Western Esotericism, Literature, Art, and Consciousness

Arthur Versluis



SUNY series in

Western Esoteric Traditions

David Appelbaum, editor

and Consciousness Arthur Versluis S t a t e U n i v e r s i t y o f N e w Yo r k P re s s . Art. Literature.Restoring P a r a d i s e Western Esotericism.

ISBN 0-7914-6139-4 (alk. recording.Published by STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK PRESS. or otherwise without the prior permission in writing of the publisher. Occultism in art. Laurie Searl Marketing. 2. Anne M. p. Valentine Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Versluis. electrostatic. photocopying.V47 135—dc22 2004 2004045292 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 . literature. No part of this book may be stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means including electronic. NY 12207 Production. 3. 1959– Restoring paradise : western esotericism. Occultism—History. paper) 1. address State University of New York Press. BF1411. mechanical. Occultism in literature. Authur. and consciousness / Arthur Versluis.—(SUNY series in Western esoteric traditions) Includes bibliographical references and index. ALBANY © 2004 Arthur Versluis Printed in the United States of America No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission. 90 State Street. cm. For information. magnetic tape. Albany. Series. Title. II. art. Suite 700. I.

In memory of poet and scholar Kathleen Raine .


Pansophic.Contents Preface Acknowledgments Introduction: Initiatory Transmission and the Imagination What is Esoteric? Initiatory Transmission and Western Esotericism The Esoteric Imagination 1 Origins Alchemy of the Word The Field of the Imagination The Red Thread of Gnosis Conclusions 2 Historical Currents Divine Service: Chivalry and the Troubadours Books within Books: Jewish Kabbalism The Transfiguration of Earth: Alchemical Literature The Divine Science: Theosophic. Rosicrucian. and Masonic Literature ix xi 1 17 35 .

and Consciousness Notes Index 87 159 169 . Art.viii CONTENTS 3 Modern Implications Prospero’s Wand: Modern Esoteric Literature The Western Esoteric Traditions and Consciousness Literature.

P re f a c e Restoring Paradise began as an introduction to the literary and religious history of Western esotericism and was meant for a general audience. This is the first extensive discussion of these authors together. I hope that Restoring Paradise will serve to introduce many readers to the richness of our common inheritance. and I hope that it will open the way to a new appreciation for each of them in this larger context. At the suggestion of an early reader. H. but as the book took shape.. Hence. figures. C. art. I drew on a variety of both primary and secondary sources. traditions. D. I include a short annotated bibliography to suggest further study for those interested in the fields that I here introduce in the course of making my case about literature and art as means of esoteric transmission in the West. O. I also included references to Japanese Zen Buddhism and to the great Japanese philosopher Keiji Nishitani. so did an unexpected thesis about initiation. S. Milosz. and locales that play a role in supporting and amplifying the larger argument. Lewis. wrote for a general audience across a range of fields rather than for specialists in one or more of the many periods. all the way from the early Christian era to twentieth-century poets and artists. V. ix . found where literature and religion meet in the works of such extraordinary figures as Charles Williams. literature. but in keeping with my original impetus. Soon it became clear that Restoring Paradise was to be a genuinely interdisciplinary argument whose subjects range across Western religious and literary history. but the work’s focus remains Western. and Cecil Collins. and consciousness itself. In writing this book. At the very least.


My thanks to New Directions Publishing for permission to quote from the works of the poet H. Used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.D. to Christopher Bamford and Lindisfarne Press for the citations from The Noble Traveller: The Life and Writings of O. 1994) and Meditations. and to the editors of Gnostica 3. “The Music of Dawn” from The Vision of the Fool and Other Works. Mélanges offerts à Antoine Faivre (Louven: Peeters.D. Poems. in which earlier versions of parts of this book first appeared. (West Stockbridge: Lindisfarne. Pages from a Sketchbook (Ipswich: Golgonooza. to The Journal of Consciousness Studies. xi . and “The Walls Do Not Fall” (excerpts) by Hilda Doolittle (H. the estate of Cecil Collins and the Tate Gallery for citations and images. copyright renewed 1972 by Norman Holmes Pearson. from Trilogy. 2001).Acknowledgments Grateful acknowledgments to Brian Keeble. 1997). V. including the adapted cover illustration. in particular “Tribute to the Angels” (excerpts) by Hilda Doolittle (H. © 1944 by Oxford University Press.). de L.)..D. each of whom helped to make it a better work. 1985). copyright renewed 1973 by Norman Holmes Pearson. and to Studies in Spirituality. Many thanks also to the various readers and editors of this book during the course of its production. Milosz. (Ipswich: Golgonooza. © 1945 by Oxford University Press. from Trilogy.


and metaphysical or transcendent. and one that has ramifications in many directions.2 In a model that I outline in two articles on method in the study of esotericism. Yet for this to take place.” of which (in my definition) the mysticisms of an Eckhart or a Böhme.3 Gnosis may be divided into two broad categories: cosmological. artistic. As Steven Katz pointed out in Mysticism and Language (1992).1 Here. I argue that esotericism has as its central characteristic gnosis.I n t ro d u c t i o n : I n i t i a t o r y Tr a n s m i s s i o n and the Imagination We find ourselves today at the edge of new vistas in scholarship. In this book. requires that one consider the role that language plays in generating. mutually 1 . and these in turn may offer us new ways to understand both our past and our present in surprising ways. provoking. and perhaps even more critically. literary. This is a vast and almost totally unexplored field. These are not. I extend this question beyond mysticism to include the full range of what are now termed “Western esoteric traditions. or groups have been overlooked or marginalized. meaning experiential insight into the nature of the divine as manifested in the individual and in the cosmos. and otherwise. religious. and artistic traditions from antiquity to the present. of The Cloud of Unknowing and of eighteenth-century alchemical treatises form various sets and subsets. not least of all for the understanding of art and literature. figures. are now appearing. A wide range of new approaches to and reënvisionments of Western history. or conveying spiritual experiences. how esotericism is transmitted in the West. even apophatic mysticism. however. we will focus on a single theme: that of how spiritual initiation takes place in Western esoteric religious. the study of mysticism. and one of the most promising of these is what we may broadly term esoteric literature and art. but also. we must begin to go beyond historical research in order to understand not only who or what esoteric works.

The term Western esoteric traditions is broad. Although it seems that ours is a time when everything from the past is bound to come to light. Western esoteric traditions have been denigrated or dismissed for centuries. Metaphysical gnosis in its pure form is apophatic or via negativa mysticism like that of Meister Eckhart or Marguerite Porete. and although we will present a new way of understanding the phenomenon of Western esotericism in a contemporary light. that is what this book is about. Like the koan. religious. but with occasional reference to what I see as in many respects an analogous Asian tradition—that of the Zen Buddhist koan. philosophical. we will focus primarily on Western esoteric traditions such as alchemy. Freemasonry. for in order to create the modern world of machinery and science. Here. however. it can be described also as the transcendence of subject-object or self-other divisions. but necessarily so: it defines a vast range of traditions. however disparate. But because so little has been written on how Western esoteric traditions are transmitted. or gnosis. of course.4 The bias against esotericism derived in large part from the hegemony of rationalism and materialism. it is to consider the complex ways that language and image have worked and continue to work in both Western and Eastern traditions in order to generate. magic. even if these also include metaphysical gnosis. there has been much selective editing of our collective human inheritance. the Western gnostic treatise uses words to provide an entry into dimensions of consciousness that transcend words. but perhaps most edited of all were European currents of thought. Jewish Kabbalah. theosophy.2 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E exclusive but rather are complementary and overlapping. Undoubtedly. above all this is a book about knowing. and what ‘knowing’ by way of literature and language actually means. for although we will outline Western esotericism’s main currents here. magic. it was necessary for many people to abandon whatever did not fit a positivist paradigm. provoke. . Christian gnosis. examples of it include alchemy. astrology. left out of literary. and related currents of hidden knowledge in the European inheritance. Cosmological gnosis is insight into the nature of the cosmos. or mentioned only to be dismissed as merely outmoded relics. and about how we come to know. this has not been true until recently for the Western esoteric traditions. But the time for such biases is past. or Hermeticism. Yet these traditions. In particular. on how initiation can take place in the absence of a direct historical lineage in the West. Christian theosophy. To consider the pivotal role that language and image play in the transmission of esoteric spiritual traditions is not. mysticism. astrology. or convey spiritual awakening. this must be our primary focus. including alchemy. Not at all. do have certain characteristics in common. Rather. perhaps the most important of which is an emphasis on attaining spiritual knowledge. In essence. to therefore reductionistically argue that these traditions represent nothing but linguistic constructions. and social histories. Rosicrucianism.

about reading as discovering esoteric knowledge of ourselves and of the cosmos. This is without doubt the reason that there are so many new religious movements—combined with a widespread distrust and even ridicule of Christianity. an awareness that modern machinery for all its power impoverishes both outer and inner nature. To navigate one’s way through these movements. despite their often almost bewildering variety. in my view. the more we come to see certain underlying patterns. which increasingly in the West seems to intellectuals to be moribund except as a social phenomenon. Yet beyond the pleasure of discovery we will find something else: for the more we study the field of Western esotericism. when we look at Western societies. we find a definite prejudice in post-Christian societies against Christianity in general. when a panoply of religions. while at the same time we find reactionary fundamentalist Christian sectarianism that often only fuels others’ disdain for Christianity. what their predecessors are. a single primary and overarching metaphor that we will be able to trace throughout the Western traditions in all their variety. sects. For as we will see. we find on the social front. many people have realized that despite all the material comforts made possible by our machinery. In many respects. And underlying these is. it is more than useful to recognize whence they have emerged. we readily can see why the time is ripe for a reëvaluation of the Western esoteric traditions in light of our contemporary situation. Western esotericism is.5 But there are other reasons why an examination of the Western esoteric traditions might be especially apropos today.INTRODUCTION 3 Why? For the first time in several hundred years. but in fact be discovering fundamental keys to understanding both the European esoteric inheritance. Thus. proliferating wildly. and ways beyond the impasse at which we find ourselves today. At the same time on the religious front. . Given the present openness of many people to criticism of modernity. about reading the stars. are fundamentally about reading: about reading nature. our time resembles the early Christian era. and there are many treasures to be found there. and to alternative forms of spirituality. Chief among them is the growing conviction that positivism is bankrupt. and cults existed side by side. and to understand their patterns and meaning. therefore. a metaphor that illuminates not only all the various disciplines and traditions. their inner lives have become progressively more barren. which is often seen either as outdated. and continuity of the Western esoteric traditions. By looking more closely at the origin. but even sheds light on the very nature of being human. a vast field. Thus many have begun to cast about for ways to enrich their inner or spiritual lives. and so a welter of new religious movements and groups has emerged. and particularly in the radical ecology movement. nature. of course. we will not only be uncovering littleknown aspects of bygone days. the Western esoteric traditions. or as oppressive and as having spawned the destructiveness of modernity.

Likewise. And when we read a great poem. But we can at least begin by considering how reading is largely regarded today as nothing more than the accumulation of information through decoding writing—indeed. and ultimately with the divine. If there are great writers. is the nature of the ‘I’ and the ‘not-I’ in question. in other words.’ that is. we are not merely passive observers of a great aphorist. but in some sense leap the gap between ourselves and the author so as to actively participate in the writing. The view of reading and literature that I have just articulated is far from the more widespread contemporary assertion that writing and reading are merely about the exchange of information through signs. we enter into another’s world. imaginatively enter into different lives. and each requires the other.4 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E This theme of reading. we have developed machines that ‘read. we do not remain just a cataloguer of this or that remarkable confluence of words. progressively realizing its fundamental identity with plants and animals. or spiritual knowledge. For the Western esoteric traditions approach such questions from a totally different view: for them.’ itself a metaphor for our time. however. reading in the Western esoteric traditions has to do not merely with accumulating data. In every experience of literature. but not necessarily knowledge in the sense in which we use the term today. The word gnosis. and will require much elaboration. reading in this context extends beyond ratiocinative knowledge limited to a split between the reading subject and the ‘object’ to be studied: instead. but with consciousness itself. The ‘I’ need not remain at the mercy of its own selfishness. Thus we can see that spiritual knowledge is of a different order than contemporary secular or scientific knowledge. there is also a union: we as readers are participating in the mind of the writer through the miraculous medium of the written word. it is at the heart of the Western literary continuum. so too there are great readers. also about union. ‘Knowledge’ in contemporary usage is essentially ‘data. we feel as someone else feels. purgatory. but can be transmuted. for it is grounded not in separation but in union. is much deeper than it might at first appear. Why do we travel with Dante’s pilgrim through hell. The mystery of reading is. yet this view of union is one that most and perhaps all literary readers and authors will intuitively recognize.’ Unexamined here. but experience the marvel of living metaphor and rhythm for ourselves. When we read a novel. the ‘I’ is recognized to be not stable but fluid. Greek in origin. Reading here is defined in the broadest possible way. the accumulation of facts based in an apparently insurmountable division between self and other: ‘I’ accumulate facts about what is ‘not-I. as penetrating into the hidden mysteries of all that we see. refers to spiritual knowledge. minerals and stars. and heaven. when we read the works of an Emerson. why do we travel with . and thus there are no permanent divisions between ‘I’ and the cosmos. By contrast. reading here guides one toward gnosis. What is more. of course.

The mysteries of the word represented in these various esoteric traditions are historical predecessors to and influences on what we now . and that all of what we today call literature owes a very great deal to what I will call here the “mysteries of the word. are full of mysterious symbols and intricate encoded wordplays. it will be useful to comment now on what is implied by this term.” I am extending the word beyond its usual implication: the canonical (or noncanonical) series of more or less conventional authors from Homer to Dante and Chaucer to Milton.INTRODUCTION 5 Piers Ploughman among riddles and toward the apocalypse. As we look closer at the specific currents of Western esotericism. and when we read them. we find that the written word is often seen not only as a means of transmitting spiritual understanding. a supposition with a long history that goes back at least to Plato in his Phaedrus. but I am arguing that Western literature owes a very great deal indeed to the Western esoteric traditions. that their authors did not take them seriously as alchemical or spiritual treatises. not about accumulating more information. we understand. This is not to say that the written word is privileged over the oral tradition. We make connections. but about qualitatively different ways of understanding who we are. Rather.” Although we will begin to unravel the intricacies of these mysteries of the word later. in short to the full range of esoteric literature. and essays. Here “literature” refers also to alchemical treatises and to visionary narrations. I am not arguing that such insights are identical to what one might experience when working in one of the Western esoteric traditions. But when we begin looking at the Western esoteric traditions. When I refer to literature “in the broadest sense of this word. and during the course of this book we will begin to unveil just how significant is this indebtedness. This experience of union between author and reader I have alluded to is a literary and secularized form of what we find in Western esotericism. but even as a vehicle for attaining spiritual understanding. we will unveil various facets of what I believe are approaches to spirituality via literature that inform all of them. we will see that literature (in the broadest sense of this word) is fundamentally about consciousness. it is to suggest that these works exist on a spectrum that also includes poetry. like so many others. to intensely complex theosophic works such as those of Jacob Böhme. we travel ever more deeply into the worldview of the authors. that at their heart the Western esoteric traditions are about reading the world’s and our own secrets. where we are from. fiction. It is often commonly supposed that the written word is inherently inferior to the spoken or oral tradition. Using the word literature in this way in no way implies that these works are ‘only’ literary—that is to say. and where we are going. perhaps even experiencing hierophanxic moments of insight during which we suddenly see ourselves and the world around us in a new light. drama. what is the attraction of Melville’s Ishmael? These works. but neither is it to say that the written word is disparaged. What is more.

or reductive explanations or investigations would somehow. Those studying the humanities. indeed. nature is reduced to “natural resources”. If the trajectory of modern society is toward a virtual reality for each individual. For objectification has permeated all of modern society. It is the very basis of industrialization to objectify every aspect of life. including people. But now that we can see written in the ruined face of the looted earth around us the failure and bankruptcy of a mechanistic and exploitive worldview. the trajectory of the Western esoteric traditions is precisely the opposite: toward ever more profound knowledge of our unity with these realms. Thus this is in many respects a revolutionary book. quantitative. that have not fit into a worldview emphasizing a self-aggrandizing self pitted against other—to emphasize instead a wholly different approach to knowledge. Contemporary society is based on what we may call objectification. or manipulation. who are reduced to machinelike functionaries. Such objectification allows us to exploit and consume everything. and everything becomes a matter of techné. people most of all. grounded in spirituality. from which we believe that we are separate. the way we see the world. In this respect. but for connection and union.” and acknowledging them will require us to change the way we see literature as a whole. Western esotericism in all its manifold forms has at its center the search not for manipulation or control deriving from objectification. in that to follow such a path means that one has to leave behind modern objectifying preconceptions of how one is separate from nature and the divine. and the divine. most notably Western esoteric traditions. we may well say that Western esotericism represents the reverse or inverse of modernity. living divorced from humanity. finally. one based not on division but on union. everything. for in it we are seeking to unveil new and ancient ways of understanding not only the primal act of reading. as if catalogic. By contrast. and particularly literature. we also have an opportunity to investigate the humanities with new eyes. it suffuses our language. no longer quite so dismissive of perspectives. Certainly Western esoteric traditions were prevalent at the beginning of the modern era: contemporaneous with the emergence of modern rationalist science were completely different kinds of sciences. nature. but also the even more primal act of knowing. moving instead toward ever deeper understanding of how one is indivisible from these.6 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E call “literature” or “literary tradition. And if at the beginning of the modern era there was a choice between these two . validate literature or the humanities in the face of scientism’s obvious and total victory. meaning that our investigations into and control of our world derives from our regarding all that surrounds us as objects to be manipulated. so pervasive is this objectification that it is extremely difficult to extricate oneself from this paradigm even if one wants to do so. have often turned more and more to quasiscientific approaches.

it may well be that out of this juncture will come a kind of cultural renaissance. and so to maintain clarity. one finds esoteric sometimes referring to an eclectic or syncretic collection of merchandise drawn from a wide range of cultures. however. and consciousness.” In an effort to define the academic study of esoteric figures or groups and to separate it from popular definitions. fundamentally a marketing category for merchandise. particularly in light of their counterparts in the Asian esoteric traditions. one de facto excludes many authors or groups whose works might be categorized under the heading mysticism or gnostic—except if they display an interest in. And in North America as well. W H AT I S E S O T E R I C ? The word esoteric is used today in a variety of ways. and even from purportedly extraterrestrial origins. that are intellectually influential and that are only now becoming more widely studied in universities. we need to survey some of its meanings as well as to define it for our own purposes here. Indeed. Dutch scholar Wouter Hanegraaff demonstrated that late twentiethcentury New Age movements and individuals (at least the somewhat less intellectually frothy) were frequently indebted to earlier currents of Western esotericism. And indeed. the academic study of esotericism is a developing field that may be succinctly and without derogation termed “esoteric studies. In Western Europe. and so forth. One finds under the rubric esoterik books on topics like pendulum dowsing.6 Subsequently. and groups in Western European and North American history. alone with an author. The reader. literature. crystals. thus opening the field up to scholarship on contemporary as well as much earlier historical figures. as we rediscover the Western esoteric traditions. perhaps symbolized best by the figure of someone reading an esoteric work from long ago. But the fact remains that there are also figures. But the question remains: how does one define esoteric in a satisfactory way? If one employs the largely cosmological characteristics proposed by Faivre. particularly from the Renaissance and early modern periods. esoteric popularly has become almost synonymous with New Age. works. . But it is not particularly fruitful to speculate about social transformation in this field.INTRODUCTION 7 ways. so too that choice still exists today. in the latter quarter of the twentieth century. French scholar Antoine Faivre emphasized the word esotericism—as opposed to esoterism—and developed a set of largely cosmological characteristics that he saw as characterizing most Western esoteric individuals and groups from the Renaissance into the early twentieth century. alone communing with the alone through the medium of words—this is the figure that will govern our journey through Western esotericism. for Western esotericism entails individual awakening.



say, symbolic correspondences or “living nature.” It seems odd to exclude from one’s definition of esotericism authors such as Meister Eckhart or, to choose a twentieth-century example, Bernadette Roberts, when their work is clearly esoteric in the classic sense of being intended for a limited, elite audience “with ears to hear.” While one may indeed find ways to fit such via negativa gnostics into a schema of cosmological characteristics, it seems to me necessary to propose an elegant and simple definition of esoteric that will be useful for studying not only eighteenth-century Masonry or Rosicrucianism, but also the kinds of syncretic esotericism that one finds in the twenty-first century. Here, I use the word esoteric in a religious context to refer to individuals or groups whose works are self-understood as bearing hidden inner religious, cosmological, or metaphysical truths for a select audience. Such a definition can include alchemical, magical, Masonic, or gnostic groups or individuals, but in any case there is a separation between esoteric (from the Greek eso-, meaning “within” or “inner”) knowledge for a select audience and exoteric knowledge for the general populace. This definition includes the social-anthropologic sense of initiation as admission into a secret society, but extends it to include the full range of cultural works like those of literature and art, which may very well convey secrets hidden from the casual observer. It also includes the range of New Age or syncretic movements that emerged in the late twentieth century and that also claim access to hidden secrets of the cosmos. At the same time, this definition excludes the loose sense of esoteric as referring to the arcana of, say, computer functions or plumbing; it refers explicitly to knowledge of religious or cosmological mysteries.

I N I T I AT O R Y T R A N S M I S S I O N AND WESTERN ESOTERICISM In order to delve into the field of Western esotericism in relation to language and consciousness, we also will need to consider the nature of ‘initiation.’ This word carries a range of meanings, so we must begin by considering it. Literally, of course, the word means “beginning,” and this significance continues throughout its other meanings as well. The ‘initiate’ is one who has entered into a tradition or group. But beyond this, the word initiation takes on a variety of implications. In anthropology, the word generally is used for adolescents who undergo a tribal ritual and thereby enter into the community of adults. This is the sense in which the word is used by, for instance, Jean La Fontaine in Initiation, where he writes that the subject of his book is “rituals of initiation in the common sense of the term; that is, rituals of admission into secret societies . . . as well as those [rituals] which mark the passage between childhood and maturity.”7 But he hastens to add that initiation cannot be defined simply as ritual



admissions to groups, secret or not, because there are other elements generally involved. Among these are acquisition of powers through secret or special knowledge, and the crossing of a ritual boundary into special status defined by that knowledge. La Fontaine offers as examples of initiation several tribal groups and Freemasonry, and offers a largely sociological analysis of them. Yet there are other elements of initiation not dealt with in La Fontaine’s anthopological perspective that we must also consider. Mircea Eliade, in “Symbolism of the Initiatory Death,” draws our attention to initiation as a religious phenomenon, arguing that initiation entails a liquidation of one’s past and historical identity, and a reëntry into “an immaculate, open existence, untainted by Time.”8 Initiation, from a religious perspective, is a rebirth, a transition to a new or renewed mode of existence, a regeneration. This regeneration may take the form of transitional suffering in actuality, or it may entail symbolic suffering or entry into darkness and symbolic death, but in either case the initiate goes through a probationary period and then is born again into timelessness or immortality. This religious dimension of initiation is less commonly dealt with in contemporary social anthropology, but it is in fact closely tied with another aspect, that of lineage. Indeed, when we look at some religious traditions, we find that there is clearly an initiatory transmission of lineage carefully maintained. Examples of this can be found in Sufism, for instance, where the shaikh or master is the pupil of an earlier shaikh, whose line can thus be traced back historically to its founder as well as to the revelation of Muhammed. A similar concept of lineage can be found in Zen Buddhism, where in order to become a master or teacher, one must undergo considerable training, eventually receiving inka, or official recognition and entry into the historical lineage that goes back not only to the founder of that Zen lineage but to Shakyamuni Buddha himself. The concept here is that the historical lineage serves to convey the original and timeless spiritual insight of its originator; so the archaic symbolism of initiatory death and rebirth to which Eliade referred is transposed into the context of spiritual training, the verification and acknowledgement of the master, and entry into the company of the masters, at least for a few. Lineage, in other words, is historical transmission that can be traced from master to disciple who becomes master, who in turn has disciples, who in turn . . . Yet when we turn to Western European esoteric traditions, we find comparatively little of this pattern of historical transmission. The notable exception is Jewish Kabbalah, where there are in fact historical lineages of Kabbalistic masters; but when we turn to Christianity, or even to what may loosely be classified under Hermeticism (including alchemical and magical currents), we find somewhat less emphasis on such historical lines of transmission. And in fact the history of European Christianity reveals an unusual kind of bifurcation: on the one hand, we find a recurring tendency toward scriptural literalism and an



emphasis on the importance of belief in doctrine that could be characterized as exoteric; while on the other hand, we find the recurrence of more esoteric tendencies, largely if by no means exclusively in heterodox movements or individuals. But the hostility of the more exoteric Christians toward those inclined to esoteric Christianity of various kinds (not to mention recurrent persecutions) has meant that the historical circumstances in Christianity mostly disallowed the kind of direct master-pupil-master-pupil historical esoteric transmission that we see in, for example, Zen Buddhism. In my book on Christian theosophy in the tradition of Jacob Böhme, Wisdom’s Children (1999), I proposed what I call “ahistorical continuity” to describe the kind of continuity one finds between, for instance, Valentinean Gnosticism in antiquity and the theosophy of Jacob Böhme in the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries without any historical lineage connecting them. Like Ioan Culianu, I propose that there are certain esoteric characteristics implicit in a religious tradition, and that although they may be latent for some centuries, someone like Böhme rediscovers or reawakens them in light of his own creative spirit. Examples of these characteristics include an emphasis on Wisdom or Sophia as the divine feminine; the hebdomad as a cosmological principle; the demiurge or spiritus mundi as an opposition to spiritual awakening, and others. Thus there are numerous clear parallels between Valentinean Gnosticism and Böhmean theosophy, but Böhme did not derive his thought from the former; he is, rather, an example of an ahistorical continuity.9 But the concept of ahistorical continuity is descriptive, not explanatory, and the question still arises of how initiatory traditions are transmitted in the West in the absence of continuous historic lineages and in an often hostile, persecutory ambience when it is not, as in the case of Böhme, a matter of a spiritual genius creating or recreating an entire gnostic tradition. Where does an isolated alchemist learn to become a master alchemist? The answer, in brief, is through encoded or symbolic literature and art. In essence, that is what this book is about; it is an in-depth examination of how initiation can take place through the written word or image. For although there are certainly some initiatory lineages in the conventional sense, these are more exceptions than commonplace, and the written word or image is in fact the primary means of initiatory transmission in the West. This is so even when there is an alchemical master-pupil relationship, for the alchemical secrets are still conveyed via enigmatic literature and image and the master aids in unveiling them. There is, of course, a clear Asian analogy for this transmission that takes place in part through the written word or through images: the koan tradition in Soto and Rinzai Zen Buddhism. The koan tradition, its history and applications, is considerably more than we can deal with here, but it is worth our while nonetheless to at least develop it as a reference point. As is well known, the koan is usually defined in the West as a clever paradox designed to be in-

This is fundamentally a Rousseauian notion of the individual as originally pure but polluted by society and language. through language and image. not beyond it. Hori insists instead on what he terms a “realizational” model of understanding Zen koans. one should recognize that only in thought and language can enlightenment be realized. In the context of the Rinzai koan curriculum. The depiction of the koan tradition as irrational has long been criticized. we may have thought that freedom lay in ascent beyond gravity. however.”11 This is. Freedom in fact lies in gravity. but into conventional consciousness . . but once we escaped the earth’s gravitational field. Esoteric knowledge is expressed through literature and art. Dogen (1200–1253) heaped scorn on the idea of koan as irrational. If kensho is to be described as a breakthrough. I believe. Instead of blaming thought and language for defiling a primordial consciousness. In a provocative article entitled “Koan and Kensho in the Rinzai Zen Curriculum. Hori concludes: “Just as there is no free flying above the reach of gravity. a profoundly important point not only insofar as Zen Buddhist koan study is concerned. joined to a view of Zen Buddhism as a way of escaping the pollution of society and language back to an original pureness beyond language. If kensho is the realization of nonduality. At one time.INTRODUCTION 11 soluble by the rational mind and to propel the practitioner toward kensho (insight) or satori (awakening). and recent scholarship confirms that the koan traditions in Zen Buddhism are far more sophisticated than popular depictions of them might have it. we discovered that we float helpless and uncontrolled without gravity. then it itself cannot be separate and distinct from ordinary dualistic experience. there is no Zen enlightenment beyond thought and language in a realm of pure consciousness.” Victor Sogen Hori argues that it is mistaken to hold that koans are a means for ascending out of thought and language into a state of pure consciousness. Esoteric literature and art—of which koans are in fact an example—may be seen as both pointing toward and as an expression of cosmological or metaphysical gnosis. but also as regards Western esoteric traditions. The pupil is confronted with a koan by the master. and then moves to another koan in a more or less standardized series. . kensho is the realization of nonduality within ordinary conventional experience. but this is by no means to say that therefore there is no such thing as nonconceptual or transcendent knowledge unmediated by language or image. eventually solves it with a spiritual realization. then it is a breakthrough not out of. kensho is not a state of noncognitive consciousness awaiting the monk on the other side of the limits of rationality. It has become more or less commonplace for specialists in .10 Hori goes on to make the following final point. From this viewpoint. in his Shobogenzo.

particularly those that clearly are esoteric in nature. is there a third interpretation that lies somewhere between these two? Such questions are important because the imaginative faculty is so vital to creating and to understanding literary and artistic works. This is not to say that the West had or. frustrating though this may be. and thus also to the individual. esoteric literature and art can function rather like the koan in Zen Buddhism. is the pervasive lack of initiatory lineages and thus of the immediate reproof or approval of a living teacher. If we believe that the imagination is more or less exclusively individualistic. But that is not at all what I am arguing here—far from it. then we cannot really speak of literature or the arts as being the vehicle of an initiatory or transmutative process. as means of initiation. the weight of initiatory transmission is transposed to literary and artistic works. I believe. What makes Western esotericism different above all. and in fact represents a test for the neophyte: one has to realize the nondual truth that it represents and have this confirmed by a master’s judgment. I am arguing that in Western esoteric traditions. The same is true of the alchemical or gnostic treatise: the neophyte must work with and through it. or are they manifestations of some other reality beyond oneself? Or. and that this is in fact the primary means of initiatory transmission in the West—through word and image. I am arguing that in the West. The koan derives its name from a judicial term. Rather. has no one capable of discerning a right understanding from a wrong one. In the absence of a well-recognized line of historical masters. T H E E S O T E R I C I M A G I N AT I O N The word imagination of course derives from image. until he has penetrated to its authentic meaning. the implication being that there is no such thing as gnosis.12 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E ‘mysticism’ to attempt to legislate mystical or gnostic knowledge out of existence by claiming that the gnostic is merely entering or deploying another form of conceptual language. for that matter. literature and art play a very special kind of initiatory role. and the work of the practitioner is to enter into and realize for himself the truths that it contains. an alchemical treatise stands as an enigmatic representation of a transmutative process. as in individual daydreams. Like the koan. but what is the nature of the images perceived by the imaginative faculty? Are images merely phantasms of one’s own mind. as I will propose here. By . But in fact we know from our own experience as readers that literature is a means by which we participate in an intermediate world or mesocosm created by an author. This role may be seen in some respects as analogous to that of the Zen Buddhist koan. nor to say that there are no examples of initiatory lineages at all like those of Zen Buddhism. Rather.

or through what we may also call the induced vision of art. 1675) is intended for a reader who has passed a certain milestone in alchemical practice and now seeks further guidance. using the term in a broad sense to mean the reader’s or audience’s openness to the esoteric work. an initiatory process that takes place through words and image. literature demands an audience who participates in creating the characters.INTRODUCTION 13 its very nature. guide. For example. refers to the sympathetic capacity of the reader or audience to participate in a work and to be transmuted by it. Imagination. One has to enter into and dwell in the imaginative realm the creator generates (or reveals) through the work. Imaginative participation is fundamental to art. this very perspective would make it impossible from the outset to . Obviously. literary or otherwise. A literary or artistic work is esoteric not only when it conveys certain hidden meanings to an audience. Esoteric works draw upon this fundamental participation or sharing between the creator and the audience in order to entice. the action by the act of reading or viewing. even though all calls for imaginative participation on the part of the reader or audience. this would be in fact metaphoric for a process of transmutation. This work is circumscribed. not all literature or art is esoteric or initiatory. We might even go so far as to suggest that an expressed or implied intent on the part of an esoteric work’s creator is a defining characteristic of such works: it forms a kind of ritual initiatory boundary.12 As a result.” an entry into and residence in a visionary realm hidden from ratiocinative knowledge. it is clear from its beginning that John Pordage’s “Letter on the Philosophic Stone” (ca. and employs parabolic language and images to that end. This is the spirit in which an esoteric work is created and read or experienced. in other words. For instance. if one were to attempt to read John Pordage’s treatise Sophia as symptomatic of delusions on his part. This process takes place through the imaginative faculty. it is for the few. the images. or provoke the reader toward a gnostic shift in consciousness. and doing so is an initiatory process through which the reader or audience develops cosmological or metaphysical insights. and those who enter into it do so in order to undergo the process that it embodies. Although we could describe an esoteric work as a journey or the account of a journey. toward perceiving the world in a fundamentally new way. What differentiates the esoteric work from others is the evident intent of the author that the work is esoteric and initiatory. The reader or audience does not travel outwardly but inwardly. but intended as a guide for the individual practitioner. and hence the metaphoric journey might better be termed a “sojourn. it is not for a general readership. one cannot read esoteric works in the same way that one reads or perceives exoteric art without doing them an injustice. but also and even more because it entails a mutual intent on the part of the creator and the work’s audience. Pordage’s letter is not accidentally or unconsciously esoteric—it is quite deliberately so.

which is what I am proposing here. imagination could also be seen as a faculty of perception and transmutation. But there is a third perspective. not one’s own. For one does not have to conceive of imagination as a purely individual generative capacity. of whether that which is imagined or revealed in an esoteric work possesses any existence of its own. Sophia (divine Wisdom) herself tells him (the gnostic) that “I am come to make in you yourself this new invisible creation. one must enter into them openly and on their own terms. I am arguing here that readers must belong to at least the second of these two categories in order to genuinely begin to study and understand esoteric works. When Jacob Böhme wrote that his writings were not for those hostile to them (who would be better off not looking at them at all) he meant that the works are indeed esoteric. but here a new magical earth is brought .” but this would be a purely exoteric answer that objectified the esoteric work of literature or art. has awakened in him by divine Wisdom the creative power that brings external existence into being.’ only that one has to make the effort to understand an esoteric work as much as possible sympathetically from an imaginative entry into its realm. Sympathetic readers. and this too presents problems.” The gnostic. Pordage writes that in the Sophianic process of imaginative vision. From a contemporary rationalist perspective one might answer “no. who enter into a work imaginatively. to understand them. graspable solution to a koan. Yet if we answer “yes. Initiates. analogous to that of the Zen student who seeks an objectified. thus sealing it off from oneself as merely an object to be manipulated by the intellect and revealing oneself as a closed reader. inwardly in you and not constructed outside you. and nothing less. We can thus posit three kinds of readers of esoteric works: 1. This does not mean that one jettisons reason and becomes a ‘true believer.” we may well then be positing the realm of the imagination itself as something objectified that exists outside oneself. a process explicitly closed to the exoteric reader. This leads us inevitably to the question with which we began. in other words. This is a pervasive problem today because literary theoretical conventions tend to be hostile toward the very imaginative sympathy without which the reader is divorced from the work and cannot enter it but can only analyze it from without.14 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E enter into the work and imaginatively undergo the process of awakening to the hidden realm that he is describing. who see the work as mirroring a process that they seek to undergo in themselves. Closed readers—those who come to a work with predetermined theses that disallow their imaginative entry. one is in fact entering imaginatively into the process Pordage is describing. When one reads an esoteric work like John Pordage’s treatise on Sophia. 2. and 3.

then that work also belongs to this continuum and guides others into the same process of imaginative awakening. but it opens the same possibility up to the reader because the paradisal or magical earth can also be created in the reader who undergoes the same process of awakening. This. one can extend this analogically to all creative efforts. it is generated through the creative power of Sophia and perceived through the gnostic imagination. At work is a spontaneous inner generation of images for the gnostic. This continuum is what makes possible not only Pordage’s gnostic experience of inner creation and a visionary paradisal earth. they represent divine manifestation in the gnostic faculty of imagination so that the gnostic can perceive and be guided toward what they represent and. in sum. What is more. taking place in a continuum in which divine power works and in which the reader or audience can participate vicariously at least. inasmuch as the author or artist is allowing an imaginative process to take place within. to the divine power within that creates. Thus imagination belongs neither to oneself nor to divine power alone. It is not so much a matter of visualization by an individual. and to the audience or initiate who vicariously participates in or witnesses the work and so has awakened the possibilities that the work represents. exteriorizing it through a work of art in which others can participate. The paradisal earth that Sophia creates is not external to the gnostic.13 This new paradisal earth is in the gnostic. In other words.INTRODUCTION 15 into being in him out of the Ungrund. what the gnostic imagination perceives is what the creative power of Wisdom within it creates. Imagination takes place in a continuum of co-creation belonging to the gnostic who perceives. but these images exist in a mesocosmic realm between the gnostic and the divine. but resides in a continuum between the two. is by its very nature one of co-creation. and in that work projecting a mesocosmic creative realm in which we can recognize aspects of ourselves anew. but neither is it wholly internal as a creation of the gnostic. but also the co-experience of the reader who participates in this process by reading the treatise. This process belongs neither solely to the individual gnostic nor solely to an outside power. This intermediate or mesocosmic state is precisely what allows Pordage’s treatise to be initiatory for the reader: his work is a guide to his own gnostic experience. if those images and that gnostic process are then also manifested in a work of art. then. since in either case there would be no co-creator or perceiver. The realm of the imagination. but rather a matter of perceiving (being open to) an inner creative process. . is an initiatory process manifested through literature and art.


the Book of Revelation. needless to say. specifically at the beginning of Christianity. One is of course what we find in the canonical versions of the Bible. Although many aspects of what actually happened during this time may always be shrouded or lost. of whose life we know through the historical documentation of the gospels. And to find these themes. When we look at the emergence of Christianity from the welter of religious traditions at the time.1 Origins ALCHEMY OF THE WORD To understand the origins of Western esotericism in all its various guises. Christianity based on faith or belief in a historical Christ. one characteristic appears prevalent above all others: the emphasis upon the written word. From relatively early on. The other kind of writing. we must begin in antiquity. we will look at representative or synecdochic writings. and resurrection. Here. remains central to what may be called conventional or exoteric Christianity—that is. still we can trace through this era the origin of the primary elements or currents in Western esotericism. what we may call a 17 . however. death. and. Here we have the fundamental division that has lasted throughout the subsequent history of Western esotericism: on the one hand. is profoundly different. Christianity was centered around written accounts that took two primary forms. we are not so concerned with surveying the entirety of this period—a monumental task best left to others— but with the defining themes that will emerge again and again in later times. beginning with the ambience for and emergence of the Christian Bible and affiliated works. This. central to which are the gospel accounts of Christ’s life. bolstered to some extent by apocrypha. and of this there are only two examples in the canonical Bible: some elements of the Book of John.

expressing a view characteristic of the mysteries more generally when he had Socrates say that writing is problematic at best because the written word cannot explain itself and is easily subject to misinterpretation. Historicist Christianity has always taken a literal interpretation of the Bible. on the other hand. What mattered to them was inward or esoteric understanding. Consider. . we can see how anomalous it is. This division between exoteric and esoteric can. and indeed. or technological. The gnostics. the mystery religions of the time forbade writing about the mysteries: indeed. of course. to make this dichotomy so clear-cut is to distort what was and remains a spectrum. and mythic. Whereas the historicist Christians established a fixed canon of Biblical books that ended with the Revelation to John. by and large eschewed literalist views of language in favor of more complicated. Such an approach to language is particularly common in modern times. so rare—in fact. Perhaps most interesting about this dichotomy is how it centers around approaches to written language. and on the other. In Christianity. and insisted on an objectified historical Christ in whom one must have faith in order to be saved. Some of the Church Fathers were in fact clearly esotericists and gnostics—the most prominent being Origen and Clement of Alexandria. the most moving and extensive undoubtedly being that in Apuleius’s The Golden Ass. the development of Buddhism. be it scientific. When we consider the emergence of historicist Christianity in light of world religious traditions. gnostic Christians continued to generate revelatory scriptural works because in their view. the very word mystery has the root meaning “silence. Of course. By contrast. revelatory emphasis. for instance. should it be ahistorical. which resembles Gnosticism far more than historicist Christianity: here.18 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E historicist emphasis. and anti-mythic? This was the battle. where the idea that language might convey multiple layers of meaning has been almost completely jettisoned in favor of objectified technical language.” And written accounts of the mystery traditions are very rare. literal. in this respect being peculiar to Christianity. be characterized according to people’s approach to language. multilayered approaches. not only outward fidelity to fixed written words from the past. Plato alluded to this question in Phaedrus. legal. or historical. both esoteric and exoteric tendencies center on how to interpret written language: should it be multilayered or monotonous. individual spiritual revelation is incalculably more important than simple belief in a historical series of events. as throughout world religious traditions. that one can easily list them. symbolic. the Word was not literal but spiritual. an ahistorical. many modern people unwittingly inherit these tendencies still. and represent a central reference point for the subsequent reemergence of esotericism time and again. The Johannine elements in Christianity owe a great deal to the various movements collectively known as Gnosticism in antiquity. and hence revelation could take place today just as in antiquity. for on a worldwide scale ahistorical religious traditions predominate.

For instance. but such an approach is not for everyone. just . and who else was accepted as orthodox. This use of language is fundamentally different from what we ordinarily expect: whereas usual comunication is horizontal. And we in fact find such strings of apparently nonsensical letters. chiefly vowels. often seems more like an accident of history than an inevitability. and it is the esoteric side of it that interests us here. in turn allied with similar numericalalphabetical mysticism involving the angels. some Gnostic groups laid great emphasis on the inner meanings of language. of communing with the power that the letters correspond to. and who will not use its power for selfish purposes. it is reserved for those who are capable of it. who are worthy of it. Such doctrines of the hidden names of God.” There have been many gnostics since who have also insisted that they remain orthodox. for in it we find the predecessors of all the later Western esoteric traditions. corresponding in some respects to the Platonic archetypes.” “Logos” here refers to that which precedes and transcends manifestation. and communion. there were some gnostics who were not far from historicist Christianity. the seeds of all things. true pronunciation. and whose primary emphasis was on morality. Who was rejected as heretical. in some of the Gnostic treatises of the Nag Hammadi library.ORIGINS 19 who insisted that there was an orthodox gnosis and that it is the “crown of faith. or sacred Names of God: by vibrating the names of God in the permutations of the sacred letters and by knowing their proper. and were reputed to use certain letters as intonations similar to mantras in Hinduism and Buddhism. and in fact close scrutiny of this time suggests that Jewish and Christian esotericisms are so intermingled as to be virtually inseparable. But there remains a spectrum in antiquity nonetheless. We may recall the first line of the Book of John: “In the beginning was the Word. but of communication. and spiritual illumination. but make a great deal more sense when one considers that language in this context is not merely a matter of transferring data. In general. that is. a means not for one equal to convey information to another.” or “In the beginning was the Logos. are prevalent in Jewish esotericism during precisely the same time that Christian Gnosticism was flourishing. but for a person to experience an organizing principle of creation itself. Likewise. however much their literalist opponents think differently. Their repetition and intonation of certain letter combinations were ridiculed by literally minded Christians. here it is vertical. These vibratory seeds human beings may contact or activate through spiritual practice and in this way be in touch with the powers that inform creation itself. We find a similar approach to language visible in Jewish esotericism in the doctrine of the Shemhamphorash. It is particularly useful to consider Gnostic spiritual traditions in light of what we have said regarding language. Scholem remarks that Merkabah mysticism of the third and fourth centuries drew upon Greek language. asceticism. one is in touch with inconceivable power.

