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

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

In memory of poet and scholar Kathleen Raine .


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

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 .

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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-

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Letters and numbers. but if the letters were properly restored. one finds that from the very beginning of our era the very same elements conduce also to a wide spectrum of gnoses and hence to angelic polytheism and to nontheistic gnosis in which the very concept of God is transcended. But monotheism is a rubric under which all manner of possibilities exist. and even if monotheism often turns toward a fundamentalist literalism. and in fact are by no means absent from the larger Christian tradition. and so we find numerous images from antiquity like lion-headed serpents. and to which we may refer as a gnosis of the word. and so forth. basilisks. such images represent divine aspects. inconceivable power would be set loose. Such images are often found on amulets or talismans and are generally regarded as being ‘magical’ elements in Gnosticism. 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. through images. then. 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. as principles of creation itself. are means in this process of individual and cosmic redemption—and so too are images. The letters. as does the creation of images. and its aim is twofold at least: microcosmically. its purpose is to restore the individual to a paradisal or transcendent state. and macrocosmically. and in this regard man may be said to complete the work of God by being co-creator or co-redemptor. But given the gnosis of the word that we have been discussing. it is to restore the cosmos itself to its paradisal condition. 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. We may remember the four animals that symbolize the four Gospels. thereby making this conflict inevitable. 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.2 Both the gnosis of the word and the gnosis of the image are extensions of the monotheism of the book. Both Jewish and Christian gnostic esoteric groups tended to think and express themselves mythologically. paradoxically conveyed often through .1 And indeed there is an ancient tradition that the Torah contains so much power in its letters that it could destroy the world. Both word and image reveal and ‘fix’ the divine. are a means to creation’s redemption. so the letters were altered.20 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E as Greek Christian mysticism drew upon Hebrew or Aramaic terms. and so forth. This gnosis of the word represents a ‘fixing’ of the mysteries. 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. all of which is entirely accepted within the orthodox tradition.

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

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

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

24 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E Western esotericism. The Revelation of John has an oneiric quality. but sweet as honey on his lips. becoming symbolically charged. In the tenth chapter. By reading the Book of Revelation that John subsequently writes after eating the little book. the most symbolically resonant image of all is that of the book. of course. 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). And it has immense power for this reason: by entering into its world of references.” during these the end times. Additionally. and finds it bitter in his belly. Christian Gnosticism.13). John is united with its knowledge.” which are opened during the Last Judgment in order to see the lives of those being judged (20. 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. we are eating his little book—we belong to a direct lineage or current. But for our purposes. and more than one group has seen itself as living during the end times. twelves. the Book of Revelation of St. John himself—for he is told to write by a voice from heaven (14. symbolizing his union with the esoteric center of spiritual life. John is given a little book to eat. Christ’s repeated assertion that “I am the Alpha and the Omega. angels. Taken together. of course. After the various accounts of Christ’s life and death in the Gospels. The Revelation. This image is amplified by the presence of book imagery throughout the entire work.” symbolism charged with initiatory knowledge. which has inspired countless commentaries or explanations. and one hundred forty-fours. the very book that we are reading. One.” as well as the repetition of geometric and numerical symbolism such as the sevens. especially in the Book of Life wherein is written the names of those who belong to the Lamb (13.12). there are “other books. and Christ whose symbolic heart is the written word. and although the word eidolon early in the modern era . Every aspect of life is altered. we will recall. we suddenly are given in the Revelation this overwhelming and astonishing visionary sequence that brings us completely outside the sphere of mundane human life. the way we see the cosmos itself changes. revealing the hidden forces beyond history and what happens to all humanity. And then there is. it is like a collective dream in which we participate simply by reading. The entire revelation is an unveiling of gnosis. Another such element is the number and letter symbolism. and Hermetism. and by eating the book. all remind us of the prior traditions. The word eidetikos in Greek refers to a particular kind of knowledge associated with shape or form. possesses a special luminosity of symbolism that we may call “hieroeidetic. John eats the little book: it becomes part of him. a gnostic encounter with elders. found in Judaism. is the prophetic element: more than one group has identified itself with the “woman in the wilderness” in the twelfth chapter.9). and are in a sense initiates. of letters and numbers revealing the secret powers of the divine. in other words. which he does.

