This is a book about the fascinating intellectual history of post-Renaissance early modern England. As she has pointed out in some of her other books, this period of time, shortly before the rise of modern science, was shot through with occult beliefs which, as she tells us in this book, took the form of Christian Cabalism in early modern England. By the end of this period, this rather obscure occult philosophy had morphed into what we now know as Science.
Many people don't believe it when you tell them modern science was an outgrowth of occult beliefs, but it's true. As Thomas Kuhn explained in his fascinating book The Copernican Revolution (pp. 128-132), Copernicus and Kepler believed the sun was at the center of a solar system of planets because of their having been influenced by neoplatonic thought via the writings of Renaissance occultist Marsilio Ficino, who is someone Francis Yates also writes about in this book. As Yates tells it, the old philosophy of Aristotle and medieval Scholasticism, which had used Aristotelianism as a philosophical framework for its theology, was being replaced with a new belief, that of a Hebraic-Christian occult 'Christian Cabalism'. Christian thinkers of the time having been influenced by the Hebrew writings of the Old Testament and the mystical Kabbala, which were being printed for the first time in Italy (as was the Talmud, with papal permission no less). Oddly enough, in time, this new occult philosophy did replace Aristotle and Scholasticism, eventually becoming what we, today, consider modern science.
I was especially interested in reading this book because of a related subject I have an interest in, that of English Christian Hebraism and the Puritan emphasis on the Old Testament along with its creation of a somewhat Judaized Christianity, including the belief in a coming earthly golden age (i.e., the Puritan Hope, or postmillennialism). Yates tells us that "Some English Puritans took their convictions to their logical conclusion by emigrating to Amsterdam and adopting Judaism as their religion" (p. 215) (!).
This is a book worth reading if you're at all interested in the time period and subject matter.
It's really quite fascinating!
It's really quite fascinating!
“The Rosicrucian movement had failed on the continent. Refugees from that failure poured into Puritan England as the refugees from Antichrist. And the Puritan revolution took over some of the aspects of the projected Rosicrucian revolution. This is why there was a ‘Puritan occultism’, why an English translation of the Rosicrucian manifestos was published in Cromwellian England, and why the philosophy of John Dee was cultivated by earnest Parlimentarians… The argument, in oversimplified form, is that ‘the occult philosophy of the Elizabethan age’ was a Christian Cabalist philosophy, with its particular Rosicrucian blend of magic and science.”
Francis Yates, The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age (pp. 212; 221)
Also of interest, and best read before the work mentioned above, is Francis Yates’ book: The Rosicrucian Enlightenment
|Melencolia 1 by Albrecht Dürer|