Let’s continue with some considerations on the “Art of memory”. In the previous post we stated that the archetypes, in their original, essential form, can be “reached” through associative chains and correspondences. For the Renaissance Magus, those archetypes represent the “language” through which God expresses himself and, at the same time, becomes understandable to human beings.
This concept, which is the essence of the whole of Renaissance magic, is marvelously revealed by Tommaso Campanella in his sonnet:
“The world’s the book where the eternal Sense
Wrote his own thoughts; the living temple where,
Painting his very self, with figures fair
He filled the whole immense circumference.
Here then should each man read, and gazing find
Both how to live and govern, and beware
Of godlessness; and seeing God all-where,
Be bold to grasp the universal mind.
But we tied down to books and temples dead,
Copied with countless errors from life, –
These nobler than that school sublime we call.
O may our senseless souls at length be led
To truth by pain, grief, anguish, trouble, strife,
Turn we to read the one original.”
The first two basic texts of Giordano Bruno about the art of memory are “De umbris idearum” and “Cantus Circaeus”. Those two texts are explicitly magic in nature. Here, Giordano Bruno states the nature of his Work, in which the fundamentals are the classic traditional and Egyptian hermetism, and the ceremonial and ritual aspects of Cornelius Agrippa’s Work.
The “Shadows” to which Bruno refers, are the objects of the subtle world, the manifestation which is possible to perceive through the senses and the intellect. Giordano stated that, since our nature (mind, emotion, physical senses) is not so developed as to perceive and inhabit the same field of truth, what we can ordinarily grasp and recognize is not the essence of things (namely, the real world), but rather, “shadows”.
Indeed, the shadow of an object contains inside, something of the object itself, mainly, some aspects of its form, but is not complete, as it’s not the original object.
Nevertheless, the shadows are what a human can perceive, thus it is only through a vision which Bruno calls “shadowy”, that it is possible to progressively reach the perception of the world as it is – its own essence, the “face of God”.
The shadow is the “hiding place of the truth” and “although (the shadow) is not the truth itself, it derives from the truth, so it leads to the truth”. So, how can this be realized? How can a shadowy vision reveal the real nature of things?
Imagine an object that is exposed to light sources from various angles: it will create different shadows. Thus, if we observe the various shadows that are projected from the object itself at different angles, we’ll be able to know, or better said, to have a more objective idea, of the object to which those shadows are linked.
In synthesis, and reduced to maximum simplicity, this is the guideline of the magical mnemonics. There are infinite subtle objects that represent a likewise amount of shadows belonging to real objects (or archetypes). The act of recognizing the linked shadows (linked, since they are a reflection of the same object), allow the recognition of the different aspects of the object itself and, at the same time, “to introject” it in the mind.
Through the understanding of the archetype (this is accomplished by “bringing the archetype inside”), and through the realization of the associative chains, the Magus becomes able to contain in himself, a great amount of objects and concepts, each of which is linked with the others in a coherent sequence.
It’s as if the archetypes represents a sort of “main index” of the contents of the world. Each noun in this “index” originates in turn, “sub-indexes” until the number of created objects is apparently infinite.
Through the guidance of symbols (schemes, allegorical images, figures), the Magus gradually composes increasingly more comprehensive categories until it arrives “from the plurality of the things, to the unity that they suggest”.
It’s evident that every new concept, every new data perceived, will be organized by similarity and analogy within a precise chain of correspondences. In such a way, the Magus will be able to find it at any moment. The mind of the magus becomes a sort of organized archive, where every document can be found easily through a criteria of a rational systematic.
Since, according to the principle of mirroring, the mind of the Magus becomes a mirror of the universe. Through the magic of memory, the Magus himself, becomes able to contain within, both the objects of manifestation and the laws that link them together and the archetypes that are the primary origin of all these objects and laws.
In such a way, such as is said in the Corpus Hermeticum, the Magus “becomes similar to God in order to understand God… because the similar is understandable only to the similar”.
This topic will continue in the next post, The Art of memory 3: Giordano Bruno and the Symbolic Figures