Western Esotericism, Literature, Art, and Consciousness

Arthur Versluis



SUNY series in

Western Esoteric Traditions

David Appelbaum, editor

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

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

In memory of poet and scholar Kathleen Raine .


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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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-

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

becoming symbolically charged. possesses a special luminosity of symbolism that we may call “hieroeidetic. and by eating the book. is the prophetic element: more than one group has identified itself with the “woman in the wilderness” in the twelfth chapter. John eats the little book: it becomes part of him. John is given a little book to eat. and one hundred forty-fours. 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). we will recall. twelves. of course. and although the word eidolon early in the modern era . This image is amplified by the presence of book imagery throughout the entire work. in other words.13). we suddenly are given in the Revelation this overwhelming and astonishing visionary sequence that brings us completely outside the sphere of mundane human life. of letters and numbers revealing the secret powers of the divine. and finds it bitter in his belly. And it has immense power for this reason: by entering into its world of references. Another such element is the number and letter symbolism. the way we see the cosmos itself changes. The Revelation of John has an oneiric quality. Additionally. The Revelation.” during these the end times. John is united with its knowledge.” which are opened during the Last Judgment in order to see the lives of those being judged (20. these elements lend themselves very much to an esoteric interpretation: the symbols and numbers represent a secret knowledge known by the few symbolically designated as the “woman in the wilderness. But for our purposes. By reading the Book of Revelation that John subsequently writes after eating the little book. Taken together. One. And then there is. found in Judaism. John himself—for he is told to write by a voice from heaven (14. After the various accounts of Christ’s life and death in the Gospels. which has inspired countless commentaries or explanations. and Christ whose symbolic heart is the written word. the Book of Revelation of St. The word eidetikos in Greek refers to a particular kind of knowledge associated with shape or form. we are eating his little book—we belong to a direct lineage or current. of course. Christ’s repeated assertion that “I am the Alpha and the Omega. the most symbolically resonant image of all is that of the book. especially in the Book of Life wherein is written the names of those who belong to the Lamb (13.24 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E Western esotericism. and are in a sense initiates. a gnostic encounter with elders. but sweet as honey on his lips. there are “other books. which he does.” as well as the repetition of geometric and numerical symbolism such as the sevens. all remind us of the prior traditions. and more than one group has seen itself as living during the end times. revealing the hidden forces beyond history and what happens to all humanity. it is like a collective dream in which we participate simply by reading.9). In the tenth chapter. and Hermetism. angels. The entire revelation is an unveiling of gnosis. the very book that we are reading.” symbolism charged with initiatory knowledge.12). symbolizing his union with the esoteric center of spiritual life. Christian Gnosticism. Every aspect of life is altered.

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

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



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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

for the Kabbalists “the world of language is therefore actually the ‘spiritual world. as Scholem remarks. Its cosmological dimensions we have glimpsed in the intricate doctrines of the ten Sephirot and in the profound complexities of its alphanumeric gnosis. sometimes without. is not only cosmological. as well as in Erigena and in Eckhart. Here “Voice” refers not to ordinary human speech. including thought. But none of these correspondences necessarily indicate historical influence. Although it is possible that medieval Kabbalism owes more than a little to the Gnosticism of antiquity. sometimes with the influence of particular earlier esoteric authors. of which emergence ordinary human speech is but a reflection. All of these exist. but to the inner experience of how existence emerges from the Primal Ether. Just as in antiquity the Gnostics often laid emphasis on the mysteries of language and consciousness. It is obvious from Kabbalistic works themselves that they do not derive from scholastic but from direct knowledge.” but in early Kabbalism also is connected to “that which thought cannot attain. 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. we have spontaneous investigations into some of the same mysteries that the Kabbalists investigated. but also metaphysical. which is to say also a knowledge of how the mind is prior to the emergence of language and thought. that of hardened or congealed materiality. broadly speaking. It may be that there is some historical link with Neoplatonism here.20 For that matter. it is also entirely possible that in the works of the Gnostics and Neoplatonists.’ Only that which lives in any particu- . one also finds correspondences between the mysticism of ’en sof and the teachings of Meister Eckhart. since this absolute transcendence resembles the Greek akatalepton as well as the later incomprehensibilis of John Scotus Erigena. What is seen in the eye of imagination is expressed through alphanumeric riddles such as references to “four letters that constitute a fire that consumes fire. but from the other. within the general currents of Western esoteric traditions. where all that is seen in the eye of imagination is light and color and energy welling forth from the indefinable Primal Darkness. ’En sof literally means “infinity.50 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E that through them in the eye of imagination we can see the hidden principles and working of the cosmos itself. and how the Voice emerges from light through speech and breath. and so it is natural that common elements reemerge again and again historically. and this is corroborated by the very linguistic mysticism that they express.”19 But underlying the entire work is the gnosis of how light emerges from darkness. not from this side. and how words emerge from primordial consciousness into being. Medieval Kabbalism.” or absolute transcendence out of which everything. Indeed. We are viewing a pure mysticism of the word. emerges. then. its metaphysical dimensions are to be found especially in its use of the term ’en sof.



