Book Review: Testament of Solomon: Recension C

Recension C

TESTAMENT OF SOLOMON: RECENSION C
Brian Johnson
Hadean Press

Alongside the works of researchers and writers such as Joseph Peterson, Jake Stratton-Kent, Daniel Harms, Clare Fanger and Richard Kieckheffer, this release provides us with another vital key in the understanding of the true scope of a magical tradition that, until recent decades, has seemed disparate and fractured. With the release of Recension C, which Johnson’s masterly translation enables us to peruse in English for the first time, the lines of descent between current modes of practice and their ancient origins in texts such as the Greek Magical Papyri become less obscure. While the effect of this ever-broadening synopsis allows for greater academic understanding of the subject matter, the importance of this broadening scope to practitioners comes with the increasing likelihood that the overwhelming reliance on a text as flawed in its redacted presentation of goeteia as the Lemegeton might soon seem like a thing of the past as truer ‘keys’ to such methods of working are revealed.

The true value of this work can be found in its drawing together of the textual traditions and spirit names found in the older versions of the Testament of Solomon (such as Onoskelis and Asmodeo) with names recognisable from other medieval texts (Belet, Oriens, Boul, Astaroth, Latzepher and Magot) in order to reveal a snapshot of the evolution of an ‘independent demonological tradition’ that formed somewhere between Byzantium and Renaissance Italy. With this done, the link between the original versions of the text, the traditions expressed in the Hygromanteia, Liber Juratus, Folger v.b.26 and Les Livre des Esperitz and the Italian textual conglomerate known as Recension C. presents us with another important glimpse into the historical evolution of this field of magical study.

Johnson’s opening Introduction and essay opens this short but essential book in an accessible manner that reveals an excellent academic standard which transcends the boundaries of most modern occult texts. As well as reinforcing the older texts’ presentation of the entities summoned as essentially astrological in their origins, the assignment of various spirits to the four elemental quarters in the manner that finds its best expression in Folger v.b.26, reveals another possible progression from the works that initially assigned each elemental quarter to the four kings, Oriens, Amaymon, Paymon and Egin first mentioned by William of Auvergne (though certainly older in its origins) to reveal another connection to the astrological principles that are generally incomplete or obfuscated in later texts such as the Lemegeton. While operative instructions are only alluded to in the opening and closing sections of the Recension, the descriptions of the spirits’ legions, their powers and the depictions of their seals also provide another important link between the medieval and Renaissance texts and their more ancient forebears. While, ultimately, it is not a ‘true’ derivation of the Testament, what this publication of Recension C reveals in terms of tradition is the drawing together of older Hellenistic magical methods into a single text that proves a vital addition to our current understanding of the development of Solomonic magic.

Book Review: Gods of Thrones: A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Religions of Ice and Fire: Vol. 1.

Gods of Thrones

GODS OF THRONES: A PILGRIM’S GUIDE TO THE RELIGIONS OF ICE AND FIRE: VOL. 1.
A. Ron Hubbard & Anthony LeDonne
Bald Move Books

While I’ve only really skirted around the peripherals of geekdom, I’ve often felt the gravitational pull into fanboy nerdishness that beautifully constructed fantasy worlds like Middle Earth, Osten Ard, Hyboria, Krynn and Allansia emanate from their cores. Teenage-me lapped up tales from such perilous realms with devotion, while Tolkien’s words on man’s role as the ‘sub-creator’ of the divine mysteries through his creative output has remained an inspiration to me right through to middle-age, a time of life in which the yearning for days of high adventure seem to have as much chance of happening as Arnold dusting off his codpiece to play King Conan.

With the emergence of A Song of Ice and Fire, which I discovered around 2010, and the ridiculously excellent HBO series Game of Thrones that came a year later, the spotty, sinewy teen who wandered the woods and hills of south Wales fruitlessly hoping for glimpses of elves, re-emerged like the sapling of the White Tree of Gondor. I found my lifelong interests in magic, myth and religion—which, in the early days, were doubtlessly nurtured by the re-sacralisation of the magical imagination by the likes of Tolkien, Terry Brooks and Tad Williams—were once again complimented by a modern creation worthy of unleashing my inner geek upon. I read the entire series up to A Feast for Crows in less than a month before I had to briefly join the frustrated hordes waiting for the release of A Dance with Dragons in 2011. Since then, with several more years having lapsed between Dance and the long-anticipated Winds of Winter, the frustration of waiting a year, and more recently two years, between seasons of Game of Thrones completed the total long-term absorption of Martin’s world into the fabric of my psyche. He is an author whose works require patience and devotion, having now strung his devotees along for twenty-three years since A Game of Thrones was released; but like all exceptional works, the forthcoming culmination of the HBO series will undoubtedly prove worth the wait, as will the presently theoretical release of A Dream of Spring.

