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Michael Paul Bertiaux (born January 18, 1935) is an American occultist and Old Catholic Bishop, known for his book Voudon Gnostic Workbook (1988), a 615-page compendium of various occult lessons and research papers spanning the sub-fields of Voodoo, Neo-Pythagoreanism, Thelema and Gnosticism. Long considered by occultists one of the underground classics of 20th century occultism, the book was out of print for many years and fetched increasingly high prices in the antiquarian market before it was reprinted in paperback by Red Wheel/Weiser in 2007. Note that the unique spelling of "voudon" is an innovation of Bertiaux's, (though it is similar to the traditional spelling of vodun). Bertiaux also coined the term vudutronics to refer to his idiosyncratic interpretation of this religion.
Bertiaux was born in Seattle, Washington, on January 18, 1935. His father was a captain in the merchant navy and his mother was a prominent Theosophist. Bertiaux served as an Episcopalian minister in the Seattle area before traveling to Haiti in 1964.
Voudon and other occult activities
In 1964, Bertiaux traveled to Haiti, where he was initiated into the system of Haitian Voodoo. He settled in Chicago in 1966, where he formed (among other bodies) the Neo-Pythagorean Gnostic Church. Bertiaux's interpretation of Voodoo has been strongly influenced by Martinism, a Francophone version of esoteric Christianity and Masonry which became established in Haiti in the 18th century.
Bertiaux has long been associated with the Ordo Templi Orientis Antiqua, an initiatic gnostic-magical order supposedly founded in 1921 in Haiti by the gnostic patriarch and voudon high-priest Lucien-Francois Jean-Maine. The O.T.O.A. tradition comes from the gnostic voudon, as practiced in secret societies. There a synthesis was developed of European gnostic-hermetic currents, being the heritage of the ancient western initiatic tradition, with the Haitan metaphysics. Inside the O.T.O.A. works the Monastery of the Seven Rays. Both of these organizations cooperate with the gnostic church Ecclesia Gnostica Spiritualis.
La Couleuvre Noire (Cult of the Black Snake) is an independent order founded in 1922, closely cooperating with the O.T.O.A.. It is dedicated to the practice of advanced techniques of gnostic voudon, a powerful system of afro-atlantean magic in its traditional and purest form. Today, Courtney Willis (Tau Ogdoade-Orfeo VIII) is the Hierophant and the Sovereign Grand Master Absolute (SGMA) of the L.C.N. as well as the S.G.M.A. of the O.T.O.A. Michael Bertiaux (Tau Ogdoade-Orfeo IV) is the Grand Conservateur of the L.C.N. and the Hierophant of the O.T.O.A. Bertiaux also heads the Choronzon Club, in his words "his personal magical club" for his personal students and initiates.
For a period Michael Bertiaux was also a secretary of the Theosophical Society until moving to Chicago in 1966, where he trained and qualified as a social worker, a job he remained in for just under forty years. He worked especially with the Chicago Haitian community, now comprising approximately 5,000-15,000 individuals.
Bertiaux's life and occult system are examined in Kenneth Grant's books, Cults of the Shadow (1975), Nightside of Eden (1977), Outside the Circles of Time (1980), and Hecate's Fountain (1993). Grant devotes two entire chapters of Cults of the Shadow to a discussion and analysis of Bertiaux's work in La Couleuvre Noir, as well as a portion of the chapter “Afro-Tantric Tarot of the Kalas."
Bertiaux's magical system is complex, including terms unique to himself, such as the "meon" and "Zoythrian" energies but also drawing on magical extensions of the writings of H.P. Lovecraft and the teachings of Aiwass.
Following his retirement, Bertiaux has focused on his art and writing.
- The Voudon Gnostic Workbook (1988). Reissued by Weiser 2007.
- Cosmic Meditation. Fulgur Limited, 2007.
- Vudu Cartography. Fulgur Limited, 2010.
- Drury, Nevill. "Michael P. Bertiaux § An Interview with Michael Bertiaux by Nevill Drury". Fulgur.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-01-15.
- Lewis, James R. (2001). Satanism Today: An Encyclopedia of Religion, Folklore, and Popular Culture. ABC-CLIO. p. 179f. ISBN 978-1-57607-292-9.
- The Haitian Americans - Google Books. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2011-01-15.
- Grant, Kenneth (1995) . Cults of the Shadow. Skoob Publications. ISBN 978-1-871438-67-3.
- Grant, Kenneth (1977). Nightside of Eden. London: Frederick Muller Limited. ISBN 0-584-10206-2.
- Grant, Kenneth (1980). Outside the Circles of Time. Frederick Muller Limited. ISBN 978-0-584-10468-4.
- Grant, Kenneth (1993). Hecate's Fountain. Skook Publications. ISBN 978-1-871438-96-3.
- Drury, Nevill (1985). The Occult Experience. Hale. ISBN 978-0-7090-2961-8.
- Drury, Nevill (2011). Stealing Fire from Heaven: The Rise of Modern Western Magic. Oxford University Press. pp. 245–250. ISBN 978-0-19-975099-3.
- Harms, Daniel; Gonce, John Wisdom (2003). The Necronomicon Files: The Truth behind Lovecraft's Legend. Weiser Books. pp. 113–115. ISBN 978-1-57863-269-5.