bITS 'N CHUNKS
So let me get this out of the way, and it may not mean much to you all but I hate Christopher Hitchens. He was a towering figure in my youth as a nonbeliever, but near the end of his life he ironically became as irrational and prejudiced as the very groups he attacked. He ended up representing everything wrong with new atheism/antitheism and nothing right; even Dawkins wasn't this goddamned ridiculous.
That being said, God Is Not Great is one of his last useful texts and one of the most useful texts in atheist literature. Of course, it's not occult literature nor does it discuss anything occult but it is a good resource on how to approach spiritual material. It's accessible, witty, and meant for aiding in the understanding of disbelief, not really to convert others. Reading this book helped me put a lot of things I was having trouble with into perspective, namely articulation and skepticism.
Growing up, I thought I had to have an excuse or reason for everything. When pressed about my nonbelief, I found often that I had no real answer other than "I just don't". Living in the Bible belt, people wanted answers. Was the trick to just not discuss it at all? No, people found out somehow. And I'm of the believe that you shouldn't have to hold your tongue. I couldn't recite a Bible verse after years of study and vacation bible school, and it was obvious. It's important to note the context as this was during a time when that kind of thing was very strange, unlike today where it's kind of ho-hum I feel.
The texts of Bertrand Russell and Thomas Paine were boring, dry, and most importantly not good enough. I was branded a Satanist, a Nihilist, an Agnostic, and "troubled". Christopher Hitchens helped me bring it back down to earth. I thought of my own trajectory to the point where I am now and it helped me realize that this was simply something innate for me. There comes a time when it's okay to question the things around you and you're free to go back or keep going forward. Hitchens also helped me realize why I tended to scoff at Eastern religions and philosophy as well; too many people in the west were trying to make them into a panacea for everything, substitute things that were culture bound because western religion was getting too contentious and boring. Like, I don't think people understand how contentious Buddhism is. I began to articulate my problems with organized and non-organized religions on a sociological level as well as philosophical, and I was finally able to successfully turn down all those church invites with no fuss.
God Is Not Great is not perfect, though. In its casualness, it really lacks the vigor of research and there are definitely times where Hitchens looks damned amateurish, notably his surface level understandings of Christianity versus Islam versus Judaism. And he clearly has a favorite target because that's what he's used to. Later, surprising few, it became Islam. Violently and disappointingly so at a terrible time. But with a few reservations for the controversial chapters, I still occasionally recommend the book for people trying to find their way or if you need help trying to articulate your atheism to others.
I love grimoires!
The first grimoire I ever read was The Lesser Key of Solomon, probably the most famous and most easily available. This and the Pseudomonarchia Daemonum are usually what is referenced when you see some deep knowledge of obscure demons. These also present a hierarchy of demons, descriptions of their facilities and legions they command, and usually some nice old timey engravings. More importantly, the Lesser Key presents how to summon demons and get them to do your bidding without dying horribly.
Look, if demons exist I really have to ask why they are so damn subservient to humans for petty shit. Wasn't that the whole point? Man, whatever. The Lesser Key sparked my fascination with sigils though, and to this day I like incorporating them into my work and personal life. I like specifically demonic sigils and ones to call upon angels as well.
So, let's say The Lesser Key is your introduction to Satanism and you get caught reading it. What do you do? Well, first I usually say it's a historical text. The odds of summoning real demons or angels are real low. If it helps, The Lesser Key is explicitly for ritual magic purposes and actually suggests regular uninitiated people shouldn't fuck around with the material too much. I think it's also important to mention that as an occult text, The Lesser Key is notorious for listing out demons and how to employ them but it engages with heavenly powers as well for a balance. There's a prayer book within it that coordinates hosts of angels with the zodiac and hours of the day for calling upon them. That doesn't get a lot of press because it's not as cool but I find it fascinating. It totally changes how one deals with the idea of good and evil and angel versus devil, and the perception of good and evil forces.
At the end of the day, it's just a book. A good one to read, but just a book nonetheless. But if you're interested in religious philosophy and ritual magic this is the place to start.
Some other cool ones to read. The Testament of Solomon shows King Solomon as a bad ass taking out demons left and right, and will show you how to likewise be a bad ass demon slayer if you so choose. But it's more of a thematic text than an instruction guide or manual.
Other grimoires I like are the books focusing on exorcism, especially if you'd ever like to see how exorcism really works. If Satanic ceremonial magic is not your thing, there are lot of useful grimoires on natural magic and prosperity. There are modern grimoires still being produced but I don't find them as vital as the ancient texts, and it seems to me most of them are in the Wiccan tradition of creating personal spell books so I skip 'em.
