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Metaphor in Western Esotericism


Are high Alchemy & all esoteric systems about no-free-will?. 1

Western Esotericism based on entheogen experience of no-free-will/no-separate-self 6

Western Esotericism general information. 8

Western Esotericism, Amanita Grail/esotericism as a threat to the Church. 12

Western Esotericism: A Real Mixed Bag. 13

Inefficiency in esotericism.. 14

Esoteric metaphorical symbolism: silly or ergonomic?. 14

Inactivated esotericism, activated esotericism, entheogens as activator 16

Secret message for witches. 19

Occult hermetic sciences: magic, astrology, alchemy. 19

Plotinus, Neoplatonism, and Hermeticism.. 20

Plato cave, Virtue, make king, divine rescue, falling into a well, secret king. 20

Kabbalah discussion group. 23

Book list: History of Magic.  Esotericism book overviews. 24


Are high Alchemy & all esoteric systems about no-free-will?

Esotericism in general is a more or less efficient expression and embodiment of entheogen determinism philosophy-religion -- often heavily encoded, indirect, roundabout, obscured; whereas it's time for a clear explanation of the encoding, with a direct, straightforward, non-metaphorical presentation of the core ideas.

Most religious-philosophical esoteric systems are dark, distorted, obscured expressions of entheogen determinism, now at last explicitly systematized ergonomically.  Alchemy, for example, obscures as much as revealing -- but underneath it all is entheogen determinism.

I'm now pleased with the full presence of "trans-determinism divine transcendent" ideas (moving from freewill to determinism to trans-determinism); this movement is certainly present in some leading religious systems. 

At the moment my main problem is that some religious-esoteric-philosophical systems, from what I've read so far, don't clearly predominantly plug into the timeless-determinism or "transcendence of block-universe determinism" model. 

Alchemy is clearly about purification and transformation of the psyche, and includes concepts of danger, protection, and levels of purification, but is this purification definitely centered on repudiation of freewill thinking, in alchemy?  What exactly, on the surface or underneath at core, is the nature of the "purification and transformation of the psyche" in alchemy?  More study of esoteric systems is needed to find how densely present are such hooks into the entheogen determinism explanatory framework. 

I expect to easily find *some* hooks for a determinism-centered conception of alchemy, but are there enough hooks to *generalize* that alchemy's "real meaning" is centered around the experience of frozen-time block-universe determinism? 

Astrological ascent through the sphere of the fixed stars clearly hooks into the determinism model of religion easily well enough to generalize, saying that the real, ultimate meaning of astrological ascent is the encounter with frozen-time cosmic determinism.  Does alchemy, magic, or gematria have such clear central concern with determinism?  What are the other leading esoteric systems, and what is the evidence that *they* are *centrally* concerned with frozen-time cosmic determinism?

I have a perfect track record of identifying dense allusions to entheogens and determinism in myth-religion-philosophy so far; as soon as I've thought to look for confirmation, I've easily found it; the interpretive framework I've pulled together has proven to *work* as an explanatory system for identifying the real concern of myth-religion.  So I have strong reason to expect further confirmation of the entheogen determinism theory of esotericism-myth-philosophy-religion -- confirmation of the entheogen determinism theory of the perennial philosophy.

Given that the perennial philosophy is actually centrally concerned with entheogen determinism, it follows that to the extent that any particular esoteric system is authentic, authentically embodying the perennial philosophy, that esoteric system must by definition be actually centrally concerned with entheogen determinism.  Perennial philosophy is entheogen determinism is the authentic version of any esoteric system. 

This implies that alchemy either has a version that is centrally concerned with entheogen determinism, or else all versions of alchemy are inauthentic, posing as expression of the perennial philosophy, but falling short of being an authentic expression of the perennial philosophy.  This standard of judgement connects with my distinction between "what the sages meant" vs. "what the sages meant to mean, and ought to have meant". 

Versions of esotericism are authentic *to the extent* that they express the perennial philosophy, which is none other than entheogen determinism.  The question of "is Alchemy centrally about entheogen determinism" is essentially the question, "Is Alchemy substantially authentic, or not?" 

Like today's entheogen scholarship, which is completely weak in terms of philosophy and metaphysics, Alchemy may amount to nothing but introductory level: "take entheogens, try to purify the mind to some extent" -- but never reaching gold perfection, of encountering and grappling with frozen-time cosmic determinism.  Talk of reaching gold perfection of the psyche, without concern with timeless determinism and no-free-will, is empty talk, unable to deliver on its general stated goal. 

*Have* the most advanced alchemists reached the gold state of experientially realizing no-free-will?  If not, Alchemy as practiced has been inauthentic and ineffective, which wouldn't be surprising.

A main issue is, did people actually do a single system of esoteric initiation *as an isolated system*, or were all high Alchemists also high Astrologers and high Magicians?

Has all Alchemy as practiced, been restricted to merely low (vulgar, introductory, Literalist) Alchemy, and at best, tepid mid-level Alchemy that knows a bit about entheogens, but little about no-free-will?  Has Alchemy *often* delivered on its claim to provide high esotericism, which is the skilled repeated use of visionary plants to fully realize no-free-will?  Is this concern with no-free-will well-represented in the metaphors constituting the outer, esoteric shell and clothing of Alchemy?

In general, premodern thinking (such as Alchemy) was strong in its use of the mystic altered state, but weak at conceptual systematization of the experiential insights thus encountered.  Esoteric systems such as Alchemy were not intended as modern-type direct, explicit systematizations of the perennial philosophy.  Rather, such systems were fully oriented around the experiences.

To have the most profound experience, one needs the most developed theory; and to have the most developed theory, one needs the most profound experience.  Falling short on one half certainly restricts the other half -- there can be no talk of "forget theory, experience is important" or "forget experience, theoretical systematization is important".  Both halves are fully important, and each must be seriously developed to the fullest.

Premoderns had the experiences and observations and experiential insights, but poor explicit systematization; they basically relied entirely on the mystic altered state itself, and only relied on conceptual systematization in the indirect form of myth, the only kind of exception being Plotinus.  The modern approach usually errs toward attempting to rely far too much on explicit systematization alone, with far too little use of the mystic altered state. 

But potentially, the modern approach can be repaired, so that a full, serious, skilled use of the mystic altered state can occur, together with a full, serious, direct and clear systematization of perennial philosophy, with both experience and theory integrated.

The chapter "Spiritual Alchemy" by Karen-Claire Voss, in the book Gnosis and Hermeticism, offers ample hooks for the timeless-determinism centered model of religion and perennial philosophy. 

Voss's *main core* characterization of Alchemy is in terms of a change of experience and conception -- exactly matching my emphasis on the two halves, of experience and theory (which I combine as 'experiential insight') -- regarding "causality, time, and self-other relationship", a list which is closely like my list of what factors are systemically revised during enlightenment: the mental worldmodel regarding time, will, self, control, and world; and basically matching my construct of discovering "no-free-will/no-separate-self". 

Voss' core thesis amounts to saying that enlightenment in Alchemy is "a revision of conception and experience regarding one's own personal causal agency in time", which is similar to my portrayal of the perennial philosophy and all authentic embodiments of it as being centrally concerned with the encounter with determinism.

The chapter presents the "king" theme (I hold that in myth, 'king' means initiate; that is, egoic will-controlling personal agency) and mentions the idea that *God* chooses and wills to whom the alchemical knowledge is revealed -- implying no-free-will, or strong predominance of the transcendent or the ground of being over the individual power-wielding willing agent.

Gnosis and Hermeticism from Antiquity to Modern Times

R. Van Den Broek (Editor), Wouter Hanegraaff (Editor)



The Gnosis issue on Alchemy had much less hooks for the timeless determinism model of esotericism.  The issue, as certainly expected, contains lots of hooks for the entheogen theory of the perennial philosophy, and for the alchemical path as a series of mind-changing altered-state experiencing sessions.  Those are the easy areas -- finding determinism tie-ins is the relatively hard part in applying the entheogen determinism theory to Alchemy, but Voss came through almost ideally -- though without a paragraph focusing on the will in particular. 

Voss' other writings may contain more information about the specifics of the "changes in the conception and experience of causality, the self-other relationship, and time" in Alchemy, that may even more directly tie into the entheogen determinism model of the perennial philosophy. 

I wonder if Voss writes from an entheogen-informed background: that would lend authority in certain respects, but would also raise the question of whether Voss' core characterization of Alchemy comes from study of Alchemy, or was imported from the general entheogen theory of religion/perennial tradition.



Voss apparently contributed to chapter 1 of:

Modern Esoteric Spirituality

Antoine Faivre (Editor), Jacob Needleman (Editor), Karen Voss (Editor)



Sample pages available.  Zosimos writes of the book: "essays on: ancient and medieval esotericism and mysticism, Kabbalah in the Renaissance, Paracelsus, Rosicrucianism, Jacob Boehme, Freemasonry, nineteenth century esoteric movements, Rudolph Steiner, Theosophy, Rene Guenon and Traditionalism, G. I. Gurdjieff, and C. G. Jung. A continuous link is established from Pythagoreanism, hermeticism, NeoPlatonism, and Gnosticism through the Middle Ages to the great mystics of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and on into the modern era. Nearly every ancient and medieval mystic in these three major religions is discussed. Alchemy and natural science arose from these ancient traditions and philosophies with a Romantic twist. From the Jewish tradition of Kabbalism came the many hermetic Renaissance movements, for at one time the Kabbalah was considered a forerunner of Christianity revealing the Trinity. The German physician, Paracelsus, provided inspiration for the German theosophist, Jacob Boehme and many other later followers of both. The movements of Rosicrucianism, arising from the publication of a document alleging the existence of a secret society by a Lutheran minister, and Freemasonry, which adapted from its origins in medieval guilds to its modern form based on Enlightenment philosophy, are thoroughly discussed in separate essays."

Here is Voss' article I discussed:

Spiritual Alchemy: Interpreting Representative Texts and Images



"...a description of three characteristics that permit us to distinguish these two types of alchemy (i.e., the experience and concept of the subject/object relation; causality; and time) and second, a summary of changes that took place in an alchemist’s conceptual model as the work progressed. [16] For the sake of clarity and brevity, each of the three characteristics has been more or less artificially separated from the other two, although in fact of course each is related to the others in exceedingly complex ways.

Here are the three characteristics:

1. Subject/object relation.  Both types of alchemy exhibit a characteristic experience and concept of the subject/object relation.  In material alchemy one conceives reality as an object completely removed from oneself, outside oneself; hence, what we call the self is the subject, what we call the world is the object, and the boundary between subject and object is static, fixed.  In spiritual alchemy, however, one finds reality to be a living system in which one participates, to which one contributes, and in which the boundaries between subject and object are fluid.    

2.  Causality.  Both types of alchemy exhibit a characteristic experience and concept of causality.  Material alchemy is characterized by what one can call substance or mechanistic causality.  This is the kind of causality associated with a "means/ends" approach to reality, one that holds that reality is comprised of only one level and that all of its elements can be manipulated as one manipulates a machine--for example, a lawn mower. Spiritual alchemy, however, is characterized by what one can call process causality, the kind that Giordano Bruno had in mind when writing about the "inner artificer". [17]   At the level of conceptualization, the operative causality in spiritual alchemy is understood to possess an infinite number of gradations of the movement from potency to act, which can be modeled (albeit inadequately) [18] as a spectrum marked at one end by absolute potentialization and at the other by absolute actualization. [19]

3.  Time.  The theme of the acceleration of time in alchemy has been discussed at length by Eliade, and I do not intend to do more than mention it here. [20] The basic idea is that telluric processes that took aeons to accomplish within the earth could be radically accelerated in the alchemical laboratory.  Here I simply wish to call attention to a contrast that can be perceived between the conception of time in material alchemy and in spiritual alchemy.  In material alchemy one generally finds a conventional conception of time as being comprised of three discrete "parts":  past, present, future.  Moreover, time is considered irreversible; it flows in one direction only.  In spiritual alchemy one finds a much more subtle conception of time in which these three discrete parts are only apparently separated from each other.  In spiritual alchemy, time is not experienced as irreversible, but reversible; not only that, but in spiritual alchemy the "movement" of time is not so much a movement as a mode of perception, [21] and thus goes far beyond being something which can be conceived of in linear terms, as having a forward or backward motion that could be modeled as occurring on an imaginary line.

I have described these three characteristics for the sake of completion, but in this paper, most of the emphasis will be on the first two.  

