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The Archetypal Temple – Jaime Paul Lamb (2011)

It is a bit ironic. I am always looking for a contemporary esoteric approach to Freemasonry, but the few books that appear, are not too interesting to me. All Tria Prima books so far are alright, but not great. Unfortunately also the second book by Lamb is no exception.

The Archetypal Temple: and Other Writings On Masonic Esotericism contains mostly short essays that have mostly been published before. The book covers a variety of esoteric and occult topics combined with Freemasonry. Lamb obviously has a preference for astrology and Tarot. You will also get a bit of Hermeticism, ceremonial magic and more typical Masonic subjects such as the lost word and virtues.

Lamb speaks not only of “craft” degrees (Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason) by the way and even an organisation such as Societas Rosicruciana is written about.

The texts are alright to read, there are some interesting thoughts here and there, but I was not exactly ‘blown away’.

Best order your book from Amazon said they do not ship to my country, Lulu had no problems with that.

2021, isbn 1716319307

Illuminating the legacy of Marija Gimbutas – Harald Haarmann (2023)

Every once in a while I wonder why I never read anything of Marija Gimbutas (1921-1994). When that thought occurred to me while I was looking for something to read, I somehow ended up buying not a book by Gimbutas, but once about her.

Gimbutas was a Lithuania born archaeologist and anthropologist who had theories that were not always well received. Also her ideas are often misrepresented and shoved aside for the wrong reasons. Haarmann sets out to show that Gimbutas’ ideas were actually groundbreaking and more and more scholars start to realise that they make sense.

Two ideas of Gimbutas get the most thought in this book. That of “Old Europe” and that of her often-called “matriarchal” approach. The latter is not true, argues Haarmann.

The most import part of Gimbutas’ writings is that she argued that before the Indo-Europeans came to these parts, there was “Old Europe”, mostly in the region where now is Lithuania. These ‘Old Europeans’ had a much different society than the later Indo-Europeans. Their society was egalitarian (not “matriarchal”) and respectful. They did not need weapons, had (trade) contacts over enormous areas and apparently shared ideas, also with other cultures. This “Old European” culture has left many more traces in our past and present than is usually acknowledged. Haarmann works out a few examples of how well-known elements of Greek culture are actually not Indo-European, but “Old European”.

Rather than repeating her writings, Haarmann looks at recent investigations that are either based on Gimbutas’ ideas or confirm them. Interesting, but the approach is a bit too historical for my liking.

2023 3987950196, Seubert Verlag

The Grand Communication – Nathan Schick (2023)

In 2020 a group of American Freemasons with ‘esoteric leanings’ started a website with postcast and after a while “Tria Prima Press”. After two books in 2021, this is the third title that has been made available.

“What does stodgy Freemasonry have to do with alchemy, Hermeticism, brewing beer, or the quest for the Philosopher’s Stone?” Interesting questions. I must say that the book is only mildly interesting though.

Schick comes mostly with a fairly general history of Western esotericism. Here and there is a bit more focus on the subjects of alcohol and Freemasonry enters the book only towards the end. Schick sees another than just a practical reason for the use of taverns for lodge meetings in the early days of modern Freemasonry which is perhaps the original twist to the book.

That Hiram is a replacement for Hermes is not an entirely new suggestion and unfortunately Schick does not really have more information about how exactly that happened (just that ‘it was Desagulier’). More in detail (though not new ones) is the story of the introduction of the third degree.

There are some accents laid differently from other books, but The Grand Communication did not teach me anything that I did not already know. If you are not too familiar with Western esotericism, how it relates to Freemasonry, the early days with “Modern” , “Antient” and York Grand lodges, Schick’s book makes an easy to read introduction.

2023 Tria Prima, isbn 9781312127005

Understanding Indo-European Cosmology, Theology, and Metaphysics – Zachary Gill (2022)

The Kindle edition of this book has “Hammer & Vajra Book 3” in the title, so I suppose I read the books in the ‘correct order’ after all.

After a more Eastern centered book, this time Gill takes the path that we got to know in the first book of the series. It is mostly centered around Germanic and Vedic myth and religion, but the research spreads across all Indo-European religions and beyond.

I hope that this book unveils a deeper understanding of our faith through an apologetic defence.

Gill writes early in the book. This volume is mostly built on earlier shorter texts about a variety of subjects. Some chapters are better than others. Gill picks up specific themes with such subjects of the Sky Father, giants, eschatology, “on magics”, werewolves, the Kali Yuga, the left hand path, etc., etc.

Just like the previous two books of the trilogy, an alright read.

