JUST BELOW THE SURFACE

Secret Rel.

While in Vancouver, I stumbled on a little book called A Brief Guide to Secret Religions: A Complete Guide to Hermetic, Pagan, and Esoteric Beliefs by David Barrett. Barrett has a PhD in the Sociology of Religion from the London School of Economics. On several nights, after an exhausting day of sightseeing, I’d settle down to read Barrett’s work. I know I’m weird, but I found this to be a fun, little history book. For years I’ve skirted the edges of the New Age movement, am happily surrounded by pagans, and lately I’ve been taking classes on Hermetical beliefs so the book interests me on several levels.

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Barrett divides the book into three parts (the New Age: Hermetic, Occult, High Magic: and Neo-Paganism), but he freely admits that when examining the interrelationship of these groups, the lines blur quickly. So he imposed this structure knowing it’s arbitrary. Interspersed throughout the book are interview responses from different followers of these groups which illuminate their thoughts on various key issues, expressing commonalities and differences. It’s a fascinating read and you begin to understand that these alternative paths have a rich history and a dynamic future. In a culture where we are fast becoming a people who identify as “spiritual, but not religious,” understanding the depth of the roots of New Age (don’t think for a second that Hippies started this), Hermetics, and Paganism become more important. Many of the ideas of these groups are moving mainstream led by new scientific theories, continued interest in environmentalism, and an era supporting individual spirituality. Barrett’s writing reflects that he is a scholar, open-minded and even-handed. Highly recommended!

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16 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Books

16 responses to “JUST BELOW THE SURFACE

  1. “Spiritual, but not religious’ is a phrase often ridiculed, but it is real and it is substantial. For me it evokes the variety of experiences connecting us to the divine and each other that may or not be supported by more traditional religion. And the Hermetic stuff just proves the thread for this has existed for millennia. Nice review!

  2. Its gotten to be that ancient texts are on youtube and pdf files to download and also disciples of every sort blog or video blog. I’ve learned tons i the past five years. I like the audio/video now most for study of religions and philosophies.

  3. Oh, that definitely sounds like a good book. I love anything to do with religions.

  4. Thanks for stopping by my blog! I’m a sucker for history and religion, so I’ll have to check this one out for sure.

  5. Wow, sounds intriguing! Definitely going to keep my eye out for it in my local bookstore :)

  6. Very interesting! Will certainly look into it

  7. Thanks for this, Ellis! Will add to the unruly pile…

  8. Sounds like an interesting read to add to my collection. Thanks!

  9. sounds right up my alley. Thank you

  10. If you say it is worth the read, I may just look it up. BUT I have always been leery of titles that say “Complete Guide” on subjects that are rather vast….

    • Yeah, I know. It is a sort of summary. If you really want to pursue anything like The Golden Dawn in detail, this will only give you a few page history- but it does string together nicely how all these movements have been fed by prior thinkers. So it’s good to understand the geography of the forest, but it will be up to you to get to know whatever individual tree takes your fancy.

  11. You wrote a great review! What impressed me most is this part: “Barrett’s writing reflects that he is a scholar, open-minded and even-handed.” It’s so important to me that a researcher shed their biases and share with me so I can make choices, if a choice needs to be made.

    Sharing to Facebook. :)

  12. i had that book in my hands a few years ago in a local bookstore, and it is really good.

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