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Thread: Alchemical & Magickal Symbolism in Religious/Spiritual Traditions & Ancient Alphabets

  1. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by zoas23 View Post
    -The core of this conversation is about Medieval and Renaissance Neo-Platonism (Cusa, Bruno, Pletho, Ficino, Pico, Eriugena, Duns Scoto, Origen, Boethius, etc, etc)...
    If you are using "neo-platonism" as blanket term for "greek philosophy", then I don't find anything to argue about. Otherwise..I honestly don't see it. I talk about really basic Pythagoreanism over and over. I mentioned "Pythagorean/Platonic/and Gnostic" as most of what I talk about is incorporated in those other systems as well. The only specifically platonic idea I mentioned I think is Plato's "world soul", in passing. (strangely enough, that's the only strictly platonic concept in Bruno I can think of as well, in Cabala of Pegasus). The masonic material is also "Pythagorean".

    I don't think I've discussed anything that lies outside of what I quoted:

    "For the Pythagoreans, the generation of number series was related to objects of geometry as well as cosmogony.[4] According to Diogenes Laërtius, from the monad evolved the dyad; from it numbers; from numbers, points; then lines, two-dimensional entities, three-dimensional entities, bodies, culminating in the four elements earth, water, fire and air, from which the rest of our world is built up."
    Cusanus' and Ficino's personal neo-platonic leanings and contribution to the transmision of neoplatonic philosophy cannot be disputed. Ficino however, studied and published on a wide range of subjects as well. I like to think he was the type of intellectual that studied each on its own instead of just in terms of its relation to one specific one.

    But Bruno was definitely not a neo-platonist. He is actually noted for the fact he ignores the contemporary christian neo-platonism that was popular post-Ficino. He was very much inspired by Ficino's Corpus Hermeticum, and he liked to consider his magic "Egyptian". As far as the Greek goes, he was a Pythagorean. His "Monad" was pythagorean in origin. if anything he suscribed to the "counter-trend" of "pseudo-Pythagorean occult science". Pythagorean number mysticism was considered seperate from neo-platonism.

    Quote Originally Posted by zoas23 View Post
    The Hypnerotomachia Poliphili has been brought for some reason
    I brought up (Francesca) Colonna in terms of "art of memory", and Florius asked which Colonna I was referring to.

    Quote Originally Posted by zoas23 View Post
    When it comes to Neo-Platonism you always have 2 things... Even if more divisions are usual (i.e, the classical division in four of Plotinus, that was even adopted by Qabalah -yeah, take it for granted that Qabalah was built with the bicks provided by Plotinus).
    I'm not sure what you mean with this. Hermetic Qabalah? Jewish Kabbalah? The roots of jewish kabbalah are in "Merkaba mysticism", and older forms of jewish mysticism. Two of the main works of concern to the Merkaba mystics are Isaiah, from the 8th Century BC, and Ezekiel, from the 6th century, both before Greece was a going concern, and before they were influencing the jewish world. Beyond this it's hard to tell what their level of knowledge was at this point, as they stopped writing books in hebrew during the Babylonia captivity. But both the Hebrews and Greeks inherited the basis/origins of their knowledge from Egypt (who consider the greeks "babies"). Plato acknowledges this transmission.

    Where the Yetzirah comes in, there is no doubting the Greek influence. Commentaries on the Yetzirah from 1000 years ago specifically mention neopythagorean/neoplatonic influence (Saadia Gaon and ibn Erza come to mind.. I could be wrong about Ezra). To credit this to Plotinus ignores centuries of the "Hellenization" of the Jews. Their children received education in greek Gymnasiums, learning greek thought by greek educators. There were centuries for hebrew "thinkers" to absorb Pythagorean and Platonic thought, from probably more different streams than are known today. Egyptian, Greek, and Hebrew cosmonogy have always been centered around "emanation" from a "one".

    Plotinus had a big effect on jewish thought, largely through Maimonides. But Maimonides effect on Kabbalah is limited. He was largely "aristotelian" and many researchers consider him an opponent of the proto-Kabbalah of his time. I'm not sure what developments in Kabbalah you would credit specifically to Plotinus. The Bahir? Do Cordovero, Luria, or Vital owe their ideas to him in some way I am unaware of?

    Quote Originally Posted by zoas23 View Post
    a) The ONE, the "form of Good", God, the "Not-Other" (Cusa), something that has no name (Areopagyte)... It's always the Ontological State that is "beyond the Being", It allows the Being to Be, but is not even affected by "being". The Sixth Book of the Republic (Plato) explains it very well (it's the Form of Good there). You can't have a direct knowledge of it... and the irony is that if you are a neo-platonist, then probably there is nothing else you want than having a direct knowledge of it.
    I know I opened this up with the talk of Monad/Unity -> Multiplicity. But I was only speaking in a basic sense, the greek cosmogony that probably pre-dates Pythagoras. The material you present is on the nose as far as I can tell. But this is more "advanced" philosophy than I was suggesting.

