"Samizdat Sah-miz-daht, Russian suh-myiz-daht a clandestine publishing system within the Soviet Union, by which forbidden or unpublishable literature was reproduced and circulated privately. A work or periodical circulated by this system. "Illegal and clandestine copying and sharing of literature," 1967, from Rus. samizdat, lit. "self-publishing," from sam "self" + izdatel'stvo "publishing," probably a word-play on Gosizdat, the former state publishing house of the U.S.S.R. One who took part in it was a samizdatchik (pl. samizdatchiki)."

Arabic Antecedents of Alchemy

Another “oriental” influence is that found in the Western alchemical traditions, deeply influenced by Islamic spiritual practices and philosophies. The entire history of alchemy passes through Islamic alchemical traditions, inherited from the Greeks, but is infused with Islamic spiritual ideas regarding the alchemical processes. Jabir ibn Hayyan (fl. c. 760 CE), later known as Gerber (in Latin), a Persian Sufi living in southern Arabia, was believed to be the author of many alchemical texts, showing a clear attribution to “oriental wisdom” in the transmission of alchemy to the Medieval west. The mystical style of the Jabir corpus reflects many Sufi ideas and may have been authored by the Iranian brethren of Purity (c. 1100). However, one text, the Kitab Sirr al-Khaliqa wa San`at al-Tabi`a (Book of the Secret of Creation and the Art of Nature), attributed to Jabir, c. 800, who in fact attributes this text to Apollonius of Tyana, is the basis for the single most popular text in Western Hermeticism, translated into Latin (1140) as the Tabula Smaragdina (Emerald Tablet) (43).

This text, transiting from Greek to Syriac, to Arabic, to Latin and finally to modern European languages, is a symbolic testimony to the interweaving of classical, “oriental” and later European alchemical and hermetic thought. The very term alchemy (al-kimia) is, of course, Arabic transmitted from the Greek (chemeia) and carries with it a fusion of Greek and Arabic ideas, as expressed in the famous, influential alchemical text, the Turba Philosophorum (“Conference of Philosophers,” c. 900 CE, translated into Latin by the 13th century) which combines pre-Socratic philosophy with Islamic-Sufi ideas (44). Maslama ibn Ahmad’s The Aim of the Wise was translated into Spanish and Latin, where it became known as Picatrix (1256). Many other Arabic influences (Razi, Avicenna, and so on) can be traced in the history of western alchemy, stemming particularly from the 7th through the 11th centuries (45).

–Lee Irwin, “Western Esotericism, Eastern Spirituality, and the Global Future.”

On Metempsychosis, or Reincarnation

“Indian contact with the Greeks can be traced back to Alexander the Great, establishing trade and exchange between the eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East (Persian), and India. The classic narrative of this relationship is found in the Life of Apollonius of Tyana (recorded by Philostratus, c. 220 CE). Apollonius journeyed to India to study at the sacred hill of the Indian “wise men marked with a crescent on their foreheads”. When Apollonius (d. 98 CE) was asked about why he came on such a long journey, he replied “Your ways are wiser and much more godly”, clearly indicating a classic Greek respect for Indian thought at the time of Roman Philostratus (36).

Another example, far more significant, is that of the teachings of the Persian religious leader, Mani (c. 245 CE). According to Mani’s teachings, the Apostles of Light sent by Jesus to redeem humanity included the Buddha and Manichaeism is distinctively influenced by Buddhist ideas, such as Mani representing himself as the Buddha to come, Maitreya (37). In esoteric circles, Iranian syncretic religions (such as those of Kushan) came to be regarded as influenced by both Greco-Roman and Indo-Iranian ideas, ideas that have carried over into the history of various forms of Western Esotericism but are little studied (38).

One of the significant esoteric teachings contained in the Life of Apollonius, recorded as a teaching of the Indian sages, is that on reincarnation. When Apollonius asks about the nature of the soul, he is told that, like Pythagoras and Plato, human beings live many lives in diverse bodies based on past actions. Further, the Indian sages claim that this teaching which was taught to the Greek philosophers in Egypt was transmitted to the Egyptians by ancient Rishis’ of India who migrated to north Africa (Ethiopia) from the Ganges River basin (39).

The belief in reincarnation or metempsychosis has very ancient roots in India and is the probable source of that belief in the classical period of formative Gnosticism (40). Gnostic teachers such as Basilides propagated the idea along with other groups such as the Carpocratians and Ophites, and it was popular among various Neoplatonists such as Alcinous, as well as taught by the archetypal magician, Simon Magus. It was also taught by Mani as the fate of the “Hearers” who did not attain perfection (41). Gnostic texts such as the ZostrianosThe Treatise on Resurrection, and the later Pistis Sophia further propagated ideas of reincarnation for the “inpenitent soul” that it might try again to attain the goal of liberation from worldly life (42). Thus a very early Indian influence in Western Esotericism may have roots in the spread and popularity of ideas of reincarnation, also found in early elements of Christianity but later repressed.”

