Western Esotericism, Literature, Art, and Consciousness

Arthur Versluis



SUNY series in

Western Esoteric Traditions

David Appelbaum, editor

Literature.Restoring P a r a d i s e Western Esotericism. Art. 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 .

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

In memory of poet and scholar Kathleen Raine .


Pansophic. and Masonic Literature ix xi 1 17 35 .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.

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

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


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


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

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

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

The mystery of reading is. For the Western esoteric traditions approach such questions from a totally different view: for them. it is at the heart of the Western literary continuum.’ that is. By contrast. there is also a union: we as readers are participating in the mind of the writer through the miraculous medium of the written word. but in some sense leap the gap between ourselves and the author so as to actively participate in the writing. but experience the marvel of living metaphor and rhythm for ourselves.4 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E This theme of reading. but with consciousness itself. If there are great writers. however.’ itself a metaphor for our time. progressively realizing its fundamental identity with plants and animals. we do not remain just a cataloguer of this or that remarkable confluence of words. but can be transmuted. when we read the works of an Emerson. Greek in origin. and each requires the other. we feel as someone else feels. and thus there are no permanent divisions between ‘I’ and the cosmos. we enter into another’s world. Thus we can see that spiritual knowledge is of a different order than contemporary secular or scientific knowledge. why do we travel with . Likewise. imaginatively enter into different lives. is much deeper than it might at first appear. reading in the Western esoteric traditions has to do not merely with accumulating data. also about union. 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. reading in this context extends beyond ratiocinative knowledge limited to a split between the reading subject and the ‘object’ to be studied: instead. and heaven. and will require much elaboration. reading here guides one toward gnosis. or spiritual knowledge. Reading here is defined in the broadest possible way. And when we read a great poem. and ultimately with the divine. so too there are great readers. the accumulation of facts based in an apparently insurmountable division between self and other: ‘I’ accumulate facts about what is ‘not-I. yet this view of union is one that most and perhaps all literary readers and authors will intuitively recognize. of course. 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. as penetrating into the hidden mysteries of all that we see. purgatory. The word gnosis. we are not merely passive observers of a great aphorist. in other words. In every experience of literature. for it is grounded not in separation but in union. we have developed machines that ‘read. the ‘I’ is recognized to be not stable but fluid. but not necessarily knowledge in the sense in which we use the term today. ‘Knowledge’ in contemporary usage is essentially ‘data. refers to spiritual knowledge. What is more. Why do we travel with Dante’s pilgrim through hell. The ‘I’ need not remain at the mercy of its own selfishness. is the nature of the ‘I’ and the ‘not-I’ in question. When we read a novel. minerals and stars.’ Unexamined here.

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

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

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



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-

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

as in individual daydreams. frustrating though this may be. as means of initiation. 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. In the absence of a well-recognized line of historical masters. literature and art play a very special kind of initiatory role. the implication being that there is no such thing as gnosis. esoteric literature and art can function rather like the koan in Zen Buddhism. until he has penetrated to its authentic meaning. as I will propose here. This role may be seen in some respects as analogous to that of the Zen Buddhist koan. for that matter. What makes Western esotericism different above all. This is not to say that the West had or. then we cannot really speak of literature or the arts as being the vehicle of an initiatory or transmutative process. 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. 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. but what is the nature of the images perceived by the imaginative faculty? Are images merely phantasms of one’s own mind. Like the koan. The koan derives its name from a judicial term.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. and the work of the practitioner is to enter into and realize for himself the truths that it contains. Rather. and thus also to the individual. 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. is the pervasive lack of initiatory lineages and thus of the immediate reproof or approval of a living teacher. The same is true of the alchemical or gnostic treatise: the neophyte must work with and through it. I am arguing that in Western esoteric traditions. 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. an alchemical treatise stands as an enigmatic representation of a transmutative process. If we believe that the imagination is more or less exclusively individualistic. By . I believe. has no one capable of discerning a right understanding from a wrong one. But that is not at all what I am arguing here—far from it. or are they manifestations of some other reality beyond oneself? Or. the weight of initiatory transmission is transposed to literary and artistic works. Rather. particularly those that clearly are esoteric in nature. nor to say that there are no examples of initiatory lineages at all like those of Zen Buddhism.

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

inwardly in you and not constructed outside you.” we may well then be positing the realm of the imagination itself as something objectified that exists outside oneself. and nothing less. When one reads an esoteric work like John Pordage’s treatise on Sophia. to understand them. graspable solution to a koan.” but this would be a purely exoteric answer that objectified the esoteric work of literature or art. Initiates. and this too presents problems. Pordage writes that in the Sophianic process of imaginative vision. imagination could also be seen as a faculty of perception and transmutation. 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. 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. who see the work as mirroring a process that they seek to undergo in themselves. and 3. thus sealing it off from oneself as merely an object to be manipulated by the intellect and revealing oneself as a closed reader.” The gnostic. analogous to that of the Zen student who seeks an objectified. of whether that which is imagined or revealed in an esoteric work possesses any existence of its own. Sympathetic readers. not one’s own. Yet if we answer “yes. but here a new magical earth is brought . Closed readers—those who come to a work with predetermined theses that disallow their imaginative entry. From a contemporary rationalist perspective one might answer “no. in other words. We can thus posit three kinds of readers of esoteric works: 1. But there is a third perspective.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. one is in fact entering imaginatively into the process Pordage is describing. who enter into a work imaginatively.’ 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. This leads us inevitably to the question with which we began. For one does not have to conceive of imagination as a purely individual generative capacity. one must enter into them openly and on their own terms. has awakened in him by divine Wisdom the creative power that brings external existence into being. a process explicitly closed to the exoteric reader. 2. Sophia (divine Wisdom) herself tells him (the gnostic) that “I am come to make in you yourself this new invisible creation. which is what I am proposing here. This does not mean that one jettisons reason and becomes a ‘true believer.

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


and resurrection. needless to say. beginning with the ambience for and emergence of the Christian Bible and affiliated works. the Book of Revelation. bolstered to some extent by apocrypha. one characteristic appears prevalent above all others: the emphasis upon the written word. Christianity based on faith or belief in a historical Christ. remains central to what may be called conventional or exoteric Christianity—that is. One is of course what we find in the canonical versions of the Bible. specifically at the beginning of Christianity. This. of whose life we know through the historical documentation of the gospels. central to which are the gospel accounts of Christ’s life. however. we must begin in antiquity. what we may call a 17 . is profoundly different. still we can trace through this era the origin of the primary elements or currents in Western esotericism. Although many aspects of what actually happened during this time may always be shrouded or lost. And to find these themes. and. 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. death. Christianity was centered around written accounts that took two primary forms. Here. From relatively early on. Here we have the fundamental division that has lasted throughout the subsequent history of Western esotericism: on the one hand. we will look at representative or synecdochic writings. When we look at the emergence of Christianity from the welter of religious traditions at the time. and of this there are only two examples in the canonical Bible: some elements of the Book of John. The other kind of writing.1 Origins ALCHEMY OF THE WORD To understand the origins of Western esotericism in all its various guises.

