Hermetic occult books
We review several classic Hermetic books that should be in every occult student's library
Hermeticism or Hermetics is a religious and philosophical tradition based upon writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, the ancient Egyptian Sage. These writings affirm the existence of the Ancient Wisdom that is the foundation of all philosophies, religions and magical arts, and are essential reading for those who wish to learn it. We review several different books that explore the rich, philosophical and mystical heritage of ancient Egypt, many of which are free to read online. To learn more about this genre, read the note on the Corpus Hermeticum in the sidebar.
One of the books we review—the Apocryphal New Testament—may seem out of place in this list, but we assure our good readers that there is more Hermetic philosophy hidden in the Apocrypha and the Bible than in a thousand books about the so-called 'occult' and 'magical' arts of ancient Egypt written by contemporary, popular authors. We would also caution readers that the books we have reviewed on this page require careful, dedicated study. The profound truths they contain cannot be learned by merely skimming their contents in a haphazard manner.
Hermetic Arcanum—by Jean D'Espagnet
Aula Lucis 2023. Hardcover, reconstituted leather. Size 180 x 120 mm, 112 pp. Price new £40.00 from the publisher and various booksellers.
AVAILABLE DIRECT FROM THE PUBLISHER — AULA LUCIS
digitised text also available to read online at Sacred-texts.com
Hermetic Arcanum is one of the classic works of the Hermetic Art which describes the stages of the work of making the famous Philosopher's Stone. Fist published in Paris by Nicolas Buon in 1623, it almost immediately became one of the most influential alchemical treatises on the Great Work. Rather than have his name appear in print, Jean d'Espagnet concealed his name in an anagram: Penes Nos Unda Tagi. References to the book appeared thereafter in the works of such eminent alchemists as Thomas Vaughan, Eireneus Philalethes, Robert Boyle and many others. The first English translation was published in 1650 by Elias Ashmole, who professed his admiration for the author. Between 1893 and 1896, W. Wynn Westcott, one of the founders of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, produced a series of eight hermetic and alchemical editions under the series title Collectanea Hermetica of which Arcanum Hermeticum was the first volume. This edition of the book can be read online at the Internet Sacred Text Archive.
NOTE. Aula Lucis' quadricentennial edition of the Hermetic Arcanum is a tribute to the bookbinder's art. Limited to just 360 copies this fine, hardcover book is printed in full colour on Munken Pure Rough 100gsm paper. It is bound in genuine re-constituted leather, with red endpapers and a red ribbon, five black & white illustrations and presented with a scarlet letterpress bookmark.
The Kybalion: a study of the Hermetic Philosophy of ancient Egypt and Greece—by Three Initiates
176pps. TarcherPerigee 2018. Hardcover. Price new from £12.05. Various older editions in paperback and hardcover available second-hand from £5.00.
AVAILABLE TO READ ON THIS SITE IN PDF FORMAT
ALSO AVAILABLE FROM Amazon.co.uk and other booksellers
This important book on the fundamental principles of Hermetic Philosophy has been continuously in print for over 100 years. First published by the Yogi Publication Society in 1908, the Kybalion has been reprinted many times in different editions and formats, culminating in the leather-bound centenary edition illustrated at right, issued in 2018. So far as we have been able to ascertain this edition is verbatim with the original edition. Written with a clarity and brevity that is thoroughly in keeping with the precision of the language of ancient Egypt, the Kybalion is essential reading for any serious occult student who wishes to understand the seven universal laws that govern all material and spiritual phenomena.
The book sets out these laws in clear language all can understand and provides several hints as to how they may be applied to benefit ourselves and others.If you have not heard of this book and know little or nothing about these laws, we suggest that you first read Spiritus Hermeticum—a series of twelve articles which reveal the true teachings of Hermes Trismegistus. The primary thesis of the Kybalion is that everything which exists has its origin in the mind of the 'All', whether we consider this as 'God', the First Cause, or any other fundamental creative principle. It follows from this that the Universe and everything in it is of a mental nature and can be changed by the intelligent application of the seven Hermetic laws. In the order of their introduction in the book, these are: (1) Mentalism; (2) Correspondence; (3) Vibration; (4) Polarity; (5) Rhythm; (6) Cause and Effect; and (7) Gender, or Sex. This thesis is in full accord with the highest occult Wisdom of both East and West.
