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Studies on Western Esotericism in Central and Eastern Europe
 978 963 315 397 0

Table of contents :
György E. Szönyi
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Áron Orbán
Love, Magic and Illness. The Role of Witchcraft-motifs in Conrad Celtis’
Amores . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Rafał T. Prinke
Dr. Bogdan Edward Jastrzębski-Edwards (1860–1923), the last
Praemonstrator of the Golden Dawn, and his brother Louis Stanley
Jast (1868–1944), the Theosophist . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
Michele Olzi
“From Russia with Love,” a case of Russian culture and immigration
in Western Esotericism: Maria de Naglowska (1883–1936) . . . . . . . . . . 71
Spyros Petritakis
The reception of Nikolaos Gyzis’sB ehold the Bridegroom comethb y
Rudolf Steiner in Munich in 1910: Its ideological premises and echo
in the cross-fertilization of artistic and Theosophical Doctrines . . . . . . . 83
Karolina Maria Hess
Romanticism and National Messianism in Theosophical Milieus
in Poland Before World War II – an Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 109
Małgorzata Alicja Dulska
Vision of Spiritual World in the Writings of Agnieszka Pilchowa . . . . . 129
György E. Szönyi
The Philosophy of Wine. A Peculiar Chapter in the Esoteric Philosophy
of Béla Hamvas (1897–1968) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 147
Nadežda Elezović
Spiritual in Contemporary Art of Southeastern Europe:
Marina Abramović, Tomislav Ćurković, Marko Pogačnik,
Damir Stojnić, Vladimir Dodig Trokut, Igor Zlobec . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 157
Nemanja Radulović
Contemporary Magic Healing in Serbia and New Age . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 179
Noel Putnik
Dr. Wolf and the Ancient Roots: Neoshamanism in Serbia . . . . . . . . . . . 191

Citation preview



STUDIES IN CULTURAL ICONOLOGY Publications of the Research Center for Cultural Iconology and Semiography, University of Szeged Series editors:

GYÖRGY E. SZÖNYI Managing Editor






JATEPress 2019

Publisher’s Reader:

GYÖRGY E. SZÖNYI Cover design by

ETELKA SZŐNYI based on Johan Isaac Hollandus’ Hand der Philosophen, Vien: Johann Paul Krauss, 1773.

© the Authers, 2019 © JATEPress, 2019 ISBN 978–963–315–397–0

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without the permission of the publisher.

Table of contents

György E. Szönyi Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Áron Orbán Love, Magic and Illness. The Role of Witchcraft-motifs in Conrad Celtis’ Amores . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 Rafał T. Prinke Dr. Bogdan Edward Jastrzębski-Edwards (1860–1923), the last Praemonstrator of the Golden Dawn, and his brother Louis Stanley Jast (1868–1944), the Theosophist . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65 Michele Olzi “From Russia with Love,” a case of Russian culture and immigration in Western Esotericism: Maria de Naglowska (1883–1936) . . . . . . . . . . 71 Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80 Spyros Petritakis The reception of Nikolaos Gyzis’sBehold the Bridegroom comethby Rudolf Steiner in Munich in 1910: Its ideological premises and echo in the cross-fertilization of artistic and Theosophical Doctrines . . . . . . . 83 Rudolf Steiner’s lecture on Gyzis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83 Towards a colour theory: Rudolf Steiner’s aesthetic predilections and aspirations around 1910 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 92 Gyzis’s echo: the Aenigma Group . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95 The iconographical sources of the Bridegroom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 98 Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 104 Karolina Maria Hess Romanticism and National Messianism in Theosophical Milieus in Poland Before World War II – an Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 109 Historical background of Romanticism in Polish lands . . . . . . . . . . . . 109 Roots of National Messianism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 110


Poland as Christ and Winkelried of Nations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Messianism and Esotericism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Słowacki and his Genesic philosophy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Słowacki – a Theosophist? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Theosophical movements and ideas of the nation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Cracow, Wawel Hill – the Seventh Chakra of the Earth and its connection to King-Spirit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Theosophical New Patriotism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Panorama of esoteric milieus of Messianic character before World War II Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

112 113 114 116 117 121 122 124 127

Małgorzata Alicja Dulska Vision of Spiritual World in the Writings of Agnieszka Pilchowa . . . . . 129 Biographical note . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 129 Wisła esoteric milieus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 130 Agnieszka Pilchowa’s works . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 131 The twilight of Wisła’s circles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 132 A Clairvoyant’s diary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 132 Pilchowa’s Astral World . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 134 Astral beings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 136 Spiritual awakening . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 138 The dawn of the New Age . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 141 Influences on the system . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 142 Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 143 György E. Szönyi The Philosophy of Wine. A Peculiar Chapter in the Esoteric Philosophy of Béla Hamvas (1897–1968) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 147 Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 154 Nadežda Elezović Spiritual in Contemporary Art of Southeastern Europe: Marina Abramović, Tomislav Ćurković, Marko Pogačnik, Damir Stojnić, Vladimir Dodig Trokut, Igor Zlobec . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The spatio-temporal framework – Continuity of avant-garde tendencies Damir Stojnić . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Igor Zlobec . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Vladimir Dodig Trokut . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Marko Pogačnik (1944) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


157 157 159 160 163 164 168

Tomislav Ćurković (1974) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Marina Abramović (1946) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

171 172 176 176

Nemanja Radulović Contemporary Magic Healing in Serbia and New Age . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 179 Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 188 Noel Putnik Dr. Wolf and the Ancient Roots: Neoshamanism in Serbia . . . . . . . . . . . A Comparative Perspective: Croatia and Hungary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Dr. Wolf: a Man with Almost no Biography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Practices of the Ancient Roots . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Problems of Self-Identification . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Inventing the Shamanic Past . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Anti-Discursive Attitude . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Conclusion: “Shamania” or a Genuine Quest for the Otherworld? . . . Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

191 192 196 200 201 204 206 207 208

Márton Szentpéteri The Body of Christ and Hiram. The “Veiled Christ” by Giuseppe Sanmartino and the Cappella Sansevero in Naples . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Meanings Veiled . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Temple of Masonic Meaning: Baroque Art in Masonic Context . Prologue: Beyond Meaning? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

211 212 216 223 225

John MacMurphy Distorted Transmission of Abraham Abulafia’s Kabbalah . . . . . . . . . . . . Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Distorted Transmission . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Abulafia’s Pupils . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Abulafia’s Messianism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Emergence of Christian Kabbalah . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

229 229 231 233 237 242 245 246

The Authors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 249



Introduction With this volume the RESEARCH GROUP FOR CULTURAL ICONOLOGY AND SEMIOGRAPHY of the University of Szeged launches its new series of books, Studies in Cultural Iconology. Our purpose is to provide a forum for our own research, which has its roots in the 1980s but has been catching up with the development of scholarship ever since, having yielded fruits in various international cooperation projects and conferences organized by us. Our previous publications include the Hungarian language series, Ikonológia és műértelmezés (Iconology and Interpretation), featuring fifteen volumes between 1997 and 2019; and several English volumes touching upon various aspects of cultural iconology and emblematics that have been published under the labels of Papers in English and American Studies, Studia Poetica, or appeared as individual titles. From now on, we also invite new and cutting-edge results in the field of cultural iconology that we shall be delighted to present to the international scholarly community. The present volume collects essays discussing esoteric cultural representations from the Central- and Eastern European region, looking through many centuries. The study of esotericism has grown in importance since the middle of the tewntieth century. While in the premodern world (up to the end of the seventeenth century) such topics as alchemy, astrology, angelology, and magic were natural ingredients of the organic world picture; since the Enlightenment these fields of interest have become constituents of anti-rationalist counter culture or sensational topics for the Romantic imagination. Positivistic scholarship rediscovered Western esotericism, and during the nineteenth century started collecting and publicizing data, with no, or condescending value judgements, backed by Max Weber's famous dictum about “disenchantment,” expecting that irrationalism and even religion will disappear with the advance of science. By now we know that this did not happen and will not in the future. Today we are already deeply permeated with the resurrected interest in the transcendental, called by sociologists, scholars of religious studies, and cultural historians “re-enchantment”. The serious scholarly study of these tendencies started with the new Warburgian approach to medieval and Renaissance hermeticism, initiated by Aby



György E. Szönyi

Warburg in the early twentieth century, then continued by his followers at the Warburg Institute in London ever since. The relatively narrow field of research was quickly widened in time, encompassing the Antiquity as well as the postRenaissance periods, finally reaching the postmodern. At the same time, the cultural historical interest has also widened in a number of directions, from religious studies and psychology to literary- and art history. By the beginning of the present millenium several dedicated departments were established to study Western esotericism, as it has become termed. Next to some American university programs, due to Antoine Faivre's efforts, first the Sorbonne, then the University of Amsterdam made possible to acquire a university diploma, what is more, a doctoral degree in studying esotericism with a serious scholarly methodology. At the University of Exeter, the late Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke established another (unfortunately since then discontinued) program, its scope of interest was well reflected in his textbook, The Western Esoteric Traditions. A Historical Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2008). Undoubtedly the central figure of this whole new scholarly orentation has been Wouter J. Hanegraaff, founder and professor of the Center for the History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents at the University of Amsterdam. His important publications include the monumental Dictionary of Gnosis and Western Esotericism (Leiden: Brill, 2006); Esotericism and the Academy. Rejected Knowledge in Western Culture (Cambridge University Press, 2012); Western Esotericism: A Guide for the Perplexed (London: Bloomsbury, 2013). He was also instrumental in founding the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism (ESSWE) in 2005 in order to provide a forum for the strictly scholarly researches to this wide-ranging topic. ESSWE has been flourishing ever since, holding a major international conference every two years. The third one was hosted by the University of Szeged in 2011, from which selected essays were published in the volume, Lux in Tenebris. The Visual and the Symbolic in Western Esotericism (ed. Peter J. Forshaw; volume 23 in Aries Book Series; Leiden: Brill, 2016). With the development of ESSWE, affiliated with it, various areal and topical networks have been formed. One of those, named CEENASWE (Central and Eastern European Network for the Academic Study of Western Esotericism) was established at the Central European University in Budapest, in 2014. Since then, two more conferences were held, one in Belgrade in 2016, and another in Szeged in 2018. The papers of the Belgrade conference were published by Nemanja Radulović in Esotericism, Literature and Culture in Central and Eastern Europe (University of Belgrade, Faculty of Philology, 2018).



The present volume collects papers from the 2014 Budapest conference, adding to them some other articles. These papers examine how occult and esoteric themes appear in visual and verbal media, connecting to intellectual history, literature, the arts, present day pop culture, and religious practices. The topics range from the witchcraft motives in the love poetry of the 15th-century Humanist poet, Conrad Celtis; through the activities of Polish and Russian theosophists; Croatian, Greek, Polish painters of the spiritual; the philosophy of wine by the Hungarian esoteric philosopher Béla Hamvas; to contemporary Serbian magic and neo-shamanism. Two studies touch upon the influence of Freemasonry and the Kabbalah in Western esotericism, and, although these are not specifically Central European topics, they provide parallel perspectives to what the other papers of the collection are investigating.

György E. Szönyi


Love, Magic and Illness. The Role of Witchcraft-motifs in Conrad Celtis’ Amores Conrad Celtis (1459–1508), often called the “Arch-humanist” of Germany, had interests that went far beyond the range of those disciplines that are now classified under the term humanities.1 Son of his age, he had a perception of the world different from ours, and many aspects of nature that are now generally considered as occult formed integrant part of his thinking – or at least his poetical universe. Even compared to contemporary literature, numerological, magical, or – most of all – astrological ideas appeared (either in a playful or in a more serious manner) definitely frequently in his oeuvre.2 This is not surprising, taken into consideration (to adopt just one perspective) that his wide correspondence included such hermeticist thinkers as Johannes Trithemius or Johannes Reuchlin, who – as Celtis himself – were heavily influenced by Ficinian Platonic ideas. Relatively few scholars have investigated so far the “occult” aspects of the Celtis-oeuvre, and these studies were rather restricted to the astrological or symbolical numerological motifs, which permeate Celtis' poetical cosmos. Motifs of magic or sorcery have important functions in some Celtis-works, and however playfully the poet treats them, the clarification of their role in the construction of meaning would be as important as in case of astrology or Pythagorean number symbolism. Hermann Wiegand made important observations on the necromantic scene in Amores I. 14;3 the similarly interesting

For an extensive inquiry of Celtis' humanist program and its relation to his Amores, see Jörg Robert, Konrad Celtis und das Projekt der deutschen Dichtung: Studien zur humanistischen Konstruktion von Poetik, Philosophie, Nation und Ich (Tübingen: Max Niemeyer, 2003). An English Celtis-monograph has been provided by L. W. Spitz, Conrad Celtis. The German Arch-Humanist (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1957). 1

For an overview of these aspects in Celtis' oeuvre, see Á. Orbán, Solar-astral Symbolism and Poetical Self-representation in Conrad Celtis and his Humanist Circles (PhD Dissertation, 2

CEU, Budapest, 2017), 73–105.

3 H. Wiegand, “Konrad Celtis: Nekromant und Bruder Fausts im Geiste; zu Elegie I,14 der ‘Amores,’” in Iliaster. Literatur und Naturkunde in der Frühen Neuzeit. Festgabe für Joachim Telle zum 60. Geburtstag, ed. W. Kühlmann et al. (Heidelberg: Manutius, 1999), 303–319. While the poet and his master is stylized here as a necromant, many stereotypes of classical (female) witchcraft are also attached to him, since necromancy and witchcraft belonged closely together in classical literature; nevertheless, the enumeration of witchcraft-skills in this elegy fulfils a different function than in Amores IV. 10, analyzed below.



Áron Orbán

scenes or allusions to female witchcraft in the Amores have only been passingly mentioned.4 The Quattor libri amorum secundum quattuor latera Germaniae (“Four Books of Love according to the Four Sides of Germany”; briefly: Amores) was the main piece within a comprehensive, programmatic publication of Celtis’ works, appearing in Nuremberg in 1502 with the support of Emperor Maximilian I; the publication meant to represent the new poetry of Germany.5 The Amores are basically love elegies loosely strung on a fictive6 narrative: Celtis wanders to four different parts of what he calls Germania, and has love adventures with four different women in four towns, each on the coast of a river or sea. The poet follows in many ways the generic traditions of the classical love elegies, but replaces the classical mythology with a cosmic-astrological and a topographical-ethnological background.7 The cosmic nature of the work is enhanced by a system of correspondences based on the number four: four books are devoted to four women, directions, rivers, seasons, parts of the day, elements, temperaments, qualities, zodiacal signs, ages of life, and colors. This system explicitly appears in the woodcuts of the Amores, though the significance of these aspects in the text itself vary greatly. Love itself functions in this poetical universe as a cosmic principle, and already the praefatio emphasizes the opposition between the two faces of Love: heavenly and earthly, amor honestus (honourable) and amor spurcus (filthy) or infamis (infamous).8 The didaxis of the work is primarily based on the demonstration of the different nature and value of the two kinds of Love. These ideas, together with their contemporary or classical sources (going back as far as Plato's Symposium), have been amply analyzed by Jörg Robert in his monograph9, and my study may throw light on a further aspect 4 Ibid., 306; H. Grössing, “‘Astra inclinant’? Astrologie in den ‘Amores’ des Konrad Celtis,” in Pharmazie in Geschichte und Gegenwart. Festgabe für Wolf-Dieter Müller-Jahncke zum 65. Geburtstag, ed. C. Friedrich (Stuttgart: Wiss. Verl.-Ges., 2009), 181–2.

The first version of the Amores was ready by 1494 at the latest. About the historical context of the publication see Peter Luh, Kaiser Maximilian gewidmet. Die unvollendete Werkausgabe des Konrad Celtis und ihre Holzschnitte (Frankfurt/Main et al.: Peter Lang, 2001); summarily: Robert, Konrad Celtis, 161–171. Modern edition of the Amores (henceforth: Am.): Quattor libri amorum secundum quattuor latera germaniae; Germania generalis; Accedunt carmina aliorum ad libros amorum pertinentia, ed. F. Pindter (Leipzig: Teubner, 1934). 5

6 Though the protagonist has the same name as the author of the Amores, the biographical basis of the work is rather thin, the elegies are partly or fully fictive. 7

Robert, Konrad Celtis, 272–280.

Am. praef. 16–18. In several elegies, too, this distinction clearly appears, e. g. Am. I. 14. 73–89. 8


Robert, Konrad Celtis, 188–228.

The Role of Witchcraft-motifs in Conrad Celtis’ Amores


of the problematics of Love: witchcraft-motifs may help a great deal to illustrate some crucial ideas of the work, the notions of love and magic, and especially amor infamis and sorcery. In the time and space where Celtis mostly lived, in late fifteenth-century Germany and Austria, the issue of witchcraft emerged more and more often in private or public discussions. From the perspective of this context, one can distinguish at least three different, though overlapping, notions of witchcraft. First, late medieval trial records and narrative sources allow us to reconstruct the figure of witch in the medieval popular tradition.10 This witch is basically a sorceress, more often woman than man, pursuing harmful magic (maleficia). The most characteristic, obviously ancient, folk-beliefs attached to her, as it appears from the records of fifteenthcentury Germany, are her ability to cause illnesses to man and cattle, to raise storms, to pursue love magic (mainly with potions), to steal things, or to ride wolves or other animals. Her intercourse with demons rarely appeared among the accusations, and that only at the end of the fifteenth century. There was a considerable rise of witch trials by the 1480s–1490s, and Celtis must have heard about such cases.11 By this time, indeed, as early as the first half of the fifteenth century, there appeared a new, extended notion of the witch: beyond sorcery, this diabolical witchcraft is further characterized by diabolism (worship of Satan or other demonic creatures).12 The witch was supposed to have physical intercourse with demons, from whom they received their evil power. A whole mythology was gradually created, with witches’ Sabbath, desecration of the sacraments and so on. This modified picture of the witch was created by intellectuals: theologians, inquisitors, mainly from Italy and Germany. The treatise which accelerated the most the spread of this notion in the late fifteenth century is the Malleus Maleficarum (“Hammer of the Witches”, 1487),13 which, given the approval of the pope, contributed to a great extent to the From the immense secondary literature about European witchcraft, I refer in this article only to the studies most relevant for my investigations. For late medieval popular witchcraft in Germany, see e. g. R. Kieckhefer, European Witch Trials: Their Foundations in Popular and Learned Culture, 1300–1500 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976). 10

During one of the most infamous trials in the history of European witch-hunts, the 1485 Innsbruck trial, 48 women were accused (by the same Heinrich Kramer who wrote the Malleum Maleficarum). Among the lesser trials, those in Nuremberg (1489) or Vienna (1498), for instance, are most likely to be heard of by Celtis. (For a catalogue of trials see Kieckhefer, Witch Trials.) 11

See e. g. Stuart Clark, Thinking with Demons: The Idea of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997); Walter Stephens, Demon Lovers: Witchcraft, Sex, and the Crisis of Belief (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002). 12

Its one certain author is Heinrich Kramer (Institoris); the authorship of Jakob Sprenger is debated. Stephens, Demon Lovers, includes an in-depth analysis of this treatise. 13


Áron Orbán

witch craze in the later centuries. The most famous treatises from fifteenth-century Germany include J. Nider's Formicarius (“The Ant Colony”, c. 1437) and Ulrich Molitor's De lamiis et phytonicis mulieribus (“Of Witches and Diviner Women”, 1489).14 As will be seen later, Celtis was involved in discussions about contemporary witchcraft. However, he as a humanist also looked for classical patterns for the characters in his poetry, and the classical literature also had its own witches.15 This classical witchcraft was heterogeneous, too. The epic figures of Circe and Medea, the pursuers of love magic in Virgil or Horace, the cannibalistic Erichtho of Lucan – to mention just a few examples – have all different characteristics; nevertheless, one can discern stereotypic ideas that characterize most often the classical witch. They control the weather, destroy the crops, change the landscape, draw down the moon; they cause illnesses, summon the dead, collect herbs and bones, pursue erotic magic, worship Hecate, and often change shape. This study aims at demonstrating how and why the various witchcraft-motifs are inbedded in the Amores and help transmit its messages, and how these ideas could be related to contemporary discourses about witchcraft. Love, as cosmic principle, as the symphatetic bond that holds the world together, was often associated with magic16 – notably by Platonic thinkers –, while magic was long considered to have two major aspects, distinguished as white and black magic, magia naturalis and necromantia and so on. This distinction was suitable to be harmonized with the above mentioned distinction between amor honestus and infamis. Drawing heavily on Ficino's Symposion-commentary, Beroaldo systematically drew up these parallel oppositions in his commentary of Apuleius' Metamorphoses.17 In Beroaldo's view, the one kind of magic, associated with divine love, is “the service of gods”, is “Platonic and philosophic”, while the other one is “demonic” magic, goetia (approximately “witchcraft”) or theurgia, associated with amor infamis. Celtis demonstrably knew these ideas of Beroaldo,18 and Apuleius – whose Hermetic-PlaBoth works, just as the Malleus Maleficarum (henceforth: Malleus), were published several times in Germany, both in Latin and German. 14

15 See e. g. G. Luck, Hexen und Zauberei in der Römischen Dichtung (Zürich: Artemis, 1962); D. Ogden, Magic, Witchcraft, and Ghosts in the Greek and Roman Worlds: A Sourcebook, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002 .

16 This age-old association gained various new forms especially in the Renaissance; the idea that love, as a magical phenomenon, was prone to black magic, gained new significance, too. R. Kemper, “Zwischen schwarzer Magie und Vergötterung: Zur Liebe in der frühen Neuzeit”, in: Literatur, Artes und Philosophie, ed. Haug, al. (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1992), 141.

17 F. Beroaldo, L. Apuleii Madaurensis philosophi Platonici Opera, quae quidem extant, omnia (Venice, 1500). 18

Robert, Konrad Celtis, 211–9.

The Role of Witchcraft-motifs in Conrad Celtis’ Amores


tonic De mundo Celtis edited with a commentary19 and whose Metamorphoses includes witch-figures in significant roles – was one of the poet's favourite auctores. On the other hand, the use of love magic – which can cause suffering in many ways – was always among the skills of the the classical witch, from Circe and Medea through, say, Horace's witches, Canidia, Sagana and others, who make love potions by necromantic means.20 In the three great classical masters of love elegies, Ovid, Tibullus and Propertius21, there is a typical figure among the lesser characters, the lena, who attracted the stereotypes of classical witchcraft.22 Lena (“procuress, bawd, brothel-keeper”; the word has no English equivalent) is usually an old, drunken hag, who corrupts the woman loved by the poet and helps her procure another, richer lover, teaching her sexual and magical skills. By her typical activities, the figure of lena united several motifs of corruption and decay: harmful magic, wile, the materialistic sides of love, drunkenness. However, the lena remains in the background in the elegies, which focus on the lovers themselves. Given, on the one hand, the didactic aim of Celtis – pronounced in the praefatio of the Amores – to demonstrate the nature of love, on the other hand the above mentioned association of love and magic, it is not surprising that Celtis took up the idea of witchcraft from the classical elegies. He does not draw such explicit and systematic parallels as Beroaldo did;23 however, the close affinity of love and magic in general, and amor spurcus and witchcraft in particular, lurks in the background of the Amores-narrative. Indeed, contrary to the classical elegies, in the Amores even a central figure can behave as a witch, if the use of these motifs fits the narrative. This is the case in certain elegies of book IV, as will be seen; however, allusions to witchcraft occur in the other parts as well.24 A typical example occurs in elegy 7 of Book I – the Book dedicated to Poland and Hasilina – in a context of love as a force that corrupts, coerces, makes man captive. After the well-known topoi of complaining about the lover's fraudulent nature and the poet's own suffering from love, Apollo warns him of the docta meretrix (“educated / cunning courtesan”), “because – believe me – she transforms you into a thousand shapes, as the offspring of the

19 L. Apulei Platonici et Aristotelici philosophi Epitoma divinum de mundo Seu Cosmographia ductu Conradi Celtis (Vienna: J. Winterburg, 1497/98). 20

Hor. Sat. I. 8; Epod. 5; Epod. 17.


Within the elegiac trinity, Celtis drew on Propertius the most in his Amores: cf. Robert,


Tib. I. 5; Prop. IV. 5; Ov. Am. I. 8.

Conrad Celtis.

Namely, between divine love and natural magic on the one hand, and infamous love and black magic on the other. 23


E. g. Am. I. 14. 61–72 (see note 3), II. 7. 1–10 (see below), II. 11. 47–48.


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Circean waters [Circe] was used to do”.25 To be sure, Circe's transformative power can be taken allegorically: love potentially lowers man to an animalistic level of existence. In Book IV, Celtis arrives at Lübeck and meets Barbara Cimbrica, a mature woman, who takes a great effect on the poet. By this time, the poet has grown old, but at their first meeting (elegy 2) Barbara manages to kindle his love for her, and to pour new strength in him by means of a carmen (song / incantation):26 from this the reader can already suspect that Barbara may have magical powers. In elegy 5, Celtis is ill (with French disease?27), but Barbara cures him, giving him not only healthy foods, but also healing ointments, and medicinal herbs, used in a bath: Iuscula nunc miscens ferventi et iure polentas, Radices, succos, poma et odora dabas. Nec mihi defuerat granosum cortice pomum Extinguens aestus, Barbara cara, meos, Nec mihi defuerat pullus, capus, altilis, oryx, Omnia sollicito larga favore dabas. Unguentisque tuis variis mea membra fovebas Restituens vires, Barbara cara, meas. Balnea cum variis herbis mihi saepe struebas, ∆υναµεδία28 tibi cognita tota fuit. 29


You often fed me broth and hot mush, and then roots, juices, fruits, and aromatic spices. I never lacked the shelled pomegranate, which soothed my fever, dear Barbara; I never lacked the meat of chicken, capon, fowl, wild goat; you, generously and with dedicated care, used to give all these to me. With your ointments you kept taking care of my body, thus restoring my strength, my dear Barbara. You often prepared for me herbal baths of many kinds; for you have acquired all the learning concerning the healing power of plants.30

Herbal bath and ointments may or may not be magical; these methods, taken together with the praise of her expertise in medicine, remind one of the powers of Medea, perhaps the most stereotypical witch of the classical love elegies.31 Celtis just plays with the idea, but the allusions are quite clear. The passage has several 25

Am. I. 7. 77–78. Nam te transformet (mihi crede) in mille figuras, / Ut mea Circaeis


Am. IV. 2. 46.

nata solebat aquis.

The real Celtis suffered from French disease from at least 1498: cf. Der Briefwechsel des Konrad Celtis, ed. Hans Rupprich (Munich: Beck, 1934), p. 350 (letter from Stabius) and 27

other letters.

Dinamidia is a medieval expression, used for books about medicinal herbs; see e. g. Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae IV. 10. 3. 28

29 30

Am. IV. 5. 13–22.

The English translations of the Latin passages in this article are mine.

One of the classical elegies that could serve as a model for the scene is in Tibullus (Tib. I. 5. 9–16), where the poet reminds his lover, Delia, how he and a crone skilful in magic cured her of a serious illness by magical means. 31

The Role of Witchcraft-motifs in Conrad Celtis’ Amores


common expressions with a passage in Ovid's Metamorphoses32, where the poet describes the powers of Medea, who is going to raise Aison from the dead (succus, radices, unguens, herbis; the phrase nec mihi defuerat). Furthermore, Celtis had already explicitly alluded to this Medea-passage in Book II: the irremediable love of Elsula reminded the poet of Medea's love magic.33 In the Barbara-passage, too, sexuality lurks in the background: pomegranate (v. 15) is one of its symbols. One can conclude that, while on the surface layer of interpretation the poet's recovery was due to natural methods, the intertextual environment of the passage, both within (Barbara's sexual behaviour, incantations, witch-roles in other elegies of Book IV) and beyond the Amores (the Medea-motifs) reveal that Barabra's sexual and magical skills could also contribute to this recovery. Magic is ambivalent, it can be both bless and curse, can both heal and kill, just as the herbs and ointments of Medea could be both medicine and poison. Here one could see the bright face of Barbara, in accordance with their harmonic love relationship at this phase of the narrative; however, the motifs of magic and witchcraft here and earlier in the Amores already suggest for the reader that later on Barbara may show her dark face, too. In elegies 8–9, Barbara sees Celtis to a curious cellar, where people feast, drink, and make love: in fact, an orgy seems to take place there. Celtis would abstain from being involved, but Barbara, who quickly gets drunk, eventually seduces him succesfully. The scene has an underwordly, dionysiac atmosphere: the similes refer to the dead in the underworld,34 or to the Bacchantes.35 The beer which Barbara drinks is metaphorically called a venenum (“philtre”, but also “poison”),36 because it helps arouse sexual desire – which leads to decay? The preparing of venena are characteristic activities of Medea and other witches. While these are only indirect references to witchcraft, the scene prepares with its atmosphere the next elegy, where Barbara really speaks as a witch. Underworld, excessive sex, drunkenness: this is the world of amor spurcus or infamis.


Ov. Met. VII. 264–272.

Am. II. 7. 1–10: Herbarum vires nec amoris pocula coxi / Nec strigis aut ranae viscera rupta mihi / Et neque servavi, dederam ut tibi munera, caelum, / Tristia depinxi nec simulacra poli, / Ossa nec in vacuis collegi sparsa sepulcris, / In cruce nec furis secta verenda tuli. / Nec mihi mactata est volucris pellita per alas, / Artibus Aeaeis nec tibi pectus ago / Nec tibi Thessalico lymphavi carmine mentem, / Elsula, nec magicis cantibus ipse premo... 33

34 35 36

E.g Am. IV. 8. 35–36. E.g. Am. IV. 9. 15.



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It is in elegy 10 that Barbara explicitly assumes the role of a witch. While she used her positive, healing powers in elegies 2 and 5, here we can see her destructive face: if not in reality, at least in words. Barbara apprehends Celtis making love with her servant, Lamia... and vents her rage on both of them. In detailing the various modes of her revenge, she actually gives a catalogue of maleficia. Practically all the enumerated skills are extraordinary, magical spells, harmful to health. For the sake of convenience, I enumerated in the right column the spells in short, marking whether they can be found in the classical (italics), medieval (underlined) or both (expanded words) witchcraft-traditions. 37 Huic ego perfodiam candentia lumina frontis Putrescentque sibi femina carminibus! Tuque refrigescens nostrumque perosus amorem, Efficiam veretro vulnera saeva tuo Afficiamque tuas ferventi bile medullas Te cupidum tento ramice posse nihil! Tunc tremulo incedes curvatus poplite in urbe Infamisque mei fabula amoris eris. An nescis succos me noscere, semina et herbas? Femina nulla magis docta veneficiis! Arte mea Codonus furiosas elevat undas Carminibusque meis, fluctibus astra ferit; Arte mea possum lunam deducere caelo Atque gelare vagas doctaque sistere aquas; Arte mea laetas ferio cum grandine fruges Et Bacchum nostris aufero carminibus; Arte mea sculptus sub certo est annulus astro Crystallusque mihi abscondita quaeque canit; Arte mea scriptus nuper mihi forte character, Qua Moses Pharium merserat arte ducem; Arte mea expressa est, qua pectora dura liquescunt, cera et vesano concoquit igne viros; Arte mea tumidis mihi lac subducitur agnis Aspectuque meo fascino, quaeque volo; Arte mea possum sanis inducere morbos, Poenarum et quicquid sub Styge Pluto tenet; Arte mea possum superas revocare sub auras Manes et Furiis impero docta tribus; Arte mea invidiam durum converto in amorem Affectusque meo carmine quosque rego.37

Pierce through the eyes make the loins rot by incantation inflict cruel wounds on his penis turn him insatiable, yet impotent... herbs, poisons raise storms at sea

charm the moon down from the sky make the running water freeze and halt its course; raise hailstorms and thereby destroy the crops and the vineyards fashion a ring with astral powers by means of a crystal have insight into hidden things write down magical characters

arouse love by means of a wax figure

steal milk from sheep

cast an evil eye on whomever she pleases inflict illnesses on healthy people, and infernal pains

conjure up the dead and the furies turn any emotion into its opposite

This passage has been called a catalogue of classical sorcery.38 Truly, this is primarily classical witchcraft. One finds here most of the witchcraft-stereotypes that 37 38

Am. IV. 10. 19–48.

Wiegand, “Nekromant,” 306.

The Role of Witchcraft-motifs in Conrad Celtis’ Amores


appear in the classical elegies and other classical literary works.39 The recurring arte mea (“by my art” or “skill”) is a frequent idiom in Ovid and other love poets (e. g. in the above mentioned Medea-scene of the Metamorphoses40), it usually refers to the power of carmina. Furthermore, the witchcraft-stereotypes appear in the frameworks of curse or menace in the classical elegies, too (though there it is the poet who curses the bawd-witch, so Celtis turned the roles in his Amores); in Seneca's tragedy, it is Medea herself who delivers a revenge-speech.41 However, as can be seen from the above passage, several maleficia are also characteristic of medieval witchcraft,42 and there are non-classical ones as well. Stealing milk was a typical accusation in witch trials in Germany43 and in folk believes as collected in 19–20th century. Astral ring, divination through a crystal ball or mirror, magical letters44 are accesories of late medieval magic in general, not just of witchcraft.45 Here I highlight just one of them, the making of a magical ring under certain astrological conditions. Such astral magical objects did occur in late medieval or Renaissance magic, for instance in Ficino's theories.46 In Celtis, too, an astral object is mentioned in Amores II. 7,47 when the poet enumerates 'Medean' methods of love

39 Beyond the elegiac trinity of Ovid, Tibullus and Propertius, Virgil has to be mentioned in the first place: it is mostly with these authors that the similarity of motifs also appears on the level of textual similia, e. g. lunam deducere (v. 31) cf. Verg. ecl. 8. 69; cera... liquescunt (v. 39–40) cf. Verg. ecl. 8. 80. 40 41

Ov. Met. VII. 176.

The beginning speech in Seneca's Medea.

Beyond the common witchcraft-motifs (indicated with expanded words), some of the classical ones (indicated with italics) or variations of these might also occur in early modern or later folklore as characteristics of witches; nevertheless, Celtis has most probably taken all these from the classical elegies, his primary models in the Amores. 42


It is mostly in Germany that such accusations occured in the trials (see Kieckhefer,

Magic, 63 note 109); stealing milk occurs in witchcraft-treatises, too ( Malleus, II. 1. 1).

Magical letters or runes from part of different magical traditions, but since Celtis mentions them here in a Biblical context (v. 38: “by which skill Moses had sunk the Egyptian leader”), one may think of the influence of Reuchlin or Trithemius, Celtis' friends, in whose magical theories the Hebrew alphabet played a crucial role. About Trithemius and Reuchlin's De berbo mirifico, see more below. 44

The last two also appears in the “catalogue” of magical beliefs in Celtis' Oden, Epoden, Jahrhundertlied. Libri odarum quattuor, cum epodo et saeculari carmine, ed., tr. Eckart 45

Schäfer (Tübingen: Narr, 2012; henceforth: Od.) III. 19 (see below).

46 See e. g. D. P. Walker, Spiritual and Demonic Magic from Ficino to Campanella (London: The Warburg Institute, 1958), 12–25. The most important source-book for learned astral magic was the high medieval Picatrix. 47

Am. II. 7. 4: Tristia depinxi nec simulacra poli.


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magic; furthermore, there is a Celtis-epigram titled De annulo (“On a ring”)48, which speaks about a golden ring with a “bloody stone” (a carbuncle?), made to coerce a “girl” to love; the similes with the Gorgo-head and Deianeira's fatal philtre (v. 5–6) bring in the atmosphere of classical witchraft. Since the text appears among epigrams about Hasilina and Poland, probably Hasilina is meant under the “girl”, and the words sub certo sidere sculptus49 (“engraved under definite constellations”), a phrase identical with the one in v. 35 of the above passage, also connect the epigram to the Amores. The astral ring as a love magical object seems to be firmly associated to witchcraft in Celtis' mind. Celtis apparently merged classical and medieval traditions in his catalogue of witchcraft-methods: Barbara is not simply stylized as a stereotypical classical witch. Thus she could appear more alive for contemporary readers, and fitted better the setting of the narrative, the northern scenes of Book IV. Barbara's witchcharacterisitics have a macro-structural function as well: it is not by chance that it is the last Book of the Amores where the witchcraft-motifs blossom out. In the system of correspondences, the Fourth Book is of the darkest, most sinister character: it is the Book of winter, Capricorn, night, melancholy, old age. In addition to Celtis, Barbara, too, seems to be quite old, like the bawd-witches of the classical elegies. Melancholy and Saturn (the planet astrologically belonging to Capricorn) had a far-reaching symbolism around 1500 in Europe.50 I cannot discuss here the relation of the Amores to this symbolism, but Celtis drew on at least one set of ideas, the late medieval popular layer of melancholy-traditions, in fashioning the figure of Barbara as an old woman: in elegy 12, for instance, she is portrayed as a cantankerous, misanthropic, greedy, lustful, furious51 crone. There is one more possibly witch-like figure that has to be highlighted here. Barbara's servant was called Lamia: originally, in classical folk-belief, lamiae were female demons who devour childs, then this word came to denote “witch” in general, 48 Epigr. I. 11 in Hartfelder's edition of epigrams (Fünf Bücher Epigramme von Konrad Celtis, Berlin: S. Calvary, 1881) corrected by D. Wuttke, “Supplement zu Hartfelders Edition der Celtis-Epigramme,” in Renatae Litterae: Studien zum Nachleben der Antike und zur europäischen Renaissance: August Buck zum 60. Geburtstag, ed. K. Heitmann und E. Schroeder (Frankfurt: Athenäum, 1973): Annule sanguineum qui stringis in orbe lapillum, / Quique auri puri non leve pondus habes, / I, precor, et duram coge in mea vota puellam, / Nam mihi sub certo sidere sculptus eras. / Perseus gorgoneo mutavit corpora vultu, / Et Iove comminuit Deianira satum. 49

Ibid., v. 4.

See, first of all, R. Klibansky – E. Panofsky – F. Saxl, Saturn and Melancholy (London: Nelson, 1964). 50

51 Furiousity (v. 21 of elegy 12) was the state of mind that served as a basis for the curses and menaces, the witchcraft-catalogue in elegy 10: Vidi ego, quae furias elicuere meas

(v. 2).

The Role of Witchcraft-motifs in Conrad Celtis’ Amores


already in antiquity.52 When Barbara, just before her “catalogue” cited above, calls her servant omnivorans bestia spurca53 (“all-devouring filthy beast“), this is an allusion both to the original meaning of lamia and to the amor spurcus Lamia previously made with the poet. Now, the servant Lamia happens to appear in elegy 7 of book IV (Ad Lamiam ancillam...), too. Celtis would visit Barbara at night, but Lamia doesn’t let him in, she would only do it for a considerable sum of money.54 The poet-lover gets angry, and doesn’t spare the girl his curses: would that she feel the same as he feels now! And he continues: 55 Rivalisque meus, cuius nunc languida amore es, Illius hic vindex fraudis et ultor erit. Terque quaterque tuum crudo cum verbere tergum Pulset et increpitet virga sonora nates. Cumque tuo dormis tanquam secura cubili Et placidus somnus te, malefida, tenet, Ille superveniens baculo tua terga domabit, Vindicet et fictos in mea vota dolos. 55

My rival – for whose love you are now pining away –, he will be the avenger and revenger of that evil deed. He shall strike your backside three and four times with bloody blows and lash your buttocks with a whizzing cane. And while you are sleeping safely in your bed, enjoying an undisturbed sleep, o you cheater, he will come down upon you and break in your unbending back with a stick, and take revenge on you for the trickery by which you frustrated my desires.

The guardian of the mistress, who prevents the poet from getting what he wants, is a typical figure of the classical love elegies, just as the poet's rival, who is wealthier than the poet. However, in Celtis' elegy, the poet's “request“ from the rival is quite curious. The rival should beat the guardian – obviously because she would not let him to her mistress either –, but why at night, while “she is sleeping”? Why “the buttocks”? Why is the girl “pining away” for this rival? There is an interpretation that would make these references clear: these may be allusions to demonic copulation. In the new notion of the diabolic witch (see above), her physical intercourse with the demon is the key element. This role would fit the girl's name in the elegy, Lamia. The words denoting stick, rod or cane (virga, verbera, baculus) may stand for the genitals of some demon. In the treatises the demonic copulation can be both pleasant and unpleasant activity, so the “punishment” in the poem may Also in Apuleius' Metamorphoses, e. g. I. 5. 17. In the Renaissance, the word also appears in the title of witchcraft-treatises, e. g. Ulrich Molitoris, De lamiis et phytonicis 52

mulieribus. 53

Am. IV. 10. 18


Love for money – the main theme of the poem – is a typical characteristic of amor


Am. IV. 7. 15–22.



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be an allegory of such a weird intercourse.56 The motifs of beating and making love are closely connected in at least two earlier loci in the Amores, too.57 The phrase terque quaterque also occurred previously in a sexual context58; the word superveniens can refer to both aggressive and sexually motivated approach. The term malefida harmonizes with malefica, the most frequent medieval term for the witch. It is because of the sexual act that the scene would take place at night, in the girl’s cubile. To sum up, such an interpretation would explain all the puzzling circumstances of the “punishment” given by the rival: the servant's name Lamia (who is malefida), the visit at night, the pleasant-unpleasant “beats” on the backside or buttocks. These possible “demonic” associations perhaps render the threats or insults of the angry poet more serious than they seemed at first. In the background of the elegy, basically the same idea may be present that was to be the key accusation in later witchcraft trials, and the key element of the expanding witchcraft-mythology introduced by the fifteenth-century treatises. However, beyond the fact that this is still not the time of the witch craze, the passage cited above is still a poetical play, a hidden allegory, and only one of the possible interpretations. Celtis found a spectacular way to express his lyrical subject's anger and, more generally, his condemn of amor spurcus. In this and the other Amores-elegies analyzed above, one should never forget about the fictitious-symbolical nature of the narrative, and the role of musa iocosa (“playful muse”) in the whole work.59 As it appears from scholarly treatises, legal sources, literary and visual artworks, there was a general concern about witchcraft in southern German territories by the end of the fifteenth century. In the following I make some suggestions about how Celtis could participate in this discourse, in what ways his environment could conribute to the presence of witchcraft-ideas in his work. He was not the type of scholar who was inclined to read through several hundred pages of difficult Latin texts; as an extroverted personality, and an active participant and organizer of literary life, he rather exchanged ideas in learned discussions, talks with friends. There is at least one piece of evidence of such a conversation. Celtis' Ode III. 19 is dedicated “To Johannes Melber of Bamberg, a philosopher60, about all kinds of 56 See e. g. J. Hansen, Quellen und Untesuchungen zur Geschichte des Hexenwahns und der Hexenverfolgung im Mittelalter (Bonn: C. Georgi, 1901), p. 162 or p. 198; Malleus, II.

1. 4. 57 58 59

Am. III. 4. 51–56; Am. III. 8. 6 and 14. The contexts here do not involve witchcraft. Am. I. 10. 15–16.

Amply analyzed by Robert, Konrad Celtis (esp. 228–248).

Naturally, the term philosophus was then used in a much wider sense than today, especially with Celtis, in whose humanistic program philosophia / sapientia included all the arts and sciences. 60

The Role of Witchcraft-motifs in Conrad Celtis’ Amores


magic”.61 Melber, about whom very little is known,62 speaks to Celtis about all sorts of magical activities, either popular or learned techniques: magical images, letters, chants; methods of divination, invocation, alchemy and so on. At the end of the poem, Celtis emphasizes his skeptical attitude toward all the enumerated superstitions. The second part of the magical “catalogue”63, introduced as rusticorum fama virorum (“oral traditions of men in the countryside”), obviously reflects beliefs about witches. Most of the activities mentioned here are current late medieval popular beliefs: witches steal milk, arouse love, cause illness, ride on billy-goat, freeze rivers, throw lightning, cut the genitals of married men and shoot secret arrows.64 Many of these motifs can be found in learned witchcraft-treatises too, notably the Malleus maleficarum.65 It is probable that Melber read or heard at least the main ideas of the Malleus (or a similar treatise), and transmitted it to Conrad Celtis; they may have spoken about demonic copulations, too. Celtis must have had fruitful conversations about secret sciences, magical beiefs with the abbot of Sponheim (later, of Würzburg), Johannes Trithemius, a scholar famous for having combined elements of theological and magical traditions in his theories. For both Celtis and Trithemius (just as for a certain Georg Faustus66), the University of Heidelberg and the humanist scholarly circle related to it played a crucial role in their intellectual developement. In 1494 – at the time when Celtis was finishing the first version of his Amores – he visited Trithemius in Sponheim and used his library.67 In the next decade, the abbot wrote his Antipalus maleficarum68, which argued against the witches in a similar way as the Malleus maleficarum did. Let us turn to Johannes Reuchlin (Capnion), the other famous German scholar among Celtis' friends who incorporated occult, Platonic-Hermetic traditions into his theological views. Reuchlin was a member of the Sodalitas Rhenana (one of the sodalities that Celtis helped organize); one sign of their friendship is an ode written 61

Ad Ioannem Melberium Bambergensem philosophum, de omnimoda magia.

Rupprich identifies him with Erhardus Melber, mentioned in a letter to Celtis (Briefwechsel No. 195, p. 325, n. 3). 62

63 64 65

Od. III. 19. 33–44.

Ibid., v. 35–37.

E. g., about how they deprive men of the virile member: Malleus, II. 1. 17; about how

they shoot secret arrows: I. 2. 16. 66

F. Baron, Doctor Faustus: From History to Legend (Munich: W. Fink, 1978), ch. 2.

N. Brann, The Abbot Trithemius (1462–1516): The Renaissance of Monastic Humanism (Leiden: Brill, 1981), 16. 67

68 For a summary of this work, see N. Brann, Trithemius and Magical Theology: A Chapter in the Controversy over Occult Studies in Early Modern Europe (New York: State University,



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by Reuchlin and Johannes Krachenberger that celebrates the author of the Amores, and that appeared before Book IV of the Amores in the representative 1502 publication.69 There is at least one passage in Reuchlin's De verbo mirifico (“On miracle-working words”, 1494) that entertains similar witchcraft-ideas as Celtis does in certain passages of his Amores. In the De verbo, the three participants of the dialogue discuss – among others – the issue indicated in the title. Arguing for the existence of the miraculous power of the word, the enthusiastic Sidonius mentions the example of Medea, and incorporates in his argument some passages from the same Aeson-chapter of Ovid's Metamorphoses that Celtis also drew on several times (as seen above).70 'Quid enim non carmina possunt?' 71 (“What indeed cannot the incantations do?”) – cites Sidonius Ovid, and he enumerates the same stereotypical skills of the classical witch that Ovid enumerated in order to represent the power of incantation;72 similarly to another “power-demonstration,” the arte mea... passage of the Amores. Baruchias is skeptical in his answer to Sidonius; interestingly, when he complains about the charlatans who, out of financial reasons, pretend to have such powers, he mentions as an example the old soothsayer-witch living in the countryside.73 Since she becomes an examplary figure in the debate, Charles Zika claims that the old rustic witch “fulfils an important function in the structure of” De verbo mirifico.74 Naturally, Reuchlin's and Celtis' similar use (around the same time) of classical sources about witchcraft and incantation does not mean that the one took the idea from the other (though the two authors surely knew each other's works in question75); more probably, the parallel may be due to a common intellectual climate that in the works themselves results in common patterns of

69 70 71

Modern edition: in Appendix II of Pindter's Amores-edition . Reuchlin, De verbo mirifico (Basel, 1494), fol. b 4r-v. Ov. Met. VII. 167.

Ibid., v. 153–4: verbaque ter dixit placidos facientia somnos, / quae mare turbatum, quae concita flumina sistunt; v. 200–7:...concussaque sisto, / stantia concutio cantu freta, nubila pello, / nubilaque induco, ventos abigoque vocoque, / vipereas rumpo verbis et carmine fauces, / vivaque saxa sua convulsaque robora terra / et silvas moveo iubeoque tremescere montis / et mugire solum manesque exire sepulcris! / Te quoque, Luna, traho. 72

73 Reuchlin, De verbo, fol. b 4v. Baruchias speaks about demens aliqua saga (some mad female soothsayer); the witch-stereotypes he continues with make clear that he thinks of witches.

C. Zika, Reuchlin und die okkulte Tradition der Renaissance (Sigmaringen: J. Thorbecke, 1998), 180. 74

75 I have already mentioned Reuchlin's ode that appeared in the Amores-publication; and it is in the Amores itself (Am. III. 10. 69) that Celtis alludes – ironically – to Reuchlin's De verbo mirifico (Robert, Konrad Celtis, 186).

The Role of Witchcraft-motifs in Conrad Celtis’ Amores


combining ideas of classical “literary” witchcraft, medieval witchcraft and hermeticist views about the magical power of the word. Celtis could also draw inspiration from the fine arts: a number of witch-depictions were in circulation by the end of fifteenth century. Celtis happened to be the friend of the most famous artist of such woodcuts, Albrecht Dürer. The most renowned witch-woodcut of the Nuremberg artist-humanist, the Witch Riding Backwards on a Goat (fig. 1), was made around 1500,76 in the same period that saw the closest cooperation between Dürer and Celtis.77 Dürer or his workshop was responsible for several woodcuts of the Amores.78 According to Sullivan, the witchdepictions of the type exemplified by Dürer's above mentioned woodcut have less to do with witch-persecutions (previously emphasized by some scholars) than with the revitalization of classical ideas by humanists: the Witch Riding Backwards on a Goat “is also appropriate as a response to humanist interests”.79 Dürer's image evokes the atmosphere of the classical satire, primarily that of Lucian: “Dürer's witch is plausible as an upside down version of the beautiful Aphrodite”.80 Many of these characteristics also fit the witch-role that Barbara assumes in Amores IV. 10: the inspiration gained from classical literature, the mixture of serious and playful treatment of the figure,81 the emphasis on the sphere of distorted, infamous love and sexuality. There are commonalities in the two witch-representations in the details, too. Certain general stereotypical motifs, like the hailstorm or the old age of the witch, appear both in Celtis' text and Dürer's image. The way Dürer's witch grasps the horn of the billy-goat she sits on can be taken as an allusion to her skill to render men impotent82 (cf. v. 22–24 in Celtis' “catalogue”). Perhaps the most intriguing issue is the association of witch and Capricorn, in both Dürer and Celtis. In Dürer's woodcut the witch's mount is elongated in a way that reminds one of the traditional Capricorn illustrations, and indeed, Capricorn (the zodiacal sign belonging to December, and to Saturn) may allude to winter, night and death, just as other motifs of the picture (e. g. the hailstorm); the close affinity of these motifs in M. Sullivan, “The Witches of Dürer and Hans Baldung Grien”, Renaissance Quarterly 53 (2000), 357. 76

77 See D. Wuttke, “Dürer und Celtis: von der Bedeutung des Jahres 1500 für den deutschen Humanismus”, in Humanismus und Reformation als kulturelle Kräfte in der deutschen Geschichte, ed. L. Spitz (Berlin et al.: De Gruyter, 1981), 121–150. 78 79 80

See Luh, Kaiser.

Sullivan, 'The Witches', 357.

Ibid., 359.

About the seria mixta iocis (Am. praef. 48) charachteristic of the Amores, see Robert, Konrad Celtis, 241–7. 81


See e.g. Sullivan, 'The Witches', 341.


Áron Orbán

the Amores83 have already been treated above. Again, the motifs of the two witchrepresentations do not overlap to such extant that we should necessarily assume direct exchange of the relevant ideas; nevertheless, the above observations certainly provided ample evidence that Dürer and Celtis, having worked under the same intellectual climate, entertained many similar ideas and methods of representation concerning the issue of witchcraft (too). The foregoing discussion of the contemporary intellectual historical context of Celtis' witch-like figures was not exhaustive, the examples – with Dürer's, Melber's, Reuchlin's and probably Trithemius' similar ideas to those of Celtis – just served to demonstrate that the issue of witchcraft formed an integral part of the humanist discourse around the “Arch-humanist”. The above analyzed Amores-passages might have provided data for a better understanding of the history of witchcraftideas and their artistic appearance in the German Renaissance. More importantly, I hope that the discussion of these ideas helped to understand better the Amores itself, the German “Arch-humanist's” probably most significant work. Witchcraft-motifs could serve as powerful, spectacular symbolic means contributing in many ways to the construction of meaning in the Amores, Fig. 1. Albrecht Dürer: Witch Riding Backwards expressing, first of all, amor infamis, on a Goat or the ambivalent nature and the dangers of love and magic, two powers whose close affinity – otherwise an age-old idea – became an important issue in several Renaissance scholarly theories and artworks.

The above mentioned ode to Melber can also be included: this mentions the caper as the mount of witches (v. 39). 83

The Role of Witchcraft-motifs in Conrad Celtis’ Amores


Bibliography Baron, F. Doctor Faustus: From History to Legend. Munich: W. Fink, 1978. Beroaldo, F. L. Apuleii Madaurensis philosophi Platonici Opera, quae quidem extant, omnia. Venice, 1500. Clark, Stuart. Thinking with Demons: The Idea of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. Brann, N. The Abbot Trithemius (1462–1516): The Renaissance of Monastic Humanism. Leiden: Brill, 1981. ———. Trithemius and Magical Theology: A Chapter in the Controversy over Occult Studies in Early Modern Europe (New York: State University, 1999) Celtis, Conrad. Der Briefwechsel des Konrad Celtis, ed. Hans Rupprich. Munich: Beck, 1934. ———. Fünf Bücher Epigramme von Konrad Celtis, ed. K. Hartfelder. Berlin: S. Calvary, 1881. ———. Oden, Epoden, Jahrhundertlied. Libri odarum quattuor, cum epodo et saeculari carmine, ed., tr. Eckart Schäfer. Tübingen: Narr, 2012. ———. Quattor libri amorum secundum quattuor latera germaniae; Germania generalis; Accedunt carmina aliorum ad libros amorum pertinentia, ed. Felicitas Pindter. Leipzig: Teubner, 1934. ed. Celtis, Conrad. L. Apulei Platonici et Aristotelici philosophi Epitoma divinum de mundo Seu Cosmographia ductu Conradi Celtis. Vienna: J. Winterburg, 1497/98. Grössing, H. “‘Astra inclinant?’ Astrologie in den ‘Amores’ des Konrad Celtis.” In Pharmazie

in Geschichte und Gegenwart. Festgabe für Wolf-Dieter Müller-Jahncke zum 65. Geburtstag, ed. C. Friedrich, 167–182. Stuttgart: Wiss. Verl.-Ges., 2009. Hansen, J. Quellen und Untesuchungen zur Geschichte des Hexenwahns und der Hexenverfolgung im Mittelalter. Bonn: C. Georgi, 1901. Kemper, R. “Zwischen schwarzer Magie und Vergötterung: Zur Liebe in der frühen Neuzeit”, in: Literatur, Artes und Philosophie, ed. Haug, al. Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1992. Kieckhefer, R. European Witch Trials: Their Foundations in Popular and Learned Culture, 1300–1500. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976. Klibansky, R. ! Panofsky, E. ! Saxl, F. Saturn and Melancholy. London: Nelson, 1964. Luck, G. Hexen und Zauberei in der Römischen Dichtung. Zürich: Artemis, 1962. Luh, P. Kaiser Maximilian gewidmet. Die unvollendete Werkausgabe des Konrad Celtis und ihre Holzschnitte. Frankfurt am Main et al.: Peter Lang, 2001. Ogden, D. Magic, Witchcraft, and Ghosts in the Greek and Roman Worlds: A Sourcebook, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. Orbán, Á. Solar-astral Symbolism and Poetical Self-representation in Conrad Celtis and his Humanist Circles. PhD Dissertation, CEU, Budapest, 2017. Reuchlin, J. De verbo mirifico. Basel, 1494.


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Robert, Jörg. Konrad Celtis und das Projekt der deutschen Dichtung: Studien zur humanistischen Konstruktion von Poetik, Philosophie, Nation und Ich. Tübingen: Niemeyer, 2003. Spitz, L. W. Conrad Celtis. The German Arch-Humanist. Cambridge (Mass.): Harvard University Press, 1957. Sullivan, M. “The Witches of Dürer and Hans Baldung Grien.” Renaissance Quarterly 53 (2000), 333–401. Walker, D. P. Spiritual and Demonic Magic from Ficino to Campanella. London: The Warburg Institute, 1958. Stephens, Walter. Demon Lovers: Witchcraft, Sex, and the Crisis of Belief (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002). Wiegand, Hermann. “Konrad Celtis: Nekromant und Bruder Fausts im Geiste; zu Elegie I,14 der ‘Amores.’” In Iliaster. Literatur und Naturkunde in der Frühen Neuzeit. Festgabe für Joachim Telle zum 60. Geburtstag,, ed. W. Kühlmann et al., 303–319. Heidelberg: Manutius, 1999. Wuttke, D. “Dürer und Celtis: von der Bedeutung des Jahres 1500 für den deutschen Humanismus.” In Humanismus und Reformation als kulturelle Kräfte in der deutschen Geschichte, ed. L. W. Spitz, 121–150. Berlin / New York: de Gruyter, 1981. ———. “Supplement zu Hartfelders Edition der Celtis-Epigramme.” In Renatae Litterae:

Studien zum Nachleben der Antike und zur europäischen Renaissance: August Buck zum 60. Geburtstag. ed. K. Heitmann und E. Schroeder, 101–126. Frankfurt: Athenäum,

1973. Zika, C. Reuchlin und die okkulte Tradition der Renaissance. Sigmaringen: J. Thorbecke, 1998.


Dr. Bogdan Edward Jastrzębski-Edwards (1860–1923), the last Praemonstrator of the Golden Dawn, and his brother Louis Stanley Jast (1868–1944), the Theosophist While a comprehensive history of Polish esotericism is yet to be written, it is quite safe to assume that there were few major figures of European importance. The only Pole of unquestionably momentous influence was the alchemist Michał Sędziwój (Michael Sendivogius, 1566–1636), whose works enjoyed enormous success and were published in numerous editions and translations not only during the two centuries following his death, but also from the late 19th century until the present. Although it is still a matter of debate to what extent alchemy was “esoteric” and whether the particular Sendivogian brand should be counted as such, the Polish author’s texts were re-read and re-interpreted by both more scientific “chymists” and clearly esoteric “adepts” of the 17th and 18th centuries. His impact on modern esotericism can be inferred from the number of modern popular translations into many languages, from that in The Hermetic Museum, edited by Arthur Edward Waite in 1893, to a recent version in Greek. Frequent references to Sendivogius are found in such celebrated esoteric authors as Fulcanelli or Carl Gustav Jung. Certainly no other Polish esotericist — be it a writer or an adventurer — could match the fame and magnitude of “Sarmata Anonymus”, as he was called by Michael Maier. Perhaps the next in importance was Tadeusz Grabianka (1740– 1807), the “King of New Israel”, one of the leaders of Illuminés du Mont-Thabor or d'Avignon, who was active all over Europe, from his native Podolia, where he had an alchemical laboratory in his estate of Ostapkowce (now Ostapkivtsi, Ukraine), through Germany, France and England, to St. Petersburg where he died in prison. The great Romantic poet Adam Mickiewicz (1798–1855) and his one-time “guru” Andrzej Towiański (1799–1878) exerted some limited influence on Western European esotericists with their respective versions of Polish messianism. In the 20th century Czesław Czyński (1858–1932) was for some time the leader of the Martinist Order in Russia (nominally also a member of the O.T.O.) and Mieczysław Dymitr Sudowski (1897–1971) gained worldwide fame as Mouni Sadhu.



Rafał T. Prinke

It does not follow, however, that Polish esotericism should not be studied on its lower level of unoriginal compilers and hundreds of practitioners, both in Poland and abroad. The research area that may prove especially fruitful is indeed that of less conspicuous Poles involved in the major esoteric movements. In the late 1970’s, while reading Ellic Howe’s groundbreaking monograph on the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, I noticed a brief mention of one “Dr Bogdan Jastrzebski Edwards of Bradford” among the names of early members who were physicians.1 The index entry showed that he was mentioned again, but without the Polish surname expanded, in a listing of early Portal grade initiations: “Sat. 25 Feb. Dr B. E. J. Edwards (‘Deus Lux Solis’, 0E= 0E Oct. 1888), a Horus [Temple] member who also joined the Order at a very early date”.2 Because “Jastrzębski” is obviously a Polish surname and “Bogdan” is quite a popular first name in Poland, it looked like I had spotted a Polish member of that foundational organisation for the subsequent tradition of modern magical esotericism. The information was quite scanty, however, and I had to wait for nearly a decade until another publication that was fundamental for recreating the history of the Golden Dawn appeared in 1986, namely R. A. Gilbert’s The Golden Dawn companion, which brought some more details. The address book and/or the roll of members, on which Gilbert’s list of the Golden Dawn members was based, had the Polish part of the name misspelt as ‘Jastryebwski’ but it also supplied the address where Dr. Edwards lived in Bradford, so it was easy to deduce that “Mrs Dr Edwards”, living at the same address and initiated in 1892, was his wife. Quite unexpectedly, yet another member of the same Horus Temple No. 5, iniFig. 1. Portrait of Bogdan Edward Jastrzębski or tiated in 1889, was listed as “Lewis Stanley Dr Edwards (1860–1923) from the frontispiece de Jastryebwski” of Halifax, later of Peterof his memorial publication Masonic Secrets borough, so clearly was a relative. (Courtesy of The Library and Museum of Freemasonry, London)

1 Ellic Howe, The magicians of the Golden Dawn: a documentary history of a magical order, 1887–1923 (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1972), 51. 2

Ibid., 97.

Bogdan Edward Jastrzębski-Edwards and his brother Louis Stanley Jast


Even more intriguing were two pieces of information in R. A. Gilbert’s indispensable compendium: that in October 1900 (probably from 1897 or maybe even 1892) B. E. J. Edwards was the Praemonstrator of the Horus Temple (with T. H. Pattinson as its Imperator),3 and that as late as 1912 William Wynn Westcott, one of the three co-founders of the order, intended to leave some of his “occult properties”, related to three orders of freemasonry and to theosophy, to “Pattinson and Edwards” as his heirs.4 Because on-site research in England was not possible for me at that time, the topic lay latent for a quarter of a century until I returned to it in 2010, when Internet resources and contacts made such research much easier. Partial results of my investigations were presented at the ESSWE Conference in Szeged in 2011. It would not be possible to unfold the fascinating story of the Jastrzębski brothers without immense help from many people, especially R. A. Gilbert, the renowned historian of the Golden Dawn, three Yorkshire local historians: Malcolm Bull, Roger Beasley, and Kai Roberts, as well as a number of others, indicated in footnotes. While updating the information for the present paper in 2014, I found the website of Sally Davies devoted to biographies of GD members.5 Her ongoing research project is based on a wide range of primary sources, including the original Membership Roll, in which she found one person missing from R. A. Gilbert’s list.6 The biographies of the Jastrzębski family members, published online by Sally Davies in September and October 2013, are very detailed and partly overlapping with my own findings (when we used the same sources), but in many respects they are complementary. The story begins in Zebrzydowice, a large village located some thirty kilometers south-west of Cracow, in the part of Poland which was under Austrian rule throughout the 19th century. On 6 December 1823, in the house number 132, a son was born to Teodor Jastrzębski and his wife Anna “de Kownice” (so probably Kownicka). He was christened twenty days later, on the second day of Christmas, 3 R. A. Gilbert, The Golden Dawn companion : a guide to the history, structure, and workings of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (Wellingborough: Aquarian, 1986),

36–37. 4

Ibid., 23.

Sally Davies, “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn,” September–October 2013; and /GD/. 5

6 The Roll, address book, and other Golden Dawn documents were owned by R. A. Gilbert and deposited by him in The Library and Museum of Freemasonry in London; the collection is in the online catalogue at: The person missing in the printed list is Alice Elizabeth Major (1849–1906); her biography has not been researched by Sally Davies yet (as of 13 February 2015) but she was certainly one of two daughters of Richard Henry Major (1818–1891), a notable historian and geographer.


Rafał T. Prinke

with the names Stefan Ludwik.7 The family may have been members of nobility, as they later claimed, but it needs confirmation. Also the financial status of his parents is not clear and nothing is known about his early life or education, but the testimony of his friend indicates that at the age of twenty three he knew much about literature and liked to discuss books of contemporary novelists.8 Most probably he took part in the Kraków Uprising of early 1846, one of numerous and unsuccessful attempt of Poles to regain independence, and after it was suppressed, he escaped to Hungary like most of his comrades, to join the Polish Legion formed there by general Józef Wysocki (1809–1873) in 1848, to support Hungarians — led by Lajos Kossuth (1802–1894) — in their fight for independence from Habsburg hegemony. Eventually the Hungarian and Polish forces were defeated by the Austrian army in the battles of Szőreg and Temesvár in August 1849, soldiers were dismissed and the principality of Serbia allowed them to cross over it to Turkey, so about 5000 men

7 Liber baptisatorum IV, 68; the records are still kept at the parish archive in Zebrzydowice and the former parish priest Rev. Ryszard Gołuch (now retired) kindly found the entry at my request; at present there are persons of the same name living in the village but to establish if they are related and whether Teodor and Anna had other children, more detailed onsite research would be needed. Later in England Stefan Ludwik gave Zebrzydowice as the place of his birth and his age recorded on several occasions also fits this birth record.

Teodor Tomasz Jeż [Zygmunt Miłkowski], Od kolebki przez życie: wspomnienia [From the cradle through the life: memoirs], 3 vols. (Kraków: Polska Akademia Umiejętności, 1936–1937), 1:380; it should be noted that until recently some facts from his life were ascribed to Jan Ludwik Jastrzębski (1804–1852), especially in the article on the latter in the monumental and prestigious Polish biographical dictionary: Franciszek German, “Jastrzębski Korwin Jan Ludwik,” in Polski słownik biograficzny [Polish biographical dictionary] (Wrocław–Warszawa–Kraków: Zakład Narodowy im. Ossilińskich, 1964–1965), 78–79; even more confusing are short biographical notes nominally on Stefan Ludwik but with the birth year and many facts from the life of Jan Ludwik: Marian Tyrowicz, Towarzystwo Demok8

ratyczne Polskie 1832–1863: przywódcy i kadry członkowskie. Przewodnik biobibliograficzny [Polish Democratic Society 1832–1863: leaders and members. A bio-bibliographic guide] (Warszawa: Książka i Wiedza, 1964), 260–261; Rafał Geber, ed. Julian Aleksander Bałaszewicz: Raporty szpiega [Julian Aleksander Bałaszewicz: Reports of a spy, 2 vols.

(Warszawa: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 1973), 2:477. The confusion was noticed and cleared up by: Danuta Rederowa, “Jan Ludwik Jastrzębski: Z życia naukowego Wielkiej Emigracji [Jan Ludwik Jastrzębski: From the scientific life of the Great Emigration],” Analecta: Studia i materiały z dziejów nauki 8 (16) (1999): 127–178. Another Jastrzębski of unknown given name, who participated in the 1846 revolt in Bochnia, is likewise confused with Stefan Ludwik in: István Kovács, A lengyel légió lexikona, 1848–1849 [Lexicon of the Polish legion 1848–1849] (Budapest: MTA Történettudományi Intézet, História Könyvtár, 2007), 222.; most importantly, the information that he returned from England to Poland and died in Marcyporęba in 1873 is wrong, as he most certainly was still alive in 1891, listed by the census in Halifax (the entry from Kovács’s book was kindly provided by György Szönyi).

Bogdan Edward Jastrzębski-Edwards and his brother Louis Stanley Jast


arrived at Vidin.9 The group included 833 Poles, who came on 25 August with Stefan Ludwik Jastrzębski among them, now in the rank of infantry lieutenant.10 About two hundred more arrived later, then 124 of them returned to Austria when amnesty was offered, while sixteen converted to Islam and joined the Turkish army. In November the remaining 790 officers and soldiers were transported to Szumen (then called Szumla) to be interred.11 Already in Hungary, when the army was dispersed, Jastrzębski joined a group of young officers who became friends and kept together afterwards.12 One of them was Zygmunt Miłkowski (1824–1915), later a notable novelist (writing under the pen name of Teodor Tomasz Jeż), politician, and author of voluminous memoires, which contain further information about Stefan Ludwik. As they had nothing to do in Szumla, Jastrzębski proposed they might start publishing a handwritten newspaper entitled Dziennik Emigracji [Emigration Daily] and became its secretary, while Miłkowski was the first editor-in-chief. Six issues in all are known to have been published between late July and mid-August 1850. The articles were collected by Jastrzębski, corrected by Miłkowski, and dictated by him to a group of colleagues, so that about twenty to thirty copies were produced.13 When Miłkowski left Szumla, 9 Most recent general research on the Polish Legion in Hungary and its later fate may be found in: Andrzej Szmyt, “Legion Polski po upadku węgierskiej Wiosny Ludów [The Polish Legion after the downfall of the Hungarian Revolution,” in W kraju i na wychodźstwie. Księga

pamiątkowa ofiarowana Profesorowi Sławomirowi Kalembce w sześćdziesięciopięciolecie urodzin [At home and on emigration. Memorial book presented to Professor Sławomir

Kalembka for his sixty fifth birthday], ed. Jan Sobczyk, et al. (Toruń: Wydawnictwo Naukowe Uniwersytetu Mikołaja Kopernika, 2001), 595–612; Emil Noiński, Generał Antoni Jeziorański (1821–1882) [General Antoni Jeziorański (1821–1882)] (Siedlce: PhD dissertation, Akademia Podlaska, 2009), 37–52. Józef Wysocki, Pamiętnik jenerała Wysockiego, dowódcy Legionu Polskiego na Węgrzech z czasu kampanii węgierskiej w roku 1848 i 1849 [Memoirs of general Wysocki, 10

commander of the Polish Legion in Hungary from the period of the Hungarian campaing in 1848 and 1849], 2 ed. (Kraków: J. K. Żupański & K. J. Heumann, 1888), 133, no. 20.

