by John L. Smith
The Magical Revival
Aleister Crowley and the
Cults of the Shadow
Images and Oracles of Austin
Nightside of Eden
Outside the Circles of Time
Remembering Aleister Crowley
The Stellar Lode
Against the Light
The British occultist
Kenneth Grant has been a controversial and
even influential figure in Thelemic circles. As his writings have
recently come back into print after more than a decade there is
likely to be a resurgence of interest in his theories. For this
reason I felt it would be useful if the new generation of Magicians
had a guide to these strange and curious waters. In this series
(which originally appeared in IAO Campís Herald-Tepaphone) I examine
each of Mr. Grantís major works in sequence, giving suitable
background material as necessary.
I should probably add here that these reviews represent nobodyís
opinion but my own, and if you donít agree with what I say feel free
to e-mail me about it. Comments which are sufficiently interesting
and/or amusing may wind up posted here somewhere.
So without further ado. . .
(Muller 1972, Weiser 1973, Skoob 1992)
In his first book Grant takes a more or less straightforward
historical approach. He declares that the Thelemic Current as
embodied in the sexual Magick of Aleister Crowley is the latest
manifestation of what he calls the "Draconian Tradition" of Ancient
Egypt. It was this that inspired the Tantric sects of India, and
Grant intimates that the ultimate origin of all this lies with a
matriarchal pre-Dynastic culture in Africa.
Now considering that next to nothing is known about the historical
origins of Tantra (scholars canít even determine if Hindu or
Buddhist texts are older) Grantís assertions are about as good as
anyoneís. Unfortunately he offers no real support for all of this;
we are apparently required to accept this as the Gospel Utterance of
an Initiated Teacher. The book can certainly not be called
scholarly; Grant rarely identifies his sources, even for direct
quotes, and when he does it is often not helpful. He refers often to
an unpublished "Initiated Tantric Comment" as substanciating his
theories (which mostly seem to deal with the Magical virtues of
vaginal secretions,) but we are given no idea as to its authorship
or authority. One long quote, referring as it does to modern Western
medical practices, makes it clear that this "Comment" is of recent
composition, but I see no reason to regard it as more than a
reasonably valid interpretation of Tantric ritual. Grant claims it
is the One-True-Received-From-On-High doctrine, which sounds like
classic B.S.-to-the-third-power to me.
As near as I can figure, Grant takes most of his archaeology from
19th century sources, some of which were not taken seriously even
then. In his search for support he even treats as legitimate sources
the works of "Inquire Within," a notorious conspiracy theorist and
occult-basher of the 1920ís! 1
Grantís theology is rather odd: he identifies the God Set with Hoor-Paar-Kraat and with Aiwass. We are also given to understand
that the star Sirius is the source of the Thelemic Current. At one
point he tries to connect Thelema with the fiction of the New
England horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. Now, as HPL did base most of
his works on his dreams, there is a case for "occult inspiration"
but the table Grant produces is so superficial and unconvincing as
to make one wonder just how familiar he is with either manís work.2
There is not a lot of Qabalah in this book (in his later work the
alphabet-soup can take up whole chapters,) but there is one real
zinger: "Twenty-six (twice thirteen), is the number of Achad Unity."
To be fair, this is probably a typo (note the misplaced comma) and
it is corrected in the errata sheet of the Skoob edition (but you
would think that for a 35-dollar reprint they could afford to
correct the actual text, but nooo. . .)
In the later chapter Grant concentrates more on the work of modern
Magicians: mostly Crowley of course, but also
Parsons, Dion Fortune and Austin Osman Spare. This is where the book
is really useful as Grant actually knew most of them. He was
Crowleyís secretary in 1944-5 e.v. And his friendship with Spare
covered the last decade of that artist-shamanís life. Grant is
Spareís executor and is largely responsible for reviving interest in
his work, an achievement not to be sneered at. The two chapters on
Spare are perhaps the best in the book. In fact Grant often seems to
have a better understanding of Spareís system than of Crowleyís,
notwithstanding that he claims to be the latterís successor.
