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- Religion after religion : Gershom Scholem, Mircea Eliade, and Henry Corbin at Eranos
In a subsequent interview, however, he confirmed that it was he who in fact had rejected instruction by these masters. But, in any case, through their scholarly disquisitions on the visions of the past, they transgressed, precisely and routinely, ancient injunctions against such publicity. We display in broad daylight texts, ideas, beliefs, rites, etc.
Scholem acknowledged just how historically peculiar this must appear. The public character of the main works of the old Kabbalist literature is the most important warranty of its secret. For we do not see anything any more, and when are we addressed?
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But if one opens this folio today, it becomes evident that our perception of this betrayal of mysteries must have vanished. And which one of all pronounced worlds could be more sunk into its mysterious pronunciability than the world of the Lurianic Kabbalah? They too, as Scholem implied, protected secrets by pronouncing them. Which kind of esoterism, then, did the History of Religions writers practice? The Historian of Religions, in pronouncing secrets with such authority, intimated a certain knowing beyond research.
Their widely selling secrecy bespoke not gnosis as such, however, but another strategy of writing. Nor is it identical with philosophical esoterism. Nevertheless, to opt for the other obvious conclusion, to accept them as initiates, that is, to see them as cloaked avatars of privileged understanding, may be to misconstrue their conceits. Beyond whatever instrumental functions it performed, their indirection was convincing because it implied the traditional possibility of direct metaphysical knowledge; they thereby presented themselves as exemplars, if only allusively.
That one can today understand such things; that the modern reader can still have access to the godhead; that the history of tradition—however posthistorically attenuated—is yet unbroken: that was the implied promise of History of Religions. The substance of the mystical secret could not be conveyed. Still, they implied that the ancient secrets could be interpreted today.
Mystical secrets could be understood. And the History of Religions was the vehicle for that understanding.
Review of *Religion After Religion* by Steven Wasserstrom
One possibility is that these friends implied secrets as something like the aura of the History of Religions. And that difficulty is that Scholem—like Corbin, and, indeed, all scholars who retroject theosophy into the core of their respective traditions—appropriated assumptions from the traditions in a way that derives rather too unproblematically from certain early modern theories of so-called tradition.
Corbin and Eliade demanded acquiescence to the proposition that this esoteric core was the religious stuff of religion, that this was religion as such. In other words, this theosophical assumption, and the mystocentrism they derived from it, led them to certain conclusions about an autonomous reality for religious phenomenon; conclusions that have as much to do, perhaps, with early modern notions of esoterism as they do with contemporary practices of critical inquiry. In any case, however ironic it may now seem retrospectively, it was by this means that they institutionalized, in the academic study of religion, an original esoterism.
To identify the hierophany, the self-revealing of the sacred, one must experience its numinosity. Corbin encountered the aged Rudolf Otto, who coined the term numinous, in Marburg in ; soon thereafter, in November , Olga Froebe-Kapteyn also made this same pilgrimage. At that latter meeting, Otto proposed and Froebe-Kapteyn accepted the name Eranos.
It carries to this day a numinous aura. We shall have to return to these problems later on. Moreover, it is not difficult to observe that the majority of symbolisms which we have mentioned in these notes have no other function than to unify, to totalize, to construct a center. Everywhere, back of this symbolism, we find a tendency toward unity towards reintegration. This simultaneity of meanings in the symbol is expressed better when we take into account of the aim of every symbol: the reintegration of man into the All, [not] the annihilation of life and the Cosmos, but rather the reintegration into the All.
Martines de Pasqually is best known today as the mentor of Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin — , eponymous founder of the so-called Martinist order. In any case, both were involved with so-called speculative masonry, though by uncertain channels of influence. It is not the conservative element of turning back to a projection of the past into the future, that gives it is explosive power; it is rather the utopian hope that redemption will contain much more than any past, including any golden age.
Pasqually himself was suspected during his lifetime of being a secret Jew, and modern scholarship has in fact established that he was of Marrano ancestry. That is, as Kilcher and others suggest, it may be that Pasqually, versed to some unknown extent in Kabbalah, originally devised the phrase the reintegration of all beings as a translation of tikkun. He initially read Kabbalah through the lens of Christian Kabbalah. More precisely, he entered it through the theosophies of Christian Kabbalah.
Scholem, then, not only associated with contemporary theosophists of an Christian Kabbalah orientation but was himself originally inspired by these sources. Finally he found a Kabbalist, who said to him: I am willing to teach you Kabbalah. But there is one condition, and I doubt whether you can meet it. The condition, as some of my readers may not guess, was that he ask not questions. Scholem told his first Eranos audience, in short, that he had rejected direct initiation.
