Tag Archives: esotericism

Surrealism and the Occult

Surrealism and the Occult: Occultism and Western Esotericism in the Work and Movement of André Breton by Tessel M Bauduin, due in December from Amsterdam University Press, may be of interest.

Tessel M Bauduin Surrealism and the Occult from Amsterdam University Press

“This book offers a new perspective on a long-debated issue: the role of the occult in surrealism, in particular under the leadership of French writer André Breton. Based on thorough source analysis, this study details how our understanding of occultism and esotericism, as well as of their function in Bretonian surrealism, changed significantly over time from the early 1920s to the late 1950s.”

Esotericism & Symbol

Esoterism & Symbol by R A Schwaller de Lubicz, from Inner Traditions, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

R A Schwaller de Lubicz Esotericism and Symbol from Inner Traditions

Esotericism and Symbol initiates the reader into the tone, structure, and mentality of ancient Egyptian knowledge, the wellspring of all Western theology and science.

Schwaller de Lubicz makes the distinction between two kinds of human intelligence, one cerebral, the other innate. The symbol is a conventional representation of cerebral intelligence. The hieroglyph, on the other hand, is a direct, nonconventional form of writing with the unique ability to transcribe the innate ‘intelligence-of-the-heart.’

This intelligence is independent of the senses and belongs to the vast totality called life. To the ancient Egyptian it is the intelligence-of-the-heart which allows man to move toward the divine.

All esoteric teaching is addressed to this intelligence. ‘Spirit is found only with spirit,’ and esotericism is the spiritual aspect of the world, inaccessible to cerebral intelligence. It can be neither written nor spoken, nor consequently betrayed. It has nothing in common with deliberate concealment of truth. However, the preparation needed to grasp it is not a matter of learned knowledge, but of intuitive capacity.

Esotericism and Symbol explores the ‘process of becoming’ as it relates to consciousness and is revealed in all of nature; the relationship of ‘apparent life’ and the life behind appearances; the kinship between man and the mineral, plant, and animal kingdoms; the mystery of the formation of substance into matter; myth, Kabbalah, and the stages of awareness leading to ‘Cosmic Consciousness.’

De Lubicz shows us that esotericism is not a ‘particular meaning hidden in a text’ but a ‘fusion’ between the vital state of the reader and the vital state of the author. This fusion evokes the intelligence of the heart, our guide to the path of self-knowledge.” — back cover

The Pleasures of Cloris

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Pleasures of Cloris by John Colleton.

John Colleton The Pleasures of Cloris

The Italian geography of this debauched little novel isn’t the only thing that reminded me of Casanova’s memoirs, but our protagonist Bill is the patient rather than the agent of this book’s principal seductions. Only in the surprisingly plot-loaded finale does he take significant initiative (quietly, even so); otherwise, Cloris leads the dances.

Erotic cinematography is a chief cultural concern of the book. There are some curious allusions to esotericism, such as a quick pair of references to Pico and Plethon (128, 130), and Lord Cholmondeley’s duties with the Knights of Malta.

The quasi-autobiographical tenor of the book involves a lot of authorial introspection. Bill often mentions his anxiety that he wasn’t writing about his adventures, or observing them astutely enough to write about them later. But the novel is full of dry wit along with the wet sex, and the pacing is both relaxed and inviting, even with troubles shadowing the main characters. [via]

The History and Philosophy of the Metaphysical Movements in America

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The History and Philosophy of the Metaphysical Movements in America by J Stillson Judah.

J Stillson Judah The History and Philosophy of the Metaphysical Movements in America

Writing in the 1990s, Wouter Hanegraaff refers to this book as a “standard work” on the topic, and notes that Judah coined the term “metaphysical movements.” (See Judah, p. 7) The volume treats a set of “religious philosophies” in the United States, beginning in the 1840s, and progressing up until the date that the book was written. Although Judah provided no evidence for the claim, he asserted that these religions were growing in popularity at the time of his writing. (p. 12) He characterized these metaphysical movements by family resemblance, with a set of fifteen chief features, including: gnostic anthropology, divine monism, pragmatism, psychological interpretation, optimism, mental or spiritual healing, and preferring “principles” to creed. Even when explicitly Christian, these groups tended to view Jesus as a teacher, rather than as the unique human incarnation of God.

