Western Esotericism, Literature, Art, and Consciousness

Arthur Versluis



SUNY series in

Western Esoteric Traditions

David Appelbaum, editor

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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. We make connections.” 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. As we look closer at the specific currents of Western esotericism. it is to suggest that these works exist on a spectrum that also includes poetry. But when we begin looking at the Western esoteric traditions. it will be useful to comment now on what is implied by this term. fiction. that at their heart the Western esoteric traditions are about reading the world’s and our own secrets. What is more. perhaps even experiencing hierophanxic moments of insight during which we suddenly see ourselves and the world around us in a new light.” Although we will begin to unravel the intricacies of these mysteries of the word later. I am not arguing that such insights are identical to what one might experience when working in one of the Western esoteric traditions. like so many others. not about accumulating more information. to intensely complex theosophic works such as those of Jacob Böhme. that their authors did not take them seriously as alchemical or spiritual treatises. Rather. and during the course of this book we will begin to unveil just how significant is this indebtedness. but neither is it to say that the written word is disparaged. we will unveil various facets of what I believe are approaches to spirituality via literature that inform all of them. but about qualitatively different ways of understanding who we are. we find that the written word is often seen not only as a means of transmitting spiritual understanding.INTRODUCTION 5 Piers Ploughman among riddles and toward the apocalypse. Here “literature” refers also to alchemical treatises and to visionary narrations. we travel ever more deeply into the worldview of the authors. but I am arguing that Western literature owes a very great deal indeed to the Western esoteric traditions. 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. 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. drama. in short to the full range of esoteric literature. a supposition with a long history that goes back at least to Plato in his Phaedrus. and when we read them. we understand. The mysteries of the word represented in these various esoteric traditions are historical predecessors to and influences on what we now . where we are from. This is not to say that the written word is privileged over the oral tradition. and where we are going. It is often commonly supposed that the written word is inherently inferior to the spoken or oral tradition. what is the attraction of Melville’s Ishmael? These works. but even as a vehicle for attaining spiritual understanding. When I refer to literature “in the broadest sense of this word. and essays. are full of mysterious symbols and intricate encoded wordplays.

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

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



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

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



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



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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

of course. and by eating the book. angels. the way we see the cosmos itself changes. Taken together. the most symbolically resonant image of all is that of the book. And it has immense power for this reason: by entering into its world of references. there are “other books.24 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E Western esotericism. and one hundred forty-fours. in other words. 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. Another such element is the number and letter symbolism.” symbolism charged with initiatory knowledge. and are in a sense initiates. And then there is. In the tenth chapter. John is united with its knowledge. This image is amplified by the presence of book imagery throughout the entire work. is the prophetic element: more than one group has identified itself with the “woman in the wilderness” in the twelfth chapter. The entire revelation is an unveiling of gnosis. which has inspired countless commentaries or explanations. but sweet as honey on his lips.12). One. John eats the little book: it becomes part of him. By reading the Book of Revelation that John subsequently writes after eating the little book. Christian Gnosticism. After the various accounts of Christ’s life and death in the Gospels. all remind us of the prior traditions. Additionally. which he does. we are eating his little book—we belong to a direct lineage or current. The word eidetikos in Greek refers to a particular kind of knowledge associated with shape or form. John himself—for he is told to write by a voice from heaven (14.9). and more than one group has seen itself as living during the end times. especially in the Book of Life wherein is written the names of those who belong to the Lamb (13. of course. revealing the hidden forces beyond history and what happens to all humanity. the very book that we are reading. we suddenly are given in the Revelation this overwhelming and astonishing visionary sequence that brings us completely outside the sphere of mundane human life.13). John is given a little book to eat. twelves. and Christ whose symbolic heart is the written word. Every aspect of life is altered. found in Judaism. the Book of Revelation of St. we will recall. 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). and although the word eidolon early in the modern era .” during these the end times. But for our purposes. possesses a special luminosity of symbolism that we may call “hieroeidetic. symbolizing his union with the esoteric center of spiritual life. becoming symbolically charged. The Revelation of John has an oneiric quality. and finds it bitter in his belly. of letters and numbers revealing the secret powers of the divine.” which are opened during the Last Judgment in order to see the lives of those being judged (20. and Hermetism. Christ’s repeated assertion that “I am the Alpha and the Omega.” as well as the repetition of geometric and numerical symbolism such as the sevens. it is like a collective dream in which we participate simply by reading. The Revelation. a gnostic encounter with elders.

