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POPULAR OCCULTURE
Reviews


Editor's note: This will be a regular feature in Silver Star Journal. Any and all readers are encouraged to submit reviews that they feel pertain to the magickal community. We also actively seek publications of all kinds for review in this space. Send submissions (or requests for a snailmail address for review books and mags) to:  aion@psychicsophia.com

In this Issue we have reviews by:


Reviews by Shade Oroboros

Inside Solar Lodge / Outside the Law: True Tales of Initiation and High Adventure by Frater Shiva,
Teitan Press 2007, 183 pages, illustrated.

   Many thanks to Papa Nick for his excellent review, ( See Papa Nick's review below) which went into far more detail than I usually manage here; and in general I am in complete agreement with what he had to say. This group was indeed an important missing link in the history of the OTO in the USA, and it is a pity that it turned out so amazingly badly. A couple of quick notes on the more lurid bits: Ed Sanders’ infamous tome The Family was indeed mostly about the Manson Family, and Frater Shiva denies that any contact ever took place, although the Solar Lodge did have quite a few members and I suppose that anything is possible… surprisingly enough, Charlie himself does not seem to have included Crowley among his fixations, although other sources claim him as a ‘Clear’ in Scientology, and he certainly got his brainwashing skills somewhere!
   The lurid and much-repeated ‘boy in the box’ tale involved a troubled child who set a fire in the Solar Lodge’s desert compound, destroying a building that contained a large amount of their Crowley materials and manuscripts. The story does appear to have been somewhat inflated (perhaps something more like being locked overnight in a storage shed until a parent arrived than chained for six weeks in a packing crate in the desert) and the Solar Lodge people seem to have been caught up in the huge mass hysteria after the Manson Family murders (in recent news, more possible Manson bodies may have just been found in the desert). However, on the sleaze-o-meter, Frater Shiva clearly had to be aware of the thefts of Crowley archives from Karl Germer’s elderly widow (who was also physically attacked) and from Israel Regardie and other early OTO members (in other occult scandals, there were apparently several waves of looting and dispersal of Regardie’s library, which he had always intended to be preserved after his death). Combined with denial that a commune of Crowleyites in the 1970’s ever did any drugs (!!!) and were strictly conservative about sex (???) this seems to go beyond self-serving whitewash and somewhere into the realm of boggled imagination…

Blood on the Altar: The Secret History of the World’s Most Dangerous Secret Society by Craig Heimbichner,
170 pages, Independent History & Research 2005.

   There are, however, even worse books about the OTO, and this one is probably the bottom of the barrel: an hysterically paranoid Christian rehash of typical Satanic-Masonic-Zionist conspiracies that conveniently places the OTO as the Eye at the very top of the Pyramid, alleging that Crowleyites dominate the secret government, international intelligence networks, Hollywood, UFOS and the Vatican. Hmm, yeah, right… so the OTO has perhaps a few hundred-odd members, mostly marginalized magicians, but secretly rules the world?… THEY WISH! The main thrust is that the OTO is heir to the highest degrees of Freemasonry (the Rites of Mizraim & Memphis) and that all the more mundane breed of masons must therefore join the OTO to achieve the highest levels of a vast Luciferian plot extending all the way back through Babylonian paganism, Kabbalists, Templars, Illuminati, Masonry, Mormonism, the OSS and CIA, Mossad and British Intelligence (much is made of Crowley’s activities as a secret agent in both World Wars, a historical reality with more details emerging in recent years) and on into Wicca, Women’s Liberation and the post-Vatican II Catholic Church. Admittedly, up to a point this is indeed our mystic heritage and it is very easy indeed to pull some lurid prose out of the works of our dear Mr. Crowley. Despite the rather well known proclivities of our founding fathers during the Revolution, the stream of anti-Masonic conspiracy theory goes back to its very beginnings, and was at one point the foundation of a major American political party. Many powerful and prominent people have been Masons and have indeed wielded considerable power, and the British Empire upon which the sun has now set was absolutely riddled with the little buggers.
   And sure, I’m pretty damn paranoid myself about who is really running the planet, but I suspect that at this late point in history it is far more likely to be multi-national corporations and the military-industrial-academic-media complex than any of the more esoteric forms of Freemasonry. However, the very notion that the Book of the Law has anywhere near the amount of human blood staining its pages that the Bible, Koran, Hitler’s Mein Kampf or Mao’s little Red Book have achieved is pretty ludicrous, and the very ugly level of anti-Semitism and homophobia in this book (and many other piles of crap from the same publisher) is pretty creepy. Full of bizarre accusations but short on proof, the over-the-top prose is seldom funny enough to justify spending time or money on this particular plucked turkey.

