This graphic novel is the first I’ve read with an annotated bibliography. It’s a fictionalized history of a single trick of stage magic, how it was devised, and its passage through three generations of performers. Although some supporting characters are purely fictional, the three magicians and the stage technician who serves as narrator are all actual historical figures.
The technical explanations that make up much of the book are not boring, nor do they seem too digressive. The ending, factual as it evidently is, has a small and quizzical taste of tragedy to it.
How fascinating! I, a human, was not aware that humans engaged in such behavior! I must consider how can I help my human friend, who I love as a human, using the twin marvels of science and technology!
If you held the belief, child, that I knew everything that hid under every stone and leaf, I must disappoint you. I may have my own understanding of how the art works, sharpened by long years of memory, but I do not know how it will work for you. There is a reason I call magic an art, rather than a science. I might guess, but in guessing too hastily I might influence, or even diminish, your talents—taint you with my predictions.
The Age of Enlightenment was in full swing: an explosion of philosophy, science, the resurgence of hermeticism and occult experimentation all competed directly with the traditional teachings of the Church, and the Jesuit monopoly, in the Universities and Colleges.
“When one contemplates the marvel of sculptured sound on a graphophonic record, and realizes that from the cold vorticity of line there may magically spring the golden lilt of the greatest song voice that the world has ever heard, then comes the conviction that we are living in the days of white magic.”
“In 1945, workers at Brown University’s biology department were clearing out storage space when they stumbled on a giant trove of natural and ethnographic specimens and artifacts. The collection had belonged to the Jenks Museum of Natural History and Anthropology, founded at the school in 1871 and dismantled in 1915 to make way for new classrooms. Inexplicably, the workers drove 92 truckloads worth of the carefully curated objects to the banks of the Seekonk River, where they unloaded them into a common dump.
Now, the collection has been resurrected from that mire by “The Jenks Society for Lost Museums” — a group of students and professors from Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design — with the help of artist Mark Dion. Like previous attempts to reimagine destroyed museums, their three collaborative installations, on view at Rhode Island Hall, recreates parts of the museum while challenging assumptions about permanence in museum work.”
“Don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard of him—he was written into a footnote by the “straight photography” school of the 1950s, and referred to as “the Antichrist” by Ansel Adams, a tag that stuck after Anton LaVey dedicated The Satanic Bible to him. Primarily known as a Hollywood portrait artist, he developed a myriad of pre-Photoshop special effects to craft grotesque, erotic, and mystical images. This fall, Feral House will release [American Grotesque: The Life and Art of William Mortensen], a monograph on his occult photography.”
“Contrary to the Cardinal’s statement, Vodou is not Haiti’s problem; Christianity is. No push to spread Vodou ever wiped out entire “savage” indigenous peoples. Vodou has caused no wars due to a desire to convert as many people as possible. Vodou doesn’t tell “saved souls” that they must be complacent, accepting their lot on Earth for the potential of future salvation in heaven. Vodou never told Black people they were a curse or 3/5ths of a person.
Vodou is of the belief system that sustained our ancestors across the Middle Passage, during the brutality of the plantation, and through the victories of slave rebellions. Haiti should never apologize for it.
Christianity and the West’s real problem with Vodou is that, like the Maroons who practiced it, it remains elusive to those who would aim to profit off of it, package it, and control it.”
“A treasure trove of Winfield history was recently discovered in the dilapidated two-story building at 1307 Main, just north of the Dawson Monument Company.
Realtors Jeff Albright and Jeff Everhart found a trunk upstairs full of records and memorabilia from the former black Masonic lodge here. They also found the lodge’s gavel.”
“In its heyday, the Winfield lodge hosted a gathering of individual chapters of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Kansas, the organization of black Masonic lodges in the state. The event took place Aug. 20-21, 1917. An estimated 200 Masons attended from around the state.”
