The ‘scientific revolution’ is ordinarily envisioned as the triumph of reason over superstition, of science over sorcery.

This course argues that the rhetoric of ‘enlightenment’ conceals a deep continuity between Modern science and the occult traditions of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The prototype of the experimental scientist is the Faustian magus, a figure both transgressive and compelling, who challenges authority and defies the prescribed limits of human knowledge and power. Special topics include: the transmission of pagan & Arabic magical lore to the Medieval West; natural magic as ‘experimental science’; boundaries between natural & demonic magic; the evolution of the genre of the ‘forbidden book’; and most centrally, we explore the Renaissance (re)discovery of Hermetic, Neoplatonic and Cabalistic sources and the impact of these esoteric currents on European intellectual culture, specifically for the development of early modern science.