Metaphysics, Psychology and Natural Philosophy in the Psychodia Platonica

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


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.


Rational Argument Natural Theology Metaphysical Principle Divine Nature Philosophical Theology 
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    Ward: 10, cited above.Google Scholar
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    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
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    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
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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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