Kabbalah is really the system that we can sink our teeth into regarding Morrison and Pico. Sheila Rabin, in Dougherty’s text presenting new essays on Pico, explores this idea. “Rabin carefully explores Pico’s views on the relationship between natural magic and Kabbalah, examining Pico’s explicit claim that magic requires an annexation to Kabbalah [in order] to be efficacious.” (Dougherty 9). Pico began studying the Kabbalah form with Marsilio Ficino while in Perugia, and it helped to complete his syncretic thought in the sense that it was always his intention to approach a topic from many different angles.
Laura Sneddon, a University of Dundee Comics Studies student, interviewed Morrison for the United Kingdom magazine, The Independent. There, he admits that he used the Kabbalistic symbol of the lightning bolt while writing Supergods.
I embedded even deeper in it this Kabbalistic thing, where the whole metaphor of the lightning bolt began to be really significant because I noticed that in every age of superhero comics, throughout the transformation of superheroes, there’s a hero with a lightning bolt. You know, if it’s not the Flash, it’s Marvel Man, it’s connected to the original lightning bolt motif and the lightning bolt is the same thing that the Kabbalah talks about, this thing called the lightning flash which is the magician’s path along the Kabbalistic Tree of Life structure. And, put simply, the lightning flash is the instant connection between the divine and the material. And so I thought, there’s something here, about how comics work and the idea of these energies that once would have been called Gods but are now dressed up like Superman and the Flash and Iron Man and that notion of the flash of lightning. His whole book has this embedded structure of the lightning flash touching each of the ten sephiroth of the Kabbalah. Not to wander into too much territory that Bukatman would sneer at, but the allusion Morrison is making is on the surface level a distinction that super heroes are mythological gods reinvented. Superman is Apollo, god of Sun; Batman is Hades, god of the underworld; Wonder Woman is Athena, and so on. However, Morrison gives us a cue to delve further into Kabbalah and how it relates to Pico in the ten sephirot. In Kabbalah, the ten sephirot are beings that the Creator dispatches in creating the universe. They exist to distribute the will of the Creator, according to Yechiel Bar-Lev (The Song of Soul 73).
The Kabbalistic Tree of Life that Morrison is referring to, which takes the form of the lightning bolt, becomes an instant allegory for the symbol The Flash wears. For each of these ten sephiroth, we can cite examples of superheroes. While that can set us up for the criticism that we are treating superheroes as religious allegories, that notion is in fact there, and Morrison utilizes it in his autobiography and in his history of the medium. The Kabbalistic principles are just the beginning of the similarities that confirm Morrison as a syncretic. Frank Borchardt, in his article “The Magus as Renaissance Man” writes about Pico’s relationship with Kabbalah:
Since Pico was one of the handful of other Christian Hebraists and Cabalists active at the time, we can safely assume that their [Johannes Reuchlin] common interests played some part of the in the meeting. Reuchlin, in any case, knew and profoundly respected the works of Pico and cabalistic writing which Pico had translated from the Hebrew. (Borchardt 62)
Morrison decorates his house with passages from Kabbalah texts, texts that Pico probably translated. In a Rolling Stone interview, Morrison’s house is described as being a part of the “millionaire row,” a suburb of Glasgow.
“The latter implies that a magus, the moment he applied his knowledge to conjure spirits or predict the course of events or try to influence them, forfeited his credentials as a Renaissance magician.” (Borchardt 60) Morrison is an idealist, but his forays into magic are for the sake of creation, to create a symbolic meaning that he integrates into his work. On the surface, this practice appears selfish, but not because he is using this formula to gain a higher understanding; by putting it into comic book form; rather, he is creating an alchemical literature that introduces the reader to a higher form of creativity.