This is Millar’s third (and currently last) book. For me, since it was the second one he published. Also it is the least easy to get. Salamandar and Sons sell their books themselves and through a handfull of bookshops that do not list this title on their websites. Getting the book to Europe, makes it quite expensive too. The publisher is a nice one to have a further look at though, especially when you have an interest in alchemy.
Millar’s first book is a nice, but nothing really new, history of Freemasonry, mostly in America. His other two books are also about Freemasonry, but about aspects written about less. Freemasonry and its influence in the Middle East in The Crescent and the Compass and Freemasonry and it relation to esoteric and occult societies in the current title.
Now of course there have been many spectacular books written about occultism and Freemasonry, but Millar’s book is more serious and leaves aside all the conspiracy theories and speculations. It certainly makes a nice read. Millar writes about the foundation and development of some of the High Grades, semi- and para-Masonic organisations and of course how things such as Alchemy and Kabbalah krept into Masonic symbolism in its developing days.
Millar is a Freemason himself, but he does not make value judgements on irregular branches of the Masonic family and treats them like their regular brother-organisations. The same with groups and people about whom a lot of nonsense has been written such as William Wynn Westcott and Samuel MacGregor Mathers and their Golden Dawn, Aleister Crowley and the Ordo Templi Orientes and Gerard Gardner and the Wicca movement.
The book is hardly 170 pages (plus bibliography and index) and this includes two appendices with etchings (on unnumbered pages) of Hejonagogerus Nugir with explanations and some images referred to in the book. The chapters are about subjects such as Alchemy Cabala and Magic, Roman Catholic Mysticism, Rosicrucians (like the Gold- und Rosenkreuzer and SRIA), Golden Dawn, O.T.O., Wicca and a short chapter about Freemasonry and Northern European paganism (which was one of the reasons to write an article about this subject).
Millar managed to get some structure in the mess of early Masonic, semi- and para-Masonic organisations, Rites, grades and people who were involved in several of those. His unbiased writing style makes this a highly recommended book for people who are interested in the named organisations and in this lively time of early Freemasonry. Several of the subjects could use some more depth, so hopefully the author has not finished his investigations of those yet.
2013 Salamander and Sons, isbn 9780987520623
As, for a European continental, every Black Front Press publication costs 15 UK pounds (including shipping), this massive 550+ paged book was as expensive as the tiny “Troubadours Of The Apocalypse”.
I knew that Southgate was an active writer, but almost each of the 18 chapters is actually a summery of one of his books and those are only a part of his bibliography. Many titles are available from Southgate’s own Black Front Press (you have to combine the Facebook page and Blogspot to see what is available). The catalogue goes from Southgate’s national anarchism, books about black metal and neofolk to “Helios: journal of metaphysical & occult studies”, philosophy and history. This “intellectual gallery” is almost that varried. There is not really politics in this book, but the chapters deal with varried characters such as Julius Evola, Friedrich Nietzsche, Corneliu Codreanu, Ernst Junger, Oswald Sprengler and Martin Heidegger to Maria de Naglowska, Aleister Crowley and Emanual Swedenborg.
With such a variety of subjects, it is hardly surprising that I did not find every chapter as interesting as the next. The interesting opening about Evola stands aside “an investigation of G.K. Chesterson’s The Ballad Of The White Horse“. Similarly, while the essays on Swedenborgh, Heidegger and Schopenhauer present little new, the 1920’s warning about the upcoming Islam by Hilaire Belloc is interesting to read in our own day and age.
You may think that many subjects are hardly original, but Southgate often presents just another angle such as Aleister Crowley the mountaineer, Sprengler is critiqued and of Nietzsche his reply to Paul Rhee is spoken of. Other chapters are more typical, such as Jünger’s war-diaries and Schopenhauer’s pessimism.
All in all this “intellectual gallery” makes a nice intoduction to Southgate the thinker and writer non-politically. That is to say, here and there his politics are mentioned, but not very often. Also Southgate has the name of being fairly radical and politically active and hence ‘dangerous’ (the name of his publishing house does not help there), but be sure that he is an interesting well-read intellectual with an agreeable writing style and a wide view on subjects.
2014 Black Front Press isbn 9780992745288
Subtitled: “Islam, Freemasonry, Esotericism and Revolution in the Modern Age”, the description even promises Traditionalism. A promising combination!
“The Crescent And The Compass” makes a much more interesting read than Millar’s recently reviewed “Freemasonry, a history”. This is not the least because in the current book, the author walks new paths. According to himself, noone so far has investigated the influence of Freemasonry on Near-Eastern cultures and vice versa.
