Rosicrucian Writings Online
A Talk About BooksBy The Imperator
[H. Spencer Lewis]
[From The Mystic Triangle October 1928]
OUR LAST talk about books, which appeared in the May issue, has caused considerable comment. A number of our new members do not seem to understand that every few months we have a little talk about books, and at the request of many hundreds of members we comment on new books recently issued. Some of our members seem to forget that we are in a unique position in regard to the analysis of occult or mystical books. Since we are not issuing or selling any of our own, and since we do not conduct a book department like many other organizations and do not sell any of the books we comment upon, we can be absolutely unbiased in our recommendations or in our criticisms. A great many organizations have a very large and profitable book department, and it behooves them to speak favorably of nearly all books that they believe their students or friends will buy through their book department. The purchase of books at wholesale, and resale at retail, constitutes a legitimate and profitable feature of the business of many organizations, and we are not criticizing this part of the program of other organizations. But on the other hand, as we have said, the fact that we do not have a book department or issue book catalogues permits us to state frankly in these pages what we believe about many of the books which are issued from month to month.
The important point about the matter is simply this. Our members are enthusiastic students, and most of them have been large buyers of books before they came into the AMORC. Most of them have found in the past that the books they bought were either worthless or did not give them the knowledge they anticipated when they read the title and description of the books in the advertisement. After joining AMORC, they not only find that the purchase and reading of many books is unnecessary, but they find it advisable to follow some form of recommendation before purchasing any of the books that are so widely advertised in various occult, metaphysical and general book catalogues. We know, from hundreds of letters received every month from our members, asking about books that they would like to buy, and asking us to suggest the names of books that would make interesting reading in connection with their studies, that our members want to know about books that will help them in connection with the special studies issued by AMORC. They do not ask us to criticize or comment upon books dealing with art or literature, steam engines or agriculture, and when they ask us whether a certain book will be helpful to them, they do not want to know whether its leather-cover or silk-cloth binding, its large type or beautiful frontispiece portrait of the author is going to assist them in understanding or further amplifying the lessons and instructions contained in our graded courses. Therefore, when we say that a certain book is not of help or value to our members in their studies, we do not intend to intimate that the book, as a book on its particular subject, is worthless. For instance, if some one of our members was to write to me, and ask if the book entitled "The Mystery of Words", by R. H. Bell was of any value to him in his studies, and wanted to know whether it really was a book of mystery in connection with words, I would certainly say that the book would be of no use whatever to our students, and that the purchase of it for such a purpose would be a waste of money, and therefore not recommended. And if some member were to show me or send to me a circular wherein this very book was offered and announced as a book for mystics, because of its mysterious title, I would not hesitate to condemn the advertising and to say that the announcement of the book was misleading, and that anyone who bought the book upon such a recommendation would be defrauded. On the other hand, I possess a copy of this very book, and value it highly. In fact, the book was given to me by the Master of one of our Lodges, who found it of great value to him; and as a help in the understanding of language and the origin and association of words, the book has been, and will be, of great value to him and to others who are interested in that subject. Therefore, I could recommend this book to students of philology with enthusiasm, but I would have to condemn it as a book of helpfulness to students of our general teachings.
Referring again to our book comments in the May magazine, the members will find that a number of books were described in that issue, and some were praised and recommended, while others were severely criticized and not recommended. Those which were recommended and those which were not were reviewed in the light of their helpfulness to our members, and with consideration of what benefit they would be to our members who want to know about books that deal with subjects illuminating the lessons they were receiving from us. We are careful to read the books we speak about, and examine them very thoroughly from the one point of view, namely, helpfulness in the study of our lectures, and from no other angle. It has been said by a few that our condemnation of one or two books by well-known writers, in the May issue, which deal with mystical or Rosicrucian subjects, indicated bias and prejudice on our part. We distinctly stated that while those books might be of value to persons in other organizations, and evidently revealed much labor and time in their preparation, they were not of value to our members. We still say this, and in light of the fact that we have no books of our own of a similar nature to sell, and have no personal interest in either the great sale of some books or the lack of sale in any others, we certainly should not be accused of prejudice. If we ever say anything that is absolutely unfair or unjust in regard to any book, and our members can show this to us in the proper way, we shall be very glad to make further explanation in our issues.
Up to the present time, we have found that in the fifteen years that we have been talking about books, two very definite things have been brought to our attention. In the first place, our recommendation of some books such as "Cosmic Consciousness" by Bucke, and "The Light of Men" by Bass, has resulted in such enormous sale of the books that the publisher has had to get out a second or third edition. Today, both of these books and many others which we recommended years ago are out of print, and a high premium has been placed upon any copy that our members can locate. This has occurred with at least a hundred different books, and since we have no monetary interest in the sale of them, it cannot be said that our strong recommendation of them was for any other purpose than to assist our members. The second point is, that in the case of books we have condemned or criticized in regard to their helpfulness to our members, we have received hundreds of letters from members who have said that they had bought the book just prior to our criticism of it, or had an opportunity to borrow and read it, and they had found our criticism fair and considered the purchase price absolutely lost or wasted so far as the book was of help to the students of our work. We have never received a letter from any of our members stating that a book which we said was not of help to them had been found of actual help, and worthy of our recommendation rather than our criticism.
