Speaking Hermetically at Rune Soup

Here’s a link to a recent interview I did with Gordon White at his excellent website RuneSoup. Gordon did his homework and our talk covered a great deal of ground. We focused on my new book The Secret Teachers of the Western World but our conversation ranged far and wide with much in between. Check it out when you can and be sure to listen to some of Gordon’s other chats.

4 thoughts on “Speaking Hermetically at Rune Soup

  1. Sorry that my Surrealism rejoinder apparently wasn’t to your taste, but I stand by it. I hope you don’t feel that Barfield is beyond criticism (or good-natured ribbing).

    A couple of general “secret teachers” related comments. Of all your monographs on individual authors, I think that your book and other observations about Ouspensky are most valuable. Among the figures with whom you’ve engaged, Ouspensky (along with Blavatsky) is the one whose personal story has been most distorted, and most needed retelling.

    One thinker whose reputation in the English-speaking world would benefit immensely from your gift for summarizing and encapsulating obscure and difficult concepts is Jacob Boheme. I know you yourself have made wry observations about Boheme’s clarity, but is this Boheme’s fault, or is it because we have only English translations from the 17th Century to use? It boggles my mind that, aside from apparently one recent anthology of Boheme’s writings, and the The Way to Christ, no one since John Sparrow has had a go at rendering Boheme into modern English. Here’s hoping that that changes soon. In the interim, if you read German, then maybe a Boheme monograph along the lines of your work on Swedenborg and Steiner will appear, one day?

    I’ve been leafing through Secret Teachers,and am really impressed with both its scope and with how you seem to achieved a balance of extensive coverage without superficiality. This one is now high on the pile, for me. Best, Kevin

    1. Kevin, there’s no need to apologize. I do agree with Barfield’s concerns about some aspects of surrealism. But I certainly don’t think that he or the surrealists or myself for that matter are beyond criticism or ribbing. As I’ve said, I was very interested in the surrealists when I was younger but over time I found myself less taken with their general approach to things and more or less outgrew them. But its a big universe and there’s room for people who feel surrealistically inclined and also for those who don’t. I think Barfield and the surrealists would agree, although Breton did have problems accepting criticism, or at least that’s the impression I’ve got from reading biographies of him.

      Boehme is a fascinating individual and you’ve probably seen that I devote a decent section to him in Secret Teachers. I think his books are difficult in German as well as in English, and they are difficult for the same reason much alchemical literature is, in whatever language it’s written in. As far as I can tell, Boehme was very keen on sounding like an alchemist and he often took Paracelsus for a guide. Paracelsus is also a less than absolutely clear writer, so it isn’t surprising that Boehme would often be obscure too. Someone who has helped me understand Boehme’s ideas is Nikolai Berdyaev. Here’s a link to some of what he has to say. To be honest I doubt if I’ll get around to writing a separate book about him – unless a publisher asks.

      I’m glad you’ve enjoyed my writings on Ouspensky. He is one of my favorites, and by this I mean his early re-Gurdjieff work, like Tertium Organum. I say this because I don’t mean to imply that I prefer his approach to the Fourth Way to Gurdjieff’s. As I say in my book on Ouspensky, I think he made a mistake when he gave up writing and devoted himself to teaching the “work.” Nevertheless, I still get a thrill from New Model of the Universe and I do find myself often refering back to some insight or suggestion of his, as I think I do fairly often in Secret Teachers. All the best.

  2. Hi Gary–

    Can’t thank you enough for THE SECRET TEACHERS OF THE WESTERN WORLD. It’s connecting many spiritual dots and has opened up for me deeper awareness of an esoteric heritage within which I can now position my own mystical experience, visionary journey and creative expression.

    Listening to your RUNE SOUP interview, I was struck by your New Jersey roots and your early adventures in poetry. I was born and raised in New York City (Queens), started writing poetry as an adolescent, and haven’t stopped since. In fact, your book inspired my latest poem, and I offer it below in gratitude. As long as I get author’s credit, please feel free to reproduce it, should the Spirit move.

    All the best, Bob


    these are the pupils staring out the window
    during the critical exam fascinated by how
    sunlight glitters between the leaves of trees
    a semaphore a meaning only they can grasp

    these are the poets scenting a rare pungency–
    unexplored continents wafting on the breeze
    they hear a high music keening within silence
    and taste infinite distances riddling the stars

    these are the seekers whose minds are blown
    as layer by layer rigid egos get scoured away
    then hearts crack open their ambushed souls
    now capsized by rogue waves of Cosmic Light!

    these are the sages overmastered by a Vision–
    the Indissoluble Union of all beings and worlds
    this is the Secret shivering through their bones
    the Wisdom they consecrate their lives to teach


    (C) Bob Savino

    1. Hello Bob. I’m glad you’re enjoying Secret Teachers and many thanks for the poem. I imagine Queens couldn’t be that different from where I lived in New Jersey. In any case, as soon as I could I took every chance I had to cross the Hudson into New York. All the best, Gary

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