11 Jerzy Skowronek, Polityka bałkańska Hotelu Lambert (1833–1856) [The Balkan policy of Hotel Lambert (1833–1856)] (Warszawa: Wydawnictwa Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego, 1976), 175–177; Georgi Parvev, “Polscy emigranci a społeczeństwo bułgarskie w latach 1849–1850 [Polish emigrants and the Bulgarian people during the years 1849–1850],” in Wielka Emigracja i sprawa polska a Europa (1832–1864) [The Great Emigration and Poland vs. Europe (1832–1864)], ed. Sławomir Kalembka (Toruń: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Mikołaja Kopernika, 1980), 179–196. 12

Jeż, Od kolebki przez życie, 1:362, 3:59.

Ibid., 1:380.; no copy of the newspaper was believed to have survived until Georgi Parvev discovered four (out of six) issues in Biblioteka Czartoryskich in Cracow, which were then reedited in print: Sławomir Kalembka, ““Odzyskany” rękopiśmienny, szumeński “Dziennik Emigracji” z 1850 roku: reedycja [“Redicovered” handwritten “Emigration Daily” of Szumen from 1850: re-edition],” Acta Universitatis Nicolai Copernici: Historia 22 (1988): 107–133. 13


Rafał T. Prinke

others replaced him as the editor, with Jastrzębski acting as the liable editor for the penultimate (the last known) issue dated 9 August 1850. The content was political and the newspaper was related to the underground activities of the Polish Democratic Society (PDS), one of two rivaling parties of Polish emigration in Western Europe, with which Jastrzębski and his friends sympathised. 14 Turkish authorities encouraged the interred soldiers to leave the country and the first group sailed off from Varna to Malta in March 1850, and then to England or France. Another group with Miłkowski must have left in July and went to Southampton, from where the future novelist moved to London, in order to find a job and continue his political activities.15 In the spring of 1851 he learned that another group was on its way to England, so he joined the official delegate of the PDS, Stanisław Worcell (1799–1857), and went to Liverpool to meet his friends from Szumla and help them to start a new life in England. The ship with nearly 300 people, with Stefan Ludwik Jastrzębski among them, arrived on 4 March 1851.16 The PDS already had a network of contacts with Polish émigrés who had come after 1831 and were well established, as well as with English businessmen who could offer jobs. They organised meetings with the Polish heroes, as the soldiers were perceived, and many of them found new home in 23 different towns throughout England and Scotland, establishing new local sections of the PDS wherever they went.17 Together with many others, Ludwik Jastrzębski (now using his second name only) signed the formal membership application on 8 March 1851, upon his disembarkment in Liverpool, indicating “Zebrzydowice in Galicia” as his place of birth.18 He did not stay in England long, however, and soon went to France with another friend, where Miłkowski joined them some time later (all had false British passports). In Paris they entered the circles of Count Ksawery Branicki (1816– 1879), whose brother Aleksander (1821–1877) was a patron of Eliphas Lévi (1810–1875) and greatly interested in esoteric matters himself. But before they had 14

Jeż, Od kolebki przez życie, 1:381; Kalembka, ““ Odzyskany” rękopiśmienny,” 111–113.

Miłkowski writes he left Turkey with the first group and arrived in England in April 1850, but then he would not be able to edit the (not surviving) first issue of Dziennik Emigracji, as he claimed; Jeż, Od kolebki przez życie, 3:59. 15

16 Helena Rzadkowska, Działalność Centralizacji Londyńskiej Towarzystwa Demokratycznego Polskiego 1850–1862 [The activities of the London Centralisation of the Polish

Democratic Society 1850–1862], Prace Komisji Nauk Historycznych, 29 (Wrocław–Warszawa–Kraków–Gdańsk: Ossolineum / Wydawnictwo Polskiej Akademii Nauk, 1971), 42. 17

Jeż, Od kolebki przez życie, 1:464–465; Rzadkowska, Działalność Centralizacji, 42–43.

Lucjan Krawiec, “ Lista członków Towarzystwa Demokratycznego Polskiego z lat 1832–1851 [A list of members of the Polish Democratic Society from the years 1832– 1851],” Materiały do biografii, genealogii i heraldyki polskiej [Buenos Aires – Paris] 1 (1963): 128–132, here 129, no. 3488. 18

Bogdan Edward Jastrzębski-Edwards and his brother Louis Stanley Jast


a chance to meet Branicki, all Poles who came illegally from England were identified by the police and ordered to return at the cost of the French government. They suspected that they were denounced by the rival group of Polish emigration known as Hotel Lambert.19 Once they were back in London, the PDS leaders decided to send them as emissaries to Poland, to find out about the political atmosphere and possibility to start organising people with the prospect of a new uprising. It was decided that Jastrzębski would go to Galicia and Miłkowski to the Ukraine — the respective areas they were from. The latter left for Poland at the turn of August and September 1851, but it is not clear whether the former also visited Poland, as he disappears from Miłkowski’s memoirs.20 He either stayed or returned to England by 1854, when he was already in Halifax and there he signed a declaration against the political activities of Prince Adam Czartoryski, the leader of the Hotel Lambert party.21 In the early 1850’s there were ten sections of the PDS active in English towns other than London, among which were those in Bradford and Halifax. The latter represented the most radical faction of revolutionaries.22 Stefan Ludwik Jastrzębski must have been attracted to it and thus settled down in Halifax. In 1854 a series of meetings were held throughout England by Polish refugees, not only winning public approval for their cause of reviving Poland, but also receiving enormous help from industrialists and craftsmen. Those meetings attracted as many as 60,000 people (in Staffordshire Potteries) and Jastrzębski certainly was involved in their organisation.23 He continued political activities and stood as a candidate for “Centralisation”, as the ruling body of the PDS was called, in 1855 (with 6 votes) and 1858 (with 2 votes).24 As late as 1862 he participated in a great meeting of all political factions within Polish emigration in the George and Blue Boar Hotel in London, at High Holborn 270, and supported the resolution proclaiming its unity (now as Ludwik Stefan).25


Jeż, Od kolebki przez życie, 1:466–472.

Ibid., 1:473–474; Rzadkowska, Działalność Centralizacji, 44; Alina Barszczewska– Krupa, Reforma czy rewolucja [Reform or revolution] (Łódź: Wydawnictwo Łódzkie, 1979), 275. 20


Tyrowicz, Towarzystwo Demokratyczne Polskie, 260.

Sławomir Kalembka, Wielka Emigracja. Polskie wychodźstwo polityczne w latach 1831– 1862 [The Great Emigration. Polish political emigration during the years 1831–1862] (Warszawa: Wiedza Powszechna, 1971), 378–379; Rzadkowska, Działalność Centralizacji, 46. 22

23 24

——, Działalność Centralizacji, 79–80.

Tyrowicz, Towarzystwo Demokratyczne Polskie, 275.

Lidia Ciołkosz and Adam Ciołkosz, Zarys dziejów socjalizmu polskiego [An outline of the history of Polish socialism] (Londyn: Gryf Publications, 1972), 37–38.; The Times, 1 December 1862, 25. 25


Rafał T. Prinke

Some later accounts assume that Jastrzębski lived for some time in Kidderminster but the only reason for that claim is the fact that in the first quarter of 1859 he married Elizabeth (Lizzy) Morgan, the daughter of Benjamin, a market gardener in Franche near Kidderminster. Even though it is quite far from Halifax (over 200 kilometers), both towns had close links, being important centres of carpet industry. More detailed research on the Morgan family shows that her brother John Lewis Morgan married a girl from Halifax, who was of exactly the same age as his sister. He also named his farm “Halifax” after her birthplace, so it is highly probable that Stefan Ludwik Jastrzębski met his wife either when she accompanied her brother visiting his fiancé in Halifax or that he was a friend of John Morgan’s future wife and went with her on a visit to Franche. Moreover, both couples got married in Kidderminster in the same quarter of 1859 (most probably on the same day).26 The couple continued living in Halifax, where Stefan started his own business as a tobacconist and was naturalised on 6 November 1873 as a former Austrian subject.27 The year of his death remains unknown but he was still alive in 1891, when he announced bankruptcy at the age of 68.28 In the census of 1901 his wife Lizzie was already listed as a widow and she was still alive at the time of the next census in April 1911.29 She died in the third quarter of 1918 at the age of 80. They had three sons born in Halifax soon after their marriage: Bogdan Edward (1860), Thaddeus Theodore (1862) and Louis Stanley (1868).30 All three of them made exceptional careers in England, truly amazing for the sons of a poor immigrant and a gardener’s daughter.31 When they died, their friends and co-workers wrote 26 The vital details are provided in the pedigree chart, which I have compiled from information found in the online databases: freeCEN, freeREG, freeBMD, and from the excellent HKP Building Reports of the Kidderminster Civic Society at: http://kidderminster The chairman of the Historic Kidderminster Project is a writer and local historian Nigel Gilbert, who kindly checked my research on the Morgans and confirmed my hypothesis.

Mieczysław Paszkiewicz, “Polacy naturalizowani w Wielkiej Brytanii w XIX wieku [Poles naturalised in Great Britain in the 19th century],” Materiały do biografii, genealogii i heraldyki polskiej [Buenos Aires – Paris] 3 (1966): 65–116, here 89, application no. 1161. 27

“Receiving orders,” The London Gazette, April 28 1891, 2342; “Notices of release of trustees,” The London Gazette, December 29 1891; information found and kindly supplied by Roger Beasley. 28


Census data kindly supplied by Roger Beasley.

The genealogical details I have been able to find are summarised in the pedigree chart, compiled from the data in online databases: freeCEN, freeREG, freeBMD; from information found in the sources and publications cited in the text, and kindly provided by Yorkshire local historians Malcolm Bull, Roger Beasley, and Kai Roberts. 30

Maria Danielewiczowa, “Trzej bracia: Edwards, Jastrzębski i Jast, [Three brothers: Edwards, Jastrzębski and Jast]” Wiadomości [London], no. 1084 (1967): 2. 31

Bogdan Edward Jastrzębski-Edwards and his brother Louis Stanley Jast


biographical memorials (two of them were published), and the youngest brother has his entries in encyclopedias and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography — a truly rare distinction.32 Bogdan, later known as B. E. J. Edwards or Dr. Edwards, studied medicine in Edinbourgh at the time when Arthur Conan Doyle was also a student there. Later he became a successful general practitioner in Brighouse and was also appointed Medical Officer of Health. He was actively promoting St. John’s Ambulance Brigade (for which he received the Order of St John of Jerusalem) and was an early leader of local Boy Scouts. During World War I Bogdan Jastrzębski Edwards was instrumental in establishing and managing Auxiliary War Hospitals in Boothroyde and Longroyde, for which he received Medal of the British Empire and Royal Red Cross. In 1887 he married Henrietta Palmer of Halifax, daughter of a master tailor, and they had four children, of whom two had Fig. 6. Thaddeus Theodore Ślepowron died by 1911 and the son Harold in 1917 (at de Jastrzębski (1862–1930) the age of 26 but it is not clear if he fought in (Courtesy of Halifax Central Library, the war). Their daughter Elsie remained Calderdale Council)

Those works contain much biographical and professional information which I only briefly summarise: Vaughan Bateson, Masonic secrets and the ancient mysteries: A memorial 32

lecture to the late Arch-President Brother Doctor Edwards, delivered to the Garuda Temple, The August Order of Light (Bradford: Privately printed by the Clarence Press for The August

Order of Light, 1923).; I am indebted to Jennifer Rampling, the alchemical scholar of Cambridge and Princeton, for making for me a photographic copy of the Bodleian Library copy of this rare publication (200 copies were printed), and to Martin Cherry of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry in London for providing high quality scans of the selected pages reproduced here; W. T. Harverson, “Memoir of T. T. S. de Jastrzebski “Thaddeus”,”(The Ferns, Eastbourne: Central Library, Halifax / MS B JAS, HT 28130245, 1932).; a copy of the typescript kindly provided by Anne Jackson and Katie Warriner of the Halifax Central Library; W. G. Fry and W. A. Munford, Louis Stanley Jast: A biographical sketch (London: The Library Association, 1966); James G. Ollé, “Jast, Louis Stanley (1868–1944),” in World encyclopedia of library and information services, ed. Robert Wedgeworth (Chicago: American Library Association, 1993), 411–412; K. A. Manley, “Jast, Louis Stanley (1868–1944),” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).


Rafał T. Prinke

unmarried and died in 1964 in Halifax, being the last descendant of Stefan Ludwik.33 Bogdan’s younger brother Thaddeus retained the Polish surname throughout his life and also used the name of the heraldic clan in the form “Ślepowron de Jastrzębski”, usually abbreviated to “T. T. S. de Jastrzebski”, while his friends referred to him as “Shamski” due to the difficulty of pronouncing it properly. In 1881 he passed the Civil Service Examination and started his work in the General Register Office, where he eventually reached the position of Assistant Registrar General and head of the Statistical and Intelligence Branch. He not only organised censuses in England, but also ran many other statistical projects and wrote articles for the Encyclopaedia Britannica and scientific journals. During World War I he created the Belgian Refugee Register,34 for which he was created Chevalier de l’Ordre de Leopold in 1919. A prominent fellow of the Royal Statistical Society and contributor to its journal,35 as well as of the American Academy of Social and Political Science, Thaddeus de Jastrzębski also gave public lectures on a variety of topics, was involved in the Working Men’s College, wrote for daily newspapers, authored a short novel Lottery of Death (as Stanley Stevens), the libretto for a comic opera Guinevere, or Love laughs at law (staged at Kilburn Town Hall in 1890), and a volume of poetry Downland and other verses.36 In 1890 he married Frances Elizabeth, a daughter of Abraham Thackrah, ironmonger in Halifax. Of their two children, Hubert died of wounds as a volunteer in World War I, while Norah married Albert Wespi of Lausanne, where her father moved shortly before his death in 1930. Norah died in 1956 without issue.37 The youngest brother, Louis Stanley (who shortened his surname in 1895 and was later known as L. Stanley Jast), was even more successful. He pursued the career of a public librarian, assuming the position of the chief librarian in Peterborough, then in Croydon, and eventually in Manchester. He introduced many innovative ideas into English libraries (such as free shelf access, cataloguing by Dewey classification, interlibrary loans, mobile library service, and even ordering books by telephone) and The biographers of Stanley Jast had access to her papers (now probably lost) and in the preface they thanked “the late Miss Elsie Edwards (Jast’s niece) for books, cuttings and other information”; Fry and Munford, Louis Stanley Jast, ix. 33


T. T. S. de Jastrzebski, “The Register of Belgian Refugees,” Journal of the Royal


“Obituary,” ibid., 93, (1930): 629.

Statistical Society 79, no. 2 (1916): 133–158.

S. de J. [T. T. S. de Jastrzebski], Downland and other verses (London: Maclaren & Sons, 1929). 36

Testament of Albert Wespi, Eidg. Winkelried-Stiftung, Archives fédérales suisses AFS, Bern, Ref. code: E7001C#1975/32#304*. 37

Bogdan Edward Jastrzębski-Edwards and his brother Louis Stanley Jast


published many articles in professional journals (Library World, Library Association Record and Library Review). Some of Jast’s lectures and essays presenting his ideas on such novelty topics as libraries for children or collecting photographs, were published in print.38 The most important of those was the pamphlet of 1927, in which he presented his vision of an ideal library, which was realised a few years later in the design of the Manchester Central Library, on which he worked with the architect Vincent Harris.39 In the Library Association, of which he was the honorary secretary from 1904 to 1915, Louis Stanley Jast met Ethel Winifred Austin, a pioneer of library services for blind people and developer of the National Library for the Blind.40 They engaged to be married after the Fig. 7. Louis Stanley Jast (1868–1944) war but in 1918 Winifred died, upon which (Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Jast wrote a play entitled The lover and the Manchester City Council) dead woman. In 1925 he married Millicent Beatrice Murby, an active feminist, suffragette, and prominent Fabian Society member (the treasurer of its Women's Group), who had earlier been an amateur actress and theatre producer. She ran the private New Stage Club which staged plays by George Bernard Shaw, Henrik Ibsen and others, then banned in England. Murby herself played the main role in Oscar Wilde’s Salomé (1905), directed by Florence Farr, as well as produced and directed other plays41. She 38 H. D. Gower, Louis Stanley Jast, and William Whiteman Topley, The camera as historian: A handbook to photographic record work for those who use a camera and for survey or record societies (London: Sampson Low, Marston and Co., 1916); Louis Stanley Jast, The child as reader (London: Libraco Ltd., 1927); ——, Libraries and living: Essays and addresses of a public librarian (London: Grafton & Co., 1932); ——, The provision of books for children in elementary schools (London: Libraco Ltd., 1928); ——, The library and the community (London – New York: T. Nelson & Sons, 1939).

——, The planning of a great library: A lecture delivered in the School of Librarianship at University College, London, December 10 th, 1926 (London: Libraco Ltd., 1927). 39


K. A. Manley, “Austin, (Ethel) Winifred (1873–1918),” in Oxford Dictionary of National

Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004a).

41 She published articles on feminism in The New Age weekly in 1908, a small book issued by its press: Millicent Murby, The common sense of the woman question (London: New Age Press, 1908); and gave lectures on such topics as “Sex and society: A few radical


Rafał T. Prinke

also translated some philosophical works by Henri Bergson and corresponded with him. Her involvement in the avant-garde theatre earlier in the century may have been what attracted Stanley Jast to her, because he was also an amateur playwright and poet.42 His dramas were staged by The Unnamed Society, co-founded by him, which later developed into the Manchester Library Theatre.43 According to the testimonies collected by their biographers, all three Jastrzębski brothers were not only excellent public speakers, but brilliant conversationalists as well, and had exceptional linguistic abilities. Their father ensured that they had at least some command of Polish and they also certainly learned French. Thaddeus was fascinated with German poetry, which he read in original, while Bogdan and Stanley studied ancient and exotic languages. Most importantly, they were avid readers and writers, with a love for books inherited from their father. It is surprising how a Polish exiled soldier, who arrived in England as a penniless refugee and certainly not speaking a word of English, soon built up a library of literary classics in the language of his new country. As Stanley Jast later remembered: I was fortunate that I grew up in a house full of books, some of which were children’s books, but many of them, most of them in fact, would not be considered as falling into this category. Hence I read, or tried to read, nearly everything at hand, for my father — wisely, as I think — imposed upon us no taboos. I could not have been more than twelve or thirteen when I devoured the Confessions of Jean Jacques Rousseau [...] but though I remember the thrill of the episode with Mme de Warrens, it was all so vaguely realised that I am not aware that it did me any particular harm — any more than reading about pirates and bloody encounters on the field of battle increased my natural ferocity. Hence my belief that a fairly normal boy or girl can read anything that is literature without ill-effects; at all events that to forbid books is likely to have effects that are worse.44 considerations”; see her summary of several such lectures in: Sally Alexander, ed. Women's

Fabian tracts, Women's Source Library, 7 (London: Routledge, 1988), 105–128.

Louis Stanley Jast, Poems and epigrams: Yet speaketh (Keighley: Wadsworth & Co., The Rydal Press, n.d.); ——, The lover and the dead woman, and five other plays in verse (London / New York: George Routledge and Sons Ltd. / E. P. Dutton & Co., 1923); ——, Shah Jahan: A play in five acts (London: Grafton & Co., 1934); ——, What happened to a library book (London: Libraco Ltd., 1928).; the last one is written in verse for children.; for a brief discussion and samples of his poetry see: Sally Davies, “Stanley Jast as Poet,” 17 October 2013; 42

More information on the Society’s activities, with pictures of costume designs, photographs and details of other Jast’s plays staged there can be found in: Louis Stanley Jast, L. Sladen-Smith, and Eric Newton, The unnamed book (Manchester: Sherratt and Hughes, 1924). 43


Jast, Libraries and living, 138.

Bogdan Edward Jastrzębski-Edwards and his brother Louis Stanley Jast


Such liberal atmosphere and appreciation of the value of book knowledge at the Jastrzębskis’ home in Halifax was certainly responsible for the fact that all the three brothers pursued literary activities in their spare time, and two of them — Bogdan and Stanley — developed a lifelong interest in esotericism. It is unclear when and why Bogdan became interested in it, while Stanley may have picked it up from his elder brother. The earliest certain information is of Bogdan joining the newly founded Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and Stanley following in his footsteps less than a year later. The Golden Dawn was formally established on 12 February 1888 by the three Chiefs — William Robert Woodman, William Wynn Westcott and Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers — and on 1 March the first nine candidates were initiated in the Isis-Urania Temple No. 3 in London. Two of them were from Weston-superMare, where the Osiris Temple No. 4 was to be located in October of the same year, and one was from Baildon near Bradford. His name was Thomas Henry Pattinson, a watch and clock maker and repairer by occupation, who had already been an enthusiastic esotericist for a number of years. The area of West Yorkshire seems to have been a centre of occult activity in the 1870’s and 1880’s, partly under the patronage of Rev. William Alexander Ayton (1816–1908), an Anglican clergyman and practising alchemist.45 He met Pattinson in 1881 or 1882 and intended to organise a lodge for the study of occultism in Bradford.46 Although he was a freemason, he never joined the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, the masonic body from which most of the early members of the Golden Dawn were recruited, as all the three Chiefs were active members and W. R. Woodman was its head (Supreme Magus) at the time.47 Pattinson also became a freemason (initiated in the local lodge of Baildon No. 1545) and was admitted into Societas Rosicruciana, where he

A concise biography researched by Ellic Howe is included in his edition of Ayton’s correspondence: Ellic Howe, ed. The alchemist of the Golden Dawn: The letters of the Revd W. A. Ayton to F. L. Gardner and others 1886–1905, Roots of the Golden Dawn Series (Wellingborough: Aquarian Press, 1985), 10–13.; for a more detailed discussion of his Golden Dawn involvement see: R. A. Gilbert, Revelations of the Golden Dawn: the rise and fall of a magical order (London: Quantum, 1997), 149–158.; a detailed biography, including family history and occult activities can be found in two online publications: Sally Davies, “William Alexander Ayton — family history,” 6 June 2013; http://www.wrighrp.pwp.; and ——,“ William Alexander Ayton — occult activities,” 22 June 2013; LIFE.htm. 45

46 Gilbert, Revelations of the Golden Dawn, 153; ——, The Golden Dawn and the Esoteric Section (London: Theosophical History Centre, 1987), 10–11. (here the approximate year

they “became occultly acquainted” is quoted from Ayton’s lecture of 1890). 47

Howe, The alchemist of the Golden Dawn, 12–13.


Rafał T. Prinke

immediately received an honorary 8th degree.48 In March 1888 Pattinson was enlisted as a member of the Correspondence Circle of the prestigious Quatuor Coronati masonic research lodge, in which William Wynn Westcott was the Junior Warden (third highest officer).49 He was thus recognised as “a zealous member of the Soc. Ros. and the Theosophical Society”50, the latter of which he may have joined some time earlier together with Ayton,51 and was certainly on friendly terms with the Chiefs of the Golden Dawn still before his initiation. Soon after the initiation (still in March), Pattinson wrote to Westcott: “I find 7 interested friends all ready to fall in with the idea of forming a G. D. here in Bradford [...]. 5 out of the 7 are old occult students [...]. I dare say 3 of us could come to London and then be initiated there, afterwards make arrangements for a Lodge up here”.52 It was on Pattinson’s and his friend J. Leech Atherton’s initiative,53 and with Ayton’s support, that the Horus Temple No. 5 was established in Bradford on 10 October 1888 (consecrated by Westcott or Mathers on 19 October).54 Earlier, on 10 June 1888, he was appointed the Provincial Hierophant, responsible for recruiting new members in Yorkshire.55 The first six of Pattinson’s recruits included five men from Bradford and one from Baildon, where he also lived himself. They were all initiated in London (four in May and two in September), while the very first member ritually admitted into the Horus Temple (and the 52nd member of the Golden Dawn) was “Dr Bogdan E.

48 49

——, The magicians of the Golden Dawn, 54.

St. John's card of the lodge Quatuor Coronati, No. 2076, London, (Margate: insert of

Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, vol. 3, 1890), 22, no. 711. 50 51 52

——, The magicians of the Golden Dawn, 45.

Gilbert, Revelations of the Golden Dawn, 153.

——, The Golden Dawn and the Esoteric Section, 10.

He was a Congregationalist minister; for a detailed biography see: Sally Davies, “Jeremiah Leech Atherton,” 19 January 2013; /GD/ATHERTONJL.htm. 53

54 Gilbert, The Golden Dawn companion, 35 (consecrator not named); ——, The Golden Dawn and the Esoteric Section, 10 (“consecrated by Westcott on 19 October”); Howe, The magicians of the Golden Dawn, 54 (“consecrated by Mathers at a ceremony held at the

Alexandra Hotel on 9 October” — probably this information is outdated but as neither publication has a source reference, it is difficult to decide which of the two versions is correct).

55 Gilbert, The Golden Dawn companion, 133–134; Marie Campbell, Strange world of the Brontës (Wilmslow, Cheshire: Sigma Leisure, 2001), 175; this local history book contains

some factual information I could not find in other publications on the Golden Dawn; it appears to be well-researched but has no footnotes; in 2011 I contacted the author who had just moved to a new house and her old notes were not accessible.

Bogdan Edward Jastrzębski-Edwards and his brother Louis Stanley Jast


Jastryebwski” of Brighouse, who took the order motto “Deus Lux Solis”.56 The ceremony took place in the Alexandra Hotel at Great Horton Road (there is a car park on its site now), where the Horus Temple found its first home.57 The hotel’s owner, Carlo Faro, was initiated at the same ceremony (but remained only a nominal member), together with three other neophytes (two from Bradford, one from Baildon). During the following year only two new members were acquired, one of whom was “Lewis Stanley de Jastryebwski” of Halifax with the motto “Fiat Lux”. Three years later, on 20 March 1892, “Mrs Dr Edwards” of Brighouse (i.e. Henrietta, Bogdan’s wife) joined the Order and chose the motto “Spes et Caritas”. She eventually reached only the second degree but the brothers advanced to the Second Order, with Bogdan passing through the 5=6 degree on 25 February 1893 and his brother following him on 12 January 1897. It is clear that Stanley and Henrietta were recruited by Bogdan, while he must have been known to Pattinson earlier, most probably being one of the original “7 interested friends” or maybe even “5 old occult students”, and that was why he had invited him to be the first initiate of the Horus Temple. Because Bogdan Jastrzębski was not a freemason until much later and did not live in Bradford, they must have met through other esoteric contacts. The Theosophical Society, which Pattinson may have joined together with Ayton at an early date, did not spread its activities beyond London until 1889,58 so it is doubtful that he would have met Jastrzębski in it. There was, however, enough occult activity going on in and around Bradford. As early as July 1884, the British and Foreign Society of Occultists started publishing a journal entitled The Seer and Celestial Reformer (from 1885 until 1889 it appeared as The Occultist). The moving spirit behind it was John Thomas (Charubel, 1826–1908) and the society had a secret inner order called the Celestial Brotherhood, quite similar to the Golden Dawn in its structure.59 Thomas lived in Cheshire but the journal “was produced at Bradford in Yorkshire and it was here that a number of his scattered occultists lived, among them some of his regular contributors”.60 The authors all wrote under Unless indicated otherwise, all data on initiation dates and mottoes of the Golden Dawn members are quoted after the authoritative listing in: Gilbert, The Golden Dawn companion, 124–175. 56

57 The name of the hotel was Alexandra, not Alexander, as misprinted in: ibid., 134., but correct on p. 36, and in: Howe, The magicians of the Golden Dawn, 54.

A. P. Sinnett, The early days of theosophy in Europe (London: Theosophical Publishing House, 1922), 96–97. 58

Robert A. Gilbert, “The disappointed magus: John Thomas and his “Celestial Brotherhood”,” Theosophical History 8, no. 3 (2000): 98–111. 59

60 Ibid., 101.; title pages are reproduced in: Joscelyn Godwin, Christian Chanel, and John Patrick Deveney, The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor: Initiatic and historical documents of an order of practical occultism (York Beach: Samuel Weiser Inc., 1995), 304, 313.


Rafał T. Prinke

pseudonyms and some of them contributed also to The Lamp of Thoth, a handwritten journal produced by the Order of the Dew and the Light (otherwise called the Ros Crux Fratres), with its headquarters in Keighley near Bradford and neighbouring on Baildon, where Pattinson lived.61 Still another journal, The Occult Magazine, was published by The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor in Glasgow from early 1885 until the end of 1886, again with some of the same authors, most notably David Lund or “Zanoni”, the secretary of the Society of the Dew and the Light.62 The Rosicrucian Brotherhood of Keighley was clearly seen as an important rival by both the expanding Theosophical Society and the newly founded Golden Dawn. The former printed in its most important journal Lucifer of 1889 an editorial note decrying the society and its head “Mr. Joseph Blackburn, of Keighley”, especially for his use of the pseudonym “Magus”, accusing him and his pseudonymous colleague “Dr. Dulcamara” of being “the bitterest enemies and persecutors of Theosophy”. This was followed by a fierce exposure signed by “One who has been duped”, i. e. a former member of the group. According to him that “bogus occult society [...] has members in almost every town in England” and is mostly preoccupied with practicing black magic. “One man [...] tries to project himself on the astral plane and beget astral children”, while other members “boast that they sacrifice kids and they already sacrificed two”, for which purpose one of them “keeps a goat that is heavy with kid at present, no doubt intended for this use”. Right after that followed a statement from S. L. MacGregor Mathers in the name of the Metropolitan College of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (of which he was then the secretary) disclaiming any connection with the Order of the Dew and the Light and explaining that they are false pretenders. He also added, taking the opportunity of advertising his own order, that the “Fratres and Sorores” of true “Rosicrucian G. D.” should “warn the unwary and uninitiated” that their rivals do not possess “our ancient and secret knowledge”. David Lund responded to it in the August issue of Lucifer with a lengthy text refuting all the accusations, to which the “One who has been duped” replied with more condemnations, supported by quotations from the minutes of the Keighley Rosicrucians’ meetings and fragments from the rituals of the Order. It was

61 Some of the content was reprinted in the occult magazine of the same title which was published in Leeds in the 1980’s by The Sorcerer’s Apprentice bookshop and edited by its owner Chris Bray, who is in possession of the only known copies of the original journal.

62 Some confusion was introduced by: Godwin, Chanel, and Deveney, The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, 303–340, where the authors state The Occultist and The Occult Magazine were the same journal which changed its title, while both continued independently

after the initial and unsuccessful attempt of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor to take over the former; see: Gilbert, “The disappointed magus,” 100.

Bogdan Edward Jastrzębski-Edwards and his brother Louis Stanley Jast


followed again by a short statement on behalf of the Societas Rosicruciana (this time with no reference to the Golden Dawn) by William Wynn Westcott. 63 The secretary of the Order of the Dew and the Light stated that he knew who the “One who has been duped” was and “in fact there is a trio of them, two of whom have been suspended from the Brotherhood of Ros Crux Fratres, and the other is a most unfortunate and disappointed man”. R. A. Gilbert identifies “the nameless Dupe” as probably T. H. Pattinson, so it is likewise possible that one of the others may have been Bogdan Jastrzębski.64 But Pattinson was also a member of the Celestial Brotherhood of John Thomas, from which he and Ayton withdrew probably in 1885.65 Because Jastrzębski only graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1884, it is rather doubtful he may have joined Thomas’ group at that early age. Studying in Scotland, however, he may have had contacts with the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, operating from Glasgow. Ayton was seriously involved in it and even became the Provincial Grand Master of the South (i.e. England)66 before he “discovered its true nature” and left it in 1885 or 1886.67 Thomas Pattinson also intended to become a member of it but his application was rejected (as testified by Ayton’s letter of 1885) and two years later it was most probably he who wrote an article for The Theosophist, signing it as “A Victim” and denouncing both the Brotherhood of Luxor and the Keighley Rosicrucians as black magicians or swindlers.68 Whether Bogdan Jastrzębski was a member of one of those organisations or not, he most certainly belonged together with Pattinson to the group of Ayton’s “Yorkshire chelas”, as he called them, and that is why he was the first person initiated into the Golden Dawn in the newly consecrated Horus Temple in “We copy...” [Editor]; “The Dew and the Light” by One who has been duped; “Rosicrucian Society of England” by S. L. MacGregor Mathers, Lucifer 4 (June) (1889): 348–351; “To the Editor of Lucifer” by David Lund; “To the Editor of Lucifer” by One who has been duped; “To the Editor of Lucifer” by W. W. Westcott, Lucifer 4 (August) (1889): 511–518; see also: Howe, The magicians of the Golden Dawn, 47–48; R. A. Gilbert, The Golden Dawn : twilight of the magicians (Wellingborough: Aquarian Press, 1983), 30–31; Gilbert, “The disappointed magus,” 101. 63


Gilbert, Twilight of the magicians, 31.

Gilbert, “The disappointed magus,” 104; in 1890, writing to John Yarker, who became a member of the Celestial Brotherhood, Thomas called Pattinson a renegade and his foe (together with two others), while he respected Ayton and only remarked that he had “grown cold” towards him (ibid., 105). 65

66 67

Godwin, Chanel, and Deveney, The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, 87, 345–348. Gilbert, The Golden Dawn and the Esoteric Section, 17.

Howe, The magicians of the Golden Dawn, 55; Godwin, Chanel, and Deveney, The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, 3; the whole article is reprinted on p. 365–369.; Ayton’s 68

statement shows that the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor was active in Bradford and Leeds as early as 1882.


Rafał T. Prinke

Bradford. Ayton himself (and his wife) joined the Golden Dawn in London in July 1888 but was immediately made an honorary member of the Bradford Temple by Pattinson, to keep the cordial relationship with their guru.69 Both Frater Deus Lux Solis and Frater Fiat Lux were sincere about their Golden Dawn membership. As already noted above, they were received into the Second Order as two of only fourteen members (out of fifty four initiated before 1897) of the Horus Temple to reach the 5=6 degree. Manuscript copies of some rituals in the hand of Bogdan Jastrzębski survived in a private collection and in 2008 were purchased by the Library and Museum of Freemasonry in London, catalogued as

Rituals U, J, Z of Rosea Rubeae et Aureae Crucis, the Inner or Second Order of the Golden Dawn (dated 1996–1897, GBR 1991 GD 2/1/15). The same collection also

preserved a manuscript by his brother Stanley, containing a transcription of an alchemical text entitled A true revelation of the Manual Operation for the Universal

Medicine called the Philosopher’s Stone, by the Celebrated Philosoper of Leyden, as attested upon his death bed with his own blood 1662. Interestingly, it was bound

into one volume together with some rituals and other texts, mostly transcribed by Ayton, known for his special interest in alchemy (Ritual of Tiphereth etc., dated c. 1894–1901, GBR 1991 GD 2/1/11). The situation in the Horus Temple became tense in 1892 when Francis Drake Harrison, the Cancellarius (one of the three Chiefs of the Temple), and Oliver Firth70 started to behave improperly, making fun of the rituals, showing disobedience to their superiors, and commenting the Order’s teachings with disdain. The situation became so problematic that the other two Chiefs — Imperator (J. Leech Atherton) and Praemonstrator (Thomas Henry Pattinson) — resigned and asked the London headquarters for intervention. When it was confirmed, William Wynn Westcott took charge of the Horus Temple and ruled it until 1897, while the disobedient members were expelled (together with Florence Spink, now Firth’s wife, John Midgley and Edward Mackey).71 In 1897 Pattinson became the Imperator, Atherton was elected as the new Cancellarius and the office of the Praemonstrator was taken over by B. E. J. Edwards or Bogdan Jastrzębski. They signed with these functions a summons for a meeting dated 11 March 189872 and a printed circular letter dated 6 October 69

Howe, The magicians of the Golden Dawn, 55.

For detailed information on him and his wife see: Sally Davies, “Oliver Firth,” 28 August 2014; 70

The turbulence in the Horus Temple is discussed and documented in: Howe, The magicians of the Golden Dawn, 110–112; Gilbert, The Golden Dawn and the Esoteric Section, 10–14; ——, Revelations of the Golden Dawn, 41–44. 71


Library and Museum of Freemasonry, GBR 1991 GD 2/3/3/7f, Summonses of the

Horus Temple, No. 5, Bradford, Yorkshire.

Bogdan Edward Jastrzębski-Edwards and his brother Louis Stanley Jast

Fig. 2. First title page of Dr Edwards Memorial (Courtesy of The Library and Museum of Freemasonry, London)


Fig. 3. Main title page of Masonic Secrets, a lecture by Vaughan Bateson, dedicated to the memory of Dr Edwards or Bogdan Jastrzębski (Courtesy of The Library and Museum of Freemasonry, London)

Fig. 4. A page from Masonic Secrets, listing the professional and masonic acheivements of Bogdan Jastrzębski (Courtesy of The Library and Museum of Freemasonry, London)

Fig. 5. Early chiefs of the Order of Light, from the appendix to Masonic Secrets (Courtesy of The Library and Museum of Freemasonry, London)


Rafał T. Prinke

1900, from which it is known that there was a project to purchase a room in Bradford to be used for Temple meetings.73 From July 1893, when the owner of the Alexandra Hotel became bankrupt, they met in the Masonic Rooms at Salem Street in Bradford. The purchase was most probably not realised but when in 1983 Egyptian style murals were discovered in the attic of Gobbles Restaurant in Godwin Street, with Horus as one of the main figures, it was suggested that they were the remains of the Golden Dawn Horus Temple but eventually it turned out that the mural (which no longer exists) was from the 1950’s.74 The three men held their offices until 1902 and it can be argued that technically Horus No. 5 was the last surviving temple of the original Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and thus Jastrzębski was the Rosicrucian Brotherhood’s last acting Praemonstrator. Of the original three Chiefs of the whole Order and co-founders of the Golden Dawn, William Robert Woodman had died in 1891, his position as the Imperator was taken over by Mathers, while William Wynn Westcott became the Praemonstrator and the office of Cancellarius remained vacant.75 Westcott resigned from all offices in the Golden Dawn in March 1897, probably forced to do so by Mathers,76 who designated Florence Farr to replace him as the “Chief Adept in charge in Anglia”.77 Although Mathers (residing in Paris) now considered himself to be the sole and autocratic head of the Order, formally Farr was his equal as the other Chief Adept. So after the turbulences of early 1900 and open rebellion of several senior members in London, Mathers dismissed Florence Farr from her office in a letter of 23 March.78 The Committee formed by the rebels stroke back and deposed Mathers at a meeting on 29 March. On 19 April he was formally suspended as a member (so actually expelled), together with those remaining loyal to him.79 Two days later a new Constitution of the Order was drawn up and the Executive to run it was elected, 73 Edited in: Gilbert, The Golden Dawn companion, 36–37; the original is reproduced in: ——, Revelations of the Golden Dawn, 41.

74 A series of articles in Bradford Star of November 1983, referred to by: Kai Roberts, “The Victorian Occult Revival in West Yorkshire,” (2010)

The story of the Order’s decomposition presented in: Francis King, Ritual magic in England (London: Neville Spearman, 1970), 69–72, should be used with care, as it was 75

superceded by the magisterial monograph of Ellic Howe, which was in turn supplemented by numerous authoritative publications of R. A. Gilbert.

76 Howe, The magicians of the Golden Dawn, 165–166.; a letter to Frederick Leigh Gardner of March 17; Gilbert, Twilight of the magicians, 40.

77 Howe, The magicians of the Golden Dawn, 169; an undated (end of March ) letter from Westcott to Gardner. 78 79

Ibid., 214. Ibid., 226.

Bogdan Edward Jastrzębski-Edwards and his brother Louis Stanley Jast


consisting of three adepti, with Florence Farr as the Moderator.80 On 23 April Aleister Crowley, acting as Mathers’ emissary, in turn expelled five leaders of the rebellion (including Florence Farr) from both Orders of the Golden Dawn.81 Thus Westcott became the only Chief Adept who remained in the Order. While the rebels took over the original Isis-Urania Temple No. 3 in London, Mathers continued to run the Ahathoor Temple No. 7 in Paris. The Amen-Ra Temple No. 6 in Ediburgh remained loyal to him, and a rival Isis Temple in London was set up by Edward Berrige, assisted by Westcott as his advisor (even though he was in fierce conflict with Mathers).82 Because the Osiris Temple No. 4 in Weston-superMare had ceased operating in 1895, it follows that the Horus Temple No. 5 in Bradford was the only one that stayed neutral and thus was the last of the original Golden Dawn temples. It not only did not join the dissenters, but rejected Mathers’ authority, accepting that of the retired (but not expelled) Chief Adept. A declaration to that effect (in Westcott’s handwriting) was signed by T. H. Pattinson, the Imperator of the Horus Temple, on 11 June 1900.83 The position of William Wynn Westcott was described by R. A. Gilbert as “firmly on the fence, but with sympathetic gestures to one side or the other as it suited him”, so he was likewise trying to maintain neutrality.84 Formally Westcott was now “Adeptus Emeritus”, but Mathers recognised his authority and suspected that the conspirators in London had asked him to become the Chief of the Order, once they got rid of himself.85 They were, however, equally afraid that he would side with Mathers and return as the Head of the Order in England, claiming his authority over what remained of the Golden Dawn.86 If such were the opinions of the fighting parties, it may be argued that William Wynn Westcott was indeed the last Head of the original Golden Dawn and the Horus Temple with Bogdan Jastrzębski-Edwards as its Praemonstrator was the final chapter in the history of the magical order, as it was originally conceived and founded in 1888. That chapter was closed in 1902 with a meeting which took place on 9 January at 81 King’s Arcade in Bradford. The participants were “eighteen men (sixteen from the Horus Temple, whose total membership was then twentyone)” and the object was the foundation of a new temple of a completely different

80 81 82 83 84 85 86

Ibid., 228. Ibid., 229.

Gilbert, Twilight of the magicians, 42.

——, Revelations of the Golden Dawn, 81.

Ibid., 181.

Howe, The magicians of the Golden Dawn, 230.

Ibid., 245–246.


Rafał T. Prinke

occult order called the August and Oriental Order of Light.87 The original membership register starts with “T. H. Pattinson” and “Dr. Edwards”, with “Dr. W. Wynn Westcott” on the third position.88 The involvement of Westcott was quite permanent, because ten years later he intended to “let Pattinson and Edwards have my Theosoph[ical] papers and the Order of Light and Sat Bhai and Order of Perfection papers”.89 He also called The Order of Light “a semi-Rosicrucian institution”, fitting it into his favourite tradition without any obvious reason other than that he himself was its “Chief of the Council of Instruction (Agni)”. 90 Before discussing that next phase of Bogdan Jastrzębski’s esoteric career after the Horus Temple No. 5 of the Golden Dawn was transmuted into the Garuda Temple No. 1 of the Order of Light, it is necessary to go back and examine his and Stanley’s involvement in the Theosophical Society during the 1890’s, because it was at that point that the occult interests of the two Jastrzębski brothers parted and they went their own paths. When the Golden Dawn Temple was established in Bradford in 1888, its patron, Rev. William Alexander Ayton, “encouraged the members to support Theosophy”, of which society he and Pattinson had already been “zealous members”.91 Bogdan Jastrzębski joined it together with “a Bradford batch of people, almost all of whom were in the GD as well” early in 1889,92 his wife Henrietta in late 1893 (when she had already been a Golden Dawn soror for over a year),93 while his brother Stanley also “received the diploma of Fellowship of the 87

Campbell, Strange world of the Brontës, 178.

The scan is available on the Order’s website: oflight/temples/temple1; comparing the names of the founders with those in: Gilbert, The Golden Dawn companion, only ten appear to be the same. But the membership roll and address book used by Gilbert contains Horus members up to 1896 only, so others may have joined it later and there may have been sixteen, as Campbell states without a source reference. 88

89 Ibid., 23; the presence of Westcott is also confirmed by Will Read’s printed comment to: Ellic Howe, “Fringe masonry in England, 1870–85,” Ars Quatuor Coronatorum 85 (1972): 242–295. 90

William Wynn Westcott, “Data of the history of the Rosicrucians (2nd ed., 1916),” in

The magical mason: Forgotten Hermetic writings of William Wynn Westcott, physician and magus, ed. R. A. Gilbert, Roots of the Golden Dawn Series (Wellingsborough, Northamptonshire: The Aquarian Press, 1983), 28–39, here 37. 91

Gilbert, The Golden Dawn and the Esoteric Section, 11.

Sally Davies, “Bogdan Edward Jastrzebski Edwards,” 16 September 2013; http://www.; the information comes from “Theosophical Society Membership Register”, vol. Jan 1889–Sep 1891, p. 106 but exact date is not given. 92

Recorded in the volume of “Theosophical Society Membership Register” for Jun1893–Mar1895 on p. 65: ibid. 93

Bogdan Edward Jastrzębski-Edwards and his brother Louis Stanley Jast


Theosophical Society in 1889”, so probably right after he entered the Golden Dawn.94 At the time he was still living with his parents in Halifax and started his professional career at the Public Library there. Early in 1890 “a class for the study of Theosophy has been formed by L. S. De Jastrzebski, F.T.S., and others, and is now [November 1890] under the direction of F. Strickland, F.T.S.”.95 This was Francis Strickland, who was to be initiated into the Golden Dawn Horus Temple — certainly upon Stanley’s encouragement — in July 1891, but resigned in 1893. Also in December 1890 Stanley Jastrzębski had a long article published in the Lucifer journal,96 while in August he contributed a paper entitled “Dogmatism and Theosophic Brotherhood” to The Agnostic Journal and Eclectic Review, which was followed by a series of articles “Theosophy on the defence”, printed weekly from 8 November untill 17 January 1891. At about the same time he “set up a Theosophical Lending Library (in Halifax) with the help of a donation of a box of books from the Countess Wachtmeister”.97 According to the history of theosophy in Bradford compiled in 1941 by Robert Clayton, before 1891 the first informal group of theosophical students met regularly (every week) for some years at Baildon (certainly in Pattinson’s house) and at the nearby Frizinghall (perhaps at the home of Luther Hill, who later joined the Golden Dawn in November 1891 but soon resigned). On 4 February 1891 a charter was granted to Bradford theosophists for founding a lodge in that town.98 The first meeting took place on the very next day and “of the eighteen founding members all save two were members of Horus Temple, while the only officer of the Lodge who was not a member — John Midgley, the Secretary — was initiated in the following June”.99 Only three Horus members were not present but both Bogdan (“Dr. B. E. J. Edwards”) and Stanley (“L. S. Jastrzebski”) arrived and their names were recorded in the minute book.100 The latter did not come to meetings regularly and remained a member for a year only, which is understandable, because he then moved from 94 Fry and Munford, Louis Stanley Jast; he is listed on p. 114 in the same volume of “Theosophical Society Membership Register”: Sally Davies, “Lewis or Louis Stanley Jastrzebski,” 8 October 2013; LIFE.htm. 95

“Halifax,” The Vahan 1 (December 1, 1890) (1890): 78.

Jastrzebski, “A dream & its interpretation: A dialogue,” Lucifer 7 (15 December 1890) (1890): 309–315. 96

Personal communication from Cynthia Trasi, President of Bradford Theosophical Society (February 2011). 97

98 99 100

Robert Clayton, History of the Theosophical movement in Bradford (London1941). Gilbert, The Golden Dawn and the Esoteric Section, 11.

Clayton, History of the Theosophical movement in Bradford.


Rafał T. Prinke

Halifax to Peterborough. His brother Bogdan stopped attending the Lodge meetings after the first few ones and it was probably him, who was interviewed after a year of absence. His explanations must have been accepted because at the Annual General Meeting on 1 February 1893 he was elected a Vice-President but then disappeared from the minutes again and eventually resigned, together with six other members (Thomas Henry Pattinson and his wife among them). 101 On 30 August 1893 the new Athene Lodge was established in Bradford by those who resigned from the original lodge (plus five others) and Dr. Bogdan E. J. Edwards was elected its first president. Those seven ex-members (of whom six were founding members) of the original Bradford Lodge were active in the Horus Temple, while its president Oliver Firth, his wife and his close associates Francis Drake Harrison (whose later theosophical career made him Grand Secretary of Annie Besant’s Universal Co-Masonry), and John Midgley (who preserved the Lodge’s library after its dissolution in 1898), were the very Golden Dawn adepti, who were expelled by Mathers for misconduct and making fun of the rituals. Interestingly, the reason for the split of the Bradford Lodge remained unknown until R. A. Gilbert discovered it in the Golden Dawn documents, describing the nature of the clash as having been one “effectively between Eastern and Western paths”. 102 As Robert Clayton wrote: “It is difficult to understand why another lodge should have been considered necessary in Bradford seeing that the already existing lodge was having difficulty in keeping its doors open. One can only surmise that there was a lack of cohesion among the members”.103 Clayton’s main informant and the one who encouraged him to write a history of theosophy in Bradford was none other than Francis Drake Harrison, for many years the president of the “new” Bradford Lodge, which was revived in 1902 and amalgamated with the remnants of the Athene Lodge. Thus even though he was only briefly a member of the Golden Dawn and did not have a high opinion of it, he never divulged the secrets of the Hermetic Order. As the new president, Dr. Edwards became active again and gave public lectures on theosophical themes. On 1 November 1893 he “delivered a paper on ‘Egyptian Religious Symbolism’ from which students could trace the close correspondence between the Egyptian and Hindoo systems of belief as to the mysteries of Creation. The speaker showed some beautifully painted copies of hieroglyphs in illustration of his remarks.” Then on 13 February 1894 “Dr Edwards lectured on ‘Ancient Egypt’

Information from the original minutes of the Bradford Lodge kindly provided by Cynthia Trasi (January 2011); the election of Dr. Edwards was also reported in Lucifer 12 (March–August 1893): 78–79. 101

102 103

Gilbert, The Golden Dawn and the Esoteric Section, 14.

Clayton, History of the Theosophical movement in Bradford.

Bogdan Edward Jastrzębski-Edwards and his brother Louis Stanley Jast


to 29 people in the Bradford Mechanics’ Institute”.104 Bogdan Jastrzębski’s wife Henrietta (“Mrs. Edwards”) joined the Athene Lodge in November 1893 but at the Annual General Meeting in August 1894 a new president was elected (Edith Ward) and Dr. and Mrs. Edwards resigned from their membership, together with five other members (presumably the Pattinsons and other Horus Temple magicians).105 It is not clear if they remained members of the Theosophical Society or not, but certainly — as will be seen — their interest in Eastern forms of occultism did not wane. In the meantime, Stanley Jastrzębski (from 1895 known as Jast), spent the years 1892–1898 as the Chief Librarian at Peterborough and then in July 1898 was appointed Chief Librarian of the Croydon Public Libraries. In October of the same year he joined the Croydon Lodge of the Theosophical Society and in February 1900 was elected its Vice-President. He gave lectures on various theosophical topics and became so popular in the area that also other lodges invited him.106 When he took over his most prestigious post in Manchester in 1915, he immediately also became a member of the Manchester City Lodge and continued lecturing in the district, especially during 1919 and 1920.107 After he retired in 1932 and went to live near Bath, Stanley Jast prepared some of those talks for publication and they appeared in a volume entitled What it all means in 1941.108 The book was quite successful, as three years later it was also published in the USA under a different title and then reprinted at least twice. 109 The influence of theosophy can also be seen in Stanley Jast’s professional work. In the first volume of The Library World a section “Select lists of books on special subjects” was started in 1899 and the second such list published (after one on photography) was that on “Occultism and Theosophy”, compiled by Jast and containing a wide and representative selection of works grouped under the subject headings From announcements in the Bradford Observer, (Bradford) Daily Telegraph and (Bradford) Daily Argus, kindly provided by Cynthia Trasi (January 2011); Athene Lodge rented a room for meetings at the Mechanics’ Institute and Dr Edwards’ lecture inaugurated it; see: Lucifer, 14 (March–August 1894): 82. 104

105 106 107

Information from Cynthia Trasi (January 2011). Fry and Munford, Louis Stanley Jast, 23.

Ibid., 44.

L. Stanley Jast, What it all means: A brief and non-technical exposition of reincarnation and magic as applied to the world to-day (London: T. Werner Laurie Ltd., 1941).; a brief 108

account of the views expressed there is provided by: Sally Davies, “Stanley Jast: Ritual, Magic, Drama and Love,” 17 October 2013a; STANLEYBLFLOVE.htm.

109 L. Stanley Jast, Reincarnation and karma: A spiritual philosophy applied to the world today (New York: Bernard Ackerman Inc., 1944); reprinted by Castle Books 1956 and

Kessinger Publishing 2004.


Rafał T. Prinke

of Theosophy, Esoteric Christianity, Gnostics, Magic, Egyptian Magic, Kaballah, Rosicrucians, Alchemy, Astrology, Tarot Cards, and Palmisty.110 Of much greater interest and importance is, however, theosophical inspiration of many of Jast’s ideas and innovations introduced by him into public libraries, which made him famous. Much ahead of his time, he viewed the library as a “networking machine” and already in Croydon, in the early 1900’s, organised exchange between branch libraries and mobile service, using telephone links, so that “books could be requisitioned by any library from any other and delivered within thirty minutes of the phone call, something unheard of at the time”.111 Visitors were coming from Germany, Holland and even India to see how the provincial Croydon became the leader in practical librarianship solutions but few of them were aware that “Jast’s view of the library machine owed much to his profound interest in oriental mysticism, specifically theosophy”.112 His metaphysical belief about shared consciousness of humanity and its link to the Absolute, as well as about knowledge transfer through reincarnation, were not just abstract ideas but found their reflection in actual designs for the Manchester Central Library, first presented as a lecture in the School of Librarianship at University College, London on 10 December 1926. It was afterwards published with many drawings of his own, illustrating the practical application of his ideas, eventually materialised in the magnificent library building raised in Manchester.113 His later designs also showed the ideal library as a grid and a pyramid, “symbolic of the existence, in his mind, of a network rather than a hierarchy — in a similar way to the functioning of today’s World Wide Web”.114 He even used the terms “web” and “nerve ganglion”, visualising the networking of knowledge through libraries. This strange mixture of theosophical mysticism and professional utilitarism in Jast’s thought was studied by Alistair Black in the only paper devoted to it (as opposed to brief observations in other articles on Jast), using archival material from Jast Papers in Manchester Central Library (Archives Collection, M514/1/1) with his


——, “Select lists of books on special subjects: Occultism and Theosophy,” The Library

World 1 (April 1899) (1899): 200–202.

Alistair Black, Simon Pepper, and Kaye Bagshaw, Books, buildings and social engineering: Early public libraries in Britain from Past to Present (Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2009), 111

296. 112


Jast, The planning of a great library.; some of the drawings are reproduced in: Black, Pepper, and Bagshaw, Books, buildings and social engineering. 113

Alistair Black, “Networking knowledge before the Information Society: The Manchester Central Library (1934) and the metaphysical–professional philosophy of L. S. Jast,” in 114

European modernism and the Information Society: Informing the present, understanding the past, ed. W. Boyd Rayward (Aldershot, Hampshire: Ashagte, 2008): 172.

Bogdan Edward Jastrzębski-Edwards and his brother Louis Stanley Jast


unpublished drawings and notes.115 This fascinating aspect of Stanley Jastrzębski’s contribution to the world of librarianship certainly calls for more attention and additional research from the perspective of esoteric studies. When Jast died in 1944, many obituaries were printed in library journals, but also in theosophical periodicals, commemorating him in both communities.116 Returning to Jast’s brother Bogdan Jastrzębski or Dr. Edwards, when he and his Bradford fratres withdrew from theosophical activity in Athene Lodge in 1894 and effectively closed the Golden Dawn Horus Temple No. 5 in 1902, they started — as already mentioned above — a new esoteric venture called the August Order of Light, opening its Garuda Temple No. 1 in Bradford on 9 January 1902. It was (and still is) a freemasonic system of higher degrees, however Edwards, unlike his lifelong friend Pattinson, had not been a mason. He was thus quickly initiated in his local Brighouse Lodge No. 1301 in 1902, as the second person that year. 117 The Order of Light was originally created by Maurice Vidal Portman (1860– 1935), a minor aristocrat who served in the Royal Indian Marine from the age of sixteen and was made the officer in charge of the Adaman Islands in 1879. He is remembered as an early ethnographer who used photography to document the isolated paleolithic tribes discovered there.118 While on health leave in England between December 1880 and December 1883, he started spreading information that he had been initiated in India in a bath of mercury and hired a house in Kilburn for ritual workings.119 The surviving rules, regulations and rituals are dated 11 November 1881 and signed: “Portman M. V., Grand Hierophant Presiding in the West of the August Order of Light and Prince of Kether”.120 The degree names, symbolism and teachings used Hinduist imagery, just like the Order of Sat B’hai, invented in AngloIndian army and brought to England by Captain James Henry Lawrence Archer about 115 116

Ibid.; some of the drawings are reproduced in that paper.

J. L Davidge, “Called home — Stanley Jast,” The Thosophist 66 (1945): 117

Information kindly supplied by John D. McRiner, Past Master and former Secretary of Brighouse Lodge No. 1301 (January 2011). 117


Satudru Sen, “Savage bodies, civilized pleasures: M. V. Portman and the Andamanese,”

American Ethnologist 36 (2009): 364–379; when he died, his obituary appeared in various learned journals including Nature 135 (1935): 573.

119 Arthur Edward Waite, A new encyclopedia of Freemasonry (London: Rider, 1921), 2:214.

120 Yasha Beresiner, “August Order and a Cabalistic Jew,” in Masonic curiosities and more... ed. Tony Pope (Melbourne: Australian and New Zealand Masonic Research Council, 2000), 189–195.; the author, a former Master of Quatuor Coronati Lodge and member of the August Order of Light, kindly provided additional information and sent me his original typescript of that chapter of his hard to find book, so I do not refer to page numbers in the citations below.


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1872, and some other similar creations, the relationships between which are difficult to untangle with any certainty.121 Ellic Howe described it as having “the same echoes of Hinduism as the Sat B’hai, but with a Cabbalistic top-dressing”, while Yasha Beresiner tried to trace the supposed Jewish author of the rituals, hinted at in the correspondence of John Yarker. In 1882 Portman initiated William Alexander Ayton, in spite of the fact that the latter could not make himself believe the story Portman (then barely twenty one years old!) told him on how he had himself been initiated in India by Count St. Germain, who was about 180 years old, yet looking forty. But he also remarked: “However, I learned a good deal of Oriental Occultism from him [...] He gave Initiations in regular form according to what he had seen in India. I was initiated”.122 Another initiated was Robert Palmer-Thomas, a member of the Societas Rosicruciana and a prominent (though late) adept of the Golden Dawn (initiated 7 November 1896). At its inception, the Order of Light seems to have accepted women, one of them being the actress and poet Lilith Ellis.123 A very intriguing fragment from the original Portman’s regulations of 1881 is quoted by Beresiner: “Female members of the side degree of ‘Parvati’ [...] meet by themselves under the Presidency of the Abbess of Patti and can be inspected by the Members of the ‘Order of Light’ in their offices [...] Also the President of any Hall has the power to send for them to assist in the magical experiments”.124 It seems that at some point Portman intended to give his rite over to John Yarker and merge it with the Order of Sat B’hai on purely masonic basis. But apparently Yarker was not interested and Portman, disappointed with freemasonry, returned to the Andaman Islands in 1882 and stayed there until 1901. As Ayton recollected in an address to the Horus Temple in early 1890, “he [Portman] left it in my hands to reform the Lodge”, so looking for “real occultists” he first met Pattinson and some others, which was “really the commencement, in an indirect way, of this Horus Temple”.125 Ayton himself “set no great value on it [Portman’s Order]”126 but made the rituals of the August Order of Light available to Pattinson and Dr. EdwardsJastrzębski, who reworked them thoroughly before they inaugurated the Garuda Temple No. 1 in Bradford in 1902. The publication of the Order of Light printed upon Bogdan Jastrzębski’s death states that “the rituals now in use, are revisions by Arch121 The most authoritative account of them is included in: Howe, “Fringe masonry in England.”, but some of Howe’s information is corrected by later researchers. 122 123 124 125 126

Gilbert, Revelations of the Golden Dawn, 152–153.

Waite, A new encyclopedia of Freemasonry, 2:214. Beresiner, “August Order and a Cabalistic Jew.”

Gilbert, The Golden Dawn and the Esoteric Section, 11.


Bogdan Edward Jastrzębski-Edwards and his brother Louis Stanley Jast


Presidents T. H. Pattinson and Dr. B. E. Edwards, of the original Ritual supplied by Dr. Maurice Vidal Portman, a learned student of Eastern lore, an Occultist and Politician, who went to India in the train of the late Lord [Edward Robert, later 1st Earl] Lytton, when Viceroy of India, in 1876. During his residence there, Brother Portman made himself familiar with the literature and ritual observances of the Eastern Indian Races, whether Brahmans, Buddhist, Jains or Mohammedans, and gained much curious lore from the Fakirs and religious devotees of all creeds; for some years he was Governor of the Andaman Islands, where he collected many quaint traditions and magical arts from the natives, and from strangers of many Asiatic lands”.127 The two ArchPresidents obtained a warrant from the founder, which has been preserved in the Order’s archives in Halifax, and which states: “I, Maurice Vidal Portman, Founder of the Order of Light, Authorise T. H. Pattinson and J. B. Edwards to admit members to the Order and to hold meetings thereof and I confirm their past actions in so doing”.128 It is undated but was certainly issued upon Portman’s return from India in 1901, when they informed him about their plans and changes already done to the rituals. The author of the commemorative publication of 1923 (probably antedated, as the list of the Guardians of Light or heads of the Order appended at the end includes one for 1924–1925) was Dr. Vaughan Bateson (1873–1938), the third ArchPresident (an honorary title granted to those of greatest merit to the Order), known for his idea of identifying people by their fingerprints which — interestingly — he conceived from his observations of some Indian customs and Rudyard Kipling’s (who was his friend and one of the subscribers to the memorial book) writings.129 Bateson presented Jastrzębski’s role in the preparation of the new rituals, praising his language abilities and knowledge: “A great philologist and an extraordinary linguist, he was specially well acquainted with Hebrew and Kabalistic learning, and his knowledge of the ancient Egyptian, Aztec and Hindoo records made him an authority on antiquarian subjects. He was [also] and enthusiast in Esperanto. Grasping, in a manner few occidental students are able, the problems of Eastern Philosophy, he could expound subjects rarely attempted in a wonderfully lucid and interesting manner. His lectures at the Equinoctial Ceremonies of the Order of Light were always looked forward to as intellectual treat which cannot be surpassed. The beautiful and learned rituals of the Order owe much to his erudition and fortunate phrasing”.130 127 128 129

Bateson, Masonic secrets and the ancient mysteries, 81–82. Beresiner, “August Order and a Cabalistic Jew.”

Vaughan Bateson, “Personal identification by means of finger-print impressions,” The

British Medical Journal 1 (1906): 1029–1032.

130 ——, Masonic secrets and the ancient mysteries, 9–10; the rituals of the 1970’s (which may or may not be the same as designed by Pattinson and Edwards) are available online:, aol_r2.html, and aol_r3.html.


Rafał T. Prinke

The Garuda Temple No. 1 of the Order of Light continued to meet at 81 King’s Arcade, in the Market Street area in Bradford, until it was demolished in 1939 or 1940 and they moved to Godwin Street, where the above mentioned murals discovered in 1983 were executed in the early 1950’s. In 1971 the Temple was moved to York and then to Halifax, and a new one (Garuda Temple No. 2) was established in Bleackheath, London, in the house of Andrew Stephenson, later the Supreme Magus of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, who also revised the rituals. When he moved to New Zealand in 2006, the Temple found a new home in the Radlett Masonic Hall. In recent years the Order of Light has spread to Australia, the USA and India.131 Bogdan Jastrzębski pursued his regular masonic career rather slowly and only on 18 December 1907 was installed Master of his Brighouse Lodge for the following year.132 After that date he also served as Provincial Senior Grand Deacon of West Yorkshire and became a member of the Halifax Past Masters’ Association.133 Bogdan’s main motivation for advancing to the Master’s degree was quite obviously the foundation of the Bradford college of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, the membership of which was restricted to Masters of freemasonry. The first meeting of Woodman College took place on 23 March 1908 at the Masonic Hall (Rawson Street, Bradford), it was consecrated by Westcott,134 and twelve new aspirants were admitted, with Dr. Edwards among them. In the same year he was made an Honorary Magister of the 8th degree, presumably granted to him on account of his close association with William Wynn Westcott and Thomas Henry Pattinson. Establishing the college in Bradford was probably the latter’s idea, as he had been removed from the roll of members of the York College in 1896 (as suspected by R. A. Gilbert, he probably simply did not pay his dues) and did not join any other College, but he remained an Honorary Magister of the Society.135 The Bradford occultists thus continued their “Rosicrucian adventure” along strictly masonic lines and in close cooperation with the former Chief Adept of the Golden Dawn and now (from 1892) the Supreme Magus of the Societas Rosicruciana. In his well-known pamphlet 131 Personal recollection of the later history of the Order was available online in January 2011 but now disappeared: Andrew B. Stephenson, “The History and Work of the Order and the founding of Temple No. 2: Some personal recollections,” 1992 (revised 2001);; a popular article on the August Order of Light, including some pictures of the Garuda Temple No. 2 and its members, was published by: Leo Zanelli, “The light moves on,” The Square 32 (June) (2006): 12–17. 132 133 134 135

Information received from John D. McRiner (January 2011). Bateson, Masonic secrets and the ancient mysteries, 7.

Westcott, “Data of the history of the Rosicrucians (2 nd ed., 1916),” 37.

Information kindly provided by R. A. Gilbert from the Transactions of the Metropolitan

College of the SRIA for 1908 (January 2011).

Bogdan Edward Jastrzębski-Edwards and his brother Louis Stanley Jast


of 1913, Westcott listed among “the learned juniors of our Society” the names of “Dr Vaughan Bateson, Thomas Henry Pattinson, [...] Dr B. J. Edwards”. 136 While he often gave lectures to the local August Order of Light and presumably to Woodman College (which consisted of more or less the same people), the involvement of Bogdan Jastrzębski in the work of Societas Rosicruciana at the central level of the Metropolitan College seems to have been limited. Just like he did not go to London to be initiated into the Golden Dawn in 1888, he also remained home when twenty three years later he submitted a paper to the London college, so it was read by T. W. Lemon on 13 July 1911 and reprinted in the Transactions for that year under the title “The Vision of Mer-Amen Ramzes, 12th king of the 19th dynasty”.137 Sally Davis discovered, following a clue in the text, that it was not an original piece written by Dr. Edwards. As she wrote: “you would only have been able to guess what was up if you had known him well. Westcott knew him well, but was ill and couldn’t attend the meeting. The Vision of Ramzes XII had been translated by Bogdan from ‘Faraone’ by ‘B. Prus’”.138 This shows not only the kind of humour with which Jastrzębski approached the serious matters of Rosicrucian freemasonry, but also that besides all other languages he was still fluent in Polish, which he had learned at home from his father Stefan Ludwik Jastrzębski, and could read and translate a key fragment from one of the greatest Polish novels of the 19th century, Pharaoh by Bolesław Prus (real name Aleksander Głowacki, 1847–1912), described by Joseph Conrad in 1914 as “better than Dickens” (otherwise Conrad’s favourite novelist). The already mentioned “In Memoriam” book, published after Dr. Edwards’ death, was written by the third Arch-President (and fellow “junior Rosicrucian”) Vaughan Bateson, who had “intimate relationships with him beyond the ordinary” but, as he states, it was really compiled “from scanty notes taken at his lectures and what memory recalls” and only contains “in a more stable form some of his teachings by which we have all benefited in the past”.139 In the closing section Bateson addressed the gathered members of the Garuda Temple No. 1 (the text was originally read as a lecture on 23 September 1923, the Autumnal Equinox) with the words: “and each of you can be builders of this Temple of Light for the good of the race as was our

William Wynn Westcott, “The Rosicrucians, past and present, at home and abroad (1913),” in The magical mason: Forgotten Hermetic writings of William Wynn Westcott, physician and magus, ed. R. A. Gilbert, Roots of the Golden Dawn Series (Wellingsborough, Northamptonshire: The Aquarian Press, 1983a), 40–47. 136


B. E. J. Edwards, “The Vision of Mer-Amen Ramzes,” Transactions of the Metropolitan


Davies, “Bogdan Edward Jastrzebski Edwards”.

College (1911): 29–36. 139

Bateson, Masonic secrets and the ancient mysteries, 11.


