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Teachings of Zoroaster and the Philosophy of the Parsi Religion (1908) * S. A. Kapadia (isbn 0766101320)

Well, both my general-information-Mithraism-book and my general-information-Zoroastrianism book are from the beginning of the previous century. Isn’t it odd that nothing really substantial has been written about these almost distinct but not less interesting religions in the last 100 years? And where “The Mysteries Of Mithra” is at least a ‘real’ book, this one looks more like a paper from school! It’s size is almost A4 and the cover is only sealed a bit. The pages are only printed for a quarter, so the book could easily have been much smaller. I do have another cover than the one you see here by the way. Mine is green and the symbol is a burning heart with an arrow through.

To the content then. Kapadia has written one long story and there is an ‘index’ in the beginning with the subjects per page, even though there are no chapters. His writings are quite interesting, nothing to say about that. You will really read about what Zarathustra and his followers had to say, how their community worked, its rules and regulations, a bit about the religious practises, symbols, names of the gods and demons, etc. etc. There is a second part with translations from a wide variety of texts by different early orientalists. Not only the well-known Gathas and apparently even not only from the Avesta, so this makes these translations quite interesting in themselves.

What is more strange that this book looks really cheap (photocopied and cheaply bounded), but I paid 10 pounds + tax + shipping, which brought the price to some 20 euro/dollar and between ordering and delivery the price even rose to as much as 30 euro/dollar! This book is obviously let run out of print, while it seems to be the only descent text about the Zoroastrian religion today, even while it is very old.

The Tibetan Book Of Living And Dying * Sogyal Rinpoche (isbn 0062508342)

This is the highly acclaimed book of Sogyal Rinpoche that many people have on their bookshells. My Dutch version also has a forword by “the Dalai Lama”, the Tibetan leader in banishment.

As the title suggests, this book is based on the Tibetan Book Of The Dead (Bardo Tödol), but it is very different from this classic work and what is more important: Rinpoches book is also understandable for the average man from the West.
However “the laughing lama” was born and raised in Tibet, he has spent most of his life in our regions and knows a lot about our society. He thought that it was important that the west also got a proper book about living and dying that was understandable and helpfull for the common western man. Many lectures and lessons he has given all through the western world and eventually he wrote the book this review deals with.
This book is divided in four parts:
-part one: living;
-part two: dying;
-part three: death and reincarnation;
-part four: conclusion.

Part one tells us about our way of living, many things we know, other things are so common to us we don’t even notice, but our Tibetan friend did. Rinpoche tells us about better living, with more attention to our deaths, which is a subject that the western society pushed in a far corner, while it is actually part of daily life.
The way Rinpoche speaks about death is totally different from the average western way of looking at it and will possibly take away some of the fear that many people feel.
The best part of the book is that however English isn’t Rinpoches mother language, the book is really very good to read and Rinpoche has a very nice writing style, nice sence of humour and a very direct way of saying things. He also doesn’t try to impress us with technical Tibetan term like many new-age movements do, but explains what he wants to say in normal English. This makes the book a good start for anyone who isn’t familiar with the Eastern view on living and dying, because you don’t need to have background knowledge about Hinduism or Buddism. The greatest part is that while reading this book, you will learn quite a bit about it anyway, because Rinpoche tells a lot of things about his youth and this gives a very nice picture of the Tibetan culture and religious systems.

All in all I can totally understand why so many people have bought and enjoyed this book, since it deserves to be read by anyone. A very light book about a heavy subject (in the west) and you will not only learn about death, but (more importantly) also about living. It is also a book that you can keep reading again and again.

Het Tibetaans Dodenboek * Edzina A. Rutgers (isbn 9020247786)

The Tibetan Book Of The Dead in a wonderfull Dutch translation is what Ankh-Hermes brings us here. A translation of the translation into English by Lama Anagarika Govinda. Well introduced. Translation on the right pages and explanation on the left pages, very readable, some pictures and photos here and there and a great index. What more is there to say? The Tibetan Book Of The Dead is a classic spiritual text and if you can get it in a translation like this! Buy it!
English-speaking readers should try to get Govinda’s original I guess.

