Tag Archives: Society

I can only imagine how much a meditation class in high school, even as an after school activity, would have helped me with my significant childhood anxiety. We receive no formal training in emotional regulation, ability to focus, healthy forms of relaxation, nor in a dozen or so skills that would be invaluable to ourselves and society.

Michael Taft, The Mindful Geek: Mindfulness Meditation for Secular Skeptics

Hermetic quote Taft Mindful school

Religion & the Decline of Magic

Religion & the Decline of Magic by Keith Thomas, the 1971 paperback from Scribners, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Keith Thomas Religion & the Decline of Magic from Scribners

Religion & the Decline of Magic is Keith Thomas’s classic history of the magical beliefs held by people on every level of English society in the 16th and 17th centuries and how these beliefs were a part of the religious and scientific assumptions of the time. It is not only a major historical and religious work, but a thoroughly enjoyable book filled with fascinating facts and original insights into an area of human nature that remains controversial today—the belief in the supernatural that still continues in the modern world.” — back cover


Vril

Vril, the Power of the Coming Race by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1986 second printing from Spiritual Fiction Publication / Gerber Communications, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Edward Bulwer-Lytton Vril from Spiritual Fiction Publication / Gerber Communications

VRIL, mankind’s occult power of the future, and the kind of life and society created by its use in the interior of the earth, is the vivid picture presented in this book. Written 100 years ago by Lord Bulwer-Lytton, famous English Rosicrucian, statesman and author (see: Zanoni, a Rosicrucian Tale another Steiner-book), VRIL, his last book, stands as stern warning and reliable witness to his profound concern for the future welfare of mankind.

VRIL made today’s science-fiction books possible and interesting, but VRIL itself was a serious and prophetic testament that man today must pay heed to, if he is to survive, and become MAN.” — back cover


The Society of the Spectacle

The Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord, newly translated and annotated by Ken Knabb, is due March, 2014. You can check out the text of this online at the Bureau of Public Secrets, and pre-order the print edition via AK Press.

Guy Debord Ken Knabb The Society of the Spectacle from AK Press

The Society of the Spectacle, originally published in Paris in 1967, has been translated into more than twenty other languages and is arguably the most important radical book of the twentieth century. This is the first edition in any language to include extensive annotations, clarifying the historical allusions and revealing the sources of Debord’s ‘détournements.’

Contrary to popular misconceptions, Debord’s book is neither an ivory tower ‘philosophical’ discourse nor a mere expression of ‘protest.’ It is a carefully considered effort to clarify the most fundamental tendencies and contradictions of the society in which we find ourselves. This makes it more of a challenge, but it is also why it remains so pertinent nearly half a century after its original publication while countless other social theories and intellectual fads have come and gone.

It has, in fact, become even more pertinent than ever, because the spectacle has become more all-pervading than ever — to the point that it is almost universally taken for granted. Most people today have scarcely any awareness of pre-spectacle history, let alone of anti-spectacle possibilities. As Debord noted in his follow-up work, Comments on the Society of the Spectacle (1988), ‘spectacular domination has succeeded in raising an entire generation molded to its laws.’ [via]

How to Kill a Dragon

How to Kill a Dragon: Aspects of Indo-European Poetics by Calvert Watkins, a 1995 paperback from Oxford University Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Calvert Watkins How to Kill a Dragon from Oxford University Press

“In How to Kill a Dragon Calvert Watkins follows the continuum of poetic formulae in Indo-European languages, from Old Hittite to medieval Irish. He uses the comparative method to reconstruct traditional poetic formulae of considerable complexity that stretch as far back as the original common language. Thus, Watkins reveals the antiquity and tenacity of the Indo-European poetic tradition.

Watkins begins this study with an introduction to the field of comparative Indo-European poetics; he explores the Saussurian notions of synchrony and diachrony, and locates the various Indo-European traditions and ideologies of the spoken word. Further, his overview presents case studies on the forms of verbal art, with selected texts drawn from Indic, Iranian, Greek, Latin, Hittite, Armenian, Celtic, and Germanic languages.

In the remainder of the book, Watkins examines in detail the structure of the dragon/serpent-slaying myths, which recur in various guises throughout the Indo-European poetic tradition. He finds the ‘signature’ formula for the myth—the divine hero who slays the serpent or overcomes adversaries—occurs in the same linguistic form in a wide range of sources and over millennia, including Old and Middle Iranian holy books, Greek epic, Celtic and Germanic sagas, down to Armenian oral folk epic of the last century. Watkins argues that this formula is the vehicle for the central theme of a proto-text, and a central part of the symbolic culture of speakers of the Proto-Indo-European language: the relation of humans to their universe, the values and expectations of their society. Therefore, he further argues, poetry was a social necessity for Indo- European society, where the poet could confer on patrons what they and their culture valued above all else: ‘imperishable fame.'” — back cover

The Magic Bishop

The Magic Bishop – Hugo Ball is an essay written by Anne Crossey, an artist and student of esotericism working in Cork, IE, which may be of intererest.

