Occult Books for sincere seekers after Truth and Wisdom
The number of useful occult books can be counted on the fingers of one hand. By 'useful' we mean occult books that explain who and what Man truly IS, whence he comes, whither he is going and the purpose and meaning of life.
We do not mean books containing magic spells, the fantasies of conspiracy theorists or the speculations of psychics. If that is what you're looking for you will not find it here. If, on the other hand, you are looking for books on Ancient Wisdom and Occult Truth, you are in the right place.
The occult books we review and recommend are all titles that we have personally studied which stand out like beacons of Light amongst a sea of mediocrity, plagiarism and fantasy. Sadly, the very best books have a habit of disappearing within a few short years of their publication. Such is The Golden Star by J Michaud PhD, proving that TRUTH is a most UNSALEABLE commodity! Or we may put it another way and say that coins of the least value have the greatest circulation.
In connection with this, an anonymous writer on alchemy has said:
"Let a Lover of truth suspect things that are quickly understood; for truth lies hid in obscurity; for Philosophers never write more deceitfully—than when plainly, nor ever more truly—than when obscurely."
Occult books for beginners
We are often asked to suggest the 'best' occult books for beginners. Our answer is that the 'best' books are those that teach us the most. For this reason we suggest that if you know little or nothing about the occult sciences, you start off by reading the following two articles we have published:
- Occult FAQ. Questions about the occult answered simply and clearly
- Why study Occult Science? How to learn the plan and meaning of Life
Then, if you wish to learn more, The White Brother is an excellent introduction. Written expressly for seekers by a seeker who drew on his own personal experience, this book deals in a clear, no-nonsense way with the search for a genuine spiritual teacher. We would also recommend The Golden Star and The Quest of Ruru, both by J Michaud PhD. All four books are reviewed on this page and can be read in full online.
In addition, we would also recommend In Tune with the Infinite by Ralph Waldo Trine. Although not an 'occult' book in the strict sense, it presents the Eternal Truths of life with great clarity and simplicity.
Books about Atlantis
You can find reviews of seven classic books about the lost continent in our article: Facts and Fancies of Atlantis. These include Atlantis—the Antediluvian World by Ignatius Donnelly, which remains the definitive work on this subject.
Books about Fairies and Nature Spirits
Despite the number of New Age books now pouring off the presses on nature spirits, fairies and so-called 'angels', the works of Geoffrey Hodson remain classics of their genre. We review three of these titles in our article on Fairies and Nature Spirits.
Books about Astrology
There is no shortage of books on Astrology, both modern and old, to suit all tastes and pockets. The three titles we review in our article on this subject are all books that we have personally read and recommend for the serious student who wants to learn the Art and Science of Astrology.
Reviews of rare and unusual occult books
We hope that one or more of the books we review below will strongly appeal to you. If this happens it often means that there exists a special link between you and the thoughts and teachings of the author; and it is always wise to follow up such intuitions.
The Teachings of Li Wang Ho—by J Michaud PhD
Reviewed by A Muzchik. This remarkable book expounds the teachings of a forgotten Chinese Sage of over 2,000 years ago, lovingly restored in the incomparable prose of Dr Michaud.
AVAILABLE TO READ ON THIS SITE ONLY
This is one of those very rare books in any age that can change your life for the better. You do not need to be an occultist or mystic to benefit from the teachings it contains. You do not even need to know much about philosophy or ancient Chinese literature. All you need are an open mind and a thirst for Truth.
The author has ably succeeded in conveying the subtlety, delicacy and refinement of the Chinese mind, now sadly corrupted by the so-called 'benefits' of our modern western 'civilisation'. At a time when an almost perpetual smog envelopes Beijing, mirroring the equally unhealthy miasma of materialism that pervades the lives of so many Chinese—both threatening to obliterate the Wisdom of its ancient Sages—the Light that streams from this jewel from the past brings a message of hope and solace for all.
In his introduction to the book, T'sai Ching enumerates the seven cardinal sins which prevent any apprehension of Truth and bar the path to enlightenment. This short list would provide enough material for a book on its own—such is the very great wisdom to be gleaned from a thorough and meditative contemplation of the truths it contains. If the judicious reader gets no further than these 'holy commandments', and diligently applies them to every aspect of his life, he will have already learned more than any 'self-empowerment' course or book can ever teach him.
The Teachings of Li Wang Ho are expounded in prose and verse; constituting a wafture of poetic perfection—true manna from Heaven—for all those who thirst for Truth and hunger for enlightenment. If you wish to truly serve humanity in an effective and appropriate manner, above and beyond mere sentimentality this book is for you. It is also for those who wish to become better persons in every way. But above all, the book will appeal to everyone who has sought in vain for authentic Teachings that provide answers to the great questions of Life and Being.
It is these latter readers who will appreciate the sublime heights of philosophy reached in these remarkable teachings. Heights that provide many clues to the mysteries of God; of good and evil, beauty and ugliness, Time and Space, and the workings of the Mind in all its varying combinations of ignorance and wisdom. But even if you are not this kind of reader, The Teachings of Li Wang Ho have the power to raise your thinking and change your life in many positive ways and directions.
