Tag Archives: knowledge

The Masters of Truth in Archaic Greece

The Masters of Truth in Archaic Greece by Marcel Detienne, foreword by Pierre Vidal-Naquet, translated by Janet Lloyd, a 1996 paperback from Zone Books, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Marcel Detienne Janet Lloyd The Masters of Truth in Archaic Greece from Zone Books

The Master of Truth in Archaic Greece traces the odyssey of ‘truth,’ Alētheia, from mythoreligious to philosophical thought in archaic Greece. Marcel Detienne’s starting point is a simple observation: In archaic Greece, three figures — the diviner, the bard, and the king — all share the privilege of dispensing truth by virtue of the religious power of divine memory which provides them with knowledge, both oracular and inspired, of the present, past, and future. Beginning with this definition of the prerational meaning of truth, Detienne proceeds to elaborate the complex conceptual and historical contexts from which emerges the philosophical notion of truth still influencing Western philosophy today.” — back cover


The Portal of Initiation

The Portal of Initiation: A Rosicrucian Mystery Drama & The Fairy Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily, by Rudolf Steiner and Johann W von Goethe, respectively, the 1981 second revised edition from Spiritual Literature Library (Garber Communications), is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Rudolf Steiner Johann W von Goethe The Portal of Initiation from Spiritual Literature Library / Garber Communications

“The Portal of Initiation: A Rosicrucian Mystery Drama, can best be described in Rudolf Steiner’s own words:

‘When one has worked one’s way through to an understanding perception of the world, the living need is felt to form ideas no longer, but to create artistically, that is, plastically, or in color, or musically, or poetically. In my Mystery Dramas I myself tried to give what cannot be expressed in ideas about the nature of the human being. … This leads us to enjoy, to seek out, to contemplate what one cannot possibly experience in thoughts, but in living figures, as they appear in the dramatic pictures; then we let the figures of the drama really work upon us. … Art must be added to what is abstractly known if true knowledge of the world is to be attained. Further, when such perception is attained and presses toward creative form, this experience penetrates so deeply into the human soul that this union of art with science produces a religious experience.’

‘Today, humanity may not yet be inclined to absorb into external culture what can spring from the spiritual life. however, at least in artistic pictures we can show how life may develop, and what in the form of thoughts and feelings flows into our souls and permeates them. The result can be the kindling of the presentiment that out of its present, humanity must go toward a future in which it will be able to experience the streaming down of spiritual life into man on earth. For humanity is approaching an age when man will perceive himself as the intermediary between the spiritual world and the physical world. These performances were given in order that this presentiment might be awakened.’

Steiner spoke repeatedly about the importance of Goethe’s Fairy Tale, not only in relation to the spiritual striving of our time in a general sense, but in his first Mystery Drama, The Portal of Initiation, he drew upon many of the basic themes of the Fairy Tale. Steiner also indicated that the way the pictures in Goethe’s Fairy Tale ‘unfold themselves’ shows that they possess the power ‘to transform the human soul’ which opens itself to them. He also once characterized the Goethe Fairy Tale as the ‘archetypal seed’ which offers the possibility of a new order of social life amongst humanity as a whole, and described it as the foundation upon which he based his teaching concerning the modern Science of Spirit, Anthroposophy.

Although they are surrounded by the remarkable conveniences modern technology has placed at our command and the degree of ‘freedom’ this has made possible, many people today would agree with Goethe’s observation, made long ago: “Whatever sets the human spirit free without giving us mastery over ourselves is harmful.’—ANd with this awareness goes the recognition that despite the marvels of technology, designed to set men free to an ever-increasing degree, there nevertheless prevails a widespread feeling, a longing to return ‘home’, to experience the unique guidance of the star of one’s individual destiny. … Goethe’s Fairy Tale offers, in form of artistic images, the first steps on the path which at length will enable a man to come to know himself as a being of body, soul and spirit, with all this implies. Thus the Fairy Tale of Goethe may become ‘everything’ or ‘nothing’ for the reader—and it is left entirely to his own individual freedom to let it ‘speak’ its significance to him.” — back cover

