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‘Thirty Seals & The Seal of Seals’ by Giordano Bruno – review

Thirty Seals & The Seal Of Seals (Giordano Bruno Collected Works Book 4)Thirty Seals & The Seal Of Seals by Giordano Bruno
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The art of memory has been a popular subject for occultism and academicism throughout the centuries. The subject deals with our incredibly flexible human intelligence with its general multipurpose learning strategies that can work wonders if the doors of imagination are opened to the mystery of the knowledge without constraints of religiosity and fears of the unknown territories of human possibilities. Of the intellectual trailblazers of the craft of memory, none other than the figure of Giordano Bruno stood out blazingly even at the burning stake as an accused wizard. For it was akin to a witchcraft of perfect knowledge as expounded in his Thirty Seals & the Seal of Seals, the book banned by the Church in fear of losing the faithful to the Power of Knowledge.

The book illustrates a set of “basic” rules that reads more like Euclid’s Elements or Pythagorean Theorem, which means it is not written for general readers. This is because the book was part of a job application for a teaching post at the Oxford in the Elizabethan England, demonstrating his admirable erudition, superb command of the English language as a foreigner, and naked flattery to the academics at the university. Bruno got a few lecturing opportunities at the Oxford, but his cerebral mind devoid of wit in addition to his short, unprepossessing appearance was regarded as far-fetched and unfavorable to the attainment of the sought-after position at the Oxford. In fact, this book does not provide the reader with special spells for obtaining perfect memory but gives the method of encoding letters or syllables of the name of the thing into a set of predetermined images. It is magic in the sense that if this method is perfected, it works wonders. It’s a psychological mind game, the magic of psychology per se.

This magical book, this banned book will betray anyone who expects it to be something of magical Rosetta Stone for obtaining the secrets of perfect or better memorization. But that doesn’t mean the book is entirely abstruse to enjoy; the idea of the intellectual trinity comprised of Pallas Athena (The Senses), Vulcan (Imaginations), and Mars (Judgment/Reason), all of whom are overseen by Jove (the Soul) is quite intriguing and related to Socrates’s idea of reasoning. As a matter of fact, this book is not so much an esoteric book as deeply psychological literature that boasts Bruno’s indomitable intelligence and recalcitrant individualism that stigmatized him as a renegade. Maybe that’s the reason this illustrious intellect was burned at the stake as a dangerous pagan.

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farewell to sunday

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The day is gone, and the sun
disappears into the West,
As the chariot of Apollo is done
with its quest for the day’s zest.
And leisure and laughter make
the hours seem too short.
As this day is nearing to end,
so do my minutes hasten to the end.
Farewell sighs and sings a ballad.

Blasphemous

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The state of my heart is incarnate in Snoopy. The collective criticism on me is expressed in Charlie Brown.

It’s 10 minutes before regular Saturday Vigil mass begins, and I am sitting on my regular pew, feeling responsible rather than faithful. I wonder if I am being irreligious or irreverent toward the existence of God and the observation of the ancient rite of faith that has been performed for a long thread of centuries from the Last Supper to this Modern Day of Social Media. For my trinity of Heart, Soul, and Mind is not one with this belief when my emotions run counter to the teachings of the Church that seem incongruent with everyday reality. If this sentiment had been read aloud in the 16th or the 17th century Europe, then I would have been labelled an immoral atheist, a pariah cut adrift from the traditional mooring in the canonical faith and morals of Christianity.

My anxiousness about the existence of God is emotional, rather than logical in the working of the intellect, which has been shared by writers, philosophers, and even canonized saints of the Church. According to Professor Alec Ryne’s article of “The fury that filled the rise of atheism” as featured in this month’s BBC History, the workings of emotions and the first-hand experiences of uncharitable Christians and dogmatic clerics laid out a foundation of atheism in the 16th and 17th centuries, which later became nourishment of modern western civilization.

The French polymath Blaise Pascal knew about the power of emotions: “The heart has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing.” In fact, humans make the great choices of beliefs, values, purposes intuitively, unable to articulate how and why they have been made. This means that prior to the establishment of conformed sets of moral code and religious doctrines, the Creator has already imprinted moral and ethical guides in the human mind. This can be also meant that you can be an atheist or unbeliever with a good heart because your conscience, the law of nature, can be a guide to an outward moral virtue.