Rafał T. Prinke

beloved brother, Dr. Edwards, whose influence still lives in our lives and in this Order of Light he loved so well”.140 The brief biography at the beginning of Dr. Edwards Memorial (as the alternative title reads) lists his various achievements and honorary titles — professional, state and freemasonic — but there is no mention of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in the whole text of the book. Because Bateson had not been a member, he may have not known about it. However, Bogdan Jastrzębski’s lifelong occult friend Thomas Henry Pattinson was still alive (his name appears among the subscribers), as was their patron friend William Wynn Westcott (also a subscriber), and it may have been at their suggestion that on the frontispiece, under the only known photograph of Dr. Edwards, his Golden Dawn motto “DEUS LUX SOLIS” was boldly displayed without further explanation. The magical order these words belonged to had disintegrated two decades earlier, but its last Praemonstrator, Dr. Bogdan Edward Jastrzębski, the eldest son of a Polish exile, was still known by that motto to his old friends.

Fig. 8. The grave of Bogdan Jastrzębski, his wife Henrietta, son Harold, as well as Adela and Herbert, who died in infancy (Brighouse Cemetery) (Photograph by Kai Roberts)


Ibid., 80.

Bogdan Edward Jastrzębski-Edwards and his brother Louis Stanley Jast



Rafał T. Prinke

Bogdan Edward Jastrzębski-Edwards and his brother Louis Stanley Jast


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From Russia with Love, a case of Russian culture and

immigration in Western Esotericism: Maria de Naglowska (1883–1936)

“What is prayer for a soul accustomed to the rite of the Eastern Church? It is necessary that I spell it out, for those who shall read me will undoubtedly be Catholics or, at the least, people who have been taught according to the Catholic mentality. For them, for these presumed readers, prayer means obeying a law of the Church, of which only the leaders know what purpose it serves. Prayer, for the average Catholic, is the fulfilling of a duty in order to receive in exchange, protection or grace from Heaven. It isn't, as for the Orthodox an entry into direct communication with Divinity, of which we really drink the essence. It isn't this act of supplication without it even being necessary to say or think the words. Our prayer is not even called prayer. The word that we use, molitva, means “influence”, and we experience it as designating a state of holiness where, worldly preoccupation being absent, we attract toward ourselves the power of Heaven. Among us one prays as one sings, when one feels carried beyond the world and that was definitely my case at the time of which I am speaking. The icon that I focused on while praying was one of those Byzantine images covered in old, darkened silver with which we are all familiar. It represented St. Serge-of- the- Many Miracles who, they say, was the first founder of monastic life in Russia. His face was barely visible, but the metal that made up his vestments shone mysteriously in the yellow glow of the votive lamp burned night and day on the icon stand. It is not very surprising, given the state in which I then found myself that in my eyes, the lightly marked face of Saint Serge took on unusual proportions. His eyes became animated, and I felt a real look there. Certainly not that of the great Saint, but rather that of the Unknown to whom I Had bound myself.” 1

This passage is taken from Le Rite Sacré de l'Amour Magique [The Sacred Rite of Magical Love], published in Paris, 1932. It was the third work (in order of appearance) of the Russian writer Maria de Naglowska, renowned (by newspapers and local news) as the “Luciferian Priestess”, the “Third Term of the Trinity (the Woman in this case, not the Holy Ghost!) religion Prophetess”, troublemaker, and fierce anti1 Maria de Naglowska, Le Rite Sacré de l'Amour Magique – Aveu 26.1 (Paris: Éditions de la Flèche, 1932), 40–41.



Michele Olzi

bourgeois polemicist. Marija Dmitrevna Naglovskaja2 is not, or should not be known only for her heterodox and/or scandalous conduct. Maria “de Naglowska”3 is one of the best (female) examples of promulgation of Russian/Slavic culture in Europe, and in Western Esotericism. It is testified not only by her works, which I had a glimpse of, but her own actions. Naglowska's activities, as teacher, journalist, and a beloved mother, which unfortunately we will only briefly mention about, are the first step to understand her doctrine. The education and human formation of our protagonist flow directly into her future “religion”.4 This character influenced deeply and in a peculiar way eminent exponents belonging to esoteric, artistic, and cultural European milieus in the first half of twentieth century. Amongst the reasons of this “influence” there is Naglowska's intellectual maturity, result of a series of multicultural and complex experiences. I find the result of this maturity process to be present in all of Naglowska's works, actions – even in her new religion's doctrine. The literary production and the biographical data of the Russian poetess resound with Eastern, Russian, Slavic notes that Madame de Naglowska brought with her during the spiritual pilgrimage that lasted an entire life. From Kazan to Paris, Marija brought her culture and her vicissitudes to Western Esotericism and Spirituality. Before starting this dissertation, we need to focus on the state of the research and literature on Maria de Naglowska's life. The first biographical attempt concerning the Russian poetess was made by Sarane Alexandrian.5 In his Les libérateurs de l'amour [Liberators of Love] (1977) Alexandrian dedicates the essay “Maria de Naglowska et le satanisme féminin” to the Russian author. In this essay Alexandrian proceeded to select some of Maria de Naglowska's writings, in attempt to write a chronicle of her life. Delighted by Alexandrian's work, Naglowska's devoted disciple Marc Pluquet6 got in touch with the French writer, and soon Pluquet drafted the one and only (till this day), official biography of Madame de Naglowska, La Sophiale – Maria de Naglowska sa vie – son Oeuvre [La Sophiale – Maria de Naglowska's life

2 3 4

According to Elena Megeninoff's dossier, located at Central State Archive in Rome. Probably the French version of family name “Naglovskaja”.

Sarane Alexandrian, “Maria de Naglowska et le Satanisme feminin”, in idem. Les libé-

rateurs de l'amour, (Paris: Seuil, 1977), 187.

5 Sarane Alexandrian (1927–2009), journalist, writer and André Breton's secretary. For Alexandrian's biographical profile see his autobiographical work Sarane Alexandrian, L'Aventure en soi (Paris: Mercure de France, 1990) and Christophe Dauphin, Sarane Alexandrian – ou Le grand défi de l'imaginaire (Lausanne: Age d'Homme, 2006).

Marc Pluquet (n.d.–1987) carpenter, “entrepreuner physique et intellectuel” in the surrealist milieux, and devoted follower of Naglowska's doctrine and circle. 6

From Russia with Love, ... Maria de Naglowska


and work].7 In 1994 Massimo Introvigne dedicated a chapter of his survey on Satanism and Satanic groups Indagine sul Satanismo [Investigation into Satanism] to her connections with the French Neognostic/Occultist/Esoteric environment. In 1996 Vittorio Fincati translated for the first time in Italian the work where it is possible to find the passage quoted at the beginning, Il Rito Sacro dell'Amore Magico [The Sacred Rite of Magical Love].8 In the preface of the Italian version, Fincati added details on Naglowska's life and works, comparing the historical French sources.9 In 2008 Hans Thomas Hakl in the BRILL's publication, Hidden Intercourse – Eros and Sexuality in the History of Western Esotericism, presented an essay on “The Theory and Practice of Sexual Magic exemplified by Four Magical Groups in the Early Twentieth Century”. Of four groups I found La Confrérie de La Flèche d'Or, that is Maria de Naglowska's mystical-cultural circle. In very recent times (in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013) Donald Traxler translated for the publishing house Inner Tradition the main works of the “Priestess of Magical love”. Between the published titles I found: The Light of Sex – Initiation, Magic, and Sacrament; Advanced Sex Magic – The Hanging Mystery Initiation; The Sacred Rite of Magical Love; and the most quoted and popular work of Madame de Naglowska, Magia Sexualis. Despite the titles, the content of the books reveals two different impressions of Madame de Naglowska: the first image would be that one of an oriental idol of perversion; the other image that one of an Orthodox saint. This duplicity is due to the fact that elements of religiousness and popular lore are blended (in this personage) with a unique style of Russian aristocracy. At the beginning of the twentieth century in Western Europe this attitude allowed her to gain notoriety. In connection to this issue, one may notice how Alexandrian relates Naglowska's affiliation with Khlysty's sect and her initiation by Rasputin,10 and at the same time Donald Traxler compares, in a note at the beginning of the one of his translations, the life of the Russian writer with that one of Saint Blessed Xenia of Saint Petersburg (better known as Xenia Grigoryevna Petrova).11 The impossibility to distinguish between Holy and Profane in Maria de Naglowska was due to the lack of information and the obscurity surrounding her life. An undeniable fact is the nature of Naglowska's thought and 7 Reprinted in La Sophiale (see Marc Pluquet, La Sophiale – Maria de Naglowska, Sa vie, Sa oeuvre [Paris: Ordo Templi Orientis, 1993]), it was originally circulating (before the Nine-

ties) as a typescript with the address of the typographer: Éditions Gouttelettes de Rosée, 44 rue de la Dysse 34150 Montpeyroux. 8 9 10

See Vittorio Fincati, trans., Il rito sacro dell'amore magico (Milan: Primordia, 1996). See Vittorio Fincati, Satanismo Femminista (Milan: Primordia, 1999), 1–14. Alexandrian, “Maria de Naglowska et le Satanisme feminin”, 187–189.

Donald Traxler, introduction to The Sacred Rite of Magical Love – A Ceremony of Word and Flesh (Rochester: Inner Traditions, 2012), IX-XVII. 11


Michele Olzi

new religious doctrine, which had their roots in a specific field. One will gain an understanding of Naglowska thanks to the Russian/Slavic sources that valorised her works and lectures. To launch our analysis, I must begin from a certain point in time, in other words, from the origins. Marija Dmitrevna Naglovskaja was born on the 15th of August, 1883 in Saint Petersburg; her father was Chief of the Army and governor of Kazan province: Dmitry Stanislovovič Naglovskij (1838–1890)12 and her mother was Katherine Kamaroff (N.D.–1895), of whom we know almost nothing. Between the 1890 and the 1895 the young Marija lost both her parents and only twelve was given in custody to the aunt Elena Meženinova.13 The aunt committed Marija's education to “Smolna” Institute in Saint Petersburg, an institution reserved to Russian aristocracy's descendant.14 Between 1905 and 1910 a number of significant events took place in her life: she fell in love with the Jewish musician and instrumentalist Moshe Hopenko (1880–1949) after meeting him at a concert. Marija was a noble and the love story between her and the musician would have been unable to survive scrutiny in Russia. So they fled for the first period to Berlin,15 then to Switzerland. Their first stop of the “Swiss period” was Geneva. The couple got married, Marija gave birth to two children: first was a boy, Alexandre and he was circumcised, the second a girl and she was named as Esther at Geneva's town hall.16 The year was 1912, we know for sure thanks to the literary production of our heroine.17 In this period Marija worked as poetess,18 translator, and teacher. Linked to her last two jobs was another factor particular to their stay in Geneva: the connection she held with the Russian and Jewish community. 19 As I have noted before, Marija worked, in the first two decades of century, in the translation and pedagogical field. She 12 13

Pluquet, La Sophiale, 3. See note 2.

The reference is to Smolny Insitute, or the Society for the Education of Noble Maidens (i.e. Смольный институт благородных девиц), whose building was commissioned by the Society to the Italian architect Giacomo Quarenghi. 14

15 16

My supposition is that they fled in Berlin in 1908. Pluquet, La Sophiale, 3.

See Maria de Naglowska, Nouvelle Grammaire de la langue française (Genève: Eggimann, 1912) and Maria de Naglowska, La Paix et son principal obstacle (Genève: s.n., 1918) the text on the dust jacket. 17

The first collection of poem by Madame de Naglowska was published in 1914, with the title of Les Chants du Harem – ou Ali-Merkha. 18

19 Our hypothesis is that a high number of members of Jewish community in Geneva were of Polish origin, but we have to research further, before expressing my opinion on this topic.

From Russia with Love, ... Maria de Naglowska


collaborated with the University of Geneva, and with many private scholarly institutions. In 1912 Maria de Naglowska published her first pedagogical work, the Nouvelle Grammaire de la langue française [New grammar of French language], published at the Eggimann Library in Geneva. The book was intended as a grammar manual for Russian refugees in Switzerland who needed help learning the French language. The second work linking Marija to the University of Geneva was the translation in Russian, in 1916, of Une révolution dans la philosophie [A revolution in philosophy] by Frank Grandjean.20 This text is a summary of the philosophical theories of the French philosopher Henri Bergson (specifically focused on Bergson's “elan vital”). Naglowska's work as a translator leads us to reflect on two topics. The first one concerns Marija's benevolence towards the Russian community, while the second topic concerns the circulation and influence of the philosophical currents in the first half of twentieth century in Eastern Europe and its communities abroad. The spread of Bergsonism (in this case transmitted via the Russian language) suggests that in this period, in different Russian communities of Switzerland, there was an interest for the philosophical themes appearing throughout the Europe. I wish to make a slight digression: the great influence of thinkers like Nietzsche, and Bergson in Russia and Eastern Europe is widely documented.21 What I would like to research further (also in Naglowska's case) is how the Russian, and Slavic communities reacted at that time to this cultural and philosophical evolution. It is my opinion that the publications in Russian by Eggimann, Atar, and the Félix Alcan Library belong to this field of studies. Going back to Naglowska's life: while Moshe Hopenko was specialising in musical composition under Henri Marceau, Marija Naglovskaya supported the family financially even with money she received from her home. At the same time her reputation was under attack from the Russian and Jewish community. Things got worse when her husband (it is alleged that he was a close friend and supporter of Theodor Herzl)22 took the decision to leave Geneva for Palestine. The financial aid from her motherland ceased and Marija gave birth to a third baby, André. André Hopenko (Naglowska's third born) describes how the situation was, at the moment of his birth: Frank Grandjean (1879–1934) was professor of Philosophy at the University of Geneva in the same years Madame de Naglowska emigrated in Switzerland. He helped Maria a lot during the “Swiss period”. 20

For a in-depth analysis of the phenomenon see the work of research edited by Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal, here specifically see Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal, Nietzsche in Russia (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1986) and Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal, ed., New Myth, New World: From Nietzsche to Stalinism (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002). 21

See Pluquet, La Sophiale, 3; Theodor Herzl (1860–1904) was a Hungarian writer and lawyer, founder of the Zionist movement together with Max Nordau. 22


Michele Olzi “After my father had gone away, the hostilities of the Russians (i.e. the Russian community in Geneva) were, this time, more aimed at bringing my mother to the cradle of the Russian Orthodox Church, and that is how all three we were baptised in the Russian Orthodox Church of Geneva when I was eight days, since for them she was, by all means and purposes, an unmarried mother. My brother kept the name of Alexandre, my sister became Marie, and I got the name of André. It was evidently a Russian victory, and this created a strong opposition on the other side (i.e. the Jewish community). To them we were now goïs. Goï for them, unmarried mother for the others, my mother could not rely on anyone and began to work very bravely, in the interest of us four.”23

Despite the obvious challenges, marija kept working and supporting her family in geneva. He began working as a journalist for several newspapers, and it was through the practice of this profession that she reached a new breaking point in her life: at a conference in 1918, whose title was la paix et son principal obstacle [the peace and its main obstacles].24 the conference was held at the hall of the university, and maria de naglowska was the keynote speaker. She exposed in this speech her libertarian position, and exhibited her opposition against the powers that ruled the roost in europe at the times, russia included. This act cost her prison, and later an expulsion from geneva, for both her and her family. So it began an exodus, at the end of the twenties, that led naglowska and her two sons (alexandre reached his father in palestine) to stay for a very short period in bern, then in basel, to finally obtain a polish passport in this city25 in order to leave for rome, italy in 1920. I would like to expose the “italian period” of naglowska's life, illustrating her relationship with avant-garde art movements (dada) and one of the most prominent exponents of the philosophical and esoteric milieu, julius evola,26 as well as the other adventures that took place in the “mediterranean basin” nearby, but I have to postpone that to another time, when I have the opportunity to expose the subject exhaustively. 23

André de Montparnasse, L’Apatride (Lyon: s.n., 1956), 9.

A polemical pamphlet of the same title (La Paix et son principal obstacle) had been published in the “last month of 1918”, see De Naglowska, La Paix et son principal obstacle, 13. 24


De Montparnasse, L'Apatride, 14; Pluquet, La Sophiale, 4.

It is alleged that Maria was involved in a “love affair” with the the Italian philosopher Julius Evola (1898–1974). What is ascertained at the moment is: Maria wrote an article for the magazine (edited by Evola and Arturo Reghini) Ur, witch contained an anonymous article marked “Alexandrie d'Égypte, 1927” (see De Naglowska 1971, 360); Maria translated (from Italian to French) a dadaist poem by Evola, La parole obscure du paysage intérieur – Poème à 4 voix; Maria published two articles by Evola on the first and second number of her journal, La Flèche. For an in-depth analysis of Naglowska's relationship with Evola see Hans T. Hakl, “Alcune presenze femminili nella vita di Julius Evola”, La Cittadella 34 (2008). 26

From Russia with Love, ... Maria de Naglowska


Moving the time span forward of nine years, we find our russian poetess making her appearance on the 3rd of september, 1929 in paris, together with her son andré.27 Having had her work permit withdrawn because of her irregularities with the swiss government, marija had to rely on her own abilities to survive. So she began to try out her skills in the french town, initially as a translator. We find marjia as a co-translator in her first work (together with a mysterious s. de leo) of the biography of raspoutine,28 written by his personal secretary aron simanovitch. The publication's subject was not randomly chosen: who else could deal with the french translation of the one of the first biographies on the “holy devil”, if not his (alleged) disciple?29 This work as well as the main books of madame de naglowska, not only reveal her esoteric sources, but her interests at that time. From marija's literary production, to her actions during the parisian period, we sense how de naglowska's character had become a point of reference amongst those who followed this new kind of spirituality. One of the factors that helped marija achieve such popularity was the “russian/slavic influence” characterised her habits in public places, her writings, and her actions. Very quickly I formerly mentioned (out of the many topics concerning naglowska's life and doctrine, and I intend to present more in-depth analysis and research in the future) naglowska's esoteric circle in montparnasse, la confrérie de la flèche d'or [fraternity of golden arrow].30 this group was born in the early thirties, after the foundation of the newspaper, which became the official communication organ of the same circle, that is la flèche – organe d'action magique [the arrow – magical organ of action]. 31 if we read one of la flèche's releases, or one of André Hopenko, who wrote his autobiography under the pseudonym of “André de Montparnasse” 27

28 The publication of the agenda of Rasputin's secretary Aron Simanovič, Raspoutine (Paris: Gallimard, 1930) represents one of the few apologetic works on the character of the “Holy Devil”, and was published during the same years of the major biographical work on Rasputin, like that one of two members of Rasputin's death conspiracy like prince Feliks Jusupov, La fin de Raspoutine (Paris: Plon, 1927) or Wladimir Puriskevic, Comment j'ai tué Raspoutine, (Paris: J Povolozky et cie, 1924).

Between the first works linking Maria de Naglowska to Grigorij Efimovič Rasputin (1869 – 1916) there is that one of Pierre Geyraud, pseudonym of ex-trappist Raoul Guyader, and the writer René Thimmy. Both the authors report, in their works, an interview with Madame de Naglowska (in Thimmy's version de Naglowska's character is disguised under the name of “Vera de Petrouchka”). Both the interviews have similar elements, and in both the report Maria tells her interviewer about her initiation and contact with Rasputin see Pierre Geyraud, Les petites églises de Paris (Paris: Émile-Paul Frères 1937), 144–153; and René Thimmy, La Magie à Paris (Paris: Éditions de France 1934), 71–91. 29

30 For an in-depth analysis on the group se Hans T. Hakl, “The Theory and Practice of Sexual Magic”, in Hidden Intercourse – Eros and Sexuality in the History of Western Esotericism, ed. Jeffrey J. Kripal et al. (Leiden: BRILL, 2008), 445–478. 31

The first La Flèche's number was published on the 15 th of October 1930.


Michele Olzi

the (unfortunately few) testimonies of naglowska's disciples, we can guess how, through the popularity of the character of la sophiale's,32 the group was cultivating a cultural myth. The fact that maria de naglowska went to prey at notre-dame de paris before impersonating a luciferian priestess,33 and the fact that she pretended to be rasputin's disciple is not a contradiction. If we consider the passage quoted at the beginning of this paper, we can understand very well the connection between these two ways she employed to access the spiritual dimension. The “old traditional channels” are used, and adapted to the new needs of the sacred that take place (in this case) in western esotericism and french occultism. Here we have a completely unique situation: a cultural myth was made through the personality, gestures, and accomplishments of a rebellious woman, in the cradle of modern occultism. This myth that we mention is that “from the eastern europe”. Going back to the number of la flèche, or any number of the magazine, one can often find a page promoting the future publications, at the time. Amongst these books series that were promoted it is possible to find titles of great interest, such as asia mysteriosa by zam bhotiva34 and l'aurore naissante ou la racine de la philosophie, de l'astrologie et de la théologie [the rising dawn or the roots of philosophy, astrology and theology] by jacob boehme35 (both from the catalogue of dorbon-âiné publishing house), as well as “mandragora”, “le golem”, and “le juif errant” [the wandering jew]. these last three works belonged to a mysterious books collection known by the name of “dragon vert”[green dragon]. it has been possible for me to deduce (from other articles and the advertising on la flèche) that these three titles were to be documentary collections and folk tales on the mentioned issues. There is another title from this collection that I would like to quote, that is les rituels des sociétes de magie sexuelle [the rituals of sex magic societies], by p. kohout-lasenic. The title does not exist in any catalogue, but as pointed out in the article of hans thomas hakl, already mentioned above, there is a reprint from 1992 in prague, whose title is magie sexuelnie [sex magic] and by petr kohout. Kohout's pen name is pierre de lasenic. One of the most interesting thing is that kohut-lasenic was member of czech esoteric group universalia. What kind of connections there were between kohut and naglowska is no easy


This the surname she (i.e. Maria de Naglowska) was renowned with.

This De Naglowska's habit is reported for the very first time by Pluquet in his biographical account (see Pluquet, La Sophiale, 17). 33


La Flèche, 15th February 1931, 8. Zam Bhotiva, pseudonym of the Italian writer Cesare

Accomanni (1882-?). Accomanni founded together with a young man of French-Italian origin, Mario Fille, the La Fraternité des Polaires (Polar Fraternity) one of the most remarkable esoteric group in the French Occult milieu at the beginning of the Century. 35


From Russia with Love, ... Maria de Naglowska


guess,36 but we know for sure that madame de naglowska had been a peculiar influence in french and czech esoteric contexts. I would like to conclude with three examples that illustrate de naglowska's influence. The first example concerns the reprint and translation into different languages of her works from nineties till today.37 This move encouraged the popularisation of said woman's ideas, doctrine, and character. The second example concerns the phenomenon of collecting all kind of texts, testimonies, object (real or fake) linked to naglowska's person and/or life. One of the most curious facts concerns the “magical mirrors” that maria de naglowska supposedly gave to her disciples during the last séance of the group. It is possible to see one of these mirrors together with an orthodox icon (always gifted by naglowska to anonymous disciple), in the virtual museum gallery of “surnateum – the museum of supernatural history”.38 The third example concerns the presence of de naglowska's character in literature. According to pluquet's biography, between the members of la confrérie de la flèche d'or there were also representatives of the artistic movement of surrealism.39 So we can guess (as alexandrian had already suggested, and proved by his research) that la sophiale's character had a peculiar influence on the french surrealists. The best example comes to us with the french surrealist poet, writer, and occultist ernest 36 Pierre de Lasenic (1900–1944) pseudonym of Petr Kohut was a writer, and one of the most emblematic figures in Czech hermetism of the Twentieth century. Further researches are needed to establish Lasenic-Naglowska's connections, but a first general survey on Magie Sexuelnie's topics (Pierre de Lasenic (ps. Petr Kohut), Magie Sexuelnie [Praha: Trigon, 1992]), compared and confronted with Maria's work, La Lumière du Sexe (Paris: Éditions de la Flèche, 1932) reveals that the Kohut-Lasenic's conception of sex magic has a lot of elements in common with that one of Madame de Naglowska. Kohut founded in 1937 the Horev-Klub in Prague whose lessons were focused on astrology, magic and alchemy. The material of this order (today available to a wider audience, see Bibliotheca Horev, Přednášky pro Universalii a Horev-klub [Praha: Vodnář, 2014]) presents some interesting ideas on “Internal Alchemy”, and has some point in common with Madame de Naglowska's point of view.

Pluquet's work is an example (see Pluquet, La Sophiale) of how, in the late Nineties, the French OTO reprinted all the work by Maria de Naglowska. Another manifestation of OTO's interest in Naglowska's character is the article by Fr. Marcion dedicated to her doctrine/ religion (see Fr. Marcion, “Introduction à l'oeuvre de Maria de Naglowska”, Thelema 27 [1992]: 18–20). 37

It is possible to see the photo of “De Naglowska's Magic Mirror” in the virtual “Museum d'histoire surnaturelle” (founded by the French artist Fabrice Mignonneau in 1997), at the following web address collection/hauntics/Maria.htm. In the description of the content of “ de Naglowska's Lot” (acquired in 1999 from a French correspondent of the Museum), what must be brought to our attention is how “the Magic Mirror was manufactured in Prague around 1880”. 38

39 Amongst Maria de Naglowska's adepts it is possible to find the poet Jean Carteret (1906–1980), the painter Camille Bryen (1907–1977), and the sculptress Germaine Richier (1902–1959).


Michele Olzi

gengenbach,40 who under the pseudonym of jehan sylvius together with pierre de ruynes (pseudonym in turn of robert desnos) wrote the novel la papesse du diable [the devil popess] (1931).41 The novel is set at the beginning of the last century in france, from the privileged point of view of the events in paris. An army of the “satanic priestess of pleasure” invaded entire france. Their leader was a female archpriestess coming from caucasus, who organised satanic orgies in the sanctuary of the french nation. Where? In notre-dame de paris, where else! It is just another example of how the maria de naglowska's molitva operated in the esoteric scene.

Bibliography Alexandrian, Sarane. L'Aventure en soi. Paris: Mercure de France, 1990. ———. La Magie Sexuelle – bréviaire des Sortilèges amoureux. Paris: La Musardine, 2000. ———. Le Socialisme romantique. Paris: Le Seuil, 1979. ———. “Maria de Naglowska et le Satanisme feminin”. In idem. Les libérateurs de l'amour, Sarane Alexandrian, 185–206. Paris: Seuil, 1977. Anel-Kham, B. (ps. Henri Meslin). Théorie et pratique de la Magie Sexuelle – L'amour et l'occultisme. Paris: Librairie Astra, 1938. Bibliotheca Horev. Přednášky pro Universalii a Horev-klub. Praha: Vodnář, 2014. Bhotiva, Zam (ps. Cesare Accomani). Asia Mysteriosa – L'Oracle de Force Astrale comme moyen de communication avec “Les Petites Lumières d'Orient.”. Paris: Dorbon-Ainè, 1929. Dauphin, Christophe. Sarane Alexandrian – ou Le grand défi de l'imaginaire. Lausanne: Age d'Homme, 2006. De Lasenic, Pierre (ps. Petr Kohut). Magie Sexuelnie. Praha: Trigon, 1992. De Montparnasse, André. L'Apatride. Lyon: s.n., 1956. De Naglowska, Maria. La Lumière du sexe – rituel d'initiation satanique selon la doctrine du Troisième Terme de la Trinité. Paris: Éditions de la Flèche, 1932. ———. Le Mystère de la pendaison – initiation satanique selon la doctrine du Troisième Terme de la Trinité. Paris: Éditions de la Flèche, 1934. ———. La Paix et son principal obstacle. Genève: s.n., 1918. ———. Le Rite Sacré de l'Amour Magique – Aveu 26.1. Paris: Éditions de la Flèche, 1932. ———. Malgré les tempêtes – Chants d'amour. Rome: Loescher, 1921. ———. Nouvelle Grammaire de la langue française. Genève: Eggimann, 1912. Evola, Julius. Il Cammino del Cinabro. Milan: Vanni Scheiwiller, 1963. ———. La Metafisica del Sesso. Rome: Atanór, 1958. Ernest Gegenbach (1903–1979) better known under the pseudonym of Jean Genbach or Jehan Sylvius, was one of the most controversial French writers and surrealists of the beginning of the twentieth century. 40


See Jehan Sylvius (ps. Ernest Gengebach) and Pierre de Ruynes (ps. Robert Desnos),

La Papesse du Diable (Paris: Éditions de Lutèce, 1931).

From Russia with Love, ... Maria de Naglowska


———. La parole obscure du paysage intérieur – Poème à 4 voix. Translated by Maria de Naglowska. Zurich: Collection Dada, 1920. ———. Maschera e volto dello spiritualismo contemporaneo – Analisi critica delle principali correnti moderne verso il sovrannaturale. Milan: Bocca, 1932. Fincati, Vittorio, trans. Il rito sacro dell'amore magico. Milan: Primordia, 1996. ———. Satanismo Femminista. Milan: Primordia, 1999. Gengenbach, Ernest. L'Expérience démoniaque racontée par Frère Colomban de Jumièges. Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1949. ———. “Lettre de l'abbé Gengenbach à André Breton”. La Révolution surréaliste 8 (1926). Geyraud, Pierre (ps. Abbé Raoul Guyader). L'occultisme à Paris. Paris: Émile-Paul Frères, 1953. ———. Les petites églises de Paris. Paris: Émile-Paul Frères, 1937. Grandjean, Frank. Une révolution dans la philosophie. Geneva: Atar; Paris: Félix Alcan, 1916. Hakl, Hans Thomas. “Alcune presenze femminili nella vita di Julius Evola”. La Cittadella 34 (2008): 38–47. ———. “The Theory and Practice of Sexual Magic”. In Hidden Intercourse – Eros and Sexuality in the History of Western Esotericism, edited by Jeffrey J. kripal, Wouter hanegraaff, 445–478. Leiden: BRILL, 2008. ———. “Julius Evola and the UR Group”. Aries 12 (2012): 53–90. ———. “Maria de Naglowska and the Confrerie de la Fleche d'Or”. Politica Hermetica 20 (2006): 113–123. Introvigne, Massimo. Il Cappello del Mago – I nuovi movimenti magici dallo spiritismo al satanismo. Milan: SugarCo, 1990. ———. I Satanisti – Storia, miti e riti del satanismo. Milan: SugarCo, 2010. ———. Indagine sul Satanismo – Satanisti e Anti Satanisti dal Seicento ai giorni nostri. Milan: Mondadori, 1994. Jusupov, Feliks Feliksovič. La fin de Raspoutine. Paris: Plon, 1927. Marcion, Fr. “Introduction à l'oeuvre de Maria de Naglowska”. Thelema 27 (1992): 18–20. Nakonečný, Milan. Novodobý český hermetismus. Praha: Vodnář, 1995. Pluquet, Marc. La Sophiale – Maria de Naglowska, Sa vie, Sa oeuvre. Paris: Ordo Templi Orientis, 1993. Puriskevic, Wladimir Mitrafonic. Comment j'ai tué Raspoutine. Paris: J Povolozky et cie, 1924. Rosenthal, Bernice Glatzer ed. New Myth, New World: From Nietzsche to Stalinism. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002. ———. Nietzsche in Russia. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1986. ———. The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1997. Sylvius, Jehan (ps. Ernest Gengebach), and Pierre de Ruynes (ps. Robert Desnos). La Papesse du Diable. Paris: Éditions de Lutèce, 1931. Sylvius, Jehan (ps. Henri Meslin e Ernest Gengenbach). Les Messes Noires – Satanistes et Luciferiens. Paris, Éditions de Lutèce, 1929.


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Thimmy, René. La Magie aux Colonie. Paris: Éditions de France, 1935. ———. La Magie à Paris. Paris: Éditions de France, 1934. Traxler, Donald ed. The Sacred Rite of Magical Love – A Ceremony of Word and Flesh. Rochester: Inner Traditions, 2012. ———. Advanced Sex Magic – The Hanging Mistery Initiation. Rochester: Inner Traditions, 2011. ———. The Light of Sex – Initiation, Magic and Sacrament. Rochester: Inner Traditions, 2011. ———. Magia Sexualis – Sexual Practices for Magical Power. Rochester: Inner Traditions, 2012. ———. Initiatic Eroticism and other Occult Writings from La Flèche. Rochester: Inner Traditions, 2013. Tsakni, Nikolai. La Russie sectaire – Sectes religeuses en Russie. Paris: Plon et Nourrit, 1888.


The reception of Nikolaos Gyzis’s Behold the Bridegroom cometh by Rudolf Steiner in Munich in 1910: Its ideological premises and echo in the cross-fertilization of artistic and Theosophical Doctrines. ´ κα πØρ •τύπωτον, Óθεν φων¬ν προθέουσαν" ´ φäς πλούσιον •µφ γύην ÕοιζαÃον ©λιχθέν" Proclus1

Rudolf Steiner’s lecture on Gyzis In 1910, during his peregrination throughout Europe in the early twentieth century, Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925), at that time a member of the German Theosophical Society, visited Munich in order to present before the theosophical audience the mystery drama of Edouard Schuré (1841–1929), Les Enfants de Lucifer [The Children of Lucifer], as well as his own Rosicrucian play Die Pforte der Einweihung [The Portal of Initiation].2 During that time, from the 16th to the 26th of August, Steiner delivered a series of lectures on the Die Geheimnisse der biblischen Schöpfungsgeschichte [Secrets of the Bible Story of Creation], and on 25 August he added to his program a smaller speech on the painter Nikolaos Gyzis (1842– 1 “[or you will see] a formless fire, from which a voice is sent forth, or you will see a sumptuous light, rushing like a spiral around the field.” Proclus (In rem p., I, 111, 1–12), quoted in Ruth Majercik, The Chaldean Oracles: Text, Translation, and Commentary (Leiden and New York: Brill, 1989), 104–105.

The first performance of Schuré’s Les Enfants de Lucifer was given in Munich on the 19th of May in 1909. For Édouard Schuré’s notion of the Théâtre de l’âme and its intertwining with the visual arts and modernity see Helmut Zander, “Ästhetische Erfahrung: Mysterientheater von Edouard Schuré zu Wassily Kandinsky,” in Mystique, mysticisme et modernité en Allemagne autour de 1900, ed. Moritz Bassler and Hildegard Chatellier, conference proceedings, University of Strasbourg, 1996, (Strasbourg: Presses Universitaires de Strasbourg, 1998), 203–221. For an account and critical discussion of the history of the Theosophical and Anthroposophical movement in Germany see Helmut Zander, Anthroposophie 2

in Deutschland: theosophische Weltanschauung und gesellschaftliche Praxis, 1884–1945, two vols. (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2007).



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1901).3 Gyzis, a prominent Greek painter—who after having studied in the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich became a professor there from 1886 onward until his death in 1901—was much appreciated by his contemporaries for his ability to intertwine in his visual vocabulary elements from the illustrious Greek heritage, the Byzantine icons and the more recent stylized Jugendstil.4 Despite the fact that Steiner’s lecture on Gyzis was transcribed by Carlo Septimus Picht­a fervent adherent and editor of Rudolf Steiner’s oeuvre, who published it in the journal Blätter für Anthroposophie [Feuillets for Anthroposophy] in 1951­its content, eluded the attention of the academic community.5 Since Rudolf Steiner’s public speech Gyzis’s work has fallen into oblivion in Anthroposophical circles and a further survey on the eventual links between Gyzis’s paintings and the Theosophical doctrine still remains unfulfilled. Steiner’s admiration for Gyzis chimes with the fact that the painter, at the meridian of his artistic life, left behind the traditional genre scenes that were typical for a professor in the Academy and orientated himself towards a more spiritual painting, comprised of strange angelic beings of apocalyptic imagery. Furthermore, the painter has been conspicuously absent from the European schema of symbolism or relegated to footnotes in academic texts by art historians. This absence of Gyzis from a European history of Symbolism is contingent on the peripheral location of Greece, compared to Munich or Paris at the turn of the century, and therefore on the limited role that Greece could play in the reconfiguration of the artistic, European landscape. It is worth stressing here that although the late work of the painter reaped the admiration of a cultivated, intellectual milieu in Greece, consisting mainly of literates, art critics, poets and magazine directors, it encountered, however, a rather glacial reception on the account of its hermetic connotations. Thus, many efforts have been made to purge it of its mystic and symbolic Rudolf Steiner, Die Geheimnisse der biblischen Schöpfungsgeschichte: das Sechstagewerk im 1. Buch Moses: ein Zyklus von zehn Vorträgen und ein einleitender Vortrag, München, 16. bis 26. August 1910, GA 122 (Dornach: Rudolf-Steiner Verlag 2010). 3

For a helpful biography on Gyzis cf. the book of M. Montandon, based and composed on the now lost diaries of the painter; Marcel Montandon, Gysis (Bielefeld and Leipzig: Velhagen & Klasing, 1902); For a further survey on Gyzis’s artistic course see Marinos Kalligas, Νικόλας Γύζης, η ζωή και το έργο του [Nikolaos Gyzis, His Life and Work], (Athens: Educational Foundation of the National Bank of Greece, 1981); Konstantinos Didaskalou, Genre– und allegorische Malerei von Nikolaus Gysis (PhD diss., Munich: LMU, 1991); Konstantinos Didaskalou, Der Münchner Nachlass von Nikolaus Gysis, two vols. (Munich: s.n., 1993); Nelli Missirli, Νικόλαος Γύζης, 1842–1901 [Nikolaos Gyzis, 1842–1901], (Athens: Adam, 2002) (1st ed. Athens: Adam, 1995). 4

5 Rudolf Steiner, “Aus dem Lichte die Liebe,” Blätter für Anthroposophie 3 (1951): 421– 426; Carlo S. Picht, “Nikolaus Gysis. Zum Gedenken an seinem 50. Todestag (4 Januar 1951),” Blätter für Anthroposophie 3 (1951): 419–421.

The reception of N. Gyzis’s Behold the Bridegroom cometh by R. Steiner


elements, or, in other words, to subdue the “lurid modernization” and supplant it with more representational thought-systems and ideologies.6 For example, Kalligas, director of the National Gallery of Athens between 1949 and 1969, underlined that “Gyzis’s religious works enrich the traditional Christian iconography with a new figure, a figure that can be regarded neither as purely orthodox nor purely western. It is profoundly Christian.”7 Similar modes of thinking have permeated the field of Greek art historiography till the recent times, thus, thwarting the understanding of Gyzis’s late work. Since the late 1980s, various studies that have indicated that the theosophical discourses prompted artists within the symbolist movement ­such as Wassily Kandinsky, František Kupka, Piet Mondrian, Hilma af Klimt, Arnold Schönberg and Alexandre Scriabin­ to reject the traditional modes of thinking and most importantly to crack the barrier of verisimilitude by identifying hidden abstract elements in nature. Building on those studies, I address the Gyzis’s case with the intention to place his work in the centre of these discourses, hoping at the same time to provoke the interest of other scholars on his case.8 As Kassimati states, Gyzis took a profound interest in theosophical books, although no other information survives that could lead us to a more specific direction.9 Yet, Gyzis’s reception at the begin 6 Eugenios D. Matthiopoulos, Η τέχνη πτεροφυεί εν οδύνη. Η πρόσληψη του νεοροµαντισµού στο πεδίο της ιδεολογίας και της θεωρίας της τέχνης και της τεχνοκριτικής στην Ελλάδα Art Springs

Wings in Sorrow: The Reception of Neo-romanticism in the Realm of Ideology, Art Theory and Art Criticism in Greece (Athens: Potamos Publishers, 2005), 537. Matthiopoulos states that

Greek art critics, who tried to force Gyzis’s artistic production into a Greek narrative, downplayed the Symbolist-mystic elements evident in his paintings. See also Antonis Danos, “Idealist ‘grand visions,’ from Nikolaos Gyzis to Konstantinos Parthenis: the Unacknowledged Symbolist Roots of Greek Modernism,” in The Symbolist Roots of Modern Art, ed. Michelle Facos and Thor J. Mednick (Farnham Surrey, England; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2015), 11–22. 7 Kalligas, Νικόλας Γύζης, 175. Kalligas approaches Gyzis’s late work through the lenses of Greek antiquity, that is to say, under the presupposition that an unaltered and mystified essence traverses the various stages of Greek civilization, whose manifestations crystallize in the eternal values of rhythm, anthropomorphism, symmetry, analogy, sobriety and geometry. For a critical argumentation over the notion of “Greekness” appropriated by Kalligas, see Eugenios D. Matthiopoulos, “Η θεωρία της ‘Ελληνικότητας’ του Μαρίνου Καλλιγά” [The Theory of ‘Greekness’ by Marinos Kalligas], Historika, 25 (2008): 331–356.

Sixten Ringbom, The Sounding Cosmos; a Study in the Spiritualism of Kandinsky and the Genesis of Abstract Painting, (Åbo: Åbo Akademi, 1970); Maurice Tuchman, Judi Freeman and Carel Blotkamp, eds., The Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting 1890–1985, exh. cat., County Mu8

seum of Art, Los Angeles (New York: Abbeville Press, 1986, rev. 1999); Bernd Apke and Ingrid Ehrhardt, eds., Okkultismus und Avantgarde: von Munch bis Mondrian, 1900–1915, exh. cat., Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt (Ostfildern: Edition Tertium, 1995). 9 Marilena Z. Kassimati, “Η καλλιτεχνική προσωπικότητα του Νικολάου Γύζη µέσα από το ηµερολόγιο, τις επιστολές του και τις καταγραφές άλλων καλλιτεχνών: µια νέα ανάγνωση της ‘ελληνικότητας’” [The Artistic Personality of Nikolaus Gysis, viewed from his journal, his


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ning of the twentieth century indicates that some aspects of his late work were highly appreciated among particular circles of artists and further triggered within them a reconceptualization of traditional religious painting.

Fig. 1. Nikolaus Gyzis, Behold the Bridegroom (1899–1900), Oil on Canvas, 2,00 x 2,00 m. Athens, National Gallery.

Rudolf Steiner’s lecture referred to a well-known painting of Gyzis, Behold the Bridegroom Cometh, which is now preserved in the National Gallery of Athens, but then was kept by his family in his studio (Figure 1). The large painting has as its theme the arrival of the Bridegroom [Nymphios], a service of the Orthodox Church that sermonizes on the vigilance upon the Messiah. As far as the literary derivations of the painting are concerned, it is often stated that Gyzis resorted to the New Testament and more specifically to the various verses from the Matthew’s Gospel

correspondence and other artists’ registers: A new understanding of his Greekness], in Ο Νικόλαος Γύζης: ο Τήνιος εθνικός ζωγράφος [Nikolaus Gysis, The national painter of Tinos], ed. by Kostas Danousis, Conference proceedings, (Athens: Study Society Tinos, 2002). Kassimati drew on the account of Gyzis’s grandson, Ewald Petritschek.

The reception of N. Gyzis’s Behold the Bridegroom cometh by R. Steiner


and from the Revelation of John.10 Furthermore, Gyzis draws on a book called Hermeneia (1730–1734) by Dionysios of Fourna (1670–1744), a manual or treatise on Byzantine painting, which provides a synthetic Gospel account of the life of Christ.11 Gyzis requested this book in a letter of his in 1886 and it must have been by that time that the idea of a religious painting dawned on him. 12 Although the theme of the “Second Advent of Christ” has been treated iconographically in a traditional way by German artists, such as in the fresco depicting the Last Judgment, created by Peter von Cornelius (1783–1867) in Ludwigskirche in Munich, Gyzis’s Bridegroom is marked by a shift away from the canon in terms of stylistic and compositional innovations. In the Bridegroom the following scene takes place (Figure 1): in the middle of a magical chamber, resembling the interior of a cathedral, the figure of Christ emerges seated on an altar-shaped throne. Various rings of fire are coiling vehemently in vorticose motions up to the margins of the picture, where the angelic hosts genuflect, awaiting the Revelation. The scene gives the impression of an impending end of the world by a huge conflagration, like—evoking the words of Proclus—“a formless fire, from which a voice is sent forth, a sumptuous light, rushing like a spiral around the field.”13 Gyzis began working on this large painting in the late 1880s and a large amount of preparatory sketches is preserved that allows us to reconstruct in a way the overall setting of the scene (Figure 2–3).14 It was in the artist’s intention to amplify the scene of the Revelation by adding on the lower part the falling of Lucifer in the shape of a lightning.

10 The relative verses from the Bible are the following: Matt. 25:6: “And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him;” Matt. 25:31: “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory;” Matt. 25:32: “And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth [his] sheep from the goats;” Rev. 20:11: “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.” 11

Kalligas, Νικόλας Γύζης, 182; Danos, “Idealist ‘grand visions,’” 14–15.

Kalligas, Νικόλας Γύζης, 176–188; Gyzis’s correspondence is published in Georgios Drosinis and Lampros Koromilas, eds., Επιστολαί του Νικολάου Γύζη [Correspondence of Nikolaos Gysis] (Athens: Eklogi Editions, 1953), 176–178. 12


Majercik, Chaldean Oracles, 104–105.

A series of preparatory sketches, drafts and studies of the painting exist in National Gallery of Athens that demonstrate that the idea of this religious work germinated Gyzis’s mind in the early 1890s and preoccupied him for the largest part of the decade. The work, however, remained unfinished, though the separate drafts stand in their own as individual works of art and they were exhibited as such. See Kalligas, Νικόλας Γύζης, 176–188; Missirli, Nikolaos Gyzis, 288–305. 14


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Fig. 2 Nikolaus Gyzis, Behold the Bridegroom (preparatory sketch, 1899–1900), Oil Drawing on canvas, 27,5 × 22,5 cm, Athens, National Gallery

Fig. 3 Nikolaus Gyzis, Behold the Bridegroom (preparatory sketch, 1899–1900), Oil Drawing on canvas, 27 × 26,5 cm, Athens, National Gallery

I would like to adumbrate here the basic ideas expressed in Steiner’s lecture. His approach is spiraling out from the content of his play The Portal of Initiation, in which he expounds the basic aspirations of the theosophical movement and the hurdles that are raised on man’s path towards spiritual enlightenment. According to him, theosophy resembles a current that percolates the manifold ramifications of cultural life and sheds light on human’s quest for spiritual truth.15 In order to give a vivid representation of his vision, Steiner draws the audience’s attention to Goethe’s “Song for Mohammed” (Mahomets Gesang), in which the German poet describes how a rillet, springing from a rock, unfolds into a river, pullulates into a stream, winds and gloriously flows into the ocean, with all its freight that accumulated during its journey.16 Steiner contends that art emanates from such a universal spring: “Is it true that the spring of the being of the World emanates from the place, where art manifests itself outwardly?” [Quillt wirklich die Quelle des Weltenseins da, wo äußerlich die Kunst sich ankündigt?].17 The river stands here for all this spiritual force that enables human beings to unfold their productivity, individualism and civilization. We should bear in mind that such an appropriation of Goethe’s poem diffuses in the Theosophical public a more esoteric understanding of artistic creativity, according to which the external form or shape of an artwork 15 16 17

Steiner, “Aus dem Lichte die Liebe,” 421–426.

Ibid., 423. Ibid., 424.

The reception of N. Gyzis’s Behold the Bridegroom cometh by R. Steiner


enshrouds the veritable source of artistic creation, which remains per se invisible. Thus, the knowledge of how to use this spiritual flow of energy is a gift bestowed only upon the enlightened individuals, poets and artists, who in their turn should diffuse it towards the masses. Throughout his life, Steiner made mention on many occasions on Goethe’s parables, the most significant being the fairy tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily (Das Märchen, 1795). In this abstruse story a river appears separating the two realms, the one of the spirit and the other of the senses. Only few entities have the ability to cross the two worlds and form bridges that could allow human beings to cross over. A reverberation of Steiner’s preoccupation with this fairy tale can be found in the storyline and in the character-building of his Mystery Drama The Portal of Initiation. Thus, this oscillation between the intellectual world of the senses and the spiritual world of clairvoyance finds its pendant in the aesthetic discourse of Goethe's Mahomet's Song. In order to present his vision in a more intelligible way, Steiner revealed a replica, in a smaller scale, of Gyzis’s Bridegroom, which was commissioned by him some days before.18 He, furthermore, assigns to the painting the explanatory title Throughout the Light, the Love [Aus dem Lichte die Liebe], which also corresponds to his theory of light, as we will demonstrate below. Thereupon, Steiner focuses on two aspects: Firstly, on the iconographical details of the picture and secondly on the psychological effects of the colours used by Gyzis. On the whole, Steiner interprets the painting not only from the scope of religious truth or as rendition of its most profound meanings but mostly unpredictably from a cosmological, quasi astronomical, viewpoint. According to Steiner, the painting depicts the various stages–evolutionary periods of the world’s creation process, couched in “the objectively painted” [mit so sachlicher Richtigkeit gemalt] figures of the spiritual hierarchies. In Steiner's account of how humanity is evolving, the divine-spiritual beings appear to bestow humanity with potentialities.19 Steiner elaborated further on that matter in his lectures preceding the one on Gyzis. In his lecture on the 22nd of August, Steiner discusses the various ranks of Spiritual beings above men, namely the nine orders, whose forces participate in the creation process and the human consciousness.20 Their nomenclature derives from the Christian Neoplatonist Dionysius the Aeropagite but the mytho-historical framework that Steiner retains, owes much to Blavatsky and

18 The commission was given to the Firma C. Kuhn in Munich. The proportions of the painting were 42,5 x 42,5 cm. See Steiner, “Aus dem Lichte die Liebe,” 424. 19 20

Ibid., 425.

Steiner, Die Geheimnisse der biblischen Schöpfungsgeschichte, 104–110.


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her sources, the Ptolemaic Cosmogony, Hinduism and Kabbalah.21 Among the entities, the Spirits of Will possess the most subtle, fundamental forces: Subdividing further, the Thrones are the most powerful, elemental forces that participate in the world’s condensation process into solid ground.22 Other hierarchies are the Spirits of Wisdom, the Kyriotetes, the Spirits of Movement, the Dynameis and the Spirits of Form, the Exusiai or Elohim. Finally come the Spirits of Personality (Archai), Archangels and Angels, all together forming seven stages. According to Steiner, manifestations of these Spiritual beings can be discerned in the painting: the inferior angels that genuflect, the Seraphim and Cherubim flanking the figure of the Bridegroom and finally the thrones around the middle of the scene, depicted as formless, whirling wheels of fire. Perhaps, even the seven scale structure that leads to the Majesty of the Christ could be interpreted as indicating the seven ranks of angelic forces. Steiner, however, does not confine his analysis in what we could call a figure-identification play. When he indicates that Gyzis paints “the harmonies of the Hierarchies,” what he implies more is that in front of our eyes we encounter the harmonious interweaving of the various Spiritual entities, the manifestation of their activity in world’s creation. Thus, by the first three-fold Hierarchy, the Seraphim, the Cherubim and the Thrones, we must understand, furthermore, the three different cosmic-astronomical cycles, namely, the Old Saturn, the most subtle era, and the progressively denser ones, the Sun and the Moon. Behind the first triad Hierarchy there is warmth, the second, light and the third, colour.23 Thus, as Steiner points out, the result of Hierarchies’s interaction with the visual, sensual and material world of our experiences is manifested in the rendering of different colours in the painting: the higher the Hierarchy, the brighter, warmer the colour. The Thrones that are identified with the dark and gloomy world of the saturnine existence appear as overflowing light in the middle of the scene, whereas the other yellow-red gradations that materialize in fiery rings, demonstrate the interactions of the other first-triad Hierarchies. In this context, Steiner rephrased the biblical text “And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” into “The Spirit of Elohim radiates over the elementary states” [Der Geist der Elohim brütet über den elementaren Stoffansammlungen], drawing, thus, the audience’s attention to the radiation of the figures in Gyzis’s See Kathi Meyer-Baer, Music of the Spheres and the Dance of Death, (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1970), 38–41. 21


Steiner, Die Geheimnisse der biblischen Schöpfungsgeschichte, 146

Lecture delivered in Dornach, 4 Januar 1924 “Die Hierarchien und das Wesen des Regenbogens.” See Rudolf Steiner, Das Wesen der Farben: Drei Vorträge, gehalten in Dornach 23

am 6., 7. and 8. Mai 1921 sowie neuen Vorträge als Ergänzungen aus dem Vortragswerk der Jahre 1914 bis 1924 (Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1986), 217–232.

The reception of N. Gyzis’s Behold the Bridegroom cometh by R. Steiner


painting.24 For example, Steiner interprets the vestiges of gold-hued color over the faces and swords of the angels as the physical activity of radiation that emanates from the “Spirit of Elohim”. By that, he means that the Spirits of Form, the Elohim, interweave with the Thrones, the Fire Element, producing, thus, the scorched contours on the figures.25 He even draws the attention to the two cosmic spheres that glow at the upper part of the scene, which he correlates with the genesis scene by Michelangelo in the Capella Sistina. According to Steiner the scene echoes the moment at which the new God hovers above, so as to create the world, whereas the old God departs leaving behind demolished shells of the old realm. What Steiner tries to denote here is that the two spheres in Gyzis’s painting are reminiscent of the distinction between the two hypostases of God,26 that is to say, the Elohim that through a higher state of evolution blossomed out into Jahve-Elohim. The Elohim are deemed here as the separate organs of a body that gradually, under the evolution process, merge into Jahve-Elohim. The concept of evolution is seminal in Steiner’s thought in order to understand the aforementioned description. Nevertheless, it is not clear whether Steiner implies that the two spheres represent the old Saturn era and the present earth stage or other eras, such as the Old Sun and Old Moon. From archival research we managed to elucidate further on that matter. As Max Gümbel Seiling, a member of the German Theosophical Society, who has contributed to the preparation of the Mystery Plays in Munich during summer, and has recited the “Song for Mohammed” during the speech, recalls, Steiner imbued the two spheres of the painting with a further cosmological meaning. More specifically, the ancient planet on the left of the scene echoes the astronomical period of Manvantara whereas the new one on the right the period of Pralaya. Most of the Theosophists were deeply acquainted with the above terms, which denoted, according to the Theosophical Ontology, the eternal manifestation of the cyclic procession of derivations and retractions.27 Whereas the Manvantara denotes the periods of the universe’s manifestation, Pralaya stands for the “sleep stage”, during which each cyclic universe submerges after a period of pulsating ascension. This entire mytho-historical framework derives, of course, from Blavatsky, even though Steiner elaborates it further with more cycles, subdivisions and epicycles, that form at last a vast cosmic mechanism, whose manifestation Steiner sees in Gyzis’s artistic creation. 24

Steiner, “Aus dem Lichte die Liebe,” 425.

A closer look to the painting reveals us that Gysis was using a colour of yellow parchment that gives the impression of gold irradiations. 25

Ibid., p. 425. Correlate also with the lecture given in Munich on 18 August 1910 [Die Geheimnisse der biblischen Schöpfungsgeschichte], Steiner, Geheimnisse der biblischen Schöpfungsgeschichte, 42–52, especially 44. 26

Max Gümbel-Seiling, Mit Rudolf Steiner in München (Den Haag: De nieuwe Boekerij, 1946), 64. 27


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Towards a colour theory: Rudolf Steiner’s aesthetic predilections and aspirations around 1910 When we come to discuss now the references on colour in Steiner’s lecture we shall encounter some interesting points that require further analysis. Apart from focusing on the singed contours of of the angels, which results in the warmth and shimmer that the scene emits, Steiner describes the gradual unraveling of colors, from indigo blue towards red, as a visual manifestation of the various stages of human evolution. He even contends that red leans towards chastity [“dem keuschen, wunderbaren Rot”] whereas indigo blue has a tendency towards devotion and humility [“zur Andacht ... das zur Demut stimmende Blau”].28 Two points should come here under discussion, firstly the dissolution of the fixed lines that constrain the colour, and secondly, the symbolic use of colors. In order to understand and reconstruct Rudolf Steiner’s aesthetic horizon of expectations a historian must gauge to what extent an individual’s worldview is rooted in pre-defined aesthetic phenomena or in which unique way his ideology is intertwined with other configurations against the socio-cultural context. On 26 August 1910, a day after the speech, four members of the Theosophical Society founded the Theosophical and Artistic Fund (Theosophisch-künstlerischer Fonds), aiming at subsidizing Steiner’s theatrical performances and more important at finding a place where to house them. Therefore, this move opened the way for the erection of the “Johannesbau,” a venture which, due to various reasons, was never completed.29 Perhaps the idea of a building consecrated to St. John’s Revelation is also an echo of Gyzis’s similar encounter with the Gospel. Even though Steiner was trying to find favor with the Theosophical Society by following the standard trajectory of esoteric knowledge, he nevertheless engrafted new elements to his body of theory that resulted in a totally new concept of art. I believe that Steiner’s remotion from Annie Besant’s aesthetic bandwagon must be placed at that period, and Gyzis must have served for Steiner as the aesthetical paradigm towards more mystical, Christological subjects. Indeed, later in 1914 Steiner seems to have returned to the figure of the angel that hovers above the God in the cupola in Goetheanum and by doing so, he paid tribute to the artist he once admired (Figure 4). The second aspect I would like to bring up concerns Rudolf Steiner’s earlier occupations with artistic phenomena, and how the lecture on Gysis fits in that theoretical framework. During his formative years in Weimar (1879–1882), Steiner, while delving into the Schiller and Goethe archives, had shown a remarkable interest in art theory and its correlation with epistemology, the product of this inquiry being 28 29

Steiner, “Aus dem Lichte die Liebe,” 424.

Zander, Anthroposophie in Deutschland, 1081.

The reception of N. Gyzis’s Behold the Bridegroom cometh by R. Steiner


the “Sophien” editions. Among the first painters Steiner extolled for the use of vivid and glowing color was the Swiss painter Arnold Böcklin (1827–1901), who by that time had reached, not without objections though, the acme of his reputation.30 Later, during a trip in London in 1903, Steiner named Turner “a magnificent painter” [herrlichen Maler] and acclaimed the treatment of light and darkness, out of which the figures are born.31 Turner’s link with spirituality should not strike us as irrelevant and remote to the issue; it was Rosenblum who placed him among the eccentric Northern route that runs the gamut of history of modern painting without stopping at Paris, that is to say, from Caspar David Friedrich up to Rothko.32 What Steiner must have kept as lesson after seeing Turner in London is his capacity to paint with swirling brushstrokes, avoiding a strict, preparatory sketch. Furthermore, the Evening of the Deluge and the Morning after the Deluge (1843, London, Tate Gallery) disclose Turner’s attempt to articulate a theory based on Goethe’s Farbenlehre [Theory of Colours, 1810].33 This distinction between aerial and material colors, as well as the polarity of darkness and light must have rung a familiar chord in Steiner’s aesthetic world view. He must have recognized in those paintings the hypostatization of Goethe’s aesthetic universe, namely, the predominance of a dynamic color-tone congruence that refuted the well established Newtonian tradition.34 This duality between light and darkness, with color being the mixture of the two, is reminiscent of Aristotle’s colour theory, as it appears in the Περ αÆσθήσεως κα αÆσθητäν (De sensu et sensibilibus), a work which was well known to both Goethe and Steiner. In

30 Rudolf Steiner, Farberkenntnis: Ergänzungen zu dem Band “Das Wesen der Farben,” eds. Hella Wiesberger and Heinrich O. Proskauer (Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1990), 501.

Rudolf Steiner, Briefe, vol. II, 1890–1925 eds. Edwin and Paul G. Bellmann Froböse (Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1987), 432. 31

Robert Rosenblum, Modern Painting and the Northern Romantic Tradition: Friedrich to Rothko (London: Thames and Hudson, 1978) (1st ed. New York: Harper & Row 1975). 32

Rosenblum speaks of Nolde and Turner in the following way: “Nolde’s seascapes, too, strike familiar chords in the history of Northern Romantic painting, especially in the art of Turner, whose more liquid paint techniques are particularly prophetic of Nolde’s molten palette and

brushwork, where light, color, cloud, and sea fuse into an indivisible whole of glowing, impalpable energy,” 135 (underline mine).

33 Martin Kemp, The Science of Art: Optical Themes in Western Art from Brunelleschi to Seurat (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990), 299–303.

34 For the polemic on Newton and the diffusion of Goethe’s theory in the artistic field, especially the Expressionists or Malevich, see Jacques Le Rider, “L’héritage de Goethe: romantisme et expressionism,” in Aux origines de l’abstraction: 1800–1914, ed. Serge Lemoine and Pascal Rousseau, exh. cat., Musée D’Orsay, Paris (Paris: Réunion des musées nationaux, 2003), 111–120. However intriguing, it would require further analysis in order to embed Gyzis in this theoretical framework.


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a more esoteric context, the Manichaeans had set forth similar doctrines, with which Steiner was equally acquainted.35

Fig. 4 Foreground: Rudolf Steiner, Sketch for the middle figure of the small cupola of the first Goetheanum, Pastel in paper, 50,8 × 40,5 cm, 1914, Kunstsammlung Goetheanum. Background: Nikolaus Gyzis, Behold the Bridegroom, op. cit.

Turner, also was heading towards a more immaterial painting, defying the representational norms of the Academy and focusing on a different aesthetic basis of pictorial theory. The weaving of light and darkness by dint of swirls of colour is indeed common in both Turner and Gysis. According to Goethe, the different gradations of colour are identified with the various modifications of light. In Gysis’s painting God Himself—following thus St. Augustine’s dictum that “God is light,”—is depicted as pure yellow, whereas the rings seem to vary from yellow-orange to red until they meet, outside the chamber, the indigo-blue, the other half of the color wheel and the Rudolf Steiner, Bausteine zu einer Erkenntnis des Mysteriums von Golgatha: kosmische und menschliche Metamorphose: siebzehn Vorträge, gehalten in Berlin vom 6. Februar bis 8. Mai 1917 (Dornach: Rudolf-Steiner Verlag, 1996), 294; Andrew Phillip Smith, The Gnostics: History, Tradition, Scriptures, Influence, (London: Watkins Publishing, 2008), 124–143. 35

The reception of N. Gyzis’s Behold the Bridegroom cometh by R. Steiner


opposite pole to the light. Goethe observes that “Yellow is the colour nearest to light,” in contrast to blue, the other pole, and gold is the purest and brightest state of yellow.36 However, in Gyzis’s painting gold and light weave together in a more complicated manner, as Steiner also indicates, letting us assume that a byzantine or East Orthodox artistic doctrine is perhaps here adopted. Let us only refer to the importance of gold colour in the circles of Russian Symbolists, the Argonauts, whose journal Zolotoe Runo [Golden Fleece] was illustrated with poems of Andrei Bely, as this one: “suffused with fire is the heavenly vault... / Don your armour / Of fabric fraught with sun! / The ancient Argonaut! / summons to follow / he calls / on a horn / of gold: / To the sun, to the sun, whoever loves freedom / let us fly into the ether / of azure blue” (manifesto-poem, 1903).37 Interestingly enough, Bely, who met Steiner in 1912 after hearing some of his lectures together with Anna Turgenjewa, is “weaving” here the image of a golden sphere emerging out of an azure blue firmament like in the Bridegroom painting. In conclusion, Steiner interpreted Goethe’s aesthetics on several occasions and by 1904 was ready to combine the great German philosopher with Theosophy. In this context we would like to contend that Steiner, in his quest for a theology of colours that would embrace the Goethe legacy, ran around 1907 into Gyzis’s painting, in which he saw the different strands of his philosophic thought—the German idealistic tradition and the esoteric–Rosicrucian knowledge—becoming, eventually, congruously interlaced.

Gyzis’s echo: the Aenigma Group The approach of Gyzis’s Bridegroom through Goethe’s aesthetical universe points to the importance of Goethe’s reception in German Theosophical circles and more specifically it sheds light not only on the ideological appropriations of Goethe’s colour theory, but also on the fermentation process of abstraction at the turn of the century. Steiner projects here his experience with Turner and Goethe on Gyzis and by doing so he actualizes Goethe’s Farbenlehre on the horizons of younger artists that attended his lectures. At the same period, under the influence of Rudolf Steiner, Kandinsky was also delving into Goethe’s colour theory. Kandinsky was familiar with Steiner’s Luzifer-Gnosis, which he quoted in Über das Geistige in der Kunst [On the Spiritual in Art], and he attended Steiner’s lectures during his sojourn in Berlin in

36 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Theory of Colours, Trans., Charles Lock Eastlake, (London: J. Murray, 1840), 307.

Samuel Cioran, Vladimir Solov!ev and the Knighthood of the Divine Sophia, (Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1977), 5. 37


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1907–1908.38 Having settled in Munich in 1908, Kandinsky had abundant opportunity to cultivate his interests in the teachings of Steiner. Two of his former pupils in the Phalanx-Schule, Emy Dresler and Maria Strakosch-Gießler, were involved with Steiner’s Mystery plays in Munich at that period. To what extent Kandinsky availed himself of this opportunity and attended the lecture Steiner gave on Gysis, remains yet uncertain. Since the Über das Geistige in der Kunst [On the Spiritual in Art] was written in 1910 and published later in 1911–1912, it remains a crucial question, whether Kandinsky was aware of the lecture on Gysis and the discussion on colours and angelic forces by Steiner. Gyzis’s application of warm-cold coloring together with its spiritual connotations —the red draws towards life, the indigo draws away from it— allows us to read in the artist’s oeuvre the prefiguration of imminent cultural phenomena. Nevertheless, the question remains as to how Rudolf Steiner came to know Gyzis’s Bridegroom, since the work was until now believed to have been in the possession of the artist’s family in Munich. From archival research I draw the conclusion that the missing link was Anna May Rychter (born Kerpen, 1864–1954), a student of the painter, whose father, Heinrich May, was Gyzis’s personal doctor. From 1897 onwards, Gyzis kept orderly correspondence with Anna May, which is now preserved at the national Gallery of Athens. In these letters we find out that Gyzis thought highly of Anna and entrusted her many of his future plans, asked her advice, and shared with her the pathos of music. Margarita Hauschka, the niece of Anna May-Rychter, recounts that in the Atelier of Gyzis’s young student in Adalbertsstrasse in Munich, in the vicinity of the Theosophical Branch, a picture was hanging, supposedly with the title “Majestät Gottes” (The Majesty of God), perhaps a variation or a lost sketch of the “Bridegroom.”39 As Tadeusz Rychter (1873–1943), a young painter from Poland and also Gyzis’s student, formerly associated with the cultural modernist Milieu of the political cabaret Kleiner grüner Ballon [Small Green Balloon] in Krakow, came to rent the atelier, recognized Gyzis’s painting at once and solicited to keep the painting together with the apartment. Since Anna May rejected the naive offer, Rychter sufficed to make a small replica of the original work and after that the two artists came into a relationship. It was through Rychter that Anna May acquainted herself with Rudolf Steiner in 1905– 1906 and perhaps through her 38 Wassily Kandinsky, “Über das Geistige in der Kunst [1912],” in Kandinsky. Complete Writings on Art, ed. Kenneth C. Lindsay and Peter Vergo (New York: Da Capo, 1994) (1st ed.

Boston: G. K. Hall, 1982), 145.

39 Margarethe Hauschka, “Das Triptychon ‘Gral’ von Anna May,” Das Goetheanum, Wochenschrift für Anthroposophie, 54 (1975): 187–190; M. Gottlieb, “Anna von Rychter-May,” Mitteilungen aus der anthroposophischen Arbeit in Deutschland, 29 (1954): 128–129; Eva Levy, “Anna May-Rychter,” in Anthroposophie im 20. Jahrhundert, ed. Bodo von Plato

(Dornach: Verlag am Goetheanum, 2003), 506.

The reception of N. Gyzis’s Behold the Bridegroom cometh by R. Steiner


Rudolf Steiner familiarized himself with the work of the painter. At the same time, it is recorded that a copy of the Bridegroom decorated the theosophical Branch of Munich in 1910 and it was especially known to its members.40 Anna May, who worked as a stage decorator for the Mystery plays in Munich in 1910, that is to say, at the time when the lecture on Gyzis was given, received from Steiner an analytical commission about a painting that should adorn the Johannesbau in Munich and should depict the different stages of Christianity, from Solomon through the Holy Grail and up to the Rosicrucian Christianity.41

Fig. 5 Anna May Rychter, The Triptych of Graal, 1912–1914 (now lost). Image from Aenigma, Gruppe bildender Künstler, cat. exp., Galerie Das Reich, Munich, from Februar 5 to March 13, 1918 (Kind concession: Dr. Reinhold J. Fäth).

This threefold painting, reminiscent of the work of her master, is preserved to us through a transparent by her niece. The painting was firstly exhibited in February 1918 in the Gallery Das Reich [The Kingdom] (Figure 5), after her involution in the artistic group Aenigma and later, in the same year, in Glaspalast, were she exhibited it under the name May-Kerpen.42 The work ended up in Hamburger Waldorfschule, where it was destroyed during the bombings at the Second World War. For the end 40 Hans-Jürgen Bracker, “Eine frühe Botin der Anthroposophie in Palästina: Zum 50. Todestag der Malerin Anna Rychter-May,” Novalis Zeitschrift für europäisches Denken, 58 (2004): 61. 41

Hauschka, “Das Triptychon ‘Gral’, 187. Gottlieb, “Anna von Rychter-May,” 128–129.