Judah’s first chapter is devoted to inventorying some aspects of the germinal milieu of the American metaphysical movements. Besides the transcendentalist school and its effects, which he remarks as their foremost precedent and influence, he observes the importance of American religious pluralism, revivalism, deism, Swedenborgianism, Puritan utilitarianism, and occultism (i.e. hermeticism and kabbalah). He then goes on to provide historical sketches, with representations of doctrines and practices, for each of the following metaphysical movements: Spiritualism (with its various institutions and sects), Theosophy “and its allies” (i.e. the Arcane School and the Astara Foundation), New Thought (with the precedent teachings of Quimby and Evans, and the progeny of the Divine Science Church and the Church of Religious Science), the Unity School of Christianity, and Christian Science. A closing chapter treats the effect of the metaphysical movements on Protestantism, especially through the avenue of notions of health and mental healing.

Judah repeatedly cites Frank Podmore’s history of Spiritualism, Charles J. Ryan on Theosophy, Horatio Dresser on New Thought, and several secondary sources on Christian Science. For all of the movements surveyed, he makes extensive use of their own doctrinal literature, and in several cases he has interviewed key leaders or their families. Perhaps it is significant that no secondary sources appear in different sections of the book, since Judah appears to have been the first to tie these various groups and teachings into a coherent tradition.

Judah’s theory of religion is partly formulated in his closing chapter, where he insists that all religions can be analyzed in terms of three chief components: mental/philosophical, conative (relating to aspiration and conduct), and emotional. He insists that the conative component, the religious will as such, must be powered by an emotional experience, and he suggests that the historical transformations in American religion have resulted from the waxing and waning of emphasis on emotional experience. He points to the metaphysical movements as offering an orientation to the religious experiences of the individual during periods when mainline Protestantism has become abstracted into concerns about social justice. (pp. 291-2)

A significant part of Judah’s methodology in The Metaphysical Movements might be best characterized as comparative theology, even though that term has not been in vogue since the mid-20th century. He consistently attends to comparing the theological elements in the various metaphysical movements against each other, and against an implicitly normative mainline American Protestantism. But he has no evident chip on his shoulder, and his foreword includes an accounting of his own past engagements in the study and practice of Theosophy, yoga, New Thought, Spiritualism, and other “metaphysical” systems. The frankness of this passage shows a sort of scholarly reflexivity that is admirable in the early and mid-1960’s when Judah was writing. He cautions that any seemingly negative evaluations of the religions in his book “should be considered as constructive criticism offered in the same spirit in which the writer has also criticized the Protestant churches.” (p. 9) He does in the end refrain from offering either praise or condemnation of the metaphysical movements as a whole, but he opines that there would be ample justification for different parties to view them as revolutionary, restorative, or subversive of more customary institutional religions in America. [via]


Fifth International Conference of the ASE on Jun 19-22nd, 2014 at Colgate University

The Fifth International Conference of the Association for the Study of Esotericism on June 19th–22nd, 2014 at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York. The conference schedule has recently been posted and you will find quite a few presenters and presentations of interest including a couple by Hermetic library fellows:

· Mark Stavish, Israel Regardie and the Theory and Practice of the Middle Pillar Exercise
· Joscelyn Godwin, Esotericism in a Murky Mirror: Strange Practices in Central New York.

Do check out the whole schedule, but a selection of the other presentations, that catch my eye, includes:

· John L Crow (Thelema Coast to Coast), The Theosophical Shift to the Visual: Graphical Representations of the Human Body in the Literature of Second and Third Generation Leadership in the Theosophical Society
· Simon Magus, The fin de siècle magical aesthetic of Austin Osman Spare: Siderealism, Atavism, Automatism, Occultism
· David Pecotic, Building Subtle Bodies — Gurdjieff’s esoteric practice of conditional immortality in the light of Poortman’s concept of hylic pluralism in the history of religions
· Richard Kaczynski, Inventing Tradition: The Construction of History, Lineage and Authority in Secret Societies
· Wouter Hanegraaff, The Transformation of Desire in Machen’s & Waite’s House of the Hidden Light
· Sarah Veale, Disenchantment of the Vampire: Balkan Folklore’s Deadly Encounter with Modernity
· Gordan Djurdjevic, “In Poison there is Physic”: On Poisons and Cures in Some Strands of Esoteric Theory and Practice.

The Golden Thread

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Golden Thread: The Ageless Wisdom of the Western Mystery Traditions by Hermetic Library fellow Joscelyn Godwin.