There is enough practical wisdom of the right sort in this book to last anyone a lifetime. Whatever your beliefs, The Teachings of Li Wang Ho provide an inexhaustible and never-failing treasure trove of advice for every occasion that can transform failure into success, sorrow into joy, and ignorance into wisdom. Do you have enemies? Have you been abused or slandered? Do you suffer from anger, envy, grief or depression? Are you experiencing personal or relationship problems? Or do you perhaps long for Light, Beauty, Harmony, Peace and Joy? Then this aptly subtitled 'jewelled casket of everlasting flowers' will fill your heart and mind with the Divine Aroma of the blossoms of the Heavenly Realms.
The True Gospel of Chrishna-Jeseus—by J Michaud PhD
This book is about the life of Krishna—the Holy Hindu Saviour and prototype of Christ. It was first published by the UMA Press in London under the title of The Book of Sa-Heti and is now almost unobtainable in print. We have now made it available to our readers for the very first time on the Internet.
AVAILABLE TO READ ON THIS SITE ONLY
This life of Krishna is related without fantastic embellishments yet written with colour and glittering power. Amid amazing incidents the reader breathes the perfumes and tragedies of an ancient India blessed by the birth of the Son of God.
The book describes many of the incidents found in the New Testament but enacted 3,000 years previously wherein John becomes Arjuna, Maia the holy Mary, and Christ Krishna.
Now, once again this masterpiece of Occult Truth is made available to a new generation, to unveil the highest mystical teachings and set alight the Higher Self. This book is an intense spiritual adventure for the sincere seeker after Truth and a treasure-trove of wisdom and comfort for every kind of reader.
The White Brother: An Occult Autobiography
—by Michael Juste
Hardcover 211pp. Rider & Co, London, UK, 1925.
Price from £30.00 second-hand.
AVAILABLE TO READ ONLINE AT HOLY BOOKS IN PDF FORMAT
SOMETIMES AVAILABLE FROM Abe Books and other booksellers
This very scarce* occult autobiography describes one seeker's eventful journey through the Occult Jungle in search of Truth. "Michael Juste" was the pseudonym of Michael Houghton, a Hungarian Jew who founded the well-known "Atlantis" book shop in London in the 1920's. The shop still flourishes in Bloomsbury and may be familiar to some of you. Houghton was an odd character who mixed with many well-known and many more completely unknown occultists of the last century. He published several books in his own name as well as the works of other writers, and was the editor of the Occult Observer from 1949-51—a quarterly journal that contained contributions from many well-known occultists and mystics of the time.
Many mysteries have been woven around Houghton's chequered association with various occult personalities over the years, but these neither concern nor interest us. What is of interest is the absolutely true and frank account the author gives of his search for Truth and the True Teacher. A journey that takes him down several blind alleys, brings him into contact with many weird and wonderful characters and the eventual meeting with a Master who is surely the ideal of all sincere seekers.
This book provides clear hints on what Truth is and where NOT to look for it, as well as exposing the many pretenders to wisdom who prey on the inexperience and gullibility of seekers. Among the many topics discussed are Theosophy, False Teachers and teachings, Vegetarianism, Science, Elementals, Magic, Health, Meditation, Breathing, and the Astral World.
*NOTE: Although printed copies of The White Brother are now extremely scarce, an online edition is available from Holy Books (see link above).
In Tune with the Infinite—by Ralph Waldo Trine
Softcover 128pp. Wilder Publications 2008. Price new from £4.99.
Also available as a Kindle edition, and second-hand in various editions from as little as £1.00.
AVAILABLE FROM Amazon.co.uk and other booksellers
ALSO AVAILABLE TO READ ONLINE AT SACRED TEXTS
Ralph Waldo Trine presents the eternal Spiritual and material truths of Life in a clear and simple manner which all can understand. It requires no great intellect or education to apply the very simple laws which he so beautifully reveals in this inspired book. In the degree that you do so you will change sadness into joy, failure into success and weakness into strength.
Although claimed by many as a pioneer of 'New Age' teaching, there is nothing in Trine's message that was not known and taught thousands of years ago. We hear the same truths from the immortal lips of inspired teachers like Jesus, Buddha and Krishna. Trine's great accomplishment was to re-state these truths in simple words that even a child can understand and to make them accessible to millions. This is no accident; for the truth is always simple if we are simple enough to recognise it when it is presented to us. Sadly, so many seekers desire mystery, glamour and complexity. Such will turn away from the simplicity of this book. But the simple in mind and heart will recognise the Truth within its luminous pages.
It will remind them in no uncertain manner that the keys to health, happiness and success are to be found within and not without. As the Author says in his Prelude: "THE optimist is right. The pessimist is right. The one differs from the other as the light from the dark. Yet both are right. Each is right from their own particular point of view, and this point of view is the determining factor in the life of each. It determines as to whether it is a life of power or of impotence...of success or of failure."
