Lynnea Urania Stuart
Author’s Note: This is the second of a 3-part series consisting of the role of transgenderism in the development of Kabbalism including:
Part 1: In a Beginning: the Genesis problem and the resulting dissolution of the gender dichotomy. Please click here to read this series from the initial article.
Part 2: The Hierophants: astral experience and gods of the early Mysteries with trans priestesses, leading to Platonic understanding of reality. Please click here to return to this article.
Part 3: The Hermeticists: the development of Hermeticism alongside Berg Kabbalah and modern philosophy with their tenuous relationship to the trans community.
Scarcely any mention is made of us for thirteen centuries with one notable exception. Trans and intersex people appear in the literature of alchemists as myth and allegory. Under extreme suppression by the Corpus Juris Civlis, people could not imagine us as anything but fantasy and myth, associated with the deepest evils as stigmatized by the church who prevailed upon the Roman authorities in the 4th Century CE. But our overt presence in the genre of Kabbalist societies appears to follow the admission of women to secret societies, purportedly beginning with Rosicrucians, but officially in the Isis Urania temple of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in 1887, possibly influenced by Theosophists whose society was founded in 1875 with the work of Madame H. P. Blavatsky. But the centuries preceding were formative in their own right, uniting 2 currents of esoteric teachings through the adoption of a third: those of the developing Jewish system of Kabbalah and the Greek philosophers influenced by the Mysteries of Pagan rites, and united in the personally transformational practices of Alchemy.
Alchemy isn’t something most of us would accept as “science” today. But until modern times Alchemy and Chemistry coexisted as one discipline as did Astronomy with Astrology. Much of what alchemists do today reeks of circular reasoning in pursuit of a panacea such that has driven not a few people mad and even included one of the greatest minds of all time, Sir Isaac Newton.1 One modern alchemist told this writer in a fit of excitement, “I made a tincture of copper and took 5 times more than I was supposed to and I’ve been seeing auras for days! I’ve got to find out why!” My impression went no farther than dismay at his poisoning himself. Nevertheless, the “Inner Alchemy” that’s intended to accompany the nutty proto-chemist practice of “Outer Alchemy” has brought its own awakening, and not just to the nescience of processes that have since been filtered by chemists who follow a genuine Scientific Method. Chemists, having discarded the illogic of Outer Alchemy, delegated the practice to members of developing secret societies who continued it.
But we don’t find transpeople accepted as part of that process. The impetus for the European oppression of transpeople most keenly fell upon transwomen on August 6, 390 CE, Theodosius together with his son and co-Augustus, Arcadius, along with Valentinian II who had risen to become the Augustus of the West issued an Edict to the Vicar or Rome to render the existence of male to female transpeople a capital crime, forcing virtually all European transpeople underground and destroying their networks of communication and association:
“We cannot tolerate the City of Rome, mother of all virtues, being stained any longer by the contamination of male effeminacy… Your laudable experience will therefore punish among revenging flames, in the presence of the people, as required by the grossness of the crime, all those who have given themselves up to the infamy of condemning the manly body, transformed into a feminine one, to bear practices reserved for the other sex, which have nothing different from women, carried forth- we are ashamed to say- from male brothels, so that all may know that the house of the manly soul must be sacrosanct to all, and that he who basely abandons his own sex cannot aspire to that of another without undergoing the supreme punishment (death by fire).”2
The edict against transwomen continued in Roman law as part of the Corpus Juris Civilis. This would prove to be too useful to Church oppressors. The Corpus Juris Civilis in turn would set a precedent for centuries, not only in Europe, but also the Americas and all European colonies throughout the world.3
So complete was the resulting erasure of transpeople and their histories we find no overt examples of European male to female transpeople from the 4th Century to the 17th. Europe was becoming depopulated due to waves of Gothic and Norse invasions beginning in the 3rd Century into isolation from trade routes by Muslim opposition from the 8th century onward and climaxing with the pandemic of plague in the 13th. Rome was reduced to a cow town. The whole continent had much reorganizing to do, rebuilding from localized fiefdoms in a feudal maelstrom, all with declining literacy and limited avenues of learning and communication largely delegated to the command of lords and monks.
