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3,500 Occult Manuscripts Will Be Digitized and Made Freely Available Online (openculture.com)
403 points by RmDen on Jan 26, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 96 comments

I suspect I'm one of the few readers here (@cstross being another) for whom this is genuinely important professional information. And it's fantastic.

Sadly no mention of license there, though - kinda vital if one is intending to use some of the imagery in remix works - although given the texts are thoroughly out of copyright I'd assume that's not too big an issue.

This is probably correct. Scans of public domain works which are "slavish copies" containing "no spark of originality" were ruled public domain in Bridgeman Art Library vs Corel.


care to expound on your profession? edit: click their username to read about their profession

What kind of work do you do on the occult?

How did you think AI works?

That depends if you're the AI or the developer.

Or the media.

IANAL, but yeah: shouldn't these works not be under copyright, just on the basis of their age? Wouldn't the "phone book" doctrine apply here, also? There's no creative authorship in a collection of previous works.

I would love to see some of this in your work! Great stuff!

I bet that shirtless youtuber is excited as well.

I was totally unaware that this Ritmam library existed. I can’t pretend to be into the occult, but I like the idea of studying people who are/we’re, and this seems like a terrific resource.

Only downside...

You want Great Old Ones? Because this is how you get Great Old Ones.

I really like these old texts because it's interesting to try and get into the mindset of the authors. To the medieval occultist, that plant over there is growing well because Saturn is ascending or whatever, and if a rabid dog bites you, you should apply the plant to the wound because the melancholic nature of Saturn will counteract the mania of the rabies, etc. Why did such-and-such happen? A demon did it. It's a completely different way of looking at things, it's very strange to our modern sensibilities but it's also surprisingly developed and just fascinating.

If you're interested in the study of religion at all (at least as a human affectation), it can get pretty interesting to get into the Hermetic and Gnostic texts. Some of the traditions and proposed knowledge exists on a timeline parallel to popular history going back thousands of years. It's really quite something.

It combined with other mystic traditions ultimately informed the theosophical movement of the 19th and 20th century through to the magick of Aleister Crowley. His sex magick informs a lot of the modern incel, red-pill, and proud boy ideas that you must refrain from "spilling your seed"—that your reproductive emissions contain some of your essential energy. The result being that you have to abstain or otherwise be reduced to a plodding pile of unenlightened goo (to give the idea some imagery).

So it's especially interesting, and a little funny, how in spite of the larger mysticism having fallen out of popular favour as a way to understand the world, they still influence a great part of it in a variety of outcomes as a result of lingering practices and beliefs finding their way into new systems.

> It combined with other mystic traditions ultimately informed the theosophical movement of the 19th and 20th century through to the magick of Aleister Crowley. His sex magick informs a lot of the modern incel, red-pill, and proud boy ideas that you must refrain from "spilling your seed"—that your reproductive emissions contain some of your essential energy. The result being that you have to abstain or otherwise be reduced to a plodding pile of unenlightened goo (to give the idea some imagery).

Those seem to have been relatively widely-held beliefs based on the humour system of medicine, see https://aeon.co/essays/getting-down-and-medieval-the-sex-liv... posted here on HN a few days ago.

Taoists had similar ideas: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taoist_sexual_practices

Edit: also I'll never spell it "magick" because Crowley was a toolbag

Edit 2: There's also the current meme that (humorously) claims a man who remains a virgin to the age of 30 will become a wizard, which is presumably drawing on all these historical beliefs.

> Edit: also I'll never spell it "magick" because Crowley was a toolbag

You're right about that one. I did it only for the continuity being that I was specifically commenting on his circle.

The humour medicine was a little different. That article was speaking more to the fact that it was believed people had to release sexual energy for fear of death.

The Taoists were the opposite of that. They thought you should preserve fluids to preserve and prolong life.

Crowley's version was closer to your comment on the meme, which sidles with the red-pill version I mentioned above: that conserving your sexual energy essential bestows you with powers, or at least advantage over the "wasteful" ignorant masses.

Incels don't practice noFap. If you actually check incel forums, they heavily ridicule the idea and the Redpill types who do.

Good point. It's important to keep your ridiculous lunatics separate.

That this is even a sentence one can utter is :face-palm:

To relate to another current event, Le Guin's Wizard of Earthsea, Ged, was a virgin, and lost his power after he wasn't. Or at least that's how I remember it. I read the series a long time ago.

> and lost his power after he wasn't

This is not true. In The Farthest Shore, Ged lost his powers by using them all to ...well to do some huge deed. Not going to specifics in order to avoid too much spoilers.

The "present day" Earthsea wizards practiced celibasy, but it was more a belief or tradition, like Catholic priests.

>His sex magick informs a lot of the modern incel, red-pill, and proud boy ideas that you must refrain from "spilling your seed"—that your reproductive emissions contain some of your essential energy. The result being that you have to abstain or otherwise be reduced to a plodding pile of unenlightened goo (to give the idea some imagery).

As someone who appreciates occult and pagan symbolism for the aesthetic and narrative value, can I just mention how annoying it is that extremists have ruined so much of it by adopting it for code and shibboleths? Especially Norse symbolism. I wanted to get a valknut tattoo when I was younger just because I thought it looked cool - now I'm glad I didn't because if I had, Nazis would think I was one of them.

To say nothing of the manji/swastika.

Tolkien agrees with you:

"No one ever calls on me to "broadcast" or do a postscript. Yet I suppose I know better than most what is the truth about this "Nordic" nonsense. Anyway, I have in this war a burning private grudge... against that ruddy little ignoramus Adolf Hitler ... Ruining, perverting, misapplying, and making for ever accursed, that noble northern spirit, a supreme contribution to Europe, which I have ever loved, and tried to present in its true light. Nowhere, incidentally, was it nobler than in England, nor more early sanctified and Christianized."

Nice quote, but "nor more early sanctified and Christianized" is technically incorrect. The Goths and Franks and Lombards etc. were Christianized before Angles and Saxons.

this is open to debate..


in my opinion, there were likely christians throughout the empire roughly simultaneously due to the strength of roman trade routes.. as to which places embraced the faith nationally, is a different story..

also: angles & saxons arrived to the british isles after the roman empire.. prior to this the local population was mainly celtic..

another interesting tidbit is that Emperor Constantine was crowned emperor in York before beginning his journey back to take the empire where he famously had a vision of the christian cross.. granted this is a few hundred years later, but still, very early, before the the british isles were settled by Anglo Saxons, and highlights how interconnected the british isles were with the rest of the empire in those days..

Are you familiar with the Ruthwell cross?



A professor had us all memorize a passage from that poem which I can still recite. It’s quite eerie, and a fascinating look at how cultures adapted to Christianity and adapted Christianity to their needs in turn.

Wasn't Tolkien a Christian? Close friend of C.S. Lewis.

> I wanted to get a valknut tattoo when I was younger just because I thought it looked cool - now I'm glad I didn't because if I had, Nazis would think I was one of them.

It's also a bad time to be a fan of the Egyptian goddess Isis.

I feel badly for all of the people who named their kids Isis! Lots of people probsbly switched to “Izzy” or something. The really clever ones probably switched over to Inanna, Ashera, or Astarte.

That the swastika is basically banned in many countries, is in my understanding the same as we would ban the cross, because of Inquisition, etc.

What do you mean "knowledge exists on a timeline parallel to popular history going back thousands of years"?

Are you just saying that Magicians believe events occurred differently than popularly understood?

Or are you saying that secret knowledge comes from a parallel version of reality, where the timeline is different, but somehow makes its way into our universe and is effective.

To illustrate what I am asking, Did Kennedy die in our timeline from a magic bullet? Or can I put magic on a bullet in this timeline using knowledge from a different timeline where Kennedy is still alive?

This could best be described as a "Ketamine Timeline"

Nothing so fantastical as that. There were sects of Christianity that followed more ancient traditions alongside their Christian beliefs. One popular set of knowledge (Christianity) and one arcane (Gnostic/Hermetic). You had to be initiated into the knowledge by a mixture of ancient and adapted rites. There were a number of disparate groups working from a similar or similar range of corpora.

The mystical timeline is parallel. There's a layer and then another layer. So what your common Catholic would have believed in 1500 was childish elementary mystical understanding to the arcane society member who knew the "real" or Gnostic truth.

I'm doing a terrible job at actually explaining this well. I'm giving you the very-diluted roundabout explanation of what I meant.

For a better understanding have a quick read through some Wikipedia articles. If your history of Christianity is not very thorough, then I recommend brushing up on that as well for a more rounded understanding. If you get into some of the reading, you'll understand 100% of those wacky conspiracy videos on YouTube and why people should read more, and how important context is.

My references are generally western-centric, though some of these topics make inroads to China and India (which has its own gnostic traditions IIRC).


Down the rabbit hole you go:



https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermes_Trismegistus (read many of the links)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnosticism (read many of the links)




And down the Judeo-Abhrahamic-Christianity path:






and just keep going.

