Kenneth Grant - Magical Revival Excerpts (copyrighted book, review only)
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This aptly describes Austin Osman Spare. The circumstances of his birth emphasize the element of ambivalence and inbetweeness which forms the theme of his magic. He told me he was not sure whether he was born on the last day of December 1888, or on New Year's Day, 1889 whether, as he put it, he was Janus backward-turning, or Janus forward-facing. But whichever aspect of the deity he more closely represented, it is a fact that his life was a curious blend of past and future. Despite his inability to remember quite when he... More >>>
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This aptly describes Austin Osman Spare. The circumstances of his birth emphasize the element of ambivalence and inbetweeness which forms the theme of his magic. He told me he was not sure whether he was born on the last day of December 1888, or on New Year's Day, 1889 whether, as he put it, he was Janus backward-turning, or Janus forward-facing. But whichever aspect of the deity he more closely represented, it is a fact that his life was a curious blend of past and future. Despite his inability to remember quite when he was born, the place was certainly Snowhill, London: he was the only son of a City of London policeman.
Kenneth Grant (23 May 1924 - 15 January 2011) was an English ceremonial magician and prominent advocate of the Thelemite religion. A poet, novelist, and writer, with his wife Steffi Grant he founded his own Thelemite organisation, the Typhonian Ordo Templi Orientis, later renamed the Typhonian Order.
Born in Ilford, Essex, Grant developed an interest in occultism and Asian religion during his teenage years. After several months serving in India with the British Army amid the Second World War, he returned to Britain and became the personal secretary of Aleister Crowley, the ceremonial magician who had founded Thelema in 1904. Crowley instructed Grant in his esoteric practices, initiating him into his own occult order, the Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.). When Crowley died in 1947, Grant was seen as his heir apparent in Britain, and was appointed as such by the American head of the O.T.O., Karl Germer. Founding the London-based New Isis Lodge in 1954, Grant added to many of Crowley's Thelemite teachings, bringing in extraterrestrial themes and influences from the work of H.P. Lovecraft. This was anathema to Germer, who expelled Grant from the O.T.O. in 1955, although the latter continued to operate his Lodge regardless until 1962.
In 1949, Grant befriended the occult artist Austin Osman Spare, and in ensuing years helped to publicise Spare's artwork through a series of publications. During the 1950s he also came to be increasingly interested in Hinduism, exploring the teachings of the Hindu guru Ramana Maharshi and publishing a range of articles on the topic. He was particularly interested in the Hindu tantra, incorporating ideas from it into the Thelemic practices of sex magic. On Germer's death in 1969, Grant proclaimed himself Outer Head of the O.T.O.; this title was disputed by the American Grady McMurtry, who took control of the O.T.O. in the U.S. Grant's Order became known as the Typhonian O.T.O, operating from his Golders Green home. In 1959 he began publishing on the subject of occultism, and proceeded to author the Typhonian Trilogies, as well as a number of novels, books of poetry, and publications devoted to propagating the work of Crowley and Spare.
Grant's writings and teachings have proved a significant influence over other currents of occultism, including chaos magic, the Temple of Set and the Dragon Rouge. They also attracted academic interest within the study of Western esotericism, particularly from Henrik Bogdan and Dave Evans.
Grant was fascinated by the work of Aleister Crowley, having read a number of the occultist's books. Eager to meet Crowley, Grant unsuccessfully wrote to Crowley's publishers, asking them to give him his address; however, the publisher had moved address themselves, meaning that they never received his letter. He also requested that Michael Houghton, proprietor of Central London's esoteric bookstore Atlantis Bookshop, introduce him to Crowley. Houghton refused, privately remarking that Grant was "mentally unstable." Grant later stated his opinion that Houghton had refused because he didn't wish to "incur evil karma" from introducing the young man to Crowley, but later suggested that it was because Houghton desired him for his own organisation, The Order of Hidden Masters, and thereby didn't want him to become Crowley's disciple. Persisting, Grant wrote letters to the new address of Crowley's publishers, asking that they pass his letters on to Crowley himself. These resulted in the first meeting between the two, in autumn 1944, at the Bell Inn in Buckinghamshire.
While highlighting Grant's reclusive character, The historian Dave Evans noted that Grant was "certainly unique" in the history of British esotericism because of his "close dealings" with Crowley, Spare, and Gardner, the "three most influential Western occultists of the 20th century." The occultist and comic book author Alan Moore thought it "hard to name" any other living individual who "has done more to shape contemporary western thinking with regard to Magic" than Grant, thinking him "a schoolboy gone berserk on brimstone aftershave."
In 2003, the historian of Western esotericism Henrik Bogdan expressed the view that Grant was "perhaps (the) most original and prolific English author of the post-modern occultist genre." Although based in Thelema, his Typhonian tradition has been described as "a bricolage of occultism, Neo-Vedanta, Hindu tantra, Western sexual magic, Surrealism, ufology and Lovecraftian gnosis". Although membership of Grant's own occult groups remained small, his Typhonian Thelema represented a significant influence over various other occult groups and currents. They included chaos magic, as well as Michael Aquino's Temple of Set, the Dragon Rouge, and Andrew D. Chumbley's Cultus Sabbati.
The occultist Peter Levenda discussed Grant's work in his 2013 book, The Dark Lord. Here, he asserted that Grant's importance was in attempting to create "a more global character for Thelema" by introducing ideas from Indian Tantra, Yezidism, and Afro-Caribbean syncretic religions.
Grant published his work over a period of five decades, providing both a synthesis of Crowley and Spare's work and new, often idosyncratic interpretations of them. Evans described Grant as having "an often confusing, oblique, and sanity-challenging writing style" that blends fictional stories with accounts of real-life people.
In 2003, Bogdan's first edition of a Grant bibliography was published by Academia Esoterica Press. This was followed by a second, updated edition in 2015.
Kenneth Grant Bibliography (non fiction):
- The Tree of Life (1959)
- The Golden Dawn (1959)
- Aleister Crowley (1960)
- Austin Osman Spare (1960)
- Vinum Sabbati (1961)
- Mage and Image (1961)
- Hidden Lore (1962)
- Yetzirah (1962)
- Magical Creation (1963)
- Vault of the Adepts (1963)
- The Magical Revival (1972)
- Aleister Crowley and the Hidden God (1973)
- Images and Oracles of Austin Osman Spare (1975)
- Cults of the Shadow (1975)
- Nightside of Eden (1977)
- Outside the Circles of Time (1980)
- Hidden Lore (1989)
- Remembering Aleister Crowley (1991)
- Hecate's Fountain (1992)
- Outer Gateways (1994)
- Zos Speaks! Encounters with Austin Osman Spare (1998
- Beyond the Mauve Zone (1999)
- The Ninth Arch (2002)
- At the Feet of the Guru (2006)
Kenneth Grant Bibliography (fiction):
- Black to Black and Other Poems (1963
- The Gull's Beak and Other Poems (1970
- Convolvulus and Other Poems (2005)