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The Occult Laboratory: Magic, Science and Second Sight in Late Seventeenth-Century Scotland. A new edition: WITH Robert Kirk's "The Secret Commonwealth" and Other Texts [Hardcover]

Michael Hunter

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Book Description

29 Mar 2001
The uncanny ability of certain individuals to foresee future events had long been regarded as a characteristic of the Scottish Highlands, but in the late seventeenth century interest in the phenomenon came to a head, stimulated by English scientific and philosophical curiosity about magic, particularly second sight.The natural philosopher Robert Boyle and other English savants investigated these Highland beliefs; they found the region a kind of laboratory, strange yet accessible, where data about unusual beliefs could be collected and theories tested. Scottish authors were also stimulated to write accounts of second sight, notably John Fraser, Dean of the Isles, and the Highland minister, Robert Kirk (1644-92), in his famous work, The Secret Commonwealth. These and other texts are included in this book, making available crucial information about belief systems which might otherwise never have been recorded, and illuminating changing contemporary attitudes towards the relationship between the natural and the supernatural. Contents: TEXTS An Interview with Lord Tarbat, 3 Oct 1678 (Robert Boyle) A Collection of Highland Rites and Customes The Secret Commonwealth (Robert Kirk) Letter to Joh Aubrey on Second Sight Letter to Samuel Pepys on Second Sight Second Sight (John Fraser) Questionnnaires and Responses (Edward Lhuyd and Robert Wodrow, John Fraser and John Maclean) Introductory material (33pp) by Michael Hunter MICHAEL HUNTER is Professor of History, Birkbeck College, University of London.

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Superb collection of original materials related to the 'strange reports' of the indidence of 'second sight' in Scotland. JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY (US) As a text compilation it is a very interesting and worthwhile addition to a very understudied area. Hunter should be applauded for calling our attention to these often-overlooked and significant texts. JOURNAL OF AMERICAN FOLKLORE Hunter is adept at identifying and interweaving the scientific, hermetic, evangelical, and Anglo-Scottish dimensions of the story... If the history of the transformations of witchcraft belief has absorbed an enormous amount of scholarly attention, this valuable assemblage of texts allows us to pursue related questions in a new and parallel way. ENGLISH HISTORICAL REVIEW The texts represent some of the contributions made y Scottish and English savants to a late 17t-century debate on the preternatural... A very useful contribution to the study of both early modern science and religious controversy. SCOTTISH ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL HISTORY Hunter is to be applauded for exposing new and exciting lines of potential reseach in the history of early modern science. BJHS

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Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
3.0 out of 5 stars The Occult Laboratory 19 Sep 2011
By Cwn_Annwn - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The Occult Laboratory is mostly a collection of old Folk Beliefs/Folk Customs and belief in the supernatural from late 17th century Scotland. I like reading stuff like this because it can be fun and interesting and also because I think you can find lots fragments of and clues as to what pre-Christian European religious beliefs were.

There are some real gems in this but it can get monotonous at times. For example there may be page after page of local Scottish beliefs in omens like if a woman wearing a red dress stumbles while a man is shoeing a black horse this means that his roof will leak in 3 months time. Ok I made that one up but its not much different than many of the ones listed. This book would mainly be of interest to people who really like to study this type of stuff. It might be a little monotonous for people who would read it strictly for its entertainment value. Still a worthwhile read if you have an interest in Folk Lore, Folk Customs or Scottish culture.
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