Infinite Fire Webinar I – The Alchemy of the AmphitheatrumOctober 19, 2012
With the Infinite Fire Webinar Series, the Ritman Library and the Center for the History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents (GHF) of the University of Amsterdam have joined forces and are planting the seed for a Scholarly Hermetic Circle. As we announced at the beginning of September, in the coming year we will broadcast a series of 9 webinars in a format of 3 x 3 featuring three experts connected to the GHF, who will elaborate on their academic passions in relation to the library’s treasures.
Today, the first webinar is online featuring dr. Peter J. Forshaw, who shares his knowledge on Heinrich Khunrath or dr. Henricus Khunrath as he was called, who was a physician and Hermetic alchemist. 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.
The Tabula Samaragdina has been found in the Jabirian corpus, the works credited to the ‘polymath’ Abu Mūsā Jābir ibn Hayyān. This Arabic version, is the oldest extant copy and is probably based on a Greek original. The Alexandrian origin of the Tabula is very likely as well and suggested by Hermes Trismegistus as also by the meaning of its name: The Work of the Sun. As one legend tells, the text was originally carved by Hermes on tablets of emerald and placed in the King’s Chamber of the Great Pyramid of Cheops in Egypt. The Tabula Smaragdina is a poetic and cryptic text and according to alchemists it reveals the secret of the primordial substance and its transmutations. Discover more about this cryptic text and other engravings in Khunraths’s Amphiteatrum in the first Infinite Fire webinar hosted by dr. Peter J. Forshaw.
Dr. P. J. Forshaw has published several works on Heinrich Khunrath, for more information have a look at:
- Forshaw, Peter J. (2006), Curious Knowledge and Wonder-working Wisdom in the Occult Works of Heinrich Khunrath, in R. J. W. Evans and Alexander Marr (eds), ‘Curiosity and Wonder from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment‘. Ashgate.
- Forshaw, Peter J. (2006) Alchemy in the Amphitheatre: Some consideration of the alchemical content of the engravings in Heinrich Khunrath’s Amphitheatre of Eternal Wisdom (1609), in Jacob Wamberg (ed.), Art and Alchemy. Museum Tusculanum Press.
- Forshaw, Peter, J. (2007) Subliming Spirits: Physical-Chemistry and Theo-Alchemy in the Works of Heinrich Khunrath (1560–1605), in Stanton J. Linden (ed.), ‘Mystical Metal of Gold: Essays on Alchemy and Renaissance Culture‘. AMS Pres.
- Forshaw, Peter, J. (2010), Oratorium – Audatorium – Laboratorium: Early Modern Improvisations on Cabala, Music and Alchemy, Aries 10.2, Brill, Leiden, pp. 169 – 195.
Secondly, Peter is the editor-in-chief of Aries – The Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism, which appears twice a year and is published by Royal E.J. Brill academic publishers.
Bibliography of Infinite Fire Webinar I. – Alchemy in the Amphitheatrum:
- Agrippa, Heinrich Cornelius (1533), De Occulta Philosophia Libri Tres, Soter, Johannes, Cologne.
- Dee, John (1564), Monas Hieroglyphica, Antwerp.
- Khunrath, Heinrich (1608/1609), Amphitheatrum Sapientiae Aeternae, Magdeburg, Hanau.
- Khunrath, Heinrich (1608), De Igne Magorum Philosophorumque Secreto Externo & Visibili. Das ist: Philosophische Erklährung, Zetzner | Heirs of Lazarus, Strassburg.
- Khunrath, Heinrich (1597), Vom Hylealischen, Das ist, Pri-materialischen Catholischen, oder Algemeinem [sic] Natürlichen Chaos, Magdeburg.
- Reuchlin, Johann (1494), De Verbo Mirifico, Basel.
Stay tuned for the second Infinite Fire webinar of dr. P. J. Forshaw on Michael Maier’s Atalanta Fugiens (1618) to be expected in November.