The first half of the book is with quite a distance the most interesting part to me. Millar opens with a chapter about “Gnosis in Shi’ism and Sufism” speaking about initiations and the various kinds of the two named branches of Islam. Chapter two continues with a similar approach to Freemasonry and quickly runs up to the connections between Freemasonry and Islam, how Sufis became Freemasons and how ‘ideologically’ mixed orders were founded. Then Millar says a thing or two on how (Near-)Eastern religion influenced Freemasonry when Freemasons opened their eyes to exotic religions of the East. The strongest influences can be found in what Millar calls “Fringe Freemasonry”, orders that work similarly to Freemasonry, but are not recognised by Masonic bodies. Chapter two is informative and entertaining.
Then we move to a Sufi Freemason that launched a revolution within the Islamic world to get rid of the colonists, but this revolution would eventually backfire and “Freemasonry” became synonymous with Western decadence in the eyes of many Muslims. In the meantime we learn about the first Muslim convert in the UK, about René Guénon and about anti-Freemasonry, a (to me) new look on the Ayatollah Khomeini and we swiftly roll into Jewish/Masonic conspiracies that followed the publication of the Protocolls of the Elders of Sion.
The start of “Prince Hall” (‘black’) Freemasonry followed by black nationalism in the USA is followed by Anders Breivik and Prince Charles in three very different chapters.
In his conclusion, and especially his afterword, Millar calls to us to develop new ways of looking at the world, especially the religion of Islam and its role therein.
I mostly enjoyed the historical parts about Freemasonry in Muslim countries, but in general this little book (some 180 pages to read) touches upon subjects close to my heart. Numen Books has added an interesting title to their roster and seeing how much attention this book gets on Facebook, the publisher might reach quite an audience with this title and the author most likely a different audience from his less innovatory title of a decade earlier.
2015 Numen Books, isbn 0994252501
A while ago I was ‘in between books’. I had finished the ones I was reading and the ones I had ordered had not yet arrived. A friend just mentioned a few titles about industrial music and “Assimilate” proved to be available for my ereader. That is buy and start reading, very convenient.
Reed makes interesting remarks about early industrial musicians who were inspired by experimental classical music, free jazz and art movements such as Futurism. Experimental electronic music dates back further than I expected. The style and ethics of early industrial music are pretty much the same as they are today. Shock value in sound and appearance, ambivalent messages, anti-modernism, it was already there around 1975 and beyond. Reed continues describing the early scenes of Northern England, Berlin and San Francisco and the way early artists and labels were in contact: tapetrading.
Slowly industrial, in Reed’s view, would shift more towards pop when the music went from unstructured experimentations to songs with structure and refrains, beats and the like (the upcoming of subgenres like EBM).
Part IV is about industrial politics. Interesting is Reed’s approach to imaginary and (alledged) politics of industrial. All of which is ambivalent on purpose, more to shock the audience and make it think than to portray a clear message. When the author writes about the ‘whiteness’ of the industrial scene (and he comes back to this several times later on), I get the idea that Reed theorises too much. He likes to make references to the hiphop scene, but nowhere does he say that this is primarily a ‘black thing’. Is this because these scenes are afraid of ‘the other’ or simply because (of cultural background?) not many coloured people like industrial and not many caucasians hiphop?
Towards the end of his book, Reed seems to be ‘over-theorising’ more and more. Does music indeed try to change the world? Do industrial musicians, their labels and their audience seek to alter world using this particular form of art? Should industrial music have to update its message and, for example, target current criseses to remain ‘relevant’? Reed suggests several times that making and listening to industrial music could indeed be simply for pleasure (masochistic or not), but he keeps insisting on the message of the music for the world. Does Reed think that blood-and-gore deathmetal bands or anti-christian black metal bands have a ‘larger plan’? What is the message of the rockabilly or the psychobilly scene where the lyrics are often about booze and women? And what about the empty popmusic which only seems to be about hedonism?
To speak for myself, the first reason for listening to music is simply because I like it. Industrial music can make an atmosphere that I enjoy whether this is dark or downright violent. I do prefer bands which (seem to) have something to say over empty lyrics about nothing, but it is not like I am looking for the ‘real’ message of albums or try to unravel the artists’ ideologies. Neither do I mind if an artist (seems to) have ideas opposital to my own.
