The Scarlet Letter
Volume VI, Number 1 | March 2001
New Aeon Magick, Memoirs of a Gnostic Dwarf, Survivor: A Novel,
Sorcerers of Sodom, & Mother Night (CD)
Reviewed by Sr. Sphinx
I’m fascinated by the idea of writing as a time capsule to carry your own ideas to your future self. The transpersonal psychologist Ken Wilber commented in an interview in Utne Reader that he had realized he would not attain enlightenment in this lifetime, so he hoped to find one of his own books in a library somewhere in his next lifetime to start him on the path. It makes for an interesting exercise: What would you write to yourself? What would you preserve from your own life experience to start yourself on your own path, and how would you communicate it to yourself?
Gerald del Campo’s book New Aeon Magick: Thelema Without Tears is such a time capsule. In the introduction to this second edition of his work, del Campo writes, “Does this little book explain Thelema in its entirety? No. These are my ideas, or rather, the ideas I want to convey to my three children.” He does an admirable job of conveying those ideas—ideas about the value of Thelemic philosophy and practices, drawn from the life experiences of one magician.
The book is arranged as a series of essays on topics such as “The Qabalah,” “The Great Work,” “Silence,” “Meditation,” “The Psyche,” and “Practical Exercises.” Most of the essays can be read alone without needing reference to the others; this does result, however, in some repetition of the same material in multiple places. Del Campo uses a considerable amount of space to set forth his personal set of Qabalistic correspondences. He even takes a stab at the ever-controversial placement of Thelemic deities on the Tree of Life (with the honest caveat that his arrangement is only one of many possibilities).
The practical exercises are a valuable part of the book. There is more than enough stuff here to keep a beginning magician busy for a year or more. Original material includes transliteration of the Greek in the Star Ruby into English pronunciation, line drawings of all the necessary signs, and a Latin variation on the LBRP.
New Aeon Magick is not exactly a primer, and it is not exactly a reference book for magicians. It is more like a STORY—the personal story of a man and his magick. Thank you, Brother Gerald, for sharing your story with us.
Reviewed by Dionysos Thriambos
Surprisingly and delightfully, this novel is exactly what the title promises. Set in the early 16th century e.v., it consists of the memoirs of a dwarf serving as a chamberlain in the court of Leo X, the Medici pope. The book recounts his rescue from his impoverished origins by a post-Catharist Gnostic underground, and his subsequent involvement in various intrigues. The rituals of the Gnostic Brotherhood are beautifully rendered and worthwhile reading in their own right. Everything in the text, including vivid episodes of carnality, spirituality, and atrocity, seems calculated to illustrate the philosophical premises of the Gnostic creed embraced by the narrator.
E.G.C. members will find that the historical aspects of the story provide a context for our Gnostic saints Alexander VI and Ulrich von Hutten—both of whom are the subjects of incidental and unflattering references.
The publisher notes that “Madsen” is the nom de plume of a religious scholar who specializes in studies of Gnosticism. The author has clearly taken on the literary mode in order to give play to his most detailed speculations about Gnostic continuation, and has in the process created a marvelous piece of art.
Reviewed by Metu Tchetta
Palahniuk is the author of Fight Club, and Survivor is his second novel. The wit, sagacity, and implacable unlikelihoods of Fight Club are all still in full force in Survivor, which counts down from page 289 to 1 with blinding speed. And like Fight Club, the later book seems quite dedicated, in its nihilistic po-mo way, to the premise that “Unto thee shall be granted joy and health and wealth and wisdom when thou art no longer thou.”
I have read critics refer to Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land as a “satire.” It’s not; it’s a romance. Survivor is the satire that Stranger isn’t. Stranger’s Michael Valentine Smith was the survivor of a shipwreck on Mars, “rescued” to face his ultimate martyrdom as the prophet of the Church of All Worlds. Survivor’s Tender Branson was “rescued” from a suicide cult based in Nebraska. And it is his voice that tells the entire story, through the medium of a crashing airplane’s flight recorder.
