THE SIMON INTERVIEW
interview with the infamous Simon, editor of the Necronomicon first appeared in
Behutet Magazine issues 16 and 17.
the 1920’s a horror writer from
in NY in 1977, the first edition of 666 leather-bound copies sold out quickly.
The next edition of 3,333 copies also sold fast and
second edition to the Necronomicon contains a preface detailing the events and
persons involved in its production. Only small hints however are given about
Simon, the driving force behind the book. It
makes reference to him as a priest, a magician, and hints that he was also
active as a spy. These colorful references painted an even greater mystery
around the book and for some threw more doubt on its authenticity. Apart from
the Necronomicon, he was an active lecturer at Magickal Child on subjects
ranging from Ceremonial Magick to Herbalism. In 1981 Simon wrote The
Necronomicon Report, a short piece detailing a simpler method for using the
fifty seals of Marduk than is given in the Necronomicon proper. Shortly after
the Necronomicon report was published he disappeared rather suddenly from the NY
occult scene. That’s that last anyone has heard from Simon until now.
2001 I decided to try to find Simon and interview him for Behutet. It was no
easy task. Even after I cleared up
the matter of his identity, I still had trouble finding out where he had
disappeared to. After a year of investigation I found Simon living in Malaysia,
and he agreed to do speak with me about his time as a priest, his involvement in
the intelligence community, his views on magick, and of course the infamous
Necronomicon. This interview was
conducted via e-mail around Samhain 2002.
To my knowledge the last anyone has heard or read anything new from Simon was in 1981 when your book Necronomicon Report was published. The absence of your public presence and the cryptic descriptions of you in the preface to the 2nd edition of the Necronomicon, such as the mention of correspondence from Balkan embassy’s and a photo of an F-104 Fighter that you carried along with the Necronomicon in your attaché case, has lead to Simon becoming somewhat of an occult mystery. Even to people that met you in NY during the 70’s and 80’s you are somewhat of an enigma. I have even talked to people that don’t believe that you exist at all and that Simon was actually an alias of Herman Slater. I have even heard one theory that Simon is actually Sandy Pearlman, the producer/writer that penned “Don’t Fear the Reaper”. Realizing that you can’t fully disclose your identity, what can tell us about yourself and your background that isn’t covered in the Necronomicon?
Well, I'm neither Herman Slater nor Sandy Pearlman, as disconcerting or flattering as those assumptions may be! I have gathered material for a book that will disclose more of the background of the Necronomicon and the stories of some of those involved, and will go into all of that in some detail at that time. For now, though, a few items you mentioned deserve clarification:
The reference to
the F-104 is genuine, although that paragraph was written tongue-in-cheek.
In 1969 I was privileged to sit in on a quiet little meeting between
religious leaders in
As for myself, I
have been involved in overseas activities since before the Necronomicon was ever
published, and continue to do so. I've spent a great deal of time in
Are you still active as a priest? If so, for what church? If not, what happened?
I am hors-de-combat on that front. My disillusionment with the church had much to do with politics, both internal and external.
Were your superiors in the church aware of your occult interests?
Ha! My superiors were, if anything, as fascinated with the occult as anyone. Some had very definite ideas that anything occult was prima facie evidence of satanic influence; others found the subject tantalizing. Of course, anyone involved with exorcism to any degree finds themselves involved in a study of occultism -- everything from shamanism to ceremonial magic -- as part of the general background necessary to their expertise. That is, one needs to determine the provenance of the phenomenon known as "demonic possession" in each individual case: is it an example of true demonic possession, is it spirit possession of the type familiar to practitioners of voudon or Siberian shamanism, is there a third party involved, such as in a sortilege or some practices of santeria, etc etc.
The people who knew you back in the 70’s and 80’s that I spoke to all had no means of getting in touch with you. It seems you disappeared rather suddenly, which of course sparked more rumors of espionage. This time the rumor was that you were in some trouble with the
That is a difficult question to answer. The US Government has many factions, some of which do not know -- or approve -- of what the other factions are doing. I think I can honestly say that I have never been in trouble with the US Government per se, although have run slightly afoul of various elements of it from time to time.
