Illuminati in the Music Industry

Illuminati in the Music Industry

Famous pop stars and rappers from Jay-Z and Rick Ross to Rihanna and Christina Aguilera are believed by many to be a part of the infamous Illuminati secret society. These stars allegedly use Illuminati and satanic symbolism in their music videos and on their clothes that goes unnoticed by those not “in the know.”

Since these stars appear in our livings rooms on family friendly mainstream shows like Good Morning America, Ellen, and dozens of others—and are loved by virtually all the kids—they couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the infamous Illuminati or anything “satanic,” could they? Some famous musicians have even publicly denounced the Illuminati in interviews or songs.

Illuminati in the Music Industry takes a close look at some of today’s hottest stars and decodes the secret symbols, song lyrics, and separates the facts from the fiction in this fascinating topic. You may never see your favorite musicians the same way ever again. Includes 50 photographs.

By the author of The Illuminati: Facts & Fiction

Discover why so many artists are promoting the Illuminati as the secret to success.

Why an aspiring rapper in Virginia shot his friend as an “Illuminati sacrifice” hoping it would help him become rich and famous.

How and why the founder of BET Black Entertainment Television became the first African American billionaire.

Why popular female pop stars like Rihanna, Christina Aguilera, Kesha and others are promoting Satanism as cool, something that was once only seen in heavy metal and rock and roll bands.

Some musicians like Korn’s singer Jonathan Davis, rapper MC Hammer, Megadeth’s frontman Dave Mustaine and others, have all denounced the Illuminati and artists promoting them.

Les Claypool, singer of Primus, wrote a song about the Bohemian Grove.

Muse singer Matt Bellamy recants his belief that 9/11 was an inside job after getting a taste of mainstream success with his album, The Resistance.

Bono said he attended an Illuminati meeting with other celebrities. Was he joking or serious?

Why rap and hip hop is filled with Illuminati puppets and wannabes more than other genres of music.

Includes detailed profiles on dozens of artists who are suspected of being affiliated with the Illuminati and highlights the handful of musicians who have denounced the secret society and their puppets.

Learn about media effects, the power of celebrity, what the externalization of the hierarchy means and how you can break free from the mental enslavement of mainstream media and music.

-Artist Profiles Include-

Kanye West
Lil Wayne
Rick Ross
Nicki Minaj
Lady Gaga
Tupac Shakur

Dwight York
J. Cole
The Game
Suge Knight
Sean ‘Diddy’ Colmes
Miley Cyrus
Justin Bieber

Christina Aguilera
Katy Perry
Justin Timberlake
Jay Electronica
Professor Griff
Lauren Hill

Ice Cube
Charly Boy
Tyler the Creator
Big Obi
Killer Mike
Talib Kwali
Lupe Fiasco
General Gemineye
Immortal Technique

Die Antwoord
MC Hammer
A$AP Rocky
Angel Haze
Azealia Banks
And More!

List price: $14.95

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The Secret Teachings of the Masonic Lodge

The Secret Teachings of the Masonic Lodge

Is Masonry nothing more than a harmless brotherhood, a club for men? Or is there more behind the camaraderie? This in-depth book probes the secret teachings and oaths, revealing how Masonry conflicts with the very foundations of Christianity.

List price: $14.99

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Conspiracy: The Emperor’s Edge, Book 4

Conspiracy: The Emperor's Edge, Book 4

When you’re an outlaw hoping for a pardon, and the emperor personally sends a note requesting that your team kidnap him, you make plans to comply… Even if it’ll involve infiltrating a train full of soldiers, bodyguards, and spies loyal to a nefarious business coalition that has numerous reasons to hate you. Even if it means leaving the city right after you’ve uncovered a secret weapons shipment that might be meant to start a war. Even if it’s a trap…

List price: $12.99

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Brooke Candy’s “A Study in Duality” is Actually a Study in Monarch Mind Control

The post rel="nofollow" href="">Brooke Candy’s “A Study in Duality” is Actually a Study in Monarch Mind Control appeared first on rel="nofollow" href="">The Vigilant Citizen.

Brooke Candy is an up-and-coming pop singer who is already deep in the elite’s Agenda. Her short video “A Study in Duality” manages to contain most of the imagery relating to Illuminati mind control and the occult mindset surrounding it. Although Brooke Candy is not yet considered to be a full-fledged pop star, all of the elements […]

The Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order

The Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order

In this new and expanded edition of Chossudovsky’s international best-seller, the author outlines the contours of a New World Order which feeds on human poverty and the destruction of the environment, generates social apartheid, encourages racism and ethnic strife and undermines the rights of women. The result as his detailed examples from all parts of the world show so convincingly, is a globalization of poverty.

This book is a skilful combination of lucid explanation and cogently argued critique of the fundamental directions in which our world is moving financially and economically.

In this new enlarged edition –which includes ten new chapters and a new introduction– the author reviews the causes and consequences of famine in Sub-Saharan Africa, the dramatic meltdown of financial markets, the demise of State social programs and the devastation resulting from corporate downsizing and trade liberalisation.

Published in 11 languages. More than 100,000 copies sold Worldwide.

List price: $27.95

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Mr West, the Sphinx & Gurdjieff: “Only a gentleman fights for lost causes”

John Anthony West

John Anthony West


It has been thirty-five years since the first publication of John Anthony West’s revolutionary book Serpent in the Sky: The High Wisdom of Ancient Egypt. It was a courageous challenge to the academic blindness of mainstream Egyptology. Much has transpired since then and although the mainstream still desperately clings to its outdated attitudes toward the wisdom of the ancients, the knowledge that the real truth of our history and its origins have been denied to us is gaining a much greater acceptance.

In this exclusive interview for New Dawn magazine, Darren Carville spoke to John about where he is currently at and what motivates him at the age of 82 to continue taking on the Establishment. The following are some highlights from that interview.

DARREN CARVILLE (DC): John, Serpent in the Sky was originally published back in 1979 when the Internet was just a pipe dream. It’s amazing how many of these ideas are so widely disseminated online now. Just one example is this curious image of the ‘Sitting Scribe’ [see the front cover of this magazine] that in your book was originally in black & white, but now there are dozens of vivid colour copies of it online from every angle as people visiting Egypt take digital shots and upload the images themselves.

JOHN ANTHONY WEST (JAW): Yes that’s true, and that particular image is also a great example of Egyptian technology going backwards, because those inlaid eyes, they’re made of four different kinds of quartz crystal and as R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz points out, not only is quartz a very difficult stone to work with, but in order to make a realistic eye that looks back at you, means having to understand the refractive and reflective indexes of the eye. So this is a very advanced knowledge of anatomy. By the New Kingdom, a thousand years later, they had lost the ability to be able do it anymore.

DC: As an artist, even to paint something like that, is a very, very difficult thing to do.

JAW: In terms of high art, once you’ve seen these Old Kingdom statues with the inlaid eyes, all other sculpture, including Michelangelo and Donatello and all the others, fade in comparison. They look blind, they don’t see, that’s the big difference.

DC: You can read a saying that the ‘eyes are the window to the soul’, and here they have produced art where you can actually sense that. On the topic of lost knowledge, my son recently showed me a book that had a chart of all the different Egyptian crowns and headgear. It’s something that’s never spoken about is it? That famous picture of Yul Brynner in ‘Moses and the Ten Commandments’. He has that crown on his head that looks like a giant bowling pin, but they never actually found any of these hats in Egypt?

JAW: No, that’s right. We have so much stuff out of Egypt now, that if it really was a crown, you’d have some instance of it and there’s not a sausage, they’ve never found any physical manifestations of them. Nobody up till now has been able to satisfactorily explain them. So this has always been a big mystery. Intuitively, I reckon that since it’s on their heads, which is the seat of consciousness, that in some way or another, symbolically it represents the consciousness of that particular principle. But that’s a ballpark observation, it doesn’t mean I can explain why one crown has a ram’s horn and the other kind of crown has a sheep’s horn. Or why one has a solar disc and the other one has a lunar disc. Well, okay, that’s sort of obvious. One is solar, and one is the lunar principle. But why this combination, I don’t know.

DC: John it’s been over 20 years since your award-winning bombshell documentary about the Sphinx [‘The Mystery of the Sphinx’] with its ancient rainfall erosion and hence its age having to be thousands of years older than the ‘official’ date. The archaeologists produced their own documentary supposedly ‘debunking’ your claims, but it seems they were too late to sway the general public, and nothing has really been the same since has it?

JAW: Right, well I love it. I have a certain advantage over most of my colleagues. Graham Hancock is a very good journalist but he’s not a satirist. I’m a scholar by default, but I see myself as more of a writer than a scholar. When we get attacked I have the tools to deal with them, so the harder they come at me, the more I enjoy it, particularly now we’ve got the Internet. Because before that you couldn’t retaliate.

DC: What’s been your best achievment so far?

JAW: People often ask me, “What do you think your legacy will be?” Well, I know this Sphinx theory – whatever the fate of symbolism – it isn’t going to go away and it’s all there. It’s not going to be long before the Establishment is obliged to accept it or get marginalised themselves. It’s really a lot like Galileo’s story actually, because I didn’t invent this Sphinx theory, I got it from a single line from Schwaller [de Lubicz] and he just glossed over it. He didn’t see it himself. Yet, it’s the key to the whole lost civilisation hypothesis… it’s quite clear from the way he talks about it. In English the book is called Sacred Science: The King of the Pharaonic Theocracy. That’s going to be around forever. Nobody’s going to get rid of that.

Then it was Robert Schoch, my colleague, who stuck his tenured neck out to defend the whole water erosion hypothesis and it was his triple Ph.D in Geology, Geophysics and Palaeontology that did it. Nobody would have given me the time of day, even though I’d actually done my research pretty well. Schoch is very cautious and quite respectable – less so than he used to be. He’s an interesting guy, and very intelligent.

The other thing I would like to be remembered for is being the one who drove the final nail into the coffin of Darwinian evolution. Robert Schoch and I have a book planned called ‘Darwin Debunked, Darwin De-clawed, Darwin Dethroned’, sub-titled, ‘A Scientist and a Scholar Deconstruct the Cargo Cult of the West’. We want to write the definitive anti-Darwin book, and it’s funny because there are lots of so called ‘definitive’ books that never managed to do it. Maybe the time wasn’t right or they’ve just not been written in a way to fire the public imagination. We think we can do that between us.

