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Modern Gnostics

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.magick,alt.thelema
From: jake 
Subject: Modern Gnostics
Date: Mon, 12 Jun 2000 11:40:07 +0100

In article <8i29t7$>, hara 
>what did 'Greek Qabalists' call themselves?

good question, the simple answer is Gnostics, though that covers a wide
range. Greek gematria and cosmological models ('Aeonologies' or
emanation schemes roughly analogous to the ToL) etc. etc. were a feature
of several Gnostic schools. 

Scholem cites Jewish Gnosticism as a major source of Kabbalah, one might
even call early Kabbalah 'Jewish Gnosticism'.

>since the term 'qabalah' arose within Jewish culture to
>refer to a specific mystical portion of that culture,
>I see no reason to take seriously those who try to use
>the same name to draw attention to their rival mystical
>enterprises. in a similar manner I see no reason to take
>seriously those who call what they teach 'yoga' when in
>fact their background is not in yogic systems of a Hindu 
>or Buddhist variety. 

I think you have half a point. Since it is often made crystal clear that
material is borrowed or incorporated, and where from, it is not clear to
me that this borrowing is done maliciously or with intent to deceive.

>what I was getting at was that there weren't any Jewish mystical
>puzzles. again, Kabbalah isn't equivalent to numerolinguistics,
>whether surrounding puzzles or not.

agreed, and neither is 'Qabalah', Thelemic or otherwise.

>>>played as if he had a Qabalah out of the false-representations
>>>provided by those who preceded him (from Ficino onward) that
>>>were trying to co-opt Jewish mysticism. this is a common practice
>>>of Hermetics: co-opting mystical cultures so as to draw attention
>>>and pretend authority where they have none otherwise (example:
>>>Crowley's co-option of Patanjali's yoga, of whose tradition he
>>>was not designated as an instructor). while some kind of mystical
>>>system may be developed over time so as to continue to serve as
>>>a focus for new marks, the original promise is always false.

Hermeticism and Gnosticism of the early period already involved elements
similar to what they have later 'borrowed' from Kabbalah. Such borrowing
was necessary in order to recover from centuries of persecution and book

 You ignore the obvious fact that Alexandrian Hermetic ideas were
incorporated into Jewish Kabbalah at a very early date - far prior to
Ficino. BTW perhaps it would make more sense to cite Mirandola, Ficino
was relatively innocuous AFAIK, while without Mirandola the Renaissance
'co-opting' of Kabbalah might never have happened. 

But let's have a look at this dispassionately - Ficino translated
Hermetic texts, the Hermetic revival 'co-opted' some Kabbalah to flesh
it out. Had they had access to the corpus of tradition that the older
Hermetics had, this 'co-opting would not have been necessary. But the
Kabbalists had *PRESERVED* many themes that were part of the older
Hermeticism and Gnosticism - so essentially the Renaissance 'co-opting'
was simply getting some of it's own tradition back via Kabbalah.

I agree that the 'co-opting' of that period had many unsavoury
overtones. However, far prior to that Kabbalah had already borrowed from
Traditions that are genuinely part of the Hermetic inheritance.
Borrowing them back is not itself intrinsically blameworthy. 

Attempts to rebuild Hermeticism in a non Judaeo-Christian guise - ala
Giordano Bruno  - were rigorously oppressed. That the 'Christian'
Hermetics took another route is hardly surprising, whether commendable
or not. Similarly it is not likely that any Occult Revival in our own
time could have been successfully launched without 'borrowing' from
Kabbalah and other aspects of antiquity - with or without a degree of
misrepresentation or misunderstanding. 

This said, we cannot accuse Eliphas Levi and his ilk of anti-semitic
intentions, rather than ignorance and over enthusiastic imitation of
something he genuinely admired. That borrowing such as this has created
unhistorical conceptions and distortions is regrettable. OTOH the fusion
of these 'borrowed' elements has to a large degree recreated a modern
Hermetic cum Gnostic 'Western Tradition' that has a perfect right to
involve such elements in one guise or another.

>>the same may equally b said of Kabbalah which demonstrably co-opted
>>Babylonian, Egyptian, Persian and Hellenistic ideas. Ain Soph for
>>example is co-opted from the Neo-Platonists.
>there is a difference between "co-option" by usage of a name
>for self-identification and usage of a concept integrated into
>one's mystical cosmological description. the first is deception
>while the second is metaphysical borrowing. in the second case
>one can also detail where the concept and term came from.

One could reverse this argument easily: Josephus claimed that Abraham
taught the Babylonians astrology - which sounds like bass-ackwards co-
opting to me. OTOH modern Hermetics do not claim to have invented the
Jewish alphabet or the ToL. 

>>on the contrary, Abulafia used Kabbalah as a 'ritual language', and he
>>[predates] both the Zohar and Luria. 
>how did Abulafia "use Kabbalah as a ritual language"? what could
>this possibly mean?

the meaning is that his Kabbalah was practical rather than speculative.

>>There are many aspects of Practical
>>Kabbalah which are eligible to be described as a ritual language -
>of course, no one is disputing that PARTS of Kabbalah are in
>fact ritual language or could be used as such, but to use
>Kabbalah itself this way is nonsensical, since the term relates
>to the entire edifice of Jewish mysticism known by this name.

this is nit picking, since many Jewish Kabbalists do not involve
themselves with the entire edifice either.

>>non-mainstream systems (including aspects of English Qaballa) do not
>>much resemble modern Hermetics either. Moreover these have not co-opted
>>Abulafia or Dee, despite resemblances of methodology. 
>perhaps not, but the name has been co-opted as long as no
>traditional and tutelary connection has been established.
>it would be like me calling something I just created
>'English Qabalah (EQ)' and touting it as something
>different from what you and others before you have made.
>it is deceptive and does not respect the original by this
>name, leading others to misidentify the data for which
>they search and drawing attention to my novel creation.

I agree that many folks using 'Qabalah' have only vague notions about
'Kabbalah'. OTOH much of modern occultism is superficial and
historically laughable - there is not a great deal I can do to remedy
that other than argue for self education.

>>>far better to call it what it is or derive a new name for it that
>>>will not so obviously and deceptively compete for religious
>>>attention fixated upon the terms derived from QBL.

there is no intended deception - the idea that any modern Qabalistic
school is an anti-semitic conspiracy is ludicrous. It hardly even
deserves an answer. 

I agree that a better name might be found for 'neo-qabalistic' systems,
but common usage is something against which we struggle in vain. Even a
government campaign would not succeed in persuading people to stop
calling their vacuum cleaner a Hoover unless it was made by Hoover.

However, 'Modern Gnostics' have a historical right to some material
within the corpus of Kabbalah that deserves to be recognised.
>>in an ideal world, yes, however common usage is not amenable 
>>to such amendment. Common usage rather than deception is 
>>more of a factor in the use of the title in many cases. 
>I think it unfortunately perpetuates a longstanding religious
>rivalry peculiar to Christianity -- jealousy, hatred and
>disrespect of Jews. a common usage which is anti-semitic is
>just as loathesome whether or not it is common usage, and
>should be changed so as to better reflect the principles of
>ethics and honour included or implied by the rival.
how do you suggest we change a widespread generic term - compulsion?

>>Such common usage has been established a long time 
>that doesn't make it either ethical or accurate.
>>(see sig line quote)
>>After studying the treatise, the cabalists will recognize that 
>>their art is universal and not, as had been thought, confined 
>>to the hebrew language; this new cabala, exemplified by the 
>>Monas Hieroglyphica, will reveal the secrets of the entire 
>>creation through new arts and methods.'
>>                                  John Dee The Hieroglyphic Monad.
>was John Dee Christian?

such is often said to be so, but in the orthodox sense I have my doubts. 
It would be fair to call him a Gnostic.


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