Anthropologically, there have always been (wo)men within "primitive" societies who were looked upon as possessing special knowledge and power. Medicine men, or shamans, had undergone a spontaneous catharsis, or were initiated and felt called upon to maintain contact with the spirit world for the clan. When communities became more complex and organized there was little place for these loners. Society began to specialize, people realized and felt drawn to form groups, guilds, or societies, to ensure continuance and growing perfection. Contact with the spirit world was given into the hands of organized religion, which also provided an established answer to questions about the unknown and the Highest Power. People who felt endowed with special powers could hardly adapt themselves to the corset of established faith. They went underground. Yet they endeavoured to contact kindred spirits and pupils willing to follow in their footsteps to pass on the work. Esoteric tradition became handed down in spiritual groups, communes, or fraternities. Their mutual devotion resulted in a high degree of perfection comparable to the guilds of craftsmen. In their mystical experiences they beheld a spiritual reality that could hardly be reconciled with the dogmatic representation given by the churches. When passing on their experiences, they had to exercise extreme caution, lest being accused of heresy. Yet knowledgeable minds would understand their veiled writings, symbolic representations, or even gestures. In spite of all hindrances and opposition, hidden (occult) spiritual tradition reached unknown shores! One of them being Europe, where interest in ancient traditions was revived at various times. Interest in these traditions alternated. After periods of decline, often as a result of cultural and political conditions, a growing need for revival of old almost forgotten values followed. The occult tradition seems so tremendously powerful that it cannot be suppressed. It develops in cycles of flourishing and decline - each renaissance with a fresh approach, adapted to the spirit of the times. Renewed interest in these spiritual, religious and magical traditions had a tremendous impact on the minds of man. The latest revival in a popularized form is that of the New Age movement in the late sixties. The following is a brief sketch of its origins, divided in the following chapters:
Grecian mysteries and philosophy / Christianity
The 7th to 5th centuries B.C. are characterized by a remarkable global birth of religio-philosophical ways of thought of astounding profoundness: Lao-tse and Kung-Fu-tse (Confucius) in China, Buddha and Mahavira in India, Zarathustra in Persia, the prophets in Palestine and the philosophers of Greece. An attempt was undertaken by all these great sages to transcend the old myths and superstitions of their time and present an in-depth approach. An abstract, mystical way of seeing and experiencing reality was being paved. Some of these wisdom traditions became embodied in Greek culture. Western European man learnt of their world of thought through contacts with the Middle East and in particular Latin translations of Greek philosophical works. The Greeks set them also on the trail of Egyptian culture and religion. Knowledge about this great civilisation came to the Occident indirectly however in its Greek version. Actual contact with Egypt did not exist. The Greeks, in their syncretistic turn of mind, absorbed in their philosophy the essence of religious traditions that reached them from other cultures through trade or wars. Egyptian initiation rites, Thracian orphic mysteries and other ritual and cult practices were amongst the many that were adopted readily. God Hermes Trismegistus(=thrice great) was considered by them to be identical with the...