Occult fiction books

We review ten occult fiction books which reveal the ancient wisdom and many occult truths

Zanoni—by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

First published 1842. George Routledge and Sons, London, 472pp.
Available new (softcover and hardcover) and second-hand in many different editions, formats and sizes.

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Bulwer-Lytton ranked Zanoni amongst the highest of his prose works. The book describes the eternal conflict between the lower and Higher Self, between wisdom and ignorance, love and passion, set against the dramatic background of the French Revolution. The novel is divided into seven parts, whose titles indicate the sevenfold path of spiritual development. It is in the fourth section—'The Dweller of the Threshold'—that the author reveals some of the most closely-guarded of occult secrets—albeit in such a manner that only the very Few will recognise them for what they are.

Whilst we are not going to give you any clues to these secrets in this brief review, we do reveal who the mysterious 'Dweller of the Threshold' is in our investigation of the fabled Elixir of Life published in 2020. We would add that we have heard the most fantastic and fanciful explanations from quite famous and well-known occultists as to who the 'Dweller' is, but none of them have come even close to the solution we give in the aforementioned article.

The book is not 'light reading', especially for those ignorant of occult lore, but it is a most enjoyable one, with a wonderfully poignant and ultimately tragic love story woven into the narrative. As a treatise upon occult philosophy, initiation and magic it has few equals, nor has a more compelling portrait of a true magician in the shape of the Adept of the title, ever been drawn in fiction.

In the neophyte Glyndon, whom Zanoni entrusts to the care of his Master, Mejnour, for his instruction in the magic arts, we encounter a very typical seeker; by turns credulous and sceptical, burning with insatiable curiosity, yet incapable of sustained effort and impatient for the satisfaction of his own selfish desires. Like the moth, he flutters briefly toward the Light that calls to his Higher Self, only to fall back to earth again with burned wings...

Finally, Mejnour has received poor treatment at the hands of reviewers over the years, who focus upon his 'cold', 'stern' inhumanity. We prefer to see in him the ideal of a genuine Master who has risen above mere sentimentality the better to irradiate the world of men with the sunny rays of his spiritual compassion and wisdom, whilst himself remaining hidden.

To sum up, as Bulwer-Lytton himself stated, this book is "a truth for those who can comprehend it, and an extravagance for those who cannot." Bulwer-Lytton wrote two other 'occult' novels, A Strange Story, published in 1861 and Vril—the Power of the Coming Race, published in 1871. Both books are reviewed below and are also well worth reading.

A Strange Story—by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

First published 1861. George Routledge and Sons, London, 537pp.
Available new (softcover and hardcover) and second-hand in many different editions, formats and sizes. Price from £10.00.

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strange story lytton

This luminous novel opens with the arrival of the narrator, Dr Fenwick, in an unnamed county town in the north of England. The place is the epitome of 19th Century prim and proper middle-class respectability, whose snobbish, superficial society is presided over by the formidable Mrs Colonel Poyntz. Some readers may find the early chapters rather heavy-going, but the pace soon picks up with the curse of a dying man and the introduction of the mysterious Margrave, and we are at once plunged into a chilling occult mystery every bit as gripping and instructive as Zanoni.

The charming but sinister Margrave is gradually revealed as a black magician who has lost his soul in the pursuit of occult knowledge for selfish ends. Beginning as the headstrong Louis Grayle, the magician contracts a fatal disease from which he is rescued by an Eastern Sage whom he murders in order to obtain the fabled 'Elixir of Life'. Upon awakening from his seeming 'death', he knows not who he is or whence he came. Believing himself to be the natural son of Louis Grayle, whom he dimly remembers, he takes the name of Margrave. As Margrave he is cursed with a double consciousness, working evil spells in his astral body, and knowing nothing about these crimes in his waking life.

