Excerpts from Giordano Bruno's treatises: On Magic and A General Account of Bonding
As with any other topic, before we begin our treatise On Magic, it is
necessary to distinguish the various meanings of the term, for there are as
many meanings of ‘magic’ as there are of ‘magician’.
First, the term ‘magician’ means a wise man; for example, the Trismegistes
among the Egyptians, the druids among the Gauls, the gymnosophists
among the Indians, the cabalists among the Hebrews, the magi among the
Persians (who were followers of Zoroaster), the sophists among the Greeks
and the wise men among the Latins.
Second, ‘magician’ refers to someone who does wondrous things merely
by manipulating active and passive powers, as occurs in chemistry, medicine
and such fields; this is commonly called ‘natural magic’.
Third, magic involves circumstances such that the actions of nature or
of a higher intelligence occur in such a way as to excite wonderment by
their appearances; this type of magic is called ‘prestidigitation’.
Fourth, magic refers to what happens as a result of the powers of attraction
and repulsion between things, for example, the pushes, motions and
attractions due to magnets and such things, when all these actions are due
not to active and passive qualities but rather to the spirit or soul existing in
things. This is called ‘natural magic’ in the proper sense.
The fifth meaning includes, in addition to these powers, the use of
words, chants, calculations of numbers and times, images, figures, symbols,
characters, or letters. This is a form of magic which is intermediate between
the natural and the preternatural or the supernatural, and is properly called
‘mathematical magic’, or even more accurately ‘occult philosophy’.
The sixth sense adds to this the exhortation or invocation of the intelligences
and external or higher forces by means of prayers, dedications,
incensings, sacrifices, resolutions and ceremonies directed to the gods,
demons and heroes. Sometimes, this is done for the purpose of contacting
a spirit itself to become its vessel and instrument in order to appear wise,
although this wisdom can be easily removed, together with the spirit, by
means of a drug. This is the magic of the hopeless, who become the vessels
of evil demons, which they seek through their notorious art. On the other
hand, this is sometimes done to command and control lower demons with
the authority of higher demonic spirits, by honouring and entreating the
latter while restricting the former with oaths and petitions. This is
transnatural or metaphysical magic and is properly called ‘theurgy’.
Seventh, magic is the petition or invocation, not of the demons and
heroes themselves, but through them, to call upon the souls of dead
humans, in order to predict and know absent and future events, by taking
their cadavers or parts thereof to some oracle. This type of magic, both in
its subject matter and in its purpose, is called ‘necromancy’. If the body is
not present, but the oracle is beseeched by invoking the spirit residing in
its viscera with very active incantations, then this type of magic is properly
called ‘Pythian’, for, if I may say so, this was the usual meaning of ‘inspired’
at the temple of the Pythian Apollo.
Eighth, sometimes incantations are associated with a person’s physical
parts in any sense; garments, excrement, remnants, footprints and anything
which is believed to have made some contact with the person. In that case,
and if they are used to untie, fasten, or weaken, then this constitutes the
type of magic called ‘wicked’, if it leads to evil. If it leads to good, it is to be
counted among the medicines belonging to a certain method and type of
medical practice. If it leads to final destruction and death, then it is called
Ninth, all those who are able, for any reason, to predict distant and
future events are said to be magicians. These are generally called ‘diviners’
because of their purpose. The primary groups of such magicians use either
the four material principles, fire, air, water and earth, and they are thus
called ‘pyromancers’, ‘hydromancers’, and ‘geomancers’, or they use the
three objects of knowledge, the natural, mathematical and divine. There
are also various other types of prophecy. For augerers, soothsayers and
other such people make predictions from an inspection of natural or physical
things. Geomancers make predictions in their own way by inspecting
mathematical objects like numbers, letters and certain lines and figures,
and also from the appearance, light and location of the planets and similar
objects. Still others make predictions by using divine things, like sacred
names, coincidental locations, brief calculations and persevering circumstances.
In our day, these latter people are not called magicians, since, for
us, the word ‘magic’ sounds bad and has an unworthy connotation. So this
is not called magic but ‘prophecy’.
Finally, ‘magic’ and ‘magician’ have a pejorative connotation which has
not been included or examined in the above meanings. In this sense, a
magician is any foolish evil-doer who is endowed with the power of helping
or harming someone by means of a communication with, or even a pact
with, a foul devil. This meaning does not apply to wise men, or indeed to
authors, although some of them have adopted the name ‘hooded magicians’,
for example, the authors of the book De malleo maleficarum (The
Witches’ Hammer). As a result, the name is used today by all writers of this
type, as can be seen in the comments and beliefs of ignorant and foolish
Therefore, when the word ‘magic’ is used, it should either be taken in
one of the senses distinguished above, or, if it is used without qualifications,
it should be taken in its strongest and most worthy sense as dictated by the
logicians, and especially by Aristotle in Book v of the Topics. So as it is used
by and among philosophers, ‘magician’ then means a wise man who has the
power to act. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the word, when unqualified,
means whatever is signified by common usage. Another common
meaning is found among various groups of priests who frequently speculate
about that foul demon called the devil. Still other meanings are to be
found in the common usages of different peoples and believers.
Given these distinctions, we will deal generally with three types of
magic: the divine, the physical and the mathematical. The first two of these
types of magic necessarily relate to what is good and best. But the third type
includes both good and evil, since the magician may direct it towards either.
Although all three types agree on many principles and actions, in the third
type, wickedness, idolatry, lawlessness and charges of idolatry are found
when error and deception are used to turn things which are intrinsically
good into evil. Here, the mathematical type of magic is not defined by the
usually mentioned fields of mathematics, i. e., geometry, arithmetic, astronomy,
optics, music, etc., but rather by its likeness and relationship to these
disciplines. It is similar to geometry in that it uses figures and symbols, to
music in its chants, to arithmetic in its numbers and manipulations, to
astronomy in its concerns for times and motions, and to optics in making
observations. In general, it is similar to mathematics as a whole, either
because it mediates between divine and natural actions, or because it shares
or lacks something of both. For some things are intermediates because they
participate in both extremes, others because they are excluded from both
extremes, in which case they should not be called intermediates but a third
species which is not between the other two but outside of them. From what
has been said, it is clear how divine and physical magic differ from the third
To turn now to the particulars, magicians take it as axiomatic that, in all
the panorama before our eyes, God acts on the gods; the gods act on the
celestial or astral bodies, which are divine bodies; these act on the spirits
who reside in and control the stars, one of which is the earth; the spirits act
on the elements, the elements on the compounds, the compounds on the
senses; the senses on the soul, and the soul on the whole animal. This is the
By contrast, the ascending scale is from the animal through the soul to
the senses, through the senses to compounds, through compounds to the
elements, through these to spirits, through the spirits in the elements to
those in the stars, through these to the incorporeal gods who have an ethereal
substance or body, through them to the soul of the world or the spirit of the
universe; and through that to the contemplation of the one, most simple,
best, greatest, incorporeal, absolute and self-sufficient being.
Thus, there is a descent from God through the world to animals, and an
ascent from animals through the world to God. He is the highest point of
the scale, pure act and active power, the purest light. At the bottom of the
scale is matter, darkness and pure passive potency, which can become all
things from the bottom, just as He can make all things from the top.
Between the highest and lowest levels, there are intermediaries, the higher
of which have a greater share of light and action and active power, while the
lower levels have a greater share of darkness, potency and passive power.
As a result, all light in lower things, which comes to them from above, is
more powerful in higher things. And also, all darkness in higher things is
stronger in lower things. But the nature and power of light and darkness
are not equal. For light diffuses and penetrates through the lowest and
deepest darkness, but darkness does not touch the purest sphere of light.
Thus, light penetrates and conquers darkness and overflows to infinity,
while darkness does not penetrate or overwhelm or equal the light, but
rather is very weak compared to light.
Parallel to the three types of magic mentioned above, there are three
different worlds to be distinguished: the archetypal, the physical and the
rational. Friendship and strife are located in the archetypal world, fire and
water in the physical world, and light and darkness in the mathematical
world. Light and darkness descend from fire and water, which in turn
descend from peace and strife. Thus, the first world produces the third
world through the second, and the third world is reflected in the first
through the second.
Leaving aside those principles of magic which play on the superstitious
and which, whatever they be, are unworthy of the general public, we will
direct our thoughts only to those things which contribute to wisdom and
which can satisfy better minds. Nevertheless, no type of magic is unworthy
of notice and examination, because every science deals with the good,
as Aristotle says in the introduction to his De anima, and as Thomas and
other more contemplative theologians agree. Nevertheless, all this should
be kept far away from profane and wicked people and from the multitudes.
For nothing is so good that impious and sacrilegious and wicked people
cannot contort its proper benefit into evil.
. . .
In the order of the universe, one can recognize
that there is one spirit which is diffused everywhere and in all things,
and that everywhere and in all things there is a sense of grasping things
which perceives such effects and passions.
Just as our soul produces, originally and in a general way, all vital activities
from the whole body, and even though the whole soul is in the whole body
and in each of its parts, nevertheless, it does not produce every action in the
whole body or in each of its parts. Rather, it causes vision in the eyes, hearing
in the ears and taste in the mouth (but if the eye were located in any
other place, we would see in that place, and if the organs of all the senses
were located in any one place, we would perceive everything in that place).
In the same way, the soul of the world is in the whole world, and is everywhere
so adapted to matter that, at each place, it produces the proper subject
and causes the proper actions. Therefore, although the world soul is
located equally everywhere, it does not act equally everywhere, because
matter is not arranged to be equally disposed to it everywhere. Thus, the
whole soul is in the whole body, in the bones and in the veins and in the
heart; it is no more present in one part than in another, and it is no less present
in one part than in the whole, nor in the whole less than in one part.
Rather, it causes a nerve to be a nerve in one place, a vein to be a vein elsewhere,
blood to be blood, and the heart to be the heart elsewhere. And as
these parts happen to be changed, either by an extrinsic eYcient cause or by
an intrinsic passive principle, then the activity of the soul must also change.
This is the most important and most fundamental of all the principles
which provide an explanation of the marvels found in nature; namely, that
because of the active principle and spirit or universal soul, nothing is so
incomplete, defective or imperfect, or, according to common opinion, so
completely insignificant that it could not become the source of great events.
Indeed, on the contrary, a very large disintegration into such components
must occur for an almost completely new world to be generated from them.
. . .
Leaving aside other arguments, it is clear from these experiences that
every soul and spirit has some degree of continuity with the universal
spirit, which is recognized to be located not only where the individual soul
lives and perceives, but also to be spread out everywhere in its essence and
substance, as many Platonists and Pythagoreans have taught. As a result,
vision grasps the most distant things immediately and without motion,
and, indeed, the eye, or some part thereof, extends immediately to the stars
or immediately from the stars to the eye.
Furthermore, the soul, in its power, is present in some way in the entire
universe, because it apprehends substances which are not included in the
body in which it lives, although they are related to it. Thus, if certain
impediments are excluded, the soul has an immediate and sudden presence
with the most distant things, which are not joined to it by any motion,
which nobody would deny, but rather are directly present in a certain sense.
Experience teaches this also in the case of those whose nose has been cut
off; if they arrange to grow a new nose for themselves from the flesh of some
other animal, and if that animal whose flesh was used dies, then as the body
of that animal rots, so does the borrowed nose. From this, it is clear that the
soul diffuses outside of the body in every aspect of its nature. It also
follows that the soul knows not only the members of its own body, but also
everything for which it has any use, participation, or interaction.
There is no value in the stupid argument, advanced by those who lack
true philosophical principles, that a thing which is touched by something
else does not itself perceive that. Indeed, in one sense, this is true if we are
distinguishing between species or individuals, but it is false if we are distinguishing
one bodily part from another. For example, if someone injures
a finger or pricks one part of the body with a pin, the whole body is immediately
disturbed everywhere and not just in that part where the injury
And so, since every soul is in contact with the universal soul, it is not possible
to find in this case the same effects which occur in bodies which do
not mutually penetrate into each other. Rather, for spiritual substances, a
different comparison is needed. For instance, if innumerable lamps are lit,
they all act together as though they were one light, and no one light
impedes or reflects or excludes another. The same thing happens when
many voices are diffused through the same air, or if many visible rays, to
use the common saying, spread out to reveal the same visible whole. All
these rays pass through the same medium, and while some move in straight
lines and others obliquely, they do not interfere with each other. In the same
way, innumerable spirits and souls, when spread out through the same
space, do not interfere with each other such that the diffusion of one would
affect the diffusion of an infinity of others.
This power belongs not only to the soul but also to certain accidents,
like sound, light and vision. The reason is that the whole soul is located
in the whole body and in every part of the body, and that the whole soul
apprehends all things, however diverse and distant, which are around it
outside of its body. This is a sign that the soul is not included in the body
as its first act and substance, and that it is not circumscribed by the body.
Rather, in itself and by itself, it should be understood only as a second act.
This principle is the cause of innumerable marvellous effects, although its
nature and power need to be investigated. This soul and divine substance
cannot be inferior to the accidents which issue from it as its effects, traces
and shadows. I declare that if the voice operates outside the body which
produces it, and enters as a whole into innumerable ears on all sides, then
why cannot the whole substance, which produces the voice which is tied to
certain organs of the body, be located in different places and parts?
Furthermore, it must be noted that occult intelligence is not heard or
understood in all languages. For the voices spoken by humans are not heard
in the same way as the voices of nature. As a result, poetry, especially of the
tragic type (as Plotinus says), has a very great effect on the wavering
thoughts of the soul.
Likewise, not all writings have the same impact as those markings which
signify things by the particular way in which they are drawn and configured.
Thus, when certain symbols are arranged in different ways, they represent
different things: in a circle, the attraction of love; when opposed, the
descent into hate and separation; when brief, defective and broken, they
point to destruction; when knotted, to bondage; when strung out, to dissolution.
