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A Katabasic Nekyia
In Elmer Crowley, a Katabasic Nekyia, Tom Bradley dismantles and re-welds biography,
novel, creative non-fiction and metaphysical treatise into a bizarre satire. Aleister
Crowley, alias "The Anti-Christ," has bungled his karma and ended up the Looney Tune
character Elmer Fudd. The whole outlandish premise plays out as a mockery of occultism’
s darkest delusions. The subtitle means a descent into a ritual by which ghosts are
invoked to divine the future. The narrator is the incarnated ghost of Crowley. He and
Hitler are sometimes compared for the similarities of their occult-based belief in “Do As
Thou Wilt” as justification for turn- ing hapless followers into “stringless marionettes.”
Crowley’s opening words refer to Hitler as his “magickal child,” setting the moral tone for
what follows. Numerous themes branch out from this initial asser- tion with key scenes
wickedly illustrated, adding ‘graphic novel’ as yet another misleading describer of Bradley’
s furcated katabasis.
Crowley, Fudd, Hitler, Buddha, Yeats, Heliopolitan hierophants, the Goddess Baubo,
assorted “Nilotic dream despots”, a carrot-eating Madame Blavatsky, Bugs Bunny, Daffy
Duck and their Warner Brothers producer, Leon Schlesinger bounce and boing their way
across human history. These are the launch points for Bradley’s inquiries into ques- tions
of meta-ethics and truth against a background of “Esoteric Hitlerists.”
Crowley’s tragic flaw is his fixed idea that “magick is done to the strains of incantatory
monotony, not self-conscious art.” This trans- lates into control of non-questioning
followers to serve his ends, noting with admiration that the A-bomb is “the most magickal
blackjack to come swinging along since the sage Aurva armed his king with the fire
missile in the Vishnu Purana.”
Crowley and Fudd share a speech defect: the inability to pronounce the R sound (“that
wascal wabbit”). “Many fine magi,” Crowley claims, “perhaps even a slim majority... are
poorly spoken.” That would include (besides Buddha and Hitler’s doctor) Leon
Schlesinger, the money behind the Warner Brothers cartoons. Crowley and Schlesinger
meet at a Hollywood orgy over a shared pederastic interest in a youth who also has a
speech impediment. Whether Elmer Fudd’s “babbling weakness” on screen is a gibe at
Crowley’s lisp is something the reader will have to determine. Either way, reincarnation
as a lisping Looney is not an inapt destiny for the Anti-Christ who infamously wrote in his
Confes- sions, “direct injury [is] the proper conjuration to call up gratitude.”
Doing as one wills, central to Crowley’s philosophy of Thelema, easily leads to a perverted
will to power. Crowley realises after it’s too late that his magick act stinks. “Is ‘wayward
sorcery’ a damnation offense as [Madame Blavatsky] proclaimed?” All you need is love,
not will. As Bradley has stated elsewhere, “The universe runs on a Theosophical rather
than a Thelemic dispensation.”
Elmer Crowley may confound those who want their words to move through books like
soldiers in formation and come to a uniform halt at the end. But readers willing to
navigate outside the usual throughways will find themselves in the higher vistas of this
rich and complex tome, slim enough for the slow and multiple readings it deserves.
RICHARD KACZYNSKI, author of the definitive Perdurbo: The Life of Aleister
Crowley, internationally recognized expert on The Great Beast 666:
In the grand tradition of Snoo Wilson's I, Crowley and J. Edward Cornelius's The
Milkman Letters comes Elmer Crowley: A Katabasic Nekyia, a novella from Tom
Bradley's fertile (or should I say febrile?) imagination with twenty full-page illustrations
by David Aronson and Nick Patterson.
According to the back cover, "After making careful preparations to ensure himself a
proper reincarnation, the dying Aleister Crowley flubs one syllable of the magickal
incantation...and comes back as Elmer Fudd." This self-described "picaresque graphic
novel" reads like an account of Crowley's death-bed fever dream or an afterlife bardo
journey gone terribly wrong, wherein the fifty-eight Wrathful Deities take on the aspect of
warped and sinister versions of Looney Toons archetypes. Here, Crowley is a twisted
Elmer Fudd, with Bugs-cum-Choronzon as his mercurial psychopomp.
Bradley emulates Crowley's first-person narrative style throughout by mixing ostentatious
verbiage with calculated-to-shock impropriety, and the result reads like a trippy, post-
mortem, long-lost epilogue to The Confessions... Digressions aplenty recall episodes from
the life and times of the recently departed Great Beast, with one or two apocryphal events
thrown in (hey, this is fiction, so some creative license is expected). These are amusing
Easter eggs for readers conversant with the details. One example that I particularly
enjoyed was an indictment of Golden Dawn Chief MacGregor Mathers--a devout
vegetarian and anti-vivisectionist in the mold of Anna Kingsford--for using black magic to
kill Crowley's hunting dogs.
