Robert Anton Wilson, Sex Magician!

robert anton wilson the sex magicians

Today, the 23rd of July, is Robert Anton Wilson day. Today is also the 44 year anniversary of Robert Anton Wilson’s first contact with extraterrestrials from Sirius. To celebrate the occasion, I’m going to discuss RAW’s first published novel, The Sex Magicians. fnord

I need preface my discussion of The Sex Magicians by mentioning a few facts concerning the author’s best known book. Robert Anton Wilson claimed that he and Robert Shea started working on The Illuminatus! Trilogy in 1969. He also said it took 5 years to find a publisher for this cult classic. The book was published in 1975, suggesting that it had been finished at some stage in 1970.

In 1973, after three unsuccessful years of trying to find a publisher for this massively complex and confusing masterpiece, Wilson seems to have been unable to contain himself. He took some of the characters and plot elements from the unpublished manuscript of Illuminatus! and worked them into The Sex Magicians, a work of hardcore pornography.

I was actually suprised by how much porn this book contains. At first, I thought it would be more of a novel with some porny bits than a porno with some novelly bits. I was wrong. I think every chapter has a sex scene, and they get fairly juicy. We’re talking incest, anal and gorilla cocks here. There’s also a scene that features a woman begging to be fucked by Frodo Baggins. If that doesn’t get your motor running, I don’t know what will.

Now, a cynic might assume that RAW chose to use pornography as the medium to express his ideas because he had lost hope of ever getting Illuminatus! published. Perhaps he believed that diluting his outlandish ideas with hardcore sex scenes was the only way to make them accessible to the general public. Had he become convinced that only publishers of pornography would ever accept a novel whose plot revolves around a trouble-making dwarf and the Illuminati?

While the above reasoning is fairly sensible, it doesn’t take into account the genius of Robert Anton Wilson. Personally, I refuse to believe that the publishing of The Sex Magicians represents RAW’s giving up on getting Illuminatus! published. On the contrary, I believe that the publishing of the Sex Magicians represents an attempt (that was hugely successful) to get Illuminatus! published. Fnord

Sex Magic as far as I understand it, is the harnessing of sexual energy for using in magical rituals. Grant Morrison, who incidentally is a big RAW fan, describes a very basic act of sex magic: Fnord 

  1. In sentence form, write down the goal that you want to achieve.
  2. Cross out the vowels and repeating letters from the goal. Fnord
  3. Take the remaining letters and turn them into a cool looking sigil.
  4. Masturbate and as you orgasm, focus on or visualise the sigil you have created.

Focusing on the sigil during climax charges it with sexual energy and sets the magic in motion. Like I said, this is a very simplistic ritual (one which Grant Morrison claims is effective), but it gives a basic idea of how sex magic works.

With this rudimentary understanding of sex magic, let’s re-examine Robert Anton Wilson’s decision to publish a book of hardcore pornography in 1973. Yes, pornography afficionadoes may not be primarily concerned with the plot and characters and themes of the smut that they are reading, but these elements certainly enter into their consciousness. As the reader makes their way through The Sex Magicians, their arousal and awareness of RAW’s conspiracy theories are simultaneous. This arousal charges the ideas and concepts in the background of this novel, and just like Grant Morrison’s sigil wanking, the sexual energy becomes a driving force in achieving the author’s aims. By writing a book of hardcore porn and interspersing it with characters and concepts from the unpublished manuscript of Illuminatus!, Robert Anton Wilson instigated a wide-scale act of sex magic.  Through the orgasms achieved by readers of the Sex Magicians, the characters and ideas originally from Illuminatus! became charged with enough power to drive that novel into publication. The Sex Magicians is not just a smutty novel; it is a grimoire, a veritable sexual spellbook!  Fucking genius! Fnord

