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TYR 3: Myth Culture Tradition
TYR 3: Myth Culture Tradition
by Joshua Buckley
Edition: Paperback
12 used & new from CDN$ 29.26

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A few things you should know about 'TYR 3', March 8 2010
Edited by Joshua Buckley and Michael Moynihan, the 'radical traditionalist' journal TYR is a welcome antidote to the shallowness and vulgarity of the modern world. TYR celebrates the myths and culture of pre-Christian, pre-Modern Europe, and in doing so attempts to trace where it all went wrong. In the preface, the editors contrast the conflict between culture (which is vital and alive) and civilisation (which is sterile and superficial). "By looking to the origins of our culture, what we hope to find is an alternative to the asphalt wasteland of our data-drenched civilisation. This is a revolution in the most radical sense of the word: a turning back to the roots to reclaim a new beginning."

TYR aims to be a nexus where different views can come together, but doesn't claim to speak for any one viewpoint or 'movement'. The editors welcome controversy and debate. The third issue is the best yet, though sadly it doesn't come with a music CD like the second one did. It does contain many music and book reviews, as well as interviews with the German Minnesänger Roland Kroell and the English folk singer Andrew King. But the articles are the best reason for buying TYR 3.

As with the previous two issues, the articles fall roughly into five categories:

1)Indo-European tradition

2)Modern revivals of Indo-European tradition

3)Artists inspired by tradition

4)Philosophical analysis

5)The pitiful state of modern culture and society

1) Indo-European Tradition

In his article 'Weaving the Web of Wyrd', Nigel Pennick examines the three Fates (or Norns), as they appear in Greek, Roman and Nordic mythologies. Even well into the Christian era it was still customary at a certain time of the year to set an extra dinner table up for the three Fates. The Fates embody the interconnectedness of all things - a key Indo-European belief. As the ancient Greek philosopher Anaxagoras said, "Nothing exists apart: everything has a share of everything else." The present is shaped by the past, but within those limits we are free to determine our own destinies.

Thierry Jolif's article 'The Abode of the Gods and the Great Beyond' explores the Celtic vision of the afterlife, or Other World. This seems to have been regarded both as a place and a state of being. Often warriors would enter the Other World while still alive, and sometimes in dreams. It could also be reached by maritime voyage, and this clearly influenced Tolkien's description of the western lands in The Lord of the Rings: "The grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise..."

Ian Read looks at 'Humour in the Icelandic Sagas', and examines the difficulties in understanding the jokes of another culture, or even of our own culture in centuries past. Humour is often, quite literally, lost in translation. Many of the jokes in the sagas are satirical, or else display a laconic stoicism and courage in the face of death. For instance, in Njal's Saga, a man named Thorgrim is speared in the stomach by Gunnar. One of Thorgrim's companions then asks him whether Gunnar was at home. Thorgrim replies: "find out for yourself, but this I know, his spear was at home..."

Géza von Neményi's article 'Rune Song or Magic Charms?' argues that the 'magic charms' at the end of Odin's poem Hávamál in fact correspond to specific runes of the Younger Futhark. Géza views the Hávamál as an initiaic document, with Odin's attempt to seduce Billing's daughter being a poetic account of his first (unsuccessful) attempt at initiation - of gaining the mead of poetry (wisdom), which he later succeeded in acquiring. It was during his initiaic ordeal that he acquired the runes.

In 'The End Times According to the Indo-European Worldview', James Reagan compares Hindu, Greek, Norse and Celtic prophecies about the end of the world, and finds they are remarkably similar. Towards the end, during the Wolf Age (Iron Age, or Kali Yuga), leaders will be corrupt, the land will be polluted and defiled, men will be cowardly and deceitful, and actors will be exalted above anyone else. The parallels to our own age are unmistakeable. But unlike the biblical Apocalypse, the collapse of this world of current illusion may not be a final end: "According to the Norse tradition, the world will be repopulated by two survivors who remain hidden during Ragnarok: Líf ("life") and LífÞrasir ("desire of life"). Man is again reinvigorated with the active element, the "desire", and another cycle is manifest."

In what is by far the longest article in TYR 3, Vilius Rudra Dundzila takes an in-depth look at 'Baltic and Lithuanian Religion and Romuva'. This article gives some insight into the fascinating and magical world of Lithuanian gods and goddesses, folk traditions and myths. Many Lithuanians are proud of the fact that they were the last Europeans to be Christianised. Amusingly, large groups of Lithuanians 'converted' to Christianity around 1410 because it meant they received a free white shirt or blouse for their baptism ceremony. In fact, "many underwent baptism several times for additional garments." As in other parts of Europe, elements of the native religion survived in folk tradition or in Christian disguise. The old beliefs began to revive in the twentieth century, partly as a result of Lithuanian nationalism. But pagans were persecuted during the Communist era, and folk singing became an act of civil disobedience. In fact, Lithuania's independence struggle in 1990-91 was known as the 'Singing Revolution'.

2) Modern revivals of Indo-European tradition

Gordon Kennedy's article 'Children of the Sonne' gives convincing evidence that the 'hippie' culture of the 1960s had its real roots not in the drug-addled 'beatniks' of the 50s, but in the German Lebensreform (life-reform) culture of the late 1800s and early 1900s. And this movement, in turn, had much deeper roots - going all the way back to Germany's pagan origins. Kennedy wrote a book on this subject, but many of the hippie bookshops in California were so frightened by it that they refused to stock it! As Kennedy puts it: "It seems that most of these neo-hippies are not as turned on, tuned in, or dropped out as they wish they were...because the American media has obviously convinced them of what it isn't politically correct for their hippie clientele to read."

