Francis Yates, in The Art of Memory, tells how Giulio Camillo reinvented memory art in accordance with the renewed interest in Neoplatonism. Camillo’s conception was also inspired by the recently rediscovered teachings of Hermetic philosophy which his friend, Marcilio Ficino had introduced into Renaissance Italy with his translation of the Corpus Hermeticism.
Ficino inspired Camillo in the use of astral talismans to draw down celestial influences into memory images and infuse them with magic power. This imaginative reinvention of memory art was meant to train the mind to receive celestial influences and unify esoteric knowledge by holding an inner image that mirrored the celestial harmony.
The Corpus Hermeticum taught the essential divinity of man and that all phenomena have their origin in the realm of ideas (archetypes.) Camillo’s theatre enabled the “viewer” to recall these first causes, and the essential relationship between man (microcosm,) and the world (macrocosm.)
The first level of manifestation was mediated by the 7 Governors. These astral beings made up the 7 measures by which the interior man descends into creation, acquires a body whose parts fall subject to the dominion of the zodiac, before he reascends through the heavenly spheres. It is through the Hermetic religious experience he regains his innate divinity. The 7 governors have associations with the known planets, 7 days of creation, angelic hierarchy and the lower sephiroth.
Yates says that the greatness of Renaissance art was largely due to perfect proportion that was in accord with celestial harmony. Seen in this light, the grace and majesty of Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus is a result of her status as talisman.