In an attempt to highlight the influence or assimilation of the works of some of Sor Juana’s contemporaries on her own writings, an analysis of the impact of the books of the German Jesuit Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680) on the œuvre of the Mexican nun may seem to be carrying coals to Newcastle.  Recent secondary literature, in particular Paula Findlen’s chapter entitled, “A Jesuit’s Books in the New World” in the collection of essays devoted to Kircher that she edited in 2004,[i] has added material to such an analysis.  I can therefore limit my overview of such potential sources and discuss what Findlen has called the “respectful, admiring, but ultimately devastating critique of Kircher’s own intellectual assumptions.”

          By the time Sor Juana (1648/51-1695) began to get to know Kircher’s publications in Mexico City in the 1660s, the German Jesuit’s fame was at its highest.  His early works began to be available in Mexico and were in great demand, as the letters sent to him from New Spain indicate:  More than thirty of them, written between 1655 and 1672 primarily from Puebla de los Ángeles, the second city in the viceroyalty, and preserved in Rome,[ii] often include a request for or acknowledgement of receipt of the latest publications.  In one response from Rome of March, 1667, Kircher himself thanked the nuns of the Santa Inés monastery in Puebla for his portrait that the sisters had made of colorful feathers in the Aztec tradition.  One month later, on April 20, 1667, Francisco Ximénez (1601-1686)—a French Jesuit who in the 1630s had briefly been Kircher’s colleague at Avignon and in 1654 had become rector of Puebla’s Colegio del Espíritu Santo—elatedly thanked him for the copies of Oedipus Aegyptiacus, Musurgia, Iter exstaticum, and the Liber de peste that now graced the shelves of this Jesuit college.  And Sor Juana’s friend Carlos Sigüenza y Góngora (1645-1700), one of the most learned men in New Spain and a great cultural authority at the viceregal court, owned all but four of Kircher’s works by the end of his life.  He bequeathed them to the Jesuit Colegio Máximo de San Pedro y San Pablo in the capital, which thereby possessed all the Opera Kirkerio.[iii]  Yet not all of Kircher’s books had to be personal gifts, either—at least some of them were available in the libraries and bookshops of Mexico City or were brought in from mainland Spain.


This, then, was the cultural ambiance which Juana Ramírez encountered when she became a lady-in-waiting at the court of the Marquesa and Marqués de Mancera, the new viceroy who arrived in 1664.  Juana herself had come to the capital around 1660, barely ten years old, where she stayed with her mother’s aunt and her husband.  Little is known of her life or education before the years at court, but there is reason to believe her first biographer’s account of Juana’s examination before the viceroy and a group of scholars from various disciplines in 1668, where she displayed an extraordinary command of philosophy and solid knowledge in other areas.  By February of 1669, when she took the veil in the Hieronymite convent of Santa Paula, Sor Juana Inés may well have begun assembling her own library, which she was allowed to keep in her cloistered apartment for almost 25 years before she had to disown her worldly possessions—including all but about 180 of her books--in 1694.[iv]

          While Juana had shown her intellectual prowess at the 1668 examination and in some of her early, casual poetry, the most important years of her education will have occurred in Santa Paula, where her library grew reflecting her diverse interests.  It was through her books that she received her education—“with no teacher besides [my] books themselves,” as she professed on several occasions.[v]  We do not know the number of tomes that she finally assembled, but it is clear that Kircher’s works played a disproportionately large role in her intellectual activities.[vi]  Sor Juana owned at least six or seven of his books, and the fictitious Opera Kirkerio (there certainly was no one-volume edition) can even be seen in the posthumous portrait of Sor Juana painted by the Mexican artist Juan de Miranda before 1714 (Ill. 1):  She is seen standing at a writing desk, with her library (that actually no longer existed) on her right—reflecting what the painter considered Sor Juana’s various spheres of interest.  A second Mexican painter, Miguel Cabrera, executed another portrait of the Hieronymite nun half a century later(Ill. 2); this time, she is seated at a writing desk, with an even larger library forming the background of the canvas.  And again there is a Kircher volume, small and hardly visible behind a raised red curtain—resting neither vertically nor horizontally on its shelf, as if suspended in mid-air.  This slim book—again labelled Kirqueri Opera—features prominently in Cabrera’s painting; as in other period portraits of scholars, the reference to a particular author provides information on the choice of readings of the sitter, in this case the œuvre of the German Jesuit.  After all, 18th-century viewers would still have had a general idea of Kircher’s production of a total of 54 printed volumes of his more than 30 different books that were published between 1631 and 1679.


