Eyvind Kang - Athlantis


16. Apr. 2009, 7:52

This is the inspiration behind Athlantis, that being Giordano Bruno's "Cantus Circaeus". Enjoy.

To the highest and most illustrious prince Henri d’Angoulême, the Grand Prior of France, governor of Provence, lieutenant general and through the grace of royal majesty admiral of the entire eastern sea, from Jean Regnault, this eminent prince’s confidential secretary.

When, my Highest Prince, I came upon the double dialogue of the song of Circe and of its application to the art of memory, I thought it worthy of communicating to noble and generous talents since the excellence and results of this art are not hidden from me. For the dialogue deals with matter that is not at all vain or useless, and concerns greatly desirable things. I do admit that besides the title and elements of the art, it has nothing in common with other such treatises composed hitherto, and it admits those things to be its own which have been proven to have Giordano not only for their author but also their honest inventor. And the present publication of that art concerns his reputation and the bringing of justice to his cause, as some of his works have entered circulation spoiled and in corrupt shape, to the extent that the author has been rejected as suspect by the common multitude, and his art has begun to be seen as less acceptable. And so I have been advised to bring to light this mnemonic art whose title is an introduction (in which the promise of results can be expounded), which is followed by subsequent matter, a copy of which art was in my possession. This exemplar faithfully reflects both the original oral form of the art, and a later, improved and more clear version, reedited by Giordano, with its Circaean dialogue and application for the improvement of memory. To this friendly advice, Giordano, as is only right, gave his most willing consent, and asked me (since he had to attend to more pressing business of his own) to take up and complete the task.

After this, therefore, I took up to publish another art, edited by Giordano himself and dedicated to the most Christian King, called On the Shadows of Ideas. The peculiarity and special characteristic of this work is that it treats of the memory of words not as other arts, which with their thousands of placeable images and a hundred thousand mnemonic places accomplish the task with difficulty, but provides one hundred and twenty principal forms that are to serve (as the author himself says) as backgrounds and are manipulated through limited signs of operation, with the aid of neighboring and assisting elements, and is most easily applied on desired number of terms and statements. The result is a memory of words requiring by far less work, diligence, and practice: something that all other memory arts can be said to lack. Using this art, the results that are achieved in three or four years using the traditional methods are evident with more ease and certainty in three or four months. Clearly, in comparison with the other arts, the power of Bruno’s mnemonic art cannot be doubted. As pertains to the memory of things and the memory of words, it is clear enough that soon after one hears the precepts of this art he is able to put them to practice at will, and one would really have to be deprived of sound judgment not to experience the art’s helpful progress. And so, because I understand the importance of the unique advantages contained in this art, I thought it deserving that the edition enter circulation under the splendor of your name, and that through this indication you may perceive the extent of the perpetual devotion with which I, your servant, am attached to you with all my heart: so that if someone profits from the precepts of this art, he will ascribe this gain in part to you, under whose successful auspices the work was published. In the meanwhile I entreat your highness to compensate for the smallness of my gift to you with the greatness of your spirit and affection. Fare well, and may you live long in happiness and peace as you direct your own affairs and those of the court of the motherland.

Your highness’s
most devoted
and humble servant
John Regnault.

Upon seeing a female magus, the daughter of the great sun,
You, emerging from your hiding-place,
Will walk freely into the realm of Circe,
A dwelling not enclosed within narrow limits at all.
You will see bleating sheep and mooing cattle,
Gamboling fathers of kids of goats,
And all animals that inhabit the fields,
As well as all beasts of the forest.
In harmony, the birds will be seen traversing the sky,
The land, the waves, and the air.
And the fish will leave you unharmed and undisturbed
Through the silence that comes naturally to them.
Until finally, when you draw near to the dwelling itself,
You will find domestic animals:
And in front of the gateway, door, and entrance hall,
Conspicuous by its muddiness
The pig will be encountered. Should you perchance draw near it,
It will bite, defile, and force its presence
With mud, tusks, and feet,
And pound upon you, grunting away.
In the same entryway and entrance hall,
Idly loiters a species of barking animals
Making much violent ruckus,
And flashing their terrible maws.
You should not waste time with these, and unless
You yourself, fearing their fangs, lose composure
And strike them with your stick, they will not bite,
And you will proceed without obstacle.
Having evaded these traps with adroit dilligence,
You will proceed to interior chambers,
Where the rooster, bird of the sun will welcome you,
Committing you to the care of the daughter of the sun.

by Philotheus Giordano Bruno
of Nola

Participants: Circe and Moeris

Circe: O, Sun, who alone illuminate all things. Apollo, the originator of song, quiver-bearer, bow-carrier, arrow-wielder, the Pythian, laurel-crowned, prophet, shepherd, seer, augur, and doctor. O, Phoebus, rosy-colored, of beautiful long golden locks, brilliant, peaceful, Cytherean, singer, speaking truth. O Titan, Milesian, Palatine, Cyrrhaean, Timbrean, Delian, Delphian, Leucadian, Tageean, Capitoline, Smynthaenus, Ismenian, and Latialis. You, who impart amazing characteristics to the elements: by whose regulation the seas swell and become calm, the air and ether becomes disturbed and calm, and likewise the living force and power expands and that of fire is held back. You, by whose action the connective network of the universe flourishes, who draw the inscrutable forces of things—from which derive the numerous and varied virtues of herbs and other plants, as well as stones, with the power of drawing to themselves the force of the world-soul through stellar rays—from archetypal ideas, through the order of the world-soul, all the way down to our level and below.
May you be present at the solemn offering to your daughter Circe. May you perceive the intent and humility of my soul toward you; may you perceive me correctly performing rites corresponding to my capacity. Behold, we are erecting altars proper to you: the smoke of frankinsense and reddening sandalwood is rising to your presence. Behold, for the third time I murmured foreign-sounding and arcane verses. The purification rites have been completed. In a burnt offering, we sent out seven kinds of incense, corresponding to the seven principal powers of the world. The procedures of loosening and binding have been performed according to custom. We sealed everything. One thing alone is still lacking: the presentation of the desired effect in form of prayers, which ought to be repeated as many times as is proper to them. Moeris, look at the line of the meridian, and see whether the sun is still poised at the high point of the sky.

Moeris: Nothing has changed.
C: I turn, therefore, to you, midday sun, and I appeal to your miraculous power through which you alone make so many things. I turn to you, who uncover all hidden things as you pass, moved by the rapid gallop of your horses, over the two hemispheres of the world. Pray tell me, what is the proper order of things? For behold: under human shells lurk the dispositions of wild beasts. Is it proper for a human body to serve, blindly and falsely, as a dwelling for the soul of a beast? Where are the laws that govern things? What is proper, what improper to nature? If Astraea did seek the sky—and indeed, the earth reveals not a trace of her any more— why does she then not make herself seen from the sky? Behold, we approach Chaos undisguised. Why do the seas not mix with fires: Why do the limpid stars not combine with the black earth, if there is nothing in the earth itself and its guiding principles that reveals its true face? Does mother nature herself deceive us thus? Ought we rather call her a stepmother than a mother? Nothing ought to be more hateful to truth than falseness; nothing more hateful to goodness than malice. It is not, it certainly is not insignificant, o, most bright luminary of the world, that we are beset by the cunning of perceptible and nonperceptible rational beings. Why, then, do we have to endure similar hypocrisy in nature herself? If so few human souls have been fashioned, why, I ask, have so many human bodies been brought into being? Revert back, o Sun, into your regions, and vindicate such presumption taken against your nature and dignity. O Sun, and other most powerful gods, endow Circe with your powers, so that she might be able to order the ministerial spirits who shape, and are present at the creation of, those bodies.
Through the high power of the guardians of nature I adjure you, who with deceiving faces assisted the spread of error, to pull away human face from each one of these animal species, and to fashion outward appearance corresponding to their nature, so that they may appear as they truly are. Did water ever have to proceed through confined course? Did fire ever have to struggle to reach upward to the heavens? Is there no violence in eternity? So, at last, all things should strive to reach their proper ends.
Is anything changing, Moeris?
M: Nothing at all.

C: I adjure you again: why are you startled? Why do you linger, mere bearers of outward forms, falsifiers of the imprints of nature? Truthful Jupiter, whose majesty you injure, orders you. Father of men, through the virtue of whom I bind you thrice and four times, compels you. I order you also through the power of other gods who rule over other species of living beings—so that you may not, by some sophisticated distant likeness hinder the coming forth of true shapes of individual men into light. Have a look, Moeris.
M: Nothing new has happened.
C: I will therefore stir up a third adjuration. Once more I turn my hands toward you, O Sun. Behold, I am present here completely at your service. Unbind, I beseech you, your lions, your linxes, goats, cynocephaloi, ravenous mews, calves, serpents, elephants, and other species of those animals that belong to you. Unbind also halcyons, swallows, quails, ravens, crows, she-goats, cicadas, scarabs, and other flying things of your kind. The tortoise, pholim, tuna, ray, whale, and others of that kind of your animal. You, o Sun, who are called Ubius, Alexiacus, Phanes, Apollo by day, Dionysius by night, and Diespiter—likeness of whose virtue is here furnished to me through gold, amethyst, ruby, and garnet. You, revered one, dwell in the center of the course of the planets, directing their course, pointing out the proper place of each: you bring up, support, and bring all things to maturity, lord of those who rule and counsel, celebrated for your blazing rays of light. You, indeed, are the prince of the world, the eye of the heavens, the mirror of nature, architecture of the soul of the world, and the seal of the architect on high.

