Western Esotericism, Literature, Art, and Consciousness

Arthur Versluis



SUNY series in

Western Esoteric Traditions

David Appelbaum, editor

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

One finds under the rubric esoterik books on topics like pendulum dowsing. and consciousness. Indeed. literature. alone communing with the alone through the medium of words—this is the figure that will govern our journey through Western esotericism. one finds esoteric sometimes referring to an eclectic or syncretic collection of merchandise drawn from a wide range of cultures. however. But it is not particularly fruitful to speculate about social transformation in this field. W H AT I S E S O T E R I C ? The word esoteric is used today in a variety of ways. 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. particularly from the Renaissance and early modern periods. thus opening the field up to scholarship on contemporary as well as much earlier historical figures. But the question remains: how does one define esoteric in a satisfactory way? If one employs the largely cosmological characteristics proposed by Faivre. that are intellectually influential and that are only now becoming more widely studied in universities. esoteric popularly has become almost synonymous with New Age. 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. and even from purportedly extraterrestrial origins. it may well be that out of this juncture will come a kind of cultural renaissance. alone with an author. . 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. 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. crystals. in the latter quarter of the twentieth century. and groups in Western European and North American history. perhaps symbolized best by the figure of someone reading an esoteric work from long ago. so too that choice still exists today. And indeed. But the fact remains that there are also figures. works.” In an effort to define the academic study of esoteric figures or groups and to separate it from popular definitions. for Western esotericism entails individual awakening. as we rediscover the Western esoteric traditions. and so forth. fundamentally a marketing category for merchandise. And in North America as well.6 Subsequently.INTRODUCTION 7 ways. The reader. In Western Europe. particularly in light of their counterparts in the Asian esoteric traditions. and so to maintain clarity.



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-

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

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

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

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

then that work also belongs to this continuum and guides others into the same process of imaginative awakening. it is generated through the creative power of Sophia and perceived through the gnostic imagination.INTRODUCTION 15 into being in him out of the Ungrund. is an initiatory process manifested through literature and art. 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. It is not so much a matter of visualization by an individual. The paradisal earth that Sophia creates is not external to the gnostic. but also the co-experience of the reader who participates in this process by reading the treatise. then. but rather a matter of perceiving (being open to) an inner creative process.13 This new paradisal earth is in the gnostic. In other words. . is by its very nature one of co-creation. what the gnostic imagination perceives is what the creative power of Wisdom within it creates. and to the audience or initiate who vicariously participates in or witnesses the work and so has awakened the possibilities that the work represents. in sum. What is more. This continuum is what makes possible not only Pordage’s gnostic experience of inner creation and a visionary paradisal earth. This. 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. they represent divine manifestation in the gnostic faculty of imagination so that the gnostic can perceive and be guided toward what they represent and. At work is a spontaneous inner generation of images for the gnostic. but neither is it wholly internal as a creation of the gnostic. exteriorizing it through a work of art in which others can participate. but these images exist in a mesocosmic realm between the gnostic and the divine. but resides in a continuum between the two. one can extend this analogically to all creative efforts. The realm of the imagination. 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. Thus imagination belongs neither to oneself nor to divine power alone. This process belongs neither solely to the individual gnostic nor solely to an outside power. Imagination takes place in a continuum of co-creation belonging to the gnostic who perceives. if those images and that gnostic process are then also manifested in a work of art. to the divine power within that creates. inasmuch as the author or artist is allowing an imaginative process to take place within.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

This process of awakening entails a kind of double working. Synesius.. One places oneself in the line of what is. For alchemy extends into many realms. or animal into its paradisal original true nature. Ramon Lull. as has historical placement. . who draws upon them in order to undertake the alchemical work himself and subsequently to write his own alchemical treatise. partaking at once in the realms too of religion and literature. All of these authors did write on alchemy. To list such names as Arnald of Villanova.E. in the revelation of paradise. either. and takes place by way of fire. and Morienus of the seventh century C. put another way. The alchemist’s work consists in the awakening of dormant qualities in the natural world. so that their lineage from the alchemical perspective forms an Aurea catena or “golden chain” from antiquity to the present. although we could here offer a historical survey of alchemy. or al-Rhazi (ca. 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. Fire burns up impurities and allows the transmutation of a fallen metal.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. Olympiodoros. alchemical literature. 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. And so Geber joins the line of figures in what is indisputably a literary transmission. Thus it is conventional for the author of an alchemical work to list predecessors to whom he is indebted.E. author of the Rosarium philosophorum (attr. even if its work resembles these in some respects. the embodying of spirit. 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. After all. What matters is that the works under the name Geber speak to the later alchemist. Thus. even if it does not entirely belong to these. and the spiritualizing of the body. that is. Nicholas Flamel (fourteenth century). George Ripley (fifteenth century). Roger Bacon. and reveal the gnostic center of the tradition. plant. and might include also such figures as Zosimos of Panopolis of the third century C. or the animal kingdom.—latinized as Rhazes). Indeed. 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. thirteenth century). be they in the mineral. we may well say that alchemy consists in the transmutations of the earth or. at heart. the vegetable. For how else might a medieval or Renaissance figure come to know Geber or Rhazes? Cultural context has been largely lost. Such a list undoubtedly would include Hermes Trismegistus. Thus alchemy itself consists in processes that are at once spiritual and physical. for all its symbolic complexity and mysterious allusiveness. as well as Islamic figures such as Jabir ibn Hayyan of the eighth century (later latinized as Geber). 825–932 C..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

