Are Hermes and the Kabbalah Irrelevent?
Giordano Bruno and the Kabbalah
By Joshua Harrison
Published: Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Karen Silvia De Leon Jones
University of Nebraska Press, 2004.
The figure of the Renaissance magus looms large at Yeshiva College. Indeed, the very slogan of the school channels the spirit of Egyptian pneumatic magic. Beckoning us to "bring wisdom to life," the new motto conjures an image of a magician, his figure ensconced in dark robes, Picatrix in hand, standing over the moribund YU student and imparting him with the ancient Gnostic wisdom of the Hermetica. Just as the ancient Egyptians brought the celestial powers into their idols, we take the lifeless Modern Orthodox youth and fill them with celestial knowledge!
Scorn is heaped on the pedant by Giordano Bruno. The pedant represents the opposite of the magus. With his emphasis on philology or his willingness to analyze primary texts (like Copernicus), the pedants of the world challenged Bruno, whom Yates calls "the lunatic the lover and the poet." Indeed, the Oxford doctors who so opposed Bruno find piercing arrows of invective hurled at them. While they ponder the true epicycles, Bruno hears the song of the Universe.
Of course, the Isaac Casaubon controversy, in which Casaubon used early philological methods to disprove the authenticity of the Hermetica as received Egyptian wisdom, brought this situation to a head. At least Bruno had the authoritative Hermetica on his side. When Casaubon proved that the Hermetica was a Gnostic text, and not a text that antedated Moses (who cribbed, in the old account, liberally from Hermes Trismegistus!), the later Magi, like Robert Fludd, had to persist in their art in the face of vastly superior critical scholarship.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
A BOOK ON GIORDANO BRUNO AND KABBALAH is reviewed in the Commentator: