Book Review – The Forbidden Book by Guido Mina di Sospiro and Joscelyn Godwin

Hermetic Library fellow Mark Stavish recently reviewed Joscelyn Godwin, another Hermetic Library fellow, and Guido di Sospiro’s The Forbidden Book, a recently available for the first time in English fiction novel. Both the novel and the review may be of interest. Mark Stavish posted his review to Amazon and also to his email list, but gave me permission to share it with you here:

The Forbidden Book is a wonderful page turner in the style of Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code and The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason, only unlike these bestsellers, di Sospiro and Godwin deliver the goods, not only in story, but for many readers, in esoteric content as well. Opening with a bang, literally, and a large one at that, The Forbidden Book takes its readers into an occult world just below the surface of our own. Occult in both the general and specific meanings of the word in that not only are we introduced to the world of magic and alchemy, and sex magic at that, but also into a world view not generally known, that of Traditionalism. Our unlikely hero Leo Kavenaugh is of course a professor, and an instructor of Italian at that. The damsel in distress and love interest is the lovely Orsina, who was once his teaching assistant and now married to a wealthy industrialist. However, while the plot set-up is predictable, its unfoldment is clean and enticing all the way to the end as the mystery around the forbidden book, The Magical World of the Heroes, written by Cesare Della Riviera in 1605, unfolds and family secrets around forbidden power, incest, hubris and greed embodied in Orsina’s uncle Baron Emanuele are revealed. All of this is against the background of a modern Europe on the brink of civil war as religious tensions break through the veneer of cafe culture, and the politics of identity assert themselves via shade of Colin Wison’s book The Mind Parasites, where mind control is not about controlling all people, but is about controlling the right people.

For our readers, the Della Riviera’s book is a real work, not unlike the Hypnoerotomachia Poliphili which was translated by Joscelyn Godwin (1999), and formed the basis for Caldwell and Thomason’s novel. Many in the English speaking world first became introduced to The Magical World of the Heroes as it was mentioned in Introduction to Magic — Rituals and Practical Techniques for the Magus, Guido Stucco’s translation of the collected works of the UR Group, an Italian esoteric lodge centered around the teachings of Julius Evola. Evola, a self-styled Baron, advocated a philosophy which believed that the modern world is essentially decadent and that traditional norms, hierarchies, and values are the only means of restoring sanity through political and occult methods.

I found The Forbidden Book a fascinating and a wonderful first novel for this pair of brilliant scholars, showing that deep thinking, scholarly skill, and creativity can go hand-in-hand and create a novel that one can be pleasantly read in an afternoon or two. While I did not particularly enjoy reading The Forbidden Book in its electronic form, Disinformation has been bought by Red Wheel/Weiser and a paperback edition will be released in early 2013.

"The writings of Von Durckheim combine depth psychology, Christian mysticism, and Zen practices in such a fashion as to allow for the realization of one’s interior life with Christ, a purpose in harmony with both Psychosynthesis, and tradition Western esoteric Pathworking. His writings are a significant contribution to this area, even though they use the language of orthodox Christianity, and are a valuable tool for bridging this gap between psychology, mysticism, and even esotericism."

Initiation from Problems on the Path of Return by Mark Stavish, M.A. in Vol 3 No 1 of Caduceus.

"The writings of Von Durckheim combine depth psychology, Christian mysticism, and Zen practices in such a fashion as to allow for the realization of one’s interior life with Christ, a purpose in harmony with both Psychosynthesis, and tradition Western esoteric Pathworking. His writings are a significant contribution to this area, even though they use the language of orthodox Christianity, and are a valuable tool for bridging this gap between psychology, mysticism, and even esotericism.” [via]

"These sudden flashes of insight and alteration of consciousness can in some instances be called initiations, some being minor, and others more significant. Unfortunately, the concept of initiation in esoteric circles is filled with many misconceptions, and in psychology, it has no equivalent term or phrase, although several might be suggested."

Initiation from Problems on the Path of Return by Mark Stavish, M.A. in Vol 3 No 1 of Caduceus.

"These sudden flashes of insight and alteration of consciousness can in some instances be called initiations, some being minor, and others more significant. Unfortunately, the concept of initiation in esoteric circles is filled with many misconceptions, and in psychology, it has no equivalent term or phrase, although several might be suggested." [via]

"The initiator, and/or initiatic team, would proceed to create a condition wherein the energies of the psyche would be awakened and brought to the surface of consciousness. However, for this to work effectively, it requires that those energies being awakened in the initiate already be alive and well in the psychic body-consciousness of the initiator. This is a critical point, and the failure of this condition being met, is the principle cause for esoteric initiations as a whole being of questionable value."

Initiation from Problems on the Path of Return by Mark Stavish, M.A. in Vol 3 No 1 of Caduceus.

"The initiator, and/or initiatic team, would proceed to create a condition wherein the energies of the psyche would be awakened and brought to the surface of consciousness. However, for this to work effectively, it requires that those energies being awakened in the initiate already be alive and well in the psychic body-consciousness of the initiator. This is a critical point, and the failure of this condition being met, is the principle cause for esoteric initiations as a whole being of questionable value." [via]

"Until this century, the most common method of esoteric learning was either through a teacher-student relationship, or affiliation with an esoteric lodge. The principle means of instruction and initiation was often ritualistic, and would involve one or more persons who has experienced ritual or its equivalent previously."

Initiation from Problems on the Path of Return by Mark Stavish, M.A. in Vol 3 No 1 of Caduceus.

"Until this century, the most common method of esoteric learning was either through a teacher-student relationship, or affiliation with an esoteric lodge. The principle means of instruction and initiation was often ritualistic, and would involve one or more persons who has experienced ritual or its equivalent previously." [via]

"In our ‘becoming’ the alchemists claim, we realize that we are in many ways self-created beings. Much of what we do, are, and experience, we are directly or indirectly responsible for, despite our cries to the contrary. We are as the golden adepts say, a ‘son of his works’."

Initiation from Problems on the Path of Return by Mark Stavish, M.A. in Vol 3 No 1 of Caduceus.

"In our ‘becoming’ the alchemists claim, we realize that we are in many ways self-created beings. Much of what we do, are, and experience, we are directly or indirectly responsible for, despite our cries to the contrary. We are as the golden adepts say, a ‘son of his works’." [via]

"The function of these esoteric, or psycho-spiritual, exercises is to make us aware of a broader sense of what we are, and what we may become if we so desire it. They are to assist us in fulfilling the Greek adage, ‘Know Thyself in order to know the universe and the gods!’"

Initiation from Problems on the Path of Return by Mark Stavish, M.A. in Vol 3 No 1 of Caduceus.

"The function of these esoteric, or psycho-spiritual, exercises is to make us aware of a broader sense of what we are, and what we may become if we so desire it. They are to assist us in fulfilling the Greek adage, ‘Know Thyself in order to know the universe and the gods!’" [via]

"The words of child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim (The Uses of Enchantment) are applicable here: ‘Each Fairy tale is a magic mirror which reflects some aspects of our inner world, and one of the steps required by our evolution from immaturity to maturity. For those who immerse themselves in what the fairy tale has to communicate, it becomes a deep, quiet pool which at first seems to reflect only our own image; but behind it we soon discover the inner turmoils of our soul — its depth, and ways to gain peace within ourselves and with the world, which is the reward of our struggles.’"

Pathworking and Fairy Tales from Problems on the Path of Return by Mark Stavish, M.A. in Vol 3 No 1 of Caduceus.

"The words of child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim (The Uses of Enchantment) are applicable here:

'Each Fairy tale is a magic mirror which reflects some aspects of our inner world, and one of the steps required by our evolution from immaturity to maturity. For those who immerse themselves in what the fairy tale has to communicate, it becomes a deep, quiet pool which at first seems to reflect only our own image; but behind it we soon discover the inner turmoils of our soul — its depth, and ways to gain peace within ourselves and with the world, which is the reward of our struggles.'” [via]

"In short, all that we watch, listen to, and participate in has the potential to be a path working on some level. However, what separates such randomness and potentially harmful psychic exchanges, is that cabalistic Pathworking is organized, progressive, and ultimately transpersonal oriented."

