Acta Macionica volume 27 (6017)

Even though the latest volume has been available or a couple of months, it took some effort to get hold of a copy. #27 Is again a massive journal of almost 400 pages with 21 essays. As we grew used to, the first texts are written-out talks held at the Ars Macionica research lodge. This includes the only text in English, one of David Harrison about Lord Byron.

The opening text in in Dutch and from the hand of the current Worshipful Master of the study lodge Koenraad Logghe. The author investigates how Freemasonry fits in the research of esotericism of scholars such as Antoine Faivre, Kocku von Stuckrad and Wouter Hanegraaff. Logghe ends his lengthy text with a very interesting Traditionalistic take on Freemasonry which is not entirely unlike the books of Fabio Venzi that I recently reviewed.

After this we alternately get a text in French and Dutch (and one in English), but towards the end the texts in French start to prevail. As I said before, I can read French, but not too well, so I simply tried to see how interesting the French texts were to see if I should put in some effort. One of the more interesting of these is about Paulus Riccius, the Christian Cabalist (hence the cover of the book) which seems to contain mostly fairly common information about (Christian) Cabala but with some links to Freemasonry. I would not mind a translation of this text!

Other texts contain one about doors and inside versus outside, 18th century Freemasonry, Der Zauberberg of Thomas Mann, women in (adoptive) Freemasonry by the Dutch scholar Jan Snoek who wrote in French, again some texts about Freemasonry during WWII and other subjects. read more

Aristokratia III – K. Deva (editor) (2015)

I guess I am quite at a loss trying to follow Primordial Tradition, erm… Numen Books, or was it Manticore Press? Also the website changed a couple of times and there are several channels on Facebook. So by the time I heard of Gwendolyn Taunton’s latest book called Tantric Traditions, I discovered that by then I had missed two volumes in the Aristokratia series and a book called Operative Traditions. Time to catch up!

Aristokratia is the more political branch of the series of journals. This third volume is subtitled “Hellas”, so in most essays you will run into Plato and Greek democracy, but there is also a lot of Evola, Nietzsche and a few texts that have nothing to do with either Greece or politics, probably texts that fitted better in this journal than in any of the others.

Politics, not entirely my subject. As expected there is a lot of criticism towards democracy, contemporary culture and society and, as the title of the journal suggests, a (new) aristocracy that has to be built in order for the world to survive.

The most interesting article is one of the ‘out of place’ texts and speaks about how Mircea Eliade actually saw Traditionalism, Guénon and Coomaraswamy. Eliade is often seen as a Traditionalist (light), but this is a bit of a one-sided view on the man it seems.

From ancient politics to more recent ones and even a manifesto to build a new form of society, these are the subject that you will find in this journal. The more ‘practical’ side of contemporary Traditionalism so to say. read more

Freemasonry, The Esoteric Tradition – Fabio Venzi (2016)

If I am correct, there are now three books of Fabio Venzi available in English. The first book was a collection of essays called The Influence Of Neoplatonic Thought On Freemasonry, which I can only find for a preposterous price of $ 368,29. Then we have the previously reviewed Studies On Traditional Freemasonry and this one. The last two are available from Lewis Masonic.

In spite of the title, the present book does not have a whole lot of information about Freemasonry. Rather, it is a contemporary Traditionalistic book with some references to Freemasonry. The author starts with an introduction to Traditionalism and speaks about some of its best-known exponents. Interesting in this part is that he comments on some of the ideas of people such as Guénon, Evola and Coomaraswamy.
Later on some ‘less likely Traditionalists’ are spoken about, such as Carl Gustav Jung of whom Venzi seems to be quite fond. Jung gets many pages which do not really interest me.
Just as in the previous book that I reviewed, there are other parts which I fail to see the significance of. Largely, the book is interesting though and Venzi again proves to have some interesting and thought-provoking ideas. He also has a couple of interesting views on Masonic symbolism.

I enjoyed Studies… more, but The Esoteric Tradition again makes a nice read, especially because it is a contemporary Traditionalistic work which also dares to thread other paths than the usual.

2016 Lewis Masonic, isbn 0853185344 read more

The Emerald Tablet: Alchemy For Personal Transformation – Dennis William Hauck (1999)

A while ago I wanted to read a book that treats alchemy as a spiritual path rather than giving the next history of “proto science”.

Unfortunately my opinion about this book is similar to Ambelain’s Spiritual Alchemy. There are interesting parts, but also large parts that are more like a “spiritual guidebook”.