Ever since its first publication in 1908, speculation has been rife as to the identity of the mysterious 'Three Initiates' who wrote the Kybalion. The latest contributor to these fanciful speculations is Richard Smoley, an American author and 'philosopher' whose introduction to the centenary edition regurgitates the contemporary consensus that William Walter Atkinson, an American pioneer of the 'New Thought' movement, was the author. We can't be bothered to go through all the suppositious 'proofs' trotted out by the legions of modern 'occultists' and 'magicians' who agree with this consensus as the interested reader can easily find these enumerated on numberless websites and blogs. Suffice it to say that these claims can be debunked and disproved by anyone who has the slightest acquaintance with the true laws and principles of Occult Science as discussed and explained in our many articles.
It is our firm conviction that only an Initiate of the first rank could have written the Kybalion. Whether Atkinson had attained this eminence we do not know, nor does it matter a rap. As we say in several articles it is not who wrote something that matters but what is written! We are in no doubt that the seven universal laws the Kybalion describes and elucidates are not only correct in every way, but expound the very highest and deepest occult truths. It is for this reason alone that we cannot recommend this book highly enough to all since students of occultism. The fact that almost ever contemporary occult author and would-be 'magician' condemns the book as a 'New Age' fraud is proof enough of its authenticity and immense value!
NOTE. There are many previous editions and versions of this book, but we recommend the centenary edition published in 2018 which illustrates this review. For those with limited funds or who prefer to read online texts, there is a PDF produced by the Yogi Publication Society which we have made freely available to our readers (see link above). So far as we have been able to ascertain both these editions are verbatim with the original book of 1908. You can read more about the Kybalion in our article on the Hermetic philosophy of ancient Egypt.
The Book of the Dead
The Hieroglyphic Transcript of the Papyrus of Ani, the translation into English and an introduction by E. A. Wallis Budge. Published by the Trustees of the British Museum, 1895. Various editions and reprints—see below.
AVAILABLE FROM Abebooks.co.uk and other booksellers
digitised text also available to read online at Sacred-texts.com
The Egyptian Book of the Dead is essential reading for those who wish to thoroughly explore and understand the roots of Hermeticism. It is not a book for those who know little or nothing about ancient Egypt and her sublime mysteries. Nor is it a suitable introduction to these subjects, which are best approached through the books of Gerald Massey and G. R. S. Mead, also reviewed on this page. Least of all is it a compendium of so-called 'magic' spells intended to assist the departed in their journey through the underworld, which is the prevailing view among both Egyptologists and laymen. Wallis Budge knew better, which is why his translation of the Book of the Dead remains the most faithful and accessible ever made.
For reasons which we discuss in considerable depth in our three-part investigation of the Book of the Dead published in 2023, Budge is now sadly out of favour among modern Egyptologists, who consider his work hopelessly 'outdated', 'inaccurate' and 'irrelevant'. We hold the same opinion about his detractors, who possess none of the humility, sincerity, erudition or wisdom of the eminent scholar they calumniate in their dire ignorance. Budge's translation is essentially a literal one, and he did this quite deliberately so that "the reader may judge the contents of the book for himself," as he states in his preface. This is the polar opposite of modern translations which, in attempting to make the book comprehensible to contemporary readers who know nothing of occult symbolism and less of the ancient Egyptian religion, have succeeded in almost entirely eliminating any meaning in it.
The Egyptian title of the book is 'Pert-em-Hru', which has been variously translated as the 'Coming Forth by Day', 'Emerging into the Light', etc. These translations are considerably more apt than the accepted title of the book, which was never intended for the 'dead', but the 'living', if by living we mean those who are spiritually alive and awake, whether in a physical body, or out of it. The book is a résumé of the religious beliefs of the ancient Egyptians, the occult laws and principles found in the Corpus Hermeticum and a manual of instruction for the students of the ancient Egyptian Mysteries to guide them in their exploration and understanding of the non-physical dimensions. Which is why the book remains as much of an enigma as the famous Sphinx of Giza to both scholars and lay readers alike.
