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

Formen und Inhalte freimaurerischer Rituale – Jan Snoek (2017)

Jan Snoek (1946-) is a renowned Masonic scholar. This works both ways: he is a scholar, he is a Freemason and since many years, Freemasonry is his main object of investigation.

I have ran into Snoek several times. Of course because he is one of the best known Dutch scholars in the field and because he used to lecture about the subject. Snoek did not remain in the Netherlands though.

Snoek is an avid writer. He is a member of several study lodges. He does nto confine his subjects to those of “regular” Freemasonry, as he also writes about Freemasonry and women and it is also in that field that I found writings of him before.

For Snoeks 70th birthday, his studylodge in Bayreuth, Germany, published a “Festschrift” in which many of Snoeks previously published texts are bundled. The texts are both in English and German, about 50/50 and span a variety of subjects. Usually they are very interesting, especially because Snoek is not afraid to swim against the stream here and there. Also interesting, in notes Snoek sometimes gives updates from between the original writing of the text and the republication in this book.

It is quite amazing how the book contains subjects that I had decided to delve into some time, such as the variations on the Hiram myth (no use for my anymore to invest time in that now!). Snoek also collected a massive amount of ritual texts, old, new, famous and obscure, which he refers to a lot.

What may be Snoeks most ‘controversial’ stand is that besides the known Masonic traditions known as those of the “antients” and the “moderns” there were other traditions, most interestingly the elusive Rite called Harodim or Heredom. What is probably even more controversial is that Snoek argues that this Harodim tradition started to initiate women and slowly Harodim symbolism found its way into the so-called “adoption” lodges (initiation women). Adoption lodges which have been there almost from the start, when contemporary Freemasonry crossed the Canal from the UK to France.

Although being a scholar, Snoek is also interested in the esoteric side of Freemasonry, so you can also read about Masonic connections to currents such as Kabbalah or Hermeticism.

Very, very interesting indeed!

2017 Salier Verlag, isbn 3943539857

Oog Voor De Wereld – Brink, Martin, Muratori (2019)

Until March 14th there is an exhibition about Jacob Böhme in the Embassy Of The Free Mind (aka Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica aka Ritman Library) in Amsterdam. In a way, it is part of a travelling exhibition. In 2017 there was an exhibition in the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, after Dresden there was an exhibition in Coventry cathedral and at the end, there will be a permanent exhibition in Görlitz, the place on the German / Polish border where Böhme lived most of his life. I was in Görlitz years ago and there was not too much about Böhme there, so it is good that this will change.

Scholars from Dresden, Coventry and Amsterdam have worked together on a book / catalogue of which there seem to be Dutch, English and German versions (I have not found webshops that sell the English and Dutch versions, but the Ritman website is worked at).

The Dutch book has three introductions, then speaks about the life of Böhme (Cecilia Muratori), portraits (Lucinda Martin), concepts from Böhme’s philosophy (Muratori and Martin) and then Böhme in Amsterdam (José Bouwman and Cis van Heertum) and the etches of Michael Andreae (Boudewijn Koole).

Much of what can be found in this pretty book I have ran into somewhere. Since Böhme is pretty hard to read it is always welcome when people manage to give some sort of apprehensible summery and Muratori and Martin manage pretty well. The part about Böhme in Amsterdam makes a nice read too.

Early Dutch and German publications of Böhme contained title plates of which only recently the creator became known: Michael Andreae. Andreae fell out of grace of the publisher and his plates and accompanying texts were removed. Readers were not amused and the plates and texts were published separately and these are translated and presented here. The texts are as elusive as those of Böhme himself!

Compared to Böhme’s own work, this book is easy reading, but the highly spiritual philosophy of Böhme is not easy to start with. The book makes a nice addition to recent and less recent Böhme publications, so if you can, you should visit the exhibition and buy the book or at least buy the book when the library has got its webshop back up. It is a luxurious publication with many images.

2019 Sandstein verlag, isbn 9783954985302

Ancient Magic – Philip Matyszak (2019)

This book would have fitted well within the roster of Manticore Press perhaps even from the hand of helmswoman Gwendolyn Taunton. It focusses on the dark side of ancient Roman and Greece culture. The weird ways of magic. Instead, the book is published on the large art publishing house Thames & Hudson.

Perhaps there is too much humour in Matyszak’s book for Manticore and perhaps it is not scholarly enough either. As a matter of fact, the book makes fairly light literature. Sure, the book is about all kinds of dark magic, necromantia, extreme love spells, summoning demons, but as the book continues, the authors thought to have to pour in more and more silly remarks. Often they are funny, mind you, but the book is an amusing account of ancient magic that reads like a ‘normal book’, not an in depth investigation into the different kinds of magic.

