Western Esotericism, Literature, Art, and Consciousness

Arthur Versluis



SUNY series in

Western Esoteric Traditions

David Appelbaum, editor

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

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

In memory of poet and scholar Kathleen Raine .


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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

Even more intimately yet. and are visible in major European literary works. But this view of numbers corresponds to seeing reading as the accumulation of data: it remains objectified. A fourth characteristic is imagery. which all proceed from the one only essence . By contrast. including the gnoses of numbers and letters. What is more. According to rational consciousness. so that to work with them is to enter into the existential quality that is their real nature or kernel. including Piers Ploughman. Such a gnosis of numbers is visible during the medieval period. which is the mystery of words and of the book. my dear brother. Regeneration alone shows us the ground. whether visible or intellectual. to which I have already devoted some study. of which the quantitative designation is a husk. without masters. a gnostic view of numbers and letters sees them not as merely signifying something external. albeit few more wild than those of the Book of Revelation. of the different properties of beings. Here we have the combination of all the elements we have discussed so far. but lives in an intermediate realm necessary for the birth of unitive consciousness. and images emerges the fifth characteristic.32 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E From the gnosis of naming emerges a range of related mysteries. numbers and letters can open up into aspects of consciousness itself. nor wholly from without. the images may be seen as reflecting inner aspects of the cosmos. Gnostic works reveal a wide array of images and myths. woven together into a . letters. everyone. in his own degree. which emerge out of the inexpressible into the realms of conscious perception. a theosopher in the line of Jacob Böhme. but as qualities pregnant with meaning. however. More intimately. the images remain outside one and are taken literally as referring to history. numbers designate quantities that one can manipulate. a third characteristic. who wrote his friend Baron Kirchberger that “Numbers are no algebra. and therein we obtain the pure key. Out of the gnoses of numbers. but instead express aspects of the invisible origin of the cosmos and of ourselves. Such images may be seen in terms of degrees of union. as a panoply on an inner stage where we see acted out the soul’s dramas. the images may be seen as corresponding to something in our own inward nature. Here. On the lowest level. imagination proceeds neither wholly from ourselves. They are only the sensible expression.”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. of course.5 A similarly gnostic view of numbers appears again in the work of Louis-Claude de Saint Martin (1743–1803). here they no longer are taken as having entirely historical dimensions. separated from the subject who sees. These number-letter transpositions yield many hidden significances. where we find definite traces of Latin number and letter transposition corresponding to what in Hebrew is termed gematria. . but men have sometimes lowered them to it. on which conventional mathematics is founded. .

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


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

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

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

remains this-worldly in emphasis.1 There are throughout this tale astrological references with esoteric implications. For instance. And at the book’s conclusion. was cared for by twenty-five women who by serving it are exalted. in particular. The Grail. Feirifiz outlines why Parzival shall do so by reference to the “seven stars” or planets. and there is in this even a complementary relationship: a kingdom can be saved by asking the right question. but if he were forewarned of the Question it would turn harmful. intensifies with the “advent of the high planets. like so many of the Western esoteric currents.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. that of speaking when one ought to (asking the Question. Rather. whether it be Trevrizent or Eschenbach himself who advises. why the king suffered—but Parzival himself had not done this and thus had already failed. and indeed it may be that the fusion of this-worldli- . although intrinsic to the tale inasmuch as it concerns the mysteries of the holy Grail and of the inscriptions upon it. and lost by asking the wrong one! Parzival is. he is forced to leave—a repetition yet again of the constant theme throughout Parzival. of his good fortune and that he shall ask the Question. for a knight comes to live with a princess on the condition that she never ask his name. of course.” chiefly Saturn. then naming them one by one in Arabic. the two nodes of which are called the “dragon’s head” and the “dragon’s tail. of course. we are told to honor women. we are told again to honor and never denigrate women. but also with the changing of the moon. like chivalric literature more generally. where suddenly they saw it written that a knight would come. the knight is told by Feirifiz. Saturn to suffering. we will recall. just as is Western esotericism more generally. and at the end of the tale. we are left with a curious twist on the mystery of naming. never becomes explicit: the tale and the esotericism of the Grail that is its center never stray into otherworldly descriptions of journeys through the cosmos. but certainly it is safe to say that it also contains esoteric references central to the tale. and if he asked a Question. exists both within and without specific religious traditions. and that is the exalted position of women. the Grail tradition is both independent and syncretic. And near the end of Eschenbach’s story of Parzival. There remains one more aspect of the Grail tradition that we need to discuss further. Parzival.2 The presence in this tale of astrological and other references to Judaism and Islam as well as to Asia (in the figure of Prester John) reminds us once again that the Grail tradition. for instance) and of not speaking when one oughtn’t. Throughout the tale. When inevitably she does so. the spotted knight. then their sorrows would end.” This conclusively links the planets to consciousness. This theme clearly holds for both men and women. Yet this implicit esotericism. we are told explicitly that Anfortas’s suffering. entertaining. He was to ask. and that of all the Grail servers. or still less into discussions of spiritual illumination.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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



