More on Godliness.

By H. More DD

Printed: 1660

Publisher: W. Morden. Cambridge

Dimensions 20 × 28 × 4 cm

Language: English

Size (cminches): 20 x 28 x 4


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Tan calf spine and corners with black title plate, gilt lettering and decoration on the spine. Blue and purple marbled boards.

First Edition supplemented by notes.

An Explanation of the Grand Mystery of Godliness; or a True and Faithful Representation of the Everlasting Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, 1660.

Henry More FRS (12 October 1614 – 1 September 1687) was an English philosopher of the Cambridge Platonist school.

More was a rationalist theologian. He attempted to use the details of 17th-century mechanical philosophy—as developed by René Descartes—to establish the existence of immaterial substance.

More rejected Cartesian dualism on the following grounds: “It would be easier for me to attribute matter and extension to the soul, than to attribute to an immaterial thing the capacity to move and be moved by the body.’ His difficulties with Cartesian dualism arose, not from an inability to understand how material and immaterial substances could interact, but from an unwillingness to accept any unextended entity as any kind of real entity. More continues “…it is plain that if a thing be at all it must be extended.” So, for More ‘spirit’ too must be extended. This led him to the idea of a ‘fourth dimension’ (a term which he coined) in which the spirit is extended (to which he gave the curious name of “essential spissitude”) and to an original solution to the mind-body problem.

More appears to be the origin of the still-popular slur against medieval Scholasticism that it engaged in useless speculative debates, such as how many angels might dance on the head of a pin (or “on a needles [sic] point,” as he puts it), in the second chapter of The Immortality of the Soul.

A quotation from More is used as the epigraph of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay “The Over-soul.”

Helena Blavatsky, the founder of Theosophy, quoted More and gave an exposition of his ideas in chapter VII of “Isis Unveiled”.

The Cambridge Platonists were an influential group of Platonist philosophers and Christian theologians at the University of Cambridge that existed during the 17th century. The leading figures were Ralph Cudworth and Henry More.

The Cambridge Platonists used the framework of the philosophia perennis of Agostino Steuco, and from it argued for moderation.  They believed that reason is the proper judge of disagreements, and so they advocated dialogue between the Puritan and Laudian traditions. The orthodox English Calvinists of the time found in their views an insidious attack, by-passing as it did the basic theological issues of atonement and justification by faith. Given the circle’s Cambridge background in Puritan colleges such as Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge and Emmanuel College, Cambridge, the undermining was intellectually all the more effective. John Bunyan complained in those terms about Edward Fowler, a close latitudinarian follower.

Their understanding of reason was as “the candle of the Lord”, an echo of the divine within the human soul and an imprint of God within man. They believed that reason could judge the private revelations of Puritan narrative and investigate contested rituals and liturgy of the Church of England. For this approach they were called “latitudinarian”.

The dogmatism of the Puritan divines, with their anti-rationalist demands, was, they felt, incorrect. They also felt that the Calvinist insistence on individual revelation left God uninvolved with the majority of mankind. At the same time, they were reacting against the reductive materialist writings of Thomas Hobbes. They felt that the latter, while rationalist, were denying the idealistic part of the universe.

To the Cambridge Platonists, religion and reason were in harmony, and reality was known not by physical sensation alone, but by intuition of the intelligible forms that exist behind the material world of everyday perception. Universal, ideal forms inform matter, and the physical senses are unreliable guides to their reality. In response to the mechanical philosophy, More proposed a “Hylarchic Principle”, and Cudworth a concept of “Plastic Nature”.

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