How true these words are! Do we not all know seekers whose 'glass is always half-empty'?—who fear the worst and anticipate disaster and disappointment at every turn? And it is not also true that such people often live lives of sorrow, confusion, ill-health and failure? But it needn't be like this. In US lies the power to change our own individual lives for the better. And in the degree that we do so we shall change the lives of others around us and the world in general. This is the simple way to bring peace and light into this sorely-troubled world. It needs no 'occult powers' nor special training to do so. All it requires is an understanding of the TRUE LAWS of Life and a willingness to put them into practise in our daily lives. This is the SIMPLE message which Ralph Waldo Trine gave to the world over 100 years ago.
The Golden Star: a Book for Initiates—by J Michaud PhD
Uma Press, London 1946. Hardcover. 323pp
Price from £30.00 second-hand. Sometimes available from Amazon.co.uk and other booksellers, but now VERY SCARCE.
AVAILABLE TO READ ONLINE AT THEGOLDENSTAR.ORG
Significantly subtitled "A Book for Initiates", The Golden Star is emphatically NOT a book for the lazy and inept. Nor is it an instruction manual in magic. Those seeking instant enlightenment, thrills and short-cuts to occult knowledge and power, will NOT find them in this book. Indeed, we may say that ALL those who are looking for the weird and fantastic in the mistaken idea that this is what constitutes occultism and magic, will be sorely disappointed by this book.
Those, on the other hand, who are seeking the pure Light of Truth, will find in The Golden Star Heavenly Treasure and Riches beyond their wildest dreams. The book begins with two Egyptian pilgrims, Ma-u and Ma-uti, watching a glorious sunset: "At one unforgettable moment the sun sent out five purple rays from between the massed clouds, which like a hand of benediction overspread the pair; whilst a path of molten gold stretched from Ra to them, as if inviting them to stride along that road to glory under His protecting hand. An invitation and Initiation into the Mysteries."
With the arrival of Neteru-Hem, 'A messenger from the Divine', the two seekers begin a spiritual journey, which is quite unlike anything else in Occult literature. Descending first into the 'Domains of Night', Ma-u and Ma-uti embark on a quest for knowledge under the guiding hands of Neteru-Hem. Each of the twelve chapters is prefaced by an inspired poem and associated with a particular precious stone. During their remarkable journey (which is also a series of Initiations), the two pilgrims are taught about the real nature of matter and spirit, electricity, atoms, energy and the true constitution of Man and the Universe. The many subjects covered include the inhabitants of the elemental kingdoms, psychism, clairvoyance, witchcraft, magic, spiritualism, occult symbolism, creation, evolution, cosmic consciousness and the hierarchy of spiritual beings who rule the universe under God.
Along the way, Ma-u and Ma-uti encounter scenes of terrifying horror, transcendent beauty and spiritual and material beings of all kinds—both good and bad, leading in the end to the very throne of God and an apocalypse of glory which it is impossible to describe in this short review. To sum up, this is truly "a book for initiates"—a refreshing refuge of peace and joy, and a radiant star of hope in this age of threatening darkness. Although printed copies of the book have become very scarce, an electronic facsimile is now available to read online (*see note at end).
*NOTE: Although The Golden Star is now an extremely rare book, we occasionally see copies advertised online and in bookshops. We have even heard of readers who found their copy in a charity shop!—so if at first you don't succeed—do keep trying.
You can read and study an electronic edition of the book online at thegoldenstar.org which faithfully preserves all the characteristics of the printed edition.
Iamblichus—On the Mysteries of the Egyptians, Chaldeans and Assyrians
Translated from the Greek by Thomas Taylor. 365pp +7pp glossary of citations, a bibliography of Taylor's work and a bio-bibliographical glossary. Wizards Bookshelf 1977. (Secret Doctrine Reference Series)
Hardcover green faux leather, $25.00.
AVAILABLE FROM Wizards Bookshelf in hardcover $25.00
This important book is one of the very few texts that have come down to us which preserves what little remained of the hidden wisdom of ancient Egypt, Chaldea and Assyria in the early centuries of the Christian era.
The book begins with a letter written by the Neoplatonic philosopher, Porphyry (ca. 234-305 A.D.) to an Egyptian priest called Anebo, requesting information about the theological and mystical beliefs of the Egyptians. The language used by the correspondents makes it clear that Porphyry is soliciting occult knowledge from one whom he comes to regard as his superior. As such we may view the book as a series of questions posed by a student of occult science to his teacher. Porphyry begins by taking his teacher to task, criticising what he believes to be the religious dogmas and practices of the Egyptians and Chaldeans. In his replies, Anebo displays the patience, goodwill and humility which are the hallmark of the true Teacher, never once losing his temper, nor stooping to ridicule his pupil's often fanciful speculations and theological misconceptions.
In the following ten sections, the nature of God, the 'gods', and the soul are explored at length and in depth. Anebo stresses the importance of the perfection of the soul (Higher Self in our terminology) through the practice of mystical rites—that is through meditation, spiritual exercises and consistent study. Other subjects discussed include the first cause, the nature of the universe and its contents, dreams and sleep, soul and mind, prayer, divination, magic, astrology and fate or destiny.