Now, I don’t know if RAW ever admitted as much; he wrote quite a lot, and I haven’t read all of his books (yet), but I am quite sure that he would at least enjoy my theory. That being said, there are some pretty flagrant clues within the book itself that support my hypothesis. I mean, for the love of god, the book is called The Sex Magicians. Perhaps the most important character in the book, the mischievous Markoff Chaney, is also the most direct link to the Illuminatus! trilogy. Not only that, but the events described in the Sex Magicians end up having been set into action by Markoff committing an act of sex magic. I won’t describe what that act is in case you want to read the book, but I will say that it bears some rather striking similarities with the act (or acts) that RAW set out to instigate. Also, we’re talking about Robert Anton Wilson here. That he believed in the efficacy of magic is not up for debate, and if anyone ever had the ingenuity and sense of humour to do something like this, it would be him. (Grant Morrison did hold a wankathon to try to boost sales of the Invisibles, and while that is obviously a hilarious idea, it seems crude in comparison to what RAW “pulled off”. Plus, it’s common knowledge that Grant Morrison is a huge RAW fan, so maybe this is where he got the idea.)
Fnord
So if this book is just a magical tool that RAW used to get Illuminatus published, is it worth reading? Yeah, sure it is. I mean, it’s nowhere near as mental as Illuminatus!, but it’s got fairly similar vibes going through it, and both books share characters. I don’t know how many of my readers are James Joyce fans, but I know RAW loved him, so I’ll say that if Illuminatus! was Ulysses, The Sex Magicians has the same kind of relationship to the author’s masterpiece as Portrait of an Artist, only with the readability of Dubliners. If it sounds like your kind of thing, you should give it a go. The book has been out of print for a very long time, and copies are usually fairly pricy ($300+), but somebody put the whole thing online (apparently with RAW’s permission) and a quick google search for the books title, the author’s name and .pdf will doubtlessly sort you out.

I wonder what happens if you wank off to this book now that RAW’s will has been done and Illuminatus! has been published. At what are the Illuminated King-Kong Sex Magic vibes now directed? Fnord

Robert Anton Wilson, Sex Magician!

Up the Pole

arktos joscelyn godwinArktos: The Polar Myth in Science, Symbolism and Nazi Survival – Joscelyn Godwin
Adventures Unlimited Press – 1996 (Originally published in 1993)

I haven’t enjoyed a non-fiction book this much for quite a while. This is a scholarly, objective and insightful look at some of the most insane conspiracy theories and occult beliefs of the last few centuries. Any book that discusses the writings of Poe, Lovecraft, Robert Charroux, Helena Blavatksy, Edgar Cayce, Otto Rahn, Bulwer Lytton, Julius Evola, Aleister Crowley, Kenneth Grant, Charles Fort, Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier is either going to be absolutely fascinating or absolutely idiotic, and I am happy to report that this book is the former. The overall scope of this work is enormous, but it’s essentially about several of the proposed causes and effects of the Earth’s polar axis shifting at some stage in the past.

The story begins with an Earth that is spinning on an axis that is perpendicular with its orbit around the sun. This state of planetary perfection ensures that there are no seasons, and days and nights are the exact same length in the same places all year round. This Earth is peopled by a race of god-like supermen that came from and mostly still live in the Arctic. After a little while, something catastrophic happens and the Earth goes wobbly. The Arctic freezes up, and the lads are forced to migrate southwards, although some of them stay put and live in the underground part of the Arctic, through which they are able to access the inner realms of the planet. (Oh yeah, I forgot the mention that this Earth is hollow!) The lads that have gone southward meet other races on their travels, but they’re not impressed by these lowly beings and often have to kill a lot of them. The boys who have stayed behind and retreated into the Earth manage to create airships that look a bit like saucers, and they occasionally use these bizarre contraptions to scope out the the outer realms of the planet. Some day these subterranean supermen will emerge to join their relatives, and together they will rule the world.

Just some of the Hollow Earth models as described in this glorious book.