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

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



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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opposite them are the twenty-two little letters of the lower world. and which was central in the founding of Hasidism as well. the Zohar is replete with alphanumeric mysticism. 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. as a female is fertilized from the male. the ten fingers of human hands are said to correspond to the ten sephirot and to the commandments.11 Of course. In section 124.10 Thus we can see how here mystical numbers and letters reflect the hidden divine principles of the cosmos. One of the most influential Kabbalistic books of this period is the Fountain of Wisdom (Ma‘yan ha-Hokhmah). For example. it is not at all out of character for the Zohar to have connections to the mysteries of the “Writing Name. which comprise a total of 613 letters. said to symbolize the abdomen. but another view. and that in this sense he really was copying from the transcendent source of the Kabbalistic tradition. he wrote the entire work without any precedent.” Indeed. including the human body. this controversy itself reveals much about the nature of Kabbalism. often said to be the culmination of the early Kabbalistic period. and that it regards the written word as being at the center of those mysteries. the “Oral Law” as female or receiver. and natural realms at once. Although the origins of the Zohar are somewhat controversial.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. including all twenty-two letters of the alphabet except tet.” and are the means by which “the Written Law fertilized the Oral Law.”13 We might note that here the “Written Law” is seen as male. is that Moses de Leon composed the Zohar himself by way of “conjuration of the Writing Name. But there is another work that helps shed light on what the nature of these alphanumeric mysteries might be. in one section we read of an “alphabetic hymn which contains the mystery of the twenty-two sacred celestial letters which are decorated with a crown made of the Patriarchs and the holy heavenly Chariot. supported by some contemporary testimony. a word that usually means “restoration” in Hebrew. The Fountain of Wisdom consists in a discussion of tikkun. There are several major schools of thought on the origin of this vast and complicated work: some hold that Moses de Leon really did copy the Zohar from an earlier version by Shimon bar Yohai. the tonal accents.”12 And we are treated to a fascinating explanation of why the verse-divisions. spiritual.” (that is. for example. and so forth are absent from the Scroll of Law: these signs were hidden in the “interior of the Divine Throne. there is a third possibility—that Moses de Leon composed through spiritual imagination. We also see these alphanumeric mysteries in the Zohar. writing the Names of God) and through this power. but here takes on the meaning of “com- . informing the cultural. which sixteenth-century Kabbalist Moses Cordovero regarded as being among a handful of the most important works. But in any event. caught up in the spirit.

