The Invisible College of the Rose Cross Fraternity, (date and artist unknown)

To view more images of NOW:HERE click HERE.

NOW:HERE by Garrett Phelan

A text by Daniel Jewesbury, an artist living in Belfast


Now, here - present presence, the immanence of the present. The context of immediacy and the paradox thereof. Simultaneous, mutually exclusive truths. Multiplicity. The past in the present, now, here, nowhere.

A deserted council flat in Dublin's north city centre is temporarily claimed as a venue for a peculiar exploration. The artist takes many hours preparing, stripping wallpaper and gathering material, before committing the work to the bare walls. In the corridors and rooms of this two-up-two-down flat,
a series of wall drawings are executed. They are maps of knowledge and of faith (and of various confusions of the two). They plot a relationship between things apparently unrelated, between rationalist philosophy and experimental science on one hand, and an array of alternative hermeneutics and anti-rationalist belief systems on the other. Within this house, for the duration of the work's existence, all these competing exegeses are left to mutually inform and infect.

Navigating this piece of work, which seems wilfully to resist navigation, to obfuscate excavations, it becomes apparent that it will be impossible to narrate it, to describe and confine it in words. Travelling through the work are multiple, inconclusive, inconsistent dynamics, parallel strands which appear in one viewing and disappear in the next, eclipsed by other temporary understandings. The work is provisional, but it is not simply engaged in a puerile deferral of meaning for its own sake. It is troubled, marked by the various attempts it documents to recover a lost wholeness, an unaccounted-for truth in its various chaotic systems. Any route through will lead you back to the beginning, where you will be invited to reassess the strategies of the work and to take a 'different' approach next time you try to read
it.Difference, incongruity and multiplicity are the problems that the work proclaims, and we, in front of it, find ourselves hopelessly trying to synthesise that which cannot be synthesised, because we have to, because that is how we read and perceive and comprehend. The point is not the incongruity, but rather the persistence of the attempt to synthesise - to rationalise. The problem that contemporary culture is now set, after the critical engagement with postmodernism and poststructuralism, after difference, is the reconciliation of the irreconcilable, the fabrication of a new 'whole' in which all parts remain equally irreducible.

Instrumentalism and Opposites [ some arbitrary
reconciliations, after Now:Here ]

In Now:Here we see the functionalist representational systems of business and economics (pie charts, bar charts, graphs) used to measure quite unexpected flows - mystical mumbo-jumbo concerning brainwaves, electromagnetic radiation, dreams and the universe. How strange it is to see
contemporary instrumentalisms used to illuminate such esoteric ideas. Sometimes the charts are left blank, the x and y variables unattributed, the diagram coming to connote the very idea of sytematisation.

But then, of course, it's conceited of us to believe that the history of ideas is one of straightforward progress, from ignorance (then) to clarity and knowledge (now). Mediaeval and ancient logical devices and representations of the world (for example, the circles of hell, the ancient dualisms, or Aristotle's 'Logical Square', which became the 'Square of Oppositions' 1) are also present in abundance, and show that the rigorous, codified exposition of the universe far predates modern science. These codings, both ancient and modern, represent the patterned flow (chart) of a desire, the desire to conform the world to the available knowledge, to make it conform. The 'world' we know is a construct, a supplemental 'world' made according to our knowledge of 'the world'. That seems obvious until we remember that science claims to place knowledge and the material world in precisely the opposite relationship (knowledge is only ever empirical). The codified system of knowledge-production called 'empirical' could be said to produce ways of understanding the world, which in turn come to influence how we interpret other 'knowledges'. The diagrammatisation of the world is an attempt to render it explicable, intelligible, knowable, which is the raison d'être of science; Martin Heidegger (1977) talks about the process by which science reduces everything in the natural world to mere data, only 'useful' insofar as it is usable: quanitifiable, tangible, recordable. The distinct 'qualities' of particular materials, their very materiality, their innate thingness, are unimportant.2

Progress is simply a decline from prior perfection.

