For the past several years I have been working on a doctorate in history about the Golden Dawn and theurgy. This early, lighthearted essay shows some of the connections I found and have been writing about. For your enjoyment…
Our criteria in place, we may now essay a developmental history of the systems of operative theurgic practice from Iamblichus to the Golden Dawn. A brief and playful outline of our subjects follows below.
Observing the time scale over which this study operates shows certain clusters of activity and paragons of their eras. Iamblichus clearly formulates the operative theurgy we will be examining. He draws from Plotinus, Porphyry, and the Julianii, and builds upon the foundation of the Platonic tradition, to form his paradigm. Proclus and others will inherit and adapt it, but this lets us focus on the Soter Hellenes and develop our archetype of operative theurgy.
Renaissance theurgy is the product of several hands but Ficino towers above them all as the translator of Plato, Plotinus, Proclus, the Hermetica, the Orphica, and especially Iamblichus, giving us the name of his largest surviving text, “On the Mysteries”. But Pico will change the character of western theurgy and esotericism in general by introducing the Jewish Kabbalah. Trithemius will teach us to conjure spirits, while advancing cryptography. Agrippa will fuse his predecessors’ work into a encyclopedic system, to which the doctor Paracelsus will wed alchemy while founding modern medicine. Bruno will burn for dreaming of a bigger world and a restored Pagan one.
As the modern age dawns with Luther’s hammer blow, Dee, Maier, and Fludd will enrich, develop and promulgate operative theurgy. The myth of the Rosicrucians will fire the imagination of Europe, while the (pre-Blavatski)Theosophists chart heaven and hell. Elias Ashmole will participate in saving the esoteric dimension of the stonecutters’ guild and be present at the birth of Freemasonry. The Masonic Lodges will be the crucible from which will emerge the occult orders: the Gold and Rosy Cross, the Illuminates of Avignon, the Martinists, the SRIA, while Mesmer and the Royal Society look on in mutual dismay and wonderment. The Spiritualists will remember how to speak for the non-physicals.
Finally, we will end with the secret love child of Eliphas Levi and Madam Blavatski, the daughter of all those who had gone before, discovered as a foundling in the Library of the British Museum by MacGregor Mathers, swaddled in Rosicrucian patents by Winn Westcott, and delivered her legacy by Dr. Woodman: the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. She will in her turn give birth to the Modern Pagan Movement, witches and wizards by the dozens if not millions, when thinking she was dead, a young scribe showed her unveiled to the world.