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

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

and so forth.1 And indeed there is an ancient tradition that the Torah contains so much power in its letters that it could destroy the world. We may remember the four animals that symbolize the four Gospels.2 Both the gnosis of the word and the gnosis of the image are extensions of the monotheism of the book. basilisks. but if the letters were properly restored. then. as principles of creation itself.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 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. its purpose is to restore the individual to a paradisal or transcendent state. through images. and its aim is twofold at least: microcosmically. such images represent divine aspects. are a means to creation’s redemption. it is to restore the cosmos itself to its paradisal condition. and in this regard man may be said to complete the work of God by being co-creator or co-redemptor. Both word and image reveal and ‘fix’ the divine. and so forth. and to which we may refer as a gnosis of the word. thereby making this conflict inevitable. and even if monotheism often turns toward a fundamentalist literalism. 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. are means in this process of individual and cosmic redemption—and so too are images. 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. and so we find numerous images from antiquity like lion-headed serpents. This gnosis of the word represents a ‘fixing’ of the mysteries. But monotheism is a rubric under which all manner of possibilities exist. Letters and numbers. But given the gnosis of the word that we have been discussing. and in fact are by no means absent from the larger Christian tradition. paradoxically conveyed often through . all of which is entirely accepted within the orthodox tradition. 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. The letters. Such images are often found on amulets or talismans and are generally regarded as being ‘magical’ elements in Gnosticism. Both Jewish and Christian gnostic esoteric groups tended to think and express themselves mythologically. and macrocosmically. as does the creation of images. 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. 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. inconceivable power would be set loose.

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

Like Hermes himself. when we survey the Western esoteric traditions. and . which Henry Corbin called the “active imagination. But these currents themselves are not discrete from one another. traditions. always there is a fluid. what we find is something quite different. no accident that so many of the Western esoteric traditions link themselves to the Hermetica. they certainly intermingled. and writings that reveal a great many similarities. and Hermetism. precariously balanced on the periphery of religious traditions. here the dialogues often take place in an interworld of revelation. Indeed. but insisting above all on one’s own direct spiritual understanding or gnosis. and are between one who embodies knowledge and one who seeks to embody it. it is clear that the Hermetic treatises occupy a peculiar place. Hermetism reveals the ground occupied by Western esoteric traditions throughout the past several thousand years. Christian esotericism. the more one studies the emergence of esotericism in the early centuries of this era. However. Such a relationship goes beyond simply that of participants in a dialogue like Plato’s.” “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. the mystery traditions. It is true that the language is sometimes Platonic. But such a term suggests that imagination is otherwise passive. 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. It is. Hermetism refuses to be pinned down or definitively discussed. as there was to many of the movements of antiquity. For from what we have said. or direct knowledge of the divine. The most important of these is the insistence upon gnosis. then.22 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E There is an initiator or revealer. Platonism. mercurial quality to it. and it is this that represents the red thread that will guide us through the labyrinths of the centuries. and depicting direct spiritual illumination of the initiate. Occupying an intermediate space between religion and philosophy. the more one recognizes the fluidity of the various traditions’ boundaries. not quite belonging to the sphere of religion. and together provided a common ambience out of which emerged a panoply of sects. willing to draw upon one or sometimes any of them. 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. and there is a witness to the revelation. and is generally associated with the more or less random play of images. There are five primary currents in antiquity that feed into what we may call the Western esoteric traditions: Jewish esotericism. yet not strictly philosophical either.

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

of letters and numbers revealing the secret powers of the divine. 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). the way we see the cosmos itself changes. and more than one group has seen itself as living during the end times. of course. One. After the various accounts of Christ’s life and death in the Gospels. The Revelation. John is united with its knowledge. but sweet as honey on his lips. it is like a collective dream in which we participate simply by reading. In the tenth chapter. we will recall.” symbolism charged with initiatory knowledge. Taken together.24 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E Western esotericism. and Christ whose symbolic heart is the written word. we are eating his little book—we belong to a direct lineage or current. found in Judaism. angels. becoming symbolically charged. is the prophetic element: more than one group has identified itself with the “woman in the wilderness” in the twelfth chapter.9). Every aspect of life is altered. of course. This image is amplified by the presence of book imagery throughout the entire work. And then there is. By reading the Book of Revelation that John subsequently writes after eating the little book. and Hermetism. And it has immense power for this reason: by entering into its world of references. we suddenly are given in the Revelation this overwhelming and astonishing visionary sequence that brings us completely outside the sphere of mundane human life.” as well as the repetition of geometric and numerical symbolism such as the sevens. The Revelation of John has an oneiric quality. John eats the little book: it becomes part of him. twelves. Another such element is the number and letter symbolism. there are “other books. revealing the hidden forces beyond history and what happens to all humanity. and one hundred forty-fours. a gnostic encounter with elders. and although the word eidolon early in the modern era . Christian Gnosticism. which he does. John is given a little book to eat. Additionally. John himself—for he is told to write by a voice from heaven (14. and finds it bitter in his belly. The word eidetikos in Greek refers to a particular kind of knowledge associated with shape or form.12). symbolizing his union with the esoteric center of spiritual life. The entire revelation is an unveiling of gnosis. and are in a sense initiates. the Book of Revelation of St. which has inspired countless commentaries or explanations. Christ’s repeated assertion that “I am the Alpha and the Omega. possesses a special luminosity of symbolism that we may call “hieroeidetic.” which are opened during the Last Judgment in order to see the lives of those being judged (20. But for our purposes.13). in other words. the very book that we are reading. the most symbolically resonant image of all is that of the book. 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. all remind us of the prior traditions.” during these the end times. and by eating the book. especially in the Book of Life wherein is written the names of those who belong to the Lamb (13.

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

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



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

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

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

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

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


but here we are sketching the broad outlines of historical currents drawing on individual works. 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.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. It is true that there were important intervening figures like John Scotus Eriugena. and entailed a moral code much higher than that of the rest of society. for both are known to us through literature that reveals fundamentally similar attitudes. sees her (or him. and the troubadours’ tradition was conveyed through poetry or song. so much must be left to catalogue elsewhere. That there were profound correspondences between the chivalric and the troubadour movements in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries of Europe is incontestable. we cannot help but recognize there the influence of chivalry. a leap to go from the first centuries of the Christian era to the Middle Ages. if the poet is a woman) as the divine incarnate. 35 . in giving honor to his beloved. Both the chivalric and the troubadour traditions were centered on service or duty. and so must inquire whether the chivalric current had esoteric dimensions like those that we glimpsed in antiquity in Gnostic and other movements. When we consider the emergence of Western esoteric traditions in the modern era. Here I am not arguing that the chivalric or troubadour movements were gnostic. of course. The chivalric ideals were conveyed through stories. only investigating whether there are elements corresponding to the mysticism of the word that we saw in antiquity. The troubadour. but we must do so in order to trace the Western esoteric traditions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