“With roots going back to the medieval guilds of stonemasons, Freemasonry is the oldest initiatory society in the West not dependant on a religious institution. Having lodges in virtually every major city in most parts of the world, it has changed from an originally British institution to a worldwide phenomenon with a wide range of local idiosyncratic features and characteristics. Numbering millions of active members it is also the largest fraternal organization in the world, still managing to attract new members in the postmodern society of the twenty-first century. The continued presence and development of Freemasonry with its rich diversity in practices and interpretations, raises the question what it is that makes such an old phenomenon seem relevant to so many diverse people for over three hundred years? There is no single answer to the question, but part of it surely rests on the fact that despite its emphasis on tradition, transmission and authority, Freemasonry has always been a non-dogmatic organisation in the sense that its rituals, symbols and practices have not had official and final interpretations. On the contrary, Freemasonry is characterised by a striking diversity of interpretation—it is thus possible to find purely moral interpretations of its central symbols, but also scientific, psychological, esoteric, political, philosophical, religious etc. interpretations of the same symbols—a fact that will become more than apparent by reading the various chapters of this handbook.”
“He described a data set he was putting together that defined textual cross references found in the Bible. He had already done considerable work visualizing the data before contacting me. Together, we struggled to find an elegant solution to render the data, more than 63,000 cross references in total. As work progressed, it became clear that an interactive visualization would be needed to properly explore the data, where users could zoom in and prune down the information to manageable levels. Together, we struggled to find an elegant solution to render the data, more than 63,000 cross references in total. As work progressed, it became clear that an interactive visualization would be needed to properly explore the data, where users could zoom in and prune down the information to manageable levels. However, this was less interesting to us, as several Bible-exploration programs existed that offered similar functionality (and much more). Instead we set our sights on the other end of the spectrum – something more beautiful than functional. At the same time, we wanted something that honored and revealed the complexity of the data at every level – as one leans in, smaller details should become visible. This ultimately led us to the multi-colored arc diagram you see below.”
“Now, computer programmer Daniel G. Taylor has taken all that data and turned it into a visual masterpiece.
His website, BibViz (Bible Visualization), gives you the same linking arcs as before, but when you hover over one of them, it lights up and tells you in the upper right-hand corner of the screen which verses are being linked together. Click on an arc and it takes you directly to those verses as compiled in the Skeptics Annotated Bible:”
“This thesis compares and contrasts what could be considered two psycho-spiritual traditions: analytical psychology and the Western Esoteric Tradition. A common link between these two traditions is the use of symbols and metaphors of wholeness, specifically the sefirot of the Western Esoteric Tree of Life.”
“Unlike any other living thing on Earth, electric bacteria use energy in its purest form – naked electricity in the shape of electrons harvested from rocks and metals. We already knew about two types, Shewanella and Geobacter. Now, biologists are showing that they can entice many more out of rocks and marine mud by tempting them with a bit of electrical juice. Experiments growing bacteria on battery electrodes demonstrate that these novel, mind-boggling forms of life are essentially eating and excreting electricity.”
“Baleen and sperm whales act like ecosystem engineers in the global ocean, according to a new study from the University of Vermont. Whales help maintain the global ecological balance due, in part, to the release of vast quantities of feces.
A new study examined decades of research on the marine mammals and their role in maintaining the balance of life in oceans.”
“We both agree that science is at present limited by assumptions that restrict enquiry, and we agree that there are major unsolved problems about consciousness, cosmology and other areas of science… I am proposing testable hypotheses that could take us forward and open up new frontiers of scientific enquiry.”
“What astounds me is how ignorance has played into turning Aleister Crowley into a myth instead of a historical figure. Instead of being known as a educated man who was a freethinker that went against the norm he goes down as a Satanist […] This is due to how close-minded the masses are now and how they were then. That is why this bio-pic is so brilliant and powerful. It sheds light on one of the most misunderstood figures in history.”
“It is not the goal of the library to make money. Nor is it the goal of the library to create levels of service so that those who can afford to indulge will receive more while those who can’t, don’t. Instead, libraries work to ensure their services reach as many facets of their community as possible. Libraries want to offer what they can to those who have nothing and those who maybe have everything.
The library is the center and the heart of community.”
If you’d like to participate in the Omnium Gatherum, head on over to the Gatherum discussions at the Hrmtc Underground BBS.