But monotheism is a rubric under which all manner of possibilities exist. Both Jewish and Christian gnostic esoteric groups tended to think and express themselves mythologically. and contain within them the seeds of the perennial struggle in all three forms of monotheism between those who take the word literally and those who advocate gnosis. This gnosis of the word represents a ‘fixing’ of the mysteries. it is to restore the cosmos itself to its paradisal condition. Letters and numbers. are means in this process of individual and cosmic redemption—and so too are images. and in this regard man may be said to complete the work of God by being co-creator or co-redemptor. and so forth. then. all of which is entirely accepted within the orthodox tradition. and to which we may refer as a gnosis of the word. through images. and even if monotheism often turns toward a fundamentalist literalism. and so forth. we can see how these images fit rather well into the tradition: they represent again a means of invoking and ‘fixing’ the underlying powers or principles of creation itself. such images represent divine aspects.20 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E as Greek Christian mysticism drew upon Hebrew or Aramaic terms. and its aim is twofold at least: microcosmically. as does the creation of images. and macrocosmically. thereby making this conflict inevitable. basilisks. paradoxically conveyed often through .2 Both the gnosis of the word and the gnosis of the image are extensions of the monotheism of the book. are a means to creation’s redemption. All of this is to suggest that there was in antiquity in Jewish and Christian esoteric circles a very widespread gnosis of language which was grounded in writing. But given the gnosis of the word that we have been discussing. We may remember the four animals that symbolize the four Gospels. and we may recall that Dionysius the Areopagite devoted some effort to discussing how the divine may best be symbolized by unexpected and even grotesque images that keep us from mistaking a beautiful image for the thing itself. so the letters were altered. Both word and image reveal and ‘fix’ the divine. and so we find numerous images from antiquity like lion-headed serpents.1 And indeed there is an ancient tradition that the Torah contains so much power in its letters that it could destroy the world. but if the letters were properly restored. inconceivable power would be set loose. and in fact are by no means absent from the larger Christian tradition. one finds that from the very beginning of our era the very same elements conduce also to a wide spectrum of gnoses and hence to angelic polytheism and to nontheistic gnosis in which the very concept of God is transcended. as principles of creation itself. The letters. which undoubtedly drew upon and incorporated elements of the Greek mystery traditions even as they differed from the Greeks in their emphasis upon writing down the mysteries and then writing down commentaries upon the previous writings. its purpose is to restore the individual to a paradisal or transcendent state. Such images are often found on amulets or talismans and are generally regarded as being ‘magical’ elements in Gnosticism.

as when the path of one who died is traced through the spheres of the planets until the “eighth.25).” the being. particularly in the conveying of spiritual truth.” or ogdoad—going beyond the cosmos into transcendence. What marks the Hermetica most clearly despite the treatises’ diversity is their intimacy: the revelations are always one to one.22b) . is self-evident. and this is especially evident in Phaedrus and Timaeus. There is no one author of the Hermetica.” when he reaches rest and joy (I. and probably bear a relation to it similar to that between Plato and the mysteries. as when the narrator sees a boundless and joyous light. presented in the form of dialogues. nor for that matter are they exclusively Platonic. out of which emerges a “holy Word. of the mysteries tradition. “for I am with you everywhere. but it also represents Plato’s own version of the mysteries. who died and came back to life in order to tell people what happens after death. number. One has the complex body of multiple traditions known as the mysteries.” And the revelations have much in common with Gnosticism. As Hermes himself says in one of the dialogues.” (X.” the “voice of the Light. while belonging to none (though they remain closest to Platonism). Plato’s writing represents a setting down or fixing.” but not like an ordinary sleep. and to his indebtedness to the mystery traditions. letter. But the Hermetica are not Christian or Jewish. in symbols and myths. The relation of such a tale to the mysteries. in the first centuries of this era. but share elements in common with all three. We have already alluded to Plato’s expressed distrust of writing. And they represent the writing down of an oral tradition. which date to roughly the same time that Gnosticism was flourishing. These revelations at points have much in common with Christianity. The most famous of the Hermetic dialogues is the Poimandres. We find a very similar approach to spiritual tradition in the body of writings known as the Corpus Hermeticum. Poimandres. This corresponds closely with some Gnostic and Mandean texts which emphasize reaching the “eighth sphere.” From the very beginning. which were also about death and resurrection.ORIGINS 21 the permutations of word. “I know what you wish. and image—the very means by which concepts are fixed to begin with! There are two more primary currents that fed into the Western esoteric traditions: Platonism and Hermetism. but also in the Republic in his Myth of Er the Pamphylian. “there is communion between soul and soul. The Hermetica themselves refer to Egyptian tradition. they represent a collection of treatises that bear in common a set of themes and teachings sharing many similarities with gnosticism. tells him. and one has an individual author drawing upon this in creative ways. which begins with the narrator falling into “a sleep. Hermetism is about direct individual spiritual revelations. for the bodily senses fall away and he encounters a vast and magnificent being that proceeds to unveil to him the mysteries of existence. In at least some respects.

here the dialogues often take place in an interworld of revelation. However.22 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E There is an initiator or revealer. and are between one who embodies knowledge and one who seeks to embody it. the mystery traditions. and writings that reveal a great many similarities. the more one recognizes the fluidity of the various traditions’ boundaries. or direct knowledge of the divine. they certainly intermingled. Like Hermes himself. Christian esotericism. willing to draw upon one or sometimes any of them. it is clear that the Hermetic treatises occupy a peculiar place.” “Active imagination” refers to the meeting of an individual and transcendent beings on an intermediate field that belongs completely neither to the transcendent nor to the mundane world. and together provided a common ambience out of which emerged a panoply of sects. precariously balanced on the periphery of religious traditions. the more one studies the emergence of esotericism in the early centuries of this era. But such a term suggests that imagination is otherwise passive. and . Hermetism refuses to be pinned down or definitively discussed. and it is this that represents the red thread that will guide us through the labyrinths of the centuries. but insisting above all on one’s own direct spiritual understanding or gnosis. The most important of these is the insistence upon gnosis. mercurial quality to it. which Henry Corbin called the “active imagination. but this revelatory quality differs markedly from what we see in Plato and bears far more in common with what we find in some Gnostic treatises of revelation. T H E F I E L D O F T H E I M A G I N AT I O N It is commonplace today to think of the imagination as a means of escapism— the word is roughly equivalent to daydreaming or to fantasy. what we find is something quite different. For from what we have said. as there was to many of the movements of antiquity. no accident that so many of the Western esoteric traditions link themselves to the Hermetica. It is. and Hermetism. It is true that the language is sometimes Platonic. when we survey the Western esoteric traditions. There are five primary currents in antiquity that feed into what we may call the Western esoteric traditions: Jewish esotericism. But these currents themselves are not discrete from one another. Platonism. Indeed. then. yet not strictly philosophical either. not quite belonging to the sphere of religion. traditions. Such a relationship goes beyond simply that of participants in a dialogue like Plato’s. and depicting direct spiritual illumination of the initiate. and there is a witness to the revelation. always there is a fluid. Occupying an intermediate space between religion and philosophy. and is generally associated with the more or less random play of images. Hermetism reveals the ground occupied by Western esoteric traditions throughout the past several thousand years.

present. in other words. . and is questioned by the angels or divine powers. in this respect it does not appear to have an end: it is as though. It begins with some introductory remarks and salutations to the seven churches. and in the tenth chapter. and only then. It is true that the Book of Revelation recounts a visionary experience of John while he was exiled on the island of Patmos. he sees the twenty-four elders. and where the earthly past. . an angel gives him a rod by which he is to measure the temple of God and those that worship therein. where John meets.ORIGINS 23 I do not believe this to be true. a door was opened in heaven. John does not entirely return from it except to say “I. different kinds of time simultaneously here: there is the duration of the vision. I believe that literature. Although the vision has a beginning. But in order to understand the nature of this field of imagination. The revelation of John takes place in an interworld. Then. there is no conclusion to the visionary sequence: we are never told that John returned to ordinary consciousness. an elder tells him to weep not. and future are visible. and does eat. apparently visionary time. quite well known. Above all. when he eats the book. the Revelation definitely has a literary form as well. and visionary experience all emerge on a spectrum in the field of imagination. There are. and the auditory part of the vision began. and one sat on the throne. and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me . John. and there is historical time spread out and glimpsed in symbols. a little book sweet as honey. Thereafter came a series of specific messages to the individual churches. In addition to its being a direct spiritual experience. after which come the most prophetic and well known parts of the revelation. questions. a throne was set in heaven. but it is worthwhile to remark on several aspects of it in relation to Western esotericism more generally. when he weeps. came the following: “After this I looked. in the fourth chapter. saw and heard these things. we will begin by looking at visionary experiences during the first few centuries of the present era. and he interacts with them. and introduces the experience with virtually no biography whatever. or field of the imagination. turned. At one point. and behold. and numerous striking images including the beasts with eyes before and behind them. The visionary sequence in the Book of Revelation is. and there is relatively little point here in elaborating its intricate numerical and visual symbolism.” the book concludes with the admonitions of Christ himself. he is told to eat. Yet interestingly. mythology. However. of course. off the Greek coast. several other elements of the Book of Revelation have remained particularly important in subsequent . but take place in their own time. beginning with the Revelation to John. only John’s remark that he heard a great voice. once introduced to this sequence. there is the fact that it is a direct individual revelation: John sees and hears Christ himself. And immediately I was in the spirit. a mesocosm. His is not a passive vision in which events only happen before him: in the fifth chapter. Rather.” These remarks begin the actual visionary sequence. John remarks that there was silence in heaven for about half an hour (8:1). and behold.

and Hermetism. in other words.” as well as the repetition of geometric and numerical symbolism such as the sevens. we will recall. Christian Gnosticism. After the various accounts of Christ’s life and death in the Gospels. symbolizing his union with the esoteric center of spiritual life. and although the word eidolon early in the modern era . and Christ whose symbolic heart is the written word. Another such element is the number and letter symbolism. these elements lend themselves very much to an esoteric interpretation: the symbols and numbers represent a secret knowledge known by the few symbolically designated as the “woman in the wilderness. found in Judaism. Taken together. the very book that we are reading. The Revelation. which he does. possesses a special luminosity of symbolism that we may call “hieroeidetic. all remind us of the prior traditions. the Book of Revelation of St.” symbolism charged with initiatory knowledge. John himself—for he is told to write by a voice from heaven (14. of letters and numbers revealing the secret powers of the divine. which has inspired countless commentaries or explanations. a gnostic encounter with elders. but sweet as honey on his lips. and one hundred forty-fours. the way we see the cosmos itself changes. John is united with its knowledge. especially in the Book of Life wherein is written the names of those who belong to the Lamb (13. The word eidetikos in Greek refers to a particular kind of knowledge associated with shape or form. By reading the Book of Revelation that John subsequently writes after eating the little book.” during these the end times. John is given a little book to eat.9). and finds it bitter in his belly. and by eating the book. of course. the most symbolically resonant image of all is that of the book. twelves. there are “other books. we are eating his little book—we belong to a direct lineage or current. and we are given warnings at his account’s end that no one should add to or subtract from what is written in his book (22:18). Every aspect of life is altered. In the tenth chapter. This image is amplified by the presence of book imagery throughout the entire work.13). is the prophetic element: more than one group has identified itself with the “woman in the wilderness” in the twelfth chapter. One.24 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E Western esotericism. The Revelation of John has an oneiric quality. becoming symbolically charged. Christ’s repeated assertion that “I am the Alpha and the Omega. and are in a sense initiates. But for our purposes. John eats the little book: it becomes part of him.” which are opened during the Last Judgment in order to see the lives of those being judged (20.12). And then there is. and more than one group has seen itself as living during the end times. of course. revealing the hidden forces beyond history and what happens to all humanity. The entire revelation is an unveiling of gnosis. Additionally. we suddenly are given in the Revelation this overwhelming and astonishing visionary sequence that brings us completely outside the sphere of mundane human life. it is like a collective dream in which we participate simply by reading. angels. And it has immense power for this reason: by entering into its world of references.

where an encounter may take place. all of which belong to the apocrypha. and the Apocalypses of Peter and of Paul. At the same time. This meeting of above and below is also symbolized in the heavenly city of Jerusalem. at the Kabbalistic tradition. the Book of Revelation has had a far greater impact than all of these other visionary works combined. and so it is charged with cosmological revelations. words. When we look at the various currents of the Western esoteric traditions. or at the theosophic current that in turn manifests in Rosicrucianism. splendid earthly form: but again. but also esoteric in the fact that it takes place in this visionary field. Of course. we find that they correspond in striking ways to what we have seen delineated here in the Book of Revelation. the Apocalypses of Baruch and Ezra. with its emphasis on writing and encoded language. a hearer. This is not to say that the Western esoteric traditions all find their origin in Revelation. including the two books of Enoch. the Ascension of Isaiah. in fact the word eidetic also often refers to a particularly luminous and vivid imagery found among young children and in dreams. the Revelation does not stand alone. The Book of Revelation is filled with hieretic. and they remain separate even while meeting in this charged field of imagery. and some of which are found in the Nag Hammadi library of Gnostic writings. But such knowledge remains partly in the realm of division or objectification: there is a revelatory encounter between John and all the angelic figures of the vision. and is so thoroughly literary or bibliocentric in its essential symbols. and what is seen. and what is heard. at the mystical tradition. and as such takes place in the field of imagination midway between the mundane and the transcendent: there is a seer. it is not the spiritual revelation of union or unity. The Revelation is unquestionably esoteric in its plethora of symbolism. and of James and of Adam. and because of its mysterious and powerful imagery. in all of these we find parallels to the Revelation. seen by a seer. hieroeidetic knowledge is prior to and preparatory for gnosis. Yet because it became canonical. for it exists at the meeting point of the transcendent and the immanent. but rather that the Book of Revelation is paradigmatic. it is an image. profoundly symbolic numbers. Rather. where we see the order of the transcendent manifesting itself in vivid. Whether one looks at the alchemical tradition and its symbolism. Hieroeidetic knowledge is not in itself gnosis—that is. hieroeidetic knowledge exists in the field of knower and known.ORIGINS 25 came to mean “phantom” or “apparition” without substance. hidden knowledge that comes mediated in the field of the imagination through forms. Hieroeidetic knowledge is the visionary revelation of the unifying principles and powers informing the entire cosmic realm. but among numerous other revelations from the same era. and images revealing the hidden nature and destiny of humanity. the fact that there were so many apocalyptic revelations during the beginning of the Christian era underscores the recognition that such revelations are inherent in .

the literature of the Western esoteric traditions. more vital than the mundane world of consumerism and the humdrum tedium of life without the invisible. to the transcendent. fascinated by its mysterious beauty. But all literature takes place in the charged field of the imagination: it is simply a matter of how charged. a constellation of letters and numbers. In other words. For just as one may consider a work as charged as the book of Revelation from outside. There is an element of danger inherent in such proximity—those who come too close to the gods or angels may go mad or blind. The most external or exoteric is to regard it as an object of study. and an esoteric approach is to see it as paradigmatic and inspiring of one’s own revelation.26 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E Christianity itself. What is it that makes a work hieroeidetically charged? Proximity to the invisible. or from exoteric to esoteric. who found himself in the Minotaur’s labyrinth. we are drawn toward it. THE RED THREAD OF GNOSIS A myth conveys. the act of reading gives birth to the act of writing. how hieroeidetic a work is. ranging from external to internal.’ of participation. And so we are drawn inexorably back to the nature of the book itself and the act of reading. to make it one’s own. and reading is uniquely suited to create inward participation because in reading our habitual boundaries between self and other can disappear. without relevance to oneself. Esoteric literature. and exists more for entertainment. of being charged. So it is with the story of Theseus. The analogy of electricity. is a particularly intense form of this inner participation or identification and union. we return again and again over the centuries because we recognize in this mystery something more alive. And though we risk being burned. has a certain value here: a symbol or image. We return to the field of the imagination because this is where we come to know what it means to be alive. objectifying it. Esoteric bears the meaning of ‘inward. We can identify with fictional or poetic characters. for although the Revelation is the most well known. it is certainly not the only one. as wild as the book of Revelation. possesses a psychic or symbolic charge that allures us. Some literature is not so charged or hieroeidetic. and who was able to escape only through the help of King Minos’s own daugh- . reading about another’s vision may inspire one to experience a vision of one’s own. a more intermediate or mesoteric approach is to see it as prophetic and revealing truths about our own world and lives. more electric. or one may enter into it—just as there is a range of approaches to such a work—so too there is a range of such works. we can enter into a new world of symbols and meaning. or put better. often in a simple story. There are numerous ways one can approach a work as extravagant in symbolism. far more than may at first appear.



ter, Ariadne, and a thread that led him out. The symbolism here is profound, and certainly reflects the ancient Mithraic mystery symbolism of the bull, the labyrinth of the world, and escape-rebirth. But perhaps we may adapt this symbolism to our own purposes, for when we consider the subject of gnosis, we too find ourselves in a labyrinth, and require some thread to guide us out. This thread is the topic of gnosis itself, for by exploring it, we will be far better prepared to understand the often bewildering variety of Western esoteric traditions. The word gnosis, because it is singular, implies that there is but one kind of gnosis, or spiritual knowledge. However, when we consider the range of religious literature, even that labeled “gnostic,” we seem to find a bewildering spectrum of gnoses. We might divide this spectrum into cosmological gnosis (insight into the hidden patterns in the cosmos), eschatological gnosis (insight into what transcends history and the cosmos), and metaphysical gnosis (insight into the divine), even though all of these may be seen as aspects of a single gnosis. And concerning metaphysical gnosis, or direct insight into the nature of the divine itself, we find two primary approaches that we may call visionary and unitive gnosis, corresponding to the via positiva and the via negativa discussed by Dionysius the Areopagite. The via positiva, or visionary approach, goes through images and the field of the imagination; the via negativa, or unitive approach, is the falling away of all images. It has become more or less commonplace, following Dionysius himself, to see the via negativa as superior to the via positiva. Dionysius writes that sacred revelation often proceeds through sacred images in which like represents like, while also using forms that are dissimilar, and even entirely inadequate and ridiculous (Cel. Hier. 140c). But he goes on to remark that a second way, of going beyond images entirely in the via negativa, is “more appropriate, for as the secret and sacred tradition has instructed, God is in no way like the things that have being, and we have no knowledge at all of his incomprehensible and ineffable transcendence” (Cel. Hier. 141a). What Dionysius observes here is extremely important, in particular his insistence on a secret and sacred tradition that the Divine completely transcends the realm of being. Dionysius’s observation—that God in no way resembles the things that have being—combats a tendency that, as we have already noted, is common to the traditions of the Book: taking writing literally. Literalism corresponds to what in Judaism was called “idolatry”: it reduces the Divine to human concepts that can be manipulated. This tendency may also be called “objectification,” and is a common function of language more generally. For language by its nature can separate us from what we are discussing: we objectify the Divine just as we objectify all that surrounds us, including nature and other people. But this process of objectification inherently separates us from what we see in this way: the very word God becomes a barrier to experiencing what that word means.



In other words, gnostic knowledge is fundamentally different from ratiocinative knowledge, and the language to express gnosis must reflect this difference. Ratiocinative (from ratio, measure between things) knowledge belongs to the realm of division into subject and object: ‘I’ discuss ‘that.’ Such is the basis for modern science, and ratiocinative knowledge can be widely disseminated as information or data. By contrast, gnosis belongs to a secret or intimate tradition and cannot be widely disseminated as information because it does not belong to the realm of information and division at all, but instead to what transcends division. The scientific or ratiocinative path moves toward ever greater data about what is external; the gnostic path moves toward ever greater intimacy with what transcends both internal and external. Gnosis, then, is not at all a matter of ‘I’ discussing ‘that,’ but of going beyond the very division between ‘I’ and ‘that.’ The question, of course, is how one moves toward gnostic knowledge, and the answers to this question in the West comprise the Western esoteric traditions. The essential division offered by Dionysius the Areopagite between the via positiva and the via negativa helps us begin to discuss these answers in a schematic way, not because these two ways are at all opposed to each other, but because they illuminate each other. Indeed, they correspond rather closely to what we see in the Tibetan Buddhist Vajrayana tradition, where visualization and a plethora of imagery express their own transcendence. The Prajnaparamita Sutra, with its verses on sheer transcendence of all that is sensory, does not invalidate but expresses the ultimate meaning of the countless Buddhist images often in the very hall where it is chanted. Likewise, in the Western esoteric traditions, one finds a vast range of imagery and means, but these are generally seen within the traditions as an expression of what transcends them. The problem here, and in language itself, is that it is all too easy to regard words or images as if they were the thing itself, to ‘fix’ or ‘congeal’ the inconceivable. This is a particularly likely problem when there is no widespread emphasis on the transcendent, as there is within Buddhism, or any continuous lineage of masters or teachers who could guide seekers or initiates. The Western esoteric traditions have largely remained catch-as-catch-can, defined perhaps best by the precarious relationship between an author and a reader through the medium of the book. And the Gnostic Basilides evidently recognized this, for in one of the only fragments attributed to him, he writes of the ineffable transcendent nothing, and notes that “what is called by a name is not absolutely ineffable, but it is not, for the truly ineffable is not ineffable, but ‘above every name which is named’ [Eph. 1.21] . . . Names are inadequate . . . Instead, by understanding without speech one must receive the properties of the things named” (Hipp. Ref. VII.viii). Actual direct experience of the transcendent is far more important than simply knowing the words. Basilides held that he belonged to a secret lineage that ran from Jesus to Matthias to himself, and primary in their revelation was nothingness, or



absolute transcendence. According to his rather bitter opponent Hippolytus, Basilides wrote that before the cosmos, “nothing” existed, “not matter, nor substance, nor the insubstantial, nor an absolute, nor a composite, not conceivable, or inconceivable, not sensible, not devoid of sense, not man, angel, or a god, nothing that has a name or is cognized by intellect” (Ref. VII.ix). Basilides’s emphasis—throughout what little we still have, quoted by Hippolytus from Basilides’s treatises—was consistently on sheer transcendence beyond the medium of human language, and corresponds to the via negativa of Dionysius the Areopagite. Indeed, given the series of negations here that very much resemble those of the Prajnaparamita Sutra in Buddhism, it is not surprising that Basilides is reputed to have been influenced by Buddhism. However, Basilides is not alone in his emphasis on the inconceivability of gnosis, its sheer transcendence of all ratiocination. So too Epiphanes wrote of the Gnostics that “The earliest originating principle was inconceivable, ineffable, and unnameable” (Ref. VI.xxxiv); and Marcus, during a Gnostic Eucharist, reportedly offered a chalice to a woman during the consecration, then received it back from her and said, ‘Grant that the inconceivable and ineffable Grace which existed prior to the universe, may fill thine inner man, and make abound in thee the gnosis of this grace, as she disseminates the seed of the mustard-tree upon good soil’ ” (Ref. VI.xxxv). A similar emphasis is to be found in Dionysius the Areopagite, in his treatise on the Divine Names, for instance, when he remarks that God is beyond all names and creatures, “transcendently and supernaturally, far above creatures, above their being and above their nature” (956B). He continues that “no unity or trinity, no number or oneness, no fruitfulness, indeed nothing that is or is known can proclaim that hiddenness . . . of the transcendent Godhead which transcends every being. There is no name for it and no expression” (981a). Paradoxically, by maintaining an emphasis on the ineffability of the divine, the Gnostics also maintained a via positiva of esoteric words, letters, numbers, and images. But this linguistic mysticism existed within the context of the absolute transcendence that it in fact manifests. In other words, letters, numbers, and images emerge out of the unbegotten, and represent the hidden patterns and harmonies of the cosmos that, by ‘following back,’ inevitably in turn lead one to the ineffable. It is well known that there are Hebrew systems of transforming letters into their numerical meanings, but what is perhaps less remarked upon is that there was an esoteric Greek tradition of such transformations too, probably carried over from Pythagorean and Neoplatonic sources. Thus we find the Gnostic Marcus maintained that the number of Jesus is 888, that the number of the dove is 801, and that the body of truth is composed of letters, the head by Alpha and Omega, the neck by Beta and Psi, and so forth. Sacred numbers, letters, and images reveal the esoteric forming powers of the cosmos. Each letter, according to this tradition, is produced by a particular

Such a metalanguage is implicit both in the human being and in the cosmos as a whole. and in religious experiences. we participate in what they represent. This name was composed of four syllables. we become intimate with them. in the Gospel of Philip. in dreams. just as there was in Jewish Merkabah mysticism and in the Pythagorean-Platonic tradition. and we enter into a realm where negation and affirmation are both recognized to be at once valid and invalid ways of expressing what transcends them both. toward transcendent degrees of consciousness of ever greater communion between subject and object. For instance.xxxvi). words. Indeed. embody. The gnostic visionary path is not separate from the way of negation—rather.”3 In other words. it is the realm of living ideas or energies. between this world and the invisible realm of energies. From these observations we can begin to see something of the hidden significances of the mysticism of the word and the book.” “in the aeon the form of the union is different. and the entire name had thirty letters. which is of a totally different order. there is earthly marriage. so that ultimately the “enormous sea” produced by a single letter is in fact infinite. All of this suggests that there was in Christian Gnosticism. For to read the metalanguage of the cosmos is truly to read the Book of Life—a figure for the hidden energies or powers that inform life both in the cosmos and in ourselves. the path from ordinary rational consciousness divided into subject and object. although we refer to them by the same names. and its light “never sets. for each letter was also an angel and a forming power. Here we begin to see how the via negativa and the via positiva represent. or aeon. or one will . always emerging out of this relationship between the expressed and the inexpressible. a developed metalanguage that both reflects and leads toward its own transcendence. and there is another kind of marriage that takes place in the invisible.30 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E sound that in turn manifests others. not opposite or even complementary ways. VI. but different aspects of the same way. and reveal transcendence. so to penetrate into the deepest mysteries of human language is to penetrate into the metalanguage that gives birth to the cosmos itself. Throughout early Christian gnostic writings.” One must “receive the light” in the “bridal chamber” before death. One who pronounced the name was in fact pronouncing the powers that had brought the cosmos itself into being. we read that “whereas in this world the union is one of husband with wife. to become privy to these mysteries is to penetrate beyond ordinary humanity and to become divinized oneself. we find plays on naming and namelessness. and numbers emerge in. As we ‘read’ these images. This is the realm sometimes glimpsed in literature. or who was faithful and near death (Ref. the first of which had four letters. sacred images. This linguistic mysticism was represented in Gnostic practice by a secret initiation that consisted in the whispering of holy words of power into the ear of one who had been tested. apparent boundaries between subject and object dissolve.

can see the energies ordinarily veiled from humanity by its fallen.ORIGINS 31 not receive it after death—and one who receives that light is perfected and cannot be detained. The world has become the aeon. characteristic ways of understanding. is. The Gospel of Philip goes on: “And again when he leaves the world he has already received the truth in the images. Rather. one finds a gnosis of the divine names. indeed. but rather. the first of these is its inexpressibility: it remains always transcendent. but also the actual energies that these images embody or represent. to actual energies that the name itself embodies. and perhaps to a lesser extent to the Hermetic or the Neoplatonic tradition. But the inexpressible is so only by contrast with the expressible. when one dies. divided consciousness. elusive. my argument here is not about lines of influence so much as about modalities. I do not mean to suggest that there is a direct current of influence running from relatively obscure works like the Gospel of Philip or the lost writings of Basilides into medieval and modern times. even though such writings somehow may have made their way into this or that monastic library. This inexpressible gnosis is the “marriage” or union of subject and object. one has already experienced the mysteries for oneself by ‘reading’ and receiving the truth in the images—not only the images of sacred words or symbols. The way of negation is not the opposite of affirmation. Here naming refers. The cosmos is no longer opaque. The nameless and the named are not divided. For whether the gnostics belong to the Jewish Merkabah or the Christian Gnostic. not hidden in the darkness and the night. unnameability emerges always out of the presence of names. These figures or images of marriage and light are ways of expressing the inexpressible gnosis. what I call the red thread of gnosis that leads us out of the labyrinth. a collection of objects from which one remains separate. Thus “the world has become the aeon”—in other words.”4 In other words. but is free in life and in death. the unnameable. gnostic paradigms. evokes. This is as true for the canonically accepted authors such as Clement of Alexandria or Dionysius the Areopagite as it is for Valentinus or Basilides. the invisible and the visible are no longer divided for the initiate. not to arbitrary designations. CONCLUSIONS Although the Western esoteric traditions unquestionably have their origins in the early centuries of the present era. What are the characteristics of this red thread as we trace it through history? Naturally. for the aeon is fullness for him. but its inseparable companion. for such a one the world is transparent. one can ‘read’ the invisible in the visible. but to inherent characteristics of what is named. but hidden in a perfect day and a holy light. . And here we see emerging the second characteristic: the mystery of names. This is the way it is: it is revealed to him alone.

here they no longer are taken as having entirely historical dimensions. to which I have already devoted some study. a theosopher in the line of Jacob Böhme. which is the mystery of words and of the book.5 A similarly gnostic view of numbers appears again in the work of Louis-Claude de Saint Martin (1743–1803). But this view of numbers corresponds to seeing reading as the accumulation of data: it remains objectified. as a panoply on an inner stage where we see acted out the soul’s dramas. but as qualities pregnant with meaning. everyone. They are only the sensible expression. numbers designate quantities that one can manipulate. but instead express aspects of the invisible origin of the cosmos and of ourselves. including Piers Ploughman. the images may be seen as corresponding to something in our own inward nature. nor wholly from without. the images may be seen as reflecting inner aspects of the cosmos. These number-letter transpositions yield many hidden significances. . Here we have the combination of all the elements we have discussed so far. According to rational consciousness. however. imagination proceeds neither wholly from ourselves. Here. who wrote his friend Baron Kirchberger that “Numbers are no algebra. Even more intimately yet.32 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E From the gnosis of naming emerges a range of related mysteries. of which the quantitative designation is a husk. including the gnoses of numbers and letters. Such a gnosis of numbers is visible during the medieval period.”6 There is in Saint-Martin’s work a peculiar kind of mystical mathematics from which it is evident that here is indeed an order of knowledge entirely different from the merely quantitative. On the lowest level. and are visible in major European literary works. where we find definite traces of Latin number and letter transposition corresponding to what in Hebrew is termed gematria. albeit few more wild than those of the Book of Revelation. A fourth characteristic is imagery. Regeneration alone shows us the ground. Such images may be seen in terms of degrees of union. a gnostic view of numbers and letters sees them not as merely signifying something external. letters. numbers and letters can open up into aspects of consciousness itself. woven together into a . More intimately. What is more. but lives in an intermediate realm necessary for the birth of unitive consciousness. in his own degree. a third characteristic. and images emerges the fifth characteristic. separated from the subject who sees. of course. Gnostic works reveal a wide array of images and myths. Out of the gnoses of numbers. . the images remain outside one and are taken literally as referring to history. so that to work with them is to enter into the existential quality that is their real nature or kernel. without masters. which emerge out of the inexpressible into the realms of conscious perception. which all proceed from the one only essence . and therein we obtain the pure key. whether visible or intellectual. on which conventional mathematics is founded. my dear brother. of the different properties of beings. By contrast. but men have sometimes lowered them to it.

and images. in one form or another. Christian. By following the courses of Western esotericism. numbers.ORIGINS 33 tapestry meant not only to point toward the gnostic experience. Thus we can see the outlines of the mysteries of the word and the book that in turn give rise to the Western esoteric traditions. Greek. whether. We can see that despite the bewildering variety of traditions that existed in the first centuries of this era. remains a heterodox figure drawing upon whatever myths. from antiquity to the present. and indeed even begins to approach the highest mystery. it remains a tradition of the mysteries of the book. and traditions best express his understanding. as John ingests the little book in Revelation. in the complex admixtures of Jewish. but also to convey it. just as in the subsequent Western esoteric traditions. Its mysteries of names. and other currents that mingled to create the works we have been considering. to become it. taken together. To read such a work properly is to ingest it. The esotericist or gnostic in antiquity. And when we look for these fundamental characteristics. these gnostic characteristics remain visible. so that one no longer exists only in a rational separate consciousness in an objectified world. words. we will seek to trace the essential characteristics of each current and see whether or not at heart Western esotericism as a whole exists on the border between religious and literary experience. . we find that divisions between heretical and orthodox. are meant to permeate and transmute one’s consciousness so that the invisible is no longer divided from the visible. words. but instead participates in the energies and powers that give rise to and inform the cosmos. Jewish and Christian and Greek. Roman. letters. that of the inexpressible from which all of these gnoses derive and to which they inevitably lead. images. Egyptian. often do not hold at all.


Both the chivalric and the troubadour traditions were centered on service or duty. When we consider the emergence of Western esoteric traditions in the modern era. That there were profound correspondences between the chivalric and the troubadour movements in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries of Europe is incontestable. only investigating whether there are elements corresponding to the mysticism of the word that we saw in antiquity. for both are known to us through literature that reveals fundamentally similar attitudes. a leap to go from the first centuries of the Christian era to the Middle Ages. but we must do so in order to trace the Western esoteric traditions. The knight in swearing fealty to his lord is engaged in a social relationship that can also have spiritual implications: to act properly as a knight is also to fulfill one’s higher responsibility as a warrior for the divine. of course. and the troubadours’ tradition was conveyed through poetry or song. and entailed a moral code much higher than that of the rest of society. and so must inquire whether the chivalric current had esoteric dimensions like those that we glimpsed in antiquity in Gnostic and other movements. if the poet is a woman) as the divine incarnate. we cannot help but recognize there the influence of chivalry. so much must be left to catalogue elsewhere. 35 .2 H i s t o r i c a l C u r re n t s DIVINE SERVICE: C H I VA L R Y A N D T H E T R O U B A D O U R S It is. sees her (or him. Here I am not arguing that the chivalric or troubadour movements were gnostic. It is true that there were important intervening figures like John Scotus Eriugena. The chivalric ideals were conveyed through stories. in giving honor to his beloved. but here we are sketching the broad outlines of historical currents drawing on individual works. The troubadour.

perhaps occasionally forming themselves into larger groups only again to dissolve under pressure from the church or from other social circumstances. One does find an outright gnostic esotericism in the writings and sermons of Meister Eckhart and Johannes Tauler. as for instance in the Grail cycles or in Parzival. there is esotericism visible in the songs of the troubadours. we have already seen the explicitly esoteric nature of Gnosticism and other movements of the first few centuries C. When a story is about a knight’s remaining true to his word. Can we find anything approximating this earlier explicitly gnostic esotericism in the chivalric tales or the songs of the troubadours? The answer. and that may have also in some quarters engendered initiatory groups. is no. relying on implication and multivalent symbols. the soul’s liberation as one finds in Gnostic treatises. in that it remained an individual and somewhat anarchic tradition that one joined by self-election. There is esotericism visible on occasion in the stories written by individual authors or in particular cycles. When the troubadour or the knight pledges troth to a woman. never explicitly discussing. And so the chivalric and the troubadour traditions are fertile ground for esotericism. who conveyed their mysteries through poetic references and imagery. Undoubtedly much of this allusiveness had to do with the strictures imposed by the Roman Catholic church. the troubadour movement was close to esotericism proper.E. as referring to an actual beloved woman and to the divine. as in so much of Western esotericism to follow. One such group was the fedeli d’amore. Of course. that is to say. or love’s faithful. for hidden meanings not accessible to outsiders. but one doubts very much that this reflects a widespread or organized esoteric tradition. but these were not part of either the chivalric or troubadour lines. for example. But to this day the precise nature of this or similar societies remains largely closed to us. in the background is also his relationship to the invisible. Both of these movements are fundamentally social in nature.36 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E Thus there is implicitly a dual quality to much of the writing associated with each of these traditions. Instead. particularly the chivalric tradition. But when we look at these movements as a whole. I think. they do not reflect what we see in those Merkabah or Gnostic or Hermetic traditions explicitly devoted to knowledge of the transcendent. likewise. and indeed even they ran afoul of church censors alert for any signs of Gnosticism’s recurrence. the esotericism that we find in the chivalric or troubadour tradition is allusive and elusive. . Much more likely that here. we can see in the poetry of the time that there was a mysterious amorous language that referred both to carnal and divine love at once. a troubadour’s poem also can be read on at least two levels. But was there any explicitly esoteric content in these traditions? In other words. and thus there inherently are hidden dimensions to such poems or stories. even surreptitious. individuals sought and found as much as they could of such traditions on their own. it is implicitly also about his relationship to the divine.

the stone has since been in the care of those whom God appoints. Whether the name is of a boy or a girl. a descendent of Solomon himself and an astrologer. Here the Stone is certainly associated with esoteric mysteries. most notably in the esoteric significances of writing and speaking. Thus the disclosing of the Grail mystery came about through the mysterious decoding of an unfamiliar language. This story is of Anfortas’s pride and his wounding and lying sick. this reminds us rather strongly of the magical powers of naming in the Book of Revelation. For. noble angels. it is associated with angels whose place corresponds closely with that of Hermes and Hermetism. we do find traces in chivalric literature of some of the same themes that we saw in antiquity. both pagan and Christian. and this is the mystery of names. Afterwards a Christian progeny bred to a pure life had the duty of keeping it.” and we are told that his being a Christian allowed him to enter into the true nature of the Grail. “A troop had left it on earth and then rose high above the stars. .HISTORICAL CURRENTS 37 Nonetheless. For instance. He or she is forever after immune from the shame of sin. and has a rich reward in heaven. occupying a middle ground between these. who discovered the primary version of the Grail cycle in Toledo written in “heathenish script” (presumably Arabic). when Lucifer and the Trinity began to war with each other. for shortly Parzival and we are told about the magical Stone called the “Lapsit exillis. and in Jewish and Gnostic esotericism more generally. worthy. teacher of Eschenbach. there is no need to erase it. Hearing this. In any event. [as] if their innocence drew them back again. Kyot had to learn the characters’ ABC beforehand “without the art of necromancy. those who did not take sides. which has a peculiar mythohistory that Eschenbach briefly relates here.” on the top of which an inscription announces the name and lineage of one called to the service of the Grail. And beyond the mystery of naming lies the mystery of the Stone itself. But there is an even greater mystery about the Grail. and shortly the child is fetched from whatever country. Parzival exclaims that if chivalric deeds with shield and lance can win fame for one’s earthly self and paradise for the soul. it was through books that Kyot traced his path to Parzival himself. had written of the hidden secrets in the constellations. Naturally. had to descend to Earth to that Stone which is forever incorruptible. that is. for not only is it given a JudeoChristian mythohistory. and to whom God sends his angel. then the chivalric life is his one desire. we are told. upon which Trevrizent tells the story of King Anfortas and his wound. for the name disappears. but there is another source.” we are told that Flegetanis wrote. a hermit. but God may have taken them back. in Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival. a Provençal poet named Master Kyot. Parzival learns about the tradition of the Gral or grail from Trevrizent. He found that a man named Flegetanis. whence had come the Grail. Trevrizent tells Parzival that he does not know whether those “neutral angels” were forgiven or damned in the end.

or still less into discussions of spiritual illumination. but certainly it is safe to say that it also contains esoteric references central to the tale. he is forced to leave—a repetition yet again of the constant theme throughout Parzival.38 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E and of how the servants of the Grail fell on their knees before the Grail. and that of all the Grail servers. When inevitably she does so. and if he asked a Question. the knight is told by Feirifiz. For instance. And near the end of Eschenbach’s story of Parzival. Throughout the tale. why the king suffered—but Parzival himself had not done this and thus had already failed. remains this-worldly in emphasis. the spotted knight. The Grail. we will recall. never becomes explicit: the tale and the esotericism of the Grail that is its center never stray into otherworldly descriptions of journeys through the cosmos. for instance) and of not speaking when one oughtn’t. we are told explicitly that Anfortas’s suffering. of his good fortune and that he shall ask the Question. and there is in this even a complementary relationship: a kingdom can be saved by asking the right question. Saturn to suffering. Rather. Feirifiz outlines why Parzival shall do so by reference to the “seven stars” or planets. And at the book’s conclusion. and indeed it may be that the fusion of this-worldli- . we are left with a curious twist on the mystery of naming.” chiefly Saturn. but if he were forewarned of the Question it would turn harmful. and that is the exalted position of women.” This conclusively links the planets to consciousness. just as is Western esotericism more generally. the two nodes of which are called the “dragon’s head” and the “dragon’s tail.1 There are throughout this tale astrological references with esoteric implications. He was to ask. This theme clearly holds for both men and women. we are told to honor women. we are told again to honor and never denigrate women. exists both within and without specific religious traditions. then naming them one by one in Arabic. the Grail tradition is both independent and syncretic. like so many of the Western esoteric currents. and at the end of the tale. but also with the changing of the moon. whether it be Trevrizent or Eschenbach himself who advises. where suddenly they saw it written that a knight would come. for a knight comes to live with a princess on the condition that she never ask his name. and lost by asking the wrong one! Parzival is.2 The presence in this tale of astrological and other references to Judaism and Islam as well as to Asia (in the figure of Prester John) reminds us once again that the Grail tradition. was cared for by twenty-five women who by serving it are exalted. intensifies with the “advent of the high planets. Parzival. of course. although intrinsic to the tale inasmuch as it concerns the mysteries of the holy Grail and of the inscriptions upon it. then their sorrows would end. that of speaking when one ought to (asking the Question. of course. entertaining. Yet this implicit esotericism. in particular. There remains one more aspect of the Grail tradition that we need to discuss further. like chivalric literature more generally.

and is associated not only with the five wits or five senses. All of these five categories add up to twenty-five. instead of trusting only in this “endless knot” of the pentangle. Thus the poem ends with the well known motto “Hony soyt qui mal pence. For the color green has a special symbolism that recurs throughout medieval literature and is especially prominent in Gawain.” meaning that good comes forth out of evil. Yet in the story’s conclusion. the first is the true knot. The Green Knight is a mysterious supernatural figure who puts Gawain to the test. At the end of Gawain. where we are told that this sign comes from Solomon himself. and the second that of bewitchment and bewilderment. First. continence. of course. Gawain is the story of a virtuous knight on his travels.3 Thus the passage on the pentangle is nested within a larger context of number and letter symbolism carried on by way of the poem’s repetition of key letters and numbers. trusts instead in the knotted “braided belt” given him by Morgan le Fay. is not simply the repetition of letters and numbers for the way they sound. This esoteric symbolism emerges especially in the author’s discussion of the pentangle. Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table find the story not only funny but so instructive that they all decide to wear a green girdle like Gawain’s. in Gawain as in Parzival. but with the five fingers. he ultimately feels shamed. part of a tradition that. the poem. in the image of the pentangle. and. Once again. And this green marks my second point of observation. marking why Gawain is a fine man. whose enchantments together with the Green Knight . reveals a fall and a redemption: the characters go through suffering into a renewed union on a higher level. When Gawain. loving kindness. with the five wounds of Christ. we see Arthur and the entire court laughing and enjoying Gawain’s tale. these being liberality. the five virtues. This famous passage. And at this point we might remark on two aspects of this transformation. the explicit story is clearly one of virtue upheld. but a way of conveying secret or esoteric meanings within a poem outwardly devoted to the telling of a story. and behind him is the figure of Morgan le Fay. as I have elsewhere shown. And we should remember that Gawain is alliterative poetry. courtesy.HISTORICAL CURRENTS 39 ness and otherworldliness in the service of one’s chivalric duties and of the Grail is the key to chivalric literature more generally. Gawain’s symbol. is marked with a tiny colored initial. For one certainly finds the same theme illustrated in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. like Grail tales more generally. and even wearing a sign of it themselves—a green one. the number of maidens serving the Grail. like several others in the poem. But there is an implicit esotericism that emerges in the work’s center. when Gawain to his shame tells the story of how he was fooled into wearing that braided belt. and piety. part of a scribal code of letters that mark critical junctures in the work. the five joys of the Virgin Mary with her Child. and are called together the “endless knot” by the Gawain-poet.

green is the color of nature. / And since talking directly can’t help us. there is little hint in any of this of open or even covert discussions of gnosis. and the illicit. there are the lines of the young Raimbaut d’Orange (c. to be renewed. yet on the other is associated with the beauty of Venus. valgues nos gens! [Let us talk in secret signs.”] Or again. growth. not monastic or priestly. But one does not find this kind of overt esotericism among the troubadours and trouvères. Thus we have a dual symbolism of women—that is.” La Vita Nuova is full of esoteric implications from its very beginning.” and then the lines written down in his little book that he entitles “The New Life. being found in Islam associated with Khidr. perhaps cunning can. We might remark here that the Gottesfreunde had a Meisterbuch with a gnostic alphabet representing the twentythree aspects of the spiritual path. yet it is also the symbol of new life. and the death that inheres in and underlies them.4 But this secret language is that of lovers. but they are almost never explicitly esoteric.” The Friends of God were. a group called “the Friends of God” who established a community called “L’Ile Verte. become beautiful and haunting lyrics. and continuing into at least the twentieth century in the novel The Green Face of Gustav Meyrink. pus nons val arditz. they set themselves apart from the rest of society by their spiritual vocation. as when the poet Bernart de Ventadorn (1150–1180) writes “Parlar degram ab cubertz entresans / e. which can seem so merciless and in which death is inevitable. and in fact the gnostic symbolism of green is quite widespread. although a lay group. Gawain.40 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E symbolize the bewitchments of the world. yet at the same time. One finds at the center of the Friends of God mysterious communications from a “Gottesfreund vom oberland. The Green Isle represents an intermediate realm of spiritual passage. This same duality inheres in the color green.” or “the Green Isle. which on the one hand is associated with jealousy. Among the most explicitly esoteric of medieval poems more generally is La Vita Nuova by Dante. and although one can read such poems on multiple levels. adulterous relationship offered by Morgan le Fay.” under whose spiritual guidance the circle proceeded. and renewal. occasioned by his observation that he cannot find a name for his verses. Here even the kind of esotericism we find in the chivalric tales is muted and filtered into literary forms. Or again. Both chivalric and troubadour literary traditions are allusive enough to accomodate esoteric interpretations. like the chivalric orders. the hidden divine messenger. the licit and noble relationship symbolized by Guinevere. One does find esoteric themes. which begins by discussing the “book of memory. 1150–1173) playing on namelessness and naming. Recalling the emphasis that Eschenbach laid on the astrological timing surrounding the . first must be humbled by the Green Knight and symbolically die with a snick of his neck. The symbolism of green here corresponds to that of a more esoteric group around Rulman Merswin (1302–1387).

where a “new perception” shows it a Lady of light. calls upon the “book of memory.HISTORICAL CURRENTS 41 Grail. but it is also bringing Vita Nuova to the closure of silence. Boethius.” The number nine recurs in various ways throughout the poem. with a final vision about which he will not now write. as in the Divine Comedy. Boethius goes on a journey of celestial memory that takes him to his true origin beyond the sphere of the stars. and of beautiful images shimmering in space. we cannot help but note the complex numerical and astrological symbolism with which Dante begins his poem: “Nine times since my birth had the heaven of light returned to the same point in its revolution when first I laid eyes on that glorious Lady. who wishes to restore him to spiritual health by awakening his celestial memory and recalling him to his proper state of mind. and religious inheritance into visionary narratives that in fact . albeit more literary. In De consolatione. Beatrice herself appears to Dante in a crimson dress as if she were an apparition. though certainly showing the influence of the troubadour tradition. thrice-blessed Lady. and words and ideas into the empyrean. and exactly nine years later. Thus Dante’s greatest works. she called Beatrice by those who nonetheless fully do not know her name. poems. And of course. There is. Dante ends this strange work. in the ninth hour of the day. was imprisoned and preparing to die when he wrote his Consolation as a summary of his understanding. an allusion to the coming extraordinary visionary journey of the Divine Comedy. But there is more that ties this work to the esoteric lines we are tracing through history. all of this corresponds closely to what we see in Dante’s Vita Nuova. is a visionary poem. full of images.” and at the poem’s end sends a sigh upward beyond the farthest sphere. and is in the tradition of the Book of Revelation. where Dante is upbraided by the divine figure of Beatrice. and it turns back to that silence again at the end. and here. Boethius meets while in prison the divine figure of Philosophia. Vita Nuova and the Divine Comedy. that being Boethius in his Consolation of Philosophy. like the great Divine Comedy. La Vita Nuova. and his commentary. who lived during the fifth century. but the faculty of imaginal perception. we end by passing beyond space. of course. ruling over him by virtue of a strong imagination. an intervening figure in the tradition. time. as does the play that we see here on naming. philosophical. The strong imagination to which Dante refers is not just daydreaming. This is. and to fuse the tradition’s literary. this time wearing a white dress. Dante sees Beatrice again. The poetic work emerges out of a pregnant silence in order to unfold Dante’s vision of celestial memory with glittering poetic images of his divine Beatrice. go far beyond it to include all manner of esoteric implications. of course. Within the work’s visionary interworld we enter into an archetypal realm of celestial numbers reverberating in time. So too does Love appear to him in terrible aspect during the beginning of the night’s nine last hours.

marked east and west by gates of marble. which tells the story of how the knight Palamon and the lady Emelye were ultimately wedded.” with “festes. But all the same. a nude Venus depicted with a golden garland and a “cokkow sittynge on hir hand. including Troilus and Cressida as well as The Knight’s Tale. bareyne trees olde. One finds traces of this influence in a number of Chaucer’s poems. Chaucer.” Thus this tale. daunces” around her. especially of the knight for his lady. Chaucer was not that kind of poet. These references form a memory theater of images that govern the lists or battles taking place within their purview. here. knarry. we will concentrate on The Knight’s Tale because it illustrates some of our primary esoteric themes. above all. Chaucer was not an esotericist.” with a temple of Mars “wrought al of burned steel. This is not to say that Chaucer was an esotericist in the sense of a Kabbalist or a Gnostic. Chaucer drew on Boethius in his own work. and built by masters of “geometrie or ars-metrike. is also a tale full of mythological and astrological references to the planets. And these are evoked . Earthy. with an oratory. but in fact represent continuations not of specific lineages so much as currents or approaches to transcendence. for Chaucer also translated Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy from Latin to English. Like Dante. In the third part of The Knight’s Tale.” In that “portreiture. The celestial images rule over the terrestrial actions within the circle of life. We see in Chaucer’s tale. and occasionally elsewhere in his work. yet he went further. caroles. also incorporated esoteric elements into his poetry and prose. Chaucer elaborates on the “noble theatre” of Theseus. in a new ambience produce new revelations that often seem to appear ex nihilo.” The eastern gate was dedicated to Venus. we find here too signs of the themes that have occupied our chivalric and troubadour poets. what we might call literary reflections or manifestations of esoteric traditions. The two medieval currents we have been discussing here—the chivalric and the troubadour traditions—meet in two final figures whose work we must consider here—Geoffrey Chaucer (ca. This “theatre” was circular and a mile in circumference. But this corresponds to what we have seen of the Western esoteric traditions from their beginnings in antiquity—they represent unique fusions of previous currents that. The western gate dedicated to Mars displayed a forest full of “knotty.” it was “depeynted in the sterres above / Who shal be slayn or elles deed for lov. but rather to recognize that esoteric elements flow in the mainstream of Western literature itself. Here. 1343–1400) and Ramon Lull (1232–1316).” “gastly for to see.” and by “kervere of ymages. interested in depicting his sometimes bawdy characters and tales. the themes of divine images that recall celestial memory. instrumentz. Certainly there are no explicit and even relatively few implicit esoteric allusions.42 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E depict unfolding gnostic revelation. and of divine service. the theater of art. known as a primary literary figure in English history. however.

was prolific. consisting chiefly in recounting the moral code of the knight. Characteristic of his meditations is this: “The Beloved tested his lover in order to see if his love for him was perfect. literature is not only entertainment. we are given the meditations of the hermit. He asked how the Beloved’s presence differs from his absence. Lull. troubadour. for it includes other dimensions and reminds us of the celestial meanings behind human action. The Book of the Lover and the Beloved is much more complicated. ‘As knowledge and remembrance differ from ignorance and oblivion’” (7). but a complete way of knowledge that penetrates through all aspects of life. was also a syncretist who learned and taught Arabic and drew on his knowledge of esoteric Islam in his writings. not just a set of correspondences. it was eclipsed and almost completely vanished until it was rediscovered in the late twentieth century. one for each of the 365 days of the year. and unquestionably entails explicitly esoteric dimensions. These terms. “knowledge” and “remembrance. For although Lull. which alludes to the ninety-nine names of God in Islam. It represents the ninety-ninth chapter of Lull’s romance Blanquerna. on the love of the soul for God couched in the terms of lovers. until he was thirty. only to leave and become a hermit contemplative. (a kind of chivalric code). It is self-evident from Lull’s own introduction that he is drawing on esoteric Islam in order to create a kind of Christian Sufism. a tireless proselytizer for Christianity in Islamic countries. The lover answered. chiefly through the heroic scholarly work of Frances Yates. Evidence of this is visible in his choice of ninety-nine for this chapter on contemplation. (part of his romance Blanquerna). Not surprisingly.HISTORICAL CURRENTS 43 through literature. We are concluding this discussion with Lull because his work encapsulates virtually everything that we have so far considered. like Chaucer.” are familiar to students of . on the first page of the Book of the Lover and the Beloved—these terms representing a favorite motif of Sufi poetry throughout the centuries—we find a direct reference to Sufism itself. In the ninety-ninth chapter. the Lullian Art was immensely influential during the medieval and early modern era. and indeed. Ars brevis. At this juncture. and Ars generalis ultima. and of course his most well-known and influential works. and this is no accident. given its astonishing scope. among his vast number of works are The Book of Chivalry. bringing together the chivalric. Lull was himself something of a troubadour. unlike him Lull was primarily concerned with elaborating his astonishing system of universals known as the “Lullian Art. In fact. in the voluminous works of Ramon Lull become explicit. The Book of the Lover and the Beloved. The Book of Chivalry corresponds to what we saw already in the Grail and other chivalric literature. which tells the story of a man who rises to the position of pope. but with the advent of rationalism. But what in Chaucer are only allusions.” The Art represents. and esoteric streams into a remarkable fusion. the careful reader might notice some resonances with esoteric Islam. The Book of Contemplation.

was a means of investigating and coming to understand the true nature of things. rather than my Beloved in the world. Lull used more letters. each of which has multiple meanings and is used to create figures and reveal the principles within all that we see. For in a delightful appendix consisting of questions posed to the Lover. and writings. ‘Yes. out of arrogance or presumption. north and south. all errors are implanted in the world. But there is one theme above all others which we have been tracing that emerges clearly here. since there is absolutely no doubt that Lull himself extensively used figures. ‘It is a book for those who can read in which is revealed my Beloved. but for purposes of clarity.’ They asked him.” In this falsified knowledge. His brief alphabet extends from B to K (excluding J) and includes a range of mean- . images.44 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E Sufism. and so the relationship between humanity and the divine is that of a reader and a writer.’”5 The world is a book for those who can read: this is a constant refrain within the Western esoteric traditions from antiquity to the present. images. which he claimed to be a universal system of knowledge that allows one to see into the universal nature of all things and of the Divine. but of those done with the wrong attitude. by seeing the Sign of God in the east. some “insult the Name of God with curses and incantations. as the readers of Lull’s book. This extraordinary art. Originally. Of course. and by writings. ‘Is your Beloved in the world then?’ He answered. and is founded on a special kind of alphabet. not of figures. Lull himself was certainly accused of an inordinate and presumptuous lust for knowledge in the pursuit and teaching of this art. most of all in the exposition of his art. that is.’ ‘And in what does this book consist?’ ‘In my Beloved. and images. and that is the book. we find the following: “They asked the Lover. but are also familiar to us from our examination of the Western esoteric traditions more generally. as well as from the Grail tradition in particular. Such a proviso is particularly appropriate for Lull’s own work. Spiritual knowledge is also celestial memory or remembrance. just as the writer is in his book. he condensed his art into nine letters. since my Beloved contains all. By means of these letters. and therefore the world is in my Beloved. meant to reflect that of humanity to the divine. ‘What is the world?’ He answered. west. there is a profanation of this true reading and writing. investing them with the names of God and of good angels. invoking evil spirits as good angels. we are also participating in this relationship. Lull created a kind of Christian Kabbalism. whose influence extended across Europe. The cosmos represents the divine writing. engraved in precious jewels and worn on him in order to always remind him. and profaning holy things with figures. and writings in themselves. And through presumption. which emerges from “a lust for knowledge and presumption. Here we find a clear condemnation. However. Further.” But the Lover corrects this through the remembrance of truth.

for example. for instance. which is the unspoken origin of and connection between all the other letters arranged in a circle around it. justice. Around the A in these figures is a geometric series of lines linking many of the letters in intricate correlations. trees. to which we can here offer only the briefest of introductions. it was naturally applied to astrology and to alchemy. In the full art. God. and although Lull himself explictly denied the transmutation of metals. The “A” figure is so designated because it contains in its center a letter A. and in the outer circle are the primary qualities asociated with each of the letters. For this reason. can produce an almost infinite series of correlations. and avarice. angel. what?. I— Veritas. and gluttony. For instance. emerging as it did largely in a Spanish ambience perfectly suited to the meeting not only of the primary currents of medieval Christian esotericism—including the chivalric and troubadour—but also of Islamic and Jewish esotericism. When we consider the prominence of the letter A in numerous esoteric traditions ranging all the way from Buddhist tantrism to Gnosticism to Böhmean Christian theosophy. and even the Ars brevis represents a daunting set of combinations. The Lullian art is a means of working with letters and words as a way of entering into transcendent consciousness of the inner metaphysical principles informing and transcending the human and natural realms. Lull himself combined them using circles. B signifies.” C signifies “greatness. Lull represents the juncture of almost all the currents we have thus far discussed. And although Lull’s thought has been explored relatively recently as a system of logic. At the same time. the number of letters and qualities makes their range enormous. and so forth. but to the physical world and indeed to virtually every aspect of life. tables. which are seen in both traditions as transcendent principles the combination of which can ultimately bring us to and reveal the inner nature of the divine. it becomes difficult to believe that the placement of the A here could fail to have esoteric origins and meaning. probably the most revealing of which for our purposes is the socalled “A” figure from the Ars compendiosa inveniendi veritatem. and can be applied not only to philosphy and theology. according to Lull in his Ars Brevis. above all the view of literature as a vehicle for the transmutation of consciousness. for in essence the Lullian art most resembles Kabbalism. it includes and transcends logic. Of course his work is unique. whether?. . a host of Lullian-based alchemical treatises emerged in the wake of his works. E—Potestas. has vast implications.HISTORICAL CURRENTS 45 ings. it also represents a synthesis of the primary currents we have been discussing. not least in its use of the combinations of letters.”6 Thus each letter contains within it a constellation of meanings that. Hence in many respects. or that from the Ars brevis. triangles. prudence. B—Bonitas. difference. depending upon how the letters are combined. The Lullian art. “goodness. concordance. found in the Ars compendiosa. and numerous other arrangements.

of course. for here literature possesses powerful cultural and spiritual dimensions. and Lullian traditions lived on far past their apparent demises: all of them fed into the emergence of the Western esoteric traditions that began to flower in the seventeenth century. still there is an affiliation because all exist within the larger. BOOKS WITHIN BOOKS: JEWISH KABBALISM Around the same time that chivalric and troubadour literature was being written. whose influence also extends well beyond their disappearance as living social movements. French. Rather. and other forms of esotericism are often closely linked and influence one another. the words. Rosicrucianism. commonplace to regard each of the primary currents of Western esotericism as having emerged ex nihilo and completely separate from its predecessors. And as literature. or English gnostic. that the medieval authors created in order to convey their visions. But there is another element as well that we must recognize: all of these authors in turn manifest unique combinations of tendencies or currents that preëxist and transcend them. Chivalry influenced future esotericism by providing a code of conduct that as it became individualized or fed into smaller initiatory groups took on esoteric force even as it lost power as a system of social organization. troubadour. cross-fertilizing currents of Western esotericism. the chivalric.46 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E We also see this perspective visible in a muted way in chivalric and troubadour literature. and Freemasonry. Thus the transposed spiritual chivalry. we must first look at another primary current whose influence can hardly be underestimated: Kabbalism. it is as it was in the first centuries of this era—Jewish. so that even if there were no direct influence of troubadour poetry on the spiritual love poems of a seventeenth. whose origins are still shrouded in mystery. And in Kabbalah we see not only some potential connections to earlier Gnostic traditions. there was an efflorescence of another kind of literature entirely. It is. Before we turn to the emergence of Western esoteric traditions at the cusp of the modern era. the spiritual love poetry of the troubadours. Jewish Kabbalah did not appear in a vacuum. Christian. In these traditions. and the alphabetical mysticism of Lull and others later appear in Christian theosophy. poetry and stories go beyond entertainment. How do these various currents reëmerge later in history? Chiefly through the influence of the books. . but out of a particular literary and religious ambience and with definite predecessors. profoundly important and influential instances of the mysteries of the word as means of spiritual awakening. intricately woven. however. but what is more. but this is virtually never the case. with the emergence in the twelfth century in Europe of Jewish Kabbalah (a Hebrew word meaning “tradition”).or eighteenth-century German.