The biggest downpart about the book is that Reed almost exclusively concentrates on the popular side of industrial music. When the style became known, industrial grew bigger than I ever thought. After this first wave came more accessible styles such as synthpop and EBM and rock-oriented bands like Ministry and Nine Inch Nails. Coming closer to the current, we are reading about Skinny Puppy, Covenant and Apoptygma Berzerk while subgenres like neofolk and martial industrial are only touched upon. What is more, Tesco and Cold Meat Industry are only mentioned in passing and there is nothing about Genocide Organ (first release 1989), Anenzephalia (1991) and the whole scene around Tesco, CMI, Cylic Law, Steinklang, Cold Spring, Malignant and a range of smaller labels that still offer extreme electronic music. It is like Reed missed the complete current underground.
The author has another strange trait, but this one is positive. Sometimes he drops into ‘technical mode’ and starts to analyse the music himself. This goes from simple explanations about why music made with certain machines like it does, to complete analyses of rhythm, melody and song structure. These elements may make the book interesting to people who make electronic music themselves and/or those who are more generally interested in early electronic music.
Not the book that will answer all your questions, certainly not about the current underground. Still a nice read about how it all came to be though.
2013 Oxford University Press, isbn 0199832609
Numen Books announced a book of Angel Millar about Islam, Freemasonry and Traditionalism. A promising combination! When I set out to order this book, I noticed that the author also published the title currently under review. Would that be a history of Freemasonry from a Traditionalistic perspective? “Freemasonry” was easier to get and cheaper too, even within my own country. The other title arrived on the day that I finished this “history”, nice timing.
“Freemasonry – a history” the title says it all. The book is luxerously presented, large, heavy paper, with many colour plates (mostly aprons), a bit like the popular books about the subject. This is no picturebook though and actually the luxery format makes it a somewhat uncomfortable read. The book is too big and heavy for common reading.
Millar has been a Freemason since 2001, so he was rather quick in getting this history out. The book starts with the history/histories of Freemasonry, speaks a lot about what was there before 1717 (when the current United Grand Lodge of England was founded) and the influences on the early organisations. Millar uses the term “neo-Freemasonry” a lot, especially for later Rites and side degrees. Is everything after the original lodges “neo” to him? The book is a fairly common history of Freemasonry. It tends to focus on the USA (where the author lives), but there are also sidesteps to Europe. Not too much stress is lain on the “adogmatic” sort of Freemasonry. There are a few interesting details and here and there the author presents a not too usual angle, but I do not think I read anything really new. But, the book does give the general idea about different rites, kindred organisations, a bit of the symbology (though often much in sum). I am not sure if this book adds much to your collection if you have similar titles in your personal library. On the other hand, a history of Freemasonry written by a Freemason would be my preference, so…
A small endnote. Millar ends with three pages (an appendix) about women and Freemasonry. I know his history of Le Droit Humain is not very accurate, to say the least. I hope the same does not go for the parts of the book I am less familiar with.
2005 Thunder Bay Press, isbn 1592234097
This little book (130 pages) is a collection of essays published by Troy Southgate through his own publishing house Black Front Press. BFP has a somewhat outdated Blogspot, a more up-to-date Facebook page and a “storefront” at Amazon.co.uk where I linked the cover to. Unfortunately, Amazon does not list all BFP titles and the current title is not (yet?) available there. Ordering from BFP is easy though, each title, whether it has 130 pages or 550, have the same price. When you live in Europe, 15 pounds includes the book and postage, also when you order more titles at the same time. Make a Paypal payment and Troy and Carole take care of the rest. A plus for ordering through BFP rather than Amazon, is that Troy signs the books before shipping them.
On to the book then. The forword fortells the fall of our society, just as the Roman empire eventually fell. Few people dare to speak of this event. Many of those are to be found in the musical scene that the book calls the “neofolk, industrial & neoclassical underground”. 11 Musicians from that scene wrote a few pages. Some of these texts are merely musical biographies; other texts are more interesting and draw parallels to spiritual development and music, one text is more like a spiritual biography and the wonderfull closing article combines all these elements and puts the whole ‘political issue’ in perspective.
The book seems somewhat radical with a not-too-easy thinker as editor who names his publishing house “Black Front Press” which publishes titles by/about men scorned by many and also publishes political books. Does that not make a too easy link between the music scene and unwelcome politics? Some contributors, I figured, would not fear such a connection, but I was surprised to find a nice text of Francesca Nicoli of Ataraxia here. Another surprice, and a very nice one too, is Christopher Walton of the late Endvra and now of TenHornedBeast, with a very personal story about his spiritual path. Also noteworthy is the opening text of Gerhard Hallstatt of Allerseelen who tells us how Allerseelen came to be. The text of Robert Taylor (Changes) tells us a few things about his musical endeavors and early American Asatru. The abolute highlight, though, is for “the only Jew in the village”, Richard Levy, who explains how a Jew can develop a Nazi fetish yet still remain a leftish politician, how he sees the controversial project Death In June and criticise the hollowness that the scene soon developped and plagues to this day.
