Western Esotericism, Literature, Art, and Consciousness

Arthur Versluis



SUNY series in

Western Esoteric Traditions

David Appelbaum, editor

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

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

In memory of poet and scholar Kathleen Raine .


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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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-

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Frankfurt: 1784). as well as the prominence of the figure of the eye.Figure 7 Pansophic image from Georg von We l l i n g . O p u s M a g o . 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. .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. but kept a Bible in Hebrew nearby as a constant reading companion. he was well acquainted with Jewish Kabbalism. the School of Alexandria. Milosz not only had studied and read Hebrew. we cannot help but notice the parallel focus on Judaism and Kabbalah. Swedenborg. Plato.” 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. Eugène Ledrain.26 If we see here the depth of Milosz’s focus on Hermeticism in history.” and . but it reveals at the heart of all things “a single new word. The allusions to Milosz’s favorite doctrines and language are here hidden in the allusions to Hebrew names and places. [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. alias René Descartes. We can see how deeply Milosz’s fascination with Judaism penetrated his work by examining his final poem.”25 And he remarked elsewhere that he spent the best years of his life in solitude “getting drunk on the Holy Scriptures and nourishing myself on them. but in the tradition of many Christian Cabalists. and then with his “spiritual guides: Goethe. sought in them peace of spirit. In the “Psalm” we read of another primary theme. looked forward to the day that the Jews would be converted to Christianity.”27 “Psalm of the Morning Star” is so suffused in Hebrew and in Old Testament language as to be inseparable from them. the Neoplatonists of the Middle Ages.” Milosz continued. the mystical eighteenth century. passing through the Pre-Socratics. Martinez de Pasqually. The Rosicrucian Polybius the Cosmopolitan.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. Claude de Saint Martin.” 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. “Psaume de l’Étoile du Matin [Psalm of the Morning Star]. from Egypt up to today.]28 The peculiar rhythm of the lines and line breaks makes this poem unusually difficult to follow. These writers—and also Jewish exegesis—exerted a decisive influence upon Blaise Pascal. the disciple of the Kabbalist Raymond Martini. Swedenborg.” first with his teacher of Hebrew. as when the poem refers to the “betrothed sister of the new canticle.

”30 The name Hiram is found in Masonic tradition. King of the Unified World. but there are still other currents of Western esotericism that emerge in the poet’s work. Eliot. if we may coin a word. Here. just as in the Book of Revelation and just as in Kabbalism. If the author has considered it useful to follow Lessing. drawn together with a universalism that both resembles and includes Freemasonry. R. . opens those books in order to reveal their inner mysteries—or rather. we are waiting for the continuation and fulfillment of the only Book. for instance. Architect of the effective Catholic Church of tomorrow.100 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E a mysticism that has “all those things” “sleeping in closed books” that open themselves under the poet’s hand. and that he shared with much of the Christian theosophic tradition. wrote for his poetry. and books. Le Forestier. the universal regent of faith. Milosz held. libric mysticism that has haunted Western esotericism from antiquity. 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. inside the books of life and of knowledge. Hermeticism and Kabbalism. Milosz tells of his visionary experience. in short. 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 . the visionary poet. S. and art. and Milosz explains his poem’s relationship to Freemasonry in his “Exegetic Notes. the archetypes of the cosmos exist inside letters. words. Hiram.” 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.”29 Here we see the nascent Christian millennialism that pervades so much of Milosz’s work as he anticipated a future renaissance. my son. says that “I am entering the twelfth year of supreme knowledge. The “architect” of those brotherhoods was Biblical in name only. in 1938. are enormously important for understanding the complex work of Milosz and his mysticism of the word. La Clef de l’Apocalypse [The Key to the Apocalypse]. Thus we find in this final poem of Milosz the linguistic and. the books open themselves to him. 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. 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. Joseph de Maistre. science. In his “Poem of the Arcana. and the true poet. The allegory is clearly indicated by the password Nekom (Vengeance) used by the Chapter of Clermont and the Scottish lodge of the Berlin Union.” in fact. it is not books that we are waiting for. as early as 1919. . .” which are far more extensive than anything T.” and yet writes that he will humble his brow in the dust before “you. Under the heading “Hiram. Germany. King of the unified world.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

