Dr. Taverner and the Dreamer’s World

Not Sherlock Holmes, it's Dr. Taverner

Robert Moss, novelist and noted writing on dreaming, has a series of posts on his blog about Dion Fortune’s Secrets of Dr. Taverner.  Supposedly, the occultist/psychiatrist Dr. Taverner is based on a real doctor whom Fortune knew in the early twentieth century, and the “secrets” are retellings of actual cases.

 In my opinion, she succeeded beyond her ambition. The Taverner stories are both gripping and entertaining, and a valuable source of practical guidance on psychic protection and spiritual cleansing and many other facets of psychic well-being that are missed in our standard approach to healthcare and therapy. In its fictional wrapping, The Secrets of Dr Taverner is a practitioner’s casebook, of the greatest value to subsequent practitioners. It is perhaps the most accessible of all Dion Fortune’s works for the contemporary reader.

I once suggested to Stewart Farrar that he adapt them for television—how perfect for PBS’ Mystery seriesand he agreed that they would work well on “the box.”

Only, he said, the current leadership of her Society of the Inner Light was very protective of the copyrights. Too bad. Stewart would have brought both his writing talent—which had included dramatic scriptwriting—and a Witch’s experience to the job.

Pentagram Pizza for May 18th

Twelve words for for bloggers, pointed towards people in the medical professions, but likely appropriate for academia as well.

• While we are in the workplace, some thoughts from a Psychology Today article on why “diversity training” is a waste of time. Or why good manners are better than rules enforced by bureaucratic idiots.

• More thoughts on cult-occult films of the 1960s, this time from Zan at The Juggler. I have a couple in my Netflix queue now.

Pentagram Pizza for May 15, 2012

• At The Allergic Pagan, a three-part series on Neopaganism in America (link goes to the third part) with a lot of “whatever happened to?”.

• Jason Pitzl-Waters uses the reunion of the band Dead Can Dance (one of my favorites) to look back at the history of Pagan music.

• A new blog devoted to the history of Chicago occultism has me excited, since I will be there in November.

Gallimaufry with Forbidden Phrases

• According to John Rentoul of the British newspaper The Independent, these phrases should be banned due to overuse. He tips his hat to George Orwell, all well and good, but someone in the comments notes that the Irish satirist Brian O’Nolan also eviscerated bureaucratese in his day, which was even earlier.

• Abraham Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs” is a staple of introductory psychology classes. But Gary Lachman (a/k/a Gary Valentine of Blondie, etc.) at The Daily Grail notes that it can take some odd twists in the world of the esoteric: “Maslow’s vision of a kind of Brahmin caste of ‘self-actualizers,’ uninterested in the kind of material gratification that most people desire, and oriented toward more ‘spiritual’ concerns, is a recurring fantasy in the world of occult politics.” Read the rest.

• If you have a book proposal in mind, does it include zombies? Get on the zombie bandwagon! Consider this one: “Christ, mythras [sic], and Osiris as zombie archetypes – a new spirituality for a new age…”

• Odd manners of dying in sixteenth-century England.

Occultism and Mushrooms

Not necessarily psychotropic mushrooms. To learn more about them, read Andy Letcher’s Shroom or the works of Paul Stamets, Dale Pendell, etc.

These are metaphorical mushrooms—or mushrooms as metaphor—from an article by Wouter Hanegraaff on the German scholar of esotericism Will-Erich Peuckert (1895-1969):

To me, [Peuckert’s] book [Pansophie] breathed  an unmistakable mycological atmosphere: the mushrooms I used to collect during my trips through the forest, and the strange ideas and personalities that Peuckert had collected during his forays through the tangled woods of early modern history, simply “smelled” the same. The effect of the book had a lot to do with Peuckert’s inimitable prose … by which he introduced his readers to a forgotten world that seemed to be suffused with the same mysterious atmosphere of magic and fairy tales which, to me, had always given mushrooms their special attraction. Whereas green plants, trees and flowers flourish in broad daylight for all to see, mushrooms were half-hidden creatures of twilight, ambiguous and potentially poisonous plants-that-are-not-really-plants (what were they, really?) associated by popular tradition with the forbidden domains of magic and witchcraft. In short, mushrooms might be defined metaphorically as the occult in biology—and conversely, one could say that Peuckert now introduced me to what seemed like the mushrooms of history. Just as mushrooms grow in the autumn and are thus associated with decay and the decline of the life cycle, Peuckert described the magic of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries as the final flowering of a grand worlview in decline, inevitably doomed to be dissolved by the rise of bourgeois culture.

Wouter J. Hanegraaff, “Will-Erich Peukert and the Light of Nature,” in Esotericism, Religion, and Nature, ed. Arthur Versluis, et al. (Minneapolis: Association for the Study of Esotericism, 2010), 282-83.

That Wicked Man

Aleister and Rose Crowley, 1910

Via Plutonica, a Life magazine  slideshow on Aleister Crowley and his influence on pop culture.

I had not known that Sidney Blackmer played his character, Roman Castevet,  in the occult thriller Rosemary’s Baby, partly on impressions of Crowley.

When the movie came out, I was too young to appreciate the depth of its scariness, let alone know who Crowley was. I should watch it again.

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.

"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!

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.