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Christian and Rosicrucian Kabbalah

Raymon Lull
Pico della Mirandola
Rosicrucian Kabbalah
Occult Kabbalah


Raymon Lull

The beginning of Christian Kabbalah is to be found in the teachings of the Catalan philosopher and mystic, Raymon Lull (1232 - c.1316).  Living in a region where the Catholic Church was dominant, but a large part of the land was still under the rule of Moslem Arabs, and the Jews made an important contribution to the culture, Lull had the idea of unifying all three religions by developing a philosophy incoporating elements common to all.  And although Lull's ultimate aim was still conversion of the heathens to Christianity, rather than simply tolerance and search for truth for its own sake, the way he intended to convert was through rational and mystical doctrine, rather than the tortues that the Church was to employ so efficently and brutally some two centuries later.

Lull based his Art on the importance which Christian, Moslem, and Jew each attached to the Divine Names or Attributes, or, as he called them, Dignities.  Lull mentioned nine Dignities (or Dignitaries): Bonitas (Goodness), Magnitudo (Greatness), Eternitas (Eternity), Potestas (Power), Sapientia (Wisdom), Voluntas (Will), Virtus (Virtue), Veritas (Truth), and Gloria (Glory).  These are shown in the follwing diagram.

Raimond Lull's 9 Dignities
Diagram from a 15th Century edition of the Ars Brevis by Raimondo Lull
reproduced from external linkAndries' page

With a little juggling of the order we have all the Kabbalistic Sefirot bar the lowest one, Malkut or "Kingdom" (representing Creation itself):

Sefirah Dignatory
 Keter (Crown; Divine Will)  = Voluntas (Will)
 Hokmah (Wisdom)  = Sapientia (Wisdom)
 Binah (Intelligence)   = Veritas (Truth)
 Hesed (Mercy, Love)   = Bonitas (Goodness)
 Gevurah (Strength)   = Potestas (Power)
 Tifaret (Beauty)  = Virtus (Virtue)
 Netzah (Endurance)  = Eternitas (Eternity)
 Hod (Majesty)  = Gloria (Glory)
 Yesod (Foundation)  = Magnitudo (Greatness)

In addition we also find the incorporation of the four elements and the qualities, the seven planets and twelves signs, medicine, alchemy, geometry, a letter notation, and so on.  There is an elaborate system of correspondences, in that the nine Dignitaries have their correspondences in the celestial sphere, the human level, and the animal, plant, and material creation.

In all this we see the influence, not only of Kabbalah, but also of Aristotlean categories, Augustinian Platonism (nearly all the Lullian Dignities can be found listed as Augustine's Divine Attributes), and the celestial hierarchies of angels of the Christian Neoplatonist Dionysius.  [Frances A. Yates, The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age, pp.9-12].


Renaissance Kabbalah

Renaissance Christian Kabbalah was derived from a number of sources.  Firstly, the christological speculations of a number of Jewish converts from the late 13th to the late fifteenth centuries.  Secondly, the philosophical Christian and Renaissance speculation concerning the Kabbalah that developed around the Platonic Acadamy founded by the Medici family in Florence.

Pico della Mirandola

The Florentines, headed by the renowned Renaissance hermeticist Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463-94) believed they had discovered in Kabbalah a lost divine revelation that could give the key to understanding both the teachings of Pythagoras, Plato, and the Orphics, and the inner secrets of Catholic Christianity.  Pico himself had a considerable amount of Kabbalistic literature translated into Latin by the scholarly convert Samuel ben Nissim Abulfaraj.

Among the 900 theses Pico presented for public debate in Rome was the claim that "no science can better convince us of the divinity of Jesus Christ than magic and the Kabbalah ", and he believed he could prove the dogmas of the Trinity and the Incarnation through Kabbalistic axioms.

All this caused a sensation in the intellectual Christian world, and the writings of Pico and his follower Johannes Reuchlin (1455-1522) led on the one hand to great interest in the doctrine of Divine Names and in practical (magical) Kabbalah (culminating in Cornelius Agrippa of Nettesheim's De Occult Philosophia (1531) and on the other to further attempts at a synthesis between Kabbalah and Christian theology.  [Gershom Scholem, Kabbalah, pp.197-8]


Rosicrucian Kabbalah

Robert Fludd's sefirotic tree By the late 16th century Christian Kabbalah began to be permeated with alchemical symbolism; a trend that continued through the 17th and 18th century.  Well known representatives are the Rosucrucian philosopher and alchemist Robert Fludd (1574-1637) and the alchemist Thomas Vaughan (1622-1666) among others.  One of the works of Fludd presents an interpretation of the Sefirotic Tree which he illustrates as a Palm (left), whose ten spreading branches raying forth from the lowest world suggest that man on earth is a microcosm or reflection of the macrocosm or universe.

In the second half of the 18th century this alchemical kabbalah was combined with Freemasonic numerology and occultism, from which was ultimately to develop the extraordinary occult/magickal revival of the late 19th century known as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn

illustration (left) from external linkWorld Trees by Hazel Minot 

image file Kircher's Tree  from Oedipus Aegyptiacus published in 1652 by Athanasius Kircher, a Jesuit priest and hermetic philosopher


Occult Kabbalah

By the 19th century the occultists of the French magician revival, such as Eliphas Levi (Alphonse Louis Constant; 1810-1875) and Papus (Gerard Encausse; 1868-1916) had lost all understanding of the original Jewish meaning of Kabbalah, and brought in various extraneous elements such as Tarot.   Levi was an influential figure both on the Theosophy of Blavatsky and even more so the Golden Dawn Order of Mathers and Westcott, with it's unique Kabbalistic (or Qabalistic, to use the prefered spelling) formulation of Sefirot and paths, through which Kabbalah established itself in the contemporary Western Occult Tradition.


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