MARSILIO FICINO His Theology His Philosophy His Legacy BRILL - [PDF Document] (2024)


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General Editor

A J. VANDERJAGT, University of Groningen

Editorial Board

M. COLISH, Oberlin CollegeJ.I. ISRAEL, University College, LondonJ.D. NORTH, University of Groningen

R.H. POPKIN, Washington University, St. Louis-UCLA


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MARSILIO FICINO His Theology His Philosophy His Legacy BRILL - [PDF Document] (7)

This book is printed on acid-free paper.

Cover illustration: Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbiittel:Cod. Guelf. 73 Aug.2° (fol. 2r) - detail

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Marsilio Ficino : his theology, his philosophy, his legacy / edited byMichael J.B. Allen and Valery Rees with Martin Davies.

p. cm. — (Brill's studies in intellectual history, ISSN0920-8607 ; v. 109)Includes bibliographical references and index.ISBN 9004118551 (alk. paper)1. Ficino, Marsilio, 1433-1499. I. Allen, Michael J. B. II. Rees,Valery, 1947- III. Davies, Martin, 1951 - IV Series.



Die Deutsche Bibliothek - CIP-Einheitsau£nahme

Marsilio Ficino : his theology, his philosophy, his legacy / ed. byMichael J.B. Allen - Leiden ; Boston ; Koln : Brill, 2001

(Brill's studies in intellectual history ; Vol. 108)ISBN 90-04-11855-1

ISSN 0920-8607ISBN 9004118551

© Copyright 2002 by Koninklijke Brill NV,Leiden, The Netherlands

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, translated, stored ina retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic,mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written

permission from the publisher.

Authorization to photocopy items for internal or personaluse is granted by Brill provided that

the appropriate fees are paid directly to The CopyrightClearance Center, 222 Rosewood Drive, Suite 910

Danvers MA 01923, USA.Fees are subject to change.


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Acknowledgements ix

List of Illustrations xi

Introduction xiiiMichael J. B. Allen


Ficino the Priest 1Peter Serracino-Inglott

The Camaldolese Academy: Ambrogio Traversari,Marsilio Ficino and the Christian Platonic Tradition 15Dennis F. Lackner

Marsilio Ficino as a Christian Thinker: Theological Aspectsof his Platonism 45Jorg Lauster

Late Antiquity and Florentine Platonism: The'Post-Plotinian' Ficino 71Christopher S. Celenza

Ficino, Augustine and the Pagans 99Anthony Levi

Echoes of Egypt in Hermes and Ficino 115Clement Salaman

Prisca Theologia in Marsilio Ficino and in Some JewishTreatments 137Moshe Idel

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Life as a Dead Platonist 159Michael J. B. Allen


Marsilio Ficino and the Plato-Aristotle Controversy 179John Monfasani

Intellect and Will in Marsilio Ficino: Two Correlatives of aRenaissance Concept of the Mind 203Tamara Albertini

Orpheus redivivus: The Musical Magic of Marsilio Ficino 227Angela Voss

Ficino, Theriaca and the Stars 243Donald Beecher

Concepts of Seeds and Nature in the Work ofMarsilio Ficino 257Hiroshi Hirai

Narcissus, Divine Gazes and Bloody Mirrors: the Conceptof Matter in Ficino 285Sergius Kodera

Ficino, Archimedes and the Celestial Arts 307Stephane Toussaint


Neoplatonism and the Visual Arts at the Time ofMarsilio Ficino 327Francis Ames-Lewis

Ficino's Advice to Princes 339Valery Rees

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The Platonic Academy of Florence 359Arthur Field

Ficino in the Firing Line: A Renaissance Neoplatonist andHis Critics 377Jill Kraye

Ficino and Copernicus 399Dilwyn Knox

'To rauish and refine an earthly soule': Ficino and thePoetry of George Chapman 419Stephen Clucas


Bibliography 443

List of Contributors 467

Index 469

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The idea for this book arose out of a conference held in June 1999at the National Gallery in London under the auspices of the Societyfor Renaissance Studies. That occasion marked a high point in aseries of events across Europe held in honour of the Quincentenaryof Ficino's death. It also, sadly, marked the passing on 7th June1999 of Professor Paul Oskar Kristeller, doyen of Ficino studies. Theconference began with a dedication in tribute to his learned andgenerous scholarship over six decades—a period exactly mirroringFicino's lifetime 500 years earlier—and speakers acknowledged inmany ways their indebtedness to his wide-ranging, pioneering work.

Over 350 participants came to listen to the two days of paperson the theme of Marsilio Ficino: his Sources, his Circle, his Legacy., bear-ing witness to the fact that interest in this Florentine scholar hasreached an audience far wider than is usual for Renaissance philoso-phers. An exhibition of recent paintings inspired by Ficino's fablesadded to the attractions, as did the special dedication of a perfor-mance of Julius Caesar at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, where theArtistic Director, Mark Rylance, spoke eloquently on Ficino's con-tribution to his own understanding of Renaissance drama.

Two thirds of this volume's authors were speakers at the confer-ence. As the intervening two years have allowed time for reflectionon the discussions that took place, all of their papers have beenextensively revised. The other third were either present in the audi-ence or were invited subsequently to participate in the volume. It isparticularly gratifying to note that half the papers come from schol-ars in the earlier stages of their academic careers.

Thanks were expressed at the time to all those individuals andinstitutions whose efforts and generosity contributed to the confer-ence's success. It is now appropriate to thank some of the same peo-ple for their continued support, and also others who have facilitatedthe publication of this volume. The first word of thanks must go toMartin Davies for undertaking the Herculean task of detailed check-ing and correction in the final stages of the preparation of the type-script. Special debts are also owed to successive chairmen of theSociety for Renaissance Studies, Francis Ames-Lewis and Gordon

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Campbell, and to its Hon. Treasurer, Richard Simpson, and Hon.Secretary, David Rundle, for their continual support and advice; toShirley Burch and Susannah Cogger for their unflagging devotionin the formative stages; to Monica Vecchio and Cynthia Michaelsfor assistance at crucial moments; to Christine Headley for the index;and to Julian Deahl of Brill along with his colleagues Ivo Romeinand Diana Robbers for helping us to bring it all to completion.

We acknowledge with gratitude the financial support for the 1999conference that has also underwritten part of the expenses of thisvolume: from the British Academy, the Education Renaissance Trust,the Society for Renaissance Studies; and also from Charteris pic,Farsight Management Ltd, the Van Ede Foundation and several indi-vidual donors who chose to remain anonymous; we record our warmappreciation for the generous assistance in 1999 of the NationalGallery, the Accademia Italiana and the School of Economic Science,London. We also acknowledge the support of those who attendedthe conference and who urged us to undertake publication. Our lastword of thanks is surely due to the patient forbearance and lovingsupport throughout our labours of Elena Allen and Christopher Rees.

Finally, we would like to dedicate this Iter Ficinianum to the mem-ories of Paul Oskar Kristeller and of our beloved fathers, FrederickJack Allen and Martin Apley, who both died late in 2000 while thisbook was being prepared, caelestes animi caelestis patriae cupidi.

Michael AllenValery Rees

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1. Camaldoli (from a 16th-cent. print). Monastery of Fontebuonoand Sacro Eremo with ladder ascending to heaven.

2. Sacro Eremo di Camaldoli, from Agostino Fortunio, HistoriarumCamaldulensium libri tres (Florence, 1575).

3. Proposed sketch for the dial of Lorenzo della Volpaia's clockmatching Poliziano's description. Courtesy of Museo di Storiadella Scienza di Firenze, Dottoressa F. Principe.

4. Poggio a Caiano, Villa Medici, portico frieze, detail: the 'Chariotof the Soul'. Photo: Soprintendenza B.A.A., Florence.

5. Roman, 2nd-century AD?, Nike riding a Biga, cameo. Naples, MuseoArcheologico Nazionale. Photo: Foto Pedicini.

6. Antonio Rossellino and assistants, Tomb of the Cardinal of Portugal,detail: the 'Chariot of the Soul'. Florence, S. Miniato al Monte,Chapel of the Cardinal of Portugal. Photo: Soprintendenza B.A.A.,Florence.

7. Donatello, Bust of a Touth, detail, medallion with the 'Chariot ofthe Soul'. Florence, Museo Nazionale del Bargello. Photo: FotoRabatti.

8. Donatello, Bust of a Touth. Florence, Museo Nazionale del Bargello.Photo: Foto Rabatti.

9. Donatello, David. Florence, Museo Nazionale del Bargello. Photo:Kunsthistorisches Institut, Florence.

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Michael J. B. Allen

Animarum gradus colligamus

Marsilio Ficino (1433-99), the eminent Florentine Platonist and oneof the most learned and influential thinkers of his age, was ordainedin 1473 and elected a canon of Florence's cathedral in 1487. Destinedfor a medical career by his father, a doctor in the service of theMedici, he acquired, in addition to much medical learning, a raremastery of Plato, Aristotle and later Greek philosophy. Under thepatronage of Cosimo de' Medici who gave him a villa at Careggiin 1463, he set out to render all of Plato's dialogues into Latin, butinterrupted this task almost immediately in order to translate theCorpus Hermeticum under the title of the Pimander which was namedafter the first of the fourteen treatises known to him (Tommaso Benciproduced a vernacular translation of this within the year). In 1464Ficino actually read his versions of Plato's Parmenides and Philebus toCosimo on his deathbed. Eventually, with financing from FilippoValori and other admirers, and having selectively consulted the ren-derings of some of the dialogues by such humanist predecessors asLeonardo Bruni, he published the complete Plato in 1484 (a datecoinciding with a grand conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn) and dedi-cated it to Lorenzo de' Medici. He included prefaces (argumenta) foreach dialogue and a long commentary on the Symposium that he hadwritten by 1469 and called the De amore (a vernacular version ofwhich he also prepared). This became the seminal text of Renaissancelove theory. Later he composed other magisterial Plato commen-taries, some complete, some not, on the Timaeus, Philebus (the subjecttoo of a public lecture series), Parmenides, Phaedrus, Sophist, and on theNuptial Number in Book VIII of the Republic.

While continually revising his Plato during the 1470s and pub-lishing his De Christiana religione in 1476 (which was partly indebted,we now realize, to earlier anti-Jewish and anti-Moslem polemicists),he compiled his original philosophical masterpiece, an eighteen-booksumma on metaphysics and the immortality of the soul which he did

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not publish until 1482. Indebted to Augustine and Aquinas, and sus-tained by his own conviction that Platonism—for us Neoplatonismsince he regarded Plotinus (AD 205-70) as Plato's most profoundinterpreter—was reconcilable with Christianity, it was called theTheologia Platonica. The title was borrowed from the title of Proclus'smagnum opus to which Ficino was often, if secretly, indebted, and thesubtitle, De immortalitate animorum, echoed the title of a treatise byPlotinus and also that of an early Platonizing treatise by Augustine.Ficino had been familiar with Plotinus since the 1460s but in the1480s Ficino returned to the Enneads anew, and completed the mon-umental task of rendering them entire into Latin. He also wroteextensive notes and commentaries, publishing the whole in 1492 witha dedication to Lorenzo.

Meanwhile he compiled a three-book treatise, De vita, on pro-longing health, having begun it apparently as part of his Plotinuscommentary. It deals with regimen, diet, abstinence, salves, beneficentpowders and sprays, aromas, psychosomatic exercises, meditationand mood-lifting techniques, as well as astrological and daemono-logical attuning. It is replete with encyclopedic pharmacological andother learning which daringly combines philosophical, astrological,magical and psychiatric speculations. The third book in particular,entitled 'On bringing one's life into harmony with the heavens' (Devita coelitus comparanda), is a rich and complex exploration of scholar-ly melancholy, holistic medicine and psychiatry that makes continualreference to zodiacal and planetary influences, to stellar oppositionsand conjunctions, to astrological election, to the theory of universalsympathies, and to synastry, the assumption that particular peopleborn under the same planet and under the same astral configurationsare therefore star twins. Additionally, following Albert the Great andAquinas, the De vita's three books treat of the therapeutic powers oftalismans and amulets when properly fashioned and inscribed, draw-ing upon scholastic notions of acquired form and the hylomorphicstructuring of both corporeal and, contra Aquinas, of incorporeal enti-ties. They also draw upon the Galenic and subsequently medievalnotions of the vital, vegetable and animal spirits that can be refinedinto the pure spirit whose health is the goal of all the various inter-locking therapies, since the body will be perfectly tempered if thespiritus is well. When the De vita appeared in 1489, Ficino was threat-ened, not unexpectedly, with a Curial investigation into its orthodoxy,but he fended it off successfully, if disingenuously, by asserting that

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he was presenting ancient views rather than his own. The last fewyears of his life he spent publishing translations of other Neoplatonicauthors, including lamblichus, Porphyry, Proclus, Synesius and theeleventh-century Byzantine author Psellus; translating and commentingon the works of the pseudo-Areopagite, and embarking on a com-mentary on St Paul's epistle to the Romans. More problematically,he first supported and then vehemently attacked Savonarola.

Unlike most scholars, Ficino was able to exert a formative influenceon his own and two subsequent centuries for several reasons. First,there was the intellectual appeal and novelty of his revival of Neo-platonism, which bordered on unorthodoxy or even heresy, and theunfamiliar nature of what he had to say about the complementaryroles of religion and philosophy in nurturing the spiritual and noeticlife. His ecumenism, his delight in the notion that worship is nat-ural and inherently various, and his diverse interests would eventoday align him with the very liberal wing of Christian theologians.Second, a revered teacher of the signori and their sons, he cultivatedand sustained a learned and pastoral correspondence with some twohundred pupils, friends, admirers, priests, patricians and patrons,many of them, including Lorenzo and sundry cardinals, in the high-est offices of church and state (a circle that became known subse-quently as his Platonic Academy). His twelve books of Latin letters(and there are others besides) ranging from elegant thank-you notesand witty compliments to philosophical treatises, and later renderedinto Italian, are in fact an extraordinary resource for the social his-torian. He was also one of the first early modern intellectuals toenjoy the accelerated Europe-wide exposure made possible by theinvention of the printing press, the De amore, the De vita, and thePimander and Plato translations becoming bestsellers. His works arenow among the most splendid and valuable incunabula.

Though he had a humanist training and freely quoted the Romanpoets, and though he was a pious philosopher, scholar, apologist andpriest with a missionary goal, he was nonetheless the first of theRenaissance mages dedicated to the notion of a World Spirit and aWorld Soul. Apart from metaphysics, ethics and psychology, his inter-ests embraced mythology (for him poetic theology), astrology, magic,magical and figural numbers, daemonology and the occult, music(especially harmonics) and musical therapy—interests which he foundin Plato and saw as authentic aspects of the Platonic tradition. Hisworks of translation and interpretation bear witness to an enlightened

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and dedicated scholarship, and the depth of his technical under-standing of later Platonism has rarely been equalled. Nevertheless,it was his own original philosophical, theological and magical spec-ulations that constituted one of the enduring monuments of Renaissancethought and were enormously and diversely influential. The first edi-tion of his own Opera omnia appeared in Basel in 1561, the second,and better, edition in 1576, and the third (a reprint, strangely, ofthe first) in Paris in 1641. Moreover, his 1484 Platonis Opera omniawas reprinted several times too, as were other works or groups ofworks. Dubious, spurious and lost works also testify to his authorityas a scholar and magus, as do many unpublished manuscripts.

For Ficino the path to gnosis, though perfected by Plato, had a dis-tant origin, and he revived and refined the ancient notion of a secret,esoteric, and what Steuco would later call perennial wisdom, a priscatheologia, that had preceded and prepared for Christianity as the cli-mactic Platonic revelation. As such it paralleled the Mosaic wisdomtransmitted to the Hebrews by the Pentateuch, by the secrets of theMosaic oral tradition later inscribed in the books of the Kabbalah,and by the revelations of Moses's successors, the psalmists and theprophets. For symbolic and numerological reasons he argued thatPlato was the sixth in a succession of gentile sages, six being thesum of its integers and the product of its factors and thus in thearithmological tradition the perfect number. It was also the numberof Jupiter, of the days of biblical creation, and, for the Neoplatonists,of the six primary ontological categories in the Sophist (essence, being,identity, alterity, rest and motion); and the number too of the linksin the golden chain from which hangs the pendant world in Homer'sfamous image and which the Neoplatonists interpreted allegorically.A hexad, indeed, was such an authoritative category for charting thegentile succession of sages that Ficino had to adjust its members,since he had many more sages than slots available for them, but heeventually decided on Zoroaster, Hermes Trismegistus, Orpheus,Aglaophemus, Pythagoras and Plato. This is remarkable on severalcounts: it omits such important figures as Socrates, Timaeus, Parme-nides and Empedocles whose dicta Ficino often quoted as Platonic;it omits too the sibyls whose authority he accepted and in whosecompany he included Diotima, Socrates's teacher in the metaphysics

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of love; and it insists in the Neoplatonic manner on Plato's Pythagoreanwisdom, a wisdom embodied in the aurea dicta and symbola whichFicino found in lamblichus's life of Pythagoras, translated into Latin,and published at the conclusion of his Opera omnia.

Ficino knew Orpheus via the many fragments quoted in Plato'sworks and in the works of his commentators, and via the 87 hymnswe now suppose the products of later antiquity but which Ficinoand his contemporaries deemed authentic. From early on when hefirst translated them, these Hymns were sacred but potentially danger-ous texts. While they testified to Orpheus being the gentiles' Davidand his songs their psalms, and while they were cast as Platonichymns listing the attributes of a deity in an aretology, a listing ofvirtues, and hiding under their polytheistic rind a monotheistic core(and critical here was the prefatory palinode, where Orpheus seemsboth to recant and to explain away his polytheism), they were linkednonetheless to the invocation of daemons, however positively orPlatonically conceived. Warily, Ficino circulated only a few fragmentsin Latin to some choice friends. Orpheus himself had appeared inPlato's Symposium 179D as faint-hearted in his refusal to die forEurydice (etymologized as 'breadth of judgement'), but he had beengranted incantatory and mesmerizing powers that made him theparadigmatic magus bending the natural world to his will and deriv-ing his music from the fundamental world harmonies. Ficino wasflatteringly addressed by poet-friends such as Naldo Naldi as anotherOrpheus, and had the figure of Orpheus painted on his 'Orphic'lyre which he played in his Platonic hymn recitals, apparently togreat effect since onlookers describe him as both entranced andentrancing. He seems in fact to have presided over a neo-Orphicrevival at the onset of his career as a Medicean teacher and sage;and Orphic incantation became the key to his conception both ofPlatonic or Platonizing poetry, and of musical images and models,as the affective bearer, the perfect medium, of philosophy.

Yet Orpheus was subordinate to the two most ancient of the sages:to Hermes Trismegistus whose Pimander he continually cited, andwhose Asclepius he knew from the Latin translation attributed toApuleius, from hostile notices in Augustine and from more sympa-thetic ones in Lactantius. The two commentaries on these works,incidentally, which were eventually printed in Ficino's Opera inter-leaved with his own translation of the one and Apuleius's transla-tion of the other, though long attributed to him, were actually by

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his French disciple Lefevre d'Etaples (Faber Stapulensis). However,while acknowledging Hermes's authority and the fact that Plato wasreputed to have visited its temples, Ficino retained a guarded approachto Egypt's religious tradition. This was perhaps partly because Egyptappears in the Bible as the land of exile even though Moses mayhave taught or been taught by the Egyptian priests (and whetherHermes lived about the time of or just after Moses was determina-tive, though Ficino never entertained a later view that Hermes pre-ceded Moses). Furthermore, Egypt had zoomorphic deities and inferiorrites and Hermes had devised a non star-based alphabet utilizinganimals, birds, and plants to convey his wisdom. Here the strangelittle myth of Theuth and Ammon in Plato's Phaedrus 274B ff. mayhave played a decisive role. For it portrays Ammon (Jupiter) rebuk-ing Theuth (identified with Hermes) for inventing writing, therebyopening up the possibility of debasing or profaning teachings thatshould only be transmitted orally in the fullness of time by a mas-ter who has properly prepared his disciples for their reception andcomprehension. An apotropaic story also attributed to Pythagoras, itcreates a dilemma for a committed interpreter such as Ficino whowas faced with voluminous texts of, and commentaries on, a wisdomthat from the onset he felt impelled to explore and to explain, andyet held sacred and therefore to be protected from the vulgar gaze.It sets private, esoteric teaching steadfastly against public exposition,and strikes therefore at the very heart of his commitment to educatingthe elite of Florence.

The first sage, however, was Zoroaster. Ficino must have derivedthis notion in part from the controversial Byzantine Pletho, a Proclanrevivalist in the train of the Emperor, who made such an impacton the Florentines during the ecumenical Council of Ferrara/Florence(1438-45), the abortive attempt to reconcile the Roman and Greekchurches. But in part Ficino was following the odd sympathetic noticeson Zoroaster in Plato's works, notably the I Alcibiades 12 IE ff., andin the works of such Platonizing thinkers as Plutarch of Chaeronea(fl. c. AD 100). In part too he was responding to the authority of theChaldaean Oracles, a late antique compilation which he and othersbelieved authentic, and whose Platonism therefore became for themthe originary Platonism, not the derivative and eclectic MiddlePlatonism of its actual authors. For Ficino, however, Zoroaster's pri-ority and therefore primacy was pre-eminently something that high-

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lighted the significance of the Epiphany and the Magi. The threewise Chaldaeans who came from the East led by a star were thefollowers of Zoroaster (whose very name in Greek has 'star' in itand who was the putative founder both of astronomy-astrology andof the magic associated with it). Thus they symbolized the comingof the ancient wisdom to the cradle of a new philosopher-king-magus,the new Zoroaster. Having set out, moreover, from the very landwhence Abram had departed, they symbolized the reunion of thetwo ancient branches of wisdom, the Hebrew and the Zoroastrian,that stemmed from Noah's sons (since the Ark had come to restallegedly in a province of Persia—and Persia, Chaldaea and Babylonwere often confused). Insofar as Zoroaster was also, in Ficino's view,the discoverer of writing, since he used the stars and constellationsas the 'letters' of his alphabet, he was in a way the sage who hadtranscribed the wisdom of the stars, brought the stars into men'slanguage and made men into the writers of the stars' language.Hence the Magi were primarily astronomers and the practitionersof a stellar magic, whose knowledge had enabled them to find theChrist child and to worship him as the Zoroastrian, the supremePlatonic guardian in Bethlehem. Thus to Plato's Pythagorean, Orphicand Hermetic predecessors, we should add Zoroaster as the originalpriscus theologus, the founder of the ancient gentile wisdom that Ficinohimself was dedicated to reconciling with the theology of Abrahamas perfected in Christ.

The history of this wisdom after Plato was also subject to Ficino'srevision since he believed that the Proclus-inspired writings we nowattribute to the Pseudo-Dionysius of the late fifth century were com-posed by the Dionysius mentioned in Acts 17:34 as an Athenianconvert of St Paul's preaching on the Areopagus, and thus by athinker of the first century. Since one of the Dionysian treatises isa masterpiece of a negative theology inspired by the second part ofPlato's Parmenides as interpreted by Plutarch of Athens, the teacherof Proclus (AD 410-85), this had the effect of transferring the fullyfledged late Neoplatonism of Proclus back to the time immediatelyfollowing the Ascension. Suddenly the opening of St John's Gospel,St Paul's epistles and the Pseudo-Areopagitean treatises coalesced toform an impressive body of Christian-Platonic writing, a body indeedthat signified the perfection of the Platonic wisdom in the Christianrevelation. Given the centrality in it of the way of negation, moreover,

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it also had the effect of foregrounding Platonic dialectic as a mysti-cal rather than a logical instrument, and thus of transforming theold Socratic scepticism or agnosticism into a supra-gnosticism.

This pivotal misdating in turn had an impact on Ficino's visionof the centuries we would now cede to the Middle Platonists andearly Neoplatonists, and made him embrace the notion that theAmmonius Saccas who was Plotinus's teacher had been a ChristianPlatonist, and that the third-century Origen whom Porphyry men-tions as Plotinus's fellow disciple was the Christian heresiarch, theauthor of the De principiis and Contra Celsum. Consequently, Plotinusemerges as a Christianized Platonist if not as a Christian. This wasall-defining, given the centrality of the Enneads in Ficino's own under-standing of Plato, and his belief that Plotinus was Plato's belovedintellectual son 'in whom', he imagines Plato saying in the words ofGod Himself in the Gospels, 'I am well pleased'. After all, his supremescholarly achievement was to render the fifty-four Plotinian treatisesinto Latin, and to devote his interpretational life to arguing thatPlotinian and Christian metaphysics were almost one and the same,that Plotinus had written a summa Platonica as Aquinas later a summatheologica. Moreover, succumbing to a familiar temptation, Ficino readmost of Proclus's scholastic distinctions back into Plotinus, and thenceback into Plato, into the Orphic Hymns, into the Hermetica, into theOracula Chaldaica, to create an ancient Proclan theology that hadbegun with Zoroaster but had been perfected in the works of Plato,of Dionysius and Plotinus. Finally, since so much of Proclus hadbecome incorporated into medieval theology by way of the Pseudo-Areopagitean writings—had indeed become embedded in the Augus-tinian mystical traditions of the Middle Ages—Ficino was able toargue with conviction that the time was ripe for a Platonic revivalthat would unite wisdom and faith, philosophy and revelation, asthey had first been united in the golden age, in the pre-Noachiantime of Enoch himself who had walked with God. Interestingly, thiswhole fabric is built on some basic mistakes in attribution and dat-ing, but mistakes that the vast majority of Ficino's learned contem-poraries shared. Thus Ficino was able to present a Neoplatonic viewof the history of philosophy, and to propel that history back intothe remotest past.

Indeed, his audacious attempt to reconcile Platonism with Christian-ity eventually transcended Platonism itself: it became a life-long ecu-menical quest to introduce into orthodoxy a cento of unorthodox,

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sometimes pagan, spiritual, magical and occult beliefs keyed to thetheme of the soul's ascent from illusion's cave. That he had a pro-found posthumous impact upon the thought and culture of two cen-turies assuredly bespeaks the European elite's abiding, if clandestine,interest in entertaining many ideas that Plato himself would not haverecognized and that had been continually censured and even perse-cuted by the Church. Ficino fervently believed, however, in theimportance of accommodation and synthesis: a bono in bonum omniadiriguntur. It is this credo, inscribed on the walls of his own study,which speaks to the unified vision of goodness as well as to the abun-dance of argument and analysis marshalled in its quest that suffuseshis many pages.

The papers in this collection testify to this manifold unity, and tothe range and continuing fascination of many of Ficino's themes,theologically, philosophically and medically conceived but animatedby a complex, rich and varied life that carries them beyond the tra-ditional boundaries of the three great disciplines in which he wasnurtured. The papers too, though they fall naturally into three groups,transcend their boundaries and many overlaps emerge, predictablyso given the copiousness of Ficino's thought and its constant re-artic-ulation. The prominence of Christian belief, of theology, and of apreoccupation with the soul one might well anticipate in the careerof someone who was both priest and canon and one of the mostinfluential thinkers and guides to the spiritual life of his age, but thefirst group of studies—on Ficino's links with the Camaldolese broth-ers, his positions on a number of pivotal theological issues, his debtsto the lamblichan theurgic tradition, his relationship to the medievalJewish and cabbalistic background, his Hermeticism, his views onthe prisca theologia and on cyclical time and reincarnation—explorealignments and juxtapositions, some of which scholarship has alreadyin part engaged, but others of which are startlingly new or adducenew evidence. Similarly, the papers in the second group which focuseson an array of philosophical and magical issues central to Ficino'sthought—his position in the Plato-Aristotle controversy, his notionsof the intellect and the will, his musical magic and his conceptionsof Nature and its vital seeds, his engagement with mirrors and theirreflections, and with astrological clocks—offer us many insights andopen up avenues for future research. The third group which dealswith Ficino's context and legacy—his impact on the visual arts inthe time of Cosimo, his relationship to princes, the nature of his

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'Platonic Academy', his carping critics, his influence on Copernicusand, equally elusively, on the poetry of England's Chapman—couldhave itself easily been tripled in the light of Ficino's historical impor-tance in a variety of contexts. Even so, many arresting issues areaddressed along with intriguing questions both about the notion ofinfluence, and how to determine it, and about the problems of delin-eating the relationship of abstract philosophy and theology to thearts, to science, to politics, to those in ecclesiastical and secular power.

The work of this eclectic, intricate, learned and fascinating thinker,priest and magus, Plotinian in inspiration, scholastic in form, creat-ing its own contemplative world, its own inner spaces and luminousconstellations, is obviously even now only partially understood. Equallyobviously it continues to inspire, perhaps more than ever, imagina-tive scholarship and subtle interpretation. That the majority of thescholars represented here are under fifty and some near the begin-ning of their careers at the beginning of this twenty-first century iseloquent testimony both to the breadth, complexity and significanceof Ficino's thought and to its allure, its interminata potestas.

18 May 2001

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Peter Serracino-Inglott

The provision of medical care was an integral part of the ministryto be supplied by a Christian priest. That, I think, is the most chal-lenging thesis formulated by Ficino in the several passages of hisworks in which he expounds his understanding of the meaning ofthe priesthood. These passages occur in three different kinds of con-text. The first are apologiae pro vita sua, in particular, for his contin-uing to exercise the medical profession—usually gratuitously, butoccasionally for payment—even after his priestly ordination. The sec-ond are appeals to popes, bishops and other ecclesiastical dignitar-ies in which their priestly duties are recalled in more or less genericlanguage, but usually referring to 'healing', not always in a purelymetaphorical sense. Finally, there are letters mainly concerned withthe selection criteria to be applied in the case of candidates for thepriesthood, assumed to include therapeutic aptitudes.

It is in the first kind of context that the passages of greatest per-tinence to the topic of the priest-doctor occur. For instance, in theletter of self-defence (Apologia) addressed to the three Peters, Pierodel Nero, Piero Guicciardini and Piero Soderini, on 15 September1489, two years after his installation as canon of the cathedral chap-ter of Florence, Ficino roundly asserts that:

Christ himself, the giver of life, who commanded his disciples to 'curethe sick' in the whole world, will also enjoin priests to heal at leastwith herbs and stones, if they are unable to cure with words as thosem*n did before.1

Ficino has compressed three striking opinions in this one sentence.In the first place, he is not just talking about what Christ told hisdisciples to do during his historical life in Palestine fifteen hundredyears before. He is asserting—in as prophetic a tone as he everreached—that Christ is enjoining his priests to attend to the sick in

' Marsilio Ficino, Three Books on Life, ed. and tr. by C. V. Kaske and J. R. Clark,Binghamton, NY, 1989, pp. 394-401, at pp. 396-97.

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the here-and-now. Secondly, Ficino assumes that the normal way inwhich the cure was to be effected was by word of mouth. Priestsare expected to heal the sick miraculously, presumably in the man-ner of the Apostles in the Book of Acts as well as of later thau-maturgists, such as Sts Cosmas and Damian and other holy healers.Thirdly, if priests, like the times, are somewhat deficient in the faithneeded to produce miraculous cures, then it behoves them to resortto such means as herbs and stones. Perhaps the most interestingpoint here is that while Ficino appears to be, rather unusually forthat time, distinguishing between what one might call 'logotherapy',curing through language or the Word, and 'object-therapy' as respec-tively the more properly sacerdotal and the less properly sacerdotalmethods of curing, he does not distinguish within the less sacerdotalprocedures between what we might call scientific or natural methodson the one hand, and superstitious or intuitive methods on the other.

In the passage just quoted and in other parallel contexts, Ficinoproceeds to give three lines of argument in support of his generalthesis that the priesthood and medical practice were intimately con-nected. The first line of argument is that, although a certain divisionof labour had come about between priest and doctor as a matter ofhistorical cultural practice, yet, in origin and essence, there was anidentity of function. Thus, in the Oratio de laudibus medicinae, Ficino says:

Among the Egyptians and the Persians, the same men were both priestsand doctors. . . . The priests of the Egyptians, most ancient of races,were without exception outstanding physicians. . . The Persian magior priests . . . [wrote] countless books to safeguard our health.2

Ficino quotes Egyptians and Persians because he believed they werethe recipients of a primitive revelation from God, which was pre-sumably the foundation of what their priest-doctors did, as well assaid. But this belief is not absolutely necessary to the point he ismaking. An anthropologist today might want to give illustrations ofa more abundant and different nature, but I doubt if anyone wouldwant to quarrel with Ficino's genealogical point. The association ofdisease with death as punishment for some primordial crime, or forsome other sinful happening, is too widespread not to have givenrise, as far back as the human power of tracing goes, to the coupling

2 The Letters of Marsilio Ficino, tr. by members of the Language Department of theSchool of Economic Science, 6 vols to date, London, 1975—, III, p. 24.

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of healing endeavours with supernatural invocation; and, hence, ofthe medical with the sacerdotal functions, inasmuch as (with hind-sight or in terms of some primitive differentiation between matterand spirit) the two functions can be distinguished at all in the culturalcontext of the dawn of humanity.

In Ficino's own day, the law still required medical doctors to en-sure that prayers were said and that recourse was had to the sacramentof confession, in cases of danger of death, before the doctors pro-ceeded with their own therapy. It was the priests who had earlieryielded to others—the doctors—the non-verbal and non-sacramentalkinds of counteraction against disease. These material counteractionswere admittedly quite generally recognized not to have been veryeffective anyway; nevertheless, devout Christians were taught thatthey were duty-bound to take all available licit means to recoverbodily health. The desacralization of disease was not to take placein Western culture before the complex process which Michel Foucaulthas called 'la naissance de la clinique' was completed between 1780and 1820. This process took place, of course, against the backdropof the by then dominant Cartesian concept of the body as machine,a concept which, in spite of his Platonic dualism, Ficino would nothave been inclined to accept.

On the contrary, what is most striking in Ficino's references tothe primordial conjunction of priesthood and health care is that hehardly ever, if at all, formulates it in terms of a link between sinand sickness, but rather in terms of a positive link between healthof body and health of soul. Both kinds of health were understoodto be of divine origin and to have been originally intended by Godto be safeguarded by his priests, even if a later process of correlatedspecialization had occurred, for reasons which are not difficult toguess.

In the second place, Ficino points to the practice of Christ him-self and to his mandate to the Apostles. Indeed, all the statementswhereby Christ has been deemed by the Church to have ordainedhis first priests have just two essential messages: to preach the goodnews of salvation and to cure, without distinguishing between thephysical and the spiritual. In this regard, a contemporary exegete ofthe Bible would hardly want to question the essential accuracy ofFicino's assertion, any more than an anthropologist would want toquestion his ethnographic thesis.

Typically, however, it is a third reason which Ficino regards as

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the most fundamental ground for holding that the priest should alsobe a doctor, namely, the psycho-physically interactive constitution ofman himself. Ficino argues that the functions of priest and doctorcannot be separated, but not because body and soul constitute onesubstance or one person, as a Thomist philosopher might have said.As a Platonic-dualist, Ficino grounds his position on the interactiv-ity between the body and the soul.

When Ficino is being more formal, he puts forward, as is well-known, a ^partition of man into body, soul and spirit, with 'spirit'as the medium of communication between body and soul. There isno need to enter here into the question whether the spirit is itselfalso the 'world-soul'. In a letter to Francesco Musano of lesi,3 Ficinorelates the tripartite division body-spirit-soul to his own personal triplepractice of medicine, music and theology, arguing that just as thebody is healed by medicine and the soul is purified by the divinemysteries of theology, so the spirit is tempered by aromas, soundand song.4 Had Ficino ever set out his theology of the priesthoodsystematically, he might have included musicianship as well as med-icine among the qualities most desirable in a candidate for the priest-hood. It would not have worried him that musicality is a naturalgift, the presence of which does not depend much on the goodwillof a person. Ficino's concept of the priesthood was undoubtedlycharismatic;5 and he will have seen vocation to it as part of a prov-idential plan or design. For instance, in a letter to Cardinal Riario,Ficino wrote: 'Holy Orders do not arise out of the caprice of for-tune, but from the eternal wisdom of God.'6 However, Ficino doesnot usually bring in his theory of spiritus—of the world-soul or ofmusic—when focusing on the interweaving of priesthood and medicine.He insists rather on the intensity of psychosomatic interactions, bas-ing himself as usual mainly on auctoritates both pagan and biblical.

His fundamental reference is to Hippocrates and his saying that

3 Letters, I, p. 39.4 Cf. D. P. Walker, 'Ficino's spiritus and Music', in Annales musicologiques, 1 (1953),

pp. 131—50, repr. in Walker's Music, Spirit and Language in the Renaissance, ed. byP. Gouk, London, 1985, art. VIII.