Having outlined these three basic characteristics, I will now give a summary of the changes that took place in the alchemist’s conceptual model during the course of the work.  The conceptual model with which both material and spiritual alchemy began was linear.  The goal of the alchemical process was located at the end of a linear series ...

...the hieros gamos is itself illustrative of the changing conception and experience of the subject/object relation, causality, and time.

... Seeing that the king is worthy of this, Morienus tells him that he has achieved initiation, and agrees to instruct him, emphasizing that nothing can be achieved if it is counter to divine will.  He speaks of how God "chose to select certain ones to seek after the knowledge he had established,"

Michael wrote:

>>>Does alchemy, magic, or gematria have such clear central concern with determinism?  What are the other leading esoteric systems, and what is the evidence that *they* are *centrally* concerned with frozen-time cosmic determinism?

James Jomeara wrote:

>>A few years ago I tumbled across what I modestly consider to be A. Crowley's key slight of hand. 

>>I must confess, with some trepidation, that it's always puzzled me why so many people, some of whom seem very smart (for example, Robert Anton Wilson) seem to find something of value in Crowleyanity.  Frankly, I find his writings pretentious and unreadable, his life obviously that of a fraud.  Unlike his many devotees, I find Colin Wilson's book (not the chapter in The Occult) to be the *most* plausible and positive that could be justified.

>>So one day, while reading something (wish I could remember what; from The Portable Dragon?  Yoga for Yellowbellies?  Magick without Tears?) it suddenly hit me.

>>See, magick "works" only if the magician can contact, and identify himself, with his True Will, or the Holy Guardian Angel, or whatever.  On closer inspection, however, the True Will turns out to be The Will of God.  At which point it should be obvious that if this is done, then magic becomes operative in the trivial sense that what the magickian wants (*now* if not when he began) is what God wants, which is what *is* anyway.  QED.

>>Or, as Voss says of alchemy: "Nothing can be achieved if it is contrary to the divine will."

>>"Magick" is just a convoluted, boring, annoying and time-wasting way to achieve what you *really* want, in the Socratic or Epicurean way, by conforming your will to God's will.

>>Crowley spent his whole life trying to *spook* his fundamentalist parents, who always used the phrase "God willing," by creating a spooky costume concealing (to the extent that there *is* something under the sheet) good old Reformed theology.

>>"Do what thou wilt" = "Thy will be done"

I agree with your assessment.  It's good to see other people recognizing the same patterns and implications; we confirm and build up the interpretation's plausibility, and everyone contributes by adding angles and details.

After seeing these patterns repeatedly across systems of esotericism, we reach the point where we can say that the same hooks are present as a commonality to be found to some extent in every system of esotericism and perennial philosophy.  This is not to say that all esoteric practitioners agree with this systematization or with each other, by any means.  We must have a mechanism and strategy by which we can excuse the diverse disagreements and disparities: all esoteric systems, taken broadly, include fully adequate hooks into a no-free-will systematization of the perennial philosophy. 

All religious, high-philosophy, and esoteric systems expressing the perennial philosophy are more or less concerned with no-free-will.  The ideal version of any system encoding the perennial philosophy is rich with hooks into no-free-will.  Practitioners who disagree that no-free-will is interesting or that it is an essential or the essential concern of a given esoteric system, are held by this theory to be "inauthentic" representatives of the tradition. 

The important thing is that a system is "concerned with" or "concerned around" no-free-will; all legitimate systems take no-free-will as a key problem, though they may or may not set their goal as transcending no-free-will.

The question remains: *why bother* forming an *indirect* expression -- really a *riddle* -- rather than just explicitly delivering the system of enlightenment?  What are the excuses or reasons or justifications for *only* providing the riddle, without providing also the explicit solution to the riddle? 

My systematization and explanation of transcendent knowledge is the entheogen determinism theory of the perennial philosophy.  This theory contains the solution to this class of riddle and metaphorical encoding, but earlier than that, my explanatory system of transcendent knowledge first aimed at clearly formulating the explicit direct systematization of transcendent knowledge.

There is nothing wrong with inventing an allegorical metaphorical encoded riddle-like expression and embodiment of transcendent knowledge, unless you leave out the solution to the riddle and practically nobody is able to figure it out. 

Magic, resurrection-religion, alchemy, and astrology all use the technique of making attractive popular promises: granting magic power, bodily immortality, ability to create gold, and the ability to predict and read-off the future from the stars -- and underneath this popular attraction is the actual product delivered: peak altered-state phenomena and metaphysical enlightenment.

There are perceptible patterns running across all forms of esotericism; the different systems all have the same kind of vibe: they all have tie-ins to no-free-will that aren't obvious at first, and they all have magical thinking on the surface, and they all have some sort of special drinking and eating if you look carefully and consider the various versions of a given esoteric system.  They all have tie-ins to the surrounding religions and to the perennial philosophy -- these systems wouldn't be included in the fairly good magazine Gnosis if they didn't have tie-ins to experiential spirituality.

Consider how ergonomic systems are: the most ergonomic would have popular attraction and metaphors and explanations of the metaphors, and simple, direct, and clear explicit instructions for triggering the mystic altered state of loose cognition that enables comprehending the metaphor and the direct experiential insights. 

The leading practitioners of any one system of esoteric knowledge was often deeply involved in *many* systems of esotericism and religion, though it's unclear how many of the leading practitioners correctly identified the central concern as grappling with no-free-will through a series of entheogenic initiation sessions.  It's certain that some did and it's certain that some didn't. 

Given the fact of lack of uniformity, and the fact of disagreement among practitioners about the key principles, as well as disparities between different metaphorical systems, a theory of what it's really all about must inherently pick some criteria of authenticity, some means of judging what the better and worse conceptions and versions of an esoteric system or religion were. 

Some system of assessing the degree of profundity of any particular version of an esoteric system or religion is needed -- I judge them on the basis of ergonomic usefulness toward experiencing and comprehending no-free-will.

Gnosis issue 43 letter to the editor in Forum, "All About the Watchtower":

>>The angel Ave [said] Man has been "bound by the stars as with a chain."  The universe -- represented by the Four Great Watchtowers in magick -- is our prison, at least until we wake up to Eternal Reality.  [The universe] is bound, by fate, karma, necessity, until... man becomes Man, and becomes the master of himself.

-- Kevin Oliver


Case closed; it is established.  High magic/esotericism/alchemy/astrology are about discovering the experience of block-universe determinism, and in some sense transcending it.  Magic is about will, but the higher transcendent will, not mundane free will.

Inevitable apocalypse, judgement, etc. is the same -- a system of metaphorically describing mystic-state experience, typically via visionary plants.

Western Esotericism based on entheogen experience of no-free-will/no-separate-self

Proposal: Western Esotericism is all concerned first of all with the entheogenic experience of no-free-will/no-separate-self and related experiential insights of the intense mystic altered state.

Below is some generic representative information about the new academic study of Western Esotericism.  I am completely satisfied with my model of the Hellenistic era as being an integrated confluence of high philosophy, mystic experiencing, mythic allusion to mystic-state phenomena, and the intense entheogenic mystic altered state as being the definitive fountainhead and foundation of Hellenistic myth-religion-philosophy. 

A powerful key connector is the standard banqueting tradition, which connects Jewish feasts, Christian agape meals, mystery-religion sacred meals, and philosophical-religious symposiums -- all based on 'wine', meaning a highly potent visionary plant beverage. 

My research trajectory was:

Try to recognize the cybernetic theory of ego transcendence in Christian myth-religion;

To do that, try to identify themes of entheogens in conjunction with no-free-will in the New Testament;

To do that, study the following themes (one led to another):

o  Hellenistic mystery religions as being based on experiencing and transcending no-free-will/cosmic determinism through entheogenic sacred meals;

o  Hellenistic-era sacred meals;

o  Hellenistic philosophy and Jewish scripture and Hellenistic myth all as based on allusions to entheogens and no-free-will;

o  World religion and world mythology as alluding to the no-free-will experience through entheogens;

o  All premodern (classic and medieval) myth-religion as alluding to the no-free-will experience through entheogens.

This radically increased scope of what used to be called merely "the entheogen theory of the origin of Christianity", or "Did the original inner circle of Jesus use hallucinogenic mushrooms?" (as the benighted put it) now raises the question:

Can Clark Heinrich's Amanita interpretation of Alchemy apply to the entirety of Western Esoteric traditions?  Were they all essentially based on entheogens and on indirect, metaphorical description of the phenomena of the intense mystic altered state, including ego death and resetting, the experience of no-free-will and the resumption of practical personal control after its breakdown, the experience of timelessness/frozen time, and the experience of no-free-will/no-separate-self? 

Death and rebirth are definitely present in Freemasonry, while revitalization and elevation of personal kingship/controllership is present in Alchemy. 

Those schools alone, combined with my complete success at recognizing entheogens and such mystic-state phenomena throughout Hellenistic/Jewish/Christian culture from Alexander to Constantine and the Church Fathers, combined with Dan Merkur's revealing of entheogens in Philo and Bernard and other leading mystics, make this fantastic wild conjecture actually stand a very strong chance of being right, of identifying the essence of Western Esotericsm as the use of entheogens to loosen cognition and experience no-free-will/no-separate-self.

Other evidence making this thesis plausible is provided by Mexican retablo paintings (Catholic icons from an entheogen-based culture), per the Datura-Lily article in Entheos #2.

In short, the real nature of the Perennial Philosophy is the use of visionary plants to induce the experience of no-free-will/no-separate-self and related experiential insights of the intense mystic altered state.  Official Theology is based on Mystic Theology, which is an elaborate quasi-rational systematization of the experiences of the intense entheogenic mystic altered state, even if entheogens are largely suppressed, leaving a floating husk devoid of the intense experiencing that inspired it. 

That would be like a Heavy Rock band that creates a series of Acid Rock albums, including the standard lyric techniques of allusion, without being aware of the effects of acid.  Or like a debased Attic tragedy play that "has nothing to do with Dionysus". 

Similarly, Esotericism is the use of elaborate symbolic systems to embody and convey the principles of the Perennial Philosophy -- these elaborate symbolic systems "come from" the experiences and experiential insights of the entheogenic intense mystic altered state, but due to the nature of rational systematization, the husk of the elaborate system remains visible and present even where the entheogenic altered state is forgotten -- that is how esotericism has often remained in place even bereft of the whole point and inspiration of it all, actual use of visionary plants to activate and ignite and bring to life the elaborate dead husk of quasi-rational systematization.

Scholars agree that the Western esoteric systems generally hearken back to ancient wisdom traditions -- which I have recently revealed as all being essentially, originally, basically, and classically entheogen-inspired systematizations of mystic-state phenomena.

In ancient, medieval, or modern times, where the esoteric system was in place without the actual use of visionary plants, that may have often happened, but that doesn't disprove the entheogen theory -- it bolsters it, because such a state ought to be considered merely a debased, superficial, cargo-cult, and truly superstitious travesty of the actual authentic esoteric systems.

The best of the esotericists, mystics, and Philosophers agree with this view, and those people are the *best*, whether or not they are the *most* (percentage of the population of practitioners).  The fact that much esotericism lacked the use of entheogens merely confirms the accepted idea that much esotericism is bogus and superstitious.  There are 3 levels of understanding of esotericism or esoteric systems, in general:

1. Literalism, lacking entheogens

2. Allegorism, lacking entheogens (replaced by "visualization/meditation/contemplation")

3. Allegorism, having entheogens

Jungian Psychology is level 2, equivalent to what I've called "mid-level religion", along with popular Western Buddhist meditation and common "esoteric Christianity".  Although most people might use the most debased reading of esoteric systems (#1) or an only half-correct (allegorical but merely ordinary-state) reading (#2), interpretation or understanding #3 still remains the real deal, the only really essentially correct reading. 

Even if all the individuals who read using filter #3 are eliminated, filter #3 remains the correct reading -- even if no one remains to vote for and advocate and affirm that #3 is the ultimate correct reading.  I'd almost say that #3 is the ultimately correct interpretation even if no one ever believed it -- thus I repudiate the reader-response theory of hermeneutics.

Scholars mistakenly assume that half of people read esoteric systems using the "superstitious" filter #1 and half of people read esoteric systems using the "metaphorical/symbolic" filter #2, with practically none using the "entheogenic-descriptive" filter #3.  Typical scholars treat filter #3 as incidental rather than central and ultimate.

A conservative Christian bookstore supplies worldview #1, or level of understanding #1.

A New Age (http://www.eastwestbooks.com) or Metaphysical bookstore (http://www.questbooks.net/categories.cfm) supplies worldview #2, or level of understanding #2.

Drugwar.com (http://www.drugwar.com/psychedelicbooks.htm) supplies worldview #3, or level of understanding #3.  Worldview #3 used to be mainly serviced by Mind Books, now defunct (http://www.egodeath.com/mindbooks/TITLS.HTM).

One thing Huston Smith can be praised for is that his book on entheogens in religion is found in the Christianity section of bookstores.  If his book told the full truth -- that entheogens are more authentic and classic than official mysticism -- the book wouldn't been permitted in the Christianity section. 

He's been a strong advocate of entheogens, as strong as possible while continuing to tell the lie that non-entheogenic contemplation is the original paradigm and entheogenic "pseudo-mysticism" the mere also-ran.

Western Esotericism general information

Resources for the general study (not specifically entheogenic) of Western Esotericism:

http://www.google.com/search?q=%22western+esotericism%22 - 1550 hits

http://www.google.com/search?q=%22western+esoterism%22 - 62 hits

http://www.google.com/search?q=%22western+esotericism%22+%22religious+experience%22 - 106 hits, little value.

http://www.kheper.net/topics/Hermeticism/Hermeticism.htm -- "Defining Hermeticism is not easy. It is a little like trying to define religion, or art. One could say that Hermeticism is the Wisdom Tradition of the West, an esoteric tradition not necessarily limited to any one religion or mystical path, and that embraces both the theoretical and the practical. The following are two overlapping yet quite different approaches to and definitions of Hermeticism; the magickal/occult and the academic. Of course, Hermeticism is not necessarily limited to these definitions."

History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents [= Western Esoterism]


That site has a dictionary and overviews.  Uses damn script links, preventing extracting internal URLs.  My conceptual summaries of some key entries:

Neoplatonism -- A religious and philosophical system reconciling platonic traditions with Greek thought (Neopythagoreanism, Peripatetism, Stoicism), the Orphic fragments, Hesiodic and Homeric poetry, and theurgic ritual practices, as just so many outward expressions of a unique wisdom.

Gnosticism -- Gnosis, which is supra-rational salvational knowledge by virtue of which one can escape from the material cosmos and be reunited with one's divine origin.

Hermeticism -- Teachings of the Corpus Hermeticum, about the way to attaining true knowledge of God, the world, and man.

Jung -- Combined esoteric motifs, Psychology, and scientific thinking.  Covered spiritualism, gnosticism, alchemy and Asian religions. Had idiosyncratic interpretations.  Identified religious and occult practices with psychological processes, establishing contemporary common views about spirituality.

Traditionalism -- The theory that all major religious systems are the manifestations of a single primordial religious essence.  Usually includes an absolutist critique of modernity, including modern esoteric systems such as Spiritualism and Theosophy.

New Age -- Utopian communities and movements revolving around revealed messages from “spiritual entities” and presenting theosophical doctrines.  Includes late 20th Century astrology, the tarot, positive thinking, transpersonal psychology, Jungianism, and Eastern teachings.

>Gnosis magazine



>The Hermetic Academy, a related scholarly organization of the American Academy of Religion, publishes HERMES, a quarterly newsletter dedicated to providing information about what is currently going on in the field of esotericism. ...



Some papers are available for download -- ok, make that 1 paper.  It would be easier if people would use HTML and normal URLs. 


HTML version, with illustrations:



Wouter J. Hanegraaff

The academic study of western esotericism is one of those new developments in the study of religions which may strike the casual observer as having appeared almost overnight, due to the fact that its gradual development over the past decades is easily overlooked . Like any newcomer, the discipline tends to evoke curiosity as well as suspicion; and such reactions are all the more natural because the very term "esotericism" (like the related term "occultism") is a particularly loaded one. This article intends to provide a brief introduction to the current state of "the study of esotericism"; and special attention will be given to why it is important for students in this field - even those whose approach is strictly historical/descriptive - to give some attention to issues of a methodological and theoretical nature.

What is understood by "Western Esotericism"?

The substantive "esotericism", like the adjective "esoteric", carries different meanings in different contexts, and this is a major cause of confusion (not only among outsiders, but even among specialists) about the nature of the discipline. No less than five meanings may be distinguished in current usage, only the last of which refers to the subject of the present article . (1) "Esotericism" is commonly used by booksellers and publishers as a synonym of "the occult"; in this case, it functions as a generic term for a diffuse collection of writings concerned with the paranormal, the occult sciences, various exotic wisdom traditions, contemporary New Age spiritualities, and so on . (2) The adjective "esoteric" (perhaps somewhat more frequently than the substantive) may be understood as referring to secret teachings and the "discipline of the arcane" with its distinction between initiates and non-initiates . (3) Within the discourse of the "perennialist" or "Traditionalist" school of religious studies, the esoteric is a metaphysical concept referring to the "transcendent unity" of exoteric religions . (4) In "religionist" approaches to religious studies, esotericism tends to be used as a near synonym of gnosis in the universalizing sense of the word (i.e., covering various religious phenomena which emphasize experiential rather than rational and dogmatic modes of knowing, and which favour mythical/symbolic over discursive forms of expression) . (5) From a strictly historical perspective, western (!) esotericism is used as a container concept encompassing a complex of interrelated currents and traditions from the early modern period up to the present day, the historical origin and foundation of which lies in the syncretistic phenomenon of Renaissance "hermeticism" (in the broad and inclusive sense of the word) . Western esotericism thus understood includes the so-called "occult philosophy" of the Renaissance and its later developments; Alchemy, Paracelsianism and Rosicrucianism; Christian and post-Christian Kabbalah; Theosophical and Illuminist currents; and various occultist and related developments during the 19th and 20th century .

Boundary Dispute

The academic study of western esotericism discussed in the present article is based upon the fifth and final meaning: it investigates a series of specific interrelated historical currents in modern and contemporary western culture, which have largely been neglected or disregarded by earlier generations. However, the relationship of the discipline to approaches linked to the four other meanings of esotericism is a complicated one. ..."

I previously scanned across world myth-religion successfully, easily mapping my core model of transcendent experiential insight to the mythic-mystic allegory found in each major religion.  The "World Religions" field often has poor coverage of dead religions such as Hellenistic Mystery-Religions. 

An even more surprising blindspot is the lack of coverage of Western Esotericism, which is about as enormous and varied as the major world religions.  I'm finding that the more I start looking into Western Esoteric schools, they are mapping to my core model of mystic-state experiential insights just as quickly and naturally as did World Religions.

I'm just starting to study the books and Web resources.  Here are a few more links, toward possibly my creating a resource page about cybernetic entheogenic ego transcendence as the backbone of Western Esotericism.

http://www.phanes.com/alexandria.html -- Alexandria journal of Western esotericism, issues 1-5 so far.  You can see the article titles here.  I haven't seen such an insanely diverse set of topics under one heading since the field of Cybernetics, such as the book:

Cybernetics of Cybernetics


Typical of the field of Cybernetics that caused its dissipation: "Cybernetics and Human Knowing is a ... multi- and interdisciplinary journal ... devoted to ... self-organizing processes of information in human knowing ... a nondisciplinary approach ... the concept of self-reference ... the meaning of cognition and communication; our understanding of organization and information in human, artificial and natural systems; and our understanding ... within the natural and social sciences, humanities, information and library science, and in social practices as design, education, organisation, teaching, therapy, art, management and politics."


Esoterica electronic journal

http://www.esoteric.msu.edu/Contents.html (now covers issues 5 through 1)

http://www.esoteric.msu.edu/Archive.html (now covers 4 through 1 with illus.)

Includes the following articles, for example:

"Stages of Ascension in Hermetic Rebirth"

Dan Merkur



I found it easy to nod yes, yes, yes in recognition, making sense of this myth-religion-philosophy in terms of the Core Theory I've pulled together, about mystic experiential insight.

What is Esoteric?  Methods in the Study of Western Esotericism

Arthur Versluis



Mysticism, and the Study of Esotericism (Methods in the Study of Esotericism, Part II)

Arthur Versluis



Western Esotericism, Eastern Spirituality, and the Global Future

Lee Irwin



Might be relevant to mapping the Egodeath theory to Eastern philosophy-religion-mysticism -- to Eastern Gnosis.

Atmospheric intro to the field of Western Esotericism:


Hermes on the Seine

The Esoteric Scholarship of Antoine Faivre

by Erik Davis


Imagine you're a bookish paleface wandering through the stained and musty halls of Western civilization, sick to death of the endless tales of bloody conquests, heinous Churchman, and the ominous march of abstract and manipulative reason. Just when you're ready to cash in you chips and join the barbarians and bodhisattvas at the gate, you stumble across some moldering sidedoor, thick with sigils and glyphs and glints of otherworldly light. The door opens unbeckoned, and you stumble past animated statues of Egyptian gods into basements packed with arcana: astrological diagrams, alchemical flowcharts, magical cook-books and Hermetic texts, organized not by the Dewey decimal system but by the blazing rainbow filing system of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. Isaac Newton's alchemical library is here, along with the hermetic troves of Breton and Blake, Walter Benjamin and Umberto Eco. You wander like a half-blind Argentinian sage through this iconic museum, each tome vibrating with its neighbors until the texts become a hieroglyphic hall of mirrors that reflect anew yourself and the world that made you. ...

Studies of Western esotericism are currently plagued by the usual combination of the "ordinary state of consciousness" fallacy and the "nonentheogenic meditation/contemplation" fallacy.  The raw bulk of Western esoterism might be limited to the ordinary state or nonentheogenic meditation, but the timeless origin, inspiration, and fountainhead, and most efficient trigger, is the use of visionary plants.

Periodicals with a heavy focus on Western esotericism include:

http://www.lumen.org/back_issue_list/back_issue_list.html -- full tables of contents

http://www.parabola.org/magazine/backlist.html -- full tables of contents

http://www.theosophical.org/theosophy/questmagazine -- all articles are online back to 1999, but the decades of previous issues aren't listed, and the page doesn't say if back issues are available.

Online articles about gnosis and technology - Erik Davis:

http://www.techgnosis.com/cargo.html - Music, science fiction, television, subculture

http://www.techgnosis.com/corpus.html - Digital mysticism and the religion of technology

http://www.techgnosis.com/snakes.html - Floormaps of the Metaphysical Supermarket -- most of his entheogen articles are in this category

http://www.techgnosis.com/mech.html - Science, technology, cyberculture

There is an online shrine to Dionysus at http://www.hermeticfellowship.org, with Mission http://www.hermeticfellowship.org/HFMission.html -- http://www.hermeticfellowship.org/Dionysion/Dionysion.html -- with appropriate coverage of entheogens.  This site appears useful for Western Esotericism resources.

Western Esotericism, Amanita Grail/esotericism as a threat to the Church

Proposal: Western Esotericism is all concerned first of all with the entheogenic experience of no-free-will/no-separate-self and related experiential insights of the intense mystic altered state.

That is the simplest viable theory that unites the broadest sweep of systems.

It explains why the Amanita-grail was such a threat to the Catholic church, and why visionary-plant using witches were a threat -- but for the church to feel threatened by the common discovery of the true entheogenic meaning of the Eucharist and salvation, individuals in the church must have been aware of the true entheogenic meaning, and must have realized how precarious their attempted monopoly on meaning was, and thereby how precarious their monopoly on doling out salvation at a price, as a franchise operation.

When members of the Church rediscovered the true entheogenic nature of the idea of Eucharistic regeneration, such as in Mexico, given that they wanted to retain a monopoly on access to religious salvation/enlightenment, they could only react by demonizing the entheogen and reiterating and further inflating their claim of the potency of the obviously impotent official placebo Eucharist.

Firmly committed strategically to a placebo sacrament as part of the financially profitable monopolistic salvation franchise, they were handicapped: they knew that making the Eucharist entheogenic would make it more potent and compelling, but that people would abandon the intermediary franchise scheme, so returning to and openly admitting the entheogenic eucharist was not an option.

Instead, they further piled on P.R. verbiage trumpeting how potent and essential the church's placebo Eucharist was -- all talk, more and more talk, more and more theology of transubstantiation, and ever more secretive awareness that talk was merely a cover for hiding the deliberate withholding of the active Eucharist.  They had to shape the liturgy in the fullest awareness of what it ought to be -- entheogenic in form and in doctrine, but not in official actuality.

Grail as true psychoactive Eucharist, represented by Amanita, is a viable solution to all of Richard Smoley's themes below.  It combines the themes of the regenerating blood of Christ, threat to the official phony Church, purification of the psyche/heart, true valid discipleship and Magdalene line of gnostic authority, true valid kingship, and so on.

http://www.lumen.org/intros/intro51.html -- excerpts:

the word "grail" seems to come from the Old French gradale or graal, and often simply means a large serving-dish. ... The holy man sustains and refreshes his life with a single Mass wafer. So sacred a thing is the grail, and he himself is so spiritual, that he needs no more for his sustenance."  The most striking thing about this tale is its dreamlike nature. Like a dream, it seems to lead us toward a number of different meanings, none of which entirely exhausts its power. ... the Grail legends proper arose at the precise moment in history when the Catholic Church was formulating the doctrine of transubstantiation. The idea that the Grail contained the Real Presence of Christ must have been very much in the minds of Chrétien and the authors of other Grail romances. Indeed one way of interpreting the Perceval is that the lance and grail in the procession are images of the broken world of the Fall, which is to be redeemed in the Eucharist; and the Perceval ends with an explanation of the mystery of the Eucharist.

But there have been many other interpretations and many other images for the Grail. In the thirteenth-century Parsifal of Wolfram von Eschenbach, the Grail is not a cup but a stone fallen from heaven ... Exillis resembles ... elixir ... A precious stone, which took the place of a fire, lit the whole temple."  A popular recent interpretation holds that the Grail -- sometimes called the Sangreal or "Holy Grail" -- isn't an object as such. Instead it refers to the sang real or "royal blood." ... the true Sangreal is the lineage of Jesus Christ himself. His children, borne through Mary Magdalene, eventually came to constitute the Merovingian dynasty of the Frankish kingdom. The perpetuation of this bloodline -- and its restoration to the throne of France -- has supposedly been the preoccupation of a mysterious secret society ... which has enlisted the help of various other secret societies throughout the centuries, including the Templars and the Rosicrucians.

Though there is something engaging about this idea, in the end it has always seemed to me more like a rejected Indiana Jones script or the fantasy of obsessive French monarchists than a plausible take on history. Robert Richardson's article in this issue suggests that a monarchist fantasy is indeed what it is; he contends that, by means of planting documents in French libraries, various intriguers have made it seem as if the extinct Merovingian line not only survived to this day but has a real connection to the lineage of Jesus Christ.

... what is the Grail? ... there are to this day a number of candidates propounded as the true Grail, it seems likely that the Grail is not just a mere object, however sacred. ... that in us which strives to realize itself and become conscious. ... the Grail is preeminently "the mystery of regeneration."  ... The chalice represents the spiritual development of man. ... what is most important in the Grail. It is certainly not a matter of a physical artifact. ... Nor can the Grail mystery ultimately lie in the Eucharist; if it were, why would it have so often seemed dangerous and heterodox to ecclesiastical opinion?  ... the true mystery inherent in this myth: that the Grail is the heart, illumined and awakened so that it may serve as a receptacle for divine energies. To this inner transformation, even the Eucharist is only a preliminary; hence the discomfort churchmen have always felt around the concept.

... "there are not many such people" who have awakened their inner centers in this way, and "in general the process is a very difficult one." ... it would explain one of the central themes in the Grail mythos: that many are called but few are chosen. It would also explain why the few successful candidates are those who are pure of heart, for the heart must be pure before it can be illumined.

Western Esotericism: A Real Mixed Bag

Just like any known approach to spirituality or transcendent knowledge, Western Esotericism is a mixture of truth, distortion, and irrelevance -- signal and noise.  Certainly a significant amount of actual transformative mystic-state experiential insight is present in Western Esotericism, but it is generally mixed with much error and irrelevance as well. 

It is easy to find statements and positions I agree with in this field, and easy to find statements, approaches, and positions that I think are dead wrong or highly distorted.  I aim to define a useful model of transcendent knowledge of which all previous systems are more or less distorted and inefficient expressions. 

I am a perennialist in that higher truth has always everywhere been present to some extent, and a modernist in asserting that we have the technology now to achieve a far greater extent of the presence or grasp of higher truth.  Western Esotericism is crude and inefficient, messy and overgrown, a dirty approach just as Amanita is a dirty and inefficient entheogen compared to Stropharia Cubensis -- in need of a great shave with Occham's razor.

Even if the better esotericists and mystics held to determinism as I advocate, and an anti-euhemerist (ahistoricity) view of mythic figures, and knowledge of visionary plants, my "fourth heretical emphasis" of late is a kind of trump over the premoderns: we modern theorists can do a vastly better, more ergonomic job of *systematizing* esoteric experiential knowledge, gnosis. 

The ancients are bent on wasting everyone's time piling on irrelevancies; my goal is to save people time by delivering the core gnosis on a platter and providing helpful clear ties to ancient complexifications on side platters.

Inefficiency in esotericism

The signal/noise ratio is practically the same in esoteric traditions as in the Christian canon.  Esotericism is no improvement over Christianity, aside from providing a different color of noise obscuring the signal.  In all these approaches, it's 99% noise, 1% signal, whether Kabbalah, magic, astrology, alchemy, Islam, or Christianity.  New Age, too, has on the order of 1% efficiency, as does modern Western Buddhism.

At heart, the modern cybernetic theory and model of transcendent knowledge isn't new at all -- but in terms of packaging and systematic, explicit, streamlined explanation, it's a night and day difference, between the many garbled and irrelevance-cluttered expressions of transcendent experiential knowledge, and this cybernetic self-control based theory.

Previous and existing approaches provide enlightenment, at a level of on the order of 1% efficiency.  The theory expression such as the Intro page http://www.egodeath.com/intro.htm is on the order of 90% efficiency -- defined as, if you study these principles and triggers of mystic experiencing for the duration of a college course, you will have enlightenment as defined by this system, quickly and straightforwardly; ergonomically. 

A good measure is, how hard is it to pick up this system so well that you can teach and propagate it at a 90% efficiency rate.  It's easy to learn and propagate this system, mitigating against any "rare enlightened guru" effect.

Esoteric metaphorical symbolism: silly or ergonomic?

>... the web-site of an esoteric group ... "Commentary on Tree of Life" and they espouse the allegorical "Mystery of Christ" according to a Kabbalist methodology, but appropriately credits spirtual links to a variety of religious esoteric traditions.

>It is appallingly apocalyptic but retains its appeal with stunningly original and novel insights; sort of "crack pot" meets careful research: highly negative of Literalist institutional ecclesiasticism with profound global consequences. 

Literalist apocalypticism is a regressive substitute for the true apocalypse, which is the end of the egoic world and rise of transcendent awareness during ego death and rebirth.  The end of the world, second coming, last judgement, and walking with the savior in the kingdom of Heaven are interesting experiences.


>I would be curious about observations, opinions of this site.

I will take a look.

The crack pot aspect of esotericism is annoying; some of the ancient philosophers disliked it.  But a purely abstract theory of ego transcendence is unlikely to be relevant enough to be interesting; what's needed is a pure theory of religious/philosophical enlightenment that fully connects to the various traditional frameworks of world religion and world mysticism, including Jewish mysticism, Christian mysticism, and Buddhist mysticism (rather than the lower forms of all these religions). 

Loose cog -- loose cognitive association binding during the mystic altered state -- is essential to the theory of religious experiencing, but loose cog should avoid crack pot.

I walk on water, raise the dead, descend to the depths and ascend to the heights, turn water into wine, cast out demons, sacrificed my first-born son to be reconciled with transcendent truth, and experienced numerous reincarnations, but reject crack pot magic thinking, which leads not to enlightenment.

I reject all the religions: what is important is to solve them as puzzles and understand transcendent knowledge in purely contemporary terms, first of all; stand firmly within a system of contemporary terminology and conceptualization, and then reach out to comprehend previous ways of thinking about the transcendent.  Ultimately, sophisticated high Philosophy -- or perhaps less confusingly, "High Theory" -- is superior to any particular religious traditions, including Kabbalah or Gnosticism. 

Language and concepts are inherently metaphorical, but in this modern and postmodern age, it doesn't make sense to form a new particular, narrow system of metaphor - a new mythic storyline or a new indirect symbolic system.  As Plotinus maintained, Philosophy's strength is that it enables one to stop depending on indirect symbolism and much more *directly* explain transcendent knowledge and insights.  This correlates with level 3 of 3-level Gnosticism according to Freke & Gandy.  The beginner is told a simple storyline, understanding it literally.  The intermediate person understands the story as allegory. 

The advanced person no longer needs the story, but understands transcendent knowledge directly.  Given the intensity and danger of mystic experiencing, the mythic approach may provide more safety.  Philosophical abstract principles of transcendent knowledge combined with the intense use of the mystic state may be too overwhelming, in several ways, for beginners. 

Integrate multiple approaches: one the one hand, provide a pure, abstract theory of transcendent knowledge combined with understanding the loose-cognition state; and on the other hand, fully connect that core theory over to the familiar world religions and mystic traditions -- but be firmly *based* within the pure abstract theory and the understanding of loose cognition. 

I am totally distanced from *practicing* any indirect symbolic system such as Christianity, even esoteric Christianity or Kabbalah.  However, the study of mystery-myth or mystic-state myth is useful, enlightening, and edifying.  The stories of Gnosticism are just silly, and Kabbalah seems just silly and ineffective to me.  However, it is enlightening to study and comprehend the esoteric meaning of these traditions -- I just can never take them seriously; it's all so much inferior New Age hokum. 

The only time I accept such stuff, religious metaphorical symbolism, is at the peak of a mountain when there is no way out.  Then, it is handy to be able to postulate God or savior or a passing of death over my house by virtue of the blood of my sacrificed lamb-self.  Metaphor is important but one must *transcend* it and this means comprehending and browsing among multiple traditions. 

I'm seeking here the attitude toward brands of religion that the high Philosopher of late antiquity would have held.  I respect religions, I comprehend them, I even rely on them at moments, yet I am loathe to fall into them.  Perhaps in the end the mature Theorist or Philosopher who has attained transcendent knowledge has no objection to engaging with a religious tradition such as Kabbalah or some Gnostic brand, or mystic Catholic religion, or Buddhist cultural practices. 

Engaging with religious symbolism is not my style except when I'm dying and being reborn and am in the throes of a spiritual emergency -- even then, it's a theoretical call for transcendent rescuing.  I only care about the abstract pure principles of which religious symbolism serves to make more readily graspable to the unenlightened mind.  In the end, the principle, not the symbol representing the principle, is what is important. 

This means the Theorist in the end has no problem embracing such metaphorical symbols as mystery-myth traffics in, but such an embrace can only be a loose embrace that can let go at any moment and instead embrace the pure principle which the metphorical symbol points to.  Rather than bothering with Kabbalah or Gnostic activities, I'd much rather study the abstract pure meaning of several such systems in conjunction with studying loose cognition. 

The only respectable Kabbalah (or Gnosticism, or Christianity, or Buddhism, or Islam) is one that integrates the mystic state of cognition, and abstract as well as metaphorical understanding of its system.  The only acceptable religious metaphoricalism is that which is not needed or relied upon; disposable metaphoricalism.  It's clearer to discuss this in terms of ergonomics; High Philosophers likely assert that a pure direct Philosophical religion is more ergonomic than metaphorical symbolism-based forms of religion. 

The most ergonomic approach to transcendent knowledge is an integral combination of the mystic altered state *and* a pure system of Theory *and* multiple systems of metaphorical symbolism.  What the Theorist is wary of is the attempt to achieve transcendent knowledge via only one or two of these.  These limited, lopside approaches can't get very far: 

o  The mystic state without abstract theory

o  Theory without the mystic state

o  Metaphorical symbolism without Theory or the mystic state

o  Metaphorical symbolism without Theory

The most ergonomic approach is an integral combination of:

o  Pure, abstract, direct, essentially non-metaphorical Theory of transcendent knowledge (Hindu metaphysics, Integral Theory, cybernetic theory of ego transcendence)

o  The loose-cognition mystic state (entheogens, meditation, sensory deprivation)

o  Metaphorical symbolism from multiple myth-religion systems (Kabbalah, Christianity, folk/mythic Buddhism, Gnosticism, Hellenistic mystery-myth)

Inactivated esotericism, activated esotericism, entheogens as activator

Jesus Christ, Sun of God: Ancient Cosmology and Early Christian Symbolism

David Fideler


editor of Phanes Press - http://www.phanes.com

Fideler's Alexandria journal:



This book looks like it would be a perfect example of piling up profundity to the ceiling and beyond and yet still utterly missing the heart of the matter.  It appears to be an incredibly excellent study of Greco-Roman esoterism, but utterly uninformed by the all-important and absolutely central use of psychoactive 'wine' in the Greco-Roman initiations. 

This is like reproducing a late-60s acid-rock dance, but without the acid, or like a Museum of Rock without any coverage of psychedelics.  It's like standing in awe of fireworks -- without realizing that they are supposed to be lit. 

The result is the most perfect kind of literalism, when you study symbolism to infinite depth without knowing that the ultimate referent or reference point of esoteric symbolism is the actual experience of the altered state -- and not just verbiage about "profound experience", but the actual experience of the altered experiential state.  I expect this book talks up "experience", without talking about visionary plants and the cognitive phenomena that result from them.

We end up with purely "mental" results -- and a theory that assumes that all this esoteric lofty theorizing occurs in the ordinary state of consciousness.  This book might be a perfect example of the ordinary-state-of-consciousness fallacy, which assumes that esotericism is based in the ordinary state of consciousness.

The rare negative reviewer wrote, in an unpopular review:

>>A detailed book having nearly nothing to do with Jesus.  A very detailed analysis of western/Greek mathematical, mythical, and geometric systems. This book has nearly nothing to do with spirituality or Jesus.  A very mental book.

This book has nothing to do with Dionysus or spirituality; it is a detailed shadow reflection uninformed by the altered-state component or dimension.  That is my guess.  I assume the author is aware of entheogens, but I doubt that the book explicitly or implicitly makes the deserved strong connection between Greco-Roman esoterism and entheogens.

It's not that Greco-Roman esoterism is all about entheogens, but rather that entheogens were the factor that *activated* the profundity of esoterism.  Without the entheogen fire, the result is inactive, limpid esoterism, just like an overblown grandiose Catholic Eucharist ritual that uses merely a placebo sacrament, though thick tomes explain that this sacrament deeply regenerates the psyche through the remarkable action of the Holy Spirit. 

The greatest threat to actual esoterism is that which strenuously dances and paints itself as "experiential esoterism" without actually delivering that.  The result is inactivated or inert esotericism mistaken for activated esoterism.  Fully detailed low esoterism, even with breathless talk of profound experiencing, is still merely low esoterism.

For mystics, official Christianity or Buddhism is bad not so much because of its mundane harm, but because it is almost wholly inert.  It is uninspired and inactive, posing as being inspired and inactive.  There's no flame or spark igniting it, but it claims that there is.  It's a paper labelled "this is on fire" but which isn't on fire. 

I'm not criticizing such books because they are books, but rather, because they are books that ought to cover ancient 'wine' initiation and present esoterism as grounded in the intense altered state.  A truly good book about esoterism would describe the initiations as sacred science that is ignited by visionary plants.  A discussion of sacred science without a discussion of visionary plants can hardly be called coverage of "sacred" science. 

It's like the difference between mystic theology and plain uninspired theology, or between the "binity" and "trinity": official Western theology is binity, full of theory about Father and Son, but not the Holy Spirit.

Description of esoteric symbolism without description of the esoteric state of consciousness misses the essence of the subject.  The result is a description of insider knowledge written by one who lacks insider knowledge.  Consider degrees of inspiration of an esoteric book:

Mediocre no matter how detailed:

Description of esoteric symbolism without description of the esoteric state of consciousness, and without the presence of the esoteric state.

Maybe the author knows secretly that it's all sparked by entheogens:

In-between is a book written with knowledge of the esoteric state, but that doesn't explicitly cover it, instead covertly reflecting it.

Good and ideal, as a book:

Description of esoteric symbolism with description of the esoteric state of consciousness, and without the presence of the esoteric state.

Ideal, as a programme of study and training:

Description of esoteric symbolism with description of the esoteric state of consciousness, with the presence of the esoteric state.

I'm taking such an extreme stance, even recreational drug users may be shocked when I so equate the esoteric state with visionary plants, that I equate the lack of visionary plants with the lack of the esoteric state of consciousness.  I hold that visionary plants are a hundred times as effective and relevant than alternate techniques, for accessing the mystic altered state. 

This is the simplest explanation and solution to the puzzle of Greco-Roman experiential initiation and religion, which evidently had primary, intense mystic experiencing available on-tap for everyone, through drinking psychoactive 'wine' at "sacred banquets".  Per McKenna: some people can with great effort trigger the visionary state without using visionary plants, but why bother?  That ability is merely a curiosity.  The plants are available on tap, as a lightning-vehicle.

For those who really cared about esoterism, and are deeply interested in effective techniques, plants were helpful and therefore were used -- there was no reason not to take advantage of them as ideal triggers of the esoteric state of cognition.  The people who are not so driven to success in esoterism have less reason to embrace such effective tools as visionary plants.

Found a couple hits in Fideler's Alexandria journal:


Psychedelic Effects and the Eleusinian Mysteries by Shawn Eyer


Drinking with the Muses by Thomas Willard

How to Host a Philosophical Banquet by Plutarch

Esoterism was heavily informed by visionary plants, but today's scholars have limited familiarity with visionary plants and don't recognize how strong and primary the connection is.  To those who know, half-informed studies of esoterism scream out "activated with visionary plants", even though the authors of the studies don't consciously make the connection, just as to those who know, the heart of Christianity is first of all, entheogen-shaped. 

Per official theology, the center of Christian practice is the Eucharist, and the Eucharist is manifestly entheogen-shaped.  Esoterism is entheogen-shaped, but is officially (per today's mainstream scholars) not entheogenic. 

Except for the retarded Christian scholars of shamanism, all scholars have come to accept the predominance of entheogens in shamanism: how long until the same conclusion is reached for Greco-Roman myth-religion-philosophy, where entheogens evidently were a universal open secret?  Our view of the ancient world is so out of touch with the reality, few people realize that cannabis and opium were sold all over Rome, at every corner drugstore and 7-11. 

How much scholarship is intent on obscuring this understanding?  Like the official prohibitionist story, the official news reports are intended to hide rather than reveal; disinformation and substitute coverage, with fully vested interests.  Today's scholars are intent on discovering the reality of Greco-Roman culture, but with the strict requirement that they must not conclude that the basis of the culture was visionary plants. 

Same with popular Buddhism and Western esoterism scholarship: dig up the ancient facts with all your might -- but halt the moment the facts turn out to be that the entire subject was based on and came from visionary plants.  It's like the museum exhibits about paper and rope materials which say "flax", "cotton", or "wood pulp" when they really mean "hemp".

It's easy to predict the stance of the Alexandria journal on entheogens -- admit just enough entheogen usage to let off the pressure; treat it as something that only happened once a lifetime, and only in the abnormal, singular case of Eleusis.  Don't admit that the entire realm of myth-religion-mysticism-philosophy was all directly based on visionary plants.  Keep assuming that 'wine' means modern "wine".  Perhaps privately admit the ubiquity of entheogens, but don't explicitly let on. 

This cover-up backpedalling approach is one possible path, and there's much pressure to cop-out and cave into that tactic.  Intellectual honesty ought to be immune to such considerations -- but the bottom line is, what worldview about the ancient esoterism do people want to see?  That's what they'll get.  If they want only a bit of visionary plants, playing just a minor, condoned-off role, they'll find that and publish that.

>Jesus Christ, Sun of God: Ancient Cosmology and Early Christian Symbolism

>David Fideler


>It appears to be an incredibly excellent study of Greco-Roman esoterism, but

>utterly uninformed by the all-important and absolutely central use of

>psychoactive 'wine' in the Greco-Roman initiations.

Index has no entries for:








Has: Mithraic eucharist/sacraments

So the index and book are weak, right where they ought to be strong.  This shows the utility of my identifying the four key points on which I differ from "dead" and inert 20th Century thinking about esotericism and Greco-Roman culture:

o  Mythic-only Jesus, same with other figures (anti-euhemerism)

o  Experiencing and transcending fate/determinism is key

o  Entheogens are key, foundation, centrally important

o  Mystic insight is fully rationally explanable, despite blackbox transcendent element (graciousness of transcendent controller)

Secret message for witches


Occult hermetic sciences: magic, astrology, alchemy

In Western esotericism, the occult hermetic sciences are led by the standard trilogy of magic, astrology, and alchemy, apparently intermixed as magic/astrology/alchemy, and these allegorized mystic-state development of the psyche.  Astrology is clear; it is easy to identify the part of astrology that is allegory for mystic-state experiencing and enlightenment. 

Alchemy is also fairly clear, to identify the aspects of alchemy that form an allegory or metaphorical description of mystic-state experiencing and enlightenment.  Magic also has a discernible and well-known mystic upper layer, but I have yet to form a specific model of this.  The way is clear for an equivalence table listing allegorical equivalence among myth-religion systems such as Christianity, Greek myth, magic, alchemy, astrology, and Jewish mysticism.

Why is this a worthwhile endeavor?  It's immediately proving to be a tractable and straightforward problem of identifying equivalent themes.  The key to solving this puzzle is the right set of assumptions and attitudes:

Axiomatic assumption: These systems are grounded in the intense mystic altered state, most classically induced by visionary plants.  They are not grounded in the ordinary state of consciousness.

Axiomatic assumption: These systems generally include the same equivalent set of concepts, such as fear, protection, determinism, seeking lasting change, transformation, and so on.  There are various yet equivalent systems of description.

Axiomatic assumption: The problem is not difficult; it is straightforward with the right mindset.  These religions were *popular* religions and therefore no special genius can be needed to figure them out or understand them; they are just like brain-teasers: they seem utterly baffling to those who lack the solution or the key to the solution, yet essentially simple and straightforward to those who are properly equipped with the key to understanding.

Axiomatic assumption: Humor, irony, cleverness, and wit are essential components that are required for balancing out the seriousness and heaviness of authentic, actual mystic-state venturing.

Axiomatic assumption: These systems are concerned with 2-state meaning; they are aware that the phenomena and mode of reception characterizing the mystic altered state contrasts with the ordinary state.  At the extreme, this means deliberately misleading ordinary-state thinking, while blossoming into higher coherence when the mystic-state descriptive allegory is revealed.

Axiomatic assumption: The best of the thinkers view these systems as this type of transcendent experiential allegory, even if such thinkers are a numeric minority.  They are the authentic representatives -- or, the degree to which these thinkers hold the views expressed here is the degree to which these thinkers are authentic or legitimate representatives of the impersonal, archetypal tradition in itself.  Any one person has a more or less distorted conception of the pure tradition in itself.  The best of the thinking of the best of the thinkers generally points to, embodies, and represents the best of the tradition.

Plotinus, Neoplatonism, and Hermeticism

Endymion wrote (paraphrased):

>>I need to write a paper about ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, focusing on the influence of Plotinus and Neoplatonism on Hermeticism, the Renaissance, the beginnings of modern science and thought, modern art, and literature.  What are the best resources to start with?  There's a chapter in a study book on history of philosophy about Pico della Mirandola, Ficino, Agrippa and Paracelzus about the influence they have had on the development of modern science.  What on-line resources do you recommend?

I need to gather my postings into a resource Web page on this subject.  The magic ticket is "western esotericism".


Book list: Western Esotericism


Book list: Hermeticism and ancient mystic astrology


The search


returns valuable entry-points for research; for example:

Thread: Western Esotericism general info


Plato cave, Virtue, make king, divine rescue, falling into a well, secret king

Plato's cave, true Virtue, the Good, making the enlightened philosophy the king, divine rescue, looking into the heavens and falling into a well, secret kingship revealed

Plato's allegory of the cave is about entheogenic discovery of no-free-will (losing false kingship), utter dependence, arbitrary rescue by the One (by the grace of true divine Virtue), granting legitimate no-free-will kingship, and ability now to rule over people as one who has been informed/shaped by true Virtue.  True Virtue is debated against sheer crushing force (God's potentially controllership-destroying will to power) in these mystical-political writings. 

Sacred kingship has always been informed by these mystical experiences including the experience of the arbitrariness of the uncontrollable transcendent controller.  As the mystic is brought to beseech the Divine to sustain and not destroy the mystic's control-viability, so too do people approach the fearsome political king to beseech him; the relation of the political king to his subjects is deliberately modeled on the relationship between the helpless ego-dead mystic and the hidden uncontrollable transcendent controller.

Why does God or Isis sustain rather than destroy the viable controllership of those who are brought to truth?  To balance the equation, we must have both sustaining and destroying, in one mythic-mystic form or another.  God strikes down the lower self, and crowns the higher self.  Or, God strikes down himself in the form of his mythic son, and also raises up this son and his adopted sons. 

Rene Girard writes of sacrificial violence and doubles - I do see some connection.  Doubles appear in the two rebels next to the central cross, the two crossed-leg figures around Mithras, the two goats with one banished with the curses and bad fortune. 

The android computes truth and splits into two -- one android-self is cursed and ruined as a viable self-controller agent, ending up shut down as with HAL9000 (equally incapable of making a mistake), and the other is given sustained controllership.  Both outcomes must be acknowledged as fully legitimate -- sacrifices safely and vicariously acknowledge the legitimacy of the negative outcome -- "Lord strike me down righteously, you sustain me at your inscrutable whim and arbitrarily preserve me as you wish though you could instantly destroy me if you wish that."

There are two kinds of doubles: the lower and higher mental worldmodels (the passing age and the age to come, the lower and higher self), and the two outcomes of seeing divine truth -- the outcomes of destroying or preserving viable self-control.  To look up and turn around and see truth is to fall down in a well, which does not mean random amusing comical folly, but rather, being brought to a state of utter dependence, needing rescue. 

*Rescue* is a key spiritual concept; Grof talks about "spiritual emergency" -- does he talk about its correlate, "rescue"?  When the mystic control agent is brought into the presence of truth about its controllership, personal controllership breaks down and completely crashes, goes dead, shuts off. 

The divine transcendent controller made this happen and is in full control of the situation -- a secret controller originally (Jesus' secret messianic kingship prior to his disciples learning the truth), and then, ones eyes are opened to see that now and in the past, this whole time, one was actually controlled by God or Isis or Mithras all along, secretly. 

When the sun behind the sun, the controller behind the controller chooses to reveal itself to the lower controller, this is inherently a kind of threat to the mind's control system, just as the babe knows its utter helplessness with respect to the parent.

The hidden transcendent controller logically could just as well flip a coin and destroy or preserve his creation, his subject, the mystic (now a crashed controller) brought to him.  Why does he preserve the control-viability of the mystic?  No reason whatsoever, which is the same as saying "the miracle of transcendent compassion and love". 

Will you be made to assume that God is miraculously good, compassionate, and loving -- sustaining your viable control?  Or will you be made to assume that God will use you to demonstrate his ability to wreck stable self-control?  There is no logical basis for deciding, and neither you can flip a coin to tell. 

This reasoning collapses like a Zen koan; God is divine and hidden -- is he loving, or is he just; in the case of a particular visit to him by a particular mystic, does he sustain or does he destroy the mystic's controllership viability?  Picture approaching a political king to whom you are subject: he has divine right to help you or to destroy you.  On what basis does he choose?  His inscrutable and in-principle arbitrary whim; only the Zen master can explain the king's reasoning. 

In any particular case, will God (the One, the transcendent controller) sustain or destroy the mystic's control viability?  Sustain, because why would God bother to create the mystic, then bring the mystic to God, only to then immediately destroy the mystic's viability of practical life?  Thus ordinary life -- "this passing age" prior to being brought to truth, is a logical basis for assuming that God wants to preserve and not crush the mystic's controllership. 

This God of Virtue and Good Compassion, Order and Life may vie with the God of Wrath and Harsh Powerful Judgment, Chaos and Emnity -- which one wins, in the conflagration when time ends?  The good outcome of the story is that the God of Wrath pours his wrath into himself, taking the blow himself, striking down a sheep or a substitute in your stead -- this is the principle of feeding and honoring the god of wrath, the destroying goddess. 

When I approach the divine king, I take two of me: the king strikes one down sending him to the ward of those who know truth and can't viably self-control, and the king preserves the other, even crowning him.

I went through life all on my own, knowing no parent, then suddenly during enlightenment I discovered that the whole time, I had been fully under the control of a hidden parent (Isis), who created and sustained me and then one day during initiation, killed my self-concept and brought me to knowledge of Her, and said to me:

I am your parent and you are a helpless babe with respect to me -- I am your creator and sustainer, hidden until now, and I could destroy you and have destroyed your lower self-conception, and as I preserved your controllership before, during your sleeping delusion, I shall at my whim as a loving parent who sustained and brought you all this way, continue to permit you to live as a viable control agent.

Another kind of spiritual parent is the mature enlightened entheogen-initiated teacher.  The true authentic teacher, a genuine initiator into adulthood, is a person who has been control-crashed and reset by the Divine Good Parent, or by the Divine Shepherd over the flock of no-free-will sheep who start life thinking they are freewill goats. 

Most likely, in the Greek man-boy homosexual relationship, the bearded man who had been initiated would initiate and teach and protect the beardless boy.  The boy would be led through ego death to become mature, adult, perfected/completed.  As with the classic guru-disciple relationship, the adult initiator would teach the youth the "loving, sustaining parent" relationship, as training for how to relate to the Good, the Source of True Virtue, the essentially hidden but now known uncontrollable transcendent controller. 

Phillip Cary's lecture on Plato's allegory of the cave perfectly connects with the deepest issues of the mystic altered state peak.  Some of the elements that stood out that hadn't come across in other people's description of the cave were: being shown true Virtue, kingship of the one who returns to the cave, and turning/conversion.   

I highly recommend this lecture course:

Philosophy and Religion in the West

Phillip Cary


"This course offers an eye-opening perspective on the spiritual adventure of Western thought. It is a vivid introduction to the rich and complex history that is shared by our central traditions of religious faith and philosophic reason. Whether you’re a believer, a seeker, or a combination of the two, it will enrich your thinking to an unexpected degree."

However, it is actually Cary's "Plato -- Metaphysics" lecture in the Big Bertha of lecture series that enlightened me:

Great Minds of the Western Intellectual Tradition


Cary always likes saying "A-hah, now I see it!"  That is how I felt when he mentioned three items he just happened to choose for casting shadows: triangle, tree, and virtue -- and he went out of his way to say that the whole context and motivation for the entire allegory was to see and discover what "true virtue" really is. 

Most expositors wrongly think of the cave as being focused on epistemology, but Cary's presentation put the rightful emphasis on epistemology *about true virtue*, about finding the purest example of virtue, which apparently is the virtue of the One, considered as the Good, which initiates you and re-informs your being and teaches you what it means to be purely good, and fits you for proper kingship.

One major symposium story is about Socrates, in a discussion all about politics and virtue, refuting the position that good and bad are just nonexistent chimeras, with power as the only reality and the only real and actual basis for sociopolitical order.

Per Philip Cary, the sequence in the allegory of the cave is the following, with my comments added.

1. Head chained forward watching shadows in cave.

2. Be released (I read this as "be given visionary plants, mixed wine, have loose cognition")

3. Turn (Cary wisely points out this is "conversio" in Latin and thus a religious conversion).  Jesus said "Let those on the outside not understand my meaning, lest they turn and their sins [confused assumption of freewill moral agency] be forgiven."  In the cave allegory, this turn particularly means the reversal of the vector of awareness (this is one spatial way of describing mental subsystems) from pointing outward, to pointing inward to the self system and to ultimate innermost consciousness.

4. Ascend out of the underground cave to the light.  Note that Mithraums were underground.  This is the light of truth, which mechanically in terms of cognitive science is really probably merely white-light feedback of pure consciousness.  This is enlightenment.  According to Platonism, "the Light" is "the Good" is "the One" (Ground of Being).

5. Be re-formed by the Good.  When the mind brings its flawed egoic thinking structures up against the truth, and examines the true actual dynamics of mental structures including self-controllership, the mind's mental worldmodel is forced to change to accomodate the radical new data, that one is only a secondary controller. 

6. You return to the cave.  Cary specifically says "you can't stay up there -- until you die, that is; you have to come back down to the cave."  Again Cary's description points out several key points no one ever pointed out to me before about the allegory of the cave.  After the visionary plant wears off, tight cognitive binding returns, retaining the new worldmodel as an additional, purer perspective on time, space, world, will, and control.

7. You are made into a philosopher-king, because you know the Good, you have been informed or shaped by the Good, so you are fit to rule as a good philosopher-king.

What's so good about the Good?  Why did Hellenistic mystic standard thinking equated the Good, the One, the Light, and Truth?  When the mind discovers that its controllership is metaphysically merely secondary control, its previous thinking fails, one feels helpless and powerless at controlling oneself, but for no reason, by a miracle, the Good sets personal virtual practical self-control back on its feet again, restabilizing control. 

You as control agent are rescued from the cybernetic well you were utterly helplessly trapped in; you are freed from the prison by someone who has nothing at all to gain from you and who has every right to abandon you to your fate -- apparently another key metaphor scenario is the abandoned child, which smells like the Good Samaritan theme to me. 

Likely the idea was that in that day, people exposed unwanted babies to their fate.  If you happened to come along and *rescue* that baby and sustain and raise it as your own beloved child, you did it under zero obligation.  I heard of a particularly dull Attic tragedy play about a baby and ownership -- I would check to see if it was all an isomorphic double-entendre discussing the dynamics of the entheogenic mystic altered state.

Kabbalah discussion group

I am posting this notification as requested.


Shalom Aleichem,


Please visit our Donmeh West Yahoo! Groups website at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/DONMEH_WEST . Donmeh West is the largest and oldest Kabbalah community on Yahoo! Groups. We do not compete with this fine list, to which you already belong, but simply complement it with a multi-media, virtual academy dedicated specifically to the "Yalhakian" Neo-Sabbatian Kabbalah of Reb Yakov Leib HaKohain, which you can learn more about at his website, http://www.donmeh-west.com.


Raising up the Holy Sparks together,


Yehoshua ben Yakov Leib, Administrative Assistant



I consider the subject of Jewish mysticism essential for completely reconsidering Christianity as something that gradually formed out of mystery religions and Jewish esotericism, combined with various political grapplings. 

Ultimately I'm most interested in grasping world myth/mysticism fully rationally -- my current focus; I'm definitely beginning to move away from a 90% focus on Christianity to more like 30%, with world myth/mysticism receiving 70% focus -- all interpreted through the lens of entheogenic loose cognition, block-universe determinism, and self-control cybernetics.

Book list: History of Magic.  Esotericism book overviews

Book list:

Magic as Metaphor for Mystic Altered-State Experiencing (Western History of Magic)



History of Magic 2




Esotericism books -- tables of contents and overviews



Javafusion has bulk-entered tables of contents and dust-jacket overviews for expensive, scholarly, interesting books.  Most of them are shown below.  Most of these books cost $100-$200; university libraries might carry them.  Such a set of overviews and outlines for these types of books is unusual and valuable.  These overviews and outlines reveal many esoteric mystic-metaphor themes.


Envisioning Magic: A Princeton Seminar and Symposium

(Studies in the History of Religions, No 75) by Peter Schafer (Editor), Hans G. Kippenberg (Editor)

Magic and Theology in Ancient Egypt 1

Magic and Religion in Ancient Judaism 19

Jewish Magic in the Greek Magical Papyri (PGM VII.260-71) 45

Reporting the Marvellous: Private Divination in the Greek Magical Papyri 65

How to Cope with a Difficult Life. A View of Ancient Magic 93

Ritual Expertise in Roman Egypt and the Problem of the Category 'Magician' 115

Magic in Roman Civil Discourse: Why Rituals could be Illegal 137

Rising to the Occasion: Theurgic Ascent in its Cultural Milieu 165

On Judaism, Jewis Mysticism and Magic 195

Miracle, Magic, and Disenchantment in Early Modern Germany 215

Between Religion and Magic: An Analysis of Witchcraft Trials in the Spanish Netherlands, Seventeenth Century 235

Language, Signs and Magic 255

Index of Sources 273

Index of Names and Subjects 275


Secrets of Nature: Astrology and Alchemy in Early Modern Europe

(Transformations: Studies in the History of Science and Technology) by William R. Newman (Editor), Anthony Grafton (Editor)

1 Introduction: The Problematic Status of Astrology and Alchemy in Premodern Europe 1

2 "Veritatis amor dulcissimus": Aspects of Cardano's Astrology 39

3 Between the Election and My Hopes: Girolamo Cardano and Medical Astrology 69

4 Celestial Offerings: Astrological Motifs in the Dedicatory Letters of Kepler's Astronomia Nova and Galileo's Sidereus Nuncius 133

5 Astronomia inferior: Legacies of Johannes Trithemius and John Dee 173

6 The Rosicrucian Hoax in France (1623-24) 235

7 "The Food of Angels": Simon Forman's Alchemical Medicine 345

8 Some Problems with the Historiography of Alchemy 385

Contributors 433

Index 435


Paracelsian Moments: Science, Medicine, and Astrology in Early Modern Europe

(Sixteenth Century Essays & Studies, 64) by Gerhild Scholz Williams (Editor), et al

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction xi


Paracelsus's Biography among His Detractors 3

Paracelsus and the Boundaries of Medicine in Early Modern Augsburg 19

To Be or Not to Be a Paracelsian: Something Spagyric in the State of Denmark 35

"A Spedie Reformation": Barber-Surgeons, Anatomization, and the Reformation of Medicine in Tudor London 71

Seeing "Microcosma": Paracelsus's Gendered Epistemology 93

Paracelsus on Baptism and the Acquiring of the Eternal Body 117

Paracelsus and van Helmont on Imagination: Magnetism and Medicine before Mesmer 135

Natural Magic and Natural Wonders

Unholy Astrology: Did Pico Always View It That Way? 151

Wine and Obscenities: Astrology's Degradation in the Five Books of Rabelais 163

Robert Boyle, "The Sceptical Chymist," and Hebrew 187

Johannes Praetorius: Early Modern Topography and the Giant Rubezahl 207

Demons, Natural Magic, and the Virtually Real: Visual Paradox in Early Modern Europe 223

Selected Bibliography of Paracelsiana and Early Modern Science 247

Index 257


Descenders to the Chariot: The People Behind the Hekhalot Literature

(Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism, V. 70) by James R. Davila

The Hekhalot literature is a bizarre conglomeration of Jewish esoteric and revelatory texts in Hebrew and Aramaic, produced sometime between late antiquity and the early Middle Ages and surviving in medieval manuscripts.  These texts claim to describe the self-induced spiritual experiences of the 'descenders to the chariot' and to reveal the techniques that permitted these magico-religious practitioners to view for themselves Ezekiel's Merkavah as well as to gain control of angels and a supernatural mastery of Torah." Drawing on epigraphic and archaeological evidence from the Middle East, anthropological models, and a wide range of cross-cultural evidence, this book aims to show that the Hekhalot literature preserves the teachings and rituals of real religious functionaries who flourished in late antiquity and who were quite like the functionaries anthropologists call shamans.


Abbreviations and Sigla

1 The Hekhalot Literature 1

2 Mysticism, Magic, and Shamanism 25

3 Becoming a Shaman 55

4 Shamanic Ascetic Techniques 75

5 Initiatory Disintegration and Reintegration 126

6 The Otherworldly Journey 156

7 Control of the Spirits 196

8 The Hekhalot Literature and Other Jewish Texts of Ritual Power 214

9 Locating the Descenders to the Chariot 257

10 Conclusions 306

Bibliography 313

Indices 325


Hidden Wisdom: Esoteric Traditions and the Roots of Christian Mysticism

(Studies in the History of Religions, No 70) by Guy G. Stroumsa, Gedaliahu A. G. Stroumsa



Introduction 1

I Myth as Enigma: Cultural Hermeneutics in Late Antiquity 11

II Paradosis: Esoteric Traditions in Early Christianity 27

III Gnostic Secret Myths 46

IV Esotericism in Mani's Thought and Background 63

V The Body of Truth and its Measures: New Testament Canonization in Context 79

VI Moses' Riddles: Esoteric Trends in Patristic Hermeneutics 92

VII Clement, Origen and Jewish Esoteric Traditions 109

VIII Milk and Meat: Augustine and the End of Ancient Esotericism 132

IX From Esotericism to Mysticism in Early Christianity 147

X Mystical Descents 169

Sources 185

Indices 187

General Index 187

Names 188

Literature 189


An Examination and Critique of the Understanding of the Relationship Between Apocalypticism and Gnosticism in Johannine Studies

Robert Allan Hill




Ch. 1 An Opening Illustration of One Specific Use of the Assumption in Johannine Studies 1

Ch. 2 An Overview of the Thesis 9

Ch. 3 Introduction to Part Two 15

Ch. 4 Apocalyptic Eschatology in John 19

Ch. 5 Sacramental Theology in the Gospel of John 29

Ch. 6 The Assumption Strengthens Arguments Concerning the Presence of the "Ecclesiastical Redactor" in John 35

Ch. 7 The Assumption Helps to Prove the Gospel of John Is Not Gnostic 39

Ch. 8 The Assumption Supports a Theoretical Separation of Gnosticism from an Interest in World History 53

Ch. 9 Summary and Conclusion to Part Two 61

Ch. 10 The Assumption in the History of Apocalyptic Studies 67

Ch. 11 A Third Wave: The Emergence of Vertical Eschatology in Apocalyptic Studies 87

Ch. 12 Summary and Conclusion to Part Three 97

Ch. 13 Introduction to Part Four 99

Ch. 14 The Traditional View of Gnostic Eschatology 103

Ch. 15 The Assumption and Recent Scholarship in Gnosticism 107

Ch. 16 The Treatise on the Resurrection (N.H.C. I,4) 119

Ch. 17 The Paraphrase of Shem (N.H.C. VII,1) 143

Ch. 18 The Concept of Our Great Power (N.H.C. VI,4) 159

Ch. 19 The Origin of the World (N.H.C. II,5) 173

Ch. 20 The Book of Thomas the Contender (N.H.C. II,7) 185

Ch. 21 The Gospel of Philip (N.H.C. II,3) 195

Ch. 22 Toward a New View of Eschatology in Gnosticism 207

App. 1 An Eschatological Outline of the Paraphrase of Shem 227

App. 2 Apocalypticism in Gnostic Literature: A Comparative Approach to Six Nag Hammadi Tractates 233

Bibliography 237

Authors' Index 257


Seek to See Him: Ascent and Vision Mysticism in the Gospel of Thomas

(Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae, Vol 33) by April D. De Conick


I The Problem: Is Thomas Gnostic? 3

II The Solution: Thomas is Mystical 28

III The Triad of Questions in Logion 50 and Mystical Ascent 43

IV The Triad of Answers in Logion 50 and Tradition History 64

V The Vision of God or his Kavod 99

VI Preparations for the Visio Dei in Logia 27 and 37 126

VII Vision of the Images in Logion 84 148

VIII The Background and Theology of Thomas in Summary 175

Bibliography 183

Author Index 200

Logion Index 204

Name and Subject Index 205


Voices of the Mystics: Early Christian Discourse in the Gospels of John and Thomas and Other Ancient Christian Literature

(Journal for the Study of the New Testament. Supplement Series, 157) by April D. De Conick, April D. Deconick

The Gospel of John has always been perceived as a more mystical Gospel than the Synoptics. This book explores the mysticism of John in its historical context and puts forward evidence that the mysticism developed in this text is the result of the textualization of a dialogue between the Johannine and Thomasine Christians on the subject of soteriology. In contradiction to the Christians who revered the Gospel of Thomas and taught salvation through ascent and vision mysticism, the Johannine Gospel argues for a mysticism based on the faith experience. DeConick examines evidence from the Preachings of John, the Gospel of the Saviour (Papyrus Berolinensis 22220), the Apocryphon of James, the Ascension of Isaiah, and the Dialogue of the Saviour to show that this soteriological controversy did not end with the composition of the Gospel of John but continued well into the second century. This book not only sheds new light on the development of Johannine ideology, but also forges a new path in New Testament socio-rhetorical criticism, particularly by developing the field of tradition intertexture.

Acknowledgments 9

Abbreviations 11

Ch. 1 Traditio-Rhetorical Criticism: A Methodology for Examining the Discourse of Intertraditions 15

Ch. 2 Vision Mysticism in the Ancient World: The Religio-Historical Horizon 34

Ch. 3 Johannine Polemic against Vision Mysticism: The Traditio-Religious Horizon and the Point of Discourse 68

Ch. 4 Thomasine Support for Vision Mysticism: The Traditio-Religious Horizon of John's Opponents 86

Ch. 5 Faith Mysticism in the Gospel of John: The Interpretative Trajectory and Synthetic End Point 109

Ch. 6 Vision Mysticism in Early Syrian Christian Texts: The Discourse Continues 133

Bibliography 164

Index of References 177

Index of Modern Authors 188


Exorcising Our Demons: Magic, Witchcraft, and Visual Culture in Early Modern Europe

(Studies in Medieval and Reformation Thought, 91) by Charles Zika

List of Illustrations



Introduction: Demons and Histories 1

Ch. 1 Reuchlin's De Verbo Mirifico and the Magic Debate of the Late Fifteenth Century 21

Ch. 2 Reuchlin and Erasmus: Humanism and Occult Philosophy 69

Ch. 3 Agrippa of Nettesheim and his Appeal to the Cologne Council in 1533: The Politics of Knowledge in Early Sixteenth-Century Germany 99

Ch. 4 Hosts, Processions and Pilgrimages: Controlling the Sacred in Fifteenth-Century Germany 155

Ch. 5 The Reformation Jubilee of 1617: Appropriating the Past in European Centenary Celebrations 197

Ch. 6 Fears of Flying: Representations of Witchcraft and Sexuality in Sixteenth-Century Germany 237

Ch. 7 She-man: Visual Representations of Witchcraft and Sexuality 269

Ch. 8 Durer's Witch, Riding Women and Moral Order 305

Ch. 9 The Wild Cavalcade in Lucas Cranach's Melancholia Paintings: Witchcraft and Sexual Disorder in Sixteenth-Century Germany 333

Ch. 10 Body Parts, Saturn and Cannibalism: Visual Representations of Witches' Assemblies in the Sixteenth Century 375

Ch. 11 Fashioning New Worlds from Old Fathers: Reflections on Saturn, Amerindians and Witches in a Sixteenth-Century Print 411

Ch. 12 Cannibalism and Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe: Reading the Visual Images 445

Ch. 13 Appropriating Folklore in Sixteenth-Century Witchcraft Literature: The Nebelkappe of Paulus Frisius 481

Ch. 14 Writing the Visual into History: Changing Cultural Perceptions of Late Medieval and Reformation Germany 523

Ch. 15 Nuremberg: The City and its Culture in the Early Sixteenth Century 553

Index of Names 585

Index of Places 593

Index of Subjects 596


The Gnostic Imagination: Gnosticism, Mandaeism and Merkabah Mysticism

(Brill's Series in Jewish Studies, Vol. 13) by N. Deutch, Nathaniel Deutsch


I The Problem 1

II Defining Gnosticism and Merkabah Mysticism 18

III Scripture and Exegesis 56

IV Cosmology and Ascent 68

V Theology 80

Bibliography 154

Index 159


The Alchemy of Light: Geometry and Optics in Late Renaissance Alchemical Illustration

(Symbola Et Emblemata. Studies in Renaissance and Baroque Symbolism, Vol 10) by Urszula Szulakowska (Editor)

Acknowledgments IX

Introduction XI

1. The Semiotic Structures of Renaissance Alchemical Imagery 1

2. Geometry and Astrology in Late Medieval and Early Renaissance Alchemy 12

3. The influence of Medieval Optics on Renaissance Alchemy 29

4. Paracelsian Alchemy: the "Astral Virtue" and the "Aerial Saltpetre" 41

5. John Dee's Alchemy of Light: the Monas Hieroglyphica and the Cabbalah 55

6. John Dee's Conceptual Architecture and "Zographie" in an Alchemical Context 71

7. Heinrich Khunrath: Divine Light and the Fire of the Magi 79

8. Heinrich Khunrath's Amphiteatrum Sapientiae Aeternae: the 1595 and 1602 editions 103

9. Heinrich Khunrath's Amphiteatrum Sapientiae Aeternae: the edition of 1604 (published Hanover, 1609) 113

10. Epicureans, Blasphemers, Sophists and Black-Magicians: the Persecution of Heinrich Khunrath 139

11. Michael Maier's Alchemical Geometry of the Sun 153

12. Robert Fludd: The Divine Alchemy of the Eye of God 167

Conclusion 183

Bibliography 185

Illustrations 201



Quest for the Phoenix: Spiritual Alchemy and Rosicrucianism in the Work of Count Michael Maier (1569-1622)

(Arbeiten Zur Kirchengeschichte, Vol 88) by Hereward Tilton


I Introduction: Jung and Early Modern Alchemy

1 The alchemical chimera 1

2 The reception of Jung amongst historians of alchemy 2

3 The arguments of Principe and Newman 9

4 The origins of Jung's alchemy and the work of Richard Noll 18

5 'Secret threads': the seventeenth century 'Carl Jung of Mainz' and Count Michael Maier 22

6 Spiritual alchemy, Rosicrucianism and the work of Count Michael Maier 30

II Maier's Formative Years

1 The context of Maier's life and thought 35

2 Auguries of fortune: Maier's childhood and parentage 38

3 The influence of Governor Heinrich Rantzau 45

4 Galenism and Maier's studies at Frankfurt an der Oder 48

5 'First love and grief': Maier's peregrinatio academica 54

6 The theses on epilepsy 59

7 Contact with the arcana 61

8 Maier's first alchemical experiment 65

III Bohemia and England

1 Maier at the court of Emperor Rudolf II 69

2 The Hymnosophia 71

3 The reversal of fortune 77

4 The most secret of secrets 80

5 A 'Rosicrucian mission' to England? 87

6 The seventeenth rung of the alchemical ladder and the art of gold-making 91

7 A journey to England 99

8 Francis Anthony and the 'drinkable gold' 102

9 The Golden Tripod: "Truth is concealed under the cover of shadows" 107

IV The Rosicrucian 'Imposture'

1 Illness and a chance encounter 113

2 The origins of Rosicrucianism and the Leipzig Manuscript of Michael Maier 116

3 Johann Valentin Andreae and the nature of the Order 127

4 The serious jest 131

5 An invitation to Rosicrucians, wherever they may lie hidden 139

6 Uncovering the true Brethren 150

7 Defining Rosicrucianism: Silentium post Clamores and the Themis Aurea 160

8 Regni Christi frater: Maier's 'entrance into the Order' 173

V The Completion of the Work

1 The squaring of the natural circle 181

2 Maier and the Calvinist court of Moritz of Hessen-Kassel 189

3 Millennialism, nationalism and the descent into war 192

4 The Civitas Corporis Humani - procuring a medicine of piety 202

5 Ulysses and the death of Maier 208

6 The phoenix and the return of the long-absent traveller 215

VI Conclusion: Maier and the Historiography of Alchemy

1 Piety and the coniunctio oppositorum 233

2 Chymia and alchemia 235

3 The 'Tradition' and the fate of Maier's thought 237

4 Alchemy and the re-emergence of Rosicrucianism 249

5 The historiography of alchemy 253

Bibliography 257

Index 278

Illustrations 289


Leibniz and the Kabbalah

(International Archives of the History of Ideas, Vol 142) by Allison P. Coudert


A Preliminary Note on the Kabbalah

Leibniz and van Helmont: A Chronological Table

Introduction 1

1 A Brief Historiography of Leibniz Studies 15

2 Van Helmont, Leibniz, and the Kabbalah 25

3 Leibniz and van Helmont: Their Friendship and Collaboration 35

4 The Kabbalah and Monads 78

5 The Kabbalah and Freedom and Determinism 99

6 The Kabbalah and Leibniz's Theodicy 112

7 Causation, Language, and the Kabbalah 136

Conclusion 155

Notes 158

Bibliography 203

Index 213


Restoring the Temple of Vision: Cabalistic Freemasonry and Stuart Culture

(Brill's Studies in Intellectual History, 110) by Marsha Keith Schuchard

This book uncovers the early Jewish, Scottish, and Stuart sources of "ancient" Cabalistic Freemasonry that flourished in Écossais lodges in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Drawing on architectural, technological, political, and religious documents, it provides real-world, historical grounding for the flights of visionary Temple building described in the rituals and symbolism of "high-degree" Masonry. The roots of mystical male bonding, accomplished through progressive initiation, are found in Stuart notions of intellectual and spiritual amicitia.

Despite the expulsion of the Stuart dynasty in 1688 and the establishment of a rival "modern" system of Hanoverian-Whig Masonry in 1717, the influence of "ancient" Scottish-Stuart Masonry on Solomonic architecture, Hermetic masques, and Rosicrucian science was preserved in lodges maintained by Jacobite partisans and exiles in Britain, Europe, and the New World.

Readership: Academic and general readers interested in architectural, scientific, theatrical, and esoteric history, especially those curious about Cabalism, Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, Hermeticism, and their influence on art, literature, science, and politics.

Marsha Keith Schuchard, Ph.D. (1975) in English, University of Texas at Austin, has published extensively on eighteenth-century Cabalistic and "illuminist" Freemasonry and its influence on Swift, Ramsay, Swedenborg, and Blake.


The Debate over the Origin of Genius During the Italian Renaissance: The Theories of Supernatural Frenzy and Natural Melancholy in Accord and in Conflict on the Treshold of the Scientific

Brill's Studies in Intellectual History, V. 107) by Noel L. Brann

This study explores a prominent Italian Renaissance theme, the origin of genius, revealing how the coalescence of a Platonic theory of divine frenzy and an Aristotelian theory of melancholy genius eventually disintegrated under the force of late Renaissance events.

This book is intended for a wide audience, including, beyond Renaissance specialists, historians of religion, medicine, art, science, and philosophy.


The Soul and Its Instrumental Body: A Reinterpretation of Aristotle's Philosophy of Living Nature

(Brill's Studies in Intellectual History, 112) by A. P. Bos

Introduction 1

Ch. 1 Aristotle's psychology reconsidered 6

Ch. 2 The modern debate on Aristotle's psychology 13

Ch. 3 Pneuma as the organon of the soul in De motu animalium 31

Ch. 4 What body is suitable for receiving the soul (De anima I 3, 407b13-26)? 47

Ch. 5 Aristotle's new psychology in De anima II 1-2 69

Ch. 6 The soul in its instrumental body as the sailor in his ship (De anima II 1, 413a8-9) 123

Ch. 7 Aristotle's problems with the standard psychological theories 136

Ch. 8 The role of vital heat and pneuma in De generatione animalium 146

Ch. 9 'Fire above': the relation of the soul to the body that receives soul, in Aristotle's De longitudine et brevitate vitae 2-3 183

Ch. 10 Pneuma and the theory of soul in De mundo 210

Ch. 11 The ultimate problem: how did Aristotle relate the intellect, which is not bound up with soma, to the soul, which is always connected with soma? 216

Ch. 12 Aristotle's lost works: the consequences of reinterpreting the psychology of De anima 230

Ch. 13 The information on Aristotle's Eudemus 238

Ch. 14 The fifth element as the substance of the soul 258

Ch. 15 The comparison of the steersman and his ship in Aristotle's lost works and elsewhere 304

Ch. 16 The soul's 'bondage' according to a lost work by Aristotle 315

Ch. 17 The integration of the psychology of Aristotle's Eudemus and his De anima 358

Ch. 18 Final considerations and conclusions 374

Bibliography 383

Index nominum 405

Index locorum 412


Marsilio Ficino: His Theology, His Philosophy, His Legacy

(Brill's Studies in Intellectual History, V. 108) by Michael J. B. Allen (Editor), et al

This volume consists of 21 essays on Marsilio Ficino (1433-99), the great Florentine scholar, philosopher and priest who was the architect of Renaissance Platonism and whose long-lasting influence on philosophy, love and music theory, medicine and magic extended across Europe. Grouped into three sections, they cover such topics as priesthood, the influence of Hermetic monism, Plotinus and Augustine, Jewish transmission of the prisca theologia, the 15th c. Plato-Aristotle controversy, the soul and its afterlife, the primacy of the will, theriac and musical therapy, the notions of matter, seeds, mirrors and clocks, and other fascinating philosophical and theological issues. Also considered are Ficino's critics, his relationship to the Camaldolese Order, his letters to princes, his influence on art, on Copernicus, on Chapman, and the nature of the Platonic Academy.  Readership: All those interested in intellectual history, the Renaissance, Platonism; history and philosophy of religion (Christian and Jewish), history of art, political theory, literature, early science, medicine and music.


Seeing the Word: John Dee and Renaissance Occultism

Hakan Hakansson

Prologue: "I come as sent by God" 7

Introduction: Understanding early modern occultism. Retrospection and reassessment 35


Symbolic exegesis, language, and history 73

The Word of God and the languages of man 84

The Word of God and the Book of Nature 96

John Dee: nature, language, and the Word of God 100

The wisdom of the ancients and the unity of knowledge 109

Roger Bacon and the universal grammar 119

The inner word and man's quest for reformation 129


The Language of Symbols 139

The Neoplatonic tradition of hieroglyphics 139

Emblematics and the Book of Nature 147

The mimetic metaphor 157

Allegorical imagery and the wisdom of the ancients 162

Dee and the mind of the adept 166

The kabbalistic teachings 170

Christian kabbalah 174

Dee and kabbalah 180

The Pythagorean scheme of creation 184

Dee's mathematical kabbalah 192

Scriptural exegesis 200

The power of mathematical symbolism 202

"Occult" intellection and Mens adepta 209

Alchemy and the transmutation of the human soul 223

Trithemius and magical theology 231


The Language of Magic 240

Magic and religion 243

Dee and medieval ritual magic 246

True faith and orthodox faith 255

Trithemius and ritual magic 259

Natural and celestial magic in medieval philosophy 268

Renaissance magic and Dee's Propaedeumata aphoristica 274

Magic in Dee's Monas hieroglyphica 289

Neoplatonic theurgy and Renaissance magic 301

The magical power of language 309

Dee, the medicina Dei, and the end of the world 318

Epilogue 332

Acknowledgements 338

References 340

Index 370


The theme of lasting stability (as opposed to innately, inherently unstable and therefore perishable and transient) is important for the self-control cybernetics theory of the ego death and reset experience. -mh


The Immovable Race: Gnostic Designation and the Theme of Stability in Late Antiquity (Nag Hammadi Studies , No 29) by Michael A. Williams

An important study focusing on five gnostic texts whose authors make reference to the Immovable Race. This designation, and the theme of stability in particular, is an important characteristic of Gnosis and its significance was emphasized within gnostic circles. Williams compares many similar examples of the idealization of immovability in late antiquity, giving us an impression of the larger fabric to which the instances of the immovable race designation belong. This quote of Philo nicely sets the stage:

Let no one who hears that God is firmly fixed think that there is something that provides aid to God in order that he might stand firm. Rather, let him consider that what is meant by this statement is that the steadfast God is the stay and support and firmness and stability of all things, stamping immovability into whomever he wills. (Somn. 1.158)


From Poimandres to Jacob Bohme: Hermetism, Gnosis and the Christian Tradition

Roelof Van Den Broek (Editor), Heertum Cis Van (Editor)

The studies collected in this volume deal with ancient, medieval and early modern forms of Gnosis and the diverse expressions of their myths, rites, ideas and expectations. The emphasis lays on Hermetism in Antiquity and its influence in the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the early modern period. The 14 contributions were written by R. van den Broek (3), C. Gilly (2), P. Kingsley (2), J.-P. Mahé (1), and G.Quispel (6).

The book contains discussions of several aspects of the Hermetic and Gnostic tradition, such as hermetic religious practices, magic, alchemy, apocalyptic visions, and the influence of Hermetic ideas on Early Christian and medieval theologians.  The volume is of interest for students of Graeco-Roman religiosity, Early Christianity, medieval theology and the Hermetic traditions in the Renaissance and later western culture

Roelof van den Broek, Dr.Theol. (1972), University of Utrecht, is Emeritus Professor of History of Christianity at the University of Utrecht. His publications include Studies in Gnosticism and Alexandrian Christianity (Brill, 1996).


Simon Magus: The First Gnostic

Stephen Haar

This latest comprehensive work on Simon Magus lends new impetus to the investigation of Early Christianity and questions surrounding the origin and nature of Gnosticism. Major contributions of this study include: (1), a departure from the traditional exegesis of Acts 8, 5-24 (the first narrative source of Simon), and the later following reports of ancient Christian writers; (2), an overview of the literature of Graeco-Roman antiquity to determine the contribution of "magic" and "the Magoi" in the development of perceptions and descriptions of Simon; and (3), the inclusion of social science explanation models and modern estimations of "identity", in a creative approach to questions surrounding the phenomenon of Simon.


The Fate of the Dead: Studies on Jewish and Christian Apocalypses

(Supplements to Novum Testamentum, Vol 93) by Richard Bauckham

These studies focus on personal eschatology in the Jewish and early Christian apocalypses. The apocalyptic tradition from its Jewish origins until the early middle ages is studied as a continuous literary tradition, in which both continuity of motifs and important changes in understanding of life after death can be charted.

As well as better known apocalypses, major and often pioneering attention is given to those neglected apocalypses which portray human destiny after death in detail, such as the Apocalypse of Peter, the Apocalypse of the Seven Heavens, the later apocalypses of Ezra, and the four apocalypses of the Virgin Mary.

Relationships with Greco-Roman eschatology are explored.

Several chapters show how specific New Testament texts are illuminated by close knowledge of this tradition of ideas and images of the hereafter.


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