quarta-feira, 11 de dezembro de 2013

Kepler's Somnium: The Dream, Or Posthumous Work on Lunar Astronomy: The Speech of Daemons by Dean Swinford


In the “First Day” of Galileo’s Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems, Gali­leo provides an intriguing metaphor for describing the limits of the imagi­nation. He offers the hypothetical example of a person who lives in a large forest filled with animals and birds but no aquatic creatures. Galileo suggests that this person would be unable to imagine anything about a lake or stream given his knowledge of an apparently body-of-water-less forest: “Even with the liveliest imagination, such a man could never picture to himself fishes, the ocean, ships, fleets, and armadas.”1 On initial observation, Galileo’s example evokes the new worlds being discovered by explorers venturing into North and South America. The reports of these explorers, as William Shea reminds us in “Looking At the Moon as Another Earth: Terrestrial Analogies and Seventeenth-Century Telescopes,” “are full of comparisons with what was already familiar to them either from personal experience or from reading and conversation.”2 The parallel between the physical exploration of the New World and the scientific exploration of astronomers like Galileo and Kepler comes as no surprise. These complementary revolutions expand the western concept of world, of what is real and imaginable.


Further, such comparisons of astronomy and exploration were com­mon. While contemporary criticism tends to separate astronomy and travel, early modern disciplinary boundaries were not so fixed. On occasion, Kepler blamed these similarities for impeding sales of his books. In the 1621 edition of the Mysterium Cosmographicum, for example, “Kepler first complains that ‘Cosmography’ is sometimes used for ‘Geography’ and his work has on occa­sion been incorrectly catalogued by booksellers.”3
A dialogue between the English astronomer Thomas Harriot and his friend Sir William Lower regarding Galileo’s Sidereal Nuncius and its effect on their own lunar observations also reflects this rhetorical fusion of explora­tion and observation. After Lower connects his own observations to the sur­face features of the moon described by Galileo, Harriot writes to Lower:
Me thinkes my diligent Galileus hath done more in threefold discov- erie than Magellane in openinge the streights to the South Sea or the dutchmen that were eaten by the beares in Nova Zembla. I am sure with more ease and safetie to him selfe & more pleasure to mee. I am so affected with newes as I wish sommer were past that I mighte observe the phenomenes also. In the moone I had formerlie observed a strange spottedness al over, but had no conceite that anie parte thereof mighte be shadowes.4

This exploration really stemmed from the improved level of magnification made possible by the telescope. Still, Harriot compares observation to action. Galileo opens the path to the moon in the same way that Magellan “opened” the straits to the South Sea.
Or so it seems. Actually, neither Galileo nor Magellan opened anything; Galileo applied mathematics to the improved magnifications made possible by a new device while Magellan sailed around the tip of an inhabited conti­nent. However, while many have gazed at the moon, none before Magellan had piloted a ship of European adventurers through these straits.
The shadows of the moon, necessitating recognition that the moon has depth and shape as well as a distinct geography, are not themselves self-evi­dent to anyone with the proper mathematical training. Thomas Harriot, for example, was a mathematician, cartographer, and astronomer.5 He had the ability to understand the mathematics underlying new theories to describe the appearance of the moon, having “solved the problem of reconciling sun and pole star observations for determining latitude, introduced the idea of using solar amplitude to determine magnetic variation, improved methods and devices for observation of solar and stellar altitudes, and derived a full numerical solution for the Mercator system of map projection.”6 However, he was perhaps more persuaded by Galileo’s evocation of the moon as a planet, his rhetorical method, than by mathematical proofs. As Shea argues, the analogy of the moon as planet enabled a new way of looking at the moon.



In the letters between Thomas Harriot and Sir William Lower, Lower describes his problems with seeing the moon as Galileo suggests it be seen:
According as you wished I have observed the moone in all his changes . . . [Near] the brimme of the gibbous part towards the upper corner appeare luminous parts like starres, much brighter than the rest, and the whole brimme along lookes like unto the description of coasts, in the dutch bookes of voyages. In the full she appeares like a tarte that my cooke made me the last weeke. Here a vaine of bright stuff, and there of darke, and so confusedlie al over.7
Despite his observations, Lower continued to “grop[e] for an apt description of what he sees.”8 Until Harriot explains Galileo’s findings through the anal­ogy of the moon as planet, Lower’s “words fail him, and his imagination is tossed from the description of a coastline read in a Dutch travelbook to the memory of last week’s pie. The terrestrial features of the Moon seem to cry out to be recognised, but Lower’s vision is both overwhelmed and blurred.”9 This difficulty with seeing the moon reveals the rhetorical significance of the writing of the new astronomy. While astronomers like Galileo and Kepler are frequently viewed as discovering new things, perhaps it is more useful to think of them as arguing in new ways. Galileo’s command of geometry con­tributed to the forcefulness of his argument in Sidereus Nuncius, and his use of analogy and metaphor resulted in its persuasiveness. In this sense, Galileo relied on two tools: the telescope and the Aristotelian telescope, that equally illuminating and not entirely unrelated device created by Padre Emanuele in Umberto Eco’s The Island of the Day Before. People did not come to believe that the surface of the moon was cratered and uneven only because of geo­metrical formulas.10 Instead, they were persuaded once they had been taught by Galileo how to interpret their observations (made through the use of a sci­entific instrument that began its life as a toy). Shea’s article, in turn, provides a clear historical overview of a particular problem. He traces Galileo’s use of the telescope to the importance of Galileo’s analogical argumentation.


But the quote from Galileo with which I begin this chapter of the per­son unable to imagine denizens of the deep or the deepness of the abyss remains problematic: Galileo himself describes things that he cannot really “see.” The same is true for Kepler. However, both were able to build persua­sive arguments from what they could see. This would be akin to a situation where Galileo’s hypothetical forest dweller fashions a model of a fish out of branches and twigs. Or perhaps he hollows a tree trunk, fills it with water, and places a mirror at each end of the vessel so that he can imagine water stretching toward the horizon. In this sense, the forest dweller uses the mate­rials around him to envision, and thereby describe, an Other world.
Indeed, like Galileo, Kepler explores the similarity between making and knowing through the allegorical conceit provided by the Somnium. The figure of the Daemon, simultaneously evocative of the scientific and the supernatural, and lurking at the center of the Somnium, serves as an example of the degree to which objective knowledge is determined by the form of its presentation. Likewise, the Daemon’s ability to describe, dependent on the ability of an audience to process the ramifications of such a description, forces us to read the Daemon, a body constituted by speech, as a polysemic allegorical construction. The competing interpretations and valuations of this character as offered by Kepler hint at the centrality of the Daemon not just structurally, but also conceptually. The Daemon, then, serves as a site and embodiment of the competing discourses informing Kepler’s attempt to reenvision the shape and order of the cosmos.



As the example of Harriot demonstrates, the verification of the Coper- nican theory relied as much on rhetorical presentation as on the geometric proof itself. At the same time, as I discuss in Chapter 7, Galileo and Kepler did not present ideas, or even conceptualize them, in similar manners. As a complex allegorical sign, the Daemon of the Somnium embodies and replaces the possibilities made available by the late medieval mystic tradition in ways unavailable to Galileo’s Dialogue.
In thinking about the different modes of presentation involved in jus­tifications of Copernicanism, I kept returning to the question of agency, of who describes or offers a description or explanation. We can not merely say that the narrative allows for the geometric proof offered in the Somnium. For example, James J. Paxson’s concern with the narrative embedding so clearly evident in the Somnium suggests that the juxtaposition of embedded narra­tive layers coincides with the content (the fiction of the dream, the verifiable content of the footnotes, and the Daemon’s speech) of those layers. As a for­mer student of Paxson’s, and admirer of his book on personification, I think that this argument doesn’t go far enough. I wondered if we shouldn’t instead think of the Daemon as a personified manifestation of this meeting of nar­rative levels. For Bruce Clarke, working from Angus Fletcher’s theorizations of allegory, this confluence impels all allegorizing: “Mediating discontinu­ous eras and disparate realms, interweaving the threads of a textual web that would net the world in its mesh, the daemonic fictions of allegory weld a composite cosmos together.”11


The content of the Daemon’s speech and the mode of its presentation form the body of the Daemon itself. Like Lucifer in the Ciudecca of the Inferno, the Daemon lies imprisoned at the center of the narrative. Still, in Kepler’s narrative, this central position imbues the Dae­mon, like Kepler and Galileo themselves, with the role of teacher describ­ing the observations possible from that vantage point. By this, I mean that Kepler’s conception of the Daemon as a character plays into the role of the Daemon as a teacher.
Perhaps, in discussing imprisoned daemons, it is fitting to evoke Paul De Man who, in “‘Conclusions’: Walter Benjamin’s ‘The Task of the Translator,’“ concedes that he “is not at all certain that language is in any sense human.”12 This comment suggests the monstrosity inherent in all language—in the gap between human as natural body and human as philosophizing and rational mind:
de Man’s rhetoric is marked by tropes conveying the specifically tera- tological threat that language’s Other poses for the understanding. The ‘monstrous’ here functions as a philosopheme, a conceptual-figural strand linking quite disparate texts in unexpected ways and revealing a hidden coherence with regard to the relationship between language and the human.13
For this project, De Man’s meta-theory of language serves to qualify the Daemon’s speech as constitutive of a body that comes into being by reveal­ing elements of “hidden coherence” between human experience and linguistic representation.
After the Daemon makes his didactic speech describing how humans are trans­ported from the Earth to Levania, he goes on to speak of the form of Levania’s provinces, commencing “like the geographers.”14 At this point, the Daemon indicates a shift in his mode of discourse. In order to discuss Levania, another planet, an alternate reality with moon people and Daemons speaking in blunt, hollow voices, the Daemon names a mode that will inform his discourse. This modal shift is of key importance to understanding Kepler’s own creation and extension of the travel narrative and cosmological narrative in the Somnium. At the same time, such a modal shift also reflects our understanding of the Daemon itself as a character closely connected to this mode which it intro­duces. While the speech of the Daemon is associated with this narrative mode, the geographic tilt of the Daemon’s speech is reflected elsewhere in the Som- nium. Thus, as Mary Baine Campbell notes, “Kepler reproduces the new cos- mographical context everywhere in both the narrative of the Somnium and its voluminous Notes. The latter are full of specific allusion to voyage literature, data from which are properly cited as if it belonged to the same technical litera­ture to which Kepler’s text putatively belongs.”15


Campbell’s observation here helps us to locate the Somnium in a generic context. At the same time, to return to my earlier point regarding personi­fication and genre in the Somnium, there is considerable overlap between
seemingly separate components of the narrative. Thus, as Campbell observes (and I have discussed in Chapter 8), the dreamed moon as setting is pre­sented as a new place. This place is, as I argue, characteristically different from the mythic moon which preceded and influenced its creation. Kepler’s description of Levania as an island most concretely expresses this transfor­mative desire. To this extent, “The ‘island’ is the land form that functioned as a kind of mastertrope of New World topography, and that characterised the focus of classic voyage literature, especially where it spoke most directly to private desire: Columbus finds islands, and Thomas More, and Andre Thevet.”16 The island, however, as a mastertrope, is itself an allegorization of some set of qualities, and is essentially rhetorical in nature. The moon is depicted as an island, moreover, within a speech act, the speech of the Daemon. Through the footnotes, Kepler the scientist supports the Daemon’s assertion of moon as island.


The speech of the Daemon, then, serves as an elocutionary act intended to provide a reexamination of an object, the moon as island. The speech, embedded within the Somnium, and itself encrusted with footnotes, must be considered in relation to a variety of narrative levels, including the notes and the surrounding narrative frame. The rationale behind the composition of the notes attests to their significance: “The Notes augment the scientific data already foregrounded in the main body of the narrative and defend various ludic moments against their ludicrous misreading in the events of his moth­er’s imprisonment and trial.”17 At the same time, the Daemon who presents this speech exists as a character positioned between numerous interpretive possibilities, which we will turn to in this chapter.
Campbell sees the lunar voyage as a means of presenting “alternative worlds that offer most saliently the radical fact of Alternativity itself.”18 This concept of Alternativity, of Other-seeing and Other-being, expresses the potential available through the unique point of view provided by the lunar voyage: the moon is the island par excellence. Like the object of Roberto della Griva’s constant obsession in Umberto Eco’s The Island of the Day Before, the moon remains eternally unattainable. At the same time, the moon can be viewed in its entirety as a discrete object quite separate from all things earthly.19 Yet, in a text that features as many narrative levels and narrators as the Somnium, the moon necessitates presentation and representation from varying perspectives.
These various perspectives allow Kepler to extend the relevance of the travel narrative and medieval cosmological text while reconfiguring the sig- nificatory value of these modes. The cosmological narratives of the twelfth- century school proposed a theory of proportion between the shape of the
cosmos and the shape of the human soul. For these narratives, however, both ends of the spectrum are intangible properties. Neither the cosmos nor the human soul could be sufficiently or entirely mapped or imagined. Kepler relies on the narrative models provided by writers like Macrobius in order to do something very different. Here, the shape of the moon, and the certainty of the movement of the moon and the planets of the solar system, enables the possibility of a mapping of man as a creature in a material universe. Thus, the Daemon that speaks of “the earth to us humans” does so equally through the content of his speech and the various modes he employs in order to deliver his message.


Kepler’s Daemon is a complex allegorical personage. This character becomes a representative for a completely different conception of nature. Such a mon­strous character,
is born only at [a] metaphoric crossroads, as an embodiment of a cer­tain cultural moment—of a time, a feeling, and a place [. . .] A con­struct and a projection, the monster exists only to be read: the monstrum is etymologically ‘that which reveals,’ ‘that which warns,’ a glyph that seeks a hierophant. Like a letter on the page, the monster signifies some­thing other than itself: it is always a displacement, always inhabits the gap between the time of upheaval that created it and the moment into which it is received, to be born again.20
At the same time, the Daemon plays a key role in determining how readers value the generic modes that Kepler employs. The “revelation” of this mon­strum involves not just the scientific conception of cosmology, but also the allegorical shift precipitated by such scientific discovery.
To begin, Kepler is quite aware of the allegorical connotations of the word daemon. In note 34, he writes that the spirits “are the sciences in which the causes of phenomena are disclosed.”21 He extends this link between sci­ence and magic as he introduces the speech of the Daemon. The Daemon synthesizes science and magic and also conceals this synthesis through the allegorical conceit. Thus, Kepler notes that the allegorical substitution of spirits for sciences “was suggested to me by the Greek word Daemon, which is derived from daiein, meaning ‘to know’ as though it were daemon.”22


Kepler’s problematic discussion of etymology, however, has been noted and contested by Rosen, who indicates that, “in deriving Daemon (“minor divinity”) from daemon (“expert”), Kepler followed the etymological specula­tion of Plato.”23 Rosen refers specifically to Plato’s Cratylus, and contrasts this with the etymology accepted by modern philologists, “who connect daimon (‘the divinity’) with the verb daiomai (‘divide’).”24 In this etymology, the dae­mon is not a representative of pure knowledge. Instead, “a daimon was so called because he allotted their destinies to mortal men, cutting out their future for them.”25
Kepler’s choice of character, his mouthpiece for Copernicanism, did not simplify the reception of the message. As Campbell points out, Kepler’s mother’s trial for witchcraft stemmed from the description of Fiolxhilde’s consultations with supernatural forces. Hostile political situations necessitate allegory. In discussing the history of the mode, Joel Fineman notes that “alle­gory seems regularly to surface in critical or polemical atmospheres, when for political or metaphysical reasons there is something that cannot be said.”26 Kepler attributes his difficulties to the ignorance of an audience whom he never intended: “I mean that these words fell upon minds which were dark within and suspected everything of being dark.”27 He scornfully rejects those who have attributed diabolical devices to his text. We can, as Rosen does, exclude Kepler’s Daemon, then, from any kind of supernaturally malevo­lent implications. Thus, Rosen emphasizes that the term “was understood by many of Kepler’s uninformed contemporaries to mean an evil spirit.”28


Here, Rosen intentionally distinguishes between these uninformed contemporaries and Kepler, exemplar of a science informed by reason. How­ever, it is ultimately impossible, and also unproductive to try to effectively seclude Kepler from the contemporary culture in which he was immersed. Instead, we can think of the different levels of society in which Kepler moved as a series of texts themselves involved in a complex process of synthesis. This is particularly significant in terms of my discussion of the Daemon, as I am interested in the Daemon as a textual body.
In Les Technologies de l’intelligence, P. Levy offers a definition of hyper­text which accounts for this cultural and textual synthesis of meanings. Thus, for Levy, the hypertext is an “ensemble des messages et des representations circulant dans une societe” [unity of messages and representations circulating in a society]. He considers these as part of
un grand hypertexte mouvant, labyrinthique, aux cent formats, aux mille voies [. . .] Le sont justement ces associations indues, ces meta­morphoses, ces torsions operees par des machines locales, singulieres, subjectives, connectees sur un exterieur, qui reinjectent du mouvement, de la vie, dans le grand hypertexte social: dans la ‘culture.’ a grand, moving, labyrinthine hypertext, with a hundred formats, a thousand passages [. . .] It is exactly these unseasonable associations, these metamorphoses, these torsions operated by the local, singular, subjective machines, connected to an exterior, that reinjects the move­ment of life, into the grand social hypertext: into ‘culture’.29
Rosen notes that, regardless of the extent to which he problematizes Kepler’s etymology, Kepler’s Daemon is more classical than diabolical. However, an examination of the Somnium reveals that this distinction is not self-evident. The “grand hypertexte mouvant” of cultural attitudes toward the Daemon cannot be supplanted from the theological, philosophical, and scientific impulses guiding Kepler’s hand. Further, the definition of “daemon” that we accept impacts our understanding of the Daemon as a creature.
The Daemon, as mouthpiece and gate keeper between earth and the moon, is both a text and a body. Still, this body is also obscured from sight. It speaks only when it cannot be seen. In fact, we do not know anything about its physical appearance, or even its gender. Lambert makes the follow­ing observation regarding the gender of the Daemon:
It may be worth pointing out that, in his translation of this passage from the Latin, Edward Rosen refers to the Daemon as female, thus set­ting ‘her’ parallel to Fiolxhilda rather than Duracotus. The Latin version leaves the question of the Daemon’s gender open and thus offers a fur­ther source of ambiguity. The Greek word ‘daimon’, after all, can take both the masculine and the feminine gender.30
I use the pronoun “it” to avoid any confusion in this matter. The magical covenant accompanying the daemonic summoning necessitates that the Daemon not be seen. Duracotus and his mother cover their heads as part of the magical rite and are rewarded by the “rasping of an indistinct and unclear voice.”31 They cover their own bodies to access the Daemon in a manner recalling Huguccio of Pisa’s derivation of the word monstrum from mastruca, a word referring to hairy garments or skins. Huguccio’s warning that “‘Who ever dresses himself in such garments is transformed into a mon­strous being’”32 strengthens the identification between Daemon, Duracotus, and, ultimately, Kepler.

Despite the hidden body of the Daemon, there remains a significant correspondence between the body and the voice. Kepler’s description of the grating character of the Daemon’s elocutions is accompanied by a footnote suggesting that “it is not impossible, I believe, with various instruments to reproduce individual vowels and consonants in imitation of human speech.”33 Kepler here refers to a talking machine well before its invention. However, the sounds produced by such a machine “will resemble rumbling and screeching more than the living voice.”34 Rosen questions Kepler’s evocation of a talking machine and determines that “Undoubtedly [Kepler’s] purpose was to sug­gest that what sounded like the rasping voice of a spirit might have been only an imperfect mechanical reproduction of human speech.”35 The conclusion Rosen offers, in conjunction with Barthes’ view of the connection between body and voice as expressed in “The Grain of the Voice,” suggests the kind of body attributable to Kepler’s Daemon.


For Rosen, the reason for this attribution of daemonic rasping to an imperfect machine is perfectly clear: “In that case there was no spirit or dae­mon.”36 The absence of a spirit or daemon in the narrative would clearly alter the genre of the narrative: Kepler would no longer be the author of an occult fantasy featuring the fearsome personages of folk traditions. Instead, he would be the author of a science fiction narrative perhaps more modern than even Koestler could have anticipated. Thus, Duracotus’ mother (and, for Kepler’s more critical contemporary readers, Kepler’s own mother by extension) could not be seen as a daemon-summoning witch. Instead, she would be heralded as an inventor of the highest order.
At the same time, such a ruse allows Kepler to further distinguish him­self from Duracotus, who supposes the machine is the voice of a demon. In this sense, Kepler, like the Wizard of Oz, is aware of the machinery rumbling beyond the curtain. Thus, Duracotus falls prey to one of the “built-in traps for the superstitions and gullible,” and supposes that “demons are talking” when, in fact, “art is copying magical tricks.”37


The concept of the speaking machine is not, however, pursued elsewhere in the text. Even in the footnote where Kepler proposes the daemon-as-machine, he remarks that the sepulchral voice of the Daemon reminds him “pleasantly” of his colleague, Matthias Seiffart. Seiffart had an instrumental role in calculating the ephemerides of the moon for the year 1603. As a student of Brahe’s and col­league of Kepler’s, Seiffart was involved in many of the important conversations that resulted in the verification of the heliocentric theory. Still, besides having the voice of a daemon, “he was also affected by depression and mental illness, in which there was no place for relaxation.”38 Thus, by the end of the note, this voice is again firmly likened to a being and not a machine. Moreover, Seiffart, on account of his voice and depression, is not unlike a demon, or someone, at the very least, plagued by demons.
Kepler’s notes on this subject present the voice as both physical and mechanical. As a physical phenomenon, the voice delimits the body of the Daemon, qualifying a reader’s imagination of the voice as the unrestrained bellowing of a creature unbounded by the laws of nature. To this extent, the qualities of this unnatural voice describe the unnatural body that houses the voice. At the same time, the voice may be purely mechanical, an artificial construct that sounds mysterious, but may be produced by a clever toy. If this is the case, the “daemon” could simply be a scientist playing a trick on Duracotus and his mother.
Either way, the voice calls attention to the unseen body that produces this voice, a relationship Roland Barthes calls the grain of the voice, and defines as “the encounter between a language and a voice.”39 The Daemon’s essentially textual but unviewable body embodies “the very precise space (genre) of the encounter between a language and a voice.”40 As I have been arguing throughout this study, the encounter between a language and a cul­tural body finally able to speak that language results in a reconception of the genres that modulate and categorize languages, modes, and registers. To this extent, the body of the Daemon is the genre of the Somnium. The para­doxes of its voice and its body represent the competing discourses influenc­ing Kepler’s own estimation of the language the Daemon speaks.


Of course, complete languages do not hang in the air like dense clouds of miasmatic swamp gas, infecting the unwary traveler with linguistically- manifested psychoses. Expressions of culturally-guided embodiment, lan­guages evolve in response to environmentally-supplied stimuli. However, languages also affect bodies in a manner similar to that employed by the fungal parasites that infect and control the nervous system of the ant spe­cies Megaloponera foetens41: Barthes’ description of the voice as body, evoking as it does “the cavities, the muscles, the membranes, the cartilages [. . .] as though a single skin lined the inner flesh of the performer and the music he sings,”42 suggests that the grain of the voice signifies “the materiality of the body speaking its mother tongue.”43 From this standpoint, that which can speak the Daemon’s language inhabits the Daemon’s body.
Kepler continuously likens the magical summoning of the Daemon to his own practices of astronomical observation. Still, Kepler’s note on this voice suggests that even the Daemon is not to be viewed as an unimpeach­ably supernatural manifestation. The scientific experiment, like the magical ritual, is only effective if it is repeated, unchanged, time after time. Thus, like the ceremony performed by Duracotus’ mother, “the corresponding feature in the teaching of astronomy is that the method is not in the least voluble or spontaneous.”44 Kepler does not draw this parallel between magic and sci­ence without providing an example that further clarifies his selection of the form of the magical ritual that appears here in the Somnium. Instead, he provides an example of the standard procedure he used with visitors when he worked in Prague:
Whenever men or women came together to watch me, first, while they were engaged in conversation, I used to hide myself from them in a nearby corner of the house, which had been chosen for this demonstra­tion. I cut out the daylight, constructed a tiny window out of a very small opening and hung a white sheet on the wall.45
Prefiguring Newton’s Optics, Kepler describes a demonstration of the camera obscura (perhaps, for our purposes, best referred to as a camera oscura, or shadow chamber), its history also linked to witchcraft.46 Through the cita­tion accompanying notes 44, 46, and 47, Kepler ironically likens his prepa­rations to those of a diabolical necromancer. Regarding his preparations, he asserts that “these were my ceremonies, these my rites.”47 In his description of these procedures, he also emphasizes his instrumental role in producing the demonstration. Furthermore, he notes that he hides from his guests, and that he, like the Daemon, produces knowledge, demonstrates mastery of earthly elements, while, at the same time, remaining invisible, remaining legible only through the medium of the demonstration itself.
The final part of Kepler’s description of his magical rites further emphasizes the textual quality of this magico-scientific demonstration. The camera obscura produces a dark enclosure with an aperture through which light enters to form an image of outside objects on the opposite surface. Light filters through the opening and produces an image on the inside of the dark enclosure. In further describing his demonstration, Kepler asks the reader “Do you want characters too?” By this, he refers to the magical sym­bols accompanying the sorcerer’s ceremonies. Because the camera obscura produces a reflection of the image, he was forced to write his message back­wards so that it would be legible to his audience. Still, drawing on the dae­monic lore of black masses, based on a rhetorical inversio identical to the inversion of earth and moon animating this text, Kepler comments “behold the magical rite” as he mentions that “the shape of the letters was backwards [. . .] as Hebrew is written.”48 Kepler’s invocation of Hebrew is deliberate.