This book is an unimpeded flight—a terminal descent—to the punchline of the Universal Joke.
Reviewed by Rev. Don Thomas
The publisher’s blurb claims that this novel “graphically portrays how Satanism has infiltrated our culture through music, medicine, education, the media, and in many more subtle ways.” While the story clearly contains no objective facts regarding the Satanic conspiracy it alleges to dramatize, it does form an interesting case study in psychosocial projection. The Satanists are portrayed as focusing their efforts on raising a generation of indoctrinated drones, recruiting them from
whom their parents wanted to abort
I have yet to see any evidence of Satanism on those three fronts, but it does not escape my notice that evangelical Christians are perennially interested in those venues for the indoctrination of children with the worship of their Jehovah-Jesus caricatures.
Similarly, the Satanically-inspired New Age movement is supposed to be based on promises of “rebirth without a great deal of anxiety”—which is exactly how the individuals “saved” in the novel experience their conversions to Christianity. Oh, there’s anxiety about the Satanic hordes of course, but not about Jesus! Just desperate contempt transformed to insipid reverence.
Temple of Set founder Michael Aquino is an offstage presence in the narrative, invoked as “Martin Andreno…the top Satanist in the nation.” And the author, writing in 1991 e.v., assures the reader through the voice of a repentant New Age guru, “By the year 2000, they will have everyone who hasn’t become a Satanist living in moment-by-moment fear of their lives.”
Predictably, the Christian heroes of the text are given plenty of opportunity to express their abhorrence of sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll. In an unexpected piece of dialogue, the protagonist and an arch-Satanist discuss atheism, with the pastor-hero defending the moral sensibility of atheists, and the Satanist deriding them for “having no belief at all.” Author Elwood seems to have misplaced his Christian evangelical script, in which atheists are tools of Satan.
Bewildering indeed is the novel’s climax, in which a Native American, recently converted to Christianity and armed with a bow and arrow(!), serves as emergency reinforcements for the hero, in a pyrrhic attempt to rescue the Indian’s own son from crucifixion by Satanists.
Observing the current commercial success of the Left Behind novels, I can only hope that the last decade has seen improvements in the standard for pop-Christian evangelical fantasy paranoia.
Reviewed by Aisha Qadisha
When I received this CD in the mail my thoughts were along the lines of, “Oh boy, another bad Thelemic band.” I have heard scores of them and I can count the good ones I have heard on one hand. So when I put the Mother Night disc in my CD player and heard the first track come on, I was utterly confused. I thought I had mistakenly put my Brian Eno CD in the tray. I checked. No. Eno was where I left him. It was Nuit. Now they had my full attention.
If I could describe this CD in one word, it would be RANGE. This band has such a broad range, it’s impossible to classify their music. The first track is wonderfully hip electronica which emerges throughout the CD as do seamless psychedelic effects. Other tracks feature middle eastern influences as on the title track “Mother Night,” etherial lyrics as on “The Summoning,” a segue of classical violin on “The Crown” (my favorite), philosophical musings as on “Whisper,” radical guitar licks as on “Unto Whom I Send This Kiss” and Celtic-Goth paeans as on “November Song.” Despite these diverse strands, the CD as a whole is smooth and cohesive and the production values are excellent. Every track has a tasty hook that keeps you singing it long after the song has ended.Leigh Ann Hussey of Thelema Lodge is the main singer of Nuit. She and her partner, Elton, have done an excellent job of translating their fine poetic talent into evocative and well-wrought musical lyrics. The lyrics are not only understandable, a rare thing on rock albums, but they are inspirational! Witty, philosophical, sassy, and playful. They make you think. It is obvious that these artists are in love with their music, and they have created a very listenable CD that demonstrates this agape. You can listen to mp3’s and buy the CD on-line at http://www.nuit.org/mother_night/. Supporting Thelemic artists is a virtue!