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Democritus Platonissans   By: (1614-1687)

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The Augustan Reprint Society


Democritus Platonissans


Introduction by


Publication Number 130 WILLIAM ANDREWS CLARK MEMORIAL LIBRARY University of California, Los Angeles 1968


George Robert Guffey, University of California, Los Angeles Maximillian E. Novak, University of California, Los Angeles Robert Vosper, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library


Richard C. Boys, University of Michigan James L. Clifford, Columbia University Ralph Cohen, University of Virginia Vinton A. Dearing, University of California, Los Angeles Arthur Friedman, University of Chicago Louis A. Landa, Princeton University Earl Miner, University of California, Los Angeles Samuel H. Monk, University of Minnesota Everett T. Moore, University of California, Los Angeles Lawrence Clark Powell, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library James Sutherland, University College, London H. T. Swedenberg, Jr., University of California, Los Angeles


Edna C. Davis, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library


Henry More (1614 1687), the most interesting member of that group traditionally known as the Cambridge Platonists, lived conscientiously and well. Having early set out on one course, he never thought to change it; he devoted his whole life to the joy of celebrating, again and again, "a firm and unshaken Belief of the Existence of GOD . . . , a God infinitely Good, as well as infinitely Great . . . ."[1] Such faith was for More the starting point of his rational understanding: "with the most fervent Prayers" he beseeched God, in his autobiographical "Praefatio Generalissima," "to set me free from the dark Chains, and this so sordid Captivity of my own Will." More offered to faith all which his reason could know, and so it happened that he "was got into a most Joyous and Lucid State of Mind," something quite ineffable; to preserve these "Sensations and Experiences of my own Soul," he wrote "a pretty full Poem call'd Psychozoia " (or  A Christiano Platonicall display of Life ), an exercise begun about 1640 and designed for no audience but himself. There were times, More continued in his autobiographical remarks, when he thought of destroying Psychozoia because its style is rough and its language filled with archaisms. His principal purpose in that poem was to demonstrate in detail the spiritual foundation of all existence; Psyche, his heroine, is the daughter of the Absolute, the general Soul who holds together the metaphysical universe, against whom he sees reflected his own soul's mystical progress. More must, nevertheless, have been pleased with his labor, for he next wrote Psychathanasia Platonica: or Platonicall Poem of the Immortality of Souls, especially Mans Soul , in which he attempts to demonstrate the immortality of the soul as a corrective to his age. Then, he joined to that Antipsychopannychia, or A Confutation of the sleep of the Soul after death , and Antimonopsychia, or That all Souls are not one ; at the urging of friends, he published the poems in 1642 his first literary work as Psychodia Platonica .

In his argument for the soul's immortality toward the end of Psychathanasia (III.4), More had urged that there was no need to plead for any extension of the infinite ("a contradiction," and also, it would seem, a fruitless inquiry); but he soon changed his mind. The preface to Democritus Platonissans reproduces those stanzas of the earlier poem which deny infinity (34 to the end of the canto) with a new (formerly concluding) stanza 39 and three further stanzas "for a more easie and naturall leading to the present Canto," i... Continue reading book >>

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