Hermeticism And Christian Qabalah
The key to the modern Hermetic Qabalah is the Renaissance mind which blended Jewish Qabalah and Hermetic mysteries. During this period of intense intellectual activity, philosophers encountered previously hidden currents of Jewish mysticism, and attempted to adapt these ideas to a Christian framework. It was even asserted that through the Qabalah one could most effectively prove the divinity of Christ.
The Renaissance was a time when man considered himself the jewel in a universal crown. He was the "measure of all things," rather than the lowly sinner atoning for the Fall as had been insisted by medieval dogma. Thus, intellectual and creative activity, a constant questioning of principles, came to be of greater importance than the institutionalized values of the past. In more basic terms, one can say that what had been a church dominated society became secularized. The beliefs and feelings of the medieval period were supplanted by the call for a more rational overview of the human condition. The society was nominally Christian, but theologians and philosphers had a very free hand.
This freedom to doubt and explore some of the most basic principles of Christianity reached its high point at the Medici Academy in Florence. In fact, virtually all modern occultism can be traced back to the developments of scholars in that time and place.
The Medici were a family of immense wealth, ruling Florence from the fifteenth century until 1737. Their primary contribution was as patrons of the arts, a program begun by Cosimo, the first of the great Medici, and continued by Lorenzo "the Magnificent," patron to Leonardo, Michelangelo and Machiavelli.
Cosimo de Medici was the founder of the Platonic Academy, dedicated to the study of Greek philosophy, and a center of Neo-Platonie ideas. This was an open "think tank," much like today's Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton University.
Cosimo was a passionate collector of manuscripts and when in 1460 a Greek manuscript of the Hermetica came to him from Macedonia, he judged it to be of unique importance. The reputation of Hermes Trismegistus' work as providing a key to all knowledge was so considerable that Cosimo instructed Marsilio Ficino, director of his Academy, to put aside Plato's Republic and Symposium and translate the Hermetica first.40
Early Renaissance philosophers believed that in these documents they had the core ideas of the most ancient Egyptian religion, which would lead them to the very source of illumination.41 Their awestruck approach, and belief in the utter integrity of these papers, was the foundation of Renaissance magic and a whole school of neo-Platonism. It was these ideas which preceded the Qabalistic philosophy soon after flowing into the Medici Academy.
What is known as the Christian Qabalah was also a development of the Medici Academy, and the primary accomplishment of Pico della Mirandola, one of the court's intellectual luminaries. It was Pico who had the major Qabalistic texts translated into Latin. And it was Pico who, in his 72 Qabalistic Conclusions (part of his 900 theses) made the claim that "no science can better convince us of the divinity of Jesus Christ than magic and the Kabbalah."42 Pico's fourteenth Qabalistic principle stated that adding the Hebrew letter o (shin) to the Divine name niii> (yod, heh, vau, heh), and producing Ml Oil* Jeheshua, Hebrew name of Jesus, made it possible to pronounce the unpronounceable name of God. And, from the standpoint of the modern Hermetic Qabalah and the Golden Dawn, this is of special significance. Perhaps the most important single principle emphasized by today's Hermetic Qabalah is that all things are four elements activated by a fifth, which is Spirit. Yod is Fire, Heh is Water, Vau is Air, Heh final is Earth and Shin is Spirit.
Pico inspired the work of Johannes Reuchlin, the first non-Jew ever to write books on the Qabalah. His premise was that the history of mankind is based on three periods. In the first period God revealed himself to the Jewish patriarchs through the three-fold name '10 , Shaddai. The second period was that of Moses and the Talmud, when God appeared as the four-lettered name (Tetragramaton) nirp . Finally, came the period of man's redemption through Christ, when God revealed himself as the five-lettered Jeheshua.
Thus Pico della Mirandola and Johannes Reuchlin became the founders of the philosophical aspects of Christian Qabalism. The first practical work of their school was produced by Henry Cornelius Agrippa, whose De Occult Philosophia of 1531 was widely read.43 It is, however, Agrippa who is responsible for the very negative association of Qabalah with witchcraft and sorcery, a belief held by many even today.
All of these literary works had been stimulated by social developments in the west. Much of the intellectual current of the fifteenth century can be traced to the conquest of the Byzantine Empire by the Turks in 1453, and the subsequent migration of Greek scholars to Italy. A similar trend occurred in 1492 when the Jews were expelled from Spain and many Jewish scholars also settled in Italy, moving onto ground prepared for them by Pico with his theses of 1486.
There was widespread interest in Hebrew mysticism by the end of the century, and advocates of the Christian Qabalah included important Catholic prelates and theologians who viewed the Qabalah as a vehicle for the intellectual renewal of the faith. Thus the Christian Qabalah, merged with elements of Hermeticism, came to be the primary occult current of the Italian Renaissance.44
The Renaissance attitude toward the Hermetic sciences was jolted sharply approximately one hundred years later when Isaac Casaubon declared the Hermetica an early Christian forgery rather than an ancient Egyptian document. He stated that the books were written by a Christian or semiChristian in an attempt to make these doctrines acceptable, to gentiles.45 Casaubon's work brought about a significant decline of interest in magic, a generally acceptable Renaissance pursuit until his revelations. Today it is understood that the Hermetic documents are not specific forgeries, but that they were produced even later than Causaubon believed.
Despite Causubon's overwhelming evidence, some writers, including Robert Fludd and Athanasius Kircher, chose to ignore historical reality, and continued to declare the Hermetic fragments the work of an ancient Egyptian adept named Hermes Trismegistus.46
Continue reading here: Magus To The Queen
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