Here is one paragraph from my earlier post, to which I want to relate Decker's observations. I had previously suggested that the four suit-objects on the Bagatella's table could be related to the four elements.
Decker begins, in his Introduction, by explaining what a Renaissance hieroglyph is--not something Egyptian, but an image that shows one thing but means other things, to those qualified to interpret. If their meaning had been obvious, e.g. based on Petrarch or the Apocalypse, so many literate people wouldn't have complained that they were such a mishmash, he says.From this perspective, this trickster could be a symbol of the creator, creating out of the elements what appears to be a random world of good and evil all mixed together, but which nonetheless contains a divine plan. Like the dealer in a card game, he deals everyone the cards they are born with, some with good hands and others not, but all lead to God, if the players know and follow the sequence. The world is like that created by the Bagatella, sometimes entertaining, sometimes a temptation, sometimes evil, but always a challenge that strengthens one's character, and to that extent positive.
For example, Decker says, the first trump, "the Juggler", is really the Agathodaemon, or "good demon", the helpful spirit, in Christianity known as a good or guardian angel. Among other things, Decker says,
Decker has no references by which one could check this assertion about the guardian spirit's method of relating to the prenatal soul, much less verification that it was known in the Renaissance. Apuleius's Latin "On the God of Socrates" has much to say about good geniuses, including their giving people information about the future (Apuleius Rhetorical Works, ed. Stephen Harrison, pp. 207-209), but nothing about prenatal lots or prenatal advice at all. Likewise for the Greek tractates of the Corpus Hermeticum, the Latin Asclepius, and Plutarch's "The Face in the Orb of the Moon" and Martinus Capella's "Marriage of Mercury and Philology", that I can find.The spirit, as a personal companion, also dispensed lots (in Latin: sortes, which relates directly to "sortilege" and "sorcery"). Agathodemon's lot indicated the kind of life chosen by the prenatal soul. The physical lot was a small token, usually a short strip of wood, papyrus, or parchment.
Decker then shows us a woodcut by Hans Holbein the younger, the frontispiece to what he says is a 1525 Basel edition of the Tabula Cebitis, an ancient Greek allegory. Here it is:
The figure of immediate interest is at the bottom in the center, below "GEMIUS". Decker says:The "tablet" is described as an extensive mural or frieze. It probably never existed physically but was the author's literary invention to support a homily. It charts the soul's progress through the precinct of Life.
Moreover, wide brimmed-hats are "artificial signs of exotic dignitaries, such as biblical prophets, ancient magi, Christian apostles, Arthurian knights, Trojan heroes (footnote: Saxl, A Heritage of Images, 60). Decker argues:Holbein shows unborn souls as naked babies. Each takes it turn consulting a bearded man labeled "Genius." (In the text the figure is called a daimon and a daimonium.) Holbein represents the Genius as bestowing a lot, shown as an open scroll of small size (figure 0.2). He admits souls into a landscape full of allegorical beings. They are comparable to some Tarot inhabitants: lovers, Virtues, hermits. The Genius is the only figure here who carries a wand and wears a broad-brimmed hat. He thus resembles the Juggler.
Well, that conclusion is a little like what I said (ignoring for now the problem of prenatal lots), except that what I had in mind was the casting of one's lot in life in the sense of one's given condition in life, independently of one's own choices, like the hand that one is dealt in a card game, in which there is a way of winning if one has a good memory.The Juggler's hat likewise identifies him as a native of a remote region, which, in this context, I take to be the abode of souls before birth. I would judge that the Juggler, as the first trump, stands in the same position as Holbein's Genius, at the beginning of a soul's journey through mortal life.
In the Tarot de Marseille, the Juggler's outstretched hands usually hold a wand and a circular object. The implements impress me as divinatory lots. At the ancient temple of Fortune at Antium, priests scattered small sticks and balls on an altar. The resulting patterns were interpreted to reveal the future. The Juggler, as Agathodemon, presumably casts lots and informs the soul of its mission in life.