DC: It may well be the right time because even five years ago if you tried to explain to most people that the world was run by a few private corporations they just laughed. But now because of what’s happening, and how it affects people personally, the attitude is changing and I think all of that global control couldn’t exist without this Darwinist world view – that there’s no greater purpose to living than being a consumer.

JAW: Yes, it’s the foundation for it, if not explicitly, implicitly. It supports the whole rotten structure.

DC: Is there anything else you’re currently working on that’s in the pipeline John?

JAW: At the moment Schoch and I are working on another book called ‘Dancing Down the Bridge of Sirah’. It comes from Sufi literature and it’s described as this bridge that’s narrow as the razor’s edge, and on one side is the Chasm of Credulity and on the other is the Abyss of Scepticism. So the trick is to get down that bridge and this is not so easy. Schoch and I intend to do a really comprehensive account basically of the Sphinx theory – not going into the Symbolist realm so much – and now that we’ve got Göbekli Tepe, we’ve got a smoking gun [for more on Göbekli Tepe, see Robert Schoch’s articles in New Dawn Special Issue Vol.7 No.1 & New Dawn 122]. So not too long from now it’s going to be impossible for these jackasses to keep on insisting their old paradigm is right, and they will go under. The subtitle is ‘A Scholar and a Scientist Fend Off the Air-brushed Unicorns and Take on the Paradigm Police’. That’s an image coined by my composer step-son. He was once talking about the covers of New Age music and he complained that, “It’s all a bunch of air-brushed unicorns.” That’s a perfect totem for the woo-woo segment of the New Age movement. The paradigm police are of course the debunkers.

The other thing we are trying to do is a ‘Magical Egypt 2.0’ documentary but we’ve got to figure out how we intend to make money from it. We didn’t make a bean out of all the work that went into the first ‘Magical Egypt’ series because people just pirated it in the end.

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DC: Great, we will certainly be looking forward to seeing this! One of the things I love most about Serpent in the Sky and the ‘Magical Egypt’ series is that you layout all these ideas and encourage people to follow them up and verify for themselves. I find they are something I keep coming back to, and each time it sparks me off into new research. This seems to be the way of the Egyptian Sacred Science – it makes you work for the understanding, you can’t just get it through a bunch of memorised facts in the way of academic learning. As you mentioned with Gurdjieff’s book Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson – it’s like Egypt makes you work for it and there is no start or finish, it’s about how far you can penetrate into the enigma.

JAW: Yeah, sure.

DC: A good example is the division of the head at the crown of the skull in the temple reliefs. Clearly it is a clue inviting people to have a look at this specific portion of the head as there is a deeper message hinted at. Schwaller and his team do all the research, look at the anatomy of the brain, look at all the esoteric traditions to do with that part of the head etc. He has to do a lot of research to be able to get to the truth or the understanding of what that is actually revealing. He had to work for it.

JAW: It is impenetrable to 99% of people, even people who are highly literate and highly philosophical. There’s just something about the density of his thinking that people can’t or won’t go to the trouble to penetrate. For me it was not easy, and some of the things I didn’t have the maths to be able to follow him in certain instances. But otherwise I had a good grounding in Gurdjieff and a lot of esoteric studies so I could read it without too much trouble. It’s certainly not for everyone so it’s good to have something like Serpent in the Sky to help you open it up.

DC: I really wanted to ask you about that Gurdjieff connection John, because I heard you on another interview say that if it hadn’t been for your understanding and experience with the Gurdjieff work, you would have never twigged to what Schwaller was on about in the first place.

JAW: Well, I would never have even found him, for that matter.

DC: Right, and I do wonder John – in what you’ve just said about the nature of Schwaller’s work and the level of his mind – do you think that’s really a factor of this whole idea that one’s level of ‘being’ determines what level of higher knowledge one can actually gain access to?

JAW: That’s a good question. Well yes and no. Working on being – you’re thoroughly familiar with the Gurdjieff work?

DC: Yes.

JAW: Well, I would say in terms of levels of being, it’s impenetrable unless you’ve acquired what Gurdjieff calls the ‘Magnetic Centre’. That’s what opens you – it makes these kinds of things accessible. It’s one of the things that a lot of people don’t understand who haven’t been involved in this kind of work themselves, and are mostly working with their heads. They just can’t get it at all. As my Sensi used to say, “Don’t talk about moonbeams to the blind or about music to the deaf, and especially do not talk about sex to eunuchs – they will just get angry!” So once you understand that and stop getting frustrated by, let’s call it, the intolerable obduracy of the quackademic, because it looks as though it’s deliberate, but it isn’t. They just don’t get it.

However, when they call their terrible disability ‘reason’ and take over the palace, the empire is doomed. This is what you’re dealing with. They’re basically wildly uncreative people. I mean, Schwaller appeals not necessarily to the intellectuals, although you have to be quite intellectual in order to penetrate it. You need more than intellect to be able to think in a certain way. The people who get it instantly, or at least they get the basic premise, are the artists and the architects, and sometimes the engineers, oddly enough. Rarely the hard-nosed scientist, never the sceptics of course, they’re totally out of it.

So it’s going back to the magnetic centre, and the magnetic centre automatically means that you’ve done some sort of work on your own level of being. Some sort, even if it’s not been formal, otherwise you don’t have that magnetic centre that gets you to Gurdjieff and Schwaller in the first place.

DC: Yes, and in relation to this battle with the academics, Gurdjieff also pointed out very clearly that this kind of ‘work’ is not for everyone. A person has to be genuinely seeking for the truth in the first place. Reading your argument with the Egyptologists in your open letter to Archaeology magazine [see], I get the sense that you have these different compartments at work in your life, because at one level you deal with the public, you do interviews, respond to all sorts of criticisms and arguments, but obviously at a deeper level you know that the issue for the human race’s future is a much deeper thing. It’s not really just about Egypt is it? Because no-one with any kind of awe and wonder about how difficult it is to make anything can ever look at the Darwinist idea that these chemicals get together accidentally and produce life. It’s a dead, non-resonating kind of thing. You could never swallow it. Yet millions do, quite happily, 24/7.

JAW: More than millions. I mean, it’s the belief system that’s at the core of all science and all education.

DC: Yes, I do wonder how long it’s actually going to take to replace that world view with something better. I did notice with your documentary series, ‘Magical Egypt’, looking at any of those episodes, the number of hits they have had, it’s in the hundreds of thousands. It’s quite extraordinary the popularity your work has gained since Serpent in the Sky – the message is getting out there. Of course the other side of the coin is that with the Internet all sorts of ideas have become popular and their popularity makes them seem like fact. For example, this whole Anunnaki/aliens making human slaves mine gold kind of thing – you don’t go for any of that do you John?

JAW: No, and in our book ‘Dancing Down the Bridge of Sirah’ there will be a section in there called Zecharia and his Sitchininnies. Some of the other stuff, some of the ‘Airbrushed Unicorn’ stuff, is fairly harmless, but his work is seriously malignant.

DC: It’s even turning up in romantic novels now.

JAW: I always left the door open to Sitchin because his work was based upon his own translations of the Sumerian texts. No Assyriologist would look at his stuff. That’s not Sitchin’s fault. So I thought he could well be right about certain things. Who was I to argue those points? However, recently, a really solid biblical scholar who doesn’t have an axe to grind called Michael Heiser put up a website called ‘Sitchin is Wrong’ []. This guy really knows what he’s talking about and goes through Sitchin line by line, and none of it tallies with the dictionaries created by the Sumerian scribes themselves. As far as I’m concerned, it’s completely false.

DC: You have often given the analogy that where we are in the Kali Yuga cycle is very much like being in the ‘Winter’ stage of the four Seasons.

JAW: Yes, that’s right. However, the big problem with these very long cycles is that you don’t have a Spring Equinox to set your clock by. You just can’t really know exactly. There’s a lot of very informed, interesting work done on the Yuga cycle, but they all have different ideas of where it starts and how it starts, and unfortunately there’s nothing scholarly or scientific that you can actually depend upon that is more plausible or less plausible analyses. There’s simply not enough history, it’s too short to tell. I mean real history only goes back about 2,500 years. In other words, history that you can document. It’s really not much more than that. Even the Egyptian history is, half the time, symbolism of some sort or another. There are very few ‘facts’. So we’re talking about cycles, at least precessional cycles, and maybe more than that, we just don’t know. You look around us today and intuition tells me that we’re in the thick of the Kali Yuga and it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

DC: John, how was it that you originally got involved in the Gurdjieff work?

JAW: When I look back on my life I see I was psychologically precocious. Not a genius, but at the age of 12 or 13 I actually knew that I was living in a lunatic asylum, that the whole thing was insane, and it was very lonely living back then. Now lots of people sort of understand that. By the time I was 19 I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to be the little boy who said, ‘The Emperor Has No Clothes!’

It took another 20 years. I had published a lot of stuff by then, and the scholarship was starting with my The Case for Astrology book. There were also plays, a novel and stories. I was well published but not very well paid for it, and I realised I was now playing out my role as the little boy who said, ‘The Emperor Has No Clothes’. I finally came across the Gurdjieff work when I was living in a thriving artists colony at Ibiza in Spain during the late 50s and early 60s.

Through a weird series of circumstances – again it’s the magnetic centre at work – one of the guys that I knew gave me a book called The Theory of Celestial Influence by Rodney Collin, a student of Ouspensky. I read it and that really interested me, and my friend, a very good painter, who had been in the Gurdjieff work himself, started feeding me Gurdjieff in very limited doses. He was right on course because I would have said, “Ah, what do I need this stuff for?” So one day he finally said, “Well, okay, here’s Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson.” He gives me a little fat book and I take it back and I read the first paragraph which is something to the effect of “Everything you know is completely wrong, and this book will make you understand that you don’t know anything.” I was furious. “Fuck you! who are you to tell me that, what have you ever written?”, but then I calmed down and thought, “Well I’ve had a lot published myself, and and I know how difficult it is to make your audience feel – not even think – but feel what you want them to feel.” Here was this guy, in one paragraph, getting me so angry that I was ready to throw his book against the wall. Suddenly I realised, “Oh… that’s not easy to do!”

What Gurdjieff was doing, he was obliging me to work. You didn’t know what was true or false or even if he was pulling your leg. Could you follow those paragraphs? Those sentences that are two pages long with a thousand parentheses in the middle… he was forcing you to use your head in a way that you never dreamt of using it before.