Re-watching the first seven seasons of Game of Thrones recently, I noticed—in ways both subtle and gross—just how much the movement of many plot devices could be construed as the movements of the gods moving our beloved and despised characters around as their pawns over the chequered landscapes of Westeros and Essos. Noting this, I wondered if anyone had thought to look into the patterns of behaviour and motivations of the gods in Martin’s world in order to decipher more about what their ultimate game was. Further, I wondered if anyone had tried to piece together what religious and magical inspirations from our own terribly fucked world Martin and the show runners looked towards in order to shape their own unique visions of divine action in Game of Thrones. The answer, I discovered, was that someone—two someones, in fact— had recently done that very thing.

The resulting book, Gods of Thrones, comes courtesy of Bald Move’s A.Ron Hubbard and religious scholar Anthony LeDonne, whose combined knowledge of Martin’s world and the philosophical, historical, mythical and religious landscapes of our own shines effortlessly in this volume, which covers topics such as animism, Zoroastrianism, patriarchal cults, tribalism, scepticism and Messianic figures in the context of Martin’s own background as a meticulous ‘sub-creator’ and lapsed Catholic. With the forthcoming Volume 2 of this work looking to cover the mythology of the Ironborn, the culture of the Dothraki and the ‘dragon cult’ of the Targaryens, the combined efforts of the authors will prove a welcome addition to the ever-broadening world that Martin has shaped.

While Gods of Thrones holds an expert stock of well-presented and researched information, my only sticking point came with its jocular and over-familiar tone which featured a few too many cross-references to other vessels of geekdom that the authors obviously revere. While reading, I noted that if I were listening to or watching what I was reading on a podcast (which, in fairness, is Hubbard’s primary medium) or on YouTube, I would probably have enjoyed its style and laughed along. In book-form, however, the less formal approach suitable for online media doesn’t translate as well. It wasn’t that the attempts at humour were terrible, but rather that they sat awkwardly in what was otherwise an excellent and informative book. Still, this personal gripe wouldn’t put me off purchasing, and most-likely enjoying, Volume 2, though I expect I may occasionally grit my teeth and scrunch up my face at times as I did with this Volume.

In response to my own criticisms of the book I think it would only be right for me to check out Bald Move’s Game of Thrones podcast before reading Volume 2 to see if it’s a case of needing a degree of familiarity with Hubbard’s style to better appreciate the book. If not, nothing lost, Volume 2 will be worth getting hold of anyway, as is this.

Book Review: Holy Daimon

Holy Daimon

HOLY DAIMON, Frater Acher.
Scarlet Imprint.

With Frater Acher’s Theomagica website (theomagica.com) being a consistently interesting presence in my magical web-browsing over the past few years, the announcement of the release of Holy Daimon by Scarlet Imprint last year instantly caught my attention. Working pretty solidly on a magical book of my own for some time when it was finally released, however, I found myself lagging behind in my reading responsibilities, but now that my project is sitting with the publishers, I’m finally getting the chance to catch up with some great books I’ve been meaning to read for a while.

The essence of Holy Daimon is grounded in the foundations of a historical presentation of the concept of the daimon, beginning with overviews of the Chaldean and Zoroastrian concepts before a more succinct body of evidence is presented in Acher’s succinct analysis of the Greek concept of the daimon. Following this, the book firstly bases itself in the praxis of the author’s fascinating account of the extended Saturn retreat he partook in to strengthen his relationship with his daimon. Being a practitioner who keeps a regular magical record, Acher’s braveness in publishing this part of his magical history provided me with an additional level of respect and empathy for him, as his account revealed the depth, yearning and humanity one would expect to find in a sincere and devoted initiate. Ultimately, it was this and Acher’s unique advice (with a hint to Ficino) on singing to the planets to draw down their energies which stand out as some of the most memorable aspects of this work, though that judgment is in no way intended to detraction from the quality of the rest of the book.

