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A Review Of Peter Mark Adams’ Latest Three Books

Peter Mark Adams


This is renewed scholarship. For too long, the academia gave a vision of the past that was both tainted with imperialistic politics and religion. Sound research and discoveries were kept on the fringe and the underground current kept alive a way to look at the heritage of the past closer to what it may have been, far from the imposed ‘reconstruction’. When the academic imperial old guard gave way, their successor pledged they will not fell into the same errors but instead created various ego-strongholds of passive-aggressive and crystalized thoughts altogether repeating the same mistakes ‘but without the brilliance and the terror’.

A new generation has been rising in a world that has dramatically changed-up to the level of being unrecognizable-and their scholarship is ground-breaking even though they have to pick-up their tools left over the smoking ruins of what post-modernism has spared of the scientific methodology, insufflating the need again to look at the broader background, often deprived of it spiritual and even esoteric context-a task deemed impossible ten to twenty years ago! The examples are many and to select one-a pottery found in Heraklion, depicting men inside a round enclosure, arms around arms and stepping on this small field. The museum says they are dancing in a ritual enclosure but is failing to see the context of the Dionysian rites at harvest time, such a tramping the grapes together, etc. -It is of significance, for example, that the Warburg Institute has been spotted at the heart of this patient renovation wave credited for ‘playing a crucial role in showing innovative ways to pursue lines of inquiries that crosses the boundaries of disciplines.’ (Michael Sebastian Noble), a role the ESSWE (European Society for the Study of Western Esoterism established in 2005- The ESSWE is an affiliated society of the International Association for the History of Religions or, IAHR ) also bravely embodies at the fore-front of ‘academia-in-the-making’. ‘Inter-disciplinary’ is their way to regain the long-lost polymathic qualities necessary to proceed towards sound scholarship.

Peter Mark Adams- both an alumni of the Warburg Institute and an active associate member of the ESSWE-embodies all these qualities, as his work is deeply of a polymathic nature, using all the media available to pursue his life vision-mission of revisiting academic ‘house hold item’, rejuvenating each of their worn-out stories with vivid and exciting storytelling, backed up by solid sleuthing and fact exposition to offer a needed new perspective, allowing us to see what truly lies behind and make our own understanding. It is a ‘back to basics and let the text speaks by itself’ process and what is presented to us is allowed to tells its own story without the usual modernist, post-modernist, anachronistic or revisionist aggregate we find in so many contemporary researches.

There is an underlining current and theme in Peter Mark Adams’s work. What is this theme? -The ancient mysteries and hieratic cults survived annihilation by using literature and arts as tools to convey this legacy, once we get hold of the proper keys to read through the front stories. And Peter Mark Adams chose three of them, each representative of its own category: The Sola Busca Tarot, the Villa of the Mysteries in Pompeii and the Agia Sophia Basilica in Istanbul. Note the volume increase each time of the medium, first tarot cards, then painted walls and finally a whole architectural structure…

As we immerse ourselves into the ancient realms that still stand behind a thin textual, artistic or architectural layer within our reality, eagerly ready to unfold once we have activated the proper keys. It is an existential experience, from one initiation to another, each time augmented by acquired understanding.



In ‘The Game of Saturn’, published in 2017, we follow the author in a step-by-step sleuthing, a heart pounding investigation in what seems to be a complex spy game, a trail-blazing enquiry aimed at unfolding the background story of this enigmatic tarot, one of the earliest-as it was made around 1490/91-also famous for being the inspiration for some cards of the much more recent nineteen century ‘Smith-Waite tarot’.

The Sola Busca Tarot is often decried as a nefarious ‘black visual magical grimoire’ and people are often rebuked by its dark-even offensive’-images. Peter Mark Adams patiently unwinds the mixed threads of available data and facts, separating hearsay and historical gossip-usually politically and religiously motivated-with ‘hiding in the obvious’ clues and keys to help us decipher the inner meaning of this standalone tarot-a task many attempted but none achieved in a satisfactory manner, until our author builds a very serious case about ‘what on earth IS the Sola Busca Tarot and what is it about???’

