Cologero has been very generous in allowing many of us to write on Gornahoor.
For that reason, I’ve sometimes repaid him by not posting anything, when I was sure I had nothing important or clear to say.
I am ending the series on Iamblichus; the reader will have to write his own recapitulation, or Decad. I am not certain where I will go from here, but have purposed not to write “for the sake of writing”.
There are a couple of thoughts, I think, worth re-visiting, concerning Christian esotericism.
1. Many of the texts seem to focus on obtaining the virtues. Is this because Christianity is lost in the “lesser mysteries” of obtaining back primordial man? I am inclined not to think so. Whereas much neo-pagan initiation seems to center around an “experience” or a realization, Christian practice (or those influenced by it) invariably focus on acquiring concrete moral virtues. These concrete moral virtues are meant to lead to higher angelic states, symbolized in the theological virtues.
2. This contrast is even seen with one of the grandest Stoics, Epictetus. There is nothing but good to say of this man, but when all is said and done, he is not the same figure as the Apostle Paul: he does not present us with the theological virtues. This is not his fault, nor even a fault. It is simply an observation.
3. In the Romance of the Rose, we are presented with a garden whose wall is guarded by several figures representing Envy, Sorrow, Poverty, etc., which the inquirer must “pass” or eschew in order to enter into the garden. Or do these disfigurements (in another sense) actually function as guardians? In any case, it is hard to miss the parallel with the Seven Deadly Sins. Again, Christianity is definitely aimed at conquering manifested sins in a manifested way; it is a religion of Incarnation.
4. While it thus (granted) appeals to those at the lowest level intellectually, it maintains higher links capable of being articulated within the most subtle and refined cosmologies or metaphysics. I have already in the past endeavored to link Steiner’s work on the Seven Steps of Christianity with a passage from Saint Peter, and indirectly, the Sermon on the Mount. Granted (again), this is cosmology or hermeticism, which as Guenon points out, is not a complete metaphysic, and we follow Guenon on that point. Part of the reason Christianity is hard to define is that it can fit various metaphysics.
5. Where does this leave the esoteric Christian, or the Christian who wants to be faithful to his tradition (and thereby, to God), but go beyond the low and easily distorted spirituality which passes for currency in today’s world of cheap grace? Guenon even argues that the Rosicrucian tradition (a hermetic one, and so incomplete, devoted to the lesser mysteries) has passed into desuetude. Charles Upton makes the same claim regarding the neopagan mystery school of Iamblichus. A great deal has been “lost”. But is it really lost? Is it really embedded in Time in such a fashion that it is incapable of rekindling embers and starting a new fire? We think not.
6. This leaves the task of our day; as Cologero put it, we should not sit around waiting for George to do it. On the contrary, we are not wine-snobs and connoisseurs waiting to be fed – our job is to begin to prepare the meal, if we want to eat.
7. We can always start with attention to our thought and our motivations and thereby, to the deepest wellsprings of our actions, whether spiritual or physical. A resurgent body of Christian esotericism no longer has to contend with infra-Church bodies of Inquisitors, political machinations of suspicious kings, or a host of other difficulties encountered during the Middle Ages (which, all in all, were a better time). We also have more information and resources, of a kind, at our disposal. In this area, at least, much will be required of us. Then, perhaps as Cologero has said, if we prepare these lesser things, and do our homework, the greater mystery of what spark will rekindle the flames will be revealed. In any case, it is undoubtedly still alive – what would the “Wise Men” of today do to experience the birth of the Christ-child, but look to the sign of the Eagle and the Cross? Then, perhaps, we will regain the Rose.
8. As a personal postscript, I do think Charles Williams must have had some knowledge, however fragmentary, of what we seek here – his writings center around too many hermetic themes. Even his interest in Dante is remarkable. Coupled with his early (relatively) death, he is a “person of interest” to me.