Review: The Mystery Traditions, by James Wasserman

By Mike Gleason | February 2, 2006

The Mystery Traditions: Secret Symbols and Sacred Art, by James Wasserman
Destiny Books, 1594770883, 147 pp., 2005

This profusely illustrated volume gathers together a dazzling variety of imagery. These images do far more to illustrate the Western Mystery Traditions than any text could. That is not to say that this book does not contain written descriptions. It does. But the images, including several sets of Major Arcana of Tarot decks, do a much expanded job.

It contains illustrations in a variety of topics – Astrology and Cosmology, Kabbalah and the Tree of Life, Initiation, Magick and the Gods, Secret Societies (a new addition to this revised volume), Sexuality, Alchemy, Tarot, and Symbolist and Visionary Art. These images have almost all been printed before, but this assemblage is, in my experience, unique.

The majority of the images are presented in colour – some of them quite stunning. On top of everything else this book represents a gathering together in one place of images, any one of which can easily serve as a focus for meditation.

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Each chapter includes a short introduction (four pages or less) of the material contained within it. And each image is properly placed within its time period, even though these images surely transcend any such limitations.

It is difficult to find words to describe this work. The images are gathered from so many times and locations; the writing of the introductory section of each chapter is so succinct; and the overall impression is so overwhelming that it should be approached, I feel, in small doses. To attempt to comprehend it in one or two sittings does a disservice to the work, and to yourself.

Allow the images in this book to work their magick on you. Permit them to stimulate new thoughts and inspire changes both in how you perceive yourself and the wider world. The benefits you reap will, most likely, be beyond your current comprehension.

This is one of the most visually stunning works I have seen in a very long time. I would have expected a much higher price for the quality, or a much lower quality based on the price. The combination of excellent quality and reasonable price was a very pleasant surprise. If you are interested in symbolic representations of mystical themes, this book belongs in your library. It is a book to be savoured and enjoyed on an on-going basis.

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About Mike Gleason

Mike Gleason (1951-2012) dedicated his time to sharing his knowledge and opinions with others, and spent years reviewing books for the Pagan, Wiccan, Witch and magickal communities.