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

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



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

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

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

Even more intimately yet. the images may be seen as reflecting inner aspects of the cosmos. Here. to which I have already devoted some study. a gnostic view of numbers and letters sees them not as merely signifying something external. of the different properties of beings. and therein we obtain the pure key.”6 There is in Saint-Martin’s work a peculiar kind of mystical mathematics from which it is evident that here is indeed an order of knowledge entirely different from the merely quantitative. numbers designate quantities that one can manipulate. including the gnoses of numbers and letters. Gnostic works reveal a wide array of images and myths. nor wholly from without. separated from the subject who sees. as a panoply on an inner stage where we see acted out the soul’s dramas. in his own degree. Such images may be seen in terms of degrees of union. On the lowest level. without masters. woven together into a . By contrast. including Piers Ploughman. but as qualities pregnant with meaning. According to rational consciousness. but men have sometimes lowered them to it. What is more. but instead express aspects of the invisible origin of the cosmos and of ourselves. the images remain outside one and are taken literally as referring to history.5 A similarly gnostic view of numbers appears again in the work of Louis-Claude de Saint Martin (1743–1803). Such a gnosis of numbers is visible during the medieval period. But this view of numbers corresponds to seeing reading as the accumulation of data: it remains objectified. . Regeneration alone shows us the ground. on which conventional mathematics is founded. where we find definite traces of Latin number and letter transposition corresponding to what in Hebrew is termed gematria. They are only the sensible expression. numbers and letters can open up into aspects of consciousness itself. imagination proceeds neither wholly from ourselves. a theosopher in the line of Jacob Böhme. Here we have the combination of all the elements we have discussed so far. however. the images may be seen as corresponding to something in our own inward nature. here they no longer are taken as having entirely historical dimensions. which is the mystery of words and of the book. of which the quantitative designation is a husk. a third characteristic.32 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E From the gnosis of naming emerges a range of related mysteries. which all proceed from the one only essence . of course. my dear brother. A fourth characteristic is imagery. which emerge out of the inexpressible into the realms of conscious perception. so that to work with them is to enter into the existential quality that is their real nature or kernel. Out of the gnoses of numbers. These number-letter transpositions yield many hidden significances. and are visible in major European literary works. . who wrote his friend Baron Kirchberger that “Numbers are no algebra. but lives in an intermediate realm necessary for the birth of unitive consciousness. albeit few more wild than those of the Book of Revelation. everyone. and images emerges the fifth characteristic. whether visible or intellectual. More intimately. letters.