The History of Modern Magick: Glimpses of the Authentic Tradition from 1700 to 2000
by Allen Greenfield, 250 pages, lulu.com 2004.

   A much better series of essays is contributed by Allen Greenfield, a prolific Thelemic scholar, Gnostic Bishop and noted Ufologist, who traces the history of many early Rosicrucian, Masonic, Theosophical and Spiritualist influences, the Hermetic Order of Luxor (aka of Light), the African-American pioneer of sex magick Pascal Beverly Randolph, Crowley’s influence on Gerald Gardner’s creation of the Wiccan Revival (Greenfield’s important piece on ‘The Secret History of Modern Witchcraft’ is easily found on-line and well worth reading), the OTO itself, Jack Parson’s Babalon Working and his weird L. Ron Hubbard connections. He also includes some technical notes on the Gnostic Mass and Michael Bertiaux. The underground history of occultism is indeed far-reaching, complex and influential, yet was often quite poorly documented. Greenfield makes many important connections, and some vital points about how the relatively small number of players involved tended to cross-pollinate their various concepts and orders in ways which were not always very clear, but often relied on affinities, covert relationships, hiatuses followed by revivals, and hidden identities. He has also introduced and edited the current edition of Frater Achad’s seminal Liber Thirty-One.


Aleister Crowley: The Fire & The Force by Don Webb, 62 pages,
Runa-Raven Press 2007.

   Don Webb is one of the most public voices to emerge from the Temple of Set, and I have reviewed his previous works in Silver Star II and IV. This book is divided in two halves, a series of internal e-mails directed to the TOS during the centennial of Liber AL, and a later series of thought-provoking essays analyzing Thelemic cosmology and history from the TOS perspective. As always he provides some fascinating insights, though for me the Thelemic view still seems much wider, and it still perhaps seems that the TOS may have a rather limited appreciation of the Goddess… however, as with all his works, I find much to appreciate here. There are so many biographies of Crowley, but precious few rational studies of his actual system; and for magick to survive it must be carefully examined, tested, and then continue to evolve, rather than be embalmed as dogma. I regard this as a truly important contribution to that process.

The Lucid View: Investigations into Occultism, Ufology and Paranoid Awareness by Aeolus Kephas,
 212 pages, illustrated, Adventures Unlimited Press 2004.

   This may well be the most important book I am reviewing this time around, and perhaps the only one I have ever seen with a cover blurb by Kenneth Grant.
   An intelligent and detailed study of many of the implications of conspiracy theory (again covering all the usual suspects such as Freemasons, organized religion, media control, Nazi occultism, and many covert government operations including UFOs, the JFK assassination, Jonestown, the Twin Towers, etc.) and providing a subtle context for the ways in which what the author terms ‘paranoid awareness’ can evolve into a truly illuminated ‘lucid view’ of all strange phenomena, psychology and art, and perhaps the very nature of ‘reality’. Drawing heavily on Crowley, Grant and Castaneda should pull in the magicians, but almost anyone could be woken up by this clever, thought-provoking, and very well-written examination of both the personal and collective survival issues we so seldom dare to face… very highly recommended!


The SubGenius Psychlopedia of Slack: The Bobliographon: New Revelations from J.R. “Bob” Dobbs,
241 pages, highly illustrated, Thunder’s Mouth Press 2006.

   Some have described the Church of the Sub-Genius as a complicated religion masquerading as a joke, others as a complicated joke masquerading as a religion. I regard it as Big Fun, quite possibly the One True Way, and definitely one of the greatest spiritual deprogramming tools of our age. As usual, subversive humor, profound wisdom and wild graphics from a multitude of creators combine to reveal “Bob” the Messiah of Slack and his consort/shakti Connie, their prophecies, ideology and brilliant decoding of the sordid scam most regard as reality (HA!) via the Zen of sarcasm (and this planet needs an awful lot more sarcasm). For those familiar with the previous Book of the Sub-Genius and Revelation X, this new volume continues the vital blowing of minds.


