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.
Fight Your Own War is informative, not specific to any part of noise music (not excluding noise rock for example) or a period in time (we go from the early days to 2015). There are reviews and reports of live events, but no interviews. The book is styled like a magazine of times past and makes a descent read. It seems to aim at a more academic level in approach. What stroke me as a bit odd, is the use the terms that appear to be established, but I never ran into them before. “HNW” (‘harsch noise walls’) and “ANW” (‘ambient noise walls’) to refer to certain styles of noise also written as “wall noise”. This appears to be a different style from what I calls “walls of noise”. I guess in Gangleri terminology “HNW”, and especially “ANW” would be “noisescapes” since both appear to be hardly changing sound collages.
Not every text is as interesting as the next, but it is nice to read how artists are either deliberately ambiguous or not at all, why some artists use the imaginary (on stage, in artwork, etc.) that they use, etc. the thought of the artist or the listener. It also becomes clear that listening to noise is something different from listening to ‘normal music’. Indeed you cannot say that you like noise because of the melodies or because of the interplay of the different instruments. You can even ask yourself if listening to noise is enjoyable. Is it a ‘pleasure received through pain’? Such notions are also dealt with in the book.
The book is certainly not an encyclopedia. Many projects are not mentioned and many just in passing. There are a whole lot of names that I never heard before though, nicely mentioned in the index at the end. I do not think that this is ‘the ultimate book about noise’, but it is certainly more varied in approach than other books that I read, so in that regard it may be the best so far if you want to get an idea not just about the music and its history, but also about the artists and the listeners.
2016 Headpress, isbn 1909394408
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.
Gründer mentions more groups in Germany than I knew, but following his scheme on page 92, I can give you in idea of the heathen landscape in Germany.
Gründer mentions seven groups that he names “ariosophisch”: the Armanen Orde that was founded in 1908 and refounded in 1976. The order currently has about 100 members. The Goden-Orden was founded in 1957 and has about 100 members. The Artgemeinschaft – GGG e.V. was founded in 1951 and has about 150 members. The Dorflinde e.V./ Mittgard-Orden was founded in 1992 and has 10 people involved. The author puts these four groups in the “dogmatic” section of his scheme. “Undogmatic” yet “Ariosophisch” are Arbeitsgemeinschaft naturreligiöser Stammesverbände Europas (ANSE) e.V. (‘working society natural-religious tribal unity from Europe’), number of members unknown. Deutsche Heidnische Front (‘German Heathen Front’) has existed from 1996 until 2005 with about 15 people involved. Arbeitskreiz Naudhiz e.V. was founded in 2000 and has about 20 members.
Gründer not only divides the groups in “dogmatic” and “undogmatic”, but also in “universalistic” and “Völkish”. The second group of “eco-spirituals and tribalists” are halfway universalistic and Völkish. These groups are Yggdrasil-Kreis e.V. (‘Yggdrasil circle’), founded in 1974 and with about 50 members. Germanische Glaubensgemeinschaft e.V. (‘Teutonic faith society’), founded in 1991; 150 donators, around 15 members. Verein für Germanisches Heidentum e.V. (‘Society for Teutonic heathenry’), the German part of the Odinic Rite, founded in 1995 with about 60 members. Those were the “dogmatic” “eco-spirituals”.
“Undogmatic” are the Heidnische Gemeinschaft Berlin e.V. (‘Heathen society Berlin’), founded in 1985; 150 donators, 15 members.
The last group are the “postmodern” and “anti-Völkische” groups with one “dogmatic” group called Nornirs Aett (1994, 18 people involved).
“Undogmatic” are Rabenclan (‘Raven clan’) (1994, 100 members). Eldaring – The Troth Deutschland e.V. (2001, 200 members) and Asatru-Ring-Frankfurt (2005, 20 people involved).
So there you have the ‘scope of heathenry’ in Germany with a tiny bit of history and magnitude. Of course the numbers are from 2008, but this is better than nothing.
