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Magic and the millennium : a study of the millenary motifs in the occult milieu of Puritan England, 1640-1660 Trout, Paul Arno

Abstract

It is the thesis of this study that during the years of the Puritan Revolution (T640-1660), the occult milieu of England gave repeated expression to what can only be called a millenarian salvational message, that is, to a message which promised a salvation at once collective, terrestrial, imminent, total, and miraculous. It is also argued that the salvational vision advanced by the magicians of the Hermetic magical tradition agreed almost perfectly with the millenarian hopes and dreams of the Puritan sects active during the revolutionary decades. This study offers a hitherto overlooked reason why--during the revolutionary years--Puritans of many persuasions, but particularly those of the left-wing sects, were attracted to, and even sought to revive, the occult sciences. The occult sciences attracted Puritans because they provided beliefs and 'myths' which validated the more or less intense millenarianism which characterized left-wing Puritan groups, those groups dissatisfied with the conservative 'reformation' offered by the Presbyterian and Cromwellian settlements. This study demonstrates that Puritans with many different kinds of millenarian beliefs employed magic--its myths, its doctrines, its prophecies--to validate their own desires for, and expectations of, a 'radical' or 'perfect' reformation of the world--a reformation tantamount to the millennium itself. In an introductory chapter (II), the relationship between magic and millenarianism is explored. This chapter argues that Western magic acquired a salvational mission of millenarian scope and intensity about the time of the Hermetic revival of the Renaissance. This mission enjoined the Hermetic magician to use the powers of magic to redeem all creation, to release both humankind and nature from the Curse. To the Western magician, this redemptive mission meant that the occult sciences were to be used to restore paradise to earth. The restoration of paradise would be accomplished when humankind enjoyed once again all the spiritual and material blessings Adam was thought to have enjoyed while in Eden. From the time of the Hermetic revival through the seventeenth century, the occult sciences gave repeated expression to this millenarian promise of world redemption. Chapter II concludes by showing that Puritan millenarians expected to enjoy in the millennium precisely the same spiritual and material blessings the magicians promised to bestow on all people through magic. The remaining chapters explore the same millenarian motifs and doctrines in the occult milieu of Puritan England. The occult milieu is defined as astrology, Behmenism, and Rosicrucianism. During the Puritan Revolution, each of these occult circles gave repeated expression to a wide variety of millenarian pronouncements, almost all of which validated in some way the millenarianism pervading the Puritan sects during the revolutionary years.

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