Tag Archives: religious philosophy

Spiritual Centers in Man

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Spiritual Centers in Man [Amazon, Publisher, Local Library] by Manly P Hall.

Hall Spiritual Centers in Man

The original and more descriptive title of this booklet was “An Essay on the Fundamental Principles of Operative Occultism.” The earliest copyright given is 1978, so that date may be the one of original publication. It consists of the main essay and a short appended paper. The essay breaks down into several series in different categories.

The first category is “seven cardinal requirements [which] constitute the fundamental ethic of occultism” (19). These “requirements” are on the whole sound enough. Of special note and interest is the adjuration to “shun all kinds of psychism and phenomenalism,” although this part also includes some funniness about “a comparatively high degree of Chelaship” (13-4).

Hall then inventories seven considerations for undertaking training in occultism: access to a teacher, duration of study, obligations of secrecy, hazards of black magic (“Dugpa sorcery”), the ban on commodifying the mysteries, the importance of equilibrium (of mind, body, and spirit), and the esoteric value of profane arts and sciences.

A third heptad is an inventory of the sat chakras. He identifies these with the seven churches of Asia from the Apocalypse, although without crediting James Pryse, whose Apocalypse Unsealed had provided this correlation in much greater detail as early as 1910. Hall does switch the attributions for Smyrna and Pergamos, while qualifying all of his attributions with “probably.” Hall writes, “The story of these centers is clearly set forth in the Book of Revelation, where the seven seals, the seven trumpets, the seven vials, and the seven voices all refer to the spinal centers and the various mysteries concerning them” (37).

Finally, he runs through the eight limbs of raja yoga, or “eight steps of the Yogi School,” devoting two or three paragraphs to each. Among these, he especially identifies pranayama with raising Kundalini in the central column of the body, and warns about its dangers to “the average Occidental” (40).

The paper at the end of the booklet is “A Synthetic Elemental Cross,” in which Hall expounds on cross symbolism generally–emphasizing its universal rather than Christian provenance–with particular reference to a Rose Cross emblem he had designed in 1923.

The Sources of Religious Insight

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Sources of Religious Insight [Amazon, Publisher, Local Library] by Josiah Royce.

Royce The Sources of Religious Insight

I found this 1912 book to be surprisingly worthwhile. It’s a set of lectures by Harvard academic Josiah Royce, with a scope situated somewhere between philosophy of religion and religious psychology. It is not theological or sectarian. When Royce observed that “It is useless to make some new sect whose creed shall be that there are to be no sects” (294), I could not help thinking with amusement that he was indicting the Plymouth Brethren, just such a sect, as well as their “non-denominational” successors among “Bible-believing” Christians.

Speaking during the later part of the Progressive Era, Royce refers to William James as “my dear friend” (27), and particularly in the book’s fourth section “The World and the Will” he is at some pains to explain how his views both accord with and differ with those attributed to philosophical Pragmatism. In an earlier section on “Individual Experience and Social Experience” he also details his particular understanding of James’ theory of religion, as well as providing a surprisingly generous and sympathetic gloss on Nietzsche’s “Titanism” (60 ff.).

Although Royce’s willingness to class Christianity and Buddhism as the “higher religions of mankind” (8) and his use of the search for human “salvation” as the touchstone of religion as such seem like stigma of a thinker with whom I would find few if any points of agreement, he develops his argument with a good deal of care and patience. In the culmination of his fifth lecture “The Religion of Loyalty,” he arrives at what I consider to be cardinal truth: “For our attention is now fixed, not on a condition to be called salvation, but on a rule for doing something in accordance with our own true will” (188). Before the lecture concludes, he progresses from this pivot to insisting that “your true cause is the spiritual unity of all the world of reasonable beings” (205, italics in original).

The final lecture is concerned with what Royce calls “The Invisible Church” which transcends all limited doctrines and specific cultures, although he gives no signal of having drawn on esoteric thinkers such as Eckartshausen and Lopukhin for his use of this phrase. Royce is sufficiently scrupulous in his avoidance of theological identification that it is impossible to tell if he originally took “Invisible Church” from the contexts in which it has been used as a gloss on Augustinian anti-Donatist notions supposed to be common to all Western Christianity, or if he was specially receptive to the Protestant usage which allowed for institutional legitimation via a supra-historical avoidance of Roman Catholicism. In any event, Royce uses it in neither sense, and he is explicit that he extends “membership” in the Invisible Church to those “loyal” to non-Christian religions, as well as to the “cynics and rebels” who attack “the narrowness of our nature, the chaos of our unspiritual passions, the barren formalism of our conventions” (285).

So, while there are any number of points where I feel my views to be in friction with those of Royce, I found his treatment on the whole to be both coherent and productive of useful reflection. I would recommend it to clergy, scholars of religion, and others willing to give serious thought to its questions.

Liber AL: an examination

Liber AL: an examination is a recent release from Conjoined Creation. Although not mentioned on the page for this book, it appears this being released by Marlene Cornelius and is in part an expanded reissue of material that appeared in the journal Red Flame, No 8.

Liber AL from Conjoined Creation

“Thelema, the religious philosophy of ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law,’ began when Liber AL vel Legis was received by Aleister Crowley in April 1904. Liber AL, also known as The Book of the Law, is the central holy book of Thelema, and forms the foundation of Thelemic theory and practice. It has therefore been the subject of intense study by Thelemites for over a century.

The Book of the Law has been of interest to many people over the last century and has impacted innumerable lives. The research in Liber AL: an examination is of great importance to anyone seeking a deeper understanding of Thelema’s foundational text, whether or not one is a Thelemite.

Liber AL: an examination brings together for the first time several scholarly expositions of different aspects of The Book of the Law, including a detailed review of its publication history and an exact transliteration of the manuscript with notations regarding changes made to it by Aleister Crowley during the course of his life. It also includes an exploration of a recent debate about whether the typescript as published by Crowley may contain a printing error that was never corrected.” [via]