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

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

In memory of poet and scholar Kathleen Raine .


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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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-

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

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

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

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

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


central to which are the gospel accounts of Christ’s life. one characteristic appears prevalent above all others: the emphasis upon the written word. And to find these themes. The other kind of writing. we must begin in antiquity. When we look at the emergence of Christianity from the welter of religious traditions at the time. Christianity was centered around written accounts that took two primary forms. the Book of Revelation. and. what we may call a 17 . One is of course what we find in the canonical versions of the Bible. death. remains central to what may be called conventional or exoteric Christianity—that is. specifically at the beginning of Christianity. beginning with the ambience for and emergence of the Christian Bible and affiliated works. of whose life we know through the historical documentation of the gospels. we will look at representative or synecdochic writings. we are not so concerned with surveying the entirety of this period—a monumental task best left to others— but with the defining themes that will emerge again and again in later times. and of this there are only two examples in the canonical Bible: some elements of the Book of John. and resurrection. Christianity based on faith or belief in a historical Christ. This. From relatively early on. Here. bolstered to some extent by apocrypha. still we can trace through this era the origin of the primary elements or currents in Western esotericism. is profoundly different. however. needless to say. Here we have the fundamental division that has lasted throughout the subsequent history of Western esotericism: on the one hand.1 Origins ALCHEMY OF THE WORD To understand the origins of Western esotericism in all its various guises. Although many aspects of what actually happened during this time may always be shrouded or lost.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



lar thing as language is its essential life.”21 In fact, for the Kabbalists letters have a plastic quality: in forming words, they are forming also the actual divine nature of things, so that to enter into the mysteries of words is to penetrate beyond language as we ordinarily conceive it into the hidden nature of God himself. Here again we have come upon the dual nature of language: there is exoteric language, which is veiling and limited; and there is esoteric language, which is unveiling and virtually unlimited in its ramifications. Particularly in the case of Kabbalistic word and letter combination can we say that esoteric uses of language are virtually unlimited in effect, for Kabbalism has since at least the time of Rabbi Eleazar of Worms (c. 1165–1230) and Abraham ben Samuel Abulafia (c. 1240–1292) employed techniques of linguistic recombination that in turn, if practiced over a period of time, result in ecstasy and visionary illumination. In the case of R. Eleazar and Abraham Abulafia, the technique entails combining the Tetragrammaton with the letters of the alphabet in order to bring one to a transcendent state of divine knowledge or gnosis. According to Abulafia, this technique, which requires isolation, prolonged practice, and special breathing techniques, “draws down the supernal force in order to unite it with you.”22 Thus esoteric language is not only a guide toward gnosis, it is here the actual means to gnosis. Central to Kabbalism is esoteric language. Isaac of Acre, for instance, distinguished between the mere acquisition of knowledge through ordinary learning and the direct gnosis by the intellect.23 And his predecessor Isaac the Blind used the analogy of a great tree, in which inward and subtle essences of wisdom (hokhmah) exist and move through the tree like sap. We partake of this wisdom, or sap, by “sucking,” which is a fundamentally different kind of knowledge from that gained by ordinary reading; it is a participatory gnosis in which we directly experience the essence-language of creation itself, moving in and through all that is. Here again we have reading and writing that go far beyond what we ordinarily regard them as—here esotericism and literature are totally fused. Such analogies and definitions as that of the tree, or “sucking,” or for that matter of celestial reading and writing, do indeed correspond to those of the ancient Gnostics; and like the ancient Gnostics, the Kabbalists too produced a wild profusion of works expressing variants of a complex and profound cosmology, as well as a metaphysics of absolute transcendence. In Kabbalism, as in ancient Gnosticism, we find the figure of Sophia, or Wisdom, to be prominent, and indeed even find the teaching in Kabbalah of the higher and lower Shekhinah, which parallels the teachings of some Gnostic sects regarding a higher and lower Sophia. There are numerous parallels, but this does not mean that there was direct influence. In any event, this profusion of Kabbalistic works and teachings in turn was to have an immense influence on the subsequent history of Western esoteric



