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Mysticism and Enthusiasm in Henry More

  • Robert Crocker
Chapter
Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas/Archives Internationales d’Histoire des Idées book series (ARCH, volume 127)

Abstract

The seventeenth reaction against enthusiasm has excited considerable interest amongst scholars in recent years. Perceived as a more visible aspect of the elite’s gradual disenchantment with the world of the supernatural, the reaction against enthusiasm has been approached in a variety of ways.1 While social and political historians have generally perceived the phenomenon in terms of the enthusiasts’ challenge to theological and social orthodoxy,2 literary historians have concentrated on its more notable literary and cultural effects, particularly on the appearance of a plainer style of English, and the emergence of the social comedies and satire characteristic of the post-Restoration period.3

Keywords

Animal Spirit False Light Enthusiast Opponent Demonic Possession Discriminative Faculty 
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References

  1. 1.
    The literature on enthusiasm, both as a term and as a phenomenon, is vast. For a summary, see M. Heyd, “The Reaction to Enthusiasm in the Seventeenth Century.”Google Scholar
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    The brother of the poet, Henry Vaughan. See F.E. Hutchinson, Henry Vaughan (Oxford, 1947), 144–55, andGoogle Scholar
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    A. Rudrum (ed.), Works of Thomas Vaughan (Oxford, 1984), 7–12. For discussions of More’s debate with Vaughan, see the articles by A. Miller Guinsburg, F.L. Burn-ham, N. L. Brann, and L. Mulligan, cited in the bibliography.Google Scholar
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    On the history of the term, see Heyd, “Reaction to Enthusiasm.” The origin of most contemporary theories appears to have been pseudo-Aristotle, Problemata, xxx, 1 ff. See for example, Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy (Oxford, 1621), part I, I, iii, 1–4; and More, ET, 11 and 17.Google Scholar
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    Meric Casaubon, and A Treatise concerning Enthusiasme (London, 1655), 130. See also his attack on Plato and the Neoplatonists and their ‘mystical theology’ as an important historical source of enthusiasm and its pretensions, ibid., 52–4, 110–119 and 125–130.Google Scholar
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  50. 44.
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  55. 49.
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    This is a common theme in Puritan literature — the unregenerate, because ignorant of the truth, are inevitably hypocritical. Bunyan’s Atheist, for example, reads the world as reality rather than emblem. Bunyan, ed. R. Sharrock, Pilgrim’s Progress (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1965), 174.Google Scholar
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    Psychozoia, canto 2, stanza 90: Corvino straight foam’d like his champing jade And said I was a very silly wight, And how through melancholy I was mad And unto private spirits all holy truth betray’d.Google Scholar
  76. 70.
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    The two tracts by Vaughan are Anthroposophia Theomagica, and Anima Magica Abscondita. See n. 5 above.Google Scholar
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    As D. P. Walker points out, Spiritual and Demonic Magic, 52 and 75 ff., there were significant tensions within Renaissance Platonism between a fascination for theurgy and magical practices, whether for specific cures or for illumination, and a denial of the necessity or legality of such practices. In Agrippa, Vaughan’s avowed master, this tension can be clearly seen (ibid., 54–5, and 90–1). While More is unequivocally anti-magical, Vaughan follows his master a little later by apologizing for his earlier magical concerns, in Euphrates or the Waters of the East (London, 1655), “To the Reader”.Google Scholar
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    See More, Psychozoia, canto 2, stanzas 7–9, Philosophick Cabbala, bk. 1, chaps. 11–12; IS bk. 3, chap. 12, sects. 1–6. See also Poems, 345–6; and compare Plotinus Enneads 3, 2, 2.Google Scholar
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    More is never very consistent with his use of the term ‘reason’. For he considers it to be the expression of a ‘middle life’ in the soul, which must choose between becoming ‘immersed’ in the ‘animal’ or ‘divine Life’. It appears from this that he means two things by the word, depending on its context — a divine intellectual principle in man, and a discursive faculty, which he places with the imagination in the ‘middle part’ of the soul. Compare for example the definition in MG, bk. 2, chap.l 1, sect. 1 with the treatment of ‘Right Reason’ (as a successive copy of the Logos) in EE, bk. 2, chaps. 3, sect. 3; 4, sect. 6; 5, sects. 4–7; and 9, sects. 14–6.Google Scholar
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  103. 97.
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    By M. H. Nicolson, “Early Stages of Cartesianism in England” and A. Lichtenstein, More, 34; J. Hoyles, Waning of the Renaissance, 50.Google Scholar
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    See More, MG, bk. 8, chap. 12, sects. 1–2. This passage could serve as a commentary on More’s description of Glaucis in Psychozoia, (1647), II, 87 ff. See also MG, bk. 6, chaps. 12–13.Google Scholar
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    See Hamilton, Family of Love. The works of Niclaes were all translated into English, though by the time More was writing the sect had practically disappeared in England, the name ‘Familist’ being then mainly applied to the Quakers. See for example, More’s disciple, Henry Hallywell, An Account of Familism as it is Revived and Propagated by the Quakers (London, 1673). After 1668 More was particularly concerned with denouncing Niclaes because of his apparent popularity with Anne Conway and her companion, Elizabeth Foxcroft. See More in, Conway Letters, p. 304.Google Scholar
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    More to Elizabeth Foxcroft, 10th June 1669, in Conway Letters, p. 297; and MG, bk. 5,chap. 7, sect. 6; and bk. 6, chap. 12, sects. 1–3.Google Scholar
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    M.H. Nicolson, “George Keith and the Cambridge Platonists,” 49–55; and A. Coudert Gottesman, “F.M. Van Helmont,” 582 ff.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., 248.Google Scholar
  126. 120.
    Ibid., 258.Google Scholar
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    Keith’s place in the Ragley circle is traced by Allison Coudert in “F.M. van Helmont,”587–602, and in “A Quaker-Kabbalist Controversy,”and is outlined in Conway Letters. For More on Keith, ibid., 415–6.Google Scholar
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    More, Observations, “To Eugenius Philalethes”, 1; ET, “To the Reader”, sig. A5v.; and Vaughan’s mocking reply to More’s pretensions, Man-Mouse, 7:’you have observed an Epidemicall Disease, and you will be an Epidemicall Physician; you will cure a nation by Indignation.’Google Scholar
  129. 123.
    See for example [Vaughan], Second Wash, 85; and the more serious charges made by Joseph Beaumont after the Restoration, to which More replied in his Apology. Google Scholar

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