Frater ZAX of Pyramid Lodge once remarked that Grantís virtue was
that he is almost the only biographer of Crowley who focused on the
manís Magick rather than on his unorthodox lifestyle. This may be
so, but Grantís interpretations seem to miss more often than they
hit, and in style he often reminds one more of A.E. Waite! Most of
Crowleyís remarks about Waite in the Equinox could just as easily be
aimed at Grant. There is even the impenetrable vocabulary with words
such as "praeter-human," "transmundane," "enchiridion," "subserved,"
"openly-unavowed representatives" (a typo?), "efflux," "objurgations,"
"discreted," "clepsydral horologue" (my personal favourite,) and
"reification" (Grantís favourite.) The list could go on, and will as
we consider his other books.
In his Introduction Grant declares that he has "introduced no
blinds, no deliberately misleading statements or vague allusions to
formulae that cannot be shown to be as precise in their action and
reaction as their analogues in the more orthodox sciences." If you
think this is ironic in view of my comments here, please be assured
that you have seen nothing yet! Our subject has not yet begun to
In his later books Grant often cites works of fiction
and scholarly works indescriminately.
2.- I have
produced a more exact set of tables in 777 format here.
Aleister Crowley and the Hidden God
(Muller 1973, Weiser 1974, Skoob 1993)
In this, his second book, Kenneth Grant abandons the historical
approach of The Magical Revival to focus on the doctrines of the
"Draconian Tradition," his term for the ancient Tantric Current
embodied in the work of Aleister Crowley and Austin Spare.
Now, the historical reality of this "Tradition" as a cohesive
cross-cultural entity is a bit suspect, but this is nothing compared
to Grantís interpretations. There are many schools of Tantra so it
seems a bit unfair for Grant to say he has the One True
Interpretation of Tantric doctrine (based, again, on a "Secret
Comment" of unknown provenace.) What this seems to come down to is
endless discussions of the Magical virtues of vaginal secretions and
For Grant the female is the one source
of the ultimate oracle, the male serving only as a controller and
stimulant, or so it seems at first. It is quite easy to miss the two
passages where, out of the blue, he proclaims that, "in the current Aeon, the Aeon of Horus, the menstruum is semen." Grant barely
attempts an explanation of this change, he gives no practical advice
for Workings, and he certainly never explains why he devotes so much
space to obsolete, or at least superceded, formulae. He does,
however, promptly launch into a description of the Aeonic sequence
that owes more to H.P. Blavatskyís "Root-Race" cosmology and a very
garbled reading of Lovecraft than to Liber AL.
Later on Grant redefines the nature of XIö Workings, saying that
Crowley had it wrong and that the true Eleventh pertains to IXö
during the womanís Lunar flow. Now, as I always understood that the
XIö was Crowleyís innovation it seems a bit presumptuous to
contradict him. Beyond that is the simple fact that Grantís
reasoning makes no sense: he takes words like "Qadeshim" ( a Semitic
euphemism for male temple prostitutes) and "catamite" and uses them
as if they refer to women. Is Grant playing Humpty-Dumpty and words
mean whatever he says they do, is this one of those "deliberate
mistakes" to confuse the Profane, or does he just not have a clue?
I have seen some material from members
of Grantís "Typhonian O.T.O." and he seems to enforce his
interpretation as a sort of Official Party Line, so I think we can
rule out the second possibility. Actually, it is worth mentioning
here that while he claims to be the real O.H.O. Of O.T.O., many
modern Thelemic scholars doubt that Grant ever made it beyond IIIö,
so your guess is no worse than his and could well be better.
Grant also gives a chapter on his method of "dream-control by sexual
Magick." The term is something of a misnomer as it is really a
method for performing sexual Workings with spirit partners in the
dream state. This is a good example of Grant spoiling his own work
with obscure presentation.
On the plus side there are some chapters on Austin Spareís system,
most particularly his formula of the Witchesí Sabbath, as well a his
method of generating Sigils. There is also an analysis of H.P.
Lovecraft as a reluctant visionary of the Typhonian Current. This
part would be pretty good except that Grant often misapplies
Lovecraftís terminology. For example he identifies the fish-like
Deep Ones with the extra-terrestrial Great Old Ones.
Grantís scholarship has not improved. He still rarely gives his
sources and this time does not even bother with a bibliography. The
obscure jargon is well-represented, however, with such words as
"adumbration," "exudations," "bodies-forth," "equinoctial colure," "teratoma,"
"the type of," "glyphed as," and "transdivine." he does coin one
useful word though: "Aeonology."
In the final analysis this book has a few good points, but overall
it is not as good as The Magical Revival. It is probably just as
well that it is "not designed as a manual of practical Magick."
