Three Treatises of Art * Russell Yoder (2014)

Another small booklet of Salamander and Sons and, coincidentally or not, also translated and edited by Russell Yoder.

This time Yoder translated three texts, this time from the 18th century. The first, and nicest, text is Alchemy for the Behmenist Adept. Apparently in the 18th century USA there lived alchemists who were followers of Jacob Boehme (1575-1624). Boehme is more famous for his Christian, mystical writings, but he also wrote of alchemy. The compiler of the anthology even makes it seem as if Boehme writes of ‘physical alchemy’ and some remarks even suggests that he did practice this, or at least, saw it being practiced. The compiler made a nice text, mostly consisting of quotes from various works of the Teutonic philosopher.

Then follows an esoteric tale about an alchemist who found a “little farmer” who proves to be far superiour in knowledge to the traveller. So much even that the farmer does not give away his secrets.

The last translation is a number of texts from the Gold- und Rosenkreuzer (founded around 1760) who form one of the sources of German highgrade Freemasonry. The texts are also alchemical in nature.

68 Pages in, again, a relatively expensive title, but a nice read nonetheless, especially the first text.

2014 Salamander and Sons, isbn 978098720654

Heidens Jaarboek 2014

The ‘heathen yearbooks’ are actually planned to be published early in the year, but the twelfth edition took a bit longer to finish. This time no attempt was made to stay around 100 pages and the well-printed booklet reached up to 134 which make up for seven longer or shorter essays.

The yearbook starts with looking back at the past year in which a group split off of Nederlands Heidendom. Then follows the continuing translation of Jan de Vries’ famous Altgermanische Religionsgeschichte into the Dutch language. The chapters are about the soul(s) and (fittingly as we will see later) Fate.
Next up is Gerard who bought an old wood-carved plate and investigates its symbolism and function.
The two next articles are by Boppo Grimmsma. Both texts he earlier used during the group walk in the fall of 2014 through an area overlapping parts of the provinces Drenthe, Overijssel and Fryslân. These texts are mostly historical and explain some things that are still left to see in the area of what used to be seen there.
The most interesting text is of guest-author Frank Bosman who wrote a penetrating analyses of the Heliand. Bosman describes it as a perfect synthesis of Christian and prechristian religion. The author of the Heliand is both critical towards and full of praise about the new religion. He made some original adjustments in order to be able to give a story of a warlord Jesus rather than the Jesus from the Bible.
Next up is myself. I was asked to make a Dutch version of my 2012 text about the Primal Law which you can read in English by clicking the link.
At the end, three 999 word stories of the story-telling-competition are published.

As always a nice little publication for people who can read Dutch and are interested in history and the prechristian religion.

Hyleal, Pri-material, Catholic, or Universal Natural Chaos * Henricus Khunrath (2014)

A long time ago I ran into the publisher FBN Press. This must have been before June 2007 when I went from an html website to WordPress. FBN Press has a whole range (some 300) republications of texts of which the copyright has expired. Many of these texts are alchemical. I bought and ‘reviewed’ quite a few of these A5 photocopied and thin booklets. I have no idea if FBN Press is still running, but they do still have some sort of website.

A while ago I was looking to get the books of Angel Millar. One of these books is published on the Thai publisher Salamander and Sons. This publisher proved to publish a whole range of alchemical books too, of recent alchemists (Lapidus), but also of more famous, Renaissance alchemists, such as Heinrich Kunrath (1560-1605). The current title is a selection of the famous Amphitheatrum Sapientiae Aeternae (Amphitheatre of Eternal Wisdom). A very small selection too! The little book is only 38 pages, while the Kessinger reprint of the Latin version has 288 pages according to Amazon. The FBN Press booklets have similar sizes, but Salamander and Sons’ publications look a lot better. That shows in the price. It is $ 15,- (plus shipping) when you get it from the publisher, $ 20,- when you get it from Amazon. Quite a price for a 38 page book.

The anthology and translation is made by Russell Yoder who published similar works. He added another translation of his of the 1704 text From F.R.C., an alchemical, Rosicrucian poem.

Khunrath’s text is certainly what you can call a “Hermetic text” in the contemporary meaning of the word. It full of heap of symbolism, references, Latin phrases (usually not translated), with beautiful images in which he also uses different languages. In his text Khunrath continuously cross-refers to practical and philosophical alchemy. He describes how everything comes from “Hyleal, Pri-material, Catholic, or Universal Natural Chaos” and works towards perfection. The text is an amusing, but not easy, read; nicely published, but -like I said- in a fairly expensive little book.

