Western Esotericism, Literature, Art, and Consciousness

Arthur Versluis



SUNY series in

Western Esoteric Traditions

David Appelbaum, editor

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

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

In memory of poet and scholar Kathleen Raine .


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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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-

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

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

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

imagination could also be seen as a faculty of perception and transmutation. This does not mean that one jettisons reason and becomes a ‘true believer. Pordage writes that in the Sophianic process of imaginative vision. But there is a third perspective. and nothing less. From a contemporary rationalist perspective one might answer “no. one is in fact entering imaginatively into the process Pordage is describing. who enter into a work imaginatively. who see the work as mirroring a process that they seek to undergo in themselves. in other words. a process explicitly closed to the exoteric reader. This leads us inevitably to the question with which we began. Initiates. inwardly in you and not constructed outside you. 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. Yet if we answer “yes. thus sealing it off from oneself as merely an object to be manipulated by the intellect and revealing oneself as a closed reader.” but this would be a purely exoteric answer that objectified the esoteric work of literature or art. to understand them. We can thus posit three kinds of readers of esoteric works: 1.14 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. which is what I am proposing here. of whether that which is imagined or revealed in an esoteric work possesses any existence of its own. one must enter into them openly and on their own terms.” The gnostic. not one’s own. Sympathetic readers. 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. and 3. graspable solution to a koan. but here a new magical earth is brought . For one does not have to conceive of imagination as a purely individual generative capacity.” we may well then be positing the realm of the imagination itself as something objectified that exists outside oneself. Sophia (divine Wisdom) herself tells him (the gnostic) that “I am come to make in you yourself this new invisible creation. 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. Closed readers—those who come to a work with predetermined theses that disallow their imaginative entry. and this too presents problems. 2. When one reads an esoteric work like John Pordage’s treatise on Sophia.’ 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. analogous to that of the Zen student who seeks an objectified. has awakened in him by divine Wisdom the creative power that brings external existence into being.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

which he does. revealing the hidden forces beyond history and what happens to all humanity. and we are given warnings at his account’s end that no one should add to or subtract from what is written in his book (22:18).” as well as the repetition of geometric and numerical symbolism such as the sevens. the way we see the cosmos itself changes. we will recall. there are “other books. twelves.24 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E Western esotericism. In the tenth chapter.” symbolism charged with initiatory knowledge. John eats the little book: it becomes part of him. John himself—for he is told to write by a voice from heaven (14. Christian Gnosticism. Another such element is the number and letter symbolism. we are eating his little book—we belong to a direct lineage or current. symbolizing his union with the esoteric center of spiritual life. of course. of letters and numbers revealing the secret powers of the divine. and Hermetism.” during these the end times. it is like a collective dream in which we participate simply by reading. Additionally. and by eating the book. The Revelation. John is united with its knowledge. and are in a sense initiates. And then there is. possesses a special luminosity of symbolism that we may call “hieroeidetic. After the various accounts of Christ’s life and death in the Gospels.12). is the prophetic element: more than one group has identified itself with the “woman in the wilderness” in the twelfth chapter. and finds it bitter in his belly. found in Judaism. And it has immense power for this reason: by entering into its world of references. The Revelation of John has an oneiric quality. This image is amplified by the presence of book imagery throughout the entire work. Christ’s repeated assertion that “I am the Alpha and the Omega. in other words. Every aspect of life is altered. but sweet as honey on his lips. we suddenly are given in the Revelation this overwhelming and astonishing visionary sequence that brings us completely outside the sphere of mundane human life. The word eidetikos in Greek refers to a particular kind of knowledge associated with shape or form. the Book of Revelation of St. John is given a little book to eat. a gnostic encounter with elders. the very book that we are reading.” which are opened during the Last Judgment in order to see the lives of those being judged (20.13).9). these elements lend themselves very much to an esoteric interpretation: the symbols and numbers represent a secret knowledge known by the few symbolically designated as the “woman in the wilderness. and more than one group has seen itself as living during the end times. Taken together. and although the word eidolon early in the modern era . of course. angels. the most symbolically resonant image of all is that of the book. One. and Christ whose symbolic heart is the written word. becoming symbolically charged. especially in the Book of Life wherein is written the names of those who belong to the Lamb (13. which has inspired countless commentaries or explanations. and one hundred forty-fours. By reading the Book of Revelation that John subsequently writes after eating the little book. The entire revelation is an unveiling of gnosis. But for our purposes. all remind us of the prior traditions.