That was my introduction to Gurdjieff and I eventually left Ibiza to move to England to get into the Gurdjieff work, which was really important. Without that I would have spun off the rails long ago. Everything else stopped. Because at a certain point you can’t just read about these ideas anymore, you have to do them, and this is where the problem comes in because it’s not easy to do and it’s not fun.

DC: The Gurdjieff work, no it isn’t.

JAW: It’s not like rubbing crystals or hugging trees, it’s hard work. Gurdjieff was almost the only person I’d ever come across who was as contemptuous of all of Western civilisation as I was, but the difference was that he knew how to live in it and I didn’t. So after nine years of living in Ibiza, I finally moved to England to get into the ‘work’.

What distinguishes Gurdjieff from anybody else is that it’s the ancient doctrine but put into a format designed to be practised in the middle of the lunatic asylum, not isolated from it in some monastery or whatever. It’s how to become sane when everybody around you is crazy, without removing yourself from ordinary life. You can’t practise Schwaller. It’s not a discipline. But Gurdjieff is.

DC: Yes, I can certainly appreciate that.

JAW: Without a return to the kind of principles that kept Egypt going, and other ancient cultures going, without this ancient doctrine being understood and taken up, the Church of Progress always wins, or everyone loses one way or another, so it’s very difficult. This is why Egypt is special because there’s so much of it left. You can’t go to China or India or anywhere else and have this thunder of esoteric wisdom coming at you all day long like you can in Egypt.

Of course there’s a lot of bullshit out there as well, but at least in theory the work is designed for people to practise inside their daily lives. Not that many are doing it and I don’t really know why. On the other hand, if you just extract yourself from the world, it’s like you’re shirking your duty somehow or another. I mean, Tiger Woods’ mistresses don’t matter, and most of that stuff doesn’t matter. But some of it does matter. You watch the Scorpions of Wall Street raping our lives and these disgusting billionaires absolutely destroying the planet. That’s the sort of thing you have to keep on top of, it seems to me.

DC: As you’ve said, the Egyptians lived their life in preparation for the next life, and of course some people say, “oh, morbid buggers, they’re obsessed with death.” But no, I think, as you’ve written about and as Schwaller pointed out, clearly they knew, unlike the Darwinists, that they were here for a reason. Something had gone to a lot of trouble to put them together, to put this planet together, and I can really relate to that balancing act you’re talking about… Because on the one hand, as far as we know, we only have the one chance to do what we need to do here and move on, and yet at the same time you would not be human to not feel a concern and want to do something to make the situation here better. Especially being that the dice is so loaded – to programme people from the time they are born – that there is no purpose to life except consumerism, that it doesn’t matter if we destroy the planet because it’s a giant chemical accident anyway.

JAW: Well, you can only do your best. The Gurdjieff work got me understanding things pretty well and Gurdjieff has a lesson for everyone and everyone’s lesson is a bit different. But it was Gurdjieff who taught me – and this is a riff on what he says – that whoever and whatever presses your buttons is your master, and if you let your buttons get pressed, you’re a slave. I didn’t like that, so I worked pretty hard, reasonably successfully, to not get my buttons pressed most of the time. So enough people have to start doing their homework. If somebody asked me, which they probably won’t do, who I think are the most important people of the 20th century? I would put Gurdjieff first and Schwaller second. Certainly the last word has not yet been said about Gurdjieff.

Anyway, I’m figuring on being here for a while yet. A friend of mine recently had the honour of briefly being the oldest man in the world. He was 110, and he really had his marbles together up until the last year or two. He did research into the paranormal. So if he could get to 110, there’s no reason why I can’t!

There’s a wonderful author, the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges. He wrote a short story book called Ficciones – magical Cabalistic stuff – and in one of the stories the last line is, “A gentleman only fights for lost causes.” It’s a great line. I don’t necessarily consider myself a gentleman, but it’s hard to do this – it’s hard not to get affected by the sort of stuff that’s happening around us every day.

Now don’t forget to tell your readers about my Egypt tours will you.

Books by John Anthony West – including Serpent in the Sky: The High Wisdom of Ancient Egypt and The Traveler’s Key to Ancient Egypt, as well as The Mystery of the Sphinx DVD, are available direct from John Anthony West at For his tours to Egypt, click here.

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DARREN J. CARVILLE lives and works in New Zealand as a Senior Creative Designer and has had a life long passion for symbolism, sacred geometry, ancient wisdom and the esoteric traditions of the world. His research, lectures and writing are currently focused around developing a contemporary synthesis of ancient wisdom, new science and our potential human evolution. For more information and contact details go to

The above article appeared in New Dawn Special Issue Vol 8 No 6

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Understanding the Traditionalists

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

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


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. Secondarily, they invite one to realise this truth in oneself, and thirdly, they identify what furthers the process and what hinders it.

The Traditionalist mission rests on the belief that in some prehistoric time, a “primordial tradition” was revealed to mankind. It taught in symbols the nature of the universe and of the human being, and the way to realise our divine potential. The different religious traditions sprung like branches from the primordial trunk, each one revealed at the appropriate time and place for a certain people or region. Each one contains a facet of the “perennial philosophy,” accommodating both simple believers and those who pursue an esoteric and initiatic path. However, owing to spiritual degeneration over time, some traditions have been lost, others polluted, and false religions have sprung up in their place. The third object is to discriminate between the true and the false.

Given these principles, Guénon could write with equal authority on Hinduism, Taoism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hermeticism, Druidism, and even Freemasonry, “believing” in all of them because he was able to discern their transcendent unity. He demonstrated this through what he called metaphysics, meaning the study of ultimate realities, beyond cosmology and beyond theology. Theologies differ (are there many gods, as in Hinduism, or only one, as in the Abrahamic religions?), but metaphysical principles do not. Eventually one hopes to know these principles directly, because we are microcosms and they are our own ultimate realities. Mystical experience and religious devotion may be intrinsic to the spiritual path, but the quest begins and ends with knowledge. Those who wish to follow Guénon into these rarefied realms will read Man and His Becoming According to the Vedanta, The Symbolism of the Cross, and The Multiple States of the Being.1

Guénon cleared the way for his doctrinal work with two polemical books. Theosophy: History of a Pseudo-Religion (first published 1921), whose title says it all, and The Spiritist Fallacy (1923), which shows that whatever is contacted in séances, it is not the spirits of the dead. After settling in Egypt in 1930, Guénon made a scanty living by writing hundreds of articles and book reviews for his French publishers. Now collected by themes such as Freemasonry, initiation, Christianity, time cycles, symbolism, etc., they make excellent reading for their insights, their curious facts, and global purview. Guénon may pontificate and annoy, but he is never a pious bore. However, it is his books that remain the core of his work, for they set out the metaphysical and cosmological framework that needs to be kept in mind through all his digressions.

One assumption, which goes entirely against modernist and scientific opinion, is a cyclical view of history. The cycle starts with the long Golden Age (Satya Yuga) and thence degrades in the quality of life and spirituality of mankind. Even the earth becomes more densely materialised until the low point of the Iron Age (Kali Yuga) is reached. Then the cycle ends in cataclysm, and above its ruins a new golden age dawns.2 Surveying the post-medieval period, Guénon sees the sacred giving way to the secular on every front: in religion, with the fragmentation of the Christian tradition, the driving of esoteric knowledge underground and its replacement by pseudo-traditions; in philosophy, with its denial of true metaphysics; in society, with the lower elements usurping the priestly and noble castes; and in the arts, a sure barometer of a civilisation’s soul. Ever since the Greeks, the West has been the leader in this process, but by now it has infected the entire earth.

Guénon’s The Crisis of the Modern World and The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times are the testament of his devolutionary theory and probably the best entry-point to his work. The latter title is his description of the tail-end of the cycle, in which quantity usurps quality in every walk of life. After a metaphysical introduction (better skipped and read later), he offers memorable examples and images such as the “Degeneration of the Coinage” and the “Cracks in the Great Wall.” Overshadowing the whole work is the notion of a “Counter-initiation,” a conspiracy of false or inverted spirituality whose goal is to block humanity’s path to authentic initiation.

Some find Guénon’s approach too intellectual and even inhuman, but they cannot deny that it cuts like a razor through the sloppy thinking and sentimentality prevalent in religious and New Age types alike. It sets standards of integrity against which other spiritual teachings either stand or fall. It assumes that truth has always been there for the finding, so it has no use for the language-games of Western philosophy, nor for a science that thinks it is on track to discover the “God particle.” It also rejects cherished notions such as individualism, equality, and evolution. Instead, it teaches the impersonal Self, the hierarchy of beings (including humans), and the cyclic nature of time. In short, it turns the received world-view upside-down.

Beyond Guénon: Traditionalism’s Founding Fathers

Such was evidently the experience of those who were later grouped under the Traditionalist banner. Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy (1877-1947) was an art historian whose writings on comparative religion, symbolism, and the critique of modernity paralleled Guénon’s own, though in a more scholarly style. Frithjof Schuon (1907-1998), a German convert to Sufism, made a stir with his first book, The Transcendent Unity of Religions,3 its English translation helped by a promotional blurb by T.S. Eliot – himself a Christian Traditionalist of sorts. In 1962 Schuon’s English friends took over a parapsychology magazine called Tomorrow and later retitled it Studies in Comparative Religion.4 The collaborators included Titus Burckhardt (1908-1984), a Swiss publisher; Marco Pallis (1895-1989), a musician and traveller to Tibet; Martin Lings (1909-2005), an English scholar who assisted Guénon in his last years; Whitall Perry (1920-2005), a Bostonian who compiled a global bible of traditional sources;5 and many others who are now easy to find and research.6 Schuon settled in Bloomington, Indiana, heading a community that combined his personal devotion to “Maryam” (the Virgin Mary, as revered in Islam) with Native American traditions. His most eminent admirer was Seyyed Hossein Nasr (1933-), a highly-placed Iranian academic forced out by Khomeini’s revolution. Nasr became the movement’s most visible representative in the US and, beside his authority on all things Islamic, tried to give a more spiritual direction to the environmental movement.7

In order to put Guénon’s principles into practice, most of the Traditionalists joined one of the recognised religions, interpreting his critique as requiring an orthodox exoteric practice. Only that, they say, can provide a firm foundation for the higher flights of esotericism that many desire, but for which few are qualified. According to Federico González, the most faithful interpreter of Guénon in the Spanish language, Schuon’s influence betrayed the Perennial Philosophy by turning it into a Perennial Religion.8 Be that as it may, Schuon, Burckhardt, and Lings followed Guénon’s example by becoming Muslims. Those who remained within Christianity chose the Russian or Greek Orthodox churches, or isolated themselves on the extreme wing of traditional Catholicism. Protestantism was not an option, being by definition anti-traditional, though with the example of Eliot’s high-church Anglicanism, a chance was missed there. Orthodox Judaism would seem the obvious choice for Jews, but Leo Schaya, the only identifiable Jew in the group and author of a superb work on Kabbalah, converted to Islam.9 A fourth and last possibility was Buddhism, though Guénon considered it more as a heresy within Hinduism. Hinduism was excluded for Westerners on the grounds that one cannot be a traditional Hindu unless one was born into one of the castes and can follow its prescriptions. The traditions of Native Americans, Africa, and the Far East (Taoism, Shinto), though respected, were impracticable since living esoteric masters are almost impossible to find there. Moreover, in all cases only the most ancient and integral streams were acceptable: not the Sufism of Hazrat Inayat Khan, or the Hinduism of Vivekananda or Aurobindo. So the choice of an exoteric tradition was extremely limited.