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


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

Can we find anything approximating this earlier explicitly gnostic esotericism in the chivalric tales or the songs of the troubadours? The answer. But was there any explicitly esoteric content in these traditions? In other words. When the troubadour or the knight pledges troth to a woman.36 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E Thus there is implicitly a dual quality to much of the writing associated with each of these traditions. but these were not part of either the chivalric or troubadour lines. in the background is also his relationship to the invisible. there is esotericism visible in the songs of the troubadours. Much more likely that here. it is implicitly also about his relationship to the divine. and indeed even they ran afoul of church censors alert for any signs of Gnosticism’s recurrence. that is to say. Undoubtedly much of this allusiveness had to do with the strictures imposed by the Roman Catholic church. or love’s faithful. and thus there inherently are hidden dimensions to such poems or stories. Instead. is no. And so the chivalric and the troubadour traditions are fertile ground for esotericism. But to this day the precise nature of this or similar societies remains largely closed to us. likewise. for example. particularly the chivalric tradition. they do not reflect what we see in those Merkabah or Gnostic or Hermetic traditions explicitly devoted to knowledge of the transcendent. 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. and that may have also in some quarters engendered initiatory groups. One such group was the fedeli d’amore. as in so much of Western esotericism to follow. in that it remained an individual and somewhat anarchic tradition that one joined by self-election. I think. as referring to an actual beloved woman and to the divine. we have already seen the explicitly esoteric nature of Gnosticism and other movements of the first few centuries C. But when we look at these movements as a whole. individuals sought and found as much as they could of such traditions on their own. One does find an outright gnostic esotericism in the writings and sermons of Meister Eckhart and Johannes Tauler. who conveyed their mysteries through poetic references and imagery. a troubadour’s poem also can be read on at least two levels. even surreptitious. as for instance in the Grail cycles or in Parzival.E. but one doubts very much that this reflects a widespread or organized esoteric tradition. for hidden meanings not accessible to outsiders. . the esotericism that we find in the chivalric or troubadour tradition is allusive and elusive. Both of these movements are fundamentally social in nature. the troubadour movement was close to esotericism proper. perhaps occasionally forming themselves into larger groups only again to dissolve under pressure from the church or from other social circumstances. Of course. never explicitly discussing. When a story is about a knight’s remaining true to his word. relying on implication and multivalent symbols. the soul’s liberation as one finds in Gnostic treatises. There is esotericism visible on occasion in the stories written by individual authors or in particular cycles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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



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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.Figure 7 Pansophic image from Georg von We l l i n g . O p u s M a g o . Note the threedimensional nature of the illustration. (Frankfurt: 1784). .

