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The Hermetic Museum – Alchemy & Mysticism * Alexander Roob (isbn 382288653X)

This is really a magnificent collection of ‘occult art’. If you like what you see in the occult art section of the artpages of Sententia, you definately have to get this book. It counts over 700 pages and is stuffed with Hermetic, Kabbalistic, philosophical, religious, occult and mystic art, forming a wonderfull overview of pieces full of symbolism. From well known artists such as Athanasius Kircher and William Blake, to title pages of ancient occult works and magical diagrams.
Roob managed to divide the book in sections, so the pieces are not in order of artist. These sections are explained and elucidated and most pieces are explained as well.

Between the pictures and accompanying them, you will also read many quotes from alchemical texts, explanations and history.

The Rosicrucian Enlightenment * Frances Amelia Yates (isbn 0415267692)

This book is part of a ‘series’ by Yates including “The Art Of Memory”, “Giordano Bruno And The Hermetic Tradition” and “Theatre Of The World”. The last one is the only book by Yates which I haven’t read, the others are reviewed on these pages somewhere. “The Rosicrucian Enlightenment” is purely historical again and in the time Yates wrote this book several things were unclear or even unknown. She did some groundbreaking investigations though. The Rosicrucian manifests were not written by a Rosicrucian society, since this was non-existant and a “ludibrium” (‘joke’ is not the best translation, but still) according to the writer of the manifests Johann Valentin Andrea. Yates does think that there was at least something behind the ideas, but on the other hand, the manifests breathe the occult traditions of the Renaissance. The writer tells us about the influence of the English occultist John Dee on the Rosicrucian writings, the most prominent people who associated themselves with the invisable Rosicrucian society the German alchemist Michael Maier and the Brittish Paracelsian doctor Robert Fludd. When Rosicrucianity became something you didn’t want to be associated with Andrea more severely took distance from his earlier writings, but did found a real Christian society. Anyway, a nice history of the Rosicrucian history, but I think you do have to read a more recent one too.

Rose Cross Over The Baltic * Susanna Åkerman (9004110305 * 1998)

Brill is a Dutch publisher that mostly publishes scholarly books in low editions. A book like this costs about $ 100,-. You can understand that I didn’t buy it. These kinds of books are mostly meant to be bought by university libraries and the like. Still these kinds of books are essential when you want to seriously investigate certain subjects. I lent the copy of the University of Amterdam. When you have a way of finding out where you can find this kind of literature they can usually be ordered through your local library, but a way into the scholarly milieu is also very helpfull.

Anyway, the subtitle for this book is clearer than the main title: “The spread of Rosicrucianism in Northern Europe”. Åkerman is a Swedish investigator and with “Baltic” she means the Baltic of the 17th century, the countries around the Baltic Sea. The book is mostly about Scandinavia, but also the Netherlands, Denmark and a little bit of England and Germany is written about.

Åkerman is part of the ‘new’ school of scientists investigating esotericism. Like most of them, Åkerman is very critical towards the groundbreaking (but old and therefor sometimes flawed) investigation of Frances Yates. However popular the books of Yates still are, recent findings sometimes prove her wrong and of course new facts came up. Still the serious recent scholarly works are not available for the common man and like this one, you have to either reach deep into your wallet or look for a copy to lend. Åkerman roughly gives a more recent version of the history of early Rosicrucianism. After this she focusses on her own environment and much pages are dedicated to Johannes Bureus (who was the reason for me reading this book). Scandinavia seems to have been active in the early Rosicrucian history and Åkerman also has some information that was new to me about my own country in these times. Of course this book is about the Rosicrucians, so I did not exactly find the information I was looking for, but a few nice hints and suggestions. And I am always interested to read of recent findings of that time, because the Renaissance keeps me interested. Sometimes I think that Åkerman is a bit rapid with her conclusions and here and there I believe her to be a bit sloppy and of course the book is seven years old and there are even more recent findings, but this book is good read, especially because there is not that much information about Scandinavia in the Renaissance. And about Bureus, his diary was (I believe) in Swedish and some of his works are too, so we need a Swede to investigate him. Hopefully Åkerman will continue to do so and especially: keep writing in English!
For articles about Bureus see here.

