Sun at Midnight: The Rudolf Steiner Movement and Gnosis in the West, by Geoffrey Ahern
James Clarke and Co., 9780227172933, 279 pp., 2009
Anthroposophy, and its founder Rudolf Steiner, are topics which, like many others I am sure, I have bumped into during my tears of study. This book, a reworking of Dr. Ahern’s PhD work, is one of those areas I wanted to re-examine. Anthroposophy (and Theosophy, from which it split off in the early 2oth century) underlie much of Western esoteric thought and are, if for no other reason, worthy of study.
Anthroposophy – at least in its “pure” form – is extremely Christo-centric, which may present a stumbling block for some. This is not, however, unexpected as its origins date to a time and place (late 19th century Austria/Germany), which was not particularly, with tolerant of non-Christian religious express, with few exceptions. Continue reading
Jesus the Wicked Priest: How Christianity Was Born of an Essene Schism, by Marvin Vining
Bear & Company, 9781591430810, 243 pp (with indexes), 2008
The topics of the origins of Christianity and their relationship to the Essenic community as portrayed in the scrolls discovered around Qumran in 1947 and afterwards are still being debated more than sixty years after first coming to the attention of the world. There have been hundreds of books written – scholarly and popular – which have been praised, condemned, and ignored. Why review another book on this theme? Because this author makes an effort to present his premise in terms understandable by the “common man.” Continue reading
Feminine Mysteries in the Bible: The Soul Teachings of the Daughters of the Goddess, by Ruth Rusca
Bear & Company, 9781591430889, 144 pp., 2008
Rusca approaches the feminism in the Bible from a somewhat unique perspective. Born in Switzerland in 1929 to German Protestant parents who lived in an Italian-speaking Catholic village, she received a religious education which encompassed both cultures. Add to that mixture an appreciation of the work of Carl Jung and you have the makings of a unique approach.
She has found a four-fold path of women as both mothers and daughters. She sees them as embodying the aspects of sacred sexuality without, necessarily, approaching the concept of the Mother Goddess as it is currently conceived by modern neo-Pagans. Continue reading
Compassion and Meditation: The Spiritual Dynamic between Buddhism and Christianity, by Jean-Yves Leloup
Inner Traditions, 9781594772771, 165 pp., 2009
A French Orthodox priest teaching meditation in a Zen dojo, this might seem strange but such is the life of Jean-Yves Leloup. A long time practitioner of Hesychast, a Christian form of meditation, Leloup shares his experience in this form as well as his understanding of and connection to Buddhism. He believes that meditation without compassion is lacking something, and in the same thought that compassion without meditation is incomplete.
While it would be an oversimplification to attribute compassion to Christianity, and meditation to Buddhism, and try to combine them; Leloup does think that both systems contain both compassion and meditation, but that their differences and similarities can support each other. He is not alone; he briefly traces an interesting history linking Christian and Buddhist practices and ideologies in religious texts going back to the 1700′s. Continue reading
The Last Pagan: Julian the Apostate and the Death of the Ancient World, by Adrian Murdoch
Inner Traditions, 9781594772269456, 260 pp., 2008
Who was the last pagan emperor of Rome? When did he die? What did his contemporaries, and those who lived after him, think of him? These are all very basic questions. And they are ones that Mr. Murdoch (a fellow of the Royal Historical Society) answers in this enlightening and, more importantly, easily readable book. This is history told as biography, and relies less on dates and places and more on perceptions and actions – both those of the subject and those who wrote about him. Continue reading