    Quote Originally Posted by zoas23 View Post
    The Ars combinatoria and the Art of Memory are not the same thing, but they are BOTH systems to embrace this Multiple Whole.
    I never suggested they were the same, I said they were two different components to the practises of Lull and Bruno..

    Quote Originally Posted by zoas23 View Post
    And, of course, ALL of them were against the Logic of Aristotle because it does not allow contradictions and the neo-platonic logic embraces them (the BIG difference is that Aristotle considers that God is the Being... so it is either "big" or "small", "it moves" or "it does not move", but it has no contradictions... the Neo-Platonic god is both "big" and "small" and it's neither "big" and "small"... which does not make sense to Aristotle, but it's because the idea of a Superior non-Being does not make sense either to him).
    Also, the Church loves Aristotle. His philosophy was "reconciled with" christian doctrine early on by the Church fathers, while Plato and Pythagoras remained "Pagan" philosophy (with the usual prohibitions).

  2. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Marcus View Post
    If you are using "neo-platonism" as blanket term for "greek philosophy", then I don't find anything to argue about.
    Yes, it is a broad term, though it's use is seen quite often in many publications.
    I simply mean that which is strictly called "Neo-Platonism", but also the neo-pythagorean philosophies, the neo-Orpihc philosophies, Christian Gnosticism, Jewish Platonism (Philo of Alexandria) and other expressions such as Hermeticism or the Chaldean Oracles.

    I don't include the Skeptics, Hedonists, Aristotelians, Stoics, etc... it would be absurd to consider them platonic.

    Anyway... the main point is that I do consider that the main ideas which are being discussed here have been developed by the Neo-Platonic philosophies. Though I don't think it is important, it was simply giving them a name.

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Marcus View Post
    Cusanus' and Ficino's personal neo-platonic leanings and contribution to the transmision of neoplatonic philosophy cannot be disputed. Ficino however, studied and published on a wide range of subjects as well. I like to think he was the type of intellectual that studied each on its own instead of just in terms of its relation to one specific one.
    I can't agree about Ficino; I think the opposite.
    He somehow inherited the ideas of Pletho and his "Combo" of Hermeticism + Plato + Chaldean Oracles. I do not think Ficino even thought of these things as something that has any kind of difference.
    The same idea is present in Pico, specially his 900 Theses.
    I do not see Ficino as someone who saw coincidences between these different traditions, but as someone who created an amalgam.

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Marcus View Post
    But Bruno was definitely not a neo-platonist. He is actually noted for the fact he ignores the contemporary christian neo-platonism that was popular post-Ficino. He was very much inspired by Ficino's Corpus Hermeticum, and he liked to consider his magic "Egyptian".
    You are right about his lack of interest in Christian Neo-Platonism.
    I can't agree with the idea that he was not a platonist, sometimes he gets even close to plagiarizing Plotinus.

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Marcus View Post
    As far as the Greek goes, he was a Pythagorean. His "Monad" was pythagorean in origin. if anything he suscribed to the "counter-trend" of "pseudo-Pythagorean occult science". Pythagorean number mysticism was considered seperate from neo-platonism.
    I have not seen a neo-pythagorean philosophy that is not platonic too.

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Marcus View Post
    I'm not sure what you mean with this. Hermetic Qabalah? Jewish Kabbalah? The roots of jewish kabbalah are in "Merkaba mysticism", and older forms of jewish mysticism. Two of the main works of concern to the Merkaba mystics are Isaiah, from the 8th Century BC, and Ezekiel, from the 6th century, both before Greece was a going concern, and before they were influencing the jewish world. Beyond this it's hard to tell what their level of knowledge was at this point, as they stopped writing books in hebrew during the Babylonia captivity. But both the Hebrews and Greeks inherited the basis/origins of their knowledge from Egypt (who consider the greeks "babies"). Plato acknowledges this transmission.
    I often unite all these expressions of Qabalah. They may have different nuances, but they are truly the same thing.

    I see Qabalah as a response to Christian Gnosticism... The Sepher Yetzirah is certainly plagiarizing Marcus (It would be hard to say that it is not doing it).

    The idea that the origins of Qabalah are in Merkabah mysticism is a bit complicated.
    It's not wrong, but it's confusing.
    I would also mention Philo of alexandria... and that's complicated too.
    The intention is certainly there, the project is there.
    The form that it finally takes comes from other sources (I would say that Plotinus and Marcus are essential).
    Anyway, it's right... even if I think that the method ended up being a loan from sources which have nothing to do with Merkabah Mysticism.

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Marcus View Post
    Plotinus had a big effect on jewish thought, largely through Maimonides. But Maimonides effect on Kabbalah is limited. He was largely "aristotelian" and many researchers consider him an opponent of the proto-Kabbalah of his time. I'm not sure what developments in Kabbalah you would credit specifically to Plotinus. The Bahir? Do Cordovero, Luria, or Vital owe their ideas to him in some way I am unaware of?
    The most obvious thing: Atziluth, Briah, Yetzirah, Assiah... that's Plotinus under Hebrew names.
    I do not know (I can't know) if Cordovero or Luria even knew who had been Plotinus and I would not be surprised if they didn't; but the influence was already there (i.e, they expanded a tradition that was already strongly influenced by him... there was no need to "influence it again" as to say it in some way or other).