There are of course degrees of leniency among Traditionalists, but to the stricter variety, the vast majority of Christians are schismatics and heretics, cut off – maybe for no fault of their own – from any authentic tradition. Some, like Rama Coomaraswamy (son of Ananda) accuse the Catholic Church of having disqualified itself through the innovations of the Second Vatican Council. Consequently the current pope is an impostor, priestly ordinations invalid, and the sacraments ineffectual. I find this a strange and constrictive view. It is generous enough in allowing that God has revealed himself through different religions, yet it imagines him as only willing to funnel his grace through a very narrow channel in each case.

Can one have the Traditionalist cake, as it were, without eating it? To judge by the careers of the founding fathers, the answer is yes. Not one of them practiced what the orthodox now preach. Guénon was supposedly initiated by Hindus, entered Islam secretly as a young man, and married a Catholic wife, but was not known as a devout practitioner of any religion until he moved to Cairo in middle age. Coomaraswamy, as the child of a Hindu (Tamil) father and an English mother was strictly speaking an “untouchable” within the Hindu tradition, which of course bothered no one during his life in England and the United States. Buddhism and Neoplatonism seem to have been closest to his heart, but if he had any orthodox practice, no one remarked on it. Schuon, nominally a Muslim, made up his own syncretic rituals, which greatly embarrassed his more orthodox admirers when they were made known.10 In short, they all enjoyed the latitude that Traditionalism allows to independent geniuses, but not to the rest of us.

A broader concept of Traditionalism would recognise the value of some outsiders to the club. They include Alain Daniélou (1907-1994), who did convert to Hinduism (he was a Shaivite initiate) and lived for many years in Calcutta, corresponding with Guénon and writing fundamental works on Hindu polytheism and music. He also foresaw, and calculated, the inevitable end of the age.11 But this brilliant and charming scholar despised the monotheistic religions and was openly homosexual, so he does not figure on the approved roster. The absence of Henry Corbin (1903-1978) is more surprising, since he alerted the West to the richness of the Iranian philosophic tradition and its concept of the “imaginal world” as the locus of mysticism, symbolism, and art.12 Nasr recognised him as a great scholar and edited his Festschrift,13 but Corbin was a Protestant. Whether Julius Evola (1898-1974) should be included is a matter of dispute. He had a friendly correspondence with Guénon (though they never met), and wrote from a Traditionalist point of view on Taoism, Buddhism, Hermeticism, the Grail, paganism, esoteric sexology, metahistory, mountaineering, and to his lasting detriment, politics. But he rated the Kshatriya (warrior) caste superior to the priestly Brahmins, and had no time for exoteric religion. His work probably finds a wider readership than any other Traditionalist.14 To many he is the intellectual equal of Guénon and Coomaraswamy, and much more helpful with his practical advice on self-realisation in a hostile world.

In the 1980s the poet and Blake scholar Kathleen Raine (1908-2003) set an example of “broad-church” Traditionalism with her London-based Temenos Academy. It presented lectures, concerts, occasional conferences, and published a journal, benefiting from the patronage of the Prince of Wales – another liberal Traditionalist. Raine had been a member of an occultist order descended from the Golden Dawn. She loved the Neoplatonists, the Renaissance, and Romanticism, was not averse to Theosophy, and greatly admired Corbin. Her mission was to promote the “arts of the Imagination” as against the ugliness, soullessness, and commercialism of modern life and art. I believe she was the only woman to have contributed to Studies in Comparative Religion, and that, too is telling. Women are conspicuously absent from Traditionalism, no doubt because they know how badly the orthodox religions have treated their sex.

Traditionalism & Post-Modernity

After the death of Schuon, widely revered as an enlightened master, the movement lost its magnetic pole. Its chief enemy, modernity, was also moribund. But instead of a return to Tradition, the post-modern wave, beginning in France and flooding the whole intellectual world, had extinguished any presumption of metaphysical certainty. Guénon and Evola were less newsworthy than the right-wing extremists reputedly inspired by reading them. The spread of Islamic fundamentalism cast Muslim conversion in an unfavourable light. Most of those who sought a spiritual path outside their Christian, Jewish, or agnostic heritage preferred Zen or Tibetan Buddhism. And the New Age was the exoteric haven for all the rest.

As the post-Guénonian generation passed away, Traditionalism became ripe for the historians. The academic study of Western Esotericism, a relatively new discipline, took notice of it, though only as one current among many others. Mark Sedgwick’s Against the Modern World was the first attempt to encompass the whole Traditionalist phenomenon, and the first many academics had heard of it.15 Another is Setareh Houman’s From Philosophia Perennis to American Perennialism.16 (In the United States, home of the political euphemism, Traditionalists became “Perennialists.”) Houman explains how Guénon and his successors adapted the Renaissance concept of a perennial philosophy and a prisca theologia (primordial theology) as old as the human race, and supplies a wealth of historical details found nowhere else. Both books are essential to the dispassionate student of the movement.

Needless to say, the blogosphere swarms with passionate opinions on both sides. It is much less demanding to hang out there, or shoot one’s mouth off, than to read Guénon’s or Coomaraswamy’s books from cover to cover. At the serious end of the spectrum, Mark Sedgwick maintains a website ( with a moderated discussion board. So does James Wetmore (, the heroic publisher of Guénon’s Collected Works. James Cutsinger is gradually doing the same for Schuon’s works ( Charles Upton, an ex-beat poet turned Sufi, brings the Traditionalists’ critique up to date with a series of books on the Reign of Quantity’s further products, such as UFO cults, drug mysticism, postmodernism, neopaganism, and the New Age.

Since the world failed to end or transmogrify in December 2012, the New Age dragons are hardly worth slaying, but Traditionalists are drawing on some of the apocalyptic energies that still hang in the air. One who claims, or is claimed, to be a Traditionalist is the Russian philosopher Alexander Dugin (b.1962). Is he the secret link through whom Guénon is influencing the political chess-game of Vladimir Putin?17 Some think so. Duginian geopolitics sees the Atlanticist hegemony as the tool of the Counter-initiation, and a united Eurasia under Holy Russia as the great hope of the future. Others, such as the Islamic eschatologist Imran Hosein, view the world situation through the myth of the Antichrist, whether they assign that role to the current pope, the US President, the State of Israel, radical Islam, or “Dajjal.” Like Jean Robin, author of “René Guénon, the Last Chance of the West”18 and many other books of occult history, they may actually cheer on the Counter-initiation for speeding the arrival of a post-apocalyptic golden age. Another French writer of Romanian origin, Jean Parvulesco (1929-2010), was apparently Dugin’s inspiration. Parvulesco’s books are like something imagined by Umberto Eco: convoluted, learned, hysterical, and infatuated with Guénon, necromancy, fascism, the cosmic destiny of France, and a collective death-wish.19

Lastly I must mention the longest book yet written about Guénon.20 The author, who goes by the name of Louis de Maistre, admires him tremendously but suspects that he was partly under Counter-initiation control. That movement, in de Maistre’s view, stemmed from the Manichean heresy that gave an independent and equal existence to the evil power, and the temptation to ally oneself with it. Its main agents in the modern world were the Sabbatian and Frankist movements, to whose infiltrations Guénon himself was not immune. Hence his early involvement with mediumship and his embrace of the sinister myth of Agarttha. In the view of this earnest and erudite author, even Guénon needs to be purified from anti-traditional tendencies.

Traditionalism for Seekers

Apart from these extremes, what does Traditionalism have to offer? First, it puts our spiritual destiny first and foremost. We are on earth to fulfil it, though we may do so in very earthly ways (Traditionalists love the crafts!). In looking for guidance, we have the option of joining one of the authentic traditions and regulating our lives through it. For the esoterically-inclined, each tradition has symbols that give access to a metaphysical teaching. Lacking effective mystery-schools, to penetrate to this level is the best initiation we can hope for. To take examples from the Abrahamic traditions, one can recite the Nicene Creed, read the Quran or the Torah, and understand them in an esoteric sense that would be incomprehensible to one’s fellow believers. This is of course what Kabbalists and Sufis do, though Christianity has lost the structures that once facilitated it.

But what if one has no attraction to religions which have so often brought out the worst in people, and continue to do so? There are, after all, other paths open. One might become a Bahai or a Mormon; join the A.M.O.R.C. or another Rosicrucian order; take up yoga and meditation, “transcendental” or otherwise; join an Anthroposophical (Rudolf Steiner) community or a Gurdjieff group; assert one’s ethnic roots in neopaganism; find a temple of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, or become a wiccan; join the OTO or some other group under Aleister Crowley’s influence; practice alchemy, physical or spiritual; try Chaos Magick; take an Ayahuasca vacation. The spiritual smorgasbord becomes so long that it is hard to choose from it.

