Creation, book themes and writing guidelines, take on the occult and philosophy and more on Anathema Publishing.
Behind The Curtains
Did you ever imagine that one day you will be doing what you are doing now; ie. giving birth to Anathema Publishing Ltd.?
Interviews are always an intriguing (and admittedly a weird opportunity) to reify the memory or perception we have, or had, about… well, pretty much anything that concerns our lives, be it at a professional or passionate level. This here will be no different I suppose; we are all then treated to somewhat of a re-imagining of events rather than the plain facts — such is the paradox of perception.
Already, the answer to this question lies in the relatively distant and highly subjective past. The last ten years represents a quarter of my life thus far, and so it is hard to get a clear perspective on how it was back then.
Had I ever imagined starting a publishing house? Yes, I believe I did (otherwise we would not be speaking about it now), at least when I came up with the idea in the first place in the summer of 2011 somewhere in Laos. And, to some degree, symbolically-speaking, I planned ahead to register the name at the government office on Nov 11th, 2011.
I’ve always pursued numerous artistic endeavours and have trusted my gut enough to follow them through to fruition. Whether it be starting a musical project, joining a band, touring for the better part of the year, recording albums, working on a visual piece as a graphic designer, or even trying the 9-to-5 ‘office life’ for a couple of years. Quite early on I’d noticed that if I put my mind to it, and devote myself wholeheartedly to creating some ‘thing’ out of thin air, then the magick would work its wonders.
Of course, where a path leads next no one can dare predict with accuracy. But it certainly seems that once I started dedicating more and more of my time and efforts towards genuine devotional practice and inquiry, that the puzzle pieces fell into place naturally and organically, so to speak.
This impetus and deep yearning, of course, acted as the driving factor behind the whole idea of Anathema Publishing: to harmonize Self, Work, and Love / Mind, Body, & Soul, towards a dissolution of these elusive boundaries melding into the Great Mystery.
Nowadays, it feels like this was always there as if it was always ‘meant to be,’ and I do not struggle with the notion anymore; I follow where the path leads me for I am one with the path. In a sense you are correct, the publishing house is indeed giving birth to itself again and again, as it moves from moment to moment, as it develops and gains traction. A magnificent monster this literary golem is becoming.
Have you been in any sense a writer yourself?
If you mean to ask if I’ve written stuff, indeed I have. I am quite fond of the written word, and I would not be doing all of this if I was not. However, as much as I have written a few articles here and there (in various periodicals including our own PILLARS series), and that, in 2018 I released my first book entitled (h)Aurorae (which is, unfortunately, sold out at the moment), I would hardly call myself a writer.
To me, writing is either a secondary hobby or a requirement as it pertains to researching and practising certain kinds of subject matter – Inner Alchemy, for example.
Of course, there is a tremendous joy to be found in the act alone of dedicating time and effort to writing. But I would not dare consider myself a ‘writer’ simply because I can put one word in front of another. To me, writing is often just as much as a welcomed struggle, as it is a wonderful pain – for me, it does not come easily, and flows out rather poorly. And so, everything that I write, I review ad infinitum and comb through it so much so that I will often get discouraged.
But, knowing that I cannot for the life of me put the pen down forever, I’ve learnt to be patient with my own creative process. English is a secondary language for me, and although I’ve improved through the years, working with professionals and genuinely proficient (or actual) writers/authors made me realize how much more progress needed to be made in that regard. That’s when and why investing in proper editing and correcting is so damn crucial for the company.
I will say this though: I am perhaps no writer, but I write all the time. Meaning every day whenever I get a moment away from working on someone else’s manuscripts or any other mandatory chores/tasks. I take notes here and there, often in the dead of night, completely randomly, or right after a proper meditation or ritualistic practice.
Eventually, I sit down to make some ‘sense’ of it all, and I structure a manuscript having in mind a larger scope than the sum part of these notes.
I’ve been working for quite a number of years on the follow-up to my book (h)Aurorae, and if the length of time it took for the first one to be complete is any indication at all, we should be releasing a final product by 2026 or so! Well, hopefully not, and the MS is far more advanced already, so that’s good. But at the current pace, and with the little amount of time in any given week for me to progress, I would not hold my breath.