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



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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

. including D. Arrayed next to these names are their Hebrew equivalents. the basic Dionysian angelical hierarchy. . Beside these is a heptangle around which are arrayed the seven planetary symbols. prepare it in a series of alchemical operations in a pair of vials. he begins each of his large sections with specific discussions of alchemical salt. His discussions of alchemy and astrology are very detailed and full of specific tables. sulfur. and instructions. he appends to his five-hundred-page Opus several alchemical treatises in their entirety. Indeed.” Further. Typical of von Welling’s syncresis is an illustration showing at the top the Ungrund. of Pisa. but might well also be called pansophic.”41 Von Welling’s astrological instructions are equally detailed. “Alchimische Fragen. diagrams. and “Manna Coeleste. Hensing’s “Discurs von dem Stein der Weisen [Discourse on the Stone of the Wise]” (1722). some of his Hebrew seems rather distorted—but he had in mind producing a vast compendium of esoteric knowledge unified within a theosophic understanding. and in this regard he succeeded. Here. charts. and analyses clearly meant to produce not only a theoretical synthesis but a useful compendium of source material. in other words. meaning the transcendent Godhead. das himmlische Manna genannt. . For instance. tables. next to which is the Kabbalistic term ’en sof.” and so forth. or mercury. he elided many details. and into these he weaves discussions using planetary and alchemical symbols. with a plethora of astrological symbols. The Preparation of the Stone]” as well as “Non plus ultra Veritatis: das ist. At the same time. a term of Jacob Böhme’s for the abyss prior to creation. 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. Christian scripture. 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.” “Cherubim.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. then in a Liquorem . one should not think that because von Welling aimed at such breadth as a pansophic esotericism requires. But it is with alchemy that von Welling’s work both begins and ends. 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. to properly prepare mercury. The collection concludes with a translation into German of English alchemist George Ripley’s song of the newborn alchemical . . x (the Moon) and out of P (Saturn). and beneath which is a series of concentric circles labeled “Seraphim.” “Thronen. Die Bereitung des Steins [Celestial Manna: the Heavenly Manna Named. and Kabbalistic references in a theosophic framework. diagrams. von dem Universali und den Particularibus [Alchemical Questions on the Universali and the Particularibus]” (1726).

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

except that an alchemical work is not simply decoded as if. This unity is founded in the fundamental union of humanity. and the divine. both of physics and of literary criticism. were one to decipher what x and y mean. one would have the solution. I would use the word decoding. 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. For in alchemy literature is a means of transmitting precise knowledge of nature. and the restoration of the right . Oral commentary by a master is important. Indeed. humanity. But in alchemical works. This is by no means to suggest. literature. no doubt of that. like Jung. that alchemy is chiefly psychological. between subject and object. and cannot be understood without reference to our inner human landscape of consciousness. religion. The ‘solution. literature takes on a greater significance than simply alluding to an oral tradition where the real mysteries are conveyed. nature. 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. in the manner of a mathematical equation. and the divine in ever more profound ways. For there is here an operative mysticism of the word—the written word and image become a medium to express transcendence. albeit knowledge that is not quantitative but qualitative. 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. However. the mysteries are conveyed primarily through literary riddles and parabolic expressions. largely have been based in a fundamental division between the writer and the reader. But virtually no one has looked at alchemy as a field where all such apparent divisions are overcome.66 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E and the complex kinds of linguistic riddles visible in alchemical works. In alchemy.’ in the case of alchemy. humanity. and the divine that it is alchemy’s goal to restore. like those of science. alchemy consists in coming to understand the nature of consciousness and the consciousness of nature. It is true that more recently theorists. and that presupposes and requires humility before power greater than oneself. extends into a range of realms at once. and also a successor’s primary guide to achieving transcendence. Rather. For not only is the division between self and other or between subject and object gradually revealed to be false in alchemy. In Christian terms. between the observer and that which is observed. as in Christian mysticism and in Jewish Kabbalism. Here in alchemy. this is expressed in terms of the Fall and expulsion from Eden. have begun to argue the insufficiency and even the falsehood of such easy divisions. and science are one. so too is the apparent (but strictly modern) division between the sciences and the humanities. Contemporary views of literature. alchemy is understood through living symbols that allow us to understand nature.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Figure 7 Pansophic image from Georg von We l l i n g . 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. as well as the prominence of the figure of the eye. (Frankfurt: 1784). Note the threedimensional nature of the illustration. .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

