This spring marked four hundred years since the publication of the first Rosicrucian manifesto, and as I have noted earlier, this has been an opportunity for scholars to publish new editions of primary sources and new reports on scholarship into the Rosicrucian heritage. But even the briefest review of how scholarly and cultural institutions are marking the anniversary year would be incomplete without mention of the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica in Amsterdam – which still houses one of the largest and most significant collections of Rosicrucian and related material in the world. What makes BPH special is that it’s not only a repository of material, an archive, but also an institution that seeks to embody the Rosicrucian heritage today and spread its philosophical, religious, visual and material culture. This dual agenda of the scholarly, curatorial and the evangelizing, missionary, has its roots in the vision of the collection’s founder, Joost Ritman, who was taken by these traditions at a young age and has been dedicated to promoting them ever since.
The Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica in Amsterdam has, as previously mentioned, gone through a transformation lately, now focusing increasingly on web-based solutions. As a part of this renewal, BPH launched a webinar series entitle “Infinite Fire”, in which scholars of esotericism will give online lectures on chosen topics, making use of unique material that is available in the library itself.
The first of these lectures is now available. It is given by my colleague Peter Forshaw, an expert of esotericism in early modern intellectual history, and particularly of alchemy. In the lecture, Peter speaks about one of his favourite authors: Heinrich Khunrath (1560-1605). The BPH website blurb has more:
“In the webinar a focus is put on Khunrath’s Amphitheatrum Sapientiae Aeternae – The Amphitheatre of Eternal Wisdom (originally published in 1595), which has traditionally been considered to be a strange mix of Christianity and magic. Peter elaborates on the alchemical symbolism of 4 circular and 5 rectangular engravings integrated in the Amphitheatrum. A famous plate is the Tabula Smaragdina or The Emerald Tablet, to be considered one of the main inspirational works for alchemists, Hermetic philosophers and Rosicrucians. Aldous Huxley even mentions the Tablet contains an in-depth summary of what he calls the ‘Perennial Philosophy’, a timeless science of soul that keeps on surviving through the ages.”
Do check it out. Then wait until November, when Peter will be back with his second webinar lecture on Michael Maier’s Atalanta Fugiens.
As advertised before on this blog, the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism (ESSWE) has been organising a thesis workshop on alchemy. It took place in Amsterdam on June 24; here is a short report.