That said, the book makes an amusing read with funny anecdotes and weird accounts from famous literature and art.

2019 Thames & Hudson, isbn 0500052077

The Magic Door – David Pantano (2019)

“A Study on the Italic Hermetic Tradition: Myth, Magic, and Metamorphosis in the Western Inner Traditions”. That is a title.

The author starts this little book (small size, about 200 pages) with an introduction that suggests a Traditionalist approach. The “Hermetic Tradition” from the title gets the Evola explanation of alchemy, but first we start with Roman myths, Pythagoras, Ovid, Apuleius, Dante, Ficino, Pico, Bruno, etc. You get it, the history of esotericism that has been told a few times in recent decades. What does add to the book is that the author also cites Italian sources that I have not yet seen translated.

Halfway things get more interesting. The Magic Door from the title proves to be an actual alchemical / Rosicrucian door that can still be found in Rome. This is the start of a part with more contemporary Italian esotericists. Some I knew or at least heard of (Cagliostro, Kremmerz, Evola), others were new to me (Vico, Daffi, Giammatria). What is more, Pantano writes about groups that I never heard of (Neapolitan Mysterio, Fraternity of Myriam, Circle of Kronos). It is interesting how such groups sprouted from one another during quite a period.
Also here Pantano uses sources that I do not think were available in English before. It also sheds some (to me) new light on Evola.

“The Magic Door” is (as you can gather) mostly interesting for dealing with the period from the 18th century to the present concerning Italian esoteric circles. From (semi-)Masonic to downright magical, also Italy proves to have had it’s share of alchemists.
What surprises me a bit is that Reghini is hardly spoken about. He seems to have been a spider in a web as well.

2019 Manticore Press, isbn 0648499642

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

The Odin Brotherhood – Mark Mirabello (2014)

Amazon.com

When I ordered the book I knew it was controversial. I was curious! The Odin Brotherhood is a secret society of highly developed people naturally adhering the ancient religion of Northern Europe.

The book was originally published in 1992.

Mirabello keeps stressing that he is not a member, let alone a representative, but that I got acquainted with the brotherhood during his scholarly investigations into secret societies. He keeps stressing his objective / scholarly approach. Mirabello supposedly interviewed members of the brotherhood. The interviews are worked into a Q&A which fill the first part of the book.

I find the Q&A quite annoying. Mirabello asks questions to a know-it-all who uses interesting-sounding words and names and keeps referring to “legend”. The Poetic Edda is called Edaic verses. A rite which “in the legends” is called “sojourn-of-the-brave” begins with “the-meeting-of-dreams”. The latter, by-the-way, is a vision in which somebody know (s)he is called to join the brotherhood after which a self-initiation takes place.

The brotherhood, quite like the “unknown superiors” of some esoteric societies, are just men and women with normal lives, but whom also work for the benefit of mankind.

The book has some unusual takes on elements of heathen ‘lore’. Sometimes an interesting light on some text or God(dess), but also ideas that appeal to me less.

After the interview the book continues with a completely unnecessary part about secret societies, mostly violent ones. I fail to see how this helps to put the Odin Brotherhood in good light. At the end the author added some sort of essay which in style and wording reminds a lot of the interview.

A strange little book that is even less interesting than I expected.

2014 Mandrake, isbn 1906958637

Brahman – Alexander Jacob (2012)

Amazon.com

I recently reviewed a book of Jacob published by Manticore Press. In it, he frequently refers to two of his older works. I got myself a copy of Brahman, a study of the solar rituals of the Indo-Europeans.

Even though the book is published in a German row of scholarly works, it is in English.

The book that I previously reviewed is published on a ‘niche’ publishing house. In my review I say that Jacob sometimes seems to cut corners. Curious if he would make his points better in a scholarly publication I started reading Brahman. It was immediately clear that Jacob’s writing style is the same here.

In a book with short chapters, Jacob constantly bombards his reader with loads of information. He also seems to assume that his readership is as knowledgeable as himself. Just as in the other book he seems to say that God-names in different cultures are just that: different names for the same entity (for example: “Ymir is sacrificed by Wotan (Enlil/Ganesha) and his brothers” p. 139). In his lists he mentions Gods from different cultures asuming that you know them all. The same with books. In this-and-this book you can read… I know quite some holy and mythological works, but I do not always immediately know to what culture the author refers every time.

