Vale Kenneth Grant, 1924–2011: Grandfather Chaos and Flying Saucerer

Kenneth Grant by Austin Spare (c. 1951).

Kenneth Grant by Austin Spare (c. 1951).

Finally unpacking the books bequeathed to me by my late ex-Freemason father-in-law’s estate has put me in a wistful mood. I just keep being reminded of how many 20th century disinformationists we’ve recently lost: John Keel, John Mitchell, Zecharia Sitchin — and a loss equivalent to the space filled by their contributions to occulture.

Stacking my now prized Golden Dawn collection turned my thoughts to Israel Regardie and so Crowley — and to his other spiritual son and former secretary, Kenneth Grant.

Both did a great deal to popularise modern post-Thelemic magic. I’ve got some fond ’80s teenage memories of coming across them all in the Psychology section (?) of my local library and reading furtively with one eye over my shoulder. It was the start of an endless study of esotericism.

So I was not surprised when I read that Kenneth Grant had passed away in a friend’s Facebook status. He deserves a Disinfo memorial and I couldn’t do better than this obit by John Coulthart on his blog { feuilleton }, so thankfully I have his blessing to quote his post at length:

Kenneth Grant, writer and occultist, died last month but the event was only announced this week. He’ll be remembered for the nine fascinating occult treatises he wrote from 1972 to 2002, and for continuing the work of Aleister Crowley as head of the Ordo Templi Orientis, a position which became fraught in later years as various occult factions disputed his authority. Having collected occult books for much of the 1980s I find his name calls out from the shelves more than many other writers; as well as authoring his own works he edited all the major Crowley texts with Crowley’s executor John Symonds, presenting them in authoritative editions for a new readership.

Grant proved a very loyal champion of people he admired, significantly so in the case of Austin Osman Spare whose work he collected, exhibited and republished from the 1950s on. It was Grant’s position as one of the many advisors for Man, Myth & Magic in 1970 which resulted in the part-work encyclopedia using one of Spare’s stunning drawings as the cover picture for its first issue. That effort alone gave Spare an audience far beyond anything he received during his lifetime, and Grant ensured the magazine featured Spare’s work in subsequent issues. Grant’s occult works made liberal use of unique illustrations by his wife, Steffi Grant, Austin Spare and others. The books were singular enough even without their pages of curious artwork, a beguiling and sometimes incoherent blend of western occult tradition, tantric sex magick and hints of cosmic horror which were nevertheless always well-written, annotated and crammed with technical detail. Alan Moore in 2002 examined the experience of an immersion in Grant’s mythos with a wonderful review he called “Beyond our Ken“. He notes there the influence of HP Lovecraft, another of the visionary figures who Grant championed throughout his life.

MMMI know I’m not the only one influenced by Man, Myth & Magic – look familiar?

I recommend heading over to { feuilleton } and reading John’s obituary in its entirety when you’re done here; its generating a bit of Thelemic controversy in the comments …

There are only two points I’d add to John’s post, what I consider to be the innovations Grant brought to occulture. First, there’s the debt owed to him by all Chaos magicians. No less a magus than Alan Moore writes in the aforementioned ‘Beyond Our Ken’ that:

Without Grant’s insistence that the works of H P Lovecraft represented valid channels of magical information, much of the furniture and landscape of our modern magic systems, Chaos magic for example, would be utterly unrecognisable.

Second, Grant was the source for an increasingly important meme in contemporary ufological lore, ET = LAM.

dabbledoo

In 1973’s Aleister Crowley and the Hidden God Grant wrote that:

Crowley was aware of the possibility of opening the spatial gateways and of admitting an extraterrestrial current in the human life-wave… It is an occult tradition — and Lovecraft gave it persistent utterance in his writings — that some transfinite and superhuman power is marshaling its forces with intent to invade and take possession of this planet… This is reminiscent of Charles Fort’s dark hints about a secret society on earth already in contact with cosmic beings and, perhaps, preparing the way for their advent. Crowley dispels the aura of evil with which these authors (Lovecraft and Fort) invest the fact; he prefers to interpret it thelemically, not as an attack upon human consciousness from within, to embrace other stars and to absorb their energies into a system that is thereby enriched and rendered truly cosmic by the process…

For Grant this was all tied back to the famous Amalantrah Working, which consisted of a series of visions Crowley received from January through March of 1918 via his then “Scarlet Women,” Roddie Minor. It was through this ritual procedure that Crowley came into contact with an interdimensional entity named Lam. By all accounts, Crowley’s portrait of Lam (pictured next to the now notorious front-piece of Streiber’s Communion) passed into the hands of Grant circa 1945 following an astral working in which he and Crowley were jointly involved, helping to give him an initiatic edge over his rivals in the OTO.