5 The notion of 'charisma' derives mainly from St Paul, Rom. 12:4-8, I Cor.12:4-27 and Eph. 4:7-16. It refers primarily to special gifts bestowed on individualbelievers, among them that of healing, as distinct from the grace conferred uponall those who are saved. Cf. J. D. G. Dunn, The TTieology of Paul the Apostle, Edinburgh,1998.

6 Letters, IV, p. 38.

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the care of the soul and the care of the body are one. The twokinds of health have a reciprocal influence on each other. Primaryemphasis is laid on the dependence of the health of the body onthat of the soul, a statement bolstered by reference to Plato's attri-bution of this belief to the Persians. But the influence of the bodyupon the soul, for good or ill, is also secondarily recognized by wayof reference to Avicenna. This two-way traffic is consecrated, as itwere, by reference to the biblical story of Adam. In that story it isclaimed that man's sin had an effect on the condition of the entirematerial universe, which turned from garden into jungle. This dete-rioration of man's environment shows that there is a nexus betweenthe spiritual condition of man's soul and the material context ofman's life. Perhaps the trickiest part in Ficino's argument is hisattributing to Socrates, in the proof of the soul's power over thebody in the Charmides, the claim that Thracian doctors cured illnessesby means of magical invocations. Despite Ficino's distancing him-self, in this context, several removes from the claim, the suspicioncan easily arise that he is identifying priest and doctor rather tooeasily by reducing both to a third kind of agent, that of magician.But, in fact, Ficino's case does not depend at all on his failing tomake a sharper distinction between the supernatural and the magi-cal or on his apparent shifts of position on their relationship. Theground of Ficino's argument in support of the thesis that a psycho-somatic approach is always required in the care of the health ofhuman beings and hence that there is a necessary affinity betweenthe sacerdotal and medical vocations, is simply that an element oflogotherapy—of curing through language—is always involved in anykind of healing.

Thus, the real affinity between the function of priest and that ofdoctor turns out in the end to be that both are essentially counsel-lors. Both priest and doctor are guides to a better and higher life.The resources they need for their work have to consist mainly ofitems of knowledge received from predecessors in a longstanding tra-dition amounting to a legacy of acquired wisdom, on the one hand,and a greater or lesser degree of personal inspiration, in the senseof an individual capacity for extraordinary empathy with other humanbeings, on the other. It is the combination of inherited knowledgeand instinctive understanding that makes some persons able to pro-vide the logotherapy required of a priest-doctor.

The second type of context in which Ficino discusses the priesthood

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seems to confirm the impression that he considered the therapeuticdimension of the priesthood as preferably a divinely given charisma,a special gift of God, gratuitously given to those chosen by Him, anaspect of the supernatural sanctity to be petitioned of God by thepriest, rather than a set of skills that was to be acquired by theo-retical and practical training. This belief probably explains why, inhis many letters to popes and bishops, where he emphasizes theirpastoral duties as shepherds of their flocks, he rarely seems to men-tion any of what one might call specifically priestly duties, such asthe administration of the sacraments or care of the sick. He doesrefer to their function as 'healers' very often, but generally in ametaphorical sense: the wounds they have to heal are rarely physi-cal. It is the basic Christian virtues that are to be practised by allpeople that Ficino urges the 'high' priests to practise, supposing thatthe specifically priestly powers, such as that of healing, would emergeon their own, if plain sanctity were cultivated.

As an example of this approach, let us take one short letteraddressed to a priest by the name of Pace, a Professor of CanonLaw, that is entirely centred on the theme of the 'dignity of thepriest'.7 The letter pivots on the analogy between priest and angelas both messengers of God. First the point is made that cormptiooptimi pessima—when the best men go to the bad, it is the worst sortof corruption—but then that the priest is not just the mediator orgo-between between God and humankind, as he is most often takento be, but rather a deputy of, a stand-in, a representative of God.Ficino goes on to say that a priest actually is God for a time. 'Apriest is a kind of temporal God'.8 God himself is a priest—that is,a miraculous healer—for ever, eternally. This implies that Ficinounderstands priesthood to be not a mediatorship or brokerage betweenGod and mankind, but the possession in a limited way of super-natural powers such as God has in a limitless way. While Ficinodoes not explicitly specify here what these supernatural powers are,the context is that of making the broken whole, of salvation, salusbeing a notion etymologically linked to wholeness and health. It isbecause of thaumaturgical capability, the ability to perform miracles,that Ficino sees the priesthood first as angelic and then as provi-sionally divine.

1 Letters, I, p. 121.8 Letters, I, p. 122.

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The third type of context in which Ficino discusses the priesthoodis on the several occasions when he wrote to bishops in connectionwith ordinations. His starting point is always the need for selectiv-ity. In one case, that of the candidacy for the priesthood of hisnephew Sebastiano Salvini, about whom Ficino wrote to the Bishopof Cortona,9 he encapsulates in a brief formula the three qualitieswhich he deems necessary for ordination: that the candidate shouldbe 'learned, dutiful to God and just towards men'. It is typical ofFicino that he puts learning before what are essentially the two partsof the one Judaeo-Christian commandment: love God and your fel-low men. The order both foreshadows St Teresa of Avila saying thatlearning was a requirement in a confessor prior even to sanctity, andreflects the formula of the established curriculum of university stud-ies which laid down philosophy as the basic course to be taken beforeproceeding to theology or medicine, the twin routes which Ficinowould have liked to see integrated in the priest's formation, as theyhad been in his own personal experience.

Ficino suggests three methods of investigation which the Bishopcould use in order to determine the suitability of a candidate for thepriesthood. The first is to ask him to speak out for himself.10 Ficinohere refers to the Socratic comparison of a vessel and its sound toa human being and his speech, with a stress on the identity of souland self. Secondly, Ficino puts forward a suggestion which he thencautiously withdraws. 'If you were learned in the art of Zopyros,"I would perhaps add that you should take into consideration his(the candidate's) natural characteristics.' On other occasions,12 Ficinosuggests that both physiognomy and astrology are relevant to deter-mining if there is a priestly vocation or not, as they are to the choiceof any profession; here he seems to deny it: 'The Master of Life for-bids us to judge a man by his appearance'. But Ficino has a wayout for the physiognomist, when he chooses to take it; he can judgenot by appearances, but through them; his insight can penetrate throughthe outer looks to the essence. In the letter to the Bishop of Cortona,Ficino does not even allude to the stars, to which at times he attached

9 Ibid.10 Ibid.11 Ibid, and n. 3 on p. 214: Zopyrus was a celebrated physiognomist, contem-

porary with Socrates; see Cicero, De Fato, 10, Tusculan Disputations, IV.80.12 For example, in De vita, III.23.

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much greater importance than to physiognomy. In the range ofFicino's accounts of the priesthood, this is probably the most extremeof his oscillations towards the pole of pure spirituality as man's essenceand away from the pole of insistence on psychosomatic interactiv-ity. The third line of investigation which Ficino encourages the bishopto conduct is the juridical, namely to ask for guarantors of or wit-nesses to the suitability of the candidate. In this case, he offers him-self and the Bishop of Volterra.13 In these letters of recommendation,Ficino for obvious reasons somewhat blurs the singularity of his ownconcepts, without however denying any important point of his per-sonal convictions.

If Ficino stressed the importance of vetting candidates for thepriesthood in the case of others, he is unlikely to have made anexception of himself. Yet biographers of Ficino do not seem in gen-eral to have attached any very great significance to his ordinationto the priesthood at the unusual age of 40. They dutifully registerthat he was ordained deacon on 18 September 1473 in the chapelof St Vincent in the archbishop's palace in Florence by Mgr Giulianodi Antonio on behalf of Cardinal Pietro Riario, and then priest threemonths later in the same place by the same bishop. But it does notseem to have occurred to any biographer that the reason for theordination may be logically connected to his idea of the priest-doctor. There is indeed a suggestion in Corsi that Ficino's decisionto seek ordination to the priesthood was related to emergence froma depression such as his allegedly Saturnine temperament made himprone to.14 This hypothesis has indeed been discussed by some ofthe most authoritative of Ficino's biographers and commentators onhis life, such as Raymond Marcel and Paul Oskar Kristeller; but no-one has supposed that there was not only a chronological but alsoa causal sequence between the supposed depression and the subse-quent ordination. That would be to attribute to Ficino a pattern ofbehaviour analogous to that of contemporary people with psycho-logical problems who become psychologists in the hope of curingthemselves.

13 Letters, I, pp. 122-23.14 The background of the idea of a relationship between psychological depres-

sion and spiritual hearkening to a call is given in R. Klibansky, E. Panofsky andF. Saxl, Saturn and Melancholy, London, 1964, and Andre Chastel, Marsile Ficin etI'art, Geneva and Lille, 1954; repr. Geneva, 1996, pp. 177-85.

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In the De Christiana religione Ficino himself promoted the idea thathe had undergone some crisis of conscience—a moral rather than apsychological crisis, similar to that undergone by St Jerome whenhe felt himself accused in a vision of having been more a Ciceronianthan a Christian. However, it is unlikely that Ficino would ever havefelt that there had been any tug-of-war between Platonism andChristianity. Although it is true that at the time of his ordination,he concentrated on writing De Christiana religione (which, uniquely inhis oeuvre, has a rather unecumenical tone) for publication the nextyear, there was certainly no dramatic, road-to-Damascus type of con-version. He did not turn from Platonic paganism to orthodox Chris-tianity when he became a priest. It seems rather to have been thatFicino considered ordination to the priesthood as the divine bringingtogether and joint fulfilment of the two vocations to which he feltcalled: medicine and philosophy. Let us briefly survey what Ficinodid as a priest.

When he became a cleric, Ficino seems to have taken all theduties attendant on his new status with due diligence. The beneficesof which he was given charge, that of the Church of Santa Mariaa Monte Vargi, in 1470, three years before his ordination to thepriesthood, presumably in connection with his taking minor orders;and those of San Bartolomeo a Pomino in the year of his ordina-tion and of San Cristoforo a Novoli a year later, cannot have entailedany heavy obligations.

But there is clear proof of the importance he attached to his elec-tion as canon of the cathedral in 1487. This emerges in the letterof thanks sent to Lorenzo and Giovanni de' Medici on 19 Marchof that year;15 incidentally, it was because Giovanni had declined thecanonry that it had been assigned to Ficino. Ficino's gratificationwas also expressed in the oration that he delivered on his installa-tion on 22 March.16 He appears in fact to have been regularlyengaged in preaching at the cathedral, at least from 1487, the year

13 P. Viti, 'Document! ignoti per la biografia di Ficino', in Marsilio Ficino e itritomo di Platone. Studi e documenti, ed. by G. C. Garfa*gnini, 2 vols, Florence, 1986,I, pp. 251-83, at p. 275. The text of this letter is given in P. O. Kristeller,Supplementum Ficinianum, 2 vols, Florence, 1937, p. 57, and will be translated in theforthcoming volume VII of the Letters. See also a later letter to Giovanni de' Mediciin Ficino, Opera omnia, 2 vols, continuously paginated, Basel, 1576; repr. Turin, 1959etc., p. 930.

16 Viti, 'Document! ignoti', p. 275, and Kristeller, Supplementum Ficinianum, p. 58.

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of his installation. The commentary on the letters of St Paul, whichFicino worked on for publication in the year before his death, seemsto have been an offshoot of his preaching. If this is the case Ficino'sstyle of preaching differs very conspicuously from that of his con-temporary, Savonarola.

That there are several documents granting Ficino dispensationsfrom various offices, such as choir attendance when he was about ayear from his death,17 is clear proof that he did not take his dutiesas a canon lightly. There even exist documents which show that hecarried out purely administrative tasks, which can only have beenchores performed in a spirit of pure service.18 There is also a letterdated 6 October 1487 in which Lorenzo de' Medici urged that Ficinoshould be made Bishop of Cortona in the event of a vacancy.19

Clearly, Ficino did not become a priest just nominally. He com-mitted himself to engaging in quite significant pastoral and specificallyclerical activity. However it is not at all surprising that little atten-tion has been given to these facets of his daily life; they have noth-ing extraordinary about them. What is extraordinary is that theywere carried out by Ficino. It is clear, moreover, that Ficino car-ried on doing the two kinds of counselling activity, on health of bodyand health of soul, that he had been doing previously. It was theconvergence of these two kinds of counselling which, he had cometo the conclusion, constituted the essence of the priesthood. Ordinationto it had chiefly the effect of making this point manifest: it was justit* epiphany.

Ficino had always taken Plato's various comparisons of philo-sophical inquiry with the mystery religions very seriously. Indeed heclearly regarded both Socrates and Plato as some sort of unordainedhigh-priests.20 He conjured up, in preference to—though not in sub-stitution of—Plato's philosopher-king, the figure of the philosopher-priest. This was essentially someone ordained to heal disease of allkinds through inspirational counselling. The priestly task of kingshipwas not that attributed to Louis X at Sainte Chapelle, to bear thesins of the world, but essentially to act as spiritual guide.

17 Viti, 'Document! ignoti', p. 280.18 Ibid., passim.19 P. O. Kristeller, 'Marsilio Ficino and his Work after Five Hundred Years', in

Marsilio Ficino e il ritomo di Platone, pp. 15—196, at p. 48.20 See Michael J. B. Allen on Socrates in Synoptic Art: Marsilio Ficino on the History

of Platonic Interpretation, Florence, 1998, ch. 4.

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The first disease to be treated by the priest was, of course, unbe-lief. Ficino claimed that priests would find in the Platonic Academy(whatever that means) some of the tools they needed in order tobring those who were unbelievers on philosophical grounds back tothe faith. Several of Ficino's pupils actually became priests. Otherpriests who were his friends—though they were a very mixed lot,ranging from writers of erotic verse to ardent Savonarolans—heattempted in various ways and in different degrees to imbue withPlatonic learning. At least one, Befani, became famous as an astrologer,but none of them seems to have been, or to have become, like Ficinohimself, a doctor of medicine as well as a practitioner of philosophy.

If Ficino was right about the priesthood, and if his main pointwas to bring out into the open the fact that philosophy and medi-cine were not two sharply distinct things, but that the priesthoodconsisted in the dialectic of their interplay, then the question natu-rally arose: why was the figure of the priest-doctor, in practice, sucha rarity in comparison, say, with that of the philosopher-doctor?There were abundant examples of the latter, the most notable per-haps being Avicenna and the closest to us, centuries after Ficino,being perhaps John Locke (unless we also include missionaries likeSchweitzer, who have certainly a claim to being considered philo-sophical theologians, even if they do not get noticed in current stan-dard histories of philosophy). Perhaps it was because of this difficultythat Ficino's strategy was to affirm first that a priest had to be aphilosopher. Then he argued that a philosopher should be expert inall things human and hence justified the conclusion that a priestshould be, if not a thaumaturgist, at least a doctor.

Ficino himself described several instances when his own medicalpractice appears indissociable from an overtly priestly role. Take histreatment of his own tailor Francesco, or of a Jewish family, wherehe makes a point of noting that he used prayer as part of the therapyhe applied.21 Of course, this was the practice of almost all doctors,22

but Ficino considered it an expression of their implicit priesthood,that is, of the fact that curing the sick was in itself an intrinsicallysacerdotal task.

21 Opera omnia, pp. 1469-70.22 Opera omnia, pp. 644-45; Letters, I, pp. 126-29. See also Fran£ois Lebrun, Se

soigner autrefois: medecins, saints et sorciers aux 17* et 18' siecles, Paris, 1983, ch. 1.

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But it is in the role of psychological counsellor, even more thanas a prayer-leader, that Ficino appears to have discerned a moremanifestly sacerdotal dimension to the physician's work. When Ficinowas ill, the physician called to his bedside, Antonio di Paolo Benivieni,happened also to be an astrologer, but his contemporaries thoughthim to be the author of quasi-miraculous cures because, as he him-self explained in his casebooks, he had successfully diagnosed thepsychological sources of apparently physical ailments.23 Ficino undoubt-edly considered him to have been an unordained priest; being unor-dained affected only the visibility, not the reality of the priesthood.In terms of Thomistic theology, Benivieni had the res (the substanceand specific grace) of priesthood, even if not the signum (the sacra-mental ordination and outward markings, such as distinctive cere-monial clothing).

I will conclude with a few brief remarks on the sustainability ofFicino's concept of the priesthood within the Catholic conceptualframework that he professed to be his own. Ficino's argument thatthe priest should also be a doctor is somewhat muddied by the dubi-ously 'magical' powers which he seems to allow for in his picture ofboth, and in virtue of which they become reducible to one. But itis not difficult (and not disloyal to Ficino's basic way of thinking) totreat the magical dimension as a dispensable adjunct.

The essential elements of Ficino's argument are the following:human ailments, whether of body or soul, are sometimes curable bythe words of what can be called 'philosophic' wisdom; from theGospels it is indisputably clear that Christ ordained his 'priests' byinvesting them with a twofold mission, namely, proclaiming the goodnews and restoring to health. The essential element of Christianpriesthood is consequently the capacity to speak to one's fellow humanbeings in such a way as to enable them to attain both intellectualenlightenment and physical wholeness.

Given this perspective, the administration of the sacraments—theeucharist and penance in particular, since they are regarded as theones most typically requiring a priestly minister—are speech-actionswhich are just visible instances of attempted logotherapy. The dis-tinctive mark of the priest, in Ficino's view, was his power as a

23 Opera omnia, p. 829; Letters, V, p. 55. See also Antonio Benivieni, De regiminesanitatis ad Laurentium Medicem, ed. by Luigi Belloni, Turin, 1951.

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healer. This power, in turn, is the product of his diagnostic insightinto and empathy with human beings, his intuitive ability to per-ceive what is really wrong with them and identify the needed cure.It would not be difficult to show that a very similar concept of thepriesthood seems to have been held by at least two of the spiritualgeniuses of our time who, while not themselves priests, have per-haps probed most deeply into the nature of the priesthood: the youngwoman, St Teresa of Lisieux, and the novelist Georges Bernanos.But that is another matter.

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Dennis F. Lackner

During the fifteenth century the Camaldolese order played a for-mative role in the Renaissance revival of the Christian Platonic tra-dition. This Camaldolese influence can be traced to the very originsof the Renaissance of ancient learning and persisted through the latefifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. As early as the 1420s, whenMarsilio Ficino's intellectual forbears frequented the Florentine mon-astery of S. Maria degli Angeli, a central current of Renaissance thoughtdrew upon the Platonically inspired spiritual traditions and asceticpractices of the Egyptian Desert Fathers. These practices, perpetuatedin the daily lives of the Camaldolese brethren, were experienced first-hand by the early Florentine humanists. This same Christian Platonicspirituality was transmitted to centres of learning throughout Europethrough the numerous translations and transcriptions of ancientauthors carried out by scribes and scholars living in the Camaldolesemonastery.

The Angeli was home to the Camaldolese Hellenist AmbrogioTraversari, whose translations of the ancient Christan Platonists be-came fundamental sources for Ficino's Theologia Platonica. Traversari'sfriends and disciples, within the order and in the world, came toform the core of early Florentine Platonism. The connection betweenthese early Platonic enthusiasts and the Camaldolese was especiallystrong in circles associated with the Medici family. Thus the protagonist'Ficinus' first appeared in print in Landino's Disputationes Camaldulenses,expounding the contemplative ascent to Lorenzo de' Medici andother humanist friends gathered at the hermitage of Camaldoli. Ficino

1 I would like to record my thanks to the scholars, friends and family whoseworks and personal encouragement inspired the research leading to this paper. Theywill be fully acknowledged in a book I am preparing on the Camaldolese orderand the Italian Renaissance, upon which this article is based.

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himself expounded the mysteries of Plato and Plotinus in the Camal-dolese church of S. Maria degli Angeli. Here Ficino preached ser-mons, celebrated the monastic offices and developed a circle ofinitiates among the white-robed brethren. Ficino's disciples at theAngeli included the Camaldolese humanist Paolo Orlandini, whowrote Platonically inspired poems and dialogues which sought todemonstrate that the teachings of Plato's Academy were Christianand monastic in character. Orlandini became the spiritual father ofCamaldolese humanists of the Aldine circle in Venice, who in turnmaintained close ties with Ficino's successors Corsi and Diacceto.This paper seeks to trace the links between the Camaldolese orderand Renaissance Platonism over four generations (from the earlyQuattrocento to the early Cinquecento) and to demonstrate that theCamaldolese played a central and hitherto unrecognized role in theconception, establishment, teachings and wider influence of the PlatonicAcademy of Florence.

What shared spiritual and intellectual traditions united the Camal-dolese order so closely with Renaissance Platonism? The primarycommon source was the Fathers of the East. The Camaldolese eremitictradition, established in the eleventh century by Saint Romuald ofRavenna, had close links with the ascetic tradition of the GreekFathers.2 This spirituality, manifest in the lives and writings of theEgyptian Desert Fathers,3 John Cassian, John Climacus, Dionysius

2 In the early Quattrocento the Camaldolese order comprised over 200 monas-teries, hermitages, hospitals and churches, concentrated in Tuscany and the Venetoand situated in both town and countryside. The order's administrative seat was atCamaldoli, located in the remote Apennine mountains between the territories ofFlorence and Venice. Camaldoli was made up of a fortress-like monastery calledFontebuono, built half-way up the mountain, and a hermitage, the Sacro Eremodi Camaldoli, located near the summit. The order's most famous urban houses werein Florence, S. Maria degli Angeli, and in Venice, S. Michele di Murano in theVenetian lagoon. On the administration and organization of the order in generalsee G. B. Mittarelli and G. D. Costadoni, Annales Camaldulenses Ordinis Sancti Benedicti,9 vols, Venice, 1755-73, VI-VIII; Agostino Fortunio, Historiarum Camaldulensium libritres, Florence, 1575; Traversari's Epistolae; Dolfin's Epistolae. M. E. Maghera Cataluccioand A. Ugo Fossa, Biblioteca e cultura a Camaldoli: Dal medioevo all'umanesimo, Rome,1979, p. 10, emphasize three spiritual influences on Romuald's eremiticism: thePsalter, the Vitae Patrum and John Cassian. See Peter Damian's Vita Beati Romualdi,ed. by G. Tabacco, Rome, 1957, p. 28. On Romuald see G. Tabacco in BibliothecaSanctorum, XI, Rome, 1968, cols 365-75, and C. Caby, 'Du Monastere a la cite: leculte de Saint Romuald au moyen age', Revue Mabillon, 67 (1995), pp. 137—58.

3 In addition to the sources listed in the preceding note, see Samuel Rubenson,The Letters of Saint Anthony: The Making of a Saint, Minneapolis, Minn., 1995.

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the Areopagite and the Cappadocian Fathers, exemplified the ChristianPlatonism of the early Church. A central theme in the desert spiri-tuality which Romuald brought to the Apennines was the theologyof the mystical ascent, the scala perfectionis. Ascending hierarchies ofbeing, the ascetic sought a vision of cosmic harmony illumined byheavenly love. Tradition relates that a vision of a ladder ascendinginto heaven had inspired St Romuald's foundation of the hermitageof Camaldoli.4 Perpetuating traditions of the Christian East expressedin John Climacus's Scala Paradisi, the Camaldolese sought to ascendthis ladder by transfiguring the desires of nature into the desire forGod. 'Physical love can be a paradigm for the longing for God' and'Happy the man who loves and longs for God as a smitten loverdoes for his beloved.'5 From their earliest years the Camaldolese thusconserved a kind of Christian-Platonic theology of the ladder, with rootsin the Christian East, which propounded a model of man's gradualdivinization through celestial love.6 Thus on the one hand Camaldolesehierarchs found in Florentine Platonism a kindred spirituality. Onthe other hand, the Renaissance Platonists saw in the Camaldoleselife the embodiment of Platonic principles. From Romuald's foun-dation of hermitages in the eleventh century to Traversari's transla-tions in the fifteenth, Platonic spirituality was a characteristic theme

4 Arriving in the environs of Arezzo, Romuald met a certain Count Maldolo,who told the saint of a dream he had of a ladder, like that of Jacob, on which agreat number of white-robed persons ascended to heaven. On the site of Maldolo'sdream in the Apennines, Romuald founded the Hermitage of Camaldoli. Libereremitice regule of the Blessed Rudolph is edited in Mittarelli and Costadoni, AnnalesCamaldulenses, III, App., p. 542. The Liber is dated by G. Tabacco, 'La data di fon-dazione di Camaldoli', Rwista di storia della Chiesa in Italia, 16 (1962), pp. 451-55 tothe year 1150 at the earliest. Caby, 'Du Monastere a la cite', pp. 139-44, discussesfurther examples of 'le theme de 1'echelle' in Camaldolese art and spirituality.

5 Climacus synthesized the tradition of the Egyptian Desert Fathers (John Cassian,Anthony the Great, the Sayings of the Desert Fathers) which became a primary sourceof St Romuald's spirituality. See John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, tr. byC. Luibheid and N. Russell, New York, 1982, pp. 236 and 287. On the Christian-Platonic theme of divinizing love in Climacus and the Orthodox tradition see Kal-listos Ware's introduction, pp. 1~70, esp. pp. 29-33. Traversari translated Climacusinto Latin in 1419.

6 See Cataluccio and Fossa, Biblioteca e cultura a Camaldoli, p. 421, observing atCamaldoli Tesistenza e la conservazione di un substrato sociostorico e spiritualecollegato aU'eremitismo mistico di estrazione greco-orientale' closely linked to Plato-nism. For this mystical conception in the Renaissance, see for instance Ficino'sPhaedrus commentary and examples listed below; Traversari's Dionysius and Climacustranslations or Pico's discussion of the 'pugna spiritualis' of our 'asceso al cielo' inthe Heptaplus, VIII. 1.

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of the Camaldolese. In the age of Ficino, Platonic philosophy andCamaldolese spirituality, so long associated through ascetic practiceand mystical theology, again converged at S. Maria degli Angeli inFlorence.

In 1433, the year of Marsilio Ficino's birth, Ficino's 'soul father'Cosimo de' Medici received the dedication of the first Latin trans-lation of Diogenes Laertius's Vitae philosophomm.1 The Vitae containedthe first comprehensive summary of Platonic philosophy available inthe Latin West in a millennium. The Vita Platonis also containedaccounts of the ancient Academy's founder in terms in which aChristian audience could recognize sanctity. Years later Ficino him-self would draw upon Diogenes's portrayal of divinus ilk Plato. Platowas chaste, pious and charitable towards mankind 'leaving nothinguntried in his disputations in any way conducive to salvation'. IndeedPlato was a kind of monk: 'he abandoned his worldly goods, prac-tised an ascetic way of life at his Academy',8 and there with his dis-ciples sought to ascend the ladder to the divine through supernaturallove. The world-denying ascesis of Plato's Academy could thus beseen as a prefiguration of Christian monasticism. The translator ofDiogenes Laertius was in fact himself a Camaldolese monk, AmbrogioTraversari, who in the year of this dedication was elected Generalof the order.9 For over a decade Cosimo had regularly consulted withTraversari at S. Maria degli Angeli in Florence, where the Camaldolesescholar convened some of the leading humanists of the early Quat-trocento.10 Cosimo had collaborated with Traversari in commissioning

7 See M. Gigante, 'Ambrogio Traversari interprete di Diogene Laerzio', inAmbrogio Traversari ml VI centenario della nascita, ed. by G. C. Garfa*gnini, Florence,1988, pp. 367-459.

8 James Hankins, Plato in the Italian Renaissance, 2 vols, continously paginated, Leidenetc., 1990, pp. 324—26, summarizing Ficino's letter to Francesco Bandini in Ficino,Opera omnia, 2 vols, continuously paginated, Basel 1576; repr. Turin, 1959 etc., pp.763-70. Ficino here follows Diogenes Laertius's story (III. 1) of Plato's divine originand virgin birth.

9 General studies on Traversari include C. L. Stinger, Humanism and the ChurchFathers: Ambrogio Traversari (1386-1439) and Christian Antiquity in the Italian Renaissance,Albany, NY, 1977; C. Somigli and G. Bargellini, Ambrogio Traversari monaco camal-dolese: la figura e la dottrina monastica, Bologna, 1986; A. Dini-Traversari, AmbrogioTraversari e i suoi tempi, Florence, 1912. Early sources for Traversari's life includeVespasiano da Bisticci, Le Vite, ed. by Aulo Greco, 2 vols, Florence, 1970, II, pp.449-61; Fortunio, Historiarum Camaldulensium libri, pp. 341-400, and Mittarelli andCostadoni, Annales Camaldulenses, VI-VII. On early Camaldolese accounts of Traversarisee Ugo Fossa, 'La storiografia Camaldolese sul Traversari dal Quattrocento alSettecento', in Ambrogio Traversari nel VI centenario, pp. 121-46.

10 Traversari's correspondence, ed. by P. Canned, was published as the second

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a reliquary from Ghiberti for the monastery, where Traversari revivedthe primitive Christian tradition of celebrating martyrs' feast dayswith an annual meal in the monastery (a tradition which Ficinowould later repeat with Plato).11 Cosimo was also instrumental infunding the building of Brunelleschi's Rotunda, the first centrallyplanned church of the Renaissance, where decades later MarsilioFicino was to expound Platonic theology.12 But the year 1433, andthe new availability of the Vita Platonis, must mark a turning pointin the relationship between the Camaldolese and Platonism. Initiallyreluctant to translate the voluminous pagan work, Traversari was atlength persuaded by Cosimo and Niccolo Niccoli.13 The effort, whichcoincided with the related but more orthodox task of translatingJohannes Moschus's Vitae patrum, yielded unexpected results. In hispreface to Cosimo, the Camaldolese translator marvelled at exam-ples from classical antiquity of souls who seemed to approach per-fection and the true life before its revelation in Christ, and whoproclaimed doctrines in accordance with the true faith: 'In the writ-ings of all the more notable philosophers, God, the heavens, thecelestial bodies and nature are truly and subtly discussed, and largelyin agreement with Christian truth . . . God permitting, from their

volume of Ambrosii Traversarii Generalis Camaldulensis Vita, sive Historia litteraria florentinaab anno MCXCII usque ad annum MCCCCXL, ed. by Laurentius Mehus, Florence,1759; repr. Bologna, 1968, and Munich, 1968, henceforth referred to as Traversari,Epp. In the Munich edition Eckhard Kessler provides a valuable summary andchronological bibliography. F. P. Luiso, Riordinamento dell'epistolario di A. Traversari conlettere inedite e note storico-cronologiche, 3 parts, Florence, 1898—1903, provides dates,hereafter attached in parentheses after Traversari's letters.

11 Traversari, Epp., VIII.32 (1424) to Lorenzo and Cosimo de' Medici; RichardKrautheimer, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Princeton, 1956, pp. 138-39, 147, 287.

12 C. Stinger, 'Ambrogio Traversari and the "Tempio degli Scolari" at S. Mariadegli Angeli in Florence', in Essays Presented to Myron P. Gilmore, ed. by S. Bertelliand G. Ramakus, 2 vols, Florence, 1978, I, pp. 271-86. See also Patricia Waddy,'Brunelleschi's Design for S. Maria degli Angeli in Florence', Marsyas, 15 (1972),pp. 36-46.

13 See Traversari, Epp., VI.5, 12, 14, 16, 17, 23 (27 May 1425), 25 (8 July 1425),27 (5 August 1425); VII.2; VIII. 1, 6, 8, 9, 10, 17 (1426?), 26 (1425-26); XXIV.38(10-20 September 1428), 43 (2 May 1433), 47 (20 June 1433). Cf. George Holmes,The Florentine Enlightenment, 1400-1450, London, 1969, p. 96. See also Gigante's dis-cussion of Traversari's correspondence relating to the Diogenes Laertius translation,'Ambrogio Traversari interprete di Diogene Laerzio', pp. 377-400, and Stinger,Humanism and the Church Fathers, pp. 72-74, p. 252, n. 168. A. Sottili, 'Autografi etraduzioni di Ambrogio Traversari', Rinascimento, 2a ser., 16 (1976), pp. 3-15, atp. 11, identified the presentation copy as Florence, MS Laur. LXV.21, dated 8February 1433.

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testimony also the true faith might receive support and strength'.14

Traversari's humanist inkling that the 'more notable philosophers'of Greece were largely in harmony with Gospel truth was far fromempty rhetoric, but a belief in complete accord with the GreekFathers whom Traversari dedicated his life to translating into Latin.St Basil, whom Traversari studied, translated and revered, wrote aletter to the young, On the Value of Greek Literature, which affirmed the'great value' of imitating actions of pagan philosophers that correspondto Christian ideals, like Socrates's patient endurance of ill-treatment.Origen, Athanasius, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Nazianzus, Dionysiusthe Areopagite (all of whom Traversari studied and translated) heldsimilar views on the lives and doctrines of the pre-eminent Greekphilosophers, though like Traversari, they upheld the primacy of trueChristian virtue over the 'shadowy image of virtue' in the paganphilosophers. Among these 'more notable philosophers' Plato repre-sented, for Diogenes as well as for his Camaldolese translator, thegreatest philosopher. Diogenes's introduction to Platonic thoughtaddresses his reader as an 'enthusiastic Platonist' inviting him to'eagerly seek out that philosopher's doctrines in preference to allothers'.15 Traversari's own attitude to Plato is perhaps best summa-rized in his translation of qnXoacxpcx; to describe Plato at III.47, whichhe rendered philosophus summus. The pagan Diogenes Laertius, mas-ter of so much Hellenic thought and wisdom, thus corroborated theGreek and Latin Church Fathers who had so admired Plato, pro-viding Renaissance readers with further evidence of Plato's specialapprehension of higher wisdom. Marsilio Ficino would later immersehimself in Traversari's rendering, heavily annotating a manuscriptnow in the Laurentian Library (MS LXXXIX inf. 48) and payingspecial attention to accounts of Plato's doctrines on immortality, theHighest Good and to descriptions of the philosopher's personal holi-ness and 'discernment of the divine life'.16

14 Traversari, Epp., XXIII. 10, translation from Stinger, Humanism and the ChurchFathers, p. 75.

15 Diogenes Laertius, Vitae Philosophorum, III.47; translation from R. D. Hicks'sedition, Cambridge, 1972; the summary of Platonic philosophy is found at 111.47-109.

16 See Marsilio Ficino e il ritomo di Platone. Mostra di manoscritti, stampe e documenti,17 maggi^l6 giugno 1984, ed. by S. Gentile, S. Niccoli and P. Viti, Florence, 1984,pp. 11-12, 17-18, 22-23. When Ficino encountered Plato in the original Greek herelated to Cosimo how Plato's discussion of the Highest Good excelled even DiogenesLaertius's description (underscoring the prior importance of Traversari's translation):'Invenies longe plane divinius eum quam Laertius Diogenes retulerit de summo

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Between 1433 and his death in 1439, the Camaldolese Generalcarried out two other translations of crucial importance to the laterChristian Platonism of Marsilio Ficino: the Theophrastus of Aeneas ofGaza, and the Opera of Dionysius the Areopagite. Aeneas Gazeus'sTheophrastus, which Traversari translated between 1433 and 1434, isa philosophical dialogue on the immortality of the human soul setin fifth-century Alexandria.17 Here the speakers address the rela-tionship between Platonic philosophy and Christian Scripture. In thedialogue the speaker, Theophrastus, expounds the doctrines of theprisci theologi regarding the human soul, citing the Chaldeans, Egyptians,Eleatics as well as Pythagoreans, Plato, Plotinus, Porphyry, lamblichusand Proclus: in sum, the whole Platonic tradition. In the end thespeakers renounce the Platonic doctrine of the soul's pre-existence,and yet affirm the soul's immortality as well as the resurrection ofbody through the grace and power of God, thus achieving a synthesisof Platonic and Christian thought. In May 1456, several years beforecommencing his translations of the complete works of Plato, Ficinocopied in his own hand Traversari's translation of the Theophrastus.^

Between 1436 and 1437 Traversari completed his translations ofps.-Dionysius the Areopagite's Mystical Theology, Divine Names, EcclesiasticalHierarchies and Celestial Hierarchies.^ Dionysius provides one of the keysto Renaissance Platonism in his use of mystical symbolism to evokethe divine realm. His emphasis on higher, intuitive intellection, noesis,clearly places the discursive reasoning, so stressed by the schoolmen,

bono sensisse', P. O. Kristeller, Supplementum Ficinianum, 2 vols, Florence, 1937, I,p. 37; cf. R. Marcel, Marsile Ficin, Paris, 1958, p. 263. See also Gigante, 'AmbrogioTraversari interprete di Diogene Laerzio', pp. 370-71.

17 Stinger, Humanism and the Church Fathers, pp. 75-76, suggests that Traversaritranslated the Theophrastus between mid-1434 and early 1435. The translation wasfirst published in Venice in 1513. See Giovanni Mercati, Ultimi contributi alia storiadegli umanisti, Vatican City, 1939, pp. 26-29, and Gianfranco Fioravanti, 'La traduzionetraversariana del "Teofrasto" di Enea di Gaza', in Ambrogio Traversari ml VI cente-nario, pp. 461-72.

