Category Archives: theosophy

The Secret Doctrine Of The Rosicrucians * Magus Incognito

This is the second book that I bought thinking that it contained the secret symbols of the Rosicrucians and I failed again… I know these secret symbols are available online, I just want a book with the drawings properly printed. The Parchment Books printing that I got of the unknown master’s text does not say when the book was written. The credits refer to the British Library which suggests it to be an old book. When reading it, the book gets younger and younger! The books opens with the author giving some history of the Rosicrucians and claiming that he is finally allowed to publish some of the secret doctrines of the Rosicrucians. He presents seven aphorisms that are explained in different chapters. The book starts with interesting metaphysics about “the eternal parent”, “the soul of the world”, “the universal androgyne”, etc. and this first part is actually quite interesting. Then I started to notice how the author uses the terms “occultism” and “occultist” in a way that certainly would not place the book in, or shortly after, the time of the original Rosicrucians. Then he starts to make references to philosophers, authors and then scientists. Halfway the book the author starts to laud modern science and the way it proves ancient esotericism. This already puts the book in the nineteenth century and makes it a lot less interesting. The worst is yet to come though. Towards the end things get very Theosophical, in the Blavatsky-way. A chain of planets, rounds, root-races and races, metempsychosis, “the soul’s progress” and a Leadbeaterian story about the aura makes “Magus Incognito” very likely a member of some frinch-group of the early days of Theosophism, somewhere around 1900. The second half of the book is downright annoying.
2010 Aziloth Books, isbn 9781907523755

The Secret Teachings Of All Ages * Manly Palmer Hall (1928)

When this 700-page book was published, the author (1901-1990) was only 28 years old. He decided to write this book in his early 20’ies and began to read the required literature. The bibliography is staggering, but Hall certainly had a few favourite sources. The book is presented as “A masterfull summation of the esoteric teachings of all ages” and “a classic in the world’s literature”. To be frank: however the work is impressive in size, it is not very much so in depth. Hall soon proves himself to lean heavily towards Theosophism and come across somewhat gullible. Also it is quite obvious that he was scholar and not an esotericist. What Hall mainly does is study a subject and pour all the information into a synopsis. He does that well, but in most cases things remain quite on the surface giving more information about the history of cults and religions than insight in their esotericisms. This is not to say that Hall does not present some thought-provoking interpretations of symbols and teachings. I especially like his chapters abour Rosicrucianity (in fact, when I bought this book I expected it to be about the secret symbols…). What bugs me is that the author makes some eyecatching mistakes, sometimes (I think) because of ignorance, sometimes of sloppiness and that makes me wonder about the parts that I do not know everything of by heart. In any case, the book is an alright read, but do not believe the raving reviews or expect a compendium of esoteric knowledge. Mind too, there are different versions, apparently not all as good as the other. Some have bad images reviewers on Amazon say. The version that I bought does not have very good images I can say.
1928 / 2003 Tarcher/Penguin, isbm 9781585422500

The Mysteries Of Mithra * G.R.S. Mead (1907)

The Mysteries Of MithraI ran into an old Dutch translation of this little book. I have known about it for a long time, did not buy it when I was studying Mithraism, but I was still curious enough to read it years later. Mead opens with ‘an alternative’ history of Mithraism. Alternative to the scholarly version of Cumont. Mead has not only used archeological sources, but also early written sources and this sheds a nice light on the subject. The booklet is actually a translation of what Dieterich has called the “Mithraic lithurgy”, a short text from the “Papyri Graecae Magicae” (see here and here. Mead’s translation is alright, his explanation is also alright, but not too interesting. He sees the text as Yogo and comes with a too Theosophical explanation of initiation and mysteries. Not a boring read, some interpretations give something to think about, but not a booklet that I would advice if you want to learn something about Mithraism (save for the first part to offer an alternative history).
More about Mithraism on Gangleri.nl you can find by “browsing” for book reviews and I have some articles on the subject in the articles section.

The Theosophical Enlightenment * Joscelyn Godwin (isbn 0791421511 * 1994)

A sold out book of our beloved esoteric scientist Godwin who wrote various interesting works and did some essential translative work. The title of course refers to mme Yates’ “Rosicrucian Enlightenment”, but Godwin starts where Yates (and myself) stop, the late 18th century. Godwin follows the esoteric and occult trails in the English-speaking countries dealing with people mostly unknown to me. He starts with Masonic tendencies and goes on to the Theosophical Society of H.P. Blavatsky in which Western and Eastern esotericism came together, splitting up again after Blavatsky’s death. The book is very well written en very penetrating with a impressive amount of sources. Oh there is so much left to study!