Before trying to assess Sor Juana’s assimilation of materials she may have found in Kircher’s works—a somewhat tenuous undertaking as we do not have any idea how she read or annotated them—we should reconsider her own allegation that she had no teacher but her books.  While this may be so at the very formal level during her years at Mexico City, it is evident that the intellectual conversations that took place in the monastery’s visiting area—thelocutorium--greatly influenced her own learning.  After all, there were discussions with learned persons such as the two vicereines; Manuel Fernández de Santa Cruz, bishop of Puebla and her friend and admirer who finally issued his stern warning in the 1690 letter signed “Sor Filotea”; Antonio Núñez de Miranda, her confessor during her formative years at the convent; or scholars like Eusebio Francisco Kino; Francisco Ximénez, who as the confessor of the viceroy had direct access to court; or Sigüenza y Góngora, an avid collector of Kircher’s works.  Sor Juana’s interaction with them will undoubtedly have contributed to her own acquisition and assimilation of Kircher materials.

          While Sor Juana only coined the verb “kirkerizar”—to “kircherize”—in a late Romance written to the count of Granja in Peru around 1692, she used it in a manner that may sound slightly frivolous but also carries all the weight of a reference to the Jesuit’s works.  Toward the end of the poem, she argues,

                             Certainly, if the Combinatorial Art

                   with which I sometimes kircherize,

                   does not deceive in its calculation

                   and does not err in its numbers,

                             One of the Anagrams

                   that appears to be more meaningful

                   in your lengthy summation

                   that would occupy many books,

                             says […]. 

But will I say it?  I’m very much afraid

                   that you would be angry with me,

                   if I discover you from the Title

                   just like it says on your baptismal certificate.[vii]

In a witty reaction to the count’s anagram buried in a poem, Sor Juana invokes the combinatorial arts that she had found in Kircher’s work on this subject—although there is no separately printed Ars combinatoria.  She must have had in mind the fourth part of Kircher’s Ars magna sciendi in XII libros digesti of 1669,[viii] (Ill. 3) in which the Jesuit pays homage to the 13th-century book by the same title of the Spanish theologian Raymundus Lullus,[ix] to whom his combinatorial art is indebted.  Sor Juana had first referred to this work of Kircher’s prior to 1689 in a sonnet written for the birthday of the viceroy, the Marqués de Laguna, which began with a similar allusion:

                             Your age, great Sire, so exceeds

                             the capacity of zero

                             that Kircher’s combinatorial art

                             cannot multiply its quantity.[x]

Kircher’s mathematical-combinatorial skills—highly prized among his readers in New Spain—will not suffice to quantify the age of the viceroy; Sor Juana suggests in this casual poem characteristic of her many exercises in political correctness and her poetry on demand.