In what ways do you think your upbringing has participated in this taking place at one point in your life?
My upbringing, for good and/or ill, informed how I started expressing my desire to expel the negative in a creative fashion. I used to thrive living in the fantasy regions of the mind, or the ‘dark’ nostalgia of a time-that-never-was, and felt I needed to live everything to the extreme in order to ‘feel something real’ and not waste my time ‘down here.’ What a foolish kid I was — and still am, to some degree.
I had fun and lived many ups and downs, and this must be why I started investigating on how to ‘opt-out’ and lift the veil to better understand this divine comedy in which we all play a role… This is a personal decision which brought me to purpose, and it burns deep within always. However, at this point, I would say that my upbringing has little to do with how this develops, or rather, how I would appreciate holding this view from here onward.
How did Anathema Publishing come to life? And how long did it take to build the first brick-wall of this publishing fortress?
Anathema is no fortress, my friend! Quite the contrary, of course, at a first glance it may seem like a pretty neat sandbox, but to me, I much prefer to see it as a vast open space, unrestricted by the fallacy of implications and expectations…or even rigid explanations as a matter of fact!
As I pointed to in the above question, Anathema came to life from the desire alone to be a link in the Great Chain of Knowledge. As a book collector (mostly of the occult and esoteric topics), I’ve always been fascinated by, and most grateful for, the contribution of the many amazing authors who brought their ‘gnosis‘ to paper and shared with us their tradition, or viewpoint on the Mysteries.
However, I was also incredibly appreciative of the publishing houses that had, from time to time, taking a ‘chance’ to publish or re-edit and republish a certain piece of work for the betterment and enjoyment of generations to come. That, to me, was and is of utmost pertinence.
Someone needs to do it, and it dawned on me that I could be one of these links in the Chain… with the vision of creating a Trinosophic and healthy relationship between the Author, Reader, and Publisher, in sharing our love of the Arte, and of books in general, as veritable talismanic repositories of knowledge and wisdom.
Of course, none of this is meant to actually replace actual practice, teachings, and experiences, but if it can point to a certain direction, and illuminate the way for the earnest reader, then my job is done, and it is more than what most can hope for.
From the realization that I could start a side-business (as I had a full-time career at that point, and yet managed to travel whenever I could) right up to the development of the idea, and then reaching out for help here and there, putting together a plan of action and announcing to the world the first publication, the whole thing took about a year of hard work and a substantial amount of money I’ve invested from my own savings.
October of 2012 if memory serves, the first-ever entry in the PILLARS series, namely: Psychopompos was launched, to a meagre print run of 235 copies. Nonetheless, it generated enough interest and sold out quickly enough to get the ball rolling for the next one, then the next one, and so forth, until 2016 when it was decided to finally begin making quality hardcovers. With a bit more investment, we did. The rest, as they say, is history.
What ideology and vision did you have for Anathema Publishing to become how it is now?
I do not believe one could successfully (or honestly) affix a certain set of beliefs or philosophies that would sum up what is envisioned, or in-store, for Anathema. There is no agenda set and promulgated by Anathema, nor do we wish to step into the arena of identity politics or partisan ideologies. Doing so usually means stifling growth to some degree, and somewhat goes against the perennial quest for Truth & Meaning.
I guess you could say our preferred analogy in the matter is that we prefer to view the ground beneath our feet not to be rock-solid, but rather akin to moving magma, always keeping us moving, always ready to bolt in a new direction.
Or better yet, no ground at all! Just a bottomless, endlessly vast ocean of possibilities and appearances commingling with the Ineffable Divine in a most dazzling display of Wisdom-Light.
There is certainly (or probably) a time and place for ideologies, and the different authors we may or may not work with are entitled to their own opinions and projections on the matter, but, as much as possible, and as an independent entity, Anathema does not engage, nor condone, nor entertain notions related to any and all ideological constructs.
We are solely focused on matters pertaining to the Wisdom teachings, initiatic currents, and spirituality. These are many and far-ranging and cannot be pinpointed to one ‘thing’ or another.
