William Blake’s Sexual Path to Spiritual Vision, by Marsha Keith Schuchard
Inner Traditions, 9781594772115, 398 pp., 2008
Reading William Blake one cannot help but realize this is a man who is both religious and spiritually active, especially his poems known as the prophecies. The question is what was the nature of his spiritual life? What inspired Blake to create works that are both heavily Christian and at the same time antagonistic to many Christian ideals? The surprising answer is laid out as Schuchard leads us back into the complex religious web of mystical Christianity of the 17th and 18th century.
No clear, singular document exists that explains Blake’s religious life and upbringing, so Schuchard researched and wrote this text as a “reconstruction of the lost religious history of the family of William Blake.” This area is rarely investigated, and considering how bizarre and complicated a picture Schuchard paints it’s not surprising that “sensible academic critics have cautiously refrained from taking the plunge” into this counter-religious culture. Continue reading
It’s an interesting time for popular culture and the occult. Although the weird and the supernatural have always played a part in pop fiction from as far back as the first novels, the wide dissemination of mass media in the last century or so has grown and mutated such tales drastically. Magically-tinged fantasies of all kinds have been enjoyed by literally billions of people. Occulture is now part of the mainstream, and this has had a feedback effect. Continue reading
Pagan Christmas: The Plants, Spirits, and Rituals at the Origins of Yuletide, by Christian Rätsch and Claudia Muller-Ebeling
Inner Traditions, 9781594770920, 213 pp, 2006
The subtitle of this book (“The Plants, Spirits, and Rituals at the Origins of Yuletide”) helps to explain why I wanted to review it. Far too often people focus of the most visible of Yuletide symbols (the tree, the presents, the mistletoe and the decorations) and ignore the myriad of other details which surround this time of year. So I felt drawn to investigate these background items.
The authors focus on the ethnobotany (the study of plants) associated with the season. I had read and reviewed an earlier book by them and knew that the research and writing of this book would be first rate as well. I was not disappointed in that respect, nor in any other respect. The book is profusely illustrated with beautiful drawings and photographs. Continue reading
This slight annoyance of being regularly asked by ‘fluffy Pagans’ if we are Satanists probably goes with the territory of being chaos magicians – at the very least we are supposed to eat a baby a week, it seems. The founder of Satanism, the late Anton LaVey, made the very pragmatic point that “stories of unbaptized babies being stolen by Satanists… were not only effective propaganda measures, but also provided a constant source of revenue for the Church, in the form of baptism fees. No Christian mother would, upon hearing of these diabolical kidnappings, refrain from getting her child properly baptized, post haste.” It’s all about the money, honey.
We have also had dealings with several people who would fall under the stereotypical definition of ‘real nutjobs about Satan.’ These include one especially memorable person at an academic conference on alternative religion that we attended a while back. Continue reading
Sun at Midnight: The Rudolf Steiner Movement and Gnosis in the West, by Geoffrey Ahern
James Clarke and Co., 9780227172933, 279 pp., 2009
Anthroposophy, and its founder Rudolf Steiner, are topics which, like many others I am sure, I have bumped into during my tears of study. This book, a reworking of Dr. Ahern’s PhD work, is one of those areas I wanted to re-examine. Anthroposophy (and Theosophy, from which it split off in the early 2oth century) underlie much of Western esoteric thought and are, if for no other reason, worthy of study.
Anthroposophy – at least in its “pure” form – is extremely Christo-centric, which may present a stumbling block for some. This is not, however, unexpected as its origins date to a time and place (late 19th century Austria/Germany), which was not particularly, with tolerant of non-Christian religious express, with few exceptions. Continue reading