singing of the Wounds. But above all.’s work stands with that of Yeats and of O. D.70 She hears the “great choir of the strange voices that speak in a strange bird-like staccato rhythm. Her interest in spiritualism. Among major twentiethcentury authors. for instance.” both as a theme treated explicitly in her poetry and prose. D. this fragmentation actually represents in artistic form a higher union of past and present.” in which the individual consciousness is exalted. In this context. . and out of which all great work is generated. de Lubicz Milosz as exemplary of the literary-mythological possibilities of Western esotericism. In her profoundly ambitious works.” There is a great sound—the sound of the all-clear siren in London.’s work exemplifies what I have termed “initiation through the word.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 117 In England. D. Her later work in fact exemplifies exactly this idea. and Western Esotericism: Some Conclusions. but rather is woven into her entire worldview.’s fascination with various figures and currents of Western esotericism becomes more than a collection of interests. D. her work suggests that past. past and present. as well as of timelessness and time.” 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. her abiding fascination with Moravian esotericism is not merely an aspect of her genealogical interests. Likewise. and future continually intermingle.” an echo of Emerson’s “Oversoul. not least because although outwardly its modernist fragmentation suggests confusion and chaos. and the sound of the Moravian-Indian choirs of the past—and with this the novel concludes.” and she has suddenly achieved the union again in the twentieth century just as Mamalie had realized it in the nineteenth. As we have seen. both poetic and fictional. H. does not exist separate from her poetic and fictional work but rather represents an important aspect of it. not merely as decorations. 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. and that it is possible to realize a timeless state she terms the “over-mind.’s poetry and prose reflect a sense of the transparency of time and place: from Notes on Thought and Vision onward. Indeed. H. D. D. she hears the “deep bee-like humming of the choir of single brothers.’s English present. but as integral to her work. H. and the original initiates had realized it in the eighteenth. there. one of the original Moravian initiates. we find a wide range of Western esoteric currents manifesting themselves.V. H. the more deeply one looks into her works. Hilda hears the voice of Christian Renatus. In her poetry and fiction. but also a larger unity that even presents a way beyond chaos and evil into transcendence. H. the dead and the living are not separate but part of an interwoven continuum.” she realizes that “Our earth is a wounded island as we swing round the sun. and as the way in which her work functions for the reader. it becomes the foundation for an entire worldview. present.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

