And yet it is not for the happiness of others, but for personal happiness, that one embraces the ethics of Epicurus. We should find some distance from the incessant urgings of desire for our own psychic health.
“Think not that we have acted toward you in a spirit of persecution,” said the nun. “The mysteries which have alarmed you will be explained at a future period, when your soul is prepared by penance, self-mortification, and prayer to receive the necessary revelation. In the meantime, ask no questions, forget the world, and resolve to embrace a life devoted to the service of Heaven.”
Every library both embraces and rejects. Every library is by definition the result of choice, and necessarily limited in its scope. And every choice excludes another, the choice not made. The act of reading parallels endlessly the act of censorship.
Theosophist and Rosicrucian Franz Hartmann first published this didactic fable in 1887, and my copy is the 2003 Ibis Press reproduction of the 1910 edition with an additional introduction by R.A. Gilbert, who compares the story to Hilton’s Lost Horizon. Hartmann’s tale is set in the Bavarian Alps, not in Asia, but he does refer to an elided discussion of “White Magic and the wonderful powers of certain Tibetan Adepts” (87), and it is not impossible that Hartmann’s book could have been an inspiration for Hilton, whose actual sources for “Shangri-La” remain obscure.
In Hartmann’s Tibetan references, I understood him to be addressing himself to the interests of a Theosophical readership. He also has his Rosicrucian Imperator affirm the spiritual and cultural significance of H.P. Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine (50-1), while his occultist doctrines and attitudes toward materialist science and traditional religion are generally consistent with her earlier Isis Unveiled material.
The book attributes the organization of its concealed retreat of adepts to the “Brothers of the Gold and Rosy Cross,” an actual German initiatory order of the eighteenth century, and associates with them an historically extant mystical tome The Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians, of which Hartmann was to produce the first English translation. In fact, the original edition of Hartmann’s “adventure among the Rosicrucians” might be read as little more than an elaborate advertisement for Cosmology, or Universal Science (1888) which Hartmann must have had in preparation by then.
Although Hartmann was one of the founding initiates of the order best known as Ordo Templi Orientis, Gilbert’s biographical essay in the introduction goes to amusing lengths to avoid mentioning O.T.O. as such. His closest approach is in this passage: “Through Kellner, Hartmann had come to know Theodor Reuss, who in 1902 appointed him as Grand Administrator General in the newly formed Sovereign Sanctuary of the German version of the Antient and Primitive Rite of Memphis and Mizraim. … In 1905 Hartmann became Honorary Grand Master General of the Rite, but it fell apart shortly afterwards and he took no part in its later incarnations” (xix). (For considerations relevant to the veracity of this “took no part” claim, see Richard Kaczynski’s Forgotten Templars, 242-3.)
Throughout With the Adepts it is clear that the author’s preoccupation is with the possibility of establishing a secluded spiritual community, which he terms a “Rosicrucian convent.” In the appendix added to the second edition, he claims to have begun this work in Switzerland, although he sounds a clear note of discouragement: “It has not yet been finally decided whether this undertaking will be a success or a failure; but the latter is more than probable, as the method of thinking in old dilapidated and dying Europe is too narrowminded to permit of grasping such an exalted idea” (175). He had in fact taken material steps towards this goal by issuing a prospectus and forming a joint stock company in the late 1880s, but by 1910 it is a little strange to see him still holding out any hope at all for the venture. And yet, the site was close to where Reuss would eventually establish his O.T.O. “Anational Grand Lodge” Verita Mystica at Ascona, perhaps in some measure posthumously answering Hartmann’s aspirations.
On the strength of this context, it seems likely that the emphasis on “Profess-Houses” in the early plans and constitutive documents of O.T.O. may reflect Hartmann’s distinctive contribution to the germinal synthesis of esoteric motives in that organization. Indeed, Aleister Crowley’s much later paper on the governing of Profess-Houses, “Of Eden and the Sacred Oak,” takes for its central metaphor the one introduced here by Hartmann in the voice of the alchemist adept Theodorus:
“Could they not establish a garden, where the divine lotus flower of wisdom might grow and unfold its leaves, sheltered against the storms of passion raging beyond the walls, watered by the water of truth, whose spring is within; where the Tree of Life could unfold without becoming encumbered by the weeds of credulity and error; where the soul could breathe the pure spiritual air, unadulterated by the odour of the poison-tree of ignorance, unmixed with the effluvia of decaying superstitions; a place where this Tree of Life, springing from the roots of the Tree of Knowledge, could grow and spread its branches, far up in the invisible realm where Wisdom resides, and produce fruits which cause those who partake of them to become like gods and immortal?” (156)
The one thing we can all guarantee is that our lives will end at some point. It actually helps to embrace that fact. I have found that time is more valuable when you can see your mortality on the horizon.
The title of this third volume of Paul Park’s Roumania series has multiple meanings. The White Tiger is the hereditary role and spiritual alter-ego of the protagonist Miranda. But the political dimension of this role has been usurped by the Baroness Ceausescu, who is at the center of the palace intrigue that makes up the meat of this book. And she is at work throughout on the autobiographical music opera named The White Tyger, often allowing its themes and speeches to eclipse her perceptions of her immediate circumstance. The play-within-a-play theme exhibits self-similarity in parallel to the relationships between Roumania and our own secondary universe as created by Aegypta Schenck, as well as the material world and the “hidden world” of sorcery.
A process continues here, whereby the central three characters regain their Roumanian identities in priority over those they had been given during their sojourn in the Massachusetts of our abolished constructed world–but not without some complications and regressions. Also, the political conditions in Roumania change as relations alter among the European powers, and a new and ugly form of nationalism is ascendant in Miranda’s country, facilitated by the Baroness but not under her control.
This third book resolved in a manner very similar to that of the second one, The Tourmaline, but with a sense that the fourth and final volume must have a very different outcome.
Hesse argued that men must seek a new morality that, transcending the conventional dichotomy of good and evil, will embrace all extremes of life in one unified vision.