There is, of course, more information in this book. Gründer also has a timeline and scholarly reflections which may (or may not) be a reason to get this book.
2008 Logos, isbn 3832521062
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.
The author starts with about 100 pages with his own introduction, descriptions, etc. The subject at hand seems to be the concept of two cities, Hurqalya and Jabalqa, which are part of what Corbin calls the Mundus Imaginalis or “Imaginal world”. Many speculations have been made about the nature of these cities and its inhabitants. After a few of these speculations, Corbin prints “selections from traditional texts” which make out the next 170 pages. The texts are from authors from the 12th to the 19th centuries. Of most of them I never heard, but a better-known author that seems Corbin’s favorite is Shihabuddin Yahya Suhrawardi.
I cannot tell you a whole lot about this book. Perhaps the audience that Corbin aimed at is better versed in near Eastern religion and philosophy than myself. As a layman I can say that the part that Corbin wrote himself is informative enough (but I do not remember much of it) and the traditional texts vary from very dry to more mystical texts, the latter of which I prefer to read.
1977/1989 Bollingen Series, isbn 0691018839
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.
Elon Musk was born in South Africa in 1971. He had an adventurous father and an equally adventurous uncle. Also his youth was not too easy. Musk was a nerd and the whole school knew it, so he was picked upon often. Musk also was an avid reader. So badly even, that after he finished the entire local library, he just started to read encyclopedia. What is more, he remembers everything that he read. Also in his early days, Musk developed a perseverance that is almost unprecedented.
Having fallen in love with computers and his self-taught coding, Musk rolled into projects in the early days of the internet. Two of the most notable were his ideas to make some sort of online Yellow Pages with inbuilt navigation, the next was an online bank. Musk would oversee completion of neither project, but he did make a lot of money of them. (The banking project would become Paypal without Musk.) This money allowed Musk to pursue his much further-reaching ideas.
In a nutshell. In 2003 Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning started with Tesla, a year later Musk stepped in with his big bucks and his big ideas.
In 2006 Musk talked his nephews Peter and Lyndon Rive into starting a company making solar panels called SolarCity and became investor and board member.
In 2008 Musk gathered people and started a space company called SpaceX.
These are the three best-known of Musk’s companies. In the course of the book you will get many, many details about the ups and downs of each company and the way Musk leads this companies: (almost) tyrannically and with a long-term vision decades ahead of anybody else. Musk is both vilified and idolized and the book gives a good idea how. Here we have a man who sets out to try to save the world by making electric cars and solar energy affordable, but since he is not sure that we can make it, he already plans a way for human kind to survive on Mars. These plans span a period longer than his own life, but since there is no time to waste, not only renewable energy, but also space travelling should be affordable, stable and frequent in the near future.
The way Musk works towards these goals is exactly what this book is about. Indeed a look inside the head of a person ahead the rest of human kind in thinking. Somebody who has goals and goes to extremes to achieve them. Are we going to see a shortage in the production of batteries for electric cars in the near future? Build your own “mega factories”! How do you get many people on Mars? See that you can launch rockets multiple times a day instead of once a year. If these things cost Musk a couple of million of dollars of his personal wealth with the risk of loosing them? So be it.
Vance interviewed people close to Musk, people who used to be close to Musk and in the end, Musk decided to be interviewed himself. He will probably not always be overly happy with the book, since the author does not only highlight his good side, but I guess this biography is a fair overview of an extremely driven man; a man with a vision other than making a lot of money or selling gadgets, somebody who is prepared to go further to achieve goals that many governments seem to want to achieve as well. Perhaps we need more of people with a vision and the means to try to achieve them. Not that Musk has only brilliant ideas though, but you can read all about this in this book.
The author seems to have went from being an interested outsider to a ‘Musk-fan’ during the writing of this book. Sometimes the praise seems to be too easily given, but -like I said- Vance does not shy to describe the less-praiseworthy traits of Elon Musk.
