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"Reads like an adventure novel. Ashmole was one of the leading intellectual and spiritual lights of the time, an accomplished alchemist, and close friend of the most brilliant men in England. Churton has given us a compelling picture of Ashmole’s life, the city in which he lived, and the guild structure of the time."

Brent Morris, Editor: SCOTTISH RITE JOURNAL OF FREEMASONRY, Southern Jurisdiction, USA

"Admirers of Tobias Churton’s previous books, such as The Gnostics, The Golden Builders and Gnostic Philosophy, will not be disappointed by his new biography of one of the most remarkable men England has ever produced: a “mighty good man”, as Ashmole’s contemporary the antiquarian John Aubrey called him.

The book is written from a deep understanding of the Hermetic, alchemical, masonic and Rosicrucian traditions that are so important for a full understanding of Ashmole, who emerges as a seminal figure in many different areas. His alchemical magnum opus, the Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum, “would become Isaac Newton’s most heavily consulted alchemical text when he came to search for the single divine principle through a thorough working of alchemical experiments”. Churton also throws much light on Ashmole’s important role in the history of Freemasonry – he was one of the earliest recorded initiates into a lodge in a non-operative capacity (at Warrington, Lancashire in 1646). Then of course there is the achievement for which he is probably best known, namely his creation of the Ashmolean Museum, which was partly inspired, as Churton argues, by the notion of a repository of universal knowledge as described in the Rosicrucian writings and in Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis. As the inscription on Ashmole’s tomb in St. Mary’s church, Lambeth, says “so long as the Ashmolean Museum of Oxford endures he will never die”. With these words Tobias Churton concludes this valuable and thought-provoking study of Ashmole’s life."

Dr Christopher McIntosh from esoterica website run by Arthur Versluis

"Ashmole - often dismissed as a dilettante by masons who should know better - was a man with wide interests, impressive knowledge and a rich life where his curiosity was avidly pursued: he was an antiquarian and a Hermetic philosopher of insight and accomplishment. We need to know more. Churton obliges.

Ashmole's birthplace in Breadmarket Street, Lichfield, still exists; we begin there. The Ashmoles were a prominent family in the city, Elias' grandfather was twice mayor. From this small town in an ancient landscape Ashmole moved out into the world. During the Civil War he supported the King; he also studied in Brasenose College, Oxford where he made a particular investigation of astrology (he was a friend of the prominent astrologers, William Lilly and George Wharton) and Hermetic wisdom. Magus provides a particularly welcome study of Ashmole's astrology - it looks like he later provided astrological advice to King Charles II - and his later interest in Freemasonry and Alchemy. Ashmole always hoped for 'a great flowering of alchemical knowledge and cosmic insight led by coming philosophers'. He avoided religious debate: Churton explains, “True religion must be rooted in something more than doctrinal disagreement, however sincerely held. Ashmole was always looking for the roots of things. Really, his religion was cosmic, Gnostic and personal. This was, I believe, his ideal Church for England.” Churton writes almost wistfully as if he too believes such would be an ideal Church. As wistfully, I find myself in agreement. Magus is intriguing, fascinating, impeccably researched and well illustrated. And, in his revealing of Ashmole's life, Tobias Churton shows that wisdom, and the search for it, cannot be separated; each depends upon the other."


"While I have never written a real book review, I have certainly given talks about books and recommend many of them. I know the old aphorism, “Never judge a book by its cover.” Added to this appears to be an common law to never review or recommend a book from its first quarter. The true value of a text is ascertained during its great middle and completing finish.

This is a law which I feel compelled to break. Work is terribly busy right now, so I have to work on this flight, but my take-off and landing book is The Magus of Freemasonry written by Tobias Churton. I have mentioned this author a number of times in my blog, since he impressed me with his book The Golden Builders: Alchemists, Rosicrucians, First Freemasons. While at Borders last year I purchased Magus and sat it on my reading queue. What a shame... At this moment I am in the air over Massachusetts having read about 10% of the book while on the runway and through takeoff. Though I have hundreds of pages yet to read I must strongly recommend this work to all Masons interested in a search for knowledge and understanding of our real 17th and 18th century history. To the general reader, I offer this quotation from the book which, like the stone itself, fell on me and is still blossoming in my brain:

[Ashmole] inhabited a world where science and magick were still handmaidens to religion and philosophy. He was one of the last men of learning to enjoy that world before the family broke up. All too soon, science would leave home to plow her own furrow independently and at times in contempt of her troubled parents. Nevertheless, Ashmole was a founding member o the Royal Society - a harbinger of that fateful parting - and was himself unconcerned with theological disputes. The philosophy he espoused stood above them; and so did he.

If I were wiser and more skilled with words, I might be able to explain the powerful picture those words create in my head. Imagine the history of the Enlightenment period and the eventually antagonistic relationship between science and religion as a painting illuminated by fluorescent lighting. With these few sentences, Churton turns off the lights and opens a window allowing the work to be illuminated by pure sunlight. A new depth and character appears in the work, which was never noticed before.All this on page two! If the rest of the book is even half this quality, then we should all own a copy of it."

BLOG Review by Christian Ratliff Location: South Portland, Maine, United States