COURTESY OF
DIGITAL CAVENDISH PROJECT

THE BLAZING WORLD
BY MARGARET CAVENDISH

___

STUDY GUIDE

INTRODUCTION

The Blazing World by Cavendish is a 1666 work of prose fiction in which a human woman travels accidentally to another world via the North Pole, where she immediately takes root as a fixture in their population and learns to not only navigate their cultures but explore the universe using their help.  It is often credited with being some of the first science fiction work created.

CONTENTS

          1. Section-by-Section Discussion Questions
            • Paratexts (Dedicatory Poem and Prefaces “To the Reader” and “To All Noble and Worthy Ladies”)
            • Journey to the Blazing World (pp. 1-13)
            • The Empress and Her Virtuoso (pp.13-60)
            • Church, the Spirits, and the Duchess’ Arrival (pp.60-92)
            • Worldbuilding, a Visit to the Duchess’ World, and the Allegorical Trial (pp.92-123)
            • The Second Part and the Epilogue to the Reader (pp. 123-160)
          2. Early Modern Context and Sources
            • Alternative Prefaces
            • Excerpts from Lucian’s True History and the Frenchman
          3. Seventeenth-Century Literary Theory
            • Literature vs. Scientific Theory (Hobbes)
            • Imagination and Philosophy (Hobbes)
            • The problem with fantastical fiction (Hobbes)
          4. Sources on Early Modern Women Writers
          5. Romance Introductions to compare to BW
          6. Cabbalistic Knowledge
          7. Courtroom Allegory
          8. Charles’ Restoration
          9. Further Reading
            • Short excerpts from Observations upon Experimental Philosophy
            • Short Excerpts from Philosophical Letters
            • Excerpt from Cavendish’s Life
            • Dramatic Fragment from BW published in Playes
            • Queen Elizabeth imagery relevancy to Margaret I

      Section-by-Section Discussion Questions

      Please use these questions to facilitate discussions, essays, forums, and anything else your heart desires! We would love to see what you do with these, so please also tweet us at @DigiCavendish or send to our Facebook page!

       

          • Paratexts (Dedicatory Poem and Prefaces “To the Reader” and “To All Noble and Worthy Ladies”)

       

      How is gender similar or different in this new world? What stereotypes is Cavendish challenging, and what stereotypes is she maybe reinforcing?

       

          • Journey to the Blazing World (pp. 1-13)

       

      What is the significance of the animal-people? What do you notice about the type of creatures Cavendish has in The Blazing World, and what might this tell you about this world or Cavendish herself, if anything?

       

          • The Empress and Her Virtuosos (pp. 13-60)

       

      COMING SOON

       

          • Church, the Spirits, and the Duchess’ Arrival (pp. 60-92)

       

      COMING SOON

       

          • Worldbuilding, a Visit to the Duchess’ World, and the Allegorical Trial (pp. 92-123)

       

      COMING SOON

       

          • The Second Part and the Epilogue to the Reader (pp. 125-160)

       

      COMING SOON

       

      Early Modern Context and Sources

       

      [I think we should curate some contextual sources and excerpts that we host in digestible form and link to here and in the discussion questions. BW is always in conversation with other early modern artifacts and experiences]

          • Alternative Prefaces

      Cavendish published the Blazing World in two different forms–as an appendix to her Observations upon Experimental Philosophy and as a standalone edition. The main difference between these texts are the prefatory letters that she uses to introduce them. In the appended version, Cavendish addresses the preface to a general audience, marking the letter “To the Reader.” However, for the preface to the standalone edition, Cavendish addresses the letter “To all Noble and Worthy Ladies.” Below, we have included both of these prefatory letters, allowing us to compare the distinct choices Cavendish made when framing her editions of the Blazing World for different readerships.

      Appendix to Observations upon Experimental Philosophy (1666):

      TO THE READER.

