Tag Archives: secret societies

Masters of Atlantis

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus review Masters of Atlantis [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Charles Portis.

Portis Masters of Atlantis

In his fourth novel, Charles Portis offers the compound biography of a fictional 20th-century initiatory order that arrived in the US following World War I and experienced ups and downs at the hands of its various aspirants and adepts. The author clearly intends the reader to be amused by the eccentric partisans of the Gnomon Society, yet his tone is largely sympathetic. I originally read this book at the recommendation of the head of one of the world’s most venerable esoteric bodies, and Portis does indeed give a far more accurate picture of the ambitions and concerns of most of today’s Rosicrucians and occult Freemasons than any wide-eyed Dan-Brownishness can provide. Shelve it between Foucault’s Pendulum and the Stonecutters episode of The Simpsons.

The Filth

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Filth [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Grant Morrison, with Gary Erskine, Chris Weston.

Morrison Weston Erskine The Filth

I read The Filth as a complete bound collection, rather than the thirteen individual comics issues. In that format, it amounts to probably my favorite graphic novel. It includes science fiction, satire, superheroism, sex, drugs, and violence. It’s something like The Matrix reconstituted on the basis of a scatological rant from Antonin Artaud. It has a completely freestanding mythos, not dependent on any prior superhero or comics franchise, highly coherent when it’s not completely mind-blowing. Despite its evident balls-out insanity, The Filth tackles serious issues and ultimately offers a sense of profound redemption.

I’m not an unequivocal fan of Grant Morrison’s work: sometimes I find him indulgent and meandering. But when he hits his mark, he’s awesome; and I’ve never read anything where he has hit it as hard as The Filth. Weston and Erskine’s art is both surreal and gritty while strangely conventional, just the mix of H R Giger, William Blake, and Joe Kubert that the story requires.

Edited to add: Morrison is on the record as having written The Filth as a companion piece to his earlier and longer series The Invisibles, even though there is no narrative continuity between them. There is certainly a lot of conceptual and thematic overlap. They can be seen as perfectly complementary, though, if viewed through the cops-and-criminals dichotomy that each eventually collapses. The Filth works initially from the cop’s end of the spectrum, while The Invisibles does from the criminal’s.

Rationalism swept through Germany, more especially the illusion that man’s faculty could establish and secure a single, true, and salvation-guaranteeing religion. This rationalism expressed itself in pamphlets, in systems, in conversations, in secret societies and in many other institutions. It was not satisfied—indeed it did not even bother—to deny the distinctive doctrines of the Catholic church; its basis was rather the simple assertion: nothing in positive Christianity is acceptable except its “reasonable morality,” the doctrine that God is the father of all things, and the proposition that man’s soul is immortal; what goes beyond these three assertions is either poetry or superstition or pure nonsense.

Terry Melanson, Perfectibilists: The 18th Century Bavarian Order of the Illuminati [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library]

Hermetic quote Melanson Perfectibilists rationalism pamphlets conversations secret societies institutions nothing acceptable except reasonable morality beyond is poetry superstition nonsense

Fifth International Conference of the ASE on Jun 19-22nd, 2014 at Colgate University

The Fifth International Conference of the Association for the Study of Esotericism on June 19th–22nd, 2014 at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York. The conference schedule has recently been posted and you will find quite a few presenters and presentations of interest including a couple by Hermetic library fellows:

· Mark Stavish, Israel Regardie and the Theory and Practice of the Middle Pillar Exercise
· Joscelyn Godwin, Esotericism in a Murky Mirror: Strange Practices in Central New York.

Do check out the whole schedule, but a selection of the other presentations, that catch my eye, includes:

· John L Crow (Thelema Coast to Coast), The Theosophical Shift to the Visual: Graphical Representations of the Human Body in the Literature of Second and Third Generation Leadership in the Theosophical Society
· Simon Magus, The fin de siècle magical aesthetic of Austin Osman Spare: Siderealism, Atavism, Automatism, Occultism
· David Pecotic, Building Subtle Bodies — Gurdjieff’s esoteric practice of conditional immortality in the light of Poortman’s concept of hylic pluralism in the history of religions
· Richard Kaczynski, Inventing Tradition: The Construction of History, Lineage and Authority in Secret Societies
· Wouter Hanegraaff, The Transformation of Desire in Machen’s & Waite’s House of the Hidden Light
· Sarah Veale, Disenchantment of the Vampire: Balkan Folklore’s Deadly Encounter with Modernity
· Gordan Djurdjevic, “In Poison there is Physic”: On Poisons and Cures in Some Strands of Esoteric Theory and Practice.

