The Bibliotheca Philsophica Hermetica (or Ritman Library) published a wonderfull book about “The Message of the Rosicrucian Manifestoes in the Visual Language of the Seventeenth Century”. The book has 168 pages, is beautifully put together and nicely informative. The first part is about the Rosicrucian manifestoes and their reception. The second part more lives up to the subtitle and highlights some works of the Renaissance and shows the reader (some of) the details of the images. Detailed information is given about works of Heinrich Khunrath, Daniel Mögling, Stephan Michelspacher, Robert Fludd and Michael Maier. The book is a bit larger than most books and however the images are printed in high quality, sometimes the details are too small to see what the authors write about. Fortunately this is not a problem in most cases. Also often details are taken out of the images and displayed separately.
The texts do not go into any depth I have not encountered yet, but I especially enjoyed the information about details in the images that have escaped my eye so far. Also the authors put details in larger contexts giving explanations that I would not have thought of myself.
A beautiful book to have on the shelf and a nice read if you are interested in the period of the Rosicrucian manifestoes.
2014 In De Pelikaan, isbn 9789071608339
For quite some time I had wanted to read this book, but for some reason I never got to it. Would the book make clear how Guénon looked at Freemasonry in earlier days (as one of the two genuine initiatic organisations (both in the title of the present work) of the West) and in later days (the chain has been broken)? Unfortunately, it does not. The book also does not say much about Guénon’s views on Freemasonry in general, nor explanations of its doctrines by a man who claimed to be a true initiate/esotericist.
As with most books of Guénon, “Studies In…” is a compilation of articles that he wrote in different journals. These publications span a period from 1910 to 1951 and are not presented chronologically. What shows the ambiguous relation of Guénon towards his subject, is that the essays published are from both pro- and anti-Masonic publications.
So what is in the book? The last part consists of book reviews, mostly of French titles. In these reviews Guénon often portrays his superior knowledge of the subject in comparison to the authors of the books. Here and there an interesting peak into the thought of Guénon is given, but I find the book reviews not overtly interesting. The same goes for a range of articles about Martines de Pasqually, his “Ordre de Chevaliers Maçons Élus Coëns de l’Univers” and related topics. Here and there Guénon shows why he thinks De Pasqually was an initiate of a lower order and how he sees the relation to higher initiates, but these essays are mostly about a group that was perhaps Masonically related, but not Freemasonry per se. Actually I can say about the same about most of the other articles. They are about 18/19th century Freemasonry and mostly about experiments on the occultic field and the like.
A few essays make a good read for current Freemasons and people interested in Guénon’s views, such as “Masonic orthodoxy”, “The Masonic high grades” (both written in 1910 when Guénon was 26!!) and “Feminine initiations and craft initiations” (1948) since these shed a completely different light on the questions post than the answers that you usually hear.
Not the ultimate sourcebook about Freemasonry and the Compagnonnage. The book even does not answer all questions about the relation and views of Guénon to and on the subject. Still it is an interesting book to read, since Guénon seems to be a bit ‘lighter’ than what we are used to of him and here and there he is remarkably open.
For Guénon’s real or alledges dealings with Freemasonry, there are a whole lot of theories to be found on the world wide web.
1964 Éditions Traditionelles, 2004 Sophia Perennis; isbn 0900588888
In spring 2014 I revisited the Karma Triyana Dharmacharkra monastery near Woodstock, NY (as a tourist) and of course visited the accomapying Namse Bangdzo Bookstore. The monastery is Tibetan Buddhistic, but my interest was caught by a small number of books about Bön, the pre-Buddhistic religion of Tibet. In two I thought to have found both some history, but also an ‘inside view’ of the religion itself. One of the books had a plus: it is not only about Bön! As you can see in the title of the book that is subject of this review, that is the one I brought home.
The book is massive in size (800+ pages) and content. Much of the information is new to me, so that makes the book extra overwhelming. There is no way I can sumerise the contents of this book, so I am only going to try to give you an idea of the content. A few things to start with. Me, and perhaps you too, thought that Bön is ‘the’ pre-Buddhistic religion of Tibet, but this is way too simply thought. There are many kinds of Bön springing from different periods and gurus. The author roughly divides these sorts of “prehistoric Bön”, “Yungdrung Bön”, “Bön Sarma” (or “new Bön”, a mix between Yungdrung Bön and Buddhism) and “mixed Bön” (which mixes all that came before with even other elements). The other term, Bө or Bө-Murgel, refers to the traditional religion of Siberia.
