The Sorrows Of Setken
Acrylic on canvas
48" x 72"
I was delighted to discover recently that an Australian artist right here in Melbourne has also pursued a mauve palette in her distinguished career.
Helen Maudsley came to my attention in the last days of completion of The Sorrows Of Setken as part of an exhibition at Boroondara Town Hall gallery late last year.
In the present work and the latter, I have allowed pink to creep into the palette also.
The combination of regular acrylic paint along with flat (matte) and fluorescent pigments gives the painting a curious presence viewed in person.
The ideas behind The Sorrows Of Setken have been generated over years, but I began the canvas in mid-August 2023.
The Title: a film and a book
I first became aware of The Sorrows of Satan as the 1926 silent film. It wasn't until much later that I read the 1895 novel by Marie Corelli that it was based upon.
The initial image that drew me to the film was a grainy photo of a man shrinking away in the shadow of what was either a devil or Dracula.
This image was featured on the cover of the Bauhaus single Bela Lugosi’s Dead. Bauhaus are one of my all-time favourite bands, and I had seen it for quite some time. Until I investigated it however I did not know the source.
In the image protagonist Jeffrey Tempest is in the shadow of a large bat-winged creature representing Prince Lucio de Rimanez.
Despite being over 100 years old the novel made commentaries on society and the plight of the artist trying to remain true to themselves that still apply today.
Poverty, no recognition, and being outside of the social circles get turned upside down when Tempest comes into a significant inheritance and his life descends into abject unhappiness as a result.
I had not heard of Marie Corelli and have since learned that she was so popular in her time that she outsold much better-known authors of her day such as Rudyard Kipling. She was also lesbian, which made me wonder about the homosexual overtones in the relationship between Jeffery and Lucio in both the novel and the film.
Whilst the film had interesting moments it was quite a departure from the book which is heavily nuanced.
Very much of interest to me in the literary version was a minor ancient Egyptian storyline which was completely absent from the film.
Both the novel and the film emerged from a time when the concept of Romantic Satanism / Dark Romanticism was in vogue.
Later, someone posted images of Norman Bel Geddes’ original artwork for the film, much of which did not get used. The very short sequence at the beginning of the film – nowhere indicated in the book – had a truly fascinating design aesthetic. I am indebted to the Harry Ransom archive in Texas, USA for supplying me with images of Bel Geddes designs, which have greatly influenced the look of my painting.
I became interested in Bel Geddes’ style and this made me want to know more about the film. This coincided with greater communication with my ka through meditation and dreams, and trying to understand it better by looking at the parallel Ancient Greek notion of the “daemon” and corresponding Roman “genius”.
My painting is influenced more by Bel Geddes’ original artwork for the film but is nonetheless a compliment to the narrative of Corelli’s novel also.
This photo and the one directly above are courtesy of the Harry Ransom Centre in Texas
The background of my painting is styled as the hieroglyph for “sky” and is filled with a decoration from a Moroccan embroidery design dated to 10AD.
I like how the decoration incorporates both the pentagram and the octagon. The former in turn refers to the 5 epagomenal gods: Ausar, Heru Ur, Set, NebetHt and Auset. All 5 Netjeru are featured in the work (identifying key at the end of this post)
In the centre another hieroglyph is situated. Designated a “ch” as in “loch” sound by Egyptologists, it is considered to be a placenta.
A personal vision occurred relating to this sign after my friend Frank (seeing a stencil of it in my studio) remarked that it was Jupiter.
I wondered about this: I have long queried the placenta designation and came to think of the glyph as “light from an unknown source”. If I consider that it means power from an unknown source and perhaps an astrological influence from the planet Jupiter (whom the Ancient Egyptians were aware of) there is a coincidence with that notion.
A dream and message from the planet itself confirmed this in a strange and numinous episode involving a beagle and house minding. The circumstances leading to this revelation were too intricate in the setup for me to consider the affair a coincidence.
The Game Of Setken
One of the titles I initially considered for the painting refers to the section in the painting where I am considering as a hierophant which pieces to use on a game board: this is the gameboard of my life, and recalls the Ancient Egyptian game senet. The god Djehuti advises me.
All aspects of my soul anatomy (elaborated upon further), statues, and Netjeru (including the five epagomenal gods) are represented on a great stage or theatre set. These five Netjeru seem to have had some of the greatest influence on humanity from the Egyptian pantheon and myth cycles.
Perhaps during this life or in a state pre-life, the self in the painting is trying to work out which pieces to use.
The genesis of the painting occurred during a time when I was doing a lot of work on my computer and board game The Book Of The Divine Insects.
