In the Age of Zoom Do Tribal Spiritualities Have a Future?

When meditation, shamanic or pagan groups meet online where is their actual meeting? In what dimension is their gathering?

I pose this enquiry because it is relevant to the future and survival of regional and indigenous spiritualities.

Culturally we obviously need to safeguard regional and tribal spiritual traditions. They have value, beauty and uniqueness. Their disappearance is a poignant tragedy.  

People are also understandably upset by cultural appropriation – a form of absorption and watering down – when they see, for example, a white person wearing the hairstyle, ornaments or clothing that belong to the priesthood of a tribal culture.

At the same time, there is another inevitable, evolutionary magnetic force. This is towards a global culture in which previously isolated traditions merge. This has been of great benefit, for example, in the field of world music and added huge value to the art. Spiritual and wellbeing practitioners too benefit from the practices of previously parochial spiritual cultures. Yoga and meditation are two obvious examples.

Over the longer term the major world religions, especially Christianity, Islam and Buddhism, have all subsumed animist traditions. This had great benefits as well as causing great harm.

Today online spiritual groups are creating another substantial shift. Geography and locality are becoming irrelevant in a way that is both obvious and also subtle.

The obvious dimension of the online group connection is purely materialistic.  It is just a group communicating over the internet, like a telephone or zoom conversation. This is normal physics.

The second dimension is more weird, metaphysical. People report that they are also connecting energetically and telepathically. The digital connection, they say, helps to facilitate and even amplify this subtle experience.

It is relevant that prior to the internet, many groups and individuals practised subtle connections over a distance. Abbeys, convents, monasteries and individual meditators, healers and shamans, have long asserted the efficacy and necessity of subtle energy and prayer work over a distance. I live close to Glastonbury Abbey, which I once heard described as a ‘prayer machine for the world.’


Many people I work with nowadays say that they really enjoy online meditations, groups and courses. This is different from when I first started online teaching and many people complained about it. There was a lot of tut-tutting about technology versus ‘real’ spirituality and the loss of in-person meetings.

A few years on however, opinion has dramatically transformed. To their surprise, many people find that they value and even prefer the experience of online meetings. Covid and the lockdowns accelerated this change in attitude.

One reason for this transformation is that people, for example, doing meditation work online no longer have to deal with the coughing, shuffling and other irritations that happen in an in-person group. It is not easy to be serene and sensitive to subtle dimensions when someone close by is breathing heavily, wheezing and ruffling a cough medicine packet which refuses to open; or a latecomer in Minnie Mouse high heels clip-clops across the wooden floor; not to mention some people’s pungent perfumes, or choking on incense.

Introverts and quiet types also find that they like studying online, because they are free from the exhaustion of social interaction. It is easier to stay open and aware of subtle experiences when there is not the stimulation of other people in your space. In fact, many report to me that their meditations, healing and inner work go deeper when they work online. They assert that it amplifies their experience. That certainly tallies with my own experience.

None of this, of course, is to underestimate the healing, enjoyment and encouragement that can come from real life groups and communities.


There is an interesting mystic and evolutionary perspective here too.

Teilhard de Chardin and then Peter Russell suggest that the network of global communications was evolving to resemble the neural connections of a global brain or global heart. This, they propose, is a huge step forward in human evolution. From geographically isolated and separated tribes and nations, often in conflict, the internet and digital dimension is now fully demonstrating humanity’s holistic connection and interdependence.

I like that interpretation, even if it is just a hopeful metaphor. I use it as a lens through which I look at the sad chaos of social networking — Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, etc.  Optimistically, I choose to see these current troubles as the birthing pains of a new global culture. Painful now, perhaps even dangerous, but something new is arising.

But here is the question that I posed at the top of this piece. What happens now to the metaphysical, magical and spiritual traditions that are rooted in particular geographies? Will cultural appropriation and the inevitable forces of globalisation mean that they disappear completely?

In my own history, I feel that my roots are deep in the Middle Eastern and European mystical approaches — gnostic Christianity, Qabalah and Sufiism. I have a personal sense too of a relationship with the traditions of Tibetan Bon, Berber and central African shamanism. Many of my close friends feel their roots in other geographies, particularly shamanism in north and south America, and Scandinavia.

To repeat my enquiry: What happens now to these regional jewels?