I also appeal to you, Moon. Lo, I am present at your side. Bring forward—I call upon you—your seagulls, cranes, buzzards, storks, jackdaws, ducks, geese, and other aquatic birds; Lumacas, siskins, web-footed birds, stock-fish, spiders, weasels, iuersas, lizards, and all your other animals of the same kind: the toad, the frog, crabs, snails, mollusks, and other of your natant creatures. I call to you, whom we call Hecate, Latona, Diana, Phoebe, Lucina, Trivia, Tergemina, the triform goddess; the swift one, wandering everywhere, modest, pious, merciful, and undefiled; the javelin-thrower, honorable one, spirited huntress, queen of the heavens, ruler of the spirits of the dead, goddess of the night, governess of the elements, nurse of the earth, nourisher of living creatures, mistress of the sea, mother of dew, nurse of the air, guardian of tree-groves, mistress over forests, tamer of the underworld, most powerful pursuer of ghosts, consort of Apollo: come to aid me, Menala, the Euxine, Pisaean, Latona, Aventine.
Lo, I am now raised up toward you, old Saturn. Bring forth (I appeal to your power) your asses, oxen, camels, deer, moles, hares, mice, sows, basilisks, cats, monkeys, hyenas, river-fish, mice, toads, gazelles, oryxes, and other terrestrial beasts of your disposition; bats, owls, hens, flies, bugs, locusts, cuckoos, and other flying things of your kind; eel, polyp, sepia, sponge, and remaining water-dwelling creatures of your kind. Saturn, wielding the power of the scythe, ancient, mature, proceeding at leisure, progressing slowly, awesome, scythe-bearing, sorrowful, wise, judicious, profound; the penetrator, examiner, scrutinizer, thinker, observer; ruler of ages, tiller of fields, inventor of the scythe, moderator of the guardians of time, assistant of the ever-proceeding eternity, measurer of immense spaces; you, who balance impassable duration with eternity; you, father of the parent of gods, who bring in and carry away all things under the sway of all-devouring time, warden of all that is brought into being, preserver of all that perdures, and consumer of things that pass away—from whom I have borrowed, so many times, the dragon-drawn chariot; you, who gave birth to the gods: who assigned to Jove the fiery and ethereal heavens, to Juno the air, Neptune the sea, and Pluto the underworld. Stand in my presence, father of the golden age, the Leucadian, Cretan, Italian, of Latium, the Aventine one!

I turn also to your judgment seat, o Jupiter: bring forth, I exort you, your eagles, mountain-storks, antelopes, partriges, pelicans, storks, wagtails, iliades, thrushes, bees, and other flying creatures of your kind; bring forth also elephants, flute-stags, deer, satherios, oxen, chameleons, and other animals of the same kind; as well as dolphins, sheat-fish, mullets, the blue glaucos-fish, and other creatures of yours that dwell in the waters; you, the lightning-thrower, invincible above all, judge, praetorian, magisterial, leader, prince, king, emperor, and monarch; opulent, generous, hospitable, truthful, and religious one; mirthful, courteous, pious, regal, great in spirit, merciful, seeker of justice; you, most fortunate of all gods, who alone create happiness out of the twists and turns of destiny, lover of truth, source of the might of the powerful, protector of majesty, source of all joy; the best of attendants, legislator of peoples, procurer among the gods; you, who are called the father of all gods, at whose approach the double axis of the world trembles: come to my assistance, the Olympian, Dodonaean, Paeanomphus, Idaean, Phrygian, Tarpeian, Lybian, Pisaean, Gnidian, Molossian, Ausonian, Elysian, Latian.
I call upon you also, Mars, so that you would not disdain to bring to light scorpions, serpents, asps, vipers, goats, goat-kids, pards, dogs, cynocephaloi, wild boars, panthers, wolves, rams, horses, (wilderbeast? hyppelaphos), foxes, and other beasts and wild animals of yours. Bring forth your hawks, falcons, sabbuteones, ostriches, griffins, sparrowhawks, kite, and other rapacious fowl and wasps; reveal the fuca, dragon, crocodile, chroneus, stingray, naris, and other creatures of yours that dwell in the waters. I call upon you, Gradivus, the bellicose, masculine, keen, terrible, broad-necked, thick-haired, menacing, indomitable, fierce, war-fathering, bloody, unpropitious, fearless, clamoring, unstable, god of fierce countenance, advancing in broad steps, robust, horrifying, unyielding like iron, armor-clamoring, furious, savage, rude, coarse, murderer, raving, turbid, aggressive, rapacious, and deadly; terrible god with burning eyes, breathing fire out of his nostrils, most severe leader, glorious prince of a grim war-band, skillful instigator of the hearts of those in quarrel, capable of opening up every means with unsheathed sword, invincible scatterer of power and solidity of all things, undisputed destroyer of thrones whose opposition no one withstands; you, who are preceded by fear and discord, served by fury and anger, and followed by most-dreaded. Come to my aid, Scythian, Thracian, Bistonian, Strimonian, Odrisian, Meletian, Geticus, Quirinus.
I call for your assistance, too, Venus, goddess of the third heaven, whom we call the Evening Star, Bosporus, and the Light-Bringer. I implore you, bring out your doves, turtledoves, peacocks, fig-peckers, witwalls, sparrows, pelicans, harpas, pifices, swans (do olores and cygnos refer to different species of swan?), pigeons, starlings, ducks, and other species of birds not named here; bring forth your hares, fawn, mares, ants, songbirds, and other animals of that kind, as well as the seal, red fish, sagum (check also fagum), seals (again?), and wave-dwelling, floating creatures of yours; o, Venus, nurturing, shapely, beautiful, congenial, benevolent, obliging, sweet, charming, shining bright, heavenly, Diona’s daughter, fragrant, good-humored, aphrogenia, fecund, fiery, great conciliator, mother of best undertakings, mistress of love, attendant of harmony, ruler of musical arts, overseer of charming things, governess of dance, maker of adornments, connecting structure of everything, and the bond that connects things; you, who arose entirely from the propagative capacity of the first among gods, father of the heavens—you, who provide for the unceasing succession of animated creatures, who are universally the cause behind the continuation of all delight and joy—you, who in your power are triumphant over all gods: stand by, Paphian, Cyprian, Ericinian, Calydonian, Samian, Idalis, Gnidian, Cythaerean, Capitoline.
Turn to me, Mercury: you, who are also called Hermes and Stilbon, son of Maia, noble descendant of Atlas: gather up, at my request, your hoopoes, bees, nightingales, bee-eaters, orchilos, jackdaws, little herons, ducks, philomelas, and your other birds; bring forth titmice, panthers, ligurinos, hedgehogs, weasels, mules, and your other creatures of that kind, as well as the trochil, angel-fish, cancellum, murena, sting-ray, with other creatures of the same sort;

Mercury the herald’s staff bearer, wearing leather cap, wing-footed, youthful, most beautiful, virtuous, fast, energetic, agile, capable of flight, thrifty, changeable, wise, scribe, painter, singer, seer, discoverer, disputer, numberer, geometer, astronomer, divine; advancer into recondite matters, elucidator of hidden ones, clarifier of enigmas, interpreter of the gods, most eloquent messenger, reckoner of superb skill, the sun’s amanuensis, reconciler of gods above and below, fecund in either sex, appearing masculine to the male sex and feminine to the female, arbiter of divine powers, inventor of the cithara, fully endowed in all skills and arts: be present, Arcas, Tegaeus, Memphisian, Egyptian, Athenian, Palladian, Olympian.
I call to your assistance, all seven sovereignties of the world: turn toward your Circe, so that she may be able, with power obtained from you—power which she compels to enter into your assistants through the virtue of extracts from plants, fumes from fires, and the virtue of pendant stones—to bind these shape-controlling assistant spirits, so that, under the influence of this power, they may shape and bring from hiding into the open light other genuses from among the many kinds of living things just as the falsely assumed human forms begin to recede.
Once more I bind you by oath, and adjure you, iniquitous, impudent, unholy, pertinaceous destroyers, not to flee me. May they go away! May the human countenances, present against our will, depart from the beasts! With great might I command you: in sight of the sun, in the presence of Jove thundering on high and all gods who would avenge your negligence and subterfuges. Do you believe the gods do not attend to matters of this kind? Behold the sacred writing of the gods, which I am displaying on these sheets. Behold the characters which I am now unfolding into air. Behold the trace of the great seal. Moeris, unroll the parchment in which lie most powerful markings whose mysteries are hidden to all mortals. Through these marks we believe we can change nature’s laws: and is it not, indeed, appropriate to use them to restore laws irreverently profaned? Add incense and other redolent compounds to the fire, Moeris, and while I mutter these incantations, look out of the window, at the commotion that ensues.
M: Amazing to behold, Circe, amazing indeed! From among all those who appeared human, there are now but three or four left: distraught, hoping to remain as they are, they flee to safety. And as for the others, some are retreating into nearby caves, others are flying toward the branches of trees, others are casting themselves into the depths of the sea, and yet others, domestic ones, hasten toward our gates: all of them transformed before my eyes into various species of animals!

C: No, not really transformed. On the contrary, you now see their true forms revealed. It is sure, though, that I will be blamed for this, Moeris: imprudent men will call beneficent Circe an evildoer. Yet it is those alone still remaining in their original form who can be called true men. Those men our incantation does not intend, nor is able to, affect.
M: My goddess and queen, I am shaking with fear: these beasts threaten us with their terrible appearance.
C: Did you not fear them before?
M: Only very little, I must admit.
C: Then now you have even less reason to be afraid.
M: Why is that?
C: Because the wild creatures and beasts which you see now do not differ from those people whom you saw a while ago, besides the fact that the claws, fangs, spikes, and horns which were hidden before are now made visible. And I want you to be especially aware of this: now that they lack that organ that is most effective in harming the innermost parts of souls, they are made much less harmful and fearful.
M: Which organ is that?
C: The tongue.
M: By the love of the gods, I must admit I am more afraid of that which they are capable of doing than of what they could say.
C: That shows that you do not guite understand. But I will show you what the the truth of the matter is, and so you ought to be less concerned about the kind of fear with which you are now so concerned. For those whom you see either horned, spiked, fanged or equipped with death-bringing claws, used to be terrible on account of all of these at once: each had a horn, spike, fang, and claw. Now they are feared through various yet single threatening aspects, and have been given arms to be able to hurt others: yet earlier they used to possess all of them.
M: And how, pray, will you convince me of this?
C: Do you not know that those armed with hands are the best armed of all? Do you not know that lacking a hand means lacking all weapons; that the hand can be the most powerful weapon of all? Are you not aware that the hand can be easily adjusted to bear stings, poison, horns, or fangs, so that it not only need not fear any assaults by beasts, but to be more than a match against all beasts who appear to rule naturally, wielding such instruments? Your fear is therefore groundless and shows a lack of foresight. So banish all fear from your soul, drive away all hesitation, and follow me in an examination of these creatures.

