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Metaphysics, Psychology and Natural Philosophy in the Psychodia Platonica

  • 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

The spiritual perfectionism or illuminism outlined in More’s poem, “Psychozoia” involved a psychology, a metaphysic and an epistemology that consciously opposed both the apparent implications of the Calvinism of his upbringing and the scholastic philosophy he had first imbibed at Christ’s.1 This he delineated in the first canto of “Psychozoia” (1642), that might be described as the first philosophical production of Cambridge Platonism, a first ‘manifesto’ of considerable intellectual sophistication, for nothing else produced in the 1640s by the Cambridge group comes close to the breadth and scope of its arguments.2 I emphasise this here because the archaic language and elaborate and sometimes obscure Spenserian allegorical structure of the poem has rendered it difficult for the modem reader and effectively cloaked its intrinsic novelty, and this perhaps explains why it has been neglected by all but a handful of literary scholars.3 But its importance for us lies in its philosophical intent: in 61 verses it sums up a whole metaphysical and psychological way of thinking deliberately opposed to both contemporary Calvinist determinism and voluntarism and academic scholasticism. These initial arguments are then developed much further in the poems that follow, making More’s Psychodia Platonica a rather extraordinary book: a novel English ‘platonic theology’ in Spenserian verse, but with a Protestant illuminist devotional flavour, quite different to the Christian Platonism and hermeticism of its Renaissance predecessors.

Keywords

Rational Argument Natural Theology Metaphysical Principle Divine Nature Philosophical Theology 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Ward: 10, cited above.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Of all the works by the Platonists, only Cudworth’s two early sermons, Union of Christ and the Church (1642) and Discourse concerning the True Notion of the Lord’s Supper (1642) appeared at this time, and although quite characteristic of the group’s theology, they are neither as comprehensive as More’s poem, nor as self-consciously Platonic, relying mainly on Patristic sources.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    One of the best early discussions is C.C. Brown, “The Early Works of Henry More” (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Reading, 1968). Geoffrey Bullough’s learned commentary in his 1931 edition, The Poems of Henry More (abbreviated here as Bullough) remains the most useful in print, while Marjorie Nicolson’s article, “More’s Psychozoia”’ Modern Language Notes 37 (1922): 141–8 and John Hoyle’s essay in his The Waning of the Renaissance (The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1971), remain useful. Since then it has remained a relatively neglected source. See my essays, “Illuminism” in Rogers (1997), chapter 9, and “Henry More: a Biographical Essay”, in Hutton (1990): 1–18.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    More used either the 1580 or 1615 edition of Plotinus: Plotini… operum philosophicorum omnium… cum Latina M. Ficini interpretatione (Basle - both editions have the same pagination). See Brown (thesis, 1968): 367.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Compare Cudworth, Sermon, in Patrides (1969): 112, and see Plotinus: IV ix 3; Plato, Timaeus: 32c; and Philo, in Winston, Philo (1981): 113–4.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    See Plotinus: V 3 9 and Proclus, Elements of Theology: props 16, 17, and 25–39. On the principle of the attraction of like to like in this scheme, see Proclus: props. 28–31.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Plotinus: I i 4; V ix 6–7; and Plato, Timaeus: 28a ff. Compare Origen, First Principles: I I 6 and Iii 3 ff. More’s redaction follows that of Clement and Origen. See Clement, Stromata: II vi 1; V lxv 2; V lxxviii 3; and Origen, First Principles: I I 6 (on the Father); Clement, Stromata: V xvi 3; VII v 5; and Origen, First Principles: I ii 4; Contra Celsum: V 39. See also Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (1977): 127–30..Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    See the useful discussion of this distinguishing feature of Cambridge Platonism in Dockrill, “The Heritage of Patristic Platonism”, in Rogers et al, Cambridge Platonism (1997): 58–60.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Origen, Contra Celsum: I ii 64. See also P. Merlan, Monopsychism,Mysticism, Metaconsciousness (Dordrecht, 1963): 33 ff., and Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (London, 1977): 128. On the theological background to this adoption of patristic Platonism, see D.W. Dockrill, “The Heritage of Patristic Platonism ”: 55–77.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Plotinus: V I 2; IV ix 3; IV ix 5. Clement, Stromata: VI cxxxviii 1 ff.; Origen, First Principles: I iii. Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    “Psychozoia”: I 7; and DD: 301–2. But there are parallels in Plotinus, V viii 13; and Ficino, (ed. R. Marcel), Commentaire sur le Banquet de Platon (1956): 161–2. See also Rust’s Remains (1686): 1–20; and Smith (1660): 140–3.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    `Psychozoia’, i,15; and Whichcote, Aphorisms (1753), Tt 1023. See also V. Lossky, Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church (London, 1957), p.102 on the role of ‘Aeon’ in the Greek Fathers.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Parmenides, cited by Plotinus, V,ix,5; V,i,8; and III,viii,8.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    PP, p.338–9; Plotinus, III,vii,4; V,ix,6–7; and Lossky, Mystical Theology (1957): 102 ff.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    ’Psychozoia’, i,15.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    CC,The Philosophical Cabbala, i,3; and see also Plotinus: I,i,4; and Plato, Timaeus: 28a ff; and V. Lossky, Mystical Theology (1957): 102.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    On the `aetherial vehicle’, and the soul’s `tricentricity’, see also “Psychathanasia”, III,i; and IS: III,xviii,3, and III,xix,4–7 and above.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    “Psychozoia”, i,35–9; and see Pistorius, Plotinus and Neoplatonism (London, 1952): 58–66; and see also Dockrill, “The Heritage of Patristic Platonism”: 58–59.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    “Psychozoia”: i.16; and see More, GMG: I,iv,2. More’s Trinitarianism, like Cudworth’s, is really a mild `subordinationism’. See the discussion below, Chapters 6 and 7, and the summary of the controversy surrounding Cudworth’s very similar position, in T. Wise, Confutation of the Reason and Philosophy of Atheism (2 vols, 1706): 1,.79–124.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    “Psychozoia”: i,38.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Ibid: i,17 ff.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    See above, and “Psychozoia”, ii,26–9; and “Psychathanasia”, 11,1,11; and compare this with Spenser, Faine Queene: IV,i,18–30.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    See Proclus, Elements of Theology, prop.36 ff. See also Heninger, Touches of Sweet Harmony (1974): 78–85Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    See CC, The Philosophical Cabbala: 1,l; and The Defence of the Philosophical Cabbala (1712): 75–6.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    The Philosophical Cabbala: i,1.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    “Psychozoia”: i,17 and i,27; and see Bullough (1931): 178.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    “Psychozoia”, ii,9; and see below.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Plato, Timaeus“:28–30; and see Armstrong, Architecture of the Intelligible Universe (1940): ff. See also Aristotle, Physics:194a. Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Plotinus:IV,iii,9. Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    “Psychozoia”: 1,9Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Plotinus: III,vi,7; I,viii,4 and 14–15. See also Lossky (1957): 128.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    “Psychozoia”: ii,9; and see Discourses: 188.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    “Psychozoia”: ii,10; and Plotinus: III,vi,7.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    See J. Henry, “A Cambridge Platonist’s Materialism: Henry More and the Concept of Soul.” JWCI 49 (1986): 172–95. But see also A. Jacob (ed) Henry More’s Manual of Metaphysics (Hildescheim: G. Olms, 1995): xxi-xxiii, and the discussion below.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    “Psychozoia”: i,41; and Plotinus: IV,iv,13.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    “Psychozoia”: i,41–7; and see More, IS: Preface, sects. 11–13; and below.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    “Psychozoia”: i,43; and DP: 12–16; and see below Chapter 5.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    “Psychozoia”: i,45.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Ibid, and “Psychathanasia”: III,i,18–22; and see also Plotinus: I,vi,2–3, where the senses are described as channels through which the divine forms within external objects can be recognised by the perceiving soul, through its inherent sympathy with them. See below, chapter 5.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    “Psychozoia”: i,56.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    “Psychathanasia”: III,i,24.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    “Psychozoia”: i,57–60. See Plotinus: V,ii,2; V,iv,2, and VI,vii,16; and also Proclus, Elements of Theology: props. 24–39.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    IS: II,xi,4.Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    “Psychozoia”: i,57. See also “Psychathanasia”: I,iii, in which the distressed poet is revealed his philosophy of procession and return in the figure of a `moon-bow’ by an angel of wisdom, or Minerva.Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    See below, Chapter 4, and also A Tigerstedt, Plato’s Idea of Poetical Inspiration (Oslo, 1969): 63–4.Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    “Psychozoia”: i,57. See also the discussion below, next chapter.Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    See Plato, Republic: 616d ff. (on the 8 whorls of the spindle of the Fates). See also the Hermetica, Poemader: i,26. The attraction for the number 8 for More is `Pythagorean’ - it is the number of the diaspason, the harmony of the cosmos. See S.K. Heninger, Touches of Sweet Harmony (New Haven: Yale, 1974): 91 ff. and below.Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    It is not often noticed that this ladder of being was retained by More in his later works: see the description of the process of sensation via `degrees’ of reason, imagination, sense and the seminal principle in IS: II,x,3–5, and Il,xi,2–4.Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    “Psychozoia” (both editions, 1642 and 1647): iî,14; and see also CC, Defence of the Philosophical Cabbala (1712): 81.Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Ibid: ii,15; and see Heninger, Touches of Sweet Harmony (1974): 128–32.Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    PP: 409–10, and see “Antipsychopannychia”: ii,5–9. This doctrine was perceived as a real threat by More. See Huntington Library MS, “Psychopannichite”, and B.W. Young, “’The Soul-Sleeping System’: Politics and Heresy in 18th century England”, Journal of Ecclesiastical History 45 (1994): 6481, for the theory’s continuity into the l8°i century.Google Scholar
  52. 52.
  53. 53.
    See the argument in More, DD: 52–3.Google Scholar
  54. 54.
    See More, IS: III,xii,1 ff., and the scholia on Ibid (1712): I,viii,8, which explicitly identifies the Spirit of Nature with the `Nature’ of Proclus and Plotinus.Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    “Antipsychopannychia”: ii,5–9, in PP, p.230–1. Compare Smith (1660): 385–7.Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    “Antipsychopannychia”: ii,8.Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    Ibid: ii,15.Google Scholar
  58. 58.
    Compare Smith (1660): 385 ff. and Whichcote, Aphorisms (1753): #294.Google Scholar
  59. 59.
    See Discourses: 106–7. See also Smith (1660): 386: “Wicked men bury their Souls in their Bodies”; and Cudworth, TIS (1678): 135.Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    More, AA: Preface; and EE: I,xiii,5–6.Google Scholar
  61. 61.
    “Psychozoia” (1647): ii 98.Google Scholar
  62. 62.
    See Castellio, Defence to his Adversary, in Obedience (1679): 129 ff., and Conference (1679): 27–9 and 59 ff.Google Scholar
  63. 63.
    PP: `Preface’, sig.B4. See also the typical admission in AA: Iii 5 (subtitle) “That the Atheist has no advantage from the Authors free confession, That his Arguments are not so convictive, but that they leave a possibility of the thing being otherwise.” See also EE: II iv 3.Google Scholar
  64. 64.
    See Alan Gabbey, “Philosophia Cartesiana Triumphata” (hereafter Gabbey): 188.Google Scholar
  65. 65.
    See Staudenbaur, (thesis, 1968): 152–3.Google Scholar
  66. 66.
    The quotation is from DP “To the Reader”, also in PP. See Gabbey and also A. Pacchi, Cartesio in Inghliterra (Ban: Laterza, 1973) on the chronology of More’ s early discovery of Descartes. On More’ s criticisms of Descartes, see below, Chapter 5.Google Scholar
  67. 67.
    “Psychathanasia”, lII,iii,11.Google Scholar
  68. 68.
    /bid, III,iii, 14–15Google Scholar
  69. 69.
    See the discussion below.Google Scholar
  70. 70.
    This was first published in Op Om (vol 3, 1679): 751–53. It is difficult to date this poem accurately, but Bullough believes that More wrote it between 1651 and 1653; see Bullough (1931): 169–72. See the translation by Shugg, W., Sherwin, W., and Freyman, J., “Henry More’s Circulatio Sanguinis: an unexamined poem in praise of Harvey.” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 46 (1972): 180–89, especially 186–7Google Scholar
  71. 71.
    “Psychathanasia”: I,i,16–18.Google Scholar
  72. 72.
    “Preface to the Reader”, before “Psychathanasia” (1642 and 1647).Google Scholar
  73. 73.
    See More’s letter to Petty in C. Webster, “Henry More and Descartes: some new sources”, BJHS (1969): 369–71, and below.Google Scholar
  74. 74.
    See for example, J.H. Tulloch’s study in his magisterial Rational Theology and Christian Philosophy in seventeenth century England (2 vols, Edinburgh: Blackwood, 1872). Surprisingly, this bafflement at the apparent contradiction between More’s interest in the `new science’ and spirits, ghosts, witches etc, continues throughout much of the 20th century. See for example, R.A. Greene’s “Henry More and Robert Boyle on the Spirit of Nature” JHI 23 (1962). and more recently, A.R. Hall’s Henry More (Oxford, Blackwell, 1993).Google Scholar
  75. 75.
    See below, Chapter 5.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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