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. Art. Literature.

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

In memory of poet and scholar Kathleen Raine .


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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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



say, symbolic correspondences or “living nature.” It seems odd to exclude from one’s definition of esotericism authors such as Meister Eckhart or, to choose a twentieth-century example, Bernadette Roberts, when their work is clearly esoteric in the classic sense of being intended for a limited, elite audience “with ears to hear.” While one may indeed find ways to fit such via negativa gnostics into a schema of cosmological characteristics, it seems to me necessary to propose an elegant and simple definition of esoteric that will be useful for studying not only eighteenth-century Masonry or Rosicrucianism, but also the kinds of syncretic esotericism that one finds in the twenty-first century. Here, I use the word esoteric in a religious context to refer to individuals or groups whose works are self-understood as bearing hidden inner religious, cosmological, or metaphysical truths for a select audience. Such a definition can include alchemical, magical, Masonic, or gnostic groups or individuals, but in any case there is a separation between esoteric (from the Greek eso-, meaning “within” or “inner”) knowledge for a select audience and exoteric knowledge for the general populace. This definition includes the social-anthropologic sense of initiation as admission into a secret society, but extends it to include the full range of cultural works like those of literature and art, which may very well convey secrets hidden from the casual observer. It also includes the range of New Age or syncretic movements that emerged in the late twentieth century and that also claim access to hidden secrets of the cosmos. At the same time, this definition excludes the loose sense of esoteric as referring to the arcana of, say, computer functions or plumbing; it refers explicitly to knowledge of religious or cosmological mysteries.

I N I T I AT O R Y T R A N S M I S S I O N AND WESTERN ESOTERICISM In order to delve into the field of Western esotericism in relation to language and consciousness, we also will need to consider the nature of ‘initiation.’ This word carries a range of meanings, so we must begin by considering it. Literally, of course, the word means “beginning,” and this significance continues throughout its other meanings as well. The ‘initiate’ is one who has entered into a tradition or group. But beyond this, the word initiation takes on a variety of implications. In anthropology, the word generally is used for adolescents who undergo a tribal ritual and thereby enter into the community of adults. This is the sense in which the word is used by, for instance, Jean La Fontaine in Initiation, where he writes that the subject of his book is “rituals of initiation in the common sense of the term; that is, rituals of admission into secret societies . . . as well as those [rituals] which mark the passage between childhood and maturity.”7 But he hastens to add that initiation cannot be defined simply as ritual



admissions to groups, secret or not, because there are other elements generally involved. Among these are acquisition of powers through secret or special knowledge, and the crossing of a ritual boundary into special status defined by that knowledge. La Fontaine offers as examples of initiation several tribal groups and Freemasonry, and offers a largely sociological analysis of them. Yet there are other elements of initiation not dealt with in La Fontaine’s anthopological perspective that we must also consider. Mircea Eliade, in “Symbolism of the Initiatory Death,” draws our attention to initiation as a religious phenomenon, arguing that initiation entails a liquidation of one’s past and historical identity, and a reëntry into “an immaculate, open existence, untainted by Time.”8 Initiation, from a religious perspective, is a rebirth, a transition to a new or renewed mode of existence, a regeneration. This regeneration may take the form of transitional suffering in actuality, or it may entail symbolic suffering or entry into darkness and symbolic death, but in either case the initiate goes through a probationary period and then is born again into timelessness or immortality. This religious dimension of initiation is less commonly dealt with in contemporary social anthropology, but it is in fact closely tied with another aspect, that of lineage. Indeed, when we look at some religious traditions, we find that there is clearly an initiatory transmission of lineage carefully maintained. Examples of this can be found in Sufism, for instance, where the shaikh or master is the pupil of an earlier shaikh, whose line can thus be traced back historically to its founder as well as to the revelation of Muhammed. A similar concept of lineage can be found in Zen Buddhism, where in order to become a master or teacher, one must undergo considerable training, eventually receiving inka, or official recognition and entry into the historical lineage that goes back not only to the founder of that Zen lineage but to Shakyamuni Buddha himself. The concept here is that the historical lineage serves to convey the original and timeless spiritual insight of its originator; so the archaic symbolism of initiatory death and rebirth to which Eliade referred is transposed into the context of spiritual training, the verification and acknowledgement of the master, and entry into the company of the masters, at least for a few. Lineage, in other words, is historical transmission that can be traced from master to disciple who becomes master, who in turn has disciples, who in turn . . . Yet when we turn to Western European esoteric traditions, we find comparatively little of this pattern of historical transmission. The notable exception is Jewish Kabbalah, where there are in fact historical lineages of Kabbalistic masters; but when we turn to Christianity, or even to what may loosely be classified under Hermeticism (including alchemical and magical currents), we find somewhat less emphasis on such historical lines of transmission. And in fact the history of European Christianity reveals an unusual kind of bifurcation: on the one hand, we find a recurring tendency toward scriptural literalism and an



emphasis on the importance of belief in doctrine that could be characterized as exoteric; while on the other hand, we find the recurrence of more esoteric tendencies, largely if by no means exclusively in heterodox movements or individuals. But the hostility of the more exoteric Christians toward those inclined to esoteric Christianity of various kinds (not to mention recurrent persecutions) has meant that the historical circumstances in Christianity mostly disallowed the kind of direct master-pupil-master-pupil historical esoteric transmission that we see in, for example, Zen Buddhism. In my book on Christian theosophy in the tradition of Jacob Böhme, Wisdom’s Children (1999), I proposed what I call “ahistorical continuity” to describe the kind of continuity one finds between, for instance, Valentinean Gnosticism in antiquity and the theosophy of Jacob Böhme in the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries without any historical lineage connecting them. Like Ioan Culianu, I propose that there are certain esoteric characteristics implicit in a religious tradition, and that although they may be latent for some centuries, someone like Böhme rediscovers or reawakens them in light of his own creative spirit. Examples of these characteristics include an emphasis on Wisdom or Sophia as the divine feminine; the hebdomad as a cosmological principle; the demiurge or spiritus mundi as an opposition to spiritual awakening, and others. Thus there are numerous clear parallels between Valentinean Gnosticism and Böhmean theosophy, but Böhme did not derive his thought from the former; he is, rather, an example of an ahistorical continuity.9 But the concept of ahistorical continuity is descriptive, not explanatory, and the question still arises of how initiatory traditions are transmitted in the West in the absence of continuous historic lineages and in an often hostile, persecutory ambience when it is not, as in the case of Böhme, a matter of a spiritual genius creating or recreating an entire gnostic tradition. Where does an isolated alchemist learn to become a master alchemist? The answer, in brief, is through encoded or symbolic literature and art. In essence, that is what this book is about; it is an in-depth examination of how initiation can take place through the written word or image. For although there are certainly some initiatory lineages in the conventional sense, these are more exceptions than commonplace, and the written word or image is in fact the primary means of initiatory transmission in the West. This is so even when there is an alchemical master-pupil relationship, for the alchemical secrets are still conveyed via enigmatic literature and image and the master aids in unveiling them. There is, of course, a clear Asian analogy for this transmission that takes place in part through the written word or through images: the koan tradition in Soto and Rinzai Zen Buddhism. The koan tradition, its history and applications, is considerably more than we can deal with here, but it is worth our while nonetheless to at least develop it as a reference point. As is well known, the koan is usually defined in the West as a clever paradox designed to be in-