I will write
about that in more detail at a later date. It involves a whole slew of
other "suspects": the anti-war movement, American and Soviet
spying through the mechanism of the Eastern churches, etc. Yet, in case
anyone is wondering, the US Government never had a problem with me in that
regard (that I know of!).
Sorry to be so
One also has to
realize that as the editor of the Necronomicon I was subject to some very
insistent stalkers. I had to use all sorts of strategies to evade some
very amateurish surveillance; even out-and-out harrassment. In addition,
my political interests and involvements made the situation even more confusing!
For example, I
was involved in commercial activities in
However, I DID
drop out of sight of the OTO elements in
This unease was
exacerbated by the McMurtry actions concerning the
I had made them
an offer, though, at one point, before my disillusionment: they were in
some confusion over the validity of their apostolic succession (regarding the
bishops of the EGC) and I suggested that I could arrange a more valid line for
them, thus ensuring that their bishops would be at least as valid in the eyes of
the dread Catholic Church as the Eastern orthodox churches. They came
perilously close to accepting!
with the Order was not entirely negative, though. There were a lot of good
people around the OTO in the late 1970s and early 1980s in
As I see it, the
problem with the OTO in
For my first few
Did you at any point consider heading your own occult group?
During the late 1970s when the OTO was undergoing a kind of rebirth in
For years, people have asked me why I don't start an occult group or lead an existing one. Many students have asked me to conduct initiations, etc., in spite of the fact that I have always criticized organized religious movements and spiritual movements since they suffer from the same stupid internal politics as, say, the SDS did during the 60's or the Catholic Church still does. The organization soon becomes more important than its members, and the leaders more important than anyone else.
When I refused to lead any such groups, I was criticized for being selfish! It was all quite strange. But the essence of my classes for years was an emphasis on individual attainment. That is, after all, what ceremonial magic is all about. It frees the individual from the constraints imposed by social groups since social groups are more concerned with the survival of the group at the expense of the individual. To me, ceremonial magic was the perfect alternative: it allows anyone to be responsible for their own spiritual growth, and permits them direct access to spiritual experience. Israel Regardie published the Golden Dawn rituals, for instance, to permit individuals to work the system themselves rather than as part of a social organization. This made excellent sense to me then, and still does.
But then, the inevitable question arises: is there any value at all in gurus, the initiatory system, etc.? My answer is this: a spiritual guide should be just that: a guide. I see spiritual leaders as maps. One uses a map to go from place to place, to find out directions and optimal routes and to plan a trip. But the map is not the leader. It is not the will of the traveler. The traveler uses the map as a tool of his or her individual will. The map has no desire to force the traveler into any one direction, or a requisite number of stops along the way. The map simply IS. And that, to me, is the essence of the best type of spiritual "leader". Once the map starts telling the traveler where to go and how to get there and how fast to drive, then the map has lost its value and has become a "back seat driver". That is the worst type of spiritual leader.
In the end, we are all individually responsible for our own karma, for our own destiny. That is why, I think, the practice of ceremonial magic is an ideal method of spiritual attainment. And it is also why I have always refused to lead.
Those who have attained a certain level of initiation -- or who think they have, anyway! -- should communicate: write, speak, whatever; but they should not presume to lead. They cannot take responsibility for the spiritual growth of another human being, and to suggest that they can is -- to me -- the worst sort of violence against the soul. It wastes everyone's time. We have seen what these self-styled gurus have done to thousands of followers over the years.
Of course, ceremonial magic is not for everyone. It takes a certain amount of courage -- spiritual courage -- to undertake that process. For many, the organized rituals and scriptures of the church or temple are enough to ensure a certain level of growth. Indeed, once one has gone through enough personal initiation (through magic or through some other means) one can return to religion and find a valuable resource in the rituals and structure of the faith -- albeit one not identical to the perceptions of his fellow-worshippers. One begins to see behind the Veil of the
But leadership? To paraphrase Goering, "Once I hear the word 'guru' I reach for my revolver."