Traditionalism rejects the lot. One of the characteristics of the Kali Yuga is the psychic influences which, in Guénon’s picturesque image, sneak through the cracks in the Great Wall that once protected traditional civilisations. Hence the proliferation of phony sects, channelled teachings, exploitative cults, and other spiritual dead ends. These include fundamentalism, a modern phenomenon distinct from regular exoterism because its agenda, hidden or overt, is always political. One does well to ask: (1) Do these purported spiritual paths have any roots in an authentic revelation, or are they personal inventions? (2) Do they give access to metaphysical realisation? (3) Are claims of filiation from some extinct tradition, such as Egyptian or Celtic, believable? (4) Do they exist to benefit their members, or to benefit themselves and their leaders? I am not saying that this disqualifies all the offerings mentioned above, but it certainly shortens the list.

After taking due notice of this negative and purgative side of Traditionalism, there remains the greater, positive side. It is the realisation through knowledge, which can come about without any institutional support, simply through reading and meditation. The Traditionalists’ books are themselves initiatic. If you are ripe for them, they hit like a bombshell. Part of you is blown out of the normal world, though other parts still have human feelings, desires, and faults. You pick up the newspaper the next day, and see everything in a different light, realising that a collective insanity has grasped the human race. Yet you are no longer entirely in its clutches, and there are allies across the centuries in those who have resisted the current. Art, poetry, literature, and music take on new meanings as gifts from an unpolluted source, and they may mean more to you than any religion. As you read on, you may discover the Hermetic, Gnostic, and Neoplatonic treasures hidden in the Abrahamic religions, and the philosophic teachings of the Far East (Vedanta, Taoism, Buddhism), interpreted with unprecedented clarity. If you are temperamentally suited to them, they bring an ineffable joy. In short, this is an adventure second to none, and also, as Plato promised, the ultimate love affair, for philosophy means the “love of wisdom.”

„Minor parts of this article appeared in “Facing the Traditionalists” in Gnosis Magazine no. 7 (Spring 1988), 23-28, reprinted in Jay Kinney, ed., The Inner West (New York: Tarcher/Penguin, 2004), 292-302.

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  1. These and the rest of Guénon’s Collected Works are published in English translation by Sophia Perennis. See
  2. See Joscelyn Godwin, “When Does the Kali Yuga End?” New Dawn 138 (May-June 2013).
  3. Frithjof Schuon, The Transcendent Unity of Religions, Faber & Faber, 1953.
  4. Just as Guénon had taken over an occultist journal, Le Voile d’Isis, and given it an academic-sounding title, Études traditionnelles.
  5. Whitall N. Perry, ed., A Treasury of Traditional Wisdom, George Allen & Unwin, 1971.
  6. Studies in Comparative Religion is now online at A select anthology of articles from the journal, out of print but well worth finding, is Jacob Needleman, ed., The Sword of Gnosis, Penguin, 1974.
  7. See Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Religion and the Order of Nature, Oxford University Press, 1996.
  8. See Federico González Frías, Diccionario Simbólico-Iniciático y de Temas Misteriosos, Thot, 2013, and the special Guénon number of Symbolos: Revista Internacional de Arte, Cultura, Gnosis, nos. 9-10 (1995).
  9. See Leo Schaya, The Universal Meaning of the Kabbalah, tr. Nancy Pearson, George Allen & Unwin, 1971. Information on Schaya’s conversion is from
  10. See Mark Sedgwick, Against the Modern World. Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century, Oxford University Press, 2004, 170-77.
  11. See Alain Daniélou, While the Gods Play: Shiva Oracles and Predictions on the Cycles of History and the Destiny of Mankind, tr. Barbara Baker, Michael Baker, and Deborah Lawlor, Inner Traditions, 1987.
  12. See especially Henry Corbin, Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth from Mazdean Iran to Shi’ite Iran, tr. Nancy Pearson, Princeton University Press, 1977.
  13. S.H. Nasr, ed. Mélanges offerts à Henry Corbin, Teheran, Institute of Islamic Studies/Montreal: McGill University, 1977.
  14. See especially Julius Evola, Revolt against the Modern World, tr. Guido Stucco, Inner Traditions, 1995, and many other works from the same publisher.
  15. See note 11.
  16. Setareh Houman, From the Philosophia Perennis to American Perennialism, tr. Edin Lohja, Kazi, 2014
  17. See several articles in New Dawn 111 (Sep-Oct 2008).
  18. Jean Robin, René Guénon, la dernière chance de l’occident, Trédaniel, 1983. Also René Guénon, témoin de la Tradition, Trédaniel, 1986.
  19. See Jean Parvulesco, La spirale prophétique (Trédaniel, 1986), which was dedicated to Jean Robin. Also L’Étoile de l’empire invisible, Trédaniel, 1993.
  20. Louis de Maistre, René Guénon et les “Supérieurs Inconnus”: Contribution à l’étude de l’histoire mondiale “souterraine”, Arché, 2004. See my forthcoming review in Theosophical History.


JOSCELYN GODWIN, Professor of Music at Colgate University, New York State, has translated books by René Guénon (The Multiple States of Being) and Julius Evola (Ride the Tiger). His own writings include Harmonies of Heaven and Earth, Athanasius Kircher’s Theatre of the World, Atlantis and the Cycles of Time, and many other titles on esoteric and musical subjects. His next book, Upstate Cauldron: Eccentric Spiritual Movements in Early New York State (SUNY Press), is due for publication in 2015.

The above article appeared in New Dawn No. 147 (Nov-Dec 2014)

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Has Consciousness Evolved?



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 little different. Many advocates of the new paradigm insist that human consciousness has gotten more sophisticated within historical times, and that it is destined to make another grand leap. It’s a harder case to argue.

It was H.P. Blavatsky, founder of the Theosophical Society, who first introduced the idea of evolving consciousness in the late nineteenth century. The basic theory of evolution as propounded by Darwin was already well known, but it had not been connected with consciousness in any important way.

In her magnum opus, The Secret Doctrine, Blavatsky made this connection. Indeed she went further. She held that not only humans and all organic life, but everything in the cosmos, down to the smallest atom, was perpetually evolving over the course of boundless eons toward a goal of unimaginable perfection.

Blavatsky was a bit more cautious about the evolution of human consciousness. While she propounded the allegedly ancient and secret doctrine of the Root Races, whereby humans would eventually develop supernatural capacities, she did not see this as coming any time soon. According to Blavatsky, the present, Fifth Root Race – encompassing practically all of humankind currently on earth – was going to be around for a while.

Nevertheless, Blavatsky set the stage, and it is interesting, though difficult, to try to figure out how much she influenced twentieth-century advocates of creative evolution such as Henri Bergson and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

The man who may be most responsible for the idea that human consciousness has evolved within historical times, and is making a transition to a new stage, is the Swiss philosopher Jean Gebser. In his masterwork, The Ever-Present Origin, published in 1949, Gebser outlined a development of civilisation in five stages: the archaic; the magic; the mythical; the mental; and the integral. Gebser’s argument is hard to summarise, but he essentially said that the shifts between these phases meant a change in human consciousness, even in how we view spatial dimensions. The “mythical” stage, the age of classical antiquity, was conceptually “spaceless.” The new “integral” consciousness is, by contrast, “space-free” and “time-free.”

Gebser’s arguments do not always hold up well. For example, he said that the dawn of the mental stage of development – which included the discovery of perspective in art – started in medieval times. A crucial moment was the Italian poet Petrarch’s ascent of Mount Ventoux in southern France in 1336. This, Gebser claimed, was the first time that anyone ever climbed a mountain solely to see the view. As such, it was “the discovery of landscape.” Unfortunately for Gebser’s theory, Petrarch himself said he had been inspired by the ascent of a mountain in Greece by King Philip of Macedon in the fourth century BCE. (Gebser tries, unconvincingly, to explain why Petrarch’s climb was so revolutionary and Philip’s was not.) Besides, perspective painting had been practiced in Greco-Roman antiquity.

Gebser is not well-known in the English-speaking world, but he has been very influential, largely through the works of the American philosopher Ken Wilber, whose “integral philosophy” was inspired by Gebser and by such figures as Arthur Koestler, Sri Aurobindo, and the American guru Adi Da (Franklin Jones).

If we want to decide whether consciousness is evolving and has evolved within living memory, it might be good to consider what consciousness is. For Gebser, it was “wakeful presence.” In my work, especially The Dice Game of Shiva, I have defined consciousness as the relation of self to other. To take a simple example, you are in your bedroom. You are awake. You see the furniture, the walls, the pictures. They are other, and you are you. Then you fall into a deep sleep. There is no longer a sense of self and other; you are no longer aware of your surroundings. You are unconscious.

What, then, is higher consciousness? What makes one kind of consciousness higher, or more evolved, than another?

In his book When Beliefs Fail: Toward a Psychology of Hope, Jim Stempel sets out a clear and engaging argument for the evolutionary perspective. He says: “The goal of spiritual growth is actually quite simple. It is complete awareness, the capacity to understand all of reality as well as ourselves…. Thus we enlarge our worldview until it incorporates everything.” To use the language of my theory, consciousness evolves as our view of the other, that is the world, expands.

Thus it would seem that consciousness has evolved. For a medieval peasant, the world was his village. The people in the village five or ten miles away were remote and menacing; they may as well have been extraterrestrials. Today we log into a computer and learn about places on the other side of the world in almost no time. Presto! Our worldview is enlarged. That means our consciousness is higher, more evolved.

But it is not so simple. In the first place, not everybody believes in these great strides in cognitive evolution. The twentieth-century French philosopher René Guénon, for example, argued that, far from evolving, we have devolved from an ancient state of pristine integrity. We are now living, Guénon said, in the “reign of quantity,” the last and most pathetic stage of the Hindu Kali Yuga, the Age of Darkness. Technological advancement, and the materialistic mentality that goes with it, is a symptom of this degeneracy.

Is Guénon wrong? Is it right to equate higher consciousness with technical sophistication and the expanded view of the world that results from it? As desperately as Western civilisation wants to believe this, it is not obvious, and it may not be true.

One counterexample is Tibet. The material culture of Tibet has always been primitive, even barbarous. It has no technological sophistication and has had no interest in developing it. Nevertheless, Tibet developed an extremely sophisticated and profound understanding of the nature of consciousness that the West is only now beginning to grasp. Can we say our consciousness is higher, more evolved, than the consciousness of Tibetans?