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

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

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

Pordage writes that in the Sophianic process of imaginative vision. who see the work as mirroring a process that they seek to undergo in themselves. analogous to that of the Zen student who seeks an objectified. thus sealing it off from oneself as merely an object to be manipulated by the intellect and revealing oneself as a closed reader. 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. who enter into a work imaginatively. a process explicitly closed to the exoteric reader. Closed readers—those who come to a work with predetermined theses that disallow their imaginative entry. to understand them. of whether that which is imagined or revealed in an esoteric work possesses any existence of its own. Sophia (divine Wisdom) herself tells him (the gnostic) that “I am come to make in you yourself this new invisible creation.” but this would be a purely exoteric answer that objectified the esoteric work of literature or art. graspable solution to a koan. not one’s own. From a contemporary rationalist perspective one might answer “no.” The gnostic. one is in fact entering imaginatively into the process Pordage is describing. and nothing less. Initiates. and 3. We can thus posit three kinds of readers of esoteric works: 1. When one reads an esoteric work like John Pordage’s treatise on Sophia. one must enter into them openly and on their own terms. imagination could also be seen as a faculty of perception and transmutation. inwardly in you and not constructed outside you. This leads us inevitably to the question with which we began. But there is a third perspective. in other words. 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. 2. Sympathetic readers.’ 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. For one does not have to conceive of imagination as a purely individual generative capacity. and this too presents problems.14 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E enter into the work and imaginatively undergo the process of awakening to the hidden realm that he is describing. Yet if we answer “yes. which is what I am proposing here.” we may well then be positing the realm of the imagination itself as something objectified that exists outside oneself. has awakened in him by divine Wisdom the creative power that brings external existence into being. but here a new magical earth is brought . 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. This does not mean that one jettisons reason and becomes a ‘true believer.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the very book that we are reading. One. But for our purposes. revealing the hidden forces beyond history and what happens to all humanity. 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). John is united with its knowledge. and finds it bitter in his belly. John is given a little book to eat. After the various accounts of Christ’s life and death in the Gospels. And it has immense power for this reason: by entering into its world of references. but sweet as honey on his lips. and by eating the book. twelves. and Hermetism. the way we see the cosmos itself changes.13). the most symbolically resonant image of all is that of the book. Every aspect of life is altered. of course. is the prophetic element: more than one group has identified itself with the “woman in the wilderness” in the twelfth chapter. possesses a special luminosity of symbolism that we may call “hieroeidetic. This image is amplified by the presence of book imagery throughout the entire work. we will recall.” symbolism charged with initiatory knowledge. Christ’s repeated assertion that “I am the Alpha and the Omega. Christian Gnosticism. The Revelation. of course. especially in the Book of Life wherein is written the names of those who belong to the Lamb (13. John eats the little book: it becomes part of him. we suddenly are given in the Revelation this overwhelming and astonishing visionary sequence that brings us completely outside the sphere of mundane human life. in other words. The word eidetikos in Greek refers to a particular kind of knowledge associated with shape or form. angels.” as well as the repetition of geometric and numerical symbolism such as the sevens. the Book of Revelation of St. we are eating his little book—we belong to a direct lineage or current. and although the word eidolon early in the modern era . symbolizing his union with the esoteric center of spiritual life. which has inspired countless commentaries or explanations. becoming symbolically charged. Another such element is the number and letter symbolism. In the tenth chapter. and Christ whose symbolic heart is the written word. there are “other books. And then there is. it is like a collective dream in which we participate simply by reading. John himself—for he is told to write by a voice from heaven (14.24 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E Western esotericism. which he does.9). Additionally. and one hundred forty-fours. By reading the Book of Revelation that John subsequently writes after eating the little book. of letters and numbers revealing the secret powers of the divine. found in Judaism. 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. Taken together. The Revelation of John has an oneiric quality. and are in a sense initiates. all remind us of the prior traditions. a gnostic encounter with elders.” during these the end times. The entire revelation is an unveiling of gnosis.” which are opened during the Last Judgment in order to see the lives of those being judged (20. and more than one group has seen itself as living during the end times.12).

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

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



ter, Ariadne, and a thread that led him out. The symbolism here is profound, and certainly reflects the ancient Mithraic mystery symbolism of the bull, the labyrinth of the world, and escape-rebirth. But perhaps we may adapt this symbolism to our own purposes, for when we consider the subject of gnosis, we too find ourselves in a labyrinth, and require some thread to guide us out. This thread is the topic of gnosis itself, for by exploring it, we will be far better prepared to understand the often bewildering variety of Western esoteric traditions. The word gnosis, because it is singular, implies that there is but one kind of gnosis, or spiritual knowledge. However, when we consider the range of religious literature, even that labeled “gnostic,” we seem to find a bewildering spectrum of gnoses. We might divide this spectrum into cosmological gnosis (insight into the hidden patterns in the cosmos), eschatological gnosis (insight into what transcends history and the cosmos), and metaphysical gnosis (insight into the divine), even though all of these may be seen as aspects of a single gnosis. And concerning metaphysical gnosis, or direct insight into the nature of the divine itself, we find two primary approaches that we may call visionary and unitive gnosis, corresponding to the via positiva and the via negativa discussed by Dionysius the Areopagite. The via positiva, or visionary approach, goes through images and the field of the imagination; the via negativa, or unitive approach, is the falling away of all images. It has become more or less commonplace, following Dionysius himself, to see the via negativa as superior to the via positiva. Dionysius writes that sacred revelation often proceeds through sacred images in which like represents like, while also using forms that are dissimilar, and even entirely inadequate and ridiculous (Cel. Hier. 140c). But he goes on to remark that a second way, of going beyond images entirely in the via negativa, is “more appropriate, for as the secret and sacred tradition has instructed, God is in no way like the things that have being, and we have no knowledge at all of his incomprehensible and ineffable transcendence” (Cel. Hier. 141a). What Dionysius observes here is extremely important, in particular his insistence on a secret and sacred tradition that the Divine completely transcends the realm of being. Dionysius’s observation—that God in no way resembles the things that have being—combats a tendency that, as we have already noted, is common to the traditions of the Book: taking writing literally. Literalism corresponds to what in Judaism was called “idolatry”: it reduces the Divine to human concepts that can be manipulated. This tendency may also be called “objectification,” and is a common function of language more generally. For language by its nature can separate us from what we are discussing: we objectify the Divine just as we objectify all that surrounds us, including nature and other people. But this process of objectification inherently separates us from what we see in this way: the very word God becomes a barrier to experiencing what that word means.



In other words, gnostic knowledge is fundamentally different from ratiocinative knowledge, and the language to express gnosis must reflect this difference. Ratiocinative (from ratio, measure between things) knowledge belongs to the realm of division into subject and object: ‘I’ discuss ‘that.’ Such is the basis for modern science, and ratiocinative knowledge can be widely disseminated as information or data. By contrast, gnosis belongs to a secret or intimate tradition and cannot be widely disseminated as information because it does not belong to the realm of information and division at all, but instead to what transcends division. The scientific or ratiocinative path moves toward ever greater data about what is external; the gnostic path moves toward ever greater intimacy with what transcends both internal and external. Gnosis, then, is not at all a matter of ‘I’ discussing ‘that,’ but of going beyond the very division between ‘I’ and ‘that.’ The question, of course, is how one moves toward gnostic knowledge, and the answers to this question in the West comprise the Western esoteric traditions. The essential division offered by Dionysius the Areopagite between the via positiva and the via negativa helps us begin to discuss these answers in a schematic way, not because these two ways are at all opposed to each other, but because they illuminate each other. Indeed, they correspond rather closely to what we see in the Tibetan Buddhist Vajrayana tradition, where visualization and a plethora of imagery express their own transcendence. The Prajnaparamita Sutra, with its verses on sheer transcendence of all that is sensory, does not invalidate but expresses the ultimate meaning of the countless Buddhist images often in the very hall where it is chanted. Likewise, in the Western esoteric traditions, one finds a vast range of imagery and means, but these are generally seen within the traditions as an expression of what transcends them. The problem here, and in language itself, is that it is all too easy to regard words or images as if they were the thing itself, to ‘fix’ or ‘congeal’ the inconceivable. This is a particularly likely problem when there is no widespread emphasis on the transcendent, as there is within Buddhism, or any continuous lineage of masters or teachers who could guide seekers or initiates. The Western esoteric traditions have largely remained catch-as-catch-can, defined perhaps best by the precarious relationship between an author and a reader through the medium of the book. And the Gnostic Basilides evidently recognized this, for in one of the only fragments attributed to him, he writes of the ineffable transcendent nothing, and notes that “what is called by a name is not absolutely ineffable, but it is not, for the truly ineffable is not ineffable, but ‘above every name which is named’ [Eph. 1.21] . . . Names are inadequate . . . Instead, by understanding without speech one must receive the properties of the things named” (Hipp. Ref. VII.viii). Actual direct experience of the transcendent is far more important than simply knowing the words. Basilides held that he belonged to a secret lineage that ran from Jesus to Matthias to himself, and primary in their revelation was nothingness, or



