The Forge And The Crucible – Mircea Eliade (1956/78)

I enjoy reading about alchemy and I love the books of Mircea Eliade. So how does it come that I did not read Eliade’s book about alchemy? Time to fix that!

The Forge and the Crucible is a relatively small book which is based on a paper that Eliade wrote as a student. In the second edition Eliade did not rewrite his book, but he did add a (not too interesting) essay on the latest developments in the research in the field.

Eliade’s book on “The Origins and Structure of Alchemy” (the subtitle) is not your usual book about alchemy. It has not many fancy images and does not try to explain alchemical symbolical drawings. Rather, Eliade approached the subject as a “historian of religions”. So he starts with religious views on meteorites and metals, continues with smiths and and metal-working in the iron age and only slowly works towards the period which most books about alchemy are about. Eliade collected information of a vast number of “primitive” societies and their metal-workings, offerings to the furnace and trance-induced visions. Smiths, warriors and eventually initiation. read more

The Great Triad – René Guénon (1991)

I was rereading some works of Guénon and there were several reverences to this book that I did not have. I could quickly get a cheap copy of it, so this is a title to add to my Guénon library. Most other books are published by Sophia Perennis, but this time I got a Quinta Essentia book.

As the cover of this version suggests, there is quite some ‘Chinese information’ in this book. The symbol is called Wang and the three horizontal lines Guénon connects to heaven, man and earth, the vertical line connects the three. Hence: a triad. There are many more references to (ancient) Chinese philosophy in this book. read more

Against The Modern World – Mark Sedgewick (2014)

I have known about this book since it came out, but I do not remember why I never bought it. Perhaps it was first published as an expensive academic publication? The colofon says: copyright 2004, but first issued as a paperback 2009. In that case I still could have bought it 8 years ago.

The subtitle is “Traditionalism and the secret intellectual history of the twentieth century”. That already implies that the book is not just a biography of the most famous Traditionalists. It looks a bit like the author had to stretch the concept a bit to fill the book though. read more

Renaissance Man And Mason – Piers Vaughan (2016)

Somewhere I read that this author writes about Freemasonry and alchemy. When looking for such a title, I saw no such book. Among the titles of this author at Amazon, the present one seemed the most interesting.

“Renaissance Man and Mason” is a reference to the fact that the author has broad interests like the Renaissance ‘homo universalis’, at least, he is of the opinion that a Freemason should study further than just memorising the ritual.

The book is a collection of lectures that Vaughan gave during the course of many years and at different meetings. Some were addressed at lodges, others at public events. Most of them he gave more than once and here he presents the final version. read more

Women’s Agency And Rituals In Mixed And Female Masonic Orders – Alexandra Heidl & Jan Snoek (editors) (2008)

This book is published by the Dutch academic publisher Brill and these books are always very expensive. The publisher sells the book for € 181,-, the Amazon prices start at $ 194,-. It seems that when you are affiliated to a University, you can get a cheap (€ 25,-) printing-on-demand through Brill.com/mybooks.

As the title suggests the book is about women in Freemasonry and similar orders. It is a collection of essays of a variety of authors. There are some very interesting texts in the book based on meticulous investigations, so it is too bad that these are only available to a specialist audience. Brill has many interesting titles, but you either have to dig deep into your pocket to buy it or to be lucky. read more

Zingeving In Het Westen * Peter van Abspoel (2016)

I do not often buy books spontaneously, but when my eye fell on a cover with an image of the Berserkr of the Lewis chessboard together with the words “zingeving” (literally: ‘giving meaning’) and “strijdersethos” (‘warrior ethics’) my attention was caught. It quickly became clear that this is not my ‘usual literature’, but it appeared that the author has something to say about the importance of tradition and the loss of it. I decided to take it home. read more

De Pansofie Van Comenius * Henk Woldring (2016)

Early 2015 I somehow heard that professor H.E.S. Woldring would present his first book about Jan Amos Comenius with a lecture at the university where he used to lecture. That first book was a biography of Comenius. Two years later the author presents a book about Comenius’ “pansophy” as he called it himself.

The book is only 200 pages and relatively expensive, but like the first book it is a good-looking hardcover. In a large number of short chapters Woldring analyses Comenius’ philosophy and how it developed. He starts with some general remarks about the man Jan Amos Comenius and about his ‘project’. Then follow, roughly chronologically, analyses about Comenius’ philosophy and the books he wrote in different periods. Woldring also uses Comenius’ own “syncritical” method on his own ideas. read more

The Poetic Edda * Maria Kvilhaug (2016)

I have known the name of the Norwegian Maria Kvilhaug (1975-) for some time, but never got to read anything of her. The apparently most interesting title The Seeds Of Yggdrasil (2012) is very expensive and then my eye fell on this very recent (November 2016) little book with “Six Cosmology Poems” that Kvilhaug had translated herself. What is more, she put the original text and her translations side-by-side and added notes to explain why she made the translations the way she did.