Furthermore, these symbols do not have a fixed and definite
form. Rather, each person, by the dictate of his own inspiration or by the
impulse of his own spirit, determines his own reactions of desiring or
rejecting something. And thus, he characterizes for himself each symbol
according to his own impulse, and as the divine spirit personally exerts certain
powers which are not expressed in any explicit language, speech, or
Such were the figures, so well designed by the Egyptians, which are
called hieroglyphics or sacred symbols. These were specific images selected
from natural objects and their parts to designate individual things. The
Egyptians used these symbols and sounds to converse with the gods to
accomplish extraordinary results. Later, when Theuth, or someone else,
invented the letters of the type we use today for other purposes, this
resulted in a tremendous loss, first of memory, and then of divine science
Like those Egyptians, magicians today formulate images, written symbols
and ceremonies, which consist of certain actions and cults, and
through which they express and make known their wishes with certain signals.
This is the language of the gods which, unlike all other languages
which change a thousand times every day, remains always the same, just as
natural species remain always the same.
For the same reasons, the spirits speak to us through visions and dreams,
but we claim that these are enigmas, because of our unfamiliarity and ignorance
and weak capacities, even though they are the very same sounds and
very same expressions used for representable things. Just as these sounds
elude our grasp, likewise our Latin, Greek and Italian sounds sometimes
fail to be heard and understood by the higher and eternal spirits, which
differ from us in species. Thus, it is no easier for us to be able to communicate
with the spirits than it is for an eagle to converse with a human. Just
as there can be conversation and agreement only by means of gestures
between two groups of humans who do not share a common language, likewise,
there can be communication between us and certain types of spirits
only by the use of certain signs, signals, figures, symbols, gestures and other
ceremonies. The magician, especially when using the kind of magic which
is called ‘theurgy’, can hardly accomplish anything without such sounds
On the communion and interaction of things
From the above, one can understand and explain how interaction occurs
not only between things which, to the senses, are near each other, but also
between things which are far apart. For, as was said above, things are united
by a universal spirit which is present as a whole in the whole world and in
each of its parts. As a result, just as different lights come together in the
same space, likewise, the souls of the universe, whether they be finite or
infinite in number, interact in their powers and activities. However, this
does not happen to bodies, because they are limited and circumscribed by
their surfaces and surroundings, and because they are composed of innumerably
different parts in different bodies and places (if we can speak of
place rather than space.) Therefore, no body can act on another body, and
no matter on other matter, nor can the material parts of one body act on the
parts of another body, but rather, all action comes from quality and form
and ultimately from soul. The soul first changes the dispositions, and then
the dispositions change bodies. Thus, bodies act on distant bodies, on nearby
ones and on their own parts, by means of a certain harmony, joining and
union which comes from form. For, since every body is governed by a soul
or a spirit which connects its parts, and since one soul acts on another
nearby soul in any direction and wherever it is, it follows necessarily that a
soul moves that body, wherever it is, because it is controlled by, and subordinate
to, that soul. Whoever is aware of this indissoluble continuity of
the soul and its necessary connection to a body will possess an important
principle both to control natural things and to understand them better.
From this follows clearly the reason why a void, i. e., a space empty of any
body, does not exist. For no body can leave one place without being
replaced by another. During life, the soul does leave its own body, but it
cannot leave the universal body, nor can it be abandoned by the universal
body, if you prefer to state it that way. For, when it leaves one simple or
complex body, it moves into another simple or complex body, or from one
body left behind, it goes to and enters into another. Thus, it has an indissoluble
connection with universal matter. And since its own nature is to be
a continuous whole everywhere, we realize that it exists together with a
material body everywhere. From this, we conclude that the void does not
exist in the sense of a space with no matter in it, but rather a void is a space
in which different bodies move and succeed each other. It also follows that
the motion of the parts of one body towards the parts of another body is
continuous. Motion occurs through a continuous space which is not interrupted
by any void located between full spaces, unless we wish to say that
a space in which there is no sensible body is a void.
A continuous body is an unobservable body, that is, an airy or ethereal
spirit. It is very active and very powerful and very similar to the soul, and
it is quite different from the dense sluggishness found in observable, composite
substances. The above mentioned powers of unobservable spiritual
bodies are the source of all the powers in observable bodies themselves.
Indications of this are the airy spirit which agitates and embroils all the
seas, and the invincible force of the winds which, even when they are rather
calm and quiet, disturb the earth, break trees and destroy houses. Lucretius
put it well when he said that it is this spiritual body which performs all
actions in observable things. Many philosophers have thought that this
spiritual body is the same thing as the soul, and the poet has said that this
air ‘has the power of fire and the soul’.
Furthermore, fire, which does not consist of dense matter like coal,
which is rather an ignited body, is to be understood as different from air
only accidentally. For true fire is, indeed, a spirit, which is sluggish when
it is located in an ignited body, but it is lively when it is outside of an ignited
body, and it is a form of motion in a flame or in some intermediate state.
This spirit, acting in different ways, forms different bodies and animals.
And although not all composite bodies are animals, it must be noted that
all animals have a soul which is of the same type in all the members of one
genus. However, that soul is not actuated in one and the same way because
of differences in the dispositions of matter and in objective ideals. From
this, it follows that, since there are different and contrary forms, there are
also differences and reasons why some animals congregate with each other,
being attracted and impelled to various places, while others flee from or
pursue each other. All of this is due to the way they are structured.
All things desire to preserve their own existence, and thus they forcibly
and unwillingly resist separation from the place where they exist and persevere.
This force is so strong that the sun or fire attracts water to itself
through airy space only after it has first made the water like air, that is, by
converting it into a vapour. After that has happened, then the substance
which was water is attracted willingly, and by means of the same impulse
of attraction, it tries to adapt itself so that it slowly becomes more and more
like fire, and finally, it becomes fire itself. On the other hand, that most subtle
body which is contained in the spirit in the form of fire changes back
into water by the opposite sequence as it congeals and thickens.
Therefore, the same substance and matter changes from water to vapour,
from vapour to air, and from air to the thinnest and most penetrating ethereal
body. The latter has been called a ‘spirit’ by the Egyptians, Moses and
Dionysius of Apollonia, although they differ because Moses did not
distinguish spirit from soul (according to his words; I do not judge his
meaning), which the others did. The other substance [earth] is dry and
composed of atoms, which are very solid and indissoluble bodies. In themselves,
they are neither continuous nor divisible and, thus, cannot be
changed into any other body. And the substance of water or spirit or air,
which is the same, never changes into the substance of atoms or dry earth,
nor vice versa.
. . .
On the double motion of things and on attraction
There are two kinds of motion, natural and preternatural. Natural motion
comes from an intrinsic principle, while preternatural motion is from an
extrinsic principle; natural motion is in harmony with the nature, structure
and generation of things, preternatural motion is not. The latter is
twofold: violent, which is against nature, and ordered or structured, which
is not contrary to nature. What is commonly called natural motion is found
in all genera or in all the categories, leaving out the distinction between
motion and mutation.
For now, we omit all the other classes of motion and their species and
consider only natural motion in place. One type of this is possessed by natural
things and does not move a thing away from it own proper place; this
is circular motion, or a version thereof. The other type is straight line
motion, which is not naturally possessed by natural things. For example,
air moves in a straight line to fill a void. A stone moves through air, and a
body which is heavier than water moves through water, in a straight line in
order to occupy the place in which it either is at rest or moves naturally.
And as much as it can, a contrary flees from its contrary in a straight line,
for example, fumes, vapour and water from fire (for it goes faster to a
greater distance through a straight line). Likewise, similar and agreeable
things tend towards each other in a straight line, for example, straw to
amber, and iron to a magnet, so that they can rest together or move better
and more easily.
There is also a third type of local motion, which is an inflow and an
outflow found in all natural things when any of their parts are ejected
in various ways and in every direction. For now, we will call this ‘spherical’
motion. For it does not occur either in a straight line, or to or from
or around a centre. Rather, it occurs along an infinity of lines from the
same centre, for while some parts of the body are ejected and emitted
outward from the body’s convex surface and perimeter, others are reciprocally
received and absorbed. Bodies grow and are invigorated when
the inflow of beneficial things is greater than their outflow, and they age
and weaken and become sluggish when the inflow of extraneous things
is greater than the outflow of natural things. This is the reason why corruption
and change occur in things, including all changes or alterations and
There is no controversy over the evidence for the first two types of
motion, and, as a result, the understanding and classifications of them are
well known. But a more careful consideration of the third type will be
found to be not only needed and helpful, but also necessary. The situation
is especially clear in things which have very strong sensible qualities. For
instance, fire warms in every direction and not just on one side or another.
For, as soon as it is lighted, it sends out its light and flames in every direction.
Likewise, a sound and a voice penetrate equally in all directions, if
they occur in a medium which is open on all sides. In the same way, it is
quite clear that the sense of smell is activated by the continuous emission
of small parts from an odoriferous body. This could not happen unless that
body’s substance were to flow out and emit its parts in all directions. The
same thing happens in the case of reflections and other such observable
occurrences. Innumerable other accidental things are caused by certain
parts flowing out, and sometimes these parts travel an enormous distance
from a very small observable source, as is clear when a small amount of
something emits a smell for many years.
In addition to these observable qualities or powers which are emitted
from bodies spherically, there are other, more spiritual and less heavy ones
which act not only on the body and on the senses, but also on the interior
spirit. The more powerful ones touch the powers of the soul and cause
various effects and passions, as is commonly thought to be true of many
stones, herbs and minerals. This is also clear in fantasies and in cases where
the eye has actively or passively been hit. An example is the basilisk who,
by looking at a man a long way off, can kill him with the sharpness of
How a magnet attracts iron, coral attracts blood, etc.
What was said above explains why magnets naturally attract things. There
are two kinds of attraction. The first occurs by agreement, as when parts
move to their proper place and are oriented to that place, and when similar
and harmonious things attract each other. The second type occurs without
agreement, as when contraries come together because the one which
cannot escape is overwhelmed, as when moisture is attracted by fire. This
is clear in the case of a burning object being held above a bowl containing
water, where the water is sucked up by the heat and rises rapidly. The same
thing happens when waterspouts and hurricanes occur at sea, with the
result that sometimes even ships are thrown a great distance upwards by
Attraction occurs in three ways. The cause of the first type is clear to the
senses, as is shown in the cases mentioned above. This also happens when
the attraction and absorption of air attract objects contained in the air. This
is, likewise, evident in pipes through which water is sucked, and thus rises
to any level. This happens for the reason given. For if the air in the tube is
attracted, and if there is no other air to take its place, then water or earth or
something else will fill that space. If nothing can replace it, then the air
would be held back and retained by the power of the vacuum, as is clear
when an opening is obstructed by objects being sucked in and swallowed.
Another example occurs when the tongue and lips are held together and
their opening is very tightly compressed around the mediating air, and vice
versa, when one sucks so that there is elicited from the mouth’s pores a
spirit which restores and re-establishes what had been removed from its
proper place or space.
There is another type of attraction which is not perceived by the senses.
This is the case of a magnet attracting iron. The cause of this cannot be
attributed to a vacuum or to any such thing, but only to the outflow of
atoms or parts, which occurs in all bodies. For when atoms of one type
move towards and mutually encounter other atoms of a similar type or of a
congenial and compatible nature, the bodies develop such an attraction and
impulse for each other that the overpowered body moves towards the whole
of the stronger body. For since all the parts experience this attraction, then
so must the whole body also be attracted.
This is illustrated for the senses in the case of two burning lamps. When
the lower one is extinguished, fumes and spirits flow up from it (these are
well disposed to become flames or to be nourishment for fire), and the
upper flame then rapidly descends to re-ignite the lower lamp. This is also
found in the small flames of torches. To avoid being extinguished by moisture
absorbed from the environment, they clearly are attracted to flammable
materials located nearby, and they clearly are attracted to a larger flame
either in a straight line or indirectly by jumping or leaping across.
And thus it happens that the overpowered parts of iron are attracted by
some type of power or quality (although not all activities in such natural,
composite things are due to active and passive qualities); even though this
happens sometimes by necessity, that is not the rule. The fact that this
attraction is caused by the outflow of parts from such bodies also indicates
that when a magnet or amber is rubbed, it attracts iron or straw much more
strongly. For the heat causes more parts to be emitted, since it opens the
pores and rarefies the body.
From this, it is clear that a similar explanation is to be given of how
rhubarb attracts choleric humours from the extremities and surface parts
of animals to their intestines, when it has suYcient power, that is, when it
is not so strong as to be expelled by nature before it acts, nor so weak as only
to move the humours and not attract them.
In magnets and similar things, the attractive force and power is not due
to an active or passive quality, in the commonly-used sense of a kind of action
or passion, as is found in the four elements. A sign of this is that when a
piece of iron touches a magnet, it acquires the same power of attracting
other pieces of iron. This could not happen if this were due to an elementary
quality. For when heat and coldness are accidentally present in a subject,
they quickly disappear when the source of heat is removed. Therefore,
one must explain this in terms of the emission of parts or of a spiritual substance
which flows from the magnet into the iron. It is diYcult to imagine
any other or even a similar cause of these effects. Also from this perspective,
which is fully self-consistent, it is easy to evaluate the various fantasies
and dreams which others have mentioned as the causes of this attraction.
This same explanation and cause accounts for the fact that diamonds are
said to block such an attraction, and similar types of explanation account
for various other things. For the outflow of a specific power can weaken
another power, or actuate and sharpen certain other powers. Thus, it is said
that diamonds confer magnanimity on those who wear them.
. . .
On the bonding of spirits
As was said above, some spirits reside in more subtle matter, others in more
dense matter; some reside in composite bodies, others in more simple bodies;
some in observable bodies, others in unobservable bodies. As a result,
the operations of the soul are sometimes easier, sometimes more difficult,
sometimes weaker, sometimes well adapted, sometimes impossible. Some
spirits operate within one genus, others act more efficaciously in another
... [Evil demons] freely distort things and play with humans
by counterfeiting illusions of fear, anger, religion and such things. They
understand languages and the sciences, but never make any firm assertions.