traditions, and unlike the relationship of Kabbalism to Gnosticism, the relationship of Kabbalism and Christian Cabala is relatively well documented.24 Here it is possible only to allude to the ways Kabbalism flowed into Christianity, especially beginning in the fifteenth century. It is generally held that the first major influx of Kabbalism into Christianity occurred with Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463–1494), who in his On the Dignity of Man proposes the harmony of Christianity and Kabbalah, holding that in fact Kabbalah is evidence for Christianity because in it we find discussions of the Trinity, of the Word, and much else that corresponds to the works of Dionysius the Areopagite. For our purposes it is noteworthy that Pico insisted on the initiatory nature of original Christianity championed by Origen and Dionysius the Areopagite: that Christ gave secret teachings to some of the disciples, teachings that subsequently were continued. Pico holds, in his oration, that Kabbalah corresponds to these teachings in its initiatory lineage and in its doctrines: “to make public the occult mysteries, the secrets of the supreme Godhead . . . what else were this than to give a holy thing to dogs and to cast pearls before swine?”25 Thus Kabbalah, according to Pico, furnishes a way to recover the original true nature of Christianity. This true nature includes the doctrines of the ’en sof, as well as that of the emanated Sephirot and, above all, the Names of God by which God created the cosmos.26 There is in Kabbalah, as in Plato, a divine mathematics that is not like the jottings of traders.27 And so Pico brings Jewish Kabbalah into the broad stream of Western learning that includes all the classics and has come to be known as the prisca theologia, confirming precisely those elements that we have come to see characterize the Western esoteric currents as the initiatory sciences of reading and writing. It is true that Pico only refers to Kabbalah and does not offer detailed exegeses or doctrinal expositions, but what he chooses to touch upon— “divine mathematics,” initiatory lineages, secret knowledge not divulged to the hoi polloi, the transcendent Godhead, the hidden Names of God, and reading and writing as the transmission of esoteric knowledge, when accompanied by oral transmission—all correspond exactly to the threads we have been tracing throughout Western history. Naturally, Pico was far from alone in the endeavor to bring Kabbalah into Christianity—or, put from the viewpoint of the Christian Cabalists themselves, to show how Christianity is illuminated by Kabbalism. Another important figure is Johannes Reuchlin (1455–1522), author of De verbo mirifico (1494), and of the more well-known De arte cabalistica (1517). The first book, whose title alone brings it into our purview, is arranged as a dialogue between a pagan philosopher, a Jewish mystic, and a Christian; the pagan is concerned with cosmology, the Jew with Kabbalah and the divine Names, and the Christian with absolute transcendence. Both books are intensely concerned with the nature of



language, with its divine origin, and with how it illuminates the path toward the deification of man. Reuchlin in turn drew upon Pico and influenced Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim (1486–1535), whose work De occulta philosophia (1533) is among the most influential works on magical esotericism in European history. Agrippa’s book is chiefly concerned with magic, but it focuses on magic in a larger context that further develops the new tradition of Christian Cabala. Rather like Reuchlin, Agrippa begins by discussing cosmology and the nature of the world; turns then to numbers and letters and their celestial significances (with references to the Sephirot); and in the third book discusses the Names of God and the relation of the magus to God. Agrippa’s concern with the practice of magic inaugurates a subsequent long tradition of Christian magical esotericism drawing upon Jewish Kabbalah. But Kabbalah’s influence on Christendom was not limited to magical esotericism alone; indeed, it would seem that during this time Kabbalah’s influence extended from the royal courts to the Vatican. One finds in France Jean Thenaud (?–1542) writing an extensive manuscript entitled Traité de la Cabale chrétien for Francis I in about 1521; one finds in Italy Paul Rici, author of De coelesti agricultura (1541), as well as Cardinal Egidio (Gilles) da Viterbo (1465–1532), an important figure in the Vatican, whose unpublished work Scecina (1530) was finally made available in 1959. And, of course, there is Gillaume Postel (1510–1581), among whose papers we find references to and translations of many Hebrew works including the Bahir and the Zohar. Postel is well known for his devotion to a woman named Mother Johanna, whom he regarded as the Virgin incarnate. We could continue to trace the byzantine influences of Kabbalism in the history of Western esotericism here, and if so, we would have to make mention of figures like John Dee (1527–1608) and Robert Fludd (1574–1637), both major Renaissance authors whose works drew on Kabbalistic themes to create new Western esoteric syntheses, as well as examine the possible course of Kabbalah into the works of arguably the most influential esotericist of the past five centuries, Jacob Böhme (1575–1624). Böhme’s works may reveal the traces of Kabbalism, but if so, here too Kabbalah is transformed in new and specifically Christian ways. Yet there is not room here for such an extensive study, and since we will shortly look at Böhmean theosophy in much more detail, it is perhaps more useful to consider what we have learned. Without question, Kabbalah had widely penetrated Christianity in Western Europe by the seventeenth century, but oftentimes its influence was underground and not at all easily traced. What is more, just as Kabbalah itself resembles earlier Gnostic traditions in antiquity, so too within Christianity one finds more modern movements or views that may or may not be historically affiliated with Kabbalism. For instance, Thenaud in his sixteenth-century

