This is a shamanic flight that delivers a scientific description of the earth moving in space. This is written AD150. This is book five. Nobody had that in sight until we reach Giordano Bruno and if you read Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition you know that Bruno was burned at the stake and the reason that he was burned at the stake is because he looked up at the sky and did not see the stellar shells and the angelic heirarchies. Bruno had a mystical experience and when it was over he said, "the universe is infinite. The stars go on forever." That single statement was the intellectual dynamite that destroyed the whole Medieval, Hellenistic, the entire previous cosmological vision was left behind with that single statement. It was such a powerful statement that he had to go to the stake for that. And we have never recovered from that perception. It was a fundamental perception and it occurred because he looked without preconception into the night sky and did not see wheels and demons and angels and shells of cosmic fate and necessity and he just said, that's bullshit, what is there is infinite space, infinite time, the stars are hung like lamps onto the utmost regions of infinity. This, then, inaugurates the beginning of modernity and it's a perception that arose on the foundation of all this earlier thinking.
Here's another passage on the imagination. Yes?
Is the implication that there's a meditation that one does where one tries to go inside and see this universe on a cosmic scale. Is the implication that their practice was somehow...
Well, the practice, we know a lot less about that because there was much secrecy around this. What we have is the philosophical discourses. When we talk about alchemy this afternoon you'll see that there the technique becomes projection onto matter. That you enter into a kind of self hypnosis wher, by having what we call naive ontological categories, in other words, not being sure exactly how much of mind is in matter or how much matter is in mind, you can erase the boundary between self and world and project the contents of the unconscious onto chemical processes. What went on in the early stages we don't know. The Trismegistic Hymns are largely as you see them here, philosophical discourses. There was stress on diet and purity. Asceticism was typical of the hermetic approach. In Gnosticism it went one of several ways. There were schools of Gnosticism which were vegetarian and puristic and then, because they felt that man was no part of the universe, that man was somehow hermetically sealed, if you will, hermetically sealed against contamination from the universe, some Gnostic schools said you can do anything you want. You can have any kind of sexual arrangement you want, you can do anything you want. Do not think that you are part of the universe. And so you had Gnostic schools side by side, some orgiastic and quasi-tantric and some ascetic. There were Gnostic sects that, you see because the idea was that light was trapped in matter by the act of procreation, there were Gnostic sects that only practiced forms of sexual union that couldn't lead to union. So there were presumably exclusively homosexual sects. There were sects that only practiced anal intercourse. For them, that was the same as celibacy because the real concern was not to trap any of the light. And I don't seriously advocate this but I think that in our current situation of overpopulation a little dose of this kind of thinking wouldn't be a bad thing. Too much light is trapped in the organic matrix.
And so these Gnostic sects that were, for instance, exclusively homosexual or exclusively practiced anal intercourse, of course they were suicide sects. They disappeared very quickly because they could only make converts by a missionary conversion. You didn't have children, you couldn't hand it off. It shows how thorough going their rejection of the world was, how contaminated they felt themselves to be by the material world. But you also had, as I mentioned, optimistic schools that saw nature as something to be perfected and said, "man has been set on the earth not to reject it but to perfect it" and utopianism, the belief that one can create a perfect society, it goes back into these hermetic ideals. Because the idea was that a perfect society could be the goal of the alchemical work.
Let me read you a passage from Giordano Bruno. This is a wonderful passage from the Picatrix. This was the book of 12th century magical texts that began to introduce these hermetic ideas and this passage is the core passage that inspired the Rosacrucians and numerous other utopian movements. Here is Frances Yeats, "Hermes Trismegistus is often mentioned as the source for some talismanic images and in other connections but there is in particular one very striking passage in the fourth book of Picatrix in which Hermes is stated to have been the first to use magical images and is credited with having founded a marvelous city in Egypt." And here is the passage from the Picatrix, "There are among the Caldeans very perfect masters in this art and they affirm that Hermes was the first to construct images by means of which he knew how to regulate the Nile against the motion of the moon. This man also built a temple to the sun and he knew how to hide himself from all so that no one could see him although he was within it." Those of you who are scholars in Rosicrucianism know that one of the things that was always said of Rosicrucians was that they were invisible. This was how Robert Fludd proved to people he wasn't a Rosicrucian, he'd say "you're looking at me so how could I be one?" So, he's in the temple but he could not be seen within it. "It was he, Hermes Trismegistus, too, who, in the East of Egypt constructed a city, 12 miles long, within which he constructed a castle which had four gates within each of its four parts. On the Eastern gate he placed the form of an eagle. On the Western gate, the form of a bull, on the Southern gate, the form of a lion, and on the Northern gate he constructed the form of a dog. Into these images he introduced spirits which spoke with voices. Nor could anyone enter the gates of the city except by their permission. There he planted trees in the midst of which was a great tree which bore the fruits of all generations. On the summit of the castle he caused to be raised a tower 30 cubits high on the top of which he ordered to be put a lighthouse the color of which changed every day until the seventh day, after which it returned to the first color. And so the city was illuminated with these colors. Near the city there was abundance of waters in which dwelt many kinds of fish. Around the circumference of the city he placed engraved images and ordered them in such a manner that by their virtue, the inhabitants were made virtuous and withdrawn from all wickedness and harm. The name of the city was Adocetine(sp?)."
Now, what we're familiar with from the Platonic literature is a quasi-rational, largely rational approach to utopian thinking that you get in the Republic. However, the students of the Republic will recall that, is it the fifth or tenth book (it's the tenth), contains the myth of Er, which we went over in detail in the section I did on Neo Platonism. The myth of Er is one of the most bizarre and puzzling passages in the entire ancient literature. You remember Er was a soldier who died, he was killed in battle but after eight days he returned to life and then he told a story that is the absolute puzzlement of ancient scholars. It's highly mathematical, it has to with the spindle of necessity and the description of some kind of cosmic machine and all the ratios of the gears of this machine are given and nobody knows what is being talked about. But here we have a different thrust. A magical utopianism and the idea of a perfected human society using magic because these engraved images that he ordered in such a manner that by their virtue the inhabitants were made virtuous, that means he was able to deflect the energies of cosmic fate. The city was immune to astrological, malefic influence. It was protected and when we talk later about the alchemical aspirations of the Rosicrucians and John Dee and Frederick the Elector Palatine of Bohemia, we'll see that this impulse toward an alchemical kingdom returns again and again. In a way, utopianism is, the four-gated city of utopian magical dreaming is one version of the philosopher's magical stone. It's a kind of diffuse idea of the philosopher's stone, but it's a society in perfect harmony with fully realized beings living within it practicing a cosmic religion that frees them from the impulses of cosmic fate. The other thing that is going on in some of this alchemical imagery is a kind of subtext of late alchemy, is what's called the Ars Memoria, the art of memory, and in fact, Frances Yates has a book called The Art of Memory and this is a lost art, literally.
It begins with the Roman orator Cicero and was practiced up until the early 17th century and what it consisted of was people, orators, it was considered very bad form to read your speech if you were an orator and so you had to memorize your speech and there were tricks of memory. The commonest mnemonic trick was to think of a building, it was called the memory palace, a building that is familiar to you, I've done this myself with the University of California because it's an area that I'm very familiar with because I was a student there, there are many buildings and many hallways and many floors and what you do is when you make your speech in your mind you are moving through the memory palace and at various points you construct what are called emblemata and the idea of these emblemata is that they be as unusual, shocking, and unexpected as possible in order to be memorable to you. So, say you're giving a speech about the seven deadly sins. So then luxuria might be for you a nun copulating with a dog and you'll set the nun and the dog in a little niche in the hallway of the memory palace. When you reach that place in your imaginary journey all these associations will spring to mind and you'll be able to give you speech flawlessly. To us, this sounds tortured and particular but it works quite well. One of the practitioners of the Ars Memoria was Giordano Bruno and he wrote a book called Spaccio Della Bestia Trionfante, the expulsion of the triumphant beast, and my god, Max Ernst, eat your heart out, this is a surreal epic read as straight plain text because that's not how it's supposed to be read. It's a conglomeration of these mnemonic emblemata that led him on to probably give a fairly conventional disputation on one subject or another but there are even old books of these emblemata that are before surrealism. These were some of the wildest images that the Western mine would tolerate.
The one thing that we didn't get into this morning was talking about the astrological side of it. The role of the Decans. The Decans are these demons, three to a sign, so there are 36 of them, and this was thought to be an astrological conceit that went back to Egypt as opposed to the ordinary zodiacal significators which go back to Huran(?) in what is now modern Iraq. These Decans were the demons that were summoned by these Renaissance Magi in an effort to control and manipulate fate. You may, if you were paying attention this morning, have noticed that in all the reading I did from the Corpus Hermeticum, there was really nothing explicitly magical about it. It was philosophical. There was one mention, I think, of animating statues in the description of the four-gated city. But it was those magical animation passages that really captured the imagination of the Renaissance and they built on that and the idea, simply put, is that these Decans and zodiacal signs are at the center of associative schemata which include plants, minerals, odors, certain flowers, certain animals, everything had its Decanic assignation and so if you were involved with promoting an affair with a woman or something like that then you would do an invocation to Venus and you would gather the associated minerals and stones and animals and you would put them in a room and then certain tonal modes were also associated with these things and so you would play the music, have the flowers present, the minerals present, the invocations and what you were trying to do was create a microcosm of the macrocosm to draw down this stellar energy. It wasn't about the classical Hollywood appearance of demons in a circle, that's the stuff of Picatrix, the earlier somewhat less refined style of magic.
I wanted to read you one passage from Frances Yates' Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition because this describes this change of status of the magician that we're interested in. And also what we didn't talk about this morning was the importance of the Kabbalah, which came in quite late, that was then worked out in great detail. This was originally the idea, it was the Jewish contribution to this kind of magic, it was, the idea was that since the world had been made by Jehovah, by the speaking of words, In Prigipio et verbum et verbo corufactum est (?), in other words the speaking of Hebrew was thought to be a primary linguistic tool for the purposes of creation. The problem for these Italians was that very few of them spoke Hebrew so it was sometimes practiced silently, the mere constructing of these Hebrew letters and the setting out of messages in Hebrew was deemed efficacious as well. And then a further declenched(?) for people who were even frustrated with that was to channel magical languages which were pseudo-Hebraic in structure. This is a whole branch of research, much too arcane for us to go into here. The only non-Hebraic magical language that I may mention here will be Enochian and Enochian was an angelic language channeled by John Dee and used by him in his magical evocations and later it was taken up by Aleister Crowley and the folks of the Golden Dawn. But there were many, many of these magical languages. The Voynitch(sp?) manuscript is written in one of them.
But I want to read you this passage about how the Renaissance changed the status of the magician. "We begin to perceive here an extraordinary change in the status of the magician. The necromancer concocting his filthy mixtures, the conjurer making his frightening invocations were both outcasts from society, regarded as dangers to religion and forced into plying their trades in secrecy. These old-fashioned characters are hardly recognizable in the philosophical and pious magi of the Renaissance. There is a change in status almost comparable to the change of status of the artist from the mere mechanic of the Middle Ages to the refined companion of princes of the Renaissance. And the magics themselves are changed almost out of recognition. Who could recognize the necromancer studying his Picatrix in secret in the elegant Ficino, in his infinitely refined use of sympathies, his classical incantations, his elaborately Neo Platonized talismans. Who could recognize the conjurer using the barbarous techniques of some Clavis Solomonus in the mystical Pico lost in the religious ecstasies of Kabbalah drawing archangels to his side. And yet there is a kind of continuity because the techniques are at bottom based on the same principles. Ficino's magic is an infinitely refined and reformed version of neumatic necromancy. Pico's practical Kabbalah is an intensely religious and mystical version of conjuring."
So now we move in this realm, these were the companions of princes and there was in that 120 years, from about 1500 to the beginning of the 30 year's war, a constant effort in various parts of Europe to try and turn parts of European society toward a kind of magical revolution. The Europe of the 11th and 12th century was entirely ruled by scholastic rationalism. Witchcraft was virtually unknown and very curious. It's the 15th and 16th centuries where you get this tremendous proliferation of magical systems, magical ideas and social hysterias related to witchcraft, alchemy, conjuring and magic. Those are the centuries when these things really broke out into the open. And alchemy in that period is basically a story of personalities, wonderful personalities, too many for us to really talk about in detail. We have Nicholas and Pernelle Flamel who sought and found the philosopher's stone, according to legend and according to legend are living to this day somewhere in central Asia in perfect happiness having achieved not only the chemical wedding but the water stone of the wise. And then we have Basil Valentine who refined red wine and distilled it in distillation apparati until he got essentially pure alcohol and upon drinking this was so sure that he had found the philosopher's stone that he announced the eminent approach of the end of the world based on his discovery and he was not secretive at all. He propagated his recipes and in fact sampled the distillates of some of his brother alchemists and popularized this very widely. To this day the reason certain cognacs are in the hands of monastic orders and no one else can make these things is because they were originally alchemical secrets and many of these early alchemists were men of the cloth, quite a number of them.
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