5 Answers

  1. First, Manley P. Hall's Foundations of Esoteric Knowledge, because it popularly expounds a worldview that can be called typical of a North American or European esotericist.

    Secondly, the same Manly Hall “Encyclopedic exposition of Masonic, Hermetic, Kabbalistic and Rosicrucian symbolic philosophy” because it essentially sets out the main esoteric topics.

    Third, Colin Wilson's work “The Occult” as an alternative to M. Hall's detailed excursion into the history of esotericism.

    1. “History of Magic” by Eliphas Levi and his “Teaching and Ritual of high Magic”. Not only because it is one of the founders of the tradition of European esotericism of the XIX-XX centuries, but also because it is the view of a former abbot.

    2. Stanislas de Guaita “The Serpent of Genesis”. He revealed the topic of confrontation between magic lovers.

    3. The Complete System of Magic of the Golden Dawn by Israel Regardie as the most complete literary monument remaining from the acclaimed British Order.

    4. The encyclopedia of Andre Nataf “Masters of the occult”. To know, so to speak, who is who.

    5. Mircea Eliade “Occultism, witchcraft and fashion in culture” as a point of view of one of the greatest masters of religious studies.

    6. Alexandra David-Neel's “Enchanted by Mystery” is, in my opinion, a fair criticism of some mystics and esotericists.


    1. Rene Guenon's “Symbols of Sacred Science” is, in my opinion, the most intelligent work of this famous thinker on symbolism in cultures and traditions.
  2. A good bibliography of research and primary sources on these topics can be found on the website of the Association for Esotericism and Mysticism Researchers: aiem-asem.org

    From the Russian-language works, I would probably single out the collection ” Magic Crystal. (Magic through the eyes of sorcerers and scientists)”. Although the book is quite old (1994), it reveals the topic in an interesting way, showing different perspectives on esotericism – from strictly scientific to insider.

  3. Perhaps you can add Evelyn Underhill's unfairly overlooked book ” Mysticism “(published by Sofia in 2000), as well as many confusing with the previous author Elizabeth Vanderhill “Mystics of the twentieth century”, and this whole series of publishing house MYTH-Lockid will help to orient the beginner.

  4. The most sensible books on mysticism and esotericism are the works of Idris Shah. A small clarification: they are considered among those who really have Knowledge. Not among the majority, because the majority are profanators and amateurs “hooked” on Osho, who, perhaps, is the opposite of Shah.

    From the original Russian-language works, I would single out the book of Absalom Underwater “Signs on the way”. Written in the early 80's, it was originally called “Treatises” by Alexander Tikhomirov.

  5. There is also such an interesting and poorly understood topic by modern researchers as New Age, or, in the words of the British religious scholar Paul Hilas, Subjective life spirituality. I haven't seen anything written in Russian, but there are some interesting English-language works. First of all, these are the books and articles of the already mentioned Hilas The New Age Movement (1996) and The Spiritual Revolution: Why Religion is Giving Way to Spirituality (2005). These books are not available in the public domain, but it is quite easy to Google articles by Hilas, who describes the spiritualistic broth of various yoga, humanistic psychology, holistic medicine, etc.in which modern man is brewed and calls this very broth “The Postmodern religion of consumer society.”

    The real encyclopedia of the New Age is Gollancz Wouter Hanegraaf's book” New Age Religion and Western Culture ” (1996) New Age Religion and Western Culture: Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought).

    Hanegraaf and Hilas attempt to reconstruct the New Age way of thinking by identifying such typical features as: 1) Concentration on the Self, on the so-called “self-development”; 2) Holism (holistic medicine such as homeopathy treats “the whole person”, and holistic “alternative” education such as Walfdorf educates “the whole” child, etc.); 3) Alternative New Age science, or rather pseudoscience, that is, the desire for a “scientific explanation” of esoteric knowledge, for example, juggling terms from well-known but poorly understood currents of modern science such as of quantum physics; 4) largely resulting paranoia, constant harping themes conspiracy “authorities,” “establishment” (in the case of holistic medicine medical Corporation or pharmaceutical companies) who hide from the people the “true knowledge”: Hanegraaff notes that from the point of view of many adherents of the new age ordinary people indoctrinatory, they have been “brainwashed” by the propaganda, etc. 5) Commercial component: not only do the various incarnations of the New Age themselves usually represent a successful business (here I recall the term of American religious scholars Stark and Bynebridge Client oriented cult), New Age practices are aimed at achieving success, “implementation” here and now. It is often meant to increase the level of well-being of a particular individual through “self-development”.

    Hilas and Hanegraaf are a must-read for anyone interested in researching the phenomenon of the spread of modern ” personal spirituality.” There are a lot of other interesting studies, such as the work of the British Elizabeth Puttick, who mainly wrote about women in New Age sects and NSD (she herself was a long-time member of the Osho organization). But she also wrote quite a lot and interestingly about such a thing as the Human Potential Movement (Wikipedia rather clumsily translates as “Movement for the Development of Human Potential”), more precisely about how psychology merged with modern esotericism and actually became an integral part of the New Age.

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