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The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age (Routledge Classics) Paperback – July 2, 2001

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (July 2, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415254094
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415254090
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #78,208 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


'Among those who have explored the intellectual world of the sixteenth century, no one can rival Frances Yates. Wherever she looks, she illuminates . . . No one has done more than she to recreate, from unexpected material, the intellectual life of past ages.' – Hugh Trevor-Roper

'A welcome new edition of this classic work ...' – Network

About the Author

Dame Francis Yates (1899-1981) was Reader in the History of the Renaissance at the Warburg Institute, University of London. The leading Renaissance scholar of her time, she was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1977 in recognition of her services to Renaissance studies. Her other publications include The Art of Memory and The Rosicrucian Enlightenment.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Christopher I. Lehrich on November 25, 2001
Format: Paperback
Dame Frances Yates had an incredible impact on the study of early modern magic and occultism. Although she wrote on other subjects, her primary legacy is in this field, particularly her books _Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition_ and _The Art of Memory_. For anyone interested in the occult Renaissance, these books are both absolutely required reading.
As a scholar, Yates had some bad habits, and these are most obvious in _The Rosicrucian Enlightenment_ and, to a lesser extent, _The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age_. In these books, we see her habit of beginning with a "What if?" proposition, then repeating it in stronger and stronger formulations until it has become an accepted fact.
_The Occult Philosophy_ has this problem to some degree, but the primary problem is that Yates tries to deal with a subject on which she is not qualified to pronounce: Kabbalah. As she asmits, she is not a Hebraist, and her only access to Kabbalah comes from reading some of Gershom Scholem's work. Of course, she cannot be faulted for writing on the subject before Kabbalah became a large and accepted field of study within Jewish Studies, but Yates here displays her usual tendency to overstate her case.
A related problem is that she can be rather offhanded in her treatment of figures peripheral to her obsessions (i.e. anyone not John Dee or Giordano Bruno), and this can lead her to distort matters by repeating others' second-hand analyses.
Having said all this, bear in mind that it's Frances Yates we're talking about here. Stacked up against her best books, _The Occult Philosophy_ looks pretty sad; stacked up against almost anything else in the field, it's drop-dead brilliant: it's very well written, charming, stimulating, and extremely accessible.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Milos Tomin on May 25, 2002
Format: Paperback
As the title states this book sets out to find the philosophical roots of Elizabethan culture of the late XVI and early XVII century. The question posited by Dame Frances Yates is : What was the underlying Philosophy of the Elizabethan age and she points unmistakably to the occult philosophy i.e. Hermeticism tempered by Christian Neoplatonism and Qabbalah. Origins of the Elizabethan culture are traced straight to the Medici court, Marsilio Ficino and Pico della Mirandola. Yates being no believer of the operative work of magic, still provides enough food for thought for the student of Renaissance humanism, history of ideas or budding hermeticist. Although this book grew out from a series of lectures on "Inspired Melancholy" it still manages to tie in such diverse subjects as historical background of Ben Johnson's The Alchemist and Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus (Henry Cornelius Agrippa seen as the inspiration for the character), philosophico/magical/religious meaning of Elizabethan poetry (Spencer, Raleigh), the dramas of Shakespear (specially the Tempest and King Lear) and content of Durer's famous print Melencolia. The strengths of Frances Yates writing is precisely the ability to show the unifying idea behind these seemingly diverse works of art and philosophy. An important part of this book is connected to the destiny of the exiled Spanish Sephardim jews who spread the medical writings of Avicenna and rich literature of Iberian Qabbalism.
Yates history provides an alternative view of English history at the time of Tudor and Stewart dynasties most importantly in their relation to Ecclesiastical powers and politics of continental Europe.
This is a wonderful book that will stimulate a fundamental rethinking of the view of European Political and intellectual history.
Writer of this review is the translator of the book into Serbian .
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By C. Middleton on April 10, 2005
Format: Paperback
Frances Yates was a scholar of world renown most famous for her text, The Art of Memory, and the biographical study, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition. In this work, The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age, what has been known as `occult philosophy' in the Renaissance, revived by Marsilio Ficino and Pico della Mirandola, she explores the "Christianized" version of the Jewish Cabala, and its manifestation and influential affects on religious and philosophical ideas, including the arts, during the Elizabethan Age.

Yates begins with her proposed theses that, in past analyses of occult philosophy, it has focused primarily on the Hermetic tradition. She claims that this occult tradition should be called the "Hermetic-Cabalist", as the ideas are not solely Hermetic in nature, but have a strong Jewish Cabalistic influence, albeit in a Christianized form, as formulated by Marsilio Ficino.

This text is a rich analysis on the history of ideas. Yates adeptly sketches the influences of the hermetic-cabala in the Renaissance, moving forward to one of the more influential texts that affected this tradition more than any other treatise, Henry Cornelius Agrippa's, Three Books of Occult Philosophy. She also focuses her study on three other influential personages, the Cabalist Friar, Francesco Giorgi, and his work, "De harmonia mundi", and the works of Johannes Reuchlin. Yates also looks at the mysterious Elizabethan magus, Dr. John Dee, known as the "Queen's Conjurer" citing the doctor's primary sources of his own work directly to Agrippa. Her claim is that John Dee, was in fact, along with Agrippa, Giorgi and Reuchlin, Christian Cabalists.
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