Western Esotericism, Literature, Art, and Consciousness

Arthur Versluis



SUNY series in

Western Esoteric Traditions

David Appelbaum, editor

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

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

In memory of poet and scholar Kathleen Raine .


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

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 .

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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



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



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

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

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

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

This does not mean that one jettisons reason and becomes a ‘true believer.’ 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. 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. who enter into a work imaginatively. When one reads an esoteric work like John Pordage’s treatise on Sophia. 2. graspable solution to a koan. analogous to that of the Zen student who seeks an objectified. and nothing less. This is a pervasive problem today because literary theoretical conventions tend to be hostile toward the very imaginative sympathy without which the reader is divorced from the work and cannot enter it but can only analyze it from without. inwardly in you and not constructed outside you. a process explicitly closed to the exoteric reader. but here a new magical earth is brought . and this too presents problems. 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. has awakened in him by divine Wisdom the creative power that brings external existence into being. Sophia (divine Wisdom) herself tells him (the gnostic) that “I am come to make in you yourself this new invisible creation. one must enter into them openly and on their own terms. But there is a third perspective. thus sealing it off from oneself as merely an object to be manipulated by the intellect and revealing oneself as a closed reader. to understand them.” we may well then be positing the realm of the imagination itself as something objectified that exists outside oneself. and 3. of whether that which is imagined or revealed in an esoteric work possesses any existence of its own. Initiates. Sympathetic readers.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. Closed readers—those who come to a work with predetermined theses that disallow their imaginative entry. Yet if we answer “yes. not one’s own. This leads us inevitably to the question with which we began. which is what I am proposing here. We can thus posit three kinds of readers of esoteric works: 1. Pordage writes that in the Sophianic process of imaginative vision. From a contemporary rationalist perspective one might answer “no. one is in fact entering imaginatively into the process Pordage is describing.” but this would be a purely exoteric answer that objectified the esoteric work of literature or art. imagination could also be seen as a faculty of perception and transmutation. For one does not have to conceive of imagination as a purely individual generative capacity. in other words. who see the work as mirroring a process that they seek to undergo in themselves.” The gnostic.

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


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

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

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

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

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

Platonism. yet not strictly philosophical either. The most important of these is the insistence upon gnosis. what we find is something quite different. Hermetism refuses to be pinned down or definitively discussed. However. There are five primary currents in antiquity that feed into what we may call the Western esoteric traditions: Jewish esotericism. Like Hermes himself. and is generally associated with the more or less random play of images. it is clear that the Hermetic treatises occupy a peculiar place. then. traditions. 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. the more one recognizes the fluidity of the various traditions’ boundaries. precariously balanced on the periphery of religious traditions. they certainly intermingled. But such a term suggests that imagination is otherwise passive. Indeed. and it is this that represents the red thread that will guide us through the labyrinths of the centuries. and together provided a common ambience out of which emerged a panoply of sects. Occupying an intermediate space between religion and philosophy. always there is a fluid. Hermetism reveals the ground occupied by Western esoteric traditions throughout the past several thousand years. mercurial quality to it. But these currents themselves are not discrete from one another. which Henry Corbin called the “active imagination. and writings that reveal a great many similarities. no accident that so many of the Western esoteric traditions link themselves to the Hermetica. the more one studies the emergence of esotericism in the early centuries of this era. It is. but insisting above all on one’s own direct spiritual understanding or gnosis.22 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E There is an initiator or revealer. here the dialogues often take place in an interworld of revelation. and depicting direct spiritual illumination of the initiate. or direct knowledge of the divine. Such a relationship goes beyond simply that of participants in a dialogue like Plato’s.” “Active imagination” refers to the meeting of an individual and transcendent beings on an intermediate field that belongs completely neither to the transcendent nor to the mundane world. T H E F I E L D O F T H E I M A G I N AT I O N It is commonplace today to think of the imagination as a means of escapism— the word is roughly equivalent to daydreaming or to fantasy. For from what we have said. and Hermetism. willing to draw upon one or sometimes any of them. and are between one who embodies knowledge and one who seeks to embody it. It is true that the language is sometimes Platonic. when we survey the Western esoteric traditions. Christian esotericism. the mystery traditions. not quite belonging to the sphere of religion. and . as there was to many of the movements of antiquity. and there is a witness to the revelation.

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

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

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

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



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



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



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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

but another view.10 Thus we can see how here mystical numbers and letters reflect the hidden divine principles of the cosmos. 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. We also see these alphanumeric mysteries in the Zohar. which sixteenth-century Kabbalist Moses Cordovero regarded as being among a handful of the most important works. 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. there is a third possibility—that Moses de Leon composed through spiritual imagination. it is not at all out of character for the Zohar to have connections to the mysteries of the “Writing Name. supported by some contemporary testimony. as a female is fertilized from the male. including the human body. often said to be the culmination of the early Kabbalistic period. is that Moses de Leon composed the Zohar himself by way of “conjuration of the Writing Name.48 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E The sephirot mysteries in Bahir are intimately related to the mystical meanings of numbers and letters. he wrote the entire work without any precedent. the Zohar is replete with alphanumeric mysticism.” Indeed. One of the most influential Kabbalistic books of this period is the Fountain of Wisdom (Ma‘yan ha-Hokhmah). and that it regards the written word as being at the center of those mysteries.”13 We might note that here the “Written Law” is seen as male. said to symbolize the abdomen.”12 And we are treated to a fascinating explanation of why the verse-divisions. but here takes on the meaning of “com- . In section 124. this controversy itself reveals much about the nature of Kabbalism. But in any event. For example. which comprise a total of 613 letters. But there is another work that helps shed light on what the nature of these alphanumeric mysteries might be.” and are the means by which “the Written Law fertilized the Oral Law.11 Of course. 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. caught up in the spirit. spiritual. and which was central in the founding of Hasidism as well. The Fountain of Wisdom consists in a discussion of tikkun. Although the origins of the Zohar are somewhat controversial. the tonal accents. Opposite them are the twenty-two little letters of the lower world. the ten fingers of human hands are said to correspond to the ten sephirot and to the commandments. the “Oral Law” as female or receiver. including all twenty-two letters of the alphabet except tet. and that in this sense he really was copying from the transcendent source of the Kabbalistic tradition. a word that usually means “restoration” in Hebrew. and natural realms at once.” (that is. writing the Names of God) and through this power. informing the cultural. and so forth are absent from the Scroll of Law: these signs were hidden in the “interior of the Divine Throne. for example.

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We may ‘read. water. Clearly the imagination plays a role in the processes of alchemy. Of course. and the plant grows into its image as best conditions will allow. so one must be cautious in entering into these other dimensions by way of imagination—one is reminded of the proverbial visitor to the faeries who never returned. Confronted with such a colloquy. the individual human being may participate in the divine imagination that brings forth nature itself. just as we might look at an image reflected in a mirror or water. not merely from the outside and as other. consists in the awakening of subtler dimensions of a given plant.60 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E course. but then there is also another kind of reading that we see in the collections of images. According to Paracelsus. allows one to see the actual landscape or “first nature” in a different way. to carry it within. but inwardly and as mysteriously connected to oneself by way of imagination. then. not all evestra are benefic. that alchemy takes place in the imagination is not to say that it is imagi- . not only by looking at words on a page. which exist in subtle matters of their own kind—for instance. but also through the power of the imagination. There are incalculable numbers of evestra. so too there is an inner world where the imagination may draw forth hidden things from ‘seed’ into flower. Here the individual mind is not separated from mineral. but is joined with them in the imagination. for they occupy different dimensions within it. air.” consisting in the imaginative landscape. what is an aspiring alchemist to do but contemplate such a work. But in any event.” Just as the sun draws forth the visible and growing forms of plants. The cosmos is created through the divine imagination. and so it is only natural that humanity also participates in this power. and animal realms. allegories. Through these evestra. to enter into it until its images and approach permeate one’s consciousness and become second nature? Such a “second nature. or earth—and which may know nothing of the human world even though they exist in the same cosmos. And of course.’ then. one branch of alchemy. beyond the book of nature is the Book of Life. one may know the inner nature of anything. where we see literature conveying the transmutation of consciousness that manifests in the natural world as well. and figurative expressions that so characterize alchemical literature. Spagyric medicine. Imagination governs the development of things. literary allusions. which Paracelsus in De virtute imaginativa called a “sun in the soul of man. To say. which perceives and participates in these other subtler dimensions of existence. for the image of what a flower or plant is exists germinally in the seed. But here ‘imagination’ does not belong to any individual—rather. fire. One learns to read the inner significance of the book of nature. ethereal counterparts. these subtle realms and beings may be encountered in the realm of the imagination. Paracelsus tells us. vegetable. which in turn may awaken the corresponding quality in the human being and thereby effect healing. poems. its subtle essence. everything that exists in the physical cosmos has what he calls evestra. epigrams.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

