Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy

Living Edition
| Editors: Marco Sgarbi

Kircher, Athanasius

Born: 2 May 1601/1602? Geisa near Fulda
Died: 27 November 1680, Rome
  • Iva Lelková
Living reference work entry

Latest version View entry history

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02848-4_561-2

Abstract

Athanasius Kircher was a Jesuit, a Baroque polymath, and an author of more than 30 works on various subjects ranging from hieroglyphics, time measurement, magnetism, music, and optics through astronomy, history, and the cultures of China and Egypt to universal language, Noah’s Ark, and the Tower of Babel. He is often described as “the last man who knew everything” (Findlen, Athanasius Kircher. The last man who knew everything. New York/London: Routledge, 2004), as “the master of hundred arts” (Reilly, Athanasius Kircher S.J., Master of Hundred Arts 1602–1680. Wiesbaden: Edizioni del Mondo, 1974), and as a Baroque polymath standing between Renaissance and modern episteme, but also as a “man of misconceptions” (Glassie, A man of misconceptions: The life of an eccentric in an age of change. New York: Riverhead, 2012). He published not only experiments and observations which were progressive and new in his time but also some theories that are considered false by today’s science and were considered false already by many of his contemporaries. In a search for universal knowledge leading back to prisca sapientia and hermetic writings, Kircher believed that deciphering hieroglyphs and finding the basis of all languages and cultures would prove the existence of only one original universal religion and therefore support the return of Protestant Churches to the Roman Catholic Church. Kircher’s writings and theories were a mixture of Aristotelian natural philosophy, Renaissance Platonism, and Corpus Hermeticum with a specific addition of Lullian combinatorial art (Leinkauf, Mundus combinatus, Studien zur Struktur der barocken Universalwissenschaft am Beispiel Athanasius Kirchers SJ. Akademie Verlag, Berlin, 2009). Kircher also drew heavily from the work of Nicholas of Cusa (1401 – 1464), especially in his astronomical work, although without acknowledging it (Bauer, Willibald-Pirckheimer-Jahrbuch:69–107, 1989/1990; Siebert, Große kosmologische Kontroverse: Rekonstruktionsversuche anhand des Itinerarium exstaticum von Athanasius Kircher SJ (1602–1680). Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2006). Kircher’s celebrated museum attracted many visitors from across Europe, and Kircher sustained a large correspondence based not only on personal encounters but also on utilizing the Jesuit communication network (Friedrich, Der lange Arm Roms?: Globale Verwaltung und Kommunikation im Jesuitenorden 1540–1773. Frankfurt am Main: Campus Verlag, 2011). He was supported by emperors, popes and a number of nobles, and leading church figures and scholars, and his books were published in numerous editions and print runs. However, he was generally either forgotten or considered to be an eccentric fool for about 300 years. The new interest of scholars in the borders of modern science and its rise, as well as their interest in the communication strategies and practice of Early Modern scholars, has now turned Athanasius Kircher into one of the most studied Early Modern figures of the last few decades. Athanasius Kircher also appears in popular culture, due to the similarities between his eclecticism and the postmodernist movement (Borges; Eco, L’Isola del giorno prima. Milano: Bompiani, 1994; Roblès, Là où les tigres sont chez eux. Paris: Zulma, 2008).

Keywords

Chinese Script Protestant Church Universal Knowledge Universal Magnetism Moral Depravation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.
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References

Primary Literature (First Editions)

