Hermes in the Academy: Ten Years' Study of Western Esotericism at the University of Amsterdam
Wouter J. Hanegraaff
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Hermes in the Academy commemorates the tenth anniversary of the Center for History of Hermetic Philosophy and related Currents (GHF) at the University of Amsterdam. The center devotes itself to the study of Western esotericism, which includes topics such as Hermetic philosophy, Christian kabbalah and occultism.
This volume shows how, over the past ten years, the GHF has developed into the leading international center for research and teaching in this domain.
master.24 Plethon himself never mentions Elissaeus, and his enemy Scholarios remains our only direct source, but the latter’s statements make sense if they are placed in context. The “court of the barbarians” (that is to say, the Muslims) in this period could only be Andrianople, which had been captured by the Turks in 1360, and where many Jews enjoyed high functions in the Ottoman magistrature and administration. That Elissaeus was an adherent of “Averroes and other Persian and Arabic
was advocating a reform not only of religion but of the state and its laws as well.35 And third, on his list of ancient authorities there are some surprising absentees. Orpheus is not mentioned among the early Greek sages,36 nor is Proclus among the Neoplatonists;37 but most striking is the absence of Hermes and Moses. In trying to explain this omission, we come to the heart of the matter: the relation between paganism and Christianity in Plethon’s version of the ancient wisdom discourse. the
“Higher Self” played an important role. The analogies between this idea and the unconscious of psychoanalysis perhaps make the cultural role played by occultism in the last quarter of the 19th century more interesting than has thus far been assumed. 4. Colonialism The end of the 19th century was also the apex of European colonialism. At that time, not only did England rule a considerable part of the globe, but, more specifically, it also ruled two lands that were traditionally considered to be
their effects. One of a kind Finally, there is one more genre of arithmological writings: that of texts devoted to the symbolism of a single number. We know such discussions existed already in antiquity, although no examples of it have survived. In such writings (whose level of speculation varies strongly) one is always dealing with a number that belongs to the Decad, and the number seven is, in this respect, the most popular by far. The first two examples of such literature in the 16th century
Bovelles, Pacioli, Dee, Bongo, Meursius, Kircher) along with less well-known but sometimes original and remarkable authors, is sufficient demonstration that the dream of Pico della Mirandola and Reuchlin became true indeed: in the Renaissance, “Pythagoreanism” succeeded in securing a place of its own in European intellectual culture, and the symbolism of numbers became one of the specific currents belonging to the domain of Western esotericism. Not only did it interact quite easily with its other