We do find limited, mostly literary examples of those from female to male during that time. Two literary examples appear in the 13th and 14th Century in the French narratives Yde et Olive and Tristan de Nanteuil in which a female character assume male dress, then a miraculous change of gender much like the story of Iphis in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. These, of course, are fictional accounts that nevertheless had their roots in the human psyche and experience as myths do.4
Joan d’Arc, the 13th Century mystical female-to-male champion of the Franks against the Angevins, remains the greatest historical example of transgenderism in the medieval period.5 The story of Pope Joan persists despite Vatican suppression of the story. A woman disguises herself as a male monk in the 14th century to gain access to literacy, rising to become a respected physician, and later elected as pope. Whether Pope Joan actually existed remains a story without sufficient evidence to either fully accept as fact or dismiss as folklore.6
Religious detractors have objected to the trans status of both Joans, objecting to the possibility that a transperson can possibly be a saint while stigmatizing all transpeople as sick perverts. But their insistence of the practicality of cross dressing is nothing different from the appeal female-to-male transpeople have often made in modern times.7
What both cases do reflect is a deep spirituality often manifest in transpeople. It can’t qualify as spirituality according to the vernacular of organized religion. It rarely qualifies as that today. Much of it has been shrouded in individual secrecy just like the developing Hermeticists featured secrecy as a “hermetic seal.”
The Hermetic art, manifest in Western Alchemy, purportedly developed in Egypt and was known from the beginnings of the Hellenic period, presumably introduced by the Pythagoreans with their connection with the Egyptian Mysteries, but not till about the time of the Edict of Rome can we positively attribute an individual: Zosimos of Panopolis, Egypt. His was the first of about 40 authors represented in an alchemical compendium in Constantinople by the 8th Century CE. Most of these writings declare, “One nature rejoices in another nature; one nature triumphs over another nature; one nature masters another nature.” They also reference their connections with Magi, Stoics, and Aristotle.8 Magi, of course, derive from Zoroastrian Persia, much of whose Western connections settling in Alexandria, Damascus, and Harran. Harran remains to this day a center for Hermetic teaching even in the face of war in Syria.9
Judaism arose alongside this current through the Kabbalist school of Yavneh and Kabbalists at the city of Tzefat (Safed) in Palestine. Great works would arise from these and other Kabbalists: The Bahir, Zohar, and Sefer Yetzirah. With the later 12th Century influence of Isaac Luria, Kabbalah has such influence that it was also adopted by Christian literati of that day.10
The mythical and allegorical aspects that violate the gender dichotomy come down to us in the alchemical treatises that survive. Consider this example from the Aesch Metzareph:
“Nechusheth, [Hebrew for copper or brass] Brass, see Sohar Pekude, [an edition of the Zohar] 103, 410, etc. and see Hod [the 8th sephirah pertaining to Mercury] as above. Amongst the Planets Nogah, [Hebrew for our second planet] Venus corresponds to it. A necessary Instrument to promote the Metallic Splendour.
“Yet it hath more the part of a Male than Female. For do not deceive thyself, to believe a white Splendour is promised to thee, as the word Nogah infers. But Hod ought to receive a Geburic Influence [Hod being situated to receive energy from the 5th sephirah of Geburah pertaining also to Mars], and gives it also. O how Great is this Mystery.
“Learn therefore to lift the Serpent up on high which is called Nechushtan, [the name of the brass serpent lifted up by Moses to heal the Israelites and accepted as a symbol of Christ] 2 Kings, c. 18, v. 4, if thou wouldst cure infirm Natures after the Example of Moses.”11
Europe rebuilt its civilization with the help of guilds, most notably stonemasons, providing a new avenue learning for common Europeans. A secret society formed from these which would be called the “Freemasons,” establishing a milieu in which other secret societies would develop.12 But the real impetus of Hermeticism would arise from Paracelsus whose main interest was in healing through the alchemical art. He wrote the following passages, beginning a current that would manifest in Rosicrucianism:
“Quod utilius Deus patefieri sinet, quod autem majoris momenti est, vulgo adhuc latet usque ad Eliæ Artistæ adventum, quando is venerit.”
God will permit a discovery of the highest importance to be made, it must be hidden till the advent of the artist Elias. (Elijah)
“Hoc item verum est nihil est absconditum quod non sit retegendum; ideo, post me veniet cujus magnale nundum vivit qui multa revelabit.”
