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Giordano Bruno – A definition of magic and the magician

Identifier

016164

Type of spiritual experience

Hallucination

Background

A fascinating summary of the definition as it was in Giordano's day - the 1500s.

His definition includes practically every form of spiritual experience that occurs in the early stages of the spiritual path.  In essence a magician has reached the rebirth stage but not gone beyond.  

He missses out the out of body experience and perception recall, but this may be because he was able to do both and he may not have been very keen on being described as a magician!

As an historical record of the definition as perceived by Bruno at the time it is quite helpful.

This definition would not necessarily apply today.

A description of the experience

Giordano Bruno –Cause, principle and unity

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.[Wisdom]

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'.[Environmental influence]

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'.[either hallucination or Inter composer communication]

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.

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'.[Chanting, spells]

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'. [Inter composer communication, possession, expunging demons]

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.[Communication with disembodied souls, Bridge]

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 'poisonous magic'.[Healing, Death prayers]

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 priests.

The source of the experience

Magic

Concepts and Symbols used in the text or image

Activities

Observation contributed by: John Bryant