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Sophia Perennis

Al-Kimia – John Eberly (2004)

The title and description of the book give an idea that the book does not live up to. The subtitle is: “The Mystical Islamic Essence of the Sacred Art of Alchemy” and the description suggests that the book presents a Traditionalistic approach to shed light on the Islamic history of alchemy. As I said, that is not exactly what the book delivers.

The book is only 136 and already on page 65 the appendices start. Up until then you mostly get biographies of Sufis. All of them undoubtedly had something with alchemy, but Eberly’s book reads more like a book about Sufism (or rather: Sufis) than a book on alchemy. The biographies are mostly just that, they give an idea of the lives of the men, but not too much about their thoughts. This may be interesting in a way, but not what I hoped for.

One appendix is an alchemical recipe, then follows the Emerald Tablet and after that a lengthy glossary of Islamic mystical and alchemical terms. This is actually a nice extra, but I would have preferred it had the book stayed closer to the subject.

2004 Sophia Perennis, isbn 9780900588488

Studies In Freemasonry & The Compagnonnage * René Guenon (1964/2004)

For quite some time I had wanted to read this book, but for some reason I never got to it. Would the book make clear how Guénon looked at Freemasonry in earlier days (as one of the two genuine initiatic organisations (both in the title of the present work) of the West) and in later days (the chain has been broken)? Unfortunately, it does not. The book also does not say much about Guénon’s views on Freemasonry in general, nor explanations of its doctrines by a man who claimed to be a true initiate/esotericist.
As with most books of Guénon, “Studies In…” is a compilation of articles that he wrote in different journals. These publications span a period from 1910 to 1951 and are not presented chronologically. What shows the ambiguous relation of Guénon towards his subject, is that the essays published are from both pro- and anti-Masonic publications.

So what is in the book? The last part consists of book reviews, mostly of French titles. In these reviews Guénon often portrays his superior knowledge of the subject in comparison to the authors of the books. Here and there an interesting peak into the thought of Guénon is given, but I find the book reviews not overtly interesting. The same goes for a range of articles about Martines de Pasqually, his “Ordre de Chevaliers Maçons Élus Coëns de l’Univers” and related topics. Here and there Guénon shows why he thinks De Pasqually was an initiate of a lower order and how he sees the relation to higher initiates, but these essays are mostly about a group that was perhaps Masonically related, but not Freemasonry per se. Actually I can say about the same about most of the other articles. They are about 18/19th century Freemasonry and mostly about experiments on the occultic field and the like.

A few essays make a good read for current Freemasons and people interested in Guénon’s views, such as “Masonic orthodoxy”, “The Masonic high grades” (both written in 1910 when Guénon was 26!!) and “Feminine initiations and craft initiations” (1948) since these shed a completely different light on the questions post than the answers that you usually hear.
Not the ultimate sourcebook about Freemasonry and the Compagnonnage. The book even does not answer all questions about the relation and views of Guénon to and on the subject. Still it is an interesting book to read, since Guénon seems to be a bit ‘lighter’ than what we are used to of him and here and there he is remarkably open.

For Guénon’s real or alledges dealings with Freemasonry, there are a whole lot of theories to be found on the world wide web.
1964 Éditions Traditionelles, 2004 Sophia Perennis; isbn 0900588888

Folk Metaphysics * Charles Upton (2008)

What a wonderfull little book of the American Traditionalist Charles Upton! I thought it was time to read something from the Traditionalist corner and when browsing through the Amazon website, I ran into this Traditionalistic book about “mystical meanings in traditional folk songs & spirituals” and decided to try it. Upton proves to be a poet (student of a beat poet) and however Wikipedia lists him as a Sufi, I have the idea that he is very Christian. The author starts with a very nice introduction into his world of thought and this makes a nice introduction into Traditionalism. Also, the authors that I mostly read from that ‘school’ are much more formal and theoretical in their approaches, while Upton is very nicely ‘practical’ and personal, sometimes reminding a bit of Mircea Eliade. Upton does not write about Traditionalism, but he writes ‘Traditionalistically’. The book mentions a lot of contemporary songs and poems, some might go back to the older songs the he usually reconstructs before he gives his view on them. These views can be relatively short, or extremely lengthy, such as in the case of the Dilly Song in which Upton finds the 10 commandments that he delves into in (too) great depth. Upton has a Traditionalistic view upon folklore and the prechristian religion that some of it goes back to. On the one hand, he says that remnants remain, but on the other hand the tradition is broken and the real work can only be done through orthodox religions. In his introduction to ‘three ballads of fall and redemption’ he writes “a word on, and to, the neo-pagans”, who “certainly include the Nordic romantics of the “Goth” culture – the people who, when they think of Hyperborea, do not see the eternal spring of the Earthly Paradise, but sorcerers blasting people with magic wands and warriors cleaving skulls with battle-axes – as well as softer Celtic romanticism which has produced River Dance and Celtic Women and a lot of blurry, elvish elevator music.” I guess that goes for a large part! “I maintain that some of the Neo-Pagans seem to have missed several important points, both about the spiritual life in general and about what Paganism originally was”. Agreed!
Folk Metaphysics is filled with thought-provoking and insightfull explanations of old and contemporary poetry and song. I do not always agree with the author and his ideas about for example heathenry, but the book is a very nice read. Practical Traditionalism so to say.
1998 Sophia Perennis, isbn 9781597310772
Some quotes from this book can be found here