A nice read.
2015 Ecco, isbn 0062301233
A book about Freemasonry by a man who also writes about Asatru. That could be something for these pages, right? Henning Klövekorn was born in Germany in 1975, lived in South Africa, but now lives in Australia. Klövekorn joined an Austrial lodge in 1997 (age 22). Nine years later the first edition of this book was published. Both this edition and the reprint became so popular that high prices are asked for copies, so in 2015 the author decided to make a print-on-demand version to ensure its accessibility.
Besides being a Freemason Klövekorn is a successive businessman, philanthropist, diplomat and in spite of all this success, openly Asatruar. The book even features a photo of him with a square and compass with two runes in the middle instead of the usual letter G. So would this book fulfill the promise of Klövekorn’s “[w]ork on the Anglo-Saxon of the origins of Freemasonry”? In a way, but not really in depth.
Actually, the book is a fairly general introduction into Freemasonry. What is different about this book from most similar books, is that it is not limited to so-called “regular” Freemasonry. The author also sketches the the rise of ‘progressive’ forms of Freemasonry. Also he gives information about kindred organisations, such as “friendly societies”, other “fraternal societies” (other from Freemasonry), an idea of the wealth of exotic Rites and ‘high’ and ‘side’ degrees, developments within the world of Freemasonry, some history of course and a part of Freemasonry that usually gets less attention, the charitable side of especially Freemasonry in the USA and the UK. At the end there are a few words about Masonic symbolism in art and monuments of Freemasonry.
There are almost 30 chapters which are fairly short. The book touches on a lot of different subjects, but does never really go into any depth. The author’s ‘Anglo-Saxon thesis’ is only touched upon, so maybe the “about the author” refers to another book. What seems to be the basis of this approach is that Freemasonry not only came to the British isles by fleeing Knights Templar, but also by Norse settlers from France who brought with them memories of Northern European life. Also there is a chapter about very early (1250) Freemasonry in Germany.
I think that “regular” Freemasons may not always be too happy with this book, but this is all the better for the many ‘progressive’ kind of Freemasons in this world. I do find it a bit weird that the mixed gender order Le Droit Humain is listed in the chapter “Related and Rival orders” between the Thule Society and the Bavarian Illuminati, while there is also a chapter about women in Freemasonry and Le Droit Humain is a Masonic society.
Also strange, even though this is a third edition, there are some strange errors, such as an alinea that is printed twice and some information that has not been worked out too well so it can cause confusion.
Should you enjoy reading the long lists of elaborate names of high degrees, this book is for you too. The author also deals with the basic symbolism behind a list of degrees.
“99 Degrees of Freemasonry” makes a nice introduction into the subject, but it is not really more than an introduction. It touches upon elements of ‘Masonic myth’ such as Egyptian origins, Knights Templar, etc. Hopefully the book is meant as a step-up to a better foundation of the more ‘controversial’ elements that Klövekorn seems to try to get across. Also it is nice to run into a book that does not shy some less popular angles on the subject. Since it is not expensive (under $ 20,- when you get the printing on demand) this title might be added to your wishlist.
2015 CreateSpace, isbn 9781466467583
Apparently there are people in my country interested in and working with the prechristian religion of our area of whom I never heard. Somehow I ran into an announcement of a newly erected Irminsul (or if you cannot read Dutch, try this Google translation). I am not entirely sure what to think of this project, but when I started to look for more information about the people behind this project, I found a book called “Saksische Tradities”, five years old and I never heard of it.
The title page says that there are German and English versions of the book. I did find the German one, but not an English version. If there is somebody who can point me to this English edition, please do.