Whereas the Papyrus of Ani is largely a composition of the 18th Dynasty, the Book of the Dead itself was ancient even in the first Dynasty, more than 6,000 years ago. Generation after generation of pious Egyptians governed their lives according to its directions in the sure and certain knowledge that this would lead them into the higher realms of Light and Life after death and ensure a favourable re-birth in their next incarnation. And so it still can, if we know how to read the book and are able to put the wisdom and truths it contains into practise in our daily lives.
Moreover, unlike the Bible or the Hindu Puranas, the Book of the Dead has not suffered at the hands of generations of meddling 'editors', 'interpreters' and other well-meaning scribblers intent on 'improving' it for our edification. As such, the book is unique among the sacred literature of the past, and we have Budge to thank for making this masterpiece of Sublime Wisdom available for all to read and study. You can read more about the Book of the Dead in our three-part investigation of the book mentioned earlier, as well as in our articles on Symbolism and the meaning of Easter. You can also use our Search Engine to find more references to the book in many other articles we have published.
History of the book and editions
The Papyrus of Ani was purchased in 1888 by Sir E. A. Wallis Budge for the British Museum where it remains today. Before shipping the manuscript to England Budge cut the seventy-eight foot scroll into thirty-seven sheets of nearly equal size. In 1890 the British Museum issued a large folio colour facsimile of the thirty-seven sheets with an introduction by Peter le Page Renouf, then Keeper of the Department of Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities at the museum. This edition did not contain a hieroglyphic transcript or English translation of the text. It was followed in 1895 by Budge's translation of the Book of the Dead, reviewed above. Budge prepared three different kinds of books in a number of editions of his translation, all of which bear the same title as our review.
- Facsimiles of the papyri. The second edition of the Papyrus of Ani is sometimes called the 'first' because it included a hieroglyphic transcript and English translation of the text for the first time. This edition was published in 1895, in two volumes. The first volume (folio size, approximately 10 x 13 inches) comprising 377 pages contained the hieroglyphic texts and a transliteration and translation of them. The second volume (elephant folio, approximate size 16 x 21 inches) consisted of 1 title page and 37 captioned double-page colour plates of the Papyrus of Ani as illustrated above. No better colour reproductions of the papyrus have ever been published. This edition is now extremely scarce and prohibitively expensive.
- The Medici Society version. This was published in 1913 in London in two volumes, in octavo (8vo) size. The colour facsimiles were placed at the end of volume I in 37 fold-out plates. The text included substantial improvements over the two earlier folio editions. Supplementary chapters and sections were added from funerary papyri acquired by the British Museum after 1888. The translation and introduction were re-written by the author, making this a fully revised and new, third edition. It too is now scarce and expensive, though considerably cheaper than the folio edition of 1895.
- Small format edition. There have been numerous reprints of the second edition bound in one volume (or three volumes in one) in which the English translation is identical with that of the Medici Society version. However, some of them omit the hieroglyphic transcript and notes, and the black and white illustrations are often inferior in size and quality.
The best of these editions are listed below in order of publication, the first three of which are our personal recommendations. All are readily available and should not be expensive.
University Books Inc, Secaucus, New York, 1960-1977 (tenth printing). Hardcover, 664pp.
ISBN 0-8216-0021-4. This edition is identical with the Medici Society version, except that it is bound in one volume and the plates are in black and white. It includes the hieroglyphic transcript and notes and incorporates material from a pamphlet on the Book of the Dead published by Budge in 1920. This is the edition which illustrates this review.
Dover Publications Inc, London, 1967. Hardcover, 544pp. ISBN 10: 048621866X.
ISBN 13: 9780486218663. This is an unabridged reprint of the text of the original folio edition and is virtually identical to the University Books edition (see above). A softcover edition is available new direct from the publishers.
Routledge & Kegan Paul, London. 1969. Hardcover, 698pp, 20 plates (5 in colour and 420 b/w illus. Earlier editions of this book were published from 1928 onwards, but are essentially identical with this edition, which was simultaneously issued in the United States by Barnes & Noble.
Gramercy Books (an imprint of Penguin Random House), 1995. Hardcover, 736pp.
ISBN 10: 0517122839 / ISBN 13: 9780517122839. Also available in softcover, this edition is essentially identical to the foregoing editions.
