The latest issue (10.1) of Aries: The Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism has recently been published. It contains four research articles, on John Dee’s angel conversations (J. J. Sledge), a little-known text by Martinès de Pasqually ( Dominique Clairembault), the curious link between engineering and spiritualism in the case of John Murray Spear (Joseph Laycock), and some aspect of Aleister Crowley’s sexual magic and the connection with some yogic traditions (Gordan Djurdjevic). Also seven book reviews. See below for bibliographic details and short reviews of the articles.
First off, there is much in this issue which falls inside the scope of my various research interests. I will only introduce them briefly here, but might blog about particular articles later on.
The article “Between Loagaeth and Cosening”, by James Justin Sledge, takes a closer look at the famous angelic conversations which the Elizabethan philosopher, magus and mathematician John Dee occupied himself with for most of his late adult life. It is a topic which has gathered a rather abundant literature over the years. Sledge nevertheless manages to add something new, mainly by taking seriously one set of questions which are typically bracketed by historians: What really went on during those actions? How do we explain the claim to angelic visions, higher knowledge, and supernatural-sounding events associated with Dee’s work with his crystal-gazers? Looking at the material connected with the most well-documented scryer, Edward Kelly, Sledge wrestles with these questions, introduces an “etiology” for what went on (in three categories), adds his own reflections of problems and possibilities, before he discusses a possible “explanatory matrix”.
This is a topic that I have been researching quite a bit before myself. Expect a more detailed review about the article later.
The second article moves forward in time to the roots of French occultism, to esoterically inclined secret societies, and an obscure text. Dominique Clairembault’s article, “A copy of Martinès de Pasqually’s Manuscript Traité sur fa reintegration des êtres discovered in 1851″ looks at an overlooked text attributed to the central Martinist and founder of the theurgical Order of the Élus Coëns. The article mainly attempts to fills a gap in the history of Martinism. It is in French, but comes with a complete English abstract:
The purpose of this article is to present a text that had, so far, escaped the notice of historians of Martinism. Titled “Une œuvre inédite de Martinetz Pasqualy” (“An unpublished Work by Martinetz Pasqually”), it appeared in 1851 in the journal Messager des sciences historiques, des arts et de la bibliographie de Belgique (Gand, Belgium). The author of this text had discovered a handwritten copy of the Traité sur la réintégration des êtres by the theosopher Martinès de Pasqually, founder of the theurgical Order of the Élus Coëns (written in the last third of the 18th century, the Traité remained unpublished until 1899). In his contribution to the Messager, the anonymous author provides extracts from the Traité, along with some commentaries of his own. But the interest of his publication lies mainly in his reference to the copiist of the manuscript, Colonel Gaudard (1770-1845): a reference that enables us to bring out some aspects of the Illuminist current that had hitherto remained in the dark. A comparison between the elements contained in the text of 1851 with documents preserved in the holdings of the Bibliothèque Municipale de Grenoble sheds new light on the relationships between several important figures of the esoteric landscape of the last third of the 18th century in France and Switzerland, such as Léonard-Joseph Prunelle de Lière, Friedrich Herbort, the Marquis de Vaucroze and Daniel Pétillet. Furthermore, an analysis of these elements and documents enables us to discover the role which one these figures, Léonard-Joseph Prunelle de Lière (1741-1828), has played in the edition of Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin’s (1743-1803) translations of the works of Jacob Boehme. By the same token, our anaysis brings provides new information concerning the activities of Prunelle de Lière, Saint-Martin’s friend, in the interest of ensuring the continuation of the work of translation that Saint-Martin latter had begun toward the end of his life. Two documents are appended to the article: the text published in the Messager des sciences in 1851; and a letter by Colonel Gaudard to Prunelle de Lière, dated 18. February 1825.
Then follows an article by Joseph Laycock on a fascinating episode in the history of spiritualism: “God’s Last, Best Gift to Mankind: Gnostic Science and the Eschaton in the Vision of John Murray Spear”. The article looks at another pet interest of mine – the relation of science and technology to esotericism – by discussing Murray Spear’s “New Motor”, a curious device described to him in the 1850s through spiritualist seances. The plans for this engine, which was sometimes called the “Physical Savior”, “Heaven’s Last Gift to Man”, “the New Creation”, the Philosopher’s Stone of All Arts”, and so on, were according to Spear delivered by a group of spirits who called themselves “The Electrizers” – a sub-committee of another spirit group going under the name of “The Association of Beneficients”. This group consisted of such luminaries as Thomas Jefferson, Seneca, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin – who naturally assumed the position as leader of “The Electrizers”. It’s an absolutely delightful anecdote which I might have to write more about later (meanwhile, I already blogged about spiritualism and science here).
The last article is Gordan Djurdjevic’s juicy piece on “Solve et Coagula: Attitudes Towards the Ambrosial Aspects of Human Seed in Certain Yogic Traditions and in the Sexual Magick of Aleister Crowley”. Again, Crowley is a subject I have done quite a bit of research on earlier. Djurdjevic’s article is mainly a contribution to the scholarly debate about the relation of Western sexual magic (especially from Crowley onwards) and Indian tantric traditions, a topic which is particularly associated with the work of Hugh Urban.
I have some problems with the (over)emphasis on the “tantric connection”, particularly because Western sex magicians seem to me to draw primarily on a rather rich array of Western sources (everything from alchemy, hermetism, heresiological accounts of gnostics, Christian demonology, Paracelsianism and Swedenborgianism) with tantric texts and particularly stereotyped perceptions of them only being added to fit an already existing matrix. Nevertheless, Gordan’s article is rewarding because in that it offers a close and detailed analysis of some specific technical and methodological similarities and differences between Crowley’s brand of sex magic and tantric sources. This brings in new and valuable data to the discussion. Also, in all fairness, Gordan does give attention to the problematic aspects of asserting connections between tantra and Crowley’s magical synthesis.
Full table of contents (with links to articles if you have access to a library with subscription):
Between Loagaeth and Cosening: Towards an Etiology of John Dee’s Spirit Diaries
Author: Sledge, James Justin
Author: Clairembault, Dominique
God’s Last, Best Gift to Mankind: Gnostic Science and the Eschaton in the Vision of John Murray Spear
Author: Laycock, Joseph
Solve et Coagula: Attitudes Toward the Ambrosial Aspects of Human Seed in Certain Yogic Traditions and in the Sexual Magick of Aleister Crowley
Author: Djurdjevic, Gordan
Anthroposophie in Deutschland: Theosophische Weltanschauung und gesellschaftliche Praxis 1884-1945
Author: Staudenmaier, Peter
Magic and Mysticism: An Introduction to Western Esotericism
Author: Young, Susan
Religion und arkane Hierarchie: Der Orden der Gold- und Rosenkreuzer als Geheime Kirche im 18. Jahrhundert
Author: McIntosh, Christopher
Hidden Intercourse: Eros and Sexuality in the History of Western Esotericism
Author: Introvigne, Massimo
Western Esotericism in Russian Silver Age Drama and Aleksandr Blok’s The Rose and the Cross
Author: Nelson, Victoria
Poetics of the Gnostic Universe: Narrative and Cosmology in the Apocryphon of John
Author: Thejls, Sara
La philosophie naturelle rétablie en sa pureté suivi de l’ouvrage secret de la philosophie d’Hermès
Author: Gagnon, Claude
Recent and Upcoming Conferences
Recent and Upcoming Conferences