These aspects of Rosicrucianism. It certainly emerges in the Middle Ages in the works of Agrippa and Trithemius. metahistorical events at the end of time. is hidden the real essence of Christianity itself. All of this. . or worse than nothing. as God hath here and there incorporated them in the Holy Scriptures.74 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E Likewise.”52 “These characters and letters. so hath he imprinted them most apparently into the wonderful creation of heaven and earth. in the which withall is expressed and declared the nature of all things. yea. in which we find the sources of many subsequent works illustrated by . and above all. a new language for ourselves. . a new era for mankind. and grave warnings are given to those who approach its mysteries selfishly. in the Rosicrucian mysteries. we are told that to some it is permitted that they see and use “those great letters and characters which the Lord God hath written and imprinted in heaven and earth’s edifice. and have found out.”55 The implication is that here. reminds us rather strikingly of the Book of Revelation. and endue them with learning . for instance. and writing in a “magic language. yea. who as we have seen drew upon Kabbalistic sources. . into all beasts . Agrippa and Trithemius are well known for their primary and influential works on magic. One can hardly miss the Biblical resonances of these final words of the Confessio: “Although we might enrich the whole world. correspond closely to what we also find in Christian theosophy at roughly the same time.”53 The implication throughout the Fama and the Confessio is that there is dawning a miranda sexta aetatis. and made. with the date 1604. and quite probably to Egypt.” The authors of the Fama and the Confessio certainly believed in the hierohistorical significance of certain dates and astrological conjunctions connected. or sixth age. including the hierohistorical view of dates and the expectation of an impending apocalypse or unveiling. From which characters or letters we have borrowed our magic writing. the Bible. a very long history in the West. with all of its emphasis on hierogeometry. without and against the will of God. of course. But this new revelation must be approached with humility.” Such an idea of a magic language has.54 It is no coincidence that Böhme titled his first book Aurora. it shall be so far from him who thinks to get the benefit and be partaker of our riches and knowledge. and held that there was emerging a new revelation. . 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. and that one must approach it with humility or find nothing. for instance. . stretching back at least to the Gnostics. Clearly for our purposes the most relevant aspect of these most seminal Rosicrucian documents is their embrace of linguistic mysticism. Throughout they emphasize reading the divine books of humanity and nature. . of course. an era that recalls the earlier hierohistorical mysticism of Joachim of Fiore and his complex theory of a coming “age of the Holy Spirit. yet shall we never be manifested . the universal revelation of Christ to humanity. unto any man without the special pleasure of God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 ) .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

who wrote too of the division and conflict between love and wrath. but refers to an inner alchemy. I touch your brow. This poem. and with it the initiate asks for peace for Beatrix and for himself. tender metal partners in marriage. “Master. especially given Milosz’s own essentially solitary life. je te touche le front. he will not lose the memory of the suffering he has undergone. and clothed with the sun. 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. Qu’ils sont beaux. because of its fusion of literature and Hermeticism. [Dear child. but also of the inner desolation that one can also experience on earth.]” To this Beatrix replies: “Farewell.” is unquestionably alchemical. tendres métaux époux. How beautiful and innocent they are!]”19 This reference. in this egg resting on the nuptial flame. space and time!” And the adept suggests they both to kneel in adoration “devant le cher fourneau” [before this dear Furnace.” replies Beatrix. as well as in more modern movements like Freemasonry.” Milosz has his character “The Adept” speaking with his inner spouse. by the grace of inner vision. trois vois—le signe. the sign!]” This is the sign of the cross.]” . let us make the sign.18 But Milosz has forged his own mode of expression. Beatrix is surprised: “So you can see them? How? In this hermetic egg? With what eyes?” The adept replies: “Chère enfant. and his Hymns to the Night. and is clearly expressing his own direct experience.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 95 remède à tous les maux et que la connaissance de l’or est aussi celle de la lumière et du sang. Frequently his poetry has a dramatic or semidramatic quality. par la grâce de la vue du milieu. dans cet œuf appuyé sur le feu nuptial. Beatrix. And in his allusions to the visionary descent into darkness. reaffirms the importance not only of the ascent to the knowledge of light. and since we have now known one another seven years. and for our three days to come. it affirms the significance not only of the virginal gold of the soul’s solar egg. 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. to “tender metal partners in marriage. between the lightworld and the darkworld. again three times. you speak the truth. Milosz is very much akin to Böhme. Thus the canticle. “The Adept’s Christmas Eve” begins with the Adept’s ritual gesture: “sept fois pour le passé. et pour nos trois jours à venir. Et puisque nous connaissons depuis sept ans. In this acknowledgement of fundamental duality in the cosmos. innocents! [The parents sleep there. but the descent into immense suffering and privation. This understanding he expressed often in a peculiarly theatrical way. And then the adept makes a strange remark: “Les parents dorment là. is especially of interest to us here. In some poems he has a choir or a chorus. at its end. [1775–1802]). in his 1922 poem entitled “The Adept’s Christmas Eve. le signe! [seven times for the past.

