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Spring 2009

Hermeticism: Rise and Fall of an Esoteric System:

Part II
John F. Nash

Abstract day of Venus and the hour of Saturn.”2 The

suitably inscribed trident talisman is shown in
T his is the second part of an article examin-
ing the appearance, early in the Common
Era, of texts believed to contain revelation
Figure 1. Like Agrippa, Paracelsus also in-
vented an alphabet (which he called
the “Alphabet of the Magi”) for engraving an-
from the god Thoth/Hermes/Mercury and gelic names on talismans.
teachings of the ancient Egyptian priesthood. It
explores the evolution of Hermeticism, which Paracelsus regarded magic as an indispensable
has continued to influence the western esoteric ingredient in healing work. Comparing his own
tradition and remains an important pillar of methods to those of the clergy, he asked:
modern esotericism. Part II begins with an ex- “What Divine that is ignorant of magic…can
amination of the applications of Hermeticism heal the sick, or administer any other help to
during the Renaissance and concludes with a him by his faith alone?”3 He was scathing in
discussion of its continued relevance in mod- his criticism of the medical establishment,
ern times. which he regarded as incompetent. As a result,
Paracelsus was continually persecuted by fel-
Applications of Hermeticism low physicians; nevertheless his work had last-
ing influence. He is mentioned by name in the

M arsilio Ficino, Cornelius Agrippa,

Robert Fludd, and Giordano Bruno
approached Hermeticism as a broad, all-
Fama Fraternitatis, the first of the Rosicrucian
Manifestos.4 And among his later admirers was
the German esotericist Jakob Böhme (1575–
encompassing field. But a number of Renais- 1624).
sance scholars focused on specific applica-
tions. One of them was the Austrian nobleman The Italian philosopher Tommaso Campanella
(1568–1639) applied Hermeticism to political
“Paracelsus” (1493–1541), whose full name
was Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bom- theory. Like many other Dominican friars who
bastus Von Hohenheim. 1 A close contempo- dabbled in Hermeticism, 5 he fell afoul of both
rary of Agrippa, Paracelsus applied Hermeti- ecclesiastical and civil authorities. He spent 27
cism to medicine. His parallel interest in al- years in prison for his role in a failed rebellion
chemy will be discussed later. Paracelsus pre- against Spanish oppression in southern Italy.
scribed mineral and herbal remedies, laying However, while incarcerated, he wrote a num-
important groundwork for modern pharmacol-
ogy; but he also devoted much time and energy
to what we would call alternative therapies. He About the Author
created astrological talismans for curing a va-
riety of physical and psychological maladies. John F. Nash, Ph.D., is a long-time esoteric student,
author, and teacher. Two of his books, Quest for the
In The Archidoxes, Paracelsus devoted a whole
Soul and The Soul and Its Destiny, were reviewed
chapter to remedies for impotence, one of in the Winter 2005 issue of the Esoteric Quarterly.
whose causes he believed was witchcraft. To His latest book, Christianity: The One, the Many,
ward of such attacks, the patient should “take a was reviewed in the Fall 2008 issue. Further infor-
piece of horseshoe found in the highway, of mation can be found in the advertisements in this
which let there be made a trident-fork on the issue and at