But Decker seems to be thinking of the Juggler more as a tarot reader, either predicting the soul's future or recommending a life plan to it. Later in the chapter he gives Folengo's tarot sonnets in Triperuno (incorporating five cards each for sonnets directed at each of four people) as an example of that kind of reading. But this woodcut has a genius, i.e. daimon, engaging in some kind of activity with unborn souls.
To help clarify things, I wanted to check Decker's reading of the woodcut and its associated text. Looking through 10 pages on WorldCat, I saw nothing for Basel earlier than 1436 (p. 13, #128, on what shows up on my computer). Going to the library, I saw one book, Cebes' Tablet, ed .Sandra Sider, mentioning (p. 2) that Holbein's woodcut was done first for an edition of Erasmus:
Frobenius of course is the publisher friend of Erasmus in Basel, who commissioned many book illustrations from Holbein (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Froben).Hans Holbein drew upon the Tablet in several borders for title pages, the most elegant of which appeared in Erasmus' Latin translation of the New Testament (Frobenius, 1523). Holbein interpreted the text as a Christian allegory that pictures Happiness wearing a shining halo with Heavenly Jerusalem behind her.
Sider says that the Tablet was first published in Bologna, 1497 (p. 3 n. 20), in a Latin translation "written by Ludovicus Odaxius (teacher of Bembo and Castiglione) and edited by Filippo Beroaldo" (p. 3). WorldCat confirms (although not mentioning Odaxius); the entry may be of interest because of the other works in that anthology: http://www.worldcat.org/search?q=ti%3At ... dblist=638). Beroaldo, a friend of Pico and Poliziano, was professor of Rhetoric and Poetry at the University; I know him for his work on Apuleius (http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filippo_Be ... 53-1505%29). I have no information on the availability of the Greek manuscript before 1497. If the text is the only document suggesting geniuses' prenatal activity, this question is of some importance.
I found another book, Cebes in England, ed. Stephen Orgel, that has a reproduction of the same woodcut as in Decker except that the center part, blank in Decker's book, is filled in with the title of a book by Strabo, and the date 1523. Here it is:
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-A4IdeuXkh2A/U ... Strabo.JPG
This edition of Strabo is indeed listed in WorldCat. Despite the title, once one looks at the allegorical figures and compares it with the text of the book it is clear that Holbein is illustrating the Tabula Cebetis although dividing into two paths what in the book is just one. Here is the Genius again. Holbein can spell after all.
I looked at several English translations of the text; I could find no modern ones. None makes reference to lots. The "genius" is instructing the souls as to the meaning of the scene they are about to tread, and what plan they should follow if they are to attain Felicity. A 1616 translation describes how the narrator, walking through a Temple of Saturn, chances upon a picture "hung up before the door of the Oratory" (p. 105 of EPICTITUS Manual. CEBES Table. THEOPHRASTUS Characters, by Io. Healey, London 1618, reproduced in Sider and also in Cebes in England with introductory notes by Stephen Orgel, 1980). Here I modernize the spelling and punctuation; also, I checked it against a 1557 translation and in one instance put in brackets the different, but insignificant, translation.
Our narrator, still inside the Temple of Saturn, sees a great enclosure, with a gate (Healey pp. 106-107):
The artist had been a stranger to the city and a follower of Pythagoras and Parmenides. Fortunately, the man saying all this had been his pupil and could explain the picture. Of course he is begged to do so (Healey pp 112-113):In the entrance, there stood the picture of a grave aged man, who seemed to give some directions to the persons as they entered; talk had we about the signification of the portraiture, but none could conceive truly what it should intend. At last, as we were in this doubt, an ancient man that stood by stepped unto us, and told us: Strangers (quoth he) it is no wonder if this picture trouble you to understand the true meaning thereof; for there are but few of our own Citizens that can give the true interpretation hereof, as he that offered it intended.