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



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

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

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

the vegetable. be they in the mineral. For alchemy extends into many realms. plant.56 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E with constant reference to the accumulated prior works in relation to which any given work is seen. Synesius. that is. Thus alchemy itself consists in processes that are at once spiritual and physical. even if its work resembles these in some respects. All of these authors did write on alchemy. who draws upon them in order to undertake the alchemical work himself and subsequently to write his own alchemical treatise.—latinized as Rhazes).E. For how else might a medieval or Renaissance figure come to know Geber or Rhazes? Cultural context has been largely lost. Thus it is conventional for the author of an alchemical work to list predecessors to whom he is indebted. 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. Ramon Lull. although we could here offer a historical survey of alchemy. either. George Ripley (fifteenth century). and might include also such figures as Zosimos of Panopolis of the third century C. as well as Islamic figures such as Jabir ibn Hayyan of the eighth century (later latinized as Geber). And so Geber joins the line of figures in what is indisputably a literary transmission... and reveal the gnostic center of the tradition. After all. partaking at once in the realms too of religion and literature. and the spiritualizing of the body. or the animal kingdom. One places oneself in the line of what is. Indeed. alchemical literature. Thus. even if the alchemical labors to which these writers refer are certainly not literary but take place in a laboratory. the embodying of spirit. Fire burns up impurities and allows the transmutation of a fallen metal. and Morienus of the seventh century C. What matters is that the works under the name Geber speak to the later alchemist. The alchemist’s work consists in the awakening of dormant qualities in the natural world. or al-Rhazi (ca. 825–932 C. Olympiodoros. as has historical placement. put another way.E. author of the Rosarium philosophorum (attr. Such a list undoubtedly would include Hermes Trismegistus. at heart. Yet this golden chain of tradition is not necessarily a directly historical line of initiatory descent—it is a chain of self-affiliation or identification. even if it does not entirely belong to these.E. for all its symbolic complexity and mysterious allusiveness. a tradition transmitted through literature. so that their lineage from the alchemical perspective forms an Aurea catena or “golden chain” from antiquity to the present. This process of awakening entails a kind of double working. and takes place by way of fire. Nicholas Flamel (fourteenth century). thirteenth century). we may well say that alchemy consists in the transmutations of the earth or. . in the revelation of paradise. it is by no means just a kind of metallurgy or chemistry. refers by its own testimony to the transmutation and redemption of the physical world: its work takes place on Earth. Roger Bacon. or animal into its paradisal original true nature. To list such names as Arnald of Villanova.