Christopher McIntosh gives a moving account of 'Iceland's Pagan Renaissance'. More so than in any other Western European country, in Iceland there is a direct continuity between heathen times and the present. There has always been a degree of co-existence there between Christianity and paganism; in 1971, for instance, when the Codex Regius manuscript (containing the heathen Elder Edda) was brought back to Iceland after centuries in a Danish museum, it was met at the harbour with brass bands, cheering crowds, and jubilant speeches from Icelandic politicians! One Icelandic writer, Sigurður Nordal (1886-1974) maintained that "anyone who studies the Edda and the other old sources deeply cannot avoid becoming a pagan." The skalds (poets) helped keep old traditions alive, as did the widespread folk beliefs in elves. Even in recent times, highways and oil stations have been relocated because they were built on elf land without permission, and with disastrous consequences.

The heathen tradition is carried on today by people like Hilmar Hilmarsson, helped along by music groups like Sigur Rós (Victory Rose). The revival was originally spearheaded by people like Helgi Pjeturs, who developed a belief system called 'Njall', which held that humans are images of the gods (who attempt to push human evolution forward), and that there is a neverending battle between the forces of life, and the forces of entropy/dissolution. The task of mankind is to assist the gods in fighting on the side of life and creativity.

But the real founder of the modern pagan revival in Iceland was Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson, who is described here in an article by Jónína K. Berg, who knew him personally. Beinteinsson was a farmer and self-taught poet, as well as a chanter of great power, who made the Icelandic language come alive. Five of his poems are reprinted here, accompanied by English translations, so that those who don't know Icelandic can get a small taste of the language. Even in translation the power of the words is marvellous.

3) Artists inspired by tradition

Joscelyn Godwin's article 'Esotericism Without Religion' takes a look at Philip Pullman's bestselling His Dark Materials trilogy, which Godwin believes contains a lot of hidden Western esoteric symbolism. Pullman is known for his trendy and shallow attacks on J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, but Godwin is right in claiming that Pullman's power as an artistic visionary transcends his narrow moralising tendencies.

Michael Moynihan's article 'Carl Larsson's Greatest Sacrifice' tells the story of the Swedish painter Carl Larsson (1853-1919), particularly his monumental final painting Midvinterblot (Midwinter Sacrifice). Larsson was an interesting folkish artist who has received little attention outside of Sweden. In addition to his painting, he had plans to construct a nationalist temple called The Temple of Memory, which would have incorporated both pagan and Christian elements of Swedish history, and which he hoped would become a sacred site and centre of pilgrimage for Swedes.

4) Philosophical analysis

Alain de Benoist looks at 'Spiritual Authority and Temporal Power', examining the diverging views of three Traditionalist thinkers on the relationship between spiritual power and military/political power. René Guénon believed that the former must have precedence over the latter. Julius Evola argued that the latter can in fact be a manifestation of the former, his view being more of a Western view, and linked to his support for the Ghibelline faction in European history. The Anglo-Indian thinker Ananda Coomaraswamy, on the other hand, acknowledged the superiority of the spiritual, or Brahmanic caste, over the warrior, or Kshatriya caste. He modified this, however, by stressing the independence of both factions, which he compared to a marriage, symbolised by the Hindu gods Mitra and Varuna. In Europe, however, the gods of the 'first function' (such as Tyr) eventually became subordinate to those of the 'second function' (such as Odin), as the latter took up many of the powers of the former. The modern world only raised its ugly head when the two powers became fully separated. Alain de Benoist sides with Coomaraswamy over Guénon and Evola (although Coomaraswamy was only writing in the context of India, rather than the Indo-European world as a whole).

In what may be the most significant piece of writing to have appeared in TYR so far, Michael O'Meara's article 'The Primordial and the Perennial' contrasts the two views of the 'Traditional' taken by Martin Heidegger and Julius Evola. Evola was concerned exclusively with Spirit: existential reality had only a secondary significance for him. But Heidegger's anti-modernism opposed such metaphysics, as he believed it separated temporal being from Being, removing the transcendent element from the world, which led to the meaninglessness of modern civilisation. Heidegger's concept of tradition is not metaphysical, but based on the notion of Überlieferung (i.e. the customs etc. that have come down to us from the past). Humans cannot grasp true Being outside of its temporal manifestations, Heidegger thought. In fact, he went further, and maintained that Being is disclosed only in its mundane, temporal, and never-fully-revealed states.

Contrary to the opinions of Evola (who hadn't properly read Heidegger), O'Meara contends that Heidegger was not an existentialist at all in the Sartrean sense. Far from being "condemned to be free", he believed that an authentic human existence is "a process of taking over who we have been in the service of who we are." That is a sentence to ponder deeply. History, for Heidegger, is "a choice for heroes." Heidegger did something that neither the Traditionalists (like Evola) or the Existentialists (like Sartre) have done: he recognised the ecstatic dimension of temporal existence (Dasein).

O'Meara does not like dismissing Evola entirely, however. He comes to the intriguing conclusion that the two can be reconciled. Just as the ancient philosophers Heraclitus and Parmenides both had different perspectives on the same underlying logos, likewise do Heidegger and Evola both attribute primacy to Being - and thus both give valuable service in the battle against modern European nihilism. Now, if only I had the time to sit down and read 'Being and Time' from cover to cover...

5) The pitiful state of modern culture and society

In his article 'Code of Blood: Counterfeits of Tradition', Stephen Flowers briefly examines the ways in which the modern world distorts and exploits mythical motifs to serve its own ideological or financial ends - for instance in works such as 'The Spear of Destiny' or 'The Da Vinci Code'. Looking under the surface, however, Flowers finds there are genuine elements of tradition at the bottom of these works, but they have become so distorted that it is difficult to sort the genuine mysteries from the false, modern ideas.

Thomas Naylor's article 'Cipherspace' takes a long, hard look at Naylor's native country America. Although the article occasionally bounds in unconnected leaps, its emotional impact is overwhelming. He writes of the "global system of dominance and deceit", which he defines in seven ways: (1) Affluenza. This is an obsession with consumer goods and services. Enough never seems to be quite enough. "Many affluent Americans seem to be more dead than alive." (2) Technomania. Technology makes us feel like we are 'in charge', but for most this is an illusion. We need to ask: "will it serve us, or will we serve it?" (3) E-mania. Virtual living draws us further away from actual living. "Any kid can operate a PC, but fewer and fewer can write a poem, create an original story, or play a musical instrument." Politicians talk of 'broadband for everyone' as a bogus fix for problems that stem from a lack of community. (4) Megalomania. A sense of omnipotence, hubris, that stems from the technological shell that encrusts us. (5) Robotism. Despite (or because of) the alleged 'individualism' of Westeners, they increasingly behave like conformist drones...even as their base egos ever inflate (witness the surge in violent assaults etc.) (6) Globalisation. Local values are destroyed in the name of a 'streamlined economy' and so forth. Corporations have a free hand to operate, playing so-called 'sovereign' nations off against each other. The alleged benefits resulting from a trickle-down effect are illusory. (7) Imperialism. The U.S. has frequently sent its sons (and now its daughters) to die in Europe, the Pacific, the Middle East, Central America etc. to fight countries that posed no direct threat to it. There is a U.S. military presence in 136 countries, and the U.S. is the only country to have used nuclear weapons against civilians.

Annie Le Brun's piece 'Catastrophe Pending' will be controversial, as it is not unsympathetic to the extreme anti-modern Unabomber Manifesto. She makes the interesting point that the 'Unabomber', unlike other terrorists, was not supported by left-wing academia - precisely because he called their own values into question. The 'Unabomber', in fact, objected to 'revolutionary' thought, due to its 'abstract and dogmatic nature' - precisely the same kind of thought found in modern academia.

The most controversial piece in TYR 3, however, will be Pentti Linkola's article 'Survival Theory'. Linkola is not quite the hardcore misanthrope that conservatives like Andrew Bolt have made him out to be. He has respect for the elderly, for instance, and even admires the achievements of Western medicine. But Linkola, a fisherman who lives in a hut without running water, preaches that we must abandon the Western lifestyle - or die. Man allegedly causes the extinction of one species (animal, plant or fungi) per minute. Overpopulation and the destruction of the natural world are the greatest threats facing the planet today. "Even the most beautiful of mankind's ambitions become meaningless if there is no life and no mankind." It is worth noting that Linkola's article was originally written in 1992. Since then the world's population has increased by 1.6 BILLION.

Of course, most of the population issues of the Western world these days are immigration-related - something Linkola is one of the few environmentalists to address. But Linkola's most controversial aspect is his anti-humanism. He seriously advocates 'tactical strikes' (by methods as painless as science can make them) against the world's major population centres. This, he believes, will not disrupt normal ethics - after the worst atrocities in history, a kind neighbour could often be seen helping an old person across the road, for instance. But I personally believe that nature herself may take the matter out of Linkola's hands. There could well be a plague, or general breakdown, and then those who haven't 'pulled out of the system' will probably not survive. Something is around the corner, anyhow. Something that may just surprise us all...

In the meantime get a copy of TYR.

Perpetuum Mobile
Perpetuum Mobile
Price: CDN$ 17.57
4 used & new from CDN$ 17.57

5.0 out of 5 stars A few things you should know about 'Perpetuum Mobile', March 8 2010
This review is from: Perpetuum Mobile (Audio CD)
Air is the dominant theme of this album, as a partial scan of the list of instruments shows: car tire, plastic tubes, an air compressor, gas burner, electric fans, accordion, whistling, and a turntable-powered wind instrument.

On 'Paradiesseits' Blixa sings that "all images are the wind...", and in 'Boreas' ('North Wind') he asks when the wind will come "that billows our words' sails?" The latter is powered by the eerie sound of amplified steel wires, and features a haunting, fragile melody, like delicate crystals of ice, evoking a deep sense of yearning for the lost Hyperborea. The opening track 'Ich Gehe Jetzt', by contrast, feels contemplative. Bargeld sounds like he is thinking about setting out on a journey...taking his time, spinning a globe of the world in his study. Maybe he thinks the whole world should spin with him.

The title track is a true epic, an amazing evocation of constant motion that owes something to Kraftwerk's 'Trans Europa Express'. But although 'A Rare Bird' carries in its beak a new song ("das neue Lied"), we should never forget that the dead are ever present, as the haunting song 'Dead Friends' reminds us...

'Perpetuum Mobile' is a remarkable album, and (along with 'Silence is Sexy') represents Einstürzende Neubauten's finest work.

The Golden Thread: The Ageless Wisdom of the Western Mystery Traditions
The Golden Thread: The Ageless Wisdom of the Western Mystery Traditions
by Joscelyn Godwin
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.88
30 used & new from CDN$ 7.67

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A few things you should know about 'The Golden Thread', March 8 2010
The Golden Thread is a lightning tour of the Western esoteric tradition, by one of the world's foremost scholars of esotericism. Crammed with invaluable footnotes, this slim book packs a punch far beyond its meagre size - it's simply chock full of interesting insights.