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

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

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

the Neoplatonists of the Middle Ages.” and . Swedenborg. the School of Alexandria. but in the tradition of many Christian Cabalists. Milosz not only had studied and read Hebrew.”27 “Psalm of the Morning Star” is so suffused in Hebrew and in Old Testament language as to be inseparable from them. Plato. that of the word and the book: un seul mot nouveau le même / cœur qu’au temps des pères bat dans le bois la / pierre et l’eau rien de tou cela qui revient / n’est nouveau toutes ces choses dormaient / dans les livres fermés les livres sous mes / mains se sont ouverts. looked forward to the day that the Jews would be converted to Christianity. Swedenborg. Eugène Ledrain.]28 The peculiar rhythm of the lines and line breaks makes this poem unusually difficult to follow.” 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. [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. passing through the Pre-Socratics. alias René Descartes.26 If we see here the depth of Milosz’s focus on Hermeticism in history. We can see how deeply Milosz’s fascination with Judaism penetrated his work by examining his final poem. The Rosicrucian Polybius the Cosmopolitan.”25 And he remarked elsewhere that he spent the best years of his life in solitude “getting drunk on the Holy Scriptures and nourishing myself on them. and then with his “spiritual guides: Goethe. as when the poem refers to the “betrothed sister of the new canticle. Claude de Saint Martin.” first with his teacher of Hebrew. but it reveals at the heart of all things “a single new word. he was well acquainted with Jewish Kabbalism.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 99 wrote in a letter that he would like to lecture on a subject he knew thoroughly: “hermetic metaphysics and doctrines. Martinez de Pasqually.” Milosz continued. from Egypt up to today. we cannot help but notice the parallel focus on Judaism and Kabbalah. sought in them peace of spirit. In the “Psalm” we read of another primary theme. The allusions to Milosz’s favorite doctrines and language are here hidden in the allusions to Hebrew names and places. the disciple of the Kabbalist Raymond Martini. but kept a Bible in Hebrew nearby as a constant reading companion. the mystical eighteenth century.” 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. These writers—and also Jewish exegesis—exerted a decisive influence upon Blaise Pascal. “Psaume de l’Étoile du Matin [Psalm of the Morning Star].

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

in literary form. if we may so put it. For magical fiction is in fact remarkably suited to. active imagination is essential. . ‘behind the scenes’ of the drama of ordinary human life. In fact.” and thus to written works like novels. we have seen that magical fiction in general represents to the reader a series of stages or grades. Indeed.128 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E I would suggest that the order of these final points be reversed. a mesocosm possessing its own geography. initiation into living Nature tends to precede initiation into the powers of higher entities. he calls ‘active imagination’ “the essential component of esotericism. from this brief foray into the realm of magical fiction? First. initiating readers into “the space of intermediary beings. a mesocosm possessing its own geography. 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.” putting us in contact with the mundus imaginalis or imaginal world that “is the space of intermediary beings.91 Faivre goes on to remark that to succeed in this process of regeneration or initiatic awakening. and a realm in which one may encounter and work with nonphysical beings and powers. we have seen that often central to this magical initiation is a kind of magical battle between evil and good magicians. and Fortune were up to in their fictional works. Finally. which manifests a deeper conflict between destructive and constructive powers in the cosmos as a whole. Second. Such a tension corresponds. we may note that the distinctions drawn by Tolkien between a “secondary” world of artistic creation and the “primary” world of this earth do not hold for magical fiction precisely because magical fiction represents a passage between the matter-of-fact world that we are familiar with. even though the ultimate source of the reader’s magical initiation in fiction is the author. But this passage as a whole clearly can be read as referring to initiation “transmittable by the word. or such as Isis in Fortune’s The Sea Priestess. moving from initiation into elemental or natural magic (represented by Lewis’s character Merlin.” What conclusions can we draw. for instance) to initiation into encounters with transcendent beings the Oyéresu in Lewis’s That Hideous Strength.”93 Faivre’s observations here are particularly important because they help us to understand in a different light what Lewis. perceptible to each of us as a function of our respective cultural imagery. 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. to the age-old relationship between the initiate and the initiator. and from the rule-free extravagances of fantasy or sentimentality. Williams. Third.”92 This special kind of imagination allows one to “escape both from the sterility of a purely discursive logic. then. since in the fiction we have been discussing. thoroughly real. as one reads a novel like Dion Fortune’s The Sea Priestess.

