2015 0-7734-4253-7 The first critical examination of Thomas Vaughan as a theologian and or magician in his own right. Through close readings of Vaughan’s published writings, analyses of their public reception, the case is made for Vaughan as a “theomagus”, or Christian magician. A reformist thinker, noting parallels between creation and alchemy, his role in developing this theological framework was significant in seventeenth-century British theology. Thomas has never been considered as a theologian or magician in his own right.
Through close readings of Vaughan’s published writings, analyses of their public reception, and explorations of the writers who influenced Vaughan, I make a case for Vaughan as a “theomagus,” or Christian magician. Vaughan was involved in the universal reform movement of Samuel Hartlib and allied himself with a magical branch of reform associated with the late fifteenth-century humanist Marsilio Ficino and sixteenth-century magician Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa. Vaughan sought to restore peace and religious unity through the prisca theologia (or “original theology”), a primordial wisdom believed to be inherent in Creation, but lost to humanity through the Fall of Adam and subsequent ages of sin.
Vaughan was not the first early modern thinker to note parallels between creation and alchemy, but he stands out in his emphasis on the role humans could play in this ongoing transmutation. As exceptional as his thought may appear today, it occupies a significant place on the spectrum of mid-seventeenth-century British theology.