It is true, there is nothing concealed which shall not be discovered; for which cause a marvelous being shall come after me, who as yet lives not, and who shall reveal many things.”13
In 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the church at Wittenberg, firing the opening salvo of the Reformation that shook the entire Holy Roman Empire. Paracelsus called it “the sign and harbinger of the approaching revolution.” But initial attempts to form a secret society from that time appear to be abortive, even the stuff of satire.14
The Rosicrucians firmly had its opening in a document appearing in Frankfurt by 1614, though a version was purported to exist in 1610: the Fama Fraternitatis. The Fama described the activities of a mysterious personage who could easily have been many people and whose name is more a title than a legal name: Christian Rosencreutz, often designated with the initials C.R.C. The Fama describes his activities thus:
“To such an intention of a general reformation, the most godly and highly-illuminated Father, our Brother, C. R. C., a German, the chief and original of our Fraternity, hath much and long time laboured, who, by reason of his poverty (although descended of noble parents), in the fifth year of his age was placed in a cloyster, where he had learned indifferently the Greek and Latin tongues, and (upon his earnest desire and request), being yet in his growing years, was associated to a Brother, P. A. L., who had determined to go to the Holy Land. Although this Brothers [sic] dyed in Ciprus [Cyprus], and so never came to Jerusalem, yet our Brother C. R. C. did not return, but shipped himself over, and went to Damasco [Damascus], minding from thence to go to Jerusalem. But by reason of the feebleness of his body he remained still there, and by his skill in physic he obtained much favour with the Turks, and in the meantime he became acquainted with the Wise Men of Damcar [location uncertain] in Arabia, and beheld what great wonders they wrought, and how Nature was discovered unto them.
“Hereby was that high and noble spirit of Brother C. R. C. so stired up, that Jerusalem was not so much now in his mind as Damasco; also he could not bridle his desires any longer, but made a bargain with the Arabians that they should carry him for a certain sum of money to Damcar.
He was but of the age of sixteen years when he came thither, yet of a strong Dutch constitution. There the Wise Men received him not as a stranger (as he himself witnesseth), but as one whom they had long expected; they called him by his name, and shewed him other secrets out of his cloyster, whereat he could not but mightily wonder.
“He learned there better the Arabian tongue, se that the year following he translated the book M into good Latin, which he afterwards brought with him. This is the place where he did learn his Physick and his Mathematics, whereof the world hath much cause to rejoice, if there were more love and less envy.
“After three years he returned again with good consent, shipped himself over Sinus Arabicus [Sinai Peninsula] into Egypt, where he remained not long, but only took better notice there of the plants and creatures. He sailed over the whole Mediterranean Sea for to come unto Fez [in Morocco], where the Arabians had directed him.
“It is a great shame unto us that wise men, so far remote the one, from the other, should not only be of one opinion, hating all contentious writings, but also be so willing and ready, under the seal of secresy, to impart their secrets to others. Every year the Arabians and Africans do send one to another, inquiring one of another out of their arts, if happily they had found out some better things, or if experience had weakened their reasons. Yearly there came something to light whereby the Mathematics, Physic, and Magic (for in those are they of Fez most skilful) were amended. There is now-a-days no want of learned men in Germany, Magicians, Cabalists, Physicians, and kindness among them, or that the most part of them would not keep their secrets close only to themselves.15
The Fama, however, was signed only by fratres. Not one soror appears among them. We find no female Rosicrucian in any source till the 19th Century. Madame Blavatsky, familiar with Rosicrucian teachings, was at the center of the founding of the Theosophical Society in 1875.16 Her book, The Secret Doctrine, was published in 1888,17 the year after the founding of the English Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. That temple’s founder, William Wynn Wescott, a Rosicrucian, obtained part of a manuscript containing a cipher from Freemason, Rev. A. F. A. Woodford and deciphered it. The “Cipher Manuscripts” outlined rites for the Golden Dawn. He asked his associate S. L. MacGregor Mathers to flesh out the fragments into a full system of ceremonial magick. They found a name referenced in the manuscript: that of Faulein Anna Sprengel, purportedly a German Rosicrucian adept. Wescott corresponded with Sprengel, obtaining permission to organize an English branch of De Goldene Dammerung. So began the Isis Urania temple in London wherein both male and female members were accepted from among the literati.18
You’d think that a Rosicrucian document like the Cipher Manuscripts would have been constructed in German. It wasn’t. The Cipher Manuscripts can be obtained online. Anyone who wants to take the time to decipher them for himself will realize the ciphers were written in English, not German. The Cipher Manuscripts were probably a fake and we might expect the same of the Fraulein Sprengel story.19
The London temple took some illustrious members who met at the British Museum before walking to the site of the Isis Urania temple. In addition to Wescott and Mathers amd Mather’s wife, Moina Mathers, we find Dr. W. R. Woodman, the Supreme Magus of the Rosicrucian Society of Anglia. Florence Farr, mistress of George Bernard Shaw was a member. So were Arthur E. Waite who brought the most popular exoteric deck of Tarot to the public; Arthur Machen; Algernon Blackwood; and Constance Wilde, the wife of aesthete, Uranian author, and playwright Oscar Wilde. Some believe that Oscar himself was a member, but this remains unconfirmed, though it’s known that Oscar was a Freemason. His associates from Ireland included the poet William Butler Yeats who sustained the Isis Urania temple as Imperator under the Alpha et Omega after the dissolution of the Golden Dawn. Another associate from the Abbey Theatre in Dublin took initiation: Annie Horniman who financed the order for many years.20
The close association of Oscar Wilde with the Golden Dawn is especially interesting because he was also an actor who performed in drag. In his play, Salomé, he played the girl who danced for Herod to obtain the head of John the Baptist, a work of which reads like a lament of the disillusioned member of the Golden Dawn’s Outer Order upon realizing the Messianism of the Inner and the ego death of the Great Whore herself. Wilde’s performance of Salomé and her Dance of the 7 Veils may very easily have followed the Golden Dawn’s Queen Scale colors of the sephirot on the Tree of Life as it unfolds toward Kether and beginning with Venus in the sephirah of Netzach (the sephirah associated with the highest Golden Dawn grade of Philosophus) as Salomé peeled away the layers: green, yellow, red, blue, black, silvery grey, and finally white. But the performance also forever landed Wilde in the history of drag, and consequently, that of the transgender demographic as a female impersonator.
But the Golden Dawn, then as temples of that genre continue today, was marked by infighting, blind ambition and endless flame wars. Another initiate finally brought London’s Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn down in scandal: Aleister Crowley. Crowley joined in 1898 and advanced rapidly through the grades. In the following year he applied to be initiated as an Adeptus Minor and admission to the Inner Order Rubae Rosae et Aura Crucis. Mathers approved his initiation. Others, especially Florence Farr who led the temple at the time, wanted nothing to do with him and locked the temple against him. But the wars that persisted up till then expanded into a vigorous magickal war between Mathers and Crowley, bringing about some episodes that commanded the attention of the London Police. The Golden Dawn dissolved, with various factions continuing with the Golden Dawn system of rites including the A.O., the Astrum Argentum, and the Stella Matutina.
Crowley himself realigned with the Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.) in 1910 through his association with Illuminatus Theodor Reuss, and consolidated his control of that society by 1922. The O.T.O had begun with the collaboration of Reuss with Freemason and Rosicrucian Carl Kellnor, and Theosophist and Rosicrucian Dr. Franz Hartman. Reuss and Kellnor presented a manifesto for the O.T.O. in 1903, and after Kellnor’s death in 1905, Reuss assumed full control, thereafter setting Crowley in the 10th degree. Crowley took as his power name Baphomet, an androgynous Luciferian spirit entity and referred to himself as Therion, the Beast, prompting not a few Christian ministers to denounce Crowley as the “wickedest man who ever lived.” The O.T.O accepted female initiates and this practice continues in other Thelemic schools to this day.21
Today, Thelemic and Golden Dawn genres of orders, of which there are many, as well as Rosicrucian societies of all sorts continue the practice of accepting women. Most of these also accept transpeople, in whole or in part. But modern transitioning people cannot be found anywhere in the West till the 1930’s with the work of Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld who first provided a surgical avenue for those with gender dysphoria.22 In consideration of that it’s an exercise in the fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc to presume that the Hermeticists were the cause for anyone desiring transition. Neither have the majority of transpeople ever had involvement in any Hermetic society.
But the original source of the Kabbalists in Judaism continued unabated in this whole time. Hirschfeld himself was a Jew. Very likely he was a Kabbalist as well. But Judaism does not seek converts and goyim (nations or Gentiles) were not offered instruction in Kabbalah… till recent years. Today’s transpeople interested in Kabbalism have a separate path from Hermeticism available through the work of Rav Phillip Berg whose Kabbalism has been made open to any who desire to approach the discipline. Anyone can visit a Kabbalah Center in Beverly Hills or elsewhere in various cities worldwide. Some in attendance can be identified as LGBT.23
As a result the transgender Kabbalists remain few and far between. We’re united more by myth and idea than by an actual history of membership in a set of orders. The mythological connection emphasizes something else: that our approaches to Kabbalah must begin with the Divine and end with the same, a Godhead whose image is a unity of male and female, as transpeople also find their gender expression in that same fluidity.
- Greshko, Michael. Isaac Newton’s Lost Alchemy Recipe Rediscovered (April 4, 2016) Web: National Geographic: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/04/160404-isaac-newton-alchemy-mercury-recipe-chemistry-science/ . Retrieved June 30, 2017.