Cults of the Shadow
(Muller 1975, Weiser 1976, Skoob 1994)
If this were a comedy segment on The Late Show with David Letterman,
Paul Shaffer would come up with some campy Vegas-esque theme-music
for the occasion, something like this:
"Oh, those Cults!
Yeah, those crazy Cults,
Those crazy, crazy, crazy
Cults of the Shadow-w-w-w!"
So if the Reader will supply the music
we may proceed.
With its predecessors, The Magical Revival and Aleister Crowley and
the Hidden God, Cults of the Shadow forms Kenneth Grantís Typhonian
Trilogy dealing with various schools of sexual Magick. This time he
presents his interpretation of several such "Cults" (Grant has a
perverse affection for lurid terminology) and attempts to show them
as parts of one primordial Current.
Grant first discusses a number of West African/Voudon deities,
linking them to appropriate Paths on the Tree of Life. This part is
quite interesting and well done, but Grant spoils it by insisting
that these are the prototypes of the Ancient Egyptian pantheon.
There is just not enough resemblance; and if there were, would it
not make more sense if the ancient Egyptian Gods were the ancestors
of the modern African deities? After all, just because African
religions are supposedly "primitive" does not mean they have
remained unchanged for 6,000-plus years.
Grant then gives a rather peculiar history of Egyptian religion (one
canít help thinking it would have helped to consult even one book on
Egyptology published since 1907), and moves on to Tantra. He
maintains that Hindu Tantra was imported from Egypt, citing some
implausible bits of etymology to prove it: Egyptian "Bast" and "Sekhmet"
to Sanskrit "Pashu" and "Shakti" for example. While this may look
good in print at first glance, Ancient Egyptian and Sanskrit are
very different languages from very different families, and the
actual pronunciation of Egyptian is far from certain anyway. So it
will take more than a few lucky similarities to convince me.
Grant still focuses on one Tantric Tradition to the exclusion of all
others. He also performs some rather odd feats of logical
gymnastics. He joins orthodox Tantrics in denouncing Prayoga,
whereby intercourse is had with Succubi, yet he later advocates his
personal method of "dream-control" which involves exactly that!
Finally he comes to more contemporary sects with two chapters on
Crowley and Thelema (which he insists on calling "The Cult of the
Beast.") Much of this is devoted to legitimising Grantís "Typhonian"
O.T.O. He denounces formal Initiations as "mere copies of masonic
rituals having little magical value," eliminates Lodges in favour of
"power-zones" and generally scuttles all of Crowleyís ideas for the
reform of society. Grant states that the O.T.O. devotes itself to
Kundalini Yoga and "establishing a gate in space through which the
extraterrestrial or cosmic energies may enter in and manifest on
earth." Trans-Plutonic planets and the star Sirius figure largely in
He then deals with the career of Charles Stansfield Jones, better
known as Crowleyís "Magical son"
Frater Achad, who had such a
promising start: he discovered the secret key to Liber AL, and then
went off the deep end. By 1926 Achad decided that Crowley was
"unable" to utter the Word for the Aeon of Horus because, having
identified himself with the Beast, he became "inarticulate." So
Achad came up with a Word of his own, which apparently didnít work
because in 1948 he announced a whole new Aeon, that of Maat or
Ma-Ion! Achad is an excellent example of "ego-abcess" and paranoid
obsession, besides being the first Thelemic "heretic." The major
problem in this chapter is that Grantís commentary is so unclear
itís hard to tell if he is simply reporting Achadís theories or
actually supporting them.
The book ends with a short piece on Austin Spareís
but before that we get two chapters on something new: Michael
Bertiauxís La Couleuvre Noire (the Black Snake Cult.) This is a
(theoretically) Voudon-oriented group centered in Chicago. I say
"theoretically" because there is little recognizable Voudon in it;
Bertiaux is incredibly eclectic and has a fetish for
pseudo-technical jargon that must be seen to be believed. The
curious reader may consult the Voudon Gnostic Workbook, a collection
of Bertiauxís correspondence courses that is about the size of a
large cityís phonebook, and has about the same literary and Magical
value, if that. Grant quotes mostly Lovecraft-oriented material in
Grantís style remains consistent in terms of scholarship (damn
little) and peculiar expressions (lots.) For those keeping score
here are the new ones: "efflorescence," "Uranography," "co-types,"
"infra-liminal vibration," "audile," "comports," and the truly
amazing "sexo-somniferous magnetization." All I can say is that this
book is better than Bob Larsonís Guide to Cults, but I wonít put it
on any "recommended reading" lists anytime soon.
