Perdurabo: The Life of Aleister Crowley – Richard Kaczynski

perdurabo Kaczynski.jpgPerdurabo: The Life of Aleister Crowley – Richard Kaczynski (Revised and Expanded Edition)
North Atlantic Books – 2010

Aleister Crowley has appeared on this blog a fair few times at this stage. I’ve read books about him and several of his own works, and I thought I had a pretty good idea of what he was about. Then I read Perdurabo: The Life of Aleister Crowley by Richard Kaczynski.

This really is an excellent book. I haven’t read any of the other biographies of Crowley, and the only reason I would want to at this stage would be to compare them with this one. I don’t imagine any of them include much information that isn’t in here. Although Perdurabo is very long and very extensive, it never really gets boring.

This isn’t just a story of Crowley’s life. It also serves as a reference work on his works. It gives the details behind all of the Beast’s most important books, and I am quite sure that I will be referring to my copy of Perdurabo whenever I’m reading a book by Crowley in the future. I would have been able to make more sense out of the books by Crowley that I’ve read if I had read this beforehand.

I’ve read about Crowley’s notorious Abbey of Thelema many times. I knew that this was a house in Italy where he lived with some of his disciples for a while. I guess I had never given the idea much thought before, but without directly stating it, this book makes it pretty clear that Crowley was a cult-leader at this stage of his life. He manipulated his followers to get them to do whatever he wanted.

Some of the most interesting stuff that I learned wasn’t about what Crowley did at the Abbey; it was the things that he didn’t do there. Apparently Crowley never forced one of his followers to drink a cup of cat’s blood. (He probably only sacrificed the cat because it was noisy.) And, while this book confirms that Crowley once tried to get a goat to fuck his girlfriend, it suggests that he did not cut the goat’s throat to let it bleed all over her as it was cumming.

Being a manipulative dickhead is one thing, but Crowley’s behaviour at the Abbey was shameful in a far nastier way than what’s mentioned above. In April, 1920, Crowley’s partner and their three month old daughter moved to the Abbey. The baby was dead by October despite her parent’s performances of sex-magick rituals to save her. The child had been ill before arriving, but Crowley was content to let her live in a dirty building with her father constantly strung out on heroin.

And this wasn’t Crowley’s first failed attempt at fatherhood. In 1906, Crowley and his family were in China. He sent his pregnant wife and their two year old daughter back to England via India while he went towards Canada. When he got back to England, he discovered that his little girl had died. I don’t care how independent and capable his wife was, he shouldn’t have left her in that situation. Kill goats, spread German propaganda, cheat idiots of their money and dignity, but take care of your little girl, you horrible piece of shit.

I’m quite sure that Crowley was upset by the deaths of his children, but it seems very likely that both babies would have lived longer if he had taken better care of them. It’s difficult for me to have any respect for a man who acted this way.  He may have been “Supreme Rex and Sovereign Grand Master General of Ireland, Iona, and all the Britons”, but he was also a deadbeat junky and a shitty, incompetent father.

I knew that Aleister Crowley had written poems, but I wasn’t aware of how many. For a portion or maybe several portions of his life, he seemed to think of himself as a poet more than anything else. I’ve never really been a poetry kind of guy myself, but within minutes of reading an excerpt from Aleister’s collection titled Snowdrops from a Curate’s Garden, I had bought a copy. You can find the text online, but I needed a hard copy for my bookshelf. I’ll review this one here soon.

crowley snowdrops

 

In the spirit of the comprehensiveness of Perdurabo, I had intended on going  through the index of books I’ve reviewed and compiling a list of notes about the ones which feature Crowley. I quickly realised that that would require an awful lot of work, and a Richard Kaczynski I am not. Here’s some of the more Crowley-centric posts I’ve written:

 

2015-12-28 02.38.38Moonchild, The Magician and To the Devil – A Daughter
This was my first post on Crowley. It’s a comparison of his different appearances in works of fiction. Knowing what I know now, I’d probably change a few things if I was going to rewrite this, but this post actually contains some fairly impressive research.

 

liber alThe Book of the Law and The Book of Lies
I wasn’t hugely impressed by Crowley’s masterpiece. I might see it differently now given what I have learned about Crowley’s life, but it’ll be a long time before I can bring myself to read it again.

 

crowley tiocfaidh ar la up the rahCrowley’s Saint Patrick’s Day Poem and Crowley’s Essay on James Joyce
These are writings by Crowley that were hard to find online. Both posts include brief discussions on Crowley’s interesting attitude toward Ireland.

 

the aleister crowley scrapbookThe Aleister Crowley Scrapbook
This post includes an interview with Sandy Robertson, the book’s author. I was flicking through this book the other day, and found another reference to Inpenetrable by Joel Harris. (The third reference to this book that I’ve ever seen.)

 

There’s a lot more on Crowley on this blog. If you do a site-wide search for his name, you’ll see what I mean.

 

Season of the Witch – Peter Bebergal

season of the witch occult rock and roll - peter bebergal.jpgSeason of the Witch : How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll – Peter Bebergal
Penguin – 2014

I like rock’n’roll and books about the occult, but I found this quite boring. Peter Bebergal seems to have set his sights a bit too high. His definition of Occult is very broad (as I suppose it should be), and he attempts to use this open Occultism to spin a narrative that links all strains of rock music.

Season of the Witch contains all the stuff you’d expect- the Stones and their connection to Kenneth Anger, Jimmy Page and Aleister Crowley, Black Sabbath and the Devil… but it also includes lengthy discussions on the influence of voodoo on blues music and prog rock’s fascination with sci-fi. The topics being discussed are interesting, but the scope of the book is so large that the author doesn’t get to go into a huge amount of detail. Also, the book mostly focuses on mainstream artists. There’s a bit on Throbbing Gristle and their offshoots, and Magma get a mention, but the Beatles and Pink Floyd get far more coverage. Berbegal also discusses Coven, Black Widow, and Mercyful Fate, but I’ve read books that go into far greater detail on that kind of stuff.

I feel a bit bad about this review. Berbegal comes across as sincerely interested in the subject matter, and he knows what he’s writing about. This would probably be more interesting to a person who hadn’t already spent a lot of time reading about the links between rock music and the occult.

Speaking of books about rock music, the trailer for the Lords of Chaos movie was finally posted online. It looks truly ridiculous. I’m definitely going to watch it.

Panparadox – Vexior 218

panparadox vexior 218Panparadox – Vexior 218
Ixaxaar – 2009

This is a book of gnostic Satanic black chaos magic about the Greek god Pan and his counterparts, Loki, Grimalkin and Lucifer. It was a pretty enjoyable read.

I often mix up the details of the ancient Greek myths (the Greeks did too in fairness), and I wasn’t familiar with a lot of the mythological information on Pan in this book. That being said, most of it did sound like the kind of stories about Greek gods that I’ve read before. I wasn’t bothered comparing the stories in this book to the ones told by Ovid and his mates. Vexior, the author of this book, may well have twisted a few strands of information here to suit his own ideas, but realistically, that’s how myths work. Doing so does nothing but pump new life into Pan and his mythology.

panparadox baphometThis book contains some very cool art.

I breezed through this book in one day. It doesn’t get bogged down with Qabalistic nonsense, and there’s only a bit of magical instruction at the end. Most of it is mythology/philosophy. The philosophy stuff gets fairly obtuse though. Pan is a god of contradictions. He is everything while also being nothing. Therefore everything is nothing, and nothing is everything. Yeah, yeah. I’ve come across this idea in lots of other books. I get it, but whenever I read this kind of thing, I find it hard to take anything else in that book seriously.

Panparadox has awesome pictures, and it would look real cool on a bookshelf. Also, maybe I’m wrong, but I think there’s a couple of jokes in this text. This makes sense really – Pan’s Nordic counterpart Loki is a trickster god, but I wasn’t expecting jokes (however small) from an Ixaxaar book.

Pan is one of the coolest gods from the Greek pantheon. (Isn’t he the one who taught humans how to masturbate?) Reading this made me want to reread Machen’s The Great God Pan. I’d love to own a copy of Panparadox, but like most Ixaxaar books, it’s rare and rather expensive.

baphometic effigy

A Manual of Sex Magick – Louis T. Culling

manual of sex magic louis t.jpgA Manual of Sex Magic – Louis T. Culling
Llewellyn – 1971

I usually know how much attention I’m going to give to reading a book by the 5 page mark. I enjoy occult books, but most of them are written horribly. The authors, lacking in anything worthwhile to say, disguise their own uncertainty, confusion and ignorance with long, winding sentences, esoteric references and an air of arrogance. Occultism, in this way, is very, very similar to academia.

Anyways, when I come across a book that I feel is going to be like this, I don’t bother committing to a thorough reading – I’ll read the whole thing, but I’ll do so on the bus to work, listening to music and not worrying if some of it goes over my head.