I found part of the answer in the last months when I interviewed Grandmother Flordemayo of the Mayan tradition and Puma Quispe Singona, an Andean medicine man, for an online Shift Network event.

Both of these teachers were born into and are rooted in their traditions. Both are loving, experienced and wise practitioners.  They also teach online. Without my prompting they had the same core message:

We are one humanity, one people.

We must learn to be still, to connect with Source, and spread love and compassion.

These two influential, indigenous teachers, deeply anchored in their cultures, truly enjoy teaching online. They celebrate the opportunity to connect with students and colleagues beyond their local geography and outside of their culture. They celebrate too the unity and the interconnectedness of all beings. First and foremost, they teach connection, love and compassion.

Teaching connection, love and compassion is not anything new in their traditions. That indeed is what they and their ancestors were imparting long before the digital world wide web.

Before the global digital revolution, wise mystics universally taught the universality of all life.

From this perspective, we can reasonably suggest that the universality of the digital web mirrors classical spiritual teaching.

People often forget that all the kit — the hardware, wireless and wiring — all derive from resources in the natural world. They are not magicked out of thin air.  They all, in another language, emerge from Gaia. Where else? The digital web is not separate from nature. I might want to criticise Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, but I cannot deny they belong to our interdependent species.

The isolation of tribal groups and nations always meant that there was a challenging transition as they met other peoples. As I wrote above, the major world religions all subsumed indigenous traditions.  Some tribal folk, of course, held on to their old ways and fought for their local traditions and sense of identity. Others embraced the new times.

The history of what we call civilisation and the growth of the world religions, is filled with terrible persecutions and genocides, as well as with inspiring evolutions and development. We are a mixed species!

The digital ecosystem is potentially benevolent because it is inherently democratic, accessible and universal. Anyone can now make news. And that, of course, has its awful shadow elements.

But I take an optimistic stance. The world wide web and online groups enable us to be simultaneously global and local without conflict. Our sense of identity can be located one hundred per cent in the Earth where you stand; and also one hundred per cent in the global village, still on this same Earth.  We are not either local or global. We can easily be both.

When we participate in online groups, we are precisely experiencing being in these two dimensions: local and global. And for many of us a third dimension too, one that is metaphysical.

Our demons then are not globalisation or the extremes of identity politics. Our demons are the usual suspects. Greed. Insecurity. Bullying. It is these negative traits that create the real problems.

So as we integrate locality and globalism, we need also to celebrate our ethics. Connection. Love. Compassion.

Remember the call to action:

Think global. Act local.

We might add to that call another ethical mantra:

Local roots. Global compassion.

Guided Meditation Catastrophes and the Temple of Infinite Unknowing

Guided meditations can be enlightening, inspiring, boring and provocative.

Led well, they can transport the recipients into relaxation, altered states of consciousness, and provide insights and illuminations.

Led badly, they can be infuriating and sometimes funny.

For me, it all began decades ago in a London group where we took turns leading the group mediations. In one session, all of us lying down, our leader took us into a relaxed state and then guided our meditation journey to Heathrow airport. We all boarded a plane to the Caribbean and a lovely island.

‘And now,’ she said in a monotonous tone, ‘we light a fire on the beautiful beach and enjoy a barbecue, while the vegetarians wander through the jungle looking for food. . .’

Three of us immediately sat up, outraged vegetarian meditators.

In another group, the leader very slowly and carefully said, ‘And now, as we enter the airplanes, our consciousness expands . . .’

Afterwards I found out that the group leader was Dutch and had misheard their teacher’s original “and now, as we enter the higher planes . . .”

There was a similar misunderstanding when groups across Europe were leading people into ‘the greater hole’ having misunderstood ‘the greater whole.’


The most effective guided meditations often follow a format of starting somewhere very peaceful, perhaps a lovely meadow. The meditators are then guided to a place that is very special, such as a temple. Within the temple there is usually an upward path, culminating in a column of light, which the meditator ascends. At the top of the column of light, they then meet a very special Being, who gives them a meaningful gift or insight.

There are also guided shamanic journeys where the leader, often playing a drum or backed by some kind of tribal music, takes the meditators into an altered state and into a new kind of, often psychedelic, environment.
Meet animals, plants, rivers, mountains and rocks that speak to you. Give them gifts. Be humble and make a relationship.


Over the decades I have participated in and led many of these meditations. I have also created them, often to introduce students and friends to metaphysical concepts and beings.