Aenigma, Gruppe bildender Künstler, exh. cat., Galerie Das Reich, Munich, from Februar 5 to Mars 13, 1918; Münchener Kunstausstellung, exh. cat., Glaspalast, Munich: 1918, 43. 42


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of our story, Anna May moved with her husband to Palestine, where she lived as a saint, cultivating direct links with other anthroposophists. Her husband’s traces were lost soon after he was commissioned to paint a church in Poland in 1939.43 Thus, the links between Anna May and other Aenigma artists, such as Maria Strakosch-Gießler (1877–1970), a former student of Kandinsky, indicate that Gyzis’s name was circulating among Theosophists and his religious works were already known by the majority of the Aenigma members.

Fig. 6. Nikolaus Gyzis, Archangel (Study from the The Grounding of Faith), since 1894, Oil Drawing on canvas, 80 × 69 cm, Athens, Benaki Museum

The iconographical sources of the Bridegroom As we have already indicated the reception of Gyzis’s Bridegroom shows direct links with the occult networks in central Europe. Yet, the iconographic or literary sources of these religious works remain unknown. Although it is tempting to link Gyzis with Gottlieb, “Anna von Rychter-May,” 128–129; Hauschka, “Das Triptychon ‘Gral’,” 188–189. 43

The reception of N. Gyzis’s Behold the Bridegroom cometh by R. Steiner


the spiritual renaissance in Munich around 1900, lack of evidence hinders us from corroborating such a relationship. It is risky, therefore, to jump to the conclusion that Gyzis was an orthodox Theosophist. More likely he had embraced aspects of the theosophical or other mystical teachings that coincided with his own worldview, finding, thus, in the theosophical doctrines a peg on which to hang and reflect his own spiritual quests. Under this scope, our purpose here is not to encumber the interpretation of Gyzis’s paintings with highfalutin schemes, but, instead, to offer a foil for the way artists within the anthroposophical milieu might have understood and appropriated his work.

Fig. 7 Left: Nikolaus Gyzis, Behold the Bridegroom, 1894–1900, Oil on canvas, 85 × 60 cm, Munich, Family Collection of the artist. Right: Images of Syzygies and other Pythagorean configurations as appeared in Blavatsky 1982, 19–20.

Gyzis must have been aware of the spiritual activities and research that took place in Munich in the late nineteenth century. Works such as The Victory of Spirit Over Matter (1899–1900), The Archangel: Study from The Grounding of Faith (1895, Figure 6), The Fall of Satan (1895–1900), The Harmony (Figure 8), The New Aeon (1895–1900), betray an embracement of theosophical ideas around 1900. Concerning his work The new Aeon, he comments in his letters: “[...] I shall send you a


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photograph of a study on the Jahrhundertwende [Turn of the Century] or rather the progress of the civilized world throughout the darkness of the future, escorted with the arts and sciences holding lighted torches.”44 The picture that would decorate the upper part of the scene depicted The Victory of Spirit Over Matter, a subject that may have been later paraphrased by Kandinsky as the equestrian Saint George who fights the Dragon. A similar fight that depicted the Fall of Satan was to accompany the Bridegroom. Could it be that we have here an echo from the “emanations” of God, the Aeons, or the “pleroma”, of which Blavatsky speaks in the Secret Doctrine? In the late nineteenth century Munich, Germany’s Kunststadt, became a flourishing center for the theory and practice of occultism, spiritualism and parapsychology, all of which constituted the seedbed for political and especially artistic ebullition. The allurement of spiritualism as a battering ram against the impregnable fortress of science and its ideological medium, positivism, was shared by many artists and intellectuals at that time, most considerably among them the Munich Secessionists Albert von Keller (1844–1920) and Gabriel von Max (1840–1915).45 All of them were proponents of a new aesthetical paradigm that would be based on the cross-fertilization of different fields, such as the aesthetic, the scientific and the occult ones. The Munich psychiatrist Albert von Schrenck-Notzing, many painters, such as Gabriel von Max, Albert von Keller, Toni Stadler, Heinrich Max, and Franz Lambert—some of them held a position in the Munich Academy, like Gyzis and Max—as well as the Art Historian Gabriel Muther, were among the members of the influential Psychologische Gesellschaft [Psychological Society], founded in Munich in 1886, which engaged in research concerning the soul, somnambulism, hypnotism and other dreamlike states of trance. Thus, apart from the secularization of religious themes, which triggered enormous resistance on the part of the Catholic Church, a wider spiritual upheaval evolved that led to profound changes in the field of the visual arts, since the invalidation of dogmas meant that traditional iconographies were no longer binding. This deeper understanding of religious sentiments was often filtered through theosophical doctrines, as many researchers have recently indicated, and was canalized to the visual arts, leading gradually to the


Drosinis and Koromilas, Επιστολαί του Νικολάου Γύζη, 250–251.

For a helpful survey on the spiritual life in Munich see Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker and Gian Casper Bott, eds., Séance, Albert von Keller and the Occult, exh. cat., Frye Art Museum, Seattle (Washington: University of Washington Press, 2010). Gyzis knew Keller as we conclude from a letter of his to Ourania Nazou (18 October, 1899); see Drosinis and Koromilas, Επιστολαί του Νικολάου Γύζη 250. Also, in 1874, Gysis resided in an apartment, which was before von Max’s atelier; See Missirli, Nikolaos Gyzis, 346. 45

The reception of N. Gyzis’s Behold the Bridegroom cometh by R. Steiner


dematerialization of subject matter.46 We do not have any evidence that Gyzis had direct contacts with the Psychological Society or its members. We can, however, point out that both, Albert Keller and Gyzis, were members of that Albert Keller together with Gyzis were members of the Künstlergesellschaft Allotria (Art Association Allotria) founded in 1873 by Franz von Lenbach, from which the Munich Secession originated. What still remained hitherto unnoticed, is the fact that in 1895, Gyzis designed the cover for the illustrated magazine Über Land und Meer [Over Land and See], which abounds in Masonic iconography. The redactor of the magazine, Ludwig Gärtner, was indeed an orderly member of the Psychological Society. It could be that Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine, of which the first two volumes from the third English Edition by Froebe were available to the German public since 1893, provided since 1893, provided the artistic seed of inspiration for Gyzis’s Bridegroom.47 In the third volume Blavatsky refers to the Gnostic system of Valentinians.48 Gyzis may have drawn inspiration particularly from the sketches made by Blavatsky and George Robert Stowe Mead (1863–1933) on the Pistis Sophia, a Gnostic text attributed to the Valentinian School (Figure 7–8).49 According to the Valentinians, angels are mediators between the Pleroma and the spiritual seed of humans; they are manifestations of the Aeons. The angels appeared to Sophia as a host accompanying the Savior. The Savior and his angels manifest the Pleroma as beings simultaneously one and many. This assimilation is conceived of as a marriage, and this is the ideological context for the concept of the “bridal chamber.”50 In Blavatsky’s presentation of the Valentinian system, however, different traditions coalesce, such as those of Pythagoras and Plato. In order to vindicate this Gnostic system, Blavatsky conveyed to her students that these drawings prove that in Plato’s words “the Deity geometrizes.” In Dionysius’s The Celestial Hierarchy, as we have On this subject see Veit Loers and Pia Witzmann, “Münchens okkultistisches Netzwerk,” in Okkultismus und Avantgarde: von Munch bis Mondrian, 1900–1915, eds. Bernd Apke and Ingrid Ehrhardt, exh. cat., Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt (Ostfildern: Edition Tertium, 1995), 238–244. 46

47 The first complete translation of Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine (the four vols, from the English third Edition) was accomplished by Robert Froebe in 1899 with the assistant of Franz Hartmann.

48 Helena P. Blavatsky, Die Geheimlehre: die Vereinigung von Wissenschaft, Religion und Philosophie, Trans., Robert Froebe (Leipzig: Theosophisches Verlagshaus, 1899), 469–470.

49 In 1890–1, G. R. S. Mead published a serial article on “Pistis-Sophia” in Lucifer magazine (Vol. 6), the first English translation of that work. The first edition of his translation of Pistis Sophia appeared in 1896.

50 Einar Thomassen, “Valentinian Ideas About Salvation as Transformation,” in Metamorphoses: Resurrection, Body and Transformative Practices in Early Christianity, ed. Turid

Karlsen Seim and Jorunn Økland (Berlin, New York: W. de Gruyter, 2009), 169.


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seen before, the angels appear rotating in wheels and are arranged according to their warmth; the higher the order, the greater their radiance.51 The scene, where all the angelic forces are merged under the light of God resembles large whirlpools of fire, the Empyrean, which Aristotle also mentions, and that is later preserved within Gnostic circles, as well as in Christian doctrine. The theme is also associated with the music of the spheres, the correspondence between macrocosm, the divine principle, and microcosm, which encompasses the human beings. 52

Fig. 8 Left: Nikolaus Gyzis, Behold the Bridegroom, op. cit. (Geometrical analysis). Right above: Chart of the Pleroma, according to Valentinus as appeared in Blavatsky 1982, 15. Right under: Nikolaus Gyzis, Harmony (Drawing), 1893, mixed Media on Cardboard, 62,5 × 58 cm, Thessaloniki, Municipal Gallery.

When looking closer at the structure of the painting now, we can see that Gyzis took an interest in arranging the whole scene by means of concentric circles and diagonals, more hinted by the subtle strokes of colour than by the strict drawing lines (Figure 8). Infrared reflectogramm analysis of the painting The new Aeon has 51 52

Kathi Meyer-Baer, Music of the Spheres, 40–41.

Under this light a comparison with Gustave Doré’s (1832–1883) illustration of Celestial

Rose (1868) from Dante’s Divine Comedy appears very interesting.

The reception of N. Gyzis’s Behold the Bridegroom cometh by R. Steiner


shown that Gyzis was an expert in drawing and also mastered well the balance of lines and forms of the whole composition, setting symmetrical axes to underpin this “invisible harmony.”53 Montandon has made a similar remark regarding the Bride-


Various preliminary studies of the Bridegroom, preserved now in the National Gallery of Athens, indicate that Gyzis was, indeed, from the first moment concerned with the problem of structure, searching to design an invisible web. From a Heraclitean worldview the painter erases all traces of representation in order to hint at an invisible, hidden harmony. He ignores the illusionary world of the senses, the Maya, and weaves his figures in a colorful, luminous net, which smolders the concrete forms of the scene. The preparatory sketches of the painting also indicate that, from the very beginning, Gyzis was trying to arrange the whole scene through successive vortices of incandescent colour. Another preparatory sketch (figure 7) indicates that Gyzis was engrossed in solving two pictorial problems: the first concerns the organization of space by dint of successive, concentric circles that would merge into one another and build up the invisible but explicit harmony of the scene. The second issue involves the distribution of warm and cold colours in the picture as the diagram beneath the figure of God indicates (figure 7). This wheel of complementary colours points out that Gyzis oriented towards a warm-cold antithesis, like that of Goethe’s, discussed above, skipping at the same time the green and violet tones as unnecessary. It may have been that Gysis was also aware of the German Edition of Goethe’s Farbenlehre (1890–1), which included an introduction by Steiner. Whether the twelve tone-gradations, like spindle cells, may also carry some other musical or theosophical connotations, is still unclear. Thus, in Figure 8, I emphasize some of the painting’s elements, discussed above, and juxtapose them with the schema that Blavatsky publishes in her Secret Doctrine. In the theosophical tradition the pentagram symbolizes the nuptial union of the two genders or in the Pythagorean tradition the amalgamation of microcosm and macrocosm. Finally, in the diagram, the smaller circles surrounding the seated figure of Christ mark the spots where the fire wheels or Thrones appear in a symmetrical pattern. Furthermore, these wheels are arranged in groups of one or three, which indicates that Gyzis does not cull exclusively from byzantine iconographical tradition. 55 53 S. Sotiropoulou et al., “The Artistic Traits of Gyzis: a First Diagnostic Approach to His Paintings,” in Proceedings of the 4 th Symposium of the Hellenic Society for Archaeometry, ed. Yorgos Facorellis, et al., (Oxford: BAR International Series, 2008), 606. 54

Montandon, Gysis, 118; he speaks of “mystical mathematics.”

In that sense, Fourna’s Hermeneia does not provide us with a satisfactory answer. I assume that Gyzis must have become acquainted with the traditional rendering of Thrones, after seeing the ones depicted in the orthodox Salvatorkirche in Munich. In Andrei Rublev's The Christ in Majesty (1408, Tempera, Assumption Cathedral, City of Vladimir, Russia) the 55


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Considering these remarks, an important issue may arise: Why does Steiner in his lecture on Gyzis neglect to comment upon all these obvious geometrical configurations, which could perhaps contribute further to the comprehension of the painting's spiritual meaning? Amplifying my previous arguments I would like to state that in bold contrast to the French theosophical doctrine, in which the prevalence of mathematics and geometry was emphasized, Steiner was striving to establish a theology of colors by letting the rivers of Goethe – the currents of German idealism – flow into his philosophical matrix. After taking these different strands together I would like to point out that Gyzis’s work deserves further attention from art historians, as it emerges in the foreground around 1910. This was a crucial time both for the future of the Theosophical Society, since Steiner at that time was abandoning its ideological bandwagon, and for the outcome of the artistic ebullition of the pre-war years. At this time —to paraphrase Marshall Berman— the firm and solid certitudes of modernized societies melt into thin air.56

Bibliography Aenigma, Gruppe bildender Künstler, exh. cat., Galerie Das Reich, Munich, from Februar

5 to March 13, 1918. Apke, Bernd, and Ingrid Ehrhardt, eds. Okkultismus und Avantgarde: von Munch bis Mondrian, 1900–1915, exh. cat., Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt. Ostfildern: Edition Tertium, 1995. Berman, Marshall. All That Is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982.

Thrones are also depicted in three-group pattern, as in Gyzis's painting. However, Gyzis's more abstract rendition of the Thrones may also be correlated here with the Buddhist or Shinto symbol of Tomoe, or turning, fire wheel; see Adele Nozedar, The element encyclopedia of secret signs and symbols: the ultimate A-Z guide from alchemy to the zodiac, (London: Harper Element, 2008), entry Tomoe; Blavatsky, in the first volume of her Secret Doctrine, links the Thrones with the Fohat, the fire wheels that bear the electric energy and operate as the bond between spirit and matter. As we have seen, in Steiner’s view, the Thrones were also responsible for the creation of matter and therefore were higher in the hierarchical scale, since they needed more cosmic time to produce their work. In the NeoplatonicChaldean tradition, the magic “wheels of Hecates” [στρόφαλοι], or the “Iynx” [Ίυγξ], were also associated with concentric movements around the fire-formed God [κυκλοέλικτος]. Thus, they participated in the transformation of the formless mould [πυρ ατύπωτον] into matter; see Majercik, Chaldean Oracles, 9–10, 104–105, 124–127. Marshall Berman, All That Is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982). 56

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Blavatsky, Helena, Petrovna. Collected Writings, vol. XIII, 1890–1891. Edited by Boris De Zirkoff. Wheaton: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1982. ———. Die Geheimlehre: die Vereinigung von Wissenschaft, Religion und Philosophie. Translated by Robert Froebe, Leipzig: Theosophisches Verlagshaus, 1899. Bracker, Hans-Jürgen. “Eine frühe Botin der Anthroposophie in Palästina: Zum 50. Todestag der Malerin Anna Rychter-May.” Novalis Zeitschrift für europäisches Denken, 58, 3, (2004): 61–63. Cioran, Samuel. Vladimir Solov!ev and the Knighthood of the Divine Sophia. Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1977. Danos, Antonis. “Idealist ‘grand visions,’ from Nikolaos Gyzis to Konstantinos Parthenis: the Unackowledged Symbolist Roots of Greek Modernism.” In The Symbolist Roots of Modern Art, eds. Michelle Facos and Thor J. Mednick, 11–22. Farnham Surrey, England; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2015. Danzker, Jo-Anne Birnie, and Gian Casper Bott, eds. Séance, Albert von Keller and the Occult, exh. cat., Frye Art Museum, Seattle. Washington: University of Washington Press, 2010. Didaskalou, Konstantinos. Der Münchner Nachlass von Nikolaus Gysis, two vols. Munich, s.n., 1993. ———. Genre– und allegorische Malerei von Nikolaus Gysis. PhD diss. LMU, Munich, 1991. Drosinis, Georgios and Lampros Koromilas, eds. Επιστολαί του Νικολάου Γύζη [in Greek]. Athens: Eklogi Editions, 1953. Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. Theory of Colours. Translated by Charles Lock Eastlake. London: J. Murray, 1840 (revised Cambridge University Press, 2010). Gottlieb, M. “Anna von Rychter-May.” Mitteilungen aus der anthroposophischen Arbeit in Deutschland, 29 (1954): 128–129. Gümbel-Seiling, Max. Mit Rudolf Steiner in München, Den Haag: De nieuwe Boekerij, 1946. Halfen, Ronald, Walter Kugler and Dino Wendtland, eds. Rudolf Steiner — das malerische Werk: mit Erläuterungen und einem dokumentarischen Anhang. Dornach: RudolfSteiner Verlag, 2007. Hauschka, Margarethe. “Das Triptychon ‘Gral’ von Anna May.” Das Goetheanum, Wochenschrift für Anthroposophie, 54 (1975): 187–190. Kalligas, Marinos. Νικόλας Γύζης, η ζωή και το έργο του [in Greek]. Athens: Educational Foundation of the National Bank of Greece, 1981. Kandinsky Wassily. “Über das Geistige in der Kunst [1912].” In Kandinsky. Complete Writings on Art, edited by Kenneth C. Lindsay and Peter Vergo (New York: Da Capo, 1994) (1st ed. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1982). Kassimati, Marilena Z. “Η καλλιτεχνική προσωπικότητα του Νικολάου Γύζη µέσα από το ηµερολόγιο, τις επιστολές του και τις καταγραφές άλλων καλλιτεχνών: µια νέα ανάγνωση της ‘ελληνικότητας’.” In Ο Νικόλαος Γύζης: ο Τήνιος εθνικός ζωγράφος [in Greek]. Edited by Kostas Danousis. Conference proceedings, Athens: Study Society Tinos, 2002. Kemp, Martin. The Science of Art: Optical Themes in Western Art from Brunelleschi to Seurat. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990.


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Levy, Eva. “Anna May-Rychter.” In Anthroposophie im 20. Jahrhundert, edited by Bodo von Plato, 506, Dornach: Verlag am Goetheanum, 2003. Loers, Veit and Pia Witzmann. “Münchens okkultistisches Netzwerk.” In Okkultismus und Avantgarde: von Munch bis Mondrian, 1900–1915, edited by Bernd Apke and Ingrid Ehrhardt, 238–244, exh. cat., Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt. Ostfildern: Edition Tertium, 1995. Majercik, Ruth. The Chaldean Oracles: Text, Translation, and Commentary. Leiden and New York: Brill, 1989. Matthaei, Rupprecht. Goethe’s color theory. Translated by Herb Aach. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1971. Matthiopoulos, Eugenios D. Η τέχνη πτεροφυεί εν οδύνη. Η πρόσληψη του νεοροµαντισµού στο πεδίο της ιδεολογίας και της θεωρίας της τέχνης και της τεχνοκριτικής στην Ελλάδα [in Greek]. Athens: Potamos Publishers, 2005. ———. “Η θεωρία της ‘Ελληνικότητας’ του Μαρίνου Καλλιγά,” [in Greek], Ιστορικά [Historika], 25 (2008): 331–356. Meyer-Baer, Kathi. Music of the Spheres and the Dance of Death. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1970. Missirli, Nelli. Νικόλαος Γύζης, 1842–1901 [in Greek]. Athens: Adam, 2002 (1st ed. Athens: Adam, 1995). Montandon, Marcel. Gysis. Bielefeld and Leipzig: Velhagen & Klasing, 1902. Münchener Kunstausstellung, exh. cat., Glaspalast, Munich: 1918. Nozedar, Adele. The element encyclopedia of secret signs and symbols: the ultimate A-Z guide from alchemy to the zodiac, London: Harper Element, 2008. Picht, Carlo, Septimus. “Nikolaus Gysis. Zum Gedenken an seinem 50. Todestag (4 Januar 1951).” Blätter für Anthroposophie 3 (1951): 419–421. Rider, Jacques Le. “L’héritage de Goethe: romantisme et expressionisme.” In Aux origines de l’abstraction: 1800–1914, edited by Serge Lemoine and Pascal Rousseau, exh. cat., Musée D’Orsay, Paris. Paris: Réunion des musées nationaux, 2003. Ringbom, Sixten. The Sounding Cosmos; a Study in the Spiritualism of Kandinsky and the Genesis of Abstract Painting. Åbo: Åbo Akademi, 1970. Rosenblum, Robert. Modern Painting and the Northern Romantic Tradition: Friedrich to Rothko. London: Thames and Hudson, 1978 (1st ed. New York: Harper & Row 1975). Smith, Andrew, Phillip. The Gnostics: History, Tradition, Scriptures, Influence. London: Watkins Publishing, 2008. Sotiropoulou, S., Sister Daniilia, K. Andrikopoulos, G. Karagiannis, Y. Chryssoulakis, “The Artistic Traits of Gyzis: a First Diagnostic Approach to His Paintings.” In Proceedings of the 4 th Symposium of the Hellenic Society for Archaeometry, edited by Yorgos Facorellis, Nikos Zacharias and Kiki Polikreti, 603–610. Oxford: BAR International Series, 2008. Steiner, Rudolf. “Aus dem Lichte die Liebe.” Blätter für Anthroposophie 3 (1951): 421–426. ———. Das Wesen der Farben: Drei Vorträge, gehalten in Dornach am 6., 7. and 8. Mai

1921 sowie neuen Vorträge als Ergänzungen aus dem Vortragswerk der Jahre 1914 bis 1924. Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1986.

The reception of N. Gyzis’s Behold the Bridegroom cometh by R. Steiner


———. Briefe Vol. II, 1890–1925, edited by Edwin Froböse and Paul G. Bellmann. Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1987. ———. Farberkenntnis: Ergänzungen zu dem Band “Das Wesen der Farben,” edited by Hella Wiesberger and Heinrich O. Proskauer. Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1990. ———. Bausteine zu einer Erkenntnis des Mysteriums von Golgatha: kosmische und

menschliche Metamorphose: siebzehn Vorträge, gehalten in Berlin vom 6. Februar bis 8. Mai 1917. Dornach: Rudolf-Steiner Verlag, 1996. ———. Die Geheimnisse der biblischen Schöpfungsgeschichte: das Sechstagewerk im 1. Buch Moses: ein Zyklus von zehn Vortra@gen und ein einleitender Vortrag, München, 16. bis 26. August 1910, Dornach: Rudolf-Steiner Verlag, 2010. Thomassen, Einar. “Valentinian Ideas About Salvation as Transformation.” In Metamorphoses: Resurrection, Body and Transformative Practices in Early Christianity, edited by

Turid Karlsen Seim and Jorunn Økland, 169–186. Berlin, New York: W. de Gruyter, 2009. Tuchman, Maurice, Judi Freeman and Carel Blotkamp, eds. The Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting 1890–1985, exh. cat., County Museum of Art, Los Angeles. New York: Abbeville Press, 1986 (rev. 1999). Wiesberger, Hella, and Heinrich O. Proskauer, eds. Farbenerkenntnis: Ergänzungen zu dem

Band “Das Wesen der Farben”: schriftliche und mündliche Darstellungen von Rudolf Steiner und Anderen. Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1990.

Zander, Helmut. “Ästhetische Erfahrung: Mysterientheater von Edouard Schuré zu Wassily Kandinsky.” In Mystique, mysticisme et modernité en Allemagne autour de 1900, edited by Moritz Bassler and Hildegard Chatellier, conference proceedings, University of Strasbourg, 1996, 203–221. Strasbourg : Presses Universitaires de Strasbourg, 1998. ———. Anthroposophie in Deutschland: theosophische Weltanschauung und gesellschaftliche Praxis, 1884–1945, two vols. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2007.


Romanticism and National Messianism in Theosophical Milieus in Poland Before World War II – an Overview1 The aim of the paper is to examine the complex relations between Romanticism and its Messianic philosophy and the ideas shared by esoteric groups in Poland in the first half of the 20th century. It is divided into three parts, where the first is focused on the introduction to the specificity of Polish Romantic literature, that is the idea of National Messianism, which emerged in the particular historical and political context. It explains the role of the so called Three Bards, and concepts such as Poland as Christ of the Nations, and Poland as Winkelried of the Nations. Esoteric content was clearly present in Romantic literature from the beginning, but some topics, such as Słowacki’s Genesic philosophy, became especially important for esoteric groups at the turn of the 20th century. The second part of the text is focused on the Theosophical movement in Poland, and on the reception of esoteric concepts and new esoteric interpretations of concepts rooted in Romanticism within it. Here one can count attempts to find traces of Aryans in Polish mountains or imagining Tatras as Himalayas, teachings about national places of power, concepts such as “Karma of the Nation”, “New Patriotism”, and incarnation of the “King Spirit”, all of which emerged in the Polish Theosophical Society in the 20s, that is in the interwar period, when Poland had just regained independence. The last part presents the Theosophical Society and related movements, that were inspired by ideas rooted in Romanticism, against the background of other esoteric milieus with similar interests. Messianic philosophy was something shared by many groups, even if their ideological profiles were different. The last part, therefore, places the Romantic aspect of Polish Theosophy in the wider socio–cultural context.

Historical background of Romanticism in Polish lands To understand the specific nature of Polish Romanticism, it is necessary to sketch its historical background. The Romantic era, spanning the last decades of the 18th century and the first half of the 19th, coincides in Poland with the period of so-called 1 The research project was financed from the sources of the National Science Centre, Poland, awarded on the basis of decision no. DEC–2013/11/N/HS1/04812.



Karolina Maria Hess

Partitions. The lands of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (the union of the Crown of Polish Kingdom and the Great Duchy of Lithuania, existing from 1569 to 1795) were gradually divided between Russia, Prussia and Austria between 1772 and 1795. The last partition was complete, and as a result Poland lost its independence for 123 years, that is until the end of World War I in 1918.2 During this time the questions of independence and national liberation were the dominant topics of reflection and debate among Polish intellectual elites, both in formerly Polish lands and in exile. The ideas of Romanticism, which in various countries often revolved around variously understood notions of freedom, in Polish literature and art were in effect concentrated, in all their diversity, on the ideas of nation and statehood. The period of partitions was also a time of failed insurrections, primarily against the Russian Empire, which led to the so–called Great Emigration. Many of the most important works of Polish Romantics were created in exile, which contributed to their specific character. The doctrine of National Messianism and a particular historiosophy associated with it become one of the main – if not the most important – topics in Polish Romanticism.

Roots of National Messianism It is worth noting that the entry for Messianism in Polish lexicons typically discusses several meanings of the concept, before underlining that in Poland it has a specific meaning besides those more common ones. Following a standard definition, Messianism can be understood as (1) a socio-religious doctrine, a belief in the coming of a Messiah, who will restore freedom to nations and redeem humanity; (2) a belief in a unique historical mission, bestowed on a nation or individual; (3) in Poland – as a doctrine attributing to the divided and occupied nation the role of Messiah of Nations, who will redeem all mankind through its suffering.3 Suffering indeed is something the Polish Messianic thought probably focuses on the most. Waldemar Chrostowski correctly observes: “In looking at their history and identity the Poles show a clear tendency to highlight suffering as the key to the nation's philosophy of history. For more than three centuries suffering has been a constant historical determinant of Poland and the price paid for patriotism. Suffering can mean defeat; it can be regarded as proof of the absence or impotence of God. Polish spirituality, however, puts suffering in a different perspective. Suffering is seen as 2 For more see e.g. Jerzy Lukowski, The Partitions of Poland 1772, 1793, 1795 (New York: Routledge 2014).

See Messianism [lexical entry] in Słownik Języka Polskiego and Słownik Języka Polskiego PWN;2567583 [20.04.2016]. 3

Romanticism and National Messianism in Theosophical Milieus in Poland


a sign of chosenness and the specific mission of Poles. The notion of chosenness is historically rooted. It explains all events in the light of the role and position of the Polish nation in God's plans.”4 Both suffering and the special mission of Poles give us a perspective on the aims and means of Messianism, so it will help to see how it flourished within esoteric thought. The roots of Messianism as a complex of philosophical and moral doctrines reach back to Judaism and the awaiting of Messiah who will liberate the nation of Israel. It is also there where the idea of a nation especially chosen by God originates. It gave rise to historiosophical reflections concerning the special missions of individuals and nations, which would lead to the liberation or rebirth of mankind as a whole. In Poland, as has been mentioned, the aspect of redeeming suffering was especially stressed, and so the Messianic mission was identified frequently with the sacrifice of Christ and considered within the paradigm of innocent sacrifice, suffering and redemption. The idea of Messianic self–sacrifice and redemption of mankind’s sins by a chosen nation was assimilated and developed by the Polish Romantics as a response to the fall and partition of their country in the late 18th and early 19th century. It was particularly prominent among members of the Great Emigration after the failed November Insurrection (in 1831), and its greatest proclaimers were the national “Three Bards”. “Wieszcz”, usually translated as Bard, in Polish means “soothsayer”, “prophet”, “herold” or “oracle”. Those are: Adam Mickiewicz (1798–1855), Juliusz Słowacki (1809–1849), and Zygmunt Krasiński (1812–1859). Sometimes, a fourth Bard is added – a prolific poet of a younger generation, Cyprian Kamil Norwid (1821–1883). If we wanted to make some generalizations, we could follow some authors and say that “Mickiewicz, the master of the epic and lyric, may be called the poet of the present; Krasiński, the prophet and seer, the poet through whom the future spoke; while Słowacki, the dramatist, was the panegyrist of the past.”5 It should be underlined that the Bards, even if very influential and responsible for spreading the Messianic message, were not the first to conceive of it. Józef Hoene-Wroński (1776–1853) is considered the forerunner of Polish Messianism,6 and he also stressed Slavic motifs in his philosophy.7 Other im 4

Waldemar Chrostowski, “The Suffering, Chosenness and Mission of the Polish Nation,”

Occasional Papers on Religion in Eastern Europe, 4 (1991), 1–14.

5 Charles D. Warner, Hamilton W. Mabie, Lucia I. Runkle, George H. Warner, Library of the World’s Best Literature, Ancient and Modern: A – Z (New York: J. A. Hill & Company

1902), 13508.

6 Rafał T. Prinke, “Uczeń Wrońskiego – Éliphas Lévi w kręgu polskich mesjanistów,” in Pamiętnik Biblioteki Kórnickiej 30 (2013), 133. Thanks to the research of Rafał Prinke, many intriguing facts about the relation of Alphonse-Louis Constant (1810–1875), widely known under his pen name Éliphas Lévi, and Hoene-Wroński are now known. For example, Lévi, devoted to the meaning of Messianism formed by the philosopher, criticized the use of the


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portant thinkers that influenced the Bards, and not only them, were younger colleagues of Wroński, Polish idealist, Hegelian philosophers, among them Józef Kremer (1806–1875), August Cieszkowski (1814–1894), and Józef Gołuchowski (1791– 1858). The role of a philosopher and mystic Andrzej Towiański (1799–1878)8 should be also mentioned. Those are definitely the figures that one has to include in a larger picture of the Three Bard’s ideas, as well as the influence of Messianism on esoteric milieus.

Poland as Christ and Winkelried of Nations The most important Messianistic manifesto is considered to be the “Vision of Father Peter”, a fragment of the national classic, the 3rd part of Dziady [Forefather’s Eve] by Adam Mickiewicz. The drama also includes the “Great Improvisation”, a famous monologue of the main protagonist – Konrad – reflecting on questions of freedom, love and God. In Father Peter’s vision, which alludes stylistically to ancient prophecies such as the Apocalypse of John, Poland is imagined as the Christ of Nations. France is the Pontius Pilate washing his hands – refusing to help the Poles during their insurrection – the young fighters exiled to Siberia are compared to the infants slaughtered by Herod; and the cross of Christ is made of “three dried up peoples”, a clear reference to the three occupying forces. The vision includes many other elements bringing out the symbolic dimension of the Polish nation’s suffering. Rafał Prinke, who researched the formula “Poland as Christ of Nations” and its esoteric contexts, notes that the slogan does not literally appear in Mickiewicz’s drama Dziady (the allegory is present there, but not the term), but it first appears in the work by Eliphas Levi’s (Alphonse-Louis Constant, 1810–1875) Le Deuil de la Poterm (which he considered stolen from Wroński) by Mickiewicz and Towiański (see 134– 135, 144). As Prinke cites, Constant wrote about the “morbid poetry of Mickiewicz and the delusions of some obscure sectarian named Towiański.” Prinke also suggests that it is more probable that it was Mickiewicz (who was familiar with Kabbalah), not Wroński, that was responsible for the turning point in Constant’s interests which led him to create his magic doctrine (see Prinke, Uczeń Wrońskiego, 148–149, c.f. Lévi, Dogme et rituel de la haute magie, Paris 1861, 52).

See Józef Hoene-Wroński, Prospectus du Messianisme (1831), Messianisme ou Réforme absolue du savoir humain I (1847), Épître à S.A. le prince Czartoryski, sur les destinées de la Pologne et généralement sur la destinée des nations slaves (1848), Philosophie absolue de l’Histoire ou Genèse de l’humanité, 1852, Historiographie (1852). 7

8 Towiański has influenced both Słowacki and Mickiewicz, but he is known mostly for his great impact on the latter. However, the author of the book Mickiewicz hermetyczny, Zdzislaw Kępiński, suggests that Mickiewicz, who knew the principles of the hermetic theosophy of Rosicrucianism, used his knowledge to improve the fundaments of Towiański’s “sect” (that is the Circle of God’s Cause, see below).

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logne (= F. Lamennais, A. Constant, Le Deuil de la Pologne, Paris 1847). Lévi was familiar with Polish Messianic circles at the time, and they influenced each other.9 Mickiewicz’s drama was published in 1832; two years later Słowacki’s Kordian10 appeared (inspired partly by a disagreement between the two poets). Instead of a notion of passive suffering, Słowacki presents the ideal of active struggle, embodied in the character of the legendary Swiss hero, Arnold von Winkelried. According to a Swiss legend, Winkelried’s sacrifice brought about the victory of Switzerland in the Battle of Sempach (1386), where he threw himself upon the Austrian pikes, taking some of them down with his body. This broke up the Austrian front, and made an opening through which the Swiss could attack. The heroic leap of Winkelried was supposedly accompanied by a cry “Road to Freedom”. In Słowacki’s drama, Kordian shouts from the top of Mont Blanc “Poland the Winkelried of Nations” (of Europe), challenging Mickiewicz’s vision of passive sacrifice and urging his compatriots to active and heroic struggle. However, in the drama the struggle fails, undermined by Satan and his intrigues. Both those visions have shaped Polish thinking about the road to freedom and national liberation. What they had in common, we should observe, is that in both the sacrifice was to be complete and fatal.

Messianism and Esotericism Romantic poets occupy a very important (if not the most important) place in the national cultural canon up to present day. It is not very surprising that Messianistic ideas were also very popular, in various forms, among almost all esoteric milieus in Poland at the turn of the 20th century. Moreover, they boomed in the interwar period, when Poland regained her independence, and citizens of the new country tried to find a new philosophy for the future nation. Romanticism not only inspired later initiation doctrines and movements, but itself contained many allusions and references to esotericism and mysticism.11 Prinke, Uczeń Wrońskiego, 142. See also 140–144. Regarding the political situation and the emigration of the Polish intellectual elites that followed it, it is worth noting that from the beginning of the 19th century there was a strong Polonophile current in French culture, and on the other hand, there were a lot of Polish authors writing in French. 9


The full title Kordian. First part of a trilogy. The coronation plot.

It is worth noting that the study of esoteric motifs and inspirations and their significance in the work of Romantic poets is one of the few instances where esotericism is seriously discussed in Polish scholarship in the last decades (cf. Zdzisław Kępiński, Mickiewicz Hermetyczny [Hermetic Mickiewicz] (Warszawa: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy 1980), Maria Janion, Maria Żmigrodzka, Słowacki Mistyczny. Propozycje i dyskusje sympozjum Warszawa 10–11 grudnia 1979 [Mystical Słowacki] (Warszawa: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy 1981) and the polemical responses to these books. It can be said that while an emphasis on esoteric motifs in other writers and artists is often received with criticism or lack of understanding, when it concerns the Romantic era, it is relatively uncontroversial. 11


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It is very important to stress that Polish national Messianism was on the one hand similar, on the other hand different from the Messianism in other Slavic countries. Nemanja Radulović in his article “Slavia Esoterica Between East and West” points out some characteristic features of the Esotericism in Slavic countries, where Slavs are seen as holding mediating role between Eastern and Western thought.12 The unity of Slavic nations, or Pan-Slavism, is often characterized in the categories of Messianism. The term is also widely present in Russian thought. Polish milieus often employed Slavic references (as will be seen below in Theosophical contexts), but it needs to be kept in mind that the specific historical situation of Poland, its partitions (casting doubt on any notions of unity) and loss of independence, together with ideas developed by thinkers and writers who had to remain in exile, distinguished Polish Messianism from its (Pan-)Slavic counterparts and gave it a more specific focus.

Słowacki and his Genesic philosophy Among the national Bards, with whom esotericists liked to identify, Słowacki was without doubt the one who attracted most interest. For he has created, in several of his works, a philosophical system known as “Genesic” philosophy. It is most prominent in two works: Genezis z Ducha13 [Genesis from the Spirit] and Król–Duch14 [The King–Spirit], but elements of it can be found in other writings as well (see e.g. Samuel Zborowski15). Genesis from the Spirit, written in 1844 is a prayer-monologue, spoken from the perspective of the divine Spirit. It is considered to be a manifestation of “knowing faith” (gnosis–like), a postulate of unification of reason and intuition. It expresses a spiritual vision of the universe and alludes to idealistic historiography. The first and probably so far last translations of the poem, as well as some other works (or at least fragments) of the Three Bards into English were prepared by Theosophists. Here is an example (section 1) of translation of the Genesis from the Spirit by Kazimierz Chodkiewicz. O GOD, THOU lifted me up on the cliffs over the sea that I should recognize the eternal life of my Spirit, and suddenly I became an Immortal, a son of God, the Creator of all visible things, and one of those who living on golden suns and stars voluntarily offer Thee their Love. For before the world was created, my Nemanja Radulović, “Slavia Esoterica Between East and West”, Ricerche slavistiche 13 (59) 2015: 73–102. 12

13 14 15

Juliusz Słowacki, Genezis z Ducha (Poznań: Ostoja, 1918), Słowacki, Król–Duch (Paris: Maulde i Renou, 1847). Słowacki, Samuel Zborowski (Vilnius: Zorza 1928).

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Spirit dwelt in the WORD, and the WORD was in Thee, and I was in the WORD. And we, the Word Spirits, asked Thee to give us Forms and immediately Thou gavest us these forms, O Lord, permitting us to create from ourselves, from our Will and our Love, the first visible shapes, and appear before Thee in manifestation.16

What is very interesting from present perspective, is that Chodkiewicz changed some parts a little, for example he omitted (or rephrased very imprecisely) a part where some dualistic motif was mentioned directly.17 However, it was an important element for Słowacki, as he underlined some words in this fragment. Possible reasons may be that Chodkiewicz, as most Theosophists, tried to present Słowacki as a Theosophist as well, so those changes might have been introduced to remove incongruent elements. In any case, many passages of the Genesis from the Spirit, some of which I am presenting here, are definitely something that could attract the attention of those interested in Western esotericism. Thus You have separated the spirits that chose light as their form, from spirits that chose to manifest in darkness . And those in suns and stars, while those in earths and moons began the work of forms, from which You, Lord, collect constantly the product of love, because of which all is created, through which all is born. [...] For my spirit, as the first Trinity of three persons, composed of Spirit, Love and Will, flew forth, calling upon kindred spirits of similar nature, and through love rousing in himself the will, changed one point of invisible space into a flare of magnetic-attractive forces. And these transformed into forces electrical and fulgural. And they warmed up in the Spirit.18

Another verse from the poem says something that we can paraphrase as “Help me, o God, that my words, written with deep insight and intuition, may go to my country and my people, and awaken first the hidden spiritual forces of Love and Wisdom. I pray, O Lord, for the Wisdom in Faith, for the Knowing Faith, and for the Feeling of Immortality, born from the Faith which KNOWS, because it understands the For all of the text see Translated by Theosophist, Kazimierz Chodkiewicz in London, 1966, cf. Słowacki, Genezis z Ducha, 7. Chodkiewicz wrote a commentary to the poem too. 16

17 The reasons have to be researched further. A probable reason might have been that Chodkiewicz wanted to omit those parts of the poem that did not exactly fit the Theosophical point of view. See the section Słowacki – a Theosophist? below. 18

Translated by KMH, cf. Słowacki, Genezis z Ducha, 8.


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creative power of the Spirit, in which I already behold the Fiery Angel of the future Sacrifice. For everything is created through the Spirit and for the Spirit and nothing exists for material purposes. This will be the well-found Wisdom of my nation in the future, and in the purified Wisdom a unity of Emotions will be born, which will guide my country to her final attainment of the goal chosen for her in the creative plan of the Divine Kingdom on this globe.”19 The “Genesic” philosophy of Słowacki, generally speaking, is based on the belief that the essence of all being is spiritual, and matter is a form of Spirit as well. Every being is constantly striving to achieve a higher level of perfection, but the changes are not necessarily of evolutionary nature – they may be rapid – as new forms in matter need to disrupt older structures to emerge. Revolution here could be understood as destruction of the old forms of the Spirit, and the process as necessary, because leading to perfection. Motifs of Genesic philosophy can be found in the novel Nietota. Księga tajemna Tatr written by Tadeusz Miciński (a member of a Theosophical circle) in 1910, as well as the works of another author interested in Western esotericism, Antoni Lange – Logos, Palingeneza, and others.

Słowacki – a Theosophist? 20 Regarding the numerous examples of references to Słowacki’s works, it is quite clear that people involved in various esoteric currents could not remain indifferent to Słowacki’s mystical writings. Some groups even suggested that he foresaw the ideas they were promoting, and he was an early speaker for them. The best example is Theosophy. Not only in the Polish lands, but also for Theosophists abroad, he was a very important inspiration. In the archives of the Headquarters of the Theosophical Society in America in Wheaton21 documents connected to the activity of Polish-speaking Theosophical branches in the United States can be found – two in Chicago and one in Milwaukee. The interesting fact is that two of those three branches were called Juliusz Słowacki, despite the fact that the second branch knew about the first when it was established – they still decided to use the same name. It was, moreover, uncommon that the name of a new branch would not be directly connected to Theosophy. There is an extant justification for the name from the Branch’s members. Part of it says:


Translated by Chodkiewicz, cf. Słowacki, Genezis z Ducha, 53–54.

It should be underlined that interpreting Słowacki as a Theosophical thinker would be anachronism, and this is not a case here. 20

I would like to express my gratitude to Ms. Janet Kerschner for her help with finding the data on Polish-speaking Theosophists in the USA. 21

Romanticism and National Messianism in Theosophical Milieus in Poland


The spiritual meaning of his poems was so much Theosophical, in 19th century in Poland, that he was not fully understood by His People, until now, and Theosophy makes it possible to grasp the meaning of highly spiritual poems about Karma, Reincarnation, Dharma, etc. Now we understand him much better by the aid of Theosophy – if Theosophical movement existed in Poland in his time, he sure would have been at the head of Polish Theosophy. [Signed by Acting Secretary of Juliusz Słowacki Lodge {organizing}, A. Berest, Dec. 1936]22

Another work, which kindled the imagination even more, is King–Spirit (or the Spirit King), an unfinished book called sometimes a ‘Panslavic epic poem’ [epos wszechsłowiański]. The motif of a spiritually gifted king who will lead his nation to salvation, was common in Polish esoteric literature. Here is a fragment of the 1st part: My sufferings and sincere torments, and the constant fight against a drove of satans, their bright weapons and sunny shields, snake pits filled with treason... I will tell... fulfilling perennial decrees, which place this burden on me today, to sing the things bygone, and the holy spirits’ great holy wars.

The poem alludes to the motif of a Slavic role in the history of nations, and Messianism in the meaning that was discussed above.

Theosophical movements and ideas of the nation Although there were many forms of interaction between Western esotericism, Romanticism and national Messianism in Poland, I’d like to focus especially on one example to show how the ideas were presented, that is on the Theosophical movement in Poland, where all the main elements of national Messianism, like the King– Spirit motif, Poland as Christ of Nations, and the idea of a special place of Poland on the map of the world, are present. It is even more interesting in light of the fact that Theosophy itself rarely offered ideas such as that of a chosen nation, itself propagating the brotherhood of all nations, even if often engaged in their fights for freedom. We already saw examples of the interest in Słowacki in Theosophical circles. Now let us go through some Theosophical interpretations of the national messianic 22 Anton Berest (Letter to Etha Snodgrass, Dec 21, 1936), in: The files of Juliusz Slowacki Branch, Chicago IL (Chartered on December 16, 1936, dissolved on July 23, 2001), the Archives of the Theosophical Society in America, Wheaton.


Karolina Maria Hess

ideas like mystic geography of Poland with its two gates, chakras, the Dharma of the nation, New Patriotism and the incarnation of the King–Spirit. The situation of Poland in the 19th century and later was interpreted symbolically in two perspectives – on the one hand, emphasis was put on the Romantic symbolism of mountains and the sea, the two gates of the Commonwealth – the Baltic and the Tatra. Wanda Dynowska (1888–1971), the Secretary General of the Polish section of the Theosophical Society, wrote about them in such manner in her article for an issue of The Theosophist partly devoted to Poland.23 The other perspective referred to a clash of civilizations, that is, to the special place of Poland in the collision of West and East. It was in Poland where the future synthesis of both cultures was to take place. Theosophical literature and Edouard Schure's book The Great Initiates were largely responsible for the image of the East involved here. In response to an interest in searching for the origins of civilization in India, in Poland people began eagerly to look for traces of Aryan presence in the Tatra mountains. To great popularity rose the symbol of the swastika, which came to be found everywhere – and drawn everywhere. Jan Reychman24 has collected examples of the search for Aryans in the Tatras (as well as references to the Tatras as Himalaya, and to Polish culture as a form of Indian culture), from Polish poems, novels, and other works – a few of which are presented below: Ewa Łuskina, Genezis z ducha Aryów: So the base of the triangle, the apex of which shines with the brilliance [...] of diamond among the glaciers of the Himavat – finds its footing in our land – from the dark woods of Lithuania to the sunny pastures of the Tatra.25

Tadeusz Miciński, Nietota. Księga tajemna Tatr: Tatra – Himalaya [...] I have stripped myself from all delusion, all semblance, to the bare soul of a Proto-Indian. [...] I must find at last my solution of being: I must understand [...], will I reach Purana Bhagavat? [...] Indian knowledge is the fulfillment of what among us has been narrowed down into a dogma.26 Wanda Dynowska, “Seas and Mountains in the Life of Poland,” The Theosophist 11 (1942): 400–403. 23

24 Jan Reychman, Peleryna, ciupaga i znak tajemny (Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie 1976). 25

Ewa Łuskina, “Genezis z ducha Aryów,” Lamus 12 (1911/1912), 64.

Miciński became a member of the Theosophical Society on December 31st, 1909, cf. “Theosophical Society General Register” Vol. III, From 11th June 1904 to 3rd August 1910, No. 26081–43120, No. 39924. 26

Romanticism and National Messianism in Theosophical Milieus in Poland


Miciński, Xsiądz Faust: We cannot go back to the peoples adoring Indra. But it is there, where are our Swiatowid, Dziedzilla, Jarowit... 27

Jan Hempel, Z kazań o życiu i wolności. Piast: Żywia (praslavic godess): “represents the religion and culture of Piasts as “transhimalayan”, identical to the culture and religion of ancient India.” 28

Miciński and Wawrzeniecki, stated that Svetovid (a four faced-god, the main deity worshipped by some Slavic tribes, the Master of heavens, war, fertility, and harvest) was supposed to be a direct reflection of the lingam with four faces of Shiva.29 Furthermore, according to Theosophists, and those involved in the Liberal Catholic Church in Poland, there is a special place in the Tatra Mountains that might be seen as a force/power center – that is the Black Lake, where Deva (in the meaning from Hindu mythology), a mighty spiritual being is to be found. What is interesting, the lake was chosen for a proper place of burial for Juliusz Słowacki by a group of artists that included many prominent esotericists at the beginning of the 20th century. The following letter concerning the issue includes national messianic motifs and emphasizes the suffering of the Polish nation: For such an act of will as bringing Juliusz Słowacki’s body back to the country, our society, as much as it is oppressed with the burden of misfortune, torn into pieces and struck with new blows, can and should find the strength. – The ashes of the Herald of the immortal will of the Nation, of the love of Fatherland, the Apostle of the idea of sacrifice, brought to our land today may become the cement to bond together our fragmented quarters, may unite the always separated classes and the parties running in opposite directions, and breathe into us, at least for this day, unity and love – and direct the tired eyes of the living towards an eternal purpose.30 27

Miciński, Xsiądz Faust (Kraków: Spółka Nakładowa “Książka” 1913), 212.

Hempel became a member of the Theosophical Society on Juy 23rd, 1921, cf. “Theosophical Society General Register” Vol. VIII, From 8th December 1920 to 7th July 1922, No. 85441–95440, No. 90156. 28

29 Urszula Makowska, “Wiedza tajemna Wschodu. Tendencje okultystyczne w kulturze polskiej na przełomie XIX i XX w.” in Orient i orientalizm w sztuce. Materiały Sesji Stowarzyszenia Hisotryków Sztuki, Kraków, grudzień 1983, Elżbieta Karwowska ed. (Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe 1986): 327. 30

List otwarty w sprawie sprowadzenia zwłok Juliusza Słowackiego (open letter sent from

Paris, February 1910) in Sfinks 2/26 (1910), 163.


Karolina Maria Hess

There were plans for bringing the ashes of the poet to Poland. According to the information from 1909, the Cracow bishop didn’t want Słowacki to be buried in the cathedral on Wawel Hill. [...] we have come to the conviction that the most suitable burial vault would be in the granite pyramid in the Kościelec crag above the Black Lake. In its western, steep wall, two hundred meters above the Black Lake, that is about half way up its height, there is in the granite surface an immense niche, eighty meters tall and of significant depth, where due to a natural inclination at the peak, avalanches or scree do not fall in. In this Tatra mountain chapel there should be, according to a design by appointed artists, a catacomb sculpted in the granite, and from the same granite – a large sarcophagus; and the whole cave should be closed with iron or bronze bars; and there should be monumental steps sculpted in the rock leading to the vault – beginning from the path that leads to the niche.31

The motif of a place of power at the Black Lake appears also in a note of Władysław Bocheński to the invocation written by colonel Michał Tokarzewski-Karszewicz. Tokarzewski was a Theosophist, a freemason (Le Droit Humain) and a priest of the Liberal Catholic Church. His invocation, as will be seen, is a clear example of Polish national Messianism in esoteric circles: We turn to You, the Spirit of the History of Polish statehood, and to You KingSpirit of the Polish nation. We wish that out nation should grow and perfect itself in the word of Truth about You and in the deed of fulfilling your Truth about Poland, our Commonwealth. With the Force of Your Power give us strength to serve You, guide us with the light of Your Wisdom and let the light of Your unceasing, all-embracing Love radiate through us across all of Poland. Peace to all, and the enthusiasm of common creation in the service of the brotherhood of nations. Amen. Amen. Amen.32

The manuscript with the invocation was for a time in the hands of Bocheński, who added a note to it: “Nota bene: The Spirit of the History of Polish Statehood is in Wawel, and the King-Spirit of the Polish nation – by the Black Lake above the Morskie Oko Lake.”33 Here we get to another power center connected to Polish history and the idea of Spiritual King who will lead the nation to salvation: the chakra in Cracow and the Marshall Józef Piłsudzki. 31

List otwarty, 163–164.

Daniel Bargiełowski, Po trzykroct pierwszy. Michał Tokarzewski-Karaszewicz. Generał broni, teozof, wolnomularz, kapłan Kostcioła liberalnokatolickiego, Vol.1(Warszawa: Oficyna 32

Wydawnicza Rytm 2000), 517–518

The note was added to the manuscript in the letter from Bocheński to Bargiełowski, see Bargiełowski, Po trzykroć pierwszy, 517–518. 33

Romanticism and National Messianism in Theosophical Milieus in Poland


Cracow, Wawel Hill – the Seventh Chakra of the Earth and its connection to King-Spirit It is hard to tell for sure who among the esoteric groups for the first time connected the old legend of Apollonius of Tiana with the power center in Cracow. It is very possible that it was Wanda Dynowska-Umadevi, but there is no doubt that it is widely known from the work of another Theosophist, Kazimierz Chodkiewicz (1892–1980). The topic was elaborated by Chodkiewicz in his publications on Cracow’s Power Center in Polish, English34, and Italian. Regardless of who first gave rise to this Theosophical legend, he definitely tried to clarify the topic. According to Chodkiewicz’s version of the story, Apollonius from Tiana, when he was travelling around Europe and the world, created Spiritual Centers of Power by burying special talismans. Appolonius was a messenger of the White Brotherhood of Adepts. Some of these centers were already active, but some were said to be activated for important events which will happen in Europe in the future. One of them is the Occult Centre where now is the city of Cracow. Then Chodkiewicz presents a part of Besant’s and Leadbeaters’ work Man: Whence, How and Whither (Adyar 1913) where Cracow is mentioned in the context of migrations of the Nordic sub-race, which he includes in his story. As one might suppose, Chodkiewicz supports the theory of Cracow as the birth place of the Aryans.

Fig. 1–2 The Wawel Lotus and the migrations of the Nordic sub-race from Chodkiewicz’ book (1966:9,11).


Kazimierz Chodkiewicz, The Cracow Occult Centre (London: Col. K. Chodkiewicz 1966).


Karolina Maria Hess

But where in this story is a place for a national Messianism or the spiritual King foreseen by Słowacki? Chodkiewicz mentioned that some chakras, or the spiritual centers were not yet active. In many sources connected to Polish Theosophy we may learn that the Son of the Nation, who was believed to be the spiritual king, was Marshall Józef Piłsudzki (1867–1935).35 There are many Theosophical writings explaining his biography and the symbolic meaning of his political decisions (including the controversial ones). In any case, Theosophists believed that the burial of the Marshall on Wawel Hill would (and did) bring the awakening of the Lotus, that is the Occult Center. There were many problems, in fact, with a proper burial (from the point of view of Theosophists), as special astrological and other conditions had to be met, so that the forces needed to open the center could accumulate. Finally, they succeeded and the Marshall was buried exactly at 10.57 A.M. on the day of May 18th, 1935.36 Then “The Lotus trembled and slowly woke. Its several petals began to rotate in a new cosmic rhythm. The transformer of the forces of God became ready to aid Europe in her coming deadly struggle against the forces of Evil, which threatened our Western Civilization...”37 The burial of the Marshall was just a stage of the process, as the main war took place in Heaven.38 It is unknown if Theosophists indeed had influence, as they claimed, on the date and hour of Marshal Piłsudski’s burial, but if they did not, it would be a strange coincidence that he was buried exactly at the time of the moving lunar holiday Vesak, during full moon. Vesak is the most important Buddhist festival, celebrated in remembrance of the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha. In the Theosophical Society it is believed to be a singular period, during which Buddha confers a special blessing, and pours forces from higher planes into our physical world. According to Chodkiewicz, rituals connected to the festival in India and those of Piłsudski’s funeral in Poland worked together to gather the force from higher planes in order to activate the chakra.

Theosophical New Patriotism An important role in the Polish Theosophical Society was played by so-called New Patriotism, a movement closely connected to the traditions of Polish Romantic Messianism, which combined ideals of universal brotherhood and of a national

35 Piłsudzki was the leader of the armed independence movement during World War I and after it he became the leader and the most influential figure of Polish political life, in both his official and unofficial capacities. Many of his actions are controversial to this day. 36 37 38

Chodkiewicz, The Cracow Occult Centre, 1–25. Chodkiewicz, The Cracow Occult Centre, 19.

Chodkiewicz, The Cracow Occult Centre, 20–25.

Romanticism and National Messianism in Theosophical Milieus in Poland


Karma of Poland.39 The Polish Theosophical Society considered itself a teacher of Europe, a representative of a nation, which, due to its historic experience of subjugation and suffering, can introduce a new quality and bring about positive changes in the international arena.40 Religious acts, and a conception of liberation in an eschatological sense were merged with an idea of national liberation – the salvation of individuals became equivalent to the salvation of the nation. In Wanda Dynowska’s lectures a new idea appeared. Poland is neither Christ nor Winkelried of the nations, but Kshatriya of the nations.41 The term comes from Sanskrit, it is one of the four classes of Vedic society. The term traditionally describes the ruling and military elite. It is where Polish Theosophists found their own role: fighting in the wartime – and the spiritual war was more important and preceded the wars in the material world – and keeping the peace in other times. As Dynowska said: The Polish Section needs to understand that it is not permitted to limit itself to work in Poland. We can afford not only to cover Poland with a network of organizations, but to carry this force further. (...) Poland was the “Christian promontory” and it has the same mission of promontory today. Poland is the Kshatrija fighting for yours and our freedom. The Polish Section takes over internally ancient knightly traditions. This is why Poland survived 150 years of suffering; there is our own fault in it, but also something that no student of history will understand. Poland is capable of undertaking colossal tasks; it belongs to the avant-garde.42

The Polish Theosophical Society did not have any political connections at the beginning of its existence. They emerged a few years after its establishment, in the late 1920s. The political issues became very important as the main figures of the society – Wanda Dynowska and Colonel Tokarzewski-Karaszewicz moved into politics, which they considered a possible field of activity for the Society. This decision had a huge impact on the organization’s fate during and after World War II, and ultimately led to its demise, but this topic extends far beyond the focus of this paper.


About Karma of Poland see W.L.B. “Karma of Poland as seen by Polish Theosophists,”

The Theosophist 11 (1942): 409–411.

40 Wanda Dynowska, Lecture for the meeting of the Polish Theosophical Society, 23 March 1927 in Archiwum PAN i PAU, Kazimierz Tokarski KIII–180, j.a. 18. 41 42

Wanda Dynowska, ibid. Wanda Dynowska, ibid.


Karolina Maria Hess

Panorama of esoteric milieus of Messianic character before World War II National Messianism and ideas rooted in Romanticism were – as has been shown – an inspiring influence for the Theosophical movement in Poland. One would be wrong, however, to take Theosophy as the only example when it comes to the presence of Messianic inspirations in esoteric milieus in the first half of the 20th century in Poland. The Theosophical movement did not discover the esoteric aspects of Romanticism, The Theosophical movement did not discover the esoteric aspects of Romanticism but we also cannot say that it just followed ideas that were very popular at the time. Rather these ideas were present in Polish Theosophical circles from the very beginning, and most possibly inspired individuals and groups treated as separate phenomena, even if so far it was not clear. In my research I traced many of these connections and discovered that those well-known individuals who are considered as “other” Messianistic thinkers were in fact or members of the TS for some time, or at least were in touch with the milieu. The beginnings of Polish membership in the Theosophical Society went back to 1887, while only in the first decade of the 20th century some kind of formal lodge was formed, and in 1912 it was registered as an independent society. Then in 1921 the Polish Theosophical Society was legalized in Poland, but it became a national section officially in 1923. One of the institutions closely connected to the Polish Theosophical Society, was a branch of the Liberal Catholic Church active in Poland. In this case the main persons of the TS were also responsible for establishing the LCC. Similar situation was found in Le Droit Humain, and partly in the Order of the Star in the East. The ideological profiles of all of them, although different, were strongly influenced by the idea of a Polish Theosophical mission, and therefore, National Messianic ideas were also present there. Among those who proclaimed conceptions and published works of Messianistic character there were also individuals connected in various ways to the pre- and inter-war Theosophical milieus, such as the popular writer and poet Jadwiga Marcinowska, Mieczysław Geniusz or Eugeniusz Polończyk.43 Another organization involved with Theosophical ideas, but not with the Theosophical Society was Karol Chobot’s Brotherhood of National Rebirth. The Brotherhood’s aim was to raise the moral and civic consciousness of Polish people.44 In its ideology, it combined Messianism, Occultism and metapsychology. The journal “Rebirth” was connected to this organization.

43 Wojciech Roszkowski, Mesjanizm a masoneria okultystyczna w Drugiej Rzeczypospolitej (Warszawa: Przegląd Powszechny 1983), 209–223. 44

Roszkowski, Mesjanizm, 214.

Romanticism and National Messianism in Theosophical Milieus in Poland


To move away from Theosophy, Wojciech Roszkowski notes that the relations between Messianism and Freemasonry appeared to be quite natural in light of the fact that almost all nationalist movements in the period of Romanticism and the Spring of Nations were organized into associations and confederacies employing masonic ritual. In the positivistic period the connection between Messianism and Freemasonry was weakened, but near the end of the 19th century, in the Young Poland period, they became closely associated again. 45 At that time one could even find groups with “Messianism” in their names, such as for instance the Messianistic Institute. Its founder was Józef Jankowski (1865– 1935), a writer and philosopher and an expert on Hinduism. His most important idea was a conception of a political system – Synarchy – in which the highest principle would be realized. He also proclaimed the possibility of the Absolute being incarnated on Earth. 46 Another interesting example is Wincenty Lutosławski’s (1863–1954) “Eleusis”.47 Lutosławski was a renowned philosophy professor, who in his thought combined the teachings of Plato and of the national Bards. The “Eleusis” was a society promoting abstinence from alcohol, tobacco, gambling and lust. In its stated objectives it referred to Andrzej Towiański and his Circle of God’s Cause. It aimed at a restoration of the Polish nation by hands of elites formed by the society. The members of “Eleusis” called themselves “els”, from the Greek eleutheroi laon soteres – “free saviors of people”48. Many others also wrote about Messianistic ideas, including Jerzy Braun (1901– 1975), Adam Górski (1870–1959), Adam Żółtowski (1881–1958), Gustaw Olechowski (1874–1959), Stefan Ossowiecki (1877–1944), Władysław Kołodziej (1897–1978), or Włodzimierz Tarło-Maziński (1889–1967). In my research on the history and ideas of Polish members of the Theosophical Society I discovered many connections that were not known or explored before. First of all, it turned out (thank you to Kurt Leland who pointed this out to me) that Wincenty Lutosławski was a

Roszkowski, Mesjanizm, 211. Please note, that apart of the meaning of a philosophical current and scientific method, in Polish literary history Positivism is a literary current which succeeds Romanticism, and precedes Young Poland. 45


Roszkowski, Mesjanizm, 211.

On esoteric dimensions of Eleusis cf. Małgorzata A. Dulska, Yoga and Spiritualism. The Concept of the Development of Psychophysical Eleuterism by Vincent Lutoslawski (paper 47

presented at ESSWE4 Conference, Gothenburg 2013).

48 Marian P. Romaniuk, “Wincenty Lutosławski (1884–19580),” in W trosce o trzeźwość narodu. Sylwetki najwybitniejszych działaczy trzeźwościowych XIX i XX wieku, Marian P.

Romaniuk ed. (Warszawa: Mazowieckie Centrum Polityki Społecznej, Yamaco 2007), 211–248.


Karolina Maria Hess

member of the Theosophical Society in his youth49. Even if later he changed his views, especially on religion, it had probably more impact on his intellectual formation than we might have guessed before. Furthermore, there were Polish members of the Theosophical Society in England, among them a physician and homeopath, Dr. Józef Drzewiecki. Beside his works related to health issues, we can also find a book (in Polish) On the Philosophy of Hoene-Wroński [O filozofi HoeneWrońskiego]. A Theosophist who became a member in Adyar headquarters, Jadwiga Marcinowska, wrote a few books focused on Messianistic philosophy, including Adam Mickiewicz – a prophet of New Poland [Adam Mickiewicz – wieszcz nowej Polski], and especially important – The Creative Values of Polish Religious Thought:

Indian Philosophy, Christianity, Poland, Hoene-Wroński, Słowacki, Mickiewicz, Trentowski, Cieszkowski, Krasiński, Libelt [Wartości twórcze religijnej myśli polskiej:

filozofia indyjska, chrześcijaństwo, Polska, Hoene-Wroński, Słowacki, Mickiewicz, Trentowski, Cieszkowski, Krasiński, Libelt]. The aforementioned Józef Jankowski, although not a Theosophist, was in regular contact with Theosophical circles – it was him who informed the editors of “The Theosophist” about Drzewiecki’s death, and from a letter of Kazimierz Stabrowski we learn that Jankowski visited Adyar and conveyed some personal messages to him. Jankowski, who studied Vedanta, could have very probably become interested in it under the influence of Theosophy. We already mentioned the involvement with Theosophy of Taduesz Miciński, who was a member of the Theosophical lodge Alba. These individuals (and many others) suplement the picture of Polish Theosophico-Messianistic connections at a time before the ideas of new patriotism and Poland as Kshatriya of Nations appeared within Polish Theosopical Society. As can be seen therefore, the connections between Polish Theosophy and national Messianism were much more complex and historically inextricable. This topic certainly requires many more detailed studies in the perspective of intellectual history. Messianic ideas appeared in circles of various political orientations. A nationalist right-wing option in a Messianic spirit was represented, among others, by the Polish Confederacy.50 It is not possible in the paper of this kind to precisely describe, or even enumerate, all the important people, groups and movements who used or alluded to the ideas of national Messianism.51 49 He became a member of the lodge Isis, cf. “Theosophical Society General Register” Vol. I, From 17th November 1875 to 8 th October 1898, No. 1–16120, No. 4037.

It was the organization established in 1918 by Mieczysław Geniusz, Antoni Lepraski, and Czesław Oraczeski. It was the realization of Oraczewski’s idea of the “Army of National Rebirth”. Roszkowski, Mesjanizm, 213. 50

For more information about relations between Messianism and Esotericism see chapter 11 in Jarosław Tomasiewicz, Naprawa czy zniszczenie demokracji? Tendencje autorytarne i profaszystowskie w polskiej myśli politycznej 1921–1935 (Katowice: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Śląskiego 2012), 346–377. 51

Romanticism and National Messianism in Theosophical Milieus in Poland


Bibliography Bargiełowski, Daniel. Po trzykroct pierwszy. Michał Tokarzewski-Karaszewicz. Generał broni, teozof, wolnomularz, kapłan Kostcioła liberalnokatolickiego. Vol.1. Warszawa: Oficyna Wydawnicza Rytm 2000. Berest Anton. Letter to Etha Snodgrass, Dec 21, 1936. In: The files of Juliusz Slowacki Branch, Chicago IL (Chartered on December 16, 1936, dissolved on July 23, 2001), the Archives of the Theosophical Society in America, Wheaton. Chodkiewicz, Kazimierz. The Cracow Occult Centre. London: Col. K. Chodkiewicz 1966. Chrostowski, Waldemar. “The Suffering, Chosenness and Mission of the Polish Nation,” Occasional Papers on Religion in Eastern Europe, 4 (1991), 1–14. Dulska, Małgorzata A. Yoga and Spiritualism. The Concept of the Development of Psychophysical Eleuterism by Vincent Lutoslawski. Paper presented at ESSWE4 Conference, Gothenburg 2013. Dynowska, Wanda. “Seas and Mountains in the Life of Poland,” The Theosophist 11 (1942): 400–403. ———. Lecture for the meeting of the Polish Theosophical Society, 23 March 1927. In Archiwum PAN i PAU, Kazimierz Tokarski KIII–180, j.a. 18. Janion, Maria, Żmigrodzka, Maria. Słowacki Mistyczny. Propozycje i dyskusje sympozjum Warszawa 10–11 grudnia 1979. Warszawa: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy 1981. Kępiński, Zdzisław. Mickiewicz Hermetyczny. Warszawa: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy 1980. Kwiatkowski, Jerzy. “Od katastrofizmu solarnego do synów słońca,” in Młodopolski świat wyobraźni, M. Podraza-Kwiatkowska ed. Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie 1977. Lévi, Eliphas. Dogme et rituel de la haute magie, Paris 1861. List otwarty w sprawie sprowadzenia zwłok Juliusza Słowackiego (open letter sent from Paris, February 1910) in Sfinks 2/26 (1910), 163. Lukowski, Jerzy. The Partitions of Poland 1772, 1793, 1795. New York: Routledge 2014. Łuskina, Ewa. “Genezis z ducha Aryów,” Lamus 12 (1911/1912). Makowska, Urszula. “Wiedza tajemna Wschodu. Tendencje okultystyczne w kulturze polskiej na przełomie XIX i XX w.” In Orient i orientalizm w sztuce. Materiały Sesji Stowarzyszenia Hisotryków Sztuki, Kraków, grudzień 1983, Elżbieta Karwowska ed. Warszawa: PWN 1986. Messianism [lexical entry] in Słownik Języka Polskiego and Słownik Języka Polskiego PWN;2567583 [20.04.2016]. Miciński, Tadeusz. Nietota. Księga tajemna Tatr. Warszawa: Gebethner i Wolff 1910. ———. Xsiądz Faust. Kraków: Spółka Nakładowa “Książka” 1913. Prinke, Rafał T. “Uczeń Wrońskiego – Éliphas Lévi w kręgu polskich mesjanistów,” in Pamiętnik Biblioteki Kórnickiej 30 (2013), Radulović, Nemanja. “Slavia Esoterica Between East and West”, Ricerche slavistiche 13 (59) 2015: 73–102. Reychman, Jan. Peleryna, ciupaga i znak tajemny. Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie 1976.


Karolina Maria Hess

Romaniuk, Marian P. “Wincenty Lutosławski (1884–19580).” In W trosce o trzeźwość narodu. Sylwetki najwybitniejszych działaczy trzeźwościowych XIX i XX wieku, Marian P. Romaniuk ed. Warszawa: Mazowieckie Centrum Polityki Społecznej, Yamaco 2007. Roszkowski, Wojciech. Mesjanizm a masoneria okultystyczna w Drugiej Rzeczypospolitej. Warszawa: Przegląd Powszechny 1983. Słowacki, Juliusz. Genezis z Ducha. Poznań: Ostoja, 1918. ———. Kordian: Część pierwsza trylogii. Spisek koronacyjny. Paryż: Pinard 1834. ———. Król–Duch. Paris: Maulde i Renou, 1847. ———. Samuel Zborowski. Vilnius: Zorza 1928. “Theosophical Society General Register” Vol. I–VIII, The Theosophical Society Headquarters Archives, Adyar. Tomasiewicz, Jarosław. Naprawa czy zniszczenie demokracji? Tendencje autorytarne i profaszystowskie w polskiej myśli politycznej 1921–1935. Katowice: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Śląskiego 2012. W.L.B. “Karma of Poland as seen by Polish Theosophists.” The Theosophist 11 (1942): 409–411. Warner, Charles D. et. al. Library of the World’s Best Literature, Ancient and Modern: A–Z. New York: J. A. Hill & Company 1902.


Vision of Spiritual World in the Writings of Agnieszka Pilchowa The aim of this article is to present the vision of spiritual world created in the works of Agnieszka Pilchowa, one of the best known Polish faith healers and clairvoyants in the interwar period. The key aspects of her vision are the role of humanity in the world, it’s final destiny and the ways to achieve it, as well as the vision of the future of civilization.

Biographical note Though Pilchowa was well known in interwar Poland and Czechoslovakia, today her name does not raise any particular associations. It is thus necessary to present the biography of the Clairvoyant of Wisła and an insight in her character. Kazimiera Chobotowa, one of her closest friends, describes Pilchowa: “Agni – a strange visitor from the nether world, more accustomed to the world of spirits than of earthly matter, conscious of the divine work in spirit – she came to preach these truths. Simple, Christian truths – and how significant in their simplicity.”1 Chobotowa adds that Agni is one of people of the New Age and her stories of the spiritual world are in most cases dictated by her spiritual caretaker named Mirjam, the Clairvoyant is in constant contact with. 2 Agnieszka Pilchowa, deriving from Polish Wysocki family, was born on December 16th 1888 in Zarubek, today Czech Republic.3 Agni was a Pole but due to her place of birth Czech was her mother language.4 She graduated in Czech Republic and 1 Kazimiera Chobotowa K., Gdy duch się budzi, in: Pilchowa A., Jasnowidzenie, Wisła 1936, s. 12. 2 3

Ibid., 12 – 13.

Władysława Magiera, Cieszyński szlak kobiet 2 (Cieszyn, 2011).

Hadyna writes: “she spoke a strange kind of Polish language, which resembled a bit of Miciński, Towiański, some of Słowacki’s Pisma Mistyczne [Mystical Writings] and some... Mniszkówna. Agnieszka knew none of these authors, I’m not even sure if she read anything at all. It makes her writings a lot more interesting.” In: Stanisław Hadyna, Przez okna czasu. (Kraków, 1993), 14. Pilchowa’s language is full of borrowings from Czech, which makes reading more difficult. Her deep care about the world, humanity and salvation of every individual is moving. Despite of suffering, evil and monstrosities often described in her works, Pilchowa sees hope and prophesies the New Age of mankind. 4



Małgorzata Alicja Dulska

married Józef Kurletto, with whom she had two children soon after. Since parting ways with her first husband,5 she has moved to Poland, to a small town of Wisła in Cieszyn Silesia. There she met her second husband, Jan Pilch, a teacher. The couple built a villa on a top of Jarzębata’s mountain, which they named Sfinks [Sphinx]. It has quickly become one of the most important centers of esoteric life not only in Wisła but also in whole Poland. 6

Wisła esoteric milieus At this point it is worth noting that Wisła in Cieszyn Silesia was a unique place. In 1920s and 1930s there was an esoteric center, the members of which shared their interests and beliefs but, most importantly, their mission to preach the manifest truth, connected with the destiny of Poland. Residents of Wisła constituted the center’s core, with Pilchowa as a leader. Other members include: Andrzej Podżorski (1886–1971), Jan Hadyna (1899–1971), Józef Chobot (1875–1942), Kazimiera Chobotowa (1897–1976), Maria Florkowa (1892–1972). The esotericists of Wisła have gathered a large group of associates. The “satellite members” of Wisła circle came from different parts of Poland but were inextricably linked to their center in Cieszyn Silesia. Maria Przywóska (1868–1938), Józef Świtkowski (1876–1942), Kazimierz Chodkiewicz (1892–1980) and Stanisław Breyer (1873- date of death unknown) are worth mentioning in this second group among many others. 7 The Wisła community matches the characteristic of a so-called cultic milieu. This term, introduced by Colin Campbell in 1972, defines the social foundation from which the so-called cults (ephemeral, innovative religious phenomena with a potential to develop into a denomination) stem from. A cult milieu is formed by individuals in search of truths, who construct marginal systems of beliefs. A cult milieu is, in most cases, set in opposition to social norms and ideals and has the potential of becoming a foundation for new movements, groups or religious communities of mystical or esoteric nature.8 The community has established quite a cohesive and original religious vision of the world and the conception of its renewal by attributing a unique historical 5 Pilchowa’s marriage with Józef Kurletto’s was annulled after four years, in 1917. Kurletto was a friend of Agnieszka’s brother. The Clairvoyant was raped by him and forced to marry him afterwards by her family in: Pamiętniki jasnowidzącej. Z wędrówki życia poprzez wieki, vol. I, (Wisła, 1930): 107–21. 6

Hadyna, Przez okna czasu, 13.

Józef Chobot, Nowoczesny ruch spirytualistyczny w Polsce z szczególnym uwzględnieniem Polski, (Wisła, 1937), 149–71. 7

Colin Campbell, “The Cult, the Cultic Milieu and Secularization,” A Sociological Yearbook of Religion in Britain 5 (1972): 119–36. 8

Vision of Spiritual World in the Writings of Agnieszka Pilchowa


mission to Poland with a particular focus on the outstanding, spiritually developed Poles. In order to popularize their ideas, the Wisła community has carried out a significant publishing work, including editing numerous periodicals, translations of western esoteric writings and publication of original works. Periodicals published by the community include Wyzwolenie [Liberation] (edited by Andrzej Kajfosz from 1919 to 1920 and later transformed into Teozofia [Theosophy] which was issued until 1930), Odrodzenie [Revival] (1921–29), Hejnał [The Bugle Call] (1929–39) and Wiedza Duchowa [Spiritual Knowledge] (1934), the latter followed by Lotos [Lotus] (1935–39). The most important publishers include Książnica Wiedzy Duchowej [The Library of Spiritual Knowledge] and Hejnał [The Bugle Call].9

Agnieszka Pilchowa’s works Pilchowa’s inspired writings have quickly started to appear in the issues of periodicals mentioned earlier. In the beginning, the Clairvoyant was publishing under her maiden name Wysocka.10 After her marriage with Pilch she signed her works as Agnieszka Pilchowa, Agni P. or A. P. Apart from numerous articles and brochures she also wrote books, the most famous of which is Pamiętnik Jasnowidzącej. Z wędrówki życia poprzez wieki [A Clairvoyant’s diary. From the life’s journey throughout the ages],11 which is her opus magnum. Other books by Pilchowa include Życie na ziemi i w zaświecie czyli wędrówka dusz [Life on earth and in the nether world-metempsychosis],12 Jasnowidzenie [Clairvoyance]13 and Spojrzenie w przyszłość [A look into the future].14 She was also an author of then very popular occult novels: Zmora [Mare]15 and Umarli mówią [The dead are speaking].16 Presumably Pilchowa was also an author of the so-called Przepowiednia z Tęgoborza [Tęgoborze Prophecy], the most popular of its kind in Poland before 9 Renata Czyż and Zbigniew Pasek, Monografia Wisły. Kościoły i wspólnoty religijne, vol. 3, (Wisła, 2008), 39–55.

10 Two key works by Wysocka are known: Kilka obrazków chorób umysłowych ich istota, przyczyny i sposób leczenia zaczerpnięte drogą jasnowidzenia z Rzeszy Ducha i własnego przeżycia [A couple of images of mental disorders, their nature, causes and healing techniques taken from the throng of the spirit and own experience] (1922) and W niewoli żydowskiej czyli wolno w Polsce jak kto chce! Słowo Prawdy do Narodu [In jewish bondage

– heaven can wait in Poland! A word of truth to the nation] (Katowice, 1922). 11 12 13 14 15 16

Pamiętniki jasnowidzącej. Z wędrówki życia poprzez wieki, vol. I, Wisła, 1930.

Agnieszka Pilchowa, Życie na ziemi i w zaświecie czyli wędrówka dusz, Wisła, 1926. Agnieszka Pilchowa, Jasnowidzenie, Wisła, 1935.

Agnieszka P., Spojrzenie w przyszłość, Wisła, 1939.

A. P., Zmora. Powieść okultystyczna osnuta na tle prawdziwych przeżyć, vol. I, Wisła, 1932. A. P., Umarli mówią vol. II, Wisła, 1933.


Małgorzata Alicja Dulska

World War II. Verse form, most likely applied to the prophecy by Maria Szpyrkówna, a friend of Pilchowa, appeared in print on March 27, 1939 in Ilustrowany Kuryer Codzienny [Daily Courier Illustrated] issue no. 86 in the article

“Gdy czarny orzeł znak Krzyża splugawi...” Sensacyjna przepowiednia z roku 1893 o przyszłych losach świata [“When the black eagle will defile the sign of the Cross...”

A sensational prophecy from 1893 about the future of the world]. The divination concerned the future of Poland in particular, the great war and occupation and also, as it is often interpreted, the election of John Paul II as Pope. 17

The twilight of Wisła’s circles In 1943 Pilchowa was arrested by the Gestapo, along with her husband and daughter Janina. The reason for that was probably her son’s, Stanisław Kurletto’s, participation in aiding Polish Home Army in its fight against Nazi occupying forces. On December 24, 1943 Agnieszka and Jan were taken to a detention camp in Mysłowice, from where they have been transferred to Ravensbrück concentration camp in April 1944. The Clairvoyant has died by execution by the end of 1944 or at the beginning of 1945, probably in one of the last executions in the camp. 18 Furthermore, during World War II all the esoteric publishers in Wisła were terminated by the Nazis and their literary output was destroyed. Jan Pilch has survived the war and after his death in 1976 his villa, Sphinx, was sold to a local industrial plant as a resort hotel. 19

A Clairvoyant’s diary The life of the Clairvoyant is shrouded with mystery, created both by herself, her associates and the people who got to know her. In her writings Pilchowa appears as a chosen person, gifted with extraordinary abilities which give her an insight into the world of spirit. Her above-average skills were supposed to be a result of a cleansing of the karmic deposit and, as she emphasizes in Pamiętniki Jasnowidzącej,

17 “‘Gdy czarny orzeł znak Krzyża splugawi...’. Sensacyjna przepowiednia z 1893 o przyszłych losach świata,” Ilustrowany Kuryer Codzienny 86 (27.03.1939): 6.

Hadyna, Przez okna czasu, 34. Opinions differ on the exact date of Pilchowa’s death. Józef Dzwonek in his book Wisła w jarzmie hitlerowskim 1939–1945 [Wisła under nazi occupation 1939–1945] suggests November 12, 1944, recalling the testimony of Pilchowa’s granddaughter. Hadyna, on the other hand, claims that Pilchowa died in the last execution in Ravensbrück. According to this theory, Pilchowa would have died on January 5, 1945 in: Hadyna, Przez okna czasu, 34. 18


Ibid., 8.

Vision of Spiritual World in the Writings of Agnieszka Pilchowa


her meeting with Jesus Christ in one of his previous incarnations.20 Contact with the divine thus justifies her role as a teacher and a depositary of divine secrets. Agni recalls that her clairvoyance and the ability to perceive the astral world were innate to her and were present in her life since the earliest childhood. A shockinduced coma is believed to be a turning point for her.21 When unconscious, Agnieszka claims to have dwelt into the astral world, guided by a being called the spiritual guardian, who accompanied her from that point on. 22 In her youth, Pilchowa was involved with a group of spiritualists operating in Radwanice near Ostrava. She has started to develop her skills among them, however she has quickly withdrawn from participation in their meetings. According to her diaries, the cause of that were the accusations, that Pilchowa was looking for a good catch among the members of the group in order to get married quickly.23 Agnieszka was also a well-known faith healer. Her activity began before World War I but gained nation-wide recognition afterwards. The witnesses recall her using herbs and mesmeric caressing. There are records of miraculous revivals. According to legends, Pilchowa was invited to Belweder Palace in Warsaw in order to meet Józef Piłsudzki, Polish Chief of State, on a number of occasions. The purpose of those meetings is unknown, it is however suspected that it was connected with Piłsudzki’s poor health at the time.24 In her writings, the Clairvoyant explains how she can foresee future events. The astral world was a sort of a matrix for earthly, material reality for her. It was also a kind of collection, resembling an immense library containing feasibilities of the events to come. As the Clairvoyant writes, “People come, go and all of their actions and thoughts are reflected in the enormous kaleidoscope of astral and mental world. 20 Pamiętniki Jasnowidzącej, 28–51. The concepts of Karma and Reincarnation play a key role in Pilchowa’s philosophy. The Clairvoyant defined Karma as the sum of sins commited by human souls, the latter of which forgot their divine descent and resorted to evil. Reincarnation, according to her teachings, is the personation of a soul into a physical body in order to purify karmic concretions. At the current stage of research one cannot identify the source from which Pilchowa drew her inspirations and knowledge on subject matter, especially considering the fact that credible sources claim that she did not read books in: Hadyna, Przez okna czasu, 14. Presumably her closest associates and leading figures of Wisła esoteric milieu, Jan Hadyna and Józef Pilch, had influenced those conceptions. 21 In her memoires Pilchowa does not precisely define the circumstances of that event. The shock is believed to be a result of her meeting a priest, when the Clairvoyant realised what a root of sin and evil the catholic church is in: Pamiętniki Jasnowidzącej, 76. 22 23 24

Pamiętniki Jasnowidzącej, 88–96. Ibid., 95.

Magiera, Cieszyński szlak, 26–33.


Małgorzata Alicja Dulska

The great looking glass of justice grasps everybody on its film, similarly to an earthly camera that imprints them on the screen of life’s scenes”. 25 Astral films are a key concept, as all of the events on earth are reflected on them. Agni presents the films as something similar to excerpts from a motion picture, which gifted individuals can read or recreate. Every human with such extraordinary skills has a thought area, with the help of which he or she is potentially able to read astral films, knowingly (if one has the capabilities) or unconsciously. These thought areas are in fact a sphere of battle of good versus evil because, according to Pilchowa, the forces of both good and evil place their films there, which an unaware person reads and follows their instructions. 26

Pilchowa’s Astral World In order to present a comprehensive vision of spiritual world described by Pilchowa one should begin with the origins of material world and creation, a key term in this context. It is connected with the anthropogenesis, on which the Clairvoyant elaborates further in her books and articles. Human souls have emerged out of the light, called to life in an act of divine love. Pilchowa emphasizes that God is the essence of good. The creation, which appears as a result of God’s work, is a visible sign of his infinite goodness. Man-soul, the holder of perfect spiritual body is the crown of creation. The concept of will that was given to human is worth mentioning at this point. The will becomes something imperative, a power that justifies the existence of sin and suffering in both material and astral worlds. Thanks to free will man can emulate God by starting to create. 27 As a result of their unabashed, experimental creation, humans have distanced themselves from the Maker and forgot their natural, spiritual plane of existence.28 25

Pamiętniki Jasnowidzącej, 5.

Hadyna, Przez okna czasu, 43–46. Essentially, one can assume that, according to Clairvoyant’s interpretation, there are two kinds of people who perceive the spiritual world. The first are the so-called lunatics. Because of the enormity of their evil deeds on earth, they descend to astral hell upon death. Unfortunately, the souls that caused evil and reincarnated in order to escape the nether world in a new body start seeing mares or phantoms. Agnieszka describes them as “surrounded by a heavy whirlpool” in: Agnieszka P., Spojrzenie w przyszłość, 19–20. The second category of people who start seeing the world of spirits, which is unperceivable to most of people, are individuals who have awoken from the “sleep of the matter”. They have redeemed themselves from sin to such extent, that they were given a chance to see the world in its true nature in: Agnieszka P., Spojrzenie w przyszłość, 20. Pilchowa is believed to come under the second category. 26

27 28

Pamiętniki Jasnowidzącej, 3–22.

Agnieszka P., Spojrzenie w przyszłość, 26.

Vision of Spiritual World in the Writings of Agnieszka Pilchowa


The souls have created the matter and trapped themselves in it. Because of that they have lost contact with the light, their divine side. Pilchowa writes: “God has created us in his own image and likeness and gave us bodies of light, of the purest, subtlest vibrations of ethereal energy. A miserable, crippled shell of thick matter which now encumbers our spirit, we have called to life ourselves. The subtler body of ours, the astral shell in which the spirit manifests life after the death of its bodily shell is our creation as well, not God’s. It is however more similar to its original form but the initial power only channels more or less through- the power of Man-God.” 29 The spirits have distanced themselves from the Father so much, that they forgot where they come from and what they used to be. They have lost the power and could not create anymore. Trapped in the tangible, they have managed to keep the divine element within. “That godly spark, smouldering under a thick shell of matter, is the Child of God nailed to the cross of our petty creation, crying for help, unable to find the way out of this vicious karmic circle.” 30 Spiritual, or as Pilchowa refers to call it “Astral” world is divided into the Upper Spheres and the Nether World. The Upper Spheres are a land of subtle energy, inhabited by enlightened beings. The Nether World, containing astral hell is home to evil powers, full of inconceivable evil and suffering.31 The whole earthly space is filled with astral. As Pilchowa writes: “Where does our astral world begin and where does it end? I do not know the words to picture this vastness, which immures us at its core. [...] From the core of the earth and through all of its layers and to the surface I see- let’s call it simple, with a single word: astral. It is admittedly slightly different from the astral outside earthly boundaries and far, far high, away!”32 Between the Upper and the Nether world is the material world – the Earth. In Clairvoyant’s perception it is the sphere of an unceasing war waged by the forces of good and evil. The powers of evil, often called the Evil Will, try to influence man by all means, in order to sustain their hold of the planet. They know 29 30

Pilchowa A., Jasnowidzenie, 22–24.

Agnieszka P., Spojrzenie w przyszłość, 26–27.

The Nether World is also a place in which the souls, burdened with an immense karmic debt, appear after death. In an attempt to escape, they choose their next incarnation for two reasons: firstly, by living in material world they do not realise the vastness of evil in the universe, secondly, by dwelling in human body they are able to atone for their sins. There are souls that go to hells or heavens that they have projected throughout their lives. The projected image was strong enough for them not to see the true image of the world and upon death they came to a land created by their own notions. In the Upper Spheres, on the other hand, there are souls that have partially paid their debt. These are often the spirits which have reincarnated on earth many times before and now their only mission is to help people achieve liberation. They are the so-called Keepers or Awakeners, beings watching over humans and helping them achieve spiritual awakening in: Pamiętniki Jasnowidzącej, 52–70. 31


Agnieszka P., Spojrzenie w przyszłość, 17.


Małgorzata Alicja Dulska

the ways to project the future, mostly based on creating astral films and disguising as the creatures of light, i.e. gods or angels. In this form they trick people into unwittingly helping them in their malicious intent of feeding on their vital energy and doing more evil.33

Astral beings One may find it difficult to precisely classify the astral entities described by Pilchowa.34 The Clairvoyant mentions four basic kinds of creatures: Mares, Vampires, Larvae and possession-thirsty Spirit Mares are the spirits of people who were harmed and seek vengeance on their oppressors in a new earthly incarnation. Vampires in turn connect to unaware humans. They come from astral but are also able to seek and attack their victims on earth. They slowly drain the vital energy of their victims and turn them into subjects of the evil will.35 There are also spirits not allowed to reincarnate in a human body because of the evil they have committed. They thus haunt people in their sleep and take their bodies. The possessed lose control of their bodies which usually results in death (Agnieszka P., Spojrzenie w przyszłość, 17–20). Larvae are the most interesting astral creatures inhabiting earth. The Clairvoyant claims to have seen them during World War I.36 She brings up graphic images of columns of soldiers, above which “enormous animals of sorts, bigger than aeroplanes’ floated. Said animals descended upon the battlefields and grew, feeding on blood, fear and death. These monsters have surrounded the warring, crawled upon the corpses, bathed in the blood of the fallen.”37 The Larvae were created with the 33

Pamiętniki Jasnowidzącej, 9.

When presenting the astral bestiary, one novel written by the Clairvoyant is particularly noteworthy. Zmora [Mare] published in 1932, tells a story of Antoni, a velthy youth haunted by nightmares. Every night he is attacked by mares, which don’t let him sleep at night and virtually exhaust him. In order to escape his fears, Antoni starts travelling around the world, nothing seems to help him, however. As a result of tragical events the young man falls into lethargy, in which he begins a journey with his guardian in the world of spirits. The analogy between this story and Pilchowa’s own lethargy, which is believed to be a turning point in her spiritual awakening, is unmissable in: Pamiętniki Jasnowidzącej, 76–87. 34


Pilchowa A., Jasnowidzenie, 33.

“In 1914, high above ground, there floats the incredible world of unperceivable entities. For 2000 years wars, revolutions, risings- and how little mendings for the good! Hungry hyenas have gotten through from behind the curtain and surrounded the earth, thirsty for vapours of blood. How many superintendents at work were there, who led these monsters set people at variance, set them against each other just to have more blood drained out of them!” writes Agnieszka P., Spojrzenie w przyszłość, 42. 36


Ibid., 44.

Vision of Spiritual World in the Writings of Agnieszka Pilchowa


power of human thoughts. There is only one way to neutralize them: Their maker must pay his or her karmic debt. When it is paid, the maker experiences a spiritual shock, which the Clairvoyant compares to a spiritual explosion of light. 38 Not only astral beasts inhabit earth, however: “Our earth welcomes losts of castaways from this small universe. For everyone it has the bread to feed the body, but it cannot carry all of them with their spiritual weight, the surplus of evil will, which they have all miscreated and miscreate still”.39 The Gypsies who, according to Pilchowa, come from the Moon, serve as a good example. They have turned their flourishing homeland into a barren desert. The reason for that would be their abuse of magic. The Clairvoyant claims that “[...] their presence on earth helps the discovery of poisonous gases, death rays and similar means of humanity’s doom and destruction of the world”.40 Pilchowa prophesies the coming of the Spirit of the truth foretold by the New Testament, also known as the Consoler. It is not a messiah descending on earth, however, but rather hundreds of daemons that, governed by love, surround the earth. Thanks to them the forces of evil would be defeated, which would result in the cognition of the truth about God, Christ and the true destiny of man. 41 Concerning daemons or guardian spirits, Pilchowa crafts and interesting theory on planet Mars. She believes in the existence of a civilization superior to ours. Martians would then resemble humans, but have a developed sixth and seventh sense, thanks to which they can perceive much more than the earthlings, they also sense life on other planets. Driven with compassion, they want to help humans in their spiritual development. They are responsible for the phenomenon of so-called “noble levitations”- occurrences of a medium levitating during seances.42 “Spirits from Mars, inspiring a thought and search for spiritual truths on our earth, are similar to our ancient initiates, but have a much clearer image of life in God and His creation, His love to His children. The earthly spirits of the afterworld realise already how much the matter and ignorance immure them, they welcome their Martian friends so that the latter can help them awaken the others”. 43 Pilchowa describes a process that one can define as a pilgrimage of Martian spirits on earth. Said spirits, according to her record, arm themselves with the weapon of love in order to fight the evil entities of the astral world. First legions of 38 39 40 41 42 43

Ibid., 22–23.

Pilchowa A., Jasnowidzenie, 33.

Ibid., 34.

Pamiętniki Jasnowidzącej, XII. Ibid., XIV.

Ibid., XIV–XV.


Małgorzata Alicja Dulska

martian warriors were believed to have reached earth in Pilchowa’s times. The Clairvoyant prophesies: “Sacrificial Love is nearing, sacrificial love in the New Age”.44 In this world, a world filled with larvae and vampires, moonmen and martian guardians lives man, usually restricted from the knowledge about the structure of reality or his own destiny.

Spiritual awakening Pilchowa claims that the comprehension of the spiritual world and the true destiny of every human being comes with accepting oneself as God’s creation. Only by realizing the divine origins and bonds with the spiritual world one can awaken and “there is no other way out of a downfall than purification of the spirit through suffering”.45 Said awakening would result in extrasensory perception, i.e. seeing entities from the Upper as well as the Nether sphere. Pilchowa also believes that if a person has partially paid his or her karmic debt and recognized the “genuine source of truth and love”,46 the beings from the Nether World would not be able to trick or force them into submission easily. However, people who mastered the socalled “spiritual vision” which allows them to comprehend the structure of reality, are more exposed to attacks of the Evil Will.47 The Clairvoyant emphasizes that a physical body is negligible, that it means as much as a grain of sand on a desert or a droplet in a sea.48 She proves that “Matter is the doom of spirit, matter still misused, free will, also misused, closes the gateway to the liberation of spirit. To know oneself – and to regard material world only in a manner of karmic balance, to pay the debts on the bosom of matter-only to take into account the need of it to sustain the body, to pay the debt to the last penny in the body; always to remember that the life, in its right form, originates from the spirit and only in spirit can it exist”. 49 Eventually, the Christ is the central character, around which the Clairvoyant’s vision of the world revolves. By his coming he has saved the world from the downfall and has partially made up for the karmic debt of mankind as well as thwarted hell’s plans regarding humans.50 Pilchowa underlines that he was sent to Earth to 44 45 46 47 48 49 50

Ibid., XIV–XV. Ibid., 13. Ibid., 9. Ibid. Ibid.

Ibid., 6.

Agnieszka P., Spojrzenie w przyszłość, 24–25.

Vision of Spiritual World in the Writings of Agnieszka Pilchowa


“awaken” people to spiritual life, “to brighten the existence, the understanding of the truths of eternal life”.51 Pilchowa in her Pamiętniki Jasnowidzącej [Diaries of a Clairvoyant] presents a vision her spiritual guardian has revealed to her. It shows one of her previous incarnations, in which she has personated a woman called Surya. Pilchowa’s tale begins with presenting the Christ through the eyes of Surya, a wealthy and beautiful Jewish girl preoccupied with laps of luxury and pleasure: “Supposedly very beautiful, with a tender and strong voice, like a bell, ringing powerfully and echoing beautifully; by no vow bound, free and good for everyone. He despises women; even if the wealthiest and prettiest female came to allure him with her charms, he would have shut her out and turn to a pauper instead, restoring his health and vitality.”52 Christ represents the world of spirit but Surya still belongs to the material world. The two eventually meet and it is described like a tryst. Christ brings Surya’s spiritual light out and shows her the true image of the material world. Pilchowa summarizes it as a moment of “conjoining in love with the Son of God.” 53 The ontological opposition of spirit and matter is also reflected in the perception of Jesus and his mother. Mary was not born but created by the breath of the almighty. The Clairvoyant writes in one of her first works: “Naturally, before Christ came to the world his mother was born, created by the breath of divine love. Her whole soul was striving for her father–God all her life. Her soul was often consciously speaking with her father–God and with pure souls called angels, she was in magnetic contact with them when there was a need. She knew that God would send her the Son, His own Son, who would reclaim the wayward and sinful people in faith and love [...].”54 Pilchowa denies the Catholic dogma of hypostatic union because the spirits were believed to teach that Jesus was a human only externally. It correlates with the views of Docetists, according to whom Jesus was not to have a physical body but only an ethereal, heavenly form. The Clairvoyant claims that Mary was to have such form as well: “Mary and the Son she bore did not have a body other people on earth would have [...] Christ did not need a body of thick matter; he was also not created by magnetic fluids of his neighbour’s blood. He himself as well as his body are the seed of father-God, which descended upon the pure, magnetic aura of Mary’s soul

51 52 53

Pamiętniki Jasnowidzącej, 28. Ibid., 32. Ibid., 35.

Wysocka A., “Jasełka wśród burzy świata. (Niewinność, Prawda i zdrada),” Odrodzenie, Miesięcznik poświęcony sprawom odrodzenia człowieka i badaniem zjawisk duchowych 54

(Katowice 1922): 2.


Małgorzata Alicja Dulska

in a moment of her strong prayer.”55 From Pilchowa’s point of view, Christ did not require a human body as a physical body would in this case deny his divinity. An ethereal body, on the other hand, would prove his belongingness to the throng of spirit and constitute his position in the hierarchy of souls. Reading some parts of the Clairvoyant’s message can lead to another interesting conclusion. Jesus was sent to earth as a consequence of God’s infinite love to his creation in astray, man trapped in his material form. Bearing in mind that the battle of good versus evil was still going on, God has decided to “hide” his son in a body which resembled human one.56 Jesus’ mission on earth was thus seen as a descent of the purest creation upon the darkest and filthiest den of sins and evil the earth was at the time. Because of that, his incarnation was to be kept in great secrecy not to allow the Evil Will to thwart the divine messenger his mission.57 The coming of the Christ did not deny free will because nobody can be redeemed against their will. Christ has forgiven the willing spirits their sins as they have shown their desire for salvation. The spirits that resisted Saviour’s power did not find redemption as one cannot be forced into it.58 His advent did not deny the karmic law as well because if karma was abolished, free will, constituted long before man’s downfall into the world of matter, would also have been violated, as Agnieszka reasons.59 The Christ, respecting the karmic law, has chosen to carry the burden and accept the suffering. “This pure, innocent Emissary of God, unblemished with shadow who, as he testified, was one with his Father-sacrificed himself to our overwhelming evil to save us from the immense weight that our backs were not able to carry further and that has obstructed our way towards God.”60 Most of the karmic debt has been repaid and man could retrieve his spiritual consciousness, understand his own past and return to spiritual world, in which he would pay the rest of his debts. Pilchowa writes that “he pulled [...] a symbolical curtain down on this terrifying output of the past”.61 The significance of Christ’s sacrifice is based also on him being a guide and a role model to others. He is the guiding light for ones looking for spiritual knowledge and salvation. Ibid. A puzzling question of magnetic fluids described by Pilchowa presumably echoes the views of Frantz Anton Mesmer (1734–1815) and his theories on animal magnetism. 55

56 57 58 59 60 61


Ibid., 3.

Agnieszka P., Spojrzenie w przyszłość, 28.

Ibid., 26. Ibid., 27.

Ibid., 28–35.

Vision of Spiritual World in the Writings of Agnieszka Pilchowa


The concept of unity of all religions, which correlates with the beliefs of the Theosophists is exemplified in Pilchowa’s vision of the future foretold by Polish messianic poets. Pilchowa claims that out of all the countries in the world, Poland and Czechoslovakia are least encumbered with bad karma. Both countries were supposed to play the main role in carrying forth the mission of the Christ, knowledge about him, the battle of good versus evil and about spiritual worlds. Slavdom, concentrated as her visions prove around the two countries, was to carry a theosophical manifest of “brotherly coexistence of all the nations on earth and all the people. [...] Liberty, equality and fraternity meant to accompany the repayment of karmic debt [...].”62 In 1933 Pilchowa has foretold the tragic future events. She claimed that in the astral world the Evil Will has already prepared a base for a new world war. The main spoils of that war would be gases as well as biological weapons. The forces of evil have designed the astral films to decimate the population with war gases first and then, by spreading microbes with infectious diseases, “to sow the soil with corpses.”63

The dawn of the New Age Despite of this apocalyptic tone, Pilchowa also effused about her visions of bright future, when the sun of the New Age rises. Mankind will then abandon its cities and thanks to its technological prowess, i.e. the ability to program the weather, would concentrate on cultivating the soil, fruit-growing and gardening. Life would concentrate in the colonies, everyone would have a steady occupation and means of entertainment. Pilchowa associates it with the high level of human morality. The increasing power of mankind would lead to development in all the disciplines of science but also in telepathy, clairvoyance, clairaudience and other such skills. As a result people would have an insight into the astral world, along with the ability to photograph and record it.64 “The barrage separating the corporeal spirits from the incorporeal will disappear. The both will be able to communicate freely with one another. Everybody will live as a big family, explicitly supporting each and every individual on their path to the highest liberation of the spirit.” 65 Finally, the mankind will be able to free itself from the matter by subtilizing their bodies. Pilchowa foretells that the time will come when man will only nourish himself with water and pills and, on the next stage, will only absorb nourishing fluids from the air. “This earth will stop being a prison or a vale of tears for us, it will be62 63 64 65

Ibid., 73.

Pilchowa, Jasnowidzenie, 32.

Ibid., 39–45

Pilchowa, Jasnowidzenie, 42.


Małgorzata Alicja Dulska

come paradise. By ennobling the spirit at further stages of life and gathering increasingly more of our powers dispersed in the skies, we will eventually achieve the enlightenment we came out of, we will retrieve our ancient spiritual power and the light of cognition, we will become the giants of the universe we used to be in the very beginning.”66

Influences on the system In her memories Hadna states, that Pilichowa didn’t read many books. Paintings that she saw in her visions and Rzesza Ducha was her sole inspiration. In her diaries she often emphasizes, that her experiences are not conditioned by any philosophy or doctrine. However, following the fortunes of the Clairvoyant one may recognize sources and inspirations, that influenced her spiritual and material worldview. The first trace is the activity of Chech spiritists, to whom (through the short period of time) Pilichowa belonged.67 After negative experiences with the Czech spiritist group, residing in Wisła, Pilichowa came under the influence of two charismatic characters: Jan Hadyna (1899–1871)68 and Józef Chobot (1875 – 1942).69 Both of 66

Ibid., 45.

In his book Nowoczesny ruch spirytualistyczny [The Modern Spiritualists Movement] Chobot mentiones, that the magazine “Posel Zahrobni” had been published since 1900. It’s editorial staff was translating and publishing spiritualist’s books. In 1920 in Chechoslovakia four magazines about spiritism had been estabilished: “Duch Czasu”, “Hvezda Budoucnosti”, “Nesmertelnost”, “Spiritisticka Revue”. All those publicatins were known in the Wisła’s millieu. In: Chobot J., Nowoczesny ruch spirytualistyczny, Wisła, 1937, 31. 67

68 Hadyna was born on the 24th of August 1889 in Zamarski near Cieszyn. After finishing highschool in his hometown, he studied philosophy in Jagiellonian University in Cracow and Warsaw School of Economics. During the war, in the years 1917–1918, he was an Ausrtian soldier. After the end of military activities in the region, in the years 1918–1921, he served in Polish Army. Affiliated with Maria Florkowa (1892–1972), also one of the leading characters in the esoteric movement in Wisła. The founder an the secretary (until 1934) of the Metaphisical Society in Cracow. Since 1934 he had been an editor and the director of the publishing house Biblioteka Wiedzy Duchowej. In the same year he founded “Wiedza Duchowa” monthly, that later evolved into “Lotos”. On the begining he had lived in the Sphinks Villa on Jarzębata, since 1934 in the Isis Villa vis a vis the Ochorowiczówka house. He considered himself to be the follower of Julian Ochorowicz. In 1939 Hadyna and Florkowa moved to Cracow and had lived there untill the end of war. After the war they wanted to renew their publihing activity yet they were arrested in 1946. Bojda S. and Golec J., Słownik biograficzny ziemi cieszyńskiej, vol. 2, 66. 69 Chobot was one of the most active members of the Wiślan group. He was born in the 11th of Setember 1875 in Łazach in the Silesian Cieszyn. For many years he worked as a teacher. Chobot estabilished an organisation “Bractwo Odrodzenia”. He was a publisher of the “Odrodzenie” magazine. In 1929 he moved in Wisła-Jarzębata. He created a publishing house called “Książnicę Wiedzy Duchowej” and “Hejnał” magazine. He was the author of many articles and books such as Nowoczesny ruch spirytystyczny ze szczególnym

Vision of Spiritual World in the Writings of Agnieszka Pilchowa


them cooperated with Pilichowa, inspired each other and supported each other’s editorial works. Crucial lectures, that the Clairvoyant must have heard about from Hadyna as well as from Chobot, and that seems to be essential for Pilchowa’s philosophy, are the works of Leon Denis70 and Allan Kardec.71 Not only Kardcec, whose philosophy was probably encountered by Pilichowa during her Czech period, but also Denis seems to have an important influence on Pilchowa’s visions. The influence of Andrzej Podżorski (1886–1971),72 a key person in promoting the Theosophical ideas on that terrain, cannot be neglected.

Bibliography A. P., “I znów minęły święta Wielkiej Nocy... (Rewelacje otrzymane ze Sfer Ducha za pośrednictwem p. A. P.),” Hejnał nad Morzem Życia ze Szczytów Prawd Ducha i Praw Człowieka 4 (1929): 97–103. ———. “Jako w Niebie tak i na Ziemi” (Rewelacje otrzymane ze Sfer Ducha za pośrednictwem p. A. P.),” Hejnał nad Morzem Życia ze Szczytów Prawd Ducha i Praw Człowieka, 5 (1929): 129–131. ———. “Jak tworzą się tzw. larwy i wampiry (Wyjątek z dzieła “Zmora” w urywkach),” Hejnał nad Morzem Życia ze Szczytów Prawd Ducha i Praw Człowieka 6 (1929): 166–171. ———. “Jakie uczucia towarzyszą duchowi, odchodzącemu od ciała podczas konania i po tzw. śmierci (Rewelacja otrzymane ze sfer duchowych za pośrednictwem A.P.),” Hejnał nad Morzem Życia ze Szczytów Prawd Ducha i Praw Cz łowieka, 7 (1929): 207. ———. “Święte Nieświętości. Głosy z Górnych Sfer Ducha (podane przez ks. Zbyszka za pośrednictwem A. P.),” Hejnał nad Morzem Życia ze Szczytów Prawd Ducha i Praw Człowieka 7 (1929): 199–203. ———. Umarli mówią, Wisła: Wydawnictwo “Hejna ł”, 1933. ———. Zmora. Powieść okultystyczna osnuta na tle prawdziwych przeżyć, Wisła: Wydawnictwo “Hejnał”, 1932. Agni, P., “Dieta hamuje rozwój raka,” Hejnał. Miesięcznik Wiedzy Duchowej 4, (1937): 178–180. ———. “Niewidzialne tło Zjazdu Poznańskiego,” Hejnał. Miesięcznik Wiedzy Duchowej 12 (1937): 54–58.

uwzględnieniem Polski (Wisła 1937), I Mesjanizm polski II Bronisław Trentowski (Wisła 1932). He was also a translator.

70 Most important book are: Chrystjanizm a spirytyzm, Wisła, 1936; and Wielka zagadka, Wisła 1937. 71

Kardec A., Księga duchów, Wisła, 1934.; Ksiega mediów was published in sereies on

Hejnał in 1937.

Podżorski was a teacher, a pedagogue, an activist, and a publicist. He estabilished many organisations and unions such as Volunteer fire department. He also founded Związek Młodzieży Ewangelickiej in Wisła and Związek Walki z Pijaństwem in 1926. He wrote Przewodnik po Wiśle, published in 1938. 72


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———. “Gdzie są umarli?,” Hejnał. Miesięcznik Wiedzy Duchowej 1, 2, 4 (1937): 32–40; 75–81; 155–157. ———. “Na morzu życia,” Hejnał. Miesięcznik Wiedzy Duchowej, 1 (1937): 15–20. ———. “Panie, naucz nas modlić się,” Hejnał. Miesięcznik Wiedzy Duchowej 5 (1937): 229. ———. “Uzdrowienie ślepego dziecka (Urywek z pamiętnika.),” Hejnał. Miesięcznik Wiedzy Duchowej, 3 (1937): 100–108. ———. “Wchodzimy w znak Wodnika,” Hejnał. Miesięcznik Wiedzy Duchowej 3 (1937): 129–131. ———. “Jak pracują umarli,” Hejnał. Miesięcznik Wiedzy Duchowej 12 (1937): 550–555. Agni, “Rosa Duszy” (Rewelacje otrzymane przez Agni), Hejnał nad Morzem Życia ze Szczytów Prawd Ducha i Praw Cz łowieka 1 (1929): 29–32. Chobot, Józef, I. Mesjanizm polski: Istota – zasady rodowód i wskazania na przyszłość; II. Bronisław Trentowski, jego żywot – dzieła i nauki. Wisła: “Książnica Wiedzy Duchowej”, 1938. Chobotowa, Kazimiera. “Gdy duch się budzi.” In: Pilchowa, A. Jasnowidzenie. Wisła: Wydawnictwo “Hejnał”, 1936. Chodkiewicz, Kazimierz. Wiedza Tajemna czy wiedza duchowa. Wisła: Wydawnictwo “Hejnał”, 1932. ———. Zarys wiedzy duchowej, in: Kalendarz Wiedzy Duchowej 1934, Wisła: Drukarnia Pawła Mitregi, 1934. Czarnomski, Jan. “Karta z historji okultyzmu w Polsce,” Lotos 5 (1935): 151–153. Czyż, Renata; Pasek, Zbigniew. Monografia Wisły. Kościoły i wspólnoty religijne. Vol. 3. Wisła: Galeria “Na Gojach”, 2008. “Gdy czarny orzeł znak Krzyża splugawi... Sensacyjna przepowiednia z 1893 o przyszłych losach świata,” Ilustrowany Kuryer Codzienny 86 (27.03.1939): 6. Golec, Józef. Bojda, Stefania. Słownik biograficzny ziemi cieszyńskiej. vol. I, Cieszyn, 1993. ———. Słownik biograficzny ziemi cieszy ńskiej. Vol. II. Cieszyn, 1995. Hadyna, Stanisław. Przez okna czasu. Kraków: Wydawnictwo Instytutu Ekologii i Zdrowia, 1993. Kłos, Jan, “Agni P. i jej zdolności jasnowidzenia,” Hejnał nad morzem życia, ze szczytów praw ducha i praw człowieka, 3–8 (1929): 71–74; 108–111; 137–142; 171–175; 203–207; 229. Konarzewski, Dominik; Kawulok, Michał. Od wsi do uzdrowiska. Dziedzictwo architektoniczne Wisły. Wisła: Galeria “Na Gojach”, 2009. Magiera, Władysława. Cieszyński szlak kobiet 2. Cieszyn: Kongres Polaków w Republice Czeskiej, 2011. Padół, Roman. Filozofia religii polskiego modernizmu. Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1982. Pamiętnik jasnowidzącej. Z wędrówki życia poprzez wieki. vol. 1, Wisła: Wydawnictwo “Hejnał”, 1930. P., Agnieszka. Spojrzenie w przyszłość. Wisła: Wydawnictwo “Hejna ł”, 1939.

Vision of Spiritual World in the Writings of Agnieszka Pilchowa


Pilchowa, Agni. “Gdzie są umarli?” Hejnał. Miesięcznik Wiedzy Duchowej, 8, 9 (1937): 355–363, 413–419. ———. “Jam jest droga i żywot wieczny.” Hejnał. Miesięcznik Wiedzy Duchowej, 10 (1937): 436–440. ———. “Jeruzalem.” Hejnał. Miesięcznik Wiedzy Duchowej, 7 (1937): 290–293. ———. “Niepokalaną szatę ducha przywróć nam, Panie.” Hejnał. Miesięcznik Wiedzy Duchowej, 6 (1937): 241–243. ———. “Urywek z Pamiętnika.” Hejnał. Miesięcznik Wiedzy Duchowej 8 (1937): 314–317. ———. “Na błędnych szlakach twórczości.” Hejnał. Miesięcznik Wiedzy Duchowej, 6 (1937): 275–279. Pilchowa, Agnieszka. Jasnowidzenie. Wisła: Wydawnictwo “Hejna ł” 1935. ———. Życie na ziemi i w zaświecie czyli wędrówka dusz. Katowice: “Książnica Wiedzy Duchowej”; Nakładem Redakcji “Odrodzenia”, 1926. Wysocka, A. “Polska u progu Nowego Roku.” Odrodzenie 10 (1922). ———. W niewoli żydowskiej czyli Wolno w Polsce jak kto chce!: słowo prawdy do Narodu. Katowice: “Książnica Wiedzy Duchowej”; Nakładem Redakcji “Odrodzenia”, 1922. Z życia jasnowidzącej Agnieszki Pilchowej. Typescript, in the collection of Beskid’s Museum in Wisla.


The Philosophy of Wine. A Peculiar Chapter in the Esoteric Philosophy of Béla Hamvas (1897–1968) Béla Hamvas is the greatest representative of Western Esotericism in modern Hungarian cultural history.1 A spiritual kin of other great traditionalists, such as Guénon or Évola, he also developed an individual and characteristic world view and in this respect deserves a distinguished place in a wider European perspective – unfortunately he is still little known outside Hungary. Very few of his works are available in foreign translations, although his magnum opus, Scientia Sacra has recently been published in Italian and immediately received very enthusiastic reviews.2 Fortunately, one of his most delightful and lighthearted essays, the main topic of my talk here, The Philosophy of Wine is also available in English, German, and French. 3 Béla Hamvas (1897–1968) was born to a family of Lutheran pastors serving in Upper Hungary, today’s Slovakia. After World War I the family moved to Budapest and here Hamvas studied classical languages, read German and Hungarian at the university, and received his MA in 1923. He started working as a journalist, but soon settled as a librarian at the Budapest Public Library, a most congenial occupation for him. In 1935 he became the co-founder of Károly Kerényi’s circle, Sziget (‘Island’) in which he published essays on a wide variety of topics, including Russian mystics (Berdajev) and existentialist philosophers (Heidegger and Jaspers).

See my article, “Béla Hamvas” in Wouter J. Hanegraaff et al. ed., Dictionary of Gnosis and Western Esoterism (Leiden: Brill, 2005), 456–58. Also: Arpad Szakolczai, “Between Tradi1

tion and Christianity: The Axial Age in the Perspective of Béla Hamvas,” in Johann P. Arnason et al. ed., Axial Civilizations and World History (Leiden: E. J. Brill, Jerusalem Studies in Religion and Culture, 2005), 107–21.

Scientia Sacra (2 vols, Parma: Edizioni all'insegna del Vetro, 2000–2002). See: “Hamvas Béla itáliai fogadtatása,” in Tradíció. A Metafizikai Tradicionalitás Évkönyve (Budapest: Kvintesszencia Liadó, 2004), 260. 2

Béla Hamvas, Philosophie des Weins (tr. Hans Skirecki, Grafing bei München: Editio, 1999); La philosophie du vin (tr. Gábor Kardos, Grafing: Editio); The Philosophy of Wine (tr. Gábor Csepregi, Szentendre: Editio, 2003). Also: Un livre de prière pour les athées: philosophie du vin (traduit d'après la version anglaise par Béatrice Vierne, Paris: Éd. du Rocher, 2005). 3



György E. Szönyi

Fig. 2. Budapest after the siege, February, 1945.

During WW2 he served on the Russian front, then resumed his job in the library from where in 1948 he was made redundant because his views Fig. 1. Hamvas in the 1920s. were found incompatible with the then prevailing communist ideology. A particularly shocking event to him was the destruction of his manuscripts as well as his huge private library during a bombing attack on Budapest in 1945. From that time on a long series of afflictions followed: György [Georg] Lukács, chief ideologue of the Hungarian communist government prohibited the publication of his works. Being expelled from the library, he had to take a job as a stock-attendant in an industrial plant. In the 1950s he was forced to work at a power station outside Budapest and could go home only on weekends. Even after 1956 when he applied for rehabilitation, he was refused being restored in his position as a librarian. He retired in 1964 and spent his last years in Budapest as a charismatic Fig. 3. The manual worker, 1950s. mystic around whom a growing circle a students gathered. When he died of a stroke, immediately his cult began. His works were typed and passed from hand to hand as “samizdat” till the late 1980s from which time on his writings have been published in comprehensive editions. Today he is widely appreciated as one of Hungary’s most original philosophers ever.

The Philosophy of Wine


Hamvas’ literary output was large and versatile. He excelled in belle lettres, and wrote a number of strange novels in which modernist and mystical elements mix with grotesque irony. He was an accomplished essayist, one of the finest in twentieth century Hungarian literature. Another genre he felt at home in was translating and editingannotating works of mystical philosophy from a wide range of cultures and periods: Fig. 4. The hermetic philosopher, 1960s. 25 chapters of the Veda, the Upanishads, and The Flowers of Tao (1943); the Apocalypse of Enoch (1944); Jakob Böhme’s Psychologia vera (1946); the Tabula smaragdina (1950); Sefer Yetsirah (1954), etc. Particularly notable is his annotated anthology of ‘The Tradition’ which was published under the title The Great Hall of the Ancestors (1943) to which he added a monumental introductory essay titled “Ekstasis.” Beyond these, Hamvas also wrote major individual works in the form of carefully constructed and logically arranged monographs, of which none appeared in his lifetime. His opus magnum is Scientia Sacra, the Spiritual Tradition of the Ancients (1943–44, published in 1988) a compelling account of human wisdom in the midst of the madness of war.4 Later he completed this work by looking at the relationship between Christianity and ‘the Tradition’ in a second monograph (Scientia Sacra II, 1960–63). Hamvas’ philosophy may be termed as “sacral metaphysics,” his approach related to that of Giulio Evola, Leopold Ziegler, and René Guénon.5 His main concern was the most ancient past, as remote as the lost Golden Age. As opposed to Rudolf Steiner, he never thought of mixing the spheres of natural science with that of hermetism, and claimed that the investigation of nature was confined to the surface of the material world only.6 This metaphysical traditionalism explains how highly qualified philosophers such as him felt like devoting their life and intellectual activity to the recovery and preservation of the lost, ancient wisdom, the prisca theologia, or philosophia perennis. 4 On Scientia Sacra see György E. Szönyi, “Occult Ascension in Troubled Times: The Ideals of Mankind in Rudolf Steiner and Béla Hamvas,” In M. Kronegger and A-T. Tymieniecka ed., Ideals of Mankind (Dordrecht–Boston–London: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1996, Analecta Husserliana 49), 29–43. 5 6

See his Da Eraclito a Guénon (Three Essays, tr. Claudio Mutti, Torino: Nino Aragno, 1999). Szönyi, “Occult Ascension in Troubled Times,” 31ff.


György E. Szönyi

The Philosophy of Wine belongs to his essays and was written in the summer of 1945, in an idyllic moment, just after the devastating war and a few years before the dark era of Stalinism. As the editor, Antal Dúl writes, “this work is the apology of the festive moments of life, of lightheartedness, of joy of existence. This is the Mediterranean world of Dionysian rapture and the glittering serenity of Orpheus.”7 The fifty-five pages' text has a tripartite argumentation. On the one hand it is a warning against blind atheism as well as dogmatic pietism (but is presented as a “prayer book” offered to the disposal of those errants), from the standpoint of the enlightened mystic philosopher. On the other hand, it is a metaphysics of wine, placing this liquid in a complex system of cosmic, elemental, and physiologic correspondences. Finally, he treats the practice of wine drinking as a sacral ceremony and compares it to love and sexual pleasures, not forgetting about cataloguing the major Hungarian wine-types and wine-growing areas together with their characteristic features. The pretext of writing this essay was that Hamvas needed a topic which could be suitable to mockingly refute the lifestyle and philosophy of atheists and zealous dogmatists alike: I decided to write a prayer book for the atheists. In the distress of our time, I felt sympathy for the sufferers and wanted to help them in this way. [ . . . ] Instead of fighting against them and making efforts to convert them, I feel sorry for them. And this is not merely a trick. I do not want to take anything away from them. I would like to offer something else whose absence renders them quite weak, poor, and – why to deny it? – ridiculous. [ . . . ] I must seize this occasion to address a few words to the pietists, that shady sect of atheists. Actually, the pietist is just as godless as the materialist; but, beyond that, he also has a bad consciousness that prompts him to adopt the externals of true religion. The pietist would demand that one live on bran and water; he would like to see the most beautiful women wearing dably cut dresses, he would forbid laughter, and cover the sun with a black veil. The pietist is an abstainer.8

After the admonishing of the atheists and pietists Hamvas devotes the introduction to the explanation that his work is necessarily follows a tripartite structure. After all, every good book consists of three main parts, he remarks jokingly. First comes the 7 Béla Hamvas, Az öt géniusz – A bor filozófiája (ed. Antal Dúl, Szombathely: Életünk Könyvek, 1988), 176.

The Philosophy of Wine, 7–11. Quotations hereafter are from this translation, page numbers given in parentheses after the text. I have taken the liberty, however, at some points, wherever I felt suitable, to change the translation and offer a more correct or in my opinion stylistically better rendering. 8


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metaphysics of wine, then the nature of wine is treated, and finally follows the ceremoniality of wine. These three parts correspond with the world history of wine: metaphysics is the antedeluvian age, when wine did not exist, humans only dreamt about it; after the Deluge Noah planted the first grapewine, thus initiated a new world epoch; the third era started with Christ, when he turned the water into wine. World history will end, he says, when springs and wells will deliver wine, it will fall from the clouds when raining, and all the waters of the earth will turn to wine, too. Hamvas starts the explanation of the metaphysics of wine by introducing the “world of mouth”, the orifice, which is the locus of most direct sensation and experience – that is tasting. One should think of the habit of the child, who takes everything (s)he is interested in into the mouth. This is the organ which transfers the food, the kiss, and the word. The mouth has bi-directional activities: takes as well as gives while speaking. Nutrition through the mouth is again threefold: eating, drinking, breathing. The first pertains to the body, the second to the soul, the last to the spirit. Female spirituality is enhanced by the various perfumes, male by smoking. The metaphysics of wine is connected with yet another tripartite system, the three ur-liquids: the warm (tea/coffee, oil, wine), the medium (the blood), and the cold (water, beer, milk). To sum up: MOUTH Speech (spirit)

Nutrition (matter)

Kiss (soul)

Food (matter)

Liquids (soul)

Breathing (spirit)


Medium (spirit) BLOOD

Cold (matter) WATER, BEER, MILK

Following the traditions of the ancient wisdom, the above correspondences can be arranged in a larger, cosmic system, too: LIQUID Blood Water Beer Tea/Coffee Oil Milk Wine

MUSIC KEY DAY PLANET c Sunday Sun a Monday Moon g Tuesday Mars f Mercury Wednesday d Jupiter Thursday e Friday Venus h Saturn Saturday

METAL NUMBER COLOR 1 gold red 2 silver white 4 iron violet 7 yellow quicksilver 6 tin blue 5 copper green 3 lead black


György E. Szönyi

Hamvas argues for the usefulness of the above tables by claiming that order is not only beautiful, but also handy: it clearly designates the place of wine in the universe. A well-ordered table can reveal that beneath the surface of variety all is one, “hen panta einai,” as Heraclitus said. All philosophy is a “hieratic mask” of the same One. The cosmic order is in close connection with Saturn, which is the planet of the Golden Age, the symbol of the primordial harmony. That is why its number is three, the most basic measure, and this is why it connects to wine, which can lift humans out of the chaos of the postdeluvian world and temporarily transport them back into the lost Eden. Thus, wine is also a hieratic mask behind which there is somebody, a unifying principle of existence, who is at the same time may be “a book, speech, woman's giggle, a pair of specs, and roast duck.” (24) Here a digression follows: turning again directly to the atheists Hamvas highlights the difference between the abstract and the sensual life. The abstract man does not use the mouth and even distrustful about the eyes and ears. “Abstract life is a conceptually designed life, built not upon immediate sensory experiences but upon so-called ideas. In the modern age we know two sorts of such abstract persons: one is the scientifist, the other is a puritan. It is obvious that both represent a variety of atheism. The characteristic feature of scientifism is that it ignores love but knows sexual instinct; it does not work, but produces; it does not take nourishment but consumes... [ . . . ] The puritan is an agressive person. For his attack, the strength comes, in no small measure, from the belief that he has found the only right way to live. [ . . . ] He hates nothing more than wine, in other words, nothing scares him more than wine. (26–7) The atheists are advocates of a bad religion, while the pantheists, like Hamvas, follow a good religion. All bad religion result from the antedeluvian sin, but with the rainbow which appeared to Noah, also appeared wine: “Wine brings back our original life, paradise, and shows us the place where we will arrive at the time of the final feast of the world.” (31) One of the accomplished Hungarian interpreters of Hamvas, Antal Dúl summarizes the differences between bad and good religion as follows: “The infallible sign of bad religion is ‘existence without intoxication.’ The cause is a stiff fear of life, penetrated deeply into the soul. Nothing is more difficult to achieve than liberation from this state. Good religion (the vita illuminativa) means higher sobriety. The first sign of healing: seeing God in stones, trees, fruit, or stars. In love, food, and wine. He who does not know, says Béla Hamvas, that God is in the cooked ham will not understand anything of this book. 'I understood that Brahman's highest form is food.' Whose religion is good? The religion of he who dares to live in an immediate manner and knows that the joy of life is not something forbidden. Not something forbidden but, as the Gospel says, a plus. Food, wine, and love are not the goal, but helpful means. This world is a place of crisis and separation, and everybody has to

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declare his intentions. But in whoever the order is re-established, he does not need laws, prohibition, and asceticism.” 9 The last element of the metaphysics of wine is its connection with other oils, the “warm liquids”. Among them the common denominator is that they all accummulate in plants, those creatures, which in the Garden of Eden best preserved the spirituality of the world. According to Hamvas, all plants are small genii, daimons, or angels, and the only way of direct experiencing them is through the oils. Oils, which are fragrances, and whose most complex of containers are women. “He who, if possible, wants to acquire many immediate experiences of oils cannot ever leave women out. He should inhale the scent of a woman's lio and analyze it for a while for what it is. [ . . . ] These are all little geniuses who tingle in the scent of the lip.” (34) Let this be a warning to atheists and puritans: just as in the oily fragrances of women, “In every wine lives an unrepeatable and inimitable specific genius. The genius is the materialized form of the oil. Its mask. [ . . . ] Wine is a spiritual, oleaginous drink. In every kind of wine there lives a little angel who, when we drink the wine, does not die but joins the innumerable little fairies and angels living inside us. The little fairy is spell-bound and almost catches fire out of joy. There can be no defence against this. I say, therefore, a glass of wine is the somersault, the death jump of atheism.” (36) The following part discusses the nature of wine and here Hamvas again builds up a paradigm of semi-occult correspondences: among grape, wine, precious stones and women. The gist of the argument is, that “the root of every intoxication is love. Wine is fluid love, precious stone is crystallized love, a woman is a living loving being. [ . . . ] A precious stone, the Alchemists tell us, is nothing but a pure spiritual being, namely an angel, who lived at the time of the original Creation. But when man fell into sin he carried it along with him into matter. It became stone. Still, even as a stone, it preserved its brilliant purity. This explanation is consistent with my theory, claiming that, actually, spiritual oils inhabit wines and grapes and they are geniuses.” (48) I cannot review here Hamvas's catalogue of Hungarian wines and wine regions, but I can recommend, if ever one of you wants to get close to Hungarian viniculture, should start with reading this part of The Philosophy of Wine. A special feature of this section is the mouth-watering culinary guidance by which we are also recommended with the appropriate food to match the individual wines. Not only food and wine, but also regions are discussed, creating a fascinating and pioneering cultural geography with a strong sensual touch.

Antal Dúl, “Epilogue to The Philosophy of Wine.” See 2011/12/good-religion-and-wine-on-philosophy-of.html, access: 2013–10-03. 9


György E. Szönyi

The section on the ceremoniality of wine is rendered under dull-sounding subtitles, like “When should I dink and when not?”; “How to drink?” and “Where to drink?” But these are also heartwarming and at the same time lighthearted and uplifting observations. The question of how also includes what kind of company is best suited for drinking. The cardinal rule: anywhere, anytime, anyhow. The wine's character should always determine the number of imbibers. There are a few universal wines that all humanity could drink on the occasion of a great feast, let us say the feast of world peace. For this purpose, from our wines, I would recommend only the one from Somló. And, oddly enough, this is the wine of solitary people. For still today world peace is only the solitary person's intoxication. (77)

The essay is closed with a “last prayer,” on the vita illuminativa. Here Hamvas plays with the pun that “illumination” means exaltatio as well as drunkenness. And, returning to the atheists, he repeats, that their illness is the illess of abstract life. It can only be healed by direct, sensual life. “To fall in love with the first woman, without any delay, to eat well, to walk among flowers, to go to live in a pine forest, to listen to music, to admire paintings, and to drink wine, wine, and always wine.” (88) His message to the puritans is that they are not predestined to fall, it is them who keep themselves in damnation. “Every soul is born whole and cannot lose its health. Be clever, recover your health. Remedy can be acquired anywhere. Drink. What I offer you is the oil of purity, the oil of intoxication.” (90) Should'nt we all take this lesson at face value? Should we?

Bibliography Dúl, Antal. “Epilogue to The Philosophy of Wine.” Online: 2011/12/good-religion-and-wine-on-philosophy-of.html, access: 2013–10-03. H. R. “Hamvas Béla itáliai fogadtatása.” In Tradíció. A Metafizikai Tradicionalitás Évkönyve. Budapest: Kvintesszencia Liadó, 2004, 260–261. Hamvas, Béla. The Philosophy of Wine Tr. Gábor Csepregi. Szentendre: Editio, 2003. ———. Philosophie des Weins. Tr. Hans Skirecki. Grafing bei München: Editio, 1999. ———. La philosophie du vin. Tr. Gábor Kardos. Grafing: Editio. ———. Un livre de prière pour les athées: philosophie du vin. Traduit d'après la version anglaise par Béatrice Vierne. Paris: Éd. du Rocher, 2005. ———. Az öt géniusz – A bor filozófiája. Ed. Antal Dúl. Szombathely: Életünk Könyvek, 1988. ———. Da Eraclito a Guénon. Three Essays, tr. Claudio Mutti. Torino: Nino Aragno, 1999. ———. Scientia Sacra. 2 vols. Parma: Edizioni all'insegna del Vetro, 2000–2002.

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Szakolczai, Arpad. “Between Tradition and Christianity: The Axial Age in the Perspective of Béla Hamvas.” In Axial Civilizations and World History. Johann P. Arnason et al. ed. Leiden: E. J. Brill, Jerusalem Studies in Religion and Culture, 2005. Szönyi, György E. “Béla Hamvas.” Entry in Dictionary of Gnosis and Western Esoterism. Wouter J. Hanegraaff et al. ed. Leiden: Brill, 2005. ———. “Occult Ascension in Troubled Times: The Ideals of Mankind in Rudolf Steiner and Béla Hamvas,” In Ideals of Mankind. M. Kronegger and A-T. Tymieniecka ed., Dordrecht–Boston–London: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1996.


Spiritual in Contemporary Art of Southeastern Europe: Marina Abramović, Tomislav Ćurković, Marko Pogačnik, Damir Stojnić, Vladimir Dodig Trokut, Igor Zlobec Introduction It is nearly impossible for an artist inspired by questions of spiritual and religious nature to bypass these in his/her art. Impossible, because a conscious artist searches for spiritual answers at the same time searching for creation in art. Breaking this line for an artist would mean giving up one of these paths. Artists covered in this text never gave up either of these two search paths. Although visual art criticism and theory tends to represent autonomy and selfsufficiency of art in terms of religion and esotericism, in her study Occulture and Modern Art Tessel M. Bauduin highlights some aspects in the development of modern art, and defends the thesis of the influence of occultism and western esotericism on creation of modern art”.1 As various exhibitions in the past three decades have shown, a distinctly religious spiritual thread runs through modern art, with occultism prominently present,” described Bauduin.2 Spiritual forms are obviously present in the works of contemporary artists today, and similar to the art of modernism, they are deeply rooted in the context and mark the starting point for creation of authentic art expression. 1 2

Tessel M. Bauduin, “Introduction: Occulture and Modern Art,” Aries 13 (2013): 1–5.


Starting with the exhibition Signs of faith. Spirit of avant-garde: Spiritual tendencies in the art of the 20 th century (Stuttgart 1980). The next important exhibition with the aim to show the influence of occultism over development of abstract painting was held by Los Angeles Cuntry Museum of Art (LACMA) in 1986. Named The Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting 1890–1985, it referred to the full development of abstract art. Interdisciplinary exhibition Occultism and avant-garde: From Munch to Mondrian (Frankfurt am Main, 1995), as seen from the title, signified the relation between occultism and avant-garde art using artists from late 19th and early decades of the 20th century. Das Bauhausund die Esoterik (Hamm/Würzburg 2005) followed. In 2014, Kunstpalast in Düsseldorf organized the exhibition Impression of Alchemy—Secret of Transformation. Exhibition showed about 250 works of international artists of different styles: Joseph Beuys, Jan Brueghel d. Ä., Lucas Cranach, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Hendrick Goltzius, Rebecca Horn, Anish Kapoor, Yves Klein, Sigmar Polke, Neo Rauch, Rembrandt van Rijn, Peter Paul Rubens, David Teniers, among others.



Nadežda Elezović

This text, Spiritual in Contemporary Art of Southeastern Europe, covers six visual artists who build their expression and their art from their personal spiritual experiences, those who rely less on symbols developed over centuries, and more on building their authentic expression through personal spiritual experiences and those gained through practicing some of the spiritual systems and techniques. In this sense I will present the diversity of styles and practices based on individual artistic search for the mysteries of nature and spiritual life. These artists, directed by their inner essence, question what reality is and in that sense correlate with mythological, astrologic, hermetic, gnostic and other esoteric traditions and achievements of quantum mechanics. In this chapter, I will take a closer look at creative work of artists Damir Stojnić, Igor Zlobec, Vladimir Dodig Trokut, Marko Pogačnik, Tomislav Ćurković and Marina Abramović from esoteric point of view. I will present different artistic approaches to this subject, i.e. through their individual art works, I will show different ways in which religious topics and religious fields are interpreted in contemporary art. My approach in this text is equal to the conceptual approach I expressed as a curator of the authored exhibition Estetika elektriciteta—Spiritualnost i umjetnost iz fundusa Muzeja moderne i suvremene umjetnosti [Aesthetics of Electricity—Spirituality and Art from the collection of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art], organized by the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rijeka in 2014.3 The exhibition also included two artists represented here, Tomislav Ćurković and Damir Stojnić, whose work can be found in the collections of MMSU. In this exhibition, I wanted to practically ascertain that my aspirations are identical when it comes to esotericism and contemporary art. Furthermore, to deepen the understanding of creative works by some of the most important artists of Croatian avantgarde art, of areas not represented in art criticism, and relating to studies of these works through esotericism. In this sense, the approach I represent is similar to that described by Marco Pasi as the third and fourth ways of possible connection between contemporary art and esotericism; “When the artistic work becomes a means to introduce extraordinary experiences, which can be interpreted as having spiritual/mystical/ shamanic/magical qualities” or “when artistic work is the result of direct inspiration/communication from spiritual entities, or of a visionary/mystical experience.”4 Nadežda Elezović, Aesthetics of Electricity – Spirituality and Art from the collection of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. For more about MMSU collection see: Inovacije – Akvizicije: suvremeni hrvatski umjetnici – djela iz fundusa [Innovations – Acquisitions : contemporary Croatian artists – holdings artworks], edited by Branko Cerovac, (Croa3

tia: Rijeka: Moderna galerija Rijeka, Muzej moderne i suvremene umjetnosti, 2002), Exhibition catalogue.

4 Marco Pasi, “Coming forth by night. Contemporary art and the occult,” in Options with Nostrils, ed. A. Vaillant (Rotterdam: Piet Zwart Institute, Willem de Kooning Academy, Sternberg Press, 2010), 108 .

Spiritual in Contemporary Art of Southeastern Europe


Furthermore, this is about self-expression and creation of art, whereby personal spiritual experiences, attempts to understand them or to use these experience and translate them into the individual creation authenticity, becomes the starting point to question possible approaches, practices and expressions within the area of contemporary art.