And so these hateful demons introduce confusion and doubt into the
human mind and senses.
There are also ethereal spirits which are pure and luminous. All agree
that they are hostile to no one and are completely good and friendly to
virtuous men. But the airy spirits are friendly to some, and hostile and
hateful to others.
The aqueous and terrestrial spirits are hostile, or at least are not friendly,
since they are less rational and more fearful. In accordance with the saying,
‘They hate what they fear,’ they deliberately cause injury.
But the spirits of fire, which are more properly called heroes and gods,
are said to be the ministers of God. The cabalists call them Fissim,
Seraphim and Cherubim, and the prophet of the Psalms said, ‘He made
the winds to be his angels, and the flames of fire his ministers.’ Hence,
Basil and Origen rightly argue that the angels are not completely incorporeal,
but are spiritual substances; that is, they are animals with very subtle
bodies, which divine revelation has said are fire and flames of fire.
In every group of spirits there are sovereigns and rulers, ministers, leaders,
governors and ranks, by which the wiser and more powerful dominate
and direct the more ignorant and more uncultured. These roles do not
endure forever, but they are also not as briefly constituted as they are
among humans. For in many ways, the lives of spirits are not comparable
to ours, since the soul’s union with a simple body is much more easily maintained
than it is with bodies like ours, which are composed of contraries.
Their bodies very easily ward off change. Thus, air and water undergo less
change than do composite bodies. Furthermore, they are easily restored.
For example, when air is divided, it is reunited very easily, and portions of
water reunite after they have been separated. Thus, Virgil did not use a
ridiculous poetic figure of speech when he said that Aeneas frightened the
shades when he cut through their abode with his drawn sword.
These various spirits occupy the bodies of humans, animals, stones and
minerals. There is no body which is completely devoid of spirit and intelligence.
Furthermore, no spirit possesses a permanent location for itself.
Rather, spirits fluctuate from one matter to another, and matter fluctuates
from one spirit to another, and from one nature or composition to another.
This is what alteration, mutation, passion and even corruption are: namely,
the separation of certain parts from others, and their recombination with
still others. For death is nothing more than such a disintegration. No spirit
and no body ever perishes; rather, there is only a continual change of
combinations and actualizations.
Parallel to the various actualizations, which arise from the various compositions
of things, there are various loves and hates. As was said, everything
desires to remain in its present state of existence and does not comprehend,
or even think about, any other new state of being. Therefore, there is, in
general, a bonding of reciprocal love of a soul for its own body, and of that
body (in its own way) for its soul. Thus, the diversity of natures and drives
gives rise to a variety of bonds which affect both spirits and bodies. We will
discuss these bonds immediately after we have first defined the analogy
between spirits and composites.
On the analogy of spirits
Porphyry, Plotinus and the other Platonists assign bodies to spirits as follows.
The best and purest spirits, which are also called ‘gods’, have bodies
of fire, which is the purest and simplest substance. The spirits which have
denser elementary bodies exist only by sharing in a more subtle element.
Thus, airy spirits have bodies mixed with air and fire; aqueous spirits have
bodies mixed with air and fire; terrestrial spirits have bodies mixed with
water, air and fire. These substances are invisible because of their thinness.
Furthermore, terrestrial and aqueous spirits sometimes choose to make
themselves visible by means of dense and concrete vapours, and they
appear in the purer regions, where the air is more calm and quiet.
I, myself, have seen them at Mount Libero and at Mount Lauro. And
they have appeared not just to me, but frequently to the local inhabitants
to whom they are sometimes hostile (but only moderately so), by stealing
and hiding the local animals, which they later return in a few days to their
It is well-known and widely accepted as true that these spirits have
also frequently appeared to workers in gold mines and in other underground
places, for example, in the mountains of Gebenna. These spirits
sometimes harmed them, sometimes helped them and sometimes predicted
events. This same type of spirit is found near Nola in a desolate place
near the temple of Portus, and under a certain cliff at the foot of Mount
Cicada, which was once used as a cemetery for plague victims. I myself,
as well as many others, have personally experienced them while walking
through that place at night. I was bombarded with many stones which violently
exploded at a very short distance from my head and other parts of
my body, and this continued in a threatening manner for some time.
Nevertheless, these stones did not inflict any bodily injuries on me or on
any of the others who reported the same experience. These incidents are
reported by Psellus in his book De daemonibus (On Demons), where he
describes them as refugees from light and as throwers of stones, although
their projectiles are harmless.
The existence of subterranean demons is established not only by the
senses, experience and reason, but also by divine authority in the very wise
Book of Job, which contains a great deal of the most profound philosophy.
When Job curses the day he was born with the words, ‘May the day of my
birth perish’, he adds after a few sentences, ‘Why was light given to one in
misery, and why was life given to those who are bitter of heart?’ ‘Why did
I not perish as soon as I left the womb?’ ‘Why was I not hidden and replaced
after having been aborted?’ ‘For now I would be silently asleep and would
rest in my dreams together with the rulers and princes of the earth, who
have built isolated houses for themselves and have filled them with their silver.’
The point at hand could not have been more clearly stated than in
these words from the mouth of Job himself.
As was said above, different spirits reside in different bodies, and their
ranks are distinguished by a definite order and justice. Origen, Pythagoras
and the Platonists list humans among the demons, including those who are
not good but who could become good or evil as they live out their lives in a
better or worse way. This is why both Christian theologians and the better
philosophers say that life is like a road and a transition, a journey and a
fight. The same judgement applies to other types of beings. Furthermore,
we know that the best things into which a soul or spirit enters are the things
which persevere the longest. That is what we said at the beginning: namely,
all spiritual substances reduce to one, all material substances to three, there
is one soul, one God, one first mind above all things and one soul of the
Also, it is very probable that all illnesses are due to evil demons, which
are expelled and replaced by their opposites with chants, prayers, meditations
and ecstacies of the soul. And it cannot be denied that, in some
people, there are dominating spirits who have the power to dispel certain
types of illnesses. They say that Cyrus and other Persian kings could cure
diseases of the spleen with the touch of their thumb. And it is well-known
and clearly established that the same is true of the Kings of France, who
cured disorders of the lymph glands with the touch of a thumb. It is also
said that someone who is the seventh son of the same father, and who was
born without the help of a woman, can do the same thing with his saliva.
One can prove that demons are material, and that they are of several
different kinds, by the fact that they have emotions, desires, angers, jealousies
and similar feelings found in humans, and in animals composed of
observable and more dense matter. That is why the slaughtering and sacrifice
of animals were instituted, for these demons are pleased a very great
deal by such ceremonies and their fumes. It must be that these demons are
constituted very much like us, because they also express their affections for
some peoples and nations, while they detest and hate all others.
Some of these demons have names and are famous and more powerful,
while others are more ordinary. The Romans called the latter ‘gods of the
dishes’, i. e., there were no specific offerings and sacrifices made to them.
It is credible that such offerings were not necessary, but rather were pleasing
to them (for they could provide for themselves whatever they needed).
Nevertheless, these offerings were established for them as luxuries, which
they would not have had without human contributions. For although they
are able to know much more than we can, they cannot do and change
as many things as we can, because of their spiritual and more noble and
more reasonable characters. They are delighted by sweet scents and were
adequately paid homage at one time by incense, saffron, moss, amber and
The more noble and more eminent spirits are said to be pleased by
hymns, chants and musical instruments. Above all, these are the gods who,
by nature, ‘have no need of us, and are neither favourably influenced by our merits, nor touched by our anger’.
Being affected by our good or evil actions pertains only to those spirits who
can ask and receive from us some arrangement whereby they can have a
better and happier life. This does not seem to be at all appropriate for those
spirits who already enjoy a most happy state.
Finally, it must be consciously accepted and firmly asserted that all
things are full of spirits, souls, divine power, and God or divinity, and that
the whole of intelligence and the whole soul is everywhere, although they
do not do everything everywhere. The poet has taken this idea from the
teachings of Pythagoras.
To begin: the heavens, the earth, the water wastes,
the lucent globe of the moon, the sun, the stars,
exist through inward spirit. Their total mass
by mind is permeated: hence their motion.
From mind and spirit comes life – of man, of beast,
of bird, of monsters under the foam-flecked seas.
The same message is contained in the sacred mysteries received by all
people. Thus, in the Psalms and in the Book of Wisdom, it is said, ‘The
spirit of God has filled the whole earth and everything which it contains’,
and elsewhere, ‘I fill the heavens and the earth’.
A material substance differs from the substance of the mind and soul and
sublime spirit as follows. The universal body is contained as a whole in the
whole universe, but the spiritual substance is contained as a whole in each
part. Thus, it exists everywhere as a whole and conveys everywhere an image
of the whole, sometimes more clearly and sometimes more obscurely,
sometimes in one way and sometimes in many ways. Thus, the entire
nature of its form and light is reflected as a whole by all particles of matter,
just as the universal body is reflected by all of matter.
This can clearly be seen in the case of a large mirror which reflects one
image of one thing, but if it has been broken into a thousand pieces, each
one of the pieces still reflects the whole image. Again, when different parts
or bodies of water are separated from the whole or from the universal ocean
by Amphitrite, they have different names and properties; when they later
flow together into one ocean, they have the same name and properties.
Thus, if all the spirits and parts of air were to flow into one ocean, they
would produce one soul, which elsewhere is innumerably multiplied. As a
result, the philosophers say that in the original state of things there was one
matter, one spirit, one light, one soul and one intellect.
Let us now turn our attention to the many bonds between spirits. This
is where the whole teaching of magic is to be found.
* The first bond which ties spirits together is general in character and is
represented metaphorically by the three-headed Cerberus of Trivia, the
doorkeeper of hell. This is the triple power which is needed by one who
binds, i. e., by the magician: namely, physics, mathematics and metaphysics.
The first is the base; the second is the scale; the third is the summit of the
scale. The first explains active and passive principles in general; the second
explains times, places and numbers; the third explains universal principles
and causes. This is a triple cord which is difficult to break.
* The second bond is also triple and is needed in the agent, in the action
and in the thing on which the agent acts. It consists of faith or credibility,
of invocations, of love and of strong emotions in the application of the
active to the passive. The role of the soul is to produce changes in the body
of the composite, and the role of the body is to change the soul materially.
If these bondings do not happen, or especially if they are not present, then
no amount of attention or motion or agitation will produce any results. For
a magician is most fortunate if many believe in him, and if he commands
* The third bond, which is the source of effectiveness, is the number of the
principles, which are distributed according to the four sectors of the universe
and which are needed for actions which occur in the heavens and in
nature. In addition, there are other principles needed for volitional and
preternatural effects, but they do not have a specific location.
* The fourth bond is the soul of the world, or the spirit of the universe,
which connects and unites everything with everything else. As a result,
everything has access to everything else, as was said above.
* The fifth bond is the souls of the stars and the principles of places, of the
winds and of the elements.
* The souls of demons which preside over times, days, storms and the
* The souls of men who are tyrants and rulers, and of those who have
acquired some degree of fame and thus have become spirits.
* The divine names and the names of the divine orders.
* Markings and symbols.
* Strong invocations and supplications to make the power of the superior
overcome that of the inferior, for example, to banish evil demons by good
ones, and to banish lower evil demons by higher ones. These demons are
enticed by sacrifices and holocausts; they are frightened by threats, and
they are summoned by the powers of inflowing rays of light.
* By the power of the threefold world: elementary, celestial and intellectual.
* The disposition to ask good things from good people, for example,
chastity, honesty, purification and abstinence.
* The adoption of cults and natural things in which there reside spirits
which are similar to those required for actions.
* The assessment of cults according to their different qualities.
* The force of consecration which comes from perseverance, from prayer
and from rituals.
* A knowledge of feast days and of the days and hours of good and bad
* A knowledge of the different objects and methods found in religious
observations in regard to the purity of their locations, and in regard to
ablutions, contacts, endings, clothing, incensing and sacrifices.
* The use of active and passive powers, for example, in the first or nearly
first elements, and in stones, metals, plants and animals, in accordance with
*The techniques of enchantment.
In addition to these general bonds, others are listed in sixteen articles in
the teachings of Albert. Some of these are mentioned here, while others
On the bondings of spirits, and first those arising
from the three conditions of agent, matter, and application
For actions actually to occur in the world, three conditions are required:
(1 ) an active power in the agent; (2 ) a passive power or disposition in a subject
or patient, which is an aptitude in it not to resist or to render the action
impossible (which reduces to one phrase, namely, the potency of matter);
and (• ) an appropriate application, which is subject to the circumstances
of time, place and other conditions.
In the absence of these three conditions, all actions are, simply speaking,
always blocked. For even if a flute player is perfect, he is blocked by a broken
flute, and the application of the former to the latter is useless. Thus, a
lack of power in the matter makes an agent impotent and an application
unfitting. This is what was meant when we said that an absence of these
three conditions, strictly speaking, always blocks an action.
Closer examination may show that the defect is due to only two, or even
only one, of these conditions. But a defect in any one of them should be
understood as meaning a defect in all three, as when the flute player and his
performance are perfect but the flute is defective, or when the player and
the flute are perfect but the performance is interrupted. If the whole
meaning of efficient action is taken to consist in the application, then the
first condition merges with the third, for the agent is nothing other than the
applicator, and to do something is nothing other than to apply something.
Not all things are by nature passive, or active, in relation to all other
things. Rather, as is said in the Physics, every passion is from a contrary,
and every action is on a contrary, or more specifically, on a disposed contrary,
as is stated in the common saying, ‘Active powers act on a properly
disposed patient’. From this, it is clear that water mingles and mixes with
water because of a similarity or awareness or sympathy, such that after they
have united, no device can separate the one from the other.