As we see, there is no mention of the man in the picture having a wand or even a stick. Holbein has given him one, but since the other old man is lifting his staff, presumably the one in the picture, too, is a staff. There is no mention of the hat either; Holbein gives him one, but the brim is not exactly wide like the Bagatella's.So the old man lifting up his staff [1557: rod] & pointing to the picture: See this enclosure, quoth he? Yes, very well. Why then, mark me: This is called LIFE: and the great multitude you see flock about the gate, are such as are to enter into the course of this life. And that old man which see with a paper in one hand, & seeming to point out something therein [1557: as it were showing somewhat] with the other, is called Life's GENIUS [1557: Genius]. He instructeth those that enter, what method to observe in their course of life, and layeth them down what they must follow upon peril of their own destructions.
I can't identify passages in the Greek text, but I did check the 1498 Paris Latin edition (identical in wording to the Bologna, Sider says). Here is the sentence, with a little before and after:
It is something like "Senex aute ille superio (qui manu altera pagina quandatenet: altera nescio quid demostrat) Genius appelat". which I assume means something like, the old man who has a page in one hand and points with the other is called Genius. Whether the text has him pointing to the paper is not clear to me. If he is, it is likely merely a copy of the picture, to illustrate the lecture he gives to all the new souls, for them to imprint in their hearts before they take the drink of what Plato called Lethe, forgetfulness, but here is called Error and Ignorance, which is in the cup of the first woman they see (on the left in the Holbein). One rather free translation of 1759 (The Tablet of Cebes, or a picture of Human Life, A poem copied from the Greek of Cebes the Theban, by "a gentleman of Oxford"; I found it in a database the library subscribes to) actually says as much, about those souls who fail to follow the plan:
And it concludes:Each to the ruling Passion doom'd a slave
Mourns the loft[y] plan his Guardian Genius gave. (ll. 306-7).
In Sider there are other translations with other pictures. Here are a couple from a French version of 1541. First, of the first old man pointing to the picture in the Temple of Saturn. You see his cane:Such is the Plan of Life our Artist drew,
Observe the outlines, and his Plan pursue... (ll. 429-430)
And then of the Genius:
Here he's pointing and holding with the same hand!
And second, the relevant part of a 1531 German version of the Tablet by Erhard Schoen, famous for his "Schoen Horoscope" (see the thread viewtopic.php?f=14&t=942) that shows figures very much like tarot trumps in the zodiacal houses (and I think someone Huck found him listed as a cardmaker).
You see no wide-brimmed hat and no cane or wand on either of these last two. I don't think holding a sign saying who he is will work as the paper he is supposed to be holding. But Schoen does a good job showing people drinking the cup of Error and Ignorance.
Yet it is still possible that the old man in the picture is in the same position in the allegory as the Bagatella in the tarot sequence, introducing the game as an allegory for life. It is also possible that Holbein wanted to allude to the tarot card in his particular way of drawing the Genius. As applied to the Bagatella, the Genius's Plan is the Tarot Sequence, the 22 cards. If you keep them in mind, you'll reach Felicity, no matter what cards you are actually dealt. In a card game, whether you win or lose depends on what the other players do. But if you keep the 22 fully in mind, you will have more chance of winning. Sider notes (p. 2):
The same has been said about the tarot sequence (see e.g. Andrea Vitali's "Giordiano Bruno and the Tarot", http://www.associazioneletarot.it/page. ... 23&lng=ENG).Genius cautions the pilgrims that merely listening to his exegesis will prove useless, and even dangerous, unless they understand his words and fix them in their memories. The Tablet could thus be viewed as a miniature memory theatre.
If so, the Bagatella is in this way like a Platonic Jesus, now seen as teaching us his plan before we are born, before we forgot it and need the Gospel writers, who wrote it down when Jesus came in the flesh.
The Bagatella's hat, in relation to present life, may still be a symbol--not of far-away places, but rather of a far-away time, before we were born. Large hats in fact then were associated with earlier times, when people dressed more gaudily, as well as with exotic people, such as famous condottiere.
The Tabula Cebetis gets us part of the way to the Bagatella. It shows one way of being at the beginning. But it would help to be able to fit the Bagatella's wand and hat into other similar settings a little better.