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

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

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

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

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

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

and perhaps remains. These Swedenborg saw. and depicted as peculiarly concrete—the visionary realms of the spirit for him are palpable and his work certainly a kind of hyperphysical cartography. One can. who was trained as a scientist but went on to write voluminous works surveying the nature. to bring about a cultural renaissance that would join together the sundered limbs of human knowledge. and both wrote in dry. a Don Juanesque figure. Milosz also became active as a diplomat for Lithuania. In both Swedenborg and Goethe we see the emergence of what we might call a nascent spiritual science. his effort to chronicle the visionary experience with a kind of new science of the spirit.” However. and from this period on became a serious scholar of Hermeticism. beginning of course with Paracelsus and Böhme. William Blake (1757–1827). hell. which are what concern us here. whose massive works are themselves scientific in their precise descriptions and careful elucidation of all the various “divine mansions. theosophy. far more influential than is usually acknowledged in intellectual histories. and including such authors as Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772). neither Pordage nor Swedenborg was a poet. but are in fact also intended to invoke these experiences in the reader. Among these figures. perhaps the most seminal is Swedenborg. by way of a renewed Hermetic spirituality. so his nephew Czeslaw Milosz later wrote. and invariably sought to conjoin not only the sciences and literature and the arts. Financially ruined during this time by the collapse of Russia. and Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749–1832). It was during the first half of this service that Milosz wrote his most Hermetic works. LouisClaude de Saint-Martin (1743–1803). Swedenborg was. and. But it is in Milosz that we see Swedenborg’s approach. he experienced a spiritual illumination. in 1914.90 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E or less like that of the early T. Swedenborg of course was himself preceded in this effort by John Pordage. Milosz’s poetry. Kabbalah. create a kind of lineage of such figures. of heaven. he remains a primary force behind the works of William Blake. . whose poems and prose are not only recountings of visionary experiences. participating in the League of Nations and serving until his retirement in 1938. Eliot. come to fruition in literary form. and the dwelling places of spirits. Diverse as this list is in certain respects. and Western esotericism in general. in vision. as he saw it. in a mysterious way also embodies and is the experience. though drawing on this tradition of scientific observation of visionary experience. Then. Not so Milosz. 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. almost pedantic ways of their visionary experiences. also a tactile visionary. its members have in common that most lived during the eighteenth century and that they sought. for that matter. Milosz’s predecessors in the Western literary tradition are indissolubly linked with religion and philosophy. Goethe. S. in fact. and became. but all of these under the sign of a Hermetic spirituality.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Rosicrucian Polybius the Cosmopolitan. as when the poem refers to the “betrothed sister of the new canticle. alias René Descartes.”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.” first with his teacher of Hebrew. Eugène Ledrain. Claude de Saint Martin. from Egypt up to today. sought in them peace of spirit. These writers—and also Jewish exegesis—exerted a decisive influence upon Blaise Pascal. passing through the Pre-Socratics. 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.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 99 wrote in a letter that he would like to lecture on a subject he knew thoroughly: “hermetic metaphysics and doctrines. the Neoplatonists of the Middle Ages. and then with his “spiritual guides: Goethe. but it reveals at the heart of all things “a single new word.” where he writes of how “shade covers An-Dor and / Pau of the land of Esau covers Matred Tolde Beith / Aram and all Spared of Judea. We can see how deeply Milosz’s fascination with Judaism penetrated his work by examining his final poem.” and . Swedenborg. the School of Alexandria. we cannot help but notice the parallel focus on Judaism and Kabbalah. the disciple of the Kabbalist Raymond Martini.”27 “Psalm of the Morning Star” is so suffused in Hebrew and in Old Testament language as to be inseparable from them.26 If we see here the depth of Milosz’s focus on Hermeticism in history. he was well acquainted with Jewish Kabbalism.” Milosz continued.” 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. but kept a Bible in Hebrew nearby as a constant reading companion. Martinez de Pasqually. In the “Psalm” we read of another primary theme. the mystical eighteenth century. Swedenborg. but in the tradition of many Christian Cabalists.]28 The peculiar rhythm of the lines and line breaks makes this poem unusually difficult to follow. Milosz not only had studied and read Hebrew. Plato. The allusions to Milosz’s favorite doctrines and language are here hidden in the allusions to Hebrew names and places. [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. “Psaume de l’Étoile du Matin [Psalm of the Morning Star]. looked forward to the day that the Jews would be converted to Christianity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Among those killed were twenty-four women and twenty-two children. raining down terror from the skies. past and present superimposed upon one another and intermingling. those hiding in the attic burned alive. was attacked by a band of Indians loyal to the French. Wunden Eiland. Christian Seidel. or Wounded Island. to young Hilda as Mamalie became delirious on her deathbed. The Gift. where the falling arrows of the original “French Indian” attack on Gnadenhütten metamorphose into the falling bombs of the Germans attacking England. who was to die at twenty-five. and Hilda tells us that “We have been face to face with the final realities. so much so that she never played music again. said in her fragmented narrative. is also the wounded island of England as it is being bombed by the Germans.”67 Thus “the Gift” was transmitted from the original Moravian participants in the ritual to Mamalie and her husband.”69 The two worlds have become one. the promise of Wunden Eiland and of the descent of the Holy Spirit is not lost but realized again.” Mamalie and her young husband were taken away in rapture by this union with the original ritual and spiritual illumination. and both Moravians and Indians were slaughtered.116 R E S T O R I N G PA R A D I S E young husband. even refers to the American David Williamson. stands perpetually opposed to those whose aim is slaughter. In 1755.” Thus we can see the palimpsest form of the novel. D. And yet in the very final passages. decoded it and she played it. Mamalie. 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.” but instead what we see is a tragic history. could have “lifted the dark wings of evil from the whole world. So it would seem that The Gift is a tragic book. and then. In her notes. H. or a subsequent realization of the original Moravian-Indian spiritual illumination. in an even more attenuated form. .” as “Aryan. Instead of recounting the transmission of Mamalie’s understanding to young Hilda. having “burnt it up. so that even amid the terrible bombing of England.68 The final section of The Gift at first seems anticlimactic. of universal peace and the descent of the Holy Spirit. domination. all of these themes are brought together into a unified whole. composed of both local Indians and Moravians working with them. And in a subsequent event. who was responsible for the attack on “New Gnadenhütten. we realize that the Moravian sanctuary island. we return to the fragmented narrative of the Second World War. a means of underscoring that the immense promise of the Moravian-Indian spiritual brotherhood and sisterhood. called “New Gnadenhütten. the Moravian colony of Gnadenhütten.” about 150 Indians working in a Moravian settlement were attacked and about ninety slaughtered by ragtag American soldiers under the command of one David Williamson. 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. At the novel’s conclusion.

