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Hermetic spirituality was focused on healing the embodied soul from its corruption by the passions. Analysis of the Poimandres as a visionary revelation in which Hermes Trismegistus receives enlightenment about the nature of reality and the human predicament.
This essay considers Charles Brockden Brown’s Ormond as an imaginative experiment with neurodiversity, considering, in particular, what it means to know, as we do now, that different brains are fundamentally, neurologically different and how neurological difference might have been narrated before there was a language for it. This is an investigation not of intelligence or mental health but of fundamental neurological difference and what it might have meant for the late eighteenth century United States, then a new nation politically organized through republicanism in which representative (white, propertied) men were expected to represent the needs of “the people” and trusted with governance. Ormond troubles the foundational formulation that American bodyminds simply required the right education and training to become, in Benjamin Rush’s words, “republican machines” able “to perform their parts properly, in the great machine of the government of the state.” If republicanism was structured by a presumption of neurotypicality, Ormond presents a fascinating example of a novel working to represent different bodyminds during a time when there were not yet adequate narrative means for doing so.
Chapter 9 of Earthopolis: A Biography of Our Urban Planet explores cities’ role as creators and creations of the first world religions, of new “scientific” knowledge of the Earth, including its cities, and a global consumer culture based on goods sourced from urban hinterlands that spanned all continents for the first time. It also explores the expanding consequences of the earliest years of Earthopolis as a truly planetary Urban Planet. These included the first global pandemics of disease and the expansion of human destruction of the habitats of other life forms, including those of the World Oceans so crucial to the period’s expansion of urban-enabled human actions, habitats, and impacts.
In Early America Protestant believers on one hand tried to continue and root their traditions in the New World, while on the other their practice was constrained, shaped, and transformed by their setting. American Protestantism in early America developed from many significant dynamics: planting European Protestantism in the New World, encountering Native American religion, reckoning with slavery, experiencing the Great Awakening and the rise of evangelicalism, defining roles for women, engaging American enlightenments, and interacting with politics. In the process, American Protestantism took on many characteristics that would long influence its course and identity.
In contrast with the distorted and romanticized images reproduced by far-right narratives, we argue in this study that the constructive ideals of “nation” held by Italy’s Giuseppe Mazzini and Turkey’s Ziya Gökalp, from two later examples of European nationalism, could fit into what might be called a “proto-modernism” within nationalism theories. It is proposed that both Mazzini and Gökalp went through ideological transformations that made them firm opponents of German Romanticism and ardent believers of the Enlightenment, as shown in their non-exclusionary approaches to nationalism. They both rejected essentialist (religious, ethnic, racial, etc.) rationales for the backwardness of their respective countries and maintained the necessity of constructing nations that would initially provide civic equality among citizens and then aim at normative equality among nations at the civilizational level. In that sense, our analysis finds four fundamental similarities between Mazzini and Gökalp with regard to their national ideals: loyalty to the principles of the Enlightenment, national self-determination, civic-legal equality among citizens, and normative equality among all nations.
The Conclusion reexamines Thomas Robert Malthus’s Essay on the Principle of Population from the perspective of the transformative mode of demographic governance explored throughout the earlier chapters, as well as in terms of the eighteenth-century debates about the limits and locus of demographic agency examined in Chapter 4. Rather than seeing Malthus’s Essay as marking a definitive break with earlier demographic thinking, it argues for strong continuities, particularly concerning the importance of situation, the providential nature of demographic processes and the real effects of intervention in demographic governance. Instead, it identifies Malthus’s key departure as an emphasis on the propertied and rational individual as the legitimate locus of demographic agency under God. The conclusion ends by considering some of the implications of the history of early modern demographic governance for reinterpreting – and broadening – the history of modern demographic thought.