”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.” from The Confession of Lemuel (1918). Cartographers of consciousness. and from its fellow humanity and seemingly set adrift as an isolated being. insisting instead on the inner creative life of the artist. The canticle continues: “A ceux. Contemporary sciences are founded in observation of the cosmos. the immense devastation of the self as it is torn asunder from the divine. they are all intimately aware of the great schisms taking place in modern humanity. [The teaching of the sunlit hour of the divine nights.]”7 . to join up with ancient teachings. which Milosz experienced at eleven o’clock in the evening. seems called upon. to awakening it in his reader. qui. that he anticipated a new poetry. as the organizer of archetypes. the passionate pursuit of the Real. / A ceux que la prière a conduits à la méditation sur l’origin du langage.”4 He discerned “a new mysticism. The “Canticle” begins with the striking line: “L’enseignement de l’heure ensoleillée des nuits du Divin. / Others. and especially in Milosz. and does not in general investigate the nature of the observer’s own consciousness. and like Blake. the observer looks outward. will understand nothing of these things. knowledge and love.]” Thus the canticle is devoted to teaching on the nature of spiritual illumination. having asked.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 91 Here it may be useful to remark on the kind of new science we see emerging in these writers.” or “Canticle of Knowledge. it will no doubt be useful to look more closely at some of Milosz’s work. les voleurs de douleur et de joie. But the poet. from the cosmos.” telling us that “poetry. and also prehistory and archaic history. to survive not only our industrial civilization but also Space-Time itself. Milosz experiences this inner devastation as well as the powerful creative life awakened when one enters into the living realm of the spiritual imagination. summarizing in some respects his life’s work. which “will contribute in large measure to realizing an inner synthesis of the great discoveries in physical chemistry.” which. have received and already know. This isolation Blake rails against in his epic poems. turn their attention inward and become careful observers of the inner landscape. but indeed. on 14 December 1914. “setting out from proven scientific foundations. on reçu et savent déjà. astronomy.” which “springs from the hidden depths of Universal Being. and especially the figures we are discussing here. ayant demandé. through a new metaphysics. crown of human knowledge. n’entendront rien à ces choses. at his “Cantique de la Connaissance. thieves of joy and pain.”5 And he writes of the “sacred art of the Word. Milosz himself wrote in a brief and late treatise on poetry. At this juncture. / For those whom prayer has led to meditation on the origin of language. Milosz’s work is explicitly dedicated not only to entering into this realm of the spiritual imagination. / Les autres. de science et d’amour. and in particular. seems bound. [For those who.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