He was not, he himself confessed, initiated directly into the Kabbalistic mysteries. This apparent lack of fit precisely is what makes his esoterism so remarkably illuminated when it is reread in the light of what we now know about Corbin and Eliade.
A common Christian Kabbalah origin of this trajectory is unmistakable. The former, in fact, begins with a long quotation from Molitor, and the latter ends with verses of Goethe.
Scholem insisted that there was in his day no living, authentic mysticism in the contemporary world. His lifelong acknowledgments of his debt to Molitor say as much. This was a literary debt, to be sure, if not an initiation by the book. The first volume of the French Masonic journal, Travaux de Villard de Honnecourt, which his lecture inaugurates, prints his lecture framed by introductions and interviews. Several interesting features of this lecture and interview present themselves. First, it is a version of a lecture he had given and published on several other occasions.
The Travaux de Villard de Honnecourt version seems almost certainly designed for its audience. That these claims were favored in the Masonic forum at which he was the honored lecturer is virtually certain. In a review-essay devoted to A. For this reason, and with the collaboration of some thirty university professors. Following the model of Eranos, the lectures were published annually. Henry is completely satisfied with the outcome of the lecture series that took place at The University of Saint John of Jerusalem. Although I am one of the founding members, it was impossible for me to go to that colloquium, but I share his joy in finally seeing one of his geatest desires take shape: to bring together a group of scholars, theologians, and philosophers belonging to the three traditions dealing with the Bible, to form them into a sort of Hermeticist circle, and to have address an audience, restricted, of course, but of the elite.
Nasr always start with the notion of philosophia—theosophia— perennis, and it is to this that their hermeneutics always returns. But not one of them neglects erudition, critical apparatus, or the historical and philosophical tools that constitute a specific aspect of modernity. With them, university scholarship becomes the aid, today indispensable, of Tradition, which they approach both as savants and philosophers. The budding Romanian scholar enthusiastically pored over Christian Kabbalah when he was twenty years old, and later often referred to these studies as the impetus that drove him to his famous sojourn in India.
Eliade bolstered this claim in his journals of Between and , he was associated with the Martinist lodges established by Papus Dr. His interest in the occult sciences, however, was lifelong. Here again, he makes the same point that he did in the Autobiography, not that Evola was wrong in any way but simply that they wrote for different audiences.
Eliade derived enjoyment from the humorous setting of this lecture: the twenty-first annual Freud Memorial Lecture, published initially in the Journal of the Philadelphia Association for Psychoanalysis. This planetary pessimism amounted to a cosmic catastrophism. In no place did Eliade disavow the diagnosis of the danger articulated by these Traditionalist comrades outside the academy.
The evidence suggests, therefore, that Eliade did not disagree with them on this point. Evidence from within the initiatic world confirms this impression.
Religion after religion : Gershom Scholem, Mircea Eliade, and Henry Corbin at Eranos
Since you speak of Eliade, I have already reviewed several of his works, books and articles. You will note that I treat him rather carefully and that I try above all to refer to that which is good;. It would be interesting to determine to what degree and in what form these currents, which are radically opposed to democracy and socialism. Clearly, he believed that his order was in some sense helping to restore the true Judaism, by which may have meant the Cabala. Their unity is to be found in their relation to Kabbalah.
- Religion after Religion: Gershom Scholem, Mircea Eliade, and Henry Corbin at Eranos.
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Together they found inspiration in those Western esoteric sciences deriving from Jacob Boehme by way of his spiritual descendents Pasqually, Saint-Martin, Schelling, Molitor, and von Baader. Scholem drew his philosophical inspiration from his early study of these thinkers, while Eliade, at virtually the same time in the s, wrote his dissertation on the origins of this phenomenon during the Florentine Renaissance. Corbin, quite unabashedly, and Eliade, at most obliquely, each portrayed himself to be a spiritual heir—initiate? The History of Religions in their conception operated as a kind of Christian Kabbalah.
It is therefore useful to reflect on the reasons for this convergence of interests. Christian Kabbalah, it may be argued, was a notable, original effort at the outset of modernity to address the emerging question of religious plurality. There was not one revelation, but many, and, conversely, there were not many truths, but one original source of truth prisca theologia. Religious multiplicity, by any definition, was the social reality to which Christian Kabbalah responded. Esotericism, insofar as it posited a transcendent unity to world religions, in this light is linked, 50 CHAPTER 2 historically speaking, to the rise of comparative religion.
Both sought solutions to the problem of revelational diversity. It is in this context that one of the seeming anomalies in any positing of significance to the grouping of Scholem-Eliade-Corbin may be clarified. Scholem, who might seem the least likely of the trio to be fairly characterized in this way, in fact may be the strongest case. That is, his Sabbatian theory was of a piece with a theory of enlightenment. And this theory was, most importantly, predicated first and foremost on the supposed apostasy of its central figure.