Tag Archives: sex

Aleister Crowley: The Beast in Berlin

Aleister Crowley: The Beast in Berlin: Art, Sex, and Magick in the Weimar Republic [also] by Tobias Churton, from Inner Traditions, is due to release in May 2014, and may be of interest.

Tobias Churton Aleister Crowley: The Beast in Berlin from Inner Traditions

“A biographical history of Aleister Crowley’s activities in Berlin from 1930 to 1932 as Hitler was rising to power

• Examines Crowley’s focus on his art, his work as a spy for British Intelligence, his colorful love life and sex magick exploits, and his contacts with magical orders

• Explores Crowley’s relationships with Berlin’s artists, filmmakers, writers, and performers such as Christopher Isherwood, Jean Ross, and Aldous Huxley

• Recounts the fates of Crowley’s friends and colleagues under the Nazis as well as what happened to Crowley’s lost art exhibition

Gnostic poet, painter, writer, and magician Aleister Crowley arrived in Berlin on April 18, 1930. As prophet of his syncretic religion “Thelema,” he wanted to be among the leaders of art and thought, and Berlin, the liberated future-gazing metropolis, wanted him. There he would live, until his hurried departure on June 22, 1932, as Hitler was rapidly rising to power and the black curtain of intolerance came down upon the city.

Known to his friends affectionately as “The Beast,” Crowley saw the closing lights of Berlin’s artistic renaissance of the Weimar period when Berlin played host to many of the world’s most outstanding artists, writers, filmmakers, performers, composers, architects, philosophers, and scientists, including Albert Einstein, Bertolt Brecht, Ethel Mannin, Otto Dix, Aldous Huxley, Jean Ross, Christopher Isherwood, and many other luminaries of a glittering world soon to be trampled into the mud by the global bloodbath of World War II.

Drawing on previously unpublished letters and diary material by Crowley, Tobias Churton examines Crowley’s years in Berlin and his intense focus on his art, his work as a spy for British Intelligence, his colorful love life and sex magick exploits, and his contacts with German Theosophy, Freemasonry, and magical orders. He recounts the fates of Crowley’s colleagues under the Nazis as well as what happened to Crowley’s lost art exhibition–six crates of paintings left behind in Germany as the Gestapo was closing in. Revealing the real Crowley long hidden from the historical record, Churton presents “the Beast” anew in all his ambiguous and, for some, terrifying glory, at a blazing, seminal moment in the history of the world.” [via]

Sex and Drugs

Sex and Drugs: A Journey Beyond Limits by Robert Anton Wilson, the 1987 first Falcon Press paperback edition, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Robert Anton Wilson Sex and Drugs from Falcon Press

This is the edition from the old Falcon Press. The book is now available from New Falcon Press as Sex, Drugs & Magick: A Journey Beyond.

“We all find it hard to believe that reality is as much our own creation as Professor Rogers’ research and poet Sandburg’s parable suggest. Conservatives, who pride themselves on having a ‘hard-nosed’ and ‘realistic’ attitude to the ‘brute facts’ of life, are suspicious of anything that introduces subjective elements or implies that the ‘brute facts’ may exist only in their own heads. Liberals, dogmatically committed to what they believe is scientific skepticism (mostly, in fact, popularizations of obsolete pre-Einstein physics), are wary of any idea that seems to open a door to ‘mysticism’ or (God forbid) traditional otherworldly religion. And radicals, of course, react like a bull toward a colored cloth when confronted with notions that imply (in Shakespeare’s words) that ‘nothing is but thinking makes it so,’ since that could easily lead to telling the poor that the proper mental attitude, and not more government spending, is the cure for their miseries.”

“As I said, this book cannot hope to end this perennial quarrel between the conservative Establishment and the adventurous young. All I reasonably can try to accomplish here, in treating mostly the sexual aspect of the drug revolution, is to shed light on these ‘benign, thoroughly charming, even glorious’ aspects of the alternate programs and alternate perceptions that certain drugs create. This should at least give the ordinary reader some insight into the motives of those who subscribe to the drug revolution, which is hardly the insane scramble for self-destruction portrayed by its most hostile critics.” — Introduction

 

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.

