The Noetic Turn in Jewish-Christian Mysticism: Revisiting Esoterism, Mysticism, and Internalization with Philo, Clement, and Origen

While agreeing with Gedaliahu Stroumsa’s position according to which internalization represented an important turn in religious experience of antiquity, the present paper does not conceives of this turn as the passage from esoterism to mysticism. As such scholars as Segal, Gruenwald, Fossum speak about Paul’s “mystical experience” or about the “mystical religion” of the first century, Elior and Alexander talk about “Qumran mysticism”. In addition, Rudolph Otto used to assert both inward and outward mysticisms. However, various passages in Philo, John, Melito, Ps-Hippolytus, Clement, and Origen testify for a noetic turn in Jewish-Christian mysticism. The noetic turn, which preceded the process of internalization, transferred the entire biblical/apocalyptic ontology—throne, glory, angels, etc.—from heaven to the noetic, invisible world. With no doubt a shift under Hellenistic influence, its method of accessing this world was no longer ascension, but initiation. Internalization, in its turn, should be re-conceived of as a shift within the trend of mysticism, namely one focused on the internal contemplation of God, though the ontology remains within the invisible, noetic universe.