W. J. Hanegraaff on Arguing with Angels

Wouter Hanegraaff has typed up a nice little review of my book, Arguing with Angels, over at his Creative Reading blog. He has many kind words, but I am first of all pleased that there are some very good observations about what I attempted to achieve in it: first to expel some common myths in the historiography of Dee reception, and secondly to highlight the “authenticity problem” struggled with in modern and contemporary ritual magic in general, and Enochian magic in particular. Wouter’s observations even point out wider connections that I did not explore explicitly in the book – namely that the authenticity dilemma finds similar responses in Western religious history more broadly, as prototypically expressed in the camps variously emphasising  scripture, tradition, or personal experience during and following the Christian Reformation. (Incidentally, I recently explored these themes in an article on (neo)shamanism that is still to appear in a Norwegian journal – that one, in turn, influenced by Wouter’s own work. The non-vicious, beneficent spirals  of academia.)

Gettin’ that crystal gaze

Finally, the review also points out that the book sort of ends a bit abruptly with the bewildering appendix of one of Runar Karlsen’s “received”, neo-Enochian texts. These would indeed have warranted further commentary, and it would also, as Hanegraaff mentions, been very interesting to have a linguist look at it. Do we find the natural language-biases noted by van Dijk and other linguists (notably Donald Laycock) for the “original” angelic/Adamic/Enochian language(s)? What about the commonalities with glossolalia and random letter permutation, which Laycock found to characterise word construction in parts of the original material? Indeed that would have been an interesting project, and I did in fact discuss the possibility with a couple of friends with linguistic backgrounds. Alas, it will have to wait for a later project. Perhaps it could be expanded, to look also at the copious amounts of material produced through “automatic writing”, or by dictation through spiritualist séances, mesmeric trances, and latter-day channelling literature?

If these comments made no sense, go over here and read the review. And if you haven’t preordered the paperback of the book yet, this is where you do it.
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This blog post by Egil Asprem was first published on Heterodoxology. It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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  1. Unless it really ADDS something, a review of a review (of one’s own work) mightn’t add much. I don’t know for absolute certain if English is your first language, but Egil, as you probably well know the expression is: “less is more.”

    Apart from that, I really enjoy your blog. This (lone exception) is cheesy, however, and might result in fewer book$: in which less is not more (wallet lining). Trying to think out loud of what’s “popular” in the regime; the CLOSEST I can come is something like Don Lattin’s most recent work, _High Then sober w/ Aldous Huxley et. al._ or some such thing. At least it’s oblique to entheogens or what have you. My impression is that academic philosophy isn’t worth a plug nickel, in terms of raw $$, unless it ruffles a few feathers and/or results in a
    university post – ticking off a few (million) 12-Steppers, to my mind, is a target worth setting sights on. Incidentally, circa 2007 I sent Patrice at C.U.R.A. a 100+ PAGE (rough) manuscript, quasi-scholarly, and he rejected it w/o reading much more than the title. It was the (second) best thing that ever happened to me. One wished to speak of “matricial thinking” and I urged incorporating tensors. I mean, why settle for 3-D when you can go 4-D? A good man, but if he was fluent in English I might have been sunk! My opinion was that the whole of “Dominion, or the System of 8 Houses” was conceived in order to state, “Modern thought in general pretends to privilege cognitive values, while it most often submits itself to the practical ones.” [sic] Of course I could be dead wrong about that, all of that, here & elsewhere, because it’s the only sentence I understood.

    Side issue: again I could be wrong, but I almost never (if ever) heard anything about Guinard (outside his exegesis.com) compared to Campion & Curry, for instance. I’d inquire, rhetorically, if that’s justified? … Stirring things up = good, however, too much strife = bad? I’ve honestly no earthly idea, but if one doesn’t speculate at all, it’s no dice, all bets are off, true?