This was my planned approach after a few pages of Louis T. Culling’s A Manual of Sex Magick. It’s a poorly written guide to the different degrees of Sex Magic. Unfortunately, it’s quite vague about the details of a particularly curious magical working, and this vagueness, together with the lackluster manner of my reading up to that point, has left me suspecting that friends of the author of this book rubbed cum into their dog’s fur.

Allow me to explain.

There are three degrees of Sex Magick. The first is Alphaism. This basically means that if you decide to do some sex magic with your partner, you’re not allowed wank or ride anyone else.

The second degree is Dianism. This is holding in your gip. You’re allowed shag indefinitely as long as you don’t cum. If you’re interested in trying this, I have a tip for you that isn’t mentioned in the book. A friend gave me this advice when we were 15. He told me that you can last longer in bed if you just give a sharp little tug to your sack whenever you feel like cumming. This will hold off the orgasm without killing your boner. I haven’t tried it, but the confident wink my friend gave as he explained this assured me that he knew exactly what he was talking about.

When you’re riding away for hours without gipping, you think of the magical outcome you want to achieve. Do this for a few hours a day, a few days a week, and all your wishes will surely come true.

The final degree of Sex Magick is Quodosch. (Is this where J.K. Rowling got the name for quidditch?) This level is for when you need a little extra power for your spell. After a marathon sex session, you finally allow yourself to blow your load and then use your ejaculate an a magic elixir. If you’re sending a letter to ask somebody for something, seal the envelope with your sperm, and this will doubtlessly result in your request being granted.

This gets confusing when the author mentions using this kind of magic on a dog. This book contains a story about a pair of Magicians who turn their dog into a psychic, but the details of the procedure are quite unclear. The author never outright says that the magicians came on the dog, but I can’t see how else it would work. Maybe the wizard gipped his load into a bowl of dogfood and then let his pooch chow down on his fine chicken alfredo. Either way it’s a bit gross. Leave that poor hound alone!

After reading the bit about the dog, I tried looking back over the parts that I had skimmed in the hopes that I’d understand things better, but it didn’t help.

A Manual of Sex Magic is a fairly rubbish book. The author spends most of it either talking nonsense or boasting about this sexual prowess. It gets a bit embarrassing. Also, Culling reveres Aleister Crowley, and even claims to have been penpals with the Great Beast. This makes his “straights only” policy on Sex Magick a bit weird. We all know that some of Aleister’s best work was very gay.

After a slow start to the year, I’m getting back to my reading and writing routine. I have a few more posts lined up for the near future, so check back soon.

2018, The Year in Review

In 2018, I reviewed books about Satanic Communists, intergalactic Nazis, Trump voting necrophiles, sodomaniacal vampires, Sado-shamans, and an another Alien Jesus – and that’s not mentioning the fiction. I published more posts, wrote more words, reviewed more books and saw more traffic this year than any year previous. I did best-of posts for 2016 and 2017, but for 2018 I’m going to go all out and indulge myself with a full post on this blog and its upkeep. I’ll post a new review early next week, so come back then if you’re only interested in the books.

paperback wall horror occult.jpg
Most of this year’s acquisitions have been trade paperbacks.

I read and reviewed far more fiction this year than ever before.  There’s two reasons for this. I became sick and tired of reading long, boring occult books. They’re expensive, they take ages to read, and they’re usually absolutely awful. The second factor was Grady Hendrix’s Paperbacks from Hell. I’ve been reviewing horror fiction since 2015, but Hendrix’s book opened my eyes to the realms of trashy horror. I’ve long known that books like these existed, I just wasn’t sure which were worth reading. It turns out that it’s most of them.

Some of the Paperbacks from Hell I read this year.

I already had a few of the books featured in PFH on my to-read list, but PFH’s popularity made some of these books scarce, and I ended up shelling out quite a bit of cash to grab copies before they were impossible to find.

satan series brian mcnaughton starI had been meaning to buy copies of these for ages. Their inclusion in Paperbacks from Hell has made them rather difficult to track down for a reasonable price.

After enjoying the transition from classic Gothic horror to modern trashy paperback horror, I allowed myself to go even further and visited the strange world of Bizarro Fiction. I wasn’t sure if those books belonged on a blog like this, but whatever. I’ll post whatever I want. I’ve enjoyed wallowing in the trash swamp recently, but I’m planning on reading some more high-brow horror in the near future to even things out. (I’ve actually been rereading all of Lovecraft’s work since shortly after publishing this review. I didn’t think it was anything special, but it’s been one of my most popular posts this year. Expect more Lovecraft posts in 2019.)

