History and Occulture

Biographies, history, and cultural criticism.

Victor Hugo’s Conversations with the Spirit World, by John Chambers

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Victor Hugo's Conversations with the Spirit World, by John ChambersVictor Hugo’s Conversations with the Spirit World: A Literary Genius’s Hidden Life, by John Chambers
Destiny Books, 1594771820, 372. pp, 1999, 2009

I’m sure that, at one time or another, many of us have played with a Ouija ™ board. And we may have gotten “messages from beyond.” Most of us, I am sure, tired quickly of it, or had serious doubts about the information coming through the board.

Well, Victor Hugo lived before the Ouija ™ board was created. He did, however, live during the time when Spiritualism was in its heyday. The use of small, lightweight, three-legged tables to tap out messages was commonplace in parlours across Europe. The uncommon aspects of M Hugo’s attempts were quite extraordinary, however. They included the people involved (writers, philosophers, and military men) as well as the “sources” of this information (living individuals [Napoleon III], concepts [Civilization], as well as the more common discarnate individuals). Continue reading


Thomas Berry, Dreamer of the Earth, edited by Ervin Laszlo and Allan Combs

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Thomas Barry, Dreamer of the Earth, edited by Ervin Laszlo and Allan CombsThomas Berry, Dreamer of the Earth: The Spiritual Ecology of the Father of Environmentalism, edited by Ervin Laszlo and Allan Combs
Inner Traditions, 9781594773952, 160 pp., 2011

Dreamer of the Earth is a collection of essays written by intellectuals and eco-activists regarding the impact of Berry’s writings on their lives and philosophies as well as a lengthy essay by Thomas Berry himself.  Thomas Berry was a Christian mystic, a student of Thomas Aquinas and Teilhard de Chardin his writings remain some of the most thoughtful commentary on the modern condition produced in the last 80 years.

Alan Combs’ introduction to the text is excellent, Continue reading


Sexual Outlaw, Erotic Mystic, by Vere Chappell

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Sexual Outlaw, Erotic Mystic, by Vere ChappellSexual Outlaw, Erotic Mystic, by Vere ChappellSexual Outlaw, Erotic Mystic: The Essential Ida Craddock, by Vere Chappell, with an introduction by Mary K. Greer
Weiser Books, 978157863476, 258 pp. (incl. appendix and references), 2010

Described as an anthology embedded in a biography, Sexual Outlaw, Erotic Mystic contains most of Ida Craddock‘s published writings edited, annotated and placed in context by Vere Chappell.

Ida Craddock was a 19th century American sexologist, feminist, and mystic who was persecuted by Anthony Comstock’s Society for the Suppression of Vice. Her contribution to conventional sex reform, and her mystical writings on sex with spiritual beings are exceptional for the period. Continue reading


William Blake’s Sexual Path to Spiritual Vision, by Martha Keith Schuchard

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William Blake's Sexual Path to Spiritual Vision, by Marsha Keith SchuchardWilliam Blake's Sexual Path to Spiritual Vision, by Marsha Keith SchuchardWilliam Blake’s Sexual Path to Spiritual Vision, by Martha Keith Schuchard
Inner Traditions, 9781594772115, 415 pp., 2006, 2008

This is the first US edition of a book originally published in 2006 in the UK. It had its origin in scholarly research but has been diminished in size and complexity, although not in quality, to produce a book more likely to appeal to a non-academic audience.

There is a large amount of background data provided on the subject of 18th and 19th century esoterica. This is important to provide a solid base for the understanding of William Blake and his works.

As I have commented in previous  reviews of books issued by Inner Traditions, this is not a book for the casual reader. It presupposes a certain level of familiarity with the general topic right from the outset. If you know nothing about William Blake or the esoteric milieu of his time, you will find yourself playing catch-up from the start. Continue reading


Frances Yates and the Hermetic Tradition, by Marjorie G Jones

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Frances Yates and the Hermetic Tradition, by Marjorie G. Jones
Ibis Press, 9780892541331, 262 pp. (incl. end notes, bibliography and index), 2008

Frances Yates and the Hermetic Tradition is the first full-length biography of Frances Yates, who was among the first wave of late Victorian female historians. Notes were compiled for an autobiography, but it remained incomplete at her death, though she did leave instructions for future biographers.

The account of Yates’ early years are taken in part from the unfinished autobiography, and the journal her father kept about her growth and progress from birth to a young child, with notes on her character and conduct.

Jones traces her personal and scholastic interests through Continue reading


Aleister Crowley, by John Moore

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Aleister Crowley: A Modern Master, by John Moore
Mandrake of Oxford, 97801906958002, 215 pp. (incl. bibliography and index), 2009

A Modern Master aims to present itself as a cultural examination of Crowley, yet Moore does not seem quite up to the task.

Moore wries that one of his goals in writing this book was “to make excuses for him, defending what has been criticised as a more contemptible side of his character”. This is severely misguided. Crowley was who he was, excuses are rather moot at this point. (Do we excuse Baudelaire? Rimbaud? Berber?) Rather than attempt to shine up the unsavoury bits Moore would have done better to explore them in context and describe how they influenced his work.

Continuing, he writes: Continue reading


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