Isis Unveiled Vol. I is a remarkable work in many ways. It can serve as a basic primer in esoteric philosophy and the occult sciences. It also introduces new theosophical concept s of spiritual evolution and it contains several interesting running sub-themes that serve to argue for the following ideas:
1- Comparing, critiquing and contrasting ancient and modern science (and rehabilitating the former);
2- Comparing ancient and modern western knowledge with eastern culture;
3- Using the first two points (with wider comparative research) to posit the existence of a universal, perennial wisdom;
4- Using the first 3 points to introduce notions of esoteric philosophy;
5- Using these notions of esoteric philosophy to build a new synthesis of (a)ancient and modern science; (b) eastern and western knowledge; (c) science and religion.
6- Arguing for the idea of India as the cradle of civilization.
7- Critiquing and clarifying spiritualistic phenomena.
Another important aspect is the skeptic outlook towards science – there is an impressive amount of hardcore scientific research and critique of modern empirical scientific method; therefore it offers considerable insight into the area of philosophy of science. Moreover, the polemic aspect is bold and forceful; this is clearly a project of intellectual reform aimed both at the materialist science and academic fields as well as the spiritualist corner.
It is important to understand the context of alternative spirituality that existed prior to the publication of Isis, notably from the 1850s to about 1900 there was a remarkable wave of spiritualistic phenomena, materializations, etc…and Isis is very much concerned with these questions and debates and so this can be considered an important work in the history of spiritualism and modern spiritual movements.
The scope of the research is impressively wide and eclectic and it can be said to be attempting to lay down the foundations of a new worldview and indeed, many of the themes have been adapted to contemporary spiritual and new age movements, so Isis can be considered a touchstone work for modern spirituality and also a seminal work in the history of alternative science.
The presentation of volume may give the impression that the work is just a collection of esoteric anecdotes, but as Michael Gomes has pointed out, a closer reading shows that this is not the case; the text has a clear structure and coherence, although, due to the complexity and density of the writing, the structure is not easily discernible. The chart below attempts to show a clearer outline of the work:
|Introduction||Preface – (v-viii)
Before the Veil (x-xlv) Platonism and Indian philosophy.
1 Magic, Sacred Mathematics and the Doctrine of Cycles
|Science and Spiritualism||2 Spiritualistic phenomena and occult explanations
3 Scientific discoveries and investigation of spiritual phenomena
4 Religious and Scientific views regarding spiritualistic phenomena;
|Spirit, Force and Matter
5- Spirit force and matter; creation and human evolution ; the astral light
6 – Paracelsian explanations of supernatural and psychic phenomena
7- Magnetism as Universal Force and source of Magic
8 – Spiritual Aspects of Cosmology, Astronomy, and Astrology
|Reincarnation, pre-natal and post-mortem experience||9 The evolution of the soul , the after-life and Spiritualism
10 –The Body/Soul Relationship – Elementals, Spiritualism and Reincarnation
11 –Esoteric Aspects of Embryology, the Will, and Imagination
12 –The After-Life and Esoteric Aspects of Vampirism
13 The After-Life: After-Death Revival and Alchemy
|Spiritual Evolution and Anthropology
Ancient Civilisations and Atlantis
|14–Egypt, Atlantis and Sacred Architecture
15 –India, Atlantis and Eastern Magical Knowledge