Monday 1 July 2013

A Look At Kenneth Grant and The Magical Revival

When reading some occult tomes, only frequent consumption of tea and biscuits allows one to retain one's sanity, or so I've found.

Let me go back to the beginning. Back in February, I went to a talk at Treadwell's called Kenneth Grant: Dracula's Tantric Rituals. It was a fascinating talk, but made me realise that I didn't really know much about Kenneth Grant apart from the fact that he was a student of Aleister Crowley, very much into sex magic, drugs and the occult potential of horror fiction - particuarly HP Lovecraft.

As I said when I blogged about the event, "I came away from [the] talk knowing that I need to do more reading up about Kenneth Grant."

After seeing my post, Caroline Wise - one of the people behind Starfire Publishing - very kindly sent me a copy of Starfire's edition of Kenneth Grant's The Magical Revival to read and write about. It is a very good quality publication; hardback and printed on lovely thick paper with a section of full colour plates and more pictures at the front. Nevertheless it took me a little while to delve into its pages. Kenneth Grant's books have the reputation of being a bit weird and I guess I was worried The Magic Revival would be too esoteric for me to understand, even though Caroline reassured me this was one of his easier ones.

Once I had a glance, though, how could I resist reading a book with chapter titles entitled Dark Dynasties, Drugs and the Occult and The Blasphemous Names of Evocation? Nevertheless, it was the kind of occult tome I felt safest reading all snuggled up in bed with a cat purring beside me and the aforementioned sanity-saving pot of tea and biscuits.

The Magical Revival was first published in 1972 and is a classic book of occult lore. Because so many people have reviewed it and analysed it before me, I don't really feel I can give it the kind of review I would for a new book, or a less well known publication. You can find out what others have said on Goodreads and even Wikipedia, What I can say is that I thoroughly enjoyed it - although it did sort of do my head in. It is written in an idiosyncratic style and deals with subjects like tantra, vampirism, Thelema and the Cthulhu mythos in a way that assumes the reader already knows a lot about them as well as understanding qabbalah, astrology, alchemy and the like. I'm very glad this edition has an excellent glossary as I kept needing to refer to it.

One thing I enjoyed about The Magical Revival is the insight it gives into the author's opinions about very influential people on the occult scene - many of whom he knew personally. These include Aleister Crowley, John (Jack) Parsons, Dion Fortune and Austin Osman Spare. Another thing I enjoyed was learning more about Kenneth Grant's view that horror fiction of  HP Lovecraft - and also Arthur Machen - was visionary, and could be studied for occult insights into worlds beyond the veil.

As I have said before, I have no desire to summon The Great Old Ones; I haven't lost that much sanity yet. But I would happily read further books in the Typhonian Trilogies, of which The Magical Revival is the first volume. However, I do think a proverbial pinch of salt is required when reading Kenneth Grant, along with very real tea and biscuits.

Links and previous related posts
The Magical Revival

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