The discerning reader will recognise that in Margrave, Fenwick and Lilian—a beautiful young woman who becomes the love of the former and the doom of the latter—the author has symbolized the three principles of Instinct, Intellect and Intuition which we investigate elsewhere on this site. The credulous scientific scepticism of the doubting Fenwick (intellect) and the handsome, but amoral and utterly ruthless, Margrave (instinct), are contrasted with the intuitive Lilian, who sees all through the heart. Bulwer-Lytton calls these three principles 'soulless nature', 'intellect' and the 'pure-thoughted visionary' in his introduction to the book, and each has a specific connection with the three main principles of Man which we discuss and explain in the first part of our occult studies course.

The book is filled with many correct descriptions of magical practices, such as the preparation of the mysterious 'Elixir' mentioned above, words of power, astral bodies, invocations and other aspects of ceremonial magic. Moreover, the book reveals much of the ancient wisdom, and as such we highly recommend it.


The Coming Race—by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

First published 1871. George Routledge and Sons, London, 248pp.
Available new (softcover and hardcover) and second-hand in many different editions, formats and sizes. Price from £10.00.

AVAILABLE FROM Abe books and other booksellers



We do not know when this seminal occult novel acquired its modern prefix of Vril, which was not used in the first or subsequent English editions, so we have omitted it from the title of our review. The novel is narrated by a young American explorer who accidentally stumbles into a subterranean world occupied by beings with superhuman powers who call themselves the Vril-ya.

A very great deal of nonsense has been written about 'Vril' ever since the book was published. This has spawned numberless conspiracy theories, pseudo-scientific claptrap and even secret occult societies, all more or less incredible and fantastic. The author provides his own enigmatic explanation of this mysterious agent in Book VII, where we may read: "There is no word in any language I know which is an exact synonym for Vril. I should call it electricity, except that it comprehends in its manifold branches other forces of nature, to which, in our scientific nomenclature, differing names are assigned, such as magnetism, galvanism, etc."

Paracelsus called this agent the 'Archeus', other occultists have called it the 'astral fluid' or 'Odic force', which mean the same and are the same, as you can read in our article on why matter matters. Bulwer-Lytton then quotes the following statement by the far-seeing scientist, Faraday: "I believe . . . that the various forms under which the forces of matter are made manifest have one common origin; or, in other words, are so directly related and mutually dependent, that they are convertible, as it were, into one another, and possess equivalents of power in their action." This is pure Occult Science as many of our regular readers will recognise.

In the course of the novel we discover that the Vril-ya are the descendants of a technologically advanced antediluvian civilisation who live in a network of subterranean caverns illuminated by the aforementioned 'Vril', which they have mastered through long training and practise, enabling them to fly through the air, extend their lifespan well beyond the normal 'three score years and ten', and perform 'miracles' we can only dream of. Of course, these are not miracles at all, but simply the intelligent employment of Nature's hidden forces.

Although Bulwer-Lytton does not mention Atlantis, or even use the word anywhere in the book, it is quite clear that the Vril-ya are intended to portray the Atlantean race at the height of their civilisation. Their peculiar physiology, psychic abilities, technological attainments and stature (most are over 7 feet tall) are in every way the same as the Atlanteans described by Plato, H. P. Blavatsky and other writers. It is primarily for this reason that we recommend this book.


Winged Pharaoh—by Joan Grant

First published by Arthur Barker, London, 1937. Available in various reprinted editions and formats from as little as £5 second-hand.

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winged pharaoh

This is one of those very rare past-life novels written by a psychic that rings true.

The book begins with the birth of 'Sekeeta'—destined to become the 'Pharaoh' of the title—and continues to narrate her life story from childhood through her moving initiation into the Mysteries, to old age and death. Grant's descriptions of life in Egypt during the 1st Dynasty are both compelling and poetic. At times her language rises to such heights as to carry the reader into a higher and better world—bringing tears of mingled joy and sadness to one's eyes.

The book gives many absolutely correct explanations of occult laws and principles as well as some of the secret teachings of the Egyptian Mystery Schools. Sadly, it also contains some glaring errors, but we know of no books that do not. Nevertheless, we feel that this book has immense value and will not disappoint all those who truly love Ancient Egypt and wish to learn her Sublime Mysteries, as well as those who simply want to know about the real history of the past of this magical land.