I develop these new meditations when I myself am in meditation. (Where else could I possibly create them?)

Sometimes I do not create them in a deliberate and planned way. They arise as I open to a new expanded state of consciousness, and experience a perception and insight of metaphysical things I have not previously known. I am blessed by access to what Patanjali described as ‘the raincloud of knowable things.’

Recently, in my daily practice, I was blown away by a meditation experience. (Did you know that the Sanskrit word nirvana is often translated as meaning ‘blown out’ or ‘extinguished’?)

In this meditation I was deeply tranquil and spacious. At ease, empty and open. Gradually, I felt myself entering a new zone, I had never previously experienced, a new dimension of consciousness.

I had subtle impressions, intuitions. My brain-mind-psyche interpreted them as being in a kind of wonderful, subdued desert. Beige. Brown. Deep, expansive, calm.

I became aware of some kind of enormous archway. Very big. Several miles high and wide. Made of subtle brown-beige unfinished sandstone.

I was drawn through this archway into a dimension I could hardly understand. It was more serene, spacious and weird than anything I have ever previously experienced.

Again, my brain-mind-psyche sought to interpret the subtle intuitive experience. It spoke to me:

In the subtle realms you are accustomed to new colors and sounds.

In these expanded dimensions, there are also new feelings, vibrations and experiences.

What you experience as Love is just a beginning . . .

(The image is from the Hubble telescope of the Eta Carinae nebula which is 50 light-years across.)

The Metaphysics of Depression

It took me a while to understand what people were actually telling me when they described their experience of melancholia and depression.  They nearly always spoke about the purely psychological dimension of negative thoughts and emotions, often so unbearable that suicide seemed a redemptive relief. They rarely acknowledged their embodied physical experience.

But almost without exception, when I continued to enquire about their ailment, they would begin to talk about extreme physical states: sensations of unbearable physical heaviness,  sluggishness, immobility, inability to rise from bed, a glued physical reluctance to engage in any activity.

No wonder, I thought, that they should have such distressing emotions and thoughts. Their internal physiological state, their inherent biological ecosystem, was in an awful state; and this was naturally mirrored in their sad emotions and thoughts, at their most extreme inclining towards suicide

As a mystic and metaphysician, I would then always contemplate the journey of their soul. I hoped that I might intuit some kind of coherent story, framed by metaphysics, karma and spiritual purpose, that threw some light on the darkness of their malaise, on their dark night of the soul.

Yes it was obvious, as with any illness, that there was an opportunity for spiritual development. But I always advise caution here, because it can be nasty and insensitive to assert that someone’s illness is a purposeful part of their soul’s journey. At its worst, this kind of statement can be a soulless, passive aggressive ‘you asked for it’ banality. (Even if sometimes there may be an element of truth to it.)

Stepping back from the idea that depression can be a deliberate developmental stage planned by the soul, there are however other metaphysical perspectives that are worth exploring.

I approach all this tentatively, because it is an idea that is work-in-progress and also because I want to be sensitive to the suffering of those who endure depression and melancholy.


The key angle here is to focus on the physical experience of depression that I began to list in the first paragraph: the symptoms of sluggishness, heaviness and the effort required to move, as if one were being sucked into inertia.

Notice too how many of the therapies for depression encourage movement of the body, emotions and thoughts. Notice also the medicines administered for depression; their very prescription acknowledges that it is a biochemical embodied state.

But the physicality of depression is often ignored by those of us looking for a psycho-spiritual or metaphysical understanding and cure.

There are however two metaphysical perspectives, which can provide insight.

The first is from the writings of Djwahl Kuhl, particularly in his book, Esoteric Healing, dictated to his secretary, Alice Bailey.

The second can be found in many metaphysical philosophies, but is most explicit in the Yin-Yang approach of Taoism.

In explaining illness and the possible avenues for healing, Djwahl Kuhl of course talks about the karmic element. He also discusses illnesses, such as plagues and epidemics, where individuals have no choice but to participate in humanity’s collective karma and mass events.

Djwahl Kuhl also crucially discusses the inherent impurities in the stuff that makes up the body of planet Earth and consequently the inherent impurities that exist too in our human physical bodies. We may be brilliant, compassionate, enlightened saints, but our bodies are organic and carbon-based, and therefore contain inherent impurities that we share with Gaia. The substance of Gaia’s vehicle is not one hundred per cent pure. Gaia herself has karma.

