On the Shelf (Sort Of) – The Voudon Gnostic Workbook

I received the new edition of The Voudon-Gnostic Workbook a little while ago.  For those who don’t know, this is the classic work on the beliefs of the La Couleuvre Noire, the magical order founded by Michael Bertiaux.  Magickal Childe – the same store where Simon’s Necronomicon  got its start – published the original edition of the Workbook in 1988, and it hasn’t seen print again until today.

I hesitate to call this a review, because I have never actually read the Workbook.  It’s over 600 pages of a four-year correspondence course (with a few lessons missing) of La Couleuvre Noire.  These cover everything from “Lesson One:  Who Can Be a Big Lucky Hoodoo?” to “Magnetic Materialism and Gnostic Genetics, Lesson 5:  Pheonismes and the Articulation of Esoteric Logic (with reference to the History of Zothyrian Philosophy as a Technique of Esoteric Healing)”.  Bertiaux’s approach can hardly be called classic Voudon, as it includes elements of Spiritualism, Kabbalah, the I-Ching, Crowley-style magick, and Lovecraftian myth, all mixed together and dressed out in mathematical and quasi-scientific terminology.

Here’s what graphic novel writer Grant Morrison has to say about all this, in a website interview:

Bertiaux is also the writer of ‘The Voudoun Gnostic Workbook’, one of the most baffling, jargon-laden sci-fi-style magical texts I’ve ever tried to read all in one sitting.

Bertiaux may sound spiral-eyed at times but he’s a powerful magician with, he claims, access to Plutonium and a plan to mutate volunteers from his group into a post-human insect species.  It soon becomes obvious that these wild voodoid texts are his best attempts to reduce some bizarre trans-verbal concepts into any kind of language at all…  The books are worth persisting with, even IF ONLY for the scene-shifting brain wobble they provide.

For my part, I got through the first hundred pages, noticed my brain was going Weeble, and said to myself, “I don’t really think I need any Shintotronics in my life.”  I still pull it out occasionally and read a few essays just to get another dose of sheer amazement.

I should add that this “expanded edition” isn’t really all that.  It’s got a new two-page introduction, but the book itself is a facsimile of the Magickal Childe edition.  Not even the illustrations missing from the original were incorporated in this version.  I know this will be horribly disappointing to both readers of this review who own the original.  For everyone else, it won’t matter much.

I end this review with ambivalence.  What can one do with a book one can’t recommend yet can’t not recommend.  Only you, dear reader, can look into your heart and ask how much Shintotronics you really need.

Published in: on September 8, 2007 at 1:55 pm  Comments (8)  

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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. The works of Bertiaux are in their amount of tangents, syncretistic neologisms and plain weirdness even superior to Kenneth Grants most incomprehensible qabalistic meanderings. I once took the original Magickal Childe edition with me on a holiday in Hungary, and some of the stuff I wrote then (inspired) still looks freaky today, 10 years later. The book is probably more useful as a catalyst than as a grimoire. Funny stuff.

  2. I’ve never really liked the book (other than the entertainment value of the prose) especially because I knew a few people who worked with Bertriaux in Chicago who indicated that, in their opinion, he was very talented but quite a liar and well on his way to a case of magus insanity due to the subjective world he swore by. “He’s a god damn it! The insect loa told him so!”

    When I read about his connection with the ‘wandering bishops’ in “Dead Names” all the hearsay I had heard suddenly made sense (of course, that’s if we can trust ‘Simon’ in that narrative).

    The main reason I’m glad it’s back in print is because of the almost ‘Necronomicon’ like reputation it had acquired over the years as a ‘fabled tome’ that had amazing secrets in it.

    This way people can experience the mindboggling truth for only $29.95 (or whatever the current price is) instead of searching for hard to find used copies in the hundreds of dollars. Maybe now the mystique ballon will deflate (I know… I’m a hopeless optimist).

    The lack of diagrams are disappointing though.

  3. True, but than again most of the diagrams & drawings of Bertiaux are manic scribbles, so they wouldn’t clarify much anyway. I also don’t think the ballon will deflate… that might just be teh beginning of an Bertiaucian Renaissance. Especially with the overload of apostolic lineages he’s spouting, also the overload of charters etc. he already has spread. To many people depend on Bertiaux and his lineage.

  4. So what you’re saying is that he is strong in Huckstertronics 😉

  5. I hesitate to call this a review, because I have never actually read the Workbook.

    Must…resist…RPG.net snark. Can’t…hold…out much longer.

  6. […] 10th, 2007 at 12:50 pm (Necronomicon, Occult) For those of you who read my semi-review of The Voudon-Gnostic Workbook and remain ambivalent about Shintotronics, Bertiaux’s organization, Technicians of the […]

  7. […] few sour notes resound nonetheless.  The Beth piece on the Voudon Gnostic Workbook is quite problematic, and can be summed up as follows: I’m not going to discuss The Voudon […]

  8. Thanks for the review. it was helpful in letting me know if I need to add this to my library or not

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