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Stephen Flowers

Lords Of The Left Hand Path – Stephen Flowers (2012)

This book of Flowers is in some ways similar to the recently reviewed “Satanism A Social History“. Both give an historical overview of people and groups who ‘walk the dark path’. Introvigne also refers to Flowers’ book frequently. Where Introvigne is mostly historical, Flowers also looks at the ideas and systems of the groups and people he writes about.

Flowers’ book begins with interesting chapters about the left hand path in general, the left hand path in the East and especially how things in the past and in the East are not are clear cut as today in the West. The notions of ‘good’ versus ‘evil’ are not as sharp as we like to think of them today.

The introductory chapter “the roots of the Western tradition” is interesting as well, but slowly but surely things started to become less interesting to me. The chapter about World War II is not the best to me and towards the end the book almost starts to seem to be an introduction to the last two chapters about Anton LaVey and his Church of Satan and Michael Aquino and the Temple of Set.

With these last two persons we of course have people who consciously swim against the stream and do/did so visually. LaVey started in the hippy days, but he also lived through (and survived) the days of the “Satanic scare” in the USA. Flowers looks at the writings and ideas of both LaVey and Aquino in detail. A bit too much detail for my liking compared to previous chapters which were more general. Well, there is a descent chapter about the Fraternitas Saturni about which Flowers wrote an entire book.

All in all I found the book a modestly interesting read. I enjoy reading about people going against the current, but it is a path that is entirely not mine. The “Left Hand Path” for Flowers (and undoubtedly others) is one of individualism without loosing it in a ‘mystic end’. You also get a glimpse of how Flowers sees things himself and it is quite a thing for an academic to display that so clearly. Perhaps that is linked to Left Hand Path organisations such as the Temple of Set (and the Dragon Rouge which is for some reason not mentioned) which’ members more and more frequently also pursue an academic career.

2012 Inner Traditions, isbn 1594774676

The Northern Dawn – Stephen Edred Flowers (2017)

Flowers (aka Thorsson) (1953-) is a controversial writer. He is a graduate is Germanic and Celtic philology and has a Ph.D. in Germanic languages and medieval studies. Also he has decades of experience in the field, but studious and practical. That should make him very able to write a book like this, should he not?

Many people seem unable to see that apart from Flowers’ other interests. He follows the “left hand path”, is and has been involved in several organisations, some of which have eye-brow-raising elements. Part of his Germanic approach is rune-magic and does he lean towards a certain kind of politics?

In connection with the latter, I find the cover design unfortunate. Since I do not judge a book by the cover or the interests of the author outside the subject of the book, I was interested to see what Flowers would have to say about “A History of the Reawakening of the Germanic Spirit”.

Well, I have read some American publications about the Germanic past, but Flowers’ books is probably one of the better. Finally we have an author who can read German (and a host of other languages) and refers to classic works in this language about our subject. The book is even structured somewhat like the 1800’s books starting with an overview different approaches of investigation to continue with elements of the subject at hand.

Flowers’ book gives a fair idea of what is available on the subject from the last centuries and how his posits himself in the tradition of investigations. He is also clear about the fact that -even though part of one family- the pre-Christian tradition of ancient nowadays Germany is not exactly the same as that of Iceland. Also he shoves away some of the ever pertaining idea that there are no sources besides the Icelandic and he is not wholly negative about Christianity. As a matter of fact, the thesis is that Christianity was ‘Germanised’ by the Franks before it reached Northern Europe and then some more by the cultures it encountered. One of the ideas in the book is that thanks to Christianity, much of the old religion has been saved. Flowers even speaks of continuity.

The book is well written, it reads easily. The reawakening red threat is a bit too red here and there, but I find this book an excellent starting book for people interested in the subject, but unable to read other languages than English. (Much better than the Hasenfratz book that Michael Moyhnihan translated too.) You will get many references to older and newer other works, old and new theories to compare and a twist of the author. And no, the other subjects that Flowers writes about are no part of this book and why should they?

It is just a bit short. Just 200 pages.

2017 Arcana Europa, isbn 0972029281

The Nine Doors Of Midgard – Edred Thorsson (2016)

I have mixed feelings about the writings of Stephen Flowers / Edred Thorsson. Often they are wildly interesting. The subjects he finds and the way he works them out. At other times they are mildly interesting. The latter ‘category’ usually includes Thorsson’s ‘system’ and working for his Rune-Gild organisation.

