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

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


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.


Modern Philosophy Conceptual Dualism Firsthand Knowledge Conceptual Opposite Divine Essence 
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    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
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2003

Authors and Affiliations

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

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