Contrary to Ambelain, Hauck’s book does not have the best part in the beginning. The book starts a bit as a Dan Brown like book with a story about Hermes Trismegistus and which historical characters (mind the “s”) have been Hermes. A story about a young man who finds the Emerald Tablet, figures out the meaning, reaches enlightenment and becomes the third Hermes. Not quite the type of book I was looking for…

The author sees the Emerald Tablet as the original and major text of esotericism and when its secrets are unraveled, both spiritual and material alchemy belong to your abilities. And so Hauck traces the Emerald Tablet through the ages and regions of the world. Along with that journey Hauck tells about alchemists, Hermetists, old and contemporary. Also he has information about more general spiritual development and comes with meditation practices and the like. He also uses the phases of alchemy to explain phases in spiritual growth and each phase gets an autobiographical story. More interesting (to me) is that he also explains a few alchemical drawings (mostly from Atalanta Fugiens) at length, pointing at details that I never noticed. read more

Atlantis And The Cycles Of Time – Joscelyn Godwin (2010)

Some ‘light literature’, suggestion of a friend. This is mostly because Guénon is on the cover.

“Atlantis”, you get it. Godwin searched the literature of the ages to find out what was written about Atlantis (and Lemuria). He starts with “Atlantis of the Rationalists” and deals with scholarly investigations of when and where Atlantis would have been found. This part is amusing, but not extremely interesting.
Next up is the “French esoteric Tradition” with the likes of Fabre d’Olivet, Papus and Schuré. These are followed by “H.P. Blavatsky and the Early Theosophists”, “later Theosophists”, “Germanic Anthology” (mostly so-called “Ariosophists” and then we have “Two Traditionalists”, Gueénon and Evola. “The Britons” are followed by “Some Independents” (not influenced by earlier literature). The last group of Atlantic investigators are New Age channelers and spiritualists.
Godwin closes with the second part of his title, the idea that the world develops in cycles. These are the four declining cycles of the Traditionalists, but there are other theories. We learn a bit about how long which cycle lasted or lasts and the (big) differences between the different theories. Of course also the end of the world is written about. A connected subject forms the end of the book “The Precession of the Equinoxes”.

The book makes an alright read. I am not so much interested in the theories about Atlantis, but the author manages to put the writers of these ideas and their theories in the perspective of their thinking and the lineage (or the lack thereof) of that thinking. This biographical information about (relatively) famous and obscure authors is what I mostly enjoyed about the book. Godwin writes with humour and critique in his always accessible style. read more

Asatru – Henning Andreas Klövekorn (2013)

I actually do not know how it comes that it took me almost two years to get Klövekorn’s other book. Previously I reviewed his book about Freemasonry.

Like the later edition of the Freemasonry book, Asatru is available as a cheap print-on-demand book. The author surely does not want hindrances for people to obtain his writings.

Besides being a Freemason, Klövekorn is ‘Asatruar’, a “gothi” even. The author was born in Germany, lived in South Africa, but I think it was in Australia (where he still lives) that he started to pursue the path of Asatru. The little book of 226 pages makes a somewhat shallow introduction into the subject. As there are not many writings of contemporary heathens, this is good for people who are looking for first info, but less so for people who hoped for more in depth insides.

There are quite a couple of negative things to say about the book. Klövekorn uses the term “Asatru” as a very general term but I do not know if a new reader will know it is but an umbrella term. What always stings me a bit, is that Klövekorn uses the same term to refer to the religion of old. So people who lived centuries back, were also “Asatruars” while the term is only a few decades old. Even Stonehenge is an Asatru monument to Klövekorn, so the generalisation also crosses cultures.

Then there is the fact that the author is very loose with his retellings of myths and sagas. Odin made his spear Gungir himself from a branch of Yggdrasil. Eh? Also Odin was blown into the same tree by a strong wind and hung there for nine days head-down. Eh?
Oftentimes I have the idea that Klövekorn wrote the book by heart without cross-checking too much. read more

Studies On Traditional Freemasonry – Fabio Venzi (2013)

I ran into a Traditionalist Freemason! Fabio Venzi is an Italian Freemason (Grandmaster of the Gran Loggia Regolare d’Italia at the time of writing) who saw a few books being made available in English. The original title of this 2012 book is Introduzione alla Massoneria so the translators were aware of the Traditionalistic content of the book.

Venzi wrote a highly interesting work that is ‘very Traditionalistic’. The author has this authoritarian tone and disdain for ‘lesser’ ways of working that we also find with other Traditionalists. He quotes Guénon and Evola extensively (and hence is not afraid for Evola’s bad name), but he certainly is no slavish follower. Would he have been a slavish follower of Guénon, he probably would not have been a Freemason to start with. He shows himself an independent thinker when he proves not to be afraid of citing an author such as Charles Leadbeater.