Sound a bit off the wall? Well, this story, or a story very similar to it, is partly to blame for the ideology of the Nazis; the super race from the North are none other than the Aryans. The Nazis are a magnetic target for conspiracy theories, and it would be silly to presume that every Nazi believed in every part of the above story, but it is possible to trace the origins of the notion of Aryan supremacy to some very nutty characters. This book concerns itself with more with where these ideas came from than it does explaining how they were adapted by the Nazis (Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke’s Occult Roots of Nazism is a better book for that topic.), and Godwin does a really good job of objectively discussing some fairly ludicrous ideas. I never got the sense that he was bullshitting or stretching the truth for his own agenda.

Writing this blog post is a bit slower than usual because I don’t have many bad things to say about this book. There are a couple of chapters in the middle where Godwin discusses his interpretations of the metaphysical and spiritual significance of the poles and pole-lore that are a bit airy-fairy, but they don’t detract from the good stuff. I think the only other part that I wasn’t impressed with was when Godwin refers to Dennis Wheatley, one of my favourite authors, as “a purveyor of rollicking adventure for teenage boys and adults of arrested development”. Other than that, this book is delightful. I mean, it’s heavy going; you have to pay close attention to what’s being discussed if you want to understand it, but I found it hard to put down once I had opened it. It’s 200+ pages of dense text and denser ideas, and it only took me a few days to finish (quite a feat when you’re also responsible for a 3 month old baby).

I’m not going to go any further into the theories contained in this book. I don’t like summarizing books. When I have done so in the past, I have only done so to show how silly the writer has been. This book basically does a far more elegant job of what I try to do with this blog, and so the ideas presented herein have already been broken down and explained very clearly. If you’re interested enough in this blog to have made it this far through this post, you’re almost definitely going to enjoy reading this book. It is, without doubt, one of the best sensible books about crackpot conspiracy theories that I have ever read.

Is Donald Trump in league with eternal Hitler’s subterranean, spaceship-flying Aryan super troops?

The poles do actually shift, and we now know that global warming is currently contributing a few centimeters per year to this tilt. Recently, the international community was ashamed, embarrassed, and appalled by Donald Trump’s rejection of the Paris Climate Agreement. (Seriously America, put down the hamburgers and guns and get your act together.) Despite the glaringly obvious proof that the world is over-heating, Trump and his posse have claimed that they don’t believe in global warming. Now we all know that Donald Trump is a walking, talking piece of solidified diarrhea, but a fool he is not.

How can a man, smart enough to wrangle himself into the most powerful office in the world, possibly think that global warming isn’t happening when everyone can see that temperatures are going up? Let’s not be naive people; Donald knows full well that global warming is occurring.

Donald Trump is not ignoring climate change, he is purposely encouraging it. Why? Because he knows that as the temperature rises, the Earth will readjust its surface to make up for the melted ice-caps and rising water levels. This should draw both the Arctic and Antarctic closer to the equator/ecliptic, thus further speeding up the melting of the ice-locks above the once polar openings to Agartha and Shambala. As soon as these portals are cleared, fleets of Vril powered UFOs filled with the troops of Aryan demigods that the Christ-Hitler has been training shall fly out and take their rightful control over the rest of the planet. After this, Trump can sit at the right hand of der Führer and enjoy the commencement of Kali Yuga.

Up the Pole

The Almighty Power of the Vril-Ya!

the-coming-race-vrilThe Coming Race – Edward Bulwer Lytton
P.F. Collier – 1892 (Originally published 1871)
This is the third of Bulwer Lytton’s works that I’ve reviewed here, and in a way it’s the least fitting. While The Haunters and the Haunted and Zanoni both dealt explicitly with the supernatural, The Coming Race or Vril, the Power of the Coming Race, as it was later re-titled, is more of an adventure/early sci-fi novel. So why include it on this blog? Well, despite the fact that it is very clearly a novel, some people have taken it to be literally true, and this short, rather silly book is the origin of several ridiculous conspiracy theories. It played helped popularize the Hollow-Earth theory, and some folks claim that it’s responsible for starting the Second World War.

So let’s take a look at the plot. (Don’t worry; it’s quite boring and reading this won’t ruin the excitement if you do choose to read the novel.) Right at the beginning of the book, the narrator falls down a hole in a cave and ends up in a world within the Earth. Then he bumps into some ‘Vril-Ya’, a race of fascinating but intimidating humanoids, who take him to their house and teach him their language. 70% of the book is taken up with the narrator’s description of these beings’ society, folklore, and language. The Vril-Ya’s technology is powered by a strange energy called Vril that seems to emanate from the creatures themselves. It becomes evident that these creatures’ descendants ended up underground as a result of the flood of Genesis, and so are somewhat human. They are utterly repulsed by the narrator’s accounts of terrestrial humanity and warn him that some day, when the time is right, they will break through the Earth’s crust to eradicate our species. One of the Vril-Ya falls in love with the narrator but decides to take him back up to his own world to prevent the chaos that would surely ensue were they to consummate their relationship.

I actually got through quite a bit of this book with the audio version from librivox. I really enjoyed about the reader’s pronunciation. In the language of the Vril-Ya, females are collectively referred to as ‘the Gyae’, Gyae being pronounced Jie-ay. A single female is a ‘Gy’, and the person reading the audiobook pronounced this as Gee, and I mean Gee with a hard G sound like the one in ‘Goat’ or ‘Game’. This probably won’t seem funny to most people, but any book that uses the word gee to refer to any woman is bound to illicit a few chuckles in certain parts of the world. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I suggest you read the following quotes from the book to any of your Irish friends and take note of their reactions.

1. “I often think of the young gee as I sit alone at night”
2. “This young gee was a magnificent specimen of the muscular force to which the females of her country attain.”
3. ” the gee would willingly have accepted me, but her parents refused their consent.”

Gees aside, The Coming Race is a bit disappointing. It’s the first novel I’ve read since November, and it made a welcome change to the dry books on mythology I’ve otherwise been reading. I zipped through it so quickly that I didn’t realize that the plot was going nowhere until I had very nearly finished it. This book is more of a snapshot of an imaginary society than a story about members of that society.

Surely the author had a reason for writing an adventure novel that contained minimal adventure. If not meant to thrill its readers, perhaps The Coming Race was meant to educate them. What message was Lytton trying to convey with his depiction of a race of subterranean super-humans? Let’s take a moment to  recapitulate what we know about the Vril-Ya.
1. They are superior, mentally and physically, to the rest of humankind; i.e., they are super-humans.
2. They will some day rise up from the underground and exterminate all lower forms of human life.
3. They are “descended from the same ancestors as the Great Aryan family”.
Could Bulwer Lytton have predicted the rise of Nazi Germany in 1871???

Well if he didn’t predict it, he very possibly influenced it. His idea of Vril, a manipulable occult energy, coincided with theosophical notions of the late 1800s, and it’s certain that some people did take his ideas more seriously then they should have. In Morning of the Magicians, Pauwels and Bergier popularized the idea that one of these theosophical groups went on to become the Thule Society, a real group of occultists that were inextricably linked with the Nazi party. Odd as this may sound at first, it’s really not that hard to accept. The Nazis were definitely influenced by strange groups of occultists, and Lytton had been incredibly successful as a writer of popular fiction, fiction that was, as I have already discussed, taken a little too seriously by the European mystics of the time.

So if this book did influence the Nazis, what kind of influence did it have? If it had any effect, I would imagine it was quite small, serving perhaps as mere affirmation of the things that these crazies already believed. But there are those who claim that Vril had a much larger effect on WWII. One story goes that there was a German secret society that used sex magic and other diabolical practices to attain the Vril force. Apparently, some of its members did actually attain this power and used it to communicate with aliens from the Aldebaran Solar System. These aliens, not knowing that the Nazis were evil, sent back instructions on how to make spaceships, and the Nazis started building and using flying-saucers to win the war. Unfortunately for them, the Aldebaran aliens found out that they were the bad guys, and they cut their communication lines. The medium that the aliens had been communicating through, one Maria Orsic, went missing soon thereafter, and there is a lot of speculation about whether she was assassinated by an angry Nazi or abducted and taken to a planet near Aldebaran.

