My summer reading: The Western Esoteric Traditions: a Historical Introduction by Nicholas Goodrick – Clarke (Oxford University Press – 2008).
Western esoteric traditions have roots in religious thinking reaching far back into the Hellenistic era and before. In the Renaissance, ancient texts thought forever lost were rediscovered. This led to a revival of an interest in and the practice of magic, astrology, alchemy, and the Kabbalah. After the Reformation, this continues with the development of theosophy, Rosicrucianism, Freemasonry and for me, most importantly the analytical psychology of Carl Jung.
As Dr Liz Greene makes clear in her scholarly study, The Astrological World of Jung’s Libre Novus: Daimon’s, Gods, and the Planetary Journey (Routledge, 2018), Jung used ritual magic and astrology in his own personal work which underlaid much of his psychological theories.
Jung’s most important spiritual guide in this work was known to him as Philemon, a Saturnian figure with Aquarian leanings (Saturn being the planetary ruler of Aquarius), who was not only a wise man but also a magician (in the sense of the tarot trump, The Magician). Interestingly, Philemon was also a gardener, who quietly cultivated tulips in his own garden as might any pensioner. Not only did Philemon guide Jung along his own spiritual journey in much the same way as did Virgil with Dante, but he also provided Jung with a much needed sense of spiritual meaning.
Jung’s work with magic and astrology demonstrates not only is there a place for esoteric traditions in modern science but also, if we are to become all that we as men and women can be, an important link must be made between irrationalism and progressive rationalism. Indeed many Great Western thinkers such as Nietzsche and Kierkegaard have also expressed grave concerns about where progressive rationalism might take the human race.
As I hope to make clear in my blog posts over the next few months, a solid understanding of western esoteric tradition is essential for anyone involved with an/ or interested in working with visions, apparitions, and even angels.
Indeed, it is the view of Dr Liz Greene (expressed in a series of lectures given in 2017 regarding Jung’s Liber Novus) that the current popularity of guardian angels is a substitute religious pursuit. As organised religion becomes less popular people become ever more desperate to find meaning and purpose in their lives, something that transcends the boundaries of their personal Egos.
But I hope this book will also give me more insight into the subjects and ideas that I addressed during my pursuit of my MA in the Study of Religious and Mystical Experience at the University of Kent at Canterbury. Because first and foremost, according to Goodrick-Clarke, behind any work involving western esotericism lies a spiritual experience.
(to be continued)