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Introduction The Historical Development of the Cabala, Alchemy and Syncretism The Lurianic Cabala Divine Potentiality Origins and Thematic Comparisons Alchemy and Cosmological Perfectionism Egyptian and Hebrew Traditions and the Philosophia Perennis The Keys to the Temple: The Pentagrammatron and the Philosopher‟s Stone The Kabbalah Denudata Conceptions of Knowledge and the Dispera Intentio The Aperta Arca, Arcani Artificiosissimi Conclusions and New Paradigms Illustrations Bibliography
For such an extensively studied and influential theological phenomenon, the Cabala, (transliteration of the Hebrew , also spelt Kabbalah, Qabalah, Gabalia) is still largely
misrepresented, ill-defined and relatively obscured. One can see in searching for texts that compare the two arts of Cabala and alchemy, it is an area that have been explored even less. To quote Gershom Scholem (1897-1982), „regarded as one of the greatest figures in Western
2 SAMUEL GARRARD culture in our generation‟1 and author of Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (1946), the Cabala „represented a theological attempt, open to only a relative few, whose object was to find room for an essentially mystical world-outlook within the framework of traditional Judaism and without altering the latter‟s fundamental principles and behavioural norms.‟2
Loosely defined as a cosmology and esoteric theosophy, the Cabala claims to illuminate the relationship of mankind to intermediaries, an infinite, transcendental Godhead and His various levels of revelation. The whole system has of course been developed, reinterpreted and redefined in the centuries since its inception. The confluence of Cabala and alchemy provides much scope for study and deserves further research. For the purpose of this essay I will focus on the syncretic approach to the Lurianic Cabala by Christian writers in the Renaissance and its parallels with alchemy, providing a historical account of the thematic similarities of the two disciplines and by looking at the alchemical themes and motifs employed in a few primarily Cabalistic texts.
2. THE HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE CABALA, ALCHEMY AND SYNCRETISM
The Cabala is rooted in the ascent mysticism of ma’aseh merkabah, based around the understanding of the throne of the chariot as described in the first chapter of Ezekiel.3 What endured in the transition of the early Jewish Cabala to the modern Cabala were the basic principles of the power of language and the word, and the theory of concordance between the microcosm and macrocosm.
Yosef Ben Shlomo, „The Spiritual Universe of Gershom Scholem‟, Modern Judaism, 5 (1985), 21-38 (p. 21). Gershom Scholem, Kabbalah: A Definitive History of the Evolution, Ideas, Leading Figures and Extraordinary Influence of Jewish Mysticism (New York: Penguin, 1974), p. 190. 3 Ibid., pp.10-15.
the first account of the Cabala readable by western scholars and the first printed illustration of the sefirot and highly formative of Johann Reuchlin‟s (1455-1522) knowledge of the Jewish Cabala. He was in contact with Raymon Llull6 (1232-1315). The doctrine of shevirat-ha-kelim (breaking of the vessels) and tikkun (restoration) explained how evil is impermanent and called for humanity to restore perfection to the cosmos through observation of ritual Mitzvot practice. „Some Judaeo-Arabic fragments by Rabbi Abraham he-Hasid. with a focus on breathing techniques. Abulafia‟s Cabala was ecstatic. On the Art of the Kabbalah: De Arte Cabalistica. implying that evil is an intrinsic creative force not solely attributable to humanity. 47-72.3 T H E S Y N C R E TIC E S O TER IC IS M O F TH E R E NA IS S AN C E The thirteenth century saw the emergence of the first example of the tree of life. 5 The other school was that of Abraham ben Samuel and Abulafia of Saragossa. the theosophical Gerona circle and the „Gnostics‟ of Castile. 5 The Early Kabbalah. the Jewish Sufi‟. which expounded a system of logic often referred to as the origin of information science. trans. pp. 2008). by Martin and Sarah Goodman (Lincoln. 34-36. 26 (1981). p. Journal of Semitic Studies.7 Abulafia taught Joseph ben Abraham Gikatilla (1248-1325) author of Sha’ are Orah. 1250-1305) author of the Sefer Zohar (the Book of Splendour). This is significant because of humanity‟s active role in redemption. . 58. „Introduction to the Bison Book Edition‟. p. v.9 2. 9 Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke. the concept of the power of shemot (divine names) and influential on Rabbi Moses de León (c. revitalised Cabala with the theory of tsimsum . centred around the brothers Isaac and Jacob Kohen who were influenced by Sufiism. NE: University of Nebraska Press.4 At that time there were two Cabalist schools. This act was seen as a hierohistorical symbol of divine exile. Figure 1. 7 Paul Fenton. 8 See Illustrations. 1993). and the ten sefirot or emanations. author of Ars Generalis Ultima or Ars Magna (The Ultimate General Art) (1305). 6 'Lurianic Cabala' Audio file. The Western Esoteric Traditions (New York: Oxford. it called for Jews to be part of 4 Moshe Idel. THE LURIANIC CABALA Lurianic Cabala was created by Isaac Luria (1534-1572) and. in Johann Reuchlin. translated by Paul Riccius as Portae Lucis8 (1516).1.God‟s withdrawal from himself. based on the Zohar.