There is also a new softcover edition by Penguin Classics, written (?) by John Rohmer, published in 2008, but as we have not seen this we cannot comment on its faithfulness to the Medici Society edition. In addition to the editions we have listed above, there are now countless print-on-demand reprints from dozens of different 'publishers', which are best avoided as they are likely to contain errors and omissions. Some of these so-called 'Books of the Dead' contain less than 200 pages!
Finally, the Internet Sacred Texts Archive have published an e-text of the 1895 edition which is free to read online. However, we feel compelled to point out that this lacks any illustrations, omits the hieroglyphic transcript and the additions and improvements Budge made to the introduction, preface and texts, which were included in the Medici Society edition of 1913.
The Divine Pymander of Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus
Translated by John Everard with an introduction by Hargrave Jennings Wizards Bookshelf 1977 - 2020 (Secret Doctrine Reference Series), hardcover 144pp. Price new $21.00
AVAILABLE FROM Wizards Bookshelf in hardcover
digitised text also available to read online at Sacred-texts.com
One could read a thousand books and not find the great truths revealed in this little volume. As Dr Everard writes in his preface: "In this Book, though so very old, is contained more true knowledge of God and Nature, than in all the Books in the World besides, except only Sacred Writ; And they that shall judiciously read it, and rightly understand it, may well be excused from reading many Books..."
This accurately sums up this book, which was first translated into English in 1650 by Dr John Everard from the Corpus Hermeticum translated into Latin by Marsilio Ficino in the 15th Century. As we explain in our note in the sidebar at right, Everard's translations are superb and have much in common with the sublime prose of the King James Bible. This is not surprising when we consider that both were written at roughly the same time.
Very little is known of the enigmatical Dr John Everard, other than that he was an unorthodox theologian deeply versed in the writings of the Neoplatonist philosophers and great mystics. In middle life he experienced a great spiritual 'transformation' which led to his translation of this important book. In one of his sermons he said that such books can only be understood by the "divine new-man, who is God-born, and who brings to them the Light of the Holy Spirit." We agree and say the same in many of our articles, for the unaided intellect can never uncover the occult truths concealed in the Corpus Hermeticum.
We feel compelled to add that this is not a book for those seeking instant answers or instant enlightenment. Like other sacred texts, it requires an understanding of occult symbolism as well as deep study if the reader is to begin to comprehend the Truths it contains. As such it is emphatically not a book for the general reader or beginner in occult or mystical studies.
NOTE. There are several reprints of this book currently available including a softcover edition available from Amazon. Print-on-demand and Kindle versions may not be complete. Kessinger Books reprints in particular are often of rather poor quality. As we update this review in November 2020 the Wizards Bookshelf edition of this book illustrated above is once more available in a smyth-sewn, hardcover edition at a very economical price. Readers on a very tight budget can also read a digitised e-text at the Sacred Text Archive.
The Virgin of the World of Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus
Kingsford, Anna & Maitland, Edward (translators) 1884.
Wizards Bookshelf (Secret Doctrine Reference Series), 1977-2020, hardcover 228pp. Price new $23.00
AVAILABLE FROM Wizards Bookshelf in hardcover
digitised text also available to read online at Sacred-texts.com
The Virgin of the World is a résumé of the remnants of the principal doctrines of the ancient Egyptian Mysteries on Man and the Universe. It is emphatically not a book about the 'feminine archetype', the 'goddess presence', or, the Lord help us, a biography of the fictional figure of 'Astara' who it is claimed by the prophets of the 'Ascension' craze, came to earth from the Sirius star system 26,000 years ago. If you are looking for confirmation of these New Age fantasies, this book will disappoint you.
The book is divided into several parts: (1) the 'Virgin of the World', a discourse on the mysteries of creation and evolution; (2) 'Asclepios', which deals with the material and spiritual nature of Men and Gods, mind, intelligence, destiny, fate and other subjects; and (3) the 'Definitions of Asclepios', on Reality, illusion and the nature of God. The latter parts of the book consists of fragments from the Corpus Hermeticum on a wide variety of subjects such as reality, truth, good and evil, body, soul, matter, spirit, providence, destiny, the seven sacred planets, and much more.
