Divine Wisdom – Divine Nature, Exhibition Budapest 2017December 4, 2016
Divine Wisdom – Divine Nature. The Message of the Rosicrucian Manifestoes in the Visual Language of the Seventeenth Century
This exhibition was on show in the National Library in Budapest, Hungary from 20 February until 20 April 2017.
Divine Wisdom – Divine Nature is a travelling exhibition to celebrate the fourth centenary of the publication of the Rosicrucian Manifestoes, the Fama Fraternitatis, was published in 1614, followed by the Confessio Fraternitatis in 1615 and the Chymische Hochzeit in 1616. The Fama Fraternitatis, or the Call of the Brotherhood of the Laudable Order of the Rosy Cross, written to all the Learned Heads and Rulers of Europe, immediately fired the imagination of its readers. It urged nothing short of a reformation of the ‘whole wide world’. The reformation that was envisaged encouraged man to become aware of his divine origin, to understand that he was a microcosm, and to reconnect him with the macrocosm thanks to the tools offered by alchemy, magic and kabbalah. ‘Man is a great wonder’, according to the Renaissance philosopher Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, who thus echoed the hermetic Asclepius. Man occupies a position intermediate between God and nature. By raising his consciousness, man ‘passes into the nature of God as though he were God… He is in the fortunate middle position: he loves those things that are below him and is beloved of the beings above’. The Rosicrucian manifestoes, too, paid tribute to the hermetic tradition. In the Chymische Hochzeit, Hermes is called the principal philosopher, who holds out the promise of restoration and regeneration to mankind:
After so much harm has been inflicted upon the human race,
I, Hermes, being the primordial fount,
flow forth here as a healing remedy,
according to the divine decree
And assisted by the art.
Let him who can, drink of me.
Let him who will, cleanse himself in me.
Let him who dares, stir me.
Drink brothers, and live.
The art referred to here is the alchemical art, which was believed to be able to cure mankind. The healing remedy is the elixir, which the alchemist strove to achieve. The Rosicrucian Manifestoes not only drew on alchemy, specifically the alchemical principles of Theophrastus Paracelsus (1493-1541), who urged alchemists not to make gold, but to make medicines. They also relied on magical and kabbalistic traditions, which had been rediscovered in the Renaissance and promulgated by such scholars as Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494) and Johannes Reuchlin (1455-1522). The hermetic texts, too, were reintroduced in the Renaissance when what is now known as the Corpus Hermeticum was translated from Greek into Latin. Magic, (Christian) kabbalah and alchemy thus provided the elements for the hermetic reformation espoused by the Rosicrucian Brotherhood.
The exhibition and accompanying publication of the same title focus on the visual language that developed out of this urge to achieve a hermetic reformation of the world and man’s place in it. This visual language is reflected in an extraordinary number of prints that appeared in Germany in the early seventeenth century. They partly originated in the direct environment of the circle in Tübingen that inspired the Rosicrucian Manifestoes, partly they were independent artistic expressions celebrating God and Nature, the macrocosm and the microcosm. The images were included in the works of several authors: Heinrich Khunrath, Daniel Mögling, Stephan Michelspacher, Robert Fludd and Michael Maier. The books themselves were published in several places: Hanau, Frankfurt, Augsburg and Oppenheim. It is probably no coincidence that the majority of the works came out in the years 1616-1618, after the publication of the Rosicrucian Manifestoes. In fact the splendidly illustrated work of Daniel Mögling, Speculum Sophicum Rhodo-Stauroticum, has often been called the ‘fourth Rosicrucian Manifesto’ and definitely came about through the impact of the Rosicrucian Brotherhood. Three of the other authors, Fludd, Maier and Michelspacher, were advocates of the Rosicrucian Brotherhood, while the only work to be published before 1614, Khunrath’s Amphitheatrum Sapientiae Aeternae, conveys the same message to the careful observer as do the other works.
The exhibition Divine Wisdom – Divine Nature wants to introduce the audience to the wisdom contained in and conveyed by these ‘iconotexts’ made at the beginning of the seventeenth century. They are consummate artistic expressions of the conviction that to investigate the Book of Nature is a sacred act, and creation itself proof of Divine Wisdom.
Divine Wisdom – Divine Nature is a travelling exhibition curated and organized by The Ritman Library in Amsterdam. The exhibition originally opened in 2014. Budapest is the sixth stop in an itinerary that has already included several European countries. Divine Wisdom – Divine Nature has already been on show in Calw (2014), Basel (2015), Amsterdam (2015), London (2016) and Kraków (2016). Future venues include Dornach (2017), Prague (2018) and Sofia (2018 or 2019). The accompanying publication is available in English, German, Dutch, Polish and Hungarian. The Ritman Library is very grateful that the National Library has agreed to host the exhibition and conference. We also acknowledge with great pleasure the support and expertise of our Hungarian partners, Aquarius Hand and the Research Group for Cultural Iconology and Semiography of the University of Szeged. The inclusion of a copy of Utrisuque cosmi…historia by Robert Fluddd (who is one of the protagonists of our exhibition) from the collection of the National Library is one result of our joint researches in a number of Hungarian libraries. The presence in the exhibition of this multi-volume work demonstrates that Hungarian libraries not only hold several editions of Fludd’s books, but also other important works related to the topic of our exhibition. These books indicate that Hungarian book collectors took an intense interest in the fields represented by this exhibition: Hermetica, magic, Christian kabbalah, Rosicrucianism and alchemy.
The publication Divine Wisdom – Divine Nature has been translated into Hungarian and will be sold together with 5 different versions of our Hermetic notebooks during the exhibition and via our webshop.
A scholarly symposium on the theme of the exhibition is scheduled for 18 February. Read more here.