Vaughan, Thomas (Eugenius Philalethes; 1622–1666)

views updated Jun 27 2018

VAUGHAN, THOMAS (Eugenius Philalethes; 16221666)

VAUGHAN, THOMAS (Eugenius Philalethes; 16221666), Welsh alchemist, Rosicrucian, Hermeticist, and Paracelsan. Twin brother of the poet Henry Vaughan, Thomas Vaughan was born in Newton, Wales. He studied at Jesus College, Oxford, graduating with a B.A. in 1642. Thereafter he became rector of Llansaintfraid and supported the Royalist cause in the Civil War. Ejected from his living by a parliamentary commission in 1649, he practiced as an alchemist, or chemical philosopher, in London. He published several books under the pseudonym Eugenius Philalethes: Magia Adamica (1650), Anthroposophia Theomagica (1650), Anima Magica Abscondita (1650), and Lumen de Lumine (1651). He was also responsible for publishing an English translation of the Rosicrucian manifestos Fama andConfessio in 1652. During the 1650s he became acquainted with Samuel Hartlib and two future fellows of the Royal Society: Thomas Henshaw, dedicatee of Anima Magica Abscondita, and Sir Robert Moray, with whom he conducted alchemical investigations. Vaughan is best remembered for his controversy with Henry More, who attacked him under the pseudonym Alazonmastix Philalethes. The vituperative character of the exchange can be gauged from the titles of Vaughan's replies: Man-Mouse Taken in a Trap (1650) and The Second Wash, or the Moore Scour'd Once More (1651).

See also Alchemy ; Hartlib, Samuel ; More, Henry ; Rosicrucianism .


Primary Sources

More, Henry (Alazonomastix Philalethes). Anthroposophia theomagica, or a Discourse of the Nature of Man and His State after Death. London, 1650.

. Observations upon Anthroposophia Theomagica. London, 1650.

. The Second Lash of Alazonomastix. London, 1651.

Vaughan, Thomas (Eugenius Philalethes). The Fame and Confession of the Fraternity of R.C., commonly, of the Rosie Cross. London, 1652.

. The Works of Thomas Vaughan. Edited by A. Rudrum. Oxford, 1984.

Secondary Sources

Brann, N. L. "The Conflict between Reason and Magic in Seventeenth-Century England." Huntington Library Quarterly 43 (1980): 103126.

Burnham, F. B. "The More-Vaughan Controversy: The Revolt against Philosophical Enthusiasm." Journal of the History of Ideas 35 (1975): 3349.

Newman, William. "Thomas Vaughan, an Interpreter of Agrippa von Nettesheim." Ambix 29 (1982): 125140.

Sarah Hutton

Vaughan, Thomas (1622-1666)

views updated May 29 2018

Vaughan, Thomas (1622-1666)

British alchemist and poet, who wrote under the pseudonym Eugenius Philalethes. He was born April 17, 1622, at Newton, Breconshire, the younger twin brother of poet Henry Vaughan. He matriculated at Oxford and entered Jesus College, Oxford University, becoming a fellow of his college. In 1640, at the age of eighteen, he received the living [i.e., the income as parish priest] of St. Bridget's [Church of England], Breconshire, and on February 18, 1642, the B.A. degree. He was a royalist during the Civil War and in 1658 was accused of "drunkenness, swearing, and incontinency, being no preacher," and deprived of the living of St. Bridget's. However, this may have been no more than high spirits. He became a devoted student of chemistry, following his research both in Oxford and London, under the patronage of Sir Robert Murray. He died February 27, 1666, at the rectory of Albury, Oxfordshire, allegedly from inhalation of fumes of mercury, upon which he was experimenting.

Vaughan was an ardent follower of Cornelius Agrippa, to whom, as he stated, "he acknowledged that, next to God, he owed all that he had." He claimed to be a philosopher of nature rather than a vulgar alchemist. In one of his manuscripts he recorded strange dreams of premonitions that he had experienced and prayed for forgiveness of past errors, including former revels and drunkenness. Although he published a translation of a Rosicrucian work with a preface by himself, he explicitly stated that he was not a member of any such fraternity. Under the pseudonym of Eugenius Philalethes, he published a number of books including: Anthroposophia Theomagica, with Anima Magica (London, 1650; Amsterdam, 1704; and in German, Leipzig, 1749); Magia Adamica; or the Antiquities of Magic (London, 1650, 1656; Amsterdam, 1704, in German), Lumen de Lumine (London, 1651; Hof, 1750, in German), Aula Lucis; or the House of Light (London, 1652), Euphrates; or the Waters of the East (London, 1655, Stockholm & Hamburg, 1689, in German), and The Chymists Key to shut, and to open; or the True Doctrine of Corruption and Generation (London, 1657). He contributed verses for Thomas Powell's Elementa Opticæ (1651), for the English translation of Cornelius Agrippa's Three Books of Occult Philosophy (1651), and William Cartwright's Comedies (1651). A collection of his Latin verses was included at the end of Henry Vaughan's Thalia Rediviva (1678).

Vaughan was falsely identified with the mystical writer " Eirenæus Philalethes " through the Diana Vaughan writings of Leo Taxil (pseudonym of Gabriel Jogand-Pagés ), who also popularized a false legend of a pact between him and Satan.

Philalethes, Eugenius (1622-1666)

views updated May 09 2018

Philalethes, Eugenius (1622-1666)

Pseudonym of alchemist Thomas Vaughan, brother of Henry Vaughan, the "Silurist" poet. Eugenius Philalethes has often been confused with Eirenaeus Philalethes (or Philaletha), another alchemist. The scholar Arthur E. Waite made this error in his book The Real History of the Rosicrucians (1887). He corrected it the following year, both in his new edition of the Lives of Alchemystical Philosophers (1888) and his edition of The Magical Writings of Thomas Vaughan (1888).

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