What Occult Philosophy did Robert E. Howard and Talbot Mundy use in their desert stories?

El Borak and Jimgrim were both heavily influenced by this. So was Jiddu Krishnamurti. So what was it?

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  • 1 decade ago
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    "Occult" covers a lot of territory. Dr. Howard seems to have been a follower of "New Thought," a syncretic melding of oriental philosophies and Christian mysticism that originated as a therapeutic model. Both Robert and Dr. Howard were familiar with the writings of "Yogi Ramacharaka," a pseudonym of William Walker Atkinson, one of "New Thought's" more prolific writers. One letter to Robert from a gent named S.F. (or T, hard to tell) Russell, of Cottonwood, Texas, is heavily oriented toward this "New Thought" occultism. (I have sometimes wondered if Russell was the unnamed "occultist of my acquaintance" mentioned by Bob in an October 1928 letter, who "says I have a very ancient soul, am a reincarnated Atlantean, in fact!") According to Norris Chambers, his father, Dr. Solomon Chambers, a good friend of Dr. Howard's from the time the Howards moved to Cross Cut (about 1915, when Bob was 9 years old), was deeply interested in this form of occultism and it may have been he who introduced Dr Howard to the works of "Ramacharaka." Dr. Howard also became a close friend of Dr. FT Torbett, of Marlin (where Mrs. Howard went for frequent treatments), and Bob and Dr. Torbett's son, Thurston, became good friends. Thurston was apparently quite interested in the occult.

    I think that when we are discussing the "occult" beliefs -- or at least ponderings -- of the Howards, it is important to keep it separate from the beliefs in darker forms of the occult. There was absolutely nothing in the "occult" involvement of Dr. Howard or Robert that was incompatible with Christianity, and in fact Dr. Howard remained to his dying day a devoted and committed Southern Baptist. Dr. Howard's library, some of which was discovered last year, included many volumes of commentary on the Bible, most of them heavily marked up with his color-coded underlinings. Clearly he did a lot of reading and reflecting on his Christian faith, and I think he found in "New Thought" a type of spirituality that could turn Christian faith into healing (without being "Christian Science"). I have a little familiarity with "New Thought" myself, having attended, as a kid, a Unity School of Truth (now called Unity Church). Their publication, Daily Word, gives a pretty good idea of how they find in the Bible a springboard to metaphysical ideas.

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