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The Kabbalah and the Quakers: Anne Conway, van Helmont, and Knorr von Rosenroth

  • Robert Crocker
Chapter
Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas / Archives Internationales d’Histoire des Idées book series (ARCH, volume 185)

Abstract

In late 1670, about the same time that he was attempting to disentangle himself from Stubbe’s allegations that he was against the philosophy of the Royal Society, More met Francis Mercury van Helmont for the first time. Son of the famous chemist, Jan Baptista van Helmont, and reputedly heir to the latter’s alchemical secrets, the younger van Helmont was an extraordinary, enigmatic, eccentric and attractive figure, the original of Matthew Arnold’s ‘Scholar Gypsy’.1 On October 12, 1670, van Helmont visited More at Christ’s, and despite his evident difficulties with English, managed to impress More with his similar spiritualistic and illuminist interests, and particularly his firsthand knowledge of the Jewish Kabbalah.2 More was fascinated by his visitor and excited by their mutual interests, but he was also keen to persuade van Helmont to visit his ailing friend, Anne Conway, to see if his reputed medical abilities could have any effect on her crippling ailment.3 That van Helmont, the original ‘scholar gypsy’, should have been willing to return to England and settle at Ragley in remote Warwickshire as Anne Conway’s resident physician for the next nine years is a testament to the intellectual and spiritual attainments of his hostess.