2022 Hammer & Vajra, isbn 979-8367227499

The ‘Universal Language’ of Freemasonry – Christina Voss (2004)

This dissertation is frequently cited both by Masons and non-Masons alike, so I decided to track it down and read it. I was surprisingly unimpressed…

It is not that the book is without merit. As a linguist, Voss investigates the language of Freemasonry. Words, their contexts, the different meanings, etc. Plus, the author explains a lot of symbols and -without images- is partly a bit of a Masonic encyclopaedia.

For an author who is specifically after the meaning of words, Voss is strangely inaccurate with some words and phrases. She speaks of “androgynous orders” such as that of the Amaranth (“a Masonic-affiliated organization for Master Masons and their Ladies founded in 1873” (Wikipedia)). Strictly speaking the description is not incorrect, but Voss makes no distinction between mixed gender Masonically affiliated orders such as the Amaranth or the Order of the Eastern Star or Freemasonry that includes all genders. She even manages to use the term “Co-Masonry” for the Order of the Eastern Star, while this term was specifically coined to describe Freemasonry (not a side order with different rituals and symbols) that includes women.
Also she appears to wrote from a “regular” perspective, even managing to compare Cagliostro to Taxil. Just as in the previous example, Voss might have been more nuanced.

On to the positive points of the book then. The author describes a fair range of ‘Freemasonries’ and “androgynous” and youth orders. The focus lays on Anglo-Saxon Freemasonry, but the book is certainly not exclusive to it. Voss goes into symbols and words, but also into the rituals of many of the organisations mentioned. Towards the end there is information about anti-Masonry, Freemasonry in the theatre, even Masonic comics.

Parts of the work (of about 900 pages!) are good to read. Some revisions would help. There are also chapters that are less of my interest. All in all a book to have a look at some time, but not one that needs to be very high up on your list.

2004 De Gruyter

The Secret Pillars Of The OTO – Isaac Pendragon (2024)

I happened to stumble upon a recent publication of and about the Ordo Templi Orientis. Apparently the OTO decided to do something about transparency and communication and published this 128 page booklet.

The book reads like the OTO hired some communication, management guru. There are six chapters, each introduced with an advertising text, like on the back:

Discover the hidden pillars of the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), a journey into the mystical paths of one of history’s most fascinating esoteric societies. Isaac Pendragon unveils the profound mysteries and teachings defining the OTO in this groundbreaking work

Terms such as “analysis”, “delving deep”, “comprehensive evaluation” are abound, but the information remains short and shallow. A chapter introduction promises either of the quoted phrases and the subject gets five lines. On top of that, there is a lot of repetition. Almost every page explains that the phrase “do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law”: “is not a call for hedonism, but a directive to align one’s actions with their true will”. Also the importance of Reuss and Crowley is stated again and again, often in similar sentences, but without much real information. It is like some communication agency actually wrote the texts for a website.

I would really have liked to learn about the history in more detail, the philosophy, the rituals, the organisation (how many groups, where, how many members, etc.), but The Secret Pillars Of The OTO mostly seems to be more of an advertisement aimed at prospective members, than a guide for researchers. Sure, you will learn a thing or two about the organisation, but I hope that this is the first book in a series and that after this introduction, the ‘information density’ becomes a bit higher.

2024 Tredition, isbn 3384152859

Onmyodo – Zachary Gill (2022)

In 2021 I reviewed Gill’s Syncretic Indo-European Faith which I ran into by some accident at the time. Again by some accident, I now learn that that book was the first of a “Hammer & Vajra” trilogy. Amazon lists the present title as book two. The book itself says little about which book is which, but when I finished it, I had the idea that I accidentally read the third book before the second.

Anyway, “Onmyōdō” is a Chinese system from which both the Chinese Daoism, the Japanese Shinto and several elements of Buddhism come. In his quest for Indo-European syncretism, Gill dove into the far East.

He gives general history, tries to weed out Western misconceptions, points towards Indo-European similarities and aims at giving spiritual practices for daily life. Since I did not know all too much about especially the Chinese part of the story, the book is fairly interesting. It does seem to be quite a step aside from the Asatru/Vedic approach of the first book. Perhaps the other book Understanding Indo-European Cosmology bridges the gap. I am already reading that one, so await a refer in the future.

2022 Hammer & Vajra, isbn 979-8820280597

Geschichte Freimaurischer Systeme – Chistian von Nettelbladt (1879/2016)

I ran into this title in the catalogue of the Austrian publisher Geheimes Wissen. The full title of the book is (translated): “History of Freemasonic Systems in England, France and Germany”. It was first published in 1879. When I ordered the book I thought it was older. “Br. Freiherr C.D.F.W. von Nettelbladt” (1779-1843) wrote a history of Freemasonry in this version worth 800+ pages in two volumes.