Do not expect an in-depth investigation of the neofolk scene; neither an investigation of the politics that the scene is so often accused of or even its larger history. The book contains 11 short texts, one better than another, telling you something about a controversial scene and keeping you off the street for an hour and a half.
2015 Black Front Press, isbn 9780993170300
I recently read and reviewed Burckhardt’s “Alchemy” (click on the author’s name above). That book is a much easier read. Now I noticed that there are two translations of this introduction to Sufism. I got a translation of D.M. Matheson from 1976, but there is also a translation by William C. Chittick from 2008. I do not know who is the translator of the title that I linked the cover to. I could not even find the cover of the version that I have on the web, let alone a link to that particular publication. In any case, I do not know if this book was written in a more difficult style of translated in such a manner.
This little book (126 pages) is divided in three parts with 5, 6 or 7 chapters. The sections are called “The nature of Sufism”, “The doctrinal foundations” and “Spiritual realization”. The first part makes a nice introduction speaking of different kinds of Sufism. In the second we learn about what Sufism has to say. The first part is the most interesting since it describes how Sufis reach for the above. Not very much in depth though, but enough to get an idea.
Burckhardt was, of course, a Traditionalist. You may know that the Sufi doctrine is quite close to the Traditionalistic way of thinking in several aspects. This is undoubtely the reason that more than one Traditionalist became Muslim or Sufi. The Traditionalistic approach may have coloured Burckhardt’s account written down in this book, but I am not versed in Sufi doctrine enough to be able to say anything about this.
Like the title says, this is an introduction to Sufi doctrine. I guess I will try to find a more in depth book, because this path is certainly interesting.
1951 Du Soufisme, 1976 The Aquarian Press, isbn 0850302927
However available since november 2014 this book was officially presented a couple of weeks ago during a seminar in the Vrije Universiteit (University Amsterdam) where the author used to lecture. Woldring is professor in political philosophy and invited colleagues of various breed to say something about Comenius’ message in our own day and age. I was positively surprised that also scholars on ‘materialistic’ fields seem to have ears for a spiritual thinker as Comenius.
Jan Komenský lived from 1592 to 1670, born in Nivnice, Moravia, died in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The “Amos” part of his name he added himself when he was a student and also by himself, his name is usually written Latinised as Comenius. I have a few translated books of the author, but before this biography I was mostly unaware of the vast amount of literature on the vast amount of diffent subjects that he wrote about. Comenius was adherrant to what in English is called the “Moravian Church”, but in Dutch they are called “brotherly community”, a Protestant church founded by Jan Hus (John Huss). During the Reformation, but mostly during the Counter-Reformation the situation was very difficult for (other kinds of) Protestants and Comenius continually had to flee. Being an original thinker who was well-respected by many, but maligned by others, Comenius had friends all over Europe and travelled a great deal. A few times Comenius lived in my country and since he died here and is burried in Naarden (Amsterdam was too expensive), we have a Comenius mausoleum and a museum (which I have not yet visited). It was mostly on demand of the museum that this biography of Comenius was written, simply because there was no descent overview of the man’s life and ideas.
The book is not large, only 215 pages, but there is too much to summarise in a short review. Comenius was groundbreaking in the fields of pedagoy and didactics. He wrote books that are still praised today. Also he wrote a lot about religious tolerance, strove for peace whereever he came, had friends in various religious, political and industrial circes. Surviving several wives and children, continuously having to flee, but trying to help his brothers and sisters in whatever way he can, Comenius had a stressfull life. Yet he managed to write over 250 books, many of which were published in his own day (often by himself), others after his death.
Woldring interweaves biographical notes that he drew from many different sources with Comenius’ ideas on different subjects. This sometimes runs strangely through eachother like the part in which the author describes a visit between Comenius and Descartes which starts by describing how the meeting came about, goes over in a comparison of the ideas of both men and ends again biographically. Nonethess, the parts in which the ideas of Comenius are described are the most interesting to me. For the rest, the man seems to have been an interesting character with an eventfull life.
The many different subjects Comenius wrote about, everything was part of a ‘grand scheme’ which he called “Pansophia”. Comenius strove to bring together all ways of knowing things, find out the connections between seemingly unrelated things and thus come to overarching knowledge. He was much aware of the rise of rationalism in his time, religious strive and conflict and political and economic wars, but his ideas are certainly still worth thinking over and this well-written book makes a very nice introduction into this versatile person. As of now, it is only available in Dutch though.