pp.12 Scholem asserted that the Lurianic Cabala. 2. borne by both Lurianic Cabala and alchemy.11 Tikkun bears a very similar semblance to the alchemical idea of transmutation and Coudert draws a parallel between alchemist physicians and Cabalists in their role as creative and even redemptive agents. giving humankind divine potential. discusses the specific restorative and salvational role of this activist Cabalism as comparable with the art of alchemy and contributory to the “Rosicrucian Enlightenment” as explored by Frances Yates (1899-1981). Coudert. was the driving force behind the Sabbatian movement which was formative of secular. both horizontally and in depth. 190. Allison P. reformative Judaism that followed and was „one of the most powerful forces ever to affect the inner development of Judaism. Coudert. DIVINE POTENTIALITY The theme of potentiality. 13 Gershom Scholem. 14 David Biale. 121. „Gershom Scholem's Ten Unhistorical Aphorisms on Kabbalah: Text and Commentary‟. p. Allison P.. Kabbalah.‟13 The Cabala was directly responsible for the abolishment of the halakhah law. with its messianic or utopian dimension.10 The magical implications of this are evident in the popularity and controversy that surrounded the Cabala in the preceding centuries. 13. p. Kabbalah. 82). originally written in the second and third 10 11 Gershom Scholem. 5 (1985).2. 12 Ibid. Modern Judaism: Gershom Scholem Memorial Issue. interacting with the cosmic scheme and divinity itself. In seeking to reveal paradoxically „what is by definition hidden‟14 the followers of the Cabala performed their own act of transmutation by transforming a dogmatic law to a symbolic one. p. placing them heretically among the semi-divine. stood in opposition to the Christian doctrine of the fall and original sin and provides a link with the tradition that began with the translation by Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499) and Lodovico Lazzarelli (1447–1500) of the Corpus Hermeticum. 74-76. . professor of Religious Studies at the University of California. The Impact of the Kabbalah in the Seventeenth Century: The Life and Thought of Francis Mercury von Helmont (1614-1698) (Leiden: Brill.4 SAMUEL GARRARD the cosmic process. 1999). 67-93 (p.
17 Coudert provides further speculation on Frances Yates‟ theory that Hermeticism and Renaissance occult philosophy provided the sine qua non for modern science.‟20 noting Jonathan Israel‟s (1946-) challenge and re-assesses Judeo-Christian interaction in a positive light suggesting that the twin pillars of progress and toleration .5 T H E S Y N C R E TIC E S O TER IC IS M O F TH E R E NA IS S AN C E centuries AD.”19 a Gnosticism with no mediator between humanity and God. 19 Ibid. p. by Antoine Faivre and Jacob Needleman (London: SCM Press. namely correspondences. pp. Coudert contests Scholem‟s „internalist view of Jewish history. The Rosicrucian Enlightenment (London: Routledge. rooted in the approach of medieval alchemy and strengthened in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The Gnostic Gospels. 21 For example Lurianic Cabala and alchemy approach spirit and matter as part of a spectrum rather than having separate and independent existences.15 The theme of Hermetic potentiality it apparent in the monadic Gnostic tradition and. 1985). Elaine Pagels. p. both alchemy and Cabala share broader “esoteric” traits such as the ones defined by Antoine Faivre (born 1934 ). p. p.. 31. Cabala (in particular Lurianic Cabala) and in Neoplatonism a “monadic Gnosis. imagination and mediation.22 This sets Cabala and 15 16 Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke. Jonathan Israel. alchemy. cf. 18 The Impact of the Kabbalah. 18. cf. The Impact of the Kabbalah. 336-337. 1979). are rooted in this Judeo-Christian contact. 124.18 One can detect in Hermetic texts. pp. 17 Frances Amelia Yates. p. 20 The Impact of the Kabbalah. living nature. As well as the trait of divine potentiality. 22 The Impact of the Kabbalah. p. p. 339.16 Frances Yates proposed the theory that this divine potentiality in the individual human was responsible for the confidence and determinism behind the enlightenment and scientific thrust that was to follow. xv-xix. 1972). theorising that the revival of Pelagianism was formative of the scientific approach. Cabala and alchemy were formal means by which one could interact directly with God. (New York: Random House. . the transmutation and concordance. 1993). European Jewry in the Age of Mercantilism (Oxford: Clarendon Press. 163-172. 342. 21 Modern Esoteric Spirituality ed. as trumpeted by modern society. 338.