      If you wonder, that I join a work of Fancy to my serious Philosophical Contemplations; think not that it is out of a disparagement to Philosophy; or out of an opinion, as if this noble study were but a Fiction of the Mind; for though Philosophers may err in searching and enquiring after the Causes of Natural effects, and many times embrace falsehoods for Truths; yet this does not prove, that the Ground of Philosophy is merely Fiction, but the error proceeds from the different motions of Reason, which cause different Opinions in different parts, and in some are more irregular then in others; for Reason being dividable, because material, cannot move in all parts alike; and since there is but one Truth in Nature, all those that hit not this Truth, do err, some more, some less; for though some may come nearer the mark then others, which makes their Opinions seem more probable and rational then others; yet as long as they swerve from this only Truth, they are in the wrong: Nevertheless, all do ground their Opinions upon Reason; that is, upon rational probabilities, at least, they think they do: But Fictions are an issue of man’s Fancy, framed in his own Mind, according as he pleases, without regard, whether the thing, he fancies, be really existent without his mind or not; so that Reason searches the depth of Nature, and enquires after the true Causes of Natural Effects; but Fancy creates of its own accord whatsoever it pleases, and delights in its own work. The end of Reason, is Truth; the end of Fancy, is Fiction: But mistake me not, when I distinguish Fancy from Reason; I mean not as if Fancy were not made by the Rational parts of Matter; but by Reason I understand a rational search and enquiry into the causes of natural effects; and by Fancy a voluntary creation or production of the Mind, both being effects, or rather actions of the rational part of Matter; of which, as that is a more profitable and useful study then this, so it is also more laborious and difficult, and requires sometimes the help of Fancy, to recreate the Mind, and withdraw it from its more serious Contemplations.

      And this is the reason, why I added this Piece of Fancy to my Philosophical Observations, and joined them as two Worlds at the ends of their Poles; both for my own sake, to divert my studious thoughts, which I employed in the Contemplation thereof, and to delight the Reader with variety, which is always pleasing. But left my Fancy should stray too much, I chose such a Fiction as would be agreeable to the subject I treated of in the former parts; it is a Description of a New World, not such as Lucian’s, or the French man’s World in the Moon; but a World of my own Creating, which I call the Blazing-World: The first part whereof is Romancical, the second Philosophical, and the third is merely Fancy, or (as I may call it) Fantastical; which if it add any satisfaction to you, I shall account my self a Happy Creatoress; if not, I must be content to live a melancholy Life in my own World; I cannot call it a poor World, if poverty be only want of Gold, Silver, and Jewels; for there is more Gold in it then all the Chemists ever did, and (as I verily believe) will ever be able to make. As for the Rocks of Diamonds, I wish with all my soul they might be shared amongst my noble female friends, and upon that condition, I would willingly quit my part; and of the Gold I should only desire so much as might suffice to repair my Noble Lord and Husband’s Losses: For I am not Covetous, but as Ambitious as ever any of my Sex was, is, or can be; which makes, that though I cannot be Henry the Fifth, or Charles the Second, yet I endeavor to be Margaret the First; and although I have neither power, time nor occasion to conquer the world as Alexander and Caesar did; yet rather then not to be Mistress of one, since Fortune and the Fates would give me none, I have made a World of my own: for which no body, I hope, will blame me, since it is in every ones power to do the like.

       

      Standalone Edition of Blazing World (1666):

      To all Noble and Worthy LADIES.

      THIS present Description of a New World; was made as an Appendix to my Observations upon Experimental Philosophy; and, having some Sympathy and Coherence with each other, were joyned together as Two several Worlds, at their Two Poles. But, by reason most Ladies take no delight in Philosophical Arguments, I separated some from the mentioned Observations, and caused them to go out by themselves, that I might express my Respects, in presenting to Them such Fancies as my Contemplations did afford. The First Part is Romancical; the Second, Philosophical; and the Third is meerly Fancy; or, (as I may call it) Fantastical. And if (Noble Ladies) you should chance to take pleasure in reading these Fancies, I shall account my self a Happy Creatoress: If not, I must be content to live a Melancholly Life in my own World; which I cannot call a Poor World, if Poverty be only want of Gold, and Jewels: for, there is more Gold in it, than all the Chymists ever made; or, (as I verily believe) will ever be able to make. As for the Rocks of Diamonds, I wish, with all my Soul, they might be shared amongst my Noble Female Friends; upon which condition, I would willingly quit my Part: And of the Gold, I should desire only so much as might suffice to repair my Noble Lord and Husband’s Losses: for, I am not Covetous, but as Ambitious as ever any of my Sex was, is, or can be; which is the cause, That though I cannot be Henry the Fifth, or Charles the Second; yet, I will endeavour to be, Margaret the First: and, though I have neither Power, Time, nor Occasion, to be a great Conqueror, like Alexander, or Cesar; yet, rather than not be Mistress of a World, since Fortune and the Fates would give me none, I have made One of my own. And thus, believing, or, at least, hoping, that no Creature can, or will, Envy me for this World of mine, I remain,

      Noble Ladies,

      Your Humble Servant,

          1. NEWCASTLE.

       

          • Excerpts from Lucian’s True History and the Frenchman (?)

      Drawing a blank right now

      Seventeenth-Century Literary Theory

      [I think I’ll add Sidney to show the sweep of early modern literary theory; what about Bacon?? Anyone else?]

      Blazing World not only defies our modern expectations, it also challenged the literary principles of many writers and readers during Cavendish’s time.  During the mid-seventeenth century, there was a major shift in English literary culture. While poets, playwrights, and fiction writers of the earlier Renaissance had been deeply inspired by the models they found in ancient Greek and Roman literature, the so-called neo-classical movement adopted a new approach to these sources, setting aside the playful experimentation of the earlier age and developing instead strict literary principles based upon classical precedents. One of the key principles behind neo-classical theories was the superiority of reason over imagination (sometimes called “fancy” in early modern texts). While they saw that fancy was key to the creation of literature—and an important part of other forms of knowledge, such as scientific inquiry—these neo-classical thinkers believed that fictional expressions ought to be controlled by the judgments of the rational mind. As her preface to the Blazing World suggest, Cavendish had a sophisticated understanding of how reason and fancy were connected to one another and how they should interact in both the creation of literature and the exploration of nature. The passages below represent a particularly strong version of neo-classical principles for literature, written by Thomas Hobbes, best known as the author of the famous work of political philosophy Leviathan. In 1650, Hobbes wrote a preface to the poet William Davenant’s epic Gondibert, celebrating the poem for its adherence to his standards for proper fiction. Reading Hobbes’s “Answer to Davenant,” we can see precisely how Cavendish’s Blazing World broke the rules of literary expression that neo-classical thinkers hoped to establish. Hobbes’s ANswer [https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/eebo/A37179.0001.001]

       

          • Hobbes on the difference between literature (which he calls “Poesie”) and scientific prose:

       

      “They that take for Poesie whatsoever is writ in Verse, will think this Division [Hobbes’s strict list of six types of literature] imperfect, and call in Sonets, Epigrams; Eclogues, and the like pieces (which are but Essayes, and parts of an entire Poem) and reckon Empedocies and Lucretius (natural Philosophers) for Poets, and the moral precepts of Phoc•lides Theognis, and the Quatrains of Pybrach, and the Historie of Lucan, and others of that kind amongst Poems; bestowing on such Writers for honour, the name of Poets, rather than of Historians, or Philosophers. But the subject of a Poem, is the manners of men, not natural causes; manners presented, not dictated; and manners feigned (as the name of Poesie imports) not found in men. They that give enterance to Fictions writ in Prose, erre not so much, but they erre: For Prose requiteth delightfulness, not onely of fiction, but of stile; in which if Prose contend with Verse, it is with disadvantage and (as it were) on foot against the strength and wings of Pegasus.”

          • Hobbes on the imagination (fancy) and philosophy:

      “But so far forth as the Fancie of man, has traced the ways of true Philosophie, so far it hath produced very marvellous effects to the benefit of mankind. All that is beautifull or defensible in building, or marvellous in Engines and Instruments of motion; whatsoever commoditie men receive from the observations of the Heavens, from the description of the Earth, from the account of Time, from walking on the Seas; and whatsoever distinguisheth the Civilitie of Europe, from the Barbaritie of the American savages, is the workmanship of Fancy, but guided by the Precepts of true Philosophie. But where these precepts fail, as they have hitherto failed in the doctrine of moral Virtue, there the Architect (Fancy) must take the Philosophers part upon her self. He therefore that undertakes an Heroick Poem (which is to exhibit a venerable and amiable Image of Heroick virtue) must not onely be the Poet, to place and connect, but also the Philosopher, to furnish and square his matter; that is, to make both Body and Soul, colour and shadow of his Poem out of his own Store.”