- Cantanella, Eva, translator. Rominarum et Mosaicarum Legum Collatio, Vol. III, quoted in O’Culleanain, Cormac. Bisexuality in the Ancient World, by Cormac O’ Culleanain. (1992) Yale University Press, New Haven ISBN-13: 978-0300093025. 177.
- Durling, Nancy Vine. Rewriting Gender: Yde et Olive and Ovidian Myth (1989) Web: Purdue University: http://tell.fll.purdue.edu/RLA-Archive/1989/French-html/Durling-FF.htm. Retrieved February 21, 2008.
- Feinberg, Leslie. Transgender Warriors (1996) Beacon Press, Boston. ISBN: 0-8670-7940-5, p. 31f.
- (n.a.) Pope Joan (n.d.) Web: Biography: https://www.biography.com/people/pope-joan-279083 . Retrieved June 28, 2017.
- (n.a.) The Question of Saint Joan of Arc’s Sexuality and Gender (n.d.) Website: The St. Joan Center: http://www.stjoan-center.com/FAQ/question5.html . Retrieved June 30, 2017.
- (n.a.) Alchemy: Hellenistic Alchemy (n.d.) Web: CrystalLinks: http://www.crystalinks.com/alchemy.html . Retrieved June 28, 2017.
- Green, Tamara M. The City of the Moon God: Religious Traditions of Harran (1992) Brill, Publishers. ISBN: 978-9004301429, p. 189.
- The writer relies upon her own recollections of these schools and has included these works in her library.
- Wescott, William Wynn. Collectanea Hermetica: Aesch Mezareph or Purifying Fire: A Chymico-Kabalistic Treatise Collected from the Kabala Denudata or Knorr Von Rosenroth , translated by s Lover of Philalethes, 1714 (n.d.) Kessinger Publishing, LLC, Kila MT. ISBN: 1-56459-260-X, p. 32. Brackets supplied by Lynnea Urania Stuart.
- (n.a.) History of Freemasonry (n.d.) Web: Masonic Service Organization of North America: http://www.msana.com/historyfm.asp . Retrieved June 30, 2017.
- Waite, Arthur Edward. The Real History of the Rosicrucians (1887) E-book: Sacred Texts: http://www.sacred-texts.com/sro/rhr/rhr05.htm , pp. 34, 35.. Retrieved June 27, 2017.
- Ibid, pp. 66-68. http://www.sacred-texts.com/sro/rhr/rhr06.htm . Brackets supplied by Lynnea Urania Stuart.
- (n.a.) Excerpts from “Occultism or Magic” in “A Modern Panarion,” p. 38-46 (n.d.) Website: Blavatsky Theosophy Group, UK: https://blavatskytheosophy.com/hidden-origins-of-rosicrucianism/ . Retrieved July 1, 2017.
- Lemkow, Anna F. The Wholeness Principle: Dynamics of Unity Within Science, Religion, & Society. (1995) Theosophical Publishing House, Wheaton IL, ISBN: 0-8356-0715-1, p. 28
- G.H. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (n.d.) Web: The Mystica: https://www.themystica.com/mystica/articles/h/hermetic_order_of_the_golden_dawn.html . Retrieved June 29, 2017.
- The writer relies upon her own experience with the teachings and rites of the Golden Dawn genre. The Cipher Manuscripts can be found online with a key to decipherment at The Golden Dawn Cipher Manuscripts, Folios 1-23. Website: The Golden Dawn Research Center: http://www.golden-dawn.org/gd_cipher_mans.htm
- Lynnea Urania Stuart relies upon her recollections here but the names reappear in literature and online from numerous public sources. Lynnea resigned from what is now known as the Esoteric Golden Dawn in 2001, just prior to her transition, refused later membership in the Ordo Templi Orientis, and does not perform practical ceremonial magick today on ethical grounds. But she continues to appreciate the philosophical aspects of the Hemeticists as an aspect of Kabbalah.
- (n.a.) History of the O.T.O. (n.d.) Website: Ordo Templi Orientis: http://oto-usa.org/oto/history/ . Retrieved June 19, 2017.
- Bush, Lawrence. May 14: Magnus Hirschfeld vs. the Nazis (May 13, 2015) Web: Jewish Currents: http://jewishcurrents.org/may-14-magnus-hirschfeld-vs-the-nazis/ . Retrieved July 1, 2017.
- (n.a.) Rav Berg (n.d.) Website: The Kabbalah Center: https://kabbalah.com/rav-berg . Retrieved July 1, 2017.