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The Occult Tradition: From the Renaissance to the Present Day [Paperback]

David S. Katz
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Feb 2007

Is the universe alive? Are there hidden connections within it, revealed in history and in sacred texts? Can we understand or even learn to control these secrets? Have we neglected an entirely separate science that works according to a different set of principles?

Certainly by the time of the Renaissance in Europe, there were many thinkers who answered in the affirmative to all of these questions. Despite the growth of modern science and a general disenchantment of the world, the 'occult' or 'esoteric' tradition has evolved in the West, manifesting itself in such diverse groups as the Freemasons, the Mormons, Christian Scientists, the Theosophists, New Ageists and American Fundamentalism. Paradoxically, the turn to science and the triumph of evolution in the nineteenth century produced an explosion of occultism, increasing its power as a kind of super-science. Gothic, fantastic, and supernatural fiction flourished, while Spiritualism emerged as a serious inquiry into the possibility of contacting the dead. After all, if you could communicate with the living at great distances, why should a similar teletechnology not be possible to the other world?

Disciplines had not yet hardened, and the borders were as yet undefined between parapsychology and psychology, between mythology and anthropology. Mesmerism became hypnotism, and the subconscious came to be recognized as more than a medium's stomping ground. This book describes the growth and meandering path of the occult tradition over the past five hundred years, and shows how the esoteric world view fits together.



Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Pimlico (1 Feb 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0712667865
  • ISBN-13: 978-0712667869
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 524,152 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"A tantalising volume... He goes well beyond the titillating, copiously illustrated accounts of the occult that appear on many a bookshelf." (Glasgow Herald)

"Concise, erudite... With his characteristically light touch, Katz outlines the main 18th- and 19th-century manifestations of the occult tradition." (Michael Burleigh Sunday Times)

"Intelligent, encyclopaedic and lucidly written, it is a history of occult scholarship in the west, from the Renaissance to modern-day religious fundamentalism in the US." (Ludovic Hunter-Tilney Financial Times)

"The author follows capably and lucidly in the tradition of two great modern scholars of esotericism, Frances Yates and Keith Thomas, whose work started the field of occult studies, and he shows convincingly that occultism is the shadow side of science, itself a development of arcane studies." (Iain Finlayson The Times)

"His unique contributions go to show how the occult tradition continued into the 21st-century world. Some people's shelves groan with works on mysticism and the occult, and this would make an erudite addition for them. For those who will read only one book on the exegesis of ancient grimoires, this should be it." (Jad Adams Guardian)

Book Description

A comprehensive and accessible history of the occult from earliest times to the present.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Big Picture 24 Sep 2006
By Pieter Uys HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
This engrossing work is a study of the occult tradition from its flowering in the Renaissance up to the New Age phenomenon of the present day. The theme that emerges is one of a unified esoteric tradition with ancient roots that is alive and thriving today. The book presents the big picture of a vast and fascinating body of beliefs that has had a profound influence on Western civilization.

Chapter One discusses George Frazer's classic book The Golden Bough and some characteristics of the occult tradition: correspondences, living nature, imagination and mediations, and the experience of transmutation. The ancient roots like Neoplatonism, Hermeticism and Gnosticism and their revival in the Renaissance are covered here, as well as the history and influence of the Kabbalah.

Chapter Two deals with conspiracy and enlightenment from the Rosicrucians to Isaac Newton, who had a keen interest in the temple of Solomon and the Bible as a whole. Freemasonry, the Mormons and Swedenborg are explored in Chapter Three. This chapter also includes passages on the Counts Saint-Germain and Cagliostro.

The next chapter takes a look at the Gothic Novel of the 17th and 18th centuries and how it paved the way for a greater acceptance of the supernatural in the 19th century. It also deals with German Romanticism, Victorian Occultism, Mesmerism and the establishment of the Society for Psycical Research in 1882.

Chapter Five investigates the interaction between psychology and the esoteric, with reference to inter alia Robert Burton, Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, Mary Baker Eddy, William James, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. In the 19th century, India replaced Egypt as the primary occult inspiration.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good place to start. 1 Mar 2010
Format:Paperback
A very readable and interesting overview of the subject. Anyone into conspiracies or the work of David Icke will enjoy this book.
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Amazon.com: 3.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Big Picture 24 Sep 2006
By Pieter Uys - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This engrossing work is a study of the occult tradition from its flowering in the Renaissance up to the New Age phenomenon of the present day. The theme that emerges is one of a unified esoteric tradition with ancient roots that is alive and thriving today. The book presents the big picture of a vast and fascinating body of beliefs that has had a profound influence on Western civilization.

