New documentary is a magic portal into a weird and wonderful library

The Hermetic Philosophy

There is an underground current of thought beneath Western culture, running quietly like a vein of quicksilver: The Hermetic Philosophy. This ancient and multifaceted phenomenon is often found rising up from the shadows during times of intense cultural transition and upheaval.

The words hermetic, occult and esoteric are used interchangeably to refer to ideas and beliefs associated with the mystical “Perennial Philosophy” that infused every major religion, and diverse cultural streams, over the past millennia. Rooted in ancient Egyptian and Judeo-Christian traditions, these secret beliefs went mainstream during the Renaissance, a revival that continued through the Enlightenment to modern interpretations in the New Thought and New Age movements and the secular Self-help movement of recent years.

However protean and multifaceted the phenomenon, the essence of most esoteric teachings is that we go about our daily lives asleep, unaware of the true nature of reality and our place in it. This state of affairs engenders numbness, inner disconnection and lack of meaning, with a desolate question lingering in the backs of our heads: Is this all there is? Maybe, there is more than meets the eye. Unlike modern materialism, the Hermetic Philosophy pictures the cosmos as a living entity, the Anima Mundi experiencing itself subjectively. Every thing – fragments of The All – are linked together in a web of correspondences and resonances between microcosm and macrocosm. The ultimate goal of the “Way of Hermes” is to wake up to a divine reality: the actualization of the spiritual nature of man.

The Ritman Library

For those of us enthralled by such ideas – and the wondrous, precious tomes expressing them – the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica (BPH) is a must-see. Also known as The Ritman Library, it is aptly located in Amsterdam, a city historically known for freedom of religion, freedom of expression and freedom of printing.

One of the largest collections of hermetic books, The Ritman Library is a true temple of secret knowledge and awareness, containing more than 23,000 volumes, including many rare and invaluable first editions; a wealth of manuscripts and engravings on hermetica, alchemy, mysticism, gnosticism, esotericism and comparative religion, by legendary heroes of the imagination such as Marsilio Ficino, Cornelius Agrippa, Paracelsus, Giordano Bruno, Jacob Böhme and Robert Fludd.

The library was founded by Joost Ritman, a successful Dutch businessman who, at age 16, had “a sudden and deep experience (...) that everything is One. In a single moment I realized that there is a profound connection between origin and creation, between God – Cosmos – Man.” This mystical emergence steered the man's life, who instead of filling his parking lot with Ferraris, decided to create a “treasure house of the human spirit.”

A documentary

The ultimate documentary, The Ritman Library: Amsterdam, is finally available, a joy for bibliophiles and hermetic aficionados alike. Shot by talented Italy-based creative team Sara Ferro and Chris Weil of Artoldo Media, the 90-minute feature film is a magic portal into the library, guided by the founder Joost Ritman, the library’s director Esther Ritman, the bibliographical team, as well as Dr. Marco Pasi, Professor of the History of Hermetic Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam.

A charming tour into the history of Western Esotericism, the documentary celebrates the library’s historic volumes as poetic maps to the divine essence, as charts to inner landscapes and to outer hyperspace, as fruits of man's never-ending quest for meaning and beauty beyond the mundane. Moreover, it's a reminder of how books have always been powerful engines of cultural revolution and carriers of important intellectual heritage, hard-fought theories and ideas often deemed as dangerous and heretical when first published.

You are in for an Hermetic treat!