Joscelyn Godwin is our guest in podcast episode 121. A highly-regarded academic scholar of Western esotericism, Godwin co-authored The Forbidden Book with renowned novelist Guido Mina di Sospiro, and the novel was released by Disinfo.
A multi-faceted mystery that incorporates the most serious and sensitive issue of our time: religious extremism. The evocative setting of Venice and the Veneto dominates the action, supplemented by vivid scenes in Santiago de Compostela, Provence, Washington, and the Vatican. Occult beliefs and practices fuel the action as the main characters become embroiled in an aristocratic sex magick plot.
While on one level The Forbidden Book is a murder mystery set against the conflicts of Islam and the West, the book also delves deep into esoteric knowledge and practice, thanks to Guido Mina di Sospiro’s extensive knowledge of Catholicism and Joscelyn Godwin’s authoritative studies of the western esoteric tradition. Underlying the fast paced action, the reader will find a profound treatment of moral and political dilemmas, the conflict of religions, and the frightening possibilities of the occult.
Godwin begins our interview describing his background as a professor of music history and his specialization in the analysis of Western esotericism. From a young age, taboo subjects fascinated him, inevitably leading to an interest in the occult and mysticism. Next, he describes how he co-wrote The Forbidden Book with novelist Guido Mina di Sospiro over the course of several years as a way to explore his creative urges and as a challenging departure from non-fiction books, for which he is so well known. The Forbidden Book explores themes of magick and symbolism juxtaposed with political extremism and violence. In addition, the novel is based upon a real “forbidden book” – Il mondo magico de gli heroi (the magickal world of the hero), a seventeenth-century Italian text by Cesare Della Riviera.
Godwin shares his perspectives on fiction versus non-fiction, traditionalism versus liberalism, Eastern esotericism versus Western esotericism, and music and alchemy. Rather than attempt to summarize his views, I would encourage you to listen to the recording as Godwin is one of the most erudite and important scholars of Western esotericism in the world today. I will, however, praise The Forbidden Book as a wonderful novel that is realistic, widely-accessible, and a thrilling read. In my opinion, this is simply the best work of occult fiction that I’ve ever read and sets the standard for the genre. The finely crafted plot, nuanced characters, and realism with regard to magick, alchemy, symbolism, and political / religious extremism make this novel an exquisite read, with no suspension of disbelief required. If you enjoy this show, you’ll definitely enjoy The Forbidden Book. I highly recommend it!
The Forbidden Book by Guido Mina di Sospiro and Joscelyn Godwin
“The Forbidden Book: An Interview with Guido Mina di Sospiro” by David Metcalfe
some relevant articles by Joscelyn Godwin:
- “Julius Evola: Theosophy and Beyond”
- “Musical Alchemy: the Work of Composer and Listener”
- “The Silent Language. The Symbols of Hermetic Philosophy.”
also by Joscelyn Godwin: The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor: Initiatic and Historical Documents of an Order of Practical Occultism, Robert Fludd: Hermetic Philosopher and Surveyor of Two Worlds, Athanasius Kircher’s Theatre of the World: The Life and Work of the Last Man to Search for Universal Knowledge, The Golden Thread: The Ageless Wisdom of the Western Mystery Traditions, Harmonies of Heaven and Earth: Mysticism in Music from Antiquity to the Avant-Garde, The Harmony of the Spheres: The Pythagorean Tradition in Music, The Mystery of the Seven Vowels: In Theory and Practice, Arktos: The Myth of the Pole in Science, Symbolism and Nazi Survival, The Theosophical Enlightenment, Atlantis and the Cycles of Time: Prophecies, Traditions, and Occult Revelations, and The Pagan Dream Of The Renaissance
outro music – “Maris” by Stellamara