From the foregoing it will be clear that ancient Egyptian Mysteries comprised a complete body of esoteric knowledge which explained all material and spiritual laws, forces, conditions and phenomena. That this book contains but the bare bones of this vast store of Wisdom is inevitable given that it was composed long after the last of the genuine Egyptian Mystery schools had closed its doors. Yet, even these fragmentary remnants were so greatly esteemed by many of the early Church Fathers that Lactantius said of it, "Hermes, I know not how, has discovered well-nigh the whole truth." Of course he didn't know 'how', for Lactantius was one of the most fanatical and dogmatic of early Christians, nor was he an Initiate like Paul, and consequently had no knowledge of the Wisdom of ancient Egypt and even less understanding.
The first part of the book is a complete summary of the Hermetic Wisdom of ancient Egypt set out in the form of a conversation between the goddess Isis and her son Horus which reveals the true constitution of Man and the processes of creation and evolution as they were taught to the students of the Mystery Schools in those faraway days. Together with The Divine Pymander, reviewed above, these two books contain almost all that remains of the true teachings of Hermes that are in the public domain.
NOTE. We have seen some second-hand copies of the original edition of 1977 illustrated above offered for sale at over $200. Fortunately, Wizards Bookshelf re-issued their edition in 2020 in a smyth-sewn, hardcover binding, price $23.00. Readers on a very tight budget can also read a digitised e-text at the Sacred Text Archive.
By G. R. S. Mead. Theosophical Publishing Society, London, 1906.
Three volumes plus index.
AVAILABLE TO READ ONLINE AT The Gnostic Science Library
ALSO AVAILABLE FROM Amazon.com in softcover (858pp) $28.20
Together with The Divine Pymander and The Virgin of the World (both reviewed above), Mead's comprehensive survey of the Hermetic literature is essential reading for all those who wish to study the Corpus Hermeticum in its entirety.
Volume one reviews the extant Hermetic literature that has come down to us and unfolds the mystery teachings of ancient Egypt and Greece, together with an exposition of the occult sciences, so far as these were known to the Greek compilers of the Hermetic teachings of the ancient Egyptian Mystery Schools. This volume also includes Plutarch's important Treatise on The Mysteries of Isis and Osiris which so many occultists, past and present, have drawn upon for their knowledge of Hermetic Philosophy. Plutarch was an Initiate of the Greek Mysteries who flourished in the second half of the first century A.D., and although his treatise provides a general outline of the religious beliefs of the ancient Egyptians, it conceals as much as it reveals, either because he did not know himself, or because he deliberately hid his knowledge in the time-honoured manner of all Initiates.
Volume two includes translations of the Corpus Hermeticum, including The Divine Pymander or the Shepherd of Man, the instructions to Asclepius, The Sacred Sermon on the nature of God, the Definitions of Asclepius and much more. These same texts can also be found in The Divine Pymander and The Virgin of the World, reviewed above.
Volume three examines the residual Hermetic texts known from second and third-hand sources. Many of the longer fragments are taken from Stobaeus, who compiled several anthologies of ancient Greek literature in the fifth century A.D. The later material in this volume has been drawn from the early Church Fathers, such as Clement, Tertullian and Cyril, who were more concerned with traducing what remained of the hated 'pagan' philosophical literature than promoting it. Nevertheless and perhaps unwittingly, their polemical condemnations have preserved some important fragments of the Corpus Hermeticum. The volume also includes further fragments of the Hermetic writings taken from the Greek philosophers, as well as the Roman emperor Julian, and concludes with an invaluable index, which spans all three volumes.
To sum up this brief review, Mead's book remains the most complete compendium of the Hermetic Philosophy published to date, though, as we say in our introduction, his translations of the Corpus Hermeticum are not always the most elegant or accurate.
You can read more about G. R. S. Mead and his published works on our links page.
NOTE. So far as we have been able to ascertain, the e-text available to read online at The Gnostic Science Library is identical to the original, 3-volume edition. Weiser books published a complete and unabridged hardcover reprint of the original 3-volume 1906 edition in 2001 (ISBN-10: 0877289476 / ISBN-13: 978-0877289470). This contains all three volumes in one. However, it is now scarce and expensive. A paperback facsimile of the original edition, comprising all three volumes bound into one, was published in 2013 by Martino Fine Books, price $28.00, from Amazon books (ISBN-10: 1614274975 / ISBN-13: 978-1614274971).