The Rosicrucians, Past and Present, At Home And Abroad * William Wynn Westcott

“It is well time to consider our status as Rosicrucians” opens this text, ourselves (as I asume) refering to the Golden Dawn.

A short text from Westcott speaking about the Rosicrucian history, dating it back to “Chaldean magi, Egyptian priests, […] Hermetists of Alexandria […] the Jewish Kabalists and […] Christian Kabalists”, in short, the western esoteric tradition. He regards the (probably mythical) Christian Rosencreutz from the early Rosicrucian texts (reviewed elsewhere) as the founder of the order.

Further you can read about some old and no-longer-existent and recent Rosicrucian orders from different parts of the world. Especially online a nice read.

Available online from the Hermetic Order Of The Golden Dawn page.

Fama Fraternitatis + Confessio Fraternitatis + The Chemical Wedding Of Christian Rosenkruetz * all three supposedly by Basilius Valentinus

These three manuscripts that ‘rang in’ the Rosicrucian movement. They appeared in Germany in Kassel and Strassburg between 1614 and 1616 and are all available online in English translations on the page of the Hermetic Order Of The Golden Dawn.

The “Fama” is a not too long text that gives a (made up) history of the “Fraternity of the most laudable order of the Rosy Cross”. Names are given in abbreviation, big names from history are not and the writer tried to make look things more interesting by strange texts in latin and references to all kinds of occult arts.
A funny read.

The “Confessio” is “written to all the learned in Europe” and also quite short. As the title suggests it is a confession or declaration of the “laudable fraternity of the most honorable order of the Rosy Cross”.
Also a funny read.

The “Chemical Wedding” is the best known of the three texts. It is relatively long and actually a book in a way. I suppose you know the story? Well in short then. Christian Rosencreutz (the (mythical?) founder of the Rosicrucian order) is invited to go to a wedding. On his way to it and on the wedding himself he has some strange experiences and adventures. The text is an allegory for the way of initiation, but personally I find it quite hard to get through the heavily layered symbolism of this text. Just go to the mentioned page and have a look yourself.

All in all an easy and cheap way to get your hands on readable versions of these classic texts. All texts come with a short introduction and some notes.

The Chemical Wedding Of Christian Rosenkreutz * Basilius Valentinus (transl. Joscelyn Godwin) (isbn 0933999356)

The Chymische Hochzeit was the third manuscript of the young Rosicrucian movement in Germany in 1617. It tells the story of the mythical founder of the movement who goes to a wedding. The story is an initiatory one. I have seen and read several translation of this best known of early Rosicrucian writings, but this one is particularly wonderfull. The short text is translated by Godwin and the wonderfull and lengthy commentary is of Adam McLean. A wonderfull book!

The Rosicrucian Emblems Of Daniel Cramer – Fiona Tait / Adam McLean (0933999887)

This small (80 pages) and very expensive (about E 17,- / $ 15,-) book is a translation of the “Sacra Scriptura, de Dolcissimo Nomine & Cruce Iesu Christi” written by “Daniele Cramero D.” The “Sacra Scriptura” was published in Germany in the year 1617, just one year after the famous “Chymische Hochzeit Christiani Rozencreutz” that caused a big stir in the society of these times. Still the “Sacra Scriptura” is fairly unknown.

There are 40 emblems, each accompanied by a quote from the Bible and two lines in latin. The texts are translated by Fiona Tait. The emblems the Protestant theologian drew are really simple and nothing like the famous “secret symbols of the Rosicrucians”, which on first hand made me feel a little disappointed. I love the layered symbology and the mathematic design of for example the secret symbols. But, when reading through this little book here, the drawings together with the quotes and ‘poems’ are actually quite beautiful. It seems that there were meant for meditative purposes.

This little book is part of the series “Magnum Opus Hermetic Sourceworks” that is run by Adam McLean, probably the expert on Alchemy/Hermeticism of our times. He wrote the introduction and commentary which shed some extra light on this little work. The Sourceworks series contains some other titles that I find extremely interesting, so I think I will get some more in the future. Just imagine, the “Splendor Solis” in english with images, “The Amphitheatre Engravings Of Heinrich Khunrath”, “The Steganographia Of Trithemius”, the “Alchemical Engravings Of Mylius”, the “Atalanta Fugiens of Michael Maier” and the list continues. McLean makes classical alchemical writings available to a normal audience.