and beauty.54 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E treatise on Cabala alluded to a Kabbalistic doctrine of universal restoration. it also fascinates us with its riddles and mysteries. but it is also important because it offers us a completely different way of understanding the very nature of writing. In the twentieth century. . Indeed. Here. or vice versa. and the boundaries between Judaism and Christianity far less distinct than usual. that the heart of Christianity is Jewish Kabbalism. or vice versa. surface is nothing and depth is everything. an ornate mosque in whose center is a Christian cathedral. intricacy. ramified throughout religious and literary history. literature represents portals into the transcendent. we can see why it had such profound literary and religious influences. For Kabbalah. But is there any historical influence of Kabbalism on Leade? Or did she independently rediscover the same esoteric doctrines in vision. much less the possibility of transcendence. Such an approach to literature. represents the confluence of literature and religion in esotericism. which is. with the prevalence of materialism and scientism. And when we look at Kabbalism. If great literature like Dante’s attracts us because of its grandeur. many novelists and poets explicitly denounce even the idea of spirituality. and perhaps even of the origin and nature of consciousness. each letter and number potentially bearing infinite depths. But before discussing these implications. precisely what she said had happened? It would seem that in this case as generally. in its willingness to go through the letters and words into the consciousness that they represent. after all. perhaps more than any other Western tradition. To such approaches. Symbolic of Western syncresis is La Mezquita in Cordoba. where one finds literature and religion fused. not a barrier to but a vehicle for transcendence. Kabbalah represents a polar opposite—for it. however unfamiliar to us today. rather than only trying to trace ‘horizontal’ historical influence. even where it is roughly or awkwardly written. This transcendence lends itself to syncretism. But Kabbalistic literature opens up almost endlessly. and instead creep over the surfaces of things like painstaking caterpillars. its grandeur lies in the daring of its visionary heights. literature increasingly lost even the inkling of bearing within it other dimensions. Western esoteric traditions are perpetually changing and self-renewing. we find the English theosopher Jane Leade holding the same doctrine. that is. it may be better to look at ‘vertical’ or categorical similarities. and so it goes right into the heart of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. almost always willing to draw from another religion if it illuminates one’s own. Spain. Here the written word becomes not opaque but transparent. we shall turn to another primary current of the Western esoteric traditions: alchemy. Nowhere is this more evident than in the history of Kabbalah. One finds those who insist that the heart of Islamic Sufism is Christian. that ultimately all beings will be saved. In the eighteenth century.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