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

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

and tortured for four years. 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. strong and pure. are the sufferings of those who aspire to a knowledge of the Art.”36 Here we return to the themes of the Book of Revelation—and despite the more or less prosaic terms of this testament. itself an esoteric text made exoteric. was betrayed to King Edward by an assistant named Delvis who had been sworn to silence. and “whoever does not observe this my mandate. so as not to lose legibility over time. His testament is to be copied every sixty years.HISTORICAL CURRENTS 59 and much more inclined to tell stories. But also he is invoking the very language of the Book of Revelation.”35 And indeed. The briefest and most specific of the three treatises is that entitled the “Treatise of Cremer. and protected by precisely the same invocation of the Book of Life. as opposed to literary and figurative allusions. and given Cremer’s explicit instructions. a man named Herbert. and two of willow charcoal. let his name be blotted out from the Book of Life.” Benedictine abbot of Westminster. Even though Dalton had discarded the Red Powder because it had become a source of grief and anxiety.” in a well-stoppered glass jar. Norton tells the story of how he himself was robbed of all he had.” and add to it five ounces of petroleum. and so was let go. he was thrown into a dungeon by one of the king’s retinue. and then of how a certain Thomas Dalton. we are told. two of living sulphur. Eventually sentenced to death and brought before the executioner. such instructions also are protected by the fact that society as a whole cares nothing for alchemy or the worldview from which it emerges. All are to be mixed in the “bath of Neptune. his last testament. Cremer in this. two of orange arsenic. and that all Norton’s instructions are useless except to the wise in light of direct experience. of course. 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. tells us to “take three ounces of tartar of good claret. three of rabusenum. This invocation of the Book of Life naturally suggests one of our primary themes in the study of Western esotericism: reading. There is a long tradition of monasteries as sanctuaries for secret knowledge. of . 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. After admonitions about how we must avoid deceit and self-delusion. and the secret is not to be given out to anyone except the Abbot and Prior of the monastery. we can understand why he should impose such conditions. and Cremer’s testament does corroborate it. Such. who possessed a larger quantity of the Red Powder than any Englishman. Dalton said he was happy to die. In recent times. and prepared in about four days. Only after such warning tales are we told in more specifics of the nature of the Art. To publish widely his alchemical testament would be to divulge what should remain the secret of those presumably capable of bearing its power.

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

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

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

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

” Further. and analyses clearly meant to produce not only a theoretical synthesis but a useful compendium of source material. including D. but might well also be called pansophic. he appends to his five-hundred-page Opus several alchemical treatises in their entirety. or mercury. sulfur. and in this regard he succeeded. 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. For instance. 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 . charts. and “Manna Coeleste. diagrams. next to which is the Kabbalistic term ’en sof. in other words. some of his Hebrew seems rather distorted—but he had in mind producing a vast compendium of esoteric knowledge unified within a theosophic understanding. diagrams. and instructions. Typical of von Welling’s syncresis is an illustration showing at the top the Ungrund. of Pisa. prepare it in a series of alchemical operations in a pair of vials. and Kabbalistic references in a theosophic framework. he begins each of his large sections with specific discussions of alchemical salt. . and beneath which is a series of concentric circles labeled “Seraphim. one should not think that because von Welling aimed at such breadth as a pansophic esotericism requires. His discussions of alchemy and astrology are very detailed and full of specific tables.” “Cherubim. . Beside these is a heptangle around which are arrayed the seven planetary symbols. and calcify it by hand. and into these he weaves discussions using planetary and alchemical symbols.64 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E to say that all of his sources were entirely accurate—for instance. Indeed. with a plethora of astrological symbols. Here. Christian scripture. one needs to “reduce it in an alcohol. meaning the transcendent Godhead. then in a Liquorem . das himmlische Manna genannt. Hensing’s “Discurs von dem Stein der Weisen [Discourse on the Stone of the Wise]” (1722).” and so forth. “Alchimische Fragen. The collection concludes with a translation into German of English alchemist George Ripley’s song of the newborn alchemical . Arrayed next to these names are their Hebrew equivalents. . a term of Jacob Böhme’s for the abyss prior to creation. x (the Moon) and out of P (Saturn). he elided many details. the basic Dionysian angelical hierarchy. . Die Bereitung des Steins [Celestial Manna: the Heavenly Manna Named. von dem Universali und den Particularibus [Alchemical Questions on the Universali and the Particularibus]” (1726). Eine Untersuchung der Hermetischen Wissenschaft [Nothing More True: That is: An Investigation into Hermetic Science]” by Francisco Sebastiano Fulvo Melvolodemet. The Preparation of the Stone]” as well as “Non plus ultra Veritatis: das ist. At the same time. to properly prepare mercury. But it is with alchemy that von Welling’s work both begins and ends.” “Thronen. tables.”41 Von Welling’s astrological instructions are equally detailed.