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

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



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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

and piety. Once again. At the end of Gawain. Gawain’s symbol. But there is an implicit esotericism that emerges in the work’s center. Thus the poem ends with the well known motto “Hony soyt qui mal pence. as I have elsewhere shown. The Green Knight is a mysterious supernatural figure who puts Gawain to the test. Yet in the story’s conclusion. loving kindness. and. these being liberality. he ultimately feels shamed. but a way of conveying secret or esoteric meanings within a poem outwardly devoted to the telling of a story.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. is not simply the repetition of letters and numbers for the way they sound. continence. part of a tradition that. the five joys of the Virgin Mary with her Child. the five virtues. part of a scribal code of letters that mark critical junctures in the work. reveals a fall and a redemption: the characters go through suffering into a renewed union on a higher level. This esoteric symbolism emerges especially in the author’s discussion of the pentangle. and are called together the “endless knot” by the Gawain-poet. of course. in the image of the pentangle. the number of maidens serving the Grail. whose enchantments together with the Green Knight . where we are told that this sign comes from Solomon himself. For one certainly finds the same theme illustrated in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. And we should remember that Gawain is alliterative poetry. Gawain is the story of a virtuous knight on his travels. like Grail tales more generally. we see Arthur and the entire court laughing and enjoying Gawain’s tale. but with the five fingers. All of these five categories add up to twenty-five. in Gawain as in Parzival. instead of trusting only in this “endless knot” of the pentangle. trusts instead in the knotted “braided belt” given him by Morgan le Fay. For the color green has a special symbolism that recurs throughout medieval literature and is especially prominent in Gawain. marking why Gawain is a fine man. is marked with a tiny colored initial. And this green marks my second point of observation. and is associated not only with the five wits or five senses. And at this point we might remark on two aspects of this transformation. This famous passage.” meaning that good comes forth out of evil. the explicit story is clearly one of virtue upheld. courtesy. and behind him is the figure of Morgan le Fay.3 Thus the passage on the pentangle is nested within a larger context of number and letter symbolism carried on by way of the poem’s repetition of key letters and numbers. the first is the true knot. the poem. When Gawain. like several others in the poem. 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. with the five wounds of Christ. First. and the second that of bewitchment and bewilderment. and even wearing a sign of it themselves—a green one. when Gawain to his shame tells the story of how he was fooled into wearing that braided belt.

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

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

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

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

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

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

it is as it was in the first centuries of this era—Jewish. cross-fertilizing currents of Western esotericism. . Jewish Kabbalah did not appear in a vacuum. but out of a particular literary and religious ambience and with definite predecessors. And as literature. BOOKS WITHIN BOOKS: JEWISH KABBALISM Around the same time that chivalric and troubadour literature was being written.or eighteenth-century German. Before we turn to the emergence of Western esoteric traditions at the cusp of the modern era. Rosicrucianism. still there is an affiliation because all exist within the larger. How do these various currents reëmerge later in history? Chiefly through the influence of the books. or English gnostic. and Freemasonry. so that even if there were no direct influence of troubadour poetry on the spiritual love poems of a seventeenth. Rather. but what is more. And in Kabbalah we see not only some potential connections to earlier Gnostic traditions.46 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E We also see this perspective visible in a muted way in chivalric and troubadour literature. French. for here literature possesses powerful cultural and spiritual dimensions. and the alphabetical mysticism of Lull and others later appear in Christian theosophy. and other forms of esotericism are often closely linked and influence one another. the words. Christian. 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. troubadour. poetry and stories go beyond entertainment. 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. commonplace to regard each of the primary currents of Western esotericism as having emerged ex nihilo and completely separate from its predecessors. there was an efflorescence of another kind of literature entirely. but this is virtually never the case. whose influence also extends well beyond their disappearance as living social movements. that the medieval authors created in order to convey their visions. with the emergence in the twelfth century in Europe of Jewish Kabbalah (a Hebrew word meaning “tradition”). of course. Thus the transposed spiritual chivalry. profoundly important and influential instances of the mysteries of the word as means of spiritual awakening. It is. we must first look at another primary current whose influence can hardly be underestimated: Kabbalism. however. intricately woven. 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. the spiritual love poetry of the troubadours. In these traditions. the chivalric. whose origins are still shrouded in mystery.

