Sadism, Surrealism, and sinister cults

In my novel Genuflect, published in 2017, I placed a fictional villain, Blake Rosenberg, loosely based on Michael Bloomberg, in the position of owning the corporate building in the City of London where the ancient Roman Temple of Mithras was really was originally discovered, and where it really was recently returned to, refurbished. As reflected in the novel, the restored temple is now a museum located the bottom of the new building called Bloomberg Place, which opened last year, and which now covers more ground than any other single building in London.

While many of the personal obsessions I gave to my fictional villain are simply based on the real Bloomberg, some I made up, including the character’s obsession with Surrealist, Cubist and Dadaist artists from the early twentieth century. Inside my fictional version of the building, which my villain uses to commit a series of sadistic murders and rapes as part of a program of occult rituals, many homages to his favorite works of art, literature and film are included. I chose to do this because of a confluence I found in my research between the following subjects: Gnostic heresies; the cult of Mithras; the cult of Cybele; alchemical symbolism; Surrealist, Dadaist, and Cubist art; Sadism, and the work of Marquis de Sade specifically.

In particular, I knew that many of the Surrealists, Dadaists and Cubists held the Marquis de Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom in high regard. Having noted some possible connections between the story there and the liturgical calendar of the Roman Cult of Cybele, which began its main festivals at the Ides of March, I used that as a springboard for the story I was telling. The connections are first foreshadowed in Chapter 16, where the heroes of the story discuss the case/s that they are investigating together. The town of Ostia near Rome in Italy is mentioned, location of the ruins of several temples to Mithras and Cybele both. It was also the place where the filmmaker Pasolini was murdered while working on a film based on 120 Days. These subjects all come up when the murder of Roberto Calvi is mentioned. As a the narrator, Pamela Auger, puts it:

I too had thought the same about Roberto Calvi’s murder in 1982, allegedly done at the behest of a bizarre Masonic group called “P2” or Propaganda Due. Despite the papal ban on Catholics joining masonry, P2 had become a power within the Vatican itself, as well as in Italy and Latin America. Calvi, a member of P2, had worked for the Banco Ambrosiano, an Italian bank which had been doing business with the order, which included laundering illegal money for the Vatican.

After the money-laundering scheme was discovered by Italian authorities, and prosecutions began, Calvi was found hanging from a bridge over the Thames. He had fled the country after his initial arrest, presumably running from prosecution but also, according to his family, because of threats from the P2 goons. The newspapers speculated that the manner of his death was a Masonic retribution ritual for traitors to the brotherhood. The bridge they had chosen, Blackfriars, was thought to have been used as a reference to the frati neri, or “black brothers,” a nickname that P2 members had chosen for themselves.

This then sparks a memory in Agent Paris, who works for MI5, but whose father once worked for MI6 (a.k.a. “S.I.S.”).

“You know what my dad told me?” said Paris. “When he worked for SIS he found out that those P2 guys killed Paulo Pasolini too. Right while he was editing 120 Days of Sodom. All that crap about him raping the prostitute boy with a stick was a lie, and they set that kid up.”

Chesterfield arched his eyebrows in surprise. I too was intrigued that the conversation had turned down this avenue. I would not have imagined that MI5 agents, and even agents of MI6 (a.k.a. “SIS,” whom Paris’ father had apparently worked for) would be investigating the murder of an underground filmmaker because of his adaptation of an obscure unfinished porno-horror novel from the eighteenth century. The possibility of a P2 connection to this was completely foreign to me. Paris leaned forward and continued in a lower voice.

“The truth is the Jesuit Masons got him. There were several rolls of film that were supposed to be in the movie which got stolen. In those rolls, Pasolini had told the truth about what the Satanists in the Vatican are all up to. And it’s just like that Pizzagate stuff you were talking about, Pamela.” He pointed at me.

Pamela, who is based largely on me, is familiar with the story of the murder of Pasolini because she had once owned several albums from the band Coil, who did a song and music video about the subject. As the narrator continues:

I was struggling to stay awake, but I was very interested in what he was saying. I recalled as best I could the facts I knew about Pier Paulo Pasolini, the film director. He was murdered in 1975 by a male teenage prostitute, who ran over him with his own car at a beach in Ostia, Italy. Supposedly, the director had hired the kid for sex, but then tried to sodomize him with a large stick, against his will, leading to his own violent end.

