Athanasius Kircher's Theatre of the World : The Life and Work of the Last Man to Search for Universal Knowledge

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2009-09-03
  • Publisher: Inner Traditions
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Jesuit, linguist, archaeologist, and exceptional scholar, Athanasius Kircher [1602-1680] was the last true Renaissance man. To Kircher the entire world was a glorious manifestation of God whose exploration was both a scientific quest and a religious experience. His works on Egyptology [he is credited with being the first Egyptologist], music, optics, magnetism, geology, and comparative religion were the definitive texts of their time--and yet they represent only a part of his vast range of knowledge. A Christian Hermeticist in the mold of Marsilio Ficino and Pico della Mirandola, his work also examined alchemy, the Kabbalah, and the Egyptian mystery tradition exemplified by Hermes Trismegistus. The Hermetic cast of Kircher's thought, which was foreign to the concerns of those propelling the Age of Reason, coupled with the breadth of his interests, caused many of his contributions to be widely overlooked--an oversight now masterfully rectified by Joscelyn Godwin. It has been said that Kircher could think only in images. While this is an exaggeration, the stunning engravings that are a distinguishing feature of his work are included here so we may fully appreciate and see for ourselves the life work, philosophy, and achievements of 'the last man who knew everything.

Author Biography

Joscelyn Godwin is a professor of music at Colgate University and the author of many books on Hermeticism and music, including Cosmic Music, The Golden Thread, The Harmony of the Spheres, and Arktos. He is also known for his translations of the works of such figures as Fabre d’Olivet and Julius Evola as well as Francesco Colonna’s Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. He lives in New York State.

Table of Contents


Prologue: Interesting Times

1    Kircher's Life and Work: an Overview

2    Frontispieces

3    The Illustration of Kircher's Works

4    Antiquity Misread

5    Antiquity Preserved

6    Antiquity Imagined

7    Naturalia: Fire and Water

8    Naturalia: Air and Earth

9    Music

10    Machines of Past and Present

11    Machines: Magnetic and Optical

12    Maps and Plans

13    Exotica

14    Images of the Gods

15    Didactic Images

Athanasius Kircher's Writings

Bibliography of Works Cited

Sources of Illustrations


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