Tag Archives: sex

The Sexual History of London

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus Reviews The Sexual History of London: From Roman Londinium to the Swinging City—Lust, Vice, and Desire Across the Ages [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Catharine Arnold.

Arnold The Sexual History of London

Arnold’s Sexual History of London boils down to a history of prostitution, pornography, and sexual scandal, with not much besides. Although she notes her sources, there are only about a half-dozen of these for each chapter, and this book really falls in the category of “entertaining non-fiction” rather than scholarship. It is happily full of thumbnail biographies of colorful characters, even if it does at times give the impression that sex is an activity reserved to prostitutes, their clients, and homosexuals.

Although the primary organization of the book is chronological, the author has a tendency to jump back and forth in her pursuit of selected subtopics, and her ostensible “medieval” chapter is loaded up with anecdotes from the Renaissance. Her later treatment of the Whitechapel murders of “Jack the Ripper” seemed to strike a reasonable tone, but I thought there was just far too much of it on its own terms, and not enough done to tie it back into the central topic of sex and sexuality.

Arnold’s narrative voice is pleasant and easy to follow, although she has a recurring tendency to ape the diction of her sources, as when she references (without quotation marks) “base and filthy lucre” (87) and “actors … whipped at the cart’s arse” (89). The book shows sympathy for the historical individuals whom it covers. It reads quickly, but there is quite a lot of it, so it can make a pleasantly extensive reading project for someone looking to read it straight through.

The Hindu Art of Love

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Hindu Art of Love: The Classic Companion to the Kama Sutra [Amazon, Local Library] by Sir Richard F Burton, translation of Ananga Ranga by Kalyāṇamalla.

Burton The Hindu Art of Love

This treatise on sexual technique, properly titled Ananga Ranga, is more interesting than Vatsyayana, but still not as entertaining as Nafzawi’s Perfumed Garden. Although the introduction insists that “every Shloka (stanza) of this work has a double signification, after the fashion of the Vedanta, and may be interpreted in two ways, either mystical or amatory” (10), it is hard to imagine what mystical significance could reside in some of the long inventories of physical types and postures. A great deal of information is conveyed in tabular form, including auspicious hours for lovemaking, as well as ones suited to particular techniques, data for synastry, etc. I was intrigued by the emphasis on unguiculation in Chapter VIII, but I fail to see its esoteric dimension.

This particular edition is one of Sir Richard Francis Burton’s translations of the Eastern classics of erotic instruction. Some of the best contents in fact consist of Burton’s annotations. His explanation of the “various abominations” performed in order to ensure amatory attraction by secretly administering bodily fluids in the subject’s food is worthy of remark (55), as is his observation that “most English women” have never learned the real delight of carnal copulation but that Ananga Ranga provides effective remedies for the situation (75). Of purushayitabandha, the category of coital positions with the woman superior, Burton notes that it “is held in great horror by Muslims, who commonly say, ‘Cursed be he who makes himself earth and woman heaven!'” (106) (And thus it has come to be known in some quarters as the “Thelemic missionary position.”)

The original text is dedicated to the god Panduranga (i.e. Vithoba), an avatar of Vishnu. It assures the reader that its purpose is to ensure the durability of marriage, by providing the necessary information to promote variety in conjugal activities. So mote it be.

We have pretended that there was no such thing as sex, no such thing as venereal disease, that our publicists were True Believers in Christianity, that our women were pure and our men brave; we have howled down every man who dared to hint the truth: we have sowed the wind of pious phrases, and we must reap the whirlwind of war. It has been the same in every drawer of our cupboard—and now the skeleton is out.

Aleister Crowley, The Vindication of Nietzsche

Hermetic quote Crowley The Vindication of Nietzsche pretended no sex no venereal disease true believers christianity women pure men brave howl down truth skeleton out

The Tao & the Tree of Life

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus review The Tao & The Tree of Life: Alchemical & Sexual Mysteries of the East & West [Amazon, Weiser Antiquarian, Local Library] by Eric Steven Yudelove, foreword by Mantak Chia.

