'Satan at Noon'
: John Pordage and the Politics of Heresy

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Abstract

The aim of this thesis is to re-evaluate the work of John Pordage (1607 – 1681), cleric, practitioner of medicine, spiritual visionary, admirer, and elucidator of the German philosopher and mystic Jacob Boehme, alleged ‘radical’, and pioneer of various eccentric spiritual movements that were considered ‘heterodox’.
This study builds on and contributes to work in the intellectual history of Western esotericism, metaphysics, and theosophy. Although studies in early modern religious radicalism have examined the radical ideas of religious dissenters during this period, there has not been a detailed study devoted solely to the ideas of Pordage. To redress this dearth in the scholarship, this study provides additional insight into Pordage’s metaphysical thinking, the part he played in the transmission of Jacob Boehme’s ideas into England, and their subsequent evolution into Behmenism, the name given to the seventeenth-century Christian movement in England based on Boehme’s teaching.
I argue that the persuasive nature of the attacks on Pordage’s alleged ‘heterodoxy’ – especially the fierce antagonism of Christopher Fowler – has led to a misleading undervaluation of Pordage’s oeuvre and resulted in the loss of many original pieces; and the ones that did survive did so only after being translated into German, and from German into Russian and Finnish.
My major contribution to the scholarship is to provide English re-translations of a number of Pordage’s work’s that were posthumously published in German versions.
Other original contributions I make are:
• Discovering Pordage’s own doctoral dissertation and providing it in both the original Latin and a commissioned English translation;
• Uncovering excerpts from An Epitome of the Angelical World; and
• Discussing the reception of Pordage’s writings in Russia and Finland.
Date of Award24 Jun 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorRonald E Hutton (Supervisor) & Mark Hailwood (Supervisor)

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