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Foundations of Post-Traditionalism and The Mystery and Its Philosophy of Life – Michell MacLaughlin (2017)

I ran into this book in the Kindle store and read it out of curiosity. It is presented as two books in one, while it is only 44 pages. In the book the author says he writes too much. Seven volume tomes, three part books. He does have quite a few titles available on Amazon, but none large. Perhaps he started with his massive works and then started to present his ideas in smaller editions, while the former are not available easily?

There have been so many avenues and attempts to unify the world’s religions, but thus far all have failed Now, however, I have founded this school of Post-Traditionalism, and I have succeeded in unifying our religious pursuits and understandings.

Quite a statement! However the author does say a bit more how and why he came to his “post-Traditionalism”, none of the ‘traditional’ Traditionalist authors are mentioned and I find little agreements to their writings. Perhaps there is a bit of the Schuon/Smith ‘transcendent unity of religions’, but outside Christianity, there are but few references to religion. Therefor I have not tagged this book as “Traditionalist”.

MacLaughlin has the odd term “Religion without religion” (written like that) which appears to be something ‘deeper’ than religion as such. “It is exactly what it says, getting rid of all dogma and superstition and all false notice of God, the universe and man, and keeping only the metphysic and the ethic that we have seen elsewhere in my work.” The author is usually negative about metaphysics (and thus strays from Guénon). He does not really get any clearer than this. He likes to speak of “virtue ethics, remaking ourselves as examples that others will follow.” Nothing very ‘practical’ though. I guess you do have to read his larger works for that, but where do you get them?

MacLaughlin tries to speak with some authority because “I have experienced this revelation and am now giving it to you throughout the whole of my work.” All in all I found this little book uninspiring, not too interesting, not too well written even. It certainly does not make me want to try other writings of MacLaughlin, which -I suppose- was the reason for publishing this little summary.

So I still do not know in what way MacLaughlin thinks to connect to Traditionalism and exactly how he thinks to save the world.


De Weg Terug – Jan de Meyer (2022)

Jan de Meyer (1961-) is a Flemish sinologist (scholar of Chinese studies) who wrote several books and translated traditional texts. Some of his work is in English, most is in Dutch. This is one such Dutch title. Earlier I read Wat Kan Ik Leren Van De Taoïsten? (‘What can I learn of the Taoists?’) (2020). This is also a Dutch title, perhaps that was the reason I did not review it.

The title of the present book translates to ‘The way back’. It is about “Chinese hermits and Daoism”. Where the other title (‘what can I learn’) presents translations of classic, Chinese texts (with elucidations) about a list of subjects, ‘the way back’ is an in depth study into the subject of Chinese hermitage.

Early in the book De Meyer explains that Chinese hermitage is not quite the same as people retreating into a cloister. The book is mostly about people who have retreated to inhabitable areas, often mountains, to stay away from normal life. Some of these hermits also studied Confucianism, Taoism, or both. Some made a name of being wise. Then the irony occurs that some of these people fled the dangers of society (China has a violent past), when at the same time they are approached for public functions. The book seems to say that in ancient China you either worked for the government or you retreated from public life.

Spanning centuries upon centuries, De Meyer presents a long list of hermits, some (relatively) famous, some translated into a Western language for the first time. You encounter Taoism, some Confucianism, Chinese culture and politics and of course the life of the (un)common man and woman.

Just as in the other book, De Meyer has a very easy-to-read writing style with humour and obviously a massive knowledge about his subject. A book about people living in mountains may seem a bit dull, but ‘the way back’ is a very nice book about old and not-so-old Chinese culture.

2022 Athenaeum, isbn 9789025313029

al-‘Ilm al-Huduri: knowledge by Presence – Sayyed Hejazi (2012)

“This book is a comparative study of the epistemology of Suhrawardî and Mullâ Sadrâ Shîrâzî, two Muslim thinkers of the 6th/12th and 11th/17th century.” This sounded interesting. Suhrawardi and Mulla Sadra are two Muslim thinkers I liked to read more of/about, so both of them in one book sounded like a good idea. Perhaps the word “epistemology” in the description should have sounded an alarm.

