Secret Societies of the Middle Ages

Secret Societies of the Middle Ages, by Thomas Keightley is new over at Project Gutenberg.

"If we had the means of investigating historically the origin of Secret Societies, we should probably find that they began to be formed almost as soon as any knowledge had been accumulated by particular individuals beyond what constituted the common stock. The same thing has happened to knowledge that has happened to all other human possessions,—its actual holders have striven to keep it to themselves. It is true that in this case the possessor of the advantage does not seem to have the same reason for being averse to share it with others which naturally operates in regard to many good things of a different kind; he does not, by imparting it to those around him, diminish his own store. This is true, in so far as regards the possession of knowledge considered in its character of a real good; the owner of the treasure does not impoverish himself by giving it away, as he would by giving away his money, but remains as rich as ever, even after he has made ever so many others as rich as himself. But still there is one thing that he loses, and a thing upon which the human mind is apt to set a very high value; he loses the distinction which he derived from his knowledge. This distinction really serves, in many respects, the same purpose that money itself does. Like money, it brings observation and worship. Like money, it is the dearest of all things, power. Knowledge, however held, is indeed essentially power; to ken, that is, to know, is the same word and the same thing with to can, that is, to be able. But there is an additional and a different species of power conferred by knowledge when it exists as the distinction of a few individuals in the midst of general ignorance. Here it is power not only to do those things the methods of doing which it teaches; it is, besides, the power of governing other men through your comparative strength and their weakness." [via]

"The present volume is devoted to the history of three celebrated societies which flourished during the middle ages, and of which, as far as we know, no full and satisfactory account is to be found in English literature. These are the Assassins, or Ismaïlites, of the East, whose name has become in all the languages of Europe synonymous with murderer, who were a secret society, and of whom we have in general such vague and indistinct conceptions; the military order of the Knights Templars, who were most barbarously persecuted under the pretext of their holding a secret doctrine, and against whom the charge has been renewed at the present day; and, finally, the Secret Tribunals of Westphalia, in Germany, concerning which all our information has hitherto been derived from the incorrect statements of dramatists and romancers.

It is the simplicity of truth, and not the excitement of romance, that the reader is to expect to find in the following pages,—pictures of manners and modes of thinking different from our own,—knowledge, not mere entertainment, yet as large an infusion of the latter as is consistent with truth and instruction.” [via]

Witch, Warlock, and Magician

Witch, Warlock, and Magician: Historical Sketches of Magic and Witchcraft in England and Scotland" by W H. Davenport Adams from 1889 was recently added to Project Gutenberg and might be something to check out.

Doctrine of the Will

You may be interested in Doctrine of the Will newly added this month over at Project Gutenberg.

"Every perception, every judgment, every thought, which appears within the entire sphere of the Intelligence; every sensation, every emotion, every desire, all the states of the Sensibility, present objects for the action of the Will in one direction or another. The sphere of the Will’s activity, therefore, is as extensive as the vast and almost boundless range of the Intelligence and Sensibility both. Now while all the phenomena of these two last named faculties are, in themselves, wholly destitute of moral character, the action of the Will, in the direction of such phenomena, constitutes complex states of mind, which have a positive moral character. In all instances, the moral and voluntary elements are one and identical.”

The Sufistic Quatrains of Omar Khayyam

You may be interested in The Sufistic Quatrains of Omar Khayyam newly added this month over at Project Gutenberg.

"Alike for those who for To-day prepare,
And those that after a To-morrow stare,
A Muezzin from the Tower of Darkness cries
«Fools! your Reward is neither Here nor There!»”

Ancient Pagan and Modern Christian Symbolism

You may be interested in Ancient Pagan and Modern Christian Symbolism newly added this month over at Project Gutenberg.

"We search into emblems with an intention different from that with which we inquire into ordinary language. The last tells us of the relationship of nations upon Earth, the first of the probable connections of mankind with Heaven. The devout Christian believes that all who venerate the Cross may hope for a happy eternity, without ever dreaming that the sign of his faith is as ancient as Homeric Troy, and was used by the Phoenicians probably before the Jews had any existence as a people; whilst an equally pious Mahometan regards the Crescent as the passport to the realms of bliss, without a thought that the symbol was in use long before the Prophet of Allah was born, and amongst those nations which it was the Prophet’s mission to convert or to destroy. Letters and words mark the ordinary current of man’s thought, whilst religious symbols show the nature of his aspirations. But all have this in common, viz., that they may be misunderstood."

Modern Magic

You may be interested in Modern Magic by M. Schele de Vere over at Project Gutenberg:

"The main purpose of our existence on earth—aside from the sacred and paramount duty of securing our salvation—is undoubtedly to make ourselves masters of the tangible world around us, as it stands revealed to our senses, and as it was expressly made subject to our will by the Creator. We are, however, at the same time, not left without information about the existence of certain laws and the occurrence of certain phenomena, which belong to a world not accessible to us by means of our ordinary senses, and which yet affect seriously our intercourse with Nature and our personal welfare. This knowledge we obtain sometimes, by special favor, as direct revelation, and at other times, for reasons as yet unknown, at the expense of our health and much suffering. By whatever means it may reach us, it cannot be rejected; to treat it with ridicule or to decline examining it, would be as unwise as unprofitable. The least that we can do is to ascertain the precise nature of these laws, and, after stripping these phenomena of all that can be proved to be merely incidental or delusive, to compare them with each other, and to arrange them carefully according to some standard of classification. The main interest in such a task lies in the discovery of the grain of truth which is often found concealed in a mass of rubbish, and which, when thus brought to light, serves to enlarge our knowledge and to increase our power. The difficulty lies in the absence of all scientific investigation, and in the innate tendency of man to give way, wantonly or unconsciously, to mental as well as to sensual delusion."

