Category Archives: history

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

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

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

Vikingen * Luit van der Tuuk (2015)

My father in law bought this book and figured I might want to read it. “Vikingen, Noormannen in de Lage Landen” (‘Vikings, Normans in the Low Countries’) is a revised and expanded version of the same book that the author published in 2008. Van der Tuuk is conservator in the Dorestad museum (and in that capacity I once had a guided tour from him). Dorestad was the most famous Dutch trading town that was sacked and burned down by Viking raiders several times.

It is exactly the image of ravaging barbarians that the author aims to revise. Most information we have about the period of the Viking raids comes from Christian authors who depicted the situation worse than it actually was. Of course they also benefited from depicting the heathens as barbarians.

The book is an enormous summing up of historical events which Van der Tuuk unraveled. He uses writings from different sources and archaeological findings to weave a detailed story of Norse presence in what are nowadays the Netherlands and Belgium.

Some background information about certain events is about as much history as I can ‘handle’, but 336 pages of historical details such as years, dates, names, lineage and the like is a bit too much for me. I guess this is a book for walking historical encyclopedia such as my father in law, but of course if you want a reference book about the age of the Viking raids, this is the one to get.

2015 Omniboek, isbn 9789401906838

Symposionreeks 16 J.A. Comenius (2007)

I even managed to miss the Comenius “symposion” of the Lectorium Rosicrucianum on 7 October 2006… The booklet is almost sold out as well, but can still be ordered here and there. From the publisher for one.

Since the Lectorium Rosicrucianum is a modern Rosicrucian society, this little book mostly focusses on Comenius’ connections to the original Rosicrucians and the ideas that the two has incommon. Comenius was in his early twenties when the manifestoes were published and apparently they inspired them greatly. So much even, that later in his life Comenius got in contact with the author of the manifestoes, Johann Valentin Andrea, who shared Comenius’ ideas of a worldwide, yet reformed, Church of Christ.

The speakers were Hans Knevel (about Comenius’ spiritual path), Hanneke van Alderwegen (on his educational writings), Peter Huijs (about the Christian group that Comenius came from and of which he would be the last bishop) and Rachel Ritman (about the Rosicrucian connections). Of course the Ritman library brought some original printed books, the texts of the exhibition as -as always- included.

Another nice little book in the continuing “symposion” series of Rozekruis Pers.

2007 Rozekruis Pers, isbn 9789067323321

Comenius Und Die Freimaurer * Wilhelm Begemann (1906)

I know Jan Amos Comenius because of a book of his (Via Lucis that was translated to Dutch and published by In De Pelikaan, the publishing house of the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica in Amsterdam. Apparently I have had that book for so long that I did not write reviews when I bought it.
A while ago I got a catalogue of the publishing house of the Lectorium Rosicrucianum, a contemporary Rosicrucian society founded in the Netherlands. They have more titles of Comenius available in Dutch, so after reading the biography about the man, it seemed like an idea to read some more of Comenius’ works. Setting out to order a few of these titles, I found this little book in German with the enigmatic title Comenius and the Freemasons. There are two lodges in my country named after Comenius who died in the Netherlands, but he lived before Freemasonry, so what would the book be about then?

Begemann starts with a short investigation of Comenius (1592-1670) and his possible links to Masonic lodges that existed before the foundation of what is nowadays the United Grand Lodge of England in 1717. That investigation was short. However Comenius certainly knew, and had ideas incommon with, the original Rosicrucian manifestoes that were published in 1614 and after, Begemann found no indication that Comenius has ever been in contact with an early lodge.

Apparently in the time that Begemann wrote his book, there were theories linking Comenius to Freemasonry and it took a while before I realised that the author was not trying to prove this link, but he was to debunk it. This he did and it was not even too hard.
For the record, Begemann investigated influences of Comenius’ thought on the early Masonic movement, but his conclusion is Comenius is hardly mentioned by the earliest authors such as Andersson and Desagulier. At some point an interest in Comenius’ writings does appear, but this is only later and in a time that Masonic authors showed a wide interest in thinkers of the past. read more

Hoe God Verscheen In Friesland * Dirk Otten (2014)

The first part of the series about the Christianisation of the Netherlannds (‘How God appeared in Saxonland’) was a very nice read; easy reading, amusing and informative. This second part (‘How God appeared in Frisia’) is so dull that it took me months to get through.

Whereas the previous book was Otten’s text with quotes from sources, this book about Frisia mostly just consists of retellings of hagiographies (‘lives of holy men’) of missionaries who spent time in Frisia. There are a few introductionary pages, but after that you can read about Eligius, Egbert, but of course also Willibrord, Boniface and Gregory (the latter at length in a cricital translation of Ludger). That was not quite what I expected after the first book…

The parts that Otten wrote make alright reads again and his inquisitive approach to the hagiographies is interesting, but a whole book with lives of saints which do not say all that much about the Frisians being Christianised did not exactly make a book coming anywhere near ‘How God appeared in Saxony’.

2014 Deventer Universitaire Pers, isbn 9789079378142

India’s Glory * Raghupati Bhatt (2014)

A history of India from an Indian perspective, that is what the author wanted to present. His little book (218 pages) has short chapters, mostly about noteworthy Indians. From Chandragupta Maurya (around 340 BCE) to Mahatma Gandi (1869-1948).

The author is of the opinion that the West is misinformed about India and its history and wants to correct these flaws. Also he wants to present figures of India’s glorious past. I must say that I do not really have the idea that I read anything radically different from what I already knew. Perhaps this is due to the fact that what I know about India mostly comes from people who were ‘India-friendly’, or perhaps it is simply so that us Westerners are not so badly informed as Bhatt thinks.

Not unexpectedly the book is filled with praise for India and his ‘big names’. Bhatt tells us about Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims alike; a bit about spiritual currents such as Bhakti or Jainism; spiritual leaders and politicians; conquerers and freedom fighters. Quite a few pages are dedicated to the time in which India fought British colonism. Nor does he shy to say -for example- that Gandhi was not favoured by everyone and he has a few things to say about Hindu nationalism, a current which was recently in the news.

“India’s Glory” does not hold any big surprises, but it makes an alright read and it never hurts to see things through the eyes of an insider.

2014 Numen Books, isbn 0987559869

The Knights Templar Of The Middle East * HRH Prince Michael of Albany & Walid Amine Salhab (2006)

Not long after I read Angel Millar’s book in which he claims it is the first about Freemasonry and the Middle East, I read about this title about: “The Hidden History of the Islamic Origins of Freemasonry”. The author’s name sounds a bit wild and so does the backcover so I did not have very high expectations, but I still wanted to read it. Just out of curiosity.

In a nutshell the authors (or rather, author, since it is written in the I-form) claim that the real origin of the Knights Templar is Muslim, that the last retreat of the Templars was Scotland and that around the time the Templar order faded, Freemasonry rose in… Scotland. From there it spread to France, returned to Brittany and then conquered the world.

The book opens with chapters about early Christianity, Jerusalem, early Islam, Muslim rule in Western countries and then several orders, including that of the Knights Templar. The tone is somewhat annoyingly ‘Islam is great and Catholicism is not’. Too much praise on one side and too much criticism on the other made a bit of a strange balance.
After a few chapters about the Templars the authors describe the downfall and after this the rise of Freemasonry.

The authors refer a lot to authors such as Laurence Gardner, Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and the like which makes it easy to add this book in the genre of popular science with its wild theories. Indeed, I reviewed a few of such books back in the days and this kind of out-of-the-box literature may be usefull to find new (possible) leads, but it is more usefull for amusement or a more ‘free’ view on history in order to get another way of looking at things than as reference book. I can say the same about the current title. read more

Jan Amos Comenius * Henk Woldring (2014)

However available since november 2014 this book was officially presented a couple of weeks ago during a seminar in the Vrije Universiteit (University Amsterdam) where the author used to lecture. Woldring is professor in political philosophy and invited colleagues of various breed to say something about Comenius’ message in our own day and age. I was positively surprised that also scholars on ‘materialistic’ fields seem to have ears for a spiritual thinker as Comenius.

Jan Komenský lived from 1592 to 1670, born in Nivnice, Moravia, died in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The “Amos” part of his name he added himself when he was a student and also by himself, his name is usually written Latinised as Comenius. I have a few translated books of the author, but before this biography I was mostly unaware of the vast amount of literature on the vast amount of diffent subjects that he wrote about. Comenius was adherrant to what in English is called the “Moravian Church”, but in Dutch they are called “brotherly community”, a Protestant church founded by Jan Hus (John Huss). During the Reformation, but mostly during the Counter-Reformation the situation was very difficult for (other kinds of) Protestants and Comenius continually had to flee. Being an original thinker who was well-respected by many, but maligned by others, Comenius had friends all over Europe and travelled a great deal. A few times Comenius lived in my country and since he died here and is burried in Naarden (Amsterdam was too expensive), we have a Comenius mausoleum and a museum (which I have not yet visited). It was mostly on demand of the museum that this biography of Comenius was written, simply because there was no descent overview of the man’s life and ideas. read more