The twentieth-century spiritual teacher G.I. Gurdjieff also ridiculed the idea that the consciousness of modern humanity has evolved. His masterwork, All and Everything: Beelzebub’s Tale to His Grandson, one of the strangest and greatest books of the twentieth century, has as its stated objective “to destroy, mercilessly, without any compromises whatsoever, in the mentation and feelings of the reader, the beliefs and views, by centuries rooted in him, about everything existing in the world.” And one of the most important of these ideas to be rooted out is the delusory belief in progress. The 1,200 pages of Beelzebub argue that modern humans are not superior, but inferior, to those of ancient times, and material progress has hastened their deterioration.

Gurdjieff taught that modern man is in a state of waking sleep, a low-grade hypnosis. Part of this sleep involves dissociation: the body walks through its daily routines while the mind ponders grievances of the past, and fantasises about the future. We are like Mr. Duffy in one of James Joyce’s stories, who “lived a short distance from his body.”

Practically everything about present-day life helps increase this dissociation. You are well-informed about the latest world crisis, but are you aware of what is going on in your own being? Very likely your body and your emotions do not care in the slightest for all of the momentous events that make your mind so agitated. Probably, in fact, these other parts of you are bored by your fixation on a computer screen and would just as soon be out for a walk, or doing nothing at all.

So the grandiose claims of “evolution,” “integral consciousness,” and so on, do not stand up very well. Of course there are people today who have attained high states of consciousness, just like the mystics of old. But do we have any reason to believe they are any more common today than they ever were?

On the other hand, I myself have as much difficulty with the proclamations of degeneracy as I have with the proclamations of evolution. It is not so simple. It is never so simple. In many ways, humanity has advanced; in other ways it has regressed. While I think it is foolish to praise indigenous peoples as the repository of all wisdom, they often seem to have preserved inner powers and abilities that have been lost to trendy smartphone addicts.

As always, there are currents and countercurrents, and there is no good reason to single out one of these and proclaim it the inevitable wave of the future. We have already had too many inevitable waves of the future, and they have usually been dead ends. It is probably wrong to claim that humanity is retrogressing, but when someone launches into optimistic jabbering about “evolution” and the “new paradigm,” it may be well to think about these lines from the Tao Te Ching: “The ancient masters were subtle, mysterious, profound, responsive. The depth of their knowledge is unfathomable.” It is hard to say that about humans today.

Jean Gebser, The Ever-Present Origin, translated by Noel Barstad & Algis Mickunas, Ohio University Press, 1985
G.I. Gurdjieff, All and Everything: Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, Dutton, 1964
Jim Stempel, When Beliefs Fail: A Psychology of Hope, Chrysalis, 2001

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RICHARD SMOLEY has over thirty-five years of experience of studying and practicing esoteric spirituality. He is the author of Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition; The Dice Game of Shiva: How Consciousness Creates the Universe; Conscious Love: Insights from Mystical Christianity; The Essential Nostradamus; Forbidden Faith: The Secret History of Gnosticism; Supernatural: Writings on an Unknown History, and Hidden Wisdom: A Guide to the Western Inner Traditions (with Jay Kinney). Smoley is also the former editor of Gnosis: A Journal of the Western Inner Traditions. Currently he is editor of Quest: Journal of the Theosophical Society in America and of Quest Books.

The above article appeared in New Dawn No. 147 (Nov-Dec 2014)

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

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

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


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 proponents of this revitalised Gnosticism. Born a Hungarian nobleman in 1931, he was exiled from his native country after World War II. He came to the United States in the early 1950s and in the decades since has attracted a small but influential nucleus of students of esotericism. He has delivered scores of lectures to organisations such as the Theosophical Society and the Philosophical Research Society in a number of nations, including Australia and New Zealand.

Hoeller is the author of several books, including Gnosticism: New Light on the Ancient Tradition of Inner Knowing (2002); The Fool’s Pilgrimage: Kabbalistic Meditations on the Tarot (2004); Jung and the Lost Gospels: Insights into the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi Library (1989); and The Gnostic Jung and the Seven Sermons to the Dead (1982). Among other accomplishments, Hoeller’s work ties the Gnostic stream to the ideas of the Swiss psychologist C.G. Jung.

Hoeller is also a major figure in the independent sacramental movement. This loose collection of churches and societies is based on the apostolic tradition as carried on by bishops, many of whom have left the Catholic Church or other Christian bodies and who have consecrated bishops and ordain priests on their own. Hoeller was ordained to the priesthood of the American Catholic Church by Bishop Lowell P. Wadle in 1958, and to the Gnostic episcopate by Richard, Duc de Palatine (born Ronald Powell) in 1967. Today Hoeller is presiding bishop of the Ecclesia Gnostica in Los Angeles. For more information on his work, including his lectures, visit his website

This interview, conducted by e-mail in November 2013, focuses on Gnosticism and Hoeller’s connection to the Australian born ‘wandering bishop’ Richard, Duc de Palatine.

Richard Smoley (RS): You have been an eloquent spokesman for a revitalised Gnosticism in our time. Could you say briefly what the features of this Gnosticism are?

Stephan Hoeller (SH): Gnosticism is not a belief system in the accustomed sense, and therefore it is not easy to describe its features as you ask. The Gnostic tradition has no single prophet or founding revelator; rather it is based in the mystical experiences of a number of visionary individuals. These mystical experiences were generally characterised by these seers as “Gnosis,” a concept denoting salvific knowledge arrived at by superintellectual means. Since those partaking of Gnosis were diverse in their individual backgrounds, it has occurred to some scholars that it might not be accurate to subsume them under the appellation of Gnostics. Still, as the late foremost scholar of this field, Professor Marvin Meyer, has proven, there were some mystic seers in the early centuries A.D. who called themselves by the name “Gnostic,” and this name became a description for the teachings they left behind.

In reality, the teachings of the various Gnostic teachers have a great deal in common. It is therefore quite possible to perceive a body of recognitions that is generally present in all the Gnostic schools of past and present. In my book Gnosticism: New Light on the Ancient Tradition of Inner Knowing (2002) I presented a fourteen-point summary of such Gnostic tenets, which I shall repeat here in an abbreviated form:

  1. There is an original and transcendental spiritual unity from which emanated a vast manifestation of pluralities.
  2. The original spiritual unity (the Fullness) did not create anything; rather the creation of the manifest universe was accomplished by spiritual beings of limited power and moral stature. These entities have a vested interest in the separation of humans from the unity (God).
  3. The universe of matter and mind, while it emanated originally from the unity, has become alienated from its source and now largely serves the lower creators, or rulers (archons). The human being, in contrast to other creations, possesses a divine spark, which is capable of being awakened and liberated by Gnosis.
  4. The ultimate unity has not abandoned the sparks of its own essence but periodically sends forth messengers whose function it is to awaken the slumbering units of divine consciousness by stimulating the experience of Gnosis in humans. Among these messengers we find the Divine Sophia; Jesus Christ, the Logos of God; the holy prophet Mani; and others. The ultimate objective of these messengers is the arising of salvific knowledge (Gnosis) in human beings, who thus come to freedom from embodied existence and return to the ultimate unity.

RS: The Gnostic worldview has often been criticised as pessimistic and world-denying. How would you respond to this claim?

Dr. Stephan Hoeller delivers a lecture at Ecclesia Gnostica, 3363 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90039, United States

Dr. Stephan Hoeller delivers a lecture at Ecclesia Gnostica, 3363 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90039, United States

SH: The accusation that Gnostics are world-hating pessimists was first voiced by the heresy-hunting church fathers of the early centuries A.D. It was false then, and it is false now. Most religious systems recognise that the world is imperfect, as indeed do Gnostics. The difference between the Gnostic position and others concerns the origins of this imperfect state of the world. Judeo-Christian orthodoxy places the blame on human beings: their original sin came to corrupt not only humans themselves, but all of creation. Gnostics, on the other hand, have always held that the world did not fall but was created in a grossly imperfect way to begin with.

Professor Gilles Quispel, the late, great scholar, was wont to tell the tale that when observing the destruction of a British fighter plane over Holland in World War II, he had the sudden insight: “Valentinus the Gnostic was right: earthly life is tragic.” Gnostics, like Buddhists, recognise that earthly life is filled with suffering, cruelty, and impermanence. I have noted on occasions that we live in a gigantic slaughterhouse cum cafeteria – all forms of life kill and consume other forms to nourish themselves. Some creatures exhibit behaviour that is not related to stilling their hunger. Cats play cruelly with their prey. Some insects kill and eat their mates while copulating; indeed cannibalism is rampant among many species. Natural disasters bring much suffering and death in their wake. On the other hand, Gnostics have always felt that humans can attain to freedom from this suffering world by attaining to Gnosis, that is, a higher kind of consciousness, which allows the liberated Gnostic to soar above this tragic world.

I must admit that many humans have a strong need to perceive life as in some sense benign and potentially happy. It is also evident that this need cannot be met if we do not experience a salvific change in consciousness, which allows us to perceive a greater, happier reality beyond the world of matter and sense. A secular person without access to such a liberating state of consciousness has one of two choices. The first involves looking the dark face of the world in the eye, while the second is what has been called “living in denial.” The Gnostic has a third possibility: being liberated by Gnosis.

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RS: In your book Gnosticism you cay that the Gnostic cosmology has meaning from both a psychological and a cosmic point of view. Could you explore this issue a little?

SH: The cosmo-conception of the Gnostic tradition truly can be applied both externally and internally, and none of these interpretations need to cancel each other out. The Gnostic myth of the emanation of the divine essence, followed by the creation of physical and psychic reality by the lower creating entities, is to me a plausible explanation of the origin of the world. All such explanations – even the so-called scientific ones – are in reality mythical, and this myth is as meaningful as many others, and more meaningful than some.

The modern depth psychologist C.G. Jung has come to the conclusion that the Gnostic cosmology may also be seen as a psychocosmology. The various regions of being such as the original unity (Fullness), the various aeonial regions, and ultimately the physical world with its malign archons can be seen as the collective and personal unconscious, the consciousness of the ego, and the functions of consciousness respectively, while the mighty messengers of light can be seen as archetypes proceeding from the collective unconscious. Once again, we may need to keep in mind that the external and internal applications of the Gnostic myth need not exclude each other.

As noted, this understanding of the Gnostic myth comes to us chiefly from Jung, whom I see as the greatest Gnostic of our time, and about whose teachings I wrote my book The Gnostic Jung and the Seven Sermons to the Dead, which is regarded by many as a pioneering study of the relationship of Jung and Gnosticism.

RS: From an esoteric point of view, what would you say is happening with humanity today?