The Rosicrucian Enlightenment

The Rosicrucian Enlightenment by Frances Yates, the 2002 paperback from Routledge Classics, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Frances Yates The Rosicrucian Enlightenment from Routledge Classics

“In the early seventeenth century two manifestos were published which proclaimed, in terms of magic, alchemy and the Cabala, the dawn of a new age of increased knowledge and power over nature. These anonymous documents (reproduced in the appendix to this work) were written on behalf of ‘the Fraternity of the Rose Cross’. Ever since, this mysterious movement has been the subject of endless fascination, speculation and intrigue. In a remarkable piece of detective work, the renowned historian Frances Yates here reveals the truth about the ‘Rosicrucian Enlightenment’ and details its impact on Europe’s political and cultural history. She transforms, for instance, our understanding of the origins of modern science by placing it in the context of an occult tradition key figures such as Descartes, Bacon, Kepler and Newton. Beautifully illustrated, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment remains one of those rare works of scholarship which no reader can afford to ignore.” — back cover

 

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.

Lectures on the Will to Know

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Lectures on the Will to Know (Lectures at the College De France 1970-1971 and Oedipal Knowledge) by Michel Foucault, edited by Arnold I I Davison, translated by Graham Burchell.

Michel Foucault Arnold I I Davidson Graham Burchell Lectures on the Will to Know

The lectures in this volume represent a pivotal moment in the career of French sage Michel Foucault, which he characterized as a turn from “archaeology” to “genealogy”: i.e. from projects inspired by structuralism to ones inspired by Nietzschean ideas. This 1970-1971 set were his first lecture series after achieving his chair at the College de France, and they manifest a change in direction from the work he had previously undertaken in order to establish his intellectual authority, to that to which he would henceforth apply it.

The texts are direct edits and translations from Foucault’s own lecture notes. While later Foucault lectures can be (and have been) reconstructed with the benefit of audio recordings, these early ones survive only in written form. Foucault’s own notes have been supplemented in places with notes taken by attendees. Still, the aide memoire character of the documents makes them sometimes hard to follow, and leaves many ambiguities. One lecture (on Nietzsche) has gone missing, although a another lecture on the same topic delivered in Canada in 1971 is appended to supply the lack. Further ingredients include Foucault’s retrospective “Course Summary” (which can be read profitably as a preliminary overview), the 1972 lecture “Oedipal Knowledge” which extends some of the final considerations of the series, and editor Defert’s helpful contextualization of the lecture series.

The meat of these lectures is a discussion of the development of concepts of truth and justice in ancient Greek culture, in which Foucault elaborates and supports Nietzschean intuitions with the benefit of more recent efforts in positive history. In the process, Foucault rescues Nietzsche from Heidegger, and Oedipus from Freud. Defert’s “Course Context” also supplies information on the relationship of these lectures to the work of Deleuze at the time. Foucault’s reflections on money as a simulacrum (in lecture 9) pre-date and may have influenced Baudrillard’s extensive development of the same notion.

The editorial apparatus is considerable, and the endnotes for each lecture give ample source information, and check Foucault’s references and allusions. I was a little frustrated with the translated quotes from Nietzsche, given to supplement (Burchell’s translations of) Foucault’s own translations and glosses of the same texts; it would have been more useful to have the German in the endnotes. Translator Burchell’s observations on the use of Greek characters and transliteration in scholarship (xv) were interesting to me.

This book demonstrates that the publication of Foucault’s work is reaching an impressive stage of completeness. It joins eight other volumes of his lectures, alongside his monographs and essays, with another four lectures volumes projected. Without having read any of the other books of lectures, I still suspect this must be one of the most significant, if not the easiest of intellectual access. [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.