Basically, The Golden Thread is about wisdom; a wisdom that has survived only as a thin (and infinitely precious) thread - hence the title. This golden thread in fact gave birth to modern science, but 'science' in its contemporary sense has come to mean only knowledge 'about' something...whereas true wisdom comes from experiencing something. As C.G. Jung observed, "belief is no substitute for inner experience."

Richard Smoley notes in his foreword that "the fate of wisdom in the West has been an unusually dark one." This has been partly on account of Christianity (with its totalitarian mental outlook), and partly because of the pseudo-religion of scientific materialism, which "denies any reality other than the purely physical and mechanical." Materialism acknowledges only quantity - that which can be measured or counted.

Each chaper of this book looks at a different aspect of the golden thread. As the author notes in his preface, "each stage is perpetually present," and thus each chapter "makes reference to some aspect of contemporary life." But esotericisms are not for everyone...they are only for "those with sufficient interest, motivation, and capacity to benefit from them." Today, most of these people have become "lonely travellers among the ruined monuments of ancient mysteries. This book is offered by one such traveller, for the guidance and entertainment of others." And as such, it fulfills its stated purpose rather well.

Godwin's narrative begins in the Renaissance, when the so-called 'Christian Humanists' rediscovered the pagan philosophers of antiquity, and were at a loss to explain how these so-called 'benighted heathens' had been possessed of such wisdom and high spirituality. They were forced to revise their worldview, and admit that certain pagans had been divinely inspired. Gemistos, a Byzantine diplomat, came up with the idea of a prisca theologia, or 'primordial theology', to explain how these ancients had apparently received divine revelation. As a result of Gemistos' influence, the Platonic Academy was founded in Florence.

This kind of acceptance of pagan philsophies had also been advocated in the Muslim world by the Persian theosopher Suhrawardi, who spoke of a state called Hûrqalyâ (translated by Henry Corbin as mundus imaginalis - the imaginal world), the inner world of the imagination, which is as real as the quantifiable world around us, and in fact is superior to it. Godwin elaborates further on this mundus imaginalis in the chapter called 'The Arts of the Imagination': "Rational scholarship knows no intermediary between fact and fiction [...] but rational scholars are typically unacquainted with the workings of the creative mind. They do not know those ecstasies in which the poet beholds 'forms more real than living man', which he later attempts to capture in verse. If they did, they would call them hallucinations."

Godwin also examines the teachings of the Hermetic philosophy. Hermes was the Greek equivalent of the Egyptian god Thoth, who ruled over the esoteric path (i.e. the path of knowledge, as opposed to the devotional path of exoteric religion). The Hermetic philosophy involved the ascent of the soul through the various celestial spheres; if one's life's work was done properly, one would emerge throught the final sphere (of fixed stars) into the realm of the Blessed. This was not a theology, but rather a practical teaching, and thus it could (theoretically) be incorporated within the framework of any given religion.

Later, with Orphism, came the doctrine that each person possesses a small spark of divinity within themselves (this was also no doubt what Aleister Crowley meant in his famous assertion that "every man and every woman is a star"). Then Plato introduced the teaching that each state of being in the cosmic hierarchy emanates from the state above it, which "loves it as its own child, and is loved in return" - an astonishingly beautiful metaphor.

When Christianity came along, the golden thread continued, albeit in a disguised form...you have to really look hard to perceive it. It was guarded by esotericists like Dionysius the Areopagite, John Scotus Eriugena and Meister Eckhart, and also in the architectural secrets of the Gothic cathedrals, to which Godwin devotes a whole chapter. He also discusses secret societies and why secrecy can often be necessary for esoteric work: if a neophyte talks about it to outsiders they may give a false and distorted impression of its teachings. Most people have no aptitude to understand such things anyway, and are better off following an exoteric religion - an attitude which may be elitist and hierarchical, but is true nonetheless.

Godwin also examines various kinds of gnosticism and related forms of dualism (although it should be noted that not all gnostics were dualists). Perhaps the difference between those (like Plato) who see the material world as merely the lower emanation of a hierarchy, and those who regard it as a 'vale of tears' and actually 'evil', is merely a matter of temperament. Godwin speculates that the 'evil demiurge' of gnosticism might only be an egregore - who will wither and die when people stop believing in him.

One of the book's most interesting and contentious chapters is, in fact, devoted to this very concept of the 'egregore'. It is the theory that people or races create their own gods, with limited powers. For instance, Godwin speculates that Ancient Rome may have been essentially kept alive by the belief in its gods, and observance of ritual etc. Then, when the Roman gods were increasingly abandoned and the salvation cults and mystery religions began to flourish in their place, Rome itself began to decline. Attempts were made to fortify the Roman egregore by the establishment of an imperial cult, but this was artificial, and thus doomed to failure.

Godwin conjectures that this may also be why the egregore of Communism failed...because few people really loved it. It would also explain the astonishing survival of the 'revealed' religions (e.g. Islam) into the modern era. "It may be," he writes, "that for a society to flourish, it has to keep its egregore alive; and for this to happen, the emotional and spiritual focus of the population must be on this world rather than on the next." And while Christianity, for instance, began as an otherworldly cult, it soon took on its own egregore - that of the 'pseudoempire' (as Godwin calls it) of the Church.

Godwin rightly perceives that polytheistic religions are superior to monotheistic ones, because the former incorporate the latter but not the other way around. He asserts that semitic monotheism, far from being 'progressive', was "a retrograde step in almost every respect." He is good at translating his historical insights into modern terms. For instance, when discussing Orphism, he notes that the ugliness and depravity of much modern art signifies that our society is suffering from a kind of malnutrition of the soul. For how can modern men and women "enter the soul's domain with no songs to sing, no poetry to charm Pluto and Persephone?"