Images and Oracles of Austin OsmanSpare
(Muller, Weiser, 1975)
A. O. Spare (1886 to 1956) was almost certainly the greatest occult
artist of the last century, as well as being a powerful Magician who
devised his own highly effective system of thaumaturgy. He has had
considerable influence, especially on the Chaos Magick movement,
even though his few published writings are couched in a very obscure
and idiosyncratic style, besides being hard to find in the first
For these reasons it is fortunate that we have an in-depth analysis
of Spareís system by an occultist who knew the man well and can
therefore make things plain. Shockingly enough, he turns out to be
Readers of these articles will have noticed that I consider Grantís
chapters on Spare to be the best part of his oeuvre, and now that he
devotes an entire book to the subject he seems to leave his bad
habits (sloppy scholarship, peculiar vocabulary, dumb ideas, and
general loopiness) almost entirely behind. Grant has a firm grasp on
this material that he lacks in other areas and he presents matters
clearly and succinctly. The first half of the book is a brief
biography and character sketch of Spare that gives one a clear sense
of knowing the man. Grant then launches on a discussion of Spareís
philosophy and Magick system. In this he quotes liberally from both
published and unpublished material (Grant is Spareís literary
executor) occasionally reproducing actual manuscript pages from
Spareís uncompleted opus, The Zoetic Grimoire of Zos.
The book also includes liberal amounts of Spareís finished artwork
and sketches, many of them automatic drawings, that makes this a
fine introduction to the Artist as well as the Magician, although
one wishes some of these could have been reproduced in colour.
I was pleased to hear recently that Skoob Books plans to reprint
Images and Oracles soon; as this is the only one of Grantís books
that really deserves to be kept in print I was certain that this
would never happen4.
Let us rejoice in this miraculous defiance of universal
Click here to peruse some of Spareís works.
4.- Alas! I spoke
too soon! Since this was written (Summer, 1995 e.v.) Grant
has been dropped by Skoob and is once more without a
Nightside of Eden
(Muller 1977, Skoob 1995)
After completing his Typhonian Trilogy (The Magical Revival,
Aleister Crowley and the Hidden God, and Cults of the Shadow), Grant
embarked on a new series of studies in his "Draconian Tradition."
The first of these is a specialised discussion of the Tree of Life
based on the Class A book, Liber CCXXXI. Grantís premise (partly
derived from Fr. Achadís "Formula of Reversal") is that there are
two sides to the Tree: the normal "Dayside" which is familiar to all
Magicians in the Golden Dawn / A... A... Tradition, and the "Nightside,"
or "back" of the Tree, which is the source of the Qlippoth. The
Qlippoth are normally said to form an upside-down Tree depending
from Malkuth and are to be avoided at all costs.
Grant, however, considers them to be a
dark "mirror image" in Universe B, a "non-existent" reality
underlying our normal Universe A. Here, instead of the Paths, we
find the strangely looping "Tunnels of Set" winding their way
through the "dream-cells" of the collective unconscious. This realm
consists not of "evil spirits," but of the most ancient atavisms
that may be accessed by the intrepid Magicians in quest of knowledge
and power. The means for doing this are provided by the sigils in
Liber 231 utilized in conjunction with sexual Magick.
"Very well," you say, "let us see how Grant deals with this." First
of all, it must be noted that he does not present all of 231, merely
the Qlippothic sigils and individual verses. He does not give, or
even mention, the "Dayside" material at all. Perhaps there was some
worry about copyright infringement if the entire Liber was included,
but I suspect that this omission reflects an overall tendency of his
to concentrate on the "dark side" of Magick to the exclusion of all
else. The entire first half of the book is a long, rambling,
disjointed collection of weird Qabalistic goo that generally leaves
one wondering just what the point is.5
It often seems that this section was chopped into chapters at
arbitrary intervals, especially since the chapter titles usually
have only a tenuous connection to the material they introduce.
As for the text itself, we learn among other things, that the O.T.O.
Degree system is "old Aeon," that "Choronzon manifests as the
Scarlet Woman," that nuclear experiments have caused an invasion of
"powers from the other side," that Ain = Ayin, and therefore 0 = 70,
that apes are "the outcome of pre-human magical experiments by
extra-terrestrials who copulated with primitive women6,"
and all manner of bizarre lore culled from Blavatsky, Bertiaux,
Massey and others. He also seems determined to reduce every possible
Deity to an aspect of Set, no matter how unlikely the subject.