M: Still, I cannot but fear the horns and other instruments of death that I see present here, poised, and turned towards us, unarmed and crippled as they may be.
C: There is no reason to worry. But hurry now: we will overcome all of them with an easy incantation.
M: Trusting your promise, powerful goddess, I will proceed without delay.
C: First let us examine these domestic animals over here. Look at those nearest to us, the pigs, rushing to shelter: you recognized the presence of those under human shell the easiest, didn’t you?
M: Quite easily indeed.
C: In truth, the pig is an animal characterized as follows: A, avaricious; B, barbarous; C, filthy; D, rough; E, erring; F, fetid; G, glutonous; H, dull; K stubborn; L, libidinous; M, annoying; N, vile; O, idle; P, pertinacious; Q, querulous; R, gross; S, stupid; T, turgid; V, vile; X, crazy; Y, big-eared; Z, changeable; Ψ, not worth much good unless dead.
M: As you were setting up this porcine alphabet, Circe, you omitted one of the more necessary letters.
C: I did not do it without discretion, however, since the characteristic of that letter is implicitly contained in all other letters, and so it seems to be a letter or element of all other letters. All are therefore brought together in one letter, just as the one is introduced into all others: A: ingrate; B, impure; C, ill-advised; D, untrustworthy; E, inconstant; F, impatient; G, indiscreet; H, ill-mannered; I, impudent; K, impetuous; L, incautious; M, ill-omened; N, inept; O, iniquitous; P, inhumane; Q, immature; R, immodest; S, restless; T, insane; V, immoderate; X, ignoble; Y, ignorant; Z, inhospitable; Ψ, inadvertent.
M: And I will examine the animal based on its natural characteristics, in numerical order: I. it has small eyes, which can only serve gluttony; II. it has sharp ears; III. more than ample gullet; IV. filth plastered all over its nostrils; V. harm-inducing teeth; VI. it is august, majestic, if viewed from the front; VII. it has most dull brains; VIII. perpetually moving tail which, tangled as it is, always appears to be making a knot, without ever actually tying anything—as if always busy with something without completing anything at all;

IX. a single and most ample stomach; X. teeth that never fall out; XI. bones in which little or no marrow is found; XII. it changes or sheds its hair least easily among all quadrupeds; XIII. is on most familiar terms with the genus of the lice; XIV. its voice is appropriate to the sexual act; XV. female of this species is endowed with better voice than the male; XVI. it is at its fiercest and most savage during rut; XVII. is among the most fertile of animals; XVIII. not dependent on any one kind of food; XIX. easily adjusts to all kinds of fodder; XX. is greatly pleased with change and variety of its feed; XXI. if fed with acorns, its meat tastes better and has more flavor; XXII. is of two varieties: domestic and forest-dwelling; XXIII. finds more pleasure and flourishes wherever mud is found; XXIV. is thoroughly gross.
Presented with all these identifying characteristics proper to the pig—however many be hidden under human shape—who would not easily recognize it?
Now, if it seems appropriate to you, my lady, let us pursue other animals, selecting for each of them a single, more broadly applicable characteristic, since it seems more convenient to treat many animals briefly than to concentrate all attention on understanding only one or two.
C: It will be done just as you say.


M: Of the many species of dogs before my eyes, if I overlook characteristics like biting, which are proper to dogs (which is no less illustrated in the pig), how can I recognize that unknown canine species under human shape?
C: That is the species of barbarians, who damn and tear to pieces what they do not understand: as just now the dogs, lazy and noted by the very figure, bark at all unknown benefits, and yet are mild toward things that are known to be destructive and most vile.


M: I will now pass over the asses: they will be considered later in more serious manner. But look at the mules, these sons of the asses: by what mark might I distinguish them?
C: Those are the ones who would be had for philosophers and rhetoricians, but were neither. Also those who were showing off as poets and orators, being neither; or those who passed under the title of lawyers and scholars but had the qualities of neither; or grammarians and disputators who lacked in either gift; and merchants and noblemen who secretly incurred the burden of ignobility; and civil officials and warriors, inept in letters and matters of war; courtiers and men of religion (for this animal stands out by being of an upward-staring genus); and those beautiful and terrible: they bore neither a woman nor a man, just as those who have horse for a mother and an ass for a father are neither horses nor asses, and the sound they make is a mixture of breying and neighing.


M: And what ought the goats signify?
C: Goats’ odor, or the fact that they mate wherever they happen to be; or that they are delighted to see their women coupling with their friends, at which moment they shake up and jump up like rams with joy.


M: How ought I have regarded the apes?
C: Either by the nose itself, or by the fact that although they aim at each thing with the best in mind, either the best poetry or wisdom or speech or history, they nevertheless do/manage most ruinously in all of them. Based on this I said that these are those who, while striving for the best, end up doing the worst. As you see now, it is a creature that imitates man, that most beautiful of animals, by this very nose they were made most misshapen of all (?)
M: And there is no doubt that one ape is attractive to another.


M: How ought I distinguish the other kind of apes from the previous?
C: Those were the ones who, themselves useless in serious and weighty things, used to make themselves pleasing to magnates by adulation, histrionics, and generally playing the role of parasites. And, now, since they were not strong enough to bear the burdens with the mules, wage war with the horses, plow with the oxen, or feed on dead flesh with the pigs, they were put to use as laughmakers.


M: There is also a third kind of apes that can be set out from others: look at the banks of the river, what does that kind suggest?
C: What you could see there was the genus of barbarian parents, one that brings up unsophisticated, rude, and basely born sons through tolerating their behavior with an immoderate and irrational affection. As you see them now in a form that is proper to them, they kill their cubs in excessively tight embraces.


M: By what mark did you consider/see the camels?
C: I will tell you. When they used to be concealed under human form, they enjoyed pure things very little, but they approved of all things that were defiled to their liking. To this genus belong those who prefer to resume, or to offer continuations to, the works of wise men by puerile and stupid additions. And now, wholly in camel’s shape, they do not enjoy drinking unless the water had first been made turbid by the trampling of their feet.


M: But that species near them, very similar to the last in head, I do not recognize: for a horse’s neck is attached to a camel’s head; the back, colored with spots, resembles a tiger; and its feet are those of an ox.
C: Those creatures you saw are called camelo-leopards, because these shepherds of the memory of the written word were by way of ritual worshipers of gods, by speech butchers, by their mode of life filthy with all sorts of vices.


M: Which ones were like hyenas in conduct?
C: They used to flatter by being obsequious, so that they dragged those whom they flattered into ruin. Now they are able to repeat human voices. When people are attracted by hearing their own names echoed, the hyenas tear them to bits.


M: Still another genus of hyenas appears to be standing by.
C: That particular kind could be recognized in various acts. You see how they rush up to human excrement; and should this refuse be located in more elevated places, which they are unable to reach, they would die trying, exhausted, with their bodies extended as far as possible. When they imitate humans, they hold whatever is most vile as most sweet, and make sure to select the very worst from among the best. The procedure is just as when bags are used to filter wine; except these creatures, after pouring out the wine, keep the lees.


M: And what about the deer over there, so festively decked with horns?
C: Those used to hide under the protection of certain princes. If something pleased them, they would grasp it even from a distance; but if something interested them less they would not recognize it no matter how much noise one would make. That is why now when they prick up their ears they possess a most acute sense of hearing, but when they bend down they are completely deaf and heedless.


M: To what observations does the sight of elephants lead us?
C: This animal, which has a nose instead of a hand, and which, in the absence of hands, got into the habit of using its nose, refers to those who, while incapable of doing anything on their own, nevertheless busied themselves in making judgments on the deeds of others.


M: And who would have put up with the smell of those bears?
C: Whoever knew very well that their nature was contumacious, barbarous, and beastly, and who encouraged them in being this way by bringing them up, fostering, nurturing, and licking them. For this animal, no matter how much it is formed from its shapeless and crude origins by the tongue and other palliatives of the mouth, nevertheless grows up a hard, wild beast that is but fit to live in the mountains.


M: Who would recognize the significance of the lions?
C: He who would observe that when they were first among animals, the weak animals feared the force of the lion’s clamor: just so now, through the very same nature, the lions are compelled to dread the comb and the voice of the rooster.


M: Now, those rather large creatures over there remain to be considered. By what comment would you point out the porcupine to me?
C: Do you not see how they only shoot out their spines when they are called upon, provoked, goaded, and compelled?
M: I understand.


M: I should easily recognize the sea-urchins, for just as now, covered with spines, they approach everything with spines, so formerly, harboring a harsh spirit inside, they used to be bitter in all their affairs.
C: A true observation indeed.


M: I wonder what made me guess that those would turn out to be tortoises. But what genus of tortoise, omitting the others, is that?
C: These distinguished themselves by being attracted through grand expectations to the courts of princes, in whose pleasures they were able to delight to such an extent that afterward it became impossible for them to recover their leisure and peace: even as now, once the human appearance had been set aside and they appear firmly attached to their shells, taking pleasure in the heat of the midday sun they expose their entire backs to its warming force whereby they end up drying out their shells and depriving them of their capacity to float like cork—thus they are incapable of swimming to more safe, deeper hiding places so that hunters can catch them with no effort at all. This species of turtle is called the Indian turtle.


M: What do you say about those crabs called hermit crabs?
C: Do you see how they get themselves under the cover of empty shells: small crabs under small shells, and larger ones under bigger shells? They should be seen as the multitude of those who, incapable of doing anything through their own power, and having run out of their own self-sufficiency, strove to maintain themselves through the characteristics of their superiors and masters.


M: Did you see the crocodiles?
C: These used to rampage against those who approved of them, while being lenient to those who despised and opposed them: now they appear terrible toward those who run away, and run away from those who really are terrible.


M: And the asps?
C: These were offensive, ingrateful, and homicidal toward their parents, masters, and beneficiaries—that is why now asp sons kill their mothers with poisonous stings.


M: And how did those turn out as chameleons?
C: Either because they were flatterers and imitators of everything except that which appears honest and clear—so that now they are capable of assuming all colors except red and white; or because they were encouraged by the atmosphere of popular adulation so much they strove for nothing but human praise and glory. Look at those over there, their maws always gaping as if they fed on nothing but air. You see them thus because inside their great and most capacious lungs there is nothing: so the Neo-Thomists (?), when observing their souls, discovered nothing besides windy boasting.