MORE FROM DECKER AND ANCIENT TEXTS
Later in his book, Decker says more about the "Juggler" and the hat. On his Juggler, he says that in Horapollo's Hieroglyphica, an ancient text purpoting to decode Egyptian hieroglyphics, the picture of a hand meant "one who enjoys building." Decker reasons that the hands are the most important thing about the Juggler. I agree--not because he juggles, but because in Italian a common word for the profession depicted on the card was "prestigiatore", literally "quick player"--quick, specifically, with the hands, as in the English word "prestidigitator". Decker adds:
I would go one step further and say such a spirit is also the demiurge of Plato's Timaeus, who creates out of the four elements--and the Logos by whom all things were made. I will try to argue the point by way of Decker.I think that we can extend this hieroglyph to mean "a spirit who enjoys creating."
In the next chapter of the book, where Decker sees the sequence in terms of Pythagorean arithmology, he oddly seems to go out of his way to avoid saying what his sources say about the number One. In discussing the Juggler in terms of Macrobius on the Monad, Decker says nothing at all except to repeat that he is the guardian spirit (p. 115f) and "One is not a number" (p. 120). Macrobius in fact says (Commentary on the Dream of Scipio, VI.8, Stahl translation p.100f):
.This Monad, the beginning and ending of all things, yet itself not knowing a beginning or ending, refers to the Supreme God...It is also that Mind, sprung from the Supreme God, which, unaware of the changes of time, is always in one time, the present.
And Martinus Capella, another Latin author well known in the Middle Ages and after, in (Marriage of Philology and Mercury 731; Stahl & Johnson translation p. 277), says :
There is nothing about "guardian spirit". Only at the very end of this part of the book does Decker finally get around to something bigger than this "guardian spirit (p. 165):Some have called the monad Concord, others Piety or Friendship, because it is so compact that it is not cut into parts. But more properly it is called Jupiter, because it is the head and father of the gods.
I like the last sentence. But could the Renaissance have known about this ram-headed potter from Eusebius? Here are the relevant part of Eusebius's excerpts from Philo of Byblos (http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/euseb ... _book1.htm); I put in bold the key parts:Juggler. In Egypt, the Good Demon was associated with several gods but especially with a creator god, Khnum or Kneph. This association could have been known to the Renaissance through Philo of Byblos (fl. AD 60), quoted by Eusebius of Caesarea (ca. 260-ca.340), a Christian apologist (footnote: Eusebius of Caesarea, Preparation for the Gospel I, 10, 48). I elsewhere related Khnum to one of the earliest versions of the Juggler (footnote: Ronald O. Decker, "The Tarot: An Inquiry into Origins," Gnosis Magazine,, no. 46 (winter 1998): 16-24). Khnum appears in Egyptian art as a ram-headed craftsman seated at a potter's wheel on which he forms children representative of the human race. This is somewhat reminiscent of both the Juggler, who sits or stands at a table, and of the Genius in figure 0.2, who greets numerous babies (prenatal souls). Some Juggler trumps include two or more children. Here we have allegories about human beings as expressions of the Supreme Being, the Neoplatonist "One."
It's not a creator god. In any case, as a combination snake and hawk, there is no way one could get to a god creating humans on his potter's wheel from this..Tauthus, whom the Egyptians call Thoyth, excelled in wisdom among the Phoenicians, and was the first to rescue the worship of the gods from the ignorance of the vulgar, and arrange it in the order of intelligent experience. Many generations after him a god Sourmoubelos and Thuro, whose name was changed to Eusarthis, brought to light the theology of Tauthus which had been hidden and overshadowed, by allegories.'
The nature then of the dragon and of serpents Tauthus himself regarded as divine, and so again after him did the Phoenicians and Egyptians: for this animal was declared by him to be of all reptiles most full of breath, and fiery. In consequence of which it also exerts an unsurpassable swiftness by means of its breath, without feet and hands or any other of the external members by which the other animals make their movements. It also exhibits forms of various shapes, and in its progress makes spiral leaps as swift as it chooses. It is also most long-lived, and its nature is to put off its old skin, and so not only to grow young again, but also to assume a larger growth; and after it has fulfilled its appointed measure of age, it is self-consumed, in like manner as Tauthus himself has set down in his sacred books: for which reason this animal has also been adopted in temples and in mystic rites.