Think about that, the Vril force went from under the Earth’s crust to out of the Earth’s solar system. The only thing that’s missing in this conspiracy is some mention of the Holy Grail. But wait, we know that Otto Rahn, the Nazi Indiana Jones, spent years searching for the Holy Grail, and didn’t he claim that the Grail was a powerful force rather than a Chalice? Is Vril power the Holy Grail? I’m going to have to look into that.

Despite The Coming Race‘s relative crumminess, I know I’ll be referencing it again soon. In the meantime, give it a read; it’s short enough that you probably won’t feel like you’ve wasted your time reading it.

The Almighty Power of the Vril-Ya!

Holy Shit, Shitty Hole (2 year Anniversary Post)

holy-blood-holy-grailHoly Blood, Holy Grail – Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln
Dell – 1983 (First published 1982)

I finally bit the bullet and read Holy Blood, Holy Grail. This very stupid pile of shit is perhaps best known today as the blueprint for Dan Brown’s the Da Vinci Code, but it was a best-seller on its release and has had a huge effect on the formulation and popularization of conspiracy theories ever since. I never expected it to be any good, but I thought that I should read it to familiarize myself with modern grail lore before beginning some of the more dubious texts on that subject.

The main idea here, and we’ve all heard this one before, is that Jesus had a kid. The authors claim that Jesus was actually married to Mary Magdalen and that this pair had a child. Personally, I see absolutely no reason for the historical Jesus to have remained celibate. We don’t know where he was or what he was doing during his 20s. What do most people do in their 20s? They go out and ride whatever they can get their hands on. It would have been weird if Jesus was a virgin. I don’t need the evidence in this book to convince me that he might have had kids. I would be more interested in sensible reasons to believe that he didn’t. And less than 50 pages of this 450+ page book are actually spent discussing the evidence for a horny Jesus. The other 400 pages are taken up with the authors making complete idiots out of themselves.

So one of the authors, I can’t remember which one, read a book on his holidays one year in the early 70s. This book was about Berenger Sauniere, a priest in the south of France who had suddenly became rich in the late 1800s. There were all kinds of rumours about Berenger having found treasure of some kind, and the lad reading the book thought this was pretty interesting and decided to do some research on the mystery of the priest’s wealth. He went over to France and started looking for clues. While he was over there, somebody gave him an anonymous tip-off that there was a dossier of curious documents in a library in Paris that might contain information pertaining to this mystery. Sure enough, he goes to the library and there, in this dossier, are a bunch of cool documents that keep mentioning a weird sounding secret society. Convinced that he’s onto something big, the lad makes some photocopies, goes back to England and starts mashing his pieces of the puzzle together. A few weeks later he gets another call from his anonymous informant who tells him that a few more very interesting documents seem to have shown up in the secret dossier in the library. Our boy is on the next ferry over to France, and what do ye know, when he gets to the library, the dossier is looking thicker. This happens a few times over the next few years, and by the end, his friends and he have managed to piece together the peculiar history of the Priory of Sion, a mysterious secret society that has links to the Merovingian and Carolingian Dynasties of Medieval France, the Knights of the Round Table, the Cathars, the Knights Templar, the Rosicrucians and the Freemasons.

The authors use all the evidence from the secret dossier and a generous dollop of imagination to argue that the Priory of Sion is a secret society devoted to protecting the bloodline of Jesus Christ in the hopes that they will someday be able to reinstate his descendants as the rightful rulers of civilization.

