Frances Yates and the Hermetic Tradition

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Jones, Marjorie.  Frances Yates and the Hermetic Tradition.

Dame France Yates pioneered key research in the 20th century by noting that the Renaissance man was as much a magician (or so he thought) as a secular freethinker.  Even Copernicus had magical overtones. Giordano Bruno wasn’t executed simply because he was a Copernican. He made the argument, obvious to everyone in his time, that the planets had “properties” of sorts.  This is the world that Yates reintroduced us to.

This biography of her, while summarizing her work and giving us a fascinating account of her strange childhood, is good.  However, it never rises to the level of greatness.

Interpretation of Bruno.  Yates rejected the silly idea that the Renaissance was filled with noble freethinkers.  They were magicians and Bruno the chief. Bruno, however, would have seen himself as a good scientist like Copernicus.  If the planets went around the sun, then the stars of other systems would be suns with their own planets. From this he drew the conclusion that the universe is infinite.  This last sentence, of course, is false from both a scientific and logical point of view.

Clarifying the Bruno Thesis.  Bruno wasn’t a victim of a war between Science and Religion.  Rather, he represented a schism within.

On ShakespeareKingship is the principle of order.


There was some repetition, as Jones repeatedly reminded us (sometimes on the same page) that Yates was a chain-smoker.


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