18 Florence, MS Riccardiano 709. 'Yesus. Hie liber est Marsilii Fecini florentiniet ab eo scriptus mense maii 1456'. See the catalogue entry in Marsilio Ficino e ilritorno di Platone. Mostra, pp. 15-17, and P. O. Kristeller, Studies in Renaissance Thoughtand Letters, 4 vols, Rome, 1956-96, I, pp. 164-65.

19 Stinger, Humanism and the Church Fathers, p. 65. Traversari's autograph transla-tion (Florence, MS Laur. Gaddiano LXXXV) was finished at Fontebuono on 15April 1436. See Epp. VIII.36 to Niccoli (March 1431): 'Ego, Nicolae carissime,Dionysium ut traducere instituerem plurimorum extorserunt preces.' See Luiso,Riordinamento, p. 15, n. 2, and Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke, 8408-8409, for Brugesand Paris editions of 1479 and 1499.

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on a secondary plane. For Dionysius theology, as opposed to logic,'does not demonstrate the truth, but exposes it nakedly, in symbols,so that the soul, changed by holiness and light, penetrates withoutthe reason into it'.20 While undertaking these translations Traversarisought with the Lord's help 'to enter with Moses into that darknessmore full of grace than any light, so that from there I may hearthe voice of the Lord'.21 After reading Traversari's translation, Ficinolater proclaimed that 'surpassing the natural limits of intelligence,Dionysius has penetrated the mysteries of the prophets and the apos-tles, and taken with that divine madness with which God inebriateshis elect, he has revealed to us all the secrets in an adorable form'.22

Ficino often found in Traversari's Areopagite a mystical key to thehigher meanings encoded in ancient philosophy, as for example whenexplaining the mystery of Socratic ignorance in Christian terms.23 Atthe end of his life Ficino provided his own Platonizing translationof two works by Dionysius. Yet Traversari's rendering remainedthroughout the Quattrocento the only Latin source for the fifth-century Christian Platonist, and in Ficino's early years he necessar-ily relied on it.24

Traversari's Diogenes Laertius revived for the Renaissance worldthe breadth of Hellenic thought, giving honoured place to the Platonic

20 Dionysius, Ep. IX. 1 (Patrologia Graeca, III, p. 1105). Translation from PhilipSherrard, Christianity: Lineaments of a Sacred Tradition, London, 1997, p. 116.

21 Traversari, Epp. XI.48 (7 Nov. 1432); Charles Trinkaus, In our Image and Likeness:Humanity and Divinity in Italian Humanist Thought, 2 vols, Chicago, 1970, II, pp.596-601; Stinger, Humanism and the Church Fathers, p. 161.

22 Ficino, Opera omnia, II, p. 1013, De mystica theologia, Prooemium: 'Dionysi Deinumen, Theologi veteres et Platonici separatarum mentium extasin et excessum esseputant, quando partirn amore native, partim instigante Deo, naturales intelligentiaelimites supergressae, in amatum Deum mirabiliter transformantur. Ubi novo quodamnectaris haustu et inestimabili gaudio velut ebrie (ut ita dixerim) debacchantur. Hocigitur Dionysiaco rnero Dionysius noster ebrius exultat passim.'

23 Ficino, Opera Omnia, p. 1389, attributes to Socrates the saying 'when conjoinedwith the body I know nothing in the natural light. By the light of nature, I say, Ido not know true being through the mode of affirmation. This kind of knowledgeis proper to God . . . Yet I know many things through a certain way of negation,such as "that God is not a body" rather than what God is . . .' Translation fromHankins, Plato, I, pp. 322-23.

24 Ficino's admiration for and debt to Dionysius is discussed by Marcel, MarsileFicin, pp. 642—44. See also Marta Cristiani, 'Dionigi dionisiaco: Marsilio Ficino eil Corpus Dionysianurn , in // Neoplatonismo ml Rinascimento, ed. by Pietro Prini, Rome,1993, pp. 185-203, and M. J. B. Allen, Synoptic Art: Marsilio Ficino on the History ofPlatonic Interpretation, Florence, 1998, pp. 67-74.

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tradition; his Theophrastus summarized the similarities and differencesbetween Platonism and Scripture, while the pseudo-Dionysius illu-minated the possibility of a systematic Christian Platonic theology.Together these translations provided the foundation for later FlorentinePlatonists to compare, confront and reconcile Christian and Platonicdoctrines. To Ficino, Traversari's translations of these sources of clas-sical and Christian Platonism were decisive influences. As we haveseen, Ficino was intimately familiar with all of these works, and eachwas profoundly important to his understanding of Platonism.

Traversari's translation of these Platonically inspired works wasonly one part of a much larger programme of the revival of prim-itive Christianity. From the 1410s until his death he translated some40 Greek patristic works, including the Platonically inspired Cap-padocians, Athanasius of Alexandria and John Climacus. Traversariwas also one of the driving forces behind the convocation of theCouncil of Florence, whose decrees he co-authored with Bessarionof Nicea. Indeed, the reunion of the churches of East and West wasone of the governing objectives to which Traversari devoted his schol-arly life. From the time of Martin V, the Latin Church had beenconducting negotiations with the Greek emperor on possible meansof healing the ancient schism between the two Churches. The Councilwhich sought to bring this about, while promoted by Pope EugeniusIV, was funded and organized by Traversari's close friend and Ficino'sgreat patron, Cosimo de' Medici. The Council of Florence symbol-ized the aspiration for reconciliation between the two sundered halvesof Christendom, Greek and Latin: a universal religious peace toachieve, in the words of Nicholas of Cusa, concordantia catholica andpax fidei. It was Traversari more than any other intellectual of histime who strove to see to it that this reconcilation should be a pro-found reunion of culture and faith and not simply an administrativedecree of a group of hierarchs. By restoring the early Fathers of theEast to the Latin West, he sought to revive an era of the Faith inwhich the Church was undivided, in which the mystical Christianityof the East and the Catholic Faith of the West were one and unsun-dered.25 It was here, amidst Traversari's theological and diplomaticdiscussions with the Orthodox delegations, that the Platonic Academyof Marsilio Ficino was first conceived by his friend and patron,

On the Council of Florence see J. Gill, The Council of Florence, Cambridge, 1959.

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Cosimo de' Medici.26 As Ficino later affirmed in the preface toPlotinus, Cosimo's conception of the Platonic Academy was inspiredby Gemistos Plethon's disputations during the Council on the Platonicmysteries.27 Plethon may well have expounded Platonic ideas at theCouncil, where by his own account he was accustomed to give lec-tures in the palace of Traversari's friend, Cardinal Cesarini. Plethonlater composed the famous treatise, De differentiis Platonis et Aristotelis,which supported Plato's theory of Ideas against Aristotle's objections,and sought to demonstrate the conformity of Platonic thought andthe incompatibility of central Aristotelian doctrines with Christianity.28

Given Cosimo's patronage of, and interest in, Traversari's ChristianPlatonic translations, Plethon would surely have made an impressionon the prudent banker. Yet Ficino's story of the Academy's concep-tion raises a key question: who interpreted for the Latin audiencePlethon's mysterious Platonic expositions delivered in Greek? As theforemost Hellenist and official interpreter of the Latin delegation,the possibility of Traversari's interpreting Plethon's expositions forCosimo and other select friends seems not entirely implausible.On the arrival of the Greeks in Italy in 1438 Traversari enthusias-tically related his discovery in the suite of the Byzantine emperor ofa 'beautifully written' manuscript of the complete works of Plato29

which he almost certainly would have discussed with Cosimo.30 James

26 On which see most recently Firen^e e il Concilia del 1439: convegno di studi, 29novembre—2 dicembre 1989, ed. by Paolo Viti, Florence, 1994.

27 Ficino, Opera omnia, p. 1537; on Plethon see F. Masai, Plethon et le Platonisme deMistra, Paris, 1956, and C. M. Woodhouse, George Gemistos Pkthon, Last of the Hellenes,Oxford, 1986.

28 Plethon's famous oration at the Council may have been an early version ofthe On the Differences between Aristotle and Plato, translated in Woodhouse, Plethon, pp.191-214. See Ficino, Opera omnia, p. 812.

29 See Mercati, Ultimi contributi, p. 24 and Hankins, 'Cosimo de' Medici and the"Platonic Academy'", Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 53 (1990), pp.144-62, esp. p. 157. Hankins interprets the story of Cosimo's 'inspiration' with theAcademy at the Council of Florence allegorically to refer simply to his acquisitionof the Byzantine Plato manuscript from Plethon. Even here on the level of mate-rial transmission, we find yet another remarkable link between the higher designsof Traversari and those of Ficino, for it was most likely Traversari (as Hankins him-self suggests) who brought the manuscript to Cosimo's attention. Did not Traversari,like Ficino after him, recognize in Plato a philosopher closer to the spirit of theGospels and to the Fathers than Aristotle?

30 Hankins's argument is based in part on a letter of Traversari to UgolinoPieruzzi and in part on codicological evidence. Cardinal Bessarion, who studiedunder Plethon in the 1430s, was known to have made a copy of Plethon's manu-

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Hankins persuasively suggests that this manuscript belonged in factto Plethon, and that, at Traversari's suggestion, Cosimo purchasedit to give, two decades later, to Ficino to translate. If this is the case,then Plethon's prized Platonic tome, following Traversari's sugges-tion, would one day form the basis for the Platonic Academy ofFlorence.31

The 'beautifully written' codex of Plato which Traversari foundin the suite of the Byzantine emperor would wait 20 years to betranslated by Ficino. Yet the transmission of Platonic ideas throughTraversari's teachings and translations yielded fruit much earlier. Asearly as the 1420s Traversari's convent of S. Maria degli Angeli hadbecome a centre of the studio, humanitatis reputed throughout Italy.32

Here the Christian Platonism of the Greek Fathers shaped andinfluenced what was to become the Platonic Academy of Florence.From the surviving correspondence of members of this circle we canenvisage lively discussions on the mystical and philosophical workswhich Traversari was then rendering into Latin, and on newly dis-covered manuscripts containing the wisdom of classical antiquity.33

In 1423, on Giovanni Aurispa's return from Constantinople to Venice,Traversari arranged with the Medici a loan of fifty florins to defraythe freight charges for 238 Greek manuscripts which Aurispa hadconveyed from Byzantium to Italy, including the complete works ofPlato, Plotinus and Proclus. Aurispa's collection of Platonist manu-scripts became the largest and most important in Italy prior to theCouncil of Florence.34 In the mid-1420s Traversari borrowed from

script of the works of Plato. Hankins identifies Florence, MS Laur. LXXXV.9 asthe manuscript which Cosimo purchased from Plethon and eventually gave to Ficino.This would provide a further link between Cosimo's early patronage of Traversari'sDiogenes Laertius translations, and his later patronage of Marsilio Ficino. GeorgeHolmes, 'Cosimo and the Popes', in Cosimo 'il Vecchio' de' Medici, 1389-1464, Francis Ames-Lewis, Oxford, 1992, pp. 21-31, at p. 30 suggests a close con-nection between the Medicean patronage of Traversari and Ficino.

31 See Hankins, 'Cosimo de' Medici', p. 157.32 On Traversari's intellectual circle see Stinger, Humanism and the Church Fathers,

pp. 28-51, and Arthur Field, The Origins of the Platonic Academy of Florence, Princeton,1988, ch. 10.

33 Traversari's correspondence with these figures is published by Canned andMercati (see nn. 10 and 17 above). See also Girolamo Razzi, Vite di quattro huominiillustri, Florence, 1580.

34 Carteggio di Giovanni Aurispa, ed. by R. Sabbadini, Rome, 1931, Epp. V (11 Feb.1424); VII (27 Aug. 1424); X (13 Sept. 1424); Traversari, Epp., V.34 (1 Sept. 1424),VIII.39 (2 Sept. 1424); Stinger, Humanism and the Church Fathers, pp. 36-37, 231.

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Aurispa a volume of Proclus's Platonic TJieology.33 Thus a wide rangeof Platonist works were present at the intellectual symposia held atthe Angeli some 40 years before Ficino's great project. From thisCamaldolese circle radiate numerous links to the Florentine Platonismof the middle and late Quattrocento. Between Traversari's death in1439 and the rebirth of the Platonic Academy in the West in 1463,36

a number of Traversari's pupils in particular made significant con-tributions to the philosophical development of Renaissance culture.The students whom Traversari taught Greek included Matteo Palmieri,Lorenzo Pisano, Giannozzo Manetti, Leonardo Dati, and GirolamoAliotti. The common thread which binds their works together, be itPalmieri's Cittd di vita., Manetti's Vita Socratis, or Dati's Platonicallyinspired Commentaria, is a shared blending of the classical with theChristian, an appropriation of the philosophical structures of thepagan world to expound a pre-eminently mystical Christian message.Their approach to the intellectual world thus bears the stamp of theCamaldolese spirituality into which they were initiated by Traversari.The great intellectual movement these men prepared was that ofFlorentine Christian Platonism.

The intellectual links between Ficino and the Camaldolese mani-fested themselves in a wide circle of personal relationships of whichthe Medici connection is but one example. Marsilio's father Dietifeci,physician to Cosimo de' Medici, acted on several occasions as a wit-ness in Camaldolese legal business at S. Maria degli Angeli in the1420s and 30s, always in the company of members of the Medicihousehold and at the invitation of Traversari.37 Piero Pazzi38 and

35 Carteggio di Giovanni Aurispa, Ep. XXXIII (1427).36 The year Marsilio Ficino began translating Plato, a labour he later says com-

menced at the time of Giovanni Pico della Mirandola's birth.37 Florence, Archivio di Stato, Notarile Antecosimiano, 16524 (or P239), records

of Alessio Pelli (Galluzzi), a private notary who worked for Cosimo from 1425 to1461. Fols 12 and 25 contain references to Nicolas Ficini and other members ofFicino's family settling business on 29 June 1431 at S. M. degli Angeli. On fol. 158Dietifeci Ficino, Marsilio's father, Angelo (Picceli), Masso di Antonio Bradagli,Lorenzo de Medici and Antonio Seristori witness the settlement of a dispute on 13November 1438 at S. Maria degli Angeli. I am indebted for this information toArthur Field.

38 According to Vespasiano, Piero Pazzi, a handsome and profligate youth, wasconverted from the pursuit of pleasure to the cultivation of the Muses by Traversari'sfriend, Niccolo Niccoli. See Vespasiano, Vite, II, pp. 309-10. (Vespasiano describesNiccoli as the Socrates of Florence in encouraging youth in the ways of virtue.)Thereafter, Vespasiano writes, Pazzi never lost an hour in the pursuit of learning;and we may assume that around this time Pazzi came into contact with Traversari.

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Bartolomeo Valori,39 whose early intellectual friendships and patron-age were of such seminal influence on Ficino, were themselves devotedstudents of Traversari. Cristoforo Landino, another close associateof Ficino, had a cousin Gabriele who was a monk under Traversariat the Angeli. Landino celebrated this family connection with Traversariin a Latin poem. In his commentary on Dante, Landino also describedTraversari as among the most eloquent of the Florentines.40 Landino's

Pazzi held him in such affection that he asked him to baptize his newborn daugh-ter, which on account of his order's regulations Traversari had to refuse. He nonethe-less consoled Pazzi with a long letter expressing his paternal love and care for'humanissimo Petro', which he compared to Socrates's love for Alcibiades, Augustine'sfor Licentio, Jerome's for Nepotiano: Traversari, Epp. V.36. See Somigli and Bargellini,Ambrogio Traversari, pp. 60-61. The General continued to watch Pazzi's progress. Ina letter to Niccoli, Traversari mentioned Pazzi's ongoing studies under TommasoPontano, whom Niccoli had recommended as Pazzi's house tutor, summarized inMehus, Ambrosii Vita, p. xx. See now Field, The Origins of the Platonic Academy, p. 63.Traversari's letters are XVI.50 and 51. Pazzi would eventually become legate toKing Louis XI of France, and was remembered by Vespasiano for the excellentlibrary he collected. Pazzi's friendship and encouragement was a formative influenceon the young Marsilio Ficino. By 1451 Ficino himself served as Pazzi's tutor. Animportant letter from Ficino to Pazzi (one of the few surviving documents fromFicino's so-called 'Epicurean' period) is edited in Kristeller, Supplementum Ficinianum,II, pp. 81-87. In this letter Ficino develops Lucretian and Epicurean themes whichwould later influence his De amore. See Field, The Origins of the Platonic Academy, p.178; S. Hough, 'An Early Record of Marsilio Ficino', Renaissance Quarterly, 30 (1977),pp. 301-04; Le ricordanze di Giovanni Chellini da San Miniato, medico, mercante e umanista(1425-1457), ed. by M. T. Sillano, Milan, 1984, p. 183. Ficino's tone in his cor-respondence with Pazzi is familiar and confiding, and may well reflect Pazzi's ownsympathy for Ficino's philosophical views, a sympathy developed, perhaps, duringhis youthful friendship with the Camaldolese translator of Diogenes Laertius's Livesof the Philosophers.

39 In a letter to Niccolo Valori (1464-1526) thanking him for funding the print-ing of the Commentaria in Platonem (1496), Ficino wrote of the friendship and encour-agement he had received decades earlier from Valori's father Bartolomeo, 'viradmodum elegans et, ut ita dixerim, urbis nostrae delitiae', and from his friendPiero Pazzi, 'clarissimo equite', in the earliest years of his Platonic studies in thelate 1450s, when 'enarrationibus disputationibusque in Platonem nostris frequenterinterfuit, atque omni studio celebravit', Ficino, Opera omnia, p. 1136; Marcel, MarsileFicin, p. 565. In a catalogue of friends with whom he 'communed in the cultiva-tion of the liberal arts', Ficino places Valori and Pazzi first among his oldest friendsand colleagues: Opera omnia, p. 936; A. M. Bandini, Specimen literaturae Florentinae sae-culi XV, 2 vols, Florence, 1748-51, II, pp. 59~60. Both men had been friends anddisciples of Ambrogio Traversari at the Angeli in their youth. Together with PeregrineAgli, Benedetto Accolti, and Lorenzo and Giuliano de' Medici, Pazzi and Valoriformed Ficino's intellectual circle during his first translations of the ten dialoguesof Plato, completed in 1464. Luca della Robbia described Traversari's formativeinfluence over Valori in Platonic terms: 'non appariva fra loro disgiunta ne anco1'anima dal corpo . . . perche ci cerco sempre la conversazione de' piu reputati . . .',quoted in Mehus, Ambrosii vita, p. 371.

40 In the preface to his influential commentary on (or Platonic allegorization of)

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Disputationes Camaldulenses, set in the late 1460s, was the first pub-lished Platonic dialogue of the Renaissance.41 Evoking the aura ofancient eastern monasticism, Landino uses the Greek term epfj|io<;to describe the dialogue's setting at the hermitage of Camaldoli. Inthis Camaldolese setting, Ficino's character discusses the highest good,while 'Alberti' explains that Aeneas's mother and guide, Venus, isnone other than Plato's celestial Venus. Aeneas's journey from Troyto Rome involved discerning the higher Venus, which consists in thecontemplation of divine beauty, from the lower Venus. Aeneas'sdevotion to the higher Venus had saved him from Troy's conflagra-tion.42 Whether or not the interlocutors in the Disputationes ever metat Camaldoli, the theme of Camaldoli as a site for the propagationof the ancient theology is surely significant. Here, the active andcontemplative life was embodied in Camaldoli's physical dichotomyof monastery and hermitage; the quest for the highest good in thefoundation's ascesis', even Landino's interpretation of Virgil in thefinal book also calls to mind Traversari's translation of Aeneas ofGaza, in which a Christian Aeneas journeys philosophically frompagan Troy [Alexandria] to Christian Rome.43 Moreover, it would

the Divine Comedy, Landino praises Ambrogio Traversari 'inter Florentines eloquen-tia praestantes'. F. La Brasca, 'Tradition exegetique et vulgarization neo-platoniciennedans la partie doctrinale du commentaire dantesque de Cristoforo Landino', inCulture et societe en Italic du Moyen Age a la Renaissance: hommage a Andre Rochon, Paris,1985, pp. 117-29. Landino's lectures on Dante were directly influenced by Ficino'sInstitutiones ad Platonicam disciplinam. See Field, The Origins of the Platonic Academy, pp.240-41; Mittarelli and Costadoni, Annales Camaldulenses, VII, p. 200. On GabrieleLandino, himself a poet of some note, see Bandini, Specimen literaturae Florentinae sae-culi XV, I, pp. 36-45, and Mittarelli and Costadoni, Annales Camaldulenses, VII, pp.19, 32, 99, 167, 199. Gabriele's poetic works included verse in honour of StsAugustine, Jerome and Ambrose, and the beginning of a heroic poem on the warbetween Florence and Pisa. Traversari's letters to Gabriele are XIV.25 and 30 (6Nov. 1437).

41 P. O. Kristeller, 'The Active and Contemplative Life in Renaissance Humanism',Studies in Renaissance Thought and Letters, IV, pp. 197-214. On the tradition in Platosee A.-J. Festugiere, Contemplation et vie contemplative selon Platan, Paris, 1950. On thistradition at Camaldoli in the Middle Ages see Benedetto Calati, 'Vita attiva e vitacontemplativa: La tradizione patristica nella primitiva legislazione Camaldolese',Camaldoli, 33 (1953).

42 Disputationes Camaldulenses (ed. by Peter Lohe, Florence, 1980), Book III. Cf.Trinkaus, In Our Image and Likeness, II, pp. 716-18.

43 Benedetto Calati, 'La spiritualita del '400 e la tradizione Camaldolese', inAmbrogio Traversari ml VI centenario, pp. 27-48, sees the debate between the activeand contemplative life presented 'quasi "plasticamente" nella communita del ceno-bio e dell'Eremo di Camaldoli' (p. 40). The Disputationes thus present a humanistsynthesis of traditional patristic themes in a Platonic/monastic setting: Tunita nel

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be difficult to find a contemporary setting more evocative of thegroves of Plato, the caves of sibyls and the aura of the ancient worldthan Gamaldoli. The themes which the Disputationes introduced tothe wider world of Italian humanism in the 1470s—Ficino as inspiredPlatonic philosopher and Camaldoli as a Platonic setting—becamereal historical forces over the succeeding decades. In the 1480s Ficino'sactual philosophical pursuits again converged with the Camaldolesetradition.

The exact nature of Ficino's mysterious 'Academy' has alwaysintrigued scholars of the Renaissance period. Some have envisagedan institution which met regularly, celebrated Plato's feast day withsymposia (as in the De amore) and comprised 'members', includingGiovanni Pico della Mirandola, Lorenzo the Magnificent, Polizianoand Cristoforo Landino, who co-operated throughout their lives inre-establishing Platonic wisdom in the West. Others, like Ficino'sbiographer Raymond Marcel, have seen in the Academy a moreinformal group of philosophical friends who formed a 'foyer de vieinterieure'.44 Recent scholarship has debated the existence of an insti-tutional association of Platonists around Ficino.45 Ficino himself, whooften employs allegorical expression, used the term 'Academy' atdifferent times to denote different things, such as, for example, thedialogues of Plato. Yet Ficino's revived 'Academy' did indeed giverise to a group of philosophical friends, united by a shared enthu-siasm for Platonic philosophy and mystical Christianity. During the

pluralismo, espressa dalla vita contemplativa ed attiva, configurata concretarnentedai cenobiti ed eremiti, che ancora facevano un corpo unico nella comunione eccle-siale monastica' (ibid.). Traversari, dedicating Aeneas's Theophrastus to AndreoloGiustiniani in July 1436, compares his own translation from Greek into Latin withpious Aeneas's pilgrimage to Latium: 'Accipies igitur, Andreole vir illustris, Aeneamnostrum iam plane pium, et per te Roma accipiat suae gentis auctorem; qui longeverius de se protestari possit "Sum pius Aeneas" quam ille olim Anchisae films',Epp., XXIII. 10.

44 Marcel, Marsile Ficin, p. 290.43 Field, The Origins of the Platonic Academy, envisages a more institutional gather-

ing of like-minded friends known as the 'Platonic Academy of Florence'. For adifferent perspective see Hankins, 'Cosimo de' Medici' (n. 29 above) and 'The Mythof the Platonic Academy of Florence', Renaissance Quarterly, 44 (1991), pp. 429~75.Hankins argues that Ficino's references to the 'Academy' are allegorical allusionsto Plato's dialogues. Cosimo's 'conception of the Academy' after hearing Plethon'smystical disputations should thus be interpreted as Cosimo's purchase of the com-plete works of Plato from Plethon. Hankins credits Ambrogio Traversari with hav-ing persuaded Cosimo to conduct this more mundane Platonic transaction withPlethon. See Field's paper in this volume.

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very years when the so-called Platonic Academy of Florence reachedits pinnacle of influence, a kind of institutional association of Platon-ists convened around Ficino. The locus of this 'Academy' was theCamaldolese house of S. Maria degli Angeli.

To Ficino, as to many of his disciples, the ancient theology cul-minated in spiritual illumination closely resembling, in both formand content, the Christian monastic life.46 Echoing the PythagoreanNumenius's famous question 'What else is Plato but Moses speak-ing Greek?', let us then consider whether the Platonic Academy ofFlorence was not in fact the Camaldolese order speaking humanistLatin.47 We can address this question by considering two kinds ofevidence: Ficino's own writings and correspondence and the admin-istrative records and literary productions of the Camaldolese themselves.

Characteristic of Ficino's own testimony is a letter to two friendscured by his spiritual medicines, where Ficino wrote how 'you paidyour respects to the Academy, as if it were your own doctor. Youthen asked for and heard the sound of the lyre and the singing ofhymns.'48 Ficino's letter of 15 May 1490 to Ermolao Barbaro, sim-ilarly describes how, like a monk, he himself sang psalms thricedaily.49 More explicit is Ficino's Oratio in principio lectionis, where heemphasizes that the sacred philosophy of Plato is best proclaimed insacred places and before a religious audience. Referring to the useof temples and other holy places for teaching by ancient sages, Ficinocommences his oration by emphasizing the appropriateness of theCamaldolese church of S. Maria degli Angeli for the contemplationof Plato:

46 For Ficino's disciples, see, for example, Giovanni Nesi's interpretation of thePythagorean Symbola which described them in terms of a monastic, and specificallyCamaldolese, rule. See C. S. Celenza's study, Piety and Pythagoras in Renaissance Florence:The Symbolum Nesianum Leiden, etc., 2001.

47 See Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis, 1.22, quoted by Ficino at Opera omnia,pp. 866-67.

48 The sound of the lyre for Ficino is often equated with the singing of thePsalms. 'I often resort to the solemn sound of the lyre and to singing, to avoidother sensual pleasures entirely. I do it also to banish vexations of both soul andbody, and to raise the mind to the highest considerations of God as much as Imay. . . . I know that David and Pythagoras taught this above all else and I believethey put it into practice.' Letter 1.92 to Antonio Canigiani, On Music. Translationfrom The Letters of Marsilio Ficino, tr. by members of the Language Department ofthe School of Economic Science, 6 vols to date, London, 1975-, I, pp. 143-44.

49 Opera omnia, p. 910.

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Following as best we may the path trodden by ancient sages, we willtherefore follow the holy philosophy of Plato here in this Church. Inthis seat of the angels [sedes angelorum, the name of the monastery] wewill contemplate divine truth.50

The church to which Ficino here refers may well be, as MichaelAllen first suggested, the Rotunda of Brunelleschi, an edifice commis-sioned by Traversari. Here Ficino delivered Platonic sermons (prob-ably spiritual commentaries on the Enneads of Plotinus as well asexpositions of Platonic dialogues) to an audience he addresses as his'dilectissimi fratres'. Referring to the snow-white Camaldolese habit(candidare signifies taking Camaldolese vestments), Ficino urges an ap-proach to the divine mysteries with 'candidis mentibus', emphasiz-ing the purifying nature of divine truth. Here at the Angeli, whereDavid's psalter sounded continuously, Ficino harmonized on hisOrphic lyre ancient Platonic sententiae with monastic hymns to Christ'sresurrection. Over a period spanning at least a decade, Ficino's Pla-tonic teachings at the Angeli accompanied the celebration of themonastic offices, and indeed, formed an integral part of the forma-tion of religious brothers at the Camaldolese house.51

Ficino may have delivered orations at the Angeli on Plato's Philebusas early as 1469. In these the philosopher refers to the monasteryas 'this celebrated place'.52 From the records of the Florentine cathe-

50 Opera omnia, p. 886: 'Nos igitur antiquorum sapientum vestigia pro viribusobservantes, religiosam Platonis nostri Philosophiam in hac media prosequemurEcclesia. In his sedibus angelorum divinam contemplabimur veritatem.' Translationadapted from The Letters of Marsilio Ficino (to whose editors I am indebted for shar-ing the fruits of their forthcoming volume VII) and Marsilio Ficino, The 'Philebus'Commentary, ed. and tr. by Michael J. B, Allen, Berkeley etc., 1975, pp. 9 and522-23. Allen observes that the words vestigia and media would be especially appro-priate if the ecclesia were the Rotunda.

51 In addition to Ficino's own testimony discussed in the following pages, seeespecially Paolo Orlandini, Eptathicum, written in 1519 and preserved in Florence,Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, MS Magi. II. 158, which describes the Platonic teach-ings at the Angeli in part VII. See also Orlandini's Platonically inspired poetry inFlorence, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, MS Conv. Soppr. G4.826, to be dealt within my book on the Camaldolese order in the Renaissance.

52 From Giovanni Corsi's Vita Marsilii Ficini, written in 1506, first published byA. M. Bandini in 1771, and republished in Marcel's Marsile Ficin, Appendix I,p. 683, 'Publice itaque eo tempore [in the reign of Piero] Marsilius magna auditorumfrequentia Platonis Philebum interpretatus est. . .' Translated in Letters, III, pp. 135-53.Cf. Allen in Ficino, The 'Philebus' Commentary, pp. 6-9, 522~23. MS Vat. lat. 5953,considered the earliest version of the Philebus commentary, refers to 'celebri hocloco'. For the dating of this piece to 1469 see Allen, Philebus, pp. 48-56 and

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dral chapter we learn that Ficino preached in the church of S. Mariadegli Angeli on every single day of the month of December 1488.53

Ficino's sermons on Paul's letter to the Romans, dating from the1490s, employ language redolent of the architectural structure of themonastery's Rotunda, beginning the sermons with the following invo-cation: 'In the centre of the church I shall praise Thee. In the sightof the angels [once again, a reference to the monastery] I shall singunto Thee.'54

Similarly, in a philosophical letter Ficino echoes the psalmist inhis reference to a congregation of angelic brethren:

Breathe upon us, I pray, gracious God. I will declare Thy name untomy brethren. In the midst of the congregation will I praise Thee.Before the angels will I sing praise unto Thee.55

Throughout the late 1480s and 1490s Ficino delivered numerousPlatonic commentaries in the Camaldolese church or cloister. At 'fre-quent meetings' in the Camaldolese house—cohortantibus angelis, 'withthe encouragement of angels'—he was accustomed to give Platonicdeclamationes or sermons. In the early 1490s Ficino was persuadedover a dinner in the monastic refectory to undertake a new editionof revised commentaries on Plato's dialogues.56 Ficino agreed andthe edition which resulted was the Commentaria in Platonem publishedin December 1496. The Platonic expositions Ficino revised or car-

C. Vasoli, 'Marsilio Ficino', in Dizionario biogrqfico degli italiani, XLVII (1997), pp.378-95, at p. 383.

53 Florence, Archivio capitolare, Partiti, MA, car. 99, b. 9, die. 1488. Cf. G. B.Picotti, 'Aneddoti Polizianeschi', in Miscellanea di studi in onore di Pio Carlo Falletti,Modena, 1914, pp. 433-49, and reprinted in Picotti's Ricerche umanistiche, Florence,1955, p. 136 ff.

54 'Adspira nobis precor Alme Deus, via, veritas, vita, Trinitas unus Deus. Inmedio ecclesiae laudabo te. In conspectu angelorum psallam tibi', Opera omnia, p.473; Ficino, The 'Philebus' Commentary, ed. Allen, p. 9; the editors of Letters observethat psallo signifies singing, playing a lyre or psaltery. The invocation is found atthe beginning of Ficino's sermons on the immortality of the human soul, on thefive loaves, on the two disciples at Enimaus, etc.

D5 Translation from Letters, VII (forthcoming). See Kristeller, Supplementum Ficinianum,I, pp. 20, 93.

56 Opera omnia, pp. 950—51: 'Marsilius Ficinus luliano insigni theologiae profes-sori Ordinis minorum non minori. . . . Novam Platonis interpretationem nondumedidi ultra dimidium iam productam. Ad hanc tu me maxime omnium adhortatuses, forte interim cohortantibus angelis, in quorum aede id in coena mihi persua-sisti. Quo tempore post declamationes nostras ibidem frequentibus concionibus tuorabas.' The letter is dated by Marcel several months after 7 November 1492,Marsile Ficin, p. 531.

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ried out at this time included the Parmenides, Sophist, Timaeus, Phaedms,Philebus, and Republic.51

Ficino's 1496 Commentaria in Platonem includes a philosophical let-ter addressed to his Camaldolese conphilosophus or fellow philosopherPaolo Orlandini, a monk at S. Maria degli Angeli.58 Dated 13November 1496, the letter continues a conversation between Ficinoand Orlandini at the Angeli on paths of the soul's ascent throughintellect (a natural process) and through the will (supernatural). 'Inthe second case, the case of ecstasy, a new light and power pouredin by God . . . kindles the will with a wonderful love . . . drawing theintelligence into God. There love itself, whose function in the uni-verse is generation, regenerates the soul and makes it divine.'59 Herewe come to appreciate the significance of the Camaldolese context,where such ascent was the continual goal of the brethren. Likewisewhen Ficino expounded Plato's Phaedms at the Camaldolese monasteryin the 1490s and spoke of the chariot of the soul ascending intoheaven on the wings of divine love, the monks in his audience mustsurely have heard resonances of the Desert Fathers, of the ladder ofRomuald, and of their own General's translations of Climacus andDionysius.60

Ficino's presence among the Camaldolese left many tangible marks.In 1487, Traversari's successor as Camaldolese General, Pietro Doffin,described a 'new kind of teaching' which had taken place at theCamaldolese monastery for some time:

07 See Allen's critical editions and translations of Ficino commentaries on theSophist, Phaedrus, Philebus and Republic VIII.

58 Published with English translation in Ficino, The 'Philebus' Commentary, ed. Allen,pp. 486-89.

39 Ficino then lists the works in which he he has addressed this problem: 'Naturalemquidem mentis incessum una cum Platone tractavimus in Philebo, excessum veronaturali motu superiorem attingimus in epistola atque una cum Platone in PhaedroSymposioque tetigimus, et qua ratione divinus amor qui in voluntate accenditurintellectum in unitatem summam transferal qua praecipue Deo fruimur in com-mentariis in Dionysium declaravimus. Sed haec pro epistolae modo satis', The'Philebus' Commentary, ed. Allen, p. 489.

60 For the Camaldolese reception of these teachings see, for example, Orlandini'sEptathicum, vol. IV, ch. 3, and Ficino's letter to Orlandini cited above. Other exam-ples of Ficino's use of the ladder metaphor are his three steps of contemplation,contained in his Argumentum in Platonicam Theologiam: De ascensu (Primus contemplationisgradus); De divina providentia (Secundus contemplationis gradus) and De impedimenta mentis(Tertius contemplationis gradus), Opera omnia, pp. 707-17.

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I have known for some time that scholars, qualified in various disci-plines, have given public lectures in the monastery of the Angels . . .However, up to the day of my recent visit, no one had apprised meof the fact that this kind of lecture took place in the church sanctu-ary itself.

The General 'strongly approved' of such philosophical pursuits takingplace at the Angeli, but was surprised to find the Camaldolese churchitself a forum for philosophical enquiry.61

An inventory of books at the Angeli, compiled in 1513, describesa rich library of Renaissance Platonism full of Ficino's writings andsources.62 Ficinian translations in the monastic collections includedthe Plato, Opera omnia, the printed Plotinus, the Aldine edition oflamblichus's De my stems Aegyptiorum^ and early translations of theCorpus Hermeticum. The monastery also possessed a Theologia Orphica,possibly the Orphic Hymns which Ficino translated but never dissem-inated widely.64 Ficino's original philosophical works in the libraryincluded: De Christiana religione (1474), Theologia Platonica (1474, ed. pr.1482), De vita (1489), and his commentaries on Plato (1496).