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

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

”72 Here again the scroll becomes a “palimpsest. Her poetry and her prose. But bring them back none may Who wakes into this day. is not a youthful digression but central to her work even late in her life. that of ‘initiatory fiction’—novels and short stories whose evident purpose is to take the reader along into new and perhaps unfamiliar kinds of consciousness.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.” the alchemical processus of transmutation that is brought about for Elizabeth “through her uncle’s Art and through the alchemy of memory.” Her poem ends with the stanza: Inviolate in dream The mysteries still are shown.” echoing the laughter in the culminating initiatory moment in The Gift. and the Scroll. here again “the words laugh.” 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.” Kathleen Raine wrote of how the mysteries were once upon the earth. the Writing. The dead are living still. . . Yet in the twilit realm of fiction. / infinity portrayed in simple things. just as it dwells in the realm of dreams. magic and the ancient mysteries still dwell. But my . I would like to explore not the art of magic. but rather how magic dwells in the realm of relatively recent fiction. But then “From grotto grove and shrine. D.73 Magical Fiction In a poem entitled “Dreams. this preface and the poem itself are filled with esoteric elements. “the Mystery.” Here again we find the same themes that recur throughout H. D. Here. 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. ‘magical fiction’ in fact belongs to a larger category. 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 course. the mysteries of the “tree and miraculous bird.” and again through it “I had the answer. taken in toto. as in poetry. of timelessness revealed in time’s transparency.’s recurrent theme of initiation through the word.74 In our day of ever more complex technology and ever more information. 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.’s lifetime of work.” the holy presences withdraw. the “springs gone under the hill. here again we find that “I transcribed the scroll” .

and so forth. and Charles Williams). it is not an art but a technique.” He continues: Enchantment produces a Secondary World into which both designer and spectator can enter. C. R.” But later in the same essay. as one might imagine.” Ransom invokes these powers he calls the Oyéresu. fay or mortal. His main character.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. Tolkien.75 In his essay “On Fairy Stories. and the descrip- . he backtracks and remarks that “Magic should be reserved for the operations of the magician. saying “I have become a bridge. and perhaps becomes itself a magical act. John Ransom. fiction in which the ancient mysteries are still alive and have not withdrawn their springs. things are not nearly so clear cut. or Mercury. Let us take an example. I will concentrate on the works of Lewis and Fortune in order to explore how their fiction becomes magical.” “Through a man whose mind is opened to be so invaded.” says Ransom. 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.” the planetary spirits of Perelandra. domination of things and wills. Magic produces. but in its purity it is artistic in desire and purpose.” “Their naked power. J. for “if they [the Oyéresu] put forth their power.” which might best be translated as “magic. to the satisfaction of their senses while they are inside. or pretends to produce. yes. S. This is actually a rather rare kind of fiction. the “true powers of Heaven. “That is why they will work only through a man. Lewis describes a magical invocation that marks the climax of the book. J. its desire is power in this world.”77 In the subsequent chapter 15.76 While the distinction Tolkien makes. seems reasonable enough in theory. as well as Dion Fortune (Violet Firth). Here. C. an alteration in the Primary World. it remains distinct from the other two. invokes the Oyéresu. S.” whereas the “elvish craft” might best be referred to as “enchantment. Ransom explains what is happening to the resurrected ancient magician Merlin. R. while I will draw on some writings of Tolkien and Williams. “The Descent of the Gods. when we turn to actual works. R. Lewis. Tolkien begins by describing “fairy stories” as those stories touched by “faëry. or Venus. Is there really a difference in practice between enchantment and magic.” replies Ransom. It does not matter by whom it is said to be practiced.” in a collection of essays presented to Charles Williams. they will unmake all Middle Earth. “one who by his own will once opened it. But chief among such authors are without doubt the Inklings (in particular. In his extraordinary novel That Hideous Strength.” “Sir. Viritrilbia. here. R. what will come of this?” asks Merlin.

