Contributing to discussions concerning the influence of eschatological ideas on trajectories of natural philosophy in the early modern period, the present article analyses several distinct projects which emerged from the intellectual and religious traditions of Lutheran confessional culture, which imagined a future earthly golden age that existed in a discursive space between communistic utopia and heavenly Jerusalem. A consideration of this impulse among figures who emerged from Lutheran culture – like Wolfgang Ratke, Wilhelm Eo Neuheuser, Johann Valentin Andreae, Johann Permeier, and even Samuel Hartlib – sheds a unique light on broader issues of epistemology, eschatology and reforming activism of the period, and the varying cultures – natural philosophical, political and religious – which could be harmonized within the ambit of an encompassing eschatological vision.
Despite the ubiquity of contemporary debate in learned and popular cultures concerning the place of the cosmopolitan and cosmopolitanism, the historical background to this peculiarly Western vision of world unity remains understudied and virtually unknown. This is particularly the case, rather surprisingly, for the early modern period, when the term “cosmopolite” reappeared in European vocabularies for the first time since antiquity. It is during this period, however, that the most significant, enduring and problematic features of the cosmopolitan concept are articulated, particularly in those conceptions of world community which drew on Pauline notions of heavenly citizenship. Employing a modified Begriffsgeschichtliche approach, this article utilizes several case studies of cosmopolitan thought from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries – including Erasmus, Guillaume Postel, Johann Valentin Andreae and others – in order to critique the history of the concept of the cosmopolitan. This essay argues, on the basis of this evidence, that there is an aporia which is constitutive of cosmopolitan concept, and which impacts on all attempts to understand, analyse and apply the category from antiquity to the present. Namely, although the cosmopolitan ideal is a peculiarly Western mythology which has always possessed a patina of benevolent inclusivity, it is contingent on establishing boundaries and establishing exclusivity.