Category Archives: philosophy

The Mystical Foundations Of Francis Bacon’s Science – Daniel Branco (2020)

Strange timing this publication. I recently read three books mostly about the events leading up to the formation of the ‘premier Grand Lodge’ of Freemasons. When I was about the finish the third, this book about Francis Bacon (1561-1626) was published. Bacon is (of course) mentioned in the books of Earnshaw.

Also I started to read a Dutch translation of Frances Yates’ Rosicrucian Enlightenment. I have had the book for many years, but I bought a Dutch translation when it came out eight years ago (probably because of the Monas Hieroglypica on the front) and I felt like taking it out of the plastic. (Of course) Bacon is in there too.

Already clear in Yates’ book is that Bacon had similar ideas to those expressed in the Rosicrucian manifestos of the early 17th century. He was careful to avoid being associated with them though. Shortly after the publications of the manifestos, especially governments were not very enthusiastic about the ideas expressed therein. Still, Bacon is often associated with the current and therefor also with proto-Freemasonry.

Not much of all that in the present title written by Branco in Spanish and translated to English though. Branco is a philosopher who, as the title says, investigated the non-scientific elements in Bacon’s thought. Besides being connected to esoteric currents, Bacon is also often seen as the first of the scientists. His ideas were indeed often rational, materialistic even, but besides an early scientist, he was also a late Renaissance-man and he worked within a religious frame.

Branco portrays Bacon as a much more complex thinker than authors of either side (esoteric or scientific) show him to be. From radical scientific ideas of his predecessors, Bacon knew about mystic, Hermetic and Rosicrucian ideas, was aware of the various branches of Protestantism and with all that tried to create a system of knowing encompassing all. A project for which is was both lauded and loathed, the latter mostly because people thought it was way too complex.

The book is a bit too philosophical and scholarly for me, but it is interesting to see ideas of both ‘camps’ are both confirmed and contradicted. Bacon was -as said- a complex thinker with inner contradictions too.

2020 Manticore Press, isbn 0648766004

Actionism – Lennart Svensson (2017)

I do not have good memories about the other book of Svensson that I reviewed, but I see that my review was quite positive.

The new book is presented as a practical perennialist handbook, which probably got me into ordering it. I found the book quite a tiring read and rereading my review of Borderline I see that much of my criticism of it, also applies to Actionism. The difference is that the present title left a less positive impression.

Actionism presents a system, but this might well be just Svensson’s system. The system is some sort of self-help for a Traditionalist man in the contemporary world. The first part of the book is alright, it outlines the author’s ideas, many of which are not mine, but that is alright.

Then texts start to appear of which the purpose is not always clear to me, quite like in Borderline. Lengthy retellings of novels and other books, a massive part with a diary of the author or poems, usually parts that I only skipped through. Then there are again the anoying acronyms, as if “ANOTT-BOTSOTT” makes it easy to remember “Act Not On The Thing, But On The Soul Of The Thing”.

Actionism is about summoning your Will and to lead your Thought, merging the two to Will-Thought and affirming the Inner Light, a spark of the Divine Light. To all this, saying “I AM” is the performative confirmation.

I do like the idea of a handbook for modern living for the conservative, but I am afraid this book does not ‘work’ for me.

2017 Manticore Press, isbn 0994595875

Lovers Of Sophia – Jason Reza Jorjani (2017)

This was a bit of a hard book to read. It starts with mostly philosophical essays. Philosophy, not really my kind of literature.

After a while the texts in this massive book (530 pages) start to varry in subject. Aliens in the philosophy of Kant, filmreviews, Kafka, the Tao of Bruce Lee, Nazi technology. Some texts are fun reads, others less so.

One text is called Against Perennial Philosophy which is more about the term “philosophy” that is used, than about ‘Guénonian current’.

There are 19 essays in this book. As you can see with wildly different subjects. Especially in the first part the author has a ‘there are not many real philosophers, but I am one of them’ air, but it is amusing to see how he goes from conservative to progressive subjects, ‘high’ to ‘low’ culture, heavy and lighter subjects, enough variety. Some texts I mostly skipped through, others were good reads.

It seems that there are already three editions of this book, the last one from another publisher (Arktos).

2017 Manticore Press, isbn 0994595883

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

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.

I find Fernandez’ book a difficult read. It is well-written in good English, but often ‘high-flying’, with sentences full of interesting sounding words. Also the book comes across very philosophical to me, writing a lot, but not saying too much. Within the whirlwind of information I fail to find the red thread or even the point. Fernandez manages well to explain spiritual experiences in technological terms (such as a photo camera flash), but the purpose of his lengthy explanations of elements of scientific discoveries elude me. There are large parts that make nice reads. There are also large parts that do not appeal to me at all. What does not help, is that, like I said, I have not found what the author says he presents. The book remains a receptacle of thoughts and information without coming to a clear conclusion.

Fernandez frequently refers to volume 2, so I suppose this part is well in the making. Perhaps there he will ‘wrap things up’.