Indeed, pure or unmingled wine also easily mixes with water, and vice
versa, thus forming a mixture. But the parts of the wine contain some
amount of heat and air and spirits, and thus the wine is not completely
sympathetic with the water. As a result, they do not mix at the smallest level
but survive separately to a noticeable degree in a heterogeneous compound,
so that they can be separated again in various ways. The same thing
happens to sea water, which yields fresh water when it is distilled or filtered
through wax containers. This would not happen if the mixture had been
perfect. Furthermore, oil will never mix with water because the parts of oil
cohere and are glued together like lovers, and they neither penetrate nor
are penetrated by the parts of water. Therefore, anyone who studies the
mixing of bodies with each other should give a great deal of attention to the
condition of the parts, for not everything can be mixed with everything
Thus, one must study the arrangement, composition and differences of
the parts, for a whole can be penetrated by a whole in one direction but not
in another. This happens in all things, like stones, wood and even flesh,
which are penetrable, or more penetrable from one side or direction than
another. This is clear when fluids are expelled by pushing along the length
of fibres. And wood is more easily split lengthwise, for wood is more easily
penetrated along its length than its width because the pores located
between the fibres create tubes or passages in that direction.
Furthermore, one must not only examine the character and arrangement
of the parts, but also the condition of the whole structure, for certain
passions are naturally adapted to be received by one subject rather than by
another. For example, a torpedo fish causes a shock to the hand of the fisherman,
but not to the net. And, as the old joke says, the fires of love burn
the heart and the breast, but leave the chest cold and uncooked.
The same thing happens with thunderbolts, which have at times liquified
a steel sword without damaging its scabbard. An astonishing event also
happened in Naples to a very beautiful and noble young girl whose pubic
hair was burned, but nothing else. They also say that when the wood of a
barrel was burned away, the wine remained firm and solid without it. Many
such things have happened because of this ultimate occult power which
resides in the atoms of this kind of fire and which acts in one place but
not in another. The laurel and the eagle are used as insignia by generals
and poets because they are never touched by lightning, and so like them,
generals and poets are friends of Apollo and Jupiter.
What happened to that young girl does not happen to just any human
being. The reason for this is that not all people have the same physical constitution
and temperament and the same quality of spirit, and, as a result,
not all have a soul that can stop the rains and command the winds and the
Hence, magicians carefully examine both species and individuals in
order to grasp the effects of their power. Being prudent leaders, they recruit
as their soldiers and gather as their military aides not those who are friends
or well-known or highly recommended people, but rather those who are
more favoured by fortune and those who usually are lucky enough to avoid
such dangers. Likewise, by wearing and carrying and otherwise using certain
plants and minerals, they try, as if by means of direct contact, to appropriate
for themselves certain prerogatives of power. And thus, as leaders
protected by laurel crowns, they do not fear the lightning.
Next it should be noted that for specific animals there are poisons, like
hemlock generally is for humans, which usually are consumed as a very
helpful nourishment by other animals, and which readily fatten them.
Likewise, it should be seen that for various species there are different foods,
poisons and antidotes. An important principle of magic and of medicine is
to be able to distinguish the different constitutions and explanations of illnesses
and good health, and the principles of changing or preserving their
forms and dispositions by using external objects. Thus, the chemist knows
that nitric acid acts on hard things, such as iron, silver and bronze, but not
on gold or lead. He also knows that quicksilver absorbs oil very rapidly, but
gold completely rejects and repudiates it. Furthermore, the seeds or juice
of verbena plants are strong enough to break up stones in the bladder yet
seem to do no damage to flesh, bones, membranes and other parts of the
There are those who explain these facts in terms of the pores being wide
or narrow. I would readily grant this in some cases, but not in most cases,
nor in the more important cases which are discussed above, for the reason
why nitric acid penetrates one thing more than another is not that the one
has wider pores. Likewise, the spirit of the verbena plant breaks up stones
but not bones and flesh, even though the latter has larger pores. And what
would they say about diamonds which are not split by fire, the smallest and
most penetrating of bodies, even though they do absorb the blood of a billy
Therefore, one must maintain the following general principle: not all
things are influenced by everything else, and not all effects happen to everything
in the same way. To give a proper explanation, the reason must be
found in individual effects and cases. The occult forms and differences in
things do not have their own names. They are not observable by means of
vision and touch, and explanations of their specific origins are not to be
found in visual and tactile differences. All we can say about these occult
forms is that they do exist. As a result, we conclude that not even the
demons themselves could talk about them easily, if they were to choose
to discuss them with us, using our words and the meanings which are
signified by our words.
Secondly, the bondings arising from sounds and songs
A second type of bonding is based on the conformity between numbers,
between measures and between times. This is the origin of those rhythms
and songs which have such a very great power. Some people are affected
more by tragedies, others by comic melodies, and others are affected generally
in all cases. Some even react like that barbarian general who, when
he heard musical instruments played very skillfully, said that he preferred
to hear the neighing of his horse. He clearly proved by this that he was a
disgrace and was unworthy of appearing to be human.
By the term ‘songs’ we intend to refer to much more than harmonies,
for as some have experienced, the most powerful songs and poems seem to
contain more discord than harmony. Perhaps such was the condition of the
soul of that subhuman general who was more easily influenced by the sounds
of his horse’s neighing. For just like someone who looks at the sensible harmonies
of vision, the souls of humans and horses and dogs are captured by
different harmonious sounds, and different things are beautiful according
to the condition of each species. As is said in the proverb ‘from an ass to a
lyre’, not all songs are well suited for everyone. And as different harmonies
bind different souls, so also different magicians bind different spirits.
These bonds are tenacious for two reasons. First, they are perceived or
encountered in the soul through hearing, just as the voices of the Marsi and
the Psylli became such powerful voices when they were present in the serpent.
Second, the bonding effect is brought to completion by an occult
murmur which, analogously to the relations between spirits, did not originally
come from the binder to the bound for the purposes of bonding. For
those who are enchanted do not always hear the voice of their enchanters,
and even when they do, they are not sensibly affected immediately.
Further, one should note that the rhythm or characteristics of one sound
can mingle with, and obscure, the rhythm of another sound. As a result, it
is said that when a wolf, or some say a deer, is seen by people who are
bonded to the spirit of that animal, they lose their voices and cannot easily
form words. And they say that when a drum made of sheep skin is located
next to a drum made of wolf skin, the former loses its sound, even though
otherwise it emits strong sounds when forcefully hit. The reason for this is
that the spirit which somehow remains in the dead wolf skin can bond with,
and control, the spirit in the sheep skin, and thus they are subject to the
same antagonism and dominance which are present in the living animals.
I have not personally experienced this. But it is a possibility and is reasonable,
even though this relationship is not always found between living
things and between species. The ass fears the wolf no less than does the
sheep, and is equally frightened by its danger. Nevertheless, a drum made
of the skin of a wolf does not diminish the equally strong beats from a drum
made of the skin of an ass, but rather increases their loudness considerably.
Let us next consider lyres whose strings are made of the tendons of
sheep and wolves, which are always opposed. It is well-known by many that
if two lyres or cithers are constructed in the same way, and if a string of only
one of them is plucked, its sound is not only consonant with the string of
the other, but it will generate the same motion in the other. This, indeed,
is quite understandable. It also happens that, through a certain sound or
gesture or other such thing, the presence of one person affects the soul of
another person, and thus an indissoluble friendship arises. There are those
we dislike without reason as soon as we see them, and also others we love
without cause. This love and hate are sometimes reciprocal and sometimes
not. This happens because of the domination of the one person over the
other in respect to one type of feeling, which in turn is blocked by another
type of feeling in the other person. Thus, we are attracted by a feeling of
love for one type of dog or bird, while they may be struck by fear, and thus
avoid and dislike us.
This type of bonding also includes prayers and petitions, which some
use to solicit both peers and superiors in cases where considerations of justice,
honesty or reason produce no results. Sometimes proposals from fools
and buffoons are so effective that people who are clever try to ensnare the
souls of their superiors by playing such a role rather than by using more
proper means. This happened during the papacy of Julius iii, who rejected
and dismissed those who would pray, beg or cry. But if someone
approached him with humour and wit, after kissing his foot, that person
would be able to get from him whatever he wanted.
We might also consider the art of speaking and its type of spiritual bonding.
This occurs in songs and poems and in whatever orators do to persuade,
to dissuade and to move the emotions. The orators omit the other
parts of this art and try to hide them in the lap of magicians or philosophers
or those versed in politics. But Aristotle has covered most of it in his
Rhetorica ad Alexandrum, where he organizes his considerations under
two headings. He examines first what the speaker needs and finds helpful,
and second what is pleasing and amusing in what he says or binds, by considering
his habits, status, conclusions and practices. But this is not the
place to recall and review all these matters.
Thirdly, the bondings arising from vision
The spirit is also bonded through vision, as has been said frequently above,
when various forms are observed by the eyes. As a result, active and passive
items of interest pass out from the eyes and enter into the eyes. As the
adage says, ‘I do not know whose eyes make lambs tender for me’.
Beautiful sights arouse feelings of love, and contrary sights bring feelings
of disgrace and hate. And the emotions of the soul and spirit bring
something additional to the body itself, which exists under the control of
the soul and the direction of the spirit. There are also other types of feelings
which come through the eyes and immediately affect the body for some
reason: sad expressions in other people make us sad and compassionate and
sorry for obvious reasons.
There are also worse impressions which enter the soul and the body, but
it is not evident how this happens and we are unable to judge the issue.
Nevertheless, they act very powerfully through various things which are in
us, that is, through a multitude of spirits and souls. Although one soul lives
in the whole body, and all the body’s members are controlled by one soul,
still the whole body and the whole soul and the parts of the universe are
vivified by a certain total spirit.
Hence, the explanation of many spiritual feelings must be found in
something else which lives and is conscious in us, and which is affected and
disturbed by things which do not affect or disturb us. And sometimes we
are touched and injured more significantly by those things whose assaults
we are not aware of than we are by things which we do perceive. As a result,
many things which are seen, and forms which are absorbed through the
eyes, do not arouse any consciousness in our direct and external sensory
powers. Nevertheless, they do penetrate more deeply and lethally, so
that the internal spirit is immediately conscious of them, as if it were
a foreign sense or living thing. Thus, it would not be easy to refute some
of the Platonists and all of the Pythagoreans, who believe that one
human person of himself lives in many animals, and when one of these
animals dies, even the most important one, the others survive for a long
Hence, it would obviously be stupid to think that we are affected and
injured only by those visible forms which generate clear awareness in the
senses and the soul. That would not be much different from someone who
thinks that he is injured more or less only by blows of which he is more or
less conscious. However, we experience more discomfort and suffering by
being pricked by a needle or by a thorn irritating the skin than we do by a
sword thrust through from one side of the body to the other, whose effect
is later felt a great deal more, but at the time we are unaware of the injury
caused by its penetration of parts of the body.
So, indeed, there are many things which stealthily pass through the eyes
and capture and continuously intrude upon the spirit up to the point of the
death of the soul, even though they do not cause as much awareness as do
less significant things. For example, seeing certain gestures or emotions or
actions can move us to tears. And the souls of some faint at the sight of the
spilling of another’s blood or in observing the dissection of a cadaver. There
is no other cause of this than a feeling which binds through vision.
Fourthly, the bondings arising from imagination
The role of the imagination is to receive images derived from the senses
and to preserve, combine and divide them. This happens in two ways.
First, it occurs by the free creative choice of the person who imagines, for
example, poets, painters, story writers and all who combine images in some
organized way. Second, it occurs without such deliberate choice. The
latter also happens in two ways: either through some other cause which
chooses and selects, or through an external agent. The latter, again, is
twofold. Sometimes the agent is mediated, as when a man uses sounds or
appearances to bring about stimulations through the eyes or ears. And sometimes
the agent is unmediated, as when a spirit, rational soul or demon
acts on the imagination of someone, asleep or awake, to produce internal
images in such a way that something seems to have been apprehended by
the external senses.
Consequently, some possessed people seem to see certain sights and hear
certain sounds and words which they truly think are caused by external
subjects. Hence, they strongly and persistently assert that what they have
seen and heard is true, when it is their reason which is deceived, and not
their senses, for they do hear what they hear, and they do see what they see.
But the very same thing which they think they see as derived from external
sounds in their ears and from external sights absorbed by their vision
are fantasy images presented to their internal sense. However, they think
that these impressions of the internal sense are the real things. Thus, it happens
that they refuse to be recalled to a healthier point of view by actual
witnesses, whom they prefer to reject in favour of their own imagination,
and who they truly think are deaf and dumb. Medically these matters are
cases of mania and melancholy, and are called ‘the dreams of the wakeful’.
Further, this type of bonding is not due simply to a material principle,
as is believed by certain well-known medical people with an obstinacy
which is most crude and oppressive. Nor is it due simply to demonic or diabolical
efficient causes, as is believed on their part by some theologians.
Rather, both causes co-operate. The material factor is a melancholic
humour, which we call the kitchen or the bathhouse of the Saturnalian
demons. But the eYcient cause and moving spirit is a demon who does not
have a completely immaterial substance, because these demons seem to be
endowed with many animal affections and have definite properties of
denseness. Although they are spiritual substances, nature has given them
a body which is very thin and is not endowed with senses. They belong to
that genus of animal which, as was said, has more species than do living,
composite and sensory animals.
Now, a specific soul comes to a specific seed which has been properly
deposited in a specific place, or conversely, a body makes or produces from
itself, as it were, a specific animal form or living thing. For example, from
one seed the olive is born, from another a dog, from another a human, and
in general one thing or another is suited to be born from a body which is
structured in one way or another. As the poet says, ‘The eggs come more
readily to where the seed is sown’. As a result, like the proper seed being
sown in the proper field, good and evil spirits and the beginnings of consciousness
are born from a proper mixture and combination of specific
hearts or brains or animal spirits, and conversely, improper mixtures produce
disturbances. These results are mutual: certain souls bring certain
bodies into existence, and certain bodies bring certain souls into existence,
in accordance with what are called the substantial and the specific
difference and subsistence.
When two spirits approach and come near to each other, either because
of an accidental combination or because of objects attached to the body,
then the dominance of a raging spirit can be removed safely and methodically.