          • Hobbes on the problem of fantastical fiction:

      “There are some that are not pleased with fiction, unless it be bold; not onely to exceed the work, but also the possibility of Nature: they would have impenetrable Armours, Inchanted Castles, Invulnerable Bodies, Iron Men, Flying Horses, and a thousand other such things, which are easily feigned by them that dare. Against such I defend you (without assenting to those that condemn either Homer or Virgil) by dissenting onely from those that think the Beauty of a Poem consisteth in the exorbitancy of the fiction. For as truth is the bound of Historical, so the Re∣semblance of truth is the utmost limit of Poetical Liberty. In old time amongst the Heathen such strange fictions, and Metamorphoses, were not so remo•e from the Articles of their Faith, as they are now from ours, and therefore were not so unpleasant. Beyond the actual works of Nature a Poet may now go; but beyond the conceived possibility of Nature, never. I can allow a Geographer to make in the Sea, a Fish or a Ship, which by the scale of his Map would be two or three hundred mile long, and think it done for ornament, because it is done without the precincts of his undertaking; but when he paints an Elephant so, I presently apprehend it as ignorance, and a plain confession of Terra incognita.”

      Sources on Early Modern Women Writers

      Excerpts from literary work by Amelia Lanyer, Mary Wroth, Katherine Phillips, etc. Alongside Cavendish’s comments in Poems, and Fancies.

      Romance Introductions to compare to BW

      I’d need to do research on this to see if there’s anything that could give students a taste for this genre

      Cabbalistic Knowledge

      In her discussion with the spirits, the Empress mentions her interest in the “Jews Cabbala.” Kabbalah was originally a discipline of mystical interpretation in which Jewish readers sought out secret knowledge within the Hebrew scriptures, reaching beyond the surface-level stories and instructions of the Torah (known as the “Old Testament” to Christians) in search of wisdom hidden in words, letters, and numbers. Some early modern Christians appropriated their own version of this interpretive mode, which they termed “cabbala.” In light of Europe’s long tradition of anti-semitism, these cabbalistic thinkers rejected Judaism and the particular readings generated by Jewish Kabbalah, developing their own approaches for deciphering the Bible and other texts. Practitioners of Christian cabbala looked for systematic patterns and symbols that they could use to gain a larger understanding of the universe, aspiring to unify all knowledge. They used cabbala as both a way of interpreting and expressing the mysteries of God and Nature that often go beyond the limits of the human mind. While many earnestly pursued the cabbalistic project, often combining cabbala with associated esoteric arts like alchemy, astrology, or natural magic, other early modern thinkers approached it with skepticism, aware of the ways in which conmen and charlatans could use these knowledge practices to fool and exploit others. The spirits of The Blazing World voice these skeptical concerns, and yet the Empress remains interested in cabbalistic thinking at least as a metaphor for the kind of imaginative thought and language that makes Cavendish’s fiction possible. This section includes passages from three sources relevant to The Blazing World’s exploration of cabbala: Meric Casaubon’s edition of A True & Faithful Relation of What Passed for Many Yeers between Dr. John Dee … and Some Spirits (1659) [https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/eebo/A37412.0001.001], Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist (1610) [https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/eebo/A04636.0001.001], and Henry More’s Conjectura Cabbalistica (1653) [https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/eebo/A89280.0001.001].

      John Dee, mathematician and court astrologer to Queen Elizabeth, was perhaps early modern England’s most famous Christian cabbalist. The Blazing World’s spirits mention Dee and his partner Edward Kelly as “but meer Cheats” who only pretended to higher knowledge. Cavendish, after all, was a materialist whose vision of the universe did not allow for immaterial spirits, while Dee and Kelly had claimed to gain their insights from spiritual conversations. She likely would have read about their occult discussions in the version of Dee’s private diary that was published in 1659 by Meric Casaubon. Included below is a passage from the editorial preface in which Casaubon reflects on the nature of Dee’s connection to the spirits, considering the truth of his account. Unlike Cavendish, Casaubon trusted Dee’s sincerity and insisted that belief in spirits was a necessary consequence of belief in God. He suspected, though, that the particular spirits that Dee communed with were demonic, leading him to assert that Dee’s investment in cabbala was the product of an inventive but credulous mindset that left him susceptible to manipulation, both earthly and supernatural. Casaubon describes the danger of Dee’s “phansie,” his imaginative enthusiasm for fabricating patterns of meaning in the world out of ordinary materials. Though Cavendish seems to have shared Casaubon’s skepticism (in some ways exceeding him), The Blazing World is a work of fiction fully invested in the creative open-mindedness of cabbala’s style of thought, if not the actual beliefs that came along with it:

      The Devil knowes what tempers are best for his turn; and by some in whom he was deceived, he hath got no credit, and wished he had never meddled with them. Some men come into the world with Cabalistical Brains; their heads are full of mysteries; they see nothing, they read nothing, but their brain is on work to pick somewhat out of it that is not ordinary; and out of the very ABC that children are taught, rather then fail, they will fetch all the Secrets of Gods Wisdom; tell you how the world was created, how governed, and what will be the end of all things. Reason and Sense that other men go by, they think the acorns that the old world fed upon; fools and children may be content with them but they see into things by another Light. They commonly give good respect unto the Scriptures (till they come to profest Anabaptists) because they believe them the Word of God and not of men; but they reserve unto themselves the Interpretation, and so under the title of Divine Scripture, worship what their own phansie prompts, or the devil puts into their heads …. The Divel is not ambitious to shew himself and his abilities before men, but his way is (so observed by many) to fit himself (for matter and words) to the genius and capacity of those that he dealeth with. Dr. Dee, of himself, long before any Apparition, was a Cabalistical man, up to the ears, as I may say.

      While Casaubon had a degree of sympathy for Dee, seeing him as a vulnerable thinker whose inventive mind had been deceived by evil forces, Cavendish casts Dee and Kelly as outright frauds, a reading that she based on the play The Alchemist (1610) by Ben Jonson, a dramatist who had associations with the Cavendish family. Jonson’s comedy, which The Blazing World’s spirits explicitly reference and explicate, tells the story of Dr. Subtle, Captain Face, and Doll Common, three con artists who feign esoteric practices for monetary gain. The play alludes to Dee’s name when Subtle engages in a bit of mystical wordplay, a moment that parodies the kind of reading that cabbalistic thinkers practiced. This allusion suggested to readers like Cavendish that Jonson might have been taking aim at the historical Dee. The spirits of The Blazing World extend this pattern of character references from Old Testament figures like Moses and Aaron to various Elizabethan-era persons from Dee’s life and travels, building an interpretive web of historical allegory that would have made the most enthusiastic of early modern cabbalists proud. While Jonson’s play focuses on the deceptions of the art of alchemy, rather than cabbala, its satire on the manipulations of occult interpretation certainly applies to that discipline as well. As Casaubon’s edition of Dee’s diary suggests “With Cabalistical writings we may joyn Chymical,” highlighting the way in which alchemical texts, like the discourses of cabbala, adopted a similar mode for searching metaphors and linguistic puzzles in pursuit of knowledge hidden within such language. The passages below come from Act 2, Scene 1 of Jonson’s play. The first shows Surly, a skeptic who sees through the fraud, debating with his companion Sir Epicure Mammon, a gullible target of Subtle’s deceptions who has been fully enraptured by the poetic words and mystical ideas of alchemy and who has been promised the gold-generating philosopher’s stone. As Surly voices his doubts, Mammon counters by citing the sources of his knowledge, outlandish alchemical texts attributed to great figures from biblical history; Mammon’s description of one “book of alchemy / Writ in large sheep-skin” parodies the elaborate allegorical imagery often found in this occult form of writing. Then, when Subtle enters on the scene, he and Surly dispute the integrity of alchemical discourse. These passages demonstrate the poetic dynamism of esoteric approaches to language while exposing their vulnerability to exploitation. For Cavendish, the specifically linguistic artistry of alchemy and cabbala may have provided powerful models for considering how fiction takes form in expression:

      SURLY: Faith I have a humour,
       I would not willingly be gull’d. Your stone
       Cannot transmute me.

       MAMMON: Pertinax, [my] Surly,
       Will you believe antiquity? records?
       I’ll shew you a book where Moses and his sister,
       And Solomon have written of the art;
       Ay, and a treatise penn’d by Adam—

       SURLEY: How!

       MAMMON: Of the philosopher’s stone, and in High Dutch.

       SURLY: Did Adam write, sir, in High Dutch?

       MAMMON: He did;
       Which proves it was the primitive tongue.

       SURLY: What paper?

       MAMMON: On cedar board.

       SURLY: O that, indeed, they say,
       Will last ‘gainst worms.