M: Tell me, in a few words, how would one demonstrate what sort of men were ones who are now bearing shapes of those aquatic creatures?
C: I will tell you. Those who had earlier, upon examination, found those men the willing audience and imitators of the wicked and the shameless, would now discover them in the form of leeches, animals drawing that which is worst from other bodies into themselves. And had they considered those easily accommodated to the ways of others, capable of feigning the voices of various kinds of animals (as hunters do), they would now recognize the polyps: see them increase by pretending to be familial, just as they now prey by changing color.


M: Leaving aside, for the present, other representatives of that kind of animals, let us now consider others: let us lift up our gaze, Circe, to those birds that are flying toward the nearby forest and elevated ground. Who were those swallows, which are now nested in the sheltered recesses over there? Indeed, they bear a very appropriate shape now, who used to stand by their friends while fortune remained cheerful; but as soon as her inconstant face turned cruel and nebulous, they showed them their backs: thus now they appear in spring, but leave with the approach of winter.
C: Correct. But they can also be recognized by the fact that while human, even as they dealt with real men and approached real human homes and homelands, never being quite able to accustom themselves to them, they made their own dwellings of worthless chaff and twigs rejected by men: just as mice are unable to coexist agreeably with humans although they live and dwell under the same roof.


M: I should easily recognize the peacocks, being used to seeing glorious high-ranking men, spreading out their feathers and colors, walking about with swollen, inflated chests.
C: Quite so. But you should also recognize as peacocks those who would do nothing unless they received praise for it: now, when someone praises them, they make themselves prominent at once by unfolding out their feathers.


M: I shouldn’t pass over the nightingales. At one time those used to be the loquacious sort of people, ones who would say much and seem to know much, and who were nourished by the high opinion they enjoyed among fools. To the wise, though, who are familiar with the saying AN EMPTY VESSEL RESOUNDS WELL, they were just as contemptible as fools.


M: To whom refers the puny bird which imitates the sound of cows?
C: You would have recognized those men, base in ability, soul, and nature, who while speaking and deciding of great things made much of vile and puny subjects.


M: I do recognize the cuckoos. They used to make others’ wives the mothers of their sons: now we see them laying eggs in strange nests.
C: You judged rightly.


M: And who would fail to recognize the eagle, called the royal bird?— it advertises its qualities through its hooked, rapacious claws. Who wouldn’t hear an eagle under the appearance of a vociferous man?
C: It is a fact indeed—many eagles lurk under some countenances of powerful men. Yet while all eagles are powerful, not all those who are powerful are eagles. For you should not call Circe an eagle on account of her power, when you assert her being a goddess and a queen.
M: Not at all, of course; but what harm would that do? Did not the father of the gods, Jupiter himself, hide under the shape of an eagle?
C: Moeris, you are getting off the track of our argument. We are speaking of eagles who hide under human guise, not of humans and gods who are in the habit of taking up the guise of eagles and other animals.


M: I do not recognize the bird which appears to be attacking the eagle.
C: It is called the night hawk. Eagle and night hawk lie hidden beneath the kind of princes who fight one another only to be defeated by an intruding third party. Look at them now as they cling together, tearing each other apart with talons and beaks until, in mutual struggle, they descend to low ground and are seized by others.


M: Oh, gods! I do not recollect ever seeing a bird this large!
C: That is the ostrich, a camel among birds, and a most dull one at that: whenever it gets its neck covered up in shrubs, it thinks it is hidden from sight. Pheasants, too, do the same thing, as do the water-dwelling mullets. You can see an ostrich when looking at a man burdened with a huge, heavy body, and possessed of minimal capacity of judgment.


M: If indeed rapacity and carnivorousness are common to many genera of birds, by what sign, Circe, shall I distinguish the vultures—if indeed the birds I am seeing are vultures, since it is difficult to make out these black birds against the approaching night—from other species of birds?
C: Those are really vultures. They used to watch for the signs of imminent death among the wealthy, after having sniffed around for many years; now they alight on lifeless bodies, which they are capable of sensing before three days pass after their death. We, on the other hand, did not have a premunition of hunger ahead, and paid too much attention to those birds, and so perceived darkness as the outer limits of twilight drew near—darkness that allows us a view of the stars, but prevents us from observing the animals. Let us therefore go back to our dwelling, and have dinner.
M: Let us designate the entire day tomorrow, if it pleases you, to the examination of remaining animals.
C: And thus it will be, unless more pressing matters turn our attention elsewhere.


M: Still, do explain to me, lady Circe, the diverse genera of fireflies: under what human forms could these have resided?
C: Those are the learned, wise, and illustrious amidst idiots, asses, and obscure men.


M: And what sort of men were those who now appear as such a charming, pleasant, humane, gregarious, and obliging genus of animal—one that with the coming of the night flies back to perch in the house before we ourselves go to sleep? How should I recognize the roosters?
C: Although the rooster is a very beautiful, melodious, noble, generous, magnanimous, solar, imperial, and almost divine animal, it does harm to itself, and because of this one thing deprives itself of being considered a more noble form: for it picks fights with equals and brothers for the sake of base, idle hens, and often dies in the struggle. The emerging victor of such a fight presents an amusing spectacle to those watching the show by making a declaration of his superiority by crowing. You could have observed the rooster hiding inside those who used to wear themselves out in mutual disagreements with those nearest them, and even brag to others of crimes committed against their own kin.



Bruno’s Dialogue II

Method of applying the art of memory
Dialogue between Albericus and Borista

Albericus: Borista, my friend, one inevitably ends up spending less time reading the incantation of Circe, and its line upon line of stories, than the writing deserves. I perceive a great variety of things there, and many explicit meanings even on the outer shell of words. I also infer innumerable implicit meanings that are to be grasped with all one’s heart, but I confess I am quite ignorant regarding that which is significant and profound in all these matters.
Borista: Nor will you understand it easily.
A: But of all things to whose understanding I would be able to come close, there is one especially that I desire with ardent spirit.
B: Which one is that?
A: To be capable of retaining firmly in memory the same variety that occurs in the make-up of the dialogue (insofar as I hear that it can be done by mnemonic art), in the same order in which the parts were presented, but without the arduousness of difficult labor. I have little confidence that I might be able to accomplish this in any other way, as the faculty of remembering is unwilling to undertake much labor, and is fleeting by nature. I hear that you are indeed skilled in one such art that has been invented by Giordano and modelled along the ideas of his De umbris idearum. This art is hardly of theatrical kind, like those that others brag about; in fact, they consider this art to be extremely difficult and inaccessible by their own efforts. Many of those who commonly appear to be most learned, upon discovering in it anything that they do not comprehend, find fault with the art itself, claiming it is confusing, so that their own insufficiencies may remain hidden, since they are ashamed of admitting their intellectual poverty.
B: I will easily concede that the art is inaccessible, but only if one does not have access to its steps. I also admit that it is difficult, but that in itself is no reason for denigrating it: indeed, by the gods’ decree, whether we like it or not, all best things are located in places that can only be reached with difficulty—that much is clear to everyone.

The fact that even many learned men do not understand this art solely by their own efforts should be attributed neither to their ignorance nor to confusion of the art: save for their understanding of this particular art, they can still be quite learned. Regarding such men, the root of their difficulties lies in their being more occupied in other affairs, and thus studying the art’s precepts with little attention. For it is not enough that they know all elements and parts of arguments. Above all, it is necessary to realize that the passages are worthy of detailed consideration and contemplation. The readers ought to bring together one series of concepts with another and, having done that, compare these with others so that, moving from simple matters, they finally merge together the combinations of end points, and thus they deduce by themselves things that can be brought out, as intended, about the achievement of judgment and memory. For those, however, who are not quite capable of undergoing such great exertion and reaching to such perfection, and yet desire some such version of memory practice, there does exist a version thereof, made known among a group of few friends, easily understandable to those who are versed in the study of this kind of arts. There you will be able to see easily for yourself what the author had added to techniques adopted from others, and what he himself invented.
A: Gods are favorably disposed toward me: for it seems to me that you are pursuing the very thing I most desire, if indeed the facts correspond to what has just been said.
B: Let me then open the volume, and you be attentive in spirit, examine what you hear, and ask for an explanation if you do not understand something. The little book has a preface that stands for a title.
A: Read, then.

Intention of the Author
Our intention is to pursue, with the divine power acceeding, the artificial and methodical way, one that leads to the correction of defect, strengthens weakness, and uplifts the force of natural memory, to the extent that anyone (provided that he is of in control of his reason and is average in judgment) can perfect himself in it, except that he should be excluded from the taking up of this art by such conditions as mentioned above.
Those elements of the following art that do not follow automatically from its own structure, nor build upon the efforts of those who preceded us and by whose discoveries we have been stimulated, have been encouraged by our own frequent reflection on the matter, and appear either in the form of additional precepts that provide the art with fluency, ease, and certitude, or reflect our desire for brevity. Whereas the precepts of other authors’ methods required daily practice, intensive attention, and in a way a withdrawal from all other efforts, so that the keener minds took to disparaging such arts, now, thanks to the Highest, a truly easy, brilliant, and worthy art is brought forth by us; and no one of sound mind will fail to appreciate it, but will apply oneself to its study with all one’s force and vigor. Inasmuch as our art helps all other arts, it shows the way and opens the entrance to other numerous inventions. The fact that it brings such great advancement to memory means that it will contribute even more significantly to the faculty of judgment. But why should I linger here in praise and celebration of this art? Success will bear witness to its validity.
Only one thing is difficult: that an individual reader be able, by himself, to understand these very things. All gain understanding from a teacher, one who is learned. Since we researched through and through the difficulties of the art, such complication does not arise as far as the teacher himself is concerned. But the novelty of the subject and the well-known presence of limitations may present an obstacle to the student. Indeed, Plato suggests in Euthydemus that most solemn and arcane knowledge ought to be shared solely among the philosophers themselves and conveyed to very few others deemed worthy of it. For he says that water, although most precious of all things, ends up being traded for a very base price. We therefore convey the same to our friends, and all the more intensely at that, for we are compelled by more pressing circumstances than Plato in his writings. We advise to all those into whose hands this little book happens to arrive not to misuse the favor and gift thus bestowed upon them. They should also ponder what is represented in the story of Prometheus who incurred the wrath of the gods when he took fire from them and presented it to men.
We will pass over other things that are usually put forth in prefaces and puffed-up introductions. It is enough to present things that are necessary and complementary to the primary focus of the work.