The book is very academic. Can I even say “philosophical” in the modern, Western explanation of the word? How many times on each page can you use words such as “epistemological” and “ontological”?

Hejazi focuses on two phrases: “knowledge by presence (al-‘ilm al-hudûrî)” and “formal, empirical, or conceptual knowledge (al-‘ilm husuli)”. Judging the title mostly the former. It takes about a book to explain the concepts and the different interpretations of the two mentioned, but also a few other authors.

The book is somewhat interesting, but too ‘philosophical’ and academic to my liking and too limited in scope. I would have liked to learn more about Suhrawardi’s and Mulla Sadra’s thinking. I guess I do not belong to the intended audience of this book.

As a closing remark. The Kindle version is quite flawed with disappearing sentences.

2012 ISRA Academy Press, isbn 1453779043

Contra Mundum: Joseph de Maistre & The Birth Of Tradition – Thomas Isham (2017)

“Before René Guénon, there was Joseph de Maistre”.

I have known the name of De Maistre (1753-1821), probably because of the few references to him by the mentioned Guénon. I ran into this biography and decided to learn a bit more about the country-mate of Guénon.

The author makes many comparisons between the two men who were similar in several regards, but also different. Both were Catholics, went around in the ‘occult scenes’ of their time, joined Freemasonry and both revolted against the modern world of their ages.

De Maistre lived before, during and after the French Revolution (1789) and his Catholic orthodoxy did not like the direction France headed. He took a fierce stance with sharp polemics giving him the name of a gloomy thinker. Isham shows that De Maistre was nothing of that sort.

In spite of being a Catholic in difficult times, De Maistre -as mentioned- also explored other directions of thinking and knowing. Ironically, he was an active Freemason and Freemasonry was accused of being one of the major causes of the anticlerical sides of the French Revolution. In De Maistre’s life we see that things are not that black and white. Like he disapproved of a large part of society’s new worldview, he did of a part of Freemasonry.

Isham mostly focuses on De Maistre’s life. He compares ideas often to those of Guénon, but after finishing the little book (154 pages) I really cannot say much about De Maistre’s thinking. He appears to have been more philosophical (and perhaps theological) than the more esoteric Guénon, but that is about it.

According to Isham De Maistre is hardly known outside France. Some of his works are available in English by now. Isham thinks he remains a relevant political and religious thinker and a precursor to Traditionalism, so this biography may introduce him to more potential readers.

2017 Sophia Perennis, isbn 1621382508

The Kybalion – Three Initiates (1908)

I have known about The Kybalion for decades, but I never intended to read it. Just a contemporary book claiming to be Hermetic, right? For some reason the book gets renewed attention and I kept running into references. I decided to see what it is all about.

The “three initiates” are probably just “the New Thought pioneer William Walker Atkinson (1862–1932)” (Wikipedia). This -indeed- is also how the book reads. ‘Modern science’ of a century ago, references to authors of these days, obvious ‘New Thought’ ideas.

Just as I thought, the author(s) refer to the “ancient text” Kybalion, quoting it and explaining the quotes. None of these quotes seem to be ‘genuinely Hermetic’. The book has got the famous and often quoted “Seven Hermetic Principles” which are mostly just variations to the idea of duality. They are the principles of “mentalism”, “correspondence”, “vibration”, “polarity”, “rhythm”, “cause and effect” and “gender”. It is amazing how often these principles are quoted, but I really wonder how these were distilled from Hermetic texts.

It is not like the book is entirely without interesting thoughts, but it has little to do with Hermetism. It is really but a child of its time and from a fairly specific line of thought too. Yet the book remains to be influential. Even the most famous Hermetic saying “As above, so below; as below, so above” comes from the Kybalion. I do not think this wording is used in any traditional Hermetic text.

Nothing more than a ‘page through and move on’ text to me.

Eternal Wisdom – Gwendolyn Taunton (2020)

In Amazon’s Kindle store my eye fell on two titles of Gwendolyn Taunton (formerly Toynton) that I did not know. The Primordial Tradition (2015) and the book presently under review.