We have spoken more fully about it in the memoirs entitled Ethothiae, in which we prove that it is immortal, and is self-consumed, as is stated before: for this animal does not die by a natural death, but only if struck by a violent blow. The Phoenicians call it "Good Daemon": in like manner the Egyptians also surname it Cneph; and they add to it the head of a hawk because of the hawk's activity.
But what Decker says does have some similarity with what I said in this thread at viewtopic.php?f=11&t=937&start=30#p13790. I proposed that the designer of the PMB might have known about a ram-headed god with wide horns, Khnum or Ammon, from Cyriaco of Ancona, who had voluminous notebooks of drawings and inscriptions he wrote down visiting Egypt. He spent his last years 1450-1452, in Cremona. The year before, he had visited Duke Leonello of Ferrara at Belfiore, we know from Adolfo Venturi, North Italian painting of the Quattrocento: Emilia, 1931, p. 29. In that year he also visited Sigismondo Malatesta (Woodhouse, Gemistos Plethon, p. 161), the man for whom the first recorded tarot was made. (When considering the meaning of the tarot, it is worth recalling Malatesta's taste in religion, as reflected in the Templo Malatesto.) Alternatively, the PMB designer might have seen reproductions of a ram-headed god with horizontal horns on Roman-era Italian tablets with Egyptian-looking images such as the "Bembine Tablet", which per Wikipedia he acquired just after the Sack of Rome, 1527 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bembine_Tablet). Either way, the significance is given by Herodotus (http://perseus.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/Gree ... dtbk2.html, ch. 42), who describes as ram-headed the Egyptian creator god Ammon, as Milan humanists would have known, especially a Greek scholar such as Filelfo.
After reading the part about Khnum in Decker's book, I managed to get a copy of his 1998 article in Gnosis Magazine. There he repeats his idea that the Agathodemon is involved with prenatal lots, still without references (p. 19). Then he talks about the Agathademon as a figure in the Corpus Hermeticum. After introducing us to Hermes Trismegistus, the sage whose teachings the Corpus is purported to be, he says:
I looked up all of the references to Agathodemon in Copenhaver's index. None have him involved with prenatal activity, except in one place being responsible for the physical body of the newborn (I'll quote it later). "Father" (which Copenhaver says comes from Augustine) seems like an honorific.Hermes is presented as a teacher, but he himself is provided an instructor, his father, named Agathodaimon or Agathos Daimon (footnote 12: Agathodaimon is conveniently indexed in Brian P. Copenhaver, Hermetica (Cambridge University Press 1992). In Hermetic lore, this Good Daimon is ambiguous. He is sometimes Hermes' father and sometimes Hermes' personal daimon. Further confirmation is invited by the availability of a good daimon for various locations, communities, and astrological functions.
Then, still in the Gnosis article, comes Decker's account of Khnum.
His figure 3 is a drawing from Wallis Budge (1904) of a ram-headed god with horizontal horns; I cannot imagine that it was known in the Renaissance. I looked again at Decker's page references, including the et passim. These are all to Copenhaver's notes to the Corpus, not to the text itself. Modern scholars have noted similarities between the language of the Corpus, especially about the god who is "father of all", and a Hymn to Khnum found in Egyptian papyrus texts translated after Champollion. The Hermetic texts themselves do not mention Khnum or even a potter-god. The Greek ones credit the Good Demon as being the first-born (p. 44) and the mind, nous, that pervades all things. Tractate V, 6-7, surveys the lineaments of the human newborn:The early Hermetists identified their Agathodaimon with Khnum, an Egyptian creator god (footnote 13: Ibid., pp. 141, 153, 164 et passim). In ancient depictions, Khnum is a ram-headed craftsman seated at a potter's wheel or workbench on which he fashions human beings (figure 3). I view this divine potter as an ancestor of the Bagatella, and we can now suspect that the white mass on his table in the Visconti-Sforza Tarot is a lump of clay. The Bagatella is indeed emerging as an exotic figure par excellence.