The Nine Doors Of Midgard is a book that you have to work through and report on when you want to join the Rune-Gild. I guessed it would say a lot about the Rune-Gild system, symbolism, etc. and it sure does! The Nine Doors have been revised a couple of times and if I am not mistaken, the 2016 edition is the last one. The “doors” refer to sets of practices and exercises. These often involve meditation and visualization exercises, chanting, runic postures and the like. The book is supposed to form a path to allow the practitioner first to be able to join the organisation (after two or three doors) and later expand his/her magical abilities. The exercises mostly have to be performed for many days, which makes a period of several years to work through the entire book. The Rune-Gild certainly is for people with perseverance only!

As I know from other practical books of Thorsson that I read, his system is not for me. Pretty soon after starting the book, I started to quickly read through the exercises and see if the more theoretical parts would be of more interest. Here and there they are, but also in these parts, Thorsson is often not my kind of thinker.

Obviously the Rune-Gild is not for me, nor is Thorsson as an esoteric author. I guess I better stick to his more scholarly works. That said, if you are curious what the Rune-Gild is all about or are you in general interested in an esoteric take on the Norse way, just get yourself a copy of this book and see what you think of it. Should you enjoy the book, there are references to many, many other books to study next.

2016 Rune-Gild, isbn 9780971204485

Fraternitas Saturni – Stephen E. Flowers (2018)

Just as most of his books, Flowers has revised this book a couple of times and republished it. The book was first published in 1990 as Fire And Ice: The History, Structure And Rituals Of Germany’s Most Influential Modern Magical Order – The Brotherhood Of Saturn. A second edition was published in 1994. For the third edition 2006 (self released on Runa Raven) the title was changed to The Fraternitas Saturni – or Brotherhood Of Saturn: An Introduction To Its History Philosophy And Rituals. This fourth edition is published by Inner Traditions, is again revised and expanded and this title changed again, this time to The Fraternitas Saturni: History, Doctrine, And Rituals Of The Magical Order Of The Brotherhood Of Saturn.

The story behind the book is interesting. When studying in Germany, the author received actual documents of a notorious magical order about which not much had been published, certainly not in another language than German, including history and rituals. There are still people working under the name and Flowers got permission to publish the information. The rituals are not those that are in use nowadays anyway.

The Fraternitas Saturni is (of course) best known for its links with Aleister Crowley and its sex-magical workings. Flowers soon puts things in perspective. In its 33 degree system, sex is only part of one (the 18º). Now the initiation is more sexy than in most esoteric orders and there are private workings involving ritual sex, but it is certainly not so that this was the main focus of the brotherhood.

Flowers sketches the early history of the FS. What started as a joint attempt to start a magical lodge under Aleister Crowley (and the Orde Templi Orientis), immediately broke in pro-Crowley and contra-Crowley factions. Even though the FS was pro and they did use some of Crowley’s ideas, they did not accept his entire philosophy nor his leadership. There has been contact though.

In spite of a stop during WWII, a schism and a reuniting (and two split-offs), the FS has existed for almost a century and is therefor the oldest magical order in Germany. Indeed, in structure aim and partly in philosophy, FS is quite like Freemasonry, but then with an overtly magical tone and much stimulation on its members to explore all kinds of magical systems. Furthermore FS acknowledges the dark side along with the light side. Also scholarly the FS has been active with several periodicals, books, art and what not. FS has never been really big, but they have long been big enough to have lodges and a Grand Lodge just as within Freemasonry.

Flowers’ history and structure part is interesting. His take on the organisation’s philosophy clarifying. The second half of the book is filled with addenda, such as ritual texts and letters. All in all making this fourth edition read-worthy.

I did not have to dig deep to find out that much more can be bought regarding FS (when you read German). There is a publisher called Verlag Geheimes Wissen (‘secret knowing publications’) that has a whole list of well-printed material from the FS, including the periodical “Saturn Gnosis” (which I am reading now). FS also has it’s own publishing house, which mostly sells the other periodical: Blätter für angewandte okkulte Lebenskunst.
Enough to read after Flowers introduction!