still there is an affiliation because all exist within the larger. In these traditions. there was an efflorescence of another kind of literature entirely. BOOKS WITHIN BOOKS: JEWISH KABBALISM Around the same time that chivalric and troubadour literature was being written. but out of a particular literary and religious ambience and with definite predecessors. but what is more. whose origins are still shrouded in mystery. or English gnostic. and other forms of esotericism are often closely linked and influence one another. it is as it was in the first centuries of this era—Jewish. the chivalric. the spiritual love poetry of the troubadours. 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. Jewish Kabbalah did not appear in a vacuum. of course. commonplace to regard each of the primary currents of Western esotericism as having emerged ex nihilo and completely separate from its predecessors. however.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. How do these various currents reëmerge later in history? Chiefly through the influence of the books. Thus the transposed spiritual chivalry. the words. poetry and stories go beyond entertainment. that the medieval authors created in order to convey their visions. Rosicrucianism. 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. Before we turn to the emergence of Western esoteric traditions at the cusp of the modern era. And in Kabbalah we see not only some potential connections to earlier Gnostic traditions. and the alphabetical mysticism of Lull and others later appear in Christian theosophy. It is. cross-fertilizing currents of Western esotericism. with the emergence in the twelfth century in Europe of Jewish Kabbalah (a Hebrew word meaning “tradition”). Christian. troubadour. whose influence also extends well beyond their disappearance as living social movements. but this is virtually never the case. And as literature.or eighteenth-century German. we must first look at another primary current whose influence can hardly be underestimated: Kabbalism. . French. and Freemasonry. profoundly important and influential instances of the mysteries of the word as means of spiritual awakening. so that even if there were no direct influence of troubadour poetry on the spiritual love poems of a seventeenth. intricately woven. 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. for here literature possesses powerful cultural and spiritual dimensions. Rather.

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

George Ripley (fifteenth century). Thus. at heart. and reveal the gnostic center of the tradition. either. Thus alchemy itself consists in processes that are at once spiritual and physical. This process of awakening entails a kind of double working. thirteenth century). who draws upon them in order to undertake the alchemical work himself and subsequently to write his own alchemical treatise. And so Geber joins the line of figures in what is indisputably a literary transmission. For alchemy extends into many realms. Olympiodoros. even if the alchemical labors to which these writers refer are certainly not literary but take place in a laboratory. 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. Such a list undoubtedly would include Hermes Trismegistus. author of the Rosarium philosophorum (attr. and takes place by way of fire. Thus it is conventional for the author of an alchemical work to list predecessors to whom he is indebted.. that is. although we could here offer a historical survey of alchemy. as has historical placement. for all its symbolic complexity and mysterious allusiveness. One places oneself in the line of what is. . be they in the mineral. and the spiritualizing of the body. To list such names as Arnald of Villanova. or the animal kingdom.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. so that their lineage from the alchemical perspective forms an Aurea catena or “golden chain” from antiquity to the present. Indeed. the vegetable. refers by its own testimony to the transmutation and redemption of the physical world: its work takes place on Earth. For how else might a medieval or Renaissance figure come to know Geber or Rhazes? Cultural context has been largely lost. even if its work resembles these in some respects. 825–932 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. it is by no means just a kind of metallurgy or chemistry. After all. plant. Fire burns up impurities and allows the transmutation of a fallen metal. alchemical literature. or animal into its paradisal original true nature. in the revelation of paradise.E. Ramon Lull. Synesius. and Morienus of the seventh century C. 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. even if it does not entirely belong to these. partaking at once in the realms too of religion and literature. and might include also such figures as Zosimos of Panopolis of the third century C.E. or al-Rhazi (ca.E. All of these authors did write on alchemy. Nicholas Flamel (fourteenth century). put another way.—latinized as Rhazes). we may well say that alchemy consists in the transmutations of the earth or. Roger Bacon. a tradition transmitted through literature. the embodying of spirit.

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

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

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

but inwardly and as mysteriously connected to oneself by way of imagination. water. Clearly the imagination plays a role in the processes of alchemy. Of course.’ then. literary allusions. so too there is an inner world where the imagination may draw forth hidden things from ‘seed’ into flower. but then there is also another kind of reading that we see in the collections of images. and so it is only natural that humanity also participates in this power.” Just as the sun draws forth the visible and growing forms of plants. There are incalculable numbers of evestra. But in any event. not all evestra are benefic. The cosmos is created through the divine imagination. and figurative expressions that so characterize alchemical literature. According to Paracelsus. consists in the awakening of subtler dimensions of a given plant. One learns to read the inner significance of the book of nature. what is an aspiring alchemist to do but contemplate such a work. Paracelsus tells us. But here ‘imagination’ does not belong to any individual—rather. Through these evestra. ethereal counterparts. allegories. to enter into it until its images and approach permeate one’s consciousness and become second nature? Such a “second nature. epigrams. that alchemy takes place in the imagination is not to say that it is imagi- . its subtle essence.” consisting in the imaginative landscape. just as we might look at an image reflected in a mirror or water. beyond the book of nature is the Book of Life. but also through the power of the imagination. and animal realms. one branch of alchemy. but is joined with them in the imagination. which in turn may awaken the corresponding quality in the human being and thereby effect healing. which exist in subtle matters of their own kind—for instance. everything that exists in the physical cosmos has what he calls evestra. for the image of what a flower or plant is exists germinally in the seed. where we see literature conveying the transmutation of consciousness that manifests in the natural world as well. To say. allows one to see the actual landscape or “first nature” in a different way. not only by looking at words on a page. Here the individual mind is not separated from mineral. and the plant grows into its image as best conditions will allow. or earth—and which may know nothing of the human world even though they exist in the same cosmos.60 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E course. these subtle realms and beings may be encountered in the realm of the imagination. to carry it within. for they occupy different dimensions within it. 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. fire. vegetable. the individual human being may participate in the divine imagination that brings forth nature itself. then. one may know the inner nature of anything. Imagination governs the development of things. Spagyric medicine. not merely from the outside and as other. Confronted with such a colloquy. We may ‘read. which Paracelsus in De virtute imaginativa called a “sun in the soul of man. which perceives and participates in these other subtler dimensions of existence. poems. And of course. air.

