Les sciences occultes au congrès de The Renaissance Society of America 2023

Du 9 au 11 mars 2023 aura lieu le congrès de l’association The Renaissance Society of America à San Juan (Porto Rico). Un certain nombre de panels sont consacrés ou abordent la question de la magie ou des sciences occultes au sens large.

Chemise talismanique ottomane de la collection Khalili
Chemise talismanique ottomane de la collection Khalili
TXT 463, Turquie, XVIe siècle, 82,5 x 96 cm
Source : https://www.khalilicollections.org/collections/islamic-art/talismanic-shirt-txt-463/

Espionage, Private Justice, and Alchemical Secrets: Exploring Notions of Privacy in Latin America

Jeudi 9 mars 2023
Caribe Hilton – Salón Caribe – Gran Salón Los Rosales (Garage)
Organisatrice : Natacha Klein Käfer (Centre for Privacy Studies, University of Copenhagen)
Modérateur : Nadav Borenstein (University of Copenhagen)

16h30 : « Borderlands, Espionage, and Privacy: A Historiographical Journey from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century » par Adriano Comissoli (Universidade Federal de Santa Maria, Brazil)

This paper discusses the historiography of espionage among rival European empires, aiming to establish fruitful frameworks to understand the congealing of notions of privacy in Latin America between the sixteenth and the eighteenth century. I will show how spy actions used to delimitate borders between different sovereignties by exploring early modern states’ information policies since the Renaissance, guided by ideas of raison d’état. In parallel, I will address how different studies analyze privacy as a means to obtain secret information since information agents use relations of trust to achieve their goals. By engaging with the works of Emilio Sola Castaño, Nadine Akkerman, Iordana Iordanou, and Gennaro Varriale, I will demonstrate how early modern imperial ideals influenced how espionage and information gathering were employed in the Latin American colonies, using the example of the borderlands of Brazil under European control.

16h50 : « The Rhetoric of European Court Duels in the Legal Framework of Latin American Dueling Practices » par Mariana Flores da Cunha Thompson Flores (Universidade Federal de Santa Maria, Brazil)

In this paper, I will present how early modern court duels were appropriated in the discussion of honor duels as private justice in Latin America. Duels as a means of solving honor questions are an ancient practice. Appearing in ancient Greek, Roman, and Celtic culture, becoming a noble and aristocratic practice in the Renaissance, and being absorbed into the bourgeois ethos, the act of dueling has been resignified across the centuries. Legally speaking, duels had to be codified, abiding by procedures and standards marked by class distinctions. In Latin America, duels were absorbed as part of different elite cultures of honor restoration in order to mark the rise in social distinction and to regulate an act of violence for it to abide by “rational” principles. By exploring dueling texts, labelled the Gentlemen’s code, I will show how Renaissance dueling culture was reframed in the Latin American context as a way of legitimizing the enacting of private justice. I will look at the rhetorical uses of early modern court duels in Latin American jurisprudence, as well as local practices of concealment or advertising of duels as cultural signifiers of what was understood as private or public matters.

17h10 : « Healing Gold: Reimagining Alchemical Healing Secrets in the Brazilian Mines » par Natacha Klein Käfer (Centre for Privacy Studies, University of Copenhagen)

Early modern alchemy was obsessed with the healing potential of different metals and minerals. The effects of extracting such healing powers were broadcasted in scholarly books and popular texts alike, while the methods of such extractions were kept as private knowledge of individuals or selected noble and academic circles. The rarity or desirability of certain materials played an important role in the perception of their healing potential, with gold being considered a key ingredient in powerful elixirs. The exploitation of Latin American mineral resources, however, opened new avenues for European alchemical pursuits while also presenting new challenges for existing frameworks. Striking a balance between circulating the recent “discoveries” and keeping new knowledge private to assure the protection of colonial interests was a complicated task. By examining the Brazilian medical treatise Erário Mineral from 1735, this paper will show how the new resources found in the Brazilian colony combined with the cross-cultural encounters and knowledge exchanges between European settlers, indigenous populations, and African enslaved people demanded a resignification of alchemical secrets. I will present what kind of knowledge was meant to be kept private, and how tensions between disclosure and secrecy played a role in colonial control of knowledge circulation.

