Scrutinizing The Impossibility – The Scholarly Study of Magic and The Occult

Work

The Warburg Institute

Dame Frances Amelia Yates
(1899-1981)

A British historian, she taught at the Warburg Institute of the University of London for many years. She wrote extensively on the occult or Neoplatonic philosophies of the Renaissance. Her books Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition (1964), The Art of Memory (1966), and The Rosicrucian Enlightenment (1972) are major works. She dealt with traditions whose remoteness she could not eliminate, even while she made them more understandable.

Academics tend to look on ‘esoteric’, ‘occult’ or ‘magical’ beliefs with contempt, but are usually ignorant about the religious and philosophical traditions to which these terms refer, or their relevance to intellectual history. Wouter Hanegraaff tells the neglected story of how intellectuals since the Renaissance have tried to come to terms with a cluster of ‘pagan’ ideas from late antiquity that challenged the foundations of biblical religion and Greek rationality.

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