We do not recommend the various print-on-demand, PDF or Kindle editions of this book as they may contain errors and not be complete.
Ancient Egypt: The Light of the World—by Gerald Massey
A Work of Reclamation and Restitution in Twelve Books.
2 vols. 556pps and 410pps. Adamant Media Corporation (2 April 2001) Softcover. Price new from around £25.00 for both volumes.
AVAILABLE FROM Amazon.co.uk and other booksellers
Also available to read online at Archive.org (see note at end)
We are delighted (and surprised!) to see this unique book back in print after many years. There are also new hardcover editions in one volume published by NuVision Publications (740pps) and by General Books LLC (520pps). You may also be able to find earlier hardcover editions if you hunt around, though the first edition (published in 1907 in 2 volumes) is now very scarce and expensive. There was also an online edition published by Masseiana.org. Unfortunately this website has been unavailable since 25 November 2017 and we do not know if or when it may be re-instated.
Massey passed away just a few short months after completing Ancient Egypt. That his crowning masterpiece was almost completely unrecognised and ignored during his lifetime and is dismissed by almost all modern 'authorities'—both Biblical and Egyptological—speaks volumes! It is no exaggeration to say that this is the most masterly exposition of the Ancient Egyptian religion, mythos and eschatology ever written. Indeed, more than one inspired occultist of the last century has drawn largely on this book for their teachings about the Ancient Egyptian Mysteries. The majority, on the other hand, who prefer dusty "authority" to the bright Fire of True Inspiration, will cast it aside as worthless. Such are those who prefer to squabble over how many asps (and of what specific genus) killed Cleopatra, or whether the race of the Ancient Egyptians were Negroes or Caucasians, than learn the TRUTH about Ancient Egypt and her sublime mysteries.
For those who seriously wish to learn the True Mysteries as they were taught thousands of years ago in Egypt, and discover the real sources of the Christian religion, this book is indispensable. Those who are prepared to make the effort to study this book with an open mind and their full attention will recognise the Truth that Massey laboured so long and hard to convey; that Ancient Egypt was truly The Light of the World.
NOTE. Digital editions of this book are available to read at Archive.org in PDF, EPUB, Kindle and e-text formats.
Ancient Egypt: The Light of the World—Volume 1
Ancient Egypt: The Light of the World—Volume 2
You can read more about Gerald Massey on our Links page.
Iamblichus—On the Mysteries of the Egyptians, Chaldeans and Assyrians
Translated from the Greek by Thomas Taylor. 365pp +7pp glossary of citations, a bibliography of Taylor's work and a bio-bibliographical glossary. Wizards Bookshelf 1977. Hardcover green faux leather, price $25.00.
AVAILABLE FROM Wizards Bookshelf in hardcover
This important book is one of the very few texts that have come down to us which preserves what little remained of the hidden wisdom of ancient Egypt, Chaldea and Assyria in the early centuries of the Christian era.
The book begins with a letter written by the Neoplatonic philosopher, Porphyry (ca. 234-305 A.D.) to an Egyptian priest called Anebo, requesting information about the theological and mystical beliefs of the Egyptians. The language used by the correspondents makes it clear that Porphyry is soliciting occult knowledge from one whom he comes to regard as his superior. As such we may view the book as a series of questions posed by a student of occult science to his teacher. Porphyry begins by taking his teacher to task, criticising what he believes to be the religious dogmas and practices of the Egyptians and Chaldeans. In his replies, Anebo displays the patience, goodwill and humility which are the hallmark of the true Teacher, never once losing his temper, nor stooping to ridicule his pupil's often fanciful speculations and theological misconceptions. We analyse this letter in a new investigation — Egyptian Epistle — published in 2023.
In the following ten sections, the nature of God, the 'gods', and the soul are explored at length and in depth. Anebo stresses the importance of the perfection of the soul (Higher Self in our terminology) through the practice of mystical rites—that is through meditation, spiritual exercises and consistent study. Other subjects discussed include the first cause, the nature of the universe and its contents, dreams and sleep, soul and mind, prayer, divination, magic, astrology and fate or destiny.