The Magicians of the Golden Dawn

Magicians of the Golden Dawn: A Documentary History of a Magical Order, 1887-1923 by Ellic Howe, with a foreword by Gerald Yorke, the 1984 second printing softcover from Samuel Weiser, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Ellic Howe The Magicians of the Golden Dawn from Samuel Weiser

“W.B. Yeats, Annie Horniman, Florence Farr, MacGregor Mathers, Fraülin Sprengel, Dr Westcott, Dr R.W. Felkin, Rev W.A. Ayton, F.L. Gardner, A.E. Waite, Aleister Crowley, et alii

The Golden Dawn story, with its cast of eccentric characters and its saga of faked documents, mythical ‘Rosicrucian’ adepts, ‘Secret Chiefs’ and bitter internecine quarrels, will delight amateurs of the unusual and fantastic. The Hermetic Order fo the Golden Dawn, whose heyday was during the 1890s, has an almost legendary reputation. Those interested in Ritual Magic and occultism suppose that it represents a preeminent source of authority and knowledge. A wider public has been intrigued by W.B. Yeats’ lengthy connection with the Order, also by the membership of his friends Annie Horniman and Florence Farr. Miss Horniman later built the famous Abbey Theatre at Dublin for him, while Florence Farr was G.B. Shaw’s mistress during her Golden Dawn period.

Ellic Howe is neither a magician nor an occultist but has an unrivaled knowledge of modern (post-1850) European ‘underground’ occult movements and sects. The Magicians of the Golden Dawn is based upon previously inaccessible contemporary letters and other papers. Mr. Howe has provided a most scholarly and detailed work. It is the first documentary study of this curious Order’s tangled and incredible history.”

 

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.

Fantazius Mallare

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Fantazius Mallare: A mysterious oath by Ben Hecht, published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich:

Ben Hecht's Fantazius Mallare from Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

Ben Hecht’s character Fantazius Mallare is definitely a descendant of Huysmanns’ decadent paragon Des Essientes. The omniscient third-person narration in this novel alternates with passages from Mallare’s journal, so that Mallare’s misconceptions and deepening delusions are set into ironic relief. At the same time, he spouts epigrammatic verities in the throes of his self-induced madness. Like Au Rebours, this story is one where decadence converges with asceticism.

First published (and banned) in 1922, the tale is written without reference to definite place. Mallare simply lives in “the town.” There is a family of gypsies on its “outskirts.” Its time is of an indefinite modernity, signaled by the references to hypnosis, and one incongruous mention of “Christian Scientists.” It might well be an allegory, in which Mallare represents the development of the will to knowledge in our artificial and alienated society.

One of the best parts of the book is the preliminary “dedication,” in which the author catalogs at great length his various enemies with their faults. The ending takes place in the form of a journal passage, and it was not clear to me what the “objective” state of affairs was supposed to be at that point.

The Wallace Smith illustrations seem to have an inconsistent relationship to the text, but they’re terrific regardless. Their cadaverous figures in tortured poses all have a deliciously hieratic quality. [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.

Concerning Death by Aleister Crowley in International, Dec 1917.

“LISTEN again to thine own voice within thee. Is not Hadit the flame that burns in every heart of man, and in the core of every star? Is not He Life, and the giver of Life? And is not therefore the knowledge of Him the knowledge of Death? For it hath been shown unto thee in many other places how Death and Love be twins.” [via]

An Historical Summary of Angelic Hierarchies from Part VII: The “Seven” Thrones in In Operibus Sigillo Dei Aemeth by David Richard Jones.

“Here is a brief extract that bears on their situation and gives a fourfold analysis. As in all things, St. Thomas is lucid and rigorous.

