Dead Names, Dead Dog: Scholarship Redux – A Trick or Two

Another aspect of Simonian scholarship in Dead Names is the idea of the "interesting possibility." Speculation is a common trade for scholars when the evidence is lacking, but "Simon" raises this to a whole new level. Let's watch how this works.

Let's say we're reading the letters of Crowley student and rocket pioneer Jack Parsons. We come across the following passage:

The Bornless One (Liber Samekh) is a Sumerian ritual of the same period.

The Bornless One Ritual is actually a reworked version of a spell taken from a Greco-Egyptian magical papyrus of the third to fourth centuries (PGM V. 96-172 in Betz's The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation), thousands of years and thousands of miles from Sumer, that was originally published in 1852 by the Warburg Institute. The original was an exorcism text that is dedicated to a "Headless One", while the Bornless Ritual is a ritual to put a person in touch with a "higher self." It's had a long pedigree in modern magick, and Parsons probably received it through his mentor, the notorious Aleister Crowley.

The most logical explanation for the "Sumerian" quote here is that Parsons, a self-educated through really bright guy, got this attribution completely wrong. Maybe he didn't look at the original, or he remembered something incorrectly, or he just forgot.
That would be sensible. It would be plausible. But – and this is the important part – it would not be interesting.

What if the ritual came from the Necronomicon? That's definitely interesting!

Now, we don't actually have any proof that there's any manuscript copy of the Necronomicon, let alone more than one. We don't have proof that a version of the Bornless Ritual – which isn't found in the published Necronomicon – ever existed in any other supposed manuscript. We don't have any proof that Parsons had access to this supposed manuscript with the supposed ritual in it, recognized it, and wrote his friend about it. In fact, all of this suggests that we're just seeing what we want to. But really, our point is to make things as interesting as possible, so we'll go with it.

What about the fact that the Greco-Egyptian magical papyrus is, well, a Greco-Egyptian magical papyrus and not a Sumerian incantation? At this point, it's easy. We could refer to the dull and unanimous scholarly consensus as something that's "generally believed," implying that there's some possibility that someone, somewhere, somehow, might find out that it is somehow Sumerian. That's downright exciting!

Hold on a minute! We might have readers who expect this book to contain boring "facts" rather than exciting though unsubstantiated speculation. Don't worry, we can get around this by stating the reader is "compelled to wonder" if it's true. By saying this, we can imply that there's nothing inherently wrong with this flimsy argument – instead, there might be something wrong with the reader if they can't accept it.

Now, we can pull one of those cooking-show numbers and show you what the finished product looks like:

One is compelled to wonder if Parsons had access to another copy of the Necronomicon, for the provenance of this invocation is generally believed to be a Greco-Egyptian magical papyrus from about the time of Christ, as we learn from Budge’s work originally published in 1901.

Thus, what is most likely a boring mistake is transformed into a mystery brimming over with possibilities, one that is substantiated and intriguing, and one that many will take to be a serious proposition, despite the utter lack of any evidence apart from the letter to validate any of it.

It's quite a trick. "Simon" knows that, if he floats enough of these "interesting possibilities," some people will take them as fact. It also foists off all that hard "research" onto his critics, who, if they want to refute him, have to do all the heavy lifting that "Simon" should have done in writing a book but didn't. Instead of revealing that Parsons had a link to the Necronomicon, this passage reveals how Simon attempts to trick his readers into buying whatever he's selling, no matter how dubious.

Published in: on June 24, 2006 at 11:15 pm  Comments (7)  

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Well, I stumbled across your blog while doing some role playing research today. I must say that it very interesting and informative. People actually read these things…imagine that! Hope you keep blogging. Very interesting stuff.

    I too love role playing and have an interest in the occult. I work with a local group of “ghost hunters” who intends on trying to get some measurements and readings at a Wiccan ritual if we can find a local group willing to let us try. Its kind of a scientific approach to measuring the world in which we live.

    While I find the occult and the history of it far more intriguing than ghost hunting, it is interesting how many people with interests in role playing also are intrigued by supernatural phenomenon like ghost and the occult. The ghost site is at I’m going to add a comment there about your blog . I know the others will be interested.

    As for role playing, I also run a web service called “Keepers of the Lost Lands” or KOTLL for short. Its in beta testing right now. It is at

    Check out the links, your insight on the occult could be helpful.


  2. […] During my research, I uncovered a number of articles from Earth Religion News written by “Simon.” Starting in 1973, he wrote a number of pieces, including movie and book reviews and commentaries of the pagan scene that would hardly compel people to write him in search of spiritual wisdom. One is compelled to wonder how reviewing The Exorcist qualifies one for guruhood. […]

  3. […] Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? After all, wasn’t one compelled to wonder about those Disney movies? Well, the reason it does is because “Simon” deliberately ignores – in the sense of “not paying attention to” – some evidence in our book, like this: Psychologist Wade Myers III testified that Ferrell “felt he was able to get powers from this book [the Necronomicon].” […]

  4. […] Then again, “we must” not do any such thing, any more than we are “compelled to wonder” about fabricated controversies over the Greek magical papyri.  Readers can decide whether John’s status gives him more, less, or no additional credibility, and John knew that when he wrote this.   Nonetheless, deciding it doesn’t matter for the purposes of our argument is indeed an option open to the reader. […]

  5. […] 22nd, 2007 at 10:20 pm (Necronomicon, Lovecraft, Occult) Here we go, down the road of interesting possibilities! We must start our exploration with the mystery of Gene Frenkle, the missing member of Blue Öyster […]

  6. […] witness how a man who’s made a writing career out of insinuations and coincidence and “interesting possibilities” suddenly becomes all about the strict chain of evidence when it comes to possible links […]

  7. The Bornless Ritual…

    Now however I want to share with you the results of some discoveries I made when I was doing some scholarly research in London just the other day…….

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