Another point to be made here is that while Grant denies that the
Nightside is really evil, and advocates working with these energies
as a spiritual necessity, he canít seem to help always dragging out
the most lurid descriptions possible, often reminding one of a bad
horror novel rather than a serious occult tome. It is as if he
cannot see any way to invoke the Tunnels except through fear. In my
humble opinion, anyone working with this material stricly from
Grantís perspective is in for a very wild ride.
Part Two is more coherent, simply because it follows the very
obvious structure of discussing each of the twenty-two Tunnels in
turn. The sigil of each guardian is given along with a few pages
describing its nature and powers. Much of this is simply taken from
777. Grant puts special emphasis on the specific type of sexual
Magick worked by the adepts of each Tunnel, thus making this a
comprehensive, if overly specific grimoire. The major idiosyncracy
here is,of course, Grantís re-definition of the XIö to cover
menstuation. He goes on for so long about how Moon-Blood is the true
original sacrament and how it breeds abhorrent monsters in the
Aether that it seems both offensive and ridiculous.
Whilst reading this book, I thought at first that Grant had finally
run out of perplexing words. In fact, it was just that he was saving
his strength for a supreme effort of amazing proportions. Here we
are faced with "discreted," "insee," "teratomas," "appertained," "entifying"
and its cousin, "entification," "expatiating," the "inferior
Hebdomad" and the "superior Hebdomad," "advert to," "aduced," "impubescent,"
"equipollence," "pre-eval," "olid," "keraunograph," and the ultimate
As a final note, I must say that I regard this book not so much as a
completely wrong-headed project, but as a worthwile idea that got
ruined in the execution. Those wishing to explore the mysteries of
Liber 231 are directed to The Shadow Tarot by Linda Falorio and Fred
Fowler, available from Black Moon Publishing, which provides a far
superior treatment of this same material.
Some years ago a group in the Bloomington,
Indiana area did considerable work with this material. Some
of the participants had their photocopies of Part One out of
order and did not notice the fact until they specifically
looked at the page numbers! They also said putting things
back in the correct order didnít seem to help much.
6.- To be fair,
later on Grant says this is to be understood symbolically.
Outside the Circles of Time
In some of his earlier books Grant touched on the later work of
Frater Achad; namely his proclamation of the "Aeon of Maat" to
supercede the Aeon of Horus. Now he devotes an entire book to the
subject, bringing in the related work of Nema (then known as
Andahadna) and others in Cincinnatiís Bate Cabal.
From the opening chapters, it would seem that Grant has accepted
Achad"s assertion that Crowley "failed to utter a Word for the Aeon
of Horus." "Thelema" cannot be the Word because it is the "word of
the Law," not of the Aeon! This is most charitably described as
excessive hair-splitting, and I really canít imagine why in the
Macroprosopus Grant would want to undermine his own work and
authority, which is supposedly based on Crowleyís, in this way.
Evidently our author thinks better of this, for most of the book is
devoted to demonstrating that Maat is a future Aeon after all, but
that certain adepts have been able to intercept this Current-to-be
now, hence the bookís title.
We spend a good deal of time sipping Grantís usual, and increasingly
outre, Qabalistic soup du jour . I would describe it, but it really
must be experienced: the numbing sensation is unique. He sort of
ties this book in with Nightside of Eden by refering to some
transmitted writing called the Qabalas of Besqul which he declines
to quote or describe in any detail.
Grant procedes on a lengthy account of the writing of Nemaís Liber
Pennae Praenumbra, which is supposedly the Holy Book of Maat, in the
early Seventies. Here I must say that I am operating with Inside
Information, as I personally know someone who was involved in those
Workings. My informant tells me that Grantís account of the events
is seriously inacurrate, and that when pressed for an explanation,
he proclaimed himself to be more interested in the mythology of the
events and put pressure on Nema to resign from his "Typhonian" O.T.O.
Incedentally, none of those involved had been in his order at the
time of the Workings, something Grant just manages to not quite make
clear. In fact some people saw this entire book as an attempt by him
to acquire some of the credit for Bate Cabalís work.
To be brief, Nemaís writings7
often seem more like bad New-Agey science-fiction than Magick.