absolute transcendence. According to his rather bitter opponent Hippolytus, Basilides wrote that before the cosmos, “nothing” existed, “not matter, nor substance, nor the insubstantial, nor an absolute, nor a composite, not conceivable, or inconceivable, not sensible, not devoid of sense, not man, angel, or a god, nothing that has a name or is cognized by intellect” (Ref. VII.ix). Basilides’s emphasis—throughout what little we still have, quoted by Hippolytus from Basilides’s treatises—was consistently on sheer transcendence beyond the medium of human language, and corresponds to the via negativa of Dionysius the Areopagite. Indeed, given the series of negations here that very much resemble those of the Prajnaparamita Sutra in Buddhism, it is not surprising that Basilides is reputed to have been influenced by Buddhism. However, Basilides is not alone in his emphasis on the inconceivability of gnosis, its sheer transcendence of all ratiocination. So too Epiphanes wrote of the Gnostics that “The earliest originating principle was inconceivable, ineffable, and unnameable” (Ref. VI.xxxiv); and Marcus, during a Gnostic Eucharist, reportedly offered a chalice to a woman during the consecration, then received it back from her and said, ‘Grant that the inconceivable and ineffable Grace which existed prior to the universe, may fill thine inner man, and make abound in thee the gnosis of this grace, as she disseminates the seed of the mustard-tree upon good soil’ ” (Ref. VI.xxxv). A similar emphasis is to be found in Dionysius the Areopagite, in his treatise on the Divine Names, for instance, when he remarks that God is beyond all names and creatures, “transcendently and supernaturally, far above creatures, above their being and above their nature” (956B). He continues that “no unity or trinity, no number or oneness, no fruitfulness, indeed nothing that is or is known can proclaim that hiddenness . . . of the transcendent Godhead which transcends every being. There is no name for it and no expression” (981a). Paradoxically, by maintaining an emphasis on the ineffability of the divine, the Gnostics also maintained a via positiva of esoteric words, letters, numbers, and images. But this linguistic mysticism existed within the context of the absolute transcendence that it in fact manifests. In other words, letters, numbers, and images emerge out of the unbegotten, and represent the hidden patterns and harmonies of the cosmos that, by ‘following back,’ inevitably in turn lead one to the ineffable. It is well known that there are Hebrew systems of transforming letters into their numerical meanings, but what is perhaps less remarked upon is that there was an esoteric Greek tradition of such transformations too, probably carried over from Pythagorean and Neoplatonic sources. Thus we find the Gnostic Marcus maintained that the number of Jesus is 888, that the number of the dove is 801, and that the body of truth is composed of letters, the head by Alpha and Omega, the neck by Beta and Psi, and so forth. Sacred numbers, letters, and images reveal the esoteric forming powers of the cosmos. Each letter, according to this tradition, is produced by a particular

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

whether it be Trevrizent or Eschenbach himself who advises.” chiefly Saturn. of course. remains this-worldly in emphasis. in particular. then naming them one by one in Arabic. where suddenly they saw it written that a knight would come. of his good fortune and that he shall ask the Question. of course. for instance) and of not speaking when one oughtn’t. 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. but also with the changing of the moon. we are told explicitly that Anfortas’s suffering. although intrinsic to the tale inasmuch as it concerns the mysteries of the holy Grail and of the inscriptions upon it. for a knight comes to live with a princess on the condition that she never ask his name. the spotted knight. Yet this implicit esotericism. the two nodes of which are called the “dragon’s head” and the “dragon’s tail. For instance. was cared for by twenty-five women who by serving it are exalted.38 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E and of how the servants of the Grail fell on their knees before the Grail. but if he were forewarned of the Question it would turn harmful. This theme clearly holds for both men and women. we will recall.1 There are throughout this tale astrological references with esoteric implications. entertaining. then their sorrows would end. like so many of the Western esoteric currents. And at the book’s conclusion. just as is Western esotericism more generally. and indeed it may be that the fusion of this-worldli- . There remains one more aspect of the Grail tradition that we need to discuss further. like chivalric literature more generally. The Grail. Feirifiz outlines why Parzival shall do so by reference to the “seven stars” or planets. the Grail tradition is both independent and syncretic. intensifies with the “advent of the high planets. exists both within and without specific religious traditions. Rather. and that is the exalted position of women.” This conclusively links the planets to consciousness. and lost by asking the wrong one! Parzival is. the knight is told by Feirifiz. he is forced to leave—a repetition yet again of the constant theme throughout Parzival. Saturn to suffering. why the king suffered—but Parzival himself had not done this and thus had already failed. He was to ask. and that of all the Grail servers. we are left with a curious twist on the mystery of naming. and there is in this even a complementary relationship: a kingdom can be saved by asking the right question. and if he asked a Question. that of speaking when one ought to (asking the Question.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. When inevitably she does so. or still less into discussions of spiritual illumination. and at the end of the tale. Parzival. we are told again to honor and never denigrate women. but certainly it is safe to say that it also contains esoteric references central to the tale. we are told to honor women. And near the end of Eschenbach’s story of Parzival.

but with the five fingers. But there is an implicit esotericism that emerges in the work’s center. in Gawain as in Parzival. and is associated not only with the five wits or five senses. and. we see Arthur and the entire court laughing and enjoying Gawain’s tale. with the five wounds of Christ. continence. he ultimately feels shamed. And at this point we might remark on two aspects of this transformation. these being liberality. in the image of the pentangle. At the end of Gawain. the poem. trusts instead in the knotted “braided belt” given him by Morgan le Fay. And this green marks my second point of observation. All of these five categories add up to twenty-five. First. and are called together the “endless knot” by the Gawain-poet. This famous passage. loving kindness. courtesy. the number of maidens serving the Grail. Once again. like several others in the poem. and even wearing a sign of it themselves—a green one. For one certainly finds the same theme illustrated in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. and behind him is the figure of Morgan le Fay. Yet in the story’s conclusion. the five joys of the Virgin Mary with her Child. part of a tradition that.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. the first is the true knot. and piety. the explicit story is clearly one of virtue upheld. The Green Knight is a mysterious supernatural figure who puts Gawain to the test. Gawain’s symbol. For the color green has a special symbolism that recurs throughout medieval literature and is especially prominent in Gawain. as I have elsewhere shown. Thus the poem ends with the well known motto “Hony soyt qui mal pence. marking why Gawain is a fine man. and the second that of bewitchment and bewilderment. is not simply the repetition of letters and numbers for the way they sound. When Gawain. but a way of conveying secret or esoteric meanings within a poem outwardly devoted to the telling of a story. whose enchantments together with the Green Knight .HISTORICAL CURRENTS 39 ness and otherworldliness in the service of one’s chivalric duties and of the Grail is the key to chivalric literature more generally. part of a scribal code of letters that mark critical junctures in the work. instead of trusting only in this “endless knot” of the pentangle. reveals a fall and a redemption: the characters go through suffering into a renewed union on a higher level. Gawain is the story of a virtuous knight on his travels. And we should remember that Gawain is alliterative poetry. like Grail tales more generally. This esoteric symbolism emerges especially in the author’s discussion of the pentangle.” meaning that good comes forth out of evil. when Gawain to his shame tells the story of how he was fooled into wearing that braided belt. is marked with a tiny colored initial. the five virtues. where we are told that this sign comes from Solomon himself. of course. 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.

