Joscelyn Godwin

Atlantis And The Cycles Of Time – Joscelyn Godwin (2010)

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Some ‘light literature’, suggestion of a friend. This is mostly because Guénon is on the cover.

“Atlantis”, you get it. Godwin searched the literature of the ages to find out what was written about Atlantis (and Lemuria). He starts with “Atlantis of the Rationalists” and deals with scholarly investigations of when and where Atlantis would have been found. This part is amusing, but not extremely interesting.
Next up is the “French esoteric Tradition” with the likes of Fabre d’Olivet, Papus and Schuré. These are followed by “H.P. Blavatsky and the Early Theosophists”, “later Theosophists”, “Germanic Anthology” (mostly so-called “Ariosophists” and then we have “Two Traditionalists”, Gueénon and Evola. “The Britons” are followed by “Some Independents” (not influenced by earlier literature). The last group of Atlantic investigators are New Age channelers and spiritualists.
Godwin closes with the second part of his title, the idea that the world develops in cycles. These are the four declining cycles of the Traditionalists, but there are other theories. We learn a bit about how long which cycle lasted or lasts and the (big) differences between the different theories. Of course also the end of the world is written about. A connected subject forms the end of the book “The Precession of the Equinoxes”.

The book makes an alright read. I am not so much interested in the theories about Atlantis, but the author manages to put the writers of these ideas and their theories in the perspective of their thinking and the lineage (or the lack thereof) of that thinking. This biographical information about (relatively) famous and obscure authors is what I mostly enjoyed about the book. Godwin writes with humour and critique in his always accessible style.

Not a must-read, but a nice book as ‘light literature’ among other things to read.

2010 Inner Traditions, isbn 1594772622

Athanasius Kircher’s Theatre of the World * Joscelyn Godwin (2009)

Quite a while ago I saw this book laying in the most beautiful bookshop of the Netherlands (Selexys Maastricht, soon bankrupt I am afraid). A massive book about Kircher for a massive price. When I got a load of book-coupons much later, my first idea was to go and get this book and so I did. I know Athanasius Kircher (1601-1680) mostly for his magnificent images as they are often reproduced in books about hermeticism, Renaissance esotericism, alchemy and similar subjects. I knew Kircher was more of a “homo universalis” and that he was the last of the Renaissance men, but I had this romantised idea that Kircher was an esotericist with a broad interest. Godwin’s book first appears as a look-through book. Over 400 images of Kircher have been reproduced. When I had the book home, I noticed that Godwin discusses them all, so this book is a reading book after all. Well, a reading book. With its over 300 heavy pages, 30x30cm size and +2 kg in weight, this is not a book to read all night while laying on your couch. Godwin took the wide interests of Kircher and divided them over the different chapters of the book. Instead of esotericism, you will read about archaeology, geology, science, medicine, wonder-machines (Kircher liked to show off with weird machines that were magic to the unknowing spectator), music, Egyptology (Kircher was the first to translate hieroglyphs), information about the religions of the world (from China and Japan to South America) and much, much more. Indeed, Kircher was a man who wanted to know everything. So how did he come about knowing about all these things? Kircher was a devout Jesuit and his masters realised that he was more valuable at home than in some far country converting people. Thus Kircher became the spider in the web of Jesuit missionaries worldwide who sent him artifacts, stories, drawings, texts to translate, etc. and Kircher investigated them all and wrote about it. He set up a museum with exotics and weird machines and thought he was superiour in knowledge to his fellow man. However this book is a nice read, not all subjects interest me equally. I mostly enjoyed the first chapters with Kircher’s religious and symbolic drawings (Godwin goes nicely into detail) and the last chapter with didactic images. Indeed, do not expect too much alchemy, Kabbalah and hermeticism as suggested on Amazon (Kircher did not want to have too much to do with such subjects), but more a book showing the pursuits of early science.
2009 Thames & Hudson, isbn 0500258600)

The Theosophical Enlightenment * Joscelyn Godwin (isbn 0791421511 * 1994)

A sold out book of our beloved esoteric scientist Godwin who wrote various interesting works and did some essential translative work. The title of course refers to mme Yates’ “Rosicrucian Enlightenment”, but Godwin starts where Yates (and myself) stop, the late 18th century. Godwin follows the esoteric and occult trails in the English-speaking countries dealing with people mostly unknown to me. He starts with Masonic tendencies and goes on to the Theosophical Society of H.P. Blavatsky in which Western and Eastern esotericism came together, splitting up again after Blavatsky’s death. The book is very well written en very penetrating with a impressive amount of sources. Oh there is so much left to study!

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!