2018 Inner Traditions, isbn 1620557215

Icelandic Magic – Stephen Flowers (2018)

Almost three decades after the first edition of his Galdrabók Flowers comes with a follow-up. That book ran out of print rapidly and became wildly expensive. A later reprint (that I reviewed) was pretty expensive as well, but later on the book was again reprinted and it is now well available and affordable. There is also an English and Icelandic edition.

Just as in his Galdrabók, Flowers mostly fills the pages of this new book with introductory information. This again is interesting. Flowers made me feel sorry for not having had the time to visit Strandagaldur, the museum of witchcraft and sorcery when I was in Iceland. The fact that this museum exists proves Flowers’ point that Galdrabekur (‘magic books’) have remained popular in Iceland for a very long time. They were influenced by similar books from the continent, from which many spells were taken, survived the coming of Christianity and (even though less popular) the Reformation. Practitioners copied books, added their own spells and sigils and thus created their own books. Quite a couple of them have found their way to the National Museum of Iceland where Flowers studied them.

In his lengthy introduction the author sketches the history of the books, gives an idea of the lives of some magicians (many Christians!), says a few things about the ‘light’ and ‘dark’ versions and towards the end has a “grey book” part with spells and signs. Flowers wanted to create a practical book of magic, so he explains how the sigils are built up, how you can use them and how you create your own. At the end some pages are left blank so you can add your own workings and create your very own “grey book” just as the Icelandic magicians did in the past (and present).

The introduction is again interesting. The “grey book” part does not contain many interesting or useful things (in my opinion), but in the appendices Flowers has Furtharks with short explanations, but also a couple of magical alphabets with rune-like symbols with their corresponding letters and explanations which could be a handy reference to decipher symbols or writings that are not (obviously) made of runes.

The author says that Icelandic magic is the easiest form of magic. It does not need elaborate preparations and lengthy texts. All spells and sign have been ‘tested’ and he encourages his readers to try them out. Having read the book, I do not really feel to the need to ‘leave the armchair’ though. The proposed workings do not at all appeal to me.

Each to his/her own! Flowers made a nice addition to an old publication shedding light on a curious part of Icelandic history.

2018 Inner Traditions, isbn 1620554054

Secret Practices of the Sufi Freemasons * Rudolf von Sebottendorff (1924/2014)

I read about this book on the blog of Mark Sedgwick. Of course the title is enigmatic, but it was mostly because it was mentioned on a Traditionalistic source that it caught my attention. There are two English translations of this weird, little book in German and I just ordered one of them. This proved to be a book translated and introduced by Stephen Flowers! The full title goes: “Secret Practises of the Sufi Freemasons; the Islamic teachings at the heart of alchemy”.

The book is only 138 pages, 63 of them are introductionary and another 8 contain notes. Flowers wrote an interesting introduction about the man who would be one of those behind the infamous Thule Gesellschaft, but this was not after he moved to Turkey and got initiated into the Sufi order of the Bektashi. However Adam Alfred Rudolf Glauer (Sebottendorff’s birthname) was born in Germany, he lived most of his life in Turkey, also before, during and after WWII. According to Sebottendorff the original Freemasons came from Rosicrucian circles (and way before, he has Freemasons in 900 CE) and the original teachings and techniques were kept by Freemasons in Islamic countries, the West has only maintained a shadow. These Eastern Freemasons seem to be Sufis, one order of which Sebottendorff was initated into by the adoptive parents that he also has to thank for his title.

The little book of Sebottendorff contains some history and theory, but mostly practices through which his readers can develop a “spiritual body”. In total it comes to me as a mishmash of Theosophism (indeed, the book was first published by the German Theosophical publishing house and some books that the author recommends also come from this corner), some sort of ‘Arabic Kabbalism’ (I guess he learned this in the Bektashi order) and indeed, the practices include grips and words that reminds of Freemasonry.

A strange little book to read and I still wonder how it ended up on a Traditionalistic blog.