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

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

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

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

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

For there is here an operative mysticism of the word—the written word and image become a medium to express transcendence. in the manner of a mathematical equation. alchemy is understood through living symbols that allow us to understand nature. 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. This unity is founded in the fundamental union of humanity. Rather. largely have been based in a fundamental division between the writer and the reader. one would have the solution. as in Christian mysticism and in Jewish Kabbalism. But virtually no one has looked at alchemy as a field where all such apparent divisions are overcome. between subject and object. literature. and that presupposes and requires humility before power greater than oneself. the mysteries are conveyed primarily through literary riddles and parabolic expressions. But in alchemical works. For in alchemy literature is a means of transmitting precise knowledge of nature. and the restoration of the right . humanity. between the observer and that which is observed. humanity. Here in alchemy. that alchemy is chiefly psychological. and cannot be understood without reference to our inner human landscape of consciousness. no doubt of that. 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. nature. both of physics and of literary criticism. and also a successor’s primary guide to achieving transcendence. extends into a range of realms at once. The ‘solution. and the divine in ever more profound ways. so too is the apparent (but strictly modern) division between the sciences and the humanities. Contemporary views of literature. and the divine that it is alchemy’s goal to restore. In alchemy. and science are one.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. In Christian terms. have begun to argue the insufficiency and even the falsehood of such easy divisions. literature takes on a greater significance than simply alluding to an oral tradition where the real mysteries are conveyed. alchemy consists in coming to understand the nature of consciousness and the consciousness of nature. like Jung. I would use the word decoding. For not only is the division between self and other or between subject and object gradually revealed to be false in alchemy. this is expressed in terms of the Fall and expulsion from Eden. except that an alchemical work is not simply decoded as if. 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. This is by no means to suggest. like those of science. It is true that more recently theorists.’ in the case of alchemy. religion. and the divine. Indeed. Oral commentary by a master is important. were one to decipher what x and y mean. albeit knowledge that is not quantitative but qualitative. However.

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

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



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

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

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

without and against the will of God. All of this. 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. .” Such an idea of a magic language has. in the which withall is expressed and declared the nature of all things. into all beasts .54 It is no coincidence that Böhme titled his first book Aurora. .”53 The implication throughout the Fama and the Confessio is that there is dawning a miranda sexta aetatis. and grave warnings are given to those who approach its mysteries selfishly. .” The authors of the Fama and the Confessio certainly believed in the hierohistorical significance of certain dates and astrological conjunctions connected. Throughout they emphasize reading the divine books of humanity and nature. correspond closely to what we also find in Christian theosophy at roughly the same time. stretching back at least to the Gnostics. yet shall we never be manifested . yea. 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. with the date 1604. of course. an era that recalls the earlier hierohistorical mysticism of Joachim of Fiore and his complex theory of a coming “age of the Holy Spirit. and quite probably to Egypt. .”55 The implication is that here. From which characters or letters we have borrowed our magic writing. and have found out. for instance. These aspects of Rosicrucianism. including the hierohistorical view of dates and the expectation of an impending apocalypse or unveiling. a very long history in the West. and held that there was emerging a new revelation. One can hardly miss the Biblical resonances of these final words of the Confessio: “Although we might enrich the whole world. of course.”52 “These characters and letters. . Clearly for our purposes the most relevant aspect of these most seminal Rosicrucian documents is their embrace of linguistic mysticism. or sixth age. and endue them with learning . Agrippa and Trithemius are well known for their primary and influential works on magic. in which we find the sources of many subsequent works illustrated by . it shall be so far from him who thinks to get the benefit and be partaker of our riches and knowledge. a new language for ourselves. But this new revelation must be approached with humility. or worse than nothing. so hath he imprinted them most apparently into the wonderful creation of heaven and earth.74 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E Likewise. for instance. and made. the Bible. who as we have seen drew upon Kabbalistic sources. with all of its emphasis on hierogeometry. a new era for mankind. . as God hath here and there incorporated them in the Holy Scriptures. reminds us rather strikingly of the Book of Revelation. is hidden the real essence of Christianity itself. in the Rosicrucian mysteries. unto any man without the special pleasure of God. yea. It certainly emerges in the Middle Ages in the works of Agrippa and Trithemius. metahistorical events at the end of time. and writing in a “magic language. and above all. the universal revelation of Christ to humanity. and that one must approach it with humility or find nothing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

. 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 ) .Figure 1 Alchemical images from Michael M a i e r.

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

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

).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.

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

O p u s M a g o . Note that beyond the celestial hierarchy is the Ungrund.Figure 6 Pansophic image from Georg von We l l i n g . 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 . as well as the prominence of the figure of the eye. .Figure 7 Pansophic image from Georg von We l l i n g .C a b b a l i s t i c u m e t T h e o sophicum. (Frankfurt: 1784). Note the threedimensional nature of the illustration.

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

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. “The Music of Dawn.Figure 9 Cecil Collins. .” 1988. otherworldly nature of Collins’s work. and the evocative.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

alias René Descartes.” and .]28 The peculiar rhythm of the lines and line breaks makes this poem unusually difficult to follow. and then with his “spiritual guides: Goethe. In the “Psalm” we read of another primary theme. we cannot help but notice the parallel focus on Judaism and Kabbalah. but kept a Bible in Hebrew nearby as a constant reading companion. “Psaume de l’Étoile du Matin [Psalm of the Morning Star].” Milosz continued. sought in them peace of spirit. looked forward to the day that the Jews would be converted to Christianity. Swedenborg. but in the tradition of many Christian Cabalists. These writers—and also Jewish exegesis—exerted a decisive influence upon Blaise Pascal. Plato. We can see how deeply Milosz’s fascination with Judaism penetrated his work by examining his final poem.” 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 allusions to Milosz’s favorite doctrines and language are here hidden in the allusions to Hebrew names and places.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. the mystical eighteenth century. Eugène Ledrain. the Neoplatonists of the Middle Ages. but it reveals at the heart of all things “a single new word. he was well acquainted with Jewish Kabbalism. 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.26 If we see here the depth of Milosz’s focus on Hermeticism in history. Claude de Saint Martin.” first with his teacher of Hebrew. the disciple of the Kabbalist Raymond Martini. Martinez de Pasqually. [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. the School of Alexandria. passing through the Pre-Socratics.”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. 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. Milosz not only had studied and read Hebrew. The Rosicrucian Polybius the Cosmopolitan. Swedenborg. as when the poem refers to the “betrothed sister of the new canticle.”27 “Psalm of the Morning Star” is so suffused in Hebrew and in Old Testament language as to be inseparable from them.