).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.

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

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

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

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). . O p u s M a g o .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

320–323. . 1987).. et al. 16. The Christian Interpretation of the Cabala in the Renaissance (Port Washington: Kennikat. 29. op. See A. 15. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. for instance. 20. Origins.351. Twersky. Origins. Doctor Illuminatus. Origins of the Kabbalah (Princeton: Princeton University Press. vom Stein der Weisen (Berlin: Christian Ulrich Ringmacher. 14.. 30. See Verman. 298 ff.205b–206a. Ibid. p.C. cit. Joseph Blau. The Books of Contemplation (Albany: State University of New York Press. 8. p. 1953) I. II. eds. 1986). 57... 21. p.. 270. 36. I. See “Oration on the Dignity of Man” in E. I. 49–50. 1979). op. ed.. 1992).. Opera omnia. Ibid. Dan.71. pp. 17. 29. Ibid. 101–102.80 ff. (Princeton: Princeton University Press.325. 37.. See Verman.. M. p. ed. 61. 66.. I. I.75. 250. p. See Mark Verman. A translation of Ars Brevis is to be found in Ramon Lull. Zohar IV .B. Ibid. cit. Rabbi Moses Nahmanides: Explorations. II. See. 25. I... 1983). Bonner. Cassirer. p. Kabbalistes chrétiens (Paris: Albin Michel. The Renaissance Philosophy of Man (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 31. See J. trs.205b. Ibid. in The Zohar. (Hildesheim: Olms.314. 26.. p. Ibid. 7. p. cit. Cassirer. 51. 278. Kabbalah: New Perspectives (New Haven: Yale University Press.. Ibid. Gershom Scholem. p. 197. 19. (London: Soncino. Ibid. and Françoise Secret. 280. Ibid. I. 52. see also Scholem. Tristan. 12. Ibid. p. II. as well as Antoine Faivre and F.. 1988). II. p. Ibid.. 22. ed. Ibid. See Arthur Edward Waite. See Pico della Mirandola. 57. C.. p. See Moshe Idel. 1965).. see also Moshe Idel. IV . Les Kabbalistes chrétiens de la Renaissance (Paris: Dunod. Ibid. p. ed. pp. 13.. 1969). Ibid. 23. 24.. 1779). See Scholem. p.331. op. 32. A. 11.. I. The Hermetic Museum (London: Watkins. 59. Ibid. trs. The Early Kabbalah (Paulist Press. 394. p. 18. 9. 28. 1964).312. 33. 1984).NOTES TO CHAPTER TWO 161 6. Simon. p. 1985). Scholem.. ed.77. 27. 35.76. 246. 34. 197. 38. 1961). 10. Origins. Vasoli. p.

