(When) the sceptre of kingship came down from Heaven,
[…] Ištar sought a king.
This has been a challenging review to write for all the best reasons.
Most notably, I do not want to spoil the experience of having your personal conceptions unwound and rewound as you read through the book. Taking some of the more compelling, nay, astounding insights out of context risks doing precisely that.
So I read it. Then I thought about it. Then I contextualised some of the book’s assertions into my regular spirit work. Then I read it through again. And as I wrote when entreating you to come to the launch (and was subsequently word-for-word plagiarised)… you cannot unread this book.
One way or another, we all have a relationship with this form, Lucifer. It may be, as seems to be the case for the most stringently devotionalist of pagans, an echo ported over from your days in happy clappy mega-churches. It may be because you studied literature. Or it may be your muddled memories of Victorian folklorists. And then there is… rebellion itself.
Rebellion is a sign of the internal corruption which has led to the fall of the nation to a foreign enemy, in this case Assyria. Elsewhere in Isiah, the enemy is Babylon, as it is in Revelation and other apocalyptic works… This sense of an inner enemy weakening the state has been a constant political trope: the motif of the ‘fifth column’ re-emerged with the witch hunts in the early modern period; more recently we find the argument used in Weimar Germany by the nascent Nazi party, expressed in disproved notions of race and blood; by McCarthy, whose agents fingered Jack Parsons; and currently by the security state whose search is ultimately for ideological heresy.
It is essential to understand the idea of rebellion in its traditional sense, rather than the glamourised or romanticised sense it has come to hold in our culture. The blind imposition of values is one of the most common errors made in reading the past. Rebellion, in particular, has come to be associated with the privileging of a particular pre-verbal emotional state, one that many are heavily invested in… Rebellion has become a marketing device designed to exploit the developmental stage of sexual awakening and differentiation in modern teenagers… It is part of a deliberate strategy to create consumers.
The connecting behavioural thread running back from Lucifer: Princeps through Peter’s previous two books is witchcraft, magic, as oppositional to the teetering, paranoid, violent edifice of monoculture. Prior to reading this book, my primary relationship with Lucifer was along these lines…. as a sort of cosmic storehouse of the forbidden and even hidden or occulted. In a ritual sense, this manifested along Parzifal lines pertaining to the return of hermetics and esoteric astrology into European culture. (There is actually a lot more to my story with the Old Master, heading off in a crossroads direction, but for that you’ll have to wait for the book.)
What I had not realised before reading this book is the ‘forbidden storehouse’ function of Lucifer recurs backward through history. Peter traces it to the Ugaritic and even Sumerian levels, where it was already likely to be covered with the dust of ages, but is now lost to historical view.
“For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.”
Lucifer is styled as an upstart who seeks to set his throne in the place of Yahweh. This is not overthrowing order, it is an attempt to achieve parity with the divine. Apotheosis, the elevation to the status of a god, is the aim. This suggests a connection to a deeper strata of meaning, of an antecedent myth or myths.
Lucifer: Princeps will emerge as a cornerstone text in re-aligning or adjusting the contemporary practice of western magic back into its early modern Christian milieu by examining a sadly-under-explored vein of influence on the texts and beliefs that defined Europe for one and a half thousand years; encompassing the fall of the Classical World. the folkloric survival of the Dead in the Cult of the Saints, the witch trials and the grimoire tradition.
One of the angles absolutely ripe for magical exploration is the association of Lucifer -here a cipher for Dead Kings– and the Near Eastern/Eurasian concept of the Holy Mountain. Peter traces this to Zaphon, an archetypal World Mountain motif, sacred to Baal. This provides ready entry into any number of motifs that went into the creation/amalgamation that became Lucifer. It ties directly into notions of competing authority and the seizing of Kingship… as well as the role of the Dead.
Ah yes, the Dead. The Rephaim. The insights here are alone worth the cover price, and I want to tip-toe through them so as not to spoil their discovery. Peter wades into the highly polluted water of the Rephaim and the Annunaki and manages to emerge unblemished by flying saucers, reptilians, cone-headed Solutreans or any of that other jibber jabber. And the discovery which folds The Fall back into these earlier Near-Eastern ancestral practices is just so on point that I wanted to fist bump the woman sitting next to me on the bus when I read it. (You get looks when you read something with a title of Lucifer: Princeps on a bus. Especially if you are reading the big, beautiful, green hardback.)
Unfortunately, I have to leave it there because you really need to encounter the case Peter makes for yourself. But if you are in any way practically involved with angelology, ancestral spirit work or the grimoires -and I’m pretty sure that’s most of you- then read this section twice, Santa-style.
Of personal interest to me was the exploration of the scapegoat… because I am fascinated by the goat’s paranormal liminality and its status as a margin-dweller, and also because I think the magical community in general is absurdly naive when it comes to an hypothesis as to why we even have sacrifices or offerings. I think Peter is really onto something with his theories as to the origin of Azazel (as in “a goat for Azazel”). Two things fascinate me about the tribal thinking behind scapegoating. Firstly, that its earlier, shamanic origins are transparent: one cannot destroy evil or ill-fortune as it is a thing that exists in the universe and was created by God. One moves it along or sends it into liminal spaces away from the tribe. Lead never becomes gold.
Secondly, that this exact notion survives into early modern witchcraft and folklore. Recall the many apotropaic admonitions that the Devil or demon must ‘count all the leaves of all the trees’ and ‘all the grains of sand in the world’ before returning to a house or person. The existence of the Devil, of ill-fortune, is by the design of God. We cannot destroy it or even prevent it as the action of a being created by God is the will of God. We can redirect it, like the course of a river. I see the underlying Eurasian cosmology here at a time depth great enough to give the Near East this concept and the Far East Taoism. Keep digging until you find it.
To sum up, then. Reading this book is sort of like setting off a depth charge, or -more violently- dynamite fishing. It sinks into your unconscious and spectacularly rearranges what you thought was already well-arranged. I wanted to hold off on this review until I had pushed through enough spirit work to see if it materially impacted practices that predate its reading. And it does. For even the most modern of practices, a whole new context emerges -it yawns open behind your altar and fills your temple with hot winds blown down holy mountains and off forgotten deserts.
Absolutely well done. It is an Emerald in the Crown.