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

as a spirit. but that in this particular worldview. 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. it is entirely real. these two poles became further separated. and mist. a matter of .”38 It is revealing that the light of nature is said to lead to the “whole Machina mundi” (II. which mist transforms itself into a water of life in the new birth. flowing out of the Oil of Divine Compassion. bekräftiget mit dem Salz der göttlich und natürlichen Wahrheit (Amor Proximi. but the new ambience is not so much Hermetic with a tinge of Christianity as it is totally Christian. like Cremer’s testament. Of course. light air. Amor proximi proceeds instead to refer in passing to the knowledge of the “heathens. and medicine together” that leads us through Wisdom to God. one finds a new kind of alchemical literature whose primary implications are almost exclusively spiritual. a distinctly modern image of the cosmos and a term that is in fact repeated in the work. philosophy. the true medicine of the soul is the pure light of grace. There is no doubt that the work is engaged in justifying a true “theology. emphasize their recipe quality. like Valentinus’s. including Romans 1. while others. more real than what we see in the physical. 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. But during the late seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries. The prefatory remarks to the work refer to the “heavenly Wisdom” who reveals the “two lights of nature and of grace. fire. The mechanistic worldview is all surface. . confronted by the emerging materialist science of chemistry.HISTORICAL CURRENTS 61 nary. even here physical significances of alchemy are implied. the true medicine and theology. and so forth. Genesis 1:27. and this is characteristic of the work as whole. geflossen aus dem Oel der göttlichen Barmherzigkeit.37 And thus “the true medicine is thus the heart of Wisdom: out of this heart (or eternal spiritual salt) emerges life. It is as though here alchemy. indeed. but here are clearly spiritualized.74). sharpened with the Wine of Wisdom. The terms used in its title—oil.” The true medicine of the body is the pure light of nature. But rather than proceeding toward specific instructions. . this Mist-Spirit-Water is Salt or Earth . empowered with the Salt of divine and natural Truth). may be interpreted in both ways at once. moves away from physical alchemy into the realm of spiritual references alone. .” and to a host of Biblical references. Many alchemical works are more susceptible to one interpretation than another—hence some. and salt—are not uncommon in physical alchemy. wine. One of the better examples of this particular emphasis in alchemical literature is to be found in a now relatively little-known anonymous work dated 1686 and titled Amor Proximi. geschärft mit dem Wein der Weisheit. . II Chronicles 13:5. just as the true maguss leads us to Christ. This is the true Ground of Nature .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

R. and how far his knowledge extendeth into Nature. the gnostic goal of Kabbalism.”46 When C. travels to the Fez and to the Damascus of the mind. C. according to the Fama. “so that finally man might thereby understand his own nobility and worth.” however. are to be collected by the wise. we are told at the outset that were the learned wise. as well as with its assertion of a secret order as keeper of profound and powerful knowledge and means. But in any event. was to follow Christ by renewing all arts to perfection. in the Orient. Hermeticism. But there are many other elements here that correspond exactly to our primary themes. of Christian theosophy as well. and this is the “book M.”45 This universal renewal and extension of knowledge is. Certainly we can agree with Frances Yates’s assessment that Rosicrucian may more wisely be seen historically as describing a particular kind of approach to arcane knowledge than as a specific organized order.. and later. the book is a central image and source of wisdom. for it captured the imagination of the age with its tale of Christian Rosencreutz and his mysterious journeys through exotic lands and secret knowledge. For from the very beginning of the Fama. Not coincidentally. we find ample confirmation of all the primary elements of Western esotericism thus far traced. and later we are told that Paracelsus had also “diligently read over the book M: whereby his sharp ingenium was exalted. they could collect Librum Naturae. The Rosicrucians’ goal.” into good Latin from Arabic. returns eventually to Germany. both the Fama and the Confessio reveal the fundamental themes we have seen woven through the Western esoteric traditions. and among Sufis and Kabbalists. This journey may also be seen as a kind of visionary recital. R.. a visionary trip to the Orient of the spirit. caused a great stir in Europe. underscoring immediately the movement’s eclecticism. And of course this brief work. Böhme’s writing and thought both paralleled and influenced that of the Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross. like us. who travels among the Arabians and the Jews on a quest to Jerusalem. which first came to general public attention with the publication of the Fama Fraternitatis. The Fama begins by telling the story of C.72 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E Fama Fraternitatis (1614) and the Confessio Fraternitatis (1615). he begins a secret fraternity with only four members including him- . Indeed. R. even if at times such orders did exist. R. and why he is called Microcosmos.44 For when we look at the actual wording of the Fama and the Confessio. whereas there is another more mysterious book that is the source of wisdom. translates the “book M. if not universalism. and who goes as well to Egypt—precisely where European esotericism has always located its sources of arcane knowledge.” C. To see the journey as a visionary recital also helps elucidate its most salient feature: the book. “or a perfect method of all arts. like its complement the Confessio. generally speaking.” These “Books of Nature. but at the same time it links the Rosicrucian movement from the very beginning with the most gnostic aspects of Islam and Judaism.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 ) . .

from .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 ) .