Yates. Ibid. 241. 1971). including two physicists. 43. 1998). Fama. diss. der gantzen weiten welt . I have translated this work of Pordage. Ibid. 238. . ms. forthcoming. table of contents. 45. p. 255. See. in a group called the Round Table. Fama. for background. Hall. “Christian Theosophy and Ancient Gnosticism” in Studies in Spirituality (Fall. . 260.. 1972). 59. cit. Frances Yates.102–104.: A Rare and Curious Manuscript of Rosicrucian Interest. 77. William Huffman. 22. p. 242. Elias Ashmole (Oxford: Clarendon. Ibid. 67. a theologian. for text. 52. and even chart them astrologically. The first English translation was published by Thomas Vaughan in 1652. a cosmologist. This commentary was shared with people from diverse walks. 1966). 40.O. II. p.P. The following page references are to Yates. Ibid. H.M. 221. See Versluis. Ibid. 129. for the reader’s convenience. I. 46.D.. The original (short) titles of Fama and Confessio were Allgemeine und General Reformation.. 220.. Theatre of the World. see Donald Dickson. 37. The Alchemy of Art. 49. Ibid. 49. 53. 51. Ibid. and The Rosicrucian Enlightenment.. p.. 55.. Ashmole.. 63. Fama.A. From von Welling. 1614) and Secretioris Philosophiae Considertio brevis . Ibid. 57. Ibid. p. and the Continuity of the Occult in English Literature (Ph. University of Texas at Austin. Wisdom’s Children: A Christian Esoteric Tradition (State University of New York Press. See also Marsha Schuchard. 371. a musician. p. Confessio. 48. ed. See Codex Rosae Crucis D. (Cassel: Wessel. 1999). Opus Mago-Cabbalisticum et Theosophicum (Frankfurt: Fleischerischum. See Frances Yates. 44. op. C. 60. p. especially on Gichtel’s and other theosophers’ tendency to carefully date their revelations. p. 252. p. 251. and also written an extensive commentary on it.. Josten. (Cassel: Wessel. 54. The Tessera of Antilia: Utopian Brotherhoods and Secret Societies in the Early Seventeenth Century (Leiden: Brill.77. p. See Versluis.. For an excellent survey of the scholarship since Yates. Ashmole. ed. 47..O. Secret Societies.A. 58..M. p. Resicrucian Enlightenment. M. 62. p. 42.. I.. p. 50. 257. (Los Angeles: Philosophical Research. p. 1615). .. Freemasonry. Ibid. 1975). and others. 41. See. 56. p.. The texts of the Fama and Confessio in English are most easily found as appendices to Yates. 1997).. 1988). See Josten. The Rosicrucian Enlightenment (London: Routledge. D. Confessio. p. p. 253.162 NOTES TO CHAPTER TWO 39. Robert Fludd and the End of the Renaissance (London: Routledge. Ibid. Ibid. 61. . p.681. p. 1784). 246. Ibid. Fama. See Versluis. Confessio. Confessio. .

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

17. 297–298. Milosz. 26. p. Ibid. 8–9. See W. pp. Ibid. 48–52. 13. pp. pp. Notes on Thought and Vision (San Francisco: New Directions. Ibid. Pollen and Fragments: Selected Poetry and Prose of Novalis (Grand Rapids: Phanes. see Steven Bullock. 22.1 ff... 24. Ibid. Ibid. 1994). pp. p. 36. 465. p. 31. 174–175. Ibid. pp. Theosophia: Hidden Dimensions of Christianity (Hudson: Lindisfarne. 32. Ibid. For a discussion of Postel in relation to Christian theosophy. 30. Milosz. 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. 41. 1982). 180–181.. See Versluis. 303.. pp. See Versluis.164 NOTES TO CHAPTER THREE 12.. 40. 35. 29. 14. . introduction by Albert Gelpi. Ibid. pp. Ibid. D. 224–225.” synonymous with “hermetic tradition. op. pp. 1985). is into what did she translate this inner meaning.. 23.. 182–183. trs. 39.115. 27.. 464.. . 158). p. p. Ibid. 455.” when in fact there are numerous different esoteric currents of a wide variety. Hermetica (Boston: Shambhala. p. Ibid.. Ibid. 204–205. ranging from entirely cosmological ones such as astrology or the Tarot to more metaphysical or gnostic ones.’s] perspective.. 16. p. . 296. I. op.. 300. Scott. 34. 469. H. 226–227. 299–300. cit. Ibid. 248. 15. p. pp. pp. op. cit. pp... Milosz. 157–206. 25. Ibid. 21. Ibid.. ed.. 20. hermetic tradition offered a pattern of meaning in coded form to the initiate . 38. 1981). I. 19. Ibid. 178–179. Milosz. 2001). 37.. Ibid. for a translation of Hymns to the Night. For the poet of the modernist era. 277. The Esoteric Origins of the American Renaissance (New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 206–207. 33. Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. For a more extensive study. the harsh world of necessity that Freud described is itself the “rune” that must be deciphered. The question. p. Psyche Reborn (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. pp. The ‘true-rune and right spell’ of esoteric tradition contained the code for H. 18. in her search to translate the inner meaning of material reality” (p. Ibid. Ibid. 28.. D.. Ibid. 299. 210–211. pp. D. cit. 1989). 1996).. Friedman writes that “From her [H. Susan Friedman.. Lib. p. of course. see Versluis..

