Thursday, 20 September 2012

Lon Milo DuQuette at The Atlantis Bookshop Presents...

Last night, I attended the latest event put on by The Atlantis Bookshop Presents, a central London occult and Pagan moot organised by Geraldine and Bali Beskin of Bloomsbury's historic Atlantis bookshop and emceed by well known Druid and Thelemite Steve Wilson. Formerly known as The Moot with No Name, the weekly event has just moved to its new location in the luxurious Edwardian decor above The Blue Post pub on the corner of Newman Street, north of Soho. The speaker for the evening was none other than Lon Milo DuQuette, arguably the most prominent publiciser of Thelema -- the Pagan religion founded by English occultist Aleister Crowley in 1904 -- alive today. An American, DuQuette is on a tour of Europe, and has spent much of the last week offering tarot readings at the Atlantis Bookstore in Museum Street. For those of you unfamiliar with Mr. DuQuette's work, he is perhaps best known among the occult community for his book The Magick of Aleister Crowley: A Handbook of the Rituals of Thelema (Weiser, 2003), a tome which is the most accessible -- and perhaps the best -- introduction to the Thelemite faith available. His use of humour to explain the practice of Thelema and magick has gained him a devoted readership on both sides of the Atlantic, and he has a veritable oeuvre behind him consisting of works designed to spread knowledge of these traditions to people who would normally be put off by the dark and spooky image of Crowley and High Magic generally.

During last night's talk, he offered us a series of amusing anecdotes in his own humorous and enthralling style. These revolved around such topics as his development of a mantra to the Hindu god Ganesha that he chants to the tune of well-known rhyme "Pop Goes the Weasel", and his involvement in exorcising a Roman Catholic girl's school from a demonic entity whose name was SLG-SLG. He ran quite considerably over time, but no-one seemed to mind; the audience was clearly captivated by this marvelous speaker and the entertaining tales that he was offering up for our amusement. Following the culmination of his talk, I was one of those who went over to him to congratulate him on his success, and he was kind enough to sign my old copy of his autobiography, My Life with the Spirits (1999), perhaps the best esoteric biography that it has ever been my good fortune to read. He furthermore produced a doodle of himself on the front page, a copy of which you can see below:

DuQuette's self-portrait, inscribed in my copy of his
autobiography.
After the obligatory break for those assembled to purchase more beverages and use the rest room, there was a Question and Answer section, in which I asked Mr. DuQuette how he saw Thelema progressing in the next fifty years. He admitted that he wasn't sure quite what the Thelemite community would look like so far ahead in time, but he did explain that he thought increasing numbers of people across the world would come to accept the Thelemite philosophy, that of living in tune with their True Will, even if they had never heard of Thelema or Crowley before. In this way he believed that the world would soon be populated by Christians, Muslims, Marxists and Jews who would themselves all be Thelemites, even if they themselves did not realise it. As a non-Thelemite, I'm not sure that I agree, but it was interesting to hear his point of view on this issue, one that was seemingly shared by a number of Thelemites in the audience whom I talked to in the pub afterward.

It was a pleasure to meet with Mr. DuQuette and I must encourage anyone with an interest in Thelema specifically or western esotericism more generally to pick up a copy of one of his books, which are by far among of the most accessible introductions on the subject, written by a man with a great deal of simplicity, kind-heartedness and wit.

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