Review ‘Master of Change: Images of Hermes Trismegistus’ by Joe Walsh 2


A review by Joe Walsh
This is an exhibit worth traveling to see. From its renowned collection of books and materials, The Ritman Library has assembled a display that clearly and comprehensively opens up the fascinating development of Hermes as founder and patron of learning through the ages.

It is particularly exciting to view close-up the many engravings of the pictorial images which communicate the essentials of the school in their original printings. Their quality is superb and students who have only had prior access to reproductions will thrill at the sharpness and clarity of detail. Since many of the principles of the science and art are contained in emblems and motifs rigorously composed to encourage thoughtful study and contemplation, the quality of the engravings, drawings, paintings and sculptures greatly enhances our enjoyment and growth in the work. Here, it is easy to become luxuriously lost in thought at the richness of the visual feast.

35 Ouroboros

This, joined to the written text which accompanies the exhibit, answers many of our nagging questions about Hermes and also seductively entices one to entertain further speculations hitherto out of mind. English-speaking visitors will be pleased to note that the text cataloguing the exhibit is in both Dutch and English. Written by curator Cis van Heertum, the introduction captures with precision and economy the arabesque journey of our subject from lunar regulator to pastoral guardian, pyramid builder and beyond. Each item in the display is also treated with similar textual attention and impeccable scholarship.

Left to our own devices, we might easily spend years tracking down the trail of our polymorphous hero to obtain inventive strategies for gaining useful skills in life. But thanks to the wonderful work of the Ritman family and staff in producing exhibitions of this quality, the time required in the seeking can be pleasurably compressed. Encouragements of this kind are exactly what can serve to dispel confusion, accelerating personal growth and its attendant benefits.

MASTER OF CHANGE: IMAGES OF HERMES TRISMEGISTUS is prolonged until 28 August 2015.

About Joe Walsh
Joe Walsh earned a BA in English from the University of San Francisco in 1976. After a year of postgraduate work in his hometown of Portland, Oregon, preferred the freedom of Alaska where he lived for four years. Returning to Oregon, he took up the study of plants and herbs as a private student with a chemistry professor at the local university and became familiar with some alchemical ideas through him. Folk magic of his ethnic origins also became a topic of study as well.

20 years ago he chose to seriously concentrate his studies on magic focused on qabala, astrology and tarot as an integrated unit. Each discipline utilizes a similar lexicon and he believes one would need to know all three in order to make progress in any one.  This led him also to the alchemical texts and emblems of the 16th & 17th centuries which he began to digest.

Over these many years, the study of these traditions has become habitual, though he has found that one can also discover directly the sense of things through stilling the rational mind and giving close observation to the wind in the flowering trees and shrubs, and the business of all wild creatures in between the water, ground and rocks.  Observation has been a way to practice one teacher’s saying:  “You are either green and growing, or ripe and rotting.”

The contents of this blog expresses the author’s own ideas and opinions. If you would also like to post a blog with content relevant to the BPH please contact us at The Ritman Library reserves the right not to post blogs that have no bearing on any of the library’s collecting areas.

Leave a comment

2 thoughts on “Review ‘Master of Change: Images of Hermes Trismegistus’ by Joe Walsh

  • Brandi

    What a lovely review. The rich detail of Mr. Walsh’s description is refreshing and informative. He provides stimulating insights into the value of the exhibit, and makes me wish I were there to see it in-person.