Warlock

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Warlock: A Novel of Ancient Egypt by Wilbur Smith.

Wilbur Smith Warlock

This sequel to River God has the same protagonist, the eunuch-sage Taita, but is set a generation-and-a-half after its predecessor in ancient Egypt. It has all of the drama of the first book, often in double helpings. As the title suggests, however, Taita’s magic in this book is actual supernatural sorcery, instead of just cutting-edge bronze-age technology as it had been before. Now an elderly and famous figure, Taita continues in his role of mentor to Egyptian royalty and foiler of usurpations.

Author Smith writes with excellent pacing and provides vivid characters, but sometimes his prose falls a little flat. After he mentioned “the divine presence of the god,” (281) I was ready to encounter “the wet presence of water.” There’s plenty of violence, including some bracing gore, and lots of sex (for a novel that’s not really about the sex, as such).

Overall, I liked this second volume a little better than the first. The two could be read in either sequence without significant confusion or spoilers, although the first does set up the context of the Hyksos domination of lower Egypt that the second takes for granted. Since I had liked River God without being smitten with it, an extra impetus was required to get me into Warlock, in fact. That goad was provided by my recent enthusiasm for the tabletop game Kemet, and I was well-pleased to find that Warlock matched the spirit of that game quite neatly. [via]

 

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.

The Confessions of Aleister Crowley

The Confessions of Aleister Crowley: An Autohagiography, edited by John Symonds and Kenneth Grant, the 1971 paperback from Bantam Books, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

John Symonds Kenneth Grant Aleister The Confessions of Aleister Crowley from  Bantam Books

This is the first paperback edition of the single volume redaction of the multivolume The Spirit of Solitude, “re-Antichristianed” The Confessions of Aleister Crowley, which still has not been published beyond the first two volumes, and, in spite of the ad copy, this is, indeed, still an abridgement of the sourcework. Publication of the complete Confessions might, maybe, finally begin with volume 1 available sometime in 2013.

“Complete and Unabridged—The Profane and Uninhibited Memoirs of the Most Notorious Magician, Satanist and Drug Cultist of the 20th Century.”

“Aleister Crowley called himself ‘Beast 666’ and was a self-proclaimed saint of the Gnostic Church. He became a ‘god’ in his own temple at the age of forty-five. By that time, he was infamous in several countries as a writer, poet, painter, chess expert, master magician, mountaineer, drug addict and satyr.

Born in England in 1875, the sone of a wealthy brewer, Crowley totally rejected the Victorian hypocrisy of his day and dedicated himself to a life of debauchery, evil, Satanic spells and writing, especially on such topics as sex, magic and occultism.

A notorious pleasure-seeker, Crowley truly was the hippie of his age, ‘doing his thing.’ He was banned from Italy and was forced to leave other countries, always under mysterious circumstances. Crowley was a constant user of heroin, cocaine, opium, hashish and peyote, and early in his life earned a reputation for indulging in wild sex and drug orgies which he combined with his so-called religious rites.

his reputation followed him everywhere as he traveled from country to country, practicing witchcraft and black magic with his strange group of mistresses and eccentrics.

Colourful, feared, despised and admired, Crowley brought excitement and evil with him wherever he went. He was the author of several books, treatises and poems, many of which are widely read and appreciated today.”

“Aleister Crowley was poet, painter, writer, master chess player, lecher, drug addict and magician. his contemporary press called him ‘the wickedest man in the world.’ The most bizarre and notorious figure of his age, Crowley’s own story is now available in paperback from the first time.

But The Confessions of Aleister Crowley is more than just the autobiography of a man. It is also the portrait of an age. Everything is set down just as Crowley experienced it.

In addition to being a famed magician, Crowley also had a well-deserved reputation as a writer. his flair for literature and his gusto for life elevate this books several levels above the ordinary ‘confession’ type of literature prevalent in his day.