Yudelove Chia The  Tao and the Tree of Life

Author Eric Yudelove is a practitioner of both Taoist internal alchemy and occultist Kabbalah, and this book sets forth his effort to synthesize the two sets of theory while comparing and harmonizing their techniques. It is written with accessible language and a sometimes irritatingly informal tone, occasionally coming across as rather credulous about the metaphysical bases of the two disciplines at issue. In addition, Yudelove is an “initiated shaman” (initiatory pedigree not supplied) who claims that a sort of generic shamanism forms the substratum of all historical mysticisms.

His Taoist internal alchemy credentials are impressive, as he was a senior American student and long personal associate of Mantak Chia, whose instruction and publications represent the most conspicuous and widespread sources of technical information on this school of practice in the late 20th century. At certain points in The Tao & the Tree of Life Yudelove says he is revealing internal alchemy practices about which Mantak Chia had never written in his books, and this claim is ratified in the foreword by Mantak Chia himself. Of special note are the astronomically-oriented mediations discussed towards the end of the book, which Yudelove identifies with certain passages from the Thelemic Book of the Law.

When writing about Kabbalah (his preferred spelling), Yudelove distinguishes between the Jewish Kabbalah, an esoteric religious tradition, and what he calls the “Western Kabbalah,” a syncretist mystical system. (I think “Hermetic Qabalah” is a more accurate and telling label for the latter.) He emphasizes the value of the Western Kabbalah in this book. Here he surpasses Perle Epstein, whom he cites as the only prior writer to intimate the parallel between Kabbalistic and Taoist mediation. She had merely set apart a “Christian Cabala” which she deprecated relative to its Jewish antecedents. Yudelove’s foremost cited authority on Jewish Kabbalah is Ariyeh Kaplan, and for the Western Kabbalah he is openly indebted to both Aleister Crowley and Franz Bardon. Possibly more important, although only cited for one title in the appended bibliography, is Israel Regardie, whose publication of the “middle pillar ritual” is so important to Yudelove’s understanding of Kabbalistic practice. When Yudelove writes that “the Cherubim are the Angels of Yesod in the world of Assiah” (161) he is using Aleister Crowley’s correspondences in 777, but Crowley–who followed Maimonides in this attribution–notes that authorities differ and “there are many other schemes” (note to Col. C).

An interesting feature of the book is the colloquial review of some relevant literature of sex magic and sex mysticism available in the early 1990s. Yudelove praises Ashcroft-Nowicki’s Tree of Ecstasy, and he amusingly dogs Fra. U.D.’s Secrets of the German Sex Magicians: “It just makes me wonder what the German sex magicians were doing before Chia began to publish?” (131) Still, he admits of his own book, “This is not a scholarly, exhaustive work” (159). It is a very broad, practical overview of its subject.

The exception to this wide focus is the detail afforded in the appendices, which represent language developed by Yudelove for in-person instruction in both Taoist and Kabbalist meditations. These are very good, although not flawless. In particular “Taoist Meditation 2” has a passage in which various “points” are addressed, and for each there is the symptom of the point’s “open” (good) and “closed” (bad) functioning, in that sequence. These should really be reversed, so that the sequence reflects and guides improvement rather than suggesting and possibly fostering deficiencies.

As far as I have been able to tell, this 1996 Lllewellyn book was Yudelove’s first. He went on to publish more in the same vein. In 2005, he furnished a minor headline for the New York Post when he was subjected to arrest and multiple criminal charges for altercations he seems to have initiated at the Hustler Club strip joint on 51st Street. To the extent of my knowledge, he is still alive and in good health, so perhaps his claims are sound for the ecstasy and immortality supposedly conferred by his practices. Still, his recorded behavior indicates they are no guarantee of wisdom or beneficence.

The book is useful enough on its own terms, although best read in conjunction with related literature, for which the author helpfully provides a competent biography.

Making love to Jesse was more like drugs than sex, nothing was static or confined to one role. Under my hands he was a girl, a newborn child, a flowering plant, a sculpture that I was carving inch by inch, the perfection of all my desires. He was not conscious of himself other than as something undergoing change and seeking to minimize pain, he was open to all possibilities.