This is done either by incantations, that is, by rhetorical and friendly
and curing persuasions which restore the besieged spirit; or by the expulsion
and evacuation of noxious material with purgative medicines; or
by foods and a happy, sunny atmosphere which are agreeable to human
life, and which introduce better matter for the spirit; or by soothing and
moderating the harmful materials which sometimes enter into the mix.
As a result, the spirit alone does not produce these living animal operations,
nor does the body do this without the spirit. Rather, for these things
to occur, whether they be good or bad, or in accord with or in opposition
to the nature of the species, what is required is both a material principle
and a formal or efficient cause of the needed type. Further, it is reasonable
to say that a simple purgation of humours and a simple diet are adequate
to cure disturbed images and to free the internal senses which are bound
in this way.
However, from this, one cannot accept the conclusion drawn by a most
stupid and dull-witted medical man in his book De occultis naturae miraculis
(On the Hidden Miracles of Nature), which presents more nonsense
than words and sentences can describe. He concludes that spirits are the
same thing as humours because the expulsion and evacuation of humours
also expels and evacuates these spirits with their marvellously independent
and structured powers. In this way, with equal justice, one could say that,
because the excellence of the soul forces it to leave the body and be many
souls in succession, he should think that the soul, itself, is a humour or
excrement. Or if he himself were to decide to abandon his house and country
because a shortage of food and water made him ignorant of medicine
and of the obvious colours and sounds of nature, we should conclude that
he himself belongs to the same species as the things which expelled him.
Since the senses happen to be bound and obligated in all these ways,
magic and medicine must pay very special attention to the workings of
the imagination. For this is the doorway and entrance for all the actions
and passions and feelings of animals. And to that linkage is tied the more
profound power of thought.
Fifthly, the bondings arising from thought
The bondings of the imagination would not be very significant in themselves
if they did not duplicate the powers of thought, for those appearances
which bind and obligate the souls of those who are simple-minded,
stupid, credulous and superstitious, are derided and condemned as empty
shadows by those who have a sober, disciplined and well-bred mind. As a
result, all practitioners of magic, medicine and prophesy produce no
results without a pre-given faith, and unless they act according to the
rules of that faith. (We use the word ‘faith’ here in the more general sense
in which it is used by these people, individually and as a group.)
This faith arises in some people from their pre-given powers, which are
well disposed and organized, and in others, it comes from a disturbance of
their powers. Indeed, great results are produced by those bonds which come
from the words of a man of eloquence, by which a certain disposition arises
and flourishes in the imagination, which is the only entrance for all internal
feelings and is the bond of bonds. This is the point of Hippocrates’ saying,
‘The most effective doctor is the one whom most believe’. The reason for
this is that he binds many people with his eloquence or presence or fame.
This applies not only to medicine but to any type of magic or to any power
identified by a different title, for, in the act of binding, the imagination must
be stimulated or else one can hardly motivate anyone by other means.
In regard to the notion that it is possible for a person to do everything
on his own, the theologians believe, agree and state publicly that it is
impossible to help those who do not believe the minister. The reason for
their lack of power lies in the imagination which they cannot bind. Indeed,
kinsmen reject and laugh at physicians and divines because they know
about their humble origins and education. As the well-known adage states,
‘No one is a prophet in his own land’.
Thus, someone who is less well-known can bind people more easily.
Given a good general impression and a disposition to be believed, he can
somehow use the power of his soul to arrange, disclose and explain things
for them, as if windows which had been closed are opened to receive the
light of the sun. This opens the door to those other impressions which the
art of binding seeks in order to establish further bonds, namely, hope, compassion,
fear, love, hate, indignation, anger, joy, patience, disdain for life,
for death, for fate, and all of the powers which cross over from the soul to
change the body.
There is no need for a more detailed investigation and consideration of
the changes which occur to the types of bondings which follow upon faith
and a good impression, and which were just listed above. Further, it is not
our business at present to examine the more spiritual powers of the soul
which follow next: namely, memory, reason, experience, intellect and mind,
because the acts of these powers do not flow over into the body and change
it. Rather, all physical changes originate from the powers which are prior
to thought and which are its principal and efficient causes.
As a result, all magical powers, active and passive, and their species are
dependent upon magical bondings. As Plotinus has asserted, both the wise
man and the fool can be bound by the natural principles residing in them,
unless the subject also contains some principle which can reject and dismiss
magical influences. For as was said above, not everything enters into
everything else, and not everything mixes with everything else, as, for
example, water and oil do not mix. As Plotinus himself has stated, and as
Porphyry confirms in his Vita Plotini [Life of Plotinus], the evil spells with
which a certain Egyptian tried to bind and injure Plotinus were turned
back against him. These things are discussed in our De vinculis in genere
[A General Account of Bonding].
A General Account of Bonding
. . .
* Humans are bound in many ways. Of all the things which bind, certainly
more of them bind humans than brute animals, and more of them bind
those who have an active character than those who are dull witted; those
who are well endowed in their faculties and powers are aware of more
details, circumstances and purposes, and thus, they are moved by more
* How the senses are panderers for the bonding agent. Dull witted people are
bound by lusts, which are aroused infrequently and by natural impulses,
and which are few in number and limited to base nourishments. Such people
are not soothed by eloquent speech, nor are they won over by beauty,
music, painting or by any of the other attractions of nature.
* Why only one bond is not enough. As I am bound by more things, I become
aware of the many things which bind me, for there are many different kinds
of beauty. Thus, I am inflamed and bound in a relationship by one thing in
one way and by other things in other ways. If every relationship were
reduced to one, then perhaps one thing would be welcomed for all purposes
and for all occasions. But up to now, this has not happened in nature, which
has spread about many bonds of beauty, happiness, goodness, and the various
contraries of these dispositions, and which widely distributes them
separately according to the numerous types of matter. But it does sometimes
happen that a person is so tied to one object that his awareness of
other things is weakened, overwhelmed and suppressed, either because of
the dullness of the senses which are blind to and neglectful of all other
things, or because one bond is so strong that it weakens and distorts him.
But this is extraordinary and happens rarely and in only a few cases. For
example, there are some whose souls seem to be so carried away by the hope
of eternal life and by a vivid faith and credulousness, and seem to be so separated
from the body in some way, and so strongly bound and controlled
by some object in their fantasies and in their opinions, that they do not
seem to be aware of the most horrible torments. This clearly happened to
the philosopher Anaxarchus, to Andrew the Galilean, to the priest
Lawrence, and to others up to our own day, who were murdered by rulers
and kings for the sake of their religion. This also happened for the sake of
reason to Diogenes the Cynic and to Epicurus, who argued that they could
banish all awareness of pain and pleasure by binding their souls, according
to natural laws and principles, with a contempt of all things and of every
type of opinion … They thought they would attain the highest good available
in this life to the human species by preserving their souls in a state of
heroic pleasure above sorrow, fear, anger and other feelings. They claimed
that, by holding in contempt the ignoble things in this very transitory life,
they could attain a life similar to the gods even while in this mortal body.
They thought that they had actually attained this highest good and sublime
virtue, and that they had shown this to others.
* What power contributes to a bonding agent. There are those who say that a
bonding agent of greater power binds something else which in turn does not
bind it; if the powers are equal, then there is a reciprocal bond which consists
in a balance of that quality. But it would follow from this opinion that bonding
powers are continually changed and altered as forms, circumstances and
natures are altered, for a young man does not bind the same things which
he bound as a boy, and a woman does not bind the same things which she
bound as a girl. Hence, a bonding power is not simple or reducible to only
one thing, but is composite, variable in nature and composed of contraries.
* What is bound more easily. A person who is more truly human is bound
most strongly by the most worthy things, and he prefers much more to seek
out more worthy things than to possess base things, for certainly, we are
easily irritated by base things and more ardently seek for things which we
do not easily attain.
* That the same thing bonds contraries in the same way. Bonding agents
which pertain to the same type of bonding seem to be confusing, and in a
sense even contradictory, when one considers the contrasting effects and
circumstances of the bonds. Consider, for example, the bonds of physical
love, which seem to be both a fire and snare at the same time, which drive
one to shout and to be silent, to joy and to sorrow, to hope and to desperation,
to fear and to boldness, to anger and to gentleness, to weeping and to
laughter. Hence the verses:
I, who carry high the standard of love,
have frozen hopes and burning desires:
at the same time I tremble and freeze, burn and spark,
I am mute and fill heaven with ardent cries.
From the heart I sparkle and from my eyes I shed water;
I live and I die, laugh and lament.
The waters live and the fire does not die,
for in my eyes I have Thetis and in my heart, Vulcan.
* A bonding agent does not bind different things with the same bond. A thing
is not absolutely beautiful if it binds only playfully; it is not absolutely good
if it binds only usefully; it is not absolutely large if it is limited. Regarding
beauty, notice how monkeys and horses please each other; indeed, not even
ffenus pleases some types of humans and heroes. Regarding goodness,
notice how all things contain contraries, and how different animals find
what is good for them under the seas or on dry land, in mountains or in
fields, in abysses or on summits.
* He who binds. Therefore, he who knows how to bind needs to have an
understanding of all things, or at least of the nature, inclination, habits, uses
and purposes of the particular things that he is to bind.
* No one particular thing can bind everything. What is absolutely beautiful
and good and large and true binds every feeling and every mind absolutely.
It destroys nothing; it contains and seeks out all things; it is desired and
pursued by many because it invigorates with different types of bonds.
Hence, we abundantly acquire many skills, not to be able to act universally
and simply, but rather to do this at one time, and that at another time. Thus,
since no particular thing is absolutely beautiful, good, true, etc., whether it
be above all genera or in any particular genus or species, it follows that
nothing can bind simply at any of these levels. Nevertheless, there is a
desire for the beautiful, good, etc., in all things, for everything seeks to exist
and to be beautiful in every way, at least according as its species and genus
allow. Beauty and goodness are one thing for one species, and another thing
for another; in one thing one contrary dominates, and in another the other
dominates. The total beauty and goodness of one species cannot be attained
except through the whole species for all eternity and in each of its individual
members taken separately. Testimony to this in regard to human beauty
is given by Zeuxis in his painting of Helena, whom he selected from among
the young women of Crotona. Although he has given us a girl who is beautiful
as a whole and in every detail, how could he have ever presented complete
beauty in every way, since the different types of physical beauty in the
female species are innumerable, and only some of them can be found in any
one subject? For beauty, which consists of a special symmetry or of some
other incorporeal aspect of physical nature, occurs in a myriad of forms and
arises from innumerable ordered patterns. Thus, just as the rough surface
of a stone does not meet, fit and adhere to the rough surface of any other
stone, except when their folds and cavities correspond a great deal, likewise
not every quality will reside in any soul. Therefore, different individuals
are bonded by different objects. And even though the same object bonds
both Socrates and Plato, it binds each of them in a different way. Some
things excite the masses, other things affect only a few; some things affect
the male and the manly, other things the female and the feminine.
* The various instruments of the bonding agent. Nature has distinguished,
dispersed and disseminated the objects of beauty, goodness, truth and value
in its own way. And, as a result, different things can bind for various reasons
and for different purposes. For example, a good farmer binds and
becomes admirable for one reason, a cook for another reason, a soldier for
another, and a musician, a painter, a philosopher, a boy, a girl, for different
reasons; one of them walks better, while another speaks better. No one of
these alone possesses all things in all ways. Rather, the one who is found to
be happy and skilful in more ways and at more levels will bind more things,
will rule in more ways and will win out over more people of their own
* The opportunities for the bonding agent. We experience various feelings
at different times and on different occasions, and there is no one measure
common to them all. Likewise, there is no one and simple factor which can
please everyone or satisfy all things, much less does any one thing satisfy
different persons or one person at different times. For example, neither the
same food nor the same quantity or quality of food always satisfies. This
principle applies to all things which bond our appetites.
* The different types of bonding agents. Some things bond by their own
power. Other things bond because of their quantity or because of one of
their parts. Still other things bond because they are aided by something else
to which they are attached or which properly disposes them, as when a
beautiful building arises out of irregularly shaped parts.
* The variable power of the bonding agent. There are many things which
we judge to be beautiful but which nevertheless bind us as good, for example,
a horse, a ship, a house, a statue, a dog or a bird. But a beautiful person
does not bind us in order to be considered good, and a good person does
not bind us in order to be thought to be beautiful. It could happen that
crime and error are joined to the beautiful. Consider a beautiful but poor
woman: the more disturbing she is, the more easily one tends to give her
a gift. There are diverse reasons for diverse things, contrary reasons for
contrary things, and similar reasons for similar things.
* Where the bonding agent is located. Those who have not studied the matter
too deeply, like the Platonists, think that that which binds is the form
of the thing, and crosses over from the thing to the mind, even though it
does not leave the object itself. This is like fire which does not lessen when
it communicates its form, and like an image which is in an object first, then
in the mirror, then in the intervening space, and finally in the eye. But considering
the matter more profoundly, we find that, indeed, it does exist in
the body, and it consists of a certain physical bond, but, like the soul whose
powers reveal its condition, it does not occupy any specific part of the body.
Indeed, even though the amorous effects of love may arise from the eyes or
the mouth or the complexion, nevertheless it is clear that it is not found in
them alone, nor does it arise from them alone. For the eyes, considered separately
and by themselves, do not have the same force when they are not
united with the other parts of the face. The same is true of the mouth, the
nose and the complexion, which are not beautiful when depicted separately
by a painter. As a result, the nature of beauty is indefinite and quite indescribable,
and the same is true of the nature of goodness and cheerfulness.
The complete nature of a bond is to be found not just in the object itself,
but also in another equally important place, i. e., in the one who is bound.
Whether food is greedily consumed or is returned uneaten after a meal,
this makes no difference at all as far as the substance and quality of the food
is concerned. And the bonds of love, which were intense before sexual
intercourse, become relaxed when the seed is ejaculated and the fire
becomes moderated, even though the beautiful object remains the same.
Therefore, the whole nature of a bond cannot be found in the object.