He also uses the name “Levania” for the moon because “Moon” in Hebrew is “Lebana or Levana.”49 While he notes that he could also have used the word “Selenitis,” he chose the Hebrew because “Hebrew words, being less familiar to our ears, inspire greater awe and are recommended in the occult arts.”50 Furthermore, Kepler’s evocation of magical symbols appearing mysteri­ously on the wall recalls another text concerned with dream interpretation and the occult arts: the Book of Daniel, which, as we have seen, is also linked to the genre of the allegorical dream narrative.51 Kepler, however, does not merely liken these reversed messages to the right-to-left movement of the Hebrew alphabet; medieval European culture frequently linked the Jews to black magic, cannibalism, and other inversions and perversions of the Chris­tian faith.
The structure of the camera obscura also emphasizes the connection between the magical and the scientific. The spectators are enclosed in a room which functions as the camera. While the image is projected into the room, those inside the room may have difficulty seeing outside through the small opening. Kepler positions himself, like the Daemon, on the outside of the camera. This is not to call into question whether or not Kepler was actually in the room as he demonstrated the visual illusions of the camera obscura to his houseguests. Instead, I mean to point out that, in this description, Kepler emphasizes his position as the creator of the illusion. While he was most likely in the box, his intellectual mastery of physical forms assumes a mystical presence outside of the room temporarily transformed into a camera obscura. Indeed, the mechanism of the camera obscura works in such a way as to maximize the supernatural atmosphere it invokes. Thus, “If a breeze disturbed the board outside, the letters inside wiggled to and fro on the wall in an irregular motion.”52 A scientific tool like the camera obscura suggested to Kepler the theological questions underlying the science of astronomy. The mysterious sensations produced by a scientific tool hint, further, at the prom­ise of understanding the supernatural through empirical means.
In Allegory: The Dynamics of an Ancient and Medieval Technique, Jon Whit­man adds a further dimension to our conception of the supernatural quali­ties of the daemon. He notes, most significantly for our consideration of the Somnium, the complexity of the relationship between psychic causes and cos­mic forces as articulated in texts from late antiquity. The Somnium, building from traditional mythographic sources, also echoes this disparity. Whitman notes that “already in Plato and Xenocrates, there are intriguing associa­tions between the opposing forces of the soul and the various daemones of the world, who mediate between the realms of spirit and matter.”53 Prior to this, the individual soul was not so closely identified with the processes of the universe. In philosophical texts of the first centuries AD, “a correlation increasingly develops between the elements of the soul and the ‘powers’ of the spiritual world as a whole.”54
This disjunction corresponds with the increasing allegorization of the various features of the human personality. From a purely narrative stand­point, this correlation between the elements of the soul and the denizens of the spiritual world is most evident in terms of character and setting. The personification of these elements changes the possibilities of philosophical speculation. The Psychomachia of Prudentius, for instance, emphasizes the dramatic possibilities of texts speculating on the reconciliation of the indi­vidual soul and Divinity. The early Christian desire to “bring the soul to heaven”55 achieves a literal solution through the personification allegory. Fol­lowing the interpretive process necessitated by allegory, such narrativization “places the drama of the soul simultaneously on two planes.”56
Whitman’s analysis of this component of allegory is significant for this discussion because of the conclusions he draws about this ‘turn inward’ that characterizes early Christian allegory. For Whitman, “this turn inward has its inverse compositional counterpart, as the articulation of the soul expands outward into the world at large.”57 The turn inward, which results in a narrativization of internal mental processes, necessitates the creation of a landscape on which these psychological battles and journeys are enacted. This imaginary landscape, as it represents more and more the imagined workings of the soul, overlaps more and more with that most abstract, but still “real,” landscape, the cosmos. Thus, “by the time of the Cosmographia, this process will become panoramic in scope.”58 The two-part structure of the Cosmographia explicitly emphasizes the correspondence between micro­cosmos and macrocosmos that appeared early on in Plato and Xenocrates. At the same time, this correspondence, expressed as philosophical concept in Plato and Xenocrates, becomes a generic model of textual organization in the Cosmographia, so that these concepts also become ways of dividing the text.


Whitman also draws the intriguing connection between the daemons of the world and the dynameis, or governing powers, of the world. Thus, “the dualistic tendencies of such discussions intensify in Plutarch, who at times speaks both of two guardian daemons for the soul and of two governing pow­ers (dynameis) in the world.”59 These quotes point toward an identification of daemons with dynameis. Thus, according to Whitman, the term daemon becomes closely associated with the concept of natural or spiritual powers. This differs markedly from the previous definitions of daemon offered by Kepler (and Rosen). The daemon as power is neither the daemon as expert (Kepler) nor the daemon as divider (Rosen). Whitman traces this develop­ment of the meaning of the word in relation to the development of Judeo- Christian conceptions of the supernatural. Thus, “Perhaps the most telling development of this period is the tendency among writers from various tradi- tions—Jewish, Hermetic, and Christian—to conflate different senses of the term ‘powers’ itself (dynameis): psychic forces, angelic influences, and divine attributes.”60 By this, Whitman means to point out that the two separate realms where daemons may exert their power—the individual consciousness, the natural world—are themselves conflated. He notes Origen as the writer in whose works these diverse possibilities emerge as a single phenomenon. Thus, Origen “divides both the soul and the world (and individual nations) between good and evil daemons—mediating powers (the evil ones associated with particular beasts and vices) who inhabit the air and help or hinder the soul’s ascent to heaven.”61

Here as well, the various psychic landscapes converge, guarded as they are by the same plethora of good and evil daemons.62 The dominant alle­gorical topos highlights the struggles of the soul as it attempts to ascend to heaven. On the one hand, the daemon-plagued landscape the soul encoun­ters is merely an attempt to represent a spiritual journey that is essentially unrepresentable, stemming as it does from the meditative withdrawal of the pious pilgrim from the external world. At the same time, the conflation of daemons with dynameis renders this metaphorical process more ‘real.’ Thus, while the temptations of hostile daemons may exert themselves entirely within the psychic sphere of the individual soul, the powers of such daemo- nes, like the powers of their holy counterparts, are not limited to the individ­ual conscience. These powers are, then, operative within both the individual and the universe. For Whitman, “Such conflations tend to incorporate the middle realm of the daemons within the framework of man or God. The ‘powers’ are in a sense elements of each, but at some remove from both.”63 The powers of the daemons can, then, work within the individual and the universe. However, the daemons exist, at the same time, at a remove from the individual consciousness.
Kepler’s Daemon is certainly emblematic of this conception of the dae­mon. Kepler’s literary sources attest to this. But in the Somnium, the idea of the daemon as a force or power also has repercussions for the idea of the natu­ral and for the newly developing language for describing the natural that we would identify as the voice of modern science. The distinction between the daemon as expert or the daemon as power is of central importance here. The expert always exists at some distance from the subject of expertise. The ability to describe how something functions necessitates objectification: if something is described, it is described from some exterior vantage point. The voice of the Daemon alone certainly justifies such a conception of the range of the daemon.64 The switch in mode from Duracotus’ narration to the Daemon’s learned discourse merits our conception of the daemon as an expert articu­lating his views.
But is this final discursive mode—the language of the geographers—truly encapsulated by the narrative? I contend that its use, on the contrary, opens up the many narrative levels of the Somnium. To this extent, the innermost layer of the Somnium then points beyond itself, effectively leading to a new language that discards the encapsulating levels of the narrative as a snake sheds its skin. From the standpoint of traditional allegory, “the knowledge of things, as well as language, is essential to proper interpretation.”65 For Chris­tian allegorists, as Augustine emphasizes in On Christian Doctrine, “the thing a text signifies should in turn signify another thing, until all signs eventually disappear in God.”66 In this way, Kepler reconciles a mathematically veri­fied model of the cosmos that contradicts the Neoplatonist model through recourse to the discursive modes employed by Kepler’s predecessors. Thus, for Kepler the theologian, a science based on mathematics can, like “the alle­gorical interpretation of scripture [,] expand beyond the text into the world at large, diverging radically from the initial correspondence between text and meaning.”67 The Book of Nature, a metaphor “itself derive[d] from the Latin Middle Ages,”68 animates Kepler’s discussion in a slightly different manner than current understanding of this metaphor would suggest. Instead, the Daemon’s textual body parallel’s Alain de Lille’s formulation that
Omnis mundi creatura Quasi liber et pictura Nobis est et speculum.69
This body, a microcosmic jigsaw composite of ideas and modes, dem­onstrates a correspondence with the macrocosm of the new universe; this correspondence is conceptually similar to the Neoplatonist theory of corre­spondence, but results in very different bodily forms. The deforming meta- diegetic frames of the Somnium suggest the textual representation of this correspondence. James J. Paxson explores the subject of narrative frames in detail in “Revisiting the Deconstruction of Narratology: Master Tropes of Narrative Embedding and Symmetry.” He notes that:
As a rule, or in accord with what might be identified as an implicit narrative code, the innermost framed discourse or endodiegesis of the
Somnium seems to grow ever more abstract and dense. In this final nar­rative voice, the voice of the professional geographers, the Somnium speaks the language of contemporary science, one given to empirical observations, much measurement, and geometrical or trigonometrical rendering.70
Of course, this discursive mode, the language of contemporary science, was, in Kepler’s time, not itself encapsulated or codified. Indeed, this language was very much in a process of becoming. Science, as a discursive mode, was not entirely freed from the spiritual dimensions of previous attempts at mac- rocosmological knowledge.
The metaphysical description of the motion of the sun is further based on rhetorical ingenuity. The Somnium begins, conceptually, from a fundamental dislocation of point of view: “For Levania seems to its inhab­itants to remain just as motionless among the moving stars as does our earth to us humans.”71 A moon-based perspective replaces the earth-based perspective which has yielded the geocentric concept. While the logic remains the same, the moon-based perspective transcends the boundaries of possibility, belonging neither to the geocentric, heliocentric, or Tychonian universes.

But the dislocation of point of view from the earth to the moon is not without precedent in Kepler’s scientific work. After Tycho Brahe’s death in 1601, Kepler was appointed Imperial Mathematician. In Prague, he began to work on the problem of planetary orbits using Brahe’s calculations. However, as he complained in a letter, “‘I would already have concluded my researches about world harmony, had not Tycho’s astronomy so shackled me that I nearly went out of my mind.’”72 In order to determine whether his calcu­lations of planet orbits were correct, Kepler employed a device familiar to readers of the Somnium. He was confronted with the problem of verifying the various positions of the earth’s orbit. Making these calculations from his vantage point on the earth, however, was problematic. He needed an exterior vantage point to measure against his calculations of the earth’s orbit. He had been making calculations of the Martian orbit as well, so he merely trans­ferred his point of view to Mars:
Hitherto, the point of view had been from the earth to Mars; now Kepler wanted to follow the earth on its course from a point on the orbit of Mars ‘as from a watchtower.’ He, so to speak, transposed his eyes to a particular position of Mars’ orbit and from there found out directly the relative values of the distances from sun to earth.73
The Daemon who, like the Earth Spirit of Faust, speaks of the earth to humans does so as an embodiment of the knowledge that it speaks. But this body of knowledge is still fragmentary, and still reliant on the pre- or proto- scientific discourses of “the geographers.”
However, as Paxson indicates, this final narrative voice:
most closely echoes the ‘voice’ of the outermost narrative frame in the text—the more than two hundred ‘discontinuous’ though authoritative endnotes sporadically furnished by Kepler through 1630. By certain standards, in fact, the innermost endodiegesis replicates the outermost notational frame en abyme, as Dallenbach would assert [. . .] But, just as well, we might follow Derrida by saying that epistemological authority transposes itself with parasitological marginality.74

The footnotes are themselves disembodied from the text. They are discontin­uous though authoritative, indicative of a moment of modal becoming. The footnotes, which dominate the Daemon’s speech, help to expand this section of the text in relation to the surrounding narrative frame. As Mieke Bal notes in her discussion of the “Relations Between Primary and Embedded Texts,” “The hierarchical position of the texts is indicated by the fundamental prin­ciple of level. The relations between narrator’s text and actor’s text may be of difference in kind and intensity. Quantitative aspect is of influence here: the more sentences frame the actor’s text, the stronger is the dependence.”75 Conversely, the more sentences devoted to the interior text, the stronger its independence from the framing narrative. The footnote, as described by Derrida in “This Is Not an Oral Footnote,” is part of an already embodied discourse. While “there can be [. . .] footnotes in newspapers,” these anno­tations “find themselves at home” in academic and scientific discourse. In Kepler’s Somnium, however, these footnotes hint at a discourse in formation. Derrida is quite right to refer to footnotes as “parasites.” In this case, the parasite, embodied textually as footnotes, represented in the narrative as the Daemon, is a creature undergoing transformation.
The footnote is not a benign textual feature. The footnote itself has its own history. Thus, while Derrida contends that footnotes belong in academic discourse, this genre as it appears in academic discourse is relatively recent. In The Footnote, Anthony Grafton traces the extent to which “the footnote is bound up, in modern life, with the ideology and the technical practices of [the] profession of scholarly endeavor.”76 To this extent, “Even a brief exercise in comparison [of the uses of the footnote] reveals a staggering range of diver­gent practices under history’s apparently stable surface.”77 Derrida identifies,
by extension, “The nonbelonging or rigorous, determinable exteriority of the annotation in relation to the principal, primitive text”78 as a necessary condi­tion for the annotation. However, the qualities that determine this exterior­ity are themselves contingent on the preconditions governing the discourse.

For Paxson, spatial metaphors are necessary to describe narrative embedding. The charts of the ring compositionists attest to the attractiveness of an endless spatialization of the narrative: the embedded narrative seems to beg for a chart or graph that extends the domain of that narrative, and dem­onstrates an illusory, metaphoric, and, in the case of the Somnium, unten­able, symmetry. Indeed, the text itself features a most asymmetric form.79 As Paxson notes, “the carefully disposed, five-degree sequence of endodiegeses occupying ten folio pages of text (sans the sixth degree, the endnotes) rapidly unwinds like a spring within two sentences.”80 At the end of the narrative, Kepler exposes and, simultaneously, concludes every layer of the narrative:
When I had reached this point in my dream, a wind arose with the rattle of rain, disturbing my sleep and at the same time wiping out the end of the book acquired at Frankfurt. Therefore, leaving behind the Daemon narrator and her auditors, Duracotus the son with his mother, Fiolx- hilde, as they were with their heads covered up, I returned to myself and found my head really covered with the pillow and my body with the blankets.81
The end of the narrative serves to reinforce the symmetry of the various levels of the narrative. Each diegetic frame is both opened and closed. The exter­nal frame, consisting of Kepler’s dream, begins and ends the narrative. This symmetry in terms of narrative levels is not, for Paxson, corroborated by its duree. The duration of each frame should, in order to merit the symmetry of a narrative, be equal when it is opened and closed. However, the Somnium ends abruptly. The end of the book from Frankfurt remains unread. The ele­ments sweep the dream away.


The wind and rain that dissolve the dream are not, however, with­out significance. At the onset of the narrative, there is no mention of rain. Indeed, Kepler, the astronomer, “went to bed and fell into a very deep sleep” after a night of “watching the stars and the moon.”82 Of course, Kepler couldn’t have watched the stars on a stormy night. A storm strong enough to rouse one from sleep, however, let alone from “a very deep sleep” seems quite remarkable, particularly one which arises from nowhere on the Bavar­ian countryside. But, for Kepler, a dream always heralds a mystical experi­ence, the interpretation of which, and the conditions surrounding it, suggest the language of the divine. The intrusion of the storm marks the dream as a revelation; its power extends beyond unconsciousness.
The narrative framing of the Somnium suggests a view of the natural world that closely parallels the preoccupation with the natural world so evident in the cosmological narratives of the school of Chartres. These narratives reveal a dual interest in conveying philosophical truth and accurate depictions of the natural world. However, while the authors of these narratives might have been interested in depicting the natural world in a more recognizably “accu­rate” mode than that assumed by their predecessors, they still “raised philo­sophical issues without providing tools to explore these issues.”83
While authors such as Alain de Lille and Bernardus Silvestris were con­cerned with the natural world, “the ‘discovery of nature’ so crucial to the Burckhardtian view of the twelfth-century Renaissance [. . .] was first and last a rediscovery of texts about nature.”84 Kepler’s representation of the natu­ral suggests the influence of these concepts of the natural. For Kepler as well as his predecessors, “the phenomenal world, the ornatus elementorum (articu­lation of the elements), as William and Bernardus Silvestris refer to it, is a tissue of figures and images that must be read like a literary test. From such a standpoint, the philosophy of nature ‘involves and embodies a transcendent form of rhetoric.’”85


This approach was potentially liberating, but it “proved, in the practice of William and his fellow cosmologists, fatally circumscriptive, for it is here that the limitations of their resources become most plain.”86 Here, Wetherbee distinguishes between the twelfth century cosmologists and their precursors, the grammarians and encyclopedists of late antiquity. In this latter category are included Servius, Macrobius, Calcidius, and Fulgentius. For these writers, “it was axiomatic that the great auctores were repositories of profound philo­sophical wisdom.”87 However, the twelfth century cosmologists attempted to “ground religious thought in a philosophical understanding of nature and the Liberal Arts.”88
Critics like R.W Southern view this as a major reason to discount the significance of these cosmologists. In “Humanism and the School of Chartres,” he stipulates that their work was hindered by the limitations of their scientific knowledge.89 As such, Southern argues that these writers do not differ in any sig­nificant manner from earlier writers who interpreted texts to infer facts regard­ing the natural world. Further, in Christianizing the philosophical concepts of antiquity, allegorists such as William of Conches90, Abelard91, and Thierry of
Chartres92 simply aligned the platonic World Soul with the Christian Holy Spirit, thereby obviating the need for empirical observation.

By no coincidence, Kepler, trained for the clergy and a tremendously committed believer in the presence of divine design in the natural world, presents the Daemon as a version of the World Soul. However, while Kepler follows in this tradition of philosophical writing, the point of view of the narrative obscures the exact origin of the Daemon, complicating the ease with which we can align the Daemon with the Holy Spirit and, correspond­ingly, the World Soul. Hallyn notes that the origin of the Daemon is of some confusion; we are not certain if the Daemon comes from the moon or the earth. Thus, “The daemon’s scientific exposition is acceptable if he is under­stood from the point of view of a lunary creature, but from another point of view this exposition also presents the inverse image of terrestrial science.”93 The section title preceding the speech labels this figure quite clearly as “the Daemon from Levania.”94 Further, the Daemon remarks that “up there we are granted leisure to exercise our minds in accordance with our inclinations. We consult with the daemons of that area and enter into a league,” indicating that the moon is a haven for daemons. Still, the daemons also “rush toward the earth with our allied forces [. . .] when mankind sees the sun in eclipse.”95 Thus, the Daemon and his kindred seem to inhabit both Earth and Space.
Such positioning coincides exactly with the placement of celestial beings in the Neoplatonist cosmic model. By including itself within the per­spective of earth dwellers, the Daemon ultimately elides a conclusive deter­mination of its origin. Likewise, Kepler refers to the Daemon as Earth Spirit. The parallel to the object of Faust’s incantation is uncanny. However, unlike Goethe’s Earth Spirit, which merely reveals its own incomprehensibility to Faust, Kepler’s Earth Spirit is surprisingly eloquent. Both of these earth spir­its have parallels in the allegorical tradition of a conceptual figure representa­tive of the forces linking the natural with the divine.


The twelfth century cosmographers expanded the interpretive possi­bilities available to the world soul. As Whitman remarks, “they produced a composite figure pointing in two directions [. . .] by consolidating a divine abstraction with a cosmic agent.”96 Thus, the World Soul was an allegorical abstraction which, besides representing the synthesis of Christian doctrine and pagan philosophy, also represented the process by which such a synthe­sis occurred.97 To this extent, the conditions under which the world soul is employed play a significant role in determining its meaning: “In its Christian affiliation with divine goodness, this principle could remain otherworldly in its dimensions. In its pagan character as the World Soul, it could be deeply implicated in the world.”98
Kepler’s method, of course, differs significantly from that employed by the Neoplatonists. Thus, while Kepler, like the Neoplatonists, was interested in concepts such as celestial harmony that could be represented in the figure of the World Soul or Earth Spirit, Gerald Holton observes that “Kepler’s har­monies reside in the very fact that the relations are quantitative, not in some specific simple form of the quantitative relations.”99 He goes on to affirm the distinction between Kepler and his predecessors as follows: “It is exactly by this shift which we can now recognize as one point of breakthrough toward the later, modern conception of mathematical law in science.”100 Thus, while Kepler begins from the same philosophical presuppositions informing Neo­platonist cosmographical allegory, he seeks quantitative justification for phil­osophical and theological concepts.


The Somnium, then, must not be viewed as a fanciful allegory placed over Kepler’s calculations of planetary orbits. Instead, Kepler questions geocentrism through a logical and mathematically verifiable reversal of the necessary conditions of this model. At the same time, he inaugurates this experiment through an attention to the Neoplatonist conception of cosmic symmetry and proportion. Thus, the Moon, populated by legions of dae­mons, serves as an anti-sun which exists in the same relation to the earth as the earth exists to the sun. The sun, an allegorical expression of divinity in Neoplatonist cosmology, was the seat of God. Kepler intends for the moon to oppose the sun within his hypothetical account of Levanians who view the moon as the center of the universe. If the daemon-infested moon is the cen­ter of the universe, then we may infer that such a model effectively desecrates the vision of the universe as a temple of God Who rules from its center. Even Kepler’s use of the name Levania, selected specifically because such a word, derived from Hebrew, “should inspire greater awe and [is] recommended in the occult arts,”101 suggests a dichotomous relationship between the sun and the moon that echoes classical mythography while at the same time sug­gesting the sinister implications of an incorrect or misguided perception of the shape of the universe. Indeed, it is only in the Copernican universe that the sun exists at the center. By implication, the geocentric universe, like the selenocentric universe, is misguided, inverted, and, perhaps, diabolically informed.102


Mathematics provides Kepler with the necessary tool to explore this theological tangle:
The investigation of nature becomes an investigation into the thought of God, Whom we can apprehend through the language of mathemat­ics. Mundus est imago Dei corporea, just as, on the other hand, animus
est imago Dei incorporea. In the end, Kepler’s unifying principle for the world of phenomena is not merely the concept of mechanical forces, but God, expressing Himself in mathematical laws.103
Holton argues for a standard correlation between Kepler’s scientific work and his religious background. Thus, we see Kepler opposed to Descartes, who views the mathematical order of nature as God. Kepler sees the mathemati­cal order of nature as the means by which God expresses His power. Holton offers Kepler’s religious training as justification for his perception of Kepler as a theologian working in science, and points out that Kepler often “referred to astronomers as priests of the Deity in the book of nature.”104 The notion of astronomers as priests testifies to the piety inherent in Kepler’s work. Holton substantiates his argument further by providing the following state­ment Kepler made to Herwart von Hohenberg in a letter from December, 1598: “I take religion seriously, I do not play with it.”105 The juxtaposition of these two quotes helps Holton to argue that, for Kepler, nature is religion. Kepler seeks to unravel the mysteries of the book of nature in the same sol­emn manner of a theologian preparing a Biblical exegesis.
The problem with such an argument is that this is manifestly not the case with the Somnium. The exegetical method which Kepler pursues in this text does not correspond to Holton’s image of the serious astronomer/ theo­logian who “does not play” with God’s order as it is manifested in scripture or the book of nature. As I have already pointed out, the narrative works on the basis of a fundamental inversio of point of view. Kepler exposes the logical inconsistencies of the geocentric model of the solar system through a misrepresentation of a model that truly is geocentric: that is, the orbit of the moon around the earth.


Such inversio is a fictionalization, or falsification, of the order of the universe. But we cannot isolate rhetorical methods, regardless of their power and efficacy, from the subjects they are used to represent. Representations of the universe are tied to conceptions of divinity. Copernicanism was so controversial because, if true, it allowed a revised book of nature to rewrite scripture. Inversio, however, is the trope of devils; the invocation of a universe where lunar creatures see themselves as the center of the universe implies an overturning of doctrines like salvation through Christ made human, and a belief of humanity created in the image of God. My position here might seem a bit extreme, but similar concerns were raised by Kepler’s contempo­raries in regards to the people of the New World. On the one hand, writers like Thomas Harriot were content to characterize natives of the New World as examples of prelapsarian innocence. But the question that immediately followed such characterizations involved the status of the souls of the natives. If truly innocent, then why convert them? If they do not know Christ, how can they be considered innocent? Are their barbaric customs and heathen beliefs truly a reflection of man’s origins as presented in Genesis, or has the spiritual and material progress of these peoples been stunted through their slavish devotion to deities that are actually demons, actively committed to keeping the natives from accepting the Word of God? The perspective on the natives reflects the perspective on the natural. Likewise, attempts by geom­eters to disseminate a model of the universe informed by the logic of obser­vation and not the musings found in authoritative sources necessitate a form of argumentation wherein the natural informs the theological.
Kepler’s argumentative methods are perhaps best explained as a result of his academic training. The inversion of meanings evident in the use of the Dae­mon suggests a sophisticated recourse to the dialectical method. Andreas Planer offers a definition of dialectics as a single method which provides access to all knowledge. Thus, in his Scientia demonstrandi (1586), Planer “likens all of knowledge to a building which is approached by only one road, the way or method of demonstration.”106 For Planer, the training of the mind to accomplish the aims of the dialectic is best embodied by Aristotle’s Orga­non. Planer seeks to “rid [. . .] all sciences of the errors, opinions, and igno­rance shown by so many authors, and he believes that the way to do this is through the proper use of demonstrative method.107 However, the disparity between the logical aims of a project like Planer’s and the actual application of dialectical method became increasingly evident to scholars and educators through the sixteenth century.
Thus, Planer, writing in the late sixteenth century, continues to echo the viewpoint of Philip Melanchthon, who had a direct influence on the cur­riculum of the University at Tübingen.108 Planer’s description of the aims of the dialectic maintains the credibility of Aristotle’s authority because Aristot­le’s methods emphasize proofs. Still, as Metheun points out, the discrepancy between Aristotle’s aims and actual observations became increasingly difficult to ignore. Thus, Melanchthon’s “acceptance of Aristotle’s authority presum­ably lies behind [his] unquestioning recourse to Aristotelian cosmology and his rejection of observational evidence which conflicts with that cosmology.”109


The messages provided through observation of the natural world, however, also hint at a need to readdress Aristotle’s favored methods as well. Dialectics, which “makes it possible to go beyond ‘common appearances’ to what is hidden, allowing the essence of natural things to be ascertained by contemplation”110 still connotes a divinely guided pursuit of knowledge, rather than a system of proofs rigorously aligned with observation, and not interpretation.
The contrast between methods here becomes clearly evident when Aristotle’s philosophical aims clearly contradict Aristotle’s recorded obser­vations. Michael Maestlin’s observations of the 1572 nova and two comets highlight this problem. In his then-controversial findings, based on his mea­surements of the parallax of such phenomena, “Maestlin concludes that they are all supralunar, rather than sublunar, and thus he contradicts the teachings of Aristotle that comets are sublunar and that no change can occur in the supralunar region.”111 While “Maestlin is convinced that an accurate under­standing of God’s creation will lead to a more precise knowledge of God and of God’s intentions for the world,”112 he places observation above appeal to traditional authorities. The precision of his observations, derived through geometrical proofs, allows him “to draw conclusions, the truth and certainty of which are to be rated higher than the authority of the opinions of Aristo­tle, Pliny, and other ancient philosophers.”113


I highlight this conflict with various approaches to knowledge as an example of the various possibilities available to Kepler as a scientist. At the same time, I think that these problems surrounding the presentation of knowledge become manifested in the form of the Daemon. The University of Tübingen was the source of heated discussion on method and presenta­tion. Such views were, likewise, reflected in the curriculum of the school and the publications of its instructors. For example, Maestlin’s conclusions regarding the nova of 1572 do more than discredit the authority of Aristotle’s conception of the natural world. Instead, a text such as Maestlin’s Demonstra­tio astronomica loci stellae novae argues that the existence of a new star “repre­sents a change in the heavens, not simply above the moon, but in the sphere of the stars, previously assumed to be perfect and immutable.”114 This does not only damage a particular model of the universe: the force of observa­tion does more than discredit the Neoplatonist model of the universe which had, by the sixteenth century, fused classical philosophy and Christian theol­ogy into a set of tools used for describing the natural world. Instead, it casts doubt on the pairing of perfection and immutability so central to what is essentially a geometrical model of the universe.
The scholars of the University of Tübingen and their students were com­mitted to expressions of divinity in the natural world. Indeed, Kepler’s early Mysterium Cosmographicum builds from the notion of the geometric perfection of the solar system. Unlike the Neoplatonist model, the nova astronomia relies principally on geometrical proofs and mathematical calculations in order to support observation. However, these proofs and calculations are still used in order to verify the perfection of divine design. Thus, as Kepler notes in the dedicatory epistle to the Mysterium Cosmographicum, “For the more rightly we understand the nature and scope of what our God has founded, the more devout our spirit will become.”115


The goals of the Mysterium Cosmographicum are not, of course, the same as those of Kepler’s later works. Still, Kepler’s debt to his training at Tübin­gen is evident throughout his career, leading him to “a theological math­ematics, that is, to the precise observation and interpretation of the heavens in God’s name.”116 At the same time, this conflict between perfectibility and immutability and the connection of these factors to method suggests some things about the character of the Daemon in the Somnium. Regardless of the etymological roots of the word daemon, the name still carries a connotation of diabolism, of a reversal or overturning of holiness. Furthermore, while Kepler playfully likens representations of astronomical observation to the conventions of demonic summoning, his own views on the essentially theo­logical aim of astronomy beg the question why he uses a daemon as a mouth­piece for Copernicanism. The language of the Daemon is most certainly a recognizably scientific language. Unlike the burbling curses and shrieking hisses of the demons populating Bosch’s paintings, Kepler’s Daemon makes learned statements, noting, for instance, that “The intersections of the equa­torial and zodiacal circles create four cardinal points, like our equinoxes and solstices” and “For they indicate the longitude of places with reference to their motionless Volva, and the latitude with reference both to Volva and to the poles, whereas for longitudes we have nothing but that most lowly and barely perceptible declination of the magnet.”117
But we cannot merely equate diabolism with barbarism, and thereby conclude that Kepler’s Daemon has nothing in common with Christian rep­resentations of the Enemy and His minions. Indeed, while some demons are represented as sinful urges personified in monstrous forms, others can also be depicted as highly educated figures who use their learning in order to tempt and torment. While Goethe’s Mephistopheles is surely the most recognizable prototype of such a demon, the Biblical representation of Jesus’ temptation in the forest, or even of Satan as diabolical advocate in Job, hint at the com­plexities of the persona of absolute evil.

The Daemon is, then, demonic in the Christian sense. It is the devil of Job, perhaps, playing the role of the inquisitor in the court of God. It is a devil who, by “Roaming through the earth and going to and fro in it,”118 knows the natural in ways unavailable to the angels assembled in heaven.
Indeed, the Daemon, though undescribed, and undescribable by Dura- cotus, who lies huddled under a sheet, perhaps resembles the foreboding Devil of the Brixen altarpiece. The demon of Christian imagination, it is adorned with leathery wings, fangs, and horns. But also, it appears as a teacher, proffering a book to its unwitting students. Still, the invocation of the Daemon implies a complex dialogue. As Michel Serres notes in Angels: A Modern Myth:
By a juridicial logic, we choose to depict as devils those who cause us suffering, and who enjoy such a power that they would win a trial against us from the very moment that we publicly brought a plea against them. [. . .] But has anyone ever really been scared of this skinny beast, this poor horned devil with eyes in his bottom, this victim of our cruel weakness?119
At the same time, perhaps it is wrong to use such an image to evoke the Dae­mon. Kepler, in eliding description, and aligning the voice of the Daemon with the rolling thunder of a storm, connects the Daemon to the forces of nature that it represents. In doing so, Kepler presents us with a personage that is angelic in Serres’ sense of the angel as a manifestation of “the beauty of the world.”120 This is not, however, an irresolvable contradiction. The rep­resentation of the Daemon is, moreover, closely paired with Kepler’s attempt to resolve the competing means of representing nature that were most readily available. The angel in one of these modes of discourse becomes a demon in the next.
While the Daemon is a force of nature, there are, for Kepler, three dif­ferent levels or ways of viewing nature. The first views the auctoritas as the ultimate repository for information about the natural world. The second such approach attempts to synthesize Neoplatonist philosophies and obser­vations of the natural world. This attempt at synthesis, as Wetherbee argues, is the ultimate limitation of this approach. Thus, while the twelfth century cosmographers attempt to discard this approach, they are still indebted to the auctoritas to the extent that they can never get to a science based primar­ily on calculations. While they might affirm Aristotle’s view that we must use observation in order to examine the natural world, they are still too likely to see Aristotle’s own observations, many of which are very inaccurate, as admis­sible because of their origin. This approach would also reflect the degree to which the writings of classical authorities were Christianized: even if they were pagan, much of their work was interpreted in such a way as to highlight the Christian leanings or potential.


Kepler, though, is faced with observations and data that clearly defy the laws of tradition. The third approach follows from this contradiction: nature is that which is verified through empirical observation and mathematics. Kepler, however, does not entirely embrace this approach, though he senses its validity. He still employs data as a way to justify the theological concepts underlying Neoplatonism. For a scientist so heavily influenced by the mysticism of Neo­platonism, Kepler employs the Daemon as a way of questioning the validity of his findings. While Kepler is clearly convinced of Copernicanism, he sets out to justify this position in relation to previous conceptions of astronomy. He sees this as necessary for the continuation of astronomy as a viable and productive science and explanation of the theological question of the universe. The Dae­mon is, then, a figure that provides Kepler with a composite of references and polymorphically potential interpretations of meaning. This range of interpreta­tions prevents us from reading the Daemon as a closed figure. The multiple meanings of the Daemon signify, like the universe it describes, the limitations of signification itself. Thus, the form of the dream allegory, previously a form with a claim to truth derived from mystical inspiration, becomes, like the universe itself, a place of uncertainty, a form made formless.
Franz Kafka remarked once that writing is the reward for service to the devil. I’ve thought about this quote frequently while writing this book. While Kafka is speaking in a very different cultural context, I wonder if his state­ment somehow reflects Kepler’s quandary. In fact, Kepler’s dream is very much a written artifact; for much of his life, Kepler’s fingers were stained with ink from this text. But Kepler’s continuous writing of the Somnium never absolved him from the sin of discovery, from the creation of a new universe made through observation, conjecture, and imagination. Instead, Kepler, writing in an age of religious turmoil, his fortunes shaped by this turmoil, finds himself attracted to an even more dangerous form of turmoil: the polysemous book of the universe.




