Christologische Schrifthalluzinationen: Athanasius Kircher als Exeget ägyptischer Hieroglyphen und chinesischer Schriftzeichen

Arne Klawitter*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In many of his lavishly illustrated books, the German Jesuit scholar Athanasius Kircher deals with foreign writing systems such as hieroglyphs and ideograms. He claimed to have deciphered the Egyptian hieroglyphs, and in the supposed iconicity of Chinese written characters he wanted to track down an original resemblance to the objects. In fact, his assumptions were based on serious misunderstandings that were typical of his time. This article explores Kircher’s ‘christological hallucinations’ as a form of the 17th century’s ‘semiotic ideology’ and shows how his views have been adapted until the 18th and 19th century.

Original languageGerman
Pages (from-to)392-413
Number of pages22
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Athanasius Kircher
  • Chinese characters
  • Creative misunderstanding
  • Egyptian hieroglyphs
  • Jesuit geopolitics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory

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