The Egyptologist, E. A. Wallis Budge, quotes largely from Iamblichus' The Mysteries in his seminal book The Gods of the Egyptians (1904), so we may be tolerably sure that much of the information imparted by Anebo to Porphyry is consistent with the religious practises of the ancient Egyptians, as recorded in such papyri as The Book of the Dead. This is not to say that we agree with everything in this book; far from it. As we said earlier, what we have here are the fragments of the Mystery Teachings of Egypt, much distorted and disfigured by the hand of time and man. Nonetheless, the discriminating reader will gain much from this book, and for that reason we recommend it.
There are several editions of this book by different translators, including at least one e-text. However, we recommend you obtain the Wizards Bookshelf edition reviewed above, which is verbatim with the original edition of 1821, and copiously referred to by H. P. Blavatsky in her books. There is also a new paperback edition of Thomas Taylor's translation published in 2011 by Cambridge Library Collection, UK. As this is priced at $54 and printed on demand, we do not recommend it!
Iamblichus (ca. A.D. 250-325) was one of the greatest and most influential of the Neoplatonic philosophers, renowned as much for his great learning and miraculous powers, as for his charity and self-denial. A student of Plotinus' disciple Porphyry, he founded a Mystery School in which he taught what then remained of the Sacred Mysteries of Greece and Egypt. Sadly, only a fraction of Iamblichus' books are known to us, chief among which is On the Mysteries. Some scholars dispute Iamblichus' authorship, maintaining that the style of writing does not match his other extant writings. We leave the critics to their pedantic arguments, for what matters to us is that we have this valuable document, not who wrote it.
You can read more about the translator, Thomas Taylor, on the website of The Prometheus Trust, who have re-published many of his translations of important Greek philosophical works.
The Divine Pymander of Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus
Translated by John Everard with an introduction by Hargrave Jennings 140pp. Wizards Bookshelf (Secret Doctrine Reference Series) 1978 - 2014. Hardcover, $17.00. Price second-hand from £15.00.
AVAILABLE FROM Wizards Bookshelf in hardcover (144pp) $17.00
ALSO AVAILABLE FROM Amazon.co.uk in softcover (146pp) £6.45
One could read a thousand books and not find the great truths revealed in this little volume. As Dr Everard writes in his preface: "In this Book, though so very old, is contained more true knowledge of God and Nature, than in all the Books in the World besides, except only Sacred Writ; And they that shall judiciously read it, and rightly understand it, may well be excused from reading many Books..."
This accurately sums up this book, which was first translated into English in 1650 by Dr John Everard from the Corpus Hermeticum translated into Latin by Marsilio Ficino in the 15th Century. This is not a book for those seeking instant answers or instant enlightenment. Like other sacred texts, it requires an understanding of occult symbolism as well as deep study if the reader is to begin to comprehend the Truths it contains. As such it is emphatically not a book for the novice.
There are several reprints of this book currently available including the new softcover edition available from Amazon (published by Forgotten Books in 2008).
Versions by the 'Yogi Publication Society', 'Kessinger Publishing' and 'The Shrine of Wisdom' may not be complete. Kessinger reprints in particular are often of rather poor quality. Our advice is to obtain the Wizard's Bookshelf edition illustrated above if you possibly can. This is verbatim with the edition of 1884 and reset from the original English translation made by Dr Everard in 1650.
The Virgin of the World of Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus
Kingsford, Anna & Maitland, Edward (translators) 1884. 154pp. Wizards Bookshelf (Secret Doctrine Reference Series), 1977. Hardcover Price second-hand from £30.00.
ALSO AVAILABLE FROM Amazon.co.uk in softcover (152pp) £6.19
The Virgin of the World is divided into three parts, the 'Virgin of the World', 'Asclepios on Initiation', the 'Definitions of Asclepios', and the 'Hermetic Fragments.' This book was greatly esteemed by many of the Church Fathers in the early centuries of the Christian era, and Lactantius said of it, "Hermes, I know not how, has discovered well-nigh the whole truth." Of course he didn't know 'how', bless his innocent heart, for learned as Lactantius was, he was no Initiate and consequently had no direct knowledge of the Wisdom of ancient Egypt, much of which was already lost in his day.
The first part of the book is a complete summary of the Hermetic Wisdom of ancient Egypt set out in the form of a conversation between the goddess Isis and her son Horus which reveals the true constitution of Man and the processes of creation and evolution as they were taught to the students of the Mystery Schools in those faraway days. Together with The Divine Pymander, reviewed above, these two books contain almost all that remains of the true teachings of Hermes that are in the public domain.
Once again, our advice is to obtain the Wizard's Bookshelf edition of this book if you can.
The Kybalion: a study of the Hermetic Philosophy of ancient Egypt and Greece—by Three Initiates
223pps. Yogi Publication Society 1908, 1912, 1940 et seq. Hardcover.
Price used from around £30.00. Various newer editions available from £5.00.
AVAILABLE TO READ ON THIS SITE IN PDF FORMAT
ALSO AVAILABLE FROM Amazon.co.uk and other booksellers
This important book on the fundamental principles of Hermetic Philosophy has been continuously in print for over 100 years. Written with a clarity and brevity that is thoroughly in keeping with the precision of the language of ancient Egypt, the Kybalion is essential reading for any serious occult student who wishes to understand the seven universal laws that govern all material and spiritual phenomena. The book sets out these laws in clear language all can understand and provides several hints as to how they may be applied to benefit ourselves and others.