Copyright © The Esoteric Quarterly, 2009 33

The Esoteric Quarterly

ber of important books. His most famous work, King Louis XIV, eventually assumed the title
City of the Sun, was a utopian vision inspired “Sun-King.”
to some degree both by Plato’s Republic and
Alchemy attracted the attention of many peo-
by the magic city of Adocentyn in the Pica-
6 ple during the Middle Ages, including Albertus
trix. Campanella’s city was designed on Her-
Magnus and his student, Thomas Aquinas,
metic lines. A large, domed temple, atop a cen-
who is believed to have written an alchemical
tral hill, dominated a circular city consisting of
text shortly before his death.9 But alchemy was
seven concentric, tiered rows of buildings. The
neglected during the Florentine revival in favor
temple clearly corresponded to the Sun and the
of magic and astrology. It finally came into its
concentric tiers to the planets. Seven lanterns,
own in the 17th century with the work of
representing the planets, hung in the temple;
Paracelsus, mathematician John Dee, Robert
and elaborate planetary symbols adorned the
Fludd, and many oth-
walls of the buildings.
Christian images were Hermeticism envisioned a uni- ers. Two alchemical
texts were published
not neglected, and verse in which gods, planets, along with the Rosicru-
representations of
the zodiac, and the myriad cian Manifestos in
Christ and the 12
apostles were given lives on Earth form an organic, 1614–1616: Considera-
tion of the More Secret
prominent positions sentient whole. Activity in one Philosophy by Philip à
on the city’s outer
wall.7 The city was part of the universe can affect Gabella, a paraphrase
of a work by Dee, and
ruled on magical all other parts. Celestial bod- the much longer al-
principles by the sun-
ies—and the exalted intelligen- chemical allegory, “The
priest, an autocratic
ces that animate them— Chymical Wedding of
leader who derived
Christian Rosenkreuz”
his power from the influence human activity; but, by German Protestant
great magus, Christ—
in return, humankind can in- theologian Johann
or perhaps from Her-
Valentin Andreae
mes Trismegistus. fluence the celestial powers (1586–1642).10
Following the idealis- and its own destiny through
tic theme, the popula- By the 17th century,
tion was virtuous and magic…In itself ethically neu- Kabbalistic concepts
lived an idyllic life of tral, magic could be used for were being incorpo-
peace and harmony.
Education and medi-
either destructive or construc- rated into alchemy, as
they had been into
cal care were pro- tive ends. Hermeticism a century
vided by magi-priests earlier. Furthermore,
who reported to the sun-priest. the goals of alchemy had broadened. The
transmutation of metals remained of interest,
Over time, Campanella’s utopian vision ex-
but it was viewed primarily as a demonstration
panded from a city to the whole world. He en-
of the spiritualization of matter and the per-
visioned a benevolent, imperial theocracy
sonal transformation of the alchemist. Trans-
backed by Spanish military might and headed
mutation represented the descent and ascent
by the pope, who would function as a latter-
through the concentric spheres that surrounded
day Egyptian pharaoh. He tried unsuccessfully
the Earth—or the Sun, when the Copernican
to interest Pope Urban VIII, who was other-
model finally took hold. A further goal of al-
wise sympathetic to Hermeticism, in his plan.
chemy was to discover the elixir of life.
Undaunted, he moved to France, where a
modified version—based on French instead of Like other Renaissance Hermeticists, Paracel-
Spanish military might—appealed to the pow- sus viewed his alchemical studies and his relig-
erful Cardinal Richelieu.8 Richelieu’s prodigy, ion as parts of a seamless continuum. He af-
firmed that “the foundation of these and other

