Monday, 1 July 2013
A Look At Kenneth Grant and The Magical Revival
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