Pictish-Mithraism – Norman Penny (2017)

For many, many years there has been the website Pictish-Mithraism.com. 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.

The idea is that the Romans brought Mithraism into what nowadays is Scotland. Before the partial withdrawal the Romans settled much further North than what would later be the Hadrian’s and Antonine walls. Penny suggests that there, in Aberdeenshire, Romans who were “pensioned off” with a piece a land, stayed and turned their Mithraic beliefs into “Pictisch Mithraism” which spread from there. 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.

What I find strange is that Taunton uses quite a bit of ‘second hand quoting’. She refers to an author who is referred to by another author. Personally I would have looked up the original work and quote from there. In one occasion this leads to the strange situation in which Taunton first refers to Dumézil’s Mitra-Varuna and then claiming that Dumézil left Tyr out of the equation for political reasons and even says that he should have had Tyr on the second function, while in the book that was referred to, Dumézil lengthily explains why Tyr is one of the halves of the double function on the first function. 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.

The astrology, Greek mythology and Mithras sections have a few nice findings here and there, but they are mostly not too much in depth and do not really give any new information. They can be better regarded as summaries of what can be found elsewhere and of course there is something to say for someone doing that. 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.

There appears to be some irony in the book. Sure, the Illuminati conspired to gain influence in order to change society. They recruited well-off and influential people, many of them were also Freemasons. They never got really big though, the estimation has 2000 to 3000 members at its peak. For all the fuss about the New World Order that is so popular today, what the Illuminati actually seemed to try to accomplish are things that many nowadays rave about: global village, equality, freedom of speech, secularism. read more

Aristokratia IV – K. Deva (editor) (2017)

I think I am about back up-to-date with the Manticore journal publications. Contrary to the previous two reviews of this publisher “Aristokratia IV” is indeed a journal with an editor and essays of different authors.

Being a Manticore publication there is a lot of Nietzsche of Evola. Being an “Aristokratia” this journal is of a more political / sociological nature. The texts are about a variety of subjects. The opening article is about revolutions in Russia. Then follows Gwendolyn Taunton with a text about the “more Nietzschian than Nietzsche” Italian author Gabriele D’Unnunzio; an interesting text about Nietzsche’s philosophy in practice. Other more biographical texts are about Max Stirner, Emile Zola and Neville Goddard. Further there are sociological and philosophical texts that usually have a slight Traditionalist undertone.

The book ends with a collection of quotes (or so it seems, aphorisms at least) and a couple of book reviews.

The “Aristokratia” series of Manticore is not my preferred line of books, but they usually have a couple of nice texts and going a bit off the paths of my usual literature does not hurt.

2017 Manticore Press, isbn 0994595859

Twin Peaks – The Final Dossier – Mark Frost (2017)

For a moment I thought that I had missed one of Frost’s books, but it appear that this companion to The Secret History was actually published after the broadcast of season 3. Or at least, the book seems to come after the proceedings of that third season.

I had not made the link, but the previous book is a dossier compiled by an “archivist” who is revealed in the book. Another archivist takes over and in the end the archive falls in the hands of the FBI where agent Tamara Preston investigated it. Preston is, of course, Tammy in the third season, the beautiful lady that joins the Blue Rose task force.

The Final Dossier is a little less of a dossier as the previous book. Gordon Cole asked Preston in the aftermath of the happenings in season 3 to investigate further. Preston compiled her findings and wrapped them up in some sort of novel-style, but in fact it is a dossier per person or event. In this way Preston fills the 25 years gap between the original series and the third one for several characters. There are dossiers about the Hayward family, Judy, Philip Jeffries, of course Dale Cooper, etc. Other characters are extensively written about in dossiers not specific to themselves.

Much more than The Secret History, The Final Dossier put the events of the three series in perspective. A simple example, we learn when, how and why Dr. Jacoby left Twin Peaks and eventually returned to be Dr. Amp. Similarly Preston tried to reconstruct the whereabouts of “The Double” (‘bad Cooper’) and comes with some theories that are not apparent in the series. Similar clues can be found about Garland Briggs and his dealings with William Hastings and Ruth Davenport. read more

Fraternitas Saturni – Stephen E. Flowers (2018)

Just as most of his books, Flowers has revised this book a couple of times and republished it. The book was first published in 1990 as Fire And Ice: The History, Structure And Rituals Of Germany’s Most Influential Modern Magical Order – The Brotherhood Of Saturn. A second edition was published in 1994. For the third edition 2006 (self released on Runa Raven) the title was changed to The Fraternitas Saturni – or Brotherhood Of Saturn: An Introduction To Its History Philosophy And Rituals. This fourth edition is published by Inner Traditions, is again revised and expanded and this title changed again, this time to The Fraternitas Saturni: History, Doctrine, And Rituals Of The Magical Order Of The Brotherhood Of Saturn.

The story behind the book is interesting. When studying in Germany, the author received actual documents of a notorious magical order about which not much had been published, certainly not in another language than German, including history and rituals. There are still people working under the name and Flowers got permission to publish the information. The rituals are not those that are in use nowadays anyway.

The Fraternitas Saturni is (of course) best known for its links with Aleister Crowley and its sex-magical workings. Flowers soon puts things in perspective. In its 33 degree system, sex is only part of one (the 18º). Now the initiation is more sexy than in most esoteric orders and there are private workings involving ritual sex, but it is certainly not so that this was the main focus of the brotherhood. read more

Operative Traditions volume 1 – Miguel Angel Fernandez (2017)

Just as with “Tantric Traditions“, the title suggests that this is another Manticore journal, especially because of the “volume 1” in the title. But just as with the other book, “Operative Traditions” is a book by one author.

Another suggestion of the title is Masonic. Before there was “speculative” Freemasonry, there was “operative” masonry. The selling line: “Where Ernst Jünger & Julius Evola meet at last” seems to suggest another direction though. In fact, both is true. The book is, to a certain extent, about “operative” traditions from before 1717, but rather than seeing it as a progression, Fernandez sees 1717 (the ‘founding’ of modern Freemasonry) as a turning point to the negative. He does not say that Freemasonry is the problem, but suggests that the same development that led Freemasonry to leave operativeness, led the West to loose its eye for the miraculous and an over-appreciation of technology and science.

The book perhaps mentions Freemasonry a few times, the subject is wholly different. Mostly based on the work of three thinkers, the author aims at presenting an idea of a contemporary operative Tradition. These authors are of course the German writer (and “war hero”) Ernst Jünger (1895-1998) who is most famous for his work Der Arbeiter (1932) which Fernandez does not translate as “the worker”, but as “the operator”. The other author is the Italian Traditionalist Julius Evola (1898-1974) who people familiar with this website and the books published by Manticore Press will be familiar. The last author is Eugen Herrigel (1884-1955) whose book Zen in der Kunst des Bogenschießens (“Zen in the Art of Archery”), in which he describes his experiences while studying under master Awa Kenzô, is referred to a lot. read more

Schamanismus Bei Den Germanen – Thomas Höffgen (2017)

I thought I heard of this book, but its publication is so recent (March 2017) that I doubt that it was this book. Its publisher also (re)published the Heidnische Jahrbücher (which are sold out), but there have been none since 2012, so that is not where I can have heard about the current title.

So, ‘Shamanism with the Teutons’. There is something that you hear about every now and then. According to the author, the subject has never been really well investigated and he aims at filling that gap. I am afraid I have to say that, in my opinion, he does so unconvincingly.

In the first pages of the book, the author says that the term “Shaman” is explained so generally, that much can fall under it. That is exactly my feeling about this book. Sure, Odin rides a horse, but is he therefor a shaman (and Sleipnir a drum)? Certainly, Berzerkr wear bear-skins, but does that make them shamans? I do not argue that when you list them all, quite a couple of elements of the Norse religion can be linked to shamanism, but I fail to see the use to do that as indiscriminately as the author does.

Völvas, people performing Utiseti (‘sitting outside’) or healing (wo)man undoubtedly have shaman elements or could be seen as shamans when you use that as a general term, but is an Ulfheðnar a shaman because he wears a wolf-skin and perhaps ate mushrooms before going to fight? Are their battles, ‘battles of the spirit’ then? And why make shamans of all the Gods, when a shaman is actually (at least in my opinion) a human being reaching for the world above? Why would a God need to be a shaman? read more