Dan Nicholas Hopkins and the Magic Roots of the English Reformation

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Dear Reader,

As part of my ongoing research into magic in the Renaissance, I have followed the lead of Catholic Historian William Thomas Walsh who suggested that there were revolutionary cells within Europe that directed and organized the Reformation.

One of my own theories (backed by some evidence such as letters from the magician Cornelius Agrippa to a Benedictan Abbot) is that these cells practiced magic.

However, while figures such as John Dee, Giordano Bruno, and Cornelius Agrippa are more famous, there are a number of lesser luminaries that I have come across. Furthermore, while much research has been done on Elizabethan magic, there is little work on magic being practiced by the previous generation of Tudors under Henry VIII.

Yet, in my research of the court of Henry VIII. I have come across an interesting figure in my research: the Carthusian monk, Dan Nicholas Hopkins, who acted as a “soothsayer” for The Duke of Buckingham, providing him with a series of prophecies. When Hopkins was arrested, the other Carthusians denied their connection to Hopkins’s magic.

As a result,  we are left with a tantalizing hint that perhaps later magi such as John Dee did not appear out of nowhere, but were, in fact, links in a generational network of magicians who helped topple Christendom and build the modern world.

Sir Walter Raleigh as “Faunus”: The Elizabethan World of Magic and Impurity

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Dear Reader,

I will readily admit, that, although a traditional Catholic, I have a soft spot in my heart for the Elizabethan period. Thus, it has always been difficult for me to accept the Hilaire Belloc narrative that the period was drenched in debauchery and financial corruption.

However, the more I research into the matter, the more I release that Belloc was right. Not only do Shakespeare’s plays, which usually depict a corrupt and degenerate court of both Elizabeth and then the Stuart monarchs, but even writers such as Edmund Spenser seem to indicate that there may have been a lot of impurity and decadence involving even Elizabeth herself.  It is curious that among the most famous poets and thinkers of the period, five things seems to go together.

  1. Magic
  2. British Imperialism
  3. Sexual impurity
  4. Financial corruption and greed
  5. Religious novelty

I was just reading over a passage in Spenser’s Faerie Queene again in which Spenser depicts Elizabeth as Diana and Sir Walter Raleigh as a satyr named Faunus who stumbles upon Diana bathing. This is a clear reference to Raleigh’s affair with Elizabeth Throckmorton, one of Elizabeth’s ladies. However, it is also curious that Spenser has Raleigh implicitly see Elizabeth naked. What is more, Raleigh is described as a lustful and diabolical figure, a satyr with a “goatish beard” and “hornes.”

In addition to his life as a degenerate philanderer, Raleigh helped to sow the seeds of the British Empire, and wrote approvingly of white magic in his History of the World.

What was going on in the court of Elizabeth?

The Return of the Bear: The Tudors and Magic

 

As part of my wider research, I have been looking for the legacy of magic in the English Tudor family. It is clear that Elizabeth was well versed in magic, but, drawing from the historian William Thomas Walsh, I strongly believe occult pre-Masonic forces in England were at least partially behind instigating the Reformation.

Well, reading David Starkey’s Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII, I came across an interesting passage. When Catherine of Aragon was brought to England to marry Arthur Tudor, the first son of Henry VII, Catherine was greeted with a pageant that involved the star Arcturus as well as Ursa Major, two celestial entities curiously linked with the mythological figure after whom Arthur Tudor was named.

Moreover, Starkey, in this scene, notes Henry VII’s fondness for astrology.

The return of Arthur or the Great King was a common mythological trope present in Indo-European culture from Virgil’s “Fourth Eclogue” to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Return of the King. 

Also, the movement of the constellation Ursa Major plays a major role in the work The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast by occultist Giordano Bruno who would later visit England in the Elizabethan period.

Clearly, Henry envisioned (perhaps ironically) his son Arthur as the return of the king that would bring about a restored Golden Age under the constellation Ursa Major.

But is there a deeper occult significance behind this?

How deeply was Henry VII into astrology?

Certainly, figures in the Elizabethan period, like the magus John Dee and poets who were very likely at least at one point “dabblers” like Walter Raleigh, Edmund Spenser, Sir Philip Sidney, and even Shakespeare himself, do not simply show up out of no where. They clearly were part of a tradition of some kind that existed in the shadows.

Two final questions: Why was a trip to England so important for wizards like Giordano Bruno and Cornelius Agrippa?

Was there a connection with the Kabbalah and the Jewish community that fled to England after 1492?