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

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

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

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

‘Is your Beloved in the world then?’ He answered.’ They asked him. and by writings. all errors are implanted in the world. since there is absolutely no doubt that Lull himself extensively used figures. His brief alphabet extends from B to K (excluding J) and includes a range of mean- .’”5 The world is a book for those who can read: this is a constant refrain within the Western esoteric traditions from antiquity to the present. we find the following: “They asked the Lover. but are also familiar to us from our examination of the Western esoteric traditions more generally. and so the relationship between humanity and the divine is that of a reader and a writer. Further. and profaning holy things with figures. Lull himself was certainly accused of an inordinate and presumptuous lust for knowledge in the pursuit and teaching of this art. some “insult the Name of God with curses and incantations.” In this falsified knowledge.’ ‘And in what does this book consist?’ ‘In my Beloved. Of course. images. by seeing the Sign of God in the east. Lull created a kind of Christian Kabbalism. just as the writer is in his book. and therefore the world is in my Beloved. Here we find a clear condemnation. But there is one theme above all others which we have been tracing that emerges clearly here. Such a proviso is particularly appropriate for Lull’s own work. not of figures. he condensed his art into nine letters. which emerges from “a lust for knowledge and presumption. By means of these letters. that is. Spiritual knowledge is also celestial memory or remembrance. we are also participating in this relationship. rather than my Beloved in the world.” But the Lover corrects this through the remembrance of truth. but for purposes of clarity. and that is the book. meant to reflect that of humanity to the divine. and images. Lull used more letters. whose influence extended across Europe. as the readers of Lull’s book. each of which has multiple meanings and is used to create figures and reveal the principles within all that we see. and writings. And through presumption. which he claimed to be a universal system of knowledge that allows one to see into the universal nature of all things and of the Divine. there is a profanation of this true reading and writing. west. was a means of investigating and coming to understand the true nature of things. engraved in precious jewels and worn on him in order to always remind him. but of those done with the wrong attitude. This extraordinary art. For in a delightful appendix consisting of questions posed to the Lover. north and south. ‘It is a book for those who can read in which is revealed my Beloved. ‘What is the world?’ He answered. Originally. The cosmos represents the divine writing. as well as from the Grail tradition in particular. and writings in themselves.44 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E Sufism. and is founded on a special kind of alphabet. since my Beloved contains all. out of arrogance or presumption. most of all in the exposition of his art. invoking evil spirits as good angels. images. investing them with the names of God and of good angels. ‘Yes. However.

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

he was thrown into a dungeon by one of the king’s retinue.”36 Here we return to the themes of the Book of Revelation—and despite the more or less prosaic terms of this testament. two of living sulphur. Norton tells the story of how he himself was robbed of all he had. and Cremer’s testament does corroborate it. The briefest and most specific of the three treatises is that entitled the “Treatise of Cremer. There is a long tradition of monasteries as sanctuaries for secret knowledge. three of rabusenum. and so was let go. two of orange arsenic. Here we have a “full and accurate account of Alchemy without using any obscure technical terms.”35 And indeed. Here reading can take place on multiple levels at once—there is the prosaic reading of instructions. and tortured for four years. strong and pure.” and add to it five ounces of petroleum. his last testament. Cremer in this. a man named Herbert. of .” Benedictine abbot of Westminster. of course. 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. was betrayed to King Edward by an assistant named Delvis who had been sworn to silence.HISTORICAL CURRENTS 59 and much more inclined to tell stories. To publish widely his alchemical testament would be to divulge what should remain the secret of those presumably capable of bearing its power. All are to be mixed in the “bath of Neptune. But also he is invoking the very language of the Book of Revelation. are the sufferings of those who aspire to a knowledge of the Art. 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. so as not to lose legibility over time. After admonitions about how we must avoid deceit and self-delusion. and “whoever does not observe this my mandate. Dalton said he was happy to die. and prepared in about four days. and then of how a certain Thomas Dalton.” in a well-stoppered glass jar. and given Cremer’s explicit instructions. we can understand why he should impose such conditions. 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 that all Norton’s instructions are useless except to the wise in light of direct experience. let his name be blotted out from the Book of Life. as opposed to literary and figurative allusions. itself an esoteric text made exoteric. and two of willow charcoal. This invocation of the Book of Life naturally suggests one of our primary themes in the study of Western esotericism: reading. Even though Dalton had discarded the Red Powder because it had become a source of grief and anxiety. who possessed a larger quantity of the Red Powder than any Englishman. and protected by precisely the same invocation of the Book of Life. Such. In recent times. tells us to “take three ounces of tartar of good claret. we are told. Eventually sentenced to death and brought before the executioner. Only after such warning tales are we told in more specifics of the nature of the Art. His testament is to be copied every sixty years. and the secret is not to be given out to anyone except the Abbot and Prior of the monastery.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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



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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and so it is not surprising to find his work filled with countless references to figures and works as diverse as Boethius and the Corpus Hermeticum. and Rosicrucianism. John’s College in Oxford. 1617). on which he explicitly drew. and eventually returned to England to receive his doctorate in medicine. of course.” published in Leiden. flourished in the vicinity of Jewish scholarship and Kabbalism. in 1616 and 1617.80 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E cathedrals of medieval Europe. the Kabbalah. Fludd was among the first to develop a comprehensive esoteric framework for seeing the world. semireligious occult fraternity. if as a fraternity it had ever really existed at all. the conventional way of advertising one’s desire to join the fraternity. Masonry. and having left his military career to become a justice of the peace in Kent. and among his primary influences were Kabbalism. to a speculative. his father. Robert Fludd went to St. clearly sought to incorporate the full range of human knowledge into his theosophia perennis. not surprisingly. but the Freemasons endured the longest. and the sciences. the exact history of this transformation is sketchy at best. and although . Fludd. Such publication was. Indeed. Plato and the Bible. and its universalist esotericism became immensely influential in Masonic circles chiefly through the auspices of Robert Fludd and Elias Ashmole. Physica Atque Technica Historia [History of the Macrocosm and Microcosm] (Oppenheim: de Bry. Of course. Martianus Capella and. the arts. but as an influence Rosicrucianism remained powerful. of course. contact probably having its origins in the lengthy period of communication between Islamic. Certainly it is the case that Rosicrucianism as a movement dried up fairly early. Like Paracelsus himself. and during this time began work on his major treatises. Jewish. intended as a vast compendium of human knowledge including theosophy. primarily because of Kabbalistic influence that allowed Freemasonry to transform itself completely from a society devoted to the arts of building. Fludd was somewhat contentious as a young physician. Robert Fludd (1574–1637) was born into a Shropshire family. 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. having received a knighthood for his military service. and Christian circles in Spain and Provençe. It is true that there were other such guilds with their own rites and mysteries. but it is clear that like Rosicrucianism. Indeed. traveled for a time as a tutor to aristocratic families on the Continent. 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. (where he probably began to learn Paracelsian medicine). to whom the term Renaissance man could certainly be applied. Sir Thomas Fludd. Freemasonry became the nexus for many prior esoteric traditions. including his encyclopedic Utriusque Cosmi Maioris Scilicet et Minoris Metaphysica.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 ) .Figure 2 Another alchemical image M i c h a e l M a i e r. from .

