From the back cover:
"Three clever editors (who have spent altogether too much time reviewing crackpot manuscripts on the occult by fanatics and dilettantes) decide to have a little fun. They are inspired by an extraordinary fable they heard years before from a suspiciously natty colonel, who claimed to know of a mystic source of power greater than atomic energy.
"On a lark, the editors begin randomly feeding esoteric bits of knowledge into an incredible computer capable of inventing connections between all their entries. What they believe they are creating is a long, lazy game - until the game starts taking over...
"Here is an incredible journey of thought and history, memory and fantasy, a tour de force as enthralling as anything Umberto Eco - or indeed anyone - has ever devised."
And that pretty much sums it up. The three editors are Jacopo Belbo, Diotallevi and Casaubon, who tells the story. By way of their game they discover "The Plan" and throughout the ten sections of the book entitled KETER, HOKMAH, BINAH, HESED, GEVURAH, TIFERET, NEZAH, HOD, YESOD and MALKHUT, they encounter a number of whacko occultists, conspiracy and danger. Of the occultists there does not seem to be one, intelligent, redeeming character, and while I can understand why the author did this I am sorry to see that he has not met at least one rational soul in the occult community that might have inspired a character who proved to be a genuine student of the esoteric. Manutius/Garamond, the Janus-like publisher that these editors worked for, reminded me somewhat of Llewellyn Publications, amusingly, and while there were times when I found the book amusing, there were also the times I found the novel rather tedious. Still, in my humble opinion, it is worth reading, and I have been told that another book by Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose, is much better, and I hope to find the time to read this soon.
Such a book, of course, had to mention both Aleister Crowley and the O.T.O., and this of course is why it is here reviewed, however briefly.
On pages 44 and 45 we find the following:
"in the course of my reading about the Templars and the various atrocities attributed to them, I had come across Carpocrates's assertion that to escape the tyranny of the angels, the masters of the cosmos, every possible ignominy should be perpetrated, that you should discharge all debts to the world and to your own body, for only by committing every act can the soul be freed of its passions and returned to its original purity. When we were inventing the Plan, I found that many addicts of the occult pursued that path in their search for enlightenment. According to his biographers, Aleister Crowley, who has been called the most perverted man of all time and who did everything that could be done with his worshipers, both men and women, chose only the ugliest partners of either sex. I have the nagging suspicion, however, that his lovemaking was incomplete."
Of course the fault here is that the author was not relying upon firsthand information or careful personal research. He was relying upon the information relayed by Crowley's self-appointed biographers, no doubt John Symonds among them. What A.C. may have been called is beside the point, we have all, at one time or another, been called something that we are not, and certainly Crowley was nowhere near being "the most perverted man of all time". Hitler, Manson, the Marquis de Sade, and many others would make it to the top of that list leaving A.C. way down at the bottom if, indeed, he should even be on such a list. Also the crack about doing "everyting that could be done" was a gross and absurd exaggeration. Finally, the remark about Crowley choosing "only the ugliest partners of either sex" is obviously untrue. Rose, his first wife, was a beautiful woman, as was a later wife, Maria Teresa Ferrari de Miramar, although a little large for today's and my standards. Leila Waddell, with her long, full, beautiful hair, was also quite a knock out. Just to name a few. Obviously this bit of nonsense stems from an advertisement Crowley once placed in a paper for "freaks" and all manner of unusual people, not for sex partners, as some sensationalistic writers have claimed, but to employ as artists' models as he was trying his hand in that area at the time and wanted challenging subjects to paint. The fact that Mr. Eco did not know this, or perhaps worse, chose to ignore the facts, shows that his research is something less than perfect and so his opinions do not have much value in regards to Aleister Crowley.
Pages 226 and 227:
"Ordo Templi Orientis, the conventicle of the remaining self-styled followers of Aleister Crowley ... what I am proposing is an enlarged Liber legis, inasmuch as I have had the good fortune to be visited not by a mere higher intelligence but by Al himself, the supreme principle - namely, Hoor-paar-Kraat, who is the double or the mystical twin of Ra-Hoor-Khuit."
Likewise Page 238:
"the satanic churches of Aleister Crowley, who called up demons to win the favors of certain gentlemen devoted to the vice anglais."
Such nonsense as this is attributed to one of the goofy occultists in the novel, but since the author in no way corrects the character one must assume that the ignorance is his. For instance, Crowley created no "satanic churches" as he was not a satanist and not only did not believe in Satan, but he also thought the concept of the Christian Devil, Satan, inane.
Finally on page 46 the author has written:
"I [Casaubon] was wholeheartedly outraged by the trial in which the Templars, through evidence it would be generous to call circumstantial, were sentenced to the stake. Then I quickly learned that, for centuries after their execution, countless lovers of the occult persisted in looking for them, seeking everywhere, without ever producing proof of their existence. This visionary excess offended my incredulity, and I resolved to waste no more time on these hunters of secrets. I would stick to primary sources. The Templars were monastic knights; their order was recognized by the Church. If the Church dissolved that order, as in fact it had seven centuries ago, then the Templars could no longer exist. Therefore, if they existed, they weren't Templars."
Well, who can argue with that?
[Encyclical Letter, December 1995 E.V.]