In the chapter on Plato, when discussing the concept of tyrants and tyranny, Godwin asserts that in our liberal-democratic system, today's tyrants are "the special-interests lobbies, the military, legal, and medical industries, the bankers and speculators, the multinationals etc." In other words, the ones who fund the major political parties. And he is spot on. In times (such as ours) when society is no longer conducive to spiritual values, enlightened people may take one of two paths - the personal, or the political.

For the golden thread has now frayed "into a myriad filaments." While Godwin sees Jung as having been the shining light for Western esotericism in the twentieth century (though Jung was limited in some ways by his self-proclaimed scientific worldview), for the contemporary searcher there is nevertheless "no centralisation, no single curriculum, no diploma of authenticity" to let him know whether he is on the right track or not. To paraphrase Knut Hamsun, we are "on overgrown paths."

At the end of the book, Godwin sums up both the good and the bad aspects of the times we live in. On the one hand, "knowledge has been put into our hands that was once the closely guarded property of initiates, together with the freedom to discuss and follow it without fear of being executed for heresy. Is this not cause for rejoicing?" But, on the other hand, "the price we pay for this historically unique situation is living in the modern world, in which the lunatics quite obviously are running the asylum."

It is up to each man or woman to decide for themselves what to do with the knowledge we have been given from the past. But at the very least, Godwin's book will have given many of us a valuable place to start in our exploration of that knowledge.

Teach Yourself Icelandic Complete Course
Teach Yourself Icelandic Complete Course
by Hildur Jonsdottir
Edition: Paperback
14 used & new from CDN$ 14.96

2.0 out of 5 stars A few things you should know about 'Teach Yourself Icelandic', March 8 2010
With any language course, what the student gets out of it depends on how much effort is put in. Constant repetition is the key, with ten minutes a day being better than a long session weekly. Keeping that in mind, this book still has serious flaws.

The first downfall is the pronunciation guide, where many sounds are spelt out so ambiguously it's very hard to guess at the correct pronunciation (while buying an audio kit would remedy this, a better written guide would make it unnecessary). The lessons are badly organised. The grammar is shoved in a big bundle of long lists, instead of being introduced a step at a time as with superior courses.

The long list of idiomatic expressions seems good at first glance, but the book fails to explain them properly. For instance, "Eins daudi er annars braud" is given in the nearest English equivalent ("One man's meat is another's poison") but it doesn't explain that 'daudi' actually means 'death' and 'braud' means 'bread'.

Additionally, the book is only for beginners, with no sequel for intermediate or advanced students.

On the plus side, however, is a chapter explaining the key differences between modern Icelandic and Old Norse.

Pan's Daughter
Pan's Daughter
by Nevill Drury
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 21.96
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4.0 out of 5 stars A few things you should know about 'Pan's Daughter', March 8 2010
This review is from: Pan's Daughter (Paperback)
Kings Cross is the red light district of Sydney, but in former times was also home to artists and bohemians - and even a handful of visionaries. Rosaleen Norton (1917-1979), the subject of this book, certainly fell in the latter category. The author compares her work to the more famous Austin Spare (in outlook and intent, if not stylistically). But he also unfortunately tries to place her in the later tradition of 'Wiccans', including politically correct charlatans such as 'Starhawk'. Exactly what Rosaleen, or 'Roie', would have thought of these types is anyone's guess, but she probably wouldn't have been overtly thrilled by them. Witchcraft was her patch, her stomping ground, the provenence of outcasts and eccentrics. Clearly something of an elitist, she revelled in her public persona, playing the 'devilish witch' to the hilt, and shocking bourgeois 1950s Sydney with her antics. But beneath this facade she was serious and intelligent.

Roie was born in a thunderstorm, which she later used to explain her attraction to the dark and nightside of life. By an early age she was having visions of ghosts and 'nothing beasts' - tentacled apparitions which she saw as her protectors. She would shock her schoolmates and teachers with macabre and hideous drawings, and eventually was asked to leave the school. Later she studied formally under Rayner Hoff, the famous neo-pagan sculptor and friend of Norman Lindsay...there are many such hidden connections in Australian history, and in the histories of all nations, no doubt. Besides being about Roie, this book is an alternate portrait of Sydney. Sydney is a strange city, and there are hidden depths beneath its shallow (extremely shallow) surface. There are currents, past and present, that we rarely see. But occasionally, as with this book, tiny bubbles float to the surface, giving a trace of the deeper world beneath. May those bubbles keep on trickling up...and may Roie rest in peace.

Gorillas in the Mist (Widescreen)
Gorillas in the Mist (Widescreen)
DVD ~ Sigourney Weaver
Price: CDN$ 11.99
20 used & new from CDN$ 4.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A few things you should know about 'Gorillas in the Mist', March 8 2010
Despite the requisite Hollywood cliches, this is a great film. Dian Fossey didn't know what she was getting into when she volunteered to go to Africa, working for Dr. Louis Leakey in taking a census of the endangered Mountain Gorillas. She didn't realise she was expected to work alone, in a remote mountain hut, and in a country torn by civil war...

But she came to love the subjects of her study so much that nothing could prize her from the mountain, not even the (human) man she eventually fell in love with. "When you look deep into a gorilla's eyes," she wrote, "your life is changed forever."