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

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

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

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

O p u s M a g o . as well as the prominence of the figure of the eye. (Frankfurt: 1784). .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. Note the threedimensional nature of the illustration.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

”4 He discerned “a new mysticism.” telling us that “poetry. have received and already know. thieves of joy and pain. to survive not only our industrial civilization but also Space-Time itself. that he anticipated a new poetry. summarizing in some respects his life’s work. and from its fellow humanity and seemingly set adrift as an isolated being. Contemporary sciences are founded in observation of the cosmos. Milosz himself wrote in a brief and late treatise on poetry. turn their attention inward and become careful observers of the inner landscape. the immense devastation of the self as it is torn asunder from the divine. crown of human knowledge.” or “Canticle of Knowledge. n’entendront rien à ces choses. ayant demandé. insisting instead on the inner creative life of the artist. [The teaching of the sunlit hour of the divine nights. and in particular. [For those who.]”7 . Milosz experiences this inner devastation as well as the powerful creative life awakened when one enters into the living realm of the spiritual imagination. At this juncture.”5 And he writes of the “sacred art of the Word. and like Blake. it will no doubt be useful to look more closely at some of Milosz’s work. having asked. / A ceux que la prière a conduits à la méditation sur l’origin du langage. de science et d’amour. The “Canticle” begins with the striking line: “L’enseignement de l’heure ensoleillée des nuits du Divin. but indeed. from the cosmos. and does not in general investigate the nature of the observer’s own consciousness. will understand nothing of these things.” from The Confession of Lemuel (1918). on reçu et savent déjà. Milosz’s work is explicitly dedicated not only to entering into this realm of the spiritual imagination. which “will contribute in large measure to realizing an inner synthesis of the great discoveries in physical chemistry. as the organizer of archetypes. at his “Cantique de la Connaissance. they are all intimately aware of the great schisms taking place in modern humanity. This isolation Blake rails against in his epic poems. “setting out from proven scientific foundations. Cartographers of consciousness.”6 Thus he addresses his writings not to the present age but to the future reader who will experience this new poetry and synthesis of all the disciplines. / Les autres. qui. to join up with ancient teachings. / For those whom prayer has led to meditation on the origin of language. les voleurs de douleur et de joie. the observer looks outward. and especially in Milosz. which Milosz experienced at eleven o’clock in the evening. the passionate pursuit of the Real. / Others. and especially the figures we are discussing here. and also prehistory and archaic history. knowledge and love. through a new metaphysics. But the poet. on 14 December 1914.” which. astronomy. seems bound. to awakening it in his reader.” which “springs from the hidden depths of Universal Being. seems called upon.]” Thus the canticle is devoted to teaching on the nature of spiritual illumination. The canticle continues: “A ceux.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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

looked forward to the day that the Jews would be converted to Christianity. we cannot help but notice the parallel focus on Judaism and Kabbalah. passing through the Pre-Socratics. Milosz not only had studied and read Hebrew. Swedenborg. alias René Descartes. Martinez de Pasqually. We can see how deeply Milosz’s fascination with Judaism penetrated his work by examining his final poem.” and . The Rosicrucian Polybius the Cosmopolitan.”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 it reveals at the heart of all things “a single new word.” Milosz continued.”27 “Psalm of the Morning Star” is so suffused in Hebrew and in Old Testament language as to be inseparable from them. [a single new word the same / heart as in the time of the fathers beats in wood / stone and water of all that returns there is / nothing new all those things were sleeping / in closed books the books have opened themselves / beneath my hand. the disciple of the Kabbalist Raymond Martini. but kept a Bible in Hebrew nearby as a constant reading companion.” 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. In the “Psalm” we read of another primary theme.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.26 If we see here the depth of Milosz’s focus on Hermeticism in history. Swedenborg.]28 The peculiar rhythm of the lines and line breaks makes this poem unusually difficult to follow. These writers—and also Jewish exegesis—exerted a decisive influence upon Blaise Pascal. that of the word and the book: un seul mot nouveau le même / cœur qu’au temps des pères bat dans le bois la / pierre et l’eau rien de tou cela qui revient / n’est nouveau toutes ces choses dormaient / dans les livres fermés les livres sous mes / mains se sont ouverts. from Egypt up to today. Claude de Saint Martin. he was well acquainted with Jewish Kabbalism. sought in them peace of spirit. Plato. and then with his “spiritual guides: Goethe. but in the tradition of many Christian Cabalists. Eugène Ledrain. the mystical eighteenth century.” first with his teacher of Hebrew.” 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 Neoplatonists of the Middle Ages. as when the poem refers to the “betrothed sister of the new canticle. the School of Alexandria. “Psaume de l’Étoile du Matin [Psalm of the Morning Star]. The allusions to Milosz’s favorite doctrines and language are here hidden in the allusions to Hebrew names and places.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bore the names of Cammerhof. it poured from the sky or from the inner realm of the Spirit. done in their picture-writing. .” so he “made notes of tones and rhythms of their voices. as to what was to be the relationship in future between the white-men and the Indians. Greek. indeed. but all of them. had a name for. Mamalie continues. though. the Christian initiates of the fateful meeting at Wunden Eiland. in particular the Shawnee. it was the outpouring of the Mystic Chalice that Paxnous’ priest too.” This scroll. “like scales running up and down.” only driven “underground” to resurface with Count Zinzendorf and his disciples. it is not a confabulation of H. this laughter that ran over us. According to Mamalie. She and her . D.” but that “wasn’t really destroyed. laughing all the time. they conducted a syncretic ritual that joined the spiritual traditions of the two peoples.” not just Minne-ha-ha. He said it would be impossible to follow the language without the music. she draws upon historical fact in order to build a larger mythos.”66 How did Mamalie know so intimately what it was like. Zeisberger and Christian Seidel. Already tracts of land further north were depleted of their wild animals. along with a list of “medicine-men or priests of the Indian tribes. she decoded it from the cryptic musical notations and multilingual script of the parchment kept in the birchbark case. altogether.65 In this spiritual meeting of the medicine men and the Moravian initiates. This rapport is historically verifiable. Hebrew. this meeting of the Moravians and Indians under the sign of the Great Spirit / Holy Spirit? She was a musician. .” Pyrlaeus passed on a scroll written “in curious characters. it was the laughter of the water. Johann Christoph Pyrlaeus was a musician who collected “Indian words and sayings and made a dictionary of them.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 115 [reportedly] had been destroyed and obliterated by the Inquisition. As Mamalie put it in her narrative to Hilda: In fact. said Mamalie. The most important scene for this gnostic drama. kept in a birch-bark case. though. chiefly through the narrative of elderly Mamalie. Pyrlaeus. where the Moravians came during the eighteenth century and immediately formed a rapport with the American Indians. was to decide the future of the whole country . and Indian dialects and writing and marginal notes of music. and a hundred years after this ritual meeting and descent of the Holy Spirit took place. not least because the Moravians respected Indian spirituality. the Moravians were accused of scandalous behavior. but this was untrue.62 Like the Templars.”64 The Indians and the Moravians indeed had an unusual relationship.” “the laughter of leaves. the answer given by the Spirits. so that “It was laughing. to give the answer that the warriors had debated at their councils.’s.63 In The Gift. of snow swirling. of wind. is not Europe but North America. The Moravians and the Indians under the chief Paxnous met in order to let their guiding spirits determine the fate of white-Indian relations.