In your introduction to the Necronomicon, there is the now famous warning about banishings. This section alludes to a “circle of initiates in another discipline” that was experimenting with the rituals and in the book. Can you give any details about the nature of the experiments and what results you received?
It is difficult to give information of this nature without a lot of context. Let us say that as the book was being translated the rituals were attempted by people not aligned with any of the more popular occult lodges. There was a certain amount of anxiety concerning the usual grimoires, as they are normally the fruit of Judeao-Christian perspectives on spirituality. The 1970s were the heyday of the Pagan Revival, and pagans were naturally reluctant to get involved in ceremonial magic due to the heavy Judeao-Christian "spin" on the technology. The Necronomicon seemed to offer a system of magic that was outside this tradition, that was purely "pagan", inside and out. It was thus embraced by many pagans as a suitable technique of ceremonial magic that would not compromise their own beliefs and that could be used with impunity by pagans. They felt that the banishing warning was certainly important, but perhaps more so for believing Christians and Jews than for pagans who felt -- rightly or wrongly! -- that they were more than the equal of any malevolent forces that would be raised. Horned God, Mother Goddess and all that. So, we had essentially two groups practicing the rituals and recording their results: committed pagans who saw the Necronomicon as the ultimate (or, perhaps, only!) pagan grimoire; and the ceremonial magicians of every type, including Thelemic, who saw it as a powerful adjunct to their own practice. Both groups received startling results: paranormal phenomena that they could not explain by natural causes. This, in addition to a lot of purely subjective reactions ranging from feelings of dread to outright horror. I hasten to add that these individuals were practicing the rituals of the Gates. We found, later, that invoking the names of Marduk -- while powerful -- did not seem to bring quite the same degree of paranoid infliction that the more stately rituals of the Gates and the Watcher produced. While not entirely benign, invoking the names of Marduk outside of the system did not seem to be as inherently dangerous as walking the seven Gates. To this day, I have not heard of any serious backlash to the Marduk workings, although I continue to receive reports on the serious spiritual ramifications of walking the Gates.
So you are still in touch with people that are working the gates? I myself have worked the gate formulas with interesting results. What would you consider to be the ramifications of walking the gates? What have you found the benefits to be?
It results in a kind of polarization of the spirit, an alignment of the psyche along certain lines that enable it to penetrate to the corners of human consciousness: corners where we once thought it was all flat planes.. It IS a pagan grimoire using an ancient language that has not been spoken in thousands of years. If there is such a thing as "genetic memory", the incantations of the Necronomicon unlock segments of that memory that have been dormant for millenia. Walking the Gates is also an ancient practice, as much revered in the
Apart from your work with the Necronomicon you were quite active in the NYC occult scene during the 70’s and early 80’s. Behutet has paid special interest to this place and time in Occult history and has done extended articles on both Herman Slater and Harry Smith. Are there any stories or insights you can share about the events of this period such as the so-called “Witch War’s” that were waged between the Gardnerians, Welsh witches, and Alexandrians?
Wow. That is a book in itself. I was there, of course, from the very beginning, when the Warlock Shop was a small little establishment in
In those days,
the Gardnerians were in pole position and I had already met Ray Buckland at his
There was a lot
of "magickal attack" going on in the period 1972-75 roughly. Different
covens attacking each other, different sects attacking other sects. It was
largely through Herman Slater's efforts that the various warring groups came
together in the back of the Warlock Shop in
The Welsh Trads
felt they were more "genuine" as witches, because they were learning
Welsh I guess. Their Book of Shadows did not vary significantly from the
Gardnerian (same pentagram rituals from the Golden Dawn, same poetry from
Kipling), but they had a dress code. The Gardnerians were "sky
clad", a term taken from Hindu mysticism by the way. The Alexandrians
were another culture entirely, formed entirely around the personality of its
founder Alex Saunders and more devoted to elaborate ritual magic and a
self-conscious wooing of the media. It was perhaps inevitable that the
groups had conflicts. There was also a difference in "culture"
between the groups. I remember that the Gardnerians on
There is so much
to that period, so many personalities and events, that I am tongue-tied for the
moment. Perhaps in the next few days I will think of something more
profound to say, or come up with some more anecdotes.
