Antonella Doninelli

title.none: Cosentino, Hermes e la Loggia (Antonella Doninelli)

identifier.other: baj9928.0703.005 07.03.05

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Antonella Doninelli, University of Calabria, Italy,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2007

identifier.citation: Cosentino, Maurizio. Hermes e la Loggia: Ermetismo e Massoneria nei secoli XX e XVII. Rome: Gruppo Editoriale Internazionale, 2005. Pp. 208. ISBN: $45.95 ISBN-10: 88-8011-098-5, ISBN-13: 978-88-8011-098-9.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 07.03.05

Cosentino, Maurizio. Hermes e la Loggia: Ermetismo e Massoneria nei secoli XX e XVII. Rome: Gruppo Editoriale Internazionale, 2005. Pp. 208. ISBN: $45.95 ISBN-10: 88-8011-098-5, ISBN-13: 978-88-8011-098-9.

Reviewed by:

Antonella Doninelli
University of Calabria, Italy

Maurizio Cosentino's book is a very interesting analysis of the relationship between Hermetic tradition and Freemasonry. The book's plan is made clear in the title: Hermes is the Greek name of the Egyptian god Thot (or Theuth), the founder of Egyptian learning, to whom tradition attributes the role of mediator between gods and humans and the merit to be the source for ancient human learning, while the word loggia stands for the organization of Freemasonry as a secret society. The use of the appellative Trismegistus ("thrice greatest") for Hermes denotes his identity as the founder of a system of doctrine called "Hermeticism" which had its best expression in the Corpus Hermeticum: a collection of treaties that were widely diffused during Renaissance period. The central role of the Corpus Hermeticum in the Renaissance is very well developed in Cosentino's historical and conceptual reconstruction. Particularly in Chapter One of the book, the author shows how Hermes was considered the fons and origo of the most ancient human knowledge, the so-called prisca theologia (32) by which even Plato and other Greek philosophers were influenced. Cosentino also explains the appellative Trismegistus saying that the three functions attributed to Hermes were 1) philosopher, 2) priest, 3) king, i.e. three functions corresponding to three degree of knowledge. The king is the highest level of human power and represents the highest level of knowledge (61-64).

The author also analyses the Rosicrucian movement in its global structure and he explains the German origin of the name "Rosecross". It derives, according to Cosentino, from Luther's emblem, in which there are four white roses and a cross, and not from the Knight of the Red-Cross, the hero of Edmund Spenser's poem The Ferie Queene as Frances Yates had suggested in her Rosicrucian Enlightenment (118-120, 135-136). A great number of thinkers, among them Francis Bacon and Goethe, have been considered to have been members of the Fraternity. Moreover, the Rosicrucian Brotherhood had a great diffusion in Europe since the publication of Rosicrucian Manifestos at Cassel, in Germany, in 1614. It appears that Cosentino gives this phenomenon an emphasis not normally found in the secondary literature. Cosentino suggests that even René Descartes was a member of the Brotherhood or at least he was very close to many Rosicrucian adepts (153-155).

The most interesting part of Maurizio Cosentino's book is its treatment of the idea of re-generation. Hermeticism, the Rosicrucian movement and Freemasonry share the idea of a spiritual, moral, mental "re-generation" that every individual should attain through an intellectual (the author speaks of intellectus archetypus which finds its best expression in Kant's philosophy, see page 51) and immaterial way often represented by the symbol of the ladder, following the biblical narrative of Jacob's ladder. This idea of re- generation is described for example in the Corpus Hermeticum, chapter XIII: it describes a dialogue between Hermes and his son Tat. Moreover the "re-generation" of man--as Cosentino explains--is also the main purpose of speculative Masonry: to build the new man and a new humanity with the generation of God within man (nascita della divinita in se, 87).

While Hermeticism had above all a speculative influence on Freemasonry, the link between Rosicrucians and Freemasonry could be larger and more important, as Francis Yates shows in her studies on the subject. It would have been better if Cosentino had described this relationship more extensively. In any case, the author analyses some important aspects of the Rosicrucian phenomenon, i.e. the great influence of English magician John Dee in the earlier period of the Movement and the central role of Lutheranism (l'origine del rosacrocianesimo non e inglese, ma tedesca e luterana, 175).

The final part of the book (Ritorno in Egitto and Epilogo), in my opinion, is not really consistent with the historical and intellectual investigation found in the previous chapters. This reader had the impression that the book's style had suddenly changed and that the author had taken an existential, even an esoteric approach, an approach which stands in contrast to the earlier sections of the book. Sometimes, books about hermeticism or esotericism are also themselves in some way hermetic or esoteric: for instance, the works of Henry Corbin or Rene Guenon or Edouard Schure. I do not think that this approach is the best way to study the question. In conclusion, this book by Maurizio Cosentino offers many philosophical suggestions and significant interpretation of historical facts about the Hermetic tradition through the centuries. The author has done us a great service in making these fascinating arguments accessible to a broad audience. The book is a valid tool to the reader who desires to approach Hermeticism, Rosicrucian movement and Freemasonry in the perspective of the history of ideas.