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ROBERT W. BROCKWAYTHE ROOTS OF NEW AGE

Twentieth-century esotericism also stems from the mystical writings of certain English occultists such as the aforementioned Aleister Crowley and A.E. Waite, both of whom had much to do with the contemporary interpretations of Tarot cards, for example.Since then, other forms of Neo-Paganism have also been invented such as Arartu (allegedly a revival of the ancient Norse religion), a mother goddess cult in Lithuania, and, in particular, various forms of Neo-Celtic religion. None of these modern pagan cults bear the slightest resemblance to ancient paganism. All are very recent inventions.

These and other forms of esotericism and occultism persisted throughout the world from prehistoric times until the rise of natural science and rationalist philosophy during the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This era is called the Enlightenment by intellectual historians. Thereafter, many educated people (though by no means all) rejected esotericism and the occult in favor of the naturalistic world view revealed by science and interpreted by philosophy. However, many of the most brilliant people of the Enlightenment, such as Sir Isaac Newton, embraced both philosophies, since, in his view, the mechanistic materialist order which he described in such detail in his scientific works seemed to leave little room for God. Newton was both a scientist and an occultist. If anything, he devoted more time and study to alchemy and astrology than to physics and mathematics.

Summary

The Western esoteric tradition, therefore, originated in Egypt with significant contributions from Mesopotamia and Greece. It arose as a distinctive and coherent religious phenomenon in Alexandria during Hellenistic times, that is to say, during the period just prior to and immediately following the time of Jesus. Hellenistic and Late Roman Neo-Platonism, Hermeticism, and Judeo-Christian Gnosticism constituted the original components. All share a monistic metaphysical concept based on Plato’s idea of Nous (Νουσ) which is an impersonal, transcendental theory of the divine. We do not experience Nous directly but through various emanations. The physical world, including our bodies, is not real but illusion. All that is material quickly perishes; that which is spiritual is eternal and, at the same time, is of God. We are all aspects of the World Soul. Our salvation lies in our realization of this reality and in our transcendence of all material attachments.

This philosophy was rejected by the Church Fathers during the formative period of Christianity, the first three centuries C. E. They hammered out the foundations of a theology based on the assertion that the physical, though flawed because of sin, is nonetheless real. It is perishable, but it is not illusion. God the Father is transcendent but also imminent and manifests himself in and through history. Whereas the Gnostics demoted Yahweh of the Old Testament to a Demiurge (Creator), an inferior being who only brought the physical world into being, Christians proclaimed that the God of Moses who became flesh in Christ for the redemption of sinful humanity was also the creator of heavens and earth and all living beings. These two doctrines were very different, incompatible, in fact. The Church suppressed Neo Platonism,

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