Category Archives: esotericism

The Three Stages Of Initiatic Spirituality – Angel Millar (2020)

The latest Millar is published by Inner Traditions, known for English publications of Evola, but the publisher has also published books from Joscelyn Godwin, Stephen Flowers, Henri Corbin, but also more new-agey books.

Millar has made a name in Masonic circles with a book on Lewis Masonic and many lectures, but he is not afraid to connect his name to smaller imprints such as Manticore Press and now a publisher with ‘controversial’ publications.

This also shows Millar’s own varried interests and that variety is clearly portrayed in his latest book. Where he earlier published books specifically about Freemasonry, he slowly shifted towards “Freemasonry+” and now we go from Freemasonry (a little bit) to ceremonial magic and from Islamic esotericism to Aleister Crowley.

As you can expect with the subtitle “craftsman, warrior, magician”, there is an influence of Georges Dumézil (though he is seldom mentioned) and his division of three “functions”. Millar also refer to Mircea Eliade, René Guénon, Julius Evola and a few other Traditionalists.

It had been a bit too long since I read any comparitive mythology and comparitive religion, but alongside Dumézil’s three “functions”, Millar oftentimes refers to the four “ages” (Gold, Silver, Bronze, Iron) found in many myths and religions and in the writings of Traditionalists.

It may not be new that he poses that within all three “functions” there are initiatic paths, but Millar suggests his readers to practice all three, more in the sense of functions than (what is more often the explanation) classes (“castes”).

Something similar Millar does with the ages. They are not so much successive time-periods, but more like ‘levels’, so an initiate (or more generally, a spiritual person) may ‘reach’ for the Golden Age. That age is more like the goal or endpoint of spiritual development and not so much a time that lays in the distant past.

And so we Millar guides his readers through different forms of spirituality, different paths of initiations, making cross-references and comparisons. Surely interesting!

I do not always follow the author’s assumptions. I would -for example- not place ceremonial magic in Dumézil’s third “function” and I see little in the references to Carl Jung, but different ideas from my own are always good to ponder about. It is nice to see that Millar does not shy to name Guénon together with Blavatsky, Freemasonry together with sex magic and martial arts with Gnosticism. He may bring some uncommon ideas to readers of his previous works.

Ultimately, the Craftman, Warrior and Magician – like the mind, body, and spirit – are not separate but connect and overlap in different ways. […]

Yet today society emhasizes the intellect and promotes specialization in education and employment. As a result, we produce technicians and dogmatics, and we revere the sickly intellectual who, enstranged from the physical, attacks both beauty and strength. (p. 206/7)

A call for a more spiritual life and since Millar writes about so many different approaches, not afraid to be critical here and there, the book has a potential wider audience than his previous works.

2020 Inner Traditions – isbn 1620559323

Oog Voor De Wereld – Brink, Martin, Muratori (2019)

Until March 14th there is an exhibition about Jacob Böhme in the Embassy Of The Free Mind (aka Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica aka Ritman Library) in Amsterdam. In a way, it is part of a travelling exhibition. In 2017 there was an exhibition in the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, after Dresden there was an exhibition in Coventry cathedral and at the end, there will be a permanent exhibition in Görlitz, the place on the German / Polish border where Böhme lived most of his life. I was in Görlitz years ago and there was not too much about Böhme there, so it is good that this will change.

Scholars from Dresden, Coventry and Amsterdam have worked together on a book / catalogue of which there seem to be Dutch, English and German versions (I have not found webshops that sell the English and Dutch versions, but the Ritman website is worked at).

The Dutch book has three introductions, then speaks about the life of Böhme (Cecilia Muratori), portraits (Lucinda Martin), concepts from Böhme’s philosophy (Muratori and Martin) and then Böhme in Amsterdam (José Bouwman and Cis van Heertum) and the etches of Michael Andreae (Boudewijn Koole).

Much of what can be found in this pretty book I have ran into somewhere. Since Böhme is pretty hard to read it is always welcome when people manage to give some sort of apprehensible summery and Muratori and Martin manage pretty well. The part about Böhme in Amsterdam makes a nice read too.

