The Renaissance in national context

by Roy Porter and Mikulás Teich (editors) (1992 cambridge university press * isbn 0521361818)

Cambridge like the Dutch publisher Brill is one of these publishers publishing books by and for scholars. The books are usually extremely expensive, hard to get and only available via your library. Yet, sometimes interesting investigations come forth from the world of universities and it is worthwhile to try and locate such books (not too hard if you know your ways) and read them. Instead of just reviewing this book, I decided that there is information in it that deserves to be written about at length, so the review became an article. read more

The order of the treatises of the Corpus Hermeticum

Another problem that I ran into is the order of the treatises of the Corpus Hermeticum.
I thought that this order had long been fixed and agreed upon, but even fairly recent editions of the text, have different orders and different treatises even! I may have to let you down admitting that I own only two version of the text, which are the Dutch translation by Roelof van den Broek and Gilles Quispel (1990) who use the ‘official counting’ of I-XIV and XVI-XVIII, which I will explain lateron and the four books of Jan van Rijckenborgh (see below). Further, the internet, information of the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica by email (thank you Cis), the small library of the local temple of the Lectorium Rosicrucianum and later a book by Frank van Lamoen (see bookreviews section), have made me able to compare four other versions: Van Beyerland (1643), Everard (1650), Mead (1906), Van Rijckenborgh (1960-1965) and Copenhaver (1992, including Asclepius). read more

The philosophical Renaissance in Italy

What we usually hear about the Renaissance is that it was a period in history that came after the Middle Ages with a growing economy, early investigations of the universe and an upliving (“rebirth”) of the classical antiquitiy in art and literature. The invention of bookprinting also resulted in a much faster spreading of new ideas to a wider audience. About these ideas many people don’t know much though.
In academic circles there have been available writings of or about for example Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499) or Giordano Bruno (1548-1600), but it was mainly Frances Amelia Yates (1890-1981) who also wrote for a larger audience. Subjects of Yates include the early Christian Cabala, the Hermetic tradition, the named thinkers or “the occult philosophy in the Elizabethan age”. Later also writers such as Michael Baigent (1948-) and Richard Leigh (1943-2007) picked up such subjects, but they had a much more populistic approach. Because more and more texts, translations and information becomes available about this very interesting part of our history which seems to be coming after a still growing interest in Hermetism, Gnosticism and alchemy of recent times, I thought it would be a good idea to make you acquainted with the philosophical Renaissance. It began in Italy and reached the rest of Europe via Hungary. In this article I will focus on Italy, because there is enough to tell about that. The rest of Europe will come in a separate article. read more

The occult Renaissance

a word of advice: you may want to read my article about “the philosophical renaissance in italy” first to put things in a wider perspective and for background information.

In my article “The Philosophical Renaissance In Italy” I have written about the beginning of the Renaissance in Italy focussing on the philosophical side. In this article I will leave Italy and since especially in other countries there came a more esoteric side, I will speak some more about that. In the mentioned article I told about the humanist tradition as starting-point for Renaissance-thinking. Ironically enough, humanism outside Italy has brought forth two very opposital movements. One is the more occult movement, the other led to the reformation and the coming up of Protestantism. Initially the two weren’t too hostile towards each other, but later there came friction and when the Catholics started to win back territory (the so-called counter-reformation) occultism was completely not-done. I will leave the reformation for what it is and go to the second offspring of humanism here, but of course the two can’t be taken apart entirely. read more

The esoteric traditions of the West: part III: Hermeticism

In the Renaissance there was an occult revival and many people were interested in different cultures and philosophies. In 1439 Cosimo de Medici (1389 – 1464) founded his “Platonic Academy” in Florence (Italy) for these studies.
Then in 1460 the monk Leonardo of Pistoia (?? – ??) came back from his journey through Macedonia bringing a Greek handwriting which he handed over to De Medici. The scripture contained 14 tracts/treaties and De Medici was thrilled. He told his brilliant pupil Marsilio Ficino (1433 – 1499) to stop his translations of Plato to start translating the new found texts. De Medici and others believed the texts to be written by the most ancient teacher of mankind, the Egyptian wiseman Hermes Trismegistos. In the times of De Medici they were not completely sure when Hermes would have lived, either in times a long, long time ago, around the time of Moses or a few generations after Moses. This also sets the idea behind this article. Sometimes Hermeticism is regarded as the oldest esoteric tradition descending from the earliest dynasties of Egypt, at other times originated in Alexandria, the Greek city in northern Egypt somewhere around the beginning of our counting of years. read more

Angel magic

a word of advice: you may want to read my articles about “the philosophical renaissance in italy”, “the occult renaissance” and “the christian cabala” first to put things in a wider perspective and for background information. also i have more articles about the kabbalah which you may want to read first.

In my article about the Occult Renaissance I spoke about angel magic in the short pieces about Johannes Trithemius and John Dee. I wanted a deeper investigation of the subject to place these two in a wider context. The subject of angel magic proved to be more complicated than I thought. There seems to be a tradition, but on the other hand, many things seem to stand on their own and however there must be an ongoing tradition from times long past onward, there are gaps in the history as it came to us. Of course more recent happenings are better documented than ancient, but there are times that seem to lack magicians -or at least the mentioning of them- at all. I will try to follow a line and pick on certain subjects and persons on the way. No complete image, but at least you will have an idea.
The result is that for this article I did a wide-reaching investigation of angel magic, limiting myself to the ‘Jewish kinds’, since no doubt similar systems exist in eastern cultures and others as well. Still this ‘Jewish kind’ is extensive enough to force me to keep this article an overview and first introduction. read more