REVIEW: The Inner West, Jay Kinney (ed.)

Does walking into a book shop, looking for intelligent titles on esoteric subjects, give you the cold shivers? Scanning through the ‘New Age’ or ‘Self-Help and Spirituality’ sections, hoping to find that rare jewel amongst the reams of pop titles written with the dollar in mind? Here’s a book you might enjoy.

The Inner West (available from Amazon US and UK) is subtitled “An Introduction to the Hidden Wisdom of the West”, and rarely has a description fit so well. Editor Jay Kinney (with the credentials of Gnosis magazine behind him) has assembled a marvellous array of short essays on the wide range of essential subjects in Western esotericism. The book is arranged into five distinct areas:

  • The Esoteric Roots of the West – features articles on gnosticism, Hermes Trismegistus and alchemy and the star-gods of neo-Platonism.
  • The Inner Side of the Religions of the West – covers Christian mysticism, the Kabbalah, and Sufism
  • The Secret Teachings – delves into Wicca, the Western magical tradition, the Tarot and astrology
  • Esoteric Brotherhoods – investigates the background of the Knights Templar, the Rosicrucians, and Freemasonry
  • Mystics and Teachers – discusses identities like Swedenborg, Blavatsky, Steiner, Gurdjieff, Guenon and Rene Schwaller de Lubicz

This type of format suits the subject matter – esoteric subjects can make for over-indulgent, turgid prose and I’m sure many ‘beginners’ have lost interest due to the difficulty in collating a solid foundation from which to research further. In The Inner West, the essays are on a number of subjects – allowing the reader to pick and choose the topic which interests the most – and are also short and to the point. That is not to say that they lack information, simply that they seek to give a thorough overview of the subject without exploring the myriad complexities inherent in such topics.

The wide range of subjects provides for a fruitful reading experience – for me personally, I was well-acquainted with a number of the topics, and yet I was still able to read most of the book with great interest, and after finishing felt like I had certainly learnt a great deal (I’m still digesting the essay on René Guénon). However, I also raised a suspicious eyebrow at a few claims made, such as Robert Richardson’s contention that the Great Pyramid was used by Egyptian priests to simulate death and have out-of-body experiences (OBEs) in. Certainly though, considering the territory covered, there are far less caveats than one might expect when reading this book.

If you are interested in the esoteric traditions, I highly recommend The Inner West. It’s the sort of book that one has pride to put on your bookshelf, and we should all be supporting such thoughtful efforts to ensure that they remain a viable publishing option. It’s certainly very affordable, and it packs quite a punch – if you consider yourself just getting started on your spiritual journey, make a true investment.

(The Inner West is available from Amazon US and UK)

Editor
  1. So
    After reviewing your review, I have come to a sudden realization that fresh material is scant. The number of topics covered in this book would certainly preclude anything indepth or ground-breaking. So, it’s obvious that you are starving for subject material. You have lowered your standards to meet and enjoy whats relevantly been released in the catagories that interest you.
    More field work would be appreicated by us all.
    Its quite comfortable for authors to trod over fields that have been throughly plowed, reclaiming the same old soil that has generated fruit for so many years.
    I like fresh fruit. After digesting the same information, a number of times, I tend to pass up the worn out dish that gets pushed my way.
    However, I remember when I was like you. Just like you.

    dd The rung of a ladder was never meant to rest upon, but only to hold a man’s foot long enough to put the other somewhat higher.

    1. A Question
      Hi DD,

      > More field work would be appreicated by us all.

      > However, I remember when I was like you. Just like you.

      I’m sure if I’m that far behind you then you don’t need any fieldwork done at all. I’m happy to promote a book that serves as an introduction to new seekers out there, and reject your suggestion that I’ve lowered my standards.

      TDG has a wide audience to cater for, subject-wise and ‘learning level’-wise, so please don’t get too upset when things aren’t tailored for your direct satisfaction. I try my best, but my hours are limited.

      Peace and Respect
      Greg

      1. i see
        Hello Greg.
        I feel inclined to point out that my comments were not intended to insinuate that your ability to review a work is anything less than excellent. I enjoy your reviews. The above ‘anon post (i try and not respond to anon posters), seems to be the one that got upset here, and considers my statements as bashing you. more to the point, i will point out again. any published material for sale should contain a majority of fresh material and ideas, for it to garner top consideration at the store. why spend top dollar on material thats available in libraries, and covered extensivly throughout the internet?
        i see your point. your review is considering an audience who may have just found interest in one or more of the many areas covered in this book.
        so with this many topics covered, how many pages does the book contain?

        dd I have seen the future and it is just like the present, only longer

        1. Pages
          Hi DD,

          > so with this many topics covered, how many pages does the book
          > contain?

          The book is just over 300 pages. And I must clarify that while I’m well acquainted with many of the subjects I didn’t find the book ‘simple’ or boring at all…just some really nice short essays on various intriguing topics. Certainly not for all tastes, but I think a good addition to my bookshelf certainly (and one that I hope my children will one day scan through).

          Peace and Respect
          Greg

          ——————————————-
          You monkeys only think you’re running things

    2. dd is resting on the rung
      “Don’t bash others’ reviews until you’ve published something yourself.” Anon

      Greg is too nice to bash, but I’m not. Why, dd, is it only a “sudden realization that fresh material is scant”? Have you been asleep under a tree for the past 100 years? If you know there to be a dearth, I kindly suggest you get off your lazy mind and write something interesting, which I feel certain you can.

  2. Don’t Believe This…
    I’m the publisher of “The Inner West,” so take none of my self-interested remarks at face value, but here goes: first, thanks to Greg for a thoughtful and balanced review and, second, regarding the question of freshness that has animated the exchange above: Freshness can be found in tone and persepctive as much as in subject. Yes, we may have read before about certain topics within the esoteric culture (although never quite as many as we think), but freshness comes from a writer’s capacity to bring a tone of skepticism, intellectual seriousness, and color to a topic — such as the work of Rene Schwaller de Lubicz — that is often treated listlessly. The Inner West may be the most accessible collection of esoterica ever assembled. But don’t take my word: you can actually read samples of some of the pieces (for free) at: http://www.lumen.org.
    Cheers, Mitch Horowitz (www.mitchhorowitz.com)

    1. Thanks, Mitch
      Oh Gods what a wonderful site! The archived articles alone will keep me happy for days and thinking for years. Thank you!

      To sit in silence when we should protest makes cowards out of men

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