The spatio-temporal framework – Continuity of avant-garde tendencies This work covers two generations of artists. Marina Abramović (b. 1946), Serbian artist with Montenegrin origin and world reputation, then Slovenian artist Marko Pogačnik (b. 1944) and Croatian artist Vladimir Dodig Trokut (b. 1949) started their artistic activities in the 1970’s in the countries then belonging to Yugoslavia (1945–1991). Apart from belonging to the same generation, these three artists are connected by the artistic and cultural context they participated in. Namely, this art period between 1966 and 1978 was marked by the boom od avant-garde art forms in ex-Yugoslav countries, integrated in the term New Art Practices or New Art of the Seventies used by art historians and theoreticians Marijan Susovski, Ješa Dengri i Davor Matičević, and these terms are applied to artists covered in this text, Abramović, Pogačnik and Trokut5. According to Denegri,6 the term New Art Practies marks the emergence of conceptual, radical, experimental and process-based art practices in ex-Yugoslav countries, which corresponded and often communicated with international art scenes in North America and Europe.7 Art theoretician Miško Šuvaković in the Glossary of Contemporary Art8 says that these practices marked the leap from the then prevailing style of moderate modernism or socialist estheticism and indicates change and establishment of a different or atypical art

Marijan Susovski, Nova umjetnička praksa u Jugoslaviji 1966–1978 [New Art Practice in Yugoslavia 1966–1978], (Zagreb: Gallery of Contemporary Art, 1978). 5

Ješa Denegri, “The Historic Avant-gardes, Neo-avant-gardes and Post-avant-gardes across the art space of Yugoslavia in the 20th century” in Marginal specificities – Regional Avant-Garde Art 1915–1989, edited by Marinko Sudac (Rijeka: Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Varaždin: Varaždin City Museum, Gallery Center Varaždin, 2007), 6–8. 6

7 The first exhibition to include and present the new conceptual and radical art forms was When Attitudes Become Form held at Kunsthalle in Bern in 1968, curated by the famous art historian Harald Szeemann. See: When Attitudes Become Form, ed. Harald Szeemann (Bern: Kunsthalle, 1968).

Miško Šuvaković, Pojmovnik suvremene umjetnosti [Glossary of Contemporary Art], (Zagreb: Horetzky, and Ghent: Vlees & Beton 2005), 581–582. 8


Nadežda Elezović

form.9 This includes both individuals and group artists. For example, the following groups are formed in Croatia: Penzioner Tihomir Simčić [The Pensioner Tihomir Simčić], Tok [Flow], Crveni Peristil [Red Peristil], Grupa šestorice autora [The group of six artists]; OHO (later The Šempas Family ) in Slovenia; and KOD, Bosch+Bosch, Group 143, Ekipa A [Team A]3, Verbumprogram, Autopsia in Serbia. Marko Pogačnik is one of the actors in the mentioned Slovenian group OHO, later turned into the group The Šempas Family. Vladimir Dodig Trokut belongs to the group of artists linked to the artistic action of painting the Peristil in Split, whereby the group was named Red Peristil.10 This generation of artists, with their approach, aesthetics and views, strongly influenced the next generation of contemporary artists today, successors of the avant-garde and experimenting in art, in search of authentic artistic expression. Artists Damir Stojnić, Igor Zlobec and Tomislav Ćurković, presented here, belong to this new generation of artists. Furthermore, art critics, theoreticians and curators are not united in their attitudes about the definition of the term of contemporary art; about the question whether all art production created today can be determined as contemporary art. In this sense, contemporary art as a term here represents a successor of historical avant-garde heritage; in the sense of developing new art forms and breaking convention, and establishing new areas of artistic freedom and emphasizing ethics.11

Damir Stojnić Artistic preoccupations of Damir Stojnić12 (b. 1972) revolve around metaphysical, astrological, alchemical and anthroposophical topics and studies, ever since the “Socialist aestheticism developed in the 1950’s and 1960’s into moderate modernism that becomes the dominant art tendency in Yugoslavia. This art was the middle point between abstraction and figuration, modernism and traditions, regionalism and internationalism”. (Šuvaković, 2005), 581–582. 9

10 See: Impossible Histories – Historical Avant-gardes, Neo-avant-gardes, and Post-avant-gardes in Yugoslavia, 1918–1991 (ko-urednik), The MIT Press, Cambridge Mass, 2003, 2006. 11 According to Catherine Millet (2004, 12–13), most curators today place the birth of contemporary art in the period between 1960 and 1969, when art forms and movements such as pop-art, new realism, op-art, kinetic art, minimalist art, colored field painting, fluxus, happenings appeared, as well as conceptual art, arte povera, land art, body art. Millet says that “all the different unusual materials, factory articles, natural items and perishable goods, as well as the artists’ bodies were used in these art forms”... “The contemporary art today wriggles in this zone of freedom”.

Damir Stojnić was born in Rijeka in 1972. He took his BFA at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, Croatia in 2000, and attended the post-graduated painting course at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Since 2005 he has held the post of assistant professor at the Academy of Applied Arts in Rijeka. He lives and works in Rijeka and in Istria in Croatia. 12

Spiritual in Contemporary Art of Southeastern Europe


drawings from his series Anarchitecture—Terrarium, created in the period of the earliest stages of his work – the period between 1992/1993 and 1998 – in black or color ink lavee, until the recent series of drawings Conflagrations (2014), thematically related to gnostic philosophy. Anarchitecture—Terrarium includes a series of drawings of massive animal sceneries; herds or flocks of animals on the move were drawn on paper, created by multiplication of single motifs of buffaloes, deer, snakes, fish, and later seahorses, butterflies... Through massive scenes of animals on the move and physical and energetic strength of this move, he suggests the idea of a collective instinctive impulse, thus relying on the philosophy of C. G. Jung. The artist himself compares the animal drawing series with cave drawings, emphasizing that the motif came to him spontaneously, without thinking, deeming that this is inborn human atavism. The next series of works named Transparencies, being created simultaneously with other works over the past ten years, is made in watercolor, i.e. potassium permanganate on various old papers found in his environment. He produced several hundreds of these works, and some of them, as mentioned Rozana Vojvoda in announcement of the exhibition by Damir Stojnić, Osv(i)jetljavanja [Iluminations], “are collected in artists books Book of analogies, 1999–2006, and in De isoutopia iluminographica 2006–2011”, wrote Rosana Vojvoda in announcement of the exhibition by Damir Stojnić, Iluminations.13

Fig. 1. Damir Stojnić, from the cycle Lanterna magica, 2004–2010, tempera, potassium permanganate on paper/light box – courtesy of the author

Damir Stojnić, “Osv(i)jetljavanja/Illuminations”, curated by Rozana Vojvoda, (Dubrovnik: Umjetnička galerija Dubrovnik, 2014): 1–46. 13


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Vojvoda wrote: “he creates transparent unities, animal entities are combined with human figures, whereas unified mythological creatures are created: human deer, human birds, and a significant number of sheets is dedicated to fluid unities of a man and a woman.”14 These creatures are created spontaneously, as inner associations creating themselves on paper. The artistic creation process for Stojnić has a metaphysical dimension; the act of artistic creation is often a process of reaching mystical experiences (especially in Stojnić’s ritual fire drawings): The figures created in Transparencies reminded me of shadow theatre where characters play some symbolic, esoteric shows which I myself find difficult to fully understand. I am sometimes moved by the technique, and at other times by motifs and in some strange process, you reach a technique adequate to materialize the idea. On the other hand, the way of perception is conditioned and determined by the technique you have reached. In some mysterious way, ideas find the right process to manifest themselves. I deeply believe that things come out of the artist by themselves, but it is difficult to say whether you are the creator or the ideas were somehow imposed. You do not lead this artistic process; it is mysterious.15

In this imaginarium, created through a studious, dedicated process that resembles a process of alchemical dissolving of elements, Stojnić dissolves shapes and figures releasing their inner form and then brings one transparent layer after another in order to achieve density, in both artistic and semantic terms. The process used by Stojnić in creating his imaginarium in Transparencies resembles the alchemical process Solve et Coagula. From 2004 on, he simultaneously works on an opus called Ignisograms. Insograms are fire paintings, created in the quarries of peninsula Istria, and he calls them his Fire ateliers I and II. These are performances spontaneously created in front of an audience, and sometimes alone in the “company of horned vipers”, native poisonous snakes inhabiting rocky areas. In these quarries, Stojnić selects rocks and then composes different forms and shapes of bigger dimensions. This is how the forms of butterflies, people, bridges, Pegasus,... Then at night he lights a fire within these forms and stirs up ember, thus creating reddish structural forms of the revived forms.

14 15


Elezović, Aesthetics of Electricity, 10.

Spiritual in Contemporary Art of Southeastern Europe This is a creative process which, apart from the general idea, relies on intuition as internal leadership for the artist, which not only affects, but also defines the finality of an art work. Hereby rituality, symbolism of elements and personal philosophy embodied by sublimed by knowledge of hermeticism, theosophy, anthropology and own ideas on the nature of modern art, becomes the starting point of art work creation. Incinerating, burning, and fire are materials and procedures Stojnić used as starting points in other performances and drawings. This burning process is viewed by Stojnić as an analogy with a man, i.e. all living creatures, whereas heat loss, dissolution and changing of state is a natural process. In his recent series Conflagrations, he uses the substance of charcoal dust to interpret gnostic topics, as an analogy of dust, i.e. the essence of creation and dissolution.16


Fig. 2. Photo “Sirkeci – Rug Salesmen” from the series “Rug Salesmen”, by Igor Zlobec, 2015 – courtesy of the author

Igor Zlobec Igor Zlobec17 (b. 1970) is an artist with gnostic sensibility. He creates art atmospheres and installations with items he found in his direct environment, and sometimes combines them into ambient installations together with collected antiques, and he is also known after his passion for oriental rugs he had been collecting for years, which he then exhibits and uses in his artistic practice. In this symbolic and mystical bond; in carefully manually crafted Persian rugs wasted and trampled on by human lives or faded by praying prostration, abstract geometric rug designs to the association of dervish mystic and ritual religious practices he evokes, Zlobec finds a starting point for his art. He transcribes energetic meaning of these figures into reality in his work. He often interprets these figures in the public sphere, or popular culture. In his ambient installations, he uses various, seemingly unimportant 16 Damir Stojnić, Ignisogrami/Konflagracije [Ignisograms/Conflagrations] curated by Nadežda Elezović, (Rijeka: MMSU, 2015).

Igor Zlobec is Zagreb and Istria based artist, born in 1970 in Banja Luka. He graduated in painting from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb 1997. 17


Nadežda Elezović

objects, photos, items from his surroundings, which only through gallery exhibition gain the status of artifacts, following the anti-aesthetic of Dada and art tradition of Marcel Duchamp. Creation is led by inner impulse—individual inner feeling and understanding of oneself as a spiritual being immersed in everyday reality. Zlobec additionally expresses this in his work through the aesthetics of trash, and negation of all common and existing rules of contemporary mainstream art, for the benefit of values of own individual mythology. Ambient Satan’s Playing Room is an ambient installation performed in gallery Otok in Dubrovnik in 2008. Art historian Branko Cerovac (2008), wrote about Zlobec’s ambient, drawing attention to religious and mystical starting points in Zlobec’s work. It was created from fragments of found items, paintings, various artifacts that serve to present “Satan’s fingers”, “where Satanized metaphysics of the Game, sacred hazard of ancient gods, found its humble heretic haven”.18 The exhibition also contains a painting made after the photo Satan’s Playing Room, originally published as a cover of Voodoo Lounge by The Rolling Stones.19 This is also the title piece in the exhibition where Zlobec presents the Diabolic side of the work using objects set in mutual context of intertwined meanings.

Vladimir Dodig Trokut Vladimir Dodig Trokut [Triangle]20 (b. 1949) is an artist, art collector, historian, theoretician, founder of project of Antimuseum, shaman. Since the beginnings of his art practice, which dates back to the time of conceptual art in the late 1960’s to the performances he is doing today, Dodig Trokut uses elements of archetypal, atavistic 18 Branko Cerovac, “Satan’s Playing Room”, zlobecsport (Igor Zlobec’s art blog page), May 23, 2008 (1:18 p.m.), (accessed May 2014), archive.html.

19 The Rolling Stones took it from the book Diableries-Satan's Daily Life in the 19th Century by Jac Remise, (Balland Editions, 1978). This is a photo from the series of 72 stereoscopic photos, originally published in Paris in 1860, showing daily images of hell. Photos were created by scenes of skeletons and demons previously handcrafted in clay, but they are also connected with the general mood in Paris at the time, marked by authoritative governments and wars. To compare: Black, Candince. Diableries: A Trip to The Underworld: 19th Century Images of Satan and Hell

Vladimir Dodig Trokut, born in 1949 in Kranj, Slovenia, lives in Zagreb. In his biography, he presents himself as an art collector, gallerist, museologist, donator, historian, anthropologist, theoretician, lecturer, publicist, and leader of several informal groups: Red Peristil, Red Peristi Fraction, Group 31, Manifesto 72. He also considers himself the founder of Red and Red and Black University. Among the wider audience, he is known for his collection and project of Anti-Museum—the collection of 500,000 artefacts. See: Artists portfolio website, 20

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language, ritual and magical practices, as well as knowledge and experiences of Kabala in his art. Dodig declares himself “an anthropological anarchist”21, and as an artist he considers himself the founder of the art concepts of Black It–Art, Black Out–Art, Black No–Art. Black It–Art, as he calls it, is considered by Dodig an art which “follows the idea of now and excludes the idea of the past.” 22 Davor Matičević mentioned, Dodig started practicing art as a poet, creating visual poems, projects of “writing poetic messages, which included signs and codes of magical character”,23 then artistic works of processing nature, similar to Land Art, such as projects Sky Reflex, Burning of Sea and Land.24 Matičević realized as early as in 1978 that “although the audience misses codes to fully understand his intentions because they don’t understand this field – there is a present and acceptable aspiration in Dodig’s work to expand and deepen the areas of mental communication and art in general”.25 Dodig says about himself that he “starts as a simulation poet”, than he calls himself the first artist in magic art, and he considers his art “cold”. These works contain certain coldness which reflects something that connotes the idea of real. Reality deprived of materialization, and with an added obsessive image of something that is in fact its objectification. Although they are in the mental form.26

When he speaks about art, he says that for him “there is no art, there is life”. Our artists are sleepers, neither awaken nor awake. Our art is unreal. It is not real; it does not belong to the dimension of reality. It is neither alchemical, or real, or realistic. Our art is the art of pure death, it is not anthropological and this means that it is not archetypal, civilized. I think that art itself is not dead. Art reflects the idea of consciousness. 27

Vladimir Dodig Trokut, “Ja sam sluga umjetnosti (I'm a Servant of Art),“interview by Nadežda Elezović, Val 8 (summer 2005): 6–7. 21



Davor Matičević, “Zagrebački krug [The Zagreb Circle],” in The New Art Practice:1966–1978, documents 3–6, ed. Marijan Susovski. (Zagreb: Gallery of Contemporary 23

Art, 1978), 21–28.

See: Vladimir Dodig Trokut, Amuleti, čini, arkane (Amulets, spells, arkanas), curated by Marijan Susovski. (Zagreb: Gallery of Contemporary Art, 1980). Exhibition catalog. 24

25 26 27

Matičević, “Zagreb Circle,” 28.

Dodig Trokut, interview by Nadežda Elezović, 2005.



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When speaking about his work within the conceptual art group Red Peristyle, Dodig Trokut refers to the work of Red Peristyle Fraction and about thirty different artistic actions performed together with artists Pave (Pavao) Dulčić, Božo Jelenić, Toma Ć(Č)aleta. As he describes the character of performed actions, “these were interventions of metaphysical cosmos immersion (...) all these works correspond with metaphysical elements, they are based on alchemy and Tao-physics.“ 28 In an interview he gave for the croatian culture magazine Zarez, interview by Suzana Marjanić in article published on December 2002 (Zarez 42–43), he mentions that the poetic Group 68 developed from this group, and it worked on the phenomena Fig. 3. Vladimir Dodig Trokut, Transformations of unification of mysticism and poetics, from Black to White – Only Angels Know, performance, Bale, 2002, source: zlobecsport metaphysical and magical formulation; later on Group 3i. When working precisely within this group, Dodig mentions occult acts used for art, i.e. for creating art work. “In Group 3i I based my work on the late Dulčić and Čaleta for a long time, and I often performed invoking them, using methods of Spiritism”.29 The practice of creating art using moves and associations of ritual and magical practice (Kabala Cries Orgon 24, 2014) was used in numerous performances he did in the past decades, often with narrative interpretation of some Fig. 4. Vladimir Dodig Trokut, performance, of the hermeticism postulates. In an Gallery O.K., MMC Palach, Rijeka interview for the magazine

28 Suzana Marjanić, “Priroda (u) o umjetnosti performansa (Nature in (of) Performance Art),” Ethnology Tribune 37, vol. 44 (2014): 94–95.

Suzana Marjanić, “Mistički poligoni & akcije-transcendencije,” (Mystical polygons and actions-transcendences) Zarez, December, 2002, 42–43. 29

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Zarez, he interprets the performance Transformations from Black to White – Only the Angels Know, performed in Bale in 2002, through insights gained during per-

forming it, where he sits on an egg in a stony street of this small Istrian town, covered in white feathers all over his body, moving arms as in Kabala practice. In the performance Transformations from Black to White – Only the Angels Know, which was performed in Bale, we woke up Druid, Celtic energies, energies

of the witches, mages, wizards, elves and they rebelled, awakened – there was a cold wind... I literally sat on this egg with these feathers all over me and I literally for the first time in my life, after I took out all of my teeth and sold them to a Swiss museum, felt my teeth again from all this cold. These performances are high risk because we correspond with our inner sexual libido; this is an encounter with our libido which marks the encounter with your own consciousness.30

Marijan Susovski (1980) links Trokut’s artistic strategy, on the occasion of Dodig’s exhibition Amulets, spells, arkanas organized in the Gallery of Contemporary Art in Zagreb in 1980, to the artistic strategy, i.e. shaman artistic practice of Joseph Beuys. Based on the tradition of Beuys, who often used everyday items in his conceptual installations, combined with natural, edible material; pollen, animal fat, wax, milk... which have healing and mystical properties in shamanism, Dodig exhibits items of occult practice and objects given magical value. Already in the title of the exhibition Vladimir Dodig Trokut: Amulets, spells, arkanas, he emphasized the esoteric origin of the exhibited items. He himself claims that the starting point in his art is shamanism towards art, whereas he thinks that Beuys moved from art into shamanism.31 Beuys, on the other hand, emphasized the social and healing dimension of art, art with therapeutic effect, which can treat and heal, and this attitude especially referred to the German society after World War II. Unlike Joseph Beuys (1921 – 1986) and George Ivanovich Gurdjieff (1866/1877–1949) he refers to, Dodig does not emphasize the didactic and healing role in art, which was represented and spread by these major artists. Both Beuys and Gurdijeff determined the value of an art work based on ability to transform a man and affect spiritual growth of individuals and societies. Dodig takes over the main attitudes of Gurdjieff. Anna Challenger in her article Gurdjieff's Theory of Art (Gurdjieff International Review, 2012), emphasize; “Gurdjieff divides art into ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’, and differentiates art from non-art using these esthetic criteria”. Subjective art according to Gurdjieff is not authentic, is a result of mechanical, subconscious human action and here “most 30 31

Ibid., 43.

Elezović, 2005.


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of what is usually interpreted as art” belongs (...)—in his introduction to Meetings with Remarkable Men he asserts that—contemporary civilization is unique in

history in its massive production of soulless, pseudo art.32 Dodig Trokut is known by his collection of items incorporated in the collection Antimuseum, created as early as 1972, which contains several hundred different historical, social, anthropological, art artifacts and items. According to Trokut, the collection was recognized by the art historian Harald Szeeman, with whom Dodig cooperated on the project of unifying the Museum of Obsession and Antimuseum. The Antimuseum collection was donated to the Croatian people, and even though the Museum was introduced to professional glossaries, an adequate location to store the collection in accordance with professional standards has not been found yet.

Marko Pogačnik (1944) The specificity of art by Marko Pogačnik (1944) is the fact that Pogačnik introduces a completely new paradigm into contemporary art, and art in general.33 Completely opposite from the l'art pour l'art (art for art’s sake) approach, this is art which includes and marks communication with cosmic and earth energies, worlds which are invisible to the eye, to which people are naturally connected. In the methods of earth healing, Pogačnik uses the medieval geomancy knowledge. Aiming at a harmonious relationship between people and nature, he developed methods of acupunctural earth healing in the 1980’s, using stone elements with inscribed symbolic ornamental omens set to acupuncture points of the earth, and using this process he calls lithopuncture he heals the damaged pulse of nature. Pogačnik believes that space is alive with its own memory and that through historical turmoil, the energy of the space is blocked and thus its further harmonized development is hindered, that covered the topic of geomancy. These blocked energies of our cities and environment need to be unblocked. He performed acupunc32 Anna Challenger, “Gurdjieff's Theory of Art,” Gurdjieff International Review XI, 2 (2012). Accessed February 20, 20014. ISSN 1524–4784.

Marko Pogačnik was born in 1944 in Kranj, Slovenia, and graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in 1967, majoring in sculpture. He is one of the founders of the OHO group. From 1965 to 1971, he worked as a member of the OHO group in the fields of conceptual art and land art. In 1971 OHO group transformed into a commune to integrate daily life into the art work – including agriculture and serving as a spiritual center for that time Yugoslavia. We worked in the field of art as “Šempas family” (1971–79). After 1979 his art work transformed into a specific form of ecological art that he calls lithopuncture and “acupuncture of the Earth. Parallel to his lithopuncture, after 2005 with his wife Marika, he started to build art installations in galleries and museums. See his artsist website: 33

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tural healing of landscapes in all countries of Europe and Latin America and some countries of other continents. Pogačnik speaks of vital energy flows that float on earth’s surface and calls them Dragon lines. Primordial location forces on Dragon lines are called dragon forces, where the earth breathes in life from space. Other earlier researchers spoke about these energy lines of earth, calling them “ley’s lines”, and often along these lines, there are historical buildings, churches and nowadays often wolds. Pogačnik considers these points as energetic holy spaces functioning as acupuncture points of the earth, through which cosmic energy of the plant flows and balances itself. He also developed a school of perception where he teaches those who are interested into vital energy flows of the earth. For the healings, he also uses stone panels with engraved energy and symbolic shapes, so-called cosmograms, which have their inner codes, and when displayed outside and at precisely defined energetic points, form a sort of land art and have a healing effect. Cosmograms indicate a special system or organic line shapes, omens which Pogačnik carves into stone panels, whereby concave line notches create light contrasts and reflections in the sun which benefit the space. Cosmograms were showcased in galleries, where interactive ambients created for the exhibition spaces also contain and emanate healing properties. For example, the exhibition Labyrinth of multidimensional space, set in Typholological Museum in Zagreb in 2014, was just like the other Pogačnik’s gallery ambients intended for the visitors, who were invited to explore space by themselves, touch cosmograms and thus gain insight into invisible energy appearances in space. Unlike other Land or Earth artists, who use landscape and nature to realize their work in situ, Pogačnik uses his own experience working with vital natural energies and his work is defined by energy lines and earth points, i.e., as he put it, planet’s chakras. Pogačnik starts working as an artist in midsixties, he is one of the founders of Slovenian conceptual art group OHO (1965–1971), which strongly influenced conceptual art of former Yugoslavia, but in 1970 the group, although it was on the rise and recognized within European conceptual art practice, decides to stop exhibiting and retreat to the Slovenian village Šempas. Its avant-garde views on inseparability of art and living, the group started exploring outside galleries, and in 1971 they founded the rural art community Family from Šempas, on the forest slopes of the Slovenian village Šempas (where Pogačnik resides Fig. 5. Marko Pogačnik, Cosmogram


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still today with his family)34. Family from Šempas in the art community and natural isolation, dedicates itself to life in harmony with nature and dealing with transcendental spheres in art, i.e. spiritual interpretations of cosmic processes (Brejc 1978, 14–19). Milenko Matanović, David Nez, Marko Pogačnik and Andraž Šalamun formed this group. Tomaž Brejc refers to this period of group’s work (1970–1971) as transcendental conceptualism (Ibid.), where prevailing in their groups there is “focus towards mental concepts and presentation of basic cosmologic states and process through simple means, and dematerialized forms of action” (Brejc 1978, 14–21).35 These earlier conceptual and Land Art practices of Pogačnik, with emphasized ecological ethics, are important to understand his current art, whereas he has been engaged in earth regeneration and geomancy projects since 1979. With his integral ecological approach and healing methods, intertwined with his creative work, he represents the concept of art in the context of harmonic spiritual growth of an individual, related with energies of the earth and cosmos. As an introduction to understanding the process he uses, please see below a short practical instruction by Pogačnik on how to speak with a tree because “it’s not hard; anybody can do it”; we have to approach the tree and stand a bit aside, not lean on it, but stand beside it so that the tree can see us easily. Then from our inner feeling, “from the heart”, we send our emotional thought to the tree and we allow communication to be established between us; we try to feel it with our hearts. If we allow ourselves to feel it, we will soon see the tree respond with its feeling, and perhaps an inspiration. 36 The term of transcendental conceptualism was inaugurated by the Slovenian theoretician Tomaž Brejc to describe specific activities of OHO group in the period of 1970-1971, based on research of spiritual non-visual phenomena, mutual spiritual relations between group members, realized through dematerialization of art object.

34 Toma Brejc, “The Family at Šempas,” in The New Art Practice in Yugoslavia 1966–1978, edited by Marijan Susovski. (Zagreb: Gallery of Contemporary Art, 1978), 14–21.

They have worked as an art group in Šempas until 1979, until circumstances of farm life without electricity, telephone line or running water, with small children and without constant income prevailed. They exhibited as a group in 1978 at the Venice Biennale; the group is formally still active and its actors cooperate still today on exhibition projects. (On activities and creations of the OHO group, see individual interviews with group members, published in the art magazine ARTMargins, in July 2013. index.php/oho-homepage). 35

See “Kako komunicirati z drevesi (How to communicate with a tree)”, http://www. 36

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Tomislav Ćurković (1974) Among here presented artists, Tomislav Ćurković differs with the subtlety of his work. Also with the wide range of media he uses to express himself and to create, from visual art, music and sound, videos and movies, to theatre sets. He is the author (director, cameraman and music author) of three short films which were recorded in his travel over Asia; Punan (2004), Varanasi (2006), Bule (white men) (2007). The awarded film Bule (White men) tells a story of metaphorical and physical search for the Bird of Paradise, the rarest and the most beautiful bird in the world. This is a story of friendship between the natives and the Western people, their differences and similarities, recorded on plateaus of West Papua. In his film Varanasi he created a portrait of a town on the river Ganges – Varanasi, one of the holiest Indian towns; the film tells about holy souls – sadhus and portrays the holiest among them, the tantric master in a ritual process of eating human remains found after the religious act of posthumous body incineration in order to gain special powers to heal the sick and establish communication with the dead. 37 From the sketches from his travels, Ćurković creates visual art, installations and objects where various organic and inorganic material, discarded items, memorabilia are collected to new ambient sculptures with different meanings. The exhibition Empire (Mali salon/Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Rijeka, 2006) comprises items and installations created in an ambient setting using sound, human body, installations made of various items and ambient qualities, with “application of the aversion effect and the display of transition between life and death”, as written by the exhibition curator Nataša Ivančević (2006).38 Regardless of the media, Ćurković’s work is oriented toward the search for processes and creations which call upon the aspects of supreme creation with their atmosphere and charge. His works are multilayered and multi-valued; avoiding description is a part of his artistic strategy, which in the end results in the impression of the inability to fully understand the work. Ćurković creates Fig. 6. Tomislav Ćurković, The fourth dimension installations as closed spaces, cabinets in collages, mixed media, 2014. which he searches for imaginary worlds, for Courtesy of the author


It is possible to view the film by contacting the author Tomislav Ćurković.

Tomislav Ćurković, “Carstvo/Empire”, curated by Nataša Ivančević. (Rijeka: MMSU, 2016). Exhibition catalog. 38


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the non-existing, but revived creatures in order to metaphysically start the image level through association of the living (Elezović 2014). Through intuitive leadership, he composes works using personal inner reflections, associations; as an artist-traveler who recollects his travels over unknown regions and tries to record them, partly through his memories and sometimes creation finds its own way. In recent flat relieves made with tin and other materials such as paper, photos, cardboard, Ćurković creates collages where he intends to express “the fourth dimension”. The key question of visual art is how to express that which is visually impossible to demonstrate (invisible) without using symbolism or known iconographic postulates, but using the original and authentic visual language. Ćurković tries to express time through his collages with spatial dimensions – width, length and height, forms were created from tin fragments which he bends using origami technique, moving from the center around which triangular spheres are folded, one over another. This creates strange spaces that act hypnotically and disorienting on viewer’s perception. Trying to visualize common space with these dimensions, we go through changes in perception, in the sense of manipulation of this space, its modification, extension, where it is possible to enter it and thus see the past or the future. This is a transcription of mental states into the material of artistic work. Ćurković is a full artist; he creates new worlds in his work, whether this is installation, painting or object. He also creates new relations between these worlds. Hereby he relies on inner intuitive leadership in the work process: I want everything to keep swimming on this association level... the level of atmosphere... and again, neither names can be any... some words are simply not felt as right... the thing is that even I don’t know what exactly I am doing and I don’t want to know. Why I can place, for example, velvet next to clay, and not a plastic bag, I don’t know that. But inner laws definitely exist and I can feel them, but not understand them.39

Furthermore, he creates creatures – forms of some new species from different elements, such as forms of cut out paper. The flame reviving them is an idea as such.

Marina Abramović (1946) According to the opinion from the global art criticism, but also to the giant interest she invokes from the audience, Marina Abramović is one of the most influential artists today. She dedicated all four decades of her art to performances. Ever since her beginnings in the early 1970’s, she has dealt with exploration of body and the physical, body as an artistic medium through which she communicates with the audience. The quote was taken from private oral and written communication with the artist, May 2014. 39

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Already in her first performances, Abramović establishes basic determinants of her total opus; long-term, long-lasting physically and mentally exhausting performances and testing and overcoming own physical and mental limitations, facing yourself in front of an audience and simultaneous facing the audience with the deepest mental limitations and social conventions, interest towards art which changes ideologies. Marina Abramović is now changing contemporary art, by dealing with the non-material in art, introducing a new paradigm into contemporary art. Material she uses is the energetic space of mutual contact, transmission of energy between people. Within her retrospective exhibition significantly named Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present, which was set in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York in 2012, she performs for 736 hours and 30 minutes (that is, every day, for more than two months, eight hours a day), sitting still in silence in front of an audience and using “eye-to-eye” contact emanates feelings of love to the person who sits in front of her. In the interview published on Museum’s website after the performance, she explained the substantial and processing level and work method through which she places herself, like a spiritual leader, into the role of a mediator and thus helps individuals in the process of establishing contact with themselves. When you enter the square of light and you sit on that chair, you’re an individual, and as an individual you are kind of isolated. And you’re in a very interesting situation because you’re observed by the group (the people waiting to sit), you’re observed by me, and you’re observing me—so it’s like triple observation. But then, very soon while you’re having this gaze and looking at me, you start having this invert and you start looking at yourself. So I am just a trigger, I am just a mirror and actually they become aware of their own life, of their own vulnerability, of their own pain, of everything—and that brings the crying. [They are] really crying about their own self and that is an extremely emotional moment.40

In order to gain control over her body, her conscious and unconscious reactions, physical needs and to be able to perform for several days (eight hours a day over the period of over two months of still sitting in silence and nonverbal communication with 1,564 individuals), as Abramović described in an interview with James Franco (2009), she went through many physical and mental preparations; cooperated with many scientists, but also spiritualists, learning various techniques from Brazilian shamans, Tibetan monks, Australian aborigines.

40 See: Daniela Stigh, Marina Abramović:The Artist Speaks, In New York: MoMA 2010.


Nadežda Elezović I went to retreat in India because I think when I do performance art I have to learn how can I control my body. (Cleaning the Mirror, 1990). First you have to be completely afraid of, and completely terrorized. And then I know that I have to do it. Nobody would change if they do things what they like. I always do things I don't like. Because things you don't like, things you are afraid of, they are unknown. That is really interesting stuff. The moment that you really can get into the performance space – you are leaving your lower self and you are transforming to higher self. And this higher self is whole energy you are putting to. And then really things happened, and every circumstance happened; you have to accept them and let it go.41

In the 1980’s, she spent her time in the deserts of Australia, in Sahara and Gobi, and she thinks the desert is the most difficult place to be, the place of the biggest confrontation with oneself. At the symposium “Art Meets Science and Spirituality” (1990), in front of her rationally oriented colleagues, she speaks of Tibetan techniques that help release energy from the cells, the energy that exists in all cells, but is released in the states of trauma, shock, extreme self-preservation strains. It is significant that at this symposium she also spoke about her vision of art in the future, the 21st century art, where she said “that art would not use objects in the future because the artist will be on that level of consciousness required to transfer the energy to their audience”.42 The above described performance was realized two decades later. During her artistic career, she did numerous radical physical performances where she questioned the limits of physical endurance, and literally facing death in some (Rhythm 0, Rhythm 5). Among her earlier performances, the most famous is the often mentioned performance Rhythm 5 (1974), where the artist exposed herself naked in front of an audience, offered a table with 72 objects to the audience in the gallery, such as roses, perfume, lipstick, bread, but also knives, chains and a loaded gun. After six hours of performing and a growing aggression in the audience, the performance culminated when one of the visitors reached for the loaded gun and pointed it at her, after which the performance was terminated. This event marked a changing point in her work, and she has included the audience in confrontation with her own limitations and personality aspects ever since. In one of the earlier performances named Dragon Head, performed several times on different locations and with little variation in the period between 1990–1994,

Marina Abramović, Interview by James Franco. YouTube video, 4:18. 2009. http:// 41

42 Interview with Louwrien Wijers and Johan Pijnappel. Art meets Science and Spirituality, Art and Design, Academy Group, London, 1990. YouTube video, 21.11–24.20.1990,

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Abramović confronts her fears in front of the audience.43 She stands still on the set, with a live snake wrapped around her body. The snake, as the oldest mythological animal and an ambiguous symbol, was chosen by the artist “as an animal that has a strong negative meaning in Christianity”. Starting with the premises that a snake can follow energies of the planet wherever it is located, Marina Abramović as a small energy universe lets the snake follow her personal temperature and the energy of her body by sliding over her head (LIMA, video Portrait Gallery). The snakes did not move towards the audience; they stayed on her body because there was ice on the floor around Abramović and snakes follow heat and energy. Abramović here treats her body as the form of energy micro-universe that goes through changes, one that emanates its inner states and affects the worlds around it. (....) but snakes always follow the geodetic lines of the planet, so I was thinking, If I am that planet, how they are going to follow my lines, lines of my body. They just moved around, and they actually moved my body. And I become a sculpture; I see this is like a sculpture. This snake was enormous; she almost killed me, by the way. It was a very interesting moment before the audience came: I had her around my head when she just slipped off and went around my neck. And the trainer said to me – you have to be absolutely relaxed. My pulse was beating, and the more pulse beat the more she goes around your neck, so you have to be actually relax in panic, in order to become like tree – that she can release herself. It was very good training.44 Her performances carry a strong ritual and symbolic level, such as Cleaning the Mirror (1995) and the famous video/installation/performance Balkan Baroque from the Venice Biennale in 1997, where in her performance she reacts to and comments on the political war situation in former Yugoslavia, conceptually oriented towards the ritual “cleaning of conscience”. Over four days Abarmović washed raw animal bones which were filled with worms and smelt terribly, and which filled the dark exhibition space, whereas the display showed the video of her parents. For her extraordinary piece she was awarded the Golden Lion for Best Artist at the 1997 Venice Biennale.

43 “It is very important to overcome your own fears and what I do in my work – I stage them in front of audience. I can’t do that at my home, but in front of audience I get extra strength, so I can deal with them. So If I can do with myself, you can do in your life, too. Because I became a sample”, Abramović explained, speaking about confronting her fear in the performance “Dragon Head” at a lecture at the Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC, 2011. YouTube video, 34:56–36:34. 2011. 44

Ibid., 34:56–36:34.


Nadežda Elezović

Conclusion As a conclusion, I want to emphasize that these six artists do not represent all artists whose works carry spiritual elements in the given geographic region. There are other such artists, and also other different approaches and practices which could deepen this subject. Also as a conclusion, I want to present influences of individual works on people because each work of art has the power to transform mental, spiritual, and emotional patterns. Primarily art, which can affect opening a person’s mind to higher mental and spiritual spheres. Furthermore, exploring the process of creation of some works can significantly influence further studies of the subject.

Bibliography Abramović, Marina. The Artist is Present. Essays by Klaus Biesenbach, Arthur C. Danto, Chrissie Iles, Nancy Spector, Jovana Stokić. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2010. ———. “An—Artists—Life—Manifesto.” YouTube video, 1:30. From a lecture at the Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden“, Washington, DC. April 2011, ———. Belgrade Baroque. 1997. Explore. Museum of Modern Art. Last accessed December 5, 2014. ———. Interview with Louwrien Wijers and Johan Pijnappel. Art meets Science and Spirituality, Art and Design, Academy Group, London, 1990. YouTube video, 50:04.1990, Badouin, Tessel. “Introduction: Occulture and Modern Art”, Aries, 13: pp. 1–5. 2013. Brejc, Tomaž. “OHO as an Artistic Phenomenon 1966–1971: In the Sign of Reism 1966– 1968.” In The New Art Practice in Yugoslavia 1966-1978, edited by Marijan Susovski, 14–19. Zagreb: Gallery of Contemporary Art, 1978. ———. “The Family at Šempas.” In The New Art Practice in Yugoslavia 1966–1978, edited by Marijan Susovski, 19–21. Zagreb: Gallery of Contemporary Art, 1978. Cerovac, Branko. Inovacije – Akvizicije : suvremeni hrvatski umjetnici – djela iz fundusa [Innovations – Acquisitions : contemporary Croatian artists – holdings artworks]. Edited by Branko Cerovac. Rijeka: Museum of modern and contemporary art, 2002). Exhibition catalogue. ———. “Igor Zlobec: Satan's Playing Room”, Gallery Otok, Dubrovnik, published in artists website. Accessed May, 2014. Challenger, Anna. “Gurdjieff's Theory of Art.” Gurdjieff International Review XI, 2 (2012). Accesd February 20, 20014. ISSN 1524–4784. Ćurković, Tomislav. “Carstvo/Empire.” Curated by Nataša Ivančević. Rijeka: Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, 2016. Exhibition catalogue.

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Denegri, Ješa. “The Historic Avant-gardes, Neo-avant-gardes and Post-avant-gardes across the art space of Yugoslavia in the 20th century.” In Marginal Specificities – Regional Avant-Garde Art 1915–1989, edited by Marinko Sudac, 6–8. Rijeka: Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Varaždin: Varaždin City Museum, Gallery Center Varaždin, 2007. Exhibition catalogue. Dodig, Trokut V. Amuleti, čini, arkane [Amulets, spells, arkanas]. Curated by Marijan Susovski. Edited by Božo Bek. Zagreb: Gallery of Contemporary Art, 1980. Exhibition catalogue. ———. Solve. Curated by Marijan Susovski. Zagreb: Gallery of Contemporary Art, 1982. Exhibition catalog. ———. Atrist Website. Accessed Mart, 2016. ———. “Ja sam sluga umjetnosti [I'm servant of Art].” Interview by Nadežda Elezović. Val 8 (summer 2005): 6–7. Franco, James. Interview: Artist Marina Abramovi ć. YouTube video, 4:18. 2009, LIMA, Video Portrait Gallery, “Dragon Heads: Marina Abramović”, site/catalogue/art/marina-abramovic/dragon-heads/9371#. Marjanić, Suzana. “Priroda (u) o umjetnosti performansa (Nature in (of) Performance Art).” Ethnology Tribune 37, vol. 44 (2014): 89–108. DOI:10.15378/1848–9540.2014.37.03. ———. “Mistički poligoni & akcije-transcendencije.” Zarez, December, 2010. Matičević, Davor. “Zagrebački krug” (The Zagreb Circle). In Nova umjetnička praksa : 1966–1978: documents 3–6, edited by Marijan Susovski, 21–28. Zagreb: Gallery of Contemporary Art, 1978. MoMa. “Marina Abramović. Rhythm 0. 1974”, 35mm slide projection (black and white and color, silent), New York: MoMA. May 2014, media/audios/190/1972. Papernik, Erica. In discussion with author regarding The Artist Is Present. Museum of Modern Art. New York, NY, November 19, 2012. Pasi, Marco.“Coming forth by night. Contemporary art and the occult.”, In Options with Nostrils, edited by Alexis Vaillant, 103–111. Rotterdam: Piet Zwart Institute, Willem de Kooning Academy, Sternberg Press, 2010. Pogačnik, Marko. Moč zemlje i Kristusova navzočnost: Peti evangelij [Christ Power and the Earth Goddess: A Fifth Gospel]. Maribor: Obzorja, 2000. ———. Nature Spirits & Elemental Beings: Working with the Intelligence in Nature.

Findorn: Findhorn Press, 1997. ———. Sacred Geography – Geomancy: co-creating the earth cosmos.

Great Barrington USA: Lindisfarne Books, 2008. ———. The Art of life—the life of art. Curated by Igor Španjol. Ljubljana: Moderna galerija, 2012. Exhibition. ———. “Programmes”, 2014. Accessed February 2, 2014. http://www.markopogacnik. com/programmes.html


Nadežda Elezović

———. “Geomancy,” in Preprosto naravno, Slovenian Studio Ljubljana, February 2014. Accessed February 20, 2014. Stojnić, Damir. Osv(i)jetljavanja [Iluninations]. Curated by Rozana Vojvoda. Dubrovnik: Umjetnička galerija, 2014. Exhibition catalog. ———. Ignisogrami/Konflagracije [Ignisograms/Konflagrations]. Curated by Nadežda Elezović. Rijeka: MMSU, 2015. Exhibition catalog. Susovski, Marijan. Nova umjetnička praksa 1966–1978. [New Art Practice in Yugoslavia 1966–1978]. Zagreb: Gallery of Contemporary Art, 1978. Šuvaković, Miško. Pojmovnik suvremene umjetnosti [Glossary of Contemporary Art]. Zagreb: Horetzky, and Ghent: Vlees & Beton, 2005. Westcott, James. When Marina Abramović dies: A biography. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010.


Contemporary Magic Healing in Serbia and New Age One of the commonplaces in the research of contemporary esotericism is that the fall of Communism in 1989–1990 led to a great wave of magic revival in Eastern Europe.1 That is not incorrect, of course, but it should be understood in a somewhat broader sense. Esoteric groups were present even under Communism (e.g. O.T.O. in Yugoslavia)2 although, predictably enough, after the 1989 the activities and appearance of the new groups rapidly increased; under Communism different types of healing, too, which we could label as magical or alternative, were highly visible. Bioenergetics, parapsychology, suggestology, clairvoyancy, and alternative medicine were present in the media in Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Soviet Union, specially in 1980s.3 In Bulgaria the psychic Vanga had official support.4 In the second half of 1980s in Yugoslavia which, because of the specific political situation was between the Eastern and Western blocs and was more open to Western influences, there were special magazines dedicated to anything alternative, from UFO to bioenergetics.5 In the second half of 1980s bioenergetics and psychics, especially those from Soviet Union On religious revival generally: Miklós Tomka, ed., Expanding Religion: Religious Revival in Post-Communist Central and Eastern Europe (Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1


Gordan Djurdjević “Hidden wisdom in the ill-ordered house: a short survey of occultism in Former Yugoslavia,” in Occultism in a Global Perspective ed. by Bogdan and G. Djurdjević (Durham: Acumen), 92; “Ordo Templis Orienti in former Yugoslavia”, accesed April 04. 2016. ( 2


See: Birgit Menzel, “The Occult Revival in Russia Today and its Impact on Literature”,

The Harriman Review, 16: 1 (2007): 1–14.; Alexander A. Panchenko, “Morality, Utopia, Discipline: New Religious Movements and Soviet Culture”, in Multiple Moralities and Religions in Post-Soviet Russia, ed. J. Zigon (New York: Berghahn Books, 2011): 119–145; Grażyna Szwat-Gylybowa, Haeresis bulgarica v blgarskoto kulturno soznanie na XIX i XX vek, Sofija,

2010. (tr. from Polish). 173–184;Djurdjević,“Hidden wisdom”, 79–100. See special issue of journal Bßlgarski folklor (5, 1993) [Bulgarian folklore] dedicated to ESP and similar phenomena including healing, in 1980s-early 1990s Bulgaria. Milena Benovska-S ‘bkova, “ExtraSensers: The Magicians of the New Time”, in The Magical and Aesthetic in the Folklore of Balkan Slavs, ed. Dejan Ajdačić (Belgrade: Library Vuk Karadžić, 1994), 1491–56; Evgenia Mitseva, “Old-time Wizards and Present-day Extra-Sensers”, ibid., 156–164.

4 Galina Valtchinova, “State Managment of Seer Vanga”, in Christianity and Modernization in Eastern Europe, eds. B.R.Berglud and B.A. Porter (Budapest: CEU Press, 2010): 245–268.

Magazines Tajne (Secrets) since 1986; Treće oko (Third eye) since 1989; one should also mention translations of authors such as Dänicken, Puharich, Castaneda, books on parapsychology, Atlantis, etc. 5



Nemanja Radulović

(in perestroika then), like Džuna or Allan Chumak, were present in media. Local healers soon followed this example. The appearance was “experimental” or “alternative” and this semi-scientific self-presentation made it publicly acceptable. It can be taken that the main narratives of New Age were presented through this type of speech. At the same time, traditional folk magic was – as is still the case – an active and living phenomenon both in rural and urban areas. After the 1990 all the abovementioned phenomena became even more widespread and, what is more important, they started to become commercialized. The free market opened the doors for healing businesses, too. Private healers and agencies specialized in this emerged. This initial step took rather specific shape from 1992 onwards: the economic crisis, the economic sanctions introduced that year against Yugoslavia, the war and political repression made the social scene rampant; different psychics and healers gained never before seen presence and influence in the public sphere. There was no legal control and media coverage was immense. (The subject are both healers and psychics/clairvoyants because both activities were often – although not always – carried out by the same person).6 This included political subtext, too: psychics often were giving support to governmental policy and in return they could run their healing business without obstruction.7 In short, this could be described as phenomenon specific of the 1990s. After the political change in 2000. the position of healers changed, too. Their work was put into legal frames with stricter control over their work; some of the healers were prosecuted and sentenced to prison sentences; some of them moved to Bosnia, where the enforcement of law was not as strict, or to Western-European countries where they operate among expatriates working there as Gastarbeiters– that is to say invisible to the authorities. Nonetheless, reducing healing narratives to criminal or political propaganda only does not answer the question why rogues used precisely this type of narratives and images, with such meanings? What those narratives mean in the imaginaire of the people who are seeking their help? As folklorist Lauri Honko noticed: ‘The therapeutic effectivity of popular or “primitive” medicine cannot be judged solely from the point of view of modern medicine. It is not only the methods of healing which distinguish primitive medicine from that of modern times. There is a very great difference in actual attitude to the problem: both the concept of disease and the aim of the healing-ritual takes quite another form in primitive so6 We are leaving aside the differences between healers and psychics, and clairvoyancy practice as well; our concern now is the medical aspect of the phenomenon.

This is perhaps a unique example where the state television station had a regular slot on its third channel for an astrologer (Milja Vujanović, who took surname Regulus, movie star and pioneer of astrology in former Yugoslavia) in the early 1990s – not surprising considering that the predictions were mostly of a political nature 7

Contemporary Magic Healing in Serbia and New Age


ciety than in modern scientific thinking’.8 This observation (basically derived from ethnological cultural relativism) can also be applied to modern magic. The influential media position healing held during the 1990s somewhat decreased, but a simple superficial look at the web sites or advertisements in magazines, testifies that it only became less visible, while an impressive percentage of people are still visiting healers. Field work done by folklorists and ethnologists confirms the same on the level of traditional culture. We will try to describe the present day situation on the magic-healing scene and to offer an analysis of the esoteric part of it. On one hand, traditional folk healing is still very active. On the other hand, there are practicants who are not in any aspect different from healers in Western Europe or the U.S.A., working with, chakras, crystals, colors, offering Reiki practices, plus whole range of alternative medicine (homeopathy, quantum medicine, aromatherapy).9 It is important to notice that even members of esoteric millieus mostly consider the “media healers” to be vulgar folksy charlatans. These healers are in a somewhere grey zone, between traditional folk magic and modern concepts (such as those used by bioenergetics practitioners or representatives of holistic practices), and we will pay special attention to them, basing this paper on news reports, media presentation and self-presentation and interviews with some of the clients; the healers themselves refused to be interviewed. The cults in question are audience cults and/or client cults.10 (Using Lindquist’s analysis of the similar phenomenon in Russia, we can describe it as a type of “marketing magic”). 11 Folklorists and ethnologists in Serbian academia paid attention to them already in early 1990s, comparing them with traditional folk magic, applying genre analysis on narratives and noticing how traditional genres, like legends, persist in modern forms; at the same time, differences were spotted, too, like the use of scientific vocabulary or political and propagandistic aims 12 8 Honko, L., “On the Effectivity of Folk-Medicine“ in Papers on Folk Medicine, given at an Inter-Nordic Symposium at Nordiska Museet, Stockholm, 8–10 May 1961, ed. C.-H

Tillhagen (Stockholm: The Nordic Museum, 1963), 290. 9

The local offshoot of the Bruno Groening circle can be mentioned here, too

William Sims Bainbridge, Rodney Stark, “Client and Audience Cults in America”, Sociology of Religion 41 (1980): 199–214. 10

11 Galina Lindquist, Conjuring Hope: Magic and Healing in Contemporary Russia (New York, Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2006), 23–52.

12 Ljiljana Pešikan-Ljuštanović, “Čudesno izlečenje kao tema urbanog predanja” [Miraculous Healing as Subject of Urban Legend], Folkor u Vojvodini 6 (1992): 94–102; Ljiljana Pešikan-Ljuštanović, “Predanja o čudesnom izlečenju i jezik nauke” [Legends about Mirculous Healing and Scientific Language], Književna reč 23 (1995), 3–4; Dejan Ajdačić, “Religije i savremene priče o isceljivanju”[Religions and Contemporary Healing Narratives], in Prilozi pručvavanju folklora balkanskih Slovena [Contributions to the Study of Folklore of Balkan


Nemanja Radulović

Presentation of these magic healers depict them as successful (and rich), and is accompanied by personal narratives of healed clients. Healers usually use first name only (or even nick-name) with “vidoviti/vidovita” (clairvoyant/clairvoyante, seer/ seeress) in front of it (Vidoviti Ljubiša, Vidovita Ljubica, Vidoviti Zoran, Vidovita Radica, Vidoviti Dali). They use a specific mixture of teachings. While syncretism is the mark of new magical movements generally13, particular elements involved provide some indications of the cultural processes. This bricolage includes concepts stemming from New Age and Western esotericism, those from folk magic, and those belonging to Orthodox Christianity. According to the healers the main cause of all illnesses and life problems in general (marriage, family, love, job) is black magic. The main work of healer is skidanje magije (literally: removing magic), just like in traditional magic. Talismans are provided as a protection. It may be noticed here that this concept is completely opposite to New Age. (The term is used as defined by Hanegraaff sensu lato).14 Since New Age is based on progressivism, illness is seen as spiritual arrest and it should be removed as hindrance on the way of spiritual development.15 But in the type of healing discussed here the cause of illness is seen in a more traditional light.16 This folk concept of a magical cause is confronted by healer’s counteraction. Healers can use remedies from the repertoire of traditional folk magic, or at least they use operations which look like that. The extent to which such practice stem from folk tradition and how simulating they are as such (and what is actually folk and tradition, these terms being reegzamined in moderne folkloristics) is beyond the scope of this discussion. Here we can take term “traditional/folk magic” as specific to pre-modern rural societies, although this concept was put under scrutiny (the implications will be discussed further on). What is more important is that healers present themselves as followers of folk tradition. At the same time, they are prone to pose as followers of Orthodox Christianity; icons are frequently visible on their websites and are used in magical séances, too; they claim to be deeply religious in sense of practicing Orthodox Christianity and some of them even claim to be initiated by saints. Although the Orthodox Church, of course, warns Slavs] (Beograd, s.n.: 2004), 274–276. Lidija Radulović, Okultizam ovde i sada: magija, religija i pomodni kultovi u Beogradu [Occultism Here and Now: Magic, Religion and Fashionable Cults in Belgrade], (Belgrade: Srpski genealoški centar), with special stress on sociopolitical contex; the author is not related to the author of this paper. 13

But that is also characteristic of folk religion.

Wouter J. Hanegraaff, New Age Religion and Western Culture. Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought (Leiden-New York-London: Brill, 1996), 12; 94–103. 14


Hanegraaff, New Age, 46–55.

Causes of illness in traditional worldview are multiple, but our healers tend to stress harmful magical activity of the others 16

Contemporary Magic Healing in Serbia and New Age


believers not to use the services of the healers and condemns this practice, healers do not see any contradiction in it.17 An example: one of the healers (Vidovita Radica) claims to be initiated by fairies (belief in fairies is far from extinct in South Slavic and Balkan regions)18 and that she gets potions from them. Before ritual she spends some time in monastery in order to be “spiritually energized” through prayer; when asked what magic is she readily answers “the focusing of energy”.19 And she uses tarot cards, too. One of the most famous local “white magi” Lav Geršman uses folk charms together with tarot and astrology. While this can be important to researchers of religion, sociologists, ethnologists, we focus here only on those concepts stemming from Western esoteric tradition. Among them, the most influential is energy. While the cause of illness is black magic, the interpretation of magic itself, as given by healers, is that black magic is negative energy; healer’s counteraction is positive energy.20 Geršman states in his autobiographical book: “I take positive energy from Nature and by it I remove the negative one. If a white magus does not use his knowledge his energy does not return, and the one he has is exhausted quickly... We get strength from the client’s gratitude... The same is with black magi. They do evil to man, his mother, children... They got negative energy and the positive [energy] goes to the black magus”.21 Both black and white magi work on the principle of the conservation of energy, the difference is whether they use positive or negative energy’.22 “Magic is the art of controlling the energy that everyone has”.23 From healing narratives and interviews we can see that healers as well as their patients use the concept of energy, obviously being induced by healers.24 In the terms of ethnopsychiatry the concept of magic is internalized, because it belongs 17 18

The same in Russia: Lindquist, Conjuring, 29.

As testified by contemporary fieldwork by folklorists and ethnologists.

magazine Magična zona, 21.05, 2012,; Svet plus (famous tabloid)10.05 2013: 19

Lidija Radulović, Okultizam ovde i sada, 82–83; See also: t accesed April 21. 2016. 20

Branka Đurišić, Lav Geršman. Tajna Magije: Vizije i saveti [Lav Geršman. The Secret of Magic: Visions and Advices]. (Beograd: Pharos, 2004), 57–58. 21

22 23

Ibid., 66. accesed April 21. 2016.

It is of secondary importance that many of those healing narratives, as presented by healers themselves, are probably invented; the presence in the media and public mind is our concern now, as are their appearance and the images they use; in the structure and style they are same as the narratives of patients collected through other means. 24


Nemanja Radulović

to the pattern of the given culture.25 However, this extends through the internalization of new concepts, those coming from New Age and Western esotericism, foremost that of the concept of energy. Something similar was noted by R. Bastide long ago in the case of Brazil, a process he named “the secularization of madness”. “Lycanthropy” and “religious deliriums” became replaced by “scientific” concepts (electricity which passes through the body). However, as he noticed, secularization is still not profanization.26 The terms have been changed but the magical power of the concept remains. The concept of energy obviously stems from New Age. Its significance in New Age and the Weltanschauung of New Agers requires no explanation or emphasis. At the same time, as studies of New Age show, despite its scientific appearance (aimed at legitimization) the very concept of energy stems from Mesmerism, Spiritualism, Theosophy, Swedenborg.27 Elements of classical Western esotericism are thus incorporated in New Age; now, New Age is not only a specific cult milieu, it is part of contemporary culture, as James Lewis pointed out,28 – or occulture, in Partridge’s term29. Other elements, characteristic not of New Age only but of Western esotericism of an older type can be found too. For example, talismans are widely used in folk magic too, but here we can find the Jupiter talisman, “Egyptian talismans”, the Knot of Isis; or spiritualistic use of letters and moving board. Some older esoteric concepts were channeled through New Age to contemporary magic healing in Serbia. Nonetheless, there remain differences between two concepts. The energy concept still does not lead to holism or some optimism. Worldview remains dualistic. There is no personal transformation, but curing the illness is the main point; in that sense this concept is still pre-modern. “Many New Age-believers would emphasize that their aim is not the elimination of suffering, but the promotion of health. This subtle shift of perspective is important to note. It contains a polemical thrust aimed at official health care, which is criticized for focusing on “fixing” diseases while promoting 25 26

We use term ethnopsychiatry as founded in the classical works of Devereux.

Roger Bastide, Sociologie des maladies mentales (Paris: Flammarion, 1965), 269.

Catherine L. Albanese, “The Magical Staff: Quantum Healing in the New Age,” in Perspectives on New Age, eds. James R. Lewis and Joseph Gordon Melton (Albany: SUNY Press, 27

1992), 68–74; James R. Lewis, “Approaches to the Study of the New Age Movement”, in Perspectives on New Age, eds. James R. Lewis, Joseph Gordon Melton (Albany: SUNY Press, 1992), 3; Wouter J. Hanegraaff, New Age Religion and Western Culture. Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought (Leiden-New York-London: Brill, 1996), 400. 28 James R. Lewis, introduction to Perspectives on New Age, eds. James R. Lewis and Joseph Gordon Melton (Albany: SUNY Press, 1992), X.

Christopher Partridge, The Re-Enchantment of the West 1, Alternative Spiritualities, Sacralization, Popular Culture and Occulture (London-New York: T&T Clark International, 2004). 29

Contemporary Magic Healing in Serbia and New Age


an unhealthy lifestyle at the same time”.30 In the case of Serbian contemporary media healers, the traditional perception is still maintained under modern jargon. Also, the net of black magic is incompatible with the love and brotherhood ideology of New Age. If Hanegraaff sees the ideology of personal growth and personal responsibility as essential for New Age healing31, then we can say that here we are dealing with the completely opposite worldview, where responsibility for the illness comes from the other. In a way, the abovementioned traits correspond to the issues of identity in contemporary Serbian society: on one hand there are national, local, traditional elements; on the other it is connected to elements that are perceived as modern and Western.32 As followers of national Church they present themselves as followers of tradition, as respectable family men and women, who are obviously not involved in any kind of black magic. Use of folk elements confirms that the healer is rooted in tradition; but New Age scientific language and esoteric elements provide an air of modernity. This is not only a bricolage, but perhaps an analogon – we deliberately avoid the word “reflection”– of the broader picture of identity, between national tradition on one side and relation towards Europe on the other. But still, we hesitate to explain the phenomenon in the terms of identity only, considering that it would be a type of reduction. It is a much deeper issue of the relation between magic and modernity, or between magic and cultural processes. We dare to take the Serbian example as the paradigm for transitional societies, or in broader context, societies that entered modernity lately. There is a large mass of people whose worldview can be described as traditional. In spite of modernization and Communism which enforced Enlightenment discourse, for these people the world never became completelly disenchanted.33 A new layer was superimposed on this traditional worldview, stemming from contemporary New Age concepts. Old concepts are now being interpreted in modern terms. New Age terminology (such as energy) provides them with a kind of emic hermeneutics (which still shows the 30 31

Hanegraaff, New Age, 46.

Hanegraaff, New Age, 243; 300–301.

About national identity in modern esoteric movements in Eastern European cultures: Nemanja Radulović, “Slavia Esoterica between East and West”, Ricerche slavistiche 13 (LIX) (2015): 73–102. 32

33 Of course, I refer here to Weberian concept of disenchantment used extensively by the post-Favrian generation of scholars. Beside Hanegraaf ‘s 1996. synthesis on New Age (see bibliography) see also Wouter J. Hanegraaff, “How Magic Survived the Disenchantment of the World”, Religion 33 (2003), 357–380. Also: Kocku von Stuckrad “Reenchanting Nature.

Modern Western Shamanism and Ninetenth-Century Thought”, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 70 (2002), 771–799.


Nemanja Radulović

need to legitimate a worldview that is socially stigmatized in a way). It is also possible to notice the interaction between traditional folk culture and imported elements of contemporary culture. It challenges again the popular idea – the heritage of the Romantic concept of folklore – of untouched folk tradition. At the same time it challenges the popular idea of esotericism as being hidden34. Here we can see the popularization and divulgation of esoteric concepts to the furthest extent. In a sense, the abovementioned esotericists and practitioners of alternative medicine are correct in labeling these healers as vulgar: the word vulgar should be understood etymologically, as the root of divulgation. In terms of cultural history that interaction is actually far from being new. As an example we can take contacts between rural, traditional, folk magic on one hand and learned magic on the other (not in a sense of anthropological (Frazerian, for example) universalistic concept of the same magical principles: historicaly speaking, there was active interaction between two currents of magic in Europe). Up to the 20th century learned magic – divinatory books, grimoires or magic sigils – entered European folk transmission through chapbooks.35 Ethnologists and folklorists were aware long ago of such exchange. And, on the other hand, as is well known, Agrippa or Paracelsus took from folk magic. This examples from Western and Central Europe are confirmed in Eastern Europe, too. Interesting example existed in 18th and 19th century Russia, where popular editions of Eckartshausen and Jung-Stilling entered the folk sects and influenced their teachings.36At the same time the elite did not shun from the folk clairvoyants and healers.

34 Wouter J. Hanegraaff, “Esotericism”, in: Dictionary of Gnosis and Western Esotericism eds. Wouter Hanegraaff et. alii (Leiden-Boston: Brill, 2006), 336–340; somewhat different in: Kocku von Stuckrad, Locations of Knowledge in Medieval and Early Modern Europe. Esoteric Discourse and Western Identities (Leiden-Boston: Brill, 2010), 54–59.

Owen Davies, Grimoires. A History of Magic Books (Oxford: University Press), 107–109; 113ff; 118ff; 153; 165;for contemporary period: 185; Rudolf Schenda, Volk ohne Buch: Studien zur Sozialgeschichte der populären Lesestoffe 1770–1910 (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1970), 104; 124, 140 (f. 133), 233–234; 253;480. Bernard Husson, preface to Le grand et le petit Albert (Paris: Etditions Pierre Belfond, 1978),16–18; Robert, Mandrou Robert, “Littérature de colportage et mentalités paysannes XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles,” Études rurales 15 (1964): 84–85. 35

F. Fedorenko, Sekty, ih vera i dela [Cults, their believes and deeds](Moscow, Izdateljstvo politicheskoy literatury, 1965), 58; 65. On different divinatory books in Russian popular culture: Faith Wigzell, Reading Russian Fortune: Print Culture, Gender and Divination in Russia from 1765 (Cambridge: University Press, 1998). For more on folk magic and demonology and their interactions with learned culture in Eastern and Central Europe: Gabor Klaniczay and Eva Pocs, eds., Christian Demonology and Popular Mythology (Demons, Spirits, Witches 2) (Budapest, New York: CEU Press, 2006). 36

Contemporary Magic Healing in Serbia and New Age


Serbian ethnographical material recorded in 19th century includes references to Sator Arepo formula37 (also present elsewhere in European folklore, obviously stemming from learned sources) or to pentagrams and hexagrams (“Solomon’s letter”) obviously derived from written sources. The other example can be Spiritualism. The new phenomenon in 19th century Serbia was introduced as preoccupation of high classes, of the tiny layer of urban intellectuals; but it quickly reached the broadest audience, the popular masses and became intermingled with one current in popular religiosity.38 Mixing of New Age energy concept with folk practices shows the continuity of this process and the range of globalization of New Age. In the broader ethnological sense two cultures, high and popular, learned and folk, have always interacted, they are in the continuous process of exchange, the gap between them being not so wide.39 Talking about medicine, “the contrast between modern and primitive medicine in fact arose comparatively late”,40 in the 17th century (that is to say at the same time when Bakhtin and P. Burke saw as watershed between learned and popular culture). Hanegraff noticed that “New Age healing & growth movements are structurally similar to healing practices known in traditional societies”41. It seems that this example shows similarities not only in structural order, but in direct cultural exchange. In the same way, as we talk about folk religion, folk Christianity or Islam, perhaps we can also talk about folk New Age?42 Ichiro Ito, “Sator formula kak zagovor v balto-slavyanskoi pismenoy i fol’klornoi tradicii” [Sator formula as an Incantation in Balto-Slavic Written and Folk Tradition] in Zajedničko u slovenskom folkloru[Common Elements in Slavic Folklore] (Belgrade, Institute for Balkan Studies of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, 2012), 107–127. For preModern period and written sources: Robert Mathiesen, “Magic in Slavia Orthodoxa: The Written Traditon”, in Henry Maguire ed., Byzantine Magic (Washington: Dumbarton Oakes Research Library and Collection, 2008), 155–177. 37

Radmila Radić, Narodna verovanja, religija i spiritizam u srpskom društvu 19. i u prvoj polovini 20. veka [Folk Beliefs, Religion and Spiritualism in Serbian Society in 19 th and in the First Half of the 20 th century] (Belgrade:Institut za noviju istoriju Srbije, 2009), 196–245. 38

For general overview of interactions between written and oral traditions in Southern Eastern Europe: Klaus Roth, ed., Südosteuropäische Popularliteratur im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert (Südosteuropa-Geselschaft, Münchner Vereinigung für Volkskunde, München, 1993).

39 Burke‘s conception (Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe, New York, 1978) was criticized by Ginzburg (Carlo Ginzburg, The Cheese and The Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller, Baltimor: John Hopkins, 1992), 125–126. 40

Honko, “On the Effectivity”, 291.

Hanegraaff, New Age, 103;cf. 43, too. We noticed certain essential differences in the worldview, but we can speak of the folklorization of new Age. 41

42 Term “popular New Age“ has already been applied to Brasilian “Valley of Dawn“ movement (Vale do Amanhecer): Amurabi Pereira do Oliveira, “Nova era à Brasileira: a new age popular do Vale do amanhecer“, Interaçőes-Cultura e Comunidade 4 (2009): 31–50.


Nemanja Radulović

Bibliography Ajdačić, Dejan. “Religije i savremene priče o isceljivanju.” In idem. Prilozi proučvavanju folklora balkanskih Slovena., 274–276. Beograd: s.n., 2004. [in Serbian] Albanese, Catherine L. “The Magical Staff: Quantum Healing in the New Age.” In Perspectives on New Age, edited by James R. Lewis and Joseph Gordon Melton, 68–74. Albany: SUNY Press, 1992. Bastide, Roger. Sociologie des maladies mentales. Paris: Flammarion, 1965. Bainbridge, William Sims and Stark, Rodney. “Client and Audience Cults in America.” Sociology of Religion 41 (1980): 199–214. Benovska-S‘bkova Milena. “Extra-Sensers: The Magicians of the New Time.” In The Magical and Aesthetic in the Folklore of Balkan Slavs, edied by Dejan Ajdačić, 149–156. Belgrade: Library Vuk Karad žić, 1994. Bßlgarski folklor 5 (1993). [in Bulgarian] Burke, Peter. Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe. New York: New York University Press, 1978. Djurdjević, Gordan. “Hidden wisdom in the ill-ordered house: a short survey of occultism in Former Yugoslavia.” In Occultism in a Global Perspective edited by Henrik Bogdan and Gordan Djurdjević, 79–100. Durham: Acumen, 2013. Đurišić Branka. Lav Geršman. Tajna Magije: Vizije i saveti. Belgrade: Pharos, 2004. [in Serbian] Fedorenko, F. I. Sekty, ih vera i dela. Moscow: Izdateljstvo politicheskoy literatury, 1965. [in Russian] Ginzburg, Carlo. The Cheese and The Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller. Baltimor: John Hopkins, 1992. Hanegraaff, Wouter J. “How Magic Survived the Disenchantment of the World.” Religion 33 (2003): 357–380. ———. New Age Religion and Western Culture. Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought. Leiden-New York-London: Brill, 1996. ———. “Esotericism.” In: Dictionary of Gnosis and Western Esotericism, edited by Wouter Hanegraaff et al. 336–340. Leiden-Boston: Brill, 2006. Honko, Lauri. “On the Effectivity of Folk-Medicine.” In Papers on Folk Medicine, given at an Inter-Nordic Symposium at Nordiska Museet, Stockholm, 8–10 May 1961 edited by C.H. Tillhagen, 290–300. Stockholm: The Nordic Museum, 1963. Husson, Bernard. Preface in Le grand et le petit Albert, 9–68. Paris: Etditions Pierre Belfond, 1978. Ichiro Ito, “Sator formula kak zagovor v balto-slavyanskoi pismenoy i fol’klornoi tradicii” (in Russian). In Zajedničko u slovenskom folkloru (multilingual edtion), 107–127. Belgrade: Institute for Balkan Studies of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, 2012). [in Russian] Klaniczay, Gabor and Pocs, Eva, eds. Christian Demonology and Popular Mythology (Demons, Spirits, Witches 2). Budapest, New York: CEU Press, 2006. Lewis, James R. and Melton, Joseph Gordon, eds. Perspectives on New Age. Albany: SUNY Press, 1992.