Early Dutch and German publications of Böhme contained title plates of which only recently the creator became known: Michael Andreae. Andreae fell out of grace of the publisher and his plates and accompanying texts were removed. Readers were not amused and the plates and texts were published separately and these are translated and presented here. The texts are as elusive as those of Böhme himself!

Compared to Böhme’s own work, this book is easy reading, but the highly spiritual philosophy of Böhme is not easy to start with. The book makes a nice addition to recent and less recent Böhme publications, so if you can, you should visit the exhibition and buy the book or at least buy the book when the library has got its webshop back up. It is a luxurious publication with many images.

2019 Sandstein verlag, isbn 9783954985302

The Magic Door – David Pantano (2019)

“A Study on the Italic Hermetic Tradition: Myth, Magic, and Metamorphosis in the Western Inner Traditions”. That is a title.

The author starts this little book (small size, about 200 pages) with an introduction that suggests a Traditionalist approach. The “Hermetic Tradition” from the title gets the Evola explanation of alchemy, but first we start with Roman myths, Pythagoras, Ovid, Apuleius, Dante, Ficino, Pico, Bruno, etc. You get it, the history of esotericism that has been told a few times in recent decades. What does add to the book is that the author also cites Italian sources that I have not yet seen translated.

Halfway things get more interesting. The Magic Door from the title proves to be an actual alchemical / Rosicrucian door that can still be found in Rome. This is the start of a part with more contemporary Italian esotericists. Some I knew or at least heard of (Cagliostro, Kremmerz, Evola), others were new to me (Vico, Daffi, Giammatria). What is more, Pantano writes about groups that I never heard of (Neapolitan Mysterio, Fraternity of Myriam, Circle of Kronos). It is interesting how such groups sprouted from one another during quite a period.
Also here Pantano uses sources that I do not think were available in English before. It also sheds some (to me) new light on Evola.

“The Magic Door” is (as you can gather) mostly interesting for dealing with the period from the 18th century to the present concerning Italian esoteric circles. From (semi-)Masonic to downright magical, also Italy proves to have had it’s share of alchemists.
What surprises me a bit is that Reghini is hardly spoken about. He seems to have been a spider in a web as well.

2019 Manticore Press, isbn 0648499642

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

Amazon.com

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.

So I was somewhat surprised to run into this book. It comes from the ‘Martinist corner’. It is only 54 pages, printed on A4 and is some sort of mystical vision about Jesus Christ and his mission. It reads a bit like Jacob Böhme or a similar author. This is not entirely my kind of literature. Towards the end things become a bit more interesting.

The translator did make an introduction and he added a short text of Martinez de Pasqually.

According to Amazon, the translator, Felix Mupidia Lonji, translated other texts of French esotericists whose texts are not yet available in English. Let us hope he will translate more texts of Willermoz!

2017, isbn 1549869957

The Hermetic Journal 1978

Amazon.com

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.

All in all a varried journal with (to me) content of varying interest. It is a great idea to make such old material available again. The books are not too cheap, $ 20,- to $ 30,- per book, depending on your choice for softcover or hardcover. An advice. Go to the Amazon kindle versions of the journals were you can see the tables of content, so you can better choose which issues you are going to purchase.

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.

Then we continue to the part about Bureus, his “Adulruna” and “Gothicism” before and after Bureus. I have spoken about that in my review of the German translation of the book.

Karlsson’s latest makes a nice read. There is a bit too much of Runegild / Dragon Rouge contemporary magic in it for my liking, but it is great that there is finally descent information in English on the esoteric rune systems of two little-known Swedes. Also Karlsson shows Bureus’ path as an individual path of progress and describes the initiatory system of the Manhemsförbundet, so you get ‘old an new’ practical Runosophy.

2019 Inner Traditions, isbn 1620557746

Doors Of Valhalla – Vincent Ongkowidjojo (2017)

Amazon.com

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.

As expected, Ongkowidjojo’s approach is not mine. This does not matter though, because, as with Between Wodan and Widar the sometimes radically different interpretation forces me to look at things another way. What is more, the author makes his own translations (having an appendix with both the old texts and his translations) which are sometimes so different that I found myself checking other books, which is a positive thing.