There can be no doubt that the Kabbalistic works emerging during and after the twelfth century are esoteric. And it emerged during a period of established Jewish speculative mysticism in the Provençal region. it is entirely enough to note the profound resemblances between these movements. a work that Gershom Scholem insists “cannot be explained on the basis of the tradition of philosophic thought in Judaism or as a product of its decline. not only in that they reflect and point toward a hidden wisdom tradition. Rabbi Isaac the Blind wrote a well-known letter to Nahmanides bemoaning the common contemporary tendency to write publicly about the Kabbalah. discusses at length the origin and meaning of the sephirot. and thus Kabbalism. number. and elsewhere in Europe.E. Castile. or ten dimensions of the cosmos. and Kabbalism more generally.” Scholem concludes. the Kabbalistic works of this period are deeply concerned with exactly these mysteries of word. in particular the Merkabah mysticism that dates back to at least the second century C. . the mere fact of composing Kabbalistic literature or commentaries represents a disclosure of what is secret. “The affinity with the language.”7 What is this “entirely different world”? Certainly the Bahir emerged in the ambience of twelfth-century French Judaism. Although there has been some controversy over his conclusions. and Nahmanides’ disciples intensified their protection of the secret Kabbalistic teachings. has origins in a Jewish gnosticism of a much earlier date.9 Yet at the same time. The book Bahir.8 But for our purposes. which are also discussed in the Sefer Yezirah or Book of Creation. regardless of whether there was a direct historical link between the emergence of Kabbalism in Provençe. also may have roots elsewhere. which in turn were edited and developed by a group of Kabbalists. and symbolism of Gnosticism suggests an Oriental origin for the most important among the ancient texts and sources of the Bahir. and to recognize that Kabbalism explicitly continues our primary themes within the Western esoteric traditions. Scholem’s assessment is that the Bahir. and cosmogony. many of which had at least passed through certain circles of the German Hasidim. and Gnosticism of any sort in antiquity. It [the Bahir] has its roots in an entirely different world. terminology. For instance. It derived from the long line of previous Jewish mysticism. But the Bahir. disclosing them only in parabolic language. the crux of the paradox inherent in the mysteries of the word. for instance. Scholem holds that there arrived in Provençe some time in the middle of the twelfth century a collection of older gnostic writings. And in fact. but also in that they consciously sought to keep this tradition hidden from the general public even while composing copious works that derive from the long tradition of interconnections between literature and religion. which in turn has been linked to the troubadours. with at least some connections to the contemporaneous Cathar or Albigensian Christian heretical movement. dating to the Talmudic period.HISTORICAL CURRENTS 47 We first encounter Kabbalistic literature in the Sefer ha-Bahir.

”12 And we are treated to a fascinating explanation of why the verse-divisions. the ten fingers of human hands are said to correspond to the ten sephirot and to the commandments. the Zohar is replete with alphanumeric mysticism. spiritual.11 Of course. in one section we read of an “alphabetic hymn which contains the mystery of the twenty-two sacred celestial letters which are decorated with a crown made of the Patriarchs and the holy heavenly Chariot. But there is another work that helps shed light on what the nature of these alphanumeric mysteries might be. There are several major schools of thought on the origin of this vast and complicated work: some hold that Moses de Leon really did copy the Zohar from an earlier version by Shimon bar Yohai. and that in this sense he really was copying from the transcendent source of the Kabbalistic tradition. which comprise a total of 613 letters. it is not at all out of character for the Zohar to have connections to the mysteries of the “Writing Name. But in any event.” Indeed. For example. for example. and so forth are absent from the Scroll of Law: these signs were hidden in the “interior of the Divine Throne. this controversy itself reveals much about the nature of Kabbalism. including all twenty-two letters of the alphabet except tet. is that Moses de Leon composed the Zohar himself by way of “conjuration of the Writing Name. including the human body. It is absolutely clear from this and many other sections of the Zohar that Kabbalistic gnosis is intimately bound up with the mysteries of the word. a word that usually means “restoration” in Hebrew. said to symbolize the abdomen. The Fountain of Wisdom consists in a discussion of tikkun. One of the most influential Kabbalistic books of this period is the Fountain of Wisdom (Ma‘yan ha-Hokhmah). and that it regards the written word as being at the center of those mysteries. We also see these alphanumeric mysteries in the Zohar. Although the origins of the Zohar are somewhat controversial. caught up in the spirit. there is a third possibility—that Moses de Leon composed through spiritual imagination. often said to be the culmination of the early Kabbalistic period. as a female is fertilized from the male. and natural realms at once.48 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E The sephirot mysteries in Bahir are intimately related to the mystical meanings of numbers and letters. writing the Names of God) and through this power. which sixteenth-century Kabbalist Moses Cordovero regarded as being among a handful of the most important works. informing the cultural.”13 We might note that here the “Written Law” is seen as male. but here takes on the meaning of “com- . he wrote the entire work without any precedent. and which was central in the founding of Hasidism as well. supported by some contemporary testimony. the “Oral Law” as female or receiver. but another view.” (that is. Opposite them are the twenty-two little letters of the lower world.10 Thus we can see how here mystical numbers and letters reflect the hidden divine principles of the cosmos. In section 124. the tonal accents.” and are the means by which “the Written Law fertilized the Oral Law.

Investigating this holiest of mysteries is prohibited even for a Moses. from reading this extraordinary work. Its linguistic mysticism undoubtedly requires an oral commentary: here the written word remains opaque without vocal explication. but My Face will not be seen. made transparent so . . and 160. For prior to the Names and even prior to the Ether and root-principle of all being is the “Primal Darkness.” The “Back” here is the mysteries of creation.” One can easily see.” which may or may not itself be an “a. Through this kind of multiplication. tikkun is a kind of linguistic mysticism that through its praxis brings one into the “immeasurable light” “in the superabundance of the secret darkness. an ¯ “ether.HISTORICAL CURRENTS 49 bination. we are told. all are found in this Name. . For instance. Here we see the mysteries of the word laid bare. . the tenth letter. in the text the ’aleph is said to be “divided into five heads. why it is no doubt so profoundly difficult to translate it: it is an inordinately difficult work that requires oral exegesis because it clearly emerges from direct spiritual experience.’ but even more why this work was traditionally explicated word by word from teacher to pupil.” two vocalizations result: “â” and “a.” The ’alef is the mystery of the ether and the root-principle of all being. we have gone behind the alphanumeric mysticism into the visionary understanding that precedes and informs it. . and out of them all the “lanes” and “paths” and the countless lights of life. sum and computation of the explication of the Ineffable Name [of God]—unique in the branches of the root of vocalization that is magnified in the thirteen types of transformation. in the Fountain of Wisdom. there remains still the ’alef “pivotal amongst them.” from which four emerge—and between these four emerges a fifth.”18 This. out of it emerges the Names.” Thus we can see how by way of ascent through the Names one arrives at the hidden true nature of existence—and within this is the mystery of the a. the “Face” is the Primal Darkness “that is the focal point of My existence. utterance. in this context. one also arrives at the seventy-two Names of God. one comes to understand not only why the thirty or more versions of the Fountain are generally regarded as ‘corrupt. speech. the essence of everything. action .”14 In other words.” for when you open your mouth to say “ah. one comes to understand how “all wisdom and understanding.” about which no one. This visionary understanding leads backward through the process of creation to its source. is the secret meaning of the verse from Exodus 33:23: “You will see My Back. inquiry .”16 These five alefim are calculated by doubling as ten. In reading the intricate discussion of this letter’s transformations. yet when these Names are removed. corresponding to yod. whispering. “so as not to distort the knowledge of the image of the Holy One. and yod in turn becomes twenty. or aleph. forty. all comprehension and thought. not even Moses. eighty.”15 Central to this linguistic mysticism is the letter A. is allowed to ask questions. so to say. the “unique master” that “radiates in the green flames. voice. Here.”17 By investigation.

as Scholem remarks. and how words emerge from primordial consciousness into being.”19 But underlying the entire work is the gnosis of how light emerges from darkness. Medieval Kabbalism.’ Only that which lives in any particu- . including thought.20 For that matter. Thus there is a double quality to this mystery: it applies to the emergence of consciousness both within us and in the cosmos. and this is corroborated by the very linguistic mysticism that they express. ’En sof literally means “infinity. It is obvious from Kabbalistic works themselves that they do not derive from scholastic but from direct knowledge. broadly speaking. Indeed. as well as in Erigena and in Eckhart. sometimes without.” or absolute transcendence out of which everything. is not only cosmological. but also metaphysical. we have spontaneous investigations into some of the same mysteries that the Kabbalists investigated. Although it is possible that medieval Kabbalism owes more than a little to the Gnosticism of antiquity. and so it is natural that common elements reemerge again and again historically. Its cosmological dimensions we have glimpsed in the intricate doctrines of the ten Sephirot and in the profound complexities of its alphanumeric gnosis.50 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E that through them in the eye of imagination we can see the hidden principles and working of the cosmos itself. one also finds correspondences between the mysticism of ’en sof and the teachings of Meister Eckhart. which is to say also a knowledge of how the mind is prior to the emergence of language and thought. for the Kabbalists “the world of language is therefore actually the ‘spiritual world. so too the medieval Kabbalists emphasized this same linkage. where all that is seen in the eye of imagination is light and color and energy welling forth from the indefinable Primal Darkness. emerges. But none of these correspondences necessarily indicate historical influence. of which emergence ordinary human speech is but a reflection. its metaphysical dimensions are to be found especially in its use of the term ’en sof. We are viewing a pure mysticism of the word. and how the Voice emerges from light through speech and breath. it is also entirely possible that in the works of the Gnostics and Neoplatonists. but from the other. What is seen in the eye of imagination is expressed through alphanumeric riddles such as references to “four letters that constitute a fire that consumes fire. Here “Voice” refers not to ordinary human speech. but to the inner experience of how existence emerges from the Primal Ether. Just as in antiquity the Gnostics often laid emphasis on the mysteries of language and consciousness. since this absolute transcendence resembles the Greek akatalepton as well as the later incomprehensibilis of John Scotus Erigena. It may be that there is some historical link with Neoplatonism here. that of hardened or congealed materiality. within the general currents of Western esoteric traditions. then. sometimes with the influence of particular earlier esoteric authors.” but in early Kabbalism also is connected to “that which thought cannot attain. not from this side. All of these exist.



lar thing as language is its essential life.”21 In fact, for the Kabbalists letters have a plastic quality: in forming words, they are forming also the actual divine nature of things, so that to enter into the mysteries of words is to penetrate beyond language as we ordinarily conceive it into the hidden nature of God himself. Here again we have come upon the dual nature of language: there is exoteric language, which is veiling and limited; and there is esoteric language, which is unveiling and virtually unlimited in its ramifications. Particularly in the case of Kabbalistic word and letter combination can we say that esoteric uses of language are virtually unlimited in effect, for Kabbalism has since at least the time of Rabbi Eleazar of Worms (c. 1165–1230) and Abraham ben Samuel Abulafia (c. 1240–1292) employed techniques of linguistic recombination that in turn, if practiced over a period of time, result in ecstasy and visionary illumination. In the case of R. Eleazar and Abraham Abulafia, the technique entails combining the Tetragrammaton with the letters of the alphabet in order to bring one to a transcendent state of divine knowledge or gnosis. According to Abulafia, this technique, which requires isolation, prolonged practice, and special breathing techniques, “draws down the supernal force in order to unite it with you.”22 Thus esoteric language is not only a guide toward gnosis, it is here the actual means to gnosis. Central to Kabbalism is esoteric language. Isaac of Acre, for instance, distinguished between the mere acquisition of knowledge through ordinary learning and the direct gnosis by the intellect.23 And his predecessor Isaac the Blind used the analogy of a great tree, in which inward and subtle essences of wisdom (hokhmah) exist and move through the tree like sap. We partake of this wisdom, or sap, by “sucking,” which is a fundamentally different kind of knowledge from that gained by ordinary reading; it is a participatory gnosis in which we directly experience the essence-language of creation itself, moving in and through all that is. Here again we have reading and writing that go far beyond what we ordinarily regard them as—here esotericism and literature are totally fused. Such analogies and definitions as that of the tree, or “sucking,” or for that matter of celestial reading and writing, do indeed correspond to those of the ancient Gnostics; and like the ancient Gnostics, the Kabbalists too produced a wild profusion of works expressing variants of a complex and profound cosmology, as well as a metaphysics of absolute transcendence. In Kabbalism, as in ancient Gnosticism, we find the figure of Sophia, or Wisdom, to be prominent, and indeed even find the teaching in Kabbalah of the higher and lower Shekhinah, which parallels the teachings of some Gnostic sects regarding a higher and lower Sophia. There are numerous parallels, but this does not mean that there was direct influence. In any event, this profusion of Kabbalistic works and teachings in turn was to have an immense influence on the subsequent history of Western esoteric



traditions, and unlike the relationship of Kabbalism to Gnosticism, the relationship of Kabbalism and Christian Cabala is relatively well documented.24 Here it is possible only to allude to the ways Kabbalism flowed into Christianity, especially beginning in the fifteenth century. It is generally held that the first major influx of Kabbalism into Christianity occurred with Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463–1494), who in his On the Dignity of Man proposes the harmony of Christianity and Kabbalah, holding that in fact Kabbalah is evidence for Christianity because in it we find discussions of the Trinity, of the Word, and much else that corresponds to the works of Dionysius the Areopagite. For our purposes it is noteworthy that Pico insisted on the initiatory nature of original Christianity championed by Origen and Dionysius the Areopagite: that Christ gave secret teachings to some of the disciples, teachings that subsequently were continued. Pico holds, in his oration, that Kabbalah corresponds to these teachings in its initiatory lineage and in its doctrines: “to make public the occult mysteries, the secrets of the supreme Godhead . . . what else were this than to give a holy thing to dogs and to cast pearls before swine?”25 Thus Kabbalah, according to Pico, furnishes a way to recover the original true nature of Christianity. This true nature includes the doctrines of the ’en sof, as well as that of the emanated Sephirot and, above all, the Names of God by which God created the cosmos.26 There is in Kabbalah, as in Plato, a divine mathematics that is not like the jottings of traders.27 And so Pico brings Jewish Kabbalah into the broad stream of Western learning that includes all the classics and has come to be known as the prisca theologia, confirming precisely those elements that we have come to see characterize the Western esoteric currents as the initiatory sciences of reading and writing. It is true that Pico only refers to Kabbalah and does not offer detailed exegeses or doctrinal expositions, but what he chooses to touch upon— “divine mathematics,” initiatory lineages, secret knowledge not divulged to the hoi polloi, the transcendent Godhead, the hidden Names of God, and reading and writing as the transmission of esoteric knowledge, when accompanied by oral transmission—all correspond exactly to the threads we have been tracing throughout Western history. Naturally, Pico was far from alone in the endeavor to bring Kabbalah into Christianity—or, put from the viewpoint of the Christian Cabalists themselves, to show how Christianity is illuminated by Kabbalism. Another important figure is Johannes Reuchlin (1455–1522), author of De verbo mirifico (1494), and of the more well-known De arte cabalistica (1517). The first book, whose title alone brings it into our purview, is arranged as a dialogue between a pagan philosopher, a Jewish mystic, and a Christian; the pagan is concerned with cosmology, the Jew with Kabbalah and the divine Names, and the Christian with absolute transcendence. Both books are intensely concerned with the nature of



language, with its divine origin, and with how it illuminates the path toward the deification of man. Reuchlin in turn drew upon Pico and influenced Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim (1486–1535), whose work De occulta philosophia (1533) is among the most influential works on magical esotericism in European history. Agrippa’s book is chiefly concerned with magic, but it focuses on magic in a larger context that further develops the new tradition of Christian Cabala. Rather like Reuchlin, Agrippa begins by discussing cosmology and the nature of the world; turns then to numbers and letters and their celestial significances (with references to the Sephirot); and in the third book discusses the Names of God and the relation of the magus to God. Agrippa’s concern with the practice of magic inaugurates a subsequent long tradition of Christian magical esotericism drawing upon Jewish Kabbalah. But Kabbalah’s influence on Christendom was not limited to magical esotericism alone; indeed, it would seem that during this time Kabbalah’s influence extended from the royal courts to the Vatican. One finds in France Jean Thenaud (?–1542) writing an extensive manuscript entitled Traité de la Cabale chrétien for Francis I in about 1521; one finds in Italy Paul Rici, author of De coelesti agricultura (1541), as well as Cardinal Egidio (Gilles) da Viterbo (1465–1532), an important figure in the Vatican, whose unpublished work Scecina (1530) was finally made available in 1959. And, of course, there is Gillaume Postel (1510–1581), among whose papers we find references to and translations of many Hebrew works including the Bahir and the Zohar. Postel is well known for his devotion to a woman named Mother Johanna, whom he regarded as the Virgin incarnate. We could continue to trace the byzantine influences of Kabbalism in the history of Western esotericism here, and if so, we would have to make mention of figures like John Dee (1527–1608) and Robert Fludd (1574–1637), both major Renaissance authors whose works drew on Kabbalistic themes to create new Western esoteric syntheses, as well as examine the possible course of Kabbalah into the works of arguably the most influential esotericist of the past five centuries, Jacob Böhme (1575–1624). Böhme’s works may reveal the traces of Kabbalism, but if so, here too Kabbalah is transformed in new and specifically Christian ways. Yet there is not room here for such an extensive study, and since we will shortly look at Böhmean theosophy in much more detail, it is perhaps more useful to consider what we have learned. Without question, Kabbalah had widely penetrated Christianity in Western Europe by the seventeenth century, but oftentimes its influence was underground and not at all easily traced. What is more, just as Kabbalah itself resembles earlier Gnostic traditions in antiquity, so too within Christianity one finds more modern movements or views that may or may not be historically affiliated with Kabbalism. For instance, Thenaud in his sixteenth-century

in its willingness to go through the letters and words into the consciousness that they represent. surface is nothing and depth is everything. and so it goes right into the heart of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Symbolic of Western syncresis is La Mezquita in Cordoba. its grandeur lies in the daring of its visionary heights. One finds those who insist that the heart of Islamic Sufism is Christian. not a barrier to but a vehicle for transcendence. In the twentieth century. represents the confluence of literature and religion in esotericism. Here the written word becomes not opaque but transparent. that ultimately all beings will be saved. rather than only trying to trace ‘horizontal’ historical influence. much less the possibility of transcendence. Nowhere is this more evident than in the history of Kabbalah. we find the English theosopher Jane Leade holding the same doctrine. but it is also important because it offers us a completely different way of understanding the very nature of writing. This transcendence lends itself to syncretism. which is. or vice versa. that the heart of Christianity is Jewish Kabbalism. after all. But is there any historical influence of Kabbalism on Leade? Or did she independently rediscover the same esoteric doctrines in vision. many novelists and poets explicitly denounce even the idea of spirituality. we can see why it had such profound literary and religious influences. and beauty. ramified throughout religious and literary history. intricacy. But before discussing these implications. For Kabbalah. Western esoteric traditions are perpetually changing and self-renewing. literature represents portals into the transcendent. or vice versa. an ornate mosque in whose center is a Christian cathedral. . precisely what she said had happened? It would seem that in this case as generally. we shall turn to another primary current of the Western esoteric traditions: alchemy. that is. where one finds literature and religion fused. and the boundaries between Judaism and Christianity far less distinct than usual. literature increasingly lost even the inkling of bearing within it other dimensions. with the prevalence of materialism and scientism. Such an approach to literature.54 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E treatise on Cabala alluded to a Kabbalistic doctrine of universal restoration. even where it is roughly or awkwardly written. perhaps more than any other Western tradition. almost always willing to draw from another religion if it illuminates one’s own. it may be better to look at ‘vertical’ or categorical similarities. Indeed. And when we look at Kabbalism. Spain. Here. and instead creep over the surfaces of things like painstaking caterpillars. it also fascinates us with its riddles and mysteries. If great literature like Dante’s attracts us because of its grandeur. In the eighteenth century. To such approaches. each letter and number potentially bearing infinite depths. however unfamiliar to us today. Kabbalah represents a polar opposite—for it. and perhaps even of the origin and nature of consciousness. But Kabbalistic literature opens up almost endlessly.

sort of a mistaken byway people once took before they saw the light of materialism and rationalism. Of course. and a current representing a particular path between religion and literature. we find that they reveal striking new applications and manifestations of Western esotericism. and so it is little wonder that many historians of science have denigrated European alchemy as merely a strange predecessor to modern chemistry. by virtue of its initial incomprehensibility. but through meditative concentration and inspiration. hence on the one hand religious. for only a few intrepid souls have ventured into this territory. which in turn reflects GrecoEgyptian origins whose precise outlines likely never will be thoroughly traceable. So too. alchemists took to arcane ways of expressing themselves. European alchemical works resemble bizarre collections of riddles wrapped in enigmas. When we look at European alchemical works. However. Western alchemy remains largely uncharted by modern scholarship. Thus Western alchemy has a peculiar place. . alchemical writings seem totally impenetrable. especially to the need for humility and for reliance on divine grace. when we look more closely at specific works in the alchemical traditions. to come to terms with it not just by rational explication. the term alchemy itself emerges out of the Arabic word al-kimiya. To the first-time observer. Hermetism itself occupies a syncretic place in the midst of numerous traditions. One might compare these means of arcane expression to the Zen Buddhist koan tradition. operating by metaphor and allusion and parabolic expression. because the opposition of exotericism to esotericism in Western Europe was often so violent.” draws on the particular religious ambience within which it finds itself. and even with extended study often yield no certain interpretation.HISTORICAL CURRENTS 55 T H E T R A N S F I G U R AT I O N O F E A R T H : A L C H E M I C A L L I T E R AT U R E Undoubtedly among the most enigmatic traditions of the human inheritance. alchemy. Full of exotic images and peculiar language. to work it through. with their astonishing repertoire of exotic terminology. but represents nonetheless a separate path of its own. Yet both the koan and the alchemical work emerge within stylized and traditional contexts. Because the Western alchemists’ place vis-à-vis Christianity was seldom entirely clear. yet in that its adherents claim to realize the gnosis at the heart of Christianity. not entirely ‘pagan. as the “art of Hermes. like the alchemical expression or riddle. Indeed. and also because alchemy is the transmission of mysteries that must be directly experienced. with their plethora of brilliant and resonant images. itself also highly literary: the koan. forces one to wrestle with it alone. peripheral since it is not wholly Christian. on the other transmitted by way of literature. And in fact Western alchemical works are highly literary. as we saw earlier. we cannot help but notice religious references.’ yet not entirely Christian.

Thus it is conventional for the author of an alchemical work to list predecessors to whom he is indebted. Roger Bacon. Nicholas Flamel (fourteenth century). and might include also such figures as Zosimos of Panopolis of the third century C. it is certain that such a historical recitation would do little to unveil our primary theme: how religion and literature coincide at the juncture of consciousness in the Western esoteric traditions. The alchemist’s work consists in the awakening of dormant qualities in the natural world. who draws upon them in order to undertake the alchemical work himself and subsequently to write his own alchemical treatise. or al-Rhazi (ca. Such a list undoubtedly would include Hermes Trismegistus. author of the Rosarium philosophorum (attr. Ramon Lull. either.—latinized as Rhazes). One places oneself in the line of what is. This process of awakening entails a kind of double working. All of these authors did write on alchemy. After all. the embodying of spirit. plant. Yet this golden chain of tradition is not necessarily a directly historical line of initiatory descent—it is a chain of self-affiliation or identification. put another way. be they in the mineral. or animal into its paradisal original true nature. Synesius. the vegetable. even if the alchemical labors to which these writers refer are certainly not literary but take place in a laboratory. it is by no means just a kind of metallurgy or chemistry. For alchemy extends into many realms. we may well say that alchemy consists in the transmutations of the earth or. and the spiritualizing of the body. even if its work resembles these in some respects.56 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E with constant reference to the accumulated prior works in relation to which any given work is seen.. Thus alchemy itself consists in processes that are at once spiritual and physical. and Morienus of the seventh century C. for all its symbolic complexity and mysterious allusiveness.E. partaking at once in the realms too of religion and literature. refers by its own testimony to the transmutation and redemption of the physical world: its work takes place on Earth. Olympiodoros. a tradition transmitted through literature. as has historical placement. in the revelation of paradise. or the animal kingdom.E. Thus. so that their lineage from the alchemical perspective forms an Aurea catena or “golden chain” from antiquity to the present. even if it does not entirely belong to these. that is.. as well as Islamic figures such as Jabir ibn Hayyan of the eighth century (later latinized as Geber). What matters is that the works under the name Geber speak to the later alchemist. although we could here offer a historical survey of alchemy. George Ripley (fifteenth century). at heart. Fire burns up impurities and allows the transmutation of a fallen metal. For how else might a medieval or Renaissance figure come to know Geber or Rhazes? Cultural context has been largely lost. And so Geber joins the line of figures in what is indisputably a literary transmission. and reveal the gnostic center of the tradition. Indeed. and takes place by way of fire. alchemical literature.E. thirteenth century). To list such names as Arnald of Villanova. 825–932 C. .

”29 Thus the alchemical work exists within a classical literary context. and thou knowest all. Here. which Vulcan cast into the sea. Indeed. Maier deliberately brackets his alchemical texts with literary epigrams.HISTORICAL CURRENTS 57 Michael Maier (early seventeenth century). and an abbot of Westminster named Cremer. it is enough. in his preface. and a medicine that includes other dimensions and is centered in the alchemical or spagyric arts of transmutation. For “The Golden Tripod” includes treatises by the Benedictine monk Basilius Valentinus. were.”28 And Maier concludes with this admonition: “Let this suffice thee. physician. composer.” that is. His title. places these works in the context of a seventeenth-century struggle between the followers of “Dogmatic” or “Hermetic medicine. is brought into the house of the man who knows the things that are. But we should recognize the elegant and highly literary nature of Maier’s expression. we find a confluence of major alchemical authors and works that will provide a useful introduction to the tradition. Maier. and are to come. as Valentine scatters abroad in this one book .” In other words. the conflict between merely physical medicine and Hermetic medicine can be resolved through the study of alchemy. preceding Valentinus’s treatise on the “great stone” with the words “Pactolus contains not such great treasures. “The Golden Tripod. But in a work titled “The Golden Tripod” (1618). He bore away the golden fleece from Colchis. consisting in three alchemical treatises arranged and edited by none other than the alchemist. and historically it makes sense that the monasteries were places where writings from antiquity on could be stored. the treatise joins what we may call a mythological field.” derives from the words of the Delphic priestess: “The feud between the Meropes and the Ionians will not cease until the Golden Tripod. Basilius Valentinus and Eirenaeus Philalethes (seventeenth century). bracketed by mythological references. and where some might find the time to pursue the alchemical work. In order to understand the alchemical current of the Western esoteric traditions. nor does gold-bearing Hebrus roll down such precious things in its golden sand. between those who insist on a purely physical medicine consisting in the treatment of symptoms. For he bore away the golden fruit from the Hesperian garden and blessed with them fair Germany’s fields. of course. Thomas Norton. only goes to show the historical line that we are tracing. and author Michael Maier. seek not many utensils for thy labor. We might begin by remarking on the fact that two of the three authors Maier included were Benedictines. . but without value in revealing the actual nature of the alchemical tradition itself. we find such a plethora of both collections of images and written works that it is more than difficult to choose. it is necessary to look more closely at exemplary works. If thou knowest the substance and the method. One finds in the literature numerous references to monks as alchemists. useful in demonstrating some kind of continuity. and gave it to us by mighty toil. . .

while around him are various figures. in the background a dead tree stump. literary passages also includes a series of images called the “twelve keys. as when we are told to “take a quantity of the best and finest gold. Here you see the perfection of our Art. to become impalpable . with Mars imprisoning Mercury under the control of Vulcan.58 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E Yet the treatise itself. while to the king’s right we see a leaping wolf. despite its elliptical means of expression. a king and a queen.33 The eighth of the twelve keys shows a man rising from the grave. that which is visible. experiences a renovation of his whole nature. a vanishing of all unhealthy matter. . and this secret the entire subsequent treatise is meant to reveal. the Sun. is at once literary and practical. and it is clear from what Valentinus himself writes that he devoted himself intensely to “the study of the powers and virtues which God has laid into metals and minerals: and the more I searched the more I found. being bereft of images . and the text tells us how at the end of the world. “a beautiful lady in a long silver robe.” which is of quite a different nature from Valentinus’s. and the commentary tells us of the uses of the stone. The commentary here tells us that “whoever drinks of this golden fountain.”31 This combination of practical instructions and more figurative. the queen a three-flowered plant. all shall be judged by fire and reduced to ashes.” With its spiritual essence. the king bearing a staff. and a man sowing seeds.” pleads the case of her husband.”32 The fourth of the twelve keys shows a skeleton atop a casket or box. and this Mars has done. he cured a sick fellow monk completely. to be invisible. as a result of which ultimately the great secret of alchemy was revealed to him. Shortly thereafter. including two archers shooting at targets. The commentary here discusses putrefaction and resurrection. performing all things whatsoever possible under the sun.”34 The second of Maier’s treatises is Thomas Norton’s “Ordinal of Alchemy. before him a burning barrel. and the other planets holding a colloquy to decide what to do. with a furnace and various kinds of glass and tools. after which there will be formed a new heaven and a new earth. On the title page of this little collection we see an alchemist’s laboratory. learned men of the country gather to decide the meaning of this enigma. over a fire. as well as an angel blowing a horn. Saturn wants to kill Mercury. while the Moon. a half-naked man with a scythe.”30 Eventually he found a mineral substance that “exhibited many colors. and how one who possesses it “shall possess all in all. The twelfth key shows a man with a lion in a laboratory. . and a venerable man with white hair and a flowing purple robe tells them “cause that which is above to be below. on the far left side a single candle. and proved of the greatest efficacy. The practical instructions of the treatise are interwoven with literary passages. and that which is palpable. and separate it into its component parts” “prior to what it was before it became gold.” For these apparently practical instructions become a tale about the planets as characters in a little drama.” The first of the twelve keys shows a couple. and to the queen’s left.

a man named Herbert. are the sufferings of those who aspire to a knowledge of the Art. Here reading can take place on multiple levels at once—there is the prosaic reading of instructions. two of orange arsenic. we are told. so as not to lose legibility over time.” Benedictine abbot of Westminster. tells us to “take three ounces of tartar of good claret. and given Cremer’s explicit instructions. Such. and protected by precisely the same invocation of the Book of Life. and “whoever does not observe this my mandate. and then of how a certain Thomas Dalton. Cremer in this.HISTORICAL CURRENTS 59 and much more inclined to tell stories. Thus we can see that Cremer’s instructions are in fact quite specific and truly are largely devoid of the literary passages found in the previous two tracts. strong and pure. and the secret is not to be given out to anyone except the Abbot and Prior of the monastery. three of rabusenum. of course. This invocation of the Book of Life naturally suggests one of our primary themes in the study of Western esotericism: reading. such instructions also are protected by the fact that society as a whole cares nothing for alchemy or the worldview from which it emerges. his last testament. In recent times. was betrayed to King Edward by an assistant named Delvis who had been sworn to silence. itself an esoteric text made exoteric. who possessed a larger quantity of the Red Powder than any Englishman. and so was let go. and tortured for four years. All are to be mixed in the “bath of Neptune. and that all Norton’s instructions are useless except to the wise in light of direct experience. he was thrown into a dungeon by one of the king’s retinue. Norton tells the story of how he himself was robbed of all he had. we can understand why he should impose such conditions. But also he is invoking the very language of the Book of Revelation. His testament is to be copied every sixty years. and two of willow charcoal. and Cremer’s testament does corroborate it.”36 Here we return to the themes of the Book of Revelation—and despite the more or less prosaic terms of this testament. There is a long tradition of monasteries as sanctuaries for secret knowledge. After admonitions about how we must avoid deceit and self-delusion.”35 And indeed. To publish widely his alchemical testament would be to divulge what should remain the secret of those presumably capable of bearing its power. two of living sulphur. Here we have a “full and accurate account of Alchemy without using any obscure technical terms. of . let his name be blotted out from the Book of Life. as opposed to literary and figurative allusions. Eventually sentenced to death and brought before the executioner. Only after such warning tales are we told in more specifics of the nature of the Art. and prepared in about four days. Even though Dalton had discarded the Red Powder because it had become a source of grief and anxiety. this treatise of Cremer is clearly regarded by him as a revelation of a great and powerful mystery that must not be revealed to the vulgar.” in a well-stoppered glass jar. Dalton said he was happy to die.” and add to it five ounces of petroleum. The briefest and most specific of the three treatises is that entitled the “Treatise of Cremer.

Spagyric medicine. these subtle realms and beings may be encountered in the realm of the imagination. to carry it within.” Just as the sun draws forth the visible and growing forms of plants. the individual human being may participate in the divine imagination that brings forth nature itself. that alchemy takes place in the imagination is not to say that it is imagi- . which exist in subtle matters of their own kind—for instance. poems. not merely from the outside and as other. not all evestra are benefic. air. one branch of alchemy. and the plant grows into its image as best conditions will allow. fire. To say. The cosmos is created through the divine imagination. which perceives and participates in these other subtler dimensions of existence. But in any event. But here ‘imagination’ does not belong to any individual—rather. for they occupy different dimensions within it. And of course. and so it is only natural that humanity also participates in this power. Here the individual mind is not separated from mineral. but also through the power of the imagination. beyond the book of nature is the Book of Life. vegetable. Imagination governs the development of things. one may know the inner nature of anything.’ then. One learns to read the inner significance of the book of nature. Paracelsus tells us. which in turn may awaken the corresponding quality in the human being and thereby effect healing. and animal realms. everything that exists in the physical cosmos has what he calls evestra. epigrams. where we see literature conveying the transmutation of consciousness that manifests in the natural world as well. then. and figurative expressions that so characterize alchemical literature. so one must be cautious in entering into these other dimensions by way of imagination—one is reminded of the proverbial visitor to the faeries who never returned. so too there is an inner world where the imagination may draw forth hidden things from ‘seed’ into flower. or earth—and which may know nothing of the human world even though they exist in the same cosmos. what is an aspiring alchemist to do but contemplate such a work. to enter into it until its images and approach permeate one’s consciousness and become second nature? Such a “second nature. Of course.” consisting in the imaginative landscape. but then there is also another kind of reading that we see in the collections of images. literary allusions. According to Paracelsus. Clearly the imagination plays a role in the processes of alchemy. allows one to see the actual landscape or “first nature” in a different way. just as we might look at an image reflected in a mirror or water.60 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E course. Through these evestra. for the image of what a flower or plant is exists germinally in the seed. We may ‘read. but is joined with them in the imagination. its subtle essence. but inwardly and as mysteriously connected to oneself by way of imagination. not only by looking at words on a page. allegories. water. There are incalculable numbers of evestra. Confronted with such a colloquy. consists in the awakening of subtler dimensions of a given plant. ethereal counterparts. which Paracelsus in De virtute imaginativa called a “sun in the soul of man.

this Mist-Spirit-Water is Salt or Earth . may be interpreted in both ways at once. Many alchemical works are more susceptible to one interpretation than another—hence some. sharpened with the Wine of Wisdom. empowered with the Salt of divine and natural Truth). emphasize their recipe quality. One of the better examples of this particular emphasis in alchemical literature is to be found in a now relatively little-known anonymous work dated 1686 and titled Amor Proximi. like Cremer’s testament. geschärft mit dem Wein der Weisheit. At this juncture we should recognize that alchemical literature can be interpreted along a spectrum ranging from a focus on its spiritual meaning to a focus on its physical interpretation. fire. which mist transforms itself into a water of life in the new birth. moves away from physical alchemy into the realm of spiritual references alone. just as the true maguss leads us to Christ. a distinctly modern image of the cosmos and a term that is in fact repeated in the work. There is no doubt that the work is engaged in justifying a true “theology. the true medicine and theology. a matter of . II Chronicles 13:5. including Romans 1. one finds a new kind of alchemical literature whose primary implications are almost exclusively spiritual. but the new ambience is not so much Hermetic with a tinge of Christianity as it is totally Christian. but that in this particular worldview.HISTORICAL CURRENTS 61 nary. even here physical significances of alchemy are implied. Amor proximi proceeds instead to refer in passing to the knowledge of the “heathens. more real than what we see in the physical. these two poles became further separated. but here are clearly spiritualized. . wine. and so forth.” The true medicine of the body is the pure light of nature. and this is characteristic of the work as whole. as a spirit. like Valentinus’s. But during the late seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries.37 And thus “the true medicine is thus the heart of Wisdom: out of this heart (or eternal spiritual salt) emerges life.” and to a host of Biblical references. Of course. the true medicine of the soul is the pure light of grace. and mist. bekräftiget mit dem Salz der göttlich und natürlichen Wahrheit (Amor Proximi. The prefatory remarks to the work refer to the “heavenly Wisdom” who reveals the “two lights of nature and of grace. The terms used in its title—oil. The mechanistic worldview is all surface. . Genesis 1:27. It is as though here alchemy.”38 It is revealing that the light of nature is said to lead to the “whole Machina mundi” (II. This is the true Ground of Nature . and salt—are not uncommon in physical alchemy. while others. philosophy. . flowing out of the Oil of Divine Compassion. geflossen aus dem Oel der göttlichen Barmherzigkeit. confronted by the emerging materialist science of chemistry. and medicine together” that leads us through Wisdom to God. But rather than proceeding toward specific instructions. indeed. it is entirely real. The term Machina mundi is particularly interesting here because it is so far from describing the worldview of Amor Proximi as to be its polar opposite.74). light air. .

But we could also see this spiritual alchemy as the counterbalancing restoration of alchemy’s gnostic. but the Sun light.83).80). Certainly we do not find in this treatise the kind of alchemical work that we saw in the previous works. inward dimension. and a true Medicus. in whom the Magia is a holy Light or Spirit. and so the author leads us through a discussion of the metacosmic nature and history of humanity. the depths. for here the “illuminated brotherhood” finds written the “holy Scripture” (II.105). Salt. Here we find no interest in historical explanations.93). we are told. And what we are seeking is “a single subject in Nature. and when either one is absent. and it is not surprising that during the rise of secular science we find alchemical treatises that emphasize the inward. the great Universal-Stone wherein the fall and restoration of mankind is clearly to be seen with the eyes” (II. Oil.77). There is a process of spiritual alchemy alluded to in Amor Proximi. the author writes “That the earth is dark. like Hermeticism. which concerns the transmutation of the planetary qualities in an individual. and indeed have spiritual meanings as well within alchemical work. spiritual dimensions of the work. Thus. but here they are transposed to reveal a particular metacosmic vision. and which leads to the individual being a “true Theologus.62 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E measurement and quantity leading to technology. . However. these terms have an alchemical provenance. in whom the philosophy as a holy Salt. just as we find for instance Islamic . In fact. or Water is. or perhaps as its translation into Christian allegory. Fire. and one three . and based in the books of Teutonici philosophi Jacob Böhme (II. a true Astrologus. for instance. Water. Of course it is possible to see the spiritualized alchemy of Amor Proximi as the abandonment of more physical alchemy. easily translates into a dominant religion. that is the mystery wherein all lies. as a kind of counterpoint. And so we find the three One. here instead we are being introduced to the hidden nature. of existence. Yet those who don’t seek God’s knowledge in nature also remain blind. in harmony” (II. here the terminology of alchemy is spiritualized in order to discuss the awakening and rebirth of the individual. but they don’t really understand the spiritual nature of these elements. and is the ground of the revelation of the eternal Godhead” (II. Whoever wishes to understand practically this depth-perception must first have a fundamental knowledge of it. traditional alchemy consists in both inner and outer work at once. The Sophists want to seek the prima materia among the elements. such a degeneration is exactly what we find happening during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Oil. and hence we find a Christian alchemy. .83). Yet alchemy. for it is conceivable that physical alchemy could degenerate into nothing more than chemistry. what is left soon ceases to be alchemy and may be absorbed into the dominant religion or may become chemistry. is a perspective that is all depth. in whom the Cabala with all its sciences as a holy Fire and Blood is. but here. nor whence they emerge (II.

Christian theosophy. 1675). the Engelsbrüder or Angelic Brethren.” the “fall of Lucifer” and the “eternal peace and gentle still joy of the eternal divine kingdom.HISTORICAL CURRENTS 63 alchemy. Within each of these broad sections are individual chapters whose content begins with chemical or alchemical topics and moves through these to theosophic or gnostic themes such as “The urangelical world. and he and his spiritual circle. The Opus Mago-Cabbalisticum is unquestionably a synthesis of many currents already touched upon. including “Chymie” or alchemy. subsisted without any visible means of monetary support. for here we again see the confluence of our principal themes in Western esotericism. of the second.39 There are also the many references to alchemy that we find in Johann Georg Gichtel’s Theosophia Practica (letters from 1668–1710). on sulfur. astrological. we find numerous direct references to alchemy in Gichtel’s own letters. and John Pordage’s Epistle on the Philosophic Stone (ca. and of the third. which in turn is incorporated into the full breadth of theosophic discipline. the Western alchemical current flows into Böhmean Christian theosophy. is that Gichtel himself possessed the keys to the full range of alchemy. from spiritual to physical. But to see the way alchemy was incorporated into theosophy. but whose spiritual implications are always foremost. astrology. Indeed. and Kabbalistic themes. Kabbalah. beginning with the organization of the first section. Gichtel was reputed at the time to have been a practicing alchemist since his light was often on long into the night. Pordage’s work. Hence the fundamental organization of the Opus is alchemical. it may be useful to concentrate on another work. What makes this work most remarkable is the unity of this synthesis: it is clear that von Welling had in mind an all-encompassing worldview emerging from a deep union of these traditions. which produces mysticoalchemical works such as Amor Proximi. and whose ending is almost identical to the conclusion of Amor Proximi. But such rumors aside. and in the end must conclude that in this theosophic worldview.”40 There can be little doubt that von Welling was drawing on a wealth of specific knowledge of alchemical. albeit scorned when the art is claimed by frauds and puffers. Opus Mago-cabbalisticum et theosophicum by Georg von Welling (1735). on mercury. whom Gichtel claimed to be able to spot immediately. of course. practical alchemy is seen as a subset of spiritual alchemy. is among the clearest works on spiritual alchemy that we have encountered. as well as Theo-Philosophia Theoretico-practica by Samuel Richter (1711). the Opus Mago-Cabbalisticum et Theosophicum (1735) of Georg von Welling. a letter to a lady who had discovered the prima materia and had asked him for further guidance. not merely a pastiche. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. detailing an alchemical process of awakening and transmutation that could be read simultaneously as physical and as spiritual alchemy. This is not . and gnostic metaphysics. on salt. Here practical alchemy is taken for granted as a real possibility. The implication.