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is no doubt that the work is engaged in justifying a true “theology. this Mist-Spirit-Water is Salt or Earth . II Chronicles 13:5. Genesis 1:27. just as the true maguss leads us to Christ. including Romans 1.37 And thus “the true medicine is thus the heart of Wisdom: out of this heart (or eternal spiritual salt) emerges life. moves away from physical alchemy into the realm of spiritual references alone. as a spirit. The mechanistic worldview is all surface. geflossen aus dem Oel der göttlichen Barmherzigkeit.” and to a host of Biblical references. . But rather than proceeding toward specific instructions. these two poles became further separated. but here are clearly spiritualized. one finds a new kind of alchemical literature whose primary implications are almost exclusively spiritual. 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. empowered with the Salt of divine and natural Truth). and this is characteristic of the work as whole. more real than what we see in the physical. confronted by the emerging materialist science of chemistry. The terms used in its title—oil. and so forth. the true medicine of the soul is the pure light of grace. indeed.”38 It is revealing that the light of nature is said to lead to the “whole Machina mundi” (II. It is as though here alchemy. One of the better examples of this particular emphasis in alchemical literature is to be found in a now relatively little-known anonymous work dated 1686 and titled Amor Proximi. geschärft mit dem Wein der Weisheit. At this juncture we should recognize that alchemical literature can be interpreted along a spectrum ranging from a focus on its spiritual meaning to a focus on its physical interpretation. even here physical significances of alchemy are implied. but the new ambience is not so much Hermetic with a tinge of Christianity as it is totally Christian. but that in this particular worldview. and salt—are not uncommon in physical alchemy. a distinctly modern image of the cosmos and a term that is in fact repeated in the work. This is the true Ground of Nature . the true medicine and theology. like Cremer’s testament. light air. bekräftiget mit dem Salz der göttlich und natürlichen Wahrheit (Amor Proximi. Of course. emphasize their recipe quality. like Valentinus’s. it is entirely real. while others. a matter of . and mist. wine. But during the late seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries. which mist transforms itself into a water of life in the new birth.74). . flowing out of the Oil of Divine Compassion. may be interpreted in both ways at once. . Many alchemical works are more susceptible to one interpretation than another—hence some. and medicine together” that leads us through Wisdom to God. The prefatory remarks to the work refer to the “heavenly Wisdom” who reveals the “two lights of nature and of grace.” The true medicine of the body is the pure light of nature. sharpened with the Wine of Wisdom. philosophy. Amor proximi proceeds instead to refer in passing to the knowledge of the “heathens. fire.

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

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

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

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

and the divine. the mysteries are conveyed primarily through literary riddles and parabolic expressions. so too is the apparent (but strictly modern) division between the sciences and the humanities.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. between subject and object. It is true that more recently theorists. For in alchemy literature is a means of transmitting precise knowledge of nature. The ‘solution. humanity. and the divine that it is alchemy’s goal to restore. have begun to argue the insufficiency and even the falsehood of such easy divisions. in the manner of a mathematical equation. as in Christian mysticism and in Jewish Kabbalism. both of physics and of literary criticism. and science are one. no doubt of that. For not only is the division between self and other or between subject and object gradually revealed to be false in alchemy. I would use the word decoding. This is by no means to suggest. literature takes on a greater significance than simply alluding to an oral tradition where the real mysteries are conveyed. albeit knowledge that is not quantitative but qualitative. Here in alchemy. alchemy is understood through living symbols that allow us to understand nature. and also a successor’s primary guide to achieving transcendence. But virtually no one has looked at alchemy as a field where all such apparent divisions are overcome. But in alchemical works. In Christian terms. Contemporary views of literature. 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. were one to decipher what x and y mean. humanity.’ in the case of alchemy. and the divine in ever more profound ways. 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. religion. except that an alchemical work is not simply decoded as if. extends into a range of realms at once. like Jung. This unity is founded in the fundamental union of humanity. For there is here an operative mysticism of the word—the written word and image become a medium to express transcendence. In alchemy. and that presupposes and requires humility before power greater than oneself. and the restoration of the right . literature. between the observer and that which is observed. nature. Oral commentary by a master is important. However. that alchemy is chiefly psychological. like those of science. this is expressed in terms of the Fall and expulsion from Eden. largely have been based in a fundamental division between the writer and the reader. Indeed. one would have the solution. Rather. Just as in Christian mysticism one finds that lines of influence are chiefly and perhaps sometimes exclusively literary— inspiration leaps from Dionysius to John Scotus Erigena to Eckhart and Tauler. 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.

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

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



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



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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