    Best,
    Paul

    PS: Martin Seymour-Smyth wrote that, [in Sagittarius] “Gambling is an abuse of the prophetic faculty.” He was right about that, and if only for that, he was right about SOMETHING, which qualifies him more than any [modern day] astrologer you’ll ever think of. He wrote a book that was ENTERTAINING, even if for just one or two pages, utterly slandering Theosophy, which needed to be done, and elevated him above all others, even Sidney Omarrr whom I somewhat admired. Amongst astrologers, C.G. Jung is universally worshiped, and Theosophy never debased. What does that tell you? And if I admire W. Hanegraaff for anything, anything at all, it is for drawing my attention to Richard Noll, except that I never heard him play guitar. In the United States, for the longest time, it was easy to go and see Leo Kottke perform a (short) fugue by JS Bach. But now we have Youtube, and since I’ve heard/seen Ian Stewart play the impeccably beautiful piano parts to “Sympathy for the Devil” (Olympic Studio sessions on film) nothing is the same. Upon induction to the R’n’R Hall of Fame, Kieth Richard thanked “the man we all worked for, Ian Stewart.” I think it’s also true that Richard essentially paid Johnny Johnson’s pension, whom of course played piano for Chuck Berry. It all makes perfect sense; the only thing that doesn’t is why Johnson’s spectacular piano was buried (no pun) so far in the mix? “Johnny B. Goode” is/was apparently by, about, and for Johnson. I would easily believe it. There are two things happening: solo, and ensemble. That is the Apollonian/Dionysian of popular music, and why the Stones (for instance) almost always had (or needed) a sax and/or piano. Maybe not “all the time,” but sooner or later, “some things are more necessary than others,” and “Sweet Virginia” was very, very necessary in order to “complete” the history of (16 bar country) blues. “Other” bands (ensembles) could NOT, generally speaking, accomplish that. Duane Allman was aware of that. Oddly enough, The Faces “Devotion” (1970), especially live (on TV) FINALLY did some of that, too. Joe Walsh was born about 2&1/2 hours drive from here. But Sonny Boy Williamson built Chess Records, and he said so himself. No one EVER argued it.

    • Hi Paul, that’s a lot of text for a comment. To clarify the “review of a review”-issue: one of the many things I use this blog for is to keep track of (some of) the academic discussions that I’m involved in. That includes posting pointers and comments to pieces that engage with my own work, such as this. If you go to the “Arguing with Angels” page (scroll up and click the image to the right) you’ll see that I keep an archive of sorts of other discussions on it. So as you guessed, its really not about the “raw $$”. (I know better than anyone that this book can sell thousands of copies without me seeing half a nickel. That’s academic publishing.)

      • Egil, it hardly seems justifiable that the thing would sell in excess of thousands and you’d receive little or no remuneration, but if academic press is something to be – under certain circumstances – leery of, then thanks kindly for the heads-up: it is what it is. I read something at Publishers Weekly about two years back, RE: “New Age Pragmatism,” [never mind the conundrum] that’s no longer on the web in .pdf format (thankfully I printed a copy) that I might like to ask somebody (just about anybody) about – partly because it’s relevant to book sales. Nothing would make me happier if (non)academics alike would sell MORE books. My philosophy is: “BUY the book. I could care less if anybody actually READS it.” To my mind, that’s not really Machiavellian, because inevitably, somebody will read the thing. It’s almost like thermodynamics (entropy). So I really mean that; I’d do about anything to help encourage sales of “esoterica,” for lack of a better expression: sales to any one, by any one, for any reason, bar none. I never said, however, I’d encourage READERSHIP. Every man has his own profession. … So the self-referential-organizational thing makes perfect sense, but I still (slightly) suspect it might discourage $ales. If you’re trying to do that – discourage them – which you’re not, then I still might take umbrage.

        Lots of text, true. More is less. Or less is more? Now I’m confused. … We’re keenly aware that Wouter Hanegraaff has made allusions to the Stones, the Eagles, and whomever else, in published works, which is exceedingly, if not extraordinary rare for a bonafide scholar, or, especially one w/ a philosophy (I think) pedigree. Nietzsche wrote that, “In Bach, I understood the higher order of things,” which I read the first time in my life just two weeks thence. It makes perfect sense, since N. disparaged of prose in favor of music. It also makes sense beings Bach (apparently?) used numerology to compose things like _Die Kunst Der Fugue_, if I’m not mistaken. I would have said “astrology,” yet I’m even less sure of that. But I’d almost swear I hear the “first six fundamental harmonics” (now astrology and not tone) i.e., conjunction, opposition, trine, square, quincunx &tc. “in” the aforementioned. Odd as it seems, the “quaternary,” or (perhaps) “missing metric” in astrology is made apparent (to me) when said work is performed by string quartet – manifest as well is the “human,” or “drama”: mother/father/son/daughter. Dare I describe it as dissonance? That may be sheer conjecture, and purely imaginative, but when “experienced” i.e., heard in this (multidimensional) light, the thing is indubitably rapturous. Since I’m not trained in music, I’ve relied upon what’s been related to me by persons w/ and w/o professional expertise in classical (baroque), but on an intellectual level, they’ve (claimed to have) “understood.” Whether or no that pertains to the alleged rapture itself is less evident. Maybe they simply indulged the village idiot. At the Kansas City Music Hall, I was asked of a perfect stranger, “Is this you first time [for Bach and/or chamber music]?

