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The Multiple States Of The Being – René Guénon (2004)

It had been a while since I read something of Guénon and then I found a title in the Kindle store that I had not read yet.

The original title is Les États Multiplus de l’Être and was first published in 1932. It has been published by Sophia Perennis in English in 2001 (translation by Henry Fohr). The edition that I got was published in 2022 by Antiqua Sapientia and was translated by Daniel Bernardo. I was somewhat unimpressed by this book…

The book is too ‘philosophical’ to me. Of course Guénon would abhor such a description and say that he writes from a metaphysical perspective, but the book reads like a philosophical work for me. It is about subjects such as ‘being and non-being’, consciousness, hierarchies, but also ‘the realization of being through knowledge’ which sounds interesting enough, especially when it comes from Guénon, but the book remained only mildly interesting to me.

Can it be the translation or simply the fact that the subject is not much within the scope of my interests? I am not sure. Perhaps I should reread some works of Guénon that I already know and see if I enjoy them as much as I did before. Or should I get the Sophia Perennis version as well?

2004 Sophia Perennis, isbn 0900588594
2022 Antiqua Sapientia

Emir Abd el-Kader: Hero and Saint of Islam – Ahmed Bouyerdene (2012)

The fascinating life of Abd al-Qādir ibn Muḥy al-dīn (1808-1883) is described in this book which was originally published in French. Abd el-Kader was born in Algeria. His father, Muhyi al-Din al-Hasani had a tariqa (Sufi school) in the Qadiriyya tradition of Hasan ibn Ali (which explains the “al-Hasani” in his name). Raised a Sufi, taught in a variety of subjects and early to make the ‘big’ Hajj (not only a trip to Mecca, but also other (Sufi) sanctuaries in different countries). But then the French started to meddle in the area and Abd el-Kader suddenly had another occupation: he became an “Emir”, a “leader of the faithful” at the age of 22.

Abd el-Kader was so heroic that he started to gain respect even from his adversaries. For 14 years he led varying cooperations of tribes to try to keep the French in check. In the end he did not succeed and had to surrender after which he was taken prisoner in France. Even though this history is interesting, I was more curious about the man’s thinking and we are well passed half the book before we get to that. The event with which he made name in the West was when he prevented the massacre of Christians by Muslims.

Abd el-Kader was not only a pious man, but also a curious a well-read man with an interest that went outside Muslim subjects. While in France he met many people and he grew in his understanding of both Christianity and French / Western culture. He was even initiated into Freemasonry just before the Grand Orient de France removed the obligation of faith, which caused him to leave.

Be that as it may, in the second half of the book we follow a man who, after his incarceration in France, went into exile nearer to home, but with the freedom to again travel to Mecca and visit other countries. Bouyerdene has a look at his writings and in spite of spiritual maturity, Abd el-Kader finds a master for the next step on his spiritual path.

In the course of this history, you will learn about Muslim culture of two centuries ago, the role of the West in the region, the curiosity of some people in ‘the other side’, but most of all, about a fascinating man who was both of this world and of ‘the other’.

2012 World Wisdom, isbn 1936597179

Geschiedenis Van De Westerse Esoterie – Jacob Slavenburg & John van Schaik (2021)

Two productive Dutch authors teamed up for a history of Western esotericism. They created a volume of well over 700 pages which I read from cover to cover. It is in chronological order and even though there are chapters per subject, the book is not really presented as an encyclopedia.

700 Pages may make a thick book, when you aim to describe a history of esotericism spanning thousands of years, you are still down to a few pages per subject and that is indeed what happened.

Both authors have written (at length) about Gnosticism (old and new), Hermetica, early Christianity and similar subjects in the past. The chapters about these subject in the present title are concise, to the point and clear. Of course the range of subjects of the book is much wider. It shows (a bit) which movements and thinkers have the authors’ interests and which less so. For example, their information about Freemasonry is pretty weak. The history has holes, there are typos, misunderstandings and cut corners. The information about Rudolf Steiner is better, except, when it comes to his ‘Masonic adventures‘.

I had hoped to encounter more recent information, that the authors had used sources which I had not yet had in my hands. I did not really read anything new. Still the book made a nice read. A summery and retrospect of subjects I read about sometimes long ago. The authors point to some red threads/people and because everything is in one book, make cross references.

Like I said, it is more of a book to get you started on subjects, a general introduction to a wide variety of subjects ranging from Greek philosophy, to mysticism to the Ordo Templi Orientis to New Age. The book is in Dutch and there is some stress on the Netherlands. it comes in a good looking hardcover.

2021 Van Warven, isbn 949317574X

Knowledge Of The Symbol – Arturo Reghini (2022)

In the Amazon Kindle store I found two Reghini (1878-1946) titles in English. I first read Life Of Arturo Reghini by Giulio Parise. This text proved to be an appendix to the present title as well.

Parise has worked with Reghini for many years and after Reghini’s passing, he wrote his ‘memoirs’ which are some sort of Reghini biography in 1946. The text was originally in Italian and has now been translated to English.

The main body of the publication is a translation of a text of Reghini. After Giudice‘s translation of Pagan Imperialism, this is the second text of Reghini that you can read in English. Both are short and that when Reghini wrote works up to seven volumes. Some of these works apparently were never even published in Italian yet!

Knowledge Of The Symbol is a nice text which show Reghini’s ‘esoteric/academic’ approach which reminds of Traditionalists such as René Guénon.

In his biography Parise gives a peek into the life of Reghini who was involved in Theosophy, was later initiated into Freemasonry in the rite of Memphis-Misraim and later (also) went to a lodge of the Grand Orient of Italy. Both were “irregular” in these days (and still are), but contrary to Giudice, Parise makes no mention of that. Reghini wanted to reform Freemasonry, also during the fascist period, help different organisations to merge and ended up starting his own organisation the ‘Philosophical Rite’.

The publication is only 69 pages (if you can speak of pages on a Kindle), but it is good to see that after many publications in the original language, the attention for Reghini seems to be growing, so people make an effort to bring him to the attention of people who cannot read Italian. Let us hope some publisher will pick up the trail and start to translate and publish Reghini’s work.

Unfortunately this title is only available for owners of Amazon Kindle ereaders. It is fairly easy to make the book available as a paperback as well, so I hope the publishers will realise that too.

The Essential Frithjof Schuon – Seyyed Hossein Nasr (editor) 2005)

For some reason I always have the idea that I read more about Schuon that of him. Yet I previously reviewed two of his books and I have referred to his writings for decades. Be that as it may, I got “The Essential”. At the same time I bought the recently reviewed “Ye Shall Know The Truth” which also contains texts of Schuon. Both books combined was a bit ‘Schuon overkill’.

Some authors, including the editor of the present title, are of the opinion that Schuon coming after René Guénon, not only follows the latter, but even completes him. Guénon was more of a rationalist, Schuon more of a ‘mystic’ which is the more ‘logical’ approach to Traditionalism.

Actually I find Schuon harder to read than Guénon. I suppose I am more ‘rationalist’ then. “The Essential” is -after a lengthy introduction’ divided in nine parts each contains a few texts. Some have been made available in English for the first time, others can be found at other places. You can read Schuon on subjects such as religion, certain religions, mysticism, metaphysics, spirituality and of course the modern world. I often find him hard to follow. Personally I do not find this compendium an invitation to dive deeper into things with Schuon.

Some of the texts are interesting, but overall, I think I prefer the writings of other Traditionalists.

2005 World Wisdom, isbn 0941532925

Ye Shall Know the Truth: Christianity and the Perennial Philosophy – Mateus Soares de Azevedo (editor) (2005)

A Traditionalist book about Christianity is not too common. I am also reading a book with texts of Frithjof Schuon and Schuon is also featured quite a bit in this book, so that was perhaps a bit Schuon overkill. An amusing text in both books -though- is a text about how some forms of Protestantism -in the eyes of Schuon- are still a valid Tradition.

There are texts of authors that I know, such as James Cutsinger, Titus Burckhardt, Martin Lings Ananda Coomarasway, Rama Coomaraswamy and René Guénon, but also authors unknown to me.

The book is divided in the sections “foundations”, “spirituality”, “sacred art”, “comparative religion”, “the universality of Christian mystics” and “the modern deviation”.

With such a big variety of authors and subjects it is not that strange that not all essays equally appealed to me. A nice surprise was the text of the Hesychast “Bisschop Kallistos Ware” which brings a lot of nuance to the relatively Jesus Prayer (mantra) of the Hesychasm. I also enjoyed “The Christians in Moorish Spain” by Duncan Townson.

A compendium with a wide approach. An enjoyable read.

2005 World Wisdom, isbn 0941532690

Freemasonry: Royal Arch – Christopher Earnshaw (2020)

The author had me on the wrong foot. In the first book of the “Spiritual Freemasonry series”, he spoke about three books, in the second the third and fourth were announced, but from the third I understood that there would be only three. It took me over two years to find out that Freemasonry: Royal Arch actually was published in September 2020 as announced in the second book.

So, we have “Initiation By Light” about the first degree of craft/blue Freemasonry, “Spiritual Alchemy” about the second, the “Quest For Immortality” about the third and now “Royal Arch” about the fourth? Not entirely. The other books are not specifically about a single degree, but rather different approaches to the history of Freemasonry which only roughly correspond to one of the degrees. The fourth book indeed is about the Royal Arch, but not just about the Royal Arch.

So in the by now familiar fashion, the reader is presented with detailed history of “revival” Freemasonry (around 1717), but also less common theories, interpretations about symbolism, etc. a nice mix between history and interpretation of Freemasonry.

Earnshaw comes back to his history of Chinese influences on Freemasonry, even going so far as stating that Freemasonry is Daoism in a Western jacket. Less interesting -to me- are lengthy histories of mysticism, spiritualism and astral travelling, which are taken too far away from the actual subject.

Just as between the earlier volumes there are both repetitions and elaborations to the other books and sometimes a revision. The different approaches are to some extend, but not entirely, worked into a single theory.

Especially when you enjoy combined history and practice and interpretation of Freemasonry, Earnshaws books are certainly worth the read.

2020, isbn 9798554665493

A Guide to Hindu Spirituality – Arvind Sharma (2006)

Finding this book in the “Perennial Philosophy” series of World Wisdom, I think I expected something different. Perhaps I got exactly what was to be expected.

The author has been to several Western universities and the book reads quite academically and philosophically, a bit annoyingly so actually. The author has picked a few subjects and dissects them minutiously. This leads to interesting thoughts and explanations, but Sharma sounds perhaps a bit too much like a Guénon or Schuon.

The “Hindu spirituality” also proves not to be used in a general way, but (mostly) refers to Advaita Vedanta.

The book is an alright read, but I think I expected something ‘less Western’.

2006 World Wisdom, isbn 1933316179

De Zwerver – Thorvald Ross (2022)

I have had the book for a while, but I first missed that it was published on 11/11/22 and then forgot to review it… In any case, the second short novel under the moniker of Thorvald Ross.

Just like in the previous De Laatste Heiden, the author is the I-person and narrator of the book. The new book is less ‘Northern heathen’ than the first one. The main character is a restless soul who keeps wandering (hence the title ‘wanderer’) in search for something. He finds himself in an idyllic little town where he receives a warm welcome. After a long philosophical talk with the major, Ross is taken around the town by the beautiful daughter of the major. All kinds of social and philosophical observations and metaphors are presented to the reader. This reminds me of Jan Amos Comemius’ Labyrinth of the World.

Just outside the town there is a famous school for philosophy, of course in the classical way. Ross attends the school, but things are not all that easy.

We encounter more imaginary that reminds me of classical works, such as the Metamorphoses of Apuleius and stories of Dante Alighieri. Ross’ adventure thus meanders through different story lines. Along the way the reader is repeatedly presented with contemplations on art, philosophy, esotericism, etc.

An enjoyable book, but only for Dutch speaking readers I am afraid.

2022 Boekscout, isbn 9789464682311

The Craft – John Dickie (2020)

This history of Freemasonry is well received, also among members. It has been translated into several languages and it has different editions. That did not bring the book very high on my reading list, but in the end I was curious enough to give it a try. Well, I am quite unimpressed…

Rather than being a history of Freemasonry, the book is more a social history of Freemasonry. Perhaps the subtitle should have made that more obvious to me: “how Freemasons made the modern world”.

I find the book annoyingly sensationalist. It starts with the memoirs of John Coustos who was taken by the inquisition and confessed to a great many things under torture. After chapters about the art of memory and the days around 1717 London you will mostly read about Freemasonry in connection to large social events. Endless numbers of pages about Freemasonry and the Carbonari, the Maffia, the P2 lodge scandal in Italy; Freemasonry in fascist and National-Socialist regimes, the French Revolution, the US Confederation, colonies, etc. It all says little about Freemasonry as an organisation (or actually many organisations), the history of its symbols and rituals, etc.

You can indeed read about how Freemasons helped create the modern world, but in most cases individual members, not lodges or Grand Lodges. Only here and there you will read something about developments within Freemasonry. The question of the Grand Architect of the Universe or the membership of women are either mentioned in passing or in a context that apparently is regarded more interesting. So no history of Le Droit Humain, but an interview with a man that became a woman within the Grand Orient de France many years after mixed gender Freemasonry was founded for example. The history of Prince Hall (‘black Freemasonry’) and the relation to traditional ‘white’ Grand Lodge is spoken of as well.

The author seems to have traveled the world, visited many places, interviewed many people and concludes that members are usually the good guys that do not deserve the bad press that Freemasonry has often received for its entire existence. To show that there is nothing anywhere near the exiting descriptions that Freemasonry often gets, he opens with way too detailed descriptions of initiations, including passwords, grips and steps. This may show that the Masonic “secrets” are quite boring, but apart from that this really does not help his readers. Perhaps the author does not realize that such details spoil the surprise for prospective members. Besides, that he found passwords, grips, steps and whatnot in one ritual, does not mean that these are the same everywhere. This can only lead to confusion. He had better just mentioned that there are passwords, grips, steps, etc.

In any case, the book is not completely boring, but I really wonder where all the applause about it comes from.

2020 PublicAffairs, isbn 161039867X