Al-Kimia – John Eberly (2004)

The title and description of the book give an idea that the book does not live up to. The subtitle is: “The Mystical Islamic Essence of the Sacred Art of Alchemy” and the description suggests that the book presents a Traditionalistic approach to shed light on the Islamic history of alchemy. As I said, that is not exactly what the book delivers.

The book is only 136 and already on page 65 the appendices start. Up until then you mostly get biographies of Sufis. All of them undoubtedly had something with alchemy, but Eberly’s book reads more like a book about Sufism (or rather: Sufis) than a book on alchemy. The biographies are mostly just that, they give an idea of the lives of the men, but not too much about their thoughts. This may be interesting in a way, but not what I hoped for.

One appendix is an alchemical recipe, then follows the Emerald Tablet and after that a lengthy glossary of Islamic mystical and alchemical terms. This is actually a nice extra, but I would have preferred it had the book stayed closer to the subject. read more

Alchemically Stoned – P.D. Newman (2018)

A fun thing about Masonic symbolism is that you can look at it with different approaches. Some see only Christian or Jewish symbolism, others will compare it to the mysteries of Mithras while yet others see Northern mysteries in them. Here we have an author who has found “The Psychedelic Secret of Freemasonry” as the subtitle for this book goes.

The author had extensive experience with entheogens before joining a lodge. Entheogens are psychoactive substances found in plants and fungi. He recognised Masonic symbolism from his previous experiments and wrote this little book (180 pages) about his findings. This leads to some interesting suggestions.

Newman found several kinds of Acacia that contain entheogens giving a new meaning to the symbol of the Acacia in Freemasonry and perhaps even a suggestion as to how “Cassia” later became “Acacia”. 
In a similar vein Newman explains the strange double meaning of the second degree password which feels forced with the normal explanation, but which makes perfect sense from ‘an entheogenic point of view’.  read more

The Nine Doors Of Midgard – Edred Thorsson (2016)

I have mixed feelings about the writings of Stephen Flowers / Edred Thorsson. Often they are wildly interesting. The subjects he finds and the way he works them out. At other times they are mildly interesting. The latter ‘category’ usually includes Thorsson’s ‘system’ and working for his Rune-Gild organisation.

The Nine Doors Of Midgard is a book that you have to work through and report on when you want to join the Rune-Gild. I guessed it would say a lot about the Rune-Gild system, symbolism, etc. and it sure does! The Nine Doors have been revised a couple of times and if I am not mistaken, the 2016 edition is the last one. The “doors” refer to sets of practices and exercises. These often involve meditation and visualization exercises, chanting, runic postures and the like. The book is supposed to form a path to allow the practitioner first to be able to join the organisation (after two or three doors) and later expand his/her magical abilities. The exercises mostly have to be performed for many days, which makes a period of several years to work through the entire book. The Rune-Gild certainly is for people with perseverance only!

As I know from other practical books of Thorsson that I read, his system is not for me. Pretty soon after starting the book, I started to quickly read through the exercises and see if the more theoretical parts would be of more interest. Here and there they are, but also in these parts, Thorsson is often not my kind of thinker. read more

Occulture – Carl Abrahamsson (2018)

This book has its own tag! I use the tag “occulture” to tag books about ‘occult culture’, not unlike the way the author uses the term in the present title. Abrahamsson says that the term was coined by Genesis P-Orridge which I initially found a bit shallow, but when further on Abrahamsson says that he was actually deeply involved in Thee Temple Ov Psychic Youth (TOPY), I figured that he has every ‘right’ to use the term. It appears that Abrahamsson moved more to Crowleyan / Thelema type circles, apparently as an active magician. Besides writing, Abrahamsson is also an artist and a musician. Good ingredients for a occultural stew!

The book is a collection of essays, or rather lectures, by Abrahamsson from a variety of occasions. They are often lectures that the author held at OTO or Thelemic seminars or more general seminars about magic and culture and that from Scandinavia, the USA, but also continental Europe (mostly Eastern Europe). The lectures have a variety of subjects. From comparing Aleister Crowley to Rudolf Steiner to Anton LaVey, Carl Jung, sex magic, dreams and the Golem. The lectures do not really plunge into any depths, even though they are usually held for ‘experienced audiences’. This makes the book, to me, rather shallow and more amusing light reading than groundbreaking information about “The Unseen Forces That Drive Culture Forward”.

2018 Park Street Press, isbn 9781620557037

Esoteric Studies In Masonry volume 1 – Daath Gnosis (2016)

When I ran into this book, published in 2016, I thought (hoped) that it would be a recent publication with an esoteric take on Freemasonry. In a way it is, but not the way I hoped.

The book contains old texts about: “France, Freemasonry, Hermeticism, Kabalah and Alchemical Symbolism”. They are presented in two languages. The left columns are English translations, the right columns are the French (original?) texts. There are texts that I do not know otherwise available in English such as texts from J.M. Ragon and L. Travenol. That make the publication, in a way, interesting.