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

95. p. 89. But Meyrink’s works are complex enough to deserve a study in themselves. p. cit. and his intensifying “strange awareness” as a function of his magical apprenticeship with Vivien Le Fay Morgan. p. and their circles in mid-twentieth-century England..25. 87.166 NOTES TO CHAPTER THREE vom westlichen Fenster] (1927). 1994). 101. 86. n. 78. 101. 1990). The Magical World of the Inklings (Shaftesbury: Element. 43. 94. 21. Ibid. 322. 1988) p. 10. p. 91. Vision. 83. p. 99. pp. Access to Western Esotericism (State University of New York Press. 87.. pp. 84. 79. Williams was a member of Arthur Edward Waite’s magical fraternity. 100. Maxwell’s account of his growing understanding of the elemental forces like wind and fire. 80. pp. retained his magical regalia in his office. 323. 102. Ibid.. Ellis and W. 103. 40. 81. hereafter noted as Meditations. Faivre. Ibid. 239. 88. op. p. Ibid. 1993)..). Lewis. without doubt had direct experience in magical initiation that was reflected in his fiction. p.. Yeats. The Winged Bull (York Beach: Weiser ed. (London: Quaritch. and while his experience in magical ritual has been downplayed by some literary critics. Ibid. . See on this point. 70–71.). noted hereafter as Vision. 291. 96. Fortune. 95. E. The Works of William Blake. Moon Magic (York Beach: Weiser. Ibid. Pages from a Sketchbook (Ipswich: Golgonooza. Letters from England (London: Longman. 91. The Magical World of the Inklings. p. Gareth Knight. C. 102. so I have decided not to include them here.. 154. for a discussion of contemporary esoteric magical groups.. B. 1997). 98. That Hideous Strength (Macmillan: 1965 ed.. 90. Essays Presented to Charles Williams (Oxford University Press: 1947). 382. 1994) p. 1893). 112. p. I. 88.. The Secrets of Dr. 82–83. Collins. pp. 1994). 3 vols. p. 76. in The Sea Priestess (York Beach: Weiser ed. 20–21. 85... p. S. C.d. p. 197. Ibid.. Taverner (Columbus: Ariel. p. 92. cit. 40. S. Lewis. pp. Faivre... 1814). Dion Fortune. 127. Dion Fortune.. p. 77. Subsequent references are to Cecil Collins. 97. Ibid. 93. 82. 124–125. p. 320. Ibid. Vision.. Gareth Knight. Southey. Dion Fortune. Ibid. cit.. Ibid. Collins. including Fortune’s. and Meditations. maintaining our focus on the Inklings. p. Meditations. 104–104. ed. p. Ibid. Poems. See Antoine Faivre. The Vision of the Fool and Other Writings (Ipswich: Golgonooza. op.. p. 115. See for instance. Ibid. See Collins. p. op.

.1. “Ancient Gnosticism and Christian Theosophy” in Studies in Spirituality (Fall 1997).NOTES TO CHAPTER THREE 167 104. Bromley’s is the image on the cover of my book Theosophia (1994). pp.. 95. 111. 105. forthcoming. Ibid. 40 and pp. 1997) p. Ibid. 74. 129. p. Ibid.. Ibid. 121. p. Christosophia. Socialist Realism. p. 106.. See Berdyaev’s introduction to Jacob Böhme’s Six Theosophic Points (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan. p. 71 ff. Diss. Freedom and the Spirit.. trs. The Beginning and the End (New York: Harper. 116. The Way to Christ (New York: Paulist Press. 225.. E. See Versluis. 93. 25 ff. 285. Ibid. p.” in B. 127.1 ff.. Ibid. The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture (Ithaca: Cornell University Press. p. p. 63. p.. Ibid. Nicholas Berdyaev. from “The Magic of Words: Symbolism.29–30. pp. ed..31. Ibid. pp. 1991). See. p. “Warnung an den Leser. Toronto: 1948). Ibid.. 128. Song and Its Fountains (Burdett: Larson.” 108. Peter Erb. 40. 113.31... 1957). 126. 130. p. 1994). 125.. 62–63. 109. 124. 112.. 107. 39. Ibid. Christosophia IV .D. 122. 170. 275 ff. Futurism. 115. 110.. Ibid. Ibid. Religion and Nothingness (Berkeley: University of California Press. I. 117. Irina Gutkin. p. 1980). 108 ff. 94. A. Knapp. Ibid.” and I. Ibid. 1978). II. Rosenthal. IV . 118. pp. p. See also The Destiny of Man. Ibid. See Charles C. Ibid.. “Vorrede.. I added the colors. p. p. 62.. 119. 103. 120. for example. 1958). See my overview of Christian theosophy in Magic and Mysticism.. 194 ff. 199. 78. Theosophia: Hidden Dimensions of Christianity (Hudson: Lindisfarne.. Nishitani Keiji. 106. p. 114. p. 123. 105. Versluis. pp. Nicolas Berdyaev: Theologian of Prophetic Gnosticism (Th..


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

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

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

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

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

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

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