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

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

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

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



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



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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and wrote himself in Theatrum Chemicum that the spiritual son was under an obligation never to reveal the mystery into which he was initiated. It is significant that Ashmole.” and transmitted orally from master to one disciple since antiquity. using a symbolic metalanguage. after recording this revelation.82 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E Ashmole. He also was a practicing Hermetic esotericist. which in turn harks back to the “namelessness” and invisibility of the true Knights of the Round Table in chivalric literature. . but they are in any case gnostic. introduced Ashmole to Hermetic circles.” “bequeathed to me as a legacy. and John Comenius (1592–1690). resonates closely with the Rosicrucian ideal of silence and invisibility. Samuel. editor of the extensive Theatrum Chemicum Brittanicum collection of alchemical works.” Samuel Hartlib (1593–1670). and only philosophers of the English Revolution. was not simply an antiquarian. except to his own spiritual son. but instead one finds that a linguistic mysticism was in fact at the heart of a movement that fired the English Civil War. Comenius had developed a system of education based in analogical correspondences.”63 That this spoken revelation of the philosopher’s stone comes in “silables” suggests strongly the nature of the Western esoteric linguistic mysticism we have been tracing since antiquity. when Backhouse thought he was dying. of course. meaning that they convey the true and secret name and character of the philosophic work. an esoteric network of illuminated intelligentsia. non-sectarian utopia where all the divisions of knowledge could be studied together. or as Kabbalistic. These “silables” may be seen as alchemical hieroglyphs. the real . Backhouse contributed old alchemical manuscripts to Ashmole’s collection. and William Backhouse adopted Ashmole as a “son. This was a Hermetic spiritual adoption.62 Backhouse’s father. himself an alchemist and antiquarian as well as a botanist and student of architecture. . Hugh Trevor-Roper remarks that Cromwell’s movement was impelled by “three philosophers .64 These three men. although certainly that impulse was strong in him. were at the center of a movement of educational and societal reform called the “invisible college. never referred to it again. . who had left Germany for England after the failure of the Palatinate. conveyed to Ashmole “in Silables the true matter of the Philosopher’s Stone. of course.” or what Comenius termed the Collegium Lucis. and now in England all worked at the immediate transformation of society into a peaceful.” attested in a note by Ashmole dated 3 April 1651. and must remain so. John Dury (1596–1680). . If this were the only instance of ‘magical language’ during this era of the emergence of Freemasonry as a vehicle for esotericism. and according to Ashmole’s note in 1653. had had connections with John Dee and Edward Kelley. and Hartlib had worked to form such colleges both in Germany . one could ignore it. All three of the men had been active in Rosicrucian circles. whose mentor was William Backhouse of Swallowfield (1593–1662). The true name is hidden. All of this. said to have its origins in the revelation of Hermes to his “spiritual son.

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

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

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

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

. 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.