Mary Sativa, Acid Temple Ball [Amazon]

Hermetic quote Sativa Acid Temple Ball nothing was static or confined

The philosophy of the ruling minority in Nineteen Eighty-Four is a sadism which has been carried to its logical conclusion by going beyond sex and denying it.

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

Hermetic quote Huxley Brave sadism

Omnium Gatherum: July 11th, 2014

An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for July 11th, 2014

VirtuaLUG's Odyssey: Pictures of the Odyssey display by VirtuaLUG at Brickworld 2014
VirtuaLUG’s Odyssey: Pictures of the Odyssey display by VirtuaLUG at Brickworld 2014 [HT Archie McPhee’s]

 

  • Nostalgia back in fashion — Gail Rosenblum, Star Tribune [HT Robert Murch]

    “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.”

  • Aleister Crowley and The OTO — Tobias Churton, disinformation; an excerpt from Aleister Crowley: The Beast in Berlin: Art, Sex, and Magick in the Weimar Republic from Inner Traditions

    “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.”

  • Pope Francis’s dance with the devil: For all his modernising, the Catholic church’s leader has enlisted a very old enemy in his battle against secularism — Sophia Deboick, The Guardian [HT Erik Davis]

    “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 Cleric: Jews Use Sorcery to Spy: A mullah at Tehran University told Iranians on official TV that Jews use jinns, or genies, for espionage. Young Iranians laugh, and cry, when they hear such things. — Azadeh Moaveni, The Daily Beast; from the well-it-worked-for-john-007-dee dept.

    “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.”

  • Cult Rush Week: Pretzels and Wine With Peaches Geldof’s Sex Cult — Cat Ferguson, Gawker

    “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.”

  • Reply to Sandy Robertson’s review of Aleister Crowley: Magick, Rock and Roll, and the Wickedest Man in the World — Gary Lachman

    “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.”

  • rstevens 3.0, tweet

     

  • When Beliefs and Facts Collide — Brendan Nyhan, The Upshot, The New York Times

    “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.”

  • Interview: Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold — Second Heart Magazine

    “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.”

  • The Persecution of Witches, 21st-Century Style — Mitch Horowitz, The Opinion Pages, The New York Times

    “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.”

  • Tell Me There Is No Magic — Rue, Rue and Hyssop [HT Sarah Anne Lawless]

    “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.”

  • Rewilding Witchcraft: Speaking from the Swamp, Part 1 — Oldidio, The Arrival and the Reunion; a response to Rewilding Witchcraft

    “The background setting is chiefly about the decline of humanity’s ability to survive as a species over the coming 100 years or so. The matter is doleful, sobering and utterly important.”

  • The Witch and the Wild — Sarah Anne Lawless; a response to Rewilding Witchcraft

    “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…”

  • The Hammer of Thor — Past Horizons

    “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.”

    Past Horizons The Hammer of Thor

     

  • A Peek Into The Mystical Lives And Rituals Of Urban Peruvian Shamans — Justina Bakutyte, Beautiful/Decay

    “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.”

    Beautiful/Decay A Peek Into The Mystical Lives And Rituals Of Urban Peruvian Shamans

     

  • Hannah Kunkle’s Controversial Project Turns Kim Kardashian Into The Devil, The Virgin Mary And Even Jesus — Victoria Casal-Data, Beautiful/Decay

    “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.'”

    Beautiful/Decay Hannah Kunkle's Controversial Project Turns Kim Kardashian Into The Devil

     

  • Quantum state may be a real thing: Physicists summon up their courage and go after the nature of reality — Chris Lee, Ars Technica [HT disinformation]

    “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.”

  • Satanic Feminism – A Soundtrack to Per Faxneld’s Book with Music by Christian von H, Patrik Hultin, Tondurakar, Jesper Erwik Johansson and Kristian Pettersson discussed at Per Faxneld’s Satanic Feminism: A New Approach to the Dissertation? — Sarah Veale, Invocatio

    “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.”

  • Fantastically Wrong: Why the Egyptians Worshiped Beetles That Eat Poop for a Living — Matt Simon, WIRED

    “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.