The Yetzirah exists in multiple versions.” which gives a possible explanation for the text‟s concordance with Renaissance Neoplatonism and Hermeticism. An example of the syncretic. cosmogonical. 3. as compiled in The Western Esoteric Traditions (2008). Farmer in the first four chapters of his Syncretism in the West: Pico’s 900 Theses (1486): The Evolution of Traditional Religious and Philosophical Systems (1998). It focussed on system of the ten sefirot (emanations or literally enumerations) and the importance of the twenty-two Hebrew letters. esoteric philosophy. short. . It is possible that the Yetzirah was composed in the multicultural milieu of Alexandria in first few centuries AD. The syncretism that these theses initiated in European philosophical and scientific circles is given a thorough evaluation by Stephen A.23 A Renaissance revival of the Cabala began with the research of Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494). emphatic of the importance of the thirty-two paths of wisdom . Jewish communities moved into the new intellectual revolution. Hermeticised Renaissance Cabala can been seen in the works of Francesco Giorgi Veneto (1466-1540) who wrote the De Harmonia Mundi Totius Cantica Tria (1525). ORIGINS AND THEMATIC COMPARISONS In Renaissance Venice. who wrote 900 Theses (1486). Audio file. namely the long. It was in 1552 that the first Latin edition of the Sefer Yetzirah (the Book of Creation) was published and in 1548 Guillaume Postel (1510-1581) translated the Zohar. and had already been “Hermeticised. Platonic and 23 'Lurianic Cabala'. assimilating the European Renaissance and revitalising the previously traditional esoteric knowledge. His approach was messianic and syncretic. combining Hermetic.6 SAMUEL GARRARD alchemy within the framework of a specific cultural tradition. Saadia and Gra versions and expounds a speculative.
chronicled by John of Antioch in 7 BCE.27 Great scientific figures such as Sir Isaac Newton (16431727) held an active interest in alchemy. 29 Israel Regardie. The Golden Fleece and Alchemy. p. 25-34 (pp. with a Foreword by Joscelyn Godwin (Albany. The Magic Circle of Rudolf II: Alchemy and Astrology in Renaissance Prague (New York: Walker. Keynes and his Hermetic stance formally acknowledged if epistemologically devalued. His alchemical interests have been presented by writers such as David Brewster and J.40. 1972). cf. In the works of Dion 24 25 Frances Amelia Yates. p. „the framework of practical magic. 1997) p. Having previously been banned in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. 1990). Toison d'or et Alchimie (Milan: Arche. 26 Torsten Bock. 1993). History of Alchemy from Early to Middle Ages (Saarbrücken: Verlag. NY: State University of New York Press. Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London. 25-26).26 alchemy received a welcome revival in the sixteenth century. This is further discussed by Frances Yates in her highly influential The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age (1979). . The Cabala has been interpreted as a means of understanding the cosmos.1. alchemy sought after the philosopher‟s stone that could transform base metals into gold and give immortality. demonstrating the veracity and productivity of Renaissance thought in marrying various traditions.24 3. ME: Weiser. 27 Peter Marshall. M. for example in the sponsoring of alchemy by Rudolf II in Prague.7 T H E S Y N C R E TIC E S O TER IC IS M O F TH E R E NA IS S AN C E Cabalistic ideas whilst expounding theories such as the correspondence between the microcosm and macrocosm and a harmonious cosmology.12.‟29 but also as a psychological technique. Throughout his work he deployed an outlook implicitly similar to that of alchemy.25 Forming the basis of modern chemistry. Antoine Faivre. The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age (London: Routledge. Young. the emanations of God. The Tree of Life (York Beach. 41. 2006) 28 John T. ALCHEMY AND COSMOLOGICAL PERFECTIONISM Antoine Faivre traced the origins of alchemy to the Greek myth of the golden fleece. Antoine Faivre. 60 (2006).28 Practical alchemy is concerned with the transmutation of base metals into gold and spiritual alchemy with the inner transformation of dense attributes to subtle ones. „Isaac Newton's Alchemical Notes in the Royal Society‟. 1979).