De werkelijke Jezus: Griek, Jood, mens, God * Patrick Chatelion Counet (editor) (isbn 9021139332)

A little book in Dutch which wants shed some light on the massive amount of publications about the figure Jesus Christ. Four versions are given. First Jesus in the eyes of the Greek. Jacob Slavenburg recapulates his many books about the subject in a very readable article. Peter Tomson investigates the gospels to display Jezus as Jew, Cees den Heyer the gospels and his predecessors who investigated the historicity of the man Jesus and at last the editor who proves Jesus to be God. There is overlap between the articles and people who read more about the subject will be familiar with most information, but people who don’t, now have a good and cheap solution to be quickly informed about what is going on in this field of investigation.

The King Of The World * René Guénon (2004)

le roi du monde 1927

This is one of the earlier books by Guénon and a thin one too. Only just over 100 pages and I read it in not even two hours. This may be due to the fact that I read an unpublished Dutch translation, but also it seems to me that this book is written in a much easier style than for example The Reign Of Quanity & The Sign Of Times. This book may be a good first title to read of this famous French “traditionalist”. Guéon starts with mentioning books by Ferdinand Ossendowski and Saint-Yves d’Alveydre which speak about the subterranean kingdom called Agarttha and the ‘king of the world’ ruling it. This is the starting point of 12 chapters with comparative symbology about for example “Shekinah and Metatron”, the Grail, “Melki-Tsedeq”, Luz, “The Omphalos and Sacred Stones”, to work towards “names and symbolic representations of spiritual centers” and “location of spiritual centers”. The King Of The World doesn’t have the negative tone of other of Guénon’s works, but also not the frequent and clear referrals to ‘the crisis of the modern world’ and the ‘sophia perennis’, but of course, these are also present. So in my opinion with this short book you will get a nice idea (and maybe even a ‘light version’) of what the writings of Guénon are about. Informative, written from a very distinct starting point and with information from a wide variety of religions and traditions.
(14/4/06 -4-)
Read quotes of Guénon here.
2004 sophia perennis * isbn 0900588543

Van Anima Tot Zeus * Maarten Timmer (isbn 9056373528 * 2001)

A book only for the Dutch-speaking among you, sorry.

“Van Anima Tot Zeus” is an encyclopedia for anyone interested in the subjects that you can find in these pages and more. 885 Pages, almost countless words and symbols varying from alchemy to psychology, psychiatry, philosophy, mythology, etc., etc. Even short biographies of persons, photos, images, explanations, cross-referances, etc., etc. Paging through the book learned me that is isn’t entirely all embracing, (but I suppose that would take several of such books), but there is a lot to be found here. Sometimes the writer and contributors took several pages to explain something, sometimes a few lines.

However expensive (almost E 66), this is actually a must-buy for anyone interested in the named subjects. <3/12/02>

Spirituality: forms, foundations, methods * Kees Waaijman (2003 * isbn 9042911832)

That is strange! I got the Dutch version of this writing by a Dutchman. The first pressing is of 2000 and the fourth of 2003. Amazon gives an out of print 1902 pressing?!? I suppose this is a mistake. Anyway, Waaijman is professor of spirituality in Nijmegen, Netherlands. He wrote this purely scientific book about the subject. This massive book (almost 1000 pages) is divided in three parts. In the first part Waaijman speaks about different forms of spirituality, in the second he investigates the subject and in the third he describes the methods for investigation that he recommands. Large parts of this book will not be interesting for the layman, but because of the descriptions of many movements and groups, it is still a very nice refference-work. A minor point is that Waaijman limits himself to major currents. The world religions are spoken about and a little bit of aligned subjects. Islam with sufism for example, or Judaism with Kabbalah, Christianity with gnosis, mysticism, theology or dialectics, but also Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and the like. (Almost) no esotericism, but I suppose this subject is less ‘scientifically investigatable’ and another volume of 1000 pages would be needed. All in all a nice reference work, partly not for the common man, so I advice that you try to page through a copy to see if this is something for you before you actually buy it.