Here. and instructions. Beside these is a heptangle around which are arrayed the seven planetary symbols. Arrayed next to these names are their Hebrew equivalents. one needs to “reduce it in an alcohol.” “Thronen. including D. His discussions of alchemy and astrology are very detailed and full of specific tables. and analyses clearly meant to produce not only a theoretical synthesis but a useful compendium of source material. with a plethora of astrological symbols. and beneath which is a series of concentric circles labeled “Seraphim. he elided many details. diagrams. next to which is the Kabbalistic term ’en sof. prepare it in a series of alchemical operations in a pair of vials. and Kabbalistic references in a theosophic framework. a term of Jacob Böhme’s for the abyss prior to creation. Die Bereitung des Steins [Celestial Manna: the Heavenly Manna Named.64 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E to say that all of his sources were entirely accurate—for instance. . Indeed. the basic Dionysian angelical hierarchy. x (the Moon) and out of P (Saturn). The Preparation of the Stone]” as well as “Non plus ultra Veritatis: das ist. diagrams. But it is with alchemy that von Welling’s work both begins and ends. to properly prepare mercury. von dem Universali und den Particularibus [Alchemical Questions on the Universali and the Particularibus]” (1726). he begins each of his large sections with specific discussions of alchemical salt. sulfur. or mercury. one should not think that because von Welling aimed at such breadth as a pansophic esotericism requires. and in this regard he succeeded. Christian scripture. and “Manna Coeleste. but might well also be called pansophic. das himmlische Manna genannt. Eine Untersuchung der Hermetischen Wissenschaft [Nothing More True: That is: An Investigation into Hermetic Science]” by Francisco Sebastiano Fulvo Melvolodemet.” and so forth. meaning the transcendent Godhead. charts. in other words. . and calcify it by hand.”41 Von Welling’s astrological instructions are equally detailed.” “Cherubim. and into these he weaves discussions using planetary and alchemical symbols. . he appends to his five-hundred-page Opus several alchemical treatises in their entirety. . Hensing’s “Discurs von dem Stein der Weisen [Discourse on the Stone of the Wise]” (1722). At the same time. of Pisa. Thus he writes regarding the nature and use of earthly mercury that the “I (Mercury) out of L (the Sun) is of a wholly different nature than that out of . Typical of von Welling’s syncresis is an illustration showing at the top the Ungrund. then in a Liquorem . For instance. some of his Hebrew seems rather distorted—but he had in mind producing a vast compendium of esoteric knowledge unified within a theosophic understanding.” Further. we see compressed into a single illustration a whole array of esoteric influences to form a seamless synthesis whose surrounding perspective (visible in the use of Böhme’s term Ungrund to frame the entire illustration) is theosophic. The collection concludes with a translation into German of English alchemist George Ripley’s song of the newborn alchemical . “Alchimische Fragen. tables.

but even more in the perfection of humanity. requiring long familiarity with special symbols.” for it consists not only in the creation of a particular form. the stars and planets—is revealed as a cosmic language and as a spiritual means of transmutation. letters. vegetable. which consists in the transmutation and restoration of all things. as well as with what these represent. Alchemy. of course. however far-reaching. In some respects. and that we will shortly examine further. Here. for example. as we have come to see it since the seventeenth century. for its focus is not only in the mesocosm of the work. broadly seen. but in a transmutation both of the focus of the work and of the artist. but subtle and spiritual qualities as well. recipes. of course. consisting not only in the perfection of elixirs or medicines drawn from herbs and metals. when we look more closely at alchemical literature itself. Such perfecting takes place in the alchemist’s laboratory. fits into our general discussion of Western esotericism and literature. alchemy extends this literary mysticism into the entire cosmos itself. or grammars. but also in the microcosm of the artist. air. and the Hermeticism with which it is allied are religious chameleons. All of this underscores how alchemy and Hermeticism pervaded the pansophic esotericism that came to dominate the early modern period. fire. alchemy is like learning to use a language. the alchemical work transcends that of the artist. is a relatively modern phenomenon. Thus we may well say that. capable of taking on whatever coloration fits with their surroundings. Here it is perhaps most useful to step back and consider how alchemy. If Kabbalah entails a literary mysticism in which letters and numbers reveal secret spiritual depths. In this sense. and to ‘write. but only with the guidance of the alchemical handbooks. To effect the alchemical work requires that the artist enter into more transcendent states of consciousness—the work is in this respect a mirror of changes within the alchemist. One must learn both to ‘read. and images.42 Both entail emulating or paralleling the creativity of life itself. alchemy goes well beyond contemporary conceptions of art. we find that such aims are in fact vast indeed.HISTORICAL CURRENTS 65 king. Alchemy. While it is true that alchemical aims may at first seem circumscribed to the revelation of the philosopher’s stone. It is no coincidence that the alchemical work is also called the “great Art. and in which writing can form a pathway to the divine. particularly in the profusion of brilliant images . and this almost infinite adaptability undoubtedly derives from the universalism of their central perspective.’ in the broadest possible sense. so that everything—mineral. contemporary art and literature remain quite limited in scope by comparison to alchemy as spiritual illumination. we can easily see. animal.’ There is. both seek to perfect this creativity. including not only chemicals and equipment. water. a natural homology between alchemy and art. like a painting. for its claims are to a lasting awakening and transmutation of the alchemist.

between subject and object. Rather. and the divine that it is alchemy’s goal to restore. and also a successor’s primary guide to achieving transcendence. However. The ‘solution. no doubt of that. In alchemy. For in alchemy literature is a means of transmitting precise knowledge of nature. as in Christian mysticism and in Jewish Kabbalism. and the divine in ever more profound ways. except that an alchemical work is not simply decoded as if. were one to decipher what x and y mean. and the restoration of the right . literature takes on a greater significance than simply alluding to an oral tradition where the real mysteries are conveyed. For not only is the division between self and other or between subject and object gradually revealed to be false in alchemy. and that presupposes and requires humility before power greater than oneself. It is true that more recently theorists. humanity. who then are listed by later mystics—so too in alchemy earlier alchemists are invoked by the later ones in a litany of literary transmission. and cannot be understood without reference to our inner human landscape of consciousness. like Jung. like those of science. Indeed. between the observer and that which is observed. Just as in Christian mysticism one finds that lines of influence are chiefly and perhaps sometimes exclusively literary— inspiration leaps from Dionysius to John Scotus Erigena to Eckhart and Tauler. literature. religion. In Christian terms. This unity is founded in the fundamental union of humanity. one would have the solution. I would use the word decoding.66 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E and the complex kinds of linguistic riddles visible in alchemical works. the mysteries are conveyed primarily through literary riddles and parabolic expressions. nature. have begun to argue the insufficiency and even the falsehood of such easy divisions. This is by no means to suggest. Here in alchemy. largely have been based in a fundamental division between the writer and the reader. extends into a range of realms at once. humanity. both of physics and of literary criticism. alchemy consists in coming to understand the nature of consciousness and the consciousness of nature. But in alchemical works. and science are one.’ in the case of alchemy. But virtually no one has looked at alchemy as a field where all such apparent divisions are overcome. alchemy is understood through living symbols that allow us to understand nature. For there is here an operative mysticism of the word—the written word and image become a medium to express transcendence. this is expressed in terms of the Fall and expulsion from Eden. Contemporary views of literature. the approaches to transcendence and the depictions of these approaches within alchemical literature nonetheless reflect quite clearly what we have already seen to be the dominant paradigm of western esotericism in antiquity. Oral commentary by a master is important. albeit knowledge that is not quantitative but qualitative. that alchemy is chiefly psychological. and the divine. in the manner of a mathematical equation. so too is the apparent (but strictly modern) division between the sciences and the humanities.

nineteenth. the essential purpose of the resonant alchemical symbolism. In the study of Western esotericism. R O S I C R U C I A N . against ourselves.HISTORICAL CURRENTS 67 human relationship to nature and to the divine corresponds to a restoration of paradise. it is perhaps more useful to keep in mind their social and historical contexts. even if its fundamental outlines or concerns remain the same. Literature here is a means toward awakening greater consciousness. esotericism necessarily became even more eclectic in scope. THE DIVINE SCIENCE: T H E O S O P H I C . Such a restoration takes us beyond the separated consciousnesses in which we now find ourselves. one must keep in mind its essential fluidity: alchemy during the early modern period did not exist alone. PA N S O P H I C . but also fed into other major currents of Western esotericism. But alchemy did not disappear thereafter. And it is to these that we will now turn our attention. it has not only continued to exist to the present day. Indeed. We should also keep in mind the growing split. and against the divine. pansophy. it became possible to conceive of a universal approach to knowledge that included the whole of the human inheritance. divided against the world. A N D M A S O N I C L I T E R AT U R E Although Western esoteric traditions may be studied in isolation. esoteric universalism became more and more commonplace. Literature forms a means toward this gradual process because it is in literature that we can come to identify with and understand in more profound ways all that surrounds us. Rosicrucianism. So it is with alchemy. toward the revelation of the fundamental consciousness informing all that lives. in particular Christian theosophy. when its literature and imagery attained its most brilliant formation. between the sciences and the . and brings us gradually by way of a spiritual process that includes physical and transphysical work. Western esotericism is not easily fixed or quantified but changes according to its historical context. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Whereas in the medieval period and earlier. with the invention of the printing press and with concomitant investigation into the numerous esoteric currents of antiquity. precisely what we find at the end of numerous alchemical treatises. and twentieth centuries. in the modern era. and Freemasonry. especially during the eighteenth. but in relation to a host of other currents. We have already seen how alchemy emerged during the early modern period. written works were comparatively difficult to obtain. This universalism is the dream that was to haunt virtually the entirety of modern Western esotericism. As we have seen. The major currents of modern Western esotericism developed in the context of burgeoning knowledge about the past.

For the Western esoteric traditions that emerged during this period. medicine and astrology. and the historical and comparative investigations into Christian origins. from the eighteenth to the twentieth century. and in general correspond to the description of “Renaissance man. However. or Aurora. physical chemistry from metaphysics.” One thinks of figures as diverse as Robert Fludd. say. with each of the disciplines ever more separated from the others. But here we do not have space for a complete survey of all such figures. including. archaeology. and Franz von Baader. wrote literary works. Whereas in medieval Europe and England. at least in the secular world. as well as De Signatura . much more indebted to the medieval era than is usually supposed. Rather. the emergence of biology. we will instead look closely at some seminal authors in the modern esoteric traditions and by so doing. the historical movement of Western esotericism during the modern period is to unify the entire range of human knowledge. aimed for a universal approach to knowledge that. the discovery of more complex technology. in the sciences. Indeed.68 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E humanities. chemistry. the fields of alchemy. near Poland. all acted to separate religious faith from scientific investigation and from literature and the arts. and drawing from his visionary experiences. and geology. in a border area where he came in contact with a range of esoteric traditions. he wrote numerous works beginning with Die Morgenröte. the “illuminated shoemaker” of Görlitz. But Western esotericism. and including a vast commentary on Genesis called Mysterium Magnum. we find a historical movement toward more and more specialized and fragmented knowledge. Any study of modern Western esoteric traditions must consider the work of Jacob Böhme (1575–1624). and in religion. instead seeks ever more firmly to conjoin them. It is true that. to name only a few of the most luminary. trace the broader lineaments of recent Western esotericism. practiced medicine and astrology. comparative and syncretic. including Kabbalism and Hermeticism. a city on the eastern side of Germany. this sense of unity dissolved. as we have already glimpsed in the case of alchemy. illustration and literature. and the sciences and humanities in turn ever more separated from religion. and whose center is spiritual knowledge—with the advent of the Protestant era. our approach being thematic. in Western esotericism we find. John Pordage. But his inspiration came chiefly from within. The Copernican revolution. nor is that our aim. Böhme lived during a time of social unrest. nonsectarian and ecumenical approaches to spirituality. rather than seeking to separate. in the arts. Thus during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries we find numerous major esoteric figures who engaged in scientific investigations. all human knowledge was conceived of as unified—like a wheel whose spokes are the various disciplines and arts. explored theology and metaphysics. continued and developed this belief in a unified approach to knowledge. quite the opposite movement. particularly during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.



Rerum (The Signature of All Things), Christosophia, and numerous letters and shorter works. Even these titles reveal the connections between Böhme and the earlier traditions we have discussed: Mysterium Magnum, with its elaborate exegesis of Genesis, is certainly indebted to the Kabbalistic tradition; The Signature of All Things is an extended discussion of, among many topics, the Hermetic doctrine of signatures developed by Paracelsus; and Christosophia, often translated as The Way to Christ, entails a chivalric ethic of fidelity to the feminine figure of Wisdom, the Virgin Sophia. What is more, there unquestionably are profound parallels between Böhme’s writings and ancient Gnosticism, parallels that became even clearer in later theosophic figures like the English Philadelphians.43 Thus we can see how Böhmean theosophy reveals the syncretism so characteristic of modern esotericism more generally; here numerous traditions meet and are fused into a profound new union that was to have enormous influence on the subsequent history of Western esotericism. Böhme’s work, according to his own testimony, derived chiefly from his own personal experience, but there is evidence that he had extensive contacts with Hermetic and Kabbalistic circles of his day, including lengthy discussions with Abraham von Frankenberg, himself an author on Kabbalistic subjects. That Böhme’s writing emerged from his own visionary perceptions and inspiration is unquestionable, for he wrote with authority and certainty about a vast range of cosmological and metaphysical principles. What is more, he developed a particular language, drawing upon Hermetic, alchemical, and Kabbalistic sources, to express this inspiration, a special terminology with both Latinate and Germanic roots. But Böhme drew from prior traditions as well, and his work may be described as unique or as a brilliant synthesis, for both are true. Although Böhme’s terminology and mode of expression are often difficult, the basic elements of his thought are not. It is true that Böhme presents a complex cosmology, with his exposition of the Ungrund, or abyss, that precedes existence and that corresponds in Kabbalism to the ’en sof, and in Christian mysticism to Eckhart’s Godhead; with his exposition of the seven source-spirits; and with his unfamiliar terms like limbus, lubet, and schrack, describing hidden principles or aspects of the creative process. Yet Böhme has been popular for centuries—from Germany to Russia and America—among those drawn to direct spiritual experience, and this popularity derives from the fact that while his doctrines are almost inexhaustible, the fundamental nature of Böhme’s teaching is clear and simple. Here I will compress a great deal in the hope of sketching the outlines of Böhme’s thought. Böhme held that before the cosmos came into being, there was the Ungrund, or transcendent abyssal origin. From this emerged two realms, the dark-world of wrath and the paradisal light-world, and after a series of primal catastrophes, a “third principle,” physical nature. Human beings



can participate in all three of these principles; some people belong to the wrathworld of fury and destructiveness, some to the paradisal light-world, but mostly we find ourselves mediating among all of these. Our purpose as human beings, simply put, is to transmute the wrath-quality in ourselves into paradisal light and love. This process of transmutation, a kind of spiritual alchemy, is true religion; without it, religion is merely outward “Babel,” the appearance without the reality. Böhme’s approach to language is of particular interest to us, for, quite in line with the numerous currents of the Western esoteric traditions that preceded him, Böhme created a complex linguistic mysticism. In Aurora, Böhme’s first book, he introduced this mysticism of the word, writing that “The whole power of the Father speaks, out of all the qualities, the Word, i.e., the Son of God. The same word, or the same sound, spoken by the Father, issues out of the Salniter, or the powers of the Father, and out of the Father’s Mercurius, or sound . . . for the outspoken Word remains as a glory or majestic command before the king, but the sound, issuing through the word, executes the command of the Father which he has spoken through the word, and in this is the birth of the Holy Trinity. The same takes place in an angel or in a man” (vi.2). Böhme’s language here is resonant with alchemical and Jewish allusions, but these allusions appear in a clearly Christian context, and although they refer to the Word in the Trinity, they also refer to the word in humanity. Böhme extends this linguistic mysticism to every living thing. In his giant commentary on Genesis, Mysterium Magnum, he writes that “every creature has its own center for its outspeaking, or the sound of the formed word within itself, both eternal and temporal beings: the unreasoning ones as well as man; for the first Ens has been spoken out of the sound of God, by Wisdom, out of her center into the fire and light, and has been formed into the fiat, and entered into compaction. The Ens is out of the eternal, but the compaction is out of the temporal, and therefore in everything there is something eternal hidden in time” (xxii.2). Here Böhme elaborates on the metaphysics of what he also discusses in De Signatura Rerum, the esoteric view older than Pythagoras that everything in creation emerges out of its resonating linguistic, sonic, energetic origin as an emanation or manifestation of an archetype. What is more, there is a teleological significance to this doctrine. For if all beings preëxist their material manifestation in the archetypal realm of the word, after manifestation each manifested thing will return to its transcendent origin, that belonging to love returning to love and that belonging to wrath returning to wrath. Böhme writes: “In that quality in which each word in the human voice in the act of outspeaking forms and manifests itself, either in the love of God, as in the Holy Ens, or in the wrath of God; in the same quality will it be taken up again therein after it has been spoken out. The false word becomes infected by the devil, and sealed up for its [future] detriment, and is received within the



Mysterium of the wrath, in the quality of the dark-world. Each thing returns with its Ens to where it has originated” (xxii.6). This is not predestination, exactly, but rather the sifting of the chaff from the wheat at time’s end. We can see here how language is intimately tied up with the metaphysics of love and wrath. In the fallen world, wrathfulness is the principle of separation and objectification as well as of anger, and so the language of extreme ratiocination also belongs to the wrath. Reason has its place, but when it becomes separated from love, it becomes objectifying and destructive and a functionary of wrath, while language divorced from its transcendent origin becomes Babel or babble. Yet all of this refers to the fallen world, the sphere of discord, chaos, confusion. The means of order’s restoration is the Word, the restoration of light and love in one’s life. But such a restoration takes place through a process of awakening or illumination that is a process of transmuting wrath into love, darkness into light. This process is also that of restoring language from its fallen state (as a means of objectification) into its primordial state of union. This process is the awakening of the true Word in us. Böhme writes that “our whole religion consists in learning how to go out of dissension and vanity and to reënter the one Tree, whence we have come in Adam, and which is Christ in us” (Regener, viii.2). Thus, “he who fully enters into this state of divine rest in Christ arrives through Him at the perception of divinity. He then sees God in himself and everywhere; he speaks with God and God speaks with him, and he understands what is the Word, Essence, and Will of God. Such a one, and no other, is capable of teaching the Word of God himself: for God is one with him, and he wills nothing but what God wills through him” (Mysterium Magnum, xlii.63). The Word of God here has special and profound meaning; it refers to the essence of deity, the transcendent origin of existence. And by realizing this Word, one restores all subordinate language as well as nature itself (whose creatures each also incarnate divine signatures or words) to their primordial unitive or paradisal state. From all of this we can see that the fundamental impetus of Böhme’s work is integrative, not on a cultural so much as on an individual, primal level. Böhme calls the individual toward reintegration or union, and it is the individual nature of this call that has subsequently attracted so many people, in such diverse social situations, toward theosophy. But at the same time, we can easily see how this same integrative impulse aimed at individual transformation could as well be applied on a wider cultural scale, as for instance as the foundation of an effort to reunify the sciences and the humanities with religion. And in fact, such an effort is precisely what we find happening over the century following Böhme’s life, in the movement called Rosicrucianism. It may be, as some scholars have speculated, that Böhme was himself familiar with the same movement which, ten years before Böhme’s death, began to emerge under the name Rosicrucian, with the publication of the

translates the “book M. Hermeticism. and why he is called Microcosmos. and later. even if at times such orders did exist. For from the very beginning of the Fama.44 For when we look at the actual wording of the Fama and the Confessio. like us. “or a perfect method of all arts. according to the Fama. whereas there is another more mysterious book that is the source of wisdom. if not universalism. Böhme’s writing and thought both paralleled and influenced that of the Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross. they could collect Librum Naturae. But in any event. we find ample confirmation of all the primary elements of Western esotericism thus far traced. and among Sufis and Kabbalists. R. who travels among the Arabians and the Jews on a quest to Jerusalem. we are told at the outset that were the learned wise. The Rosicrucians’ goal. like its complement the Confessio. But there are many other elements here that correspond exactly to our primary themes. a visionary trip to the Orient of the spirit.72 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E Fama Fraternitatis (1614) and the Confessio Fraternitatis (1615). “so that finally man might thereby understand his own nobility and worth. To see the journey as a visionary recital also helps elucidate its most salient feature: the book. travels to the Fez and to the Damascus of the mind.” into good Latin from Arabic. and how far his knowledge extendeth into Nature. returns eventually to Germany. of Christian theosophy as well. R. for it captured the imagination of the age with its tale of Christian Rosencreutz and his mysterious journeys through exotic lands and secret knowledge. R. and who goes as well to Egypt—precisely where European esotericism has always located its sources of arcane knowledge. but at the same time it links the Rosicrucian movement from the very beginning with the most gnostic aspects of Islam and Judaism. The Fama begins by telling the story of C. Indeed. generally speaking.” C. Not coincidentally. C. both the Fama and the Confessio reveal the fundamental themes we have seen woven through the Western esoteric traditions. caused a great stir in Europe.” however. And of course this brief work... underscoring immediately the movement’s eclecticism.”45 This universal renewal and extension of knowledge is. R. the gnostic goal of Kabbalism. and later we are told that Paracelsus had also “diligently read over the book M: whereby his sharp ingenium was exalted. and this is the “book M. This journey may also be seen as a kind of visionary recital. as well as with its assertion of a secret order as keeper of profound and powerful knowledge and means. are to be collected by the wise. the book is a central image and source of wisdom. he begins a secret fraternity with only four members including him- . which first came to general public attention with the publication of the Fama Fraternitatis. Certainly we can agree with Frances Yates’s assessment that Rosicrucian may more wisely be seen historically as describing a particular kind of approach to arcane knowledge than as a specific organized order. was to follow Christ by renewing all arts to perfection. in the Orient.”46 When C.” These “Books of Nature.

”50 Thus the essence of Rosicrucianism is the universal philosophy informing all arts and sciences. sciences. of eclecticism or universalism. and pay no mind to the Pope or Muhammed. and with mention of one hundred fortyfour thousand saved from the wicked world at time’s end? These themes. . full of geometric symbolism. he was placed in his tomb with a parchment book. For when Christian Rosencreutz died.”47 These early members of the Rose Cross order then collected of their own writings “a book of all that which man can desire. wish. is. every one with their several figures and sentences. by four persons only. and by them was made the magical language and writing. forms “sentences” and a kind of book of the hidden principles of nature and of the microcosm. and withal by reading understand and remember. than that which is the head and sum. The Confessio begins by telling us that its authors cannot be suspected of any heresy. The description is often hard to follow.” the Fama continues. and shall be learned and found out of them?”51 .”48 But the import is clear: the tomb’s architecture itself.”49 How could this mysterious building be invisible and untouched unless the building. as they are truly shown and set forth Concentratum here in our book. a century old. that you could so read in one only book. . belongs to the mind and imagination. Interestingly. but follow only Christ. and arts. are now. shall find more wonderful secrets by us than heretofore they did attain unto . Among other questions. “After this manner. or hope for. as well as a host of mysterious letters and Latin inscriptions. the foundations and contents of all faculties. and we find this definition of the Rosicrucian philosophy: “No other Philosophy have we.HISTORICAL CURRENTS 73 self. like the book. Certainly reading and writing are central to the Rosicrucian mysteries. so that no one might later be deceived. undestroyed. . .” There is more. all that which in all other books (which heretofore have been. itself a work with intricate geometric symbolism. “began the Fraternity of the Rose Cross. of the uniting of all arts and sciences. they also made the first part of the book M. the Confessio asks: “Were it not a precious thing. it is to read the universal book. Yet once again. and of reading the mysterious book of books. we find references to far-flung places and hidden wisdom. called I. and hidden to the wicked world. and all are sworn to write down all that they learn. as when we are told that every “side or wall is parted into ten figures. . whereof all learned who make themselves known to us. with a large dictionary . not the body? And does not the “one hundred thousand” resonate with the Book of Revelation. and shall be) hath been. And there is in the tomb’s description a great deal of arcane geometry and architecture. recur as well in the Confessio. . first. the which (if we well behold our age) containeth much of Theology and medicine . or are able to believe or utter. and come into our brotherhood. the Fama concludes by asserting that “our building (although one hundred thousand people had very near seen and beheld the same) shall for ever remain untouched.

of course.”55 The implication is that here. in the which withall is expressed and declared the nature of all things. for instance. yea. with the date 1604. Clearly for our purposes the most relevant aspect of these most seminal Rosicrucian documents is their embrace of linguistic mysticism. who as we have seen drew upon Kabbalistic sources. . and endue them with learning .”52 “These characters and letters. into all beasts . a new era for mankind. Agrippa and Trithemius are well known for their primary and influential works on magic. From which characters or letters we have borrowed our magic writing. in which we find the sources of many subsequent works illustrated by . that he shall sooner lose his life in seeking and searching for us than to find us and attain the wished happiness of the Fraternity of the Rosy Cross. we are told that to some it is permitted that they see and use “those great letters and characters which the Lord God hath written and imprinted in heaven and earth’s edifice.54 It is no coincidence that Böhme titled his first book Aurora. the universal revelation of Christ to humanity. One can hardly miss the Biblical resonances of these final words of the Confessio: “Although we might enrich the whole world. is hidden the real essence of Christianity itself. All of this. including the hierohistorical view of dates and the expectation of an impending apocalypse or unveiling. . a new language for ourselves. These aspects of Rosicrucianism. an era that recalls the earlier hierohistorical mysticism of Joachim of Fiore and his complex theory of a coming “age of the Holy Spirit. a very long history in the West. the Bible. and that one must approach it with humility or find nothing. in the Rosicrucian mysteries. with all of its emphasis on hierogeometry. without and against the will of God. for instance. . and held that there was emerging a new revelation. But this new revelation must be approached with humility. it shall be so far from him who thinks to get the benefit and be partaker of our riches and knowledge. correspond closely to what we also find in Christian theosophy at roughly the same time. and made. Throughout they emphasize reading the divine books of humanity and nature. . so hath he imprinted them most apparently into the wonderful creation of heaven and earth.” Such an idea of a magic language has. . and quite probably to Egypt. and writing in a “magic language. of course. It certainly emerges in the Middle Ages in the works of Agrippa and Trithemius. or worse than nothing. as God hath here and there incorporated them in the Holy Scriptures. and above all. and grave warnings are given to those who approach its mysteries selfishly. yet shall we never be manifested .”53 The implication throughout the Fama and the Confessio is that there is dawning a miranda sexta aetatis. yea. or sixth age. and have found out.74 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E Likewise. stretching back at least to the Gnostics. reminds us rather strikingly of the Book of Revelation.” The authors of the Fama and the Confessio certainly believed in the hierohistorical significance of certain dates and astrological conjunctions connected. . metahistorical events at the end of time. unto any man without the special pleasure of God.

’s tomb. precisely the time of political upheaval in Germany and the advent of the Thirty Years’ War. who. and it too has been used in magical workings. One also finds such a magical language in the work of Dr. as well as in subsequent literature. 1604.” one of the most famous instances of which Dee is responsible for? We might also remark on the history of Rosicrucianism after the publication of the Fama. on a pansophic mysticism. But it is worthwhile to note that the Rosicrucian furor lasted only a few short years. in his controversial “conversations with spirits” along with Edward Kelley. we have no reason to delve into the question of whether there existed any such secret orders. it is a culture founded on Kabbalah and alchemy. Here we must introduce the word pansophy. The emergence of these three works— and their implication that there existed in Europe a secret high order of adepts who possessed the keys to the hidden language of the cosmos—naturally caused a sensation. is the date of Dee’s death? And is it only coincidence that the Fama and Confessio make so much of a “magical language. Here. or why. One finds this word appearing frequently in Hermetic publications immediately following . discovered the “Enochian language.” which has subsequently played an extensive role in the history of magic in the West. The Rosicrucian dream. disappearing around 1620. By 1623. By using these stellar and numerical patterns in ritual magic. Here. particularly in France. and playfully symbolic Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosencreutz. that is. the Confessio. a work so incredibly full of dense oneiric symbolism that next to it other literary works generally seem comparatively devoid of symbols. even a kind of nascent Rosicrucian witch-hunt. it should be publicly proclaimed in this way. written in the microcosm and in the macrocosm. and the outrageously baroque. John Dee (1527–1604). which we see outlined in the Fama and Confessio. stellar and numerical patterns connected to specific angels. as Frances Yates notes. there was a great deal of anti-Rosicrucian sentiment. one is calling upon the language of the stars in order to invoke the powers or intelligences with which they are connected. And all of this was tied in with the emerging rationalist and materialist paradigm of the so-called Enlightenment—which was precisely opposed to the Rosicrucian Enlightenment. or intelligences. The Enochian language is a mysterious tongue that requires tables or “keys” for its deciphering. universal culture dedicated to the investigation of the language of nature. as well as a developing mythology of Rosicrucianism. Dee’s Enochian language is important because no less an authority than Frances Yates concluded that the single most important figure in the appearance of early Rosicrucianism is in fact John Dee. was of a non-sectarian.56 Is it only coincidence that the date given as the discovery of C. R.HISTORICAL CURRENTS 75 sigils and magic squares. or pansophia. if there was such a fraternity as claimed in the Fama and Confessio. brilliant. peaceful. and the subsequent furor manifested itself in a host of other Rosicrucian works. demons.

or a Brief Introduction to the Ancient Wisdom. pansophy resembles the aims and works of Giordano Bruno. there is a long tradition of Kabbalism as . and technologism. but like Dee. and inquiry into nature more generally. Paracelsus. derived from alchemy. which is specifically Christian gnosis. but one also finds the emergence of various other shades of magic. Stellatus cites Hermes Trismegistus (of course!). various forms of magic. cabala. mechanism. herbalism. central to the subsequent emergence of modern forms of esotericism. and Michael Maier. often with Kabbalistic influence. in its aims and in the sources upon which it draws. The pansophic view. but one might well see chemistry as a dimunition of alchemy—for alchemy requires humility and selflessness. but the pansophic impulse nonetheless has continued to govern Western esotericism up to the present day. Ruechlin.p. The latter are all based in an objectivization of the cosmos or of humanity as objects of study. The most obviously included is natural magic. whereas purely chemical experimentation requires nothing of oneself except to be a firmly rationalist observer. in contrast to theosophy. although the Kabbalists we discussed earlier were almost exclusively interested in what we may call high mysticism. The word Pansophia here separates this new form of esotericism from Theosophia. magical. it emphasizes magic. The pansophic current includes all the primary streams of esotericism. but what the word signifies certainly does not disappear.76 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E the Rosicrucian announcements. In many respects. is universal. Pansophy as a movement corresponds exactly to this kind of self-placement and synthesis: it is the emergence of a universalist Western esotericism willing to draw on all previous esoteric movements. that quixotic character still insufficiently studied. or magia naturalis. for instance. certainly was temporarily vanquished by rationalist materialism. The emergence of a pansophic approach to esotericism seems very much a counterbalance to the emergent extreme rationalism and materialism that also gave birth to scientism. and gnostic. Pansophy. not specifically Christian. of course. Christian or not. hence on our separation from and manipulation of them. We might recall that. cabalistic. It is true that chemistry. The word pansophy itself largely disappears from the European vocabulary after the eighteenth century. as in for instance Joseph Stellatus’s Pegasus Firmamenti sive Introductio brevis in veterum sapientiam [Pegasus of the Firmament. 1618)]. alchemy. and thus places himself squarely in the mainstream of the primary Western esoteric currents. alchemical.. and draws eclecticly on much earlier ‘pagan’ traditions like those attributed to Egypt and Persia. including. healing. universal culture like that imaged in Bacon’s New Atlantis or other utopias of the time. Once Taught in the Magia of the Egyptians and Persians and Now Rightly Called the Pansophia of the Venerable Society of the Rosy Cross (n. an esoteric universalism that includes alchemy. in order to form the basis for a new.

This compilation is of special importance for us because it reveals the far-flung syncretic origins of the pansophic impulse. There are numerous such manuscripts with various versions of these ilustrations. It is an astonishingly complex illustration. of vast and intricate tables. including a French edition titled F. Here we have a massive compendium of magical knowledge. and illustrations revealing the hidden nature of the universe. the pansophic impulse is fundamentally similar to the scientific: it consists in investigation into the mysteries of the unknown and of nature.A. nee non Magia. One sees this desire to map the cosmos in the emergence. diagrams.HISTORICAL CURRENTS 77 the basis for magical practices including sorcery. chiefly under the title Physica. D. But Chemistry]. Of course because of the ascent of rationalist materialism and secularism. One also can see in such willingness to incorporate any form of knowledge whatever. was published at Altona in 1785–1788. And in fact most grimoires have a Hebrew basis for the angelic and demonic names and characteristics that they list for invocation or evocation. The Faustian legend is so resonant still because it expresses something fundamental about the emerging modern period. and a series of . In some respects. even if it is illicit. including sorcery. the pansophic impetus behind the legend of Johannes Faust. at the other pole research into the previously forbidden also becomes more common. as a somewhat medieval figure. was the Calendarium Naturale Magicum Perpetuum Profundissimam Rerum Secretissimarum Contemplationem [Perpetual Natural Magical Calendar] of Tycho Brahe.58 Characteristic of these esoteric illustrations is one entitled Figura Divina Theosoph. Philosophia. et Hyperphysica. which later emerged in almost endless detail in the Geheime Figuren [Secret Figures] of the Rosicrucians.M. Metaphysica. and much else..O. printed by Theodore de Bry in 1582. Cabballa: Not Only Magic and Philosophy. who refused to allow any boundaries to his search for knowledge. Once Protestantism and secularism began to emerge in Europe. is peculiarly modern and in some respects characteristically pansophic. planetary correspondences. one finds a range of possibilities opening up. we tend to think of Faust. who makes a pact with Mephistopheles in order to gain knowledge. magic squares. a series of extraordinarily complex illustrations. and if at one pole rationalist disbelief in the transcendent becomes acceptable. It was probably preceded by and certainly followed by other versions. Cabball. de La Rose-Croix. almost all. Yet the Faustian impulse to search out all knowledge and means of knowledge. with concentric circles marking divinity at the top. and perhaps all belonging to the late eighteenth century.57 and in all cases is replete with examples of the effort to map universal knowledge not only physical but also metaphysical. in later Rosicrucianism. Among the first of these. The Geheime Figuren der Rosenkreuzer. including the names and seals or sigils of angels in Hebrew and Latin. predating the Rosicrucian furor but certainly influencing its later productions. atque Chymia [Divine Figure of Theosoph.

in visual form.” and “Mineral Seed. Extremely intricate hyperphysical cartography like this seems to be chiefly a creation of the early modern period. but it appears the early modern mania for physical cartography had its exact complement in the occult sciences—indeed. the lower sphere represents the temporal realm. For our focus is upon what such an illustration signifies. Just as the eighteenth century was an era of physical cartography.A. John Dee. Son. entitled “Unendliche Ewigkeit und Unerforschliche Primum Mobile” [“Infinite Eternity and Unknowable Primum Mobile”]. marked also Father. as well as Jehovah in Hebrew.A. and with the word Chaos. is an effort to render a mappa mundi.78 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E triangles and concentric circles below. Fundamentally the same characteristics mark the comprehensive esotericism represented by the D. also was relied upon as Queen Elizabeth’s cartographer. or to Rosicrucianism. for instance. Below that is an intermediate principial realm marked “Water. marking a host of alchemical stages and enigmatic sayings as well as planetary and zodiacal symbols. Is there a direct indebtedness to Böhmean theosophy. that is. such spiritual mapmaking has its predecessors in the medieval era.]” Below is an elemental sphere marked with the zodiacal signs. Here chaos does not mean total confusion so much as ‘potentiality’. Here. we find a more or less typical series of images: above is the Prima Materia. of course. yet there is ample reason to use such a term. in time and in eternity. but even more because there is good reason to think of Western esoteric currents in general as being based in verifiable experimentation. the greatest occultist of his day.” “Vegetable Seed. surrounded by winged angelic forms.” “Heavenly Seed. This middle realm is marked “Figura Cabbalistica.” “Animal Seed.M. but a map of the hidden aspects of the world. partaking in both. And thus when we look at an illustration from D.” and has on either side gnomic sayings. it seems entirely symbolically appropriate that Dr.O. to the esoteric illustrations accompanying Johann Gichtel’s edition of Böhme’s collected works? Is this a specifically Rosicrucian illustration at all? Such questions I leave for others to answer. and Earth depicted as a ball exists between the elemental and intermediate realms. of efforts to survey the ethereal realms. and in the effort to create a comprehensive map of the cosmos. in investigation without regard for dogmatic religious barriers. The term occult sciences may raise an eyebrow.59 There is a great deal of controversy over the precise relation of such a manuscript or illustration to Böhmean theosophy.M. manuscript and the efforts at a comprehensive cosmology found in modern science. in scholastic theology. for instance. and Holy Spirit. such as “Ein Prophet gilt nichst in seinem Vaterlande [A prophet is not honored in his native land. . here we have a different focus.” and so forth. not only because many of the early major scientific figures were in fact also alchemists. so too it was an era of hyperphysical cartography.O. of its hyperphysical dimensions.

the arts. For all of the Rosicrucian. and later in the development of modern Freemasonry. Heydon’s Theomagia in particular attempts to be a kind of universal compendium of the occult sciences. but after his visionary entry into discarnate realms. each of which guarded its particular mysteries. began in the medieval period as one of many craft guilds. (London: 1665). which. Such a universalist goal does not exclude the human. who studied minerology. chronicled what one discovers in visiting in vision the various discarnate realms of existence. originally a scientist. Another such figure. or the Glory of the Rosie-cross. a prolific chronicler of the unseen. But such universalism is a constant theme from the seventeenth century on. representing exactly such a compendium of knowledge in largely written form (albeit including also illustrations and tables). theosophic. in the numerous volumes of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772). first with the consistent emphasis of Rosicrucian works on the transformation of society and the establishment of a utopia. in other words. and became one of the most impressive writers on religious and spiritual themes of the nineteenth century. This is the kind of comprehensive worldview visible in such illustrations as the ones we see emerging during the eighteenth century. when esotericists could imagine a unified cosmology that included religion. Western esotericism often aims at universal knowledge. stretching right into the nineteenth century. or the Temple of Wisdom. And one sees the same effort to bridge the realms in the works of Franz von Baader (1765–1841). and it is also clearly visible in the major works of that era. maintained a definite organizational hierarchy and structure. denigrated in his own day as something of a plagiarist. science. as for instance in the vast metaphysical cartography of John Pordage (1604–1681). Freemasonry. and literature in a spiritually centered universe. of course. those of masonry belonging to the arts of architecture and building. of course. (London: 1663–1664) and The Wise-mans Crown. invented an industrial process. One finds the same effort at universality in theosophy. And it is in the sociopolitical realm that the Rosicrucian impulse had considerable impact. but a profound intellectual who consciously sought to bridge the gap between the sciences and religion. but published only in German). who in his multivolume Göttliche und Wahre Metaphysica (Frankfurt/Leipzig: 1715/1746) (probably written during the 1670s. and specifically. not a visionary. the social and political realm. and is certainly not limited to works labeled Rosicrucian. From the seventeenth until the twentieth centuries. We have already referred to Georg von Welling’s Opus Mago-Cabbalisticum et Theosophicum (1784).HISTORICAL CURRENTS 79 There was a time. was John Heydon. not so very long ago. author of such works as Theomagia. and pansophic movements we have discussed in turn fed into Freemasonry. One sees this also. at a truly comprehensive metaphysics and cosmology. truly a Renaissance man. and associated with the vast . unlike these other more individualistic movements.

contact probably having its origins in the lengthy period of communication between Islamic. traveled for a time as a tutor to aristocratic families on the Continent. Masonry. and during this time began work on his major treatises. 1617). Jewish. but it is clear that like Rosicrucianism. and eventually returned to England to receive his doctorate in medicine. and having left his military career to become a justice of the peace in Kent. Fludd. but as an influence Rosicrucianism remained powerful. but the Freemasons endured the longest. Physica Atque Technica Historia [History of the Macrocosm and Microcosm] (Oppenheim: de Bry. Such publication was. including his encyclopedic Utriusque Cosmi Maioris Scilicet et Minoris Metaphysica. to whom the term Renaissance man could certainly be applied. Robert Fludd (1574–1637) was born into a Shropshire family. (where he probably began to learn Paracelsian medicine). and so it is not surprising to find his work filled with countless references to figures and works as diverse as Boethius and the Corpus Hermeticum. It is true that there were other such guilds with their own rites and mysteries. Fludd was somewhat contentious as a young physician. Robert Fludd went to St. his father. Indeed. semireligious occult fraternity. intended as a vast compendium of human knowledge including theosophy. Like Paracelsus himself. Sir Thomas Fludd. Martianus Capella and. the same time that saw Fludd’s publication of his History by de Bry saw his publication also of two treatises in Latin defending the “Fraternity of the Rosy Cross. Of course.” published in Leiden. in 1616 and 1617. if as a fraternity it had ever really existed at all. of course. Certainly it is the case that Rosicrucianism as a movement dried up fairly early. the Kabbalah. of course. the conventional way of advertising one’s desire to join the fraternity. flourished in the vicinity of Jewish scholarship and Kabbalism. not surprisingly. and among his primary influences were Kabbalism. and although . primarily because of Kabbalistic influence that allowed Freemasonry to transform itself completely from a society devoted to the arts of building. Plato and the Bible. John’s College in Oxford. and Christian circles in Spain and Provençe.80 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E cathedrals of medieval Europe. Indeed. and its universalist esotericism became immensely influential in Masonic circles chiefly through the auspices of Robert Fludd and Elias Ashmole. clearly sought to incorporate the full range of human knowledge into his theosophia perennis. the arts. Freemasonry became the nexus for many prior esoteric traditions. there seems little doubt that Rosicrucianism itself— whose apocalyptic hopes for an immediate reform of humanity were dashed by the reality of the Thirty Years’ War in Germany—in turn fed into the Masonic stream. Fludd was among the first to develop a comprehensive esoteric framework for seeing the world. and the sciences. having received a knighthood for his military service. to a speculative. on which he explicitly drew. the exact history of this transformation is sketchy at best. and Rosicrucianism.

Marin Mersenne. it is clear that Fludd identified with the Rosicrucian views. for he himself noted that “Robert Fludd in his apology for the Brethren of the Rosie Cross hath gone very far herein.” Elias Ashmole. Yet this relationship itself is only the tip of a far greater network of associations and friendships as well as influences. and who collected much on and by John Dee—so that one might well say that the esoteric movement here went from England to the Continent. and especially his treatise Monas Hieroglyphica. And Dee and Browne in turn knew Ashmole. in the Ashmolean library at Oxford. Ashmole collected what undoubtedly was and remains one of the world’s greatest collections of papers and books.60 Then again. who was certainly acquainted with Fludd before Fludd’s death in 1637. it was clear to Fludd that identification with the Rosicrucians subjected one to much public vitriol—Fludd had been the subject of bitter attacks by a French monk. having been initiated into a Masonic lodge in 1646. John Dee. and back to England. Dee’s son. and assiduous bibliophile. By the early 1630s. one of the major English literary figures of the seventeenth century. since the Rosicrucians were traditionally sworn to silence. who in turn was a friend of Sir Thomas Browne. Himself an alchemist. was himself an alchemist and esoteric scholar. back and forth in an intricate series of associations and publications that certainly have not been exhaustively examined. Mersenne was a friend of the young René Descartes. . he may indeed have provided a bridge between the earlier Rosicrucian movement and the nascent Masonic one. But in any event. That Ashmole knew of Fludd and his Rosicrucianism is certain. Arthur Dee. almost exclusively for esoteric causes. used his wealth and influence primarily and one may even say. it was also conventional to say that one had received no reply. who had actually gone in search of the Rosicrucians (to the dismay of Mersenne) and Mersenne’s massive attacks on Hermeticism and Kabbalism as well as Rosicrucianism certainly influenced the emergence of what has come to be known as Cartesian rationalism. Such attacks undoubtedly prompted Fludd to write in his Clavis Philosophae that the name Rosicrucian must today be replaced by simply “the Wise.HISTORICAL CURRENTS 81 Fludd later claimed that he received no reply. who was responsible in part for the renaissance of Rosicrucianism within English Freemasonry.”61 But for our purposes. Ashmole. Frances Yates convincingly argues that Dr. was a remarkable figure who stood at the center of esoteric currents in England. astrologer. Dr. most significant is the fact that Ashmole was demonstrably a Mason. born to an aristocratic family. for thus we can see direct evidence of the link between earlier Rosicrucianism and later Freemasonry. he did say that the Rosicrucian “Pansophia or universal knowledge in Nature” was very like his own view. and through his acquaintance with Elias Ashmole. was very influential in the founding of Rosicrucianism some years after Dee’s travels through Germany and Eastern Europe.

and John Comenius (1592–1690). were at the center of a movement of educational and societal reform called the “invisible college. himself an alchemist and antiquarian as well as a botanist and student of architecture. All three of the men had been active in Rosicrucian circles. and William Backhouse adopted Ashmole as a “son.” and transmitted orally from master to one disciple since antiquity. conveyed to Ashmole “in Silables the true matter of the Philosopher’s Stone. Samuel. John Dury (1596–1680). using a symbolic metalanguage. These “silables” may be seen as alchemical hieroglyphs. never referred to it again. of course. but they are in any case gnostic. All of this. . and Hartlib had worked to form such colleges both in Germany . an esoteric network of illuminated intelligentsia. said to have its origins in the revelation of Hermes to his “spiritual son. and now in England all worked at the immediate transformation of society into a peaceful. Hugh Trevor-Roper remarks that Cromwell’s movement was impelled by “three philosophers .” or what Comenius termed the Collegium Lucis. the real . . editor of the extensive Theatrum Chemicum Brittanicum collection of alchemical works. non-sectarian utopia where all the divisions of knowledge could be studied together.62 Backhouse’s father. and must remain so. or as Kabbalistic. although certainly that impulse was strong in him. This was a Hermetic spiritual adoption. The true name is hidden. when Backhouse thought he was dying.” Samuel Hartlib (1593–1670). . whose mentor was William Backhouse of Swallowfield (1593–1662). introduced Ashmole to Hermetic circles. who had left Germany for England after the failure of the Palatinate. after recording this revelation. was not simply an antiquarian.82 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E Ashmole. He also was a practicing Hermetic esotericist. and wrote himself in Theatrum Chemicum that the spiritual son was under an obligation never to reveal the mystery into which he was initiated.64 These three men.” “bequeathed to me as a legacy. resonates closely with the Rosicrucian ideal of silence and invisibility.”63 That this spoken revelation of the philosopher’s stone comes in “silables” suggests strongly the nature of the Western esoteric linguistic mysticism we have been tracing since antiquity.” attested in a note by Ashmole dated 3 April 1651. . which in turn harks back to the “namelessness” and invisibility of the true Knights of the Round Table in chivalric literature. If this were the only instance of ‘magical language’ during this era of the emergence of Freemasonry as a vehicle for esotericism. but instead one finds that a linguistic mysticism was in fact at the heart of a movement that fired the English Civil War. one could ignore it. Comenius had developed a system of education based in analogical correspondences. It is significant that Ashmole. meaning that they convey the true and secret name and character of the philosophic work. Backhouse contributed old alchemical manuscripts to Ashmole’s collection. had had connections with John Dee and Edward Kelley. except to his own spiritual son. and according to Ashmole’s note in 1653. and only philosophers of the English Revolution. of course.

Philosophicall. which had a considerable influence in promoting Masonry’s nonsectarian tolerance. there is another aspect of such a magical language: its universality. Arts and Sciences. and Mechanical. the establishing of a “magical language” for the conveying of secret knowledge. like the symbolism of alchemy. and also to convey what cannot be conveyed in common language. But most important for us is the final point. whereby Masonry becomes the Center of Union and the Means of conciliating true Friendship among Persons that must have else remain’d at a perpetual Distance. whereby not only the Secrets of Disciplines are harmonically and compendiously delivered. esoteric: to limit those who understand it. Freemasonry. . but it is on some remarks by Dury that we should now focus. Also important here is the third point.”66 But this rationalist tolerance marks exoteric Freemasonry. .HISTORICAL CURRENTS 83 and in England. so that by the mid-eighteenth century much of the Western world was dotted with Masonic groups. Its pansophic universality has its parallel in the universalism of Masonry. . . which from a Christian viewpoint could well be defined as “some extraordinary meanes to perfeit the knowledge and unvail the mysteryes” of the Scriptures. Meanes to perfeit the knowledge of the Orientall tongues and to gaine abilities fitt to deale with the Jewes. visible in James Anderson’s Constitutions of the Freemasons (1723). the conjoining of all the disciplines in service of the “secrets of Nature. according to the Constitutions.” certainly a pansophic goal. means that “A Mason is oblig’d by his Tenure to obey the Moral Law . However. For Dury listed under “Things to Be Observed” in his platform for social transformation: 1. A magical Language whereby secrets may be delivered and preserved to such as are made acquainted with it traditionally. which quickly established lodges all across Europe and in America. 2. Chymical. 4. but also the Secrets of Nature are thought to be unfolded . whose calling is supposed to be neere at hand. Some extraordinary meanes to perfeit the knowledge and unvail the mysteryes of the Propheticall scriptures. there is little in the basic principles of Freemasonry to suggest a specific Masonic esotericism. and had often been seen as a means of connecting Christianity with Judaism. Early in the eighteenth century. 3. .65 Dury’s remarks here are interesting not least because they reveal his attraction to Jewish Kabbalism. would transcend any national or cultural linguistic boundaries. needless to say. and as Edmond Mazet remarks. Masonry had a deist and rationalist quality that aided in its spread. The aim of a magical language is. Such a language.

67 There are echoes in this project of the Rosicrucian aims of a century before. it is not surprising that this project. Ramsay. announced in Ramsay’s oration. excepting only theology and politics. one finds a continuous struggle since at least the eighteenth century between those such as Jean-Baptiste Willermoz (1730–1824). with its general tendency to reject. especially in France. solid. England. which will be a universal library of all that is beautiful.68 Within Masonry itself. fraternal Freemasonry. great. Masonic values of rationalism. became prominent in French Masonry. consisting in three degrees of apprentice. In it. a Böhmenist who then sent him on to Archbishop Fénelon. After her death. and nonsectarianism certainly helped develop the modern era. a theosophic circle in London. And during this time.84 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E Yet if early-eighteenth-century Freemasonry. after which he became secretary to Madame Guyon. and in 1737 gave an oration that had a profound effect. developing complicated symbolism in its rituals. and by means of the union of our Brothers it may be carried to a conclusion in a few years . but here they take on a distinctly rationalist flavor. or ignore esotericism. deism. especially in England. fellow craftsman. and useful in all the sciences and in all the noble arts. suppress. nonsectarian basis. and elsewhere exhort all the learned men and all the artisans of the Fraternity to unite to furnish materials for a Universal Dictionary of the liberal arts and useful sciences. has subsequently been credited with at least some of the inspiration for the later French philosophes and their Encyclopédie. This esotericism was kindled by Andrew Michael Ramsay (1686–1743). In this oration. it quickly began to develop an esoteric emphasis. had an exoteric. one of the founders of the Rectified Scottish Rite and a powerful proponent of speculative or esoteric Masonry. Ramsay also called for a massive project of universal illumination: All the Grand Masters in Germany. luminous. On the other hand. who had been initiated into Masonry years before. Masonry became a vehicle for esotericism. From here he went on to stay with Pierre Poiret. while publishing numerous books. he became a tutor to various aristocratic families. the introduction of alchemical symbolism into the rites. and a long tradition of eclectic esotericism among its members. . a Scotsman who early in his life was a member of the Philadelphian Society of Jane Leade and Francis Lee. for instance. The work has already been commenced in London. and those who insist on a much more exoteric. thus stimulating a host of higher degrees. . Thus we find that Freemasonry has a peculiarly dual relation to esotericism and modernity. Italy. . and master mason. he discussed the importance of chivalry and the Templars. including. On the one hand. and indeed. By this means the lights of all nations will be united in a single work.

even if it is subject to periodic spasms of anti-esotericism. when “the secrets of Freemasonry [were] ordered aright as is now and will be to the end of the world for such as do rightly understand it—in three parts in reference to the blessed Trinity who made all things. Indeed.”69 These words take their derivation from the building of Solomon’s Temple. a ritual that relies upon “foundation words. Freemasonry. even to this day.” which Edmond Mazet sees as “a clear allusion to the six permutations of the trigrammaton YHW. Rosicrucian.8). especially with the founding of the Orden des Guelden-und Rosen-Cruetzes.”71 And there are some Hebrew words in early Masonic documents—not surprisingly.” In other words.” as well as references to those who are said to have the “Mason’s word. but it also later drew explicitly and implicitly on the chivalric. preserves its eighteenth grade as that of the Chevalier Rose-Croix. to wit I am. it continues to draw upon these and other currents to become itself among the most eclectic of esoteric traditions. yet in thirteen branches in reference to Christ and his twelve apostles. and alchemical currents of Western esotericism. of human and divine architecture both. and six for the fellow craft. the Order of the Gold and RosyCross. as maintaining a special linguistic power that lies at the heart of building. based as it is on the craft of building. from very early on in the development of modern Masonry. specifically. by which. the tradition has long been seen as maintaining occult knowledge. when we look closely at the emergence of Freemasonry. which is as follows: one word for a divine. . God has sealed the six directions of space. As we have already seen. six for the clergy. has a natural connection to Kabbalistic mysticism that also focuses on divine architecture. such an emphasis on the powers of divine creation is characteristic of Kabbalism since the medieval period. the tradition is linked to Masonic linguistic mysticism.”70 What are these words divided evenly between the clergy and Freemasons? There is some evidence of Kabbalistic influence in Freemasonry of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries—for instance. the most popular form of contemporary Masonry. and that as the Masonic current continues through the eighteenth century. we find an exorcism ritual to be used by Masons in the construction of a building. theosophic. according to the Sepher Yetsirah (1. the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. we find that it definitely does draw upon earlier esoteric currents. in The Whole Institutions of Freemasons Opened (1725): “Yet for all this I want the primitive word. a Masonic Rosicrucianism begun in 1757 in Germany that incorporated Templar and alchemical symbolism too. I answer it was God in six Terminations. and so it is not surprising to discover that in 1676 we find Masonry associated with the “Modern Green Ribbon’d Caball. In other words. In the Graham manuscript of 1726.HISTORICAL CURRENTS 85 Yet despite the insistence of some on a more exoteric Masonry. since one finds Hebrew frequently in Rosicrucian illustrations and works as well. that is.

including alchemy. Here. and the divine. we see a central distinction between them all and what we can characterize as the dominant modern materialist view. the theme of our next section. Rosicrucianism. of how humanity is meant to redeem the cosmos. in Western esotericism.” or signature. All of these esoteric currents further presuppose that humans are capable of spiritual regeneration and of attaining gnosis. speculative Masonry is a manifestation of the more general modern dream of universalism. language is not just a means for objectification and separation. divine language inheres in the whole of creation—each kind of creature bears within it the divine stamp. Thus the esotericist plays a central role in the drama of cosmic redemption itself. which has been sporadically realized by individuals. joining the humanities and the sciences under the aegis of a broadly conceived spirituality. And this role is played out through reading and writing. and this the esotericist unveils through visionary perception. Finally. What is more. not just as the means of communication among people. One might best say that Freemasonry contains the possibility of a universalist esotericism. The universalist esotericist dream is not the provenance of Masonry as an organization. For whereas modern society is founded on the objectifying separation of everything from the individual (allowing the exploitation of the entire cosmos. nature. Above all. all of these esoteric traditions are founded upon the overcoming of this objectification through the recognition of how microcosm and macrocosm are mutually illuminating. but as the actual medium linking humanity. When we consider the seminal modern Western esoteric currents together.86 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E Like the Rosicrucianism that preceded it. we cannot help but recognize similarities among them all. not consume it. or direct experiential knowledge of the divine. the esotericist is actually redeeming or restoring the cosmos to its transcendent or paradisal origin. of course. magic. woven through all of these traditions is the theme of language. its secret “silable. by coming to learn the divine language of creation. Here. we are disregarding the more or less social aspects of Freemasonry. Kabbalah. including humanity). . For according to Western esotericism generally. in this case a universal esotericism that unites all forms of knowledge. pansophy. but actually the means for overcoming that objectification. and Christian theosophy. as well as its political dimensions that came to the fore with Adam Weishaupt and others during the eighteenth century. Masonry. but of individuals and circles within the larger stream of Masonic tradition.

