Thursday, November 17, 2022

Aleister Crowley on Joseph Smith; and a minor sync about "soci-owl-ogy" and vampires

Today I read Massimo Introvigne's paper "The Beast and the Prophet: Aleister Crowley's Fascination with Joseph Smith," which I ran into the other day while searching for any link between Joseph Smith and the mandrake. (This paper was a hit because it mentions Crowley's Mandrake Press.) It was moderately interesting; Crowley had, as may be expected, no very deep understanding of the Mormon Prophet, but he does allude unmistakably to him in Moonchild:

All gave way to a most enigmatic figure. It was an insignificant face and form; but the attribution of him filled all heaven. In his sphere was primarily a mist which Iliel instinctively recognized as malarious; and she got an impression, rather than a vision, of an immense muddy river rushing through swamps. And then she saw that from this man's brain issued phantoms like pigeons. They were neither Red Indians nor Israelites, yet they had something of each in their bearing. And these poured like smoke from the head of this little man. In his hand was a book, and he held it over his head. And the book was guarded by an angelic figure whose face was extraordinarily stern and unbeautiful, but who scattered with wide hands the wealth of life, children, and corn, and gold. And behind all these things was a great multitude; and about them were the symbolic forms of exile and death and every persecution, and the hideous laughter of triumphant enemies. All this seemed to weigh heavily upon the little man that had created it.

After finishing the paper, I fell to wondering who this Massimo Introvigne was. Google summarized him as "Italian sociologist" and sent me to his Wikipedia page. I noted that he was born on June 14, that he has written about various "new religious movements" including Mormonism, and that there is a whole section of the entry called "Popular culture and vampires":

He was the Italian director of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula, which included the leading academic scholars in the field of the literary and historical study of the vampire myth. In 1997, J. Gordon Melton and Introvigne organized an event at the Westin Hotel in Los Angeles where 1,500 attendees came dressed as vampires for "creative writing contest, Gothic rock music and theatrical performances".

After browsing that, I began reading a new book: Frederick H. Cryer's Divination in Ancient Israel and its Near Eastern Environment: A Socio-Historical Investigation, beginning with the unpromisingly jokey Introduction. One of the headings in the Introduction is "Soci-owl-ogy?" -- which caught my eye because of its possible relation to recent owl syncs, but it turned out to be nothing but a sniggering reference to an American graduate student who, with his provincial accent, "spoke unceasingly of 'soci-owl-ogy,' and was so enthusiastic in his advocacy of the science that he once" employed a stupidly inept mixed metaphor in singing its praises. Har-har. Anyway, it still counts as an owl reference in the eyes of the sync fairies.

A couple of pages later, still under the "Soci-owl-ogy?" heading, we read this:

Ultimately, structural functionalism relies on a species of teleological argumentation in which the telos in question is the equilibrium presupposed by the researcher. One is reminded of the old joke in which a passerby, seeing a hippy walking along snapping his fingers, asks him why he does so. "Man, it keeps the vampires away!" he is told; and when he asks if the hippy really believe that finger-snapping repels vampires, the other replies, 'You seen any vampires lately, have you?'"

Hipsters, flipsters, and finger-poppin' daddies! Not off to a great start, this book. If this cat blows any more of this bad jazz, I don't think I can be arsed to stick around for whatever groovy might be stashed with his frame.

Anyway, sociology and vampires: not a juxtaposition you run into every day.

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