On the shadows of ideas

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Interestingly, the paper I posted above, puts forward the argument, the in De Umbris Idearum, there wasn’t a lot of magic involved, and the construction of the memory system was primarily connected to Neo-Platonic ideas.

I only read part of his biography, but basically, he was the son of a soldier, and being clever, the only option those days was to be a monk. But he got into trouble for his beliefs, so he ended migrating to those more liberal countries, like Switzerland and Britain, which were more tolerant of his ideas, before he fell back into the hands of the Inquisition.

Bruno was executed for not rescinding his beliefs in infinity and an almost non-dual pantheism, @Exploit. There may have been some suspicion that his memory techniques were “magic,” but this is far from the reason he was taken to the stake.

In fact, another person much like him had recently been spared. Had he rescinded, he might have lived.

@Fishman, I might produce a commentary of this book at some point. However, I don’t feel it’s the best place to start with Bruno. Something like Thirty Seals or On the Composition of Images might be better, followed by a review of On the Shadows of the Ideas.

Bruno is tremendously rewarding, but you kind of have to plow through a ton of it to get the big picture.

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Well it’s not magical in the sense that the underlying principles aren’t magical, that it would still work without magic and that it is not supposed to teach magic but just how to memorize. But the images you memorize are magical, the image of the zodiac is magical even his obsession with the number 30 is magical and probably a lot more that I don’t know about.

Found this from wikipedia just had a look at it but it seems very interesting, Chambers for a memory palace : Lyndon, Donlyn : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive

Found a couple descriptions of Chambers for a memory palace (below). Not sure if they use Memory Palace the same as we do, but I personally find the subject intriguing. It will definitely go on my reading list.

Chambers of a Memory Palace | Architectural Perspicacity (wordpress.com)

Chambers for A Memory Palace (The MIT Press): Lyndon, Donlyn, Moore, Charles W.: 9780262621052: Amazon.com: Books

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Ive read a big part of it again and I am convinced that this is not for beginners, nevertheless it was a good read, thanks to it thats the first time monism made sense to me, of course Bruno has to pretend to be a faithful christian in the book but the commentaries on religion were interesting too. If you are interested in the author its a good book but if you begin with the art of memory I don’t think youll understand it.

I think I understand the wheel thanks to Niten’s article(I am just guessing), the wheel is not supposed to be imagined its just a visual way of explaining how to form single images( which he calls adjects) that make up written words. Its an extended version of a PAO, you memorize images for each pair of letters then the wheel tells you how from the images you memorized how you can form a single image for a word.
Example : I want to make a single image of « building » there are 8 letters so I would need a four layer wheel.
Lets say you memorized those images
BU : a lion (person), playing (action), with a bone (object), he is wearing a hat (clothe).
IL : A cat (person), bouncing (action), on a toy (object) , he is wearing a shirt (clothe).
DI : William Shakespear (person), reading (action), Measure for measure -one of his plays- (object), he is wearing a suit (clothes)
NG : Stephen Hawking (person), writing (action), on a board (object), he is wearing sunglasses (clothes).

The image would be a lion bouncing on shakespears play while wearing sunglasses.

NB : I don’t think thats a perfect explanation but thats probably pretty much it.


I think the key to totally understanding (at least) this part of the book is how the thirty letters translate to the 676 possibilities of a pair of letters(english letters).

Now that I think about it the book is in latin and Bruno is italian so the system is not designed for the english alphabet actually it could be designed for multiple alphabets or latin or italian so its hard to say to how many possibilities the 30 letters translate to and how.

Now that ive read the practical part again I realise its really close to what I explained at first, the rest doesn’t seem that important after all its just supposed to introduce to the method of loci

Also his ideas on the importance of order. A lot of it is aligning his memory system with his view of how the universe works.

I think people misunderstood shadow system as a fancy system. In fact it is no mystery, let me just give you an analogy.

Say in cards, we have a total of 52 cards excluding jokers. To have a full 2 card system, the simplest way is to generate an image of all combinations— 52*51.

To halves the images — 52 * 51 / 2. The 2 can be treated as the order of a pair of cards. Eg
We use a cow :cow: to represent 🂡 🂢 or 🂢 🂡.

The question is how do we know the order of our card? It is simply apply a shadow to do the trick.
Cow without shadow, we say it’s 🂡 🂢, and with shadow it is 🂢 🂡.

Understandable? Please give me a response, :pray: thanks.

Well I understand and thx for your answer but we are not talking about the shadow system we are talking about Giordano Bruno’s system where shadows are just his way of naming images because images (in the method of loci) are imperfect representation of the ideas they represent (what you want to memorize) and so they are the shadows of ideas.


That, and they are considered an energy related to a Neo Platonic conception of a universe of pure becoming.

Well Plato thought that everything originated from « the world of ideas » including us where we supposedly lived before existing. The gist of the world of ideas is basically that everything physical is an imperfect copy of a perfect concept in the world of ideas. But to Giordano art is worth less than the things it coppies which is a very powerful statement because it would mean that a Van Gogh is worth less than the model of the tree the artist used to draw. And so ideas are worth less than the real physical concept they represent.

Of course I could have misunderstood you or just be wrong but still, I thought it is still good to point out.

I am a bit puzzled against the riddles in the book and it reminded me of another riddle :
Why is a lion fierce with his preys and delicate with his peers can a lion befriend a sheep.
An answer is a key
A question is almost an answer
A sheep is a secret.

What is to a Lion what smells like a sheep.

I do not feel in my own reading that this is what Bruno means.

He was most likely more influenced by Neo-Platonic conceptions, for one thing. In this conception, Shadows have just as much energy - possibly more. The notion of Ideal forms has been replaced with something more like pure subjectivity or “becoming.”

I suggest reading other Bruno books, particular Thirty Seals and The Seal of Seals to understand more of where he takes these matters. Reading only On The Shadows of the Ideas is a trap, and it is far from his best book.

Remember too that it was one of his first books and so much of it is a “sales letter” for the Clavis Magna, which he seems not to have written. But I think we can guess where he was going with these matters, and I’ve made some guesses at that direction that I feel are at least worth considering.

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