34 Copyright © The Esoteric Quarterly, 2009

Spring 2009

arts be laid in the holy Scriptures, upon the the presidency of the Royal Society, was
doctrine and faith of Christ.”11 After providing schooled in Paracelsian alchemy. 18
detailed instructions on the process of transmu-
For leading scientists to be interested in al-
tation, he ended with this prayer:
chemy might seem paradoxical today, but we
Whosoever shall find out this secret, and at- must remember that Renaissance science—or
tain to this gift of God, let him praise the “natural philosophy” as it was still called—
most high God, the Father, Son, and Holy coexisted and competed with modern reduc-
Ghost; the Grace of God let him only im- tionist science during the early years of the
plore that he may use the fame of his glory, Royal Society. Indeed, the Society was widely
and the profit of his neighbor. This the regarded as the manifestation of the Rosicru-
merciful God grant to be done, through Je- cian “Invisible College.”19 Within a few dec-
sus Christ his only Son our Lord. Amen. 12 ades the Royal Society became a bastion of
empirical science and resisted pressure to pub-
Paracelsus insisted that alchemical transmuta-
lish Isaac Newton’s papers on alchemy.
tions, like talismanic magic, had to be per-
formed when the Sun, Moon, and planets were
in favorable alignment;13 otherwise the process
Decline and Revival of
could be ineffective or dangerous. Hermeticism
A number of individuals combined careers in
mathematics and science with a profound in-
terest in Hermeticism. One was John Dee
T he decline of Hermeticism had multiple
causes. Pre-Reformation ecclesiastical
attitudes were always mixed. Giovanni Pico
(1527–1608), a respected mathematician who was interrogated by the Inquisition but eventu-
wrote the preface to an English translation of ally received papal support for his work.
Euclid’s Elements and contributed to the the- Tommaso Campanella received a fair hearing
ory of navigation. His mathematics also em- in Rome, but his proposals for a papal utopian
braced concepts of number studied by esoteri- autocracy were rejected. Giordano Bruno was
cists from Pythagoras onward.14 Dee served as executed, and Cornelius Agrippa narrowly es-
astrological adviser to Queen Elizabeth I15 and caped a similar fate.
gained international fame as an alchemist. He The Scientific Revolution obviously chal-
devoted the latter part of his life, assisted by lenged the worldview on which Hermeticism
the unscrupulous Edward Kelley, to communi- was based. However, as we have seen, Bruno
cating with angels. There too, Dee’s “studies in embraced the Copernican model of the solar
number, so successful and factual in what he system; and Renaissance natural philosophy
would think of as the lower spheres…could be and the new empirical science competed for
extended with even more powerful results into influence in the late 17th century. The Enlight-
the supercelestial world.”16 Eventually public enment, which built upon the Scientific Revo-
opinion turned against him, and he died in lution, was a more serious threat, seeking to
poverty. depict Hermeticism—along with traditional
Isaac Newton (1643–1727) held the prestigious Christianity—as superstition. Since that time,
Lucasian chair in mathematics at Cambridge magicians have been ridiculed by the scientific
and wrote the Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia community as much as they have been con-
Mathematica, one of the most influential books demned by the church.
in the history of science. He also translated the By then, Renaissance Hermeticism had already
Emerald Tablet into English and dabbled in suffered a major setback of a different kind.
alchemy, even setting up an alchemical labora- The Swiss classical scholar and philologist,
tory on the grounds of Trinity College. 17 Elias Isaac Casaubon (1559–1614), used emerging
Ashmole (1617–1692), noted antiquarian and methods of textual criticism20 to demonstrate
charter fellow of the Royal Society in London, that the classical Hermetic texts were not
was an astrologer and alchemist. Robert Boyle, nearly so old as previously believed. The vo-
“father” of modern chemistry, who was offered cabulary was relatively modern, and the texts

