The difficult (but necessary) relationship between religion and magic, Christianity and Hermetism

The difficult (but necessary) relationship between religion and magic, Christianity and Hermetism: a shift of paradigms from B. Walker (1958) to C. Moreschini (2012)

This book, written by a prominent scholar of classical antiquity (in the wake of his master Eduard Fraenkel) and renaissance (in the tradition of Eugenio Garin) with painstaking erudition and perceptive critical insight, and, in the same time, in a concise, eminently readable style,  proves that the work of a philologist-historian can be inspiring and nourishing reading for scholars of the comparative study of religion. Not only the bibliography shows that the author is in conversation with leading historian of religions of the past (A. D. Nock, E. Norden, M. Philonenko, G. Quispel, R. Reitzenstein …) and present (G. Gasparro, G. Filoramo, W. J. Hanegraaff, M. Stausberg, P. Scarpi …), but the topics treated and the questions raised are of great concern for the science of religion. Cf., e.g., the issue of the separation between magic and philosophy/religion, p. 147 and 151 (mentioning the contrasting views of P. Zambelli/B. Copenhaver and W. J. Hanegraaff/D.P. Walker*, respectively); Agostino Steuco as father of perennialism, p. 244. Essential reading both for students and scholars of  intellectual history, classical, renaissance, and religious studies.

* On the crucial role of Warburgian Walker for the establishment of early modern esotericism as a key problem in early modern European cultural history, see the Introduction of Brian P. Copenhaver (author of the New English translation of the Hermetica, as well as sponsor of this publication) to the reprint of Walker’s masterpiece Spiritual & Demonic Magic, Philadelphia 2000 (2003), VIII-XI (with selected bibl. of and on Walker).

Giovanni Casadio

Claudio Moreschini
The Intermingling of Hermetic Piety and Christian Thought

XII+306 p., 156 x 234 mm, 2011
ISBN: 978-2-503-52960-8
EUR 80,00
Cursor Mundi, Vol. 8
(an UCLA sponsored series)
This new study concerns a form of Christian esotericism that attempted to reconcile Christianity with a late antique model of devotion.

Hermetic theosophy, originally an offspring of Egyptian religion, spread throughout the ancient world from the Hellenistic age onwards and was welcomed by Christianity in Late Antiquity. Cultivated people in a Christian milieu were convinced that Hermetic piety and religion were the preparation, expressed by heathen imagery, of their own faith: Hermes, a wise and pious philosopher in Egypt in the time of Moses, received (so it was thought) the same revelation which would be manifested 1,000 years later by Christ. At the end of the third century AD, this belief did not perish with the end of the Roman Empire; rather, it was taken up and explored during the French Renaissance of the twelfth century. In the fifteenth century, Italian humanism, supported by the rediscovery of Greek language and literature, promoted a fresh new evaluation of the ancient Hermetic texts which continued to be considered and studied as pre-Christian documents. In the sixteenth century, new interpretations of Christian Hermetism were explored until this connection between pagan and Christian was increasingly criticized by scholars who argued that Hermetism was neither as ancient as was thought nor as close to Christianity. The theory was abandoned in scientific milieux from the seventeenth century onwards, whereas Hermetic theosophy, on the contrary, survived in esoteric circles.

Table of Contents

Translator’s Note

Chapter 1. Philosophical Hermetic Literature

Chapter 2. Late Antique Christian Hermetism

Chapter 3. Between Latin West and Byzantine East

Chapter 4. The Rebirth of Greek Hermetism in Italy: Marsilio Ficino and Ludovico Lazzarelli

Chapter 5. Prolegomena to François Foix-Candale’s Commentary on the Pimander

Chapter 6. Sixteenth-Century Representatives of Italian Hermetism

Chapter 7. Discovering the Hermetic Writings’ True Identity: The Contribution of Isaac Casaubon

Select Bibliography