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The Magus of Freemasonry:
The Mysterious Life of Elias Ashmole
Scientist, Alchemist and Founder of the Royal Society

Tobias Churton

Average Review Rating Average Rating 8/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Inner Traditions Bear and Company

Published : 2006

Copyright : Tobias Churton 2006

ISBN-10 : PB 1-59477-122-7
ISBN-13 : PB 978-1-59477-122-4

Publisher's Write-Up

Elias Ashmole (1617-1692) was the first to record a personal account of initiation into Accepted Freemasonry. His writings help solve the debate between operative and "speculative" origins of Accepted Freemasonry, demonstrating that symbolic Freemasonry existed within the Masonic trade bodies. Ashmole was one of the leading intellectual luminaries of his time: a founding member of the Royal Society, an alchemists, astrological advisor to the king; and the creator of the world's first public museum.

While Isaac Newton regarded him as an inspiration, Ashmole has been ignored by many conventional historians. Tobias Churton's compelling portrait of Ashmole offers a perfect illustration of the true Renaissance figure - the magus. As opposed to the alienated position of his post-Cartesian successors, the magus occupied a place at the heart of Renaissance spiritual, intellectual and scientific life. Churton shows Ashmole to be a part of the ferment of the birth of modern science, a missing link between operative and symbolic Freemasonry and a vital transmitter of esoteric thought when the laws of science were first taking hold. He was a man who moved easily between the powers of the earth and the active symbols of heaven.

About the Author:
Tobias Churton is Course Lecturer on Freemasonry and Rosicrucianism at Exeter University and teaches in England's first master's programme in Western Esotericism. He studied theology at Oxford University and created the award-winning documentary series and accompanying book "The Gnostics" as well as several other films on Christian doctrine, mysticism, and magical folklore. He is the founding editor of "Freemasonry Today" magazine and the author of "Gnostic Philosophy". He lives in England.

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Reader Reviews

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Review by John Finch (300411) Rating (8/10)

Review by John Finch
Rating 8/10
This is a very complete and detailed Life of Elias Ashmole. It examines all of his interests in considerable depth, and as such there is something to be gained from this book whatever your particular interest. There is plenty of detail about Freemasonry in the seventeenth century, some very interesting insights into Alchemy, some of the reasons behind the founding of the Royal Society and so forth, as well as the basic biographical content.

My interest was mainly in the book as a biography, and as I reached the end of it I felt that I had an understanding not only of what Ashmole did and where he spent his life - the sort of information provided by other shorter missives - but because the author attempts to draw sensible conclusions about Ashmole's reasoning as he deals with the various challenges in his life, I also obtained a feeling for his personality. This is not easy to do and the author is to be congratulated on this achievement.
At a time when some of the wealthy had their private "cabinets of curiosities", Ashmole created the world's first public museum, and the book provides an intriguing insight into Ashmole's motivation for doing this.

If I'm really critical, one aspect that was not so good and that I found annoyed me as I read, was the use of too many metaphors, some of them excruciating - "While Ashmole's wisdom was well rooted and watered in the past, he delighted in the flora of futurity". Or possibly worse, when the author describes something that "...provided the golden thread in the velvet of his life". There are more, but I can't bring myself to repeat them. In my paperback edition, some of the illustrations were too dark, particularly of houses, churches, view across fields and the like - making it difficult to make out any significant detail in them to the extent that the point of including them was lost. However, this is minor detail and probably only annoying to me because excessive metaphor usage is a pet hate of mine!
Overall a very worthwhile read about a significant seventeenth-century personality who has been neglected in favour of better-known individuals.

John Finch (30th April 2011)

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