His writing is crisp, witty and amusing and always fascinating. Crowley believed that he could do anything he set his mind to. And he’ll make a believer out of you.”

 

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.

Excerpt from The Argument That Took the Wrong Turning

Here’s an excerpt, pages 1–8, from The Argument That Took the Wrong Turning: A Vindication of Priest/ess and Queer Gnostic Mass in Reply to T Polyphilus by Michael Effertz, which is offered at the Reading Room courtesy of the author. While you may have had a chance to read T Polyphilus’ review previously posted and heard various other responses about Priest/ess, unless you have had access to one of the few privately printed and distributed volumes, this may be your first glimpse of Effertz’s argument, as well as the tone and tenor, as it appears in the book; and unless you have acquired one of the new editions with which it is offered this may be your first chance to read some of the substance contained within the new pamphlet.

Michael Effertz's The Argument That Took the Wrong Turning from Luxor Media Group

I thank E.G.C. Bishop T Polyphilus for his critical review1 of my book, Priest/ess: In Advocacy of Queer Gnostic Mass. Polyphilus kindly prefaces his critique with the observation that “significant expense and care” went into the production of what became an “attractive little book.” In writing and designing the private edition of Priest/ess, I resolved to evince the same commitment to quality that Crowley once stressed in a letter to Frank Bennett, writing that “it has always been a point of honor with us to make our publications physically worthy of their contents.”2 The Bishop may not share my estimation of Priest/ess’ contents, but his praise is nevertheless well received. It is for this reason that I have endeavored to ensure that the trade edition, handsomely bound in hardcover and released in both a standard and deluxe edition, will likewise please the reader in form.

With this supplementary essay, I offer a reply to Polyphilus’ review in the same spirit as the arguments given in Priest/ess. As such, I will neither speculate as to Polyphilus’ motives nor ascribe to him any ill will in criticizing my work. I cannot say with certainty, and so will not assert, whether the errors in his review indicate an accidental or a willful misunderstanding of my arguments. I will, therefore, focus on the content of the review itself, checking its claims against the facts of each case rather than dwelling on the character of the author or his possible intentions. Where a misunderstanding is evident, I lay the fault squarely on my own deficient exposition; this will require the occasional reiteration of points originally made in the Priest/ess, in which I anticipated several of the criticisms made in Polyphilus’ review.

In his brief review, Polyphilus makes a series of claims about Priest/ess, the Gnostic Mass, and related subjects, which I will address seriatim. These include the claims that:

  1. I am wrong about the purpose of E.G.C. clergy,
  2. Nobody has the generic right to ordination or to serve as an ordained member of the clergy in the performance of E.G.C. rituals,
  3. Clergy do not have the authority to impose their own interpretation on the Gnostic Mass, because it is not a vehicle for personal expression,
  4. I obscure and misrepresent E.G.C. policy concerning private and public celebrations of queer Gnostic Mass,
  5. For public Gnostic Masses, E.G.C. policy requires Priests who are socially masculine in their life outside the temple and Priestesses who are similarly feminine,
  6. Restricting queer Gnostic Mass to private celebrations enhances it, and
  7. Prohibiting public queer Gnostic Masses does not “closet” queer personal relationships.

In addition to these explicit claims, Polyphilus insinuates that there are still more issues at stake and criticisms to be made, but opts not to specify in the course of his review what those issues are beyond alluding to their magical and doctrinal nature. E.G.C. policy, he argues, is constructed with a view toward assuring the simultaneous fulfillment of three effects or purposes of the Gnostic Mass (magical, communal, and doctrinal), even when individual celebrants do not consciously comprehend all three. Polyphilus directs the reader to his essay “Discourse on the Sixth Article,” wherein he elucidates his views on these three purposes of the Mass. The essay genuinely rewards study. Contrary to settling the question of queer Gnostic Mass against its acceptance, the three purposes of the Mass proposed by Polyphilus provide us with fertile ground for defending the propriety of its public celebration. While we cannot scrutinize his reasons for dismissing queer Gnostic Mass on magical, communal, and doctrinal grounds, since those reasons are not divulged in his review, we can make our own assessment of the merits of public queer Gnostic Mass as it might pertain to these matters with reference to the wealth of published and publicly available writings by Crowley on the Mass, the Eucharist, the O.T.O. and its various degrees, magick, sex and gender, and other kindred subjects. As Polyphilus’ review is consciously informed by his concept of the three purposes of the Gnostic Mass, we turn first to an evaluation of the magical, communal, and doctrinal considerations at the heart of his critique.