This is a profound insight for metaphysical approaches to illness and healing. Some of our illnesses have nothing to do with our personal karma and dharma, but are simply part of the reality that we exist in an interdependent physical environment and we participate in its corrupt physical elements as much as in its gifts. That is just the way it is. (Try keeping your body healthy and alive forever!)

The physical experience of depression, then, may simply be due to someone’s physical body experiencing an impurity that belongs to planet Earth.

(Below: The Schwatzchild metric; gravity bending space and time.)

Then there is a second metaphysical insight. (I apologize in advance to scholars who may see this as an oversimplification.)

The Yin-Yang concept of Taoist philosophy expresses a crucial cosmic reality that is rarely articulated in a helpful and straightforward way. This philosophy asserts a fundamental truth, that there are two great forces continuously at work and continuously in balance with each other.

Expansion ↔ Containment

Yin  ↔ Yang

Yin — everything in the cosmos is in a continual state of containment, of gravity and magnetism; of taking on form.

Yang — everything in the cosmos is in a continual state of movement and expansion.

Without gravity and magnetism – Yin –  the cosmos would have no form, no solidity, no coherence.

Without movement and expansion – Yang –  the cosmos would be an unimaginable block of inert matter, a sucking black hole of density, never developing and growing.

These two forces of expansion and containment balance each other to create all the forms and matter of life. Moreover their relationship is always dancing and in a state of transformation. They exist alongside and within each other.

At the same time, these two forces are felt in our bodies and our psyches.

Too much Yang, too much expansion and movement, and we become hyper.

Too much Yin, too much magnetism and inertia, and we get sucked into depression.


So here we have a metaphysical perspective on depression. It suggests that the physical matter of someone’s body may be too inclined towards gravity, containment and magnetism; and has lost its balancing outwards movement of expansion and development. The depressed person’s cells and atoms are not moving and expanding in a balanced way. There is too much dense, sluggish gravity.

Why should this be in some people’s bodies? Yes, there is the possibility that it is the soul’s choice. But there are all the other more obvious reasons — ancestry, DNA, environmental conditions  — which come from being part of an interdependent species of planet Earth. Please do not get me wrong and start sending me emails stating that people can influence their vulnerability through changes in behavior and attitude. That is only too obvious. What is not obvious to many is how we share in the collective experience of the whole planet, sometimes willingly, sometimes innocently and by chance.  

Depression can be, so to speak, a natural event that occurs sometimes because our bodies are made up of matter over which we sometimes have no control. Birth and death are also indicators of this reality.


Moreover, many people who do not suffer severe depression, do also experience cycles of melancholia, ups and downs. These are natural too and built into our biology.

Two of these cycles are very well-known.

The first is seasonal. Many people experience lows when their bodies are deprived of sunlight in the Winter; and then recover energy when stimulated by the renewed light of Spring and Summer. The warmth and rays of the sun work directly on the physiology to stimulate activity. Deprived of the stimulation, many bodies sink into melancholy.

The second cycle is the equally natural one of sadness following a period of activity or a peak of success. The body seeks balance. Having been in an extreme state of liveliness, it swings back into an extreme state of morose sluggishness. Some people, as we know, suffer lifelong swings of mood, not as disturbing as suicidal depression but nevertheless extremely uncomfortable.


So to an important question. Can any of this approach to depression bring relief?

I do not know.

I do know however that anything that expands our understanding might in some way be useful. It progresses the conversation.

For people however who are dedicated to their spiritual development and have developed the practice of compassionate witnessing, then this approach may give them a new angle to contemplate. Possibly, better understanding their metaphysical and physical anatomy, they might intuit an insight into how they can mobilize themselves out of too much gravity into more expansion and movement. I do not know. I do however pray for the relief of suffering.


Often my friends who suffer from depression and who have a spiritual approach, will say: I don’t belong here. I wish I had not incarnated. I want to go home.

I may then ask them about their sense of home. They always reply that home (usually in the heavens) is healing, safe, friendly and beautiful.

I find it very poignant when they say that, because I perceive extraordinary hope and optimism in their sense of home. We mystics who, fortunately, do not endure depression, are, in a way, always at home. I wish that for my melancholic friends too.

Why Are Some Meditators So Smug?