That book is presented as an updated version of the publication that acquainted me with Taunton back in the days: Primordial Traditions Compendium (2009) which was a compendium of a periodical that Taunton edited before (2005-2008).

The 230+ page compendium contains texts by various authors. In the new 78 page version, there are only texts of what used to be the editor. New ones too it seems, so the connection between both publications is only the author.

Already in 2009 I concluded that Taunton’s explanation of the term “Primordial Tradition” is not mine. This is still the case. This is emphasized by the opening text about Carl Gustav Jung. What was also apparent over a decade ago is that Taunton appears to be of the opinion that “philosophia perennis” can be reached by study. It is even “an intellectual transmission” (emphasis mine). “Philosophia perennis” is presented as (the result of) the study of comparative myth and religion.

Even though she does refer to Guénon, Schuon and Coomaraswamy, Taunton’s approach is much different.

A prophet, therefor, does not require the bonds of filiation, which René Guénon believed to be the necessary requirement for belonging to tradition.

Guénon has a few things to say about prophets which is in a way similar, but also much different from that statement. Another point Guénon would certainly not agree with is:

Faith in the potency of any specific symbol relies upon the most basic human aspect of belief. Belief in a sentient God is not even required.

As with other publications, Taunton walks a similar mountain as myself, but another path (but closer as many). As usual she does have interesting things to say and diverting opinions force me to question my own. I do wonder about some chapters what the relevancy with the subject is, such as the chapter about the “science of omens”.

There is also a chapter about alchemy in which Taunton suggests that alchemy is a (proto-)Indo-European tradition which has spread with Indo-European culture. This would explain the spread and diversity of alchemy. This is an interesting notion that I do not think I encountered before.

The closing chapter is more political. Apparently some alt-right thinkers have started using the term “Traditionalism” and for that reason Taunton chose to no longer use the term as she wants to prevent being lumped together with such currents. It could be me, but this alt-right is hardly visible (especially possible ‘intellectual’ efforts have all passed by me) and just the fact that they try to hijack a term that has been in use for a century is not immediately a reason for me to start to look for a synonym.

As often with Manticore publications, interesting, somewhat different from my own ideas (which is good). Rather short though.

2020 Manticore Press, isbn 0648766055

Mysticism After Modernism – James O’Meara (2020)

Manticore has titles that take me (slightly) out of my usual bubble, but I did not expect that when I ordered this book.

The book is about: “Crowley, Evola, Neville, Watts, Colin Wilson and Other Populist Gurus”. A few names that are (relatively) unknown to me, but some ‘Traditionalism’ is promised and of course Crowley and Evola make an odd combination, (well, of course not entirely).

The book proves to be a second edition, the first was published in 2018. It is a compilation of essays, most of them published at “North American New Right” website and publishing house Counter Currents. Other texts have been available before in “Aristokratia“. So indeed, you can expect some politics here too.

The book opens with Alan Watts, somewhat new to me and somewhat interesting, but too much Watts for my liking. Then we have William Burroughs (and a bit of Genesis P. Orridge), Aleister Crowley, Julius Evola, Gnosticism, Neville Goddard and at the end, Donald Trump.

There is some sort of red thread here in the author’s words: “America’s home-made Hermeticism, our native-born Neoplatonism, our own two-fisted Traditionalism, the movement generally known as New Thought.”

New Thought, I heard about that. Positive thinking, the Law of Attraction, the Secret, Will what you Want, that sort of things, right? Right indeed! Even though the author has explained it on a few occasions, I cannot make the step from Traditionalism to New Thought in my mind. Neither do I find the essays about the New Thinkers very interesting.

What is a merit of the book is that the texts are written with some humor, references to pop culture (mostly the “Madmen” series and the “Manhunter” film) which gives a new approach to some ideas. Also O’Meara manages to mix up a massive amount of different sources.

Overall I found the book somewhat amusing in its better parts and not entirely my cup of tea in most.

2020 Manticore press, isbn 0648766020

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