We have no true spiritual masters in current Western society - our priests are paedophiles, our politicians are celebrities, our celebrities are earthworms. Who can fill this spiritual vacuum? In the past, we might have turned to philosophers, but they have gone out of fashion and even Alain de Botton will not suffice. The answer can only lie with writers. Fiction can illustrate greater truths than non-fiction; the enduring appeal of 1984 tells us more about the dangers of an authoritarian society than any history textbook. A writer stands outside society, observing, analysing, searching for the truth. Their faith is a watermark in the pages of their books; C.S.Lewis spread out his Narnian imagination over the skeleton of his Christian faith and Swift operated within a matrix of Judeo-Christian principles. A writer can teach us about life, morals and how to construct a better sentence. Hence, the greatest writers are worthy of worship.
This is an idea that originated with the Golden Dawn and grew in the early twentieth century with the Edgar Allan Poe Faith, a shadowy group who included Jack the Ripper as one of their initiates, leading to fatal consequences. Since then, there has been a widespread growth in literary religion - or 'Writer Worship Clubs' (as the Guardian has termed them), or 'Satantic Book Boffins' (The Daily Mail). Currently, their popularity is at its peak. In
Of these Faiths, the Will Self Club (officially known as the W.S.C) is considered to be the elite superior (though the Martin Amis School lags behind as a close second). Membership is said to be a mysterious and, at times, torturous process. There is the black ball system, followed by a complex initiation. The member is never 'told' that they have been accepted into the faith, only 'shown'. The monthly worship sessions are said to take place in a stately home on the outskirts of London; a journalist who once attempted to infiltrate one such meeting was never seen again. All that remains of his visit are some texts, abstract in nature, such as 'absinthe', 'torn pages and naked breasts' and 'I'll never win the Nonce Prize'. Those who do manage to infiltrate the hierarchies of this faith, however, receive the lifelong blessing of W.S. in deified form, frequent moments of exquisite serendipity, and experiences of the flesh that are miraculous and ecstatic in sensation.