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Marcus View Post
    I never suggested they were the same, I said they were two different components to the practises of Lull and Bruno..
    I didn't think you were confused between these two methods. It was just a comment about which one is their basis or their final aim.

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Marcus View Post
    Also, the Church loves Aristotle. His philosophy was "reconciled with" christian doctrine early on by the Church fathers, while Plato and Pythagoras remained "Pagan" philosophy (with the usual prohibitions).
    True. The big discussion between Gnostics and non-Gnostics was as simple as Platonists vs. Aristotelians.
    Though once the dispute was won (by Aristotelians), the Church accepted some heavily platonic influences too (Augustine of Hippo would be an example); even if the core of the Church is Aristotelian.

  3. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by zoas23 View Post
    I simply mean that which is strictly called "Neo-Platonism", but also the neo-pythagorean philosophies, the neo-Orpihc philosophies, Christian Gnosticism, Jewish Platonism (Philo of Alexandria) and other expressions such as Hermeticism or the Chaldean Oracles. I don't include the Skeptics, Hedonists, Aristotelians, Stoics, etc... it would be absurd to consider them platonic.
    I danced around this very issue in parts I later editted out of my reply. I figure there must be a term that distinguishes between these two types of Greek philosophy, but if there is I don't know it. "Pythagorean/Platonic/and Gnostic" is my struggle to define it.. but Stoicism, Aristotle were specific things I have in mind to differentiate from.


    Quote Originally Posted by zoas23 View Post
    I can't agree about Ficino; I think the opposite. He somehow inherited the ideas of Pletho and his "Combo" of Hermeticism + Plato + Chaldean Oracles. I do not think Ficino even thought of these things as something that has any kind of difference. The same idea is present in Pico, specially his 900 Theses. I do not see Ficino as someone who saw coincidences between these different traditions, but as someone who created an amalgam.
    Actually I don't think we disagree. My point is I don't think he studied any of these subjects with a particular bias, or preconceived notion they were all the same. He is a pretty credible transmitter of the cabala, hermeticism, neoplatonic thought in circulation at his time, according to those traditions. I think the idea that they all cover the same material in different language is a "final conclusion" and not a "guiding principle". In that way the subtleties and differences are preserved, instead of being whittled down to the "common denominator".

    In English, the amalgam you mention is referred to as a "syncretism". In my opinion, there are two types of these. Those that are the creation of people fitting my description of Ficino.. they take the time to consider each subject in its own context, and attain some kind of comprehensive knowledge of each before finding their correlations and correspondences..

    And then there's the type that is created by people acting completely contrary to this. First impressions are very hard to overcome, and its common that people that were first exposed to one system or another tend to have a bias towards that system, and that that knowledge is the best/purest/straight from god, and that others are inferior. This is even stronger if it has cultural implications or is a part of a "national identity".

    Instead of acknowledging and filtering for that personal bias, for this type of person it becomes a guiding principle of their researches and eventual syncretism they create. In the worst of them, this "bias" becomes the agenda of, and purpose for creating the syncretism in the first place, which is nothing more than veiled propaganda.

    Quote Originally Posted by zoas23 View Post
    You are right about his lack of interest in Christian Neo-Platonism. I can't agree with the idea that he was not a platonist, sometimes he gets even close to plagiarizing Plotinus. I have not seen a neo-pythagorean philosophy that is not platonic too.
    When it comes to Bruno and the "occult pythagorean" trend I don't think it really hinges on any later neo-pythagorean sources or interpretations.. I think its mainly based on pretty simple pythagorean "primary concepts".. I don't know why you'd be certain that he's following Plotinus, and not Iamblichus, who is a "primary source" of neo-pythagoreanism. He of course expands into neo-platonism like we are discussing right now.. his version of which is often considered almost indistinguishable from that of Plotinus..

    Quote Originally Posted by zoas23 View Post
    I see Qabalah as a response to Christian Gnosticism... The Sepher Yetzirah is certainly plagiarizing Marcus (It would be hard to say that it is not doing it). The idea that the origins of Qabalah are in Merkabah mysticism is a bit complicated. It's not wrong, but it's confusing.

    I would also mention Philo of alexandria... and that's complicated too. The intention is certainly there, the project is there. The form that it finally takes comes from other sources (I would say that Plotinus and Marcus are essential). Anyway, it's right... even if I think that the method ended up being a loan from sources which have nothing to do with Merkabah Mysticism.
    We're jumping between two different periods here. I think "Merkabah mysticism" is pretty much the blanket term for jewish mysticism that predates kabbalah. I say this beecause I really couldn't point out any distinguishable mystical tradition outside of this. The core texts they are concerned with are Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Enoch. These are considered examples of Ma'aseh Merbaka - the Works of the Chariot, which are basically reports of mystical ascent into upper realms. The book of enoch was found among the dead sea scrolls, so that easily sets an upper limit for dating its existence. This book is alluded to by the early church fathers, but later suppressed by the church, at least partially because enoch->Metatron serves as a prototype for jesus->Christ which is supposed to be something shiny and new. In my opinion, the Christ "angel" is nothing other than Metatron. But I don't think Merkaba mysticism came out of nowhere. There were buddhist, yoga/brahman, pythagorean/platonic, egyptian..who knows what else.. concepts and practices floating around at the time. I don't think it was developed by the hebrews in some kind of unrealistic imagined "isolation".