Sor Juana’s more serious—though problematic—appropriation of Kircherian thought goes further back.  In 1680—coincidentally the year of the Jesuit’s death—she was asked along with Sigüenza y Góngora to create a poetic work for the triumphal arch to be erected in front of the cathedral in celebration of the arrival of the new viceroy and his consort, the Marqués and Marquesa de la Laguna y Conde de Paredes, who for the seven years of their rule became one of her staunchest allies.  The two authors found source material in Kircher’s three-volume tome of 1652-55, Oedipus Aegyptiacus.[xi]  Both of them hailed Mexico City as the new Rome; Sigüenza’s Teatro de virtudes políticas emphasized the history of this land as it was found in ancient codices (of which he was an avid collector) that were filled with hieroglyphic writings[xii] while in her Neptuno alegórico, Sor Juana dwelt on the “magnificent Mexican temple” as a pyramid of the New World.[xiii] (Ill. 4). And although she does not name Kircher in this poem, Octavio Paz has identified numerous allusions to Oedipus Aegyptiacus.[xiv]  Some of these associations may be tenuous, but it is clear that by 1680 Sor Juana had chosen Kircher to be one of her declared masters.  And the arrival of the new viceroy—whom she allegorized as Neptune—afforded her the opportunity to connect Egypt with the New World, the pyramids with Aztec temples.  A firm believer in the Jesuit author’s hieroglyphic wisdom that in turn drew on theCorpus Hermeticum and the Neoplatonic tradition, she provided the viceroy with a guide to good government and for this purpose conflated mythologies when she identified the Greco-Roman god Neptune’s beneficence with the Egyptian Horus, who profited from the teachings of his mother, Isis.[xv]  Citing Plato, Sor Juana made Isis into a poet—and thus the Egyptian goddess became a mirror of her own erudition.  Although there may have been other sources for the description of Isis (Pierio Valeriano, Natale Conti or Vincenzo Cartari come to mind), Kircher’s illustration of this “Magna Deorum Mater” in the first volume of Oedipus (Ill. 5) provided the inspiration of her vision, just as much as she drew on the engraving of an Aztec temple in the same volume.[xvi]

          The commission to write Neptuno alegórico for the 1680 arrival of the new viceroy firmly established Sor Juana’s reputation but also created enemies.  Some time in the following decade, she composed her most important and difficult poem, the Primero sueño, first published in 1692 in Seville in the second volume of her Obras.  The work is both personal and universal; contrary to Sigüena y Góngora, however, Sor Juana advocated no particular system of the world. While there may be echoes ranging from Cicero’s Somnium Scipionis (The Dream of Scipio) all the way to Johannes Kepler’s 1634 Somnium, Kircher’s 1656 Itinerarium exstaticum (Ill. 6)specifically connected the discovery of the Americas with the newly identified celestial wonders and provides the theoretical underpinning.  Sor Juana employs the convoluted poetic forms of the Spanish Baroque to recount the soul’s torturous search for knowledge.  In the poem's opening, as night falls, the soul is unchained from the body to dream. Over the course of the night's dreaming, the soul unsuccessfully attempts to gain total knowledge by following the philosophical paths of Neoplatonism and Scholasticism.  At sunrise, the dream fades and the body awakens, but the soul determines to persist in its efforts. The last lines of the poem refer to a female “I,” thus allowing for the association of the entire quest with its author and attesting to Sor Juana’s lifelong pursuit of learning.  In the moment of awakening, however, the “desengaño”, the soul—and thus Sor Juana herself—gains insight into the limits of human knowledge.

While Kircher’s Itinerarium thus furnished the underpinning to El Sueño,the hermetic origin of the theme of the pyramid is clearly accessible in theOedipus Aegyptiacus (see Ill. 4).  The image of the pyramid provides a structural bond that links the opening and closing imagery of the poem:

          Pyramidal, doleful, mournful shadow

          born of the earth, the haughty culmination

          of vain obelisks thrust toward the Heavens,

          attempting to ascend and touch the Stars

          whose resplendent glow

          (unobscured, eternal scintillation)

          mocked from afar

          the tenebrous war

          blackly intimated in the vapors

          of the awesome, fleeting adumbration; […][xvii]

At dawn, when the rising sun overpowers the forces of darkness, this same image of the “pyramidal, doleful, mournful shadow / born of the earth” of the opening lines, “the one / who once had ruled the realm of night,” re-appears for the last time before succumbing to the new day:

                      In sum, the Sun had risen, closing

                   a circle sketched of gold on sapphire blue:


                   -- lines, I say, of purest light – beamed

                   from its luminous circumference,

                   etching the sky’s cerulean expanse;

                   these golden legions put to flight the one

                   who had once ruled the realm of night: […][xviii]

The strongest image of the pyramid, however, occurs in a Neoplatonic context, when Sor Juana describes a pyramid of light that descends from the heavens to earth, and a pyramid of shadows that rises from earth toward heaven.  “The double symbolism of this geometric form,” to translate Marie-Cécile Bénassy’s analysis, “is particularly impressive: the tetrad-pyramid is at the same time the ‘foundation of nature and of the intellectual world’”[xix] (Ill. 7).  The passage in question was labelled by Alfonso Méndez Plancarte, the editor of the first three volumes the Obras completas, the “Intermezzo de las Pirámides” (ll. 340-411); it develops the idea that the pyramid is the image of the human mind, which the poet mistakenly attributed to Homer, and for which Kircher’s illustrations may have provided the point of departure:

                       it was, then, Homer’s judgment that

                   the Pyramids were but material

                   symbols, whereon were shown the outward signs

                   of inner dimensions in the image

                   of the will, that is, the soul’s intentions,

                   and that as the striving flame burns upward

                   toward the Heavens, a blazing pyramid,

                   so, too, the human mind

                   mimics that model

                   and climbs, eternally,

                   toward the Prime Mover—the central point toward which

                   all lines are drawn, if not infinite

                   circumference that contains all essence. […][xx]

In her 1691 justification, La Respuesta, Sor Juana informs us that she had borrowed this image of the circle whose center is everywhere, one of her favorite symbols, from “R. P. Atanasio Quirquerio en su curioso libro De Magnete,”[xxi] a book on magnetism of 1641 and/or 1667 (Ill. 8) that provided material for “the chain of Jupiter” referred to in the same passage and illustrated it on the frontispiece, too.  This chain also featured prominently in the frontispiece of Kircher’s famous Mundus subterraneus of 1665 and 1678(Ill. 9). 

There are various other passages where Kircher’s influence could be seen; the passage just discussed in El Sueñcontinues right on with an allusion to the sun and moon pyramids that Sor Juana could have observed just north of the capital in Teotihuacán, followed by a reference to the Tower of Babel which leads to the Jesuit’s 1679 publication of Turris Babel (Ill. 10):

                       These, then, two artificial Mountains

                   (marvellous, nearly miraculous)

                   and even that blasphemous, arrogant

                   Tower, dolorous signs of which today


                   are the many tongues that complicate

                   cordial exchange among communities […][xxii]

As so often in literature, the story of the Tower of Babel was commonplace, of course; Sor Juana may have been impressed with the spectacular illustration of its construction in Kircher’s folio, though.  The reference to the “linterna mágica”, however (Ill. 11)—to present one last and convincing passage—is so descriptive that the author must have seen one of the engravings of such a projection device in Kircher’s Ars magna lucis et umbræ[xxiii] (Ill. 12):

                        And from the Brain, thus liberated

                   the ghostly figures fled


In this same way, the magic lantern shows

on a white wall

the contours of delineated figures

in thrall as much to shadow as to light, […][xxiv]

The passage describing the gradual awakening of the soul to a flight of “ghostly figures” (los fantasmas) is highly ecphrastic.  Sor Juana, even though she could no longer leave her cloister when the second edition of Kircher’s work with the new illustrations of the lantern appeared in 1671, might have heard about such shows as it is well documented that the Jesuits, in particular, built magic lanterns using the 1671 drawings and incorporated them in their instruction—for purposes not entirely dissimilar to the description in the closing section of El Sueño.


With all these overt references or allusions to the Kircher’s works,[xxv] then, we should not doubt that Sor Juana had chosen and declared Athansius Kircher one of her masters.  She began her studies and acquired his books when his life was on the wane, when the few folios that still were coming out for commercial reasons in Amsterdam were re-issues or compilations of earlier materials.  Was Sor Juana’s use of his earlier publications then somewhat out of sync, even when we consider how long it often took for European books to reach the Americas?