was later translated into words. A. and after that images. E. E. from a descent after an ascent. and cried out in a divine intoxication to the Light of Lights.” he wrote. And still being drawn down there came a third state in which was originally deep own-being. focusing on his experience emerging from a deep sleep.” he wrote. Yeats.” Thus. The Mount is a symbol for that peak of soul when. though too often they have not kept faith .” “Whatever went to making an intricate harmony of color and sound.”115 He understood something of the psyche.’s view actually emerges from a dimunition of spiritual vision. A.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 149 dance. for its subtlety and universality make it ungraspable: “It cannot be constrained. but all was a motion in deep being. but of the universal spirit he understood little. he found himself “dragged down” toward waking consciousness. writes that “all true poetry was conceived on the Mount of Transfiguration. E. E. and remarks that “almost the only oracles which have been delivered to humanity for centuries have come through the poets. Yet A. still recognized “that greater light shines behind and through the psyche. and song. nigher to us than the most exquisite sweetness in our transitory lives.”112 Yet “what comes back to us from that high sphere loses beauty in its descent. somehow comes in touch with this sheer transcendence. It is the light of spirit that transcends the psyche as the psyche in its own world transcends the terrestrial ego. and not to the sublimity of the spirit. E. 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. and the withdrawal of the universe into the Pleroma—all that was wrought in some secret laboratory within the psyche. even if unaware of precisely how or why. it draws nigh to its own divine root. But there are enchanted hours when it seems to be nigh us. gone inward into itself. of nature become so ethereal that it was the perfect mirror of deity.”117 For this reason.”113 This movement of consciousness A.” Although he struggled to remain in this state. and memory and imagination are shot through and through with the radiance of another nature. later discussed with W. There was neither sight nor sound. “I have. when once he became conscious while “in some profundity of being. “—the imagination of the ending of the long tale of time. the creation of poetry in A. A. who said that he had experienced precisely the same descent into words. B. recognized his limits. analyzes the movement of consciousness. that his experience belonged to the psyche or soul. and there is revelation in it and the mingling of heaven and earth. E.”114 A far exile from that glory. “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. the poet. E. perhaps surprisingly.”116 Still. and it changes the dry dust of logic into color and music and a rapture of prophecy. looks upon the poet as a prophet. 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 A. when it becomes truly self-conscious.”121 These insights of A. wrote of how “they that are in this near Union. we have seen Western esoteric traditions as including the restoration of paradise. as did the sybils of old. into the nature of poetic vision or imagination. characters they had never met in life. through love and sympathy may come to know “that the whole of life can be reflected in the individual. thinking all the while that it was imagination or art of their own. in his The Way to the Sabbath of Rest (1650). the view of literary creation that A. 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. . 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.”120 Thus “when we sink within ourselves. A. 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. and our thoughts may become throngs of living souls. Thomas Bromley. when we seem most alone.” And there is more. without knowing it. for in both cases one sees a visionary who penetrates deeper than ordinary people into the mysteries inherent in creation. E.”118 The poets and musicians offer us “the sense of a glory transmitted from another nature. a cobblestone street—and to his astonishment later discovered that these images belonged to the actual world of his office companion. E. . Throughout our investigations. the further we come out of the animal Nature. we find numerous accounts of the spiritual path as exactly such a movement beyond ordinary distinctions of self and other. 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. In this exaltation or transcendent creativity. they come “trailing clouds of glory. because in the practice of their art they preserve the ancient tradition of inspiration and they wait for it with airy uplifted mind. In essence. for instance. though they do not take place in the explicit context of Western esotericism properly speaking.150 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E with the invisible . and they wove into drama or fiction. These written works express and indeed embody some of the secret structure inherent in the cosmos. the poet or seer enters into a realm where conventional notions of self begin to vanish. in that solitude we may meet multitude. goes on to remark that he often thought the great literary masters like Shakespeare or Balzac “endowed more generously with a rich humanity. which could also be expressed as the ending of objectification. E. expresses here is not far from what we see in the work of an exemplary and influential esoteric figure like Jacob Böhme. may. feel a mutual Indwelling in the pure Tincture and Life of each other: and so. E.” The psyche. still conform strikingly to the model we have begun to develop as characteristic of the Western esoteric traditions. or division into self and other. . But at times they still receive the oracles. and imbued with this new visionary understanding.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

1961). 1779). Ibid. Origins... pp. 298 ff. See Verman. 32.B.. See Pico della Mirandola.NOTES TO CHAPTER TWO 161 6. 197. ed. trs. 21. in The Zohar. . p.205b. 1965). 52. p. 20. 29.. I. cit. 10. 1969). p.. p. Ibid. I. See J. See.. Ibid. Bonner. 17. See A. eds. Ibid. op. Doctor Illuminatus. 22. Ibid. cit. 1986). 270. 246.. Vasoli. (Princeton: Princeton University Press. I.. Simon. as well as Antoine Faivre and F.75. 51. Zohar IV . Opera omnia. Ibid. 9. 1985). 14. Scholem. ed... 36. trs. I. 31. Ibid. Ibid. 57. Ibid. p.. 8. 250. Cassirer.351.331. ed. 34. 66.C. 278. op. 7. 1953) I. Kabbalah: New Perspectives (New Haven: Yale University Press. See Mark Verman. 1984). (Hildesheim: Olms. p. 1979). 1988). 12. The Early Kabbalah (Paulist Press. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. II.80 ff. 59. p.. A. 1983). p. Gershom Scholem. vom Stein der Weisen (Berlin: Christian Ulrich Ringmacher. Tristan. Kabbalistes chrétiens (Paris: Albin Michel. ed.314. et al.. Origins.. Ibid. 11. for instance. 16. p. p. 13. 18. 1964). II. 1992). op. I. 15. 57. I. See Moshe Idel. The Books of Contemplation (Albany: State University of New York Press.. See Arthur Edward Waite. p. IV .320–323. cit. 25. Ibid.205b–206a.. Rabbi Moses Nahmanides: Explorations. Twersky. 30. see also Scholem.. 27. Cassirer. Ibid. 197. and Françoise Secret. The Hermetic Museum (London: Watkins. p. p. II. 394.325. Joseph Blau. See Scholem.77. 280. See Verman. pp. 28. II. 49–50.. M. Ibid. 35. The Christian Interpretation of the Cabala in the Renaissance (Port Washington: Kennikat.. 26.76. p. (London: Soncino.312.71. 1987). 61. 24. Les Kabbalistes chrétiens de la Renaissance (Paris: Dunod. ed. 19. 33.. Ibid.. I. Origins of the Kabbalah (Princeton: Princeton University Press. 29. A translation of Ars Brevis is to be found in Ramon Lull. C. 38. The Renaissance Philosophy of Man (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. See “Oration on the Dignity of Man” in E. 23. see also Moshe Idel. 37.. 101–102. Ibid. Origins. Dan. p. p.