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

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

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

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 . which is here explicitly identified with the Kabbalistic ’en soph. Note that beyond the celestial hierarchy is the Ungrund. . O p u s M a g o .

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

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

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

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

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

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

and entry. as can in fact be said of the works of. secular or not. (1886–1961). It is certainly worth doing. Milosz is without question among the most learned poets of modern times. But his learning is of a particular kind. as with Emerson or Rilke. It is true that esoteric themes or topics emerge in all sorts of unexpected places in modern literature. And so we will concentrate first on the work of Oscar Vladislas de Lubicz Milosz (1877–1939). and who has incorporated the linguistic mysticism that emerges from them into his own poetry of the first order. V. However. V. and at twelve he was sent to Paris for schooling. Lewis (1898–1963) and others. his parents somewhat cold and aloof. as with Yeats or H. more or less. horizontal survey is of value. He wrote poetry touching on the despair and hollowness of modernity.3 But it is relatively difficult to find a poet whose primary concern is with these various Western esoteric traditions. S. Born to a wealthy family in Lithuania who lived on an estate called Czereïa. not only in the case of Ernst. I will leave such a project for another time. I cannot say with certainty whether or how Ernst’s works convey a particular kind of initiatory transmission. without question chiefly in the sphere of Hermeticism. While a broad. Milosz and Spiritual Transmission through Poetry O. split further into sections on poetry and prose. for instance.2 And even when we turn to literature of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. and finally to the remarkable art and writing of Cecil Collins (1909–1989). more . and so I will not discuss them further here. of even greater value is a vertical. and perhaps for someone else to do. to the magical fiction of C. sometimes explicitly.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 89 seem to convey a particular kind of esoteric understanding. D. into the world of French intelligentsia. his mother Jewish. D. Canticle of Knowledge: O. turning then to H. choosing a synecdochic study that will in turn illuminate aspects of literature that are today all too often overlooked. Here. After a good education. we find that there are not too many authors who know about or are even concerned with this understanding of language. it would be possible to catalogue and survey how the Western esoteric traditions appear in relatively recent literary history. during which time his family sold their estate. Milosz wandered the vast forests nearby as a child. Milosz’s outward life can be outlined rather succinctly.. D. deeper study of how Western esotericism intersects with literature and consciousness in our own time. Milosz traveled widely. I will instead focus on several major figures and trace the influences on their work. but in that of the entire surrealist movement. with sections on each of the major currents. the poet H. but there certainly is an area here worthy of further investigation. sometimes more implicitly. for instance. Naturally. third.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

”56 Sophia herself appears to H. D.. D. the thief.” she of the Bona dea. then notes that she is referring to “the straggling company of the brush and quill. And there is one more critical detail: when Sophia appeared. brought into paradise with Christ.” Yet Sophia is also “the Vestal / from the days of Numa. D.’s Trilogy. was a baptized Moravian. thus “The Flowering of the Rood” is also about the redemption of art through religious experience. as we will see in more detail shortly. she retains the web of interconnected meanings and symbolisms.” “she carried a book. “Our Lady of the Pomegranate. preserving the evocative power of poetry that resists the power of reason alone. Here it might be valuable to recall that H.110 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E appearing through Mary and through the ancient goddesses.” at once both Christian and pre-Christian. the artist is the thief who is redeemed on the very day that Christ is crucified. as we will see when we turn to her novel The Gift. But the “we” who did not “forego our heritage” also has a wider context. entitled “The Flowering of the Rood. and “she carries a book but it is not / the tome of the ancient wisdom. The artist who participates imaginatively with Christ is redeemed.” And She is also “Psyche.’s own heritage. under her “drift of veils. for H. and H.” for hers are the blank pages “of the unwritten volume of the new. And She is “Holy Wisdom. 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. Rather. affirms the divine feminine in her Trilogy poems. speculates that “she must have been pleased with us. requiring instead imaginative participation on the part of the reader. Hermes is the patron of the artist. the Bible. D. It would be a mistake to presume that because H. / who did not forego our heritage” [35]. who is also redeemed.” This book is the transmission of the spiritual experience through the book of poems. Sophianic spirituality was in H.” of artists and poets who “did not deny their birthright” but remained faithful to the spiritual origin and vision that is the fount of living art. the butterfly. whether it is con- . allied to Mercury also. right into the final poem.” “the SS of the Sanctus Spiritus. at once the Magna Mater and the Virgin of the Book of Revelation of John. This imaginative participation is at the heart of H. 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. in the context of the three poems together. clearly alludes to the figure of Hermes. D. and the thief. the writer. D. D. They are not.” This refrain.” H. the scribe. is reluctant to label Sophia as a single reified figure. they are therefore a repudiation of Christianity in favor of a neopagan goddess tradition. to her astonishment. D.” as well as “the new Eve who comes” bringing “the Book of Life. / out of the cocoon. obviously.” “Santa Sophia. and that. just as the Word is transmitted through the Great Book. she was deeply familiar with the esoteric spirituality of the theosophic community of Count Zinzendorf in Pennsylvania.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

