Tuesday, 21 November 2017

The Geometrical Order of the World - beta

This was originally going to be a post of the diagrams from Otto Van Veen's "Physicae et Theologicae Conclusiones" (1621), but I found an old paper, "The Geometrical Order of the World: Otto Van Veen's Physicae et Theologicae Conclusiones" by Christoph Geissmar (known nowadays as Dr. Christoph Geissmar-Brandi), published in Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, Volume 56, 1993. The author notes that the "conception of this paper was made possible by a Frances A. Yates fellowship at the Warburg Institute."

In the paper, Geissmar-Brandi provides a paraphrasing of the latin text that accompanies each diagram (each considered a "chapter"). This is this basis for the english explanations included below - they have only been slightly edited to fit this format. After the 20 chapters, Geissmar-Brandi provides some comparisons to other works of Van Veen, and those of Kepler and Jacob Boehme, parts of which I will include at the end as well.


Physicae et Theologicae Conclusiones (1621)

The small folio book consists of a title-page, tabic of contents, list of errata, prologue (addressed, unusually, to the Viewer as well as the Reader: 'Lectori & Spectatori') and a note by the anonymous printer.

In the prologue Van Veen refers in general terms to the Platonic tradition of diagrammatic explanation in mathematical figures which he wishes to revive and apply to theology. His central concern is the problem of predestination and free will: if man partakes in the nature of God and therefore has a capacity for free action, how can this be reconciled with his falling into sin? The question is to be addressed and demonstrated in the illustrations. For Van Veen the deity in man (deitas hominis) is the original cause of justification and condemnation; man’s separation from God entails damnation and his conjunction with him brings salvation. Applying the alchemical theory of Paracelsus (and his supposed predecessor Isaacus Hollandus) that all entities are composed of three substances, he aims to show the triune nature of body (salt), spirit (mercury) and soul (sulphur). Despite his assurance at the outset that he is convinced that his conclusions are in perfect conformity with the teaching of the Catholic Church, it is clear that the material was controversial. For a note appended by the printer to the author’s preface seeks to relieve Van Veen of responsibility for the publication: it maintains the pictures were engraved and the work was then published without the author’s knowledge.

Chapter 1

The book opens with God, designated appropriately by the letter A: ‘God the ineffable, of one being yet three, eternal, embracing everything' ('Deus Ineffabilis, Ens unicum, Trinum, Aeternum, omnia continens A'). The corresponding picture (PI. 22a) consists solely of a capital A at the centre of a white square of ground. The letter both represents and signifies the space entirely occupied by God. 

Chapter 2
Being (Ens) and Nothingness (Nihil)

This chapter concerns the nihil at the centre of ens which causes light, life, intelligence and other qualities of ens to be pushed into the central abyss of darkness, death, confusion and other things opposed to being. This is illustrated in the letter B bounded by a circle, with A—the sign of God or ens unicum —shifted to the middle of the upper edge, so that it is directly above B and if joined to it would form a vertical line. In the figures which follow this line constitutes the compositional basis, with B remaining the centre of a circle. The circle is essential to most of the later figures and is generally interpreted as a sphere. 

Chapter 3
Being Seperated from Nothingness

In the illustration to this chapter A appears with B within the central circle while B accompanies A at the top of the page: this is because the separation of ens and nihil cannot be absolute, since ens embraces everything. Thus even in the depths of being nothingness remains, and in the depths of nothingness is infinite being. Darkness is not the privation of light hut a true entity. Here, as often elsewhere in the book, Van Veen cites an apposite scriptural passage, in this case referring to Exodus 10.21 on the darkness that was thick and palpable.

Chapter 4
The Creation of the Universe

God creates the entire universe (BB). with its natures and created things and its spirit (AAA), from ens universi and its prima materia by means of his word (ens potentissimum). In the view of some the universe consists of eleven spheres (rather than the nine of the ancients); it is not to be excluded that there may be infinite worlds, but given that there is no way to demonstrate this, humans should not seek such knowledge (cf. Romans 11.20).

Chapter 5 
The Creation of Man 

The account of the creation of man in this chapter is based on the assumption of Man’s formal likeness—as a composite of body, spirit and soul—to the triune God. By his free will, given solely to him by God, he is distinguished from other creatures. Man is therefore possessed of a freedom which in this respect makes him the equal of God. Therefore divine foreknowledge and predestination are not definite and determined, since they can be obstructed (impediri possint) by workings of the deity in man. Man is illustrated in the picture's centre by three intersecting circles and the triangle or letter A, which represents the deity in man, inscribed within them. This motif will recur throughout the book.

Chapter 6
The Fall of Lucifer

Here Van Veen explains in cosmological terms the fall of Lucifer (CCC) and his followers which occasioned God's first act of judgement.

