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The Door In The Sky * Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy (1997 princeton university press * isbn 0691017476)

Another compilation of texts by A.K. Coomaraswamy compiled and introduced by his son Rama Coomaraswamy. This time “on myth and meaning”. Like in the other book there are very interesting articles and articles which are just a nice read. Coomaraswamy tends to write too lengthy and treading too many sidepaths sometimes. The introduction by Rama Coomaraswamy is again a nice one. Also the opening article “Myth And Mind” is magnificent. Towards the end there is an article “Literary Symbolism” which is also a great read. For the rest there is a lot about Coomaraswamy’s pet topic, modern ‘art’ in comparison to traditional art.
Coomaraswamy was a traditionalist with an oriental background, but he studied so much Eastern and Western literature that he makes a lot of cross-references which is highly interesting. Not the easiest literature, but a must-read if you are interested in the traditionalist worldview, comperative religions and symbolism.
(21/2/07 -3-)
Read quotes of Coomaraswamy here.

Die Symbolhistorische Methode & Allmuter * Herman Wirth Roeper (2004 die goden)

However the republisher has Die Symbolhistorische Methode as “Band 2” of the Schriftenreihe: aus Forschung und Erfahrung, I advise to read Allmutter first. I haven’t been able to find out when these booklets were first published, but Herman Wirth lived from 1885 to 1981. Recently a Dutch book was published about the man who was born in the Netherlands, but who moved to Germany. Since Wirth met Himmler and became head of the Ahnenerbe, he is one of those ‘forbidden’ writers. I only heard about the man, read the article in Tyr volume 2 and then I noticed that the German mailorder Nordwelt Versand has these two small booklets. The symbolhistoric method is a 22 page guide through Wirth’s ideas on symbolism and the “Ur”-culture from which the Western cultures sprang. He explains symbolism that he found in rock-carvings, painted animal skins, etc. compares them and points out a line of how he came to his conclusions. However I don’t always follow the man, it is nice to read his theories on the evolution of symbols and the explanations he gives to them. Other ‘symbologists’ such as Farwerck or Logghe surely got some light from this Dutch/German writer. Allmother has about 75 pages with much more symbols and this time also a lot of photos and images. The booklets are very cheap, so a nice introduction into an interesting thinker.

The Hermetic Museum – Alchemy & Mysticism * Alexander Roob (isbn 382288653X)

This is really a magnificent collection of ‘occult art’. If you like what you see in the occult art section of the artpages of Sententia, you definately have to get this book. It counts over 700 pages and is stuffed with Hermetic, Kabbalistic, philosophical, religious, occult and mystic art, forming a wonderfull overview of pieces full of symbolism. From well known artists such as Athanasius Kircher and William Blake, to title pages of ancient occult works and magical diagrams.
Roob managed to divide the book in sections, so the pieces are not in order of artist. These sections are explained and elucidated and most pieces are explained as well.

Between the pictures and accompanying them, you will also read many quotes from alchemical texts, explanations and history.

The Sun, symbol of power and life * Madanjeet Singh (editor) (isbn 0810938383 * 1993)

On our last trip to Seattle two months ago we went to Bainbridge Island for a day. As soon as we came to the village I noticed this beautiful, but big and heavy book about the sun-cults of the world. Of course I bought it, but I had to carry it around the the rest of the day, and of course back to the Netherlands. I found the Yule-time a good period to read about the cult of the sun and the book proved to be worth the effort. Like I said, it is big and heavy. Also it has a lot of images. The book is a compilation of articles or essays of a variety of writers. Singh wrote the lenghty introduction. This is a 137 page text with no division in chapters or paragraphs and with a totally overwhelming amount of information. The writer wanted to use so many images that the further you get into the text, the further away the images are that are referred to. The introduction is highly informative but a tiring read.
The rest of the articles are shorter and deal with specific cultures. You get articles about the sun in Japanese art, in Japansese Buddhist culture, in Chinese culture, South Asia, Indonesia, Central Asia, Zoroastrianism, Byzantine and Russian art, Slavic cultures, Greek art and culture, the sun gods of ancient Europe, the sun in traditional French culture, Egypt, Africa, the sun gods of South America in three articles.

