When Aleister Crowley died in 1947, he was not an obvious contender for the most enduring pop-culture figure of the next century. But twenty years later, Crowley’s name and image were everywhere. The Beatles put him on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Rolling Stones were briefly serious devotees. Today, his visage hangs in goth clubs, occult temples, and college dorm rooms, and his methods of ceremonial magick animate the passions of myriad occultists and spiritual seekers.
Aleister Crowley is more than just a biography of this compelling, controversial, and divisive figure—it’s also a portrait of his unparalleled influence on modern pop culture.
Although he is often called the "founding father of the New Age," Carl Jung, the legendary Swiss psychiatrist best known for his groundbreaking concepts like the collective unconscious, archetype theory, and synchronicity, often took pains to avoid any explicit association with mysticism or the occult. Yet Jung lived a life rich in paranormal experiences-arguing for the existence of poltergeists in a debate with Sigmund Freud, participating in séances, incorporating astrology into his therapeutic work, reporting a near death experience, and collaborating with the pioneering ESP researcher J. B. Rhine. It is these critical experiences-often fleetingly touched on in other biographies or critical studies, and just as frequently used to make a case against Jung and his philosophies-that form the core of this exciting new biography, Jung the Mystic.
While Jung's ghostwritten memoirs, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, touch on the role his mystical and occult experiences played in his life, Gary Lachman's Jung the Mystic completes the circle: Lachman assesses Jung's life and work from the viewpoint of Western esoteric tradition and helpfully places Jung in the context of other major esoteric thinkers, such as Rudolf Steiner, G. I. Gurdjieff, and Emanuel Swedenborg. In that respect, this new biography appeals directly to the sensibility of spiritual readers who rightly see Jung as a pioneer of today's contemporary metaphysical culture.
Lachman concentrates on the period since the late 1800s, when Madame Blavatsky first brought the secret history out into the open. As this history unfolds, we encounter the ideas of many modern thinkers, from esotericists like P. D. Ouspensky, Rudolf Steiner, and Colin Wilson to more mainstream philosophers like Henri Bergson, William James, Owen Barfield and the psychologist Andreas Mavromatis. Two little known but important thinkers play a major role in his synthesis--Jurij Moskvitin, who showed how our consciousness relates to the mechanisms of perception and to the external world, and Jean Gebser, who presented perhaps the most impressive case for the evolution of consciousness.
An important contribution to the study of consciousness ... a must-read.
Foreword by Colin Wilson Introduction: Consciousness Explained The Search for Cosmic Consciousness Esoteric Evolution The Archaeology of Consciousness Participatory Epistemology The Presence of Origin Last Words: Playing for Time Selected Bibliography
"A marvelously exhilarating gallop through every important modern theory of consciousness, from Steiner to Maslow, from Bucke's 'cosmic consciousness' to Gebser's 'integral consciousness.'"--Colin Wilson, author of The Outsider and Access to Inner Worlds
"Opens up vast vistas of possibility, suggesting that what we experience as the earth may, in itself, be inseparable from our state of mind, and that the evolution of human consciousness may be as fundamental a process as our development through genetics. A must-read for those seeking an escape from our contemporary culture's cul-de-sac."--Daniel Pinchbeck, author of Breaking Open the Head
"Thinking outside the box, Lachman challenges many contemporary theories by reinserting a sense of the spiritual back into the discussion. Profoundly erudite, yet easy to read, this book is a provocative mind-stretcher."--Leonard Shlain author of Art & Physics, Alphabet versus the Goddess, and Sex, Time & Power.
This epic study unveils the esoteric masters who have covertly impacted the intellectual development of the West, from Pythagoras and Zoroaster to the little-known modern icons Jean Gebser and Schwaller de Lubicz.
Running alongside the mainstream of Western intellectual history there is another current which, in a very real sense, should take pride of place, but which for the last few centuries has occupied a shadowy, inferior position, somewhere underground.
This "other" stream forms the subject of Gary Lachman’s epic history and analysis, The Secret Teachers of the Western World.
In this clarifying, accessible, and fascinating study, the acclaimed historian explores the Western esoteric tradition – a thought movement with ancient roots and modern expressions, which, in a broad sense, regards the cosmos as a living, spiritual, meaningful being and humankind as having a unique obligation and responsibility in it.
The historical roots of our “counter tradition,” as Lachman explores, have their beginning in Alexandria around the time of Christ. It was then that we find the first written accounts of the ancient tradition, which had earlier been passed on orally. Here, in this remarkable city, filled with teachers, philosophers, and mystics from Egypt, Greece, Asia, and other parts of the world, in a multi-cultural, multi-faith, and pluralistic society, a synthesis took place, a creative blending of different ideas and visions, which gave the hidden tradition the eclectic character it retains today.
The history of our esoteric tradition roughly forms three parts:
Part One: After looking back at the earliest roots of the esoteric tradition in ancient Egypt and Greece, the historical narrative opens in Alexandria in the first centuries of the Christian era. Over the following centuries, it traces our “other” tradition through such agents as the Hermeticists; Kabbalists; Gnostics; Neoplatonists; and early Church fathers, among many others. We examine the reemergence of the lost Hermetic books in the Renaissance and their influence on the emerging modern mind.