The blacks thought she was a witch, due to her reddish hair and fierce glance (captured well by actress Sigourney Weaver, although the real Dian was apparently a bit more shy than Sigourney's character). But this witchlike image actually helped to scare the poachers off. And Dian's work helped prevent the gorillas from becoming extinct. But unfortunately she was murdered by cowardly scum...black poachers in the pay of white animal traffickers. Too often the best are cut down before their life's work is finished...

One other thing to note is the incredible beauty of the landscapes, filmed on location in the mountains of Rwanda. The result is a worthy tribute to this wildlife warrior, who is most now probably in Asgard, feasting at Freyja's very table (with a gorilla at her side, no doubt).

Pagan Resurrection: A Force for Evil or the Future of Western Spirituality?
Pagan Resurrection: A Force for Evil or the Future of Western Spirituality?
by Richard Rudgley
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 39.20
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3.0 out of 5 stars A few things you should know about 'Pagan Resurrection', March 7 2010
This book purports to be the biography of a god: Odin. Its mission statement is further explained on the dust jacket: "Pagan Resurrection is not just about the modern crisis in western spirituality, it also suggests a way forward." Considering Richard Rudgley's stated aims, then, this review will address the following two topics: (1) How does Rudgley view Odin (in light of his biographic intent)? and (2) What way(s) forward does he suggest for Western spirituality?

The author, a British television presenter, has drawn heavily from Joscelyn Godwin's brilliant Arktos and Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke's not-so-brilliant Black Sun. The book is published by a division of Random House, and thus one must put up with the somewhat patronising reassurances that so-and-so is absolutely, definitely not a Nazi, or that such-and-such had some distant relations who "fought in the Norwegian resistance against the Nazi invaders" etc. etc. But despite this, and despite the highly subjective structure of the 'biography' (and lack of an index) the book is worth possessing. If Odinism is to make forays into the mainstream, it could do a lot worse than this book, which is nothing if not engagingly written. In fact the summing up in the last chapter 'Ragnarok and After' has the air of being written by someone consciously formulating his ideas for the first time, testing them out in public so to speak. There is nothing wrong with that - it gives the book a direct feel. The author has what he feels is an urgent message to get across. What that message is will be examined in the course of this review.

Before addressing the themes listed above, we should first examine Rudgley's take on spirituality and the nature of belief. For Rudgley, myths "are like collective waking dreams shared by whole societies - they live in us and we live in them." He quotes H.R. Ellis Davidson to the effect that myths are an attempt to depict a people's "perception of inner realities." Rudgley also follows the theories of Georges Dumézil, who claimed that Indo-European myths form a common legacy, just as Indo-European languages do. Curiously, Rudgley asserts that there is no basis for a common Indo-European racial heritage as well...although he doesn't say how he arrived at that conclusion.

He notes the importance of the number three in Indo-European belief, and also the story of the truce between the Aesir and the Vanir, which signifies that Northern European culture is a composite of Indo-European and pre-Indo-European elements. He gives an outline of some of the more important aspects of Norse myth and cosmology: the number Nine, the web of Wyrd, the runes, seidr and galdr magic, and so forth. He describes the way in which some heathen practices survived (distorted or disguised) throughout the Christian era.

He mentions the Oseberg figures, which indicate that the Norse may have practiced a form of yoga (útiseta or útilega) - although there is no evidence this was similar to modern 'rune yoga' or the Stav martial art. Interestingly, he details how a 5300 year-old body preserved in ice in the Alps reveals that acupuncture was in use in Europe at that time - long before it developed in China. In fact, the Chinese may have originally acquired it from Indo-European peoples, not the other way around.

Rudgley portrays C.G. Jung as the figure of central importance in the modern pagan revival. For Rudgley, Jung was essentially a prophet of Wotan/Odin. Jung saw Hitler as a manifestation of the stormy, restless side of Odin. But there is another side - Wotan's "ecstatic and mantic qualities", which will also be revealed in time. Jung himself said, "things must be concealed in the background which we cannot imagine at present..." But Rudgley fails to note that, for mortals, moments of divine ecstasy are not without their price...and the price often involves those same stormy, restless moments he greatly fears.

Rudgley describes Jungian archetypes as "blueprints for certain workings of the human psyche." Some of these, he acknowledges, are "specific to certain cultures." (e.g. Odin is the most important archetype of the Germanic mind). Hyperborea, the land of Indo-European origins, is not a physical plane...it is to be found "not on the map of the earth but the map of the soul." As a symbol it has many layers of meaning, one of the primary ones being a vertical ascent, or attainment of enlightenment.

But are the gods, then, merely 'blueprints', and not objectively real? Rudgley seems to think so, and states that "we do not have to believe in Odin's actual existence as a god to track his return to the forefront of the Western psyche." In the same way, Stephen Flowers, noting Jung's influence, claims that "divinities in Asatrú/Odinism are not seen as independent/transcendental beings, but rather as exemplary models of consciousness, or archetypes, which serve as patterns for human development." But this doesn't take into account Jung's own later view expressed in his Foreword to Miguel Serrano's book The Visits of the Queen of Sheba, where he stated openly for the first time that his mission was religious rather than scientific - implying that the 'archetypes' are, in fact, independently real.

Contrary to Flowers' assertion, not all self-professed Odinists believe that the gods are merely blueprints. A member of the British-based 'Circle of Ostara' says (in Rudgley's book) that, on the contrary, "we must overcome this tendency to trivialise divinity. The gods are not Vikings...they are spiritual beings, potent forces of numinous power." And even though I, for one, have a love for, say, Arthur Rackham's powerful portraits of Odin, Freyja and Thor (from his illustrations for Wagner's Ring), it is important, of course, to see beyond these timebound surface appearances...