Mapping and Imagining Place and Space

Vendredi 10 mars 2023
Caribe Hilton – Conference Room 10 – Conference Center 2nd Floor
Modératrice : Silvia Tita Michigan (State University)

9h00 : « Magical Mathematics: Oronce Fine’s Heart-Shaped Map (1534/36) » par Stephanie Inverso (University of Massachusetts Boston)

French mathematician Oronce Fine’s heart-shaped map, printed in 1536, was the first printed cordiform map and the one which has drawn the most attention. Scholars have pointed out that Fine’s map fits squarely within the propaganda of his patron, King Francis I of France. However, Fine’s relationship with the king was complicated. At the time he created this map, Fine was campaigning to convince Francis—and the world—that mathematics were important and divine. Fine, like his friend John Dee, capitalized on contemporary perceptions of mathematics as a form of magic with his heart-shaped map. Fine may very well have believed these perceptions himself: he was an enthusiast of the occult and may have spent time in prison for illicit astrology. The paper situates Fine’s cordiform map, and by extension sixteenth-century cartography more broadly, within early modern ideas of hermeticism, magic, and the occult.

9h20 : « Sacred or Profane: Categorizing Marsilio Ficino’s De Vita as Sympathetic and Demonic Magic » par Tina Kocic (McMaster University)

The Renaissance Neoplatonist philosopher Marsilio Ficino (1433–99) drew from numerous classical texts while writing his influential treatise on astrological magic, De vita. Interestingly, he included polytheistic elements into his model of astral magic, an odd choice considering magic associated with “paganism”—performed with the aid of “entities”—was considered dangerous. Through a comparison of classical texts on astrology and magic and Ficino’s De vita, this paper argues that Ficino attempted to reconcile polytheistic and Christian elements, creating in the process a unique understanding of magic that was ambiguous and difficult to categorize as natural or demonic. Specific elements to be explored here include Ficino’s discussion of pagan gods, fate, and the crafting of idols. This study contributes to ongoing discussions in the field of Renaissance history on the impact of “pagan” texts in this period and the reception of classical religious and magical concepts by an influential Renaissance scholar. By contextualizing Ficino’s works with occult practices accepted by the Church, this paper illustrates how Renaissance humanists were attempting to test and negotiate religious boundaries that demarcated what was considered spiritually sacred and profane, with mixed success.

9h40 : « “Lands and cities recede”: Virgil’s Aeneid as (Copernican) Commonplace » par Aviva Rothman (Case Western Reserve University)

In explaining how residents of a moving earth believe it to be motionless, Copernicus quoted Virgil Aeneid, 3.72: “We set out from harbor, and lands and cities recede.” This passage became a commonplace in the debates over heliocentrism, and was cited by Kepler, Foscarini, Bellarmine, and numerous others. In this paper, I will investigate the uses of this passage not only in those cosmological discussions, but also more broadly in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century texts. Montaigne, Bodin, and Burton were among those who relied on this very same passage to highlight the problems of judgment, vision, and accepted certainties, but they did so in reference to other, non-cosmological topics. This paper will explore what it was about Virgil’s Aeneid, and this passage in particular, that made it so potent a source for the Copernican debates and beyond.

Traditions of Magic between Islam and Europe

Samedi 11 mars 2023
Caribe Hilton – Salón Garita – Gran Salón Los Rosales (Garage)
Organisatrice : Liana Saif (University of Amsterdam)
Modérateur : Amadeo Murase (Seigakuin University)

9h00 : « The Hermeticism and Esotericism of Islamicate Magic » par Liana Saif (University of Amsterdam)

This paper seeks to highlight the diversity of Islamicate medieval and early modern magical traditions, seeing them as integral to the scientific and esoteric cultivation of human agency through understanding and manipulating the forces of the Cosmos: terrestrial, celestial, or divine. I will particularly look at the construction of “Hermetic magic” in the understudied ninth-century pseudo-Aristotelian Hermetica, then highlight the trends of its reception among twelfth-century mainstream figures such as the philosopher Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī (d. 1210) and the grammarian Sirāj al-Dīn al-Sakkākī (d. 1229), and its reclamation by the Sufis in the late medieval and early modern periods and their influential recasting of it as the foundation to the Science of Letters and Divine Names. I will demonstrate the ways in which natural scientific-categories were negotiated and positioned in relation to esoteric interpretations that are in service of magic’s ultimate goal: wisdom and the sublimation of the soul.

9h20 : « Magic between Wonder and Philosophy in Islamic Theology » par Yuki Nakanishi (Jichi Medical University)

The philosophy of Avicenna (980–1037) marks a watershed in the history of Arabic-Islamic magic. It is true that he followed the traditional view, which likened magic to wonders disturbing the order of nature. But his system required the universe to be perfectly ordered. Thus he explained that all wonders, including magic, are natural phenomena that physically and necessarily arise from the human soul. Despite his enormous impact on later Muslim theologians, his purely naturalistic account clashed with orthodox theology, according to which God’s omnipotence could even disturb the order of nature. My study will explore how two late medieval theologians of Avicennian inclination, Sa’d al-Dīn al-Taftāzānī (1322–90) and al-Sharīf al-Jurjānī (1339–1413), reacted to this dilemma.

9h40 : « Hermetic Magic between Islam and Europe » par Charles Burnett (The Warburg Institute, University of London)

The aim of this talk is to trace the concepts and attitudes in the magical writings shared by Islam and Europe. Significant evidence is provided by the translations of Arabic works attributed to Hermes into Latin by Hugo Sanctelliensis (fl. before 1151) on cosmology, alchemy, geomancy and scapulimancy. Hugo adds his own prefaces which explain the theoretical bases of the Hermetic magic he is introducing to his Latin readers. Hugo’s texts attest to the transmission of Arabic Hermeticism, especially that of al-Andalus, into Latin culture. The immediate origin of Hugo’s Arabic sources was the library of the kings of Saragossa (the Banu Hud), and it is possible to locate these Arabic texts among the interests of the Arabic scholars working within their court, in relation to magical currents in Islamic al-Andalus, such as those of the Ghayat al-Hakim of Maslama Abu ‘l-Qasim al-Qurtubi, and the Letters of the Brethren of Purity.

Alchemy and Experimentation in Florence and London

Samedi 11 mars 2023
Caribe Hilton – Conference Room 3+4+5 – Conference Center 2nd Floor
Modérateur : Brian W. Ogilvie (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

9h00 : « Beekeeping, Recipes, and Alchemical Knowledge in Charles Butler’s The Feminine Monarchie » par Ms. Margaret Maurer (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

Charles Butler’s The Feminine Monarchie (1609) is a beekeeping manual that is perhaps best known today as the earliest English printed book to argue that the ruler of the beehive was a queen, rather than a king. Butler’s book contains a chapter of recipes, including two recipes taken from The Key of Philosophie (1596), written by John Hester, a London apothecary and Paracelsian alchemist. By comparing Hester’s and Butler’s versions of these recipes, I argue that Butler not only copied Hester’s recipe, but made additions and revisions that demonstrate an ongoing engagement with alchemical experience, observation, and experimentation. In this, Butler’s The Feminine Monarchy demonstrates how alchemical and everyday knowledge and practices could overlap in their shared materials, tools, spaces, and uses.

9h20 : « Alchemy, Antiquity, and Experimental Knowledge in Early Modern England » par Jennifer Rampling (Princeton University)

Alchemical manuscripts like the Ripley Scroll—a spectacular, fifteenth-century roll, intended to capture the intricacies of medieval English alchemy—were repeatedly copied in early modern England. For collectors like Elias Ashmole (1617–92), such objects provided material traces of an ancient tradition of British wisdom. At the same time, the study of medieval manuscripts was vital for practice, offering vital repositories of past technical knowledge. Alchemical practitioners collected and studied these documents, seeking material for new trials and experiments. By recovering and reconstructing the techniques of ancient alchemists, they sought to confer additional prestige on their own experimental endeavors.
This paper shows how these two visions of alchemy—what we might characterize as “antiquarian” and “experimental” modes—were deeply intertwined. The material relics of medieval alchemists informed the living practice of their early modern successors, functioning as both historical relics and practical handbooks for successive English readers, culminating in the publication of Ashmole’s famous Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum (1652), the first anthology of English alchemical verse. As I will argue, the antiquarian value of this collection also had practical implications, as later readers, including Isaac Newton, scoured its pages for further experimental insight.

9h40: « The Ricettario Fiorentino and the Recipe-Book Tradition: Civic, Learned, and Vernacular Medicine in Renaissance Florence » par Gastón Javier Basile (University of Buenos Aires)

Generally regarded as the first official pharmacopeia, the Ricettario fiorentino (1499) inaugurated a genre of pharmaceutical literature that created a regulatory framework for professional practice. The inception of the civic ricettario can be interpreted as a collegiate endeavor to regulate and contain the deep-rooted and sprawling vernacular tradition of health cure in the early modern period. Indeed, the manuscript recipe-books preserved in Florentine libraries provide evidence of a rich, heterogeneous, and as yet comparatively under-researched experimental tradition of medicine which variously combined learned and vernacular sources of medical knowledge and practice. This paper explores the ways in which some of these Florentine recipe-books written in Latin, the vernacular, or a hybrid form thereof, organize, classify, or describe certain simples, pharmaceutical preparations, procedures and therapeutic methods, and contrasts it with various sixteenth-century editions of the ricettario. The analysis shows that, by comparison to the highly selective content, rational layout and restrictive format of the ricettario, the vernacular tradition evinces a high level of experimentation with substances, usually by tweaking, recombining, or repurposing the same basic simples with others to produce new medicines, as well as assorted criteria for organizing pharmaceutical knowledge and practice.

Alchemy and Paracelsian Medicine around Croll and Sennert

Samedi 11 mars 2023
Caribe Hilton – Conference Room 3+4+5 – Conference Center 2nd Floor
Organisateur : Hiro Hirai (Center for Science and Society, Columbia University)
Modératrice : Liana Saif (University of Amsterdam)

11h00 : « German Paracelsian Oswald Croll and His Alchemical Eschatology » par Amadeo Murase (Seigakuin University)

Oswald Croll (ca. 1560–1608) was a prominent follower of the Swiss physician Paracelsus (1493/94–1541) and a defender of his alchemical medicine (iatrochemistry). Croll was active among the learned circles in Prague as well as in the court of Rudolf II. His major work Basilica Chymica, published posthumously in 1609, was widely diffused in the early modern age because of translation in several languages, including even Ottoman Turkish.
Focusing on his Basilica Chymica, I will shed light on the eschatological dimensions of Croll’s alchemical thought, which was based on apocalyptic ideas of Paracelsus (ex. the idea of return of the prophet Elias as an alchemist during the End Times). Pointing out the new religious trend which emerged among Paracelsians around 1600, this paper intends to locate his work and its eschatology into the broader context of the Scientific Revolution of that age.

11h20 : « Drugs and Method of Healing in Sennert’s Alchemical Medicine » par Elisabeth Moreau (Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge)

The preparation of alchemical remedies raised many debates in late Renaissance medicine. In this regard, Paracelsus and his disciples introduced innovative views about therapy and pharmacology that went against the Galenic medical tradition. Nonetheless, a series of German physicians attempted to harmonize both Galenic and Paracelsian conceptions of drugs and treatment. In doing so, they addressed important issues such as the notion of universal medicine, the doctrine of “signatures,” and the use of metallic ingredients for the preparation of remedies. In this paper, I examine the stance of the German physician Daniel Sennert (1572–1637) in his De chymicorum cum Aristotelicis et Galenicis consensu ac dissensu liber (1619). Special attention will be given to his reception of the Basilica chymica (1609) by the German physician Oswald Croll (1560–1609) as a major actor for the diffusion of Paracelsian medicine.

11h40 : « Daniel Sennert, Alchemy, and Paracelsian Medicine » par Hiro Hirai (Center for Science and Society, Columbia University)

Daniel Sennert (1572–1637) of Wittenberg is known as one of the earliest university professors of medicine, who advanced the study of “chymistry” (alchemy/chemistry) through his influential writings. This paper explores his treatise On the Agreement and Disagreement of the Chymists with the Aristotelians and Galenists (Wittenberg, 1619) so as to understand his view of chymistry in its detailed historical and intellectual context. While criticizing the Paracelsians, Sennert adopted their idea of the three principles (Salt, Sulphur, and Mercury) and placed their origin in the divine act of Creation. It is exactly for this reason that Johannes Freitag (1581–1641) of Groningen tried to associate Sennert with the Paracelsians and denounced them as heretics. The interpretation of the Biblical Creation story occupied an important place in this polemic.

Pour citer ce billet : Jean-Charles Coulon, « Les sciences occultes au congrès de The Renaissance Society of America 2023 », Le monde des djinns [Carnet de recherche], https://djinns.hypotheses.org/3130, mis en ligne le 24 février 2023, consulté le 5 juin 2023.

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