Thursday, December 31, 2009

Athanasius Kircher

Athanasius Kircher’s Theatre of the World: The Life and Work of the Last Man to Search for Universal Knowledge by Joscelyn Godwin. Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions, September 3, 2009. Hardcover. 304 p. 11.2 x 10.1 x 1.4 inches. $60.00.

For years Joscelyn Godwin’s 1979 monograph on the German Jesuit scholar Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680) published by Thames & Hudson remained the sole source on him in English. Dr. Godwin has now followed it up with a major presentation of Kircher’s literary output. Told through topic segments, the lavish illustrations from Kircher’s books are allowed to speak for themselves. Only an outline of Kircher’s life is given, the narrative being focused around the 410 images presented. Godwin’s book is a rare example of what the printing industry is still capable of in the area of graphics. HPB quotes Kircher approvingly as a source in a number of places in her writings, from Isis Unveiled to The Secret Doctrine, for he tried to place figures like Hermes and Zoroaster as part of the lineage of God’s pre-Christian revelation to the pagans and their writings as a valid contribution to religious life.

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