So let us now turn to the first of the book's central themes, namely, the nature of Odin. Wotan, or Odin, is king of the gods, but he is not all-powerful...he is subject to the fates, and dies in combat with the wolf Fenrir at Ragnarok. He is the god of battle and lord of the hanged and the slain; magician, initiate, wanderer, seeker of forbidden knowledge; also god of poetry and the creative arts. But what is the common thread between all these things - between poetry, warfare, magic and sexual ecstasy? The answer is - divine intoxication. Odin means 'frenzy' (or, according to Baron Karl von Reichenbach, 'all-transcending'). That is the key to understanding the king of the gods.

For Rudgley, Odin "embodies the irrational side of the Western psyche." But this is somewhat of a simplification. Does not Odin also 'embody' the search for knowledge and wisdom? Rudgley is right to assert the importance of the irrational/imaginative side of the brain, however - for this side has been constantly downgraded in the modern world. He cites the work of French scholar Henry Corbin on Sufi mystics: "to describe their experiences as 'imaginary' seemed to him to degrade what they were experiencing." For Corbin, the imagination is "a world that is ontologically as real as the world of the senses and that of the intellect. This world requires its own faculty of perception, namely, imaginative power..." Rudgley maintains that imagination and reason are equal, complementary forces - and when one of these forces is exalted at the expense of the other, trouble invariably arises.

Rudgley gives his personal take on the conscious revivification of heathenry in modern times, beginning with the fascinating runic cross of Johannes Bureus (1568-1652). Following Joscelyn Godwin he also traces (somewhat more idiosyncratically) the polar, Hyperborean symbolism, including in its popular culture manifestations, such as Jules Verne's Journey to the Centre of the Earth (usually seen as a straightforward story, but actually a symbolist work).

One highly interesting snippet involves a poem that Nietzsche wrote called 'The Unknown God', a hymn to the patron god whose name eluded him - but who Rudgley sees as having been none other than Odin. Nietzsche also had a powerful and shocking dream when young (which was later to influence his life), about a wild and uncanny huntsman - which Jung interpreted as an encounter with Odin. The German pagan youth movements of the early twentieth century were another Odinic manifestation. But Rudgley also takes Guido von List to task for believing that his own ideas were a revival of "primordial Aryan tradition." It seems that Rudgley wants to pick and choose who is and isn't a genuine conduit for tradition or the gods.

In Part One of the book Rudgley traces the history of what he calls the 'First Odinic Experiment' via Guido von List, Friedrich Marby, and the seriously disturbed Karl Maria Wiligut, up until the Ragnarok of 1945. Part Two (the 'Second Odinic Experiment') is more arbitrary, purporting to deal with the Anglo-American world (although one chapter is devoted to the Chilean Serrano). Both of these 'cycles' or 'experiments' Rudgley sees as having started benignly, but descending later into violence and madness (the first cycle via the Nazis, the second via serial killers, mass murderers and the like). It will be controversial or disturbing to some that Rudgley describes certain mass murderers as manifestations of Odin

But Odin is not necessarily a god one loves. There is a famous poem in the Icelandic sagas by Egil Skallagrimsson, written after his son had just died, which could be described as a kind of 'ecstatic curse' against Odin, who gave him the gift of poetry with one hand, and yet took his son's life away with the other. Odin can be a dark and dangerous god - and yet he is also the very model of the Hero, in his cosmic struggle against the forces of entropy and chaos. This struggle is mirrored in all higher art and culture.

"Odin is a force which cannot be suppressed and [...] he has his own agenda," notes Rudgley. He also sees Odin's spirit manifesting in certain literary, or sub-literary works: "Fantasy is more than empty daydreaming; it is a modern, and often debased, version of traditional mythology and as such often the blueprint for action." Thus a work of fantasy like The Turner Diaries was said to inspire the violent actions of Robert Jay Mathews and Timothy McVeigh.

But if these aforesaid violent actions are to be included in a 'biography of Odin' and held to be 'manifestations of Odin's spirit' - then what of the more subtle, more controlled side of Odin's manifestation? In other words - why aren't the achievements of Western art, music, literature and science also included? Is Odin not the patron god of poets and explorers? Rudgley's 'biography' seems somewhat incomplete...

But now we come to the second of the two themes I mentioned at the start of the review, namely "which way forward Western Man?" Rudgley is cautiously optimistic, and hopes the 'Second Experiment' will enter a "new and more positive phase." But a danger must first be overcome. For the whole book, in a sense, is an extended commentary on two paragraphs from a letter Jung wrote to Miguel Serrano, to the effect that, if we are not aware of change (when a new orientation is demanded), the archetype (in this case Wotan) will step in: "when an archetype is [...] not consciously understood, one is possessed by it and forced to its fatal goal." This means we are "apt to undergo the risk of a further, but this time, worldwide, Wotanistic experiment. This means mental epidemy and war."

Rudgley sees this statement of Jung's as a warning, and that, I suspect, is the real reason he has written this book - in order to raise people's conscious awareness of these unconscious forces, and thus avert a worldwide conflagration. Jung wrote of the need for a "renewed self-understanding" that we are not purely rational creatures of "free will", but are also under the influence of numinous, archetypal forces.