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

130 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E worldview. and my life with you.” or again. when in fact it is quite clear that we are ruled today by the elite of scientific technocrats and politicians . and I know nothing. Collins gave a public lecture titled “The Artist in the New Age. one is placed in contact with another reality through them. A winter of the spirit is over all society. Totnes. so that the reader has a greater task than in prose works.95 In 1965. 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. the aphorism by its nature stands on its own surrounded by the white space of the page. 1945. I remember you. for Collins. and this from a comparatively early period in his work. [14 January. If Collins loved solitude and nature on the one hand. I long for my race. I long for my kingdom. But deep underneath flows the secret stream. of “The long eternal afternoons robed in blue. It is this official denial of life that confronts us in everything. A frustration of all that which is growing. he writes: O holy ones I long for you. But here I wander. and most holy are you O beautiful servants.’ must make intellectual connections individually. Devonshire]94 He writes beautifully also of his life in nature. I know of your existence. denies all who have inward fruit. and the task of the artist is to remind us of this. the human being. we are all exiles. By reading Collins’s aphorisms. for he must ‘leap the gaps. to come to fruition. Our time denies. to show us the hieroedietic beauty of life through art. with the white compassionate temples of the clouds floating in wise happiness and detached love. of how “The tasting of these things in our days and nights is the partaking of the sacrament of existence.” consisting in excerpts from Collins’s journals during the Second World War. is imbued always with spiritual significance. and cheap vulgarity of attitude towards life on the other side.” Ordinary life in the natural world. But you exist. the contemplative.” 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. In “Hymn of Life. of all that which desires to give. of his solitary walks in the countryside. even as they transmit that worldview to the reader. Denies the artist. 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 sensitivity to the vibrations and rays of that livingness which is at the heart of things.” “How” knowledge is merely instrumental. The higher worlds are inaccessible to the insensitive. they offer avenues into direct inner spiritual realization. “How” knowledge refers to mere process and manipulation of apparently dead objects. but only by rapport with those worlds. This is the same thing actually. by description. They represent a low level of awareness and consciousness. how apt his descriptions still are of the moribund vacuity characterizing so much of modern life. In “Art and Modern Man” he continues to discuss what art is capable of achieving: Art is a realization of what is and not of what appears to be[. The value of the artist is not to decorate. . . It can only be known by inner nuance. Collins calls us out of this stupor of the insectoid hive-life in industrial society through his art. they cannot be reached by knowledge of them.” but to offer what Collins calls “rapport” with the transcendent. For like answers to like and creates actualization . to make pretty that “empty and mechanical desert we call modern civilization. In his essay “Art and Modern Man. the instrument of art helps to sensitise the interior nature and to continually re-sensitise it when it grows stale and dull in the world of mere existence—the world of repetition. whereas “‘why’ knowledge is concerned with the significance of things. . rapport. and thus ultimately nothing less than a transformation of our consciousness. in Collins’s view.” Collins distinguishes between “how” knowledge and “why” knowledge. they have no philosophy of life other than the exploitation of nature and of man. whereas a great deal of ‘why’ knowledge is known only through nuance of consciousness. the meaning. by measurement or analysis. awaken this inner rapport in us.] 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. Transformation of consciousness cannot be known or be brought about by thinking.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. another way of expressing what he calls “why” knowledge. and central to our awakening is a change in consciousness. and the making of money.96 It is remarkable how timely Collins’s critique of industrial society has remained.97 Works of art.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These authors are important for us because their religio-philosophical perspectives. and publicly identified himself as a Christian theosopher in the line of Dionysius the Areopagite and Jacob Böhme. 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. which belongs to history and to the constraints of time and space. Here we have neither space nor need to survey Berdyaev’s life and work. precedes all being. literature. the author is reaching out. and place them in a world religious and philosophical context. but in every case. and intimately familiar with the history of modern philosophy.124 The Ungrund. to in Emerson’s words. that Western esoteric and Western literary and artistic traditions are far more mutually illuminating than we could have guessed. And perhaps all forms of Western literature.154 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E Flamel—the list can be extended indefinitely. in the . Berdyaev was himself definitely part of Western esotericism. and consciousness. In being.” It may well be. taken together.123 But Berdyaev was also a philosopher. his work formed a kind of bridge between Eastern and Western Christianities and worldviews. One should not be too surprised at the introduction of Berdyaev’s work here. therefore. 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. They exist on a continuum that includes reading or viewing art for diversion or pleasure. to be guided by the author. moreover. and indeed even God himself. and explicitly seeking to guide the reader toward new and intensified kinds of consciousness. for as I have discussed elsewhere. “add it to his own arsenal of power. And the reader from his side is seeking to comprehend. and how they correspond to what we have learned about Western esotericism. Perhaps the symbolism of a novel is an attenuated form of what we find made even more explicit in these esoteric traditions. 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 whom literature and art are the expression and vehicle of spiritual illumination and of the transfiguration of the world. 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. a means for nothing less than the restoration of paradise. esoteric or not. where everything in the cosmos is seen as bearing its divine signature. but that also includes those who insist on far higher stakes and greater rewards. to vicariously participate in the author’s understanding. emerge from a pervasive human need to discern or restore the hidden unity of all things by reading and writing the world anew. being Russian and deeply influenced by Eastern Orthodoxy rather than Western European Christianity. Berdyaev tells us. but instead will look at his philosophical contributions.

