This reading list is not meant to be extensive, but rather represents the best tools I have found for the recovery of a symbolic worldview as well as a sense of the stories which one should be aware of and inhabit.
Recovering A Symbolic Worldview in The Modern Age
- Pageau, Matthieu – The Language of Creation: Cosmic Symbolism in Genesis
- Lewis, CS – The Discarded Image
- Tolkien, JRR – Fairy Stories
- Eliade, Mircea – Images and Symbols
- Heidegger, Martin – Basic Writings
(Heidegger is obviously problematic for his political associations, but he nonetheless presents the phenomenological point of view necessary for a recovery of symbolism. His “Origin of the Work of Art” and “Questions concerning Technology” are very important.)
- Guenon, Rene – Symbols of Sacred Science
- Guenon, Rene – The Reign of Quantity and The Signs of the Times
(Guénon is a problematic writer on many fronts and I hesitated to put him here. He became a Muslim, was a Freemason and retained several ties with occult thinkers, but nonetheless his insight on symbolism and his understanding of the crisis of civilization we are facing is unmatched in the 20th century, so read with caution.)
Recovering a Fuller Understanding of Art
- Ouspensky, Leonid and Lossky, Vladimir – The Meaning of Icons
- Coomeraswamy Andanda – Christian and Oriental Philosophy of Art
The Bible (this is a life long journey)
- Focus first on the Story Books of the Pentateuch
- Then read the Gospels in the New Testament and read them continually as you study the rest of the Bible
- Also read the Epistles as they offer some of the first and most profound typology connecting the Old and New Testament.
- Go through the secondary story books from the Old Testament
- 1-2 Samuel
- 1-2 Kings
- 1-2 Chronicles
- Ezra, Nehemia
- To understand the most immediate patterns and images, look to the Poetic Books
- Song of Songs
- More difficult, but profound patterns are found in the Prophetic Books
- minor prophets as well
- The most difficult, but the fullest structure in the OT is in the Law, as it gives a full cosmic vision oriented towards action.
- In the very end, the hardest book to read in the whole Bible is Revelations as it recapitulates and encompasses all of the patterns into one string of images.
Basic Christian Stories and Worldview (Most of these texts are available online)
Reading Christianity and its stories with hierarchy in mind:
One of the problems that has arisen in our topsy-turvy world is an incapacity to read in a hierarchy. The fear and outright rejection by fundamentalists of any extra-Biblical material as well as traditional authority has caused an impoverished reading of the Bible itself, because rather than understanding the Bible directly without the corruption of extra-Biblical traditions as they purport to do, they rather did so in the rationalist and later scientism mindset which was taking over the horizon of thought. This has led to the bankruptcy of Christianity and Western thought in general.
When one reads in a hierarchy, extra Biblical material in the shape of apocryphal or other spiritual writings do not threaten Christianity as both the fundamentalist and the atheist wish to believe. Rather, extra-Biblical traditions and other stories can provide insight which is implicit in the Bible, but that we might need a bit of a nudge to see. So if in the Bible it does not say that Christ was born in cave, the extra-Biblical tradition which details this can help us see more clearly some of the implications of the incarnation.
Ignoring the apocryphal traditions will lead us to misunderstand the implicit relationships and meaning in the Bible. But at the same time, one has to be careful not to see apocryphal stories as on the same level as the Biblical text or in competition with the basic tenets of Christianity. Like any hierarchy, these extra tidbits should rather act as arrows pointing us always back to what is essential, which is ultimately Christ himself. Without hierarchy, the apocryphal stories and pseudo gospels will slowly devour the Bible and Christianity, which is what we have seen in the last few decades.
This pattern also goes for mythology and legends from all over the world as well as for literature in general. When all these things hold their proper position in a hierarchy of meaning, then they can be read, enjoyed and can also offer insights into the deeper patterns of reality.
- Apocrypha and Pseudographica
- ex. R.H.Charles
- Early Christian pseudographica
- ex. The Lost Books of the Bible. Rutherford H. Platt, Jr.