the archetypes of the cosmos exist inside letters.” which are far more extensive than anything T. and art. R. and that he shared with much of the Christian theosophic tradition. S. says that “I am entering the twelfth year of supreme knowledge.” Milosz writes that The personage who concerns us here is not the symbolic hero of the Templars or of Scottish Freemasonry in England. and Savoy.”30 The name Hiram is found in Masonic tradition. are enormously important for understanding the complex work of Milosz and his mysticism of the word. Architect of the effective Catholic Church of tomorrow. Joseph de Maistre. my son.” in fact. The “architect” of those brotherhoods was Biblical in name only. 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. Thus we find in this final poem of Milosz the linguistic and. just as in the Book of Revelation and just as in Kabbalism. in 1938. in short. Milosz held. . If the author has considered it useful to follow Lessing. and Milosz explains his poem’s relationship to Freemasonry in his “Exegetic Notes. science. 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 .”29 Here we see the nascent Christian millennialism that pervades so much of Milosz’s work as he anticipated a future renaissance.” and yet writes that he will humble his brow in the dust before “you. and books. Milosz tells of his visionary experience. King of the unified world. King of the Unified World. 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. inside the books of life and of knowledge. The allegory is clearly indicated by the password Nekom (Vengeance) used by the Chapter of Clermont and the Scottish lodge of the Berlin Union. the visionary poet. for instance. the universal regent of faith. 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. Le Forestier. we are waiting for the continuation and fulfillment of the only Book. the books open themselves to him. In his “Poem of the Arcana. if we may coin a word. . Hiram.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. wrote for his poetry. and the true poet. Eliot. it is not books that we are waiting for. Under the heading “Hiram. libric mysticism that has haunted Western esotericism from antiquity. words. La Clef de l’Apocalypse [The Key to the Apocalypse]. Here. Hermeticism and Kabbalism. Germany. drawn together with a universalism that both resembles and includes Freemasonry. but there are still other currents of Western esotericism that emerge in the poet’s work. . opens those books in order to reveal their inner mysteries—or rather. as early as 1919.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and why did she live on after the book about her was finished. to make fiction something much more powerful than it ordinarily is. One might even say that the writing of it was a magical act. for in the act of reading. On the other hand. when Ransom invokes the planetary powers. to find out what it was about. not find it very entertaining. Fortune rarely wrote about her fiction. [Emphasis added. Thus a close reading of his novels can have a purificatory. and her observations are revealing. 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. both Williams and Lewis were able to widen the metaphysical dimensions of fiction. [Emphasis added. Williams’s characters offer insights into what it is like to be dead. in general. I wrote it. and how therefore the reader is in . But while Williams’s fiction certainly touches upon magical themes and features magician characters both noble. one is also encountering new realms of existence. In effect they are initiations. . for instance.]82 Exactly the same thing may be said here about Lewis’s foray into what was chiefly Williams’s domain. it is possible to respond to the quality of good. I am afraid. 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. we should turn to a second exemplar: the fiction of Dion Fortune. but she did offer some preliminary remarks to her novel Moon Magic. for both writers evoked magical workings or paranormal events in ways that very few authors have. such as Simon Leclerc in All Hallows’ Eve. such as the poet Peter Stanhope of Descent into Hell. For that. By doing so. 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. in fact. they unveil the power of archetypes and. I have put a great deal into it.] If it be true that what is created in the imagination lives in the inner world. Who and what is Lilith. and decidedly corrupt ones. they reveal forms of necromancy. but rarely if at all in exactly the form I wish to consider here: initiation into magical ritual itself. then what have I created in Lilith Le Fay? .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. She writes there that Those who read this story for the sake of entertainment will. and divine reality and angelic brightness shines through the other side of his work. It was not written for its entertainment value. and there is a great deal more in it than I ever put in. almost cathartic effect. .

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

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

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

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

if we may so put it.”92 This special kind of imagination allows one to “escape both from the sterility of a purely discursive logic. Indeed. and Fortune were up to in their fictional works. 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. and from the rule-free extravagances of fantasy or sentimentality. perceptible to each of us as a function of our respective cultural imagery. Williams. But this passage as a whole clearly can be read as referring to initiation “transmittable by the word. ‘behind the scenes’ of the drama of ordinary human life. . even though the ultimate source of the reader’s magical initiation in fiction is the author. active imagination is essential.” What conclusions can we draw. 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. Third. in literary form. In fact.” putting us in contact with the mundus imaginalis or imaginal world that “is the space of intermediary beings. thoroughly real. moving from initiation into elemental or natural magic (represented by Lewis’s character Merlin. we have seen that often central to this magical initiation is a kind of magical battle between evil and good magicians.”93 Faivre’s observations here are particularly important because they help us to understand in a different light what Lewis. Second. from this brief foray into the realm of magical fiction? First. for instance) to initiation into encounters with transcendent beings the Oyéresu in Lewis’s That Hideous Strength. and a realm in which one may encounter and work with nonphysical beings and powers. which manifests a deeper conflict between destructive and constructive powers in the cosmos as a whole. we have seen that magical fiction in general represents to the reader a series of stages or grades. as one reads a novel like Dion Fortune’s The Sea Priestess. or such as Isis in Fortune’s The Sea Priestess. he calls ‘active imagination’ “the essential component of esotericism. to the age-old relationship between the initiate and the initiator.91 Faivre goes on to remark that to succeed in this process of regeneration or initiatic awakening. a mesocosm possessing its own geography. Finally. Such a tension corresponds. 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.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. then. since in the fiction we have been discussing. For magical fiction is in fact remarkably suited to.” and thus to written works like novels. initiating readers into “the space of intermediary beings. initiation into living Nature tends to precede initiation into the powers of higher entities. a mesocosm possessing its own geography.

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

of his solitary walks in the countryside. is imbued always with spiritual significance. I know of your existence. and most holy are you O beautiful servants.” 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.” Ordinary life in the natural world. for Collins. Totnes. on the other his works are infused with profound criticisms of the “insect-life” of modern industrial society. Collins gave a public lecture titled “The Artist in the New Age. with the white compassionate temples of the clouds floating in wise happiness and detached love. of all that which desires to give. to come to fruition. and cheap vulgarity of attitude towards life on the other side. of “The long eternal afternoons robed in blue. I long for my kingdom. But here I wander. and my life with you. I long for my race.95 In 1965. I remember you. so that the reader has a greater task than in prose works. of how “The tasting of these things in our days and nights is the partaking of the sacrament of existence.” or again. and I know nothing. Our time denies. In “Hymn of Life. he writes: O holy ones I long for you. A frustration of all that which is growing. It is this official denial of life that confronts us in everything. But deep underneath flows the secret stream.” consisting in excerpts from Collins’s journals during the Second World War. and this from a comparatively early period in his work. 1945. even as they transmit that worldview to the reader. A winter of the spirit is over all society. denies all who have inward fruit. By reading Collins’s aphorisms. when in fact it is quite clear that we are ruled today by the elite of scientific technocrats and politicians .’ must make intellectual connections individually. to show us the hieroedietic beauty of life through art. and the task of the artist is to remind us of this. Denies the artist. The aphorism is in many respects the most poetic form of prose. 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. the contemplative. But you exist. If Collins loved solitude and nature on the one hand. one is placed in contact with another reality through them. Devonshire]94 He writes beautifully also of his life in nature.130 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E worldview. The coldness of the vanity of the intellect on one side. [14 January. the human being. for he must ‘leap the gaps. the aphorism by its nature stands on its own surrounded by the white space of the page. we are all exiles.