61 Petri Delphini Veneti Prioris sacrae Eremi Generalis totius Ordinis Camaldulensis episto-larum volumen, Venice, 1524, p. 74, from Camaldoli di Firenze, 7 Dec. 1487; dis-cussed in Kristeller, Supplementum Ficinianum, II, pp. 233-34 and in Marcel, MarsileFicin, pp. 476-77.

62 The inventory, in Florence, Biblioteca Moreniana, MS Palagi 267, fols 34v-41r,is described and printed by Serenella Baldelli Cherubini, 'I manoscritti della bib-lioteca fiorentina di S. Maria degli Angeli attraverso i suoi inventari', La Bibliofilia,74 (1972), pp. 9-47. The list also contains a number of works by Quattrocentohumanists, including Giovanni Nesi, Olivieri of Siena's De rationali scientia, ErmolaoBarbaro's Castigationes of Terence and Pliny, the Opera of Pontano, Alberti's De reaedificatoria, Giovanni Cortesi, Pietro Crinito, Bartolomeo Scala's Apologia, FilippoBeroaldo and the letters of Coluccio Salutati, together with his De seculo et religione.See Cherubini, pp. 25—31. Though compiled over a decade after Prior Guido'sdeparture, the inventory is clearly a legacy of the Laurentian era. Prior Guido daSettimo presided over the Angeli from 1487 until 1498. Ficino greeted the Prioras follows: 'et venerabili patri vestro, immo et nostro, Guidoni Laurentino angeli-cae aedis instauratori nos saepe commenda', Opera omnia, pp. 1425-26. On Guido'sadministration and on his close friendship with Lorenzo de' Medici, see Orlandini'sEptathicum, part VII; Mittarelli and Costadoni, Annales Camaldulenses, VII, and Dolfin'sletters.

63 This edition made available in Latin a remarkable array of ancient Platonists,including Proclus, Porphyry, Synesius, Psellus, Priscian, Alcinous, Speusippus, thesayings attributed to Pythagoras and Xenocrates, as well as Ficino's De voluptate. SeeMarsilio Ficino e il ritorno di Platone. Mostra, pp. 132-33, and Aldo Manuzio tipografo,Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana exhibition catalogue, ed. by L. Bigliazzi et al.,Florence, 1994, pp. 45-46.

64 Marsilio Ficino e il ritorno di Platone. Mostra, pp. 25-26.

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Nowhere is the convergence between Ficino's Christian Platonismand Camaldolese monasticism more apparent than in the writingsof the humanist Paolo Orlandini.65 A Camaldolese brother at theAngeli, Orlandini avidly attended Ficino's Platonic expositions andsermons, often describing the Florentine Platonist as his master.Orlandini's corpus applies Ficino's Platonism to the practicalities ofCamaldolese life, and is replete with quotations from and referencesto Plato's dialogues and interpreters. Like Ficino, Orlandini was fas-cinated with prefigurations of Christianity in the Platonism of antiqu-ity, and received encouragement from Ficino to 'proceed happily' inthese philosophical and theological enquiries.66 Orlandini likenedFicino's Platonic expositions to a resurrection of the Academy, com-paring this heroic deed to Orpheus's rescue of Eurydice and Demeter'srescue of Persephone.67 According to Orlandini, Ficino's daily read-ings from Plato were to be heard by the Camaldolese brethren astheir 'daily bread'.68 Also like Ficino, Orlandini relied on Traversari'srenderings of early Greek Christian Platonists when comparing Platonicideas with the true faith. In a poem in terza rima, he finds himselfon Mount Parnassus in the company of the great minds of antiq-uity. Questioning Pythagoreans, Aristotelians, Epicureans and Stoicson whether the soul is immortal, he receives a different reply fromeach. He is soothed by the Platonists' affirmation of immortality, butat last finds Ambrogio Traversari, whose translation of Diogenes

b5 Early sources for Orlandini, in addition to Dolfin's letters, include Fortunio,Historiarum Camaldulensium libri; Mittarelli and Costadoni, Annales Camaldulenses, VII,pp. 184, 252, 381, 397, 400, 407-08, 411, 415-16, 426-27.; VIII, pp. 17-19;Mehus, Ambrosii vita, pp. 281, 313, 365-66, 374-75, 378-79, 384-85, 394-95, 403,433 ff.; S. Razzi, Le vite de' santi e beati dell'ordine di Camaldoli, Florence, 1600, pp.147—49; Giovanni Crescimbeni, L'Istoria della volgar poesia, Rome, 1714; MichelePoccianti, Catalogus illustrium scnptorum Florentinorum, Florence, 1589; Antonius PossevinusApparatus Sacer, Book III; Mabillon, Iter Italicum, ad ind.

6fe Opera omnia, p. 1426.67 Paolo Orlandini, Eptathicum, fols 4v-5r: 'Marsilius noster civis Florentinus Ficini

natus: vir profecto eximii ingenii maximaeque doctrinae. Qui quidem Minerva sua,suaque Cythara melius quam Orpheus Eurydicem, suamque Proserpinam mater, etSamuelem Phytonissa illam Academiam ipsam ipsumque Platonem ab inferis adsuperos videtur revocasse. Quandoquidem ipse et Platonis libros nobis e grecis latinosfecit. Et pro omnibus eius dialogis atque opusculis mira quidem argumenta composuit.'

b8 Eptathicum, fol. 140: De Reverend! praeceptoris nostri, Marsilii scilicet Ficinimandate, nudius tertius mihi indicto, id instituti servabimus, ut in singulis quaes-tionibus Platonem suum citemus, ac si cotidianum panem pro omni lectione assum-mendum in isto contubernio. Neque id iniuria. Nostis enim venerandi fratres,praeceptorem iam dictum affici quam plurimum Platoni, quae ipse e greco latinumfecit: deque tenebris ad lucem, atque ab inferis ad superos ferme revocavit.

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Laertius's Lives of the Philosophers had made this encounter possible.Traversari resolves Orlandini's doubts, as Aeneas of Gaza had ear-lier in the Theophrastus, with the Christian affirmation of the resur-rection of the body.69 Orlandini is greatly comforted, as the immortalsoul of the Platonists is here redeemed in the spiritual body of Christ'sresurrection. Here Florentine Platonism and Christian orthodoxy con-verge in the tranquil cloisters of the Angeli.

Paolo Orlandini's writings epitomize the monastic and Christiancharacter of Ficino's Platonic Academy. Themes he addresses includethe immortality of the human soul, the active and contemplativelives, the relative superiority of Plato and Aristotle and the divinepower of love. Orlandini's corpus is thus characteristic of the last-ing testament of Renaissance Platonism to European thought andletters. But his works also clearly place the source of these seminalideas within the context of the Camaldolese cloister. Here the pur-pose of philosophical contemplation and mystical wisdom is not paganrefinement and illumination, but union with Jesus Christ, creator,messiah and redeeming principle of the universe. As we have seenfrom his Parnassian poem mentioned above, Orlandini approachedthe question of the soul's immortality with personal religious con-viction rather than from a detached, philosophical perspective. Thisis also clear from his other writings. Just as Landino's DisputationesCamaldulenses enunciated some of the central themes of FlorentinePlatonism through the medium of humanist dialogue, Orlandiniexpresses these themes, such as the active and contemplative lives,as central questions of the Camaldolese monastic vocation.70

69 Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, MS Conv. Soppr. G4.826 (autograph),Canto de immortalitate de anime: 'Incomincia uno breve canto dove si riducono le opin-ioni de philosophi circa l'imrnortalita del anima insieme con le ragioni theologicedecte per Don Ambrosio Generale fu del nostro ordine et qui sinduce parlare comesi puo vedere.' The Parnassian Platonists propound as follows:

Parmi Plotino con faccia iocosaalludessi con Plato a tal sermonenel suo Timeo et Phedro in tucta cosa.

Nella Republica anche et nel Phedone1'alme riduce al cerchio universaleonde han fortuna costumi et ragione.

Et nel Philebo parte corporalevuole esser parte a tucto 1'universoet l'alme nostre col primo animale.

70 See references at n. 41 above.

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Within the order, action and contemplation were related to thedichotomy between hermit and coenobite, between the solitary andcommunal life embodied in the topography of Camaldoli. Philo-sophically the question of vita activa and vita contemplativa correspondedto the relative superiority of the intellect and the will. Orlandinidescribes Camaldolese houses throughout the late Quattrocento asliving examples of these principles. Here Platonist circles comprisingboth monks and laity puzzled over such perennial questions in earnestquest of the truth. The discussion at the Angeli between Ficino andOrlandini in November 1496 on the relative merits of the intellectand the will underlines the religious and monastic character of suchthemes.71 From a philosophical perspective, Ficino's letter is highlysignificant, reconciling for the first time two themes of central impor-tance in his Platonic thought. During their philosophical discussionOrlandini had asked Ficino 'with his customary subtlety' why he hadgiven precedence to the will in the letter to Lorenzo de' Medici onhappiness, whereas in the commentary on the Philebus he had givenprecedence to the intellect. Ficino begins by affirming the voluntaristposition, expressed in his letter to Lorenzo, and ascribes the intel-lectualist position of the Philebus to Plato. However, Ficino doesn'twant 'Marsilio's view to differ from Plato's'. Accordingly he describestwo apparently distinct ways man ascends to the heights of divinity:the first, by the natural light of philosophy, and the second, throughthe supernatural ecstasy of divine love.72

71 See J. Kraye in The Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy, ed. by C. B.Schmitt et al., Cambridge, 1988, p. 353; Ficino, The 'Philebus' Commentary, ed. Allen,pp. 487-89.

72 'Marsilius Ficinus, Florentinus, Paulo Orlandino in angelorum aede monacoconphilosopho suo, salutem.

Postquam heri multa mecum de divinis ut soles subtiliter disputasti, quaesistidenique cur ego in Philebo tamquam ex Platonis sententia intellectum voluntatipraefecerim, cur in epistola de felicitate praeferam voluntatem. Equidem respon-dere possem in Philebo quidem sententiam ferri Platonicam, in epistola vero meam.Sed nolim Marsilianam sententiam a Platonica dissentire. Itaque respondebo sum-matim, duplicem esse mentis nostrae processum: alterum quidem naturalem, alterumvero supra naturam, quern proprie nominamus excessum. In illo quidem processuintellectus luce quadam naturaliter insita voluntatem ducit quasi comitem; ac deniquerecte ductam implet, ideoque praefertur. In hoc autem excessu nova lux virtusqueinfusa divinitus non prius intellectum divino splendore complet quam amore mirificoaccenderit voluntatem. Quae quidem sic accensa per ipsam translatoriam calorisamorisque efficaciam mentem traducit in Deum, ubi amor ipse cuius est in uni-verso generationis officium regenerat animum efficitque divinum.' The letter is editedand translated by Allen in Ficino, The 'Philebus' Commentary, pp. 486-88. For fur-ther discussion see Albertini's paper in this volume.

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The question Orlandini put to Ficino at the Angeli with his 'cus-tomary subtlety' thus reflected a perceptive and not uncritical read-ing of Ficinian philosophy. In Landino's Disputationes, 'Ficinus' hadpraised the contemplative ascent in the appropriate setting of thehermitage of Camaldoli, where the Platonic ladder became realityin the spiritual exercises of the hermits.73 In his letter to Orlandini,the real Ficino described this Platonic theory of the Intelligence asa 'natural' process and therefore subject to philosophical or ratio-nally comprehensible explanation. The power of Divine Love, how-ever, was supernatural, and its workings could be ascribed only tothe highest mysteries of God. Here Ficino transcends the barrierbetween the philosophical and the religious, maintaining and affirmingthe supremacy of supernatural Christian Love. The same ChristianPlatonic concept of the Ladder of Love would recur early in thenext century in the works of Pietro Bembo, Francesco da Diaccetoand Baldassare Castiglione, all of whom acknowledged a profounddebt to Ficino. What is less well-known, but perhaps equally impor-tant, is that Bembo, Diacceto and Castiglione all maintained, likeFicino before them, close associations with the Camaldolese. Thatthis convergence between a central stream of Renaissance thoughtand the Camaldolese order should continue over yet another gen-eration seems altogether extraordinary. A sixteenth-century intellec-tual heir wrote of these men as having revived Plato's 'most profoundtheory of true love' which 'forgotten for many centuries except fora few glimpses in the verses of Dante, Petrarch and other olderpoets' was finally revived by Marsilio Ficino 'in his learned com-mentary on Plato's Symposium'' and faithfully perpetuated by Pico,Diacceto and Bembo.74

The relative dignity of the will and the intellect, and of the activeand contemplative lives, are themes Orlandini addresses throughouthis writings. In his early De virtute Orlandini describes voluntas and

73 Lorenzo il Magnifico had himself addressed the question in his poetic Altercazionein which the philosopher 'Marsilius' expounded the joys of detached philosophicalcontemplation. See J. B. Wadsworth, 'Landino's Disputationes Camaldulenses, Ficino'sDe Felicitate and L'Altercazione of Lorenzo de' Medici', Modern Philology, 50 (1952-53),pp. 23-31; Ficino, The 'Philebus' Commentary, ed. Allen, pp. 35-48; Jill Kraye, in TheCambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy, p. 353.

74 Benedetto Varchi, Lezioni sopra I'amore, Florence, 1590, pp. 351-52. It is per-haps noteworthy that Varchi himself maintained close ties with the Camaldolese.Connections between the Camaldolese and the continuation of these traditions arediscussed in my forthcoming book on the Camaldolese order and the Renaissance.

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intelligentia as masculine and feminine components in the rational soul.Female-dominated societies of antiquity, like the Amazons who wor-shipped the moon as a goddess, obliquely affirmed intellect's supremacyover will. Yet the divine command of Genesis 3:13 metaphoricallyendowed will with mastery over intellect. Among the ancient philoso-phers, Plato, Socrates, Solon and Pythagoras upheld the primacy ofthe will.75 Plato's works tend towards morals, Socrates gave up spec-ulation on astronomical matters in order to pursue moral philoso-phy and Solon fathered the laws of the Athenians. That Pythagorasplaced greater emphasis on compiling mores for mortal men than oncontemplation of natural things is recorded by St Jerome's ContraJovinianum and Basil the Great's letter to his nephews. Against objec-tions that Plato seems to prefer the intellect to the will in his Philebus,Orlandini replies that here Plato is in fact treating another question.In the Philebus where Plato employs the word intelligence, intellec-tive disposition or intellective appetite should be understood, termswhich unite will with reason.76 Orlandini later addresses Aristotle,and then Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus, on the question of theintellect's superiority. He concludes that the Romualdine school (nosRomualdini} diverges on this point from Aristotle and the scholastics,and affirms, like Ficino, the primacy of love which is expressed inaction and not in contemplation.77

Orlandini's Decalogus de immortalitate also devotes a chapter to thequestion of the relative dignity of the intellect or the will, relatingthis problem to the immortality of the intellective soul.78 In the

13 Eptathicum, fol. 23r: 'Ubi sciendum est quod Plato, Socrates, Solon, et Pythagoraspluris fecerunt atque estimaverunt voluntatem ipsam quam intellectum. Nam Platoiugiter in suis libris vergit ad mores. Socrates pro morali philosophiae parte reliqu-it rerum divinarum speculationem. Solon quoque omissis ceteris leges Atheniensibusaedidit. Pythagoras quoque Samius magis insudavit in componendis mortalium viro-rum moribus, quam in rerum naturalium contemplatione, prout uberrime narrat acmeminit de ipso Hieronimus contra Jovinianum et Basilius Magnus ad nepotes.'

76 Ibid. 'Siquis vero dixit oppositum haberi posse ex Platonis Philebo, ubi vide-tur voluntati intellectum praestare praeferrique, dico quod ibi non agitur de quaes-tione hac. Sed ibi Plato cum intellectum nominat, tu intelligito intellectivum affectum,sive appetitum intellectivum quem eandem appellari voluntatem licet cum rationeconiunctam.' Ficino had similarly explained to Bartolomeo Scala: 'What is carriedout in action cannot be performed without an enquiry of the mind', Opera omnia,p. 667.

77 Ibid. 'Et ideo nos Romualdini ab utraque degredimur schola, Thomae scilicetatque Scoti, ex hoc partim, partimque ex illo accipientes.'

/8 The chapter concludes 'Charitas autem est nobilissimus habitus, et est in vol-untate, ergo nobilissima animi potentia est ipsa voluntas', Eptathicum, fol. 192v.

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Gymnastica monachorum he devotes three chapters to declamationes inpraise of the active, the contemplative, the mixed and the solitarylives. These orations are set at the Angeli after vespers, and aredelivered by different Camaldolese brethren, each pronouncing thelife they praise not only good in itself, but superior to the others(i.e., the active life superior to the contemplative and mixed, and soon). To these Orlandini adds a speech in praise of the solitary life.Here the criterion for assessing the merits of these ways of life isthe extent to which each leads to union with the divine through loveof God and our neighbour.79

Like Ficino, Orlandini and fellow Camaldolese humanists perceivedan underlying concord between Platonism and Aristotelianism. Ficinotaught that Peripatetic doctrine was the path leading to Platonic wis-dom. 'From natural things one ascends to divine things, and this iswhy no one can ever understand the sublime mysteries of Platounless he has already been initiated into the disciplines of Aristotle.'80

Likewise Orlandini goes to some lengths to emphasize the agree-ment of Platonic and Aristotelian doctrines, even composing a smalloration Quails sit convenientia inter Platonem et Aristotelem.81 Yet like Ficinoagain, Orlandini held Plato to be the superior philosopher becauseof his closer conformity to the teachings of Christ.82 Orlandini's com-mentary on St Jerome's Letter to Paulinus contains a lengthy dis-cussion as to whether Plato was superior to Aristotle and whetherpagan philosophers could know the Word of God through the lightof natural reason (fols 171r-173r). Treating the first question, Orlandinicomposes a small treatise on the history of the Plato-Aristotle con-troversy. Orlandini's treatment ranges from Dante's Commedia, whichpraises Aristotle as 'master of those who know', to Petrarch's Epistolaeproclaiming Plato superior; from Lactantius's vision of 'Aristotle atvariance with himself and 'Plato who is judged the wisest of all,plainly and openly maintaining the rule of one God' to Cicero's

79 'De vita activa declamatio', fols 246r-247r; 'De vita contemplative declama-tio', fols 247r-248v; 'De vita mixta declamatio', fols 248v~249v; 'De vita solitariadeclamatio', fols 249v-250r.

80 Ficino, Opera omnia, p. 953.81 Eptathicum, 252v—253r (the interlocutor is Diacceto's teacher, Olivieri of Siena);

see also fols 4v~5r.82 Eptathicum, Diffinitio Augustini de virtute (fols llv~12r); De impugnationibus

contra diffinitionem Augustini (fol. 12r—v); Diffinitio Aristotelis bona, sed Augustinimelior (fols 12v~13r); De expositione dimnitionis Augustini (fol. 13r~v); De respon-sione ad argumenta in oppositum inducta contra Augustinum (fols 13v-14r).

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Letters to Atticus where Plato is described as his dominus. Orlandinicites Augustine's Confessions which honour Plato 'propterea Plato ipsea multis divinus quandoque appellatus est'. The Stoics and Senecapraised Plato, and even Aristotle himself, according to Olympiodorus,called Plato's name holy and sacred. Aristotle composed lauds inPlato's honour, and constructed and consecrated a marble statue ofPlato in the temple of Apollo, inscribing beneath the following epi-taph: 'Hunc esse ilium quern probi homines merito debeant imitareet commendare.' So much for those who accused Aristotle of in-gratitude towards his teacher. In summary, the ancient Latins whoconsidered Plato the greatest of all philosophers included Augustine,Jerome, Cicero, Macrobius, Quintilian, Horace and others. Discussingwhether the ancient philosophers had approached the knowledge ofthe Word of God, Orlandini cites Augustine's Confessions (VII.20)which attributes to the ancient Platonists the notion 'quod in prin-cipio erat verbum'. Plato had himself affirmed in the Republic, BookVI, 'Deus bonus films verbum suum bonum produxit', a sentimentalso held by Plotinus and Numenius, according to the tenth chap-ter of Eusebius's Praeparatio evangelica.

The Plato-Aristotle debate recurs in Orlandini's Gymnastica as a dia-logue set in the prior's apartments at the Angeli between the monkRaphael, Olivieri of Siena (the Aristotelian professor at Pisa whotutored Giovanni de' Medici and Diacceto)83 and Prior Guido. HereOlivieri propounds an Aristotelian-Platonic concordance while Raphaelargues for Plato's superiority. Raphael, a Camaldolese Platonist, pro-ceeds to enumerate points, following Bessarion's In calumniatoremPlatonis, where Aristotle diverged from the faith whereas Plato affirmedit. As proof that his Platonic enthusiasms were in fact Christian inspirit, Orlandini himself employed sayings from pagan (pre-eminentlyPlatonist) philosophers as well as patristic arguments in his studiesof Scripture.84

83 On Olivieri's influence on Francesco da Diacceto and Francesco Verino, literatioften described as members of the Platonic Academy, see Michele Poccianti, Catalogusscriptorum Florentinorum, p. 138.

84 Orlandini's autograph treatise, dated 8 September 1496 (Florence, BibliotecaNazionale Centrale, MS Magi. XL.45) has been discussed in the context of lateQuattrocento humanist theology by several scholars, including Eugenio Garin, 'PaoloOrlandini poeta e teologo', repr. with additions in La cultura filosofica del Rinascimentoitaliano, Florence, 1961, pp. 213-23; Donald Weinstein, Savonarola and Florence, Prince-ton, 1970, pp. 316-73; Lorenzo Polizzotto, The Elect Nation: The Savonarolan Movementin Florence 1494-1545, Oxford, 1994, pp. 149-53.

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At some time after 1500, perhaps after the elevation of CardinalGiovanni de' Medici as Leo X in March 1513, Paolo Orlandinicompiled the Gymnastica monachorum, a literary description of what wehave ventured to christen the Camaldolese Academy at S. Mariadegli Angeli in Florence. A voluminous work, Orlandini here describesthe exercises undertaken by the Camaldolese brothers at S. Mariadegli Angeli during Guido di Lorenzo's tenure as Prior (1487-98).Orlandini often expresses his devotion to Prior Guido, 'optimumpatrem ac praeceptorem meum', remembering his youthful forma-tion at the Angeli as the happiest days of his life. He also expresseshis gratitude to Ficino whose works and translations are often cited.Orlandini's Gymnastica describes in some detail the humanist/monas-tic education in which Ficino and Guido played such large parts.The Camaldolese paedeia apprehended in Ficino's Platonic teachings,as well as in the writings of numerous other Florentine humanists,was not simply pagan sententiae but solid food for the devout Christianseeker. This special formation produced Camaldolese initiates whocomposed orations on the monastic vows of poverty, chastity andobedience, and then participated in humanist dialogues with Laurentianluminaries on the nature of excellence. Here the Platonic Academyof Florence followed the holy teachings of the ancients within thechurches and monastic buildings of the Camaldolese.

Orlandini combined his devotion to the Christian Muses and themonastic offices with the administration of the Camaldolese order.He served as prior of S. Maria degli Angeli, Vicar General of theVenetian Congregation and abbot of S. Michele di Murano in Venicein the first decade of the sixteenth century. In these positions Orlandiniwas able to spread the religious and philosophical message of theCamaldolese Academy to seekers both within and without the order.During this period the Camaldolese order in general, and PaoloOrlandini in particular, constituted a direct link between the Platonistcircles of Florence and Venetian humanism in the age of PietroBembo and Aldus, the age when Athens moved from Florence toVenice. It was Orlandini's personal intervention, together with MarsilioFicino's literary influence, that persuaded two aristocratic Venetianhumanists, Vincenzo Quirini (re-christened Pietro) and TommasoGiustiniani (re-christened Paolo) to become hermits at Camaldoli.Both men regarded the Christian Platonic teachings of Paolo Orlandinias a vital source of wisdom and inspiration for their monastic quest.

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Soon after Giustiniani's conversion he sent word to Quirini then atthe Angeli in Florence: 'The recluse prays and orders you for thelove of God to do what you can to bring Paolo Orlandini here, whomust become the master and light of all our souls.'85

The close relationship between Renaissance Platonism and theCamaldolese order thus did not end with Ficino's death in 1499.Rather, this relationship was perpetuated, self-consciously perhaps,by nearly all of Ficino's immediate successors. These humanists in-cluded Ficino's biographer Giovanni Corsi, and the philosopherFrancesco Cattani da Diacceto, Ficino's acknowledged successor. InVenice the 'New Academy' of Aldus Manutius became increasinglyconnected with the Camaldolese order. Five humanists associatedwith the Aldine circle, Pietro Candido, Eusebio Osorno, VincenzoQuirini, Tommaso Giustiniani and Paolo Canal either were or becameCamaldolese hermits; Pietro Bembo, an Aldine author and editor,made pilgrimages to and corresponded with a holy man at the her-mitage of Camaldoli in the Tuscan Apennines; Giovanni BattistaEgnazio, an associate of Aldus in the press and an acquaintance ofErasmus, announced his intention to join the order in 1510 togetherwith Quirini and Giustiniani, though he later decided to stay in theworld.

Diacceto's literary exchanges with the Camaldolese exemplify thiscontinuing relationship between Platonic Academy and Camaldoleseorder. This correspondence covered such topics as the motions ofthe celestial spheres, the imprint of images in matter and conceptswithin the world soul.86 As late as 1515, lamenting the death of theCamaldolese hermit Pietro Quirini, Diacceto wrote to the Superiorof the hermitage relating how he had lent Quirini a copy of Proclus'sElements of Theology, as well as a treatise by Diacceto himself, De amore,'di mia mano et non legato, elquale e 1'archetypo'. Thus the original

80 Frascati, Biblioteca dell'Eremo di Tuscolo, MS F I ter, fol. 68r, 10 June 1511,Giustiniani to Quirini; cf. J. Leclercq, Un Humaniste ermite. Le Bienheureux Paul Giustiniani(1476~1528), Rome, 1951, p. 63. I am grateful to the hermits at Frascati whoallowed me to consult this correspondence. On Orlandini's activities within theorder see Mittarelli and Costadoni, Annales Camaldulenses, VII-VIII and Pietro Dolfin'sletters.

86 De pulchro libri III, ed. by S. Matton, Pisa, 1986, pp. 320-27; Kristeller, Studies,I, p. 317. See C. S. Lewis, The Cosmic Trilogy: Perelandra, London, 1990, p. 328:'Nay, in the very matter of our world, the traces of the celestial commonwealthare not quite lost.'

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of Diacceto's claim to posterity was at the hermitage of Camaldoli'fra sua altri libri greci'.87

Amid our focus on humanist scholarship and Platonic wisdom, lit-tle has been said of the central qualities which gave the Camaldolesetheir distinctive character, continuity as a school, and peculiarity asan order, that is, the mystical spirituality of their religious discipline.Simply focusing on the literary milieu of the order's superiors inFlorence and Venice, it is easy to form a one-sided view of the orderas a whole. Grounded in the Benedictine rule and recitation of thePsalms, and following a strict observance, a number of Camaldolesehouses produced martyrs, saints and hermit confessors whose livesof prayer and work present a marked contrast to the splendid osten-tations of the humanist courtiers. And yet somewhere, in a remotecell in the Apennine forests, the two worlds met. To the hermitageof Camaldoli Bembo and Castiglione repaired from the pleasuresand Platonic discussions of the court of Urbino and humbled them-selves at the feet of a simple hermit to beseech the divine mercy. Itwas the meeting of this monastic vocation with the Platonist move-ment which produced such far-reaching effects on the developmentof Renaissance thought: the order embodied a living bridge betweenthe mystical philosophy of Platonism and faith in Jesus Christ. Themeeting of these two worlds is manifest in the Platonic commen-taries of Ficino, in the philosophy and poetry of Orlandini, in theAsolani of Bembo. While the doctrines of the Florentine Platonistsstruck a resounding chord among the Camaldolese, the mystical spir-ituality of the Camaldolese informed and enlivened the FlorentinePlatonists. This meeting between Platonism and monastic mysticismdetermined the direction of Camaldolese reformers in the next cen-tury, who themselves, in turn, profoundly influenced the CatholicReformation. When the Camaldolese hermit Paolo Giustiniani spokeof the contemplative ascent in the early sixteenth century, he wroteof contemplation in terms evocative of Plato's cave: 'Thus I amenabled to see a shadow, a remote but clear image of a life whichis true life. Then do I scorn the life which is death rather than life,for this earthly life I value only as it helps me to acquire the onetrue life.'88

87 Frascati, Biblioteca dell'Eremo di Tuscolo, MS F II bis, f. 208. Ed. by Matton,De pulchro, p. 275.

88 Frascati, Biblioteca dell'Eremo di Tuscolo, MS F I 47.

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Jorg Lauster

1. Introduction

Five hundred years after Marsilio Ficino's death the celebrations inEngland, France, Italy and elsewhere have demonstrated once morethat Ficino has an honoured place in Western philosophy. Whetherthe physician of the Medici, the canon of Florence cathedral andthe head of a philosophical circle earned this place thanks to hiswork as translator and commentator of Plato and Plotinus or to hisown writings or—as is most likely—to both, depends on one's pointof view. It is not advisable to separate these two aspects of Ficino'swork. Ficino did not carry through his enormous project of transla-tion and commentary merely to satisfy a philological interest. Rather,he pursued the idea of a Christian Platonism and for that purposea knowledge of the writings of Plato and Plotinus was indispensable.He gave an exact account of why Christian theology can and shoulduse Platonic reasoning, and developed a theory about the history ofrevelation in antiquity which allowed him to presume a divine ori-gin for Platonic philosophy,2 and which served as an historical argu-ment to demonstrate the affinity of Christianity with Platonism. Oneof the most important results of this is the way in which Ficino triedto abolish the separation between religion and philosophy with hisprogramme of docta religio and pia philosophia?

1 In the following essay I try to resume the basic results of my research onFicino's theory of redemption in Die Erlo'sungslehre Marsilio Ficinos. TheologiegeschichtlicheAspekte des Renaissanceplatonismus, Berlin and New York, 1998.

2 For this programme, see J. Hankins, Plato in the Italian Renaissance, 2 vols, con-tinuously paginated, Leiden etc., 1990, pp. 282-87 and 460-64; M. J. B. Allen,'Marsilio Ficino on Plato, the Neoplatonists and the Christian Doctrine of theTrinity', Renaissance Quarterly, 37 (1984), pp. 555-84, at pp. 582-84 (now in his Plato'sThird Eye: Studies in Marsilio Ficino's Metaphysics and its Sources, Aldershot, 1995); andespecially idem, Synoptic Art: Marsilio Ficino on the History of Platonic Interpretation, Florence,1998.

3 Cf. Marsilio Ficino, Opera omnia, 2 vols, continuously paginated, Basel, 1576;

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In developing this programme Ficino naturally had to deal withtheological questions that the tradition of Christian thinking presented.Nearly everywhere in his work are allusions, passages and even trea-tises reflecting his engagement with Christian theology.4 Some writings,moreover, are so dominated by these themes that we can simply callthem theological works. The foremost piece is, of course, De Chris-tiana religione, Ficino's great apology for the Christian religion. In thefirst part of the work, in addition to his famous remarks on the rela-tionship between philosophy and religion, he explains how the author-ity of the Christian religion can be upheld with good reasons againstthe Jews and Moslems. The second part argues in detail against thecriticism and rejection of particular Christian doctrines, for exam-ple, the theory of the Trinity or the Incarnation.5 Ficino treats the-ological questions repeatedly in his twelve books of letters, especiallyin Book II. Among these letters De raptu Pauli should be especiallynoted. Here Ficino uses the example of St Paul's raptus to heavento explain his theory of the soul's ascent to God through the vari-ous cosmic degrees. In the Opera omnia we also find a collection ofsermons, the Praedicationes, in which Ficino discusses very detailedproblems of Christian theology, as, for example, the resurrection ofthe body or the doctrine of the Sacraments. Finally, Ficino wrote acommentary on the Epistle to the Romans. This work exists only asa fragment, the commentary coming to a premature end at Rom.5:12. The reason for that rupture may have been Ficino's death. Atleast we can say that it is one of his latest works. Allusions suggestthat he intended to comment on all the letters of St Paul.6 If Ficino

repr. Turin, 1959 etc., p. 1. Among the large number of contributions to this theme,see esp. P. O. Kristeller, The Philosophy of Marsilio Ficino, tr. by V. Conant, NewYork, 1943; repr. Gloucester, Mass., 1964, pp. 320-23; W. Dress, Die Mystik desMarsilio Ficino, Leipzig and Berlin, 1929, pp. 136-38; C. Trinkaus, In Our Image andLikeness. Humanity and Divinity in Italian Humanist Thought, 2 vols, continuously paginated,London and Chicago, 1970; repr. Notre Dame, Ind., 1995, pp. 734-37; C. Vasoli,'Ficino e il De Christiana religione1, in his Filosofia e religione nella cultura del Rinascimento,Naples, 1988, pp. 30-36.

4 It may not be superfluous to mention that I am using here and in what fol-lows the modern conception of theology as reflection on the concerns of the Christianreligion, and not the conception of Ficino himself, who could call his main philo-sophical work Theologia Platonica.

5 Cesare Vasoli has demonstrated that Ficino wrote a 'philosophical' first partand then compiled a second from the texts of various medieval theologians, par-ticularly Paul of Burgos; see C. Vasoli, 'Per le fonti del De Christiana religione diMarsilio Ficino', Rinascimento, 2a sen, 28 (1988), pp. 135-233.

6 Cf. Opera omnia, pp. 425 and 433; cf. P. O. Kristeller, Supplementum Ficinianum,2 vols, Florence, 1937, I, p. Ixxxii.

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had completed the project, this commentary would have been as im-portant as his other commentaries on Plato, Plotinus and Ps.-Dionysiusthe Areopagite. It leaves a variety of impressions. Ficino demon-strates his excellent philological gifts in the handling of the Vulgate,he comes up with surprising and original solutions to dogmatic prob-lems in deep philosophical and theological passages, and yet at othertimes he acts simply as a copyist, if not a plagiarist, of ThomasAquinas's commentary. Naturally this mixture has caused and stillcauses different evaluations.7 In any event, Ficino's preoccupation withSt Paul represents an interesting form of Paulinism. For Ficino thecentral position of St Paul among the other Apostles is unquestion-able. He sees in Paul a Christian philosopher and an exemplary per-son who demonstrated with his life the ascent of man to God, akind of Christian sage with an extraordinary knowledge of revelation.

Even though there is quite enough evidence in Ficino's work toallow us to call him a Christian thinker, discussions of Ficino's the-ological position are few, at least compared to the number of philo-sophical and historical investigations. Looking for Ficino in theologicalmanuals is generally a fruitless task. This may simply illustrate thefact that the early Renaissance does not play a great role in the his-torical self-understanding of Catholic and Protestant theology. Never-theless, two monographs in the first half of the twentieth centurymust be mentioned. The German Lutheran Walter Dress publishedDie Mystik des Marsilio Ficino in 1929, and eight years later the ItalianCatholic Giuseppe Anichini published L'umanesimo e il problema dellasalvezza in Marsilio Ficino. In both works the confessional backgroundis very important, and this means that for Dress, Luther and forAnichini, Thomas Aquinas were the decisive figures against whomto measure Ficino. In those circ*mstances it is not surprising thatFicino failed to satisfy either of them. From an historical point ofview we might be justified in emphasizing the differences, but to doso would not be particularly helpful for understanding Ficino's the-ology. In any case, Ficino understood himself to be a Christianthinker and so hermeneutic charity requires us to measure him bythe standard which he was claiming for himself and not by confes-sional apologetics.

1 For an overview of the various opinions, see Lauster, Die Erlosungslehre MarsilioFicinos, pp. 26-27.

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The following reflections aim to illustrate aspects of Ficino's the-ology following a system which we do not find in Ficino but whichis helpful in putting his thoughts in a theological perspective. Thestarting point is Ficino's view of man and especially his theory ofsin. I deal next with his understanding of the person of Jesus Christand then with his theory of redemption which means his concept ofthe ascent of man to God. Finally I shall examine Ficino's eschatology.