as we have seen. however. the other members being his apostles. with a white collar. Hiérarchie-Liberté-Fraternité.”39 These dreams of universality. of course. Milosz wrote. for instance. And in 1929 Milosz wrote a letter to a friend in which he explained that Carlos Larronde. most important is that Milosz’s work extended into every sphere of life. and of forming a group of disciples that in turn would help to transform the whole of human society. And there are numerous other such examples. and that he deliberately. sought the widest possible range. he drew together a small esoteric coterie that included René Schwaller. certainly has its historical predecessors: one thinks. These are the three colors of the great work (spiritual and physical). while also publishing numerous articles in several journals of the time. in his work as in his private life. among them its ritual dress. of political. and in 1919 they established an exoteric center called the Centre Apostolique. a kind of Christian semi-Masonic esotericism.102 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E from antiquity through such figures as John Scotus Eriugena and Jane Leade to modern authors including Vladimir Solovyov and Nicholas Berdyaev. so too he drew on Masonry in his private life. “Dress for meeting: the robes will be of black silk. whom he later adopted as his spiritual son and gave his family crest name. but our modern attire is truly incompatible with all effort toward the Good. For us. one of Milosz’s most devoted friends. In his work. however outrageous they may seem in their magnitude. Just as Milosz drew on the full breadth of the Masonic tradition in his poetry and prose. in his letter to James Chauvet. to which era belongs the spiritual son whom he addresses throughout his gnostic poetry and prose. not to say grandiosity. The fundamental teaching will be that of the Arcana. This small group they called Les Veilleurs (The Watchers). moral or social. and the arts via religion. author of The Magus. but explicitly Christian.36 Milosz too saw himself as a prophet of a future era of universal peace and knowledge. and scientific fusion. he hoped to influence “all sorts of domains in the evolution of our terrible and admirable epoch. was drawing together a new group of which Milosz was to be spiritual director. I am the enemy of exteriorization. a group that included “the proletarian Masons whose G[rand] M[aster] is one of our friends. Our group will have no more than twelve members. Milosz explicitly forecast the unification of politics. the “science of the divine.”38 Such a group. The Master alone will wear a red cap.” And in his little esoteric group. Several years after his illuminatory experience in 1914. resemble nothing so much as the inception of Rosicrucianism (whose advocates sought precisely the same social transformation on a vast scale). de Lubicz. religious. the sciences. . of the London Rosicrucians of the early nineteenth century associated with Francis Barrett. Here too was a group with Masonic overtones. “The hour of Apostleship has sounded”—Milosz himself. being the Christ-figure.”37 This new esoteric group had some Masonic characteristics.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. taken in toto.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 119 Obviously.” Her poem ends with the stanza: Inviolate in dream The mysteries still are shown. magic and the ancient mysteries still dwell.” echoing the laughter in the culminating initiatory moment in The Gift. . “the Mystery.”72 Here again the scroll becomes a “palimpsest. I would like to explore not the art of magic.” and again through it “I had the answer. The dead are living still. / infinity portrayed in simple things. Yet in the twilit realm of fiction. but rather how magic dwells in the realm of relatively recent fiction. is not a youthful digression but central to her work even late in her life.” the alchemical processus of transmutation that is brought about for Elizabeth “through her uncle’s Art and through the alchemy of memory. But bring them back none may Who wakes into this day. Of course. the “springs gone under the hill.” 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. and the Scroll. the Writing. here again we find that “I transcribed the scroll” . D. 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. this preface and the poem itself are filled with esoteric elements. D. ‘magical fiction’ in fact belongs to a larger category. Her poetry and her prose. the mysteries of the “tree and miraculous bird.73 Magical Fiction In a poem entitled “Dreams.’s recurrent theme of initiation through the word. here again “the words laugh.” Here again we find the same themes that recur throughout H. of timelessness revealed in time’s transparency.’s lifetime of work. Here. as in poetry. . 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.” the mysteries of the holy well.” Kathleen Raine wrote of how the mysteries were once upon the earth.” I cite from Vale Ave here because it makes clear that H. just as it dwells in the realm of dreams. 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. But then “From grotto grove and shrine. But my .” the holy presences withdraw.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the human being. of his solitary walks in the countryside. and my life with you. The coldness of the vanity of the intellect on one side. It is this official denial of life that confronts us in everything.” Ordinary life in the natural world. with the white compassionate temples of the clouds floating in wise happiness and detached love. and most holy are you O beautiful servants. on the other his works are infused with profound criticisms of the “insect-life” of modern industrial society. But here I wander. I long for my race. Devonshire]94 He writes beautifully also of his life in nature.” or again. the contemplative. By reading Collins’s aphorisms. I remember you. Collins gave a public lecture titled “The Artist in the New Age. But deep underneath flows the secret stream.” 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. to show us the hieroedietic beauty of life through art. he writes: O holy ones I long for you. A winter of the spirit is over all society. for he must ‘leap the gaps.” consisting in excerpts from Collins’s journals during the Second World War. of all that which desires to give. A frustration of all that which is growing. denies all who have inward fruit. for Collins. so that the reader has a greater task than in prose works. Our time denies.130 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E worldview. Denies the artist. I know of your existence. I long for my kingdom. and cheap vulgarity of attitude towards life on the other side. and I know nothing. 1945. even as they transmit that worldview to the reader. [14 January. one is placed in contact with another reality through them. Totnes. the aphorism by its nature stands on its own surrounded by the white space of the page.’ must make intellectual connections individually. of “The long eternal afternoons robed in blue. If Collins loved solitude and nature on the one hand. when in fact it is quite clear that we are ruled today by the elite of scientific technocrats and politicians . 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. we are all exiles.95 In 1965. But you exist. and the task of the artist is to remind us of this. is imbued always with spiritual significance. of how “The tasting of these things in our days and nights is the partaking of the sacrament of existence. The aphorism is in many respects the most poetic form of prose. to come to fruition. In “Hymn of Life. and this from a comparatively early period in his work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