The Egyptologist, E. A. Wallis Budge, quotes largely from Iamblichus' The Mysteries in his seminal book The Gods of the Egyptians (1904), so we may be tolerably sure that much of the information imparted by Anebo to Porphyry is consistent with the religious practises of the ancient Egyptians, as recorded in such papyri as The Book of the Dead. This is not to say that we agree with everything in this book; far from it. As we said earlier, what we have here are the fragments of the Mystery Teachings of Egypt, much distorted and disfigured by the hand of time and man. Nonetheless, the discriminating reader will gain much from this book, and for that reason we recommend it.
NOTE ON EDITIONS & TRANSLATIONS
There are several editions of this book by different translators. However, we recommend you obtain the Wizards Bookshelf edition reviewed above, which is verbatim with Thomas Taylor's translation of 1821, and copiously referred to by H. P. Blavatsky in her books. There are also paperback and hardcover editions of this book published by the Prometheus Trust in the UK available for purchase directly from their website. You can read more about this charitable trust and Thomas Taylor's superb translations of important Greek philosophical works on our links page. The many print-on-demand, Kindle and other electronic facsimiles of Iamblichus' book available from Amazon are best avoided as they invariably contain errors and omissions, and in some cases are completely unreadable.
A new translation of this book was produced by Emma C. Clarke, John M. Dillon, et al, and published by The Society of Biblical Literature, Atlanta, USA in 2003. The authors waste no time in disparaging the work of Thomas Taylor with the usual canting critique we have come to expect from modern Biblical scholars, especially when, as in this case, they are all staunch supporters of the Christian Church that has done everything in its power to obliterate any trace of the hated Mystery Religion and so-called 'Paganism'. As this truly dreadful translation testifies, they are still very much at it today! For these reasons we emphatically do not recommend this translation to any reader genuinely in search of Truth.
Iamblichus (ca. A.D. 250-325) was one of the greatest and most influential of the Neoplatonic philosophers, renowned as much for his great learning and miraculous powers, as for his charity and self-denial. A student of Plotinus' disciple Porphyry, he founded a Mystery School in which he taught what then remained of the Sacred Mysteries of Greece and Egypt. Sadly, only a fraction of Iamblichus' books are known to us, chief among which is On the Mysteries. Some scholars dispute Iamblichus' authorship, maintaining that the style of writing does not match his other extant writings. We leave the critics to their pedantic arguments, for what matters to us is that we have this valuable document, not who wrote it.
The Apocryphal New Testament
—translated by M R James
The Apocryphal Gospels, Acts, Epistles and Apocalypses with other narratives and fragments translated by M. R James.
616pps. Oxford University (Clarendon) Press, Oxford, 1924, 1953, etc. Hardcover. Price second-hand from £12.00.
AVAILABLE FROM Abebooks.co.uk and other booksellers
This book contains a number of important texts excluded from the New Testament on the life and secret teachings of Jesus and the Apostles. One of these is The Revelation of Peter which we have quoted from in our Glimpse of Heaven. It is a sad fact that many occult students neglect the study of these writings in the mistaken assumption that they are spurious texts of questionable provenance that contain nothing of interest to them. Nothing could be further from the truth. Apocryphal does not mean spurious or untrue, as the multitude are taught to believe: the word is taken from the Greek apo—"away" + kryptein "to hide". That is, a book hidden away from the multitude, because it contained secrets the multitude should not know.
Jesus affirms this when he tells his Disciples: "Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables" as we may read in Mark 4:11. And as there is a very great deal "hidden away" in the parables of Jesus, so too, is much Truth and Wisdom concealed in the Apocryphal New Testament.
We would also recommend the Bible in the King James Authorized edition ONLY together with the general (Old Testament) Apocrypha in a good edition. It does not matter that some of the Gospels are duplicated in these books. Indeed, studying the differences between them can be a valuable exercise in sifting truth from error and half-truths from downright falsehoods. You can read more about the hidden wisdom concealed in the Bible in John Temple's series of articles on the Search for Truth listed on our homepage.
NOTE. A 'revised' edition of this book was issued in 1994 with new material and a new translation by J. K. Elliot who has so "modernized" and "improved" James' text that much of the meaning has been lost. The fact of the matter is that it takes an inspired and enlightened author to even attempt to translate texts of this nature, and we do not need to tell you that such gifted men and women do not grow on trees for publishers to pluck at random whenever it suits them. For these and other reasons WE prefer M R James' translation.
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