Our Lady and the Triumph over Hecate

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One of the more famous churches in Rome is a former temple dedicated to Athena or Minerva, which has been converted to a Catholic church titled “Maria sopra Minerva” or Mary over Minerva, celebrating Our Lady’s victory of the degenerate pagan goddess Athena.

While I had known that Our Lady was presented by early Christians as superior to the various goddesses that were venerated in the Mediterranean world, I was not aware of how great a contrast Our Lady has to the goddess Hecate–especially as read in the tradition of Neoplatonic magic.

Like Artemis-Diana with whom she is linked, Hecate, the goddess of the underworld and witchcraft was linked with the moon. She further had snake hair (a Gnostic symbol) and was adorned by fiery snakes. Finally, and most interestingly, Hecate was an image of the world soul, the “membrane” between the intellectual-spiritual world and the physical world. Thus, there is the connection with magic and witchcraft as those who mediated the power of Hecate could mediate between the spiritual and physical world, summoning demons and powers.

As a result, Hecate is a demonic mediatrix, a diabolical mockery of Our Lady.

Finally, it is weird how common the image of the veil or membrane between the spiritual and physical world is in everything from faerie tales with magic mirrors (remade by Walt Disney); to the Early Modern Chinese novel, The Journey to the West, to the poetry of Percy Shelley; to Stephen Spielberg’s 80s film, Poltergeist.

In fact, Hecate’s function sounds a lot like the screens of electronic devices that mediate the demonic world of the internet into our homes.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Pray for us.

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Ficino and Music as a Demon


Marsilio Ficino famously writes in his book of natural magic De vita libri tres, “music is almost nothing other than a spirit [i.e., a demon.” This quote is especially interesting considering some music’s origins in shamanism and possession and the relationship between the contemporary music industry and occultism as well as how music has served as a catalyst in the recent mass shootings. Finally, many exorcists have noted the music can be a source of demonic infestation. One should thus be careful what he or she listens to.

Orpheus as Shaman, Mage, Artist, and Scientist

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One of the dominant ideas of Renaissance Neoplatonism and contemporary occultism is the belief that that prior to Plato there was a tradition of magi that included Pythagoras, Empedocles, and Zororaster in which a theological tradition was passed down called the prisca theologia.

While one might readily dismiss this idea as ridiculous fantasizing, several professional scholars have written on the idea that these mystery teachings do, in fact, crop up in Aristotle.

The father of this tradition was allegedly Orpheus whose myth has a number of shamanistic and magic elements in it, including the following:

  1. A marriage that was never consummated with Eurydice, his wife.
  2. A serpent that stings Eurydice (a memory of the serpent in the Garden of Eden)?
  3. A descent to the underworld and power via music over the demons in the underworld.
  4. The failure to bring his wife from the underworld.
  5. The power to enchant nature and animals and plants to do his bidding via ritual music.
  6. The creation of pederasty and sodomy (as possibly a cultic ritual) after failing to retrieve his wife.
  7. His own death and dismemberment and prophesied future resurrection by women who desired him (human sacrifice?)

All of these elements would later serve as the basis of later Western magic up until the present day.

Interestingly, in French cave paintings, this “Orpheus” shaman shows up as a shape changer (possibly a constellation) associated with animals and phallic activity as well as music (I could not find the cave painting of the musical shaman).

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Magic and the Neoplatonic Academy of Athens

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Neoplatonism is a funny word. It generally refers to the writings of Plotinus, the third century AD Hellenistic philosophy who crafted a mystical Platonism. Neoplatonism via Marsilio Ficino and Pico della Mirandola also is known as the philosophical underpinning of Renaissance art and culture. This Renaissance Neoplatonism mutated later into German idealism and Romanticism and its bastard child Theosophy and Occultism of the early 20th century and finally into the New Age Movement of today.

As your humble author has been uncovering, Neoplatonism after Plotinus took a magical form when Iamblichus and Proclus introduced Orphic teaching (already latent in some of Plato’s writing) but more importantly Chaldean (or Babylonian) and Egyptian magic known as theurgy.

However, while I had known that magic was taught in the Platonic academy, I have just discovered that the (Neo?) Platonic academy in the fourth century had the teaching of Orpheus (magical chants, etc.) and the Chaldean Oracles (chanting, shamanism, possession, meditation, etc) as the culmination  of the schools curriculum. That is to say, it was not that magic had infected the Academy; rather, magic became the highest art and teaching of the school that had birthed Western thought.