Our present subject requires that it be divided into a theoretical and a practical part, inasmuch as it corresponds to the order and principles guiding this art; moreover, such precepts as correspond to this art are those through which practice is perfected in the best and most relevant manner.
The theoretical section has three parts: one concerning the manner in which this art proceeds to manage imaginative and cogitative powers, as well as concerning the gates of memory. The second part deals with the order of subjects or places, and the third part deals with the order of adjectives or images.
Practice has two parts: one that considers memory of things, and one that considers memory of words.



Manner and method of guiding the internal senses to construct and arrange memory.

§I. The order of faculties and organs

It is well-known enough and generally accepted that there are four little cells, corresponding to the four internal senses. The first of these is called “sensus communis” or common sense, and is situated in the frontal part of the brain. The second part, which reaches to the middle of the brain, is called the home of imagination. The third part, adjacent to the previous one, is the seat of cogitation; the fourth, the seat of memory. These facts, however have little bearing on our discussion; we only note them so that we may have a sense of the manner of operation of the faculties which are involved in the improvement of the function of memory.

§II. The order of operations or actions.

The aforementioned operations are ordered in such a way that we may only successfully progress from one to another, all the way to the last compartment in which memory is located, if we enter and proceed successively from one to the other in the order that corresponds to the setup and arrangement of the organs as they were instituted by mother nature and arranged according to their respective locations. What you should imagine is four rooms or vaults, which are not placed independently of one another, but arranged in such way that one leads to another: so that the entrance to the fourth room opens up through the third, to the third room through the second, and to the second through the first. The point is this: nothing enters memory unless it passes through the entryway of cogitative faculty; nothing enters the cogitative faculty unless it passes through the imagination; and nothing enters the seat of imagination unless through the entryway of sensus communis.

Comparison §III.

This art, therefore, ought to have the same guiding principles as those observed at work in nature, so that art itself imitates, follows, emulates and aids nature. This principle will be exhibited in two ways: in the way in which things are made memorable, and in the way these things are retrieved from memory promptly and in proper order. The first is brought about thanks to the image-making power; the second through imagination. For the image-making power crafts images with its methods and principles, and imagination’s special task is to create these images’ particular locations and seats.

Chap II.

On the manner of inquiring into the art, in which the imaginative faculty is directed.

The cogitative power (as natural philosophers maintain) does not work with shapes directly derived from the senses, but with abstractions that had been extracted from perceived objects. It is the gateway, entry, and sole key to the vault of memory. From there we remember these things in a way that corresponds to the impulse by which the cogitative power had been stimulated (I understand by cogitative that power which is generally called thus among rational beings—among brute animals this kind of faculty is called estimative, as is said by respectable philosophers) by means of love, hatred, fear, hope, sadness, elation, loathing, enjoyment, and other affections proper to creatures. Through these, indeed, memory easily comes back to aid the perception of sensible things; conversely, sensible objects are most readily received by memory.
Look at how mnemonic objects and forms are retrieved. It is in conjunction with the activity of this faculty alone that we are able successfully to remember having seen something when we happen to come upon it. But still another thing is necessary in order to apply our technique so that we may remember things in proper order and at will. Just as in actual writing or painting, the limbs, guided by the bodily eyes, need two things, namely a conceptual scheme of the form and shape of the images and characters that are to be represented, as well as the theme and foundation, or background, against which the same images and characters can be placed and are able to stay and remain there, so in internal writing and painting, guided by the internal eye, likewise two elements are necessary. One of these is the arrangement and setup of figures, images, and letters, and the other the setup of the book, page, stone, or wall from which the arrangement of the aforementioned figures is suspended.



On things relevant to the theory of backgrounds and images.[1]

It is now the time to set up the layout of the page, so to speak, as the base and foundation of the matter under discussion; and then to introduce the nature of characters that are to be used as if in writing, and of images that are to be attached, as well as to explain in what manner they refer to one another. After that it will be easy to proceed to the actual operation of memory with only few considerations and formulae.

§ I.

On backgrounds: First, what is a background.

The nature of backgrounds therefore first presents itself for consideration; after which we will move to outline things that are attached to them. In the present discussion we will not treat of backgrounds from the point of view of logic or physical science, but using a suitable method called technical. As one might expect, this method is artificial, and is distinguished from the aforementioned approaches in its dealing with predication of subjects, not of forms. It does not deal with substantial form, prime matter, which is called ile . Nor does it treat accidental forms, which constitute the physical shape, nor created forms that inhere in natural bodies. What it does deal with are the subjects or backgrounds for imaginary figures, figures that can be attached, removed, sent wandering about, moved hither and thither according to the will of the imaginative and cogitative powers at work. From what has been presented one can gather the general nature or definition of the “subjectum” or background that pertains to this art. In the following passages, we will present how it is differentiated into its proper kinds.

Concerning backgrounds, as far as mnemonic art is concerned.

The background, then—inasmuch as it is properly created to receive memorable images for remembering—can for convenience be either a natural, or a semimathematical, or verbal composite. If natural, it can be either most general, extending along the expanse of the circumference of the universe; less broadly general, bound to the scope of geography; general in a most simple way, linked to the breadth of an individual continent; particular, linked to the political sphere; more particular, linked to the household or the economic sphere; or most particular, linked to the multitude and number of elements of the house and their specifics.
Given these species of existing or natural backgrounds, the most suitable for the present purpose are those subsumed under the various degrees of particular. It is also proper to use the various general backgrounds as outlined above, whose application in practice corresponds with the application of the semimathematical backgrounds, and we may treat of those to some extent once we get to the section on the practice of the art. But now we should deal with the character of the backgrounds in proper order.

On the character of the backgrounds.

According to the opinion of all those who have hitherto written about this art with authority, sensible or material backgrounds ought to be set up and created in such a way that they are visible to the eye. They can be either of natural substance, such as rocks, trees, and other objects; or artificial, such as courtyards, columns, alcoves, statues, and similar things; or partaking of both substances, partly natural and partly created through human craft.

As far as their size is concerned, individual backgrounds ought not to be too large, so as to blunt and disperse vision; or too small, in which case they seem to escape perception altogether. Rather, they ought to be of average size, corresponding to the size of a human body in such a way that their height corresponds to a body with uplifted arms, and their breadth to a body with arms extended sideways.

As far as the number of backgrounds is concerned, it will depend on the number of main points that need to be remembered. In order to remember things, a few moderate backgrounds usually suffice, but for the memory of words many backgrounds are required.
The following is also relevant regarding the number of backgrounds. Now and then it happens that the things that can be extracted and brought out from one house or building tend not to suffice, in which case we should move to another, similar image structure, in manner usually employed by writers using their bodily sight. For when the available space on a page does not suffice to express the matter in its entirety, writers run out of space, and attach a blank page to the filled one and sew them together. What a single tablet or page cannot hold, a book will easily contain. We should be similarly advised in mnemonic operations, and connect memory places that share common themes, and thus, through a cogitative and imaginative operation we should unite, join, and bring together elements that by themselves appear divided, disjointed, and distant from one another. It should be done in the following manner. Let the ends and limits of one memory place border on the beginning of another: think of them as joined together. Moreover, nothing prevents you from being able to attach the end part of your own house to the beginning of another, although they are in different parts of town; equally, nothing prevents you from joining an end-point of places relating to Rome to the starting point of Parisian places, provided of course that these junctions are firmly set and confirmed by you and you understand what end-points of sets of memory-places lead to which beginnings of other sets.

As all authors concede, in terms of their qualitative property, backgrounds ought to be neither too bright nor too dark, but such that they do not overwhelm the sight with their brightness, or impede it by being insufficiently illuminated.

Regarding difference, the same sources caution to avoid like fire a multiplicity of similar background-places; instead, they recommend variety in choice of backgrounds. Hence (so they say), dismiss the idea of using many similar intercolumnar spaces, similar windows, and avoid empty, vacant spaces. Yet if it nevertheless seems proper to you to allocate something in such places, you may furnish them with an altar, table, throne, or a similar object, capable of acting as a receptacle for other mental objects or figures.

Regarding relation of the backgrounds and the images, the former ought to be understood as formed, moved, and altered as necessary upon the arrival of images, so that the images are conveniently represented. I mean that backgrounds ought to be understood as open to being acted upon or transformed, just as a page is affected and molded by the entry of the written word or—and this is a better analogy—just as wax is altered by the impression of a new image. It is good to note these observations, as they point to what needs to be known about active and passive forces.

Regarding order of the backgrounds: according to the opinion of all authorities, backgrounds should not be employed without conscious choice, but in orderly fashion, just as parts and segments of buildings follow one another in order.

Regarding the backgrounds’ position, they ought to be neither too close to one another, nor too distant, but arranged at agreeable intervals. Otherwise they will confound the sight and perception of the imaginative power, just as in ordinary visible writing letters written over other letters or placed too close to others cause confusion.
Similarly distracting, although not to the same extent, are letters placed at more than medium-sized intervals.

B: Did you understand the nature of backgrounds, Albericus?
A: I did. Indeed, considering the manner and character of backgrounds, the precepts just presented do not seem to bring up anything besides what has already been treated by other authorities.
B: You have considered the matter only on surface—though it must be admitted that the author did not alter what the authorities say in respect to sensible places. But what will you say if the author takes up methods that were considered dead, teaches how to revive them through the discussion offered in the following chapter, and provides a great system for the fashioning of backgrounds? And if you engage with your whole spirit in such an endeavor, you will certainly have a most excellent kind of art, one that will allow you to order and permanently retain the various branches of arts.
A: All right, then. Go on and apply the proposed method.
B: I will. You do know, then, from your knowledge of memory art in general in what manner backgrounds should be prepared. They should be sensible; natural, artificial, or of mixed nature; of average extent or size; of average brighteness; corresponding in number to the kinds of things that are to be memorized; diverse; different; capable of accepting and preserving the images attached onto them; ordered; and set apart at agreeable intervals.
A: I do know all these things.
B: Let us then explore the manner in which these revived precepts ought to be understood.
A: Speak.

A recommendation relating to the stability of backgrounds, necessary for their retention of images, which has been known to few authors and treated only superficially. This recommendation is especially relevant to the nature of backgrounds treated under the last precept, called “TO HAVE.”

There are two kinds of backgrounds: one is substantive, and the other adjectival or attributive. I call substantive backgrounds those we have been describing so far. Attributive backgrounds, on the other hand, are those that can be added to the substantive backgrounds, with the following difference: the substantive backgrounds remain always the same and immobile, while the attributive backgrounds—although also properly bound to remain in their proper places—can be moved, altered, and put to different and diverse uses as needed when the placing of images and forms raises particular demands, in which case these attributive backgrounds can be inserted in any manner into the memory composition. One could say that the attributive backgrounds have the power of adding to the excellence of memory places just as the soul improves the body. Without these backgrounds, our memory places are dead; with their addition, they come to life. And so put a hat into an alcove, a dagger on a seat, a cup into a window, and other utensils and moveable things of such kind. No matter how trifling the object is, it has the potential of relating to innumerable memory situations. A hat can be used now as a shield for defense, as when Albertus, positioned as one getting a beating, is placed in an alcove; now as a palette for holding colors, when the memory place contains Ideus painting; now again, using the image of a peasant digging the earth, the same hat is struck with his hoe. In such manner, employing various actions and actors, the hat can stand for ever-different operations. In this way, whenever you cannot think of what it was that you have attached to a particular memory place, the attributive background, like a faithful informer, will aid you in reconstructing it as you pose the following questions: What impression does the presence of the hat in a memory place evoke in you? What does the dagger evoke?
A: By gods, Borista, hearing these precepts I am more and more inclined to conclude that this craft is indeed most praiseworthy, and that its cautionary advice and its method of making memory places come alive are more developed than among the most well-known ancient authorities, who have touched upon the topic, but without much real understanding.
B: Moreover, with this art you are in possession of an incomparable invention, of which not a trace can be found in previous arts of memory.
A: What matter does this concern?
B: The orderly arrangement of semimathematical backgrounds.
A: Let me then hear about the novelty of semimathematical backgrounds.


On the nature of semimathematical backgrounds.
Purely mathematical backgrounds cannot be used in the art of memory, inasmuch as they are abstract and therefore incapable of striking or moving imagination directly: for abstraction pertains to a higher faculty than the imagination.

What mathematical backgrounds can offer by themselves is single order, which can be sought in two ways (of which only one ought to be used at a time): namely in geometrical figures and in numbers. As far as figures are concerned, one should proceed from a triangle to a quadrangle, from quadrangle to a pentagon, then to hexagon, heptagon, all the way to infinity using two-dimensional geometrical figures. Similar procedure applies to geometrical solids: from a three-sided body to a quadrilateral, from a body with three surfaces to one with four, and so on. But this progression of geometrical figures can only with difficulty be adapted for use in the present art of memory.

With numbers, the progression is from the monad to duality, from duality to trinity, and so on to infinity. When used in memory art, however, numbers as such do not play the role of representing, only of insinuating a sense of order. To accomplish that, they should be attached to natural objects, through which they will take up color and shape. Let therefore articles made of linen designate the first decade of numbers, wooden objects the second, iron objects the third, bronze the fourth, silver the fifth, gold the sixth, silk the seventh, cloth the eighth, leather the ninth, and fur articles designate the tenth decade. Or, for instance, tools employed in agriculture can represent the first decade, those employed in the craft of iron-working the second, military the third, clothes-making the fourth, wool-processing the fifth, horticulture the sixth, culinary art the seventh, medicine the eighth, barbering the ninth, the undertaker’s craft the tenth, sacred rites the eleventh, and so on and so forth.

Once the decades are ordered and set up, either by following the model outlined above or in other ways, you will be able decide for yourself by what small differences you will distinguish among the individual numbers within each decade. This can be done by employing various instruments and objects of wood, gold, and other such materials, or, likewise, by employing tools used in cooking, gardening, and other arts.

The contents of things intended for memorization can therefore be attached to those things in their proper order, so that it is not only possible to retain the memory-objects themselves and their order, but also the number of their locations and their position—all this by following the precepts of the sections and chapters of our art. But it seems that we have already treated the matter more extensively than corresponds to the art’s dignity.
A: Good gods, truly, even without your stating so, I understand how full of meaning and promise is the technique introduced here. No one could have explicated it—ney, even ought to attempt to explicate it—in a more lucid manner.
B: The technique will surely appear even more fully developed and excellent if it is given more adequate and detailed examination. And, provided that the intellect does not become overly stimulated, the art will bring with itself notable opportunities for a great variety of uses.
A: Now, I desire for you to consider another aspect of the present subject. This art expounds not only a method for dealing with memory backgrounds or places, but also a most fruitful theory of images, which teaches how memory places come alive through images, and images are in turn enlivened through memory places. I can even see here traces of methods used by arts that use methods of sculpting.
But enough of these. Read further.

Regarding memory places established by combinations of words.
B: The present discourse does not have as its aim the discussion of memory places established by words, and one would have to force such discussion into some part of the present art. Treatment of these memory places can be found in our book Clavis Magna, which deals with acquiring and evaluating the knowledge of the sciences, and provides an arcane method of retention and attachment of this knowledge in memory.

For our purposes, the semimathematical backgrounds mentioned earlier should suffice. They can serve as mnemonic backgrounds for chapters, sentences, legal matters, paragraphs, and any such material, and are even quite effective in representing the different points in legal allegations and other similar things.

It should also be noted that semimathematical backgrounds can and ought to be formed in diverse ways and of varied kinds of images, to accommodate a variety of subject matters and different occasional needs. We only mentioned two of these methods, but many others could be presented in similar fashion.
A: Do you have an understanding of memory places made of words, Borista?
B: None at all; but even if I did, this would not be the proper place or time to bring it up.
A: How can you come to such a conclusion without fully understanding the subject?
B: You should not forget that the point of this discourse is for you to learn how to apply the incantation of Circe according to its multitude of main points, implications, and sense-perceived memory places, which you are now being introduced to. So get your mind ready, because soon we will be dealing with things to be remembered, which both follow and determine the order of memory places.
A: You are right. Now my mind is ready, like a page set up to be written on, or a board ready for painting. Soon, it will be inscribed and illustrated by explicated theory.

Chap. I.
What is form, and what sorts of forms there are.

The word “form” in the present context should not be understood in light of Platonic metaphysics, where it stands for an Idea. Neither should it be interpreted through Peripatetic metaphysics, where it stands for essence;
Nec secundum rationem physicam, vt pote pro forma substantiali vel accidentali informante materiam vel subiectum. Nec secundum intentionem technicam vtpote artificialem additam rebus physicis actu existentibus quas supponit. Sed secundum rationem logicam non quidem rationalem, sed phantasticam (quatenus nomen logices amplius accipitur) respondentem intentioni subiecti, quod supra pariter diuidendo, & distinguendo ab aliis, diffiniuimus.

nor in light of physical science, where it stands for a substantial or accidental form that shapes matter or a subject; nor in a technical sense, where it represents an artificial addition that supports physical objects in their way of existing. Instead, form should be understood in terms of logic; not, however technical logic, but a logic of the imagination (inasmuch as for our purposes this second term covers things relating to logic better). This distinction of terminology corresponds to the explanation of backgrounds presented above, where we also dealt with the distinctions and divisions of a mnemonic meaning of the term from other definitions.

In the present treatise, therefore, form is something thought or something capable of being conceived by the work of the imaginative and cogitative powers, and is attached to a mnemonic place or background in three different ways, mentioned above: for the purpose of representing something, retaining it for future use, and perfecting the faculty of memory.

There are two kinds of forms: natural and positive. For the purposes of the present art it is impossible to use those natural forms called internal or inward since, as is obvious, they cannot be represented by images. Even of the other species of natural forms—called external or outward and perceptible by the senses—not all but only those that enter our internal organs through sight and hearing can be employed in the mnenomic art. Of those, moreover, the visible forms are preferred, for taste senses objects from most intimate distance, touch accomplishes its task through contact with surfaces, smell perceives through medium distance, hearing through greater distances, while sight is capable of perceiving even the most distant of the world’s shapes. Sight is therefore the most spiritual and divine of all human senses, and naturally excels above the others. In our treatise, sight outlines external visible forms—not the forms used by mnemonics that we have just mentioned, but visible forms that are the sources from which mental forms emanate, mothers that give birth to these internal, mental forms. And if these external forms are called traces or outlines of ideas, the internal forms of these are called shadows, of which we have treated in a book called De umbris idearum, “On the Shadows of Ideas.”

Let us now treat of another kind of forms, those called internal. They are the branching-out streams and affiliates of the external forms, and they enter the imaginative power through the vehicles and channels of external bodily senses. As they are taken up by the senses, forms can become internalized in two ways. In the first way, they enter into the interior sense reflecting their true nature, bareness, purity, and similar characteristics; entering in the second manner, they become altered, changed, out of order, or mixed, whether intentionally or by a disturbance of other natural accidents. Only the first, not the second way, leads to proper artificial forms.

And so there are two kinds of images. One consists of images similar to external objects in their entirety or wholeness, as an image of Socrates or Plato, or an image of a horse or bull. The other one consists of images that reflect parts of real external objects but not actual existing things in their totality, such as an image of a golden mountain, centaur, harpy, and similar things. Both kinds are useful, even necessary, for the practice of our craft.

On the nature of forms or images.
As pertains the essence and substance of these forms, they ought to be of such kind as to possess the capacity of greatly striking the imagination, and stimulating the cognitive power. More about these characteristics has been already presented above.

The number of forms should correspond to the number of backgrounds, and should be such as to provide for easy distinction of things at which the memory forms will hint. For this reason it is preferable not to have several images in one memory place; otherwise one form will confuse the other, as happens in writing that is too complex. It is nevertheless possible to conjoin more images in one memory place successfully, provided that the images touch one another in a progressive sequence, one leading to another, just as in speeches introductions naturally lead to their conclusions.

Regarding the size of forms or images, one should avoid images that are too small as much as those that are too large. The former do not stimulate the senses enough, while the latter confound the view as well as the internal vision with their size. For it is a fact that a fly does not attract the gaze of the physical eye, and if it does, it does so only slowly; similarly an image of a giant depicted on a vast wall can be made out only with difficulty. Larger objects should therefore be reduced to more medium size, and small ones should be expanded. The book Clavis Magna deals with this subject in more detail. Thus, memory forms can be created by making things more moderate or modified; more magnificent or enlarged. Based on these rules one is able to conjure up ways of making a thing that is too average and by nature incapable of stirring the internal sense into something great and powerful with the help of a concomitant factor. A shield and a dead body will represent a fly; an archer will stand for an arrow, shoemaker for a pin or a nail, and a writer for a pen.

As far as the quality of mnemonic forms is concerned, one ought to remember to choose such forms that invite admiration, fear, love, hope, abomination, and other similar emotions of this kind. And if the image at hand does not naturally exhibit any of this, it should be made more striking by arrangement, placement, or attribution of characteristics depending on what kind of image it is. In this manner (unless you are of exceptionally dull intelligence) you will be able to bring to life even a dead image. That is why, if from among all possible images of the human species you adopt all those that are better known to you, famous, monstrous or unusual in appearance, beautiful, beloved, or hateful, you will find these more useful for mnemonic purposes. For there are two kinds of forms, namely animate and inanimate, and the former are superior to the latter. Moreover, there are two kinds of animate forms, namely rational and irrational, with the former exceeding everything else in all characteristics. And thus, for the purposes of mnemonic art, it is befitting to employ these forms’ every action, passion, movement, or any other kind of use.
These forms or images are capable of carrying all others: they alone have this ability, and do it best: hence it is proper to call them worlds.

Regarding what is said about relation of forms, the same precepts that have been mentioned above in connection with backgrounds will apply.
I am not saying these things to deceive you into thinking that you allocate images, when you do not, or that you affix them when you do not. As a matter of fact it sometimes (very often, actually) happens that when you commit things to natural memory with little practice or insufficient effort, that which you think you have memorized ends up like something founded on air, and you will fail to make it stick firmly in memory. This delusion can be alleviated in the following manner. Get in the habit of always having the mnemonic figure’s true shape before your eyes, a shape that is germane to the meaning that will be attached to it: in an old man, think of white hair, bent torso, shaky hands, and similar such things. And when you apply such image, with all its characteristics, to a memory place, and make the image inhabit this place, it is as if you were saying: Hey, where is that man? And what memory place does he occupy? Similar procedure should be followed with other forms. For the rest, refer to what has been said above about attributive backgrounds.

Regarding active and passive attitudes, the mnemonic figure or form should be understood as doing something in its memory place, or to be somehow affected by it, whether it be comfortable or unsuitable, joyful or sad, convenient or inconvenient. It is in this respect that the strength and firmness of the attachment of an attributive background to its own background is essential, and here matter should be proportionate to form.

Simililarity and uniformity of images should be avoided no less than what makes them less suitable and is contrary to the ways by which images are perfected. For too frequent repetition and assigning of the same images disturbs and confuses memory. But if necessity forces you to apply (though in distinct intervals) the same form, apply it in an altered shape, and provide it with different customary characteristics. In this way nature itself will cancel the similarity, and so will art (here I am speaking of similarity of a number of individuals).

For nature never made humans who are entirely alike; in fact, she never made a single man who would persist in remaining the same, since he whom she appropriates in the morning as one man is, as far as sensual perception is concerned, a different man in the evening.
A: It still seems to me that this treatise has not dealt with precepts that are considered necessary and worthy of notice by ancient authors, precepts that make this art easier, ordered, and sufficient.
B: I have no doubt that except for errors, nonsense, and infantile fancies brought forth by obscure and irrational men, this treatise contains all important points, and distinguishes, enumerates, arranges in proper categories, and orders everything that needs to be brought forth. There are two things it can claim as especially its own. One is that (if it is understood properly) it can direct the spirit in such way that it never lacks forms to arrange and place in mnemonic backgrounds, and that it allows, in an amazing manner, the recovery of the inscribed figures. The other point is that in few words it completes techniques invented by others, and advances them further.
A: Continue.

Some ways of employing images to represent things and words.

There are many methods and manners by which names and things can be formed into individual mnemonic figures. First we need to establish how this is done, based on the different kinds of images. Well, some images can directly receive the likeness of the thing that is to be represented; some are formed based on similarity of things; and others employ similarity of words.

i. One way of setting up memory-images can be used with those things that are by themselves easily transformed into figures by the imaginative power, as an image of a bench or a horse will represent an actual bench or a horse.
ii. Sometimes our subject can be represented by an image denoted by a similar word. Let us imagine a form whose name will remind us of the thing that is not depicted, and whose name is similar to that thing’s name. Thus horse (equus) can be set up as a reminder for equity, or vine (vitis) for life (vita).

iii. Another way of representing is through Etymology, as when we sometimes hunt for a word from which a particular concept derives: just so in memory art we seek to derive that which cannot be represented from that which can: we get Rome from an image of a Roman, and mountain from a mountain-dweller.
iiii. Sometimes we can use the method of similarity of the head or initial part of an object’s name, just as we are accustomed to recall from memory words that end differently than they begin by remembering their first letters. In this way an ass (asinus) can represent horsefly (asilus) or someone called Aser.
v. Sometimes we use literal translation of a word, where in our memory place a lover of horses can stand for Philip, or the other way around.
vi. Beginning from an antecedent, I usually seek that which follows, just as sunrise can be naturally derived from an image of the morning star, and digestion from image of a meal.
vii. Sometimes we use concomitants, as when we remember someone because he is a constant companion of someone else. Thus something that cannot be represented, like death, can be depicted through bloodshed or a corpse.
viii. With consequences, the procedure is similar to the antecedents: as when we derive fire from imagining smoke, and are reminded of smoke through the figure of fire.
ix. Sometimes an accident can remind us of the object itself, just as we get the word for snow from a white thing placed in a mnemonic place, or a dancer from a representation of dance.
x. Or, contrariwise, an accident can be recalled from an object, as when a beehive stands for sweetness, lion for ferocity, or bear for anger.
xi. Sometimes sacred-symbolic representation can be used: lance and scales to designate justice, and mirror prudence.
xii. Sometimes representation of well-known insignia can lead to that which is thus signified: sword leading to Mars, or key to Janus.
xiii. A symbol can lead to that which is signified by it, as when the image of a big-nosed man recalls Tongilianus, even as Tongilianus has nothing besides the big nose in common with the image. Similarly, an armed man can represent Hannibal, and a man in a toga, with torn-up tunic, bare feet and uncovered head can represent Diogenes.
xiiii. Things contemporaneous with what we want to represent may also be used: let flowers represent April, wine press Autumn, and so on.

xv. Another way is by using the accompanying circumstances of places and objects, as when a certain custom or habit reminds us of someone German or of Germany, of an African or of Africa.
xvi. We can also proceed by proportion or analogy, as when from the relationship between potter and clay we arrive at the idea of the universal creator and its relationship to the universal creation which he shapes. This approach can lead to a long chain of relationships. For a great effect is already preexisting in a small seed and a small beginning, and likewise a small error in the beginning turns turns out to be a major error in the end.
xvii. By transposing parts of words, we can get the word “Roma” from Maro, or the word “foolishly” (more) from Remo.
xviii. From parts, we get the whole, and from components the compound: Davus with a wine-branch (vitis) brings up the otherwise unrepresentable word “David”.
xix. By adding or subtracting beginnings of words we can signify another thing: the word “palace” (palatio) thus reveals “proposal” or “rendering” (latio).
xx. Similar beginnings of words can refer to one another, as when the word for one giving birth (pariens) renders the word for the book of Paralipomenon.
xxi. We can recall a particular word or statement by associating it with one’s customary way of speaking: the image of someone who is in the habit of saying “friends have all things in common” can represent that sentence in your memory place. And note this, that you may similarly accommodate sentences and determine their limits yourself, by your own arrangement, or you may use a more extensive method described below.
xxii. Another way of representing consists in placing in a mnemonic background an image that truly reflects the statement’s contents or signifies a term, which we want to remember. When I, for instance, think of someone garrulous and slandering, but unfortunate, I am reminded of the Psalmist’s “may the slanderer find no rest anywhere” (Pss. 139[140]:12).
xxiii. Another way of recalling things from memory is by using metaphor or transposition to transform them into images and then recall them back by the same process: from silver we get the moon, from lead Saturn, from tin Zeus. In the same way we get cunning from a fox, worship from dog, and imitation or emulation from a monkey.
xxiiii. We may also get the expressions proper to particular creatures from their particular images: mooing from a bull, grunting from a pig. This transfer of meaning can be pushed a step further, so we may get neighing from an image of an ass, from neighing foolish

speech, by which image I personally tend to describe those who speak like asses.
xxv. From the various kinds of instruments we get their makers and users: a spherical model of heavens and an astrolabe can remind us of an astrologer.
xxvi. A disposition that does not invite direct figurative representation can be nevertheless represented by an image of something or someone possessing that disposition: a female grammar teacher is an actual substance with an accidental characteristic, or a subject with a quality: and such a concrete image can represent the qualitative concept of grammar or literacy. The same technique can be applied to music. In the same way we can derive that which is possessed from the one who possesses it: an estate from an image of the estate’s owner; a principality from an image of its prince. And the same procedure is to be followed with other qualities, when from that which is modified we get the modifier itself, or from something modified by an adverb we get the adverb: an image of someone dancing well can remind us of the adverb “well.”

xxvii. Genus can be recalled from a species: the figure of a bull placed in a mnemonic place will remind us of the genus of this animal.
xxviii. Correlatives are recalled from other members of a relation: a servant will be recalled by a figure of a lord.
xxix. Contraries can remind of contraries through antiphrasis: an uncultivated speaker can be represented by Demosthenes, and a fool by Aristotle.
xxx. An act or action can be remembered by its agent: thief will remind us of theft.

Should someone else introduce other modes of representation beyond those offered here, he will discover that elements of his new precepts can be found included in the ones presented here, and are ultimately reducible to these thirty precepts. That such enumeration and characterization of methods is truly complete is made evident in the discourses of the book Clavis Magna.

A: Surely, I could think only with great difficulty of any other ways of representation (at least as far as things that can be perceived by senses are concerned) that are not contained in these thirty precepts.
B: Why do you say “by senses”?
A: Because none of the thirty precepts seems to lead to remembering and memory either through semimathematical or verbal backgrounds, which we have a knowledge of and are thus able to seek; why, even the precepts mentioned above refer to transformation that occurs in memory places regarding abstract or figuratively indiscribable things.
B: With your kind permission, let me say that there is no species of memory in which the modes of representation you mention are used, whether to lesser or greater extent: for just as we cannot either fully understand or remember anything except things that can be figuratively imagined, so we are not able to use any memory precepts beyond the thirty mentioned above.
A: I will ponder what you have just said; but now, let us proceed to other matters.