At least three variants of the 'Square of Oppositions' are
visible in Now:Here. Each plots, between its four compass points, the irreconcilable dualisms around which the whole of the universe can, for a moment, be congregated :

1. Dark : light / self : love

2. 'The four states of the race, the church and the individual'

3. The allegorical symbolism of the Lincoln memorial

[ This last is actually a kind of three-dimensional version, a 'cube' of oppositions. ]

Fragmentary precessions of the rational [ rationing the fragments ] :

1. Duality.

To various early Christian sects (Manicheans, Gnostics and so on), Satan had domain over everything material, whilst God ruled only the spiritual. The material world, the carnal, was thus innately corrupt. The only way to avoid sin was through abstention. Remnants of this attitude survive in contemporary Catholicism and in some puritanical protestantisms. Dualism, the belief in a split between mind and body or between material and spiritual, has dominated Western thinking for thousands of years, from Plato (duality of appearance and reality) and Heraclitus (unity is the combination of opposites, the one only has form with its opposite) to Descartes (the individual mind precedes the world, the body is
'othered') and Hegel and Marx (who perfect Heraclitus's 'unity of opposites' into the dialectical system).

2. The god-and-man duality, inverted.

After Descartes, God is made in man's image: human experience and perception are placed prior to the rest of the world, for the first time. Previously, when the existence of God had been studied in philosophy (in Aquinas or Augustine, for example) the proof of his existence had been the object of the exercise. In Descartes, the proof of the existence of God had to be demonstrated at the outset, incidentally, in
passing, perhaps to avoid charges of heresy when he later went on to place man at the centre of the universe. (Maybe, though, this is just a simplistic, rather convenient generalisation of a history of thought that must necessarily be far more complex. So be it.)

3. Thoth - as above, so below.

The word 'Thoth' has been written on the wall. Thoth was the ancient Egyptian god known to the Greeks as Hermes Trismegistus (thrice-great Hermes), who may be two gods, or one god with two aspects. Hermetic mysticism attributes to Thoth the phrase, 'as above, so below'. Earth is the reflection of the Heavens. This appears to be an even earlier evocation of duality. The study of the 'Hermetic' was central to the alchemical, cabalistic and esoteric philosophies of John Dee and the Rosicrucians (see p.13). Hermes was also credited with the building of the Great Pyramid. His burial chamber lies undiscovered somewhere beneath the Sphinx. (Interred with him, of course, are treasures of immense significance.)

Enlightenment and the Occult
[ irrational relationships ]

In February 1613 Princess Elizabeth, daughter of King James I, married Frederick V, Elector Palatine of the Rhine. For Protestant Europe the marriage heralded a new era in their fortunes, apparently bringing the might of Great Britain into the struggle to end Catholic Hapsburg power, and to seize control of the Holy Roman Empire. 3 The struggle between Catholicism and Protestantism in early seventeenth century Europe could be said to be one between inherited faith (or superstition) and inquisitive science
(and personal testimony). Could be, that is, if it were not such an inelegant oversimplification.

Some time between 1610 and 1612, the Fama Fraternitas, dess Löblichen Ordens des Rosenkreutzes [sic], or 'Discovery of the Fraternity of the Most Noble Order of the Rose Cross' was published; the
earliest known copy was printed at Kassel in 1614, but earlier editions are referred to. 4 The Fama is an allegorical work relating the philosophical and spiritual exploits of the Brothers of the Rose Cross, and in particular of the 'founder' of their 'order', Christian Rosencreutz, who 'was born in 1378 and lived for 106 years' (Yates p.61). Central to its narrative is the Brothers' recent discovery of Rosencreutz's burial vault, in which treasures of immense significance have been found:

This very peculiar document, the Fama Fraternitas, thus seems to recount, through the allegory of the vault, the discovery of a new, or rather new-old philosophy, primarily alchemical and related to medicine and healing, but also concerned with number and geometry and with the production of mechanical marvels. It represents, not only an advancement of learning, but above all an illumination of a religious and spiritual nature. This new philosophy is about to be revealed to the world and will bring about a general reformation. The mythical agents of its spread are the R.C. Brothers. These are said to be reformed German Christians, devoutly evangelical. Their religious faith seems closely connected with alchemical philosophy, which has nothing to do with 'ungodly and accursed gold-making', for the riches which Father Rosencreutz offers are spiritual. [ Yates p.62 ]

The publication of this first 'Rosicrucian Manifesto', and the subsequent appearance, later in 1614, of a second, referred to as the Confessio, provoked intense excitement across Europe. Theories emerged and multipliedconcerning the identity of the author or authors, and the whereabouts of the R.C. Brothers. Many tracts were published (often anonymously or pseudonymously, given the great danger involved in speaking out openly against the Catholic church), expressing coded support for the cause. The devout waited expectantly for the day when, with a great clarion call, their intellectual and spiritual freedom would at last be sounded.