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

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

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


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

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

See Verman. p. A.351. Ibid. Origins. Kabbalistes chrétiens (Paris: Albin Michel. Origins. p. op. Gershom Scholem. ed. Simon. 20.. See Moshe Idel. ed.NOTES TO CHAPTER TWO 161 6. Origins. Ibid.320–323. Scholem. Ibid. 23. 1964). 9. 36. 278...80 ff. op. C. 21. 34. The Hermetic Museum (London: Watkins.71.. I. 101–102. 1779). p. 12. See J. 11. 394. Tristan. Cassirer. Ibid. 29. 57. 28.. op. Kabbalah: New Perspectives (New Haven: Yale University Press. p.. p.. The Early Kabbalah (Paulist Press. 52. 197.. 298 ff. Ibid. 59. in The Zohar. See. 18. 1984). .76.205b–206a. Ibid... 1983). trs. 1965). Ibid. 1979). 37. Rabbi Moses Nahmanides: Explorations. pp. p. 16. See Pico della Mirandola. 1961). 25. 35. eds. p. Twersky.. 22. Cassirer. et al. 19. ed. Joseph Blau. Vasoli. A translation of Ars Brevis is to be found in Ramon Lull. p.. p. 1988).C. 1953) I. trs.. 250. 270. 7. I. pp. Origins of the Kabbalah (Princeton: Princeton University Press. Dan. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. as well as Antoine Faivre and F. Ibid. p. 1969). Bonner.205b.. Opera omnia. Les Kabbalistes chrétiens de la Renaissance (Paris: Dunod. 1986). 26. vom Stein der Weisen (Berlin: Christian Ulrich Ringmacher. Ibid. see also Scholem. Zohar IV . See Verman. 49–50. II. 29. p.. 57. 32. ed... I. II. p. and Françoise Secret. I. Ibid. Ibid.312. The Renaissance Philosophy of Man (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 246. 1992). IV . I.314. ed. p. M. See Arthur Edward Waite.. 31. p. cit..325. (London: Soncino. I. 14. Ibid. See “Oration on the Dignity of Man” in E. Doctor Illuminatus. 1985). p. 1987). I. II. p. (Princeton: Princeton University Press.B. 13.75. 15. p. 10.77. Ibid. 280. 33. 24. cit. See Mark Verman. The Christian Interpretation of the Cabala in the Renaissance (Port Washington: Kennikat. 61. for instance.. 38. 27. 51. Ibid. 66. see also Moshe Idel.. (Hildesheim: Olms. 8. See A. The Books of Contemplation (Albany: State University of New York Press. 197. 17.. See Scholem. II. Ibid.331. 30. cit.

p. p. 52.. p. From von Welling. Theatre of the World.. Frances Yates. p. p. p. See Codex Rosae Crucis D. See Versluis. . a theologian. See Versluis. 47. The Tessera of Antilia: Utopian Brotherhoods and Secret Societies in the Early Seventeenth Century (Leiden: Brill. 61. The following page references are to Yates. Ibid.. Ibid.681. 1997). der gantzen weiten welt . Ibid. Ashmole.102–104. See. 1998). I. . p.P. Ibid. 22. Fama. p. 41. Robert Fludd and the End of the Renaissance (London: Routledge.. 1615). 260. Fama. p. 44.. ed. I.. 59. 45. 49.. and also written an extensive commentary on it. 42. 53. p. Ibid. 60. Fama. 246. 257. The original (short) titles of Fama and Confessio were Allgemeine und General Reformation. 255. for background.77.M. 1999).M. op. Opus Mago-Cabbalisticum et Theosophicum (Frankfurt: Fleischerischum. Fama. 56. 49. Ibid. and the Continuity of the Occult in English Literature (Ph. For an excellent survey of the scholarship since Yates. including two physicists. cit. 55. a musician. Ibid. 1971). see Donald Dickson. and The Rosicrucian Enlightenment. forthcoming. The Alchemy of Art. Resicrucian Enlightenment.. ed. H. 67. Ibid. 1614) and Secretioris Philosophiae Considertio brevis .: A Rare and Curious Manuscript of Rosicrucian Interest. 371. Hall. Ibid. 54. . 220.. diss. 241.O. William Huffman. 221.. . Ibid. I have translated this work of Pordage.D. for text. 40. Ashmole. 1975). 46.A. The Rosicrucian Enlightenment (London: Routledge. 1972). p. Yates. p. in a group called the Round Table. Wisdom’s Children: A Christian Esoteric Tradition (State University of New York Press.. (Cassel: Wessel. Confessio. Ibid.. p. The texts of the Fama and Confessio in English are most easily found as appendices to Yates. (Cassel: Wessel. p. p. The first English translation was published by Thomas Vaughan in 1652. 48. See Versluis..A. 1966). (Los Angeles: Philosophical Research. 129. and even chart them astrologically. Secret Societies. p. II. 58. 50. 62. M. 43. Ibid. See. University of Texas at Austin. 253. especially on Gichtel’s and other theosophers’ tendency to carefully date their revelations. 77... This commentary was shared with people from diverse walks. 63. Josten. p. 1988). See Josten. . 242.O. Freemasonry.. a cosmologist. p. p. C. “Christian Theosophy and Ancient Gnosticism” in Studies in Spirituality (Fall. 252.162 NOTES TO CHAPTER TWO 39. 57. Elias Ashmole (Oxford: Clarendon. D. Confessio.. table of contents. ms. Confessio. 1784). Ibid. for the reader’s convenience. 251. and others. 37. Confessio. See Frances Yates. See also Marsha Schuchard. 51. 238.