of human and divine architecture both. since one finds Hebrew frequently in Rosicrucian illustrations and works as well. has a natural connection to Kabbalistic mysticism that also focuses on divine architecture. yet in thirteen branches in reference to Christ and his twelve apostles. such an emphasis on the powers of divine creation is characteristic of Kabbalism since the medieval period. the tradition is linked to Masonic linguistic mysticism. specifically.” as well as references to those who are said to have the “Mason’s word.” In other words. Rosicrucian. Indeed. . that is. when we look closely at the emergence of Freemasonry. the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. six for the clergy.”71 And there are some Hebrew words in early Masonic documents—not surprisingly. but it also later drew explicitly and implicitly on the chivalric. it continues to draw upon these and other currents to become itself among the most eclectic of esoteric traditions. a Masonic Rosicrucianism begun in 1757 in Germany that incorporated Templar and alchemical symbolism too. even to this day.HISTORICAL CURRENTS 85 Yet despite the insistence of some on a more exoteric Masonry. especially with the founding of the Orden des Guelden-und Rosen-Cruetzes. the Order of the Gold and RosyCross. a ritual that relies upon “foundation words. theosophic. as maintaining a special linguistic power that lies at the heart of building. I answer it was God in six Terminations. which is as follows: one word for a divine. In other words. and that as the Masonic current continues through the eighteenth century. the most popular form of contemporary Masonry. even if it is subject to periodic spasms of anti-esotericism. according to the Sepher Yetsirah (1. As we have already seen. the tradition has long been seen as maintaining occult knowledge. and so it is not surprising to discover that in 1676 we find Masonry associated with the “Modern Green Ribbon’d Caball. based as it is on the craft of building. by which. in The Whole Institutions of Freemasons Opened (1725): “Yet for all this I want the primitive word.”69 These words take their derivation from the building of Solomon’s Temple. Freemasonry.”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. preserves its eighteenth grade as that of the Chevalier Rose-Croix.” which Edmond Mazet sees as “a clear allusion to the six permutations of the trigrammaton YHW. God has sealed the six directions of space. to wit I am. and alchemical currents of Western esotericism. and six for the fellow craft. In the Graham manuscript of 1726.8). we find that it definitely does draw upon earlier esoteric currents. we find an exorcism ritual to be used by Masons in the construction of a building. from very early on in the development of modern Masonry. 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We can see how deeply Milosz’s fascination with Judaism penetrated his work by examining his final poem. the disciple of the Kabbalist Raymond Martini.” 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.” and . as when the poem refers to the “betrothed sister of the new canticle.”27 “Psalm of the Morning Star” is so suffused in Hebrew and in Old Testament language as to be inseparable from them. looked forward to the day that the Jews would be converted to Christianity. Milosz not only had studied and read Hebrew. In the “Psalm” we read of another primary theme.” 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. and then with his “spiritual guides: Goethe.26 If we see here the depth of Milosz’s focus on Hermeticism in history. sought in them peace of spirit. “Psaume de l’Étoile du Matin [Psalm of the Morning Star]. the Neoplatonists of the Middle Ages. but kept a Bible in Hebrew nearby as a constant reading companion. that of the word and the book: un seul mot nouveau le même / cœur qu’au temps des pères bat dans le bois la / pierre et l’eau rien de tou cela qui revient / n’est nouveau toutes ces choses dormaient / dans les livres fermés les livres sous mes / mains se sont ouverts. The allusions to Milosz’s favorite doctrines and language are here hidden in the allusions to Hebrew names and places. Eugène Ledrain.” first with his teacher of Hebrew. Swedenborg. he was well acquainted with Jewish Kabbalism.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. Martinez de Pasqually. but in the tradition of many Christian Cabalists.”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. Claude de Saint Martin. the mystical eighteenth century. but it reveals at the heart of all things “a single new word. we cannot help but notice the parallel focus on Judaism and Kabbalah. the School of Alexandria. passing through the Pre-Socratics. These writers—and also Jewish exegesis—exerted a decisive influence upon Blaise Pascal. alias René Descartes. Plato. Swedenborg. The Rosicrucian Polybius the Cosmopolitan.]28 The peculiar rhythm of the lines and line breaks makes this poem unusually difficult to follow. from Egypt up to today.” Milosz continued. [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 “architect” of those brotherhoods was Biblical in name only. In his “Poem of the Arcana. words. but there are still other currents of Western esotericism that emerge in the poet’s work.”30 The name Hiram is found in Masonic tradition. just as in the Book of Revelation and just as in Kabbalism. drawn together with a universalism that both resembles and includes Freemasonry. S. in short. . Here. Milosz tells of his visionary experience. R. we are waiting for the continuation and fulfillment of the only Book. If the author has considered it useful to follow Lessing. 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. Architect of the effective Catholic Church of tomorrow. Under the heading “Hiram. The allegory is clearly indicated by the password Nekom (Vengeance) used by the Chapter of Clermont and the Scottish lodge of the Berlin Union. and books. Eliot. 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. in 1938.100 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E a mysticism that has “all those things” “sleeping in closed books” that open themselves under the poet’s hand.” and yet writes that he will humble his brow in the dust before “you. . Thus we find in this final poem of Milosz the linguistic and. and Savoy. the universal regent of faith. .” which are far more extensive than anything T. Joseph de Maistre. King of the unified world. Germany. as early as 1919. the books open themselves to him.”29 Here we see the nascent Christian millennialism that pervades so much of Milosz’s work as he anticipated a future renaissance. La Clef de l’Apocalypse [The Key to the Apocalypse]. wrote for his poetry. the archetypes of the cosmos exist inside letters. the visionary poet. 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 . Le Forestier. and art. opens those books in order to reveal their inner mysteries—or rather. and the true poet. Hiram.” in fact. Milosz held. are enormously important for understanding the complex work of Milosz and his mysticism of the word. science.” Milosz writes that The personage who concerns us here is not the symbolic hero of the Templars or of Scottish Freemasonry in England. says that “I am entering the twelfth year of supreme knowledge. 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. it is not books that we are waiting for. and that he shared with much of the Christian theosophic tradition. libric mysticism that has haunted Western esotericism from antiquity. inside the books of life and of knowledge. for instance. and Milosz explains his poem’s relationship to Freemasonry in his “Exegetic Notes. King of the Unified World. my son. if we may coin a word. Hermeticism and Kabbalism.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

