Henry More

Henry More

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Henry More FRS  was an English
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 philosopher of the Cambridge Platonist school
Cambridge Platonists
The Cambridge Platonists were a group of philosophers at Cambridge University in the middle of the 17th century .- Programme :...



Henry was born at Grantham
Grantham is a market town within the South Kesteven district of Lincolnshire, England. It bestrides the East Coast Main Line railway , the historic A1 main north-south road, and the River Witham. Grantham is located approximately south of the city of Lincoln, and approximately east of Nottingham...

 and was schooled at The King's School, Grantham
The King's School, Grantham
The King's School is a British grammar school located in the market town of Grantham, in Lincolnshire, England, and one of the oldest schools in the UK.-History:...

 and at Eton College
Eton College
Eton College, often referred to simply as Eton, is a British independent school for boys aged 13 to 18. It was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI as "The King's College of Our Lady of Eton besides Wyndsor"....

. Both his parents were Calvinists
Calvinism is a Protestant theological system and an approach to the Christian life...

 but he himself "could never swallow that hard doctrine." In 1631 he entered Christ's College, Cambridge
Christ's College, Cambridge
Christ's College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge.With a reputation for high academic standards, Christ's College averaged top place in the Tompkins Table from 1980-2000 . In 2011, Christ's was placed sixth.-College history:...

, at about the time John Milton
John Milton
John Milton was an English poet, polemicist, a scholarly man of letters, and a civil servant for the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell...

 was leaving it. He took his BA in 1635, his MA in 1639, and immediately afterwards became a fellow of his college, turning down all other positions that were offered. He would not accept the mastership of his college, to which, it is understood, he would have been preferred in 1654, when Ralph Cudworth
Ralph Cudworth
Ralph Cudworth was an English philosopher, the leader of the Cambridge Platonists.-Life:Born at Aller, Somerset, he was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, gaining his MA and becoming a Fellow of Emmanuel in 1639. In 1645, he became master of Clare Hall and professor of Hebrew...

 was appointed. In 1675, he finally accepted a prebend
A prebendary is a post connected to an Anglican or Catholic cathedral or collegiate church and is a type of canon. Prebendaries have a role in the administration of the cathedral...

 in Gloucester Cathedral
Gloucester Cathedral
Gloucester Cathedral, or the Cathedral Church of St Peter and the Holy and Indivisible Trinity, in Gloucester, England, stands in the north of the city near the river. It originated in 678 or 679 with the foundation of an abbey dedicated to Saint Peter .-Foundations:The foundations of the present...

, but only to resign it in favour of his friend Dr. Edward Fowler
Edward Fowler
Edward Fower was an English churchman, Bishop of Gloucester from 1691 until his death.- Early life and education :He was born at Westerleigh, Gloucestershire, and was educated at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, later moving to Trinity College, Cambridge.- Writings :Fower was suspected of Pelagian...

, afterwards bishop of Gloucester
Bishop of Gloucester
The Bishop of Gloucester is the Ordinary of the Church of England Diocese of Gloucester in the Province of Canterbury.The diocese covers the County of Gloucestershire and part of the County of Worcestershire and has its see in the City of Gloucester where the seat is located at the Cathedral Church...


More taught many notable pupils, including Anne Finch, sister of Heneage Finch
Heneage Finch, 1st Earl of Nottingham
Heneage Finch, 1st Earl of Nottingham, PC , Lord Chancellor of England, was descended from the old family of Finch, many of whose members had attained high legal eminence, and was the eldest son of Sir Heneage Finch, recorder of London, by his first wife Frances Bell, daughter of Sir Edmond Bell of...

, subsequently Earl of Nottingham. She later became Lady Conway, and at her country seat at Ragley
Ragley Hall
Ragley Hall is located south of Alcester, Warwickshire, eight miles west of Stratford-upon-Avon. It is the ancestral seat of the Marquess of Hertford and is one of the stately homes of England.-The present day:...

 in Warwickshire, More would spend "a considerable part of his time." She and her husband both appreciated him, and amidst the woods of this retreat he wrote several of his books. The spiritual enthusiasm of Lady Conway was a considerable factor in some of More's speculations, even though she at length joined the Quakers. She became the friend not only of More and William Penn
William Penn
William Penn was an English real estate entrepreneur, philosopher, and founder of the Province of Pennsylvania, the English North American colony and the future Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He was an early champion of democracy and religious freedom, notable for his good relations and successful...

, but of Franciscus Mercurius van Helmont
Franciscus Mercurius van Helmont
Franciscus Mercurius van Helmont was a Flemish alchemist and writer, the son of Jan Baptist van Helmont...

 (1614–1699) and Valentine Greatrakes
Valentine Greatrakes
Valentine Greatrakes , also known as 'Greatorex' or 'The Stroker', was an Irish faith healer who toured England in 1666, claiming to cure people by the laying on of hands.-Biography:...

