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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VIII. The Age of Dryden.

XI. Platonists and Latitudinarians

§ 11. More’s Immortality of the Soul, Grand Mystery of Godliness and Mystery of Iniquity

In the meantime, Henry More was acquiring a brilliant reputation by his untiring literary activity, and, in 1652, brought out his Antidote against Atheism. In the following year appeared his Conjectura Cabbalistica, and, in 1656, his Enthusiasmus Triumphatus, a skilful exposure of the pretensions of the “enthusiasm” which was then at its apogee. In 1659, he re-wrote, in an expanded and connected form, the dissertations prefixed to the several books of his Song of the Soul, and, along with the argument of The Song itself, reduced to plainer prose, published his treatise entitled The Immortality of the Soul. In 1660 appeared his Grand Mystery of Godliness, which Beaumont was imprudent enough to take upon himself to criticise. The prosaic poet was incapable of appreciating the poetic philosopher, and blundered sadly. The underlying design of More’s treatise would appear, indeed, to have been unintelligble to him, and his attack recoiled disastrously on himself. In 1662, More published a collected edition of his prose works up to that date, including his correspondence with Descartes. It is in the preface to this volume that More appears at his best, still adhering to his original standpoint, when he asks, “what greater satisfaction can there be to a rational spirit than to find himself able to appeal to the strictest rules of reason and philosophy?”

  • “I conceive,” he goes on to say, “the Christian religion rational throughout, … and every priest should endeavour, according to his opportunity and capacity, to be also, as much as he can, a rational man or philosopher, for which reason, certainly, Universities were first erected, and are still continued to this very day, … for take away reason, and all religions are alike true; as, the light being removed, all things are of one colour.”
  • It is here, also, that he refers to the service which he had rendered in “interweaving” Platonism and Cartesianism—“making use of these Hypotheses as invincible bulwarks against the most cunning and most mischievous efforts of Atheism”—this, it is to be noted, being the last occasion on which he alludes with complacency to the doctrines of Descartes.

    After the collapse of the Savoy conference, however, his avowed sentiments and whole tone (in common with those of not a few other writers) underwent a radical change. Worthington suggested to him to throw over Cartesianism, and he did so—his Enchiridion Metaphysicum, which appeared in 1668, being especially designed as an exposition of a science of spiritualism, in opposition to the Cartesian doctrines.