I will give you a (relatively easy) quote to give you an idea of Jacob’s writing style:

In the Germanic Edda, the First Man, or “giant”, Ymir is killed by his great-grandson Wotan, who is the counterpart of the Iranian Wata/Vayu. The macroanthropomorphic Ymir who develops in the Mid-region, Ginnunga-gap, is the counterpart of Prajapati/Brahman, while his female partner Shatarupa is represented in the form of the cow Audhumla, who feeds Ymir with her milk. Ymir and Audhumla are thus the Germanic form of the First Man, Gayomaretan, and the Bull of Heaven, of the Iranian Bundahishn. This cow also produces, by licking the “ice-blocks”, a man called Buri, whose grandson is said to be Odin (Wotan), the wind-god. We have seen that the Kassites called Vayu Burias (Boreas). So we may assume that the Germanic Buri is the name of the first form of the wind-god, Vayu, whereas Wotan/Wata is that of the same force that, much like Shu, later sustains our universe within the Mid-region between heaven and earth. (p.135)

The chapters are somewhat thematic, but almost the entire book the red thread (from the subtitle) completely eluded me. The book mostly reads as a display of information. Towards the end there either appeared, or I started to recognise it, some structure. Not that I can now summerize the book easily, but the thesis seems to be that once there were two main cultures. The Indo-European was the solar, fire worshipping culture that spread over the globe. Jacob describes a primal man from whom the universe was created. Also he interweaves a phallic basis for the myths (the World Tree is actually a phallus that connects heaven and earth, etc.)

The book is interesting, yet again Jacob’s approach is not my own, but as there is quite some stress on Mesopotamian and other mythologies from that region and time, it expands my ‘usual information’. An index would have been a welcome addition though.

2012 Georg Olms Verlag, isbn 3487147408

Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, volume 123 – John S. Wade (editor) (2011)

Lewis Masonic

A while ago I ordered a book from the Masonic publisher Lewis Masonic. In order to relatively lower the shipping costs, I looked around what other titles the publisher had and got myself two volumes of “The transactions of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge no. 2076”.

The said lodge is the oldest and most famous of Masonic research lodges based, of course, in London. They have their annual lectures and these have been published in books for well over a century.

At the time I checked, only a few volumes were available from the website of Lewis Masonic and all were extremely cheap. Fortunately for me, one of these volumes contained the contribution of Fabio Venzi. Venzi’s talk was based on his thesis about Freemasonry and Fascism in Italy. This is not the most interesting subject to me, but Venzi gives a good idea of the 1920’ies Italy and how Freemasonry tried to navigate in the changing regimes.

AQC lectures are mostly historical. This does lead to some interesting investigations here. There is a text about the years before the “Antients” and the “Moderns” merged into the United Grand Lodge Of England. I also enjoyed the text about the elusive “Harodim” grade, or was it a Rite? Jean Murat seems to find traces in metalworkers lodges and incidentally seems to suggest that some esotericism of Freemasonry actually did come from Andersson. What other texts are available you can see by clicking on the cover.

Especially for the price that this volume costs (5 UK Pounds!) this is a good buy. Other volumes are less cheap.

2011 Ian Allan, isbn 1905318858

The Man-God – Jean-Baptiste Willermoz (2017)

Amazon.com

Willermoz (1730-1824) was an interesting man living in an interesting time. As a Freemason he was involved in several systems. He also fathered a form of Martinism together with his master Claude de Saint Martin. He joined the Elus-Cohens of Martinez de Pasqually.

My main interest lays in ‘his’ Masonic system of the Strict Observance which he developed together with Baron von Hund. A system that is still worked today here and there, but about which not much information can be found.

Willermoz being a Frenchman and apparently not enough in the limelight for the non-French-speaking to know much of him (probably mostly because many of the organisations and systems that he was active in, no longer exist), close to nothing about or from Willermoz can be found in another language than French.

So I was somewhat surprised to run into this book. It comes from the ‘Martinist corner’. It is only 54 pages, printed on A4 and is some sort of mystical vision about Jesus Christ and his mission. It reads a bit like Jacob Böhme or a similar author. This is not entirely my kind of literature. Towards the end things become a bit more interesting.

The translator did make an introduction and he added a short text of Martinez de Pasqually.

According to Amazon, the translator, Felix Mupidia Lonji, translated other texts of French esotericists whose texts are not yet available in English. Let us hope he will translate more texts of Willermoz!

2017, isbn 1549869957