Friday, January 01, 2010

Our Secret Order Will Rule the Empire

What is it with secret societies and magical orders in the movies these days? The Da Vinci Code. National Treasure: Book of Secrets. . . I could go on.

Now M. and I are back from watching the new Sherlock Holmes, which felt like "screenplay by Dan Brown and Dion Fortune, from the stories by Arthur Conan Doyle."

The villain, Lord Blackwood, is a cross between Aleister Crowley and Benito Mussolini.

Historians of costume, if you are out there: do not Irene Adler's dresses with the elaborate bustles seem about 15-20 years out of date for the time of the movie? (I date it to the late 1880s, since Tower Bridge is under construction, assuming that is the bridge in the movie.

Good movie though, with lots of little bits of cinematic homage to "the canon," such as the pocket watch with pawnbrokers' marks or the steam launch on the Thames.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Web Ouija

The Museum of Talking Boards is a online museum of Ouija boards and related items.

And there is an online Ouija board too. Not the same as two 13-year-olds with a candle, though. (Pointy-hat tip to Pitch.)

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

"Dowsing for the Dead"

I cannot improve on the headline that Dallas religion journalist Rod Dreher put on his own blog post.

But if you hang around dowsers, you will not hear the world "occult" much. The old ones, at least, were a practical bunch, although a newer generation got all wrapped up in "earth mysteries" and "ley lines."

I learned to dowse for underground pipes on a Talpa, New Mexico, construction site at age 20.

M.'s father, a civil engineer, also did some dowsing. We once all attended the national dowsers' convention in Danville, Vermont--which happened to be the town where he grew up.

No one knows why it works, but it does -- although in my opinion, a strong mental desire for a certain outcome is counter-productive. That is why dowsing for gold is not reliable!

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Occult Renaissance Nears its End (?)

Dump your Llewellyn stock*—the occult renaissance is about to end.

Or so wrote the ceremonial magician Louis T. Culling in his booklet Occult Renaissance 1972-2008, published in 1972 (suprise) by Llewellyn Publications, price one dollar.

He explains his chronology like this:

[T]he entire field of the Occult had a tremendous upsurge of activity and interest beginning roughly in the year 1894 and lasting roughly to 1936. In that year the doors to the "mysteries" were closed and Occultism has been in the "dark ages" though 1971.

That golden era, Culling claims, produced the Theosophical Society and the Holy Order of the Golden Dawn, while a silver era from 1900-1936 produced Aleister Crowley's post-GD work as well as that of Dion Fortune, Paul Foster Case, Marc Edmund Jones, and many others. After 1936 came "low-grade claimants and tricksters."

Oddly, Culling avers that "the wave of popular interest in astrology and the various occult subjects occuring from 1968 to 1971 really has no part in the genuine Occult Renaissance that starts in 1972" (emphasis in the original).

It's all based on a 72-year astronomical cycle, with each 72 years representing one degree in the precession of the equinoxes.

The 1972 renaissance was supposed to bring increased understanding of sex magick, a more "receptive and sustaining, hence feminine," version. (Not what you read in Crowley's magickal notebooks, which Culling calls "projective.")

What interests me is that Culling interrupts his discussion of sex magick to talk about ecology, which he defines as "preseving all forms of life for Man's SPIRITUAL TRANSCENDENCE." He illustrates spiritual growth through contact with nonhuman life by a story he wrote for the Defenders of Wildlife magazine in 1966 called "The Trader Coyote." He writes that people who observe Nature closely "study and observe the manifestations of Divine Inteligence operating in Nature so that consciously (and unconsiously, subconsciously) they may make spiritual rapport with nature and become true NATURE WORSHIPPERS." (Capitalization in the original.)

And, yes, he puts in a good word for Wicca, quoting from the Grimoire of Lady Sheba, which Llewellyn had published about the same time.

As an occultist and magician, Culling rejects explanations of the universe as operating by chance. He expects that the great new understanding of the 1972-1998 period will be that a "Directive Intelligence" drives evolutiion and that by understanding this intelligence, we will learn what Man is slated to become.

Here is the irony of prophecy. Indeed, today more and more people reject evolution-by-chance. Instead, they turn to a heavy-handed, literal-minded evangelical Christian version of "intelligent design." Rather than seeking any occult purpose inevolution, they wish to reject it altogether.

In their psyches, advocates of intelligent design feel that there must be something moe than a mechanical universe. So did Culling the occultist. But he wished to proceed with an attitude of exploration and learning, whereas theirs is an attitude of rejection and deliberate ignorance. They have their own low-grade claimants and tricksters.

*That is a joke. Llewellyn is a privately held company.

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Monday, May 08, 2006

Waiting for Euro-porn

"Euro-porn" is my new cinematic category, although really, it's just "Gothic" in the 18th-century sense dressed up.

The Da Vinci Code is Euro-porn, of course. It's got ancient buildings like you won't find in strip-mall America, secret Catholic societies, and layers of corruption that Karl Rove could only dream of.

Well, there is some of all that in New Mexico, but not so elegantly done.

While you are waiting, watch Brotherhood of the Wolf for a Gothic/Gothique mélange of secret Catholic societies, martial arts, shamanism, a whiff of incest, poison and daggers, lush scenery (Haute Pyrénées), heaving bosoms, galloping horses, Mohawks and French revolutionaries, sailing ships, swordplay, vengeance, corrupt aristocrats, architecture, and wolves. Lots of wolves. And it's all in French.

And did I mention the sort of Hong Kong-style martial arts combat where the assassin attacking the hero from behind screams, so that the hero will hear him, whirl around, and dispatch him?

You can't get much more Euro-pornographic than that.

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