Thursday, October 14, 2010

Giordano Bruno chapter 12

12. Giordano Bruno in England and the hermetic reform.

58. First steps in England - Bruno's first publication in England, dedicated to the French ambassador, was a reprint from the Cantus Circaeus combined with 2 new works: the 'Explicatio Triginta Sigillosum' and the 'Sigillis sicillorum'. The book is a further development of memory as a major tool in the formation of the magus. Bruno hoped to recieve similar attention in England as he had acheived in France by elaborating on his complex combination of kaballah, Lullism and the art of memory.
59. Oxford - It appears Bruno wasn't satisfied by his reception in Oxford in 1583. In a protestant reply to a catholic argument, George Abbott described the scene to the disadvantage of Bruno. He was described as a juggler, delivering lectures which he had stolen from Ficino. Abbott probably meant to attack the catholics and the allegedly miraculous nature of their faith by ridiculing Bruno and his 'good magick'. In later writings Bruno showed his disgust for the academic pedants of Oxford and preferred the attitude of the old oxfordian (catholic) friars. During his lectures there, he linked Ficino's 'De Vita Coelitus Comparanda' to Copernicus' new theory of heliocentrism.
60. Spaccio della Bestia Trionfante - Bruno's work most obviously describing Egyptian magick was 'Spaccio della Bestia Trionfante', published in England in 1584. As the divinity descends, communicating through the planets with nature, the inverse ascend of nature towards the divinity is possible through the divine light permeating all creation. The ancients were able to create domestic gods who gave counsel though voices coming out of votive statues. This refers to the god-making passage in the Asclepius.
61. Idolaters - Then follows a diatribe by Bruno against the idolaters who triumphed and ridiculed the Egyptian cult. In dialogue Momus says 'The worst of it is that they hold it for certain that they are the light'.
62. Animals - Bruno goes on to state that in Egypt, animals and plants were only worshipped insofar the Egyptians sensed the one divinity through them, shining through and adapting its way of communicating to the form it embodies.
63. Duality - The two main bodies through which the divinity communicates, the sun and the moon, are also the most influential to life on earth. All of life separates according to these two original principles. The next differentiation in nature takes place according to the 7 stars: all things and creatures are further distributed according to 7 species.
64. Catching the light - The divinity communicates itself in innumerable ways. One can catch this intellectual light through wisdom and judgement. The Egyptians knew how to receive the benefits of nature through ideas or archetypes (the different divinities), all of which referred to the one deity. Here Bruno abandons Ficino's efforts to christianize the original pagan magick. He deplores the destruction of the Greek and Egyptian religions by Christianity and quotes litterally from the Asclepius' Lament in which it is said the Egyptian religion will return and its morality will replace the current chaos.
65. Types of magick - This revelation is called magick, when directed towards supernatural principles, it is called divine magick; when towards contemplation of nature, natural; when towards the reasons of the soul, mathematical. There is the influence of Cornelius Agrippa's 'Occulta Philosophia' in this classification of magick.
66. Reform - Bruno openly claims his Egyptianism with a neoplatonic basis and advocates a moral reform. In the Spaccio, this reform starts when Jupiter summons the gods to a conclave meant to cleanse the constellations.
67. Koré Kosmou - The idea that change starts by rearranging the stars (meaning: to change the celestial images) which brings forth transformation into the lower world might find its origin in a little know treatise named 'Koré Kosmou' or 'Minerva Mundi', meaning the daughter of the world. In this book Isis describes the creation to Horus. In an early stage, the celestial images on which all forms below depend were fixed. Then the lower world was created but deemed unsatisfactory. Then god created man, each planetary god offering him distinctive gifts. But it still wasn't good enough and god called upon a general assembly of the gods. Ignorance was cleansed and the elements received a second efflux of divine nature. The treatise ends with a praise to Osiris and Isis who restored justice and keep things below in sympathy with things above.
68. Similarities with 'Spaccio' and other influences - Similarly in Bruno's 'Spaccio', an assembly of the gods is called upon to reform the celestial images. There's a conversation between Sophia, Isis and Momus in both books as well. If the 'Koré Kosmou' was an influence on the 'Spaccio' as it is supposed here, Bruno might have read it in the original Greek in the 'Anthologium', a compilation of hermetic texts by Stobaeus in 500 AD.
In the 'Spaccio, Jupiter addresses a council of the gods to prepare the reform. He refers to the 48 constellations and how they currently either take on the ugly form of animals or remind of shameful actions of the gods. All constellations must be reviewed and cleansed. As every image is discussed, the vices associated with it are deplored and the opposite virtues are praised. Most of the shameful mythological associations come probably from 'Fabularium Liber' by Hyginos (1578).
69. The Triumphant Beast returns - In the end the gods cast out the vices and rfeplace them with virtues and the 'Triumphant Beast', the sum total of all vices is expelled. Clearly part of a mnemonic system, the order describing the constellations is the same in which the corresponding virtues are described. The reform of the heavens described here is the fullfillment of the end of the Lament in the Asclepius: the Egyptian religion is reinstated and morality reinstored through the ascend of the virtues. This can also be compared to book XIII of the Corpus Hermeticum, where the Decade of Powers replace the Dodecade of the Vices, associated with the negative influence of the stars.
70. As above so below - In his dedication, Bruno explains that the gods who attend the council (Jupiter, Apollo, Mercury, Saturn, Mars, Venus, Diana, Juno, Minerva, Neptune and Isis) represent the virtues and powers of the soul, and since in every man there is an universe, the reform of the heavens also transforms the personality. Reform starts in the minds of the gods and is reflected in the 48 constellations. The 'Spaccio' actually describes the formation of a personality. In it predominates Apollo for the solar passion of magick, Jupiter for benevolence, Venus for love and friendship. It seems the negatrive influence of some gods (Mars, Saturn) is tempered by the virtues of some others. The personality learns to master the stars, hence his destiny.
71. Deus in Rebus - By choosing out their gifts for the reformed personality, the virtues predominate and the beast is expelled. Celestial images in animal form sometimes seem to represent vices, but on the other hand the Egyptians had built channels to the divinity through the natural forms of animals, representing Deus in Rebus. The ethical reform drives the beast, considered an allegory of all the vices, out of heaven; but the religious reform reinstates it for Egyptian animal worship. Hence the double meaning of 'Expulsion of the triumphant beast'.
72. Zodiacus Vitae - Another book influenced Bruno to write the 'Spaccio': the Latin poem 'Zodiacus Vitae' by Palingenius (1534). In here the 12 signs are described with their moral teaching. Epicurus is introduced as the supreme moral teacher. His doctrine of pleasure is approached by Palingenius with the gravity of Epicureanism, combined with Neoplatonic influences. The poem was also a satire on the moral depravity in the Catholic church, hence its popularity in Protestant countries. Bruno's Egyptian reform is also partly Epicurean and non-ascetic. On the other hand, the religious satire in the 'Spaccio' is mainly anti-Protestant.
73. A hidden message - It seems the book also carries a message of peace from the French king Henry III for England, advocating the old spiritual union of Europe.
74. Religious hermetism - In the late 16th century different forms of religious hermetism reached their climax. Most tried to offer a palliative for the religious differences, but always from a Christian (catholic or protestant) perspective. Only Bruno suggested Egyptian magick as the core of hermetism, although he placed his prophecy for the return of Egyptianism within a catholic framework.
75. Bruno's confessions - The librarian of the abbey of St. Victor wrote down his conversations with Bruno. Bruno admired Thomas Aquinas but condemned his scholastics, particularly concerning the sacraments; as in the beginning of Christianity, these subtleties were unknown. For Bruno, most religious troubles would disappear if the church were able to return to its original values. He despised what he called the heretics of both France and England; the catholic religion pleased him better than any other but had become corrupted and was in dire need of reformation. He put his hopes in the French king Henry III. It seems although his main attention pointed toward magick, Bruno felt he had a religious mission as well.
76. Picatrix - Maybe the secret intention of the Spaccio was to let the magus manipulate celestial images on which all things below depend, in order to make the reform happen. This reminds us of the 'Picatrix', the treatise on sympathetic magick and in there the story of the city of Adocentyn, which Hermes Trismegistus had surrounded by engraved images, ordered in such a way that their virtue made the inhabitants virtuous. Here HT appears in both his roles, as a magus and as a lawgiver to the Egyptian citizens. Here one also sees a parallel with the double reform in the 'Spaccio'. In the 'Picatrix', HT is also said to have built a temple of the sun, which can be linked to the passage in the Asclepius: "The gods who exercised their dominion over the earth will be restored one day and installed in a city at the extreme limit of Egypt, a city which will be founded towards the setting sun and into which will hasten, by land and by sea, the whole race of mortal men".
77. City of the Sun and Utopia - This also remind of Campanella's 'City of the Sun' with its astral religion. Yet another obvious parallel is with Thomas More's 'Utopia'. The Utopians had very large, dark churches, with priests clothed in bird feathers, which sound like conjuring garments. Utopia also shows notions of religious reform long before England's break with Rome.
78. Elizabethan Renaissance - The 'Spaccio' offered to secretly disatisfied Elizabethans a new outlet for their yearning - with the Asclepius at its core, it might have been essential in the formation of Elizabethan Renaissance.

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