Slavery, Christianity, the Enlightenment, and the American Revolution were primary forces that shaped African American literary production during the eighteenth century. Slavery was the force that brought most Africans and Europeans into intense personal contact and influenced Africans’ thinking about Western ideas and ideals. Christianity was the message that prompted several Africans to write, modified their beliefs, and highlighted the contrast between what Christians said and the way they often lived and treated enslaved and other Africans. This disjunction was a constant theme in the writings of Africans who acquired this skill in the eighteenth century. The Enlightenment fostered racialist and racist thought concerning Africans and encouraged some Europeans to test these ideas by educating Africans and some Africans to dispute these ideas through literary expression. The so-called Age of Revolution fueled secular and not just religious attacks on slavery and Western hypocrisy. It is not always possible to separate African literary expression in Europe and America or even Africa during the eighteenth century because the world at the time was more truly Atlantic than some may currently suppose.
This Introduction explains the characteristics of Western Buddhist travel narratives as a genre and their value as a source of religious insight. These stories are autobiographical accounts of a journey to a Buddhist culture. They often describe a transformative religious experience, “unselfing,” when a person’s sense of self is radically altered. The Buddhist concept of no-self helps authors interpret this kind of experience, and it also provokes and enables such events. No-self is a challenging idea for Westerners trying to understand and reconcile it with their culture’s understanding of the self. Autobiographical accounts, in particular travel narratives, disclose crucial features of self-transformation and interpret the meaning of no-self in diverse ways and in contrast to theoretical and philosophical forms of discourse. The structure and topics of the book’s chapters are outlined.
Peter Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard (1978) is the best-known Western Buddhist travel narrative and the classic text that for most readers defines the genre. This chapter explores Matthiessen’s account of his two-month trip to Nepal to search for Himalayan blue sheep and the rare snow leopard, mourn his wife’s death, search for a spiritual guide, and practice Buddhist mindfulness and compassion. He describes several incidents of unselfing as well as his frustration in persisting in this longed-for state of being. Matthiessen’s later Nine-Headed Dragon River describes his shift from Rinzai to Soto Zen and culminates in a pilgrimage to Zen monasteries in Japan. He examines how the student–teacher relationship calls for submission of the ego. He presents transformation as an aspect of individual experience as well as the process by which Zen changed as it moved from China to Japan to America. In Nine-Headed Dragon River, the meaning of no-self is no longer a state to be achieved in a dramatic moment but rather offers a crucial perspective from which to understand his relationship to his Zen master and Zen’s journey through various cultures.
In 1500, speculative philosophy lay at the heart of European intellectual life; by 1700, its role was drastically diminished. The Kingdom of Darkness tells the story of this momentous transformation. Dmitri Levitin explores the structural factors behind this change: the emancipation of natural philosophy from metaphysics; theologians' growing preference for philology over philosophy; and a new conception of the limits of the human mind derived from historical and oriental scholarship, not least concerning China and Japan. In turn, he shows that the ideas of two of Europe's most famous thinkers, Pierre Bayle and Isaac Newton, were both the products of this transformation and catalysts for its success. Drawing on hundreds of sources in many languages, Levitin traces in unprecedented detail Bayle and Newton's conceptions of what Thomas Hobbes called The Kingdom of Darkness: a genealogical vision of how philosophy had corrupted the human mind. Both men sought to remedy this corruption, and their ideas helped lay the foundation for the system of knowledge that emerged in the eighteenth century.
Histories of Irish political thought in this period have adopted an overwhelmingly national focus. While they have frequently engaged with the transnational contexts, whether British, Atlantic or European, that have shaped traditions such as unionism, nationalism and republicanism, their ultimate purpose has been to better understand the principal actors in what remains an Irish story. 4 This focus on Irish national and confessional identities has tended to sideline other questions that we might usefully ask of texts produced in and around Ireland during this turbulent period. Where was Ireland located, by Irish and non-Irish contemporaries alike, within the broader political conjuncture of the later-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries? What can debates concerning Ireland can tell us about the evolution of British and European political thinking in the era of the American and French Revolutions, and of Britain’s rise to global commercial and colonial hegemony?
This chapter identifies the emergence of an Enlightenment critique of empire in Ireland. This laid the intellectual foundations for the Union of 1801 by connecting the exclusion of the Irish Kingdom from free participation in imperial and European trade with the exclusion of its Catholic subjects, under the terms of the ‘Penal Laws’, from the benefits of property and political representation. For thinkers such as Josiah Tucker and David Hume, the suppression of Irish commerce was striking evidence of how British policy carried ‘jealousy of trade’ to extremes that jeopardised the security of the empire. For Charles O’Connor, Edmund Burke, Arthur Young, and Adam Smith, meanwhile, the Penal Laws had ruined Ireland’s prospects for ‘improvement’ by alienating the Irish majority from property and the state. It was Smith who linked these two problematics together, creating a new kind of argument for a parliamentary union between Britain and Ireland.
Arguments for the 1801 Union of the British and Irish parliaments drew on the intellectual resources of the later British Enlightenment to implement a new system of economic and political regulation of Irish society. Proponents of Union articulated a renewed belief in the ability of commercial integration with Britain to act as a solvent to the confessional and ethnic tensions laid bare by the United Irish rising and attempted French invasions of 1796-8. The 'diffusion' of British capital to Ireland would give Ireland’s shattered Anglican aristocracy the opportunity to re-establish its political legitimacy, while forcing them to share power with a rising Catholic mercantile and professional class. The case for Union was interpreted in a broad European context of state competition and reform. The leading continental defender of British policy, the Prussian diplomat and publicist Friedrich von Gentz, hailed the legislative unification of the British Empire as a model for a necessary consolidation of the European states-system in the wake of French revolutionary violence.
The contemporary world seems obsessed with stuff: how to get it, what to do with it, how to get rid of it. Although historians long assumed that rising consumption began with industrialization, we now know that the pace of consumption accelerated in the early modern world well before the age of mass production. In seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe, women and men began to accumulate more clothing, carry more personal accessories, fill their households with more furnishings, and wear, smoke, snort, eat, and drink prodigious quantities of colonial products. Although scholars debate whether to call this growth in consumption “revolutionary” or “evolutionary,” they agree that is was transformational. It changed how people looked, ate, socialized, and thought, giving rise to debates about moral progress and ushering in new forms of revolutionary political activism. This book has offered a new interpretation of the consumer revolution by incorporating questions of empire, political economy, global trade, slavery, material culture, philosophy, politics, and revolution. One important theme that remains to be explored, however, is the relationship between consumption and the environment. Any solution to the climate crisis will require a revolution in how humans think about – and practice – consumption. Although today nothing seems more natural than relentless consumption, it, too, has a history. Heightening awareness of the fact that consumption in the contemporary world is a historical construct, an outcome of contingent historical factors, is an important first step toward resolving the climate crisis. For any invention of human society can be reinvented.
Why did women and men want more stuff? What did such goods mean to those who produced, marketed, purchased, and used them? This chapter examines the social and cultural context of the consumer revolution. Borrowing from sociologists Thorstein Veblen, Georg Simmel, and Norbert Elias, historians have long explained the rise of consumption in terms of social emulation. According to this theory, lower social groups imitated higher social groups, spreading new practices of consumption down the social hierarchy. However, while social emulation did occur, it does not explain everything. Patterns of consumption did not always reflect traditional social hierarchies. Examining eighteenth-century material culture, this chapter suggests an alternative approach, which considers how producers, retailers, commentators, and consumers attached meanings to consumer goods and creating a host of new consumer values, including novelty, fashion, selfhood, domesticity, comfort, simplicity, authenticity, cleanliness, health, and exoticism. Such values reflected the development of a modern Enlightenment consumer culture that valorized the present over the past. The social ramifications of eighteenth-century consumer culture were complex. Rising consumption was accompanied by egalitarian ideas, but it did not always promote social mobility. Many consumers bought into the world of goods to reinforce horizontal claims of respectability, not to leap into a new class. Poor laborers who could ill afford to express new consumer values through consumption were marginalized.
The growth of consumption in the eighteenth century helped produce new cultural practices associated with the Enlightenment. Books were a special sort of consumer good. Their proliferation and variety encouraged multiple modes of reading that changed the relationship not only between reader and text but between self and society. While novels invited “intensive reading” and encouraged the belief in an inner emotional world, books, newspapers, and ephemeral literature stimulated “extensive reading” and the formation of a vibrant public sphere. Although the public sphere was not as bourgeois, rational, and oppositional as Jürgen Habermas claimed, the circulation of print did broaden and intensify public discussion of reformist projects. Consumption also shaped Enlightenment sociability. The material environments of Enlightenment sites of sociability facilitated socio-intellectual interaction. Men and women ate meals at salons, sipped coffee at cafés, and sported new fashions in public gardens, giving rise to robust conversational publics. Such polite sociability softened social hierarchies insofar as it created a broad cultural elite among the nobility and certain professional groups, but it also created new forms of exclusion on the basis of wealth and property. Although plebeian sociability sometimes intersected with that of elites, it often unfolded in the separate arenas of the tavern, street, and marketplace. Gender, too, remained a vector of exclusion, though wealthier women devised ways to participate in salons and attend public gatherings.
The late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries have long been seen as a foundational period for modern Irish political traditions such as nationalism, republicanism and unionism. The Case of Ireland offers a fresh account of Ireland's neglected role in European debates about commerce and empire in what was a global era of war and revolution. Drawing on a broad range of writings from merchants, agrarian improvers, philosophers, politicians and revolutionaries across Europe, this book shows how Ireland became a field of conflict and projection between rival visions of politics in commercial society, associated with the warring empires of Britain and France. It offers a new perspective on the crisis and transformation of the British Empire at the end of the eighteenth century, and restores Ireland to its rightful place at the centre of European intellectual history.
This chapter looks at the spread of global history globally and the abandonment of historiographical nationalism. It examines the long practice of comparative, transnational and global history writing since the Enlightenments. It also looks at the construction of peculiarities and exceptionalisms through comparison as well as their critique. It distinguishes between comparative and global history and links the rise of both to the renewed crisis of historicism since the 1980s. It also discusses the controvery between comparative historians and historians of cultural transfer, arguing that both approaches need to be united. The chapter highlights the idea of circulations and examines the explosion of global history around particular themes. It also underlines its usefulness in overcoming Western-centric models of development and questioning universalisms. Transnational, comparative and global histories have all contributed to decentring collective identity constructions and making historians more aware of the ways in which historical writing has been connected to the construction of such collective identities. This is shown in relation to spatial boundaries, be they national or supra-national, but also in relation to class, racial and gender identities. Postcolonial perspectives on global history have been particularly adept at questioning the Western-centrism of historical writing and understanding diverse regimes of colonialism. It has also made transnational global history more aware of its own temptation to further global identities.
The production, acquisition, and use of consumer goods defines our daily lives, and yet consumerism is seen as increasingly controversial. Movements for sustainable and ethical consumerism are gaining momentum alongside an awareness of how our choices in the marketplace can affect public issues. How did we get here? This volume advances a bold new interpretation of the 'consumer revolution' of the eighteenth century, when European elites, middling classes, and even certain labourers purchased unprecedented quantities of clothing, household goods, and colonial products. Michael Kwass adopts a global perspective that incorporates the expansion of European empires, the development of world trade, and the rise of plantation slavery in the Americas. Kwass analyses the emergence of Enlightenment material cultures, contentious philosophical debates on the morality of consumption, and new forms of consumer activism to offer a fresh interpretation of the politics of consumption in the age of abolitionism and the Atlantic Revolutions.