  1. Imbroll, Salvatore (pseudonym of Athanasius Kircher). 1638. Specula Melitensis encyclica , hoc est, Syntagma novum instrumentorum physico-mathamaticorum; in quo Quicquid vel ad Astronomicas, aut Physicas ijs adnexas disciplinas, pertinet, novo ordine, metodo, et summa facilitate iuxta, atq. brevitate per rotas, ciclosq. artificiose dispositos, digestum, repraesentatumque spectator. In gratiam generosissimorum equitum Hierosolymitanorum explicate, & in 125 propositiones digesta ab illustrissimo, ac reverendissimo F. Salvatore Imbroll, sacrae religionis Hierosolymitanae priore generali. Neapoli: S. Roncaglioli.Google Scholar
  2. Kestler, Joannes Stephanus (ed.). 1680. Physiologia Kircheriana experimentalis , qua summa argumentorum multitudine & varietate naturalium rerum scientia per experimenta physica, mathematica, medica, chymica, musica, magnetica, mechanica comprobatur atque stabilitur quam ex vastis operibus Adm. Revdi. Kircheri extraxit & in hunc ordinem per classes redegit Romae, anno M.DC. LXXV. Amstelodami: J. Jansson van Waesberghe.Google Scholar
  3. Kircher, Athanasius. 1631. Ars magnesia , Hoc est Disquisitio Bipartita empirica seu experimentalis, Physico-Mathematica de Natura, Viribus et prodigiosis effectibus magnetis, quam Cum theorematice, tum problematice propositam, novaque metodo ac apodictica seu demonstrativa traditam, variisque usibus ac diuturna experientiam comprobatam, favete Deo, tuebitur. Herbipoli: E. M. Zinck.Google Scholar
  4. Kircher, Athanasius. 1635. Primitiae gnomonicae catoptricae hoc est Horologiographiae nouae specularis, in qua breuiter noua, certa, exacta, et facilis demonstratur horologiorum per reflexi luminis radium construendorum methodus; Item qua ratione praedicto reflexi luminis radio, in qualibet quantumuis irregulari muri superficie, in interioribus domorum, aliisque locis obscuris, et vmbrosis, cum horologia omnis generis, tùm omnium circulorum, qui in primo mobili considerari possunt, proiecturae, et curuae sectorum conorum lineae, processus solis, & lunae in planis indices, aliàque plurima scitu digna repraesentari possint, varie docentur. Avenione: J. Pilot.Google Scholar
  5. Kircher, Athanasius. 1636. Prodromus Coptus sive Aegyptiacus . Ad Eminentiss: Principem S.R.E. Cardinalem Franciscum Barberinum in quo Cum linguae Coptæ, siue Aegyptiacæ, quondam Pharaonicae, origo, aetas, vicissitudo, inclinatio; tum hieroglyphicae literaturae instauratio, vti per varia variarum eruditionum, interpretationumque difficillimarum specimina, ita nova quoque & insolita metodo exhibentur. Romae: Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide.Google Scholar
  6. Kircher, Athanasius. 1641. Magnes sive De arte magnetica opus tripartitum quo praeterquam quo universa magnetis natura, eiusque in omnibus artibus & scientijs usus nova methodo explicetur, e viribus quoque & prodigiosis effectibus magneticarum, aliarumque abditarum naturae motionum in elementis, lapidibus, plantis & animalibus elucescentium, multa hucusque incognita naturae arcane per physica, medica, chymica et mathematica omnis generis experimenta recluduntur. Romae: H. Scheus.Google Scholar
  7. Kircher, Athanasius. 1643. Lingua Aegyptiaca Restituta Opus tripartitum. Quo Linguae coptae sive Idiomatis illius primaeui Aegyptiorum Pharaonici, vetustate temporum paene collapsi, ex abstrusis Arabum monumentis, plena Instauratio continetur. Cui adnectitur Supplementum earum rerum, quae in prodromo Copto & opere hoc tripartito, vel omissa, vel obscurius tradita sunt, nova, & peregrine erudition contextum ad instauratae linguae usum speciminis loco declarandum. Romae: H. Scheus.Google Scholar
  8. Kircher, Athanasius. 1645. Ars magna lucis et umbrae in decem libros digesta. Quibus admirandae lucis et umbrae in mundo, atque adeo universa natura, vires effectusq. uti nova, ita varia novrum reconditiorumque speciminum exhibitione, ad varios mortalit usus, panduntur, 2 vols. Romae: H. Scheus.Google Scholar