]28 The peculiar rhythm of the lines and line breaks makes this poem unusually difficult to follow.” 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 School of Alexandria. These writers—and also Jewish exegesis—exerted a decisive influence upon Blaise Pascal. In the “Psalm” we read of another primary theme. we cannot help but notice the parallel focus on Judaism and Kabbalah. The allusions to Milosz’s favorite doctrines and language are here hidden in the allusions to Hebrew names and places. Plato. 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.” 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. Eugène Ledrain. from Egypt up to today. but it reveals at the heart of all things “a single new word. he was well acquainted with Jewish Kabbalism. Swedenborg.26 If we see here the depth of Milosz’s focus on Hermeticism in history. but kept a Bible in Hebrew nearby as a constant reading companion. Claude de Saint Martin. the disciple of the Kabbalist Raymond Martini. “Psaume de l’Étoile du Matin [Psalm of the Morning Star]. Swedenborg.” Milosz continued. the mystical eighteenth century.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 99 wrote in a letter that he would like to lecture on a subject he knew thoroughly: “hermetic metaphysics and doctrines. [a single new word the same / heart as in the time of the fathers beats in wood / stone and water of all that returns there is / nothing new all those things were sleeping / in closed books the books have opened themselves / beneath my hand.”27 “Psalm of the Morning Star” is so suffused in Hebrew and in Old Testament language as to be inseparable from them.” and . the Neoplatonists of the Middle Ages. Milosz not only had studied and read Hebrew. but in the tradition of many Christian Cabalists. and then with his “spiritual guides: Goethe. passing through the Pre-Socratics. We can see how deeply Milosz’s fascination with Judaism penetrated his work by examining his final poem. as when the poem refers to the “betrothed sister of the new canticle. sought in them peace of spirit. Martinez de Pasqually.” first with his teacher of Hebrew. alias René Descartes. The Rosicrucian Polybius the Cosmopolitan. looked forward to the day that the Jews would be converted to Christianity.”25 And he remarked elsewhere that he spent the best years of his life in solitude “getting drunk on the Holy Scriptures and nourishing myself on them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

9.331. The Renaissance Philosophy of Man (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Bonner. See Verman. Origins. Kabbalistes chrétiens (Paris: Albin Michel. ed. p. et al.. 250. p. 52. 8. 246. 34. ed. I. p. II.320–323. Origins of the Kabbalah (Princeton: Princeton University Press. eds. trs. Ibid. 29. 22. p. p. 1961).314.. 10.. Dan. Ibid. See Moshe Idel.325. Ibid.77. 16. 19. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1992). I. 298 ff. 1953) I. 12. p. ed. 270. II. 278. Vasoli.. 197. trs. 59.. 1969).. Ibid. p. Zohar IV . 31. See Mark Verman. Doctor Illuminatus. 23. ed. Joseph Blau. A. 26. 280. 1779).351. Les Kabbalistes chrétiens de la Renaissance (Paris: Dunod. 1985). Ibid. 21. (London: Soncino. 33. 24. p. 27. Origins. I. The Hermetic Museum (London: Watkins. Ibid. 38.. 7. See Pico della Mirandola. 1988).. See Scholem.. see also Scholem. See J. 1986).80 ff. 51. p. 66. cit.312. Ibid. C. 11.NOTES TO CHAPTER TWO 161 6. Ibid. 57. 1979). cit. Kabbalah: New Perspectives (New Haven: Yale University Press.. p. II. The Books of Contemplation (Albany: State University of New York Press. p. 20. The Christian Interpretation of the Cabala in the Renaissance (Port Washington: Kennikat. 15. Origins. Cassirer.75. for instance. Simon..C.71. 36. I. p. 1984). 29... p. 17. I.. Ibid. 14. op.. (Princeton: Princeton University Press. in The Zohar. Ibid. The Early Kabbalah (Paulist Press. . II. Opera omnia. Ibid. See Arthur Edward Waite. See A. 13. pp. and Françoise Secret. 37. 1983). 61. p. pp.76. ed.. vom Stein der Weisen (Berlin: Christian Ulrich Ringmacher. 30. 25... Tristan. Twersky.205b.B. Rabbi Moses Nahmanides: Explorations. 32.. See Verman. 35. p. 197. see also Moshe Idel. Ibid. Scholem. 28. Gershom Scholem. as well as Antoine Faivre and F. IV . 1987). (Hildesheim: Olms. 49–50. 101–102. p. 394. Cassirer. See. Ibid. I. A translation of Ars Brevis is to be found in Ramon Lull.205b–206a. op. Ibid.. 18. op. M. 1964). Ibid. cit.. 57.. See “Oration on the Dignity of Man” in E. 1965). I. p.