Joscelyn Godwin The Golden Thread

Godwin’s Golden Thread is an impressive survey of its subject. In a brief and accessible form, he treats esoteric traditions from antiquity, through the Middle Ages and Renaissance, to modernity and the present. Although the book presumes shockingly little prior acquaintance with such material, he manages to avoid any tone of condescension, and he embroiders the necessarily broad outlines of such a high-level overview with many interesting details.

This volume is published by Quest Books, a Theosophical Society imprint, but it doesn’t pander to that organization. Godwin professes a metaphysical perspective in common with Paul Brunton (1898–1981, a pupil of Alan Bennett and later Ramana Maharshi), and he takes seriously—without conceding to—the anti-occultist esotericism of the Traditionalists.

As an introductory survey, The Golden Thread doesn’t provide the depth or originality one might be looking for in the course of academic research, but Godwin is careful to furnish extensive references for further reading. These notes enhance the value of the book as a historical primer in its field. I would recommend it to anyone with a preliminary curiosity about its subject, and it is sure to provide rewarding perspective for those who have a practical engagement with the Masonic, Rosicrucian, or Theosophical traditions. There are few books that cover so much ground with such clarity and ease. [via]


Esotericism and the Academy

Esotericism and the Academy: Rejected Knowledge in Western Culture by Wouter J Hanegraaff, from Cambridge University Press, previously only available as a 2012 hardcover, is due to release as a paperback tomorrow, March 6th, 2014.

Wouter J Hanegraaff Esotericism and the Academy from Cambridge University Press

“Academics tend to look on ‘esoteric’, ‘occult’ or ‘magical’ beliefs with contempt, but are usually ignorant about the religious and philosophical traditions to which these terms refer, or their relevance to intellectual history. Wouter Hanegraaff tells the neglected story of how intellectuals since the Renaissance have tried to come to terms with a cluster of ‘pagan’ ideas from late antiquity that challenged the foundations of biblical religion and Greek rationality. Expelled from the academy on the basis of Protestant and Enlightenment polemics, these traditions have come to be perceived as the Other by which academics define their identity to the present day. Hanegraaff grounds his discussion in a meticulous study of primary and secondary sources, taking the reader on an exciting intellectual voyage from the fifteenth century to the present day and asking what implications the forgotten history of exclusion has for established textbook narratives of religion, philosophy and science.” [via]


The Satanist at Pharaoh’s Court

The Satanist at Pharaoh’s Court by Walter C Cambra, a monograph, has arrived at the Reading Room courtesy of the author.

Walter C Cambra The Satanist at Pharaoh's Court

“Although some fool, over a dozen centuries beyond the setting of our story, pontificated that you cannot serve two masters, namely, God and Mammon (Matthew 6:24) the character in our story did so—and with flare!”

“I am speaking about that adept in the Occult Arts, namely, Joseph the Satanist at Pharaoh’s royal court! One may question labelling Joseph a Satanist — however, I do not!”

The Magical Revival

The Magical Revival [also, also] by Kenneth Grant, the 2010 standard edition hardcover from Starfire Publishing, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Kenneth Grant The Magical Revival from Starfire Publishing

“When the original manuscript of this book was submitted for publication the author was told he had provided ‘too much material for one book’. This proved to be correct. The work here presented—in an enhanced edition—became the first volume of three Trilogies. They deal with a detailed analysis of certain occult traditions which existed long before the Christian epoch, survived its persecutions and anathemas, and reappeared in recent times with renewed vigour.

The continuity of this magical current as reflected in the work of Aleister Crowley, Austin Osman Spare, Dion Fortune and others is here traced through the Tantrik Tradition of the Far East, the Sumerian Cult of Shaitan and the Draconian, Sabian, or Typhonian rites of the ‘dark’ dynasties of ancient Egypt.

Sexual magick and mysterious rites have always been practiced; drugs and other substances have constantly been used to induce ecstasy, to produce visions and to facilitate traffic with the denizens of other worlds or planes of consciousness; but an initiated rationale of the process such as presented here has been rarely forthcoming.

The genuine magical tradition as revived by Adepts like Crowley is here related to its ancient sources and brought into line with phases of contemporary occultism that are evolving a New Gnosis to supercede the sterile superstitions bred of an aeon-long misunderstanding of the old.

As a contribution to occult lore, The Magical Revival and its companion volumes have become standard source-books in their special field.” — flap copy

 

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