  9. Kircher, Athanasius. 1647. Rituale ecclesiae Aegyptiacae sive copthtitarum, quod, Iussu Cardinalium S. Congregationis de propaganda fide, ex lingua Copta et Arabica in Latinam transtulit Athanasius Kircherus, s.l..Google Scholar
  10. Kircher, Athanasius. 1650a. Musurgia universalis sive ars magna consoni et dissoni in X libros digesta. Qua universa sonorum doctrina & philosophia, musicaeque tam theoreticae, quam practicae scientia, summa varietate traditur, 2. vols. Romae: Heirs of F. Corbelleti.Google Scholar
  11. Kircher, Athanasius. 1650b. Obeliscus Pamphilius , h. e. Interpretatio nova & hucusque intentata obelisci hieroglyphici, quem non ita pridem ex veteri hippodromo Antonini Caracallae Caesaris, in Agonale forum transtulit, integritami restituit & in urbis aeternae ornamentum eremit Innocentius X Pontifex Maximus in quo post varia aegyptiacae, chaldaicae, hebraicae, graecanicae antiquitatis doctrinaeque qua sacrae, qua profanae monumenta veterum tandem theologia, hieroglypicis evoluta symbolis detecta e tenebris in lucem asseritur. Romae: L. Grignani.Google Scholar
  12. Kircher, Athanasius. 1652–1654. Oedipus aegyptiacus . Hoc est Universalis Hieroglyphicae Veterum doctrinae temporum iniuria abolice instauratio. Opus ex omni orientalium doctrina & sapientia conditum, nec non viginti diversarum linguarum authoritate stabilitum, 3 Vols., IV Tom. Romae: V. Mascardi.Google Scholar
  13. Kircher, Athanasius. 1656. Itinerarium exstaticum quo mundi opificium id est coelestis expansi, siderumque tam errantium, quam fixorum natura, vires, proprietares, singulorumque compositio & structura, ab infimo telluris globo, usque ad ultima mundi confinia, per ficti raptus integumentum explorata, nova hypothesi exponitur ad veritatem interlocutoribus Cosmiele et Theodidacto…. Romae: V. Mascardi Second part: 1657. Iter extaticum II. Qui et Mundi Subterranei Prodromus dicitur. Quo Geocosmi opificium sive terrestris globi Structura, una cum abditis in ea constitutis arcanioris Naturae Reconditorijs, per ficti raptus integumentum exponitur ad veritatem, In III Dialogos distinctum., Romae: V. Mascardi. (Second edition:1660. Iter extaticum coeleste , quo mundi opificium, id est, coelestis expandi siderumque tam errantium quam fixorum natura, vires, proprietates, singulorumque compositio & struktura, ab infimo telluris globo, usque ad ultima mundi confinia, per ficti raptus integumentum explorata, nova hzpothesi exponitur ad veritatem, interlocutoribus Cosmiele et Theodidacto… Accessit ejusdem auctoris Iter extaticum terrestre, et Synopsis mundi subterranei. Hac secunda editione praelusionibus & scholiis illustratum…ipso autore annuente, a P. Gaspare Schotto…. Herbipoli: J. A. Endter and W. Endter.Google Scholar
  14. Kircher, Athanasius. 1658. Scrutinium physico-medicum contagiosae luis, quae pestis dicitur. Quo origo, causae, signa, prognostica Pestis, nec non insolentes malignantis Naturae effectus, qui statis temporibus, coelestium influxum virtute et efficacia, tum in Elementis; tum in epidemijs hominum animatiumque morbis elucescunt unà cum appropriatis remediorum antidotis nova doctrina in lucem eruuntur. Romae:V. Mascardi.Google Scholar
  15. Kircher, Athanasius. 1661. Diatribe, De prodigiosis crucibus quae tam supra vestes hominum, quam res alias, non pridem post ultimo incendium Vesuvij montis Neapoli comparuerunt. Romae: B. Deversin.Google Scholar
  16. Kircher, Athanasius. 1662. Sententia de unguento Armario, in: Sylvester Rattray, Theatrum sympatheticum auctum, exhibens varios authores. De pulvere sympathetic quidem: Digbaeum, Straussium, Papinium, et Mohyum. De ungento vero armario: Goclenium, Robertum, hermontium, Robertum Fluddum, Beckerum, Borellum, Bartholinum, Servium Kircherum, Matthum Sennertum, Wechtlerum, Nardium, Freitagium, Conringium, Burlinum, Fracastorium, et Weckerum. Praemittitur his Sylvestri Rattray, Aditus ad sympatiam et antipathiam. Norimbergae: J. A. Endter and W. Endter.Google Scholar
