AMeTh Lodge Journal - Vol I No 1 March 2011
The occult world has always been very well supplied and supported in terms of its community publications, providing contacts, announcements and, occasionally, articles of real interest Usually highly 'partial', used by group members as a forum for criticising members of other group they tended to be of very mixed quality.
Back in the good old days of 'Nuit-Isis', 'Chaos International', 'Sothis', 'The Magical Link' and so on, the finest journals were challenged by a host of often poorly reduced magazines and newsletters, all eagerly purchased by mail order or from the relative handful of occult emporia. Their arrival was usually the source of some excitement and, inevitably, usually no small measure of disappointment. Some of them, 'Formaos', for example, deserved far better publication values than they were able to achieve, their content massively exceeding their technique. It has to be acknowledged, though, that, with others, the reverse was true: there were magazines with extraordinarily high production values and almost no interesting content. The arrival of the Internet and bulletin boards seemed likely to chant the death knell to these old-fashioned, print-and-ink communication methods. Indeed, for a number of years, almost none of them appeared to have survived, the immediacy of electronic networking making their traditional approach seemingly redundant.
And now here we are, with the renewed birth of some excellent magazines, combining quality content with high-quality production values. 'Abraxas' and 'Starfire' spring immediately to mind. Others that fell by the wayside now command high values on the second-hand market, the rather wonderful 'Sothis' magazine being an obvious example.
So, fresh onto the market comes 'AMeTh Lodge Journal volume 1 number 1'. Not the snappiest title, but it's a handsome production emanating from a London Lodge of the OTO. It's a large, heavy, A4 paperback book of over 136 pages and it's packed full of well-written articles as well as numerous colour and black-and-white illustrations. It sells for £25 which seems not unreasonable to me. Production standards are, as we've grown to expect, very good: heavy, shiny paper and the imaginative use of a variety of printing techniques, including the now popular deployment of white text on a black background where the nature and content of the article demands it. I've read my copy cover-to-cover three times and it's standing up rather well, both in terms of its content and its physical construction. It looks good on the book shelf.
It's perhaps important to declare that all content is copyright by the OTO as well as the individual authors. LAShTAL.COM proudly asserts its independence so I need to note that I write this review of an OTO-specific journal despite not being a member of that organisation. Inevitably, one fears a reappearance of the internecine struggles and squabbles that afflicted the format all those years ago. However, as we shall see, we have little to worry about on that score. As demonstrated by the AMeTh Lodge 'Knowledge and Delight' symposium, this group of individuals appears to be catholic (in the best sense of the word) in its willingness to embrace other paths and interpretations.
Much of the work here appears to have been completed by Frater Akhem Sekher, known to members of this site as the prolific and hard-working Krzysztof.
The journal's cover is a nice reproduction of a work by Austin Osman Spare, although he doesn't feature prominently inside the volume, except perhaps by inspiration.
A brief introduction explaining the raison d'être for the new publication is followed by a surprising but welcome article on Sacred Hospitality, perhaps written with added enthusiasm given the Lodge source. Much is made of the OTO's commitment to hospitality, in the early days of that group perhaps a byword for 'partying'! This rather nice article puts hospitality within the context of Lodge working and magical practise. You'll notice as we go on that the focus of the Journal is very much towards actual work, ritual and practice.
Krzysztof then presents an article on 'The Great God Pan' in the magical philosophy of Thelema, strikingly illustrated by Oliver Bush. An interesting article that explores its subject far more deeply than we've experienced previously, including extracts from Victor Neuburg's 'Triumph Of Pan'. The basic argument here appears to be that the mysteries of Pan can lead the reader towards initiation into 'the totality of reality.'
Frater 515 follows with an article on 'Ancestral Voices Prophesying War', a quotation from Crowley used to good effect previously in Paul Newman's book-length study of Crowley's 'Bartzabel Working'. This article - as with several others in the Journal - actually serves as a very useful addendum to Crowley's 'Magick', explaining much around the psychology of ritual. It links very neatly, as do several other articles here, with the latest book by Rodney Orpheus, 'Grimoire Of Aleister Crowley'.