What difficulties did you first face when putting the first pen in drafting this success?
Difficulties arose ‘in transit’ so-to-speak, not so much when I started elaborating the project. I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted and how to achieve it. Given that I am a graphic designer by trade, especially pre-press environments, I knew I could come up with something that we can be held to a high standard. At least, as far as the products themselves are concerned.
Speaking of ‘success,’ again all is relative. Only very recently was I able to start doing Anathema full-time, pay for rent and basic expenses.
But indeed, the publishing house steadily grew, through sheer determination alone and a sustained output of genuinely interesting, refreshing, and quality releases. No complaints at all there; I am sincerely thankful and humbled to see how this tiny company grows with each passing year.
Difficulties come and go, as all things are transient anyway and mostly there to show us what to do or not to do, and how to keep on improving, as people and as a business. Adjusting to the ebbs and flows, to the positively and negatively perceived experiences is a vital part of any organism.
We are neither soured nor begrudging for the so-called ‘bad,’ nor are we taking for granted and getting lazy from the outpouring of ‘good’ aspects of the Work. We simply keep on moving on with the Work.
If we had to sum this up in a few words: Nothing is easy, and there’s no reason why it should be. But that isn’t any reason not to take up the challenge and push forward.
If you would classify the books published by you into categories, how would they be described?
Labels are frankly overrated when you think about it. I mean yes, there are some grand ‘categories’ which can help one form their own idea, but rarely is a book about one thing anyway right?
But if we must, you’ll forgive me, as I would simply cut and paste the ‘back cover-type’ description we use once in a while for promotional contexts.
Anathema Publishing’s books explore themes such as The Occult, Magick, Mysticism, Esotericism, Grimoires, Sacred Texts, Theology, Theosophy, Alchemy, Hermeticism, Gnosticism, Traditional Craft, Witchcraft, Philosophy, Psychology, Ontology, History, Paganism, Symbolism, Mythology, Personal Journey, and the Mystery Arte, etc.
It is mentioned in Anathema Publishing submission guidelines that, when submitting an article or manuscript, certain terms should be avoided; such as contractions (can’t, don’t, won’t, didn’t, shouldn’t etc.). What is the concept behind adopting such an affirmative writing style in your guidelines?
Every speciality or niche publishing house has its own set of internal rules and editorial guidelines, mostly to try (as much as possible) to establish a feeling of consistency from one title to the next.
This boils down to personal preferences in presentation, however, most of it is also common ground rules to observe when writing. The example given above is but one of the many points we try to ask for and look for when correcting and editing a document.
Anathema Publishing has also mentioned that the subject matter is often entirely dependent on personal experience and interpretation; in this regard, what do you think was one’s most interesting personal experience that you have turned into a book?
You’ll get me into trouble if ever I point to one title over another (laughing)! But, of course, my first book (h)Aurorae was a major steppingstone back then and something I had been working on for over 10 years.
That was close to my heart and quite the trans-formative journey. It was also the first and only time I was able to put together an actual book launch here in a Montreal venue, with a musical performance, book signing, and craft beer tasting.
I wish (besides the pandemic at the moment) we could do this more often, but let’s face it: most of the authors we work with are not from around here and it would be truly difficult to organize such events in the future.
But otherwise, I would say that every first title by an author new to the Anathema Publishing roster that we get to work on, conceptualize, and develop together with said author is always an incredible and beautiful thing. It is always a rewarding experience and one we learn a lot from.
We got to involve so many people; authors, artists, bookbinders, distributors, etc. here and there around different book releases. Musicians have lent a hand and created pieces around a certain theme (such as is the case with the CD accompanying the latest PILLARS: Seeds of Ares, where the music was curated by our official EU distributor (Cyclic Law Records).
We’ve also donated to multiple charities over the years, also helping as best we could the Haitian Art School for kids New Vision via their director Lesly Pierre Paul.
PILLARS, in and of itself, is always the best opportunity to open doors — an entry point to start communication with authors from all over the world, from so many traditions, cultures, and backgrounds which often developed into full books (and many more are planned for the future in that regard).
