Western Esotericism, Literature, Art, and Consciousness

Arthur Versluis



SUNY series in

Western Esoteric Traditions

David Appelbaum, editor

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

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

In memory of poet and scholar Kathleen Raine .


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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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-

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

from the eighteenth to the twentieth century. the “illuminated shoemaker” of Görlitz. in Western esotericism we find. in the sciences. particularly during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Böhme lived during a time of social unrest. and the sciences and humanities in turn ever more separated from religion. Thus during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries we find numerous major esoteric figures who engaged in scientific investigations. say. the fields of alchemy. But Western esotericism. and Franz von Baader. and the historical and comparative investigations into Christian origins. this sense of unity dissolved. and including a vast commentary on Genesis called Mysterium Magnum. quite the opposite movement. as well as De Signatura . illustration and literature. rather than seeking to separate. nonsectarian and ecumenical approaches to spirituality. But his inspiration came chiefly from within. all acted to separate religious faith from scientific investigation and from literature and the arts. aimed for a universal approach to knowledge that. John Pordage. The Copernican revolution. practiced medicine and astrology. and whose center is spiritual knowledge—with the advent of the Protestant era. in a border area where he came in contact with a range of esoteric traditions. and in general correspond to the description of “Renaissance man. chemistry. the discovery of more complex technology. trace the broader lineaments of recent Western esotericism. at least in the secular world. However. to name only a few of the most luminary. Rather. continued and developed this belief in a unified approach to knowledge. Whereas in medieval Europe and England. For the Western esoteric traditions that emerged during this period.” One thinks of figures as diverse as Robert Fludd. including. with each of the disciplines ever more separated from the others. as we have already glimpsed in the case of alchemy. all human knowledge was conceived of as unified—like a wheel whose spokes are the various disciplines and arts. instead seeks ever more firmly to conjoin them. the historical movement of Western esotericism during the modern period is to unify the entire range of human knowledge. including Kabbalism and Hermeticism. we will instead look closely at some seminal authors in the modern esoteric traditions and by so doing. our approach being thematic. or Aurora. the emergence of biology. a city on the eastern side of Germany. and geology. he wrote numerous works beginning with Die Morgenröte.68 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E humanities. It is true that. much more indebted to the medieval era than is usually supposed. physical chemistry from metaphysics. nor is that our aim. comparative and syncretic. in the arts. Indeed. explored theology and metaphysics. archaeology. we find a historical movement toward more and more specialized and fragmented knowledge. wrote literary works. 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). and in religion. and drawing from his visionary experiences. near Poland. 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 ) .

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

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

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

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

O p u s M a g o .Figure 6 Pansophic image from Georg von We l l i n g . . which is here explicitly identified with the Kabbalistic ’en soph.C a b b a l i s t i c u m e t T h e o sophicum (Frankfurt: 1784). 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. . as well as the prominence of the figure of the eye. O p u s M a g o . Note the threedimensional nature of the illustration. (Frankfurt: 1784).Figure 7 Pansophic image from Georg von We l l i n g .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

” first with his teacher of Hebrew. the Neoplatonists of the Middle Ages.” 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.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. [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. 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. the mystical eighteenth century. The Rosicrucian Polybius the Cosmopolitan. passing through the Pre-Socratics. from Egypt up to today. he was well acquainted with Jewish Kabbalism. Plato. sought in them peace of spirit. Milosz not only had studied and read Hebrew. but it reveals at the heart of all things “a single new word.” where he writes of how “shade covers An-Dor and / Pau of the land of Esau covers Matred Tolde Beith / Aram and all Spared of Judea. the School of Alexandria.”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. Claude de Saint Martin. the disciple of the Kabbalist Raymond Martini. and then with his “spiritual guides: Goethe. Swedenborg.” and . In the “Psalm” we read of another primary theme.]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. we cannot help but notice the parallel focus on Judaism and Kabbalah. The allusions to Milosz’s favorite doctrines and language are here hidden in the allusions to Hebrew names and places.”27 “Psalm of the Morning Star” is so suffused in Hebrew and in Old Testament language as to be inseparable from them. but kept a Bible in Hebrew nearby as a constant reading companion. Swedenborg. looked forward to the day that the Jews would be converted to Christianity. alias René Descartes. We can see how deeply Milosz’s fascination with Judaism penetrated his work by examining his final poem.” Milosz continued. Eugène Ledrain. as when the poem refers to the “betrothed sister of the new canticle. Martinez de Pasqually. “Psaume de l’Étoile du Matin [Psalm of the Morning Star].26 If we see here the depth of Milosz’s focus on Hermeticism in history.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

