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.