- The Biblical Antiquities of Philo
- Josephus: Essential Works
- Eusebius: Ecclesiastical History
- The Book of the Bee (Syriac traditions)
- The Kebra Neghast (Ethiopian tradition of Solomon)
- The Golden Legend (European traditions)
Modern Orthodox Books for a Deeper Understanding of Christianity
- Lossky, Vladimir – The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church
- Nellas, Panayiotis – Deification in Christ
- Louth, Andrew -St-Maximos the Confessor
- The way of the Pilgrim
- Larchet, Jean-Claude: Therapy of Spiritual Illness: An Introduction to the Ascetic Tradition of the Orthodox Church
- Ware, Kallistos – The Orthodox Way
A Few Readings From the Fathers
(These are just a few tidbits to begin one’s journey through the Church Fathers and other mystics of the Church. There is infinite resource here to explore.)
- St-Ireanaus – The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching
- Gregory of Nyssa: The Life of Moses
- Cyril of Jerusalem: Mystagogical Homilies
- St-Ephraim the Syrian: Hymns of Paradise (Intro by Sebastian Brock)
- St-Athanasius – On the Incarnation
- Pseudo-Dyonisus – The Complete Works (Compilation)
- St-Maximus the Confessor – On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ (Compilation)
A Basic Understanding of the Problems of Culture and Post-Modernism
Gathered here are a few texts which I have found help to see both the post-modern worldview, how the fragmentation of quality, centers, meaning, etc. becomes framed in Marxist categories and the thrusts of revolutionary thinking.
- Benjamin, Walter – The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. (This is an important text to show Marxist ideas applied to culture and the effect on art.)
- Barthes, Roland – Mythologies (An important Marxist attempt to identify and smash meaning tropes in in popular culture.)
- Derrida, Jacques and Bennington, Geoffrey – Derrida (Religion and Postmodernism)
- Powell, Jim – Postmodernism for Beginners (This might seem trite, but I have found it is well done to get a sense of what postmodernism is doing.)
Stories Which Portray a Grand Vision of Christian Cosmology
- Dante – Commedia
- Milton – Paradise Lost
- Lewis, CS – Narnia Chronicles
Stories you Should Basically Know
(These are suggestions, and you do not have to be read in the sources but can be learned from secondary texts such as compilations of myths, podcasts such as the great Myths and Legends podcast and courses such as offered in the Great Courses program. The importance is to first master the basic elements of the stories. For a more detailed list, here is a very extensive list of mythical stories which was sent to me by Burl Horniachek.)
- The Matter of Rome (Ancient World)
- Ancient Near Eastern Mythology (especially the Gilgamesh cycle)
- Greek Mythical cycles from Hesiod’s Cosmogony to the Trojan War and to Odysseus. (Also worth exploring are the plays of the classical period.)
- Alexander Romance (This is often neglected but is very important as it acts as a transition to Christianity.)
- Roman storytelling such as The Aeneid and Ovid’s Metamorphosis (The seconds shows a world in decline and flux, the first shows the hope and difficulty of a new beginning.)
- The Matter of Britain
- Legendary histories of Britain (Especially Geoffrey of Monmouth)
- Arthurian Cycle (It is worth exploring the different sources, both the more Celtic Mabinogian, but Chrétien de Troye, Robert de Boron and the Lancelot Grail cycle are all worthy. The Great courses class King Arthur: History and Legend is a good place to begin. See Burl Horniachek’s list for more detailed suggestions)
- Matter of France (This is less important, but still interesting for a sense of legendary history.)
- Legends of Charlemagne (Obviously the Song of Roland, but the third volume of Bulfinch’s Mythology: The Legends of Charlemagne offers some of the most concise versions of the legends.)
- Pre-Christian tales from Europe
- Norse Mythology (The Eddas of course, but Neil Gaiman has written a wonderful book recently called Norse Mythology)
- Nordic Sagas (One can easily find books retelling the Saga of the Volsungs and the saga of Ragnar Lothbrok, there are also a good retellings on the Myths and Legends Podcast.)
- Celtic Mythology (I don’t know much about Celtic Mythology to be honest, but I am learning still.)
ALSO, KNOW YOUR FAIRY TALES.