Zwijgen Bij Volle Maan * Henrik Vreekamp (2003 * isbn 9023913469)

“Keeping Silent At Full Moon” is a book by a reformed preacher who also preaches for the Church Of Israel. Vreekamp was born and raised and still lives at the “Veluwe”, Europe’s largest nature reservation laying in the middle and at the East of the Netherlands. The “Veluwe” form a large part of the Netherlands and has many old villages and large areas with forests and moors. Vreekamp wrote his book as a one year stroll around the Veluwe. His book contains information, quotes and diary-like passages. The writer realises that Christianity is the result of ‘heathenism’ and Judaism that developed towards the Christian faith as we know it today. However Christian Vreekamp is, he treats paganism with respect and genuine interest. Still, the section about the pagan faith in the book tends to be a bit sloppy, the writer leaves things out, mixes things up and combines other things. If you are totally unaware of the pagan myths, this book may put you on the wrong trail. Also there is a long part about the Jews in the area. In general, the book gives you a nice history of the area, it’s villages and it’s inhabitents. Regional folklore is given and explained by its pagan roots, the same goes for Christian feasts and practises. There are discussions between (imaginary) persons (the writer, a Jew and a ‘pagan’) and Vreekamp clearly tries to raise respect between the three parties. There may be more of such openminded Christians being not afraid for their own roots and respectfull to other people. The book itself is a nice read, but some background may be handy.

The Crisis Of The Modern World * René Guénon (2004)

la crise du monde moderne 1927

This is not only Guénon’s most famous book, but also the first one that you have to read of him. It is only 116 pages, it is written (especially in the first half) very clearly without too much of his extensive sidepaths and descriptions (he does fall back on this a bit in the second half though). The book is clear of structure, gives the writer’s Traditional views quite clearly and even works towards a chapter with solutions of the “Crisis Of The Modern World”.
There are nine chapters, starting with “The Dark Age”. This does not refer to the Middle Ages, but to our own day and time, the “Kali Yuga” in which especially the Western part of mankind has drifted away from the ‘Primordial Tradition’ and fallen into an a-religious and extremely materialistic worldview. There is an obvious “Opposition Between East And West”, but I am happy for Guénon that he didn’t live to see the situation of nowadays with the ‘booming economies’ of the East. The Western man has lost its ability to understand the true mind of the East (and its own Traditional mind) and the difference between sacred and profane. This leads to “Individualism”, not in the meaning “living alone”, but especially in the meaning of seeing nothing higher than than the self. “The Social Chaos” and “Material Civilization” have their effect on the East to (“Western Encroachment”), because the West forcefully spreads its ideology (I can’t help thinking of the current situation in the near East when reading this), but also because economics have awakened the worst in some Eastern people. Guénon ends with “Some Conclusions” even with something vaguely referring to a ‘solution’. He is of the opinion that there are no links with the Primordial Tradition in the West save for the Catholic Church. The West should reinstall (with the help of the East) an “intellectual” (and this means the “higher intellect”) “elite” who will reform the Catholic Church (‘innerly’, not outerly) and bring back the Traditional spirit into the West.
I do not agree with everything that Guénon has to say, but in most cases he is very right and this little book is the perfect introduction to his thinking and the “Traditionalist School” and brings enough food for thought.
2004 sophia perennis * isbn 0900588241