If magic continued as the culmination of or at least was a central aspect of NeoPlatonic teaching (and there is even some reason to believe that it was the culmination of earlier Platonic teaching), then all of the many references to magic in Renaissance thought and Romanticism (and they are many) are not simply literary allusions, but are indications of the direct and literal presence of magic in these works.

Thus Renaissance paganism and Romanticism (or at least certain currents in these schools of thought) acted as vessels for Egyptian and Babylonian magic, which were later opened and developed by occultists in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Reflections on Some Traits of Theurgy

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Dear Reader,

I recently been probing the ancient pre-Socratic pedigree of a Neoplatonic magic, also known as theurgy, or “god-working.” In his work, Ancient Philosophy, Mystery, and Magic, Peter Kingsley gives a few traits of theurgy that have roots in the magic allegedly practiced by the pre-Socratic philosopher Empedocles. The traits are as follows:

  1. Control over the weather.
  2. Visions of gods in a glass, mirror, or by some other means.
  3. The use of magic amulets and symbols.
  4. The obtainment of immortality via magic after a process of death and rebirt

It is interesting to see how modern technology has the same traits.

  1. Weather modification via chem trails, cloud seeding, etc.
  2. Virtual reality, television, the internet, and AI.
  3. The proliferation of occult symbols in pop culture.
  4. The drive for immortality and the possible of resuscitation via cryogenic freezing

It is almost as if there is a 3000 year+ old occult tradition that has now finally broken free from the restrains of Christianity…

Who is Nicholas of Cusa?

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Dear Reader,

In my research of the Renaissance, I have come across some characteristics for determining whether a thinking was an adept of magic and/or part of the network of kabbalistic thinkers of the Early Modern period. If a thinker has one of the following characteristics, then it is possible that he or she deserves a closer look:

  1. Some association with the counsel of Florence and the influx of Eastern Orthodox thinkers into Italy.
  2. An attempt to synthesize Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.
  3. Intimate familiarity of with the Corpus Hermeticum and Gnostic ideas.
  4. Slavish adherence to Plato and or NeoPlatonists as well as part of the effort to transmit. pagan thought from Eastern Orthodoxy into the West.
  5. Serves as a harbinger of Enlightenment scientific ideas.
  6. Familiarity with the Kabbalah and or Talmud and the promotion of Jewish magic and thought.
  7. Political and theopolitical ideas that later branched into liberalism and laid the groundwork for separation of church and state, ecumenism, and world government.
  8. Favoring the power of councils over the papacy.

This is not to say that all or even most people in the Renaissance who espoused these ideas was an active, conscious agent of evil. However, many agents of evil seemed to gravitate to these notions.

Nicholas of Cusa or Nicholas Cusanus (1401-64) has some of these qualities, and he should be reexamined as being something more than simply a late medieval philosopher. Called the “gatekeeper of the modern age” and “the first modern thinker,” Cusanus’s thinking influenced Copernicus, Kepler, Descartes as well as the notorious heretic and occultist Giordano Bruno. Cusanus also believed that the universe is infinite (an important idea for modern atheism) and was influenced by nominalism.

However, more than his interest in science, it is Cusanus’s interest in Gnosticism and magic that makes him so interesting. Praised by Abbot Trithemius of Sponheim, a notorious occultist, Cusanus was influenced by the NeoPlatonic Christian thinker Dionysius the Areopagite whom Nicholas of Cusa praises for having assigned God “many names” (an idea present in the occult and Islam as well as Joseph Campbell-esque New Age thought). Cusanus also traveled to Constantinople in 1437 on behalf of Pope Eugenius in order to invite Orthodox leaders to the council of Florence, bringing back NeoPlatonic writings with him. Cusanus further wrote of man as a “humanized God” and, drawing from the magician Hermes Trismegistus, called man a “second God.”  These ideas clearly prefigure Pico della Mirandola’s “Hymn to the Glory of Man” and echoes ideas present in Gnosticism and the New Age movement.

Finally, in his work De concordantia catholica, Cusa argued for the power of councils over the papacy.

All of this is not to suggest that Nicholas of Cusa was an agent of evil or anything more than an erroneous teacher who had some bad ideas. There are impeccably orthodox Catholic thinkers who believe that Cusanus himself held entirely correct theological ideas. Nonetheless, whether or intentionally or not, Cusanus seems to have some role to play in the fermenting of Renaissance magic that gave birth to the modern world and brought about the decline of Christianity.

 

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Hexagram diagram from Cusanus’s Opera.