but it was only in her later work that we see it. through time—specifically. early seventeenth-century England. Mystery and a portent. She is the niece of the Elizabethan poet and alchemist Sir Edward Dyer. through her grandmother’s reconstruction of it in The Gift. D. The Lucifer-Lilith. which makes it absolutely clear that in her later poetry she was even more deeply immersed in Western esotericism. illuminating many aspects that otherwise could not be fully understood. late Rome. timelessness conveyed through time by way of word and image. After his death. and all the rest was mystery and a portent. Vale Ave. in his pre-Eve manifestation. has the same root derivation as Seraph. H. and its implications. but at the same time. to be sure. may be Angel or Devil. Elizabeth recalls him to her.71 . so Lilith may be Serpent or Seraph.’s esoteric worldview is complex and rather heterodox. We cannot conclude without reference to H. Is she the Serpent who tests the androgynat primordial? Serpent (saraph) it is said. true we had met in sudden frenzy.118 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E she found an esoteric religious perspective that recognized the divine feminine in the form of Sophia. as history tells us. yes. as Adam. whom we invoke as Lucifer. H. At the center of her esoteric worldview is the primacy of the word as means of initiatic transmission. Adam-Eve formula may be applied to all men and women. and contemporary London. Sir Walter secretly and mysteriously becomes her lover during the last months of his life in the Tower of London. and Elizabeth identifies herself with him. D. through her uncle’s Art and through the alchemy of memory. D. although: I hardly knew my Lord. the Light-bringer. The poem begins with the following preface: This sequence introduces Adam’s first wife. though here we follow the processus through the characters of Elizabeth and Sir Walter [Raleigh]. Sir Walter was himself an alchemist. but understanding it places her work in an entirely different light. meeting and parting. there is Resurrection and the hope of Paradise. parted in the dark. She had begun to outline this concept already in her early Notes on Thought and Vision.’s complex 1957 poem Vale Ave. Lilith. and that also incorporated a sexual mysticism she found deeply congenial. legendary Provence.’s work is fundamentally that of esoteric transmission through ahistorical continuity. Through the codex left by the original Moravian initiates. dynastic Egypt. through her fiction and through her poetry. outlined in entirety.

