Thursday, August 30, 2012

On the Shadows of Ideas

From a rough translation of Giordano Bruno's memory text, De Umbris Idearum. It's a big work in progress at this point. I'm sure someone with very good latin could make short work of it, but it's not easy to translate precisely. This is from the introductory dialog amongst Hermes Trismegistus, Philothimus (who represents Bruno), and Logifer (a pedant, representing Bruno's critics).

Continue freely; indeed, you know it is the same sun, the same art, that will both receive praise and also blame. That sorrowful night presents witches, toads, the basilisk, screech owls, and Plutonian rites, but [that day] activates the rooster, phoenix, swans, geese, eagles, rams and lions. When he’s in the East, creatures of darkness gather in their dens, while by his light, man and the creatures of the day come out to do their work. He invites them to this work, away from idleness. Heliotropes and lupines turn toward the sun, while the night flowers and herbs turn away. Rarefied vapors rise to form clouds, while more earthly vapors condense to form waters. Some shed a perpetual, continual light, others shine irregularly. The intellect teaches that they remain still, but the false sense tells us that they move. That which rises in this part of the rotating earth, sets in the Antipodes.  The same in the arctic: sometimes, things appear to circle from left to right will at other times appear to move vertically. In some hemicircles, they move quickly, while in the opposite, they move much more slowly. The land which appears nearby appears to be larger, while more distant lands (from our perspective) smaller than the others. The most southerly of the North lands is the most northerly of the South. For those who have the horizon at right angles, the left and the right will be of equal size, but they will be unequal for those who look obliquely. The same distributes the darkness and the light in equal measure in the region between two parallels, but differently at different times. In this, the divine house of Earth, we receive slanting sunbeams, instead of ones precisely vertical. The planets (which some believe to be lesser gods under a second prince) likewise receive varying light upon their bodies (which they call the light of conception), turning different faces to him from the apogee to the aux, by latitudes and intervals.  (Even so the Moon (which many among the philosophers think is a second Earth), turns a face to that light, while turning the other face into shadow, where the Earth interposes its sad shadow on a hemisphere of the Moon.
            The sun, therefore, while remaining the same forever, may also change its disposition, sometimes one way or another, depending on where one sits. Likewise this solar art, for ourselves, for other people, others yet to come, we believe that there may be differences in how it is received.

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