This is a handy reference for anyone who needs a quick response to the myriad of cultic and occultic movements today. It is persuasively argued, well-written, and very concise.
Boa gives a basic summary of the major Eastern religions, including historical overviews and their internal contradictions. It’s rather short but that’s probably the purpose. The reader will be aware of the basic tenets but should supplement his reading with more substantial works. Of interest, however, and Boa only hints this in passing, is that Eastern religion really can’t make sense of the dialectic between monism and dualism.
The meat of the book, seen in substantially longer chapters, deals with pseudo-Christian groups (Mormons, JWs, Seventh Dayers, etc). The reason is obvious: you are more likely to run across a Mormon than a Shinto or Jainist. And these chapters are outstanding. One problem in Boa’s approach, though: he claims that one cannot divide the moral law from the ceremonial law (121), but says Christians are under the law of Christ (which includes 9 out of 10 commandments). I understand why he is saying this in response to SDA, but it is a dangerous, if not faulty approach.
It is interesting to note that many of these bizarre groups got off the ground in the mid 19th century to early 20th century. Uniting them seems to be a bastardized, primitive version of Hegelianism mixed with revival fervor. Think of Absolute Idealism as imagined by a high school sophomore.
The most brilliant part of the book was its dealing with the occult. It was far more substantial in terms of argumentation than the other sections. My problem is that Boa did not connect the dots between the various occultic systems. They are not accidentally related. The larger connection or network is hermeticism. Boa alludes to hermeticism quite frequently, but he seems to see it as a generic synonym for any one teaching.
Hermeticism, by contrast, is very consistent and specific where it matters (granted, much New Agey occultism practiced by Hollywood is generic nonsense, but that’s another story). Hermeticism has roots in ancient Egypt and Babylon. It is built on specific numerologies, which often manifest themselves in the aforementioned systems.
In fact, we can take the argument a step further. The godly emperor St Justinian the Great smashed hermeticism in the mouth when he shut down several neo-platonic and Pythagorean Academies. It is no great supposition to believe that these hermetic movements went underground. After they were eradicated we can see (or suppose) hermeticism to have gone underground again only to arise with either the Freemasons or the Illuminati (I speak of the Bavarian Illuminati established by Adam Weisshaupt and not the Sex Cult of Hollywood Rappers Today).
I am not ready to say who was the primary influence–Freemasons or Illuminati. I suppose it really doesn’t matter for practical purposes. What we can say of these two movements (and I leave aside guys like the MI-6 agent Alastair Crowley for the moment) is that they gave Hermeticism a quasi-institutional vehicle in which to move forward.
Of course, I really didn’t expect Boa to go into all of that when each chapter is only a few pages long.
The section on Madame Blavatsky probably should have been placed in the Occult section instead of the Pseudo-Christian cults. Blavatsky claimed to have received messages from “Serapis,” (no doubt she did, though Serapis is likely a demon). Further, Boa just gave surface-level responses when Blavatsky’s Gnosticism is easy prey to a full-orbed Patristic attack.