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

Ibid. 32. pp. D.. The ‘true-rune and right spell’ of esoteric tradition contained the code for H. pp. 26. D. pp. Ibid. Ibid. 1982). 1989). Milosz.164 NOTES TO CHAPTER THREE 12. 41. Friedman writes that “From her [H. I. Ibid. 2001). 35. is into what did she translate this inner meaning. 158). 299. see Versluis. introduction by Albert Gelpi.. Hermetica (Boston: Shambhala.. 16.. Ibid. 277. 1996). pp. Theosophia: Hidden Dimensions of Christianity (Hudson: Lindisfarne. 455. . Susan Friedman. 15. See Versluis.. 1981). 23. Ibid. Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. .. See Versluis. op. p. 29. 14.. The question. 204–205. D. Milosz. Ibid. 178–179. pp. 48–52. 33. hermetic tradition offered a pattern of meaning in coded form to the initiate . cit.” synonymous with “hermetic tradition. for a translation of Hymns to the Night. 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. ed.. trs. See W. 1994).. pp. 25. 24. Ibid. 31. . 34. pp. Ibid. The Esoteric Origins of the American Renaissance (New York: Oxford University Press. the harsh world of necessity that Freud described is itself the “rune” that must be deciphered. 297–298. pp. H. Lib.. 303. 13. Ibid. pp.. Psyche Reborn (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 27. Ibid. 248. p. in her search to translate the inner meaning of material reality” (p. 38. ranging from entirely cosmological ones such as astrology or the Tarot to more metaphysical or gnostic ones. op.115. Milosz. cit.’s] perspective. 17. of course. p. For a more extensive study. 157–206. 465. For a discussion of Postel in relation to Christian theosophy.. Scott. 22. Ibid. 210–211.. 299–300. 40. 37.” when in fact there are numerous different esoteric currents of a wide variety. Ibid. pp. 224–225. 182–183. Ibid. Ibid. 296. pp. p..... pp. 180–181.1 ff.. 464. p. Ibid. 174–175. 226–227. 28. pp. 469. p. Ibid. see Steven Bullock. Notes on Thought and Vision (San Francisco: New Directions. 19. 8–9. Pollen and Fragments: Selected Poetry and Prose of Novalis (Grand Rapids: Phanes. 206–207. Milosz. 300. Ibid.. For the poet of the modernist era. p. 36. pp. p.. 20. 39. op. p. 21. Ibid. Ibid. 18.. I. p. 1985).. 30. cit.