In his role in the Hermetic Order of The Golden Dawn.‟30 Both traditions have external and internal processes. the former lexical. The transmutation of letters to their prime state can be seen as parallel to the alchemical discipline of transmutation of metals to their base elements. 32 Israel Regardie. . sixth edition (St Paul. The Mystical Qabalah (London: Society of the Inner Light. 2002). MN: Llewellyn.8 SAMUEL GARRARD Fortune (1890-1946). The Golden Dawn: The Original Account of the Teachings. both practically and spiritually. Mathers echoed Athanasius Kircher (1602–1680) in emphasising a strong Egyptian element in the ritual work of the order. p. and integral to the system as a whole. one might speculate that the renewal of Cabalistic interest in the modern occult revival and New Age movement might be a reaction against the collapse of meta. the Tree of Life is „an attempt to reduce to diagrammatic form every force and factor in the manifested universe and the soul of man. 1989). This considered. The idea of an absolute spiritual source relies on the presupposed doctrine of cosmological perfectionism. a doctrine rejected by the likes of Henry More (1614-1687) and helpful in understanding the reception and rejection of the Cabala in different historical periods. Rites and Ceremonies of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (Stella Matutina).32 30 31 Dion Fortune.narratives and the critiques of absolute knowledge by writers such as Jean-François Lyotard (1924-1998) and Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951). Samuel Liddell Mac Gregor Mathers (1854-1918) translated parts of the Kabbalah Denudata (1678) by Baron Christian Knorr von Rosenroth (1636-1689).181. Doug Mann. 21. In this sense these two esoteric disciplines are magical methods of returning material to its absolute source. Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press. 1998). comparable yet distinct. the latter elemental.31 The modern occult revival saw a reintegration of Cabalistic elements into modern ritual magic by members and offshoots of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Exemplified by syncretic texts such as Voarchadumia (1550) Cabala and alchemy are comparable in their methods of manipulation. Structural Idealism: A Theory of Social and Historical Explanation (Waterloo. p.
the works of Proclus. p.38 Despite historical debate.34 This affinity between Hebrew and Egyptian culture shows a connection evident at the root of both alchemy and Cabala. cf. 36 Paula Findlen. 38 Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke. a crossover that aligns both traditions 33 34 Samuel Liddell Mac Gregor Mathers.2. Ginsburg. Kabbalah: Its Doctrines. Development and Literature (London: Routledge. . ceremonies and sacred disciplines of the Egyptians that I am fully persuaded that either the Egyptians were “Hebraicising” or the Hebrews were “Egypticising. 1887).35 He writes: „The Hebrews have such an affinity to the rites. p.com/index. The Kabbalah Unveiled (London: George Redway. 2010].org.”‟36 Historically the Egyptian pantheon has been shown to be a source of Zoroastrianism and Orphic wisdom. (1863) in Bible Believers <http://www.htm> [accessed 3 June. 5. 1653) in Bill Heidrick's Cross References <http://www. „Oedipus Aegyptiacus: Tom IIA (all) and "Cabala" from Tom IIB (pp. Ginsburg.9 T H E S Y N C R E TIC E S O TER IC IS M O F TH E R E NA IS S AN C E 3.84.au/kabbalah.billheidrick. EGYPTIAN AND HEBREW TRADITIONS AND THE PHILOSOPHIA PERENNIS In The Kabbalah Unveiled the Hebrew. 5. p. passed on to Pythagoreanism. Athanasius Kircher: The Last Man That Knew Everything (New York: Routledge. Platonism. Abraham „allowed a portion of this mysterious doctrine to ooze out‟ into Egypt. and the Hebrew Cabala. An example of this can be found in Oedipus Aegyptiacus (1654) in which Kircher focusses on the Bembine Tablet drawing parallels between Arabian alchemy and the Cabala. Christian D.37 In many accounts. what can be deduced is a similarity in approach. 2004). Christian D. pointing to a direct correlation between the Hermetic and Hebrew traditions and the idea of a philosophia perennis.Egypt connection is mentioned when according to its (unnamed) followers. It is said that the Cabala was given as part of the Oral Law received by Moses at mount Sinai. sacrifices. such as those of Ficino. 2010]. 209-399)‟ (Rome. Hermes Trismegistus is said to be a contemporary of Moses. 37 Gershom Scholem. 35 Athanasius Kircher.33 Interestingly Mathers seems to have borrowed his phrasing from a reading by Reverend Ginsburg some twenty-four years earlier without acknowledging him.biblebelievers. p. 37.htm> [accessed 10 June. Kabbalah. 1925). p. 143. 'The Kabbalah‟.
