The Physics of Transfigured Light: The Imaginal Realm and the Hermetic Foundations of Science (Hardcover)
Reveals the Hermetic underpinnings of modern scientific theories
• Offers a full reconsideration of the history of science from Newton to the present day as well as a Platonic-Hermetic perspective on modern technology
• Examines Hermetic resonances among the ideas of Gurdjieff, Robert Fludd, Marsilio Ficino, and cybernetics; Einstein and the Tibetan Bardo; Neoplatonism and artificial intelligence; and Rosicrucianism and the internet
• Shows how Hermetic doctrine is at the heart of what modern physics is now rediscovering: that consciousness permeates everything
Contemporary scientific disciplines such as chaos and complexity theory, artificial intelligence, and cognitive science treat themselves as new fields of inquiry, but many of these ideas can be traced back to Hermeticism, the European intellectual tradition sparked by the rediscovery of the Corpus Hermeticum and Platonic texts in the 15th century.
Building a map of the progression of scientific thought across centuries and continents, Leon Marvell examines the ancient roots of Hermeticism, its rise during the Renaissance, and its suppression during the scientific revolution of the Enlightenment. He reveals how three main Hermetic ideas--the divine spark within each individual, the subtle body, and the anima mundi or world soul--have continually emerged at the cutting edge of science and philosophy throughout the ages because these ideas represent universal truths recognized by each era of human civilization.
Marvell examines Hermetic resonances among the ideas of Gurdjieff, Robert Fludd, Marsilio Ficino, and cybernetic theory; Einstein and the Tibetan Bardo; and Neoplatonism and the work of AI scientist Christopher Langton. He reveals how the Rosicrucian description of the Invisible College also describes the instant availability of knowledge via the Internet, and he shows how Hermetic thought is at the heart of what modern physics is rediscovering: that consciousness permeates everything and the universe cannot be reduced to the random play of matter.
Offering a full reconsideration of the history of science from Newton to the present day as well as a Platonic-Hermetic perspective on modern technology, Marvell reveals the pattern that connects the sciences, philosophy, and ancient knowledge and opens a potentially rich field of inquiry for 21st-century science.
About the Author
Leon Marvell, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Deakin University in Australia. For more than 30 years he has researched European and Eastern esotericism and the history of science. He lives in Victoria, Australia.
Arthur Versluis is the editor-in-chief of Esoterica and the founding president of the Association for the Study of Esotericism. He is the author of numerous books, including Sacred Earth, Restoring Paradise, The New Inquisitions and The Secret History of Western Sexual Mysticism. He lives in Michigan where he is a professor of American Studies at Michigan State University.
“Follow Leon Marvell into the subdimensions of archetype-land. A stunning, revelatory rumination on the nature of light, the path to enlightenment, and the meaning of life. A cornucopia of esoteric flash.”
— Rudy Rucker, author of Infinity and the Mind and White Light
“The Physics of Transfigured Light is an erudite and thought-provoking contribution to an argument that the worldview of esotericism might constitute a grand unifying model, which could reconcile the traditional wisdom teachings with the insights of contemporary science, art, and postmodern philosophy.”
— Gordan Djurdjevic, Ph.D., faculty at the University of British Columbia
“An immensely learned and valuable work on how some basic ideas of the esoteric tradition persist into the age of artificial intelligence. It shows that Hermetic concepts such as that of living nature have always been with us and, very likely, will always be with us.”
— Richard Smoley, author of The Dice Game of Shiva: How Consciousness Creates the Universe
“This is a book of profound erudition and a lifetime of reflection. Like his Hermetic sources, Marvell’s writing has its own ‘signature,’ its own distinct style or poetry that expresses its most remarkable message in form as much as in content. . . . the result is a multidimensional vision of history and science that, like some weird gnostic hologram, floats off the page before the reader’s astonished eyes.”
— Jeffrey J. Kripal, author of Authors of the Impossible: The Paranormal and the Sacred
“This remarkable book reminds me of the famous image of time devouring itself. Marvell writes from the rare moment where tails explode in time’s mouth--a good history of Hermetic underpinnings of postmodern science meets the inspirational overpinnings of ancient ideas.”
— Robert Hodge, Ph.D., professor at the Institute for Culture and Society, University of Western Sydne
“Here is an intense exploration of a developmental Hermetic imaginary in conjunction with onto-cosmology, metaphorized as a ‘metaphysics of light.’ And light it is! Fourth dimensional ideal objects, topological mythologemes, rewritten metahistory, paradigm shifts (or not), morphological deformation, vertigralist hermeneutics, neo-Cartesian technologies, virtual realities, panpsychism, ancient texts, and more, all explored in the context of a Hermetic understanding whose duration pervades the modern and post-modern worlds. Marvell is an astonishing polymath whose ‘a new way of looking’ challenges the reader to look into the transmogrifying presence of ancient ideas instilling the very heart of contemporary life, from modern science to AI and beyond. Replete with a wide array of sources, disciplines, and intermixed genres, with constant adaptive forms and figures, Marvell’s syncretic imaginary is a tour de force of creative thinking, poetry, and philosophic splendor. Highly recommended!”
— Lee Irwin, Ph.D., professor of religious studies, College of Charleston
Marvell’s work highlights how current Western perspectives on scientific reasoning and theory are work of the imagination rather than from an assumed ‘pure’ perspective unbridled with ‘superstitions.’ He sees the work of contemporary scientists as a continuation of pre-seventeenth-century natural philosophers where, through empirical and methodical research on parameters of the real, they seek active agency in transmuting physical phenomena into usable material, much like transforming lead into gold. . . . This book is already a classic, a cornerstone of frontline inquiries in the humanities and its relationships with science. Marvell’s masterpiece is a must-read for any serious understanding of contemporary mind struggling with reality and metaphysics.
— J. F. Marc des Jardins, Ph.D., C.M.D., associate professor of religion, Concordia University
“Readers interested in Einstein, Gurdjieff, Ficino, Plotinus, the Tibetan bardo, surrealism, the history of science, Neoplatonism, the Hermetica, Robert Fludd, Rosicrucianism, chaos and complexity theory, artificial intelligence, or cognitive science will find this book an indispensable adventure.”
— Ronnie Pontiac, contributor to Reality Sandwich