“Those who embrace nostalgia excel at maintaining personal relationships and choose healthy social ways of coping with their troubles. When they feel stressed, for example, they tap into previously successful strategies, such as turning to a trusted teacher or parent. If I overcame adversity before, they tell themselves, I can do it again.
When they feel a lack of self-confidence, they remember when they felt valued and loved for who they were and not for what they achieved or earned.
And when they feel uncertain about the future, they wipe the cobwebs off their Ouija board.”
“Crowley had little concern with Reuss’s treasured image of spiritual descendants of an imaginary body of medieval male Templars sharing secrets of a yogic sexual magic (transmitted from late antiquity) manifesting in the twentieth century as a new Gnostic Catholic Church. For Reuss the Oriental Templars’ great secret was that Jesus Christ and his ‘Beloved Disciple’ had been practicing adepts; Jesus’s semen being held to manifest magical, sacramental power: ‘He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him’ (John 6:56). Reuss consolidated the doctrine that consecrated sexual fluids constituted effective agents of magical, spiritual transformation through contacts established in Paris with French Gnostic Catholic Church clergy Jean Bricaud, Gérard Encausse and other Martinists when Reuss issued Encausse and his associates (including René Guénon) with a patent to administer the Rites of Memphis and Misraïm in 1908; it is believed that in return Reuss received ‘authority’ as a legate or bishop of the Église Catholique Gnostique in Germany. Reuss’s belief that the OTO’s originators were Christian Gnostics did not sit altogether well with his rather general approval of The Book of the Law. Despite this potential disparity of outlook, all might have progressed quite nicely were it not for the inconvenient interruption of World War One.”
“After the war Reuss described the OTO as a body of New Gnostic Christians who rejected the anti-German, that is anti-brotherhood, betrayal of the Versailles Conference and looked for a transnational movement. Crowley did not attend Reuss’s international Freemasonry conference organized in Basle in 1920 for kindred fringe-Masonic representatives worldwide. Thinking about the invitation while in retirement in Cefalù, Sicily, the Beast wondered if he had it in him to combine such a collection of what he considered nonentities into a force.
But what really got Crowley’s goat was that while paying lip service to aspects of The Book of the Law, Reuss was obviously putting distance between himself and his supposed colleague. The reasons for this soon became apparent. Reuss was seeking financial support from AMORC-founder Harvey Spencer Lewis; Reuss offered Lewis an OTO diploma as an inducement to affiliation.”
“The devil continues to be as useful for the modern church as he has been in the past, when he bolstered the case for the burning of heretics. The concept now provides a dramatic way to underscore the dangers of a godless society. The organiser of last week’s course, Dr Giuseppe Ferrari, argues that a rise in the number of people abandoning religion and dabbling in the occult has increased Satan’s power. As head of the Gruppo di Ricerca e Informazione Socio-Religiosa, a Catholic organisation concerned with the threat posed by cults and sects, Ferrari says good exorcists are needed more than ever, since: ‘We live in a disenchanted society, a secularised world that thought it was being emancipated, but where religion is being thrown out, the window is being opened to superstition and irrationality.’
This seems like an extreme position, but it is in perfect alignment with Francis’s views, which go further than his brief mentions of the devil last week suggest. In his very first homily as pope, delivered in the Sistine Chapel on the day after his election, Francis bluntly quoted the French author and Catholic convert Léon Bloy: ‘Anyone who does not pray to the Lord prays to the devil.'”
“Iran’s state broadcaster, known as Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, IRIB, has never been the country’s most dignified institution. But even by its own standards, the network plunged into a fresh abyss of superstition and fear-mongering with a recent broadcast in which Valiollah Naghipourfar, a cleric and professor at Tehran University, discusses the use of jinns, or genies, in public life.
‘Can jinns be put to use in intelligence gathering?’ the presenter asks ingenuously, as though dragons can also serve as defense ministers and we’ve all entered the realm of the Hobbit.
The cleric nods, as though speaking about a species of exotic elf: ‘The Jew is very practiced in sorcery. Indeed most sorcerers are Jews.'”