However. 39 (1976). . professor of religion at the University of the Sorbonne.305) whilst remaining cautiously ambivalent in his personal stance on magic. or religious magia.39 4. not just to internal mystical experience but external miraculous achievement.104.10 SAMUEL GARRARD philosophically and a place in the esoteric initiatory idea of an ancient theology or prisca theologia. Reuchlin‟s fourth science of wonders. names sixteenth century historian Ludwig Geiger (1848-1919) as the root cause for the lack of a critical response to De Verbo Mirifico interpretations of it as „personal mystical gropings. „Reuchlin‟s De Verbo Mirifico and the Magic Debate of the Late Fifteenth Century‟. soliloquia. Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes. professorial fellow at the University of Melbourne. Françoise Bonardel. viewing the work as an exploration of the divine. Charles Zika. object and effect.40 Charles Zika. p. As an interesting modern parallel. p. THE KEYS TO THE TEMPLE: THE PENTAGRAMMATRON AND THE PHILOSOPHER‟S STONE In De Verbo Mirifico (The Wonder Working Word) (1494) Reuchlin presented a sacralised magic able to empower and energise religious ritual and ceremony. as distinct from goetia. 104-138 (p.232-c.116). the method of obtaining what one asks for through prayer. in line with the prisca theologia.‟41 Zika contests this interpretation. He defends divine theurgy. 7. hidden properties of language as instrumental. 41 Ibid. is very much an alternative working thesis for operative magic. or demonic magic. echoing authors such as Porphyry (c.. provides his revealing insights of the workof 39 40 Ibid. His art of the wonder-working word can be distinguished from magic in its technique. This is unsurprising given the historical context when Christian authorities were still very much severely resistant towards any theory that might have pagan undertones.
sive Doctrina Hebræorum Transcendentalis et Metaphysica Atque Theologia (Sulzbach.com/Orpd/KRKD/index. 45 Gershom Scholem.‟45 At the beginning of the Kabbalah Denudata is a dedication „to the lover of Hebrew. p.42 In this way both the Cabala and alchemy are ars liminæ.111. drawing comparisons with the Cabala and asserting that man holds dominion over nature and achieves miraculous deeds „by the one name. Chemistry. 1684) in Bill Heidrick's Cross References <http://www. which by knowledge and exploration can be harnessed. Scholem wrote that the Kabbalah Denudata „served as the principal source for all non-Jewish literature on Kabbalah until the end of the 19th century. 4. Kabbalah. 46 Christian Knorr von Rosenroth. 92).‟43 The divine word is the word that has the potential to actualise and animate man‟s philosophies and the divine names. intrinsically involved with “the Word. liminal disciplines.” but essentially alchemy may be described as lying somewhere between science and religion and in contrast the Cabala may be seen as lying between religion and language. 71-100 (p. 42 Françoise Bonardel.htm> [accessed 20 April 2010]. presented by Reuchlin and other early Christian esotericists as the pentagrammaton.billheidrick. p.11 T H E S Y N C R E TIC E S O TER IC IS M O F TH E R E NA IS S AN C E French poets Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891) and Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867). Reuchlin advocated Pythagoreanism. THE KABBALAH DENUDATA Rosenroth was a polyglot. is akin to the philosopher‟s stone in alchemical theory because both hold power and divine animating potentiality.135. in Modern Esoteric Spirituality. 43 Charles Zika. Germany.‟46 typical of the cultural syncretism of the era. Kabbala Denudata. he applied a Christian interpretation of the Cabala. p.. privy councillor and advisor educated in Wittenburg and Leibzig who settled in Sulzbach. He describes their work as ontological alchemy. He wrote the Kabbalah Denudata in 1684. 44 Ibid. 416. where he spread the doctrine of Lurianic Cabala. In line with Pico and Reuchlin. . pp. „Alchemical Esotericism and the Hermeneutics of Culture‟.44 In this way the wonder-working word.1. and Philosophy. YHSVH.
