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This occult classic was written in 1888 by an 18 year old American boy, Frederick S Oliver. The author claimed that he was used as a channel by 'Phylos', an advanced being who had once lived in the fabled city of Atlantis. The advanced philosophy found in this book tells a remarkable, personal tale of achievement and temptation, of other planes of existence, reincarnation and the inexorable unfolding of Karma. Atlantean society is also described in detail, with its concept of the One Substance underlying all phenomena, and its advanced science and technology that include devices mirroring many of today's modern instruments. If the book is fiction, these accounts make Frederick Oliver's book a profound, almost inexplicable, achievement for one so young. If it is indeed a channeled message from a spiritually advanced being, 'A Dweller on Two Planets' provides copious esoteric information indispensable to all students of the occult.
Born in 1862, Nitobe Inazo was a Japanese polymath (holding five doctorates) and Christian convert who travelled widely in both Europe and America. In 1900, he published his seminal work Bushido, the soul of Japan, an attempt to explain his country to the western mind via the tenets of Japan’s warrior caste, the samurai.
Nitobe places Bushido firmly in the western concept of Knighthood, using an eclectic sample of western philosophy and history to draw out similarities in terms of courage, honour, endurance and loyalty. At the same time he calls upon the eastern philosophies to explain the apparently bewildering differences that exist between the occidental and oriental mind-set: why, for example, westerners bestow expensive gifts to demonstrate how much they value a friendship, and the Japanese offer small presents for exactly the same reason.
Engaging and beautifully written, Bushido has remained a best-seller for over one hundred years, and continues to offer readers one of the most insightful analyses of the Japanese martial way, and its affects on the conduct and character of the people of Nippon. Enhanced with 14 full-page, colour block prints and photographs from the 1800s, this is a ‘must-read’ for all those interested in the martial arts and Japanese culture.
Rafael Sabatini was born in 1875 at Iesi, Italy, to an English mother and an Italian father. As a child he travelled widely in Europe and by 17 he was fluent in five languages. After settling in England around the turn of the century, Sabatini decided to try his hand as a writer, a decision that paid off handsomely in a series of widely acclaimed historical novels, several of which became equally popular cinematic adaptations.
Captain Blood is the story of Peter Blood, a soldier-turned-doctor who is wrongly accused of treason during the 1685 Monmouth Rebellion, narrowly escapes death at the Bloody Assize, and is sent as a slave to Barbados, where he is bought by (and falls in love with) beautiful Arabella, niece to the bestial planter Colonel Bishop. A Spanish attack on the island gives Blood the chance to capture the Spaniard’s vessel and sail off to a life of freedom and piracy on the Spanish Main, an avocation that eminently suits his brave, free-spirited temperament and leads him to become the renowned ‘Captain Blood’, celebrated for courtesy and fair-dealing with friend and foe alike. But all his fame and riches mean nothing, for his heart remains set on Arabella, and she will never love a thief and pirate.
Sabatini’s riveting historical novel remains in a class of its own: a well-researched, swashbuckling pirate adventure that is as inconstant as the sea itself, rocking the reader between treachery and loyalty, cruelty and kindness, implacable hatred and undying love.
Chuang Tzu (pinyin: Zhuangzi) is the name given to an enigmatic Daoist sage who was born around 369 BC at Meng (now in Henan Province), where he worked as a minor official in the city of Qiyuan. The eponymous Chuang Tzu is considered one of the key foundational works of Daoism, exceeding even the renowned Dao De Jing of the equally elusive Laozi.
Dao translates as ‘The Way’, both the individual human life-path, and the infinitely complex unfolding of the Universe, whose mechanism and purpose are beyond human logic. Reasoning alone is insufficient and must be leavened with the development of intuition. One must learn to deal calmly with the stormy seas of life, as experience shows that fighting against the Dao only makes matters worse. Daoism enjoins us to non-contention, non-intention, simplicity, humility and wisdom as the path to perfect equanimity amidst the turmoil of existence. Chang Tzu pursues this teaching via humour and historic parable; such tales as the master dreaming he was a butterfly, then awakening and being unsure if he is indeed himself, or a butterfly dreaming he is Chuang Tzu, bring into focus the unreliability of the senses and our own fragile identity.