, mystical thaumaturgists of the 17th century. Ragley became a centre of devotion and spiritualism
Spiritualism is a belief system or religion, postulating the belief that spirits of the dead residing in the spirit world have both the ability and the inclination to communicate with the living...



More (1712) 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" in which the spirit is extended, to which he gave the curious name of "essential spissitude". For further comments on this idea see Burtt (1932) and Smythies (1994).
Burtt, E.A. The Metaphysical Foundations of Science. London. Routledge & Kegan Paul. 1932
More, H. The Immortality of the Soul. London (4th edition). 1712.
Smythies, J. The Walls of Plato's Cave. Aldershot, Avebury. 1994


He was a prolific writer of verse and prose. The Divine Dialogues (1688), a treatise which condenses his general view of philosophy and religion. Like many others he began as a poet and ended as a prose writer. His first work, published in 1642, but written two years earlier, was entitled Psychodoia Platonica: or, a Platonicall Song of the Soul, consisting of foure severall Poems. This was followed in 1647 by his full collection of Philosophicall Poems, which includes The Song of the Soul,' much enlarged, and is dedicated ' to his dear father.' A second edition was published in the same year, and it was included by A. B. Grosart in his Chertsey Worthies Library (1878).

His prose works are :
  • Observations upon Anthroposophia Theomagica and Anima Magica Abscondita by Alazonomastix Philalethes, 1650 ; in answer to Thomas Vaughan
    Thomas Vaughan (philosopher)
    Thomas Vaughan was a Welsh philosopher.A Royalist clergyman from Brecon, Wales, Thomas was the twin brother of the poet Henry Vaughan, both being born at Newton, in the parish of St. Briget's, in 1621. Vaughan entered Jesus College, Oxford, in 1638, and remained there for a decade during the...

    , who replied in The Man-mouse taken in a Trape.
  • The Second Lash of Alazonomastix, a rejoinder to Vaughan, 1651.
  • An Antidote against Atheism, or an Appeal to the Naturall Faculties of the Minde of Man, whether there be not a God, 1653 : 2nd edit. 'corrected and enlarged: With an Appendix thereunto annexed,' 1655.
  • Conjectura Cabbalistica ... or a Conjectural Essay of Interpreting the Minde of Moses, according to a Threefold Cabbala: viz. Literal, Philosophical, Mystical, or Divinely Moral, 1653; dedicated to Ralph Cudworth
    Ralph Cudworth
    Ralph Cudworth was an English philosopher, the leader of the Cambridge Platonists.-Life:Born at Aller, Somerset, he was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, gaining his MA and becoming a Fellow of Emmanuel in 1639. In 1645, he became master of Clare Hall and professor of Hebrew...

  • Enthusiasmus Triumphatus, or a Discourse of the Nature, Causes, Kinds, and Cure of Enthusiasme; written by Philophilus Parrasiastes, and prefixed to Alazonomastix his Observations and Reply, &c., 1656.
  • The Immortality of the Soul, so farre forth as it is demonstrable from the Knowledge of Nature and the Light of Reason, 1659; dedicated to Viscount Conway.
  • 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.
  • A Modest Enquiry into the Mystery of Iniquity, and an Apologie, &c., 1664.
  • Enchiridion Ethicum, praecipua Moralis Philosophiae Rudimenta complectens, illustrata ut plurimum Veterum Monumentis, et ad Probitatem Vitae perpetuo accommodate, 1667, 1668, 1669, 1695, 1696, and 1711.
  • Divine Dialogues, containing sundry Disquisitions and Instructions concerning the Attributes of God and His Providence in the World, 1668. The most authentic edition appeared in 1713.
  • An Exposition of the Seven Epistles to the Seven Churches; Together with a Brief Discourse of Idolatry, with application to the Church of Rome. The title of the latter in the volume itself is An Antidote against Idolatry, and it elicited from More in reply to attacks A brief Reply to a late Answer to Dr. Henry More his antidote against Idolatry, 1672, and An Appendix to the late Antidote against Idolatry, 1673.
  • Enchiridion Metaphysicum: sive, de rebus in- corporeis succincta et luculenta dissertati; pars prima, 1671, an attack on Cartesian philosophy, which he had in earlier life admired.
  • Remarks upon two late ingenious Discourses [by Matthew Hale
    Matthew Hale (jurist)
    Sir Matthew Hale SL was an influential English barrister, judge and jurist most noted for his treatise Historia Placitorum Coronæ, or The History of the Pleas of the Crown. Born to a barrister and his wife, who had both died by the time he was 5, Hale was raised by his father's relative, a strict...

