The Scarlet Letter
Volume III, Number 1 | Sept. 1995
Reviewed by Sr. Sphinx
The new, and only, volume-length study of this 19th Century international magical order shows a level of scholarship that deserves to set a precedent in the treatment of such topics. Virtually all of the available primary texts have been reproduced, with analysis that sets them in context. Biographies of the principal figures of the organization are set forth, and its relationship to other groups is examined.
Anyone entertained by The World Teacher in the last Scarlet Letter certainly should plant her or his nose in this book. Among other things, it details the complex relationships between the H.B. of L. and the nascent Theosophical Society.
The H.B. of L. is a key element in O.T.O. prehistory. In the jubilee Oriflamme, the paper “Unser Orden” claims that in the O.T.O. synthesis, “The Rosicrucian esoteric teachings of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light were reserved for the few initiated into the Occult Inner Circle [of O.T.O.].” The very phrase “Occult Inner Circle” as used in the Oriflamme piece is telling, inasmuch as the H.B. of L. was divided into an outer circle of initiates and an inner circle of adepts. Godwin, Chanel and Deveney make the case that the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light was a revival of the Brotherhood of Luxor in Chicago in 1895. Thus the channel for sex-magical technology flows from PB. Randolph's Brotherhood of Eulis to the H.B. of Luxor, thence to the H.B. of Light, and finally to the Sanctuary of the Gnosis.
Though not presented as such, The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor as now published could provide the basis for a grass-roots H.B. of L. revival such as that enjoyed by the Golden Dawn. In many ways, the H.B. of L. technology is more appropriate for the task. While the H.B. of L. aspired to the formation of a Lodge system and group initiations, it appears that their modes of recruitment did not make such activity possible for the majority of members. So the emphasis is on individual study and self-initiation within a larger fraternity and symbolic system.
The book is attractively published in hardback on permanent paper with a cover price of $25. It should be included in any growing occult library.
Reviewed by Matt Rogers
The Harry Ransom Humanities Resource Center is a magnificent place. Their collection of Crowley manuscripts is probably rivaled only by the O.T.O. Archives and the Warburg Institute. They also have MS and rare books by Spare, Yeats, and other prominent magicians of the 20th century. The staff are helpful and respect the sincere scholar regardless of credentials.
Needless to say, the advance notices that there would be a long running exhibit on the history of magic at the Ransom Center provoked a good deal of excitement among local scholarmagicians. I was first able to visit the exhibit late in its second week, and found myself disappointed on several counts.
The historical and cultural connection between magic and bibliophilia is neglected in the setting where it could most effectively be shown Virtually all books are displayed with pages open, leaving their covers and exterior bindings invisible. Items in the Ransom Center holdings that would lend themselves to display, such as hand-colored Oswald Wirth tarot trumps and Crowley's Enochian tablets, are omitted. The exhibit is divided into categories such as "Legerdemain" and "Alchemy" and little is provided that would connect these topics in the mind of the visitor, aside from the nebulous title "Magic."
As a Thelemite, I am especially bothered by the bibliography distributed to visitors. It includes a list of "Suggested Reading" on the topic, divided into categories for "Ancient," "Medieval & Renaissance," and "Modern." The "Modern" section does not treat contemporary magick, focusing instead on the 19th century occult revival. The only text by Aleister Crowley listed in the bibliog raphy is "Liber LX-VII" as published by the Church of Thelema (Jack Parsons) in 1939 e.v. It is described as containing “Crowley's summary of The Book of the Law.” I see a few problems with the citation.
1) Unless the reader is tipped to look for the copy in the
rare book collection of the Ransom Center (not indicated by the bibliography),
the chances of finding that edition of the document are slim indeed.
I am tempted to suspect this "recommendation" of being a ploy to discourage potential readers of Crowley's work. If the curator thinks that the Church of Thelema edition of Liber Oz is a key to thelemic magic, why hasn't he displayed it? (Plenty of open space remains on the walls for this document.) Why not recommend the canonical Magick, particularly in its new edition by O.H.O. Hymenaeus Beta, which includes well-deserved thanks to the Ransom Center for facilitating research which made that authoritative version possible?
There are a few items on display that should probably draw magicians despite the exhibit's failings. Original printings of the Carfax monographs by Kenneth and Steffi Grant make a fine crown to one of the vertical cases. There is a letter from Spare to Crowley in the same case. Some of the old alchemical texts are wonderful.
This one-room exhibit is scheduled to run for another three months. Now that I have been disappointed, I expect to return at least once. Maybe some changes will find me pleasantly surprised.
Reviewed by Fr. Baphomet
On Friday, 21 July 1995, in conjunction with the opening of the exhibit on magic at the Harry Ransom Center, Dr. Martinez, Associate Professor of Classics at UT Austin, gave a public lecture on Greek Magic. The notice for the lecture had only appeared a day earlier in the Austin Chronicle, so I was pleasantly surprised at the excellent turn out.
Dr. Martinez is a scholar of early first-millenium Hellenic culture focusing on Magico-Religious cultural aspects. His academic credentials sounded quite impressive, and the HRC Staff emcee even went so far as to say that certain papyriological acquisitions had occured for the sole purpose of attracting him to UT Austin. So far so good.
His presentation centered on a 3rd century hellenic magical spell called a binding. The binding was done as an instrument called an AEFIXIONES...a magical tablet. Normally made on a sheet of lead, the one he focused on was actually done on papyrus. The AEFIXIONES had no name, only a collection index number, and I fault Dr. Martinez for not giving enough background on the document's origin.
The AEFIXIONES contained magical words of power written in palindromic, triangular fashion. The Greeks very much understood the magic of words and names and the sympathetic manipulation of them. Dr. Martinez did a good job getting this point across.
According to Dr. Martinez, the AEFIXIONES would have theoretically been prepared by a professional magician at the bequest of a paying client. Payment would have been made using a scribe's formula, i.e. on a per-line basis. The client would have procured a sample of hair, or other material basis, from the victim of the spell, and this item would have been called the OUSIA.
Once prepared, the magician would have taken the client to a cemetary in search for a prematurely killed person. According to the religion/mythology used in this system of magic the soul of the prematurely killed person would not have yet been united with Osiris, and would therefore be somewhat damned. The client would lay the AEFIXIONES on the (preferably fresh) grave of the deceased and an incantation read. This would marshal portions of the deceased's soul into the service of the magician's spell. This entity would have been called the Nekydaimon, literally "the demon of the dead."
The Nekydaimon would have been told that its true name was known and that, therefore, resistance was useless. The AEFIXIONES that he presented contained exacting instructions on what was to be done ... that the victim would "decrease" or "diminish" until she fell in love with the client. That she would not love any other. That she would simply swoon over him in helpless passion. The OUSIA simply served as a way for the Nekydaimon to exactly identify the victim.
There is, of course, no indication from reading the AEFIXIONES whether or not this spell was successful, but there is no reason to doubt its efficacy.
As a lecturer qua lecturer Dr. Martinez fell somewhat short of exciting. The hour went by mercifully fast, but Thoth-Hermes help the poor person who takes a course from this guy. It would make for a long semester. Dr. Martinez seems more likely to do his field work in a library than in a cemetary. Bring pencils not blankets.
My bottom line review of the lecture is that it was like a large heaping plate of raw spinach. Some people hated it, some people loved it, but everyone agreed that the information was good for you.