You Say Kabbalah, I Say Cabala
Christian kabbalah can be traced to the “school of Marsilio Ficino in Florence, in the second half of the fifteenth century.”
“Ficino is best known for his translations of Plato’s writings from Greek to Latin, but of much importance was his translation to Latin of the corpus of esoteric, mysterious old treatises known as the Hermetica. These works, probably originating from Egypt in late antiquity, are attributed to a mysterious ancient philosopher, Hermes Trismegistus (The Thrice-Great Hermes), and they deal with magic, astrology, and esoteric theology.”
Ficino and his followers considered magic as “an ancient scientific doctrine, the source of all religious and natural truth.”
Dan mentions Count Giovani Pico de la Mirandola, a “great thinker, young scholar and theologian, who died at age thirty-three in 1496.”
He also observes that Pico’s interest in Hebrew was facilitated by the Latin translations of the Jewish Christian convert, Flavius Methredates.”
Pico’s most famous work, the Nine Hundred Theses, proclaims that Christianity’s truth is best demonstrated by the disciplines of magic and kabbalah.” In Pico’s work, magic and kabbalah are often indistinguishable. He interpreted kabbalistic texts as “ancient esoteric lore, conserved by Jews, at the heart of which was the Christian message.”
–Joseph Dan, Kabbalah: A Very Short Introduction, pg. 62-3.