    ]; the one, an Essay, touching the Gravitation and non-Gravitation of Fluid Bodies; the other, touching the Torricellian Experiment, so far forth as they may concern any passages in his "Enchiridion Metaphysicum,"
  • Apocalypsis Apocalypseos; or the Revelation of St. John the Divine unveiled: an exposition from chapter to chapter and from verse to verse of the whole Book of the Apocalypse, 1680.
  • A Plain and continued Exposition of the several Prophecies or Divine Visions of the Prophet Daniel, which have or may concern the People of God, whether Jew or Christian, &c., 1681.
  • A Brief Discourse of the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist; wherein the Witty Artifices of the Bishop of Meaux [Bossuet] and of Monsieur Maimbourg are obviated, whereby they would draw in the Protestants to imbrace the doctrine of Transubstantiation, 1681.

More is also believed to have written Philosophiae Teutonicae Censura, 1670, a criticism of the theosophy
Theosophy, in its modern presentation, is a spiritual philosophy developed since the late 19th century. Its major themes were originally described mainly by Helena Blavatsky , co-founder of the Theosophical Society...

 of Jacob Boehme; and to have edited Joseph Glanvill
Joseph Glanvill
Joseph Glanvill was an English writer, philosopher, and clergyman. Not himself a scientist, he has been called "the most skillful apologist of the virtuosi", or in other words the leading propagandist for the approach of the English natural philosophers of the later 17th century.-Life:He was...

's Saducismus Triumphatus, 1681. He certainly contributed largely to the volume, and also wrote many of the annotations to Glanvill's Lux Orientalis,' 1682. More agreed with Glanvill on belief in witchcraft
Witchcraft, in historical, anthropological, religious, and mythological contexts, is the alleged use of supernatural or magical powers. A witch is a practitioner of witchcraft...

 and apparitions. Several letters from More to John Worthington
John Worthington
John Worthington was an English academic. He was closely associated with the Cambridge Platonists. He did not in fact publish in the field of philosophy, and is now known mainly as a well-connected diarist.-Life:...

 are printed in Worthington's Diary, and some Letters Philosophical and Moral between John Norris and Henry More are added to Norris's Theory and Regulation of Love, 1688. A Collection of several Philosophical Writings of Dr. Henry More includes his Antidote against Atheism, with the Appendix, Enthusiasmus Triumphatus, Letters to Des Cartes, &c., Immortality of the Soul, and Conjectura Cabbalistica. A fourth edition, 'corrected and much enlarged,' was put forth in 1712, and was 'enriched with all the Scholia or Notes that he added afterwards in his Latin edition of these works.'

More issued complete editions of his works, his Opera theologica in 1675, and his Opera philosophica in 1678. Between 1672 and 1675 More was principally engaged in translating his English works into Latin. In 1675 appeared Henrici Mori Cantabrigiensis Opera Theologica, Anglice quidem primitius scripta, mine vero per autorem Latine reddita. Hisce novus praefixus est De Synchronismis Apocalypticis Tractatulus. This was followed in 1679 by a larger work in two volumes, Henrici Mori Cantabrigiensis Opera Omnia, tum quae Latine tum quae Anglice scripta sunt; nunc vero Latinitate donata instigatu et impensis generosissimi juvenis Johannis Cockshutt nobilis Angli. Mr. Cockshutt of the Inner Temple had left a legacy of £300 to More to have three of his principal pieces translated into Latin, and More complied with the terms of the legacy by translating into Latin many more of his English works. In 1692 were published Discourses on Several Texts of Scripture, with a preface signed 'John Worthington; ' and in 1694 Letters on Several Subjects, published by Edmund Elys
Edmund Elys
Edmund Elys was an English clergyman, poet and versatile writer. Considered eccentric, he encountered personal troubles before finally losing his living as a non-juror after the Glorious Revolution...

. Abridgments of and extracts from the works of More were numerous; and in 1708 a volume was published for charitable libraries, The Theological Works of the most Pious and Learned Henry More. The work is in English, but 'according to the author's Improvements in his Latin edition.'

The chief authorities for his life are Richard Ward's Life (1710); the prefatio generalissima prefixed to his Opera omnia (1679); and also a general account of the manner and scope of his writings in an Apology published in 1664. The collection of his Philosophical Poems (1647), in which he has "compared his chief speculations and experiences," should also be consulted. An elaborate analysis of his life and works is given in John Tulloch
John Tulloch
John Tulloch was a Scottish theologian.He was born at Bridge of Earn, Perthshire, and educated at the University of St Andrews and University of Edinburgh. In 1845 he became minister of St Paul's, Dundee, and in 1849 of Kettins, in Strathmore, where he remained for six years. In 1854 he was...

's Rational Theology, vol. ii. (1874); see also R Zimmermann
Johann Georg Ritter von Zimmermann
Johann Georg Ritter von Zimmermann was a Swiss philosophical writer, naturalist, and physician.-Life and works:...

, Henry More und die vierte Dimension des Raums (Vienna, 1881); Henry More: Tercentenary Studies, ed. by Sarah Hutton (Dordrecht, 1990).


A quotation from More is used as the epigraph of Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet, who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century...

's "The Over-soul
“The Oversoul” is an essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson, first published in 1841. The broad subject of the essay, considered one of Emerson's best, is the human soul...


External links