“The so-called 'Left-Hand Path' - that of Kaulas, Siddhas and Viras - combines the... Tantric worldview with a doctrine of the Übermensch which would put Nietzsche to shame... The Vira - which is to say: the 'heroic' man of Tantrism - seeks to sever all bonds, to overcome all duality between good and evil, honor and shame, virtue and guilt. Tantrism is the supreme path of the absolute absence of law - of shvecchacarī, a word meaning 'he whose law is his own will'." ― Julius Evola, The Path of Cinnabar.

“It is necessary to have “watchers” at hand who will bear witness to the values of Tradition in ever more uncompromising and firm ways, as the anti-traditional forces grow in strength. Even though these values cannot be achieved, it does not mean that they amount to mere “ideas.” These are measures…. Let people of our time talk about these things with condescension as if they were anachronistic and anti-historical; we know that this is an alibi for their defeat. Let us leave modern men to their “truths” and let us only be concerned about one thing: to keep standing amid a world of ruins.” ― Julius Evola, Revolt Against the Modern World: Politics, Religion, and Social Order in the Kali Yuga.

“We are born into this time and must bravely follow the path to the destined end. There is no other way. Our duty is to hold on to the lost position, without hope, without rescue, like that Roman soldier whose bones were found in front of a door in Pompeii, who died at his post during the eruption of Vesuvius because someone forgot to relieve him. That is greatness. That is what it means to be a thoroughbred. The honorable end is the one that can not be taken from a man.” ― Oswald Spengler, Man and Technics: A Contribution to a Philosophy of Life.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ars Memoranda & Rationarum Evangelistarum

I first came across these images in The Medieval Craft of Memory: An Anthology of Texts and Pictures ed. by Mary Carruthers and Jam M. Ziolkowski, University of Pennsylvania Press (2002), p.255-293. Their source cited is Ars Memorandi: A Facsimilie of the Text and Woodcuts printed by Thomas Ansheim at Pfroheim in 1502. Cambridge, Mass.: Houghton Library, Harvard University Department of Printing and Graphic Arts, 1981.
These are coded mnemonic images used to recall specific passages of the gospels based on the symbolic images of the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The symbols of the evangelists are derived from the Old Testament visions of Ezekiel and the vision of St. John in The Apocalypse. In the West, the beasts of St. John's vision are usually associated with the evangelists as follows: Matthew is represented by a man; Mark by the lion; Luke by the bull; and John by the eagle. These symbols often appear alone, in iconography and illuminated manuscripts, either with attributes such as wings, halos, and books, or without. They sometimes accompany portraits of the evangelists, or they are sometimes conflated with human figures to form anthropomorphic symbols.

These four animal/evangelist symbols will be familiar to students of Tarot iconography, where they are also associated with the four elements, cardinal directions, and astrological signs; Matthew = Man = Aquarius = Air = East; Mark = Lion = Leo = Fire = South; Luke = Bull = Earth = Taurus = North; John = Eagle = Scorpio = Water = West. These are typically pictured in the corners of the XXI Trump "Le Monde" or "The World" framing the Vescica Piscis, Mandorla, or Almond-shaped wreath framing in turn the figure of Christ (in early Marseille Tarots), or the Virgin (Anima Mundi).

Left: Tarot of Jean Noblet (c. 1650); Right: Tarot of Jean Dodal (c. 1701-1715)

Elsewhere Henri Bouchot and Anton Einsle write:
The Ars Memoranda, another xylographic work, of which the subject, taken from the New Testament, was equally well adapted to the imagination of the artists, had an equally glorious destiny. The work originally comprised thirty blocks, the fifteen blocks of text facing the fifteen engravings. The designs represented the attributes of each of the Evangelists, with allegories and explanatory legends. Thus, in that which relates to the Apostle Matthew:

#1 represents the Birth and Genealogy of Jesus Christ
#2 the Adoration of the Magi
#3 the Baptism of St. John
#4 the Temptation of Christ
#5 the Sermon on the Mount
#6 the Parable of the Birds

The angel that supports the whole is the emblem of St. Matthew the Evangelist.

Henri Bouchot & Anton Einsle: This mnemonic treatment of the Gospels proceeded from symbols of which we have no means of finding the origin, but which without doubt went back many centuries earlier... In 1505 a German publisher published an imitation of it, under the title of Rationarium Evangelistarum; and this time the copyist of the illustrations, although trying to retain the tradition of the first xylographers, none the less reveals himself as an artist of the first order, at least a pupil of Martin Schongauer.

Comparing these systematically coded images it is easy to see where the Tarot may have originated and/or served double duty as a mnemonic system.

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