I love reading yuri or girls' love (I don’t really make the distinction between yuri & "softcore" shoujo-ai) manga, but I think it's fair to say a lot of it is very same-y. Yuri still trails behind yaoi/boys' love in popularity and profitability, so a lot of mangaka understandably keep whipping out the same tropes over and over to increase their profile and of course make money. The more experimental manga tend to be one-shots and often reserved for anthologies. And the experimental ones are free to get as…weird as weird can.
That's how I stumbled onto Mare a few years ago by one of my favorite yuri mangaka Morinaga Milk. Morinaga-san is really cool because her art is so feminine and delicate and she's largely unfettered by stereotypical yuri tropes, but she's not afraid of a little hentai. Even her works that kind of push that direction -- school girl lesbians for example -- usually have some subversive element to keep it from being the same ol' same ol'.
Morinaga-san is probably best known for Girl Friends, which is one of the best damn school girl romance dramas out there in the English speaking world, dare I say ever because I'm going there. Mare is an earlier work that looks to have been published in a highly specialized hentai magazine because it's pretty hardcore and there's demons.
Wait, what? Demons in my lesbian manga?
Well, yeah. And I say highly specialized because Morinaga-san incorporates some of the more obscure demons from Pseudomonarchia Daemonum and The Lesser Key of Solomon. The main character, Mea, is a powerful and amoral witch who hides out in a girls' school while feeding her pet beasties and summoning demons. While she's there, Mea inadvertently exposes some of the dark secrets of the school like co-ed affairs, abortions, even murder. Later on, there's a plot where another witch at the school challenges Mea but it ends too abruptly to even be satisfying.
So, Mare barely counts as a yuri manga because it really just involves Mea being rather loose with her sexuality and her attachment to her roommate/classmate, but it's definitely one of my favorite occult-themed manga. Themes of the occult in manga usually skew more towards the shounen or seinen demographic and, yeah, there's Judeo-Christian demons and long three volume fights but it never feels like substance. The works of Go Nagai (Devilman & Devilman Lady) keep my interest as well. And then there's the truly esoteric and nigh incomprehensible side, which would be something like Neon Genesis Evangelion. But despite the second half being a let-down, Mare just felt so substantive in the way that it accurately incorporated witchcraft, minor demons, sigils and invocations, and a smidge of social commentary. Then it, you know, goes to hell. But if you have the time, like ambiguous lesbian relationships, and cute evil little girls, check it out.
For the remainder of fall, I wanted to do a short series on occult literature largely because it's one of my major interests in life. It crops up a lot in my writing but usually in the form of demons because I don't need a reason to include demons.
Now, for those of you who don't know, I'm a staunch atheist. End of. I believe in no magic, demons, angels, deities, or even fortune and you will not make me in a box, with a fox, Courtney Cox and so on. That being said, I also have tips for my fellow non-believers on dealing with people who like to force religion on you, which I'll get into.
My atheism aside, I've always maintained an open mind and at least a vague interest in religions and belief systems. I like Christian Bible stories, I have read translations of the Qu'ran, I try to learn about Eastern religions and philosophies in more than a "pick 'n choose" way, and of course paganism. I have a lot of Wiccan friends and a few Christians in there; I'm so far gone that listening to them talk about ceremony and rituals is a lot like trying to follow a Magic: The Gathering game without first knowing what the hell trading cards are.
But yeah, my interest in those things are mostly attempts to be sensitive and understanding and not look ignorant as hell. My interest in the occult I feel like is a lot more broad and profound. My introduction to anything occult or esoteric was through alchemy and Hermeticism. To this day I still relate to themes involving those systems.
So, I'm gonna be showing y'all some texts that were influential on my thinking. I hope it helps. I'm going to include some skeptical texts as well as a sort of coffee bean. Most of everything that I draw out with the exception of like three things is available on Sacred-Texts.org, which is a great resource for ALL manner of spirituality and philosophy.
Episode 24 of Neon Genesis Evangelion is notable for a lot of controversial and, shall we say, interesting moments. But my absolute favorite has to be Asuka succumbing to her depression and being found in a catatonic state. She can't sync with her eva and she feels useless because so much of her identity is tied into being The Ace of the team (and believe me, in every incarnation she is). She's found in a bathtub, similar to this scene, filled with red tinted water. Period blood? Rust? Slit wrists? Like so much in this show, up to you to decide.
So out of sync with the world around you. Oh my, that's a dark thought. The feeling of levitating off the ground and in some kind of limbo. So much of you is tied into a superficial identity. As I stood calmly answering my phone just for bad news in the cold of a Saturday night, in line for a popular club with a mile long line that I would never get into, I bitterly thought to myself, "This wouldn't happen to me if it was Sunday."
I had no control of my life then. And then Sunday came and I must show you what I've done.
Ia! If you've come this far, you're either looking for weird or you know you've found it...