  17. Kircher, Athanasius. 1663. Polygraphia nova et universalis, ex combinatoria arte detecta. Qua divis etiam liguarum quamtumvis imperitus triplici metodo prima, vera & reali, sine ulla latentis arcani suspicione, manifeste; secunda, per technologiam quandam artificiose dispositam; tertia, per steganographiam impenetrabili scribendi genere adoranatam, unius vernaculae lingua subsidio, omnibus populis & linguis clam, aperte; obscure, & dilucide scribere & respondere posse docetur, & demonstrantur. In 3 syntagmata distribute in principum gratiam ac recreationem inventa & in lucem edita. Romae: Varesi.Google Scholar
  18. Kircher, Athanasius. 1664–1665. Mundus Subterraneus In XII Libros digestus; Qvo Divinum Subterrestris Mundi Opificium, mira Ergasteriorum Naturae in eo distributio, verbo πανταμoςφoν Protei Regnum, Universae denique Naturae Majestas & divitiae summa rerum varietate exponuntur. Abditorum effectuum causae acri indagine inquisitae demonstrantur; cognitae per Artis & Naturae conjugium ad humanae vitae necessarium usum vario experimentorum apparatu, necnon novo modo, & ratione applicatur, 2.vols. Amsterodami: J. Jansson van Waesberghe and E. Weyerstraet.Google Scholar
  19. Kircher, Athanasius. 1665a. Iter cometae anni 1664 a 14 Decemb. usque ad 30 Romae observatum. Ad Serenissimum Principem Augustum, Ducem Brunsvic. Et Luneburg. Datum Romae 3. Januar 1665.Google Scholar
  20. Kircher, Athanasius. 1665b. Historia Eustachio Mariana , qua admiranda D. Eustachii, sociorumque vita ex variis Authoribus collecta; locus in quo eidem in Monte Vulturello Christus inter cornua Cervi apparuit, noviter detectus; Ecclesia quoque B. M. Virginis, quam eodem in loco a Constantino Magno conditam, S. Sylvester Papa I. solemni ritu consecrasse traditur, summo studio inquiisita, necnon varijs Antiquitatum Monumentis illustrata, e densis, quibus hucusque delituerunt, tenebris, in publicae lucis bonum educuntur. Romae: Varesi.Google Scholar
  21. Kircher, Athanasius. 1665c. Arithmologia sive De abditis numerorum mysteriis, qua Origo, Antiquitas et fabrica Numerorum exponitur; abditae eorundem proprietates demonstrantur; fontes superstitionum in Amuletorum fabrica aperiuntur; denique post Cabalistarum, Arabum, Gnosticorum, aliorumque magicas impietates detectas, vera et licita numerorum mystica significatio ostenditur. Romae: Varesi.Google Scholar
  22. Kircher, Athanasius. 1666. Ad Alexandrum VII. Pont. Max. Obelisci Aegyptiaci nuper inter Isaei Romani rudera effosi interpretatio hieroglyphica. Romae: Varesi.Google Scholar
  23. Kircher, Athanasius. 1667a. China Monumentis, Qua Sacris qua Profanis, Nec non variis Naturae & Artis Spectaculis, Aliarumque rerum memorabilium Argumentis Illustrata , auspiciis Leopold Primi, Roman., Imper. semper Augusti, Munificentissimi Mecaenatis. Amstelodami: J. Jansson van Waesberghe; Antwerpiae: J. de Meurs.Google Scholar
  24. Kircher, Athanasius. 1667b. Magneticum Naturae Regnum sive Disceptatio physiologica de triplici in Natura rerum Magnete juxta triplicem ejusdem Naturae gradum digesto Inanimato, Animato, Sensitivo, qua occultae prodigiosarum quarundam motionum vires et proprietates, quae in triplici Naturae Oeconomia nonnullis in corporibus noviter detectis observantur, in apertam lucem eruuntur, et luculentis argumentis, experientia duce, demonstrantur. Amstelodami: J. Jansson van Waesberghe and E. Weyerstraet; Romae: De Lazaris.Google Scholar
  25. Kircher, Athanasius. 1669. Ars magna sciendi in XII libros digesta qua nova et universali methodo per artificiosum combinationum contextum de omni re proposita pluribus et prope infinitis rationibus disputari, omniumque summaria quaedam cognitio comparari potest. Amstelodami: J. Janssson van Waesberghe and widow of E. Weyerstraet.Google Scholar
  26. Kircher, Athanasius. 1671. Latium . Id Est, Nova & Parallela Latii tum Veteris tum Novi Descriptio : qua Quaecunque vel Natura, vel Veterum Romanorum Ingenium admiranda effecit, Geographico-Historico-Physico Ratiocinio; juxta rerum gestarum, Temporumque seriem exponitur & enucleatur. Amstelodami: J. Jansson van Waesberghe and heirs of E. Weyerstraet.Google Scholar
