The symbolic syncretism of the Golden Dawn a century ago, which fused renaissance Hermeticism with oriental esoterics drawn from the European imperial experience, only fully flowered when Aleister Crowley added a battery of gnostic power techniques culled from diverse cultural sources.
“The only full treatise on architecture and its related arts to survive from classical antiquity, De Architechtura libri decem (Ten Books on Architecture) is the single most important work of architectural history in the Western world, having shaped humanist architecture and the image of the architect from the Renaissance to the present. Extremely influential in the formation of the medieval and modern concept of a broad liberal education as the basis for responsible professionals, this work is remarkable also because over half of its content deals with aspects of Hellenistic art, science and technology, music theory, law, artillery, siege machinery, proportion, and philosophy, among other topics.
The new, critical edition of Vitruvius’s Ten Books on Architecture is the first to be published for an English-language audience in more than half a century. Expressing the range of Vitruvius’s style, the translation, along with the critical commentary and illustrations, aim to shape a new image of Vitruvius who emerges as an inventive and creative thinker, rather than the normative summarizer, as he was characterized in the Middle Ages and Renaissance.” — back cover
Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Golden Thread: The Ageless Wisdom of the Western Mystery Traditions by Hermetic Library fellow Joscelyn Godwin.
Godwin’s Golden Thread is an impressive survey of its subject. In a brief and accessible form, he treats esoteric traditions from antiquity, through the Middle Ages and Renaissance, to modernity and the present. Although the book presumes shockingly little prior acquaintance with such material, he manages to avoid any tone of condescension, and he embroiders the necessarily broad outlines of such a high-level overview with many interesting details.
This volume is published by Quest Books, a Theosophical Society imprint, but it doesn’t pander to that organization. Godwin professes a metaphysical perspective in common with Paul Brunton (1898–1981, a pupil of Alan Bennett and later Ramana Maharshi), and he takes seriously—without conceding to—the anti-occultist esotericism of the Traditionalists.
As an introductory survey, The Golden Thread doesn’t provide the depth or originality one might be looking for in the course of academic research, but Godwin is careful to furnish extensive references for further reading. These notes enhance the value of the book as a historical primer in its field. I would recommend it to anyone with a preliminary curiosity about its subject, and it is sure to provide rewarding perspective for those who have a practical engagement with the Masonic, Rosicrucian, or Theosophical traditions. There are few books that cover so much ground with such clarity and ease. [via]
Aristotle’s Children: How Christians, Muslims, and Jews Rediscovered Ancient Wisdom and Illuminated the Middle Ages by Richard E Rubenstein, a 2003 hardcover from Harcourt, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.
“The astonishing story of revelation and transformation in the Middle Ages. When Aristotle’s lost works were translated and available once again, the medieval world was galvanized, the Church and the universities were forever changed, and the stage was set for the Renaissance.” — back cover
The Origins of Freemasonry: Scotland’s century, 1590–1710 by David Stevenson, a 2001 reprint of the 1990 first paperback edition from Cambridge University Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.
“Freemasonry has always been a highly controversial movement. Yet inspite of the vast literature which has been produced on the subject its origins have remained obscure. The prevailing assumption has been that it emerged in England around 1700, but most of the evidence used to support this interpretation turns out on examination to relate to Scotland.
The Origins of Freemasonry represents the first attempt to study this evidence in the context of Scottish history. By doing this, and examining much new evidence in the records of early Scottish lodges, David Stevenson demonstrates that the real origins of the essential modern freemasonry lie in Scotland around 1600, when the system of lodges was created by stonemasons with rituals and secrets blending medieval mythology with a number of late Renaissance intellectual influences to create a movement which was to spread through England, across Europe and then around the world. The story of the emergence of this movement will be of interest to scholars of the Renaissance and of seventeenth-century history in general, to freemasons themselves, and to those seeking to understand the true nature of a movement which arouses considerable controversy.” — 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.
“In both St. Denis and in the Hermetica the philosophers and theologians of the Renaissance would find seemingly ancient authority for the correlation of their Neoplatonic speculations to Judeo-Christian angelology and metaphysics, speculations that would lead directly to the magical revival of the late Renaissance and the works of Ficino, Della Mirandola, Reuchlin, Cornelius Agrippa, Giordano Bruno and of course the angel magick of John Dee.” [via]