All of this (in a text unknown in the West until 1460, immediately given to Ficino to translate, and unpublished until 1471) is like the "Hymn to Khnum", but Khnum is never mentioned. The tractate ends (no doubt borrowing from some other liturgy)Who traced the line round the eyes? Who pierced the holes for nostrils and ears? [and so on] ...What sort of mother or what sort of father if not the invisible god, who crafted them all by his own will?...so great is the father of all.
We are told nothing about how this god can be identified pictorially. In search of clues, I also looked in Copenhaver's index under "lots", "divination", "foreknowledge", etc. Lower-level spirits are indeed described as doing divination with lots, for example in Asclepius 38 (p. 90f; this Hermetic text, in Latin, was readily accessible in the West during the Middle Ages) :You are the mind who understands, the father who makes his craftwork, the god who acts, and the good who makes all things.
But none of this is before birth.Heavenly gods inhabit heaven's heights, each one heading up the order assigned to him and watching over it. But here below our gods render aid to humans as if through loving kinship, looking after some things individually, foretelling some things through lots and divination, and planning ahead to give help by other means, each in his own way.
What connects the Bagatella to the ram-headed creator god is the horizontal horns, which convert to the funny hat. Without this connection, all we have is the arithmological interpretation of the Monad as the Supreme God and Horapollo's "one who enjoys building" for "hand", The hat makes the visual connection that, independently of all the other cards or their order, suggests an Egyptian intention on the part of the tarot designer.
I looked to see if Decker mentioned these horizontal horns in relation to the hat. He does not. Although Khnum is an Egyptian god that fits the arithmological account of the Monad, and Decker's attempt to give a textual basis in Hermetism for the Bagatella as Khnum points in a good direction, all he has is an observation from modern scholarship. For something the Renaissance is likely to have known, it is the horns that are key, which the designer might have got from Cyriaco or a tablet with Egyptian-looking inscriptions.
I kept looking in Decker's sources for other references to spirits in relation to prenatal lots. I didn't find anything, but I did find something else, relating to the hat and the staff I didn't find in the Tabula Cebitis. In Martinus Capella's The Marriage of Mercury and Philology (II, 174; Stahl & Johnson translation, p. 56), I found this, describing a guest at the wedding. I put the most relevant parts in bold:
This tablet is of course a present for the bride, Philology. The "Cyllenian" of line 2 is Mercury as guide of the dead, identified as such in the last book of the Odyssey (Copenhaver p. 94). The Capella translator says in a footnote that "for the connection of the Ibis and the Egyptian Thouth or Mercury, see Plato Phaedrus 274c-d and Hyginus Astronomica 2.28." Hyginus gives the correlation of Greek gods to Egyptian creatures, by way of explaining how the gods hid from the monster Typhon: "Mercury became an ibis..."; and a a result the Egyptians considered such creatures the representatives of those gods. Plato speaks of "the god to whom the bird called Ibis is sacred, his own name being Theuth". Given those texts, readily accessible by the time of the PMB Bagatella, it would not be hard for a humanist to connect a young (hence perhaps unaging) figure with a broad-brimmed hat and a staff to Thoth/Hermes in his human form. No speculation about access to Egyptian images is required.There came also a girl of beauty and of extreme modesty, the guardian and protector of the Cyllenian's home, by name Themis or Astraea or Erigone [translator's note: This figure is identified by Hyginus (Astronomica 1.25) with the zodiacal sign Virgo]; she carried in her hand stalks of grain and an ebony tablet engraved with this image: In the middle of it was that bird of Egypt which the Egyptians call an ibis. It was wearing a broad-brimmed hat, and it had a most beautiful head and mouth, which was caressed by a pair of serpents entwined; under them was a gleaming staff, gold-headed, gray in the middle and black at the foot; under the ibis' right foot was a tortoise and a threatening scorpion and on its left a goat. The goat was driving a rooster into a contest to find out which of the birds of divination was the gentler. The ibis wore on its front the name of a Memphitic month.
