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1531 __ « Three Books » — Book I — Of the wonderfull Natures of Water, Aire, and Winds »
Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa (Henri Corneille Agrippa de Nettesheim) (1486-1535)
Comment : According to Cornelius Agrippa, in one of the best-known Renaissance discussions of air, airborne images could take on "impressions" from the heavens, be reflected in the coulds, and gather enough strength and tricks, not one of transparency and truth, the locations for deceptive images of spirits and souls that appeared to be separate from the "looking-glasses" that produced them. The camera obscura was another example of this, sais Agrippa, and so was the communication at a great distance of painted images or written letters by means of their "multiplication" and transmission by the beams of the full moon (as mentioned earlier by Aristotle and Pythagoras).a technique useful to besieged cities. Like visual echoes, all these various forms of "resemblance" were due to "very nature of the Aire" and its mathematical and optical properties. In effect, air carried with it the visual (and aural) images of all things, carrying them into the bodies of men and women through their pores to creates dreams and divinations. The reason why they felt fear and dread in a place of death was because its air was literally full of the "species" of slaughter, which troubled them as they literally breathed them in. (Stuart Clark)
French comment : “. (De occulta philosophia” version première en 1510, 1ère éd. 1531-1533, qui introduit la kabbale. Trad. fr. A. Levasseur 1727, revue par F. Gaboriau 1910. Trad. fr. Jean Servier : “Les trois livres de la philosophie occulte ou magie”, Paris, Berg, )
Original excerpt : « Chap. VI.Of the wonderfull Natures of Water, Aire, and Winds.It remains that I speak of the Aire. This is a vitall spirit, passing through all Beings, giving life, and subsistence to all things, binding, moving, and filling all things. Hence it is that the Hebrew Doctors reckon it not amongst the Elements, but count it as a Medium or glew [glue], joyning things together, and as the resounding spirit of the worlds instrument. It immediately receives into it self the influences of all Celestiall bodies, and then communicates them to the other Elements, as also to all mixt [mixed] bodies: Also it receives into it self, as it were a divine Looking-glass, the species of all things, as well naturall, as artificiall, as also of all manner of speeches, and retains them; And carrying them with it, and entering into the bodies of Men, and other Animals, through their pores, makes an Impression upon them, as well when they sleep, as when they be awake, and affords matter for divers strange Dreams and Divinations. Hence they say it is, that a man passing by a place where a man was slain, or the Carkase [carcass] newly hid, is moved with fear and dread; because the Aire in that place being full of the dreadfull species of Man-slaughter [manslaughter], doth, being breathed in, move and trouble the spirit of the man with the like species, whence it is that be comes to be afraid. For every thing that makes a sudden impression, astonisheth nature. Whence it is, that many Philosophers were of opinion that Aire is the cause of dreams, and of many other impressions of the mind, through the prolonging of Images, or similitudes, or species (which are fallen from things and speeches, multiplyed in the very Aire) untill they come to the senses, and then to the phantasy, and soul of him that receives them, which being freed from cares, and no way hindred, expecting to meet such kind of species, is informed by them. For the species of things, although of their own proper nature they are carryed to the senses of men, and other animals in generall, may notwithstanding get some impression from the Heaven, whilest they be in the Aire, by reason of which, together with the aptness and disposition of him that receives them, they may be carryed to the sence [sense] of one rather then of another. And hence it is possible naturally, and far from all manner of superstition, no other spirit coming between, that a man should be able in a very time to signifie his mind unto another man, abiding at a very long and unknown distance from him; although he cannot precisely give an estimate of the time when it is, yet of necessity it must be within 24 hours; and I my self know how to do it, and have often done it. The same also in time past did the Abbot Tritemius [Trithemius] both know and do. Also, when certain appearances, not only spirituall, but also naturall do flow forth from things, that is to say, by a certain kind of flowings forth of bodies from bodies, and do gather strength in the Air, they offer, and shew themselves to us as well through light as motion, as well to the sight as to other senses, and sometimes work wonderfull things upon us, as Plotinus proves and teacheth. And we see how by the South wind the Air is condensed into thin clouds, in which, as in a Looking-glass are reflected representations at a great distance of Castles, Mountains, Horses, and Men, and other things, which when the clouds are gone, presently vanish. And Aristotle in his Meteors shews, that a Rainbow is conceived in a cloud of the Aire, as in a Looking-glass. And Albertus saith, that the effigies of bodies may by the strength of nature, in a moist Aire be easily represented, in the same manner as the representations of things are in things. And Aristotle tels of a man, to whom it happened by reason of the weakness of his sight, that the Aire that was near to him, became as it were a Looking-glass to him, and the optick beam did relect back upon himself, and could not penetrate the Aire, so that whithersoever he went, he thought he saw his own image, with his face towards him, go before him. In like manner, by the artificialnes of some certain Looking-glasses, may be produced at a distance in the Aire, beside the Looking-glasses, what images we please; which when ignorant men see, they think they see the appearances of spirits, or souls; when indeed they are nothing else but semblances kin to themselves, and without life. And it is well known, if in a dark place where there is no light but by the coming in of a beam of the sun somewhere through a litle hole, a white paper, or plain Looking-glass be set up against that light, that there may be seen upon them, whatsoever things are done without, being shined upon by the Sun. And there is another sleight, or trick yet more wonderfull. If any one shall take images artificially painted, or written letters, and in a clear night set them against the beams of the full Moon, whose resemblances being multiplyed in the Aire, and caught upward, and reflected back together with the beams of the Moon, any other man that is privy to the thing, at a long distance sees, reads, and knows them in the very compass, and Circle of the Moon, which Art of declaring secrets is indeed very profitable for Towns, and Cities that are besieged, being a thing which Pythagoras long since did often do, and which is not unknown to some in these dayes, I will not except my self. And all these, and many more, and greater then these, are grounded in the very nature of the Aire, and have their reasons, and causes declared in Mathematicks, and Opticks. And as these resemblances are reflected back to the sight, so also sometimes to the hearing, as is manifest in the Echo. But there are more secret arts then these, and such whereby any one may at a very remote distance hear, and understand what another speaks, or whispers softly. » (Translated out of the Latin into the English tongue, By J[ohn].F[rench].)
Source : Agrippa, Cornelius (1531-1533), "Three Books Concerning Occult Philosophy", translated by John French, London, 1651.
Source : Clark, Stuart (2007), "Vanities of the Eye : vision in early modern European culture", Oxford University Press, p. 248.
Source : Milner, Max (1995), "Le Thème de la Communication à Distance dans quelques œuvres de science-fiction", In "Hermès sans fil", edited by Alain Montandon, Presses Université Blaise Pascal, pp. 35-36.
Urls : http://www.esotericarchives.com/agrippa/agrippa1.htm (last visited )

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