    Ezekiel in the 6th century B.C. was a "high priest". He didn't fall and bump his head and hallucinate.. he was following some sort of mystical tradition to gain his visions.

    The other side, Ma'aseh Bereshit, the Works of Creation, from the first word of Genesis. the primary example of which is the Yetzirah.. and is basically a greek-like explanation of the components and workings of creation/Kosmos. Both of this continue to be a part of Kabbalah. A lot of the difficulties in nailing down specifics is the fact that much of it was only transmitted mouth-to-ear. It was not written down. Even the Yetzirah is really more of a list of bullet points each of which is a jumping off point for a whole conversation. There are definitely Kabbalistic schools that prohibit all of this, any practical techniques or magic. And there's also specific prohibtions in Rabbinic writings.. I can't remember if its the Talmud I'm thinking of or other. There are more general prohibitions against speculation on anything to do with the three supernals/godhead and "above".

    We do have a main issue we disagree about, which affects a few other things, and that's when we date the Yetsirah to. I don't doubt previous greek influence of the Yetsirah, and later neoplatonic/pythagorean influence of the later Kabbalah. But your ideas that the Yetzirah itself was inspired by Plotinus/Marcus or any writers of that period suggest you believe in a relatively later date for the creation of the Yetsirah. I believe it dates to the period greek occupation, before the roman occupation. Since it would have been passed down orally for quite some time before being written down, its impossible to say what it looked like in original forms. And there are certainly many many versions that have been found. But the basic evidence of the greek influence is the first chapter, and so much of the rest of the book expands upon this first chapter, I think it took form pretty early.


    Quote Originally Posted by zoas23 View Post
    The most obvious thing: Atziluth, Briah, Yetzirah, Assiah... that's Plotinus under Hebrew names. I do not know (I can't know) if Cordovero or Luria even knew who had been Plotinus and I would not be surprised if they didn't; but the influence was already there (i.e, they expanded a tradition that was already strongly influenced by him... there was no need to "influence it again" as to say it in some way or other).
    I have no opinion about this.. I would have to research when the 4 worlds became part of the hebrew mysticism. I really have no idea right now. It's not something I've ever looked into.

    Quote Originally Posted by zoas23 View Post
    True. The big discussion between Gnostics and non-Gnostics was as simple as Platonists vs. Aristotelians.
    Though once the dispute was won (by Aristotelians), the Church accepted some heavily platonic influences too (Augustine of Hippo would be an example); even if the core of the Church is Aristotelian.
    You hit the nail on the head.. "Gnosis". The idea of personal Gnosis is a threat to church doctrine, which puts the priest/church in the middle as intermediary between you and Christ/the Logos. Everything in the "godhead" is the Church's business only.

  4. #34
    Regarding the differences between the different metaphysical traditions that have been mentioned, I would say, if you focus on differences, you will see them... However, their overlaps far outweigh any differences.

    The Renaissance philosophers were rarely focussing on differences. To them, Hermes, Zoroaster, Moses, Plato, Pythagoras etc were all torch bearers of the same 'original wisdom' (prisca sapientia). They would see no reason to discern between their views, unless they were faced with undeniable contradictions, which rarely was the case. They were natural syncretistic thinkers to be sure, but they would not have thought of themselves as blending 'different systems'. They were seekers for truth, and they couldn't have cared less where exactly any piece of it was to be found.

    While that kind of ahistoric attitude may bewilder our modern mind, we may want to consider a contemporary student of something like electromagnetism. It will take you a while to find one that will have a detailed knowledge about the historic background of each the concepts he is absorbing! How would that serve him, anyway? For he is learning those concepts not as historic curiosities expressive of particular schools of thought, but simply as objective aspects of the one reality. Even though future historians may indeed find it worthwhile to consider which scientist was influenced (or biassed) by the views of what previous researcher, the reasons for that, etc.

  5. #35
    A perfect example of what I was talking about in my previous post is Bruno's confrontation with the 'pedants' at Oxford. There is a common misconception that this was about a conflict between Church supported Aristotelianism on the one hand and an early form of modern scientific thought on the other. Well, Frances A. Yates demonstrated in Giordano Bruno in the English Renaissance that it was not.

    Bruno had nothing but reverence for the local tradition as founded by men like Roger Bacon. A tradition carried on in Bruno's day, however, not by the official academics, but by contemporary Platonists/Hermetists, especially the circle around John Dee which Bruno was in close contact with. The root of aforesaid conflict was simply that Oxford had itself abandoned the lofty sources of its one-time wisdom, had (literally!) burned its books, and had sunken into utter dumbness. And Bruno had little patience with that...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Sternbach View Post
    Regarding the differences between the different metaphysical traditions that have been mentioned, I would say, if you focus on differences, you will see them... However, their overlaps far outweigh any differences.