2. The View of Man and the Theory of Sin

Ficino's anthropology is psychology in the proper sense of the word,meaning that his theory of the soul is the foundation of his view ofman. Transforming the Neoplatonic hierarchy of being, Ficino cre-ated his cosmology on the basis of the theory of the five substances.The order of Being consists of the intelligible sphere in God, as thehighest extreme, followed by Angel, Soul and then downwards tothe material sphere, Quality and Body.8 In this order, the centralposition of the soul is the most striking part of Ficino's transforma-tion of Platonic and especially Plotinian cosmology. In some famousand often quoted words from the Theologia Platonica, he emphasizesthe middle position of the soul in the Universe. He calls the soul'quoddam vinculum utrorumque'9 and 'centrum naturae, universo-rum medium, mundi series, vultus omnium nodusque et copulamundi'.10 This description is not a static localization of but the onto-logical background for the special function of the soul, which con-sists in mediating between the divine and the material sphere of thecosmos.11 Such a role as mediator has, of course, an unalterable pre-supposition that there exists in the soul itself a kind of double ref-erence to the intelligible and to the material world. As an explanationof this double inclination Ficino develops his doctrine of the appetitus

8 Cf. Kristeller, The Philosophy of Marsilio Ficino, pp. 106-09; M. J. B. Allen,'Ficino's Theory of the Five Substances and the Neoplatonists' Parmenides', Journalof Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 12 (1982), pp. 19-44; Charles Lohr, 'Metaphysics',in The Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy, ed. by C. B. Schmitt et al., Cambridge,1988, pp. 535-638, at pp. 572-73.

9 Theologia Platonica, III.2 (Theologie platonicienne de I'immortalite des dmes, ed. and Raymond Marcel, 3 vols, Paris, 1964-70, I, p. 138).

10 Ibid. (ed. Marcel, I, p. 142).11 Cf. 'Similiter oportet essentiam tertiam et divinis simul haerere, et implere

mortalia', Theologia Platonica, III.2 (ed. Marcel, I, p. 139).

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naturalist In a complex transformation of the Platonic, Neoplatonicand above all Aristotelian theories, Ficino discerns three basic abil-ities (vires) in the soul: the mens as the vis intellectualis, the ratio, andthe vires inferiores such as the nutriendi virtus, meaning the capacity toanimate and keep alive the material body. These abilities are a micro-cosmic representation of the intelligible and material sphere of thecosmos in the human soul. In this context the double tendency ofthe soul is nothing but the double movement of the ratio up to themens and down to the vires inferiores. In this double movement theratio connects both powers and generates the unity of the soul.Moreover, with its affinity for the divine and its inclination towardsthe material, the soul connects in its central position the extremesof the universe. Thus both aspects of the soul, its affinity to Godand its inclination towards the body, determine Ficino's anthropology.

From a theological perspective, we may note that this double struc-ture of the soul is the foundation of Ficino's description of the ambiva-lent position of man. Both splendour and misery belong to humanexistence. Ficino derives the sublimity of man from the special rela-tionship between the soul and God in the order of the cosmos. Inthis context we find the concept of dignitas hominis and the idea ofman as imago Dei. Both concepts are based on Ficino's theory of thedivinity of the soul. For that he falls back on the Neoplatonic concep-tion of emanation and return. The human mens emerges from thedivine mens which it has at the same time as its final aim. So thesoul takes part in the circle of divine emanation. For a more detaileddescription of this circle Ficino applies the Platonic metaphors oflight. He characterizes the human mens as a ray (radius] of the divineSpirit, which descends into the soul, and from there ascends againback to God. It is a kind of reflection that makes the soul the mirrorof God. In a very important passage of De raptu Pauli, Ficino writes:

Vides, o mea mens, vides esse te Dei speculum quando intelligentiaetuae radii in eum ab eo immissi resiliunt. Si eius speculum es (ut esabsque dubio) quandoquidem eum in te specularis teque in eo, sequiturut quid ex Deo infra te vestigium quoddam dumtaxat est et umbra,id in te imago Dei similitudoque sit expressior, ut merito dictum sitad imaginem similitudinemque Dei te esse creatam.13

12 Cf. Kristeller, The Philosophy of Marsilio Ficino, p. 171 ff.13 Opera omnia, p. 705 (also printed in Marcel's edition of the Theologia Platonica,

III, p. 365).

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Obviously these arguments are very important for Ficino's theolog-ical anthropology. He uses the metaphor of the soul as a mirror ofGod to describe the quality of the soul as a trace (vestigium) of Godand then as an image and likeness of God. The terms imago andsimilitudo refer to the inner coherence between the divine and humanmens. The double aspect of Ficino's concept of the divinity of thesoul in his interpretation of man as an image of God is the mainissue. On the one hand the expressions 'image' and 'likeness' signifya special element of the essence of man; on the other hand there isalso an anticipatory meaning when—in the context of his theory ofthe human affinity to God—Ficino understands the fulfilment of thisaffinity as being our deification and gradual assimilation to the imageof God. Finally we can see that the concept of man as image ofGod, which plays such an prominent role in Renaissance thought,14

is another central element in Ficino's anthropology. By integratingthe doctrine into his Neoplatonic-influenced cosmology and theoryof the soul, however, Ficino gives the argument a metaphysical foun-dation. It is a striking fact, incidentally, that Ficino has no regardfor the usual scholastic distinction between imago and similitudo, althoughwe can be sure that he was a connoisseur of Thomas Aquinas's writ-ings. The scholastic theologians had introduced this distinction forthe purpose of describing the situation of man after the Fall: imagodefines human nature after the Fall, whereas similitudo should expressthe supranatural gift of grace (donum superaddituni). But this basicdistinction between nature and grace was for Ficino incompatiblewith his interpretation of man as an image of God. In his under-standing a supranatural perfection through God's grace is unneces-sary, because the nature of man is itself the product of the emanationof God into man.

As a result of this theory the familiar question whether religion isa natural or a divine fact is not really of concern to Ficino. Religionis the particular sign of man; it is the elevation of mind to God(mentis in Deum erectio] and the contemplation of the divine sphere(contemplatio divinorum).15 Therefore religion is a natural and necessarypart of human nature. Ficino goes so far as to describe religion assomething like an instinct for God. Religion, however, is also divine,because it is caused in man by the divine light. The religious ele-

See Trinkaus, In Our Image and Likeness, pp. xx-xxi.Cf. Opera omnia, p. 2, and Theologia Platonica, XIV.9 (ed. Marcel, II, p. 280).

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vation of the human mind to God is for Ficino not a self-made illu-sion but the effect of the divine mind on the human mind. So reli-gion is—as Ficino clearly declares in a sermon—that which makesthe difference between man and animal. Therefore religion is bothnatural and divine:

Praeterea si hom*o, ut multis rationibus confirmatur, est animalium per-fectissimus, per earn praecipue partem facultatemque perfectissimus est,quam habet ipse propriam, caeteris animantibus nullo modo com-munem. Haec sola religio es t . . . Cum vero etiam maxime omniumsit [fit edri\ communis et firma, sequitur ut maxime omnium sit natu-ralis. Et quia instigante Deo rudibus statim hominibus est inserta, nonsolum maxime naturalis est, sed etiam divina quam maxime.16

Apart from Ficino's concept of religion as the affinity of the soul forGod, the other important feature of his anthropology is his theoryof the inclination of the soul towards the body. This theory consti-tutes an important factor in Ficino's cosmology since it is the back-ground for the function of the soul in the process of mediatingbetween the two parts of the universe. Through union with the body,the soul communicates and passes on the principles and laws of thedivine and immaterial sphere to the sensible and material sphere ofthe cosmos, that is the principles of the divine and immaterial sphere.It is this achievement of connection and guidance which gives senseto the earthly existence of man. The soul has to care for the bodyand the material sphere. Indeed, Ficino interprets this kind of careas an imitation of the divina providentia.11 He emphasizes with a lotof feeling the role of men as Dei vicarii in terra18 or as in terris sacer-dotes;19 he even says about man: 'Est utique deus in terris'.20 Usingthis power man acts on earth as the subduer of nature and thefounder of culture. All this makes clear that for Ficino the unionbetween soul and body is very important and significant for the orderof the universe.

For Ficino, man could and should be like God on earth, but thatdoes not mean that he is so automatically. Ficino knew very wellthat in reality man can hardly fulfil this lofty role. One of the most

l b Opera omnia, pp. 473-74.17 E.g. Theologia Platonica, XVI.6 (ed. Marcel, III, p. 130 f.).18 Theologia Platonica, XVI.7 (ed. Marcel, III, p. 142).19 Ibid. (ed. Marcel, III, p. 135).20 Theologia Platonica, XVI.6 (ed. Marcel, III, p. 129).

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common prejudices of students of humanism and the Renaissance isto argue that Renaissance philosophers tended to overestimate humanpowers. Theological research especially has come to the conclusionthat in Renaissance thought there is no place for the Christian doc-trine of sin. Dress and Anichini expressly argued this in the case ofFicino.21 But these philosophical and theological cliches do not applyto his thinking. In his phenomenological analysis of human life, Ficinosees very clearly the infirmity of man. In its care and guidance ofthe material world, the soul has to struggle with a number of seri-ous obstacles. The fmiteness of bodily existence involves a vague feel-ing of discontent and sadness. Given its infinite and divine orientation,the soul cannot achieve fulfilment with mortal goods; it can neverfind rest during earthly existence: 'Quamobrem hom*o solus in prae-senti hoc vivendi habitu quiescit numquam, solus hoc loco non estcontentus.'22 So the union of soul and body gives human life a heroicelement: soul is on trial on the borderline between the immortal andmortal part of the cosmos.

This is the context for Ficino's theory of sin. The fact that thesoul can give up its proper task and succumb to material influenceis what Ficino calls sin, although he is not committed to any specificterm. He names it peccatum or vitium, or he describes it as an unspecificfailing. This happens when the inclination of the soul towards thebody changes into an independent and obstinate attitude.23 It is notthe inclination towards the body as such that Ficino calls sin butwhen that inclination excludes the divine and intellectual affinity ofthe soul. The soul turns away from God and gives up its divine des-tination. Thus sin is a kind of perversion of the cosmic order. In DeChristiana religione in particular, Ficino also describes this condition bythe biblical metaphors that played such a prominent role in theChristian doctrine of sin. So he speaks of the rebellion of our firstparent, which consists in the struggle of the soul against God: 'Rebel-

21 Cf. Dress, Die Mystik des Marsilio Ficino, p. 132: 'Fur die Tatsachen des Bosen,der Siinde und der Schuld hat Ficino gar kein Verstandnis', and G. Anichini,L'umanesimo e il problema della salvezza in Marsilio Ficino, Milan, 1937, p. 99: 'Cio vienesempre dalla poca intelligenza che il Ficino ha della dottrina cristiana.'

22 Theologia Platonica, XIV.7 (ed. Marcel, II, p. 270).23 Cf. for example Theologia Platonica, XVI.7 (ed. Marcel, III, p. 138): 'Ex diu-

turna declinatione habitum sibi ipsi contrahit proclivius inclinandi. Habitum huius-modi vitium, immo etiam quemdam, ut ita dixerim, interitum appellamus.' See alsoOpera omnia, p. 63.

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lavit a Deo primi parentis animus, rebellavit corpus ac sensus ab eo,rebellio prima peccatum fuit, secunda poena quaedam peccati fuitatque peccatum, quoniam ration! derogavit et Deo.'24 It is interest-ing to see how Ficino tries to reinterpret the traditional Christianidea of sin in the light of his own cosmological and anthropologicaltheory. We find this tendency again in one of Ficino's latest works,in his commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. Here he followsprimarily the dogmatic tradition and he uses fewer biblical metaphors,calling sin amor sui and superbia in line with Augustine's teaching.Ficino interprets these terms as the intention of the soul to rest initself. It is a kind of self-realization, which leaves out of considera-tion that any realization of the soul consists in its divine and idealdestination.25 Indeed, we can see in this theory an attempt to pre-sent a plausible conception of sin by philosophical—that means, inparticular, Platonic—reasons. Dealing with the doctrine of sin Ficinofollows two opposite strategies. Hints allow us to understand his the-ory of sin in the sense that a perverted inclination for the materialsphere can be found in all human beings. According to this inter-pretation original sin is less an historical event and more a struc-tural phenomenon. This would be a rather modern understandingof original sin, which may in the final analysis make Ficino appeara forerunner of such modern Protestant thinkers as Schleiermacherand Ritschl. But it should at least be mentioned that we can findin Ficino traces of the rationalization of the doctrine of original sin.

For the most part Ficino follows another path. In De Christianareligione, as well as in the commentary on the Epistle to the Romans(especially in the interpretation of Romans 5:12, the locus classicussince Augustine), Ficino follows scholastic theory as found in ThomasAquinas. It is obvious that in the first place he wished to give adogmatically correct version of the theory of original sin, and thattends to make him dependent on Thomas Aquinas. In the passagesreferring to original sin, he summarizes and reproduces the phrase-ology of Thomas's commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. Thomas'stheory, which is mainly an interpretation of Augustine, could not of

24 Opera omnia, p. 23.25 'Animus autem qui primum in seipso quiescere tentat, ob hanc iniustitiam nee

assequitur Deum neque seipso fruitur, quia caret idea quae verus animus est et inqua animus conformatur', Opera omnia, p. 439.

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course easily be brought into line with Ficino's own Platonic inter-pretation. In summarizing Thomas, Ficino inevitably produced ten-sions, even contradictions, within his own system. This, however, hetolerates even as he tries to avoid theologically awkward questions.26

But quite apart from this problem, we can see that Ficino triesto give a plausible interpretation to the theory of sin by using aPlatonic approach. This also includes the consequences of sin. ForFicino sin is a perversion of the original destination and orientationof man, but it is not a total destruction of his capacity. Neverthelessthe perversion is so deep that man cannot return by his own powerto his divine orientation. The process of deification by which manfulfils his supreme goal cannot be performed by man alone. It isimportant to emphasize this, because we can see clearly that Ficino'stheory of redemption and deification has nothing to do with theheretical construct of self-redemption, self-elevation or self-realiza-tion. The process of deification is caused by God and this leads usto Ficino's Christology.

3. The Person of Christ

Ficino's treatises concerning Christology do not occupy a centralposition in his oeuvre. But this observation should not lead to falseconclusions. In the bulk of his writings he is dealing with philo-sophical problems and for that reason there are not many points ofcontact with Christological issues. This initial impression changeswhen we turn to his theological works. In the sermons, in the com-mentary on the Epistle to the Romans and especially in De Christianareligione he touches on Christology. For Ficino the authority of theChristian religion depends absolutely on the person of Jesus Christ.Every attempt to understand Christianity has to start with JesusChrist. He begins his argument with reflections on the doctrine ofthe Trinity. Following the dogmatic tradition Ficino tries to verifythe divinity of Christ with a Trinitarian argument. The starting pointis his theory of generatio. For Ficino generatio is the productive princi-ple of every form of life. Naturally the highest form of generatio belongs

26 To give just one example, we cannot find in Ficino any hint as to how hewants to bring together his strictly creationist position (where God creates everyindividual soul) and the idea of a biological transference of original sin.

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to the highest form of life in the cosmic order, and this is, accord-ing to his doctrine of the five substances, God himself. In God gene-ratio is purely immaterial. The act of generation is the self-thinkingof God. Since in God intelligere and esse are identical—Ficino acceptsthis important idea of Thomas Aquinas—God does not only thinkHis perfect image, He is His perfect image and this constitutes theideal conception of the whole cosmos in God himself.27 This idealconception of reality as the product of the self-thinking of God Ficinocalls 'mundani vero architect! ratio et intelligibile verbum',28 whichGod uses as an instrument in the act of creation of the world. Withthe participation of the Son in the creation as an ideal prototypeFicino introduces the theory of Christ mediating the creation(Schb'pfungsmittlerschaft Christi), which plays a leading role in his con-cept of redemption.

Ficino's theory of generation is quite an original contribution tothe doctrine of the Trinity. Influenced by Neoplatonism, the idea ofgeneration does not merely have the function of a theoretical weaponagainst the Arian theory of creation as the form of production inGod, but also leads Ficino to see generation as the causative prin-ciple of the entire cosmos, the ideal ground of reality which emergesfrom God. It is worth mentioning that like every emanationist con-cept, Ficino's theory raises the question whether God acts in thisgeneration of necessity or freely. Nevertheless it is quite an interest-ing contribution to the problem in that it highlights the cosmologi-cal aspects of Christ as Logos of the world. There are, in short, goodreasons for Kristeller's statement that with this theory 'a metaphys-ical interpretation of the Trinity is outlined'.29 It is also interestingto see that Ficino deals in the commentary on the Epistle to theRomans and in other writings with the relation between the Platonicenigma of the three causalities and the Christian doctrine of theTrinity.30 Ficino did not go so far as to identify Plato's three causes

27 'Quamobrem divina vita, quia eminentissima est et foecundissima omnium,multo magis prolem sui simillimam quam reliqua generat, ac earn in se generat,priusquam pariat, extra generat, inquam, intelligendo, prout perfecte Deus intelli-gendo seipsum et in seipso omnia, perfectam totius sui et omnium notionem con-cipit in se ipse, quae quidem aequalis plenaque Dei imago est, et exemplar mundisuperplenum', Opera omnia, p. 18.

28 Opera omnia, p. 20.29 Kristeller, The Philosophy of Marsilia Ficino, p. 139.30 Qf 'Triplicem hunc ordinem causae penes Deum Plato noster regi Dionysio

declaravit, exemplar quidem dum inquit, ex ipso et per ipsum et in ipsum omnia.

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with the doctrine of the Trinity, but his view of the Platonic formulamakes it clear that he saw in the doctrine of Plato the most com-plete indication and anticipation of the Christian revelation.31

The foundation of Ficino's Christology is the idea of Incarnation.Ficino here takes up the Christology of the Greek Church Fathers,which he tries to merge with Neoplatonic cosmology. Ficino thinksof the act of Incarnation as the descent of the pre-existent Logosinto the sensible world. The reason for that act is the quality of Godas 'bonum diffusivum sui'.32 The Incarnation is the highest form ofdivine self-disposing and is strictly connected with Ficino's conceptof redemption. God in His goodness became man so that man couldbecome God. The Incarnation is an indispensable presupposition forachieving the final destination of man. In the context of Ficino's cos-mology it is important that God presents Himself in a material man-ner. The presentation of the divine sphere in the sensibly perceptibleperson of Christ abolishes the perverted orientation of the soul towardsthe sensible and material sphere. Ficino calls that act the reforma-tion of the soul. After the Fall, man lost his original formation. Thatmakes a new formation necessary, a reformation. This can only hap-pen through the original principle of formation and this is the pre-existent Christ as the intelligibile verbum of the creation: 'Once menwere formed through the Divine Word, through the same DivineWord they had to be reformed'.33 This reformation makes the ascentof the soul towards God possible and establishes the basis for redemp-tion. Unlike the case with creation, this corrective reforming impliesanother form of appearance of the verbum. In renewing the sensibiliait has to become verbum sensibile: 'Ita per verbum quodammodo iamsensibile factum sensibilia reformare'.34 Due to the central positionof man in the cosmic order, the becoming-sensible of God can onlybe the Incarnation into man. Man as the centre, which includes all,

Ex ipso efficientem, per ipsum exemplarem, in ipsum finalem causam nobis expri-mens', Opera omnia, p. 437.

31 See in detail Allen, 'Marsilio Ficino on Plato, the Neoplatonists and the ChristianDoctrine of the Trinity', pp. 578—79, and E. Wind, Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance,rev. edn, London and New York, 1968, pp. 241-44. Wind's interpretation, how-ever, that Ficino tries to identify the Platonic forms and the Christian theory of theTrinity does not really fit what the texts say.

32 Cf. Opera omnia, pp. 20, 21.33 'Per Dei verbum formati quondam homines fuerant, per verbum idem refor-

mari debebant', Opera omnia, p. 20.34 Opera omnia, p. 22.

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is the only possible point for mediating the extremes of the hierar-chy of the universe.35 This combination of the theory of Incarnationwith Ficino's doctrine of the central position of man gives the ideaof redemption a peculiar cosmic aspect. It is Ficino's cosmic anthro-pocentrism which constitutes the foundation for a theory of Incarnationwhich connects the redemption of man with the perfection of cre-ation. This has some far-reaching consequences. The redemption ofman cannot be understood as a negation of the secular, but as aprocess that elevates the secular. Therefore redemption is the prin-ciple of God's acting which leads the whole cosmos towards its orig-inal destination.36 The classic question of how the union of bothnatures occurs in Christ appears less appealing to Ficino. Of course,he was aware of the dogmatic decision of the Council of Chalcedonand the medieval and scholastic interpretations. In his explanationon this point he largely follows Thomas's Summa contra gentiles, withone striking exception. Radically departing from tradition, Ficinospeaks of three natures in Christ: 'As in the Trinity three personsexist in one nature, so in Christ one person exists in three natures,God, soul and body.'37

The reasons for this deviation can be found most easily in hisPlatonic presuppositions. The union of the extremes of God andbody from a Neoplatonic point of view is not possible without medi-ation. As pointed out above, this is such an important idea for Ficinothat he introduces it into the traditional Christological doctrine.According to his anthropology, man is something composed of souland body, but not merely an amalgam of two parts: he is the unionof two totally different degrees in the order of being. This may bethe reason why Ficino emphasizes the soul and the body as men'sown natures. The Incarnation is then the highest case of connect-ing the extremes of the universe: through the soul the extremes ofGod and body are connected. Consequently it is probable that Ficinointroduced this idea of the three natures in Christ in order to com-bine the theory of Incarnation with the anthropological and cosmo-logical presuppositions of his own system.

35 Cf. Opera omnia, p. 20.36 Cf. E. Cassirer, Indwiduum und Kosmos in der Philosophic der Renaissance, 6th edn,

Darmstadt, 1987, p. 70.37 'Sicut ergo in trinitate tres personae in eadem natura existunt, sic in Christo

persona una in tribus existit naturis, Deo animoque et corpore', Opera omnia, p. 21.

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Ficino describes Christ's acting as redeemer with the words, 'Christusest idea et exemplar virtutum'.38 This phrase is in fact a compactsummary of his Christology. According to this conception, Christis—in a metaphysical and not only a moral sense—the highest andmost perfect realization of the ideal and exemplary destination ofman. As vitae magister Christ discloses the divine sphere through theexample of his life and through his teaching. Ficino calls this processrevelation. As a sensibly perceptible person, Christ seizes the souland thus reforms the lost orientation of the soul towards God. Thepresence of the divine in Christ is the foundation for the connec-tion between the soul and God. Being divinely influenced throughChrist is the decisive impulse for the soul's ascent to God and cre-ates those forces which move the soul towards God.

Ficino conspicuously neglects certain basic elements of the Christiandoctrine of Christ. The Cross of Christ, the Atonement of humansin and the Resurrection have no important roles in his thought. Ofcourse, Ficino knew these standard themes and we do find somescattered remarks on them, where he is evidently following themedieval theologians, sometimes word for word.39 We can again rec-ognize his intention to give a dogmatically correct version, even ifthis does not correspond with his own opinion. Obviously he prefersto avoid contradictions by passing over difficult questions. In fact,Ficino's own Christology, especially his theory of deification, is closerto the Greek Church Fathers, even when he is quoting Thomas andother medieval thinkers.40

4. The Theory of Redemption

Anthropology and Christology constitute the theoretical foundationon which Ficino builds his conception of Redemption as the ascentof the soul to God. In describing this process, he elaborates on four

38 Opera omnia, p. 22.39 See for example for Ficino's dependence on Paul of Burgos regarding the doc-

trine of Atonement, Vasoli, 'Per le fonti del De Christiana religione', pp. 206-10.40 See in detail Lauster, Die Erlosungslehre Marsilio Ficinos, p. 119 (n. 154) and for

Ficino's relation to Origen in general, see E. Wind, 'The Revival of Origen', inStudies in Art and Literature for Belle da Costa Greene, ed. by Dorothy Miner, Princeton,1954, pp. 412^24, repr. with additions in Wind's Eloquence of Symbols: Studies inHumanist Art, ed. byj. Anderson, Oxford, 1983, pp. 42-55.

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basic aspects. He speaks of ascemus when he wants to show that theway of the soul leads up through the various degrees of the hierar-chy of being. The soul ascends from the material sphere into theintelligible and from there to God himself. The idea of ascensus under-lines the cosmic dimension of the Redemption. The term raptus, byanalogy with the tradition of the raptus Pauli (2 Cor. 12:2-4), has aparadigmatic significance for Ficino. In addition to the Neoplatonicmodel of the ascensus, Ficino falls back on the specific Christian tra-dition that the soul cannot manage the ascent through its own pow-ers but is dependent on divine influence. In De raptu Pauli he writes:'Incolae terrae caelestes non scandunt gradus nisi caelestis Patertraxerit illos.'41 Finally, regarding the quality of the soul, Ficino char-acterizes the ascent as purgatio and as deificatio. The concepts com-plement each other. Purification means the progressive detachmentof the soul from the sensible and material sphere, whereas deificationmeans the corresponding process of increasing penetration and trans-formation of the soul through the intelligibility and the Spirit of God.These concepts underpin the fundamentals of Ficino's theory: thegradual ascent through the cosmic order of being, the penetratingdivine influence, the step-by-step abstraction from the sensible sphere,and ultimately the return to the divine origin of the soul.

Ficino analyses in detail the process of the ascent using the con-stitutive activities of the soul, the intellect and the will. In both casesit is characteristic of his explanation that he intends to harmonizethe idea of the activity of the soul with the causative influence ofGod. For Ficino, thinking—the activity of the human intellect—isthe path via which the soul can reach God. The cognition of Godis nothing else than the formation of the human intellect by thedivine intellect caused through the mediation of the divine ray. Usingits intellectual power, the soul ascends from sensible perception tothe contemplation of the Ideas. In this process it returns the intel-ligible structure of reality to its divine origin. Based on the Platonicdoctrine of Ideas, the cognition of the world leads automatically tothe cognition of God. Ficino notes in his commentary on the Epistleto the Romans: 'Nam aut Deus in rebus agnoscitur aut cognosc*nturres in Deo aut Deus in seipso cognoscitur.'42 For Ficino this intellectual

41 Epistolarum liber II, Opera omnia, p. 697 (also printed in Marcel's edition of theTheologia Platonica, III, p. 347).

42 Opera omnia, p. 437.

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ascent is based on the principle, 'neque Deus sine Deo cognoscitur':43

human intellect must be formed in the act of cognition through thedivine intellect. The thinking of divine ideas necessarily transformsthe soul because God works as the moving and the forming power:'in animo contemplante Deus et primus motor est, et formator ultimus,ideo totus actus est Deus, quo quidem actu et ipse semper est Deus,et animus fit saltern quandoque divinus'.44 So the cognition of Godis a kind of deification. This doctrine is perhaps one of Ficino's mostproductive combinations of Platonic and Christian theories. Heidentifies the mediation of the divine ray with the effect of divinegrace.40 It is an impressive example of how Ficino combines thePlatonic theory of cognition with the Christian doctrine of grace andsynthesizes both into a theory of the divine formation of the intel-lectual power.

According to Christian tradition the theological virtues, faith, hopeand love constitute the main factors in redemption besides the intel-lectual cognition of God. In his theological writings, Ficino dealswith that famous triad. He characterizes faith, hope and love as thethree gratiae which guarantee divine presence in the soul.46 Theytherefore bring the soul into contact with God. They are—as heremarks in a sermon—like three nerves which connect the soul withChrist and with the divine sphere of the cosmos.47 By integratingthese three virtues with the cosmic order of the three heavens Ficinogives this theory a special character: 'Atque ita ex fide per ipsamspem ad caritatem quasi tertium coelum ascendemus.'48 Accordingto the cosmic order the process of redemption begins on the firstlevel with faith, proceeds with hope on the second level and finallyreaches perfection on the third level with love.

This specific hierarchy becomes more evident when we look atthe way in which Ficino defines the theological virtues in detail.Faith is the beginning of the ascent of the soul to God. It means akind of consciousness of the original relation to God. Sometimes

43 Theologia Platonica, XIV.8 (ed. Marcel, II, p. 275).44 Theologia Platonica, XII.4 (ed. Marcel, II, p. 172).45 Epistolarum liber II, Opera omnia, p. 702 (and in Marcel's edition of the Theologia

Platonica, III, p. 357): 'Radius Dei bonae mend benignus advenit paterque et gra-tia nominatur.'

46 Tria haec ipsius praesentiae Dei certissima sunt argumenta', Opera omnia, p. 443.47 Opera omnia, p. 481.48 Opera omnia, p. 475.

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Ficino characterizes faith with the terms qffectus in Deum49 and inten-tio. So faith for Ficino is the reception and perception of the divine.It is the first level on which the divine represents itself in the soul:the soul is affected and touched through God and moved towardsGod. Thus faith is a kind of organ which allows the soul to per-ceive the divine. Particularly in the commentary on the Epistle tothe Romans, Ficino argues against the scholastic understanding offaith, which is, of course, quite different from his theory of percep-tion. His attitude in this case is quite remarkable. As with the doc-trines of the Trinity and the Incarnation, he takes over scholasticphrases, but this time he attempts to give his own interpretation. Asan example it may be sufficient to mention Ficino's use of the clas-sic expression 'fides caritate formata'. The scholastic definition meansfor Ficino the inner orientation of faith towards love: the phrasedescribes the development of the ascent from faith to love. Ficinodoes not share the contrary doctrine of Thomas, that faith must beformed by love. He uses the same scholastic terminology but hemeans something different.

His interpretation of 'fides caritate formata' leads to the next step,hope. His notes on this theme are scant, but he plainly wants tokeep the systematic order of the three virtues, and accordingly empha-sizes that hope is exactly between faith and love. Hope is strongerthan faith and therefore guarantees a stronger relation to God. Hopenot merely connects the soul with God, it overcomes the resistanceof the material sphere because it can perceive the love of God towardsthe world.50

Ficino repeatedly emphasizes that redemption without love is impos-sible. If we recall that he became famous precisely as a philosopherof love, this is scarcely surprising; but it is nevertheless of interest tosee how he deals with the phenomenon of love in the special con-text of his theory of redemption. He wants to show that love is anactivity of the soul caused by God. Therefore he develops a com-plete metaphysical theory of love. God as the highest goodness lovesHimself because in this act of love the divine will is directed to thehighest and most perfect object, the summum bonum. It is characteristicof this highest and most perfect form of love that it communicates

49 Opera omnia, p. 462.50 Cf. Theologia Platonica, XIV.8 (ed. Marcel, II, p. 278).

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and diffuses itself: Troprium boni est quod se diffundit.'31 This isthe starting point of the circle that performs the act of divine love.In the act of creation it proceeds from itself, then through the loveof creatures, love returns to its divine origin. In this circle divinelove influences the human soul in that it develops in the soul aninclination towards love itself. This response, which is caused bydivine love, manifests itself in the soul as the love of God and asan activity of the soul. So human love is directed to the summumbonum as the final destination of the soul; at the same time the ascentof human love is the return of divine love to itself.32

Ficino gives an impressive illustration of this circle by the pheno-menon of beauty. God Himself is—as Ficino underlines with explicitreference to Plato—the cause, the foundation and the origin of allbeauty.03 Beauty is splendour and the ray of divine goodness. Followingthe tendency of goodness, divine beauty also tends to diffuse andbroadcast itself through the cosmos. Ficino sees the granting of beautyas the infusion of grace: 'Ut pulchrum [sc. deus] illuminat gratiamqueinfundit'.34 In this process beauty affects the soul and causes humanlove as desire for the transcendent prototype of beauty. So love isa desiderium pulchritudinis which God gave his creatures. This desire islit by the sensible perception of beauty but it leads the soul beyondthat to the divine origin of beauty. Here too we can observe thecircular structure. Divine beauty proceeds, presents itself to creaturesand returns as a kindled love to itself. Human love is the reactionof the soul to the provocation of beauty and therefore has its ori-gin and aim in God.55 This love caused by God transforms the soulvia a kind of embellishing, and by a gradual movement towards per-fection it is assimilated to its divine goal.

51 Theologia Platonica, XII.3 (ed. Marcel, II, p. 162), cf. 'bonitatis proprium estdiffundere et communicare seipsam', Opera omnia, p. 21.

52 Unfortunately neither Dress nor Nygren took into consideration that humanlove for Ficino is caused by divine love. Consequently they interpreted his under-standing of love as the self-elevation of the Soul; see Dress, Die Mystik Marsilio Ficinos,p. 193, and A. Nygren, Eros und Agape, Glitersloh, 1930, pp. 502-03. CharlesTrinkaus properly contested this opinion in In Our Image and Likeness, pp. 751-52.

53 'Hoc mysterium in epistola ad Dionysium regern Plato significavit, cum DeumafHrmavit pulchrorum omnium causam, quasi totius pulchritudinis principium etoriginem', Opera omnia, p. 1325; cf. Plato, Ep. 2, 312E.

54 Opera omnia, p. 1324.55 Cf. M. J. B. Allen, The Platonism of Marsilio Ficino: A Study of his 'Phaedrus'

Commentary, its Sources and Genesis, Berkeley etc., 1984, pp. 185-203; W. Beierwaltes,Marsilio Ficinos Theorie des Schb'nen im Kontext des Platonismus, Heidelberg, 1980, p. 33.

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We have seen that for Ficino the ascent of the soul happensthrough the intellect by thinking and through the will by faith, hopeand, above all, love. This description is based on the difference be-tween intellectus and voluntas as the two powers of the human mind.Following Plato, Ficino speaks of the two wings which elevate thesoul to God.36 For Ficino, however, it is not possible to separatestrictly the cognition of God from the love for God in such a waythat they would be alternate ways of reaching God. In the soul'sascent both are related to each other, although it must be admittedthat Ficino does not always seem to have a coherent answer to thisstandard question. His attempts to explain the problem in otherworks show that he understood the co-operation of cognition andlove as a reciprocal interaction.^ For that purpose he gives a notablecharacterization of the activities of intellect and will: Troinde cogno-scendo Deum eius amplitudinem contrahimus ad mentis nostrae capa-citatem atque conceptum, amando vero mentem amplificamus adlatitudinem divinae bonitatis immensam.'58 In the act of cognition thesoul draws the divine into itself, but through love it extends itself tothe infinity of God. Both actions together constitute the union of thesoul with God and the thinking of the intellect signifies the presenceof God in the soul, whereas the love of the will represents the pres-ence of the soul in God. There is a notion of the soul being in itselfand outside itself at the same time. In Ficino's interpretation of men-tal powers and activities, then, we can see that he thinks of the trans-formation and deification of the soul as a process in which its identityis preserved even as it extends into the immense infinity of God.

From a theological point of view it is important to emphasize thatfor Ficino the whole process of redemption is related to the per-manent influence of God, since man cannot ascend to God by his

56 'Concludamus anirnam nostram per intellectum et voluntatem tanquam gemi-nas illas platonicas alas idcirco volare ad Deum', Theologia Platonica, XIV.3 (ed.Marcel, III, p. 259); cf. Plato, Phaedrus, 249c-D.

57 See Ficino's letter to John Colet in S. Jayne, John Colet and Marsilio Ficino,Oxford, 1963, pp. 82-83. The problematic relation between intellect and will iswidely discussed in the literature; see generally Kristeller, The Philosophy of MarsilioFicino, pp. 270-76; idem, 'A Thomist Critique of Marsilio Ficino's Theory of Willand Intellect', in Harry Austryn Wolfson Jubilee Volume, English Section, 2, Jerusalem,1965, pp. 463-94, at pp. 473-76; and M. J. B. Allen, Marsilio Ficino: The 'Philebus'Commentary, Berkeley, 1975, pp. 40—45, who rightly points out the 'fundamental cir-cularity' of Ficino's doctrine (p. 43). See also Albertini's essay in this volume.

58 Opera omnia, p. 664; see also Theologia Platonica, XIV. 10 (ed. Marcel, II, p. 292).

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own unaided powers. The actions of the intellect as well as of loveare caused by the divine ray and have therefore an inner orienta-tion towards God. Though he does not make the connection explicit,it is clear that Ficino's doctrine of the divine ray is a special formof a theory of grace. Grace is for him the force deriving from divineemanation which transforms the human soul. The soul's ascent isindissolubly related to this divine effect. In the commentary on StPaul, Ficino even speaks of the importance of grace alone, sola gratia,in the process of redemption.59 Yet Ficino's understanding of humanfreedom shows that the causality of grace cannot be interpreted asan irresistible compulsion. Even with the effect of grace, the inde-pendence of the soul remains intact. So the ascent of the soul causedand moved by God is nevertheless an action of that soul.

