Project Hermetically OpenSeptember 2, 2012
The Ritman Library: House of Living Books
Who am I? Why am I here? What is the source of existence? Answering these ‘big’ questions will probably take a lifetime, though they are central to our lives. The Hermetically Open Project is based on an open and living tradition. In 1957, Joost R. Ritman decided to devote his life to preserving the knowledge related to these questions. In 1984, the Ritman Library was opened on Amsterdam’s Bloemstraat to make this knowledge available to all. This living tradition of knowledge is captured in the six collecting areas Hermetica, Alchemy, Mysticism, Gnosis, (Western) Esotericism and Comparative Religion Studies.
Over the past 25 years, the library’s active involvement with the academic community has been of great value in achieving this goal, especially since the foundation of the Center for the History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents (GHF) at the University of Amsterdam in 1999. In the past decade, this department created a full research and teaching programme in the field of Western esotericism. In order to encourage a wider dissemination of the relevant sources and integrate them in academic curricula, and also to offer a new frame of reference for the 21st century, it is vital to enhance the reputation of this specific field by increasing academic awareness of the Hermetic tradition. The academic collaboration which has been so successfully begun, therefore, needs to be intensified and upgraded to a new level. The academic world is already showing signs of greater interest in what has been traditionally perceived as ‘alternative’ thinkers, in the themes they address and in the sources they rely on. The recent work by Prof. Dr. W.J. Hanegraaff, Esotericism in the Academy. Rejected Knowledge in Western Culture (2012) may be regarded as a sort of sign of the times, uncovering the ‘neglected’ story of how the intellectual community since the Renaissance has tried to come to terms with ‘esoteric’ and ‘occult’ currents present in Western culture.
The Ritman Library’s traditional motto ‘Ad Fontes, Ex Fontibus’ – to the sources, from the sources – is coupled with a new motto, Hermetically Open, as an invitation to anyone wishing to consult or study sources belonging to the field of Christian-Hermetic Gnosis for personal, academic or other purposes. On a second level Hermetically Open refers to human origin, that which is at the heart of human existence, that which constitutes the ground, the source of all that is. This source is not taught but presents itself to anyone willing to enter an open state of consciousness or Gnosis: a personal authentic experience of divine reality. Post-renaissance thinkers like Weigel, Arndt and Khunrath were promoting this authentic experience as the sole criterion of reliable knowledge, a knowledge which could be achieved by exploring the living ‘Book of Nature’. The Ritman library is dedicated to hermetically opening up this living tradition, which has been regarded as the impetus directing the flowering of arts and sciences in many ages and as the common inspiration of the world’s religions. It is also known as ‘the golden chain’ of human existence.
Hermetically Open aims to create a co-creative platform by hosting an open learning environment both online and offline, where knowledge related to the ‘big questions’ can be discussed and debated in a free and lively atmosphere. A major focus within the Hermetically Open project is the development of an online community: a Hermetic Circle. Starting on 2 September and coinciding with the beginning of the academic year in the Netherlands, the Hermetically Open project is online and ‘live’. In the coming months, five subprojects will be presented via our website: 1. TimeTravel, 2. Virtual Hermetic Library & Gallery, 3. The Scholarly Hermetic Circle, 4. The Global Hermetic Circle and 5. The Ritman Library webstore and Facebook application. The project is an initiative of director and librarian Esther Oosterwijk-Ritman. The pilot phase, which will be running through the end of 2012, is co-financed by the Center for the History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents at the University of Amsterdam.
TimeTravel – journeying through Hermetic space
TimeTravel is a virtual timeline space inviting participants to work together by using a wiki platform. This subproject focuses on the historical contextualization and visualization of sources which are either physically present in the library or intimately related to these sources. Not only sources and authors, but also major events and places relevant to the Hermetic tradition will be highlighted and mapped. The timeline architecture will be designed and developed to simplify and optimize searches. TimeTravel also includes a game aspect, with guided virtual tours by legendary and historical figures (e.g., Hermes Trismegistus, Plato, Paracelsus and Böhme) to attract the younger generations and their interests. The TimeTravel project reflects the physical reality of the Ritman Library’s collection, presenting the collection areas as they are found in the library’s open-shelf setup. Scalability, real time data adding by multiple users active from multiple locations, quality, transparency and reliability are key issues to guarantee accessibility, added value and sustainable development of the wiki timeline platform over time.