Dominick ten Holt stepped into his father’s footstep2 by investigating the traditions of the area where both grew up, the Achterhoek, an area in the Province of Gelderland of the Netherlands. The reasoning is that Saxons lived there and the Saxon area was, of course, much larger. In the Western part is the area where the author is from. To the North it reached the coastal area of the Frisians, then going all the way up to Denmark, the Hartz-area in Germany as the farthest East and the Southernmost part is as South as Köln/Cologne. And of course the Saxons crossed the North Sea to the British Isles.
Ten Holt set out to investigate the religion, folklore, customs, etc. of the entire Saxon area thus showing where elements that can be found in Great Britain came from. The chapters sometimes seem especially written for the book, sometimes they are articles that have been published before. They span a variety of subjects spanning from seasonal feasting customs, etymology, expressions of art, folklore, reports of visits of Saxon sites and areas and of course history. The author is fairly fierce towards Christianisation, particularly the role of Charle’magne’ which he dubbed Charles the Butcher (some call him the Saxon-slayer).
Inspite of the focus on Saxon history, the author (actually authors, since there are also texts of Jan ten Holt), there is quite a bit of use of Icelandic sources, sometimes a bit too easily too perhaps. This is, of course, inevitable, but I wonder if an uninformed reader will always be able to tell the source of the information.
However I laude the effort to give extra attention to the tradition of the particular area and even more so because it is placed in a larger context, but I do not find the book particularly good or convincing. It is mostly gathered information that I already ran into in other places and nothing is specific enough for ‘Achterhoek aha moments’. The book may only be a step up to a larger and better worked out project, but I have not heard of any follow ups of it.
A positive side is that the book mentions visit-worthy sites that I was so far unaware of. Some ‘neo’, like the authors own runestone and a stonecircle of a group called Athanor, but there is also information about interesting remains in areas that I sometimes visit, but was unaware of.
It looks like the first printing is starting to run out, but the book is not too easy to find second hand. Neither is it very expensive and it is nicely printed and comes in a hardcover with photos and about 270 pages of content.
A nice surprise.
2011 Uitgeverij Van de Berg, isbn 9789055123582
A decade and a half or so ago, I was very interested in Hermetism, (Christian) Kabbalah and the like. I travelled to the Amsterdam Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica (or Ritman Library) every once in a while. That has been quite a while. Some time ago I wondered if the library would have publications that I do not have yet and I noticed this book about Johannes Reuchlin (1455-1522). Wondering why I never came to get it (or why I did not visit the exhibition!) I got this well-printed book for only € 10,-. Actually it is an exhibition catalogue, but at the BPH, a catalogue is never just a dry summing up of the items on display.
The book is about A4 in size and counts just over 100 pages. As with other BPH exhibition catalogues, there is a lot of information in the book. From the book you can learn how Reuchlin was in contact with people such as Marcilio Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, Johannes Trithemius and many more of the interesting people of his time. Pico acquainted Reuchlin with the Kabbalah and he had yet another branch to add to his quickly growing library. Hebrew books, and Kabbalistic books in particular, were very hard to find in these days.
There is quite a bit of focus on Reuchlin’s role in the situation of the forbidding of Jewish books. He had a standpoint that brought him quite a bit of trouble. He did not want all Jewish books destroyed.
You will also learn about Reuchlin’s library and what happened to the books after he passed (most were only destroyed during WWII!), what else he wrote about and how his works inspired people who came after him.
You will not learn too much about his Kabbalistic ideas though.
Like I said, the book is actually the catalogue of an exhibition that the BPH had on Reuchlin in 2005/6 to celebrate the 550th anniversary of his birth. The BPH has a massive collection of ancient esoteric books, many originals and first or early prints. Still they had some works come from other libraries for this exhibition. The items on display included works of Ficino, Pico, Eusebius, Pythagoras, Agrippa, Trithemius, Gikatilla, Khunrath, Böhme and Fludd. Of course many works of Reuchlin himself were displayed.
Each displayed item gets a shorter or longer explanation.
There are not a whole lot of images in the catalogue (too bad), but the catalogue makes a very nice read about an interesting person living in an interesting time.