The Epic of Hades

You may be interested in The Epic of Hades, a poetic work by Lewis Morris, recently available over at Project Gutenberg.

Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions Together with Death’s Duel

You may be interested in Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions Together with Death’s Duel by John Donne, recently available over at Project Gutenberg.

The Wolves of God and Other Fey Stories

You may be interested in The Wolves of God and Other Fey Stories by Algernon Blackwood, newly available over at Project Gutenberg.

Human, All Too Human

You may be interested in Human, All Too Human: A Book for Free Spirits by Friedrich Nietzsche, recently released over at Project Gutenberg.

"All philosophers make the common mistake of taking contemporary man as their starting point and of trying, through an analysis of him, to reach a conclusion. ‘Man’ involuntarily presents himself to them as an aeterna veritas as a passive element in every hurly-burly, as a fixed standard of things. Yet everything uttered by the philosopher on the subject of man is, in the last resort, nothing more than a piece of testimony concerning man during a very limited period of time. Lack of the historical sense is the traditional defect in all philosophers. Many innocently take man in his most childish state as fashioned through the influence of certain religious and even of certain political developments, as the permanent form under which man must be viewed. They will not learn that man has evolved, that the intellectual faculty itself is an evolution, whereas some philosophers make the whole cosmos out of this intellectual faculty. But everything essential in human evolution took place aeons ago, long before the four thousand years or so of which we know anything: during these man may not have changed very much. However, the philosopher ascribes ‘instinct’ to contemporary man and assumes that this is one of the unalterable facts regarding man himself, and hence affords a clue to the understanding of the universe in general. The whole teleology is so planned that man during the last four thousand years shall be spoken of as a being existing from all eternity, and with reference to whom everything in the cosmos from its very inception is naturally ordered. Yet everything evolved: there are no eternal facts as there are no absolute truths. Accordingly, historical philosophising is henceforth indispensable, and with it honesty of judgment.”

Of course, you may also be interested in Friedrich Nietzsche, The Vindication of Nietzsche, Discourse on the Eighth Article, Julius Evola: Theosophy and Beyond, OZ: Liber LXXVII, & c.

Ancient Faiths and Modern

You may be interested in Ancient Faiths and Modern by Thomas Inman from 1876, newly available over at Project Gutenberg.

"There is, indeed, much more evidence than is generally supposed to connect the ancient mound-builders in America with the inhabitants of the Eastern Hemisphere, particularly in their modes of burial, the nature of their earthworks, and the style of such ornaments and figures as have been found. For example, there is one enclosure described, in the centre of which is erected a mound and pillar, precisely resembling the linga yoni of the East. In addition to these, carved stones have been found, which unite together such Oriental emblems as the sun and moon, the Tau, T and the egg, O which together make the well-known Egyptian symbol A. Again, Domenech figures some male and female human effigies, of whom American savans write that they represent idols of sexual design, similar to those exposed in the Mysteries of Eleusis, one of them being a badly finished image of Priapus."

Heretics and Heresies

You may be interested in Heretics and Heresies by Robert G. Ingersoll, newly released over at Project Gutenberg. This appears to be part of a larger work, The Gods and Other Lectures, of which a number of parts are also available via the Robert G. Ingersoll author page.

LIBERTY, A WORD WITHOUT WHICH ALL OTHER WORDS ARE VAIN.

WHOEVER has an opinion of his own, and honestly expresses it, will be guilty of heresy. Heresy is what the minority believe; it is the name given by the powerful to the doctrine of the weak. This word was born of the hatred, arrogance and cruelty of those who love their enemies, and who, when smitten on one cheek, turn the other. This word was born of intellectual slavery in the feudal ages of thought. It was an epithet used in the place of argument. From the commencement of the Christian era, every art has been exhausted and every conceivable punishment inflicted to force all people to hold the same religious opinions. This effort was born of the idea that a certain belief was necessary to the salvation of the soul. Christ taught, and the Church still teaches, that unbelief is the blackest of crimes. God is supposed to hate with an infinite and implacable hatred, every heretic upon the earth, and the heretics who have died are supposed at this moment to be suffering the agonies of the damned. The Church persecutes the living and her God burns the dead.”

The Star People

You may be interested in The Star People by Gaylord Johnson, recently released over at Project Gutenberg. It’s a story about an uncle teaching some kids, who form “the society of star gazers”, about the star constellations.

"Why did not somebody teach me the constellations, and make me at home in the starry heavens, which are always overhead and which I don’t half know to this day?"

—Thomas Carlyle.

Etidorhpa or the End of the Earth

You may be interested in John Uri Lloyd’s Etidorhpa or the End of the Earth recently added to Project Gutenberg.

This is an interesting book. The title is Aphrodite spelled backwards. There’s a lot of speculation about spiritual themes and also themes of drug use in the work. You may be interested in checking out the Wikipedia articles about John Uri Lloyd and Etidorhpa.

The illustrations for this book were done by J. Augustus Knapp, and, while I had previously confused him here with Augustus John, more of his work can be found in Manly P. Hall’s opus The Secret Teachings of All.