.Figure 1 Alchemical images from Michael M a i e r. T r i p u s A u r e u s ( F r a n k f u r t : 1 6 1 8 ) .

from . T r i p u s A u r e u s ( 1 6 1 8 ) .Figure 2 Another alchemical image M i c h a e l M a i e r.

oder: Alle Götliche Schriften Jacob Böhmens (1730 ed. Theosophia Revelata.Figure 3 Theosophic image entitled “Serenity” from Jacob Böhme. edited by Johann Georg Gichtel. .).

. edited by Johann Georg Gichtel.Figure 4 Theosophic image entitled “Three Principles” from Jacob Böhme.). oder: Alle Götliche Schriften Jacob Böhmens (1730 ed. Theosophia Revelata.

edited by Johann Georg Gichtel.Figure 5 Theosophic image entitled “Earthly and Heavenly Mysterium” from Jacob Böhme.). Theosophia Revelata. oder: Alle Götliche Schriften Jacob Böhmens (1730 ed. .

O p u s M a g o .Figure 6 Pansophic image from Georg von We l l i n g . . Note that beyond the celestial hierarchy is the Ungrund. which is here explicitly identified with the Kabbalistic ’en soph.C a b b a l i s t i c u m e t T h e o sophicum (Frankfurt: 1784).

O p u s M a g o . (Frankfurt: 1784). as well as the prominence of the figure of the eye.C a b b a l i s t i c u m e t T h e o sophicum. Note the threedimensional nature of the illustration. .Figure 7 Pansophic image from Georg von We l l i n g .

Figure 8 Pansophic image from Georg von We l l i n g . . O p u s M a g o .C a b b a l i s t i c u m e t T h e o sophicum (Frankfurt: 1784).

Figure 9 Cecil Collins. . “The Music of Dawn. and the evocative.” 1988. Note the contrast between the g e o m e t r i c a l i m a g e s i n G e o rg v o n We l l i n g ’s illustrations. otherworldly nature of Collins’s work.

Figure 10 Cecil Collins. “Paradise.” 1976. .

Let me not Since I have my dukedom got. Prospero then offers the famous epilogue: Now my charms are all o’erthrown. has brought the play’s action to an end. And pardoned the deceiver. the magician Prospero. Which was to please. Gentle breath of yours my sails Must fill. Now ‘tis true I must be here confined by you. dwell In this bare island by your spell. art to enchant And my ending is despair Unless I be relieved by prayer Which pierces so that it assaults 87 . And what strength I have’s my own. But release me from my bands With the help of your good hands. Or sent to Naples. or else my project fails. Which is most faint. The Tempest. Now I want Spirits to enforce. The main character. and the comedic drama is brought to its resolution. something remarkable happens at the play’s end.3 Modern Implications P R O S P E R O ’ S WA N D : M O D E R N E S O T E R I C L I T E R AT U R E In the greatest of Shakespeare’s plays. so that we are left viewing the magician himself.

that ours is the magical breath to fill the sails. Conventionally. but certainly not always—that in themselves are believed to powerful. This transference of magical power from the playwright and actor. to sing or to say into being. having relinquished his magical power. As you from crimes would pardoned be. we realize that we. to invoke the forces of creation itself. or in works by twentieth-century authors that convey various forms of initiatory transmission. pansophy. but there is no transference of magical power. but rather a linguistic manifestation of what informs and transcends these objects. whose fascination with Hermetic and alchemical themes is well known and documented conclusively by M. standing above a reclining woman. it is often inverted and does not . It is true that the Western esoteric traditions are very diverse. reveals at a stroke the nature of magical esoteric literature. where the poet-singer is. behind whom is what at first glance resembles an alchemical retort with a candle in it. and words—often Hebrew. shows a tall. a magical transferral has taken place: we realize that we are the magicians. we may read in order to be diverted or entertained. Let your indulgence set me free. today. Here. often little more than the accumulation of data. there are numbers. Suddenly. language is not a series of arbitrary signs used to designate objects. Prospero’s transfer of power from himself to his audience is reminiscent of Celtic tradition. and seen it implied in chivalric and troubadour literature as well as in theosophy. is a prosaic matter. But closer examination of this and Ernst’s other works does not seem to reveal what we find in alchemical works themselves. traditionally. are the magicians. as audience. In this most magical of plays. by virtue of his skill with words. but one can certainly trace throughout their history a thread that we might call the mysteries of the word. In all of these esoteric traditions.88 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E Mercy itself and frees all faults. also a magician. winged creature in an ornate room. via the main character.1 Many of Ernst’s paintings reveal his use of alchemical imagery: his collage “The Laugh of the Cock” (1934). I had intended to include here a study of the art of surrealist Max Ernst. ours the prayers that can free Prospero just as he in turn held the spirit Ariel in enchantment. Rosicrucianism. we may read in order to gather information about a subject. Here Prospero. in effect gives his wand to his audience. for instance. is to touch the nature of being itself. for example. and freed him. to the audience. Reading. Ernst indeed draws on esoteric imagery. That is. But this is not the way literature always has been seen. E. letters. but the imagery is individualized and rendered surreal. To be a vehicle for the right words. Initially. Warlick. We have already seen this linguistic mysticism in Kabbalism. for most of us. To incant is to enchant. and Freemasonry.

of even greater value is a vertical. not only in the case of Ernst. Milosz traveled widely. I will leave such a project for another time. But his learning is of a particular kind. sometimes explicitly. deeper study of how Western esotericism intersects with literature and consciousness in our own time. V. It is true that esoteric themes or topics emerge in all sorts of unexpected places in modern literature. without question chiefly in the sphere of Hermeticism. and entry. we find that there are not too many authors who know about or are even concerned with this understanding of language. and finally to the remarkable art and writing of Cecil Collins (1909–1989). more or less. Lewis (1898–1963) and others. choosing a synecdochic study that will in turn illuminate aspects of literature that are today all too often overlooked. more . While a broad. Milosz wandered the vast forests nearby as a child. And so we will concentrate first on the work of Oscar Vladislas de Lubicz Milosz (1877–1939). as with Yeats or H. D. and at twelve he was sent to Paris for schooling. into the world of French intelligentsia. Naturally.. and so I will not discuss them further here. it would be possible to catalogue and survey how the Western esoteric traditions appear in relatively recent literary history. After a good education. S. and who has incorporated the linguistic mysticism that emerges from them into his own poetry of the first order. Canticle of Knowledge: O. Milosz’s outward life can be outlined rather succinctly.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 89 seem to convey a particular kind of esoteric understanding.3 But it is relatively difficult to find a poet whose primary concern is with these various Western esoteric traditions. secular or not. as with Emerson or Rilke. but in that of the entire surrealist movement. Milosz is without question among the most learned poets of modern times. Milosz and Spiritual Transmission through Poetry O. to the magical fiction of C. during which time his family sold their estate. his parents somewhat cold and aloof. I cannot say with certainty whether or how Ernst’s works convey a particular kind of initiatory transmission. horizontal survey is of value. third. turning then to H. However. his mother Jewish. but there certainly is an area here worthy of further investigation. Born to a wealthy family in Lithuania who lived on an estate called Czereïa. V. He wrote poetry touching on the despair and hollowness of modernity. the poet H. It is certainly worth doing.2 And even when we turn to literature of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. for instance. with sections on each of the major currents. as can in fact be said of the works of. I will instead focus on several major figures and trace the influences on their work. D. sometimes more implicitly. and perhaps for someone else to do. (1886–1961). split further into sections on poetry and prose. for instance. D. Here.

In both Swedenborg and Goethe we see the emergence of what we might call a nascent spiritual science. almost pedantic ways of their visionary experiences. Swedenborg was. But it is in Milosz that we see Swedenborg’s approach. participating in the League of Nations and serving until his retirement in 1938. and the dwelling places of spirits. Diverse as this list is in certain respects. though drawing on this tradition of scientific observation of visionary experience. It was during the first half of this service that Milosz wrote his most Hermetic works. and. its members have in common that most lived during the eighteenth century and that they sought. and invariably sought to conjoin not only the sciences and literature and the arts. for that matter. create a kind of lineage of such figures. a Don Juanesque figure. beginning of course with Paracelsus and Böhme. his effort to chronicle the visionary experience with a kind of new science of the spirit.90 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E or less like that of the early T. by way of a renewed Hermetic spirituality. far more influential than is usually acknowledged in intellectual histories. neither Pordage nor Swedenborg was a poet.” However. Eliot. which are what concern us here. of heaven. and Western esotericism in general. Swedenborg of course was himself preceded in this effort by John Pordage. and Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749–1832). as he saw it. in 1914. theosophy. he remains a primary force behind the works of William Blake. Financially ruined during this time by the collapse of Russia. Milosz’s poetry. . he experienced a spiritual illumination. in vision. whose massive works are themselves scientific in their precise descriptions and careful elucidation of all the various “divine mansions. so his nephew Czeslaw Milosz later wrote. but all of these under the sign of a Hermetic spirituality. William Blake (1757–1827). whose poems and prose are not only recountings of visionary experiences. but are in fact also intended to invoke these experiences in the reader. in a mysterious way also embodies and is the experience. Kabbalah. and depicted as peculiarly concrete—the visionary realms of the spirit for him are palpable and his work certainly a kind of hyperphysical cartography. One can. to bring about a cultural renaissance that would join together the sundered limbs of human knowledge. Not so Milosz. come to fruition in literary form. and both wrote in dry. Milosz’s predecessors in the Western literary tradition are indissolubly linked with religion and philosophy. who as we will recall in his latter years tried to reunite the bythen separated fields of the humanities and the sciences with his works on plants and color. perhaps the most seminal is Swedenborg. hell. Goethe. in fact. These Swedenborg saw. and became. and from this period on became a serious scholar of Hermeticism. Then. Milosz also became active as a diplomat for Lithuania. and perhaps remains. also a tactile visionary. who was trained as a scientist but went on to write voluminous works surveying the nature. and including such authors as Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772). Among these figures. LouisClaude de Saint-Martin (1743–1803). S.

and does not in general investigate the nature of the observer’s own consciousness. through a new metaphysics. and from its fellow humanity and seemingly set adrift as an isolated being.”4 He discerned “a new mysticism. and also prehistory and archaic history. knowledge and love. [The teaching of the sunlit hour of the divine nights. At this juncture. have received and already know. [For those who. will understand nothing of these things. that he anticipated a new poetry. n’entendront rien à ces choses. from the cosmos. insisting instead on the inner creative life of the artist.]” Thus the canticle is devoted to teaching on the nature of spiritual illumination. Contemporary sciences are founded in observation of the cosmos. / For those whom prayer has led to meditation on the origin of language. seems bound. summarizing in some respects his life’s work. and especially the figures we are discussing here. to join up with ancient teachings. The “Canticle” begins with the striking line: “L’enseignement de l’heure ensoleillée des nuits du Divin. on 14 December 1914. to awakening it in his reader. astronomy. but indeed. the observer looks outward. it will no doubt be useful to look more closely at some of Milosz’s work. Cartographers of consciousness. / A ceux que la prière a conduits à la méditation sur l’origin du langage. les voleurs de douleur et de joie. turn their attention inward and become careful observers of the inner landscape. The canticle continues: “A ceux. on reçu et savent déjà. But the poet. the passionate pursuit of the Real.”6 Thus he addresses his writings not to the present age but to the future reader who will experience this new poetry and synthesis of all the disciplines. and especially in Milosz. at his “Cantique de la Connaissance. as the organizer of archetypes. which Milosz experienced at eleven o’clock in the evening. Milosz himself wrote in a brief and late treatise on poetry. ayant demandé. Milosz’s work is explicitly dedicated not only to entering into this realm of the spiritual imagination.”5 And he writes of the “sacred art of the Word.” from The Confession of Lemuel (1918).” telling us that “poetry. thieves of joy and pain.” which. qui. having asked. de science et d’amour.]”7 . / Others. seems called upon.” or “Canticle of Knowledge. and like Blake. “setting out from proven scientific foundations. / Les autres. which “will contribute in large measure to realizing an inner synthesis of the great discoveries in physical chemistry. the immense devastation of the self as it is torn asunder from the divine. Milosz experiences this inner devastation as well as the powerful creative life awakened when one enters into the living realm of the spiritual imagination. to survive not only our industrial civilization but also Space-Time itself.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 91 Here it may be useful to remark on the kind of new science we see emerging in these writers. they are all intimately aware of the great schisms taking place in modern humanity. This isolation Blake rails against in his epic poems.” which “springs from the hidden depths of Universal Being. and in particular. crown of human knowledge.

ténèbres. sun. for “Tous les mots dont l’assemblage magique a formé ce chant sont des noms de substances visibles [All the words whose magical assembling has formed this song are names of visible substances.” These names precede existence in the sensible world and time’s turmoil. but negators. etc. he is alluding to Christ’s saying that those who ask will receive. [it is necessary to know the objects designated by certain essential words / Such as bread.92 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E Milosz was unquestionably Christian in orientation. and when he dedicates the canticle to those who have asked. he continues. to Claude de Saint-Martin and Swedenborg. have received.]”10 This “arcana of language” is the “key to the world of light. this allusion is close to Kabbalism in that it offers a gnostic interpretation of those verses. “il est nécessaire de connaître les objets désignés par certains mots essentiels / Tels que pain.” Only “the spirit of things has a name”. The power to name sensible objects comes from supersensible knowledge of the archetypal realm to which our spirit belongs. terre. all that was in antiquity described in metaphors “exists in a situated place. sel. of course. salt. sang. earth. but utterly serious—this is a poem about the mysteries at the heart both of language and of .” Only divine poets see the world of archetypes and describe it reverently by means of the “termes précis et lumineux du langage de la connaissance [precise and luminous terms of the language of knowledge].” This earth of the vision of archetypes. not like “Patmos. soleil. addressed to the latter. “their substance is nameless.” A linguistic gnosis is at the heart of the canticle.” is not merely a sterile world of symbols.” It is clear by now that Milosz is not dabbling with words here.” We think that the sensible world is situated. water. But characteristically. but living. this “situated place.” writing that to understand the origin of language. those who are not affirmers. from Pythagoras to Plato.—all say the same things to anyone who knows how to listen.”8 This gnostic canticle is. suggesting that the center of prayer is knowledge. and which is “situated in the consciousness of the solar egg [situés dans la conscience de l’œuf solaire].]”9 In other words. lumière. blood. nor sons. to the initiate. but it is not so. In fact. but truly fathers of sensible objects. the names of things emerge from the realm of archetypes. / For these names are neither brothers. Milosz continues his explanation of this linguistic gnosis in the “Canticle of Knowledge. through the initiates of Alexandria and Christian mystics. and already know. the names “were hurled from the motionless world of archetypes into the abyss of time’s turmoil.” “terre de la vision des archétypes [earth of the vision of archetypes]. eau. “meditation on the origin of language. as well as the names of metals. mais bien les père des objects sensibles. ni les fils. ainsi que par tous les noms de métaux / Car ces noms ne sont ni les frères.” Indeed. light. darkness. Milosz once wrote in a letter that “there are only two kinds of men: the negators who profess irreconcilable systems and the modest affirmers who. corresponding to Plato’s realm of Forms or Ideas. are merely thieves of love and knowledge.

Here. And so it is here. / In the appearance of the virginal spirit of gold. and the gold of celestial memory. he calls us to the celestial gold. “I have named you! [Je t’ai nommé!]”. for as he told us before. calls us through its language into the truth that language manifests. and “knowledge’s golden candlestick. as well as the first chapter of John (In the beginning was the Word). which only draw their value from their supersensible archetypes. of love and of wrath.” Simply that. a revelation.]”11 There is in the “Canticle of Knowledge” a continuous thread of allusions to gold and to the sun. . / In the passage from the egg to the sphere. / Dans le bond et le vent de la masse de feu. When he sings “the canticle of the sunlight hour of the nights of God” and proclaims the wisdom of two worlds opened to his sight. le mot chargé de foudre de ce temps dangereux. But beyond these two worlds is the “word enveloped in sun. [truth does not make sacred language lie: . the word charged by the thunder of this dangerous time [la parole enveloppée de soleil. he tells us. of blessing and of desolation. Milosz speaks to us directly: “Do you feel the most ancient of your memories awakening in you? / I reveal to you here the holy origins of your love of gold.” This distinction between truth and lie. For “la vérité ne fait pas mentire le langage sacré: car elle est aussi le soleil visible du monde substantiel. these ancient metaphors refer to “substances.]”13 As we might recall. At such points. he implicates us in the poem.” There is the earthly gold. .]”12 This charged and sun-enveloped word reminds us of the account in Genesis of creation. Milosz tells us again. but also of the Corpus Hermeticum. / In the leap and wind of the fiery mass. . [Here you are in the first ray in the womb of the fixed cloud. of the primal . which recalls the primal naming of all things by the primal man. muet comme le plomb.” to names that precede and transcend their earthly counterparts. Milosz exultantly writes. “is the key to the two worlds of darkness and light. The man of light (“l’homme la lumière”) draws his knowledge from this supersensible sun in the “motionless” realm of substances. it is also the visible sun of the substantial world]. and only describes what he has seen. mute as lead. or in Milosz’s words. and then comes the following passage: “te voici dans le rayon avant-coureur au sein du nuage figé.” But the allusions are not necessarily to earthly gold nor to the sun visible from the earth. as well as to the “solar egg” of the soul. when Milosz addresses us directly.” These two worlds correspond to the two worlds of Böhme. Thus Milosz goes on to tell us matter-of-factly that he who has seen stops thinking and feeling. is the “key to the world of light. Adam.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 93 existence. / Dans l’apparition de l’esprit virginal de l’or / Dans l’apparition de l’ove à la sphère .” “De la magie des mots que j’assemble ici / L’or du mond sensible tire sa secrète valeur [From the magic of the words I gather here / The sensible world’s gold draws its secret value. the first section of “Poemandres” in the Corpus Hermeticum is also a visionary creation-account. he means precisely what he says: “I have seen. that is. .

Milosz writes. is the sign of Wisdom personified: Wisdom showed him the realm of Forms prior to existence.” This playing “between worst darkness and best light” emerges from beyond both darkness and light. différent. on this naked cold planet of iron and clay. and looked behind him.” We might recall that the mirror. hideux. / being in place itself. Thus. in the visionary writings of Böhme. of light and darkness.” yet also to a “place” of utter desolation. and a kind of corporeality of language. by “omnipotent negation” in “Ce lieu séparé.” just as in so much of Western esotericism. cet immense cerveau délirant de Lucifer [This separated place. Milosz muses on his early poetry. Luciferic brain].” to a “place” where “myriad spiritual bodies reveal themselves to virtuous senses. the only one situated.” and “marrow of iniquity.94 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E powers at work in the constant manifestation of existence.” an “eternity of horror. not light and serenity of recognition.14 I am not suggesting that Milosz is directly alluding to the Corpus Hermeticum. le seul situé.]” Then one day. In the concluding lines of the canticle.” “mois je suis toujours dans le même lieu. different. here too we find the emergence of light and life in the opening of the “world of light” for the visionary seer. chaste archetypes. Milosz’s visionary experience here is quite simply parallel to and in the tradition of what we also see in “Poemandres” and. here too we find a kind of “fixed cloud”. even though I am certain that he was at least familiar with it. but “great trials of negation. Here too we find the “leap and wind” of a fiery mass. when “like all nature poets I was sunk in profound ignorance [Comme tous les poètes de la nature. Thus in the “Canticle of Knowledge. rather. because whether he is “dazzled by the solar egg. we find a spiritual corporeality. and this is the “solar egg. [C’est ainsi que j’appris que le corps de l’homme renferme dans ses profondeurs un .”15 Here we find.” those “lands of nocturnal din.” Yet there is a realm beyond these two worlds of affirmation and negation.” or “hurled into the madness of the black eternity.” “the world of profound.” selfknowing. “the Father of Ancients. hideous. The ascent to the “solar place” that Milosz describes here brings one to the “omnipotence of affirmation. for that matter. / étant dans le lieu même. j’étais plongé dans une profonde ignorance. and is the province of those who speak pure language. and at this moment the “sterile woman” in him died. and that the knowledge of gold is also knowledge of light and blood. Thus the poet tells us not to weep for him. innocent.]”16 See. “I learned that in its depths man’s body encloses a remedy for all ills. this immense.” for the key to the world of light also opens the—“other region. delirious. wise. where he saw “the source of lights and forms. he noticed that he had stopped before a mirror. to whom Milosz was definitely indebted.” The “omnipotence of affirmation” is counterbalanced. of those who speak pure language. in theosophic tradition. Milosz tells us. Milosz tells us that he has “visited the two worlds. [I am always in the same place. / played with me as a father with his child.” “immense.

and clothed with the sun. et pour nos trois jours à venir. it affirms the significance not only of the virginal gold of the soul’s solar egg. trois vois—le signe. in this egg resting on the nuptial flame. Qu’ils sont beaux. And then the adept makes a strange remark: “Les parents dorment là. How beautiful and innocent they are!]”19 This reference. as well as in more modern movements like Freemasonry. between the lightworld and the darkworld. and his Hymns to the Night. Et puisque nous connaissons depuis sept ans.” replies Beatrix. In some poems he has a choir or a chorus. you speak the truth. “Master. Thus the canticle. because of its fusion of literature and Hermeticism. space and time!” And the adept suggests they both to kneel in adoration “devant le cher fourneau” [before this dear Furnace. Beatrix is surprised: “So you can see them? How? In this hermetic egg? With what eyes?” The adept replies: “Chère enfant. In this acknowledgement of fundamental duality in the cosmos. especially given Milosz’s own essentially solitary life. and since we have now known one another seven years. je te touche le front. I touch your brow. tendres métaux époux.]” To this Beatrix replies: “Farewell. reaffirms the importance not only of the ascent to the knowledge of light. who wrote too of the division and conflict between love and wrath. This poem. to “tender metal partners in marriage. at its end. let us make the sign. Beatrix. but refers to an inner alchemy. and with it the initiate asks for peace for Beatrix and for himself. is especially of interest to us here. he will not lose the memory of the suffering he has undergone. And in his allusions to the visionary descent into darkness.18 But Milosz has forged his own mode of expression. by the grace of inner vision. and for our three days to come. but also of the inner desolation that one can also experience on earth. par la grâce de la vue du milieu. but the descent into immense suffering and privation. as though the various elements of his mind were projected outward into a kind of initiatic psychodrama of the kind one also sees in ancient Hermetism or the Mysteries. innocents! [The parents sleep there. [Dear child. the sign!]” This is the sign of the cross. le signe! [seven times for the past.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 95 remède à tous les maux et que la connaissance de l’or est aussi celle de la lumière et du sang. Frequently his poetry has a dramatic or semidramatic quality. This understanding he expressed often in a peculiarly theatrical way. Milosz is close to Novalis (Friedrich von Hardenberg.” Milosz has his character “The Adept” speaking with his inner spouse.]” . in his 1922 poem entitled “The Adept’s Christmas Eve.” is unquestionably alchemical. “The Adept’s Christmas Eve” begins with the Adept’s ritual gesture: “sept fois pour le passé. dans cet œuf appuyé sur le feu nuptial. and is clearly expressing his own direct experience. Milosz is very much akin to Böhme.]”17 The canticle concludes with the poet’s prayer that when he is finally cleansed of both evil and good. [1775–1802]). again three times. tender metal partners in marriage.

“I see only one. The adept watches. partially because of her name’s meaning—thrice beatific—which in turn recalls not only the Trinity.96 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E The language here is completely that of Hermeticism: indeed. and “Lumière de l’or. which became openings for him as he ascended into paradise in the Divine Comedy. Thus the allusions to Dante’s poetry are subordinate to the poem’s initiatory psychodrama. but a player on the poet’s inner stage. He opens his eyes and is reborn. sometimes almost disjointed quality like hieratic speech heard in a dream. The Master forgives me. It may well be that Dante’s great poetry emerges through Milosz’s here primarily because it too is the unfolding of an ascent of consciousness in an inner drama. [My chains of constellations are broken. of course. the adept exults of “how all your [Beatrix’s] secret being breathes within me. Beatrix. For not only are there references to the “tender metal partners in marriage. your eyes!”—reminds us of Dante’s fascination with Beatrice’s eyes. impossible to miss the allusions here to Dante’s Divine Comedy. and all is finished”—yet this is also the moment of rebirth. is reborn!” Thus once again. Beatrice. and to its incantory language. the mystery of the sacred name emerges as the crux of the spiritual rebirth. any more than are those of the adept. “The Adept’s Christmas Eve” draws on a range of allusions. Here we are looking at spiritual alchemy. including the way the Greco-Roman Mystery traditions fed into the Christian mysteries of symbolic death and rebirth.” At the climax of this strange initiatic psychodrama. Yet Beatrix does not seem a human spouse. your eyes!” The adept’s final line is: “Mes chaines de constellations sont rompues. charity. “I believe it is. and black. The adept’s fascination with Beatrix’s eyes—“your eyes. [It is life liberated. and what does he see? “Purity rises to the surface. undoubtedly reflects Dante’s beloved.]”20 Beatrix warns the adept of the legions of destroyers massed to ruin his creation. her words are not ordinary or even precisely human. I tell you.” not only references to the alchemical furnace. he comes back to life. [Light of gold. The alchemical . partaking rather of a heightened. but also thrice-greatest Hermes. or like the language of a ritual enactment of the Greek mysteries. The woman in the poem.” And he repeats how extraordinary are “your eyes. but the adept replies. but also countless other allusions to a kind of visionary inner alchemy.]”21 It is. white and pale blue. tu te délivres. Thus a new cry sounds seven times—Is it a name? asks the adept. the adept speaks of “seven deadly cries in the night. yellow. leaden and lachrymal. and the longstanding alchemical traditions as well. woman.]” To which Beatrix replies: “C’est la vie délivrée. the alchemy of inward marriage and of the spiritual birth of the alchemical child. you liberate yourself.” while the “oil of blind corruption. charitée. the poem is really an initiatic dialogue incorporating the language of alchemy. And in the conclusion of the poem. at once also alluding to the birth of Christ.” sinks to the depths. dancing in a circle in the rigor of red.

Milosz’s poems presuppose a visionary experiential reality behind and above them. eventuates in the birth of Christ in the alchemist or adept: all these traditions are brought together in the service of what we may call an Hermetic-alchemical initiatory psychodramatic poem. and what effect does he anticipate the poem will have? This is a much more far-reaching question than one might at first imagine.”22 To whom does this legacy belong. in such a way that it seems to be seen through the parietal bone. after all. or rather. The poet of Ars Magna and the Arcana does not write for his contemporaries. one senses vast expanses around one.” a “faithful and pious narrative. He writes in exegesis that The revelation of a superior phenomenalism opens with a mystical consecration. at a small distance from the large cupric cloud which conceals from him the upper luminous level. with the initiatory drama unfolding itself in an inner theater whose audience is.” not to mention Ars Magna or The Arcana. perfectly awake.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 97 work. far beyond what we might think such a line may mean. not very high in the vaporous mass behind the top of his skull. At the same instant. In his exegetic notes to his own prose work Ars Magna (whose title is drawn from the similarly named work by Ramon Lull). exposing the upper region which is suddenly crossed. To whom is Milosz writing in such a poem. And there is in this unfolding drama something profoundly impersonal. in what it reveals. the large cloud vanishes. as unemotional as nature. as though the poet does not exist as an ego.: initiate]. to read such a poem as “Canticle of Knowledge” or “The Adept’s Christmas Eve. then? Undoubtedly. is also to participate in it. oneself. When the ascent through the nebula is finished and the epopt [Gk. To see how far Milosz’s work is from what we often call poetry. in an elliptical leap of extreme violence and with the noise of a strong wind.” Milosz’s commentary goes far. The various phases of this rite correspond to the principal moments in the regeneration of a mineral. sometimes decidedly strange language of Milosz’s poetry brings the reader into a similar state to that Milosz is describing. the meaning attributed to this word is that of a legacy to a posterity as distant as possible from this fourth age whose death agony we are witnessing.” and that “In the author’s mind. Milosz writes that his work is a “testament. rests in a horizontal position. Whereas much of what we call modern poetry has only itself and the physical world for references. by a metallic red-hot egg. a light appears.” The line is the fourth verse. perhaps we should examine one of his exegetic notes on a single line of his own “Poem of the Arcana. Perhaps most interesting for us is the question of the poem’s reader. . by Milosz. “Yet I shall humble in the dust before you this brow which has received the crown. in other words. The incantory. archetype of the coronation of regents by divine right in the material world.

he is among the most erudite of poets. one may even say. and plunges its omniscient stare for a long time into the deepest thought of the new King. it descends slowly towards the top of the skull. Only what is behind or in the symbolic is ultimately real. There is in Milosz’s work a paradoxical insistence on humility. though including many great poets. scientifically. about an actual experience of spiritual coronation. He insists that in order to understand. its secular hedonism and materialism.” thus bringing his reader into the dialogue much as one finds in the Corpus Hermeticum and in other Hermetic dialogues or monologues since antiquity. and with unspeakable scorn for the epoch which saw their birth. thereafter. its brutal mass wars. that. becomes rounder. Such experience is of the truly situated. is focused particularly on the syncretic Hermeticism that began to flower in the eighteenth century. and in this there is a kind of reversal. moving up a little. only he who bows down will be bowed down to. Milosz .” and adds that “Behind the symbol there is an immutable situated reality. on which it alights like a crown.”24 He writes sardonically of the blindness and destructiveness of modern society with its industrial gigantism. to remark on the question of Milosz’s antecedents. meaning the archetypal realm. “who will read these pages with a filial respect for their author. It is perhaps useful. and for him such experience is more real than our mundane lives precisely because it is not constrained by duration or mensurability. In all of this he assumes a prophetic voice. Yet at the same time Milosz in his prose and poetry addresses himself to a future reader some centuries hence. His is a peculiar combination of humility and pride intermingled. and insists that his true reader will recognize the worth of his writings only far in the future.98 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E Turning into a golden globe. because it springs from this archetypal reality. it assumes the appearance of a magnificent golden sun of oval shape.23 There is still more. and a scorn for our own era that bespeaks a kind of pride. but this lengthy excerpt is sufficient to show that even a single rather mundane line in Milosz’s poetry has behind it far more experiential referents than we might ever have expected. yet his erudition. Without question. we must bow down. one senses that his pride comes from a certainty of knowledge that is ignored and despised by the human world.” Milosz’s “superior phenomenalism” is his term for direct spiritual experience. at this point. referring to the reader as “my son. for what seems situated and real in this world is revealed in the other to be unreal. Perhaps we can understand more clearly what Milosz means when he quotes “the master Goethe” as saying that “Every passing thing is only a symbol. just as he ignores and despises that world. stands still. as he put it in his last poem of 1936. And authentic literature. This account suggests that Milosz is writing rather precisely. is revelatory and prophetic in its very nature.

Milosz not only had studied and read Hebrew. In the “Psalm” we read of another primary theme. he was well acquainted with Jewish Kabbalism.]28 The peculiar rhythm of the lines and line breaks makes this poem unusually difficult to follow. The allusions to Milosz’s favorite doctrines and language are here hidden in the allusions to Hebrew names and places.”27 “Psalm of the Morning Star” is so suffused in Hebrew and in Old Testament language as to be inseparable from them. Swedenborg.” recalling to us Milosz’s earlier poems and to his imagery of alchemical inner marriage and the revelation of divine Wisdom as the feminine spouse. the disciple of the Kabbalist Raymond Martini. passing through the Pre-Socratics. [a single new word the same / heart as in the time of the fathers beats in wood / stone and water of all that returns there is / nothing new all those things were sleeping / in closed books the books have opened themselves / beneath my hand. These writers—and also Jewish exegesis—exerted a decisive influence upon Blaise Pascal. Claude de Saint Martin.” first with his teacher of Hebrew. but kept a Bible in Hebrew nearby as a constant reading companion. sought in them peace of spirit. The Rosicrucian Polybius the Cosmopolitan.26 If we see here the depth of Milosz’s focus on Hermeticism in history. Plato.”25 And he remarked elsewhere that he spent the best years of his life in solitude “getting drunk on the Holy Scriptures and nourishing myself on them. but in the tradition of many Christian Cabalists. the School of Alexandria. that of the word and the book: un seul mot nouveau le même / cœur qu’au temps des pères bat dans le bois la / pierre et l’eau rien de tou cela qui revient / n’est nouveau toutes ces choses dormaient / dans les livres fermés les livres sous mes / mains se sont ouverts. as when the poem refers to the “betrothed sister of the new canticle. “Psaume de l’Étoile du Matin [Psalm of the Morning Star]. but it reveals at the heart of all things “a single new word. looked forward to the day that the Jews would be converted to Christianity. Martinez de Pasqually. from Egypt up to today.” where he writes of how “shade covers An-Dor and / Pau of the land of Esau covers Matred Tolde Beith / Aram and all Spared of Judea. the Neoplatonists of the Middle Ages.” and . the mystical eighteenth century. alias René Descartes. Swedenborg. we cannot help but notice the parallel focus on Judaism and Kabbalah. Eugène Ledrain.” Milosz continued. and then with his “spiritual guides: Goethe. We can see how deeply Milosz’s fascination with Judaism penetrated his work by examining his final poem.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 99 wrote in a letter that he would like to lecture on a subject he knew thoroughly: “hermetic metaphysics and doctrines.

King of the Unified World. . it is not books that we are waiting for. Joseph de Maistre. and art. Eliot. S.100 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E a mysticism that has “all those things” “sleeping in closed books” that open themselves under the poet’s hand.” and yet writes that he will humble his brow in the dust before “you. R. if we may coin a word. . Thus we find in this final poem of Milosz the linguistic and. the archetypes of the cosmos exist inside letters. for instance. wrote for his poetry. drawn together with a universalism that both resembles and includes Freemasonry. we are waiting for the continuation and fulfillment of the only Book. . Germany. Architect of the effective Catholic Church of tomorrow.”30 The name Hiram is found in Masonic tradition. Hiram. Milosz held. my son. and several other historians of the brotherhoods in their research on the origins of an institution which claims to descend from the Essenes and from the Priests of the Holy .” which are far more extensive than anything T. the visionary poet. If the author has considered it useful to follow Lessing. La Clef de l’Apocalypse [The Key to the Apocalypse]. in short. just as in the Book of Revelation and just as in Kabbalism. and that he shared with much of the Christian theosophic tradition. words. Nor is it coincidental that in 1933 Milosz published his close study titled L’Apocalypse de Saint-Jean Déchiffrée [The Apocalypse of Saint John Decoded] and. King of the unified world.”29 Here we see the nascent Christian millennialism that pervades so much of Milosz’s work as he anticipated a future renaissance.” in fact. and Milosz explains his poem’s relationship to Freemasonry in his “Exegetic Notes. and Savoy. Milosz tells of his visionary experience. as early as 1919. The legend of his assassination by three rebellious companions and of the discovery of his body by the nine Masters is only a figure for the death of Jacques de Mola. science. The allegory is clearly indicated by the password Nekom (Vengeance) used by the Chapter of Clermont and the Scottish lodge of the Berlin Union. Here. that the work of the coming poet is to be a “crowning” of the New Testament as the latter was a crowning of the Old: “It is not a book.” Milosz writes that The personage who concerns us here is not the symbolic hero of the Templars or of Scottish Freemasonry in England. Under the heading “Hiram. says that “I am entering the twelfth year of supreme knowledge. inside the books of life and of knowledge. are enormously important for understanding the complex work of Milosz and his mysticism of the word. and the true poet. The “architect” of those brotherhoods was Biblical in name only. opens those books in order to reveal their inner mysteries—or rather. libric mysticism that has haunted Western esotericism from antiquity. in 1938. Le Forestier. but there are still other currents of Western esotericism that emerge in the poet’s work. the universal regent of faith. the books open themselves to him. In his “Poem of the Arcana. Hermeticism and Kabbalism. and books.

Milosz goes on to tell us that the “future architect mentioned by name in the Arcana is the spiritual son of Hiram-Abi. his reference to Hiram in the poem is of his own devising. it is above all as testimony of veneration for some of its members.31 It is clear from this note alone that Milosz was intimately familiar with the history of Masonry and Rosicrucianism.” He prophesies that “all laboratories of the highest thought will come to group themselves in an immense circle around the future Church of Our Lady. in the sacred poem of the Arcana. who announced a coming millennium. the depository of the one divine and human truth confirmed by philosophy and science. like spirit and matter. aspire to holy unification. he brings in the theme that. “Who remembers the enthusiasm and the hopes of 1789?” Such a question takes on added resonance when one considers the role that Freemasonry played in the French Revolution. and to the Rosicrucian Polybius the Cosmopolitan. the builder sent by Hiram of Tyre to Solomon. the times foreseen by Guillaume Postel. like all the continents and all the states of this world. when the organization of Europe will be based upon the principles which guided the foundation of the great American federation.” And he imagines too the “approaching moment. Religion and science. relatively not distant. alias René Descartes. Indeed. even though Milosz implies that his Hiram is different from the Masonic one.” This Hiram will establish “his temporal dominion over a world unified at first in spirit by the Holy Catholic Church. especially the dream of a world utopia. Hence Milosz continues his exegesis of his own poem with several pages on the emergence of a unified world and a new world monarchy. the times of ‘perfection in the Restitution of Nature. many themes in Milosz’s outer life—chiefly his work in the League of Nations— reflect those of the Rosicrucians and early modern Masons. and in so doing was drawing upon a tradition of “the Restitution of All Things” that runs . as well as the emergence of a “Cathedral of Peace.”33 This last remark is especially interesting given that not only were George Washington and Benjamin Franklin Masons. but so too were fifty-three of the fifty-six signers of the Declaration of Independence. it is perhaps enough to recall the prophetic late-medieval character Postel. He writes that “Today.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 101 Sepulchre. But Milosz’s grand dream goes beyond Masonry as well.”32 Here.34 And Milosz goes on to ask.’ announce their impending appearance.”35 All of this resonates so strongly with the Western esoteric traditions we have been tracing that it would take several pages just to explicate this single sentence in Milosz’s “Exegetic Notes. particularly for Kadosch Dante Alighieri of the Fede Santa.” Here. a Virgin-Mother of Knowledge. as we have seen. and further that although he is drawing on Masonic lore. was so profoundly characteristic of early Rosicrucianism and of Freemasonry as well: the union of science and religion in a glorious unified future world.

”37 This new esoteric group had some Masonic characteristics. moral or social. Our group will have no more than twelve members. however. being the Christ-figure.102 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E from antiquity through such figures as John Scotus Eriugena and Jane Leade to modern authors including Vladimir Solovyov and Nicholas Berdyaev. most important is that Milosz’s work extended into every sphere of life. however outrageous they may seem in their magnitude. Just as Milosz drew on the full breadth of the Masonic tradition in his poetry and prose. was drawing together a new group of which Milosz was to be spiritual director.”39 These dreams of universality. Several years after his illuminatory experience in 1914. Milosz wrote. a kind of Christian semi-Masonic esotericism. certainly has its historical predecessors: one thinks. the other members being his apostles. religious. For us. in his work as in his private life. while also publishing numerous articles in several journals of the time. of course. de Lubicz. This small group they called Les Veilleurs (The Watchers). of the London Rosicrucians of the early nineteenth century associated with Francis Barrett.36 Milosz too saw himself as a prophet of a future era of universal peace and knowledge. the sciences.”38 Such a group. to which era belongs the spiritual son whom he addresses throughout his gnostic poetry and prose. In his work. The Master alone will wear a red cap. but our modern attire is truly incompatible with all effort toward the Good. the “science of the divine.” And in his little esoteric group. with a white collar. among them its ritual dress. so too he drew on Masonry in his private life. one of Milosz’s most devoted friends. sought the widest possible range. in his letter to James Chauvet. he hoped to influence “all sorts of domains in the evolution of our terrible and admirable epoch. not to say grandiosity. of political. The fundamental teaching will be that of the Arcana. resemble nothing so much as the inception of Rosicrucianism (whose advocates sought precisely the same social transformation on a vast scale). And there are numerous other such examples. Here too was a group with Masonic overtones. and of forming a group of disciples that in turn would help to transform the whole of human society. I am the enemy of exteriorization. he drew together a small esoteric coterie that included René Schwaller. a group that included “the proletarian Masons whose G[rand] M[aster] is one of our friends. whom he later adopted as his spiritual son and gave his family crest name. Milosz explicitly forecast the unification of politics. as we have seen. for instance. Hiérarchie-Liberté-Fraternité. and scientific fusion. “The hour of Apostleship has sounded”—Milosz himself. but explicitly Christian. author of The Magus. . And in 1929 Milosz wrote a letter to a friend in which he explained that Carlos Larronde. These are the three colors of the great work (spiritual and physical). and in 1919 they established an exoteric center called the Centre Apostolique. and the arts via religion. “Dress for meeting: the robes will be of black silk. and that he deliberately.

Milosz is unique not only for the vast range of his studies.40 But we still await a comprehensive study that incorporates the full range of H. In these efforts. Lewis. magic. Milosz in some respects cast aside his wand (any influence on his contemporary era) in order. but also for the universality of his aims. There are. to reach an audience whom he specifically invoked in his writing itself. astrology. there is no other figure who so completely reveals the confluence of all the primary currents of Western esotericism in the modern era. There is in Milosz’s poetry and prose a peculiar hieratic quality and a special relationship to his imagined reader that will inform our final two chapters. novels.’s poetry. S. D. all of whom also were involved in esoteric circles. and the Christian theosophy of Zinzendorf and the Moravians. and Kathleen Raine. Although we here will take our leave of them. and the Initiatic Word If Milosz is emblematic of an initiatic male poet in the twentieth century. and a new golden age. Indeed. the Tarot. through his writing. we have by no means finished with either of these inexhaustible figures: Prospero. D. Indeed. He sought nothing less than to bring about the renewal of Christianity through its universalization. then without doubt the emblematic female poet has to be H. the poet H. for however assiduous Milosz was in working toward universality in his writing and in his life. not toward the present. Here. others whose work certainly bears the imprint of esoteric influences. and specifically toward a future reader whom he regards as his spiritual son. various heresies of antiquity including the Ophites and other Gnostic groups.’s life and interests. D. Among the best of these is Susan Friedman’s chapter entitled “Initiations” in her book Psyche Reborn (1981).M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 103 Milosz is. Milosz certainly resembles the figure of Prospero in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Charles Williams. which outlines the intertwining of H. Like Prospero in his final speech. However. D. psychic insights or visions. we . C. of course.’s biography and her fascination with mysticism. numerology. and Milosz. today. but toward the future. and essays. D. all of these efforts were ultimately pointed. a relatively obscure figure. in which we begin to explore the theoretical dimensions and implications of Western esoteric literature in relation to consciousness.. Rosicrucianism. D. That H. including such authors as William Butler Yeats. H. the list of names of modern authors and poets influenced by esoteric currents of thought is nigh unto endless. and in such aims is a classic exemplar of modern Western esotericism.— born Hilda Doolittle [1886–1961]—was fascinated with esoterica is well known. a number of books have explored the wide range of esoteric influences that appear in H. but as we can see from this discussion of his work and life. little studied in academe. D.

astrology. very much resembles both of them in certain respects. and what we might term esoteric correspondences or patterns in life. D.’s life it is repeated a number of times. as many critics have observed.. D.. But when we begin to look at H.’s Notes on Thought and Vision. Margaret Fuller. was fascinated by numerology. D.104 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E will explore how her work explicitly and implicitly initiates the reader through literature and art. I argue that this crisis can be interpreted as initiatory. Likewise. H. the much earlier work Notes on Thought and Vision helps to make clear H. and soon (by 1911) came to see the emblem of the thistle and serpent as her own. save that in H. however.”41 Although the major works by H.’s early. D. was fascinated by esoteric correspondences in her life. D.” Albert Gelpi writes that H. underwent “a severe psychic breakdown. and it was included as the frontispiece for her most well-known book. Woman in the Nineteenth Century. We should begin. In Esoteric Origins. overmind. for H. I should say this: it seems to me that a cap is over my head. like H. so it will be necessary here only to allude to the parallels. D. She begins Notes with the cryptic proclamation: “Three states or manifestations of life: body. D. for our purposes are her later ones such as her poems in Trilogy and Vale Ave as well as her novel The Gift. and on the other Margaret Fuller. belonged to what is clearly an American feminine literary lineage that includes on the one hand Emily Dickinson. explicitly esoteric book. I have written in detail about both Dickinson and Fuller in The Esoteric Origins of the American Renaissance (2001). it argues for the characteristically Emersonian idea of an ‘overmind’ as a model of higher consciousness. written in July 1919 in the Scilly Islands. the parallels we see perhaps most clearly are not so much with Fuller as with Dickinson. a cap of consciousness . Notes on Thought and Vision (1919). and her extreme sensitivity had made her preternaturally susceptible to the intensities of experience that others might overlook. She created a hermetic emblem or herald for herself. by recognizing that H.” Vulnerable to periodic psychic breakdowns. And when we turn from Dickinson to H. D. D. as a wrenching spiritual awakening.” The work is essentially an elaboration of this gnomic statement. D. “The Thistle and the Serpent. She writes: If I could visualise or describe that overmind in my own case. was a reasonably accomplished astrological interpreter. we see very much the same pattern of psychological and spiritual crisis as awakening. D.” which she calls in Notes her “jellyfish experience. Notes is a very unusual work. that Dickinson underwent at least one extended spiritual and psychological crisis.’s gnostic perspective in relation to literature. mind. “her unusual susceptibility also made possible a breakthrough into heightened consciousness. For it seems clear from her poetry. In his introduction to H.

second is the life of the intellect. H. She holds that “a lover must choose one of the same type of mind as himself. D. She does write about a “vision of the womb. But Gnosticism is here only as allusion. wonders whether it is easier for a woman than a man to attain consciousness of the overmind. H.” And she adds that “I believe there are some artists coming in the next generation. H. as primary to the true artist. Whatever else we may make of it. continues: first is the life of the body and sexuality. D. like water. my forehead.’s expectation of a few in the coming generation with the secret of the overmind reminds us of Milosz’s expectation of a coming initiate for whom his work is intended. a musician. except through the intellect. The two work separately. with the gulls and the sky and the earth. D. D. fluid yet with definite body. . or anemone. and when love-vision and intellectual vision coincide.”43 H. Without doubt.”44 This initiatic process is similar to that of the Eleusinian mysteries.” She does not valorize this vision against that of the intellect. I first realized this state of consciousness in my head. syncretic . some of whom will have the secret of using their overminds. It is like a closed sea-plant.’s work has feminist implications. we begin to suspect that this odd book of fragments is itself a kind of initiatic book of clues for those very coming artists of the overmind.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 105 over my head. . this is the source of creativity just as it is the wellspring of spirituality. There are even traces here of Gnosticism. or awakening into the overmind.” The minds of the lovers unite.” but she writes about it that this is the vision of “dream and of ordinary vision. indeed. even if most prefer to stay entombed in their comfortable closed houses. I visualise it just as well. as when she speculates on the meaning of the pearl in her gnostic sketches. almost like two lenses. since she experienced it along with the birth of her child. contained in a defininte space. As we read on through Notes. had outlined a fundamentally gnostic worldview. a musician. That overmind seems a cap. D. a nonsectarian. and perhaps when she concludes by conjoining Christ and Dionysius in a poetic vision of their unity with the divine mother as with all of nature.42 H. she insists that “There is no way of arriving at the overmind. as some of Plato’s dialogues suggest. and third is the awakening into the overmind. they “bring the world of vision into consciousness. affecting a little my eyes . thoughts pass and are visible like fish swimming under clear water . is a gnostic with a small g. jelly-fish. . but it would be a mistake to see all of her writing only in this context. without question we can see here that already in 1919 H. She writes that to be a true artist. yet make one picture. those future initiates for whom this little book is intended. perceive separately. now. Into that over-mind. transparent. which is possible for all. one must. . centered in the love-region of the body or placed like a foetus in the body. D. She places gnosis. engage in a union of love and intellect.