The problem here is that the Priory of Sion is completely fake. It was made up by Pierre La Plantard, a dodgy Frenchman who believed that he was the descendant of some medieval French Kings. Him and his friends had been the ones putting the documents into the secret dossier all along. The whole thing was a load of absolute bollocks. Now, Pierre’s claim was that he was of Merovingian descent, but the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail were claiming that he was the direct descendant of Jesus Christ. He got a bit embarrassed about this and renounced the book. His mates that were involved the hoax came forth and acknowledged that they made up the whole thing. (As far as I can tell, the authors’ response to this was to maintain that their claims were true and to claim that La Plantard was lying about having lied.)

pierre-le-plantardPierre La Plantard (AKA Pierre Christ)

I knew that the Priory of Sion was made up before I read this book, and that made it a fairly excruciating experience. The ‘evidence’ presented in here is taken from novels, legends, the bible and hearsay, and the authors’ reasoning is absolutely infuriating. You’ll see their approach criticized in any review of this book; it really is terrible. It made me recall that of the protagonists in Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum. (And I would find it very surprising if that novel, written in 1988, was not written partly in response to this book and how it had been received.) Leigh, Lincoln and Baigent accept any tangential idea that pops into their heads as long as it can not be immediately disproved. I have adopted a similar approach below to prove that Adolf Hitler was a descendant of Count Dracula:

Transylvania was under Austrian Hapsburg Rule between 1699 and 1867. This would have meant that things and people from Transylvania would sometimes have found their way back to Austria.

Count Dracula, Transylvania’s most infamous resident, although made famous in an 1897 novel, was actually based on a real person, Vlad the Impaler. Vampyrism is probably not a supernatural condition but some kind of hereditary disease, and so Vlad’s descendants would also have been vampires if he was one, which he probably was.

Did the bloodline of Dracula find its way into Braunau am Inn, the birthplace of Hitler?

Well that would explain a lot. We know that Hitler’s mother was born of peasant stock and had a thing for older men. (Hitlers dad was 23 years her senior.) Would she have been able to resist the charms of a tall, dark stranger with a mysterious foreign accent? I think not. If Vlad, or one of his descendants, had shown up on her doorstep, she would have let them drain her right then and there. Ok, I know at this point our argument might seem a bit tenuous, but if we continue with this line of reasoning, a lot of things begin to make a lot of sense.

Ok, so Hitler’s mother was definitely drained by a vampire, thus becoming a vampire herself. She got pregnant with a vampire baby. She tried to pass it off as her employer’s, but this baby had dark hair, like his real father.

Hitler was certainly responsible for a lot of bloodshed. Think about it dummy: Vampires love blood! Was his body ever found? No; he flew off into the night!

At this stage, anyone with an ounce of sense will agree that Hitler is a vampire and probably still alive. It would be utterly ridiculous to claim otherwise.

I did that in about 10 minutes, and I reckon it’s probably more entertaining  and no less sensible than the work of Leigh, Baigent and Lincoln.

Holy Blood, Holy Grail is a pile of shit, freshly emitted from a large hairy anus. At least the Da Vinci Code was superficially entertaining. This is just embarrassing. I wouldn’t recommend it.

This post marks two years of this blog. I’m going to become a dad at some stage in the next month, so things on here might be a bit slow for a while. Make sure you like the facebook page for future updates. Thanks for all the interest.

Holy Shit, Shitty Hole (2 year Anniversary Post)

Illuminati Confirmed!

nwoNew World Order (The Ancient Plan of Secret Societies) – William T. Still
1990 – Huntington House Publishers

After a very boring introductory chapter, this book contains about 70 pages of tolerably silly conspiracies, but then it gets very, very boring. Just from the cover, I expected something similar to  Ed Decker’s Dark Side of Freemasonry, and I wasn’t far off. This is a book of conspiracies from the point of view of a conservative Christian author.

As far as these things go, it was fairly well researched. William T. Still is clearly a nutjob, but he’s competent enough to provide his references. The book contains nothing I haven’t come across before, but it was novel to see how the author managed to link the Atlantean origins of secret societies, William Shakespeare’s true identity, and the Freemason’s involvement with the Jack the Ripper murders. Still is the kind of wacko that Umberto Eco was making fun of in Foucault’s Pendulum.

truman
The central idea behind the book is that the Illuminati is a Luciferian/Satanic cult dedicated to exterminating religion, taking over the world, and bringing about the reign of the Antichrist. If America doesn’t adopt conservative politics and good old-fashioned family values, the country is going to allow itself to be taken control of by a small group of the super-wealthy who don’t care about anyone but themselves. The scary thing about this book is that you know that the people who read it and have taken it seriously are the exact same people who are going to vote for Donald Trump.

