Published online by Cambridge University Press: 14 January 2022
Historiography concerning the relationship (or non-relationship) between magic (or the “occult”) and “science” was dominated in the 1960s-1980s by the “Hermetic” thesis of Frances Yates and its critics (including Robert Westman and Brian Vickers). Vickers in particular argued that the “occult” and the “scientific” are separate “mentalities” or paradigms. This chapter considers an alternative view. By tracing the fortunes of the theory of radiative virtue advanced by the ninth-century Arabic philosopher al-Kindi, which began as a “theory of the magical arts” providing a physical basis for magical operations, we can see that some “magical” ideas connected with the astrological theory of “celestial virtues” influenced later natural philosophy. Al-Kindi’s suggestion that all causation in the elemental world was effected by means of rays was taken up in the medieval perspectiva tradition, and elaborated into a theory of astral magic by John Dee, but continued to provide a model for action at a distance in the mechanist theories of seventeenth-century natural philosophers, such as Kenelm Digby, Walter Charleton, and—ultimately—Isaac Newton, who believed that the corpuscles of all bodies acted at a distance by “certain Powers, Virtues, or Forces” in a similar way to the rays of light.
To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure email@example.com is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.
Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.
To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.
To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.