esoteric. mostly by North American scholars. 159 . 4. See Steven Katz. “Methods in the Study of Esotericism. See Arthur Versluis. The State University of New York Press series of books in Western esotericism edited by David Applebaum also represents an important contribution to this field. For an overview of Western esotericism. whose encyclopedic book New Age Religion and Western Culture: Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought (Leiden: Brill. Mysticism and Language (New York: Oxford University Press.esoteric. See Hanegraaff. 1996) reveals the underlying connections between new religious movements today and their Western esoteric antecedents.. a Dutch scholar. See also the journal Esoterica [www. ] for articles. ibid. which belongs more to the Renaissance and after.” Esoterica V (2003): 175–210. I also retain the distinction maintained by Antoine Faivre between Hermetism (the current associated with Hermes belonging to late antiquity) and Hermeticism. 1994). published a large body of work outlining and detailing numerous aspects of esotericism. 3. and readers would do well to become familiar with it. the official Web site of the INTRODUCTION 1.aseweb. see Antoine Faivre. ed. including Wouter Hanegraaff.msu. See the definition of the Association for the Study of Esotericism [ASE] and more information on this growing field at 5. 1992). much of it in French. who held a chair at the Sorbonne in Western esoteric currents of thought. See www.msu. I retain the conventional distinctions between the capitalized terms Gnostic or Gnosticism (when referring specifically to figures or the current belonging to late antiquity) and the uncapitalized gnostic as a more general term not tied to any particular era. Access to Western Esotericism (Albany: State University of New York Press. Faivre. in this field.” Esoterica IV (2002): 1–15 and “Methods in the Study of Esotericism Part II. There are a number of other scholars now working in this field as well.

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

1953) I. 15. p. The Books of Contemplation (Albany: State University of New York Press. Ibid. See Scholem. I. 14. ed. Ibid. p. See Mark Verman. 13. et al. p. Bonner.. Ibid. p. p. 1992).. 1965). 35. I. Origins. 28. vom Stein der Weisen (Berlin: Christian Ulrich Ringmacher. p.. p. Gershom Scholem.314.C. ed. cit.. 1985). 49–50. 1988). 59. The Renaissance Philosophy of Man (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 25. See Arthur Edward Waite. I. in The Zohar. II. 394. for instance. cit. pp. See Pico della Mirandola. Origins.. p. See A. p.. 298 ff.. Joseph Blau. 21. 11. 7.80 ff. op. I. Cassirer.205b. p.. 52.71. See Moshe Idel.. I.312. Zohar IV . 278. I. 66. trs. 9. trs. 61. Scholem. 197. 32. 10. II. Kabbalistes chrétiens (Paris: Albin Michel. eds. 246. 197. II..320–323. 1983). Dan.. p. p. 1979). Ibid. Ibid... 250. op.76. (Hildesheim: Olms. ed. See. 29. See Verman. Ibid. Les Kabbalistes chrétiens de la Renaissance (Paris: Dunod.NOTES TO CHAPTER TWO 161 6. 57. . 1779).77. The Hermetic Museum (London: Watkins. Simon. 20.. See “Oration on the Dignity of Man” in E. Opera omnia. 280. 36. 57. 1969). Origins of the Kabbalah (Princeton: Princeton University Press. Doctor Illuminatus. Ibid. 1984). Ibid.75. 17. 27. 8. See Verman. as well as Antoine Faivre and F. 18. 23. ed. see also Moshe Idel. 22. Ibid. II.. I. The Christian Interpretation of the Cabala in the Renaissance (Port Washington: Kennikat. p. Cassirer. 33. Twersky. Ibid. Origins. Tristan. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 51.. 38. 26. ed. Kabbalah: New Perspectives (New Haven: Yale University Press. Ibid. See J. 101–102. Ibid. (Princeton: Princeton University Press. see also Scholem.325. 34. 12.. Ibid. p.331. 30. 270. 31.. M. 1987). pp. 24. 1986). 1961). Ibid.B.205b–206a. 29. cit.. (London: Soncino.. C. 1964).. Rabbi Moses Nahmanides: Explorations. 19. A. 37. 16. p. op. IV . Ibid. A translation of Ars Brevis is to be found in Ramon Lull. The Early Kabbalah (Paulist Press..351. Vasoli. and Françoise Secret. p.