Ermakov has both studied and lived both traditions and came to the conclusion that they sprang from the same source. A source which he calls: “the prehistoric Bön of Eurasia”. This “prehistic Bön of Eurasia” reminds a lot of what scholars of comparative religion call the Indo-European religion. This makes the book even more interesting than I expected!
Ermakov starts with a little bit of history; or ‘a little bit’… This part is about 120 pages and spans thousands of years. It is interesting to see the author, who is a Russian scholar of comparitive religion, keeps his scientific approach, but does not shy stories of magical warfare, shares his ritualistic experiences and touches on different subjects that the Westerner would have dismissed as nonsense.
After the historical part, things get more structured and a lot dryer. Ermakov will tell you about a whole range of elements of both religions, the worldview, rituals, clothing, instrumentation, etc. and compare them, making cross-references to other religions here and there as well. This goes very much in-depth, with much detail and mixed with personal encounters and quotes from his diaries. This is all interesting enough, but frequently these descriptions of the two shamanistic religions ring major bells with my Germanic background, even some of the very vague Germanic notions as those of certain souls, Heilagr and the like. I am going to try to find some noteworthy quotes for the quotes section.
The book ends with more history, the spread of Bön and Bө.
There is a very handy glossary and the index is nicely detailed. A great book with a very interesting approach to comparitive religion and instructive both about Bön (of which I knew little) and Bө (of which I knew nothing) and even Germanic heathenry and other Indo-European religions. Here and there Ermakov peaks ‘behind’ the Indo-European religion and sees common ground with for example the Mongol religion. That reeks a bit of Witzel, does it not?
A sidenote for the faint-hearted. However friendly the current Dalai Lama is, the conversion from the various sorts of Bön to Buddhism was not always a very friendly traject and you will learn a thing or two about this part of history too. Also about current forms of Tibetan Buddhism by the way, so if this has your interest, this book might be for you too.
2008 Vajra Publications, isbn 9789937506113
See here for quotes from this book.
I missed a couple of issues. Well, five actually. With the “Wende”s coming out twice a year, that makes a 2,5-year gap. Fortunately I ran into a couple of members last weekend who brought the latest issue and this latest issue certainly makes a good read.
The highlight of issue 15, to me, is the 23 paged (A4 format!) investigation of the Freyr/Gerd myth by Luc Cielen. Cielen compares some well-known Germanic stories to reconstruct and interpret the myth in which Freyr falls in love with Gerd, but has his servant sent out to win her for him. The story from the Skírnismá is laid aside the Skáldskaparmál, the Sturlaugs saga starfsanna, Völsungasaga, Fjölsvinnsmál, parts of the Gesta Danorum and elements of other myths and stories. It makes an interesting read. Even though I find the conclusion not too convincing, the way to it gives a very nice piece of comparative myth.
Another relatively large text is a report of a visit of three Hagal members to the European Congress of Ethnic Religions (ECER) in Vilnius, Lithuania, last spring.
There is an interview with Dutch investigators of language and shorter texts, all in all spanning 55 pages.
Get in contact with Hagal by clicking on the cover. The magazine is in Dutch of course.
2014 Werkgroep Hagal, issn 2034-3361
Inspite of the promising title, this “Handbook Of Contemporary Paganism” is not a really interesting book. First the title might just as well have been “Handbook of Wicca” since in 90% of the places where terms like “paganism” or “neo-paganism” is named, it refers to Wicca. Hence paganism is predominantly a women-thing (feminist even), politically progressive, eclectic, focus lays on “the Goddess”, etc. Furthermore, a large part of the book is about magic. It starts with “The Modern Magical Revival” and continues with the influence of Aleister Crowley on Gerard Gardner, sexual magic in paganism and similar subjects. When the approach goes from historical to sociological, the focus becomes ‘other-scholarly’ when charisma, numbers of heathens and certain pagan ideas are investigated. It is this (to me) unusual approach that does give the book some merit.