Walk us through the PILLARS series, what is the concept behind having a specific series, and what does it address?
It first started out of necessity, since I did not have the means to attract, nor knew enough influential authors in the milieu to publish from the get-go. I had to make a name for myself, so to speak.
It dawned on me to create a new periodical because I knew I could bring something fresh and professional to the market. Being a fan of such independent publications, I aimed at surpassing myself and surprising potential readers equally.
At that moment in time, I had a fully developed article I wished to publish somewhere, but given its length, it was quite impossible to do so elsewhere, so instead, I developed my own thing.
PILLARS is a truly magickal endeavour in that, without falling into the trap of purely speculative superstition, it certainly seems that each issue, from the moment we open the Submissions Call for it and therefore announce of the theme for the issue, that the forthcoming year will be painted under the colours and influences of that specific motif.
This was true in 2012, and it very much still is the case to this day with the latest offering in the series.
To give a detailed exploration of each individual issue would be taxing, and probably convoluted, for each one touches on so many facets of the theme provided.
To this day, there are seven issues of PILLARS, all of which are sold out for the most part, as we only have copies of the brand-new 2020 edition of PILLARS: Seeds of Ares to sell at the moment.
PILLARS (Volume 1, Issue 1): Psychopompos 
PILLARS (Volume 1, Issue 2): The Golden Eitr 
PILLARS (Volume 1, Issue 3): The Ebon Kteis 
PILLARS (Volume 1 Anthology): Perichoresis 
PILLARS (Hors-series): The Scalding of Sapientia 
PILLARS (Volume 2, Issue 1): Circling the Compass 
PILLARS (Volume 2, Issue 2): Seeds of Ares 
If you would compare book publishing in general decades ago and how it is now, what advantages and disadvantages do you see?
I honestly would not know, as I wasn’t there, nor was I concerned with book publishing decades ago. I was mostly concerned with which town we were playing next with the band I was in at the time, and if I could afford a couple of beers before and after the show… guess my priorities have changed tremendously.
We have realized that Anathema Publishing owns a Bandcamp account, what’s the story?
Since I’ve been involved in many musical projects through the years, and from roughly 97 and onward, I’ve always been fond of including musical ambience to anything I was doing.
Back when I first started dabbling in the occult and started writing about it, at a point I was living with my cousin Karl who the mastermind behind the dark ambient/experimental noise outlet which we then named: LIM.
He was always so kind as to produce a piece of sonic ambience in relationship with our publications, at least, for the first few ones. Sometimes they were made into discs, sometimes simply given freely via Bandcamp, and well, I opened an account so that if more such projects were to arise, we’d be ready.
It seems that there is a joint-cooperation with Cyclic Law label, how did this take place and for what purposes?
Frederic who runs Cyclic Law in Europe is a fellow Québécois (the French-speaking province of Canada), is technically a guy that I met (or rather corresponded with) via a good friend of mine back in the ‘black metal’ days (circa the early 2000s), and already he had his musical project Visions going on and started his label here in Quebec.
He eventually moved himself and his business to Europe, but we did not keep in touch.
Last year, I was determined to find a way to ship our books to Europe and try to avoid the insane postal fees here in Canada (Canada Post being notoriously expensive and pretty much imposing a minimum cap to other shipping companies as well).
Frederic, who was following Anathema’s development from afar and wanting to expand his offer to books, got back in touch with me and offered to start being somewhat the ‘unofficial’ Anathema HQ for Europe (and technically our official distributor in Europe).
Our conversations started a relationship around this idea, and he explained that one of the main reasons behind his moving to Europe in the first place a couple of years back was squarely because of the same predicament; shipping fees were often way too expensive for customers, the large majority for Cyclic Law being located in Europe.
So, our association started over finding a solution for European customers to be able to purchase our products without having to pay inordinately expensive shipping fees.
But it goes without saying, that the particular style of music Cyclic Law specializes in goes especially hand-in-hand with the type of books we are publishing.