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

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

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

122 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E magician Merlin participates. In so doing. The invocation takes place. In other words. in a “secondary world” of fiction. rather like Elijah or King Arthur. This passage is what I mean by magical initiatory fiction. and one with Merlin and Ransom). and by its end. After the “descent of the gods” is achieved in the fifteenth chapter. 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. Here the various good characters come together to discuss what happened. 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 Descent of the Gods” is about a celestial healing of a ruined world.” the seventeenth chapter. Anne’s. Uncertain whether to enter the lodge where he is sleeping. still it feels as though one imaginatively has. the reader feels as though he has passed through those dimensions too. Lewis brings us into the realm of Ransom’s and Merlin’s magical rescue of England from the grip of a malevolent force. About Williams’s novels. whose work I would certainly be remiss if I did not mention here. Lewis’s work is a masterpiece not only because of how it carries us into the magical working in the “descent of the gods.” but also because of the delicate tension it maintains between ordinary life and magical events. It is important that this magical working is not the end of the book. the magical working here is meant also to have effects in the “primary world” of the reader. but this healing is also one in which the reader necessarily participates. Lewis not only achieves dramatic success. even though of course the reader has not physically participated in the invocation of the Oyéresu. and Mark’s shirt is hanging partway out of the window. and the Director (Dr. Gareth Knight observes in The Magical World of the Inklings: those who read his fiction tend to be affected strongly in two ways. she sees that clothes are piled inside. though one could easily imagine it so. one with ordinary people. of course. but also is able to take along even the skeptical reader.”81 I cite this prosaic finale precisely because it is so deliberately ordinary: it brings us back completely from the magical atmosphere of the novel’s main body to mundane life. One finds exactly the same sense of initiatory passage in the novels of Charles Williams. but Lewis’s novel is clearly about the “primary world” in which we live. But even this is not the end: the end comes when the character Jane returns to her husband Mark. One feels a satisfaction at the conclusion of That Hideous Strength that very few novels are able to elicit. “How exactly like Mark!” Jane thinks. and all is brought to a conclusion in “Venus at St. Therefore . the novel has dimensions that most other fiction simply does not. in the following chapter we see the destruction of the malevolent Institute and its depraved characters. “Obviously it was high time she went in. Ransom) is taken up to Perelandra bodily. to the familiar world in which a married couple need each other.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the aphorism by its nature stands on its own surrounded by the white space of the page. one is placed in contact with another reality through them. is imbued always with spiritual significance. when in fact it is quite clear that we are ruled today by the elite of scientific technocrats and politicians . In “Hymn of Life. and cheap vulgarity of attitude towards life on the other side. of his solitary walks in the countryside. and this from a comparatively early period in his work. But here I wander.” or again.” Ordinary life in the natural world. the contemplative.” consisting in excerpts from Collins’s journals during the Second World War. Totnes. we are all exiles. In Cambridge in 1945 he wrote acidly What an age to live in! It bites into you with a formless denying of the life in us. and my life with you. 1945. The coldness of the vanity of the intellect on one side. on the other his works are infused with profound criticisms of the “insect-life” of modern industrial society. The aphorism is in many respects the most poetic form of prose. But you exist. to come to fruition. Denies the artist. even as they transmit that worldview to the reader. A winter of the spirit is over all society. If Collins loved solitude and nature on the one hand. A frustration of all that which is growing. with the white compassionate temples of the clouds floating in wise happiness and detached love. It is this official denial of life that confronts us in everything. But deep underneath flows the secret stream. for he must ‘leap the gaps. [14 January. of “The long eternal afternoons robed in blue. and the task of the artist is to remind us of this. so that the reader has a greater task than in prose works. Collins gave a public lecture titled “The Artist in the New Age. he writes: O holy ones I long for you. Devonshire]94 He writes beautifully also of his life in nature. I long for my kingdom. I know of your existence. Our time denies. the human being. for Collins.” 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. denies all who have inward fruit. to show us the hieroedietic beauty of life through art. of how “The tasting of these things in our days and nights is the partaking of the sacrament of existence. I long for my race. of all that which desires to give. and most holy are you O beautiful servants.’ must make intellectual connections individually. I remember you. and I know nothing.95 In 1965.130 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E worldview. By reading Collins’s aphorisms.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

see also Scholem. 29. 1986). 18.. see also Moshe Idel. 197... The Hermetic Museum (London: Watkins. Origins. C. 1961). 14. (Hildesheim: Olms. Ibid.312.351. The Renaissance Philosophy of Man (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. See Arthur Edward Waite. Scholem. I. Opera omnia. I. 11.205b–206a. cit. Ibid. pp. p.. Dan.. Twersky. 25. 37.. (London: Soncino. trs. Ibid. See Moshe Idel.. Gershom Scholem. See Verman. Zohar IV . 49–50. as well as Antoine Faivre and F. II. 7.. 15. p. eds. Ibid.320–323. p. 22. Rabbi Moses Nahmanides: Explorations. 31. 246. p. IV . Ibid. Ibid. 23. op. 20. Cassirer. 280. Tristan. Ibid. 197. The Books of Contemplation (Albany: State University of New York Press. 298 ff.. p. I.314. 51. . 35. cit. 1953) I. 1965). p. 27. See. Vasoli. ed. 29. pp. 250. 1983). trs. Ibid. and Françoise Secret. p.331. 61. II. 10. 17.77. Simon. 33. II. M. 270. p. Ibid. Kabbalah: New Perspectives (New Haven: Yale University Press. p. 13. Origins of the Kabbalah (Princeton: Princeton University Press.NOTES TO CHAPTER TWO 161 6.75. I. Joseph Blau. vom Stein der Weisen (Berlin: Christian Ulrich Ringmacher. p. ed. et al. op.. p. Ibid. See Scholem. 30. 52.205b. I. 394. 1985)..325. Ibid. 278. 19.. Cassirer. 38. I.. See Mark Verman. 1964). 57. 24.. Origins. 1988). Origins.. 66. cit. ed. II. p.71. See A.. 34.. The Early Kabbalah (Paulist Press. A translation of Ars Brevis is to be found in Ramon Lull. Ibid. 26. 1969). 101–102. 57. Ibid... ed. p.. 36. (Princeton: Princeton University Press. for instance. I. ed. 59. The Christian Interpretation of the Cabala in the Renaissance (Port Washington: Kennikat. 1987). op. 8. 32. 1979). 1779). 1992). Les Kabbalistes chrétiens de la Renaissance (Paris: Dunod. 16. Ibid. A.C. p. 21. See J. in The Zohar.B. p.80 ff.. 12.. Doctor Illuminatus. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.76. Kabbalistes chrétiens (Paris: Albin Michel. Bonner. 1984). See Verman. p. 28. See “Oration on the Dignity of Man” in E. See Pico della Mirandola. p. 9. Ibid.