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

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

Ibid.. Ibid. Pollen and Fragments: Selected Poetry and Prose of Novalis (Grand Rapids: Phanes. 22. p.. For a more extensive study. pp. pp. 32.” synonymous with “hermetic tradition. 1989). 40. 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. Ibid. pp. for a translation of Hymns to the Night.. pp. Ibid. See Versluis. 27. Ibid.. Psyche Reborn (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. op. 224–225. 455. Ibid.. hermetic tradition offered a pattern of meaning in coded form to the initiate . See Versluis. 1994). Ibid.. 20. p.. 2001). pp. 1982). Susan Friedman. Lib. 204–205. in her search to translate the inner meaning of material reality” (p. ed. Ibid... the harsh world of necessity that Freud described is itself the “rune” that must be deciphered. 39. op.. 15. p. 24. 30.1 ff. Ibid. Ibid. 31. Scott. of course. Ibid. 38. 465. 157–206. pp. 210–211. . See W. p.. 182–183. 178–179.. pp. I.. Milosz. 296. 1985). p. p. 19. pp. 469. pp. Ibid. The ‘true-rune and right spell’ of esoteric tradition contained the code for H. 206–207. D. cit.’s] perspective. p. The Esoteric Origins of the American Renaissance (New York: Oxford University Press. Notes on Thought and Vision (San Francisco: New Directions. 34. Ibid. 300. 299. 14. 33. 248. op. 1981). Theosophia: Hidden Dimensions of Christianity (Hudson: Lindisfarne.. 21. cit. For the poet of the modernist era. 174–175.115. . 13. 16. Milosz.. . 23. pp. 277. Hermetica (Boston: Shambhala. trs. p. pp. 17. is into what did she translate this inner meaning. Ibid. 29. 158).. ranging from entirely cosmological ones such as astrology or the Tarot to more metaphysical or gnostic ones.. Milosz. see Versluis.” when in fact there are numerous different esoteric currents of a wide variety. p. 464.. D. pp. Ibid.164 NOTES TO CHAPTER THREE 12. Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. cit. 36. Ibid. Ibid. Milosz. 41. Ibid. 1996). 180–181. 26. 18. 226–227. 8–9. D.. Ibid. p. 303. For a discussion of Postel in relation to Christian theosophy. Friedman writes that “From her [H. 35. 299–300.. 297–298.. I. 48–52. 25. H. pp. 28.. The question. see Steven Bullock. Ibid. introduction by Albert Gelpi. 37. pp.