        Somehow, he had discerned [by my facial expression(s) during the intermezzo or my rags compared to his tuxedo?] that I was essentially the village idiot. That’s OK, because by then I knew something he probably never could/would: that Bach was a sort of Jacob’s Ladder. In music something happens as nowhere else, except perhaps in conjugal bliss, and/or under the sway of entheogens, (the latter) which certainly aren’t “required,” but usually “can’t hurt.” If Blavatsky was smoking hashish, as is alleged, how can one ever hope to fully comprehend (modern) Theosophy if one hasn’t likewise imbibed? I never understood Theosophy, and never hoped to, but that generally didn’t preclude understanding those things that are “more necessary” (than others) – or at least that’s the hope. Sometimes it’s best to let others be the judge; other times exceedingly dangerous. “Judge for yourself” is a pretty good credo in my humble estimate.

        Egil, you’re a good man; most folks decry discussing “religion & politics,” unless/until they want to beat somebody to a bloody pulp. It’s rumored that in certain self-help circles, they decry embroilment(s) in “romance & finance.” Eyes roll, guffaws, gulps, deep breaths, savage ironies: “Oh no!” they decry: “Romance & finance – they’ll ‘get you’ every time!”

        But I say: “Romance & Finance – what else IS there?!”

        OR

        [At least according to the Grateful Dead]:
        A friend of the Devil is a friend of mine.
        (I started out runnin’, but I’ll take my time.)

        Best,
        Paul

        PS: If Faivre (provisionally) lent “Access” to (Western) Esotericism – which I only understood perhaps 4.5% of – then Prof. Hanegraaff likewise did a marvelous thing and lent access to (popular) musical culture, albeit exoteric. If I understood the metaphor, which quite likely I did not, then ofttimes “access” is about the best that can be hoped for, or in the words of a poet, about a “Soft Parade”:

        Who could ever ever ever ever ask for more?
        The-man-is-at-the-door.

        In the end, less is more. But that’s hard to ascertain. Egil, I see that your “Categories” includes “Spiritualism (10).” I’d like to take a look at those. I’m curious about something: I’m reluctant to be blunt (for once), but do you think John Buescher, author of _The Remarkable Life of John Murray Spear_, is AWARE that the “Esoterica” website is promoting (or at least cataloging) his book? It’s just idle curiosity, beings some of these categories are obviously in flux. Once in a while New Age websites promote books or articles that are hardly sympathetic, and sometimes downright antagonistic to their cause. Last but not least; because I’m in the Kansas City (metro area) I’m fortunate to have attended the Unity Church, in fact a business associate of mine (and pretty good friend) and his wife are full fledged members. It was his (scant) library two decades thence (roughly) that drew my attention to author Marilyn Ferguson, and the rest is more or less history. I will say this: when I entered the (rather large) Unity sanctuary for the first time, I was smitten by a total absence of religious iconography, save a LARGE green sign that read in white letters (clearly visible to any of the roughly 1000 in attendance) simply: “ONE MIND.”

        I won’t detail what I encountered in the rather extensive bookstore adjacent the sanctuary, because needless to say, that would make for a book in-and-of-itself. … There is also an active “spiritualist” (or “psychic”) church here in Kansas City, or at least there was 20 years ago, that met on Sunday nights. I’d expected to be slightly frightened or uncomfortable, but truth be told, these were some of the most remarkably peaceful/loving acolytes that one would ever hope to meet. Anyone in attendance (including myself) was invited to “testify,” and practically everyone was privileged a “reading,” which amounted to a “laying on of hands” in most cases if memory serves. The “pastor” was an elderly, gracious, warm and enthusiastic white woman, but the throng was fully racially integrated. I have/had no strong (ecumenical) feelings “pro” or “con,” but I can say unequivocally that I was made to feel most welcome, in a sincere way, and probably more so than in just about any catholic or protestant church.

        I also wanted to mention I wasn’t trying to hijack your post, but some months had passed w/o much commentary on this
        *particular * thread, so it’d be easy enough, I assume, to cancel out my remarks (if they clutter things unnecessarily) w/o any grief whatsoever. I don’t know how the management/editing of a blog takes place – since I haven’t had (or the deep desire for) one myself; likely I haven’t enough to say on a subject unless it were dedicated/thematic. My sincere appreciation for allowing me to chew the fat. Like I say, Egil, it really is intriguing about many of the things you’re posting about, though admittedly quite a few are (at least presently) well beyond my grasp. Of some things we just prefer to remain ignorant, until that mysterious motive force inspires us to rear up on hind legs … insouciance isn’t always a BAD thing, lest or ’till it evolves into abject indolence, as I was always so fond of William Blake’s quaint epithet, “Rest before Labor.”
        -OR-
        Here rests the man who rested before he labored. Now he rests before those who labor in Heaven.


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