So which is it, a humanized ram-headed god or fortune-telling bird? It depends on what the designer happens to have had access to. It doesn't really matter; they are much the same, both Egyptian creator gods. In fact, one of the interlocutors in the Hermetic texts is named Ammon (p. 58) or Hammon (p. 67, in the Latin Asclepius).
So now we have an important addition to what we could safely glean from the Tabula Cebetis. We have the hat and the staff. The Bagatella is not only an instructor of souls at the beginning of an allegory about life, but he is Thoth, the Good Genius as creator-god, creator of newborns and everything else in the cosmos. He is also like the Logos of Gospel of John 1:3 "All things were made by him: and without him was made nothing that was made" (Douhy-Rheims translation). Whether the metaphor of different lots, with different destinies, for different people, applies is not clear, although Thoth is to be sure a divination-master par excellence.
THE BAGATELLA AS LOGOS
At the time of the earliest Bagatella card i.e. before 1452, the earliest date for the PMB, the hermetic texts talking about the Good Genius by that name were not available. But the Latin Asclepius is enough. Asclepius 8 starts (p. 71):
Copenhaver comments on this sentence:Listen, then, Asclepius. When the master and shaper of all things, whom rightly we call god, made a god next after himself who can be seen and senses (I call this second god sensible not because he senses but because he impinges on the senses of those who see him; at another time we shall discuss whether he senses or not), then having made this god as his first production and second after himself, it seemed beautiful to him since it was entirely full of the goodness of everything, and he loved as the progeny of his own divinity.
It is Hermes Trismegistus that is being referred to, the Egyptian sage thought to have written the Hermetica. You can read Lactantius at http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/07014.htm, Chapter 6.Lactantius, calling his source the logos teleios, cited this long sentence in Greek in Divine Institutes 4.6.4 to prove that Hermes agreed with the prophets and Sibyls that the supreme God had a son.
In the late 15th century this sentence from the Asclepius was even put in stone in a church . Copenhaver mentions that Scott, an earlier translator of the Hermetica,
On the pavement (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermes_Trismegistus) the words are in Latin, so I don't know if they are from that sentence or not....notes its [the sentence's] appearance in the famous pavement relief of the Cathedral of Siena (1488) where Hermes appears among the seven sibyls.
The "son" in the Aslepius sentence turns out to be the cosmos itself as a living being; but the language is reminiscent not only of the Stoic Logos but also of the Fourth Gospel. At Asclepius 14 (p. 75) we read:
And Copenhaver (p. 227),There was god and hule (which we take as the Greek for 'matter'), and attending matter was spirit, or rather spirit was in matter, but it was not in matter as it was in god nor as the things from which the world came were in god.
Copenhaver lists 11 additional parallels that Braun (Jean pp. 291-295) sees between the Asclepius and the Fourth Gospel. This is a complicated subject, but Greek-reading Renaissance humanists who knew Lactantius and the Asclepius would not have been insensitive to such echoes, given that the Church Fathers had held the Hermetica to be pre-Mosaic precursors of Christianity. And once they had the rest of the tractates, talking about the Agothos Demon, it would have been even clearer. Dodd, in his book The Fourth Gospel also relates the Gospel to the Hermetica, but more to the Greek texts than to the Asclepius, Copenhaver says.Here and at many other points, Braun hears echoes in the Asclepius of John's language and ideas, concluding that "the author of the Hermetic treatises knew the Gospel's doctrine and set forth his own in order to show what Hermetism offered as equivalent or to oppose it to what he found absurd in the ... Evangelist."
Decker has more to say about the Holbein woodcut, but it pertains to the World card. I will post something about it on the "World" thread. In a later chapter he speaks of another frontispiece done around the same time; he does not relate it to the Bagatella, but he refers us to Robert Place's analysis, who does. The book it is a frontispiece for a lot-book; so we might look for something there about the Bagatella and lots. After I have finished discussing Decker on the World card (going over concepts needed in what comes later), I will get to that frontispiece.
And of course if someone has criticisms of what I've said so far, voicing them might save me some errors later.