Review of ‘From Poimandres to Jacob Böhme: Gnosis, Hermetism and the Christian Tradition’

“From Poimandres to Jacob Böhme: Gnosis, Hermetism and the Christian Tradition” is a comprehensive and scholarly exploration of the intricate relationships between Gnostic thought, Hermeticism, and Christian mysticism from antiquity through the Renaissance.

The book contains 14 studies dealing with ancient, medieval and early modern forms of Gnosis, their myths, rites, ideas and expectations, with strong emphasis on Hermetic traditions. Contributions by R. van den Broek, C. Gilly, P. Kingsley, J.-P. Mahé, and G. Quispel.

The authors meticulously trace the historical and philosophical evolution of these esoteric traditions, revealing their profound influence on Western religious and intellectual history.

The book opens with an examination of the Hermetic text “Poimandres,” which serves as a foundational piece for understanding Hermeticism’s blend of Greek philosophy, Egyptian religion, and early Christian thought. Van den Broek and van Heertum delve into the text’s themes of divine knowledge and spiritual rebirth, highlighting its significance for later mystical traditions.

The authors then navigate through the labyrinthine world of Gnosticism, unpacking its complex cosmology and the dualistic worldview that characterizes many of its sects. They provide clear explanations of key concepts such as the Demiurge and the Pleroma, making the esoteric accessible to a broader readership without sacrificing scholarly rigor.

One of the book’s strengths is its treatment of the Renaissance, a period of profound rediscovery and reinterpretation of ancient texts. Here, the authors focus on figures like Marsilio Ficino and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, who played pivotal roles in integrating Hermetic and Gnostic ideas into the Christian tradition. The analysis of their works reveals the enduring relevance of these ancient ideas in shaping Renaissance thought and beyond.

Jacob Böhme, the 17th-century Christian mystic, is given special attention as a culmination of these esoteric traditions within a distinctly Christian framework. The authors illuminate Böhme’s complex theology, which synthesizes elements of Gnosticism and Hermeticism with his visionary experiences and Protestant faith. This section is particularly engaging, providing insights into how Böhme’s writings influenced later mystical and philosophical movements.

The scholarship of the different authors is rigorous, supported by extensive references and a thorough bibliography. Their writing, while dense, is accessible to dedicated readers interested in religious studies, philosophy, and the history of ideas.

The book’s structure, progressing from ancient to more recent historical contexts, allows readers to see the continuous thread of esoteric thought and its adaptation over time.

Conclusion

“From Poimandres to Jacob Böhme: Gnosis, Hermetism and the Christian Tradition” is an essential read for anyone interested in the intersections of mysticism, philosophy, and religion. The various authors offer in their 14 studies a detailed and nuanced portrayal of these esoteric traditions, enriching our understanding of their impact on Western intellectual and spiritual history.

Title: From Poimandres to Jacob Böhme: Gnosis, Hermetism and the Christian Tradition
Authors: Roelof van den Broek, Cis van Heertum and others
Publisher: Ritman
Publication Date: 2000

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Foolish Fish review of From Poimandres to Jacob Böhme: Gnosis, Hermeticism & the Christian Tradition

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