Elementary Philosophy of the Modern Rosycross * Jan van Rijckenborgh (isbn 9067320048)

The striking title of the book was the direct reason for me to buy this book quite a couple of years ago. It is always nice to have a book on the shell in which you can quicly find a few things of what a certain group / streaming has to say about certain things and back then I lacked some descent Rosicrucian (is that really Rosycrucian?) literature. This was also my first encounter (I believe) with the excellent writer Jan van Rijckborgh (also see “The Chinese Gnosis” review).
My Dutch copy is already of 1981 and just as “The Chinese Gnosis” printed by “Rozekruis Pers”, the Dutch official Rosicrucian publisher. This relatively small book deals with a lot of interesting subjects such as “the three capacities that have to be awoken”, “the Christushierarchy” (a beloved Rosicrucian concept), “Magic”, “initiation”, “involution – evolution”, “the wheel of birth and death”, reincarnation, spiritism, hypnotism, magnetism, attitude to life (nicotine, alcohol, drugs), politics, the Bible, etc., etc. Very helpfull for a quick overview of Rosicrucian teachings and ways of looking at certain things. Also very nice to read some rather unusual approaches.

The Egyptian Arch-Gnosis * Jan van Rijckenborgh

The Dutchman Jan van Rijckenborgh (1896-1968) is one of the founders of the Lectorium Rosicrucianum. Before these subjects got popular, he wrote about gnosticism and hermetism. The present work is a series of four books with different Hermetic texts and extensive commentaries. They have the Tabula Smaragdina and 17 treatises of the Corpus Hermeticum. The last is a bit of a puzzle, because Van Rijckenborgh has much more chapter than there are treatises and the order the the treatises don’t fit with the ‘official’ order. You can read more about this in my article about Hermetic scriptures. In the four books you can read in interesting translation with interesting commentaries resulting in a fairly integral reproduction of Van Rijckenborghs (and the Lectoriums?) ideas about spiritual matters and things in everyday life. The series are fairly expensive (four times $30,-), but worth the money and available in Dutch and English. One thing though, Van Rijckenborghs ideas are more gnostic than Hermetic!

The Chinese Gnosis * Jan van Rijckenborgh and Catharosa de Petri (isbn 9067321834)

Jan van Rijckenborgh and Catharosa de Petri are two outstanding writers from the Dutch modern Rosicrucian movement (the Lectorium Rosicrucianum). I was happily surprised when I saw at Amazon how many of their works are also available in the English language and also my “De Chinese Gnosis” seems to have an English counterpart. The cover is of my Dutch version and my copy is released by “Rozekruis Pers”, which is the publisher of the Lectorium Rosicrucianum. I don’t know if the English versions are printed by ‘independant’ publishers.
“The Chinese Gnosis” has as subtitle (almost unreadable in the picture) “commentaries on the Tao Teh King”, which immediately proves that this book is not the average Rosicrucian work. Western esoteric knowledge (“gnosis”) is essayed and compared with the ancient Chinese knowledge of Lao Tse, which results in an extremely interesting mix of western and eastern teachings.
The book is divided in 33 short chapters which are the chapters of the Tao Teh King (Tao Teh Ching, …) which are first given in translation and then explained and commented by the writers. The writers use biblical quotes to make things clearer, gnostic writings such as the Pistis Sophia, Rosicrucian books such as the “Chemical Wedding of Christian Rozenkreuz” (or however the exact title is in English) and they are also familiar with other eastern writings. Being a Rosicrucian work, it all has a rather ‘Christian’ sauce of course.
The writing style of Van Rijckenborgh and De Petri is very direct and clear, but rather old-fashioned. I don’t know if translaters took over this old-fashioned style, but it seems that it is rather typical for Dutch Rosicrucian writings. It is not irritating or difficult in any way though.
All in all I can recommand this book to anyone who is interested in reading a Rosicrucian work, but of course also to everyone who is open for a different interpretation of the Tao Teh King, because the commentaries are of course very different from the usual translations of ‘experts of the east’. And be sure to look out for other books of these writers, because they make a good representation of modern Rosicrucianity.