1924 Die Praxis der alten türkischen Freimaurerei, 2014 Inner Traditions, isbn 9781594774683

Freemasonry and the Germanic Tradition * Stephen Edred Flowers (2008)

Freemasonry and the Germanic TraditionI was looking for something on Amazon when I ran into this book. The subject may be surprising to many, but not really new to me. The Dutchman Farwerck has written about the subject extensively in 1970 and I have touched on the subject in a couple of articles. I was curious what Runegilder Flowers/Thorsson has come up with.
Rûna Raven books are usually thin (this one is about 70 pages), A5 format, photocopied and not cheap to get to Europe ($ 22,- if I remember correctly). Unfortunately there no longer seems to be European distribution to cut the costs for us over here a bit. In any case, Flowers opens with a personal account of his very brief encounter with Freemasonry. He might have better looked for a lodge that fitted him instead of just turning to the local one. Flowers traces roots (not the roots) of Freemasony in the Northern European guild tradition. Not new perhaps, but he uses some arguments that I do not remember to have encountered earlier, mostly references in old texts about certain practices. The author compares Masonic rituals with Norse rituals, presents a translation of Guido von List’s Origins and Symbolism of Freemasonry (1910) (yes the Armanen fellow, not a great text but some nice references) and calls out to all “worthy brothers” to help to restore the original spirit and mission of Freemasonry and to non-Masons to not let Freemasonry die out. Flowers being a scholar is open about the problems with some of his arguments and tries his best to present good evidence, but still I have the idea that he jumps conclusions here and there. Of course this is just an initial investigation that some time somebody should finish (or should we just translate Farwerck into English?). The greatest feat of the booklet, by the way, is that Flowers mentions an early work that has dealt with the subject and of which I had not heard yet: Early History and Antiquities of Freemasonry: as connected with ancient Norse guilds and the oriental building fraternities by George Fort (1884). Something to look into.
2008 Rûna Raven Press

Galdrabók, an icelandic book of magic * Stephen Edred Flowers (2005 rûna raven press)

GaldrabokFor a very long time I have wanted to have a look at the famous “Galdrabók”. I knew that Stephen Flowers of the Rune Gild and the Woodharrow institute had a translation, but it ran out of print and is impossible to get. Now there is a “second and revised edition”, not released by Weiser, but by Flower’s own Rûna Raven Press. However the first edition has a colour cover and 135 pages, this new edition is more like a photocopied (but well-bound) 100 page A5 booklet. I don’t know what happened in between.

Of the 100 pages there is only 16 pages Galdrabók. Flowers starts with a very interesting introduction into Northern European magic. The writer devides Icelandic magic in three periods: the pagan age, the Christian age and the age of the Reformation. It in in the latter that magic was forcefully suppressed, but most manuscripts written down. The introduction compares systems, points to currents (Christian, Eastern, etc.), gives the history and an idea of the practise of it. After this follow the 16 pages of the Galdrabók and then another few pages with magic from other sources.

I expected a bit of a ‘runic version’ of the famous Medieval grimoires, but this is only partly true. A few symbols my remind of for example the Lesser Key of Solomon, but many do not. Also there aren’t that many drawings involved, more like spells and curses, not quite unlike the short spells from the Papyri Graecae Magicae (see elsewhere on this site). Most spells, etc. are very simple, totally unlike the long and detailed instructions in Medieval sorcerers books. I guess that Flowers is right when he says that these are writings for ‘pros’ and not for ‘beginners’. Also there are not that many runic figures involved or ‘pagan deities’, many texts come straight from the Bible or Judaic or Gnostic spell-books. Interesting nonetheless, especially with the great introduction of Flowers.

Rûna Raven Books are not cheap, especially not when you live outside the USA. I ran into Europa ltd. who sent me this booklet for $ 32,- and a long wait. You may have a search a bit, since that webshop seems to be offline (26/6/2017).

The Edda As Key To The Coming Age * Peryt Shou (translator Stephen E. Flowers) (2004 Rûna-Raven Press)

Readers of these pages may have heard about the German occultist Peryt Shou because of the Turbund Sturmwerk / Inade vinylbox. When looking through the internet, the most links refer to this box. The Turbund website also has some information about Albert Christian Georg Schultz (1873-1953) -who took the name of Peryt Shou-. And from the American Rûna-Raven a few of his writings are available in translation.