In order not to give away the answer to this question, the lucky reader will be gob smacked by what he will find carefully delineated, what we can say is that it is often a strategy to hide behind a fake front, usually of bad reputation-to avoid recognition and hide one’s real purpose. A modern-day alchemist, Louis Cattiaux, delighted in appearing as a fortune teller in fashionable cabarets to hide his real identity, as a painter and a modern alchemical Adept. Another example would be French occultist, Robert Ambelain and his alleged ties with a luciferian society, the ‘Grand Lunaire’, famous for its evening dark rituals in forests located around Paris with many post-second world war French socialites-hiding in reality a much more elusive society, etc. What we find here is of the same nature and it is no small achievement for Peter Mark Adams to unfold skillfully what lies just behind the obvious, having invoked tutelar figures such as Plato, the Neo-Platonists, the Orphic Hymns, the Chaldean Oracles, Georgios Gemistos Plethon, Cosimo de Medici and Cardinal Bessarion, the Platonic academies, the Roman Academy and its famous figure, the controversial humanist and teacher Pomponio Leto, and elusive secret societies such as the order of the Dragon, and so much more- all tied and weaved  in a common story-untold until now.

As a result, we find the Sola Busca Tarot vindicated and closer-in its true essence-to Francesco Colonna’ Hypnerotomachia Polophili’, a.k.a. ‘The Dream of Poliphilus’ than any notorious dark grimoire of the period.



With ‘Mystai’, published in 2019, we continue to follow Peter Mark Adams in his sleuthing adventures, this time from a tarot deck to the painted walls in a roman villa in Pompeii. It is remarkable that the Eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. has allowed us to discover, (almost) intact, aspects of the intimacy of the inhabitants of Pompeii, caught in their casual daily activities, but also more elusive aspects related to their worship of the Gods and the observances of the yearly sacred calendar. So much has been lost to time but also to the systematic destruction by the Christians of the remains of the ancient religions, that Pompeii is a open blessing, as it brings us, ‘untouched’ the beating heart of the ancient way of life. ‘The villa of the Mysteries’ is an example of such ‘intimacy’ that brings us what has been hidden or destroyed, the lost ritual observance of the people of the time.

Much has been speculated about the Mysteries, due to the lack of direct and consistent content, as it was forbidden to disclose them and the death penalty has deterred such disclosure. Only allusions, hints, allegorical stories have survived, giving us a taste but only a taste. So, when the villa was discovered, it was a gift from the Gods, as it contains, in its dining room, one of the most complete descriptions of a religious ceremony-and it is now agreed among all scholars-of an initiatic nature. What lacked was besides the description of the figures around the room was context and meaning.

Peter Mark Adams brings us both. He skillfully guides us through the background story: the rites honoring the Olympian God Dionysus and their relationship with the Orphic Mysteries, an all-female initiatic community and their relationship with visiting wandering Orphic priestesses. With his understanding of ancient texts and rituals, he walks us step by step into the dynamics of the ceremony-forbidden to men-as depicted on the walls, and due to his command of rituals, his understanding of the symbols, postures and attitudes, he unlocks the inner aspects never disclosed before. We are witnessing the mystery as it unfolds- and it is a rare privilege.

‘Mystai’ is a precious glimpse into the workings of an all-female group in Pompeii, anno 79 A.D. and the most recent and consistent study of the Dionysian and Orphic mysteries in context.



With ‘Agia Sophia, Sanctum of Kronos’, published in 2023, Peter Mark Adams lead us from the painted walls of the Villa of Mysteries in Pompeii to the hieratic and emblematic walls and structures of the Agia Sophia Basilica in Istanbul. This is the latest study, in the much-neglected field of Byzantine history, and the first that explore in-depth the surprising non-christian cultural and spiritual background of the construction of the Basilica.

From chapter to chapter, we are met with discoveries so big that we discovers that ‘there is much more that meets the eye‘, there is a story waiting to be told, unheard, that will change completely the way we see and consider the basilica and this is exactly what the author does when he summons the ancient mysteries and their poly-morphic thrive for survival through the last philosophical schools of Alexandria and Athens, the figure of Proclus the Diadochi, Plutarch of Athens and his daughter Asclepigenia, her grandfather Nestorius- the last hierophant of Eleusis, and many other philosophers, religious and cultural beacons of the dying days of the classical world submerged by the merciless flood of Christianity.

