{4} EXCERPT FROM JOSEPH DAN’S “KABBALAH, A Very Short Introduction” (p. 63)

Probably one of the most influential effects the Christians had on Magick and Mysticism during the High Renaissance of Western Europe happened during the late 15th Century.  The Jewish Heiros Gamos was submerged into an ascetic Christian Cabbala as Jewish mysticism infiltrated throughout Italy during their diaspora from Spain in 1492.

This excerpt from Joseph Dan’s KABBALAH a Very Short Introduction is vital to understanding this transition: (p. 63)

The kabbalah was transformed from a uniquely Jewish religious tradition into a European concept, integrated with Christian theology, philosophy, science, and magic, at the end of the fifteenth century. From that time to the present it has continued its dual existence as a Jewish phenomenon on the one hand and as a component of European culture on the other hand. The failure to distinguish between the two different–actually, radically different–meanings of the kabbalah in the intrinsic Jewish context and in the European-Christian context is a key reason for the confusion surrounding the term and concept of the kabbalah today. Readers are disappointed when they do not find the characteristics of the Jewish kabbalah in the writings of Christian kabbalists and vice versa. … They [Christian kabbalists] constitute an attempt to present the main outlines of the development of the different meanings and attitudes that contributed to the multiple faces of the kabbalah in European (and later, American) Christian culture.

The development of the Christian kabbalah began in the school of Marsilio Fincino in Florence, in the second half of the fifteenth century. It was the peak of the Italian Renaissance when Florence was governed by the Medici family, who supported and encouraged philosophy, science, and art. Florence was a gathering place for many of the greatest minds of Europe, among them from Constantinople, which was conquered by the Turks in 1433. Fincino is best known for his translations of Plato’s writings from Greek to Latin, but of much importance was his translation to Latin of the corpus of esoteric, mysterious old treatises known as the Hermetica. These works, probably originating from Egypt in late antiquity, are attributed to a mysterious ancient philosopher, Hermes Trismegestus (The Thrice-Great Hermes), and they deal with magic astrology, and esoteric theology. Fincino and his followers found in these and other works a new source of innovative speculations, which centered around the concept of magic as an ancient scientific doctrine, the source of all religious and natural truth.

A great thinker who emerged from this school was Count Giovanni Pico dela Mirandola, a young scholar and theologian, who died at age thirty-three in 1496. Pico took a keen interest in the Hebrew language, and had Jewish scholars as friends and teachers. He began to study the kabbalah both in Hebrew and in translations to Latin made for him by a Jewish convert to Christianity, Flavius Mithredates. … Modern scholars have found it difficult to distinguish in Pico’s works between these two: magic is often presented as a synonym for the kabbalah. Pico regarded magic as a science, both in the natural and theological realms, and he interpreted the kabbalistic texts with which he was familiar as ancient esoteric lore conserved by the Jews, at the heart of which was the Christian message, which is fortified by the study of kabbalah.

After Pico/Mithredates, there’s a sketchy lineage of Hermetic kabbalahist that includes: Pico della Mirandola, Johann Reuchlin and Paolo Riccio. The next name that stands out prominently is the Jesuit Priest, Athanasuid Kircher (1602-1680) who furthered Pico’s work.

The Cabala’s (as some people call the Christian Cabala), agenda was reinterpreting the Tree of Life to assign Keter – Father, Chochmah – Son and Binah as Mary. It had some kickback from Christianity because this interpretation would mean Mary would be included in the Holy Trinity and naturally this is something Christianity refused to do.

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