The Secret Influence of the Occult and Magic in the Work of Percy B. Shelley
The seduction that Rosicrucianism held over the young Percy Shelley left a mark on his work.
One of the most striking characteristics of Romanticism is that, though it’s well-named, as a more or less homogeneous artistic movement, there are actually notable differences which vary according to the contexts in which Romanticism occurred.
In a sense, it’s possible that a yet insufficiently explored vein of English Romanticism deals with the occult and with magic. As a more or less secret avenue stemming from the Rosicrucians, that legendary secret order founded in Germany in the 17th century, in England, it had a profound impact. This was to such an extent that one of England’s most admired thinkers, Robert Fludd, a mathematician and astronomer, besides being a student of the Kabbalah and the hermetic sciences, was also an enthusiastic supporter of Rosacrucianism.
Another major figure seduced by the ideas of the Rosicrucian order was Percy B. Shelley, the influential poet who, along with Lord Byron and his wife Mary Shelley and a few others, upheld the Romantic movement in Germany.
The main work supporting this hypothesis is St. Irvyne; or, The Rosicrucian: A Romance, Shelley’s short novel in which a young wanderer finds himself with a Rosicrucian alchemist in search of the secret of eternal youth. From what is known of Shelley (who in his days at Eton spent his money on books about magic and sorcery, and lived surrounded by all kinds of equipment for scientific research), this is a work that, at the very least, leans towards the autobiographical.
Further, a letter to William Godwin has Shelley declaring his spiritual affinity with teachers like Paracelsus, Albertus Magnus and Cornelius Agrippa, alchemists and proto-scientists who, in their own time, contributed significantly to the development of the science. Later, in his famous essay A Defence of Poetry, Shelley compared poetry with alchemical work, as it’s also an operation that transmutes and transforms, making the earthly and the mundane into something sublime, purified and elevated.
Eternal youth, the possession of secrets, the existence of a parallel world of which few know even when it’s visible, the symbols, the coded language … it’s not entirely coincidental that the mind and the sensibility of a poet would be attracted to such notions.
Beyond the truth or falsity in the existence of an order like the Rosicrucians, the reality is manifest and palpable in its effects. On effect being, of course. the making of a young man in all his attempts to become an alchemist, into a poet.
The Funeral of Shelley by Louis Édouard Fournier (1889)
Portrait of Percy Shelley by Joseph Severn
Évocation des Morts Aimés (Summoning of the Beloved Dead) by Paul Christian in Histoire de la magie (History of Magic)
When ancient rituals became religion
The emergence of religions irreversibly changed the history of humanity. It’s therefore essential to ask when and how did ancient peoples’ rituals become organized systems of thought, each with their
Seven ancient maps of the Americas
A map is not the territory. —Alfred Korzybski Maps are never merely maps. They’re human projections, metaphors in which we find both the geographical and the imaginary. The cases of ghost islands
An artist crochets a perfect skeleton and internal organs
Shanell Papp is a skilled textile and crochet artist. She spent four long months crocheting a life-size skeleton in wool. She then filled it in with the organs of the human body in an act as patient
A musical tribute to maps
A sequence of sounds, rhythms, melodies and silences: music is a most primitive art, the most essential, and the most powerful of all languages. Its capacity is not limited to the (hardly trivial)
The enchantment of 17th-century optics
The sense of sight is perhaps one the imagination’s most prolific masters. That is why humankind has been fascinated and bewitched by optics and their possibilities for centuries. Like the heart, the
Would you found your own micro-nation? These eccentric examples show how easy it can be
Founding a country is, in some ways, a simple task. It is enough to manifest its existence and the motives for creating a new political entity. At least that is what has been demonstrated by the
Wondrous crossings: the galaxy caves of New Zealand
Often, the most extraordinary phenomena are “jealous of themselves” ––and they happen where the human eye cannot enjoy them. However, they can be discovered, and when we do find them we experience a
Think you have strange reading habits? Wait until you've seen how Mcluhan reads
We often forget or neglect to think about the infinite circumstances that are condensed in the acts that we consider habitual. Using a fork to eat, for example, or walking down the street and being
The sky is calling us, a love letter to the cosmos (video)
We once dreamt of open sails and Open seas We once dreamt of new frontiers and New lands Are we still a brave people? We must not forget that the very stars we see nowadays are the same stars and
The sister you always wanted (but made into a crystal chandelier)
Lucas Maassen always wanted to have a sister. And after 36 years he finally procured one, except, as strange as it may sound, in the shape of a chandelier. Maassen, a Dutch designer, asked the