Joan Grant wrote several 'far memory' novels, but with the exception of The Eyes of Horus and The Lord of the Horizon, both of which are also set in Egypt, we do not regard them with the same approval as Winged Pharaoh. Her later books lack the innocent purity which characterize the first-fruits of her seership, perhaps because she was then short of cash and under pressure from her publishers!

NOTE: You can read an extract from Winged Pharaoh in the afterword to 'An Egyptian Enigma' that tells the true story of Menes — a pharaoh of the First Dynasty. The main article consists of an occult interpretation of an enigmatical ancient Egyptian eschatological text which has puzzled scholars for hundreds of years. You can read about Joan Grant's psychic abilities in the Afterword to our investigation of the ancient Egyptian mystery of the Judgement of the Dead, as well as in our Afterword to our investigation of Psychicism and Spirituality.

Eyes of Horus—by Joan Grant

First published by Methuen & Co., London 1942. Available in various reprinted editions and formats from as little as £5 second-hand.

AVAILABLE FROM Amazon.co.uk and other booksellers

eyes of horus

Like Winged Pharaoh, reviewed above, the Eyes of Horus is another fruit of Joan Grant's remarkable gift of seership, through which she was able to accurately recall a past life lived in ancient Egypt at the close of the XIth Dynasty, over 5,000 years ago. This was a very dark period in Egypt's long history when the Light had all but been extinguished and the land was ruled by a long line of despotic and ineffectual Pharaohs, abetted by a power-hungry Priesthood addicted to black magic, vice and corruption.

The book is narrated in the first person by Ra-ab, heir to the Nomarch of the Oryx, one of eighteen nomes or provinces into which Egypt was divided at that time. As he grows to adulthood, Ra-ab learns that the Oryx nome is an oasis of justice, peace and goodness in a sea of corruption which has inundated the rest of Egypt with fear and wickedness. Beyond the Oryx, evil priests have replaced the worship of Ra with that of Set and the temples once filled with Light have become sinks of iniquity and dark magic.

Under the wise leadership of Roidahn, a far-seeing Initiate, a secret brotherhood is born in the Oryx, dedicated to restoring the Light throughout Egypt. Styling themselves the 'Watchers of the Horizon', members of the brotherhood go forth in disguise as the 'eyes of Horus' to gather information and recruits in preparation for the overthrow of Pharaoh and the corrupt government of the land. Ra-ab plays a leading role in these momentous preparations, and when the time is ripe, leads the army of the Oryx and its followers into battle, utterly overcoming the forces of evil and restoring Egypt to its former glory. Fear is sent into exile, and once more the temples and shrines of Egypt are filled with the servants of God, spreading the Light of His Love and Wisdom throughout the land.

On its publication in 1942 during the dark days of the Second World War, the Times Literary Supplement (TLS) summed up this remarkable book with the following review: "This book is warm with the sunshine of Egypt, delicate with the beauty of its homes and palaces, its surpassing art; there are scenes of horrible torture which a few years ago could have been read as curiosities of a long dead past, but which to-day are only too tragically familiar from our newspapers; there are stories of graft, of insolent luxury and idleness, also unpleasantly familiar, but through all runs the spirit of chivalry and heroism and faith that are, too, very familiar today. Ra-ab, the Warrior, heir of the Peace of God, who writes the book, speaks with a voice that those who today are seeking illumination will welcome as the voice of a friend."

Although Great Britain is no longer at war, we are living in times of great test and trial. Corruption, greed and oppression are once more endemic and people suffer under despotic and cruel rulers in many parts of the world, similar in so many ways to the dark period described in the Eyes of Horus. The solution now, as then, is to awaken the True Light of God's Love, Compassion and Goodness in the hearts and minds of mankind. This is the principal reason we have reviewed this book and warmly recommend it to all lovers of truth and beauty who, in the words of the TLS review, 'are seeking illumination.'