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

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

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

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

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

calling down the powers. to do full justice to these descriptions of the planetary powers’ arrival. lynx-eyed thoughts” “rolling to and fro like glittering drops. . They thought it would burn their bones. sticky gums . In this chapter. . where Ransom (the Pendragon) and Merlin sit. . full of wordplay and puns and metaphors.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. In this chapter of Lewis’s novel. . . unmitigated. or between “sub-creation” of a “secondary world” and magical effects on the “primary world” of this earth. until his outraged senses forsook him. bright and ruthless.” Merlin and Ransom tremble. and there we see a “rod of coloured light. the narrator imagines what it must be like to enter the house. “laden like heavy barges that glide nearly gunwale under . here. 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. To keep their beams upon this spot of the moving Earth’s hide. We encounter how people ordinarily encounter Mercury. for “the whole house would have seemed to him to be tilting and plunging like a ship in a Bay of Biscay gale. in which none other than the ancient . and the Blue Room.”80 It is not really possible. such a distinction does not hold up well at all. sharp. where the invocation has its center. They were blinded. there are two scenes: a room where several ordinary people sit. “I do not think he could have reached the door unbidden. Fallen upon them direct from the Third Heaven. but it is in the description of the Blue Room that Venus truly comes alive. brisk merriments. sweet-scented and full of desire. so well-crafted and evocative are Lewis’s words. that the visitants in that room were in it not because they were at rest but because they glanced and wheeled through the packed reality of Heaven .” “He would have known sensuously. Clearly Lewis is describing a magical working: the invocation of the planetary powers. awakening dormant passion in the people in the kitchen.” the narrator tells us. They could not bear that it should continue. In the beginning of the chapter. . They could not bear that it should end. deafened. then we imaginatively enter the Blue Room. Laden with ponderous fragrance of night-scented flowers. . Into the Blue Room come summer breezes. and then comes the goddess: “fiery. .”79 After Mercury arrives Venus. in the white-hot furnace of essential speech.” Ransom “found himself sitting within the very heart of language.”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. scorched. outspeeding light: it was Charity . A soft tingling and shivering as of foam and breaking bubbles. ready to die. ready to kill. They experience “needle-pointed desires. 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. were it possible.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

of his solitary walks in the countryside. [14 January. with the white compassionate temples of the clouds floating in wise happiness and detached love. But deep underneath flows the secret stream. A winter of the spirit is over all society. Denies the artist. on the other his works are infused with profound criticisms of the “insect-life” of modern industrial society. The aphorism is in many respects the most poetic form of prose. Totnes. 1945.95 In 1965. It is this official denial of life that confronts us in everything. I know of your existence. I long for my race. even as they transmit that worldview to the reader. when in fact it is quite clear that we are ruled today by the elite of scientific technocrats and politicians . I long for my kingdom. and most holy are you O beautiful servants. I remember you. one is placed in contact with another reality through them. the aphorism by its nature stands on its own surrounded by the white space of the page. to come to fruition. Devonshire]94 He writes beautifully also of his life in nature. By reading Collins’s aphorisms. and this from a comparatively early period in his work.” or again. But here I wander. is imbued always with spiritual significance.130 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E worldview. and the task of the artist is to remind us of this. he writes: O holy ones I long for you. A frustration of all that which is growing. so that the reader has a greater task than in prose works. In “Hymn of Life.’ must make intellectual connections individually. Collins gave a public lecture titled “The Artist in the New Age. of how “The tasting of these things in our days and nights is the partaking of the sacrament of existence.” 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. of “The long eternal afternoons robed in blue.” consisting in excerpts from Collins’s journals during the Second World War. If Collins loved solitude and nature on the one hand. Our time denies. and my life with you. 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. and I know nothing. denies all who have inward fruit.” Ordinary life in the natural world. to show us the hieroedietic beauty of life through art. of all that which desires to give. the human being. But you exist. we are all exiles. for Collins. and cheap vulgarity of attitude towards life on the other side. the contemplative. The coldness of the vanity of the intellect on one side. for he must ‘leap the gaps.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

regard the book itself as a primary means of transmitting the tradition. it is rather difficult to find any cases of such initiatory lineages even within the broad sphere of Western esotericism. or masters. Certainly there were such nascent initiatory lineages early in the Christian era among gnostic circles. where it is traditionally said that one must be initiated by an alchemist in order to work the magistery. who were in turn taught by a spiritual master. much less in Christianity specifically. which indeed still finds them audiences today. and it may also be the visionary Mysterium Magnum of Jacob Böhme or an alchemical manuscript. even in this case it is not a matter of an initiatory master-disciple tradition in quite the same way as we see in Sufism. and what is more. where the tradition . Hermes.140 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E Bible or the Jewish Talmud or the Islamic Koran. but it is a peculiar fact that the three major monotheist traditions— Judaism. other than occasional fragmentary lists and the perfunctory listing of such figures as Plato. However. where initiatory lineages seem largely broken. In Hinduism or Buddhism. it seems entirely possible that Christianity and Western esoteric traditions more generally. gurus. This would certainly explain why figures like Meister Eckhart or Johannes Tauler did not found initiatory lineages of disciples. Even in the case of alchemy. and Christianity—have a specific reverence for the sacred book. Given our overview. for instance. and so on back into antiquity. there are virtually no available records on any such actual initiatory lines in Western European literature. It is true that many of the world’s religious traditions include sacred writings. 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. interrupted. and indeed even farther back. but rather relied upon the written word. the traditions are largely continued by means of initiatory lineages of teachers. But in all cases the mode of transmission is in some sense a book. and Geber. but it is quite another for the writing itself to become so primary as the sacred writings of the three monotheistic traditions. Islam. and in Judaism with Kabbalah. Thus we are left with the enigma of Western esotericism. but also as a primary means of spiritual transmission. Such initiatory continuity is found also in Islam with Sufism. or in Buddhism. or nonexistent. But perhaps there is a solution to this general absence of initiatory lineages. rely upon the written word not only as a focus for oral communication or transmission. But what about Western esotericism in the Christian world? Why are there virtually no verifiable traditional initiatory lineages like those we find in other traditions? There are of course exceptions—one thinks in particular of Freemasonry and its claims to a continuous lineage going back at least to the time of the Knights Templar. Indeed. It certainly fits well with Kabbalistic mysticism. but there is no evidence that any of these continued even into the medieval period.

and his method of “writing the names” until one enters ecstasy. but also on writing as an actual means of spiritual illumination. of Abraham Abulafia. naturally. in addressing this far-off “son. whatever one . Thus we can conclude that the writing itself is meant to have an initiatory function. Milosz. particularly the works of Böhme. the divine is seen to inhere in language generally. Is it possible for writing alone to serve as means of initiation? Naturally. are not simply decorations. Indeed. who. of course. to some future initiate in a far century. These illustrations. have been adorned with copious illustrations. but who rather offered the world only written works.’ a means of conveying ‘information. but also because he quite clearly saw himself as an illuminant who by writing was also transmitting this illumination into the future. it seems obvious that the poetry is intended not only to describe but also to evoke the kinds of consciousness it represents. whether it be in Kabbalah or alchemy or theosophy.’ or ‘data’. hieratic. But if the word initiation is taken to refer to an awakening of higher degrees of consciousness. is unquestionably an exemplary figure not least because he consciously represented in his work virtually the entire range of Western esoteric traditions. but . And one recalls the Rosicrucians. who never revealed themselves publicly at all. the answer to this question depends upon what one means by initiation. initiatory. In modern parlance.” had no prospect of actually meeting or initiating him directly—his poetry and prose had to serve that function. If by this word one is referring to some kind of ceremony or ritual involving a group of people. the writing of someone who has actually realized the tradition’s aim of spiritual illumination. That is to say. and in particular at its strange. when we look at the writing of Milosz. and specifically in revealed or illuminated writing. Such a view of the written word is. rather far indeed from most contemporary perspectives. it is a means of horizontal communication between two discrete people. One thinks here. V Milosz. to write in all of these traditions means something quite different. often strikingly beautiful. Somehow. Christian theosophic literature. Such evocation is. Milosz’s future reader would have to become Milosz’s initiated successor by way of Milosz’s writing alone. may think of his poetry.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 141 focuses a great deal not only on mystical exegesis. for in all cases. I believe. for example the famous ones accompanying Gichtel’s well-known edition of Böhme’s works. By contrast. then it is indeed possible for the written word to serve this function. which in turn generated a host of further written works—as if the written word itself were the primary means of individual and social transformation. and insists that the word can only mean direct contact between two living people. writing is essentially a ‘collection of signs. for it above all has what we may call a ‘vertical’ aspect. We see exactly such a view in the figure of O. dreamlike language and imagery. Let us take another example. it assumes that writing has a sacred origin and purpose. then of course writing could not be initiatory in itself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

