via]
“Octopuses are so smart they get bored. Aquarium staff have learned to be wary of a bored octopus because they’ve been known to break the monotony by eating their own arms. That tends to scare the kids.” [via]
- “The Art World is Too Safe Now: H.R. Giger has Died” — Glendon Mellow, Scientific American
“The art world has become safer, less dangerous and less disturbing than it ought to be today. The giant in the night, H.R. Giger, has died, it is being reported. […] Giger is dead. His shadow remains cast over our future. The shadow moves.”
- “L. Rock Hubbard: Revisiting the curious career of the ultimate cult musician.” — Nathan Rabin, Slate Culturebox
“Hubbard’s sonic space opera is, as you might imagine, a staggeringly strange piece of work, a bewildering cross between Queen’s Flash Gordon soundtrack (whose hero is referenced in the shameless opening track ‘Golden Age of Sci-Fi,’ along with Superman and Buck Rogers), an amateur radio play, and a campy audiobook that goes overboard with special effects and musical cues. If you have not recently read all 1,050 pages of Battlefield Earth or seen the film, the album is completely incomprehensible; if you’re familiar with the story, it’s mildly comprehensible.”
The publisher’s blurb claims that this novel “graphically portrays how Satanism has infiltrated our culture through music, medicine, education, the media, and in many more subtle ways.” While the story clearly contains no objective facts regarding the Satanic conspiracy it alleges to dramatize, it does form an interesting case study in psychosocial projection. The Satanists are portrayed as focusing their efforts on raising a generation of indoctrinated drones, recruiting them from
· children whom their parents wanted to abort,
· Satanically-dominated day care centers, and
· Satanic infiltration of public schools.
I have yet to see any evidence of Satanism on those three fronts, but it does not escape my notice that evangelical Christians are perennially interested in those venues for the indoctrination of children with the worship of their Jehovah-Jesus caricatures.
Similarly, the Satanically-inspired New Age movement is supposed to be based on promises of “rebirth without a great deal of anxiety”—which is exactly how the individuals “saved” in the novel experience their conversions to Christianity. Oh, there’s anxiety about the Satanic hordes of course, but not about Jesus! Just desperate contempt transformed to insipid reverence.
Temple of Set founder Michael Aquino is an offstage presence in the narrative, invoked as “Martin Andreno…the top Satanist in the nation.” And the author, writing in 1991 e.v., assures the reader through the voice of a repentant New Age guru, “By the year 2000, they will have everyone who hasn’t become a Satanist living in moment-by-moment fear of their lives.”
Predictably, the Christian heroes of the text are given plenty of opportunity to express their abhorrence of sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll. In an unexpected piece of dialogue, the protagonist and an arch-Satanist discuss atheism, with the pastor-hero defending the moral sensibility of atheists, and the Satanist deriding them for “having no belief at all.” Author Elwood seems to have misplaced his Christian evangelical script, in which atheists are tools of Satan.
Bewildering indeed is the novel’s climax, in which a Native American, recently converted to Christianity and armed with a bow and arrow(!), serves as emergency reinforcements for the hero, in a pyrrhic attempt to rescue the Indian’s own son from crucifixion by Satanists.
Observing the commercial success of the Left Behind novels, I can only hope that the last two decades have seen improvements in the standard for pop-Christian evangelical paranoid fantasy stories. [via]
Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Hellfire Clubs: Sex, Satanism and Secret Societies by Evelyn Lord.
I thought I was sure to love this book, but it didn’t live up to my expectations. The title offers “hell-fire clubs” as an organizational genre, but the study never does a very good job of delimiting what they were. Author Lord basically seems willing to give consideration to any membership society that fostered street violence, blasphemy, or clandestine sex, within the historical span of her study, which covers the entire 17th through 18th centuries, in the Anglophone world generally. She repeatedly invokes a hypothesis regarding “outlets for masculine energy” as though it were self-explanatory and evidently credible.
On p. 94, she writes: “The reason for painting Dashwood as a friar will never be known….” It seems to me rather that there are a variety of perfectly obvious motives: the pun on his given name, the reputation of friars for sexual misconduct, Dashwood’s role as the founding “Saint” of the Medmenham “Order,” and so on. She often seems to pose as a skeptic when she’s merely suffering from a lack of contextual information or insight. In general, I found her treatment of the Medmenham Friars—a necessary central feature of any book on this topic—to be less thorough and less perceptive than that of Geoffery Ashe, whose work she often cites.
She mentions Freemasonry in passing a few times, suggesting that one or another of the clubs that serve as the object of her study were aping or mocking it; but if she actually knows anything about the workings of Masonry, she doesn’t bother to explain how or why this verdict would be of interest.
The prose style is pleasant enough, and the photographic plates are excellent. The book is shorter than it seems: its 214 pages are in a generous font on heavy stock. A real strength of the book is the chapter on Scottish hell-fire groups, focused on the sex society of the Beggar’s Benison. The ending is abrupt and rather inconclusive. All in all, it’s not a waste of time for anyone genuinely interested in the topic, but it’s far from everything I’d hoped it would be. [via]