The Hell-Fire Clubs

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Hellfire Clubs: Sex, Satanism and Secret Societies by Evelyn Lord.

Evelyn Lord The Hell-Fire Clubs

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]


British Poets and Secret Societies

British Poets and Secret Societies by Marie Roberts, the 1986 first US printing hardcover from Barnes & Noble Books, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Marie Roberts British Poets and Secret Societies from Barnes and Noble Books

“A surprisingly large number of English poets have either belonged to one or other secret society, or been strongly influenced by its tenets. one of the best known examples is Christopher Smart’s membership of the Freemasons, and the resulting influence of Masonic doctrines on A Song to David; a study of this work in the light of Freemasonry has long been a desideratum. but many other poets have belonged to, or been influenced by (since in many cases membership is hard to prove) not only the Freemasons, but the Rosicrucians, Gormogons and Hell-Fire Clubs. This study concentrates on five major examples: Smart, Burns, William Blake, William Butler Yeats and Rudyard Kipling. A number of other poets are considered in the course of the book, among them Churchill, Goldsmith, Scott, Shelley and Wilde. The author asks the question why so many poets have been powerfully attracted to the secret societies, and considers the effectiveness of poetry as a medium for conveying complex secret emblems and ritual. She shows how some poets believed that poetry would prove a hidden symbolic language in which to reveal great truths. The longevity of such symbolism as a poetic theme, particularly in Freemasonry, is particularly illuminating. The beliefs of these poets are as diverse as their practice, and the book is an unusually stimulating light on several major poets.” — flap copy

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

What You Should Know About the Golden Dawn

What You Should Know About The Golden Dawn by Israel Regardie, with a foreword by Christopher S Hyatt, the fifth and enlarged 1988 printing of the paperback from Falcon Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Israel Regardie What You Should Know About the Golden Dawn from Falcon Press

Apparently, there’s also a 2011 ebook edition of this as well, which may be of interest, which includes at least some new material, from the 2010 New Falcon revised print edition, by Chic and Tabatha Cicero and Regardie’s 1934 Stella Matutina Enochian Examination from his personal archives.

“This fascinating book has been out of print and highly sought after for many years since its first publication as My Rosicrucian Adventure in 1936.

In this work Israel Regardie relates his own personal experience with those secret societies which have exerted such a great influence on the development of modern Occultism.

Regardie lifts the cloak of mystery which has shrouded The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, The Rosicrucian Fraternity, and The Masonic Lodge.

From his close personal association Regardie reveals the true nature and actions of such leading Occult authorities as Aleister Crowley, S.L. MacGregor Mathers, Dr W.W. Westcott, Dion Fortune.

‘Israel Regardie is the last representative of the great occult tradition of the late 19th century, whose major names include Madame Blavatsky, W.B. Yeats, MacGregor Mathers, A.E. Waite, Aleister Crowley and Dion Fortune. Even in such distinguished company, Regardie stands out as a figure of central importance.’ — Colin Wilson”

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

Used and Rare Books. September Miscellany, 2013

You may be interested in Weiser Antiquarian Book Catalogue #111: Used and Rare Books. September Miscellany, 2013.