The Magical Purpose of the Gnostic Mass

Polyphilus cites magical issues as under the purview of the E.G.C. in the oversight of its clergy, which issues motivate and guide the construction and enforcement of E.G.C. policy in prohibiting public celebrations of queer Gnostic Mass. In so stating, Polyphilus implies, without evidence or explanation, that public celebrations of queer Gnostic Mass could not fulfill the magical purpose of the Mass. Presumably, the problem of magical bankruptcy is evaded through private celebration.

Of the magical purpose of the Gnostic Mass, Polyphilus writes:

The Magical effect for the individual
Is the one that Crowley explains in Magick in Theory and Practice:
The communicant is gradually made divine,
Being brought swallow by swallow
Towards Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel
And to the ultimate attainment that lies beyond.
And this effect is secret in the sense that it is utterly ineffable.3

We may then reasonably infer Polyphilus to contend that communicants in a public celebration of a queer Gnostic Mass could not be “gradually made divine, being brought swallow by swallow towards the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel and to the ultimate attainment that lies beyond.” Such a suggestion is contradicted by Crowley’s teachings concerning magical ritual and the Eucharist, as documented in his diaries and other works. For example, in defining the universal object of magical ritual, Crowley instructs the magician to use ritual to confront weaknesses in his understanding and offers sexual identity as one such area for exploration:

There is a single main definition of the object of all magical ritual. It is the uniting of the Microcosm with the Macrocosm. The Supreme and Complete Ritual is therefore the Invocation of the Holy Guardian Angel; or, in the language of Mysticism, Union with God.

All other magical rituals are particular cases of this general principle, and the only excuse for doing them is that it sometimes occurs that one particular portion of the Microcosm is so weak that its imperfection or impurity would vitiate the Macrocosm of which it is the image, eidolon, or reflection. For example, God is above sex; and therefore neither man nor woman as such can be said fully to understand, much less to represent, God. It is therefore incumbent on the male Magician to cultivate those female virtues in which he is deficient, and this task he must of course accomplish without in any way impairing his virility. It will then be lawful for a Magician to invoke Isis, and identify himself with her; if he fail to do this, his apprehension of the Universe when he attains samādhi will lack the conception of maternity. The result will be a metaphysical and—by corollary—ethical limitation in the Religion which he founds. Judaism and Islām are striking examples of this failure.4

Ritual offers the magician one avenue for symbolically uniting diverse elements within his being, though it is by no means the only method for achieving such union:

The doctrine here put forth is that the initiate cannot be polluted by any particular environment. He accepts and enjoys everything that is proper to his nature. Thus, a man’s sexual character is one form of his self-expression; he unites Hadit with Nuit sacramentally when he satisfies his instinct of physical love. Of course, this is only one partial projection; to govern, to fight, and so on, must fulfil other needs. We must not imagine that any form of activity is ipso facto incapable of supplying the elements of an Eucharist: suum cuique [Lat. “to each his own”]. Observe, however, the constant factor in this enumeration of the practices proper to “hermits:” it is ecstatic delight.5

The actual or symbolic union of the self with another, or even of different aspects of the self within oneself, is characterized by Crowley as the key to preparing the Eucharist, which process may be carried out through methods proper to the nature of each individual. This notion resonates alongside the previous passage with Liber A’ASH, which proclaims:

All holy things and all symbolic things shall be my sacraments.6

Among those Gnostic sacraments is semen, which Crowley says may possess different potencies depending upon one’s point of view:

Semen itself is mercury, the river of life flowing throughout the generations. That is fluid mercury. What is (from the point of view of life) waste, is knowledge. Hence the opposition between knowledge and life. One is homo- and the other heterosexuality. Those are reconciled in Mercury, who is wisdom.7

As with all opposing points of view, it is the work of the magician to reconcile these contradictions in a higher understanding. In this “fluid mercury” Crowley finds one resolution to the “opposition between knowledge and life” in a single Eucharist, which may elevate the communicant to divinity. Crowley provides us with an unambiguous illustration of the transformative power of this type of Eucharist in his notes to the Cephaloedium Working, which sacrament was prepared initially by two men together:

[…]
(7) Make Iacchaion God, by Ether. 

(8) Sacrifice him to the Beast, who thus becomes God. Use here the accendat & the right Mantram, the Tu qui es & the Quia Patris.8 

The “accendat,” “Tu qui es,” and “Quia Patris” all refer to the Grimorium Sanctissimum, ritual instructions for a mass along analogous lines to that of the Gnostic Mass (e.g., the consecration and dressing in ritual vestments of the “priest” by the “maiden,” speeches from “The Ship,” etc.) Another queer interpretation of the mass formula given in Grimorium Sanctissimum is provided in the Paris Working, during which Crowley assumed the role of “maiden” to Victor Neuburg’s “priest.” Throughout his diaries and instructions, Crowley evinces an understanding of the Eucharist that reconciles heterosexuality and homosexuality, life and knowledge, in one transcendent wisdom.

Polyphilus’ implicit contention that a Eucharist produced by a queer pairing cannot lead one “swallow by swallow” to Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel seems especially strange, given Crowley’s description of the relation between the Adept and his Angel:

In a secret code the Adept affirms that he is of the same sex (so to speak) as his Angel. It is not a union of opposites to produce a tertium quid [Lat. “third thing”], but a realization of identity, like the return to consciousness from delirium, whose ecstasy bears no fruit involving new responsibilities, new possibilities of sorrow, but is all-sufficient to itself, with neither past nor future.

The “peeled wand” is the creative Energy of the Angel, stripped of all veils, pointing to the Zenith, ready and eager to act. The Adept exclaims with joy that he has aspired to unite himself with this Idea, and has attained.

Thus concludes the description of the relations of the Adept and his Angel so far as the element of Earth, the concrete and manifest aspect of Nature, is concerned. The whole illusion has been destroyed; the bread has become the body of God.9

As was delineated above, the sacrament by which bread is transmuted into the “body of God” may take any of various forms. Heterosexual union, whether actual or symbolic, is a commonly cited formula for effecting this transmutation. In Liber Aleph, Crowley provides commentary on “the ultimate attainment that lies beyond” and the manner in which homosexual formulae are efficacious in achieving this attainment:

O my Son, behold now the Mystery and Virtue of the Silver Star! For of these Four Works not one leadeth to the Crown, because Tetragrammaton hath His Root only in Chokmah. So therefore the Formula of the Rosy Cross availeth no more in the Highest. Now then in the Pentagram are Two Lines that invoke Spirit, though they lead not thereunto, and they are the Works of Hé with Hé, and of Yod with Vau. Of these twain the former is a Work Magical of the Nature of Musick, and it draweth down the Fire of the HIGHER by Seduction or Bewitchment. Shall I say Enchantment? Shall I say Incantation? It is Song. But Bewitchment is a Work opposite thereunto, whose Effect formulateth itself by direct Creation in the Sphere of its Purpose and Intent. But there remain yet Two of the Eight Works, namely the straight Aspiration of the Chiah or Creator in thee to the Crown, and the Surrender of the Nephesch or Animal Soul to the Possession thereof; and these be the twin geodesic Formulæ of the Final Attainment, being Archetypes of the Paths of Magick (the one) and Mysticism (the other) unto the End.10

If we agree with Polyphilus and assert that the magical purpose of the Gnostic Mass is to lead one to the “Final” or “ultimate attainment,” then one may reasonably maintain that the formula of the Gnostic Mass must be, by that fact, robust and flexible enough to find expression in “the Works of Hé with Hé, and of Yod with Vau” as well as those of Yod with Hé and Vau with Hé.