All of the other elements of the work refer back to the game and the choices I will or do make, all couched within another “entertainment” setting – the theatre, and theatre’s successor – the television. Some may or may not know that I trained and worked as an actor earlier in my life.
There are three choices of gaming piece: Ausar, Heru Ur, and Set. The painting predicts the choice I will make. Perhaps the other gods – or Djehuti Himself – will be my gaming partner?
Soul Anatomy and The Lion Path
The Lion Path was a not insubstantial undertaking developed by Charles Muses (under the pseudonym Musaios) in the last part of the previous century. Using calculations of birth astrology (i.e. the same ones utilized in making a natal chart) you are calculated a path to follow based on astronomical and mathematical data inherent to the path.
Musaios himself and House Of Horus (his publishing house) managed this. With books, ring-bound manuals, and cassettes one undertook the meditative process necessary to catch the star rays.
My interest in ancient Egyptian soul anatomy has been lifelong, and it is true to say that my embarking on The Lion Path in my late twenties influenced this significantly.
The Lion Path and each of the 9 aspects of the soul are featured in this work and influence the game.
Described as a theurgic process, energies of the star Sirius as it appeared at certain times of the year were cultivated during these “sessions” as something of a "holy day"; it was meant to be observed alone and preferably away from others. Whilst playing the specially prepared music that promoted the opening of certain valves within the brain, the stellar influences nourished both the aspirant and the earth.
The undertaking occurred over years and took a lot of effort. I recall that some of these sessions did evoke some unusual phenomena and experiences, but most occurred on the deep inner levels and were so subtle as to be almost imperceptible.
As this was occurring pre-internet, I had no one to share my experiences with, so took to writing to the maestro himself. He actually wrote back, and his replies were not always as I would have liked.
I finished the path sessions (or at least one aspect of it – Muses kept on revising it and lengthening it) but in the end, found it too difficult to continue pursuing beyond the first round of final dates that I was supplied with.
My mental faculties were developing faster than my spiritual ones and there was too much I did not at the time understand. If you read any of Muses’s books, you will quickly find that his genius does not translate well into the communication of his ideas. Video footage reveals that when presenting information in person he was much more aware of the complexity of his teachings for audiences that did not share his sophisticated intellect, but sadly this isn't the case with the written work.
Whilst The Lion Path did not go into soul anatomy in the way that someone like Gerald Massey did at the beginning of the last century, the ideas were there.
I think participating in the Lion Path also “accelerated” parts of my personality that became problematic as my life unfolded. We were warned about this.
Muses himself is such an interesting character and played such a curious part in the unfolding of occult and Ancient Egyptian ideas that I am surprised he was not included in esoteric historian and author Mitch Horowitz’s recent go-to on the topic of occult history, especially as Muses was a fellow American.
Academically, Muses was a mathematician (he is credited as having discovered a mathematical sequence relating to hypernumbers) and an Egyptologist: he discovered the pyramid of King Ameni Qemau, and his life was not without controversy.
His home Falcon Ranch reportedly had strange properties, and one rumour was that he was able to walk through walls.
Agrippa, Rechberg, Statues and Sacred Geometry
Cornelius Agrippa was a German Renaissance polymath, physician, legal scholar, soldier, knight, theologian, and occult writer. The body of the central figure (18) is based on two of his diagrams, but the wings I created are based on sacred geometry separate from his work.
Arnold Rechberg was a German painter and sculptor whom history speaks little of. I have become fascinated with some of his works (both paintings and statues) and the figure of Nephthys (6) is taken directly from his painting The Purification. I have embellished the figure to make Her into the goddess.
There are two statues in my painting. I have painted Sekhmet (9) statues before.
The statue of Maahes (10) comes from a photo I took of the famous lions on a main bridge in Cairo when I visited in 2010.
Guide to The Sorrows Of Setken
1. Djehuti (Thoth)
2. Set as sphinx
3. Ausar(Osiris) as gaming board icon
4. Heru Ur (Horus) as gaming board icon
5. Set as gaming board icon
6. NebetHt (Nephthys)
7. Auset (Isis)
9. Statue of Sekhmet
10. Statue of Maahes
11. Abyt in Kemeticized praying mantis form
16. Abyt in anthropomorphic form
18. The ka
19. The artist as aspirant
Study for The Sorrows Of Setken
Study For The Sorrows Of Setken
Acrylic on acrylic panel and painted on both sides
58cm x 64cm
I have filmed the painting and it can be viewed here.
The Sorrows Of Setken will be featured in my next exhibition Enchantment.
A GoFundMe has been established to stage the show for late 2024.