Obviously the sun cult was and is universal and you can perfectly compare the different forms of it with the loads of images, examples and explanations of this magnificent book.

Symbolen, de taal van kunst en liturgie * Alfred C. Bronswijk (isbn 9023901479 * 1987)

I realise that I give you a hard time when reviewing so many books that I got secondhand myself. Many interesting titles are no longer in print and also second hand books are usually much cheaper. Especially when buying secondhand from the internet, the books often look like new. This time I was looking for a book about symbolism in churches. I ran into a nice Belgian website about this and this book is in their bibliography. Through I quickly found a second hand copy of the 1997 fourth printing which proved to be (as good as) new. “Symbols, the language of art and liturgy” proved to be both what I was looking for and not. It is only a small and thin booklet (180 pages) and it indeed contains quite a lot of symbols used in texts and art, but not necessarily in churches. Only a part of the wide range of symbols is spoken about of course and each symbol is mostly spoken about shortly. Only here and there the writer refers to the prechristian source of a symbol. The booklet is not exactly what I was looking for, but certainly a good start. It is fairly easy to look something up quickly and the most important things seem to be there.

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

Art And Symbols Of The Occult * James Wasserman (isbn 0892814152) made it seem like this is some encyclopedia for occult symbolism, but that is not really the case. A large (almost A4) and thin (128 pages) book with not really symbols but more ‘occult art’. Extremely beautifully done though, mostly with full-colour pages and explaining texts of Wasserman. A very nice page-through book, but quite expensive and not what you are looking for when you want more of an encyclopedia like myself, but still a great book.

Dictionary of Symbols * Jack Tresidder (isbn 081181470X)

I am sure there are hundreds of these kinds of book, but having one on your bookshell is actually very handy. This book of Tresidder isn’t very large or thick, but it does cover a whole range of symbols that come from religions, mythology, literature and art. The best part of this book is the index, but for some reason this index isn’t exhaustive… Still you can find a lot of symbols here, with quite clear (and if needed lengthy) explanations to fresh up your memory or to have a peek when you are not familiar with a certain symbol.
Of course there are always things that you don’t find a this book, but I think it would take an encyclopedia to be able to explain the largest parts of the symbols used.
Still this is very handy -as said- and you can use this book to look up symbols from the east, the west, afrika, native America, Egypt, Sumeria, etc., etc.

Die Geheime Symbole Der Frauen * Barbara G. Walker (isbn 3896311778)

“Lexikon der weiblichen Spiritualität” is the subtitle for this book. I know, very suggestive, but actually this is quite a bit in the direction of the symbol-book that I have been looking for. Not ‘just’ an encyclopedia like “Van Anima Tot Zeus” or “Lexikon Der Symbolen”, but more with simpel symbols with explanations. Different crosses and mostly 2D symbols. Also German expressions which are sometimes rather funny. Oh yes, it is in German, but who gives a damn with these German bookprices? I got it for E 7,- and that for 725 pages!

Heraldisch Vademecum * H.K. Nagtegaal (isbn 9027488495)

For quite a while I had been looking for a book explaining heraldic symbology and at last, here is one in Dutch. “Heraldic Vademecum” (an encyclopedia so to say) first has a long glossary explaining descriptions of what you can see on weapons and seals and then many small images with colours, backgrounds, share-outs, positioning and of course images like crosses, animals, armery, etc. Not entirely the explanations that I was looking for. There are no explanations of the different symbols, but more in the vein of “when you see a lion in the bottom-right corner, this should be noted” and “a lion is an animal that is used a lot in Dutch heraldry”. Some extra information would be helpfull, but this is better than nothing.