If you have not heard of this book and know little or nothing about Hermetics, we suggest that you first read our article on The Hermetic Philosophy of ancient Egypt.
The primary thesis of the book is that everything which exists has its origin in the mind of the 'All', whether we consider this as 'God', the Divine Cause, or any other fundamental creative principle. It follows from this that the Universe and everything in it is of a mental nature and can be changed by the intelligent application of the seven Hermetic laws. In the order of their introduction in the book, these are: (1) Mentalism, (2) Correspondence, (3) Vibration, (4) Polarity, (5) Rhythm, (6) Cause and Effect, and (7) Gender, or Sex. This thesis is in full accord with the highest occult Wisdom of both East and West, and for this reason we highly recommend this book.
There are now many editions and versions of this book in print and online, but we recommend the PDF produced by the Yogi Publication Society which we have made freely available to our readers (see link above). So far as we have been able to ascertain this edition is verbatim with the original book of 1908. You can read more about the Kybalion in our article on the Hermetic philosophy of ancient Egypt.
Ancient Egypt: The Light of the World—by Gerald Massey
A Work of Reclamation and Restitution in Twelve Books.
2 vols. 556pps and 410pps. Adamant Media Corporation (2 April 2001) Softcover. Price new from around £25.00 for both volumes.
AVAILABLE FROM Amazon.co.uk and other booksellers
We are delighted (and surprised!) to see this unique book back in print after many years. There are also new hardcover editions in one volume published by NuVision Publications (740pps) and by General Books LLC (520pps). You may also be able to find earlier hardcover editions if you hunt around, though the first edition (published in 1907 in 2 volumes) is now very scarce and expensive. There is also an online edition published by Masseiana and several Amazon Kindle editions.
Massey passed away just a few short months after completing Ancient Egypt. That his crowning masterpiece was almost completely unrecognised and ignored during his lifetime and is dismissed by almost all modern 'authorities'—both Biblical and Egyptological—speaks volumes! It is no exaggeration to say this is the most masterly exposition of the Ancient Egyptian religion, mythos and eschatology ever written. Indeed, more than one inspired Occultist of the last century has drawn largely on this book for their teachings about the Ancient Egyptian Mysteries. The majority, on the other hand, who prefer dusty "authority" to the bright Fire of True Inspiration, will cast it aside as worthless. Such are those who prefer to squabble over how many asps (and of what specific genus) killed Cleopatra, or whether the race of the Ancient Egyptians were Negroes or Caucasians, than learn the TRUTH about Ancient Egypt and her sublime mysteries.
For those who seriously wish to learn the True Mysteries as they were taught thousands of years ago in Egypt, and discover the real sources of the Christian religion, this book is indispensable. Those who are prepared to make the effort to study this book with an open mind and their full attention will recognise the Truth that Massey laboured so long and hard to convey; that Ancient Egypt was truly The Light of the World.
Isis Unveiled: a Master-key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology—by H. P. Blavatsky
2 vols in slipcase. 1500pps. Theosophical Publishing House, USA
(ISBN: 978-0-8356-0247-1) Softcover. Price new $39.95. Verbatim with the original edition of 1877. Also available second-hand from Abe Books and other booksellers from as little as £10.00.
AVAILABLE FROM Quest Books and other booksellers
digitised text also available to read online at Sacred-texts.com
The sub-title of this seminal work on the age-old wisdom says all in a few words. If we take just about any modern scientific 'discovery' we will invariably find that it is covered in considerably more detail and with much greater accuracy in this book. The same applies to magic, mysticism and so-called 'New Age' thought. Indeed, it is true to say that Isis Unveiled contains more original and accurate information on a vast range of scientific, psychological, philosophical, theological and occult subjects than any other book published in the last few centuries.
The title of the book is somewhat misleading. It was never intended to unveil the Egyptian goddess who here represents the wisdom imparted in secret to the trusted Initiates of the Ancient Mysteries. Blavatsky's original title was The Veil of Isis, through which shimmering vesture the neophyte was permitted to glimpse the lesser mysteries of the goddess...and no more. But when the book was being printed, it was discovered that the title had already been used by W. Winwood Reade in 1861 for his book on the mysteries of the Druids. The publisher suggested Blavatsky change her title to Isis Unveiled, to which she reluctantly agreed, though the various facsimiles of the first edition still bear her original, and more apt title, at the head of every page!
Isis Unveiled first made known to the modern world the existence of the once-universal Wisdom-Religion. In doing so, it not only demonstrated that science does not have all the answers, but that the ancients were in possession of hidden knowledge as yet undiscovered by any scientists. In this connection it must be remembered that when Isis Unveiled was published in 1877, there were no books to be had that contained anything more than the skeletal remains of this Wisdom; only broken shards of the shining Mirror of Truth remained, each incomplete fragment of which was interpreted in diverse ways by minds of variable ability (and mixed motives) who had long since lost the keys to the secrets of the goddess Wisdom.
It is impossible in a short notice such as this to begin to do justice to the wealth of information in this book, but the following subjects should give the reader some idea of the vast range of themes it embraces: physics, chemistry, biology, geology and astronomy; energy, force, matter, electricity and magnetism; alchemy, astrology and magic; psychic phenomena and spiritualism; time, space and eternity; the world soul and what it is; vital force, elementals and elementaries; vampirism; miracles; healing; hypnotism; clairvoyance, clairaudience and psychometry; the origins of Christianity; sorcery, witchcraft and black magic; who Jesus really was; kabala; gnostics and gnosticism; the Vedas, Puranas and Upanishads; Buddha; world Saviours; true seership and true religion. Any one of these subjects might fill several books, and we may say, often have, without their authors acknowledging the source of their misappropriated information and pretended erudition!
Finally, we feel it is important to add that Isis Unveiled forms an integral part of one complete revelation and should be studied together with The Secret Doctrine (reviewed below), which it both elucidates and presages.
Several 'abridged' editions of Isis Unveiled are now in print. One of these 'new' versions, published in 1997, claims to have "stripped the book of its lengthy quotations from other writers and its repetitious commentary". Words fail us! It is just such presumptuous and inept meddling that is responsible for the parlous state of nearly every inspired text that has come down to us. For this reason we cannot recommend the 'improved' editions produced by Michael Gomes and others in recent years. See also the note accompanying our review of The Secret Doctrine below.
IMPORTANT NOTE! As we update this page in April 2015, Quest Books (part of the Theosophical Society in America) have 'improved' their website. But as far as we can tell all they have 'improved' is the promotion their many New Age titles whilst consigning H. P. Blavatsky's sublime writings to the inaccessible depths of their website! Nor are we at all sure if the versions of Blavatsky's books they currently sell are verbatim with the original editions. If in doubt, please ask us, and we will try to help if we can.
The Secret Doctrine—by H. P. Blavatsky
The Synthesis of Science, Religion and Philosophy
2 vols. 1571pps. Theosophical University Press, USA
(ISBN 10: 1557000034) Hardcover. Price new US$49.95. 1984 Centennial edition verbatim with the original edition of 1888. Also available second-hand from Abe Books and other booksellers from as little as £20.00.
AVAILABLE FROM Amazon.co.uk and other booksellers
digitised text also available to read online at Sacred-texts.com
Continuously in print for over 100 years, The Secret Doctrine remains the most complete and comprehensive sourcebook of the Wisdom of the Ages ever published. As Blavatsky herself says in her preface: "The aim of this work...is...to rescue from degradation the archaic truths which are the basis of all religions; and to uncover, to some extent, the fundamental unity from which they all spring; finally, to show that the occult side of Nature has never been approached by the Science of modern civilisation."
These words are as true and relevant today as when she wrote them more than 120 years ago. The book directly addresses and answers the age-old questions: the continuity of life after death, the purpose of existence, the problem of good and evil, and the nature of consciousness. Based on the archaic Stanzas of Dzyan with corroborating testimony from over 1,200 literary and scientific sources, The Secret Doctrine reveals and elucidates the Ancient Mysteries and unlocks the hidden language of myth, symbol and allegory, helping the student to comprehend the hidden meaning concealed beneath the often abstruse symbolism of the world's sacred literature.
The Secret Doctrine is not an "easy" book to read for those with little or no occult knowledge. The fact is that it was NEVER intended for such, or even for the majority of 'occultists' and 'mystics'. The latter being those who wish to have their own pet fancies and fantasies confirmed, rather than learn the Wisdom of the Ages Blavatsky expounds in this book. But for the few who are genuinely in search of Truth, the Light that shines from the golden leaves of the The Secret Doctrine will be a revelation that will open the door to a hitherto undreamed of world of wisdom, beauty and wonder; constituting an edifice of unbelievable grandeur and sublimity. Such will join the ranks of appreciative readers like Albert Einstein, who always kept a copy of the Blavatsky's master-work by his bedside. For those who find the book too 'difficult', or worse, will insist upon associating it with "racist" conspiracy fantasies, there are plenty of more "colourful" occult books which may be more to their taste.
Several abridged and annotated editions of The Secret Doctrine have been published in the last few years. An example of this is the paperback edition by Michael Gomes published in 2009, which at 288 pages, contains barely 20% of Blavatsky's original text. Many of these 'editors' no doubt meant well, but the net result of their meddling is the distortion and misrepresentation of H. P. Blavatsky's master-work. Please take this warning seriously! Not only in this instance, but whenever you wish to obtain the most definitive and original edition of any book.
For these reasons, the edition of The Secret Doctrine WE recommend is published by the Theosophical University Press of Pasadena, USA. This is a photographic facsimile of the first two-volume edition of 1888 bound into one volume and verbatim with it.
The Key to Theosophy—by H. P. Blavatsky
Softcover, 370pps plus Index, 53pps. Theosophical University Press, Pasadena, California, USA, 1972/87. Unabridged, verbatim reprint of the original edition of 1889. (ISBN: 978-0-7229-5063-0) Softcover. Available used from as little as £3.00. Newer editions may be incomplete: see note accompanying our review of Isis Unveiled above.