Jung (according to Rudgley), believed that "individuals who [unite] the conscious and unconscious within their own psyches, become spiritually resurrected. Each individual who achieves this personal transformation increases the likelihood of others being able to do the same, for the transformation of the individual transforms the collective mind." This is the völkisch view. As an old Chinese proverb Jung quoted goes, "The right man sitting in his house and thinking the right thought will be heard a hundred miles distant." Jung also quoted an old alchemist to the same effect: "No matter how isolated you are and how lonely you feel, if you do your work truly and conscientiously, unknown friends will come and seek you." Again, "Whoever is capable of such insight, no matter how isolated he is, should be aware of the law of synchronicity: if the archetype is dealt with in one place only it is influenced as a whole, i.e. simultaneously and everywhere."

Thus Jung believed that societal change can only be effected after change occurs first in the individual. This is similar to the stance of the European New Right, who believe that cultural/spiritual change must precede political change. In the same way, the German rune yoga practicioner Friedrich Marby (1882-1966) believed that, if a certain amount of people practiced his system, society as a whole would be spiritually purifed.

Occurrences of large-scale synchronicity are well attested to. For instance, as Rudgley notes, in the years 1972-73 several Odinist groups suddenly arose, completely independently and without any knowledge of one another, in Iceland, Britain, and the United States. Although Rudgley does not mention it, there was also an Australian Odinist group based around the University of Melbourne which started at the same time.

This pagan concept of synchronicity and the web of wyrd goes beyond that of conventional ecology, which holds that only the natural world is interlinked. As Rudgley puts it: "In the ancient Germanic world contemplation of the past was not a morbid or stagnant refusal to acknowledge present and future possibilities. [...] In the pagan world the past was a dynamic concept. [...] It is forever expanding and changing [...] The past is neither static nor fully formed, as things pass out of the hands of Verdandi (the present) and into the well of Urd." This is also the basis of 'radical traditionalism' and, in turn, of doctrines like National-Anarchism.

To recapitulate, then: Rudgley's urgent message is that the conscious mind must be harmonised with "the deeper levels of the psyche, which, for Europeans, are buried in the mythology of paganism." Otherwise, the 'Second Odinic Experiment' (currently underway) may turn into a psychotic episode. In seeking to locate the origin of any subsequent global upheaval in the European pagan psyche, however, Rudgley seems to let off the hook those who may in fact be more responsible: the age-old enemies of paganism; namely, the 'universalists'. Universalists and globalists work actively towards a totalitarian one-world system, be it Muslim, Communist, or some other form. So how is it that the role of these 'universalists' in any upcoming global upheaval seems to have passed by without comment from Rudgley?

To be fair he does address these issues briefly in the epilogue, albeit in a cursory manner. He pleads for 'global awareness' rather than globalism, but doesn't define exactly what he means by 'global awareness'. "Separatism," he maintains, "can only cut us off from the wider web" - but again doesn't specify what he means by separatism, nor why it necessarily implies a complete isolation. There is a submerged undercurrent of tension in this epilogue, indicating that he hasn't really thought his stance on these issues through. Or maybe he was worried that Random House wouldn't publish 'Pagan Resurrection' if he came to certain politically incorrect conclusions. But that was not necessarily the task of the book. Come to think of it, I've forgotten what the book's 'task' actually was. It snatches wildly at several diverging currents...but that, of course, doesn't prevent it from being an enjoyable and thought-provoking read. I recommend it for all heathens...or, for that matter, the merely curious.

Notes, to be appended to the above:

1. The English Odinist known as 'Stubba' said: "heathenism [is] the only true international religion. It differs according to each racial group, according to that group's culture and history. So, we have more in common with Japanese Shinto than with the Methodists or the Anglicans."

2. Rudgley himself observes that "the refusal to address [the question of white ethnic identity] has left the political far right as almost the only spokesman for the northern European heritage. [...] This is a dangerous state of affairs."

3. Rudgley also notes that "a paganism which is merely a form of escapism into an illusory golden age [...] can serve no meaningful purpose. [...] The traditional pagans of the northern world respected the past and the accumulated knowledge it represented but they did not wish to live in it. Neither should we."

C.G. Jung & Hermann Hesse
C.G. Jung & Hermann Hesse
by Miguel Serrano
Edition: Paperback
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A few things you should know about this book, March 3 2010
I discovered this book during a bleak time in late 2002, and magic and mystery returned to my life as a result. The book inspired me to make the pilgrimage to Chile to visit the author, just as he himself had visited Hesse and Jung decades earlier, and I will always cherish the memory of the afternoon I spent with him in Santiago in March 2005.

Unfortunately Serrano has now passed beyond this world, but his spirit lives on, forever part of the Hermetic Circle he writes of in this wonderful book.

Frank McShane, who was a friend of Serrano, has rendered it brilliantly into English, but despite its accessibility few will ever read it, partly for reasons Serrano himself mentions on the very first page: "Even today, I would go half-way round the world to find a book if I thought it essential to my needs, and I have a feeling of absolute veneration for those few authors who have given me something special. For this reason I can never understand the tepid youth of today who wait for books to be given to them and who neither search nor admire."

Today, of course, few even read at all, and especially not writing like this, so saturated in meaning and magic, and filled with synchronicity, from the bee sting that caused Hesse to be at home when Serrano first visited him to the lightning bolt which struck Jung's favourite tree the night of his death.

People who believe the universe is a dead machine will laugh at this book...but let them. Serrano already mentions them in a chapter called 'The Dream': "They were untroubled by doubt and had no concern for vital essences. [...] The last exponents of a world of flesh and blood had departed and, with their concern for a living earth with gods and demons, were considered by this new generation of anti-men as romantic idealists, the product merely of a decayed bourgeois society..."

Serrano's book, on the contrary, belongs to that living earth of gods and demons. Just read it and immerse yourself in the magical atmosphere of Bremgarten and the great world of dreams, and the essence of a Legend beyond time or space.

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