Sunday, March 22, 2009


An un-hysterical approach to an interesting subject by Gary Lachman, the former Blondie bassist turned scholar of the Western esoteric tradition. I'm not surprised to see a blurb by Colin Wilson on Lachman's latest, because Lachman is likely to inherit Wilson's mantle as sympathetic yet typically cautious cataloger of the mysterious and magical.

Lachman of course deals with the famous politically active hermetic organizations: the Knights Templar, the Masons, the Illuminati, the Rosicrucians--but what differentiates Lachman's book from others in the field is its lack of gullibility. He doesn't make the extravagant leaps others make to prove that Group X is behind everything. This is not to say that Lachman drains the fun out of conspiracy theories either. He's read the Baigent and Leigh books, the books about Himmler and the Holy Grail, and he knows the myths and popular beliefs in depth. That he spends time debunking the junky theories of others is to his credit: he could likely sell more books if he concluded that Dick Cheney was a shape-shifter from Betelgeuse (and little evidence would be required to make the case).

I found two aspects of Politics and the Occult particularly interesting: the Left and Right wing aspects of occult organizations' involvement in politics, and the political views of individual occultists+. This makes for some fascinating reading, particularly when Lachman spends quality time on figures whose work I admire: C.G. Jung, Mircea Eliade, and R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz, for example.* There is perhaps another book for Lachman in his exploration of the conservative, neo-fascist features of many academics and theorists who investigate or promulgate the occult.

Fun stuff. I've read two of his tomes, and will certainly add more to the stack of Lachman by my bedside.

+I'm not necessarily disagreeing with the idea that Joseph Campbell, C.G. Jung, and Mircea Eliade are "occultists."

*Of course these cats are not really politicians, though Jung and Eliade are described as such on the back of the book? The young Eliade turns out to have been politically active in distasteful ways, however, as was the younger Jung.


Anonymous said...

Having been a student of Mircea Eliade the first year he was at the University of Chicago (1957) I think that he deals fairly with his links to Right-wing movements in Romania in his autobiography Vol II Exile's Odyssey(Univ of Chicago Press, 1988) For those who read French, there are interesting observations of the young Eliade by a writer friend at the time;Mihail Sebastian Journal (1935-1944) Paris:Stock,2007, Rene Wadlow

Casey said...

So this was gonna be a Contrarian Book Club pick. I got my copy a week ago, but haven't started it yet. You read fast!

Which is why I find it amusing that you might not have time for the CBC -- it's a book per month, not per day! ;-)

PS: I tried the divinorum. Absolutely terrifying. The upside is that once I regained sanity, I felt compelled to explore the idea of (relatively) humble social service. It's one way to radiate compassion the face of Cosmic Terror.