You Only Live Twice: Charlatanism, Alchemy, and Critique of Religion, Hamburg, 1747–1761
Author: Mulsow, Martin
Source: Cultural and Social History, 1 September 2006, vol. 3, no. 3, pp. 273-286(14)
Abstract:Rudolph Johann Friedrich Schmidt, personal physician and counsellor to the court of Darmstadt, was the author of a book on a life elixir. When he 'died' in 1761, the coffin in which Schmidt was interred turned out to be empty. Was he a charlatan? This case study shows that things are much more complicated than that. Schmidt, so the thesis goes, was a member of a secret society and had to fake his death in order to escape after the society was uncovered. He was acquainted with Johann Christian Edelmann, the famous German radical Pietist and freethinker, and probably also with Georg Schade, the deist and founder of the secret society. These individuals, who through their heterodox belief were ready to take many risks, were willing to execute extreme tactics including complex schemes of deception. To view this only as charlatanism in a pejorative sense would miss the point. Instead we can talk of a complex 'charlatanized culture' which includes bizarre tactics among alchemy, journalism, critique, and persecution.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: Department of History, Rutgers University, 111 Van Dyck Hall, 16 Seminary Place, New Brunswick, NJ 08901, USA