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

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

. 31. 25. 41. pp.. 300. Lib. for a translation of Hymns to the Night.115. 1982). 1989). see Versluis. 40.164 NOTES TO CHAPTER THREE 12. p. Ibid. Ibid. pp. 35. Ibid. 33. 158). ed. cit.. Ibid. Ibid. Theosophia: Hidden Dimensions of Christianity (Hudson: Lindisfarne. 22.’s] perspective. 21. 24. 182–183. of course. 29. 39.. 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. pp. 17.. p. p. Milosz. Ibid.. Ibid. 248. op. D. introduction by Albert Gelpi. 1985). cit... Ibid. Ibid. For a discussion of Postel in relation to Christian theosophy. 38. pp. 23. D.. pp. 277. trs. 19.. p. p. 1981). pp. . pp. 464.” when in fact there are numerous different esoteric currents of a wide variety. ranging from entirely cosmological ones such as astrology or the Tarot to more metaphysical or gnostic ones. Ibid.. op. Ibid. 34.. Ibid. Ibid. is into what did she translate this inner meaning. 16.. hermetic tradition offered a pattern of meaning in coded form to the initiate . 1994). 28. p.. Susan Friedman. pp. 178–179.. 20. cit.. 303. 15. Notes on Thought and Vision (San Francisco: New Directions.. 14. Ibid. p. 13. p. op.” synonymous with “hermetic tradition. pp. 157–206. see Steven Bullock. 455. . Ibid.. . Ibid.. 2001).. 37.1 ff. pp. 8–9. The Esoteric Origins of the American Renaissance (New York: Oxford University Press. Pollen and Fragments: Selected Poetry and Prose of Novalis (Grand Rapids: Phanes. 1996). 18. 30. See Versluis. 180–181. For a more extensive study. For the poet of the modernist era. The question. p. I.. I. 296. the harsh world of necessity that Freud described is itself the “rune” that must be deciphered. Ibid. D. 174–175. pp. 27. 469. Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Psyche Reborn (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Friedman writes that “From her [H. 206–207. 36. 465. Ibid. pp. 299. pp. 224–225. Milosz. in her search to translate the inner meaning of material reality” (p. H. p. Milosz. 48–52.. 297–298. pp. 204–205. 299–300. 26. Milosz. 32. The ‘true-rune and right spell’ of esoteric tradition contained the code for H. Ibid. See Versluis. 226–227. Scott. See W. 210–211. Hermetica (Boston: Shambhala. Ibid.