Indeed, with her "intergalactic transmissions," time-travel,
planetary gestalt race-conciousnesses and the "Comity of Stars8,"
she often sounds like a UFO channeler who took a wrong turn on the
way to Sedona. Grant ties this in with his fixation on Lam, whose
portrait he was given by Crowley (and which, I am told, overlooks
Grantís writing desk to this day). This picture, which Crowley
called "The Soul of a Tibetan Lama," does bear a strong resemblance
to some descriptions of UFO aliens, and Grant stretches this for a
lot more than it is worth.
It gets worse as Grant covers Nemaís other major channeling, the
Books of the Forgotten Ones, where we are treated to
ninety-third-rate Lovecraft pastiche. The "Forgotten Ones" are
apparently primal atavisms in the human racial unconciousness that
were sealed away at some point and are now returning because modern
nuclear explosions have re-opened the gateway. In the course of
Grantís commentary we are treated to such revelations as this:
"On the ground that they have
misinterpreted the magical allegories and types, we discount the
theories of Dickhoff and others who exalt the Elder Gods as
Martians, and abhor the Great Old Ones as the snake-like and
invading spawn from Venus. The Elder Gods are the Maatians (not
Martians!) who, when manifesting as the Ophidian Current are
known as the Great Old Ones."
Grantís style remains consistent, though
marked by increasing shifts between first and third person.
Certainly there are more than enough new strange words to satisfy
anyone. We get "undistortedly," "sub-cthonian," "imbibition," "id-entifier,"
"kalography," "astronomical plenilune," "oneiric perichoresis," "Voodic,"
"blent," "lucubration," and the rather puzzling "co-sexual."
All things considered, I donít think it is too remarkable that it
took Grant over a decade to get another book in print.
The original material in question may be
studied in the early numbers of the Cincinnati Journal of
Ceremonial Magick (Black Moon Publishing), and in the
recently released Maat Magick (Weiser, 1995) by Nema.
8.- Maat herself
is apparently a sentient neutron star out in space
". . . and now you are very
deep, but Iím going to take you even deeper!"
Grant seems to have hit a fallow period
in the Eighties, publishing nothing after Outside the Circles of
Time in 1980. He now returns with a new publisher and even weirder
stuff for his fans.
This book seems to have a split personality. Partly it is an account
of certain Workings at his "New Isis Lodge" in the Fifties and early
Sixties, and partly it is the usual strange meanderings where he
attempts to turn Liber AL into the Necronomicon! This involves
possibly the most peculiar exegesis of CCXX you will ever run
across; Grant dips into Lovecraft, Frater Achad, Michael Bertiaux,
Arthur Machen, Sax Rohmer, Jack Parsons, and occasionally even
Crowley with abandon. . . and without bothering to notice that much
of what he is citing is fiction! At least this suits his breathless
and disjointed narrative style, not to mention the aforesaid
These one suspects of being at least somewhat fictionalised. New
Isis Lodge seemed to specialise in rather bizarre dramatic rituals
that drew from, and often mixed, a variety of traditions as well as
Grantís own theories. Many seem to have been based on his "Tunnels
of Set" cosmology as given in Nightside of Eden. They are often
related to various relics in the Lodgeís "Magical Museum," such as
Crowleyís Magical Dagger. Photographic illustrations are provided,
unfortunately many of these are in Outside the Circles of Time! It
seems rather poor sport to send the reader scurrying to a book
thatís been out of print for ten years. In any case Grant has, as
the years go by, an increasing tendency to put irrelevant
illustrations in his books, which is a bit irritating even if we do
get to see new Spare pictures. And speaking of irrellevant, the
various ritual accounts and the exegesis are often mixed together
without the slightest rime or reason, as if two different
manuscripts have been shuffled together.
The rituals described also share another trait: they all seem to go
horrendously wrong. Grant calls this a "tangential tantrum," but I
can think a stronger words to describe oneís students dying or going
insane. Alleged instances include a trapeze artist falling off a
giant Tree of Life framework into an open well, aquarium monsters
emerge to have sex with a Priestess, and an Indian temple baboon
dissapears into a column of purple smoke never to be seen again. To
be sure, some people derived benefits from these rites: one woman
supposedly became a great dancer after she sucked off a giant Mayan
squid-bat in an abandoned chapel in Wales (pp. 243-6)! The reader
may begin to understand my skepticism, and if anyone who was
involved in New Isis Lodge ever reads this (increasingly likely as
this goes on the Web,) I would love to hear some other reports of
these Workings. I cannot, of course, say if these "tantrums" were
the invariable results of Grantís rituals or if he just selected
certain "unfortunate" records for this book, but either way one
cannot call this good publicity for his work.