5. Ficino's Eschatology

Following Christian tradition Ficino presumes an eschatological per-fection of human life in the beyond. He is much taken up witheschatological questions in the last book of the Theologia Platonica, fol-lowing the proofs of the immortality of the soul. This may be thereason why his theory of last things is strictly orientated towards theindividual. He concentrates his argument on the themes of death,the Final Judgement, Hell and Resurrection. From a theological pointof view this is rather peculiar. Ficino does not mention at all suchclassic topoi of Christian thought as the Kingdom of God. Nor doeshe deal with the perfection of creation, although we might haveexpected such a discussion when he came to deal with cosmology.Apart from this highly individual focus, Ficino differentiates betweenphilosophical and theological arguments and it is notable that hegives precedence to Christian tradition—and does so at the very cli-max of his major philosophical work.60

59 Ficino uses the term sola gratia repeatedly in the commentary on the Epistleto the Romans: see Opera omnia, pp. 429, 453, 457, 459, 463 and 471; see alsoDress, Die Mystik des Marsilio Ficino, p. 199 and M. Heitzmann, 'La liberta e il fatonella filosofia di Marsilio Ficino', Rivista di filosofia neo-scolastica, 28 (1936), pp. 350-71,and 29 (1937), pp. 59-82, at p. 77.

60 'Sed ecce iam beata Evangelii sancti commemoratio nos admonere videtur, utphilosophicis dimissis ambagibus breviori tramite beatitudinem ea quaeramus via,qua Christiani duc*nt theologi', Theologia. Platonica, XVIII.8 (ed. Marcel, III, p. 208 f.).

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In his interpretation of death Ficino largely follows Platonic tra-dition. Although he does not in general share its strong dualism ofsoul and body, he accepts the Platonic concept of meditatio mortis.Through contemplation man can expedite the separation of soulfrom body. This kind of meditation not only prepares man for hisdeath but also liberates him step by step from the influence of thesensible sphere. Death is the perfection of this liberation: 'Totumhoc philosophiae studium, ut inquit Plato, est meditatio mortis, si-quidem mors est animae a corpore liberatio.'61 With this Platonicargument Ficino tries to give death a positive significance, which isnecessary for his proof of the immortality of the soul. In this con-text he also has to contend with the phenomena of agony and thefear of death, which seem to argue against immortality. Ficino givesan opposite interpretation of the problem: agony and the fear ofdeath are actually proof that the soul has already in this life a pre-sentiment of future life after death, otherwise those feelings and emo-tions would be pointless. This argument is based on an idea, whichgenerally plays an important role in Ficino's eschatology, that wehave in this life an anticipation of the next, something that revealsan inner relation between the two.

This inner relation means that death cannot be a radical breachbetween this and the other world. Ficino rather presumes that theinclination of the soul, which is acquired during this life, will be pre-served in the next, in a changed form, however, as reward or aspunishment. He interprets the idea of the Last Judgement in thissense but it is no simple matter to bring this concept into harmonywith the Christian tradition. For Ficino this and the next life are inthe same relationship as seed and harvest.62 This kind of corre-spondence makes external judgement superfluous. But at least in thecommentary on the Epistle to the Romans Ficino attempts to har-monize his theory with Christian doctrine by making use of the con-cept of conscience. After death, after the separation from the body,the soul can better estimate its own attitude and its character. Thisact of the conscience is caused by the divine light and is in that

61 Theologia Platonica, XVI.8 (ed. Marcel, III, p. 143); cf. Plato, Phaedo, 64c.62 Cf. Theologia Platonica, XVIII. 10 (ed. Marcel, III, p. 227); see also R. Klein,

'L'enfer de Marsile Ficin', in Umanesimo e esoterismo, ed. by E. Castelli, Padua, 1960,pp. 47-84, at p. 47, and Kristeller, The Philosophy of Marsilio Ficino, p. 360.

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respect an effect of God as judge.63 So judgement takes place in theconscience. Reward and punishment are mental acts. Thus Ficinoretains scarcely any element of the traditional interpretation of theLast Judgement as an external tribunal after death, as a particularjudgement, and then at the end of the world, as a universal judge-ment. It is not surprising that in some passages of his commentaryon the Epistle to the Romans he finally abandons the theory.64

Ficino's tendency to spiritualize reward and punishment in theLast Judgement is also characteristic of his conception of Hell.65

Ficino divides those in Hell into four groups, according to the soul'sattitude in this life. For three of them there exists the possibility thatthrough 'punishment'—and that means for Ficino through the influenceof the divine ray—the sensual affection of the soul can be purifiedto various degrees. For those souls, however, in whom affinity toGod is totally extinguished there is no chance of purification. Theirreason is absolutely impaired—they retain merely enough to discernthat they are separated from God forever and will have to sufferunending pains in the form of delusions. It is true that in otherrespects Ficino was milder and more generous. He opened the gateof Heaven for children who died before baptism and pagan philo-sophers.66 But nevertheless he did not give up the doctrine of eter-nal damnation, although he knew that Pico had argued convincinglyagainst the theory.67

Another noteworthy feature of Ficino's eschatology is his theoryof the resurrection of the body. Considering his dualistic interpreta-

63 'lam vero conscientiae virtus causam pro anima, vel contra animam agitanscoram intimo lurnine, tanquam ludice leges habente', Opera omnia, p. 451; cf. Allen,Synoptic Art, pp. 125-47, and Trinkaus, In Our Image and Likeness, pp. 749-50.

64 Cf. for example: 'Ex superioribus Pauli verbis intelligere licet, quandoquidemanimae nunc se quodammodo iudicant atque damnant, multo magis in alia vita,ubi seipsas magis animadvertent, illas suo se iudicio damnaturas', Opera omnia,p. 451. It should be conceded that there are also a few other passages in whichFicino refers to the traditional conception of the Final Judgement. Evidently he hadnot developed his own theory fully or consistently.

65 Cf. Theologia Platonica, XVIII. 10 (ed. Marcel, III, p. 230); see also Kristeller,The Philosophy of Marsilio Ficino, pp. 360—67, and Allen's essay in this volume.

66 'L'anime de' philosophi innanzi l'awenimento di Cristo potere essere salve',Kristeller, Supplementum Ficinianum, I, p. 14; see also Kristeller, The Philosophy of MarsilioFicino, p. 362, and G. Anichini, L'umanesimo e il problema della salvezza in MarsilioFicino, p. 124.

67 For his relation to Pico on this question, see Lauster, Die Erlosungslehre MarsilioFicinos, pp. 215, n. 55, and 217, n. 65.

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tion of death, it is odd that he shares the orthodox Christian doc-trine. Moreover he tries to find philosophical arguments as to whythe body must rise again, without, of course, meaning a resurrec-tion of the earthly body. He assumes a divine re-creation will takeplace at the end of the world,68 when God will create a purissimumcorpus. A passage in a sermon shows that this new body has an emi-nently intelligible structure.69 Only through this spiritualization of thebody can human redemption be complete.

In Ficino's view the highest fulfilment lies in the visio and thefruitioDei. This pair corresponds to the two powers of the soul. The finalaction of the soul is not something completely new and different—it is still the perfection and the highest degree of the experience ofGod which the soul can reach on a lower and anticipatory level inthis life. In his concept of ascent, the soul finds the fulfilment of itsdesire and repose in God since the intellect and the will have reachedtheir goal. So the soul acts with pleasure and joy. The transforma-tion of the soul becomes full deification. That does not mean, ofcourse, that the soul becomes identical with God, but that the soulreceives divine qualities: it can think and love with a divine per-spective and in a divine way. In the vision of God the circle of thedivine ray is completed. The soul receives the powers to think andlove God in itself and itself in God. So the soul loves its own ideain God and God loves in the soul an idea of itself. The intellectsees God 'face to face', it recognizes God, but in doing so the intel-lect sees that it cannot recognize God in His whole infinity. In thisparadox Ficino follows the stream of Neoplatonic-tinged apophatictheology. Even in the visio et fruitio Dei there remains the ontologi-cal difference between God and the soul. The visio beatifica is not amystical union. Indeed, Ficino emphasizes the substantial characterof the union between soul and God, but he does not understandthis union to mean that unification involves a self-losing of the soulin God or the loss of independence. Even in the perfection of redemp-tion, the soul retains its identity.

58 Cf. 'recreatio ilia per Deum facta, cessante mundi motu', TJieologia Platonica,XVIII.9 (ed. Marcel, III, p. 224).

69 Cf. Opera omnia, p. 481.

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6. Conclusion

This discussion of Ficino's theological views has sought to show howhe attempted to realize his programme of Christian Platonism. Dealingwith particular issues in the Christian tradition, he used his philo-sophical tenets (that is, his own transformation of Platonic andNeoplatonic cosmology) to explain and interpret Christian doctrines.Naturally, he did not invent the method. Since earliest times, theChristian Church had used philosophical arguments to explain anddefend her doctrines. In the context of the Christian reception ofPlatonism, however, Marsilio Ficino is undoubtedly an impressivefigure. For him Platonism was not pure speculation: he wanted tomake Christian doctrines plausible and reasonable with Platonic argu-ments.70 In various places in his work, especially in the great pre-faces, Ficino identified his programme as being an apology forChristianity through Platonic philosophy. Platonism added a novelaspect to a number of traditional theological doctrines: his view ofthe soul with its two tendencies as well as his understanding of theTrinity and Incarnation; his theory of redemption as the ascent toGod; and his doctrine of grace as the descending and returning circleof the divine light.

On the other hand we have to recognize that Ficino could notintegrate into his system every aspect of Christian doctrine. He definesGod's salvific action as a transformation of the soul. This idea meansthat he cannot integrate a part of the Christian tradition. Obviouslyhis concentration on the experience of the soul gave his theology avery individual character. He hardly deals with the Sacraments, forexample, and not at all with theories concerning the Church. Fromthe point of view of dogmatics, one has to note a striking lack ofecclesiological issues in Ficino. Even odder is his relation to theo-logical authorities. There are some doctrines for which Ficino wasnot able to find a plausible philosophical or Platonic explanation,for example the theory of the Atonement and the Cross of Christas mankind's salvation. In these cases Ficino took a strange course:his interest in maintaining a correct and orthodox theology was sostrong that he preferred to quote Thomas Aquinas. It cannot be anaccident that he depends on Thomas most of all when he found

See especially Allen, Synoptic Art, ch. 2.

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insuperable difficulties for his Platonic-Christian philosophizing. Thisis, of course, a completely different solution from that adopted bythe Enlightenment two hundred years and more later, which triedrather to rebut the dogmas themselves.

Occasional inconsistencies mar Ficino's theological arguments, butthis should not lead us to underestimate his importance as a Christianthinker. As we have seen, his theological theories set out to harmo-nize the sublimity of man with the Christian doctrine that God actsthrough His grace for the salvation of man. Ficino tried to give aChristian foundation to his age's new self-confidence in man, andin this lies his importance for the story of Christian theology.

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Christopher S. Celenza

'Ex pagano Christi miles': 'From a pagan, a soldier of Christ'. PerhapsFicino's early biographer Giovanni Corsi put things a bit too baldlywhen speaking of Ficino's ordination as a priest.2 Ficino was in factordained on 18 December 1473—an important year in the historyof Florence, a year which saw the reopening of the Florentine uni-versity and the fashioning of some of the most notable elements ofthe ascendancy of Lorenzo de' Medici.3 How could this Catholicpriest reconcile his orthodoxy with some of the more recondite prac-tices he came across in the post-Plotinian Platonic tradition? It wouldbe a tidy story if we could accept Corsi's version of the tale: thatFicino in his early years went through a possibly 'pagan' period ofself-doubt and then, having burned his early heterodox Lucretianizingworks, became thoroughly orthodox with the passage of time.4 But

1 For helpful comments I would like to thank Michael J. B. Allen and SalvatoreCamporeale.

2 Corsi's biography of Ficino is edited in R. Marcel, Marsile Ficin (1433-1499),Paris, 1958, pp. 679-89; see p. 683: 'Sed quum jam annos aetatis suae duos acquadraginta exegisset, ex pagano Christi miles factus, ex duobusque sacerdotiis, quo-rum curam per Laurentium Medicem susceperat, proventus annuos satis honestoscapiens, patrimonium omne fratribus reliquit.' An English translation of the biog-raphy is available in The Letters of Marsilio Ficino, tr. by members of the LanguageDepartment of the School of Economic Science, 6 vols to date, London, 1975 ,III, pp. 135-48. See also Marcel, Marsile Ficin, pp. 403-20.

3 For Ficino's ordination, see Marcel, Marsile Ficin, p. 404, n. 1; for the envi-ronment, see R. Fubini, 'Ficino e i Medici all'awento di Lorenzo il Magnifico',Rinascimento, 2a ser., 24 (1984), pp. 3-52; idem, 'Ancora su Ficino e i Medici',Rinascimento, 2a ser., 27 (1987), pp. 275-91; these two pieces are now in Fubini'sQuattrocento fiorentino: Politico, diplomazia, cultura, Pisa, 1996, pp. 235-301; J. Hankins,'Lorenzo de' Medici as a Patron of Philosophy', Rinascimento, 2a ser., 34 (1994), pp.15-53; and A. F. Verde, Lo studio fiorentino, 1473—1503: Ricerche e documenti, 5 vols,Florence, 1973-94.

4 The exaggerations in this account were corrected by P. O. Kristeller, 'Per labiografia di Marsilio Ficino' (1938), in his Studies in Renaissance Thought and Letters, 4vols, Rome, 1956-96, I, pp. 191-211; essential now on Ficino's spiritual crisis isJ. Hankins, Plato in the Italian Renaissance, 2 vols, continuously paginated, Leiden etc.,1990, pp. 454-59.

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that would be to misconceive certain fundamental questions concern-ing the nature of religion and philosophy, indeed concerning thenature of early modern European religiosity itself.

The first question is that of orthodoxy, which, to reverse the usualphrase, fit, non nascitur.5 Let us remind ourselves of a few fifteenth-century conditions. In the middle of the century a thinker, LorenzoValla, who in certain writings seemed to be advocating the devel-opment of a radically different, almost proto-Lutheran ecclesiologyand who in other writings challenged the legitimacy of the VulgateBible, became an apostolic secretary during the pontificate of Calix-tus III.6 The notion of the individual human soul's immortality wasstill seen as such a controversial issue that the Fifth Lateran Councilsaw fit to pronounce on it in the second decade of the sixteenthcentury.7 Protestantism as a sect, or series of sects, did not yet exist.While it would be incautious to overstate the case, it is not unrea-sonable to say that it is very difficult to come to a universally accept-able definition of early modern Catholic orthodoxy, especially beforethe Council of Trent. Even during the years of the Council in thesixteenth century, the concept of what was heretical changed fromregion to region in Italy, decade to decade. One has only to thinkof the Ferrara of the 1540s and of Renee de France, the Calvinistsympathizing wife of Ercole II d'Este; there, during the 1540s, Reneedistanced herself more and more from Catholic ritual, openly sup-porting Protestants passing through Ferrara, despite her husband'sopposition.8 James Hankins puts it well: 'The real contention inRenaissance Italy was not between paganism and Christianity but

5 See J. B. Henderson, The Construction of Orthodoxy and Heresy, Albany, NY, 1998,p. 39, and W. Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity, Philadelphia, 1971.

6 See at least S. I. Camporeale, Lorenzo Valla: Umanesimo e teologia, Florence, 1972;the literature in Lorenzo Valla e Vumanesimo italiano: Atti del convegno Internationale di studiumanistici (Parma, 18~19 ottobre 1984), ed. by O. Besomi and M. Regoliosi, Padua,1986; and J. Monfasani, 'Was Lorenzo Valla an Ordinary Language Philosopher?',

Journal of the History of Ideas, 50 (1989), pp. 309-23. On Valla's biblical work seeJ. H. Bendey, Humanists and Holy Writ, Princeton, 1983, and C. S. Celenza, 'RenaissanceHumanism and the New Testament: Lorenzo Valla's Annotations to the Vulgate',Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 21 (1994), pp. 33-52.

' For the most recent treatment of this problem, with full bibliographical refer-ences, see E. A. Constant, 'A Reinterpretation of the Fifth Lateran Council DecreeApostolici regiminis', forthcoming, in The Sixteenth Century Journal.

8 See F. Bacchelli, 'Science, Cosmology, and Religion in Ferrara, 1520 1550',in Dosso's Fate: Painting and Court Culture in Renaissance Italy, ed. by L. Ciammitti,S. F. Ostrow, and S. Settis, Los Angeles, 1998, pp. 333-54.

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rather between competing definitions of what Christianity was andwhat it meant to be a Christian.'9 In other words, one could be asincere Christian, as I believe Ficino was, and still be a legitimateadvocate of practices which in hindsight seem heterodox.

The second major question concerns Ficino's self-presentation.Historians have to be very careful when taking a thinker at his word.On the one hand, if one reads too many implications into a thinker,one can swiftly become ahistorical, and thus lose the evidentiary basison which good scholarship depends. On the other hand, taking athinker only at his word risks naivete, especially when enough evi-dentiary links exist to supplement what a thinker claims superficiallyto be doing. Ficino, for example, often stresses how important, indeedcentral, Plato is in his vision of the prisca theologia; but many scholars,too numerous to list, have shown that Ficino's adherence to Platois far from modern.

In the case of Plotinus the same sort of situation obtains. Whilescholars have shown Ficino's divergences from Plotinus on a num-ber of specific points, my focus here is different: I seek to show themanner in which Ficino's overall view of the relation of philosophyand religion is more similar to post-Plotinian—or even non-Plotinian—Platonism than to Plotinian Platonism. In order to do this, I shalloffer a somewhat detailed examination of Plotinus's views on mat-ter and on the individual soul, and the manner in which the laterPlatonic tradition reacted to and absorbed these positions. ThereafterI move to Ficino. The general thesis I shall advance is that, in thecourse of later Platonism, Plotinus's views in the two areas men-tioned were seen as highly intellectualized and even arrogant. Theresult was that post-Plotinian Platonists sought to remedy the flawsin the system by embracing a different view of the status of matterand of the structure of the individual soul. This had profound impli-cations for the manner in which philosophers regarded the place ofritual within the philosophical life and the status of philosophy itself.Ficino's views mirror aspects of this development, for two reasons.First, the post-Plotinian developments to be addressed accorded bet-ter with certain Christian conceptions dear to Ficino, despite the factthat the Platonic innovators themselves, especially lamblichus, were

Hankins, Plato, I, p. 205.

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decidedly non-Christian.10 Second, one must take into account whatI shall call 'cultural compression'. Especially since we are investi-gating here the influence of late antiquity, we must be cognizant ofthe tremendous span of time in antiquity which the texts that Re-naissance thinkers had access to represented." We must be sure notto regard antiquity as monolithic. Two centuries separate Plotinus fromProclus. Eight separate Plato from Augustine. Though it might seemsimplistic, we must remind ourselves how variegated were the his-torical circ*mstances under which the ancient texts whose receptionwe study were produced. The implications of asking these sorts ofquestions of ancient texts are manifold if we consider them togetherwith the reception of those texts by Renaissance thinkers: hence cul-tural compression. If we treat a Renaissance thinker developmen-tally and not statically, we must acknowledge the possibility that thethinker under consideration will reflect themes and tendencies in hisown work that themselves reveal developments of mentality whichin antiquity took centuries to be realized. To understand a Renaissancethinker fully, the ancient context, as well as the ancient text, shouldbe studied in detail.


It is believed, based on a report in the biography by his studentPorphyry, that Plotinus did not begin writing until rather late in life,and that when he did his views were more or less fully formed, hav-ing been based on a life of teaching and thinking.12 After his death

10 In this sense this study will also reflect a growing realization among scholarsof late antiquity that the paradigm 'paganism versus emerging (triumphant) Christianity'is not the most valuable one, and that it is profitable to seek instead the similari-ties of mentality which cut across 'confessional' lines. See e.g. G. Bowersock, Hellenismin Late Antiquity, Ann Arbor, Mich., 1990; among the numerous studies of P. Brown,see Religion and Society in the Age of Saint Augustine, New York, 1972, and The Makingof Late Antiquity, Cambridge, Mass., and London, 1978; G. Fowden, The EgyptianHermes: A Historical Approach to the Late Ancient Pagan Mind, Cambridge, 1986; reissuedwith new preface, Princeton, 1993; R. Lane Fox, Pagans and Christians, Harmondsworth,1986; R. MacMullen, Paganism in the Roman Empire, New Haven, Conn., 1981.

11 See B. P. Copenhaver, 'lamblichus, Synesius, and the Chaldaean Oracles inMarsilio Ficino's De Vita Libri Tres: Hermetic Magic or Neoplatonic Magic?', inSupplementum Festivum: Studies in Honor of Paul Oskar Kristeller, ed. by J. Hankins,J. Monfasani, and F. Purnell, Jr., Binghamton, NY, 1987, pp. 441-55, at pp. 454-55.

12 I use the texts and translations of Plotinus of A. H. Armstrong in the Loeb

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Porphyry edited and organized Plotinus's writings into six sets ofnine treatises, the Enneads, through which we know his thought.Essential to his philosophical system is his 'emanationistic' ontology,a system of hypostases which has at the top a transcendent One,beyond Being, and about which it is difficult if not impossible toassert anything.13 In fact, one of the few ways we can get to knowthe One is by telling what it is not.14 The One, beyond Being anda transmogrified version of Plato's form of the Good, overflows tothe next ontological level, that of Nous, or Intellect, which containsPlato's forms. Nous itself overflows into the next hypostasis, Psyche,or Soul, which then eventually produces the final and lowest level,Hyle, Matter.15

Matter is problematic, for Plotinus conceives of it as evil and ina way as the root of evil in the world. For Plotinus its hypostaticstatus was always uncertain; it is literally anti-substantial. Thoughmatter does form part of the overall ontological scheme, which isnecessarily good, from a specific standpoint matter is as far fromgood as can be, partaking in fact of the form of non-being.16 Thisraises the question whether the presence of evil is possible in Soul,which produced matter, and is in general reflective of the largerproblem in the history of western philosophy of reconciling the pres-ence of mundane evil with an omnipotent, presumably good, supe-rior universal force. The status of matter as evil, however, was a

series; vol. 1, Cambridge, Mass., and London, 1966, includes a text and transla-tion of Porphyry's Life of Plotinus; for Plotinus's not writing until his fifty-ninth year,see the Life, 3-5. It should be noted, however, that at least one recent scholar hasseen a development in Plotinus's anthropology, over against the static model; seeJ. Igal, 'Aristoteles y la evolucion de la antropologia de Plotino', Pensamiento, 35(1979), pp. 315-46. See also the survey of K. Corrigan and P. O'Cleirigh, 'PlotinianScholarship from 1971 to 1986', Aufstieg und JViedergang der romischen Welt, II.36.1, W. Haase, Berlin and New York, 1987, pp. 571-623, at pp. 582-83.

13 Although one should note that Plotinus does not often use the Greek wordfor 'emanation', i.e., ocjtoppeto, or its cognates. See H. Dorrie, 'Emanation: einunphilosophisches Wort im spatantiken Denken', in his Platonica minora, Munich,1976, pp. 70-85; this is noted also in H. J. Blumenthal's excellent historiographi-cal survey, 'Plotinus in the Light of Twenty Years' Scholarship, 1951-1971', Aufstiegund Medergang, 11.36.1, pp. 528-70, at p. 547, n. 65.

14 Thus Augustine and many others have seen overlaps between Plotinus's thoughtand Pauline negative theology, an approach to which Ps.-Dionysius would give greatemphasis.

15 See Blumenthal, 'Plotinus in the Light', pp. 547-49.16 Plotinus, Enneads, 1.8.10; see D. O'Brien, 'Plotinus on Matter and Evil', in The

Cambridge Companion to Plotinus, ed. by L. P. Gerson, Cambridge, 1996, pp. 171-95,at pp. 176-77.

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problem with more immediate late ancient resonances, which wereconnected to the problem of our status in the cosmos and to thesoteriological issue of the manner in which the individual soul couldachieve salvation.

For Plotinus we are 'enmattered' beings, composed of an immor-tal soul and of matter.17 Yet matter is evil—the ultimate evil, pri-vation18—and our soul must thus find a way to liberate itself frommatter and attain union with the One (i.e., engage in henosis). As itwas for all Platonists, for Plotinus thought and intellectual disciplinewere important. But Plotinus introduced an element into the prob-lem of ascent which was self-consciously innovative, so much so thatit would come to be rejected by most of his successors in the Platonictradition. This was the notion that the individual human soul hadnot descended entire from the immaterial world.19 Rather, a part ofeach human being's individual soul had remained in the supra-material realm, at the hypostatic level of Nous, or perhaps Soul. AsPlotinus wrote (Enneads, IV.8.8):

And, if one ought to dare to express one's own view more clearly,contradicting the opinion of others, even our soul does not altogethercome down, but there is always something of it in the intelligible; butif the part which is in the world of sense-perception gets control, orrather if it is itself brought under control, and thrown into confusion[by the body], it prevents us from perceiving the things which theupper part of the soul contemplates.

Because of this it was possible for individual humans to ascend theontological hierarchy basically under their own powers, provided theymustered enough intellectual rigor and discipline for the task.20

Reaching the One means, in other words, completing oneself,

17 Plotinus, Enneads, IV.7.1; see S. R. L. Clark, 'Plotinus: Body and Soul', inCambridge Companion to Plotinus, pp. 275-91, at p. 277.

18 O'Brien, 'Plotinus on Matter and Evil', pp. 178-81; as O'Brien explains (p. 180),this is why the body of the sensible and, inevitably, hylomorphic world 'remainsforever a mere "corpse adorned"' (Enn., II.4.5.18). In other words, matter, evenwhen informed, retains its ontological status as anti-substantial, evil privation.

19 Plotinus, Enneads, IV.8.8; see Blumenthal, 'Plotinus in the Light', p. 560; idem,Plotinus' Psychology: His Doctrines of the Embodied Soul, The Hague, 1971; and C. G.Steel, The Changing Self. A Study on the Soul in Later Neoplatonism: lamblichus, Damascius,and Priscianus, Brussels, 1978, esp. pp. 34-38.

20 Though of course the entire system itself is owed to the divine and thus in itsentirety good; as Blumenthal puts the problem of the soul's being in matter, 'it isbetter for the soul not to be here, but all levels of existence must be, and in thatsense its presence here is good'. See Blumenthal, Plotinus' Psychology, p. 5.

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and it is something that can be done by cultivating the virtue pre-sent in one's own individual soul. It is our responsibility to do so,and in fact we possess a natural appetite toward the Good, whichPlotinus distinguishes from a common affection.21 When the soul doesnot voluntarily conform to this appetite and is instead

flying from the All and standing apart in distinctness, and does notlook toward the intelligible, it has become a part and is isolated andweak and fusses and looks towards a part and in its separation fromthe whole it embarks on one single thing and flies from everythingelse.

'We must fly from here and separate ourselves from what has beenadded to us.'22 The process of individual ascent is a choice whichwe, in our own sphere, are at liberty to make.23 The philosopher'sascent does not depend, in other words, on any special ritual or anyspecifically corporeal acts, and certainly owes nothing whatsoever tothe material world. Plotinus granted magic a positive existential statusand perhaps even engaged in it, but did not consider magic some-thing that could ever help the true philosopher ascend ontologically.24

After Plotinus

Plotinus died in 270, having taught for most of his career at Rome.His thought spread in the Mediterranean world and the reactionsto it were reflections of many of late antiquity's larger tensions. Hisstudent, editor and biographer Porphyry was in many ways a faith-ful disciple, especially when it came to the connected issues of thenature of the hypostases and the place of theurgic ritual in the lifeof the philosopher. Porphyry explained the hypostases as being in a

21 Enneads, 'H 8e ten) dyaGoij ope^iq \ir\ KOWOV 7td0T|ua.22 Enneads, IV.8.4 and II.3.9; Clark, 'Plotinus: Body and Soul', pp. 279, 287.23 On the problem of individual liberty in an emanationistic context, G. Leroux

puts it well in his 'Human Freedom in the Thought of Plotinus', Cambridge Companionto Plotinus, p. 295: 'As Plotinus teaches in several treatises (notably IV.3 and IV.9),the universe possesses a single soul; while we must conceive of individual liberty,this can only be if we separate this liberty from the global destiny of the livingworld.' The soul's descent into matter is voluntary but conditioned by necessitywhereas the return, the epistrophe, which the human subject initiates, is voluntary inthe more familiar modern sense, involving 'the sense of choosing or of making aneffort' (ibid., p. 299).

24 See Blumenthal, 'Plotinus in the Light', p. 561.

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sense telescoped.20 Rather than clearly delineated hypostatic onto-logical levels, there was some overlap among them. Thus he remainedfaithful to the spirit of Plotinus's view of the hypostases, whichwas decidedly not a rigid or overly hierarchized one.26 This view ofthe hypostases served to highlight the status of the human soul,which, as we have seen, Plotinus believed was capable on its ownof reaching the One, and which in a certain way was not as faraway from the One as might be thought. With respect to theurgicritual, although Porphyry often seems to vacillate (and was accusedof this by Augustine), his basic position is that theurgy has a lim-ited efficacy. Theurgy can affect the lower soul and is something tobe used by non-philosophers, those without the ability or philo-sophical discipline to ascend on their own.27 Theurgy was for those,Plotinus might have said, whose souls had flown from the All andbecome weak, standing apart in distinctness.

It was an awareness of this distinctness that would manifest itselfin the generations after Plotinus and Porphyry. Late ancient thinkers,both Christian and pagan, were in the throes of creating new reli-gious paradigms and were attempting to satisfy the religious needswhich were being manifested in the Mediterranean world. In thelate third and early fourth centuries, Christianity was one amonghundreds of religions.28 Despite the fact that its early architects wereutilizing many Platonic themes in constructing Christian ideology—

25 See W. Deuse, 'Der Demiurg bei Porphyries und lamblich', in Die Philosophicdes Neuplatonismus, ed. by C. Zintzen, Darmstadt, 1977, pp. 238-78, at p. 251;A. C. Lloyd, 'The Later Neoplatonists', in The Cambridge History of Later Greek andEarly Medieval Philosophy, ed. by A. H. Armstrong, Cambridge, 1970, pp. 272-325,at pp. 288—93; see also the cautions of A. Smith, Porphyry's Place in the NeoplatonicTradition. A Study in Post-Plotinian Neoplatonism, The Hague, 1974, p. 5 ff., and idem,'Porphyrian Studies since 1913', Aufstieg und Niedergang, II.36.2, ed. by W. Haase,Berlin and New York, 1987, pp. 717-73, at p. 738.

26 Blumenthal, for example, has commented on the overlap between Soul andNous; see Blumenthal, Plotinus' Psychology.

27 Positions expressed in his De regressu animae, ed. by J. Bidez in his Vie de Porphyre,U philosophe neo-platonicien, Ghent, 1913, pp. 25-44 and, more forcefully, in the Epistolaad Anebonem, ed. by A. Sodano, Naples, 1958. For Augustine, see De civitate Dei,IX.9: 'Nam et Porphyrius quandam quasi purgationem animae per theurgian, cunc-tanter tamen et pudibunda quodam modo disputatione promittit . . .'. Augustinegoes on to recognize, however, Porphyry's belief that theurgy cannot in itself pro-vide a means of ascent: 'reversionem vero ad Deum hanc artem praestare cuiquamnegat'. Immediately thereafter the real criticism begins: 'ut videas eum inter vitiumsacrilegae curiositatis et philosophiae professionem sententiis alternantibus fluctuare'.

28 See MacMullen, Paganism in the Roman Empire, p. xii and passim.

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among them the immortality of the soul, themes of return, and aradical spirit/matter distinction—there were certain things whichChristianity possessed that were lacking in Platonic paganism. Especiallyimportant among these factors were a well-defined soteriology andefficacious rituals that aimed at uniformity. How did post-PlotinianPlatonists address these gaps?

The central figure here is the Syrian philosopher lamblichus, whostudied with, then polemicized against, Porphyry.29 For Platonistsmetaphysics is often a key to other aspects of their philosophy, andlamblichus is no exception. His vision of the ontological hypostasesgives us a clue to this. For his vision, in contrast to the 'telescoped'view offered by Porphyry, is much more 'stepped', so to speak. Thehypostases are more discretely separated one from the other andtheir ontological boundaries more clearly drawn.30 Consonant withthis sort of ontological separation, the human soul is once againviewed as having descended entire from the realm of the divine, aposition which, for lamblichus, reflected the humility appropriate tothe human condition. In a text of Proclus that preserves an opin-ion of lamblichus, we read:

. . . we dare to react against those Platonists who contend that oursoul is of the same weight as the gods and has the same essence asthe divine souls and who say that it becomes the Intellect itself andthe Intelligible and the One itself when it has abandoned everythingand has been united with i t . . . Such a pretension is, however, farremoved from the teaching of Plato.31

Along these same lines lamblichus articulates the problem of mat-ter differently. Like all Platonists he concedes that the primary humanobjective is to free the spirit from matter; but he is much less pes-simistic than Plotinus concerning the created world.32 The divine, he

29 On lamblichus in general, seej. Dillon, 'lamblichus of Chalcis (ca. AD 240-325)',in Aufstieg und Medergang, II.36.2, pp. 862~909; the studies collected in The Divinelamblichus: Philosopher and Man of Gods, ed. by H. J. Blumenthal and E. G. Clark,London, 1993; and H. D. Saffrey, Recherches sur le neoplatonisme apres Plotin, Paris,1990, pp. 33-123.

30 See Lloyd, 'The Later Neoplatonists', pp. 297-301.31 Proclus, In Timaeum, III.231, 5-10, cited and translated in Steel, The Changing

Self, p. 28.32 See G. Shaw, 'Theurgy: Rituals of Unification in the Neoplatonism of lamblichus',

Traditio, 41 (1985), pp. 1-28. Much of what remains in this paragraph depends onShaw's fundamental study. Crucial for the study of theurgy is H. Lewy, ChaldaeanOracles and Theurgy, rev. edn, Paris, 1978.

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thought, gave us certain things to aid us all, philosophers and non-philosophers alike, and the art of theurgy allowed us to use themefficaciously. The Greek word itself, Geoupyioc, is rich with implications.33

Etymologically speaking, its two roots, theos and ergon, have to dowith divinity and with work. The word can thus mean somethinglike 'doing divine work', or even 'working the divine', with the impli-cation that human beings are given a certain level of agency in oper-ating on the world around them, to such an extent that they canin a limited respect even harness divinity for their own ends.34

In practice theurgy took the form of the efficacious performanceof 'ineffable acts beyond all human understanding', i.e., rituals per-formed by the operator.35 These rituals could be seen as acceptablemeans of liberating the soul from the matter in which it was impris-oned. The highest level was left for philosophers alone, but all,philosophers and non-philosophers alike, should use and benefit fromthe god-given material aids to ascent which are present all aroundus.36 For lamblichus theurgy is especially important, indeed neces-sary, in purifying the soul, and functions thus as a liberator fromfate and a necessary step toward union with the divine.37 The mate-rial means are efficacious in themselves, whatever the disposition ofthe performer. It has not gone unnoticed that this position bearssimilarities to the Augustinian notion of the sacrament functioningex opere operate.38

33 See Lewy, Chaldaean Oracles, pp. 461—66.34 In addition to Shaw, 'Theurgy', see Fowden, The Egyptian Hermes, pp. 79-87,

who draws attention to the Egyptian antecedents of this view, with reports in thetradition of operators even becoming angry with the gods in order to manipulatethem; see also ibid., p. 132: 'The philosopher, for Plotinus an autonomous agentin the pursuit of perfection, was made by lamblichus into an operative dependenton the help of superhuman forces.'

35 lamblichus, De mysteriis, II. 11.96 (ed. des Places, 1989): 'f| [TeX.eoioupy{a] T(bve'pYtov icbv dppf|TGOv mi imep rcaaav vor|aiv.'

36 See Brown, The Making of Late Antiquity, pp. 60—61.37 Hence the importance to lamblichus of the vehicle of the soul, the 6%f\\ia-

7tvet>n.a, which he believed, taking inspiration from Plato's Timaeus, was crafted outof ether by the Demiurge. See J. F. Finamore, lamblichus and the Theory of the Vehicleof the Soul, Chico, Calif, 1985; and Lewy, Chaldaean Oracles, pp. 178-84.

38 See J. Trouillard, 'Sacrements: La theurgie pai'enne', Encyclopaedia uniuersalis, 20vols, Paris, 1968-73, XIV, pp. 582~83; see alsoj. Bidez, 'Le philosophe Jambliqueet son ecole', Revue des etudes grecques, 32 (1919), p. 35; R. T. Wallis, Neoplatonism,London, 1972, p. 105 ff.; and C. de Vogel, 'Plotinus' Image of Man: Its Relationshipto Plato as well as to Later Neoplatonism', in Images of Man in Ancient and MedievalThought, ed. by F. Bossier et al., Louvain, 1976, p. 167 ff., all cited by Shaw,'Theurgy', p. 11 and n. 51. For Augustine's position see his Traites anti-Donatistes, 5

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Another notable factor: in De mysteriis, where many of lamblichus'sideas are articulated, the Syrian philosopher self-consciously viewshis thought on these problems as a necessary synthesis of elementswhich were 'Egyptian'—by which he means notions drawn from theCorpus Hermeticum, 'Chaldean'—by which he means notions drawnfrom the Chaldean Oracles, and 'philosophical', that is, Platonic ideas.39

He believes he is restoring an ancient wisdom—thus he forms partof an impulse to hark back to and unveil an ancient unitary wis-dom as old (at least as a formula) as Numenius, who had early onspoken of a rcaAma aocpia.40 More importandy, we should note thatlamblichus expanded the canon of works suitable for considerationby a 'Platonic' thinker and included in the canon texts that dealtdirectly with ritual. So much, then, for the problem of ritual and itsplace in Platonic philosophy. What of soteriology?

