October 28, 2014

Tonight I’ve realised that I’ve probably got more books by Frances Yates than any other author (with the exception of Alan Garner). The Rosicrucian Enlightenment was the first book of hers that I bought, though I was attracted as much by the amazing cover (by Justin Todd) as by the novel theme.

Image (71)

Until last night, when I looked something up about her online, I’d clean forgotten what I’d read in a biography a few years back – that Yates was born in Southsea. A pre-arranged visit to Southsea today was the ideal opportunity to find her Blue Plaque.


I was taken by the architecture and decorative repertoire of a house a couple of hundred yards down the road from Frances Yates’ birthplace, pertinent to her writings on Renaissance ‘Theatres of Memory’ and the image magic of Giordano Bruno .


The preponderance of heart and hexagon motifs was intriguing, and it brought to mind a piece I’ve been busy writing up in the last week and a half, that structures a conjunction between the megalithic art of the Neolithic and Renaissance image magic. Of course, I’ve had to resort to the books of Frances Yates.


Since the divine mind is universally present in the world of nature (continues Bruno in the Seal of Seals) the process of coming to know the divine mind must be through the reflection of the images of the world of sense within the mens. Therefore the function of the imagination of ordering the images in memory is an absolutely vital one in the cognitive process. Vital and living images will reflect the vitality and life of the world… unify the contents of memory and set up magical correspondences between outer and inner worlds. Images must be charged with affects, and particularly with the affect of Love, for so they have power to penetrate to the core both of the outer and inner worlds… We are here within range of Bruno’s Eroici furori with its love conceits which have power to open ‘the black diamond doors’ within the psyche.

Frances A. Yates. 1966. The Art of Memory. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, pp. 257-258.

In case there is any doubt about the significance of the hexagon, look at this illustration from “Das Alchemiehandbuch des Appenzeller Wundarztes Ulrich Ruosch,” an alchemical manual published by a Swiss physician of the seventeenth century, Ulrich Ruosch (1628-1698).

Ruosch cube

The image is from The Ritman Library.

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