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

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

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

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

which is here explicitly identified with the Kabbalistic ’en soph.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 . . Note that beyond the celestial hierarchy is the Ungrund.Figure 6 Pansophic image from Georg von We l l i n g .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

32. p. 30. II. 20. See J. Kabbalistes chrétiens (Paris: Albin Michel.. in The Zohar. cit. 49–50. p. 61. See Scholem...80 ff.C. as well as Antoine Faivre and F.331.. See Arthur Edward Waite. See Moshe Idel. I. 1987). op. Ibid. Origins. The Early Kabbalah (Paulist Press. 8.. 278. Ibid. C. 250. 246.. 34. 197. I.. 12. p. 24. Ibid. p. I.325. op.. See A. Kabbalah: New Perspectives (New Haven: Yale University Press. cit.351. See Verman. Cassirer. pp. I. eds. 14. Ibid. Cassirer. 29. see also Moshe Idel. p. Scholem. Opera omnia. The Christian Interpretation of the Cabala in the Renaissance (Port Washington: Kennikat. See.. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. et al. 394. 298 ff. The Renaissance Philosophy of Man (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. The Books of Contemplation (Albany: State University of New York Press. Ibid. p. 1961). 21. vom Stein der Weisen (Berlin: Christian Ulrich Ringmacher. 57. A translation of Ars Brevis is to be found in Ramon Lull. II. A. p. 28. 17. 9. Twersky. for instance. 33. op. Bonner. 1953) I.. 7. I. 1779)..77.. p.205b. IV . 22. ed. II. (London: Soncino...71. Ibid. Doctor Illuminatus.. Origins.NOTES TO CHAPTER TWO 161 6. The Hermetic Museum (London: Watkins. p. Simon.. 1985). 18.. 31. Ibid. I..314. p. 1983). II. Origins of the Kabbalah (Princeton: Princeton University Press. trs. Joseph Blau. 29.312.B.76. 66. 25. p. 27. pp. trs. 1965). p. Ibid. Ibid. See Pico della Mirandola. p. 52.. 101–102. p. see also Scholem. 1992). ed. Vasoli.75. Ibid. Zohar IV . 19. 38. Ibid.. and Françoise Secret. ed. 270. 197. p. Ibid. Gershom Scholem. 35.320–323. 11. I. 59. Ibid. (Princeton: Princeton University Press.. . 51. Ibid. 13. p. See “Oration on the Dignity of Man” in E. 1964). 1984). M. 1988). ed. 10. Dan. Ibid. 36. 57. p. Rabbi Moses Nahmanides: Explorations. Tristan. See Mark Verman.205b–206a. 1969). 16. 1986). ed. 280. 26. cit. Origins. See Verman. (Hildesheim: Olms. Les Kabbalistes chrétiens de la Renaissance (Paris: Dunod. 23.. 37. 1979). 15.

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

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

..” synonymous with “hermetic tradition.. 464. 17.. 206–207. pp. 21. cit. 25. pp. 455. the harsh world of necessity that Freud described is itself the “rune” that must be deciphered. for a translation of Hymns to the Night. pp.. 300. Ibid. 22. in her search to translate the inner meaning of material reality” (p. 1996). Ibid. pp. Notes on Thought and Vision (San Francisco: New Directions. D. See Versluis. is into what did she translate this inner meaning. 39. hermetic tradition offered a pattern of meaning in coded form to the initiate . 13. pp. .. Ibid. For the poet of the modernist era. pp. pp. Ibid.. Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Scott. 1982).164 NOTES TO CHAPTER THREE 12. Ibid. 24. See Versluis. 182–183. 8–9. Pollen and Fragments: Selected Poetry and Prose of Novalis (Grand Rapids: Phanes.. Ibid. 26. cit. Ibid. pp. 40. 2001). 180–181. 1981). I. Ibid. 19. 1985). 299. H. 38. 1989). 41. of course. Milosz. Psyche Reborn (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. pp. 18. 157–206. 35.. pp. 296. Ibid. 32. pp. 28. ed. p. Ibid. p. 210–211. 297–298.. pp. pp. 33. Ibid. 248. Ibid. 204–205. Hermetica (Boston: Shambhala.. 277. ranging from entirely cosmological ones such as astrology or the Tarot to more metaphysical or gnostic ones.. For a more extensive study. 15.. Theosophia: Hidden Dimensions of Christianity (Hudson: Lindisfarne. Lib. introduction by Albert Gelpi. 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.1 ff. p. p. 23. Milosz. trs. The Esoteric Origins of the American Renaissance (New York: Oxford University Press. Milosz. Ibid. 27. see Versluis. 16. . 299–300. Ibid.. Ibid. 226–227. 37. I.. The ‘true-rune and right spell’ of esoteric tradition contained the code for H.” when in fact there are numerous different esoteric currents of a wide variety... 30. 469. Ibid. 1994). See W. Milosz. 31. 29. . Ibid. 48–52. see Steven Bullock. 174–175. Ibid. cit.. 303. 158). 465. Ibid. Susan Friedman. D.. 14. p. op. 224–225. Ibid. For a discussion of Postel in relation to Christian theosophy. 178–179. p. pp. 34. op.. The question.’s] perspective... p. 20. Friedman writes that “From her [H. p.115. p. 36. p. op. D.