Our Gods Wear Spandex: The Secret History of Comic Book Heroes by Christopher Knowles,
illustrated by Joseph Michael Linser, 235 pages, Red Wheel/Weiser 2007.

   A thorough and very entertaining review of the long history and deeply occult roots of comics, the world mythology now unalterably the most familiar to America’s youth. From mystical origins in ancient pantheons to the evolution of fantastic literature and pulp publishing, the strange underground streams of thought that have influenced so many artists and writers, and the fluctuations and scandals of the comics industry (which always has found its peak circulation in times of angst and national crisis, during wars and depressions, when people need heroes and messiahs the most), the collective unconscious and media archetypes of our time are explored by the “Joseph Campbell of comic books”. Vast in scope and full of strange connections in a widespread worldview that remains truly “magical”. And yes, the evil Lex Luthor started out as a mad magician and may indeed have been based on Aleister Crowley…


Divine Comedy Of Neophyte Corax and Goddess Morrigan: A Dialectic Play
by Payam Nabarz, Web of Wyrd Press 2008.

   A very deep, funny and clever play involving the complicated relationship between a goddess and her reincarnating raven, and cheerfully exploring all the mythologies which have played through the history of the British Isles: Mithraic and Druidic and Christian, Norse and Shamanic and Qabalistic, Thelemic and Vodou and Tantric. Mystery plays once edified the illiterate populace, today we have bad movies… perhaps it is time for a change. Wit can actually make people think! Illustrated with a series of lovely photos by the author.


Wiccan Roots: Gerald Gardner and the Modern Witchcraft Revival by Philip Heselton,
334 pages, many illustrations, Capall Bann 2000.

   A very thorough and well-documented work of research into the life of Gerald Gardner, who sparked the Wiccan revival that became one of the fastest-growing religious movements of the 20th century, and the major gateway for those drawn to magic and the ancient pagan gods. The author addresses the vital question of whether there was a genuine survival of the Old Religion at the core of Gardner’s teaching, and concludes that indeed certain sources can be traced. Gardner had a very interesting life, much of it spent far from England, but upon his return he met with many members of movements including Co-Masonry (women allowed!), Rosicrucians, Naturists and yes, apparently, witches. Many of his contacts seem to have been surprisingly upper class, but very old families with some surprising traditions. Much is made of accounts of the Operation: Cone of Power defense of Britain during WWII, which apparently drew surviving covens together. Unfortunately the book is devoted to a study of these hidden roots, and breaks off before the later and more public period of Wiccan diffusion; it is to be hoped that the author will continue with a further volume of biography.


Popular Magic: Cunning-folk in English History by
Owen Davies, 246 pages, Hambleton & London 2007.

   An excellent academic study of the folk magic tradition in fairly late to early modern times, which clearly shows that magical thought and practice has always survived in some form, but that in many ways it was fractured, fragmentary and poorly understood by this point in history. Still, if there are elements in the Craft that are actually survivals instead of revivals, this is an excellent place to look, and it is fascinating reading. And it should be noted that many cunning-men were literate, a rare talent in these times, and drew upon various sources for herbal medicine and ceremonial magic as well as village oral traditions.


Kink Magic: Sex Magic Beyond Vanilla by Taylor
Ellwood & Lupa, 227 pages, Megalithica Books 2007.

   A bold and often quite personal book which narrates the experiences of a magical couple exploring the implications of sensual magick far beyond what most of us dare to embrace. Two complex practices are merging here: a concise and up-to-date manual of the customs, techniques and ethics of BDSM is extendedinto a detailed introduction to the contemporary magical and even chaotic dimension, both being Otherworlds largely unexplored (hence generally misunderstood) by the general public. The authorshave considerable expertise in both fields, and the psychological and physiological gnosis of BDSM is clearly deepened and enhanced by an understanding of practical energy working, yoga and NLP as well as banishing, spirit entities and the use of sigils. Both are essentially very ritual activities, employing a complex symbolism and charged or fetishized tools  and jewelry, role-playing of one kind or another, and a psychic space very different from so-called ‘normal’ consciousness. Both are ultimately designed in part to be transformative and empowering forms of what might be called guerilla psychotherapy. Both share some similar practices in the history of both the conventional and mystery religions, and both have certain perils for the uninformed amateur. Both authors have been previously reviewed in this column, and their work is invariably encyclopedic, cutting-edge and sophisticated. This is also in many ways a magical record, and there is some courage involved in sharing activities both intimate and extreme.


Tarot of the Morning Star by Roger Williamson,
deck and booklet, Magus Meta Media 2007.
   A rather handsome and colorful set of the 22 Atus of the Major Arcana, mainly in an Egyptian style but with deep echoes of other primal mythologies. They are also somewhat larger than usual, emphasizing their function as talismanic icons or geometric gateways rather than mere tools for the casting of fortunes. The accompanying booklet is no mere manual, preferring that the images speak for themselves, but rather a lecture on the esoteric origins and secret uses of this treasure-house of images from the dawn of time, and the nature and history of magical consciousness.


The Book of Mephisto: A Left Hand Path Grimoire
of The Faustian Tradition by Asenath Mason, 75  pages, illustrated, Edition Roter Drache 2006.

 The legend of Faustus is one of the major archetypes of western civilization, that of the philosopher who sells his soul to the Devil for the love of forbidden knowledge. Widespread throughout all of Europe, a cautionary tale whose very nature cries out to throw caution to the winds, or perhaps to the flames… his companion demon Mephistopheles was perhaps the best known avatar of Satan or Lucifer in the Middle Ages and became in many ways the spirit of the Renaissance, which birthed the freedoms of our modern world.
   The author traces the literary corpus and forms of this Jungian Shadow, this Opposer or Trickster who is also a Liberator, through avatars such as Melek Taus, Hermes, Aiwass, Nyarlathotep and the Black Man of the Witches Sabbat. She explores the ‘Sitra Ahra’ or Other Side, the Shells of the Qlipoth or Nightside of the qabalistic Tree of Life & Death, and the saga of the fabled Nephelim or Fallen Angels. Anyone who follows the Left Hand Path, seeking to resolve duality in human nature, will find thoughts of value in this fine series of essays, images and rituals. And she has made me happily revisit Marlowe’s Tragickal History of Doctor Faustus, still far better than Goethe’s precious posturing…


Necronomicon Gnosis: A Practical Introduction
by Asenath Mason (& others), 186 pages,
illustrated, Edition Roter Drache 2007.

   What hath Lovecraft wrought?
  The Cthulhu Mythos may have begun as an alleged form of fiction, but Kenneth Grant pulled it into the purview of Magick and later of Chaos (notably thanks to Phil Hine with his Pseudonomicon and Madame Blavatsky with her Stanzas of Dyzan) picked up the
fabled Shining Trapezohedron and ran with it. Various other versions of the Necronomicon subsequently appeared, and now we have the most complete and cogent exploration yet, a very detailed grimoire of the Great Old Ones cleverly combining the extensive literary corpus in unholy miscegenation with the cutting edge of post-modern sorcery and all its Goetic and astral techniques in an elegantly illustrated volume of the darkest glamours and chthonic lore. The vast importance of nightmarish places and active dreamwork as gateways are emphasized, the perils and rewards are charted, the experiences of some of the survivors are recounted. As the T-shirt says:

              WHAT PART OF
ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn
     DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND?


Spirits in Sequins: Vodou Flags of Haiti by Nancy Josephson, 176 pages, profusely illustrated,
 Schiffer Publishing Ltd. 2007.

A beautiful art book, and the largest collection of Vodou banners I have seen. Both African beadwork & embroidery and European military & religious banners influence these remarkable representations of the Loa: some are used in temple rites and others sold as art, often for export to collectors. Opening with a review of the pantheon and a discussion of the techniques of their making, the major part of the volume is an extensive study of some of the major artists and a stunning collection of hundreds of images in glorious color. Many of these artists have become friends of the author, who gives fairly detailed accounts of their lives. Few countries on this earth have survived a more tragic history than Haiti, and the spirit of the people is a marvelous thing.

Haitian Vodou: Spirit, Myth & Reality edited by Patrick Bellegarde-Smith and Claudine Michel,
161 pages, illustrated, bibliography, Indiana University Press 2006.

   A new collection of academic studies, notable for the fact that all the contributors are actually Haitians and some are also practitioners. Since an enormous amount of racist nonsense has been written about Vodou, and even the better books have often been by American and European anthropologists, this is very welcome. Ten essays cover African roots, Haiti’s history, community and politics, the place of Vodou in the traditional and modern medical systems, music, art, education and the lives of women, and the process of priesthood.

The Case of the Scarlet Woman: Sherlock Holmes & the Occult by Watkin Jones,
124 pages, Greenwich Exchange 1999.

   A fairly serviceable pastiche of Sir A.C. Doyle’s great detective, replete with obsequious lower classes and the befuddlement of Scotland Yard. Three interlocked cases involving the Golden Dawn (older brother Mycroft Holmes is revealed as a member), W.B. Yeats, and the hidden influence of Aleister Crowley. Fair enough, but rather solemn; I wish there had been more fun involved!
 

The Case of the Philosopher’s Ring by Randall Collins,
152 pages, Crown Publishers 1978.

   Indeed, there was far more fun in this similar but more rollicking 1978 Holmes versus Crowley novel (I’m rather late on my reviews): “Amid the Drugs & Cult Mysticism of the Edwardian Underworld, Sherlock Holmes Encounters the World’s Most Evil Genius & His Plan to Destroy Western Civilization!” This also featured Theosophists Annie Besant and Bishop Ledbetter (“There is no genital chakra, it is the spleen!”), Bertrand Russell, Krishnamurti, Leilah Waddell and a far more entertaining confrontation between the World’s Greatest Detective and the World’s Wickedest Man. A word to the wise: for those who like their Holmes slightly disguised but brilliantly done, I will also recommend The List Of Seven and The Sixth Messiah by Mark Frost, co-creator of Twin Peaks; highly recommended!


Shadows Over Baker Street: New Tales of Terror!
edited by Michael Reaves & John Pelan, 464 pages, Del Rey 20055.

   As for those who always wondered whether Sherlock Holmes could beat Cthulhu (sort of like those old debates about Jesus versus Superman), a number of possible outcomes appear in this excellent anthology including contributions from such popular luminaries (is that really the right word for this sort of literature?) as Neil Gaiman, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Brian Stableford, Richard A. Lupoff, Poppy Z. Bright, and of course the darkly luminous editors themselves and even F. Gwynplain MacIntyre (who is a personal hero of mine for his previous novel Woman Between The Worlds, a charming H.G. Wells pastiche featuring a scurrilous depiction of the Golden Dawn, and Aleister Crowley fighting invading aliens with kung fu!).
   And all of this was authorized by the Doyle estate, what the hell were they thinking? On the other hand, other authors have repeatedly squared Holmes off against Dracula and Jack the Ripper…

The Repairman Jack Series by F. Paul Wilson:
 The Tomb (1984, revised 1998), Legacies (1998), Conspiracies (1999), All the Rage (2000), Hosts (2001), The Haunted Air (2002), Gateways (2003), Crisscross (2004), Infernal (2005), Harbingers (2006), Bloodline (2007), By The Sword (2008).

   I will not attempt to review this ongoing series, I would merely like to draw your attention to it… Repairman Jack is a fixer and trickster who lives outside the law and beyond the bounds of society, and one of the most likable action heroes of our time. His cases involve elements from the merely mundane (mobsters and subway shooters) to the most horrible cthuloid entities (reptilean monsters, dead people, sentient viruses, and scientologists, oh my!). As the series progresses he is being drawn into a vast and ancient battle for the sanity of the universe itself… but so what? The point is that these are fabulously fun page-turning occult thrillers, and probably the only NY Times best-sellers I’ve ever reviewed here other than Harry Potter. The author has a ton of other books as well, including medical thrillers; he is also a practicing MD, and I can’t imagine when he finds time to sleep…

(Editors Note: How can you call yourself an occultist if you havent read all the Repairman Jack novels???!!!)


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Review by Papa Nick

Inside Solar Lodge/Outside the Law
 by Frater Shiva, Teitan Press, 2007.

To prepare for this review I reread “The Solar Lodge of the O.T.O.” chapter in Ed Sanders’ “The Family”.  Even in 1971, I understood enough about the O.T.O. to know that what Sanders described was not Standard Operating Procedure for that organization.  And, being already a self-taught student of Aleister Crowley’s magick and philosophy, I could tell Sanders didn’t know what the hell he was talking about in that respect.  He writes that Crowley had “problems in the field of sadism”.  WTF does that mean?  That he was an inept Sadist?  (Well, Crowley’s personality was more masochistic than sadistic, but I don’t think that’s what Sanders meant).  And he credits Crowley with the aphorisms of the Powers of the Sphinx, and I always thought we had Eliphas Levi to thank for those (although A.C. did claim he was Levi in a previous life).  Such flapdoodle made me question the validity of Sanders’ “reportage” in the whole book, which turned out to be justified.  This chapter was omitted from later editions of “The Family”.
But, like any titillating urban myth, it took on a life of its own.  Francis King took up the echo in “The Magical World of Aleister Crowley” in 1977.  King, too, had the good sense to excise those paragraphs from later editions of his book.  But later authors didn’t take the cue from Sanders and King and continued to perpetuate the myth, and milk it for all it was worth, and add a little tabasco sauce in the process.

So, I was excited when I heard that, some 40 years after the fact, a high-ranking insider from Solar Lodge was publishing a book to clear the air.  I was one of the 418 people who plunked down hard-won dinero to get the limited edition. After reading it, did I feel like I finally knew the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, about what went on?  I’d have to say No.  “Inside Solar Lodge” is certainly not a whitewash - Frater Shiva candidly admits that much of what has been reported did happen: the theft of Crowley artifacts, the “boy in the box” incident, the megalomania of Jean Brayton and the “slave labor” aspect during the “Tong” period.  Yet, I can’t help but read such tell-all books, written decades after the fact, when most of the major players are long dead, without a critical eye.  Shiva himself comes out smelling like a rose grown in (what became) a pile of manure.  I don’t think it was written solely with the magnanimous intent of revealing “the Truth”; there is, inevitably, a personal agenda at work here as well.
Everything written about Solar Lodge before Shiva’s book focused on the “bad stuff” that may or may not have happened, but did nothing to explain what they were really about—their beliefs and practices - how this Thelemic organization translated Crowley’s written teachings into action.  This book does that: it provides a morsel of meat from the barbeque when all we’ve seen before is smoke from the grill.

As Shiva describes it, the structure of Solar Lodge combined the O.T.O. degrees with the grade work of the A.’.A.’. - for example, a Minerval was expected to complete the grade work of an A.’.A.’. Probationer, and afterwards complete the work of the Neophyte before being initiated as First Degree in O.T.O., etc. The outer structure of these two organizations, and their focus, had by Crowley’s accounts seemed separate: the A.’.A.’. dealt with an individual’s Great Work, while the O.T.O. focused on a wider agenda, and worked a specific formula: the agenda being Brotherhood and extending the Law of Thelema to society, and the formula that of sexual magick.  Most Thelemites, I believe, have had the desire to do both, but Crowley himself never found a way to weave them together.  (This was not an original concept, though: it seems Nu Isis Lodge had already envisioned this in the 1950s.)   Solar Lodge attempted that, and that made it a worthy experiment, at least. 

I had always assumed Solar Lodge was sort of created from whole cloth and had no connection with Crowley’s O.T.O. at all.  That’s only partly true.  Brayton was initiated by a member of Agape Lodge - Mildred Burlingame.  That provides a link between Agape Lodge and Solar Lodge, but only in the sense that Brayton was initiated as a Minerval, and later given the secret of the Ninth Degree.  But O.T.O. Inc. contends that when this happened, the O.T.O. was dormant, and neither the Burlingames or any other surviving member of Agape Lodge had the authority to initiate new members.  There was never a charter issued (who would have issued it, at the time?) to justify the creation of a new O.T.O. Lodge in the States, and the Magickal Link between Burlingame and Brayton did not seem to even imply that - but there was that certain silver talisman...  Brayton took the ball and ran with it when nobody was looking, and crafted her own cult with O.T.O. trappings.

The truth about the Solar Lodge is important, because if nothing else, it served as a bridge between the disappointing Agape Lodge and the later emergence of O.T.O. Inc.  It was a shaky bridge, to be sure, but it was financially successful, something Crowley would have loved to have seen from Agape Lodge, when he was starving and in need of a fix at Hastings.  In one respect, Solar Lodge had been at that point the only successful implementation of Crowley’s O.T.O. vision yet, anywhere in the world, because they did it “in business way”.  They owned several parcels of income-producing real estate, and businesses that made money as well.  They had cash, a good line of credit, and dozens of willing workers.  This was not a bunch of acid-addled hippies just imagining in the cannabis smoke a new way of life, outside the system.  They were well on their way to making it happen - a more-or-less self-sustaining Thelemic community: Crowley’s wet dream during the Abbey of Thelema period.
Solar Lodge, legitimacy aside, was a good idea... gone bad.  It was not, from Shiva’s account, anything like the pack of blood drinking orgiasts that Sanders describes.  Their program of initiation, based mainly on Crowley’s work, was sound, and they took it seriously.  The problems arose, primarily, from the unbalanced personality of the leader - Jean Brayton.  And that trickled down to create the chaos that ensued.  We’ve all seen it before, in other occult organizations, in business and in government.  Moral of the story: the hierarchical model is just a bad idea.  Perhaps organizations themselves are just bad ideas.  The problem was not Thelemic philosophy or the A.’.A.’. curriculum - it was how it was administered and implemented.  During the “Tong period”, after the legal problems, it was no longer about magick and initiation at all.  It was all about the money.
The real turning point, by Shiva’s assessment, was when Brayton walked out into the desert after the fire to meditate and was told by a booming inner voice “The Gates of Initiation are closed!  Send everyone away!”  But instead of listening to the voice of the “Seven Secret Chiefs”, Brayton allowed her ego respond with a resounding “No!”, then returned to the group to tell them she had decided they would rebuild.  Brayton broke the link she had (?) to the Secret Chiefs before that and concluded that the organization, and her control of it, was more important than the Great Work for the individuals involved.  The child abuse involving the young arsonist followed soon after, resulting in arrests, the dispersion of the group, flights to Mexico and then Canada to avoid prosecution, and eventual resettlement in Las Vegas of the few remaining members who lacked the will to break from Brayton’s control.

Frater Shiva was one who was strong enough to break away from Brayton’s control, but only after enduring a “Grand Tribunal”, where Brayton, holding court from her bed, passed judgment on his attitude and aspirations.  This was during what Shiva calls the “Tong” phase, when Brayton was weeding out the loyal from the unloyal.  He failed the Tong Test, but writes that Brayton privately asked him to stay, to keep the thing going.  He, to his credit, DID listen to his inner voice, and in 1972 left to continue the Great Work on his own terms and in his own way.  Today, he is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine and an instructor in the martial arts, living in New Mexico.

My suspicion that Sanders’ “The Family” was no more than the drool of a burnt-out rumor-monger were confirmed when I subsequently looked into other accounts of, not only the Manson Family, but other groups maligned in the book.  The Process Church of the Final Judgment is also raked over hellfire in “The Family”.  This chapter was also omitted from later editions, after a successful libel lawsuit by The Process.  A more accurate account can be found in “Satan’s Power: A Deviant Psychotherapy Cult” by William Sims Bainbridge, a sociologist who was a participant-observer in the group.  Even Sanders’ account of the Manson Family turned out to be way off-base and exaggerated to some degree.  Sanders was one of those “reporters” for whom digging into the facts of the matter just took too much work: this was not “investigative reporting” as we’ve come to know it, it was a matter of “the wilder the rumor, the better the copy”.

“Inside Solar Lodge/Outside the Law” is an important contribution to the history of Thelema in America.  It does provide a vastly clearer picture of what this group was about than we’ve seen anywhere before, and covers a period when this group was the only “organized Thelema” of note in the States, after Agape Lodge and before the emergence of the Caliphate, not to mention the growth of the American branch of Typhonian O.T.O. in the late 1970s and the birth of the Horus Maat Lodge.

That said, there are some things that bother me about Frater Shiva’s account.  As Jean Brayton’s “right hand man” for so many years, could he really have been so unaware of some of the shenanigans that were going on?  He admits that much of the library, including books and items that at that time were suspected to be stolen, were stored in his own bedroom.  I have to question, if his motivation was so pure, why he didn’t speak up when he saw the improprieties of other members and Brayton herself. 

Some of the issues he either danced around, or put a personal spin on, IMO:
•    The use of psychedelics and other drugs.  It was the late 1960s, man, in California of all places, and most of the members were 20-something college students who were wild about Crowley, one person who certainly had no qualms about using drugs in his magick and mystical pursuits.  Neither did college students in California in the 1960s.  Why the avoidance of this subject?  The only real story about drugs is when Shiva “bravely” stopped evil Brayton from an ether binge, and his mention of Frater Shem’s dosing of the punchbowl at a party with LSD.  This is a somewhat important point, only because Brayton has been painted by the slanderers as an “acid messiah” type, who bent her students to her will while they were high on psychedelics.  Shiva’s account did not answer this question for me.  Is it just coincidence that she did seem to focus on dental students, and a dentist who could write ‘scripts, for her membership?  There is mention of a box of pharmaceuticals at Solar Ranch that the membership hid from the cops, but no mention of the members ever using such drugs themselves, except for evil Brayton and the dentist Frater Shem.   Not only were the Solarites totally monogamous, they apparently never passed around a joint in a group setting.  Okay, well - he was there and I wasn’t, I guess I’ll have to take his word for it.
•    Motivation.  He and others blamed a certain “Soror Ma” for ratting out the group, resulting in their arrest for child abuse, following the “boy in the box” incident.  She was allegedly seen talking to a cop near one of the order-owned bookstores, and then came the bust.  Soror Ma’s motivation, he contends, is that her sexual overtures to the monogamous membership were rebuffed, so she took up with a non-orderite and got pregnant.  Isn’t it just possible, that a pregnant woman, with conscience intact, simply thought it was WRONG to see a child chained up in the desert heat, and reported them for that reason—not because she couldn’t get laid by the in-group?  Soror Ma at least saw the limits of loyalty—Frater Shiva apparently did not for quite some time.
•    Apocalyptic vision and racism: the motivation for Solar Ranch, according to the slanderers, was to provide a safe haven for the Solarites away from the race riots and those uppity black people.  Solar Lodge property was located very close to the places where the Watts riots erupted after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.  Shiva denies that this had an impact on them, yet, he sees fit to include mention of Ray Burlingame’s warning: “Never initiate a black person or it will be the end of everything”.  Shiva says there was no conscious effort to exclude minorities, but when a black man was initiated to the Minerval degree, Shiva writes: “In less than a month, Solar Ranch was engulfed in flames and the beginning of the end arrived”.  Draw your own conclusions.  So it was the black guy’s fault?  Give me a break... and a shower, because this part squicked me out.

It is not my intention to trash this book or Frater Shiva.  Like I said, I think it is an important contribution to the history of Thelema.  But, weighing it against the feather of Maat, it comes up a bit light in the measure of Truth.
We should always hold “tell all” books written decades after the fact, when all of the major players are dead, at arms length.  You have to consider the motivations of the author.  Is it really the truth finally revealed, or is it the weaving of a further fiction that is self-serving, with nobody left to either refute or confirm the “facts” as the author sees them?  There are more than two sides to any story.  Another recent example is Simon’s “Dead Names: The Dark History of the Necronomicon”.  That is his version of the “discovery” and “translation” of the “ancient manuscript”, appearing decades after the alleged events, only when all of the people who could confirm his version of it have been dead for years.  Both of these books are good reading.  Both of them contain a lot of the back-story of now legendary periods in American occultism, and for that, they are valuable.  But still - reader beware - don’t swallow it whole before an aperitif of salt the size of a golf ball.