Buffy the Vampire Slayer Meets Aleister Crowley
A Review of "Resurrecting Ravana"
by Massimo Introvigne
Ray Garton is a veteran vampire author, best known for his adult vampire novels. He is a new voice among the builder of the Buffy novels' mythology, whose scenario is both similar to the TV show and increasingly distinctive. The novels allow more precise references to the rich reservoirs of esotericism, which would be easily lost in the fast-paced TV dialogue.
Garton's novel "Resurrecting Ravana" (Pocket Books, 2000) is about the rakshasas, shape-shifting Indian demons who eat humans and whose unsavory specialty is to induce murderous hatred among friends. When the demonic creatures are successful, friend kills friend and the killer receives his or her reward in the form of being eaten by the rakshasas. A plague of rakshasas in Sunnydale is a serious occurrence, since the Slayer herself is not immune to their power and seriously considers killing her best friend Willow. The rakshasas' appearance normally announces the coming of Ravana, an Indian demon with the power of destroying the world as we know it, making slaves of the few humans left alive. Having been defeated by Rama, Ravana is imprisoned in a statuette and can only by resurrected by a special ritual. Giles' old nemesis, Ethan Rayne, is in Sunnydale in order to perform the ritual (the Hellmouth being regarded as a particularly appropriate setting for resurrecting Ravana), but he needs the statuette. The latter is part of the collection of Benson Lovecraft, an occult collector more than one hundred years old (he has survived, obviously, through magical means) presented as an associate of the late Aleister Crowley. Lovecraft, in fact, is a Crowley-like figure patterned after the famous English magus himself. Rayne seduces Lovecraft's granddaughter, a pathetical spinster, and gains control of the statuette, hoping to rule the world (or at least what will be left of it) as Ravana's lieutenant.
In the meantime, Buffy and Willow awake from their rakshasas-induced mutual hatred and clear Promila Daruwalla, an Indian guidance counselor at Sunnydale High, from initial suspicions that she may have been involved. Buffy, Angel, and the Slayerettes confront the rakshasas and Rayne while Ravana is nearly resurrected. Ultimately, the day is saved by a carving of Rama (Ravana's old foe) that Promila had given to Willow, by Buffy's faith in her friendship with Willow, and by the appearance of Benson Lovecraft himself. The Crowleyan gentleman appears not to be evil at all, and tells Giles that "We're in different branches of the same business". The TV show's most updated fans should remember that the novel takes place between first and second season, with Xander and Cordelia still together, and Buffy and Giles both still working for the Watcher's Council. Hence Lovecraft's remarks about Buffy that "She's got a lot of life in her. Not the usual rigid look in the eyes, with all the individuality beaten out of her by the council's endless rules and edicts".
Lovecraft's final farewell to Buffy is a piece of Crowleyan wisdom: "Remember, be true to yourself and to those who are true to you, and the rest of life's junk pretty much takes care of itself, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise". Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) is the object of considerable scholarly debate today, with some emphasizing the undoubtedly unsavory tracts of his persona and others trying to abstract some pearls of wisdom from the largely intractable esoteric corpus he left. Most Evangelical Christians consider Crowley a Satanist, although this is technically inaccurate. Garton offers here a sympathetic portrait of Crowley (or at least of the Crowleyan style incarnated in the character of Benson Lovecraft), a portrait unthinkable a couple of decades ago, yet not uncommon in contemporary literature.