p. 1979).312. II. The Books of Contemplation (Albany: State University of New York Press. pp. Origins of the Kabbalah (Princeton: Princeton University Press. op. II. Ibid. Ibid. Origins. 1964). See. op. 51. 1965). Cassirer. Kabbalah: New Perspectives (New Haven: Yale University Press. Ibid. 22. I. Ibid. 57.205b–206a. p.77. See Verman. See Pico della Mirandola. op. Ibid. p. 1984). I. 8. ed. 29. trs.B. The Early Kabbalah (Paulist Press. p.325. 33. 25. 1987). ed. pp. II. p. see also Moshe Idel. 26.. 1779). Simon. I. p. 101–102.. vom Stein der Weisen (Berlin: Christian Ulrich Ringmacher. 31. 30. A. M.. p.. 246. p.. 18. 12. 36. C. 66. 11. Dan... 37. Vasoli. 1961). 21.. 16. The Hermetic Museum (London: Watkins. p. Origins.. p. (London: Soncino.. 7.NOTES TO CHAPTER TWO 161 6. 394. See Mark Verman. Ibid. 29. (Hildesheim: Olms. Les Kabbalistes chrétiens de la Renaissance (Paris: Dunod..C..80 ff. 298 ff. Scholem. 27. See “Oration on the Dignity of Man” in E. Twersky. 61. cit. trs. p. See Moshe Idel. 24.. 13. 1953) I. p. 1988). Opera omnia. (Princeton: Princeton University Press. See J. 19. cit. in The Zohar. Doctor Illuminatus.71. 49–50.76. Ibid.. Ibid. Ibid. 28. 1985). I. ed. 10. see also Scholem. Ibid. . p. I. A translation of Ars Brevis is to be found in Ramon Lull.205b. and Françoise Secret. IV . I. 59. p. 9. 278. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 52. 197. Ibid. ed.. Ibid.351. Ibid. p. The Renaissance Philosophy of Man (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Cassirer. 197. 23. p. 1992).. See Arthur Edward Waite. 34. Tristan.. eds. ed. 1983).. 1986). p. 14. 32. 57. Zohar IV . 15..75. II. Ibid. I. Joseph Blau. Rabbi Moses Nahmanides: Explorations. 17. See Scholem... Ibid. as well as Antoine Faivre and F. 1969). Bonner.. 270.314. Gershom Scholem. cit. The Christian Interpretation of the Cabala in the Renaissance (Port Washington: Kennikat.331. See A. for instance.320–323. See Verman. 35. 20. Kabbalistes chrétiens (Paris: Albin Michel. 38. Origins. 280. 250. et al.

p. p. 77.M. Yates. “Christian Theosophy and Ancient Gnosticism” in Studies in Spirituality (Fall. Ibid.M. D.. 1614) and Secretioris Philosophiae Considertio brevis . Ashmole. . See Frances Yates. 46. 49..A. 1971).162 NOTES TO CHAPTER TWO 39. See Codex Rosae Crucis D. p. 56. Ibid. p.. 241. 58. The texts of the Fama and Confessio in English are most easily found as appendices to Yates. 220. I. See Versluis. Ibid. See Versluis. for background. 1997). and even chart them astrologically. ms. p. This commentary was shared with people from diverse walks. For an excellent survey of the scholarship since Yates.O.. p. Ibid. a cosmologist. Theatre of the World. Confessio. Frances Yates. Ibid. especially on Gichtel’s and other theosophers’ tendency to carefully date their revelations.P. 45. Ibid.. Confessio. 257. . ed. 61. See. 260. (Los Angeles: Philosophical Research. University of Texas at Austin. and others. p. The following page references are to Yates. The original (short) titles of Fama and Confessio were Allgemeine und General Reformation.. 42. for the reader’s convenience. Elias Ashmole (Oxford: Clarendon. Fama. Fama. Freemasonry.. (Cassel: Wessel. 67. I have translated this work of Pordage. 40. p. 47. See Josten. The first English translation was published by Thomas Vaughan in 1652. . 63. The Tessera of Antilia: Utopian Brotherhoods and Secret Societies in the Early Seventeenth Century (Leiden: Brill. ed. 22. II. 255.. p.. cit. see Donald Dickson. p. Ibid. 1988). Wisdom’s Children: A Christian Esoteric Tradition (State University of New York Press. 1966). op.D. 44. p.681. Fama.: A Rare and Curious Manuscript of Rosicrucian Interest.. p. 48. and the Continuity of the Occult in English Literature (Ph. Opus Mago-Cabbalisticum et Theosophicum (Frankfurt: Fleischerischum. Josten. 1972). 1998). p. 1999). See also Marsha Schuchard. Resicrucian Enlightenment.O. Confessio. diss. 60. p. Ibid. 41. Ibid. a theologian. 62. 252.A. 59.. Ibid. The Alchemy of Art. 1784). 246. From von Welling. 55. 1615). p.. table of contents. 371. Robert Fludd and the End of the Renaissance (London: Routledge.. 238. Ibid. forthcoming. p. 129. Ibid. for text. .. 221. 57. 51. 54.102–104.77. 49. . in a group called the Round Table. See Versluis. 53. and also written an extensive commentary on it. Hall. C. a musician. including two physicists. p. 52.. (Cassel: Wessel. and The Rosicrucian Enlightenment. See. 242. M. I. H. The Rosicrucian Enlightenment (London: Routledge... 37. Secret Societies. 50. p. Fama. der gantzen weiten welt . 43. 253. 251. p. Confessio. 1975). Ibid. William Huffman. Ashmole.

