Ascension on High: Occult Theories and Practice from Antiquity to the Renaissance
The title of this course is borrowed from Moshe Idel's book published by CEU Press which treats magical ideas and practices in Jewish mysticism aiming at the deification of man, similar to Elijah's ascension or Enoch's translation in the Bible. The ambition to follow their example or to achieve something similar has been deeply embedded in human psyche and culture, naturally also outside the Jewish tradition.
We are going to start our survey with Plato and some neoplatonic texts (Plotinus, Iamblichus), then we proceed to the Middle Ages and examine medieval magical texts (Picatrix) as well as Jewish kabbalistic literature, such as the Sefer Jetzirah, the Bahir, etc. The course proceeds with Renaissance enthusiasts who often imagined themselves the reincarnation of Enoch (Lazzarelli, Postel, Dee). In conclusion we shall examine two literary works, Marlowe's Doctor Faustus (in connection with black magic i.s. negativ deification) and Spenser's The Faerie Queene which offers an interesting example for a poetical revelative image suitable for mandalaic meditation and enlightenment.
The learning outcome should consist of 1) an accumulation of historical knowledge in a specific and relevant field of intellectual/cultural history; 2) an awareness about the interconnectedness of premodern ideas and recent intellectual/ideological developments; 3/ the enhancement of methodological equipment by the help of which students can handle and interpret intellectual and cultural history with ample expertise.