          While this may not have been the case as Kircher’s materials were still held in high regard in the New World, some of the German polyhistor’s findings and theories were no longer unassailable.  It was the Mundus subterraneus of 1665 and 1678 with its numerous speculative theories that was questioned even during Kircher’s lifetime. In his explanation of the global circulation of water, the Jesuit combined his system of vast underground channels with his volcanological system.  As with volcanism, he synthesized tradition; Thales of Milet and Leonardo had compared the circulation of water with the flux and reflux of blood in the human body and explained the rising of water to the peaks of mountains with the natural subterranean heat that would force water up.  Kepler had espoused a similar theory, and Kircher was also influenced by William Harvey’s discovery of the circulation of the blood, which he cites in Book II of the Mundus.[xxvi]

The Jesuit scholar thus created an innovative system, which posited that all the great rivers of the world have their sources high up in the mountains.  Yet he did not consider these supplies adequate.  This brought about his ingenious hypothesis of vast reservoirs beneath the summits of the highest ranges of the four known continents.  Such hydrophylacia or store houses of water feature in a series of illustrations of the world’s major mountains and rivers.   Rivers are seen flowing from the base of these mountains, while the hydrophylacia are continuously being fed from the bottom of the near-by sea through channels or conduits represented in a dark shading (Ill. 13).  The author also takes into account tidal forces, the power of the winds, and even the capillary action of liquids, which further help pump seawater drawn from the bottom of the oceans and heated along its subterranean passage past the earth’s inner fires to the hydrophylacia near the mountain peaks.  Seeing this diagram, one can well imagine the influence that Leonardo’s or William Harvey’s theories may have exerted on the Jesuit scholar.  But since Kircher does not consider evaporation a major contributing force overall to the natural circulation of the waters and in the maintenance of a universal equilibrium, he needs intakes at the bottom of the oceans to prevent bodies of water like the Mediterranean from overflowing. 

Beautifully illustrated, this convoluted theory immediately raised objections:  Some of Kircher’s contemporaries were beginning to prove through exact calculations that the rains and snowmelt would suffice to feed rivers and streams, such as Pierre Perrault in his 1674 treatise, De l’origine des fontaines[xxvii] and the Burgundian prior Edme Mariotte in the 1686 Traité du mouvement des eaux et des autres corps fluides.  While the latter work appeared after Kircher’s death, the earlier treatise did not cause the aging Jesuit to revise his own theories in the second edition of the Mundus in 1678.

None of this had any impact on Sor Juana’s writings in New Spain, of course—in fact, when her friend Sigüenza y Góngora and Eusebio Francisco Kino (1645-1711), a younger Jesuit newly arrived from Spain, were exchanging pamphlets with conflicting interpretations of the appearance of a 1680 comet over Mexico City, both men claimed they found the answers in Kircher.  Kino insisted that the Mundus subterraneus allowed for the view that comets portended tragic events such as a June, 1681, earthquake devastating the capital,[xxviii] while Sigüenza y Góngora (who owned all but four of Kircher’s works, as we have seen) in his 1681 tract[xxix] incorporated information gleaned from several of them and reached the conclusion that the late Jesuit provided excellent source materials yet at times simply did not have enough reliable information to reach the appropriate conclusions.  This, Sigüenza felt, was particularly true for Kircher’s view of the Mexican temples and pyramids. It is thus surprising that Sor Juana would feel inspired to dedicate a sonnet to Kino and his conservative views, and not to her friend Sigüenza’s.[xxx]