1.    Stillman Drake, Telescopes, Tides, and Tactics: A Galilean Dialogue About the Starry Messenger and Systems of the World (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983), 61.
2.     William Shea, “Looking at the Moon as Another Earth. Terrestrial Analo­gies and Seventeenth-Century Telescopes,” in Metaphor and Analogy in the Sciences, ed. Fernand Hallyn (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2000), 96.
3.     Field, 35.
4.     Qtd. in Shea, 98-99.
5.     Harriot was directly involved in attempts to gain a greater understanding of the New World. His A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Vir­ginia, first published in 1588, provides an account of the Algonkian tribe of Virginia. His descriptions, besides encouraging British settlement, seek to position the natives within a Christian historical context. As Andrew Had- field notes in “Thomas Harriot and John White: Ethnography and Ideology in the New World,” “No identity [for these previously unknown peoples] could be established without recourse to a theological explanation” (Had- field 201).
6.     Roos, 93-94.
7.     Qtd. in Ewen A. Whitaker, “Selenography in the Seventeenth Century,” in Planetary Astronomy from the Renaissance to the Rise of Astrophysics. Part A: Tycho Brahe to Newton, eds. R. Taton and C. Wilson (Cambridge: Cam­bridge University Press, 1989), 120.
8.     Shea, 98.
9.     Ibid.
10.    We cannot, however, undermine the significance of mathematical achieve­ment. As Stephen Jay Gould reminds us in “Happy Thoughts on a Sunny Day in New York City,” “Galileo described the universe in his most famous line: ‘This grand book is written in the language of mathematics, and its characters are triangles, circles, and other geometrical figures’” (Gould 3).
Still, as Gould admonishes a scientific establishment “oversold on the math­ematical precision of nature,” he contends that “much of nature is messy and multifarious, markedly resistant to simple mathematical expression” (Gould 4,3).
11.     Clarke, Energy, 28.
12.     Paul De Man, “’Conclusions’: Walter Benjamin’s ‘The Task of the Trans­lator,’” in The Resistance to Theory (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), 87.
13.     David L. Clark, “Monstrosity, Illegibility, Denegation: De Man, bp Nichol, and the Resistance to Postmodernism,” in Monster Theory, ed. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996), 41.
14.     Kepler, Somnium, 17.
15.     Mary Baine Campbell, “Alternative Planet: Kepler’s Somnium (1634) and the New World,” in The Arts of 17th Century Science: Representations of the Natural World in European and North American Culture, eds. Claire Jowitt and Diane Watt (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002), 236.
16.     Ibid.
17.     Ibid., 237.
18.     Campbell, 237.
19.     Though, as Kepler postulated, the moon was capable of influencing the tides.
20.     Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, “Monster Culture (Seven Theses),” in Monster The­ory, ed. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996), 4.
21.      Kepler, Somnium, 50.
22.      Ibid.
23.      Ibid.
24.      Ibid.
25.      Ibid.
26.     Joel Fineman, “The Structure of Allegorical Desire,” in Allegory and Repre­sentation, ed. Stephen J. Greenblatt (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), 8.
27.      Kepler, Somnium, 39.
28.      Ibid., 50.
29.      P. Levy, Les Technologies de l’intelligence (Paris: La Decouverte, 1990), 209. Translations mine.
30.      Lambert, 91.
31.      Kepler, Somnium, 14.
32.     John Block Friedman, The Monstrous Races in Medieval Art and Thought (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981), 32.
33.      Kepler, Somnium, 60.
34.      Ibid.
35.      Ibid.
36.      Ibid.
37.      Ibid.
38.      Ibid., 62.
39.      Roland Barthes, Image Music Text, trans. Stephen Heath (New York: Hill and Wang, 1977), 181.
40.      Ibid.
41.      Christian Bok, ‘Pataphysics: The Poetics of an Imaginary Science (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2002), 3.
42.      Barthes, 181-82.
43.      Barthes, 182.
44.      Kepler, Somnium, 57.
45.      Ibid.
46.      Giovanni Battista della Porta popularized the camera obscura with his Magiae Naturalis (1558). The initial demonstration to his invention indi­cates that Kepler refers to the supernatural just by referring to the camera obscura. After perfecting his invention, “della Porta summoned his friends and important members of Naples society to his home for a demonstra­tion. Instead of sharing his excitement, the group was appalled when they saw real human images displayed on the wall, believing it to be the work of witchcraft. The Catholic Church got wind of della Porta’s demonstra­tion and promptly charged him with sorcery. His work was banned for six years.” For a clear and concise overview of the camera obscura, see Stepha­nie Watson, “Camera Obscura: Ancestor of Modern Photography,” in Science and its Times: Understanding the Social Significance of Scientific Dis­covery. Vol. 3: 1450-1699, ed. Neil Schlager (Detroit: Gale Group, 2000), 423-426.
47.      Kepler, Somnium, 57.
48.      Ibid.
49.      Ibid., 53.
50.     Ibid.
51.      In this section of the Book of Daniel, Daniel derives his authority, given by God and affirmed by man, from his textual interpretation skills. After he decodes the inscription, we read in Daniel 6:29 that “Daniel was clothed in purple, a gold chain was placed around his neck, and he was proclaimed the third highest ruler in the kingdom.”
52.      Kepler, Somnium, 57.
53.     Whitman, Allegory, 72.
54.     Ibid.
55.      Ibid., 71.
56.      Ibid., 72.
57.     Ibid.
58.     Ibid.
59.     Ibid.
60.      Ibid.
61.      Ibid., 73.
62.     Apulius’ viewpoint on this matter closely parallels that of Origen. Thus, “When Apuleius speaks of the demons in general terms, he does so by contrasting their nature both with higher principles: the gods and with lower ones: human souls. Thus, he repeatedly stresses the notion that they are ‘intermediate powers’ (mediae potestates, medioximi)” (Gersh
309).
63.     Whitman, Allegory, 73.
64.      Gersh notes that, for a Platonist such as Apuleius, there is a group of demons “which are never incarnate in human bodies. As in the case of the gods, we find these spiritual beings described from both a subjective and an objective viewpoint, the former finding expression in Apuleius’ assertion that they are ‘visible to nobody’ (nemini conspicui)—an account negative in character— or that they can reveal themselves as ‘a kind of voice, although not the usual or human kind’ (vox quaepiam . . . non usitata vox nec humand)” (Gersh 312). These characteristics found in Apuleius’ writings “can be extracted from Plato’s dialogues” (Gersh 312).
65.     Whitman, Allegory, 79.
66.      Ibid.
67.      Ibid., 80.
68.      Curtius, 319.
69.      Qtd. in Curtius, 319.
70.     James J. Paxson, “Revisiting the Deconstruction of Narratology: Master Tropes of Narrative Embedding and Symmetry,” Style 35, no.1 (2001): 141.
71.      Kepler, Somnium, 117.
72.      Qtd. in Caspar, 127.
73.      Caspar, 130.
74.      Paxson, “Deconstruction,” 142.
75.      Bal, 141.
76.     Anthony Grafton, The Footnote: A Curious History (London: Faber and Faber, 1997), 5.
77.      Ibid., 7.
78.     Jacques Derrida, “This is Not An Oral Footnote,” in Annotation and its Texts, trans. and ed. Stephen A. Barney (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 196.
79.      Lambert draws a different conclusion that does not take this asymmetry into account. Instead, she argues that:
The complex correspondences of characters and settings that echo through the entire narrative of the Dream cause the differentiation of both narrative levels and places to collapse: the parallel arrangement of literally all the characters that figure in the narrative (be it with regard to their function in the plot, their character traits or what they experience) combined with the similarities between the various settings (Iceland, Hven, the Moon) seem to imply that the separate parts of the narrative are somehow the same, that they are mere variants of each other. (Lambert 87)
80.      Paxson, “Deconstruction,” 142.
81.      Kepler, Somnium, 28-29.
82.      Ibid., 11.
83.     Wetherbee, 220.
84.      Ibid., 221.
85.      Ibid.
86.      Ibid.
87.      Ibid.
88.      Ibid.
89.      See Southern, 61-85.
90.     William of Conches’ view on the world soul transformed through his career: “Scholars have been fascinated by William’s changing attitude towards the world-soul described by Plato in the Timaeus. His works reveal an early con­fidence in identifying it with the Holy Spirit, followed by greater caution, until by the time of the Dragmaticon the world-soul receives not so much as a mention” (Elford 326).
91.      Indeed, D.E. Luscombe notes that, for Abelard, “when properly interpreted, Plato—maximus philosophorum—and his followers may be seen to have expressed the mystery of the Trinity (totius Trinitatis summam postprophetas patenter ediderunt)” (Luscombe 302).
92.     Thierry “finds the moving power inherent in the universe understood as spirit by the pagan philosophers, Hermes (whose testament, Asclepius, was deemed to be a work of immense antiquity), Plato, and Virgil (the inspired vates who speaks of ‘the spirit within’), just as it is by the biblical prophets, Moses, David, and Solomon. And it is this same power, Thierry concludes triumphantly, that Christians call ‘the Holy Spirit’” (Dronke, “Thierry” 379). Still, in some senses, Thierry anticipates the work of scientists like Kepler. He affirms that “the cosmos is no mere mirror-image of divinity” and instead “works ‘in accordance with physics (secundum physicam)’”(383).
93.      Hallyn, Structure, 278.
94.      Kepler, Somnium, 15.
95.      Ibid., 17.
96.     Whitman, Allegory, 203.
97.      See my discussion of the world soul in “Language and Its Limits as a Celes­tial Vehicle” for a more detailed exploration of language and the divine.
98.     Whitman, Allegory, 203.
99.      Holton, 67.
100.      Ibid.
101.      Kepler, Somnium, 53.
102.     While Levania exists in opposition to the sun, it is, above all, “an inverted image of Earth, but an Earth conceived according to the obsolescent Ptol­emaic model of geocentrism” (Paxson, “Deconstruction” 139).
103.      Holton, 69.
104.      Ibid., 70.
105.      Ibid.
106.      Charlotte Methuen, Kepler’s Tübingen: Stimulus to a Theological Mathematics (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1998), 162.
107.      Ibid., 165.
108.      Kepler studied here from 1589 until 1594. For exact dates, see Hermelink, Heinrich (ed.), Die Matrikeon der Universität Tübingen, vol. 1: 1477-1600. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart, 1906.
109.      Methuen, 165.
110.      Ibid., 164.
111.      Ibid., 171.
112.      Ibid.
113.      Ibid., 172.
114.      Ibid., 173.
115.      Qtd. in Metheun, 206.
116.      Metheun, 224.
117.      Kepler, Somnium, 19,22.
118.     Job 1:7.
119.      Serres, 201.
Ibid., 223.


In: Through the Daemon's Gate: Kepler's Somnium, Medieval Dream Narratives, and the Polysemy of Allegorical Motifs (Studies in Medieval History and Culture). London, 2010.

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