ready to die. sweet-scented and full of desire. in which none other than the ancient . where Ransom (the Pendragon) and Merlin sit. such a distinction does not hold up well at all. bright and ruthless. unmitigated. sharp. To keep their beams upon this spot of the moving Earth’s hide. or between “sub-creation” of a “secondary world” and magical effects on the “primary world” of this earth. In the beginning of the chapter. They could not bear that it should continue. In this chapter. ready to kill. “I do not think he could have reached the door unbidden.” “He would have known sensuously. . . . brisk merriments. . 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. whose colour no man can name or picture” darting between Ransom and Merlin. scorched. calling down the powers. then we imaginatively enter the Blue Room.” the narrator tells us.” 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. to do full justice to these descriptions of the planetary powers’ arrival. In this chapter of Lewis’s novel. and the Blue Room. . They could not bear that it should end. They thought it would burn their bones. Clearly Lewis is describing a magical working: the invocation of the planetary powers. and then comes the goddess: “fiery. Fallen upon them direct from the Third Heaven. A soft tingling and shivering as of foam and breaking bubbles. until his outraged senses forsook him.”78 This initial scene-setting represents a kind of portal through which we as readers imaginatively enter into what is happening in the two rooms: it represents the beginning of an initiation into this magical working.M O D E R N I M P L I C AT I O N S 121 tion of this event is one of the most extraordinary evocations of magical working in literature. The ordinary people in the kitchen experience first the coming of Mercury: they become exceptionally talkative. for “the whole house would have seemed to him to be tilting and plunging like a ship in a Bay of Biscay gale. . . there are two scenes: a room where several ordinary people sit. 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 . the narrator imagines what it must be like to enter the house. lynx-eyed thoughts” “rolling to and fro like glittering drops. and there we see a “rod of coloured light. Laden with ponderous fragrance of night-scented flowers. sticky gums . Into the Blue Room come summer breezes. in the white-hot furnace of essential speech. They experience “needle-pointed desires. “laden like heavy barges that glide nearly gunwale under . here. outspeeding light: it was Charity . were it possible. We encounter how people ordinarily encounter Mercury. awakening dormant passion in the people in the kitchen.”80 It is not really possible. where the invocation has its center. . They were blinded. full of wordplay and puns and metaphors.” Merlin and Ransom tremble.”79 After Mercury arrives Venus. so well-crafted and evocative are Lewis’s words. deafened.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

