Crowley at Kensington Library and a teaser for Dark Star Rising

Here’s a link to a video of a talk on Aleister Crowley I gave last month at the Kensington Central Library here in London. I’m editing the second part of the talk, based on my book Aleister Crowley: Magick, Rock and Roll, and the Wickedest Man in the World,  and will post that soon. Also, here’s a link to a teaser for Dark Star Rising, which will be released at the end of May (end of June in the UK). This short piece originally appeared in New Dawn magazine and a slightly longer version, given here, turned up in Fortean Times. I’ll be writing a longer piece for the FT based on the book, which should come out around the same time as the book’s UK publication. And an upcoming issue of New Dawn will carry an article of mine on the Jordan Peterson phenomenon.

In other news, the narrator for the Dark Star Rising audio book has been chosen. His name is Jason Culp. I don’t know his work but his voice stood out among the other candidates and I’m glad Brilliance Audio went with him. A brief mention of myself and the book appears in this Wired article about the apparent rise of occultism associated with Trump’s presidency. Years from now a later generation may ask: where were you when the singularity got into the White House?

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20% Discount on my titles at Floris Books

The generous people at Floris Books are offering a 20% discount on my titles from now until the end of April. Along with Lost Knowledge of the Imagination, this includes The Caretakers of the CosmosThe Quest for Hermes Trismegistus, Rudolf Steiner, and A Secret History of Consciousness. Here’s what you need to know:
Code: LA0218
Offer: 20% off all books written by Gary Lachman when purchased via
Valid until: 30/04/18
And as a starter, here’s a brief excerpt from Lost Knowledge of the Imagination.

 

There are of course many books on the imagination. Psychological studies, motivational works, instructions in visualization, research into creativity, guides to using imagination in business, relationships, and self-improvement – these are some of the results that come from a quick internet search on the subject. There are many more. Most definitions of imagination speak of its contrast with reality. My Oxford Dictionary tells me that imagination is the ‘mental faculty of forming images or concepts of objects or situations not existent or not directly experienced.’ Merriam-Webster tells me it is ‘the ability to imagine things that are not real’ – which seems something of a tautology – and ‘something that only exists or happens in your mind.’ The Cambridge Dictionary says that imagination is ‘the ability to form pictures in the mind’ and that it concerns ‘something that you think exists or is true, although in fact is not real or true’. Imagination is of course also creative. Roget’s Thesaurus calls it the ‘power to create in one’s mind,’ and samples of the synonyms it provides range from  ‘artistry,’ ‘awareness,’ and ‘inspiration’, to ‘ingenuity,’ ‘insight’ and ‘creativity’.

I believe imagination is one of those things which we all know immediately but which, as I’ve said, we would find difficult to define. Indeed, an exact definition of it would only make it more obscure.[1] Nevertheless, here I will offer my own definition of imagination. It is not necessarily exclusive of others; I give it to emphasize what I take to be imagination’s central work, and also to make clear how it is a different way of understanding the imagination. I take it from the writer Colin Wilson. Imagination, he said, is ‘the ability to grasp realities that are not immediately present’. Not an escape from reality, or a substitute for it, but a deeper engagement with it. We could also say that imagination is simply our ability to grasp reality, or even, in some strange way, to create it, or at least to collaborate in its creation; with whom or what we will look at further on. For the moment let us limit ourselves to the first formulation.

It is because we need imagination to grasp reality – that part of it immediately before us, and its wider horizons that exceed the reach of our physical senses – that we can speak of a ‘knowledge’ of the imagination. Imagination has a noetic character; it is the source and medium of our other way of knowing. It shows us aspects and dimensions of reality that we would miss without it – and which much, if not most of official western culture has missed since the new way of knowing became dominant. While it can be used for fantasy, illusion, make-believe, and escapism, the real work of imagination is to make contact with the strange world in which we live and to serve as both guide and inspiration for our development within it. It is the way we evolve. Imagination presents us with possible, potential realities that it is our job to actualize. It also presents us with a world that would not be complete without our help.

Let us look then for this lost knowledge of the imagination, and see how much of it we can find.

 

[1] It is a phenomenon, in Sir William Grove’s words, ‘so obvious to simple apprehension that to define it would make it more obscure’. Quoted in Samuel Butler ‘Thought and Language’ in The Importance of Language ed. Max Black (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1969) p. 13.

Dark Politics and Lost Imaginations

This Wednesday, March 7th, I’ll be taking part in a live-streamed event with Evolve and Ascend: Dark Politics: Imagination, Magic and Power in the Age of Trump. I’ll be interviewed by Jeremy Johnson about my new books, Lost Knowledge of the Imagination and the forthcoming Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump. Jeremy is a brilliant writer, researcher and interviewer and I expect the exchange to be thought-provoking. We will be taking calls from listeners.

Also, Watkins Books has posted the video of my recent talk there about Lost Knowledge. 

There, you have all you need to get spring on the road.

Lost Knowledge at Steiner House, Audible Imagination, and Swedenborg’s Correspondence.

I’ve posted a short video of  the Question and Answer session following my recent talk at Rudolf Steiner House on YouTube . Here’s the link. I’m aiming to post more of the talk sometime soon, and to record future talks and make those available too. It’s a slow process and while I am not a technophobe, I know why I studied the Humanities.

I’ve also recently agreed a deal with Thirteen Ventures Limited, of Toronto, Canada, for them to produce an audio book version of Lost Knowledge of the Imagination. Mark Jeftovic, the man in charge, has had success with his earlier audio ventures, but Lost Knowledge  is, I think, a new departure. I look forward to hearing the finished product, and with any luck others will too.

And last week I submitted my 10,000 word essay on ‘Swedenborg’s Correspondences’, to the Swedenborg Society, who commissioned me to write it for a new series of short books they are launching, dealing with different aspects of Swedenborg’s huge body of work. The idea of correspondences is at the heart of Swedenborg’s vision, and it is an idea that has had an enormous influence on western culture over the last two centuries. I take a look at Swedenborg’s influence on Baudelaire and the Symbolist movement, his own correspondences with the western Hermetic tradition, and ask how his ideas may be of help to us today, in the early years of the post-truth world.

Legalize Freedom with Colin Wilson

Greg Moffitt has posted the third part of our discussion about the life and work of Colin Wilson, based on my book Beyond the Robot: The Life and Work of Colin Wilson, on his popular Legalize Freedom site. Like myself, Greg is a dedicated Wilson reader, something that comes through in his comments and questions. Wilson’s antipathy to the ‘socially conscious’ – read left wing – sensibilities of many of his early contemporaries starts us off, which seems apt for our own time, when practically everything has taken on an unfortunate political character. Personal growth and development versus political ideologies and utopias: that seems a significant contrast today, and much of what Wilson had to say is applicable to our own situation. And if you’ll allow me the plug, I touch on some of this in Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump, which will be coming out this summer.

In other news, I’ve been asked by the Swedenborg Society to contribute to a series of short works, exploring the many areas of the eighteenth century Swedish savant’s work. I’ll be writing a long essay on the notion of ‘correspondences’, which is central to Swedenborg’s vision of a earthly, physical realm informed by links to the higher spheres. I’ve talked about this in other books – Swedenborg: An Introduction to His Life and Ideas and A Dark Muse (aka: The Dedalus Book of the Occult: A Dark Muse) – and of course the idea of correspondences is a central theme in the western esoteric tradition. I will place Swedenborg within this tradition and look at how his ideas influenced people like the French poet Charles Baudelaire, who took them and, with some borrowing from Edgar Allan Poe and the the German fantasist E.T.A. Hoffmann, invented Symbolism.

Lost Knowledge at Steiner House

I’m giving a talk on 23 January at Rudolf Steiner House, London, on my latest book Lost Knowledge of the Imagination.  Steiner House is a good location for this talk. Steiner himself saw developing imagination as the first step in his program of intensifying consciousness and achieving “supersensible perception,” and in the book, along with other figures such as the poet and Blake scholar Kathleen Raine and the scholar of Persian mysticism Henry Corbin, I devote much space to two thinkers closely connected to Steiner. The German poet, novelist and scientist J.W. von Goethe was Steiner’s central inspiration on his way to esoteric knowledge, and the essayist, historian of ideas, great friend of C.S. Lewis and occasional Inkling Owen Barfield, developed Steiner’s ideas and applied them to his own investigations into the evolution of consciousness. Both warrant chapters exploring how their insights into the cognitive character of imagination – its aspect as a “way of knowing” – can help us grasp imagination’s importance today. My talk will look at the historical roots of imagination being sidelined in favor of a strictly logical and empirical approach to knowledge, and will offer examples of how imagination can help us know reality and even, in some strange way, help it come into being.

