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
Rob Wijnberg (1982-) is a Dutch philosopher and journalist with a flying carreer. Before reaching the age of 30 he was editor in chief of a part of one of the Netherland’s major newspapers. His work as a journalist has made Wijnberg increasingly critical towards media and the news. In previous books he philosophically explained his objections, his latest book is more like a manifest for new journalism. The title of the book translates as “the news factory” which shows accurately what Wijnberg tries to tell his readers. News is selective and interpreted information. It is never about what is normal, so it does not tell the consumer about the world, but about exceptions. What is worse, news is increasingly subject to commercialisation. A newspaper is no longer to inform people about important subjects, but to sell advertisement and the advertisers have a big influence on how news is presented, because you are not going to aim for a middle class by combining the advertisement to extremely scholarly essays. When looking at television you can notice that news has become entertainment. Many items talked about in news programs and bring little to our understanding of how things are. Also the audience has such a short attention span, that news has to be short. Because is has to be short, it can only repeat what is already known, because in 30 seconds of a news program or 400 words in a newspaper one simply cannot describe and substantiate alternate views. Then there is the point that news has to be fast and easy. There is a race who brings news earliest and in this race media has to “have an opinion first, think later”.
Wijnberg’s book is not large, but gives a lot to think about. I share many of his views on news and media, so I am glad that Wijnberg ends his book with some sort of manifest for new journalism and he is going to try to execute it too. If all goes as hoped, “De Correspondent” (‘the correspondent’) is going to daily, but beyond the issues of the day and bring things in a framework and looked at from different viewpoints to make then understandable. I hope this is going to work out well, since I have stopped watching most of what is on TV a long time ago, news on commercial TV stations has been crap for a long time, but also news on our public chanels is increasingly filled with non-news.
2013 De Bezig Bij, isbn 9023477588
You probably heard the story before, but in case you do not, once upon a time there was a magazine called Primordial Traditions. The best articles were published in a book with the same name and later Primordial Traditions became a series of journals, intially all with the word “tradition” in the title. The publisher changed names to Numen Books and now publishes both journals and ‘normal’ books. Besides Northern, occult, etc. traditions there was initially the plan to make a really Traditionalistic issue. This idea was later taken into a larger subject so now we have “Aristokratia”. Also it is presented as a journal of its own, not published by Numen books and not under the name of Gwendolyn Toynton/Taunton, however her hand in the project is clear. Aristokratia, that rings Nietzsche does it not? Indeed, the German philosopher is present in virtually every essay in this journal. Taunton opens the journal with ‘the real Nietzsche’ and his “aristocratic radicalism”. The article also clearly shows how aristocracy is looked at in this journal. There is a variety of essays to be found. Articles about philosophers such as Emil Cioran and Azsacra Zarathurstra (of the Shunya revolution), (of course) a text about Evola and some about Guénon, anti-modernists and writing not about someone, but of someone such as the amusing aphorism-style (and therefor very ‘quotable’) “Confrontation with nothingness” by Brett Stevens. Especially towards the end the texts are more Traditionalistic than philosophical or political, like my own “Traditionalism vs Traditionalism”.
All in all the journal became twice the size of earlier journal in these series and it again became a nice collection of texts, some of which are more interesting than others, but like its predecessors, “Aristokratia” is a good buy if you like not too academic, but also not too loose a book about subjects that matter to only a few of us.
2013 Manticore Press, isbn 9780987158185, Aristokratia website
The first three volumes suggested that Luvah would be a journal with issues, so year 1, issue 3, etc., but then online. The previous issues where published somewhat as a journal, for example in one PDF with a cover and all. Luvah Journal volume 4 is ‘just’ a page on the website with links to the articles in PDF and html (no longer Epub unfortunately). A bit like I also said about issue 1/3, Luvah does not seem very much Traditionalistic. There is academia, philosophy and poetry. Nonethess there are, like in the previous issues, interesting articles. The article about William Blake was less interesting than it seemed initially, but the article about feminism and “queer theories” in Judaism is something you do not hear a whole lot about. Keith Doubt wonders if ‘reading e’ is the same as reading a book. His article is too psychological for me and he seems to largely miss a big development in digital reading, but he does raise a few interesting questions. For the rest you can read poetry, prose, a book review and another few texts.
Click on the cover to go to the Luvah website.