The Illuminati has recently reentered the public consciousness. Nearly every teenager in North America has seen the ‘Illuminati Confirmed’ memes. Why now? Maybe it’s because the idea of a small, faceless group of the super wealthy being in charge of America is actually less frightening than the faces of the small group of the super wealthy that clearly are running the country.

Illuminati Confirmed!

Foucault’s Pendulum – Umberto Eco

fp
Ballantine – 1990 (Originally published in Italian in 1988)

Most of the books that I review here are either too shit or too enjoyable to be clever. This one however, while it is rather enjoyable, is a rather astute piece of writing.

The plot is surprisingly simple. I’ll outline it in a way that won’t ruin the story for you: 3 book nerds, for a laugh, decide to patch together a ridiculous conspiracy theory. After a short while, they, and others, start to take their conspiracy too seriously and things get fairly messed up. That’s it. But if that’s the whole story, why is the book 500+ pages long? Well, Eco goes into detail, a LOT of detail, on the conspiracy that his characters are creating.

While the book is filled with interesting facts from what must have been an absolutely enormous amount of research, it’s not so much the conspiracies that are of interest as it is the psychology and biology of conspiracies and arcane ‘knowledge’. To put it another way, this is not a book about conspiracy theories in the same way that the Da Vinci Code is; this is a book about how conspiracy theories work. (Eco, when asked if he had read the Da Vinci Code, claimed that Dan Brown was one of the characters in this book.) While this book will satisfy readers of conspiracy fiction by mixing and matching their favourite secret societies and magicians, it will also force that reader to contemplate how silly most conspiracies really are. The way Eco engages with conspiracies only to end up making fun of them is really tactful. He never denies that they’re fun and interesting, indeed he would have had to have been a severe masochist to have thought that and written this book, but ultimately, he gives very little credence to any of them. Ah Umberto, a man after my own heart!

I really enjoyed this book. The subject matter is precisely the kind of crap that I like reading about, and the characters were great too. It does get a little heavy on the details at times, and I’d recommend having a decent understanding of who the Rosicrucians, Gnostics, and Templars were before you start. If you do decide to read it and feel like you’re getting bogged down in the details of the eclipse that occurred during the 14th birthday party of the blind translator of a coded manuscript detailing the fate of an obscure heretical sect from Southern France, you can probably just skim through those paragraphs without missing out on crucial plot details.

The book opens with the narrator snooping around the National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts in Paris. He has an appointment at midnight under the Foucault Pendulum housed therein, and he is trying to find a place to hide where he will not be noticed by the security guards as they are closing up. When I discovered that my University also houses a Foucault Pendulum, I determined to recreate that scene to the best of my ability.

I waited until the 23rd of June, the same day that the book’s narrator goes to see the pendulum in the Conservatoire. Unfortunately, I found it very difficult to sneak effectively, as there were very few people around to be suspicious of me. Regardless of this, I surreptitiously tip-toed into the building, constantly casting glances behind me in the hopes that I was being trailed. When I got to the pendulum, Disaster! Somebody else was standing there looking at it. I contemplated asking if he was there for the same reason as myself, but in the interests of my own personal safety (and dignity), I decided against doing so. I pretended that I wasn’t interested in the pendulum; I walked straight by it, exited the building, and bought a cup of coffee in a nearby cafe. I waited maybe 10 minutes and returned. The coast was clear, so I took the following video and ran for it.

I fear they may have seen me leave the campus. I am in hiding now, but I know that they will find me eventually. All I can do is wait. I might as well sit here and look out the window at the willow tree in the garden outside.

It’s so beautiful.

