History and Occulture

Biographies, history, and cultural criticism.

The Esoteric Secrets of Surrealism, by Patrick Lepetit

By J Simpson | October 20, 2014 | Leave a comment

The Esoteric Secrets of Surrealism, by Patrick LepetittThe Esoteric Secrets of Surrealism, by Patrick Lepetitt
The Esoteric Secrets of Surrealism: Origins, Magic, and Secret Societies, by Patrick Lepetitt
Inner Traditions, 9781620551752, 544 pp. (incl. bibliography and notes), 2014

The Esoteric Secrets of Surrealism symbolizes a reuniting of art, science, and mysticism: the head, body, and heart, all working together.

As an artistic movement surrealism seeks to “resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality” as a revolutionary act. From the outset, the surrealists declared war on rationality, which had allowed for the atrocities of two world wars to take place, causing French novelist Albert Camus to proclaim that “surrealism’s essential enemy is rationalism.” Devoted anarchists, the surrealists felt that “so long as revolutionaries confine themselves to certain specific aspects of social life without attacking the spiritual structure of society directly,” then they were doomed to failure. This caused poet Tristan Tzara to claim that “the love of ghosts, witchcraft, occultism, magic, vice, dream, madness, passions, true or invented folklore, mythology (or even mystification), social or other kinds of utopias, real or imagined journeys, bric-a-brac, marvels, the adventures and mores of primitive peoples and generally everything that did not fit into the rigid frameworks in which beauty had been placed to identify itself with the mind.”

The surrealists were interested in occult and metaphysical currents from the very beginning — as seen with the Vodou-ispired works of Cuban painter Wifredo Lam, or the explicitly Pagan paintings of Leonora Carrington — although often not in so many words, as they “ventured onto the terrain of mediumship stripped of its spiritualist clutter.” In the process the surrealists would become a kind of secret society and take a similar role to that of the Freemasons or Rosicrucians in the Enlightenment, illuminating and updating the age old mysteries with emerging schools of thought like psychoanalysis, quantum physics, and relativity. Continue reading


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

By Gesigewigu's | July 21, 2014 | 3 comments

William Blake's Sexual Path to Spiritual Vision, by Marsha Keith Schuchard

William Blake's Sexual Path to Spiritual Vision, by Marsha Keith Schuchard

William Blake’s Sexual Path to Spiritual Vision, by Marsha Keith Schuchard
Inner Traditions, 9781594772115, 398 pp., 2008

Reading William Blake one cannot help but realize this is a man who is both religious and spiritually active, especially his poems known as the prophecies. The question is what was the nature of his spiritual life? What inspired Blake to create works that are both heavily Christian and at the same time antagonistic to many Christian ideals? The surprising answer is laid out as Schuchard leads us back into the complex religious web of mystical Christianity of the 17th and 18th century.

No clear, singular document exists that explains Blake’s religious life and upbringing, so Schuchard researched and wrote this text as a “reconstruction of the lost religious history of the family of William Blake.” This area is rarely investigated, and considering how bizarre and complicated a picture Schuchard paints it’s not surprising that “sensible academic critics have cautiously refrained from taking the plunge” into this counter-religious culture. Continue reading


Magic Without Mirrors, by David Conway

By Mike Gleason | May 9, 2014 | Leave a comment

Magic WIthout Mirrors, by David ConwayMagic Without Mirrors, by David ConwayMagic Without Mirrors: The Making of a Magician, by David Conway
Logios, 9781463761724,336 pp., 2011

For a large number of individuals of a certain age, Magic: An Occult Primer was the introduction to the world of magick. At the time there wasn’t a whole lot of information about the author available. In the intervening years The Magic of Herbs and Secret Wisdom: The Occult Universe Explored were also produced by the same author, but without (to my knowledge) as much acceptance and fanfare.

This book is essentially Conway’s autobiography. It is filled with amusing anecdotes and enlightening background information. It also contains snippets of magickal information as well, though that is not its primary purpose. Continue reading


The Tradition of Household Spirits, by Claude Lecouteux

By Brian Walsh | January 2, 2014 | Leave a comment

The Tradition of Household Spirits, by Claude LecouteuxThe Tradition of Household Spirits, by Claude LecouteauxThe Tradition of Household Spirits: Ancestral Lore and Practices, by Claude Lecouteux, translated by Jon E. Graham
Inner Traditions, 1620551055, 227 pp. (incl. index and eight pages of colour plates), 2013

Ever since his first book, Witches, Werewolves and Fairies: Shapeshifters and Astral Doubles in the Middle Ages in 1992, I’ve quite enjoyed Claude Lecouteux’s work.

Claude Lecouteux is a French historian specialising in the Middle Ages and its understanding of the spiritual world, the chair of German civilization and Literature of the Middle Ages, and a professor emeritus, at the Paris-Sorbonne University.

The Tradition of Household Spirits: Ancestral Lore and Practices was initially published in French in 2000 as La Maison et ses Génies: Croyances d’Hier et d’Aujourd’hui. Personally, I find the French title more apt, since it more clearly describes the content, but that’s a fairly minor quibble on my part. In the original French, this was Lecouteux’s fifth book published. However the English translation are being published in a different order, and this is the seventh book released in English.

The first part of the book begins with the actual house, while the second part of the book turns to the spirits themselves. This is followed by a brief exploration of the notion of haunted houses, and a few appendixes about proverbs associated with household spirits and a few other odds and ends. Continue reading


The Secret History of Poltergeists and Haunted Houses, by Claude Lecouteux

By Sheta Kaey | December 11, 2013 | Leave a comment

Claude LecouteuxThe Secret History of Poltergeists and Haunted Houses, by Claude LecouteuxThe Secret History of Poltergeists and Haunted Houses: From Pagan Folklore to Modern Manifestations, by Claude Lecouteux
Editions Imago, Inner Traditions, 9781594774652, 246 pp., 2007, 2012

Claude Lecouteux offers an exhaustively researched history of poltergeist activity and hauntings from the middle ages to today. Packed full of case histories and general information, The Secret History of Poltergeists and Haunted Houses is an essential addition to the library of any serious ghost hunter or paranormal enthusiast. Lecouteux maintains an evidential viewpoint, balancing skepticism with the inevitable conclusion that, like it or not, poltergeist phenomenon is real.

One particular gem is a chart that compares the views of different eras regarding “Poltergeists due to the presence of living beings.” In the Pagan Middle Ages, this activity was mostly attributed to the dead, genies, and spirits. During the Christian Middle Ages, attribution was given to the devil, demons, and the dead. In post-Medieval times (16th-17th centuries), witchcraft and hoaxes were usually to blame, and of late, paranormal researchers attribute the phenomena to the dead or people with psychic abilities. With regard to the difference between spirits and the ghosts, Lecouteux writes: Continue reading


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