The Age of Philosophy saw a surge of interest in empirical science, humanistic inquiry, and cosmopolitan societies. It also witnessed a surprising fascination with ancient mythologies, alchemy, divine arcana, and secret societies. Did this dark side of the Enlightenment have anything in common with the rational undertakings of the day, or was it a remnant from times past?
This digital archive will allow students and scholars to explore the strange, yet uncannily familiar, writings of French authors who went beyond John Locke's famed "limits of human understanding," in order to investigate the mysterious perimeters of knowledge - but often progressed with the same wit and epistemological concerns as Parisian philosophes. The ideas and practices of these writers (often dismissed as "illuminist") may thus best be understood as constituting a sort of "Super-Enlightenment," a category which begs a larger, open question: did the more orthodox Enlightenment thinkers ever cross over to the other side themselves?
Some topics to explore