“Dada was an attempt to return ‘through the innermost alchemy of the word’ to a more magical, playful reality through overturning of all the conventions associated with civilized adult society—drawing on African, Nordic and Sanskrit traditions, the Cabaret Voltaire was a riot of nonsense, play, colour, and noise—a giant, noisy incantation against all the ills of the world.

Dada was ‘the heart of words’.

It was a fight. It was a magical battle.” [via]

The Emergence of the Laity in the Early Church

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Emergence of the Laity in the Early Church by Alexandre Faivre.

Alexandre Faivre The Emergence of the Laity in the Early Church

This volume is a fairly comprehensive treatment of the idea and social phenomenon of church laity in the first half-millennium of the Christian era. For the first 40% of that period, according to author Faivre, the laity did not even exist as such, and it was only in the third century that the laity followed the clergy into being as a distinction within the larger population of Christians.

“The layman is a strange being, subject to mutation, born the prisoner of an analogy, conditioned by a climate of conflict and formed in a cultic environment. There is nothing to indicate that this mutating being should be called upon to become a species.” (21)

Early factors in the development of a concept of laity were the growth of church populations, official persecutions, and efforts to define the nature of the clergy. Other pressures came into play after Christianity was endorsed and subsidized by the empire. The rough arc traced in this book is one from the nonexistence of laity, to its presence as a virtuous subset of male Christians (from which clergy might be drawn), to its role as a mutually-exclusive and inferior complement to the clergy. Finally, the monk is introduced as a tirtium quid, drawing at first on lay aspirations alien to the administration of the church, but quickly becoming implicated with the clergy in a complex economy of holiness.

Faivre is a French Catholic academic, and he seems to handle his sources fairly. In his conclusion, he suggests that 20th-century concerns with the status and powers of the laity were paralleled by the tensions and mutations evident in the early centuries of the church, and he proposes that these are evidence of a major historical transition in the relationship of Christianity to society. [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.

Fantazius Mallare

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Fantazius Mallare: A mysterious oath by Ben Hecht, published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich:

Ben Hecht's Fantazius Mallare from Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

Ben Hecht’s character Fantazius Mallare is definitely a descendant of Huysmanns’ decadent paragon Des Essientes. The omniscient third-person narration in this novel alternates with passages from Mallare’s journal, so that Mallare’s misconceptions and deepening delusions are set into ironic relief. At the same time, he spouts epigrammatic verities in the throes of his self-induced madness. Like Au Rebours, this story is one where decadence converges with asceticism.

First published (and banned) in 1922, the tale is written without reference to definite place. Mallare simply lives in “the town.” There is a family of gypsies on its “outskirts.” Its time is of an indefinite modernity, signaled by the references to hypnosis, and one incongruous mention of “Christian Scientists.” It might well be an allegory, in which Mallare represents the development of the will to knowledge in our artificial and alienated society.

One of the best parts of the book is the preliminary “dedication,” in which the author catalogs at great length his various enemies with their faults. The ending takes place in the form of a journal passage, and it was not clear to me what the “objective” state of affairs was supposed to be at that point.

The Wallace Smith illustrations seem to have an inconsistent relationship to the text, but they’re terrific regardless. Their cadaverous figures in tortured poses all have a deliciously hieratic quality. [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.

(An Open Entrance To The Shut Palace Of) Wrong Numbers

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews (An Open Entrance To The Shut Palace Of) Wrong Numbers by Franklin Rosemont:

Franklin Rosemont's Wrong Numbers

 

Chicago surrealist Rosemont is not particularly coy about the fact that his book Wrong Numbers is an alchemical operation. The work transpires on several planes. On the most obvious, it is an effort to transform the base matter of accidental telephony into the gold of poetry. The book also contains a level of anecdotal autobiography comparable in some respects to Br. DuQuette’s My Life with the Spirits.

Yes, the book is actually about the “wrong numbers” of telephone misdialing. In addition to accounts of his personal experiences, the author sidles up to his topic from various angles: historical, cultural, psychological, and even magical. He champions the derided experience of the Wrong Number, not to rehabilitate it as an object, but rather to assail and transform the “miserablist” perspective of its detractors.

The text is complemented by a set of splendid drawings by Portuguese artist Artur do Cruzeiro Seixas, a surrealist comrade of Rosemont’s. The drawings too demonstrate an alchemical sensibility, in which beings and substances appear transformed, sublimated, and precipitated.

The heterogeneous details of the book, which manage to include multiple references to such disparate topics as Paschal Beverly Randolph, Bugs Bunny, and the IWW, should not obscure the fact that it does indeed express a single, magically puissant will to achieve “Freedom and the Marvelous, Now and Forever!”

Insightful, sincere, funny, and artful, this book would inherently resist being called “important,” yet it addresses the most fundamental dilemmas of our society. Read and enjoy. [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.