Part Two begins with the fall of Hermeticism in the late Renaissance and the beginning of “the esoteric counterculture.” In 1614, the same year that the Hermetic teachings fell from grace, a strange document appeared in Kassel, Germany announcing the existence of a mysterious fraternity: the Rosicrucians. Part two charts the impact of the Rosicrucians and the esoteric currents that followed, such as the Romance movement and the European occult revival of the late nineteenth century, including Madame Blavatsky and the opening of the western mind to the wisdom of the East, and the fin-de-siècle occultism of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
Part Three chronicles the rise of “modern esotericism,” as seen in the influence of Rudolf Steiner, Gurdjieff, Annie Besant, Krishnamurti, Aleister Crowley, R. A Schwaller de Lubicz, and many others. Central is the life and work of C.G. Jung, perhaps the most important figure in the development of modern spirituality. The book looks at the occult revival of the “mystic sixties” and our own New Age, and how this itself has given birth to a more critical, rigorous investigation of the ancient wisdom.
With many detours and dead ends, we now seem to be slowly moving into a watershed. It has become clear that the dominant, left-brain, reductionist view, once so liberating and exciting, has run out of steam, and the promise of that much-sought-after “paradigm change” seems possible. We may be on the brink of a culminating moment of the esoteric intellectual tradition of the West.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Pioneer. Visionary. Provocateur. Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky—mystic, occult writer, child of Russian aristocrats, spiritual seeker who traveled five continents, and founder (with Henry Steel Olcott) of the Theosophical Society—is still being hailed as an icon and scorned as a fraud more than 120 years after her death. But despite perennial interest in her life, writings, and philosophy, no single biography has examined the controversy and legacy of this influential thinker who helped define modern alternative spirituality—until now.
Gary Lachman, the acclaimed spiritual biographer behind volumes such as Rudolf Steiner and Jung the Mystic, brings us an in-depth look at Blavatsky, objectively exploring her unique and singular contributions toward introducing Eastern and esoteric spiritual ideas to the West during the nineteenth century, as well as the controversies that continue to color the discussions of her life and work.
“Lachman identifies all the roles Swedenborg inhabited (spiritual thinker, psychic, scientist, inventor, statesman, traveler, and possibly even spy) and does an exceptionally good job of suggesting why this little-known polymath deserves more substantial critical attention.” – The Independent on Sunday (UK)
It is difficult to imagine modern Western alternative spirituality without the influence of Swedish scientist and mystic Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772). Every movement in alternative spirituality – from mental-healing and Spiritualism to New Age mysticism and the twelve-step recovery movement – owes an immeasurable debt to the ideas he exploded upon the Western world.
Yet Swedenborg’s work can be challenging for modern readers. His influence, everywhere at once, is difficult to get a handle on. Now, however, Gary Lachman provides an accessible, lively, and masterful introduction to the life and ideas of this spiritual giant. Lachman takes us to Swedenborg’s roots as brilliant rationalist and scientist who, well into mid-life, began to experience visions of other realms. From this point Swedenborg produced an extraordinary range of writings based on his out-of-body experiences, in which he related encounters with angels, other-planetary beings, and “the world of spirits.”
As Lachman explores, Swedenborg’s work opened up a radically liberal and refreshing ideal of religion. The great mystic saw humanity, and all of nature, as phenomena emerging from the “spiritual world,” and man as a vessel for divine influences. This vision inspired Western seekers to see man as a product of spiritual phenomena, and thus a being intimately connected with the cosmos. From this perspective grew bold new ideas about channeling, spiritual healing, mystical experience, mediumship – a litany of concepts that prefigured the revolutions in alternative and therapeutic spirituality.
People everywhere have heard of Waldorf schools, Biodynamic farming, Camphill Villages, and other innovations of the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). Indeed, Steiner-as an architect, artist, teacher, and agriculturalist-ranks among the most creative and prolific figures of the early twentieth century, pioneering work in alternative education, holistic health, and environmental research.
While his accomplishments are felt all over the world, few people understand this unusual figure. Steiner's own writings and lectures fill several bookcases, intimidating those who would like to know more. Works on Steiner are often dense and "insider" in tone, further deterring the curious. No popular biography, written by a sympathetic but critical outsider, has been available.
Gary Lachman's Rudolf Steiner provides this missing introduction. Along with telling Steiner's story and placing Steiner in his historical context, Lachman's book presents Steiner's key ideas in a readable, accessible manner. In particular, Lachman considers the spread of Steiner's most popular projects, which include Waldorf schools-one of the leading forms of alternative education-and Biodynamic farming-a popular precursor to organic farming. He also traces Steiner's beginnings as a young intellectual in the ferment of fin de si?cle culture, to his rise as a thought leader within the influential occult movement of Theosophy, to the founding of his own metaphysical teaching called Anthroposophy.
Finally, the book illustrates how Steiner's methods are put into practice today, and relates Steiner's insights into cosmology to the work of current thinkers.
Rudolf Steiner is a full-bodied portrait of one of the most original philosophical and spiritual luminaries of the last two centuries, and gives those interested in the history of ideas the opportunity to discover one of the most underappreciated figures of the twentieth century.
You will embark on the intellectual ride of a lifetime in this rediscovery of the life and work of writer, rebel, and social experimenter Colin Wilson (1931-2013).
Author of the classic The Outsider, Wilson, across his 118 books, purveyed a philosophy of mind power and human potential that made him one of the least understood and most important voices of the twentieth century. Wilson helped usher in the cultural revolution of the 1960s with his landmark work, The Outsider, published in 1956. The Outsider was an intelligent, meticulous, and unprecedented study of nonconformity in all facets of life. Wilson, finally, became a prolific and unparalleled historian of the occult, providing a generation of readers with a responsible and scholarly entry point to a world of mysteries.
Now, acclaimed historian Gary Lachman, a friend of Wilson and a scholar of his work, provides an extraordinary and delightful biography that delves into the life, thought, and evolution of one of the greatest intellectual rebels and underrated visionaries of the twentieth century.
From the Trade Paperback edition.