–Lee Irwin, “Western Esotericism, Eastern Spirituality, and the Global Future.”

On the Mahatmas

“The fact that the Masters were living human beings made their revelations of cosmic and spiritual truth, say the Theosophists, more valuable than alleged revelations from hypothetical Gods in other systems of belief. That their knowledge is, in a manner of speaking, human instead of heavenly or “divine” should give it greater validity for us. The Mahatmas were, it is said, in direct contact with the next higher grades of intelligent beings standing above them in the hierarchical order, so that their teachings have the double worth of high human and supernal authority. This, occultists believe, affords the most trustworthy type of revelation.”

–Alvin Boyd Kuhn,  A Modern Revival of Ancient Wisdom, pg. 85.


“…the esotericism of the doctrines was, in a manner, an automatic safety device. The teachings would appeal to those who were “ready” for them; their meaning would soar over the heads of those for whom they were not suited.”

–Alvin Boyd Kuhn,  A Modern Revival of Ancient Wisdom, pg. 84.

Sometimes You Find What You Seek

“For once there is thunder he never heard, light he never saw, and power which trifles with time and space.”

–Alvin Boyd Kuhn,  A Modern Revival of Ancient Wisdom, pg. 17.

Simmel on Secrecy and Secret Societies

“The structure of the group is often with the direct view to assurance of keeping certain subjects from general knowledge. This is the case with those peculiar types of secret society whose substance is an esoteric doctrine, a theoretical, mystical, religious gnosis. In this case secrecy is the sociological end-unto-itself.” Simmel, “Sociology of Secrecy,” pg. 476-7.

–Kocku von Stuckrad, “Secrecy as Social Capital,” in Andreas Kilcher, Constructing Tradition, Means and Myths of Transmission in Western Esotericism, 2010, pg. 239-42.

–Georg Simmel, “The Sociology of Secrecy and of Secret Societies,” American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 11, Issue 4 (Jan., 1906), pp. 441-498.


Legendary Histories

“The claim had to be substantiated through the construct of a history stretching back to Adam and the very beginning of mankind through a chain of transmitters of the art of geometry, or the Royal Art as it was called by Anderson. This chain of initiates included not only Biblical figures such as Noah and his three sons Japhet, Shem and Ham, Moses (called General Master-Mason and Grand Master), and King Solomon; but also persons like Pythagoras, Euclid, Archimedes, Vitruvius, and Augustus, a history leading from antediluvian times, through antiquity and the middle ages all the way to the eighteenth century. The similarity with philosophia perennis is striking: the legendary history of Freemasonry shares the discourse found in philosophia perennis that the transmitted knowledge represents a continuity of true wisdom through history.”

–Henrik Bogdan, “The Sociology of the Construct of Tradition and Import of Legitimacy in Freemasonry,”  in Andreas Kilcher, Constructing Tradition, Means and Myths of Transmission in Western Esotericism, 2010, pg. 227.

The Lost Volumes of The Secret Doctrine

There was a third and a fourth volume of Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine, which never made it into print. The third volume was typed by third parties, so it is independently confirmed that it existed. Where is it now? The third volume dealt with the “lives of the great occultists down the ages.” The fourth volume was allegedly “almost entirely written, but likewise went to oblivion instead of to the printer.” Where are its drafts?

Kuhn writes:

“The whole book professes to be a commentary on the Stanzas of Dzyan, which HPB (Helena Petrovna Blavatsky) alleged to be a fragment of Tibetan sacred writings of two types, one cosmological, the other ethical and devotional. The Secret Doctrine elucidates the former section of the Stanzas, and her later work, the Voice of the Silence, the latter. The Stanzas of Dzyan are of great antiquity, she claimed, drawn from the Mani Koumboum, or sacred script of the Dzungarians, in the north of Tibet. She is not sure of their origin, but says she was permitted to memorize them during her residence in the Forbidden Land. They show a close parallel with the Prajna Paramita Sutras of Hindu sacred lore.

