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Grimoires and the occult arts

This event explores the historic relationship between the practise of magic, religion and the development of science.

For over a century historians and social scientists have explored the historic relationship between the practise of magic, religion and the development of science. What is clear is that in the past the boundaries between all three were far from clear. So while ‘occult science' might seem a contradiction in terms, it was in fact at the heart of intellectual knowledge. The medieval and early modern quest to discover the ‘occult' or ‘hidden' properties of nature was a scientific endeavour that required an exploration of the possibilities of magic. The motive of many magicians at the time was to attain wisdom and knowledge through contact with the spirit world. Instructions on how to perform such magic, and accounts of the secret knowledge obtained from re-discovered ancient sources, were recorded in grimoires. Despite the best efforts of the Inquisitions these magic books circulated in increasing numbers during the medieval period, and with the advent of print their influence would spread far beyond the libraries of the wealthy and educated. From the eighteenth century, cheap print grimoires began to appear. The centre of publication was France, and their distribution and influence in French colonies generated new notions of what it meant to ‘make science'.


Professor Owen Davies | talks | www


Date and Time:

13 May 2009 at 7:00 pm


1 hour 30 minutes



The Royal Institution
21 Albemarle Street
020 7409 2992

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Tickets cost £8, £6 concessions, £4 Ri members

Available from:

For more information visit www.rigb.org or call the Events Team on 020 7409 2992 9.00am-5.00pm Monday to Friday

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