I’ve just cracked open a collection of essays from a conference titled “Gnosis and Hermeticism” which looks promising, although I want to get through Dante’s Paradiso before I really get stuck in. There’s a passage in the introduction that I liked:
“…one openly fights an enemy as long as one fears that he still might win. In this respect as well, history seems to repeat itself. Like the Christian Church before it, modern rationalism, once safely consolidated, could afford itself the luxury of exchanging active combat for a more comfortable (and perhaps more effective) solution: silence. Believing in the inevitable progress of human rationality, one could simply ignore esotericism, in the confident expectation that its still surviving remnants would eventually wither and die by itself… However… it is clear that the optimistic self-confidence of Enlightenment thinking is no longer widely shared. Together with growing doubts about the doctrine of human progress through science and rationality, we witness a new interest in historical alternatives to the dominant components of western culture.”
Preface ix. Ed. van den Broek, Roelof and Hangraaff, Wouter J. Gnosis and Hermeticism from Antiquity to Modern Times. SUNY 1998.
I enjoyed this on two levels: first, because I agree with its sentiments. Mysticism is as real an experience as any and shouldn’t be discounted. Secondly, it amused me that the writer might have been describing the experiences of traditional painters with the same language!
Hello 21st century, we’re back.