The Reception of German Mysticism in Early Modern England

Sunday, June 20, 2021 11:00to16:15

3-day International Conference sponsored by the School of Religious Studies, McGill University and the Centre for the Study of Platonism, Cambridge University

Montreal- Conference will be hosted on Zoom (EDT)

19–21 June 2021

14h00 (EDT) Session—Platonism and the German Theology

11h00 (EDT) Session—Mysticism and Metaphysics

14h00 (EDT) Session— Jacob Boehme and Mysticism in England

10h00 (EDT) Session—German Mysticism in Cambridge Platonism and American Puritanism

About the conference:

The project consists in establishing the fundamental influence of German or Rhenish mysticism on English religious thought, chiefly in the 17th-century.

The English reception of such German mystical authors as Meister Eckhart (c. 1260-1328), the anonymous author of Theologia Germanica, Johannes Tauler (c. 1300-1361), Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464), Sebastian Franck (c. 1499-1542), Hans Denck (1500-1527), Valentin Weigel (1533-1588), and Jakob Böhme (1575-1624), to mention just the most significant representatives of this tradition, has been hitherto little studied, or not studied at all. There are some notable exceptions, particularly the research of Douglas Hedley on the exceptional role of the Cambridge Platonists, especially of Henry More, in the dissemination of German mysticism in England in the seventeenth century, and Nigel Smith’s monograph Perfection Proclaimed (Oxford, 1989).

This project will not only reconstruct for the first time the wide-ranging reception of these German thinkers in Early Modern England, but also show that it was through this reception that the influential tradition of 'German mysticism' was first created. For instance, while in 17th-century Germany the writings of the main figure of this tradition, Jakob Böhme, went underground because of accusations of heresy, in England they were keenly translated, commented upon, and considered in relation to other German writers who had also been translated at the same time, specifically Sebastian Franck and Valentin Weigel.

Through their work, the English readers thus established a lineage that connected these thinkers, and that at the same time created a philosophical bridge between England and Germany. The project will highlight the international legacy of these authors by adopting the perspective of historico-philosophical engagement with the sources, placing them also in the theological milieu of their time.

See pdf attached for schedule, time zones and more info on sessions and presenters.

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