D. / it unlocks secret doors. spell. / jottings of psychic numerical equations. She writes “dare. / subconscious ocean where Fish / move two-ways.’s work is a complex tapestry of just such word-play and religious concordances. distinguishes between the subconscious mind and the overmind. she criticizes “a riot of unpruned imagination. E. as these entities are “healers. D. D. But in “The Walls Do Not Fall. she holds. the poem is at heart profoundly esoteric in its unified vision amid the shards of bomb-shattered modernity.”48 All of this suggests that there is . But it was during the German siege of London during the Second World War that H. Her themes are explicitly esoteric throughout these poems: she writes of her experience of “The Presence. over-confidence. reversion of old values. develops many of the themes initially sketched in Notes on Thought and Vision.” and of her “companions / in this mystery.” we “nameless initiates.” and of “the most profound philosophy”.47 In M. / born of one mother. In Notes on Thought and Vision. she extends the unity of Dionysius and Christ that ended the earlier work.” and “The Flowering of the Rod. D. In this respect.” here. H. seek.” “arrogance.” In “The Walls Do Not Fall. pitiful reticence. dare more. the overmind being above it. we clearly see how extensive and lifelong Ernst’s fascination with alchemical imagery was.”45 “Amen. All-father. writing that “it appears obvious / that Amen is our Christos. . criticizes the surrealist use of alchemical imagery as a means to the subconscious. This is an important distinction because in “The Walls Do Not Fall.106 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E gnostic whose primary emphasis is nonsectarian spiritual awakening.” H. is the Egyptian god Amen-Ra. Amen. / oneness lost. .”46 It is obvious from “The Walls Do Not Fall” that although H. These three poems were “The Walls Do Not Fall. for instance. Warlick’s Max Ernst and Alchemy. prayer” for healing. As a number of scholars have demonstrated.” “Tribute to the Angels.” who “know each other / by secret symbols.” Yet when the “secret doors” are “found . too.” At first it would seem she is endorsing modern uses of alchemy in this “age of the new dimension. wrote the collection of three long poems later published as Trilogy. this. was lost in sea-depth. surrealism and symbolism (particularly the latter in Russia) were deeply indebted to alchemy.” she extends it to discuss the emergence of surrealism with such figures as Max Ernst and Andre Breton. / companions / of the flame.” She writes.” mind “floundered. the subconscious being below ordinary consciousness. and H. boasting. D. intrusion of strained / inappropriate allusion. of the “alchemist’s secret. / here is the alchemist’s key. she is very much in the American tradition inaugurated by Ralph Waldo Emerson.” In the next section. D. seek further. Here.” And the section ends with “illusion. unlocked. is a false path. devour.’s outward circumstances were the terrors of war. helpers / of the One. madness. even offering a diagrammatic illustration of the two.” H. of the stars as “separate entities” “intimately concerned with us” who can be “invoked / with accurate charm.

H. too little affirmation.51 Taken in context with the earlier invocation of Hermes-Thoth. D. H.”49 Thus. / rededicate our gifts / to spiritual realism”. cryptograms.” Her invocation continues: “Let him (Wisdom. the difficulty of conveying initiation through the written word—it includes the implication that such efforts are bound to be deemed ‘heretical’ by some. but also those who come after her. / inventive. I feel the meaning that words hide. of the soul that passes through initiation and awakes. this passage suggests the complexity. but suddenly from them emerge living butterflies. one that leads toward the subconscious and illusion—and this is the path of the surrealists. D.” “invoke the true-magic.” This poem exhorts the poet to “plunder” the past. and that one must know and feel by intuition the meaning that words hide. they are anagrams. devoid of life.” through painting or writing. In a well-known passage.’s invocation of Hermes. “patron of alchemists. who as the sacred scribe is invoked through the act of using “pen or brush. illuminate what came after. continues.’s trilogy is “Tribute to the Angels. H.” and it begins with an invocation again of Hermes Trismegistus. The reader is called to sacred writing by way of H.”50 Here H. conditioned to hatch butterflies .” “candle and script and bell. she is calling herself to a sacred task. The poet is called to “take what the old-church / found in Mithra’s tomb. The words themselves may resemble boxes. / re-vivify the eternal verity. D.” invoke “Hermes-thrice-great. too little: I know. artful and curious. The next work in H. She calls us to “prepare papyrus or parchment. D. . but this. symbols of Psyche reborn. too much. D.” . / lead us back to the one-truth. then writes: We have had too much consecration. explicitly invokes the Hermetism of antiquity.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 107 a wrong path. as Hermes is patron of poets and thieves. with their overconfidence leading only to floundering in sea-depths of confused images and “incongruous monsters. this has been proved heretical. .” whose “province is thought.” what the “new-church spat upon / and broke and shattered. D. “Let us substitute / enchantment for sentiment. little boxes. itself conveyed through the act of sacred writing.’s words here are an invocation and a kind of Hermetic initiation. / in the light of what went before. this.

One is the layer of the destruction in London during the bombing. how is it you come so near. H. H. D. it was an ordinary tree. the shattered glass of the past. an angel manifesting in the flowering tree. after all. in an old garden-square.’s poetic narrative reminds us of Rilke’s accounts of meeting angels in his Sonnets to Orpheus and Duino Elegies.” One must “reinvoke.” I take these lines as placing the poet’s vision in the context of John’s Revelation: John was a prophet and seer. D. the conditions under which. What does the poet see? The poem is far too vast to attempt a complete exegesis here. we entered a house through a wall. indivisible Spirit. like a ghost. recreated by the poet. but I believe the heart of the poem is to be found in the following section: Invisible. D. is in fact transmuting the war experience into one of divine .52 These lines reveal many layers. passed through a frame—doorless— entered a shrine. We should not underestimate the magnitude of what H. D. reinvoked in a new form. then still not knowing whether (like the wall) we were there or not-there. so too can the poet be. how is it that we dare approach the high-altar? we crossed the charred portico. re-create” that which is now “scattered in the shards / men tread upon”. Another is the layer of Hermetic invocation. but also of a meeting with an invisible spirit. and still another is that of an older true unified religion rejected by a “new-church.” but re-awakened. was writing these poems. She includes lines from the Revelation of John: “I. we saw the tree flowering. and so too by implication can we be. I testify. but whereas Rilke could not write during war.53 This is an account of self-transcendence (not knowing whether we were there or not-there). the poet must “melt down and integrate. H. saw. is attempting in her poetry here. in the high-altar of a ruined building. John.108 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E This.

’s poetry in general. one can only suggest it so that the reader can realize it too. is a gnosis of the word. D. the divine feminine. This experience.’s poetry. and this suggestiveness is how initiation through the word takes place. alluded to. the next section is very important.’s “Tribute to the Angels. In H. . Hence H. transmitted as an “open secret” (to use Carlyle’s phrase describing Emerson’s essay Nature). bind together Christian and pre-Christian religious traditions. seeing Christianity as being a continuation of earlier traditions.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 109 revelation. / it was a sign. that “Hermes Trismegistus / spears. D. what I mean is— but you have seen for yourself that burnt-out wood crumbling you have seen for yourself. But there is another recurrent theme in Trilogy that we also cannot ignore and that is indivisible from this mysterious and profound experience of the divine: the figure of Sophia. / casts the Old Dragon / into the abyss. Sophia appears here in this larger context as a figure of the divine feminine . what I mean is—it is so simple yet no trick of the pen or brush could capture that impression. writes that the Cross and the Tau or “T-cross” merge with the caduceus. and even more overtly.” This experience “was vision. . just as Christianity and the mystery religions of antiquity are joined indivisibly. writes that This is no rune nor riddle. D.” she also builds toward a specific spiritual experience in which she saw “God in the other-half of the tree.’s vision. conveyed through the poetry. H. / it was the Holy Ghost—. music could do nothing with it.” This experience is what she calls the “flowering of the rood. it is happening everywhere. and Trilogy in particular. D. D. symbol of Hermes. / the darkness of ignorance. with Saint Michael.” the name of the final poem in Trilogy. themselves conveyed to the reader through H. D. / . / it was the Angel which redeemed me. but gnosis manifested through a web of interconnected symbols. And this experience is gnosis. One cannot capture this esoteric illumination.”55 Hermes and the Archangel are thus merged in H. joining together the worst and the highest of which humanity is capable.54 Here she is conveying in poetic form what cannot be captured but only conveyed. nothing whatever. In it. H. the flowering of the wood. In this context.

She who has been seen “the world over. at once the Magna Mater and the Virgin of the Book of Revelation of John. was a baptized Moravian.. D. requiring instead imaginative participation on the part of the reader. to her astonishment. D. D. under her “drift of veils. for H. the thief.” “she carried a book. D. she was deeply familiar with the esoteric spirituality of the theosophic community of Count Zinzendorf in Pennsylvania.” This refrain.110 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E appearing through Mary and through the ancient goddesses. and that. is reluctant to label Sophia as a single reified figure.” H. right into the final poem. “Our Lady of the Pomegranate. It would be a mistake to presume that because H.” Here the focus is not feminine but masculine—the birth of Jesus Christ and the coming of the Wise Men bearing gifts. obviously. / out of the cocoon. clearly alludes to the figure of Hermes.” of artists and poets who “did not deny their birthright” but remained faithful to the spiritual origin and vision that is the fount of living art.’s own heritage.” “Santa Sophia. she retains the web of interconnected meanings and symbolisms. they are therefore a repudiation of Christianity in favor of a neopagan goddess tradition. preserving the evocative power of poetry that resists the power of reason alone. the Bible. whether it is con- .” as well as “the new Eve who comes” bringing “the Book of Life. in the context of the three poems together. But the “we” who did not “forego our heritage” also has a wider context. the scribe.” “the SS of the Sanctus Spiritus. brought into paradise with Christ. as we will see when we turn to her novel The Gift. just as the Word is transmitted through the Great Book. who is also redeemed. They are not.’s Trilogy.” And She is also “Psyche. entitled “The Flowering of the Rood. And She is “Holy Wisdom.” This book is the transmission of the spiritual experience through the book of poems. thus “The Flowering of the Rood” is also about the redemption of art through religious experience.” at once both Christian and pre-Christian. This imaginative participation is at the heart of H. The artist who participates imaginatively with Christ is redeemed. and H. / who did not forego our heritage” [35]. Here it might be valuable to recall that H. affirms the divine feminine in her Trilogy poems. as we will see in more detail shortly. D.” for hers are the blank pages “of the unwritten volume of the new. Rather. D. Here the refrain is changed to the words of Jesus to the thieves who were crucified with Him: “to-day thou shalt be with me in Paradise.”56 Sophia herself appears to H. then notes that she is referring to “the straggling company of the brush and quill. D. the butterfly. allied to Mercury also. the writer. and the thief. the artist is the thief who is redeemed on the very day that Christ is crucified. and “she carries a book but it is not / the tome of the ancient wisdom. Sophianic spirituality was in H. speculates that “she must have been pleased with us. Hermes is the patron of the artist.” Yet Sophia is also “the Vestal / from the days of Numa. And there is one more critical detail: when Sophia appeared.” she of the Bona dea. D.

unabridged version of her novel The Gift. H. Woman in the Nineteenth Century. as in the original. fear. as well as of Christian and pre-Christian religious symbolism. I suppose. B. when New Directions published their abridged version of The Gift about a century later.” with the experience of Christ. D. The Gift. and the Trilogy exemplifies this complexity: it is a profoundly evocative collection of poems at whose center is a complex of religious experiences that cannot be understood completely except by recognizing their multivalence. Eve and Mary. H. Only when we read the original version of the novel can we recognize just how remarkable an achievement it is. the Vestal Virgin and “Our Lady of the Pomegranate. D. Her brother sought to keep from the public eye his sister’s interest in esoteric or ‘occult’ areas of thought.” all are interwoven here. an esoteric emblem that she designed herself. What is more. Such a massive lacuna is not surprising because it has at least some modest precedent in American letters. It is no accident that both the Trilogy and The Gift have woven into them the horror. D.’s own notes. D. we must turn to The Gift.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 111 venient for the reader’s ideology or not. and how at its very heart is—the gnosis of the word. they even changed significantly the emphasis of the entire novel from Moravian spirituality to the gift of artistic creation. D. It is not surprising. and confusion of the Second World War as experienced in the bombing of London. of mysticism. In her poetry. with the simultaneous symbolism of his birth and death. In the midst of the worst of which humanity is capable. Likewise. however. that until 1998. H. H. like Eliot in his Four Quartets. To understand this mysticism more fully. wove into The Gift her own extensive research into her family’s history.57 It was not until 1998 that Jane Augustine’s edited original edition of this extraordinary novel was published. the editors sought to remove many of the references to the mysticism that is in fact at the center of the book. Hermes and Christ. sought to accomplish a feat similar to that sought by the other great modernist poets T. in the midst of the terror and chaos and destruction of war. was published posthumously under the direction of her brother without her original frontispiece. As I detail in The Esoteric Origins of the American Renaissance (2001).’s poetry is far more complex than it is frequently depicted as being. Eliot and W. Margaret Fuller’s most well-known work. and that includes a unification of male and female symbolism. Yeats: to create or reveal a mythological net of symbols that reunites a shattered modern world and makes sense of life in the midst of total chaos. the only available versions of The Gift were more or less bowdlerized ones from which nearly a third of the original text was missing. the Trilogy culminates with “The Flowering of the Rood. complete with H. also reveals the overarching spiritual unity not only of mythology but. S. which was intertwined with the history of the Moravian Church in America in its .

1753). in . D.” of the “Arcana. We can see the extent and depth of H. Zinzendorf ’s most effective detractor. Georg Heinrich Loskiel’s History of the Mission of the United Brethren Among the Indians in North America (London: Brethren’s Society. D. H.” as well as of “Secrets probably known by the adepts alone. . D. “Old Father Weiss. deliberately incorporated much authentic historical background into the novel. Knapton. cited by H. but also that the artistic and spiritual import of the novel is bolstered by being based on actual fact. For Zinzendorf and his group were far more esoteric in their interests than those who were to follow them. But her interest in the Moravians took on a new intensity when she realized more about the esotericism of the original Moravians and of the charismatic Count Zinzendorf. especially those now housed at Yale University. and Henry Rimius’s A Candid Narrative of the Rise and Progress of the Herrnhuetters. 1794). itself. it was in fact in her blood. 1909). Robinson. though I must confess. as well as original copies of Rimius’s other major works on the subject. Commonly Called Moravians (London: A. In other words.’s library demonstrates the depth of her research. Rimius.” or Jedediah Weiss. Linde. Her notes for The Gift are remarkably detailed. wrote that they were precisely what she found attractive about the Unitas Fratrum: “Personally. came by her fascination with the Moravians naturally. accused the early Moravians of “gross and scandalous . but one should recognize that there is a considerable difference between the Moravian Church of the twentieth century and that of the Herrnhuters of Count Zinzendorf (1700–1760) who settled in Bethlehem. and he was born in Bethlehem. D. H. offering the reader incontrovertible evidence not only that H. I consider these findings highly stimulating and exciting. H.’s research into this area when we look at her own notes for the novel as well as the books from her own library. 1753). D. or Secret Counsels of their Leaders. And her personal library gives ample proof that H. In toto. had done her research. make clear this distinction. containing the Occasion of his coming among the Herrnhutters or Moravians (London: J. was herself a baptized Moravian. . Her notes are in fact an important aspect of the novel. among its volumes are Andreas Frey’s A True and Authentic Account of Andrew Frey.”58 About such accusations.112 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E earliest years. Joseph Edward Hutton’s A History of the Moravian Church (London: Moravian Publication Office. Rimius’s works. & P. He was a gifted musician who sang in the Moravian choir. shaping the way that she intended it to be read. and weave together genealogical and historical materials. Pennsylvania. Mysticism. 1755). D. H. with its numerous original eighteenth-century publications. Pennsylvania. was a watchmaker and silversmith for more than forty years in Bethlehem. D. in the middle of the eighteenth century. in her notes. her grandmother’s father. George Lavington’s The Moravians Compared and Detected (London: J. D. Her grandfather’s name was Francis Wolle.

writing these reflections during the siege of London in the Second World War. “There is no royal road into this kingdom.. and had existed in Bohemia-Moravia for many hundreds of years before what is now called the Reformation. in short. nonhierarchic tradition of true Christianity. But the reader is initiated into these mysteries vicariously. We were a small community. whose voice in the novel is clearly childish. into The Gift. For suddenly we encounter the voice of the elder H. The Gift is an initiatory work in the classic anthropological sense: it is on one level a story of how a young girl. an overarching spiritual narrative that redeems modernity from its chaos and fragmentation.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 113 my own day. The Moravian Church that he was instrumental in revivifying in the mid-eighteenth century actually was linked more to Greek Orthodoxy than to Rome. there was no hint of this exoticism. he also held that every woman represented an image of the Bride of Christ. conventionally the church. saw itself as a branch of the primordial and pure Christianity. and in this sense the book is clearly meant by H. writes. the reader is carried along vicariously on the discoveries not only of young Hilda. is initiated into the matrilinear gnosis of her family’s secret Moravian traditions. and its doctrines as representing a pure. it does exist. But more important than Zinzendorf’s own esotericism is how it was incorporated by H. referring to Father. explaining the novel’s initiatory power via the word and image within the novel itself in a kind of metanarrative. Mother. Zinzendorf espoused a doctrine of the Trinity that conjoined the Holy Spirit with the divine feminine. but also of the older poet H. The Moravian Church. This redemption from chaos that the reader undergoes by working through the novel is parallel to the initiation of the child Hilda. respected and highly respectable.” H. through the reader’s assembling of clues into a larger narrative.” that “someone must inherit” access to a hidden “continent” that includes links to people long dead. or Unitas Fratrum as resuscitated by Zinzendorf. . But The Gift is also an initiatory work in the other sense of the term—it opens up into an initiation into the spiritual mysteries of the Unitas Fratrum as well. Hilda. .. it is one of those things that you really do find in your Grimm or your Anderson .”59 There can be no doubt that Zinzendorf himself and his early circle held views that were seen as unacceptable by the German Protestant establishment at Dresden. who through the course of the novel comes to realize the true nature of her gnostic Moravian forebears and their unique relationships with American Indian spiritual elders. D. to initiate the reader. D. She tells us that there is a “Gift waiting. It is written in a characteristically modernist fragmented style that reflects on the one hand the fragmentation of modernity and on the other hand. and Son. is a coming-of-age or initiation-into-the-mysteries-of-adulthood narrative. “you just stumble on it.” She goes on: . The novel. D. D. Its esotericism derived its power from these beliefs. D.

. A bit of me can really “live something of a word or phrase. D. can one person who knows that Wunden Eiland is a bee-hive. but Hilda (and along with her. Rather. as some scholars seem to think. “The Secret. we are given more explicit hints about the title of the chapter. Island of Wonders. But really “live” it. These spiritual mysteries are not. later learning it means Island of Wounds). . who is somewhat forgetful near the end of her life. Williams called a primula. “Christian had left the Secret with me. considerably more of this theme to unpack. it is what the novel does for H. . In chapter 5 of The Gift. that is why it is so quiet. it is like that little flower that Mrs. The word is like a bee-hive. the word stops. The other bees have gone. cut on a wall at Karnak. A word opens a door. in some aspects of the story. Hilda is fascinated by Mamalie’s talk of Wunden Eiland. Hilda’s grandmother. That is how it is. Hilda is wondering if the word alone can serve as a means of initiation so that the spiritual mysteries of her heritage can be continued. But there is more. . Hilda knows that she is the last one in the family to whom Mamalie could entrust her secrets.114 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E It is like matching beads. this is the game I play.” The first is when Mamalie. but there are no bees in it now. And in this story men play at least as significant a role as women. keep Wunden Eiland for the other bees. while it is the case that Mamalie is telling this complicated history to her granddaughter Hilda. A word opens a door . these are the keys. Can one bee keep a bee-hive alive. I was afraid the Secret would be lost. .60 This concept of a word opening a door into the lives of one’s ancestors and into spiritual mysteries is at the very center of The Gift. the reader) must unravel their mysteries through cryptic comments and fragments let drop by her grandmother. men play a greater role than women. Hilda surmises. I mean. that Mamalie called himmelschlüssel or keys-of-heaven. indeed. I am the last bee in the bee-hive. I mean. begins to speak of “the papers” that she was afraid she had lost. aspects of a solely matriarchal tradition. Mamalie tells Hilda that the Moravians were at heart a continuation of “the Hidden Church that . the story she tells is of a hidden gnostic tradition stretching back to at least the time of the Knights Templar in the medieval period. Egyptian . Then am I for a moment . And Hilda speculates: I want her to go on talking because if she stops. a German name for an early Moravian island sanctuary (the name meaning.” she told Hilda. and even here in her narrative. even though the beehive is presided over by a Queen bee (Sophia?). when they come back?61 The word is the means of preserving and of transmitting the honey of spiritual knowledge. .

had a name for.”64 The Indians and the Moravians indeed had an unusual relationship. though. Johann Christoph Pyrlaeus was a musician who collected “Indian words and sayings and made a dictionary of them.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 115 [reportedly] had been destroyed and obliterated by the Inquisition. along with a list of “medicine-men or priests of the Indian tribes. she decoded it from the cryptic musical notations and multilingual script of the parchment kept in the birchbark case. . this meeting of the Moravians and Indians under the sign of the Great Spirit / Holy Spirit? She was a musician. laughing all the time.62 Like the Templars. of snow swirling. and a hundred years after this ritual meeting and descent of the Holy Spirit took place. D. was to decide the future of the whole country . Zeisberger and Christian Seidel. bore the names of Cammerhof. the Christian initiates of the fateful meeting at Wunden Eiland. to give the answer that the warriors had debated at their councils. indeed. but this was untrue. in particular the Shawnee.” not just Minne-ha-ha.” but that “wasn’t really destroyed. they conducted a syncretic ritual that joined the spiritual traditions of the two peoples. chiefly through the narrative of elderly Mamalie.” only driven “underground” to resurface with Count Zinzendorf and his disciples. The Moravians and the Indians under the chief Paxnous met in order to let their guiding spirits determine the fate of white-Indian relations. but all of them. it was the laughter of the water.’s.”66 How did Mamalie know so intimately what it was like. “like scales running up and down. though. She and her .” so he “made notes of tones and rhythms of their voices. it is not a confabulation of H. According to Mamalie. Mamalie continues. Greek. done in their picture-writing. as to what was to be the relationship in future between the white-men and the Indians. it was the outpouring of the Mystic Chalice that Paxnous’ priest too. As Mamalie put it in her narrative to Hilda: In fact. and Indian dialects and writing and marginal notes of music. . He said it would be impossible to follow the language without the music. kept in a birch-bark case.65 In this spiritual meeting of the medicine men and the Moravian initiates.” Pyrlaeus passed on a scroll written “in curious characters. of wind. it poured from the sky or from the inner realm of the Spirit. so that “It was laughing. where the Moravians came during the eighteenth century and immediately formed a rapport with the American Indians. the answer given by the Spirits.” This scroll. The most important scene for this gnostic drama. not least because the Moravians respected Indian spirituality. Hebrew. Pyrlaeus. This rapport is historically verifiable.63 In The Gift. altogether. this laughter that ran over us.” “the laughter of leaves. she draws upon historical fact in order to build a larger mythos. said Mamalie. the Moravians were accused of scandalous behavior. Already tracts of land further north were depleted of their wild animals. is not Europe but North America.

” about 150 Indians working in a Moravian settlement were attacked and about ninety slaughtered by ragtag American soldiers under the command of one David Williamson. the promise of Wunden Eiland and of the descent of the Holy Spirit is not lost but realized again. The Gift. and Hilda tells us that “We have been face to face with the final realities. where the falling arrows of the original “French Indian” attack on Gnadenhütten metamorphose into the falling bombs of the Germans attacking England. In her notes. called “New Gnadenhütten.”67 Thus “the Gift” was transmitted from the original Moravian participants in the ritual to Mamalie and her husband.” Mamalie and her young husband were taken away in rapture by this union with the original ritual and spiritual illumination. a means of underscoring that the immense promise of the Moravian-Indian spiritual brotherhood and sisterhood. We have been shaken out of our ordinary dimension in time and we have crossed the chasm that divides time from time-out-of-time or from what they call eternity. or Wounded Island. Among those killed were twenty-four women and twenty-two children. said in her fragmented narrative. so much so that she never played music again. even refers to the American David Williamson. those hiding in the attic burned alive. Mamalie. stands perpetually opposed to those whose aim is slaughter. composed of both local Indians and Moravians working with them. domination. Christian Seidel. In 1755. we realize that the Moravian sanctuary island. . so that the two of them shared in the original descent of the Holy Spirit just as Hilda was later to share in it through communion with it via what she calls “the Gift. who was to die at twenty-five. H.” as “Aryan. At the novel’s conclusion. who was responsible for the attack on “New Gnadenhütten. in an even more attenuated form.”69 The two worlds have become one. raining down terror from the skies. could have “lifted the dark wings of evil from the whole world. past and present superimposed upon one another and intermingling. decoded it and she played it.68 The final section of The Gift at first seems anticlimactic. So it would seem that The Gift is a tragic book.” but instead what we see is a tragic history. to young Hilda as Mamalie became delirious on her deathbed. having “burnt it up. And yet in the very final passages. Wunden Eiland. is also the wounded island of England as it is being bombed by the Germans. of universal peace and the descent of the Holy Spirit.” Thus we can see the palimpsest form of the novel. all of these themes are brought together into a unified whole. and then. the Moravian colony of Gnadenhütten. and both Moravians and Indians were slaughtered. And in a subsequent event.116 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E young husband. was attacked by a band of Indians loyal to the French. Instead of recounting the transmission of Mamalie’s understanding to young Hilda. we return to the fragmented narrative of the Second World War. or a subsequent realization of the original Moravian-Indian spiritual illumination. so that even amid the terrible bombing of England. D.

’s work exemplifies what I have termed “initiation through the word.’s poetry and prose reflect a sense of the transparency of time and place: from Notes on Thought and Vision onward. and as the way in which her work functions for the reader. and that it is possible to realize a timeless state she terms the “over-mind. Hilda hears the voice of Christian Renatus. D. does not exist separate from her poetic and fictional work but rather represents an important aspect of it. but as integral to her work. . H.’s fascination with various figures and currents of Western esotericism becomes more than a collection of interests.” in which the individual consciousness is exalted. and out of which all great work is generated. both poetic and fictional. we find a wide range of Western esoteric currents manifesting themselves. for instance.” There is a great sound—the sound of the all-clear siren in London. In her profoundly ambitious works.” both as a theme treated explicitly in her poetry and prose. H.’s work stands with that of Yeats and of O.” and she has suddenly achieved the union again in the twentieth century just as Mamalie had realized it in the nineteenth. de Lubicz Milosz as exemplary of the literary-mythological possibilities of Western esotericism. and the sound of the Moravian-Indian choirs of the past—and with this the novel concludes. her abiding fascination with Moravian esotericism is not merely an aspect of her genealogical interests.” she realizes that “Our earth is a wounded island as we swing round the sun. this fragmentation actually represents in artistic form a higher union of past and present. and Western Esotericism: Some Conclusions. singing of the Wounds. D. she hears the “deep bee-like humming of the choir of single brothers. as well as of timelessness and time. Her interest in spiritualism. one of the original Moravian initiates. but rather is woven into her entire worldview. But above all. not merely as decorations.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 117 In England.70 She hears the “great choir of the strange voices that speak in a strange bird-like staccato rhythm.” an echo of Emerson’s “Oversoul. there. D. H. past and present. Her later work in fact exemplifies exactly this idea. H. her work suggests that past. As we have seen. Out of the chaos and random destruction of the bombing of England in her Trilogy and The Gift emerge not only a palimpsest of Moravian past and H. D.” but she knows what they are saying even though they “are speaking Indian dialects. Likewise. In her poetry and fiction. the dead and the living are not separate but part of an interwoven continuum. In this context. H. not least because although outwardly its modernist fragmentation suggests confusion and chaos. it becomes the foundation for an entire worldview. present. but also a larger unity that even presents a way beyond chaos and evil into transcendence. D. and the original initiates had realized it in the eighteenth. Indeed.’s English present. the more certain one is that here is someone whose work cannot be understood fully without reference to Western esotericism.V. the more deeply one looks into her works. and future continually intermingle. Among major twentiethcentury authors. D.

71 . early seventeenth-century England. We cannot conclude without reference to H. through her grandmother’s reconstruction of it in The Gift. the Light-bringer. there is Resurrection and the hope of Paradise. true we had met in sudden frenzy. to be sure.’s esoteric worldview is complex and rather heterodox. H. dynastic Egypt. After his death.’s complex 1957 poem Vale Ave. may be Angel or Devil. She had begun to outline this concept already in her early Notes on Thought and Vision.’s work is fundamentally that of esoteric transmission through ahistorical continuity. D. through her fiction and through her poetry. Lilith. The Lucifer-Lilith. Elizabeth recalls him to her. as history tells us. legendary Provence. She is the niece of the Elizabethan poet and alchemist Sir Edward Dyer. outlined in entirety. and that also incorporated a sexual mysticism she found deeply congenial. in his pre-Eve manifestation. through time—specifically. At the center of her esoteric worldview is the primacy of the word as means of initiatic transmission. so Lilith may be Serpent or Seraph. and contemporary London. Mystery and a portent. and Elizabeth identifies herself with him.118 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E she found an esoteric religious perspective that recognized the divine feminine in the form of Sophia. has the same root derivation as Seraph. Is she the Serpent who tests the androgynat primordial? Serpent (saraph) it is said. but it was only in her later work that we see it. Vale Ave. meeting and parting. The poem begins with the following preface: This sequence introduces Adam’s first wife. through her uncle’s Art and through the alchemy of memory. H. whom we invoke as Lucifer. and its implications. and all the rest was mystery and a portent. yes. D. Through the codex left by the original Moravian initiates. late Rome. Adam-Eve formula may be applied to all men and women. but understanding it places her work in an entirely different light. illuminating many aspects that otherwise could not be fully understood. though here we follow the processus through the characters of Elizabeth and Sir Walter [Raleigh]. Sir Walter secretly and mysteriously becomes her lover during the last months of his life in the Tower of London. but at the same time. D. Sir Walter was himself an alchemist. which makes it absolutely clear that in her later poetry she was even more deeply immersed in Western esotericism. parted in the dark. although: I hardly knew my Lord. as Adam. timelessness conveyed through time by way of word and image.

taken in toto. it may seem as though nothing could be farther from us than a world in which magic is possible. But bring them back none may Who wakes into this day. the Writing.” Kathleen Raine wrote of how the mysteries were once upon the earth. ‘magical fiction’ in fact belongs to a larger category. but for our purposes the most important is the foregrounded theme of male-female spiritual alchemy that “may be applied to all men and women. this preface and the poem itself are filled with esoteric elements. of timelessness revealed in time’s transparency.’s lifetime of work.” the holy presences withdraw. magic and the ancient mysteries still dwell. Of course. here again we find that “I transcribed the scroll” . I would like to explore not the art of magic. just as it dwells in the realm of dreams. reveal a profoundly esoteric worldview that offers to its readers nothing less than an initiation into and an “inauguration of a new age and a new mythology. But then “From grotto grove and shrine. Here. as in poetry. . Yet in the twilit realm of fiction. the “springs gone under the hill.” I cite from Vale Ave here because it makes clear that H.” the alchemical processus of transmutation that is brought about for Elizabeth “through her uncle’s Art and through the alchemy of memory. But my .’s recurrent theme of initiation through the word. The dead are living still. . “the Mystery.74 In our day of ever more complex technology and ever more information. here again “the words laugh.” echoing the laughter in the culminating initiatory moment in The Gift.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 119 Obviously.”72 Here again the scroll becomes a “palimpsest. D. is not a youthful digression but central to her work even late in her life. and the Scroll. Her poetry and her prose.” and again through it “I had the answer.73 Magical Fiction In a poem entitled “Dreams. that of ‘initiatory fiction’—novels and short stories whose evident purpose is to take the reader along into new and perhaps unfamiliar kinds of consciousness. but rather how magic dwells in the realm of relatively recent fiction. / infinity portrayed in simple things. D.” the mysteries of the holy well.” Here again we find the same themes that recur throughout H. the mysteries of the “tree and miraculous bird.” but a new mythology that turns out to be the grand theme of Western esotericism and that is perhaps as old as the mystery of the word itself.” Her poem ends with the stanza: Inviolate in dream The mysteries still are shown.

” the planetary spirits of Perelandra. R. R. or Mercury. Here. it remains distinct from the other two. S. In his extraordinary novel That Hideous Strength. C. things are not nearly so clear cut. Let us take an example. R. “one who by his own will once opened it. what will come of this?” asks Merlin. J. for “if they [the Oyéresu] put forth their power. an alteration in the Primary World. seems reasonable enough in theory. when we turn to actual works. and the descrip- .” “Their naked power. Tolkien begins by describing “fairy stories” as those stories touched by “faëry. J. it is not an art but a technique. S. Is there really a difference in practice between enchantment and magic. His main character. Lewis. to the satisfaction of their senses while they are inside. between the production of an artistic “Secondary World” and a work whose purpose is also “alteration in the Primary World”? It would seem that in reality these two can coëxist in a single work.120 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E aim here is to explore fiction that carries the reader into the working of expressly magical ritual and experience. while I will draw on some writings of Tolkien and Williams. fay or mortal. here. and so forth. Viritrilbia.” But later in the same essay.75 In his essay “On Fairy Stories. It does not matter by whom it is said to be practiced. they will unmake all Middle Earth. “The Descent of the Gods. as well as Dion Fortune (Violet Firth). the “true powers of Heaven.” “Through a man whose mind is opened to be so invaded. C. Magic produces. This is actually a rather rare kind of fiction.” which might best be translated as “magic.” He continues: Enchantment produces a Secondary World into which both designer and spectator can enter.” replies Ransom. R.” Ransom invokes these powers he calls the Oyéresu.” in a collection of essays presented to Charles Williams. or pretends to produce.” whereas the “elvish craft” might best be referred to as “enchantment. its desire is power in this world. he backtracks and remarks that “Magic should be reserved for the operations of the magician. but in its purity it is artistic in desire and purpose. But chief among such authors are without doubt the Inklings (in particular. or Venus. Ransom explains what is happening to the resurrected ancient magician Merlin. I will concentrate on the works of Lewis and Fortune in order to explore how their fiction becomes magical. saying “I have become a bridge. fiction in which the ancient mysteries are still alive and have not withdrawn their springs. Lewis describes a magical invocation that marks the climax of the book. “That is why they will work only through a man. John Ransom.”77 In the subsequent chapter 15. and Charles Williams).76 While the distinction Tolkien makes. invokes the Oyéresu. as one might imagine. domination of things and wills. yes. and perhaps becomes itself a magical act.” says Ransom.” “Sir. Tolkien.

. . bright and ruthless. in which none other than the ancient . whose colour no man can name or picture” darting between Ransom and Merlin. “I do not think he could have reached the door unbidden. full of wordplay and puns and metaphors. sharp. calling down the powers. In this chapter. the narrator imagines what it must be like to enter the house. We encounter how people ordinarily encounter Mercury.” Merlin and Ransom tremble. such a distinction does not hold up well at all. They were blinded. awakening dormant passion in the people in the kitchen. In this chapter of Lewis’s novel. brisk merriments. Fallen upon them direct from the Third Heaven. here. unmitigated. for “the whole house would have seemed to him to be tilting and plunging like a ship in a Bay of Biscay gale. there are two scenes: a room where several ordinary people sit. sticky gums .”80 It is not really possible.” Ransom “found himself sitting within the very heart of language. Into the Blue Room come summer breezes. They could not bear that it should end. where Ransom (the Pendragon) and Merlin sit. to do full justice to these descriptions of the planetary powers’ arrival. To keep their beams upon this spot of the moving Earth’s hide. “laden like heavy barges that glide nearly gunwale under . scorched. The ordinary people in the kitchen experience first the coming of Mercury: they become exceptionally talkative. . . and the Blue Room.” the narrator tells us. . lynx-eyed thoughts” “rolling to and fro like glittering drops. They experience “needle-pointed desires. . then we imaginatively enter the Blue Room. .”78 This initial scene-setting represents a kind of portal through which we as readers imaginatively enter into what is happening in the two rooms: it represents the beginning of an initiation into this magical working. . Laden with ponderous fragrance of night-scented flowers. were it possible. outspeeding light: it was Charity . They could not bear that it should continue. In the beginning of the chapter.” “He would have known sensuously. that the visitants in that room were in it not because they were at rest but because they glanced and wheeled through the packed reality of Heaven . in the white-hot furnace of essential speech. and there we see a “rod of coloured light. A soft tingling and shivering as of foam and breaking bubbles. so well-crafted and evocative are Lewis’s words. or between “sub-creation” of a “secondary world” and magical effects on the “primary world” of this earth.”79 After Mercury arrives Venus. deafened.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 121 tion of this event is one of the most extraordinary evocations of magical working in literature. and then comes the goddess: “fiery. ready to die. sweet-scented and full of desire. where the invocation has its center. But I would like to step back for a moment from the chapter’s narration and consider again Tolkien’s proposed differentiation between enchantment and magic. but it is in the description of the Blue Room that Venus truly comes alive. until his outraged senses forsook him. Clearly Lewis is describing a magical working: the invocation of the planetary powers. ready to kill. They thought it would burn their bones.

and Mark’s shirt is hanging partway out of the window. Lewis brings us into the realm of Ransom’s and Merlin’s magical rescue of England from the grip of a malevolent force. and all is brought to a conclusion in “Venus at St. and by its end. but also is able to take along even the skeptical reader. Gareth Knight observes in The Magical World of the Inklings: those who read his fiction tend to be affected strongly in two ways. Ransom) is taken up to Perelandra bodily. but he always maintains a link with mundane life even at the heart of the magical working itself (by way of the device of two rooms. In so doing. but Lewis’s novel is clearly about the “primary world” in which we live. and one with Merlin and Ransom). whose work I would certainly be remiss if I did not mention here.” but also because of the delicate tension it maintains between ordinary life and magical events. It is important that this magical working is not the end of the book. even though of course the reader has not physically participated in the invocation of the Oyéresu. in the following chapter we see the destruction of the malevolent Institute and its depraved characters. and the Director (Dr. About Williams’s novels. Lewis’s work is a masterpiece not only because of how it carries us into the magical working in the “descent of the gods. Here the various good characters come together to discuss what happened. In other words.122 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E magician Merlin participates. Uncertain whether to enter the lodge where he is sleeping. After the “descent of the gods” is achieved in the fifteenth chapter. the reader feels as though he has passed through those dimensions too. One finds exactly the same sense of initiatory passage in the novels of Charles Williams. This passage is what I mean by magical initiatory fiction. The invocation takes place. to the familiar world in which a married couple need each other. Anne’s.”81 I cite this prosaic finale precisely because it is so deliberately ordinary: it brings us back completely from the magical atmosphere of the novel’s main body to mundane life. One feels a satisfaction at the conclusion of That Hideous Strength that very few novels are able to elicit. though one could easily imagine it so. Lewis not only achieves dramatic success. of course. “How exactly like Mark!” Jane thinks. the magical working here is meant also to have effects in the “primary world” of the reader. she sees that clothes are piled inside. “The Descent of the Gods” is about a celestial healing of a ruined world. in a “secondary world” of fiction. “Obviously it was high time she went in. Therefore . still it feels as though one imaginatively has. one with ordinary people. but this healing is also one in which the reader necessarily participates.” the seventeenth chapter. the novel has dimensions that most other fiction simply does not. His description of both good and evil is such that it can bring a real extension of personal knowledge and experience of each to the reader. rather like Elijah or King Arthur. But even this is not the end: the end comes when the character Jane returns to her husband Mark.

She writes there that Those who read this story for the sake of entertainment will. On the other hand. I wrote it. I am afraid. Who and what is Lilith. in general. I have put a great deal into it. they reveal forms of necromancy. one is also encountering new realms of existence. for in the act of reading. and divine reality and angelic brightness shines through the other side of his work. and decidedly corrupt ones. when Ransom invokes the planetary powers. [Emphasis added.]82 Exactly the same thing may be said here about Lewis’s foray into what was chiefly Williams’s domain. for instance. For that. still Williams’s fiction is still by and large of a different kind from the specifically magical fiction that we saw in Lewis’s That Hideous Strength. It was not written for its entertainment value. One might even say that the writing of it was a magical act.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 123 some may feel depressed or repulsed by the down side of his books and their evocation of the essence of evil. [Emphasis added. allow us to enter into worlds generated by questions like: what if the Holy Grail were discovered to be physically real? Or: what if the Platonic archetypes began to “break through” into this world? In brief: Williams’s fiction is often initiatory. in fact. But while Williams’s fiction certainly touches upon magical themes and features magician characters both noble. for both writers evoked magical workings or paranormal events in ways that very few authors have. we should turn to a second exemplar: the fiction of Dion Fortune. not find it very entertaining. but rarely if at all in exactly the form I wish to consider here: initiation into magical ritual itself. and why did she live on after the book about her was finished. Fortune rarely wrote about her fiction. then what have I created in Lilith Le Fay? . and how therefore the reader is in . Williams’s characters offer insights into what it is like to be dead. almost cathartic effect. Thus a close reading of his novels can have a purificatory. to find out what it was about. such as the poet Peter Stanhope of Descent into Hell. . but she did offer some preliminary remarks to her novel Moon Magic. it is possible to respond to the quality of good. to make fiction something much more powerful than it ordinarily is. By doing so.] If it be true that what is created in the imagination lives in the inner world. both Williams and Lewis were able to widen the metaphysical dimensions of fiction. and there is a great deal more in it than I ever put in. In effect they are initiations. . and insist on appearing again? Have I furnished myself with a dark familiar?83 Here Fortune gives voice to exactly the theme we are here investigating: how the writing of a book can be a magical act. and her observations are revealing. such as Simon Leclerc in All Hallows’ Eve. they unveil the power of archetypes and.

Moon Magic is exemplary of this complementary relationship between the extraordinary events the narrator relates and the matter-of-fact tone in which such events are discussed. She gave rise to the character Lilith.124 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E some senses a participant in that magical act. often enough in the first person from the viewpoint of a female character. Fortune’s novels are as much like primers on magical practices as they are fiction. Fortune’s wealth of direct personal experience in the practice of magic. I made the astral projection by the usual method. and imagined myself speaking to him. all awareness of my physical surroundings faded. appears clearly in her novels. The magic worked. putting my cards on the table. In some respects.84 Here we are observing a magical working of a very different kind from that evoked by Lewis through his character Ransom. She writes matter-of-factly about all manner of paranormal events. Then I visualized the face of the man with the greying red hair. for it shows how we use the Door Without a Key to escape the Lord of This World. and in this the prosaic tone of the narrator’s voice itself acts as a kind of counterweight to what the narrator is discussing. and was startled to find that the character lived on in Fortune’s own imagination after The Sea Priestess was finished. like all of her . but Fortune was. and take refuge in the Secret Kingdom. as if those characters were somehow joined with Ransom’s voice. untidy. not surprisingly. I had the sensation of the descent of a swift lift. The Door Without a Key is the Door of Dreams. Psychologists call it a psychological mechanism. the side She turns away from earth. and artists use it as a window in a watch-tower. and the man in the street calls it illusion or charlatanry according to taste. the narrator begins this way: I will tell what I did. which always characterizes the change of the level of consciousness. magicians call it magic. that is to say. That Fortune was herself a magician is not in question. the founder of the British Society of the Inner Light. In the novel’s seventh chapter. it is the door by which the sensitive escape into insanity when life is too hard for them. and author of numerous books on the practice of magic and related subjects. who is Moloch. for it is effectual. a shabby. There is little evidence that Lewis was a practicing magus. and this matterof-fact tone of voice has an effect similar to that of the ordinary characters in Lewis’s That Hideous Strength. which is the dark side of the Moon. badly lit and ill-tended room. Fortune’s novel. after all. and I seemed to be in a strange room. I pictured myself as standing six feet in front of myself and then transferred by consciousness to the simulacrum thus created by my imagination and looked at the room through its eyes. It does not matter to me what it is called.

Marius.’ but it is in fact just as much in the genre of detective fiction. the ordinary observer of the magus Taverner. a fellow named Fouldes. Fortune’s account here is closer to journalism. with the addition of Taverner’s great experience in magical or occult events. is concerned with practical magic and phenomena like astral projection. for I was one with them . Rhodes. Such an observation is not meant entirely as criticism. . I was no longer alone. at the end of this collection himself becomes an initiate by entering into communion with the wild and sacred heart of England: he too has “passed over into the Unseen. (a kind of Watson to Taverner’s Holmes). But there are other sorts of magical initiations in Fortune’s fiction as well. There is little art in the way she tells of the magical working: if Lewis’s account is closer to poetry than to prose. After his entry into the Unseen. Rhodes’s initiation into nature magic corresponds in some respects to the natural magic of Merlin in Lewis’s That Hideous Strength: it represents a kind of foundation for other sorts of magic. Characteristic of this strategy is one of Fortune’s earliest and best-known works. who represents the voice of the ordinary observer. like Taverner. and many others. decides to heed the call of nature that he feels. a young woman named Ursula . “in all things there was a profound difference. Taverner is patterned after Holmes. Among the more interesting of these stories is “A Son of the Night. she is interested in “putting her cards on the table. and something of the same flavor comes across in Taverner. one will recall. while the stories are written from the perspective of his companion. a collection of stories entitled The Secrets of Dr. to “enter the Unseen. and here too there are correspondences with what we have seen in That Hideous Strength. Not only were they alive. based on the life of one Theodore Moriarty.”85 And so the book concludes. in particular that of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. at the end of the story. Holmes. for.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 125 fiction. The Secrets of Dr.” The initiation we see in “A Son of the Night” is a simple change of consciousness: it is an awakening to the inner life of nature. Taverner gets to the bottom of the case immediately.” to pass “an invisible barrier” of consciousness. In Fortune’s novel The Winged Bull.” which is about an English nobleman whose family seeks to have him certified mad in order to take over his estate. but I shared in their life. I had passed over into the Unseen.” Rhodes remarks at the story’s conclusion. . “for to me they had suddenly become alive. and who is in fact of supernatural lineage. Rhodes. an unsavory magician named Hugo Astley—with some similarities to Aleister Crowley—and his protegé. set loose a magical attack on the protagonists. Thus Rhodes. Taverner certainly falls under the category of ‘occult fiction.” an expression characteristic of the way she clearly lays out in her fiction to reflect the way her magical practice is experienced. was consummately the logician. but also to point out a means by which Fortune’s novels attract and hold a reader. Taverner. but perhaps most interestingly. As a character. a bullish young man named Ted Murchison.

suddenly. and in another moment the room was empty . . pure selfishness. dropping into a chair as if exhausted.’ said Brangwyn. a change came over the atmosphere of the room. He was experienced in dealing with such things. breaking the embarrassing silence. but then Murchison. cold and merciless. In That Hideous Strength. they are without morality.’87 The writing here feels a bit more awkward than in some of Fortune’s other novels. ‘If Fouldes and Astley were en rapport at the other end of the telepathic wire. but one can certainly see some parallels between it and Lewis’s That Hideous Strength. These characters represent sheer malevolence against humanity. The girl he could do nothing for. who have developed a means for communication with what they call “Macrobes” (in fact another name for demons). Yet paradoxically. and felt the waves of evil influence come rolling in. ‘so that’s that. and her half-brother. It was best to leave Murchison to his unaided wits. an experienced magician. such characters are necessary not only dramatically.’ ‘Yes. ‘That is very much that. . ‘Well. and. represent evil on another scale entirely from that which one usually sees depicted in modern fiction.’ replied Murchison. they were getting it in the neck. Frost and Wither are without mercy. . and the waves divided and swept past him like the tide round a pier. She had passed out of his reach on the tides of the force as if water had whirled her away.126 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E Brangwyn. among them men named Frost and Wither. Fortune continues: Then Brangwyn also caught it. but clearly in both depravity is necessary on one side in order that there can be noble transcendence on the other. running in every direction like spilled quicksilver. Of the two books. there are also depraved black magicians. .86 At first it appeared that Murchison and Ursula were to be lost in the force of this magical attack. became furious and the force of his fury came back over the ‘telepathic wire’ to Fouldes and Astley. The strange. Then. of course Lewis’s is far the greater both in literary skill and in significance. broke and starred like a smashed mirror. but also logically.’ Brangwyn concluded. . in order to generate the greater polarity necessary for what we might call the metaphysical battles that take place in both books. banked and double-banked. a bear of a man. evil power that had been pouring in as steadily as waves beating into a bay. But there was nothing he could do for the other two . like Astley in The Winged Bull. The three protagonists were just about to go to bed when Murchison cocked his head and stared into space over Ursula’s head.

experience of magic. but later called the Community of the Inner Light.85 In the works of Fortune we are unquestionably seeing the reflection of her own extensive experience in magical initiation. to living Nature (theosophy lato sensu). to advance in the knowledge of the connections uniting the disciple to higher entities (theosophy strictu sensu) and to cosmic forces. while more circumspect about their own knowledge and at least in Williams’s case. thanks to which we refashion the experience of our relationships to the sacred and the universe. rising to insight into the metaphysical underpinnings of human life. at the end of The Secrets of Dr.89 While the works of these authors are more artistic than Fortune’s.90 . There is. Lewis. . This provides the profound tension that drives these works and that creates the ‘space’ within which the magical workings take place. Williams. in this kind of fiction. he is in fact being initiated into the existence of forces invisible to the vast majority of people. S. The initiation serves to regenerate our consciousness. also reflect at least some initiatory knowledge in their writings. and thanks to that. who can be an isolated master or a member of an initiatory school. there must be in these novels—as also in books of Charles Williams such as War in Heaven—a metaphysical polarity between good and evil. thanks to a process that lets us reappropriate the knowing we have lost . but that also go beyond seeing into nature. either alone. Whether or not a disciple has a master. But Charles Williams and even C. there are two kinds of magic— black and white—and the dramatic power of these novels emerges from the reader’s initiation into the existence of both.” Antoine Faivre discusses the nature of initiation. they also carry the reader along on an initiatory course. . When the reader enters into the magical fiction of Lewis. or with the help of an initatory. and in particular how the individual on an esoteric path follows a process of awakening. In “Approaches to Western Esoteric Currents. powers both good and evil. helped by appropriate texts. and finally the Society of the Inner Light. Faivre writes that We follow this path by committing ourselves to it. The phrase magical initiation is perhaps most suitable here for the works of Fortune. which hide the mysteries while revealing their keys. initially called the Christian Mystic Lodge of the Theosophical Society.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 127 This is not merely a cliché: in order for the magical drama to go forward. In all of the fiction we are considering here. whose novels without any question reflect the fact that she was herself the founder of an initiatory order. which represent profoundly divergent ways of relating to the cosmos. Taverner. a series of magical initiations that begin with something like Rhodes’s entry into the Unseen. he has to access a knowing—or a form of nonknowing— transmittable by the word. and Fortune.

he calls ‘active imagination’ “the essential component of esotericism. For magical fiction is in fact remarkably suited to.”93 Faivre’s observations here are particularly important because they help us to understand in a different light what Lewis. for instance) to initiation into encounters with transcendent beings the Oyéresu in Lewis’s That Hideous Strength. ‘behind the scenes’ of the drama of ordinary human life. from this brief foray into the realm of magical fiction? First. which manifests a deeper conflict between destructive and constructive powers in the cosmos as a whole. initiation into living Nature tends to precede initiation into the powers of higher entities. and a realm in which one may encounter and work with nonphysical beings and powers.” putting us in contact with the mundus imaginalis or imaginal world that “is the space of intermediary beings.128 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E I would suggest that the order of these final points be reversed. a mesocosm possessing its own geography. Indeed. since in the fiction we have been discussing. But this passage as a whole clearly can be read as referring to initiation “transmittable by the word.” and thus to written works like novels.” What conclusions can we draw. perceptible to each of us as a function of our respective cultural imagery. we have seen that often central to this magical initiation is a kind of magical battle between evil and good magicians. Such a tension corresponds. thoroughly real. we have seen that magical fiction in general represents to the reader a series of stages or grades.91 Faivre goes on to remark that to succeed in this process of regeneration or initiatic awakening. Williams.”92 This special kind of imagination allows one to “escape both from the sterility of a purely discursive logic. we may note that the distinctions drawn by Tolkien between a “secondary” world of artistic creation and the “primary” world of this earth do not hold for magical fiction precisely because magical fiction represents a passage between the matter-of-fact world that we are familiar with. Third. In fact. initiating readers into “the space of intermediary beings. and from the rule-free extravagances of fantasy or sentimentality. or such as Isis in Fortune’s The Sea Priestess. even though the ultimate source of the reader’s magical initiation in fiction is the author. . one is to some degree at least “refashion[ing] the experience of our relationships to the sacred and the universe” just as the neophyte character Wilfred Maxwell is transmuted by his magical work with the character Vivien Le Fay Morgan. as one reads a novel like Dion Fortune’s The Sea Priestess. if we may so put it. in literary form. Second. a mesocosm possessing its own geography. then. moving from initiation into elemental or natural magic (represented by Lewis’s character Merlin. to the age-old relationship between the initiate and the initiator. and Fortune were up to in their fictional works. Finally. we have seen that central to this initiatory passage is a tension between matter-of-fact or ‘ordinary’ characters and those experienced in magical work. active imagination is essential.

one could understand much more clearly the nature of Collins’s paintings. and his writings reveal in detail his . It was not until 1994 that Brian Keeble brought out an edited book of Collins’s writings under the title The Vision of the Fool.. Collins is best known as an artist whose works manifest an ethereal. not merely viewing paintings but through them being shown new ways of understanding humanity and the transcendent. her novels have a workmanlike quality: they do depict magical rituals and do offer insights into the nature of magic. One felt as though one were in some sense being initiated into a way of seeing. but with the publication of this book. but also in Böhmean theosophy. the sense that the artist belonged to the same tradition as A. Thus. Theosophic illustrations in particular. But it is in the work of Lewis that we find an initiation into magical working that rises to the multivalent level of full artistic creation. and I recall the otherworldliness of the images.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 129 The authors we have considered here knew or knew of one another. there remain fundamental differences. visionary style that may best be described as glimpses into another. Esoteric Transmission in the Art of Cecil Collins Although this book is primarily about literary transmission. It is in Lewis’s That Hideous Strength that the reader can perhaps most powerfully encounter the transmuting power of artistic beauty expressing ritual magic that. Collins was a gifted aphorist. E. angelic realm. held in London’s Tate Gallery. and were engaged at least to some degree in similar enterprises. indirectly or directly. it is this: there is undoubtedly art in magic. Still. an important and genuinely original British painter. represent a visual form separate from and complementing the texts they accompany. which is why I have chosen to study them together. is linked to the world in which we live and that offers us profound insights into the cosmos and into humanity. and that like his contemporary poet. Collins’s paintings were exhibited in a major retrospective in 1989. higher aspects of nature and humanity. but the most magical works of all may well be found in literary art. where images accompany the written word and yet represent a separate set of works on their own. in the sense of Rilke. if I may be permitted a single conclusion. Something of the same relationship between word and image exists in the works of Cecil Collins (1908–1989). Collins revealed in his work insights into the hidden. such as those accompanying the original German and English editions of Böhme’s complete works. While Fortune was certainly a practicing magician. transcendent and perhaps. This was an exhibition that I was fortunate enough to attend. this is not the only means of esoteric transmission in twentieth-century works. As we have already seen. images played an important role not only in alchemical works and later in Rosicrucianism.

