Some further reflections on Brucker’s classification of Henry More as a ‘Platonico-Cabbalist’

I noted in an earlier post that the historian of philosophy Johann Jacob Brucker, writing in the 1730s and 1740s, distinguishes More’s ‘Platonico-Cabbalism’ from Cudworth, Gale, and Burnet’s ‘Alexandrian’ form of Platonism in his characterisation of their position. This must certainly reflect the fact that More had gained an early reputation in continental Europe for his engagement with the Cabbala. It is noteworthy that one of the first publications of note addressing More’s work on the continent, the Herborn Lutheran professor Samuel Andreae’s Examen Generale Cabbalae Philosophicae D. Henrici More (Herborn, 1670) is a critique of More’s Conjectura Cabbalistica (London, 1653), with which he was familiar in the English. More responded to Andreae’s critique in the scholia to his Opera Omnia (London, 1679), which in turn attracted a response from Andreae (then at Marburg) in his Epistola apologetica, ad virum eruditissimum & celeberrimum Henricum Morum (Marburg, 1684). Johannes Franciscus Buddeus, in a 23 page section of his Introductio ad historiam philosophiae Ebraeorum (Halle, 1702) discusses More’s Conjectura Cabbalistica before passing to a consideration of his later Cabbalistic writings. Buddeus notes that these later Cabbalistic texts (those which would be published within Christian Knorr von Rosenroth’s Kabbala denudata (Sulzbach and Frankfurt, 1676) and More’s Opera Omnia) were written between 1672 and 1678, after a period of almost twenty years during which More did not touch on Cabbalistic themes, with the two periods being punctuated by the Andreae-More exchange. Buddeus notes that More was a pioneer in attempting a modern harmonisation of the Cabbala with Christian philosophy, as does Paul Berger (another critic) in his Cabbalismus Judaico-Christianus detectus (Wittemberg, 1707), who classes him together with Johann Stephan Rittangel – according to Berger, a convert from Judaism, although this has been contested – and Knorr von Rosenroth as the first to attempt such a modern harmonisation. Somewhat later Brucker also acknowledges the pioneering nature of More’s engagement with the Cabbala and refers to the Andreae-More exchange. Evidently More’s association with Cabbala became quite entrenched. For instance, the entry CABALE, (Philos.) in the first edition of Diderot’s Encyclopedie (1751) contains the following: ‘Henri Morus & Van-Helmont (Knorrius, Cabala denud. tom.I.) sont les deux savans qui ont les premiers débrouillé le cahos de la philosophie cabalistique’ (p.480). Such characterisations extend into the nineteenth century. The extent to which More’s early reputation in continental Europe was bound up with his engagement with Cabbalism has still to be established, but it certainly seems to have been an important strand and to some extent to have eclipsed his reputation as an anti-Cartesian. 

(with thanks also to Mark Burden for drawing my attention to the Andreae-More exchange)

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