> My references are generally western-centric

that these strains predominantly dont exist in eastern christianity to me is indiciative that westerners were seeking to fill a spiritual void lost to 'their side of the fence' with other sources... as to the reasonings behind this, well, your 100% might come into play.

iirc Gnosticism and Manichaeism were both heavily influenced by eastern thought and took root in parts of the eastern Mediterranean all the way to Persia. The early church was very effective in labeling them as heresies and stamping them out.

Actually many traditions have had circles that retain and sublimate the seed, very interesting topic. See more here: https://gist.githubusercontent.com/drcmda/84456b58765cf83144...

>incel, red-pill, and proud boy ideas that you must refrain from "spilling your seed"—that your reproductive emissions contain some of your essential energy

What you're describing is called NoFap; this community is based on the /r/nofap subreddit and is pretty much entirely separate from the culturally-Othered groups you seem to be trying to "weirdify".

Incel have no interest in NoFap.

To the degree that redpill and Proud Boy-like communities belive in NoFap, it's simply based on the repeatable observation that not masturbating increases energy and motivation - especially sexual motivation. Any man who can go two weeks without ejaculating will observe this easily for himself. The difference can be staggering - you feel like a different person.

It has nothing to do with some strange mysticism. Redpillers, especially, are entirely about rejecting traditional mystical beliefs ("soul mates", "love conquers all", "meant for each other", etc) in exchange for repeatable results-yielding methodologies. Nofap is such a methodology.

Not sure where you got this meme, but let's let it die here now because it's as disconnected from reality as most of what mainstreamers say about marginalized male sexual communities.

There's a parser text game called Hadean Lands in which you're on board a "spaceship" fueled by alchemy. You start the game by learning some basic rituals, then progressively you have more and more components missing for what you have to do next and have to hack together something based on concepts you learn progressively like planetary or elemental associations.

As weird as it is, everything makes perfect sense as you internalize the connections between things like planets, scents, classical elements, and other concepts. Within the world of the game, strange alchemical connections are as much a science as physics is in ours.

It's definitely a different experience to dip into that mindset, even just within a game.

That sounds absolutely fascinating! By your description I had thought it must be an old game from the early 1980s, but it is pretty recent.


Just thought about this game when I read the first comment, scrolled and here I was! But I concur.

If you would like to read a brilliant but rambling and unsubstantiated account of comparative proto-religions, shamanistic psychology and the creation of metaphor, check out a classic called The Golden Bough. You'll walk away with a deeper understanding toward the rational origins of irrational rituals.

That's also how I troubleshoot kubernetes problems.

You may think you're kidding, but modern technology stacks have gotten so complicated and entangled that mystical troubleshooting is the routine solution.

Not working? Reboot it. For all I know, the phase of Saturn (as calculated by some library down in the framework) does affect Kubernetes.

Fix your PC with a crystal pendulum


[Angry manager stomps in]


"Nothing much we could do boss, Saturn ascended"

Beats "sunspots."

flips through excuse-of-the-day calendar


Occultist texts fall into a unique fiction genre, which, not unlike magical realism, has the constraint of having to reconcile with the mundane laws of reality. That makes it so fascinating.

Depending on your faith, you could perhaps place religious texts into the same genre. The permanence power of this kind of storytelling throughout time and cultures cannot be overstated. I think humans crave it. That also explains why I felt so giddy when I read the announcement, even as someone who hasn't read much outside of tech stuff lately.

So true. And with more and more devices we use have computers in them (as small as the ATtiny85), then we'll head somewhat back to it. 'Magic' incantations will fix whatever nearly permanent firmware bugs or hardware bugs exist. Because, yes, these computers are deterministic IFF you have the software, logic, and its variables. And hope the sensors aren't malfunctioning.

My wife had a car that a temp sensor somewhere thought the car was always much colder outside. And it then set the cold/heat as a differential of what it measured. There was no way to say "Hot air, blower medium speed". It was a song and dance to get the "right" set of temps and blower speed.

> it's very strange to our modern sensibilities...

My mom buys things because they help remove 'toxins.' It's not that strange.

At least she hasn't yet learned of the foetid influence which seeps through the aether and will destroy the balance of your body's humours: wifi.

It's just not exciting without Lovecraft. What I mean is, the word "occult" in this context may be a boring label invented by boring people, kind of like "off topic" on stackoverflow.

yewp, lol, Laundry Files OPSEC vs Great Old Ones. 1. Don't scan and upload random occult manuscripts to computational devices

The Ritman library is absolutely wonderful, and open to the public without appointment; if you find yourself in Amsterdam, it's absolutely worth it to go ring their doorbell and look around. It was the highlight of my post-high-school Europe trip.

