Jean-Pierre Brach is currently Directeur d’études at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (Paris, Sorbonne), where he holds the Chair of « History of Esoteric Currents in Modern and Contemporary Europe ». He is the author of La symbolique des nomdownloads/book-of-abstracts.pdf.pdfbres (Paris, 1994 ; italian trans. 1999), of an annotated edition and translation of G. Postel’s De admirandis numerorum platonicorum secretis (Paris, Vrin, 2001) and of numerous articles concerning the history of Christian kabbalah, early modern magic and alchemy, number symbolism and 19th-20th-century Mesmerism, Occultism and « Traditional » thinking (French, Anglo-Saxon, Italian).
He is also the editor, with Jean-Pierre Laurant, of Politica Hermetica, a yearly publication dealing with the scholarly study of the interactions between esoteric currents and politics. One of the scientific co-editors of the Dictionary of Gnosis and Western Esotericism (Brill, 2005), he has also directed (with J. Rousse-Lacordaire) a volume of collected essays entitled Etudes d’histoire de l’ésotérisme (Paris, 2007), as well as the proceedings of the 2d ESSWE conference (with A. Choné and C. Maillard), Capitales de l’ésotérisme européen et dialogue des cultures (Paris, 2014).
One of the foremost Christian kabbalists of the XVIth century, Guillaume Postel (1510-1581) liked to present himself as a pillar of orthodoxy, although he tended naturally (like so many others) to consider rather his own personal views as the embodiment of orthodoxy. A prominent linguist, scientist and mystical philosopher, Postel sought all his life an official recognition he denied himself by the outrageousness of some of his spiritual claims. The aim of this lecture will be to try and show how and to what extent Postel was being consciously (or not) transgressive when he openly promoted such tenets as Christ come again as a feminine messiah, of himself being the « son of his/her substance » and of the future of Christianity being shaped according to the features of Jewish Kabbalah. The impact on these theories of Postel’s sometimes quite literal understanding of Scripture will also be examined, as an important aspect of « esotericism » and of its manifold practical outcome.