Theomagical Reformation of Thomas Vaughan: Magic and the Occult in Early Modern British Theology
|Author: ||Reese, Garth D.|
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.
“Dr. Reese focuses on Vaughan’s theology, with attention to interconnections of this theology with Christian history, mysticism, alchemy and magic (these last two ultimately giving rise to contemporary empirical science)… In this study, Dr. Reese demonstrates that Vaughan (usually examined in connection with his brother, the poetry Henry Vaughan) was a ‘theomagus’, or Christian magician, who desired to reestablish an erstwhile harmony lost to creation after the fall using prisca theologia (“original theology”).”
-Dr. Stephen J. Mazurek,
University of California
Table of Contents
A Legacy of Footnotes
Chapter 1: THE MUNDANE BEGINNINGS OF MAGICAL THEOLOGY IN THE STEWART ERA
Magic & Witchcraft at the Stewart Court
The North Berwick Witches
Chapter 2: VAUGHAN AS THEOLOGIAN
Vaughan against the Parliament
Retiring to the AcademyM
Vaughan and Reformed Thought
Vaughan and Hooker
Chapter 3: VAUGHAN AS UNIVERSAL REFORMER
The Hartlib Circle
Moving into Print
In the Laboratory
Chapter 4: VAUGHAN AS MAGUS
Chapter 5: VAUGHAN AS THEOMAGUS
Vaughan’s Theomagical legacy