The book leads us into a fascinating enquiry that brings alive every step of the building of Agia Sophia and how polymath scientist and architects Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles had developed a ‘master plan’ that will translate the sacred legacy of the Classical World into materials such as stones and marbles, mortar and wood-with the ingenious use of light and shadow-and how their subtle combination brought up a master piece of ‘Objective Art’, as defined by Mister Gurdjieff:

I do not call art all that you call art, which is simply mechanical reproduction, imitation of nature or other people, or simply fantasy, or an attempt to be original. Real art is something quite different. Among works of art, especially works of ancient art, you meet with many things you cannot explain and which contain a certain something you do not feel in modern works of art. But as you do not realize what this difference is you very soon forget it and continue to take everything as one kind of art.
In real art there is nothing accidental. It is mathematics. Everything in it can be calculated, everything can be known beforehand. The artist knows and understands what he wants to convey and his work cannot produce one impression on one man and another impression on another, presuming, of course, people on one level. It will always, and with mathematical certainty, produce one and the same impression.”

(‘Fragments of an unknown teaching’, Piotr Demianovich Uspenskii. Chapter 1_Page 26-27 of the Harcourt softcover 2001 edition.)

And the architects knew and did exactly just that. Peter Mark Adams, through a convincing multi-disciplinary approach generously points at where to look and how to use the keys these courageous ancient polymaths skillfully hid in what appears to be more of a cenotaph-reliquary-nature than a common Christian basilica. The under title, ‘Spiritual Dissent In An Age Of Tyranny.’ shines ultimately in our reading, as the final expositions finishes to hit the lasts nails on ‘the coffin of what we thought we knew’ about the famous Basilica.

Agia Sophia, still stands today, having been threatened by men, wars and natural disasters-wounded, but not broken. The keys offered on ‘how to read this sacred relic‘, are an open invitation to become a blessed witness & participant of a Golden Chain of Light, Wisdom and Love that bears the legacy of the ancient world, entrusting the willing heart to carry it further, so it does not die into oblivion.


To conclude this review, we are in awe in front of what Peter Mark Adams-book-after-book-is building, a personal opus -in French we say, une oeuvre-fruit of his quests for meaning-of such magnitude that it transcends his personal realm to become a timely and eloquent proposed foundation for a renewed vision of late Antiquity and of Italian Renaissance, that will last firmly for the many years to come.


Peter Mark Adams’


Peter Mark Adams is an author, poet and essayist specialising in the ethnography of ritual, sacred landscapes, esotericism, consciousness and healing. A Philosophy graduate, Peter pursues advanced studies in iconology, iconography, Renaissance art and material culture with the Warburg Institute’s School of Advanced Studies. Peter is an Associate Member of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism (ESSWE). Peter’s non-fiction is published by Scarlet Imprint and Inner Traditions; literary prose and poetry by Corbel Stone Press and the Bosphoros Review of Books; reviews of both esoterica and literature appear on


The Cult of Saturn: The Body Girt with the Serpent of Time (Theion Publishing, forthcoming 2024)

The Esoteric Tarot: The Hidden Tradition Revealed (Scarlet Imprint, forthcoming 2023)

The Hagia Sophia/Sanctum of Kronos: Spiritual Dissent in an Age of Tyranny (Scarlet Imprint, 2023)

The Power of the Healing Field: Energy Medicine, Psi Abilities and Ancestral Healing (Inner Traditions, 2022)

Mystai: Dancing out the Mysteries of Dionysos (Scarlet Imprint, 2019)

A Guide to the Trumps and Court Cards of the Sola-Busca Tarocchi (Scarlet Imprint, 2017)

The Game of Saturn: Decoding the Sola-Busca Tarocchi (Scarlet Imprint, 2017)


The Saturn Arcana, in the modern ‘Mantegna Tarot’ by Lo Scarabeo 2013 edition.


Peter Mark Adams’s website:
A Review Of Peter Mark Adams’ Latest Three Books

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