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

38. 465. Ibid. See W. Ibid. 158). cit. see Versluis. 464. Theosophia: Hidden Dimensions of Christianity (Hudson: Lindisfarne. Psyche Reborn (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Lib. Ibid. 297–298. Ibid. pp. see Steven Bullock. Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. pp. 30. 174–175. 180–181. For a discussion of Postel in relation to Christian theosophy.1 ff. Ibid. 37. of course. 182–183. D.. Susan Friedman.. 204–205.. 21.. pp. 157–206. pp. in her search to translate the inner meaning of material reality” (p. 29.164 NOTES TO CHAPTER THREE 12. 33. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. pp. Ibid. hermetic tradition offered a pattern of meaning in coded form to the initiate . 8–9. . 14. 26. 25. 224–225. 299–300. 277. I. 20.. . Ibid. 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. 41. is into what did she translate this inner meaning. 48–52. The question. p. 2001). 1994). For the poet of the modernist era. 32. 28.. Milosz. 36. op. D. p. 178–179. 39. 299. Scott.. 210–211. Milosz. Ibid. cit. . 23.115. p. Friedman writes that “From her [H. 1985).. Ibid. the harsh world of necessity that Freud described is itself the “rune” that must be deciphered. op. p.. p. 1981). Pollen and Fragments: Selected Poetry and Prose of Novalis (Grand Rapids: Phanes.. pp. See Versluis. p. 27. pp. See Versluis.. 455. Hermetica (Boston: Shambhala.’s] perspective. pp. for a translation of Hymns to the Night. The Esoteric Origins of the American Renaissance (New York: Oxford University Press.. op.. 248. Milosz. cit. D. 16.. 35. Ibid.. 300. pp. 19. The ‘true-rune and right spell’ of esoteric tradition contained the code for H. I. 24.” when in fact there are numerous different esoteric currents of a wide variety. Notes on Thought and Vision (San Francisco: New Directions. pp. p. p. ed. 296.. 469. p. Ibid. pp. ranging from entirely cosmological ones such as astrology or the Tarot to more metaphysical or gnostic ones. H. For a more extensive study. 226–227. 15. Ibid.. Ibid. 34... Milosz. 206–207. pp. 22. pp. 13. Ibid.. 40. p. 1996). Ibid.. trs. 31. 1989). 1982). 303.. introduction by Albert Gelpi.” synonymous with “hermetic tradition. 18.

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

. 79. 80. 82–83. p. 320. 124–125. Dion Fortune.166 NOTES TO CHAPTER THREE vom westlichen Fenster] (1927). p. cit. 43. (London: Quaritch. Southey. 91.25. Ibid. retained his magical regalia in his office. See for instance. Taverner (Columbus: Ariel. Ibid. 291. 82. p.. Faivre.. 90. 101. n. p. Poems. The Vision of the Fool and Other Writings (Ipswich: Golgonooza.d. p. B. The Magical World of the Inklings. Gareth Knight. 382. 3 vols. 95. p. Ibid. See Collins. 103. 322. 91. 88. p.. pp. p. 127. I. Faivre. Maxwell’s account of his growing understanding of the elemental forces like wind and fire. 1990).. p. Moon Magic (York Beach: Weiser. 1994) p. Gareth Knight. Meditations. The Secrets of Dr. See on this point. Ibid. pp. See Antoine Faivre. 92. without doubt had direct experience in magical initiation that was reflected in his fiction. E. 1993). 1988) p. cit.. p. S. Letters from England (London: Longman. Ibid. 94. 21. Pages from a Sketchbook (Ipswich: Golgonooza. Fortune. noted hereafter as Vision. The Magical World of the Inklings (Shaftesbury: Element. 77. and his intensifying “strange awareness” as a function of his magical apprenticeship with Vivien Le Fay Morgan. p. including Fortune’s. p. 40. pp. 85. Ibid. Collins.). 10. 1994). 99. 88. Ibid. C. Ibid. Subsequent references are to Cecil Collins.. pp. maintaining our focus on the Inklings. 100....).. 84. 40. p. so I have decided not to include them here. 239. 98. op.. C. 1997).. 93. op. hereafter noted as Meditations. That Hideous Strength (Macmillan: 1965 ed. Ibid. 1994). Ibid. 78. 104–104. p. p. Ibid. S. 102. p. and their circles in mid-twentieth-century England. p. Ibid. Collins. 323. Dion Fortune. Lewis. 112. 101.. 83. in The Sea Priestess (York Beach: Weiser ed. 96. 70–71. Williams was a member of Arthur Edward Waite’s magical fraternity. 76. Ellis and W. and while his experience in magical ritual has been downplayed by some literary critics. Ibid. ed.. Access to Western Esotericism (State University of New York Press. 86. and Meditations. 197. . The Works of William Blake.. Yeats. 87. 81. p. cit. 87. Lewis... 1814). 154. op. Dion Fortune. 95. p. But Meyrink’s works are complex enough to deserve a study in themselves. Vision. 89. The Winged Bull (York Beach: Weiser ed. 115. pp. 20–21. for a discussion of contemporary esoteric magical groups. Essays Presented to Charles Williams (Oxford University Press: 1947). Vision. 1893). 97. 102.