Here too lamblichus was an innovator, this time in his De sectaPythagorica^ a work probably of ten books originally. Representativepar excellence of Neopythagoreanism, the work offers a twofoldappreciation of Pythagoras.41 First, lamblichus presents Pythagorasin a soteriological manner, as a figure sent down from the train ofApollo to save men's souls. Second, lamblichus offers a clear mes-sage about the importance of Pythagoreanism, setting out an accountof Pythagoras and Pythagoreanism that would lead the soul fromwhat was 'less' Pythagorean (connected with materiality) to what was'more' Pythagorean (connected to the immaterial).42 lamblichus thusstrengthened the post-Platonic notion that the sciences which wereconcerned with immaterial reality were the most truly Pythagorean.43

This 'Pythagoreanizing' of Platonism by lamblichus was part ofthe late ancient concern to find a means to harmonize the highestphilosophical approach with the spiritual needs that all, philosophers

vols, Paris, 1963-65, esp. II (1964), De baptismo libri VIII, ed. by G. Bavard at VI.4-5(pp. 412-14). See also the magisterial study of K. Flasch, Augustinus: Einfiihrung insein Denken, 2nd edn, Stuttgart, 1994, pp. 160-63.

39 See lamblichus, De mysteriis, I.I, and Fowden, The Egyptian Hermes, pp. 116—53.40 See A.-J. Festugiere, La revelation d'Hermes Trismegiste, 4 vols, Paris, 1949-54, I,

pp. 19-26.41 See D. O'Meara, Pythagoras Revived: Mathematics and Philosophy in Late Antiquity,

Oxford, 1989, and C. S. Celenza, 'Pythagoras in the Renaissance: The Case ofMarsilio Ficino', Renaissance Quarterly, 52 (1999), pp. 667-711.

42 lamblichus, Protrepticus, ed. by H. Pistelli, Stuttgart, 1888, p. 118.10-13. Tr.O'Meara, Pythagoras Revived, p. 42.

43 O'Meara, Pythagoras Revived, pp. 44-52.

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included, experienced. lamblichus offered a new appreciation of thepower and necessity of ritual in the philosophical life, and his sote-riological view of Pythagoras showed the concern on the part of thedivine for the human race. lamblichus changed the nature of Platonismto such an extent that he was routinely (as opposed to exceptionally)referred to as 0eio<;—divine—by later Platonists.44 The late ancientepithet comparing him and Porphyry is revelatory and often repeated:evGoix; 6 rupoq, TioAufiaOfig 6 Ooivi^—'the Syrian [lamblichus] wasinspired by the gods, the Phoenician [Porphyry] highly learned'.45

It is not that lamblichus was followed whole cloth by all laterPlatonists in these assumptions. Important, however, is the new viewof the philosophical life that his approach signals.46 On the one handa slightly later thinker, St Augustine (354-430), would adopt manytenets of Platonic metaphysics into the already ritually rich Christianity.On the other hand, Platonists 'ritualized' Platonism. The fifth-century thinker Proclus, head of the Athenian school, acknowledgedthe power of religious ritual and engaged in it,47 even as he intel-lectualized it and saw different levels in the activity of theurgy thatcorresponded to the ontological levels of the universe.48 He saw theenterprise of philosophy itself in soteriological terms.49 Again we seethe importance of acknowledging the similarities in mentality betweenlate ancient paganism and Christianity rather than highlighting onlytheir differences or antagonisms.

So far we have seen that in later Platonism Plotinus was a seminalthinker, and that later Platonists rang important changes on his thought,even as they accepted Plotinus as an integral part of the unveilingof Platonic wisdom. Many of the tendencies in Ficino's thought bearsimilarities to those outlined above in the evolution of post-Plotinian

44 See G. Fowden, 'The Pagan Holy Man in Late Antique Society', Journal ofHellenic Studies, 102 (1982), pp. 33-59, at 36.

45 See Steel, The Changing Self, p. 12.46 On lamblichus's importance for later Platonism, in addition to O'Meara,

Pythagoras Revived, see Lloyd, 'The Later Neoplatonists', p. 302, and the studies col-lected in De Jamblique a Proclus, Fondation Hardt Entretiens 21, aout 1974, ed. byH. Dorrie, Geneva, 1975.

47 He engaged in customary acts of sun-worship thrice daily; see Marinus, VitaProdi, ed. by J. F. Boissonade, Leipzig, 1850, ch. 22; Fowden, The Egyptian Hermes,p. 127.

48 See L. Siorvanes, Proclus: Neo-Platonic Philosophy and Science, New Haven, Conn.,and London, 1996, pp. 191-99.

49 See O'Meara, Pythagoras Revived, pp. 142-55.

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Platonism, in a way reflective of cultural compression. However, amissing piece of the puzzle comes in considering the social worldsin which these positions, both late ancient and Renaissance, wereevolved. So it is appropriate to make the transition to Ficino byemphasizing that, to obtain a legitimate overview of him as a person,we must consider his literary production as a whole, and indeed hisstyle of life. In this respect Ficino is more similar to the model ofthe late ancient holy man, as outlined by Garth Fowden, than heis to a disinterested philosopher concerned only with system building.50

In studying the late ancient 'pagan holy man' Fowden sought toredress a historiographical gap; because of the pervasiveness of'triumphalist' accounts of Christianity, much more attention hadbeen paid to early Christian religious figures than to non-Christians.He suggested

that a tendency to associate holiness with philosophical learning deter-mined the essentially urban and privileged background of the paganholy man, and also encouraged his gradual drift to the periphery ofsociety. This process of marginalization, together with the exclusivistand even (apparently) misanthropic attitudes of many holy men, becamecrucial factors in the leadership-crisis of late paganism.3'

There are a number of parallels in the world of Ficino, and, ofcourse, a number of differences.

As to parallels, we may note Ficino's similar embrace of the notionthat holiness and philosophical learning went hand in hand. He, too,was part of an urban culture, part, in fact, of one of the mostadvanced urban cultures in Europe; the fact that he was not a polit-ical activist in the traditional Florentine civic sense has long beenknown; he, too, for various reasons drifted from being at the cen-ter of Florentine intellectual life in the late 1460s and early 1470sto being just one of many artists and intellectuals under the broadwing of Medici patronage as the age of Lorenzo took shape.02 Thesalient difference is that in the earlier period, say the fourth cen-tury, Catholicism was one of many religions in the late empire,whereas in the fifteenth century the Church was western Europe'smain religious entity. Even here, though, we should note that thefifteenth century was a time of greater crisis in religion than is often

30 In addition to Fowden, 'Pagan Holy Man', see also his Egyptian Hermes.Dl Fowden, 'Pagan Holy Man', p. 33.M On this latter point see Hankins, 'Lorenzo de' Medici as a Patron of Philosophy'.

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imagined, and it was a time also when a relatively wide range ofopinions was possible on various issues. With this background inmind, let us turn to the non-Plotinian aspects of Ficino's thought.

The Post-Plotinian Ficino

If one seeks the Plotinian in Ficino one will always find it. So onemust be clear about what one is after. Are we looking for the ration-alistic philosophical elements alone in Ficino's thought, i.e., thosethings which might be harmonized with the various genres of phi-losophizing which owe their origin to Aristotle, find powerful expres-sion in the medieval and Renaissance university tradition, and werefirst divided up into recognizably modern categories in the seven-teenth and eighteenth centuries? Or are we looking for a more com-plete picture—not just for Ficino the 'philosopher' but for Ficino thethinker? If the latter, then a Plotinian paradigm will not suffice.

Recognizing the non-Plotinian in Ficino means recognizing theexceptional status of Plotinus himself in later Platonism, as outlinedabove. Moreover, Ficino is at his most non-Plotinian when post-Plotinian Platonists presented theories that were more congruent withChristianity, themselves the result of similarities of mentality betweenfourth- and fifth-century Platonism and the Christianity of the sameperiod. It is not just a question of sources, but of mentalities. In thefollowing, I shall focus on three areas: the soteriological view of theenterprise of philosophy itself, not just from an individual but alsofrom a societal point of view; the place of ritual in the philosophi-cal life; and the nature of the individual soul and its relationship tothe hypostatic Soul. Throughout we should note that some of thesepositions represent an expansion of the canon which both lamblichusand Ficino achieved.

When Ficino writes, 'I love Plato in lamblichus, I admire him inPlotinus, but I venerate him in Dionysius', it is reflective of his gen-eral view of the history of philosophy and of the post-Plotinian notionthat the very enterprise of philosophy existed to save humankind.53

It would be artificial if we separated 'philosophical' conceptions from

53 Opera omnia, p. 925: 'Amo equidem Platonem in lamblicho, admiror in Plotino,in Dionysio veneror.' Cited and translated in M. J. B. Allen, Synoptic Art: MarsilioFicino on the History of Platonic Interpretation, Florence, 1998, p. 67.

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Ficino's religious views. Ficino's prisca theologia was his philosophy.He saw it as guided by divine providence, a gradual unfolding of aunitary wisdom which God chose to reveal to humankind for ourbenefit. In late ancient terms, it is useful to remember that post-Plotinian Platonists were the ones who articulated this idea moststrongly, partly in response to the evolution of Christianity, whichhad by lamblichus's day evolved a powerful soteriology of its own.

After lamblichus the view of the enterprise of doing philosophychanged among Platonists. In a text possibly known to Ficino, Hieroclesstressed the revelatory nature of philosophy and the notion thathigher, purer souls communicated its messages to souls more weigheddown by materiality.34 Syrianus presented Socrates as the figure sentdown to save.35 In Proclus one sees repeatedly the notion that philo-sophy is a revealed truth which 'superior souls'—philosophers them-selves—are sent to reveal to the rest of humanity.56 In the 1484preface to his Platonis opera omnia, dedicated to Lorenzo de' Medici,Ficino wrote that:

Divine providence, which has the strength to achieve all things andthe power to arrange all delightfully, magnanimous Lorenzo, hasordained that holy religion should not only be defended by prophets,sibyls and sacred doctors but also singularly be adorned by a piousand elegant philosophy . . . Therefore almighty God sent down fromon high the divine soul of Plato at the appointed time so that by hislife, genius, and marvelous eloquence he might cast the light of holyreligion among all peoples.57

Ficino is influenced here by the later Platonist soteriological view ofphilosophy, perhaps especially the Proclan version, in which Plato

04 See Hierocles, In aureum Pythagoreorum carmen commentarius, ed. by F. G. Koehler,Stuttgart, 1974, and O'Meara, Pythagoras Revived, pp. 109—18. Hierocles's commen-tary was introduced to Quattrocento thinkers by the Sicilian-born humanist GiovanniAurispa (1376-1459); for an edition and translation of Aurispa's preface to this text,see C. S. Celenza, Piety and Pythagoras in Renaissance Florence: The Symbolum Nesianum,Leiden etc., 2001, Appendix.

00 Syrianus's views in this regard are preserved in Hermias's commentary onPlato's Phaedrus; see Hermias, In Platonis Phaedrum scholia, ed. by P. Couvreur, Paris,1901; repr. with additions by C. Zintzen, Hildesheim, 1971, and O'Meara, PythagorasRevived, pp. 119-41.

56 See O'Meara, Pythagoras Revived, pp. 142-55, esp. p. 155, where he cites Proclus,In Platonis Timaeum commentaria, ed. by E. Diehl, 3 vols, Leipzig, 1903-06, III, pp.159.29-160.12.

07 Cited and translated in Allen, Synoptic Art, p. 7.

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was the soteriological figure. In the Theologia Platonica (a title delib-

erately borrowed from Proclus), Ficino wrote that Plato was 'called

divine by all without argument, arid his doctrine was called "Theology"

among all peoples'.58 Ficino went on to say that:

Divine providence has decreed that the perverse wits of many men,who succumb none too easily to the authority of the divine law alone,might yield at least to the Platonic arguments that are fully supportiveof religion. Providence has also decreed that those who have impi-ously made too great a separation between the study of philosophyand holy religion should at some point come to recognize that theyhave erred . . .39

Because of the sort of cultural compression that a Renaissance thinker

faced, given his sources and the nature of his exposure to them, we

must acknowledge that Ficino could represent many sides of a given

problem. Here he stressed the centrality of Plato; but other figures,

notably Socrates and of course Christ, were also paradigmatic for

Ficino in the special salvific merging of philosophical acuteness and

religious wisdom which he felt compelled to reveal. As Michael Allen

has recently pointed out, Ficino saw a number of parallels between

the two figures.60 In a letter to Paolo Ferobanti, Ficino is careful to

state that 'Socrates, though not a type like Job or John the Baptist,

was yet perhaps a foreshadowing of Christ, the author of our sal-

38 Marsilio Ficino, Theologie platonicienne de I'immortaltte des dmes, ed. and tr. byR. Marcel, 3 vols, Paris, 1964-70, I, p. 35: 'Quo factum est ut et ipse sine controver-sia divinus, et doctrina eius apud omnes gentes Theologia nuncuparetur, cum nihil usquamsive morale, sive dialecticum, aut mathematicum, aut physicum tractet, quin moxad contemplationem cultumque Dei summa cum pietate reducat.'

39 Ibid., pp. 36-37: 'Reor autem, nee vana fides, hoc providentia divina decre-turn, ut et perversa multorum ingenia, quae soli divinae legis auctoritati haud facilecedunt, platonicis saltern rationibus religioni admodum suffragantibus acquiescant,et quicumque philosophiae studium impie nimium a sancta religione seiunguntagnoscant aliquando se non aliter aberrare . . .'. The Theologia Platonica was writtenfrom 1469 to 1474 and first printed in 1482.

60 Allen, Synoptic Art, pp. 127—28, expounds Ficino's view in the letter that Socrates,like Christ, 'concentrated on care of soul, not body; dedicated himself to gentle-ness, charity, and true love, and to combating pride, particularly intellectual pride;. . . he had been sent by God exclusively for this mission . . . he had expostulatedwith his unjust judges even as he had turned the other cheek; had endured exe-cution with steadfastness', and points out other parallels which Ficino saw, 'thatSocrates was seized for thirty pieces of silver; that he had prophesied; that after hisdeath heaven immediately avenged him; that during the evening prior to death hehad instituted a 'washing' . . . that . . . we hear of a cup and a blessing; and thatin dying he mentioned a co*ckerel'. See also Allen's edition and translation of theletter in Synoptic Art, Appendix 1, pp. 209-12.

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vation: he served as a preparatory signal, so to speak.'61 Ficino isdetermined to look for soteriological figures where he can find themand to expand this search to the widest reaches of the Platonic tra-dition. It is not that he is being heterodox; rather, he is expandingthe boundaries of orthodoxy by expanding the canon of materialssuitable for philosophico-religious hermeneutic, in the same way thatlamblichus had self-consciously expanded the canon of Platonist worksby including what he saw as 'Egyptian' and 'Chaldaean' writings.In his commitment to welding Platonism and Christianity togetherFicino is compelled to find parallels and relationships between thetwo traditions—or rather, he is reflecting one tradition: the lateancient one that sought a unitary philosophical and religious wisdom,whose adherents included members as diverse as lamblichus andAugustine, Numenius and Lactantius, who, even if they may havedisagreed on specific points of doctrine, were concerned to uniteethics and metaphysics of a high order with a rich, ritually intensereligiosity.

The place and efficacy of ritual is another point of similarity be-tween the post-Plotinian tradition and Ficino's interests, and it is tiedto his views on the nature of the human soul. We recall that lamblichusbelieved it was necessary for philosophers to use theurgic ritual asa means of purification and preparation for ascent; this suggested abroadening of vision regarding the capacity of human beings to oper-ate on the world around them. Dependent on the notion of sym-pathies in the universe between entities at various ontological levels,lamblichus's importation of the practice of using these sympathiesinto the metier of the philosopher was reflective of a larger, late ancientsearch for practices that would transmit the divine to the human.This signaled a view of the human soul's capacity that was differentfrom that of Plotinus, at once humbler and, paradoxically, moreambitious. It is humbler in the sense that lamblichus recognized theradical individuality of the human soul; he assumed an essential dis-connection from the divine but believed we could reach the divineby using the aids placed in the world around us. At the same time,it was ambitious, for it suggested we could manipulate the naturalworld to our advantage. How is this vision manifested in Ficino'swork? First, let us look at Ficino's view on the individual soul andits relation to the hypostatic Soul.

Ed. in Allen, Synoptic Art, Appendix 1.

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From a Christian perspective, the individual unity of the humansoul was necessary, and for a variety of reasons. Individual rewardand punishment would be impossible without substantial unity, andone could veer dangerously close to certain of the heretical aspectsof Averroism, especially the problem of the unity of the intellect, ifone did not maintain the individual soul's substantial unity. If therewas one unified intellect in which all individuals participated, radi-cal individuality was destroyed. Ficino spent Book XV of his TheologiaPlatonica refuting the heresy of Averroes. Unlike some of the moremalleable heterodox topics in pre-Tridentine Europe, this was aheresy of long-standing which the Church had officially condemnedsince Bishop Tempier's condemnation of 1277.62 Clearly the het-erodox aspect of positing a substantial link between the human andthe divine was something Ficino wished to avoid. Moreover, by main-taining the psychic individuality of the human subject, Ficino couldmore easily offer an integrated philosophical approach of his ownwhich stressed not only the individual immortality of the human soulbut also its power and agency in the world.

Beyond his anti-Averroist polemic, it is clear that Ficino viewsthe human soul as a radical individual. It is separate from body andis in Ficino's conception near God and Angel; soul's proximity tothese two levels (similar to Plotinus's One and Nous) allows God andAngel to confer immortality on the soul, just as soul's proximity tomatter can sometimes drag it down,63 but there is not a part of eachindividual human soul in them. The immortal soul is indivisible, and'since it is indivisible it does not take on divisible and corporeal qual-ities'.64 It has its existence in its essence (Theologia Platonica, V.7) andhas its own existence and never recedes from its form (TP, V.8). Ithas a natural inclination toward the divine,65 but not because there

62 For the text of the condemnation see Chartularium Universitatis Parisiensis, ed. byH. Denifle and A. Chatelain, 4 vols, Paris, 1889-97, I, pp. 543-55. On the con-demnation see R. Hissette, Enquete sur les 219 articles condamnes a Paris le 7 Mars 1277,Louvain, 1977, and O. Lottin, Psychologic et morale aux XIF et XIIP siecles, 6 vols in7, Paris, 1942-60, esp. I, pp. 225-389.

63 Ficino, Theologie platonicienne, V.3 (ed. Marcel, I, p. 176): 'Anima vero quae dis-tat longius, etsi in operandi facultate corporalem aliquam percipit passionem, inessentia tamen passionis est expers. Et sicut corpus ex materia et quantitate pas-sivum inhaerentem sibi qualitatem reddit subiectam corruptioni, ita Deus et angelusactivi animam sibi proximam et a corpore segregatam divinitate sua efficiunt immortalem.'

64 Ibid., V.6 (ed. Marcel, I, p. 184): 'Praeterea, cum indivisibilis sit, divisibiles etcorporeas non suscipit qualitates. Non enim quod divisibile est tangit indivisibile.'

65 See ibid., V.10, and Kristeller, II pensiero Jilosofico di Marsilio Ficino, revised edn,Florence, 1989, pp. 180-212 and 247-73.

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is an actual part of the human soul left in the divine.66 Late medievalChristianity, from Ockham to Martin Luther, realized all too clearlythe gulf between the human and the divine.67 Even the PlatonistFicino could not have gone as far as Plotinus on this point. ButFicino is not without optimism regarding the possibility of humansusing God-given aids to reach the divine. Here we find him adopt-ing lamblichan and post-Iamblichan approaches to ritual, themselvesa reflection of the trend to see a gulf between the human and thedivine—not an unbridgeable one, but a gulf nonetheless—coupledwith the notion that the divine has offered us certain material thingsto help us transcend the gulf. With the right use of these materialthings, which means with the right sort of ritual approach, we cancomplete the search, as it is in our power to do, successfully.

On the one hand, Ficino views the scholarly life as melancholy,under the sign of Saturn.68 Human life itself is a melancholy affair,since we have been given a natural appetite for God which in thislife is destined to go unsatisfied.69 On the other hand, he sees thehuman soul as empowered, both because of its own virtues, as wecan see in the case of prophecy, and because of its power to oper-ate on the world around it using material things and rituals. Let usexamine these in turn.

In 1478, the year of the Pazzi conspiracy, Ficino wrote to PopeSixtus IV about the effects the relics of St Peter had had in the pre-vious year.70 Ficino suggests that they were so powerful as to have

f)l> Ficino speaks of the soul's descent in his comments on Plato's Phaedrus, ed. byM. J. B. Allen in his Marsilio Ficino and the Phaedran Charioteer., Berkeley etc., 1981;see esp. Summae 23-25 at pp. 158-73. It is important to note, however, that Ficinoin these passages will speak of the soul 'contemplating' the intelligibles and beingin the presence of the divine, but not as having left a substantial part of itselfbehind after its incorporation. See also Allen's The Platonism of Marsilio Ficino: A Studyof his 'Phaedrus' Commentary, its Sources and Genesis, Berkeley etc., 1984, pp. 165-84,esp. p. 182, where Allen highlights the complexities in the Plotinian system.

67 See H. A. Oberman, The Harvest of Medieval Theology: Gabriel Biel and Late MedievalNominalism, Cambridge, Mass., 1963.

68 See Ficino, Three Books on Life, ed. and tr. by Carol V. Kaske and John R.Clark, Binghamton, NY, 1989, esp. Bk 1, and the introduction of Kaske at pp.21-24.

69 See Ficino, Epistolarum liber II, 'Quaestiones quinque de mente', in Opera omnia,pp. 675-82.

70 Epistolarum liber VI, in Opera omnia, pp. 813-15 (English version in Letters, V,pp. 15-19). See P. O. Kristeller, 'Marsilio Ficino and the Roman Curia', HumanisticaLovaniensia, 34A (1985), pp. 83-98, at pp. 88-92 (repr. in his Studies, IV, pp. 265-80);and Fubini, 'Ficino e i Medici', and idem, 'Ancora su Ficino e i Medici' (as n. 3above).

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been the cause of twelve miracles that occurred within a month,among them a set of prophecies. Sixtus was predicted to be someonewho would accomplish great things. In a gloomier vein, Ficino andhis conphilosophi who were examining the relics also saw that in thefollowing year there would be war and plague (Opera, p. 813). Theframing of the letter is interesting: Ficino sent the papal prophecythrough a friend, Giovanni Niccolini, the archbishop of Amalfi. Inthe letter Ficino sends to Niccolini introducing the prophecy, he isconscious of the possible risks he might be taking.71 Adumbratingsentiments that he was to advocate eleven years later in the Apologiato De vita, Ficino suggests that 'If this prophecy is read in the state ofmind in which it has been written, it would offend no one at all. Fordivine truth joined with love should not offend anyone.' He goes on:

Therefore before you present this prophecy, take counsel not only withyourself but also particularly with those who are closest to the Pope.So if you think it can be received by everyone with as much goodgrace as there was goodwill in its composition, then let it be read tothe Pope and others. But if not, then keep it to yourself. For if noth-ing can help us, I do not wish anything to do us harm.

Already Ficino is in the difficult zone between political efficaciousnessand liminality that a late ancient model holy man had occupied.

Commenting on the Pythagorean saying 'Nourish the co*ck, butdo not sacrifice him, since he is sacred to the sun and moon', Ficinoexpounds the prophetic powers which he believes the soul possesses.His treatment betrays the fact that in his view it is not altogetherwithin our capacity to access these powers. Sleep and dreams aresometimes necessary. 'There is a certain power of the soul', he writes,'which by a kind of affinity of celestial bodies and spirits is oftensummoned in such a fashion that it may predict the future.' Hegoes on:

Still, it is a recognition which is sometimes so confused and ambigu-ous that one can scarcely say what it predicts. This is the source ofauguries in dreams, of various sorts of visions, of mutations of souls.For sometimes the mind, foreknowing of evil, seems to instill grief, butforeknowledge of good seems to instill a certain happiness.72

71 Epistolarum liber VI, in Opera omnia, p. 816 (Letters, V, pp. 21—22).72 P. O. Kristeller, Supplementum Ficinianum, 2 vols, Florence, 1937; repr. Florence,

1973, II, p. 101: 'Est vis quedarn anirne que cognatione quadam celestium corpo-rum et spirituum sepe ita cietur ut futura presagiat. Est tamen agnitio ilia inter-

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The power is often unconscious, and we can be unaware that wepossess it. However, 'when the spirit is tranquil and removed fromanxious cares and stimuli, which happens to a great extent duringsleep, the spirit thoroughly senses certain movements of relatedcauses'.73 In a 1479 letter to Bernardo Bembo, Ficino reports a mirac-ulous healing dream. Ficino, ill, had prayed to God and to Marywhen Bembo appeared to him in a dream, 'promising . . . an earlyreturn to good health. Waking up', Ficino goes on, 'I was almostwell, and in a short time I recovered completely.'74 We do have totry to purify ourselves and live tranquilly, but prophecy is not entirelyunder our control.75

This lack of control over various psychic phenomena is comple-mented throughout Ficino's work by his neo-Iamblichan apprecia-tion of the use and power of ritual. Ficino performed at least twoexorcisms; in one, to cast out the offending spirit, he writes that heused orationes and sacrae expiationes. But, he tells us, 'men cannot dothese things without God'.76 God has provided the means by which

dum ita confusa atque ambigua ut vix quid presagiat affirmare quis possit. Indesomniorum auguria, inde visionum species, inde animorum mutationes. Nam inter-dum mali mens presaga merorem, boni autem prescientia [presentia cod.] letitiamquandam infundere videtur.' I have translated in accordance with Kristeller's sug-gestion of 'prescientia' for 'presentia' at Supplementum Ficinianum, II, p. 103, n. 2.

73 Ibid.74 Epistolarum liber VI (Latin text is given in Letters, V, p. 139, translated on

p. 33; the text is also in Opera omnia, p. 821): 'Divinam praeterea providentiam nosinvicem devinxisse ex eo potissimum affero quod eo anno quo primum oratorFlorentiam accessisti quarto fere ante accessum mense mihi graviter egrotanti statimpost votum quoddam pro salute Deo divaeque Mariae suppliciter institutum visuses certe turn primum nobis notus in somniis, ante prorsus incognitus, citam pros-peramque valitudinem polliceri. Expergefactus pene sanus brevi prorsus convalui.'

73 Ficino gives notice of an oneiric prophecy made by his mother in a letter toMatteo Corsini, in Epistolarum liber I (Opera omnia, pp. 615-16). There are pieces onRenaissance oneirology, especially as it pertains to Ficino and his relationship tolate antiquity, in Accademia. Revue de la Societe Marsile Ficin, 1 (1999).

76 Opera, pp. 1469-70 (Argument 24 to the Timaeus): Tondera movent, in obscuribushabitant plurimum, inter sordes eiusmodi daemonem hoc anno millesimo quadra-gintesimo nonagesimo tertio, Octobris mense, in vetustissima et caduca et obscuraquadam Galileae familiae domo deprehendi Florentiae duos iam menses domesti-cos infestantem, quern pluribus argumentis esse, quasi brutum Saturniumque iudi-cavi, daemonium mutum spiritumque immundum. lussi igitur post orationes sacrasqueexpiationes, mundari sordibus domum totam, electis odoribus saepe affici, dealbari,illuminari, ornari, ne domus ulterius foret habitaculum immundo spiritui consenta-neum . . .'. The filthy Saturnian demon immediately began to argue because it didnot like the clean and Jovial things it was subject to ('disputavit subito Saturniuset sordidus ille daemon, cui videlicet munda et lovialia displicerent'). Later Ficinocast out another demon from his shoemaker Francesco's house; then he goes on to

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we can operate; we have the freedom to choose to use them, andour reason alone cannot allow us to understand the divine myster-ies. Instead we must purify ourselves to become more like God.77

In De vita, Ficino's approach is conditioned by the lamblichan andpost-Iamblichan concern for manipulating the universe around us byusing rituals and objects that have been divinely placed for our use.At the outset he writes: 'let no man wonder that Soul can be alluredas it were by material forms, since indeed she herself has createdbaits of this kind suitable to herself, to be allured thereby, and shealways and willingly dwells in them.' (De vita, III. 1: pp. 244-45)78

For Ficino the hypostatic Soul makes specific forms and powers per-taining to species of things below, and does this through their respec-tive reasons with the aid of the stars and the celestial forms (De vita,III. 1: pp. 246-47). He fears transcending orthodoxy, even as he obvi-ously recognizes its malleability (De vita, III.8: pp. 280-81): 'Let usby no means ever attempt anything forbidden by holy religion.' Hestresses throughout that he does not affirm any practices contrary tothe faith; but he does not deny their possibility, and he cannot resistjoining ancient testimony of a practice's efficacy to one of these 'non-affirmations'. Some, he writes, himself included, doubt that imageshave celestial power (De vita, III. 15: pp. 320-21); 'were it not thatall antiquity and all astrologers think they have a wonderful power,I would deny it. . .'. 'In order to interpret Plotinus [ad Platinum inter-pretandum]\ he avers (ibid.),

I will then briefly adduce what can be alleged from the opinions ofmagicians and astrologers in favor of images. . . provided I will havewarned you here at the outset that you must not think I approve theuse of images, only recount it. For as for me, I use medicines tem-pered in accordance with the heavens . . .

Ficino is truly 'interpreting', or even 'translating' Plotinus, so thatPlotinus becomes who Ficino needs him to be: not the Plotinus of

say 'Non enini homines haec efficere sine Deo possunt.' Are the orationes sacraequeexpiationes the TE^ETOU of Synesius, which in his translation of Synesius (Opera omnia,p. 1969) Ficino renders as expiationes solennitatesque? See Copenhaver, 'lamblichus,Synesius and the Chaldaean Oracles' (as n. 11 above), p. 447.

77 Epistolarum liber VIII, 'divina mysteria rationibus comprehendi non posse, sedpuritate mentis Deo persimiles denique fieri', in Opera omnia, p. 867.

78 In what follows I give the section numbers of De vita followed by the pagenumbers in the edition (Three Books on Life] of Kaske and Clark. On the cited pas-sage, see Copenhaver, 'lamblichus, Synesius and the Chaldaean Oracles'.

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the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—an island of post-Kantian rationality in a sea of ritualistic late ancient decadence—but rather a priscus theologus in whose work lay buried much of theancient theology's power. A bit later, Ficino writes (De vita, III. 18:pp. 340-41):

It would be unduly curious and perhaps harmful to recite what imagesthey fashioned and how, for the mutual meeting of minds or theiralienation, for bringing felicity or inflicting calamity, either to someindividual, or to a household, or to a city. I do not affirm that suchthings can be done. Astrologers, however, think such things can bedone, and they teach the method, but I dare not tell it. Porphyry inthe book where he sketches the life of his master Plotinus confirmsthat such can be done.

Ficino reads Porphyry and Plotinus through lamblichan eyes, sincePorphyry's point in his life of Plotinus was not to show the efficacyof magic but to show his master's great-souled nature in resistingit.79 Ficino goes on to recount the incident, but his intentions areclear: to draw Plotinus and Porphyry into the orbit of the affirmationof magic, though they would have denigrated it, at least in the philo-sophical life. Later, Ficino discusses the power of images over spiritand spirit over images, as well as the emotional state of the userand operator (De vita, III.20: p. 351). He denies that images havelong-range effects, thinking rather that they affect only the wearerand that what force 'they do have is caused by the material ratherthan the figure, and, as I said, I prefer medicines to images by far.Yet the Arabs and the Egyptians ascribe so much power to statuesand images fashioned by astronomical and magical art that theybelieve the spirits of the stars are enclosed in them . . .'.80

The divine has implanted things we can use in the cosmos, thingsinaccessible to reason, or at least to unaided reason (De vita, III. 12:pp. 298-301):

79 See Porphyry, Vita Plotini, 10; in Ficino's translation Opera, p. 1541.80 Ficino himself is aware of the range of his hermeneutic. See De vita, III.26,

pp. 384-85: 'But lest we digress too long from what we initially started to do, inter-preting Plotinus . . .', and ibid., p. 391: 'lamblichus demonstrates that true and cer-tain prophecy cannot come from such evil daemons, nor is it produced by humanarts or by nature; it is only produced in purified minds by divine inspiration. Butnow let us get back to Hermes, or rather Plotinus . . .'.

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At the same time we do not say that our spirit is prepared for thecelestials only through qualities of things known to the senses, but alsoand much more through certain properties engrafted in things fromthe heavens and hidden from our senses, and hence only with difficultyknown to our reason.81

He recognizes that Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas disagreedabout images. Albert went so far as to describe the images that couldbe used for evil ends, in order to distinguish between what was licitand what was not (De vita, III. 18: pp. 340-43).82 Aquinas attributedthe efficacy of images to deceiving demons; thus Ficino writes (ibid.)'insofar as he [Aquinas] requires it, I give them [images] no creditat all'.83 Yet even here it is worth noting that the age of Aquinaswas the very time when diabolology as a science was being born,with Aquinas himself one of its principal architects. Formal meansof prosecuting heresies had only been around for a very short time,so Aquinas was necessarily very cautious in his affirmations.84 Aquinas'scaution, one can see, is something Ficino accepts, but his acceptanceis not permeated with the same sort of enthusiasm we find in otherparts of De vita.

For Ficino as for lamblichus, the use of various theurgic meansis part of a larger system, one not to be abused for personal advan-

81 Another noteworthy passage along those lines occurs at De vita, III.22, pp.368-69, where Ficino discusses what he means when he says 'celestial goods descendto us.' One way this occurs is 'that the goods of celestial souls partly leap forthinto this our spirit through rays, and from there overflow into our souls and partlycome straight from their souls or from angels into human souls which have beenexposed to them—exposed, I say, not so much by some natural means as by theelection of free will or by affection.' Concluding, he writes: 'In summary, considerthat those who by prayer, by study, by manner of life, and by conduct imitate thebeneficence, action, and order of the celestials, since they are more similar to thegods, receive fuller gifts from them . . .'. Again, the discourse is about making oursoul similar to the divine through will but not about actually having a part of thesoul essentially divine, as in Plotinus.

82 Albert, Speculum astronomiae, ed. by S. Caroti, M. Pereira, and S. Zamponi, Pisa,1977, pp. 32.103-39 and 47.1-21, cited by Kaske and Clark, Three Books on Life,p. 449, n. 28; Thomas Aquinas, Summa contra Gentiles, III. 104-07 (in vols XIII-XVof his Opera omnia, Leonine edition, 47 vols, Rome, 1882-1971), cited by Kaske andClark, p. 450, n. 31; see also their notes 32~34 and the notes to III. 17 at pp.444-46. In general see B. P. Copenhaver, 'Scholastic Philosophy and RenaissanceMagic in the De Vita of Marsilio Ficino', Renaissance Quarterly, 37 (1984), pp. 523-54.

83 See Copenhaver, 'Scholastic Philosophy and Renaissance Magic', and idem,'Renaissance Magic and Neoplatonic Philosophy: Ennead 4, 3-5 in Ficino's De vitacoelitus comparanda', in Marsilio Ficino e il ritomo di Platone. Studi e documenti, ed. byG. C. Garfa*gnini, 2 vols, Florence, 1986, II, pp. 351-69.

84 See J. B. RusseU, Witchcraft in the Middle Ages, Ithaca, NY, 1972, pp. 101-65.

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tage. It is important for the practitioner not to be deceived bymaleficent demons along the way; so the use of images is an espe-cially dangerous and worrisome topic. Ficino's interpretation ofPorphyry on a certain image-related point, makes his motivationclear (De vita, III. 13: pp. 306-07):

Porphyry also in his Letter to Anebo testifies that images are efficacious;and he adds that by certain vapors arising from fumigations properto them, aerial daemons would instantly be insinuated into them.85

lamblichus confirms that in materials which are naturally akin to thethings above and have been both collected from their various placesand compounded at the right time and in the proper manner, youcan receive forces and effects which are not only celestial, but evendaemonic and divine. Proclus and Synesius absolutely agree.

