Top critical review
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If it's little understood or believed, it must be true.
on 11 September 2015
The book pulls together many historic writings and modern perspectives, looking predominantly at western esoteric traditions, and attempts to consolidate them into a single theory. Many people looking for the big answers outside standard religion and philosophy have had similar views to the author, and what Black writes is nothing new; just a modern, semi-science-conscious slant.
The standpoint suggested is that the universe is conscious-based, and that matter is a recent development. As we’ve evolved (or indeed devolved) deeper into that universe of matter, we’re told we’ve lost our connection to the spiritual. Over that time, however, there have been particular groups and individuals who have discovered, or been initiated into, ‘the truth’. The book seeks to persuade readers that these stories provide holistic proof of its conclusions.
It is generally presented as a chronology, with particular elements of our history conveniently missing where they do not fit the mould. Things seem hopelessly out of place too; alchemy is referred to throughout the book, but only explained toward the end. Perhaps this is just a symptom of the nature and complexity of the subject, or could it be sloppy, confused writing? It covers some good ground with respect to international religions and philosophies, but usually only in brief. There are lots of examples, and it’s a fairly extensive read, but there are many elements either missing or desperately lacking in detail. This makes the book useful as reference only, and much less convincing.
For example, Black states, pretty much out of the blue, that the, “Lohan, like the Mona Lisa, was created so that if you commune with it, it will speak to you.” There are two ways of looking at this; that most great art has the ability to communicate with its audience (which is true, but how is that esoteric?), or that it is designed to magically interact with man, personally (in which case, where’s the rationale, sentiment, justification, proof etc.?).
Similarly, we’re advised that Raphael’s “great masterpieces depicting the Madonna and Child, with their strange and uniquely compelling quality, were in effect painted from memory.” I understand that this is the belief of esoteric tradition, but I need more info than that. Why would one think so, and on what basis is the tradition established? Just because the artist focussed on particular biblical stories? Well, perhaps Andy Warhol only ate Campbell’s?
With that in mind, one can see this book as just a roll-call of famous names, each listed to establish tentative linkages and supposed proofs. Where scientists and intellectuals have investigated alternative philosophies, we’re told they’re all from the same underground pot. There seems to be no room for diversity of thought.
I suggest that one should not believe something just because it is written, others have believed, or because the old theologies still pertain to basic truths. Faith, belief and opinion only seem to have divided and troubled man through history, despite ‘the answer’ remaining unknowable. I am therefore fundamentally rationalist, treating theology as concept, and question everything; science, religion, the soul, spiritual matters, existence and the like.
I have, however, tried to rate this book by its general presentation rather than from any theological position that might compromise my understanding and appreciation. It’s been very difficult, purely because of the nature of the material. The two stars are just because it gave me a good giggle every now and again. The trouble with this subject is that you’re likely to upset those who are invested in their beliefs, and especially with this work, as the author makes it very clear what he does and does not believe. Esotericism is, for many people, metaphorical, and promotes free thought, but this book contains as much doctrine and opinion as most other religions. This I found disappointing, as I would have preferred the author to have informed, unbiased. What we’ve got, though, is a book that tries to persuade. And if that was the intention, it fails, as the arguments are loose and ineffectual.