Earlier I reviewed three titles in the series Western Esoteric Masters. Of Robert Fludd (1574-1637) I got the book second hand, but apparently in an earlier version. The book is called Robert Fludd, essential readings. The 2001 version says nothing of an earlier version, but it does have the 1991 introduction of Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke and the table of contents is the same, so I suppose it really is the same book, perhaps slightly reworked (the essential readings series also has titles about Dee and Boehme of the same authors and those of the Western Esoteric Masters series.) The texts featured are Fludd’s defense of the Rosicrucians, a few bits from his Utriusque Cosmi, Declaratio Brevis, his ‘philosophical key’, Fludd’s parts of his public discussions with Keppler and Foster, Truth’s Golden Harrow and Mosaicall Philosophy. I was mostly looking forward for Fludd’s history of the macrocosmos and the microcosmos from which the beautifull frontispiece is depicted on the the cover of the new version of Huffman’s book. This more esoteric writing is, together the also more esoteric Mosaicall Philosophy with distance the more interesting read in this book. The rest of the texts are more philosophical or even ‘mundane’. I understand how Huffman tried to give a broad view of the last real Renaissance man, but my personal interest is not so much in the life of Fludd, but rather some of his ideas. The writings about early science are amusing too sometimes though, such as the article about the “weatherglass” which is presented as some sort of thermometer, while it is actually more of a barometer. But especially the lengthy texts of Fludd defending himself against accusations of practising magic are not all that interesting. Just as with the other books in the series, this title is an alright book with some nice chapters. I like the idea of being able to read something of these persons, rather than about them and I understand that a comprenhensive view is given, but my interest lays only in a part of the authors. The version of the book that I have, has some not-too-good-looking images inside, it could be that the new version has better printing and certainly (some) other images, since the ‘look inside this book’ of Amazon already has the cover of Utriusque Cosmi on the opening pages. There is a big difference in the number of pages by the way, 272 for the old version, 150 for the new!
1992 Aquarian Press, isbn 1855381427
2001 North Atlantic Books, isbn 1556433735
A while ago I ran into this book in an antiquarian bookshop on one of the Dutch islands. It costed only 4 euros. I knew about this publication, the local library has/had two of these, one with translated letters, one with essays. The special thing about these translations is that they are hand written. I have not been able to find out in what year these books were published, but many years later, the Rosicrucian society Lectorium Rosicricianum published a little book also hand written by ‘members of the school of philosophy of Amsterdam’. The book contains Ficino’s five keys to Platonic wisdom and the ‘introduction to the Platonic theology’, quite like the 2005 Dutch translation published by the same publisher as the little commemoration book, but the translations differ obviously. The handwriting is done by different people. This is not visible in the written characters, but it is in line-endings. One writer managed to create filled-out lines, while another writer’s right side of the text is more wobbly. The publication is beautiful and the translations inspiring. When you can read Dutch and wanted to read something of Ficino anyway, I suggest you try to find one of these beautiful books. They are not too hard to find nowadays it seems. Somehow it is often listed as “uit het brievenboek van Marsilio Ficino” (“from the letterbook of Marsilio Ficino”). I do not know where that title comes from, but perhaps it has something to do with the other book with letters. Strangely enough it seems that there are no English translation of Ficino’s five keys and introduction, while there are complete translations of Ficino’s Platonic works and several other publications.
Uitgeverij de Driehoek, isbn 9060302907
This is the second book of Wijnberg that I review. The first one I got as a present, this one I bought myself. Wijnberg is a young (1982), Dutch philosopher and active column-author who writes about current events and current society, mostly the Dutch. The title of this new book translates something like “and my host is Plato”, it is a reference to the author’s appearance on television and how he hopes things might be some time. This new book is again filled with essays that he wrote before, many of which are also available on his website. They are ordered a little and a relatively lengthy introduction preceeds them. Wijnberg likes to write about the Dutch politics of today and the populistic politician Geert Wilders in particular, but the scope of subjects is wider in this book, especially towards the end. Scientology, raising children, the ‘sexualising society’, technology and Darwin’s theories, to name a few. All essays are about 5 pages. In these 5 pages Wijnberg manages to put a subject in an historical perspective and give an alternative way of looking at it. Since he has done that hundreds of times, he is (as noone I know) able to do that. This makes this book again a very easy and very thoughtprovoking read. Since there are way too many subjects here, it is impossible to give you an idea of what this book is like, so let me just very shortly summerise one of the essays. The essay “Obama and the tyranny of the weak” starts with Obama’s right on health insurance. The gigantic discussion this bill rose, is ununderstandable for a European because here health insurance has been secured for many many years. Wijnberg uses this subject to explain the fundamental difference between the American Democrates and the Republicans. Republicans base themselves on philosophers as Charles de Montesquieu (1689-1755) and think that the government has to interfere with the lives of individuals as little as possible. The obligation to have a health insurance is an illicit interference of the government, since freedom for a Republican is freedom from force. Democrats, on the other hand, think that freedom of the individual increases when the government helps them, with a health insurance that they would normally be denied for example. Taken to the extreme, for the Republicans the norm are the strong/rich, for the Democrates the weak. There is more to say about it, but just to show how the author explains things and gives something to think about. Only available in Dutch though and one thing that would be nice for a future book is a real book with subjects not touched in 5 pages, but rather something more in depth. 