Many readers, both at the time of the Manifestos' publication and since, have interpreted them more or less literally. It is clear, however, that both works depend on an allegorical symbolism that would have been, if not immediately obvious, at least far more readily available to a seventeenth century audience. 5 The historian Frances Yates, by painstakingly decoding that symbolism, has demonstrated that the Fama and Confessio are not merely mystical flights of fancy, but that they refer to actual political and religious events in Europe at this time. Most significantly, the forthcoming enlightenment to which they look is centred, albeit obliquely, around a very particular figure: Frederick V, Elector Palatine, son-in-law of the King of Great Britain. 6

In 1619, Frederick finally succumbed to pressure to travel from his seat at Heidelberg to Prague, to take the crown of Bohemia. King Rudolph II, under whom religious tolerance and philosophy had flourished, and who had also been Emperor, had died some years previously; the succession of his brother, Matthias, was short lived and sectarian tensions re-emerged. Upon Matthias' death, the Protestants of Prague refused his heir, Emperor Ferdinand, the Bohemian title and invited Frederick to take his place. As King of Bohemia, Frederick would have a second vote in the Imperial elections, potentially effecting a Protestant majority. Unfortunately for Frederick, the expected aid from King James did not appear (in fact James was actively seeking to promote good relations with the Hapsburgs for his own reasons). In the Battle of White Mountain, Ferdinand's forces comprehensively defeated Frederick, whose subsequent flight from Prague was hurried and ignominious. Such was the brevity of their reign that Frederick and Elizabeth were henceforth mockingly known as the Winter King and Queen.

Frederick's defeat signalled the eclipse of Protestant hopes for further Reformation across Europe, and the first major victory for the Empire in the ensuing Thirty Years War. Esoteric or apparently occultist ideas were now more dangerous than ever, and those branches of sciences with even the most tenuous link to 'magic' (mathematics, for example) could potentially be deemed seditious.


The competing claims of all the belief systems encountered in Now:Here seem to create a grating cacophony, since they cannot all be true; such is the multiplicity of available explanatory systems that one suspects they must all in fact be untrue, even those that we hitherto took for granted. We can
understand more about the genesis and development of these various epistemes if we understand their interrelatedness, rather than emphasising their apparent contradictions or divergences. Modern science - and scientists would describe scientific method not as a belief system but as an antidote to belief systems, since it is characterised not by 'faith' or adherence to a creed, but by rational, independent, empirical enquiry - this scientific method is the descendant of the spirit of Enlightenment which dominated Western philosophy (and Protestantism) during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This Enlightenment itself grows from certain mystical obsessions with revealing the divine truth - the Unity - that was to be found in Nature. Modern chemistry grew from alchemy (as we have seen, not just an obscure attempt to turn lead into gold, but a discipline which aimed to reveal the divine order of the universe through empirical experimentation in nature). Mathematics grew from numerology (logarithms and calculus were originally the tools of occult divination).

Progress is simply a decline from prior perfection.

The inheritor of all that Rosicrucian symbolism - the trumpet that heralds truth, borne by the angel, the Wings of Jehovah, the Star of David, the Lamb of God, the dividers, the ladder of Jacob, the Shining Light, the All-Seeing Eye, the Pyramid (of Hermes) - is not Freemasonry, is certainly not the Orange Order, nor even is it the Royal Antediluvian Order of the Buffalo (all ridiculous bourgeois sects, intent on reading the imagery too literally); it is the Royal Society, venerable seat of modern science. The Society was inaugurated in 1660, forty years after the flight from Prague, almost immediately following the Restoration of Charles II. Thomas Sprat's History of the Royal Society, published in 1667, bears a frontispiece filled with the familiar Rosicrucian imagery (angels, trumpets and so on). In the centre is a bust of Charles II crowned with laurel, and to its left, under the angel's wing, is Francis Bacon himself, the first scientist to attempt a break with the 'occult', or else the first occultist explicitly to define his work as science.

The descendants of John Dee do not trace their line through obscure New Age cults but directly through Descartes and Newton. In 1644, five years before the Thirty Years War ended, Descartes dedicated his Principia to Frederick's eldest daughter Princess Elizabeth, calling her the 'daughter of the King
of Bohemia', more than twenty years after that crown had been lost. Newton owned copies of both Manifestos (annotated in his hand) and was familiar with many other alchemical works directly derived from Dee. Alchemy was one of the chief interests of the fathers of both modern philosophy and modern science.

In a room upstairs is a large, densely drawn black hole.

The black hole is the most striking symbol on view in Now:Here, because it is an anti-symbol, the absence and yet the totality of all symbols [ omphalos and sphincter simultaneously ]. The competing flows and the desires they map, in all the diagrams around the various rooms, have created a vortex
that swirls and whorls through the corridors and up the staircase, an electromagnetic anomaly which emanates from and is dissipated into the black hole, the absent centre of the piece.

Return again to the front door, enter again, begin again, read again. Read again these. These relics of. Read again these symbols these relics of a world of a mind of minds read again these fractured indices. Enter again this discontinuous stream of being that begins and ends at every word, every falsely signifying icon. Make again, afresh, your best efforts to render whole the scattered parts, a thousand pieces of a thousand different pictures.


1 The most interesting modern adaptation of the Square of Oppositions is in Fredric Jameson's work. See Jameson (1991), p. 10, and Jameson
(1992), p. 161. My thanks go to Professor Dan Fleming, who introduced me to the history of the Square.

2 Heidegger calls this the idea of 'standing-reserve'. Science 'challenges' the natural world to present itself to us in its useful form: nature is only ever seen thus, in terms of its potential usefulness, as 'standing-reserve'. What Heidegger calls 'poiesis' (truth) is the reality of the Thing, which is denied (or ignored) by technology.

3 The Holy Roman Empire, with certain interruptions and transitions, had been in existence since the coronation of Charlemagne on Christmas Day, 800. It was not an actual territorial title, but rather an honorific or aspirational one, since the Empire brought together a great diversity of quite distinct states in religious union. Succession to the Imperial throne was based on election by the various princes and archbishops (the 'electors'). Until 1530, the Emperor was crowned by the Pope; as the Pope was the supreme spiritual authority on Earth, so the Emperor was the supreme temporal authority. Following the Reformation, and the conversion of several of the German states to Protestantism, the religious unity of the Empire ceased. The automatic, hereditary succession of the Hapsburg kings of Germany to the Imperial throne had become de facto by this time.

4 The source for all information regarding the Rosicrucians and their legacy is Frances Yates's excellent and expansive The Rosicrucian Enlightenment [2002].

5 This symbolism derives from a number of sources, including the mystical-alchemical works of John Dee, and the Cabalistic iconography of a group of alchemical philosophers and engravers then active in the Rhineland (that is to say, in the Palatinate and in the states immediately adjoining it). Francis Bacon, the English philosopher, was clearly connected to the same movements of Enlightenment thought. Although Bacon was wary of implicating himself too closely with anything that reeked of 'magic' or the occult, given that King James was intolerant of such pursuits - Dee himself had come to an ignominious end for his troubles, and the Manifestos had not caused any great stir in England - nonetheless one work published posthumously in 1626 was a Utopian allegory filled with Rosicrucian-inspired symbolism.

6 See Yates for a full account of this symbolism, explained both in terms of the Manifestos and various other contemporaneous documents. Frederick was typically depicted as a crowned lion in engravings of the time. Following his defeat, prints show the two-headed Hapsburg eagle triumphant over the toothless lion.


Martin Heidegger [1977] The Question Concerning Technology and other essays, trans. & introd. William Lovitt, [ New York: Harper & Row ]

Fredric Jameson [1991] Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism
[ London: Verso ]

Fredric Jameson [1992] 'The Existence of Italy', in Signatures of the Visible
[ London & New York: Routledge ]

Frances Yates [1968; 2002 ed.] The Rosicrucian Enlightenment [ London & New York: Routledge ]

© Daniel Jewesbury/ Garrett Phelan