In some respects, then, Sor Juana’s assimilation of materials found in Kircher’s works is indeed out of sync, as I have suggested—and that not only because it might have taken years for his works to reach the Mexican nun. Sor Juana was selective in her use of his sources; she must have appreciated Kircher’s advanced ideas that sometimes turned out to be too far outside mainstream science, though, and/or were hamstrung by the Jesuit’s attempts at remaining within the order’s canon of interpretation.  But in most instances, Sor Juana skilfully worked this material into her poetic creations and presented what Paula Findlen has called a “respectful (and) admiring critique of Kircher’s own intellectual assumptions”.[xxxi]  This we will agree with; I do not find Findlen’s conclusion convincing, though, that this “respectful (and) admiring critique” was ultimately also as “devastating (a) critique of Kircher’s [own] intellectual [views]” as the Stanford author would want to have it.  To reach this point would mean that Sor Juana had willingly betrayed her chosen master—and her dedicating a sonnet to Eusebio Francisco Kino and his “literal interpretation” of Kircher’s cosmic views, for instance, would point in the opposite direction.

* I want to thank Prof. Dietrich Briesemeister (Wolfenbüttel, Germany) for valuable suggestions made during the preparation of this article at the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel.

[i] Paula Findlen, Athanasius Kircher: The Last Man Who Knew Everything.  New York, London: Routledge 2004.  Findlen’s essay appears on pp. 329-364.  The following quote is taken from p. 353.  See also the standard biography by Octavio Paz, Sor Juana, or, The Traps of Faith.  Transl. Margaret Sayers Peden.  Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP 1988.

[ii] This correspondence, which is kept in 14 volumes (APUG 555 to APUG 568) at the Pontifical Gregorian University (Archivio della Pontificia Università Gregoriana), Rome, is now available and searchable on the internet via the following address:http://archimede.imss.fi.it/kircher/index.html.  Fifty letters primarily written to Kircher from New Spain were edited by Ignacio Osorio Romero, La Luz imaginaria: epistolario de Atanasio Kircher con los novohispanos. Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México 1993. 

[iii] Findlen, Athansius Kircher, 345-347.

[iv] An inventory taken at the death of Sor Juana and discovered in the 1990s shows that 180 books and 15 packets of religious and secular writings were found in her cell.  In 1995, this document was first made public, and in 1998 was extensively discussed by Teresa Castelló Yturbide, “Encuentro entre el conde de la Cortina y el capellán del convento de San Jerónimo,“ in: Carmen Beatriz López-Portillo, ed.  Sor Juana y su mundo: una mirada actual.  Mexico City: Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana; Fondo de Cultura Económica.  Since then, there have been further publications on this discovery.

[v] “de estudiar y más estudiar, sin más maestro que los mismos libros.”  Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, The Answer / La Respuesta.  Including a Selection of Poems.  Ed. and transl. by Electa Arenal and Amanda Powell.  New York: The Feminist Press at CUNY 1994, 48-49.

[vi] Findlen, Athanasius Kircher, 348-349.

[vii] Juana Inés de la Cruz, Obras completas.  Biblioteca Americana, Serie de Literatura Colonial.  Vol. I ed. by Alfonso Méndez Plancarte.  Mexico, Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura Economica 1951, 158.  The text first appeared in Juana Inés (de la Cruz), Fama, y obras postumas […] .  Madrid : Ruiz de Murga 1700, 156-157: “Pues si la convinatoria, /  En que à vezes Kirkerizo, / En el calculo no engaña / Y se yerra en el Guarismo : / Vno de los Anagrammas / Que salen con mas sentido / De su volumosa summa, / Que ocupàra muchos Libros : / Dice.  Dirèlo ?  Mas temo, / Que os enojareis commigo / Si del Titulo os descubro / La fee, como del Baptismo.”  Translation adapted from Findlen, Athanasius Kircher, 358 and n. 103.

[viii] Amsterdam : Jansson 1669.

[ix] See Marie-Cécile Bénassy-Berling, Humanisme et religion chez Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz : La Femme et la culture au XVIIe siècle.  Éditions Hispaniques, Série « Recherches » n° 38 ; Publications de la Sorbonne, Série « Histoire Moderne » n° 17.  Paris : Éditions Hispaniques 1982, 146-147.

[x] Juana Inés de la Cruz, Obras completas, I, 302 (Soneto 193) : “Vuestra edad, gran Señor, en tanto exceda /
a la capacidad que abraza el cero, / que la combinatoria de Kirkero / multiplicar su cantidad no pueda.”

[xi] Rome: Mascardi.

[xii] For an illustration of Sigüenza’s arch, see Helga von Kügelgen, “La línea prehispánica.  Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora y su Teatro de Virtudes Políticas que constituyen a un Príncipe, in : Karl Kohut and Sonia V. Rose, eds.  Pensamiento europeo y cultura colonial.  Teci 4.  Frankfurt : Vervuert ; Madrid : Iberoamericana 1997, 205-229, here pp. 214-215.

[xiii] Juana Inés de la Cruz, Neptuno alégorico, in : Obras completas :  Comedias, Sainetes y Prosa.  Biblioteca Americana, Serie de Literatura Colonial.  Vol. IV ed. by Alberto G. Salceda.  México, Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura Económica 1957, 353-410, here pp. 392-93:  “En el octavo y último lienzo (que fue el que coronó toda la montea), se pintó el magnífico Templo Mejicano de hermosa arquitectura, aunque sin su última perfección: que parece le ha retardado la Providencia, para que la reciba de su patrón y tutelar Neptuno, nuestro excelentísimo héroe. En el otro lado, se pintó el muro de Troya, hechura y obra del gran Rey de las Aguas, como lo dice Virgilio en el lib. 9 de la Eneida […].”  One page later, the following octave celebrates the perfection of the Mexican temple:  “Si debió el teucro muro a la asistencia / del gran Neptuno fuerza y hermosura, / con que al mundo ostentó, sin competencia, / el poder de divina arquitectura; / aquí a numen mejor, la Providencia, / sin acabar reserva esta estructura, / porque reciba de su excelsa mano / su perfección el templo mejicano.”

[xiv] Public lecture in Mexico City, August 22, 1974, referred to in Bénassy-Berling,Humanisme et religion, 154, n. 60.

[xv] Arenal and Powell, eds., The Answer / La Respuesta, 17, and Findlen,Athanasius Kircher, 350-352.

[xvi] Kircher, Oedipus Aegyptiacus, I, 189 (Isis) and 422 (temple), reproduced with further relevant illustrations in Bénassy-Berling, Humanisme et religion, appendix 3, « Une source importante de Sor Juana : Athanase Kircher, ‘Oedipus Aegyptiacus’ (1652-1654) », 422-431.  See also the accompanying text on pp. 154-156. 

[xvii] Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Poems, Protest, and a Dream:  Selected Writings. Transl. Margaret Sayers Peden; introd. Ilan Stavans.  New York: Penguin Books 1997, ll. 1-10; Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Obras completas, I, 335, 1-10:  “Piramidal, funesta, de la tierra / nacide sombra, al Cielo encaminaba / de vanos obeliscos punta altiva, / escalar pretendiendo las Estrellas; / si bien sus luces bellas / - exentas siempre, siempre rutilantes - / la tenebrosa guerra / que con negros vapores le intimaba / la pavorosa sombra fugitiva / burlaban tan distantes […].”

[xviii] Ibid., 359, ll. 943-951:  “Llegó, en efecto, el Sol cerrando el giro / que esculpió de oro sobre azul zafiro: […] / - líneas, digo, de luz clara – salían / de su circumferencia luminosa, / pautando al Cielo la cerúlea plana; / y a la que antes funesta fué tirana / de su imperio, atropadas embestían: […]”

[xix] Bénassy-Berling, Humanisme et religion, 157-159, and illustration on p. 427 (French transl. of Kircher’s Latin text on p. 426), taken from Kircher’s Oedipus Aegyptiacus, II, 2nd part, 112.  In his recent book, La Tradición emblemática en Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (Biblioteca Crítica Abierta, Serie Letras 2.  Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México 2002, 30-33), Jorge Alcázar mentions that this image could have been influenced by Robert Fludd’s Philosophia sacra et vere Christiana, seu Meteorologica Cosmica (Frankfurt: de Bry 1626).  Kircher knew Fludd’s works.