If Collins loved solitude and nature on the one hand.95 In 1965. But deep underneath flows the secret stream. he writes: O holy ones I long for you.” or again. Denies the artist. the contemplative. denies all who have inward fruit. so that the reader has a greater task than in prose works. Totnes. to come to fruition. I remember you. 1945. and my life with you. Collins gave a public lecture titled “The Artist in the New Age.” Ordinary life in the natural world. Our time denies. for he must ‘leap the gaps. In Cambridge in 1945 he wrote acidly What an age to live in! It bites into you with a formless denying of the life in us. of all that which desires to give. I know of your existence. Devonshire]94 He writes beautifully also of his life in nature. one is placed in contact with another reality through them.” and in it he wrote that It is part of our democratic self-deception and sentimentality that we vaguely assume we are without an elite. I long for my kingdom. A frustration of all that which is growing.’ must make intellectual connections individually. of how “The tasting of these things in our days and nights is the partaking of the sacrament of existence. In “Hymn of Life. It is this official denial of life that confronts us in everything. The aphorism is in many respects the most poetic form of prose. and this from a comparatively early period in his work. of his solitary walks in the countryside. and I know nothing. is imbued always with spiritual significance. The coldness of the vanity of the intellect on one side. to show us the hieroedietic beauty of life through art. even as they transmit that worldview to the reader. and cheap vulgarity of attitude towards life on the other side. when in fact it is quite clear that we are ruled today by the elite of scientific technocrats and politicians . of “The long eternal afternoons robed in blue. But here I wander. A winter of the spirit is over all society. for Collins. with the white compassionate temples of the clouds floating in wise happiness and detached love. we are all exiles. the human being. the aphorism by its nature stands on its own surrounded by the white space of the page.130 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E worldview. I long for my race. [14 January.” consisting in excerpts from Collins’s journals during the Second World War. But you exist. By reading Collins’s aphorisms. and most holy are you O beautiful servants. and the task of the artist is to remind us of this. on the other his works are infused with profound criticisms of the “insect-life” of modern industrial society.

they cannot be reached by knowledge of them. rapport. to make pretty that “empty and mechanical desert we call modern civilization.96 It is remarkable how timely Collins’s critique of industrial society has remained. and thus ultimately nothing less than a transformation of our consciousness. and central to our awakening is a change in consciousness.] art is therefore an instrument of man’s inner nature and it enables him to manifest in the phenomena of matter the nuance and living quality of his inner life so that his environment is no longer neutral or alien: a rapport is established. whereas “‘why’ knowledge is concerned with the significance of things. by measurement or analysis. . and sensitivity to the vibrations and rays of that livingness which is at the heart of things. For like answers to like and creates actualization .” “How” knowledge is merely instrumental. but only by rapport with those worlds. the instrument of art helps to sensitise the interior nature and to continually re-sensitise it when it grows stale and dull in the world of mere existence—the world of repetition. The higher worlds are inaccessible to the insensitive. by description. They represent a low level of awareness and consciousness. in Collins’s view. the meaning.” but to offer what Collins calls “rapport” with the transcendent. awaken this inner rapport in us. how apt his descriptions still are of the moribund vacuity characterizing so much of modern life.” Collins distinguishes between “how” knowledge and “why” knowledge. Collins calls us out of this stupor of the insectoid hive-life in industrial society through his art. they have no philosophy of life other than the exploitation of nature and of man. In his essay “Art and Modern Man. It can only be known by inner nuance. “How” knowledge refers to mere process and manipulation of apparently dead objects. and the making of money. . . whereas a great deal of ‘why’ knowledge is known only through nuance of consciousness.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 131 who are quite clearly spiritually and culturally illiterate. This is the same thing actually. they offer avenues into direct inner spiritual realization. another way of expressing what he calls “why” knowledge.97 Works of art. In “Art and Modern Man” he continues to discuss what art is capable of achieving: Art is a realization of what is and not of what appears to be[. Transformation of consciousness cannot be known or be brought about by thinking. The value of the artist is not to decorate.

it is also a means by which human consciousness is awakened. and transmuted.” In his final remarks. in Collins’s view. in Collins’s view.] we have a deeper rapport with the earth. he writes that This is the time of unveiling. If the eye of the heart is closed then the whole of the universe is dead. Art enables us to experience what the French poet René Char calls ‘the friendship of created things. But we have to learn how to concentrate on the sacramental without the use of this ‘closed’ formality.99 This awakening of the sense of the sacramental is the task of art. and what is more. his inner world. trees. And this brings us to the big problem Within this new open consciousness we need to recover a sacramental sense. the answer comes back to us from within them.’ if only the doors of perception would be cleansed. the opening of man’s inner nature. it is a means of initiation and spiritual transmission. But there is something else that has to be opened. he writes. it becomes qualitative. and that is the eye of the heart. is thus more than a portal into the transcendent. we have no canonic culture of our own. spiritu- . ‘Everything that lives is holy. a mere turning of the wheel of existence. rocks. Creative art has always been concerned to touch and open the eye of the heart. the elements. and the word ‘apocalypse’ means to unveil. with the transformation of consciousness our experience of matter undergoes a change. Collins sees this artistic transmission as taking the place of older.132 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E As our consciousness becomes transformed we become more sensitive to a wider range of nuance and vibration[. . widened. Collins holds that “a new period of art will come not through this decaying. Collins concludes his lecture by reaffirming the initiatory nature of art. the unveiling of the atom. We must have sacrament everywhere: as Blake says. we have communion with it[. He writes in “The Artist in the New Age” that in the modern era. We live. We are all apt to fall asleep. of mere desires. religious.] it is consecrated and is now sacramental. living art is initiation into the realization that all is holy and that our true relationship to nature and to one another is sacramental.” He continues: We now have the possibility of this hidden unity of man’s inner world at last permeating the sphere of the exterior world and transforming it. in the great canonic formality of traditional civilizations there was of necessity a ‘closed’ consciousness in order to focus upon the sacred . . canonic language.98 The work of art. but through a lyrical contact with the archetypal world.’ In other words. in a “time of the apocalypse. that the canonic cultures of the past are decaying and dying. canonical religions and ritual. In the past.

and in this it captures (in 1944!) precisely the sacramental relationship with nature that Collins discussed in his lectures so many years later. To gaze at this painting is to . their faces closed in rapt contemplation as they seem but a moment from ascending. it refers to the inner visionary spiritual capacity of the individual. and vibrant color. in “The Invocation. like “Angels” (1948). revealed as clearly as anywhere in “The Music of Dawn” (1988). What we are asked to do in the new age is to understand what the function of art is and to give our support and collaboration to the artist. while above it sweep golden spirals and a red sun. such as “The Invocation” (1944). Human forms are elongated and have a geometric quality that’s intensified in some. the one with the sword. Such paintings are mysterious in their capacity to evoke in us a sense. The figure looks out with a far-off gaze. In many of his later paintings. Here the landscape below seems to be swelling up and rising with energy like an ocean swell. her head bent back and contemplative. her hand outstretched over the land in benediction. by patterns on the limbs and torso. Here. its features smooth and surrounded by a mane of hair. around them a halo of golden-yellow light. that we may share each other’s creative response to life. Here the entire image is awash in golden light. Many of these images have a strange. Collins’s paintings reflect an uncanny unity from the earliest to the last. Often. to the left the orb of the sun. to the right a human figure with a sweeping robe that looks as though it rises out of the earth exactly as does the hill behind it. landscape. “The Invocation” reveals a paradisal relationship between the invoking angelic human figure. but that is uplifting and paradisal. not afraid to wound the heart. reminding us of the innate spiritual awareness that we can awaken if we wish to do so. a rapport with something that we cannot quite articulate. In all of them the human form and/or landscape is present but stylized. landscape is transformed as well. or to show to us how interwoven is our own consciousness with that which he is revealing through the paintings. and the eye of the heart is opened by these two artists. a union of figure. an active support. and here it seems an appropriate way for Collins to conclude.” it is as though the black-and-white world of industrial civilization is being transformed before our eyes into the paradisal realm suggested by the awakening colors in its landscape. in its hand a staff topped by an orb. dreamlike. make it bleed. too. Collins’s paintings are ecstatic. hieratic quality. the figures’ eyes are opened.100 The phrase “eye of the heart” is found in Christian theosophy. as if to reflect Collins’s own opened sense of inner vision interconnected with the exterior world. to the left the sweeping forms of two intertwined angels whose colors partake of the earth’s brown and of white.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 133 ally. and the other with the light. as in many of his visionary paintings.

Collins also wrote about the critical importance of awakening to an awareness of the archetypal. to achieve precisely what he wrote about so eloquently. Here. Meditations. but central. his drawings. H. one that partakes as much of humanity’s Edenic past as of its potentially paradisal future.. and indeed. we see intimations of a future paradisal existence. of their work as a transmission through a confused and destructive era into a paradisal future. by which we make contact with reality through images . . D. chair. that like Milosz. and it is the archetypal that we see in the hieratic figures and landscapes of his paintings. he saw himself addressing a future audience that would be receptive to primordial ways of seeing humanity and nature. or altar. instruments for transmitting a reality higher than ourselves. and poems that illuminate his paintings.. . an esoteric transmission of new ways of seeing humanity and the world is not merely decorative. Pages from a Sketchbook (1997). is so powerful that we cannot look on it and live—therefore we need a buffer. implicit in the works of all three of our main authors and artists here—Milosz. he offers through his paintings. they are nothing less than (to cite Collins on the nature of symbols) “transmissions of the nature of reality. I offer these paintings as indicative of Collins’s extraordinary ability to reveal through the image something that transcends image. in Collins’s view. of kinds of consciousness that transcend the subject-object divisions characteristic of modernity. If this participation in reality through images is brought down into our environment.’ sacred images.134 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E sense anew Collins’s expectation of a new era. Indeed. And it is also clear. like an electrical transformer. D. and his written work the clear sense that his work represents portals into other dimensions of consciousness beyond the merely quotidian. and Collins—is this sense of a future audience.101 The living work of art is a reminder and a means of exactly this transmission. dawn of a more spiritual humanity gazing on mysteries with serene contemplation. a world between us and it. as in the works of Milosz and H. In this respect. in the works of Lewis and Williams as well. But Collins offers these through visual images. so that God becomes a table. we then have ‘sacred space. Divine Reality. In another book. Lost paradise and . from his writing on a “new age” of the spirit. Collins wrote in this book. not least because his work includes not only images. In all of these works. but also essays. to take the impact and transform it to our dimension. even if in writing he offers the context for viewing and understanding those images. This buffer world is called the archetypal world.” Cecil Collins represents the archetypal figure of the twentieth-century esoteric artist. Poems. he is like very few other painters. aphorisms.

to the conjunction of spirituality. for in Western esotericism it is generally regarded as a vehicle. and now it is time for us to consider the broader implications of Western esoteric traditions in relation to consciousness. And it is on this paradox that we must concentrate in addressing the relationships of Western esotericism to consciousness. For in our overview of Western esotericism. or mere entertainment. are in fact essentially gnostic: that is. the way of images and forms and transformations. as a means of transmitting knowledge. science. although they may contain an element of play. and the via negativa. The words and images of Western esoteric traditions are by no means diversions. THE WESTERN ESOTERIC TRADITIONS AND CONSCIOUSNESS When we consider Western esotericism in its full range. we can characterize it as falling into two general categories that go back at least to Dionysius the Areopagite: the via positiva. It is. the hidden themes perhaps of our entire era. there have emerged common characteristics on which we may be able to shed some light by summarizing them and considering them as a whole. and are meant to lead their reader toward those experiences. and it is undoubtedly better to consider individual traditions. This brings us to our second point: that in Western esotericism. And most of the Western esoteric traditions correspond to the via positiva. and the arts in written form. or way of affirmation. Yet when we penetrate entirely through the via positiva. somewhat too general to speak in the abstract about Western esotericism as a whole. Here ‘literature’ takes on new meanings. we may say that Western esotericism is fundamentally literary in expression. these are the themes of these great artists. First. as Dionysius himself points out. for instance. made visible in the mysterious archetypal images of Collins. but rather. what we find is in fact the via negativa. Thus our third point: that . or way of negation. literature (in which we include images and numbers) is generally conceived as a means of transmuting consciousness. particularly that of alphanumeric gnosis. but nonetheless in practice these two ways do differ. rather than to the ascent to absolute transcendence of all forms that we find in. But the term literary here refers to an interdisciplinary nexus. despite the dazzling wealth of diversity in its means of expression. and awakening gnosis. the work of Meister Eckhart or of Johannes Tauler. But this we have already done in our historical overview of Western esoteric currents. Strictly speaking.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 135 the restoration of paradise. they are charged with visionary or spiritual experiences. sheer transcendence of all subject-object divisions. these two ways are in fact ultimately one in that they both lead to the same transcendence. of course.

works only by reference to this third element.’ Hence we find the basis of all the various disciplines: biology. alchemical work is based on a fundamental correspondence between self and other. The alchemist works with natural substances—for example. And Western esoteric literature. but to understand why this is so requires some further explanation. on the other hand. Under this broad rubric of ‘the divine. hidden. But in Western esoteric traditions. materialist worldview and what we find in Western esotericism. there is only the division between self and other. or minerals—but that work is not merely manipulating chemicals or substances.136 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E in the Western esoteric traditions. but never overcomes and rarely is even aware of this great gulf between self and other. All of these disciplines are expressions of the same general theory of ‘objective. schooled as we are in the division between subject and object. In a modern worldview.’ and that knowledge consists in learning about the various divisions or aspects of the ‘I’ and of ‘the other. between the human and natural realms. Rather. where alchemical work consists in the transmutation of both self and other at once. that transcends and links both humanity and the cosmos. gathers means of technical power over the cosmos. and the divine. Within this fundamentally different way of understanding nature and humanity is also a profoundly different way of understanding literature and art. and so on. one finds the ternary predominating: humanity. geology. theosophic or Kabbalistic or magical. sociology. Alchemical work consists in raising up or redeeming both humanity and nature. are founded in a totally different way of seeing the individual in relation to the cosmos. the cosmos. we are taught from childhood that ‘I’ am separate from ‘the other. which often enough becomes humanity pitted against the cosmos. Ideas. D. the divine. and there is sheer transcendence. in achieving what one might call as well a restoration of paradise or a golden age—as we have already seen. be it Rosicrucian or alchemical. psychology.’ we can discern two general levels: there is the archetypal realm of Forms. between humanity and the cosmos. or Symbols. sometimes called by Böhme the . plant extracts. chemistry.’ quantifiable knowledge. gnostic experience is the crown and purpose of human life. history. Here is the essential division between a modern. Western esoteric traditions—and this is true of all of them—are founded on the existence of this mysterious. This other view is particularly acute in alchemy. For the correspondence between humanity and the cosmos can take place only by means of a third: the divine. In modern education. an explicit goal of such modern poets as Milosz and H. whose fundamental nature is to join together self and other.’ the divine. ‘third element. and implicit in them all is that there is an ‘I’ that is separate from and learns about the cosmos. Western esoteric traditions. All of these aspects of Western esoteric literature may seem foreign to contemporary eyes.

For this sphere of archetypes is the infinite hieratic. or Fullness. in this worldview. That is: whether we look at Kabbalah. and literary expression. or any of the other major esoteric currents. In all of these traditions. is in fact prophetic. an artist. alchemy. which in turn is meant to guide or awaken the reader to its archetypal or symbolic reality. we find a divine art and a divine science. must see into the archetypal realm that is above the limitations of time and space. a theologian. in order to create. and in this externalization was the separation or fall from paradise into the increasing objectivization of history. This myth—although it appears in numerous variants—is always tied to the Ur-Mensch. For the purpose of such literature is. One cannot separate any of these roles because they are all intimately bound up with the enormous range covered by the rubric alchemist. but instead ranges freely across all of what we today call separate disciplines or fields. Thus the artist. In brief. but nothing. Milosz calls this awakening power “Memoria” and insists that it is the essence of our consciousness. Rosicrucianism. often seen as androgynous.’ who partakes in a particular kind of hieroeidetic knowledge. what we find in fact is not limited to the sphere of religion alone. and his fall from paradise. meaning by that not absence. the “Vision” of William Butler Yeats. and so there is in all true art a timeless and universal quality. in turn created clearly prophetic works meant to foretell a future that they also invoked. and by others the Nothing. first. There is in the universalist aims of these poets a definite indebtedness to the inherent universalism of Western esoteric traditions. This archetypal realm. The eighteenth-century alchemist is often at once a poet and a historian. for all three of these poets. The aim of the esoteric . and the poetic prophecies of Oscar Milosz in perhaps a different way. biology. These two aspects of the divine—but especially the lower. cosmology. suffused by their deep study of Western esoteric traditions. a biologist and geologist and a priestly hierophant. by definition a ‘seer. to awaken the reader’s consciousness of this archetypal realm. symbolic realm of images contacted by the imagination from which in turn appears the panoply of the arts. and in returning has written or illustrated a work. Underlying all of these Western esoteric traditions is also a universalism in the myth of the fall and of restoration. was tempted to look outside itself for knowledge. Adam. the Platonic realm of Forms or Ideas. what transpired before history goes something like this: Primordial humanity. the absolute unity of subject and object. archetypal realm—are critical to understanding Western esoteric literature.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 137 Ungrund. The artist. Hence we may view the “Prophecies” of William Blake. a mythologist. The author has presumably already journeyed to this realm. perhaps denoted by some ancient Gnostics under the term Pleroma. is the origin of both nature and humanity—and of art. this latent memory of higher consciousness waiting to be awakened. a divine mathematics. and a chemist. theosophy.

These in turn are related to Hebrew letters. but instead a further means for our separation from and objectification of the world. magical. Underlying these alphanumeric permutations is the understanding that in fact one is working with the very language of creation.”103 And we find this insistence on the importance of magical language in many unexpected places—for instance. the entire cosmos represents a kind of celestial writing. But it is certain that Barrett proposed a “magical alphabet” closely resembling the “Mason’s marks” or Masonic hieroglyphs. Hence. and this view is found throughout other Western esoteric traditions. A typical manifestation of this tradition is found around the turn of the nineteenth century. or a pansoph. where it arguably sparked the entire . Primordial humanity knows this celestial language. a theosopher. . Rosicrucian. and of intricate maneuvers with letters and numbers in gematria. is nothing less than the restoration of paradise. language too became externalized and ‘hardened’ outside us into mutually incomprehensible ‘tongues. temurah. William Blake in some of his illustrations used “Hebrew characters on some of his designs. in the Russian symbolist poetry and prose near the beginning of the twentieth century. which is to say. even from a single letter. for instance. and every flexure and curvature of every letter. theosophic. an alchemist. whether a Kabbalist.138 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E practitioner. The myth of a primordial humanity entails a primordial language. the restoration of unity between humanity and nature by way of the divine. contains some secret of wisdom. and Masonic illustrations. but as humanity fell away from it in the long descent that is human history. often with Hebrew as the celestial language of choice. . The complex web of influences and friendships among such figures as Barrett and William Blake and various Kabbalists both Jewish and Christian during this time may never be completely unraveled. In this perspective. and within every living thing is its transcendent or archetypal signature or word. and notarikon. which show that he had learned the unfamiliar way of writing then known to some occult students as the ‘Celestial Alphabet. author of The Magus. the poet Robert Southey observed that London Swedenborgians prized a “Celestial Alphabet” “in which every letter signifies a complete thing . Jewish Kabbalah of course maintains a long tradition of Hebrew exegesis. drawing a virtually infinite range of connotations from a single verse. We see this idea of a celestial or universal language appearing in various forms throughout Western esotericism.’ not the means of celestial union with all that surrounds us. one finds Hebrew letters inscribed in alchemical. and indeed as Yeats pointed out. in a group of London Rosicrucians associated with Francis Barrett (1765–1825).’”102 Likewise. the language of creation itself. almost always denoting divinity. Such a myth of universal fall and restoration also implies that behind the Babel of modern human languages lies a universal language that belongs to paradisal humanity. pansophic.

in that their theories implied restoration of the world’s original Edenic state. certainly it may be the Christian . But only to trace influences assumes that everything in Western esotericism can be attributed to questions of ‘influence. which they conceptualized as the time when human beings spoke a language in which the signifier and the signified existed in complete organic unity. following the various currents through Kabbalism. This is in fact precisely the argument of several contemporary scholars of Russian literature.104 Obviously. They shared a utopian dream of a new perfectly ‘transparent’ language. magic. For it well may be that there is a general paradigm recurring thoughout the various currents of Western esotericism. In her article “The Magic of Words: Symbolism. a synthetic magical language of unprecedented epistemological power whose ultimate function was to serve as a means of conjuring new life in the future world. when surveying the various esoteric currents. It is theoretically possible to trace these ideas of a celestial alphabet throughout Western history. in their cosmogonic mythologies the genesis of a new world was conceived principally as a glottogenetic process: the creation of new language obtained the paramount role in the realization of a new ideal world of the future. and that these are consistently linked with an alphanumeric mysticism of language.” Irina Gutkin summarizes this argument as follows: However diverse Russian modernists’ language theories and related visions of the future may have been. Sacerdotal or magical language provided a model for the new language each of these movements was striving to create. generally speaking . . The book may be the cryptic “Liber M” of the Rosicrucians. of which these various currents are particular manifestations filtered through the conditions of an era and religious tradition. Social Realism. we cannot here pursue further this fascinating theme of how magical views of language pervaded Russian and even early Soviet literature. .” or the “Book of Revelation. and especially of written language and of the book. but certainly it is evident that this is an extension of a fundamental theme that runs through the whole of Western esotericism as it emerges in literary and artistic forms. it is to suggest that there are governing images and currents of Western esotericism. seeing where they emerge also into the world of letters or poetry.’ and this is not necessarily so. consequently.” or the “Book of Life”. influenced much of modern Russian literature.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 139 symbolist movement and. and Masonry. This is not to say that there is a universal esotericism—for here we are not venturing beyond fundamentally European traditions—but rather. theosophy. Futurism. it may be the “Book of Nature. Some of this work we have already done earlier in this discussion.

who were in turn taught by a spiritual master. for instance. and Geber. the traditions are largely continued by means of initiatory lineages of teachers. But in all cases the mode of transmission is in some sense a book. This would certainly explain why figures like Meister Eckhart or Johannes Tauler did not found initiatory lineages of disciples. but there is no evidence that any of these continued even into the medieval period. where the tradition . However. Hermes. or nonexistent. and indeed even farther back. Indeed. other than occasional fragmentary lists and the perfunctory listing of such figures as Plato. much less in Christianity specifically. Certainly there were such nascent initiatory lineages early in the Christian era among gnostic circles.140 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E Bible or the Jewish Talmud or the Islamic Koran. Islam. but it is a peculiar fact that the three major monotheist traditions— Judaism. But perhaps there is a solution to this general absence of initiatory lineages. but also as a primary means of spiritual transmission. Such initiatory continuity is found also in Islam with Sufism. where it is traditionally said that one must be initiated by an alchemist in order to work the magistery. Even in the case of alchemy. and so on back into antiquity. which indeed still finds them audiences today. regard the book itself as a primary means of transmitting the tradition. But what about Western esotericism in the Christian world? Why are there virtually no verifiable traditional initiatory lineages like those we find in other traditions? There are of course exceptions—one thinks in particular of Freemasonry and its claims to a continuous lineage going back at least to the time of the Knights Templar. there are virtually no available records on any such actual initiatory lines in Western European literature. In Hinduism or Buddhism. It certainly fits well with Kabbalistic mysticism. and it may also be the visionary Mysterium Magnum of Jacob Böhme or an alchemical manuscript. Thus we are left with the enigma of Western esotericism. where initiatory lineages seem largely broken. gurus. and Christianity—have a specific reverence for the sacred book. interrupted. It is true that many of the world’s religious traditions include sacred writings. and in Judaism with Kabbalah. it seems entirely possible that Christianity and Western esoteric traditions more generally. but it is quite another for the writing itself to become so primary as the sacred writings of the three monotheistic traditions. it is rather difficult to find any cases of such initiatory lineages even within the broad sphere of Western esotericism. or masters. or in Buddhism. even in this case it is not a matter of an initiatory master-disciple tradition in quite the same way as we see in Sufism. and what is more. rely upon the written word not only as a focus for oral communication or transmission. It is one thing for the Upanishads or the Sutras or the Tao te ching to be written down as a means of preservation and continuity of the tradition. Given our overview. but rather relied upon the written word.

is unquestionably an exemplary figure not least because he consciously represented in his work virtually the entire range of Western esoteric traditions. to some future initiate in a far century. particularly the works of Böhme. and in particular at its strange. In modern parlance. And one recalls the Rosicrucians. and insists that the word can only mean direct contact between two living people. Thus we can conclude that the writing itself is meant to have an initiatory function. That is to say. initiatory. Such a view of the written word is. have been adorned with copious illustrations. when we look at the writing of Milosz. Christian theosophic literature.’ or ‘data’. but . it is a means of horizontal communication between two discrete people. Such evocation is. These illustrations. which in turn generated a host of further written works—as if the written word itself were the primary means of individual and social transformation. who never revealed themselves publicly at all. but who rather offered the world only written works. hieratic. but also because he quite clearly saw himself as an illuminant who by writing was also transmitting this illumination into the future.’ a means of conveying ‘information. and specifically in revealed or illuminated writing. to write in all of these traditions means something quite different. the answer to this question depends upon what one means by initiation. Let us take another example. dreamlike language and imagery. But if the word initiation is taken to refer to an awakening of higher degrees of consciousness. Milosz. for it above all has what we may call a ‘vertical’ aspect. it assumes that writing has a sacred origin and purpose. rather far indeed from most contemporary perspectives. whatever one . and his method of “writing the names” until one enters ecstasy.” had no prospect of actually meeting or initiating him directly—his poetry and prose had to serve that function. for in all cases. but also on writing as an actual means of spiritual illumination. may think of his poetry. Is it possible for writing alone to serve as means of initiation? Naturally. One thinks here. By contrast. then it is indeed possible for the written word to serve this function. for example the famous ones accompanying Gichtel’s well-known edition of Böhme’s works. writing is essentially a ‘collection of signs. If by this word one is referring to some kind of ceremony or ritual involving a group of people. of course.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 141 focuses a great deal not only on mystical exegesis. Indeed. of Abraham Abulafia. We see exactly such a view in the figure of O. I believe. it seems obvious that the poetry is intended not only to describe but also to evoke the kinds of consciousness it represents. naturally. Milosz’s future reader would have to become Milosz’s initiated successor by way of Milosz’s writing alone. often strikingly beautiful. then of course writing could not be initiatory in itself. whether it be in Kabbalah or alchemy or theosophy. V Milosz. the writing of someone who has actually realized the tradition’s aim of spiritual illumination. are not simply decorations. who. the divine is seen to inhere in language generally. Somehow. in addressing this far-off “son.

and flower in the reader too. This metaphor—of sowing. It is at once a natural and a spiritual image. I have discussed this theosophic iconography at length in my book Wisdom’s Children. What is more. so there is no need here to repeat myself. If a book is to serve an initiatic function. and becomes a seedhead in the light-world above. does have an initiatic function—that is. the words and images can evoke in the reader the seeds of the experiences visible through the work. by gazing at such an image. the dark-world of hell. but expresses how a book can indeed serve as an initiatic medium irrespective of whether there is any historical contact between author and reader. and conveys in a single organic form the outlines of theosophic illumination. and the intermediate realm of nature between them. and sowing again—is not merely a literary figure. the book becomes hieroglyphic—it is not merely an abstract discussion about some topic. represented by a cross. the prevalence of accompanying illustrations in alchemical.142 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E reveal in condensed visual form essential aspects of the theosophic tradition. for instance. Obviously. which refers to . tending. Such an illustration is not merely allegorical. and over time those seeds can take root. ancient Gnosticism as such ceased to exist by the early medieval period. the lightworld of paradise. the illustration is a condensed image of the theosophic path. Such an illustration. Taken together. of spiritual growth and illumination in the figure of a growing plant. clearly understandable form the nature of theosophy as a growth in consciousness from the constraints of darkness and wrath or separation.105 This illustration shows the theosophic three principles or three realms. pansophic. certainly by the seventh century—yet one finds striking parallels in seventeenth-century Christian theosophy without any historical link. through the turbulence of earthly life. theosophic. and Rosicrucian esoteric currents (to name only the most obvious) is to emphasize and amplify the hieratic nature of these traditions. it can better do so if it reveals its subject in words and images both. I use the term ahistorical continuity. In this way. it is more immediate and visceral. But we can take a single such illustration here and demonstrate how it can function in an initiatory way. reaping. For instance. that is. Bromley’s narrated overview of the theosophic spiritual journey. Rather. This visual absorption is of a different kind from that of reading the accompanying text. In the midst of the dark-world we see a seed whose green stem grows upward through the spatio-temporal cosmos. into the serenity and illumination of transcendence. grow. it actually reveals (hiera-) the nature of its subject. in other words. the Western esoteric traditions are often discontinuous historically. it represents for the neophyte reader in simple.106 To explain this phenomenon. A good example of an initiatory illustration is one accompanying Thomas Bromley’s book The Way to the Sabbath of Rest. meaning that some image in it ‘equals’ some moral quality. marked also “Sophia.” or Wisdom. In my view. one is in effect partaking in and absorbing what it represents.

you truly will know its worth. and so the reader too becomes a kind of channel or conduit.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 143 the continuation of a specific esoteric paradigm precisely without any direct historical lineage. and in fact many of his works feature dire warnings to those who approach Böhme’s writings in the wrong fashion. since we are essentially discussing the individual reader encountering a particular esoteric book. This is not to say that Böhme’s works necessarily in themselves inspire visionary insight. leave untouched the precious Names of God . it is also possible for an individual or group to rediscover or reawaken a particular archetypal paradigm latent within a tradition without any direct contact with such a lineage. Naturally. so that they do not ignite the wrath of God in your soul. but they may well change a reader’s consciousness in profound ways and even in some respects prepare one for such inward vision. This little book belongs only to those who eagerly wish to repent. To read Böhme’s works and attempt to categorize or analyze them logically is notoriously difficult. There can be no doubt that Böhme regarded his books as spiritually charged. Perhaps. as in this example from his book Christosophia (1624): “God-loving reader. this function must be a change in consciousness. But perhaps those countless people influenced by Böhme’s writing did or do not read it in the way that we read. Böhme himself frequently warned his readers not to read his works unless they were attuned to them. one might even say impossible. If. without doubt one of the most influential authors in the Western esoteric traditions. But for the reader who is in sympathy with a particular esoteric perspective. it can reëmerge in another. it exists as a nascent possibility within the tradition and even if it is eliminated by force or attrition in one historical period. and as the entry of one’s consciousness into a larger current. and are in earnest. Let us take an example from the works of Jacob Böhme. Such a reader joins with the author. if you wish to use this little book aright. who in turn is in touch with an archetypal or primary stream within a given esoteric tradition. it is possible for reading and rereading a given work to effect lasting changes in that reader’s consciousness. the written word itself can have an initiatory function. Here. for one is not to misuse God’s holy Names. Böhme’s works require a kind of ‘steeping. and who have a desire to begin. for example. instead. or a biology textbook. But I must warn you that if you are not in earnest. as I am suggesting. They will experience both the words that are in it and the source that . Thus. although there may be an initiatory lineage in a given Western esoteric tradition. I am not using the word initiation to refer to rites.’ a becoming familiar and even intimate with his language and vision until his unusual terminology and ways of expression become part of one’s inner landscape and view of the world. . the daily news. the word initiation is being used in several ways—as meaning a beginning on the spiritual path. forging a link to others with similar esoteric aspirations. After all. Such a paradigm can be reawakened. .

” for they will experience not only the words he has written. but.” Böhme tells us that if we are not in earnest on our way to the new birth. one automatically is caught in delusion. and become not its own possession. this objectifying delusion. that it encourages one to begin the spiritual path.”107 Or again. Then it walks in error until it again gives itself completely into resignation. he tells us. But the word awareness does not entail a subject-object duality. and so on for the entire week.144 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E gave rise to them. and for when one rises. is only the external constellation that intoxicates it as soon as it grasps at it. and a prayer before sleep. to become a channel for the divine current. This passage is particularly useful for us because it neatly encapsulates the shift in consciousness toward which Böhme is guiding his reader. so that consciousness shifts to awareness. and experience the divine directly. but by internalizing and becoming what one reads.” If on the one hand.”110 And only if it does this will the soul awaken into its divine inheritance and true purpose. and in fact much of what we term divine is in fact nothing more than a projection. we should leave unsaid the words in the prayers he gives us. So long as the divine remains objectified outside oneself. on the other hand his writing is addressed to those who “have a desire to begin. or has knowledge-of. Here Böhme is plainly saying that his writing is charged and has initiatory power— one can move through his work toward the divine. and whatever one perceives as divine is in fact tainted by this constant separation. Böhme insists that the reader must overcome this self-other division. a prayer for noon. but the “instrument of God. or they will be the “judgement of God in you.”109 The individual soul must ceaselessly sink down into the divine Nothing. Böhme is quite adamant in his insistence that the aspiring soul must follow the difficult path of giving up selfishness and the arrogance of reasoning. and second. Böhme’s works require stern admonitions to those who might not approach them properly. so that even what is apparently divine is in truth merely another facet of the “outward constellation.” “Be rightly warned. the source from which they emerge. in his “Warning to the Reader. it cannot become authentically a part of one’s direct awareness. .” or objectified realm. judgemental consciousness. a prayer for one’s daily work. which it sees as divine. a prayer for washing and dressing. The word consciousness implies always a duality—one is con-scious. In Christosophia he writes that “as soon as the soul eats of self and lives in reason’s light. that it encourages a change in consciousness that permeates one’s whole life. Hence Böhme includes in Christosophia prayers for one’s entire daily life—a prayer for when one awakens on Monday morning. When one is caught in the self-other or subject-object division.” It must remain “in resigned humility just as a fountain depends on its source. a prayer for the evening. not by merely mouthing the words.108 Clearly this work is initiatic in at least two ways: first. Then that thing. it walks in its own delusion.

M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 145 not even in relation to the divine. or the divine eye that sees itself. But we have reached the center of the theosophic tradition. or perceiver and what is perceived. Language is the means by which this process of mediation or reconciliation is effected: it is. divine in its origin. the light and the dark. intermediate between nature below and the divine above. just as. or subject and object. love and wrath. as are nature and humanity. as we have seen. but of the cosmos itself. where. in that there remains an observer. language is said to inhere in the entire cosmos. and it is at this point that paradox and enigmatic expression become necessary. In this sublime unity there is no congealing into an objectified self-other division—through paradox and enigma is expressed the sheer transcendence out of which emerges the dazzling archetypal realm. a path beyond this separation and suffering must go through language. between the divine and the natural. conversely. at the far limit of what we can express in language. in Western esotericism generally. although there are divisions between archetypes. Above. Divine Unity—the No-thing * Duality: The Yes and the No. in the archetypal realm there is . From these archetypes then emerge the natural and human realms. but the observer in another sense is no longer separate from the divine that is observed. and these in turn give birth to the qualities or archetypes inherent in the entire cosmos. then language must reflect this division. Indeed. In other words. where they are incarnated or manifested in the everchanging panoply of history. of course. Love and Wrath ** The Archetypal Realm of the Imagination: Divine Language *** The Manifested or Elemental World **** Language belongs above all to the archetypal realm. Here we are. in other words. If humanity and the cosmos itself are fallen. the origin not only of language. the self in one sense continues to exist. Thus language belongs also to the intermediate human realm. the yes and the no. for it is only humanity that can mediate between sky and earth. we have the point of origin. This transcendent point gives birth to duality. and at its most sublime when it expresses or manifests this transcendent divinity. There is simply awareness. and might from this point recapitulate by way of a diagram a schematic overview of how language may be understood in this context. or divided from the divine. This divine self-awareness Böhme sometimes alludes to as the divine eye turned inward. For language is in its innermost nature divine. There emerges a spacious or open quality. there is no sense of separation between self and other.

Is it possible to build a bridge between a modern. this objectification of literature and literary theory has much to do with why such theoretic discussions are so often unreadable—from a viewpoint within the ambit of Western esotericism. secular. transformative. and objectifying worldview and the perspectives that characterize Western esotericism? Perhaps not. or ignoring of most of these esoteric currents. and the divine. yet this expresses a very prevalent supposition underlying much contemporary literary theory. or manifest more indirectly in literature. pansophy and theosophy were relegated to movements of merely historical interest. suppression. the divine is perforce unmentionable. Language. and so forth. consumerist state was built from a materialist. language is in its very nature bound up with the divine. they may be glimpsed and even imperfectly expressed. From the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries. Nothing could be further from the various viewpoints of Western esotericism than the fallen language of mere designation. Ownership belongs to the fallen realm of separation and objectification—I own this as opposed to that—and therefore belongs also to fallen language. alternatives to the technoconsumerist machine became more commonplace—ecosocial criticism began to emerge. Undoubtedly. it is a vehicle not of separation but of union between humanity. These archetypal forces do not belong to the poet. the secular modern world emerged through the jettisoning. for after all. restoring to humanity its proper relation to nature and to the divine. esotericism remained mostly underground— alchemy was denigrated as nothing more than a primitive precursor of chemistry. including harsh critiques of technology’s effects on the natural world. but never owned. Here we are beginning to discern how Western esotericism in all of its various manifestations or guises is fundamentally different from modern views in its approach to language. which is rife with the language of objectification. The massive machine of the modern technological. By contrast. language as merely a collection of signs functioning as more or less arbitrary designators. nature. For Western esotericism. and objectified worldview. and the participatory. There is such a gulf between these two views as to seem almost unbridgeable. or separation into self and other. there are only the archetypal powers or forms that the poet or visionary may experience directly in vision. in these esoteric traditions. But by the late twentieth century. secular. is transformed from objectifying to unifying. and gnostic perspectives characterizing Western esotericism seem far removed from and incompatible with that machine. During this . in modern literary theory or theories of language. in vogue instead are theories of causality that refer to a world devoid of the divine. any objectifying perspective divorced from the divine origin and purpose of language automatically will be barren or sterile. of sign and object and manipulation of one or the other.146 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E still no possession or ownership.

which is to say. that inherent in the Western esoteric traditions is what we have called a libric or alphanumeric gnosis. Joining all of these disparate disciplines is a focus on the transmutation of consciousness. and widespread acculturation of Asian religious and medicinal traditions. scientific or otherwise. A N D C O N S C I O U S N E S S It is evident. As we have seen throughout this study. and the arts. one finds a consistently recurrent theme of transmuting consciousness. in theosophic works. A R T. we must begin by coming to see literature and the meaning of the word in new ways. but also for society itself. and on the other the burgeoning interest in Asian meditation practices—it would not be surprising if one also found the time ripe for a rediscovery of the Western esoteric traditions. But to begin to explore this new. Be it Kabbalism or alchemy. magic or theosophy. Buddhism. in particular. inner territory. imaged in alchemical manuscripts and in Kabbalistic treatises. then the ways of exploration are already marked out for us. One also found increasing interest in alternative approaches to medicine and to spirituality. the Lullian art. pansophy or esoteric Rosicrucianism or Freemasonry. Here we are discussing not merely the obvious fact that such traditions are represented in written works. which has ramifications not only for the nature of knowledge. profound connections between humanity. began to have profound effect on many people in the formerly Judeo-Christian world. after all that we have surveyed. troubadours and chivalry. to name only a few. L I T E R AT U R E . the various currents of Western esotericism with all their diversity share a common thread: the transmutation of consciousness through hieroeidetic knowledge. To this we now turn. and of restoring a paradisal union between them. and the divine. Given these tendencies—on the one hand criticism of technoconsumerism. religion. Western esotericism is inherently transdisciplinary by nature. but rather the idea that these literary works themselves are . with the intense focus of many of its practitioners on meditation practices. and in the countless literary works that express the discoveries of those who have gone before us. inspiring more than a few to also rediscover overlooked Jewish and Christian mystical traditions. including elements of the sciences. too. It may well be that we have reached a time when the ceaseless and ever more minute exploration of the cosmos may give way. of awakening latent. psychology. nature.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 147 time. to an exploration of the inner cosmos and of how we perceive the world. If so. at least for some. even while the bulk of society industriously tried to avoid recognizing those limits. one found a growing awareness of the limits that the natural world imposes on consumerist expansion. and for a reëvaluation of all the various disciplines in that light.

the gold-gleaming genius makes beauty. . E. as the seers tell us. this view of the poet invests in him far more authority and power than do contemporary views. fundamental to the awakening of a paradisal union between humanity. . of charged and living images once associated with the gods. The verses came to me almost as swift as thought. And only then will one’s written work be of enduring value for others. E. but rarely any longer is recognized as having its origin in the inner springs or fountains of life. found throughout Western history. visible in Greek tradition in such figures as Pythagoras and Plato. beyond history. The poet or prophet sees and enters into the celestial realm. one must already have left the imprisoning cave and seen the actual sun and the true landscape to which we belong. In his book Song and Its Fountains.’s subsequent meditation on how he created this poem is well worth investigating. Here the book is a means of spiritual transmutation. A. and in this ascent enter into the imaginal realm of archetypes. Such an understanding of literature is very ancient indeed. Western esoteric traditions have in common a special relationship with the written word that emerges from a very ancient and profound paradigm we find exemplified in works from the Book of Revelation to the alchemical Mutus Liber. from the Kabbalistic Sepher Yezirah or Bahir or Zohar to the works of Jacob Böhme and the Rosicrucian manifestos. E. for in its structure will be the creative power of life itself. full of imagination’s power and exhiliration. he tells us. in order to consider more carefully how a poet may view what we are discussing here. images. the ‘book of life’ out of which history itself emerges. 1867–1935). not the life of shadows. the cosmos itself is a kind of book—the structure of words. . where poetry might be seen by some as offering beauty or insight. but is seen even more clearly in the archetypal realm of the imagination. joys. To use Plato’s metaphor. and the divine. at this juncture. to write presupposes already having seen. It may be of use. In this esoteric view of literature. This intricate geometry of meaning can be glimpsed in the forms of nature. here is what we may call a spirituality of literature as much as a literature of spirituality. but of reality. and indeed. In this view. tells us that its appearance was “as much a surprise to me as if a flower had suddenly glowed before me in the hollow of the air . But A. to turn to a poet. a friend of Yeats. he simply began to murmur line after line. as we have seen. and music is the intricate geometry of meaning that permeates creation. nature. The poet’s psyche. (George William Russell. Naturally. Remarking on how a poem emerged unbidden one evening while he was sitting on some rocks. and how his poetry was inseparable from his visionary experiences. ascends to “that high state where. A. The poet and the seer both engage in the ascent of consciousness from multiplicity toward union. wrote at length about how he came to write poetry. Indeed. A. Only then can one return and tell others where authentic life lies.”111 Unconscious of creation. E. rejoicings.148 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E vehicles of spiritual praxis.

There was neither sight nor sound. the poet. And still being drawn down there came a third state in which was originally deep own-being.” Although he struggled to remain in this state. was later translated into words. E. E. The Mount is a symbol for that peak of soul when. But there are enchanted hours when it seems to be nigh us. as Ishtar in the Chaldean myth had crown and scepter and the royalty of her robes taken from her when descending from heaven to earth. focusing on his experience emerging from a deep sleep. later discussed with W. A.” he wrote. and it changes the dry dust of logic into color and music and a rapture of prophecy. he found himself “dragged down” toward waking consciousness. gone inward into itself.”112 Yet “what comes back to us from that high sphere loses beauty in its descent. writes that “all true poetry was conceived on the Mount of Transfiguration. E. and the withdrawal of the universe into the Pleroma—all that was wrought in some secret laboratory within the psyche. It is the light of spirit that transcends the psyche as the psyche in its own world transcends the terrestrial ego. recognized his limits. A. A. B. E.’s view actually emerges from a dimunition of spiritual vision. and cried out in a divine intoxication to the Light of Lights.” “Whatever went to making an intricate harmony of color and sound. and memory and imagination are shot through and through with the radiance of another nature. it draws nigh to its own divine root. “never had the high vision of those who have gone into the deeps of being and who have returned rapture-blinded by the glory. E. and song. for its subtlety and universality make it ungraspable: “It cannot be constrained. E. somehow comes in touch with this sheer transcendence. “I have. and there is revelation in it and the mingling of heaven and earth. Yeats. perhaps surprisingly. and after that images. the creation of poetry in A.”117 For this reason. when once he became conscious while “in some profundity of being. who said that he had experienced precisely the same descent into words. “—the imagination of the ending of the long tale of time.” Thus. Yet A. though too often they have not kept faith . that his experience belonged to the psyche or soul. and remarks that “almost the only oracles which have been delivered to humanity for centuries have come through the poets. still recognized “that greater light shines behind and through the psyche. nigher to us than the most exquisite sweetness in our transitory lives. even if unaware of precisely how or why.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 149 dance. A. but all was a motion in deep being.”113 This movement of consciousness A. but of the universal spirit he understood little. looks upon the poet as a prophet. E. of nature become so ethereal that it was the perfect mirror of deity. from a descent after an ascent. and not to the sublimity of the spirit. analyzes the movement of consciousness.”116 Still.”114 A far exile from that glory.”115 He understood something of the psyche.” he wrote. “and then what was originally a motion in deep being broke into a dazzle of images which symbolized in some deep way a motion of life in that profundity.

