Because of the historical connection between Hermeticism and fringe history, I occasionally look at some of the latest happenings in Hermeticism, but I will confess to being largely uninterested in magic and mysticism for its own sake. Nevertheless, when I skimmed through the new edition of Giuliano Kremmerz’s The Hermetic Science of Transformation, to be released by Inner Traditions later this year, I was taken by part of translator Fernando Picchi’s foreword to the book. In it, Picchi applies to Hermeticism the same rage against scientific materialism that we have seen in fringe works like Graham Hancock’s books and the Ancient Aliens TV series. Here is his particularly dense verbiage, explicating on the notion that a spirit-based immortal ego—i.e., a soul—resides within us but is denied by science:
In this way, the historical ego is not taken into account, nor is the presence of our ancestors in us today, which guides the lives of each one of us without us being aware. The only concession that science manages to make to this fundamental concept of Hermeticism is by acknowledging hereditary transmission via DNA, which it has to do, and could not do otherwise, as admitting more would mean recognizing the theory of successive reincarnations. The latter Hermeticism advocates, not on a fideistic basis, but rather on the possibility of individualization of this occult nucleus in each one of us, by means of a lengthy series of experiments and a rigorous research method into the depths of the occult ego, a method not different from the scientific one, because even in the field of science intuition is frequently at the base of discovery, and experimentation follows—and does not precede—this happy intuition.
What’s especially interesting, though, is that this New Age anti-scientific romanticism was written in 1981 and first published in Italian in 1982. Inner Traditions commissioned an English translation of Picchi’s foreword for the first time, though I will be honest in not understanding why the translator wrote a foreword in Italian to an English translation of a book that was apparently published in Italian in 1982.
It’s fascinating to see how the same constellation of basically postmodern ideas—communion with supernatural entities, denial of material reality, and opposition to institutional science—keep combining in slightly different ways to give us the many different flavors of “fringe.”
Not that this is anything new. Madame Blavatsky ranted about “materialist” scientists and their denial of the spiritual back in the nineteenth century, and just like our author today similarly argued that only the occult could rescue humanity from sterile materialism. “For in this age of crass and illogical materialism,
the Esoteric Philosophy alone is calculated to withstand the repeated attacks on all and everything man holds most dear and sacred in his inner spiritual life,” she said in The Secret Doctrine. Some things never change.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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