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———. “Approaches to the Study of the New Age Movement.” In Perspectives on New Age, edited by James R. Lewis and Joseph Gordon Melton, 1–13. Albany: SUNY Press, 1992. Lindquist, Galina. Conjuring Hope: Magic and Healing in Contemporary Russia. New York, Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2006. Mandrou Robert. “Littérature de colportage et mentalités paysannes XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles”. Études rurales 15 (1964: 72–85. Mathiesen Robert, “Magic in Slavia Orthodoxa: The Written Traditon.” In Byzantine Magic, edited by Henry Maguire, 155–177.Washington: Dumbarton Oakes Research Library and Collection, 2008. Menzel, Birgit. “The Occult Revival in Russia Today and its Impact on Literature.” The Harriman Review, 16 (2007): 1–14. Mitseva Evgenia. “Old-time Wizards and Present-day Extra-Sensers”, In The Magical and Aesthetic in the Folklore of Balkan Slavs, edied by Dejan Ajdačić, 156–164. Belgrade: Library Vuk Karad žić, 1994. “Ordo Templis Orienti in former Yugoslavia.” Accesed April 04. 2016. (http://www. Panchenko, Aleksandr A. “Morality, Utopia, Discipline: New Religious Movements and Soviet Culture.” In: Multiple Moralities and Religions in Post-Soviet Russia ed. Jarrett Zigon, 119–145. New York: Berghahn Books, 2011. Partridge, Christopher. The Re-Enchantment of the West 1, Alternative Spiritualities, Sacralization, Popular Culture and Occulture. London-New York: T&T Clark International, 2004. Pereira do Oliveira Amurabi. “Nova era à Brasileira: a new age popular do Vale do amanhecer.” Interaçőes-Cultura e Comunidade 4 (2009): 31–50. Pešikan-Ljuštanović, Ljiljana. “Čudesno izlečenje kao tema urbanog predanja.” Folkor u Vojvodini 6 (1992): 94–102. [in Serbian] ———.“Predanja o čudesnom izlečenju i jezik nauke.” Književna reč 23 (1995): 3–4 [in Serbian] Radić, Radmila. Narodna verovanja, religija i spiritizam u srpskom društvu 19. i u prvoj polovini 20. veka. Belgrade:Institut za noviju istoriju Srbije, 2009. [in Serbian] Radulović, Lidija. Okultizam ovde i sada: magija, religija i pomodni kultovi u Beogradu Belgrade: Srpski genealoški centar et al., 2007. [in Serbian] Roth, Klaus, ed. Südosteuropäische Popularliteratur im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert. München: Südosteuropa-Geselschaft, Münchner Vereinigung für Volkskunde, 1993. Schenda, Rudolf. Volk ohne Buch: Studien zur Sozialgeschichte der populären Lesestoffe 1770–1910. Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1970. Szwat-Gyłybova, Grażyna. Haeresis bulgarica v bßlgarskoto kulturno sßznanie na XIX i XX vek. Sofiya: Universitetsko izdatelstvo «Sv. Kliment Ohridski», 2010. [in Bulgarian] Tomka, Mikolš,ed.Expanding Religion: Religious Revival in Post-Communist Central and Eastern Europe. Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2011. Valtchinova, Galina. “State Managment of Seer Vanga”. In Christianity and Modernization in Eastern Europe, edited by Bruce Berglud and Brian Porter Szucs, 245–268. Budapest: CEU Press, 2010.


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Von Stuckrad, Kocku. “Reenchanting Nature. Modern Western Shamanism and NinetenthCentury Thought”. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 70 (2002): 771–799. ———. Locations of Knowledge in Medieval and Early Modern Europe. Esoteric Discourse and Western Identities. Leiden-Boston: Brill, 2010. Wigzell Faith. Reading Russian Fortune: Print Culture, Gender and Divination in Russia from 1765. Cambridge: University Press, 1998.


Dr. Wolf and the Ancient Roots: Neoshamanism in Serbia In this essay I examine a contemporary Serbian esoteric group known by the name Drevni koreni (“ancient roots”), a group that was, to the best of my knowledge, the first in Serbia to practice neoshamanism—or modern Western shamanism—in an organized fashion. My aim is to delineate the main traits of this society’s practices and beliefs, with an emphasis on the ambiguities of their self-identification (understood both as shamanic and neoshamanic), as well as on the charismatic figure of their founder and leader Ratomir Vučković, mostly known by the name Dr. Vuk (“wolf”). In its loosely institutionalized form the Ancient Roots existed for roughly a decade, from 2001 to 2010, which was the year of Vučković’s death.1 Following that period, several of his most prominent disciples have founded their own neoshamanic “schools” or continued with individual practice in different capacities. I have been able to study the activities of the Ancient Roots and its branches in a variety of ways. My main written sources of information were Vučković’s books and articles, as well as the media coverage and various internet contents. Even more importantly, I have had the opportunity to meet a number of active practitioners from the original group and discuss with them the various aspects of their engagement in neoshamanism. I have also been allowed to closely observe some of their regular practices carried on by one of the successor schools. This period of observation lasted, with occasional interruptions, from February 2011 to June 2014. Finally, I was able to conduct a formal interview with Miljan Žarić, one of Vučković’s principal disciples and the founder of the Integralni trening (“integral training”), one of the still active branches of the Ancient Roots.2 This interview, along with the written sources, the collected field data, and the thematic and narrative analysis of these data, form the basis of the examination presented in this essay.

1 The main source of information for the Ancient Roots used to be the society’s official website, which, however, does not exist any more. The homepage of the website, with some useful basic data referred to in this essay, has been archived at [last accessed: 10/4/2016]. 2

Audio recorded interview with Miljan Žarić, Belgrade, 30/3/2014.



Noel Putnik

A Comparative Perspective: Croatia and Hungary In conducting my own research, I have been able to rely upon two important precursors, which provided a valuable comparative perspective within the broader context of the east-central European esoteric milieu. These two case studies deal with the contemporary neoshamanic “scenes” in Croatia and Hungary: the former was conducted by Deniver Vukelić, the latter by László Kürti.3 The analytical advantages of such a perspective are evident. All the three countries share a similar communist background, be it with regional variations (unlike former Yugoslavia, Hungary was a member of the Warsaw Pact, with a considerably more repressive system over certain periods of time). In all of them the loosening of ideological grips lead to an apparently abrupt blossoming of various esoteric trends and organizations that Gordan Djurdjevic has aptly termed an “occult boom.”4 Although, due to the differences in the political climate, this boom first started in Yugoslavia (already during the 1970s), the activities of authors such as Béla Hamvas (1897– 1968) testify to a lively interest in the esoteric even in the communist Hungary. Moreover, we shall see that in the case of neoshamanism Hungary was in some respects even ahead of Croatia and Serbia. With a sharp critical eye, Deniver Vukelić examines the uses of the terms “shamanism” and “shaman” in the context of various esoteric trends in Croatia by analyzing the self-representation and activities of two self-proclaimed Croatian shamans: Vladimir Dodig Trokut and Zoran Tepurić. Dodig is a well-known multimedia and conceptual artist whose engagement with the occult began already in the 1970s through his acquaintance with the various forms of mostly Western esoteric lore. Much of his extravagant present-day public performance, in which he presents himself as a “clairvoyant, mystic, magus, esoteric, alchemist, shaman, hermetist, exorcist,”5 has nothing to do with what the author defines as shamanism stricto sensu: the religious beliefs and practices of the Siberian and mid-Asian tribes.6 Dodig 3 Deniver Vukelić, “Problemi identifikacije i identiteta u hrvatskih ‘šamana’ s kraja 20. i početka 21. stoljeća” [The Problems of the Identification and Identity of the Croatian ‘Shamans’ at the Turn of the 21st Century], Studia ethnologica Croatica, Vol. 24 (2012): 167–94. László Kürti, “Psychic Phenomena, Neoshamanism, and the Cultic Milieu in Hungary,” Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, Vol. 4, No. 2 (2001): 322–50.

Gordan Djurdjević, “Hidden wisdom in the ill-ordered house: a short survey of occultism in Former Yugoslavia,” in Occultism in a Global Perspective, ed. Henrik Bogdan and Gordan Djurdjević (Durham: Acumen, 2014), 80. Djurdjević’s survey provides a much needed academic insight into the development of esotericism in the communist Yugoslavia. 4


Vukelić, “Problemi identifikacije,” 176.

Ibid., 167. See the author’s informed and nuanced discussion on the existing definitions of shamanism. 6

Dr. Wolf and the Ancient Roots: Neoshamanism in Serbia


is not at all interested in achieving ecstatic states of consciousness for the sake of communicating with the spirit world. In fact, he has admitted to the examiner that he is accustomed of presenting himself as a shaman only for the sake of convenience, “so that the public could have a better idea of what he is doing.”7 The author concludes that Dodig uses this label in its most general, terminologically contaminated sense denoting a magical practitioner of any kind; as a matter of fact, Dodig’s practice appears to have very tenuous connections even with neoshamanism taken in any of its broad and evasive meanings. One is thus tempted to think that Dodig’s peculiar mixture of yoga, talismanic magic, shiatsu, Tarot, and a vast number of other disciplines articulated in his artistic production would be more suitable for analysis within Christopher Partridge’s concept of occulture. 8 Zoran Tepurić, the other Croatian shaman, is an entirely different case. Educated in mining engineering, a rather down-to-earth vocation that he regularly emphasizes as a way to intellectually legitimize himself in the public, Tepurić discovered early in his life that he possessed paranormal and psychic gifts. This led him to the study of various esoteric doctrines and techniques, mostly Gaia Therapeutic established by the English healer Shimara Kumara and a complex set of practices developed by the Serbian esotericist Živorad Mihajlović Slavinski.9 It was only towards the end of the 1990s that “an Australian shaman” told him of Babalawo Fabunmi, a renowned priest of Ifá, a religion and system of divination originating from West Africa.10 Intrigued by this, Tepurić traveled to Brazil to meet Fabunmi, whereupon he was introduced into the new teaching and made a Babalawo (priest) himself (Tepurić’s initiated name is Babalawo Fayori). He now runs a school of his own called the Golden Lotus. He offers courses, performs public rituals such as purifying the energies of certain spaces and initiates disciples.11 Although the doctrines of Ifá form the core of his eclectic teaching, he also presents himself as a shaman, again with the same purpose: “so that people could more easily recognize certain functions [per-

7 8

Ibid., 179.

See, for instance, Nina Kokkinen, “Occulture as an Analytical Tool in the Study of Art,”

ARIES. Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism 13 (2013): 7–36. See also Stefanie v.

Schnurbein, “Shamanism in the Old Norse Tradition: A Theory between Ideological Camps,” History of Religions, Vol. 43, No. 2 (2003): 132, where she aptly refers to the example of Joseph Beuys. On Slavinski, a well-known figure in the Serbian esoteric circles, see Djurdjevic, “Hidden wisdom,” 86–95. 9


Vukelić, “Problemi identifikacije,” 184.

However, the teaching still remains largely unknown in Croatia. By 2011 (the year of Vukelić’s field work with Tepurić) there were only ten initiated members of this group. 11


Noel Putnik

formed by him].”12 However, it appears that, in contrast to Dodig, Tepurić indeed views the doctrines and practices of Ifá as akin to the traditional Asian shamanism, not least due to the use of ritual drums and the importance of altered states of consciousness in certain ritual situations. Vukelić subscribes to this view, concluding that “in its main features the system of Ifá is very close to shamanism in stricto sensu (even though Tepurić’s practice is predominantly neoshamanistic).” 13 Last but not least, both Vladimir Dodig and Zoran Tepurić claim that their “shamanic” teachings have roots in the Croatian folk tradition: Dodig speaks of “a lost shamanic tradition from the Dinara Mountain and the coastal regions of Croatia that he has revived,” whereas Tepurić, with more modesty, speaks of the essential congruence between the teachings of Ifá and the autochthonous Croatian experience of nature and spirituality.14 Such inventions of indigenous shamanic traditions appear to be important landmarks of neoshamanism in the region. Unfortunately, Vukelić does not provide any details on these interesting cultural parallels. One might conclude that, according to the author, only Zoran Tepurić and his few followers stand for authentic Croatian neoshamans, their “shamanism” being a reinterpretation of an African religious tradition. Vukelić mentions no other examples save Dodig.15 László Kürti gives a somewhat different picture of the situation in Hungary.16 To begin with, it appears that neoshamanism in Hungary preceded that in Croatia for at least a decade and possibly much more (if one takes the turn of the century as the starting point of Tepurić’s practice). Secondly, it is a far more popular phenomenon in Hungary: writing in 2001, Kürti mentions already several neoshamanic schools and hundreds of practitioners across the country. The rise of neoshamanism in Hungary appears to be closely connected to the personality of Gábor Papp, an art historian who emerged as an “alternative thinker” already in the 1980s.17 Papp and his followers discovered and popularized an unknown visionary from the communist Vukelić, “Problemi identifikacije,” 185. See also his discussion on the main tenets and practices of Ifá, with an emphasis on the role of trance. 12

13 14

Ibid., 190.

Ibid., 174, 186.

It is, of course, reasonable to assume that Dodig and Tepurić are not the only ones teaching neoshamanism in Croatia, but the author makes it clear that he has chosen the most exemplary cases. 15

16 In contrast to Vukelić’s approach, his essay is an all-encompassing study of the development of various kinds of esoteric trends in the post-communist Hungary somewhat similar to Djurdjevic’s survey of esotericism in former Yugoslavia. Nevertheless, his brief account of the rise of neoshamanism in Hungary is a valuable contribution to the study of this phenomenon in its regional boundaries. 17

Kürti, “Psychic Phenomena,” 336.

Dr. Wolf and the Ancient Roots: Neoshamanism in Serbia


time, Paál Zoltán (1913–1982), who had written a cryptohistorical book titled Arvisura, a work destined to become the bible of many Hungarian neoshamans. The Arvisura reveals a hidden mythical history of the Hungarians, which reaches back to the end of the fifth millennium BC, when a confederation of 24 Hun tribes emerged and made their way to the inlands of Asia. Their original religion was shamanic, which implies that the present-day Hungarians are natural heirs of the “genuine” shamanic tradition. Moreover, the author of the book is widely believed to have been an initiated shaman himself. At the end of the World War II he found himself in Slovakia, where by a strange twist of fate he met a Soviet soldier of the Mansi ethnic origin, a descendant of an ancient Siberian shamanic lineage. The two men became close friends and the Mansi passed on to Paál Zoltán the ancient knowledge of shamanism that he had received from his grandfather, an esteemed shaman of his tribe. At that time he also initiated Zoltán and obliged him to write down the revealed knowledge for the benefit of the general population. Thus, at some later point in his life, Zoltán wrote the Arvisura, but this work was to be unearthed only with the fall of communism and at the initiative of Gábor Papp.18 No doubt, it was a seed that fell on fertile soil. 19 With his eye on the Arvisura as a testimony of the Hungarian ancient religion, Papp was instrumental in spreading neoshamanism in Hungary during the 1990s. In 1995 he even led a mission to Siberia with the intention of finding some of the locations described in the Arvisura. During their stay in the Khanty-Mansi autonomous region of Russia he and his followers improvised various shamanic rituals which included drumming, singing, incantations etc. In Kürti’s words, “they were hoping to reverse the evil energies caused by modernization and sovietization.”20 Even more importantly, a member of Papp’s group was a Hungarian shaman (the author does not provide his name but only mentions that he is a theater director) initiated by none other than Michael Harner, head of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, one of the world’s most important trendsetters in neoshamanism.21 It turns 18

Ibid., 348.

The important question of shamanistic remnants in Hungarian folklore remains out of the scope of this essay, surpassing the contemporary phenomenon of neoshamanism. On the possible ties between the Hungarians and shamanism in Siberia see Mihály Hoppál, “Shamanism and the Belief System of Ancient Hungarians,” in Shamans and Traditions (Vol 13). Bibliotheca Shamanistica (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 2007), 77–96. For a more general discussion on what Carlo Ginzburg calls a “hypothesis of a Eurasian continuum” see Carlo Ginzburg, Ecstasies. Deciphering the Witches’ Sabbath (New York: Pantheon Books, 1991), 207–25. 19


Kürti, “Psychic Phenomena,” 336.

On his concept of “core shamanism” see Michael Harner, The Way of the Shaman (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1982). On Harner and his academic background in anthropology see Kocku von Stuckrad, “Reenchanting Nature: Modern Western Shamanism and Nine21


Noel Putnik

out that Harner visited Hungary several times and initiated a number of disciples, who went on initiating others in what would be a peculiar mixture of Harner’s concept of core shamanism and the “reconstructed” Siberian-Hungarian shamanism reintroduced by the Arvisura. Kürti emphasizes that Hungarian neoshamanism, with all its insistence on authenticity and ancient roots, has no problems cooperating with various other forms of esotericism and alternative religions.22 He mentions another prominent shamanic teacher, András Kovács, who founded a shaman school (Táltos Iskola) and a “Shamanic Church” in the eastern town of Nyiregyháza. One of the main features of Kovács’ school is its eclecticism, since various supernatural phenomena and alternative practices are studied there in addition to neoshamanism. Several conclusions can be drawn from my brief overview of neoshamanism in Croatia and Hungary. The emergence of the phenomenon was connected to a very limited number of persons (in contrast to e.g. astrology) who already had a background in various esoteric disciplines mostly of Western origin. In one way or another, these persons came in touch with a tradition that they interpreted as shamanic. They further promulgated and legitimized these “shamanisms” by linking them to various local alternative spiritual traditions and/or mythical notions of the nation’s identity. Finally, they usually started their own schools, where they offered shamanic initiation to the disciples. The Serbian example fits this paradigm in most of its aspects.

Dr. Wolf: a Man with Almost no Biography As already stated above, the Ancient Roots was founded in 2001. The official website of the group claimed that it was the only school of neoshamanism in Serbia and Montenegro (at that time still parts of a single state). Certainly, it cannot be taken for granted that prior to the Ancient Roots there had been no attempts at practicing neoshamanism in Serbia, whether individually or in groups. However, even if such cases existed, they were never made public, at least not to my present knowledge.23 What strikes an observer even vaguely familiar with the esoteric milieu of Serbia as it started to develop in the 1970s, and especially as it blossomed during the teenth-Century Thought,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. 70, No. 4 (2002): 776–77. 22 Kürti, “Psychic Phenomena,” 337. He gives the example of an International Shaman Expo held in 1997.

It should be noted that in recent years there appeared proponents of neoshamanism who are not related to the Ancient Roots. Časlav Hadži Nikolić has popularized the forms of “shamanism” that he encountered in South America, whereas Milan Jovanović has brought his experiences from Russia. 23

Dr. Wolf and the Ancient Roots: Neoshamanism in Serbia


1990s, is a comparatively late date of the emergence of organized neoshamanic practice. In this respect the situation in Serbia closely corresponds to that in Croatia, which is understandable considering the common recent past of the two countries. Still, given the already mentioned “occult boom” in former Yugoslavia, it comes as a surprise that more than two decades had passed before neoshamanism established its public presence. Namely, it was already in 1977 that a Serbo-Croatian translation of Carlos Castaneda’s first and most important book, The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, was published. The phenomenon of modern Western shamanism soon caught significant public attention, which was testified by the frequency of later editions: in the period of only four years, from 1977 to 1981, five different Castaneda’s books were translated and published, some even several times.24 And yet, in the rich and ever-growing offer of various esoteric ideas, works, and projects there was no clear emphasis on either shamanism or neoshamanism. It had to wait for the return to Serbia of a man who, much like Zoran Tepurić and Paál Zoltán, needed to go ad fontes for inspiration, instruction, and initiation. Ratomir Vučković appeared on the public scene sometime in the late 1990s, upon his return from abroad. He started writing articles and books on various esoteric topics such as healing, channeling, astrology and, of course, shamanism. He also began some kind of psychotherapy treating people who suffered from drug or alcohol addiction, suicidal tendencies, depressive states, etc. It appears that his school grew out of his therapeutic practice, but it is hard to tell with certainty as very little reliable information can be gathered about his life. All my efforts to find Vučković’s comprehensive biography have so far remained fruitless. His books do not contain a standard biographical note. Almost no usable biographical data can be retrieved from the internet. Most of what is known about Dr. Wolf comes from his own statements, the sparse pieces of information scattered in his books, and the testimonies of his disciples. Vučković was born sometime in 1941.25 He supposedly earned a degree in psychiatry, but also dedicated a part of his career to aviation psychology (the title of one of his non-shamanic books is The Elements of Fear in Aviation Jobs). Even though the exact nature of his professional career remains utterly murky, his claim of a degree fits well one of the main traits of neoshamanism formulated by Kocku Until the end of the century there were almost fifty different editions of Castaneda’s books and works dealing with his controversial oeuvre, which is a significant number for a small book publishing market. 24

25 I infer this year from Vučković s own testimony given in one of his very few television appearances. In an interview conducted in 2003 he mentioned that he was sixty-two: Interview with Ratomir Vučković, RTV Yu Eco, Subotica 2003, watch?v=bK8krjGc8OI [last accessed: 12/4/2016]. He also claimed that he was a “retired psychiatrist,” which would imply that he once had a regular medical career. This claim remains to be confirmed.


Noel Putnik

von Stuckrad, namely academic knowledge as its important feature: “Starting with the seminal work of Carlos Castaneda, the popularization of academic knowledge became an important feature of modern western shamanism. Most major shamanic protagonists hold a degree in anthropology [...] and try to combine this education with a spiritual practice outside academia.”26 The examples are numerous: Castaneda, Michael Harner, Neville Drury, etc. We should recall that Zoran Tepurić insists on using his engineer’s abbreviation (“dipl. inž.” in Croatian and Serbian) even in a context that has nothing to do with mining engineering. Furthermore, Gábor Papp has acted as a promoter of neoshamanism in Hungary from the position of an art historian. Dr. Wolf made his academic (or rather medical) title an integral part of his shamanic pseudonym. He insisted on the links between his therapeutic practice and his teaching activities.27 Although von Stuckrad stresses anthropology as a specific meeting point between “academic research and religious practicing,” it is safe to say that the emphasis on any kind of academic background in this context functions as a mechanism for the neoshamans’ societal legitimation. The crucial, albeit quite vague, detail about Vučković was given on the website of the Ancient Roots: “The only school of neoshamanism is run by Dr. Wolf, who has been initiated in Canada and later on proclaimed a shaman teacher in Mexico.”28 This has been amplified by Žarić: “He was initiated in Canada, where he resided with some Indian tribes in the area of the Great Lakes. His teacher was an American Indian. He spent some time with him in a reservation. It was not long, only a few months, but enough for him to become a shaman.”29 At some later point, according to Žarić, Vučković moved to Mexico, where he was “recognized” by a local nagual and eventually made a nagual himself. There is another significant biographical detail that we learn from Vučković himself: at some unspecified time he had experienced clinical death that lasted for seventeen minutes. This experience “revealed to me the mystery of death and initiated me into the world of alternative knowledge.”30 He did not provide any further information with regard to this intriguing event. Nevertheless, it is possible to interpret it as one 26

Stuckrad, “Reenchanting Nature,” 774.

I might add that among Vučković’s main disciples and successors Miljan Žarić studied psychology, and Mirjana Djurdjević obtained a degree in medicine. On the emergence of neoshamanism in the academy and art see also Robert J. Wallis, Shamans/Neo-shamans. Ecstasy, Alternative Archaeologies and Contemporary Pagans (London: Routledge, 2003), 24–28. 27

28 Vučković himself puts his Canadian initiation in 1982, and the Mexican one in 1989 (Interview with Vučković, 2003). 29 30

Interview with Žarić, 2014. Interview with Vučković, 2003.

Dr. Wolf and the Ancient Roots: Neoshamanism in Serbia


of the standard forms of “praeparatio shamanica,” which include going through all sorts of personal crises and dangerous situations such as diseases, accidents, etc. (For Paál Zoltán it meant going to a war zone in Slovakia and risking his life.)31 In my opinion, the lack of Vučković s available biographical data might be partly explained by his intentional self-mystification. Such a conclusion is supported by his response to the TV interviewer’s question: “Who are you exactly?” Somewhat pretentiously, Vučković replies: “It is hard to say who I am. Probably I am no one and everything.” This kind of image-buidling goes hand in hand with Dr. Wolf s reluctance—or inability—to provide any specifics on his shamanic training in Canada and Mexico and the exact traditions he relied upon.32 Needless to say, he did not take the term “shamanism” as denoting only the religious practices of certain native peoples of Asia, but rather as pointing to any similar form of “primitive” spiritualism, such as that practiced among the Native American tribes. This is the way “shamanism” is understood by all of his disciples that I have had the opportunity to meet.33 Throughout the existence of his school Vučković was an uncontested, charismatic authority among his followers. He was a fatherly, cultic figure for his disciples, and even up to this day there is a considerable mythical aura around his name. All of Vučković s initiates I have met claim that they witnessed his supernatural powers a number of times. These included an almost unlimited capability of astral projection, telepathy, and an irresistible power of persuading and controlling the minds of others. According to Žarić, he was able to maintain up to seven separate states of consciousness simultaneously and could even influence local weather conditions! He was perfectly capable of lucid dreaming, one of the most important techniques that he taught his disciples. 34

31 This general trait of shamanism was discussed in detail already by Mircea Eliade, Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1972), 50–72. 32 Parallels with Castaneda’s case are evident; on Castaneda’s need to “erase personal history” imposed on him by Don Juan and several inconsistent versions of his biography see Wallis, Shamans/Neo-shamans, 40–41.

33 For a comprehensive discussion on various uses and definitions of “shamanism” see Ronald Hutton, Shamans: Siberian Spirituality and the Western Imagination (London: Hambledon, 2001), vii–viii. See also Schnurbein, “Shamanism,” 116–19. 34 In one of his books Vučković even hinted at his possible immortality by saying “if I ever die”; see Ratomir Vučković–Doktor Vuk, Vodič za buduće šamane [A Guide for Future Shamans] (Subotica: Copyprint, 2003), 70. According to his disciples, he was so powerful that he could control the duration of his life. Some of them even believe in his post mortem astral presence and guidance.


Noel Putnik

Vučković’s spiritual pseudonym was partly a well chosen pun: on the one side, it is a common nickname coming from his surname (based on the Serbian word “vuk,” meaning “wolf”); on the other, it stood for one of his power animals or tutelary spirits. He claimed that he had several and that the main one was squirrel. Identifying one’s tutelary spirit was one of the initial assignments for his disciples.35

The Practices of the Ancient Roots Dr. Wolf’s school offered both theoretical and practical training in neoshamanism in the form of courses, workshops, weekly training sessions, and occasional summer camps. As stated on the official website, there were no special requirements for joining the school except for a strong desire to develop one’s mental and physical abilities. Whenever possible, the groups gathered in the outdoors, in remote parks or on the outskirts of Belgrade. However, the most important and intense part of the training took place during the summer camps, which could last up to two weeks. This was also the time when shamanic initiations were granted to the successful candidates. The most common camp location was Golija, a remote mountain in southwest Serbia that was regarded by Dr. Wolf as an area charged with powerful energy. According to the participants that I have had the opportunity to talk with, the camp activities were based on a variety of military-type drills. The trainees used to be subjected to extreme physical and mental exhaustion by being forced into hard labor, extremely long walks, endless cycles of physical exercise, sleep and food deprivation, etc. These were accompanied by various techniques for inducing ecstasy and identifying one’s tutelary spirit, such as the controlled incitement of astral projection, hypnosis and self-hypnosis, etc. “The ultimate goal of the exercises was to stop the process of thinking and attain an altered state of consciousness.”36 The most advanced students were faced with additional, often dangerous and fearsome assignments, such as spending nights alone in the woods without a tent or reaching states that bordered a psychophysical collapse. Vučković did not use hallucinogens but sometimes resorted to alcohol as a substance capable of causing rapid changes of consciousness. In other words, he by no means avoided distress, fear, and pain; on the contrary, these states were regularly inflicted upon the best Vučković’s alleged powers and his considerable reputation have attracted some academic interest too. Sometime in the early 2000s he was invited to present himself to the professors and students of the Department of Ethnology and Anthropology, at the Faculty of Philosophy of the Belgrade University. As an undergraduate student of Classics I attended the event myself, but unfortunately I am unable to recollect the content of the discussion. It was the only time I saw Vučković personally. 35


Interview with Žarić, 2014.

Dr. Wolf and the Ancient Roots: Neoshamanism in Serbia


candidates as tokens of a more “serious” initiation. “He exposed those of us that he considered particularly gifted to extreme maltreatment [sic], mental and other. Eventually it resulted in some sort of enlightenment.”37 The average and underaverage candidates usually received only a mild, or even symbolic, form of initiation, with no extreme measures applied. In Žarić s estimate, there were only five or six people altogether who received such a drastic treatment (and almost all of them have succeeded Vučković with their teaching practice). 38 In his interview Miljan Žarić described his own initiation: it had taken place on the Golija Mountain and lasted six days. During that period he was allowed to sleep only about two hours a day, while at night he had to go to the woods and walk alone without stopping for hours. In the morning he would join the others for their regular exercises. In the daytime he was burdened with additional physical labor such as digging trenches, and his food rations were reduced to the minimum. Each evening Vučković made Žarić drink large quantities of alcohol with him. As a consequence, he experienced occasional intense and fearsome hallucinations such as seeing a giant snake crawling around his legs. The crucial element of this preparatory procedure was Vučković’s constant influence on the candidate by means of subliminal suggestions. In this state of mind Žarić was finally initiated by being transferred to the astral sphere. “My task was to visit a certain place and see something there, and then to return and describe in detail what I saw. I did so, and they confirmed it and said I just earned my initiation. It was Wolf and two others who assisted him. Later on I assisted Wolf in the same way [monitoring the candidate and confirming his visions].”39 Žarić described the astral place that he had visited as the shamanic Lower World.

The Problems of Self-Identification The members of the Ancient Roots have never denied the highly eclectic nature of their neoshamanic practice. After all, the official website openly proclaimed that Dr. Wolf’s school was neoshamanic. Transcending one’s common state of consciousness with the idea of entering a different level of reality and communicating with the entities residing there was the chief purpose of the exercises offered to the neophytes. But in order to fulfill this purpose both Vučković and his successors 37


Speaking of quantities, I have been unable to determine even the approximate number of all those who attended Dr. Wolf’s courses. My rough estimate is that this number was certainly not less than one hundred, and it was possibly much higher. The group seems to have been very tight over the years. However, Vučković’s mention of “thousands of my children” in his TV interview is probably pure exaggeration. 38


Interview with Žarić, 2014.


Noel Putnik

regularly resorted to the elements of various non-shamanic traditions such as Qigong, yoga, and Western occultism. Moreover, there was another explicitly proclaimed goal, that of attaining spiritual enlightenment and self-realization, in which one recognizes a conceptual framework clearly surpassing those of “classical” shamanisms. It reflects narratives common to the various forms of New Age spirituality.40 In other words, the objectives set by Dr. Wolf were in full accord with what Michael York has termed “the essential thrust of New Age concerns with personal transformation.”41 As I already mentioned, the neoshamanic exercises developed by Vučković had two principal aims for the practitioner: to stop the thought process and to become receptive of various manifestations of the “universal energy” (which practically amounted to reaching a state of trance). In order to achieve these goals, the candidates underwent a complex set of exercises beginning with some preparatory ones. Plain physical exercise aimed at exhausting the body and disabling the mental processes that commonly prevent one from perceiving the universal energy. The pranayama techniques were used to calm the mind, while the hatha yoga asanas unblocked the flow of energy. Finally, Qigong exercises were introduced to help the candidates cultivate their energy on a more advanced level. Qigong was especially highly regarded by Dr. Wolf, who saw it as a discipline descending directly from the ancient Middle Asian forms of shamanism.42 The eclectic nature of Vučković’s neoshamanic training is thus more than evident. In his view, the next stage of the training was more “shamanic” in nature: it consisted of the so-called energy exercises, which was an important part of his method.43 Energy exercises were described by Carlos Castaneda in one of his latest books.44 He claimed that this type of exercise, for which he used the term “tensegrity,” was an authentic technique of the North American shamans for inducing ecstatic trance. Energy exercises are based on the strong visualization of energy barriers that the practitioner overcomes by executing complex bodily movements combined with proper breathing and intense concentration. Performed properly, these exercises are supposed to result in a gradual change of consciousness and, evenOn the fundamental features of this type of spirituality see Olav Hammer, “New Age Movement,” in Dictionary of Gnosis and Western Esotericism, ed. Wouter J. Hanegraaff (Leiden: Brill, 2006), 855–61. 40


Michael York, “The Role of Fear in Traditional and Contemporary Shamanism,” in

Miedo y religion, ed. Francisco Diez de Velasco (Madrid: Ediciones del Orto, 2002), 171. See

also Stuckrad, “Reenchanting Nature,” 775. 42 43

Vučković, Vodič za buduće šamane, 117–21.

Ibid., 178–223. The chapter treating this topic is titled “Magical Motions.”

Carlos Castaneda, Magical Passes: The Practical Wisdom of the Shamans of Ancient Mexico (New York: HarperCollins, 1998). 44

Dr. Wolf and the Ancient Roots: Neoshamanism in Serbia


tually, in a state of trance. They can be fostered by ritual music played on the shamanic drum, by dancing or in some other way. Among Vučković’s successors, Miljan Žarić has attributed particular importance to this aspect of the training. On the other hand, it should be pointed out that the members of the Ancient Roots have consistently emphasized the authentic shamanic background of their spiritual enterprise. In other words, despite their clearly New Age agenda, they believe that Vučković’s school has preserved the elements of “classical” shamanism to a significant degree. They base their claim for this partial authenticity on several arguments. The main purpose of the communication with the spirit world reached through training is to develop various healing powers, as well as to become capable of gaining aid of supernatural agencies in various other ways. Against such a criterion, Dr. Wolf’s teaching does not seem to differ substantially from traditional shamanisms practiced by various indigenous peoples around the world. Similarly, his neoshamanic psychotherapy can be interpreted as a service to the local community, which was the main social role of traditional shamans. The most important argument in this regard is the presence of fear and pain in Dr. Wolf’s neoshamanic training, which was clearly exemplified by Žarić’s initiation. As pointed out by some researchers, various modes of modern Western shamanism tend to omit anything that might be unpleasant to the practitioners by denying the reality of fear, pain, and evil. Thus Michael York makes the following important remark: The contrast between New Age shamanism and pagan shamanism in a modern Western context revolves around the role of fear. In traditional shamanism, the shaman’s initiation is an ordeal involving pain, hardship and terror before undergoing reconstitution and rebirth. New Age, by contrast, is a religious perspective that denies the ultimate reality of the negative, and this would devalue the role of fear as well. But in seeking to dismiss the fearsome, New Age also has the propensity to eliminate a central feature of religion qua religion, namely, the experience of awe. The encounter with the mysterium tremendum engenders a mixed emotion of fear, reverence and wonder. If, however, all becomes ‘sweetness and light’ through a New Age agenda, there is no dread. But without the experience of fear, there can be no real experience of the awesome. New Age shamanism would then seem to constitute an incomplete form of shamanism—one which does not include the central feature of shamanic initiation.45

Kocku von Stuckrad concurs with this view when he points out that “comparing it with indigenous shamanisms, it is noteworthy that modern western shamanism—at least in its more New Age emphasis—tends to deny the reality of intrinsically nefari-


York, “The Role of Fear in Shamanism,” 173.


Noel Putnik

ous spirits.”46 As a telling example of this distinction I refer to one of Miljan Žarić’s weekend training sessions that I have had the opportunity to observe. The session took place in the forested area of the memorial center Jajinci in Belgrade. This memorial center was the site of mass murders during World War II, when the German occupational forces executed approximately 80.000 people, mostly prisoners from the local concentration camps. I pointed out to Žarić that, according to his belief system, such a dreadful place was expected to be charged with evil, pain, and negative energy in general, which made the choice of the location rather strange and questionable. I was replied that what really mattered was the strong presence of energy itself, beyond our perceptions and interpretations of its nature. In other words, “bad” energy can be as useful as “good” energy if it is sufficiently strong and properly channeled. According to Žarić, Jajinci is “the single most energized spot in Belgrade” and as such it is exceptionally suitable for inciting the altered states of consciousness. If one takes into account York’s and Stuckrad’s distinction given above, such an inclusive attitude toward things commonly perceived as bad and negative indeed appears as one of the key arguments for the closer links with “classical” shamanism.

Inventing the Shamanic Past As I pointed out above, the cases of neoshamanism in Croatia and Hungary reveal a tendency to legitimize one’s spiritual practices and beliefs by viewing them as a continuation or reinvention of a long forgotten national or folk tradition.47 The same observation can be made with regard to Vučković’s school. The official website of the Ancient Roots stated the following: “Shamanism and shamanic elements could be found in religions throughout the world already since the Paleolithic times. Shamanism is ancient and universal. (...) Since many of our folk customs are undoubtedly of shamanic nature [‘our’ meaning Serbian and Montenegrin], we have a perfect genetic [sic] predisposition for accepting shamanism.” 48 Hidden behind these words is a precise ethnographical reference. Dr. Wolf explicated it in his interview: “In Montenegro and Herzegovina there are even nowadays people called zduhači, who represent our own version of them [i.e. shamans]. These [shamanic] teachings have been present among us from times immemorial, but we have not studied them sufficiently.” In his own interview Žarić confirms his teacher’s 46

Stuckrad, “Reenchanting Nature,” 775.

It is clear that this tendency is more pronounced in Hungary due to the origin of the Hungarians as a Uralic-speaking people distantly related to some Asian shamanic cultures. See also Wallis, Shamans/Neo-shamans, 106–40, for “Celtic” and “Northern” shamanisms, and Schnurbein, “Shamanism,” 116–38, for the “Old Norse shamanism.” 47


See note 1 of this essay for the reference.

Dr. Wolf and the Ancient Roots: Neoshamanism in Serbia


remarks: “Zduhači were very similar to shamans in that they served the community as healers, but also by acting against various bad influences. One of the things they were in charge of was weather conditions. One could say they were the shamans of our region.” There are indeed some similarities between shamans and zduhači such as their supernatural power, service to the local community, and the ability to perform extraordinary deeds in the state of trance. However, there are considerable differences as well. The old belief in the existence of zduhači used to be widespread in the southwest parts of the Slavic Balkan area (Montenegro, Herzegovina, and Western Serbia). A zduhač was considered to be “a man who possessed extraordinary supernatural abilities, but only while asleep. During that time his spirit left his body and controlled winds, dispelled clouds, and fought other zduhači.”49 According to another definition, it was “a man or an animal with demoniac features that had the power to counteract storms (...) and fight enemies while flying in the air, thus protecting his region.”50 A zduhač looked like an ordinary man who would fall asleep when faced with a threat for his community. He would then defend the community and wake up tired and exhausted, often with wounds received in his battles. 51 The differences are evident. For instance, a zduhač could be an animal as well; according to some scholars,52 there are even compelling similarities to the belief in dragons among the people of East Serbia. Moreover, the dynamics of achieving the state of trance differed considerably in the case of zduhači. Unlike shamans, they could perform their extraordinary deeds only while asleep (although one cannot exclude the possibility that common people interpreted the state of trance as simple sleep). In any case, Vučković s reinvention of the Serbian shamanic past is, not surprisingly, troubled by considerable difficulties. The presence of certain parallels, such as entering trance-like states for the sake of helping the community, does not prove the hypothesis of universal shamanism. These parallels are simply not sufficient, and the differences are considerable. 53 Špiro Kulišić, Petar Ž. Petrović and Nikola Pantelić, ed., Srpski mitološki rečnik [Dictionary of Serbian Mythology] (Belgrade: Etnografski Institut SANU, 1998), 196. 49

Svetlana M. Tolstoj and Ljubinko Radenković, ed., Slovenska mitologija. Enciklopedijski rečnik [Encyclopedic Dictionary of Slavic Mythology] (Belgrade: Zepter Book World, 2001), 50


See the cited literature for more information on the topic. Some scholars link this word (which also appears in the forms “stuhać”, “stuha,” “stuva” etc.) with Greek στοιχεÃον, “element,” “elementary force,” which would make zduhač a “master or elementary forces.” 51


Kulišić et al., Srpski mitološki rečnik, 198.

It should be remembered that on the basis of this argument Jan Bremmer refuted E. R. Dodds’ famous hypothesis of the ancient Greek shamanism: Jan Bremmer, The Early Greek Concepts of the Soul (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983), 24–53. 53


Noel Putnik

Anti-Discursive Attitude Finally, I should mention one more argument—if it could be considered so—which some of the members of the Ancient Roots have advanced in their claim for authenticity. It is a dominant attitude of the group that might be termed anti-discursive or even anti-intellectual, in which they recognize traces of the genuine, indigenous shamanic communities untouched by Western logocentrism. Vučković wrote three books dedicated to shamanism.54 However, these books had almost no significance for the training process; they were not used as handbooks, as one might expect. In fact, they were considered almost worthless even by his disciples, quite contrary to Paál Zoltán’s Arvisura. In brief, all three are surprisingly shallow pieces of literature when contrasted to the cultic status of their author. Each book is a patchwork of too broadly conceived topics that are sometimes only loosely connected to shamanism. The dominant tone is that of an anthropologist-turned-shaman, with the plenty of ethnographical material borrowed directly from James Frazer, Eliade, and other authors. Some chapters look like separate articles not very skillfully integrated into the whole. One finds in these books quite superficial discussions on topics as distant as Aztec astrology and the Sephirotic tree. When I confronted Miljan Žarić with this question, he replied that Vučković had intentionally written his books in that manner: “I asked him once why he embarrassed himself by producing such trash [sic], and he replied that he did it partly out of fun and for money, and partly to emphasize the non-verbal character of his shamanic training.”55 In fact, Dr. Wolf stated it himself in one of these books: “It is not by chance that in this kind of books one cannot find any relevant instructions. One can efficiently and safely learn these things only by submitting oneself directly to a spiritual teacher.”56 The same pertains to his public lectures and interviews. According to Žarić, nothing he taught his disciples came through words since discursive language was not the way of the authentic, indigenous shamans. Certainly, such a claim, when expressed through words, contradicts itself. One wonders about the ways in which Dr. Wolf taught his disciples. Their unanimous answer is that he taught them by influencing their minds on a deeper, subconscious level in the course of their shamanic training. 57 He called them a “shamanic trilogy”: Šamani – sinovi neba [Shamans – the Sons of the Sky, 2000], Vodič za buduće šamane [A Guide for Future Shamans, 2003], and Šamanske terapije [Shamanic Therapies, 2005]. 54


Interview with Žarić, 2014.

Vučković, Vodič za buduće šamane, 228. This is, of course, another esoteric topos with a long tradition. One remembers, for instance, Cornelius Agrippa and his concept of dispersa intentio: Agrippa s Occult Philosophy is not a textbook of magic; it only contains hints carefully scattered throughout the text. 56

This kind of teaching effectively amounts to neuro-linguistic programming, on whose role as a typical New Age technique see York, “The Role of Fear in Shamanism,” 182. 57

Dr. Wolf and the Ancient Roots: Neoshamanism in Serbia


Conclusion: “Shamania” or a Genuine Quest for the Otherworld? The material presented in this essay marks only the beginning of a study that needs to be developed in several directions. The biographical particulars of Ratomir Vučković are certainly one of them. A more detailed survey on the neoshamanic schools that succeeded the Ancient Roots would shed more light on the social and intellectual identification of the present-day neoshamans in Serbia. A thorough academic research into the New Age spirituality in Serbia would help better contextualize the role of neoshamanism itself. Finally, the question of authenticity that has preoccupied Vučković and some of his followers merits a more in-depth analysis from the viewpoint of the anthropology and sociology of religion. However, since topics such as this one often seem to require some kind of an overall assessment, if not a verdict, it too must be briefly addressed here. There is a tendency among some scholars to “denounce the fascination for shamanism within our Western societies, particularly acute among ‘shamanists,’ ‘shamaniacs,’ or ‘shamanologists’ suffering from ‘shamanitis,’ a modern disease transmitted by a wide range of media.”58 In most cases this strongly negative attitude comes from the notion that neoshamanism, no matter how one defines it, has hijacked the “real thing,” that is, the genuine, “pure” shamanism in any of its forms of appearance.59 Michael York speaks of the terminological abuse of “shamanism” as a Eurocentric misnomer,60 although he considers it a convenient generic designation in religious studies and does not share this kind of contempt for “shamania.” Against the criteria commonly set forth by purist scholars it might seem easy to dismiss Ratomir Vučković as simply one among many hijackers of the kind. However, such dismissals do not explain much. In my opinion, the case of the Ancient Roots, like so many other contemporary subcultural forms of spirituality, goes beyond the problems of authentication and falsification. It should be viewed within the broader context of the resacralization of nature in a disenchanted world, which has informed a considerable part of the modern quest for spiritual alternatives.61 58 Isabelle Charleux, Review of The Concept of Shamanism. Uses and Abuses, ed. HenriPaul Francfort, Roberte N. Hamayon and Paul G. Bahn, Anthropos, Bd. 98, H. 2 (2003): 548.

59 See, for instance, The Concept of Shamanism. In this volume of proceedings one finds telling examples of such attitude. See also Kocku von Stuckrad, Review of The Concept of Shamanism. Uses and Abuses, ed. Henri-Paul Francfort, Roberte N. Hamayon and Paul G. Bahn, Numen, Vol. 50, Fasc.1 (2003): 119–21, for a harsh critique of this kind of academic bias. 60

York, “The Role of Fear in Shamanism,” 171.

See Stuckrad, “Reenchanting Nature,” 771–99, for an important discussion on this issue and his understanding of neoshamanism as “a specific counterreaction to modern tendencies toward the exclusion of the sacred” (quote on 773). 61


Noel Putnik

This context becomes even more significant in the case of ex-communist countries like former Yugoslavia, in which the processes of disenchantment had their own historical peculiarities. Examined within this framework, Dr. Wolf’s roots might not be as shallow as one would think.

Bibliography Bremmer, Jan. The Early Greek Concepts of the Soul. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983. Castaneda, Carlos. Magical Passes: The Practical Wisdom of the Shamans of Ancient Mexico. New York: HarperCollins, 1998. Charleux, Isabelle. Review of The Concept of Shamanism. Uses and Abuses, edited by Francfort, Henri-Paul, Roberte N. Hamayon and Paul G. Bahn, ed. Anthropos, Bd. 98, H. 2 (2003): 548–51. Djurdjević, Gordan. “Hidden wisdom in the ill-ordered house: a short survey of occultism in Former Yugoslavia.” In Occultism in a Global Perspective, edited by Henrik Bogdan and Gordan Djurdjević, 79–100. Durham: Acumen, 2014. Eliade, Mircea. Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1972. Francfort, Henri-Paul, Roberte N. Hamayon and Paul G. Bahn, ed. The Concept of Shamanism. Uses and Abuses. Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 2001. Ginzburg, Carlo. Ecstasies. Deciphering the Witches’ Sabbath. New York: Pantheon Books, 1991. Hammer, Olav. “New Age Movement.” In Dictionary of Gnosis and Western Esotericism, edited by Wouter J. Hanegraaff, 855–61. Leiden: Brill, 2006. Harner, Michael. The Way of the Shaman. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1982. Hoppál, Mihály. “Shamanism and the Belief System of Ancient Hungarians.” In Shamans and Traditions (Vol 13). Bibliotheca Shamanistica, 77–96. Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 2007. Hutton, Ronald. Shamans: Siberian Spirituality and the Western Imagination. London: Hambledon, 2001. Kokkinen, Nina. “Occulture as an Analytical Tool in the Study of Art.” ARIES. Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism 13 (2013): 7–36. Kulišić, Špiro, Petar Ž. Petrović and Nikola Pantelić, ed. Srpski mitološki rečnik. Belgrade: Etnografski institut SANU, 1998. Kürti László. “Psychic Phenomena, Neoshamanism, and the Cultic Milieu in Hungary.” Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, Vol. 4, No. 2 (2001): 322–50. Schnurbein, Stefanie v. “Shamanism in the Old Norse Tradition: A Theory between Ideological Camps.” History of Religions, Vol. 43, No. 2 (2003): 116–38. Stuckrad, Kocku von. “Reenchanting Nature: Modern Western Shamanism and NineteenthCentury Thought.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. 70, No. 4 (2002): 771–99.

Dr. Wolf and the Ancient Roots: Neoshamanism in Serbia


———. Review of The Concept of Shamanism. Uses and Abuses, edited by Francfort, Henri-Paul, Roberte N. Hamayon, and Paul G. Bahn. Numen, Vol. 50, Fasc.1 (2003): 119–21. Tolstoj M. Svetlana and Ljubinko Radenković, ed. Slovenska mitologija. Enciklopedijski rečnik. Belgrade: Zepter Book World, 2001. Vučković, Ratomir—Doktor Vuk, 2003. Vodič za buduće šamane. Subotica: Copyprint, 2003. ———. 2003. Interview with Ratomir Vučković. RTV Yu Eco, Subotica (March 2003). Vukelić, Deniver. “Problemi identifikacije i identiteta u hrvatskih ‘šamana’ s kraja 20. i početka 21. stoljeća.” Studia ethnologica Croatica, Vol. 24 (2012): 167–94. Wallis, Robert J. Shamans/Neo-shamans. Ecstasy, Alternative Archaeologies and Contemporary Pagans. London: Routledge, 2003. York, Michael. “The Role of Fear in Traditional and Contemporary Shamanism.” In Miedo y religion, edited by Francisco Diez de Velasco. Madrid: Ediciones del Orto, 2002.


The Body of Christ and Hiram.

The Veiled Christ by Giuseppe Sanmartino and the Cappella Sansevero in Naples 1 “From time immemorial God has been conceived in empirical forms, including a personification after the image of man. And yet every such conception is at the same time in the nature of a veil. God is not what we may see with our eyes.” 2 Karl Jaspers

Raimondo di Sangro, the 7th Prince of Sansevero proved to be a leading figure of the Neapolitan radical Enlightenment and as such he was the first Grand Master of the Freemasons in the Mezzogiorno.3 His family chapel, the famous Cappella Sansevero­namely the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Pietà or as it is called by the popolo [people] of Naples: the Pietatella­is a renowned treasure house of late baroque art including the truly capturing Cristo velato [Veiled Christ] by Giuseppe Sanmartino. [See Fig. 1.] From the very beginning, several speculations have emerged with respect to the iconographic programme of the chapel describing it not only in Catholic terms, but in the frameworks of Masonic symbolism. According to this double encoding the Cappella Sansevero is in fact a mutus liber, the Masonic testament of Raimondo di Sangro built in stones.4 While providing the hitherto most reliable discussion of the topic, Rosanna Cioffi sought to interpret the Cristo velato 1 Due to different reasons the study of Freemasonry has been neglected by the vast majority of the academic world up until recently. Nowadays, on the contrary, research into Freemasonry is an emergent and legitimate field of interdisciplinary research which is certainly not maintained any more solely by amateurish Mason historians or charlatans of different sorts. This applies to the study of the history of Italian Freemasonry as well, which could be represented in general by the achievement of such eminent authors as Carlo Francovich, Giuseppe Giarizzo, Gian Mario Cazzaniga or Aldo Alessandro Mola to mention but a few. On the emergence of the study of Freemasonry as a legitimate field of academic research see e. g. Porset. 2014. Special thanks go to my colleagues Bálint Újhelyi, Klára Lévai and Róbert Péter. 2

Jaspers. 1954. 47–48.

See Cioffi. 1994. [1987]. 71–102. Leen Spruit's foreword to Di Sangro. 2002. 9–63. See also Höbel. 2010. 18–41. On Neapolitan Freemasonry in general see D'Ayala. 1998 [1897–1898], Rao. 2006. 3

4 Oderisio de Sangro expressed harsh criticism against this view and its representatives though without any serious argumentation. De Sangro. 1991. 139.



Márton Szentpéteri

as a key element of this Masonic reading of the chapel, however, she could not provide decisive archival sources that support the otherwise truly convincing hypothesis claiming that the veiled corpse not only embodies the Christ, but also the mythical Masonic figure of Hiram Abif.5 Combining the view points of recent archival research conducted by Ruggiero di Castiglione, that of Warburgian art history, cultural anthropology and cultural semiotics, history of Freemasonry and ritual studies, I hope to firmly prove Cioffi's original thesis in this paper, claiming that the sculpture was indeed intended to embody Hiram Abif and the Christ at the very same time with far-reaching consequences.6 As is well known to the scholars of the history of Freemasonry, during the raising of the master the candidates reborn as Hiram Abif. The analogy to be discussed here between the Christ and Hiram Abif embodied in the Cristo velato clearly shows that the Masonic mastership can be seen as the imitation of Christ, and accordingly, the raising is actually can be experienced as an act of spiritual resurrection as well. This seemingly blasphemous interpretation naturally raises tantalizing questions concerning the real identity of the Cappella Sansevero.

Fig. 1. Cristo Velato by Giuseppe Sammartino (Museo Cappella Sansevero, Naples, Italy; Photo by Massimo Velo)

Meanings Veiled The very complex artistic programme of the Cappella Sansevero owes its unique fame to the person who commissioned and partly designed it and was consequently spiritus rector of the artistic interventions in the chapel—the legendary figure of the 5

Cioffi. 1994. [1987]. 113.

This paper is based on my Hungarian article, see Szentpéteri. 2011. The interpretation provided by Höbel. 2010. seems to me rather exaggerated and missing the point clearly identifiable after di Castiglione's research. Nevertheless, Höbel's monograph is very useful in many other respect. 6

The Body of Christ and Hiram


early modern Naples, prince Raimondo di Sangro (1710–1771).7 Here, we are talking about that Principe di Sansevero, who has been one of the most renowned figures of the history of the Neapolitan Freemasonry being the first Grand Master in Southern Italy. However, in the Neapolitan folklore he still appears to this day primarily as a magician—“the Neapolitan incarnation of Doctor Faustus” (l’incarnazione napoletana del dottor Faust) as Benedetto Croce once put it.8 He is the key figure of the Napoli Noir comparable only to Frankenstein or Dracula, who activates all the secret powers of the “Underground of Naples” (Napoli sotterranea) in the popular fantasy with his hocus-pocus and alchemist experiments creating a sanctuary lamp that burns with “eternal flames” and an amphibian chariot which is moving by itself, dissecting corpses, as a necromancer awaking the dead, making gold and even a few homunculi in the secret crypt of his church and laboratory at home.9 In reality, Raimondo di Sangro was one of the key figures of the radical Enlightenment in Naples, a European aristocrat of Freemason spirit actively supporting enlightened absolutism, who could be best described by his Masonic deeds, Alchemical experiments, huge scholarly library, expanded scholarly book publishing activities and his international academic network.10 But his chef d'oeuvre is undoubtedly the Pietatella, the refurbished chapel of the Sansevero family, a treasure house of the masterpieces of Naples’ late Baroque; the works of Bernardino Landini, Giulio Mencaglia, Giacomo Lazzari, Fortunato Onelli, Carlo Amalfi, Francesco Maria Russo, Paolo Persico, Francesco Celebrano, and especially Francesco Queirolo, Antonio Corradini and Giuseppe Sanmartino (1720–1793). As it will be discussed below in more detail, the iconographic programme of the Sansevero Chapel is undoubtedly determined by Freemasonry. The three most famous allegoric sculptures in this respect are beyond dispute the Disinganno [Disillusion] by Queirolo, the Pudicizia velata [Modesty Veiled] by Corradini and the Cristo velato by Sanmartino—especially these latter two capture the attention of critics, due to the fact that though these sculptures were carved from a single block of marble, the carved veil covering them is breathtakingly true to life. 7 Though one finds dozens of books devoted to him with varying scholarly quality, a truly reliable intellectual biography of Raimondo di Sangro is yet to be written. See e. g. Miccinelli. 1982. De Sangro. 1991. Sansone Vagni. 1992. Capecelatro. 2000. Lista. 2005. Golia. 2009. Höbel. 2010. 8

Croce. 2002 [1919]. 327–329.

On his experiments in general see Buonoconto. 1997. Of the lume eterno see Di Sangro. 1993. [1756.] On the carrozza marittima see the 24. July, 1770 issue of the La Gazzetta di Napoli. De Sangro. 1991. 73–76. Höbel. 38–39. On the macchine anatomiche see Dacome–Peters. 2007, 161–177. 9

Cioffi. 1994 [1987.] Höbel. 2010. 13–39. See also Leen Spruit's introduction to Di Sangro. 2002. 9–63. 10


Márton Szentpéteri

The Pietatella is clearly a canonical work; numerous art history surveys of high standards mention and deal with it to a certain extent. However, usually—perhaps precisely because of their everlasting popularity and the mystical atmosphere surrounding the church—a certain degree of malice is always present in the scholarly interpretations of the pieces. For example, Rudolf Wittkover in the renowned series of The Pelican History of Art describes the most famous sculptures of the Pietatella as typical exemplars of late Baroque decadence: “[n]othing is left of the spiritual integrity of the great Roman Baroque churches and chapels, and the monuments [i. e. that of the Pietatella] excel by virtue of their technical bravura rather than through Christian spirituality.”11 Qeirolo’s Disinganno, which liberates man from its earthly captivity, stands at the end of an evolutionary line in Wittkover’s opinion, and while Gian Lorenzo Bernini used his realism and the corresponding fine polishing of surfaces to express the ethics of Catholic renewal after Trident, by Queirolo all of this becomes mere technical bravura.12 And Corradini’s veiled Pudicizia stands before us in Wittkover’s description as the true exemplar of downright “hypertrophic virtuosity”, just like the Cristo velato of Sanmartino, who simply imitates Corradini in the view of the eminent intellectual historian.13 Upon entering the church the spectator is indeed greeted by what seems at first sight a thick chaos of works of art balancing on the borderline of kitsch thin as hair; however, in Naples all of it inexplicably seems to work. This overflowing form of virtuosity in this too chaotic (scil. troppo casinata) and extremely busy city with her highly intensified life, in spite of all our egghead reasoning, actually has a completely natural feel to it. In a city where the relics of the past never become real historical monuments, and precisely for this reason the different ages live there simultaneously, the seeming feverishness of the Pietatella is the norm.14 It is normal, as the supernatural miracle at Naples—which may be understood solely within the most superstitious Southern Catholicism—where the blood of San Gennaro boils up on schedule three times a year before the eyes of the devout crowd.15 11 12 13 14

Wittkower. 1973. 454–456. Here: 454. Wittkower. 1973. 456. Loc. Cit. Niola. 2003. 19–32.

About this see Niola. 1997. 77–94. The Neapolitan folklore believes that in his laboratory Raimondo di Sangro concocted a liquid same as the Saint’s blood. According to urban legends it is not impossible that the alchemist Prince also had something to do with the ever repeating miracle of the Saint. Nevertheless it’s a fact that the Prince made a similar relic, which reproduced—thus questioned—the miracle of San Gennaro’s blood. No doubt, some of the contemporaries viewed it as sheer charlatanry. Acton. 1998 [1957]. 102–103. See also Oderisio De Sangro's criticsm of Atcon: De Sangro. 1991. 77–78. On Catholicism and superstition in the Mezzogiorno see e. g. De Martino. 2001 [1959]. 15

The Body of Christ and Hiram


In any case, the Cappella Sansevero, and especially Sanmartino’s Veiled Christ stir the imagination of visitors even today, whether they are devoted laymen or professional historians, and this is the reason why these works are undoubtedly among the most important places of interest in Naples to this day. No wonder that they appear in the same way in Naples’ contemporary songs—for example in Federico Salvatore’s Se io fossi San Gennaro [If I were San Gennaro], scolding the general conditions of the city—, just like in the books of the distinct anthropologist Marino Niola, who is probably the person most familiar with the city’s culture.16 The latter in his book Sui palchi delle stelle [On the Stages of Stars] offers a quite different, affirmative interpretation than that of Wittkover of the transparent veil motif, which covers the Pietatella’s marble Christ. As he notes, the veils are the “masks of God, the visible marks of an indeterminate substance, which in itself is so unable to convey any meaning and unspeakable, that it may only be indicated by means of deictic signs.”17 He elaborates this in the respective footnote essay: In the Cappella Sansevero, the crucial exemplar of the spirit of Neapolitan Baroque, the metaphor of veiling becomes literal in the famous Cristo velato carved by Giuseppe Sammartino following the commission of Raimondo di Sangro. The very marble veil, covering the figure, serves to unveil the mortal presence of the Son of Man. It is the veil, meaning ‘stage’ in an etymological sense, which exhibits by hiding, and as such becomes the sign of direct inexpressibility; a deictic sign. On the outermost border of language and meaning the deictic signs are indeed the places, where the transition between meaning and indication becomes realised. A presence which is neither unspeakable, nor can have any direct meaning, is conjured up and manifested by an act or object of indication. The very characteristic of these allusive »veils« is indeed the deixis, or indication.18 See the seventh stanza: “Lo sa il Cristo ch’è velato di vergogna e di mistero / Da quel nobile alchimista principe di Sansevero / [...] che il colpevole è il denaro”. Ibid. L’osceno del villaggio [The Obscene from the Village], 2002. 16

“Luminose e cangianti velature – come il trompe l`oeil marmoreo che copre il [sic!] la figura del Cristo nella Cappella Sansevero – sono dunque le maschere di dio, segni visibili di un substantia indeterminata, in sé insignificabile e indicibile che può solo apparire essere indicata per segni deittici.” Niola. 1995. 46. 17

18 “Nella Cappella Sansevero, esempio cruciale dello spirito barocco napoletano, la metafora della velatura diventa lettera nel celebre »Cristo velato«, scolpito da Giuseppe Sammartino su commissione di Raimondo di Sangro. È proprio il velo marmoreo che ne ricopre la figura, a svelare la praesentia mortale del Figlio dell`Uomo. Scena nel senso etimologico, il velo, che esibisce nascondendo, si fa così segno una indicibilità diretta, si fa segno deittico. Al limite estremo del linguaggio e della significazione, i segni deittici sono infatti il luogo in cui si attua il passaggio dal significare al mostrare. Una praesentia che non può esser detta né signficata direttamente, viene evocata e manifestata attraverso un atto, o un ogetto di


Márton Szentpéteri

Regarding our subject this brief semiotic analysis of Niola, following the path of Giorgio Agamben, Emile Benveniste, and Louis Trolle Hjelmslev, is quite important. Whereas Wittkover saw in the veils the non plus ultra of decadency, the hypertrophic virtuosity of the more and more empty late Baroque, Niola describes them, on the contrary, as deictic signs, which are able to singularly indicating or producing the presence of the divine. As it will be pointed out below, the two seemingly contradictory statements may be interpreted as complementary of each other, for it becomes hopefully clear, that the masonic iconography of the Pietatella is indeed rather alien to the objectives of the Catholic renewal propagated chiefly by the Jesuits, but at the same time it still offers a unique form of the sacred.

The Temple of Masonic Meaning: Baroque Art in Masonic Context Rosanna Cioffi’s monograph, La Cappella Sansevero: Arte barocca e ideologia massonica [The Sansevero Chapel:

Fig. 2. 3rd degree tracing board from the so called Löwen collection (National Archive, Hermannstadt / Nagyszeben / Sibiu, Romania)

Baroque Art and Masonic Ideology], first published in 1987, was probably the first modern comprehensive analysis of the subject that used reliable sources related to the history of Freemasonry and—apart from a very few factual mistakes concerning mainly the rituals—it approached reassuringly the masonic sources of the Cappella Sansevero’s genesis. The book, still essential in the subject, made the first truly scholarly proposal for the analysis of the Cappella Sansevero’s masonic iconography. Here, I will only summarise a part of her claims concerning the Cristo velato. For the very reason that Cioffi in relation with this

indicazione. La specificità di questi »veli« allusivi è appunto la deixis, l`indicazione.” Op. cit. 49. n 25. With a slight misinterpretation Niola obviously has the velum or velarium of the Roman theatres of the imperial period in mind, when hinting at the veil’s etymology, but these used to cover the auditorium to protect it from the rain or sunlight. The predecessor of today’s theatre curtain was the auleum. Unlike now, it was lowered during the play, and pulled up at the end of the scene, so obviously it was behind the actors.

The Body of Christ and Hiram


monument of crucial importance gets to the closest to prove her assumptions concerning the Cappella Sansevero as a whole. In her book, Cioffi calls our attention to a series of engravings published in Paris in 1754 and since then copied in dozens of forms, called Les coutumes de Franc-maçons dans leurs assemblées, prin-

cipalement pour la réception des apprentiffs et des maîtres, tout nouvellement et sincèrement decouvertes [The Customs of Freemasons in their assemblies, primarily

for receipt of apprentices and masters, all newly and sincerely discovered], and within this to those images depicting the raising of the master mason. [See Fig. 2.] In these well known prints the candidates to master's degree are always covered in veil. After outlining the legend of Hiram, which is of essential importance for Freemasonry since the second half of 1720's and defines the master's degree, Cioffi assumes that according to the intention of its Mason contractor, Raimondo di Sangro; the Veiled Christ most probably represents the deceased Hiram as well—the great master builder of Solomon’s Temple, who was killed by evil and impatient fellow crafts, that is the Ruffians.19 Cioffi cannot prove the parallel satisfyingly, however, so it remains a mere assumption in her book at the end. Yet, to be sure, precisely this evidence would provide the key to clearly prove that the Cappella Sansevero is a Masonic Temple. Fortunately, the research of masonic rituals presents a clear basis for supporting Cioffi’s intuitive interpretation. Jan Snoek in his essay entitled The Evolution of the Hiramic Legend in England and France proved satisfyingly with thorough analysis that in the early stage of the development of master's degree the ritual is undoubtedly went in accordance with the logic of unio mystica.20 After finding Hiram Abif, who was killed by the evil Ruffians, as stated in Samuel Prichard’s exposure from 1730 entitled Masonry Dissected, he was buried in the Sanctum sanctorum; although no earthly mortal at all was allowed to set foot there apart from the Jewish High Priest once a year, on the Day of Atonement [Yom Kippur], but only after a long and intricate purifying ritual process. It is needless to say that in the Holy of Holies thus no mortals have ever been buried. The version of Masonry Dissected, as Snoek demonstrates it, slowly disappears from the traditions of English Freemasonry, while survives in the French. According to Le Sceau Rompu [The Broken Seal] from 1745 for example Hiram was buried in “the Sanctuary of 19 “Questa stampa è l’unica testimonianza iconografica che mi è parsa avere qualche attinenza con il Cristo velato della Cappella Sansevero [...] Se Raimondo, come si può ritenere, è editore del Grado di maestro scozzese conservato nell’Archivio Segreto Vaticano, non è da escludere che nel Cristo del Sanmartino egli [ti. Raimondo di Sangro] abbia voluto adombrare il tema della morte del grande architetto del tempio di Salomone e del grande architetto dell’universo, Dio, morto dopo essersi fatto uomo.” Cioffi. 1994. [1987.] 113.

Snoek. 2003. 11–53. Snoek. 1999. 59–92. See also Snoek. 1994. 5–53. Róbert. 2008. 143–152. Here: 150–151. 20


Márton Szentpéteri

Fig. 3. Assemblée de Francs-Maçons pour la Réception des Maîtres (La Bibliothèque Electronique de Lisieux – Une collection de textes littéraires et documentaires du domaine public de langue française proposée par la Médiathèque intercommunale André Malraux, Lisieux, France)

the Church” (le Sanctuaire du Temple). This text introduced another important element into the traditions of masonic catechisms, too, since here can be read for the first time, that a triangle shaped medallion was placed on the tomb of Hiram with the inscription of God’s ineffable Hebrew name, the tetragrammaton on it.21 [See Fig. 3.] Without following all along Snoek in his analysis, let’s quote for now only his conclusion relevant to our subject: It should be clear by now that placing the name of God on the tomb of Hiram was a functional equivalent to his being buried in the Sanctum sanctorum. Both make clear that Hiram is in fact Jahweh. It is precisely that which renders the third degree ritual an initiation of a very well-known kind: the candidate is identified with a hero, who turns out to be (a) deity. In that way, the ritual Unio Mystica between the candidate and the divinity is expressed and realized.22

21 22

Snoek. 2003. 30–34. Loc. Cit. 34.

The Body of Christ and Hiram


If it was still insufficient to convince someone that there was close relation between the figures of Hiram and Christ during the early development of the masonic master's degree in the 18th century, one finds even more telling examples among the early versions of the French high degree rituals which clearly state this parallel such as in the case of a 1765 Rosicrucian manuscript now kept in the library of the Grand Orient de France titled Ms de Condom, Grade de Chevalier de l'Aigle, ou

Souverain Prince Rose-Croix d'Héredom, sous le titre de Parfait Maçon, septième et dernier grade de la Maçonnerie [Mr Condom, Grade of the Knight of Eagle, or Supreme Prince of the Rose-Croix of Heredom, under the title of Perfect Mason, seventh and ultimate grade of Masonry].23 Same applies to a passage in the 1774 French instruction entitled Origine et object de la Franche Maçonnerie [The Origin and Subject of Free Masonry] written with respect to the high degree of Ecossais: During the seventy years of captivity we searched in vain the tomb of our Master Hiram hidden under the ruins of the Temple; everything that we learned at the end is that he was the symbol of the son of the Great Architect of the Universe [la figure du fils du Grand Architecte de l'Univers]. Those who see in Hiram the figure of Jesus Christ [la figure de Jesus-Christ] render similar the three assassins [i. e. the Ruffians] with Judas, Caifas and Pilate. 24

In Irène Mainguy's corresponding conclusion “Hiram was no one else than the type of Jesus Christ” to many of the 18 th century French masons.25 Further to this, recent research into the history of Mezzogiorno Freemasonry provide new and in this case undoubtedly decisive evidences. Ruggiero di Castiglione summarises in six thick volumes his archival findings, and in the second volume of La massoneria nelle due Sicilie e i «fratelli» meridionali del '700 [Freemasonry of the Two Sicilies and the Southern “Brethren” of the 18th Century] titled Città di Napoli [The City of Naples], published in 2008, among other things presents the list of Raimondo di Sangro’s lodge, and the short biographies of the lodge members with thorough corresponding bibliographies. By now it might not be surprising that the renowned sculptor of the Cristo velato—who even became a member of the Real Academia di Belle Arti di Napoli in 1772 upon the recommendation of the legendary architect, Luigi Vanvitelli—was a Freemason, and at that


Mainguy. 2007. 232–233.