SH: Speaking of Jung, it is no doubt known to many that his mysterious and long-awaited book Liber Novus (The Red Book) has been published at last. One of the principal disclosures to be found in this work is Jung’s belief that the Age of Aquarius is upon us, that significant changes in the consciousness of humanity are taking place, and that more of the same may be expected in the future. The “Aeon of Aquarius,” as Jung calls it, will eventually bring great psychological changes in its wake, amounting to a new religious consciousness which will differ greatly from the religious consciousness of the Piscean Age. It will manifest primarily in a new God-image that was very important to the ancient Gnostics and that in various ways has made its appearance throughout history in the esoteric tradition.

Two thousand and some years ago a new religion constellated itself in the Mediterranean region. With that religion came a new myth of redemption, centred in the image of Jesus, the Saviour God. Now Jung is telling us in The Red Book that the Aeon of Aquarius is upon us, and with it comes the new God-image of the God within. This image is of course none other than the God to whom St. Paul referred as “the Christ in you, our hope of glory.” It is also the indwelling Christ affirmed and venerated in the Gnostic tradition.

There is no doubt that Jung saw in the new Gnostic Renaissance, which began with the discovery in 1945 of the Nag Hammadi library, a manifestation of his own prophecy in the then still secret Red Book. The connection of Jung’s prophecy with the tradition of Gnosis is unmistakable.

In his Red Book, Jung stated clearly that the task of the present and near future was “to give birth to the ancient in a new time,” and he clearly meant the Gnostic tradition is in fact that ancient thing to which he and others were giving birth.

I have spent a very large portion of my adult life studying and commenting upon the work of Jung and the Gnostic sacred writings. I should say, then, that humanity today is experiencing the rebirth of Gnosticism, and its principal God-image is being born in a new time. The esoteric as well as the exoteric implications of this process are momentous.

RS: Unlike many figures in the world of alternative spirituality, you have been critical of the environmental movement. Could you discuss why?

SH: The environmental movement, as I have come to observe it, is indeed a hybrid thing with many facets, some of which are not pleasing to me. If this movement would concentrate its attention on practical measures in improving the environment, I would look upon it with favour. I have resided for sixty years in one of the largest, and consequently greatly polluted, cities of the US, namely Los Angeles, California. In the early years of my residence here, the atmosphere was filled with an unwholesome mixture of smoke and fog, called “smog.” With the aid of various measures, the cooperative efforts of public agencies and private industry have improved the air in my city to a very great extent. Similarly, many helpful measures have been undertaken in the area of trash collection, recycling, and the like. These actions were performed as practical tasks to benefit humans in the city.

We need to keep in mind that “environment” means “that which surrounds.” The next question is “Whom does it surround?” To which the answer is “Humans!” Here, I feel, is the crux of the issue. According to my understanding of the philosophy of Gnosticism, the human is a very important being on this earth because it is in the human that the divine spark resides, and it is this spark that is to experience Gnosis. Therefore it is important that we should have a fair environment for the human. On the other hand, the environment is not an all-important thing in and of itself. The material creation within which we live is a creation of the archons. When we begin to worship the environment, we worship a flawed creation. We need to cultivate our consciousness and with it make intelligent decisions about ourselves and about the environment. Large portions of the environmental movement have become pantheistic nature worshippers, often viewing humanity as a curse upon the world – a title I would like to reserve for crocodiles, bedbugs, and the AIDS virus, to mention but a few.

There is much reverential talk in some esoteric circles about “the one life.” I would rather concentrate on “conscious life” and keep in mind that much life in this world is sordid, malign, unsavoury, and even evil.

RS: Your spiritual lineage, I gather, comes from the “independent sacramental” line, sometimes called the line of “wandering bishops.” Could you tell us a little about this tradition and how it relates to your own work?

SH: The lineage you refer to is that of the apostolic succession. As far as we can ascertain, most of the Gnostic schools in ancient times participated in the apostolic succession. They wrote, in the words of the Gospel of Philip, “The Lord anointed the Apostles and the Apostles anointed us.” Gnostic revival movements such as the French Gnostic Church, revived in the nineteenth century by Bishop Jules Doinel, all availed themselves of apostolic successions, mainly of Roman Catholic and Syrian Orthodox origin.

I was a student and seminarian of the Cistercian order in Hungary. After I left my native land, I seriously considered further training for the Roman Catholic priesthood. What got in my way was Gnosticism, a secret tradition to which I became ever more attached.

RS: I understand that you were consecrated as a bishop by a figure known as Richard, Duc de Palatine. Could you say a little bit about him, his teachings, and his own lineage?

SH: Upon my arrival in the US in the early 1950s, I discovered there were a number of small denominations that were known as “independent Catholic churches.” A somewhat pejorative name that was sometimes applied to the bishops of these churches was “wandering bishops.” After a few years I became a cleric, and eventually a priest, in one of these churches, the American Catholic Church, which possessed a lovely church in Laguna Beach, California. The bishop was a very fine man, Dr. Lowell Paul Wadle.

A number of years later, I met a British bishop, Richard, Duc de Palatine, who was on a lecture tour in the US. Unlike the bishop who ordained me a priest, who was an esotericist but not an outright Gnostic, Bishop de Palatine was a Gnostic and was in contact with the Gnostic churches in Europe. Thus I moved from one bishop to another, which proved prophetic, since my earlier bishop suddenly died a fairly short time thereafter. Thus my career as an openly Gnostic priest began.

Richard, Duc de Palatine, described by Dr. Stephan Hoeller as a learned and charismatic man, is regarded as restoring the Gnostic tradition in the English speaking world.

Richard, Duc de Palatine, described by Dr. Stephan Hoeller as a learned and charismatic man, is regarded as restoring the Gnostic tradition in the English speaking world.

This gentleman was an Australian by birth and upbringing. He studied at the University of Melbourne and during World War II served in the Australian armed forces. After the war he moved to London, where he became involved in various esoteric and ecclesiastical activities. Somewhat like me, he developed a great interest in Gnosticism quite early in his life. He joined the Theosophical Society in Australia, and I believe he belonged to the Melbourne Lodge, where, many years later, in the 1980s, I was a visiting lecturer myself. While some reference books claim that he had been a priest of the Liberal Catholic Church in Australia, he always denied this.

Richard, Duc de Palatine’s clerical career began in London, shortly after he transferred his residence there. He became friendly with an English independent Catholic bishop, whose secular name was Hugh George de Willmott-Newman, and who was known as Mar Georgius I, bishop of Glastonbury. It was Mar Georgius who instigated that Richard should receive the title Duc (“duke”) de Palatine. There seems to have been a vogue among English independent bishops to receive titles of nobility at that time. Since these titles did not come from a reigning monarch of any country, they were considered somewhat spurious by some. Since I come from Austro-Hungarian nobility myself, with a title that dates back to the eighteenth century, I did not view this peculiar title-mongering with a great deal of favour, but I had more important concerns.

Bishop de Palatine had a small organisation, headquartered in London, which possessed a certain membership in the US. He asked me to take charge of these members, and thus I became his personal representative for the US and the leader of the Los Angeles group of his members. This involved also starting up a Gnostic parish, which I did, and thus since 1959 I have headed a small Gnostic church in Los Angeles. I may say that this turn in my career was really a dream come true, for my great interest in Gnosticism now enabled me to serve this tradition in both a teaching and a priestly capacity.

Thus Richard, Duc de Palatine became my teacher and superior formally in the early 1950s. He was an unusual person; charismatic, learned in certain areas, and – I am a bit reluctant to confess – I found him to be a person with unmistakable occult powers. He was what anciently was called a thaumaturge. I imagine there was a certain similarity between his powers and those of people like H.P. Blavatsky and G.I. Gurdjieff. Since these matters are somewhat private, no more shall be said of them. I served his church as a priest for ten years, after which he consecrated me a bishop.

RS: There is a widespread teaching that speaks of a secret brotherhood that is constantly at work on behalf of human advancement and evolution. Do you personally believe in this concept, and if so, could you explain why?

SH: The notion of such a brotherhood was chiefly publicised by H.P. Blavatsky and her followers, although some ideas of this nature existed in earlier esoteric traditions. The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw much literature that exalted and exaggerated this concept. Names such as “Great White Brotherhood of Adepts” and even “the Hierarchy” came to be applied to it.

As a student of esoteric history, I am aware of the presence of mysterious spiritual beings in the early Theosophical Society. Blavatsky often referred to her gurus, as did some of her successors.

As to my own views on these matters, I freely accept the belief that esoteric teachers frequently have both embodied and also spiritual gurus. (For instance, Jung had a “ghostly guru” called Philemon.) But I draw the line at the idea that these gurus are organised in some sort of formal council that guides and advances the progress of humanity. In my view, this is a distortion of the data. One could also say that in view of the many frightful wars, holocausts, and gulags of recent history, the alleged beneficent efforts of such a brotherhood appear to have been singularly ineffective.

RS: There seem also to be many forces that are working against human evolution and advancement. Could you comment a little on these? Do they have any relation to, say, the Gnostic concepts of the Demiurge and the archons?

SH: The presence of forces that oppose human spiritual freedom was widely recognised by Gnostic teachers. Such forces are frequently personified as the archons, headed by the Demiurge of this world. Mythically, these beings are represented as entities who have been alienated from the ultimate divine source of the All, and who regard themselves as the proper overlords of creation and of humanity. A descriptive mythologem would be to see them as slave masters who wish to keep human souls in bondage, and who therefore try to prevent the liberation of human souls by Gnosis.

It may be useful to mention that this view is not in the nature of a Gnostic demonology. The archons and the Demiurge are not so much evil as they are of limited consciousness; they do not recognise a reality superior to their own. (Gnostics stated that it was the Demiurge who exclaimed: “I am the only God and there are no other Gods beside me!”) These beings have fabricated a flawed creation and are determined to keep human souls confined therein.

Fortunately, the domain of these beings is not universal. Mingled with the dark features of demiurgic creation, we find elements coming from the original Godhead, elements which have remained relatively free from corruption. Therefore, the manifest creation contains both light and dark. We walk on the checkerboard of the cosmos, which has been called the “tasselated pavement” in certain initiatory orders.

As for myself, I believe neither in a great white brotherhood of benevolent adepts nor in a menacing assembly of evil black magicians, but rather in forces of unconsciousness opposed by forces of liberating consciousness. All of these may be personified or not. Among these forces we laboriously wind our way to the summit of salvific Gnosis.