C. trs. 246. 28. p. p. Gershom Scholem. 38. cit. 9. 1965). et al. Zohar IV . II. 280. pp... 25. Twersky. 16.80 ff. 33. The Renaissance Philosophy of Man (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. The Books of Contemplation (Albany: State University of New York Press.NOTES TO CHAPTER TWO 161 6. 18. (London: Soncino.. Ibid. 197. II. ed.C.. 11. p. 61. see also Scholem. p. Ibid. Ibid. pp. see also Moshe Idel. Vasoli. (Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. 270. See.320–323. Ibid. M.325.. 1961).. op. 57. Scholem. Tristan. 24. 10. A translation of Ars Brevis is to be found in Ramon Lull. Ibid. Simon. Ibid. See Arthur Edward Waite. . 59. Ibid.. 298 ff. 1992). p...205b–206a. 21. See A.77. (Hildesheim: Olms.314. and Françoise Secret. 394. IV . See Verman. See Pico della Mirandola.. p. p. ed. 57.. Origins. Kabbalah: New Perspectives (New Haven: Yale University Press. 1979). 29. Rabbi Moses Nahmanides: Explorations. trs. See Scholem. Dan. p. I. 30. 52. Doctor Illuminatus. 1969). 35. Ibid. 66. The Early Kabbalah (Paulist Press. p. for instance. 250. 1964). 34.. 101–102. 1987). (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Ibid. I. p. 26... 278.351. 197. The Christian Interpretation of the Cabala in the Renaissance (Port Washington: Kennikat. Ibid. 1988). 31.B. 19. Ibid. See Moshe Idel. p. Ibid. 1983).. 49–50. op.331. p. 14. 20. Cassirer. 32. vom Stein der Weisen (Berlin: Christian Ulrich Ringmacher.. op. 37. 1779).71. eds. 36. 51. 17. Ibid. cit. 7. 1985).. Les Kabbalistes chrétiens de la Renaissance (Paris: Dunod. See “Oration on the Dignity of Man” in E. Origins. 23. II. Ibid. I. cit. Opera omnia. p. 8. The Hermetic Museum (London: Watkins. 29.. Kabbalistes chrétiens (Paris: Albin Michel. Bonner. 1953) I.75. 15. Ibid.205b. ed. as well as Antoine Faivre and F. See Verman. ed. in The Zohar. 13. 1986). See Mark Verman. I. p. Origins. p. ed. 1984). 12. II. Origins of the Kabbalah (Princeton: Princeton University Press.. I. p. See J.. I..76. A. I. Joseph Blau.312. Cassirer.. 27. 22.

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

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

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

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

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

See.. 103.. 225. 39. “Ancient Gnosticism and Christian Theosophy” in Studies in Spirituality (Fall 1997). IV .. 118.. Nicolas Berdyaev: Theologian of Prophetic Gnosticism (Th. Toronto: 1948). p. Theosophia: Hidden Dimensions of Christianity (Hudson: Lindisfarne. forthcoming. p. Ibid. Freedom and the Spirit. See also The Destiny of Man. 1978). Diss.. 105. Nicholas Berdyaev. 112. 1958). 125.. Rosenthal. 107.. 111. 1991). Christosophia IV . Ibid. 105. trs. 129. from “The Magic of Words: Symbolism.” 108. p. pp. Ibid. The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture (Ithaca: Cornell University Press. II. Ibid. 127. 78. Ibid.. I. 63. Knapp. p.29–30. 123. 117. Ibid. 94. Irina Gutkin.” and I.31.. p. 119..1 ff. 109. pp. Ibid. p. Ibid. pp. Ibid... 285.. 40 and pp. Peter Erb. 122. 130. “Warnung an den Leser. 126. pp. 114. 116. 93. Ibid.. Song and Its Fountains (Burdett: Larson. Christosophia.. 110. 106.31. The Way to Christ (New York: Paulist Press. Ibid. p.” in B. 194 ff.. pp. . I added the colors.. for example. 1997) p. p. Ibid. Ibid.D. The Beginning and the End (New York: Harper. 115. ed. See Charles C. 113. 128. p.. 124. p. p. Versluis. Socialist Realism. E. p. p. Ibid. See Versluis. p. Bromley’s is the image on the cover of my book Theosophia (1994). 40. 71 ff. A. Ibid.NOTES TO CHAPTER THREE 167 104. 1994). 74. See my overview of Christian theosophy in Magic and Mysticism.. 1980). 106. 95. 108 ff. p. 25 ff. 121. 62–63. 275 ff. Nishitani Keiji.. Religion and Nothingness (Berkeley: University of California Press. p. “Vorrede. 1957). 170. 62. Futurism. 120. See Berdyaev’s introduction to Jacob Böhme’s Six Theosophic Points (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan. Ibid.1. 199.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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