Origine et object de la Franche Maçonnerie augmentés de discours relatifs à cet Ordre.


Mainguy. 2007. 234.

Genève, 1774, 43. As quoted by Mainguy. 2007. 233–234.


Márton Szentpéteri

in the very lodge of Raimondo di Sangro!26 But more important than this, in a letter of 14 November 1753 addressed to the also famous Freemason Louis Henri Théodore Tschoudy, the Principe di Sansevero makes clear the meaning of the Cristo velato intended by him: [A]nd among these [i. e. the monuments] it was ordered and completed the one that represents Our Lord the Dead Jesus Christ in a transparent veil (Mak-Benak) left to oneself, thus making its creator famous in the world, the young Neapolitan sculptor, G[iuseppe] Sanmartino, our brother and excellent apprentice.27

So if it was questionable so far that the Cristo velato represents Hiram at the same time, there’s no more reason for additional doubts, because the Grand Master of Naples after the phrase “a transparent veil” (un velo trasparente) put into parentheses one of the best known master's words—Mak-Benak—for his Masonic brother, the word which according to numerous variants of the Hiram legend, replayed in dramatised form during the master's elevation ceremony, was uttered for the first time by those, who found the dead body of Hiram, when they tried to lift his body, but “the flesh fell from the bones”. From all this it becomes completely clear that in the Cristo velato the well-known Christian image of the classical pietà / deposizione becomes one with the masonic act of raising with singular artistic power. Furthermore, it means that in the 18th century for some Neapolitan masons the degree of a master not simply meant the unio mystica in itself, as Snoek stated above, but also “the following of Christ” (imitatio Christi). Consequently the Cappella Sansevero in this respect can easily be described as a Masonic Temple without the slightest shadow of any doubt. After all of this, it is no wonder that the artistic programme of the Cappella Sansevero does not reflect the ideology of post-Trident Catholicism. So Wittkover’s conviction of this sort actually proves to be reliable at any case, since the Pietatella proved to be the symbolic testament of the Grand Master of Neapolitan Freemasonry, prohibited by the Bourbon Charles III upon the pressure of the Jesuits, then that of Rome.28 The Pietatella's iconographic programme was conceived in a The 31st name on the list of the lodge, with bibliographical data see. Di Castiglione. 2006–2014. 2. vol. 48–50. For the latest monograph see Catello. 2004. 26

27 “[E] tra queste è stata compita e lustrata quella denotante Nostro Signore Gesù Cristo Morto incolto in un velo trasparente (Mak-Benak): e rende celebre al Mondo l’Autore, il giovine scultore Napoletano G[iuseppe]. Sanmartino, nostro Fratello, ottimo Apprendente”. Here the author quotes the sixth page of the so called “documento Savarese” which is available only in a private collection (scil. Collezione privata Savarese). See Di Castiglione. 2006–2014. 2. vol. 15. 49.

Höbel. 2010. 53–60. See also Oderisio De Sangro's harsh criticism of this interpretation: De Sangro. 1991. 139. 28

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time when Raimondo di Sangro could only represent his Masonic conviction in this symbolic form. By all means, Raimondo di Sangro and his brethren represented in all probability a tolerant form of Christianity independent of any denominations, that religious minimum being very near to natural religion, which was expressed by the The Constitutions of the Freemasons of 1723 conceived of by the Huguenot refugee, Jean Théophile Desaguliers among others and written by the Presbyterian James Anderson.29 According to these new masonic regulations, which were able to transcend the horrors of the religiously motivated bloodshed of the 17th century, any denomination’s members may join Freemasonry, provided that the candidates practice the principle of “Brotherly-Love”, that is to say, “obey the moral Law”. This is the “Catholick [scil. Universal] Religion” which the new Freemasons adopted, and it is by no means to be confused with the post-Trident Catholicism. By the way, this reflects an astonishing similarity with that how Spinoza talks about faith in the Tractatus theologico-politicus [Theological-Political Treatise] following the golden rule of the Sermon on the Mount. In his view the most important criteria of faith is the “obedience” to moral laws (obedientia) and the “love for those in one’s proximity” (amor erga proximum). From the argument of Spinoza it is also revealed that if the latter is realised—in an active manner, namely in the form of “justice” (justitia) and “charity” (charitas)—, at the same time it amounts to the realisation of the first condition, that is to say, the love for one’s fellows means the obedience to moral laws. Anything other than this is adiaphora, or insignificant concerning the Bible, and particularly the essence of the teachings of Christ, thinks the philosopher of the Tractatus. Arriving at our conclusion it is worth to point out an issue not yet thoroughly discussed. We shall go back to Niola’s semiotic interpretation, and ask again, what the Veiled Christ might show to us after we have clarified the Masonic background of Sanmartino's masterpiece. Raimondo di Sangro used the verb denotare [to denote] in his letter to the baron Tschoudy, where the velo trasparente [transparent veil] became the symbol of the mystery of the raising to the degree of a master due to the direct appearance of the Master's word in parentheses: Mak-Benak. The Veiled Christ as a deictic sculpture in consequence demonstrates that the master's degree is actually an imitatio Christi. But owing to the symbolic style of thinking of Freemasonry and the deixis embodied by the monument we should not understand this dogmatically, that is to say, the interpretation of the artefact remains deliberately open. Therefore, we do not claim any universally valid interpretation, 29 Berman. 2012. Although it is true that the constitutions that were mainly used in Naples between 1750 and 1765 (Statuti Preliminari) clearly excluded the Jews, the Turks (i. e. Muslims), the Heathens and the professed Atheists as was common to Hanoverian lodges as well in the beginning. Bonanno. 2013 [1974–1978]. 59. 63. On Neapolitan Masonry in the period see Francovich. 1974. 48–69.


Márton Szentpéteri

which might provide once and for all the meaning of the artefact for eternity. The Cristo velato might function, of course, in the spirit of the credo quia absurdum, and may be interpreted in a way that being a deictic sign it points at the ineffable that human language is unable to grasp, just like Christ himself can be described as the most perfect accommodatio of the Word of God: the Eternal became a man, and died as a man to redeem the world, then rose from the dead to give hope for mortals. The virtuoso realism of the Cristo velato, its captivating lifelikeness, however, might manifest something else also inconceivable, essentially unspeakable for the living: death itself. As a memento mori the deixis in this case points at the corpse of a once alive man, now undisturbed of suffering. At that of Jesus, we might say and not at that of the Christ, who rose from the dead as the son of God. The Cristo velato points at the corpse of Jesus, in this case, who was a human. The greatest philosopher of love, maybe the greatest moral teacher of humanity, who is eternal in the spirit of his teachings, provided that his memory is being kept alive, and people still understand and follow his teachings; the teachings of which Spinoza spoke above in the Tractatus, and which is the essence of Freemasonry as well according to The Constitutions of Anderson. The master mason, raised to the 3rd degree, in this interpretation consequently does not rise from the dead, but reborn to real life which by now looks death straight in the face. Precisely this Socratic attitude makes possible for the master to live an authentic life and help his fellows and the human kind in general with love, thus participating personally in the building of the earthly temple of virtues.30

Among plenty of further interpretative options the one—based on a fundamental distinction between the “religious” and the “aesthetic gaze”—by Roger Scruton goes to a completely different direction: “Imagine a sacred statue of the god, placed within its shrine, visited by worshippers who lay their gifts before it. Among the visitors is an enlightened philosopher. He does not worship, since he no longer believes in the god; but he is moved by the reverential atmosphere, by the sublime stillness of the sculpture, and the serene belief to which it testifies. He does not address the image with religious feeling as his neighbours do; he does not treat it as an avenue through which another and higher being can be approached and mollified. His emotion attaches to the image itself. The signifier has become the signified. It is [...] the statue, which is or contains the meaning of the shrine. The enlightened visitor directs his attention to the stone, to the way it is worked and finished, to the expression on the face of the god, and the breathing limbs of marble. It is an image of the divine, replete with a more than human tenderness and concern. These epithets describe not the god but the statue. The enlightened visitor does not believe the sacred story; so far as he is concerned, the god is a fiction. His awe is not religious, but aesthetic. To put it another way: he rejoices in the statue, not for the god's sake, but for his own sake. Every meaning that he finds in this marble figure resides, for him, in the figure itself. To the believer the statue is a means to the god; to the philosopher the god is a means to the statue. Yet neither is guilty of idolatry.” Scruton. 2005. 33–34. 30

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Prologue: Beyond Meaning? When trying to understand the meaning of the sculpture in the context of the iconographic programme of the chapel, I mostly remained in the hermeneutic paradigm, naturally, except in the case of #deixis,. By all means, the semiotic analysis by Marino Niola based on the idea of deictic signs opens up a truly inspiring, but rather uncertain perspective of experiencing the Cristo velato in the paradigm of the nonhermeneutic. This should be the point of a future paper written with the intention of broadening the scope with approaches that try to explore the ritual use of the sculpture before and beyond meaning, in terms of the Gumbrechtian production of presence and the Shusterman way of somaesthetics among others.31 This perspective would naturally be open to an approach in which history is conceived of as a sort of magic or initiation in a sense that magic makes present something that is otherwise absent and the initiation into history consequently means techniques of presentification here, that is, the aesthetization of history at the end with the benign illusion of making the past tangible.32 With telling words Karin Dannelh talks about the significance of this tangibility for historians: To the historian the reconstruction of a story from documents is key. To the historian of objects, however, the physical experience of the three-dimensional things that is packed with sensual information, has to be of at least as much importance. To pick up an artefact is to engage with the past on so direct and so immediate a level, it approaches something magical. The experiences of weight, surface texture, sound and smell are part of the physicality of objects. They are an essential part of what artefacts have to offer the historian, and can be experienced with many of our senses, including sight, touch, balance, hearing and smell.33

This magical approach to history through objects can be further galvanized by ritual studies according to which “[i]n ritual, the world as lived and the world as imagined, fused under the agency of a single set of symbolic forms, turns out to be the same world.”34 In this perspective, the Cristo velato—as key to the symbolic use of the Capella Sansevero in Masonic terms—becomes the key element of fusing our lived world of the present with the imagined world of the Neapolitan Masonic past.

31 32 33 34

Shusterman. 2008. Gumbrecht. 2004.

Dannelh. 2009. 130. Emphasis mine. Geertz. 1973. 111–113. See also Bell. 1992.


Márton Szentpéteri

Furthermore, this ritualization of history might help us to better understand the aesthetics of performativity experienced by Neapolitan masons by means of their rites spiritually guided by the presence of the Cristo velato. In the performances of everyday life one's identity is getting reconstituted each and every day in interpersonal communication and in the creative interaction between persons and objects, in which subjects create objects and objects respectively mould subjects in their mutual cultural biography. In the Cappella Sansevero the very performance of the Masonic ritual most probably applying the Cristo velato as key ritual object might enhanced the recreation of one's identity simultaneously reaffirming the identity of the ritual community in the interaction between the highly engaging sculpture and the devoted initiates.35 In the perspective of the non-hermeneutic, one might refer to many other tantalizing concepts besides the above known to scholars of material culture studies or design culture studies such as cultivation or thing theory in general, all of them regarding the objects as social agents or social relations going far beyond the world of Cartesian dualism in which physical objects are viewed as socially and culturally dead, if not instantly devilish far from being intelligent or intelligible.36 Undoubtedly, of all of these concepts and theories the one that of material engagement seems to be the most promising at the moment, according to which, our mind is seen as partly constituted in the realm of the designed environment, rather than solely being situated in our head. Naturally, this changes dramatically the way how the relationship between cognition and material culture is understood and explained. In this context, things—such as artefacts used for ritual purposes—are taken as cognitive extensions of the human body.37 It is more than plausible then, that the true Masonic essence of the Cristo velato can only be captured in its presence during the ritual performance. The same applies, naturally, to its parallel Catholic substance experienced by devotees during a Mass. However, I assume something changes fundamentally when it is seen as a piece of art—born, by the way, around the difficult birth of autonomous fine art itself with a capital A—in the current art world of museums, galleries, churches, chapels and other sightseeing highlights of a spectacular modern city. It is a highly fascinating question for an intellectual historian, whether this view of art theory or history, that is the “aesthetic gaze” is indeed able to create a context in which the sculpture is experienced in its cultural entirety. But this is, in fact, another issue to deal with, in another paper.

35 For further information on the performative perspective of Freemasonry see Hasselmann. 2014. 36 37

Csíkszentmihályi–Rochberg-Halton. 1981. Brown. 2001. Malafouris. 2013.

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Bibliography [Anderson, James et al.] 1723. The Constitutions of the Free-Masons. Containing the

History, Charges, Regulations, etc. of that most Ancient and Right Worshipful Fraternity. For the Use of the Lodge. London: William Hunter. Acton, Harold. 1998 [1957]. The Bourbons of Naples (1734–1825). London: Prion. Catherine Bell, 1992. Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Berman, (Ric) Richard. 2012. Foundations of Modern Freemasonry. The Grand Architects: Political Change and the Scientific Enlightenment, 1714–1740. Eastbourne, UK: Sussex

Academic Press. Berman, (Ric) Richard. 2013. Schism: The Battle that Forged Freemasonry. Eastbourne, UK: Sussex Academic Press. Bonanno, Mauro ed. 2013 [1974–1978]. Edward Eugene Stolper: La massoneria settecentesca nel Regno di Napoli, Acireale: Tipheret. Brown, Bill. 2001. “Thing Theory”. Critical Inquiry, 28/1, 1–22. Buonoconto, Mario. 1997. Viaggio fantastico alla luce del lume eterno. Le straordinarie invenzioni del principe di Sansevero [Fantastic Voyage to the Light of the Eternal Lamp. The Extraordinary Inventions of the Sansevero Prince]. Napoli: alóς. Capecelatro, Giuliano. 2000. Un sole nel labirinto. Storia e leggenda di Raimondo di Sangro, Principe di Sansevero [Sun in the Labirynth. History and Legend of Raimondo di Sangro]. Milano: Il Saggiatore. Catello, Elio. 2004. Giuseppe Sanmartino (1720–1793), Napoli: Electa. Chakmakjian, Pauline. 2008. “Theological Lying and Religious Radicalism in Anderson’s Constitutions”, Aries 8: 167–190. Cioffi, Rosanna. 1994 [1987]. La Cappella Sansevero. Arte Barocca e Ideologia Massonica [The Sansevero Chapel. Baroque Art and Masonic Ideology]. Salerno: Edizione 10/17. Cioffi, Rosanna. 1996. Raimondo di Sangro. Pozzuoli: E. De Rosa. (Protagonisti nella storia di Napoli: grandi napoletani, 6) Croce, Benedetto. 2002 [1919]. Storie e leggende napoletane [Neapolitan Stories and Legends]. Milano: Adelphi. Csíkszentmihályi, Mihály–Rochberg-Halton. Eugene. 1981. The Meaning of Things. Domestic Symbols and the Self. Indiana: University of Notre Dame. Dacome, Lucia–Peters, Renata. 2007. “Fabricating the Body: the Anatomical Machines of the Prince of Sansevero”. In Virginia Green et al. eds. Objects Specialty Group Postprints 14. Washington: The American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, 161–177. Dannelh, Karin. 2009. “Object Biographies. From Production to Consumption”. In Harvey. 2009. 123–138. D'Ayala, Mariano. 1998. I Liberi Muratori a Napoli nel sec. XVIII [Freemasons in Naples in the 18th Century], ed. Giuseppe Giarizzo, Naples: Società Storia Patria Napoli. Originally it was published in two consecutive parts in the Archivio storico per le province napoletane in 1897 and 1898. De Martino, Ernesto. 2001 [1959]. Sud e magia. Milano: Feltrinelli.


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De Sangro, Oderisio. 1991. Raimondo de Sangro e la Cappella Sansevero [Raimondo de Sangro and the Sansevero Chapel]. Roma: Bulzoni. Di Castiglione, Ruggiero. 2006–2014. La massoneria nelle due Sicilie e i «fratelli» meridionali del '700 [Freemasonry in the two Sicilies and the Southern “Brethren” of the 18th Century], 6 vols., Roma: Gangemi, 2. vol. (Città di Napoli), 15–53. Di Sangro, Raimondo. 2002. [1750.] Lettera apologetica [An Apologetical Letter]. Ed. Leen Spruit. Napoli: alóς. ———. 2006. [1753.] Supplica a Benedetto XIV [Supplication to Pope Benedict XIV]. Ed. Leen Spruit. Napoli: alóς. ———. 1756. Dissertation sur un Lampe antique trouvé à Munich en l'année 1753. Ecrite

par M.r le Prince de St. Severe pour servir de fluite a la prémière partie de ses Lettres à M.r l'Abbé Nollet à Paris [Dissertation on a Lamp found in München, in the Year of

1753]. Napoli: Morelli. ———.1993. [1756.] Il lume eterno [The Eternal Light]. trans. Elita Serrao, Foggia: Bastogi. Fischer-Lichte, Erika. 2008. The Transformative Power of Performance. A New Aesthetics. Trans. Saskya Iris Jain. London–New York: Routledge. Francovich, Carlo. 1974. La storia della Massoneria in Italia. Dalle origini alla Rivoluzione Francese [History of Freemasonry in Italy. From the Origins to the French Revolution]. Firenze: La Nuova Italia. Geertz, Clifford. 1973. The Interpretation of Cultures. New York: Basic Books. Giarrizzo, Giuseppe. 1994. Massoneria e illuminismo nell'Europa del Settecento [Freemasonry and the Enlightenment in 18th-century Europe]. Venezia: Marsilio. Golia, Antonella. 2009. Cappella Sansevero: il Tempio della Virtù e dell'Arte [The Sansevero Chapel. The Temple of Virtue and Art]. Taranto: Akroamatikos. Gumbrecht, Hans Ulrich. 2004. The Production of Presence: What Meaning Cannot Convey. Stanford, Ca.: Stanford University Press. Harrison, Peter. 1990. ‘Religion’ and the Religions in the English Enlightenment, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Harvey, Karen ed. 2009. History and Material Culture: A Student’s Guide to Approaching Alternative Sources. London: Routledge. Hasselmann, Kristiane. 2014. “Freemasonry and Performance”. In Henrik Bogdan and Jan A. M. Snoek eds. Handbook of Freemasonry, 328–354. Hazard, Paul. 1964. [1935.] The European Mind, the Critical Years, 1680–1715. Trans. J. Lewis May, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 304–305. ———. 1965. [1946] European Thought in the Eighteenth Century from Montesquieu to Lessing, Trans. J. Lewis May, Harmondsworth: Penguin. Henrik Bogdan and Jan A. M. Snoek eds. 2014. Handbook of Freemasonry. Leiden-Boston: Brill. Höbel, Sigfrido E. F. 2010. La cappella filosofica del Principe di Sansevero [The Philosophical Chapel of the Sansevero Prince]. Napoli: Edizioni del Valentino. Jacob, Margaret C. 1981. The Radical Enlightenment: Pantheists, Freemasons, and Republicans. London: Allen & Unwin (Early modern Europe today, 3).

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———.1991. Living the Enlightenment: Freemasonry and Politics in 18 th-century Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Jaspers, Karl. 1954. [1950.] Way to Wisdom: An Introduction to Philosophy. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. Knoop, Douglas-Jones, G. P. 1942. Freemasonry and the Idea of Natural Religion, Printed for private circulation, Frome-London: Butler & Tanner Ltd. Malafouris, Lambros. 2013. How Things Shape the Mind: A Theory of Material Engagement. Cambridge, Ma.: The MIT Press. Lino Lista. 2005. Raimondo di Sangro, il Principe dei veli di pietra [Raimondo di Sangro, the Prince of Stone Veils]. Foggia: Bastogi. Mainguy, Irène. 2007. [2005.] Simbolica dei Capitoli nella Massoneria. Rito Scozzese Antico e Accettato e Rito Francese [The Symbolism of Masonic Chapters. Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite and French Rite]. Transl. Milvia Faccia. Roma: Edizione Mediterranee. Melton, James Van Horn. 2001. “Freemasonry: Toward Civil Society”. In Ibid. The Rise of the Public in Enlightenment Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 252– 272 (New Approaches to European History). Miccinelli, Clara. 1982. Il Principe di Sansevero, verità e riabilitazione [The Prince of Sansevero, Truth and Rehabilitation]. Napoli: SEN. Niola, Marino. 1995. Sui palchi delle stelle: Napoli, il sacro, la scena [On the Scenes of Heaven: Naples, the Saint, the Setting]. Roma: Meltemi – Gli Argonauti. Niola, Marino. 1997. “Fervidi umori. San Gennaro ovvero della microfisica del sangue” In Ibid. Il corpo mirabile. Miracolo, sangue, estasi nella Napoli barocca [The Miraculous Body. Miracle, Blood and Ecstasy in the Neapolitan Baroque]. Roma: Meltemi, 77–94. ———. 2003. Totem e ragù. Divagazioni napoletane [Totem and ragù. Neapolitan Divagations]. Napoli: Pironti. Paillard, Maurice ed. 1952. Reproduction of The Constitutions of the Free-masons or Anderson’s Constitutions of 1723 in English and French. London-Dunstable: Waterlow & Sons, 5–44. Porset, Charles. 2014. “Masonic Historiography,” in Henrik Bogdan and Jan A. M. Snoek eds. Handbook of Freemasonry, 117–135. Prescott, Andrew, “The Production of the English Books of Constitutions in the Eighteenth Century”, paper presented at the Sorbonne CNRS, in Paris, at Ronde Table ‘Le Monde Maçonnique’, 24 March, 2005). See prescott04.html. Latest access: 17-09–2011. Rao, Anna Maria. 2006. “La massoneria nel Regno di Napoli,” [Freemasonry in the Kingdom of Naples] in Gian Mario Cazzaniga ed. Storia d'Italia, Annali, vol. 21 La massoneria. Torino: Einaudi, 513–542. Róbert, Péter. 1999. “Szabadkőművesség és természetes vallás” [Freemasonry and Natural Religion]. Valóság 42: 18–36. ———. 2006. “Masonic Religious Rhetoric in England during the Long Eighteenth Century”. In Stewart, Trevor ed. Freemasonry and Religion: Many faiths, One Brotherhood. London: Canonbury Masonic Research Centre), 167–204 (Canonbury Papers, 3).


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———. 2008. “Hermetizmus, exaltatio és szabadkőművesség” [Hermeticism, Exaltation and Freemasonry]. In Zoltán Vajda ed. Bölcsészműhely 2007. Szeged: JATEPress: 143–152. Itt: 150–151. Sansone Vagni, Lina. 1992. Raimondo di Sangro Principe di San Severo. Le origini, la

tradizione templare, la vita, il periodo storico, il cammino iniziatico del tempio della pietà [Raimondo di Sangro. The Origins, the Templar Tradition, Life, Historical Period, the Path of Initiation of the Temple of Piety]. Foggia: Bastogi. Shusterman, Richard. 2008. Body Consciousness: A Philosophy of Mindfulness and Somaesthetics. New York: Cambridge University Press. Scruton, Roger. 2005. [1998]. Modern Culture. London: Continuum Snoek, Jan. “Researching Freemasonry: Where We Are?”. CRFF Working Paper Series 2:

1–29. ———. 1994. “Retracing the Lost Secret of a Master Mason”. Acta Macionica 4: 5–53. ———. 1999. “The Evolution of the Hiramic Legend from Prichard’s Masonry Dissected to the Emulation Ritual, in England and France”. ARIES 1999 [Symboles et Mythes dans les mouvements initiatiques et ésotériques (XVIIe–XXe siècles): Filiations et emprunts]: 59–92. ———. 2003. “The Evolution of the Hiramic Legend in England and France”. Heredom 11: 11–53. Spinoza, Benedict de. 2007 [1677]. Theological-Political Treatise. trans. Michael Silverthorne and Jonathan Israel, ed. J. I., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 178–185 (Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy). Stevenson, David. 1988. The Origins of Freemasonry: Scotland’s Century, 1590–1710, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ———. 2002. “James Anderson: Man & Mason”. Heredom 10: 93–138. Szentpéteri, Márton. 2011. “Szabadkőműves templom Nápolyban” [Masonic Temple in Naples]. Századvég 61: 57–72. Wittkower, Rudolph. 1973. Art and Architecture in Italy 1600 to 1750, Harmondsworth (Penguin), 1973, 454–456.


Distorted Transmission of Abraham Abulafia’s Kabbalah1 Introduction Abraham Abulafia (1239–1291) was one of the most influential Jewish mystics of the 13th century. His unique brand of practice earned him the title in modern scholarship as the founder of ecstatic Kabbalah.2 However, his eccentric knowledge and popularity caused some friction with some of his contemporaries, such as the alleged Solomon Ibn Adret (1235–1310),3 one of the most powerful rabbinic authorities of that time. Ordinarily, the Jewish authority would not be threatened by new esoteric doctrines which were typically narrow and did not comprise an all-encompassing way of life that would contradict the halachitic decrees.4 However, the combination of Abulafia’s messianism and his superior knowledge of Kabbalah may have represented a danger to Ibn Adret’s authority.5 This, in turn, led to a ban against all of Abulafia’s works.6 As Judeo-Christian mysticism and philosophy scholar Harvey Hames explains: Though found in hundreds of manuscripts, aside from the publication of a few short works and excerpts in the late nineteenth and twentieth century, nothing [of the Abulafian corpus] had been published. This by no means reflected a lack of interest in Abulafia’s Kabbalah, but was the direct result of the ban promulThe following paper is based largely on my research MA thesis written for the Religious Studies program at the University of Amsterdam in 2015, titled: “Abraham Abulafia and the Academy: A reevaluation.” 1


Idel, Studies, ix.

For a general overview of Solomon Ibn Adert, see Hames, Art, 65–82; with respect to Abraham Abulafia, see Wolfson, Abraham, 2, 5, 95, 100, 202; Hames, Like, 5, 9, 34, 44–48, 98. It should be mentioned that in my Research MA thesis I provide evidence that Ibn Adret’s main criticism was not directed toward Abulafia as most scholars believe, but to a miracle worker called ‘The Prophet of Avila.’ It then follows that the ban that was placed on Abulafia’s works was a simple case of mistaken identity, see MacMurphy, “Abraham Abulafia.” 17–31. 3

4 5 6

Idel, “Rashba,” 245.

Ibid., 247; Cf, n. 3. Cf, n.3.



John MacMurphy gated by Solomon ibn Adret against his works. This ban was so effective, that it was only toward the end of the last decade of the twentieth century, some six hundred years after the ban was placed, and some four hundred years after the invention of the printing press, that ultra-orthodox Jews in Jerusalem, students of Abulafian Kabbalah, decided to print his works.7

As we can see, the impact of the ban resonated for hundreds of years, despite the interest in Abulafia’s ecstatic knowledge. One of the ways of which this unique form of knowledge was able to transcend the ban is by embedding Abulafia’s doctrines and even excerpts from his corpus in other works which were later published. A prime example of this is Sefer ha-Peli’ah (The Book of Wonder), an early kabbalitic work which contains, among other things, excerpts from Abulafia’s own texts. Gershom Scholem (1897–1982), the father of modern academic study of Jewish Mysticism, places the authorship of Sefer ha-Peli’ah in Spain8 – although, later research indicates a Byzantine background with a presumed date of around the end of the 14th century.9 This work, which was distributed extensively in Central and Eastern Europe ranging from Prague, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine and Germany, was extremely influential across many kabbalistic circles, including the eastern European based Hasidim movement that originated with Israel Ben Eliezer (1698–1760), also known as, the Baal Shem Tov (Master of the Good Name), or the acronym – Besht. As Moshe Idel, one of the most respected scholars of the history and philosophy of Kabbalah explains: Since Sefer ha-Peliy'ah is a well-known Kabbalistic text, there is no reason not to assume that the Besht was acquainted with it, and that it served in this particular case as an intermediary between Abulafia's theory of the combination of letters and that of the early Hasidic masters ... this Kabbalistic classic is replete with lengthy passages copied verbatim from Abulafia's books, and the possible contribution of those quotes to the Hasidic theory of language still awaits a detailed investigation. 10

In the spirit of Idel’s proposition, the aim of this paper is to serve as the first initial step toward understanding the influence of Abulafia’s Kabbalah in Sefer ha-Peli’ah on the Hasidim movement and, in turn, other kabbalistic circles. The primary focus 7 8 9 10

Hames, Like Angels, 9.

Scholem, Kabbalah, 65, 68. Idel, “Kanah,” 759. Idel, Hasidim, 57.

Distorted Transmission of Abraham Abulafia’s Kabbalah


is to demonstrate that Abulafia’s works survived by Sefer ha-Peli’ah contain certain alterations in the text that were added later by a different author. Thus, before examining how Abulafia may have contributed to Hasidic thought, a detailed comparative analysis is merited in order to determine exactly what was written by Abulafia versus the author of Sefer ha-Peli’ah. While a full comparative analysis is beyond the scope of this study, this paper will show that even a small alteration in the text, could have far reaching unpredictable scholarly implications which may lead to a complete re-evaluation of certain academic areas that hitherto remained unquestioned.

Distorted Transmission In “the Beginnings of Christian Kabbalah,” Gershom Scholem asserts that the phenomena of Christian Kabbalah began with Jews who converted to Christianity.11 Scholem proposes that the earliest documented account appears in Abulafia’s Gan Na’ul (The Sealed Garden) and it involves a group of Abulafia’s pupils whom Abulafia berates for mis-utilizing his kabbalistic exegesis techniques to find Christological content in the Old Testament to the point where they converted to Christianity. As evidence, Scholem provides the following quote: “from this the madmen and the fools allowed themselves to be seduced and become apostates.”12 However, Scholem provides the quote from Sefer ha-Pli’ah and not from the Abulafian Corpus itself. In order to shed further light on this, the full excerpt from Abulafia’s Gan Na’ul will need to be compared with the version that appears in Sefer ha-Pli’ah. The following is the section as it appears in Abulafia’s work: And with the permutations certain [letter] arrangements came out in the opposite manner, as I have heard that the fools permute the words “(in his shadow) I sat down with great delight” (song of songs 2:3), and they say (the one who is crucified) as the permutation [of the word ‘shadow’]. And whoever interpreted this said (in the shadow of the one who is crucified) and I sat down with great delight, the one who went on this [interpretation], did not know the text ‘his corpse shall not hang on the tree’ (Deuteronomy 21:23) as it is viewed as ‘for he who is hanged is the curse of God’ and he would not have sat in delight (in his shadow) and the one who wants to hang himself can be hung from a great tree. And this is foolishness and evil from the one who derives heresy out of the Torah.13 11 12

Scholem, “Beginnings,” 24.

Ibid., 45.

Abulafia, Gan Na’ul, 23. I am using the transcribed version which was edited by Amnon Gross. Emphasis and content in square brackets are mine. 13


John MacMurphy

As we can see, Abulafia heard that a group of people, possibly his students, have been using the kabbalistic exegesis technique of letter permutations in order to change the sequence of the letters in the word “in his shadow”14 to the word “crucified”.15 This, in turn, produces a highly Christological message of ‘sitting with great delight next to the one who was crucified’. However, according to Abulafia, this interpretation will contradict the Old Testament as God views a body which is hung from a tree as a curse. Abulafia then uses a euphemism by saying that those who wish to ‘hang themselves’, that is, follow the Christian interpretation, will actually hang themselves on a tree – or rather, be cursed by God. It is worth noting that Scholem’s quote which claims that the people were seduced by this interpretation and converted to Christianity is glaringly absent. In Sefer ha-Pli’ah we see ample similarities with the original Abulafian text. However, it is far from being identical. The full quote is as follows: And the permutations give birth to inverted understandings just as the fools invert the word ‘in his shadow I sat down with great delight’, and they say that ‘in his shadow’ turns into [the word] ‘crucified’ and so they say that in the shadow of the crucified I sat down with great delight. And from this the mad-

men and the fools are seduced and become apostates, may their name be stricken from the book of life, if they knew the verse ‘his corpse shall not hang on the tree for he who is hanged is the curse of God’ they would not have sat down with great delight in his shadow and this is foolishness and evilness to derive heresy out of the Torah.16

Here we see that the author of Sefer ha-Pli’ah, for the most part, keeps the same content as the original text from Abulafia. However, we see that, apart from the general changes in the grammar (i.e., tenses, conjugation, etc.), Abulafia’s euphemism is omitted from the text and the verse which Scholem quotes from is added. It is quite possible that the author of Sefer ha-Pli’ah found Abulafia’s euphuism too vague and decided to replace it with his own understating of Abulafia’s sentence. Scholem defends his usage of Sefer ha-Pli’ah as a more reliable witness to Abulafia’s text by claiming that the original manuscript was redacted by Christian censors. However, it would seem more likely that the censors would have either erased this small excerpt in its entirety, or at least, redact Abulafia’s concerns about the misinterpretation. Leaving the part where kabbalistic exegesis has led to the conversion of Jewish people into Christianity would appear to serve the Christian authority. 14

Hebrew: wlcb


Hebrew: bwlc


Sefer ha-Pli’ah, 74B. Emphasis and content in square brackets are mine.

Distorted Transmission of Abraham Abulafia’s Kabbalah


In addition, apart from the claim that the people were seduced and converted, we see that the author adds: “may their name be stricken from the book of life”. It should be noted that this expression is not used anywhere in the Abulafian corpus. This strongly suggests that the insertion does in fact come from the author of Sefer ha-Pli’ah himself, as oppose to Abulafia. It will then follow that the distorted Abulafian text which was survived in Sefer ha-Pli’ah can be viewed to include a type of a running commentary by its author. However, a careful delineation analysis must be done in order to unravel the distortion.

Abulafia’s Pupils Based on the previous analysis, it would seem unlikely that the people whom Abulafia berates were, as Scholem purports: “a group of pupils whom he [Abulafia] had taught in Capua and who later apostatized.”17 The question then remains, who were these students? Since it is unlikely that these were Jews who converted after realizing the Christological content in the Hebrew bible, it seems more plausible that this group had some sort of a Christian agenda from the get go. It will then follow, that by utilizing the kabbalistic letter permutation technique they were confirming the Christian message, rather than discovering it – that is, the group of students were most likely already Christians. One clue from the Abulafian corpus may help shed some light on this possible group of Christians. In Sefer ha-Edut (The Book of Testimony), Abulafia recounts the story where he sought an audience with Pope Nicholas III (fl. 1277–1280).18 As the story goes,19 Abulafia had a prophetic vision in Barcelona in the year 1270. In this vision, God commanded him to go to Rome and see the Pope. The story continues by expounding on Abulafia’s journey to Rome. He passed through Trani and Capua, writing further works and even escaping capture after a group of Jews turned him in to the local authorities. Abulafia claimed that his escape was due to divine intervention which would have most likely strengthened his resolve to complete his mission. In the year 1280, right before Rosh ha-Shana (Jewish New Year) Abulafia arrived to Rome. The Pope, according to what Abulafia had heard, ordered his gateman that if Abulafia showed up in the name of all “yahadut”, literary Jewry, that he should be stopped, taken out of town and burned. The Pope himself was not in Rome at the time but in Soriano, a town which was one day distance from Rome. Abulafia was 17

Scholem, “Beginnings,” 25.

Cardinal Orsini, who later became Pope Nicholas III took over from John XXI (c.1215– 1277), see Maxwell-Stuart, Chronicle,119. 18

For the full account see Abualfia, Sefer ha-Edut, 57–58. For an English translation, see Hames, Like Angels, 83; Kaplan, Meditation, 68–69. 19


John MacMurphy

not deterred; he secluded himself in order to receive more prophetic visions and wrote this Sefer ha-Edut as a testimony to God’s miraculous intervention in saving his life. Abulafia then relays that despite all the warnings, he tried to go to Soriano to see the Pope. Upon approaching the town gates he was greeted by a messenger who conveyed that the Pope had died a day before. 20 At this point Abulafia says he was detained (nitpas)21 in Rome by the ‘Little Brothers’ that is, members of the Franciscan order. Interestingly enough, Moshe Idel connects Abulafia’s affinity to the Franciscans through the Pope, as he explains: “It is possible that Abulafia assumed that he could find a sympathetic ear with Pope Nicholas III. The Pope was the custodian of the faction called 'the minorities’22 – Abulafia would have certainly recognized the great affection Saint Francis felt toward the name of Jesus, a fondness that with the passage of time, even in the days of Abulafia, became a significant theological precept.”23 Apart from common denominator of the devotion to the divine name, it should be mentioned that the Franciscans were no strangers to ecstatic mysticism with its roots in the tradition of the Hebrew prophets.24 Ewert H. Cousins (1927–2009), who conducted extensive research into Franciscan theology, makes a further connection to the Jewish mystics themselves, as he explains: The visionary mysticism which flourished among the Hebrew prophets was cultivated by the Merkabah [chariot] tradition, a major current of Jewish mysticism which continued from the first century B.C until the tenth century ... Although there are probably no discernible historical influences on Francis, there is a typological similarity between his imagery [of his visions] and that cultivated the Merkabah tradition, due at least in part to the fact that they both drew from the same source of prophetic imagery.25

The connection between the Franciscans and the Jewish mystics is even more intriguing when we consider that Saint Bonaventure (c.1221–1274), a contemporary 20

Pope Nicholas III died prematurely from a stroke in 1280, see Maxwell-Stuart,


Hebrew: Xptn


The name of the then newly founded Franciscan organization was the Order of Friars Minor (Ordo Fratrum Minorum) – literally translated, the Order of the Little Brothers. 22


Idel, “Abraham,” 14.

Cousins, “Francis,” 165. The connection to the prophets comes from the description of the visions of Saint Francis which appear to be in continuity with the visionary experiences of the Hebrew Prophets – resulting in Francis being referred to as a prophet by his followers such as Bonaventure, see ibid., 172. 24


Ibid., 173.

Distorted Transmission of Abraham Abulafia’s Kabbalah


of Abulafia, who was also considered to be Second Founder of the Franciscan order,26 authored a book entitled The Tree of Life – a collection of ecstatic visualization meditations designed for the purpose of achieving divine union. 27 While the aforementioned commonalities between Abulafia and the Franciscans may have been his motivation to seek them out, based on Abulafia’s account, we do know that he stayed with them for a period of twenty-eight days, which started on the Fast of Gedalya and ended on the first day of the month Marheshvan.28 At first glance, the account of Abulafia spending time with the Franciscans does not seem to be so extraordinary. However, certain indications encoded29 in the text suggest that Abulafia may have actually been teaching and possibly demonstrating his prophetic techniques to them. The first clue is that the word nitpas in the Hebrew could be literally translated as detained or captured. This seems to suggest that Abulafia was imprisoned by the Franciscans. However, Harvey Hames points out that this word does not carry with it any negative connotations and is mentioned a few times within the Abulafian corpus.30 In addition, if we examine the other references of this verb we see that Abulafia uses it to denote an idea that is being ‘captured’ in one’s mind.31 Abulafia may have been insinuating here that his ideas, namely, his teachings, were being captured or appropriated by the Franciscans. Another clue is that the location where Abulafia was detained was the Franciscan seminary.32 Apart from the obvious point that a seminary is a place of study, the fact that Abulafia did not mention that he spent time in a Franciscan prison is noteworthy. As Hames explains: “The Franciscan prisons were not known for their creature comforts and surely would have merited a mention if that is where he had spent this period.”33 26 Bonaventure was the Minister General of the Franciscan Order and was considered one of the Major philosopher-theologians of the 13 th century, see ibid., 168. 27 28

Cousins, “Francis,” 183–186.

The second month of the Jewish year.

Abulafia is known to encode a secret hidden layer of meaning in his writings. As Jewish mysticism and philosophy scholar, Elliot Wolfson explains: ‘The power of Abulafia's intellect is evident in the manner that he anchors difficult theological ideas through the exegetical techniques.... Anyone who has tried to read Abulafia knows it is impossible to get through one page without a pen and pad ready at hand to decode the many mathematical and linguistic associations that he establishes in an effort to link together disparate expressions and concepts,’ see Wolfson, Abraham, 2. For Abulafia’s unique use of language, see Idel, Language. 29

30 31 32 33

Hames, Like Angels, 142, n. 43. For example citations, see Ibid.

be-midrasham. Hebrew: ~Xrdmb Hames, Like Angels, 100–101.


John MacMurphy

Moreover, in addition to Hames’s observations, the word “stayed” literally means “stood”. Thus, Abulafia is describing himself as “standing” in the seminary,34 which implies that he was lecturing. Elsewhere in his writings, Abulafia relates this term to the process of transmission of mystical knowledge which has the ability to purify the ones who receive it. As Abulafia explains: “... when the serpent had sexual intercourse with Eve, he was the adulterer and he is the one who cast his foulness in her. And [the] Israel[ites] who stood before Mount Sinai, their foulness ceased. While the gentiles, who have not stood on [before] Mount Sinai, their foulness did not cease.”35 According to tradition, the Sinaitic Revelation – which literally means, the ‘standing of Mount Sinai’ (Ma’amad Har Sinai), is where Moses not only received the Torah from God but also Kabbalah36 – hence the very first transmission of divine kabbalistic gnosis.37 Thus, Abulafia's cryptic use of the phrase “stood in their seminary” may suggest that Abulafia actually stood in front of an audience, that is, the Friars, and disseminated his prophetic ‘purifying’ knowledge to them. In addition, the start date of the twenty-eight day period fell on the ‘Fast of Gedalya’, one of the minor Jewish fast days which occurs usually one day after the


The word ‘stayed’ (dm[) in the Hebrew can literally mean ‘stood’.

Abulafia, Hayey ha-Olam ha-Ba, 8. Hebrew: hb lyjmh awhw @awnh awhX hwx l[ Xxn tayb ?!tmhwz hqsp al ynys rh l[ wdm[ alX ~yywg ]!tmhwz hqsp ynys rh l[ wdm[X larXyw ?amhwz 35

Abulafia is echoing the Jewish literature here, see Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat Tractate, 146a.

36 The origins of this is in the mishna where it states in Pirkei Avot 1:1 that ‘Moses received the Torah from Sinai’. The term ‘received’ (kibel) is from the same root as Kabbalah – hence the idea that the transmission of the esoteric knowledge occurred in addition to exoteric Torah. Abulafia quite emphatically uses this verse as a way to address the issue of divine prophetic revelation versus knowledge obtained through rationalism – pointing out that the verse does not say that Moses rationalized, or intellectualized the Torah from [Mount] Sinai, see Abulafia, Sheva Netivot ha-Torah, 102. In addition, Abulafia connects the term Sinai to the word sne (bush) – associating the flames of the burning bush perceived by Moses to a type of prophetic fire one perceives during ecstasy. Abulafia gives the examples of Moses seeing the divine angel within the flames of the burning bush, and that the Torah is said to have been written with black fire over white fire, see Abulafia, Sefer ha-Edut, 66. Abulafia also relates Mount Sinai itself to a prophetic ladder, as viewed in Jacob’s dream in Genesis 28:10–19. As such, the prophetic experience is one of ascension. The ladder itself is described by Abulafia to consist of divine names, and in turn, their corresponding sefirot, see Abulafia, Sheva Netivot ha-Torah, 102–103. Thus, the path to ecstasy is analogous to climbing up the Tree of Life. 37 It should be mentioned that some sources assert that other earlier biblical figures received divine knowledge as well. For example, the content of the book Raziel ha-Mal’ach (The Angel Raziel), is said to have been given to Adam; there are also the Book(s) of Enoch which relay Enoch’s divine knowledge and experience; and Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Formation) which is attributed to Abraham whom Abulafia considers to be the very first prophet, see Abulafia, Sefer ha-Heshek, 67.

Distorted Transmission of Abraham Abulafia’s Kabbalah


Jewish New Year.38 The significance of this fast may relate to the preliminary process which Abulafia employed as preparation for the induction of the ecstatic experience.39 The mention of the fast on the first day of his stay with the Friars may suggest that Abulafia was preparing to initiate his prophetic techniques – either for the purpose of demonstration, tutelage or both. Lastly, the Pope’s orders to his gatemen were that if Abulafia came to talk to him in the name of all “yahadut,” that he should be captured and burned. Both Idel and Hames agree the Abulafia’s use of the term “yahadut” actually does not relate to the common term ‘Jewry’ but to Abulafia’s prophetic techniques.40 It will then follow that Abulafia went to see the Pope specifically to teach him his kabbalistic methods. However, since the Pope died a day before Abulafia arrived, Abulafia may have instituted an alternative course of action, whereby he instructed the Franciscans in the Pope’s stead – thus, completing his self proclaimed divinely inspired mission. As we can see, it is quite possible that the group of students who employed Abualfia’s kabbalistic exegesis techniques were none other the Franciscans themselves. However, while Abulafia’s mission was inspired by God, his overall motivation for seeking Christians in order to teach them Kabbalah is still unclear. Did he have a personal agenda? Or was he just simply following divine orders? In the next section we will explore whether there were other circumstances that may have contributed to Abulafia’s actions.

Abulafia’s Messianism It could be argued that Abulafia’s messianism started right with his birth. He was born in Saragossa, northeastern Spain, in the first Jewish month of Tishrei in the year 1239,41 which corresponds to the year 5000 – the Jewish millennium. This According to Hames, in the year 1280, the fast of Gedalya fell on August 29 – one day after the Jewish New year which started on the evening of August 27 and extended to the following day of August 28, see Ibid., 100. 38

In The Mystical Experience in Abraham Abulafia, Moshe Idel claims that there is no mention of radical asceticism, such as fasting, in Abulafia’s works, see Idel, Mystical, 143– 144. However, the mention of the ‘fast of Gedalya’ suggests that Abulafia did in fact observe the Jewish laws of fasting. Thus, it is quite possible that he may have incorporated the timing of these fasts into his ecstatic practice. While further evidence is required to support this claim, it seems reasonable to assume that since fasting was widely utilized to gain ecstatic states in many traditions, and the fact that post-Abulafian ecstatic Kabbalah (directed by Abulafia’s students) did involve ascetic practices, that Abulafia himself did practice some form of asceticism as well. For the ascetic nature of other traditions and the post-Abulafian ecstatic Kabbalah, see ibid. 39

40 41

Hames, Like Angels, 84–85; Idel, “Abraham,” 11–15. Hames, Like Angels, 32.


John MacMurphy

date carries within it a meaning of its own as it signifies the beginning of the sixth day. Jewish tradition holds that each millennium relates to one day of the first week of creation. Hence, the sixth day refers to the time right before the messianic age – the seventh millennium or the sabbath. The tradition also holds that prior to the messianic age there will come the ‘age of prophecy’ – a notion which undoubtedly influenced Abulafia from an early age.42 Abulafia’s upbringing consisted of his father teaching him the Torah and Talmudic studies. However, it was not until the age of twenty, when Abulafia started his travels, that his unique ecstatic and prophetic kabbalistic techniques started to develop. In addition, during this time, Abulafia boasted that he intended to find the mythical Sambation, a river which, according to the tradition, kept the exiled ten tribes of Israel dispersed until the age of redemption.43 Abulafia ventured to the Holy Land, Greece, Southern Italy and then Catalonia.44 The aforementioned prophetic vision he experienced in 1270 during his stay in Barcelona was his very first achievement. In addition to the instruction of going to Rome, it was revealed to him that he must teach his techniques to both Jews and non-Jews as a way to usher in the age of redemption. The reference to instruct the non-Jews appears to be directly referencing Christians as demonstrated by his quest to see the Pope and his incident with the Franciscans. With regard to the distribution of his teachings, Moshe Idel explains: “... [Abulafia] believed that the dissemination of his ecstatic Kabbalah, based on combinations of letters and divine names, would enable the whole nation to reach a spiritual state, which is tantamount to a certain vision of Messianism.”45 And, in fact, in 1276 we see Abulafia’s initial messianic proclamations.46 While Abulafia’s dissemination attempts to the Jews are quite evident,47 one could view his endeavor to see the pope and his time with the Franciscan friars as Berger, “Messianic,” 252. For a description of the millennia as they relate to the age of redemption in the Zohar, see Matt, Zohar: Pritzker Vol. II, 180. Matt’s commentary on Zohar I: 117a suggests that the Zohar is asserting that the age of redemption will actually come into effect sixty years after the beginning of the sixth millennium or around the year 1300 (the year 1240 plus 60 years), see ibid. 42

Idel suggests that Abulafia’s quest to find the Sambatyon river in the year 1260 was actually his attempt to find the Mongols – who at that time invaded the land of Israel – under the assumption that they were the ten lost tribes of Israel, see Idel, “Beginnings of Kabbalah,” 9. For more about the Mongols as they relate to messianic expectations, see ibid., 8–12. 43


Hames, “Between,” 304.

Idel, Ascensions, 148. For Abulafia’s messianism, see Berger, “Messianic,” 250–255; Idel, Studies; 45–62, Idel, “Contribution,” 138–141; Idel, “Time,” 155–185; Idel, Messianic Mystics, 58–100. 45

46 47

Hames, Like Angels, 7.

For a good example, see Kaplan, Meditation, 321 n.37.

Distorted Transmission of Abraham Abulafia’s Kabbalah


a culmination of his attempt to provide the non-Jews first hand knowledge of his unique kabbalistic methods – thereby fulfilling his messianic quest which ushers in the birth of the age of redemption. As it relates to the Franciscans directly, we see a clue in the way Abulafia depicts the length of time his spent with them. Abulafia represents the number “twenty-eight” using the letters kaf and het – spelling the word “koah” which literally means ‘strength’ or ‘power’. However, as it relates to the popular Jewish axiom: “from potential to actuality” (min ha-koah el ha-poal) – “koah” can also be referred to as ‘potential’.48 This interpretation helps solidify the argument that by providing kabbalistic tutelage to the Christians, Abulafia activates the ‘potential’ which can bring about the age of redemption – the ‘actuality’.49 Abulafia is presumed to have died on the island of Comtino near Sicily towards the end of 1291.50 While he never explicitly stated whether his messianic mission was successful, with respect to approaching the Jewish people with his knowledge, Abulafia indicates that, with a few minor exceptions, they were not receptive to his teachings, as Abulafia states: “... Only a few people of the wise men of Israel wanted to hear from his [Abulafia’s] mouth the wisdom of the name and the intricacies of its procedures.”51 In addition, his messianic mission was viewed negatively by certain Jewish groups who, in turn, had Abulafia persecuted52 and even arrested by the local authorities as we have seen in the case of his journey to Rome. With respect to the divine decree to teach his methods to the non-Jews, Abulafia conveys disappointment as well. In Sefer ha-Ot (The Book of the Sign), which was written about eight years after the event with the Franciscans,53 Abulafia wrote: “And the Lord has commanded [Abulafia] to speak to the non-Jews ... and so he did and they accepted the message from the Lord. Albeit, they did not return to the 48

For Hames’s analysis of the word ‘Koah’, see Hames, Like Angels, 142, n. 43.

Hames also numerically correlates the word “koah” to the word ‘Jesus’, see ibid. If this is the case, we may see an indication that the ‘potential’ for the new age lies with the Christians. However, it should be mentioned that in simple gematria the word ‘Jesus’ is three-hundred and sixteen – as oppose to ‘koah’ which, as discussed, is twenty-eight. While Hames may be using an advanced form of gematria to arrive at his conclusions (possibly the AI”K BC”R method where both ‘Jesus’ and ‘koah’ are numerically equal to the value of ten), he does not elaborate on his calculations. 49


Idel, Mystical, 3.

Abulafia, sefer ha-ot, 22. Hebrew: whypm [wmXl wcr larXy ymkx yXna tcqm qr hytwklhm twl[mw ~Xh tmkx. It should be mentioned that the verse continues with 51

Abulafia berating the Jewish people – saying that they are more interested in calculating their riches as opposed to using his unique method of calculations (Gematria) which produces the ecstatic state, see ibid., 24–25. 52 53

Ibid., 22.

Sefer ha-Ot was written when Abulafia was forty-eight. Hames, Like Angels, 119, n. 8.


John MacMurphy

Lord ....”54 This passage seems to suggest that unlike the Jewish people whom Abulafia approached, the Christians actually were interested and were receptive to his teachings. However, Abulafia mentions that they did not return to the Lord which seems to suggest that while Abulafia had fulfilled his own task, the result did not meet his expectation. Elsewhere in the Abulafian writings, the word ‘return’ is explained by the quote from Ecclesiastes 12:7 “... and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” This passage appears to exemplify the prophetic experience.55 Moreover, Abulafia’s reference to the word return signifies coming full circle and as such it can be related to the concept of an ‘era’ or an ‘age’.56 Given this understanding, Abulafia may be implying that while the Franciscans accepted his teachings, they did not utilize them as intended. In other words, rather than using the letter permutation and gematria techniques to achieve ecstatic states, they may have used them instead to reaffirm their faith by finding hidden Christological references in the Hebrew bible. As mentioned earlier, the common interest in ecstatic practice between the Franciscans and the Jewish mystics may have been the reason Abulafia was attracted to the Franciscan order. However, could it be that Abulafia’s presence and interaction with the Franciscans help re-inforce the Franciscan practice of the devotion to the holy name to the point where it became, as Idel describes it “a significant theological precept”? 57 While a full investigation is beyond the scope of this current study, it should be mentioned that the devotion to the holy name was specifically championed by the Franciscans58 and that certain aspects of their practice throughout the centuries may be reminiscent of Abulafia’s methods. For example, while the primary divine name used in Abulafia’s system was the four letter name of God (YHVH), the Franciscans were known to use the Christogram, a monogram consisting of a three-letter combination (YHS or IHS) representing the name of Jesus, for their meditations and

Abulafia, Sefer ha-Ot, 17. Hebrew: rbdyw !k X[yw wmXb ??? ~ywgl rbdl hwhy whwcyw ?hwhy la wbX al qr ?hwhy trwXbb wnymayw ~hl. 54

In the works of Abulafia, the concept of ‘returning to God’ is exemplified by the term of devekut (cleaving). This concept not only refers to the attachment to God but also to the mystical union with the divine. For an analysis of the concept of devekut (cleaving) with relation to Abulafia’s, see Idel, Mystical, 124–134. 55

56 57

Abulafia, Sefer Hayei ha-Nephesh, 31. Cf. n. 23.

Walsh, Dictionary, 125–126. The first complete treatise on the holy name of Jesus was written by a Franciscan named Guibert of Tournai (c. 1200–1284), see ibid. 58

Distorted Transmission of Abraham Abulafia’s Kabbalah


devotional prayers.59 Other practices, such as the quarantore, where instead of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet – as it is in the Abulafian practice – the image of the crucifix is visualized and intended to be imprinted unto the heart.60 Moreover, there are the practices of lectio divina and lectio spirituales which involves deep contemplative meditations on biblical text, which in itself is considered to be representative of the Logos, and include not only the sounding of the text out loud but also meditating on the images that arise within the practitioner’s mind during the silence61 – not unlike, Abulafia’s contemplations on biblical verses or his vocal meditations on the divine names.62 It then follows that between Abulafia’s account and the possible resemblance of his methods within Franciscan practice, there may be very strong correlation between the Franciscans and the group of supposed pupils who, according to Abulafia, utilized the letter permutation technique to change the word ‘in his shadow’ to ‘crucified’. Thus, it may very well be that this group of students which Sefer ha-Pli’ah classifies as apostates are, in fact, the Franciscans which Abulafia spent time with in Rome. If this is the case, the scholarly perception on the emergence of the phenomenon of Christian Kabbalah will need to be re-evaluated.

Saint Bernardine of Siena (1380–1444) was the most famous promoter of the Christogram, often conducting sermon tours where the three-letter name was inscribed on a wax tablet and displayed for veneration – with at least one witness claiming that people were liberated from demons, Robson, Franciscans, 195, 197, 200. Saint Bernardine’s focus on the holy name also caused him to be delated to Pope Martin V (1369–1431) by Augustinian and Dominican friars who perceived this practice as superstition – Saint Bernardine was later acquitted, see ibid., 195. 59

60 61

Roest, “Discipline,” 444–445.

Hammond, “Contemplation,” 127–128.

It should be mentioned that the Franciscans themselves may have had a traceable impact on Abulafia’s practice as well. For example, the Franciscans promoted the practice of head movement(s) in the form of bowing in conjunction with their devotion to the holy name, see Walsh, Dictionary, 125–126. While this practice was around since the middle of the 13th century it was commanded by decree in the Second Council of Lyon in 1274, see ibid. One of Abulafia’s most known meditations involve the movement of the head in different bow-like motions coupled with the recitation of the divine names with different vowel sounds, see Idel, Mystical, 28–29. This technique is first featured in Hayey ha-Olam ha-Ba (Life of the World to Come), one of Abulafia’s most elaborated prophetic manuals. Interestingly enough, this book was composed when Abulafia was forty years old, see Abulafia, Hayey ha-Olam ha-Ba, i. And, considering that the encounter with the Franciscans occurred around Abulafia’s fortieth birthday, this would mean that the book was written right after Abulafia’s meeting with the Franciscans. The explanatory nature of the book may be indicative of Abulafia’s attempt to make his system more accessible to an audience with a nonJewish background. 62


John MacMurphy

The Emergence of Christian Kabbalah Defining the term Christian Kabbalah is not an easy task. Thus far, many scholars attribute Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463–1494)63 as the father of Christian Kabbalah.64 However, it should be mentioned that historians usually acknowledge that religious phenomenon starts as an emerging trend, rather from a full fledged person or event.65 Scholem defines Christian Kabbalah as: “... the interpretation of kabbalistic texts in the interests of Christianity (or, to be more precise, Catholicism); or the use of kabbalistic concepts and methodology in support of Christian dogma.”66 Scholem opts to avoid the usual terminology which scholars have used to identify Jewish Kabbalah and instead employs a unique working definition for Christian Kabbalah. Unlike Scholem, Moshe Idel does not provide a definition for Christian Kabbalah. However, he does introduce certain qualifications. Idel begins by proposing that “... the question would be not when a Christian has adopted some forms of Jewish esoteric traditions, but when a Christian thinker has adopted a Kabbalistic type of thinking.”67 Idel emphasizes that in order to qualify Christian authors as actual kabbalists, it must be determined that the Jewish elements which they utilized became a considerable part of the Christian circle. Moreover, the writings of such kabbalists should produce some sort of a cultural impact that would sustain and continue the emerging trend.68 The differences between Scholem and Idel’s approaches is quite evident when we try to explore the emerging trend of Christian Kabbalah prior to Pico. For example, according to Scholem’s definition, the Christian born thinker Ramon Llull (c.1232–c.1316), who used kabbalistic knowledge to help convert Jews to Christianity, may very well qualify as a Christian kabbalist. Trying to explain Llull’s kab63 For a good introduction into Pico and his relationship with Jewish mysticism, see Wirszubski, Pico. For Pico’s theory of allegory and his specialized form of biblical hermeneutics, see Black, Pico. For a translation of Pico’s kabbalistic conclusions, see Pico, Syncretism; Waite, Holy, 445–452. For a comprehensive bibliographic overview of the scholarship surrounding Pico in English, see Karr, Study of Christian, 9–12, com/kab/karr/ccinea.pdf.

Some of these scholars include J.L. Blau, G. Lloyd Jones and Chaim Wirszubski, see Blau, Christian, 19; Jones, “Introduction,” 16; Wirszubski, “Giovanni,” http://www.jewish 64

Idel, “Introduction,” v. It is worth noting that Gershom Scholem’s milestone book entitled: ‘Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism’ exemplifies this view as well. 65

66 67 68

Scholem, “Beginnings,” 17. Idel, “Introduction,” v-vi.

Ibid., v-vii.

Distorted Transmission of Abraham Abulafia’s Kabbalah


balistic knowledge, Hames theorizes that the public debates and discourses between the Jewish philosophers and the kabbalists provided an opening for Llull to gain access to this knowledge. As Hames explains: ... [Given the public discourses] it will be more comprehensible how someone like Llull would have been able to access this ‘esoteric’ tradition. Because the theosophical ideas were being openly promoted as an alternative theology, any Christian really interested in his Jewish contemporaries, and who sought out religious leaders with whom to discuss these issues, would have been able to grasp the central tenets of Kabbalah.69

However, Idel excludes certain Christian authors, such as Llull, who employed “esoteric types of Jewish lore”70 in their writings. Apart from the lack of impact that these figures had, Idel emphasizes that the Jewish components utilized by such authors were not integrated into Christian circles and, as such, cannot be labeled as Christian Kabbalah. Hames also disagrees with the classification of Llull as a kabbalist.71 Citing from Idel’s criteria, Hames does not believe that Llull has absorbed the kabbalistic knowledge to the point where he started to think as a kabbalist.72 Despite this, with respect to Llull and Scholem’s definition, Hames does acknowledge that: “ Llull’s creative use of certain aspects of Kabbalah to strengthen and help demonstrate the truth of the Christian faith, should be seen, at least on one level, as the start of Christian appropriation of the Kabbalah.” 73 However, apart from Christian-born authors there is also the phenomenon of Jewish converts. While technically Christian, the apostates have intimate first-hand knowledge of the Jewish tradition. This makes them perfect candidates as early pioneers of the Christian Kabbalah trend. Some notable apostates who precede Pico include Flavius Mithridates, who was not only Pico’s teacher but who also translated many works for his student from Hebrew to Latin, including Sefer ha-Bahir, one of the earliest works of Jewish Kabbalah.74 Prior to Mithridates, there was Paulus de Heredia (c.1420–c.1490) whom, according to renowned Zohar (The Book of Splendor) scholar Yehuda Liebes, actually preserved and quoted accurate excerpts from the Zohar which, due to the highly Christological content, were later redacted 69 70 71

Ibid., 26. Ibid., vi.

Hames, Art, 27.

Ibid., 288. For a more detailed breakdown of why Hames does not consider Llull to be a kabbalist, see Ibid., 27–28; 118–189. 72

73 74

Ibid., 288.

For more about Mithridates’ translations, see Wirszubski, Pico, 69–118.


John MacMurphy

by Jewish scribes.75 Finally, one of the earliest and most notable apostates is Abner of Burgos (c.1270–c.1347), who after his conversion changed his name to Alfonso Valladolid. Scholem refers to Valladolid as: “The first converted Jew to refer specifically to the Kabbalah ....”76 Valladolid is also known for his efforts to resolve the first three sefirot of Keter (Crown), Hochma (Wisdom) and Bina (Understanding) to the Holy Trinity.77 However, Idel is critical about considering the apostates as early pioneers of the Christian trend as their writings did not produce the necessary cultural impact that would qualify them as such. As Idel explains: “... the uses of Kabbalah in the writings of converts like Alfonso de Validolid or Paulus de Heredia did not incite the imagination of their contemporaries, and they did not produce significant repercussions.”78 Idel concludes that the evidence that we have for classifying certain phenomenon as Christian Kabbalah prior to Pico is “scanty, disparate, and incontinuous.”79 While Scholem’s definition of the Christian trend appears to be flexible, Idel’s set of criteria appear too restrictive with some fundamental issues. Idel’s perspective fails to appreciate that the beginning of any emerging trend might not resemble the same phenomenon after it has been solidified. In other words, the current might take certain forms early on which, if sustained, may appear differently over time. We see this exemplified by Idel’s overemphasis on the cultural impact made by the Christian writers. While Idel is being somewhat vague with regard to qualifying this criterion, he seems to suggest that in order to establish a continuous trend we must have evidence of writers referencing previous authors and thus establishing a chain of links which would demonstrate the trend. The sheer fact that you have some Christians already dealing with Kabbalah prior to Pico suggests that the beginnings of this phenomenon had already started to manifest. In addition, considering the nature of this knowledge is inherently secretive, esoteric, and primarily transmitted orally – it would be reasonable to suggest that the phenomenon was much larger than written records imply. Moreover, by qualifying the need for the Jewish elements to be incorporated into the Christian circle, Idel seems to deemphasize the pre-existing intimate relationship that already exists between the two belief systems. For example, it could be argued that the Christian faith’s reliance on the Old Tes75 Liebes, Studies, 143. Liebes’s argument goes against that of Scholem and his prominent student Isaiah Tishby who argued that Heredia actually falsified his quotes from the Zohar, see Ibid. 76 77 78 79

Scholem, “Beginnings,” 26. Liebes, Studies, 142.

Idel, “Introduction,” vi.

Ibid., vii.

Distorted Transmission of Abraham Abulafia’s Kabbalah


tament gives it a certain pedigree which increases its veracity. The fact that Christian tenets are often drawn from Judaism reduces the efficacy of Idel’s criteria as it does not seem to be a useful delineating factor. Moreover, in contrast, one may argue that in order to establish their own unique brand, it served the Christian writers, at the outset of the Kabbalah trend, to maintain the Jewish elements as separate so that the contrasting link to the older tradition may seem more prominent. As we can see, it would appear that Idel is using Pico as a type of a prototype that exemplifies a Christian kabbalist. Thus, by design, any person that comes prior to Pico would automatically be excluded from being classified as a Christian kabbalist. In other words, Idel’s criteria takes the features of the later phenomenon we call today as Christian Kabbalah as exemplified by Pico and even his prominent student Johannes Reuchlin (1455–1522),80 and then anachronistically apply them as requisites to earlier stages of the trend. With respect to the Franciscans, according to Scholem’s criteria – if they were in fact provided tutelage in Kabbalah by Abulafia – they would qualify as Christian kabbalists. Moreover, Hames’s argument about Ramon Llull’s method of acquiring kabbalistic knowledge could be augmented by a further investigation into Llull’s close ties to the Friars which may have allowed him direct access to kabbalistic knowledge as well. While this research is beyond the scope of this present study, given the preliminary evidence presented in this paper, a new line of inquiry into the presence of Abulafia’s influence in Llull’s work is merited.81

Conclusion In this paper we have seen how a comparative analysis between Abulafia’s writings and secondary works which distorted the original text could have far reaching implications. As we have seen, the mere addition of the word ‘apostates’ by the author of Sefer ha-Pli’ah raised many questions about the identity of Abulafia’s students in Gan Na’ul. This has led us to the time Abulafia spent twenty-eight days with the Franciscans and by examining the textual clues we have seen that Abulafia may have in fact taught the Friars his unique approach to Kabbalah. This, in turn, raises the pos80 Reuchlin was the author of the two most influential Christian works engaging in Jewish Kabbalah – De Verbo Mirifico (The Miracle-Working Word) published in 1494 and De Arte Cabbalistica (The Art of Kabbalah) which was published more than twenty years later in 1517. 81 Abulafia’s influence in Ramon Llull’s works is currently contested in the academy. For example, in “Ramon Llull and Ecstatic Kabbalah,” Moshe Idel argues that the similar, but not identical, connection between Llull and Abulafia’s systems, which was seemingly observed in Pico’s Apologia, is coincidental as Idel provides alternative sources for Llull’s inspiration, including sources which were used by Abulafia.


John MacMurphy

sibility that the people whom Abulafia admonishes in his work for finding Christological content in the Old Testament are in fact those same Franciscans. We then examined the scholarly implications of this with relation to qualifying the origins of Christian Kabbalah. And, while Scholem’s definition seems to embrace the Friars as kabbalists, Idel’s overly restrictive category dismisses this notion. The far reaching influence of Sefer ha-Pli’ah spanning across Central and Eastern Europe, would have no doubt affected many kabbalistic schools, including the Lurianic fellowship, Sabtai Sevi and his disciples, and especially the Hasidim movement of the Baal Shem Tov. While this paper served as the first initial step toward understanding the implications of the distorted transmission of Abulafia’s works, further research is needed to examine how the alterations in the text affected the recipients of this knowledge directly.

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The Authors MAŁGORZATA ALICJA DULSKA PhD candidate, Jagellonian University, Cracow, Poland

NADEŽDA ELEZOVIĆ PhD candidate, University of Zadar; University of Rijeka, Croatia

KAROLINA MARIA HESS PhD candidate, Jagellonian University, Cracow; University of Silesia, Poland

JOHN McMURPHY PhD candidate, Center for the History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents (HHP), University of Amsterdam, Netherlands

MICHELE OLZI PhD candidate, Università degli Studi dell'Insubria, Varese-Como, Italy

ÁRON ORBÁN ELTE University, Budapest, Hungary

SPYROS PETRITAKIS PhD candidate, University of Crete, Greece

RAFAŁ T. PRINKE Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan, Poland

NOEL PUTNIK Alumnus of the Central European University, Budapest; Belgrade, Serbia



NEMANJA RADULOVIĆ University of Belgrade, Serbia

MÁRTON SZENTPÉTERI Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design, Budapest, Hungary

GYÖRGY E. SZÖNYI University of Szeged; Central European University, Budapest, Hungary

Kiadja a 6722 Szeged, Petôfi Sándor sugárút 30—34. Felelôs vezetô: Szônyi Etelka kiadói fôszerkesztô Méret: B/5, munkaszám: !/201#.