2010 De Bezige Bij, isbn 978023458418
The third book in the Western Esoteric Masters series that I read is about the famous German author Jacob Boehme (1575-1624). My girlfriend was much interested in Boehme when we met. We even spent a holiday in the place where Boehme was born and died and we have several books about him and a few of him on the shelve. However Boehme appeals to me too, for some reason I did not start to read him before I bought a book myself… Waterfield has created an anthology of texts and letters, but does not give the sources. The texts are both in depth and more personal in letters. Some texts are very interesting esoterically Christian, many are simply piously Christian. Waterfield spends quite a few pages to Boehme’s alchemical, astrological and Kabbalistic imaginary and in the appendix there is a more schematic version of Boehme’s ‘system’. All in all a nice read and while waiting for the book about Robert Fludd, I am going to read some Boehme from our own library. 2001 North Atlantic Books, isbn 9781556433573
It has been quite a while since I studied Renaissance esotericism. A while ago I reread a book of Yates and decided to see what is available nowadays. I noticed this “Western esoteric masters” series of North Atlantic Books and ordered four of them. I plan to read them chronologically (by birthdate), so I started with Ficino (1433-1499). I have read some things about and of Ficino already, but the series offer anthologies of different authors. Of Ficino Angela Voss presents parts of his letters and parts of books such as On Obtaining Life From The Heavens, Three Books On Life and The Book Of The Sun. The lenghty and interesting introduction of Voss suggests more esoteric content than I read in the texts myself. Ficino seems to be mostly a philosopher (neoplatonic) with indeed some esoteric edges, but overall too philosophical to me. A lot of stress is laid on Ficino’s ambigious nature on astrology. He both seems to put a lot of faith in it, but otherwise says he does not because he might fall victim to the witchhunt. Ficino also proposes some kind of ‘natural magic’ with which with certain requirements the force of heavenly bodies can be used by man. Ficino brings this under the guide of medicine though. Astrology remains a Leitmotiv in the texts that were chosen. This 250 page book (not all in the series have that length) was a nice read, but I think I hoped for something more interesting. 2006 North Atlantic Books, isbn 9781556435607
I got this book as a holidays-present. Good, because I would probably have never heard of it otherwise. It is a philosophy book about modern politics and society, not really my subject. Wijnberg is a young man, seven years younger than myself, but with an impressive carreer already. This book is his third and the copy I got is 7th printing only half a year after the first publication. Wijnberg used to be an editor at the ‘opinion section’ of one of our major newspapers in which role he declined a pamphlet of the most famous Dutch politicians: Geert Wilders. Currently Wijnberg writes a column each week in the same newspaper, a speed at which he is apparently able to fill books too. “Nietzsche and Kant read the newspaper” is built with such essays. The title is rather cheesy but the subtitle “thinkers of the past about dilemmas of the present” is a bit more promising. When I started to read the book, I was immediately captured by this young man’s eagle eye regarding modern society and politics and his ability to describe his findings critically razorsharp and with the use of old and recent philosophers. The prologue alone is worth buying this book. The variety of subjects are bundled to ‘chapters’ about freedom, truth and power, God and faith, sex and love, identity, equality and the state. Very basic discussions such as the opening essay “why more choice leads to less freedom to choose” or freedom of speech come together with thoughts about journalism, animal rights, “why a believer is hurt so easily”, terrorism and homosexuality. A lot of space is used for current Dutch politics, of course mostly the popular right thinkers Geert Wilders and Rita Verdonk, but also established parties from left to right (but mostly of the right) are carefully dissected. Our beloved systems of democracy and capitalism are spoken of, but also the last two American presidents and the war in Iraq. No matter what subject Wijnberg chooses for his ponderings, in easy to read terms he places the subject in history and current society and he finds philosophers from every corner who said something about it. The book is as impressive as it is easy to read and Wijnberg manages to write both critically and constructive without taking sides or passing judgement. Both my own and the previous generation should read this book to learn something about themselves and the world that we live in. I always enjoy fingers on the sore spots of modern living and Wijnberg shows that a philosopher is more than able to do that. Suggested reading, unfortunately as of now, only available in Dutch. 2009 De Bezig Bij, isbn 989023440864