As was proven with the latest PILLARS, which features a 5-track album featuring key-artists from the Cyclic Law roster, namely: Neraterræ, New Risen Throne, Taphephobia, Treha Sektori, and Visions.
Tell us about Anathema Publishing’s logo, what is the concept behind it and what does it symbolize?
Anathema publishing’s logo, if anything, is replete with symbolism, from the quite ‘obvious’ to the nuanced and subtle, and also transmuted in meaning as the years went by. It can mean a number of things, and although
I know all too well what was the initial intent behind it when I designed it in 2011, and how I tend to reinterpret it now under the light of how the project refined itself, I always steered away from giving any clear-cut answer as it pertains to its meaning as a whole.
If anything, that would prove to be put a provisional interpretation of something much larger and I prefer that the mystery lingers.
Anyway, as with most symbols I’ve designed, I often get more out of how people seem to resonate or interpret them rather than what I had in mind…To me the exegetical exercise is way more intriguing — the solidification of concepts, not so much. Anyway, this may be subject to change as well in the future, we’ll see…
Anathema Publishing books have magnificently designed cover-art, are there any visual guidelines when it comes to that?
There is a plethora of technical guidelines, things that are ‘doable’ or not, and monetary constraints, sometimes, but apart from that, no specific guidelines per se.
Aside from the fact that Anathema Publishing needs to establish that the art and its symbolism is in tune and complementary to the content, energy, and spirit of the book, also in knowing that there is a good chance that it will resonate visually with the readership and that it is reproducible on the chosen materials for the book.
It certainly needs to add something like a talismanic value to the book, and therefore respect the efforts that the author has put into writing the book in the first place.
Where is Anathema Publishing’s biggest audience located?
I would say the US in general, if only for the number of people living there and the close proximity to Canada, therefore providing a larger demographic and range of people. Second would be Europe and the UK, followed by Australia & Canada.
Can you name some of your best-selling books published by Anathema Publishing?
That would go into details I feel are more appropriately relevant for shareholders and team members…All of our titles are equally important to us independently of which sell more copies than the others at the end of the year.
What feedback might have you received from readers that possibly had a positive impact on the way Anathema Publishing operates now?
A ton of feedback helped us through the years! From readers and authors alike! We even did a survey a couple of years ago which touched on numerous questions from preferred book subjects to visual ideas, to marketing strategies and promotional approaches, etc. There would be too many to list and recall to mind right now.
But I’d say out of all of them is truly the idea of Paperback reprints of past sold-out titles. Something we were not so keen on considering when we started this company.
We’ve entered this business as a means of providing quality content yes, but also beautiful pieces of art, so that content and form would be deemed exemplary and worthy of being treasured pieces in any library.
The argument that our books, being mostly Hardcovers and limited in numbers, were say ‘too expensive’ never truly sat well with us, as we always saw that as a matter of priority.
Most people seem not to have any issue spending $60-70 USD on a new PS4 game once in a while, and yet believe $60 USD to be too expensive for a book.
Well, we would argue otherwise, as not only are these speciality items now tremendously expensive to make, what with the rising prices of paper, print, and the cover materials, but we are considering the time and effort that went into the entire production, from the edits/corrections, artworks commissions, etc — not mentioning the time invested by the author who wrote the manuscript in the first place, and the payment of royalties — that goes into making these and we feel the retail price appropriately reflects these realities.
Now, if this is still deemed ‘too expensive’ for you, then that’s another issue, and perhaps your priorities lie elsewhere, and that is quite fine, we cannot always get everything we want, despite social media trying to convince us otherwise.
I myself, come from a pretty humble, low-income, background, and still to this day, I manage to get by only by the skin of my teeth and by putting insane hours into the work, and I know all too well what it means to keep savings aside in order to get myself one of these collectable editions once per every few moons…I know the feeling, which is one of frustration sometimes fearing to miss out on a specific title, or one of sheer excitement when you get to finally acquire a sought-after tome.
But, notwithstanding my opinion on the matter, it is true that whilst not being too fond of paperbacks in general (that is when it comes to publishing them), they can certainly prove useful and indeed open an opportunity for different budgets to be able to afford the book.
