hermetism

Giordano Bruno And The Hermetic Tradition * Frances Amelia Yates (isbn 0226950077 )

Strange that I forgot to review this book. I have read it a long time ago and I bought it when writing my article about the philosophical Renaissance. In this book Yates places Giordano Bruno in the Hermetic Tradition of the Renaissance. This was started by Marsilio Ficino who not only translated the Corpus Hermeticum but also had a system of natural magic. A student of Ficino, Giovani Pico, combined these with Kabala, thus forming a Christian Cabala. And so a new magical tradition comes forth combining the teachings of Hermes, Christian Cabala, alchemy and neoplatonism and other classical teachings. All but one magician say to be good Christians, all but Giordano Bruno who was of the opinion that the world was better off with the religion of Hermes Trismegistus. Bruno was burned at the stake in 1600. Of course you learn a lot about Bruno, but also other main figures in the Hermetic Tradition in the Renaissance. This makes this books THE reference book for the subject. Yates (1891-1981) was an historican and the first who wrote about this and similar subjects for a larger audience. Most of her writings are historical but sometimes you do get an overview of the ideas of the people she writes about. In her time she had to travel all over the world to read original documents in their original languages. A pioneer whose works are still of the best to get if you are interested in material like this.

De Hermetische Gnosis In De Loop Der Eeuwen * (under editorship of) Gilles Quispel (isbn 9051213743)

It is true that the Netherlands have a strong gnostic and especially hermetic tradition, but I wonder why our knowledge isn’t shared more with other countries. This book is the result of a congress that was held in the fall of 1990 in Amsterdam. 18 Experts gave lectures about the influence of the Hermetic Gnosis (an Egyptian religion) on Western culture.
The lectures are worked to articles, that are edited and explained or introduced by professor Gilles Quispel. He was born in 1916 and in 1952 he received the so-called Jung-Codex for his translation of five unknown Gnostic writings. In 1956 he brought the Coptic “Gospel Of Thomas” on his flight from Egypt, which was not ready for publishing before 1991. Further Quispel has offered the world a great work with his gigantic translation and elucidation of the “Asclepius”, which is one of the main hermetic writings.
The congress and this book has been made possible with the help of the “Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica” (or the Ritman library) from Amsterdam which owns over 15.000 writings from which a large part ancient.

The articles are by known and unknown writers, such as J. Slavenburg, J.-P. Mahé, G. Quispel himself, J. Mansveld, J. van Oort and more with as closer-off an article by J. Ritman about the “Bibliotheca”. All in all spanning an amount of over 670 pages.
The different articles are about various subjects and (in my humble opinion) not equally interesting. The book is in a way chronological and it starts in Alexandria, where the writers believe Hermeticism was founded. Then church-fathers such as Philo and Clemens of Alexandria, Origenes are dealt with and then we move through Egypt to Greece, early Christianity, Giovani Pico della Mirandola, Patrizi, Paracelcus, Böhme, William Blake, the Theosophical Society and gnosticism in different traditions.

Overall pretty exhaustive, with as only endorsement that because it are all different articles, there is no definate structure in the book. Of course also the writing-styles are different and some writers definately are much better readable than others.

I wonder how it is possible that publishers let this book run out of print. I could only find one webshop that still sells the book. Also it is a shame that the book is (again) not available in any other language than Dutch. Maybe you should try and learn Dutch?!?
note : late 2004 the book was reprinted by another publisher.

Gnosis and Hermeticism * edited by Roelof van den Broek & Wouter J. Hanegraaff (editors) (isbn 079143611X * 1998)

Van den Broek is a well-known Dutch expert of gnosticism and hermetism and he translated some of the major texts of these currents to Dutch. Hanegraaff is head of the Amsterdam hermetic academy which investigates western esotericism at a university-level. Hanegraaff has several books on his name. The current work is a compilation of 18 essays of mostly Dutch writers. It covers a wide range of subjects, such as ancient gnosticism and hermetism, Renaissance hermeticism, Manicheism, Christian theosophy, music, art and ‘even’ western esotericism in New Age (a beloved subject of Hanegraaff). The articles are well-written. They may not all tell something new for people who have read more about the subjects, but new names give new insights and some subjects are new, so all in all I can recommand this book both to ‘newbies’ as to people who are better read in the subjects.