Though it remains unclear why, from the standpoint of E.G.C. policy and its hierarchy, a private celebration of queer Gnostic Mass could adequately fulfill the magical purpose of the Mass while a public celebration could not, a thorough survey of Crowley’s writings on the subject of the magical effect of the Mass, as Polyphilus describes it, offers decisive evidence in favor of the efficacy of queer Gnostic Mass, public and private.

 

1. T Polyphilus. “Priest/ess.” The Hermetic Library Blog. The Hermetic Library. 20 Feb. 2013. <http://library.hrmtc.com/2013/02/20/priest-ess/>.

2. Crowley, Aleister. The Progradior Correspondence: Letters by Aleister Crowley, Frank Bennett, C.S. Jones, & Others. Ed. Keith Richmond. York Beach, ME: 2009. 84.

3. T Polyphilus. “Discourse on the Sixth Article.” Vigorous Food & Divine Madness. The Hermetic Library, n.d. 22 Feb. 2013. <http://hermetic.com/dionysos/art6.htm>. [Formatting and emphasis as in original].

4. Crowley, Aleister. “The Principles of Ritual.” Magick: Liber ABA, Book 4. 2nd ed. York Beach: Red Wheel/Weiser, 2004. 144. [emphasis in original].

5. New Comment to AL, II:24, Magical and Philosophical Commentaries on the Book of the Law. Symonds, John and Kenneth Grant, eds. Montreal: 93 Publishing, 1974. 200.

6. Liber A’ASH Vel Capricorni Pneumatici, 20. The Holy Books of Thelema. 1st ed. York Beach: Samuel Weiser, 1983.

7. “The Paris Working.” The Vision & The Voice with Commentary and Other Papers. Boston: Red Wheel/Weiser, 1998. 363.

8. “The Cephaloedium Working.” The Hermetic Library, n.d. 22 Feb. 2013. <http://hermetic.com/crowley/cephaloedium.html>. [emphasis added].

9. “Commentary to Liber 65 – Chapter I.” Commentaries on the Holy Books and Other Papers. York Beach, Samuel Weiser, 1996. 98-99.

10. “On the Four Major Operations of the Microcosmic Star.” Liber Aleph. York Beach: Red Wheel/Weiser, 2003. 107.

Sorcerer

Sorcerer: A Novel of Queen Elizabeth’s Alchemist by Geoffrey James, from Grand Mal Press, arrived at the Reading Room courtesy of the author.

Geoffrey James' Sorcerer from Grand Mal Press

 

“Based on actual diaries and historical accounts, Sorcerer: A Novel of Queen Elizabeth’s Alchemist breaks the barrier between fantasy and historical fiction, recreating a long-hidden real-life world of death, sex, politics and ritual magic.

The year is 1584. John Dee, the greatest scholar of his age, has turned from reputable science to forbidden magic. In partnership with a visionary rogue, an ex-nun and a court beauty, he’s flees across Europe, dogged by the Inquisition and a relentless assassin.

Finally, Dee’s magic seems to yield fruit. Angels (or are they demons?) promise to reveal the secret of transmuting lead into gold. There is only one hitch: Dee and his companions must first commit an unforgivable sin.” [via]

 

 

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.

Women’s Incomes in Modern Woman: Her Intentions by Florence Farr

“The hope I see for the ennobling of sex relations is that women should, by some means never yet thought of, become independent of the caprice of individual man.” [via]

Beth Kimbell has a new essay up on her site: Sexual Freedom, Spiritual Expression. This was featured in BiWomen, Summer 2011, Vol 29, No. 3.

“What truer statement of individual freedom and spiritual expression can there be, when through the act of love we connect with the divine?” [via]

Beth Kimbell has a new essay up on her site: Sexual Freedom, Spiritual Expression. This was featured in BiWomen, Summer 2011, Vol 29, No. 3.

“To pretend to be someone else, to restrict yourself from the natural expression of your love is true sin to us.” [via]