to initiate the reader. it does exist. D. She tells us that there is a “Gift waiting. respected and highly respectable. It is written in a characteristically modernist fragmented style that reflects on the one hand the fragmentation of modernity and on the other hand. conventionally the church. But the reader is initiated into these mysteries vicariously. 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. into The Gift.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 113 my own day. saw itself as a branch of the primordial and pure Christianity. Hilda.” H.” that “someone must inherit” access to a hidden “continent” that includes links to people long dead. and its doctrines as representing a pure.. explaining the novel’s initiatory power via the word and image within the novel itself in a kind of metanarrative. The Gift is an initiatory work in the classic anthropological sense: it is on one level a story of how a young girl.. there was no hint of this exoticism. The Moravian Church that he was instrumental in revivifying in the mid-eighteenth century actually was linked more to Greek Orthodoxy than to Rome. “you just stumble on it. referring to Father. writing these reflections during the siege of London in the Second World War. Its esotericism derived its power from these beliefs. the reader is carried along vicariously on the discoveries not only of young Hilda. Zinzendorf espoused a doctrine of the Trinity that conjoined the Holy Spirit with the divine feminine. nonhierarchic tradition of true Christianity. an overarching spiritual narrative that redeems modernity from its chaos and fragmentation. and Son. . Mother. D. is a coming-of-age or initiation-into-the-mysteries-of-adulthood narrative. whose voice in the novel is clearly childish. it is one of those things that you really do find in your Grimm or your Anderson . D. But more important than Zinzendorf’s own esotericism is how it was incorporated by H. The novel. . 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. in short. or Unitas Fratrum as resuscitated by Zinzendorf.”59 There can be no doubt that Zinzendorf himself and his early circle held views that were seen as unacceptable by the German Protestant establishment at Dresden. The Moravian Church. is initiated into the matrilinear gnosis of her family’s secret Moravian traditions. “There is no royal road into this kingdom. through the reader’s assembling of clues into a larger narrative. This redemption from chaos that the reader undergoes by working through the novel is parallel to the initiation of the child Hilda. but also of the older poet H.” She goes on: . D. and in this sense the book is clearly meant by H. For suddenly we encounter the voice of the elder H. he also held that every woman represented an image of the Bride of Christ. D. writes. We were a small community. and had existed in Bohemia-Moravia for many hundreds of years before what is now called the Reformation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and artists use it as a window in a watch-tower. I made the astral projection by the usual method. I had the sensation of the descent of a swift lift. and imagined myself speaking to him. Fortune’s novels are as much like primers on magical practices as they are fiction. She writes matter-of-factly about all manner of paranormal events. after all. Fortune’s novel. She gave rise to the character Lilith. which always characterizes the change of the level of consciousness. I pictured myself as standing six feet in front of myself and then transferred by consciousness to the simulacrum thus created by my imagination and looked at the room through its eyes. that is to say. It does not matter to me what it is called. The magic worked. That Fortune was herself a magician is not in question. 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. the narrator begins this way: I will tell what I did. for it shows how we use the Door Without a Key to escape the Lord of This World. which is the dark side of the Moon. There is little evidence that Lewis was a practicing magus. and in this the prosaic tone of the narrator’s voice itself acts as a kind of counterweight to what the narrator is discussing. like all of her . The Door Without a Key is the Door of Dreams. as if those characters were somehow joined with Ransom’s voice. Fortune’s wealth of direct personal experience in the practice of magic. badly lit and ill-tended room. and I seemed to be in a strange room. for it is effectual. and the man in the street calls it illusion or charlatanry according to taste. Psychologists call it a psychological mechanism. In some respects. a shabby. who is Moloch. appears clearly in her novels. not surprisingly. but Fortune was. magicians call it magic. and author of numerous books on the practice of magic and related subjects. often enough in the first person from the viewpoint of a female character. Then I visualized the face of the man with the greying red hair. In the novel’s seventh chapter. 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. putting my cards on the table.84 Here we are observing a magical working of a very different kind from that evoked by Lewis through his character Ransom.124 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E some senses a participant in that magical act. the founder of the British Society of the Inner Light. and this matterof-fact tone of voice has an effect similar to that of the ordinary characters in Lewis’s That Hideous Strength. it is the door by which the sensitive escape into insanity when life is too hard for them. and take refuge in the Secret Kingdom. the side She turns away from earth. untidy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and as the entry of one’s consciousness into a larger current. 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. one might even say impossible. To read Böhme’s works and attempt to categorize or analyze them logically is notoriously difficult. it exists as a nascent possibility within the tradition and even if it is eliminated by force or attrition in one historical period. without doubt one of the most influential authors in the Western esoteric traditions. you truly will know its worth. and so the reader too becomes a kind of channel or conduit. if you wish to use this little book aright. or a biology textbook. so that they do not ignite the wrath of God in your soul. leave untouched the precious Names of God . although there may be an initiatory lineage in a given Western esoteric tradition. and who have a desire to begin. the written word itself can have an initiatory function. Let us take an example from the works of Jacob Böhme.’ a becoming familiar and even intimate with his language and vision until his unusual terminology and ways of expression become part of one’s inner landscape and view of the world. instead. and in fact many of his works feature dire warnings to those who approach Böhme’s writings in the wrong fashion. . the daily news. . the word initiation is being used in several ways—as meaning a beginning on the spiritual path. This little book belongs only to those who eagerly wish to repent. as in this example from his book Christosophia (1624): “God-loving reader. Perhaps. and are in earnest.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 143 the continuation of a specific esoteric paradigm precisely without any direct historical lineage. Böhme himself frequently warned his readers not to read his works unless they were attuned to them. Böhme’s works require a kind of ‘steeping. Such a reader joins with the author. Naturally. it is possible for reading and rereading a given work to effect lasting changes in that reader’s consciousness. for one is not to misuse God’s holy Names. But for the reader who is in sympathy with a particular esoteric perspective. This is not to say that Böhme’s works necessarily in themselves inspire visionary insight. Such a paradigm can be reawakened. After all. They will experience both the words that are in it and the source that . it can reëmerge in another. But perhaps those countless people influenced by Böhme’s writing did or do not read it in the way that we read. I am not using the word initiation to refer to rites. but they may well change a reader’s consciousness in profound ways and even in some respects prepare one for such inward vision. since we are essentially discussing the individual reader encountering a particular esoteric book. forging a link to others with similar esoteric aspirations. But I must warn you that if you are not in earnest. If. Thus. as I am suggesting. Here. this function must be a change in consciousness. who in turn is in touch with an archetypal or primary stream within a given esoteric tradition. There can be no doubt that Böhme regarded his books as spiritually charged. for example.