political. Hidden within literature truly worth reading and within all great art is a nostalgia for paradise. including paintings. Paradoxically. anything that can be read or written. where to be truly master means to serve in loving compassion. have at their center this mystery of the word. for all their diversity. This meeting on the field of the imagination I have called “hieroeidetic knowledge. in the meeting and reading and writing of all the infinite forms that consciousness can take. there can be no doubt that the Western esoteric traditions. language is indeed divine. encompassing all manner of hieroglyphs. a calling toward what we are meant to be. our authentic self is confirmed: in this is the mystery of literature and ultimately of the union of self and other in consciousness. It can lead us. with nature.’ but embodies different orders of knowledge at once. Here the word language takes on more than the usual valence. and with the divine in the field of authentic freedom.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 157 appears to be other—the cosmos and the divine—turns out in this process of revealing the fundamental self-other unity to be in fact indivisible from our inner nature. But in any case. or even linguistic construction. . The Western esoteric traditions.” And from such knowledge we may pass to what entirely transcends consciousness. Thus we can see that insofar as it emerges from and draws us toward its own and our own transcendence. write and are written. joined together with one another. from a ‘thrown’ or ‘fallen’ condition of divided. alienated consciousness toward a mutuality of awareness that takes place on the infinitely plastic field of the imagination. We read and are read. that mysterious point out of which the geometry of language emerges. seen as a whole. so Western esotericism suggests. Such a view of the word is far indeed from seeing literature as merely a social. for here literature is not merely a collection of ‘signs’ or ‘signifiers. And the means of conjoining self and other turns out to be precisely what at first seems the principle of separation: language itself. as the sense of self and other diminishes. take their place among the world’s philosophic and religious traditions as uniquely literary paths toward paradise.


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

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

1961). See A.. 31. I. 29. 12. Ibid.. trs. (London: Soncino.. II. 1987). ed. 51. 1953) I. Origins. 20. The Christian Interpretation of the Cabala in the Renaissance (Port Washington: Kennikat. . 23. Ibid. 197. 1965). as well as Antoine Faivre and F. Cassirer. I..325. p. 7. 24. 8. (Hildesheim: Olms.320–323. cit.B. See Arthur Edward Waite. Ibid. p.. See Verman. p. Ibid. 30. Vasoli. C. 61. Ibid. Rabbi Moses Nahmanides: Explorations. The Books of Contemplation (Albany: State University of New York Press. 34. et al.. The Hermetic Museum (London: Watkins. I.314... Origins. see also Moshe Idel. 1983). 1964). 66. p. pp. Ibid. 270.NOTES TO CHAPTER TWO 161 6. 246. 33. 11. p. Ibid.77. p. for instance. See Pico della Mirandola. 27. IV . Ibid. See J. II. 25.351. 1986). 57. 1779). cit. See Scholem. 298 ff. See “Oration on the Dignity of Man” in E. 59. ed. I. p. 1979). See Moshe Idel. 35. pp.. p. 278. Gershom Scholem.312. ed.. See Verman. Ibid. 22. p. A. Ibid. 9. 14. 28. 1985).205b. Opera omnia. p.75. 394. A translation of Ars Brevis is to be found in Ramon Lull. p. 32. Cassirer. Zohar IV . 10. 38.. p.. op. cit. M. 36. Les Kabbalistes chrétiens de la Renaissance (Paris: Dunod. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 18. 1988). Simon. Ibid. ed. I. 250.. The Early Kabbalah (Paulist Press... 21. Kabbalistes chrétiens (Paris: Albin Michel. Joseph Blau. p. p. 52. I. p. in The Zohar.. 101–102. Twersky. Doctor Illuminatus. (Princeton: Princeton University Press.. p. 57. 197.. trs.. 26.76... 13. op.331. II. Tristan. I. Ibid. 49–50.C. Scholem. Bonner.205b–206a. II. Origins. Ibid.71.80 ff. 15. Ibid. See. ed. and Françoise Secret. 1969). See Mark Verman. vom Stein der Weisen (Berlin: Christian Ulrich Ringmacher. Kabbalah: New Perspectives (New Haven: Yale University Press. 1984). 19. 17. 37. op. The Renaissance Philosophy of Man (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 280. eds. Origins of the Kabbalah (Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1992). p. see also Scholem. 29. Dan. 16. Ibid..

1971). Josten. 129. 251. 56. Ibid. Resicrucian Enlightenment. for the reader’s convenience. . ms. p. 1966).M. Ibid. .P.. including two physicists.77. see Donald Dickson. and even chart them astrologically. I. Confessio. “Christian Theosophy and Ancient Gnosticism” in Studies in Spirituality (Fall.M.. 220. Frances Yates. Fama. 46. . 241. Elias Ashmole (Oxford: Clarendon. 44. Ibid. 40. 22. Robert Fludd and the End of the Renaissance (London: Routledge. 1998). 1999). 53. Wisdom’s Children: A Christian Esoteric Tradition (State University of New York Press.. and the Continuity of the Occult in English Literature (Ph. Ibid. 43. From von Welling. The Tessera of Antilia: Utopian Brotherhoods and Secret Societies in the Early Seventeenth Century (Leiden: Brill. p.162 NOTES TO CHAPTER TWO 39. See. (Cassel: Wessel. The first English translation was published by Thomas Vaughan in 1652. I have translated this work of Pordage. 242. p. . University of Texas at Austin. Theatre of the World. The original (short) titles of Fama and Confessio were Allgemeine und General Reformation. II. p. diss. and others. ed.O. I. M. p. 1615). Fama. 1614) and Secretioris Philosophiae Considertio brevis . See Frances Yates. a cosmologist. See Versluis. p. and also written an extensive commentary on it. 1997). 47. See also Marsha Schuchard. Ibid.. 55. 238. 257. Ibid. ed. especially on Gichtel’s and other theosophers’ tendency to carefully date their revelations. 63. for text. table of contents. 37. 58. and The Rosicrucian Enlightenment. 49.D.. The texts of the Fama and Confessio in English are most easily found as appendices to Yates. p. (Cassel: Wessel.. p. p. 255. p. 221. p. Fama. See Versluis. Ashmole. 57.A.O. Confessio. Secret Societies... cit. Opus Mago-Cabbalisticum et Theosophicum (Frankfurt: Fleischerischum. D. p.. See Codex Rosae Crucis D.: A Rare and Curious Manuscript of Rosicrucian Interest. Confessio. 62. 252. For an excellent survey of the scholarship since Yates. Ibid. Ashmole. 49. 42. 60. The Alchemy of Art. See. . 45... Ibid. 1972). 48.. Freemasonry. p. p.. 67. p. 50. p. 41. 59. Yates. forthcoming. Fama. See Versluis. a theologian. This commentary was shared with people from diverse walks. 52. 1975).. 54. C. 1784). 371. p. (Los Angeles: Philosophical Research. See Josten. der gantzen weiten welt .. Confessio. 1988). 51. Ibid.A. p. 61. 253.102–104. 260.. William Huffman. Ibid. H.681. a musician. Hall. The following page references are to Yates. in a group called the Round Table. 77. p.. 246. Ibid. Ibid. The Rosicrucian Enlightenment (London: Routledge. op. for background. Ibid.