  27. Kircher, Athanasius. 1672. Principis Christiani Archetypon politicum sive Sapientia regnatrix; quam Regiis instructam documentis ex antiquo Numismate Honorati Joannii Caroli V imp. & Philippi II aulici Caroli Hispaniarum principi magistri nec non Oxonensi ecclesiae antistitis. Symbolicis obvelatam integumentis, Amstelodami 1672. (Published together with: Splendor et Gloria domus Joanniae. Amstelodami: J. Jansson van Waesberghe).Google Scholar
  28. Kircher, Athanasius. 1673. Phonurgia nova sive Conjugium Mechanico-physicum artis & naturae paranympha phonosophia concinnatum; qua universa sonorum natura, proprietas, vires effecruumq prodigiosorum causae, nova & multiplicit experimentorum exhibitione enucleantur; Instrumentorum Acusticorum, machinarumq. ad naturae prototypon adaptandarum, tum ad sonos ad remotissima spatia propagandos, tum in abditis domorum recessibus per occultioris ingenii machinamenta clam palamve sermocinandi modus et ratio traditur, tum denique in bellorum tumultibus singularia hujusmodi organorum usus, & praxis per novam phonologiam describuntur. Campidonae: R. Dreherr.Google Scholar
  29. Kircher, Athanasius. 1675. Arca Noë , in tres libros digesta, quorum I. De rebus quae ante diluvium, II. De iis, quae ipso diluvio ejusque duratione, III. De iis, quae post diluvium a Noëmo gesta sunt. Quae omnia Nova Methodo, nec non Summa Argumentorum varietate, explicatur, et demonstrantur. Amstelodami: J. Jansson van Waesberghe.Google Scholar
  30. Kircher, Athanasius. 1676. Sphinx Mystagoga sive Diatribe hieroglyphica, qua Mumiae ex Memphiticis Pyramidum adytis erutae et non ita pridem in Galliam transmissaejuxta veterum Hieromystarum mentem intentionemque, plena fide et exacta exhibetur interpretatio. Amstelodami: J. Jansson van Waesberghe; Romae: V. Mascardi (according to Sommervogel).Google Scholar
  31. Kircher, Athanasius. 1679a. Tariffa Kircheriana id est Inventum aucthoris novoum expedita, & mira arte combinata metodo, universálem geometriae, & arithmetricae practiacae summam continens. (Published together with: Tariffa Kircheriana sive mensa Pythagorica expansa; Ad Matheseos quaesita accommodata per quinque columnas, quarum numeri in fronte sunt multiplicantes et in prima columna dicuntur multiplicandi. R. Q. C. ubicumque occurrunt signifiant Radices, Quadrata, et Cubes in traversa numerorum serie. Romae: N. A. Tinassi.Google Scholar
  32. Kircher, Athanasius. 1679b. Turris Babel , sive Archontologia qua primo Priscorum post diluvium hominum vita, mores rerumque gestarum magnitudo, secundo Turris fabrica civitatumque exstructio, confusio linguarum, & inde gentium transmigrationis, cum principalium inde enatorum idiomatum historia, multiplici eruditione describuntur & explicantur. Amstelodami: J. Jansson van Waesberghe.Google Scholar
  33. Kircher, Athanasius. 1684. Vita Admodum Reverendi P. Athanasii Kircheri, Societ. Jesu, viri toto orbe celebratissimi. In Fasciculus epistolarum Adm. R. P. Athanasii Kircheri Soc. Jesu, viri in Mathematicis et variorum Idiomatum Scientis Celebratissimi, Complectentium Materias Philosophico-Mathematico-Medicas: Exaratae sunt ad Nobiles Eruditos atq. Excellentissimos viros d.D. Lucas Schökios, Seniorem & Juniorem, D. Hieronymum Velschium, Trigam Illustrem Medicorum, D. Ankelium, Theophilum Spitzelum, & ad Autorem ipsum. Nunc primo in publicam lucem prodiere…, ed. Hieronymus Langenmantel. Augusta Vindelicorum: S. Utzschneider.Google Scholar
  34. Schott, Caspar (ed.). 1660. Pantometrum Kircherianum , hoc est, instrumentum geometricum novum, a celeberrimo viro P. Athanasio Kirchero ante hac inventum, nunc decem libris, universam paene practicam geometriam complectentibus explicatum, perspicuisque demonstrationibus illustratum. A Gaspare Schotto. Hoc instrumento, quidquid alii variis organis, intricatissimis demonstrationibus, laboriosissimis calculationibus praestant ad geometriam practicam spectans, summâ facilitate, brevitate, ac certitudine perficitur. Herbipoli: J. G. Schönwetter.Google Scholar
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Translations of Kircher’s Works

