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Solomon's Secret Arts: The Occult in the Age of Enlightenment [Hardcover]

Paul Monod

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Book Description

2 April 2013
The late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are known as the Age of Enlightenment, a time of science and reason. But in this illuminating book, Paul Monod reveals the surprising extent to which Newton, Boyle, Locke, and other giants of rational thought and empiricism also embraced the spiritual, the magical, and the occult. Although public acceptance of occult and magical practices waxed and waned during this period they survived underground, experiencing a considerable revival in the mid-eighteenth century with the rise of new antiestablishment religious denominations. The occult spilled over into politics with the radicalism of the French Revolution and into literature in early Romanticism. Even when official disapproval was at its strongest, the evidence points to a growing audience for occult publications as well as to subversive popular enthusiasm. Ultimately, finds Monod, the occult was not discarded in favor of "reason" but was incorporated into new forms of learning. In that sense, the occult is part of the modern world, not simply a relic of an unenlightened past, and is still with us today.

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Product Description


"A definitive document of its material."-Publishers Weekly, Starred Review Publisher's Weekly "[A] serious yet lively work, chockablock with facts, anecdotes, and original research."-Michael Dirda, The Washington Post -- Michael Dirda The Washington Post "A first-class study of the pursuit of the occult in England from the Restoration through 1815."-Library Journal Library Journal

About the Author

Paul Monod is A. Barton Hepburn Professor of History at Middlebury College. He lives in Weybridge, VT.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a wealth of information. 2 Feb 2014
By Joey - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book covers a tremendous amount of info in a rather short period of English history: 1650-1815. For those of us who are fans of obscure English intellectual history, this book will keep them busy for awhile. The author covers many topics that are part of or touch upon the occult: alchemy, astrology, ritual magic, Kabbalah, freemasonry, prophets, Swedenborgians, Behmenists, magnetic healing, graphic novels, etc.
The occult has had an effect on intellectual thinking throughout the Enlightenment and still does to this day.
The only downside of this book is that there is so much throwing of names and concepts, it is not always easy to keep things straight. Not a casual read.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How mysticism went from quackery to popular fiction. 26 May 2014
By B. Wolinsky - Published on
Paul Kleber Monod’s book starts out on a humorous note. The alchemists of the middle ages were after the legendary “philosopher’s stone” that would turn base metals into gold. The Protestant enlightenment of the time was ripe for a pipe dream like this, and even the kind of England got involved. It didn’t work, but along the way the alchemists discovered new alloys, pigments, and many other metal-based chemicals that are still in use today.

Now let’s look at John Webster, alchemist and astrologer. He spoke out against witchcraft in in England, while enjoying the attention of people fascinated by his kooky scientific studies. Keep in mind that these famous scholars were all upper-class Englishmen, and they wanted to keep all the credit for themselves. In fact most of the great scientists, writers, and explorers of the era were from the upper classes, not the lower ones. But the author tells how this would end.

The American Revolution really wounded the confidence of the British. Into that era came Ebeneezer Sibly, who wrote a bestselling book on mysticism. He published the names of “demons” that only he knew about, gathered from “texts” that only he’d seen. He had his own printer to churn it out, and aimed it at lowbrow readers, releasing the book in the form of installments that the poor could afford. He used this market to sell his own quack medicines.

Today we have horror writers like Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Peter Straub, and countless others, some of whom write stories for paperbacks that you see in the airport news stand. A genre that was once seen as fact is now popular fiction. If Stephen King had written ‘Salem’s Lot in 1650, he could’ve claimed it was true and everyone would’ve believed it.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Entirely Worthwhile Read 17 Jan 2014
By M. Anaximenes - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Five stars. A beautiful manifested exposition of the lore of Solomon as Magus in history, well written, lucidly presented and packed with information even the most devout of students and researchers will find new.
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