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The Complete Book of the Occult and Fortune Telling Paperback – 27 Oct 2013
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The writing of the text must have concluded in 1925 as there are no references cited later than that year. The introduction is by M.C. Poinsot. It has been suggested that Monsieur Poinsot is the author of the entire work, but having scoured the internet for confirmation, I can find no proof of that. Monsieur Poinsot does share some linguistic traits with the encyclopedia’s author, however. Both refer to individual tarot cards as ‘leaves’, although this may simply reflect a tendency at the time and within France to see tarot cards a leaves detached from the fabled Book of Thoth.
The encyclopedia will be 90 years old in 2015 and it is a salutary experience to be exposed to the beliefs and hopes of another era. Physiognomy today is a discredited science, as much in the esoteric world as the exoteric. But here can be found the elements of Physiognomy as understood by French occultists during the years between World War One and World War Two. Also the author anticipates that Theosophy will become the next world religion, something that clearly didn’t happen.
All subjects covered are viewed through French eyes, a tendency most noticeable in the two sections on the tarot. The text on this topic draws its data from the books of Papus, Paul Christian and Eliphas Levi, and from Eudes Picard, whose work is not well-known to the English-speaking world. Personally, I have found the access the book afforded me to continental ideas most enlightening. Others may find those ideas confusing in so far as they are at odds with concepts now widely accepted by English-speaking occultists. Because I have extracted a mass of information from the encyclopedia for my own use, I have given the book four stars, assuming that others will be able to get as much out of it as I did, if they search hard enough.
The translation is competent, but 90 years on it has acquired an unintended idiosyncratic feel. To give one instance: Papus’s book on the tarot with the established English title The Tarot of the Bohemians is referred to throughout as The Gypsy Taroc (never here or elsewhere in the encyclopedia is it ‘tarot’).
There is much of value in the book, not always filed under the heading where one would expect to find it. That said, I judge it to be of more use to the researcher, the person interested in the history of occultism, than to anyone seeking to imbue the rudiments of astrology, graphology or whatever so as to make practical use of them.