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

The Path Of Shadows – Gwendolyn Taunton (2018)

Amazon.com

5 Essays in a little over 170 pages. The subject seems to be one of Taunton’s favourite (but less so mine): Greek mythology. With Taunton writing Nietzsche is never far away either.

The subjects span “chthonic Gods, oneiromancy & necromancy in ancient Greece”. Starting with Hades we continue with Nietzsche’s take on Greek myth. After Persephone there is a chapter about “divination, omens and prophecies [which] can be referred to as belonging to the Mantic Tradition.” The last subjects are a bit darker, dream magic (“oneimancy”) and magic concerning the dead (“necromancy”).

The author mostly collects information from different authors. This time quite some scholarly publications and journals are quoted. The subject not being entirely of my liking, I found the book an alright read. For people who have an interest in the darker side of ancient Greece, this book might be a summery of some not-too-recent, but neither ancient investigations into the subject.

2018 Manticore Press, isbn 0648299643

The Art and Science of Initiation – Jedediah French & Angel Millar (editors) (2019)

Amazon.co.uk

It is good to see that more and more serious books about Freemasonry and esotericism see the light of day. Here we even have a book with partly a Traditionalistic approach. Very much so in the first essays even. Angel Millar opens with a text about René Guénon and Traditionalism. The most interesting article is Richard Smoley’s text about the Traditionalistic view on initiation. This text may raise a few eyebrows I think. As we go along, the essays become ‘lighter’ in one way, but ‘darker’ in another. From the personal story of Joscelyn Godwin to the ceremonial magic of Donald Tyson. Other authors are Mark Booth, Herbi Brennan, Richard Kaczynski, Chuck Dunning, Greg Kaminsky, Jeffey Kupperman, Adam Kendall, Timothy Scott and my biggest surprise, Susanna Åkerman whom I know for her work on Rosicrucian history, but who here presents an interesting text about women in early Scandinavian Freemasonry.

Not every text is as interesting as the next (to me), but this not too expensive book touches upon a few subjects that deserve more notoriety in Freemasonry, so it is good that this book was actually published by the famed Masonic publishing house Lewis Masonic from the UK, so it will probably be mostly Freemasons buying the book. The book is available from the publisher or Amazon UK (click cover). It would be nice if the other Amazon stores would list it too.

2019 Lewis Masonic, isbn 0853185638

Heidens Jaarboek 13 (2019)

NederlandsHeidendom.net

“Yearbook” became a relative term, since the previous edition was published in 2015, but better quality than speed, right?

As we got used to, the Heathen Yearbook is a well printed book of a descent size (134 pages) for a low price (below € 10,-) with a variety of texts.

The book opens with a text about the wolf that has returned to the Netherlands. The history of sightings and settling.

Gerard wrote about the ancient symbol of the zigzag line which can be found on the oldest of archaeological findings, in many cultures and is still in use. Being a symbol for water it became a symbol for the sky (where the rain / water comes from) and lightning (accompanying the rain). The line with variations is followed through time.

By and far the longest text is by Boppo Grimmsma who wrote about the Frisian God Thuner and in extenso Thor / Donar. There are Frisian sceattas (very small, silver coins) with a face on it that most investigators call “Wodan”. Grimmsma argues that this is actually Thuner. He has several arguments for his assumption. First he shows that the coins are made in Frisia and not in Denmark and shows how the time in which the coins are made, make it likely that a ‘defence against Christianity’ statement would be made. Then we get lengthy investigations of Thor / Donar to prove that the head is indeed not that of Odin / Wodan. Grimmsma uses recent publications and findings which makes that his text brings you up-to-date with Thor investigations with, of course, stress on his Frisian counterpart.

After this follows a book review, translated parts of De Vries’ Altgermanische Religionsgeschichte, which are about the sacred (“hailag”) and related topics, three of the stories from the Midwinter story contest and there are three poems by Hella.

Cheap, varied, with limited availability and (of course) in Dutch. Do not wait too long to get your copy. Click on the cover for more information.

2019 Nederlands Heidendom

Indo-European Mythology And Religion – Alexander Jacob (2019)

Amazon.com

A while ago I got myself three recent Manticore books. When I had just started reading the present title, the publisher contacted me to tell me about yet another new title. Manticore is hard to keep up with.

I know Jacob from another Manticore title. In my review I noted Jacob has a different approach from my own and that he can be quite pedantic. Now I may add that his conclusions sometimes seem extremely easy.

Continue reading

The Hermetic Journal 1978

Amazon.com

As I said in my earlier review of a course by Adam McLean, the author has been active with the subject for a long time. He has published a journal since 1978!

These journals are apparently scanned and made available as printing-on-demand books. The journal has run from 1978 to 1992 and are avaible for Kindle via Amazon, but also in print from Adam’s own website.