2014 Salamander and Sons, isbn 0987520644

Arabic Script * Gabriel Mandel Khan (2006)

I saw a German translation of this book in the Grassi Museum in Leipzig. There was only one copy (left), so this was the copy that everybody opened to see what the book is about. I figured I would rather get me an English translation (which I read more easily) that went through less hands and so I did.

The full title of the book is Arabic Script: Styles, Variants, and Calligraphic Adaptations. The author’s name is also written Gabriele Mandel. He lived from 1924 to 2010 in Italy, even though he was from Afghan descent. Mandel was a Muslim and joined both the Naqshbandi and the Khalwati Sufi orders. He was also a student of the art of calligraphy. Some of his work can be found in the book.

At first sight it looked like a book with Arabic calligraphy with translations. It is not very big (180 pages) and a fairly quick read, mostly because of the many images. The author does seem to asume some basic knowledge on the part of his readership. Many terms are explained and there even even a little glossary at the end, but there are also many names of (Arabic) currents and authors that we apparently are supposed to know. Then there is the overwhelming amount of information. Mandel starts with summing up all kinds of different sorts of Arabic, styles of writing, pre- and post-Islam. Soon it seems as if every author developped his own script and style.
The author continues with saying something about the alphabet (or rather “abjadīyah” after the first two letters). Each character is put in a table with different forms, the way it looks as start-, middle-, end-character or ‘standing alone’ and Mandel says a few things about the interpretation of each character. These (Sufi-)interpretations read a bit like a Kabbalistic book with Hebrew characters. Some Arabic characters are given a meaning for the name of the character, numerological values and connections to one of the elements. Also examples of the character, either or not in calligraphy are given. The alphabeth has many characters, but there are a few extras that follow at the end.

After this, Mandel gives examples of calligraphy, so the reader may somewhat learn to distinguish the many styles and schools. He does not translate or transliterate each calligraphy, which is a bit of a pitty. Of course there are a few popular lines like the “Basmala” (“b-ismi-llāhi”, “In the name of God”) and the “Shahada” (“lā ʾilāha ʾillā-llāh”, “There is no god but God”).

A beautiful book to page through and certainly a nice reference-work, but not ‘the ultimate’ reference work on the subject.

2006 Abbeville Press, isbn 0789208792

The Grail – two studies * Alexander Jacob (2014)

And again Numen Books comes with an interesting title. This publisher is quickly developing the good habbit of publishing books about subjects that are (just) off the map for other publishing houses, while remaining within (relatively) scholarly fields. Books by (mostly) scholars about not-too-popular subjects so to say. Readable, nicely presented and thought-provoking too.

The present title promises “two studies” of the subject of the Grail. Alexander Jacob found a not too famous essay of Leopold von Schroeder (1851-1920) that this Estonian scholar published in 1910 in the German tongue. Jacob added an essay of similar length of himself making a book of a little under 300 pages. Von Schroeder’s and Jacob’s approaches are alike and when you expect 300 pages about the Grail, you might be disappointed. Both authors wrote massive pieces of comparitive mythology in which the Grail might be the final subject, but it is not touched upon that much. Von Schroeder describes a lot of Indian mythology -and here and there compares it to other mythologies- to show that the Grial is actually a vessel representing the sun.
Jacob goes a step further. He also uses mostly Indian mythology to go beyond the sun-vessel idea to find phallic symbolism at the basis of most mythology and -of course- most particularly the stories surrounding the Grail.
Both authors come up with a staggering amount of comparisons that I do not always find too convincing. Both indeed make a more than a few interesting remarks and make ‘un-Dumézilian’ conclusions that invite to rethink my own limited approach. Jacob also critices Von Schroeder in a somewhat annoyingly pedatic tone like by saying Von Schroeder (or Evola) is wrong, rather than he has a different opinion himself. Both authors make some slips when referring to Germanic mythology, but since they both seem to have Indian mythology as speciality, I asume the information there is all valid. The bottom line is that the source for both authors lays in the Far East (or perhaps a little futher back in time) and it is from that staring point, elements of the Grail stories are explained.

Like I said, another interesting new Numen book for those who like some good old comparitive myth.

2014 Numen Books, isbn 9780987559890

Freemasonry: Foundation of the Western Esoteric Tradition * Angel Millar (2013)

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

Intellectual Gallery * Troy Southgate (2014)

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

The Crescent And The Compass * Angel Millar (2015)

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

Assimilate: A Critical History of Industrial Music * S. Alexander Reed (2013)

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

Freemasonry – A History * Angel Millar (2005)

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

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