Occult Inspirations

Bulwer Lytton

Trust Mark Frauenfelder of BoingBoing to persuade erudite author Joscelyn Godwin to choose his favorite novels inspired by the occult. Here Godwin and writing partner Guido Mina di Sospiro pick five in addition to their own The Forbidden Book:

Zanoni, by Bulwer Lytton, is the premier occult novel of the nineteenth century. Lytton was a novelist and playwright, a dandy, a politician, and eventually a Baron. He is supposed to have been initiated into a German Rosicrucian order, and to have been in the Orphic Circle, a London group that used child clairvoyants. Dickens and Disraeli were his friends, but they didn’t follow his arcane interests. For instance, they weren’t with him when French occult author and ceremonial magus Eliphas Levi, in Lytton’s presence, evoked the spirit of the Greek Neopythagorean philosopher Apollonius of Tyana on a London rooftop. Zanoni is a description of initiations by one who has evidently passed through them. It is famous for introducing the themes of the “Dweller on the Threshold” who tries to block the aspirant’s path, and the “augoeides” or luminous self. The novel tells about two men who have gained the secret of eternal life. One of them is content to rest on the accumulated wisdom of his 5,000 years, but Zanoni voluntarily gives up his immortality. He finds that human love is more precious still, even though death is its inexorable price…

[continues at BoingBoing]

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  • JohnFrancisBittrich

    People say Crowley’s fiction was execrable, but I would add his “Moonchild” to this list, if only for his hilariously bitchy skewerings of characters who are obviously thinly-veiled versions of his enemies. Also, Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum.

    • http://twitter.com/mattstaggs Matt Staggs

      I actually like “Moonchild” and “Diary of a Drug Fiend”, the former a bit more than the latter. I found that Guido and Joscelyn’s “The Forbidden Book” echoed the best parts of both books. 

    • teachpeace

       Both fascinating reads. I acquired one at the local library sale (Crowley) and one at a yard-sale.
      I paid .25 (cents) for each.

  • Adamsshadow

     While an interesting character in his own right, and possibly a gifted magus, Bulwer-Lytton was a notoriously BAD writer.  Initiated into the mysteries he may have been, but the man’s fiction was truly fucking awful (in my humble opinion).

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