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

in that there remains an observer. or subject and object. the yes and the no. This divine self-awareness Böhme sometimes alludes to as the divine eye turned inward. This transcendent point gives birth to duality. where they are incarnated or manifested in the everchanging panoply of history. but of the cosmos itself. and it is at this point that paradox and enigmatic expression become necessary. in the archetypal realm there is . for it is only humanity that can mediate between sky and earth. and these in turn give birth to the qualities or archetypes inherent in the entire cosmos. In other words. the origin not only of language. and might from this point recapitulate by way of a diagram a schematic overview of how language may be understood in this context. But we have reached the center of the theosophic tradition. Indeed. There is simply awareness. although there are divisions between archetypes. there is no sense of separation between self and other. or divided from the divine. at the far limit of what we can express in language. of course. Divine Unity—the No-thing * Duality: The Yes and the No. love and wrath. intermediate between nature below and the divine above. There emerges a spacious or open quality. or the divine eye that sees itself. If humanity and the cosmos itself are fallen. just as. and at its most sublime when it expresses or manifests this transcendent divinity. In this sublime unity there is no congealing into an objectified self-other division—through paradox and enigma is expressed the sheer transcendence out of which emerges the dazzling archetypal realm. or perceiver and what is perceived. Thus language belongs also to the intermediate human realm. Language is the means by which this process of mediation or reconciliation is effected: it is. From these archetypes then emerge the natural and human realms. the light and the dark. in Western esotericism generally. the self in one sense continues to exist. Above. conversely. as are nature and humanity. we have the point of origin. as we have seen. For language is in its innermost nature divine. Love and Wrath ** The Archetypal Realm of the Imagination: Divine Language *** The Manifested or Elemental World **** Language belongs above all to the archetypal realm. in other words.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 145 not even in relation to the divine. language is said to inhere in the entire cosmos. a path beyond this separation and suffering must go through language. divine in its origin. between the divine and the natural. but the observer in another sense is no longer separate from the divine that is observed. where. then language must reflect this division. Here we are.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Cassirer. p. 36. 1953) I.325. See “Oration on the Dignity of Man” in E. I. p. 52.75... Ibid.. See Verman.. 61. 1984). see also Scholem. 250. p. 66. p. I. IV . 9. Zohar IV . C. (Princeton: Princeton University Press. I. cit. 27. 19.. 1988). for instance. 24. 29. See Moshe Idel. 17. 59. trs. ed. 1964). pp. II. 278. in The Zohar. Origins.. cit. See Scholem. Twersky. (London: Soncino.312. 15. Cassirer. 14. 1979). eds. vom Stein der Weisen (Berlin: Christian Ulrich Ringmacher. See J. See Mark Verman.. See A. ed. 394. Ibid. 30. Vasoli. The Books of Contemplation (Albany: State University of New York Press. et al.77. The Christian Interpretation of the Cabala in the Renaissance (Port Washington: Kennikat. 26.76. 1983). 197.. II. I.. Kabbalah: New Perspectives (New Haven: Yale University Press. 13. Kabbalistes chrétiens (Paris: Albin Michel. I. Tristan.. 12. cit. Ibid. Simon. 7. 57. 21. Ibid.314.205b–206a. 1779). p.. 28. ed. op. . See Pico della Mirandola. 10. 1969).. See. 1961). 22. I. 11. The Early Kabbalah (Paulist Press.205b. p. 1987). Origins. 280.. 18.B..71. II. Ibid. ed. Rabbi Moses Nahmanides: Explorations. Ibid. p. p. op. 38. 298 ff.331. 35. The Renaissance Philosophy of Man (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Gershom Scholem.351. p. ed. 49–50. (Hildesheim: Olms. Origins of the Kabbalah (Princeton: Princeton University Press. 29. 37. pp. 1985). 1986). See Verman.NOTES TO CHAPTER TWO 161 6. 8.80 ff. and Françoise Secret. Ibid. 246. 23. as well as Antoine Faivre and F. Ibid. p. Doctor Illuminatus. 20. Dan. Ibid. 1965). I. 25. Ibid. 270. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Joseph Blau.. 34. p. Ibid. Origins. p. p. Scholem. Les Kabbalistes chrétiens de la Renaissance (Paris: Dunod.. 31. A translation of Ars Brevis is to be found in Ramon Lull.. Ibid. trs. op. II. 33. The Hermetic Museum (London: Watkins.. p.. Bonner.. 1992). p. M. Opera omnia. 197... Ibid. 51. Ibid.C. p. 16. see also Moshe Idel. See Arthur Edward Waite. 101–102. 57. p. 32. A.320–323. Ibid.