II. Ibid. See Josten. Ibid. 62. 1615). C. p. ms. Yates. 1972). 1998).. For an excellent survey of the scholarship since Yates.A. Secret Societies. 1966). 45. ed. 50. M. Confessio. cit. p. Freemasonry. a theologian. for background. 49. Elias Ashmole (Oxford: Clarendon.O. 37. 55.. H. and also written an extensive commentary on it.. 129. 58.. 257. 43. 251. 253. 252.681. p. a musician. 1999). Hall. p.. The Tessera of Antilia: Utopian Brotherhoods and Secret Societies in the Early Seventeenth Century (Leiden: Brill. See Versluis. (Cassel: Wessel. Ashmole.. 49.. 59. 242. From von Welling. The original (short) titles of Fama and Confessio were Allgemeine und General Reformation.M.77. p. The following page references are to Yates.A. p. forthcoming. Confessio. Ibid.. 1997). and The Rosicrucian Enlightenment. Ibid. p. Ibid. in a group called the Round Table. See. ed. 255. 56. see Donald Dickson. p. See Versluis. 40. op. 371. for the reader’s convenience. Opus Mago-Cabbalisticum et Theosophicum (Frankfurt: Fleischerischum. 1614) and Secretioris Philosophiae Considertio brevis . Ibid. 260. Ibid. and even chart them astrologically. 53. 1784). D. 61..P.. Fama. Fama. 54. 22. “Christian Theosophy and Ancient Gnosticism” in Studies in Spirituality (Fall. Ibid. and others.. especially on Gichtel’s and other theosophers’ tendency to carefully date their revelations. p. 246. See also Marsha Schuchard. The Rosicrucian Enlightenment (London: Routledge. 238. p. Ashmole. for text. The first English translation was published by Thomas Vaughan in 1652.D. 47. Ibid. . and the Continuity of the Occult in English Literature (Ph.162 NOTES TO CHAPTER TWO 39. This commentary was shared with people from diverse walks. The texts of the Fama and Confessio in English are most easily found as appendices to Yates. . 42. 67. Resicrucian Enlightenment. Fama. Theatre of the World. p. p. . Fama. 44.. University of Texas at Austin. 60.O. Frances Yates. p.. including two physicists. p. See Frances Yates. Wisdom’s Children: A Christian Esoteric Tradition (State University of New York Press. 63.M. p. I have translated this work of Pordage. (Los Angeles: Philosophical Research.. 1988). 41. See Versluis. . 51.102–104.. diss. 52. Confessio... Josten. I. 220. der gantzen weiten welt . 221. p. 57. 48. The Alchemy of Art. Confessio. Ibid. 1975). 77. . p. (Cassel: Wessel. 1971). 241. p. William Huffman.: A Rare and Curious Manuscript of Rosicrucian Interest. I. See Codex Rosae Crucis D. Ibid. a cosmologist. Ibid. p. Ibid. Robert Fludd and the End of the Renaissance (London: Routledge. See. table of contents. 46.