Bradley sure did his homework. Bottom line: This is one weird mofo! I can't think of
anything else quite like it.
THE PROMETHEUS REVIEW
Looking for something a little different? Bored with reading the Book of Law? Is the Great
Beast no longer quite…Beastly enough? If you answered yes to these questions, then you
will enjoy reading the combination of Tom Bradley’s wit with original art by David
Aronson and Nick Patterson. Be warned though, if you have no sense of humour and tend
to be overly sentimental, this isn’t the book for you. This book is more akin to Crowley’s
own humour – dark, satirical and full of cryptic puns which are designed to stealthy slip
over the unaware reader's head.
This is coupled with bizarre surrealist imagery that unfolds like a psychedelic experience
of Crowley and other mystic characters. Both esoteric and darkly entertaining, this fills in
the void that is often missing in modern interpretations of Crowley –a sense of humour.
Elmer Crowley is reminiscent of some of Terry Pratchett’s use of Crowley’s imagery, but
this book takes it much further. It is however also clear that the author has a high
knowledge of esoteric symbolism and Crowley’s works, and this is worked well into the
text, with multiple layers of symbolism that unfold like little spring buds.
Elmer Crowley is not the only figure in this book – there are others, such as Willy the
Celtic Revivalist. Even Serrano and Blavatsky are not spared in this neatly packaged book.
Reading Elmer Crowley is like reading Crowley’s inner dialogue at 3:am, after an intensive
journey into his own inner abyss. It is therefore, a magickal working that Crowley himself
would be proud of. Perdurabo must be very careful, lest he disturb his nemesis, the
sinister and deadly rabbit Chronozon, the bunny of the Abyss.
The interior is excellent art, and I have to admit that a favourite of mine is Horus, with his
hawk head now replaced by that jester of the bird world, the Australia cockatoo.
Undoubtedly some uptight person will get offended by this book – but what of it?
Offending people is exactly what the Great Beast liked to do and I can imagine Crowley, in
his astral form laughing at these people, the humourless mediocre magicians who take
offense at absolutely everything because really they just want …to be normal! This is a
book for the real fans of Crowley--the ones who can enjoy and understand his sense of
"After making careful preparations to ensure himself a proper reincarnation the dying
Aleister Crowley flubs one syllable of the magickal incantation…and comes back as Elmer
"The nekyia is no aimless or destructive fall into the abyss but a meaningful katabasis- it’s
object the restoration of the whole man." (Jung)
--Gwendolyn von Taunton
CHARLOTTE ROGERS, author of P. is for Prostitute
This is an extraordinary book, and as with all books of any real calibre, can be read on
My first reading was what I call the "reviewers skim" where I wallowed in the outrageous
imagery generated by the rollicking language and wonderful graphic illustrations (I’ll
never be able to look at Bugs Bunny’s pert nether regions in the same way again).
I realised very quickly that a skim wouldn’t do Elmer Crowley justice as the illusions and
allusions are not randomly generated for effect but deep and knowledgeable reference to
Crowley’s life and writings, The Tibetan and Egyptian Book of the Dead and The
Simply enough, this book is twisted, fantastical and genius. It captures the feel of Crowley
with his bawdy, politically incorrect irreverence, his arrogance and his committed
magickal spirituality and awareness.
Elmer Fudd also encapsulates the surreal madness of life, fate, karma, belief and Loony
Tunes when viewed by slipping your perceptions just a little off kilter.
Elmer Fudd: a Katabasic Nekyia isn’t simply a very good and well illustrated book or
even a fantastically written mad romp; it is a journey. How the reader chooses to
appreciate that journey is up to them.
I have a feeling that I will be reading this book, and taking the multi levelled journey,
many more times.
I’ll close with a very relevant quote from an interview with the author by The Drill Press
where he was asked, ‘what is a writer?’
The writer, on the other hand, in making an artefact, reveals an implicit awareness of time’
s paradoxical untensefulness. He is making a profession of faith in the illusory nature of
cause and effect, which is a huge step in uncovering the procedures of existence—how
they don’t really proceed at all.
The writer is not just expelling carbon dioxide and sound waves, but is leaving behind an
object that in some microcosmic way recapitulates those unproceeding procedures. What
the writer does is less like monkeys grooming in a circle and more like Neanderthals
sprinkling their dead with flowers.