Monday, September 26, 2005

AL - 100th Anniversary _ is 2 CD boxed set

AL - 100th Anniversary _ is 2 CD boxed set, compilation of Occultural and Ambient musick inspired, I would say, by Coil, Industrial, Thelema, Sisters of Mercy, et al. Limited edition _ only 418 hand-numbered copies are being published _ A3 poster, 8-page booklet and a short introduction by Carl Abrahamsson. So its got to be worth 29 EUR excl. shipping.

Horus website

I've played my copy several times now - which believe me, is a big recommendation. Naturally, I have my favourites, like the first track of the second, more Ambient CD. _ Secret Name _ by Silence & Strength, recorded in Israel, is especially interesting, with its inclusion of passages from The Book Of Lies and Liber AL.. But I'd say there are is nothing unlistenable or unenjoyable on the CD, which is something you couldn't say about a band like Coil, who can be a bit uncompromising sometimes. I remember chilling out nicely to Moon's Milk, only to be jangled out of my wits by the last track ; ) _ AL - 100th Anniversary _ passes the 'I wouldn't rush out and buy it' test. The only thing I wonder is how long magical musicians will be able to quarry the admitedly rich seams of imagery in Crowley's corpse? Isn't it time to write about some more contemporary magical themes - if you're stuck - maybe I could help you out? Even so, there is hardly anyone's record collection that doesn't need stuff like this - if you buy your musick on amazon or at HMV, then you're really do need it - trust me ; ) Do magicos give each other presents - well yes - then next time you're looking for one, think about sourcing it from a more left-field producer - I'm sure people can buy their own scented candles or Harry Potter books ; ) [Mogg]

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism (review)

Daniel C. Matt, Castle Books, 1997

Reviewed by Tom Bland
(who is facilitating a reading group in London based around this title - see end of review for details)

Daniel C. Matt, in his book The Essential Kabbalah, provides us with a perfect introduction to the central teachings of the Kabbalah. His book is a series of passages translated from the primary source material of the Kabbalah, organised and arranged by theme. He also provides a short and precise introduction that outlines a basic history of the tradition.

In his introduction, Matt touches upon the famed Lurianic Kabbalah, and provides an answer to why Rabbi Luria wrote down so little of his teachings.(1) Matt answers this through a reply Luria gave to a student who asked him why he had not written a book. Luria replied:

It is impossible, because all things are interrelated. I can hardly open my mouth to speak without feeling as though the sea burst its dams and overflowed. How then shall I express what my soul has received? How can I set it down in a book? (p14)
The question that Luria asks in the passage above is one I am sure Matt asked himself in composing this volume of extracts. Matt has chosen a poetic and graceful approach to the material. There is a simplicity to his translations that are both profound and yet subtle in style. It is this style which makes the renditions gentle in their nature. They have a contemplative quality that allows for the text to be meditated upon in a quiet space.

Matt’s translations are interpretative in nature. It is a hermeneutics that is grounded in good scholarly research on the passages. He provide notes on the passages at the end of the book, detailing the meaning of the more abstruse Hebrew and Aramaic terms, comparing the quotes to passages in other books of the Judaic canon, and finding connections with other mystical traditions in a way that is both relevant and meaningful.

This book is quite simply a good introduction to the esoteric teachings of the Kabbalah.(2) Matt writes with an eloquence that is able to speak to the soul as it comes from the soul. This mystical element is integral to the work, which is perfectly balanced with providing good and sound scholarship. This is what makes it remarkable is that Matt joins these two elements in a coherent whole, without privileging one over the other. It is truly what Henry Corbin calls a ‘dualitude,’ which means ‘two inseparable and two independent parts of a whole.’(3)

This is what makes Matt’s book essential reading for those involved either in Middle Eastern mysticism or in the Western esoteric tradition. It is important from an occidental perspective, because of the modern interest in Kabbalah, as expressed in A. E. Waite’s The Holy Kabbalah, Israel Regardie’s The Garden of Pomegranates, and Charles Ponce’s Kabbalah.(4) It offers a means of re-assessing these works in light of the original source material of the Kabbalistic tradition. It provides a way of deconstructing and reconstructing, deepening and elevating our knowledge of the Kabbalah.

To end this review, I quote a passage from Matt’s work that reveals the experience of wholeness, which is at the heart of the Kabbalah(5):

When you contemplate the Creator, realize that his encampment extends beyond, infinitely beyond, and so, too, in front of you and behind you, east and west, north and south, above and below, infinitely everywhere. Be aware that God fashioned everything and is within everything. There is nothing else. (p25)

1) For more information on the Lurianic Kabbalah, see Sanford Drob’s website, which can be found at

2) Matt’s synchronic introduction to the Kabbalah is perfectly complimented by J. H. Laenen’s historical approach to the subject in his Jewish Mysticism: An Introduction (Westminster John Knox, 2001).

3) The quote comes from Henry Corbin’s paper, The Dramatic Element Common to the Gnostic Cosmogonies of the Religions of the Book, published in the journal, Studies in Comparative Religion, Vol. 14: 3 4, Summer-Autumn, 1980, p. 220, n. 18.

4) Although occidental thinkers have known about Kabbalah since the Renaissance, it is only in the past hundred years that it has taken upon such a central role in the Western esoteric tradition, which is partially due to these texts.

5) See Chapter 4 of Moshe Idel’s Kabbalah: New Perspectives (Yale, 1988) for a discourse on the role of union and unity in the mysticism of the Kabbalah.


‘Just as your hand, held before the eye, can hide the tallest mountain, so this small earthly life keeps us from seeing the vast radiance that fills the core of the universe.’
Nahman of Bratslav
This reading group is an introduction to the mysteries of the Kabbalah. It seeks to provide an overview of the essential concepts of the tradition. It will do this through the reading of the primary source material as translated in Daniel C. Matt’s book, The Essential Kabbalah, Castle Books, 1997. The book is a collection of passages from the whole range of Kabbalistic literature arranged by theme. The meetings will follow the general arrangement of the book.

Each meeting will consist of a basic fourfold structure. Firstly it will begin with a presentation on a particular theme, secondly by exploring the passages Matt provides on the concept, thirdly by comparing and contrasting these quotes, and finally by providing space for discussion and consideration. The topics will include the tree of life, God, creation and meditation. There will also be some presentations on topics not covered in Matt’s book, such as magic, angels and messianism.

The group is open to all. It attempts to integrate many different perspectives into a coherent whole. It embraces the scholarly, esoteric and mystical study of the Kabbalah.

The group will be held at the C. G. Jung Club Library in Chelsea, London. It will meet fortnightly on a Sunday from 4 to 6 pm. The dates for the group are:

September 11th and 25th
October 9th and 23rd
November 13th and 27th

The cost for attending each meeting will be £10.00.

The reading group will be led by Tom Bland.

Tom Bland is an independent researcher specialising in the study of the Kabbalah. He is also studying the writings of Carl Jung through Andrew Burniston’s study group. He is a member of the C. G. Jung Analytical Psychology Club.

To join the reading group please contact Tom on 020 8686 4373, or email him at

Jean Overton Fuller's The Magical Dilemma Of Victor Neuburg

(reviewed by Charlotte)
During a small occult Fair at the beginning of 2005 I discovered that Marc Aitkin, who was organising sound and lighting for the event, had also made a short film around a 'what if' future of Victor Neuburg. Victor Neuburg being best known as Aleister Crowley's disciple and lover but he was also a poet, editor and the man who 'discovered' Dylan Thomas. The film was screened at the fair, but the impromptu showing didn't do 'Do Angels Ever Cut Themselves Shaving' justice; so we decided to give the film another, more focused viewing.

During preliminary arranging of this screening I discovered Richard McNeffs novel, 'Sybarite among the Shadows'; a strangely similar 'what if' also centred on Victor Neuburg, (similar in intuitive direction that is rather than in execution and result) complete with wartime settings and dedications to Mercury and Thoth respectively. Both of these creative works were initially inspired by a book by Jean Overton Fuller, 'The Magickal Dilemma of Victor Neuburg' Needless to say after encountering the works of the two above artists I very quickly purchased and read Jean Overton Fullers book, to check out the source of such abundant inspiration.

The first part of 'The Magical Dilemma' is centred on Jean in 1935 when she was in her early twenties and she first became part of a circle of poets, which included Dylan Thomas and Pamela Hansford Johnson, and which was formed by Victor Neuburg when he was Poetry Editor of The Sunday Referee.

This part of the book was a joy to read, as it fleshed out many of the names that I have encountered in various books and references over the years; creating a reality from history so to speak. In this first section of 'The Magical Dilemma', we see Victor Neuburg through the eyes of the younger Jean Overton Fuller and gradually realise the impression this gentle soul made upon her. Not simply a strong enough impression to last over the years to the time when she finally wrote this biography, but also powerful enough for her to overcome her personal beliefs and morality in the face of the said sexual and magical behaviour of Neuburg.

Truth to tell, in many ways I would say that Fuller adored Neuburg. That she thought him a good, gentle and talented man is beyond doubt but in many ways a sort of love and idealisation of him on her part comes across in the book that must have made some of the research into Newburg's past difficult for her.
'for me he lit a flame that can never be put out'…

I was intrigued as to the belief system of Fuller, which in some way seems contradictory. On one hand she has a working knowledge of palmistry/astrology and more academic branches of esoteric lore but on the other seemed to have what could be seen as a type of near Christian morality; more than one could explain as being a purely generational thing. Discovering Jean Overton Fuller's Theosophist affiliations clarified this, though the inclusion of Pamela Hansford Jones verbatim views of that period also helped me realise more about the standard morality of that time for women; even women of the more 'bohemian' set of that time. In later parts of the book, Fuller goes more into the life of Neuburg, and particularly his relationship, both sexual and magical, with Crowley.

The conflict of her obvious fondness for Neuburg, with detailing his relationship with someone like A.C whom she saw as an 'inflated pseudo messiah' and as 'exceedingly coarse' with near no redeeming features becomes obvious at points, though she generally retains the degree of professionalism necessary to rise above this, introducing statements from those she respects such as Gerald Yorke who retained a high opinion of A.C.

Whilst 'The Magical Dilemma of Victor Neuburg' book did not take me to the same places of imaginative and creative exploration as it did Marc Aitkin and Richard NcNeff, I still found it to be an interesting and stimulating book. I wont deny that some of the opinions and perspectives of Jean Fuller differ from my own, however this didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book as anything that triggers a process of thought and evaluation can only be a good thing!

Reading 'The Magical Dilemma of Victor Neuburg' caused me to re examine dynamics of creative magical relationships in general, as well as mulling over some fundamental aspects of the contemporary magical community that are well worth looking at. It also painted a very loving and more complete image of Victor Neuburg who for many years has existed only as a vague shadowy outline along with others of Aleister Crowley's associates and lovers in my minds eye, and this is a great thing as even in death AC has been allowed to reduce those who helped create the magick of that time, and this is something that has long needed rectifying.

One of the most poignant parts of the book was a quote given by Preston; 'Victor…was a dead man; he gave up magic and spent the whole of his life feeling he was not doing what he was meant to be doing' Jean Overton Fullers book shows that Victor Neuburg never gave up magic…just changed the way in which he performed it and without Crowley remained a creative, wondrous and spiritual man in his own right.

I think the best close for this review is a verse from 'The Epilogue' in Victor Neuburg's collection of poetry,'Triumph' of Pan, dedicated to A.C.

Because the fulfilment of dreams is itself but a dream,
There is no end save the song, and song is the end;
And here with a sheet of songs bareheaded I stand,
And the light is fled from mine eyes, and the sword
from my hand
Is fallen; the years have left me a fool, and the gleam
Is vanished from life, and the swift years sear me
And rend.