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

Lib. p. 40. pp. Ibid. For a discussion of Postel in relation to Christian theosophy. pp. introduction by Albert Gelpi. for a translation of Hymns to the Night. H. 277. Milosz. p. 465. Susan Friedman. pp. 13. p. 16. Hermetica (Boston: Shambhala. pp. . 303. trs. 178–179. 8–9. pp. The Esoteric Origins of the American Renaissance (New York: Oxford University Press. 455.. Ibid. is into what did she translate this inner meaning.. For a more extensive study. the harsh world of necessity that Freud described is itself the “rune” that must be deciphered. pp. Ibid. pp. 248. 299–300. 28. Friedman writes that “From her [H. pp. Ibid. 20. 1989).. p. 464. . 29. 1981). 299. D. 33.. Ibid. Ibid. 18.1 ff.. 35. Ibid. For the poet of the modernist era. Ibid. Pollen and Fragments: Selected Poetry and Prose of Novalis (Grand Rapids: Phanes. D. Notes on Thought and Vision (San Francisco: New Directions.115. 19. The ‘true-rune and right spell’ of esoteric tradition contained the code for H. Ibid.. 17. 39. 300. I. Scott. cit. 21. 1982). cit. 204–205. The question.. See Versluis. Ibid.. p... 34. of course. 182–183. op. 180–181. pp. pp.. 15. cit.. Ibid. 1994). hermetic tradition offered a pattern of meaning in coded form to the initiate . D. 41. Psyche Reborn (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 1996). op.. 224–225. pp. pp. 31. Ibid. Ibid. and to what end? One might hope that critics would eventually cease to assume that there is always only a single thing called “esoteric tradition.. See Versluis.. Ibid. ed. p. p. 27. 469. pp. Milosz..164 NOTES TO CHAPTER THREE 12. Ibid. 37. 48–52. Ibid.. Ibid.. ranging from entirely cosmological ones such as astrology or the Tarot to more metaphysical or gnostic ones. 297–298. 206–207. 296. 14. 2001). 38.” when in fact there are numerous different esoteric currents of a wide variety. pp. Milosz.. 157–206. op. 174–175. 22. 32. see Steven Bullock. 226–227. 210–211. I.. 30. p.. 24. 158). Milosz. 1985). Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Ibid.” synonymous with “hermetic tradition. Ibid. . 36. 26. See W..’s] perspective. Theosophia: Hidden Dimensions of Christianity (Hudson: Lindisfarne. p. 23. 25. see Versluis. Ibid. p. in her search to translate the inner meaning of material reality” (p.

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

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

. 63. II. Ibid. 108 ff.” in B. 94. 1957). 121. ed. 118. Ibid. See Versluis. p. Religion and Nothingness (Berkeley: University of California Press. 40. Ibid.. 225. 130. I. 115. 40 and pp. See. I added the colors. The Beginning and the End (New York: Harper. 62. Ibid.. 275 ff. Nicholas Berdyaev. Ibid. Ibid. pp. 117. Versluis. 114. 113. 93.. Socialist Realism..1. 106. forthcoming.. 111. 95. 122. Ibid. 194 ff. Ibid. p. 1958). 199.. The Way to Christ (New York: Paulist Press.NOTES TO CHAPTER THREE 167 104. p. 109. p.. 112.. . Ibid.. Song and Its Fountains (Burdett: Larson. p. 126. Nishitani Keiji. E.. Rosenthal. p. Ibid. 39. p. Ibid. 110.31. trs.” and I. for example. A. p. Ibid. See my overview of Christian theosophy in Magic and Mysticism. Knapp. 107. 105. Freedom and the Spirit. 105. p. “Ancient Gnosticism and Christian Theosophy” in Studies in Spirituality (Fall 1997). 1997) p. p.29–30. See Berdyaev’s introduction to Jacob Böhme’s Six Theosophic Points (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan. Nicolas Berdyaev: Theologian of Prophetic Gnosticism (Th. Christosophia. See Charles C. 106. 103. 116. pp. p. 128. Toronto: 1948). 124. 170. 78.31. from “The Magic of Words: Symbolism.. 74. p.” 108. Ibid. 1994).1 ff. 1980). 62–63.. Irina Gutkin.D.. Ibid. pp. Bromley’s is the image on the cover of my book Theosophia (1994). p. Peter Erb. The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture (Ithaca: Cornell University Press. 129. 1978). 127.. 285.. Theosophia: Hidden Dimensions of Christianity (Hudson: Lindisfarne. Ibid. 1991). Futurism. 123.. Christosophia IV . 120. pp. “Warnung an den Leser.. p. 25 ff. See also The Destiny of Man... pp. IV . Diss. 119. p. p. 125. 71 ff. Ibid. “Vorrede.


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

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

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

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

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

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