Copyright © The Esoteric Quarterly, 2009 35

The Esoteric Quarterly

referred to events in the early Christian era. chemy peaked at about the same time. As late
The implication from Casaubon’s findings was as the 1650s, Athanasius Kirchner—a member,
that whoever wrote the texts did not predate no less, of the Society of Jesus, which was
Moses and Plato but postdated Christ! The founded to spearhead the Counter-
“prophecies,” which so fascinated the church Reformation—published his Oedipus Aegyp-
fathers were not prophecies at all; they were tiacus containing numerous references to the
written by people familiar with emerging Hermetic literature.23 Kirchner surmised that
Christian doctrine. Academic historians now Egyptian hieroglyphics, which Hermes (the
believe that the texts were written in the first inventor of language) must have designed,
three centuries CE. We also know now that the were sacred talismans. 24 Kirchner was never
title “Trismegistus” was itself comparatively persecuted by the Roman church, but he was
modern.21 nearly killed by an advancing army of Protes-
tants for whom Jesuits
The realization that
the Pseudo-Hermes
Reductionist science challenged were anathema.
was not the “Gen- notions of universal, organic in- Individual Protestants
tile Prophet” of terconnectedness. And Enlight- took an interest in Her-
times destroyed any enment rationalism branded the meticism, ignoring
negative attitudes to
expectation that the Hermetic teachings as medieval magic on the part of
Hermetic teachings superstition. Hermeticism was ecclesiastical authori-
might have some- ties. For example, Ja-
thing valuable to forced onto the defensive, but it kob Böhme was a Lu-
contribute to Chris- never died out. The teachings theran; and the Rosi-
tianity. It gave or- were preserved in Rosicrucian crucian Manifestos
thodox elements of were published in the
the Counter- and Masonic organizations. Calvinist Rhine Palati-
Reformation am- They also influenced the arts, as nate. Perhaps the very
munition to stifle demystification of
what influence
exemplified by the plays of Protestant beliefs and
Hermeticism still Shakespeare, the music of Mo- practices spurred com-
had in upper eche- zart, the writings of Goethe, and pensatory interest in
lons of the Roman Hermeticism among
church. In a delib- the poetry and art of William those with a hunger for
erate snub to Ren- Blake. mystery.25
aissance Neoplaton-
The longer-term impact of the deteriorating
ism, and Hermeticism to which it had given
environment of the 17th century was to drive
legitimacy, the Council of Trent reaffirmed the
Hermetic studies underground. Whereas Her-
Aristotelianism of Thomas Aquinas as the of-
meticism had long been a topic of open dis-
ficial philosophy of the Catholic Church. The
course, it retreated more and more behind the
Protestant reformers were no more sympa-
closed doors of private salons or occult socie-
thetic. They strongly condemned sacramental
ties. Some of them eventually evolved into
magic—“hocus pocus” summed up popular
Masonic or Rosicrucian lodges.
attitudes to Eucharistic transubstantiation22—
and their condemnations overflowed into other The first reference to Freemasonry, in anything
kinds of magic. like its present form, can be found in the min-
utes of a 1598 meeting in Edinburgh, Scot-
Despite these unfavorable developments, many
land.26 Elias Ashmole, whose role in the Royal
people were unfazed in their interest in Her-
Society has already been mentioned, was in-
meticism. Robert Fludd and Tommaso Cam-
ducted into a Masonic lodge in Warrington,
panella were most productive in the early dec-
England, in 1646.27 Within 100 years, multiple
ades of the 17th century, and the study of al-
branches of Freemasonry operated throughout

36 Copyright © The Esoteric Quarterly, 2009

Spring 2009

Europe and North America and even in Russia. ten in Alexandria, which, by the first century
What level of organized Rosicrucian activity CE, had become a general melting pot of Ro-
existed in the 17th century is less clear. The man, Greek, and Middle Eastern thought.
Manifestos (which called for the reform of
A major Hermetic revival began in 19th-
Christianity and major advances in science,
century France. Alphonse Louis Constant
education, and medicine) were published in
(1810–1875) adopted the title of magus and
1616–1617, shortly after Casaubon’s findings
wrote a number of books and articles on cere-
were published. They attracted widespread
monial magic under the pseudonym Éliphas
attention, inspiring Robert Fludd, Elias Ash-
Lévi. His books disclosed information that had
mole, Thomas Vaughan (who translated the the
previously been discussed only in secret socie-
Fama Fraternitatis into English), and numer-
ties. Lévi acknowledged that the classical texts
ous others. But there is no evidence that a co-
were probably creations of the Alexandrian
hesive “fraternity” ever existed, and regional
school,32 but he affirmed an authentic Her-
groups seem to have been small and short-
metic tradition and seemed to believe that the
lived. 28 Large-scale Rosicrucian organizations
Emerald Tablet was actually the work of Her-
date from the mid-19th century.
mes. One of Lévi’s lifelong ambitions was to
see a rapprochement between magic and Chris-
Continued Relevance
tianity, as had been attempted during the Ren-

D iehard believers still hold onto a shred of

hope that there was a real Hermes Tris-
megistus and that the Hermetic texts are au-
Another Frenchman, the Marquis Saint-Yves
d’Alveydre (1842–1909), made an interesting
thentic. One of many 20th-century Hermetic
contribution with his creation of the “archeom-
works describes Hermes as “father of Occult
eter.”33 The device, which may have been in-
Wisdom; the founder of Astrology; the discov-
spired by a passage in the early Kabbalistic
erer of Alchemy.”29 In the influential
text, the Sefer Yetzirah,34 consisted of a disc
work, The Secret Teachings of All Ages, Manly
inscribed by correspondences between num-
Palmer Hall (1901–1990) speaks of Hermes as
bers, letters, colors, musical notes, signs of the
being a real god-man. 30
zodiac, and planets (Figure 2). D’Alveydre
Regardless of when the Hermetic texts were claimed that it provided the key to understand-
written, they may contain traces of ancient ing all ancient science and religion. Reportedly
Egyptian, Chaldean and Persian religion. 31 It is he obtained a patent for the device in 1903.
not out of the question that an oral tradition
The Hermetic Society of the Golden Dawn was
preserved teachings from earlier times and that
established in London in 1888. Structured
the authors compiled and commented upon
along Masonic lines, with graded initiations,
those teachings. Furthermore, the teachings
its stated mission was to preserve “the body of
may well express elements of a perennial phi-
knowledge known as Hermeticism.” A larger
losophy and/or were inspired by Intelligences
mission was to promote the philosophical,
beyond the human level.
spiritual, and psychic evolution of humanity. 35
In any event, the Hermetic texts’ intrinsic va- Drama and rituals were performed resembling
lidity has to be evaluated separately from their ancient mystery rites,36 and a broad range of
authenticity; and the teachings have obvious esoteric topics were studied, including magic,
merit. The philosophical mindset of the Her- astrology, and the Kabbalah. Although mem-
metic teachings was a combination of Platon- bers of the Golden Dawn drew upon relevant
ism, Stoicism, Gnosticism, and Neoplatonism; Hebrew texts,37 their Kabbalistic teachings
this last emerged in the third century with the were strongly influenced by Hermeticism. The
work of Ammonius Saccas, Plotinus, Por- Society’s work was protected by initiatory
phyry, and Iamblichus. The teachings them- oaths, but publications by individual members
selves were representative of the esoteric cul- soon brought the teachings to a wide reader-
tures of Egypt, Mesopotamia, and other parts ship. The Golden Dawn’s influence on modern
of the region. Most likely the texts were writ- western esotericism was immense. 38

Copyright © The Esoteric Quarterly, 2009 37

The Esoteric Quarterly

Modern Rosicrucian organizations include in the Hebrew alphabet.43 Soon thereafter,

Hermetic teachings in their study curricula. Tarot cards began to be used for divination,
Alchemy also continues to command interest. meditation, and esoteric study. A century later,
Despite John Dee’s contention that alchemy the Tarot became the subject of intense study
would become almost impossible after his by Éliphas Lévi and other French occultists.
time, on account of humanity’s increasing Lévi claimed that:
“barbarism,” several individuals are reputed to
A prisoner devoid of books, had he only
have achieved the transmutation of metals.39
a Tarot of which he knew how to make
Alchemy has also interested Jungian psycholo-
use, could in a few years acquire a uni-
gists who see in its imagery archetypes from
versal science, and converse with an un-
the collective unconscious.40 Emphasis on the
equalled doctrine and inexhaustible elo-
symbolism of alchemy is now so strong that
quence. 44
the transformative aspects—transformation of
the alchemist as well as the tinctures in their At about the same time, the Tarot entered the
retorts—are often overlooked. repertory of the Society of the Golden Dawn;
and, in due course, it spread to other western
Hermeticism and the Tarot esoteric bodies.

A n important expression of Hermeticism,

which remains popular today, is the
Tarot. The word “Tarot” is French, but it is
The Tarot reveals obvious Hermetic influence
and seems to have a direct link with Renais-
sance Hermeticism. Tarot cards are talismans,
derived from the plural Italian word tarocci albeit now serving purposes other than magic.
(possibly “trumps” or “triumphs”), believed to Whether a separate link can be established
refer to a card game. with Egyptian Hermetism is less clear. Never-
theless, Golden Dawn initiate Aleister Crowley
While there is some evidence that the Tarot
referred to the Tarot as the “Book of Thoth.”45
was known in early medieval Europe and the
And the artwork in the popular Waite-Smith
Middle East, the oldest extant Tarot deck dates
deck46 has an Egyptian flavor that calls to mind
from about 1460. The hand-painted deck was
the mythical setting of classical Hermetic
commissioned by Duke Filippo Maria Visconti
of Milan and his successor Francesco Sforza.41
The 74 unnamed, but recognizable, cards were Concluding Remarks
divided into two sections resembling the Major
and Minor Arcana familiar today.42 From the
same period, a set of 50 woodcuts is attributed
to Andreas Mantegna, painter and printmaker
H ermeticism has had an enormous influ-
ence on the western esoteric tradition.
Even though the classical Hermetic texts
in Padua. Some of Mantegna’s “cards” have turned out to be more recent than originally
captions like “The Emperor” and “Justice,” believed and cannot be traced to the god-man
which appear in the modern Tarot; but they Hermes, their powerful message has resonated
also include “Poetry,” “Jupiter,” and “Chief with seekers for nearly two millennia. Regard-
Agent.” Mantegna and the unknown creator of less of their origins, the Hermetic teachings
the Visconti-Sforza deck were contemporaries speak for themselves.
of Giovanni Pico and doubtless knew of his
Classical Hermetism and the later Hermeticism
and Marsilio Ficino’s interest in Hermeticism. envisioned a universe in which gods, planets,
The artwork of the Visconti-Sforza deck (Fig- the zodiac, and the myriad lives on Earth form
ure 3) is of a high order and recalls the classi-
an organic, sentient whole. Activity in one part
cal themes of Ficino’s talismans. of the universe can affect all other parts. Celes-
The French Freemason Antoine Court de Gé- tial bodies—and the exalted intelligences that
belin (c.1719–1784) recognized ancient sym- animate them—influence human activity; but,
bols in the Tarot and concluded that they were in return, humankind can influence the celes-
of Egyptian origin. He also suggested that the tial powers and its own destiny through magic.
Major Arcana could be correlated with letters Hermetic magic was a broad field that in-

38 Copyright © The Esoteric Quarterly, 2009

Spring 2009

volved the use of minerals, herbs, perfumes, cian. To be sure, we are dismayed by some
color, talismanic images, spoken or chanted aspects of Renaissance magic—as much as we
invocations, and many other artifacts. In itself are repelled by the crude sorcery, prevalent in
ethically neutral, magic could be used for ei- prehistory and continuing today, that Hermetic
ther destructive or constructive ends. Human- ideals never touched. However, we have op-
ity had divine potential, and to become a ma- portunities to develop new attitudes to magic;
gus was within the reach of anyone willing to and, in that regard, much depends on perspec-
invest the necessary time and resources and to tive. What, from below, might seem like a fu-
attain the required moral perfection. tile attempt to defy inviolable laws of nature is
seen from above as the use of higher mind—
Hermeticism, and the Kabbalah with which it
Nous, Mens, or Manas—to manipulate subtle
overlapped in western esotericism, were em-
energy within a framework of more compre-
braced by leading Christians. Scholars, magi-
hensive laws. We are reminded that the initia-
cians, priests, and even some popes saw no
tory path demands mastery of magic as an in-
conflict with their faith; in fact, they envi-
strument of service and the means to build a
sioned ways in which Hermeticism could en-
new world order for the Aquarian Age.
rich Christianity or serve as a basis for needed
reform. Christ and many of the saints were
viewed as powerful magi, and Hermetic practi-
tioners saw themselves as legitimate succes- 1
The name “Paracelsus” meant “comparable to
sors. More orthodox Christians felt threatened Celsus,” the latter being the famous Roman
to the point that they felt compelled to oppose physician whose work dominated western
Hermeticism by any means at their disposal, medicine until the 16th century.
including the torture and execution of those Paracelsus, “Celestial Medicines,” The Archi-
involved. doxis, treatise II, chap. 1, trans. R. Turner
(Paris: Ibis Press, 1656/1975), 114. Quote tran-
Reductionist science challenged notions of scribed into modern American English.
universal, organic interconnectedness. And 3
Paracelsus, “Of Occult Philosophy,” The Archi-
Enlightenment rationalism branded the Her- doxis, treatise II, chap. 1, 81-82. Quote tran-
metic teachings as medieval superstition. Her- scribed into modern American English.
meticism was forced onto the defensive, but it Fama Fraternitatis, 1614. See the discussion in
never died out. The teachings were preserved Frances Yates, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment
in Rosicrucian and Masonic organizations. (London: Routledge, 1972), 61, 301.
They also influenced the arts, as exemplified Considering the number of Dominicans who
engaged in Hermeticism, it is ironical that the
by the plays of Shakespeare,47 the music of
Order played so prominent a role in the Inquisi-
Mozart,48 the writings of Goethe, 49 and the po- tion that persecuted them.
etry and art of William Blake. 50 Hermeticism 6
Frances A. Yates, Giordano Bruno and the
finally enjoyed a major revival in the late 19th Hermetic Tradition (New York: Vintage Books,
century, and it survives today as a major com- 1964), 370. In the Hermetic view, Plato’s uto-
ponent of modern esotericism. Numerous pian dream was perfectly understandable since
books on magic, alchemy, and mundane and he had derived his wisdom from Hermes.
esoteric astrology continue to be published for 8
readers at every level of understanding. Ibid., 376, 384-392.
Thomas Aquinas (attributed to), Aurora Con-
In this post-modern age, when trust in rational- surgens, ed. Marie-Louise von Franz (Toronto:
ism and scientific reductionism is eroding, Inner City Books, 2000).
people are attracted to a worldview that honors The primary manifestos were the Fama Frater-
belief in a live, sentient, integrated cosmos. nitatis and the Confessio Fraternitatis. The
Travel through the “spheres,” planes, or how- mythical Christian Rosencreutz, mentioned in
ever else we choose to represent levels of real- the Chymical Wedding, was viewed as a magus
in the Hermetic tradition.
ity, remains a goal of every mystic. Corre- 11
Paracelsus, Prologue to “Of Occult Philoso-
spondingly, the invocation of power from phy,” treatise II, chap. 1, 30. Quote transcribed
higher spheres is the goal of every white magi- into modern American English.

Copyright © The Esoteric Quarterly, 2009 39

The Esoteric Quarterly

Paracelsus, “Secrets of Alchymy,” treatise II, organizations was severely limited during the
chap. 8, 28. Quote transcribed into modern Thirty Years War and the witch-hunts that fol-
American English. lowed. By the end of the 17th century, “Rosi-
Paracelsus, “An Election of Time to be Ob- crucian” had acquired a pejorative sense.
served in the Transmutation of Metals,” The Ar- The Kybalion (Chicago: Yogi Publication Soci-
chidoxis, treatise II, chap. 1, 159-160. ety, 1908/1912), 17. Authorship of The Ky-
Dee’s preface to Euclid began with an invoca- balion was attributed to “three initiates.”
tion to “Divine Plato.” See Frances A. Yates, Manly Palmer Hall, The Secret Teachings of All
The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age Ages: An Encyclopedic Outline of Masonic,
(New York: Routledge, 1979), 94. Plato had Hermetic, Qabbalistic and Rosicrucian Sym-
been the primary expositor of Pythagoras’ the- bolical Philosophy (Los Angeles: Philosophical
ory of number. Research Society, 1928). The book was pub-
Dee may have served as the model for the ma- lished when the author was only 27 years old.
gus Prospero in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Salaman et al., The Way of Hermes, 84.
16 32
Yates, The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabe- The History of Magic, trans. A. E. Waite (San
than Age, 96. Francisco: Weiser, 1913), 79-80.
17 33
Skeptical colleagues dismissed his interest as a The archeometer is mentioned in correspon-
symptom of encroaching dementia. dence between d’Alveydre and Papus (Gérard
Boyle declined the presidency of the Royal So- Encausse). See the latter’s The Qabalah (San
ciety because of reluctance to swear an oath. Francisco: Weiser, 1892/1977), 28-35. Figure 2
Yates, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment, 248. is reproduced from
The Rosicrucian Manifestos promised that the
Invisible College would teach “without books M.GB/Alveydre/Archeometre.html (accessed
or marks all the languages of the world…and December 24, 2008).
draw man from error.” Sefer Yetzirah (short version), 2:2-6, trans. A.
The methods he used came to be called “higher Kaplan (San Francisco: Weiser, 1997), 262-263.
criticism” and were applied to scripture, outrag- Israel Regardie, The Golden Dawn (Woodbury,
ing religious conservatives. MN: Llewellyn Publications, 1940/1971).
21 36
The name appeared on an inscription on the Mary K. Greer, Women of the Golden Dawn
second-century BCE Ibis shrine at Sakkara, (Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 1995). See
Egypt. See Clement Salaman, Dorine van Ovin, also W. Wynn Westcott, “Historic Lecture”
and William D. Wharton, The Way of Hermes (London: Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn).
(Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 2000), 80. On the other hand, a major source was Kabbala
The term was a contemptuous parody of the Denudata (“Kabbalah Unveiled”) by the 17th-
words of consecration: Hoc est enim corpus century Christian Kabbalist, Knorr von Rosen-
meum. roth.
23 38
The three-volume work was published in Rome The original Society of the Golden Dawn did
in 1652–1654. not last long into the 20th century, but deriva-
That notion seems less fantastic when we recall tive organizations still operate on both sides of
that the medieval Kabbalists believed that the the Atlantic, including the Builders of the Ady-
Hebrew alphabet was of sacred origin. tum.
25 39
Tobias Churton, The Magus of Freemasonry They include the Count of Sainte-Germain
(Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 2004), 136. (1710–1784?), Jean Julien Fulcanelli (1877–
Charles W. Leadbeater, Glimpses of Masonic 1932), and R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz (1887–
History (Adyar, India: Theosophical Publishing 1961). For a discussion on famous alchemists
House, 1926), 243. throughout history see Kenneth R. Johnson, The
Churton, The Magus of Freemasonry, 92-117. Fulcanelli Phenomenon (London: Neville
Churton depicts the Craft, in the 17th century, Spearman, 1980), 25. Also: Jacques Sadoul, Al-
as being in transition from operative (guild) ma- chemists and Gold (London: Neville Spearman,
sonry to modern speculative Freemasonry. 1970), 59-187.
28 40
For a discussion of the Rosicrucian movement, See, for example, Carl G. Jung, Psychology and
see Yates, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment. The Alchemy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University
Brotherhood of the Rose Cross was so secret Press, 1953); Mysterium Coniunctionis (Prince-
there are doubts that it ever existed except in ton University Press, 1977); Alchemical Studies
concept. The growth of imitative Rosicrucian (Princeton University Press, 1983). Also,

40 Copyright © The Esoteric Quarterly, 2009

Spring 2009

Marie-Louise Von Franz, Alchemy: An Intro- signed by Arthur Waite and Pamela Coleman
duction to the Symbolism and the Psychology Smith, both members of the Golden Dawn.
(Toronto: Inner City Books, 1981). Yates, The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabe-
A reproduction is available from Lo Scarabeo, than Age, 148-192.
Torino, Italy. Jacques Henry, Mozart the Freemason (Roches-
The Visconti-Sforza deck must have contained ter, VT: Inner Traditions, 1991). Mozart’s The
at least 76 cards because two of the missing Magic Flute, published in 1791, is replete with
ones left obvious gaps in the minor arcana. occult symbolism.
Missing from the major arcana are The Devil Matthew M. Ryder, “Goethe, Lessing and
and The Tower. Schiller: German Dramatists, Freemasons, Poets
Antoine Court de Gébelin, The Primitive World, and Romanticists,” http://www.freemasons-
Analyzed and Compared to the Modern World, (accessed September 15,
vol. viii (Paris, 1781). 2008).
44 50
Éliphas Lévi, The Mysteries of Magic (London: Désirée Hirst, Hidden Riches: Traditional Sym-
Kegan, 1897), 285. bolism from the Renaissance to Blake (London:
Aleister Crowley, The Book of Thoth: Egyptian Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1964).
Tarot (San Francisco: Weiser 1944/1969).
The deck is often referred to as the “Rider
Deck,” after its publisher. The deck was de-

Copyright © The Esoteric Quarterly, 2009 41

The Esoteric Quarterly

Figure 1. Talismanic Image for Combating Assaults on Potency

(after Paracelsus)

Figure 2. Saint-Yves d'Alveydre’s Archeometer

42 Copyright © The Esoteric Quarterly, 2009

The Esoteric Quarterly

Figure 3. Two Cards from the Visconti-Sforza Tarot Deck

(with modern names)

The Hermit The Star

42 Copyright © The Esoteric Quarterly, 2009