Sunday, 22 June 2014

Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon - Part 2

For Part 1, please see here

The Church of Christ, as it was originally called, was established on 6 April 1830.  In later years, Smith would claim that the biblical figure John the Baptist had appeared and ordained him to the "Aaronic priesthood" in 1829, but this was another story that he appears to have come up with ex post facto.  In any event, Smith didn't stop to pause for breath.  He quickly started work on a new scripture called the Book of Moses, which became the first part of a new "translation" of the Bible - actually an edited and somewhat expanded version of the King James translation.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon - Part 1

"....[S]he 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 itself 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; Iliel thought that he was seeking incarnation for the sake of its forgetfulness.  Yet the light in his eyes was so pure and noble and magnetic that it might have been that he saw in a new birth the chance to repair his error."

Such was the legendary occultist Aleister Crowley's fictionalised depiction of Joseph Smith, the founding prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the LDS or Mormon Church).  Smith is not the only prophet that America has given the world - Mary Baker Eddy, Edgar Cayce and L. Ron Hubbard are other examples.  But he is probably the most influential.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Review of "Children of Cain: A Study of Modern Traditional Witches" by Michael Howard

A guest review from writer and historian Francis Young.

Michael Howard, who has been editor for many years of The Cauldron, the oldest journal of modern British witchcraft, is better placed than most to write a history of those strands in contemporary witchcraft that do not conform to the standard Gardnerian pattern.  The pages of The Cauldron have witnessed the emergence of most of the alternative claims to occult lineage that Howard’s book explores.  This book is in one way a supplement to Ronald Hutton’s Triumph of the Moon (1999), which understandably concentrated on the principal Gardnerian strand within modern British witchcraft.  Whilst Hutton did deal with other figures, such as Robert Cochrane and Bill Liddell’s Pickingill Papers, at the end of reading Triumph of the Moon I was left feeling that I still did not really understand the difference between a Gardnerian and a non-Gardnerian witch.  This may have been because I was insufficiently knowledgeable about modern witchcraft, but it may also have been because Hutton himself was not personally familiar with traditional witches in the way that Howard is.  For this reason, Children of Cain is a most welcome addition to the growing academic literature on contemporary witchcraft, not least because at the end of it, I felt that I finally had a good sense of what traditional witchcraft is, and how it differs from Gardnerian Wicca.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

A traditional Catholic theologian on clerical celibacy

The following extract is taken from Adolphe Tanquerey's Synopsis Theologiae Moralis et Pastoralis (1922).

Sunday, 3 March 2013

The papal conclave

The next Pope will be elected by the most exclusive club in the world, the Sacred College of Cardinals (on whom see more here).

The Prayer to St Michael - A lesser-known piece of Catholic folklore

Before the Catholic liturgy was reformed in the 1960s, every Low Mass in the world ended with the recitation, in the local language, of a set of prayers known as the "Leonine Prayers" or the "Prayers for Russia".  These prayers are still sometimes recited today after celebrations of the Tridentine Mass.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Bishop Richard Williamson - Fall of a Wykehamist

As all watchers of the Catholic extreme right must know by now, Bishop Richard Williamson has been expelled from the ultra-traditionalist Society of St Pius X (SSPX).  This development has been years, if not decades, in the making, and is fascinating on a number of levels.  A great English eccentric, Williamson is a highly cultured, charismatic and intellectually gifted man.  He is also a political extremist and conspiracy theorist who has managed to alienate most of his fellow traditionalist Catholics, and who now finds himself cast into ecclesial outer darkness.  He would be a gift to a novelist.