The order of the ‘Thrones’ excels the inferior orders as having an immediate knowledge of the types of the Divine works; whereas the ‘Cherubim’ have the excellence of ardor. And although these two excellent attributes include the third, yet the gift belonging to the ‘Thrones’ does not include the other two; and so the order of the ‘Thrones’ is distinguished from the orders of the ‘Cherubim’ and the ‘Seraphim.’ For it is a common rule in all things that the excellence of the inferior is contained in the superior, but not conversely. But Dionysus (Coel. Hier. vii) explains the name ‘Thrones’ by its relation to material seats, in which we may consider four things.

  1. First, the site; because the seats are raised above the earth, and to the angels who are called ‘Thrones’ are raised up to the immediate knowledge of the types of things in God.
  2. Secondly, because in material seats is displayed strength, forasmuch as a person sits firmly on them. But here the reverse is the case; for the angels themselves are made firm by God.
  3. Thirdly, because the seat receives him who sits thereon, and he can be carried thereupon; and so the angels receive God in themselves, and in a retain way bear Him to the inferior creatures.
  4. Fourthly, because in its shape, a seat is open on one side to receive the sitter; and thus are the angels promptly open to receive God and to serve Him.” [via]

 


St. Thomas Aquinas

 

Secret Societies of the Middle Ages

Secret Societies of the Middle Ages, by Thomas Keightley is new over at Project Gutenberg.

“If we had the means of investigating historically the origin of Secret Societies, we should probably find that they began to be formed almost as soon as any knowledge had been accumulated by particular individuals beyond what constituted the common stock. The same thing has happened to knowledge that has happened to all other human possessions,—its actual holders have striven to keep it to themselves. It is true that in this case the possessor of the advantage does not seem to have the same reason for being averse to share it with others which naturally operates in regard to many good things of a different kind; he does not, by imparting it to those around him, diminish his own store. This is true, in so far as regards the possession of knowledge considered in its character of a real good; the owner of the treasure does not impoverish himself by giving it away, as he would by giving away his money, but remains as rich as ever, even after he has made ever so many others as rich as himself. But still there is one thing that he loses, and a thing upon which the human mind is apt to set a very high value; he loses the distinction which he derived from his knowledge. This distinction really serves, in many respects, the same purpose that money itself does. Like money, it brings observation and worship. Like money, it is the dearest of all things, power. Knowledge, however held, is indeed essentially power; to ken, that is, to know, is the same word and the same thing with to can, that is, to be able. But there is an additional and a different species of power conferred by knowledge when it exists as the distinction of a few individuals in the midst of general ignorance. Here it is power not only to do those things the methods of doing which it teaches; it is, besides, the power of governing other men through your comparative strength and their weakness.” [via]

“The present volume is devoted to the history of three celebrated societies which flourished during the middle ages, and of which, as far as we know, no full and satisfactory account is to be found in English literature. These are the Assassins, or Ismaïlites, of the East, whose name has become in all the languages of Europe synonymous with murderer, who were a secret society, and of whom we have in general such vague and indistinct conceptions; the military order of the Knights Templars, who were most barbarously persecuted under the pretext of their holding a secret doctrine, and against whom the charge has been renewed at the present day; and, finally, the Secret Tribunals of Westphalia, in Germany, concerning which all our information has hitherto been derived from the incorrect statements of dramatists and romancers.

It is the simplicity of truth, and not the excitement of romance, that the reader is to expect to find in the following pages,—pictures of manners and modes of thinking different from our own,—knowledge, not mere entertainment, yet as large an infusion of the latter as is consistent with truth and instruction.” [via]

The Deeper Symbolism of Freemasonry from The Meaning of Masonry by Walter Leslie Wilmshurst.

“You will thus perceive, Brethren, that the F.C. degree, sometimes regarded by us as a somewhat uninteresting one, typifies in reality a long course of personal development requiring the most profound knowledge of the mental and psychical side of our nature. It involves not merely the cleansing and control of the mind, but a full comprehension of our inner constitution, of the more hidden mysteries of our nature and of spiritual psychology.” [via]