Cults of the Shadow

Kenneth Grant

Starfire Publishing 2013

Review: Living Traditions Volume 5 No 2 (2014)

Cults of the Shadow is the final volume in Kenneth Grant's first trilogy. It has long been out of print and Starfire Publishing offers a superb new edition of 1500 copies, revised and corrected with new images and is a great addition to any magician’s library. The front and end pages are illustrated from handwritten notes from Grants research and the whole work illustrates Starfire’s eye for quality.

Kenneth Grant’s work revolutionized modern magic in general as well as Thelema in particular, prior to his work Thelema was locked within a “western mystery tradition” mould and while Crowley had taught Yoga, Pranayama and Tantra, nobody really appreciated how it could be applied. At the same time while the terms Obeah and Wanga, which are African in origin, appear in the Book of the Law (AL I:37) this subject was little explored. Grant expanded our understanding of Thelema and magick in general with a deep understanding of the Left Hand Path and the nature of Tantra with reference to the kalas of the female practitioner. Developing the content of The Magical Revival and Aleister Crowley and the Hidden God (now both back in print from Starfire Publishing) Cults of the Shadow places Thelema within the larger context of the Left Hand Path. Too often modern Thelemites have thrown the “baby out with the bathwater” and only tried to work with Crowley’s work alone, Grant makes it clear that Thelema had many antecedents and the declaration of the New Aeon in 1904 was a re-establishment of earlier Typhonian tradition.

Cults of the Shadow explores the Left Hand Path Tantric tradition placing it within the wider context of the worlds esoteric traditions. The first chapters of this work explore the true nature of the human psycho sexual anatomy with a detailed exposition of the kalas in terms of Ophidian cults of Africa. This examination of the Left Hand is continued with an examination of the dark cults of Khem (Egypt) and the modern expositions within the work of Master Therion (Crowley), the Qabbalah of Charles Stanford Jones, the enigmatic art of sigil sorcery of Austin Osman Spare, Michael Bertiaux (Cult of the Black Snake) and others. Grant offers a clear outline of the interaction between early ophidian cults, the Egyptian mysteries and Tantra and the continuum of one to the next and helps make clearer the complex writings of Gerald Massey (1828 – 1907), a highly significant but misunderstood author.

In this work Grant places Thelema within the greater context of the Left Hand Path and expounds a deep and profound form of sexual sorcery or Tantra. He offers a profound interpretation of the symbolism of the dark cults as they offer us a means to awaken kundalini or the fire serpent through working with an initiated priestess who through her activated kalas accesses levels of consciousness beyond the human sphere. Clearly this is not a path for the dabbler or undisciplined, this approach to the Left Hand Path is not based on the rather mundane approach of western diabolism but on its true origin in the cults of the female gnosis as found in India, Africa, Egypt and beyond.

Cults of the Shadow was first released in 1975 and helped introduce Austin Osman Spare and Michael Bertiaux to magicians for the very first time. There had been little information about Spare’s sorcery prior to this and Grant’s works helped create a revival of interest in his art and work. Michael Bertiaux became well known after this work and published his celebrated Voudon Gnostic Workbook in 1988 which was followed by many other books, his work united Gnosticism, tantra, Thelema and voudon approaches.

Cults of the Shadow has stood the test of time and still a highly important work, it is a significant introduction to the Left Hand Path and demands careful attention.

Return to main page for Cults of the Shadow