The first issues (the first two are printed in this little book) contain quite some occultism and esotericism and of course alchemy. Explanations of alchemical “mandalas”, ceremonial magick, Satanism even, can be found within these pages. Also lists of “other occult journals”, references to all kinds of groups that are active (or were, probably). Also published are translations of texts that in the time were hard to get.

All in all a varried journal with (to me) content of varying interest. It is a great idea to make such old material available again. The books are not too cheap, $ 20,- to $ 30,- per book, depending on your choice for softcover or hardcover. An advice. Go to the Amazon kindle versions of the journals were you can see the tables of content, so you can better choose which issues you are going to purchase.

Heidense Heiligdommen – Judith Schuyf (2019)

nl.Bol.com

In 1995 Schuyf published the little book Heidens Nederland (‘heathen Netherlands’) with as subtitle Zichtbare overblijfselen van een niet-christelijk verleden (‘Visible remains of a non-christian past’). I do not remember with certainty how I found that book. Did I hear from it and look it up or did I just run into it? My memory claims option two.

Schuyf writes about a variety of subjects, but history, prehistory and Medieval archeology are what she studied in her days. That she did not loose her interest in this particular subject proved about a decade ago when she was invited to speak for a Dutch heathen group and she accepted. She would return and mentioned that she was working on a reworked version of the book.

The new title is Heidense Heiligdommen (‘Heathen sanctuaries’) and the subtitle Zichtbare sporen van een verloren verleden (‘Visible remains of a lost past’). The new book was made available last May.

As in the first book, there is a long introduction to the subject. What do we know about the prechristian religion of these parts, what happened when Christianity came, what remains do we have? Concerning the latter, Schuyf mostly focusses on scenic remains, but often connected to cultural remains.

In the Netherlands not too much was created in buildings or writings, before the Romans came and around the same time, Christianity started to spread to the region too. Much of what is described are actually things that remained in (early) Christian times. Fertility usuages became processions, a sacred well was dedicated to a saint, thanks for a healing moved inside chapels and churches. Many of these heathen remains were only wiped out during the Reformation.

So here we have a book with places that are (either or not correctly) seen as ancient places of offering, such as well, (artificial) hills, deepenings, etc. Strange Christian habbits are explained in a prechristian context such as scrapings of church-walls to provide powder to heal.

Schuyf mostly tries to asses the validity of the claims to antiquity for which she uses a variety of sources. These include very recent investigations and publications, so the reader will be quite up-to-date with the state of investigations after reading this book.

The book mentions dozens and dozens of places that are worth a visit, but just as in the previous book, the directions are seldom specific enough to just use this book as ‘heathen tourist guide’. There are many (colour) photos that help.

To close off, Schuyf mentions several cases of ‘invented traditions’ showing that just one mention of some author about a supposed history of a place does not automatically mean that this is so. Judging the impressive bibliography the author did her best to prove or debunk claims as best as possible.

The book could have used an index of places and findings and as you can see above, many of the subjects in the book are ‘folk-Christian’ rather than ‘purely heathen’. This is mostly likely is the largest collection of such traces of a lost past and it includes things that I had not yet heard of, so the interested reader can find out that there are many places of interest in the Netherlands too.

2019 Omniboek, isbn 9789401914338 

How To Read Alchemical Texts – Adam McLean (2011)

Alchemywebsite.com

During my early days on the internet I had an interest in all kinds of things esoteric. I soon found Adam McLean’s Alchemy website which he started in 1995. McLean was mostly known for coloring alchemical drawings that most knew only in black and white. This was but on small part of the alchemical investigations that McLean has undertaken since the 1970’ies (!).

The website still looks pretty much like it used to. An html website with images for navigation. Now I see that the author gives urls on his website in his many books, I get an idea why that never changed.

For many years I forgot about McLean and his website even though I do buy an occasional book about Alchemy. Recently I thought to see what books are available and I noticed that there are several study courses. Some somewhat expensive, but this particular one is well-priced.

It is a 219 page book with 23 lessons that McLean suggests you take about a year to work through. Each lesson is introduced and most contain excercises. During the lessons you are introduced to different kinds of alchemical texts, practical, philosopical, Paracelsian, spiritual, cosmological, allegorical and poetic. Also McLean explains different styles and approaches. You will learn to recognise the different types of texts and will see that often one text contains different types.

The reason for the above is, and McLean keeps stressing this, to make you able to read the text as it was supposed to be. He renderings, rewritings and explanations stay as close to the original texts as possible. McLean sees no use in throwing in wild esoteric explanations to a practical text and no modern systems in allegorical. Do not read a meaning into the texts is the basis for the whole course.

The book contains no images, no tables with symbols and their explanation, even hardly a glossary. These are not the texts that the author presents. It is all about reading Alchemical texts.

As you saw, you will get a wide variety of Alchemical texts, old, less old and from practical to cosmological (but never esoteric!). Personally I did not enjoy all these different texts, but it is nice to be able to read such a variety of sources, particularly because there are also texts that are not all available in English.

2011 Alchemy Website