De Philonische Geheime Leer * Henk J. Spierenburg (isbn 9020285580)

I know Henk Spierenburg as one of the best Dutch Theosophical writers. He wrote massive books about all kinds of Theosophical subjects, but he is mostly known for gigantic archivical work. He wrote books for like example “The Vedanta Commentaries Of HBP” (HP Blavatsky) or “The Buddhism of HPB” for which he explored all of HPB’s work to find references to the Vedanta or Buddhist teachings. In this way Spierenburg has absorbed, digested and poored into a readable form massive amounts of literature into bigger and smaller books which always have big indexes and are perfect reference books. I am glad that Spierenburg also decided to use his talents for non-Theosophical work. However many of Spierenburg’s books are written or translated in English, I haven’t been able to find another than Dutch version of this one. Since it is still quite new, maybe there will be an English version in the future?

The book this review is called in English “The Philonic Secret Doctrine” and subtitled “The Kabbala of Philo of Alexandria” which gives enough information what this book is about. Philo the Jew or Philo of Alexandria was born about 15 to 10 BC and died somewhere between 40 and 50 AD. The two names given to Philo tell a lot about him. He lived in Alexandria, the Greek city in northern Egypt that was founded by Alexander the Great around 300 BC. Alexandria had a large Jewish population with people from different Judaic movements. Many of these Jews had lived in Alexandria for a few generations and didn’t speak the Hebrew language anymore. Therefor some time before Philo was born, a Greek translation of the ‘Hebrew Bible’ was made which is the well-known “Septuagint”. Philo wrote lengthy comments on the Septuagint and Spierenburg took a lot of quotes from these writings.
Philo wrote a massive amount of material which for the largest part didn’t survive to our times. Quite a lot of material only came to us in translations, for example in Armenic. In 2000 years about 10.000 pages have been written about Philo and his philosophy and Spierenburg has studied a large part of both the remaining texts of and about Philo to write this relatively short book.

To the subtitle then. The Kabbala is said to have come into being in the times that the Muslims occupied Spain which had led to a very healthy crossbreed between cultures and which caused a lot of ‘new philosophy’ to be born. This was, say, 400 BC. Spierenburg -however- took up the goal to prove that the well-known Kabbalistic tree of life (Sephirothic tree) can already be found in Philo’s texts, which would mean that it’s origins are a lot older than most experts of today think. Of course this isn’t too strange, since Kabbalism is an outcome of four centuries of development of the Merkavah-mysticism based on the Talmud and Midrash. These already excisted in Philo’s time.
The result of Spierenburg’s search is not only a nice introduction to Kabbalism and Philo’s esotericism, but also nice to read and original comments on well-known parts from the old testament, obvious inspirational ideas for doctrines that would come up many centuries later and a nice new look on the Kabbalistic tree. It is true that Spierenburg sometimes really had to search and sometimes even didn’t find too much evidence for his propositions or the placing of some ‘virtue’ or whatever on the tree, but he is not afraid to admit that. Especially around the end I had the feeling that there was a bit too much searching for something he wanted to find, but overall this is a nice a very well-readable book about the contemporary mystic of Jesus of Nazareth.
For the time being, only for Dutch readers though.

Isis Unveiled * Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (isbn 0911500030)

“Isis Unveiled” was HPB’s first grand work and was first published in 1875. It contains an unbelievable amount of information about countless subjects with as largest separations in two parts: volume one is mainly about science, volume two about religion. Both should of course be seen in the time this book was written. Science was still quite young, but making progress rapidly and also becoming more and more materialistic. Religion was more ‘sacred’ as it is today, so it was not taken very lightly was madame Blavatsky had to say about Christianity.

Those who are not familiar with the writings of HPB should be warned. Her style is extremely chaotic, not always very clear and when writing about a subject she drifts away to three others before coming to the point. This in combination with the difficult subjects makes “Isis” a though work to read for many people. I myself, find this book extremely amusing, because HPB writes about so many subject with sometimes not so, but often extremely detailed information, all kinds of theories, quoting literarly thousands of other books that were available at that time and with a very sarcastic sence of humour. Actually I use this book more as relaxing reading than for study. It is far too chaotic to use it to dig into a certain subject and my copy doesn’t have an index so it is close to impossible to find something in the first place. I don’t know if recent printing do have a proper index.

The greatest effort of this book is that when you are able to find them, it has so many information that was not available for the western world at the time, that you wonder how this Russian woman got to know all that. Well, she claimed that she was thought and in contact with two (but sometimes more) ‘super-humans’ that she called Mahatmas (great souls) who brought much of the information in a paranormal way and actually she was only a writer-down. Whether you believe this or not, fact is that almost nobody in the west had heard of Karma before HPB wrote about it. Also she quotes many eastern books that were not yet translated (or even found) by the orientalists that travelled the east. Also she corrected much of the translations and explanations of these orientalists.
But not only Eastern knowledge was presented, also other occult knowledge, information about esoteric groups, the origins of Christianity and the evolution of mankind. read more

The Secret Doctrine * Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (isbn 1557000026)

As mentioned in my review of “Isis Unveiled”, this is the second grand-opus of HPB. However it is more structured than “Isis”, most people will have the same problems with “The Secret Doctrine” (SD) as they had with “Isis Unveiled”. HPB’s writing style is still chaotic, there is extremely much information on every single page and extremely difficult ‘doctrines’ in general. Afterwards HPB also advised not to read SD from cover to cover (two times, because also this work spans two volumes).

