33 of 51 people found the following review helpful
A Book that is good on what it covers,
This review is from: Religion and the Decline of Magic: Studies in Popular Beliefs in Sixteenth and Seventeenth-Century England (Penguin History) (Paperback)
This book is a classic. It should be read by all serious students of the esoteric and all with a genuine interest in the spiritual history of Western Europe.
The book provides a great deal of detail on the superstitions and quack medicine of the 16th and 17th centuries in Britain. It gives wonderful detail, and some lovely anecdotes, concerning the horrors of 16th and 17th century medicine, and the apothecaries that offered a cheaper, and no less effective service to the poor.
After a general overview of the historical trend there is an in depth study of Astrology, as practised at the time.
Where the book fails, and it fails badly, is that it gives the impression that magic was for the ignorant only. Very little space, about two pages, are devoted to the work of Frances Yates, work I do not think Thomas was keen to understand, but keen to dismiss. The overall result is that I feel Thomas wishes to dismiss magic as old-fashioned mumbo-jumbo, indulged in by the poor and the ignorant in desperate times, and so tells the story of superstition rather than magic.
It is a book that provides a great overview of the social climate of the time, but works with a deliberately narrow definition of magic, a definition that is never properly expounded or discussed, and deals very poorly with hermetic, gnostic and masonic trends, and so does not deal with what the average modern lay-thinker is interested in at all.
Religion and the Decline of Magic: Studies in Popular Beliefs in Sixteenth and Seventeenth-Century England (Penguin History)(15 customer reviews)