There are of course charges that she invented the Stanzas herself or plagiarized them from some source. Max Müller is reported to have said that in this matter she was either a remarkable forger or that she has made the most valuable gift to archeological research in the Orient. She says herself in the Preface:

“These truths are in no sense put forward as a revelation; nor does the author claim the position of a revealer of mystic lore, now made public for the first time in the world’s history. For what is contained in this work is to be found scattered throughout thousands of volumes embodying the scriptures of the great Asiatic and early European religions, hidden under glyph and symbol, and hitherto left unnoticed because of this veil. What is  now attempted is to gather the oldest tenets together and to make of them one harmonious and unbroken whole. The sole advantage which the writer has over her predecessors, is that she need not resort to personal speculation and theories. For this work is a partial statement of she herself has been taught by more advanced students, supplemented in a few details only, by the results of her own study and observation.”

–Alvin Boyd Kuhn,  A Modern Revival of Ancient Wisdom, pg. 110.

Why Constitute a False God when you have a Real Universe?

“Many old idols must be dethroned, chief of all being that of an anthropomorphized Deity, with its train of debasing superstitions.

“And now,” says K. H., “after making due allowance for evils that are natural and that cannot be avoided . . . I will point out the greatest, the chief cause of nearly two thirds of the evils that pursue humanity ever since that cause became a power. It is religion, under whatever form and in whatever nation. It is the sacerdotal caste, the priesthood and the churches; it is in those illusions that man looks upon as sacred that he has to search out the source of that multitude of evils which is the great curse of humanity and that almost overwhelms mankind.

“Ignorance created gods and cunning took advantage of the opportunity. Look at India and look at Christendom and Islam, at Judaism and Fetichism. It is priestly imposture that rendered these Gods so terrible to man; it is religion that makes of him the selfish bigot, the fanatic that hates all mankind outside his own sect without rendering him any better or more moral for it. It is belief in God and Gods that makes two-thirds of humanity the slaves of a handful of those who deceive them under the false pretense of saving them. . . . .

Remember the sum of human misery will never be diminished unto that day when the better portion of humanity destroys in the name of Truth, Morality and universal Charity the altars of their false Gods.”

“Neither our philosophy nor ourselves believe in a God, least of all one whose pronoun necessitates a capital G. . . . Therefore we deny God both as philosophers and as Buddhists. We know there are planetary and other spiritual lives, and we know there is in our system no such thing as God, either personal or impersonal. Parabrahm is not a God, but absolute immutable law, and Ishwar is the effect of Avidya (ignorance) and Maya (illusion), ignorance based on the great delusion. The word “God” was invented to designate the unknown cause of those effects which man has ever admired or dreaded without understanding them, and since we claim–and that we are able to prove what we claim–i.e., the knowledge of that cause and causes, we are in a position to maintain there is no God or Gods behind them.”

“The causes assigned to phenomena by the Mahatmas, he says, are natural, sensible, supernatural, unintelligible, and unknown. The God of the theologians is simply an imaginary power, that has never yet manifested itself to human perception. The cause posited by the Adept is that power whose activities we behold in every phenomenon in the universe. They are pantheists, never agnostics. The Deity they envisage is everywhere present, as well in matter as elsewhere.”

“In other words we believe in Matter alone, in matter as visible nature and matter in its invisibility as the invisible omnipresent omnipotent Proteus with its unceasing motion which is its life, and which nature draws from herself, since she is the great whole outside of which nothing can exist. . . . The existence of matter, then, is a fact; the existence of motion is another fact, their self-existence and eternity or indestructibility is a third fact. And the idea of pure Spirit as a Being or an Existence–give it whatever name you will–is a chimera, a gigantic absurdity.

“Why constitute a false God when you have a real Universe?”

“I do not protest at all, as you seem to think, against your theism, or a belief in abstract ideal of some kind, but I cannot help asking you, how do you or can you know that your God is all-wise, omnipotent and love-ful, when everything in nature, physical and moral, proves such a being, if he does exist, to be quite the reverse of all you say of him? Strange delusion and one which seems to overpower your intellect!

–Alvin Boyd Kuhn,  A Modern Revival of Ancient Wisdom, pg. 89-90.

Emerson and the Katha Upanishad

“The first stanza of Emerson’s poem “Brahma, Song of the Soul,” runs as follows:

“If the red slayer thinks he slays,

Or if the slain thinks he is slain,

They know not well the subtle ways

I keep, and pass and turn again.”

Could the strange ideas and hardly less strange language of this verse have been drawn elsewhere than from the 19th verse of the Second Valli, of the Katha Upanishad, which reads?:

“If the slayer thinks I slay; of the slain thinks I am slain, then both of them do not know well. It (the soul) does not slay nor is it slain.”

–Alvin Boyd Kuhn,  A Modern Revival of Ancient Wisdom, pg. 16.


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