    The Renaissance philosophers were rarely focussing on differences. To them, Hermes, Zoroaster, Moses, Plato, Pythagoras etc were all torch bearers of the same 'original wisdom' (prisca sapientia). They would see no reason to discern between their views, unless they were faced with undeniable contradictions, which rarely was the case. They were natural syncretistic thinkers to be sure, but they would not have thought of themselves as blending 'different systems'. They were seekers for truth, and they couldn't have cared less where exactly any piece of it was to be found.

    While that kind of ahistoric attitude may bewilder our modern mind, we may want to consider a contemporary student of something like electromagnetism. It will take you a while to find one that will have a detailed knowledge about the historic background of each the concepts he is absorbing! How would that serve him, anyway? For he is learning those concepts not as historic curiosities expressive of particular schools of thought, but simply as objective aspects of the one reality. Even though future historians may indeed find it worthwhile to consider which scientist was influenced (or biassed) by the views of what previous researcher, the reasons for that, etc.
    "philosophia perennis" or Perennial philosophy, which is a coined termed by.. Renaissance era neo-platonists. If you already know the "common core" of them, why study anymore? Because these "differences" provide further understanding. What you suggest would mean taking the most modern authors "at their word". Personally speaking, that ain't gonna happen. Even within any of these core subjects, there are often different "schools" that focus on different details or have different ways of explaining things.

    I think science is a terrible example to prove your point, and that the reality is the total opposite. Without knowing the history of their scientific discipline they would be doomed to repeat past mistakes and follow theories that had already been proven not to work.. You use EM as an example, and i'm quite certain Maxwell was familiar with Kirchers work in that area. Scientists stand "On the Shoulders of Giants" that came before them, as Hawking put it..

    This is related to epistemology, the study of knowledge and how we come to know what we know (and believe what we believe)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Sternbach View Post
    A perfect example of what I was talking about in my previous post is Bruno's confrontation with the 'pedants' at Oxford. There is a common misconception that this was about a conflict between Church supported Aristotelianism on the one hand and an early form of modern scientific thought on the other. Well, Frances A. Yates demonstrated in Giordano Bruno in the English Renaissance that it was not.
    If i'm remembering correctly, I don't think there was ever a group of scholars that he met and didn't end up in some kind of confrontation with. Going off on the "pedants" was a favorite of his.. I remember it being a recurring theme in his career. I think the john dee circle you mentioned is the "trend of pseudo-Pythagorean occult science" mentioned by Yates.

    I think you are mis-remembering the title of the book in question, unless maybe you are referring to an earlier paper that her books were based on? Her book titles contain all the pieces of the work you refer to.. "The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethean Age", "The Rosicrucican Enlightenment", "Renaissance and Reformation", and finally "Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition". Obviously you are talking about the last one. Perhaps you're confusing it with Gatti's "Giordano Bruno and Renaissance Science"? I just came upon that searching to see if Yates had a paper with your title. But it turns out I collected Gatti's works that i could find in June, so I guess this isn't the first time she's come up.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Marcus View Post
    I danced around this very issue in parts I later editted out of my reply. I figure there must be a term that distinguishes between these two types of Greek philosophy, but if there is I don't know it. "Pythagorean/Platonic/and Gnostic" is my struggle to define it.. but Stoicism, Aristotle were specific things I have in mind to differentiate from.
    The first group is quite often labelled as neo-platonic in academic publications.
    (After writing the phrase I realized that it contained a joke... because the literal meaning of "academic" is "platonic").

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Marcus View Post
    Actually I don't think we disagree. My point is I don't think he studied any of these subjects with a particular bias, or preconceived notion they were all the same. He is a pretty credible transmitter of the cabala, hermeticism, neoplatonic thought in circulation at his time, according to those traditions. I think the idea that they all cover the same material in different language is a "final conclusion" and not a "guiding principle". In that way the subtleties and differences are preserved, instead of being whittled down to the "common denominator".
    I don't really agree. I also think he was quite confused, but it was also impossible during his times to avoid such confusion.
    My vision of the facts is that Pletho arrived to Florence for this failed Church meeting (I forgot the English name!) that wanted to unite the Orthodox Church and the Roman Church. He gave in Florence his seminars and sold his "combo" to the Medicis.. His Combo was Plato, Corpus Hermeticum and Chaldean Oracles. Pletho rejected Christianism and wanted to return to a Pagan religion (which was a very strange interpretation of this material he had... His Religion was mostly based on the Chaldean Oracles, though with Greek Gods taken the roles of the divinities).
    Several years later, Ficino was hired by the Medici family as to translate the texts and lead the new Platonic Academy. The Platonic Academy was also Hermetic...
    Ficino was convinced that Hermeticism had a great antiquity (i.e, older than Plato)... an it was also obvious for him that Plato was "influenced" by Hermeticism (the case is the opposite).
    He created a syncretism, but that's not the right word here... He somehow inherited a syncretism and he didn't get that he was dealing with one, he though of that whole as if it was "one thing" (then again, he created a second syncretism when he united Hermeticism and Platonism with Christianity).