Magical Books from the internet.

The past few months have seen me returning to occult literature. Instead of paying ridiculous money for awful books, I’m downloading pdf copies online, and instead of slogging through dense, arcane tomes of esotericism, I’m breezing through idiotic pamphlet length grimoires. It’s the same crap; it’s just easier to stomach when I’m confronted with 50 pages of nonsense instead of 500. This has allowed me to publish 2 posts per week for the last few months, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to continue at this pace. I have a few ideas for multi-book posts for the near future that will probably slow things down considerably. They’ll be worth the wait.

I usually do a top 10 posts of the year list around this time. It’s harder to choose this year because there’s more posts than ever before. I’ll just say that my reviews of Raped by the Devil, Marx and Satan, Ghoul, Space Gate, The Veil Removed, Masks of the Illuminati, Psychopathia Sexualis, Nox Infernus, Satanicon, and Don’t Make Me Go Back, Mommy are pretty good. Also, my short “splatterpunk” story, Kevin is worth a look.

Best of 2018

All that being said, the most important post of the year was doubtlessly on Spawn of the Devil by Aristotle Levi, an exceedingly rare work of occult erotica. If you haven’t read this post, please take a look.

spawn of the devil - aristotle leviDefinitely not a book that you’d want to judge by its cover.

Running this blog can be quite frustrating. I put in a lot of effort and often don’t see much of a response. You won’t find reviews of some of these books on any other sites, and lots of them aren’t even listed on Goodreads. Search engines don’t bring much traffic to these posts because nobody ever googles the names of these books. I could probably do a better job promoting this stuff on social media, but I’d far prefer to spend my time reading and writing about weird books. If you could share this blog with somebody you know who’d be interested, it would be super appreciated!

Happy new year!

 

Alembic – Timothy d’Arch Smith

alembic timothy d'arch smith.jpgAlembic – Timothy d’Arch Smith
Dalkey Archive Press – 1992

Alembic is a novel about alchemy, insanity, sex, drugs, rock’n’roll and  magic. If that doesn’t make you want to read it, this blog isn’t the place for you. Alembic is the only novel by Timothy D’Arch Smith, a name you might recall from my earlier posts on his bibliography of Montague Summers and Books of the Beast, a collection of essays about the books of Aleister Crowley, Summers and Austin Spare. D’Arch Smith is a pretty cool guy.

The plot of Alembic is fairly puzzling. The narrator works for the English Government’s secret alchemy department. While he’s taking some time off work to visit his famous rockstar mate, he bumps into his coworker’s daughter. He falls in love with her, and they have some adventures. This story is punctuated with flashbacks of the narrator’s days in the army. 

In truth, it’s not a very good story.

Most of the novels that I’ve read this year have been of the trashy horror fiction variety. That style of writing is usually fairly to the point, and the books are plot driven, focused on the tale, not the telling. Alembic is quite the opposite. It reads like a book written to showcase the author’s writing. D’Arch Smith uses his verbiage to great comic effect at times, but overall, the writing style is overwhelming. Several secondary characters get lost and blend into each other in the dense text.

cadaver tomb rene chalon richierThe cover image of the book is a drawing of this statue. Originally the statue held the actual heart of René de Chalon. Cool.

When I started reading this book, it reminded me of the early novels of Flann O’Brien. This might have been due to the fact that Alembic was put out by Dalkey Archives, a publisher named after one of O’ Brien’s novels, but the grandiose descriptions of the utterly banal definitely seemed a bit Flannesque to me.  The other influence that I couldn’t help but notice was Nabakov’s Lolita. Yes, unfortunately this is another book about a grown man falling in love with and raping a child. I didn’t like this part. The girl in here is 14. The male is in his mid twenties. Aside from one comically repulsive scene, this book isn’t sexually explicit, but it was still unpleasant to read the narrative of a diddler.

Timothy D’Arch Smith has also written a book about the Uranian poets. These were a gang of paedophiles who liked writing poems about little boys. Hey, reading/writing books about something doesn’t mean you like it, but why put it in your own fiction? I don’t mean to be accusatory, but I did wonder why he didn’t just make the girl two years older. 