Composed of 33 chapters, the Chuang Tzu is divided into seven ‘Inner’ chapters (written by the sage himself), and fifteen ‘Outer’ chapters which - along with a ‘Miscellany’ - are mainly the work of his later adherents. Here is wisdom: a deeply esoteric book of many levels, that will repay reading on a regular basis.
Leo Tolstoy’s novella, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, is arguably the most famous of his shorter works. Published in 1886, it was universally hailed as a masterpiece, a clear-eyed account of Society, societal deceit, family politics and of the almost universal compact among the wealthier classes to ignore the inevitability of death.
Ivan Ilyich is a successful judge, whose shallow existence revolves around comfort, status and propriety; his personal relationships are shallow, selfish and entirely materialistic. This smug, self-satisfied life is shattered when Ivan Ilyich falls ill and becomes progressively worse as time passes. His friends are embarrassed by his infirmity, spouting platitudes and false bonhomie, while his wife and daughter regard him as a nuisance, spoiling their pleasant social round. Only the stolid peasant boy Gerasim seems able to accept the progression of his disease as something natural, as part of life. As his painful condition worsens, the concept so long denied – Death – comes to take centre stage, and with it questions on how one’s life should be lived so that the dissolution of the body ceases to be a thing of horror.
Hermann Hesse was born in 1877 at Calw, Germany, into a scholarly and deeply religious family. Hesse’s “tyrannical temperament, and passionate turbulence” led to conflict with his strait-laced parents and his adolescence was unhappy – brief stints at a variety of different schools culminating in a suicide attempt and a short stay in a mental institution. Determined to become a writer, Hesse used these unfortunate experiences as the basis of many of his critically acclaimed books, including the present work.
Demian is the story of a young boy, Emil Sinclair, and his quest for personal development as he grows into manhood - a process that brings him up against many strange characters and even stranger theories of life’s true purpose. His ‘spiritual guide’ in this endeavour is Max Demian, an enigmatic youth who befriends the troubled Emil and, with the help of his mother Frau Eva, gradually brings him to a deeper understanding of his innermost self.
The book is at once a poignant coming-of-age story and an impassioned enquiry into the truth behind the confusing, and often contradictory, world-systems as espoused by Christianity, Gnosticism, Buddhism, Daoism and Hinduism. Shot through with writings of such luminaries as Carl Gustav Jung and Friedrich Nietzsche, Demian is an exhilarating exploration of what it means to be young and human, and the offtimes tortuous path towards some form of enlightenment.
German philosopher and philologist, Friedrich Nietzsche, was one of the most influential thinkers of our time. His works include critical texts on philosophy, science, cultural norms, religion and morality. His aim was the “truth” as he saw it, no matter how unpalatable, penned in a style characterised by metaphor and aphorism.
First published in 1887, The Genealogy of Morals is considered Nietzsche’s most analytically powerful work. It is the least aphoristic and perhaps because of that, his examining lens is all the more unrelenting. The polemic expands on the ideas that were sketched out in Beyond Good and Evil by tracing the history of ethics and our changing interpretation of concepts such as good and bad, guilt and conscience, and ascetic ideals. In so doing, he spares no feelings towards our moral prejudices, religious doctrines or the priesthood, particularly Christian and Jewish.
This is a treatise that is as thought-provoking and contentious today as when it was first published – Nietzsche at his analytical best.
Manly Palmer Hall was a Canadian author and a mystic of outstanding wisdom. At the age of just 25 he published his magnum opus The Secret Teachings of All Ages, whose breadth of knowledge brought him instant recognition as a leading scholar in the fields of religion, mysticism, and the occult. The Lost Keys of Freemasonry once again displays Hall’s insight and erudition. Taking as his subject the Legend of Hiram Abiff, the author reveals the higher and hidden aspects of Freemasonry in beautiful and poetic prose that is accessible to Mason and non-Mason alike. The esoteric meaning of the word ‘Hiram’, the nature of the True Temple, the capstone of the pyramid and a host other recondite symbolism is laid bare, in a book that can be revisited again and again for its deep layers of wisdom.