A Lovecraftian Tree of Life is included which is a distict
improvement over the "corespondences" in The Magical Revival. There
is also a chart from the New Isis Lodge Manifesto giving a
"structure of the O.T.O." (more of a curriculum, really,) that bears
no resemblance to the Order at any point in its history! Here, as
elsewhere, Grant displays that complete lack of comprehension as to
the nature of the Order he claims to rule.
As with all Grant books, we are treated to a lovely new collection
of Wierd Words. Here we have adjectives like "delusively," "deaginous,"
"pullulant," "transakashic," "ornecephalic," "ojasic," and "sexomagnetic."
We also learn of the "astro-audile sphere," "ideational essences,"
and "somniform receptivity."
VIII: Remembering Aleister Crowley
While it is well known that the young Kenneth Grant acted as a
secretary to Aleister Crowley for a time during World War Two, this
book is his first attempt to give an detailed account of his time
with the Beast. As such the book is something of a dissapointment in
that it is mostly the letters that Grant received from Crowley on
such mundane matters as travel plans and book orders. There are a
few letters on Magical topics, as well as some good anecdotes (one
of which features Grady McMurtry as a surprise guest star.)
It is interesting to note that, according to one of Crowleyís
letters, Grantís writing style was already pompous and effusive.
Grant takes issue with this point in his running commentary, but as
his own letters have not survived, he cannot back up his refutation
by printing whatever writing of his that Crowley was criticising.
The absence of Grantís letters somewhat diminishes the historical
value of the collection. In addition there is no real attempt to
address the circumstances of Grantís leaving, though the last letter
(to Grantís father) seems to indicate familial pressures. Crowley
was thinking of Grant as a sort of "assistant literary exectutor,"
but it is obvious that Grant washed out both mundanely and
Magically, and he deserves credit for not attempting to hide the
The book is rounded-out with several pictures of Crowley in his last
years, reproductions of some of his letters, and colour photos of
his Masonic regalia, all in Grantís possession. These items are the
clue to the real nature of this "book." It is not really a memoir,
nor is it a collection of correspondence: it is in fact a
fifty-dollar advance-catalogue for Grantís estate sale!
Austin Spareís system of Magick as presented in The Book of Pleasure
is very stripped-down and straightforward. Hardly anyone I know of,
however, has noticed the footnote to the Introduction listing dozens
of illustrations and chapters that were left out of the book. I have
always wondered why these things were missing and in this book
Kenneth Grant finally explains:
"Spare had intended using the illustrations but he never wrote the
chapters suggested by them. Their substance [ . . . ] was destroyed
during World War II. When I [Grant] got to know him, I persuaded him
to reformulate the lost material. He did so, and it survives in the
form of the Grimoire of Zos, parts of which I included nearly thirty
years later in Images & Oracles of Austin Osman Spare."
I have taken such pains to present this information because it
constitutes almost the only useful portion of this entire 264 page
The majority of this tome consists of endless disjointed ramblings
on all the usual subjects, with a pronounced emphasis on UFOs. Grant
postulates that such objects are in fact energy forms of
extraterrestrial sorcerers and goes off onto weird Qabalistic
tangents that mix authentic material and fictional names with
abandon. He reveals that the ceremonies of the Drugpa Buddhists of
Bhutan are inspired by Lovecraftian extraterrestrials, an assertion
that would give any Drugpa the biggest laugh since Blavatsky said
they could materialize letters over billiard tables in London. One
also learns that "Count" Basieís "jump" jazz compositions provide
ingress for the Outer Ones, which explains some of the alien life
you see at jazz festivals. Later Grant enters a very odd digression
about the evils of rock music that sounds like a channeling from
Rene Guenon, of all people! He also takes time to plug some of his
yet-unpublished occult novels.
Chapter 13 presents a "channeling" or "Holy book" recieved by Grant
during his "New Isis Lodge" period entitled Wisdon of Sílba: The
Doctrine of Self-Neither Attained through the Bliss of Non-mobile
Becoming. This is a tract on non-dualist mysticism with great
kinship to Hindu Advaita Vedanta and Austin Spareís theories. The
subsequent chapters deal in Grantís Qabalistic exigesis of this text
through what he calls "creative gematria" (more commercial candour!)
which includes ruminations on Bela Lugosi!
