Gustav Meyrink (1862-1932) is most famous as the writer of The Golem, as well as other occult novels. What is perhaps less well-known is the extent to which he was involved in real-life occultism. That he was in contact with leading Theosophists and other occultists, such as the founders of the Golden Dawn, is almost common knowledge. He was also rumoured to have been involved with organisations even more mysterious, including a branch of the Gold Und Rosenkreuzers, who were supposed to have gone dormant over a century before. The legendary “Meyrink Line” is still spoken of in hushed tones of awe and mystery in the pubs of north London (or at least was before the lockdown).
Fortunately, one occult connection which is now seeing the light of day is that to Alois Mailänder (1843 – 1905), a German mystic who has been much lionized on the website Pansophers.com. Mailänder forbid his disciples from revealing his identity to the public during his lifetime, although Franz Hartmann and Meyrink himself both referred to him anonymously. In any event, those that knew him, praised him enormously, describing him as a “real Rosicrucian.” Apparently, Mailänder’s teachings owed a lot to Jakob Boehme, as well as Boehme’s protegés John Pordage and Jane Leade, as well as J B Kerning, and he managed to gather a large number of students from the German and Austrian occult scene in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
As it happened, Meyrink did not get much out of his association with Mailänder at the time: it was only towards the end of his life that he fully acknowledged his appreciation of him.
Anywho – this book: this contains a scholarly introduction to both Mailänder and Meyrink’s life; a helpful epilogue in which the editors further explain the context of Mailänder’s teachings, and how Meyrink viewed him through his writings; and the central section – the book’s USP, as it were – 44 letters which Mailänder wrote to Meyrink, which had been available in German, but are here now translated into English for the first time. In addition there are letters written by the former’s amanuensis and companion to both Meyrink himself and his (ex-)wife.
Ironically – the text of the letters is the least useful part of the whole book! They reveal only a small fragment of Mailänder’s teachings and practices (i.e. he would periodically give each pupil a phrase or mantra upon which to meditate, which he often changed according to how he judged the pupil’s progress). They do however reveal some of his character, that apart from being a spiritual teacher he managed to live a fairly normal life as a family man and a textile worker in Southern Germany.
On the very last page, however, the editors reveal that they are currently at work on a second volume – a translation of “Lectures on the Soul” – a book of Mailänder’s teachings which he gave out to members of his personal circle. This at least would be something to which to look forward.
44 Letters to Gustav Meyrink: English Translation (Writings by and about Alois Mailänder Book 1), by Alois Mailänder. Edited by Erik Dillo-Heidger and Chris Allen. ISBN: 3751997857. Books On Demand, 2021. Available on Amazon.