2005 In De Pelikaan
This is Snyder’s dissertation for her Master’s degree at the Union Institute & University. She put it up on Lulu and you can buy it looking probably quite like what she handed over to her instructors. A ringed, 80 page, A4 booklet with space for all the authographs of approval and a lot of white between the lines. Oddly enough some typos are left. Also Snyder uses some strange transliterations, such as “Seith” (the word is not Seiþr, but Seiðr) and the author is very consequent in leaving away accents (so am I most of the time). Perhaps a word for the reasons would have been in order.
This paper is quite like the book of Jennifer Snook, but predates that investigation by six years. Snyder interviewed 15 women who adhere “the Asatru religion”. These interviews are woven into a story with here and there quotes from the interviews. The questions that the ladies got, are printed in the back, along with a glossary (other terms are explained in notes) with sometimes a bit too easy explanations. All the way in the back is a short bibliography which includes titles from Titchenell, Thorsson/Flowers and Gardell but also Strmiska.
The interviewees (including Diana Paxton of The Troth and Sheila McNallen of the Asatru Folk Assembly) were asked how they see their religion, how they perceive the role of women and how this relates to the Goddess movement, magic, ethnicity and how they see the future of Asatru.
Just as Snooks book shows, there is a lot of overlap between the different approaches to Asatru, but also many differences, also fundamental differences. Snyder approached women in a variety of approaches and says a few times that even though “Asatru” is a somewhat limiting term within the larger “pagan” movement, it still covers a variety of interpretations. These differences mostly show in the subjects of heathen clergy and ethnicity. It is also in these types of subjects that I (as a European) see much difference between European and American heathenry.
What is much different from Snooks book is that where Snook investigated obviously as an experienced insider, Snyder never says where she stands. Is she an interested outsider or, like Snook, an insider with academic aspirations?
This little book may not bring a whole lot of new insights, but there are not that many investigations into contemporary heathenry and it is not very expensive, so it may make a nice in-betwee-read for you some time.
In 1987 The Ring Of Troth was one of the organisations coming forth from the Asatru Free Assembly (the other was the Asatru Alliance, which would later become the Asatru Folk Assembly). The Ring Of Troth was founded by Edred Thorsson and James Chisholm. The former left the organisation in 1995 due to controversies around his membership of the Temple Of Seth. Thorsson is of course nowadays more famous for running the Rune Gild and as an author on eoteric heathen topics.
The Troth came up with something smart. They digitalised their periodical Idunna which is now available from the self-publishing-on-demand company Lulu.com. You can pick an ebook or printed version. Each and every issue, from the first of 1988 to the 103th of Spring 2015 is available from Lulu. When I noticed this, I looked around which issue(s) to buy and I figured I would try the 100th issue (Summer 2014) because it is a ‘best of’ compilation. That should give a good idea of the development of the magazine.
#100 Opens with a recent and an old “Steersman”s introduction. Then follow two (relatively) famous (ex?) members, the earlier mentioned Thorsson and Eric Wodening who is nowadays better known as a major figure in the þheodism-movement (his brother Swain is also featured by the way). Now of course The Troth is an “inclusive” heathen organisation, so a þeodsman, Asatruar or whatever kind of heathen can still be a member, but those are not the first names I expected. Two people who I did expect are Kveldulf Gundarsson and Diana Paxson who are, of course, featured. Of Winifred Hodge a text about oathing is reprinted. Then follows a text is about Seiðr (by Jordsvin), a fairly odd (yet amusing) text about psychic ‘warfare’. There are texts about Alfar, hospitality, handicraft, cooking and there is poety and some humour. The best text (in my opinion) is Ben Waggoner’s “Some Thoughts on Evolution”, a heathen take on the creation of things of someone who is a teacher on the subject of evolution in his ‘normal life’.
