Category:Esotericism Reading

Genesis and evolution of the theosophical current in the European culture
by A. D'Alonzo
© copyright 2007 by –

Introduction - Dating and chronology of the theosophical current - Characteristics and doctrinal fundaments of theosophy - The ‘proto-theosophical' period (first/second half of the sixteenth century) - The first ‘age of gold' of theosophy (second half of the sixteenth century and seventeenth century) - The Swedenborgian interlude (1688-1772) - The theosophical renaissance at the end of the eighteenth century - Theosophy in the nineteenth century: Franz von Baader - Is the Theosophical Society comparable with the great European theosophical current?

1- Introduction. Dating and chronology of the theosophical current.

More and more often, especially on the Internet, we read articles that wrongly reduce the theosophical current to the doctrine spread by the Theosophical Society (T. S.) founded in 1875 in New York by Madame Helena Blavatsky and Colonel Henry Steel Olcott. On the contrary, the theosophical current presents at least six subsequent historical stratifications and it is deeply rooted in the European culture, in particular German. The reason for the Guénonian prejudice can be found in the German cultural substratum of theosophy, which becomes fierce hostility towards the T.S., especially Madame Blavatsky. Guénon's thought, after his youth, focused on the middle/far Eastern traditions, in particular on Islamic esotericism. Therefore he confirms his repulsion for all that has a German origin; his silence is extended to Paracelsianism and Naturphilosophie. For Guénon theosophy before Blavatsky involves a few names (note 1); the actual reality is different, though, and the theosophical current is, on the contrary, one of the most important in the history of occidental esotericism.

Briefly we can distinguish in the history of Western philosophy:

• A ‘proto-theosophical' period (first half and beginning of the second half of the sixteenth century), which includes the works by Gérard Dorn (1530-1584), Valentin Weiger (1533-1588), Johann Arndt (1555-1621), Heinrich Kunrath (1560-1605).

• A first ‘age of gold' of theosophy (second half of the sixteenth century and seventeenth century): Jakob Boheme (1575-1624), Jane Leade (1623-1704), John Pordage (1608-1681), Quirinus Kuhlmann (1651-1689), Johann Gerog Gichtel (1638-1710).

• A middle stage interrupted by the works by Emmanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772).

• A second age of gold (end of the eighteenth century): Martinez de Pasqually (1727-1774), Friedrich Cristoph Oetinger (1702-1782), Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin (1743-1803).

• A period (nineteenth century) that goes from Franz von Baader (1765-1841) to Naturphilosophie (1815-1847).

• A relation of objective discontinuity, the appearance of the above mentioned Theosophical Society in 1875 in New York.

In this approximate dating we must also include other well-known names: Gottfried Arnold (1666-1714), Aegidius Gutmann, Julius Sperber (died in 1616) Karl von Eckartshausen (1752-1803), J. Heinrich Jung-Stilling (1740-1817), Frédéric Rodolphe Salzmann (1749-1821), Michael Hahn (1758-1819), Franz Hoffmann (1804-1881), Julius Hamburger (1801-1884); in Holland: J. B. Van Helmont (1577-1664), F. M. Van Helmont (1618-1699). In England: Robert Fludd (1574-1637), Henri More (1614-1687), William Law (1686-1761), D. Andreas Freher (1649-1728). In France: Pierre Poiret (1646- 1719), Antoinette Bourignon (1616-1680), J.P. D. Membrini (1721-1793). Beside Leade we must also remember two other female theosophists: Bathilde d'Orléans (1750-1822) and Julie de Krüdener (1764-1824).

2. Characteristics and doctrinal fundaments of theosophy.

Of course all this authors present varied doctrines and speculations; nevertheless European theosophists seem to refer to three theoretical bench marks that distinguish theosophy from other Western esoteric currents: the triangle God-Man-Nature, the primacy of the biblical myth of Creation and the direct access of man to the Higher World (note 2).

• The triangle God-Man-Nature characteristic of the theosophical speculation refers to one of the classic triads in Western esotericism. God often occupies the highest point, whilst the other two polarities are placed to the lowest end. The collocation of Man on the same plane (lower) as Nature shows the original Fall, katabasis. It also implies that the human experience is not a mere being-in-the-world, a Heideggerian ‘fallenness' in the inauthenticity of the existential dimension, since man is equal to Nature and descends directly from God. In other words, at any time and from any condition, man can transcend his destiny and return (anabasis) to the Principle without necessarily suffering the ontological limits imposed to other creatures.

The biblical myth of Creation shows the recovery of Imagery, of the narrative element of the Genesis and all the fantastic factors disowned by the official theology. Whilst the latter gets closer and closer to the refined logocentric speculations, theosophy takes possession of the repressed theological contents, of the allegorical value of the cosmogonic myth and frees the symbol, now reduced to mere superstition, from the pillory of the scholastic metaphysics. Theosophy is therefore a kind of ‘theology of the image' (note 3).

The direct access to the higher worlds is essentially guaranteed by the power of creating Imagination. This faculty of divine origin and latent in man ensures: 1) the possibility to explore the several levels of reality; 2) the realization of anabasis, the ecstatic and temporary fusion with the divine plane; 3) the regeneration inside a ‘body of light' able to guarantee a ‘second birth' and ensure personal salvation. The latter possibility is lent to theosophy by Paracelsianism, from which theosophy comes from, but also by some parts of hermetic treaties contained in the Code VI by Nag Hammadi, discovered in 1945. The second, realization of the vis imaginativa , in a similar perspective refers to the classical matter of the ‘mystic place', of the meeting point of human with divine called syntéresis (egemonikón), principale mentis, apex mentis, principale cordis, scintilla anima (note 4), etc. Nevertheless there is an insuperable gap between mysticism and esotericism. The esotericist lives on theophanies and symbols that mediate the manifestation of the Sacred; the mystic overcomes all the steps of Jacob's ladder and realizes the Unification of his spirit with the divine. The esotericist stops and contemplate the ‘picture-cards' of mystery; the mystic annihilates the Ego and then he annihilates God himself.

Since theosophy originates inside a culture ruled by Lutheran preaching, it takes from the start an alternative perspective directed to the recovery of the mythic symbolism of the biblical corpus. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, protestant theology was inevitably withered by the Lutheran suspicions on philosophy, considered an arrogant and blasphemous discipline, aimed at replacing Christ's preaching with humanistic ratio. This suspicion soon spread to rational theology. Therefore theosophy fills a gap and answers a double spiritual need: to recover the Myth expelled by scholastic speculation at the end of the Middle Ages and to re-propose high metaphysics focused on the primacy of interiority emphasized by Luther. If the basis of relationships between man and God is the Scripture, than the subjective experience of the Reading becomes a priority, an alternative to any ecclesiastical mediation now perceived as arbitrary, oppressive and superstitious. Of course all this happens on a strictly theoretical plane, since protestant priests are historically strongly hostile to the prophethood that their master has helped creating and spread. In other words the emphasizing of interiority theorized by Luther starts scaring his own followers. In Görlitz, in Silesia, Boehme was persecuted for a long time by the Lutheran priest Gregor Richter; his works were ostracized, he and his family were slandered even after his death (note 5), occurred in November 1624.

Certainly things were not much better for free thinkers in the Latin milieu; the proof is Giordano Bruno's stake in February 1600. Nevertheless from the start the Roman Church sided against the freedom of personal interpretation, taking the role of spiritual mediator and bearer of the doctrine. On the contrary only later Protestantism goes against this ‘freedom of the Christian' claimed by the title itself of Luther's main work, which had been the Reformer's warhorse.

The second age of the theosophical current adds a peculiarity to all these problems. The late-eighteenth century theosophy acquires an eclectic and globalizing aspect, much more than the first Boehmian age and Swedenborg's middle stage. The theosophists after Swedenborg try and elaborate a joint system of principles, a universal science able to integrate harmoniously the esoteric currents of the Renaissance and modern science. They look for the fundaments of a total knowledge. The case of Friedrich Cristoph Oetinger is emblematic; he is perhaps the greatest scholar of Western esotericism. Nevertheless Oetinger's huge knowledge has a new characteristic that other scholars don't. The ‘Magus of the South' could master the philosophy and science of his time as well as all the esoteric traditions. In other words, he owned the (almost) whole of human knowledge; from cabbala to physiognomy, from neo-Platonism to dialectic, from electrology to magnetism.

3 – The ‘proto-theosophical' period (first/second half of the sixteenth century).

As we have said, the theosophical current fills a gap, recovers the mythic dimension of the Western religious Imagery structured inside the Biblical mythologems. On one hand we can find objective continuity in the School of Chartres or, to remain in Germany, in the wise visions of Hildegarde of Bingen (1098-1179); on the other hand, as far as proper esoteric filiation is concerned, we must look at the Paracelsian heritage. In the former case we must remember that before the advent of Scholasticism, theology was a form of thought very close to the esoteric one. The metaphysics of the School of Chartres, for example, was deeply filled with symbolic and mythical suggestions. Even Hildegarde of Bingen's visions are permeated with Gnostic and Manichean references, or at least hermetic. After all Paracelsus (1493-1541) supplied theosophical speculation with the doctrinal bench marks properly classifiable as ‘esoteric'. Paracelsian research expresses itself in the elaboration of a Philosophy of Nature (once again, removed from Scholasticism) structured on medicine, cosmology, symbolic correspondence of the planes of the Cosmos. This last aspect in particular becomes a priority in the theosophical theoretical system. Whilst the Old Testament presents the world as an effect of the Fall, of the unbridgeable axiological distance/separation between Nature and God, Creation and Creator, Master and servants, Paracelsus platonically gives back ontological dignity to the kingdom of Matter, elevating it to copy and mirror of Heaven. If Nature is a reflection, although imperfect, of the intelligible World, then it can't be only considered as a radical ontological fracture generated by the Edenic sin. The Creation becomes at least a map to find the hidden face of the Creator-who-judges.

The Paracelsian heritage converged in philosophical speculation, which must not be considered as a proper unitary doctrine, but rather as a complex of subjective elaborations shared in the reference to the three postulates above mentioned (the triangle God-Man-Nature, the primacy of myth and the direct access to the Higher World). As we have seen, it is common use to join together the advent of the proper theosophical current with the start of the Boehmian speculation; therefore all that precedes the appearance of the ‘Cobbler of Görlitz' is usually described as the ‘pre-theosophical' period, but this doesn't imply the intellectual devaluation of its exponents. Simply, Gérard Dorn, Valentin Weigel, Johann Arndt, Heinrich Kunrath are farther from Boehme's theosophy and closer to Paracelsus than Swedenborg, for example.

Gérard Dorn (1530-1584) can be considered the proper epigone and follower of Paracelsus. Besides commenting and promoting the Paracelsian works, Dorn elaborated a very refined Philosophy of Nature that kept an eye on the various alchemic postulates.

In Valentin Weigel's work (1533-1588), besides the usual Paracelsian influence, we can also find the heritage of the Rhine-Flemish mysticism (note 6). Among the medieval German mystics Meister Eckhart influenced particularly the protestant priest, author of a treaty called Gnóthi seautón (‘Know thyself'). The fulcrum of the Weigelian meditation is the refusal of the exterior, confessional, doctrinal authority (he also abandoned the religious offices to continue his free and solitary meditations). The principle of the Spirit, the ‘divine spark' is inside the soul itself, in the inner man. At the same time the historical church and the Scripture don't matter for Weigel; salvation doesn't come from the historical Christ, but from the inner Christ, perfect image of an illuminated and secluded introjection. The inner man becomes the fundament of the macrocosm because he contains the generation of the divine Logos in himself.

Johan Arndt (1555-1621) was a German protestant priest. He edited many works from the medieval mysticism; besides Eckhart he took inspiration from other important religious figures, such as Angela of Foligno and Bernard of Clairvaux. Arndt's masterpieces are the Six books of Christianity (at first the books were four), where he tries to harmonize and combine the medieval mysticism with Paracelsianism and alchemy. In Arndt we also find the so-called doctrine of the ‘second birth', viz. the formation of a new body inside the soul able to achieve personal salvation.

Heinrich Kunrath (1560-1605) wrote the Ampitheatrum Sapientiae Aeternae , an alchemic-theosophical treaty that helped the spreading of the word ‘theosophy' in Germany, progressively replacing the more dated and suspicious ‘divine magic' (note 7). The Ampitheatrum also marks the beginning of a new style, a fresh way of writing and speculating rich of images and illustrations. >From this moment on, all books of alchemy fill with symbols drawn into colorful pages; nevertheless, iconographic research comes to a halt and only in the next century it becomes definitely popular.

4- The first ‘age of gold' of theosophy (second half of the sixteenth century and seventeenth century).

Only with Jakob Boehme the theosophical current acquires its definitive connotation. The true founder of theosophy was born in 1575 in Alt-Seidenberg (Silesia). In 1599 he moved to the nearby Görlitz where he worked all his life as a cobbler. He married Caterina Kuntzschmann, daughter of a butcher. Boehme himself was born in a very poor family and he studied as an autodidact. When his first son was born, Boehme started having his illuminations. The first writing, Aurora is dated 1612, but its manuscript circulated surreptitiously before then; it spread Boehme's name and attracted the rage of Gregor Richter, the protestant priest in Görlitz. In 1613 Richter had Boehme arrested with the accusation of heresy. Boehme was released on the condition that he would stop writing. Jakob, though, soon started spreading his ideas beyond Silesia. Between 1619 and 1623 he wrote: The Three principles of the Divine Essence; The threefold life of man; Answers to forty questions concerning the soul; On the Incarnation of Jesus Christ; The great six points; On the election of grace; De signature rerum, Mysterium magnum. But it was The way to Christ , printed in 1624, that reawakened the never-appeased rage of Richter. The ‘cobbler of Görlitz underwent a new trial; in vain he tried to obtain the protection of the prince. In May 1624 Richter stirred up the compulsions of the masses against Jakob's family. On the 17 th November Boehme died; a few months earlier Richter had died too. A religious funeral was allowed for Boehme with great difficulties and through the mediation of the town council asked by a friend of the theosophist. After the funeral his grave was profaned by an enraged crowd.

In 1610 Boehme was contemplating a tin pot when he had his first ‘vision', revealing to him how reality is made of different correspondent ontological planes, hierarchically ordered by axiological levels. In the history of Western philosophy the idea that the being is structured by different planes of manifestation appears for the first time in the so-called ‘non-written doctrines' by Plato. Later, the theory is re-elaborated by Plotinus and then by the Pseudo-Dionysius. In the Indian culture we find it in the Upanishad. As far as the ‘visionarism' is concerned, there is a thread that joins Boehme with Hildegarde of Bingen. The phenomenology of these ‘divine' visions, which can be easily compared to ‘simple psychic hallucinations', refers to a flow of unconscious disorderly emotions and projections of the subject, who desperately craves the unification with God. Nevertheless, this unification is destined to failure, because it relates to the dynamics of the feeling of love, to the ineffable dichotomy between lover/Ego and loved/God. This contraposition is not solvable, because the lover always needs the duality to continue loving (note 8).

With Boehme, though, we have a rediscovery of ‘visionarism' mixed with a less ‘sentimental' and more ‘esoteric' perception of reality. Later Swedenborg, although he was substantially independent from Boehme, will continue the tradition of ‘visionarism' inspiring whole generations of poets, literates and artists, such as Blake, Goethe, Balzac, Baudelaire, Emerson, Yeats and Strindberg (note 9).

‘Aurora' can be considered as the birth certificate of theosophy. It was written in German and it re-presents a Naturphilosophie of a Paracelsian kind, harmonized by the influence of German medieval mysticism. In Boehmian theosophy we find few traces of Alexandrine hermeticism and Hebrew cabbala. The doctrinal system is based on Paracelsianism with some references to alchemy and hints to the Hebrew cabbala. It is important the reference to interiority that transforms the exteriority of the Scripture through a slow re-reading of the soul, essentially of the spirit. Redemption is for Boehme the passage ‘from history to essence'. The process of progressive introjection of the spirit leads beyond the fundament ( Grund ) towards the bottomless abyss ( Ungrund ). The Ungrund is for Boehme God himself (note 10), ‘limitless will'; whilst the ‘Son' is conceived as a ‘generated will' from the infinite abyss; the ‘Spirit' is the ‘result of the will of the abyss'. The contemplation of this ‘eternal Nothing' is the true divine Wisdom, which gives pleasure to those who pursue it. Since it is pure and eternal contemplation, Wisdom is identified by Boehme with the same Johannine Logos. The Creation is the result of ‘anger and disdain' of the abyss; from the divine will originate the World, but also Evil, which finds its justification inside the process of activation of the ‘bottomless will'. This process, though, will lead to the extinction of Evil and the Return to the Unity of the Whole. Man, Nature and God are not heterogeneous in their essence; the myth of the Androgyne testifies for Boehme the possibility of the final Reintegration in the One.

Jane Ward was born in 1623 in Norfolk. She lived in wealth until her adolescence, when she suddenly converted. She married in London at the age of twenty-one with William Leade; she had four daughters. The meeting with Pordage (1608-1681; author of Teologia Mystica, or the Mystic Divinity of the Eternal invisibles) brought her closer to Boehme's theosophy, whose works she translated into English. She definitely retired from active and mundane life and wrote several works (among which we can mention The Laws of Paradise, given forth by Wisdom to a Translated Spirit, 1695) later translated in German to testify the success of her ideas. She died in 1704. Her work inspired the ideas of the ‘Philadelphians', a secret society of the eighteenth century, mainly made of political adversaries of Napoleon. Leade's thought is focused on the neo-testamentary subjects of man's salvation through the work of the Redeemer. Satan is destined to eternal damnation; on the contrary Adam, through God's love, will be saved together will all the humankind.

Quirinus Kuhlmann (1651-1689) wrote a good sixty eight books. He was an indefatigable traveler and he crossed all Europe from the Iberian Peninsula to the tsarist Russia, stopping in Constantinople. In Moscow he was condemned to the stake by the defenders of the orthodoxy, worried by his attempt to convert the tsar. He was an eclectic spirit and he cultivated his interests adapting them to the culture of the countries where he stayed in. In Wroclaw he studied the Alexandrine epigrams; in Jena he wrote his travel diaries composing spiritual sonnets.

Kuhlmann, after Ramon Llull and before Oetinger, tried to elaborate a universal and combinatory science to include the whole of human knowledge, the scientific as well as the humanistic culture of the time. In the same period this attempt was also made by Leibniz and Athanase Kircher. In his most famous work, Kühlpsalter , Kuhlmann puts some psalms together arranging them according to a particular arithmology, mixing biblical references and Boehmian postulates. The detailed description of the symbols (‘seven spirits', ‘three principles', ‘seven sources', etc…) is propaedeutic to the identification of a spiritual Centrum, responsible for the creating action. To know this Center is a task of the encyclopedic discipline that Kuhlmann is creating, Science of sciences. God is thought of as the Center of a spinning wheel; the creatures rotate around him like words around the poet. But like Boehme he thinks that he creates the world furiously, extending his action with the force of an erupting volcano. For Kuhlmann the human essence has an igneous nature, the bottom of the soul is forged in fire. Sophia has abandoned the visible world and Nature is destined to catastrophe. The pages of Kühlpsalter are full of pain and anguish; only at the end of time the spiritual marriage between the soul and God is possible (note 11). According to Kuhlmann the man who wants to save himself must develop the divine Wisdom in the soul, which is the only way to escape pain and self-destruction. Kuhlmann identifies Wisdom with human knowledge; the only form of Sophia that can be realized from the fallen man is the divine Wisdom in the soul. It is obvious how for Kuhlmann the ‘true' Wisdom is what God himself passed on to man through the Lógos (note 12). The spiritual growth of man is compared to that of a tree: for the German philosopher it is a matter of using Wisdom to burn the weed and to irrigate the more prosperous branches.

Johann Georg Gichtel was born in Regensburg in Bavaria in 1638; he studied theology and law in Strasbourg. In Amsterdam he founded the ‘Community of the Brothers of the Angelical Way' ( Engelsbrüder ). Gichtel was influenced very much by Boehme and he was a great visionary as well. In his books we find the subject of the ‘spiritual marriage' with Sophia, the divine Wisdom. In the via amoris man's soul takes a feminine value in relation with the masculinization of Sophia. On the contrary, in ancient Gnosticism the latter is presented as a lunar, passive theophany. In the mysticism of feeling the soul that meets the Lógos or that recognizes Sophia can't help being penetrated by the divine Light, independently from the original polarity of God's Wisdom before the earthly Fall (masculine or, on the contrary, feminine theophany).

A fundamental point of the Gichtelian theory is the devaluation or at least the resizing of the Scripture. It took a very important role in a particular period of the history of Israel, functional to the overcoming of the spiritual toil of the Hebrew people. The Bible, according to Gichtel, gathered and called the Jews to their religious duties; it had a protecting role, preserving the elected role from ‘paganish' falls. Gichtel believes that his time can do without the Scripture and the sacraments. They are not necessary for the soul that wants to realize the ‘mystic marriage' with God. It is obvious the influence on Gichtel of the ‘left' of the Reform, influenced on its turn by the ‘master of interiority', Meister Eckhart (note 13). The soul must find the way to reach God in itself; the deep being that inhabits man is called by Gichtel ‘ Gemüth ', bottom of the soul and spiritual organism. At the same time, God gives grace through a process similar to the Plotinian emanation. Whilst for Eckhart the divine light arises softly in the human soul, in the Gichtelian meditation this process takes very dramatic features. The divine light reveals itself in the human soul with the violence of a cataclysm, of an explosion. It is obvious how Gichtel, being a good Christian and having to admit the divine ‘personification' is forced to use all the exterior, anthropomorphic and pompous manifestations to describe the birth of the Lógos in the soul.

In other words, whilst Greeks considered God as an absolutely impersonal substance, Jews and later Christians, transform the Principle in a real person. In the New Testament appears an anthropomorphic God that evaluates the single human actions and decides on the individual destinies. Plato still considered God as Good in himself, Aristotle as ‘Thought of Thought' and Plotinus as One. In this sense Gichtel disowns the Eckhartian lesson of the quiet light and decides to blatantly mark the birth of Lógos in man with the image of the ‘sea of fire'. Like for Boehme, for Gichtel as well the eschatological process is dialectic; the divine anger is destined to be overcome in the final synthesis. Nevertheless we still have the Boehmian distinction between the ‘central fire of the Trinity', result of divine love, and the Nature generated by anger.

We can't conclude without mentioning the particular Gichtelian interpretation of the Androgyne, a recurring theme in Boehme's works. According to Gichtel Adam held the two opposite polarities of masculine and feminine in his nature. The male principle was called with the name of ‘Adam' itself and it corresponded to the force of spirit; the feminine principle was called ‘Sophia' and referred to the body. But in the Gichtelian context there isn't the orphic-Pythagorean devaluation of the body, because Sophia shapes and illuminates the spirit revealing the secrets of the divine wisdom to it. It is Sophia itself to even ensure the unification between God and the Androgyne, because she is the body of both God and Adam. The Fall in the world of matter causes the loss of Sophia and therefore the ontological break of man, now irremediably separated from the divine body of the Creator. It is obvious the influence of the Gnostic myth of the Fall in this idea.

5- The Swedenborgian interlude (1688-1772).

Emmanuel Swedenborg was born in Stockholm in 1688 from an educated family. Since childhood he showed a strong predisposition for the study of mathematics, physics and natural sciences. He often traveled to England, France, Holland. During his education years he took interest in paleontology, mining engineering and philosophy. Usually Swedenborg's though is divided into three stages.

In the first we find the initial predisposition of Swedenborg for scientism and rationalism. Nevertheless, this stage must be accompanied by a strong speculative conflict or at least ambivalent drives towards the Imagery. His most irrationalist works belong to this period: Oeconomia Regni Animalis; Clavis Hierogliphyca arcanorum naturalium and Spiritualium per viam Repraesentationum et Corrispondentiarum.

The second stage is characterized by a strong tension towards Platonizing asceticism and by the development of visionary abilities. In this period he writes De Cultu et Amore Dei , a book where Swedenborg refers to a Platonizing idea of eros (note 14) borrowed by the Symposium but inserted into a strictly dualist theoretical system (note 15). The typical dualism is biblical-Gnostic between good and evil; nevertheless this dichotomy is exteriorized and embodied in a kind of ‘psychic animism'. There are angels of ‘good' and ‘evil', real entities, not just nominal, which inhabit man and are responsible for his drives. At the same time any idiosyncrasy or predisposition of the subject can be brought back to the beneficial or perturbing action of these entities. Basically we are in front of an ‘animistic' conception of ethics and psyche. The formations of angels are eventually brought back to the fundamental contraposition between God and Satan, respectively principles of good and evil. Every natural or intellectual phenomenon is for Swedenborg ascribable to the spiritual entities of the Universe; the earthly reality is the result of the influences of supernatural entities. True human wisdom is the knowledge of these entities.

The last period in Swedenborg's life is the most properly ‘theosophical'. His visions start after the age of fifty. His main work in this period is the Arcana Coelestia. The psycho-animistic dualism is now overcome inside an eschatological and soteriological perspective. The Swedish theosophist and visionary even founds a church (entitled to himself) able to prepare men to the final celestial era. According to Swedenborg the original sin generates the rational conscience from the simply intuitive one. Temporality becomes the diachronic space that separates the fall of the first original church from the progressive ascent of the humankind that reunites with God. The Swedenborgian millenarianism was object of criticism from Kant to Blake.

6- The theosophical renaissance at the end of the eighteenth century.

We have seen how Swedenborg's work goes beyond the boundaries of proper theosophy and draws transversally from the most varied fields of culture at the time. In this sense Swedenborg can be considered as something more than a ‘simple' theosophist. Or perhaps, from another point of view, the judgment can be reversed and we might consider the Swedish visionary as an ‘unfinished' theosophist who reached theosophy at an advanced age.

In both cases, his work serves as a bonding agent between the Boehmian age and the renaissance in the eighteenth century, although this last stage can't certainly be completely equaled to the first. Whilst the Boehmian and pre-Boehmian age is made of great visionaries, such as Gichtel, Kuhlmann, Jane Leade, besides Boehme himself, the second is mainly made of commentators of the Scriptures, whose theoretical thought prevails on their prophetic view.

We can find the beginning of this new way of practicing theosophy in the first book by Saint-Martin, Des erreurs et de la vérité dated 1775. We must not forget, though, that Saint-Martin was a pupil of Martinez de Pasqually, initiated by him to the same Order founded by him, the Elus Cohen (‘Elect Priests') (note 16). ‘Cohen' is a Hebrew word that means ‘priests'. The Cohens were a sacerdotal class founded by Aaron and able to transmit and preserve the secret teachings of the Torah.

Martinez de Pasqually's life (1727-1774) is surrounded by mystery, fed by the same legends that the author loved to create. Jacques de Livron de la Tour de la Case Martinez de Pasqually was born in Grenoble in 1727 from a Portuguese or Spanish family. There are doubts about his possible Hebrew origin (note 17). Anyhow, at a very advanced age he married Marguerite Anglique de Callos with a Catholic rite. His father received a Masonic patent from Charles Edward Stuart in 1738 which allowed to initiate masons ‘on sight' and to found Lodges. Martinez inherited this patent and in 1760 it received the official recognition by the Grand Orient in France. Martinez had a reputation of sorcerer and theurgist; this made possible the foundation of many initiatory orders of a Masonic kind. The most famous is the above mentioned Order of Elus Cohens founded in 1750. This Order was arranged exteriorly according to the Masonic system but the doctrinal structure was inspired by the great heritage of ceremonial and theurgic magic. The hierarchic organization of the beings can be compared to the system presented from the Pseudo-Dionysus in his Corpus dionysianum : 2,400 angels and archangels ready to be invoked and associated to signs and hieroglyphics (note 18).

Cohen's system was based on the method created by Swedenborg in 1720 (note 19). We will synthetically recreate the hierarchic structure in the Order of the Elect Priests:

1 st class: Apprentice, Fellow, Master (so-called ‘blue' Freemasonry).

2 nd class: Apprentice Cohen, Fellow, Elect Master Cohen, Particular Master (so-called ‘of the Porch').

3 rd class: Grand Master Elect Cohen or Grand Architect, Grand Chevalier (Knight) of Orient (called ‘of the Temple').

4 th class: Reaux Croix (‘secret') (note 20).

The teachings given in the first class belonged to the so-called ‘blue' Freemasonry. In the second class the more specific Cohen doctrines were transmitted; in the third the initiatory rites of passage were suspended and the adept was ordered to the reception of the sacerdotal powers. In the degree of the Grand Architect exorcisms were taught. In the supreme degree of Reaux Croix the adept practiced theurgy and he completed the anabatic process of reintegration in the archetype of the Universal Man, the cabbalistic Adam Qadmon. Theurgy consisted of the materialization of a luminous glyph or the manifestation of sound; usually hierophany was interpreted as a positive signal that certified the rectitude of the initiatory journey. During their theurgic practices, the Reaux Croix underwent two serious dangers. The first were occasional contacts with angelic entities, which could cause serious consequences to the body of the operator. In the second case the danger came directly from demoniac powers, able to deceive the theurgist with a false body of glory.

The Order of the Elect Cohen was linked to the name of Martinez. In 1774, after the death of Martinez in Santo Domingo, the Order gradually declined and eventually almost disappeared. In France and in Italy there are still today Lodges of the Elect Cohen.

Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin (1743-1803) was born in Amboise from a noble family. His mother died and he was brought up by his father's second wife. He studied law in Paris but he later preferred the military career. In 1769 he met Martinez de Pasqually in Bordeaux. Two years later he abandoned the military life and retired to a contemplative life. In 1773 in Lyon he met J. Baptiste Willermoz, another follower of Martinez. In the same year he wrote his first work, Des erreus e de la verité , published only in 1775. In this book Saint-Martin tried to bring man's intellectual, moral and religious elaborations to an active cause present in the soul (note 21), fighting atheism and the mechanistic and materialistic excesses of the modern science. Despite having become Reaux Cohen, Saint-Martin abandoned the order founded by de Pasqually, considering the latter excessively keen on exteriority to the detriment of the inner way, the only one he thought that deserved to be followed (note 22).

Saint-Martin was an elegant and refined man; he started to frequent the aristocratic salons in Paris but he kept rigorously chaste. During this period he wrote Tableau Naturel des rapports entre Dieu l'homme et l'univers , a work created under the influence of Martinez. According to Saint-Martin man has a superior faculty responsible of archetypal ideas, able to guide towards the upright actions and to subtract man from natural determinism. Saint-Martin ascribes compulsions and empirical sensations to the original Fall. If man hadn't tainted himself with the original sin, he wouldn't know evil and wouldn't be subjected to the whirl of senses that determines impious and wicked actions. Only through the process of final reintegration in the divine principle man will re-acquire the lost masterhood of honest actions and thoughts, becoming able to completely annul the sensorial pathos.

In 1778 he met madame de Boeclin in Strasbourg; she helped him discover Boehme's works. In 1802 he published L'Homme de Désir , a theoretical pillar of Martinism, founded by Papus in 1891. The work is made of 301 chapters celebrating the human desire for divine reintegration; it is a return to the Unity made possible only by the perfection of the spiritual life. Like in the Alexandrine hermeticism, the anabasis is made possible by the catabatic descent of the divine Light; the re-ascent towards the Principle is a consequence of spiritual Illumination achieved through two different types of prayer, exterior and interior. The first involves all the daily actions directed to the glory of the Kingdom of Heaven, the second refers to spiritual alchemy.

In 1789 Saint-Martin wrote Ritratto storico e filosofico ( Historical and philosophical portrait, Note of the translator) . The Revolution forced him to escape.

On the 4 th July 1790 Saint-Martin declared himself in ‘sleep' towards French Freemasonry and started gathering groups of friends and disciples, creating a conventicle called Intimates of Saint-Martin. In 1792 he published Le nouvelle homme , where he theorized the possibility to uniform the flow of thoughts to the thought of God, through a divine ‘depot' inborn in man. This doctrine clearly refers to the medieval problem of ‘synderesis' and of the ‘mystic place' in the human soul.

In the same year he published Ecce homo , a pamphlet about the low spiritualism of the time, which helped the spreading of the fashion of parapsychology and channelling. In the poem in prose and verses Le crocodile ou la guerre du bien contre du bien contre le mal , Saint-Martin opposed the materialistic theories of Joseph Dominique Garat, professor of ‘analysis of the human intentions'. Garat supported the primacy of sensation on intellection; this thesis was obviously refused by the ‘incognito philosopher'. Saint-Martin insisted on the direct emanation of the Primordial Man from the divine Principle; this metaphysical projection is temporarily interrupted because of the earthly Fall. According to Saint-Martin the only way to re-make the anabatic journey of Reintegration in the archetype is the strengthening of Desire, platonically intended as erotic transcendentalism directed to the progressive refining of the spirit in the detachment from sensible things; or even as Augustinian recognition of the inner Truth of the soul, which is nothing but God itself.

In the De l'Esprit de le chose , Saint-Martin borrows the classic idea of western esotericism, which considers man as a kind of living mirror able to reproduce the divine image in the creation. Nature is already a symbolic support, a sign and reference of the perfect hidden revelation of the intelligible world; man, microcosm and image of the gods, is the most clear and bright mirror. We are in the presence of the classic platonic idea that guarantees metaphysical dignity to the sensitive Nature, because it is a copy, although not perfect, of intelligible entities. In the Judaic-Christian tradition we can see an absolutely negative and discriminating representation of the physis, perceived as an irreducible ontological fracture and kingdom of brute force and evil. There is no salvation for non human creatures and for the sensitive world; redemption is only for just men and never for other living creatures of the animal or vegetal kingdom. Western esotericism reverses this gloomy Christian idea with an anthropocentric aspect; even plants and animals, although resized in the axiological scale, are imperfect projections and therefore references to the divine world. They are lower copies of supernatural beings or anyway traces of the intelligible sketch. Ontological dignity is gained by the being as well, mere shadow and reflection of the perfection of Heaven.

In Le ministre de l'Homme-Esprit , Saint-Martin continues the theoretical elaboration of his gnosis of introjection. The divine Revelation lives in the spiritual man, in the individual converted to the way of knowledge and asceticism. This spiritual journey is full of anguish for the man of the earthly Fall, forced to chase the divine Truth once belonging to the Edenic man. He is forced to find again his essence in the archetypical reintegration, his super-sensitive face in the primordial identity. Saint-Martin died on the 13 th October 1803.

We have already mentioned the exceptional erudition of Friedrich Cristoph Oetinger (1702-1782). Perhaps we must just add that in him eclecticism takes the consistent and coordinated form of a systematic project aimed at integrating the fields of knowledge inside a synthetic and universal knowledge. It is knowledge of knowledge, then, a science of science, directed at harmonizing the diverging conclusions of modern philosophy and theology, physics and biblical exegesis. The assumption of a unique knowledge that gathers in its postulates the synthetic contraction of the principles of the so-called ‘second' sciences is the ‘esoteric' idea par excellence, also cultivated by R. Lullo and Leibniz. In the nineteenth century Fichte re-named ‘metaphysics' the ‘prime' doctrine that includes in its propositions the basic principles of derived or ‘second' sciences. They are declaiming statements on the conflicting relation of the dialectic between Ego/Non Ego (world), which can be consequentially developed in the theoretical fundaments of the applicative disciplines. It is evolution and development without overcoming the metaphysics in the sciences aimed at the second causes: physics, chemistry, political economy, etc…

Through this unitary system of knowledge, Oetinger proposes to overcome the intellectualistic cognition founded on the dichotomy subject-object, phenomenon-noumenon. The esoteric or mystic view finds in the You the identifying code for the Ego, ending the phenomenal deceit implied in the World of the earthly Fall, or in the Indian world, the Samsaric illusion of the multiplicity of the manifested. Oetinger, active member of the Evangelical Church, couldn't and didn't want to overcome the Scriptures; the dichotomy of the transeunt is the consequence of the original sin. Adam was perfectly able to transform himself in the being, realizing the cognitive fusion with the object of knowledge.

7- Theosophy in the nineteenth century: Franz von Baader.

Franz von Baader (1765-1841) is part of the category of philosophers where Martinez de Pasqually and Saint-Martin belonged, Catholics and Masons at the same time (note 23). He was born in Munich and at first he studied medicine. He later studied mineralogy in Freiberg. During his stay in Saxony he approached medieval mystics; he certainly read Meister Eckhart and Theodoric of Freiberg. He was particularly influenced by Boehme. In 1797 he became counselor of the mines in Bavaria, looking for the fundament of physics in metaphysical speculation. In this perspective it is not surprising that Baader easily managed to harmonize the interest for the world of effects with the ‘realm of purposes'. The complete and final transformation of the metaphysical thought into techno-centric totalitarianism will occur only in the twentieth century. In Baader's age it is still possible the Renaissance and Aristotelian approach to knowledge, able to go back from the second to the first causes inductively or systematically. Baader could be physic or metaphysic without suffering. His scientific knowledge took him to the court of Tsar Alexander I.

As we said, in 1786 at the age of twenty Baader started studying mineralogy in Freiberg. His first work in 1792 was Du calorique, de sa repartition, de son association e de sa dissolution, particuliérment dan la combustion de corps. The peculiarity of the treaty is its extremely lyrical style and the attempt to conjugate the Herderian and Schellingian idea of Nature as living Spirit with the acquisitions of modern science. We must not forget that the waning century opens the doors to the positivism that searches the task given by God to man in the domain of Nature. Like Oetinger, Baader as well pursues a holistic and systematic project aimed at integrating the data of Naturphilosophie with the modern scientific method. In Fermenta Cognitionis Baader compares the Spiritus Mundi to the cosmic ocean, starting and finishing point of individual existence. In Cours de Philosophie he theorizes the link of all the human beings' senses with a unique central and universal view (note 24): the ‘Animal Spirit of the World'. This astral spirit must not be confused with the Spirit of the World, of a celestial type. The Animal Spirit of the World works as a catalyzer for all individual consciences; every living creature's perception of self depends on this unique universal root. Baader here uses a metaphor by Thomas Aquinas to explain the complex relationship between super-individual Spirit and subjectivity. Two men with a common eye would perceive a unique vision despite being two different observers (note 25). Baader also adds the example of two Siamese sisters joined by their bodies, who perceive the same sensorial stimulations of pain and pleasure (note 26). According to Baader there are two types of Spirit of the world, astral and celestial. The latter is identified by the German philosopher with the same Sophia, intended as superior and universal instance. The etymological meaning of the word ‘philosophy' is not the classical ‘love for knowledge' but rather the submission to Sophia as a super-human entity or, which is the same thing, as the root of all archetypes able to direct human actions. Man can refuse or accept the ‘suggestions' of this universal Reason, but it can't be entirely identified with it. Baader calls this universal Knowledge with different synonyms: Wisdom, Sophia, creating Idea, Virgin (note 27). It is also called spiritus mundi divini ; it is eternal and it must be distinguished from the Soul of the World, placed at the lower level of the manifestation. According to the German theosophist only Christian religion can establish a direct contact, inorganic and intellectual, with the prime Principle. Sophia, or Wisdom, is the universal mediator able to realize the contact between creature and Principle and the science that studies it is called Sophiology.

8- Is the Theosophical Society comparable with the great European theosophical current?

The Theosophical Society was founded in 1875 in New York, as a result of the meeting between Madame Blavatsky and colonel H. Steel Olcott. Helena von Hahn was born on the 12 th August 1831 in Ukraine, from a part Russian, part French and German family. Her father was a colonel and her mother a short story writer. When Helena got in contact with the library of her grandparents, she started taking an interest in esotericism. It is a fact that Helena had a magnetic personality and perhaps mediumistic powers. At the age of eighteen she married Nikofor Blavatsky but the marriage broke up after three months. She started a spiritual journey to Europe, Africa and Asia until she decided to stay in New York (the story goes that she lived under the direction of a mysterious organization). Henry Steel Olcott (1832-1907) was born in New Jersey and he soon joined the army; later he worked as a lawyer. Since his adolescence, Olcott showed a keen interest in Swedenborg and religious traditions. At the age of twenty he started frequenting the spiritistic circles, until the meeting with Madame Blavatsky in 1874. William Q. Judge (1851-1896) also deserves a particular mention; he was the lawyer of the T.S. until the death of Blavatsky in 1891, when he became the president of the American branch of the ‘Eastern School of Theosophy'. Another important figure is Annie Besant, the president of the ‘Eastern School of Theosophy' for the rest of the world.

She was born in London in 1847 in an educated and wealthy family. She married early with the reverend Frank Besant; even though they had two children, the marriage didn't last long. Annie started taking an interest into politics and socialist ideas, but also in occultism and supernatural. In 1889 she read the Secret Doctrine by Madame Blavatsky and shortly afterwards she met her. Annie Besant shot to the top of the hierarchic ladder in the T. S. Whilst Madame Blavatsky had an animal magnetism able to charm and win over the skeptics, Besant had different but just as important intellectual gifts. Bezant had uncommon talents for a woman at the time. She was an extraordinary speaker and her eloquence could charm and convince any audience. She often wore oriental dresses and her conferences always attracted large audiences, who were astonished for the easiness with which this extremely educated woman could talk about religion, politics, science. Whilst Blavatsky had mediumistic powers and animal magnetism, Besant had political experience, oratory and intellectual abilities and scientific knowledge. In other words, she was born to be a leader.

The great mistake of Annie Besant was perhaps to have complete trust in a young adopted Indian guy, Krihnamurti. She saw in this young man the possible spiritual master of the new era, a new Jesus or Buddha. She created for him the Order of the Star of the East, disbanded in 1929 by Krishnamurti himself, who had come of age and was not convinced by this project. Krishnamurti started a series of internal schisms and founded numerous other orders which he thought were more suitable to spread his teachings.

Under the theoretical profile, the T. S. presents itself as the heir of a religious universalism with a romantic hint, which looks with interest at Indian and far eastern religions. The T. S. doesn't just recover the testamentary Imagery like European theosophy, but it opens to all religions and traditions of the world. In Europe at the end of the eighteenth century the first translations of the Vedic corpus start to spread and the scholars start studying philosophies and religions of India and the East. In the nineteenth century the idea of a ‘universal religion', whose traces can be found in all religions worldwide, starts spreading. Even Freemasonry borrows from mythic genealogies in order to gain prestige and initiatory fortunes. In their books the Masonic scholars J. P. Ragon and J. Yarker often step into a passionate syncretism, in the attempt to accredit the alleged Egyptian roots of modern Freemasonry. Even in the United States doctrinal syncretism spreads with Transcendentalism; a ‘new era' is expected, where all the religions of the world will be joined in a unique ‘Religion of the Humankind' (note 28).

In this cultural atmosphere the T. S. searches in India for the roots of all religions and traditions: ‘We must learn one day that all ancient traditions disfigured by emigration and legend, belong to the history of India.' (Isis Unveiled).

Syncretism, then. And substitution of the mythical system of the Genesis with Vedic literature. In other words, the T. S. reverses the primacy of the Bible and subordinates Christianity to its Indian roots, although in an objective continuity. On the contrary the European theosophical current had been eminently Christian in its Catholic or Protestant ramifications.

Furthermore, one of the doctrinal main points of the T. S. is the theory of reincarnation. The individual is considered to be made of an immortal conscience that evolves through uncountable lives; reincarnation is the passage of Self in a new body and a new destiny. The Karma is the ‘law of Cause and Effect'. Behavior generates effects that determine the events of present and future life, in the case that the individual can't carry out the ‘karmic debt' before his physical death. In the whole, the humankind evolves through seven stages, or Race Roots, divided into seven sub-races. At the top of the initiatory pyramid the universe and men's destinies are guided by a Cosmic Hierarchy. Time is not linear like in the biblical corpus (and in the Roman chronicling) but it is cyclical; the Universe is destined to dissolve and regenerate itself forever. The spiritual evolution of the soul finds the finish line in the identification with the Universal Superior Soul at the end of the cycle of rebirths.

As we can see, the conceptual system of the T. S. is Indian, not Judaic-Christian. Therefore we can conclude with some confidence that the T. S. has little in common with the great European theosophical current. Of course this doesn't mean to deny its cultural and philosophical dignity. On the contrary, the T. S., especially through the figures of Blavatsky and Besant, is very important and innovative in the panorama of Western esotericism. It is just a matter of recognizing the ‘epistemic fracture' or the objective discontinuity with the ideas of Boehme, Saint-Martin, Oetinger, Baader, etc…. In other words, the idea of gathering any cultural phenomenon under a common Center is wrong, at least on this point. The T. S. and the European theosophical current are heterogeneous cultural phenomena and therefore they contribute to dismantle the postulate of a great Tradition, where everything comes from and goes back to.


(Note 1) Cf. R. Guénon , Le Théosophisme, histoire d'une pseudo-religion , Paris, 1921 : ‘Such are the doctrines of Jakob Boehme, Gichtel, William Law, Jane Leade, Swedenborg, Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin, Eckarthausen : we don't claim that we are giving a complete list, we only mention some of the best known names'.

(Note 2) Cf. A. Faivre , Accés de l'ésotérisme occidental, 2 nd Vol., Gallimard, Paris.

(Note 3) Cf. Id.

(Note 4) Cf. M. Vannini , Il volto del Dio nascosto (The face of the hidden God, Note of the Translator) , Mondadori, 1999.

(Note 5) The final episode of the enraged crowd destroying his grave thanks to Richter's anathemas is quite significant.

(Note 6) Usually the Rhine-Flemish mysticism (XIII-XIV) is represented by Ruusbroec, Meister Eckhart, Suso, Tauler, the ‘Frankfurt anonymous', Cusano.

(Note 7) Cf. A. Faivre , Accés de l'ésotérisme occidental, 2 nd Vol., Gallimard, Paris.

(Note 8) On the subject of the via amoris we must refer to M. Vannini, Il volto del Dio nascosto (The face of the hidden God, Note of the Translator) , pages 160-168, Mondadori, 1999.

(Note 9) Besides Yeats, who was directly involved in several magical-initiatory organizations, we can't forget the closeness of William Blake's works to Western esotericism. To study this subject further, allow me to suggest the reading of my essay William Blake's hermetic poetry .

(Note 10) Note how this idea refers to the tradition of mystic theology: from Pseudo-Dionysus to Marguerite Porete and Meister Eckhart, ‘God' is always portrayed with negative attributes, like a ‘bright Darkness' or ‘Nothing', since he is superior to any positive determination that might limit his being.

(Note 11) The symbology of the ‘mystic marriage' has been elaborated for the first time by Origen; we find it later in the spirituality of Bernard de Clairvaux and in the first Franciscanism. In all these cases, the soul is compared to a bride that enters the nuptial chamber of the divine Lógos, the celestial Groom. Note how this interpretation that tends to effeminate man's soul in relation to the penetrative vis of the divine Spirit, has brought to the erroneous idea that attributes a ‘passive' character to mysticism as opposed to the ‘virile', ‘active', ‘masculine' character of esotericism. Nevertheless, if we read the pages of the Mirror of the Simple souls by Marguerite Porete or the corpus by Meister Eckhart, or even Simon Weil's works, we will realize how this is a very approximate idea.

(Note 12) The generation of the Lógos of the human soul that makes any man similar to God and therefore identical to Christ is a focal point of the Johannine thought.

(Note 13) We had the same refusal of the Scripture in the Latin period with Marguerite Porete.

(Note 14) Plato in the Symposium identifies in the scala amoris an instrument to carry out a progressive journey of perfection and detachment from earthly things; it leads to the knowledge of ‘Beauty in itself' that, after a further passage, can reach the love for the idea of ‘Good in itself'. This hypostasis can be identified with the concept of God itself. Neo-Platonism considered Eros as one of the three means, the other two being art and dialectics, to reach the unification with the One. It is worth to remember that the Platonic and neo-Platonic emphasizing of love has had an important follow up in the doctrines of the ‘Fedeli d'Amore'; nevertheless in this instance, we must talk about initiatory allegories focused on the language of love aimed at pointing at the secret Gnosis, protected from ecclesiastical persecutions, rather than erotic anabasis. We must also remember that the most interesting attempt to transform neo-Platonism into a religion was made by Iamblichus (251-270 A.D.)

(Note 15) The dualistic idea of reality clearly clashes with the emanationist monism of Plotinus, but not entirely with Plato's ideas. The reading of the Athenian philosopher must solve a decisive problem for each reader. The first option is to consider the visible world made of imperfect copies as an ontological fracture, irreducible separation of the intelligible world; the alternative is to see in the copy a trail-marker to reach the original. The former attitude belongs to religious devotion, whilst the latter to esoteric doctrines.

(Note 16) We usually refer to the initiatory system of Martinez de Pasqually with the name ‘Martinezism' , whilst the movement inspired by Saint-Martin and founded in Paris in 1891 by Papus as ‘ Martinism' . To simplify, ‘Martinezism' is the esoteric doctrine of the Elect Cohens Order; likewise scholasticism is the official theology of the medieval Christian Church post-Chartres. Similarly, ‘Martinism' is the initiatory philosophy of the Martinist Order. Besides these theoretical considerations, it is obvious that a system of ideas is not created from nothing or by a single thinker; it must necessarily elaborate the tendencies of the time and the intellectual belonging of its author. We can clearly see, then, that the Martinist system enjoys the speculative heritage of Saint-Martin, the influence of the Martinezists and that of Jean-Baptiste Willermoz (1730-1824).

(Note 17) Robert Amadou, the greatest expert of Martinezism-Martinism, denies the Hebrew descent of Martinez.

(Note 18) The theurgic evocation practiced by the Elect Cohens was based on a complex game of semeiological correspondences between man and entity. By drawing a sign on a linen rag, the theurgist prepared to see the appearance of a hieroglyph sent by the correspondent entity. If the hieroglyph didn't match the theurgist's expectation it was necessary to re-draw the sign corresponding to the entity that manifested itself. For further studies on the subject, we suggest the reading of A. Faivre, Accés de l'ésotérisme occidental II, Pages 255-256 , Gallimard, Paris.

(Note 19) The Swedish theosophist proposed to integrate the degree of the Operative Freemasonry with the ‘Lodges of Perfection' and those of the Venerable Order of the Golden Rose and Cross. The system was called ‘Masonic-Illuministic'.

(Note 20) Cf. Pietro Turchetti , Il Filosofo Incognito (The incognito philosopher, Note of the Translator) , Arktos, 1995.

(Note 21) It is possibly the same medieval resolution that positions the ‘mystic place' in man's interiority; this faculty was also called ‘synderesis'.

(Note 22) Cf. Pietro Turchetti , Il Filosofo Incognito (The incognito philosopher, Note of the Translator) , Arktos, 1995.

(Note 23) In actual fact in the Anglo-Saxon countries Masonic anticlericalism has always been marginal; on the contrary in the Latin countries the conflict with the Roman Church has often produced exasperated reactions and heated debates.

(Note 24) Cf. A. Faivre , Philosophie de la Nature, Albin Michel Idées.

(Note 25) Cf. Id.

(Note 26) Cf. Id.

(Note 27) Cf. Id

(Note 28) Cf. A. Faivre , Symboles et Mythes dans les mouvements initiatiques et esotériques (XVII-XIX siécles : Filiations et emprunts) , Edition La Table d'Emeraude, collection Aries, Paris 1999.


A. Faivre , Accés de l'ésotérisme occidental, II Vol., Gallimard, Paris.

A. Faivre , Philosophie de la Nature, Albin Michel Idées.

A. Faivre , Symboles et Mythes dans les mouvements initiatiques et esotériques (XVII-XIX siécles : Filiations et emprunts) , Edition La Table d'Emeraude, collection Aries, Paris 1999.

A. Faivre , L'ésotérisme.

M. Vannini , Il volto del Dio nascosto (The face of the hidden God, Note of the Translator) , Mondadori, 1999.

Pietro Turchetti , Il Filosofo Incognito (The incognito philosopher, Note of the Translator) , Arktos, 1995.

J. Cantucci , La Societá Teosofica (The Theosophical Society) , Elledici.

C. Simonetti , Annie Besant, Autobiografia. Una mistica femminista fra ‘800 e ‘900 (Annie Besant, Autobiography. A feminist mystic between eighteen hundred and nineteen hundred, Note of the Translator) , Le Lettere.

H. P. Blavatsky , Isis Unveiled. A master key to the mysteries of ancient and modern science and theology.

H. P. Blavatsky , The Secret Doctrine. The synthesis of Science, Religion nad Philosophy.

M. Gomes , Theosophy in the Nineteenth Century: An Annotated Bibliography , Garland Publishing Inc.

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