queis spumat Passio fluctus. & secreta palatial lustrat‟. . Coudert.‟ Could this not be translated alternatively as „she changes the abstruse course in the heart of minerals. / Lucens Pneumaticae. aroused by the passions‟ in the fourth sentence giving the Cabala the potential to transform externally and internally. 49 'Lurianic Cabala'. the tree of life. cf. 39 (1976) 171-189 (p. cf. „A Quaker-Kabbalist Controversy: George Fox's Reaction to Francis Mercury van Helmont‟. Audio file. p.2. there are six sentences: She looks to the heavens and recognizes the Trinity in its ten names. 48 Christian Knorr von Rosenroth. 49 Next to the woman in the image is a tempestuous sea. Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes. paganas dificutit umbras. „Alter at abstrusos minerarum in corde meatus‟.‟48 which would imply some kind of alchemical transmutation.50 4. Illuminating with a spiritual light. 47 Most telling of these descriptions is „she disentangles the confused minerals in the heart. perhaps symbolising the „internal turbulence. would have appealed to those alchemists in Sulzbach. „Explicat ambiguos utroque in Fœdere sensus. /Alta videt. / Edomat internos. 177. She enters the innermost sanctuary and surveys the hidden chamber. / Intrat in Arcana. Audio file. denoque notat cognomina Trinum. She disentangles the confused minerals in the heart. 50 „A Quaker-Kabbalist Controversy. in reference to the virginal figure in the frontispiece.12 SAMUEL GARRARD On the third page of the text. using women.1623) Gei Hizzayon (A Valley of Vision). CONCEPTIONS OF KNOWLEDGE AND THE DISPERA INTENTIO Coudert notes the similarities between the frontispiece of Kabbalah Denudata and that of Abraham Yagel‟s (1553-c. This claim. a palace and other 47 Allison P. an Iron mining town that attracted alchemists. she dispels pagan darkness She calms the internal turbulence aroused by passions. Christian Knorr von Rosenroth. as well as the dedication. in minerals as well as in the psychological constitution. / Alter at abstrusos minerarum in corde meatus. 177). Both illustrations give similar representations of the Cabala. 'Lurianic Cabala'.
a standard alchemical motif for secret and exclusive wisdom . 599-600. 56 Dion Fortune. This is the dispersa intentio referred to by Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa (1486-1535) in the conclusion of his De Occulta Philosophia54 and discussed by Vittoria Perrone Compagni. De Occulta Philosophia.‟52 It is interesting to note that van Helmont. Figure 2. (Leiden: Brill. The Impact of the Kabbalah. author of the anonymous last treatise of the Kabbalah Denudata. ME: Red Wheel/Weiser. .one can deduce a reference to the ancient conception of knowledge as secret and exclusive.53 In addition to the ancient notion of knowledge as a secret gem. but those who study The Mystical Qabalah with the help of the novels get the keys of the Temple put into their hands. 151. 1992). alchemy and religious ideas are nonexistent. 54 Cornelius Heinrich Agrippa. Dion Fortune employs the same technique. or hiding meaning within an argument is a hermeneutical technique employed throughout ancient esoteric writing through to the present day. seemed to contradict this symbolic reference to the ancient conception of knowledge in prolifically discussing his own ideas with everyone for fear that they would not be known. Early Science and Medicine. p.” Magic and Scepticism in Agrippa‟. p. The Sea Priestess (York Beach. noting to her readers The Mystical Qabalah gives the theory but the novels give the practice. 53 Ibid. p. In the introduction to The Sea Priestess (1935). 51 In using the image of a palace . 2003).55 Coding. 2000). This stands in contrast to the modern conception as a „commodity that can be packaged and distributed and thus made available to anybody. hidden for those willing to search. 160-177. 150. Those who read the novels without having studied the Qabalah will get hints and a stimulus to their subconscious. 55 Vittoria Perrone Compagni.‟56 51 52 See Illustrations. magic. there is a certain coding of language discernable in both alchemical and Cabbalistic texts.. in his later years. 5 (Leiden: Brill.13 T H E S Y N C R E TIC E S O TER IC IS M O F TH E R E NA IS S AN C E symbols to create a syncretic vision in which the familiar modern distinctions between science. Those who study the Qabalah without reading the novels will get an interesting intellectual jig-saw puzzle to play with. xiii. „“Dispersa Intentio. pp.
9. It is a non-linear textual technique that involves the reader in an active process of discovery. by Antoine Faivre and Wouter J. p. In this way the reader becomes more personally involved in the reading. and connected to the cultural tradition of “gnosis” originating in Alexandria in the first few centuries. . Wouter J. can be seen in the writings of Ficino. in Western Esotericism and the Science of Religion. „The Natural Round Physick or Philosophy of the Alchymical Cabalistical Vision: Transcribed from British Library MS. Within a carefully worded Christian context he justifies the theories of higher and lower astrology.)לבקto receive. This argument for magia naturalis. as justified within the orthodox Christian hierarchy but subservient to God.59 4.3. 117 – 126. emphasised that magic originated from divine revelation. ed. Agrippa. natural magic and gives instruction on preparing the philosopher‟s stone. 59 Bernard Pick. pp.60 57 58 Vittoria Perrone Compagni. Hanegraaff. This was necessary considering the grave personal danger in disclosing heretical material. 60 Johann Grasshoff.57 Knowledge perceived as divine revelation.com/alchemy/alchcab. not from a rational process. Sloane 3639. 2003) p. cf. by Jon Evans‟ in The Alchemy Web Site. Reuchlin and other esoteric writers of the period. yet behind this careful wording one discerns a rich fusion of alchemical-Cabalistic ideas. He continues to explain his vision.163. <http://www. the author describes a divine revelation. The Cabala: Its Influence on Judaism and Christianity (Whitefish.html> [accessed 11 June]. deftly justifying Hermetic sciences. THE APERTA ARCA. 1998) p. Aperta Arca. This considered. dispersa intentio is particularly prevalent in alchemical and Cabalistic literature. „On the Construction of Esoteric Traditions‟. 19.14 SAMUEL GARRARD Though apparent in much of the esoteric corpus. combining imagery from both alchemical and Cabalistic lore. 1705). Pico. Hanegraaff (Leuven: Peeters. influenced by Reuchlin. ARCANI ARTIFICIOSISSIMI In Aperta Arca. MT: Kessinger. I would conclude that the textual technique mentioned corresponds with the revelatory nature of esoteric knowledge by way of emulation.levity. Arcani Artificiosissimi: Oder: des Grossen und Kleinen Bauers (1617) by Johann Grasshoff. Arcani Artificiosissimi: Oder: des Grossen und Kleinen Bauers (Hamburg: Freidrich Conrad Greflinger.58 is evident in many esoteric texts and specifically in Cabalistic literature. It is interesting to note that the word “Cabala” comes from the verb “qibbel” ( .
64 Susan Campanini. in the four stages of alchemy.. 50 (1977). One could draw a parallel here with the star as the first 61 62 See Illustrations. and the need to be connected to both. 603-604). possibly symbolising the confluence of the spiritual and telluric. This seems to fit as it was made by God and so is a mediator between him. or maybe that one needs to accrue a knowledge of the keys to discern which one will fit.62 He continues to describe it as redder than the sun and eventually explaining that it is the Star of Wisdom and Lord of Nature. she doesn‟t hold one key but a set of keys and there is only one lock on the door. In the first illustration the figure holds a set of keys. 602609 (pp.15 T H E S Y N C R E TIC E S O TER IC IS M O F TH E R E NA IS S AN C E Grasshoff‟s vision is also depicted as an illustration and bears a striking resemblance to that in the frontispiece of the Kabbalah Denudata. and he is to be blessed for making it. the finite. in any case the key to Cabalistic mysteries which is parallel to the one key of alchemy – the philosopher‟s stone. associated with the unification of the finite and infinite. p. . „der Stern der Weisheit / und das ewige Licht‟. moon and firmament. In Figure 2 the sefirot are seen within the illuminating light and in Figure 3 they are in the stars.61 In both images there is the illuminating star. Grasshoff begins by describing a star. In both images we also see the earth and vegetation. cf. However. a figure. 119. 117. The French Review. and mankind. above the sun.63 The emphasis on the redness of the star may hint at the rubedo64 stage. and the shape of the sefirot. Figure 2. p. earth and light surrounding the figure. „Alchemy in Pieyre de Mandiargues' "Le Diamant"‟. and also in the Figure 3 where his feet are on the ground whilst his head is amongst the heavenly bodies. shining so brightly that he could not look at it. edging tactfully away from pagan pantheism. It is noted that the star was created by God. the infinite. „da ershien über Sonn und Mond und dem Firmament ein Stern der Schien so hell / daß ich ihn night recht ansehen konte‟. Johann Grasshoff. the earthly and divine realm. Figure 3. This may be implied in Figure 2 where the figure has one foot on the ground and one in the air. symbolic perhaps of the Cabala in general or the wonder-working word. Perhaps this suggests that there are many paths. 63 Ibid.
121.69 In the text he presents an astrological cosmos where the stellar forces constantly impregnate the earth with potentiality. Kether. 68 Johann Grasshoff.68 In a syncretic sweep of the quill the author gives the divine word the properties traditionally associated with the philosophers stone.. as seen in the image where the star is at the centre of his body and the earth. not a human. compatible with the ideas of Renaissance Hermeticism. p. p.70 This reiterates the Cabalisticalchemical theme of potentiality within the body of the human and the earth. He promotes alchemy as the process of nourishing one‟s relationship with the Lord of Nature. „durch diesen Spruch hat dieses unsichtbahre Feuer angefangen zu dominiren‟. in which a transcendental divinity emanating a first effect bears a strong resemblance to Hermetic-alchemical ideas. recalling always the spiritual dimension and duty to God.) 65 and the first sefirot..67 A distinctly Lurianic cosmology and hierarchy is described in Grasshoff‟s vision.. is at the heart of the Cabala and alchemy. The text is a brilliant example of the 65 Ibid. The author continues in the last chapters to give instructions on preparing the philosopher‟s stone. pp. „dieses Feuer die erste Erschaffung gewesen ist [. Kabbalah. „Da aber diese trafftige Worte dennd gefallen / hat die Sonne den Saamen empfangen sich zu verjungiren und zu reinigen’. rejecting fate-determining astrology. the ability to make one young again. 88-96. 70 See Illustrations. and to purify. giving wording to an anti-pantheistic understanding of nothingness. imitating the the great red star and channelling it‟s purifying power in the manifest world. The potential.66 This essential distinction was expressied in Lurianic Cabala. 123.) albeit to the Sun. 67 David Biale. p. animating power of the divine word is given emphasis and reiterated throughout the Aperta Arca. Figure 3. . or one‟s higher divine self as essential to the transmutatory operation.16 SAMUEL GARRARD effect of the first creation (but under the creator. (ie.] hatte es doch seinen Schopffer müssen Geshorfam leiften‟. or essential force of nature. Arcani Artificiosissimi. 69 Ibid. and how the connection to the Red Star. 121. 79-80. the first cause.. described by Luria as the first effect. pp. distinct from ein sof. 66 Gershom Scholem.
or the wonder-working word . available for critique from feminist. by Sheila Faria Glaser (Ann Arbor. 1994). the search for the philosopher‟s stone. Hanegraaff. and magic is replaced by the rattling of plastic buttons. trans. MI: The University of Michigan Press. perhaps the doors to the Palace of Secrets are reopening once more. scientific positivism and materialism. 73 The Cabala and alchemy are theologies of potentiality and cosmic perfectionism – ideas that seem outdated by a modern culture still affected by years of domination by industrialism. with the new “www” (world-wide web) which puts the power in the body of the machine. We can also see internal stylistic and thematic congruencies in both arts 71 72 See Zoographies (2008) for a fascination revaluation of Western anthropocentric values. be it through the restorative process of tikkun.72 the manifesting potential of these temple keys has become the potential of a digital screen. Jean Baudrillard. p.71 In contrast. it is a different anthropocentricity that places humankind at the centre of the spiritual and physical universe.all transcendental in their claim to divine potentiality. replacing Reuchlin‟s “WWW” (“Wonder-Working Word”) that put the power in the body of humanity and the earth. instead of the human figure. enjoys a centrality. The disciplines of the Cabala and alchemy sought an absolute truth. as discussed earlier. CONCLUSIONS AND NEW PARADIGMS Although the esoteric traditions displayed a phallocentric-anthropocentricity. In modern Western culture it could be argued that the human body and divine potential is displaced. with esoteric interest on the rise. within the Industrial Age the monetary figure. Simulacra and Simulation.18-19. if still disputed by scholars in its demarcation. animal-studies and post-humanist stances. 5. Nevertheless. the two ars liminæ. 1.17 T H E S Y N C R E TIC E S O TER IC IS M O F TH E R E NA IS S AN C E connection seen in the potentiality. devalued and replaced by simulacrum. of Cabala and alchemy. . 73 Wouter J. pp.
18 SAMUEL GARRARD stemming back to the syncretic Hebrew-Egyptian culture of Alexandria that not only illuminate the nature of these ancient forms of esoteric spiritual expression but raise questions concerning our contemporary weltanschauuung and methods of ontological analysis and valuation. . on the importance of humankind in playing a central role in the cosmic plan. what is illuminating is the emphasis placed. sometimes very subtly. the potential of the microcosm realising its affinity with the macrocosm and the essential divinity within the heart of humanity. In looking at these syncretic texts.
74 74 Paul Riccius. ILLUSTRATIONS Figure 1 Photo showing the title page of the Latin translation of the Sha’arei Orah by Paul Riccius.jpg> [accessed 08 May 2010]. Portae Lucis. (1519) in Cologne University of Applied Sciences <http://www.de/imperia/md/images/dez5/pressefotos/2008/portahebraicorum_buch_portae_lucis.verwaltung. as Portae Lucis (1516). . The illustration shows the first depiction of the Cabala with the ten sefirot.fhkoeln.19 T H E S Y N C R E TIC E S O TER IC IS M O F TH E R E NA IS S AN C E 6.
divine light and the keys to the temple in her hand. The illustration depicts a virginal woman. . a temple.20 SAMUEL GARRARD Figure 2 Photo showing the frontispiece and title page of the Kabbalah Denudata (1678).75 75 Christian Knorr von Rosenroth. representing the Cabala.
Arcani Artificiosissimi (1617) depicting a syncretic Cabalisticalchemical cosmological image. .21 T H E S Y N C R E TIC E S O TER IC IS M Figure 3. O F TH E R E NA IS S AN C E A page from Aperta Arca. 116. p. 76 76 Johann Grasshoff.
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