The reason the book caught my interest was that I do not know all that much about the history of the varried Masonic landscape in Germany. Moreover, the book deals with both “regular” and “irregular” Freemasonry.

The book is extremely dry. It is almost as if you are reading 800 pages of minutes. The author does indeed provide a general history of Freemasonry, more specifically deals with France and Germany and writes about interesting developments such as the Strikte Observanz, Der Eklektische Bund, Die Afrikanischen Bauherren, the Gold- und Rosenkreuzer, Friedrich Schöder (1744-1816) and his system and about the Großloge Royal York and he did so not too longer after several of such organisations rose or perished, but his book is a tough read. Quoting correspondence and other histories, referring to frictions, he rarely says anything about interesting subjects such as what rituals and degrees were worked, why, where they came from, etc.

The book is mostly interesting for people who are interested in the organisational histories of the organisations mentioned above and less so for people like myself, who want to learn more about the way these organisations worked. There are almost no images. The author obviously did have access to a lot of material, also rituals and here and there refers to imaginary on tracing boards or elements from the rituals, but too little in my opinion.

The book presents massive walls of texts with hardly any alineas or sub-chapters, neither is there an index which allows you to look for something specific. There are gigantic chapters about the Strikte Observanz that are split into different periods, but that is as structured as you get it. Things get a bit better in the second volume and only the relatively short chapter about the Grand Lodge Royal York comes somewhat in the direction of what I was hoping for.

Generally speaking you see an everlasting struggle with ‘high degrees’ (of which Von Nettelbladt did not think highly), skip or keep. Also the influence of the Strikte Observanz has been massive also on the various other Grand Lodges that there were in these days. The Strikte Observanz tried to create a ‘super Grand Lodge’ but this was not realised before the system was dismantled after the Convent of Willhelmsbad of 1782. Many years later there actually would be such a ‘super Grand Lodge’.

Dry Masonic history. A classic one and easily available.

2016 Verlag Geheimes Wissen, ISBN 3903045950

Sovereign Thought – Gwendolyn Taunton (2022)

I have not followed Primordial Traditions / Numen Books / Manticore Press closely enough. A while ago I noticed that I missed a couple of titles. I got three of them, one of those being this book of the helmslady Taunton.

The subtitle promises: “The Philosopher & the Kingdom: From Ancient Greece to the Arthaśāstra”, but it is more: Ancient Greece and Arthasastra. The book is divided in two parts each with its own conclusion. The first part is about Greece, the other part about the far East. I enjoyed the latter part a lot better.

In the part about Greece you will read about politics before democracy and politics instead of democracy with Socrates and Plato as main thinkers of interest.

The part about the far East has more focus on religion and politics. Here the main thinker is Canakya who formed a massive empire three centuries before our common era and wrote down how he managed to do that. Even though his system fell out of use, it seems to enjoy a growing attention today.

Not entirely my subject, but the second part was a good read.

2022 Manticore Press, isbn 0645670006

The Hermetic Physician – Daffi / Pantano (2022)

The story of this book is actually more interesting than the book itself. Pantano I knew from his Numen book The Magic Door, an introduction into the Italian occult scene. I now know that he borrowed the title from a book of Giuliano Kremmerz (1861–1930 born Ciro Formisano). Pantano announced a new book which is going to include Kremmerz and that is what led me to this title from 2022.

Kremmerz had some followers in his day and he founded several “Fraternity of Myriam” groups. Marco Daffi (1900-1969 born Ricciardo Ricciardelli) knew Kremmerz, but was not a Myriam member. In 1981 he published a critical history of Kremmerz’ groups and the different Myriam groups that came or continued after Kremmerz’ death (Giuliano Kremmerz e la Fr+Tm+ di Miriam 1981). Many Kremmerz followers were not pleased with that publication.

Pantano has translated the book of Daffi and added some more material. In the book you will mostly learn about the Myrian groups, not too much about Kremmerz and his ideas. Also, as the title suggests, there is more focus on Kremmerz as an esoteric physician, than as an esotericist proper. The book gives an idea of the Italian occult scene around the year 1900 and Daffi tries to show that even when ‘the master’ is of high calibre, his followers not necessarily are as well.

As appendices you will get some texts of Kremmerz. Some purely organisational for the Myriam groups, but also his introduction to magic. For more about that side of Kremmerz, I refer the recently reviewed The Hermetic Science of Transformation.