The Science of Adulruna - From the Renaissance to the Baroque

Revival of the Runes: The Modern Rediscovery and Reinvention of the Germanic Runes - Stephen E. Flowers Ph.D. 2021

The Science of Adulruna
From the Renaissance to the Baroque

Since the time when I first wrote the text of this section about Johan Bure in 1998, great strides have been made in the studies surrounding this Swedish runologist and mage. We can especially point to the work of Thomas Karlsson, who was actually inspired by the magical words I originally wrote at the end of this section, “Någon har mycket att göra.” This call was heard and now I can say, Någon har mycket gört!

At one point Bure created a table with which he wished to show the place of the adulrunor in the great scheme of philosophy and the sciences of his day. In his own Renaissance spirit, he was already laying the foundations for an integral runology of the future.


Table 3.3 not only gives us a map of Bure’s esoteric universe of ideas, but it also articulates these ideas into a meaningful series of relationships. Royal theosophy is divided into an inner and outer aspect. The inner aspect is identified with the pristine adulrunor, which are articulated into the three sciences of “kabbalah,” “magic,” and “alchemy.” The “common runes” are the “maidservants” known as the liberal arts. These support and promote the esoteric pursuits, and from them the liberal arts branch out further into astronomy/astrology and grammar. From Bure’s life and work it is clear that he realized the magical significance of grammar—the meaningful arrangement of sounds/ letters. He saw this as being intimately bound up with the concept of a rune. Bure recognized (correctly) the etymological link between the Swedish words runa (mystery; letter) and rön (experience, observation, understanding). The definition Bure gives of “adulruna” at this point is nobilis experientia quæ potissimum constat in naturæ cognitione, the “experience of nobility, which it is agreed (is) in the knowledge of nature.” Adulrunor are those things by which we may investigate the noble or exalted aspects of objects—natural or supernatural.

The study of the ideas of Johan Bure is fraught with difficulties. His esoteric works largely remain unpublished today. They are stored away in archives in Stockholm, Uppsala, and Lund. This circumstance makes a difficult study twice as hard as it would be otherwise. Bure’s ideas are, I suspect, extraordinarily sophisticated and complex. Yet their meaning is shrouded behind an obscure language of symbols that would be difficult to understand completely even if all his works were readily available in convenient editions and/or translations. It is almost certainly the case that Bure only revealed the key to his thought and language to those students who took the time and effort to come and learn with him in person. So, when we are left to speculate on his meanings or evaluate his thought based on the fragments of printed material and commentaries on the latter, we are confronted with the magnitude of the task of unlocking the mysteries of Bure’s system.