NOTE: We review the sequel to this book—The Lord of the Horizon—which describes what happened in Egypt after the overthrow of the dark Dynasty below, as well as selected extracts from it in the sidebar at right.

Lord of the Horizon—by Joan Grant

First published by Methuen & Co., London 1943. Available in various editions and formats from as little as £5 second-hand.

AVAILABLE NEW FROM Amazon.co.uk and other booksellers

lord of the horizon

Lord of the Horizon is the fourth of Joan Grant's "Far Memory" novels. Set in Egypt at the close of the dark XIth Dynasty, some 5,000 years ago, it is a profound and moving commentary on the insidious evil of fear and the power of the Light to dispel it. The story is told in the first person by Ra-ab-Hotep who takes up the narrative from where it ended in The Eyes of Horus—reviewed above. Ra-ab is twenty-one when the story begins and the heir to the ruler of the powerful Oryx Nome, one of the eighteen provinces into which Egypt was divided at that time.

The dawn for which he and the Watchers of the Horizon fought in The Eyes of Horus has come, but it proves no easy task to fulfil the Watchers' promise to 'Send Fear into Exile'. The new Pharaoh, Amenemhet I, marries the young daughter of the deposed Pharaoh of the dark Dynasty which has just been overthrown, unwittingly paving the way for her mother, a Babylonian princess addicted to black magic, to attempt to rule Egypt and the new Pharaoh through her daughter. Like a hideous spider, she spins a web of intrigue and dark magic which threatens to plunge Egypt back into the darkness.

To say any more would spoil the story for new readers. What we can say is that the many themes running through the book, such as fear, guilt, power, manipulation, obsession, love and hatred have rarely been explored more sensitively or profoundly by any writer. The story of Amenemhet's wayward and arrogant son Senusert, who is destined to become one of Egypt's greatest Pharaohs, takes up a major part of the narrative. It is a story that might have been written today, dealing as it does with many of the challenges that afflict today's troubled children. Challenges which describe the eternal conflict between the Higher and lower selves we discuss in so many of our articles.

In the Wisdom of Egypt in the sidebar we have quoted a few extracts from The Lord of the Horizon to give you a taste of the elevated teachings the book contains as well as something of the lustrous Light that shines forth from its inspired pages. For these reasons, as well as many others, we heartily recommend this book to all lovers of truth, beauty and wisdom.

NOTE: The prequel to this book—The Eyes of Horus—which describes what happened in Egypt before the restoration of the Light is reviewed above.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde—by Robert Louis Stevenson

First published by Longmans, Green & Co., 1886. Available new (softcover and hardcover) and second-hand in various editions and formats.

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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Most readers will be familiar with Robert Louis Stevenson's famous allegory of good and evil. Very few however, are aware that the novella is an accurate study of the nature and attributes of the Higher and lower selves, also called the Higher and lower minds. H. P. Blavatsky said of this book that "no grander psychological essay on Occult lines exists," and we agree.

It is interesting that Stevenson named Dr. Jekyll's evil twin 'Hyde', for in most persons the worst aspects of their lower self are well hidden. It is only when exceptional circumstances arise that the real wickedness, viciousness and ruthlessness of the lower self are displayed. We are sure you have encountered examples of this in your own life when those whom you considered to be friends suddenly revealed a darker side to their character that you never dreamed existed. The same applies to the Higher self too, whose virtues are seldom recognised and in many persons are so well disguised as to give the impression that they do not possess any at all! When their hitherto hidden goodness and generosity of spirit suddenly burst forth, we are astounded and perplexed in equal measure.

This teaches us, as Stevenson's tale does too, that we do not see people as they really are. At best we may catch glimpses of the angel or the devil in them, at worst behold a composite reflection of their dual nature which is as false as the image we see in a distorting mirror at the fair. Of course, most people are neither as evil as Mr Hyde nor as sanctimoniously good as Dr. Jekyll. Nor does the average man or woman ever give full expression to the good they might do, or the evil they would do, because each self acts as a restraint upon the other, so affirming the Occult Truth that we all enter this earthly life partly blest by our Higher Self and partly cursed by the desires and passions of our lower self.