The 100th Idunna is an A4-sized, magazine-styled, 50 page publication, quite like the normal issues I assume. They did not turn the celebration issue into a thick book or anything looking more festive than a regular issue. The upside of that is that also this issue costs only $ 6,- like any other issue. The lay-out looks a bit like somebody is still trying to find his/her way with DSP software (‘desktop publishing’). Some articles are printed in one column, other in two, yet other in three. Fortunately the fonts and font-size are the same throughout the publication, but the headings get all kinds of weird fonts. A matter of taste I asume.
I guess #100 gives a descent overview of almost three decades of Idunna with a variety of subjects and authors. I found it mostly just an amusing read with a couple of more interesting texts. An intention to buy and read all other issues did not really grow from this encounter, but I guess that when I will make some Lulu order in the future, I just might get myself one or two Idunnas again.
It had been a while since I read a book like this. On a forum somebody asked about ASH sources (Anglo-Saxon Heathenry) and somebody recommended this book. It is available cheaply second hand, so that was a good inducement to read something ‘heathen’ again.
The persion inquiring about ASH sources might have had a book in mind solely about Anglo-Saxon heathenry. Owen continuously refers to Scandinavian heathenry. This is not unexpectedly, since however there certainly are Anglo-Saxon sources, the Eddas, etc. give a much more complete look at the world of Gods and spirits. Rites And Religions does give a good idea about what is available for Anglo-Saxon souces though. The cross-references are needed to put things in perspective and to explain things that are not available in Anglo-Saxon sources.
The most interesting chapter is the opening chapter “Gods and Legends”. It has quite a few images, quotes from tales and poems and general information about Gods and the like. A chapter about every day life is followed by a chapter about inhumation versus cremation. Both ways of disposing of the bodies of the deceased existed alongside eachother. The fourth chapter about ship burials starts interestingly, but soon becomes but an extremely detailed description of what was found where and when. Something similar happens in the chapter about “The Arrival of Christianity”. The chapter is overflooded with details about artifacts and the like. The last chapter about the Viking age has a few interesting points, but also here tends towards the very historic approach.
The book is good to get a general idea of Anglo-Saxon history, but I did not alway found it a great read. I suppose it works well as something to read as starters on the subject.
There are several versions of this book by the way, published by different publishing houses. I got the following:
1985 Dorset Press, isbn 0880290463
The author is “a Lecturer in Philosophy and Visual Culture” in Ireland. Also he has a label (Dot Dot Dot Music) and he “occasionally performs in the noise “bands” Safe, and Working With Children.” He writes books about music and about philosophy.
In the current title you will find many references to philosophers such as Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Georges Bataille and more. Also, the term “noise” is not used in the same way as I use it on this website, to refer to a specific kind of (industrial) music. For Hegarty “noise” can be anything from consciously playing with the listeners’ expectations, to intentional ‘mistakes’, to unruly ‘messages’ (or the lack of them) to sounds that are unpleasant. Therefor the book is not just about industrial music.
The book has chapters about early musical experimentations, jazz music, rock music, industrial music and hiphop and then more in depth about the scene in Japan and then Merzbow in particular. The last chapters are about sound-art and about sampling. The author knows a massive amount of bands and projects, largely unknown to me (except for in the chapters about industrial). He discusses the (possible) functions of noise in music and the different ways of making noise. Somewhat generally speaking, the book is about the history of experimental and avant-garde music. It is not always clear how one type of music ‘grew’ from another, but I can say that the book will teach you a bit about the context where much of the music reviewed on this website can be placed in.
2007/2015 Bloomsbury, isbn 0826417272
I had heard of the French author Henry Corbin (1903-1978) a couple of times and I thought it was time to read something of this author whom some regard as a Traditionalist, others certainly do not. He definately was a scholar in comparitive religion.
I set out for titles that are well available and potentially interesting. The thin (160 pages) “Swedenborg And Esoteric Islam” is one of the two books that I got.
