Secret Societies and the Hermetic Code
by Ernesto Frers © 20008
$16.95 (U.S.) $19.50 (Canada)
Reviewed by: Michael Gleason
Like most of the books from Destiny Books (an imprint of Inner Traditions) this one assumes that the reader is not a dilettante in the esoteric fields. Readers who do not have a background in mythological subjects, and at least a casual acquaintance with Classical and Medieval art and artists (of many varieties) are likely to find themselves bewildered (or at least mildly confused) by this explanation of Hermeticism in the arts.
The author explores the fields of painting, sculpture, architecture and music in his, unfortunately superficial, explanation of the transmission of esoteric secrets. While he repeatedly states that these secrets are encoded in the various works he looks at, he fails to convey a sense of what these secrets are or, even more importantly, what clues exist to show their existence.
I understand that occult secrets are hidden. After all, that is what occult means. And I also understand that such secrets are not intended for distribution to the “profane” population. But unless one has an extensive background is esoteric subjects, or has access to a knowledgeable teacher, it would nice to have a starting point to begin one’s investigations. Without that there is no framework to build upon.
This lack of information is particularly noticeable in the chapters on sculpture. He looks at the Sphinx, the Venus de Milo, the lady of Elche, the David, and the Perseus with the Head of Medusa. While each is an outstanding example of sculpture in its own right, he makes no attempt to draw them together, or to explain how he views them as examples of transmitters of the Hermetic code.
As a book exploring the field of art, this work succeeds admirably. However, it fails, in my opinion, to live up to its title and subtitle (The Rosicrucian, Masonic, and esoteric Transmission in the Arts).
As a rule, I generally recommend books by this company without reservation. This time I must place conditions on my recommendations. This book is well-written (from a technical point of view), contains glorious color photos, and is a nice book to have around. It is not, however, one which I feel is necessary to have in your library.