. to make pretty that “empty and mechanical desert we call modern civilization.” but to offer what Collins calls “rapport” with the transcendent. in Collins’s view. Transformation of consciousness cannot be known or be brought about by thinking. Collins calls us out of this stupor of the insectoid hive-life in industrial society through his art. they offer avenues into direct inner spiritual realization.] 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. they cannot be reached by knowledge of them.” Collins distinguishes between “how” knowledge and “why” knowledge.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. and central to our awakening is a change in consciousness. 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. “How” knowledge refers to mere process and manipulation of apparently dead objects. the meaning.96 It is remarkable how timely Collins’s critique of industrial society has remained. whereas “‘why’ knowledge is concerned with the significance of things. . but only by rapport with those worlds. and sensitivity to the vibrations and rays of that livingness which is at the heart of things. whereas a great deal of ‘why’ knowledge is known only through nuance of consciousness. rapport. . and the making of money. by description. they have no philosophy of life other than the exploitation of nature and of man. awaken this inner rapport in us. It can only be known by inner nuance. by measurement or analysis. 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[. In his essay “Art and Modern Man. The value of the artist is not to decorate. and thus ultimately nothing less than a transformation of our consciousness. another way of expressing what he calls “why” knowledge.” “How” knowledge is merely instrumental. This is the same thing actually. The higher worlds are inaccessible to the insensitive. For like answers to like and creates actualization .97 Works of art. how apt his descriptions still are of the moribund vacuity characterizing so much of modern life. They represent a low level of awareness and consciousness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

. or a pansoph. We see this idea of a celestial or universal language appearing in various forms throughout Western esotericism. a theosopher. and Masonic illustrations. which is to say. pansophic.’ not the means of celestial union with all that surrounds us. Jewish Kabbalah of course maintains a long tradition of Hebrew exegesis. and of intricate maneuvers with letters and numbers in gematria. . But it is certain that Barrett proposed a “magical alphabet” closely resembling the “Mason’s marks” or Masonic hieroglyphs. and within every living thing is its transcendent or archetypal signature or word. Hence. language too became externalized and ‘hardened’ outside us into mutually incomprehensible ‘tongues. where it arguably sparked the entire . These in turn are related to Hebrew letters.’”102 Likewise. an alchemist. but as humanity fell away from it in the long descent that is human history. In this perspective.138 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E practitioner. the poet Robert Southey observed that London Swedenborgians prized a “Celestial Alphabet” “in which every letter signifies a complete thing . is nothing less than the restoration of paradise. drawing a virtually infinite range of connotations from a single verse. author of The Magus. A typical manifestation of this tradition is found around the turn of the nineteenth century. contains some secret of wisdom. Primordial humanity knows this celestial language. in the Russian symbolist poetry and prose near the beginning of the twentieth century. often with Hebrew as the celestial language of choice. in a group of London Rosicrucians associated with Francis Barrett (1765–1825). which show that he had learned the unfamiliar way of writing then known to some occult students as the ‘Celestial Alphabet. and notarikon. for instance. and indeed as Yeats pointed out. temurah. the language of creation itself. but instead a further means for our separation from and objectification of the world.”103 And we find this insistence on the importance of magical language in many unexpected places—for instance. and every flexure and curvature of every letter. 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. almost always denoting divinity. and this view is found throughout other Western esoteric traditions. 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. the restoration of unity between humanity and nature by way of the divine. The myth of a primordial humanity entails a primordial language. even from a single letter. theosophic. Rosicrucian. William Blake in some of his illustrations used “Hebrew characters on some of his designs. Underlying these alphanumeric permutations is the understanding that in fact one is working with the very language of creation. one finds Hebrew letters inscribed in alchemical. magical. the entire cosmos represents a kind of celestial writing. whether a Kabbalist.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


See Arthur Versluis.aseweb. 159 . 5. See Hanegraaff. a Dutch scholar. whose encyclopedic book New Age Religion and Western Culture: Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought (Leiden: Brill. including Wouter Hanegraaff. and readers would do well to become familiar with it.” Esoterica V (2003): 175–210. For an overview of Western esotericism. “Methods in the Study of Esotericism.msu.esoteric. ibid.Notes INTRODUCTION 1. 1994). 1996) reveals the underlying connections between new religious movements today and their Western esoteric antecedents. in this field. See also the journal Esoterica [www. published a large body of work outlining and detailing numerous aspects of esotericism. Mysticism and Language (New York: Oxford University Press. There are a number of other scholars now working in this field as well. I also retain the distinction maintained by Antoine Faivre between Hermetism (the current associated with Hermes belonging to late antiquity) and Hermeticism.msu. ed. 2. see Antoine Faivre. See www. 1992). See the definition of the Association for the Study of Esotericism [ASE] and more information on this growing field at www. the official Web site of the ASE. 4.. much of it in ] for articles. 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. 3. 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.” Esoterica IV (2002): 1–15 and “Methods in the Study of Esotericism Part Access to Western Esotericism (Albany: State University of New York Press. who held a chair at the Sorbonne in Western esoteric currents of thought. mostly by North American scholars. See Steven Katz. which belongs more to the Renaissance and after.

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

op. p. 1965). 32. p. Kabbalistes chrétiens (Paris: Albin Michel. 18. Origins. M. Ibid. 23. See J. 27. Gershom Scholem. Ibid. ed. 22.. 1985). Ibid. Vasoli. Cassirer. 51. 13..312. Bonner.. Ibid..325. op. 25. 33. Ibid. 17. II. See Scholem.B. p. 28.314.. p. I. See Moshe Idel. p. p. 1992). Scholem.. 12. Twersky.NOTES TO CHAPTER TWO 161 6.76. see also Moshe Idel. 250. See Verman.. ed. p. 19. 26. 298 ff.205b. p. Ibid. 1969). 7. 24. trs. 14. Ibid. Ibid.320–323. See Arthur Edward Waite.. pp. vom Stein der Weisen (Berlin: Christian Ulrich Ringmacher. Ibid. ed. 35. 1961). 8. 1979). The Christian Interpretation of the Cabala in the Renaissance (Port Washington: Kennikat.77... and Françoise Secret. I. 38. IV . I. as well as Antoine Faivre and F.351. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 278. Dan. 394. I. C.. eds. Ibid. 1779). 197. 9. see also Scholem. p. See A. 29. Opera omnia. cit. p. Doctor Illuminatus. Origins. (Princeton: Princeton University Press.80 ff. 66. Ibid. 52. et al. ed. II. cit. Cassirer. 1953) I... in The Zohar. I. 30.. Joseph Blau.. 59.. I.C. p. Les Kabbalistes chrétiens de la Renaissance (Paris: Dunod. 49–50. . 20. 21. II. See Pico della Mirandola. The Renaissance Philosophy of Man (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1983). p. See Mark Verman. Simon. trs. 10. 197. 101–102. II. op. p. 36. 16. p. Ibid. The Books of Contemplation (Albany: State University of New York Press. 29.75. 11. (Hildesheim: Olms. 1984). pp. 270. I. for instance. Tristan. Zohar IV . p. See. 37. 246. 1987). Kabbalah: New Perspectives (New Haven: Yale University Press. Rabbi Moses Nahmanides: Explorations.. The Early Kabbalah (Paulist Press. The Hermetic Museum (London: Watkins. Ibid. 31. 57. ed. See Verman. A.. 34. Origins. cit. 1988).. 15. (London: Soncino. Ibid. 1964). 61. A translation of Ars Brevis is to be found in Ramon Lull. Origins of the Kabbalah (Princeton: Princeton University Press..71. Ibid. 280.331. 1986). p.. See “Oration on the Dignity of Man” in E.205b–206a. 57..