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Marcus View Post
    When it comes to Bruno and the "occult pythagorean" trend I don't think it really hinges on any later neo-pythagorean sources or interpretations.. I think its mainly based on pretty simple pythagorean "primary concepts".. I don't know why you'd be certain that he's following Plotinus, and not Iamblichus, who is a "primary source" of neo-pythagoreanism. He of course expands into neo-platonism like we are discussing right now.. his version of which is often considered almost indistinguishable from that of Plotinus..
    I can explain it in a very basic way: Bruno's Cause, Principle and Unity is almost a transcription of Plotinus Enneads. There isn't much room there as to ask oneself which one is his source or influence.

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Marcus View Post
    We're jumping between two different periods here. I think "Merkabah mysticism" is pretty much the blanket term for jewish mysticism that predates kabbalah. I say this beecause I really couldn't point out any distinguishable mystical tradition outside of this. The core texts they are concerned with are Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Enoch. These are considered examples of Ma'aseh Merbaka - the Works of the Chariot, which are basically reports of mystical ascent into upper realms. The book of enoch was found among the dead sea scrolls, so that easily sets an upper limit for dating its existence. This book is alluded to by the early church fathers, but later suppressed by the church, at least partially because enoch->Metatron serves as a prototype for jesus->Christ which is supposed to be something shiny and new. In my opinion, the Christ "angel" is nothing other than Metatron. But I don't think Merkaba mysticism came out of nowhere. There were buddhist, yoga/brahman, pythagorean/platonic, egyptian..who knows what else.. concepts and practices floating around at the time. I don't think it was developed by the hebrews in some kind of unrealistic imagined "isolation".
    The interest on understanding God is older than Qabalah, that's for sure.
    The study of the Torah and its possible meaning is also older (other versions can be seen in the manuscripts of Qumram or the writings of Philo of Alexandria).
    Philo's method got somehow close to Qabalah, though it was a Pythagorean Platonism.
    The questions that Qabalah asks have been asked before Qabalah existed... I do not think it brought new questions at all.

    The Sepher Yetzirah gave a new method... and the method was a transposition to Hebrew of the ideas of Marcus. Having said such thing: yes, I think Qabalah is something that began in the 2nd century (and we have something magnificent such as the writings of Philo as to understand how mystical Jewish exegesis worked before Qabalah). I absolutely discard the idea of an earlier existence of Qabalah (I don't think it makes sense to talk about the possible "oral tradition" that was never written... There are plenty of mystical Jewish texts with different versions of an exegesis before the 2nd century and none of them suggests that Qabalah even existed... and then we have the Yetzirah and texts in which its existence is obvious).

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Marcus View Post
    You hit the nail on the head.. "Gnosis". The idea of personal Gnosis is a threat to church doctrine, which puts the priest/church in the middle as intermediary between you and Christ/the Logos. Everything in the "godhead" is the Church's business only.
    Yes, maybe the priests would have been possible with a Platonic version; but in the long run the idea was to create a religion that was functional to the State; a State Religion....
    And platonism made it very hard.
    I.e, it would have been hard to just say: "God likes this and that, God hates this and that... God will send to Heaven those who do this and that, and those who do this other thing will go to Hell".
    LOL... if I was an Emperor and I had to keep the order among a lot of people, I would probably support an aristotelian version because it would be by far easier.

  9. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by zoas23 View Post
    I don't really agree. I also think he was quite confused, but it was also impossible during his times to avoid such confusion.
    But I don't fundamentally disagree with this! It's easy from this end of time to be critical of Ficino, but we have so much more material than they had access to. And I think he was trying to "sort it out". I think his approach is more "scholarly" than the more "occult personalities" of his time. "in circulation at his time" is something I said.. I think this has to do with what standard he's being held to, who we are comparing him with. In this regard, someone I would contrast him with is Agrippa.

    Quote Originally Posted by zoas23 View Post
    My vision of the facts is that Pletho arrived to Florence for this failed Church meeting (I forgot the English name!) that wanted to unite the Orthodox Church and the Roman Church. He gave in Florence his seminars and sold his "combo" to the Medicis.. His Combo was Plato, Corpus Hermeticum and Chaldean Oracles. Pletho rejected Christianism and wanted to return to a Pagan religion (which was a very strange interpretation of this material he had... His Religion was mostly based on the Chaldean Oracles, though with Greek Gods taken the roles of the divinities). Several years later, Ficino was hired by the Medici family as to translate the texts and lead the new Platonic Academy. The Platonic Academy was also Hermetic... Ficino was convinced that Hermeticism had a great antiquity (i.e, older than Plato)... an it was also obvious for him that Plato was "influenced" by Hermeticism (the case is the opposite). He created a syncretism, but that's not the right word here... He somehow inherited a syncretism and he didn't get that he was dealing with one, he though of that whole as if it was "one thing" (then again, he created a second syncretism when he united Hermeticism and Platonism with Christianity).
    My memory fails me again here.. because through all these mentions of the Corpus Hermeticum, I'm remembering that we've discussed this, and you had the opposite standpoint regarding the C.H.'s antiquity. I could swear you at least partially refuted Casaubon's debunking of this viewpoint, and more modern analyse in support of Casaubon? I think this is easy to forgive on Ficino/Bruno's behalf, when considered "for their time". The only "Egypt" they knew at all was the much later Ptolemaic Egypt, which was for all intents and purposes: Greek. Kircher's work was much later and turns out, very wrong. We knew little to nothing of the old and middle kingdoms until the cracking of the hieroglyphs in the 19th century. It's easy to look back now with what we know and scoff at people believing the C.H. to be egyptian in origin. Lots of modern people use Kirchers Egyptology to dismiss or diminish him in general.