2017 Manticore Press, isbn 0994595867

De Pansofie Van Comenius * Henk Woldring (2016)

Early 2015 I somehow heard that professor H.E.S. Woldring would present his first book about Jan Amos Comenius with a lecture at the university where he used to lecture. That first book was a biography of Comenius. Two years later the author presents a book about Comenius’ “pansophy” as he called it himself.

The book is only 200 pages and relatively expensive, but like the first book it is a good-looking hardcover. In a large number of short chapters Woldring analyses Comenius’ philosophy and how it developed. He starts with some general remarks about the man Jan Amos Comenius and about his ‘project’. Then follow, roughly chronologically, analyses about Comenius’ philosophy and the books he wrote in different periods. Woldring also uses Comenius’ own “syncritical” method on his own ideas.

Especially towards the end Woldring compares Comenius to contemporaries. The last chapters are inquiries about Comenius’ “style of thinking” and then those of René Descartes and Baruch de Spinoza.

“The Pansophy of Comenius” is an alright read. It is a bit of a guide through Comenius’ books and a reference work to his developing ideas, but it is probably mostly (just) an introduction to the man’s thinking. As the title suggests, the book is written in Dutch.

2016 Damon, isbn 9463400109

Borderline * Lennart Svensson (2015)

“A Traditionalist Outlook for Modern Man” was published just before the end of last year. This Swedish author has written several books in Swedish and recently started to publish in English. He has a BA in Indology, but this book is not an academic one. Actually, “Borderline” contains the musings of an interested layman (it is not about Indian philosophy). It is also the merit of Numen Books to publish titles such as this, because they bring another perspective than what is currently popular in academic circles.

Let me start with some criticism. “Borderline” reads like a collection of separate essays. There is a red thread, but some chapters hardly fit in with the rest. Is, for example, the Edith Södergran chapter just to bring attention to this Swedish poet? The chapter seems to be a bit out of place content-wise. There is also a three page biography of Ernst Jünger which appears to be an advertisement for the authors book about Jünger, but this chapter does not add a whole lot to the content of the present title.
Then there is the fact that Svensson uses terms such as “Perennialism” in a bit of an odd (to me at least) way. However the author knows Guénon and Evola, his “Perennialism” refers to the thought of authors such as Plato, Plotinus, Goethe, Jünger and Swedenborg (and even Jung).
Another point, the acronyms. I fail to see the use. Does the author asume that we are going to throw “RAWALTAFA” at our friends when we want to tell them: “Rather Acting Wrongly And Learning Then Abstaining From Action” or learn them about NAMO as in “Napoleonic Modus Operandi”?

Svensson describes what he sees as the philosophy and mindset for the modern man. He is clear that this is a theistic outlook. He calls his ‘system’ “Holistic” and “integral esotericism”. He does not really care what philosophy his readers adhere, but he is very clear that his own is Christian; not the typical Catholic kind of Christianity, but more of an esoteric one, an esotericism which he bases on Rudolf Steiner and, to a lesser account, on Emanuel Swedenborg. Both not really Perennialists in my definition, but I do not often find a Christian voice in the current ‘neo-Traditionalistic scene’. The anti-materialistic take does make Svensson’s book fit in the Numen Books roster and the different approach makes the book a nice addition to the publisher’s list. Also the fact that “Borderline” is relatively practical makes this a book worth reading.

I do have to say that the book appears to me like the first rendition of a rudimentary philosophy that still needs working. A phase that I have found myself in for too long a time as well, which is the main reason why I do not write as much as I used to. It could be interesting to see how Svensson develops as time passes.

“Borderline” makes an alright read with a somewhat alternative approach to what I am used to which is good, since it forces me to think things over. With that as starting point, I can surely recomnmend this title.

2015 Numen Books, isbn 0994252579

Unum Necessarium * Jan Amos Comenius (1668/1983)

That is odd. I cannot find an English translation of this book. Unum Necessarium (‘the only thing necessary’) is the last book that Comenius (1592-1670) wrote. He dedicated it to “earl Ruprecht of the Palts on the Rhein”. The way Comenius wrote, my guess is that this Ruprecht was still alive when the book was published, but which Ruprecht we are talking about, I do not know. But, Comenius’ last book lacks translation to English? This Dutch translation is from 1929; this 1983 printing is a second and revised print. The translation was made by R.A.B. Oosterhuis.

Unum Necessarium is but a little book, 155 pages including introductions and notes. Comenius wrote a massive amount of books about a wide range of subjects. The current title is small and simple; of course, when there is just one thing you really need.

Comenius starts with referring to three Greek myths. Daedalus and his labyrinth, Sisyphus and his stone and Tantalus and his punishment. Comenius keeps talking about labyrinths, Sisyphusstones and Tantalus-disappointments throughout the book. So what is this only thing necessary. Comenius uses several discriptions, but all come to the point of “returning to Christ” (p. 125). Man does not need fancy cloths, lots of money, too much to eat, not even a library full of books (Comenius lost three of his libraries though). Set your mind to Christ and you will have all you need.
Indeed, Unum Necessarium is a very pious and Christian book. Comenius adhered a very specific (and endangered) form of Christianity, the “Unity of the Brethern” (or “Moravian Brethern”), a Moravian Protestant current inspired by the ideas of John Huss (1369-1415).