Keywords

Modern Philosophy Conceptual Dualism Firsthand Knowledge Conceptual Opposite Divine Essence 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    On van Helmont, see Allison Coudert, The Impact of the Kabbalah in the Seventeenth Century: the Life and Thought of Francis Mercurius van Helmont (1614–1689) (Leiden: Brill, 1997 ); and Coudert, Leibniz and the Kabbalah ( Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1994 ).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See Nicolson: 316 ff.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    As Nicolson (ibid) makes clear, both Conway and Finch attempted to substantiate the rumours about van Helmont’s medical gifts over several years before he came to England, and attempted to persuade him to treat his wife. On the relationship between van Helmont and Anne Conway, see especially Sarah Hutton, “Of Physic and Philosophy: Anne Conway, F.M. van Helmont and seventeenth-century Medicine” in A. Cunningham, O.P. Grell (eds), Religio Medici ( London: Scolar Press, 1996 ).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    See Nicolson: 324. On Luria, see Allison Coudert, “Isaac Luria and the Lurianic Kabbalah”, in R.H. Popkin (ed), The Pimlico History of Western Philosophy (London: Pimlico, 1999): 213–215; and M. Idel, “Magical and Neoplatonic Interpretations of the Kabbalah in the Renaissance” in B.D. Cooperman (ed), Jewish Thought in the Sixteenth Century ( Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1983 ): 186–242.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    On his tract on preexistence, see above. The De Anima ejusque Facultatibus (Rotterdam, 1675 and 1677) is said to be a summary of More’s book. The book is quite rare, and was listed in R. Watt’s Bibliotheca Brittanica (1824), vol 2, co1.682n) - not sighted.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    See Allison Coudert, “Henry More, the Kabbalah and the Quakers”, in R. Ashcraft et al (eds), Philosophy, Science and Religion (1992): 31–67.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    These are listed in the Bibliography, below, under Op Om, tom. 2, since More republished them two years later there, with his additional scholia. Most of the Ms. originals of these tracts, some in English in More’s hand, along with More’s letters to Knorr, and other related correspondence, can be found in Herzog-August Bibliothek, Wolfenbuttel, Cod.Guelph 30.4. On the Kabbala Denudata (hereafter KD) and early modem Kabbalism, see Coudert, “The Kabbala denudata: converting Jews or Seducing Christians?”, in R.H. Popkin and G.M. Weiner (eds), Christian Jews and Jewish-Christians (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1994): 73–96; and W.A. Shulze, “Der Einfluss de Kabbala auf die Cambridge Platoniker Cudworth and More.” Judaica, 23 (1967) (in 3 parts): 75 ff. See also G. Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (1960): 244–86; and idem, Kabbalah (Jerusalem: Keter, 1974): 416–419 on Knorr von Rosenroth.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    For a fuller account of the relationship between the Ragley circle and the Lurianic Kabbla, see Allison Coudert, “A Cambridge Platonist’s Kabbalistic Nightmare.” JHI, 36 (1975): 633–52; and idem, “A Quaker-Kabbalist Controversy: George Fox’s Reaction to Francis Mercurius van Helmont.” JWCI, 39 (1976): 171–189. See also Nicolson, “George Keith and the Cambridge Platonists.” Philosophical Review, 39 (1930): 36–55. 0Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    See his comparison between the Jewish Sephiroth, Knorr’s interpretation of it, and his own `Pythagorean’ version, in Trium Tabularum Cabbalisticarum decem Sephirothaschwrw(133) Op Om (tom.2, 1679): 423–444, and below.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Fundamenta Philosophiae sive Cabbalae Aeto-paedo-melissaeae, in Op Om (tom.2, 1679): 523–528. It is also discussed by Coudert, “A Cambridge Platonist’s Kabbalistic Nightmare”: 648–52.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Fundamenta Philosophiae, in Op Om (tom.2, 1679): 525–6.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    In Coudert, “A Cambridge Platonist’s Kabbalistic Nightmare”: 649, Op Om: 526.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Translation by Coudert, in “A Cambridge Platonist’s Kabbalistic Nightmare”.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Quaestiones et Considerationes, in Op Om: 448–9. See also the More’s `Pythagorean’ Sephirothic tree in Trium Tablarum Cabbalisticarum decem Sephirothas, in Op Om: 440.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Compare CC, Philosophic Cabbala, I, with Trium Tablarum Cabbalisticarum, in Op Om: 447–9.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    See More’s comment, in “Some few brief Considerations and Quaeries upon Tractatus primus Libri Druschim.” in Herzog-August Bibliothek, Wolfenbuttel, Cod.Guelph, 30.4, fol.31 (the English original of Quaestiones et Considerationes, Op.Om: 448): “chwrw(133)as if the nature of God was so Gross and corporeal that the world could not be where himself is.”Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Op Om (tom.2, 1679): 523–4.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    The numbers in brackets are those of More’s axioms or `fundamenta’ in the text, ibid.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    These `fundamenta’ were misinterpreted by Serge Hutin, Henry More: Essai sur les doctrines theosophique (Hildescheim: Olms, 1966): 73 ff., to be the opinions of More himself - see C.A. Staudenbaur’s review, “Platonism, Theosophy and Immaterialism: Recent Views of The Cambridge Platonists.” Jill, 35 (1975): 166–69.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    See `Ad Axioma Secundum’, Fundamenta, in Op Om: 524. See also Stuart Brown, “Leibniz and More’s Cabbalistic Circle”, in Hutton (1990): 90–1.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Ad Axiomata septimum’, Fundamenta, Op Om: 524.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Ad axioma duodecimum’; `Ad axioma decimum tertium’; `Ad axioma decimum quartum’, Fundamenta, in Op Om: 524–5.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Ad axioma decimum et undecimum’, in Op Om: 524.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    PP: 285–95; and also the PG: sect.8, in Op Om (tom. 2,1679) (cited above). See above, Chapter 1.