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RESTORING

Paradise
Western Esotericism, Literature, Art, and Consciousness

Arthur Versluis

Restoring

Paradise

SUNY series in

Western Esoteric Traditions

David Appelbaum, editor

Restoring

P a r a d i s e
Western Esotericism, Literature, Art, 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

Published by STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK PRESS, 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. No part of this book may be stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means including electronic, electrostatic, magnetic tape, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the prior permission in writing of the publisher.

For information, address State University of New York Press, 90 State Street, Suite 700, Albany, NY 12207 Production, Laurie Searl Marketing, Anne M. Valentine

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Versluis, Authur, 1959 Restoring paradise : western esotericism, literature, art, and consciousness / Arthur Versluis. p. cm.(SUNY series in Western esoteric traditions) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-7914-6139-4 (alk. paper) 1. OccultismHistory. 2. Occultism in literature. 3. Occultism in art. I. Title. II. Series. BF1411.V47 135dc22 2004 2004045292 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

In memory of poet and scholar Kathleen Raine

Contents

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

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Modern Implications Prosperos Wand: Modern Esoteric Literature The Western Esoteric Traditions and Consciousness Literature, Art, and Consciousness Notes Index

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

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Acknowledgments

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

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I n t ro d u c t i o n : I n i t i a t o r y Tr a n s m i s s i o n and the Imagination

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

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

INTRODUCTION

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

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This theme of reading, in other words, is much deeper than it might at first appear, and will require much elaboration. But we can at least begin by considering how reading is largely regarded today as nothing more than the accumulation of information through decoding writingindeed, we have developed machines that read, itself a metaphor for our time. By contrast, reading in the Western esoteric traditions has to do not merely with accumulating data, but with consciousness itself. Reading here is defined in the broadest possible way, as penetrating into the hidden mysteries of all that we see. What is more, reading in this context extends beyond ratiocinative knowledge limited to a split between the reading subject and the object to be studied: instead, reading here guides one toward gnosis, or spiritual knowledge. The word gnosis, Greek in origin, refers to spiritual knowledge, but not necessarily knowledge in the sense in which we use the term today. Knowledge in contemporary usage is essentially data, that is, the accumulation of facts based in an apparently insurmountable division between self and other: I accumulate facts about what is not-I. Unexamined here, however, is the nature of the I and the not-I in question. For the Western esoteric traditions approach such questions from a totally different view: for them, the I is recognized to be not stable but fluid, and thus there are no permanent divisions between I and the cosmos. The I need not remain at the mercy of its own selfishness, but can be transmuted, progressively realizing its fundamental identity with plants and animals, minerals and stars, and ultimately with the divine. Thus we can see that spiritual knowledge is of a different order than contemporary secular or scientific knowledge, for it is grounded not in separation but in union. The mystery of reading is, of course, also about union. When we read a novel, we enter into anothers world; we feel as someone else feels, imaginatively enter into different lives. Likewise, when we read the works of an Emerson, we are not merely passive observers of a great aphorist, but in some sense leap the gap between ourselves and the author so as to actively participate in the writing. And when we read a great poem, we do not remain just a cataloguer of this or that remarkable confluence of words, but experience the marvel of living metaphor and rhythm for ourselves. In every experience of literature, there is also a union: we as readers are participating in the mind of the writer through the miraculous medium of the written word. If there are great writers, so too there are great readers, and each requires the other. The view of reading and literature that I have just articulated is far from the more widespread contemporary assertion that writing and reading are merely about the exchange of information through signs, yet this view of union is one that most and perhaps all literary readers and authors will intuitively recognize; it is at the heart of the Western literary continuum. Why do we travel with Dantes pilgrim through hell, purgatory, and heaven; why do we travel with

INTRODUCTION

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

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

INTRODUCTION

ways, so too that choice still exists today. Indeed, as we rediscover the Western esoteric traditions, 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. But it is not particularly fruitful to speculate about social transformation in this field, for Western esotericism entails individual awakening, perhaps symbolized best by the figure of someone reading an esoteric work from long ago. The reader, alone with an author, alone communing with the alone through the medium of wordsthis is the figure that will govern our journey through Western esotericism, literature, and consciousness.

W H AT I S E S O T E R I C ? The word esoteric is used today in a variety of ways, and so to maintain clarity, we need to survey some of its meanings as well as to define it for our own purposes here. In Western Europe, esoteric popularly has become almost synonymous with New Age, fundamentally a marketing category for merchandise. One finds under the rubric esoterik books on topics like pendulum dowsing, crystals, and so forth. And in North America as well, one finds esoteric sometimes referring to an eclectic or syncretic collection of merchandise drawn from a wide range of cultures, and even from purportedly extraterrestrial origins. But the fact remains that there are also figures, works, and groups in Western European and North American history, particularly from the Renaissance and early modern periods, that are intellectually influential and that are only now becoming more widely studied in universities. And indeed, the academic study of esotericism is a developing field that may be succinctly and without derogation termed esoteric studies. In an effort to define the academic study of esoteric figures or groups and to separate it from popular definitions, in the latter quarter of the twentieth century, French scholar Antoine Faivre emphasized the word esotericismas opposed to esoterismand developed a set of largely cosmological characteristics that he saw as characterizing most Western esoteric individuals and groups from the Renaissance into the early twentieth century.6 Subsequently, however, 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, thus opening the field up to scholarship on contemporary as well as much earlier historical figures. But the question remains: how does one define esoteric in a satisfactory way? If one employs the largely cosmological characteristics proposed by Faivre, one de facto excludes many authors or groups whose works might be categorized under the heading mysticism or gnosticexcept if they display an interest in,

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say, symbolic correspondences or living nature. It seems odd to exclude from ones 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

INTRODUCTION

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 Fontaines 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 ones past and historical identity, and a rentry 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

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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 Bhme, Wisdoms 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 Bhme 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 Bhme 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 Bhmean theosophy, but Bhme 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 Bhme, 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-

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soluble by the rational mind and to propel the practitioner toward kensho (insight) or satori (awakening). The pupil is confronted with a koan by the master, eventually solves it with a spiritual realization, and then moves to another koan in a more or less standardized series. The depiction of the koan tradition as irrational has long been criticized, however; in his Shobogenzo, Dogen (12001253) heaped scorn on the idea of koan as irrational, and recent scholarship confirms that the koan traditions in Zen Buddhism are far more sophisticated than popular depictions of them might have it. In a provocative article entitled Koan and Kensho in the Rinzai Zen Curriculum, 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. This is fundamentally a Rousseauian notion of the individual as originally pure but polluted by society and language, 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. Hori insists instead on what he terms a realizational model of understanding Zen koans. From this viewpoint, kensho is not a state of noncognitive consciousness awaiting the monk on the other side of the limits of rationality. In the context of the Rinzai koan curriculum, kensho is the realization of nonduality within ordinary conventional experience. If kensho is to be described as a breakthrough, then it is a breakthrough not out of, but into conventional consciousness . . . If kensho is the realization of nonduality, then it itself cannot be separate and distinct from ordinary dualistic experience.10 Hori goes on to make the following final point. At one time, we may have thought that freedom lay in ascent beyond gravity, but once we escaped the earths gravitational field, we discovered that we float helpless and uncontrolled without gravity. Freedom in fact lies in gravity, not beyond it. Hori concludes: Just as there is no free flying above the reach of gravity, there is no Zen enlightenment beyond thought and language in a realm of pure consciousness. Instead of blaming thought and language for defiling a primordial consciousness, one should recognize that only in thought and language can enlightenment be realized.11 This is, I believe, a profoundly important point not only insofar as Zen Buddhist koan study is concerned, but also as regards Western esoteric traditions. Esoteric literature and artof which koans are in fact an examplemay be seen as both pointing toward and as an expression of cosmological or metaphysical gnosis. Esoteric knowledge is expressed through literature and art, through language and image, 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. It has become more or less commonplace for specialists in

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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, the implication being that there is no such thing as gnosis. But that is not at all what I am arguing herefar from it. Rather, I am arguing that in Western esoteric traditions, literature and art play a very special kind of initiatory role. This role may be seen in some respects as analogous to that of the Zen Buddhist koan. Like the koan, an alchemical treatise stands as an enigmatic representation of a transmutative process, and the work of the practitioner is to enter into and realize for himself the truths that it contains. 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 masters judgment. The same is true of the alchemical or gnostic treatise: the neophyte must work with and through it, frustrating though this may be, until he has penetrated to its authentic meaning. What makes Western esotericism different above all, I believe, is the pervasive lack of initiatory lineages and thus of the immediate reproof or approval of a living teacher. In the absence of a well-recognized line of historical masters, the weight of initiatory transmission is transposed to literary and artistic works, and thus also to the individual. This is not to say that the West had or, for that matter, has no one capable of discerning a right understanding from a wrong one, nor to say that there are no examples of initiatory lineages at all like those of Zen Buddhism. Rather, I am arguing that in the West, esoteric literature and art can function rather like the koan in Zen Buddhism, as means of initiation, and that this is in fact the primary means of initiatory transmission in the Westthrough word and image.

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, but what is the nature of the images perceived by the imaginative faculty? Are images merely phantasms of ones own mind, or are they manifestations of some other reality beyond oneself? Or, as I will propose here, 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, particularly those that clearly are esoteric in nature. If we believe that the imagination is more or less exclusively individualistic, as in individual daydreams, then we cannot really speak of literature or the arts as being the vehicle of an initiatory or transmutative process. But in fact we know from our own experience as readers that literature is a means by which we participate in an intermediate world or mesocosm created by an author. By

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

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

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

Origins

ALCHEMY OF THE WORD To understand the origins of Western esotericism in all its various guises, we must begin in antiquity, specifically at the beginning of Christianity. Although many aspects of what actually happened during this time may always be shrouded or lost, still we can trace through this era the origin of the primary elements or currents in Western esotericism. Here, we are not so concerned with surveying the entirety of this perioda monumental task best left to others but with the defining themes that will emerge again and again in later times. And to find these themes, we will look at representative or synecdochic writings, beginning with the ambience for and emergence of the Christian Bible and affiliated works. When we look at the emergence of Christianity from the welter of religious traditions at the time, one characteristic appears prevalent above all others: the emphasis upon the written word. From relatively early on, Christianity was centered around written accounts that took two primary forms. One is of course what we find in the canonical versions of the Bible, central to which are the gospel accounts of Christs life, death, and resurrection. This, bolstered to some extent by apocrypha, remains central to what may be called conventional or exoteric Christianitythat is, Christianity based on faith or belief in a historical Christ, of whose life we know through the historical documentation of the gospels. The other kind of writing, however, is profoundly different, and of this there are only two examples in the canonical Bible: some elements of the Book of John, and, needless to say, the Book of Revelation. Here we have the fundamental division that has lasted throughout the subsequent history of Western esotericism: on the one hand, what we may call a

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

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

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

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

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There is an initiator or revealer, and there is a witness to the revelation. Such a relationship goes beyond simply that of participants in a dialogue like Platos; here the dialogues often take place in an interworld of revelation, and are between one who embodies knowledge and one who seeks to embody it. It is true that the language is sometimes Platonic, 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. It is, then, no accident that so many of the Western esoteric traditions link themselves to the Hermetica. For from what we have said, it is clear that the Hermetic treatises occupy a peculiar place, not quite belonging to the sphere of religion, yet not strictly philosophical either. Occupying an intermediate space between religion and philosophy, and depicting direct spiritual illumination of the initiate, Hermetism reveals the ground occupied by Western esoteric traditions throughout the past several thousand years, precariously balanced on the periphery of religious traditions, willing to draw upon one or sometimes any of them, but insisting above all on ones own direct spiritual understanding or gnosis. Like Hermes himself, Hermetism refuses to be pinned down or definitively discussed; always there is a fluid, mercurial quality to it, as there was to many of the movements of antiquity. Indeed, the more one studies the emergence of esotericism in the early centuries of this era, the more one recognizes the fluidity of the various traditions boundaries. There are five primary currents in antiquity that feed into what we may call the Western esoteric traditions: Jewish esotericism, Christian esotericism, the mystery traditions, Platonism, and Hermetism. But these currents themselves are not discrete from one another; they certainly intermingled, and together provided a common ambience out of which emerged a panoply of sects, traditions, and writings that reveal a great many similarities. The most important of these is the insistence upon gnosis, or direct knowledge of the divine, and it is this that represents the red thread that will guide us through the labyrinths of the centuries.

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, and is generally associated with the more or less random play of images. However, when we survey the Western esoteric traditions, what we find is something quite different, which Henry Corbin called the active imagination. 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 such a term suggests that imagination is otherwise passive, and

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

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Western esotericism. One, of course, is the prophetic element: more than one group has identified itself with the woman in the wilderness in the twelfth chapter; and more than one group has seen itself as living during the end times. Another such element is the number and letter symbolism, which has inspired countless commentaries or explanations. Christs repeated assertion that I am the Alpha and the Omega, as well as the repetition of geometric and numerical symbolism such as the sevens, twelves, and one hundred forty-fours, all remind us of the prior traditions, found in Judaism, Christian Gnosticism, and Hermetism, of letters and numbers revealing the secret powers of the divine. Taken together, 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, during these the end times. But for our purposes, the most symbolically resonant image of all is that of the book. In the tenth chapter, we will recall, John is given a little book to eat, which he does, and finds it bitter in his belly, but sweet as honey on his lips. John eats the little book: it becomes part of him, symbolizing his union with the esoteric center of spiritual life. The entire revelation is an unveiling of gnosis, a gnostic encounter with elders, angels, and Christ whose symbolic heart is the written word, and by eating the book, John is united with its knowledge. This image is amplified by the presence of book imagery throughout the entire work, especially in the Book of Life wherein is written the names of those who belong to the Lamb (13.9). Additionally, there are other books, which are opened during the Last Judgment in order to see the lives of those being judged (20.12). And then there is, of course, the very book that we are reading, the Book of Revelation of St. John himselffor he is told to write by a voice from heaven (14.13), and we are given warnings at his accounts end that no one should add to or subtract from what is written in his book (22:18). By reading the Book of Revelation that John subsequently writes after eating the little book, we are eating his little bookwe belong to a direct lineage or current, and are in a sense initiates. The Revelation of John has an oneiric quality; it is like a collective dream in which we participate simply by reading. And it has immense power for this reason: by entering into its world of references, the way we see the cosmos itself changes. Every aspect of life is altered, becoming symbolically charged. After the various accounts of Christs life and death in the Gospels, we suddenly are given in the Revelation this overwhelming and astonishing visionary sequence that brings us completely outside the sphere of mundane human life, revealing the hidden forces beyond history and what happens to all humanity. The Revelation, in other words, possesses a special luminosity of symbolism that we may call hieroeidetic, symbolism charged with initiatory knowledge. The word eidetikos in Greek refers to a particular kind of knowledge associated with shape or form, and although the word eidolon early in the modern era

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

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Christianity itself, for although the Revelation is the most well known, it is certainly not the only one. And so we are drawn inexorably back to the nature of the book itself and the act of reading. There are numerous ways one can approach a work as extravagant in symbolism, as wild as the book of Revelation, ranging from external to internal, or from exoteric to esoteric. The most external or exoteric is to regard it as an object of study, without relevance to oneself; a more intermediate or mesoteric approach is to see it as prophetic and revealing truths about our own world and lives; and an esoteric approach is to see it as paradigmatic and inspiring of ones own revelation, to make it ones own. In other words, reading about anothers vision may inspire one to experience a vision of ones own; the act of reading gives birth to the act of writing. Esoteric bears the meaning of inward, of participation, and reading is uniquely suited to create inward participation because in reading our habitual boundaries between self and other can disappear. We can identify with fictional or poetic characters; we can enter into a new world of symbols and meaning. Esoteric literature, or put better, the literature of the Western esoteric traditions, 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, how hieroeidetic a work is. For just as one may consider a work as charged as the book of Revelation from outside, objectifying it, or one may enter into itjust as there is a range of approaches to such a workso too there is a range of such works. Some literature is not so charged or hieroeidetic, and exists more for entertainment. What is it that makes a work hieroeidetically charged? Proximity to the invisible, to the transcendent. There is an element of danger inherent in such proximitythose who come too close to the gods or angels may go mad or blind. The analogy of electricity, of being charged, has a certain value here: a symbol or image, a constellation of letters and numbers, possesses a psychic or symbolic charge that allures us; we are drawn toward it, fascinated by its mysterious beauty. And though we risk being burned, we return again and again over the centuries because we recognize in this mystery something more alive, more electric, more vital than the mundane world of consumerism and the humdrum tedium of life without the invisible. 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, often in a simple story, far more than may at first appear. So it is with the story of Theseus, who found himself in the Minotaurs labyrinth, and who was able to escape only through the help of King Minoss own daugh-

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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. Dionysiuss observationthat God in no way resembles the things that have beingcombats 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.