Whatever happened to that giant library of scanned books that Google created?

The books are just sitting in storage until the laws change. https://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/what-ever-happen...

It would truly be great to see the actual texts of early cryptography like Trithemius and John Dee.

Anyone else reminded of the The Laundry Files series by Charles Stross? Am now expecting ICOs for occult based startups . .


The Great Old Ones could just have their own ICO.

The other day on HN I saw a comment that described Bitcoin/proof-of-work cryptocurrencies as being "created by an act of ritual sacrifice" (of electricity/compute power).

I recon there's grounds for some amusing short stories in there.

It would certainly explain why nobody has found Satoshi! He was just a tool of Cthulhu and his cultists to increase the rate of dissipation. At some critical juncture the total entropy of the system will be sufficient to allow invasion of our reality by tentacular horrors.


Maybe SHA-256 itself encodes a complex ritual for summoning the old ones. Bitcoin ASICs are effectively performing this ritual billions upon billions of times per second, gradually drawing the Old Ones closer and closer...

Towers of Hanoi, anyone?

Install Cthulhoid Overlord?

Sudo install....

I think this is fantastic news. I really enjoyed reading old alchemy texts over at


and like some others mentioned, just getting into mindset of people writing this and their view of the world, really opens you up about different perspectives.

Their site indicates more than 25k books (1,6k available):


There’s a pretty long documentary/interview with the owner on prime video: https://www.primevideo.com/detail/0ND6NJX19GO8N1C0MPEE1D7UA8...

Is it this one? https://vimeo.com/179329765

your link just takes me to my amazon prime log in page....do you have the title of the documentary please?

Sorry, it’s called “The Ritman Library - Amsterdam”


Into every generation, a slayer is born...

If only it were so easy to do this (legally) for research papers...

It is this easy for research papers which are equally old.

Just change belief systems. Bing bang boom.

LOL. Well played.

I applaud their very, very confident reductionism.

That's pretty cool. I mean not into it, but I think it's worth preserving.

Aleister Crowley is dancing a jig

Incidentally he's been dead long enough that his works fell into the public domain this last new year. So you don't have to pay Gerald Suster or whatever Thelemite fork that last had the copyrights any more.

He never really wanted his books to be under copyright in any case, so I'm OK with that. I think it was the OTO who last had the copyright, sadly (as those people seem pretty wack).

The soulhackers are amongst us!

Does this mean we're no longer allowed to make fun of renowned author Dan Brown[1]?

1. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/books/authors/dont-make-fun-of-re...

I was thinking a bit similar, but I'd say, no, because I am still mad for all the useless discussions I had with people claiming Illuminati etc. was factual ... (what the book also claimed to be)

So sure, every audience gets the writer it deserves, but still - I appreciate the gift, but there would need to be much more, before you can even consider that ... but I don't think he has so much money though.

Holy shit yes. It's too bad it's pre-1900s. I found something called the Vampire Bible once and it was seriously the funniest thing I ever read.

> “pre-1900 texts on alchemy, astrology, magic, and theosophy,

I don't understand, what's really the use of any of this stuff except for their insight into history and as precursors to science. There's no way any of this stuff has any meaningful application today.

I also don't understand how anyone can find this stuff interesting, they're often boring, hard to read, and filled with obviously erroneous information

You just said it, for the history. It's just interesting to read about people who think so differently and their culture. Sort of like historical science-fiction.

this is the first time I have ever seen someone hate on medieval manuscripts

Suppose you have a occult theory of the world that tries to explain certain observations with its own words and structuring of the universe.

It may be outdated and its system doesn't fit every observation we made since.

But still, if there is some inherent structure we can exploit this system to get another view and new ideas that we then can try to formulate in a modern way. That supposed occult theory can lead to new hypotheses that we can test / try to falsify.

Maybe this isn't fruitful, but it certainly could be.

It's all part of understanding the culture of the time. Manuscripts generally are quite hard to read: the language, the script, etc.

> It's all part of understanding the culture of the time.

Fortunately it's not all that -- there are quite a few techniques inside that one can employ (e.g., meditation) to achieve, with practice, certain mystical results

expanding on your line of thought...

why bother doing anything, ever, at all, anywhere?

it's all pointless anyway due to the impending heat death of the universe.

I enjoy old typesetting myself

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