    Again, this is touching upon a bunch of stuff I had gotten into but erased because it was too much of a tangent at that point... When you mentioned Ficino and Pico I was going to bring up the "translation movement" of the Medicis, and the patronage those two received from them. The fuel for the "Golden Age" of the Renaissance. Theres several reasons why we are talking about Ficino.. The Reformation, the printing press, the increasing importance of the european universities, a bunch of things. An increase in literacy among "the public". Because this represents probably the third influx of greek thought into Europe. There was plenty of greek and roman thought in Europe during the western roman empire, and a lot of that survived hidden away in monastaries and the private libraries of families that managed to maintain a tradition of literacy. And in broad strokes... these are places where there were people who could still read them. To the general public, they would have been meaningless. But the Church had this material, and the monks read it and copied it. And I don't think it's a coincidence that so many of the earliest names connected to alchemy and these other subjects, like Lull and Albertus Magnus and others that don't come to mind right now.. are thought to have been monks. At this point there are really two avenues to literacy and education - joining The Church, or being able to afford private tutors (which you would need to qualify for the early universities)

    The second influx would be the transmission of Islamic sources, which I am sure you know were steeped in Neoplatonism. During the Golden Age of Islam, there were several centers of learning, and "translation movements" receiving patronage from several different rulers. These early muslim intellectuals were "universalists", and collected knowledge from whatever sources they could.. egyptian, greek, jewish, hindu, persian. But with special emphasis on the greek, at least initially. And they spent probably centuries mastering that material and teaching it to the next generation until they started innovating in those subjects.. math, geometry, astronomy, you name it. And the roots of western alchemy rest on the transmission of Gerber. Before the early muslims, it had been the Greeks that has this same "universalist" leaning, learning from everyone that came before. (the egyptian priests called the Greeks "babies", that they had no knowledge "hoary with age")

    So while I don't think the Renaissance translation movement (exemplified by the work of Ficino and Pico) was necessary for the tranmission of greek thought to at least specific "circles" of literate Europeans, the movement coincided with a number of things that lead to it being spread widely and going "mainstream".

    Quote Originally Posted by zoas23 View Post
    I can explain it in a very basic way: Bruno's Cause, Principle and Unity is almost a transcription of Plotinus Enneads. There isn't much room there as to ask oneself which one is his source or influence.
    It'll take me some time to look into this before I have an opinion.

    Quote Originally Posted by zoas23 View Post
    The interest on understanding God is older than Qabalah, that's for sure. The study of the Torah and its possible meaning is also older (other versions can be seen in the manuscripts of Qumram or the writings of Philo of Alexandria). Philo's method got somehow close to Qabalah, though it was a Pythagorean Platonism. The questions that Qabalah asks have been asked before Qabalah existed... I do not think it brought new questions at all.
    I don't have any disagreement at all about these references, or your previous references to Philo. there's nothing to argue about.

    Quote Originally Posted by zoas23 View Post
    The Sepher Yetzirah gave a new method... and the method was a transposition to Hebrew of the ideas of Marcus. Having said such thing: yes, I think Qabalah is something that began in the 2nd century (and we have something magnificent such as the writings of Philo as to understand how mystical Jewish exegesis worked before Qabalah). I absolutely discard the idea of an earlier existence of Qabalah (I don't think it makes sense to talk about the possible "oral tradition" that was never written... There are plenty of mystical Jewish texts with different versions of an exegesis before the 2nd century and none of them suggests that Qabalah even existed... and then we have the Yetzirah and texts in which its existence is obvious).
    This leads back to the different periods we date the Yetsirah to. Since I date it to before Marcus, I dispute his influence - on the Yetzirah. At the same time, I find very little of a specific Hebrew character, except the parts concerning the hebrew alphabet. The sefirot at this stage in development are little more than the greek decad.. And I totally disagree with Scholem (who I mainly like), I think the new word "sefirot" is based on the greek Sapphire and Sphere. Often spoken of in terms of their brilliance/shining, and spherical is the shape, in 3d, of any emanation from a central source. the astrology in later chapters is greek. Some of the "important numbers" are ancient.

    No one has argued this is "Kabbalah", at this point. Generally speaking, from a Jewish point of view, it doesn't become Kabbalah until the appearance of the Bahir, which currently can be dated to 1174. Now some people believe that the "Oral Tradition" of the Bahir goes back to the 1st century.. But I don't. Anyways, this is the first time the Sefirot receive the names we know them by today.. in the Bahir, taken from a verse of Chronicles. This does not exist in the Yetzirah, or at its time.

