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The Secret Teachers of the Western World

4.30  ·  Rating details ·  159 ratings  ·  23 reviews
This epic study unveils the esoteric masters who have covertly impacted the intellectual development of the West, from Pythagoras and Zoroaster to the little-known modern icons Jean Gebser and Schwaller de Lubicz.

Running alongside the mainstream of Western intellectual history there is another current which, in a very real sense, should take pride of place, but which for
Paperback, 528 pages
Published December 8th 2015 by Tarcherperigee (first published October 13th 2015)
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Philip Fortuna
Jul 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fun, if atypical read.

Enjoy a heady mix of Rust Cole, True Detective Season 1, Dan Brown's Davinci Code and the aunt who keeps trying to sell you crystals.

On a serious note, the book is information rich on a slice of European history oft forgotten. Before science came the alchemists (as Newton himself considered himself first and foremost). Some tried to turn lead into gold, other's sought the alchemical transformation of the soul, of human beings, to higher states of being. The roots of their
Apr 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I really wanted to like this book and really did for the most part. There is a lot of information in this book, and it is all fascinating to me. Only I came across a problem when the author was discussing the Fox sisters, who held the first séances in the late 1800's. But one thing the Author did not mention was that the girls later admitted to faking the 'rappings' that were supposed to be the spirits. The lack of this information itself is not horrible as it wasn't really necessary in the cont ...more
Dave Mclaughlin
Jul 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A miracle of a book! It will have you revisiting everything you think you know. Gary Lachman takes what is typically very inaccessible material and makes it easy to understand. And this is as it should be, for revisiting the relationship between consciousness and reality and unravelling our now almost completely reductionist world view is essential if we are to avoid social, ecological and economic armageddon!

Think of it as a crash course in the way humanity is SUPPOSED TO BE vs. the way humanit
Mike Luoma
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Ready for the Big Picture? Lachman isn't suggesting this is a direct lineage, but rather that esoteric practices have continued in the West underground for a very long time. More than this, he deals with the question of the nature of consciousness, and left-brain / right-brain dominance - how does whichever side is "in charge" color our perception of reality and the world around us? There's a lot to dig into and digest here. I found myself reading and re-reading some parts to be sure I grasped w ...more
Jen Watkins
Apr 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book and wish I had read it (and it had been written) when I was still doing split brain research. It served as an excellent counter argument to Yuval Harari's Homo Sapiens and Homo Deus books. It also helps explain our 2018 ambivalence over "fake news" and disinterest in truth seeking. Lachman might explain this as the right brain overcompensating in its attempt to override the left brain.

I am still not exactly sure what it means to say "practice magick" and as he acknowle
Spencer Rich
Apr 05, 2016 rated it liked it
Gary Lachman apparently used to be Blondie's Gary Valentine and wrote their Theosophical hit, "I Am Always Touched By Your Presence." So, apparently his interest in the occult stretches way back. This is the first book of his that I've read. It presents a general overview of esoteric history with the basic premise that there has always been a "right brain mentality" in opposition to an overly analytical, rational "left brain mentality." I suppose it succeeds, but as a general overview of Western ...more
Jun 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reference, theosophy
I'll give a more thorough reflection on this later on . I really enjoyed reading this . ...more
Christopher Selmek
Feb 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: spirituality
Gary Lachman offers a good survey course over the Western esoteric tradition. Because it is a survey course, there's a lot of people mentioned who have written books that would probably provide more information. I have no way of knowing if his list of authors, philosophers and scientists is truly exhaustive because the "esoteric tradition" is notoriously hard to define; similarly, there's probably more to know about Eastern traditions. This is a survey course, and you will be presented with a lo ...more
Jun 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
very intruiging history of the esoteric(inward-looking ) traditions. from Platonic idealism to now

experiencing the world intuitively, as if in a dream as interation of symbols is probably the best way to do magic, such is like an autistic savant with numbers.