In 1980 Outside the Circles of Time, Grant gets even more explicit about his ufological musings:

Some believe that the UFO phenomena are part of the “miracle”, and a mounting mass of evidence seems to suggest that mysterious entities have been located within the earth’s ambience for countless centuries and that more and more people are being born with innate ability to see, or in some way sense their presence…

In the late 1980s, Grant issued The LAM Statement to his Order, where he described the ritual use of the picture in order to establish contact with those entities. From here it escaped into the public domain and the rest is history: the inference that The Great Beast intentionally opened a portal through the practice of ritual magick, which allowed the “alien greys” a passageway onto our Earthly plane. Without Grant and the internecine struggles over the succession for the leadership of the OTO, The Collins Elite would be just another bunch of Christian fundamentalists in the American intelligence community and Nick Redfern would never have written the breakthrough Final Events.

As the classic nuts’n’bolts ETH becomes increasingly untenable, I suspect that this will be Grant’s lasting legacy to occulture.

FURTHER READING
Ian Blake ‘Aleister Crowley and the Lam Statement‘ The Excluded Middle (1996)
Henrik Bogdan ‘Kenneth Grant: A Bibliography‘, Fulgur (2003)
The Emperor ‘Flying Saucerers. Re-examining the dawn of the modern era of UFOs [pdf]‘ Darklore Vol 4 (2009)
Adam Gorightly ‘Ritual Magic, Mind Control & the UFO Phenomenon (Part 1)‘ (undated)
— ‘Were the UFO Contactees Ritual Magicians?’ Darklore Vol 1 (2007)
Kenneth Grant ‘A Statement of the Typhonian O.T.O. Concerning the Cult of Lam. The Dikpala of the Way of Silence [The Lam Statement]’ Typhonian Ordo Templi Orientis (1987)

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  • EAGD

    Rest in Peace Brother. Thanks for your life’s work and effort.

  • EAGD

    Rest in Peace Brother. Thanks for your life’s work and effort.

  • EAGD

    Rest in Peace Brother. Thanks for your life’s work and effort.

  • EAGD

    Rest in Peace Brother. Thanks for your life’s work and effort.

  • dp1974

    Update: ARTHUR MAG have also posted an obit: http://www.arthurmag.com/2011/02/03/kenneth-grant-1924-2011/

    Also, refers to John Coulthart;s blog post, but is primarily a visual bibliography …

  • dp1974

    Update: ARTHUR MAG have also posted an obit: http://www.arthurmag.com/2011/02/03/kenneth-grant-1924-2011/

    Also, refers to John Coulthart;s blog post, but is primarily a visual bibliography …

  • dp1974

    Update: ARTHUR MAG have also posted an obit: http://www.arthurmag.com/2011/02/03/kenneth-grant-1924-2011/

    Also, refers to John Coulthart;s blog post, but is primarily a visual bibliography …

  • Jordan

    Interesting stuff and thanks for the links.

  • Jordan

    Interesting stuff and thanks for the links.

    • dp1974

      Thanks Jordan, but it was the only decent thing to do. Neither heretic nor prophet has a home, and it’s too soon to tell which Grant was.

  • dp1974

    Thanks Jordan, but it was the only decent thing to do. Neither heretic nor prophet has a home, and it’s too soon to tell which Grant was.

  • dp1974

    UPDATE: Just stumbled upon a commemorative piece by a certain Tristian Eldtritch over at his blog 2012 Diaries: http://2012diaries.blogspot.com/2011/02/kenneth-grant-part-1-outside-circles-of.html

    Looks like he’s serialising it – we can look forward to the scent of more ‘faded Corgi paperbacks on UFOs and Forteana that lingered in second-hand stores long after the bong fumes of the 70’s esoterica-binge had vanished into the cultural ether’ …

  • dp1974

    UPDATE: Just stumbled upon a commemorative piece by a certain Tristian Eldtritch over at his blog 2012 Diaries: http://2012diaries.blogspot.com/2011/02/kenneth-grant-part-1-outside-circles-of.html

    Looks like he’s serialising it – we can look forward to the scent of more ‘faded Corgi paperbacks on UFOs and Forteana that lingered in second-hand stores long after the bong fumes of the 70’s esoterica-binge had vanished into the cultural ether’ …

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