sábado, 26 de novembro de 2016


Members of Ndembo Lodge (c. 1923), from left: John Hargrave (White Fox), Leonard Pember (Silver Fox), Aubrey Colebrook (Tiger Moth), J. E. Williams (Running Panther) (seated) and Cecil Mumford (Little Lone Wolf) (ROSS & BENNET, 2015: 32)

By this time he had distanced himself from the ‘wan spirituality’ of his largely female Theosophist supporters: ‘I know that I have only to let out a little pseudo-Swami-yogi-Rishi-Pranayana Wanamanaism to fetch both people and money… but this sort of Kagmag would push us right off the trail’, he wrote in August 1923 to A. C. Garrad, a Kinsman who took Eastern esoterica very seriously and must have felt rather taken aback by the comment. As a virile leader, Hargrave was drawn towards ‘magic’ rather than ‘spirituality’ – a perfect example of Alex Owens’ insight than in turn-of-the-century England ‘magic and mysticism were in effect subtly gendercoded, with magic – “intellectual, aggressive and scientific” – assuming a masculine status’: mysticism, by contrast, was ‘associated with emotionalism, a sense of rapture, which did not accord with the intellect-driven will to know characterizing the magical endeavour’. Later in life Hargrave was even more critical of Theosophy’s perceived wishy-washyness. He recalled the Dutch youth leader Baron von Pallandt as having “the vague aura of post-war theosophiscal seeking… thought-form wisps floating in a mystical blue haze’. Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence was one of many later dismissed as ‘drenched in hesitancy, mistaken for reflective wisdom’. Rudolf Steiner was not only weak but completely dead: ‘I heard Dr. Rudolf Steiner speak in London in German’, Hargrave recalled. ‘I understood not a word but I knew the man. Afterwards I shook hands with him. Then I knew I was right – a “dead” man. A bright, white intellectual light shining through a corpse: the light illuminating nothing except the busy complicated intellectual mechanism of this living dead man. Just a little uncanny because he has killed himself long before he died.’
What then was the nature of the occult magic that Hargrave professed, in preference to wishy-washy Theosophy? The presiding flavor was Rosicrucian Hermetic knowledge, a kind of robust magic that depend on a select band od ‘adepts’, a chosen few who were party to secret esoteric knowledge and who maintained bonds of brotherhood through initiation ceremonies and ritual, passing their magical powers down through time in secret runes and diagrams*. Embedded in this world-view was the notion of two levels of knowledge: esoteric knowledge – only available to those who had demonstrated their fitness to handle it; and exoteric knowledge, which was translated into a form able to be absorbed by the unilluminated masses. The exoteric/esoteric split was fundamental to much of Hargrave’s later politics, and although as a general principle it might seem to betray his own belief in self-education, it partly reflected his view that some people just could not cope with the disturbance to their psyche that some knowledge would cause. Esoteric knowledge was only to be circulated amongst those who could ‘eat good and evil without indigestion’, or who could ‘stand the abyss’, phrases he used when discussing a candidate for initiation into one of the Kindred’s male lodges.
The second thing Hargrave drew from the occult was a profound sense of mission, above and beyond his immediate task of helping the English nation after the catastrophe of the First World War. His work was now part of ‘the Great Game’, the battle between good and evil that had been tumbling down through the centuries and which had played out through many manifestations of art, science and philosophy across many civilisations. (…) He saw himself as one of the illuminated ones, a spirit chief whose reach stretched far beyond the tribe, and whose facility with reading symbols went far beyond woodcraft. Occultism inflated Hargrave’s tendency to take himself very seriously indeed.
The Kindred of the Kibbo Kift was to be the practical realization of all these esoteric beliefs, but they came together initially in a small group of men that Hargrave formed in 1919 and that he named the ‘Ndembo Lodge’. The name ‘Ndembo’ had appeared in The Great War Brings It Home as an example of a tribal council from Western Congo. In 1919 was more or less exactly that, a tribal council – albeit operating from Chesham Bois in Buckinghamshire and overseeing a tribe made up from Baden Powell’s Boy Scouts. Hargrave had drawn around him a group of like-minded Scoutmasters, all party to the woodcraft plots being hatched by White Fox and Seeonee Wolf. (…)
By 1922 the group had assumed a more religious look and feel. ‘Camps’ had become ‘conclaves’, attendees wore monk-like ‘vestments’ made from sackcloth (…).
[ROSS & BENNETT, 2015: 30-31]

Kibbo Kift hike formation (c.1928)

*Hargrave's comments about the practical magic of images and objects are particularly interesting in relation to the naming of the Kibbo Kift's symbolic visual insignia, later in the 1920s, as 'sigils'. In particular the word was used for the circular devices designed by Hargrave to be embroidered onto ceremonial costumes. (...) The sigil is claimed by occultists to have a long history but it was popularised – if not invented – as a practice of spell-making through design in the writings of London artist Austin Osman Spare (1886-1956). Spare had received his creative training at the Royal College of Art and his occult knowledge from Crowley. Although there is no evidence in Kibbo Kift papers that Spare and Hargrave ever met, they could certainly have crossed paths in the tight social circles of London's interwar occult networks. Spare's theory of sigil magic, first published in his Book of Pleasure in 1913, certainly corresponds with Hargrave’s use of the visual as a form of magical persuasion. [POLLEN, 2015: 156]

Bibliographic references
POLLEN, Annebella. The Kindred of the Kibbo Kift: Intellectual Barbarians. London: Donlon Books, 2015, pp. 222. ISBN 978-0-9576095-1-8
ROSS, Cathy & BENNETT, Olivier. Designing Utopia – John Hargrave and the Kibbo Kift. London: Museum of London, 2015, pp. 182. ISBN 978-1-78130-040-4

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