“Such paranoia and fear of the other, of course, is typical among the ultra-orthodox of any religion.”
“When I first told friends I was going to a meeting of the New York Ordo Templi Orientis branch, called Tahuti Lodge, the general consensus was that I should try not to die, and I should avoid sexual contact. […] As it turned out, neither of my friends’ concerns proved necessary.”
“One of the key questions I explore in the book is why Crowley remained a pop ‘icon’ – apologies for using a much abused and emptied-out term – long after other esoteric figures taken up by the 60s counter culture, like Jung and Madame Blavatsky, no longer were. The answer to that is that Crowley’s philosophy of excess – ‘excess in all directions’, as his friend Louis Wilkinson called it – is purpose built for rock and roll and the pop aesthetics that followed it.”
“In a new study, a Yale Law School professor, Dan Kahan, finds that the divide over belief in evolution between more and less religious people is wider among people who otherwise show familiarity with math and science, which suggests that the problem isn’t a lack of information. When he instead tested whether respondents knew the theory of evolution, omitting mention of belief, there was virtually no difference between more and less religious people with high scientific familiarity. In other words, religious people knew the science; they just weren’t willing to say that they believed in it.”
“My arrival to a neo Platonic stance on this issue came initially through my interest for behaviourism and the realization of how an organism can be conditioned to nearly whatever and how inconstant and changeable the human mind and heart is which grew these ideas of dualism solely being a heuristic and not a reality. Later when I studied Advaita philosophy and Renaissance philosophers both from the European and Arabic renaissance a qualified monism took shape and got over the years sharper and sharper. Quite simply if we view everything in terms of polarities we also become more inclined to understand the tension within the fields of being and find the bridges of understanding that widens our horizon and in this the tension between the poles are also experienced less severe. For instance in the thoughts of Ibn Al Arabi we find the concept of Iblis being the limit of divine enfolding – and thus our experience of this concept is one of resistance and opposition, but in truth it serves a quite different function in defining the field of possibility for unfolding.”
“Most people believe that the persecution of ‘witches’ reached its height in the early 1690s with the trials in Salem, Mass., but it is a grim paradox of 21st-century life that violence against people accused of sorcery is very much still with us. Far from fading away, thanks to digital interconnectedness and economic development, witch hunting has become a growing, global problem.”
“We are walking into the heat scorched arms of summer this weekend, and as some of us keep our heads toward the earth, watching for signs and faerie rings, others are looking skyward again to that opulent display of rocket-fuelled magic.”
“Our witchcraft, nay, our very being must become more wild, more intuitive, and more accepting of nature’s amorality and our inevitable demise if we are to make any difference at all. If we are to preserve what we’ve left behind of the earth in our destructive wake, and if we are to survive in any number as a species, we must rewild ourselves and learn how to live outside of civilization. We must lose our faiths, our religions, our meaningless attachment to nitpicketity details only we as individuals and not a whole care about. We who are importers of foreign magics and alien gods. We must become a different kind of witch. Something that needs no definitions, no boundaries, and no expectations. Something more primal and raw than our current incarnation. Something small, something just outside your door…”
“A small hammer dating to the 10th century was found recently on the Danish Island of Lolland. Over 1000 of these amulets have been found across Northern Europe but the pendant from Lolland is the only one with a runic inscription.”
“Italy-based photographer Andrea Frazzetta gives us a little glimpse into the lives and rituals of modern healers from Lima, Peru. His project called ‘Urban Shamans’ peeks behind the doors of the rear private shops where shamans, or the so called curanderos, perform their traditional mystical rituals which are not subject to the laws and orders of today’s world.”
“Brooklyn-based artist Hannah Kunkle puts Kim Kardashian on the altar, literally. Kunkle delivers Kardashian as the Virgin Mary, Medusa, the devil and even Kleopatra. With a flashy net-art inspired aesthetic, the artist takes Kim’s iconic, worshiped image and puts it to work, naturally, with religious/cultish iconography. The controversial juxtaposition is rather riveting as its subtle insights perfectly captures the absurdity of our nation’s obsession with Kardashian and celeb idolatry in general. ‘We have accepted her into our lives via television screens, memes, and Instagram feeds’, she says. ‘If Jay Z is the father and Yeezus is the son, then she is the ever-present holy ghost of pop culture.'”