Revolt Against The Modern World * Julius Evola (1995)

rivolta contra il mondo moderno * 1934

In 2002 I wrote an article about Julius Evola (1898-1974). I hadn’t read much of the man, nor did I know much about his background. It was a request, what can I say? Now that I have delved more into ”Traditionalism” I thought it was time to read one of the classics of this genre. “[…] my intend was to offer a bird’s-eye view of history” Evola writes on page 327 of this translation. This he did. Revolt Against The Modern World starts magnificently. The starting point seems to be similar to Guénon, but Evola is more clear about ‘what Traditionalism says’. He keeps talking about “the world of tradition” and what happened there and how things where looked upon. How Traditionalism can find a place in the reader’s thoughts and lifes. As the book continues it becomes clear that Evola actually doesn’t really stand on the same line as Guénon. He keeps talking about four casts instead of three (page 250 and 296 for example). On page 254 he even writes about Greece: “The tripartition, instead of the traditional quadripartition, must be explained by the presence of an aristocracy that had simultaneously a warrior and a sacred character”. Most Traditionalists follow Dumézil who discovered the tripartition in all Indo-European systems, apparently Evola didn’t agree. However this subject may be food for a discussion, I also started making notes of things in which Evola is more or less clearly wrong. This mostly concerns the Northern European myths in which I regard myself enough informed to question Evola’s remarks. Just a few examples. First small things, such as strange ways of writing, such as “mitgard”, “mjolmir”, “huelgehmir”, “donner” or “woden”, instead of Midgard, Mjölnir, Hvelgelmir, Donar and Wodan. Typos, caused by the Italian language or silly mistakes? More obvious examples then. On page 123 and 293 Evola says that the rune for Tyr is the “Y” and he describes it as “a man with raised arms”. This description refers to the Man/Elhaz rune, which is a “Y” with the ‘middle pillar’ reaching as high as the arms. This isn’t the rune for Tyr either, since the Tyr rune looks like an arrow pointing upwards. On page 191 Evola says that Asgard is located in Midgard. The abode of the gods and fallen warriors on the plain of mankind?!? I came to much different conclusions in my article about this subject. “Odin, the king of the Aesir, falls, and Vidar himself, who succeeded in killing the wolf Fenrir, falls victim to its poison”. Now that is a sloppy summary of the Ragnarok (about which word Evola also has alternative interpretations)!! In fact, Odin falls fighting the wolf Fenrir, and Vidar, his son fights the wolf, who gets away. Thor fights the Midgardsnake and kills it, only to be killed himself by its poison (that of the snake, not of the wolf of course). Just a few examples that I noted down. I liked Evola’s references to the Northern European myths, but when in every reference there is a mistake, he might have thought twice if he wanted to include them. Such things immediately make me wonder how accurate the rest is. For the rest a few surprises (or not). Evola is not-done, because was a fascist and a racist. Reading this most notorious book, I can’t help noticing his critique on nationalism (ch.36), racism, fascism, Nietzsche and his Übermensch (p.362) the neopaganism of the Nazis (p.362), etc. It is only too easy to blackmail the writer without taking notice of his side-notes. Also he seems to be quite critical about Guénons notice that Catholicism is our only hope to return to the true Tradition. He doesn’t mention Guénon, but the subject of Evola’s conclusion is clear.
Like I said, Evola wanted to give a history of the world. He starts with the doctrine of the ages of the Hindus and other Indo-European peoples. The world is in decline, especially the West. Evola gives detailed descriptions of different periods. Too detailed and as the book continues, the structure and information becomes rather boring and the book even starts to remind of for example Blavatsky or Steiner with their ‘prophetic’ stories of times past.
Revolt Against The Modern World is a nice book. It opens wonderfully, has some thought-provoking thoughts and good explanations, but there are large parts of a completely different level. Evola proves himself to be no ‘member’ of the Traditionalist school (in my eyes) and a not too gifted writer in some parts. I can understand why Evola is more popular than for example Guénon under ‘young radicals’. His writing is more accessible, clearer, easier to put on our own day and time, political instead of religious, but personally I can no longer deny that Evola was a mediocre writer with mostly second-hand (and sometimes badly understood) ideas, writing in a bit too popular fashion. Mind you, the book is certainly worth a read, I would even say an obliged read for people interested in Traditionalism. Some ideas and hypotheses are explained well. Keep big reserves though! To people who adore Evola I would say, be sure to also read a few books of ‘real Traditionalist’, such as the books you can find in my Traditionalist book reviews and don’t take everything that Evola writes for granted.
(1/7/06 -3-)
Read quotes of Evola here.