2014 Damon, isbn 9460361994
The line in the titles that the author sends me to review seems to go from very specific (Sufism) to more general. Perhaps they should be read in reverse order. “The Appleseed Journal” is more ‘generally spiritual’, a story that may make the reader realise that there is more than just our materialistic lifestyle. Then in “Beyond The River’s Gate” the reader may be inspired to live more spiritually may be helped to find a fitting path. In “The Ferryman’s Dream” you will learn more about Bitkoff and his own path. Finally, in “Sufism For Western Seekers” the reader will discover the secret of Bitkoff’s background. But, the books came from the man’s fingers the other way around, so that is the order in which I review them.
Johnny Appleseed is a ‘legendarised’ man who lived under the name John Chapman from 1774 to 1845. Bitkoff places him in the area of the Hudon Valley and to the North, which is funny, since I happen to visit that area every now and then myself. Bitkoff found Appleseeds journal buried in his backyard and decided to publish it. Now the journal obviously is not written 250 years ago and the style if very ‘Bitkoffian’. No worries of course, the author just used an urban legend as the story to hang his message onto.
Appleseed is a very Christian person who, as an early settler, started to grow and sow appleseeds and sell them to new settlers so that they could have their own apple trees. In his diary he gives his Christian ponderings about his restlessness, helping other people and the Word of the Lord. During his journeys through the Hudson Valley, Appleseed becomes friends with ‘Amerindians’ from whom he learns a lot. Bitkoff of course uses the opportunity to give some ‘Amerindian’ spirituality to his audience. At some point, Appleseed received a book of “the Great Swede”, Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) and became gripped by what he reads. He got involved in “The New Church” movement and both accidentally and intentionally becomes a missionary for the Swedenborgian way of thinking in his many contacts. We do not learn that much about Swedenborgh or his ideas from this journal though.
Appleseed does not try to convert people to his way of thinking. Rather he holds up a mirror and simply sows seeds in the heart of the people he meets by simple, well-placed advice or a book that he gives away. The simple, spiritual life of a man who works hard, is open and tolerant towards others and who helps other people in whichever way he can. The kind of person we need more of.
I do not know if this title is something for ‘the usual Gangleri.nl reader’, but the books of Bitkoff read easily and they are certainly something different from ‘my usual literature’ (and yours?) which never hurts, does it?
2015 Abandoned Ladder, isbn 0991577515
“How God Appeared In Saxonland” is the first part in what is to be a series about Christianisation in the Netherlands (and abroad). The second part, “How God Appeared In Frisia” is also available by now. The subtitle of the current book is “Widukinds knieval voor Karel de Grote”; which is a bit hard to translate, but it says how the Saxon leader Widukind was defeated by Charlemagne.
This is exactly the story of the book. Charlemagne christianised “Saxonland” with brute force. “Saxonland” is an area that covers a part of the east of the current Netherlands and the adjacent piece of Germany. These Saxons were not exactly keen to turning over to the new religion. They killed missionaries, fought against invading armies and even when Charlemagne raised to power, they remained resistant. When Charlemagne thought his job was done, some Saxon tribe started to attack his troups, throw out Frankish priests and burn their churches, etc. The whole process took a century and a half.
Otten needs only 175 pages for his story and these pages include a chronology in the beginning, a translation of the Frankish empirical annals, a bibliography, an index and several pages with images (b/w and colour, many images I had never seen). Still the book is nicely detailed. Also the book is nicely written and (apparently) scientifically solid which makes this a title both for historian scholars and people who are simply interested in the subject.
Otten obviously was annoyed by the brutality of the Christianisation of the Saxon tribes which he keeps stressing. The Saxons were not exactly sweethearts either and this become clear as well. The author starts with a summery of the upcoming of the religion of Christianity. Then he says something about the Saxon lands and its peoples. He also spends some pages on the prechristian religion of the Saxons (which he keeps calling a religion in which nature is worshipped, quite an outdated view) based on texts of Roman historians, but also writings from the Church in which heathen habbits were forbidden. Of course there is the Old Saxon Baptismal Vow of the late 8th century and the ‘Saxon Bible’ the Heliand (on which Otten has some interesting notions).
There is attention for the most famous missionaries Boniface, Willibrord, Alcuin and Lebuinus about whom Otten wrote a book earlier.
The book is purely historical, but there is not a whole lot of literature about his part of Dutch history and it makes a nice read. I guess I will also get the Frisia book as well.
2012 Deventer Univeritaire Pers, isbn 9789079378081