Chapter 7
The Working of the Deity in Man 

This operation is nothing other than free will. Man's passions (EEE) incline him either towards God the creator (A) or towards creation (BB). It is on this basis that God will eventually judge him, leading to his damnation or salvation. God, by contrast, as infinite being (H), can neither fall nor be moved by passions; however, in sphere G, which exists between God and the created universe, the deity, in whom all time, motion and change exist, 'is moved in stability' (in stabili movetur). The illustration attempts to represent these complex ideas. The standard image of the triunity of creatures, the three circles, has been shifted to the picture's centre, with DDD representing man and EEE standing for his passions.

Chapter 8
God’s Omnipresence

God permeates the entire universe with his life, intelligence and substance which are inseparable one from another. He directs his divine powers towards whatever he wishes to happen, with the sole exception of the deity in man (A), which, since it is free (libera), cannot be compelled by God either towards or away from him.

Chapter 9
The Fall of Adam

Adam (DDD), as a creature of the lower world, succumbed to the natural infiu-ences of the universe BB and, being deficient in his deity (delta), inclined (E) towards the created world. Consequently, he was the second, after Lucifer, to meet with God’s judgement and suffer damnation.

Chapter 10
The Coming of Christ through the Virgin Mary 

God (A), however, saves Adam and his progeny from Lucifer’s fate by sending his son (A), through the Holy Spirit (A), to the Virgin Mary (GGG), and through her the entire universe is filled with his divine and corporeal being (cross). Under the new׳ dispensation all of nature is under Christ’s control, so that prediction of human events through the stars is no longer valid (except by explicit divine ordinance). Moreover, it is to be understood that although the Fall of Man was not predestined, in the course of time God ordained the advent of Christ for human salvation.

Chapter 11

Even though each man has a predestined disposition to good or evil, depending on the seeds which are sent from heaven to him (H, from God’s right and HH from his left), man still retains free will. For just as one should not blame the potter for making 'one vessel unto honour and another unto dishonour' [Romans 9.21], man’s free will allows him to be turned from bad to good or vice versa. All justification depends on the deity in man, not on man’s disposition: a man with a bad nature who turns to God receives a new and better ‘ray of predestination’ (I) and is saved, whereas someone who does not attribute his good nature to God is damned. God’s free will to predestine is not, however, diminished; for the first rays of predestination remain even though (in cases where the deity in man A is properly disposed towards God) he can send another better ray (I) to counteract the effect of the first.

Chapter 12
The Source of Evil

Evil is an inclination of the deity in man away from the creator and towards the created world; it is thus the deity in man. being free, which generates both good and evil. Man has in and around himself God (A) and the universe (B); hence in Pl. 23c, AB is shown within the triangle. Evil comes into being when man’s free disposition towards God and the universe is wrong. A well-disposed will, on the other hand, is given to man by God as a gift of grace. But the free will of the deity in man always precedes the grace which brings the new predestination of God (M). God has mercy only on those whose deity already tends towards him and hardens the heart of those whose deity constantly turns away from him towards the created world. Consequently, there is no question of God saving one man and damning another without cause.

Chapter 13
Grace and Good Works 

Good works that come about through the first predestination arc not meritori-ous but can move the deity in man to incline (F) to the creator (A), who, in turn, through the new predestination (K) gives meritorious works as a gift to man. These are ascribed to man as if they were his own and therefore earn him salvation. If he then attributes them to the grace of God, he constantly receives and does more and better works (L). But if he believes that these come through his own powers, he loses whatever good he has. Therefore, men should not be judged by their works because we cannot know which are meritorious and which not* since the judgement of God is hidden from our eyes.

Chapter 14
The Reality of Man’s Imagination 

Imagination, like all created things, is real and constant in its body, spirit and soul. Just as God (AAA) through his imagination or verbum (NNN) has created the universe (B). so the imagination of man (O) creates real beings (entia realia) (P) which act corporally on things and bodies. If imagination or thought in the natural, rational spirit is accompanied by faith it extends itself marvellously. The state of the deity in man, when with faith it soars upwards supernaturally by means of the imagination, cannot be understood by natural reason; knowledge of it is for God alone.

Chapter 15
Death and Purgatory 

Death destroys man’s triunity and returns soul to an upper sphere, spirit to a middle level and body to the earth (DDD). Yet the three remain connected. If they are pure, they rejoice together; if impure, they will be purified by the particular fire of the orbs to which they adhere until the last day when the world will be consumed by fire and the three parts will recombine for the Last Judgement. (This circumstance accounts lor the way in which magicians—whether by the power of the imagination or with the help of a demon, or in another way entirely—know how to separate spirit and body, so that the spirit takes on the appearance of the body to do wicked things in another place, and one body is perceived in two places; and if the spirit is too slow in returning to the body, or if something untoward occurs to it, then the three parts of man can remain separated until his death.) Of course it is not the gross, earthly body that will be finally reunited with soul and spirit, but rather a more subtle, spiritual one, such as will be able to ascend, purified and distilled, leaving its lower parts in the earth to nourish the process of generation.