There is a lovely human contradiction here.
Meditators are strung out between being primal primates and transcendent gurus.

The organic reality is that meditators sit in a complex system of nerves, juices and synapses. These  biological essentials are hardwired into basic instincts for survival — for the individual and for the species. Sometimes these built-in nature drives can be bloody and harsh.

In the culture of traditional eastern meditation this is reflected in the classic Tibetan Buddhist mantra:
I am a sack of skin filled with unpleasant things.

Less harsh is the mantra:
I have a body, but I am not my body.

Softer and emotionally literate is the more modern version:
I have a body, but I am more than my body;
I have emotions, but I am more than my emotions;
I have thoughts, but I am more than my thoughts.

But these mantra pose a really interesting and substantial paradox. Who is the “I” who has all these things?

The “I” is obviously still a persona, an identity, a “me!” But this “I” is claiming to transcend and be detached from the sack of skin, the body, emotions and thoughts. This “I” is more than the flesh and blood identity.

In the Christian tradition we know only too well the problems associated with detaching from and condemning the physical body. The arising challenges range from a gentle dissociation that is harmless to others, to an uncontrollable flood of repressed, corrupt and abusive libido. This pathology of course is not restricted to Christianity, but may be found in any tradition that represses the body and its instincts.

But there is also a psychological challenge which is hardly acknowledged and requires more enlightenment. It is more subtle and has to do with status and survival. And is sometimes very destructive.

It is one of the most ordinary basic instincts in human beings. It is the survival drive that requires a stable sense of status. Where we sit in the social pecking order is a crucial element of psychological stability. We can see the politics of dominance hierarchies playing out all across the animal kingdom.

In the human species, status anxiety, and not knowing where one stands in the social hierarchy, can lead to mental illness and suicide. Moreover when someone’s status is threatened or disrespected, it can trigger powerful basic instincts of defensiveness, anger and aggression. This is the culture of gangs, bitchfests, prisons, mafiosi and dictators.

When a meditator, therefore, self-soothes and calmly observes the world around them, they transcend the usual dynamics of status and survival. In their consciousness the meditator is detached from, higher than, everyone else who is caught up in the noise, arousals and delusions. By virtue of being calm and watchful, the meditator has achieved – at least within their model of reality – a higher status.

This higher status gives them, as a biological creature, quite naturally, feelings of superiority. No wonder some meditators feel smug. At its worst the gentle smile of a meditator may be an expression of conceit.

And . . . perhaps they have genuinely achieved a higher status. Perhaps this is a positive evolutionary step onward for human beings.

If calm meditative watchfulness is a positive evolutionary step onward, then what matters now is whether the meditator has the reflective skills to understand the trickiness of the human psyche and whether they have insight into the hardwired drives of their sack of skin filled with unpleasant things. What matters too is whether they have an instinct for compassion.

Looking back at my own practice, I remember that in my twenties i was a smug meditator for a while. I did not know better and it was a stage before I developed a more insightful and loving temperament. 

In fact, I now wave a flag and will assert that the experienced meditator has reached a higher stage of human evolution and development — has higher status!

But this higher status, in the context of the great ocean of cosmic consciousness, is meaningless. (Try competing with a galaxy!)  As meditators experience over time, there are never-ending new and higher states of consciousness in our infinite enquiry into love, wisdom and the mystery.

Our plateau of calm awareness is but a starting point for ever more expanded states, more compassionate awareness and service.

So yes, I would have everyone on the planet able to practise the skills of calm awareness. But I would also want them to understand and appreciate the flesh and blood realities, the basic instincts of their biological creaturehood.


Meditation requires insight at all levels.


The image below is of St Simeon the Stylite who lived on top of a pillar for decades.

King’s Coronation Vow of Allegiance

A short comment about the coming coronation of King Charles III.

Some of us in the United Kingdom may be feeling conflicted about the Archbishop of Canterbury’s invitation that we all take a vow pledging “true allegiance” to His Majesty. I feel conflicted.

Here is a perspective that may help.

Seen through a metaphysical lens the coronation is a grand event of ceremonial magic. The monarch’s aura will be blessed, suffused and linked to great angels, spirits and archetypal virtues. The archbishop and colleagues are the high priests. The crown, sword, sceptre and spurs are all symbolic artefacts which resonate to help anchor these blessings.