“Amongst the more unusual items are an original sketch by Austin Osman Spare, two first English-language editions of works by the great German mystic Jacob Boehme: Mysterium Magnum (1654) and his Fifth Book (1659); and an apparently unpublished typescript on the esoteric Tarot written by an unidentified author in Cambridge (England) in the nineteen-fifties: The Mystery of the Ancient “Egyptian Tarot.” (1958). A selection of signed books includes a copy of British explorer and mystic philosopher Sir Francis Younghusband’s Within: Thoughts During Convalescence (1914); Michael W. Ford’s Shades of Algol: A Luciferian and Sabbatic Grimoire of Left Hand Path Witchcraft (2002); Helen Kruger’s, Other Healers, Other Cures, (1974); Louis Martinie’s Waters of Return: The Aeonic Flow of Voudoo (1992) and an odd fictional work based on the story of Lilith, Jane Speller’s Adam’s First Wife (1929). A number of works from the library of English Aleister Crowley collector and scholar Nicholas Bishop-Culpeper are also scattered throughout the catalogue. These include a small selection of books relating to the English decadent illustrator Beresford Egan – whose work is best known to Aleister Crowley aficionados on account of his striking dust jacket design for Moonchild, and another group of works by and about Arthur Machen, the Welsh writer of supernatural fiction who was briefly a member of the Hermetic Order of Golden Dawn before joining his friend and sometime literary collaborator Arthur Edward Waite, in the Independent and Rectified Order R.R. et. A.C.. Also from Nicholas’ collection, but mixed throughout the catalogue, are a selection of works, some serious, some silly, and some seriously odd, on Secret Societies. There are also several uncommon books by the incorrigible reprobate of twentieth century occult publishing Lauron William de Laurence, as well as a number of other genuinely unusual items, but we will leave it to the astute bibliophile to hunt them out.” [via]

Clavis Journal, Vol 2: The Cloister Perilous

The Cloister Perilous is volume 2 of Clavis: Journal of Occult Arts, Letters and Experience which is a collaboration between Ouroboros Press and Three Hands Press. This issue, due in October, is available for pre-order and will come in a standard as well as a limited to 125 copies deluxe edition, which last is bound in burgundy goat and comes with a lithograph by Carolyn Hamilton-Giles.

Ouroboros Press Three Hands Press Clavis Journal No 2

“CLAVIS Editions announces the second volume of Clavis: A Journal of Occult Arts, Letters, and Experience. Featuring an outstanding grouping of authors and image-makers, its nominative adumbration ‘The Cloister Perilous’ follows the apocryphal eponym ‘Of Keys, Locks, and Doors’ attributed to Volume 1.

Articles in this issue include ‘Our Lady Babalon and Her Cup of Fornications’ by Gordan Djurdjevic, and esoteric astrologer Austin Coppock’s paean to dark and baneful stellar emanation, ‘Death From Above’. Three adepts of the German magical order Fraternitas Saturni bring forth Gold from Lead, giving voice to the magisterial arcanum of Saturn in the article ‘Listening to the Voice of Silence’, accompanied by the artwork of Albin Grau and Hagen von Tulien. We are also pleased to include ‘Rite of the Graal Evolute’, a previously unpublished ritual and art by the late English magus and scholar Andrew D. Chumbley. Traditional witch Gemma Gary invokes Bwcca, the Cornish Witch-God, in arresting image, rite and magical exposition. Esoteric scholar Henrik Bogdan considers the esoteric role of Secrecy, the very flower of the Occult itself, as it relates to secret societies. Lloyd Graham writes of the magical talismans of Arabian magic, and Aaron Picirillo examines magical self-fashioning. Robert Hull examines the Qabalah of Quantum Physics in ‘Unity and Division’. Michael Howard’s essay ‘Masonic Mysteries of Tubal-Cain’ explores the role of the first artificer of metal in several occult orders. In addition, volume 2 includes several rare occult texts relating to cheiromancy, natural magic, witchcraft and the lore and magic of the Mandragora — the Shrieking Root of the sorcerers.

At 216 pages, CLAVIS Journal 2 features haunting and provocative visuals from many contemporary artists imaging the esoteric: by Madeline von Foerster, Richard Kirk, Carolyn Hamilton-Giles, Tom Allen, Jamie Sweetman, Billy Davis, John Kleckner, Carlos Melgoza, Joseph Uccello, Raven Ebner, Brigid Marlin, Timo Ketola, Ilyas Phaizulline, José Luis Rodríguez Guerra, and many more.” [via]