 

Foucault’s Pendulum – Umberto Eco

7 Footprints to Satan – A. Merritt

20160105_214024
Orbit/Futura – 1974

About a year ago, I was in a second-hand book-store when I came across a little black book titled 7 Footprints to Satan. It looked fucking deadly, but it was 30 dollars and I thought that was a bit much to spend on a book I hadn’t heard of. I came home and found a copy online for less than a tenner. The seller provided no image, and I presumed the cover would be the same as the one I had seen in the shop. Can you can imagine my absolute joy when the package arrived and I first saw the above cover?

Look at that thing! It’s some kind of snakey, arachnid alien holding some jewels, a bloody heart, and a hot drink. Book covers do not get much better than that! Now a person who has not read it might presume that the entity on the cover is the Satan referred to in the title of the book, but a person who has read it will have absolutely no fucking idea of what that thing is supposed to be. I doubt that the artist who drew the spiderbaby had actually read the book. Unfortunately, the story didn’t quite live up to the cover, but the cover lives up to itself even after having finished the story. Just looking at it now makes me want to read the book again even though I know how little they have to do with each other. Take a moment there to scroll back up and really soak that image in. Fucking deadly.

So, the book starts off with a lad being kidnapped by a bunch of weirdos who manage to convince the police that he’s a mental patient. They take him to a mansion owned by a chap who claims he is Satan, and that’s where the fun begins. Satan runs a weird culty mafia thing, and he forces his followers to gamble with him on his 7 footprints game. Like all good cult leaders, Satan is a massively tall freak with an enormous head who can’t be killed by bullets. He knows everything about everyone, and he has a seemingly infinite amount of power and wealth. It’s never made definitively clear whether or not he’s really the Devil, but every time that you think that he’s actually just a fat Chinese drug dealer who picked a cool name for himself, something weird happens that suggests he at least has some connection with the archfiend. It wouldn’t be accurate to describe this as supernatural horror, but it does feature individuals with superhuman strength,  doppelgängers, and even telepathy.

It also features plenty of casual racism, but this seems to have been a trend in early 20th century horror. I’m sure that there were plenty of racist authors outside of the horror genre in that era, but I think that the ways in which race is presented within the texts written to frighten people is quite telling of the real fears of the readers of the day. (Maybe some day I’ll write a blog post, if not a master’s dissertation, on that topic.) Some of the stuff in here is pretty rough; there’s a passage that reads:
There was a Hebraic delegation of a half-dozen on their way home to the Bronx, a belated stenographer who at once began operations with a lipstick, three rabbit-faced young ‘sheiks’, an Italian woman with four restless children, a dignified old gentleman who viewed their movements with suspicion, a dumb-looking black…
Pretty good right? Within the space of a single sentence he’s managed to be nasty about three different ethnicities. At another stage, he refers to a black guy as an ‘ape-faced monstrosity’, and at the point when Satan admits to having killed his daughters, the protagonist has an Ah-Hah! moment and explains that Satan must be Chinese. Oh! and there’s also a scene featuring the most offensive stereotype of all! In the second chapter, Officer Mooney appears. He’s a New York cop with a ridiculous Irish accent that is made visible in the text; “Sure,lad. Ye’re in no danger, I’m tellin ye. Would ye want a taxi, Doctor?’ (Admittedly, that accent is entirely accurate.) The thing is though, that I wouldn’t even call this is a racist book; it would be more accurate to call it a book with some racist parts, and that’s actually worse when you think about it. The racist parts don’t add anything to the story. I’m not saying that it would be excusable if the racism were a motivational force in the plot, but that would at least give an understanding of the author’s purpose. As it stands, it looks like Merritt was just throwing his bigotry in for a laugh. As I’ve said before, I wouldn’t pay for a book that contained that kind of nastiness if I thought the author was going to get any of my money, but my copy is second-hand and the author died 70+ years ago.

I read this in two sittings, and I had a dream about being stuck in Satan’s mansion after reading it. It definitely wasn’t what I was expecting, but I enjoyed it. Merritt wrote some other books with equally cool titles, and I doubt that this is the last book of his that will appear on this blog.

 

 

 

 

7 Footprints to Satan – A. Merritt