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

pp.. pp. Ibid. 180–181. p.1 ff. 182–183.. cit. trs. Ibid. Milosz. pp. 40.115. See Versluis. 157–206. cit. 25. 26. For a discussion of Postel in relation to Christian theosophy. Friedman writes that “From her [H. p. 174–175. 19. 13.. op. 48–52.’s] perspective. The ‘true-rune and right spell’ of esoteric tradition contained the code for H. 24. Ibid. Ibid. Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. pp. pp.. pp.. 1996). Ibid. I.. ranging from entirely cosmological ones such as astrology or the Tarot to more metaphysical or gnostic ones. see Versluis.” synonymous with “hermetic tradition.. pp. 303. pp. hermetic tradition offered a pattern of meaning in coded form to the initiate . Ibid. p.. 21. Ibid. 17.. D. 39. 14. pp. 20. Lib. The question.” when in fact there are numerous different esoteric currents of a wide variety. . pp. 1981). 204–205. See W. 469. H. Susan Friedman. See Versluis. 16. the harsh world of necessity that Freud described is itself the “rune” that must be deciphered.. pp. Ibid.. I. D. for a translation of Hymns to the Night. Scott. 297–298. in her search to translate the inner meaning of material reality” (p. 465.. 224–225. 210–211.. Milosz. 33. 41. Ibid.164 NOTES TO CHAPTER THREE 12.. Ibid. D.. Ibid. 464. Ibid. p. 35. 8–9.. . p.. p. Ibid. 299–300.. 1982). 38.. Ibid. . 37. of course. 248. 299. 31. Ibid. Ibid. see Steven Bullock. 206–207. 300. 178–179. 296. 23.. introduction by Albert Gelpi. 1994). 22. For a more extensive study. 1985). 455. For the poet of the modernist era. p. op. The Esoteric Origins of the American Renaissance (New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 226–227. Milosz. p. Pollen and Fragments: Selected Poetry and Prose of Novalis (Grand Rapids: Phanes. p.. 28. 158). ed. 34. is into what did she translate this inner meaning. Ibid. pp. 36. 29. 32. 15. 277. Ibid. p. cit. Ibid. Ibid. 1989). 30. 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. Milosz.. 18. pp. Psyche Reborn (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Hermetica (Boston: Shambhala. 2001). 27. Theosophia: Hidden Dimensions of Christianity (Hudson: Lindisfarne. op. Notes on Thought and Vision (San Francisco: New Directions.

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

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

105. Ibid. p.. 124. I added the colors.. Knapp.” 108. Diss. 1978). 95. See Berdyaev’s introduction to Jacob Böhme’s Six Theosophic Points (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan. Christosophia. 71 ff.. The Beginning and the End (New York: Harper. p. Theosophia: Hidden Dimensions of Christianity (Hudson: Lindisfarne.. Futurism. trs. 40.. Ibid. 129. Socialist Realism. Freedom and the Spirit. forthcoming. Bromley’s is the image on the cover of my book Theosophia (1994). 194 ff.31. 105. p. 94. p. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Toronto: 1948). 1958). 1980). 121. 125. Peter Erb. Versluis. Ibid. 62–63. p. p. p. 118.1 ff. 62. 74. 93. See Versluis. 275 ff.NOTES TO CHAPTER THREE 167 104. pp. Ibid.29–30. 128. Christosophia IV . Ibid. Nishitani Keiji.. . ed. Ibid. p. Ibid. 285.. Ibid. 122. 115. 120. 106. 1994).1. p. 116. “Warnung an den Leser. “Vorrede. 199. 225.. II. p.. Song and Its Fountains (Burdett: Larson. p. 63. 1957). p. Ibid. See Charles C. See my overview of Christian theosophy in Magic and Mysticism. 103.. Rosenthal. See also The Destiny of Man. 39. 106. 117. from “The Magic of Words: Symbolism. 109. pp.. 113. 170. 108 ff. 123. 78.. 1991). E. for example.” and I. The Way to Christ (New York: Paulist Press. 110. pp. 119. p.31. I.. The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture (Ithaca: Cornell University Press. A.. 130. 112..D.. See.. p. Ibid. Ibid. Nicholas Berdyaev. Religion and Nothingness (Berkeley: University of California Press. p. “Ancient Gnosticism and Christian Theosophy” in Studies in Spirituality (Fall 1997). 126. 111. pp. p. 114. 1997) p. 127.. Ibid. IV . Nicolas Berdyaev: Theologian of Prophetic Gnosticism (Th. Ibid. 107.. Irina Gutkin.” in B.. pp. 40 and pp. 25 ff.


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

127 Frankenberg. Wolfram von. 112 Lull. Désirée. 120. Gareth. 101 Freemasonry. 97. 26–31. 104. Mircea. ix. 103. 102 Leade. 7–8. Dion. 40 . Carlos. 101–102 Frey. 21–22 Hermetica. 120–122. Steven. 129 Kelley.D. 2. Benjamin. 107. 95 Hartlib. Joseph de. 51 Islam. 43–45. Johannes. 127–128 Fama Fraternitatis. 77 Gelpi. 75. 69 Franklin. 21 Heydon. Edmond. 9 Eliot. 111 Esotericism [defined]. Samuel. 35. Antoine. Brian. 25 Hinduism. 46–52. 57–59. 56 Fludd. 19. 140 Eirenaeus Philalethes. 100. 76 Maistre. Georg Heinrich. Jane. Ralph Waldo. 27–28 Gnosticism. 104. Ramon. 104. 151 Merswin. 155 Hermes [Trismegistus]. 79 Hieroedetic knowledge. 19 Faivre. 28. 99 Grail cycle. 84. 8–9 Larronde. 31 Melville. Francis. 65. 109 Hermeticism. 68. 7–8 Esotericism. 56. 52–54 Kabbalah. 25 John. 42. Susan. 122 Koan.S. Johann Wolfgang. 153–154 Eriugena. 153 Homer. 82–83 Heidegger. Jean. 138 Katz. 77 Flamel. Robert. 9. 63. Michael. 88-89. 89. 140 Hippolytus. 21. 12–15. Abraham von.S. 102 Lee. Andreas. 105. 123–126. 140 La Fontaine.. 2. 18–21. 83. 10–12. 78 Gnosis. 126. 22. 89. Nicholas. 46. 19–21. Max. 29 Mazet. Meister. 100 Hirst.. 103–119 Hardenberg. 100 Marcus. 44. 4. 82 Knight. Johann Georg. 37 Esoteric Origins of the American Renaissance. 102 Ernst. Herman. 53. 51 Eleusinian Mysteries. 123. 11 Hutton. 111 Geheime Figuren. 89–103 Hermetism. 1 Keeble. 5. 19 Kabbalah [or Cabala]. 85 Merkabah mysticism. Book of. 103 Fuller. Victor Sogen. Irina. 105 Eliade. 54. Margaret. 112 Friedman. ix. Joseph Edward. 5 Hori. T. Friedrich von [Novalis]. 109. 57 Eleazar of Worms. 139 H. 90. 56 Maier. 84 Lewis. 137 Goethe. 22–24 Initiation. Edward. 89. 72 Jabir ibn Hayyan [Geber]. 55 Koran. Rulman. 36–39 Gutkin. Christian. 111 Emerson. Albert. 79–86. 50. 8. Martin. 1. 112 Imagination. 8–9 Isaac the Blind. 19. Jewish. 2. 50. 56 Jerusalem. 106 Eschenbach. C. 29 Hiram. 72–73 Faust. 127 Loskiel. 104 Gichtel. John. 2.170 INDEX Eckhart. Jewish. 80–81 Fortune. John Scotus.. 30. 76.

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

156 Zinzendorf.B. 106 Washington. 103. 10. Frances.E. 110. 137. 88. 35–43 Ungrund. 120. George. 82 Troubadours. 63. W.. David. 86 Welling. 140 Valentinus. 10. 103. 148 Zosimos. 111. 55. 89. 79 Willermoz. 148 Zen Buddhism. 112–113 Zohar. 53 Versluis. 2. 111 Warlick. Adam. 10. 122–123 Williamson. Arthur. 67–69 Upanishads. 84 Williams. ix. ix. 69–70 Universalism [esoteric]. Charles. Georg von. 9. 56 . 116 Yates. M. Egidio Cardinal. 31 Viterbo. 48.172 INDEX Trevor-Roper. 75 Yeats. Nicholas. 64. 104.. 103. Hugh. Jean-Baptiste. 101 Weishaupt.

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

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

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