Chap I. § I.

A: Surely nothing more was required in the matter of application or practice: for who does not see to what extent the explanation of that same practice is contained and explained most extensively under the section entitled theory?
B: I believe that the author has introduced this distinction in the title more on account of the proper order of his teaching than for any other reason. But listen to the precepts that follow: from those you will be able to extract many things pertaining to both kinds of memory.
A: I will.

§ II.

It is indeed true that the whole organization of the practical aspect of this art can be deduced, even by those of unremarkable intellect, from precepts that have been discussed above under the title of theory. Nevertheless, the material that we will soon bring forth will confirm and add to what we presented above.


Once, therefore, the backgrounds are prepared, composed, ordered, delimited and confirmed, it is easy to attach to them the actual images or forms. Sensible things have corresponding sensible shapes; but non-sensible things also have sensible shapes. Moreover, sensible forms relating to sensible objects have the nature of images and actualities, whereas those relating to non-sensible objects have the character of signs, marks, and references. How each of these is capable of being signified, indicated, and figured we have already demonstrated to a large extent, more than has ever been demonstrated before. One thing only is missing for us to be able to reach those terms which cannot be represented by the kinds of images mentioned above: when we can apply none of the thirty methods to the matter at hand, whether by difficulty arising in ourselves, or because of the thing itself whose memory we seek, and we therefore seek an easy representation. Soon, such method will be provided, which leaves out nothing that needs to be remembered, whether it be an understood term or not, or a signifying one, or whatever else, provided that it is articulated.

Chap. I.
On the application of memory of words.

When we are not able to allocate things themselves on account of their abstract nature, we ought to fashion for ourselves an inscription of any names or words whatsoever in the following manner. First, there are the images of men, distinguished by their position in the alphabet, of whom each stands for a particular letter, either by convention (when the letter is assigned to a particular personage) or by the letter of the name itself. In this way you have many Aristarchi to signify the letter A, many Bachchi for B, Caesars for C —who, once set in in a certain memory locus, will provide you with the representation of these letters.

Then there are other, inanimate things, which can be used by the men noted above. Thus, a cupboard (armarium), ear (auriculare), arc (arcus), and similar things could signify the letter A. A cane (baculus) would likewise stand for B, and basket (corbis) for C. In the same manner, other instruments and equipment would designate other letters of the alphabet for you. And thus you will order a multitude of men themselves, as well as many other things and activities employed by humans, by which you will be able to establish an entire expression in the same memory place.

Should the speech you want to commit to memory be too long, you will be able to arrange it and spread it out into to two or three memory places. This is advisable when passages just read or recited are to be repeated extemporaneously.

But when it is you who is arranging material for your own use, you will be able to commit in one place speech of indefinite length. You will achieve this by arranging in ordered sequence two or more images of men who, with their instruments, signs, and names representing actual letters, will allow you to cite any expression whatsoever.

B: Concerning memory of words, it seems that we are relieved in an amazing way from the labor which most ancient memory arts encourage us to undertake. To those who examine this art only superficially, it appears to add very little to more ancient mnemonic techniques, but a closer analysis will reward those who go to the trouble with revealing far different things. For while under the old rules we were taught to present letters individually one by one, now we can deal with entire syllables or expressions composed of a combination of syllables, when we attach an entire term to each mnemonic place. Moreover, human tools and actions as established here are not tedious, trivial, or vague; nor are we taught to stimulate memory by placing human images next to other human images, and images of things to other things. Rather, we are taught to accept all kinds of mnemonic images as accoutered with many added burdens—so that it shouldn’t be difficult to see that using this method we obtain with ease and convenience that which seemed impossible to the ancients. Hear what Tully had to say about this in his Ad Herennium:
I also know that many Greeks who wrote about memory recommended the making of images of many words, so that those who wanted to learn these words would have them ready-made, and would not wear themselves out by searching for the proper image. We disapprove of this practice for several reasons, one of which is this: given the innumerable multitude of words, it would be ridiculous to put together a thousand images; for how effective could these be when the need should arise of remembering a single one out of the infinite plenitude of words?
These words clearly demonstrate that which Tully considered impossible: not only one can easily acquire this technique on one’s own, but the art facilitates all mnemonic matters. The reason why he derided the Greeks for their industry is that he himself could not fathom accomplishing that task except by assigning an individual image to each word—an undertaking ridiculous even to attempt. But it is far from our intent to multiply the number of images; instead, we offer the ability to express infinite terms, whether they signify something or not, in single, complete, fully equipped memory-places, by arranging a set of few complete, clearly outlined, and easily recognizable images.

Here you have, then, a technique by which you are able to attach to memory places both the things—or, rather, the general concepts of things—mentioned in the Cantus Circaeus, and the very same words with which those things were expressed. I do not recommend, though, to try out the latter part of the technique with your friends, as it seems to lead to a vain and puerile display of boasting. As far as necessity’s demand for the creation of mnemonic figures to represent commonly occurring terms is concerned, a skilled use of thirty configuration-methods outlined above will quite suffice. With boys and young students, I would not recommend any other mnemonic art but the brief method outlined above and others devised by Giordano. Through burdensome care and day-to-day concentration demanded by other arts, and the alienation from serious study, to which they return incapable perhaps precisely through the use of these arts (being quite skilled in the arts’ precepts, but otherwise stupid in my opinion) the students are scarcely compensated for their work, and achieve their goal only through slow, belated endeavor. Our art, on the other hand, does not impede study, dull natural memory, or result in languor, but allows for natural talent to be perfected. For the moment, I hope for those who will multiply the seeds of this invention. Moreover, even as our presentation of mnemonic art deserves to be placed on par with ancient ones, we ought to express without prejudice gratitude toward earlier inventors and those who showed us the way—and yet, in comparison with still other methods, whose sole inventor is the same Giordano, even this art of ours is but nothing. I will soon explain to you one such technique, comprised in a brief set of precepts. But as far as the art exhibited above, the thirty precepts should suffice for our friends.
A: Show me, I beg you, that other art.
B: With pleasure.

and quick art of word mnemonics.

Having set down precepts concerning the order of places and images that were introduced as a complement to the general art of memory, we now bring forth another art, for the benefit of some readers, which wholly pertains to our system of mnemonics, and is best disclosed in the following riddle:

Shaped by a keen, skilled maker, twice twelve bodies,
secluded from one another, take their places.
The bodies have assisting spirits, five to each,
through whom they can produce a quintuple sound.
Then, two elements produce five-fold arrangements,
By which you will, with skillful application place sought elements in the middle and at the foot.
What is, what does, what has, what takes up, and
What stands by: this is what the five representations relate to you.
Those establish a permanent seat in the body:
No plotting will be able to eject them from the body.
All the while they will be able to wander through various regions,
as thousands of memory-places will have been established.

A: What do you think is the import of this puzzle?
B: I will tell you as much as I am able. You should have a set-up of twenty-four mnemonic backgrounds, placed apart from one another, which neither border, cling to, nor touch upon all others, but are placed or are understood to be placed as free and solitary.
You will be able to choose the specific characteristics of your backgrounds as you judge fit, but in kind they ought to be as follows: B. Tree; C. Column; D. Well; F. Altar; G. Pillory; H. Table; K. Bed; L. Statue; M. Platform or Tribune; N. Armchair; P. Furnace; Q. Fireplace; R. Anvil; S. Ark; T. Rock; V. Pyramid; X. Clock; Y. Pit; Z. Sepulchre; A. Bier; E. Shrine; I. Fire; O. Stone Heap; V. Spring. These twenty-four represent your letters.
Next, in order to compose first letter combinations, you should assign to each of the said backgrounds five assisting forms, which will represent to you preceding or following letters by a double difference. There are five cardinal distinctions: West, East, North, South, and Medium. There are five situational distinctions: standing up, bent, sitting, sleeping, reclining. There are also five spatial distinctions: before, behind, above, below, center. Through these three sets of distinctions you will be able to multiply the background, sign, and mnemonic operation five-fold in a harmonious fashion.
The five assisting forms can, by taking up various positions and being multiplied and attached to the specific characteristics of the twenty-four letters, add vowels and consonants to the expression. Distinctions should be supplied in various numerical combinations, to facilitate practical use.
To represent vowels letters in the middle of the word, you will be able to provide those and others by the basic combination made up of two consequent letters in a similar way, using several distinctions.
Once you arrange, delineate, and firmly anchor these forms in your mind, you will be able to promptly fashion any combinations from the variously adjusted signs and their properties.

You see now how the twenty-four signs of letters of alphabet are drawn out in five ways. If you apply yourself to this technique, you will be able to expand it in many other directions.
A: Unless I am misled, I seem to understand what you present satisfactorily. But I still humbly ask you to quickly share with me something about the Circean incantation.
B: I will.


There are two general forms in the the Circaean dialogue: one of the song itself, which refers to the most general backgrounds, and one of the manifold effect that the song commands, which refers to the the other kind of background.
Secondly, in the first part you have seven hypostases of gods, and in the second, three groups of living things. You should draw your first set of backgrounds from the seven hypostases; and the second from the three kinds of grouping, which depend on a higher level of background.
Thirdly, under each of the seven hypostases, you have three sorts of terms, two of which are simple, and the third complex. You even have, in each of the three genera of animated things, many starting-points for a convenient enumeration of species. The former are multiplied thrice in specific backgrounds. And the latter are in turn equally deduced from the most specific, individual backgrounds.
Fourthly, in the three kinds of terms

Thus the most general form follows the most general background, general form follows a general background, specific follows specific, and individual follows individual. Therefore, since every background contains and includes the other, and likewise every form includes and contains the other, you will be able to achieve a ready rememberance not only of the Circaean incantation, but of all things presenting themselves to your memory.

[1] The word subiectum, here translated as “background,” refers to a mnemonic place or background on which a forma, translated as “form” or “image” is appended. Since both terms can be used in different contexts, Bruno spends some time establishing definitions pertaining to the mnemonic art. He also uses locus as a synonym for subiectum, and imago as a synonym for forma; in translation, “memory place” is the same thing as “background,” and mnemonic “image” is the same thing as mnemonic “form.”


Eyvind KangAthlantis


  • Aeroaviones

    Amazing. Taking my time to read it, but thanks for this.

    9. Mai. 2009, 16:48
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