Infinite Fire Interview I – The multipersona Fernando PessoaSeptember 26, 2014
Last year, we launched our first Infinite Fire Webinar Series, that resulted in 9 webinars featuring 3 respected scholars related to the Center for the History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents (HHP) sharing their academic know-how in relation to the library’s sources. This academic year, we kick-off with a second Infinite Fire series in a renewed skin, this time being of a more personal character. We are proud to present to you the Infinite Fire Interview Series characterized by an open dialogue between the host and the conversation partners. Below a first episode featuring library director Esther Ritman having a dialogue with dr. Marco Pasi and dr. Jeronimo Pizarro about the gifted and multi-talented Mr. Fernando António Nogueira Pessoa (1888 – 1935). In the nearby future, more interviews will follow with experts related to other centers and institutions recorded in different places and countries.
Fernando Pessoa was a Portuguese writer, literary critic, translator, publisher, philosopher and poet and could be considered one of the most outstanding literary figures of the 20th century together with his Argentinian contemporary Jorge Luis Borges (1899 – 1986). The multi-talented Pessoa was of a kind of multi-dimensional nature by inventing more than 160 heteronyms that articulated the many parts of his extraordinary mind. In short we might say he had a bunch of imaginary ‘selves’ characterized by different life stories and styles, not all that charming. Persona’s he used most were ‘Alberto Caeiro’, ‘Álvaro de Campos’ and ‘Ricardo Reis’. Pessoa also had an interest in the spiritual and the occult that expressed itself especially around the second half of 1915 in form of Portuguese translations of a variety of works written by theosophists Charles W. Leadbeater (1854 – 1934) and Annie Besant (1847 – 1933). The choice for their works might be explained by Pessoa’s ‘Sight’ to see the auric magnetic field of life forms and receive visions coming from the ethereal plane, topics of interest also for many theosophists. He also was very much interested in hermeticism, alchemy, (neo)-paganism, rosicrucianism and freemasonry, which offered a rich source of inspiration for his literary works.
Although not so much highlighted in the interview, as a side reference it is interesting to mention that Pessoa also developed a strong interest in astrology under the heteronym ‘Raphael Baldaya’. This name was partly inspired by the astrologer Raphael Edwin, the pseudonym of a certain Mr. Wakeley (1852). His was the fourth pseudonym using the angelic name Raphael in relation to astrology. The first astrologer using the name Raphael was Robert Cross Smith (1795–1832), a former carpenter with a curiosity in heavenly matters. In 1824 he edited the periodical The Straggling Astrologer that was later re-published as The Astrologer of the Nineteenth Century. Pessoa was reading the works of Raphael Edwin, such as his The Guide to Astrology (London, 1905), Raphael’s Astronomical Ephemeris of the Planets Places for 1882 (London 1911) and Raphael’s Prophetic Almanach (London, 1926). Besides Napoleon’s chart Pessoa made more than 600 charts of a variety of persons, such as William Shakespeare, Napoleon Bonaparte, Lord Byron, Oscar Wilde, Chopin and many great kings of history.
BACKGROUND CONVERSATION HOST & PARTNERS:
Dr. Marco Pasi is Associate Professor at the Center for the History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents (HHP) – The University of Amsterdam (UvA). He holds a laurea degree in philosophy from the University of Milan, a DEA and a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from the École Pratique des Hautes Études (Paris Sorbonne). He has published extensively on the history of modern Western esotericism, especially in relation to magic, art, and politics. He is the author of Aleister Crowley and the Temptation of Politics (2014), he has edited Peintures inconnues d’Aleister Crowley: La collection de Palerme (2008), and co-edited Kabbalah and Modernity: Interpretations, Transformations, Adaptations (2010). Also, he is a member of the research network ‘Enchanted Modernities’, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, which focuses on the influence of Theosophy and related movements on visual, musical, performing, and applied arts. In September the multi-day conference ‘Enchanted Modernities – Theosophy, Modernism and the Arts‘ took place in Amsterdam with a parallel exhibition running in the Ritman Library until May 23rd 2014; ‘Beauty as the Imprint of the Cosmos – the Metaphysical in Art‘.
Dr. Jerónimo Pizarro is Professor at the Universidad de los Andes and holds the Camões Institute Chair of Portuguese Studies in Colombia. He has a PhD in Hispanic Literatures (2008, Harvard University) and a PhD in Portuguese Linguistics (2006, Universidade de Lisboa). He contributed seven volumes to the critical edition of Fernando Pessoa’s Works, published by the INCM, the last volume being the first critical edition of the Livro do Desasocego [Book of Disquietude]. A Biblioteca Particular de Fernando Pessoa was published by D. Quixote in 2010. This book was prepared with Patricio Ferrari and Antonio Cardiello, the other two coordinators involved in digitizing Pessoa’s private library with the support of ‘Casa Fernando Pessoa’. Together with Steffen Dix, he co-organised ‘Portuguese Modernisms in Literature and the Visual Arts’, which was published by Legenda in 2011. They also co-edited a special issue of Portuguese Studies (2008) and a book of essays, A Arca de Pessoa [Pessoa’s Trunk] (2007). Pizarro was the Editor-in-Chief of two new Ática’s series (1. Fernando Pessoa | Works; 2. Fernando Pessoa | Studies), and he contributed with more than ten volumes. Currently he is in charge of Tinta-da-China’s “Colecção Pessoa”. In 2013 he was the Program Director of Portugal’s visit to the International Book Fair of Bogotá and he won the Eduardo Lourenço Prize.
Esther Ritman has been involved in the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica since 1986, when she helped organize the library’s first international scholarly symposium on Johann Valentin Andreae Die Manifeste der Rosenkreuzerbruderschaft 1586-1986. In the following years she occupied herself with all aspects of the BPH’s many exhibition projects, both at home and abroad, with PR activities, and with the development of the library’s research and public functions. From 2003 she has been the library’s general director and librarian, in which capacity she has committed herself to realize Joost Ritman’s most profound wish, to turn the library into an institution that is fully embedded within the community. In the past 25 years, the BPH has grown into an internationally renowned research library, providing the basis for what Esther sees as one of the main objectives in the next few years, to form a platform of dialogue and communication in the BPH’s field of specialization. A major role will be allotted to communication options in the virtual domain. Her personal drive is to make the collection accessible to all, to share it and thereby to multiply the Hermetically Open and inexhaustible source of wisdom contained in the library.