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

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

op. 22. Ibid. Ibid. cit. Ibid. 296. Ibid. 465. 39. 464. p. Susan Friedman. Ibid. pp. Lib.. op.164 NOTES TO CHAPTER THREE 12. 1994). 31. Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. 180–181. 469. 26. ranging from entirely cosmological ones such as astrology or the Tarot to more metaphysical or gnostic ones. Theosophia: Hidden Dimensions of Christianity (Hudson: Lindisfarne. 18. 158). 21.. introduction by Albert Gelpi.. pp. p. Psyche Reborn (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 224–225. 303. 157–206. . op... 1982).. pp. 204–205. 182–183. 8–9. 297–298. 299–300. I. 27. Ibid. Ibid. 14. in her search to translate the inner meaning of material reality” (p. 36.’s] perspective.” synonymous with “hermetic tradition.. 20.. pp. See Versluis. 16. 178–179. is into what did she translate this inner meaning. ed. pp. 23. For a discussion of Postel in relation to Christian theosophy. Ibid. . For a more extensive study. Ibid. Pollen and Fragments: Selected Poetry and Prose of Novalis (Grand Rapids: Phanes.. 28. Hermetica (Boston: Shambhala. See W.. p. The ‘true-rune and right spell’ of esoteric tradition contained the code for H. 1985). pp. p. the harsh world of necessity that Freud described is itself the “rune” that must be deciphered. p. Ibid. H. Ibid. p. 37. The Esoteric Origins of the American Renaissance (New York: Oxford University Press.1 ff. 248. Milosz. trs. . for a translation of Hymns to the Night. 13. For the poet of the modernist era. see Steven Bullock. 19. The question. p. 299. pp. Ibid. Friedman writes that “From her [H. 17. 40. Ibid. pp.. 2001). Milosz. 33. D. 174–175. cit. cit.. pp... 1981). 24. pp. 206–207. 29.. 41. 210–211. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. p. D. See Versluis.” when in fact there are numerous different esoteric currents of a wide variety. pp. Ibid. pp.115. pp.... of course. Milosz. 1996). Milosz. 277. hermetic tradition offered a pattern of meaning in coded form to the initiate . 300. 226–227.. Ibid. Scott. Ibid. 32. p. 1989). 455.. 25. D. 35. see Versluis. 34.. 30. pp. 38. Notes on Thought and Vision (San Francisco: New Directions. p. 48–52.. I. 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. 15.

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

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

Ibid. 120.29–30.. Rosenthal. 285. 199. Ibid. “Vorrede. 78. I. 124. See also The Destiny of Man. p. See Versluis. Song and Its Fountains (Burdett: Larson.. Christosophia IV . Ibid. 194 ff. Versluis. 63. 95. “Warnung an den Leser. Ibid. Ibid. Nicholas Berdyaev.. pp. A. 1994). Ibid. 1991).. Peter Erb. from “The Magic of Words: Symbolism.. 106. Ibid. 129. pp. 106. The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture (Ithaca: Cornell University Press. 122. 71 ff. ed. 126. 110.. 1980). p. 225. II. p. 130. Ibid. p.NOTES TO CHAPTER THREE 167 104. 112. 105. for example. Ibid.. 123. The Way to Christ (New York: Paulist Press. 170. Christosophia. 39. E. Ibid. 107. Toronto: 1948)... IV .. See. Ibid. 1958). Irina Gutkin. 93. Ibid. 103. p.1 ff.. 113. pp. Knapp. 62. . See Charles C. Ibid. 275 ff. p. Theosophia: Hidden Dimensions of Christianity (Hudson: Lindisfarne. 128. p. 127. p. p. 1997) p. 62–63. Religion and Nothingness (Berkeley: University of California Press. 116. 109.. See my overview of Christian theosophy in Magic and Mysticism. 1978). 121. 115. p. 40 and pp. 118.31. p. 74.. 114. Socialist Realism. 108 ff.” in B. 111.. p. See Berdyaev’s introduction to Jacob Böhme’s Six Theosophic Points (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan. 117. p... p. Diss. p. pp. I added the colors. The Beginning and the End (New York: Harper. 125.. 25 ff. pp. 119. 1957).1... 105. Ibid. 40. Futurism. 94. “Ancient Gnosticism and Christian Theosophy” in Studies in Spirituality (Fall 1997).D.. Nicolas Berdyaev: Theologian of Prophetic Gnosticism (Th. p.” and I. Ibid.” 108. Nishitani Keiji. Bromley’s is the image on the cover of my book Theosophia (1994).31. trs. forthcoming. Freedom and the Spirit. Ibid.