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

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

See Berdyaev’s introduction to Jacob Böhme’s Six Theosophic Points (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan. forthcoming. 225. Ibid. p. IV .1 ff.31. See my overview of Christian theosophy in Magic and Mysticism. trs. 1978). See. 125. p.31.. Ibid. 107..1.. Rosenthal. 78.. 109. 105. p. ed. 1957). Ibid. See also The Destiny of Man. 25 ff. Freedom and the Spirit. 1997) p.. 71 ff. 108 ff. Ibid. 95. 106.” and I. Nicholas Berdyaev. 170. Ibid.” in B. 63.. p. Song and Its Fountains (Burdett: Larson. 40 and pp. 114.. 111. Nishitani Keiji. “Ancient Gnosticism and Christian Theosophy” in Studies in Spirituality (Fall 1997). 1980). pp. p. Toronto: 1948). 124. Christosophia IV . The Way to Christ (New York: Paulist Press. The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture (Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Peter Erb. 40. 94. The Beginning and the End (New York: Harper. p. pp. 285. Ibid. 39. 1991). p... Ibid. Ibid. 199.. 275 ff. . 116. 128. “Vorrede. 74.. 121.. 130. Ibid.. Ibid. 1958). 105. Ibid. p. 118.NOTES TO CHAPTER THREE 167 104. II. 103. 126. 1994). Futurism. 62. Knapp.. Nicolas Berdyaev: Theologian of Prophetic Gnosticism (Th.. Theosophia: Hidden Dimensions of Christianity (Hudson: Lindisfarne. pp. 112. Ibid. A.. 123. p. Socialist Realism. 122. p. p. 62–63.. Irina Gutkin. “Warnung an den Leser. I. 113. Diss. Ibid. 194 ff. E. Religion and Nothingness (Berkeley: University of California Press. p.. 127. See Charles C. 115. 110. p. p. 120.” 108.. I added the colors. Ibid. 129. Ibid. pp. pp. 119.. for example. Christosophia.D. See Versluis. from “The Magic of Words: Symbolism. Versluis. 117. 93.29–30. p. 106. p. Bromley’s is the image on the cover of my book Theosophia (1994). Ibid.


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

109 Hermeticism. 7–8. 89. Christian. 127 Frankenberg. 28. Edward. Brian.S. 18–21. 104. 102 Lee. 111 Esotericism [defined]. 30. 2. Friedrich von [Novalis]. 100 Hirst. 5. 25 Hinduism. 120–122. 7–8 Esotericism. 56. 127–128 Fama Fraternitatis. 84 Lewis. Susan. Margaret. Francis. 51 Eleusinian Mysteries. Antoine. 8–9 Larronde. 4. 79 Hieroedetic knowledge. Jewish. 153–154 Eriugena. Abraham von. 105 Eliade. 56 Jerusalem. 155 Hermes [Trismegistus]. 78 Gnosis. Jean. 46. Martin. 29 Mazet. 104 Gichtel. 95 Hartlib. 151 Merswin. 40 . 104. 85 Merkabah mysticism. Book of. Benjamin. 100. 46–52. 89. Nicholas. 140 Hippolytus. 9. 103. 25 John. C. Joseph de. Ramon. 129 Kelley. Johann Wolfgang. John. Edmond. Johannes. 75. 99 Grail cycle. Jane. 72–73 Faust. 27–28 Gnosticism. 104. 140 Eirenaeus Philalethes. 8. 5 Hori. 112 Friedman. 57–59. Ralph Waldo. 103–119 Hardenberg.. Meister. 11 Hutton. 127 Loskiel. 29 Hiram. Victor Sogen. 19 Kabbalah [or Cabala]. 36–39 Gutkin. Andreas. 31 Melville. 123–126. 84. Carlos. 138 Katz. 21. Albert. ix. 80–81 Fortune. 103 Fuller. 42. 10–12. 101 Freemasonry. 112 Lull. 44. Wolfram von. Johann Georg. 26–31. 51 Islam. 1. 37 Esoteric Origins of the American Renaissance. 35. 100 Marcus. 122 Koan. 89–103 Hermetism. Rulman. 79–86. 50. 102 Leade. 77 Gelpi. 54. Georg Heinrich. 53. 12–15. 21 Heydon. 90. 43–45.. Robert. Max. 140 La Fontaine. 82 Knight. 19. 109. 76 Maistre. 107. 9 Eliot. 102 Ernst. 19 Faivre. 111 Emerson. Samuel. 22–24 Initiation. 19. 82–83 Heidegger. Irina. Désirée. John Scotus. 101–102 Frey. Joseph Edward. 56 Fludd. 83. 2. 2. 19–21.S. 50. Dion. 112 Imagination. 88-89. 126.170 INDEX Eckhart. Herman. T. 1 Keeble. 63. 68. 153 Homer. 56 Maier. 106 Eschenbach. 57 Eleazar of Worms. 77 Flamel. 65. 52–54 Kabbalah. 2.D. 137 Goethe. 123. 76. 111 Geheime Figuren. 72 Jabir ibn Hayyan [Geber]. 8–9 Isaac the Blind. 97. 21–22 Hermetica. 22. 69 Franklin. Michael.. Jewish. ix. 120. Steven. 89. 105. Mircea. 139 H. Gareth. 55 Koran.

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

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

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

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

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