Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Éliphas Lévi and the Kabbalah – The Masonic and French Connection of the American Mystery Tradition by Robert L Uzzel.
Even the clumsy style and sloppy research of this book is overshadowed by the typos, misspellings and bad grammar. The author is a Texas Mason and pious Christian, and I can only hope that this book has been little improved over its original composition as a Ph.D. dissertation—or else Baylor University is dispensing its degrees quite cheaply.
The topic is certainly interesting, and the overall structure of the study is reasonable. Uzzel attempts to trace Levi’s influence on American metaphysical religion (or as he puts it without clarification, “the American Mystery Tradition”), with a biography of Levi, an examination of Levi’s legacy in Europe, a consideration of Levi’s influence on Albert Pike, and an inventory of Levi’s legacy among American sects and initiatory orders.
But, oh! Why an explanatory footnote for the word zeitgeist? Why did Uzzel—who actually bothered to correspond with OTO Treasurer General Bill Heidrick on the topic of Levi’s influence on Aleister Crowley—use Colin Wilson’s Mammoth Book of the Supernatural as his chief reference on Crowley? Isn’t there a better source than Holy Blood, Holy Grail to cite regarding Levi’s relationship to Charles Nodier? I see that Uzzel raised Carl Raschke’s claims about Levi in Painted Black in order to take issue with them, but shouldn’t they be beneath the contempt of actual scholarship?
The meatiest part of the book is the chapter about Albert Pike. But in the final analysis, Uzzel contributes little to an understanding of Levi’s influence on Pike besides a digest of choice selections from Rex Hutchens’ Glossary to Morals and Dogma.
Uzzel’s syntheses and conclusions are less than gripping. He gives Levi credit for the prominence, or perhaps even the presence, of Templarism and Rosicrucianism in Masonic high degrees. (I don’t think the facts are with him, here.) He compares Levi’s aspirations for universal religious synthesis to the project of the World’s Parliament of Religions, but the comparison is vague and unproductive. He also offers some entirely unpersuasive, Newagey reflections on the mystical and holistic implications of quantum physics.
It’s obvious that a lot of labor went into this text, and its positive potentials make it a more frustrating read than it would otherwise be, given its glaring deficiencies. [via]
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