* The predispositions of the bonding agent. The bonding agent is said to be
predisposed to bonding in three ways: by its order; by its measure; and by
its type. The order is the interrelation of its parts; the measure is its quantity;
and its type is designated by its shapes, its outlines and its colours. For
example, in a bonding of sounds the order consists of a rising and falling
through high, low and intermediate notes; the measure is the use of thirds,
fourths, fifths, sixths, etc., and the progression of tones and semitones; the
type is the harmony, softness and clarity. In all things which are predisposed
to bonding, whether they be simple or composite, all three of these
factors are present in a proportional way.
* The diversity of predispositions. Regarding the bonds themselves, there
is another predisposition: the signs and vestiges which reveal how well
developed the soul is. These move the soul to seek out only the enjoyment
of another soul, to which it becomes attached and united. And also because
of this predisposition, when there is a suitable ordering of the body and of
its parts and of the garments which clothe it, the soul is then bound to reach
out for the enjoyment of the body. When this predisposition is present in
both the soul and the body, it impels each more strongly to the enjoyment
of the other, or each is attracted by the other principle. Furthermore, there
are some people who are so bound by the soul that they also desire the very
same body which contains the soul. There are even a few people who are
so focused on the soul that they look down upon certain features of the
body unless they are predisposed by the soul. Thus, the famous story is told
about Socrates, who required that an attractive young boy first speak out
before he would declare his love for him.
*The condition of the bonding agent. Flatterers give high praise to ordinary
virtues, downplay faults, excuse errors, transform evil deeds into virtues,
and act very cautiously so as not to reveal their art of flattery. As a result,
they bind to themselves people who are not very clever, for to be loved and
honoured is the most pleasing and delightful thing for anyone, and to be
able to bind someone requires a certain higher type of virtue.
*How the bonding agent is bound. He who binds experiences joy and a certain
sense of glory, and this is greater and stronger insofar as the one who
is bound is more noble, more worthy and more excellent. The strength of
the bond by which he who binds is himself bound by the one who is bound
is located in this sense of joy and glory. In praising the vanquished, the victors
extol their own victory, and sometimes they even deceive themselves
more than others, both in their desires and in the other public consequences
of bonding. On the other hand, someone must be of a worthless
character if they are so unpleasant as not to reciprocate in spirit with someone
who loves them, when that person is honourable and distinguished, or
with someone who is bound in spirit to them in some other way.
* The types of bonding agents. There is one type of bonding in which we
wish to become worthy, beautiful and good; there is another type in which
we desire to take command of what is good, beautiful and worthy. The first
type of bonding derives from an object which we lack, the second, from an
object which we already have. These two types bind both what is good and
what is thought to be good, although this bond always occurs in some proportional
or suitable way. Also, fantasy and opinion bind more things than
does reason, for the former are indeed stronger than the latter. To be sure,
there are many who love without a reason, although there is some cause
which motivates their love, and, as a result, they are bound but do not know
what binds them.
*The blindness of the bonding agent. The explanation of bonds is, for the
most part, hidden, even from the wise, for what use is it to appeal to analogies,
similarities, family traits and other such meaningless words when we
see a person who hates nothing more than another person who is his genial
companion, while at the same time and without reason, he also loves that
person more than anything else? A general explanation is useless in a case
like this, because such an account does not distinguish between things
which belong to the same genus or species, for example, between female
and female, or male and female, as well as between other human conditions
like being old or young. And what would you say about the love of things
known only by hearsay, which is usually called ‘devotion’? Are not humans
bonded to higher and immaterial things, as well as to imaginary things, and
especially to things beyond experience? I will pass over here any discussion
of the specific types of binding powers, and especially of the power to bind
through incantations. It is not true, as some have said, that the power of
bonding is derived from what is good rather than from an opinion about
what is good; nor is it derived from a known rather than from a hidden
cause. We have already spoken above about the different types and species
*The diligence of the bonding agent. Just as dull people are bound more
easily by a shrewd flatterer than by a true friend, likewise, bonds and bonding
powers are established and maintained in skillful ways. For example, a
timid man recommends against joining the army; a strongly godless person
recommends against becoming a priest; a cruel person recommends against
caring for others. Things move more easily towards that to which they are
inclined, just as someone who wishes to pick up something cylindrical
attends to surfaces which are round rather than flat or angular.
*The weapons of the bonding agent. The bonding agent has three types of
tools. The first type is located within him and is two-fold: those which are
essential or natural, i. e., those which belong to the nature of his species;
and those which are accidental and acquired, which follow from the nature
of his species, for example, sagacity, wisdom and art. The second type is
located in his environment, for example, chance, good fortune, opportunity,
encounters and arranged meetings. The third type is located above
him, for example, fate, nature and the favour of the gods.
*The vicissitudes of the bonding agent. The kind of proportionality which
we regularly experience in eating and in sexual intercourse is found in every
act of bonding. For we are not attracted and bonded by these desires
and loves at all times, or in the same way, or in the same degree, or with the
same variations of time. The reason is that our physical constitution and
all of its consequences fluctuate and change with time. Therefore, the
moment for bonding must be predicted ahead of time, with careful and
antecedent deliberation, and the opportunity must be quickly seized when
it presents itself, such that he who can bind will act and bind as soon as
*The eyes of the bonding agent. Bonds are so subtle, and that which is
bound is so barely sensible in its depths, that it is possible to examine them
only fleetingly and superficially. They change from moment to moment
and are related to the bonding agent like Thetis fleeing from the embraces
of Peleus. It is necessary to study the sequence of the changes and how the
power of a subsequent form is influenced by its predecessor, for although
matter is indeterminate in relation to innumerable forms, still its present
form is not equally distant from all the others. Rather, only one of those
forms is the immediate successor, others follow after many or a few intermediaries,
and one is located the furthest away of all. Thus, just as the form
of blood immediately follows the form of chyle, so do the bonds of anger
follow the bonds of indignation, and the bonds of sadness follow the bonds
of anger, as yellow bile easily becomes dark. Hence, after having carefully
observed the disposition and the present qualities influencing Thetis,
Peleus planned and prepared ahead of time the bond to win her over before
she might change into some other form, knowing full well that a snake and
a lion and a wild boar are captured in different ways.
*The enticements of the bonding agent. A bonding agent does not easily
bind someone who can be bound, just as a military commander does not
easily capture a well-protected fortress unless entry is provided by an internal
traitor, or by some arrangement with a collaborator, or by surrender or
by some sort of a compliant oYcial. Thus, in her own realm, ffenus does
not bind and does not easily capture the fortress when goblets are empty,
when the spirit is disturbed and when anxiety is aflame. But the fortress is
handed over when the goblets overflow, and the soul is at rest, the mind is
quiet and the body is at leisure. Having closely observed the changes of
these guards and custodians, one must suddenly act with boldness, attack
with force, use all resources and never hesitate. This same course of action
must be followed in other acts of binding.
*The steps in bonding. A bonding agent does not unite a soul to himself
unless he has captured it; it is not captured unless it has been bound; he
does not bind it unless he has joined himself to it; he is not joined to it
unless he has approached it; he has not approached it unless he has moved;
he does not move unless he is attracted; he is not attracted until after he has
been inclined towards or turned away; he is not inclined towards unless he
desires or wants; he does not desire unless he knows; he does not know
unless the object contained in a species or an image is presented to the eyes
or to the ears or to the gaze of an internal sense. Bonds are brought to completion
by knowledge in general, and they are woven together by feelings
in general. I say ‘knowledge in general’ because it is sometimes not known
which sense has captured the object, and I say ‘feelings in general’ because
sometimes that is not easy to define.
* The gates through which the bonding agent attacks. There are three gates
through which the hunter of souls ventures to bind: vision, hearing, and
mind or imagination. If it happens that someone passes through all three
of these gates, he binds most powerfully and ties dowm most tightly.
He who enters through the gate of hearing is armed with his voice and
with speech, the son of the voice. He who enters through the gate of vision
is armed with suitable forms, gestures, motions and figures. He who enters
through the gate of the imagination, mind and reason is armed with
customs and the arts. After that, the first thing that happens is the entrance,
then the joining, then the bonding, and fourthly the attraction. The
one who is bound encounters the bonding agent through all the senses, up
to the point that a perfect bond has been made such that the former is
totally immersed, and desires to be totally immersed, in the latter. And
thus, a bond of mutual desire is established. Parallel to this, there are,
indeed, also unpleasant bonds, which we will discuss later when we talk
about natural bonds. For example, the toad attracts the weasel with a
hidden power in its breathing; the cock overwhelms the lion with its voice;
the mullet, by its touch, stops a ship; in his fantasy, the fanatic devours
the demon; and a melancholic and unstable humour acts like a magnet on
In conclusion, there are thirty topics which relate to the general theme
of the bonding agent, namely:
* Coincidence of contraries
* Partiality and concurrence of circumstances
* Variable powers
* Diversity of predispositions
*Blindness or ignorance
On what can be bound in general
* Types of things which can be bound. There are four things which rotate
around God, or universal nature, or the universal good, or absolute beauty.
They rotate in such a way that they cannot abandon that centre, otherwise
they would be annihilated, and in such a way that they can be separated
from that centre only by the distance of each of their circumferences from
its proper centre. These four things, I say, move in a circle around their
bonding agent in such a way that they maintain the same order forever.
According to the Platonists, they are mind, soul, nature and matter. Mind,
in itself, is stable; soul, in itself, is mobile; nature is partly stable and partly
mobile; and matter, as a whole, is both mobile and stable.
* The condition of that which can be bound. Nothing is bound unless it is very
suitably predisposed, for that brightness is not communicated to all things
in the same way.
* The form of that which can be bound. Everything which is bound has an
awareness in some sense, and in the nature of that awareness, one finds a
certain type of knowledge and of appetite, just as a magnet attracts or repels
different kinds of things. Hence, he who wishes to bind ought to focus in
some way on the awareness in that which can be bound. For, indeed, a bond
accompanies the awareness of a thing just like a shadow follows a body.
* The comparison of things which can be bound. Let us note that humans are
more open to bonding than are animals, and ignorant and stupid men are
very much less suited for heroic bonds than are those who have developed
an illustrious soul. In regard to natural bonds, the common person is much
more susceptible than is the philosopher; as the proverb says, the wise rule
over the stars. In regard to the intermediate type of bonds, it happens that
the greedy person might boast of being temperate, and the lustful person
of being moderate.
* The distinction of things which can be bound. From what has just been said,
it must be noted that the strength of one bond makes another type of bond
less forceful or more mild. Thus, a German is less agitated by Venus, an
Italian by drunkenness; a Spaniard is more prone to love, a Frenchman to
* The seed or incitement of the capacity to be bound. A thing is bound in the
strongest way when part of it is in the bonding agent, or when the bonding
agent controls it by one of its parts. To show this with just one example,
necromancers are confident that they exercise control over entire bodies by
means of the fingernails or the hair of the living, and especially by means
of footprints or parts of clothing. They also evoke the spirits of the dead by
means of their bones or any part of their bodies. Hence, it is not accidental
that special care is taken in burying the dead and in preparing funeral pyres,
and that leaving a body unburied is counted among the most grievous
crimes. Also orators create good will with their art when their listeners and
judges find something of themselves in it.
. . .
The soul and the spirit are subject to various changes in their
bodies and in the motions of their bodies (for although each substance is
quite stable and eternal because of its simplicity, still it acquires a desire
from its privation, an impulse from its desire, a motion from its impulse,
and a breaking of bonds from its motion). As a consequence, no bonds are
eternal. Rather, things alternate between bondage and freedom, between
being bonded and escaping from a bond, or they transfer from one type of
bond to another. This is a natural occurrence, and it precedes, accompanies
and follows the eternal condition of all things. Thus, nature binds with
its variety and motion, and art, which emulates nature, multiplies, varies,
diversifies, orders and arranges bonds in a successive series. But complete
stability is opposed to the nature of things, just as we are sometimes more
inclined to condemn it, and yet at other times we rather desire it, for it is
quite natural to desire to break from bonds, while just a little while ago we
were open to being tied to them by our own voluntary and spontaneous
* The indefiniteness of what can be bound. Insofar as that which can be
bound is composed of more parts, to the same degree it is less limited to
specific bonds. Thus, human pleasure is less limited to only one time or
individual or sex than are the pleasures of animals. All horses would have
an equal chance to mate with one mare, but this is often not true of all men
and one woman. This separation and indeterminateness between humans
and animals is also found between a true human and a brutal human,
between a more sensitive, and also more feeling, person and a more dull
person. And what we have said about one type of bond must also be applied
to all other genera and species of bonds.
* The foundation of the capacity to be bound. The primary reason why each
thing is capable of being bound is partly because there is something in it
which strives to preserve itself as it presently is, and partly because it strives
to be completely developed in itself according to its circumstances. In general,
this is self-love. Hence, if one could extinguish self-love in an object,
it would be subject to any and every type of bonding and separation. On
the other hand, when self-love flourishes, all things are easily attracted to
the types of bonds natural to them.
* The relation of things that can be bound. Consider the friendship and the
enmity among animals, their sympathy and hostility, their similarity and
diversity, and the circumstances of such things. Then arrange in an order
and in an analogy all the particularities and the separate individuals in the
human species, then all of the individuals and all the species of the other
animals, and finally the species of all other things. You now have collected
before you in a convenient order the diversity of bonds.
* The material diversity of things that can be bound. Although everything
that can be bound is composite in some way, still one thing can be said to
be simple and another many-sided or complex, and one thing can be more
simple while another has more parts. Consequently, some things are bound
purely and others impurely, and some bonds are pure while others are
impure. Thus some pleasures and pains are pure, some are impure, and
some are mixed. For example, Epicurus taught that the pleasures of Venus
are impure, because they are accompanied by pain and by an insatiable
desire (by which the whole body tries to transform itself into another whole
body), and this results in a sorrowful exhaustion. If there are things whose
principles never fail (perhaps the stars and the great living souls or gods of
the world, in whom there is no fatigue and in whom the influx and outflux
of substance is always exactly the same), then they would be bound by
themselves to each other in the most happy way.
