Tag Archives: harvard university press

The Genesis of Secrecy

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Genesis of Secrecy: On the Interpretation of Narrative (Charles Eliot Norton Lectures) by Frank Kermode, from Harvard University Press.

Frank Kermode The Genesis of Secrecy from Harvard University Press

This volume of Kermode’s Norton Lectures addresses “some of the forces that make interpretation necessary and virtually impossible, and some of the constraints under which it is carried on.” (125) Although he uses various literary instances (notably Henry Green’s Party Going, Joyce’s Ulysses, and Pynchon’s Crying of Lot 49), his central and recurrent case study is the gospel of Mark.

Kermode treats various important hermeneutic dilemmas, such as the determining influence of institutional readings, the difficulty in delineating between history and fiction, the chicken-and-egg relationship between plot and character, and the difference between meaning and truth. First and foremost, though, he explores the necessity of both esoteric and exoteric interpretation. He suggests that the notion of esoteric sense in text may be especially pervasive in Western literature due to the influence of the gospels.

This is a short volume, but one worth savoring by anyone whose sense of the real, the sacred, or the beautiful is invested in a text. And it communicates important ideas about the nature of secrecy and its effects. [via]

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

Moses the Egyptian

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Moses the Egyptian: The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism by Jan Assmann from Harvard University Press:

Jan Assmann's Moses the Egyptian from Harvard University Press

 

Assman is an Egyptologist by profession, but this book is a more general work of “mnemohistory,” in which he sets forth a history of the development of the “Mosaic distinction.” It is an example of the best and most responsible sort of historical deconstruction, with the aim of sleuthing out “religious antagonism and its overcoming,” which should be welcome to sagacious readers everywhere. It provides a serious, detailed treatment about the historical figure of Moses as it has been alternately opposed to and aligned with evolving appreciation for ancient Egyptian religion.

After some intellectual background, the first set of chapters begin by treating classical literary sources, and then work through an historical sequence beginning with English Hebraist John Spencer (1630-1693), and progressing through Renaissance Hermetists, Enlightenment freethinkers (at which point expressly Masonic contributions to the topic start to appear), Spinozists, Friedrich Schiller, and 19th Century “cosmotheism,” to Freud’s Moses and Monotheism.

That survey concluded, Assmann returns to ancient Egypt and shares some of the latest contemporary research on the Amarna religion (or anti-religion) of Akhenaten, long espoused as the possible point of origin for Western monotheism. That chapter should be of value to anyone interested in mysticism or esoteric traditions, as it treats an ancient approach to the divine as Light. [via]

 

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.