Save the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica

It is true without lies, certain and most true;
That which is below is as that which is above,
and that which is above is as that which is below,
to accomplish the miracle of the one thing.
It is true without lies, certain and most true;
That which is below is as that which is above,
and that which is above is as that which is below,
to accomplish the miracle of the one thing.
Tabula Smaragdina

One of the most extensive collections of esoteric work is in jeopardy of being dispersed into the hands of private collectors.

The Ritman Library, known as the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica comes from the private collection of books by businessmen Joost R. Ritman who turned his private collection of manuscripts and printed works in the field of Hermeticism into a library of the Hermetic tradition, to show the interrelatedness between the various collecting areas and their relevance for the present day study.

Today, the renowed Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica (BPH) is in grave danger because of a financial conflict with Ritman, and the Friesland Bank.

An online petition has been started to save the library, which you can sign here, and chronicles the dissolution of the library, saying:

It is widely known that the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica in Amsterdam, was in great danger in the 1990s, when the ING bank took possession of the collection and threatened to sell it. Fortunately, the Dutch government intervened: the BPH was put on the list of protected Dutch heritage, and the State eventually acquired over 40% of it. The books remained at the same physical location, integrated with the rest of the collection, and the government would eventually acquire all of it.

The manuscript was likely written for one of the leading aristocratic families of Medieval France (circa 1315-23) and is now expected to sell for $2.49 to $3.23 million.

As part of this process, there were great plans for further expansion. Largely due to the financial crisis and a change of government this was taking somewhat longer than originally anticipated, but nobody doubted that the library was safe.

Last week this turned out to be incorrect. An extremely valuable medieval manuscript owned by the BPH (The Grail of Rochefoucauld – the oldest known Arthur Manuscript) was put on sale at Sotheby’s, and this triggered a reaction from the Friesland Bank, which took possession of the library, that had apparently been brought in as collateral, in order to get back a 15 million euro loan from mr Ritman.

At present the BPH is closed, and intense negotiations are going on behind closed doors. It is impossible at this moment to predict the outcome, but there is no doubt that the situation is extremely serious. There is a very real possibility that the Friesland bank will try to sell at least 60% of the library that is still owned by Mr. Ritman, and nobody knows what implications this will have for the rest of the collection and the BPH as a whole, including its staff. The brand-new government of the Netherlands has announced a program of radical financial cuts in the culture section and elsewhere, which makes a renewed intervention from that side highly unlikely.

It continues saying:

If the Ritman library would go down, this would mean an enormous blow to international scholarship in hermetic studies. The damage would be irreversible. By signing this petition you express your concern, and ask the Dutch government and the Friesland bank to do their utmost to ensure that the collection will be saved and will remain available for the international scholarly community.

What you can do.

Its a challenge to say what one can do in such an situation, but there are some things one can do to express their concern.

  1. Sign the petition to save the Library.
  2. Send an email/letter to Friesland Bank in protest of the sale and dissolution of the work. You can send to: Headquarters
    Friesland Bank Postbus 1 Friesland Bank PO Box 1
    8900 AA Leeuwarden 8900 AA Leeuwarden
  3. Call the Friesland Bank Press Officer
    at Pers Press
    Press Officer
    Persvoorlichter Press Officer
    Saskia Toor Saskia Toor
    (058) 299 44 23 (058) 299 44 23
    06 51 50 56 00 06 51 50 56 00
    Send them a message at their Friesland Bank contact page here
    or call them at +31 58 2994499
  4. Encourage your academic institution to join the growing list of Professors and Academic institutions in support of the study of the Hermetic tradition and the preservation of the library.  You can see a list of those who have already signed the petition here.
  5. Also, if there is consideration of private investment in the library, contact me and we can organize a mission to help preserve the collection.  Email me at

The library itself can be found on line at Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica.

You can see by their Guide the bredth and work of the collection.

In the colelction of work, you one can study and explore the depth of Hermetic study, which the library has divided into the following principal collecting areas:
Gnosis & Western Esotericism

This collecting area contains works attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, other neo-Platonic works, patristic testimonies to the Christian reception of Hermes and works testifying to the influence of the Hermetica from the Early Middle Ages through to the present day. Placed at the beginning is a general section with relevant historical studies.

Works range from antiquity to modern day.

The general section at the beginning contains a great number of art historical works and plate books on the subject of alchemy and its symbols. There are also specialized periodicals in the field of alchemy available, such as Ambix and Chrysopoeia (both complete).

A number of source texts and secondary works from Greek, Oriental, Arabic and Jewish, to Midieval and Western Alchemy.

The BPH particularly collects medieval and later Western mystics having a demonstrable affinity with Hermetic thought, amongst whom Meister Eckhart, Suso and Tauler.

From early mysticism to mystical spiritualism through the centuries, the Library has a wide collection of works to research from, including a selection on Sufism.

The Rosicrucian Manifestoes (Fama fraternitatis, Confessio fraternitatis and Chymische Hochzeit) were printed in addition to the original 17th-century editions, the BPH holds several modern editions, ranging from facsimile editions to annotated text editions, and various translations, amongst which Spanish, English and French.

The BPH collection spans work from the original Manifestos to more modern workings of the S.R.I.A, Max Heindel’s Fellowship, A.M.O.R.C., O.T.O./O.R.A., and other relevant developments.


This principal collecting area includes various currents in addition to Hermetism, Alchemy,
Mysticism and Rosicrucians which express a spirituality mainly manifesting itself outside the confines of the institutionalized religions. At the same time they feed and reinforce the core of the collection.

This branch of the collelction includes works of comparative religion, egyptology, pre-Christian cults, Early Christian practice, the Nag Hammadi Library both pre and post materials, Gnostic both past and present, Manichaeism, Theosophy, Anthroposophy, Non-Western philosophy religious traditions, Esotericism, Grail, Catharism, Kabbalah, Judaica, Qumran, Freemasonry, the Templars, and Christianity.

Needless to say, the collection is both extensive and necissary for modern study of the Hermetic Tradition.

The ‘Way of Gnosis’ or the ‘Way of Hermes’ leads to this ultimate goal: the experience of divine reality, which cannot be learnt, but can only be personally experienced (gnosis). Therefore, if one has knowledge, he is from above. If he is called, he hears, he answers, and he turns to him who is calling him, and ascends to him. And he knows, in what manner he is called.  Having knowledge, he does the will of the one who called him, he wishes to be pleasing to him, he receives rest. Each one’s name comes to him. He who is to have knowledge in this manner knows where he comes from and knows where he is going.

From: The Gospel of Truth by the gnostic Valentinus,one of the texts found at Nag Hammadi

Take a minute and sign the petition, and if you are passionate about the library, take the extra step and send a note to save the collection.

Posted in Masonic Traveler and tagged , , , .

A devoted student of the Western Mystery Traditions, Greg is a firm believer in the Masonic connections to the Hermetic traditions of antiquity, its evolution through the ages and into its present configuration as the antecedent to all contemporary esoteric and occult traditions. He is a self-called searcher for that which was lost, a Hermetic Hermit and a believer in “that which is above is so too below.” Read more about Greg Stewart.

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