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Mar 28, 2011

Religio Medici: Browne

Religio Medici is an autobiographical work of Caroline prose writer of Sir Thomas Browne who studied medicine at Padua and Leiden, and got his degree in 1633. The book was written in 1635 during his residence at Halifax. Although the book was published twice without his permission yet the Authorized Version was brought up by Andrew Crooke, a publisher of London. Religio Medici which in English means the religion of physician became instantly popular after its authorized publication and was subsequently translated into various languages including Dutch, German, Latin and French. Religion is very core of this work. 

The aim of Browne in this book is to dispel the idea form the minds of the people that he too is a physician yet he is a member of Church of England. He is in favour of tolerance of all the faiths. But he supports a rational enquiry into the works of God, Nature and the Bible. He says that god has made us human beings and not beasts, so we owe the debt of rational enquiry to god. Browne discusses that the Biblical miracles in a scientific way yet he appears to be a firm believer in the witchcraft, magic and a hundred other superstitions. Browne says that death holds no terror for him. He believes that this world is not an inn but a hospital where people come, not to live, but to die. He also advocates the virtue of universal love. Browne’s attitude towards religion is a complex one. It has elements of orthodoxy, rationalism, eclecticism, scepticism and even mysticism. But he combines them into a fairly harmonious way. 

Religio Medici is, in fact, Browne’s spiritual autobiography. Hugh Walker calls it “an essay in personal kind”. The style is of baroque kind and the syntax is complex and ciceronian. The book is a prophylactic against damnation. Tucker Browne says that Browne prescribed a better medicine than the book Religio Medici

1 comment:

  1. Of course it's much more also as it wanders into digressions upon alchemy, angels, transmutation, music, coincidence,cosmology, astrology and physiognomy. A psychological self-portrait as well as a spiritual autobiography (Browne's spiritual life had hardly begun at 30 only just newly-qualified). It spawned numerous imitation titled confessions throughout the 17th century by which time Browne was busy engaged collating his encyclopaedia refuting common errors.


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