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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

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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). Basilidess emphasisthroughout what little we still have, quoted by Hippolytus from Basilidess treatiseswas 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

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

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not receive it after deathand one who receives that light is perfected and cannot be detained, but is free in life and in death. These figures or images of marriage and light are ways of expressing the inexpressible gnosis. This inexpressible gnosis is the marriage or union of subject and object. The Gospel of Philip goes on: And again when he leaves the world he has already received the truth in the images. The world has become the aeon, for the aeon is fullness for him. This is the way it is: it is revealed to him alone, not hidden in the darkness and the night, but hidden in a perfect day and a holy light.4 In other words, when one dies, one has already experienced the mysteries for oneself by reading and receiving the truth in the imagesnot only the images of sacred words or symbols, but also the actual energies that these images embody or represent. Thus the world has become the aeonin other words, the invisible and the visible are no longer divided for the initiate. The cosmos is no longer opaque, a collection of objects from which one remains separate, but rather, one can read the invisible in the visible, can see the energies ordinarily veiled from humanity by its fallen, divided consciousness; for such a one the world is transparent. The nameless and the named are not divided.

CONCLUSIONS Although the Western esoteric traditions unquestionably have their origins in the early centuries of the present era, 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. Rather, even though such writings somehow may have made their way into this or that monastic library, my argument here is not about lines of influence so much as about modalities, characteristic ways of understanding, gnostic paradigms, what I call the red thread of gnosis that leads us out of the labyrinth. What are the characteristics of this red thread as we trace it through history? Naturally, the first of these is its inexpressibility: it remains always transcendent, elusive, the unnameable. This is as true for the canonically accepted authors such as Clement of Alexandria or Dionysius the Areopagite as it is for Valentinus or Basilides. But the inexpressible is so only by contrast with the expressible; unnameability emerges always out of the presence of names. The way of negation is not the opposite of affirmation, but its inseparable companion. And here we see emerging the second characteristic: the mystery of names. For whether the gnostics belong to the Jewish Merkabah or the Christian Gnostic, and perhaps to a lesser extent to the Hermetic or the Neoplatonic tradition, one finds a gnosis of the divine names. Here naming refers, not to arbitrary designations, but to inherent characteristics of what is named, to actual energies that the name itself embodies, evokes, indeed, is.

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From the gnosis of naming emerges a range of related mysteries, including the gnoses of numbers and letters, a third characteristic. According to rational consciousness, numbers designate quantities that one can manipulate, on which conventional mathematics is founded. But this view of numbers corresponds to seeing reading as the accumulation of data: it remains objectified, separated from the subject who sees. By contrast, a gnostic view of numbers and letters sees them not as merely signifying something external, but as qualities pregnant with meaning. What is more, numbers and letters can open up into aspects of consciousness itself, so that to work with them is to enter into the existential quality that is their real nature or kernel, of which the quantitative designation is a husk. Such a gnosis of numbers is visible during the medieval period, where we find definite traces of Latin number and letter transposition corresponding to what in Hebrew is termed gematria. These number-letter transpositions yield many hidden significances, and are visible in major European literary works, including Piers Ploughman, to which I have already devoted some study.5 A similarly gnostic view of numbers appears again in the work of Louis-Claude de Saint Martin (17431803), a theosopher in the line of Jacob Bhme, who wrote his friend Baron Kirchberger that Numbers are no algebra, my dear brother, but men have sometimes lowered them to it. They are only the sensible expression, whether visible or intellectual, of the different properties of beings, which all proceed from the one only essence . . . Regeneration alone shows us the ground, and therein we obtain the pure key, without masters; everyone, however, in his own degree.6 There is in Saint-Martins 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. A fourth characteristic is imagery. Gnostic works reveal a wide array of images and myths, albeit few more wild than those of the Book of Revelation. Such images may be seen in terms of degrees of union. On the lowest level, the images remain outside one and are taken literally as referring to history. More intimately, the images may be seen as reflecting inner aspects of the cosmos; here they no longer are taken as having entirely historical dimensions, but instead express aspects of the invisible origin of the cosmos and of ourselves. Even more intimately yet, the images may be seen as corresponding to something in our own inward nature, as a panoply on an inner stage where we see acted out the souls dramas, which emerge out of the inexpressible into the realms of conscious perception. Here, of course, imagination proceeds neither wholly from ourselves, nor wholly from without, but lives in an intermediate realm necessary for the birth of unitive consciousness. Out of the gnoses of numbers, letters, and images emerges the fifth characteristic, which is the mystery of words and of the book. Here we have the combination of all the elements we have discussed so far, woven together into a

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

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

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

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

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

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ness and otherworldliness in the service of ones chivalric duties and of the Grail is the key to chivalric literature more generally. For one certainly finds the same theme illustrated in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Once again, in Gawain as in Parzival, the explicit story is clearly one of virtue upheld; Gawain is the story of a virtuous knight on his travels. But there is an implicit esotericism that emerges in the works center, in the image of the pentangle, Gawains symbol. This famous passage, like several others in the poem, is marked with a tiny colored initial, part of a scribal code of letters that mark critical junctures in the work. And we should remember that Gawain is alliterative poetry, part of a tradition that, as I have elsewhere shown, is not simply the repetition of letters and numbers for the way they sound, but a way of conveying secret or esoteric meanings within a poem outwardly devoted to the telling of a story.3 Thus the passage on the pentangle is nested within a larger context of number and letter symbolism carried on by way of the poems repetition of key letters and numbers. This esoteric symbolism emerges especially in the authors discussion of the pentangle, where we are told that this sign comes from Solomon himself, and is associated not only with the five wits or five senses, but with the five fingers, with the five wounds of Christ, the five joys of the Virgin Mary with her Child, and, of course, the five virtues, these being liberality, loving kindness, continence, courtesy, and piety. All of these five categories add up to twenty-five, the number of maidens serving the Grail, and are called together the endless knot by the Gawain-poet, marking why Gawain is a fine man. When Gawain, instead of trusting only in this endless knot of the pentangle, trusts instead in the knotted braided belt given him by Morgan le Fay, he ultimately feels shamed; the first is the true knot, and the second that of bewitchment and bewilderment. Yet in the storys conclusion, when Gawain to his shame tells the story of how he was fooled into wearing that braided belt, 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 Gawains. Thus the poem ends with the well known motto Hony soyt qui mal pence, meaning that good comes forth out of evil. And at this point we might remark on two aspects of this transformation. First, the poem, like Grail tales more generally, reveals a fall and a redemption: the characters go through suffering into a renewed union on a higher level. At the end of Gawain, we see Arthur and the entire court laughing and enjoying Gawains tale, and even wearing a sign of it themselvesa green one. And this green marks my second point of observation. For the color green has a special symbolism that recurs throughout medieval literature and is especially prominent in Gawain. The Green Knight is a mysterious supernatural figure who puts Gawain to the test; and behind him is the figure of Morgan le Fay, whose enchantments together with the Green Knight

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symbolize the bewitchments of the world, and the death that inheres in and underlies them. Thus we have a dual symbolism of womenthat is, the licit and noble relationship symbolized by Guinevere, and the illicit, adulterous relationship offered by Morgan le Fay. This same duality inheres in the color green, which on the one hand is associated with jealousy, yet on the other is associated with the beauty of Venus. Or again, green is the color of nature, which can seem so merciless and in which death is inevitable; yet it is also the symbol of new life, growth, and renewal. Gawain, to be renewed, first must be humbled by the Green Knight and symbolically die with a snick of his neck. The symbolism of green here corresponds to that of a more esoteric group around Rulman Merswin (13021387), a group called the Friends of God who established a community called LIle Verte, or the Green Isle. The Friends of God were, like the chivalric orders, not monastic or priestly, yet at the same time, although a lay group, they set themselves apart from the rest of society by their spiritual vocation. One finds at the center of the Friends of God mysterious communications from a Gottesfreund vom oberland, under whose spiritual guidance the circle proceeded. The Green Isle represents an intermediate realm of spiritual passage, and in fact the gnostic symbolism of green is quite widespread, being found in Islam associated with Khidr, the hidden divine messenger, and continuing into at least the twentieth century in the novel The Green Face of Gustav Meyrink. We might remark here that the Gottesfreunde had a Meisterbuch with a gnostic alphabet representing the twentythree aspects of the spiritual path. But one does not find this kind of overt esotericism among the troubadours and trouvres. Here even the kind of esotericism we find in the chivalric tales is muted and filtered into literary forms, become beautiful and haunting lyrics. One does find esoteric themes, as when the poet Bernart de Ventadorn (11501180) writes Parlar degram ab cubertz entresans / e, pus nons val arditz, valgues nos gens! [Let us talk in secret signs, / And since talking directly cant help us, perhaps cunning can.] Or again, there are the lines of the young Raimbaut dOrange (c. 11501173) playing on namelessness and naming, occasioned by his observation that he cannot find a name for his verses.4 But this secret language is that of lovers, and although one can read such poems on multiple levels, there is little hint in any of this of open or even covert discussions of gnosis. Both chivalric and troubadour literary traditions are allusive enough to accomodate esoteric interpretations, but they are almost never explicitly esoteric. Among the most explicitly esoteric of medieval poems more generally is La Vita Nuova by Dante, which begins by discussing the book of memory, and then the lines written down in his little book that he entitles The New Life. La Vita Nuova is full of esoteric implications from its very beginning. Recalling the emphasis that Eschenbach laid on the astrological timing surrounding the

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

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depict unfolding gnostic revelation. But this corresponds to what we have seen of the Western esoteric traditions from their beginnings in antiquitythey represent unique fusions of previous currents that, in a new ambience produce new revelations that often seem to appear ex nihilo, but in fact represent continuations not of specific lineages so much as currents or approaches to transcendence. The two medieval currents we have been discussing herethe chivalric and the troubadour traditionsmeet in two final figures whose work we must consider hereGeoffrey Chaucer (ca. 13431400) and Ramon Lull (12321316). Chaucer, known as a primary literary figure in English history, also incorporated esoteric elements into his poetry and prose. This is not to say that Chaucer was an esotericist in the sense of a Kabbalist or a Gnostic, but rather to recognize that esoteric elements flow in the mainstream of Western literature itself. Like Dante, Chaucer drew on Boethius in his own work, yet he went further, for Chaucer also translated Boethiuss Consolation of Philosophy from Latin to English. One finds traces of this influence in a number of Chaucers poems, including Troilus and Cressida as well as The Knights Tale. Here, however, we will concentrate on The Knights Tale because it illustrates some of our primary esoteric themes. In the third part of The Knights Tale, Chaucer elaborates on the noble theatre of Theseus. This theatre was circular and a mile in circumference, marked east and west by gates of marble, and built by masters of geometrie or ars-metrike, and by kervere of ymages. The eastern gate was dedicated to Venus, with an oratory, a nude Venus depicted with a golden garland and a cokkow sittynge on hir hand, with festes, instrumentz, caroles, daunces around her. The western gate dedicated to Mars displayed a forest full of knotty, knarry, bareyne trees olde, with a temple of Mars wrought al of burned steel, gastly for to see. In that portreiture, it was depeynted in the sterres above / Who shal be slayn or elles deed for lov. Thus this tale, which tells the story of how the knight Palamon and the lady Emelye were ultimately wedded, is also a tale full of mythological and astrological references to the planets. These references form a memory theater of images that govern the lists or battles taking place within their purview. The celestial images rule over the terrestrial actions within the circle of life, the theater of art. We see in Chaucers tale, here, and occasionally elsewhere in his work, what we might call literary reflections or manifestations of esoteric traditions. Certainly there are no explicit and even relatively few implicit esoteric allusions; Chaucer was not that kind of poet. Earthy, interested in depicting his sometimes bawdy characters and tales, Chaucer was not an esotericist. But all the same, we find here too signs of the themes that have occupied our chivalric and troubadour poets, above all, the themes of divine images that recall celestial memory, and of divine service, especially of the knight for his lady. And these are evoked

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

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

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

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We also see this perspective visible in a muted way in chivalric and troubadour literature, whose influence also extends well beyond their disappearance as living social movements. In these traditions, poetry and stories go beyond entertainment, for here literature possesses powerful cultural and spiritual dimensions. And as literature, the chivalric, troubadour, 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. 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. Thus the transposed spiritual chivalry, the spiritual love poetry of the troubadours, and the alphabetical mysticism of Lull and others later appear in Christian theosophy, Rosicrucianism, and Freemasonry. How do these various currents remerge later in history? Chiefly through the influence of the books, the words, that the medieval authors created in order to convey their visions. 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 prexist and transcend them, so that even if there were no direct influence of troubadour poetry on the spiritual love poems of a seventeenth- or eighteenth-century German, French, or English gnostic, still there is an affiliation because all exist within the larger, intricately woven, cross-fertilizing currents of Western esotericism. Before we turn to the emergence of Western esoteric traditions at the cusp of the modern era, however, we must first look at another primary current whose influence can hardly be underestimated: Kabbalism.

BOOKS WITHIN BOOKS: JEWISH KABBALISM Around the same time that chivalric and troubadour literature was being written, there was an efflorescence of another kind of literature entirely, whose origins are still shrouded in mystery. It is, of course, commonplace to regard each of the primary currents of Western esotericism as having emerged ex nihilo and completely separate from its predecessors, but this is virtually never the case. Rather, with the emergence in the twelfth century in Europe of Jewish Kabbalah (a Hebrew word meaning tradition), it is as it was in the first centuries of this eraJewish, Christian, and other forms of esotericism are often closely linked and influence one another. Jewish Kabbalah did not appear in a vacuum, but out of a particular literary and religious ambience and with definite predecessors. And in Kabbalah we see not only some potential connections to earlier Gnostic traditions, but what is more, profoundly important and influential instances of the mysteries of the word as means of spiritual awakening.