SOME GOOD BOOKS
A few of our members have recently stated that nearly all of our book reviews or comments for the past three or four years have referred to new books recently issued, and they would like us to comment upon some of the old books which may be found in the public libraries. Of course, new books are of more interest to purchasers than old books, because most of the enthusiastic book buyers have purchased the old ones. Our records show that the average member in our organization had been buying occult and mystical books for from ten to fifteen years before he came into our Order, and therefore has a fair library of the old books.
One interesting point brought out by a great many members in their correspondence with us regarding books is the fact that what the AMORC has saved for them in the purchase of books more than offsets the cost of the monthly dues connected with our membership. The monthly dues, amounting to $24.00 a year, is a small amount indeed compared to the $50.00 or $100.00 spent by the average seeker and student for books that have not given him the knowledge he has been seeking, We are not boastful when we say this, nor can we be accused of exaggeration when we say that our lessons and magazine give our students more real knowledge in one year than they secured out of the many books they have studied, because the fact that after having bought so many books for so many years, they are still seeking proves that they have not found the knowledge they wanted. And the further fact that after coming into AMORC they ceased buying so many books, and will buy only those that are especially recommended, proves that the AMORC teachings are giving them what they have been hunting for.
But to go back to the matter of old books, I wish to speak of a few old ones that may be secured some place, either in libraries, second-hand bookstores, or through book dealers who will take the trouble to get books for you.
We have said many times that the title of a book is the most unreliable guide to the contents. This we said in our last talk in the May 1928 issue of this magazine, and it brought about much criticism, especially in regard to one book dealing with Rosicrucian subjects. But nevertheless the fact remains that you cannot go by the title of a book in seeking for proper reading matter. As an illustration of this, there is one book that is really very beautiful, and while not exactly a help to our students, it is inspiring and really worth-while reading, and will undoubtedly become valued by each who owns a copy, and no doubt passed from one reader to another. This book is called "From the Watch Tower". It is by Sydney T. Klein, and was published by E. P. Dutton & Company of
One of the most popular of the old-time books which we recommended years ago, and which hundreds of our members have bought and praised very highly, is that famous masterpiece of mystical literature called "Tertium Organum". It is the third canon of thought, and deals with the mystery of space and time, shadows and reality, occultism, Cosmic Consciousness, the Fourth Dimension, and similar subjects. It was written by the famous Russian mystic, Ouspensky, and was translated into English and published by Alfred A. Knopf in
Naturally I cannot continue to refer to all of the old books, because it would make a very long list, but there is one other book that I wish to mention because a great many of our students have asked about it. It is called "The Psychology of Handwriting" by Wm. Leslie French, published in 1922 by G. P. Putnam's Sons. This book is a complete course of instruction in the reading of character in hand-writing, and it contains the signatures and hand-writing of more eminent persons than you will find in any other book on this subject. I was personally acquainted with Mr. French twenty years ago, and had an opportunity to watch his work for many months and to hear the comments of hundreds of persons who received analysis of their characters from their hand-writing. He was one of the most efficient workers in this field in the days gone by, and his book is certainly an excellent authority as well as an interesting study.
You will note that we have referred to Brentano's or any book-store for the purchase of the books we recommend. On the other hand, some of these books may be found in the public libraries and an investigation should be made before you buy a book. In a recent issue of the "Mystic Triangle", we published an article by Brother Andrea of
Thus we close this little talk on books, and again say that we will not permit the letters or comments from other organizations, or from authors of books which we have criticized, to intimidate us or in any way color our opinion about books. This little talk is an expression of my own personal opinion, and is given as such, and may be accepted or rejected by our members, but they will remain my own and not the opinions of others.
BOOKS FOR FOREIGN TOURISTS
So many members who are going on tours this coming Fall or Winter, and especially those going on the big Trip to Egypt and Europe next January, have written to our information department, about the right books to buy, that we have searched through many catalogs and picked out a few which we can recommend. They are as follows:
The Mediterranean Cruise, with 9 maps and 40 illustrations, by Roland Jenkins, price $3.50.
Manual of Egyptian Archaeology and Guide to the Study of Antiquities. A book for the deep student of Egyptian things, by G. Maspero. Price $3.50.
The Spell of
Things Seen in
The Holy Land (
The Story of
The Lure of the
Familiar Guide to
How to enjoy
Ward Lock's Guide Book to
For those wishing a very helpful guide to the whole of Europe, and including
HOW TO ORDER: All of the foregoing books can be purchased through Brentano's Book Store,
A. The original article contained spelling (probably stenographical) errors in a number of the names. Insofar as the webmaster is aware of the errors, they have been corrected for this web presentation.
B. The following books are available online (external links):
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