Chapter 16
The Last Judgement and Resurrection 

On the last day a sort of magnetic attraction will recombine the three parts of man. This can he demonstrated physically: for if some plant or body is divided by art and fire (i.e. alchemically) into its three parts, salt, sulphur and mercury, and these three parts are then combined again, one body results; and if there are three separate bodies (i.e. nine parts), the three recombine by a secret sympathy. So on the last day man (if only he is purified) will be reconstituted gloriously, along with his actions, thoughts and imaginations, and through the virtue of the body of Christ will ascend from clarity׳ to clarity (AAA) the way prepared by Christ. Man will then be united with God on high, while still remaining a created being (ens creatum); but those who are impure will descend to the abyss.

Chapter 17
On the Virtue and Presence of God in the Eucharist 

Our Saviour with all the realities (enlia realia) of his actions and words (of which the prime reality, ens primarium, is the crucified Christ) united himself with a good man. Thus he ordained that union of man with the Trinity (AAA) would be effected in an external and corporeal manner, and that the deity in man should be promoted and man should be united with the Saviour through the Eucharist (regardless of whether under one species, or otherwise, since the part contains the whole), although without the virtue of Faith (Q) of Hope (R) and of the most essential, Charity (S), no union comes about, but Christ’s being and its consecrated substance remain ineffective. But if the Eucharist cannot be taken, but is desired by someone who sees it, or even is not seen but simply desired, then it also has its effect through the virtue of Faith. Hope and Charity. Again, if some accident befalls the host its consecrated substance and effective virtue still remains within it.

Chapter 18
How the Gentiles and Pagans may be Saved

Since Christ’s coming filled the whole world with his body, spirit and soul, then he must be within pagans and infidels, even if this is not manifested in a Christian way of life. Since Christ is the supreme good from which alt good things (W) proceed, the deity even in a pagan man, moved by the influence of the virtue of Christ (X) and by the holy spirit (A), will incline him to virtue (TT) and indeed he may become an unwitting and hidden Christian and might immediately and invisibly enjoy the benefits of the sacraments and other things essential to salvation. By con-Hast there are those who are nominally and externally Christians who arc judged deficient in virtue by pagans; they will be damned. Pagans can receive the word of God internally, rather than externally, and thus be united to Christ who through his death saved all mankind without exception.

Chapter 19
The Church

The Church (Y) is the community of people who embrace Scripture as the word of God and the traditions of the fathers. She is governed by the holy spirit, and in pronouncements relating to salvation she cannot err. As far as her external organisation is concerned all pious Christians should accept the authority of the pope. The Church is distinguished by three principal features: antiquity, universality׳ and apostolic succession. Thus no credence is to be given to those who say that the signs of the true Church consist of doctrine alone, since this would impose on everyone the necessity׳ of consulting Scripture on every point of controversy. Nor is the inference correct that the Church is an invisible body of the elect, for it is difficult to distinguish good individuals from wicked ones. But the Church has both soul and body, and while the understanding of her soul—that is the good who have received grace —is God’s concern, man needs to recognise the visible and corporeal Church and submit to her authority and to the pope. As for those born outside Christianity, the Church commands that we treat them as heretics and infidels, and avoid them accordingly, even if we should not condemn them, since they may be part of the invisible Church, so that we must leave it to God to judge them; similarly it is absurd to suppose that unbaptised infants cannot be saved.

Chapter 20
How Corporeal Things and External Ceremonies Promote the Deity in Man

Various forms and species of the soul are presented through the bodily senses and through the natural rational spirit which is said to come from the stars or the firmament. These then prompt the deity in man to incline either towards the Creator (B) or away from him, which leads to a new predestination [cf. above, chapter 11] which is either good or bad. Images, ceremonies and pious signs relating to the coming, the life and the death of Christ can enable these entia realia [cf above, chapter 17] to enter the soul through the body and spirit of the ray Z, and thus prompt the deity in man to incline towards the saviour; vanities and the temptation of the devil do the contrary. Thus the Church has established external and corporeal aids to piety, which one should beware of spurning. It is wrong to deny the teaching of the Church and the pope on good works and their heavenly rewards, for the pope finds appropriate paths to piety for different people, God using as many means are there are men. Many are motivated by the desire for rewards or by fear; few are virtuous through love of virtue. The pope’s aim is to render as many as possible better in their mode of life. External ceremonies and the promise of rewards are the only ways to keep some people from behaving like the brute beasts. Since everything is in everything, natural things have access to the supernatural and can move the mercy and grace of God towards man.



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