Wednesday, August 29, 2018

A man and his sword

John Michael Greer's “The Spirit and the Sword” is a very narrow book. I admit that I didn't find it very interesting or useful. But then, I have no particular plans to take up swordsmanship!

Greer claims to have discovered a secret Western tradition which combines swordsmanship with the Hermetic Kabbalah, a tradition kept alive by certain initiatory lodges. Greer doesn't want to disclose where his information comes from, except that it's from written manuals (rather than an oral transmission from master to disciple) and flourished (albeit in secret) during the 19th and early 20th centuries. He briefly discusses a secret Spanish tradition of swordsmanship and esotericism from the Renaissance, revealed in Gerard Thibaut's book “The Academy of the Sword” (translated by Greer), but the exercises revealed in “The Spirit and the Sword” are apparently from other sources.

The bulk of the book contains various exercises in the actual use of swords and spears, plus other exercises said to strengthen the body or release the flow of “subtle energy”, by which Greer means forces not recognized by modern science, such as the Chinese chi. There are correspondences between some of these exercises and some of the “sefirot” on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. Ultimately, the practitioner of this secret martial art will learn to fence blindfolded due to some kind of occult powers. Or so Greer believes. It's not clear whether he has reached this level of skills himself!

I'm not really qualified to judge the contents of this little book, so I'm going to give it three stars. Strangely, there are only two reviews of it so far. I assumed JMG had quite the fan club? But perhaps not in the local fencing club…?

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