See Frances Yates. 1975). p. The following page references are to Yates. 1615). Robert Fludd and the End of the Renaissance (London: Routledge. . p. For an excellent survey of the scholarship since Yates. 49. 55. p. (Los Angeles: Philosophical Research. Ibid. 41. p.. 50. 46. especially on Gichtel’s and other theosophers’ tendency to carefully date their revelations. 371. p. 60. See Codex Rosae Crucis D. Ibid. (Cassel: Wessel. 57. Ibid. see Donald Dickson. 44.D.. 1998). See. Ibid. 257. in a group called the Round Table.: A Rare and Curious Manuscript of Rosicrucian Interest. Freemasonry. Yates. 47. Ibid. See Versluis. Ibid..681. M. See. Josten.A. . forthcoming. p. Ibid. Frances Yates. a cosmologist. 63. Ashmole. II. The Alchemy of Art. 40.. (Cassel: Wessel. 67. for the reader’s convenience. 22. Ashmole.M. p..O. Opus Mago-Cabbalisticum et Theosophicum (Frankfurt: Fleischerischum. op. ms. 129. Ibid. 1971). 37. and even chart them astrologically. This commentary was shared with people from diverse walks.. D. C. Ibid.O. table of contents. Resicrucian Enlightenment. p. 255. 49. See Versluis. 45. 1988).. The first English translation was published by Thomas Vaughan in 1652. . 56.P. p.. University of Texas at Austin. I. See also Marsha Schuchard. Wisdom’s Children: A Christian Esoteric Tradition (State University of New York Press. 1966). 61.. 53. including two physicists. a musician. and also written an extensive commentary on it. diss. . William Huffman.77. Ibid. and others. for text. 238. p. 62. p. 242. “Christian Theosophy and Ancient Gnosticism” in Studies in Spirituality (Fall. The texts of the Fama and Confessio in English are most easily found as appendices to Yates. H.. p. 221. 1997). Fama. 42. Theatre of the World. Ibid. Elias Ashmole (Oxford: Clarendon. 260. 77. p. 58. 59. p.. Confessio. See Versluis. ed. .. 1614) and Secretioris Philosophiae Considertio brevis . Fama. p... 48.. p. Ibid. 251. I have translated this work of Pordage. Confessio. p. a theologian.. p. I. 52. 253. The Tessera of Antilia: Utopian Brotherhoods and Secret Societies in the Early Seventeenth Century (Leiden: Brill. See Josten. The original (short) titles of Fama and Confessio were Allgemeine und General Reformation. and The Rosicrucian Enlightenment. Fama. and the Continuity of the Occult in English Literature (Ph. 51. 1972).M. Secret Societies. 246. ed. der gantzen weiten welt .162 NOTES TO CHAPTER TWO 39.A. Ibid.102–104. 1999). 1784). for background. 220.. 252. Confessio. From von Welling. 241. p. cit. Fama. 54. Hall. Confessio. 43. The Rosicrucian Enlightenment (London: Routledge.

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

33. Susan Friedman. 464... The Esoteric Origins of the American Renaissance (New York: Oxford University Press. I.. pp. 1994)... 303. pp.. 178–179. Scott. 17. The ‘true-rune and right spell’ of esoteric tradition contained the code for H.. pp. The question. 299–300. introduction by Albert Gelpi. op. is into what did she translate this inner meaning. trs. pp. Ibid. 226–227. 29.. Pollen and Fragments: Selected Poetry and Prose of Novalis (Grand Rapids: Phanes. pp. Ibid. Milosz. 204–205.. 296. Ibid. 26. 37. 180–181. Ibid. Milosz. 1981). 300. Ibid. See Versluis. p.. 25.. 465. cit.” synonymous with “hermetic tradition. p. pp. Hermetica (Boston: Shambhala. p. Psyche Reborn (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Lib. cit. ed. I. 32. op. pp. 14.. Ibid. D.1 ff. 174–175.. 2001). 23. 27. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. 30. pp. Ibid. See Versluis. ranging from entirely cosmological ones such as astrology or the Tarot to more metaphysical or gnostic ones. Ibid. 31. 1989). pp. For a discussion of Postel in relation to Christian theosophy. 16. of course. Ibid. 13. the harsh world of necessity that Freud described is itself the “rune” that must be deciphered. 158). 299.. p. p. H. D. for a translation of Hymns to the Night. Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. 182–183. 15. Theosophia: Hidden Dimensions of Christianity (Hudson: Lindisfarne. 34. p. 248. p. 157–206. 277. Ibid. See W. 24.. Ibid. op. 28. 455.. . see Steven Bullock. . 206–207. 35. Ibid. see Versluis. p. For the poet of the modernist era.. 18. 1996). Ibid. 40. 297–298. Ibid. pp... Milosz. 36. 19. Friedman writes that “From her [H. Milosz. p. 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. Ibid. 41. cit. 1982). 1985).. 38.115. 210–211. Ibid. 224–225. pp.” when in fact there are numerous different esoteric currents of a wide variety.164 NOTES TO CHAPTER THREE 12. 8–9.. D. hermetic tradition offered a pattern of meaning in coded form to the initiate .’s] perspective.. For a more extensive study. 469. 22. 48–52. Notes on Thought and Vision (San Francisco: New Directions. pp. . in her search to translate the inner meaning of material reality” (p. pp. pp. 39. 20. Ibid. p. 21.

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

104–104. 3 vols. Ellis and W. . and their circles in mid-twentieth-century England. 320.. hereafter noted as Meditations. Ibid. 127. 1990). Letters from England (London: Longman. p. 94.. pp. noted hereafter as Vision. Ibid. 102.. so I have decided not to include them here. But Meyrink’s works are complex enough to deserve a study in themselves. p. p. 1994).. and his intensifying “strange awareness” as a function of his magical apprenticeship with Vivien Le Fay Morgan. 21.. Dion Fortune. 99. cit. Pages from a Sketchbook (Ipswich: Golgonooza. 95.. B. 382. p. The Works of William Blake. Taverner (Columbus: Ariel. p. 101. Yeats. Moon Magic (York Beach: Weiser. Ibid. 87. 1997). 1893). 90. p. maintaining our focus on the Inklings. 154.). Collins. p. and Meditations.). Southey. 81. retained his magical regalia in his office. Dion Fortune. The Vision of the Fool and Other Writings (Ipswich: Golgonooza.. Vision. Ibid. 101. 20–21.. p. pp. 92. 84.. 239. 40. 1994). in The Sea Priestess (York Beach: Weiser ed. and while his experience in magical ritual has been downplayed by some literary critics. 91. Essays Presented to Charles Williams (Oxford University Press: 1947). 96. Lewis.. 322. 115. 79.. Dion Fortune. 10. Faivre. Gareth Knight. Ibid. E. p.. I. p. p. Vision. ed. Lewis.166 NOTES TO CHAPTER THREE vom westlichen Fenster] (1927). 100. Subsequent references are to Cecil Collins.. p. without doubt had direct experience in magical initiation that was reflected in his fiction.25. The Secrets of Dr. Meditations. 43. 323. 85. The Magical World of the Inklings.d. 87. See Antoine Faivre. op. p. 70–71. C. Gareth Knight. 95. 1993).. p. Access to Western Esotericism (State University of New York Press. 83. Ibid. Ibid. p. 102. 89. Ibid. Faivre. See on this point. S. Ibid. p. op. 80. 1994) p. 124–125. 93. 112. 86. Collins. pp. That Hideous Strength (Macmillan: 1965 ed. S.. 97. p. Ibid. pp. pp. including Fortune’s. The Magical World of the Inklings (Shaftesbury: Element. The Winged Bull (York Beach: Weiser ed. for a discussion of contemporary esoteric magical groups. 1988) p. See Collins. 291. 98. 1814). p. 103. Ibid. 88. 77. (London: Quaritch. Fortune. 197. 76. See for instance. Ibid. op. n.. Ibid. 40.. 82–83.. 78. cit. Williams was a member of Arthur Edward Waite’s magical fraternity. C. Maxwell’s account of his growing understanding of the elemental forces like wind and fire. 82. p. 88. 91. Poems. cit.

.. 116. 62. 118. 121. p. Nishitani Keiji. 194 ff. p. pp. 105.. The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture (Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Ibid. Versluis. 95. Ibid.. Ibid. p. Peter Erb. 39. See Charles C. 71 ff.. Freedom and the Spirit. See Versluis. 110.31. 106. 125.. Christosophia..29–30. See my overview of Christian theosophy in Magic and Mysticism. 117. 1994). Ibid. Ibid. p. pp. pp. 25 ff. Socialist Realism. Ibid. Futurism. 120. 111. 285. IV . p. 1978). 114...D. A. E.” in B.NOTES TO CHAPTER THREE 167 104. 129. See also The Destiny of Man. from “The Magic of Words: Symbolism. 124. Ibid. p. p. 1958). 103. The Way to Christ (New York: Paulist Press. Toronto: 1948). See Berdyaev’s introduction to Jacob Böhme’s Six Theosophic Points (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan. 93. 106.” and I. I added the colors. 119. Diss. Ibid.. Nicolas Berdyaev: Theologian of Prophetic Gnosticism (Th. 1997) p. 108 ff. Religion and Nothingness (Berkeley: University of California Press. 1991). p.. 1980). Ibid. 122. See. 1957). 105. 40. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. 109. The Beginning and the End (New York: Harper. 126. Knapp. Ibid.. 107. 112. Bromley’s is the image on the cover of my book Theosophia (1994). p. Nicholas Berdyaev.. Theosophia: Hidden Dimensions of Christianity (Hudson: Lindisfarne. trs. “Vorrede.31. 130.. 170. Rosenthal. 62–63. Ibid. p. 94.. 128. “Ancient Gnosticism and Christian Theosophy” in Studies in Spirituality (Fall 1997). p. ed.” 108. 115. p.. for example. 40 and pp. 78. pp.1 ff. . Christosophia IV . 275 ff. 74....1. “Warnung an den Leser. Ibid. I. p. pp. Irina Gutkin. Song and Its Fountains (Burdett: Larson. Ibid. II.. 123. p. 127. 113. 199. 63. forthcoming. p. 225. p.


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

155 Hermes [Trismegistus]. 112 Friedman. 72 Jabir ibn Hayyan [Geber]. 76. 127 Frankenberg. 46. 19. Abraham von. 102 Lee. Michael. 97. 21. 2.S. Dion. 27–28 Gnosticism. 56 Jerusalem. 42. Georg Heinrich. Susan. 25 John. 50. 43–45. T. Wolfram von. 104 Gichtel. 77 Gelpi. 7–8. 57–59. 138 Katz. 88-89. 103. John Scotus. Friedrich von [Novalis]. Rulman. 120–122.. Désirée. Benjamin. Andreas. Steven. 52–54 Kabbalah. 4. 89. Jean. 123. 127–128 Fama Fraternitatis. 139 H. Ramon. 80–81 Fortune. 9 Eliot. 68. 69 Franklin. 76 Maistre. 46–52. 5. Meister. 140 Eirenaeus Philalethes. 153–154 Eriugena. 18–21. 84 Lewis. Samuel. 79–86. 51 Eleusinian Mysteries. 35. 65. 22. Margaret. 90. 36–39 Gutkin. Nicholas. 75. 111 Esotericism [defined]. 111 Geheime Figuren. 37 Esoteric Origins of the American Renaissance. 57 Eleazar of Worms. Johann Wolfgang. 89. 102 Leade. 99 Grail cycle. Max. 109. 89–103 Hermetism. 63. 40 . 8. 112 Lull. Herman. 22–24 Initiation. 105. Christian. 21 Heydon. 56 Fludd. 104. 26–31. Robert. 44. 25 Hinduism. Francis. Martin. 8–9 Isaac the Blind. 120. 21–22 Hermetica. 78 Gnosis. 112 Imagination. 5 Hori. 77 Flamel. 50. 56 Maier. 2. 129 Kelley. 151 Merswin. 107. 29 Hiram. Carlos. 137 Goethe. 79 Hieroedetic knowledge. Jane. Ralph Waldo. 9. 82–83 Heidegger.. ix. 53. 83. 104. Jewish. 101 Freemasonry. Book of. 29 Mazet. 153 Homer. 100 Hirst. John. 101–102 Frey. 7–8 Esotericism. Brian. 140 La Fontaine. 51 Islam. Victor Sogen. 19 Kabbalah [or Cabala]. 31 Melville. Irina. 84. 106 Eschenbach. 2. Antoine. 104. Mircea. Johann Georg.S. 103 Fuller. 30. 95 Hartlib. 12–15. Gareth. 123–126. 122 Koan.170 INDEX Eckhart. 19–21. Joseph Edward. 100. Albert. 100 Marcus. Jewish. Edmond. Joseph de. 126. 19. 103–119 Hardenberg. 28.D. 11 Hutton. 19 Faivre. C. 111 Emerson. 1 Keeble. 82 Knight. 2. 72–73 Faust. Johannes. 55 Koran. 89. Edward. 140 Hippolytus. 54. 8–9 Larronde. 105 Eliade. 85 Merkabah mysticism. ix. 109 Hermeticism. 56.. 10–12. 102 Ernst. 127 Loskiel. 1.

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

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

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

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