Frater 515 and Krzysztof then present a ritual of their own making: 'The Hismael Working', an evocation of the spirit of Jupiter. Again, this article, fully embedded in the Thelemic tradition, helps both the casual reader and the enthusiastic Thelemite to understand the psychology, construction and practice of magical rituals. This particular ritual connects most impressively with Crowley's 'Brazen Head' dramatic piece, about which see later in this review.
The next essay relates to 'Not, Negation, [Aleph] and Absolute Zero'. And very impressive it is, too. Members of this site won't need reminding of the importance of 'Not' within The Book Of The Law. This chapter investigates 'Not' in some detail, including a fascinating paragraph on Daoism and the work of site member Gary Dickinson. Kenneth Grant gets a look in, though with evidence of some damning with faint praise: 'We can't just take Grant at his word but that is another story deserving of some further research.' Perhaps this equivocation is only to be expected in what is inevitably an OTO-centric Journal, although some of Grant's most interesting contributions to Thelema relate to negation and 'Not'.
Next up is another article by Krzysztof, 'Purificatory Rite Of Abaddon'. Again a ritual designed by the writer, described in detail and no doubt of significant value to anyone looking to write and perform their own rituals.
Brother Luke follows with a description of a hiking trip by some Lodge members to the Scottish highlands undertaken in September 2010, 'Resist The Temptation To Live Entirely Out Of Cans'. Delightfully written, it's strangely inspiring and, to my mind most important of all, very clearly asks that others embarking on a similar pilgrimage to Boleskine House, do so without disturbing its current residents: a request that I personally would very much support.
The next article, 'An Officer And A Gentleman', is probably of OTO interest only, relating as it does to the obligations of second-degree members. It all seems rather bureaucratic to me, but then again I'm not this piece's target audience. An extended tribute to 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' follows, lovingly written. Not being a fan of that particular book, I can add little of any interest in this review.
Krzysztof returns with an article about Kali: 'Black To The Blind'. Based apparently - and perhaps just a little disturbingly - on 'experiential insight', this section includes extracts from poems by Aleister Crowley and Kenneth Grant. The latter is a rather lovely poem. The article also includes a painting of Kali by Krzysztof, and rather impressive it is too!
Next up is a piece of Qabalistic study, reviewing possible correspondences linking the 'Cakras, Sephiroth and Celestial Spheres'. All rather beyond me, to be frank, but it looks impressive enough and seems soundly researched. It's also very attractively illustrated and the correspondences themselves are clearly displayed in standard spreadsheet format.
As we approach the end of the journal, Krzysztof presents more on the sephiroth in an article on the 'Pyramid Of Initiation'.
Brother Bob Hayes presents a promising article on the Stele Of Revealing, covering not only a little of the history of the stele and its subsequent rediscovery by Thelema, but also its hieroglyphics, its function and the techniques believed to have been used in its original production. This article manages to bring together a large number of details from legitimate Egyptological sources, fortunately. It makes a perfect introduction to the stele for anyone with more than a passing interest in this fascinating artefact, which should include everyone reading this review. The article itself shows some evidence of excessive editing or perhaps rushed completion: please, let us see the full piece!
The last item in the journal is 'The Brazen Head', by Crowley, previously unpublished except in a 1995 issue of 'The Magical Link' (the OTO's in-house newsletter). This is taken from a diary entry of January 1923 and comprises an odd ritual. As with so many of Crowley's diary entries, there's a suggestion of far more 'going on behind the scenes'. There is, for example, a fascinating requirement for the incorporation within the ritual equipment of a microphone and speaker, both suitably hidden. It does make you wonder what he had in mind: a two-way radio system isn't usually considered a standard part of other Thelemic rituals. With Crowley's other interests now becoming clearer following the revelation of his intelligence activities in Spence's book, the implications are intriguing.
As so often, we are left with the questions that all reviewers must address: is it worth the money and do I need to buy? The answers are fortunately very simple: yes, it's well worth the money; and, yes, you probably do need to buy it. The enthusiasm and commitment evidenced in the articles make it a worthy addition to your bookshelves, and it's a fascinating insight into the productive work being undertaken by some engaging members of what is probably one of the most active OTO lodges, certainly within the UK, at this time.