1. Our old pal Peter Bebergal - author of the essential Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll (Canadians buy here) - has just had an article about the Rosicrucians published in The New Yorker. It begins:
In the early seventeenth century, a series of anonymous pamphlets were published in Germany, announcing the existence of the Fraternity of the Rosy Cross, a fellowship of mystics and alchemists who, it was claimed, were working in secret to transform European politics and religion. The first of the pamphlets, which were later called the Rosicrucian manifestos, was the “Fama Fraternitatis Rosae Crucis,” and it described a figure called C.R., who learned of magic and alchemy as he travelled through the Orient, two hundred years earlier, and then returned to Europe to share his new knowledge. A second pamphlet, “Confessio Fraternitatis,” appeared not long afterward, laying out the purpose and intentions of the fellowship and inviting others into the brotherhood, where they would “find more wonderful secrets by us then heretofore they did attain.” (This quote is taken from Thomas Vaughan’s translation of the manifestos, republished by Ouroboros Press in 2012.) These secrets would be revealed, the pamphlet explains, but only to a few, at first; in the meantime, they would be “declared in figures and pictures” that would one day become more widely understood. In 1616, a third document, “The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz,” appeared. “Rosenkreutz” is a German play on “Rosy Cross,” and seemed to be the mysterious C.R. of the “Fama.”
In her landmark book “The Rosicrucian Enlightenment,” published in 1972, the historian Frances Yates concluded that the Fraternity of the Rosy Cross did not actually exist—but she also argued that the documents had helped to prompt a new way of thinking about the world, one that not only attempted to “penetrate to deep levels of religious experience” but inspired investigations in science and math as well.* This legacy had been obscured, she wrote, because “the advancing scientific revolution” was “eager to cast off the chrysalis out of which it [was] emerging.” Over the centuries, the Rosicrucian myth became the ur-legend for tales of shadowy groups using magic to alter the course of history. It influenced a number of nineteenth- and twentieth-century magical and mystical Christian orders, some of which claimed to have a direct lineage with the Rosicrucians. (Even Freemasons have claimed an early link to the group.) And the central idea of the manifestos—that through the application of magic and alchemy we might learn that we are a microcosm of the divine—helped to shape, along with Hermeticism, the occult imagination.
In the centuries since, that tradition has informed the work of many artists and writers, among them the novelist and screenwriter John Crowley, now seventy-three...
And that's where things get interesting... or disappointing, depending on how much credence you've been giving those weird adverts featuring robe-bedecked figures shooting beams from their eyes that used to run in the back pages of Popular Science Magazine. Regardless, congratulations are once again due to Mr. Bebergal, who is fast becoming one of the DDD's favorite writers on the contemporary Pop Occulture beat!
2. One of the most paradoxically lovable hate-spewing right-wing lunatics of the post-war period in America has moved on to his eternal reward. Yes friends, it is with heavy heart that yer old pal Jerky announces the death of Jack Chick, paterfamilias of the Chick Tract Empire. You know Chick Tracts, don't you? They're those charmingly rough-hewn (and occasionally quite competent) miniature free comic books left in libraries, at subway stops, in restaurant booths, and other public places by practitioners of low-impact evangelical proselytism, tiny screeds bent on enlightening the secular-humanist-indoctrinated masses to the terrible truths about such topics as drugs and alcohol, abortion, homosexuality, Darwinian evolution, rock and roll, and... Dungeons & Dragons?! And, oh yeah, Roman Catholics, Muslims and Jews, natch! Fortunately, Jack's legacy lives on in the form of this immaculately organized online archive of his tracts.
3. And finally for today, I bring you a collection of animations created by Monty Python's sole American alumnus, Terry Gilliam, for the landmark britcom classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail, that went unused. Some of these are gorgeous, and I find them to be extremely inspiring, so why not share the wealth? Enjoy!
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