The only reason why I knew about it was because as a teenager I had been a fan of a band called Coil, who wrote a song about the murder. I had also seen Pasolini’s last film, Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom, which he had been editing when he died. It did indeed depict the brutal rape and murder of young teenagers, both male and female. In the story, they were kidnapped on the orders of a group of aristocrats and powerful clerics. The men in this group then imprisoned them in an isolated mansion where they all eventually died in the most awful ways. It was based on a Marquis de Sade novel, with the location changed from revolutionary France to fascist-era Italy.

“Well now I’ve heard everything,” I said….“I’d heard that the Papists burned down London. I’ve heard Father Malachi Martin say that there were Satanists running the Vatican now. But I didn’t know that P2 killed Pasolini.”

The connection with the Cybele cult doesn’t come up in conversation until they are all having breakfast the following morning. Agent Paris mentions it:

“You know, what’s interesting?” he said. “The end of March, or early April, was the time of year when they finished the orgies and murdered everyone in 120 Days of Sodom. There’s a bit of ambiguity because the Marquis never finished the novel. He ran out of paper when he was imprisoned in the Bastille. But he made an outline of how it would end. The 120 days of sex orgies started on November 1st. The child victims were kidnapped and taken to the Duke’s hidden mansion in the woods on Halloween Night.”

“Now, those orgies ended on February 28th of the following year, in which 10 of the people died. That was the spell of 120 days that the title refers to. But then he planned it to go into a new phase of total torture and murder over the following three weeks. More and more people’s tongues were to be torn out, eyes gouged out, fingers cut off, testicles crushed, organs removed or rearranged, etc., resulting in death for most of them. Twice as many people were to have died in these final festivities, which were set to end on March 21.”

“There does seem to be something about the Spring Equinox, and the entire Lenten season, which brings out human savagery,” I remarked….

Later, when two of the characters are forced to bear witness to the secret rituals that the villain is staging inside the restored Mithras temple in London, a custom-made decoration is displayed that has been made to resemble a famous Surrealist homage to 120 Days, but utilizing an actual ancient Roman statue that was once used in the original temple. The narrator describes it thusly:

The black curtain was now covering the wall behind the altar once more. Now one of the Ravens pulled it back again, revealing this time, instead of the taurtoctony, another curtain, made of red translucent linen, into which an inverted cross – the Cross of St. Peter—had been cut. Through the cross-shaped hole something else displayed behind the curtain could be seen mounted on the wall.

I recognized it as one of the broken pieces of the relief of Dionysus that had been found in the original mithraeum. This was the section with only his naked rear end. I didn’t know it at the time, but I now realize that the image before me—of the backside of Dionysus seen through the inverted cross cut into the curtain—looked just like Man Ray’s picture Monument à D.A.F. de Sade, which he used as a cover for his personal edition of Marquis De Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom in 1933.

Man Ray’s “Monument to D.A.F. De Sade,” which he used as the cover for his personal copy of De Sade’s “120 Days of Sodom”
Cover of Coil album “Scatology”
illustration from Genuflect, with image of Bacchus statue from the real London mithreaum

Much later in the story, Pamela Auger walks in on Blake Rosenberg while he’s screening Luis Bunuel’s L’Age D’Or, highly intoxicated and surrounded by partially dismembered bodies. Produced in 1930, this is another film partially based on 120 Days of Sodom, made with the involvement of Salvador Dali. As they watch it together, some of the hidden meaning of the film is revealed. As Pamela describes it:

He was watching an old black & white film, familiar-looking, with a Wagnerian score. At the moment I looked at it, a continental soldier sitting on a chair on the patio of a large house had just put a ten-year-old boy on his lap and begun kissing him on the mouth.

I’ve seen this before, I thought. In film school.

“It’s L’Age d’Or,” said Rosenberg, still without looking away from the screen. “Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali. Have you seen it before?”

“I’ve tried watching it a few times,” I said. “I always fall asleep.”

With that he finally turned around to face me. “Neanderthal! Troglodyte!” he shouted, pointing at me and shaking his head as if to shame me for my lack of art appreciation. I was too high on morphine, and too much in shock from everything else, to care what he thought of me. I smiled and stared straight into his eyes.

“Why don’t you tell me what’s so great about it?” I said.

“Look,” he said. He faced forward again and pointed the remote control at a machine against the wall. The film skipped to a scene of a man with silver hair and a pointy beard stuck to a ceiling next to a chandelier.