Most of the book consists of catechisms, Masonic Q&As. These usually tell you something about the rituals, but they are not ritual texts themselves. These catechisms are presented per grade: Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason or equivalent. The latter I say because texts are presented from different Masonic orders such as the Rite of Memphis Misraim and adoption Freemasonry (pre co-Masonry Freemasonry that included women) where terms and symbols sometimes differ. read more

Pictish-Mithraism – Norman Penny (2017)

For many, many years there has been the website In 2010 the author commented on a Mithraic article of mine. In 2013 when I wrote about Pictish symbols I wrote:

So far I have found only one brave attempt to interpret the Pictish symbols. This is immediately a rather uncommon interpretation though. The website is called “Pictish Mithraism” which also tells you in what direction the interpretations go. The author argues against several of the standing hypothesis, both the symbolic and the historic ones. The biggest merit of the website is that the author categorises the symbols and tells his readers how he came to his interpretations.

I have the idea that I knew that Penny was working on turning his website into a book, but I am not sure. When in Scotland in September 2018 I ran into the little book. What I wrote about the website also goes for the book. It is still the only attempt that I know to explain the symbols and the author does that by grouping the symbols. Penny helps even those who do not agree with his hypothesis. I must say that after these years, I still find the hypothesis daring and interesting, but little convincing. The book does add something to the hypothesis that I do not remember from the website though. read more

Fate And The Twilight Of The Gods – Gwendolyn Taunton (2018)

Rather than publishing the texts in one of the journals that Taunton publishes through Manticore Press, this time she bundled two essays into a small book of 116 pages.

The first essay is about fate in Norse religion, mostly about the Norns. The second is “an exegesis of Voluspa”. Both essays look like summaries of books that have long been available, in English even. The first text mostly quotes Bek-Pederson’s The Norns In Old Norse Mythology and Winterbourne’s When The Norns Have Spoken. The second text has a longer bibliography, but often refers to Rydberg and Grimm. More interestingly several issues of a periodical called History Of Religions are used.

There seem to be but a handful of thoughts and conclusions that are Taunton’s own. Some of these conclusions would not have been mine, but Taunton also has a couple of things that I do not think I ever heard of or looked at that way. read more

Myth, Magic & Masonry – Jaime Paul Lamb (2018)

This book was written by a Freemason who is also a member of the Ordo Templi Orientis and I understood the book would be about where the two systems touch. This is partly true.

The book has about 120 pages of text and actually contains four essays. In the first “section” the author writes about “The integral relationship between Freemasonry and Ceremonial Magick”. The other sections are about “Solar and astrological symbolism in Freemasonry”, “Elements of classical mythology in modern Freemasonry” and “Freemasonry and the rites of Mithras”.

Most contemporary Western magical orders somehow sprang from Freemasonry. In the time that esotericists and occultists alike joined Masonic lodges they also founded their own societies. Therefor it is not strange that within these orders many Masonic elements can be found. Where (a large part) of Freemasonry developed towards a moralistic society, some of the magic(k)al orders survive until the present day doing more or less what they did in the time of their foundings. The author gives an idea of what magical traces are left in Freemasonry and how a modern magician can look to Freemasonry. This may not be groundbreaking, but it is nice to read this from someone who still has his feet in both currents. read more

Saturn Gnosis band 1-5 (2008)

When I was reading Flowers’ book about the Fraternitas Saturni I was curious if the mentioned publications would still be available. This proved to be very well so. Both “Saturn Gnosis” and “Blätter Für Angewandte Okkulte Lebenskunst” are available in reprint. The first five issues of “Saturn Gnosis” from the publisher “Verlag Geheimes Wissen” (along with other Fraternitas Saturni material), the rest (further “Saturn Gnosis” and “Blätter) from the publishing house of a follow-up of the original order. The Amazon link under the cover goes to a limited first edition, but the book can still be ordered from the earlier mentioned Verlag Geheimes Wissen.

The first five issues were published between 1928 and 1930, were first reprinted in 1992 and have been available for the general public since 2008. The publication is a little odd. Each issue contains fairly long essays that are fairly general and therefor seem to aim at the general audience rather than the order’s membership. Then each issue ends with “Logenmitteilungen” (‘lodge announcements’) listing new members (under pseudonym), who went to another grade, etc. That sounds much like an internal publication. Also there are a few texts directed to members.

The interested contemporary reader will not learn too much about the organisation from this book. The grade system is explained in one article, but besides a handful of references to rituals, there is little here that will teach you much about the workings of the Saturn brotherhood (that also contained women by the way). Perhaps this is for the better, since almost a century after the original publications, there are texts here that can still be of interest to the esotericist of today. read more

Perfectibilists – Terry Melanson (2009)

This book was mentioned in Flowers’ book about the Fraternitas Saturni and I wanted to read a descent work about the Illuminati some day anyway. This one is presented somewhat as an ‘ultimate work’, so I got myself a copy. The title refers to the original name of the organisation that was rapidly replaced by a name that sounded better.

The author collected information about the Illuminati on his computer and in the early days of the internet made a website from these notes. Over the years Melanson got the name of Illuminati expert and he got requests to structure his information in a book. Well, the book actually looks like a printed-out website… It has many low-res images posted in the middle of the text. That may be good enough on a website, but it looks awful in a book, especially when also lengthy pieces of text are added to the images, sometimes even needing more than one page.

The book starts with history of the Illuminati, how Adam Weishaupt got the idea, how the organisation grew, split up and came to its end, etc. Several times the book gets this “look here: CONSPIRACY!” tone that I hoped a descent work about the Illuminati would avoid. The historical information is alright, but the book gets better in the parts about the structure and about the philosophy of the organisation. read more