[xx] Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Obras completas, I, 345, ll. 399-411:  “según de Homero, digo, la sentencia, / las Pirámides fueron materiales / tipos solos, señales exteriores / de las que, dimensiones interiores, / especies son del alma intencionales: / que come sube en piramidal punta / al Cielo la ambiciosa llama ardiente, / así la humana mente / su figura trasunta, / y a la Causa Primera siempre aspira / - céntrico punto donde recta tira / la línea, si ya no circunferencia, / que contiene, infinita, toda esencia - .  […]”

[xxi] Arenal and Powell, The Answer / La Respuesta, 56, ll. 372-375: “Es la cadena que fingieron los antiguos que salía de la boca de Júpiter, de donde pendían todas las cosas eslabonadas unas con otras.  Así la demuestra el R. P. Atanasio Quirquerio en su curioso libro De Magnete.”  The two Kircher titles in question are,Magnes, sive de arte magnetica opus tripartitvm.  Rome: Scheus 1641; 2Cologne: Kalcoven 1643, 3Rome: Mascardi 1654, and Magneticum naturae regnum. Amsterdam: Jansson & Weyerstraet 1667.  Mundus subterraneus appeared in 2 volumes in Amsterdam: Jansson & Weyerstraet 1665, 21678.

[xxii] Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Obras completas, I, 345, ll. 412-415, 418-419: “Estos, pues, Montes dos artificiales / (bien maravillas, bien milagros sean), / y aun aquella blasfema altiva Torre / de quien hoy doloras son señales / […] los idiomas diversos que escasean / el socïable trato de las gentes […]“

[xxiii] Rome: Scheus 1646; crude diagram of such a device on p. 887.  Second edition Amsterdam: Jansson & Weyerstraet 1671.  While of much better quality, the illustration in the second edition still does not correctly represent the projection system.

[xxiv] Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Obras completas, I, 357, ll. 868-870, 873-877:  “Y del cerebro, ya desocupado, / las fantasmas huyeron, / […].  Así linterna mágica, pintadas / representa fingidas / en la blanca pared varias figuras, / de la sombra no menos ayudadas / que de la luz: […]“

[xxv] In his recent book, Literary Self-Fashioning in Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (Bucknell Studies in Latin American Literature and Theory.  Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press 2004, 138-151, especially pp. 145-148, with illustrations from Kircher), Frederick Luciani lists two passages in a romance that refers to anamorphic phenomena described in Sor Juana’s text and illustrated in Kircher’sArs magna lucis et umbræ (see f.n. 22).

[xxvi] For a more extensive discussion of this material see the author’s article, “Science and Pseudo-Science:  Athanasius Kircher’s Mundus Subterraneus and hisScrvtinivm […] Pestis,“ in: Gerhild Scholz-Williams and Stephan K. Schindler, eds. Knowledge, Science, and Literature in Early Modern Germany.  University of North Carolina Studies in the Germanic Languages and Literatures 116.  Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press 1996, 219-240.

[xxvii] Paris: Le Petit 1674; Traité du Mouvement des Eaux: Paris: E. Michallet 1686.

[xxviii] Exposición astronómica de el cometa.  Mexico City: Por F. Rodriguez Lupercio 1681.  For this exchange, see Findlen, Athanasius Kircher, 346-348.

[xxix] Manifiesto filosófico contra los cometas despojados del imperio que tenían sobre los tímidos.  Mexico City 1681.

[xxx] Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Obras completas, I, 309.

[xxxi] Findlen, Athanasius Kircher, 353.



    Dr. Gerhard F. Strasser
    Professor Emeritus of German and Comparative Literature
    The Pennsylvania State University
    Ludwig Maximilians-Universität München