“At the very heart of quantum mechanics lies a monster waiting to consume unwary minds. This monster goes by the name The Nature of Reality™. The greatest of physicists have taken one look into its mouth, saw the size of its teeth, and were consumed. Niels Bohr denied the existence of the monster after he nonchalantly (and very quietly) exited the monster’s lair muttering ‘shut up and calculate.’ Einstein caught a glimpse of the teeth and fainted. He was reportedly rescued by Erwin Schrödinger at great personal risk, but neither really recovered from their encounter with the beast.”
“This is a really creative presentation of the dissertation, one which certainly challenges new scholars to consider the life of their work beyond the written page. It is great to see how this topic has been re-imagined into a totally different context, one which allows the audience to experience the milieu researched by Faxneld in an accessible and immediate way.”
“And this makes it all the more incredible that humans once revered the dung beetle, from the ancient Egyptians to a 17th-century Jesuit who compared Christ to the bug. These folks got a whole lot wrong about the dung beetle and made some pretty fantastical assumptions, but it turns out that their reverence was totally justified. The dung beetle may live its life in crap, but it’s actually a far more remarkable creature than you think.”
If you’d like to participate in the next Omnium Gatherum, head on over to the Gatherum discussions at the Hrmtc Underground BBS.
The Beast is Back — Erik Davis and Maja D’aoust interview Gary Lachman, Expanding Mind
“Thelemic visions, magickal texts, and the tedium of transgression: a talk with occult historian Gary Lachman about his new biography Aleister Crowley: Magick, Rock and Roll, and the Wickedest Man in the World (Tarcher).”
As is typical for esoteric movements of the modern period, the Theosophical current exhibits a deep ambivalence towards the professionalized natural sciences. Active in the middle of the so-called “clash” between science and religion in the latter half of the 19th century, Blavatsky and the early Theosophists sought a critical reconciliation, guided by the quest for esoteric “higher truth.” The negotiation with science and religion was clearly present from Blavatsky’s first major work, Isis Unveiled (1877), which dedicated one volume to a criticism of each, and has continued to twist and turn in various directions until the present day.
“Science” is, in short, a centrally important yet ambiguous “Other” for the entire Theosophical current.
The “system” is a house of cards that is perpetrated by force and fraud. I think that taking a stand against that in terms of magic and lifestyle is a worthy thing. But just like I say to people that reject materialism as anathema to spirituality: You must really live that view for it to have meaning.
It is not a matter of your values and your magic being in line. It is a matter of making your life be about something.
Like its counterpart in fiction, the theater of the weird exists on the margins of mainstream culture, where its deadly accuracy when targeting the shibboleths of the cultural consensus can be safely muffled before its subversive potency does any visible damage.
For Ivšić, theatrical space offers the ideal spot for opening that space within the spectator that allows experience of individual singularity not as a rupture, but as a vitally essential difference that makes it possible for the world to breathe. He saw the play as the result of a dark conspiracy between the world and the individual, who intentionally withdraws from this relationship in order to return by means of the Trojan horse of fiction.
D&D Yoga can be played in many ways. The varying flavors range from that of a guided narrative while people do yoga to a far more interactive experience where players are in conversation and play a more active role in the campaign. For the first trial, we thought it would be wise to veer closer to the guided narrative side of things. Players still made decisions and rolled dice to dictate a few directions that the story took but generally we wanted to see how the experiment would play out and then build from there. As we proceed into future events we are building more interactivity into the game.
scanning whole books and making them searchable for research use is a fair use
the creation of a searchable, full text database is a ‘quintessentially transformative use’, that it was ‘reasonably necessary’ to make use of the entire works, that maintaining four copies of the database was reasonably necessary as well, and that the research library did not impair the market for the originals.
