Understanding the Traditionalists

Artist rendition of René Guénon. Credit: Pierre Laffillé (published in Planéte Plus, April 1970)

By JOSCELYN GODWIN Traditionalists, for present purposes, means the loosely-constituted group inspired by René Guénon (1886-1951). Many of them also revere Ananda K. Coomaraswamy (1877-1947). Later Frithjof Schuon (1907-1998) became central to the group, while the work of Julius Evola (1898-1974) partly overlapped with the others. Any one of these four can serve as a gateway to the movement and its quest for the esoteric truth that transcends religious differences. That is their first mission. … [Read more...]

Has Consciousness Evolved?

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By RICHARD SMOLEY The idea that consciousness is evolving is one of the most important doctrines of the New Age. But is it true? Over the long term, the answer seems obvious. Even the stupidest of humans is far more intelligent and sophisticated than a trilobite. Although materialists have skirted the conclusion that evolution has a direction – and that this direction is toward greater complexity – they have not managed to shoot it down. The New Age idea of evolving consciousness is a … [Read more...]

The Rebirth of Gnosticism: An Interview with Dr. Stephan A. Hoeller

Dr. Stephan A. Hoeller, Presiding Bishop of the Ecclesia Gnostica in Los Angeles

By RICHARD SMOLEY One of the most compelling themes of current times is Gnosis – the idea of a transcendental knowledge that, like enlightenment, liberates the individual from bondage to the world of suffering. While Gnosis and Gnosticism were long relegated to the archives of memory as heretical and obsolete aspects of early Christianity, over the last few generations their ideas have resurfaced, displaying an unforeseen power and resonance. Stephan A. Hoeller is among the leading … [Read more...]

Is Your God a Devil?

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By RICHARD SMOLEY It is one of the most familiar and reassuring lines in scripture: “The Lord is my shepherd.” But when you think about it, the metaphor is a disturbing one. It’s true that a shepherd looks after his sheep. But he also shears them and kills them and eats them. Does the God we adore act totally with our best interests at heart, or are we a species of livestock that he uses for his own ends? Voices have occasionally uttered doubt, not about the existence of the gods, but … [Read more...]

Will Thinking Make It So? An Interview With Mitch Horowitz

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By RICHARD SMOLEY Much of today’s writing about spirituality is loaded with nonsense. Often it consists of little more than wild speculation, shoddy reasoning, and the repetition of a few stale truisms. A very small number of writers and editors have climbed above this morass to combine spiritual depth with intellectual acumen and literary polish. Mitch Horowitz is one of them. A writer and publisher of many years’ experience with a lifelong interest in man’s search for meaning, he is … [Read more...]

The Secret History of Astrology

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By RICHARD SMOLEY The history of astrology is in many ways the history of a polemic. The question of whether astrology works, as crucial as it is, is soon buried under other issues, such as what this might have to say about human free will and whether the stars and planets that govern our fates are benign, malevolent, or neither. These issues have been debated for thousands of years. Before we get into them, however, we should probably begin with why astrology is the way it is. To do this, … [Read more...]

Sister Veni Cooper-Mathieson: Pioneer Thinker & Metaphysical Teacher

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By WALTER MASON Australia has a long tradition of self-help literature and much of it was written, in the early years, by colourful characters who embraced a hodgepodge of new and progressive ideas which included Theosophy, New Thought, Swedenborgianism, Socialism, Christian Science, temperance, vegetarianism and marriage reform. This connection between minority religious and social philosophies and ideas of individual mental development was to be observed across the Western world from the late … [Read more...]

The Dual Search for the Philosophers’ Stone

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By RICHARD SMOLEY To say what the Philosophers’ Stone – the great goal of alchemy – is, one has to know. And to know, one must have attained it. I cannot claim to have done this, so what follows must be speculation. The mystery grows deeper the closer one attempts to look. Even to say what alchemy itself is proves difficult. Of course, everyone knows what alchemy is – or thinks he knows: it is an outmoded form of science in which men in conical hats cooked and mixed various strange … [Read more...]

Ritual Magic in Theory & Practice

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By RICHARD SMOLEY Several years ago I decided to do an evening-long introduction to ritual magic at the New York Open Center, one of the city’s best-known gathering places for mind, body, and spirit activities. Soon before it was about to start I told myself, with some surprise, “My God! I’m about to do ritual magic with a bunch of people who have walked in off the streets of New York!” Despite my apprehensions, the evening went off well. Power was raised, channelled in a certain direction, … [Read more...]

Cultivating Consciousness in an Unconscious World

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By RICHARD SMOLEY— Politicians constantly evade the truth. Why can they get away with it? According to a recent study conducted at Harvard University, it’s because people have such terrible attention spans. Behavioural scientist Todd Rogers of the Harvard Kennedy School and Michael I. Norton of the Harvard Business School conducted a simple experiment to see when and whether people can detect a dodge. They recorded a speaker answering a question about universal health care (a controversial … [Read more...]