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

Paul Kleber Monod. Yale Univ., $45 (412p) ISBN 978-0-300-12358-6
Despite being known as an era which valued science and reason, the Enlightenment, argues Monod, did not totally eradicate belief in the magical, mystical, and the occult. The Middlebury College histo-ry professor examines the popularity of occult philosophical beliefs and practices such as astrology, alchemy, ritual magic, and witchcraft, demonstrating not just the ways the occult survived the Enlight-enment in Britain, but also its influence over some of the era's rational thinkers like Boyle and New-ton. Throughout the period, the occult's pervasiveness, or lack thereof, was defined by its association with popular superstition and its attendant social acceptability. As Monod successfully demonstrates, interest in the occult did not disappear, but continuously underwent changes in response to the times, becoming less of a science primed for new discoveries than a focus of academic interest. His impres-sively thorough research delves into both contemporary studies and primary sources to reveal these influences, focusing primarily on intellectual pursuits into the occult (rather than vernacular). Monod's text will primarily be used by students and academics, but for such a definitive document of its materi-al, it is surprisingly accessible for those with an interest, but no academic background, in the subject. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/20/2013
Release date: 05/01/2013
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