«Il conte Dracula è morto a Napoli, è stato sepolto nel cuore della città ed è ancora qui»: c’è un gruppo di persone che da settimane percorre strade e vicoli a caccia del segreto.
E non sono ragazzini sognatori, fanatici, esaltati, ma serissimi studiosi dell’università di Tallinn in Estonia. Sono convinti di ciò che fanno, sostengono di avere già in mano i documenti che provano la verità, così hanno avviato una campagna di ricerche sul territorio.
“Count Dracula died in Naples, was buried in the heart of the city and is still here”: there is a group of people who for weeks along the streets and alleys in search of the secret.
And kids are not dreamers, fanatics, exalted, but very serious scholars of the University of Tallinn in Estonia. They believe in what they do, they claim to have already got the documents to prove the truth, so they launched a campaign of research in the area.
His soul is even with the sun
Whose spirit and whose eye are one,
Who seeks not stars by day, nor light
And heavy heat of day by night.
Him can no God cast down, whom none
Can lift in hope beyond the height
Of fate and nature and things done
By the calm rule of might and right
That bids men be and bear and do,
And die beneath blind skies or blue.
The monsters are multiplying. Just months after astronomers announced hints of a giant “Planet X” lurking beyond Pluto, a team in Spain says there may actually be two supersized planets hiding in the outer reaches of our solar system.
When potential dwarf planet 2012 VP113 was discovered in March, it joined a handful of unusual rocky objects known to reside beyond the orbit of Pluto. These small objects have curiously aligned orbits, which hints that an unseen planet even further out is influencing their behaviour. Scientists calculated that this world would be about 10 times the mass of Earth and would orbit at roughly 250 times Earth’s distance from the sun.
Now Carlos and Raul de la Fuente Marcos at the Complutense University of Madrid in Spain have taken another look at these distant bodies. As well as confirming their bizarre orbital alignment, the pair found additional puzzling patterns. Small groups of the objects have very similar orbital paths. Because they are not massive enough to be tugging on each other, the researchers think the objects are being “shepherded” by a larger object in a pattern known as orbital resonance.
Whilst not quite a household name, instead occupying a liminal status maintained by a principled refusal to be involved in any Hollywood adaptations of his work, Moore is widely regarded as the finest writer in the medium, and it is difficult to imagine how the comic book landscape would look without the enduring influence of his exceptional work. But it is equally difficult to imagine how From Hell (1989), his first major work beyond the costumed vigilantes and superheroes genre, and also his Magnum Opus, would have looked had he not discovered the work of Iain Sinclair. A quintessential writer’s writer, Sinclair is a Hendrix-cum-Kevin Shields of the English language, mixing scholarly historical research, formal training and technical linguistic virtuosity with a wildly impressionistic, stream-of-consciousness prose-poetry delivery that is dazzling, dizzying, and for those with literary pretensions, frankly dispiriting in its apparently effortless genius. Sinclair’s subject is predominantly London, most often East London, and the relationship between its history, its continually shifting cityscape and the psyche of those who inhabit it. Sharing similar concerns, themes and stylistic flourishes with Peter Ackroyd, both with works appearing in the eighties and nineties, this uniquely East London-focused micro-genre came to be dubbed ‘psychogeography’. Soon complemented by Will Self and others, the movement could be interpreted as a response to the corporatist regeneration of London’s East End by the Thatcherite Conservative government in the 1980s. The spatial and historical density of London allows for an unusually potent and apparently limitless store of inspiration, but what marks out Sinclair in particular is his ability to see patterns, sigils and correspondences where perhaps the rest of us see dog shit, broken fencing and inane graffiti.
Summer flowers are brought inside, painted the colours of sarees and gypsy vardos, and fill tea pots and canning jars. Nighshade, poppies, red clover, comfrey, daisies, sage flowers, and foxgloves. Some from the yard, some escaped from gardens into the neglected back alleys of the old neighbourhood. I know that by taking them home I am consuming them, making their already short lives even shorter, but I try my best to ask sweetly for their blessings before I snip off their heads and bring them home. I try my best to let them know why and what will be done with their beautiful sacrifice – their souls burned up like incense to be eaten by my own beloved spirits – eaters of flowers.