In fact, the Enlightenment’s prime critique of Christianity, that is the churches in a broad sense, was that it was “immoral.” Thinkers, such as Voltaire and Thomas Paine declaimed against the churches because of their moral revulsion. Paine furthered his vehement subjective on religion as a human invention, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, bereft of advanced metaphysical views on the churches. In other words, religion as an institution should not govern human free will to decide moral choices laid out by arbitrary set of invented rules.

Thanks to the works of philosophers based upon humanism, a discovery of belief in contemplative retreat to natural wonder percolated institutionalized belief through individual spiritual reformation. That you can find God in the beauty of nature and the wonder of how the human body and mind work is a way you can affirm the existence of God as a manifestation of God because all of it could not have created itself. As a matter of fact, this natural way of finding the existence of God was St. John Paul II’s favorable method of praying during his lifetime because being a former student theater actor, he could see the clear signs of God in the workings of nature. Which coincides in the Enlightenment thinkers’ views on belief, free from institutionalized doctrines of belief.

In light of the above, my crisis of belief was more of emotional than of intellectual. The temptations that there was no God, also sprang in the minds of St. Therese of Lisieux, St. John of Cross, and other saintly men and women. Even Jesus on the Cross cried out, “Father, why have you forsaken me?” Which indicates the workings of emotions in the face of existential strife, a vantage point from which belief they had steadfastly held no longer or momentarily felt true. From angry unbelief that religion was morally intolerable to anxious unbelief that religion was an ethical institution, the history of atheism has ironically redefined the notion about belief, authentic faith, by pointing out the corruption of the churches and purifying the understanding of God as the modern world is familiar with. For me, it’s high time I went hiking on the nearby mountain trails to seek a manifestation of belief for My Own Reformation of Belief.

for love of a tabby

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Praying cats

As a dog person who always has a soft spot for the man’s best friend, I tend to give a rather stoic glance on a cat that seems so high and aristocratic to reciprocate my regard. Cats are the cool, agile, cynical, and independent lords of the households, the poised and legal Pharisees of the animal kingdom. Yet a comparison of superiority between the canine and the feline is a puerile way to exert one’s favoritism of one species to another, which is reminiscent of eugenic theory of a superior race aggressively peddled by intellectuals in the early 20th century. That said, this note on cats reflects my findings of cats as man’s timeless companions in historical contexts, casting different lights over their stereotypical sinister image that I had about them.

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Mohammad and Muezza

Cats as a symbol of witches betray the fact that a revered religious figure such as Prophet Mohammad was very fond of a cat. So much so that his pet cat named Muezza was treated with the utmost tenderness. It is said that Mohammad used to shiver without his cloak in the cold rather than disturbing sleeping Muezza. Further to the Mohammedan episode of his beloved cat, cats have a sacred pedigree in Christianity as well. It is said that a local tabby, after a fresh wash, instinctively jumped in and laid down next to Baby Jesus. The cat’s warmth and soothing purr, all the more added by a pleasing after-wash scent, were conducive to an undisturbed sleep of the baby. In fact, researchers claim that letting a cat sleep on your bed at night will relieve you of symptoms of insomnia due to its calming purring sound that sends relaxing positive signal waves to your mental as well as physiological wavelength.

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C.S. Lewis and his Cat

C.S. Lewis, Author of the Chronicles of Narnia, also loved cats and had a stray cat he loved tenderly. Every morning he took his hat off when greeting his cat with pleasantly resonant “Good morning.” Moreover, when his veterinarian told Lewis to euthanize the cat due to its senility, the great Lewis refused to do so and nursed the cat for years until it finally met its creator.

Baby-Jesus-and-the-tabby-cat-artCome to think of it, cats have appealed to the fountains of imagination and boundless perception in the human mind. The ancient Egyptians worshiped the lithe beauty of cats that distinguished itself from other animals. Edgar Allen Poe also saw something magically fascinating in a feline creature as his creative muse in literature. For me cats do not seem to be as cold, arrogant, and coquettish as they used to be. I even say hi to my neighbor’s big beautiful cat in sight, although it sends me a quizzical look as if I were a Prodigal Daughter. But above all, now I think that not only dogs but also cats will go to heaven.

Happy Friday Medley

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Out of labor comes sweet lull,
From this in turn sounds a fanfare
that chimes the golden merry bell
of heart with mirth and laughter.

Author’s Note: I was on the Metro this morning, and a lady sitting next to me who was a total stranger told me with a wink, “Thank God, it’s Friday. Aren’t we just glad?” Ditto. It’s the Friday Euphoria that assuaged the constraints of our weekday malady and neutralized our fear of strangers. We all deserve a pat on the back for having made it through this week, as Snoopy cheers us up jubilantly.

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