There is a need for these explanations, because Kvilhaug does not shy to come up with wholly different translations from what we are used to. The texts the author translated are the Voluspa, Vafthrudnismal, Grimnismal, Grottasongr, Allvismal and Hyndluliod.
These texts she says are from “creative poets who composed poetry of their own. The Edda poems contain a lot of ancient themes and profoundly Heathen material, but they have also been composed by poets who had an agenda: To convey wisdom through the art of metaphors.” (p. ii)
In the introduction Kvilhaug explains her position further. read more

Vikingen * Luit van der Tuuk (2015)

My father in law bought this book and figured I might want to read it. “Vikingen, Noormannen in de Lage Landen” (‘Vikings, Normans in the Low Countries’) is a revised and expanded version of the same book that the author published in 2008. Van der Tuuk is conservator in the Dorestad museum (and in that capacity I once had a guided tour from him). Dorestad was the most famous Dutch trading town that was sacked and burned down by Viking raiders several times.

It is exactly the image of ravaging barbarians that the author aims to revise. Most information we have about the period of the Viking raids comes from Christian authors who depicted the situation worse than it actually was. Of course they also benefited from depicting the heathens as barbarians. read more

The Secret History Of Twin Peaks * Mark Frost (2016)

The brilliant series of Twin Peaks are usually connected to director David Lynch. Lynch was only one of the creators though, Mark Frost being the other. In all the fuss around ’25 year later’, again all attention seems to go to Lynch. And there we have Mark Frost himself publishing a Twin Peaks book just before the launch of the third series. Frost even did an “AMA” (‘ask me anything’) on Reddit a little while back.

So is Frost’s book going to give all the answers about Twin Peaks’ mysteries? The title suggests it does not. “A Novel” it says on the cover. Actually, it is not really a novel either. The book is presented as a found dossier about Twin Peaks, its surroundings, its inhabitants and -indeed- its mysteries. read more

Frimurerne I Vikingtiden * Arvid Ystad (2016)

“Freemasonry In Viking Times” is a book written by the Norwegian Freemason Arvid Ystad, a civil engineer and layman historian. He chose a subject that you may have run into more often on this website: origins of Masonic symbolism that can be found in prechristian Northern Europe.

The book is written in Norwegian. I have not found a place to get it outside Norway and the publisher (where I ordered it) has no plans for an edition in another language. So I read the book in Norwegian and I wrote an article based on it from this exercise. You can find that article here. read more

Fight Your Own War * Jennifer Wallis (editor) (2016)

I have recently reviewed a few books about (extreme) industrial music and wondered why there is so little information about the German scene in them. To me it seems that German industrial culture has made (and still makes) a big mark on the industrial underground. Well, here we have a book with a title referring to Genocide Organ, so that is a good start.

Fight Your Own War: Power Electronics and Noise Culture is a collection of essays from a variety of authors and with a variety of subjects. After a foreword by Mike Dando (Con-Dom) and an introduction by the editor, we set of with The Genesis of power electronics in the UK. This is, of course, a historical view on early British power electronics with anecdotes. This is probably the better known part of the book, but we also get a similar insight in the Finish, Japanese and American scenes. In Japan noise seems to be experienced differently from Europe or America. There are essays more circling around one project or one person, but also one about the ‘zine culture.
The second part of the book is more focused on the experience of noise and power electronics. The texts here are about experiencing the music life, the shock tactics that are used, the making of these types of music, the development of the scene, etc.
The third part puts the stress on philosophy and ideas, or the lack of them, used many artists. Power electronics as comedy; but also texts more critical towards the scene such as the fiercely feminist text by Sonia Dietrich. read more

Germanisches (Neu-)Heidentum In Deutschland * René Gründer (2008)

I had been looking for information about contemporary heathenry in Germany without luck and then I ‘accidentally’ run into this book. I do not even remember how.

“Teutonic (Neo-)Heathenry In Germany” is a small book of 120 pages written with the distant view of an anthropologist and therewith not entirely what I hoped to have found. The book makes a nice read though with some information that I did hope to find.

The book is largely defining definitions and placing contemporary heathenry in a larger context. The author sees three phases for paganism in Germany that also represent three currents. From the 1900’s there are “Völkish” / “folkish” groups, often of an Ariosophic breed. From the 1970’ies there are ecological and New Age groups that grow into “eco-spiritual” and “tribal” groups. Again a few decades later, the “universal” groups start to emerge and the “folkish” elements start to be repressed in the larger heathen community. read more

Spiritual Body And Celestial Earth * Henry Corbin (1977)

However in writing style, this book is a much easier read than the recently reviewed Swedenborg and Esoteric Islam, this new title proved to be quite a read. It is not like it is extremely big (372 pages a large part notes and biography) and I thought I knew a thing or two about Mazdeism and Shi’ite Islam, but this book constantly gave me a feeling of information overload with descriptions that I did not (immediately) understand or failed to see the connections aimed at. Still the book makes a nice read and some of the traditional texts that are published are beautiful, but it is not like I have a clear idea of what this book is actually about. read more

Elon Musk * Ashley Vance (2015)

Not my usual kind of literature. Heck, I do not even have a category for a biography. I read an article about Elon Musk (1971-) best known for owning the Tesla factories, and how this man thinks differently from most people. A friend had just read this biography and by way of variation in reading, I decided to give it a go as well. I did not exactly read Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future in one take. During holidays (after finishing other books that I brought) I read quite a part of the book, but after that it mostly acted as ‘time-fill-up-reading’. The book is not bad or boring or something, but not as groundbreaking as some suggest. read more