AVAILABLE USED FROM Abe Books and other booksellers
digitised text also available to read online at The Theosophical Society
For those who are daunted by the sheer size and complexity of H.P. Blavatsky's two masterworks (Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine—both reviewed above), this book is an excellent introduction to the ancient Wisdom she first brought to the attention of a Western audience. Written in direct response to the many questions about the ancient Wisdom put to her by her students in the form of questions and answers, the book unfolds the fundamental principles of occult science in clear and easily understood language.
The many subjects covered include: the septenary constitution of man, evolution and illusion, the difference between soul and spirit, what memory really is, past lives, reincarnation, post-mortem and post-natal consciousness, karma; spiritualism, what happens after death, prayer, charity, asceticism, marriage, the masters of wisdom, and the fundamental unity of all things.
The book contains a 61 page glossary of religious, philosophical and occult terms, including definitions of many obscure Sanskrit words, which readers unfamiliar with the subjects discussed will find extremely useful.
Readers should NOT be put off by the word 'theosophy', which simply means the 'wisdom of God', that is Divine Knowledge or Science. Whilst the book was written at the request of some members of the Theosophical Society, and is studied by the Society's members to this day, it is emphatically not a 'publicity' tract for the Theosophical Society, nor was it intended solely for its members. On the contrary, this masterly exposition of the Wisdom of the Ages should appeal to all genuine seekers after Truth, and as such, we heartily recommend it to them.
There is an abridged version of this book edited by Joy Mills, published in 1972, which at 194 pages, contains less than 50% of Blavatsky's original text. For this reason we recommend that you obtain the unabridged, verbatim edition described
The Apocryphal New Testament
—translated by M R James
The Apocryphal Gospels, Acts, Epistles and Apocalypses with other narratives and fragments translated by M. R James.
616pps. Oxford University (Clarendon) Press, Oxford, 1924, 1953, etc. Hardcover. Price second-hand from £12.00.
AVAILABLE FROM Abebooks.co.uk and other booksellers
This book contains a number of important texts excluded from the New Testament on the life and secret teachings of Jesus and the Apostles. One of these is The Revelation of Peter which we have quoted from in our Glimpse of Heaven. It is a sad fact that many occult students neglect the study of these writings in the mistaken assumption that they are spurious texts of questionable provenance that contain nothing of interest to them. Nothing could be further from the truth. Apocryphal does not mean "spurious" as the majority are taught to believe, but hidden away from the multitude, as we have explained in the previous review.
Jesus affirms this when he tells his Disciples: "Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables" as we may read in Mark 4:11. And as there is a very great deal "hidden away" in the parables of Jesus, so too, is much Truth and Wisdom concealed in the Apocryphal New Testament.
We would also recommend the Bible in the King James Authorized edition ONLY together with the general (Old Testament) Apocrypha in a good edition. It does not matter that some of the Gospels are duplicated in these books. Indeed, studying the differences between them can be a valuable exercise in sifting truth from error and half-truths from downright falsehoods.
A 'revised' edition of this book was issued in 1994 with new material and a new translation by J. K. Elliot who has so "modernized" and "improved" James' text that much of the meaning has been lost. The fact of the matter is that it takes an inspired and enlightened author to even attempt to translate texts of this nature, and we do not need to tell you that such gifted men and women do not grow on trees for publishers to pluck at random whenever it suits them. For these and other reasons WE prefer M R James' translation.
Qabbalah: The Philosophical Writings of Solomon Ben Yehudah Ibn Gebirol, or Avicebron—by Isaac Myer
First published Philadelphia 1888. Reprinted by Samuel Weiser Inc, New York, 1970 (1st Ed.) & 1972 (2nd Ed). Hardcover, 497pp inc 26pp index.
ISBN 0-87728-008-8. Copiously illustrated with monochrome plates throughout. Price second-hand from £25.00.
There is also a paperback edition published by Elibron Classics in 2001, which is a photographic (facsimile) reprint of the 1888 edition, available from Amazon.co.uk, price new £9.99—see direct link below.
AVAILABLE FROM Amazon.co.uk 532pp, ISBN 978-1402185038
The Qabbalah (also written "Kabbalah", "Cabala", etc), which word means "doctrines received by tradition"—is a system of Jewish theosophy that played an important part in the establishment of the Christian Church. As such, it is a valuable work for the study of the origin of religions and their philosophy in general, and the origin of the formulations, dogmas and doctrines of early Christianity in particular. We would add that Isaac Meyer's book has nothing whatsoever to do with the fashionable craze of 'kabbalah' popularised by various Hollywood celebrities in recent years!
First published at the author's own expense in 1888, Meyer's Qabbalah remains the most accessible and readable summary of these important Hebrew writings that we know of. The book includes a short account of the life and writings of the philosopher, Solomon ben Yehudah Ibn Gebirol or Avicebron; some parts of the Qabbalistic philosophy, quotations from the Zoharic books, explanations of many New Testament passages, the basic element in Religions, and extracts from the so-called "Pagan" writers on the Invisible and Visible and the Ideal and Real. In addition, the book contains Qabbalistic accounts of the Creation which should be of interest to every seeker, for it is only by carefully comparing the various accounts to be found in the sacred books of all times that the diligent student may arrive at a true conception of the origins of Man and the Universe. The book also contains important discussions upon the nature of illusion, sound, colour and rhythm, and an interesting article on an Ancient Lodge of Initiates.