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

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

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

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

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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. 11651230) and Abraham ben Samuel Abulafia (c. 12401292) 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 ashere 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

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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 (14631494), 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 transmissionall 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 Christianityor, put from the viewpoint of the Christian Cabalists themselves, to show how Christianity is illuminated by Kabbalism. Another important figure is Johannes Reuchlin (14551522), 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

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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 (14861535), whose work De occulta philosophia (1533) is among the most influential works on magical esotericism in European history. Agrippas 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. Agrippas concern with the practice of magic inaugurates a subsequent long tradition of Christian magical esotericism drawing upon Jewish Kabbalah. But Kabbalahs influence on Christendom was not limited to magical esotericism alone; indeed, it would seem that during this time Kabbalahs influence extended from the royal courts to the Vatican. One finds in France Jean Thenaud (?1542) writing an extensive manuscript entitled Trait de la Cabale chrtien 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 (14651532), an important figure in the Vatican, whose unpublished work Scecina (1530) was finally made available in 1959. And, of course, there is Gillaume Postel (15101581), 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 (15271608) and Robert Fludd (15741637), 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 Bhme (15751624). Bhmes 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 Bhmean 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

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

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

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with constant reference to the accumulated prior works in relation to which any given work is seen. Thus it is conventional for the author of an alchemical work to list predecessors to whom he is indebted. Such a list undoubtedly would include Hermes Trismegistus, and might include also such figures as Zosimos of Panopolis of the third century C.E., Synesius, Olympiodoros, and Morienus of the seventh century C.E., as well as Islamic figures such as Jabir ibn Hayyan of the eighth century (later latinized as Geber), or al-Rhazi (ca. 825932 C.E.latinized as Rhazes). All of these authors did write on alchemy, and reveal the gnostic center of the tradition, so that their lineage from the alchemical perspective forms an Aurea catena or golden chain from antiquity to the present. Yet this golden chain of tradition is not necessarily a directly historical line of initiatory descentit is a chain of self-affiliation or identification. One places oneself in the line of what is, at heart, a tradition transmitted through literature. For how else might a medieval or Renaissance figure come to know Geber or Rhazes? Cultural context has been largely lost, as has historical placement. What matters is that the works under the name Geber speak to the later alchemist, who draws upon them in order to undertake the alchemical work himself and subsequently to write his own alchemical treatise. And so Geber joins the line of figures in what is indisputably a literary transmission, even if the alchemical labors to which these writers refer are certainly not literary but take place in a laboratory. After all, alchemical literature, for all its symbolic complexity and mysterious allusiveness, refers by its own testimony to the transmutation and redemption of the physical world: its work takes place on Earth. Indeed, we may well say that alchemy consists in the transmutations of the earth or, put another way, in the revelation of paradise. The alchemists work consists in the awakening of dormant qualities in the natural world, be they in the mineral, the vegetable, or the animal kingdom. This process of awakening entails a kind of double working, that is, the embodying of spirit, and the spiritualizing of the body, and takes place by way of fire. Fire burns up impurities and allows the transmutation of a fallen metal, plant, or animal into its paradisal original true nature. Thus alchemy itself consists in processes that are at once spiritual and physical; it is by no means just a kind of metallurgy or chemistry, even if its work resembles these in some respects. For alchemy extends into many realms, partaking at once in the realms too of religion and literature, even if it does not entirely belong to these, either. Thus, although we could here offer a historical survey of alchemy, 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. To list such names as Arnald of Villanova, author of the Rosarium philosophorum (attr. thirteenth century), Roger Bacon, Ramon Lull, Nicholas Flamel (fourteenth century), George Ripley (fifteenth century),

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

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Yet the treatise itself, despite its elliptical means of expression, is at once literary and practical. On the title page of this little collection we see an alchemists laboratory, with a furnace and various kinds of glass and tools, 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.30 Eventually he found a mineral substance that exhibited many colors, and proved of the greatest efficacy. With its spiritual essence, he cured a sick fellow monk completely, as a result of which ultimately the great secret of alchemy was revealed to him, and this secret the entire subsequent treatise is meant to reveal. The practical instructions of the treatise are interwoven with literary passages, as when we are told to take a quantity of the best and finest gold, and separate it into its component parts prior to what it was before it became gold. For these apparently practical instructions become a tale about the planets as characters in a little drama, with Mars imprisoning Mercury under the control of Vulcan, and the other planets holding a colloquy to decide what to do. Saturn wants to kill Mercury, and this Mars has done, while the Moon, a beautiful lady in a long silver robe, pleads the case of her husband, the Sun. Shortly thereafter, learned men of the country gather to decide the meaning of this enigma, and a venerable man with white hair and a flowing purple robe tells them cause that which is above to be below; that which is visible, to be invisible; and that which is palpable, to become impalpable . . . Here you see the perfection of our Art.31 This combination of practical instructions and more figurative, literary passages also includes a series of images called the twelve keys. The first of the twelve keys shows a couple, a king and a queen, the king bearing a staff, the queen a three-flowered plant, while to the kings right we see a leaping wolf, and to the queens left, a half-naked man with a scythe, over a fire. The commentary here tells us that whoever drinks of this golden fountain, experiences a renovation of his whole nature, a vanishing of all unhealthy matter.32 The fourth of the twelve keys shows a skeleton atop a casket or box, on the far left side a single candle, in the background a dead tree stump, and the text tells us how at the end of the world, all shall be judged by fire and reduced to ashes, after which there will be formed a new heaven and a new earth.33 The eighth of the twelve keys shows a man rising from the grave, while around him are various figures, including two archers shooting at targets, as well as an angel blowing a horn, and a man sowing seeds. The commentary here discusses putrefaction and resurrection. The twelfth key shows a man with a lion in a laboratory, before him a burning barrel, and the commentary tells us of the uses of the stone, and how one who possesses it shall possess all in all, performing all things whatsoever possible under the sun.34 The second of Maiers treatises is Thomas Nortons Ordinal of Alchemy, which is of quite a different nature from Valentinuss, being bereft of images

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

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

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

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

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alchemy. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Western alchemical current flows into Bhmean Christian theosophy, which produces mysticoalchemical works such as Amor Proximi, as well as Theo-Philosophia Theoretico-practica by Samuel Richter (1711), Opus Mago-cabbalisticum et theosophicum by Georg von Welling (1735), and John Pordages Epistle on the Philosophic Stone (ca. 1675). Pordages work, a letter to a lady who had discovered the prima materia and had asked him for further guidance, is among the clearest works on spiritual alchemy that we have encountered, detailing an alchemical process of awakening and transmutation that could be read simultaneously as physical and as spiritual alchemy, but whose spiritual implications are always foremost, and whose ending is almost identical to the conclusion of Amor Proximi.39 There are also the many references to alchemy that we find in Johann Georg Gichtels Theosophia Practica (letters from 16681710). Here practical alchemy is taken for granted as a real possibility, albeit scorned when the art is claimed by frauds and puffers, whom Gichtel claimed to be able to spot immediately. The implication, of course, is that Gichtel himself possessed the keys to the full range of alchemy, from spiritual to physical. Indeed, Gichtel was reputed at the time to have been a practicing alchemist since his light was often on long into the night, and he and his spiritual circle, the Engelsbrder or Angelic Brethren, subsisted without any visible means of monetary support. But such rumors aside, we find numerous direct references to alchemy in Gichtels own letters, and in the end must conclude that in this theosophic worldview, practical alchemy is seen as a subset of spiritual alchemy, which in turn is incorporated into the full breadth of theosophic discipline. But to see the way alchemy was incorporated into theosophy, it may be useful to concentrate on another work, the Opus Mago-Cabbalisticum et Theosophicum (1735) of Georg von Welling, for here we again see the confluence of our principal themes in Western esotericism. The Opus Mago-Cabbalisticum is unquestionably a synthesis of many currents already touched upon, including Chymie or alchemy, Kabbalah, astrology, Christian theosophy, and gnostic metaphysics. What makes this work most remarkable is the unity of this synthesis: it is clear that von Welling had in mind an all-encompassing worldview emerging from a deep union of these traditions, not merely a pastiche. Hence the fundamental organization of the Opus is alchemical, beginning with the organization of the first section, on salt, of the second, on sulfur, and of the third, on mercury. 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 fall of Lucifer and the eternal peace and gentle still joy of the eternal divine kingdom.40 There can be little doubt that von Welling was drawing on a wealth of specific knowledge of alchemical, astrological, and Kabbalistic themes. This is not

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

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

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

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human relationship to nature and to the divine corresponds to a restoration of paradise, precisely what we find at the end of numerous alchemical treatises. Such a restoration takes us beyond the separated consciousnesses in which we now find ourselves, divided against the world, against ourselves, and against the divine, and brings us gradually by way of a spiritual process that includes physical and transphysical work, toward the revelation of the fundamental consciousness informing all that lives. 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. Literature here is a means toward awakening greater consciousness, the essential purpose of the resonant alchemical symbolism. As we have seen, Western esotericism is not easily fixed or quantified but changes according to its historical context, even if its fundamental outlines or concerns remain the same. So it is with alchemy. We have already seen how alchemy emerged during the early modern period, when its literature and imagery attained its most brilliant formation. But alchemy did not disappear thereafter; it has not only continued to exist to the present day, but also fed into other major currents of Western esotericism. In the study of Western esotericism, one must keep in mind its essential fluidity: alchemy during the early modern period did not exist alone, but in relation to a host of other currents, in particular Christian theosophy, pansophy, Rosicrucianism, and Freemasonry. And it is to these that we will now turn our attention.

THE DIVINE SCIENCE: T H E O S O P H I C , PA N S O P H I C , R O S I C R U C I A N , A N D M A S O N I C L I T E R AT U R E Although Western esoteric traditions may be studied in isolation, it is perhaps more useful to keep in mind their social and historical contexts. The major currents of modern Western esotericism developed in the context of burgeoning knowledge about the past. Whereas in the medieval period and earlier, written works were comparatively difficult to obtain, in the modern era, with the invention of the printing press and with concomitant investigation into the numerous esoteric currents of antiquity, esotericism necessarily became even more eclectic in scope. Indeed, esoteric universalism became more and more commonplace. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, it became possible to conceive of a universal approach to knowledge that included the whole of the human inheritance. This universalism is the dream that was to haunt virtually the entirety of modern Western esotericism. We should also keep in mind the growing split, especially during the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries, between the sciences and the

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humanities. The Copernican revolution, the discovery of more complex technology, the emergence of biology, chemistry, archaeology, and geology, and the historical and comparative investigations into Christian origins, all acted to separate religious faith from scientific investigation and from literature and the arts. Whereas in medieval Europe and England, all human knowledge was conceived of as unifiedlike a wheel whose spokes are the various disciplines and arts, and whose center is spiritual knowledgewith the advent of the Protestant era, this sense of unity dissolved, at least in the secular world. But Western esotericism, much more indebted to the medieval era than is usually supposed, continued and developed this belief in a unified approach to knowledge. It is true that, from the eighteenth to the twentieth century, we find a historical movement toward more and more specialized and fragmented knowledge, with each of the disciplines ever more separated from the others, and the sciences and humanities in turn ever more separated from religion. However, in Western esotericism we find, particularly during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, quite the opposite movement. For the Western esoteric traditions that emerged during this period, as we have already glimpsed in the case of alchemy, aimed for a universal approach to knowledge that, rather than seeking to separate, say, physical chemistry from metaphysics, instead seeks ever more firmly to conjoin them. Indeed, the historical movement of Western esotericism during the modern period is to unify the entire range of human knowledge, including, in the sciences, the fields of alchemy, medicine and astrology; in the arts, illustration and literature; and in religion, comparative and syncretic, nonsectarian and ecumenical approaches to spirituality. Thus during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries we find numerous major esoteric figures who engaged in scientific investigations, explored theology and metaphysics, wrote literary works, practiced medicine and astrology, and in general correspond to the description of Renaissance man. One thinks of figures as diverse as Robert Fludd, John Pordage, and Franz von Baader, to name only a few of the most luminary. But here we do not have space for a complete survey of all such figures, nor is that our aim. Rather, our approach being thematic, we will instead look closely at some seminal authors in the modern esoteric traditions and by so doing, trace the broader lineaments of recent Western esotericism. Any study of modern Western esoteric traditions must consider the work of Jacob Bhme (15751624), the illuminated shoemaker of Grlitz, a city on the eastern side of Germany, near Poland. Bhme lived during a time of social unrest, in a border area where he came in contact with a range of esoteric traditions, including Kabbalism and Hermeticism. But his inspiration came chiefly from within, and drawing from his visionary experiences, he wrote numerous works beginning with Die Morgenrte, or Aurora, and including a vast commentary on Genesis called Mysterium Magnum, as well as De Signatura

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Rerum (The Signature of All Things), Christosophia, and numerous letters and shorter works. Even these titles reveal the connections between Bhme 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 Bhmes writings and ancient Gnosticism, parallels that became even clearer in later theosophic figures like the English Philadelphians.43 Thus we can see how Bhmean 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. Bhmes 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 Bhmes 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 Bhme drew from prior traditions as well, and his work may be described as unique or as a brilliant synthesis, for both are true. Although Bhmes terminology and mode of expression are often difficult, the basic elements of his thought are not. It is true that Bhme 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 Eckharts 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 Bhme has been popular for centuriesfrom Germany to Russia and Americaamong those drawn to direct spiritual experience, and this popularity derives from the fact that while his doctrines are almost inexhaustible, the fundamental nature of Bhmes teaching is clear and simple. Here I will compress a great deal in the hope of sketching the outlines of Bhmes thought. Bhme 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

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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. Bhmes 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, Bhme created a complex linguistic mysticism. In Aurora, Bhmes 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 Fathers 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). Bhmes 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. Bhme 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 Bhme 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 prexist 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. Bhme 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

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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 times 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 orders restoration is the Word, the restoration of light and love in ones 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. Bhme writes that our whole religion consists in learning how to go out of dissension and vanity and to renter 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 Bhmes work is integrative, not on a cultural so much as on an individual, primal level. Bhme 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 Bhmes life, in the movement called Rosicrucianism. It may be, as some scholars have speculated, that Bhme was himself familiar with the same movement which, ten years before Bhmes death, began to emerge under the name Rosicrucian, with the publication of the

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Fama Fraternitatis (1614) and the Confessio Fraternitatis (1615). But in any event, Bhmes writing and thought both paralleled and influenced that of the Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross, which first came to general public attention with the publication of the Fama Fraternitatis. And of course this brief work, like its complement the Confessio, caused a great stir in Europe, for it captured the imagination of the age with its tale of Christian Rosencreutz and his mysterious journeys through exotic lands and secret knowledge, as well as with its assertion of a secret order as keeper of profound and powerful knowledge and means. Not coincidentally, both the Fama and the Confessio reveal the fundamental themes we have seen woven through the Western esoteric traditions. Certainly we can agree with Frances Yatess 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, even if at times such orders did exist.44 For when we look at the actual wording of the Fama and the Confessio, we find ample confirmation of all the primary elements of Western esotericism thus far traced. The Rosicrucians goal, according to the Fama, was to follow Christ by renewing all arts to perfection, so that finally man might thereby understand his own nobility and worth, and why he is called Microcosmos, and how far his knowledge extendeth into Nature.45 This universal renewal and extension of knowledge is, generally speaking, the gnostic goal of Kabbalism, Hermeticism, and later, of Christian theosophy as well. But there are many other elements here that correspond exactly to our primary themes. The Fama begins by telling the story of C. R., who travels among the Arabians and the Jews on a quest to Jerusalem, and who goes as well to Egyptprecisely where European esotericism has always located its sources of arcane knowledge, in the Orient, and among Sufis and Kabbalists. This journey may also be seen as a kind of visionary recital, a visionary trip to the Orient of the spirit, but at the same time it links the Rosicrucian movement from the very beginning with the most gnostic aspects of Islam and Judaism, underscoring immediately the movements eclecticism, if not universalism. C. R., like us, travels to the Fez and to the Damascus of the mind. To see the journey as a visionary recital also helps elucidate its most salient feature: the book. For from the very beginning of the Fama, the book is a central image and source of wisdom. Indeed, we are told at the outset that were the learned wise, they could collect Librum Naturae, or a perfect method of all arts. These Books of Nature, however, are to be collected by the wise, whereas there is another more mysterious book that is the source of wisdom, and this is the book M. C. R. translates the book M. into good Latin from Arabic, and later we are told that Paracelsus had also diligently read over the book M: whereby his sharp ingenium was exalted.46 When C. R. returns eventually to Germany, he begins a secret fraternity with only four members including him-

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

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

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sigils and magic squares, stellar and numerical patterns connected to specific angels, demons, or intelligences. By using these stellar and numerical patterns in ritual magic, one is calling upon the language of the stars in order to invoke the powers or intelligences with which they are connected. One also finds such a magical language in the work of Dr. John Dee (15271604), who, in his controversial conversations with spirits along with Edward Kelley, discovered the Enochian language, which has subsequently played an extensive role in the history of magic in the West. The Enochian language is a mysterious tongue that requires tables or keys for its deciphering, and it too has been used in magical workings. Here, Dees 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.56 Is it only coincidence that the date given as the discovery of C. R.s tomb, 1604, is the date of Dees death? And is it only coincidence that the Fama and Confessio make so much of a magical language, 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, the Confessio, and the outrageously baroque, brilliant, and playfully symbolic Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosencreutz, a work so incredibly full of dense oneiric symbolism that next to it other literary works generally seem comparatively devoid of symbols. 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 cosmosnaturally caused a sensation, and the subsequent furor manifested itself in a host of other Rosicrucian works, as well as a developing mythology of Rosicrucianism. Here, we have no reason to delve into the question of whether there existed any such secret orders, or why, if there was such a fraternity as claimed in the Fama and Confessio, it should be publicly proclaimed in this way. But it is worthwhile to note that the Rosicrucian furor lasted only a few short years, disappearing around 1620, as Frances Yates notes, precisely the time of political upheaval in Germany and the advent of the Thirty Years War. By 1623, there was a great deal of anti-Rosicrucian sentiment, particularly in France, even a kind of nascent Rosicrucian witch-hunt. And all of this was tied in with the emerging rationalist and materialist paradigm of the so-called Enlightenmentwhich was precisely opposed to the Rosicrucian Enlightenment. The Rosicrucian dream, which we see outlined in the Fama and Confessio, as well as in subsequent literature, was of a non-sectarian, peaceful, universal culture dedicated to the investigation of the language of nature, written in the microcosm and in the macrocosm; it is a culture founded on Kabbalah and alchemy, that is, on a pansophic mysticism. Here we must introduce the word pansophy, or pansophia. One finds this word appearing frequently in Hermetic publications immediately following

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

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the basis for magical practices including sorcery. And in fact most grimoires have a Hebrew basis for the angelic and demonic names and characteristics that they list for invocation or evocation. One also can see in such willingness to incorporate any form of knowledge whatever, including sorcery, the pansophic impetus behind the legend of Johannes Faust, who refused to allow any boundaries to his search for knowledge. The Faustian legend is so resonant still because it expresses something fundamental about the emerging modern period. Of course because of the ascent of rationalist materialism and secularism, we tend to think of Faust, who makes a pact with Mephistopheles in order to gain knowledge, as a somewhat medieval figure. Yet the Faustian impulse to search out all knowledge and means of knowledge, even if it is illicit, is peculiarly modern and in some respects characteristically pansophic. Once Protestantism and secularism began to emerge in Europe, one finds a range of possibilities opening up, and if at one pole rationalist disbelief in the transcendent becomes acceptable, at the other pole research into the previously forbidden also becomes more common. In some respects, the pansophic impulse is fundamentally similar to the scientific: it consists in investigation into the mysteries of the unknown and of nature. One sees this desire to map the cosmos in the emergence, in later Rosicrucianism, of vast and intricate tables, diagrams, and illustrations revealing the hidden nature of the universe. Among the first of these, predating the Rosicrucian furor but certainly influencing its later productions, was the Calendarium Naturale Magicum Perpetuum Profundissimam Rerum Secretissimarum Contemplationem [Perpetual Natural Magical Calendar] of Tycho Brahe, printed by Theodore de Bry in 1582. Here we have a massive compendium of magical knowledge, including the names and seals or sigils of angels in Hebrew and Latin, magic squares, planetary correspondences, and much else. This compilation is of special importance for us because it reveals the far-flung syncretic origins of the pansophic impulse, which later emerged in almost endless detail in the Geheime Figuren [Secret Figures] of the Rosicrucians. The Geheime Figuren der Rosenkreuzer, a series of extraordinarily complex illustrations, was published at Altona in 17851788. It was probably preceded by and certainly followed by other versions, including a French edition titled F. de La Rose-Croix,57 and in all cases is replete with examples of the effort to map universal knowledge not only physical but also metaphysical. There are numerous such manuscripts with various versions of these ilustrations, chiefly under the title Physica, Metaphysica, et Hyperphysica, D.O.M.A., almost all, and perhaps all belonging to the late eighteenth century.58 Characteristic of these esoteric illustrations is one entitled Figura Divina Theosoph. Cabball. nee non Magia, Philosophia, atque Chymia [Divine Figure of Theosoph. Cabballa: Not Only Magic and Philosophy, But Chemistry]. It is an astonishingly complex illustration, with concentric circles marking divinity at the top, and a series of

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

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There was a time, not so very long ago, when esotericists could imagine a unified cosmology that included religion, science, the arts, and literature in a spiritually centered universe. This is the kind of comprehensive worldview visible in such illustrations as the ones we see emerging during the eighteenth century, and it is also clearly visible in the major works of that era, stretching right into the nineteenth century. We have already referred to Georg von Wellings Opus Mago-Cabbalisticum et Theosophicum (1784), representing exactly such a compendium of knowledge in largely written form (albeit including also illustrations and tables). Another such figure, denigrated in his own day as something of a plagiarist, was John Heydon, author of such works as Theomagia, or the Temple of Wisdom, (London: 16631664) and The Wise-mans Crown, or the Glory of the Rosie-cross, (London: 1665). Heydons Theomagia in particular attempts to be a kind of universal compendium of the occult sciences. But such universalism is a constant theme from the seventeenth century on, and is certainly not limited to works labeled Rosicrucian. One finds the same effort at universality in theosophy, as for instance in the vast metaphysical cartography of John Pordage (16041681), who in his multivolume Gttliche und Wahre Metaphysica (Frankfurt/Leipzig: 1715/1746) (probably written during the 1670s, but published only in German), chronicled what one discovers in visiting in vision the various discarnate realms of existence. One sees this also, of course, in the numerous volumes of Emanuel Swedenborg (16881772), originally a scientist, but after his visionary entry into discarnate realms, a prolific chronicler of the unseen. And one sees the same effort to bridge the realms in the works of Franz von Baader (17651841), truly a Renaissance man, who studied minerology, invented an industrial process, and became one of the most impressive writers on religious and spiritual themes of the nineteenth century, not a visionary, but a profound intellectual who consciously sought to bridge the gap between the sciences and religion. From the seventeenth until the twentieth centuries, in other words, Western esotericism often aims at universal knowledge, at a truly comprehensive metaphysics and cosmology. Such a universalist goal does not exclude the human, and specifically, the social and political realm. And it is in the sociopolitical realm that the Rosicrucian impulse had considerable impact, first with the consistent emphasis of Rosicrucian works on the transformation of society and the establishment of a utopia, and later in the development of modern Freemasonry. For all of the Rosicrucian, theosophic, and pansophic movements we have discussed in turn fed into Freemasonry, which, unlike these other more individualistic movements, maintained a definite organizational hierarchy and structure. Freemasonry, of course, began in the medieval period as one of many craft guilds, each of which guarded its particular mysteries, those of masonry belonging to the arts of architecture and building, and associated with the vast

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cathedrals of medieval Europe. Masonry, not surprisingly, flourished in the vicinity of Jewish scholarship and Kabbalism, contact probably having its origins in the lengthy period of communication between Islamic, Jewish, and Christian circles in Spain and Provene. It is true that there were other such guilds with their own rites and mysteries, 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, to a speculative, semireligious occult fraternity. Of course, the exact history of this transformation is sketchy at best, but it is clear that like Rosicrucianism, Freemasonry became the nexus for many prior esoteric traditions. Indeed, 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 Germanyin turn fed into the Masonic stream. Certainly it is the case that Rosicrucianism as a movement dried up fairly early, if as a fraternity it had ever really existed at all, but as an influence Rosicrucianism remained powerful, and its universalist esotericism became immensely influential in Masonic circles chiefly through the auspices of Robert Fludd and Elias Ashmole. Robert Fludd (15741637) was born into a Shropshire family, his father, Sir Thomas Fludd, having received a knighthood for his military service, and having left his military career to become a justice of the peace in Kent. Robert Fludd went to St. Johns College in Oxford, traveled for a time as a tutor to aristocratic families on the Continent, (where he probably began to learn Paracelsian medicine), and eventually returned to England to receive his doctorate in medicine. Like Paracelsus himself, Fludd was somewhat contentious as a young physician, and during this time began work on his major treatises, including his encyclopedic Utriusque Cosmi Maioris Scilicet et Minoris Metaphysica, Physica Atque Technica Historia [History of the Macrocosm and Microcosm] (Oppenheim: de Bry, 1617), intended as a vast compendium of human knowledge including theosophy, the arts, and the sciences. Fludd, to whom the term Renaissance man could certainly be applied, clearly sought to incorporate the full range of human knowledge into his theosophia perennis, 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, Plato and the Bible, Martianus Capella and, of course, the Kabbalah. Fludd was among the first to develop a comprehensive esoteric framework for seeing the world, and among his primary influences were Kabbalism, on which he explicitly drew, and Rosicrucianism. Indeed, the same time that saw Fludds publication of his History by de Bry saw his publication also of two treatises in Latin defending the Fraternity of the Rosy Cross, published in Leiden, in 1616 and 1617. Such publication was, of course, the conventional way of advertising ones desire to join the fraternity, and although

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

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Ashmole, editor of the extensive Theatrum Chemicum Brittanicum collection of alchemical works, was not simply an antiquarian, although certainly that impulse was strong in him. He also was a practicing Hermetic esotericist, whose mentor was William Backhouse of Swallowfield (15931662), himself an alchemist and antiquarian as well as a botanist and student of architecture.62 Backhouses father, Samuel, had had connections with John Dee and Edward Kelley, and William Backhouse adopted Ashmole as a son, attested in a note by Ashmole dated 3 April 1651. This was a Hermetic spiritual adoption, said to have its origins in the revelation of Hermes to his spiritual son, and transmitted orally from master to one disciple since antiquity. Backhouse contributed old alchemical manuscripts to Ashmoles collection, introduced Ashmole to Hermetic circles, and according to Ashmoles note in 1653, when Backhouse thought he was dying, conveyed to Ashmole in Silables the true matter of the Philosophers Stone, bequeathed to me as a legacy.63 That this spoken revelation of the philosophers stone comes in silables suggests strongly the nature of the Western esoteric linguistic mysticism we have been tracing since antiquity. These silables may be seen as alchemical hieroglyphs, or as Kabbalistic, but they are in any case gnostic, meaning that they convey the true and secret name and character of the philosophic work. It is significant that Ashmole, after recording this revelation, never referred to it again, and wrote himself in Theatrum Chemicum that the spiritual son was under an obligation never to reveal the mystery into which he was initiated, except to his own spiritual son. All of this, of course, resonates closely with the Rosicrucian ideal of silence and invisibility, which in turn harks back to the namelessness and invisibility of the true Knights of the Round Table in chivalric literature. The true name is hidden, and must remain so. If this were the only instance of magical language during this era of the emergence of Freemasonry as a vehicle for esotericism, of course, one could ignore it, but instead one finds that a linguistic mysticism was in fact at the heart of a movement that fired the English Civil War. Hugh Trevor-Roper remarks that Cromwells movement was impelled by three philosophers . . . the real . . . and only philosophers of the English Revolution, Samuel Hartlib (15931670), John Dury (15961680), and John Comenius (15921690).64 These three men, who had left Germany for England after the failure of the Palatinate, were at the center of a movement of educational and societal reform called the invisible college, or what Comenius termed the Collegium Lucis, an esoteric network of illuminated intelligentsia. All three of the men had been active in Rosicrucian circles, and now in England all worked at the immediate transformation of society into a peaceful, non-sectarian utopia where all the divisions of knowledge could be studied together, using a symbolic metalanguage. Comenius had developed a system of education based in analogical correspondences, and Hartlib had worked to form such colleges both in Germany

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

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Yet if early-eighteenth-century Freemasonry, especially in England, had an exoteric, nonsectarian basis, it quickly began to develop an esoteric emphasis, especially in France. This esotericism was kindled by Andrew Michael Ramsay (16861743), a Scotsman who early in his life was a member of the Philadelphian Society of Jane Leade and Francis Lee, a theosophic circle in London. From here he went on to stay with Pierre Poiret, a Bhmenist who then sent him on to Archbishop Fnelon, after which he became secretary to Madame Guyon. After her death, he became a tutor to various aristocratic families, while publishing numerous books. And during this time, Ramsay, who had been initiated into Masonry years before, became prominent in French Masonry, and in 1737 gave an oration that had a profound effect. In it, he discussed the importance of chivalry and the Templars, thus stimulating a host of higher degrees. In this oration, Ramsay also called for a massive project of universal illumination: All the Grand Masters in Germany, England, Italy, 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, excepting only theology and politics. The work has already been commenced in London, and by means of the union of our Brothers it may be carried to a conclusion in a few years . . . By this means the lights of all nations will be united in a single work, which will be a universal library of all that is beautiful, great, luminous, solid, and useful in all the sciences and in all the noble arts.67 There are echoes in this project of the Rosicrucian aims of a century before, but here they take on a distinctly rationalist flavor, and indeed, it is not surprising that this project, announced in Ramsays oration, has subsequently been credited with at least some of the inspiration for the later French philosophes and their Encyclopdie. Thus we find that Freemasonry has a peculiarly dual relation to esotericism and modernity. On the one hand, Masonic values of rationalism, deism, and nonsectarianism certainly helped develop the modern era, with its general tendency to reject, suppress, or ignore esotericism. On the other hand, Masonry became a vehicle for esotericism, developing complicated symbolism in its rituals, including, for instance, the introduction of alchemical symbolism into the rites, and a long tradition of eclectic esotericism among its members.68 Within Masonry itself, one finds a continuous struggle since at least the eighteenth century between those such as Jean-Baptiste Willermoz (17301824), one of the founders of the Rectified Scottish Rite and a powerful proponent of speculative or esoteric Masonry, and those who insist on a much more exoteric, fraternal Freemasonry, consisting in three degrees of apprentice, fellow craftsman, and master mason.

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Yet despite the insistence of some on a more exoteric Masonry, the tradition has long been seen as maintaining occult knowledge, specifically, as maintaining a special linguistic power that lies at the heart of building, that is, of human and divine architecture both. As we have already seen, such an emphasis on the powers of divine creation is characteristic of Kabbalism since the medieval period, and so it is not surprising to discover that in 1676 we find Masonry associated with the Modern Green Ribbond Caball, as well as references to those who are said to have the Masons word. In other words, from very early on in the development of modern Masonry, the tradition is linked to Masonic linguistic mysticism. In the Graham manuscript of 1726, we find an exorcism ritual to be used by Masons in the construction of a building, a ritual that relies upon foundation words.69 These words take their derivation from the building of Solomons Temple, 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 itin three parts in reference to the blessed Trinity who made all things, yet in thirteen branches in reference to Christ and his twelve apostles, which is as follows: one word for a divine, six for the clergy, and six for the fellow craft.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 centuriesfor instance, in The Whole Institutions of Freemasons Opened (1725): Yet for all this I want the primitive word, I answer it was God in six Terminations, to wit I am, which Edmond Mazet sees as a clear allusion to the six permutations of the trigrammaton YHW, by which, according to the Sepher Yetsirah (1.8), God has sealed the six directions of space.71 And there are some Hebrew words in early Masonic documentsnot surprisingly, since one finds Hebrew frequently in Rosicrucian illustrations and works as well. In other words, when we look closely at the emergence of Freemasonry, we find that it definitely does draw upon earlier esoteric currents, and that as the Masonic current continues through the eighteenth century, it continues to draw upon these and other currents to become itself among the most eclectic of esoteric traditions, even if it is subject to periodic spasms of anti-esotericism. Freemasonry, based as it is on the craft of building, has a natural connection to Kabbalistic mysticism that also focuses on divine architecture; but it also later drew explicitly and implicitly on the chivalric, theosophic, Rosicrucian, and alchemical currents of Western esotericism, especially with the founding of the Orden des Guelden-und Rosen-Cruetzes, the Order of the Gold and RosyCross, a Masonic Rosicrucianism begun in 1757 in Germany that incorporated Templar and alchemical symbolism too. Indeed, even to this day, the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, the most popular form of contemporary Masonry, preserves its eighteenth grade as that of the Chevalier Rose-Croix.

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

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, T r i p u s A u r e u s ( 1 6 1 8 ) .

from

Figure 3 Theosophic image entitled Serenity from Jacob Bhme, Theosophia Revelata, oder: Alle Gtliche Schriften Jacob Bhmens (1730 ed.), edited by Johann Georg Gichtel.

Figure 4 Theosophic image entitled Three Principles from Jacob Bhme, Theosophia Revelata, oder: Alle Gtliche Schriften Jacob Bhmens (1730 ed.), edited by Johann Georg Gichtel.

Figure 5 Theosophic image entitled Earthly and Heavenly Mysterium from Jacob Bhme, Theosophia Revelata, oder: Alle Gtliche Schriften Jacob Bhmens (1730 ed.), edited by Johann Georg Gichtel.

Figure 6 Pansophic image from Georg von We l l i n g , O p u s M a g o - C a b b a l i s t i c u m e t T h e o sophicum (Frankfurt: 1784). Note that beyond the celestial hierarchy is the Ungrund, which is here explicitly identified with the Kabbalistic en soph.

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

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

Figure 9 Cecil Collins, The Music of Dawn, 1988. 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, otherworldly nature of Collinss work.

Figure 10

Cecil Collins, Paradise, 1976.

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

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

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seem to convey a particular kind of esoteric understanding, as can in fact be said of the works of, for instance, the poet H. D. I cannot say with certainty whether or how Ernsts works convey a particular kind of initiatory transmission, and so I will not discuss them further here, but there certainly is an area here worthy of further investigation, not only in the case of Ernst, but in that of the entire surrealist movement.2 And even when we turn to literature of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, secular or not, we find that there are not too many authors who know about or are even concerned with this understanding of language. It is true that esoteric themes or topics emerge in all sorts of unexpected places in modern literature, sometimes explicitly, as with Yeats or H. D., for instance, sometimes more implicitly, as with Emerson or Rilke.3 But it is relatively difficult to find a poet whose primary concern is with these various Western esoteric traditions, and who has incorporated the linguistic mysticism that emerges from them into his own poetry of the first order. Naturally, it would be possible to catalogue and survey how the Western esoteric traditions appear in relatively recent literary history, with sections on each of the major currents, split further into sections on poetry and prose. However, I will leave such a project for another time, and perhaps for someone else to do. It is certainly worth doing. Here, I will instead focus on several major figures and trace the influences on their work, choosing a synecdochic study that will in turn illuminate aspects of literature that are today all too often overlooked. While a broad, horizontal survey is of value, of even greater value is a vertical, deeper study of how Western esotericism intersects with literature and consciousness in our own time. And so we will concentrate first on the work of Oscar Vladislas de Lubicz Milosz (18771939), turning then to H. D. (18861961), third, to the magical fiction of C. S. Lewis (18981963) and others, and finally to the remarkable art and writing of Cecil Collins (19091989).

Canticle of Knowledge: O. V. Milosz and Spiritual Transmission through Poetry O. V. Milosz is without question among the most learned poets of modern times. But his learning is of a particular kind, without question chiefly in the sphere of Hermeticism. Miloszs outward life can be outlined rather succinctly. Born to a wealthy family in Lithuania who lived on an estate called Czerea, his mother Jewish, his parents somewhat cold and aloof, Milosz wandered the vast forests nearby as a child, and at twelve he was sent to Paris for schooling. After a good education, and entry, more or less, into the world of French intelligentsia, Milosz traveled widely, during which time his family sold their estate. He wrote poetry touching on the despair and hollowness of modernity, more

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or less like that of the early T. S. Eliot, and became, so his nephew Czeslaw Milosz later wrote, a Don Juanesque figure. Then, in 1914, he experienced a spiritual illumination, and from this period on became a serious scholar of Hermeticism, Kabbalah, theosophy, and Western esotericism in general. Financially ruined during this time by the collapse of Russia, Milosz also became active as a diplomat for Lithuania, participating in the League of Nations and serving until his retirement in 1938. It was during the first half of this service that Milosz wrote his most Hermetic works, which are what concern us here. Miloszs predecessors in the Western literary tradition are indissolubly linked with religion and philosophy, and invariably sought to conjoin not only the sciences and literature and the arts, but all of these under the sign of a Hermetic spirituality. One can, in fact, create a kind of lineage of such figures, beginning of course with Paracelsus and Bhme, and including such authors as Emanuel Swedenborg (16881772), William Blake (17571827), LouisClaude de Saint-Martin (17431803), and Johann Wolfgang Goethe (17491832). Diverse as this list is in certain respects, its members have in common that most lived during the eighteenth century and that they sought, by way of a renewed Hermetic spirituality, to bring about a cultural renaissance that would join together the sundered limbs of human knowledge. Among these figures, perhaps the most seminal is Swedenborg, who was trained as a scientist but went on to write voluminous works surveying the nature, as he saw it, of heaven, hell, and the dwelling places of spirits. These Swedenborg saw, in vision, and depicted as peculiarly concretethe visionary realms of the spirit for him are palpable and his work certainly a kind of hyperphysical cartography. Swedenborg was, and perhaps remains, far more influential than is usually acknowledged in intellectual histories; he remains a primary force behind the works of William Blake, also a tactile visionary, and, for that matter, Goethe, 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. In both Swedenborg and Goethe we see the emergence of what we might call a nascent spiritual science. But it is in Milosz that we see Swedenborgs approach, his effort to chronicle the visionary experience with a kind of new science of the spirit, come to fruition in literary form. Swedenborg of course was himself preceded in this effort by John Pordage, whose massive works are themselves scientific in their precise descriptions and careful elucidation of all the various divine mansions. However, neither Pordage nor Swedenborg was a poet, and both wrote in dry, almost pedantic ways of their visionary experiences. Not so Milosz, whose poems and prose are not only recountings of visionary experiences, but are in fact also intended to invoke these experiences in the reader; Miloszs poetry, though drawing on this tradition of scientific observation of visionary experience, in a mysterious way also embodies and is the experience.

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

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

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existence. When he sings the canticle of the sunlight hour of the nights of God and proclaims the wisdom of two worlds opened to his sight, he means precisely what he says: I have seen. Simply that. Thus Milosz goes on to tell us matter-of-factly that he who has seen stops thinking and feeling, and only describes what he has seen. Here, Milosz tells us again, is the key to the world of light. De la magie des mots que jassemble ici / Lor du mond sensible tire sa secrte valeur [From the magic of the words I gather here / The sensible worlds gold draws its secret value.]11 There is in the Canticle of Knowledge a continuous thread of allusions to gold and to the sun, as well as to the solar egg of the soul, and knowledges golden candlestick. But the allusions are not necessarily to earthly gold nor to the sun visible from the earth, for as he told us before, these ancient metaphors refer to substances, to names that precede and transcend their earthly counterparts, which only draw their value from their supersensible archetypes. And so it is here. The man of light (lhomme la lumire) draws his knowledge from this supersensible sun in the motionless realm of substances. 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. There is the earthly gold, and the gold of celestial memory; he calls us to the celestial gold. At such points, when Milosz addresses us directly, he implicates us in the poem, calls us through its language into the truth that language manifests. For la vrit ne fait pas mentire le langage sacr: car elle est aussi le soleil visible du monde substantiel. [truth does not make sacred language lie: . . . it is also the visible sun of the substantial world]. This distinction between truth and lie, he tells us, is the key to the two worlds of darkness and light. These two worlds correspond to the two worlds of Bhme, of love and of wrath, or in Miloszs words, of blessing and of desolation. But beyond these two worlds is the word enveloped in sun, the word charged by the thunder of this dangerous time [la parole enveloppe de soleil, le mot charg de foudre de ce temps dangereux.]12 This charged and sun-enveloped word reminds us of the account in Genesis of creation, as well as the first chapter of John (In the beginning was the Word), but also of the Corpus Hermeticum. Milosz exultantly writes, I have named you! [Je tai nomm!], which recalls the primal naming of all things by the primal man, Adam, and then comes the following passage: te voici dans le rayon avant-coureur au sein du nuage fig, muet comme le plomb, / Dans le bond et le vent de la masse de feu, / Dans lapparition de lesprit virginal de lor / Dans lapparition de love la sphre . . . [Here you are in the first ray in the womb of the fixed cloud, mute as lead. / In the leap and wind of the fiery mass, / In the appearance of the virginal spirit of gold, / In the passage from the egg to the sphere.]13 As we might recall, the first section of Poemandres in the Corpus Hermeticum is also a visionary creation-account, a revelation, that is, of the primal

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

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remde tous les maux et que la connaissance de lor est aussi celle de la lumire et du sang.]17 The canticle concludes with the poets prayer that when he is finally cleansed of both evil and good, and clothed with the sun, he will not lose the memory of the suffering he has undergone. Thus the canticle, at its end, reaffirms the importance not only of the ascent to the knowledge of light, but the descent into immense suffering and privation; it affirms the significance not only of the virginal gold of the souls solar egg, but also of the inner desolation that one can also experience on earth. In this acknowledgement of fundamental duality in the cosmos, Milosz is very much akin to Bhme, who wrote too of the division and conflict between love and wrath, between the lightworld and the darkworld. And in his allusions to the visionary descent into darkness, Milosz is close to Novalis (Friedrich von Hardenberg, [17751802]), and his Hymns to the Night.18 But Milosz has forged his own mode of expression, and is clearly expressing his own direct experience. This understanding he expressed often in a peculiarly theatrical way, especially given Miloszs own essentially solitary life. Frequently his poetry has a dramatic or semidramatic quality, 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, as well as in more modern movements like Freemasonry. In some poems he has a choir or a chorus; in his 1922 poem entitled The Adepts Christmas Eve, Milosz has his character The Adept speaking with his inner spouse, Beatrix. This poem, because of its fusion of literature and Hermeticism, is especially of interest to us here. The Adepts Christmas Eve begins with the Adepts ritual gesture: sept fois pour le pass, et pour nos trois jours venir, trois voisle signe, le signe! [seven times for the past, and for our three days to come, again three times, let us make the sign, the sign!] This is the sign of the cross, and with it the initiate asks for peace for Beatrix and for himself. Master, you speak the truth, replies Beatrix. And then the adept makes a strange remark: Les parents dorment l, tendres mtaux poux, dans cet uf appuy sur le feu nuptial. Quils sont beaux, innocents! [The parents sleep there, tender metal partners in marriage, in this egg resting on the nuptial flame. How beautiful and innocent they are!]19 This reference, to tender metal partners in marriage, is unquestionably alchemical, but refers to an inner alchemy. Beatrix is surprised: So you can see them? How? In this hermetic egg? With what eyes? The adept replies: Chre enfant, par la grce de la vue du milieu. Et puisque nous connaissons depuis sept ans, je te touche le front. [Dear child, by the grace of inner vision, and since we have now known one another seven years, I touch your brow.] To this Beatrix replies: Farewell, space and time! And the adept suggests they both to kneel in adoration devant le cher fourneau [before this dear Furnace.]

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

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

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

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wrote in a letter that he would like to lecture on a subject he knew thoroughly: hermetic metaphysics and doctrines, from Egypt up to today, passing through the Pre-Socratics, Plato, the School of Alexandria, the Neoplatonists of the Middle Ages, Swedenborg, the mystical eighteenth century.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, Eugne Ledrain, and then with his spiritual guides: Goethe, Swedenborg, Martinez de Pasqually, Claude de Saint Martin. These writersand also Jewish exegesisexerted a decisive influence upon Blaise Pascal, the disciple of the Kabbalist Raymond Martini. The Rosicrucian Polybius the Cosmopolitan, alias Ren Descartes, sought in them peace of spirit, Milosz continued.26 If we see here the depth of Miloszs focus on Hermeticism in history, we cannot help but notice the parallel focus on Judaism and Kabbalah. Milosz not only had studied and read Hebrew, but kept a Bible in Hebrew nearby as a constant reading companion; he was well acquainted with Jewish Kabbalism, but in the tradition of many Christian Cabalists, looked forward to the day that the Jews would be converted to Christianity. We can see how deeply Miloszs fascination with Judaism penetrated his work by examining his final poem, Psaume de ltoile du Matin [Psalm of the Morning Star], 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.27 Psalm of the Morning Star is so suffused in Hebrew and in Old Testament language as to be inseparable from them. The allusions to Miloszs favorite doctrines and language are here hidden in the allusions to Hebrew names and places, as when the poem refers to the betrothed sister of the new canticle, recalling to us Miloszs earlier poems and to his imagery of alchemical inner marriage and the revelation of divine Wisdom as the feminine spouse. In the Psalm we read of another primary theme, that of the word and the book: un seul mot nouveau le mme / cur quau temps des pres bat dans le bois la / pierre et leau rien de tou cela qui revient / nest nouveau toutes ces choses dormaient / dans les livres ferms les livres sous mes / mains se sont ouverts. [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.]28 The peculiar rhythm of the lines and line breaks makes this poem unusually difficult to follow, but it reveals at the heart of all things a single new word, and

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a mysticism that has all those things sleeping in closed books that open themselves under the poets hand. Thus we find in this final poem of Milosz the linguistic and, if we may coin a word, libric mysticism that has haunted Western esotericism from antiquity. Here, just as in the Book of Revelation and just as in Kabbalism, the archetypes of the cosmos exist inside letters, words, and books, inside the books of life and of knowledge; and the true poet, the visionary poet, opens those books in order to reveal their inner mysteriesor rather, the books open themselves to him. Nor is it coincidental that in 1933 Milosz published his close study titled LApocalypse de Saint-Jean Dchiffre [The Apocalypse of Saint John Decoded] and, in 1938, La Clef de lApocalypse [The Key to the Apocalypse]. Milosz held, as early as 1919, 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, it is not books that we are waiting for; we are waiting for the continuation and fulfillment of the only Book.29 Here we see the nascent Christian millennialism that pervades so much of Miloszs work as he anticipated a future renaissance, and that he shared with much of the Christian theosophic tradition. Hermeticism and Kabbalism, in short, are enormously important for understanding the complex work of Milosz and his mysticism of the word, but there are still other currents of Western esotericism that emerge in the poets work, drawn together with a universalism that both resembles and includes Freemasonry. In his Poem of the Arcana, in fact, Milosz tells of his visionary experience, says that I am entering the twelfth year of supreme knowledge, and yet writes that he will humble his brow in the dust before you, my son, Hiram, King of the unified world, Architect of the effective Catholic Church of tomorrow, the universal regent of faith, science, and art.30 The name Hiram is found in Masonic tradition, and Milosz explains his poems relationship to Freemasonry in his Exegetic Notes, which are far more extensive than anything T. S. Eliot, for instance, wrote for his poetry. Under the heading Hiram, King of the Unified World, Milosz writes that The personage who concerns us here is not the symbolic hero of the Templars or of Scottish Freemasonry in England, Germany, and Savoy. The architect of those brotherhoods was Biblical in name only. 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. . . . The allegory is clearly indicated by the password Nekom (Vengeance) used by the Chapter of Clermont and the Scottish lodge of the Berlin Union. If the author has considered it useful to follow Lessing, Joseph de Maistre, R. Le Forestier, 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

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

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

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Milosz is, today, a relatively obscure figure, little studied in academe, but as we can see from this discussion of his work and life, there is no other figure who so completely reveals the confluence of all the primary currents of Western esotericism in the modern era. There are, of course, others whose work certainly bears the imprint of esoteric influences, including such authors as William Butler Yeats, Charles Williams, C. S. Lewis, the poet H. D., and Kathleen Raine, all of whom also were involved in esoteric circles. Indeed, the list of names of modern authors and poets influenced by esoteric currents of thought is nigh unto endless. However, Milosz is unique not only for the vast range of his studies, but also for the universality of his aims. He sought nothing less than to bring about the renewal of Christianity through its universalization, and a new golden age, and in such aims is a classic exemplar of modern Western esotericism. In these efforts, Milosz certainly resembles the figure of Prospero in Shakespeares The Tempest, for however assiduous Milosz was in working toward universality in his writing and in his life, all of these efforts were ultimately pointed, not toward the present, but toward the future, and specifically toward a future reader whom he regards as his spiritual son. Like Prospero in his final speech, Milosz in some respects cast aside his wand (any influence on his contemporary era) in order, through his writing, to reach an audience whom he specifically invoked in his writing itself. There is in Miloszs poetry and prose a peculiar hieratic quality and a special relationship to his imagined reader that will inform our final two chapters, in which we begin to explore the theoretical dimensions and implications of Western esoteric literature in relation to consciousness. Although we here will take our leave of them, we have by no means finished with either of these inexhaustible figures: Prospero, and Milosz.

H. D. and the Initiatic Word If Milosz is emblematic of an initiatic male poet in the twentieth century, then without doubt the emblematic female poet has to be H. D. That H. D. born Hilda Doolittle [18861961]was fascinated with esoterica is well known. Indeed, a number of books have explored the wide range of esoteric influences that appear in H. D.s poetry, novels, and essays. Among the best of these is Susan Friedmans chapter entitled Initiations in her book Psyche Reborn (1981), which outlines the intertwining of H. D.s biography and her fascination with mysticism, the Tarot, numerology, astrology, magic, psychic insights or visions, various heresies of antiquity including the Ophites and other Gnostic groups, Rosicrucianism, and the Christian theosophy of Zinzendorf and the Moravians.40 But we still await a comprehensive study that incorporates the full range of H. D.s life and interests. Here, we

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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earliest years. Her grandfathers name was Francis Wolle, and he was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; her grandmothers father, Old Father Weiss, or Jedediah Weiss, was a watchmaker and silversmith for more than forty years in Bethlehem. He was a gifted musician who sang in the Moravian choir. In other words, H. D. came by her fascination with the Moravians naturally; it was in fact in her blood. 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. We can see the extent and depth of H. D.s research into this area when we look at her own notes for the novel as well as the books from her own library, especially those now housed at Yale University. Her notes for The Gift are remarkably detailed, and weave together genealogical and historical materials, offering the reader incontrovertible evidence not only that H. D. deliberately incorporated much authentic historical background into the novel, but also that the artistic and spiritual import of the novel is bolstered by being based on actual fact. Her notes are in fact an important aspect of the novel, itself, shaping the way that she intended it to be read. And her personal library gives ample proof that H. D. had done her research; among its volumes are Andreas Freys A True and Authentic Account of Andrew Frey; containing the Occasion of his coming among the Herrnhutters or Moravians (London: J. Robinson, 1753); Joseph Edward Huttons A History of the Moravian Church (London: Moravian Publication Office, 1909); George Lavingtons The Moravians Compared and Detected (London: J. & P. Knapton, 1755); Georg Heinrich Loskiels History of the Mission of the United Brethren Among the Indians in North America (London: Brethrens Society, 1794); and Henry Rimiuss A Candid Narrative of the Rise and Progress of the Herrnhuetters, Commonly Called Moravians (London: A. Linde, 1753), as well as original copies of Rimiuss other major works on the subject. In toto, with its numerous original eighteenth-century publications, H. D.s library demonstrates the depth of her research. H. D. was herself a baptized Moravian, 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 (17001760) who settled in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in the middle of the eighteenth century. For Zinzendorf and his group were far more esoteric in their interests than those who were to follow them. Rimiuss works, cited by H. D. in her notes, make clear this distinction. Rimius, Zinzendorf s most effective detractor, accused the early Moravians of gross and scandalous . . . Mysticism, of the Arcana, or Secret Counsels of their Leaders, as well as of Secrets probably known by the adepts alone.58 About such accusations, H. D. wrote that they were precisely what she found attractive about the Unitas Fratrum: Personally, I consider these findings highly stimulating and exciting, though I must confess, in

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

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It is like matching beads. A bit of me can really live something of a word or phrase, cut on a wall at Karnak. But really live it, I mean. Then am I for a moment . . . Egyptian . . . A word opens a door, these are the keys, it is like that little flower that Mrs. Williams called a primula, that Mamalie called himmelschlssel or keys-of-heaven. That is how it is. A word opens a door . . .60 This concept of a word opening a door into the lives of ones ancestors and into spiritual mysteries is at the very center of The Gift; it is what the novel does for H. D. But there is more, considerably more of this theme to unpack. In chapter 5 of The Gift, we are given more explicit hints about the title of the chapter, The Secret. The first is when Mamalie, Hildas grandmother, who is somewhat forgetful near the end of her life, begins to speak of the papers that she was afraid she had lost. Christian had left the Secret with me. I was afraid the Secret would be lost, she told Hilda. Hilda knows that she is the last one in the family to whom Mamalie could entrust her secrets, but Hilda (and along with her, the reader) must unravel their mysteries through cryptic comments and fragments let drop by her grandmother. Hilda is fascinated by Mamalies talk of Wunden Eiland, a German name for an early Moravian island sanctuary (the name meaning, Hilda surmises, Island of Wonders, later learning it means Island of Wounds). And Hilda speculates: I want her to go on talking because if she stops, the word stops. The word is like a bee-hive, but there are no bees in it now. I am the last bee in the bee-hive, this is the game I play. The other bees have gone, that is why it is so quiet. Can one bee keep a bee-hive alive, I mean, can one person who knows that Wunden Eiland is a bee-hive, keep Wunden Eiland for the other bees, when they come back?61 The word is the means of preserving and of transmitting the honey of spiritual knowledge, and even here in her narrative, 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. These spiritual mysteries are not, as some scholars seem to think, aspects of a solely matriarchal tradition, even though the beehive is presided over by a Queen bee (Sophia?). Rather, while it is the case that Mamalie is telling this complicated history to her granddaughter Hilda, the story she tells is of a hidden gnostic tradition stretching back to at least the time of the Knights Templar in the medieval period. And in this story men play at least as significant a role as women; indeed, in some aspects of the story, men play a greater role than women. Mamalie tells Hilda that the Moravians were at heart a continuation of the Hidden Church that

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

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

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

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

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Obviously, this preface and the poem itself are filled with esoteric elements, but for our purposes the most important is the foregrounded theme of male-female spiritual alchemy that may be applied to all men and women, the alchemical processus of transmutation that is brought about for Elizabeth through her uncles Art and through the alchemy of memory. Here again we find the same themes that recur throughout H. D.s lifetime of work, here again the words laugh, echoing the laughter in the culminating initiatory moment in The Gift; here again we find that I transcribed the scroll . . . the Mystery, the Writing, and the Scroll, / infinity portrayed in simple things.72 Here again the scroll becomes a palimpsest, and again through it I had the answer. I cite from Vale Ave here because it makes clear that H. D.s recurrent theme of initiation through the word, of timelessness revealed in times transparency, is not a youthful digression but central to her work even late in her life. Her poetry and her prose, taken in toto, 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, 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.73

Magical Fiction In a poem entitled Dreams, Kathleen Raine wrote of how the mysteries were once upon the earth, the mysteries of the tree and miraculous bird, the mysteries of the holy well. But then From grotto grove and shrine, the holy presences withdraw, the springs gone under the hill. Her poem ends with the stanza: Inviolate in dream The mysteries still are shown, The dead are living still; But bring them back none may Who wakes into this day.74 In our day of ever more complex technology and ever more information, it may seem as though nothing could be farther from us than a world in which magic is possible. Yet in the twilit realm of fiction, as in poetry, magic and the ancient mysteries still dwell. Here, I would like to explore not the art of magic, but rather how magic dwells in the realm of relatively recent fiction, just as it dwells in the realm of dreams. Of course, magical fiction in fact belongs to a larger category, that of initiatory fictionnovels and short stories whose evident purpose is to take the reader along into new and perhaps unfamiliar kinds of consciousness. But my

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

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

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magician Merlin participates. The invocation takes place, of course, in a secondary world of fiction, but Lewiss novel is clearly about the primary world in which we live; the magical working here is meant also to have effects in the primary world of the reader. In other words, The Descent of the Gods is about a celestial healing of a ruined world, but this healing is also one in which the reader necessarily participates. It is important that this magical working is not the end of the book, though one could easily imagine it so. 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, and all is brought to a conclusion in Venus at St. Annes, the seventeenth chapter. Here the various good characters come together to discuss what happened, and the Director (Dr. Ransom) is taken up to Perelandra bodily, rather like Elijah or King Arthur. But even this is not the end: the end comes when the character Jane returns to her husband Mark. Uncertain whether to enter the lodge where he is sleeping, she sees that clothes are piled inside, and Marks shirt is hanging partway out of the window. How exactly like Mark! Jane thinks. Obviously it was high time she went in.81 I cite this prosaic finale precisely because it is so deliberately ordinary: it brings us back completely from the magical atmosphere of the novels main body to mundane life, to the familiar world in which a married couple need each other. Lewiss work is a masterpiece not only because of how it carries us into the magical working in the descent of the gods, but also because of the delicate tension it maintains between ordinary life and magical events. Lewis brings us into the realm of Ransoms and Merlins magical rescue of England from the grip of a malevolent force, 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, one with ordinary people, and one with Merlin and Ransom). In so doing, Lewis not only achieves dramatic success, but also is able to take along even the skeptical reader. One feels a satisfaction at the conclusion of That Hideous Strength that very few novels are able to elicit; even though of course the reader has not physically participated in the invocation of the Oyresu, still it feels as though one imaginatively has; the novel has dimensions that most other fiction simply does not, and by its end, the reader feels as though he has passed through those dimensions too. This passage is what I mean by magical initiatory fiction. One finds exactly the same sense of initiatory passage in the novels of Charles Williams, whose work I would certainly be remiss if I did not mention here. About Williamss novels, Gareth Knight observes in The Magical World of the Inklings: those who read his fiction tend to be affected strongly in two ways. 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. Therefore

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some may feel depressed or repulsed by the down side of his books and their evocation of the essence of evil. On the other hand, it is possible to respond to the quality of good, and divine reality and angelic brightness shines through the other side of his work. Thus a close reading of his novels can have a purificatory, almost cathartic effect. In effect they are initiations. [Emphasis added.]82 Exactly the same thing may be said here about Lewiss foray into what was chiefly Williamss domain, for both writers evoked magical workings or paranormal events in ways that very few authors have. By doing so, both Williams and Lewis were able to widen the metaphysical dimensions of fiction, to make fiction something much more powerful than it ordinarily is, for in the act of reading, one is also encountering new realms of existence. But while Williamss fiction certainly touches upon magical themes and features magician characters both noble, such as the poet Peter Stanhope of Descent into Hell, and decidedly corrupt ones, such as Simon Leclerc in All Hallows Eve, still Williamss fiction is still by and large of a different kind from the specifically magical fiction that we saw in Lewiss That Hideous Strength, when Ransom invokes the planetary powers. Williamss characters offer insights into what it is like to be dead, for instance; they reveal forms of necromancy; they unveil the power of archetypes and, in general, 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: Williamss fiction is often initiatory, but rarely if at all in exactly the form I wish to consider here: initiation into magical ritual itself. For that, we should turn to a second exemplar: the fiction of Dion Fortune. Fortune rarely wrote about her fiction, but she did offer some preliminary remarks to her novel Moon Magic, and her observations are revealing. She writes there that Those who read this story for the sake of entertainment will, I am afraid, not find it very entertaining. It was not written for its entertainment value. I wrote it, in fact, to find out what it was about. I have put a great deal into it, and there is a great deal more in it than I ever put in. One might even say that the writing of it was a magical act. [Emphasis added.] If it be true that what is created in the imagination lives in the inner world, then what have I created in Lilith Le Fay? . . . Who and what is Lilith, and why did she live on after the book about her was finished, and insist on appearing again? Have I furnished myself with a dark familiar?83 Here Fortune gives voice to exactly the theme we are here investigating: how the writing of a book can be a magical act, and how therefore the reader is in

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

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

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

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

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

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The authors we have considered here knew or knew of one another, and were engaged at least to some degree in similar enterprises, which is why I have chosen to study them together. Still, there remain fundamental differences. While Fortune was certainly a practicing magician, her novels have a workmanlike quality: they do depict magical rituals and do offer insights into the nature of magic. 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. It is in Lewiss That Hideous Strength that the reader can perhaps most powerfully encounter the transmuting power of artistic beauty expressing ritual magic that, indirectly or directly, is linked to the world in which we live and that offers us profound insights into the cosmos and into humanity. Thus, if I may be permitted a single conclusion, it is this: there is undoubtedly art in magic, but the most magical works of all may well be found in literary art.

Esoteric Transmission in the Art of Cecil Collins Although this book is primarily about literary transmission, this is not the only means of esoteric transmission in twentieth-century works. As we have already seen, images played an important role not only in alchemical works and later in Rosicrucianism, but also in Bhmean theosophy, where images accompany the written word and yet represent a separate set of works on their own. Theosophic illustrations in particular, such as those accompanying the original German and English editions of Bhmes complete works, represent a visual form separate from and complementing the texts they accompany. Something of the same relationship between word and image exists in the works of Cecil Collins (19081989), an important and genuinely original British painter. Collins is best known as an artist whose works manifest an ethereal, visionary style that may best be described as glimpses into another, transcendent and perhaps, in the sense of Rilke, angelic realm. Collinss paintings were exhibited in a major retrospective in 1989, held in Londons Tate Gallery. This was an exhibition that I was fortunate enough to attend, and I recall the otherworldliness of the images, the sense that the artist belonged to the same tradition as A. E., and that like his contemporary poet, Collins revealed in his work insights into the hidden, higher aspects of nature and humanity. One felt as though one were in some sense being initiated into a way of seeing, not merely viewing paintings but through them being shown new ways of understanding humanity and the transcendent. It was not until 1994 that Brian Keeble brought out an edited book of Collinss writings under the title The Vision of the Fool, but with the publication of this book, one could understand much more clearly the nature of Collinss paintings. Collins was a gifted aphorist, and his writings reveal in detail his

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worldview, even as they transmit that worldview to the reader. The aphorism is in many respects the most poetic form of prose; the aphorism by its nature stands on its own surrounded by the white space of the page, so that the reader has a greater task than in prose works, for he must leap the gaps, must make intellectual connections individually. By reading Collinss aphorisms, one is placed in contact with another reality through them, and this from a comparatively early period in his work. In Hymn of Life, consisting in excerpts from Collinss journals during the Second World War, he writes: O holy ones I long for you, I long for my race, I long for my kingdom; we are all exiles. I know of your existence, I remember you, and my life with you. But here I wander, and I know nothing. But you exist, and most holy are you O beautiful servants. [14 January, 1945, Totnes, Devonshire]94 He writes beautifully also of his life in nature, of his solitary walks in the countryside, of The long eternal afternoons robed in blue, with the white compassionate temples of the clouds floating in wise happiness and detached love, or again, of how The tasting of these things in our days and nights is the partaking of the sacrament of existence. Ordinary life in the natural world, for Collins, is imbued always with spiritual significance; and the task of the artist is to remind us of this, to show us the hieroedietic beauty of life through art. If Collins loved solitude and nature on the one hand, on the other his works are infused with profound criticisms of the insect-life of modern industrial society. 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. A frustration of all that which is growing, of all that which desires to give, to come to fruition. Our time denies, denies all who have inward fruit. Denies the artist, the contemplative, the human being. A winter of the spirit is over all society. The coldness of the vanity of the intellect on one side, and cheap vulgarity of attitude towards life on the other side. It is this official denial of life that confronts us in everything. But deep underneath flows the secret stream.95 In 1965, Collins gave a public lecture titled The Artist in the New Age, 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, when in fact it is quite clear that we are ruled today by the elite of scientific technocrats and politicians

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

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

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

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

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the restoration of paradise, these are the themes of these great artists, the hidden themes perhaps of our entire era, made visible in the mysterious archetypal images of Collins.

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

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

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

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practitioner, whether a Kabbalist, an alchemist, a theosopher, or a pansoph, is nothing less than the restoration of paradise, which is to say, the restoration of unity between humanity and nature by way of the divine. 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. The myth of a primordial humanity entails a primordial language, the language of creation itself. In this perspective, the entire cosmos represents a kind of celestial writing, and within every living thing is its transcendent or archetypal signature or word. Primordial humanity knows this celestial language, but as humanity fell away from it in the long descent that is human history, language too became externalized and hardened outside us into mutually incomprehensible tongues, not the means of celestial union with all that surrounds us, but instead a further means for our separation from and objectification of the world. We see this idea of a celestial or universal language appearing in various forms throughout Western esotericism. Jewish Kabbalah of course maintains a long tradition of Hebrew exegesis, and of intricate maneuvers with letters and numbers in gematria, temurah, and notarikon, drawing a virtually infinite range of connotations from a single verse, even from a single letter. Underlying these alphanumeric permutations is the understanding that in fact one is working with the very language of creation, and this view is found throughout other Western esoteric traditions, often with Hebrew as the celestial language of choice. Hence, for instance, one finds Hebrew letters inscribed in alchemical, theosophic, pansophic, magical, Rosicrucian, and Masonic illustrations, almost always denoting divinity. A typical manifestation of this tradition is found around the turn of the nineteenth century, in a group of London Rosicrucians associated with Francis Barrett (17651825), author of The Magus. 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. But it is certain that Barrett proposed a magical alphabet closely resembling the Masons marks or Masonic hieroglyphs. These in turn are related to Hebrew letters, and indeed as Yeats pointed out, William Blake in some of his illustrations used Hebrew characters on some of his designs, which show that he had learned the unfamiliar way of writing then known to some occult students as the Celestial Alphabet.102 Likewise, the poet Robert Southey observed that London Swedenborgians prized a Celestial Alphabet in which every letter signifies a complete thing . . . and every flexure and curvature of every letter, contains some secret of wisdom.103 And we find this insistence on the importance of magical language in many unexpected placesfor instance, in the Russian symbolist poetry and prose near the beginning of the twentieth century, where it arguably sparked the entire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

L I T E R AT U R E , A R T, A N D C O N S C I O U S N E S S It is evident, after all that we have surveyed, that inherent in the Western esoteric traditions is what we have called a libric or alphanumeric gnosis. Here we are discussing not merely the obvious fact that such traditions are represented in written works, but rather the idea that these literary works themselves are

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vehicles of spiritual praxis. 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, from the Kabbalistic Sepher Yezirah or Bahir or Zohar to the works of Jacob Bhme and the Rosicrucian manifestos. Here the book is a means of spiritual transmutation, fundamental to the awakening of a paradisal union between humanity, nature, and the divine. Indeed, here is what we may call a spirituality of literature as much as a literature of spirituality. Such an understanding of literature is very ancient indeed, visible in Greek tradition in such figures as Pythagoras and Plato, and indeed, as we have seen, found throughout Western history. In this view, the cosmos itself is a kind of bookthe structure of words, images, and music is the intricate geometry of meaning that permeates creation. This intricate geometry of meaning can be glimpsed in the forms of nature, but is seen even more clearly in the archetypal realm of the imagination. The poet and the seer both engage in the ascent of consciousness from multiplicity toward union, and in this ascent enter into the imaginal realm of archetypes, of charged and living images once associated with the gods, beyond history. The poet or prophet sees and enters into the celestial realm, the book of life out of which history itself emerges. Naturally, this view of the poet invests in him far more authority and power than do contemporary views, 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. In this esoteric view of literature, to write presupposes already having seen. To use Platos metaphor, one must already have left the imprisoning cave and seen the actual sun and the true landscape to which we belong. Only then can one return and tell others where authentic life lies, not the life of shadows, but of reality, full of imaginations power and exhiliration. And only then will ones written work be of enduring value for others, for in its structure will be the creative power of life itself. It may be of use, at this juncture, to turn to a poet, A. E. (George William Russell, 18671935), a friend of Yeats, in order to consider more carefully how a poet may view what we are discussing here. In his book Song and Its Fountains, A. E. wrote at length about how he came to write poetry, and how his poetry was inseparable from his visionary experiences. Remarking on how a poem emerged unbidden one evening while he was sitting on some rocks, A. E. 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 . . . The verses came to me almost as swift as thought.111 Unconscious of creation, he simply began to murmur line after line. But A. E.s subsequent meditation on how he created this poem is well worth investigating. The poets psyche, he tells us, ascends to that high state where, as the seers tell us, the gold-gleaming genius makes beauty, joys, rejoicings,

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

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

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

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

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

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Flamelthe list can be extended indefinitely, but in every case, the author is reaching out, and explicitly seeking to guide the reader toward new and intensified kinds of consciousness. And the reader from his side is seeking to comprehend, to be guided by the author, to vicariously participate in the authors understanding, to in Emersons words, add it to his own arsenal of power. It may well be, therefore, that Western esoteric and Western literary and artistic traditions are far more mutually illuminating than we could have guessed. They exist on a continuum that includes reading or viewing art for diversion or pleasure, but that also includes those who insist on far higher stakes and greater rewards, for whom literature and art are the expression and vehicle of spiritual illumination and of the transfiguration of the world, a means for nothing less than the restoration of paradise. Perhaps the symbolism of a novel is an attenuated form of what we find made even more explicit in these esoteric traditions, where everything in the cosmos is seen as bearing its divine signature. And perhaps all forms of Western literature, esoteric or not, emerge from a pervasive human need to discern or restore the hidden unity of all things by reading and writing the world anew. To what degree are these themes universal for human existence? Here we may step for the first time outside the sphere of Western esoteric and literary traditions, and place them in a world religious and philosophical context. 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 (18741948) and Nishitani Keiji (19001990). These authors are important for us because their religio-philosophical perspectives, taken together, help explain what I am arguing about the various currents of Western esotericism. One should not be too surprised at the introduction of Berdyaevs work here, for as I have discussed elsewhere, Berdyaev was himself definitely part of Western esotericism, and publicly identified himself as a Christian theosopher in the line of Dionysius the Areopagite and Jacob Bhme.123 But Berdyaev was also a philosopher, and intimately familiar with the history of modern philosophy; moreover, being Russian and deeply influenced by Eastern Orthodoxy rather than Western European Christianity, his work formed a kind of bridge between Eastern and Western Christianities and worldviews. Here we have neither space nor need to survey Berdyaevs life and work, but instead will look at his philosophical contributions, and how they correspond to what we have learned about Western esotericism, literature, and consciousness. In what could be considered the summation of his thoughtthe book The Beginning and the EndBerdyaev discusses the immense significance of Jacob Bhmes concept of the Ungrund for religion and philosophy.124 The Ungrund, Berdyaev tells us, precedes all being, and indeed even God himself. In being, which belongs to history and to the constraints of time and space, there is no true freedomtrue freedom is to be found only in the Ungrund, in the

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

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

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

Notes

INTRODUCTION
1. See Steven Katz, ed., Mysticism and Language (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992). 2. See the definition of the Association for the Study of Esotericism [ASE] and more information on this growing field at www.aseweb.org, the official Web site of the ASE. 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. 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. 3. See Arthur Versluis, Methods in the Study of Esotericism, Esoterica IV (2002): 115 and Methods in the Study of Esotericism Part II, Esoterica V (2003): 175210. See www.esoteric.msu.edu. 4. For an overview of Western esotericism, see Antoine Faivre, Access to Western Esotericism (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994). Faivre, who held a chair at the Sorbonne in Western esoteric currents of thought, published a large body of work outlining and detailing numerous aspects of esotericism, much of it in French. There are a number of other scholars now working in this field as well, including Wouter Hanegraaff, a Dutch scholar, whose encyclopedic book New Age Religion and Western Culture: Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought (Leiden: Brill, 1996) reveals the underlying connections between new religious movements today and their Western esoteric antecedents. 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, and readers would do well to become familiar with it. See also the journal Esoterica [www.esoteric.msu.edu ] for articles, mostly by North American scholars, in this field. 5. See Hanegraaff, ibid.

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6. See Faivre, op. cit., pp. 1015; see also Faivre Lsotrisme (Presses Universitaries de France, 1992), pp. 1421. 7. Jean La Fontaine, Initiation (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1986), p. 14. 8. Mircea Eliade, Myths, Dreams, and Mysteries (New York: Harper, 1975), p. 223. 9. See Arthur Versluis, Christian Theosophy and Ancient Gnosticism, Studies in Spirituality 7(1997): 228241; see also Wisdoms Children: A Christian Esoteric Tradition (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999), pp. 219233. 10. Victor Sogen Hori, Koan and Kensho in the Rinzai Zen Curriculum in Stephen Heine and Dale Wright, eds., The Koan: Texts and Context in Zen Buddhism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 307. 11. Ibid., p. 309. 12. See, for an explicit example of this inward sojourn and perception, John Pordage, Sophia, in Arthur Versluis, Wisdoms Book: The Sophia Anthology (St. Paul: Paragon House, 2000), pp. 76106. Pordage writes that the invisible paradisal earth of Sophia is hidden from ratiocination and even scoffed at by those limited to reasoning alone, but they like everyone have access to this inward realm all the same, whether they know it or not. See ibid., p. 97. 13. See Versluis, ed., Wisdoms Book: The Sophia Anthology (St. Paul, Paragon House, 2000), pp. 83 ff.

CHAPTER ONE
1. See Gershom Scholem, Kabbalah (Jerusalem: Keter, 1974), pp. 18 ff.; see also Scholem, On the Kabbalah and Its Symbolism (New York: Schocken, 1965), pp. 37 ff. 2. See Charbonneau, The Bestiary of Christ (New York: Parabola, 1991); see also Dionysius the Areopagite on like and unlike images. 3. Nag Hammadi Library, p. 145. 4. Nag Hammadi Library, p. 151. 5. See Versluis, Gnosis and Literature (St. Paul: Grail, 1996), pp. 5189. 6. Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin, Theosophic Correspondence (Exeter: Roberts, 1863), p. 248.

CHAPTER TWO
1. All of this is to be found in the ninth chapter of Parzival. 2. See the fifteenth chapter of Parzival. 3. See my discussion in Gnosis and Literature (St. Paul: Grail, 1996) of Piers Ploughman. 4. See Frederick Goldin, Lyrics of the Troubadours and Trouvres (New York: Anchor, 1973), pp. 140, 180. Translation is mine. 5. Ramon Lull, The Book of the Lover and the Beloved, E. Peers, trs. (London: Sheldon, 1978), p. 111.

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6. A translation of Ars Brevis is to be found in Ramon Lull, Doctor Illuminatus, A. Bonner, trs. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985), p. 298 ff. 7. Gershom Scholem, Origins of the Kabbalah (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987), p. 57. 8. Ibid., p. 197. 9. See Mark Verman, The Books of Contemplation (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992); see also Scholem, Origins, op. cit., p. 394; see also Moshe Idel, Rabbi Moses Nahmanides: Explorations, I. Twersky, ed., (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), p. 66. 10. See J. Dan, ed., The Early Kabbalah (Paulist Press, 1986), p. 59. 11. See Verman, p. 29. 12. Zohar IV .205b, in The Zohar, M. Simon, trs. (London: Soncino, 1984), p. 197. 13. Ibid., IV .205b206a. 14. See Verman, op. cit., pp. 4950. 15. Ibid., p. 51. 16. Ibid. 17. Ibid., p. 52. 18. Ibid., p. 57. 19. Ibid., p. 61. 20. See Scholem, Origins, p. 270. 21. Scholem, Origins, p. 278. 22. See Moshe Idel, Kabbalah: New Perspectives (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988), pp. 101102. 23. Ibid., p. 280. 24. See, for instance, Joseph Blau, The Christian Interpretation of the Cabala in the Renaissance (Port Washington: Kennikat, 1965), and Franoise Secret, Les Kabbalistes chrtiens de la Renaissance (Paris: Dunod, 1964), as well as Antoine Faivre and F. Tristan, eds., Kabbalistes chrtiens (Paris: Albin Michel, 1979). 25. See Oration on the Dignity of Man in E. Cassirer, et al., ed., The Renaissance Philosophy of Man (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961), p. 250. 26. See Pico della Mirandola, Opera omnia, C. Vasoli, ed. (Hildesheim: Olms, 1969), I.80 ff. 27. Cassirer, op. cit., p. 246. 28. See Arthur Edward Waite, ed., The Hermetic Museum (London: Watkins, 1953) I.312. 29. Ibid. 30. Ibid., I.314. 31. Ibid., I.320323. 32. Ibid., I.325. 33. Ibid., I.331. 34. Ibid., I.351. 35. II.71. 36. Ibid., II.77. 37. See A.B.C. vom Stein der Weisen (Berlin: Christian Ulrich Ringmacher, 1779), II.75. 38. II.76.

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39. I have translated this work of Pordage, and also written an extensive commentary on it. This commentary was shared with people from diverse walks, including two physicists, a theologian, a musician, a cosmologist, and others, in a group called the Round Table. 40. From von Welling, Opus Mago-Cabbalisticum et Theosophicum (Frankfurt: Fleischerischum, 1784), table of contents. 41. Ibid., p. 371. 42. See Versluis, The Alchemy of Art, forthcoming. 43. See Versluis, Christian Theosophy and Ancient Gnosticism in Studies in Spirituality (Fall, 1997). 44. Frances Yates, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment (London: Routledge, 1972), p. 220. For an excellent survey of the scholarship since Yates, see Donald Dickson, The Tessera of Antilia: Utopian Brotherhoods and Secret Societies in the Early Seventeenth Century (Leiden: Brill, 1998). 45. The texts of the Fama and Confessio in English are most easily found as appendices to Yates, Resicrucian Enlightenment. The following page references are to Yates, for the readers convenience. The original (short) titles of Fama and Confessio were Allgemeine und General Reformation, der gantzen weiten welt . . . (Cassel: Wessel, 1614) and Secretioris Philosophiae Considertio brevis . . . (Cassel: Wessel, 1615). The first English translation was published by Thomas Vaughan in 1652. See, for text, Yates, op. cit., p. 238. 46. Ibid., Fama, p. 241. 47. Ibid., Fama, p. 242. 48. Ibid., Fama, p. 246. 49. Ibid., Fama, p. 251. 50. Ibid., Confessio, p. 252. 51. Ibid., Confessio, p. 253. 52. Ibid., Confessio, p. 255. 53. Ibid., Confessio, p. 257. 54. See Versluis, Wisdoms Children: A Christian Esoteric Tradition (State University of New York Press, 1999), especially on Gichtels and other theosophers tendency to carefully date their revelations, and even chart them astrologically. 55. Ibid., p. 260. 56. Ibid., p. 221. 57. See Codex Rosae Crucis D.O.M.A.: A Rare and Curious Manuscript of Rosicrucian Interest, M.P. Hall, ed. (Los Angeles: Philosophical Research, 1971), p. 49. 58. Ibid., p. 37. 59. Ibid., D.O.M.A. ms., p. 22. 60. See Frances Yates, Theatre of the World, p. 67, and The Rosicrucian Enlightenment, p. 77. 61. C. H. Josten, ed., Elias Ashmole (Oxford: Clarendon, 1966), II.681. See, for background, William Huffman, Robert Fludd and the End of the Renaissance (London: Routledge, 1988). 62. See Josten, Ashmole, I.77. See also Marsha Schuchard, Freemasonry, Secret Societies, and the Continuity of the Occult in English Literature (Ph.D. diss., University of Texas at Austin, 1975), p. 129. 63. Ashmole, I.102104.

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64. Hugh Trevor-Roper, Religion, the Reformation, and Social Change (London: Macmillan, 1967), p. 240. See Dickson, op. cit., pp. 162168. 65. See Marsha Keith Schuchard, Restoring the Temple of Vision: Cabalistc Freemasonry and Stuart Culture (Leiden: Brill, 2002), p. 409, and Margaret Bailey, Milton and Jacob Boehme (New York: Oxford: 1914), pp. 6667, citing B. M. Sloane, M. S. 654, pp. 247249. 66. See James Anderson, The Constitutions of the Free-masons: Containing the history, changes, regulations . . . (London [Philadelphia]: B. Franklin, 1734), Charge I. See also Bernard Fay, Revolution and Freemasonry, 16801800 (Boston: Little, Brown, 1935), p. 110. 67. See George David Henderson, Chavalier Ramsey (London: Nelson, 1952), and Albert Cherl, Un aventurier religieux au XVIIe sicle (Paris: Perrin, 1926). See also Schuchard, Freemasonry, p. 191. 68. See Edmond Mazet, Freemasonry and Esotericism, in Modern Esoteric Spirituality, A. Faivre, ed. (New York: Crossroad, 1992), p. 268. 69. See Le manuscrit graham in La franc-maonnerie: documents, fondateurs (Paris: lHerne, 1992), pp. 257272. 70. Mazet, p. 253. 71. Ibid., p. 256.

CHAPTER THREE
1. See M. E. Warlick, Max Ernst and Alchemy (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001); see also Max Ernst, Beyond Painting and Other Writings by the Artist and His Friends (New York: Wittenborn, 1948). 2. H. D. believed that surrealism drew on esoteric currents in a confused way, and without doubt there are bizarre and even deliberately inverted elements in much of surrealism. It may well be that a closer investigation of symbolist and surrealist poetry and art would further reveal its affinities to Satanism, as is in fact suggested in Bernice Rosenthal, ed., The Occult in Soviet and Russian Culture (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997), especially in Kristi Grobergs The Shade of Lucifers Dark Wing: Satanism in Silver Age Russia, 99134. Certainly surrealism and related movements such as symbolism provide much more complicated examples than we can deal with here. 3. On Emerson and Hermeticism, see Versluis, The Hermetic Book of Nature (St. Paul: Grail, 1997). 4. O. V . de L. Milosz, The Noble Traveller (West Stockbridge: Lindisfarne, 1985), p. 417. 5. Ibid. 6. Ibid., p. 414. 7. Ibid., pp. 170171. 8. Ibid., p. 39. 9. Ibid., pp. 170171. 10. Ibid., pp. 172173. 11. Ibid.

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12. Ibid., pp. 174175. 13. Ibid. 14. See W. Scott, ed., Hermetica (Boston: Shambhala, 1985), I.115, Lib. I.1 ff. 15. Milosz, op. cit., pp. 178179. 16. Ibid., pp. 180181. 17. Ibid., pp. 182183. 18. See Versluis, trs., Pollen and Fragments: Selected Poetry and Prose of Novalis (Grand Rapids: Phanes, 1989), for a translation of Hymns to the Night. 19. Milosz, op. cit., pp. 204205. 20. Ibid., pp. 206207. 21. Ibid., pp. 210211. 22. Ibid., p. 296. 23. Ibid., pp. 297298. 24. Ibid., p. 248. 25. Ibid., p. 464. 26. Ibid., p. 465. 27. Ibid., pp. 224225. 28. Ibid, pp. 226227. 29. Ibid., p. 455. 30. Ibid., p. 277. 31. Ibid., p. 299. 32. Ibid., pp. 299300. 33. Ibid., p. 300. 34. See Versluis, The Esoteric Origins of the American Renaissance (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 4852. For a more extensive study, see Steven Bullock, Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996). 35. Milosz, p. 303. 36. For a discussion of Postel in relation to Christian theosophy, see Versluis, Theosophia: Hidden Dimensions of Christianity (Hudson: Lindisfarne, 1994). 37. Milosz, op. cit., p. 469. 38. Ibid. 39. Ibid. 40. Susan Friedman, Psyche Reborn (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1981), pp. 157206. Friedman writes that From her [H. D.s] perspective, hermetic tradition offered a pattern of meaning in coded form to the initiate . . . For the poet of the modernist era, the harsh world of necessity that Freud described is itself the rune that must be deciphered. The true-rune and right spell of esoteric tradition contained the code for H. D. in her search to translate the inner meaning of material reality (p. 158). The question, of course, is into what did she translate this inner meaning, 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, synonymous with hermetic tradition, when in fact there are numerous different esoteric currents of a wide variety, ranging from entirely cosmological ones such as astrology or the Tarot to more metaphysical or gnostic ones. 41. H. D., Notes on Thought and Vision (San Francisco: New Directions, 1982), pp. 89, introduction by Albert Gelpi.

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42. Ibid., pp. 1719. 43. Ibid., p. 21. 44. Ibid., p. 23. 45. See H. D., The Walls Do Not Fall, 17. 46. Ibid., 13, 20, 24. 47. See M. E. Warlick, Max Ernst and Alchemy: A Magician in Search of a Myth (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001); see also, on alchemy and the occult in earlytwentieth-century Russia, Irina Gutkin, The Magic of Words: Symbolism, Futurism, Social Realism in B. Rosenthal, ed., The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997), pp. 225246. Gutkins article strongly supports the fundamental thesis we are here exploring, and I certainly recommend her article, as well as this entire collection of articles. 48. H. D., Walls, 3031. 49. Ibid., 32. 50. Ibid., 35. 51. Ibid., 39. 52. Tribute to the Angels, 1. 53. Ibid., 20. 54. Ibid., 21. 55. Ibid., 33. 56. Ibid., 29. 57. See Jane Augustine, ed., H. D., The Gift (Gainesville: University Press Florida, 1998), p. 1, hereafter cited as TG. 58. Rimius, A Candid Narrative (London: 1753), 70, 9, 19. These passages were transcribed by H. D. in her Zinzendorf Notes, on which see TG, 284285. 59. H. D., The Gift, p. 259. 60. Ibid., p. 5051. 61. Ibid., pp. 154155. 62. Ibid., p. 157. 63. See, for documentation, Georg Heinrich Loskiel, Geschichte der Mission der Evangelischen Brder unter den Indianern in Nordamerika (rpt: Hildesheim: Olms, 1989). 64. H. D., The Gift, pp. 156159. 65. Ibid., p. 165. 66. Ibid., p. 169. 67. Ibid., p. 168. 68. Ibid., Notes, pp. 271272. 69. Ibid., p. 222. 70. Ibid., p. 223. 71. See H. D., Vale Ave in New Directions in Prose and Poetry (New York: 1950; rpt. Kraus, 1967), 18. 72. Ibid., 66, 50. 73. Ibid., 67. 74. Kathleen Raine, Selected Poems (Hudson: Lindisfarne, 1988), p. 102. 75. There are, of course, other authors we could consider here, chief among them Gustav Meyrink, and in particular his novel Angel at the Western Window [Der Engel

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vom westlichen Fenster] (1927). But Meyrinks works are complex enough to deserve a study in themselves, so I have decided not to include them here, maintaining our focus on the Inklings, Fortune, and their circles in mid-twentieth-century England. 76. C. S. Lewis, ed., Essays Presented to Charles Williams (Oxford University Press: 1947), pp. 43, 7071. 77. C. S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength (Macmillan: 1965 ed.), p. 291. 78. Ibid., p. 320. 79. Ibid., p. 322. 80. Ibid., p. 323. 81. Ibid., p. 382. 82. Gareth Knight, The Magical World of the Inklings (Shaftesbury: Element, 1990), p. 197. 83. Dion Fortune, Moon Magic (York Beach: Weiser, 1994) p. 10. 84. Ibid., p. 91. 85. Dion Fortune, The Secrets of Dr. Taverner (Columbus: Ariel, n.d.), p. 239. 86. Dion Fortune, The Winged Bull (York Beach: Weiser ed., 1988) p. 112. 87. Ibid., p. 115. 88. See Antoine Faivre, Access to Western Esotericism (State University of New York Press, 1994), pp. 104104, for a discussion of contemporary esoteric magical groups, including Fortunes. 89. Williams was a member of Arthur Edward Waites magical fraternity, retained his magical regalia in his office, and while his experience in magical ritual has been downplayed by some literary critics, without doubt had direct experience in magical initiation that was reflected in his fiction. See on this point, Gareth Knight, The Magical World of the Inklings, op. cit., p. 154. 90. Faivre, op. cit., pp. 2021. 91. See for instance, Maxwells account of his growing understanding of the elemental forces like wind and fire, and his intensifying strange awareness as a function of his magical apprenticeship with Vivien Le Fay Morgan, in The Sea Priestess (York Beach: Weiser ed., 1993), pp. 124125. 92. Faivre, op. cit., p. 21. 93. Ibid. 94. Subsequent references are to Cecil Collins, The Vision of the Fool and Other Writings (Ipswich: Golgonooza, 1994), noted hereafter as Vision, and Meditations, Poems, Pages from a Sketchbook (Ipswich: Golgonooza, 1997), hereafter noted as Meditations. See Collins, Vision, p. 40. 95. Collins, Vision, p. 40. 96. Ibid., p. 95. 97. Ibid., p. 87. 98. Ibid., p. 88. 99. Ibid., p. 101. 100. Ibid., p. 102. 101. Ibid., Collins, Meditations, pp. 8283. 102. E. Ellis and W. B. Yeats, The Works of William Blake, 3 vols. (London: Quaritch, 1893), I.25. 103. Southey, Letters from England (London: Longman, 1814), p. 127.

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104. Irina Gutkin, from The Magic of Words: Symbolism, Futurism, Socialist Realism, in B. Rosenthal, ed., The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997) p. 225. 105. Bromleys is the image on the cover of my book Theosophia (1994); I added the colors. 106. See Versluis, Ancient Gnosticism and Christian Theosophy in Studies in Spirituality (Fall 1997). 107. Christosophia, I.1, Vorrede, and I.31, Warnung an den Leser. 108. See, for example, Peter Erb, trs., The Way to Christ (New York: Paulist Press, 1978), II.1 ff., pp. 71 ff. 109. Christosophia IV .31. 110. Ibid., IV .2930. 111. A. E., Song and Its Fountains (Burdett: Larson, 1991), p. 62. 112. Ibid., pp. 6263. 113. Ibid., p. 63. 114. Ibid., p. 93. 115. Ibid., p. 94. 116. Ibid., p. 95. 117. Ibid., p. 74. 118. Ibid., p. 78. 119. Ibid. 120. Ibid., p. 39. 121. Ibid., p. 40. 122. Versluis, Theosophia: Hidden Dimensions of Christianity (Hudson: Lindisfarne, 1994), p. 199. 123. See my overview of Christian theosophy in Magic and Mysticism, forthcoming. See Charles C. Knapp, Nicolas Berdyaev: Theologian of Prophetic Gnosticism (Th.D. Diss., Toronto: 1948), p. 40 and pp. 275 ff. See Berdyaevs introduction to Jacob Bhmes Six Theosophic Points (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1958); See also The Destiny of Man, pp. 25 ff.; Freedom and the Spirit, pp. 194 ff. 124. Nicholas Berdyaev, The Beginning and the End (New York: Harper, 1957), pp. 108 ff. 125. Ibid., p. 170. 126. Nishitani Keiji, Religion and Nothingness (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), p. 103. 127. Ibid., p. 105. 128. Ibid., p. 106. 129. Ibid., p. 285. 130. Ibid.

INDEX

Abulafia, Abraham, 51, 141 Agrippa, Heinrich Cornelius, 53 A.E., 129, 148150 Alchemy, 2, 5567, Al-Rhazi [Rhazes], 56 Amor Proximi, 6162, 63 Anderson, James, 83 Apocalypse of Baruch, 25 Apocalypse of Ezra, 25 Apuleius, 18 Arnold of Villanova, 56 Art, initiatory nature of, 130133 Ascension of Isaiah, 25 Ashmole, Elias, 8082 Astrology, 2 Aurea Catena, 56 Baader, Franz von, 68, 79 Backhouse, William, 82 Bacon, Roger, 56 Bahir, 47, 148 Barrett, Francis, 138 Basilides, 28, 31 Basilius Valentinus, 57 Beatrice, 96 Berdyaev, Nicholas, 102, 154155 Bernart de Ventadorn, 40 Bible, 17 Blake, William, 90, 137 Boethius, 42, 80 Bhme, Jacob, 1, 5, 10, 14, 53, 63, 64, 6871, 78, 93, 94, 95, 129, 140, 141142, 143144, 154 Book of Life, 24, 30, 59, 139, 152

Brahe, Tycho, 77 Bromley, Thomas, 142, 150 Browne, Sir Thomas, 81 Bruno, Giordano, 76 Buddhism, 2829, 147 Buddhism, Tibetan, 28, 45 Chaucer, Geoffrey, 5, 4243 Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosencreutz, 75 Chivalry, 3543, 46 Christ, 24, 28, 97, 105 Christianity [origins of], 1719 Clement of Alexandria, 18, 31 Cloud of Unknowing, 1 Collins, Cecil, ix, 89, 129135 Comenius, John, 8283 Confessio Fraternitatis, 72 Consciousness, 66 Corbin, Henry, 22 Cordovero, Moses, 48 Corpus Hermeticum, 80, 93, 94, 97 Cremer, Abbot, 57, 59 Dante, 4, 5, 4041, 96 Dee, Arthur, 8182 Dee, John, 53, 75, 78, 8182 Descartes, Ren, 81, 99 Dickinson, Emily, 104 Dionysius the Areopagite, 20, 2728, 31, 52, 154 Dogen, 11 Dury, John, 8283

169

170

INDEX

Eckhart, Meister, 1, 2, 8, 50, 140 Eirenaeus Philalethes, 57 Eleazar of Worms, 51 Eleusinian Mysteries, 105 Eliade, Mircea, 9 Eliot, T.S., 100, 111 Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 89, 104, 109, 153154 Eriugena, John Scotus, 35, 102 Ernst, Max, 88-89, 106 Eschenbach, Wolfram von, 37 Esoteric Origins of the American Renaissance, 104, 111 Esotericism [defined], 78 Esotericism, Jewish, 19 Faivre, Antoine, 78, 127128 Fama Fraternitatis, 7273 Faust, Johannes, 77 Flamel, Nicholas, 56 Fludd, Robert, 53, 68, 8081 Fortune, Dion, 120, 123126, 127 Frankenberg, Abraham von, 69 Franklin, Benjamin, 101 Freemasonry, 2, 46, 7986, 101102 Frey, Andreas, 112 Friedman, Susan, 103 Fuller, Margaret, 104, 111 Geheime Figuren, 77 Gelpi, Albert, 104 Gichtel, Johann Georg, 63, 78 Gnosis, 4, 1921, 2728 Gnosticism, 1821, 2631, 50, 105, 137 Goethe, Johann Wolfgang, 90, 97, 99 Grail cycle, 3639 Gutkin, Irina, 139 H.D., ix, 89, 103119 Hardenberg, Friedrich von [Novalis], 95 Hartlib, Samuel, 8283 Heidegger, Martin, 155 Hermes [Trismegistus], 21, 22, 56, 76, 107, 109 Hermeticism, 65, 89103 Hermetism, 2122

Hermetica, 21 Heydon, John, 79 Hieroedetic knowledge, 25 Hinduism, 19, 140 Hippolytus, 28, 29 Hiram, 100 Hirst, Dsire, 153 Homer, 5 Hori, Victor Sogen, 11 Hutton, Joseph Edward, 112 Imagination, 1215, 2224 Initiation, 89 Isaac the Blind, 51 Islam, 72 Jabir ibn Hayyan [Geber], 56 Jerusalem, 25 John, Book of, 19 Kabbalah [or Cabala], Christian, 44, 5254 Kabbalah, Jewish, 2, 9, 4652, 138 Katz, Steven, 1 Keeble, Brian, 129 Kelley, Edward, 75, 82 Knight, Gareth, 122 Koan, 2, 1012, 55 Koran, 140 La Fontaine, Jean, 89 Larronde, Carlos, 102 Leade, Jane, 54, 84, 102 Lee, Francis, 84 Lewis, C.S., ix, 89, 103, 120122, 123, 126, 127 Loskiel, Georg Heinrich, 112 Lull, Ramon, 42, 4345, 56 Maier, Michael, 5759, 76 Maistre, Joseph de, 100 Marcus, 29 Mazet, Edmond, 83, 85 Merkabah mysticism, 19, 30, 31 Melville, Herman, 5, 151 Merswin, Rulman, 40

INDEX

171

Meyrink, Gustav, 40 Milosz, Czeslaw, 90 Milosz, O.V ., ix, 89103, 105, 137, 141 Milton, John, 5 Minotaur, 2627 Moravians, 112113 Morienus, 56 Moses de Leon, 48 Mysticism, 2 Nag Hammadi Library, 19, 25 Native Americans (and Moravians), 113, 115, 116 Nature [concept of], 66 New Age, 8 Nishitani Keiji, ix, 154156 Norton, Thomas, 57, 58 Numbers, sacred, 2930 Olympiadorus, 56 Origen, 18, 52 Pansophy, 64, 7578 Paracelsus, 60, 69, 76 Parzival, 36, 3738 Pascal, Blaise, 99 Pasqually, Martinez de, 99 Philip, Gospel of, 3031 Pico della Mirandola, 52 Piers Ploughman, 5, 32 Plato, 5, 18, 21, 92, 99, 105, 148 Platonic archetypes, 123 Poimandres, 21 Poiret, Pierre, 84 Pordage, John, 13, 14, 63, 68, 79, 90 Porete, Marguerite, 2 Postel, Gillaume, 53, 101 Prajnaparamita Sutra, 29 Pre-Socratics, 99 Prospero, 8788, 103 Pyrlaeus, Johann Christoph, 115 Pythagoras, 70, 92, 99, 148 Radical ecology, 3 Raimbaut dOrange, 40 Raine, Kathleen, 103, 119

Raleigh, Sir Walter, 118 Ramsay, Andrew Michael, 84 Reading, 4 Reuchlin, Johannes, 5253 Revelation, Book of, 17, 2326, 59, 73, 74, 108, 152 Richter, Samuel, 63 Rici, Paulus, 53 Rilke, Rainer Marie, 89, 108 Rimius, Henry, 112 Ripley, George, 56, 64 Roberts, Bernadette, 8 Rosicrucianism, 2, 25, 46, 7176 Rousseau, Jean, 11 Russian literature, 139 Saint Martin, Louis-Claude de, 32, 90, 92, 99 Scholem, Gershom, 19, 47, 50 Schuchard, Marsha Keith, 153 Schwaller de Lubicz, Ren, 102 Science [and the sciences], 6769, 136 Science and objectification, 6 Sefer Yezirah, 4748, 85, 148 Seidel, Christian, 115, 116 Self, 4 Shakespeare, William, 8788, 103, 150, 153 Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, 3940 Solovyov, Vladimir, 102 Sophia [Wisdom], 1415, 51, 69, 94, 109, 110 Southey, Robert, 138 Stellatus, Joseph, 76 Sufism, 9, 43 Synesius, 56 Swedenborg, Emanuel, 79, 90 Talmud, 140 Tao te ching, 140 Tauler, Johannes, 140 Templars, 114115 Thenaud, Jean, 53 Theosophy, 2, 46, 53 Theseus, 26 Tolkien, J.R.R., 120, 152

172

INDEX

Trevor-Roper, Hugh, 82 Troubadours, 3543 Ungrund, 6970 Universalism [esoteric], 6769 Upanishads, 140 Valentinus, 10, 31 Viterbo, Egidio Cardinal, 53 Versluis, Arthur, 10, 104, 111 Warlick, M.E., 88, 106 Washington, George, 101

Weishaupt, Adam, 86 Welling, Georg von, 63, 64, 79 Willermoz, Jean-Baptiste, 84 Williams, Charles, ix, 103, 120, 122123 Williamson, David, 116 Yates, Frances, 75 Yeats, W.B., 89, 103, 111, 137, 148 Zen Buddhism, ix, 2, 9, 10, 55, 156 Zinzendorf, Nicholas, 103, 110, 112113 Zohar, 48, 148 Zosimos, 56

Suggestions for Further Study

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

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