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

Poems.. cit. 91. 1990). The Winged Bull (York Beach: Weiser ed. 92. 112. 103. 10. 197. 95. 77. p. pp. I... 96. p. The Works of William Blake. pp.. 83. 1994) p. Moon Magic (York Beach: Weiser. Subsequent references are to Cecil Collins.. 102.. 80. Dion Fortune. so I have decided not to include them here. Letters from England (London: Longman. Pages from a Sketchbook (Ipswich: Golgonooza. Access to Western Esotericism (State University of New York Press. 3 vols. The Magical World of the Inklings. C. Ibid. 81.). See Antoine Faivre... 1994). Collins. Ibid. and their circles in mid-twentieth-century England. 323. 97. The Magical World of the Inklings (Shaftesbury: Element. Lewis.. E. B. Taverner (Columbus: Ariel. 100. p. cit. Dion Fortune. C. 101.. The Vision of the Fool and Other Writings (Ipswich: Golgonooza. Ibid. Williams was a member of Arthur Edward Waite’s magical fraternity.. retained his magical regalia in his office. 98. p. op. 89. p. Faivre. Ibid. Collins. noted hereafter as Vision. Yeats. 124–125. for a discussion of contemporary esoteric magical groups. Dion Fortune. 84. maintaining our focus on the Inklings.. 86. 91. The Secrets of Dr. 291. 88. S. 85. pp. n. 95. hereafter noted as Meditations.. 43. and Meditations. 79. p. Ibid. Ibid. Vision. Ibid. including Fortune’s. 102. . p. Ibid.). p.. and his intensifying “strange awareness” as a function of his magical apprenticeship with Vivien Le Fay Morgan. Ibid. p. p. pp. 87. cit. 87. See on this point. Ibid. Ibid. 82.166 NOTES TO CHAPTER THREE vom westlichen Fenster] (1927). in The Sea Priestess (York Beach: Weiser ed. p. 154. p. 99. p. Lewis. 1993). Southey.. See Collins. 78. That Hideous Strength (Macmillan: 1965 ed. op. 115. Meditations. Gareth Knight. 90. S. 21. 382. See for instance. op. 320. 40. 76. (London: Quaritch. 1994). Fortune. But Meyrink’s works are complex enough to deserve a study in themselves. 1893). 1997).d. p. 104–104. Faivre. and while his experience in magical ritual has been downplayed by some literary critics. without doubt had direct experience in magical initiation that was reflected in his fiction. p. 322. Maxwell’s account of his growing understanding of the elemental forces like wind and fire. 70–71. 20–21. Gareth Knight. 1814). p. p. 239. Ibid. 1988) p. p. 82–83. p.. ed. 93. 101. Ibid.25. pp. 88. 40. Essays Presented to Charles Williams (Oxford University Press: 1947). Vision. 127. 94. Ellis and W...

p. 106. See also The Destiny of Man. 170.. 110. Ibid.. 40 and pp. Ibid. pp. 122. 39.NOTES TO CHAPTER THREE 167 104.31.29–30. The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture (Ithaca: Cornell University Press. 127. Ibid. . Futurism. pp. 1991). I added the colors. ed. II.. “Vorrede. p.” and I. 114. p. 128. 225. 40.. A. 78. Ibid. Knapp. p. Ibid. 95. Versluis.D. Socialist Realism. from “The Magic of Words: Symbolism. Bromley’s is the image on the cover of my book Theosophia (1994). 62–63... 130.. Ibid..” in B. Christosophia. 117. 71 ff.. p. See my overview of Christian theosophy in Magic and Mysticism. “Ancient Gnosticism and Christian Theosophy” in Studies in Spirituality (Fall 1997). See.1. for example. 121. 1980). p. Ibid. Nicholas Berdyaev. 112. See Versluis.. Nishitani Keiji. 106. E. 107. Christosophia IV . 74. Ibid.. 1978). 108 ff. p. 115. Ibid. 119. 285. Nicolas Berdyaev: Theologian of Prophetic Gnosticism (Th. p. p.31. 1997) p. 116. 126.. p. See Charles C.. p.. Song and Its Fountains (Burdett: Larson. Ibid.1 ff. 63. 1957)..” 108.. The Way to Christ (New York: Paulist Press. 125. Toronto: 1948). 194 ff. I. Theosophia: Hidden Dimensions of Christianity (Hudson: Lindisfarne... Ibid. Ibid. Peter Erb. 93. Ibid. 94. p. 1994). Religion and Nothingness (Berkeley: University of California Press. 120. IV . trs. forthcoming. 124.. Diss. 129. p. pp. 123. Ibid. Rosenthal. 199. Ibid. 113. See Berdyaev’s introduction to Jacob Böhme’s Six Theosophic Points (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan. pp. 25 ff. 105. p. 111. 118. 275 ff. “Warnung an den Leser. pp. p. 62. The Beginning and the End (New York: Harper. 109. 1958).. 105. Ibid. Irina Gutkin. Freedom and the Spirit. 103. p.


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

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

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

103. 10. 120. 88. 84 Williams.. 48. 103. 53 Versluis. 86 Welling. M. 2. 111 Warlick. 63. 9. Jean-Baptiste. 137. Frances. 56 . 69–70 Universalism [esoteric]. ix. 35–43 Ungrund. 101 Weishaupt. 82 Troubadours. 110.172 INDEX Trevor-Roper. Arthur.E. 55.B. 89. 112–113 Zohar. 10. Hugh. 140 Valentinus.. 106 Washington. 104. 156 Zinzendorf. W. Adam. 103. Nicholas. 111. Georg von. 122–123 Williamson. 67–69 Upanishads. David. 64. George. 79 Willermoz. ix. 116 Yates. Egidio Cardinal. Charles. 148 Zen Buddhism. 31 Viterbo. 148 Zosimos. 75 Yeats. 10.

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

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

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful