44. First years - Bruno was born in Nola next to Mount Vesuvius in 1548. He entered the Dominican order in 1563, got in trouble for heresy in 1576 and fled through Europe. After residing among Calvinists in Geneva he went to Paris in 1581 where he gave public lectures and published his first two books on the magickal art of memory.
45. Ars memoria - The classical Roman art of memory is described in the Ad Herennium and is refered to by both Cicero and Quintilian. It consists basically of memorizing a series of places in a building and attaching images to it in order to memorize points of a
speech. During the speech, the orator imagines walking around in the building. In the Renaissance this ancient art became fashionable among hermeticists but received an extra dimension as a way to know the universe through the experience of the cosmic order as a spatial system. Ficino described how the planetary images, if memorised through painted images on the ceiling of the bedroom, organised all the events of the day. At the basis of Renaissance magick is the hermetic experience of reflecting the universe in the mind, where instead of architectural elements and household objects, magickally activated archetypes are imprinted. The magus so intended to gain power and universal knowledge.
Nota - Maybe the principle of psychogeography found its origin in the hermetic Renaissance of the Ars Memoria. In the latter one sets up nodes and paths in an imaginary space to induce transformation of the consciousness, in the first one links real paths and nodes to an imaginary, often literary space, to induce a different experience of reality. In both the world is consciously reflected through symbols.
11.1. De Umbris Idearum
46. The Shadows of Ideas - The adaptation of the Ars Memoria reached its culmination in Bruno's philosophy. His De Umbris Idearum was published in Paris in 1582. In the introduction it is said how hard it is to study this book but that it promises a great reward. The reader is warned not to attempt to enter this work unless he is ready for it.
47. Trialogue - The book start with a conversation between Hermes Trismegistuus, Philothemus and Logifer. Hermes describes the illumination as a rising sun, banishing the creatures of the night. The book he holds is called 'On the Shadows of Ideas' and he's a bit reluctant to share it. Philothemus points out that the great work could never be achieved if those hesitations prevailed. Logifer cites learned doctors who do not believe in the art of memory and mentions medical recipes for memory increase. It is obvious from his reactions that Logifer should not discuss things beyond his understanding. This structure of trialogues between an master, a disciple and a pedant will become a formula in Bruno's later books.
48. Dedication - Bruno writes about the Egyptian solar religion which penetrated the intellect, but was overthrown by the Christian suppressors, whom he calls 'false Mercuries', and how he wants to revive it, as it is mentioned in the Lament of the Asclepius. For Bruno this book is an attempt to penetrate a little further into the shadows of ideas. But obviously not anyone has the ability to integrate this philosophy: in the dedication is a poem attributed to Merlin, about the inability of pigs to fly.
49. Structure of the book - The first 30 short paragraphs concern the intention to seek for illumination. Then come 30 short chapters on what ideas are, referring to Plotinus and indirectly to Ficino's De Vita Coelitus Comparanda. It was in a time when Christian Hermeticism florished that Bruno came up with a deeply magickal hermeticism, rejoicing in the talismanic magick of the Asclepius through Ficino. Then comes the biggest part of the book, thirty groups of celestial images upon which the magickal memory system is based. Every group is divided into 5 images. The images taken from Ficino are used without the Christian inhibition.
50. The images - First comes the images of the 36 Decans, based on Cornelius Agrippa's De Occulta Philosophia. Then come 7 images of each of the 7 planets. E.G. 'A man with a stag's head on a dragon holds an owl eating a snake from his right hand'. Then comes 28 images for the mansions of the moon, corresponding to Agrippa's. Finally Bruno gives 36 images associated with the 12 houses of the horoscope; these images are probably genuine.
Nota - The hermetic use of archetypes to memorize deeper truths might be at the ontogeny of all religions (see Joseph Campbell)
51. Wheels within wheels - The 150 magickal images were placed on the wheel of the memory system, corresponding with the wholesum of human knowledge. Another wheel shows 150 great men and inventors in 30 groups with 5 subdivisions for each vowel. When the wheels are set out in concentric circles, one has a complete system reflecting the whole universe and the whole human mind. This is clearly a hermetic system, as the universe is considered through a gnostic reflection in the mind. As it is written in the Corpus Hermeticum: "Unless you make yourself equal to god you cannot understand god (…) make yourself grow to a greatness beyond measure (…) believe that nothing is impossible for you, think yourself immortal (…) draw into yourself all sensations of everything created".
52. Gnostic experience - By engraving into memory the archetypal images, shadows of the ideas in the divine Mens, Bruno hopes to achieve the gnostic experience of becoming the Aeon. When the parts of this system are sensed in relationship to each other, the underlying unity can be known. By conforming one's imagination to the archetypes, the reality behind the multiplicity becomes clear to the magus. This is basically a neoplatonic paradigm but carried out to the extreme.
11.2. Cantus Circaeus
53. Incantation to the sun - in this book published in 1583 the hero is the sorceress Circe, daughter of the sun. Bruno's main source for this book was Agrippa's De Occulta Philosophia as well. The text starts with a long incantation to the sun by Circe. From time to time her assistant Moeris (sp.?) checks the sun rays to see if the incantation is working. The sun is a metaphor for the vehicle of inscrutable powers reaching from the world of ideas into the soul of the world. Following this Circe makes shorter incantations towards Luna, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus and Mercury. She holds secret magickal formulas on a plate.
54. Imprints - The Circean incantations are followed by an art of memory. It appears the first part was meant to bend the imagination in order to become receptive to imprints of planetary images. The adept would then proceed to the second part, the art of memory, with an imagination already prepared with celestial images.
55. Circean magick - Circe asks where the justice of the Golden Age is gone and calls on the gods to restore virtue. As a result of her magick, men are turned into beasts, which is considered a good thing as wicked men are less harmfull in their animal form.
56. Praising the king - The cock represents the French monarchy and is praised for his qualities. Bruno might have been influenced by a court festival called 'Le Ballet Comique de la Reine' from 1582 during which Circe was represented as the evil of the French religious wars, turning men into beasts, but ends up finally handing over her magickal wand to the king.
57. Protected by the king - The French king Henry III once sent for Bruno and asked whether his memory system was natural or magickal. Bruno claimed later on he proved it was the former. Yet given his own interests and his mother's passion for astrology, it seems improbable that the king would not have known a great deal about magick; it seems even probable this was the cause for inviting Bruno. Later on Bruno would claim he had received letters of introduction from the French king when he travelled to England. During his stay there although he wrote several controversial books, the French ambassador protected him. All this strongly suggests he was under personal protection of the French king, who might even have given him a secret mission during his stay in England, giving him the opportunity to expand his philosophy overseas.