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    This was published in the KD (1677, part 1, tom 2): 308 ff, and then appeared in English as A Cabbalistical Dialogue in Answer to the Opinion of a Learned Doctor in Philosophy and Theology, That the World was made of Nothingchwrw(133)(1712). See note above on Hutin.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    See Coudert, “A Cambridge Platonist’s Kabbalistic Nightmare”: 635–42 and D.P. Walker, Decline of Hell (1964): 137–46 on the younger Van Helmont’s Kabbalism. Knorr was the `Compiler’ of the KD. On Knorr’s tract on preexistence, see the discussion above, Chapter 8.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Cabbalistical Dialogue (1712): 3.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Cabbalistical Dialogue: 3.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Cabbalistical Dialogue: 4.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Cabbalistical Dialogue: 29. Compare More, CC, Philosophic Cabbala. I,1; and see above.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Cabbalistic Dialogue: 5–6.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    As Stuart Brown suggests, “Leibniz and More’s Cabbalistic Circle”, Hutton (1990): 90–91.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    See above, and Walker, Decline of Hell (1964): 137–46.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Cabbalistic Dialogue: 9.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Cabbalistical Dialogue: 10.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Cabbalistical Dialogue: 11.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Cabbalistical Dialogue: 11.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
  39. 39.
    Cabbalistical Dialogue: 12.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Cabbalistical Dialogue: 13.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    See Allison Coudert and Taylor Corse (eds), Anne Conway, The Principles of the Most Ancient and Modern Philosophychwrw(133) (Cambridge: CUP, 1996); and also Hutton, “Of Physic and Philosophy”, who points out the dependence of van Helmont’s notions on those of his father.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    See Sarah Hutton, “Anne Conway: critique de More”, Archives de Philosophie (1997):, and Conway, Principles (1690): especially ix.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    This is of course the objection of van Helmont’s former patron, Princess Elizabeth of Bohemia, to Descartes. See Allison Coudert and Taylor Corse, Anne Conway, Principles (1996): Introduction, xvixvii.Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    See Stuart Brown, “Leibniz and More’s Cabbalistic Circle”, in Hutton (1990): 77–96, although Brown admits that the `cabbalistic’ circle is more aptly described as van Helmont’s.Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    See Hayyim Vital, “De Revolutionibus Animarum”, in Knorr, KD vol. 2, part 2. On Kabbalah, and Luria, see M. Idel, Kabbalah: New Perspectives ( New Haven: Yale, 1988 ).Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Conway, Principles: ix, sect.5.Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Compare More, CC, Philosophical Cabbala: i,1 with Van Helmont, A Paraphrastical Exposition, in Cabbalistical Dialogue (1712): 18–19.Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    Conway, Principles (1690): vii, sect.l.Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    See Sarah Hutton, “Anne Conway: critique de Henry More”, Archives de Philosophie 58 (1995): 37184.Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    See above, Chapter 4.Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    Elizabeth Foxcroft was wife of George Foxcroft, whose niece, Mary, was married to John Worthington. Ezekiel Foxcroft, Fellow of Kings College, was their son.Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    See Nicolson: 381 ff. See also Thomas Wilson, The Spirit of Delusion Reproved, or the Quakers Cause Fairly Heard and Justly Condemned. ( London, 1678 ). Wilson was Anne Conway’s local Anglican clergyman.Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    More, in Nicolson: 306–8; DD: 569–75.Google Scholar
  54. 54.
    More, “Mastix his Letter”, in ET: 307. See also More’s reaction to the burning of the Bible by a Quaker in London, in Nicolson: 303 and 306.Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    More, “Mastix his Letter”, in ET: 307.Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    See Nicolson: 404; Elys, Letters: 19–20; and More to W. Penn, in Ward: 180–199. See also More’s commendation of the Quaker principle of the `inner light’ to his friend, Dr John Davies, in Ward: 145–148.Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    Nicolson: 378 ff. More, DD: 572–3. See also Edmund Elys, A Letter to reverend John Norris, in vindication of the Quakers from the charge of being Socinians (1693), which is clearly influenced by More’s attitudesGoogle Scholar
  58. 58.
    July 14, 1671, in Nicolson: 341.Google Scholar
  59. 59.
    August 11, 1674, More to Anne Conway, in Nicolson: 391.Google Scholar
  60. Nicolson, “George Keith and the Cambridge Platonists.” Philosophical Review, 39 (1930): 49–55; and Allison Coudert, “Henry More, the Kabbalah, and the Quakers”, in A. Ashcraft et al (eds), Philosophy, Religion and Science (1992): 31–67.Google Scholar
  61. 61.
    Keith also got into trouble with Fox and the other Quakers over some of the Kabbalistic ideas he had picked up from van Helmont and his friend, Knorr von Rosenroth, with whom, like More, he corresponded. See More to Anne Conway, in Nicolson: 415–6.Google Scholar
  62. 62.
    George Keith, Immediate Revelation (1675): 233–4; and DD: 565–6.Google Scholar
  63. 63.
    Keith, Immediate Revelation (1675): 233.Google Scholar
  64. 64.
    See above, Chapters 1 and 2.Google Scholar
  65. 65.
    Keith, Immediate Revelation: 248.Google Scholar
  66. 66.
    Keith, Immediate Revelation: 249–51.Google Scholar
  67. 67.
    Keith, Immediate Revelation: 251. See also More, DD: 293.Google Scholar
  68. 68.
    Keith, Immediate Revelation (1675): 258.Google Scholar
  69. 69.
    As Nicolson: 379 also argues.Google Scholar
  70. 70.
    See Richard H. Popkin, The Third Force in Seventeenth-Century Thought (Leiden; Brill, 1992 ).Google Scholar
  71. 74.
    See GMG: II,viii-xii.Google Scholar
  72. 72.
    See Nicolson: 411 ff.Google Scholar
  73. 73.
    For example, Nicolson: 416–418.Google Scholar
  74. 74.
    Cited by Nicolson: 451.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Crocker
    • 1
  1. 1.University of AustraliaAustralia

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