The title of this book suggests that Emmanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) had something to do with esoteric Islam, that the former was influenced by the latter or vice versa, but that is not what this book is about. Corbin taught Islamic studies at the Sorbonne University and he deeply studied Swedenborg. He certainly found resemblances, but that does not mean that there are direct links between the two subjects of this book.
The translator Leonard Fox says in his introduction that Corbin does not have an easy writing style. He sure is right about that! The book does not make an easy read. It is a bit like a mash of information not too well structured to easily make sense. Yet the book makes a good read. As for Islam, the author mostly focusses on Isma’ilism, a branch of Shi’ism (also: Shia Islam), but other forms of Islam are also written about.
There are chapters about the Hermeneutics of Swedenborg, that of Isma’ilism and of course there are comparisons between the two. Sometimes Corbin goes so deeply into a subject, that it is hard to figure out how this information fits into the whole of the book. The subjects that are dug out in both ‘systems’ mostly are the story of Noah and the flood and what Corbin called the “imagninal world”.
It is quite interesting to see much distinct philosophies used to explain each-other. This way of working brings some surprising comparisons and unexpected clarifications even when the book requires some effort to read.
1995 Swedenborg Foundation, isbn 9780887851837
I knew about this book because it was (is?) high up the wish-list of a few friends. It has been out of print for ages and has long been up for a reprint. I was reminded about it because it is advertised in the back of “Industrial Evolution“. That book is about Cabaret Voltaire, but it also describes the foundation of SAF Publishing who published the first version of “England’s Hidden Reverse” in 2003. That print is now exchanging hands for preposterous prices. By the time I was reminded of the title, I had no problem of getting the Strange Attractor Press reprint for a descent price.
The book is subtitled “A Secret History of the Esoteric Underground” which suggests (to me at least) that the focus may not be entirely on music. That is not really the case though. You will learn something about the (developing) interests of the people described, but the focus is by far mostly the music.
Amazon lists a first-print hardcover with has “Coil-Current 93-Nurse with Wound” in the title. There -indeed- you have the main players of the book. The book is mostly built on inderviews with David Tibet (mostly known for Current 93), (ex-)members of Coil (John Balance, Drew McDowall, Ossian Brown, Peter Christopherson, Stephen Thrower) and people involved in Nurse With Wound (Steven Stapleton, Andrew Liles, Heman Pathak, John Fothergill). Also people like Genesis P-Orridge, William Bennett, Douglas Pearce and Rose McDowell have been interviewed along with (ex-)partners of the ‘main characters’.
The book has a bit of an odd style. It is divided into chapters, but within these chapters the different alinea can suddenly be about another person, so you are reading about the youth of David Tibet and the next thing you know you are reading about John Balance. The content is often very personal. The interviewees talk about their lives, dreams, drug experiments, addictions, relations and sex-lives. Of course you will also learn a lot about the musical development of the people involved. What and who influenced them? How did they get to know all the people they collaborated with?
The result shows a rather diffuse net (or “family”) of people who grow towards eachother and apart again, who live together and split up again and of course: who sometimes make music together. This “family” also consists of other kinds of artists such as writer William S. Burroughs or director Derek Jarman.
“England’s Hidden Reverse” makes a nice read with people with broad interests in all kinds of fields, whose personalities develop (like Tibet from a shadowy occultist to a Buddhist to a Chritian and who started making electronic (noisy) music and would shift towards a more folky sound). Especially numerous names of vague bands and projects are mentioned, forgotten releases and many, many albums of the mentioned projects that I never heard.
It would have been nice had the book lived up a bit more to my expectation based on the subtitle. Here and there you get a glimpse of the philosophy of some person, the weird rituals that they performed, the authors that they are interested in and the way they meet musicians because of a shared interest in (for example) Crowley. Speaking of Crowley, there are some odd family ties to him for more than one person in the book. These occult, esoteric, philosophical and religious sides of the people involved are usually just mentioned in passing and nowhere goes into any depth.
