“… it is no secret that the falling
away of all nations from religion…
is due to the fact that the fire
no longer burns in the sacred lamp.”
— Aleister Crowley
Review copyright 2013 () Freeman Presson, all rights reserved
Crowley didn’t live to see the current reactionary era of religious literalism, rigorism, and fundamentalism, although he grew up within one of its precursor bodies. I have often said that the extremism of modern established religions is just a natural part of their death-throes.
When the religion of our major establishments has been exposed as a mockery, we seek back to the last time there was a real connection to the Kosmos available to every sincere seeker. This leads us, generally, to places like Eleusis and Ephaka, the ancient Mysteries of grain or grail, where the connection of Earth and Heaven is revealed.
I am a Brother of a Church and Order for which the Grail, traced back to the lore of Ugarit and the Mysteries as preserved at Ephaka in Lebanon until the 4th Century E.V., forms the core of our quarterly Mystery plays (Seasonal Rites of Baal and Astarte, performed since 1974 in California and now elsewhere as well). Before this, Aleister Crowley synthesized a set of seven ritual dramas, which, while they do not recreate the lost rituals of Eleusis directly, attempt to do the same thing via an initiatory journey through the planets, in Qabalistic order. Crowley makes light of this choice in his essay on the plays, calling it “convenient,” which is all right as long as you understand that what is meant by “convenient” is “what his Genius easily seized upon for the purpose.”
The rituals were performed in London in 1910, until they were shut down for demonstrating rather too much truth for Edwardian England. Subsequently, the scripts and some notes were published in Crowley’s Equinox.
The present volume contains those scripts, with an Introduction and supplementary materials by “Baba” Lon Milo DuQuette. It is a one-stop shop for understanding the set of Mystery plays by Crowley; it would be indispensable for any Body wishing to produce the plays, as many O.T.O. Bodies have done for several years now.
I don’t particularly care for the modern scholarly-reductionist tone of one small part of the Introduction (page X, top), where the mythos and religion of Hellas is explained away as a shortcut preferable to teaching every yeoman astronomy. I don’t mean to say that this is the limit of the writer’s understanding, just that he left too much unsaid right there, and it might mislead some people.
The plays themselves are deep, being woven out of the Hermetica by an Adept steeped in them for many years, so they can be savored on their own by those engaged in similar Work.
This is recommended for every student of Magic, many students of Drama, and people interested in the history of ideas, especially if they are just finding out how much of that field is poppycock and puffery.
The Best of the Equinox, Vol. 2: Dramatic Ritual
Aleister Crowley, Introduction by Lon Milo DuQuette
8 1/2 x 5 1/2
March 1, 2013
[Complimentary review copy from the publisher gratefully acknowledged, opinions my own, your mileage may vary, etc.]