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

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

119.. p. Diss. 113. The Beginning and the End (New York: Harper.. Ibid. p. 39. 116.. 1997) p. 1980). pp. 93. p.1. Versluis. Nicolas Berdyaev: Theologian of Prophetic Gnosticism (Th. 95. 63.. 127. II. 125. 40. p. Peter Erb. p. Rosenthal... p. 199. 124. forthcoming. Christosophia IV . See my overview of Christian theosophy in Magic and Mysticism. 1958). 62. Freedom and the Spirit. See Berdyaev’s introduction to Jacob Böhme’s Six Theosophic Points (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan. . Ibid... Ibid. trs. 194 ff. p. 109. See also The Destiny of Man. “Vorrede.. 112. 121. 78. 114. 120. 170. Christosophia. 105.NOTES TO CHAPTER THREE 167 104. IV .D. Ibid. See Charles C. See. Ibid. I. pp. Ibid. 285. 105. 130. p. 62–63. Ibid. pp. Nishitani Keiji. 129. 107. 106. p. Ibid. p. Ibid. Socialist Realism. Ibid.. 1994). Ibid. The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture (Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Ibid.. A. Religion and Nothingness (Berkeley: University of California Press. 108 ff. 1978). 275 ff.31. Ibid. Ibid.. 94. 128. See Versluis. Futurism. I added the colors. 1957). p. Knapp..29–30. Ibid.1 ff. 126. 123. Toronto: 1948)... pp.” and I. 118. p. 115. p. ed. “Warnung an den Leser. Nicholas Berdyaev. p. 111. 225. Song and Its Fountains (Burdett: Larson. 106. 1991). Irina Gutkin.. Ibid. p. “Ancient Gnosticism and Christian Theosophy” in Studies in Spirituality (Fall 1997). The Way to Christ (New York: Paulist Press. Bromley’s is the image on the cover of my book Theosophia (1994). 117. 122. from “The Magic of Words: Symbolism.31. 74. 103.. 40 and pp.” 108. 110.. for example. 25 ff. Theosophia: Hidden Dimensions of Christianity (Hudson: Lindisfarne. 71 ff. E.. p. pp..” in B.


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

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

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

Frances. 79 Willermoz. 55. 104. 84 Williams. 148 Zosimos. 10. 10. 116 Yates. 75 Yeats. 86 Welling. 56 . 111. Adam. 120. Jean-Baptiste. 88. 53 Versluis. 9. Nicholas.E. ix. 137. Hugh. M. 2. Charles. 48. 10. David. 67–69 Upanishads. Georg von. George. W.. Arthur. 112–113 Zohar. 140 Valentinus..B. Egidio Cardinal. 103. 103. 148 Zen Buddhism. 101 Weishaupt. 122–123 Williamson. 156 Zinzendorf. 103. 64. 31 Viterbo. 69–70 Universalism [esoteric]. 82 Troubadours. 89. 35–43 Ungrund. ix. 63.172 INDEX Trevor-Roper. 106 Washington. 110. 111 Warlick.

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

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

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