Black magic, ancient ciphers, hidden esoteric knowledge – these ideas notably obsessed Pico and his contemporaries. Around the turn of the 16th century, as scholars searched for signs of end times, the idea of a single universal religion captivated the imaginations of some European Christians and continued to hold the Western imagination in one form or another for more than 400 years.
What about this hidden knowledge, transmitted through pagan prophets, extracted through obscure cabbalistic proofs, and controlled in infernal spirits, was so appealing to the Renaissance mind? What do the secret societies of early modern and 19th century Europe – the Freemasons, Rosicrucians, and Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn – have to do with this tradition of esotericism? What were these groups truly uncovering in ancient authors, and what were they merely borrowing from the millennial fears of their own time?
A scholar of the history and science of alchemy, Dr. Kyle Fraser is also the University of King’s College’s resident expert in mystery cults, hermeticism, and magic. This week, he sits down with Discuss. to uncover some of the sources of the esoteric mysteries that plagued the elite of Renaissance Europe in Pico’s day and beyond.
Discuss. Hermeticism and the Occult with Kyle Fraser.