„You can learn more about Gnosticism and the work of Bishop Dr. Stephan A. Hoeller at the website of the Ecclesia Gnostica, Dr. Hoeller’s extensive library of lectures – on Gnosticism, Jung, Alchemy, Consciousness, Religion, & much more – are available for download from

If you appreciated this article, please consider a digital subscription to New Dawn.


RICHARD SMOLEY has over thirty-five years of experience of studying and practicing esoteric spirituality. He is the author of Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition; The Dice Game of Shiva: How Consciousness Creates the Universe; Conscious Love: Insights from Mystical Christianity; The Essential Nostradamus; Forbidden Faith: The Secret History of Gnosticism; and Hidden Wisdom: A Guide to the Western Inner Traditions (with Jay Kinney). Smoley is also the former editor of Gnosis: A Journal of the Western Inner Traditions. Currently he is editor of Quest: Journal of the Theosophical Society in America and of Quest Books.

The above article appeared in New Dawn No. 143 (Mar-Apr 2014)

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Is Your God a Devil?



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 about their beneficence. The ancient Gnostics said that the real god of this world was the Demiurge, a second-order being who mistook himself for the true God. The spiritual teacher G.I. Gurdjieff told a parable about a lazy shepherd who got tired of having his sheep run off, so he hypnotised them into thinking they were men or lions. Then they no longer ran off but stayed around so that he could shear or kill them as he liked. (Again we encounter a shepherd, this one more explicitly malevolent.)

Gurdjieff does not say who this shepherd is. His main point is that man, in his state of waking sleep, is at the mercy of forces that may well not have his best interests at heart – forces that will extract energy from him regardless of his wishes.

This parable is from an early period of Gurdjieff’s teaching; in his later period, epitomised in his magnum opus All and Everything: Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, he portrayed the universe in a more beneficent light. But there are plenty of others who have cast doubts on the motives of the spiritual powers that control our lives.

One of the weirdest is found in a book called War in Heaven by Kyle Griffith. Originally it appeared in 1988. It has never been published in a conventional sense; I first read it years ago when I was editor of the esoteric journal Gnosis and there was a spiral-bound copy lying around the office. Today it can be downloaded for free at

Comparatively little is known about Griffith himself. From my sources, I gather that he lived in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1980s, the time when he put his book together. He has been featured in an Internet interview (, and there is a discussion group devoted to his ideas at

From a certain point of view, War in Heaven may look mad; from another, it is strangely compelling. I have read it three times over the years. While I’m not prepared to take its claims at face value, I find them both haunting and disturbing.

Griffith’s vision allegedly derives from his telepathic communication with some spirits who say they are associated with the Invisible College. This was the name of a seventeenth century English coterie that was devoted to esotericism, philosophy, and the nascent discipline of science; it is usually seen as a precursor to the Royal Society. Unlike the scientifically minded gentlemen of Britain, the Invisible College of Griffith’s vision consists of disembodied spirits who claim to have inspired the Rosicrucian and Freemasonic movements of the early modern era; more recently, they were behind the civil-rights movement in America and the psychedelic revolution of the same period.

All of these movements were designed with one end in mind: to break the hold of the Theocrats.

The Theocrats, in the cosmology of War in Heaven, are parasitic astral entities who devour the souls of the recently deceased. The normal course of the soul’s evolution involves repeated reincarnations on earth. But these incarnations, as we well know, can be extremely unpleasant at times. The Theocrats have avoided this disagreeable option by maintaining a semiperpetual existence on the astral plane, fed by the souls they eat. Their strategy is simple. When a naïve soul has died, they greet it on the other side by proffering illusory welcomes into a fake heaven, populated with familiar religious figures and loved ones. When the soul has strayed into their trap, it is devoured.

To make this vision even more disturbing, Griffith (or his guides from the Invisible College) contends that practically all of what we think of as religion is nothing more than a Theocratic ruse.

The stages of this religious development, as portrayed in War in Heaven, bear some examination. The first stage was essentially shamanism. This is a crude and primitive form of religion – from the Theocrats’ point of view, that is, not from ours.

Shamanism, we are told, fosters individual psychic development, and as such, it is of limited value to the predatory Theocrats, who benefit much more from the collective trance that conventional religious worship produces. As a result, the Theocrats had to refine and update their methods of mind control.

Second-stage religion was a dead end. It involved large-scale human sacrifice. And history shows that civilisations that had such practices came to a bad end soon. Ancient Carthage, the great rival of Rome for domination of the Mediterranean, was one example. When the Romans decisively defeated Carthage, they razed the city and sowed the ground with salt. Salt is traditionally a substance used for purification, and some have said the Romans did this to cleanse the land from all the human sacrifice that had taken place there. Aztec civilisation, which in many ways was superior to its European contemporary, was another example: for all its might, it was destroyed by a few hundred Spanish adventurers on horseback.

“The third stage of Theocratic religion,” Griffith writes, “involves mass animal sacrifices. Although they prefer human souls, Theocratic spirits can nourish themselves off the astral souls of lower animals to some extent.”

If this were true, it would cast a weird but revealing light on what I have characterised in the accompanying article as the religions of the Age of Aries. They were so obsessed with animal sacrifice – which otherwise seems to be rather a pointless activity – because the Theocrats wanted it.

“However,” Griffith adds, “the astral tissues of animal souls aren’t very compatible with the astral souls of the Theocrats, so they are not a good food source.” To solve this problem, the Theocrats invented fourth-stage religion – the religions that most of the world knows today. Here “Theocrats use religious mind control to delude souls into deliberately putting themselves under Theocratic control after death, thinking they are entering ‘eternal bliss in Heaven’ or ‘union with the Godhead’.” These religions are essentially those of what in the accompanying article I have called the Age of Pisces.

By this view, the gods people worship – whether they are called Christ or Allah or Krishna – are nothing more than parasites on the astral plane who keep themselves nourished by souls of the innocents they prey on. Originally the Buddha was different; he experienced a genuine awakening and thus showed little respect for the traditional Vedic gods of his culture. But his later followers, who distorted his teaching into a religion based on faith in Buddha, became subservient to the Theocrats.

Oh, and by the way: “The Theocrats want religious believers to feel guilty every time they feel sexual desire or enjoy any ‘pleasures of the flesh’. The guilt literally addicts them to attending church services that subject them to religious mind control.”

There have been few more disturbing portraits of the religious history of humanity than this.

To deliver the hapless beings of the human race from this dire situation, certain advanced souls from other planets came to the astral atmosphere of Earth a few centuries ago. They, along with some enlightened human souls who have managed to avoid the Theocrats, constitute the Invisible College. While the Theocrats have been sending telepathic suggestions to their unsuspecting followers on this plane, saying that all you have to do is believe in the Theocratic gods and trust them, the Invisible College has been transmitting the opposite message: to avoid worship and above all to think for yourself. They inspired the Rosicrucian and Masonic movements of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as well as the accompanying impulses toward democracy, freedom of thought, and even atheism. After all, it is better to believe in no God at all than to open yourself up to a parasitic astral deity.

According to Griffith, much of the 1960s counterculture was stimulated by the Invisible College. LSD, rock concerts, and similar gatherings were designed to create a different kind of trance – one that would telepathically open people to the idea they should think for themselves.

But the story does not stop there. This effort has led to a reaction by the adversary – “fifth-stage Theocracy,” which “employs electronic mind control instead of religious mind control, and… can enslave people who subscribe to belief systems other than those of organised religion.” Some groups originally inspired by the Invisible College are co-opted by the adversary. Griffith writes, “Every new rock group starts out with a few normal protest or love songs. Then they get swallowed by a group mind controlled by fifth-stage Theocrats, and from that point on all their songs sound as if they were written by the same person.”

It’s not possible here to go further into Griffith’s bizarre but fascinating vision. But there are some things that keep me from dismissing it entirely. The first is the collective madness of the human race – its pathological desire to rage and destroy, its hatred of its benefactors and its insane worship of its most vicious victimisers. There is a point beyond which we cannot explain this by mere mammalian aggression – which, as a matter of fact, does not have such destructive properties in other mammals. Psychology and sociology have no explanations for this mass insanity and show little interest in finding them. If there were such entities on the astral plane trying to control and manipulate us as Griffith says they are, this behaviour would at least be comprehensible.

Another is the powerful collective urge toward what Gurdjieff called the “waking sleep” of man. It is true that, in the West at any rate, mass hypnosis by low-grade religion is losing its hold. But no sooner has this happened than we see a whole new series of mechanisms for putting people back to sleep – the “electronic mind control” that Griffith mentions. It is very hard to go into a public place and see people bewitched by their laptops and smartphones without wondering if something like this is going on.

I don’t think War in Heaven offers a total explanation for the human condition, but I suspect that it has a measure of truth. There do seem to be invisible forces that, for reasons that are difficult to determine, benefit from the collective waking trance of humanity.

Griffith concludes his work with a quasi-apocalyptic vision of the End Times. It is close enough to the End Times as portrayed by Christianity that I have trouble taking it at face value. And while I suspect there are low-grade spiritual entities that very much resemble the Theocrats described here, I am not so convinced that they explain everything about human religious aspiration.

In any case, Griffith and his invisible mentors have some advice for keeping out of Theocratic control. In the first place, make a conscious effort to develop your own psychic powers during this life. In the second place, “read accounts of point-of-death experiences and learn to recognise the common tricks that the Theocrats use to enslave the unwary after death.” In other words, those accounts of near-death experiences are true – but they’re not to be taken at face value. That’s probably a sound rule of thumb for all spiritual experiences – no matter how good or bad they seem.

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RICHARD SMOLEY has over thirty-five years of experience of studying and practicing esoteric spirituality. He is the author of Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition; The Dice Game of Shiva: How Consciousness Creates the Universe; Conscious Love: Insights from Mystical Christianity; The Essential Nostradamus; Forbidden Faith: The Secret History of Gnosticism; and Hidden Wisdom: A Guide to the Western Inner Traditions (with Jay Kinney). Smoley is also the former editor of Gnosis: A Journal of the Western Inner Traditions. Currently he is editor of Quest: Journal of the Theosophical Society in America and of Quest Books.

The above article appeared in New Dawn No. 142 (Jan-Feb 2014)

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