Virtual Hermetic Library and Gallery – digitization on demand
The Virtual Hermetic Library & Gallery focuses on digitization – also on demand – of sources available in the library. Part of its added value lies in offering online relevant content of sources which are not generally accessible, findable and shareable, and which as yet are mainly contained in preserved physical sources. The Virtual Hermetic Library and Gallery subproject is closely associated with the TimeTravel project by embedding it in the timeline pop-up page appearing when an author, source or event in the timeline is searched. In the course of the Hermetically Open pilot phase, a selection of sources and images will be digitized, catering for both the academic community and the larger public. In view of the academic content selection, source selection will coincide with the academic curriculum of the Center for the History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents starting from September 2012.
Ritman Library Webstore and Library Facebook Application – e-books and publications
The Ritman Library Webstore is working in close conjunction with an international webstore developed by Aquarius Hand. This webstore will function as an integrative platform: an Amazon.com of ‘spiritual records’. The platform covers various parties: individual – upcoming and established – academic authors, enterprises, foundations, libraries, platforms, online or otherwise, start-ups, all of whom are actively involved in preserving, selling, publishing and communicating the living Hermetic tradition. The webstore formula will be linked to the Ritman library’s publishing house In de Pelikaan by opening its own online bookshop, which will be connected to a Library Facebook application. As a result, it will not just be a simple bookstore but a complex communication system connecting organically to social networks and other communication surfaces. The application itself will offer users access to both books for sale as well as free downloadable sources connected to the library’s field of expertise. When signed up, the application will run on users’ Facebook pages, supporting user autonomy by allowing them to act as hosts to the communities that develop around their Facebook Library pages.
Scholarly Hermetic Circle – academic co-creation and collaboration
The Scholarly Hermetic Circle is conceived of as a focus for facilitating interdisciplinary discourse and connecting existing offline and online scholarly communities interested in or associated with the library’s field of expertise. During the pilot phase, the Hermetically Open project will be collaborating closely with the Center for the History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents. A concrete offshoot is the planned Infinite Fire Webinar Series which is dedicated to a shared passion for Hermetic philosophy and related currents. In this series three academic experts connected to the Center, Prof. Dr. Wouter. J. Hanegraaff, Dr. Peter J. Forshaw and Dr. Marco Pasi, will each choose three subjects related to the ‘field’ and share their fire in a series of 9 (3×3) webinars. A first introductory video of Peter Forshaw, who is kicking off the series, is launched today. A separate blog post will be devoted to this initiative. Apart from the Infinite Fire Webinar Series, the Scholarly Hermetic Circle invites all academic teachers, post-graduate students, undergraduate and graduate students to contribute to the wiki TimeTravel platform. If you are interested in sharing your research results or work in progress, course experiences, or other ideas related in any sense to the field of Hermetic Gnosis, let us know! We also invite contributions to the wiki. To join, simply send us an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. From 2013 onwards we will be focussing actively on knowledge sharing opportunities with scholars and universities from all over the world. If you already have an idea, proposal or suggestion for a collaborative project, you are warmly encouraged to share it with us before the beginning of 2013.
Global Hermetic Circle
The Global Hermetic Circle aims at building and involving an international community of practitioners, devotees and all others who are interested but do not operate within the academic field. Over the past 25 years, the Ritman library has managed to establish a large international network thanks to major research projects carried out under the aegis of the BPH’s research institute – the Ritman Institute – and its series of high-profile international exhibition projects with partner libraries in Moscow, Wolfenbüttel, Florence, Venice and other European cities. The results of these research and exhibition projects have been published in a series of exhibitions, exhibition catalogues, text editions and scholarly studies published by the library’s publishing house, In de Pelikaan. Having been active mainly in a network of national and international Hermetic avant-garde institutions focusing on building a horizontal network, the Ritman library now intends to direct its attention also to vertical network expansion by proactively enlarging access, visibility and awareness of the living tradition it preserves. Already, a rapidly increasing new interest in the living tradition is becoming manifest. Besides a passionate interest in co-creative projects with established partner institutions and organizations, we aim at fostering new co-realizable ways of collaboration with foundations, companies, organizations, institutes and fields of expertise outside the already existing Hermetic platform, such as the fields of physics, astronomy & astrology, arts, leadership, education innovation, change-making, health & healing, permaculture and herbal medicine, technology and data science, and also games.