As always we have more Strange Words: "mirroracle," "UFOlogicks," "synśthesis,"
"innerness," "mimesis," "impubescent," "miasmata," "egoidal," "paranomasia,"
"inheres," "metagnosis," "isopsephicism" and finally, "insectival
So if youíve ever itched to have your mortal envelope shanghaied by
a Yuggothian, this is the book for you!
(with Steffi Grant)
(The Carfax Monographs1959 - 1963, Skoob 1989)
From 1959 to 1963 (the height of Grantís "New Isis Lodge" period)
Grant released a series of ten pamphlets in editions of 100 copies
on occult subjects. Known as the Carfax Monographs, these are here
collected in book form for the bibliophile. Most of these essays are
rather basic, at just a few pages each they could be little else,
with occasional hints at Deeper Mysteries. Four of these are
actually written by Grantís wife, Steffi, who is much the better
writer of the two. She also did nine of the ten colour plates tipped
in to the book, the tenth being one of Austin Spareís magical
Frankly, this book is over-priced for the content. While the
articles are interesting, most hinging on the relation of Eastern
and Western esoteric ideas, Grant has largely superceded them in his
later work (though he does refer back to them fairly often.) Most of
the illustrations, which are very good, have since been reproduced
The Stellar Lode
(Appeared in Skoob
Esoterica Anthology Number One, 1995)
It appears that Grant has written several novels on occult subjects
over the years (of course, there are those who say heís been writing
little else but fiction all along. . . ) This work, which was
originally written in the mid-fifties, is the first of these to be
published, and in many ways is a more effective presentation of
Grantís Magical theories than his "non-fiction."
First of all it must be said that this is not so much a novel as the
detailed outline of a novel. Grant commits the common mistake of
novice authors in that he "tells" us what happens rather than
actually "showing" it as it happens. The characterisations are
mostly weak and unlikely. He also forgets to mention several
important developments in the plot until far too late, and from the
way he barely mentions the climax (which is rather weak anyhow) it
is obvious that he was thoroughly bored with the job and thus never
really finished it. He never even seriously got around to salting
the prose with his trademark strange vocabulary.
For those interested, the story itself is actually rather
intriguing: the "Stellar Lode" of the title is a mysterious talisman
(considering Grantís other works, I assume that it was created from
solidified sexual fluids) designed to anchor the reincarnation of an
Ancient Egyptian sorceress in modern times. One wishes that a more
skilled author had gotten ahold of this one: Lovecraft or Machen
would have produced a masterpiece, Sax Rohmer would at least have
made a good pot-boiler. In fact, it seems that The Stellar Lode was
inspired by a very similar novel of Rohmerís titled Brood of the
Witch-Queen, as well as Bram Stokerís Jewel of the Seven Stars,
which Grant is good enough to mention in this connection in Hidden
XII: Against the Light
Publishing, Ltd., 1997)
This is the second novel of Grantís to be published and the first
book from Starfire, longtime publishers of the "Typhonian OTO"
journal. The production quality is quite lavish and this was
certainly printed with an eye for the collectorsí market, but what
of the story?
Against the Light covers the search for an ancient Grimoire
containing the sigils that are Keys to the Nightside. The star of
this narrative is none other than Kenneth Grant himself, with a
supporting cast of his own friends and relatives, some of whom will
be familiar to readers of his "non-fiction", but which are here used
(or so one may assume) fictitiously. One of the natural results of
this is that one is uncertain just how to take much of the story. Is
Grant disguising fact as fiction or fiction as fact? I have long
suspected that heís been doing the latter in his other books, so is
he finally coming clean here? I confess I simply canít tell. For one
thing I donít know his family history, something that is crucial to
Essentially this novel is a sort of Lovecraft pastiche consisting of
long dreamlike passages through various Gateways into other
realities. I get the feeling that Grant mined his dream journal for
most of the episodes. He still insists on depicting magical work in
the most lurid, pulpish light and tries to fill the readerís head
with all manner of silly warnings. Seems that Kenneth still needs
fear to get the juices flowing after all these years. Nothing really
fits together very well and, while this may have been the intent, I
canít help feeling the book would have been better for another
rewrite. There is no attempt at characterization and the story is
never resolved: it simply stops.