This provides several hints as to what schizophrenia really is, and many other manifestations of mental disease. In Stevenson's story, Jekyll at first finds the transformation into Hyde liberating. He is able to indulge all the worst passions and evil desires of his lower self to the full without any restriction or censure. However, a reaction soon sets in and a battle royal commences which can only end with the victory of one or other Self. Stevenson cuts short this interior turmoil by having Dr. Jekyll commit suicide.

But in 'real' life death is no escape, for the suicide who cuts short his allotted tenure on earth will have to fight his battle anew in the non-physical dimensions, where conditions may be very much worse and the struggle all the harder. What is more, when he does return to earth in his next incarnation, the problems he attempted to escape from will still need to be overcome . . . all over again. But read the story for yourself and see just how much is concealed in this story, which some carping critics consider to be nothing more than thrilling 'Gothic' horror!

She—by H Rider Haggard

First published 1886. Available in new (softcover and hardcover) and second-hand in many different editions, formats and sizes.

ALSO AVAILABLE FROM Amazon.co.uk and other booksellers


We doubt whether any of you have not heard of this book. Having sold 83 million copies in 44 different languages, it remains one of the best-selling books of all time. This is not only a remarkable testament to Rider Haggard's literary genius, but also to the fact that it is possible to conceal the highest occult truths in plain sight! Rider Haggard was one of those very rare individuals who could throw his mind back to the very distant past and bring back completely accurate descriptions of those faraway times. He probably did this quite unconsciously, for there is no evidence to suggest that he was ever directly involved with Occultism.

We will not spoil your enjoyment by telling you the plot, except to say that the story involves two companions who journey from England to a lost kingdom in the African interior. There, they encounter a primitive race of natives and a mysterious being, Ayesha, who reigns as the all-powerful 'She' of the title. The detailed descriptions Rider Haggard gives of her Kingdom of 'Kôr' are absolutely correct for certain parts of Atlantis as they were thousands of years ago, though the author never mentions the name of the contentious continent! No doubt to avoid censure from both literary critics and the reading public who were just as scathingly sceptical about Atlantis then, as most are today.

Finally, the 'prequel' and sequel to She are also well worth reading. If anything, these books are even more mystical in tone and contain sublime passages that might have been written by an Initiate. These books are respectively Wisdom's Daughter (1923) and Ayesha—the Return of She (1905).

NOTE: We made an illustrated PDF edition of this book freely available in March 2021. See download link above.

When the World Shook—by H Rider Haggard

First published by Longmans, Green and Company, 1919. 407pp. Available new (Perseus Books, September 2012, softcover, 360pp) and hardcover (second-hand) in many different editions, formats and sizes.

AVAILABLE FROM Amazon.co.uk and other booksellers


world shook hagard

Whilst this little-known adventure story is not generally regarded as an "occult novel", we include it here because, like She (reviewed above), it contains absolutely correct descriptions of the conditions, sciences, inventions and arts that existed in parts of Atlantis in the very distant past.

Some critics have dismissed this book as "pulp fiction", though they generously admit it is "high pulp"—whatever they may mean by that. They are entitled to their opinion, but when we find such inspired passages as the following we feel justified in regarding such criticisms as the product of closed and unenlightened minds firmly embedded in the mire of material thinking.

"I tell you we, too, are gods, if only we can aspire and believe. For the doubting and the timid there is naught. For those who see with the eyes of the soul and stretch out their hands to grasp there is all." The book is full of such passages, proving, if proof were needed, that Rider Haggard was able to intuitively grasp the age-old occult truths which we have endeavoured to re-state on this website. If this is "pulp fiction" let us have more of it!

Without giving away too much of the plot, we may say that When the World Shook is the story of three very different companions (Bastin, Bickley and Arbuthnot) who find themselves marooned on an unknown south sea island. There they encounter the last two members of a mysterious advanced race, who have spent the previous 250,000 years in a state of suspended animation. Needless to add, this "race" is Atlantean, though neither the author nor any reviewers openly state this.