       MAMMON: ‘Tis like your Irish wood,
       ‘Gainst cob-webs. I have a piece of Jason’s fleece, too,
       Which was no other than a book of alchemy,
       Writ in large sheep-skin, a good fat ram-vellum.
       Such was Pythagoras’ thigh, Pandora’s tub,
       And, all that fable of Medea’s charms,
       The manner of our work; the bulls, our furnace,
       Still breathing fire; our argent-vive, the dragon:
       The dragon’s teeth, mercury sublimate,
       That keeps the whiteness, hardness, and the biting;
       And they are gathered into Jason’s helm,
       The alembic, and then sow’d in Mars his field,
       And thence sublimed so often, till they’re fixed.
       Both this, the Hesperian garden, Cadmus’ story,
       Jove’s shower, the boon of Midas, Argus’ eyes,
       Boccace his Demogorgon, thousands more,
       All abstract riddles of our stone.

      * * *

      SURLY: Pray you, sir, stay.
       Rather than I’ll be brayed, sir, I’ll believe
       That Alchemy is a pretty kind of game,
       Somewhat like tricks o’ the cards, to cheat a man
       With charming.

       SUBTLE: Sir?

       SURLY: What else are all your terms,
       Whereon no one of your writers ‘grees with other?
       Of your elixir, your lac virginis,
       Your stone, your med’cine, and your chrysosperm,
       Your sal, your sulphur, and your mercury,
       Your oil of height, your tree of life, your blood,
       Your marchesite, your tutie, your magnesia,
       Your toad, your crow, your dragon, and your panther;
       Your sun, your moon, your firmament, your adrop,
       Your lato, azoch, zernich, chibrit, heautarit,
       And then your red man, and your white woman,
       With all your broths, your menstrues, and materials,
       Of piss and egg-shells, women’s terms, man’s blood,
       Hair o’ the head, burnt clouts, chalk, merds, and clay,
       Powder of bones, scalings of iron, glass,
       And worlds of other strange ingredients,
       Would burst a man to name?

       SUBTLE: And all these named,
       Intending but one thing; which art our writers
       Used to obscure their art.

       MAMMON: Sir, so I told him—
       Because the simple idiot should not learn it,
       And make it vulgar.

       SUBTLE: Was not all the knowledge
       Of the Aegyptians writ in mystic symbols?
       Speak not the scriptures oft in parables?
       Are not the choicest fables of the poets,
       That were the fountains and first springs of wisdom,
       Wrapp’d in perplexed allegories?

      Cavendish also would have been aware of sincere efforts of early modern interpreters to use cabbalistic forms of interpretation to less dubious ends. Henry More, one of the “famous modern Writers” that the Empress mentions, wrote his Conjectura Cabbalistica (1653) as part of his larger project to challenge what he saw as the two great threats to both faith and knowledge—superstitious enthusiasm and unthinking atheism. While he takes up the mantle of cabbalistic interpretation, More rejects its more extreme associations with spiritual inspiration and dominion over the universe, refocusing it back on the process of explicating scripture. His cabbala is, as the subtitle to the work suggests, A Conjectural Essay of Interpreting the Minde of Moses, an attempt merely to infer deeper knowledge from the opening books of the Bible, which were believed by early modern theologians to have been authored by Moses himself. More taps into the tradition of unpacking the layers of meaning to be found in scripture, identifying his as a “Threefold Cabala,” which he breaks down into the literal, philosophical, and “Mystical or Moral” levels of biblical significance. These are the types of cabbala that Cavendish’s Empress ponders at first, before eventually settling on a fourth type, “Poetical or Romancical Cabbala, wherein you may use Metaphors, Allegories, Similitudes, &c. and interpret them as you please.” While Cavendish’s narrative reasons its way through to the dimension of cabbalistic interpretation that seems most interesting to a creator of fantastical fiction, it entertains at least a strawman version of More’s use of the art. Many of the questions that the Empress poses to the spirits come from More’s cabbala, and The Blazing World specifically critiques the belief in immaterial spirits that More, like many other early modern thinkers, fastidiously maintained. The excerpt below is extracted from More’s preface to Conjectura Cabbalistica in which he addresses questions regarding his careful approach to cabbala. While he explains that there are serious points of religion that must be insisted upon in all certainty, there are also “Speculative and Dispensable Truths,” that is, possibilities that can only be entertained not confirmed. Rather than being inspired by God or spiritual intervention, More claims that his conjectural interpretations are generated by the faithful application of the human mind’s powers, namely “Intellect, Reason, and Fancie.” Despite Cavendish’s disagreements with More, his comments highlight a version of cabbalistic thinking that must have appealed to her. Stepping away from scriptural readings, Cavendish’s Blazing World  creatively exploits the link that More asserted between rational speculation and imaginative interpretation:

      And therefore I thought fit to call this threefold interpretation that I have hit upon, Cabbala’s, as if I had indeed light upon the true Cabbala of Moses in all the three senses of the Text, such as might have become his own mouth to have uttered for the instruction of a willing and well prepared Disciple. And therefore for the greater comelinesse and solemnity of the matter, I bring in Moses speaking his own minde in all the three several Expositions.

      And yet I call the whole Interpretation but a Conjecture, having no desire to seem more definitively wise then others can bear or approve of. For though in such things as are necessary and essential to the happinesse of a man, as the belief that there is a God, and the like; it is not sufficient for a man only to bring undeniable reasons for what he would prove, but also to professe plainly and dogmatically, that himself gives full assent to the conclusion he hath demonstrated: So that those that do not so well understand the power of reason, may notwithstanding thereby be encouraged to be of the same faith with them that do, it being of so great consequence to them to believe the thing propounded: Yet I conceive that Speculative and Dispensable Truths a man not onely may, but ought rather to propound them Sceptically to the world, there being more prudence and modesty in offering the strongest arguments he can without dogmatizing at all, or seeming to dote upon the conclusion, or more earnestly to affect the winning of Proselytes to his own opinion. For where the force of the arguments is perceived, assent will naturally follow according to the proportion of the discovery of the force of the arguments. And an assent to opinions meerly speculative, without the reasons of them, is neither any pleasure nor accomplishment of a rational creature.

      …. [T]hough I call this Interpretation of mine Cabbala, yet I must confesse I received it neither from Man nor Angel. Nor came it to me by divine Inspiration, unlesse you will be so wise as to call the seasonable suggestions of that divine Life and Sense that vigorously resides in the Rational Spirit of free and well meaning Christians, by the name of Inspiration. But such Inspiration as this is no distracter from, but an accomplisher and an enlarger of humane faculties. And I may adde, that this is the great mystery of Christianity, that we are called to partake of, viz. The perfecting of the humane nature by participation of the divine. Which cannot be understood so properly of this grosse flesh and external senses, as of the inward humanity, viz. our Intellect, Reason, and Fancie. But to exclude the use of Reason in the search of divine truth, is no dictate of the Spirit but of headstrong Melancholy and blinde Enthusiasme, that religious frensie men run into, by lying passive for the reception of such impresses as have no proportion with their faculties. Which mistake and irregularity, if they can once away with, they put themselves in a posture of promiscuously admitting any thing, and so in due time of growing either moped or mad, and under pretence of being highly Christians, (the right mystery whereof they understand not) of working themselves lower then the lowest of men.

      Some Context for the Courtroom Allegory

      See playes ed.

      Context on Charles’ Restoration

      Maybe another text that celebrates him as a conqueror. Is there a context for the conqueror section in Part II.

      Further Reading:

      Radley, C. Perrin. “Margaret Cavendish’s Cabbala: The Empress and the Spirits in The Blazing World.” In God and Nature in the Thought of Margaret Cavendish. Eds. Brandie R. Siegfried and Lisa T. Sarasohn. (Ashgate, 2014). 161-170.

      Siegfried, Brandie R. “Anecdotal and Cabablistic Forms in Margaret Cavendish’s Observations
      upon Experimental Philosophy.” In Authorial Conquests: Essays on Genre in the Writings of Margaret Cavendish. Eds. Line Cottegnies and Nancy S. Weitz. (Fairleigh
      Dickenson, 2003). 59–79.

      —. “‘Soulified’: Cavendish, Rubens, and the Cabbalistic Tree of Life.” In God and Nature in the Thought of Margaret Cavendish. Eds. Brandie R. Siegfried and Lisa T. Sarasohn. (Ashgate, 2014). 185-208.

      Short Excerpts from Observations upon Experimental Philosophy

      Addressing key philosophical points from the virtuosos conferences

      Short Excerpts from Philosophical Letters

      These would be key letters that aim at the philosophers who get name-checked in the conversation with spirits

      Excerpt from Cavendish’s Life

      Episode relevant to Cavendish and her husband’s fortunes during the Interregnum

      Dramatic Fragment from BW published in Playes

      See playes ed.

      Maybe Source(s) on Queen Elizabeth Imagery relevancy to Margaret I

      These could be texts as well as portraits of Elizabeth.

       

      [[I think we should purposefully avoid Pepys, Woolf, and other detractors]]

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