For those interested in making a deeper study of Jewish Mysticism it is important to get as close as possible to the original sources upon which the early philosophers erected the doctrine and teaching of the Kabbalah. For this reason we also recommend two further classic books on this system of Jewish theosophy. These are: The Kabbalah: its Doctrines, Development, and Literature by Christian David Ginsburg, published by G Routledge & Sons, London, 1920 and The Kabbalah or the Religious Philosophy of the Hebrews by Adolphe Franck (translated by I. Sossnitz) 1926. This latter book is available to read online in HTML format at the Internet Sacred Text Archive. We review this superb compendium of sacred and occult texts on our Links page.
For those who wish to obtain Isaac Meyer's book, reviewed above, we recommend the edition published by Weiser Books in 1970/72 (ISBN 0-87728-008-8), OR the photographic reprint by Elibron Classics published by Adamant Media Corporation in 2001 (ISBN 978-1402185038). We do not recommend the Kindle and other electronic editions sold by Amazon and other sellers, as these often suffer from missing or blurred pages, missing or poorly scanned pictures, and other imperfections that make such ebooks virtually unreadable.
The Occult and the Curative Powers of Precious Stones
by William T. Fernie M.D.
Originally published in 1907 under the title Precious Stones: For Curative Wear; and other Remedial Uses; Likewise The Nobler Metals.
486pps. HarperCollins; 1981. Softcover. Price second-hand from £5.00.
AVAILABLE FROM Amazon.co.uk and other booksellers
Although it was first published more than 100 years ago, W. T. Fernie's seminal source book on the various occult, alchemical, historical, mythological and magical lore and properties associated with precious stones and minerals has never been equalled. The book is a virtual encyclopedia of invaluable information about stones and metals, and copiously enlivened with anecdotes and historical information on how precious and semi-precious stones and metals were used in the past.
Given the present-day fascination with "crystals" and the very many uses (and we may say many more "abuses") to which they are now put, the serious student of occultism will find this book indispensable if he or she wishes to learn real facts rather than the fanciful speculations of New Age "crystal healers", many of whom have little or no understanding of the true properties of the materials they employ with such enthusiasm.
Several editions of this book have been issued, notably by Rudolf Steiner Publications, so it should not be difficult for the interested reader to obtain a copy at a modest price.
Where and how to buy occult books
Most of the occult books we have reviewed are readily available in various editions and formats, both new and second-hand, and should not prove expensive. Many occult books are now available to read online, but we would caution you that some of these may contain errors and omissions. For these reasons we recommend that you try to obtain the specific editions we suggest in our reviews. If you are unsure which edition is best, please contact us and we will do our best to assist you.
Readers who are tempted to buy modern 'print-on-demand' reprints of the titles we recommend and/or Amazon Kindle editions are WARNED that these are often incomplete and may contain many errors and omissions. As more old occult books go out of copyright, an increasing number of "publishers" are scanning and digitizing the original editions and releasing them as substandard print-on-demand paperbacks or ebooks and selling these on to companies like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
We have indicated where to obtain the occult books we have reviewed, but this information is subject to change as titles go in and out of print and/or stock and web links are updated. In most cases a web search will return results from various sellers, and it is also worthwhile contacting booksellers directly. Don't rely on online lists of titles in stock as these are often out-of-date. Do try charity shops, as these often stock rare or unusual books at bargain prices. You will find a short list of booksellers specialising in occult books in the UK and USA below.
Occult booksellers and publishers
Whilst we try to keep this list up-to-date, these websites may become temporarily or permanently unavailable at any time.
- Abe books—one of the largest online sellers of second-hand books.
- Atlantis Bookshop—London's oldest independent occult bookseller. Please note that this website has been unavailable for some time due to reconstruction. However, there are full contact details on their temporary webpage.
- Magis Books—mail-order bookseller based in Leicestershire, in the UK.
- Occultique—mail-order only bookseller based in Northampton, established in 1973. Wide range of classic occult books at reasonable prices. After a long absence online, Occultique have launched a new website which is not particularly easy to use or cross-browser compatible. We hope they will improve it!
- Watkins Books—esoteric bookshop in London, established over 100 years ago. Watkins' website is a joy to browse; fast, well laid out and easy to use.
- Wizards Bookshelf—mail-order bookseller based in Michigan, USA.
Wizards Bookshelf sells the H. P. Blavatsky Secret Doctrine Reference Series, which includes such rare and valuable titles as On the Mysteries of the Egyptians, Chaldeans and Assyrians by Iamblichus (see review above). Most of their titles are inexpensive smith-sewn, hardcover books which will last for years.
- Weiser Antiquarian Books—mail-order bookseller based in Maine, USA. Weiser stock a good selection of classic books on Alchemy, Hermetics, Theosophy and Mysticism, including many scarce and out-of-print titles unobtainable elsewhere. However, we feel compelled to warn our readers that the rarer items Weiser sell are often expensive, so if you are on a tight budget, it is best to look elsewhere for cheaper editions or reprints.
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