The value of the book for the serious occult student lies not in the adventure itself (though this is as gripping and eventful as any of Rider Haggard's other tales), but rather in the very many references to, and discussion of, various occult principles and psychic abilities. Among the former may be mentioned, "force", "attraction and repulsion" and "heat and light"; and among the latter, 'astral projection', telepathy and hypnotism and suggestion.

The book makes much use of allegory and symbolism, not least in the shape of the three principal characters, who are shadowy figures as human personalities, but powerful symbols for Instinct (Bastin), Intellect (Bickley) and dawning Intuition (Arbuthnot). In the same way, the "Life-water" which sustains the two "Atlanteans" who our heroes revive in the shape of the "Lord Oro" and his beautiful daughter "Yva", is very much more than the "Elixir of Life" sought by the Alchemists. As we discuss in our investigation of this mysterious substance, it also stands for the Sacred Mysteries, which is truly the "water of the wise" from which they draw their knowledge and spiritual, as opposed to material, life.

Oro and Yva also provide the discerning reader with a revealing portrait of the two opposing aspects of the Atlantean race. One, devoted to Divine Wisdom and the other to the acquirement of psychic, as opposed to spiritual power. Consequently, When the World Shook is very applicable to our modern world and the battles being waged between the forces of Light and Darkness. You can read an extract from this book in 'Memories of Atlantis', the afterword to our article about the story of Atlantis.


With the Adepts: an Adventure Among the Rosicrucians—by Franz Hartmann. William Rider & Sons, London, 1910.

Available new (softcover) and second-hand (softcover and hardcover) in various editions

AVAILABLE FROM Amazon.co.uk and other booksellers

Digitised e-text available to read at the Sacred Text Archive

with the adepts

Originally published in 1910, 'With the Adepts' was the first of Franz Hartmann's books to expound his occult ideas and beliefs in a 'fictional' setting. It is written in an easygoing style that will appeal to seekers and students of all abilities and experience who are looking for a compact "primer" on the occult sciences.

The tale begins with a journey in the Alps where the narrator meets a mysterious dwarf. The dwarf takes him to a 'Rosicrucian' Adept who lives in a hidden monastery high in the mountains. The Adept and his circle expound on a variety of Occult themes, including alchemy, past lives, telepathy, clairvoyance, astral travelling, elementals and the acquisition of psychic powers.

The narrator also meets some of the other residents of the mountain retreat, including two mysterious (and very beautiful!) lady 'initiates' who recount their vivid memories of previous lives. The book also includes an interesting demonstration of the transmutation of silver into gold using the famous "red powder" of the alchemists.

To conclude, this is an odd book from a rather odd Occultist, in which truth and error are equally mixed; much as they were in Hartmann's own colourful life. Nevertheless, this is a good read, enlivened with charming descriptions of Nature and many true elucidations of occult practises rarely found in fictional accounts of "adepts."

NOTE: In 2022 a new edition of this book appeared under the title of The Land of the Gods. It purports to be "the long hidden story of visiting the Masters of Wisdom in Shambhala" as related by no less an occult luminary than H. P. Blavatsky! The publisher states that the book was first published anonymously in 1887 under the title An Adventure Among the Rosicrucians by the pseudonymous 'A Student of Occultism'. This is true. However, a clear inscription above the printer's name reads: "Copyright, 1887. By Franz Hartmann."

The book begins, as does the third edition of 1910, with the words: "I am penning these lines in a little village in the Alpine Mountains, in Southern Bavaria, and a short distance from the Austrian frontier." There is no mention of 'Shambhala' anywhere in Hartmann's book! That fantasy together with the many colourful additions and excisions which distinguish this implausible imposture from his book, are all the work of the anonymous 'editor'. We are also informed that the book has been "copy-edited using gender-neutral language to meet the expectations of modern readers." This admission alone is enough to dismiss the book as a shambolic, diabolical liberty!

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