For me, though, I find the politics challenging. I am uncomfortable cooperating with an out-of-date hierarchical system of dominance, which has so many resonances of abuse. It is therefore difficult for me to pledge that allegiance. But I understand the opposing view held by loyal patriots.

I can however whole-heartedly support an invocation for love, peace, inclusion, justice and healthy governance. My heart too wishes Charles great good fortune and that his reign be a blessing for all.

So when I tune into the coronation ceremony, I will be praying for those high values:
Love – Peace – Inclusion – Justice – Healthy Governance

It could be a creative and positive magic moment.

Experiential Metaphysics Booklist V2

First, big gratitude to all of you who sent in suggestions for the metaphysics booklist. I have a draft now of what may be my final version. Of course you will not agree with all of them, but here is my rationale. Each book should stand on its own and not be duplicated in the list. The list is for experiential metaphysics – ie energy work, esoterics and psychic/intuitive practices. So I am not including books that are seminal for mysticism and general spirituality.
Here’s my twelve with one bonus.

1 Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
There are many translations of this literary and spiritual jewel. It is short, extraordinarily insightful and integrates a thorough awareness of the psychology of consciousness expansion with psychic skills (siddhis.) My preferred translation is by Alistair Shearer. 

2 Alice Bailey: Glamour: A World Problem
For many folk Alice Bailey, working as the secretary for the Tibetan abbot Djwhal Khul, is the most important esoteric writer of the last century. This book in particular introduces learners to the collective karma and psychic pollution created by humanity and methods for transforming and healing it.

3 William Bloom: Working with Angels
I didn’t want to put in one of my own, but this is the only book I know that makes explicit the nature of the deva world and a universal method for cooperating with it in all realms – home, healing, gardening, work, arts, industry, education. . .

4 Jane Roberts: Seth: The Nature of Personal Reality
The Seth books pioneered the whole field of ‘multidimensional reality’, parallel realities and how consciousness unconsciously creates our perceptions and experiences of ‘reality.

5 Arthur Zajonc:  Meditation as Contemplative Enquiry
There are so many books on meditation. This one is in our booklist because of its compassionate tone, insights into reflective practice and awareness of the metaphysical dimensions.

6 Barbara A. Brennan: Hands of Light: A Guide to Healing through the Human Energy
This is a very accessible yet deep introduction to energy healing and esoteric anatomy. With great illustrations.

7 W.Y. Evans-Wentz: Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines
This is a mind-boggling description of some of the esoteric practices in Tibetan (Bon) Buddhism. Contemporary shamanism sometimes forgets the depth of practice in the Himalayas.

8 A Course in Miracles – Book 3  Manual for Teachers
If there were only one book that spiritual teachers, coaches, psychics and healers, should read before working with others – this is the one. It merges inspirational compassion and psychological wisdom into a person-centred and immediately practical approach.

9 Thomas Sugrue: There is a River – The Story of Edgar Cayce
Edgar Cayce was probably the best and most accurate clairvoyant and psychic of the last century. His biography is an eyeopener for anyone wanting to follow in his footsteps.

 10 Stephen Skinner: The Compete Magician’s Tables
This is an extraordinary work of scholarship that builds on Alister Crowley’s ‘777.’ It is an encyclopaedia of correspondences – showing the harmonic relationship between gods, goddesses, aromas, angels, numerology, colours, etc, from the world’s magical traditions. Essential for sparking and expanding the imagination. — Do not purchase the Kindle version as the images of the tables are corrupted. If you do not want a print version, see if you can find a PDF.

11 John & Caitlin Matthews: Walkers Between the Worlds: The Western Mysteries from Shaman to Magus
Anyone studying magic and esoterics needs to understand the entwining western traditions – the Middle Eastern temple tradition and the more northern shamanic/Wicca approach. This book, originally in two volumes, is a wonderful history with practical examples.

12 Starhawk: The Spiral Dance
If there was one woman and one book that broke through with the wave of feminism and Wicca, this is it. Inspiring, socially aware, wise.

Highly Recommended
You should buy this book for the pure pleasure of its ambition. It is dippable and has great illustrations.
Manly P. Hall: The Secret Teachings of all Ages
This is the ultimate coffee table book for esoterics. Beautifully illustrated (if you can, get the full colour version.) It is a treasure of encyclopaedic information about the occult and the mysteries. Caution: a tad expensive.