Pathworking and Fairy Tales from Problems on the Path of Return by Mark Stavish, M.A. in Vol 3 No 1 of Caduceus.

"In short, all that we watch, listen to, and participate in has the potential to be a path working on some level. However, what separates such randomness and potentially harmful psychic exchanges, is that cabalistic Pathworking is organized, progressive, and ultimately transpersonal oriented." [via]

"The same is seen, or heard, in the endless tales of suffering, failure, alcoholism, and neediness in country and western music, or the unrequited love in jazz and blues, turning towards drugs and alcohol as a result. Rap and heavy metal offer their own metaphors, cosmologies, and world views as well."

Pathworking and Fairy Tales from Problems on the Path of Return by Mark Stavish, M.A. in Vol 3 No 1 of Caduceus.

"The same is seen, or heard, in the endless tales of suffering, failure, alcoholism, and neediness in country and western music, or the unrequited love in jazz and blues, turning towards drugs and alcohol as a result. Rap and heavy metal offer their own metaphors, cosmologies, and world views as well." [via]

"The view of the universe offered in Star Trek is slightly different than Star Wars in that it has yet to answer certain existential question and address the spiritual question sufficiently. Star Wars on the other hand from the beginning offered us ‘the Force’ and introduced two generation to the ideas of spiritual warriorship, our personal and collective Shadow (Dark Side), redemption, and the unity of creation as an experiential reality, and not just an abstraction of quantum physics."

Pathworking and Fairy Tales from Problems on the Path of Return by Mark Stavish, M.A. in Vol 3 No 1 of Caduceus.

"The view of the universe offered in Star Trek is slightly different than Star Wars in that it has yet to answer certain existential question and address the spiritual question sufficiently. Star Wars on the other hand from the beginning offered us ‘the Force’ and introduced two generation to the ideas of spiritual warriorship, our personal and collective Shadow (Dark Side), redemption, and the unity of creation as an experiential reality, and not just an abstraction of quantum physics.” [via]

"While most entertainment offers little genuine entertainment value and is mostly designed for the absorption of our life force and time, all forms of story telling offer a moral lesson and cosmological view whether we realize it or not."

Pathworking and Fairy Tales from Problems on the Path of Return by Mark Stavish, M.A. in Vol 3 No 1 of Caduceus.

"While most entertainment offers little genuine entertainment value and is mostly designed for the absorption of our life force and time, all forms of story telling offer a moral lesson and cosmological view whether we realize it or not." [via]

"To guide us in picking our experiences, we leave behind our old fairy tales and chose new ones, be they the modern mythologies of Star Wars and Star Trek, or soap operas of a different sort, such as the long running shows of Dallas, M.A.S.H., or similar movies or musical themes."

Pathworking and Fairy Tales from Problems on the Path of Return by Mark Stavish, M.A. in Vol 3 No 1 of Caduceus.

"To guide us in picking our experiences, we leave behind our old fairy tales and chose new ones, be they the modern mythologies of Star Wars and Star Trek, or soap operas of a different sort, such as the long running shows of Dallas, M.A.S.H., or similar movies or musical themes.” [via]

"The relationship between esoteric Pathworking and childhood fairy tales is well established. However, in our quest for individuation, self-reliance, and separation from our parents, social rules, and religious-sexual taboos and restrictions, we abandon our childhood means of development for a more active one in the material world of experience."

Pathworking and Fairy Tales from Problems on the Path of Return by Mark Stavish, M.A. in Vol 3 No 1 of Caduceus.

"The relationship between esoteric Pathworking and childhood fairy tales is well established. However, in our quest for individuation, self-reliance, and separation from our parents, social rules, and religious-sexual taboos and restrictions, we abandon our childhood means of development for a more active one in the material world of experience." [via]

“‘Give me cold water from the lake of memory.’ — Hymn of Orpheus, cont’d.”

Pathworking and Fairy Tales from Problems on the Path of Return by Mark Stavish, M.A. in Vol 3 No 1 of Caduceus.

“‘Give me cold water from the lake of memory.’ — Hymn of Orpheus, cont’d.” [via]