Obituary: Kurt Josten
They consist of biographical studies, textual commentaries, and translations relating not to Elias Ashmole but to precursors of Ashmole's in the 16th- and 17th-century world of occult science and mystical philosophy, especially William Backhouse, John Dee and Robert Fludd.
Perhaps the most important of these articles is a translation of and commentary upon John Dee's mystical work Monas Hieroglyphica (1564). Josten's version, really a little book in its own right, was modestly published in Ambix in 1964. Translating it with the advantage of fluency in Latin, he was able to concentrate his attention on understanding Dee's deliberately obscure and difficult argument. Josten's introduction contains the following passage:
The author of the Monas seems to be taking his reader on a conducted tour through a dark room where, every now and then, he strikes a light to illuminate one out of a multitude of objects apparently assembled there for a distinct purpose. The reader guesses soon that other objects, which he perceives dimly glistening in the background, are probably more pertinent to that purpose than the one set before him for which bland and seemingly lucid explanations are offered . . . (Dee) leaves it to the reader even to guess that the subject of the elaborate display, which he is asked to view in such dim light, is the hermetic quest.
This specimen of Josten's beautiful style of writing his adopted language of English conveys his relish at the study of literary texts, historical mysteries, and truly mystical and spiritual things. It is also perceptive: I doubt whether many people had understood what Dee was talking about before. For Josten was truly involved (a word he hated) in the Renaissance mind of occult philosopher-scientists like Dee and Ashmole; he probably saw his own life as a 'tour through a dark room' with flashes of incomplete enlightenment. The mystical side of alchemy, the 'hermetic quest', was ever thus.
From the blogs
A slight deviation from style this week and admittedly a bit weird, but at least I can finally say I...
Owen Howells is a DJ/producer who grew up in Australia but was born in the UK. He came back to the U...
Justice, the bedrock of our society is for sale under the Government’s latest plan to sell legal aid...
Take inspiration from the green-fingered brigade who have been showing off their creativity at the R...
Emergency landing at Heathrow sparks further controversy over London airport capacity
Unrest may spread across Europe, warns Red Cross chief
French government seeks to ban extreme right-wing group
BNP and EDL accused of attempt to fuel racial hatred after Woolwich terror attack
You want to get an Eton scholarship? All you need to do is answer four (not so simple) questions
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Nook is donating eReaders to volunteers at high-need schools and participating in exclusive events throughout the campaign.
Get the latest on The Evening Standard's campaign to get London's children reading.
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.