You mention all the magickal attack going on, to your knowledge was the Necronomicon ever used for this purpose?
Oh, yeah. Sure. But in very few cases, actually, and a bit later than 1975. I am thinking of 1977-78. People still tended to be frightened of the book and of using it ... incorrectly. It had the aura of being so dark, so powerful when used in a normal way that to incorporate it in a magickal attack seemed virtually suicidal. However, as we all know, there were many who were so addicted to that type of extreme experience and so consumed by hatred of their enemies that they dared to use the book for that purpose. Let us say that the fallout was normally not worth the effort: it was an occult case of "mutually assured destruction", PARTICULARLY when one did not perform the walking of the Gates prior to using the book as an engine of attack.
In one case, the
Watcher was used as what the witches refer to as a "fetch". The
magician sent the Watcher to frighten an opponent; both were equally affected by
the ritual, both suffered. The Watcher has no sense of humor.
I have heard stories of a certain Lodge Master of the OTO developing severe paranoia regarding the book and the people working it that eventually caused him to leave the Order and become a fundamentalist Christian. Any truth to this rumor?
As far as I know, this seems to be an amalgamation of several individuals. One in particular was quite paranoid about the book, but I don't believe he was a Lodge Master. He did eventually leave the Order, but I believe he became a Scientologist (so ... he did not leave the Order entirely!). But all of this happened after I extricated myself from the "scene".
The Necronomicon Report was republished as the Necronomicon Spellbook in 1987. This was supposed to be published with a second book called The Gates of the Necronomicon. Whatever happened to this book?
Ah, the famous Gates of the Necronomicon. That book was written and handed over to Herman Slater. I understand it was set in type and prepared for printing, but disappeared after Herman's death. I have no clue what happened to it, although I did see it once advertised briefly and then disappear again. If anyone has any clues as to its whereabouts, I would love to know.
Many parts of the Necronomicon seem to be derived from other ancient works such as the Enuma Elish, The Epic of Gilgamesh, and other books listed in the Necronomicon bibliography. This, coupled with the fact that no-one was allowed to see the original manuscript, has lead many to be critical of the story of the books origins. Is there any evidence that you can supply to establish the authenticity of the story, such as photo’s of the manuscript? Was the title Necronomicon mentioned in the original manuscript that was obtained from the monk’s cache of stolen books? Any response to the books critics?
This would require an entire article in itself. Briefly, let me say this:
The title of the
ms was Necronomicon. That was about all the actual reference to
Lovecraft's tome that existed in the ms itself. You should know that I
myself knew nothing of Lovecraft at the time. I had never read that type
of fiction. I was more interested in the actual technologies than in
fictional speculation and the only time I gravitated towards fictional
treatments of occultism was when I came across the Wheately novels which were
romans-a-clef. Aside from three Wheatley books, I read no occult fiction,
no science fiction, no horror fiction. Those particular genres don't
interest me at all. So, the name Necronomicon meant nothing to me at the
time. But it meant something to Herman Slater, who was an avid reader of
all sorts of fantasy fiction.
As for the
Necronomicon being a hoax, as I have said many times if it is a hoax it is a
damned poor one! There is so little there that corresponds to
Lovecraft's ouevre that it might be embarrassing as a hoax. The name
"Abdul Alhazred" does not appear, for instance. Many of the
Lovecraftian concepts and myths are missing, or distorted. I admit going
out on a limb equating "Chthulhu" with "Kutu-lu" but it
still seems valid to me today, more than 25 years later. I also stand by
my reading of "chthonic" as the "katonic" in "Miskatonic",
and a number of other analyses made at the time.
I am aware that
Lovecraft insisted he made up the book. I am also aware that he had
relations with a number of individuals who were active in occult lodges,
including the Golden Dawn which speaks in its literature about a mysterious book
written in Arabic, which leads me to wonder if he had heard of the name
Necronomicon or some of the Golden Dawn legends and then confabulated his own
version for fictional reasons.