1615).. table of contents. Fama. The Alchemy of Art. William Huffman. 1975). 44... p. and The Rosicrucian Enlightenment. der gantzen weiten welt . Hall. Ibid. for text. 57. See also Marsha Schuchard. for the reader’s convenience. 246. 255. .. Frances Yates. p. 251. Ibid.. ms. p. 60. 54.102–104. 41. This commentary was shared with people from diverse walks. Wisdom’s Children: A Christian Esoteric Tradition (State University of New York Press. diss. Fama. Confessio. forthcoming. p. Fama. 221. Ibid.162 NOTES TO CHAPTER TWO 39.. a theologian. Ibid. I. Ibid. Confessio. I. . Ashmole. p. 238.681. Ashmole. See Versluis. See Frances Yates.. 49. Josten. ed. 43. p. Theatre of the World. The Tessera of Antilia: Utopian Brotherhoods and Secret Societies in the Early Seventeenth Century (Leiden: Brill. 1998). p. 253. and others. p. p. 1972). Elias Ashmole (Oxford: Clarendon. University of Texas at Austin. . From von Welling. p. 371. see Donald Dickson.A. 260.P. Freemasonry. D. a cosmologist.O. 220. 242. 50. especially on Gichtel’s and other theosophers’ tendency to carefully date their revelations. p. 48. p.. in a group called the Round Table. p.A. C. p. (Cassel: Wessel. See Versluis. 1971).. p. I have translated this work of Pordage. op. The first English translation was published by Thomas Vaughan in 1652. 1988). Fama. . p. a musician. 53. Ibid. (Los Angeles: Philosophical Research. The original (short) titles of Fama and Confessio were Allgemeine und General Reformation. Secret Societies. 47. and the Continuity of the Occult in English Literature (Ph. The texts of the Fama and Confessio in English are most easily found as appendices to Yates.M. See Codex Rosae Crucis D. Yates. Robert Fludd and the End of the Renaissance (London: Routledge.. 1997). Opus Mago-Cabbalisticum et Theosophicum (Frankfurt: Fleischerischum. 67. and even chart them astrologically. 49. 22. See Versluis. II. 241. 51.D. 252. Ibid. Ibid. p. cit. 46.. 62.. See. and also written an extensive commentary on it. H.: A Rare and Curious Manuscript of Rosicrucian Interest. 59. p.. 1966). 56.. p.O. 129. 1999). 55. M. Confessio. 1614) and Secretioris Philosophiae Considertio brevis .77.. Ibid. including two physicists. See. “Christian Theosophy and Ancient Gnosticism” in Studies in Spirituality (Fall. Ibid. 42.. 61. for background.. 52. The following page references are to Yates. Ibid. 1784). The Rosicrucian Enlightenment (London: Routledge. 58. (Cassel: Wessel. Ibid.M. 40. 45. Ibid. Confessio. See Josten. 257. 63. Resicrucian Enlightenment. 37. . 77. ed. For an excellent survey of the scholarship since Yates.