What makes the book particularly interesting, though, is that Venzi quotes country mates of his, some of whom I never encountered in English before. I am mostly thinking of Arturo Reghini. But also Evola and even Mircea Eliade are quoted from Italian titles that I do not immediately know an English counterpart of.

Venzi has a take on Freemasonry that was new to me. He is of the opinion that Freemasonry did not directly evolve from “operative” Masonry; that Freemasonry started a a moralistic organisation that only got esoteric later. That esotericism mostly came from the so-called Cambridge Platonists.
As modernity’s destructive course ran on, Freemasonry was effected and fell back to a modernistic and moralistic organisation that has (almost?) lost its initiatic chain. read more

Spiritual Alchemy – Robert Ambelain (2005)

When I heard of this book, an interest in the more interesting side of alchemy was stirred. There are plenty book about the history of alchemy, but I was very interested to run into a book that portrays Alchemy as a spiritual path. I found an English translation freely available online. The translation is from the hand of no one less than Pierce Vaughan who apparently translated the French works of the French Martinist Robert Ambelain (1907 – 1997) in the year 2005 and put them online as PDFs at the website AlchemyStudy.com.

The book starts promising. Ambelain starts to explain Alchemy as a coherent structure of symbolism and opens with a dictionary. After a while the book more leans towards being a spiritual guidebook with practices and prayers.

Ambelain proves to have been inspired by interesting fellows such as Jean Baptiste Willermoz (1730-1824) and Martinés de Pasqually (1727-1774).

Like I said, the book starts interestingly, but gets less so along the way. But since the book is free and now available for non-French-reading audiences, it does not hurt to give it a go. There is more too!

Translated and published digitally in 2005 by Piers Vaughan

Secret Teachers Of The Western World – Gary Lachman (2015)

It does not happen to me often that I impulsively buy a book. This book was (automatically) recommended when I ordered another book and I saw Western esotericism and René Guénon, so I figured I might give it a go.

Lachman wrote a large number of books about Western esotericism. Biographies of Crowley, Blavatsky, Steiner, Jung and Ouspensky, but also books Hermetism or the roaring 1960’ies. The name struck me as a popular author on the subject, even though I never read anything of Lachman. Reading the book, my initial thought proved to be correct.

The book proves to be some sort of history of Western esotericism for the larger public. There is almost no information in the book that was new to me and the people that Lachman calls “secret teachers” are in fact the best-known people within the subject.

The book starts in a somewhat original way. The author explains the “split brain theory” that says that our left brain is for our rational thinking and filter for the flow of information that our right brain processes. This right brain Lachman connects to esotericism. People who (naturally or by training) manage to reduce the filtering of the left brain are the seers, esotericists, mystics, etc.

Then follow chapters about Hermes Trismegistus, ancient knowledge, Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle, the Gnostics and then Lachman works towards more recent times with Alchemy, Kabbalah, Dante, Grail legends, then Renaissance, Rosicrucians, the upcoming of science, a little bit about Freemasonry, Romantics, Theosophy and its derivatives, Jung, Gurdjieff,The Beatles and the 1960’ies. read more

The Lost Rites And Rituals Of Freemasonry – David Harrison (2017)

The author is fairly active on the world wide web and this book has been announced for a while. Harrison has been working on it for some time too, so I expected quite a book. “The Lost Rites And Rituals Of Freemasonry” proves to be a small publication though, under 150 pages of text.

The author is a British Freemason who writes a lot about that subject, usually from a historical perspective. His latest book is largely historical too. The description it tempting. The book would cover strange, obscure and abandoned Masonic Rites including the systems of Willermoz, Von Hund and the like, about which there is not much information in English.

With the limited number of pages, you can imagine that the book is not really in depth. Harrison starts with the most interesting part, the more exotic ‘high grade’ systems that arose in the time with a peak in occult interests. Here you can read about the likes of Cagliostro, Martinez de Pasqually, Willermoz and Von Hund.

A large part of the book is about the variety of Rites that existed in Britain. When the Grand Lodge of London was founded in 1717 another Grand Lodge arose calling themselves “Antient” (and the other “Modern”) and it took until 1813 before these two Grand Lodges merged into the United Grand Lodge of England. There were differences between the rituals of the Antients and the Moderns, but since it was forbidden to print rituals, many local variations came up, sometimes with “pre-union” elements. Now that the number of members is going down, lodges merge or disappear, many of these local variations also disappear and Harrison mentions a lot of them. Only here and there he shows the differences though. The information is mostly historical. read more