The book concluded with a section including recommended practices which, alongside the Holy Daimon Online Project and some other useful tools found on Acher’s website, provide sound advice to those who wish to come to know their personal daimon. Of these, the inclusion of a ritual from the PGM designed to grant communication with one’s daimon was of particular interest as works with genuine and ancient roots such as the Greek Magical Papyri are often those that are the most satisfying to explore.

Alongside Rain al-Alim’s Jinn Sorcery, Holy Daimon stands out amongst Scarlet Imprint’s already stellar catalogue of recent releases and, as always, I look forward to seeing what they produce in the future.

– David Crowhurst

Book Review: One Truth and One Spirit

one-truth-header-small-2000x1200-1

Keith Readdy – One Truth and One Spirit: The Spiritual Legacy of Aleister Crowley. Ibis Press.

The release of One Truth and One Spirit comes with a great deal of anticipation and interest in the Thelemic community. No small part of this interest has been generated by some who have chosen to adopt a hard line of opposition—in the majority of cases without having seen the work itself—to the documentary evidence that Readdy previously announced would be included in this book. That the primary evidence he presents features exclusive examples of private personal correspondences between formative members of the modern expressions of the A.’.A.’. and the O.T.O., as well as unpublished documents and photographs from the O.T.O. archives (personally provided by the Outer Head of the Order), challenges Readdy’s detractors with a predicament of whether they should rationally argue their cases to the information presented with equal evidential rigour or whether they should instead resort to the flat denial of the proofs offered and ad-hominem attacks on the author. Sadly, thus far at least, some have opted for the latter option, as is evident in one of the reviews apparent on Amazon by an individual who opened his diatribe with the proclamation that he had no intention of either purchasing or reading the book. But as is always the case, those who engage with an open-mind to either inform or challenge their views on the world will find their reward.

Putting the storm of discomfort this book’s appearance may have conjured to one side for a moment, what we find in Readdy’s work is a concise overview of the history of Thelema from Crowley’s initial formation of its doctrine, including his vision of the work of the A.’.A.’. and the O.T.O., through to the battle for legitimacy in the ‘interregnum’ between Crowley’s death and the modern reorganisation of the two Orders. It is this section in particular that proves unsettling for those who disagree with the author’s assertions, not least because of the documentary proof of the implausibility of one of Thelema’s most beloved figure’s position as the primary link in the chain between Crowley’s manifestation of the A.’.A.’. and the manifestation that resulted from its gradual rebirth between the 1970s and 1990s.

Although such sensitive points will naturally be seen as contentious to some, the overall theme of One Truth and One Spirit is, as the title suggests, an appeal for unity. Readdy demonstrates well that there is a much wider and broader manifestation of the Thelemic movement in the modern world that goes beyond the boundaries of the O.T.O. and the A.’.A.’. and, despite what some critics may suggest, this is not portrayed as a bad thing, as any worldly manifestation of the Law of Thelema serves the ultimate purpose of successfully establishing the New Aeon. What may be argued from his assertions is not that the many diverse strains of Thelema available to us today are _in themselves_ illegitimate, but that they don’t have a very _specific_ legitimacy. The nature of that legitimacy is then clarified in the book’s content.

Other than the arguments made to prove the legal and spiritual legitimacy of the modern O.T.O. and A.’. A.’., the only point in this book that could be construed as at all ‘negative’ in any sense is Readdy’s dissection of the phenomenon of The Digital Magus in Chapter 12, which to me resonated very succinctly with some of the realities of 21st Century occultism. The reasons for such criticisms will no doubt already be clear to many without further need for clarification, but Readdy assertively and eloquently elucidates the obstacles that social media places in the way of those who would seek to do the Great Work but instead find themselves plunging into the pits of narcissism and self-aggrandizement.

Despite the undisguised calling-out of those who have forged their online projections in accordance with the aims of Choronzon, this chiding comes with the same call to unity in its intentions as those that are echoed in the author’s closing statements. Thelema, states Readdy, comprises of a highly diverse and comprehensive set of practices and activities that are ultimately designed to bring the practitioner spiritual freedom. The triad of Thelemic organisations, the A.’. A.’., the O.T.O. and the E.G.C., offer the means to assist with this and with the integral demand for the philosophy of Thelema to accept all of humanity in all of its diverse forms, its overall message is one that calls to end the fragmentation that has characterised the Thelemic movement since the death of its prophet so that it may mature its advance in the world and fulfil its purpose of providing humanity with the keys to its own salvation.

One Truth and One Spirit is available for pre-order on Amazon, or can be purchased now, directly from the author, here: https://www.one-truth-one-spirit.com/