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

76. Christian. Margaret. 4. 30. 19 Kabbalah [or Cabala]. 7–8. John Scotus. 26–31. Samuel. Ralph Waldo. Wolfram von. 140 Hippolytus. 9 Eliot. 2. Benjamin. 138 Katz. Brian. 123–126. 79 Hieroedetic knowledge. 120. 112 Lull. 36–39 Gutkin. 19. 100. 56 Fludd. Robert. 10–12. Rulman. 127–128 Fama Fraternitatis. Johannes. Jewish. 104.. 46–52. 8–9 Isaac the Blind. 2. 18–21. 83. 52–54 Kabbalah. 31 Melville. 78 Gnosis. T. Max. 29 Mazet. 79–86. 56 Maier. 89–103 Hermetism. 109 Hermeticism. Albert. 82 Knight. 84 Lewis. 72 Jabir ibn Hayyan [Geber]. 84. 103–119 Hardenberg. 100 Marcus. 27–28 Gnosticism. 111 Esotericism [defined]. 12–15. 127 Loskiel. Jewish. 122 Koan. 1. 51 Eleusinian Mysteries. Jean. 88-89. 42. Edward. 63. 21 Heydon. 112 Friedman. 101 Freemasonry. 57 Eleazar of Worms. 2. 29 Hiram. 37 Esoteric Origins of the American Renaissance.S. 140 La Fontaine. 2. 109. 43–45. 56. Jane.. ix. 68. Antoine. Martin. Edmond. 127 Frankenberg. Ramon. 9. Dion. 89. 99 Grail cycle. 102 Lee. Johann Wolfgang. 1 Keeble. 155 Hermes [Trismegistus]. 44. 25 John. 51 Islam. 101–102 Frey. Georg Heinrich. Abraham von. 21–22 Hermetica. Victor Sogen. 7–8 Esotericism. 53. 126. 105 Eliade. 123. John. 90. 153–154 Eriugena. 105. 89. 111 Geheime Figuren.S. 11 Hutton. 112 Imagination. 151 Merswin. 65. 72–73 Faust. 54.. Irina. 104. 89. 8. 100 Hirst. 19–21. 55 Koran. 21. ix. 40 . 5 Hori. 57–59. 80–81 Fortune. 69 Franklin. Herman. Book of. 76 Maistre. 137 Goethe. 56 Jerusalem. 106 Eschenbach. 107. 139 H. 19. 82–83 Heidegger. Francis. 5. 22–24 Initiation. Susan. Steven. Gareth. 120–122. 19 Faivre. 8–9 Larronde. 75. 103. 77 Gelpi. 85 Merkabah mysticism. 25 Hinduism. 102 Leade. 104 Gichtel. Mircea. 103 Fuller. 22. 50. 95 Hartlib. 140 Eirenaeus Philalethes.D. 35.170 INDEX Eckhart. 104. Joseph de. 50. 129 Kelley. Meister. Carlos. Michael. Andreas. Johann Georg. 46. Friedrich von [Novalis]. 77 Flamel. Joseph Edward. Nicholas. 153 Homer. 111 Emerson. 102 Ernst. 28. 97. C. Désirée.

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

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

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

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