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

Die Alchemie, Ihre Bedeutung Für Die Freimaurerei – Hans Fischer (2018)

Strangely enough, this book is not listed on the website of the publisher, nor are the other titles of the same author. The book is available from the Masonic Art website that is related to the publishing house (click on the cover).

“Alchemy, it’s meaning for Freemasonry” was just released. The author is a German Freemason who took up an interest in alchemy. The selling information says: “This is not a book about Alchemy, but a book about its meaning for Freemasonry”. In my opinion the author only lives up to this partially.

The square book is printed on glossy paper with many images, quite like the popular big edition works for the general audience. It is only a little over a 100 pages too. The author sketches some general information about alchemy usually in short chapters of only two pages. When you know the subject a little, nothing much will be new. There are also sidesteps to Kabbala, current day chemistry and other linked subjects. Here and there is a reference to Freemasonry, usually in cadres at the end of a chapter. Nothing much in depth here either. Both alchemy and Freemasonry has practitioners who only see the material or superficial side, while others see the spiritualism of the systems. Certain symbols can be seen on images from both systems, such as the sun and the moon, columns, stars, etc. Both systems have different stages. Of course such similarities can be mentioned, but since the author does not really go any further than naming them, a gap remains between what the book suggests it presents and what it actually does. read more

Icelandic Magic – Stephen Flowers (2018)

Almost three decades after the first edition of his Galdrabók Flowers comes with a follow-up. That book ran out of print rapidly and became wildly expensive. A later reprint (that I reviewed) was pretty expensive as well, but later on the book was again reprinted and it is now well available and affordable. There is also an English and Icelandic edition.

Just as in his Galdrabók, Flowers mostly fills the pages of this new book with introductory information. This again is interesting. Flowers made me feel sorry for not having had the time to visit Strandagaldur, the museum of witchcraft and sorcery when I was in Iceland. The fact that this museum exists proves Flowers’ point that Galdrabekur (‘magic books’) have remained popular in Iceland for a very long time. They were influenced by similar books from the continent, from which many spells were taken, survived the coming of Christianity and (even though less popular) the Reformation. Practitioners copied books, added their own spells and sigils and thus created their own books. Quite a couple of them have found their way to the National Museum of Iceland where Flowers studied them.

In his lengthy introduction the author sketches the history of the books, gives an idea of the lives of some magicians (many Christians!), says a few things about the ‘light’ and ‘dark’ versions and towards the end has a “grey book” part with spells and signs. Flowers wanted to create a practical book of magic, so he explains how the sigils are built up, how you can use them and how you create your own. At the end some pages are left blank so you can add your own workings and create your very own “grey book” just as the Icelandic magicians did in the past (and present). read more

Arthurian Myths And Alchemy – Jonathan Hughes (2002)

I fell for the title, wondering how a writer would bring these subjects together. When I received the book I saw the rest of the title: “The Kingship of Edward IV” suggesting that this is a historical book. Indeed it is.

Actually the book is very interesting, but my mind has the habit of filtering out historical details and in a book such as this, it is already filtering while I read! Indeed, I am not good with reading detailed historical accounts and that is exactly what Hughes presents in this book.

As the title suggests, the book is about Edward IV (1442-1483). In the lengthy introduction the author sketches what came before (and a little after) him. Edward IV came to the throne at an early age. He was a very tall and handsome man and very social too. He could make anybody like him. That and some early heroics made him a relatively popular king. That is, until he realised that his youth started to escape him and he fell into a less kingly way of living.

Edward IV was not the first king who had alchemists at his court. These alchemists were not trying to make gold for the king, but they looked after his well-being, both physical and mental. What Edward also understood well, was that having an impressive lineage would heighten his esteem. For that reason there were also authors in his court building his mythological past and tracing it back to Troy, Greek heroes, but also King Arthur. In this way the court of Edward IV included famous men like Georges Ripley (1415-1490) (of the famous alchemical Ripley Scrolls) and Thomas Malory (1415-1471) (of Le Morte d’Arthur). That is not something I heard before! read more

Tantric Traditions – Gwendolyn Taunton (2018)

Even though the title suggests that this is one of the Primordial Traditions / Numen Books / Manticore Press journals with a collection of different authors and which mostly have the word “traditions” in the title, this is actually a book solely written by the person behind the publishing house.

“Tantric Traditions” is not a large book. It has a little over 200 pages of text and then some addenda. It is a very nice book though. Frequently railing against the popular Western view of Tantra, Taunton sets Tantra as the religion for the Kali Yuga. Also she shows that Tantra is not a separate renegade Eastern religion, but that is actually comes from the Vedic tradition. Last but not least, beside a sinister side, there is also a ‘lighter’ side to Tantra and the sinister side is much more sinister than you would imagine.

In the beginning of the book, the author explains the idea of the four ages and how Tantra is to be placed in the latest of these, the Kali Yuga. For this she draws on Traditionalists and might have benefited from a book of Joscelyn Godwin that I recently reviewed.
After this she continues with Tantra itself, highlighting different aspects, speaking about its mantras, yantras, but also about the darker rituals. In doing so she quotes primary and secondary sources. All this give a colourful of an interesting Eastern current about which much more is to be said that the popular “sacred sex” books. As a matter of fact, you will not read all that much about Tantric sex. There is so much more to say about Tantra. read more

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