This paper presents a summary overview of how the Apocryphon of John, an apocalyptic work drawn from the Nag Hammadi Library, is explicitly the product of an syncretism between Greek language/philosophy and Jewish mythology/mysticism in the 1st century CE.
The study of alchemy has posed a number of complications for historians. Among historians of science who wrote as late as the mid-20th century, alchemy was perceived to be a mystical philosophy, an obstacle to the progress of „rational‟ chemistry, and even a pathology of the mind. This rather out-dated tendency toward knee-jerk dismissals has, however, been recently curtailed as the wider community of medievalists and early modern historians began to understand alchemy on its own terms, having placed it firmly within in the context of an ‘alchemical worldview.’ The recent dialogue among historians concerning alchemy in Europe has chiefly been directed toward (a) understanding of what ‘alchemy’ actually meant to the people who lived amongst it or practiced it themselves; (b) determining to what extent alchemy was interrelated with the religious consciousness of its practitioners; and most noticeably (c) reconciling or collapsing a number of exaggerated, artificial, and misleading dichotomies within our modern perceptions of medieval and early modern alchemy. Was European alchemy a ‘theoretical’ or a ‘practical’ art? Was it a ‘spiritual’ or a ‘material’ pursuit? Was it a ‘medicinal’ or a ‘metallurgical’ practice? How and when was ‘alchemy’ differentiated from ‘chemistry’? Were they ‘on the fringes’ of learned society, or were they at the cutting edge of knowledge as defined by traditional institutions? Were alchemists outright ‘frauds’ (Betrüger) or misguided ‘fools’?
These are all questions which a handful of historians have recently tackled and shown to be somewhat misguided. Such dichotomies arose from the dialogue of recent centuries wherein scholars and theorists from various disciplines began exploring and reconceptualising alchemy and its history; each angle, each discipline, each perspective offered some rather rigid model for understanding alchemy, and many of these models crystallized into opposing camps. Alchemy, however, was never a static or monolithic pursuit and thus eludes any attempt to give such simple definitions. In response to this problem, it is this paper’s goal to flesh out the most recent scholarly dialogue – to outline and synthesize the most pertinent points made in the recent historical literature concerning alchemy. What I hope to show is how the most recent historical research tells us that ‘alchemy’ meant many different things to many different people at many different junctures in history, even among the relatively isolated practitioners of Europe. With no source of official authority such as the Church or the University to govern alchemy as a branch of knowledge, the art was free to take on and accumulate a number of its practitioners’ idiosyncrasies. Free as it was, as a model to explore and communicate features of the known universe, European alchemy was a rich and dynamic practice which contained within itself all of the artificial polarities mentioned above.
We have mistaken social and economic change for the result of our own advocacy. Marching in lock-step with what used to be called mainstream, but is now mono-culture, we have disenchanted ourselves, handed over our teeth and claws and bristling luxuriant furs. I will not be part of this process, because to do so is to be complicit with the very forces that are destroying all life on earth. It is time for Witchcraft not to choose, but to remember which side it is on in this struggle.
Each of these series draws on what I would say are the main characteristics of London’s soul. It’s old – continually inhabited since before Roman times; it’s powerful — but nowhere near as much as its past as the heart of an empire; it’s stubborn — enduring centuries of hardship and prosperity, adapting to huge changes in population and traumas ranging from plague to fire to Nazi bombs to the very modern stresses of wealth inequality. London changes — it has to — but there’s some core of its personality that always remains.
Of course, London as a whole is the sum of its parts, none of which are quite alike — the genius loci of Camden differs greatly from those of Catford and Chelsea. But each also touch the greater gestalt of the place. Inevitably, the best way to grasp the specific psychogeography of a place is to walk its streets.
You have not come to suffer. Rather you have come to escape from what binds you. Release yourself, and what has bound you will be undone. Save yourself, so that what is (in you) may be saved … Why are you hesitating?
If you’d like to participate in the next Omnium Gatherum, head on over to the Gatherum discussions at the Hrmtc Underground BBS.