One possible explanation might be the fact that the book revolves around a Led Zeppelin styled band named Celestial Praylin. I’m not a big enough Zeppelin fan to have been able to understand the similarities between them and the fake band, but the cover of the book and every review I’ve read of it has mentioned Zeppelin. D’Arch Smith used to be close with Jimmy Page. He was the guy who got Page all his books on Crowley, and he later dedicated his Books of the Beast to the rocker. Anyways, as we all know, Jimmy Page repeatedly raped a 14 year old when he was in his late twenties, so maybe it just felt natural to include a bit of child abuse in a Led-Zeppeliny book. Anyone wanting to play the “14 is old enough to give consent” or “times were different back then” cards can fuck right off. He knew it was wrong and he did it anyway. Page is a nonce.

aleister crowley signatureThe lettering of the title on the cover of Alembic is clearly based on the signature of Aleister Crowley although I’m not entirely sure why. It probably has something to do with the magical child/homunculus motifs that run through the book.

I was a bit surprised with Alembic. I really liked the other books that I’ve read by this author, and I had wanted to read this one for ages. There were several parts that made me laugh out loud, and there are some cool ideas in here, but I didn’t enjoy this as much as I expected to. Given the role of alchemy plays in the narrator’s life, I suspect that there were levels of meaning in this book that went totally over my head.

The Necromantic Ritual Book – Leilah Wendell

wendell necromantic ritual book.jpg
The Necromantic Ritual Book – Leilah Wendell
Westgate Press  – 2005 (First published 1991)

Here’s a short and sweet grimoire of necromantic death magic. I was fairly surprised with this one. It’s probably the grimmest book of magic I’ve ever reviewed.

The first part of the book deals with “getting comfortable in Death’s presence”. It explains how the prospective necromancer must spend a night of contemplation in contact with a corpse. At this point, alarm bells were going off in my head. If this was just the preparation, what would the more adept rituals entail?

A lengthy portion of the text is spent describing how to make “a sculpted talisman for necromantic rites”, basically a physical body for a magical entity. Unlike the “anchoring base for an artificial spirit” from The Dark Arts of Tarantula, this talisman must be physically made by the magician; a Dungeons and Dragons figurine will not do. And unlike the Genies created in The Hallowed Genie, Wendell’s talismans must be composed of as much dead matter as possible. Oh, and they’re supposed to be life sized too, so Wendell suggests using an actual human skeleton as the frame. This frame is then to be covered in a thick paste of festering dead matter. Pulped roadkill and hideously rotten human remains are to be ground up with graveyard dirt for this task. Once this is done, the stinking mass of death sausage is to be wrapped tightly in a winding sheet that has been soaked with glue. This putrescent monstrosity is to be kept hidden, presumably in the shadows of the magicians house.

I mean, that sounds like the beginning of an amazing horror story, and I wonder if anybody has ever actually gone through with it. Imagine the stench. You’d probably contract all types of horrid diseases from in the process. Imagine having friends or family over and one of them finding your stinky friend. You’d end up in a mad house.

wendell necromancy angel of death
Ok, so after the creating a rot-golem section, I knew that Leilah wasn’t just your average witchy magician. She was clearly a real freak, but I was still a bit surprised at the end of the book.

In describing the culmination of an act of “high necromancy”, she explains that the magician will experience “an erection (in males) or sensuous expression (in females)”. She then instructs the magician, “At this point, do not suppress your desires. Give into them and follow their lead.” I ask you, my dear reader, how do you interpret that advice? It sounds very much to me like she is advocating necrophilia. In the following pages she seems to issue a solemn warning against doing so, but if you read this passage carefully, you’ll see that she only warns against having sex with a corpse if you’re not in love with death. She never says that it’s wrong for a true death lover to love the dead. Also, at the end of this book, there is an advertisement for another book of hers titled “Love Never Dies – The Journey of a Necrophile“. This book is described as “a collection of Leilah’s “personal” encounters with Death, via the dead.” It contains “necrophilic erotica, not for the squeemish” (sic). I found an interview with her in which she says that she draws the line at full-on intercourse with the dead, but she might just have been saying that to protect herself. Draw your own conclusions on whether or nor ol’ Leilah has ever ridden a corpse.

I didn’t expect the darkness and depravity of this book. I thought it would be a witchy manual for drawing magic circles in a cemetery. I’d like to read more by Wendell, but her books seem fairly rare, and I’d worry about ordering copies of her work to my house. I don’t know about the legality of owning necrophilia porn, and I’d be a bit apprehensive even looking up the details.

It just occurred to me that over the course of the past two weeks, I’ve published reviews of books on necrophilia, Satanic Ritual Abuse and Sadomagical techniques. I’ll be in big trouble if my mom ever finds my blog.