  1. Kircher, Athanasius. 1662. Philosophischer Extract und Auszug aus der Musurgia Universalis. Schwäbisch-Hall: Hans Reinh. Laidingen.Google Scholar
  2. Kircher, Athanasius. 1668. Toonneel van China. Amsterdam: J. Janssonius van Waesberghe and widow of E. Weyerstraet.Google Scholar
  3. Kircher, Athanasius. 1669. Naturelijke en Geneeskonstige navorsching der Peste. Rotterdam: Abraham van Waesberghe.Google Scholar
  4. Kircher, Athanasius. 1670. La Chine illustrée. Amsterdam: J. Janssonius van Waesberghe and heirs of E. Weyerstraet.Google Scholar
  5. Kircher, Athanasius. 1672. Diatribe, Oder Beweiß-Schrifft/Von Wunder-seltsamen Creutzen. In Joco-seriorum naturae et artis sive Magiae naturalis centuriae tres, ed. Caspar Schott. Frankfurt am Mayn: Johann Arnold Cholin.Google Scholar
  6. Kircher, Athanasius. 1680. Natürliche und Medicinalische Durchgründung Der laidigen ansteckenden Sucht und so genanten Pestilentz. Augspurg: Johann Caspar Brandan.Google Scholar
  7. Kircher, Athanasius. 1682. D’onder-aardse weereld. Amsterdam: J. Janssonius van Waesberghe.Google Scholar
  8. Kircher, Athanasius. 1684. Neue Hall- und Thonkünst oder mechanische Gehaim. Nördlingen: F. Schultes.Google Scholar
  9. Kircher, Athanasius. 1987. China Illustrata. Trans. & Ed. D. Charles Van Tuyl. Bloomington: Indiana Research Institute for Inner Asian Studies.Google Scholar

Primary Literature (From the 17th Century)

  1. Baldwin, Marta. 1995. The snakestone experiments, an early modern medical debate. Isis 86(3): 394–418.a.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Comenius Studies and Early Modern Intellectual History, Institute of PhilosophyCzech Academy of SciencesPragueCzech Republic