1994). Ibid. trs. Ibid. p. 194 ff. 62–63. Ibid. 116. I added the colors.. 94.1 ff. p. Nicholas Berdyaev. 128. Ibid. p. 1980). p. p..31. 199. 115.29–30. Futurism. See also The Destiny of Man.. Ibid. p. Ibid. 225. p.. Ibid. Ibid. 63. Religion and Nothingness (Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 74. See Versluis. ed. p. 130. 62. 127. 121. Irina Gutkin.” 108. “Vorrede. Diss. from “The Magic of Words: Symbolism. 107. 124. 114. Peter Erb. 93. 1957). See Charles C.” and I. E. p. Nicolas Berdyaev: Theologian of Prophetic Gnosticism (Th. Ibid. Knapp. p.. 71 ff.” in B. 105. “Ancient Gnosticism and Christian Theosophy” in Studies in Spirituality (Fall 1997)... p. p. 1978). Rosenthal. p. 106. 118. Toronto: 1948). 25 ff. 1991). See my overview of Christian theosophy in Magic and Mysticism.. for example. I. The Way to Christ (New York: Paulist Press. 129. 109. 105. 285. pp. Christosophia IV .. 40. p. 1958). pp. 1997) p.D.. “Warnung an den Leser. 125. 126. Christosophia. forthcoming.NOTES TO CHAPTER THREE 167 104. Song and Its Fountains (Burdett: Larson. 120. p. 113. 78. See Berdyaev’s introduction to Jacob Böhme’s Six Theosophic Points (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan. 112. Ibid. IV . The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture (Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Freedom and the Spirit.. 170. 95. pp. pp..31. 117.1. 111. II. p. Versluis. Ibid. Ibid.. Ibid. 110. 123. Nishitani Keiji.. 119. 108 ff. 106. A.. The Beginning and the End (New York: Harper. See. 103.... Theosophia: Hidden Dimensions of Christianity (Hudson: Lindisfarne.. Ibid. 275 ff. 40 and pp. . Bromley’s is the image on the cover of my book Theosophia (1994). 39. Socialist Realism. Ibid. 122. Ibid..


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

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

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

9. 148 Zosimos. 10. 156 Zinzendorf. W. 122–123 Williamson. 35–43 Ungrund. Adam. 148 Zen Buddhism. 56 . Hugh. 10.172 INDEX Trevor-Roper. M. ix. 140 Valentinus. 104. George. ix. 64. 116 Yates. 79 Willermoz.. 112–113 Zohar. 67–69 Upanishads.B. Arthur. 103. 111 Warlick. 86 Welling. David. 103. Nicholas. 2. 75 Yeats. 84 Williams. 110. 137. 89.. Georg von. Egidio Cardinal. 101 Weishaupt. 111. 69–70 Universalism [esoteric]. 88. 120. 31 Viterbo. Frances. 53 Versluis. Jean-Baptiste. 103. 48.E. 10. Charles. 82 Troubadours. 63. 106 Washington. 55.

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

1996). 1996). Paul: Grail. and Theosophia: Hidden Dimensions of Christianity (Hudson: Lindisfarne. enlarged edition (Ipswich: Golgonooza. 2002).174 SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER STUDY combined into a single volume entitled The Vision of the Fool and Other Writings. . 1994). Paul: Grail. Gnosis and Literature (St. Wisdom’s Children: A Christian Esoteric Tradition (Albany: State University of New York Press. 1999). This is a beautifully produced book and highly recommended. edited by Brian Keeble. and The Esoteric Origins of the American Renaissance (New York: Oxford University Press. 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. as well as The Mysteries of Love: Eros and Spirituality (St. Paul: Paragon House. 2000). 2001).

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