Just like the recently reviewed booklet about Johan Bure of the same publisher, this is a photocopied A5-booklet, just a little thicker. There is an introduction with some information about the man, a translation of the work and notes at the end. Shou proves to have been a strange fellow. In the reviewed booklet he finds Christianity in the Eddas and makes a combination between Christ who died at the cross and the “Wuotan-Christ” who resurrected nine nights later (of course referring to the nine nights that Odin hang on a tree to gain knowledge of the runes). Also Shou seems to be heavily influenced by the system of the Armanenrunes of Guido von List and he was somewhat of a visionary predicting the coming of the “Wuotan-Christ” in his time. All this he works out into a strange esoteric system with rituals and everything.
Also on the political front Shou wasn’t much of a follower. He was and is popular among ‘nationalistic occultists’ (if you permit me to put it that way), has been friends with the founder of the Thule Gesellschaft, but also in this booklet he displays much appreciation for communism. A nationalistic and more spiritual version of it, but still.

This and other things make Shou to not fit into a strict corner and this writing is as similarly hard to define. Hard to read too, because I not only disagree with him frequently, but there are many things he says that I simply can’t follow. This DOES make the booklet an interesting read of course, because it forces me to think certain things over. Not the most easy reads of these visionary occultists, but it is nice to see that such writings are at least available for those who want a taste of it or study it more in depth.

Johannes Bureus and Adalruna * Stephen E. Flowers (1998 Rûna Raven Press)

I had never (consciously) heard of Johan Bure until he was mentioned in the second volume of the Tyr magazine (reviewed elsewhere) where also an add for a book about this Swede was present. The man seems to combine two interests of mine: Renaissance esotericism and Norse religion/mythology. Searching the internet didn’t result in much valuable information, so I decided to see if I could get the anounced book. Amazon doesn’t have it, the American publisher asks very much money for postage and shipping and in the end I have been able to get a copy (along with some other material) from “Chaos International”, a UK publisher in which Ian Read of the Tyr magazine (and the band Fire + Ice) is involved.

The book under review is a small A5 photocopied booklet of about 30 pages. It contains the elemental information about Johan Bure (1568-1652) and the booklet itself focusses mainly on the man’s “grand opus” about the Adal Runa. Bure proves to be a highly interesting person from a highly interesting time. Johannes Thomæ Agrivillensis Bureus (as his complete Latinsed name is) was born and raised in in Lutheran environment Sweden. Being part of the Renaissance of Northern Europe, he first found himself learning a variety of languages (such as Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Arabian), being introduced to medieval magic, Kabbala, the early Rosicrucian movement and the theology of his time. He was born in no other place than Uppsala which we of course know for having been the primal place for religious practises in Northern Europe in antiquity. Bureus was therefor very familiar with the past of his region and eventually was caught by one of the many runestones in his surroundings. He started to focus on the ‘pagan past’ of his ancestors and eventually develloped (or ‘discovered’ as he would have called it) the system of the “Adalruna”.

Before the time the Eddas where officially discovered (however they may be circulated as manuscripts before), Bureus was one of the first people to investigate and write about the religion and mythology of our ancestors and the runes. About the runes Bureus said that there were the ‘normal’ runes that we are quite familiar with, but also a system of “noble” runes (“Adalruna”) which were their magical counterparts. The knowledge of the Adalruna has faded, but Bureus has tried to reconstruct the system.

This system is a strange mixture between Kabbalistic practises, a minor drop of Hermeticism, some medieval magic, but most of all the Christianity of his time. Flowers gives the basis of the system of the Adalruna, but this I can’t describe in a few words. Bureus makes figures with the runes and interprets these esoterically.

By far most of the work of Bureus is unpublished or even unknown. Much is left to investigate and the man is interesting enough for a serious study. It seems that a person called Susanna Í…kerman is going to be the person for this task. She is not yet in the bibliography of this 1998 booklet, but in the latest “Rûna magazine” she is mentioned in the bibliography of an article about Bureus’ system. She has written a book called Rose Cross over the Baltic: the spread of Rosicrucianism in Northern Europe (1998) and the text of her lecture at the IAHR conference in Durban, South-Africa, 2000 would have the title The use of Kabbalah and Dee’s Monas in Johannes Bureus’s Rosicrucian papers and be published by two heads of the only two Hermetic university chairs in the world: Antoine Faivre (Paris) and Wouter Hanegraaff (Amsterdam) in the conference booklet. As far as I know Í…kerman’s lecture was about the midnight-lion of the North in Bureus’ Rosicrucian papers. -9/1/05-
For articles about Bureus see here.