My conclusion would be that this book is mostly of interest of people curious about the musical (and to a certain extend personal) development of the members of “family” around Current 93, Coil and Nurse With Wound. For a peek into the ‘occult underground’ you may need to find another title.
2003 SAF Publishing, 2014 Strange Attractor Press, isbn 0946719403
I ran into this book when I was doing a little investigation into Steiner’s ‘Masonic adventure‘. Halfway the book I had enough information to write that article, but I finished the book before I wrote this review.
As you can see in the article, it is not really Freemasonry what this book is about. Steiner wanted to form a lineage for his esoteric school and opted for an irregular form of Freemasony: the Rite of Memphis-Misraim. Therefor one of the working titles for the group was “Misraim Dienst” or “Misraim Service” in the English translation.
The book contains a lengthy introduction of how Steiner came in contact with the Rite of Memphis Misraim, how the Antroposophical Society started and its Esoteric School. The English translation differs of the German introduction in view. Like most books of Rudolf Steiner, this book is a collection of lectures, notes, etc. that have been compiled and published after Steiner’s death. The current title also has notes of students, scans of drawings and sketches, etc.
The first part of the book is really about the Misraim Dienst itself, but about halfway the book switches to lectures that were not necessarily for the esoteric group, but can just as well just touch on a related subject. When the lectures do speak of the rituals or an element therefrom, they can still be lengthy exposes about what the earth and humans looked like in the time of Lemuria or Atlantis, things that Steiner claimed to know from “the Akasha chronicles”, clairvoyant investigations.
It is safe to say -therefor- that the current title is a relatively typical Antroposophical publication, but what is different from most Steiner titles is that this book clearly shows the esoteric side of Antroposophy and Rudolf Steiner. It is a book that is probably interesting for Freemasons because there are both similarities and big differences to Masonic rituals. People interested in Steiner and Antroposophy might enjoy reading lectures that were never meant to be public, but Steiner’s death changed that idea.
I find the first half interesting, the second half a bit ‘too much’ here and there.
2007 SteinerBooks, isbn 0880106123
For a long time I had wanted to read texts of the Advaita Vedanta and a while ago I ran into this title. The title is promising. The subtitle is too: “A New Source Book of Advaita Vedanta”. That sounds like some sort of ultimate collection of Vedantic texts. It is published by a Traditionalistic publishing house which was also a reason to purchase it.
The back cover quotes Richard Brooks saying: “[This book] is overall an excellent collection of Advaita philosophic literature”. Indeed it is “philosophic”. The book proves again that I do not have a whole lot of feeling for philosophy, whether Western or Eastern. I guess I expected more religious type of texts, but the texts are actually very much philosophical.
The best part of the book are the 80 page introduction and the short summery at the end. These texts are written by the editors, nicely to the point and well-structured. The rest of the book is filled with texts of Vedantic thinkers from many upto a few centures ago. The names are well-known and lesser-known (at least, to me), the most famous of course being Samkara. Especially in the first part of the translated texts, they are very long. Towards the end there are some shorter texts. There are translations that have been published before and translations that were not available until this book came out. The editors compiled the translations and did not make them themselves. Inspite of the number of different translators, the translations are nicely consistent in style and choice of words/terms. Perhaps the book costed quite some editing.
Like I said, the texts are very philosophical. Different views are combed through, other ways of thinking analysed and all that in (mostly) long stretched texts with many repetitions. I found it hard to keep my attention on more than a few occasions. I prefer to read more to the point texts or -like I said in the beginning- religious texts.
Perhaps this book is indeed the (or: an) ultimate book about Advaita Vedanta and I just had other expectations of the sort of texts that this ‘current’ produced and I should just get myself a translation of Vedas. When you are interested in Eastern philosophy, this book may be a good one to read up on Advaita Vedanta from very old to old.
2004 World Wisdom, isbn 0941532526