7 steps from the ground up to cosmic consciousness. those 7 can be broken down even more, I guss they are like Daimons, which is the fragments of our selves. kind of like the chekas
Jul 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spirituality
An epic journey in which Iain McGlchrist's The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World and our evolution through Jean Gebser's structures of consciousness meet the esoteric. ...more
Cat Owens
Jun 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
My first book by this author. Definitely going to read his other work--I had to take notes to record all the unusual "teachers" that I'd never heard of--engaging style and thorough background and context of all the amazing people therein. ...more
Lucas Cohen
Aug 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Fascinating read on the history of the western esoteric tradition. A great overview of how different teachers overlap and evolve over time. Learned A LOT and will be going back to review!
Alan Twiddy
Jan 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
Fascinating read.
Tom Bruhn
Jan 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent review of the history and development of esoteric thought and philosophy. Added many books to my want to read list!
Brandon Bosworth
Jan 22, 2018 rated it liked it
A strange, fascinating history of the role of esoterics and mystics in Western civilization. Trivia note: Lachman was a founding member of Blondie.
Jul 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Has a nice writing style.

Lachman's central lens ("It's all about the left brain and right brain") is interesting. After reading the book, I wanted to know what Lachman would have thought about Reformed epistemologists (Plantinga, Alston, etc.). They say that faith is belief that is a "perception of God". But this perception, it would seem, is either right-brained or neither right-brained nor left-brained (somehow). So Christianity has had within its (Lachman's words) "faith and belief" a rootedn
Gary Lachman tends toward inconsistency in his scholarship concerning the occult and mystical. However, in The Secret Teachers of the Western World he has turned in an excellent esoteric history of Western thought. Whether or not readers are persuaded by his arguments the book is an excellent bit of cultural history and anthropology and is worth reading by all those drawn to the esoteric and occult. Given such books continue to fly from the shelves there should be a great many readers that fall ...more
Richard Friedericks
Oct 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book brought together ideas and readings I've come across since the '60s. It is a great historical review of great streams of thought and spiritual insights that have pushed civilization forward. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in getting an education beyond what is approved by the status quo. ...more
Mar 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
Slow build up, but great narrative. He succeeds in making easy to follow connections without getting caught up in biographies and philosophy. Read at the risk of boredom however. The minimal philosophy makes the work less engaging, I think.
Scott Daniel
Jan 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent overview of esoteric lore and the perennial philosophy. Highly recommend for anyone looking to reconcile conflicting spiritual beliefs throughout history.
Jan 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
well written, interesting read
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Gary Lachman is an American writer and musician. Lachman is best known to readers of mysticism and the occult from the numerous articles and books he has published.

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Why not focus on some serious family drama? Not yours, of course, but a fictional family whose story you can follow through the generations of...
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“In Book XI of the Corpus Hermeticum, Nous explains to Hermes that “within God everything lies in the imagination,” and goes on to give a description of what he can expect from gnosis. Command your soul to go anywhere and it will be there quicker than your command. Bid it to go to the ocean and again it is there at once . . . Order it to fly up to heaven and it will need no wings . . . If you do not make yourself equal to God you cannot understand him. Like is understood by like. Grow to immeasurable size. Be free from every body, transcend all time. Become eternity and thus will you understand God . . . Consider yourself immortal and able to understand everything: all arts, sciences, and the nature of every living creature . . . Sense as one within yourself the entire creation . . . Conceive yourself to be in all places at the same time . . . Conceive all things at once: times, places, actions, qualities and quantities: then you can understand God.26” 0 likes
“There is a sense that people of the Middle Ages did not feel space in the same way we do, as an empty expanse through which we move, or as a box in which we are contained. In Saving the Appearances (1957), Owen Barfield suggested that medieval man did not feel he was within space as if it were a container. Rather, for Barfield, medieval man wore the world like a garment. Medieval man, Barfield suggests, saw the world quite differently than we do. For him the air was “filled with light proceeding from a living sun, rather as our own flesh is filled with blood from a living heart.” The night sky was not a “homogenous vault pricked with separate points of light, but a regional qualitative sky . . . from which . . . the great zodiacal belt . . . the planets and the moon . . . are raying down their complex influences on the earth.”16 Barfield says that although he may not have heard it, medieval man believed in the music of the spheres and he took for granted the correspondences between things on Earth and those above: the moon’s correspondence with growth, the sun’s with gold, Venus’s with copper, that of Mars with iron, and Saturn with lead. For Barfield, this meant that our medieval ancestors lived in a much more “participatory” relationship to the world than we do. They were “in” the world in a way that we are not, much more like figures in a painting than objects in a box. There was, we can say, a felt continuity between themselves and the world around them.” 0 likes
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