This is a wood cut from Giordano Bruno’s Ash Wednesday Supper. It’s probably drawn by his own hand and although he states in the text it’s there to illustrate a simple scientific experiment, it has many layers of meaning.
If you look closely you can see the world soul in the form of the wind god guides and steadies this ship against the turbulent waters of life. Upon the rigging you see twin flames representing Castor and Pollux – the stars of Gemini. These are traditionally prayed to by sailors for blessings on journeys as they represent two joined points (an origin and a destination). They are also symbols of memory, with one brother being an exact reflection of the other. In this case of course they indicate the Hermetic art of memory.
If you read Bruno’s works you will know that he was always very forceful and direct in his opinions. Indeed to Bruno when it comes to our spiritual journey we only have two options.
We can sail in a rotten old ship of corrupted confused spirituality and religion, full of tales of immoral Gods with twisted lessons run by hypocritical teachers who can’t demonstrate any better life skills or inner qualities than those they extort for lessons.
Alternatively Bruno thought we can board a far better vessel guided by something pure original and effective. A Hermetic vessel of the pure and original tradition, which brings images of pure truth and goodness worthy of being looked up to and teachers that have authority through demonstrable excellence, superior intellect and self-mastery.
In Bruno’s opinion our spiritual evolution was intrinsically connected with the images we create and the tales we tell. If we were to truly evolve inside we needed to also change what we were doing outside. It was time to let go of ideas of God that were unworthy to be looked up to, strip the zodiac from the stars and replace it with new images of purity. Just as the Hermetic student transcends vice internally with each stage of accent and cultivates virtue. . We had to be brave and get rid of the old images and teachings and replace them with something better.