This book also includes the rare “Initiates of the Flame”, which uses over 40 symbolic glyphs to further elucidate the narrow path trod by masons, alchemists and mystics to that source of wisdom known variously as the 'Grail' and the 'Philosopher’s Stone'.
First published in 1807, Tales from Shakespeare derives from Charles and Mary Lamb’s great love of, and familiarity with, Shakespearean drama. This collection of plays was written to introduce young readers to Shakespeare and to encourage them to read his works in their original form. The authors selected twenty of the famous bard’s thirty-seven plays and employed a prose style that is true to the tone and language of the Elizabethan era, occasionally interweaving a verse or two in the text to give a taste of the real thing.
Shakespeare’s skill at distilling time-honoured themes of love, envy, avarice, honour, nobility and mercy is showcased within plots that are funny, tragic or romantic – and often in a combination of all three. There are mischievous characters up to comic pranks, while others endure painful transformations: from trusting and loving to doubtful and jealous, from honourable and trustworthy to villainous and unreliable – but then, in a climactic epiphany, find their way back to their true selves. Or sometimes not, as in the case of the more violent and bloody tragedies like Macbeth.
The Lambs’ abridged version of Shakespeare’s plays are riveting stories in themselves and to this day children and adults alike are drawn to their first taste of Shakespeare via this enjoyable introduction.
The late nineteenth century witnessed an “occult revival”, with an upsurge of mystical orders in Europe and elsewhere. Charles Webster Leadbeater was a prominent member of H. P. Blavatsky’s Theosophical Society, the purpose of which was to explore and teach the Divine Wisdom (Theo Sophia).
In A textbook of Theosophy, Leadbeater points out that theosophy is not a religion in itself but is “the truth which lies behind all religions alike”. Moreover, it does not rely on blind belief being, instead, a scientific enterprise with direct knowledge gained through study and investigation. Man “…has within him latent powers which, when aroused, enable him to see and examine for himself, and… (theosophy) …proceeds to prove its case by showing how those powers may be awakened.”
Leadbeater explains the broad concepts of theosophy, describing an intricate and ongoing cosmic cycle in which the Divine Mind creates the material world, infuses it with different degrees of consciousness, or soul, and these souls then find their way back, through many lifetimes, to the Creator. And as with other esoteric methodologies, Leadbeater’s theosophy gives us the means to progress more quickly towards that goal. This concise overview is a must-read for all those interested in the occult path.
Khalil Gibran was an accomplished Lebanese writer, philosopher and artist – and by all accounts the third most popular poet in history after Shakespeare and Lao-Tzu. Born in 1883 into a disadvantaged Maronite Christian family, his genius propelled him to the level of world renowned author with best-selling works like The Prophet, The Madman and Sand and Foam. Gibran was influenced by his own religion as well as by the mysticism of the Sufis and, in particular, by the Bahá'í Faith, a religion that stresses the spiritual unity of all mankind and recognises that we were all created by the same God.
The Madman is the voice of a mystic whose masks, or personae, have been “stolen”. It is a distillate, in parable form, of the “true self” – full of the wonder of God and yet, at times, troubled with sardonic questions about man’s spiritual path. The narrator – no doubt Gibran himself – is the impassioned seeker, who expresses himself through the thirty-four parables and poems of The Madman. Its bitter tones and dark spaces are not for the faint-hearted spiritual traveller but it is without doubt an honest and potent expression of a true seeker.
At the time he wrote Strange Life of Ivan Osokin, P.D. Ouspensky was already an acclaimed author and thinker, with such major works as Tertium Organum and The Fourth Dimension to his credit. In Ivan Osokin, Ouspensky sets out to explore the idea of ‘eternal recurrence’, the theory that most humans are condemned to an infinite repetition of a single lifetime, making the same mistakes and facing the same triumphs and tragedies each time.
The eponymous hero is a feckless youth, prone to pointless rebellion and easily bored. He changes little as he grows to manhood, wasting his future, squandering his inheritance and losing the woman he loves. In this parlous state, and contemplating suicide, Ivan Osokin meets a magician who agrees to send him back to attempt a conscious repetition of his life without mistakes, at the same time warning him that it will make not the slightest alteration to the outcome. Undaunted, Ivan Osokin undergoes the ritual and relives his earlier existence – with a strange and unexpected result.