    I pointed out evidence of merbaka mysticism, in the form of Ezekiel, Isaiah, Daniel, Book of Enoch (and other dead sea scrolls materials), and my opinion that it is one of the sources for later Kabbalah. (I know some of the older sources with material on the Essenes consider them "neo-pythagorean"). The latest realistic date for the dead seas material is the jewish revolt of 66AD. A concept that remains important in Kabbalah is "Metatron", which is mentioned in Enoch. I believe a lot of the "numbers" he is associated with are Greek in origin and interpretation. I believe the name at least on one level, is connected to the greek "Metron" for "measure".. Not just of the throne, but the circumference of the circle (value = 314). People argue that the value of Pi is given as 3 in the bible, and that's what everyone assumed it was.. but in the period we are discussing, the learned people had it as 22/7, or 3 1/7.

    The Church didn't become "greek", and jewish law wasn't abrogated until Paul. The early church centered around Jerusalem was "just" a sect of hellenized Jews. Some of them even seemed to have enjoyed priviledges in the Temple... and from here we have the mystic John, with his doctrine of the Logos and Revelations. Revelations is only confusing if you don't have knowledge of the historical hebrew mysticism.. It's nothing other than merkaba literature, of the same stream as the earlier examples.

    This brings me to.. your dismissal of oral tradition. How much would we have to disregard (discussing the hebrew tradition would just be a minor part). Other examples/evidence I would provide in support of my point of view would be from the Mishnah/Talmud.. but since this recording of oral tradition didn't happen from the 4th century it can only date til then? "midrash" is one of the forms of exegesis on the Torah you are talking about, and is specifically mentioned in the bible.. but it wasn't recorded, again, until about the 4th century (and becomes capitilized Midrash). I always confuse all of this.. I can't remember if the references to metatron and ma'aseh Merkaba and Bereshit or from the Midrash, Mishnah->Talmud, or a combination of both

    There are several forms/types/levels of exegesis on the Torah.. I was going to say I can't remember them, but I remembered "Pardes" and looked it up:

    "Pardes" refers to (types of) approaches to biblical exegesis in rabbinic Judaism or to interpretation of text in Torah study. The term, sometimes also spelled PaRDeS, is an acronym formed from the same initials of the following four approaches:

    Peshat (פְּשָׁט) – "surface" ("straight") or the literal (direct) meaning.[1]
    Remez (רֶמֶז) – "hints" or the deep (allegoric: hidden or symbolic) meaning beyond just the literal sense.
    Derash (דְּרַשׁ) – from Hebrew darash: "inquire" ("seek") – the comparative (midrashic) meaning, as given through similar occurrences.
    Sod (סוֹד) (pronounced with a long O as in 'lore') – "secret" ("mystery") or the esoteric/mystical meaning, as given through inspiration or revelation.
    Outside of the practical/magical techiques of Kabbalah, the more "acceptable" form is basically another level of exegesis evolved from "Sod". This is what the passage from the Zohar refers to:

    'And who sustains the world and causes the Fathers (Patriarchs) to appear? It is the voices of the children who study the Torah. The world exists thanks to these children.'

  10. #40
    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Marcus View Post
    "philosophia perennis" or Perennial philosophy, which is a coined termed by.. Renaissance era neo-platonists.
    You might as well call them Hermetists or neo-Pythagoreans, though -perhaps with slight variations on emphasis from one to another...

    Their focus was not so much to make new discoveries, as to retrieve the wisdom of the ancients.

    If you already know the "common core" of them, why study anymore? Because these "differences" provide further understanding. What you suggest would mean taking the most modern authors "at their word". Personally speaking, that ain't gonna happen. Even within any of these core subjects, there are often different "schools" that focus on different details or have different ways of explaining things.
    Fact is that all the Renaissance natural philosophers operated within a cosmological framework that had been woven together from Pythagorean, Platonic, Aristotelian, Stoic, Hermetic and other sources. This is particularly true for the alchemists.

    Granted, it may be worthwhile to focus on a particular concept and study its evolution and permutations with individual thinkers.

    However, trying to draw exact lines between different schools of thought is generally misleading when it comes to Renaissance philosophers and tantamount to an exercise in mental masturbation.

    I think science is a terrible example to prove your point, and that the reality is the total opposite. Without knowing the history of their scientific discipline they would be doomed to repeat past mistakes and follow theories that had already been proven not to work.. You use EM as an example, and i'm quite certain Maxwell was familiar with Kirchers work in that area. Scientists stand "On the Shoulders of Giants" that came before them, as Hawking put it..

    This is related to epistemology, the study of knowledge and how we come to know what we know (and believe what we believe)
    I was talking about modern students of science diligently learning 'facts' from their text-books, with information on when, how and by whom those 'facts' were established at best being the subject of a footnote. It is indeed the reason for many a dead end in modern science that its source texts are far from being adequately studied. E.g., much of Maxwell's theory was lost to students of electromagnetism after it had been curtailed by Heaviside and Gibbs.

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