Interesting are the editor’s essay about two (or three) generation pagans. How do pagan parents see their role? What place in the pagan society do children have? Also “Neo-pagan’s evolving relationship with popular media” (by Peg Aloi) has a few nice angles. There is even an article on the commerce of teen-pagan media (by Hannah E. Johnston). Rather irritating to think about, but very true.
Like I said, the book is mostly about Wicca (in various forms) and hardly touches upon other forms of contemporary paganism. When they are mentioned it comes in terms such as: “Among the former are a few sects of Norse Heathenry” (Sabina Magliocco on p. 236). Right… “Asatru” is usually only mentioned to say that there are different forms of paganism and then of course towards the end when we learn about “Racial-Ethnic Issues”. Ah yes, I had not missed the subject before I ran into it. Of course a subject not to be forgotten!
There is one article about “heathenry”, which is mostly about the Northern-European kind of paganism. In a nice article Jenny Blain and Robert J. Wallis speak about reconstructionism versus contemporary paganism, historical correctness versus applicability, and similar subjects that are indeed recognisable. There is a lot of focus on “Blót” and “Sumbel” which shows that the authors have mainly looked about American Asatru. Then there is again a whole part about magic (mostly “Seiðr”, but of course also runic divination) and it seems that they are not aware that this is not so common as they think.
Two essays worth mentioning are Dawne Sanson’s text about neo-Shamanism. Not so much because this subject interests me or even fits well within the book, but it deals well with ancient versus neo approaches, the view of the original practisioners, etc. Also a nice read is Robert J. Wallis and Jenny Blain’s article about “Pagan Engagements with Archaeology in Britain”.
To close off, an objection to the book is that all (or almost) of the writers are both scholar and practioner. Themselves they refer to their inside look, others see them as not independent. Personally I am not completely sure if I object or not, but I lean towards not. The very personal account of Susan Greenwood’s “Wild Hunt” experience was actually a nice read, however I find the ritual itself pretty silly.
All in all by and far not the ultimate book about contemporary paganism and definately not a “handbook”. Most essays are boring, some make nice reads. I do not know if the book is more interesting if you are interested in Wicca, but in that case you will have some 650 pages with history and interpretations.
2009 Brill, isbn 18746691
Rydberg’s book is old enough to be available in cheap reprints and for free on the world wide web. Well over 700 pages of “Teutonic mythology”. The book is actually called Undersökningar i germanisk mythologi (Investigations into Germanic Mythology) and is translated into German as Deutsche Mythology. Yet, Rasmus B. Anderson opted for Teutonic Mythology rather then Germanic Mythology. Of course the book has the merit of being one of the first of its kind, but reading it nowadays, I would say that there is not all that much mythology in it. As a matter of fact, Rydberg seems to try to lead back all mythology to historical events (following Snorri Sturluson and Saxy Grammaticus). This leads to rather annoying lengthy substantiations about why Gudmund is Mimer, who Odin and his Aesir were and where mythological places are to be found. Not really my cup of tea. The up-part of the book is that Rydberg meticulously investigates and compares myths and sagas coming with thoughtprovocing suggestions.
Conclusion: nowadays no longer groundbreaking, but a good book to read if you are interested in this line of investigation.
1891 / 2001 Adamant Media Corporation, isbn 1402193912
Well, this is a different kind of book of our Italian thinker. Quite like in the book of Koenraad Logghe (1997), we have here a Traditionalistic approach to the grail legends. Evola compares the grail stories to several mythologies, sometimes the same as Logghe. Evola also finds initiation symbolism in the stories, but he traces the sources further back. This comparitive method makes quite a nice read and however I cannot follow the author all the time, he makes some interesting points. Towards the end the grail stories start to make up less and less of the text and Evola passes through Hermeticism and Rosicrucians to Ghibellism, a subject that pops up in more of his works. He also sets out against Guénon and his ideas about Freemasonry and thus suddenly ends a book about the grail with a lot lot of different paths.
Overall the books make a nice read, but I have the idea that Evola lost structure and felt the need to tread different sidepaths all at the end of the book. He once more shows himself an interesting thinker, but in several opinions, Evola runs off wildly from my own ideas. No worries of course, Evola has more sides that I do not follow him with.