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

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

1980). 116. 1957). forthcoming. 275 ff. Ibid. See Versluis. Ibid. 117.29–30. 121. p. 1991). . Ibid. 103.. 40 and pp. Bromley’s is the image on the cover of my book Theosophia (1994).1 ff.. Ibid. See. p. Nicholas Berdyaev. Socialist Realism.. Ibid. 118. 129. p.1... 1958). 105.. pp. Freedom and the Spirit. 63. 113. 122.. 128. The Beginning and the End (New York: Harper. 62–63.. Peter Erb.. 225. 94. p. Ibid. The Way to Christ (New York: Paulist Press. pp. 120. Ibid. ed. 109.D. 130.. See also The Destiny of Man. Christosophia. See my overview of Christian theosophy in Magic and Mysticism. 95.” 108. “Vorrede. Ibid. 1978). 107. p. Versluis.” and I.... Nicolas Berdyaev: Theologian of Prophetic Gnosticism (Th. 1994). 123.. 39. 106. A. Ibid. See Charles C.. p. p. 115. 112. Toronto: 1948). Ibid. 105. 126. Christosophia IV . from “The Magic of Words: Symbolism. 114.31. 194 ff.. Ibid. Ibid. 119. “Warnung an den Leser. p. p.. 199. 1997) p. Song and Its Fountains (Burdett: Larson. trs. See Berdyaev’s introduction to Jacob Böhme’s Six Theosophic Points (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan. Nishitani Keiji. 71 ff.. I. 110. 74.NOTES TO CHAPTER THREE 167 104. Ibid. Ibid. 170. 78. p. pp. 125. 62.” in B. 40. Ibid. 108 ff. I added the colors. p.31. Diss. “Ancient Gnosticism and Christian Theosophy” in Studies in Spirituality (Fall 1997). p. pp. E. 127. for example. p. p. Ibid. 124. IV . Irina Gutkin. Theosophia: Hidden Dimensions of Christianity (Hudson: Lindisfarne.. Rosenthal. The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture (Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Religion and Nothingness (Berkeley: University of California Press. 111. Futurism. 106. p. p. 285. Knapp. II. pp.. 93. 25 ff.


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

82 Knight. Friedrich von [Novalis]. 104 Gichtel. 104. 29 Mazet. 12–15. 29 Hiram. 56 Jerusalem. 140 La Fontaine. 120–122. Gareth. 57–59. 104. 35. 27–28 Gnosticism. Robert. Johannes. Christian. Johann Georg. 109 Hermeticism. 106 Eschenbach. 76 Maistre. Francis. ix. 102 Ernst. 43–45. Rulman. 101–102 Frey. 75. 109. 89. 90. T. 56 Fludd. 63. 99 Grail cycle. 72–73 Faust. 8–9 Isaac the Blind. 153–154 Eriugena. 56. Susan.. 19 Kabbalah [or Cabala]. 22. 19. 37 Esoteric Origins of the American Renaissance. 97. Herman. 2. 100 Marcus. 103–119 Hardenberg. 84. Albert. Désirée. 111 Esotericism [defined]. 8. C. Jewish.S. 129 Kelley. 65. 5 Hori. 85 Merkabah mysticism. Michael. 52–54 Kabbalah. 120. 127 Frankenberg. 101 Freemasonry. 26–31.170 INDEX Eckhart. John. 139 H. Nicholas. 2. Brian. 107. 31 Melville. 36–39 Gutkin. 9. 42. 53. 127 Loskiel. Johann Wolfgang. 55 Koran. 155 Hermes [Trismegistus]. 51 Eleusinian Mysteries.D. 44. Abraham von. 72 Jabir ibn Hayyan [Geber]. 1. 19–21. 40 . 89–103 Hermetism. 112 Lull. Edmond. 2. 112 Friedman. Joseph de. 151 Merswin. 123. Samuel. 140 Eirenaeus Philalethes. ix. Jane. Martin. 46–52. 8–9 Larronde. Dion. 50. 137 Goethe. Jean. Antoine. Ramon. 112 Imagination. 9 Eliot. 19. 89. Jewish. 111 Emerson. 140 Hippolytus. 82–83 Heidegger. 111 Geheime Figuren. 5. Carlos. 57 Eleazar of Worms. 51 Islam. 77 Flamel. Victor Sogen. Andreas. 7–8 Esotericism. Benjamin. 4. 105. 95 Hartlib. 127–128 Fama Fraternitatis. 28. 138 Katz. Mircea. 126. 100 Hirst. Meister. 69 Franklin. 25 Hinduism. 102 Lee. 78 Gnosis. 30. 50. 102 Leade. 68. 56 Maier. 103. 21. 84 Lewis.. 88-89. 104.S. 122 Koan. 22–24 Initiation. 21 Heydon. Max. 100. 89. 18–21. Wolfram von. Margaret. Edward. 123–126. 19 Faivre. 77 Gelpi. Georg Heinrich. 80–81 Fortune. Ralph Waldo.. 103 Fuller. Irina. 2. Book of. 1 Keeble. Joseph Edward. 54. 83. 25 John. 7–8. 79–86. John Scotus. 46. 21–22 Hermetica. 76. 10–12. Steven. 105 Eliade. 11 Hutton. 153 Homer. 79 Hieroedetic knowledge.

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

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

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

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

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful