Saturday, May 19, 2012

"Was the Christian or Hermetic Qabalah a Tool to Convert Jews to the Christian Faith? - Journal of the Golden Dawn Research Center

by GH Frater Sincerus Renatus

In studying the history of the Christian Qabalah, or Hermetic Qabalah as it is also known to us, I have often seen the argument that Christians mainly took upon them to study the Jewish Qabalah because they saw many parrallells with Christian doctrine and thus devised a plan to convert Jews to Christianity. In this respect even Giovanni Pico della Mirandola and the Platonic Academy of Florens has been accused of taking part of this Christian scheme of conversions of Jews, lately by the Trinitarian Christian and Golden Dawn student Mr. Wildoak. 

Pico della Mirandola
He repeated that old “truth” regarding Pico, who he refers to as “Mirandola”, to underline his thesis that we cannot look upon the ancient mysteries without resorting to our Christian goggles:

Look at the origins of the Hermetic Qabalah, with Mirandola and others wanting to use it to prove the existence of the Trinity and supremacy of Christianity. Naughty boys.

I personally cannot accept that the reason why Pico della Mirandola embraced the Qabalah was to convert and prozelyze jews. I just don’t buy it. Where is the evidence to substantiate such a claim? In absence of this evidence I will instead present facts that rather speaks against such a prejudicial position.

Raymond Llul
While there certainly were Christians, like Raymond Lull, who tried to use the HebrewQabalah to use it as a vehicle for conversion of Jews, it is an extreme form of generalization to suppose all Christian Qabalists only seeing the Qabalah as a manipulative prozelysing tool. It has been argued that Lull lacked any profound knowledge of the Qabalah and that he even wasn’t a Qabalist, which is to expect from someone being a fundamentalist Trinitarian Christian trying to save the souls of Jews and Muslims using their own doctrines against them. We know that he devised the Ars Magna to convert people from Islam to Christianity. We know however that Pico, on the other hand, was of a entirely different calibre. Contrarly to Lully and his ilk, Pico was a serious student of the Hebrew wisdom and in it saw traces of what we today would define as the Primordial Tradition.

I hold that Pico della Mirandola was a Esoteric Christian. And with Esoteric Christianity I mean a doctrine which has a perennial outlook on the mysteries. A Esoteric Christian is someone who does comparative studies of many different mystery systems and religions to find the one common denominator, the primal or core doctrine which underlays all temporal traditions. The very raison d’être of the Platonic Academy of Florence was to make this kind of comparative studies between Neo-Platonism, Hermeticism and the Qabalah, and to try to integrate it also with the religion of their times, Christianity. In this respect people as Marsilio Ficino and Pico Della Mirandola were true pioneers and Traditionalist heroes. These Italian reinassance philosophers and estoricists referred to a prisca theologia, the ancient theology, which they believed to be the actual source of all religion and philosophy. Today we refer to it as the Primordial Tradition; two different names for the same thing but developed or redefined in their respective cultural contexts as seen by the perennialists.

Marcilio Ficino
This means that they were anything but religious fundamentalists trying to transform or reconstruct the ancient traditions. They rather compared these traditions with each other and saw the many similarities or common threds between them. As an example, in the hypostases of the Christian Trinitarian doctrine, which was originated by Valentinus the Gnostic and originally debunked by early Church Fathers for being heretical and pagan, they saw some parallels with the Qabalistic concept of the Partzufim. However, this doesn’t mean that Pico and his friends of the Academy in the Qabalah saw a confirmation of the truth of the Christian Trinitarian doctrine as represented by the Church. I rather hold that they saw a common theme and that this all confirmed each tradition as  authentic and representing a universal doctrine. In this spirit Pico claimed that Christianity was founded largely on Qabalistic doctrines, stating that “no science can better convince us of the divinity of Jesus Christ than magic and the Kabbalah”.

We also know that both Marsilio Ficino and Pico Della Mirandola was charged of heresy by the Inquisition, despite the latter’s assurance that Neo-Platonism and Hermeticism were fully consistent with Christian doctrine as exemplified in the previous quote. In 1486 Mirandola wrote Conclusiones philosophicae, cabalasticae et theologicae in which he presented 900 theses, representing a blend of Platonism, Neo-Platonism, Aristotelism, Hermeticism and the Qabalah. The Inquisition found 13 of these to be heretical to the Christian Trinitarian faith. Pico wrote an apology entitled Mirandolani, Concordiae comitis which he later was forces to renounce. He soon fled Italy for the fear of his life. Would Pico has been a insidious manipulator, saving souls to the Christian Church, as Mr. Wildoak suggests, he surely wouldn’t have been a victim of the Inquisition. He would have been a part of it.

There is also another perspective to consider here. What if Pico simply tried to make the “jewish” Qabalalah recognized by the Church and thus veiled its old mysteries in a Christian setting, in much the similar way as the Hermetic School veiled its alchemical tradition using Christian symbols and analogies? This is in line with how the Tradition adapts and reforms its message to the current times and the cultural mindset of the people it is supposed to influence. This is often how a Tradition is saved from extinction; this is how it is kept alive and workable through the generations.

All mystery systems, all kind of esotericisms, uses mythology as a frame work. Images and analogies, and metaphors, are used to convey a secret doctrine, using the “language of the birds”. The ancient Hermeticists used Greek and Egyptian pantheons to convey their message. The medieval Qabalists used the myths of the Old Testament in the same manner. Renaissance Neo-Platonists and Hermeticists used the New Testament as well to veil their mysteries. The Sufis of the middle-east use the stories of the Quran in the same manner. This is only natural. 

It is not the same as the mysteries are interpreted through the lens of the Christian religion, as Mr. Wildoak asserts. It is the other way around; it is the Primordial Tradition – the Prisca Theologia – that uses the current religious imagery and mythology to expound its mysteries. The most obvious evidence of this is that an Esoteric or Gnostic Christian doesn’t interpret the Bible in the same way as does an Evangelist and Exoteric Christian. I personally feel myself more akin to a Turkish or Egyptian Sufi than I do with a Swedish Evangelist and Trinitarian Christian.

I hold that the “religion” and “faith” of an Esotericist is totally different from someone following an Exoteric Religion, of whatever kind. I am talking about the true “religion” of the Primordial Tradition or Prisca Theologia. I place the words “religion” between citation marks as this is not actually a religion as we normally define that word, i.e. as an institutionalised form of spirituality. It is better to simply speak of a living Tradition with has its true foundation and lineage in the ancient Primordial Tradition, presenting it faithfully enough. 

The greatest adversaries of such an Esoteric “faith” lies within the follower’s own religious sphere in which he is working (i.e. the symbol system that he has chosen or been born into). We all know about the Inquisition and what it did not only to actual pagans but also to so-called “heretics” such as Pico della Mirandola. Today we see the same tragedy happening before our own eyes in Saudi-Arabia and the Wahabi fundamentalism against the Sufi. Fundamentalists just cannot stand a syncretic or perennial view on their own religion. Christians abhors theories that prove the pagan origin of both the Jewish and especially Christian doctrines.

Therefore it is sad to see that the Exotericism of Trinitarian Christianity has started to infest the Esoteric freedom of the Golden Dawn Tradition, as has been proved recently in the de-cloaking of the machinations of the Trinitarian Exoteric Soceitas Rosicruciana in Anglia (S.R.I.A.), Soceitas Rosicruciana Civitatibus Foederatis(S.R.C.F.), Soceitas Rosicruciana in America (S.R.I.A.), and lately theOrder of the Rose Cross (O.R+C), which I refer to as “WASP supremacists” (“WASP” as in “White Anglo-Saxon Protestants”), who have joined forces to infiltrate the Golden Dawn community, placing itself as its Third Order, i.e. effectively replacing the Supernals of the essentially Pagan Primordial Tradition with the temporal and exoteric Trinitarian Protestant tradition. How sad. How very sad.

We Divide to Conquer


  1. Frater N.T.I.K.T.May 27, 2012 at 11:58 AM

    Thank you. I appreciate your dedication to often overlooked and underestimated corelations. It is a privilege to forward your links.

    Fraternally in L.V.X.,
    Frater N.T.I.K.T.

  2. Olen Rush today refuted my position that Pico didn't study the Qabalah out of a primary motive to convert Jews. He hold that:

    "Mirandola most assuredly defended the practices of Magic and Kabbalah in an attempt to confirm the Divinity of Yeshu ben Miriam (see Mirandola's "Kabbalistic Theses")."

    Well I already address this in my original article and I did also present an alternative view of this. Sure, Pico was a Christian but not a exoteric dogmatic one as Mr. Rush seems to suggest, but a Esoteric Christian who uses the image of Christ to convey a spiritual truth, in the same manner as Qabalists refer to Microprosopus or the "Lesser Countenance" as a spiritual truth. A Christian Qabalist naturally identifies Microprosopus, the "Son", as Jesus Christ. It just different designations for the same Truth.

    The question is, did he do this to convert Jews, or did he do it as a part of a greater perennial vision and effort to unite all religions into the 'prisca theologia'?

    Olen also cites Pico's Apologia where he says that "the Jews are practically compelled to assent with the Christians."

    But we have to look at his words in the proper context. He wrote that apology as a defence to save his life in the hands of the Christian Inquisition. He surely knew what they were capable to, looking in retrospect and the tragedy of Giordano Bruno. He soon had to flee Italy because his apology did no good to him.

    Then Mr. Rush brings in the case of one of Pico's translators, the convert Flavius Mithridates, who allegedly "was not beyond purposeful forgery to produce materials specifically to convert Jews to Christianity."

    So now we are using the "guilty by association" formula? I guess that hebraists didn't grow on threes in Pico's times, so he had to use whatever was at hand. Is this proof in itself that Pico used these translations to convert Jews? No, he used them for his own study, which Mr. Rush also confirms.

    Lastly Mr. Rush mentions one Dominican Raymundus Martini and his 13th Century work 'Pugio fidei' ("The Dagger of faith") which was used as a manual for missionaries in the Holy Land. He holds it against Pico that he was inspired by Martini's works on the Talmud, onvoking the authority of Gershom Scholem.

    Although it does seem to be pure conjecture; What if he was drawing some inspiration from "The Dagger"? Is that still a proof that Pico himelf used his Qabalistic studies to proselize Jews?

    It is natural to seek for inspiration in previous scholarly works as a spring board for one's own contributions.

    I don't deny that much of the early Christian Qabalah was used by the students to use as a conversion tool, but I object against the idea that Pico and the Platonic Academy of Florens was used as a Catholic proganda tool. Ther is simply no proof of this, only conjecture. They rather tried to adapt the Hebrew Qabalah to suit their Esoteric Christian world view and their own spiritual pursuits.

    They also did that to make the Qabalah more accessible for Christians. So we can look at it from the other perspective as well, that Pico tried to persuade Christians to search for the esoteric truths behind their own religion using the Qabalah as a frame work, knowing that all religions shared a common truth or core - the Prisca Theologia.

    Regarding Scholem, I have a high regards of his scholarism. However, we also know that Jews in general have a quite negative attitude towards Christian manipulations of their own mystical system, in a similar way as they deny Christian interpretation of the Old Testament. It is only natural, and I don't blame them for that. But it also creates a bias. And scientists are also human and are part of the current paradigms in which they are living.