1996 Inner Traditions, isbn 0892815736
It is good that Amazon recommended me this book, because I do not recall having heard of it before they did. It becomes a bit blurry. Like the first Aristokratia, this journal is published by Manticore Press. Since it looks like the journals that are nowadays published under the name of Numen Books, I simply ‘tagged’ this book ‘Primordial Traditions’, the precursor of Numen Books. But, Numen Books will remain Numen Books and Primordial Traditions seems to come rising from its ashes, so I might have to divide them afterall.
In any case, “Aristokratia” forms the more political arm of Primordial Traditions. The journal comes with 320 pages consisting of 17 essays and 7 book reviews. Three articles are from the hand of Gwendolyn Taunton (another reason to see the link) who delivered some very nice texts. Especially her “Emperor Of The Sun” is an interesting read. Taunton takes the theories of Dumézil a step further and more practically (in contast to Dumézil’s theoretical approach) applies it to far Eastern polics in the past. In another article Taunton aims to portray Julius Evola’s actual ideas by going beyond the characterisations of supporters and opposers. Some other authors we know from the first volume of this journal. Like I said, “Aristokratia” is a more political journal and some essays not only describe the state of contemporary politics, but also offer new insights and ideas. Not all essays are political though. Some are more philosophical and/or tradionalistic.
The journal starts off wonderfully, but in the last third there are a couple of texts that I did not find too appealing and did not read them very attentively.
All in all another interesting journal though and a good addition to the ‘Primordial Traditions series’.
2014 Manticore Press, isbn 0987559834, Aristokratia website
Again a compilation of lectures and articles by René Guénon compiled in a book. Originally this book was published under the title Le Symbolisme De La Croix in 1931. The first English translation was published in 1962, but I have the fourth revised edition of 2001. I actually bought this thin book (150 pages) waiting for another book of Guénon that took longer to get. I liked the idea of a book by Guénon about symbolism rather than his more ‘philosophical’ works and that also makes this book a step up the other one that by now is in my possession as well.
It is quite amazing how deep the author went into the symbolism of the cross. The book is not just about the symbol, but Guénon writes about directions of space, opposites, states of being, the serpent and what not. You get the idea, this book is not about a sign made up of two stripes, but about a symbol. Especially in the first half of the book this is very intesting and in general Guénon sheds light on sides of the symbol that I would have never thought of. This is not a book to learn about Guénon, his ideas and Traditionalism, but it does form an aspect of the matter the man dealt with of course.
2001 Sophia Perennis, isbn 0900588659
Rama (1929-2006) was the son of Ananda (1877-1949) and however raised in his father’s tradition (Hinduism), Rama converted to Catholicism after his father died because he found that more fitting when living in the West. In the current book, Rama does not appear to be a Traditionalist like his father, but a traditionalist / fundamentalistic Catholic. Where his father sees One Source for all religions, Rama is exclusivistic. Now this is not strange when you think about the purpose of the book, but the author takes his stand so firmly that as I was reading the book I increasingly had the feeling that however much I understand the position, I have growing problems agreeing with it.
Basically the idea is simple, like with the position of the ‘Traditionalist School’ actually. The Catholic Church exists to represent the ideas and Church founded by Christ and his apostles, of course, unaltered since otherwise the Church would say Christ was wrong. Still the Church does alter the teachings and organisation of the original Church, especially during and after the second Vatican council of 1962 to 1965. The new Church thinks that Christianity has to be brought up to date thus incorporating ideas of progress, evolution, humanism, socialism, etc. exclusivisity is dropped and the Pope is not as infallible as he usd to be. I understand the position of the Church. When members leave and the minds of those that stay grow accustomed to Western ways of thinking, how would anyone stop the loosing of members? I also appreciate the author’s position which is completely logical, but often collides with the Western way I think myself. Moreover, the author is uncompromising, also in his language, so I think that his book will not appeal to the average Catholic, just to the (to use the word) fundamentalists. It is very interesting to read Coomaraswamy’s minituous account of changes made in the Doctrines, mass, etc. though and he forces me to continuously consider how much of a Traditionalist I really am. I can assure you that this is no easy or fun book to read. His examples are clear, his conclusions far-reaching. Perhaps you (too) can read the book of a test of ‘your Traditionalism’ and/or to learn about the orthodoxy of the current Church.
2006 World Wisdom, isbn 0941532984