Therefore, he who desires to bind in a socially effective way must take
into account the diverse composition or structure of things, and must consider,
evaluate and decide differently when dealing with heroes, or with
ordinary people, or with those who are more like brutes.
* The degrees of things that can be bound. Children are less bound by their
natural feelings, because their nature is absorbed in growth and is disturbed
by great changes, and all their nutrition is given over to growth and
the structuring of the individual. But they clearly begin to be open to being
bound in the fourteenth year, for even though at that age they are still
involved in growth, their rate of growth is not as fast and as great as when
they were children. And in the stable period of adulthood, men have a
greater strength in their semen and, as a result, seem to be more subject to
being bound. Furthermore, adolescents and young men seem to be more
sexually excited for the reason that they are on fire for a long time because
of the novelty of this pleasure; because the passages through which the
semen passes are narrower, the wetness gushes forth with a more delightful
pleasure. And as a result of the sexual itch which arises from this pressure,
they are more delighted and liberated. But bonds are more difficult
in older men, whose powers are half dead, whose organs and passages are
spent, and whose semen is not abundant. Precisely the same thing is found
proportionally in the other emotions which have an analogy or contrast or
dependence on the passion of love.
* The temperaments of things that can be bound. Because of their temperament,
those who are melancholy are more bound to indignation, sadness,
pleasure and love, for since they are more impressionable, they also have a
stronger sense of pleasure. They are also more prone to contemplation and
to speculation, and in general are moved and agitated more often and more
strongly by their emotions. Hence, in regard to the affairs of Venus, they
regard pleasure as an end in itself rather than as a means to propagate the
species. Next to them are people who are choleric, in comparison to which
the sanguine are less agitated. Those who are phlegmatic are less lustful
than the others, but are more greedy. Nevertheless, the fact remains that
everyone has his role in obeying nature. The melancholy are bound by a
greater force of imagination; the sanguine by a greater ability to emit sperm
and by their hot temper; the phlegmatic by their greater abundance of
fluids; and the caloric by their being more strongly and more sharply
agitated and stimulated by a hot spirit.
* The signs of things that can be bound. Physiognomy also has its part to
play in these considerations. There are people who have slender and sinewy
tibias, and who are similar to goats and to satyrs in having a wide concave
nose, deep breathing and a languid face. Such people love more intensely
and pursue sexual license more strongly. At the same time, they are easily
appeased and do not have any emotion for a long time.
* The duration of things that can be bound. With respect to bonds, old men
are more stable but less suitable; young men are more unstable but more
suitable; but middle aged men are bound suitably, skilfully and in a stable
*The reaction of things that can be bound. Mutual agreeableness gives rise
to mutual bonds. Thus, there are bonds in jokes, in wit and in theatrical
performances. In these ways, even those who are ugly and deformed can
bind those who have feelings for them. Let us add that we have often tried
to think about what it would be like to have a huge and lustful body, since
the following imaginary verses were composed to be cast as a spell upon a
young boy or girl:
I confess that I lack a beautiful form;
Yet God prefers me as more excellent,
As does a girl who is steady and not silly.
In a proportional way, there are bonds by which those who are ugly bind
because of their reputation for courage, vigour, eloquence, ingenuity and
other such things, for from one type of power they can cause bonds of
another type. It is not a rare occurrence that the more ugly Amazons bind
in the act of love because of their reputation for their strength or their use
*The heterogeneity of things that can be bound. Furthermore, there are
species which are bound to a different species through love, hate, admiration,
piety, compassion and other such feelings. For example, there are
some famous cases of such bonding, like Lesbia with her sparrow, Corinna
with her small dog, Cyparissus with his doe, and Arion with his dolphin.
In general, the seeds of all species are attracted to other species. I will
remain silent about the sympathy between a man and a lion, and I will pass
over what I know about the astonishing intimacy between a boy and a
* The changing of things that can be bound. It is not difficult to change that
which can be bound from one type of bond to its contrary, since the bonding
agent is also changeable. And it makes no difference whether this occurs
actually or only in thought. Even though I was once bound in thought by
a teaching, the bonds of contempt and indignation may come later when
that opinion has been studied in a better light. And the bonds arising from
the fires of youth and beauty are relaxed and soothed in time when they do
not agree with the bonds derived from customs and skill.
. . .
*The substance of that which can be bound. There are two causes of the act
of bonding, and they are the same as the two causes of the essence of that
which, as such, can be bound: namely, knowledge of some kind and desire
of some kind. If something has no desire at all, then it cannot be bound
spiritually in any way at all. Furthermore, if something has no knowledge
and desire, then it cannot bind anything either socially or through magic. I
will not speak of the other types of bonds because I would not want to say
anything unsuitable to those of limited vision, who are numerous.
*The completeness of that which can be bound. Something is perfectly
bound if it is bound in all its powers and components. Hence, he who binds
should count these items carefully so that, in wishing to bind as completely
as possible, he can tie up many or all of them. He should have no doubt or
confusion about the different types and powers of nourishment and
enticement which affect the soul and the spirit.
*The connection of things that can be bound. It is not possible for a bonding
agent to bind something to himself unless the former is also bound to
the latter, for bonds adhere to, and are inserted into, that which is bound;
the bonding agent, which may accidentally be bound to another object,
must be truly bound to the object which it binds to itself. However, the
bonding agent has an advantage over that which is bound, for he is master
over the bonds, and because he is not affected and influenced in the same
way. This notion is supported by the fact that a procurer binds but is not
bound, but she who is loved is not bound by her lover unless he is bound
by her in the same act of love. Furthermore, a spiritual and mysterious type
of bond occasionally also occurs in which she who is loved is bound by her
lover, but she neither knows nor loves him. This is the type and level of love
in which Eros was brought to tears and unhappiness by Anteros. But at the
social level, no one binds unless he is also bound by the same or a similar
type of bond either to someone, or at least with someone, whom he desires
* The truth of that which can be bound. For that which can be bound to be
truly bound, a real bond is not required, that is, a bond which is found in
things. An apparent bond is enough, for the imagination of what is not true
can truly bind, and by means of such an imagination, that which can be
bound can be truly bound; even if there were no hell, the thought and
imagination of hell without a basis in truth would still really produce a true
hell, for fantasy has its own type of truth. It can truly act, and can truly
and most powerfully entangle in it that which can be bound, and thus the
torments of hell are as eternal as the eternity of thought and faith. As long
as the soul, even when stripped of the body, retains these same characteristics,
it maintains its unhappy state for ages, and perhaps even more so
because of its pleasures and drinking and lack of self-control. The common
philosophers did not understand this, and they most stupidly used this
teaching to condemn the most ignorant of people. We will not make a big
issue of this, except to say the following: when we were children and inexperienced,
we were flooded with the arguments of these philosophers, just
as much as the old and the experienced, themselves, had been flooded with
the same arguments. Nevertheless, we forgive these elders for these views,
just as much as we think that we should be forgiven, since we were just
On cupid’s bond and on bonds in general
We have claimed in our treatise De naturali magia that all bonds are either
reduced to the bond of love, depend on the bond of love or are based on the
bond of love. An examination of our thirty topics of discussion will easily
show that love is the foundation of all feelings, for he who loves nothing has
no reason to fear, to hope, to praise, to be proud, to dare, to condemn, to
accuse, to excuse, to be humble, to be competitive, to be angered or to be
affected in other ways of this sort. Hence, in this section, which we have
entitled ‘On Cupid’s Bond’, we have the opportunity to deal with a topic
which is very familiar and with considerations and speculations which
range very widely. This examination should not be considered to be far
removed from public affairs just because it is more important and more
wonderful than the field of public affairs.
* The definition of a bond. According to the Pythagoreans and the
Platonists, the bond of beauty is said to be a brightness, a beam of light and
a certain motion, or at least its shadow and image and trace. It has spread
out first into the mind, which it adorns with the order of things; second
into the soul, which it brings to completion with the sequence of things;
third into nature, which it diversifies and sustains with its seeds; and fourth
into matter, which it supplies with forms. According to them this beam of
light is clearest in the mind, clear in the soul, obscure in nature and most
obscure in the material substrate of natural things. It is not a bodily mass,
and it has no bulk. Nor can it rotate around a mass and through the whole
of space, for not just large things, but also small ones, are seen to be beautiful.
In the same species, large things are deformed and small things are
beautiful, but the opposite also occurs, and it often happens that beauty is
lost when something remains the same in quantity, and is preserved when
that quantity is changed. The most beautiful baby or child is pleasing but
does not bind until he is an adolescent of a certain age. Then he has some
size, and this is true even if his form and figure and complexion have not
changed at all. From this we conclude that social types of bonding require
a degree of size on which the form and the power of the bond depends. It
refers, I think, to gestures, words, clothing, habits, sense of humour, and
the other signs of human feelings.
* The origin of a bond. Some Platonists define a bond as arising from a certain
proportionality of parts accompanied by a certain pleasantness of
colouring. But to those who consider the matter more fully, it is at least as
clear that it is not just composite things and things consisting of parts that
bind, but that colour alone and sound alone also bind. Furthermore, nothing
slips away and ages faster than beauty, and nothing changes more slowly
than the form and figure which shine forth from the composition of parts.
Hence, it seems that the bond of beauty must be sought elsewhere than in
the figure and in the proportionality of parts. Indeed, sometimes love
passes away after the flowering of the object loved, but the same beauty and
figure still remain. As a result, the nature of a bond consists chiefly in a certain
mutual orientation between a captor and a captive. Indeed, it sometimes
happens that even though we have no grounds to complain reasonably
about a girl’s beauty, or in a social setting to criticize someone’s
conversation, speech, habits or actions in general, still they do not please
us. On the other hand, something, or even many things, may displease us
in someone, yet we still love that person. And, indeed, it would be rather
stupid to identify colour as a bond without distinguishing between colour
and the things associated with colour. For does colour in itself bind when
a brighter colour is displeasing and rejected by an old man, while a duller
colour binds and captures a young man? And also if, in a social setting, an
adolescent were to give a serious speech about grave matters of state, then
no matter how brilliant the speaker’s oratory, a man of more mature judgement
would become indignant because of the speaker’s arrogance.
Likewise, if an old man were to give a speech full of charming, flattering
and flowering words, this would invite contempt, would sometimes provoke
laughter and would provide an occasion for mockery. Thus, in regard
to the body, to words and to behaviour, one thing is fitting for a married
woman, another for a virgin; one thing for a girl, another for a boy; one
thing for a mature adult, another for an old man; one thing for a soldier,
another for a Roman citizen.
* The indeterminateness of a bond. I believe that it is not as difficult to make
and to break bonds as it is to identify a bond in the concrete circumstances
in which bonds are referred to the case at hand rather than to nature or to
art. For example, a bond which originates from the body has no specific
location in the body. Consider the eyes and cheeks and mouth by which a
lover feels that he is bound. When these same things are attributed to
another subject in the same proportions, it sometimes happens that they
do not bind in a similar way, and thus the bonds of Cupid are dissolved or
prevented. Why is it that sometimes, when we are consumed by love for a
body which we have seen, the bonds of Cupid vanish when we become
acquainted with that individual’s speech and personality? And thus, you
should understand bonds in the same way in a social setting.
* The composition of a bond. The bond of Cupid is inferior to the bonds by
which appropriate composite things bind us, and we are in no way forcefully
captured by simple and absolute things. There are those who strongly reject
these latter bonds. They think that God has no beauty in Himself, since his
nature is simple and He does not display any level of composition. However,
it is a matter of faith that God is both the author and the goal of all beauty
and of every bond. Thus, because of the weakness of their minds, these
thinkers have not distinguished between beauty in itself and what is beautiful
to us. Likewise, at the practical level, they do not discern and distinguish
between what is beautiful and reasonable to all men on the one hand,
and what is a matter of custom, practice and opportunity for particular
people on the other hand. As a result, they err in their attempts to bind.
* The number of bonds. To put the matter generally and firmly, bonds are
the form, the habits and the motions of a body, the consonance of voice and
speech, the harmony of customs and the chance meetings of sympathy by
which men are bound to men, animals to animals and even animals to men.
Thus, it is clear that the sight of a snake raises a mortal fear in a child, and
the sight of a wolf terrifies a lamb, because of a natural prompting and not
because of any previous experience or acquaintance, while the sight of a
cow or a sheep causes playfulness and enjoyment. There are also various
aromas by which men and spirits are bound in various ways. I have known
men who were so terribly horrified by the smell of musk, which is sweet for
everyone else, that they have even fallen down because their spirit was so
disturbed. And I have known one person who was extraordinarily delighted
by holding under his nose a bug crushed by his fingers. Thus, different
things are bonded in different ways, and not only contrary but even diverse
things are bonded to each other. Furthermore, at the social level, it is clear
that Germans and Italians do not have the same language, or the same
habits of caring for and clothing the body, or the same grace and elegance
in their customs. Nevertheless, an individual Italian may diverge from his
national norm and be more like a German; vice versa, a German may be
more like an Italian. This causes a complication and requires great prudence
in binding at the social level, especially when the bonds are cast not
over a group but over an individual. Indeed, it is easier to bind many rather
than only one. A hunter has a greater chance of hitting a bird with an arrow
shot into a group of birds than he would have of hitting a particular bird
with a more accurate aim.
* The gates of bonds. The senses are the entrances through which bonds are
cast. And vision is the most important of them all. The others are more
suitable for different objects and powers: touch is bound by the softness of
the flesh, hearing by the harmony of sound, smell by the sweetness of
breath, soul by the elegance of customs and intellect by the clarity of proofs.
Different bonds enter through different windows; they have different
effects in different people, and they please because of different desires in
different people, for, indeed, a bond does not arise equally from all things,
nor have an effect equally in all things.
* The types of bonds. We know that there are as many types of bonds as there
are types and varieties of beauty. Also, these varieties do not seem to be
smaller than the primary varieties of things, that is, the different species.