”120 Thus “when we sink within ourselves. in his The Way to the Sabbath of Rest (1650). But at times they still receive the oracles. still conform strikingly to the model we have begun to develop as characteristic of the Western esoteric traditions. when we seem most alone. tells the story of how he once in his office went into a reverie and saw a host of images—a redhaired watchful girl. Thomas Bromley. And A. which could also be expressed as the ending of objectification. In this exaltation or transcendent creativity. characters they had never met in life. may.” And there is more. feel a mutual Indwelling in the pure Tincture and Life of each other: and so. they come “trailing clouds of glory. returns to the cave of constrained or dulled ordinary life to create written works that are themselves also permeated with the seer’s visionary realizations. in that solitude we may meet multitude. without knowing it. E. and as we mingle our imagination with theirs we are exalted and have the heartache of infinite desire. Throughout our investigations. E. These written works express and indeed embody some of the secret structure inherent in the cosmos. but which were real and which revealed more of themselves in that profundity of being than if they had met and spoken day by day. expresses here is not far from what we see in the work of an exemplary and influential esoteric figure like Jacob Böhme. and imbued with this new visionary understanding. or division into self and other. for in both cases one sees a visionary who penetrates deeper than ordinary people into the mysteries inherent in creation. we find numerous accounts of the spiritual path as exactly such a movement beyond ordinary distinctions of self and other. In Christian theosophy. and they wove into drama or fiction.”119 Through them the immortals utter their divine speech. E. and our thoughts may become throngs of living souls. In essence. though they do not take place in the explicit context of Western esotericism properly speaking.” The psyche.”118 The poets and musicians offer us “the sense of a glory transmitted from another nature. . the poet or seer enters into a realm where conventional notions of self begin to vanish.150 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E with the invisible . have made their hearts a place where the secrets of many hearts could be told. into the nature of poetic vision or imagination. A. the further we come out of the animal Nature. for instance.”121 These insights of A. because in the practice of their art they preserve the ancient tradition of inspiration and they wait for it with airy uplifted mind. as did the sybils of old. . we have seen Western esoteric traditions as including the restoration of paradise. the view of literary creation that A. through love and sympathy may come to know “that the whole of life can be reflected in the individual. a cobblestone street—and to his astonishment later discovered that these images belonged to the actual world of his office companion. when it becomes truly self-conscious. wrote of how “they that are in this near Union. E. . goes on to remark that he often thought the great literary masters like Shakespeare or Balzac “endowed more generously with a rich humanity. thinking all the while that it was imagination or art of their own.

where. irrespective of time or distance—and A. and so requires our sympathetic participation.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 151 the more universal we are. Of course. one finds spiritual seekers who actively pursue inner vision. the author also is not directly present. and to one another in the Internal. and experiences. say. does not participate in it along with the characters? Its characters enter into our consciousness. there are unquestionably parallels between these two examples. there also is participation in what is observed. which no earthly Distance can hinder. the book or work has been separated from its writer. but must enter into the work by an act of imaginative participation. it increasingly enters a paradisal union with those on the same path. he is discussing how the poet may unwittingly enter into an archetypal realm of the imagination. on the other a visionary poet.’s case. Underlying both of them is a clear movement beyond objectification. by A. fiction. Such experiences are not very far at all in turn from our own ordinary reading of. set aside a space within our consciousness where the characters or . And so it is possible for us to speak of the great Gatsby. and taken on a kind of life of its own. in between both author and reader. absorbed completely in a book. Likewise. We are carried along on the words of the author. One becomes what one sees. as if we knew them as neighbors. he may encounter unfamiliar figures. for instance. in A. and we must. Reading. in the latter case. In order for a book to ‘reach us’ it has to resonate within us. But nonetheless. In this realm. become part of us and indivisible from our inner lives. although there is still an observer and what is observed. In Bromley’s case. or of Captain Ahab. as if by happenstance. like theater. and stranger than any experienced in ordinary life. there are differences between what Bromley is describing—a kind of mutual communion among those in a spiritual group. passive. and nearer both to Heaven. and its relationship to nature also becomes paradisal or unified. For who. a novel. or drama. and between the models that they represent. One experiences great bliss. This movement goes through an archetypal realm in which they experience figures vaster. and the further instrumentally to convey the pure Streams of the heavenly Life to each other. one is looking at people consciously engaged in a spiritual path together. the poet is more like a receiver. events. and later forge them into a written work of uncommon power. Thus we can see that the experience of reading itself corresponds in some respects to a visionary encounter like those described. more powerful. E. which later emerge in poetry.’s discussion of how the poet may unknowingly absorb or participate in other people’s lives or personalities. E. symbols. or beyond a rigid self-other distinction. and the world is shot through with light. E. In the first case. takes place on a field midway between audience and author. on the one hand an exemplar of Western theosophic esotericism.”122 As the soul ascends toward paradise by way of spiritual praxis. at least temporarily.

but in a ‘space’ within itself leaves room for self and other to meet on the stage of the imagination. Kabbalistic cosmology is real. and suggest that literature and art in their highest forms are an attenuated kind of visionary encounter. And we see it in the assertion of the alchemists that alchemical work can bring one to the pinnacle of human possibility. and art can be understood in light of the Western esoteric traditions and their continuing themes of spiritual reading. playing for keeps. The barriers between self and other become at least a little permeable. symbolizes eternal conditions. We see this also in the insistence of Böhme that one must read his work with an attitude of humility and reverence for the divine or suffer lasting consequences by stirring up wrathfulness in one’s consciousness. Perhaps. habitual self is gone. Literature is playing the game with no stakes. one could argue that what is ‘other’ in visionary experiences like those alluded to by Bromley is in fact merely a psychological projection of the ego. precisely what is at work also in the visionary encounter. our authors tell us. where to have one’s name in the Book of Life. whereas the esotericist is. existing in a supraphysical dimension. who himself was certainly influenced by the Western esoteric traditions. drama. emphasized exactly this point about ideas—that they are not our individual property. of course. But in fact Bromley’s friend John Pordage. And in fact Ralph Waldo Emerson. but eventually puts the book down. By contrast. Here we are beginning to develop a schema to see how poetry. This schema is based on the idea of self-transcendence. merely ‘imaginary’ in the dismissive sense of the word. for example. the consciousness is not caught up in its humdrum of daily affairs. writing. and books. these esoteric traditions in general aim for enduring changes in consciousness. magic is real. . or to have it stricken. Ordinary. but emerge in our consciousness if we are open to them. we might reverse the terms. one turns away from the painting. took great pains to point out that the visionary realm he had experienced was not imaginary but real.152 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E insights it expresses can exist. Of course. the visions of the theosophers are real. For when a reader engages in a literary work. essays. or make of one a laughingstock and utter failure. and in Kabbalistic practice. fiction. We see this in the Book of Revelation. where the cosmos can be ‘read’ in new ways. And indeed. rather than diminishing the visionary encounter to mere fantasy. presumably. between studying a work of literature or of art on the one hand and these forms of esotericism on the other is that the effects of reading a work of literature are limited: one is imaginatively engaged. and one has entered a new world. it is indeed analogous to what is said to happen when someone engages completely in the practice of one of these forms of esotericism—the ordinary world drops away or disappears. in alchemical work. and one enters into the new birth. the history of Western esotericism is filled with such insistence on the actual nature of what is being discussed—alchemy is real. The visionary encounter is similar in that here too. The difference.

in the process of creating a fictional world. Such a trajectory is intensified in the case of esotericism. But fundamental questions remain. And one joins the literary community of the ages the way one joins the community of alchemists. If the movement of a given reader ideally is toward self-transcendence. what is the motivation of the author? It was J. the alchemist. Nicholas . so too is the author. Johannes Tauler. One reads and rereads one’s predecessors’ works until the authors become like old friends. the Kabbalist. and other forms of literature are to be found in Western esotericism and its pervasive theme of reading and writing the world. the divine creativity that brought the cosmos into being. the Kabbalist. Jane Leade. but reveals an underlying motivation of literary creation—that through this work one will connect profoundly with the consciousness of another. If a primary aim of the alchemist. fiction. their works like second nature. one can still find a correspondence between reading and writing. R. But regardless of whether one subscribes to a theistic perspective or not. the literary work. And here too is a profound parallel with Western esotericism. Ramon Lull. Tolkien who suggested that a poet or author is a kind of “co-creator” reflecting. and the Continuity of Occult Traditions in English Literature (1975) and Désirée Hirst’s Hidden Riches (1964) are important initial forays into this field. is to attain paradisal immortality.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 153 Yet it may be that the two versions of the game remain essentially similar. Milosz’s insistence that he wrote for a single reader not yet born is perhaps an extreme example. the more we uncover links between major literary figures and various currents of Western esotericism. and the gnostic themselves live on for us their readers precisely the same way as does Shakespeare or Dante or Emerson—through written works. Abraham Abulafia. the sympathetic reader and the author may meet. and may even connect profoundly with each other. Jacob Böhme. but what came into existence through him. And it may very well be that the origins of modern poetry. Yet at the same time. perhaps the literary impulse may be seen as a secular reflection of this goal. gnostics. lives on. the gnostic. Works such as Marsha Keith Schuchard’s landmark dissertation Freemasonry. Certainly modern Western literature owes a great. Meister Eckhart. where communion and union are an underlying expectation of both author and reader. Thomas Bromley. for if the reader is ideally moving toward a momentary union of subject and object. R. largely hidden debt to the Western esoteric traditions and to their common theme of the mysticism of the word. Secret Societies. Thus the essential trajectory of both author and reader or artist and audience is toward communion and union. or Kabbalists—by self-election. John Pordage. For literary immortality is in some respects a ‘second birth’—the author may have long ago died. Through the medium of the written word or the painting. The deeper we investigate into the origins of modern literature. that through this work one attains a kind of immortality. but there is much more to be done.

There are two philosophers whose work is of special value for us in considering the place of the Western esoteric traditions in this larger context: Nicholas Berdyaev (1874–1948) and Nishitani Keiji (1900–1990). These authors are important for us because their religio-philosophical perspectives. but instead will look at his philosophical contributions. Here we have neither space nor need to survey Berdyaev’s life and work. taken together. being Russian and deeply influenced by Eastern Orthodoxy rather than Western European Christianity. In being. which belongs to history and to the constraints of time and space. to vicariously participate in the author’s understanding. Perhaps the symbolism of a novel is an attenuated form of what we find made even more explicit in these esoteric traditions. precedes all being. but that also includes those who insist on far higher stakes and greater rewards. One should not be too surprised at the introduction of Berdyaev’s work here. a means for nothing less than the restoration of paradise. for as I have discussed elsewhere. They exist on a continuum that includes reading or viewing art for diversion or pleasure. literature. Berdyaev tells us. his work formed a kind of bridge between Eastern and Western Christianities and worldviews. emerge from a pervasive human need to discern or restore the hidden unity of all things by reading and writing the world anew. where everything in the cosmos is seen as bearing its divine signature.” It may well be. there is no true freedom—true freedom is to be found only in the Ungrund. And the reader from his side is seeking to comprehend. and publicly identified himself as a Christian theosopher in the line of Dionysius the Areopagite and Jacob Böhme. esoteric or not. in the . moreover. In what could be considered the summation of his thought—the book The Beginning and the End—Berdyaev discusses the immense significance of Jacob Böhme’s concept of the Ungrund for religion and philosophy. And perhaps all forms of Western literature.124 The Ungrund. and explicitly seeking to guide the reader toward new and intensified kinds of consciousness. therefore. and indeed even God himself. that Western esoteric and Western literary and artistic traditions are far more mutually illuminating than we could have guessed.123 But Berdyaev was also a philosopher. and intimately familiar with the history of modern philosophy. and how they correspond to what we have learned about Western esotericism. to in Emerson’s words. “add it to his own arsenal of power. help explain what I am arguing about the various currents of Western esotericism. for whom literature and art are the expression and vehicle of spiritual illumination and of the transfiguration of the world. and consciousness. Berdyaev was himself definitely part of Western esotericism. and place them in a world religious and philosophical context. to be guided by the author. the author is reaching out. but in every case. To what degree are these themes universal for human existence? Here we may step for the first time outside the sphere of Western esoteric and literary traditions.154 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E Flamel—the list can be extended indefinitely.

particularly the arts of literature. But Berdyaev does not follow his own premises to their logical conclusions. of direct contact with the springs of inspiration and human awakening. a different sort of knowledge. and its expression in human creativity. at the center of which is precisely this problem of whether self-other ultimately dissolves into unity. Nishitani Keiji. and especially on the . And at this point we turn to our second religious philosopher. or whether this division persists into eternity so that the soul is always in some sense separate from God. Berdyaev writes that “the creative imagination which demands what is new. where one moves from the realm of social necessity or determinism or law into the realm of mystery and freedom.” and “is the beginning of a different world. He insists on the importance of an eternal personality. or to put it another way.” Here Berdyaev puts his finger on a fundamental link between esotericism and the creator. Meontic freedom has its origin in sheer transcendence. It is knowledge. then how could the indefinite extension of personality. issues from existential eternity. As Berdyaev points out. This true freedom Berdyaev calls meontic. or essayistic creation—one is on the frontier. correlate to this? That Berdyaev is of paramount importance in contemporary philosophy I have no doubt—but his work in the end remains caught in the dilemmas that have proved so tragic for Christianity as a whole. and therefore of division. For if meontic freedom has its origin in the divine Nichts of absolute transcendence. the artist. Coming from a Buddhist perspective. which extends the division between subject and object beyond death. and runs counter to his own recognition of the central importance of Jacob Böhme’s Ungrund in Western philosophical-religious history. of creativity. the artist. the poet (and the esotericist) all often find themselves marginalized or shunned by their contemporary society because they represent the emergence of newness. “it is an end of this world. Nishitani is certainly familiar with but not limited to the problems inherent in Christian theological paradigms. at the point where ontic dissolves into meontic.” he writes. as well as the close ties between those traditions and the arts. To enter into union with mystery is not only the frontier of knowledge. to which our categories of thought are not applicable. in contradistinction to the deterministic and merely ontic realm where there can be no real freedom. Berdyaev is a philosopher of creativity. fictional. and what he writes about creativity is revealing when considered in light of the continuous renewal and creative transformations of the Western esoteric traditions. “Creative activity.”125 This assertion of a different order of knowledge certainly describes what we see in the Western esoteric traditions.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 155 divine Nothingness prior to existence itself. but deeply learned in Western and especially German philosophical tradition up to Heidegger. By drawing on the Buddhist tradition. In both cases—in esotericism and in poetic. or the poet: all are concerned with beginning or entering a new world. begins with dissatisfaction with ordinary life.

. self-centered consciousness. it is the absolute transcendence of self-object divisions belonging to ordinary. As rational or personal beings. . or the emptiness of all things. but of intimately uniting us with existence at its most essential. This is the field of shunyata. one retreats into self even further. This intensifies our narcissism. emerges authentic freedom. but in modern life we are faced also with nihility. we can see how these apparently disparate views in fact correspond. Yet there is another field that is not nihility. there is in Western esotericism in all its myriad forms a pervading theme of alphanumeric gnosis. it is instead absolute autonomy that is at the same time absolute service to all things. “unless the thoughts and deeds of man one and all be located on such a field. begins where we all are: with our ordinary. the sorts of problems that beset humanity have no chance of ever really being solved. we grasp ourselves and thereby get caught by our own reason or personality. with an underlying breach among all things that fundamentally seems to separate them from one another. It is the field on which the awareness of our true selfnature—or. so that “self and other stand simultaneously in the position of absolute master and absolute servant with regard to one another.”126 This self-centeredness is the ordinary human condition. for faced with nihility.156 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E Buddhist understanding of shunyata. While this is our own act. “an equality in love. . Out of this transcendence alone. Nishitani affirms. we see the emergence of a genuine world-philosophical standpoint that allows us to understand more deeply the significance of Western esoteric traditions.”130 When we turn to the literature of the Western esoteric traditions with Nishitani’s Zen Buddhist-influenced perspective in mind. egoistic mode of being. in which there is nothing to grasp or rely upon. in which the self-other dichotomy is resolved. As we have seen throughout this study. or rather in unison. of course. What . and our personality grasps itself from within the personality itself . In Nishitani’s work. the choices of the will. and us from them. .”128 True emptiness.”129 Only in the field of shunyata is such mutually affirming freedom possible. . and has the effect not of separating. or perhaps better still.”127 He defines shunyata as “nothing less than what reaches awareness in all of us as our own absolute self-nature . . is beyond definition. Authentic freedom is beyond merely subjective freedom. self-identically. or “true emptiness. that is. This mode of being is fundamentally self-centered: “our reason grasps itself from the posture of reason. what is the same thing. it is not something we are free to do as we please . Nishitani is able to point toward the resolution or transcendence of the fundamental dilemmas that face us today. One goes through language—the means of human differentiation between self and other—toward the union of self and other. in other words. self-nature as true self-awareness—and the selfness of each and every thing in the form of its suchness come about simultaneously.” an “absolute openness. and indeed. Nishitani. The force of destiny is at work here.” Authentic freedom is.

from a ‘thrown’ or ‘fallen’ condition of divided. or even linguistic construction. anything that can be read or written. there can be no doubt that the Western esoteric traditions. have at their center this mystery of the word. joined together with one another. encompassing all manner of hieroglyphs. .” And from such knowledge we may pass to what entirely transcends consciousness. Hidden within literature truly worth reading and within all great art is a nostalgia for paradise. and with the divine in the field of authentic freedom. our authentic self is confirmed: in this is the mystery of literature and ultimately of the union of self and other in consciousness. in the meeting and reading and writing of all the infinite forms that consciousness can take. language is indeed divine. Such a view of the word is far indeed from seeing literature as merely a social.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 157 appears to be other—the cosmos and the divine—turns out in this process of revealing the fundamental self-other unity to be in fact indivisible from our inner nature. for all their diversity. so Western esotericism suggests. We read and are read. Paradoxically. political. Here the word language takes on more than the usual valence. with nature. including paintings. alienated consciousness toward a mutuality of awareness that takes place on the infinitely plastic field of the imagination. that mysterious point out of which the geometry of language emerges. as the sense of self and other diminishes. And the means of conjoining self and other turns out to be precisely what at first seems the principle of separation: language itself. take their place among the world’s philosophic and religious traditions as uniquely literary paths toward paradise. It can lead us. Thus we can see that insofar as it emerges from and draws us toward its own and our own transcendence. a calling toward what we are meant to be. seen as a whole. This meeting on the field of the imagination I have called “hieroeidetic knowledge. where to be truly master means to serve in loving compassion. for here literature is not merely a collection of ‘signs’ or ‘signifiers. write and are written. The Western esoteric traditions.’ but embodies different orders of knowledge at once. But in any case.


edu. 1994). See Steven Katz.aseweb.msu. See the definition of the Association for the Study of Esotericism [ASE] and more information on this growing field at www.” Esoterica IV (2002): 1–15 and “Methods in the Study of Esotericism Part II. 2. I retain the conventional distinctions between the capitalized terms Gnostic or Gnosticism (when referring specifically to figures or the current belonging to late antiquity) and the uncapitalized gnostic as a more general term not tied to any particular era.Notes INTRODUCTION 1. For an overview of Western esotericism. see Antoine Faivre. 4. “Methods in the Study of Esotericism. The State University of New York Press series of books in Western esotericism edited by David Applebaum also represents an important contribution to this field.” Esoterica V (2003): 175–210. Mysticism and Language (New York: Oxford University Press. the official Web site of the ASE. which belongs more to the Renaissance and after. and readers would do well to become familiar with it.. See Hanegraaff. a Dutch scholar.esoteric. 1996) reveals the underlying connections between new religious movements today and their Western esoteric antecedents. mostly by North American scholars. See www. I also retain the distinction maintained by Antoine Faivre between Hermetism (the current associated with Hermes belonging to late antiquity) and Hermeticism. 159 . 5. ed. 3.msu. There are a number of other scholars now working in this field as well. whose encyclopedic book New Age Religion and Western Culture: Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought (Leiden: Brill. Access to Western Esotericism (Albany: State University of New York ] for articles. published a large body of work outlining and detailing numerous aspects of esotericism. Faivre. much of it in French.esoteric. See Arthur Versluis. in this including Wouter Hanegraaff. ibid. 1992). who held a chair at the Sorbonne in Western esoteric currents of thought. See also the journal Esoterica [www.

160 NOTES TO CHAPTER ONE 6. see also Wisdom’s Children: A Christian Esoteric Tradition (Albany: State University of New York Press. but they like everyone have access to this inward realm all the same. pp. See Versluis. 5. 8. pp. p. Nag Hammadi Library. see also Dionysius the Areopagite on like and unlike images. Peers. 13. See Frederick Goldin.. pp. Sophia. 6.. cit. see also Faivre L’Ésotérisme (Presses Universitaries de France. 10–15. Theosophic Correspondence (Exeter: Roberts. Paul. 3. pp. Paul: Grail. 1978). 14–21. p. p. On the Kabbalah and Its Symbolism (New York: Schocken. 1973). p. 307. 140. 1999). Paragon House. Initiation (Manchester: Manchester University Press. Wisdom’s Book: The Sophia Anthology (St. 5. See ibid. 2000). 51–89. 11. Ibid. 309. pp. Nag Hammadi Library. See Arthur Versluis. Myths. Paul: Grail. eds. and Mysteries (New York: Harper.. Dreams. pp.. trs. p. Kabbalah (Jerusalem: Keter. See Versluis. 18 ff. “Koan and Kensho in the Rinzai Zen Curriculum” in Stephen Heine and Dale Wright. John Pordage. see also Scholem. 97. for an explicit example of this inward sojourn and perception.. p. op. Ramon Lull. 180. in Arthur Versluis. “Christian Theosophy and Ancient Gnosticism. Victor Sogen Hori. 151. . Jean La Fontaine. The Bestiary of Christ (New York: Parabola. p. pp. 1996) of Piers Ploughman. The Koan: Texts and Context in Zen Buddhism (New York: Oxford University Press. 1992). See Charbonneau. 145. 14. CHAPTER ONE 1. Lyrics of the Troubadours and Trouvères (New York: Anchor. The Book of the Lover and the Beloved.. CHAPTER TWO 1. Paul: Paragon House. 1991). p. 76–106. 9. Translation is mine. Mircea Eliade. 1965). pp. 7. 1975). 1996). 2. See my discussion in Gnosis and Literature (St. 2. Gnosis and Literature (St. (London: Sheldon. 12. ed. p. Wisdom’s Book: The Sophia Anthology (St. E. 223. See the fifteenth chapter of Parzival. 2000). 248. See. Pordage writes that the invisible paradisal earth of Sophia is hidden from ratiocination and even scoffed at by those limited to reasoning alone. 4. 2000). See Gershom Scholem. 111. 4. 37 ff. 1986). 219–233. 1863). whether they know it or not. 1974). 10. Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin.” Studies in Spirituality 7(1997): 228–241. All of this is to be found in the ninth chapter of Parzival. See Faivre. 3. pp. 83 ff.

ed. 30. ed. Ibid. The Renaissance Philosophy of Man (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 34. See Verman. Origins. I. Doctor Illuminatus. 11. Ibid.B. Kabbalah: New Perspectives (New Haven: Yale University Press. See Pico della Mirandola. 12. See Verman. trs.. p. 1961). Ibid. p.. Ibid. See A. Bonner. Origins.. Tristan..325.71. p.. and Françoise Secret. Gershom Scholem. 1953) I. p. I.. 1988). ed.. cit. 35. 1964).331. II. 38. as well as Antoine Faivre and F. 66.. p. op. 31. for instance.80 ff. 1987). 49–50. 29. 394. Zohar IV ... 16. II. 250.. 10. vom Stein der Weisen (Berlin: Christian Ulrich Ringmacher. A. A translation of Ars Brevis is to be found in Ramon Lull. Ibid..205b–206a. The Books of Contemplation (Albany: State University of New York Press. op. pp..NOTES TO CHAPTER TWO 161 6.314. p. 1985). See Scholem. C. 101–102. p. 14. I. in The Zohar. 1979).. 7.. et al. 37. Ibid. Opera omnia. IV . p. Ibid. 33. p. 280. I. 61.. Cassirer.75. Ibid. Ibid. Dan.351. See Arthur Edward Waite. 197. 32. See Mark Verman. Les Kabbalistes chrétiens de la Renaissance (Paris: Dunod. 17. Vasoli. See J. 278. Ibid. 25. 36. I.. p. 298 ff. The Early Kabbalah (Paulist Press. II. 57. 1986). p. eds.205b. see also Scholem. Twersky. ed. p. Ibid. 197. The Hermetic Museum (London: Watkins. 57.. 15. II.77. 18.. M. op. 26. 28. p. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (London: Soncino.. see also Moshe Idel. Simon. 29. p. 270. The Christian Interpretation of the Cabala in the Renaissance (Port Washington: Kennikat. 22. Ibid. 1969). 13. See Moshe Idel. 19. Ibid. Ibid.. 8. Scholem. Origins of the Kabbalah (Princeton: Princeton University Press. cit. 1965). 23. (Hildesheim: Olms. Rabbi Moses Nahmanides: Explorations. p.320–323. See “Oration on the Dignity of Man” in E. See. 24. 1984). pp. I. 1992). 59. p. 1983). 1779). 246.C. 51. (Princeton: Princeton University Press. 27. Cassirer. 21.312.76. Joseph Blau. . 20. I. trs. Origins. 52. Kabbalistes chrétiens (Paris: Albin Michel. ed. Ibid.. cit. 9.

56. 60. Fama. 1784).O. 55. ed.102–104. forthcoming.. 54. p. 22. This commentary was shared with people from diverse walks. ed. 57.. See. (Cassel: Wessel. p.P. (Los Angeles: Philosophical Research. Ibid. Ibid. 77. See also Marsha Schuchard. . table of contents. 1966). 371. (Cassel: Wessel. p. 58. Ibid. der gantzen weiten welt . 257. p.. The Rosicrucian Enlightenment (London: Routledge. William Huffman.: A Rare and Curious Manuscript of Rosicrucian Interest. University of Texas at Austin. 241.77.M. p. 67. Ibid. Ashmole. . a musician. Opus Mago-Cabbalisticum et Theosophicum (Frankfurt: Fleischerischum. cit. p. 41. The following page references are to Yates. The Tessera of Antilia: Utopian Brotherhoods and Secret Societies in the Early Seventeenth Century (Leiden: Brill. From von Welling. 1971). I. for text. Robert Fludd and the End of the Renaissance (London: Routledge.. 50.D. Yates. “Christian Theosophy and Ancient Gnosticism” in Studies in Spirituality (Fall. Ibid.A. . and others.A. H. Ibid. Freemasonry. Fama. Frances Yates. 251. Fama. 246. 221. C. 43. 61. See Josten. 220. II. I. 1997). 48.M. For an excellent survey of the scholarship since Yates. Confessio.... 1615)... and The Rosicrucian Enlightenment. p.. 51. Elias Ashmole (Oxford: Clarendon. 1998). especially on Gichtel’s and other theosophers’ tendency to carefully date their revelations. and also written an extensive commentary on it. 242. See Frances Yates. p. See Versluis. 46. Wisdom’s Children: A Christian Esoteric Tradition (State University of New York Press. Ibid. Josten. for background. 1975). Resicrucian Enlightenment. 252. p. p. 253. The original (short) titles of Fama and Confessio were Allgemeine und General Reformation. 1988). 49. p. ... see Donald Dickson. p. See Versluis. p. Secret Societies. Ibid. p. 40. Confessio.681. ms. Confessio. and even chart them astrologically. D. 255. 1999). Ashmole. Ibid. 53.. p. Ibid. including two physicists. Ibid. 260. 62. diss. Confessio. Fama. a cosmologist. The texts of the Fama and Confessio in English are most easily found as appendices to Yates. 63.. p.. See Versluis. . 42. Ibid. for the reader’s convenience. See. 47. 1972). p. See Codex Rosae Crucis D. M. 1614) and Secretioris Philosophiae Considertio brevis . 49. a theologian.162 NOTES TO CHAPTER TWO 39..O. Hall. 45. p. 129. 52. I have translated this work of Pordage. Theatre of the World. in a group called the Round Table.. Ibid. and the Continuity of the Occult in English Literature (Ph. 59. 238. The first English translation was published by Thomas Vaughan in 1652. p. op. 44. 37. The Alchemy of Art.

Sloane. Hugh Trevor-Roper. fondateurs (Paris: l’Herne. Charge I. 39.. 8. 1935). Milosz. p. E. . On Emerson and Hermeticism. pp. 7. See Dickson. It may well be that a closer investigation of symbolist and surrealist poetry and art would further reveal its affinities to Satanism. Ibid. and Margaret Bailey. ed. 2002). 70. 162–168. 9.. citing B. The Noble Traveller (West Stockbridge: Lindisfarne. Franklin. . Beyond Painting and Other Writings by the Artist and His Friends (New York: Wittenborn. 170–171. 3. 409. 417. Ibid. Mazet. Restoring the Temple of Vision: Cabalistc Freemasonry and Stuart Culture (Leiden: Brill. 1992). 6. changes. and Social Change (London: Macmillan. See M. 71. 1926). pp.. as is in fact suggested in Bernice Rosenthal. 1992). D. See Marsha Keith Schuchard. Ibid.. 11. 69.. pp. p.. and without doubt there are bizarre and even deliberately inverted elements in much of surrealism. 257–272. 2001). p. Ibid. Ibid. S. p. The Hermetic Book of Nature (St. V de L. 654. See “Le manuscrit graham” in La franc-maçonnerie: documents. 414. O.. 1734). p. 1680–1800 (Boston: Little. Chavalier Ramsey (London: Nelson.” in Modern Esoteric Spirituality. ed. 10. Max Ernst and Alchemy (Austin: University of Texas Press. 1997). 1997). 2. Paul: Grail. The Occult in Soviet and Russian Culture (Ithaca: Cornell University Press. regulations . p. see also Max Ernst. Revolution and Freemasonry. 191. Ibid. M. 66. 4. Freemasonry. Brown. p. especially in Kristi Groberg’s “‘The Shade of Lucifer’s Dark Wing’: Satanism in Silver Age Russia. 5. 1985). 256. and Albert Cherél. Faivre. . op. Ibid. 268. The Constitutions of the Free-masons: Containing the history. pp. pp. 110. 240. believed that surrealism drew on esoteric currents in a confused way. Warlick. 68. H. 247–249.. pp. Ibid. See James Anderson. 66–67. Milton and Jacob Boehme (New York: Oxford: 1914). (London [Philadelphia]: B. . p. 1967).” 99–134. See Edmond Mazet. 170–171.NOTES TO CHAPTER THREE 163 64. pp. 1948). p. CHAPTER THREE 1. Un aventurier religieux au XVIIe siècle (Paris: Perrin. See George David Henderson. A. cit. “Freemasonry and Esotericism. See also Bernard Fay. (New York: Crossroad. See also Schuchard. 67. p. 172–173. M. the Reformation. Religion. 65. Certainly surrealism and related movements such as symbolism provide much more complicated examples than we can deal with here. 253. 1952). see Versluis.

The Esoteric Origins of the American Renaissance (New York: Oxford University Press. Milosz. Ibid. 29. pp. 40. 277. p. ed. 174–175. p.” synonymous with “hermetic tradition.. Theosophia: Hidden Dimensions of Christianity (Hudson: Lindisfarne. D. 19. pp. For a discussion of Postel in relation to Christian theosophy. 38. introduction by Albert Gelpi. in her search to translate the inner meaning of material reality” (p. 206–207. pp.. of course. 20.. op. . Milosz. op. The ‘true-rune and right spell’ of esoteric tradition contained the code for H. p. p. 299. pp. Ibid. 23. 1989). 28.. Hermetica (Boston: Shambhala. 1985). 1994). Ibid. for a translation of Hymns to the Night. 224–225. 26. For the poet of the modernist era.’s] perspective. cit. Ibid. Milosz. 16. 469. pp. p... pp. Friedman writes that “From her [H. Lib. 8–9. pp. 35. D.. 226–227... Ibid. hermetic tradition offered a pattern of meaning in coded form to the initiate . pp. Ibid.. 299–300. 24. and to what end? One might hope that critics would eventually cease to assume that there is always only a single thing called “esoteric tradition. 27. . p. 33. the harsh world of necessity that Freud described is itself the “rune” that must be deciphered. p. 303. Susan Friedman. Ibid. I. 48–52. Ibid. 34. p. 17.115... Ibid. H. pp. Milosz. See Versluis. pp. is into what did she translate this inner meaning. 297–298. 21. Ibid. Notes on Thought and Vision (San Francisco: New Directions. 36.” when in fact there are numerous different esoteric currents of a wide variety. pp. 14. . 248. 25. D. Ibid. 210–211. 157–206.. 13. Ibid. 31. I.. 37. pp. The question. See W... cit. see Versluis. 22. 32. 455. 296. see Steven Bullock. Ibid. trs.1 ff. Ibid. Ibid. p. Scott. Ibid. cit.. p. pp.. 158). 41. Ibid.. pp. See Versluis. 1982). 182–183.. 180–181.. 465. 464. ranging from entirely cosmological ones such as astrology or the Tarot to more metaphysical or gnostic ones. 30.. 300. 1996). Pollen and Fragments: Selected Poetry and Prose of Novalis (Grand Rapids: Phanes. op. 204–205. Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. 18.164 NOTES TO CHAPTER THREE 12. For a more extensive study. 178–179. Psyche Reborn (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 2001). Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. 1981). 39. 15.

for documentation.. Futurism. Rosenthal. A Candid Narrative (London: 1753). ed. D. p. The Gift (Gainesville: University Press Florida. p. 19. 67. 157. 225–246. Ibid. see also. Ibid. 32.. Rimius. Ibid. 62. 69.” 30–31. rpt. 154–155.. Ibid. Ibid. 1989). 57.. H.. 73. “The Walls Do Not Fall. 21. 17–19. 68. Selected Poems (Hudson: Lindisfarne. and I certainly recommend her article.. D. The Gift.. 2001). Ibid. 47. 70. Ibid.. 1967). 52. 50–51. 156–159. 61. 54. E. 71. 50. 53. “Tribute to the Angels.. 102. Ibid.. There are. Ibid. pp. 13. as well as this entire collection of articles. D.. Max Ernst and Alchemy: A Magician in Search of a Myth (Austin: University of Texas Press. Geschichte der Mission der Evangelischen Brüder unter den Indianern in Nordamerika (rpt: Hildesheim: Olms. 223. hereafter cited as TG. p.... 1998). p. p. pp. 50. 271–272. Social Realism” in B. 9. p. Ibid. The Gift. p. 168. Ibid. Ibid.NOTES TO CHAPTER THREE 165 42. H. 24.. 33. 63. 67. 48.. 39. 1988). 65. pp. 35. 60. other authors we could consider here. 20.. 43. and in particular his novel Angel at the Western Window [Der Engel .. 18.. 49. chief among them Gustav Meyrink. on alchemy and ‘the occult’ in earlytwentieth-century Russia.. H. 46. See M. 284–285. p. D. 74. 66. Ibid.. Ibid.. 23.” pp... D. Ibid.. Vale Ave in New Directions in Prose and Poetry (New York: 1950. Ibid. in her “Zinzendorf Notes. Ibid.. Ibid. D. “The Magic of Words: Symbolism. 56. 55. p. 66. pp. 75. These passages were transcribed by H. See H. D. p. ed. See H. “Notes. See. 64.” 1. Kraus. 259. 45.” on which see TG. 169. p. Kathleen Raine. Ibid. 72. Ibid. Gutkin’s article strongly supports the fundamental thesis we are here exploring.. H. p.. “Walls. 165. Warlick. 59.” 17. Ibid. Georg Heinrich Loskiel. 70.. 222. 20. Ibid.. 29. The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture (Ithaca: Cornell University Press. 1997). 44. 58. 51. 21. See Jane Augustine. of course. 1. Irina Gutkin.

Lewis. 83. 320. See for instance. 1988) p. The Magical World of the Inklings. . and their circles in mid-twentieth-century England.. 78. The Works of William Blake. and his intensifying “strange awareness” as a function of his magical apprenticeship with Vivien Le Fay Morgan.. 99. 1893).. (London: Quaritch. Moon Magic (York Beach: Weiser. 93. p. Taverner (Columbus: Ariel. 88. 102. 85. See Antoine Faivre. 322. p.. and Meditations.). cit. p. ed. Ibid. 101. Dion Fortune. 79. p. pp. p. p.. The Vision of the Fool and Other Writings (Ipswich: Golgonooza. 80.d. Ellis and W. p. 81. B.25. Gareth Knight. 103. 43. Ibid. Access to Western Esotericism (State University of New York Press. Dion Fortune. 112. pp.. 115. 98.166 NOTES TO CHAPTER THREE vom westlichen Fenster] (1927). n. 382. p. 21. p. Poems. Ibid. Ibid. 102. Williams was a member of Arthur Edward Waite’s magical fraternity. p. 1997). Letters from England (London: Longman. 1994). in The Sea Priestess (York Beach: Weiser ed.. without doubt had direct experience in magical initiation that was reflected in his fiction. 87. Vision.. Meditations. 1814). But Meyrink’s works are complex enough to deserve a study in themselves. 10. Ibid. p. 1990). 40. S. Ibid. 95. Gareth Knight. 82. 101. including Fortune’s. 127. p. 91. p.. 95. cit. C. Ibid. See on this point. Ibid. 87. p. Southey. 20–21. Ibid.. p. Yeats. op. 1994). 70–71. The Winged Bull (York Beach: Weiser ed. Maxwell’s account of his growing understanding of the elemental forces like wind and fire. Essays Presented to Charles Williams (Oxford University Press: 1947). 100. Faivre. 90.). p. Collins. 1993). Fortune. 77. maintaining our focus on the Inklings. p. 91. See Collins. retained his magical regalia in his office. The Magical World of the Inklings (Shaftesbury: Element. 94. 86. hereafter noted as Meditations. Ibid. 92.. 3 vols. I. Subsequent references are to Cecil Collins. 154.. 84. 97.. pp. op. S. Collins.. E. p. pp. 291.. 88. and while his experience in magical ritual has been downplayed by some literary critics. 197. pp. That Hideous Strength (Macmillan: 1965 ed. cit.. Dion Fortune. Faivre. Ibid. 124–125.. Lewis. C.. for a discussion of contemporary esoteric magical groups. noted hereafter as Vision. Vision. 40. 89. 239. 1994) p. The Secrets of Dr. 104–104. 76. Pages from a Sketchbook (Ipswich: Golgonooza. p. 82–83. 323. 96. Ibid. op. Ibid. so I have decided not to include them here.

. .. ed. p. p. See Charles C.. p. 117.. “Ancient Gnosticism and Christian Theosophy” in Studies in Spirituality (Fall 1997). “Warnung an den Leser. 114. from “The Magic of Words: Symbolism. Futurism. 103. See Versluis. 120.. Ibid. 113. p. 124. 93.. Nicholas Berdyaev. 123.D. trs.1 ff. p. p. 199. Ibid.NOTES TO CHAPTER THREE 167 104.31.. Nicolas Berdyaev: Theologian of Prophetic Gnosticism (Th. 108 ff. 115.. 63. Ibid. The Way to Christ (New York: Paulist Press. Ibid. Freedom and the Spirit. 127. I added the colors.29–30.. 109. 1997) p. 25 ff. 118. 1991). 106. Christosophia. 1978). Christosophia IV . 194 ff.” in B. 129. 106.. p. A. pp. 1957). 130. 62. 78. IV . “Vorrede. Ibid. Ibid. 116. 71 ff. Knapp. p. 62–63. Peter Erb. Socialist Realism. Ibid. 40 and pp. pp. 40. See. 111. Rosenthal. 275 ff. p.. pp. 74. pp. Ibid.. Nishitani Keiji. Ibid. 112. Ibid. Ibid. p. II. See my overview of Christian theosophy in Magic and Mysticism. Ibid. 285. 94. See Berdyaev’s introduction to Jacob Böhme’s Six Theosophic Points (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan.. 128. Ibid. Diss. p. Ibid...1. p.” 108. p..” and I. forthcoming. See also The Destiny of Man. 1994). Versluis. p. p. 125. Theosophia: Hidden Dimensions of Christianity (Hudson: Lindisfarne. 121. Ibid. Ibid. 107. 170. pp.. The Beginning and the End (New York: Harper. 105. 119. 1980). Bromley’s is the image on the cover of my book Theosophia (1994). Song and Its Fountains (Burdett: Larson... 95. 126.31. Irina Gutkin. 39. I. E. 105.. 122. The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture (Ithaca: Cornell University Press. for example. Toronto: 1948). p. 225. Religion and Nothingness (Berkeley: University of California Press. 110. 1958).


2. 82–83 Confessio Fraternitatis. 141 Agrippa. 77 Bromley. Francis. 141–142. 18 Arnold of Villanova. 68. 147 Buddhism. ix. 48 Corpus Hermeticum. 31 Cloud of Unknowing. Arthur. 76 Buddhism. 93. 137 Boethius. 25 Ashmole. 1 Collins. 42–43 Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosencreutz. 17 Blake. 75 Chivalry. Henry. 105 Christianity [origins of]. 63. Abraham. 24. 130–133 Ascension of Isaiah. Giordano. 154–155 Bernart de Ventadorn.. 129–135 Comenius. 40–41. 80 Böhme. 25 Apuleius. 68–71. Nicholas. 20. 82–83 169 . John. 81 Bruno. 18. 24. 14. 53. William. 22 Cordovero. 5.INDEX Abulafia. 81. 150 Browne. 140. Moses. 31 Basilius Valentinus. 83 Apocalypse of Baruch. 80–82 Astrology. 63 Anderson. 40 Bible. 75. 143–144. Thomas. initiatory nature of. 72 Consciousness. 2 Aurea Catena. 99 Dickinson. 95. 81–82 Dee. Al-Rhazi [Rhazes]. Franz von. James. 97. Elias. John. 28–29. 78. 55–67. Tibetan. 94. 56 Baader. Heinrich Cornelius. Jacob. 154 Dogen. 52. René. 79 Backhouse. 1. 94. 104 Dionysius the Areopagite. 142. 129. 93. 59 Dante. 57 Beatrice. 96 Berdyaev. 5. 51. 64. 78. Cecil. 30. 42. 148 Barrett. 47. 102. 148–150 Alchemy. 56 Art. 81–82 Descartes. 59. 53 A. 28. 154 Book of Life. 89. 66 Corbin. 28. 90. William. Tycho. 82 Bacon. 27–28. 35–43. 28. 97 Cremer. 56 Bahir. 5. 53. Emily. 4.E. 56 Amor Proximi. 46 Christ. 138 Basilides. Sir Thomas. 129. 11 Dury. 139. 17–19 Clement of Alexandria. 25 Apocalypse of Ezra. Abbot. 152 Brahe. 80. John. 31. Geoffrey. 45 Chaucer. Roger. 57. 96 Dee. 61–62. 10.

Max. 2. 5 Hori. 79–86. 80–81 Fortune. 127 Frankenberg. 8. 2. 123. C. 28. 88-89. 101–102 Frey. 63. 50. Edward.. 7–8 Esotericism. 55 Koran. Georg Heinrich. 42. Jean. 2. 25 Hinduism. 35. 51 Islam. 100 Hirst. 19. 29 Mazet. 21–22 Hermetica. 103–119 Hardenberg. 109 Hermeticism. 9 Eliot. 120–122. Jewish. Francis. 111 Emerson. 21. 22.. 112 Lull. 106 Eschenbach. 82 Knight. 84. Jewish. 140 Hippolytus. Victor Sogen. Brian. 12–15. 54. 76. 79 Hieroedetic knowledge. 2. 56 Jerusalem. 8–9 Isaac the Blind. 21 Heydon. 90. 7–8. 69 Franklin. 19 Kabbalah [or Cabala]. 29 Hiram. 104. Robert. 123–126. 57 Eleazar of Worms. 50. 19–21. Susan. Gareth. 97. 31 Melville. 85 Merkabah mysticism. Wolfram von. Friedrich von [Novalis]. 111 Esotericism [defined]. Benjamin. Herman. 84 Lewis. 68. Book of. 1 Keeble. 19. 127 Loskiel. 112 Friedman. Samuel.S. 18–21. 127–128 Fama Fraternitatis. 22–24 Initiation. 122 Koan. 11 Hutton. 76 Maistre. 99 Grail cycle. Johannes. 102 Lee. 82–83 Heidegger. Joseph Edward. 44. 75.D. Ramon. 46. Johann Wolfgang. 107.170 INDEX Eckhart. 153–154 Eriugena. 112 Imagination. 43–45.S. 105. 72 Jabir ibn Hayyan [Geber]. 46–52. Carlos. 89. 95 Hartlib. 111 Geheime Figuren. Martin. 1. 10–12. 78 Gnosis. 65. Désirée. 36–39 Gutkin. ix. 151 Merswin. 40 . 137 Goethe. Abraham von. John Scotus. 89–103 Hermetism. 56 Fludd. 56 Maier. 140 Eirenaeus Philalethes. 102 Ernst. 100. Albert. 153 Homer. 19 Faivre. John. 102 Leade. 27–28 Gnosticism. 138 Katz. Jane. Irina. 9. 37 Esoteric Origins of the American Renaissance. 103 Fuller. 5. 103. Joseph de. Nicholas. 89. 101 Freemasonry. Steven. 104 Gichtel. 56. 89. 109. T. Christian. 77 Gelpi. 120. 72–73 Faust. 83. Edmond. 139 H. 104. Meister. 4. 25 John. Johann Georg. 8–9 Larronde. 155 Hermes [Trismegistus]. Dion. Andreas. 77 Flamel. 104. 129 Kelley. 140 La Fontaine. 51 Eleusinian Mysteries. 53. Mircea. 52–54 Kabbalah. ix. 26–31. 100 Marcus. Michael. Ralph Waldo. 105 Eliade.. Rulman. 57–59. Margaret. 126. 30. Antoine.

8 Rosicrucianism. 108 Rimius. 99 Scholem. 68. 71–76 Rousseau. Martinez de. 13.V ix. 2 Nag Hammadi Library. Robert. 75–78 Paracelsus. 5 Minotaur. 138 Stellatus. 21 Poiret. 153 Schwaller de Lubicz. Marsha Keith. 5. 53 Theseus. 52–53 Revelation. Milton. 150. 60. Gustav. 89–103. 53 Rilke. J. 47–48.. 118 Ramsay. 32. 148 Seidel. Book of. 53. 25. 56. 99 Prospero. 51. 64. Johannes. Henry. 9. Kathleen. 46. 30–31 Pico della Mirandola. 154–156 Norton. Gershom. Thomas. 89. 4 Shakespeare. 63. O. 110 Southey. 26–27 Moravians. 40 Milosz. 120. 90 Milosz. 109. 108. 153 Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. 94. 103 Pyrlaeus. Johann Christoph. 56 Swedenborg. 52 Piers Ploughman. 29–30 Olympiadorus. 21. 103. 112 Ripley. Joseph. 50 Schuchard. 69. 114–115 Thenaud.R. 46. 99. 73. 48 Mysticism. 67–69. 123 Poimandres. 79. 148 Radical ecology. 2 Postel. 76 Parzival. 18. 105. 136 Science and objectification. 152 Richter. 69. 101 Prajnaparamita Sutra. 87–88. Andrew Michael. sacred. Jean. 56 Origen. René. 6 Sefer Yezirah. ix. 18.R. 37–38 Pascal. 74. Pierre. 140 Tao te ching. 11 Russian literature. 5. 59. 92. 152 . Louis-Claude de. 102 Sophia [Wisdom]. 19. 99 Philip. Christian. William. 92. 40 Raine. 92. 84 Reading. Rainer Marie. 8 Nishitani Keiji. 90. 2. 148 Platonic archetypes. Paulus. George. Czeslaw.INDEX 171 Meyrink. 140 Templars. 25 Native Americans (and Moravians). 116 Nature [concept of]. 63 Rici. 79. 103. Johannes. 102 Science [and the sciences]. 66 New Age. 32 Plato. 141 . 53 Theosophy. 23–26. 14. Jean. Gospel of. 115. 39–40 Solovyov. 26 Tolkien. 112–113 Morienus. 17. 105. 19. 70. 116 Self. 140 Tauler. 85. 36. Sir Walter. Bernadette. 76 Sufism. 115. 14–15. Emanuel. 119 Raleigh. 43 Synesius. Samuel. 57. 64 Roberts. 58 Numbers. 47. 84 Pordage. 137. 2. John. 139 Saint Martin. Blaise. 52 Pansophy. 99 Pasqually. 90 Porete.. 4 Reuchlin. 113. 29 Pre-Socratics. Gillaume. 87–88. 90 Talmud. 3 Raimbaut d’Orange. 115 Pythagoras. 99. John. 56 Moses de Leon. Marguerite. Vladimir.

E.B. 86 Welling. Nicholas. Georg von. 84 Williams. ix. 82 Troubadours. Adam. 89. 75 Yeats. David. 53 Versluis.172 INDEX Trevor-Roper. W. 10. 9. 110. Hugh.. 148 Zen Buddhism. 140 Valentinus. 88. ix. 79 Willermoz. 112–113 Zohar. 67–69 Upanishads. 122–123 Williamson. 2. 10. Charles. 156 Zinzendorf. 148 Zosimos. 56 . 137. George. Jean-Baptiste. Arthur. 101 Weishaupt. 48. 64. 104. M. 116 Yates.. 35–43 Ungrund. 103. 103. 120. 55. 10. 31 Viterbo. 106 Washington. Egidio Cardinal. 111. 63. 103. 111 Warlick. 69–70 Universalism [esoteric]. Frances.

1998). (Leuven: Peeters. Modern Esoteric Spirituality (New York: Crossroad. Earlier. Gnosis and Hermeticism: From Antiquity to Modern Times (Albany: State University of New York Press. Readers may also wish to consult the journals ARIES and Esoterica (www. 1992).edu) and to visit the Web site of the Association for the Study of Esotericism [ASE] at www. An exceptionally wide-ranging book is Wouter Hanegraaff ’s New Age Religion and Western Culture: Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought (Albany: State University of New York Press. Important anthologies of scholarship in the field include Antoine Faivre and Jacob Needleman.aseweb. as well as the series by Karl Frick titled Die Erleuchteten (Graz: Akademische. 2001). Tradition (Albany: State University of New York Press. along with its companion book. 1998). 1973) and Licht und Finsternis. Theosophy. Western Esotericism and the Science of Religion (Leuven: Peeters.. readers will find many further avenues of research by a wide variety of contributing scholars. In the voluminous Ésotérisme. 1967) and Pansophie (Berlin: Erich Schmidt. 1998). Imagination. and Antoine Faivre and Wouter Hanegraaff.msu. eds. notably Gabalia (Berlin: Erich Schmidt. 1992). A useful historical overview is Jean-Paul Corsetti’s Histoire de l’ésotérisme et des sciences occultes (Paris: Larousse.esoteric. as well as Roelof van den Broek and Wouter Hanegraaff. Access to Western Esotericism (Albany: State University of New York Press. important if sometimes a bit uneven background works in the field include the books of Will-Erich Peuckert. 2 vols. (Graz: Akademische. 1975). I should note that the two volumes by Cecil Collins cited in Restoring Paradise have subsequently been 173 . and Imaginaire Symbolique: Mélange offerts á Antoine Faivre edited by Joscelyn Godwin et al. 1956). 2000). 1994).Suggestions for Further Study A standard reference for scholars and a general introduction to Western esotericism as a field of study is Antoine Faivre.

and The Esoteric Origins of the American Renaissance (New York: Oxford University Press. Wisdom’s Children: A Christian Esoteric Tradition (Albany: State University of New York Press. as well as The Mysteries of Love: Eros and Spirituality (St. 1994). 1996). Gnosis and Literature (St. 1996). Paul: Paragon House. 2001). . edited by Brian Keeble. 2000). Wisdom’s Book: A Sophia Anthology (St. 2002). Paul: Grail. This is a beautifully produced book and highly recommended. 1999).174 SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER STUDY combined into a single volume entitled The Vision of the Fool and Other Writings. and Theosophia: Hidden Dimensions of Christianity (Hudson: Lindisfarne. Many of my own previous and forthcoming books also deal with themes and subjects touched on in Restoring Paradise—in particular. enlarged edition (Ipswich: Golgonooza. Paul: Grail.

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