Universität Erfurt

Projekt von Dr. Katherine East

Cicero the Pantheist: John Toland’s heterodox reading of the Ciceronian tradition

In this research project I will examine the way in which the radical John Toland (16701722) used the works of Cicero in his Pantheisticon (1720), a text in which he outlined the principles guiding his heterodox religion Pantheism. In Pantheisticon Toland explained the materialist philosophy which underpinned Pantheism, before describing the form the meetings of his imagined Pantheist Society would take, creating a pseudo-liturgy for the Pantheists. Throughout this work, Cicero features prominently, providing the philosophy to aid Toland’s materialism, and providing many of the words which constitute the ‘liturgy’, elevating his role in Toland’s Pantheism to something akin to a priest. This research project will clarify the function of Cicero in this work, and establish the ways in which Toland adapted and modified the Ciceronian tradition so that it could assume this function. As a result, this research will contribute to the on-going debates concerning what Pantheisticon reveals about Toland’s personal religion, whether it reflects his atheism and an attempt to undermine the established religion, or his justification of public religion and the role of the established Church in society. Further, it will address questions concerning the nature of such radical thought in the Early Enlightenment; by demonstrating the continuing influence of the Ciceronian tradition, and Toland’s adaptation of it to serve his radical and heterodox purposes, the project will contribute to efforts in current scholarship to challenge existing narratives of rupture and discontinuity in the formation of modern thought by demonstrating the continuity with preceding intellectual traditions.

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