Rudolf Steiner House 35 Park Road, London NW1 6XT  (Telephone: 0207 723 4400.)

Time: 7:30

Price: £7/5 with concessions.

For the year ahead…

Today I start my sixty-second turn around the sun; here’s what’s in store so far for 2018. For one thing the print edition of Lost Knowledge of the Imagination will be available in the US on January 15th. It’s been out in the UK since October, and the Kindle edition has been available stateside since then too, but for those yanks who like to crack the spine of whatever they’re reading, they’ll soon have a chance to do this with my latest effort as well. Later in the year, on May 29th in fact, Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump, will be published in the US. It comes out about a month later here in Britain, and I suspect the Kindle version will be available before then too. This time around I’ll also be published audibly; Dark Star will be coming out as an audio book, my first. As I understand it, the rights were sold before I had even finished the book, on the strength of it being about Trump. Forgive my selfishness, but I hope he stays in the news at least until the book is out. I’m curious who will narrate it; I’d be happy to do it myself but I haven’t heard from the publisher.

Also on the horizon is Carl Abrahamsson’s Occulture, for which I’ve written a foreword. I’ve known Carl for some time – we met, I think, at an OTO seminar held here at London’s Canary Wharf – and have participated with him in several conferences and other esoteric get-togethers, both in London and abroad. He has a keen eye for the unusual, as readers of his journal, Fenris Wolf, know. I also recently had the pleasure of writing an introduction to a new edition of Colin Wilson’s second book, Religion and the Rebel, a book as important as The Outsider, but which was practically universally panned on appearance. That Wilson carried on writing after taking such a beating shows that the one thing an aspiring Outsider needs is a tough hide. (I know this is out already but I thought it wouldn’t hurt to slip in a plug for it here. It is an important book and should be much better known.) In other Wilsonian news, I’ll be giving a talk on Wilson’s interest in the work – ahem – of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, something that was with him from the start, at the Second International Colin Wilson Conference, to be held at the University of Nottingham on July 6th. When they say international, they mean international; some of the speakers come from as far afield as Australia and New Zealand. Last year’s conference was a landmark event and I suspect next year’s will be as well.

I’ll be giving talks in London too. So far three are lined up. On January 23rd I’ll be speaking about Lost Knowledge of the Imagination at Rudolf Steiner House. If you don’t know it, it is a good example of Steiner’s architectural principles; an extra attraction is that the Sherlock Holmes Museum, at the fictitious 221 B Baker Street, is just around the corner. For some reason I find that not only appropriate, but significant. I’ll also be divulging some lost knowledge at Watkins Bookshop, one of the oldest – if not the oldest – esoteric bookshops in London; past customers included W. B. Yeats, Aleister Crowley, and Mick Jagger. I’m scheduled for a talk on February 15th, but it isn’t up on their site yet.

Speaking of Crowley – well, I will be speaking of him, at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Library on March 15th. I’ll be joining Antony Clayton, who will talk about Crowley’s last days in a boarding house in Hastings, run by eccentrics and where he was visited by a number of interesting characters. Antony put together a fascinating book, Netherwood: The Last Resort of Aleister Crowley, about this last stage in Crowley’s life, to which I contributed a chapter. Antony will talk about the Great Beast’s sunset years, and I will get him to them.

The big project for 2018 is a work I’ve been commissioned to do by Inner Traditions. It’s a follow-up to Dark Star Rising. Where in that book I focus on the strange occult politics surrounding Precedent Trump, in the next – title to be announced – I look into the strong messianic current that runs throughout Russian history. I ask to what extent does Tsar Vladimir tap into this? How do ideas about how Holy Russia will resist the decadent West inform his plans for the future? And what will that mean for the twenty-first century? I go into these questions to some extent in Dark Star Rising, focusing on the ideas of Alexandre Dugin, who occupies an orbit around Putin somewhat similar to Steve Bannon’s around Trump. But to say more now would be inadvisable.

I wish everyone who reads this – and everyone who doesn’t too – a very good Christmas. May 2018 find us ready to meet the challenges it will undoubtedly present. Oh, and thank you all very much for the birthday wishes.