The ms itself
was part of a cache of stolen books. The monks who stole these books and
mss over a period of years made national headlines. They were convicted
and sent to federal prison. There is no mystery about that. But the
ms was stolen, it was acquired illegally, and that is all I am prepared to say
about the book's origins.
You mention Lovecraft knew people in the Golden Dawn and other Occult Lodges. Do you have any specific information as to who he might have known?
I have found a few references in the "John Carter" book: "Sex and Rockets", on page 102 where Carter refers to the relationships existing between the
The name Abdul Alhazzred doesn’t appear in the book, but the term “Mad Arab” does. Was this in the Manuscript?
Yes, although his name is missing.
The original run of 666 copies of the Necronomicon was printed in 1977. There have been many other Necronomicon’s, but none have come anywhere near the popularity of yours. I believe that it may be the best selling occult book of all time. How do you feel about the book now that it’s been circulating for 25 years?
I am proud of my participation in the project. I have a lot of feelings about the book's publishing history and I will get back to you a little later with more on the subject, but it is obvious that the book has a great deal of merit as an occult tool. It has been on the bestseller list at
The military has never officially contacted me, although that first edition drew a lot of letters on official Army and Air Force stationery, including a letter of praise on the stationery of the Strategic Air Command which stands out in my mind as the most bizarre letter we ever received from the military. Again, these were not official communications in the sense that the book was getting a Pentagon seal of approval!
occult scene in
Then, of course, the famous Timothy Leary case.
Add to that the CIA's interest in occultism from the point of view of the technicians of projects like MK-ULTRA and OFTEN who wished to assess the actual powers and abilities of occultists for military and intelligence purposes...
So, it should not be surprising to find every cross-section of American life involved in some way or another in the New York City occult environment of the 1970s-80s.
There was also another concern, from my point of view: the occult groups represented ad hoc social organizations that could conceivably be manipulated by an intelligent enemy, or could represent a threat to established social organizations: an alternative government, in a way. We had people who were expressing loyalty to concepts and "churches" that were outside the American mainstream. The formation, development, and administration of these groups would have attracted the attention of social scientists in government programs, I believe, since they mirrored so faithfully the fledgling political parties of the age: groups like the SDS and the Weathermen, the Panthers, etc. Had the occult movement found common cause with the anti-war and revolutionary movements then the
One of the failures of Soviet communism, I believe, was its inability to completely replace religious and spiritual sentiments in the relatively few years of its existence. The scientific attitude to politics cannot adequately explain emotional power, paranormal phenomena, or the "purpose of life" to the average man or woman. It can only complain that "religion is the opiate of the people". Which may be true, but communism alone could not provide the equivalent of a spiritual methadone clinic.
Thus, we have the spectacle of scientists like the late Carl Sagan who railed against what he called superstition, using rather (to my mind) unscientific methods to prove his points. I wonder, not unkindly, if Sagan was comforted in his last moments by someone standing over his bed and reciting
Is the attitude then, of modern scientists (quantum physicists generally excepted) really a "candle in the dark"? Or is it mere whistling in the dark?
The problem rests in the inadequacy of language, I think, and the inability of occultists to express their ideas -- and their opposition to scientific posing -- in terms more intelligible than the usual political pamphlet or anti-war broadside. Isaac Newton may have been the last great occultist-scientist and his writings were, alas, more devoted to the obscure jargon of alchemy and Biblical encryption than to a description of the soul's machinery. Thus, science could "break" occultism (at least in the popular mind) by associating occultists with ignorance and superstition, loaded code words for people not blessed with government research grants. The government could "break" the anti-war, revolutionary movements by associating them with all sorts of violence (often instigated by their own agents provocateurs) and marginalize their political views as "communist".
Had the occultists and the revolutionaries joined forces, however, the whole history of the 1960s-80s might have been different. Vide the
Today those occultists -- those who have survived -- are of an age to make a real contribution should they choose to do so. They have matured, they have lived through the same political upheavals as the rest of
We are, I believe, on the verge of a spiritual awakening and revolution in
"We have had our last chance. If we will not devise some greater and more equitable system, our Armageddon will be at our door. The problem is basically theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence ... It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh."