Category Archives: esotericism

The Man-God – Jean-Baptiste Willermoz (2017)

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Willermoz (1730-1824) was an interesting man living in an interesting time. As a Freemason he was involved in several systems. He also fathered a form of Martinism together with his master Claude de Saint Martin. He joined the Elus-Cohens of Martinez de Pasqually.

My main interest lays in ‘his’ Masonic system of the Strict Observance which he developed together with Baron von Hund. A system that is still worked today here and there, but about which not much information can be found.

Willermoz being a Frenchman and apparently not enough in the limelight for the non-French-speaking to know much of him (probably mostly because many of the organisations and systems that he was active in, no longer exist), close to nothing about or from Willermoz can be found in another language than French. read more

The Hermetic Journal 1978

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As I said in my earlier review of a course by Adam McLean, the author has been active with the subject for a long time. He has published a journal since 1978!

These journals are apparently scanned and made available as printing-on-demand books. The journal has run from 1978 to 1992 and are avaible for Kindle via Amazon, but also in print from Adam’s own website.

The first issues (the first two are printed in this little book) contain quite some occultism and esotericism and of course alchemy. Explanations of alchemical “mandalas”, ceremonial magick, Satanism even, can be found within these pages. Also lists of “other occult journals”, references to all kinds of groups that are active (or were, probably). Also published are translations of texts that in the time were hard to get. read more

Nightside Of The Runes – Thomas Karlsson (2019)

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Karlsson’s books have the habit of going out of print and becoming very expensive. His first book from 2002 Uthark, Nightside Of The Runes is one such work. The German translation Uthark, Schattenreich der Runen from 2004 is more affordable, but it appears that the author wanted to make the English text available again. This makes the first part of this book.

The second part is Karlsson’s book about Johannes Bureus which has been published in Swedish (2005), German (2007) and Italian (2007). Now finally, this book has been made available for people who do not master these languages. That also means that this is the most extensive information available about Bureus in English.

“Uthark” refers to the theories of Sigurd Agrell (1881-1937) who theorized that there was an exoteric and an esoteric rune row. The first stats with the F-rune, in the second, this F-rune is placed at the end. To this he connected numerological and esoteric explanations that Karlsson finds convincing enough to create a magical handbook based on the system. This has a bit too much of a ‘Flowers-feeling’ to me. read more

Doors Of Valhalla – Vincent Ongkowidjojo (2017)

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I found this book because it has an introduction by Maria Kvilhaug (a title of herself I have yet to read). The author does not have a very Norse-sounding name and yet it did not ring a bell. This is even more strange, because the author seems to live not too far from where I live, just across the Belgian border.

The book is subtitled “an esoteric interpretation of Norse myth” and it is soon clear that this ‘esoteric leaning’ is a Theosophical one. This brings the book in line with The Masks of Odin and Between Wodan and Widar the latter being a more Anthroposophical (and better!) interpretation.

Initially Ongkowidjojo’s book appears to have the flaws of Titchenell’s, being too easy with his sources. He names Frigg a Vane for example and drops names that do not ring a bell and cannot even be found in Simek, even though this is one of the sources.
It is also obvious that the author knows his sources and has an eye for detail. Perhaps for forgets to double check sometimes.
Besides Theosophy there is also a thick layer of psychology in the book and the author uses magical sources such as the books of Aleister Crowley.
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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

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

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

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

Secret Teachers Of The Western World – Gary Lachman (2015)

It does not happen to me often that I impulsively buy a book. This book was (automatically) recommended when I ordered another book and I saw Western esotericism and René Guénon, so I figured I might give it a go.

Lachman wrote a large number of books about Western esotericism. Biographies of Crowley, Blavatsky, Steiner, Jung and Ouspensky, but also books Hermetism or the roaring 1960’ies. The name struck me as a popular author on the subject, even though I never read anything of Lachman. Reading the book, my initial thought proved to be correct.

The book proves to be some sort of history of Western esotericism for the larger public. There is almost no information in the book that was new to me and the people that Lachman calls “secret teachers” are in fact the best-known people within the subject. read more