This is from a thread about "top ten books that influenced me"
Ted Hand 1. Theurgy and the Soul, Gregory Shaw
2. Eros and Magic in the Renaissance, Ioan Couliano
3. Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, Frances Yates
4. Thinking with Demons, Stuart Clark
5. Promethean Ambitions, William R. Newman
6. John Dee's Conversations with Angels, Deborah Harkness
7. Conjuring Spirits, Claire Fanger
8. Plotinus and the Simplicity of Vision, Pierre Hadot
9. Trithemius and Magical Theology, Noel Brann
10. The Language of Demons and Angels: Cornelius Agrippa's Occult Philosophy, Christopher Lehrich
John Shirley The weird thing about Ted Hand there is he actually reads stuff by Agrippa, Dr Dee, and "Conjuring Spirits"--but Richard Smoley has you beat, he read stuff in the original Latin and Greek... one of the most interesting and, I find, exasperating and pretentious and annoying but also frequently insightful of esoteric writers presently going at it is Kingsley, eg his "Reality"
Ted Hand Kingsley is interesting. Along those lines I really dig Algis Uzdavinys, who gets into spiritual aspects of ancient philosophy in a way that's less difficult. I'm working on the Latin! Did a UCB summer intensive, could list classical texts that I like... But I have less greek. Languages are hard and require a lot of funding. Perhaps I should do a Kickstarter to help me study them
I'm probably guilty of reading too many secondary sources and not enough of the primary. But my project right now is more about understanding what people mean when they talk about esotericism, so I'm trying to get as wide and general a sense of the variations as possible. Luckily there's a lot available in English, but I'm well aware that I'd profit a great deal by being able to read the great stuff in French, Dutch, Italian, etc. As well as the originals. It's nice that we have a solid Latin critical edition of Agrippa, and Reuchlin needs a better translation... Sometime if you want I could show you my ten boxes of printouts...
John Shirley Ted Hand I don't think it's necessary to read primary sources *really*. It's just necessary to have a good reliable translator.
18 mins · Like
John Shirley Ted Hand I go with the assumption that some schools and paths are dead ends and have little or nothing to offer except...color. To me what matters is what one can validate, and finding paths that offer actual experience, and not just elaborate magical thinking, folklore, and the poesy of myth (or hallucination on "soma"). We can turn to Jung and some of his colleagues for good interpretation of myth. I want the real goods. Some paths/traditions/schools have the ring of truth and verisimilitude, and can be parsed and can prove out. Most can't. Same old metaphor--looking for diamonds when it's mostly quartz.
John Shirley ...otherwise it's just round in circles...and no the circle is not the point and no the journey is not the point...
Yeah, I feel the same way about not necessarily needing a translation. But in academia they're kinda snooty about getting to the sources. For the sort of work I'm doing, I can rely on a lot of great work in English, and more is coming out recently. So much good stuff in the last ten years. Finally saw a Bruno text I'd been waiting on just a year or two ago! And the author is sending me a review copy! I can relate to what you're saying about "dead ends" for sure. I hope that I'm not wasting too much of my time trying to understand what's problematic about the funky ones, and trying to start labor unions for quartz miners. Being critical while doing a comparative project is an important corrective to a lot of the bad religious studies out there. I agree that Jung is very useful for showing how myth engages the deeper mind, absolutely. We can be like alchemists questing after a stone we're not gonna find. But I don't mean to indicate that looking at all this esoteric stuff involves chasing after the "dead ends" as my only spiritual path! And I don't think that my serious spiritual interest in the good paths can be separated from my academic or popular nonfiction type writing approaches, either. Kripal said something great in his comments on Philip K. Dick's Exegesis about how reading and writing was a sorta path for PKD, and that may be a nice way of hinting at what I get out of the research as a gnostic quest.
7 mins · Edited · Like · 1
Ted Hand For me the best thing about learning a language is that you can better get to the music of a text. But if you're talking about straight up expository writing, translation is fine. It gets tricky in philosophy, but you can explain the untranslatables. I like that I've been forced to learn a lot of terms from a lot of different languages, without necessarily needing to learn the whole language, to understand various philosophers from whatever era.
5 mins · Like
Ted Hand "The circle/journey is not the point," oh goodness yes. If I'm advocating anything it's to drain all those kinda New Age bromides and make things much more "boring," if that makes sense. I do think it's important to understand the tricks that get people moving in those circles, but at a certain point one gets the message and can hang up the phone. I'm working on a lot of mysteries in my particular field that I can explain the interest of in detail, fortunately, although I don't know if I would want to spin it as all being relevant to anybody's particular spiritual quest. Some of this stuff from Renaissance intellectual history of magic etc. is interesting even if you're not a true believer in some sense of "esotericism," and can be applied to spirituality, creativity, philosophy, psychology, design, or other fields. But the magic works too.
BTW John Shirley I think I may have told you this before, but I talked about Kingsley with Smoley the first time we met, at an afterparty in a hotel room for the Davis ASE conference, 2005 or 6 IIRC. He related an anecdote of seeing Kingsley speak to a conference of philosopher, and being amused at the sorta hostile knee-jerk reactions from those who didn't get it, which he described with a satirical quote along the lines of "what, were these ancient philosophers MEDITATING?" That was a formative moment in my development as a scholar, especially in the dimension of being critical of the ways that academics approach this stuff and seeing how better critics like Smoley laugh at that stuff, having experienced more.