The Invisible World Revealed: A New Exhibit at the Clark

Published: May 11, 2010

Please join us for the opening reception for our most recent exhibit, The Invisible World Revealed on May 24th from 5-7pm!  More information on the exhibition, which will run until June 30th.

The Invisible World Revealed: Selected Works of the Occult from the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library

Exhibition by Brynn Burke and Derek Christian Quezada

From its origin in Latin meaning hidden or concealed, the occult as it is understood today ranges widely in its signification and meaning.

Astrology, Alchemy, Magic, Mysticism, Ghosts, and Devils are all considered to fall underneath its umbrella and yet each should be understood as the product of a unique set of historical, cultural, religious and aesthetic conditions that have and continue to change in their definition over time.

What unifies them however as the occult is the ardent belief that just outside human perception there is an invisible world that exists, with its own secret laws that influence and even govern our everyday existence. While guarded, this world is sought by the wise or initiated, and stumbled upon by the unfortunate or damned.

This exhibition represents only a small percent of the occult works held at the Clark. Although there is no single dedicated collection, the items exhibited have all been carefully selected in order to give an impression of the range and breadth that exists across the collections as a whole. Particular emphasis has been placed upon the 17th and 18th centuries, though the presence of the occult is acknowledged even in the Clark’s extensive holdings of fine press books.

Interestingly, many of the figures associated with these volumes, as either authors or subjects, have played prominent roles outside the realm of the occult. This is especially true in regards to the development of math and science as the distinctions between chemistry and alchemy, for example, were almost non-existent. While there is a tendency to dismiss the occult as simply the product of faulty inquiry, it should be remembered that their shared origin is not without significance. If anything these works demonstrate the transformation of methodology and the importance of curiosity and the imagination in the pursuit of knowledge.

The occult then is not merely the artifact of a new empirical consciousness but the inevitable outcome of symbolic thought. It represents the simple but powerful idea that there is always something hidden just beyond the veil of the ordinary.

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