Chapter One discusses George Frazer's classic book The Golden Bough and some characteristics of the occult tradition: correspondences, living nature, imagination and mediations, and the experience of transmutation. The ancient roots like Neoplatonism, Hermeticism and Gnosticism and their revival in the Renaissance are covered here, as well as the history and influence of the Kabbalah.

Chapter Two deals with conspiracy and enlightenment from the Rosicrucians to Isaac Newton, who had a keen interest in the temple of Solomon and the Bible as a whole. Freemasonry, the Mormons and Swedenborg are explored in Chapter Three. This chapter also includes passages on the Counts Saint-Germain and Cagliostro.

The next chapter takes a look at the Gothic Novel of the 17th and 18th centuries and how it paved the way for a greater acceptance of the supernatural in the 19th century. It also deals with German Romanticism, Victorian Occultism, Mesmerism and the establishment of the Society for Psycical Research in 1882.

Chapter Five investigates the interaction between psychology and the esoteric, with reference to inter alia Robert Burton, Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, Mary Baker Eddy, William James, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. In the 19th century, India replaced Egypt as the primary occult inspiration. Chapter Six looks at amongst others Max Muller, Helena Blavatsky, The Golden Dawn and Rudolf Steiner.

The last chapter explores Christian movements like Seventh Day Adventism, the Jehovah's Witnesses and Fundamentalism, as well as the New Age movement. I am not at all convinced by the author's assertion that Evangelical Christianity is an occult movement. He readily admits that Fundamentalism is merely a clear restatement of the basic tenets of Protestantism.

Katz's criteria for linking it to the occult do not convince me - by this reasoning, all religions should be considered occult. Despite this flaw, his discussions on Dispensationalism and biblical prophecy are quite interesting. The book concludes with a look at Holism and New Age with reference to Edgar Cayce, Jan Smuts, David Bohm, Karl Pribram, Rupert Sheldrake and others.

The Occult Tradition is highly informative in charting the history of the occult tradition during the last 500 years and in demonstrating how this worldview fits together. One of its most significant revelations is how many prominent scientists, including Charles Darwin, Francis Bacon, Sigmund Freud and Isaac Newton, held a strong interest in the esoteric.

The are 8 pages of plates with 22 photographs and portraits. The book concludes with 50 pages of bibliographic notes and an index. It is a gripping and occasionally humorous read.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent hstorical survey 22 Mar 2007
By Andrew McLaren - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
David Katz is a distinguished academic historian and Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. In "The Occult Tradition", he presents a brief survey of the history and development of Occult and Esoteric thought in the West - covering topics such as Paracelcus, the Rosicrucians, Freemasonry, alchemy, Isaac Newton's speculations, early psychology, spiritualism, Theosophy, 70's New Age, etc. Since he covers some 600 years in 200 pages, each individual topic is, of necessity, brief; but he packs in an amazing amount of factual information. Katz's style is very readable; anyone could pick up this book and read it with pleasure and interest. He also includes (unobtrusively) full footnotes and scholarly apparatus - so historians and other scholars will still find the book suitably "serious". He references other writers such as Frances Yates, Theodore Adorno, Keith Thomas etc.

Katz examines his subject as historical phenomenon, but he is neither attacking or supporting occult or esoteric belief, as such. I imagine that even devout practitioners of astrology, Wicca, etc would find this an entertaining and informative read.

I really, REALLY enjoyed this book! I strongly recommend it.
1.0 out of 5 stars incompetent author. 22 July 2014
By Floyd Paulos - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was looking forward to an overview of occult activities.But shortly after starting the book,in the preview the author lost all credibility by explaining the book would omit references to witchcraft as ''witchcraft does not seem like the occult to me''.This was a bit like someone selling a book on US politics but omitting references to the Republican party as ''the Republican party does not seem like apolitical party to me''.I can not read further without suspecting such gross incompetence has bowdlerized the rest of the book,so it was a waste of time and money.
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