Hermetic feminism revisited

Yesterday I recommended Joyce Pijnenburg’s excellent discussion of Cornelius Agrippa and the Hermetic/Platonic/Kabbalistic influence on Renaissance feminism. Today, Sarah Veale of Invocatio added some reflections on what the ancient hermetic sources actually have to say about women. The argument is that the Hermetica had to be read rather selectively for Agrippa to find support for his proto-feminist project. In other words: here, as elsewhere, we must clearly separate the Hermetica from the hermeticists of the Renaissance. This point, of course, is always valid when we are dealing with reception, particularly in the case of normative projects in religion or philosophy. It’s little use  reading the gospels alone if one wants to  find out what various Christian denominations of today actually preach. And it’s foolish to expect contemporary ethicists who (sometimes) identify as neo-Aristotelians (say, Martha Nussbaum) to buy every detail of Aristotle’s doctrines of the soul, or indeed his views on women.

At any rate – nice to see a discussion taking shape online on esoterica and feminism, which is generally a very little studied topic.


Cornelius Agrippa and Renaissance feminism at the BPH blog

H. C. Agrippa – occult, sceptical, and feminist philosopher of the Renaissance.

The BPH/Ritman Library’s blog has an article-length post up by my good friend and colleague Joyce Pijnenburg, on the Renaissance humanist and “occult philosopher” Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa and his lesser known treatise on the nobility  of women. I remember being fascinated by this work when I first “discovered” Agrippa in my late teens – back then it was an eye-opener for me to find that the man who had been embraced by modern occultists as “their” intellectual patron, primarily for his Three books of occult philosophy (and the spuriously attributed Fourth book), had also produced works of sceptical philosophy (De incertitudine et vanitate scientiarum et artium), as well as a work that might classify as “Renaissance proto-feminism”. Agrippa is certainly more interesting than he’s often made into.

Joyce takes a closer look at this little-explored Renaissance feminist current, and transposes it  with certain contemporary issues discussed by Slavoj Žižek (whom, I must confess, I generally see as a stand-up comedian rather than a philosopher – some sharp observations, much hyperbole, and a lot of hilarity). The article  is entitled “Does woman exist? Agrippa von Nettesheim and Slavoy Žižek on Women and (their) Presence”. As an additional teaser before you go and read the whole thing, here’s the abstract:


Esotericism, Religion and Science in Toronto – report on the IAHR (part 2)

Following up the last post, here comes a report on the esotericism panels at the IAHR in Toronto, organized by Marco Pasi. As you can read about below, they go straight into a central debate in the field of esotericism studies at the moment.