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

pp. 48–52. Ibid. introduction by Albert Gelpi. D. p. Ibid. Ibid. Milosz. ranging from entirely cosmological ones such as astrology or the Tarot to more metaphysical or gnostic ones. Ibid. D. 38. 29. Milosz. 210–211. Pollen and Fragments: Selected Poetry and Prose of Novalis (Grand Rapids: Phanes. Ibid. 300. For the poet of the modernist era.” synonymous with “hermetic tradition.’s] perspective. the harsh world of necessity that Freud described is itself the “rune” that must be deciphered. pp. pp. See Versluis. Ibid. 24. 28. 1994). pp. For a discussion of Postel in relation to Christian theosophy. The Esoteric Origins of the American Renaissance (New York: Oxford University Press. pp.. Friedman writes that “From her [H.. 33.. 30. 465. cit. see Versluis. 297–298. Notes on Thought and Vision (San Francisco: New Directions.... p. 455. p. 158). op. 1982). pp. 248. Susan Friedman.. in her search to translate the inner meaning of material reality” (p. Ibid. 40. Milosz. see Steven Bullock. 182–183. Ibid.. 224–225. 19. 25.. 226–227. Lib. Ibid.. 180–181. 39. 1996). Ibid.. Ibid.115. I. 1985). D. 303. 8–9. Ibid.. Hermetica (Boston: Shambhala. 13. 27. pp. op. 299. 23. 277. The ‘true-rune and right spell’ of esoteric tradition contained the code for H. Ibid. p. p. 34. 464. p. 206–207. Psyche Reborn (Bloomington: Indiana University Press.. 37. Ibid. for a translation of Hymns to the Night.. 36. pp. Ibid. Ibid. 296. 1989). Ibid. 21...1 ff. is into what did she translate this inner meaning. p. pp..” when in fact there are numerous different esoteric currents of a wide variety. See Versluis. 22. 16. p. Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Theosophia: Hidden Dimensions of Christianity (Hudson: Lindisfarne. 174–175.. 41. 299–300.164 NOTES TO CHAPTER THREE 12. 26. pp. ... 469. pp. 32. . cit. 1981). . hermetic tradition offered a pattern of meaning in coded form to the initiate .. cit. 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. See W. Ibid. Ibid. 15. 31. ed. Milosz. Scott. 157–206. trs. 178–179. pp. For a more extensive study. Ibid. pp. I. pp. 20. p. 2001). p. 35. op. 17. 14. 18. of course. H. The question. 204–205..

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

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

95. Ibid. Diss. 116.1 ff. 199. p. See Berdyaev’s introduction to Jacob Böhme’s Six Theosophic Points (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan. Ibid. trs. p. 103.. “Warnung an den Leser. p.. Ibid. 126..31. ed. 115.. See my overview of Christian theosophy in Magic and Mysticism. Nicolas Berdyaev: Theologian of Prophetic Gnosticism (Th. p. II. 1994). Rosenthal.. Ibid.. Theosophia: Hidden Dimensions of Christianity (Hudson: Lindisfarne. ... p. 94. from “The Magic of Words: Symbolism.. Ibid. Religion and Nothingness (Berkeley: University of California Press.” and I. See Versluis.. 63. 106.. 105. p. I added the colors. Futurism..D. 40. 121. 119. 127.” in B. Ibid. Song and Its Fountains (Burdett: Larson. p. Versluis. 108 ff.. 117.. Irina Gutkin. 225. 78. 1997) p.NOTES TO CHAPTER THREE 167 104. pp. 106. p. “Ancient Gnosticism and Christian Theosophy” in Studies in Spirituality (Fall 1997). Ibid. p. p. 110.. 120. Peter Erb. 39. 93. Ibid. 128.. 114. 1957). Christosophia IV . 125. IV . A.” 108. 109. 118. See.. E. 62–63. p. Ibid. Ibid. 62. See Charles C.. Nicholas Berdyaev. pp. 1991). 285. See also The Destiny of Man. Ibid. 1958). The Way to Christ (New York: Paulist Press. 123. Ibid. Ibid. pp. p. for example. 74.1.31. 107. 124. p. p. pp.29–30. Nishitani Keiji. forthcoming. 111. Ibid. Toronto: 1948). 275 ff. 130. 194 ff. 113. Ibid. The Beginning and the End (New York: Harper. Christosophia. 1980). 1978). I. Socialist Realism.. 105. 40 and pp.. p. 71 ff. Freedom and the Spirit. 122. “Vorrede. The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture (Ithaca: Cornell University Press. 25 ff. Ibid. Knapp. p. pp. Bromley’s is the image on the cover of my book Theosophia (1994). 112. 170. 129.


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

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

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

116 Yates.. 9. 140 Valentinus. 111 Warlick. 103. 86 Welling. ix. Arthur. 89. Nicholas.. 53 Versluis. 110. 10. 84 Williams. 137. 156 Zinzendorf. 10. 55. Egidio Cardinal. 63. W.E. 101 Weishaupt. 48. 104.172 INDEX Trevor-Roper. George. 122–123 Williamson. 35–43 Ungrund. Adam. ix. Hugh. M. Frances. 2. 75 Yeats. Georg von.B. 69–70 Universalism [esoteric]. 56 . 103. 106 Washington. Charles. 64. 10. 148 Zen Buddhism. Jean-Baptiste. 111. 88. 120. 148 Zosimos. 79 Willermoz. 67–69 Upanishads. 112–113 Zohar. 31 Viterbo. 103. David. 82 Troubadours.

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

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

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