Volume one deals with the origin of the Kosmos, volume two with the origin of man.
The first volume starts with a forword, preface and prolog and when your head doesn’t already dazzle after that, you will be introduced to the stanzas that HPB took from the ancient and secret “Book of Dzyan”. SD is based on these stanzas and they are explained and quoted all through the work.

SD contains so much information and recently extensive indexes (books on their own!) have been published that purchasing this book will be worth every single cent you spend on it. It will be on your bookshell and you can take it out any time you want, seeing if HPB has something to mention about whatever subject you think off, being it dragons, Atlantis, Gautama the Buddha, Newton, Mythrianism, the seven races (her most controversial doctine by the way, very unjust), Pythagoras, Kabbalism, Xenophon or whatever. Reading a chapter you will probably only understand 10% of what you read. The next time you read the same chapter you may understand something more, but always you will feel the urge to check for something else and grab SD from your bookshell when you are reading something else.
You may start to read it from cover to cover (I did it twice) and the next time you realize that some of the information haunted through your head and next time you read the same part you get a glimpse of understanding. You will also find yourself reading another book and thinking: “hé, HPB wrote about that over a hundred years ago!”, which for example happens a lot recently with science to which HPB now seems was often 100 years ahead with certain things. read more

Foundation Source Of Occultism * Gottfried de Purucker (isbn 0911500715)

Here one of the books that I have of my favorite writer/spokeman.

Hobart Lorenz Gottfried von Purucker was born on 15 januari 1874 as the son of a Anglican minister. After a severe illness, Gottfried moved to Genève where he learned various languages: English, Greek, Hebrew, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Anglo-Saxon. At the age of 14 he translated the New Testament from Greek as a birthday present for his father.
However he was expected to follow up his father, he realized quite soon that being a minister wasn’t what he wanted. After reading a translation of the Upanishads, he learned himself Sanskrit and started to travel throught he United States of America where he was introduced to Theosophy.
On 16 august 1893 he became a member of the Theosophical Society and met co-founder William Quan Judge who gave lessons in Helena Petrovna Blavatsky’s “The Secret Doctrine” (also reviewed in these pages).
Back in Europe in 1895 he met the Theosophical leader Katherine Tingly on her world-tour.
The following two years where spent in south America and after a few years of living in Paris, GdeP (as he is usually called) joined the Theosophical staff in the Point Loma Headquarters. Since then he accompanied Tingly on most of her journeys and got to work very close to her. This was the start of a swift Theosophical career. He was leader of the Society from 1929 to 1942 and lead the ‘esoteric section’ for many years as well.

Soon it was shown that GdeP had the great gift of being able to not only understand “The Secret Doctrine” and other occult writings very well, but to explain them quite clearly for the common man. This becomes very clear in his writings and lectures (most of his books are actually lectures collected after his death). read more

Wind Of The Spirit * Gottfried de Purucker

I read this book many years ago, but now I got a copy to review for a Dutch magazine. I own a couple of books by this great Theosophist who was head of the Theosophical Society from 1929 until his death in 1942. De Purucker had as goal to put the teachings of H.P. Blavatsky in an understandable form which resulted in a few large works which are essential for anyone interested in esotericism. “Foundation Source Of Occultism”, “Golden Precepts Of Esotericism” and “The Esoteric Tradition” and “Fundamentals Of The Esoteric Philosophy” are the major works. They mostly deal with the more complex Theosophical teachings, but “GdeP” always had a very practical side as well. For people not familiar with Blavatsky or who find it too high-reached to read about cycles and races, details about afterlife and what else, may find “Wind Of The Spirit” a very good start.

This book contains a lot of short articles of GdeP, from half a page to a few at the most. They deal with a wide variety of subjects, such as the essential message of Blavatsky, the masters/Mahatmas, but also for example prayer and contemplation, rules for a spiritual life, how Easter became a Christian feast and a lot of other subjects. All written in De Puruckers understandable and nicely-readable style which makes this book a very good read.

Mirages In Western Science Resolved By Occult Science * Edi D. Bilimoria

Finally I finished this little book. It has been two months since I wrote the quantum physics article after the first part of this book. That it took so long to read it is not only caused by lack of time and other things to read, but also because of the readability of this work, but about that later.

The book is divided in three parts, eleven sections and numerous subsections, chapters, etc.
Part I is called “Western Science”, part II “From Western Science To Occult Science” and part III “Occult Science”, which already shows the structure and purpose of the book.

The term “occult science” the writer explains as follows: it is “a principal sub-set of Theos-Sophia, [and] acclaimed an EXACT science, for its teachings, in their essential content, have been ever-consistent and unchanging, thoroughly verified and independently corroborated, although inevitably the form of presentation has varied to suit the culture, phychology and mental climate of any particular epoch.” (p. 55) So to say, science performed by occultists, clairvoyants, etc. read more