Furthermore, within each species there are different individuals who are
bound by different things in different ways. Thus, the hungry are bonded
to food, the thirsty to drink, he who is full of semen to Venus; one person
to a sensory object and another to an intellectual object; one person to a natural
object and another to an artificial one; a mathematician is bonded to
abstractions and a man of action to concrete things; a hermit satisfies himself
by a desire for what is absent and a member of a family by what is present.
Different things are bonded by different things in every species, and
the same bonds do not of themselves carry the same power when they originate
from different sources. Bonds arise when music is played by a boy
or an adolescent, but less so if by a girl or a man. Strength in a man is binding
because of his great size, but not in a woman. A girl binds through
simplicity and honesty, but if an adult has the same influence, bonds are
broken and he is more and more displeasing.
* The measurement of bonds. At the social level, orators, court officials and
those who know how to get things done bond more effectively if they
secretly conceal their skills when they act, for he who speaks with too much
eloquence, or who displays a knowledge too full of trivia, will not be well
received. Those who dress too rigidly and too precisely are displeasing, and
so is curled hair, and eyes, gestures and motions which always follow a precise
format, while he who keeps himself far removed from such things is
not displeasing. Public speaking of this type is generally thought to be too
affected and too florid. This is due to laziness and to a lack of talent and of
good judgement, for to conceal an art while using it is no small part of the
art. Thus, he who eloquently displays his knowledge at all times on every
topic is not very wise, just as one who has rings and jewels on all of his fingers
is not well adorned, and one who arrives loaded down with many
different necklaces is not well dressed. From this we should especially realize
that a bright light extinguishes a bright light, and that without darkness,
light does not shine, gleam, glitter and please, for an ornament is nothing
when it does not complement that which it adorns and shapes. Thus, art is
not separated from nature, nor is culture foreign to simplicity.
* The description of a bond. For Plato, a bond is a type of beauty or agreement
of forms; for Socrates, it is the excelling charm of the soul; for Timaeus, the
tyranny of the soul; for Plotinus, the private law of nature; for Theophrastus,
a secret deception; for Solomon, a hidden fire and furtive waters; for
Theocritus, a precious destruction; for Carneades, an agitated ruler; and
for me, ‘a joyful sorrow, and sorrowful joy’. From what we have said in the
preface to this part of this treatise, these other descriptions of feelings and
other types of bonds have an analogy to our notion of feelings and bonds.
* The distribution of bonds. Perfect things are bonded to perfect things;
noble things and nobility are bonded to noble things; and things which are
imperfect and defective are bonded to things which are imperfect and
defective. As a result, it was said above that part of what is in that which is
to be bound must be present in the bonding agent. A completely chaste girl,
in whom there are no seeds of excitement, is not bound to sensory pleasure
by any star or by any artifice if she has not been touched or embraced, that
is, (I say) she has not submitted herself to the hand of a bonding agent, and
his hand has not reached out to her. I will say nothing about an immature
girl, for in all actions there must be some seed, but not all seeds are fruitful
everywhere. And whose attempt to entice someone who is ill, or old, or frigid
or castrated would not be frustrated (the opposite would apply to those
who would not make the attempt)? In regard to social bonds, a proportional
judgement is quite easy to make.
* The degrees of bonds. Things in the universe are so ordered that they
constitute one definite co-ordination in which there can occur a transition
from all things to all things in one continuous flow. Some of these things
are immediately related to others, for example, the natural propagation of
individuals of the same species, and in these cases the bonds are blood
related, familiar and easy. Other things are interrelated through various
intermediaries, and all of these intermediaries must be crossed over and
penetrated so that bonds are stretched across from the bonding agent to
that which is bound. Thus, by their generosity to things and by their goodwill
in sharing with these intermediaries, spirits influence inferior, and even
the lowest, things and bind them to themselves. On the other hand, lower
things are raised up with a certain reverence through a natural or rational
sequence so that, through the free consent of higher things, they can bind
to themselves superior things located far above them. And just as there are
various species of things and differences between them, they also have various
times, places, intermediaries, pathways, instruments and functions. It
is very easy to see this and to understand it for all types of bonds and things
that can be bound.
* The size of a bond. In all things there is a divine force, that is, love, the
father himself, the source, the Amphitrite of bonds. Thus, Orpheus and
Mercury were not wrong when they called this the great demon, for this
bond is indeed the entire substance, constitution, and (if I may say so) the
hypostasis of things. We come to know this greatest and most important
bond when we turn our eyes to the order of the universe. By this bond,
higher things take care of lower ones, lower things are turned toward higher
ones, equal things associate with each other and lastly, the perfection of the
universe is revealed in the knowledge of its form.
* The principal effect of a bond. If there were only one love, and thus only
one bond, all things would be one. But there are many different characteristics
in different things. Hence, the same thing binds different things in
different ways. As a result, Cupid is said to be both above and below, both
the newest and the oldest, both blind and most observant. Cupid made all
things in such a way that, for the preservation of their species, they remain
firm in their powers or in themselves and are not separated from themselves.
But then, in regard to the changes which occur in individual things,
he arranged it so that they would be separated from themselves in a certain
sense when the lover eagerly desires to be completely transported into the
loved one; and also that they would be unrestrained, opened up and thrown
wide open when the lover desires to embrace and to devour the loved one
completely. Thus it happens that the bond by which things wish to be
where they are and not to lose what they have also causes them to wish to
be everywhere and to have what they do not possess. This is due to a sense
of complacency with what is possessed, to a desire and an appetite for what
is absent but possessable, and to a love for all things. A particular and finite
good and truth is not suYcient for an individual appetite and intellect,
which have as their objects what is universally good and universally true.
From this it follows that a finite potency in some definite material body
simultaneously experiences the effects both of being drawn together and of
being pulled apart, dispersed and scattered by the same bond. This general
characteristic of a bond is to be found in each individual type of bond.
* The quality of a bond. In itself, a bond is neither beautiful nor good.
Rather, it is the means by which things as a whole, and each individual
thing, pursue what is beautiful and good. It connects that which receives
with that which is received, that which gives with that which is given, that
which can be bound with a bonding agent, that which is desired with the
one who desires. Indeed, that which desires the beautiful and the good
lacks these qualities insofar as it desires them. Thus, to that degree it is
neither beautiful nor good. Hence, one of the Peripatetics was wrong in his
statement about matter when he concluded that matter is ugly and evil,
because the desire for the good and beautiful is itself evidence that matter
lacks these properties. Aristotle said more carefully that matter is not ‘ugly’
or ‘evil’ as such. Rather, the actual truth is that that which, like matter,
tends and moves equally towards goodness and evil, ugliness and beauty, is
in itself neither ugly nor beautiful, neither evil nor good. If matter were
evil, it would be contrary to its nature to desire the good; the same would
be true if it were naturally ugly. And if it were evil by analogy, then it would
also analogously possess a contrary which does not desire, but, rather,
excludes and rejects, the other contary. The more profound philosophers
understand this as we have declared elsewhere. That is, matter itself, in its
bosom, is the beginning of all forms, such that all things originate and are
produced from it; it is not a pure negation, as if all things originated from
the outside as foreigners; indeed, outside of the bosom of matter there are
no forms; rather, all forms are both latent within it and are derived from it.
Consequently for anyone who considers bonds at the social level and in
their full meaning, it should be clear that in every material thing or part of
matter, in every individual or particular thing, all seeds are contained
within and lie hidden there, and, as a result, the inclinations of all bonds
can be actuated by a skilful effort. In one of our ‘Thirty Small Signs’, we
have explained in general how such an inclination and its transformation
* The generality or universality of a bond. From what has just been said, it
follows that the love by which we love, and the tendency by which all things
desire, are intermediaries between good and evil, between the ugly and the
beautiful (not themselves being ugly or beautiful). And so they are good
and beautiful because of a sort of sharing and participation, for the bond of
love has a nature which is both active and passive. And by this, things act,
or are acted upon, or both, as they desire to be ordered, joined, united and
completed, insofar as it is within the nature of each thing to be occupied
with order, joining, union and completion. Without this bond there is
nothing, just as without nature there is nothing. Because of this, therefore,
love is not a sign of imperfection when it is considered in matter and in the
chaos before things were produced. For indeed, anything which is considered
in the chaos and in brute matter, and is also said to be love, is
simultaneously said to be a perfection. And whatever is said to be imperfect,
disordered and not to be, is understood not to be love. Thus, it is established
that love is everywhere a perfection, and this bond of love gives
witness everywhere to perfection. When an imperfect thing desires to be
perfected, this, indeed, takes place in something which is imperfect, but
not because it is imperfect. Rather, this happens because of a participation
in a perfection and in a divine light and in an object having a more eminent
nature, which it desires more strongly inasmuch as the object is more vivacious.
That which is more perfect burns with greater love for the highest
good than does that which is imperfect. Therefore, that principle is most
perfect which wishes to become all things, and which is not oriented to any
particular form but to a universal form and universal perfection. And this
is universal matter, without which there is no form, in whose power, desire
and disposition all forms are located, and which receives all forms in the
development of its parts, even though it cannot receive two forms at the
same time. Hence, matter is in a sense divine, just as a form, which is either
a form of matter or nothing, is also in a sense divine. There is nothing outside
of matter or without matter, otherwise the power to make and the
power to be made would be one and the same thing, and would be
grounded in one undivided principle, because the power to make anything
and the power of anything to be made would be either present or absent
together. There is only one potency taken absolutely and in itself (whatever
it may be in particulars, in composites and when taken accidentally, a
question which dominated the thinking and the minds of the Peripatetics
and their monkish followers). I have said this in many places in my De
infinito et universo and more precisely in my De principio et uno, where I
conclude that it is not a foolish opinion which was defended by David of
Dinant and by Avicebron in his Fons vitae, who cited the Arabs who also
ventured to assert that God is matter.
* The comparison of bonds. The most important of all bonds is the bond of
Venus and of love in general, and that which is primarily and most powerfully
the opposite of love’s unity and evenness is the bond of hate. Indeed,
to the degree that we love one of two opposites and contraries of any type,
then to that same degree we hate and reject the other. These two feelings,
or rather, in the last analysis, this one feeling of love (whose substance
includes hate) dominates all things, is lord over all things, and elevates,
arranges, rules and moderates all things. This bond dissolves all the other
bonds. For example, female animals who are restrained by the bond of
Venus do not get along well with other females, and males do not tolerate
rival male suitors. They neglect food and drink and even life itself, not giving
up even when conquered. Rather, the more they are worn out, the more
they press on, fearing neither storms nor the cold. Because of this argument,
Aristippus decided that the highest good is bodily, and especially
sexual, pleasure, but he held before his eyes a rather animalistic view of man
as a result of his own conclusion. But still, it is true that the more skilful
and clever bonding agent, who uses things which the one to be bound or
tied loves and hates, expands his pathway to the bonds of the other feelings.
For indeed, love is the bond of bonds.
* The time and place of bonds. Even though the best seed is sown, the generation
of new things does not occur always and everywhere. Likewise,
bonds are not effective always and everywhere in capturing an object, but
only at the proper time and with the appropriate disposition of the object.
* The distinction of bonds. There are no purely natural or purely voluntary
bonds (in the sense in which people commonly distinguish between the
natural and the voluntary). The will acts with the participation of the intellect,
while the intellect is not limited by the will but acts everywhere, except
where nothing exists. We have proven this in other places, and thus it
would be useless to discuss the matter further here. According to our
understanding, there are three different types of bonds: the natural, the
rational and the voluntary (even though all things are based on one natural
foundation). Consequently, to some degree we cannot set boundaries
between one type of bond and another. Thus, the laws of prudence do not
prohibit love, but love beyond reason. And the deceivers of the foolish prescribe
without reason limits to reason, and condemn the laws of nature.
And the most corrupt say that nature is corrupt, because humans are not
raised above nature like heroes but are degraded like beasts as against
nature and are beneath all dignity.
* The development and stages of a bond. According to the Platonists, the
construction of the bond of Cupid occurs as follows. First, some type of
beauty or goodness, or some such thing, is brought into the external senses.
Second, it is taken on to the centre of the senses, that is, to the common
sense; then, third, into the imagination; and fourth, into the memory. Then
the soul, by its own power, desires first that it be moved, redirected and
captured; second, once redirected and captured, it is enlightened by a ray
of the beautiful or the good or the true; third, once enlightened and illuminated,
it is inflamed by sensory desire; fourth, once inflamed, it desires
to be united to the thing loved; fifth, once united, it is absorbed and incorporated;
sixth, once incorporated, it then loses its previous form and in a
sense abandons itself and takes on an alien quality; seventh, it, itself, is
transformed by the qualities of the object through which it has moved and
has thus been affected. The Platonists call the responses to the initial
motions Cupid’s preparation; the redirecting, Cupid’s birth; the illumination,
Cupid’s nourishment; the inflaming, Cupid’s growth; the union,
Cupid’s attack; the incorporation, Cupid’s domination; and the transformation,
Cupid’s victory or completion.
*The foundation of the stages of bonds. You can now see how this scale is
based on its individual stages. Cupid’s birth issues first from the body’s
nourishment, sensitivity and sexual expression, and second from the soul
or spirit because of its charm, or playfulness, or contemplation, which is
worthy of a better name, in which beauty is joined with pleasantness.
Cupid’s food, which prevents the newborn from expiring, is the knowledge
of what is beautiful. Cupid’s growth is due to a lingering reflection on the
knowledge of what is beautiful. Cupid’s attack consists in the fact that the
soul slides and spreads from one part to all parts of the beloved so that it
can inflame the whole. Cupid’s domination is grounded in the action by
which the soul of the lover, having abandoned his own body, lives and acts
in the other. Cupid’s transformation occurs when the lover, having died to
himself, lives another life in such a way that he lives there as in his own
house rather than in someone else’s house. Thus, it is said that Jupiter was
transformed into a bull, Apollo into a shepherd, Saturn into a horse and
the other gods into other forms. Likewise, the soul is transformed by the
motion or disturbance of its feelings from one form and type of bond to
. . .