“You see that?” said Rosenberg. “That’s what happens to the Minister of the Interior in this film. That’s a prophecy of what happened to Baron Carrickfergus.”


He rewound it a bit to show what led up to that scene. The Minister of the Interior was sitting at a desk making a telephone call to a younger man with a black mustache. They spoke in French, with the English given in subtitles.

“You scoundrel,” said the Minister of the Interior. “You are entirely to blame. You compromised me too. Do you realize that not one child survived? Many women and old men perished too.”

“You’re bothering me about a few brats?” replied the man on the other end of the line.

A crowd was shown running down the street as they were chased by the flow of hot lava.

“Filthy ruffian, you’ve dragged me down with you!” said the Minister. His phone was shown destroyed on the floor next to his desk. Then we saw him on the ceiling again. We were back where we started. There was no explanation of how he got up there.

Rosenberg pressed another button on the remote control. It skipped to a title that read “the first prismatic articulation,” followed by a scene of scorpions fighting.

“Those are the scorpions that the mithraeum here, and the chambers beneath, are infested with. They are the scorpions that Luna sends to devour the testicles of the bull. The entire film is arranged to resemble the ‘prismatic articulations’ of the scorpion’s body. This refers to the prism that imprisons us.”

‘The prism that imprisons us.’ Did I hear that right? I wondered.

“Then, there’s this,” he said.

He skipped ahead a bit. Now a crowd of people were gathered around a cornerstone-laying ceremony officiated by a man in a black top hat. Corn, wine and oil were poured on top of a brick, then smoothed out with a trowel.

“You see this?” he asked me.

I nodded, bewildered.

“The foundation of the Holy City. Ab Urbe Condita,” said Rosenberg. “Remember what Crowley wrote? ‘Baphomet was Father Mithras, the cubical stone which was the corner of the Temple’”

The film displayed archival aerial footage of Rome, accompanied with subtitles that almost seemed like they explained what was going on. But they didn’t really. The text said:

In the year 1930, on the premises occupied by the remains of the Majorcans, was placed on the sheer rock the foundation of the city of… Imperial Rome. The world’s ancient, pagan mistress became the seat of the secular church for centuries. Some aspects of the Vatican form the firmest pillar of the church.

‘Rome was founded on April 21st in 753 AD,’ I thought. ‘This film was made in 1930. What the fuck?’

“Now look at this,” said Rosenberg.

In the next scene, a man was seen walking out of a café, brushing bits of crumbled masonry off of his coat. Then, a few shots later, another strange title page read:

Sometimes on Sunday….

Next, a row of buildings was shown collapsing.

“The diverse and picturesque aspects of the great City!” said the title page that came right after this.

The whole scene reminded me of something.

“Wasn’t there a part in 120 Days of Sodom, I said, “about an aristocrat whose fetish was to make buildings that were set to collapse eventually, trapping women and children in the rubble?”

“That’s the Holy City collapsing,” said Rosenberg, ignoring my inference.

Then a man was shown kicking a violin down the street and stomping it into pieces.

Violence, I thought. Violence against violins. Stupid surrealists.

“Here,” said Rosenberg. “This part’s about me.”

The man who brushed the collapsed building debris off his coat was now shown walking through a park with a flattish stone balanced on top of his head. He walked past a statue of a man with long hair, also shown with a similar stone on his head.

“Psalm 118,” said Rosenberg. The cornerstone becomes the headstone.”

The line in question, number 22, actually states:

The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.

This statement was also paraphrased by Jesus in Matthew 21: 42-44, where he said that the rejected stone became “the head of the corner,” leaving out the repetition of the word “stone.” Then he followed it up with this:

And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.

“That was me, you see,” said Rosenberg. “I was born from a rock at rock-bottom, from the dirt on the ground. And yet it is I who shall climb to the highest heaven tomorrow and sit on the throne of God himself. My head will be the keystone to the Arch of Heaven.”

This is all preamble to some very involved matters that will have to be unraveled very carefully over the next few weeks, with some videos that are currently in the works, and the next section of this essay. In the meantime, please familiarize yourself with an article I wrote a few years ago called “Is the Black Mass a Christian Rite,” where I discuss the relationship between the work of the Marquis de Sade and the Satanic ritual known as the Black Mass.

Is the Black Mass a Christian Rite?

Also check out, featuring research connecting Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp with the Black Dahlia and Zodiac murders, found on

Illustration from De Sade’s “Julliette”


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