Hidden Lore, Hermetic Glyphs

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Hidden Lore, Hermetic Glyphs by Kenneth and Steffi Grant is the latest edition in a series of publications of a series of Monographs. All editions to date have been small and the work has been highly sought after. Fetching significant sums from specialist book dealers, the original small press editions and its subsequent re-issues have commanded high prices and enormous respect. Now is the opportunity for those that haven’t previously seen the Monographs to judge them for themselves. The Fulgur Press edition consists of a very large format hardcover book, very nicely bound and with immaculate typography – not to mention near faultless proofreading. The cloth binding with gilt titling on the spine and a gilt Aossic sigil on the front cover is wrapped in a splendid rich blue dust-jacket. One word sums up even the standard edition: sumptuous. There’s a real feeling of opulence, of attention to detail and the creation of splendour for its own sake. With thick, creamy paper throughout, this book demonstrates the quality we’ve come to expect from Fulgur. Indeed, this commitment to quality, to avoid the quick buck and to concentrate on the creation of books of beauty, has become a potential millstone around the company’s neck: having set such a high standard on previous publications, there is an expectation of continued improvement. Readers of Hidden Lore, Hermetic Glyphs will most assuredly not be disappointed. The book starts with a quotation from De Quincey. It’s suitably enigmatic, slightly sinister and embodies much of the spirit of the rest of the volume: So shall he see things that ought not to be seen, sights that are abominable, and secrets that are unutterable. It’s a wonderful quote, and the “he” referred to, we are to assume, should be taken to be Kenneth Grant, elder statesman of the occult, a Thelemic Christopher Lee. The book’s dedication is to “The memory of Gerald Yorke”, reminding us of the significant position that Grant holds in the history of Thelema. The book proper kicks off with a reproduction of Dee’s Sigillum Dei Aemeth, reinforcing the historical credentials of the authors, and a new introduction that explains that the purpose of the constituent parts of the work, the Monographs, as originally released was “to reconstruct and elucidate the hidden lore of the West according to canons preserved in various esoteric orders”. Mr and Mrs Grant assert that Hidden Lore, Hermetic Glyphs is to be considered a “veritable grimoire”, and it’s as a grimoire that the book works best. Remember the thrill you felt when first you glimpsed the text of Abra Melin or the Lemegeton? That’s the same feeling you’ll get when you delve into this magnificent tome. The first of the Monographs, by Steffi Grant, is an accomplished and sensible piece on the Tree of Life. It’s fair to say that it’s a whistle-stop tour, but it includes a “recommended reading list” with which few could find fault. The next Monograph, also by Steffi, is an altogether more substantial piece on the Golden Dawn, beautifully illustrated with Rose Croix, robes, magical weapons and glyphs. It’s all truly impressive stuff, reminding me, not for the first time, of my great surprise that Steffi isn’t better known and more widely respected in Thelemic circles as an artist, occultist and essayist in her own right. The fourth Monograph, “Aleister Crowley” by Steffi Grant, is a rather flimsier piece, narrating the development of Crowley’s spiritual life in “nine diagrams”: personal seals, organisational logos, that sort of thing. It’s not of itself particularly insubstantial, though; indeed in many books it would stand out as especially interesting. In this gallery, though, the picture’s not quite bright or affecting enough to impress. Next up is a remarkable essay on Austin Osman Spare by Kenneth Grant, illustrated by Spare’s wonderful Formulae of Zos vel Thanatos. This splendid article would form the perfect introduction of Spare to the Western magical tradition, should one still be necessary. I’ve been an admirer of Spare’s work since I was a teenager, nearly thirty years ago, and it’s easy to overlook just how complex his system can appear to the novice. Grant, not usually known for the transparency or crystal clarity of his writing, here presents exemplary accounts of Zos, sentient symbols and the rest. I can’t leave this part of the review without quoting Grant at his poetic-precise best: “Zos locates the apprehension of reality in the lightning-swift ‘inbetweenness’ reciprocation between the dual terminals of ego and self.” And so this remarkable tome proceeds, taking in the Vinum Sabbati, Mage and Image, Hidden Lore (a very effective sideways glance at the “hidden lore” in fiction), Yetzirah (with some remarkably impressive graphical representations of the Otz Chiim), Magical Creation (a startling examination of “aspects of astral perichoresis”) and, finally, the Vault of the Adepts. It’s all rounded off by Further Considerations – an apparently new essay which will be of particular interest to occult-influenced artists for its discussion of colour scales. So… A conclusion? This is a book produced by one of the finest occult small presses, printed and bound impeccably. Its contents are amongst the profoundest of modern occult writing, written by two of the most significant figures in Thelema, bridging the gap effortlessly between history and the modern day. This isn’t a book I’d recommend: it’s a book I’d insist that serious students study. There certainly won’t be a more important Thelemic publication this year.

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