More so, it made sense from a copyright point of view…Why sit on rights for a specific title for say five years, if the hardcover version only lasted two years on our store?
As we needed to find a way to reprint these titles without ‘cheating’ the collectors who had secured a copy when they were initially made available (and helping us out during the pre-order phase), paperbacks then seemed like a good middle-ground compromise…the book lives on in the marketplace, and both readers and authors are happy, it is a win-win situation, and so it is good that we adopted this from the feedback we’ve received from the customers.
Being the founder of this remarkably unique publishing house, what is your take on the occult belief/philosophy?
I believe there are huge misconceptions about, and around, what can even be construed as the ‘occult’ or the world of esotericism.
As much as I absolutely love the subject, it is a very tricky question and one incredibly hard to answer by any stretch of the imagination.
Ultimately what I believe about the whole thing is truly irrelevant, this might sound a tad harsh to admit, but as a student myself, I do not believe I need to add to the confusion…knowing all too well that in the midst of the maelstrom lies most of what is useful and primordial for the seeker to uncover.
Better yet perhaps none of those Mysteries is truly occulted, we are simply usually ill-equipped to realize that Truth.
People can always read my book (h)Aurorae, or wait until we do a paperback re-release. But even this is only indicative of a certain formative ‘point in time’ and shows a certain sense of progression, but no more than that.
So much is said already, perhaps very little is done, but that is neither for me to determine or judge. I’m just happy if I can pass on the torch and add my two cents only whenever I truly feel it would be required, and perhaps welcomed by some.
In many ways, I’m very happy to ‘step back’ on this one and fade in the background for a while, and let other people speak for the moment being. The insight I could perhaps provide, which then again is not at all original to my view, would be to suggest that if any differences, contrasts, but more accurately separative and opposing facets, are said to exist between the various aspects of the esoteric traditions out there: between so-called ‘East & West,’ ‘this & that,’ ‘inner & outer,’ ‘self & other,’ ‘us vs. them,’ it is then always prudent to question, deeply, the source of this perception, and ponder heavily on the underlying mistake or ‘reality’ behind these.
‘Making up your mind’ is, in itself, an act of colossal importance, for truly that is mostly what we do all the time ‘making and remaking our minds’. How very important is it then to establish it on proper grounds, and look for the Mysteries in the open spaces rather than behind concrete walls.
Who among today’s philosophers/writers/teachers/practitioners do you read and why?
By today’s I’m gonna assume we mean alive — to this day, that is. There are a lot of contemporary writers and thinkers that I appreciate, for various reasons, but perhaps it’ll be more of a challenge that I think to identify living ones. Not surprisingly, I will end up mentioning many of the authors I currently work with.
Here’s a quick list: Traktung Yeshe Dorje Rinpoche, Brian Cotnoir, Stephan A. Hoeller, Donald Hoffman, Peter Kingsley, Claude Lecouteux, Adam McLean, P.T. Mistlberger, Shani Oates, Sonu Shamdasani, David Chaim Smith, Joseph Uccello, Greg Kaminsky, Craig Williams, Daniel Yates.
Of course, I’d like to make a special mention to all of the past contributors we’ve worked within the remit of PILLARS, as well as all of the future authors we’ll (soon) work with on full titles in the coming years.
In trying to reply appropriately to this question, it made me realize just how much of my book collection features authors and mystics of the past — for the most part deceased (not mentioning Source Texts which are an entirely other subject but mandatory read nonetheless).
From a personal perspective, if you would give one advice to seekers, what would that be?
Silence is the greatest of all teachers. We should do well to observe, remember, honour, and revere its lessons. One who clothes himself in the wisdom-bliss of Silence purifies the mind to allow magick to seep in and work its miracles in the world.
Strive to empty your Self (or Selves) of nefarious concerns and habitual obstacles which may prevent you from hearing the teachings of Silence.
Lastly, of course, it’s not because I say this quite openly, that I’ve necessarily mastered any of the finer inferences of such an illumined discourse. But hopefully, some do, and perhaps we will eventually as well.