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.
ASJC Scopus subject areas