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John van Schaik

Geschiedenis Van De Westerse Esoterie – Jacob Slavenburg & John van Schaik (2021)

Two productive Dutch authors teamed up for a history of Western esotericism. They created a volume of well over 700 pages which I read from cover to cover. It is in chronological order and even though there are chapters per subject, the book is not really presented as an encyclopedia.

700 Pages may make a thick book, when you aim to describe a history of esotericism spanning thousands of years, you are still down to a few pages per subject and that is indeed what happened.

Both authors have written (at length) about Gnosticism (old and new), Hermetica, early Christianity and similar subjects in the past. The chapters about these subject in the present title are concise, to the point and clear. Of course the range of subjects of the book is much wider. It shows (a bit) which movements and thinkers have the authors’ interests and which less so. For example, their information about Freemasonry is pretty weak. The history has holes, there are typos, misunderstandings and cut corners. The information about Rudolf Steiner is better, except, when it comes to his ‘Masonic adventures‘.

I had hoped to encounter more recent information, that the authors had used sources which I had not yet had in my hands. I did not really read anything new. Still the book made a nice read. A summery and retrospect of subjects I read about sometimes long ago. The authors point to some red threads/people and because everything is in one book, make cross references.

Like I said, it is more of a book to get you started on subjects, a general introduction to a wide variety of subjects ranging from Greek philosophy, to mysticism to the Ordo Templi Orientis to New Age. The book is in Dutch and there is some stress on the Netherlands. it comes in a good looking hardcover.

2021 Van Warven, isbn 949317574X

Hermes Trismegistus – John van Schaik & Jacob Slavenburg (2020)

For the gift-giving month of December I had to come up with a present and I remembered that Slavenburg had a new book.

Co-authored with John van Schaik, Slavenburg made an overview of Hermes Trismegistus and Hermetism throughout the ages. Who was he? What are the texts? What do these texts say? How did these texts come to us? Who took inspiration from these texts? There is extra focus on Hermes in the Netherlands.

Having been familiar with the subject for a long time, the book does not bring me much news. What is a pro about the book is that the authors used the most recent information, so in a few details I did learn something new.

From people clearly inspired by Hermes / Hermetism, the book continues with subjects in which this gets thinner and the authors more move towards general esotericism with Rosicrucians, Freemasons, Theosophy, Rudolf Steiner, OTO, etc. We close off with the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica and the Hermetic chair at the University of Amsterdam.

The most interesting parts are those in which the authors quite a variety of texts to show something about different subjects. The more general parts are ‘catching up’ or perhaps rather: information for those for whom the subject is new.

The book is in Dutch by the way.

2020 Walburg Pers, isbn 946249486X