On to the book. Maria Kvilhaug opens with an interesting text about the worlds (“Heimr”). As in her own book that I reviewed earlier, I do not always agree (but more often than with Ongkowidjojo I do), but also here this does not really matter. This introduction certainly worth reading.
As with Thorsson’s Nine Doors of Midgard, Ongkowidjojo names his chapters “doors”. There are parts about a range of worlds, going over in texts about seven “rays”, an apparently Theosophical concept that he does not really explain.
Then follows a more psychological part, different ages, different functions of Gods, “an exegesis of Voluspa” (a similar approach to Taunton) and the Lokasenna, a comparison between myths about Thor and those about Hercules and more.

Yes, this is quite a book. Almost 530 pages, densely packed with information, theories and thoughts. The author refers to many other authors, ranging from Theosophical, to more scholarly authors and even Farwerck (extra points!). This brings a potpourri different approaches, but Ongkowidjojo seems to have found his own red thread.

Unfortunately he is very loose with his sources. There are no notes or clear references, in spite of the impressive (but chaotic) bibliography. “The Bailey texts” is an example of the way the author refers to his sources. This is pretty annoying, especially when I am unsure if his reference is actually correct.

Theories and ideas that are sometime thought-provoking, but which sometimes elude me, alternated with meditation or magical exercises and a wide range of subjects more or less having to do with Northern mythology. Indeed, this is not my ‘usual literature’. The book was a sometimes tiring read, sometimes very enjoyable. It certainly gave me a few things to ponder about.

2017 Mandrake, isbn 1906958726

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.

The book makes a mildly interesting read. You can, to some degree, compare symbols and ways of working from different Rites. There is one part with completely alchemist Masonic catechisms which show that alchemy once formed a major part of Masonic symbolism (at least in some organisations) with pretty practical information too. The more studious parts of the book are of the usual 18th and 19th century shallowness. Nice to read, not enough to study.

I am unsure if the author is a Freemason himself. I guess not, because here and there (s)he added passwords where the original texts have none. Also some translations are weird when you know something of Masonic symbolism. Perhaps they are correct in French, but a literal translation to English make them incorrect or at least strange.

There are other volumes in these series. I am not sure if this first volume interested me enough to continue with: “The Gnostic and Esoteric Mysteries of Freemasonry, Lucifer and the Great Work”. Under the pen-name Daath Gnosis esoteric and occult publications about non-Masonic subjects have been published as well.

2016 Daath Gnosis, isbn 1312442646

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.

Lamb presents a nice little book to read, but not not expect anything groundbreaking or in depth.

2018 The Laudable Pursuit Press, isbn 1732621403

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.

The essays are of varied content, but there is a lot of astrology to be found within the pages of this book. Astrology seems to have been one of the backgrounds of the order. The people behind it were of the opinion that around 1950 we would go from “the ages of Piscus” to “the age of Aquarius”. When, why and what does would mean can be found in more than one text, but the order took it that they were the first esoteric order of the new age.

Other astrological essays are about famous esotericists such as Paracelsus, Agrippa of Nettesheim and Eliphas Levi. Johannes Vehlow uses known information to cast a horoscope and then these elements to test his horoscope, so when we know what day a person was born, a rough chart can be calculated and then by using facts from the lives of the men, Vehlow calculates what time a person was born for example. That combined makes a horoscope which on its turn says something about the character, life and even outer appearance of the person to expand the biography.

The very first essay is a complex esoteric mathematical text (the “metamathematics” that are mentioned in another text?) which is so hard to follow that I had low hopes for the rest. Most texts are (somewhat) easier to digest. Some have a heavy Theosophical leaning, some are interesting esoteric musings, some are less interesting.

As you may remember from my review of Flowers’ book, there are also links to Aleister Crowley and his religion of Thelema. “Master Therion” indeed also has a few texts within these pages, he is referred to a few times and the Fraternitas’ version of the Thelematic motto is often mentioned, but I do not know Crowley well enough to be able to say if more influences are to be found in this book.

All in all the first first five issues of “Saturn Gnosis” made a nice read and I guess other people with esoteric interest would enjoy this book too.

2008 Verlag Geheimes Wissen, isbn 9783902646569