Comenius travelled around, mostly because he (and his brethern) were forced to leave. He spent many years in the Netherlands. This book was published in the city where he died: Amsterdam.

Unum Necessarium is not really a highly inspirational read (to me). Like I said, it is very piously Christian. Comenius proves himself a realistic and simple religious man who -however he acknowledges other faiths- would like to see ‘his religion’ be the Universal Religion it deserves to be.

‘The only thing necessary’ shows the religious life of a ‘minimalistic believer’.

1983 Rozekruis Pers, isbn 9070196972

Intellectual Gallery * Troy Southgate (2014)

As, for a European continental, every Black Front Press publication costs 15 UK pounds (including shipping), this massive 550+ paged book was as expensive as the tiny “Troubadours Of The Apocalypse”.

I knew that Southgate was an active writer, but almost each of the 18 chapters is actually a summery of one of his books and those are only a part of his bibliography. Many titles are available from Southgate’s own Black Front Press (you have to combine the Facebook page and Blogspot to see what is available). The catalogue goes from Southgate’s national anarchism, books about black metal and neofolk to “Helios: journal of metaphysical & occult studies”, philosophy and history. This “intellectual gallery” is almost that varried. There is not really politics in this book, but the chapters deal with varried characters such as Julius Evola, Friedrich Nietzsche, Corneliu Codreanu, Ernst Junger, Oswald Sprengler and Martin Heidegger to Maria de Naglowska, Aleister Crowley and Emanual Swedenborg.

With such a variety of subjects, it is hardly surprising that I did not find every chapter as interesting as the next. The interesting opening about Evola stands aside “an investigation of G.K. Chesterson’s The Ballad Of The White Horse“. Similarly, while the essays on Swedenborgh, Heidegger and Schopenhauer present little new, the 1920’s warning about the upcoming Islam by Hilaire Belloc is interesting to read in our own day and age.

You may think that many subjects are hardly original, but Southgate often presents just another angle such as Aleister Crowley the mountaineer, Sprengler is critiqued and of Nietzsche his reply to Paul Rhee is spoken of. Other chapters are more typical, such as Jünger’s war-diaries and Schopenhauer’s pessimism.

All in all this “intellectual gallery” makes a nice intoduction to Southgate the thinker and writer non-politically. That is to say, here and there his politics are mentioned, but not very often. Also Southgate has the name of being fairly radical and politically active and hence ‘dangerous’ (the name of his publishing house does not help there), but be sure that he is an interesting well-read intellectual with an agreeable writing style and a wide view on subjects.

2014 Black Front Press isbn 9780992745288

The Path Of Cinnabar * Julius Evola (1963/2009)

I was looking what to read and had to think of Evola. After looking around a bit, I opted for the book that the translator has subtitled “an intellectual autobiography”. What a great book! I have read several books of this controversial author and many years ago I even wrote a biography of the man, but like the man says several times in his book: this is the ultimate guide to his ouevre.
Evola lived from 1898 to 1974. He wrote Il Cammino del Cinabro when he thought it was time to look back at his life and work, especially the latter. By the time Evola started to work on this autobiography, his popularity started to rise after a couple of decades of being almost totally ignored. Therefor he thought it high time to put his works in perspective and to create some sort of guidance for his new readership. Now, over 50 years later, The Path of Cinnabar is still very much fitted for that!
The book starts as a relatively normal biography. Evola did not want to write about himself, but about his ideas, but of course he has to add some personal notes here and there. Early in the book he writes about his Catholic upbringing, his break and the way he looked towards Catholicism afterwards. This is pretty much like my own story, but Evola articulates his story a lot better than I could have. From his anarchistic and artistic period, to his encounter with Eastern thought and occultism, Evola is very open about the development of his thinking. What is more, he is also very open about what he wrote at the time and how he looks at his ideas of the time when he wrote The Path of Cinnabar. This is particularly revealing when he comes to his political ideas and how these developped. Those parts also bring perspective to the most common objections agains Evola, but will also confirm some ideas of his enemies.
Regardless Evola the politician, I find the total overview of the development of his philosophy very interesting, particularly when he comes to his agreements and disagreements with René Guénon. Quite surprisingly on a couple of occasions I tend to prefer Evola’s approach to that of Guénon (but not always). Some parts (especially his philosophical phase) are not as interesting as the rest, but the larger part is great reading.
Indeed a work that cannot be missed by Evola’s followers and his enemies and it definately fullfills the function that it was written for: explaining and framing the works of Julius Evola that he produced in more than five decades. What makes the book even better: Evola proves himself a great writer and the translator turned his book into a wonderfull text in English.
1963/2010 Arktos Media, isbn 1907166025