Review of “The Lilith Monographs Volume 1: Immaculata”

My review from Goodreads.

This book was given to me by a devotee of Lilith who was purging it from her collection after being unable to finish it. I feel like this is relevant context.

I’m honestly not even sure where to start with how nonsensical this book is. There are fragments which are interesting, the best by far being what seemed to be an excerpt, not even written by Joshua Seraphim. The chapters on the Magdalene and the Black Madonnas were of course interesting, if not tedious in their style and presentation, but their relevance to the subject of Lilith wasn’t highlighted or pointed out in any way. On a base level scholarship is all about proving your ideas and theories, and leaving important elements of your ideas and theories up to the inference of the reader rather than drawing a clear and cohesive line through the various elements of your subject constitutes a colossal failure on this front.

Which leads me to another point: this book has not the slightest clue what it wants to be. The tone is as inconsistent as the views presented, wavering between being scholarship and pure spiritual speculation. The best I can guess is that Seraphim wanted to provide a scholarly grounding for his spiritual speculation, which I am all for having regularly engaged in such writing myself. However, his scholarship is often lazy, messy, and occasionally it is downright misleading. A cursory Google search on the etymology of Lilith’s name will provide more concrete insight into the history of this enigmatic and fascinating figure than this book will, and if you’re interested in a more spiritually based look at Lilith there are a plethora of books, articles, and even blogs out there which do a wonderful job of highlighting the historical journey of the Lilith myth into the modern day and Her significance to modern worshipers. This book, however, is so muddled and confused as to its own beliefs and convictions that at times it seems Seraphim doesn’t know who or what Lilith actually is, let alone whether or not he finds her worthy of receiving worship.

At several points there were moments so glaring and aggressive that I almost put the book down for good. I’m glad my friend didn’t finish this honestly, as a queer person of Romani descent, for on two specific instance Seraphim seems to show his hand as potentially homophobic and casually racist. In one instance he aggressively derides cultures which he claims stamped out widespread goddess worship (note: there is no archaeological, literary, or cultural basis for the claims of some pure, matriarchal society pre-patriarchy wherein women were widely revered and worshiped, as much as I would like to believe in such a golden age, it simply never was) saying, “…soldiers with impotent dicks can only revel in homosexuality and gather to rip off immemorial traditions.” Much later a passage featuring this line prompted me to skip to the end of a chapter that was near indecipherable anyway: “…the shrieks of macabre ecstasies from gypsy orgies held in shaded groves.” Why did this bother me? Well, aside from using the irritating antiquated racial term “gypsy” for the Romani people it plays gleefully into the misconceptions of the Romani as wanton harlots, in a way not dissimilar to broad-stroke painting of various other ethnic minorities as over-sexed savages. In the context of this particular tome it may not necessarily be taken to be an insult and yet it does play into the stereotype, which is a gross misunderstanding and misrepresentation of an actually very conservative minority who have been widely persecuted throughout Europe.

This isn’t even to mention the severe fetishization of the entire female sex, of course. At least tbere is some historical precedent for this, as many pre-Christian pagan cultures revered their goddesses for their procreative qualities, which necessarily required reverence of their sexuality. Seraphim’s version of this, however, is potentially the most reductive I’ve seen, which is actually pretty funny given the various points at the book where he insists that Abrahamic religions have a tendency to exclude women from sacred spaces based on their perceived sexuality and sexual weakness. He even highlights this as being reductive, while himself being reductive in the same way, just on the other side of the same coin, so to speak. This reductive tendency with regards to women’s sexuality I can almost understand. Lilith is often portrayed as an aggressive sex-crazy succubus or vampire, so it does make sense that such a thing would creep into an exploration of the Lilith mythos. However, as I’ve already mentioned, half of this book barely even touches on Lilith, to the extent that I started to question why it was even called “The Lilith Monographs.” It seemed more a preoccupation of the author than anything actually necessarily relevant to the subject matter.

Oh, and I almost forgot the extreme derision towards other religious paths — not even just Abrahamic, though that was almost too much even for me, who is no fan of the Christian church. Seraphim doesn’t directly target Judaism, really, but he does reserve derision for Islam (he does make reference to 9/11 and the ensuing wars the US has been entangled in, keying me in to the fact that this was written in a post-9/11 world, which made this derision even more suspect to me). Even more interesting, he directs a whole lot of ire toward Gardnerian Wicca and Neo-Paganism as a whole for generally rejecting the darker principles of life in favor of exclusive focus on the lighter portions of the life cycle. While I agree that this is unhealthy and results in a badly lopsided practice and incomplete spiritual understanding, the disgust expressed by Seraphim is itself unhealthy, divisive, and unnecessary (and I’ve made my fair share of in-poor-taste Wicca jokes).

All of this is, of course, written in a pseudo-scholarly language which fails to serve the subject matter. The writing is muddied and unclear, and nothing in this book could even remotely be described as “concise.” Rather, the tone contributes to a muddled and confused attempt at conveying a point, and I cannot fathom why this style was chosen aside from to possibly sound intelligent. The language is muddied even further by a circular, near masturbatory “2 spooky 4 u” attitude, wherein the darkness of Lilith’s divine feminine is played more for erotic thrills than any real connection with or understanding of that aspect of the divine.

Honestly, this book ranks right up there with “Jesus and the Lost Goddess” in ridiculousness, but at least I had fun reading that one. This one was so blatantly egotistical, and trying so desperately to play that egotism off as spirituality (hint: TRUTH DOES NOT SERVE YOU OR YOUR EGO. The moment your spirituality begins stroking your ego rather than challenging you to grow in truth and better yourself for the greater good of community and humanity, it has become suspect) that feels more like a solitary circle-jerk than anything, and it’s just not enjoyable to read or even to mock.

So why did I finish reading it? Honestly, I didn’t. Around the time of the shrieking gypsy orgy I’d had enough, but even at that point I’d gotten through enough of the book to write this scathing review, which became my goal about halfway through the book. Why? Because that is how much I hate bad scholarship. That is honestly my entire motivation behind this entire, awful screed.

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