Here Ficino's interest is apparent, so much so that he does not focuson the difference of opinion between Porphyry and lamblichus.Porphyry had granted various theurgic means a certain efficacy buthad ultimately, especially in the Letter to Anebo, denied their worthi-ness for the true philosopher; lamblichus had insisted on their neces-sity, even in the philosophical life, always advising caution and insistingthat lower theurgic techniques be used as preparatory for higherones, whose final goal was henosis—unification with the One. Ficino,however, chooses to emphasize their similarity, reading Porphyrythrough lamblichan eyes.

Later in the De Vita, Ficino goes on:

For lamblichus too says that those who place their trust in imagesalone, caring less about the highest religion and holiness, and whohope for divine gifts from them, are very often deceived in this mat-ter by evil daemons encountering them under the pretense of beinggood divinities. lamblichus does not deny, however, that certain nat-ural goods come to pass from images constructed according to a legit-imate astrological plan.

In fact, continues Ficino, it is safer to trust oneself to the use ofmaterial means, in this case medicine. Images, however, possess powernot because of the figure imposed on them; rather, their efficacy isdue to the natural disposition of the material of which they are

85 On this point see M. J. B. Allen, 'Summoning Plotinus: Ficino, Smoke, andthe Strangled Chickens', in Reconsidering the Renaissance, ed. by M. Di Cesare,Binghamton, NY, 1992, pp. 63-88, now in Allen, Plato's Third Eye: Studies in MarsilioFicino's Metaphysics and its Sources, Aldershot, 1995, art. XIV.

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crafted (De vita, III. 18: pp. 342~43).86 Moreover, 'we ought not rashlyto allow even the shadow of idolatry' (ibid.).

The specter of heterodoxy haunts Ficino throughout the De vita,and it is something he must combat. When he does, two things areapparent: first, the notion that it is possible to discuss these thingsand debate them; this is not a closed system. Second, also apparentare his post-Plotinian tendencies. While vigorously rejecting anythingnot approved by the Church, Ficino employs what is really a toposof humility to defend his notion of life in the cosmos, life given toit by the divine, and, also by divine gift, accessible to us. Ficino tooreflects lamblichus's opening up of the traditional canon. One of hisdefenses concerns the possible charge that he is a priest, one whoshould not be busying himself with medicine and astrology. But itis necessary to note, stresses Ficino, that ancient priests, those of theChaldeans, Persians, and Egyptians, were doctors and astronomers(De vita, Apologia: pp. 396-97). To help effect a sound mind in a soundbody it is necessary to join medicine with the priesthood. Even Christenjoined his disciples to cure the sick and, in Ficino's view, wouldhimself have advocated using herbs and stones to effect cures, ifwords alone were ineffective.

In the case of another hypothetical objection, Ficino states thathe is not advocating magic, just recounting it in his interpretationof Plotinus. 'Nor', he writes,

do I affirm here a single word about profane magic which dependsupon the worship of daemons, but I mention natural magic, which,by natural things, seeks to obtain the services of the celestials for theprosperous health of our bodies. This power, it seems, must be grantedto minds which use it legitimately, as medicine and agriculture arejustly granted, and all the more so as that activity which joins heav-enly things to earthly is more perfect. Neoplatonic Philosophy', andHirai's paper in this volume.87

The magus is like a farmer, practicing an art as natural, patternedand subject to the seasons as that of farming. How could people beso arrogant as to deny life to the heavens? How could people whosee life in even the lowest animals and the vilest grasses not see life

86 For the way the power of images is tied to Ficino's adaptation of the seminalreasons (Xoyov anepjiatiKof) of Plotinus, see Copenhaver, 'Renaissance Magic andNeoplatonic Philosophy'. See also Hirai's paper in this volume.

87 De vita, Apologia, pp. 396-97.

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in heaven and in the world?88 Perhaps the world does not possessa soul, but must we not grant the world at least some sort of life,a life which God, not being greedy, granted to us to use?

In the final analysis, one is struck not by the arrogance of a het-erodox non-conformist but by the humility with which Ficino attemptsto reimagine the world and the place of humankind within it. Hisnon-Plotinian tendencies accord us a certain power in manipulatingthe world even as he recognizes humanity's radical dependence ondivine aid, a dependence which is truly, intimately psychological, andwhich recognizes the melancholy truth that our soul, with all its nat-ural desires to reach the divine, is fated in this life not to do so.

88 De vita, Apologia, pp. 398-99: 'Quidnam agis et tu, strenue Soderine noster?Tolerabisne superstitiosos caecosque nescio quos futures, qui vitam in animalibusvel abiectissimis herbisque vilissimis manifestam vident, in coelo, in mundo, nonvident?'

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Anthony Levi

It is at first sight paradoxical that Ficino should so ostentatiouslyhave claimed the authority of Augustine for a life work which cen-tred on the Christian rehabilitation of the pagan philosophy whichAugustine spurned. The paradox is only apparent. Ficino resolvedit by his resolute Christianization of Plato. He relied partly on thePlotinian interpretation of Plato in Augustine, and partly on Neo-platonist elements derived from elsewhere, strengthening the resultby assertions of the Mosaic and therefore revealed origins of Plato'sdoctrine. He leant on the tradition that Plato had heard the doc-trine of the Pentateuch in Egypt, where it had been transmitted fromMoses and from the original revelation by God to Hermes Trismegistuspassed on through the chain of prisci theologi.

Especially in his later work, Ficino contrived to present what hetook to be the philosophy of Plato as divine in origin and meta-physically as well as morally Christian in content. The questionswhich we have to address are, firstly, why Ficino found it necessaryfor the purposes of what he intended to be a Christian apologeticto turn to Plato, or at least to what we know as Neoplatonism, and,secondly, what inspiration he derived from Augustine. The answersto these questions lead us directly to an understanding of the realnature of the hugely important contribution which Ficino made tothe development of western culture.

By the end of the thirteenth century, the scholastics can be shownalready to have failed in their effort to provide a coherent rationalsubstructure to support revealed doctrine. Ficino was to provideChristianity with an alternative form of doctrinally orthodox moraland mystical theology which also allowed a greatly elevated view ofnatural human potential.

The three most important flaws in scholastic thought, all of which

1 This paper sums up a major part of the argument of my forthcoming book,Renaissance and Reformation: The Intellectual Genesis, New Haven, Conn., 2002.

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must concern us, were by the late thirteenth century built into theterminology itself of scholastic debate. No theology using scholasticcategories could be constructed which would support the Christianreligion inherited from Augustine by the West. In epistemology, thetwelfth century had offered the choice between nominalism, wherebyuniversal ideas existed only as mental categories, and only individ-ual objects existed in the external world, and realism, in which uni-versal ideas, like 'treeness', were compounded with an individualizedexistence in external objects, and were abstracted by the humanmind in the act of knowing.

It was argued that the nominalist position could be shown inevitablyto lead either to tritheism or to a triple incarnation, but that real-ism left cognition and all other human spiritual functions dependenton perception, and therefore on bodily organs which corrupted afterdeath. But Christianity, in this like Islam but unlike Judaism, dependedon the survival after death of the spiritual functions of the individ-ual. Realism therefore seemed in the thirteenth century to compro-mise the immortality of the soul. Only some form of illuminist theoryof knowledge which was not dependent on sense perception, suchas that developed by Bonaventure and derived from Augustine, ap-peared to offer any way of avoiding the nominalist-realist dilemma.

For William of Auvergne, for example, Bishop of Paris from 1228to 1249, the validity of universal ideas derived directly from God'sactions in impressing on our minds our abstract ideas of the sensi-ble world. What for the Arab commentators on Aristotle had beenthe task of the intellectus agens is for William replaced by Augustine'sspecial divine act for each human act of cognition. Every humanact of knowing becomes an individual miracle. Ficino avoided thisconclusion and by-passed the scholastic debate. But it was the threatto the soul's immortality which determined the whole thrust of hisapologetic.

Scholastic theology arose largely from the adoption of a quasi-Aristotelian model to deal with the legacy of Augustine to the Westernchurch. Its principal stronghold was Paris, soon supported by Cologneand Louvain, and it held sway in Spain, England, and south of theAlps. East of the Rhine its hegemony, even in regions such as Bohemiaor the Danube basin, where special circ*mstances prevailed, wasmuch weaker, and its influence is scarcely to be discovered in Greece,or anywhere outside the territory of the Latin rite. Significantly thoseparts of Europe which experienced the Renaissance were virtually

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co-terminous with those dominated by scholastic theology, a furtherfact of importance in assessing the role played by Ficino in the devel-opment of western culture. It was because he was aware that Augus-tine's legacy included the Plotinian metaphysics of the early workswritten at Cassiciacum, and from which Augustine derived the con-voluted proofs of the soul's immortality in De immortalitate animae of387, that Ficino was able to remain faithful to Augustine while repu-diating virtually the totality of what Aristotelian scholasticism haddone with its Augustinian inheritance.

The second and third of the catastrophic flaws in late medievalscholastic theology were even more directly linked to Augustinianthought than had been the epistemological debates. The second comesfrom De trinitate, where, in Books IX to XI, and then in Book XIV,Augustine is casting round for the image of God in human beingsto which Genesis 1:26 refers. After discarding two triads, Augustinesettles on the famous set of intellect, memory and will, for which atIX.9.14 he begins to use the term voluntas. There is no word inGreek for volitive psychic energy directed towards a specific object,but Augustine's reference to a voluntas incorporated that term intothe standard terminology of Christian anthropology. Aquinas in theSumma understands it as a 'faculty' of the soul, but follows the prin-ciple laid down by Aristotle in De anima that the powers of the soulare distinguished by their acts, and their acts by their objects.2

Aquinas allows a real distinction between the soul and its opera-tive faculties, and all the scholastics accept that the object of theintellect is the true, and that of the will, the good. The result of thisdevelopment of the Augustinian isolation of the will as a power ofthe soul was to be devastating. In human beings, scholastic anthro-pology allowed no way of explaining the integration of cognitive andvolitive elements in the act of choice.3 In God the distinction betweendivine reason and divine will immediately raised the problems ofpredestination, urgent before the end of the thirteenth century. Inthe relationship between God and his human creation, it forcedtheologians to debate whether human morality was a function ofthe divine intellect, imposing rules written into the structure of both

2 Augustine's discussion is in De trinitate, from X.I 1.17 to X. 12.19. For Aquinas,see the Summa theologica, Pars la, q.lxxix, art. 1, relying on Aristotle, De anima, II.4,415a, 18-22, and Pars la, q.lxxvii, art. 3.

3 On this question, see J. Lebacqz, Libre arbitre et jugement, Louvain, 1960.

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divine and human natures, or an arbitrary decree of the divine will,making human acts intrinsically indifferent, good or evil only becauseGod decreed them to be so.

The third catastrophic flaw built in to the terminology of latemedieval scholasticism concerns the concept of human nature. Augus-tine had regarded Adam as created with aspirations to fulfilment inthe vision of God. 'Nature' had passed from an elevated state beforesin to a fallen state after it. 'Pure nature', neither elevated nor fallen,had never actually existed. In the context of defining what was'natural' in earthly human experience, what had been lost withoriginal sin, and what required the gratuitous gift of God, it wasnecessary to work out what in actual experience derived from humannature, and what from the intervention of divine grace made possi-ble by the Redemption.4

Aquinas clearly regarded fallen human nature as still endowedwith an aspiration to supernatural fulfilment, but later scholasticsincreasingly, and by the late fifteenth century almost universally,spoke of 'supernature' as something added to pure nature like a tieron a wedding cake. Human nature itself was bereft of any aspira-tion to supernatural fulfilment, and even accepting preferred justificationwas regarded as beyond its capabilities, later, at the end of thesixteenth century, to be called 'semi-Pelagian'. No free human actcould lead to supernatural justification, which had to be the resultof a divine initiative, necessarily irresistible. The irreconcilability offree will with a non-Pelagian theology of justification became inevitable.The only way to make the acceptance of justifying grace compati-ble with human moral acts was to endow redeemed nature itselfwith aspirations to fulfilment in the supernatural order. That meantallowing salvation to 'pagans', a consequence about which Ficinohesitated, but from which in the end he did not shrink.

The derivation of these three irresolvable dilemmas of scholastictheology from Augustine is important for a study of Ficino's role inthe cultural history of the West only because it helps to explain whyFicino built on Augustine's massive authority to subvert what wehave incautiously come to regard as the whole Augustinian theo-logical tradition, inaccurately isolating and misconstruing its anti-Pelagian elements. Ficino was responding to cultural constraints which

4 See Henri de Lubac, Augustinisme et theologie moderne, Paris, 1964.

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went wide and deep in Quattrocento Italy, but part of his skill wasin exploiting the authority of Augustine himself in his reconstitutionof a basis to support the new re-assertions of human dignity, andto repudiate what had come to be regarded as the Augustinian tra-dition of scholastic thought. It is important to notice that, with theexception of the Confessiones of 401, De trinitate of 414, the Enchiridionof 421, and De civitate Dei written between 413 and 425, all of whichconstitute special cases, Ficino quotes only from Augustine's earliestworks, written between 386 and 393.5 He uses Augustine's author-ity wherever he can to refute what we know as Augustinianism.Erasmus was to do much the same, and for similar reasons, nearlyhalf a century later.

It was the theology of Ockham, who died in 1349, which had bythe early fourteenth century led to an emphasis on God's transcen-dence, to the unchristian extent of making his moral order funda-mentally arbitrary. That made even clearer the incompatibility ofscholastic categories with any genuinely Christian spirituality. TheArab glosses on Aristotle, although themselves impregnated withNeoplatonism, had tended to interpret the role of the intellectus agensin the act of knowledge in such a way as to make the survival afterdeath of the individual human soul unintelligible.

Petrarch was the first major figure to realize the implications ofwhat had happened to Christian theology, tentatively to turn hisback on the scholastics, and to address himself to the fundamentalattack on human dignity contained in the Arab glosses on Aristotlewhich compromised the immortality of the soul. Petrarch (1304-74)consciously returned to the spirituality of Augustine, and closelyidentified himself from early in his career with the author of theConfessiones and De civitate Dei. He also sought to revive the moral

3 Raymond Marcel, on whose work this paper much relies, supplies referencesto Augustine in the notes to his edition of the Theologia Platonica de animontm immor-talitate (Theologie platonicienne de I'immortalite des dmes, ed. and tr. by R. Marcel, 3 vols,Paris, 1964-70) and gives in Marsile Ficin (1433-1499), Paris, 1958, p. 645, thesame list of Augustine's works quoted by Ficino as is given by E. Garin and P. O.Kristeller. See the treatments of Augustine's influence on Ficino in E. Garin,'S. Agostino e Marsilio Ficino', Bollettino storico agostiniano, 16 (1940), pp. 41-47;P. O. Kristeller, 'Augustine and the Early Renaissance', in Studies in RenaissanceThought and Letters, 4 vols, Rome, 1956-96, I, pp. 355-72 (reprinted from The Reviewof Religion, 8 (1944), pp. 339-59); and several articles by Alessandra TarabochiaCanavero, esp. 'S. Agostino nella Teologia Platonica di Marsilio Ficino', Rivista di

filosofia neo-scolastica, 70 (1978), pp. 626—46.

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values to be found in pagan antiquity, which were nearer to thoseof the Sermon on the Mount and more liberal than many of thosegoverning medieval justice and ideals of virtue. He thereby inaugu-rated the upheaval in social and personal values which developedinto what we have come to call the Renaissance.

It was in 1456, a century after Petrarch, that, according to Ficino'sletter to Valori of 24 November 1491, Landino had read to CosimoFicino's four now lost books of Institutiones Platonicae. The title invitesus to consider the work in relation to the Institutiones divinae ofLactantius. Moreover the author of the Vita secunda of Ficino assertsthat, since Ficino's Greek was still inadequate for him to read thePlatonic texts in the original, he had to rely for knowledge of 'idogmi Platonici' on Augustine 'and some other Latin Platonists'.6

Not only are Augustine's early philosophical works deeply indebtedto Plotinus,7 but, in the dedication of his translation of De morte ofpseudo-Xenocrates to Piero de' Medici, Ficino mentions that theonly Latin academy of the six established to interpret Plato's thoughtafter his death was that of Plotinus. Ficino's early understanding ofPlato was filtered through an Augustine whose philosophical thoughtwas heavily impregnated with Plotinian ideas.

Between Petrarch's death in 1374 and Ficino's recruitment intoCosimo's service, Florence had seen the appointments and the deathsof the three great chancellors, Salutati, Bruni, and Marsuppini, whohad carried on the work of Petrarch in disinterring and disseminat-ing a series of new liberal and humane personal and social attitudeswhich they derived from authors of pagan antiquity. After the deathof the Aristotelian Marsuppini in 1453, Poggio became chancellor,but the task of promoting the humanizing values was taken over byprofessors at the Studio, Argyropoulus for Greek from 1456, andLandino for rhetoric and poetry in 1458.

The movement reflecting and promoting the new sense of humandignity which was already seeking to put down roots in Plato andAugustine and gradually rendering obsolescent specifically medievalideals of asceticism and the spirituality of sexual suppression was alsobeing furthered by Nicholas V, the pope appointed at the instiga-

6 Marcel, Marsile Fidn, pp. 197-200 and 703. Marcel reprints the Vita by Corsias well as the Vita secunda.

1 See Robert J. O'Connell, Saint Augustine's Early Theory of Man, Cambridge, Mass.,1968, and Saint Augustine's Confessions: The Odyssey of Soul, Cambridge, Mass., 1969.

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tion of the emperor, Frederick III, and by Alfonso of Aragon. Fazio'streatises, De vitae felicitate of 1446 and De excellentia et praestantia hominisof 1450 were dedicated respectively to the emperor and the pope,and it was at Alfonso's request that Manetti, who had discussed inFlorence the salvation of unbaptized infants with Donate Acciaiuoli,composed his work De dignitate et excellentia hominis in 1452. At Florence,Landino himself was going to write the series of dialogues whichincluded De nobilitate animae and De vera nobilitate alongside the DisputationesCamaldulenses.

Cosimo and Landino both reacted to Ficino's Institutiones Platonicaein 1456 by suggesting that he learn Greek to read Plato's text inthe original. In that year Ficino had already copied the commen-tary of Chalcidius on the Timaeus, and by 1457 he had begun towrite his own, as well as a clearly Platonizing De furore divino. Heappears to have come to Plato through Cicero's Tusculan Disputationswhile still studying at the Florentine Studio under the Aristotelian pro-fessor of philosophy and medicine, Nicolo di Jacopo Tignosi, and inspite of the still dominant Aristotelianism of the Studio. Ficino statesin the 1458 Tractatus di Dio e anima8 that the Institutiones, followingHermes and Plato, were partly concerned with the immortality ofthe soul, the cardinal point of Ficino's later apologetic.

In the Theologia Platonica (VII.5, and elsewhere), Ficino relies onboth Augustine's early De immortalitate animae and Plotinus (Enneads,IV. 7) in the context of establishing the soul's immateriality, Plotinus'sessential contribution to early Christian theology. Early Christianapologists had, under Stoic influence, been prepared to accept themateriality of the soul. Augustine's defence of immortality dependedon the immateriality of the soul argued by Plotinus, so that the linkbetween Plato, Plotinus, Augustine, and the soul's immateriality asa foundation for its immortality may have been formed in Ficino'smind at the very beginning of his literary activity. As it later unfolded,it was to reveal itself as the kernel of his thought.

Ficino's initial attraction to Plato coincided with that of Cosimo.In neither did it entail hostility to Aristotle, but it did lead in 1462,two years before Cosimo's death, to the establishment of the Florentineacademy over which Ficino was to preside. The academy was morethan a forum for study, and it is disputed whether membership

8 This text was published by P. O. Kristeller in Supplementum Ficinianum, 2 vols,Florence, 1937, II, p. 146. See Marcel, Marsile Ficin, pp. 200-01.

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demanded commitment to a Platonic fellowship, a life-style whichincluded a dedication to elevated standards of behaviour. It may havegrown out of the handful of select reunions in which discussion rangedmore widely than at the Studio, and tended for preference to explorethe works of Augustine and Plato's dialogues in Bruni's translation.9

By Cosimo's death, Ficino had translated ten of Plato's dialoguesas well as other 'Platonic works'. By 1 April 1466, a letter to Mercatitells us that he was on the twenty-fourth dialogue.10 By the death ofPiero de' Medici in 1469, Ficino appears to have delivered in publiccommentaries on the Philebus and on Plotinus, drawing attention inthe letter sub-titled Philosophia platonica tamquam sacra legenda est in sacristo the special suitability of the locale, the church of S. Maria degliAngeli. Whatever inhibitions Ficino may have felt as the result ofan intervention by his bishop or his father, and whether or not wetake at face value the anti-Platonist fra Zanobi Acciaiuoli's later andhighly suspect assertion that Ficino had on his own admission beensaved from heresy by the injunction of Archbishop Antonino Pierozzi,the future St Antoninus, that he should read Aquinas's Summa con-tra Gentiles before commenting on Plato, it is clear that by the dateof Cosimo's death Ficino had in his own mind reconciled Platonicthought and Christian theology.11

The series of Plato translations continued to be polished and cor-rected, but was otherwise interrupted for more than ten years from1466. During that time, Ficino wrote the most famous of all hisworks, De amore, masquerading as a commentary on Plato's Symposium.,whose full title was Commentarium in Convivium Platonis de amore, thefirst commentary on Philebus, De Christiana religione, and the TJieologiaPlatonica de animorum immortalitate. A speculative reconstruction of whatwent on in his mind has been undertaken by Raymond Marcel inhis biography.

9 Marcel, Marsile Ficin, pp. 281-86. Further views on the nature and develop-ment of the Academy are to be found in Arthur Field, The Origins of the PlatonicAcademy of Florence, Princeton, 1988, and several articles by James Hankins, mostnotably 'The Myth of the Platonic Academy of Florence', Renaissance Quarterly, 44(1991), pp. 429-75. See also Field's contribution in this volume.

10 Ficino was working on the Cratylus, which was actually to count as twenty-third out of thirty-six.

11 On Zanobi's assertion that St Antoninus, a disciple of Giovanni Dominici,author of the Lucula noctis and a severe opponent of pagan authors, cautioned Ficinoagainst Plato and enjoined on him the study of Aquinas's Summa contra Gentiles, seeMarcel, Marsile Ficin, pp. 204-12. Whole sections of the Lucula noctis are incorpo-rated into Antoninus's own Summa moralis.

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It can be said only that it is at least possible that it was at thispoint in Ficino's life that Plato's doctrine of the immateriality of thesoul, as transmitted by Plotinus, came together with Plotinus's teach-ing about the degrees of being to create the apologetic in whichFicino recognized what was to be his life's work. The doctrine ofFicino's early De voluptate had been practically Stoic. The deepeningfamiliarity with Plato had changed Ficino's attitude to human nature,forcing him to bypass the sharp scholastic distinction between natureand supernature in favour of a continuity of human experience,including pagan experience, allowing the ascent from the earthly loveof a human creature to the love constitutive of the beatifying unionwith God.

That doctrine, however tentatively explored in the convoluted con-ventions of the De amore orations, lies at the heart of that work, andallows it to be understood as a foreword to the Theologia Platonica.The Theologia, under the cover of Augustine's authority, sweeps awaythe notion that the immaterial soul was the unique substantial formof the body, a doctrine not defined until 1513 and, although defendedby Aquinas, considered by most medieval scholastics heretically ir-reconcilable with the immortality of the soul. With the constellationof De amore of 1469, the first version of the Philebus commentary,12

the Theologia Platonica, certainly finished by 1474, and De Christianareligione of 1474, Ficino's great themes come together. He had in par-ticular finally solved the problem of establishing the divinity and theimmortality of the soul over which, as he wrote to Bandini, he hadagonized for ten years. He had been able, thanks to Priscian's com-mentary on Theophrastus, to reconcile Aristotle's path to learningwith Plato's guide to beatitude, thereby apparently respecting Aquinasas well as Augustine.13

Ficino had been ordained priest in 1473 in a gesture confirminghis commitment to what he considered his divine mission. He had

12 See Marsilio Ficino, The 'Philebus' Commentary, ed. and tr. by M. J. B. Allen,Berkeley, 1975, pp. 48-56.

13 See the catena of quotations from Ficino in Marcel's introduction to his criti-cal edition of De amore (M. Ficino, Commentaire sur le Banquet de Platon, ed. and R. Marcel, Paris, 1956), pp. 17~20. Cf. Ficino, Opera omnia, 2 vols, continuouslypaginated, Basel, 1576; repr. Turin, 1959 etc., p. 660, for the letter to Bandini; pp.866-67 and 952 for the concordance of Moses and Plato, and Plato and Aristotle;and a letter to Pico and the first chapter of the Timaeus commentary for thedifferences between them, pp. 858 and 1438. See also Monfasani's paper in thisvolume.

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avoided the threefold scholastic impasse. By refusing, like Plato andAugustine, to make human spiritual activity dependent on percep-tion, and by identifying the active and passive intellects of the Arabcommentators on Aristotle, he avoided discussions about the unicityof substantial form in human beings. By making the divine will non-contingent, he made it both natural and free, so avoiding the scholas-tic way of distinguishing the divine intellect from the divine will andthe need to assign any distinction among divine acts or any need todiscuss predestination. By upgrading human natural potential, hecould insist that man's ascent to participation in the life of the divin-ity was the gift of God without either Pelagian implications or anycompromise about human freedom of choice. The corollary of pagansalvation was something he was prepared to accept, even if onlyafter considerable hesitation, and encouraged by Bruni's example.14

It was Plethon, who had died in 1452, the year before the fall ofConstantinople, who developed the view that Platonism was the mostsuitable vehicle for underpinning Christian theology. Piero de' Medicidied on 2 December 1469, and after two days' deliberation therepublic's senior citizens invited his sons, the twenty-one-year oldLorenzo and his younger brother Giuliano, to take charge of thecity. When late in 1469 Ficino received In calumniatorem Platonis, thedefence of Plato by Plethon's former student Cardinal Bessarion, hehad just finished De amore and the Philebus commentary and wasabout to start on the Theologia Platonica.

De amore purports to reproduce speeches modelled on those ofPlato's Symposium and given at a banquet to celebrate the date ofPlato's birth and death. Its heavy stylization betrays its exceedinglytentative views, but its content is radical. It is only probable thatthere was a real banquet in November 1458. The views expressedin the various orations cannot necessarily be regarded as Ficino's,or as belonging to those into whose mouths they are put, or as an

14 See the important article by Raymond Marcel, '"Saint" Socrate, patron dePhumanisme', Revue Internationale de philosophie, 5 (1951), pp. 135-43; also M. J. B.Allen, Synoptic Art: Marsilio Ficino on the History of Platonic Interpretation, Florence, 1998,ch. 4, 'Socrates and the daemonic voice of conscience'. The example of Socratesabove other antique teachers of ethics, made clear in Ficino's letter to Paolo Ferobantientitled Confirmatio Christianorum per Socratica (Opera omnia, p. 868; Allen, Synoptic Art,App. 1), was taken from Bessarion's In calumniatorem Platonis, printed at Rome in1469. In the letter to Braccio Martelli, Concordia Mosis et Platonis (Opera omnia, pp.866-67), Ficino quotes Clement of Alexandria (via Eusebius and Numenius) as say-ing that he recognized Moses in Plato, 'another Moses who spoke Greek'.

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attempt to interpret Plato's text. They add up to nothing less thanthe rehabilitation of elevated forms of human experience, like love,founded in an emotional union between human beings which is notexclusive of physical relationships, as the first step in a continuousexperience which can and should culminate in the ecstatic and beat-ifying love of God.

If the treatises on human dignity countered the gloomy asceticismthat insisted on the miseries of human life and the medieval con-tempt for worldly joys, De amore rapturously undermines the insis-tence of medieval spiritualities on celibacy, insinuating, most particularlyin the final chapters of the sixth 'Oratio', that instinct can be a guideto virtue. Its literary resonance was huge, but Ficino's admirers, evenCastiglione and Leone Ebreo, to say nothing of Colet, did not dareto reaffirm the possibility that physical sexual relationships, even mar-ital, might lead to, or even be compatible with, the love of God. InFrance, for instance, where cultural values became Stoic during thereligious wars, such a view had to wait for the optimism of the earlyseventeenth century, for d'Urfe's L'Astree and for Francois de Sales,who also based on Augustine his radical assertion of a natural instinctto love God.

In De amore., Ficino scarcely mentions Augustine, no doubt relyingalmost uniquely on Plato for the general aspiration of the humansoul to find its fulfilment in divinization. De amore, however, clearlyimplies in pagans the same God-given aspirations as are present inChristians. The background presence of Augustine is, on the otherhand, overwhelming in the Theologia Platonica. That must be due tothe encouragement and the opportunities to shelter behind the weightof Augustine's authority afforded by the recently received In calum-niatorem and its exploitation of Augustine in the interests of a Christianunderstanding of Plato.

Bessarion, violently provoked by George of Trebizond, but with-out losing his respect for Aristotle, took up the defence of Plato asmore compatible with Christianity, without maintaining that Platowas a Christian. Bessarion endorses Augustine's hyperbolic praise ofPlato as 'sanctissimus'. He points out how much Augustine relied onPlato, and refers to Book VIII of De civitate Dei, where Augustinefamously suggested that Plato had become acquainted with theprophetic works of the Old Testament during his journey to Egypt,and had drawn on the opening of Genesis for his account of thecreation in the Timaeus. Bessarion goes further than Augustine, quoting

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Cyril on the studies of Pythagoras and Plato in Egypt, where thename of Moses was still held in veneration.13 Ficino goes further still,ending De Christiana religione with the words 'The Platonists used thedivine illumination of Christians to interpret the divine Plato."6

Ficino can now proclaim that he is relying on the guidance ofAugustine for Platonic theology, a statement he notably makes inthe preface to the TTieologia Platonica, the preface to the Plotinus com-mentary, and in a letter to Giovanni Niccolini, Archbishop of Amalfi,in which he refers to Augustine's statement that there are two waysto truth: authority, to be found in Christ alone, and reason, to befound only in the Platonists.17 Ficino's inspiration was more religiousthan what today we call 'humanist'. He noticed, but was not greatlyexcited by the way in which his 'golden century' had brought backinto the light the 'liberal disciplines', grammar, poetry, oratory, thevisual arts, architecture, music, and 'the ancient chant of the Orphiclyre', and has even mistakenly been seen as a moralist whose spirit-uality links that of St Antoninus to Savonarola's.18

Depending on what view one takes of the Renaissance, and thepart played in it by the cult of classical antiquity, Ficino was eitherits key figure or irrelevant to it. He was concerned with the revivalof interest in ancient languages, literature, literary style, and cultureonly in so far as they helped him to establish the philosophical basisfor Christianity, the primordial assumption for which was the immor-tality of the soul. The survival of the individual after death had beencompromised by the Averroistic and Alexandrian interpretations ofAristotle, as Ficino says in the preface to the Plotinus commentary,but it had also been threatened by the philosophical component ofAristotelian scholasticism, whatever view was held about the unicity

15 See the edition of In calumniatorem Platonis by L. Mohler in the second volumeof his Kardinal Bessarion als TTieologe, Humanist und Staatsmann, 3 vols, Paderborn,1923-42, esp. 1.3.2, pp. 25 and 27, and III.8.2, p. 245.

16 On the variations in the lines of transmission invented to explain the inheri-tance of Mosaic doctrine by Plato, see Marcel, Marsile Ficin, p. 611 ff., and Allen,Synoptic Art, chs 1 and 2.

17 For the deference paid by Ficino to Augustine, see Tarabochia Canavero, 'S.Agostino nella Teologia Platonica', esp. p. 644, and the treatment by Marcel of Ficino'sreliance on Augustine in Marsile Ficin, p. 602 ff. In the letter to Niccolini, accom-panying a copy of the Theologia Platonica (Opera omnia, p. 855), Ficino points out howlittle Augustine thought needed to be changed in the Platonists to make themChristians. For a rather different view, see Allen, Synoptic Art, ch. 2.

18 See the letter to Paul of Middelburg (Opera omnia, p. 944) and Marcel, MarsileFicin, p. 588.

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of substantial form in human beings. Ficino cannot really be under-stood without an appreciation of the philosophically disastrous andtheologically heretical categories adopted from antiquity through Islamby the Parisian scholastics. Once human beings were described interms of soul and body, intellect and will, natural and supernaturalpowers, it was bound to be possible to show how any philosophi-cally coherent theology would lead to heresy, and it was bound tobecome impossible to construct a theology capable of supportingChristian religious commitment and the church's devotional traditions.

The doctrine of the Trinity had been the result of an early accom-modation between Hebrew monotheism and Platonic ideas. In theMiddle Ages it became impossible convincingly to steer Trinitariantheology simultaneously away from the Scylla of tritheism and theCharybdis of a triple incarnation. Immortality became much easierto defend within what we regard as the Neoplatonic tradition. Thattradition could shelter behind the authority of Augustine, but, sinceall human beings shared the same aspirations which were triggeredby human emotional experience to ascend to the beatifying love ofGod, it necessarily implied both the immateriality of the principleof human spiritual activity and the possibility of pagan salvation.

In spite of the Aristotelianism of the thirteenth-century scholasticsand of Nicholas V, Ficino tells us that he believed himself divinelyinspired to present to his contemporaries the philosophies of Platoand Plotinus, themselves beneficiaries of a tradition which was inau-gurated with the beginnings of the human race. The transmission,first recounted by Ficino in the 1463 translation of the Poimandres,comprised Hermes Trismegistus, Orpheus, Aglaophemus, Pythagoras,and Plato's teacher Philolaus. Raymond Marcel counts eleven occur-rences of this list.19 Zoroaster is first mentioned by Ficino in De amore,but actually put at the head of the list before Hermes in the Philebuscommentary, and then again in the Platonic Theology; and there ismore than a suggestion that Ficino recognized the common originof the three great Middle Eastern religions, Judaism, Christianity,and Islam. The geography of their origins strongly suggests a com-mon Zoroastrian ancestry.20

Ficino believes that Hermes Trismegistus started to teach by pray-ing, and ended by sacrifice, and he accepted Plato's view that

Marsile Ficin, p. 603.Allen, Synoptic Art, pp. 26-41.

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Zoroaster's philosophy is nothing but 'sapiens pietas cultusque divi-nus'.21 Ficino follows Augustine in never allowing to the philosophersand spiritual teachers before Christ the fullness of Christian truthwhich Christ first revealed, and is generally careful not to sayoutright that Plato is actually saved, however richly he deserved thestatus of Christian prophet. Indeed, however near Ficino thoughtPlato came to the fullness of Christian truth, and however muchAugustine's conversion to Christianity owes to his reading of Plato,22

Plato did not arrive at the doctrines of the Trinity or the incarna-tion, as Ficino makes clear in his letter to Rondoni, Bishop of Rimini,repeating what he had already written in the Concordia.23 Ficino treatsthe question of the salvation of the pre-Christian theologians in thepreface to the second edition of De Christiana religione and in a letterto Antonio da Sarzana, De salute philosophorum ante Christi adventum(Opera omnia, p. 806). They are clearly not damned, but they cannotmerit the supernatural grace of Christ. Their final salvation is allowedonly when, with the Old Testament prophets, they gain admissionto heaven in the presence of Christ.

The solution is metaphysically unsatisfactory, particularly for athinker like Ficino, who subscribes to a hierarchically separated seriesof levels of being. Any form of limbo, even if it avoids the crassersufferings with which Pseudo-Gregory terrified a millennium ofChristians, causes the frustration of the natural human aspirationsto supernatural beatitude in which hell was considered ultimately toconsist. Yet without its supernatural aspirations, human nature couldneither yearn for nor be fulfilled by divinizing beatitude.

Ficino, although taken by modern commentators to be a theolo-gian in the strict sense, should actually be regarded as an apologistrather than a metaphysician. He found the answers to the centralreligious problem of personal immortality in a Platonic, or more gen-erally Plotinian view of the soul, as Augustine had done. He assumedthe primordiality of the religion of Hermes Trismegistus, as expressed

21 See letter to Antonius Ziliolus Sophronicus, Opera omnia, p. 853, quoted byMarcel, Marsile Ficin, pp. 624-25, and in English translation in The Letters of MarsilioFicino, tr. by members of the Language Department of the School of EconomicScience, 6 vols to date, London, 1975-, VI, pp. 32~34.

22 See De Christiana religione, ch. 22.23 M. J. B. Allen, 'Marsilio Ficino on Plato, the Neoplatonists and the Christian

Doctrine of the Trinity', Renaissance Quarterly, 37 (1984), pp. 555—84, now in hisPlato's Third Eye: Studies in Marsilio Ficino's Metaphysics and its Sources, Aldershot, 1995.

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in what we call the Corpus Hermeticum and he knew as the Poimandres,and the authenticity of the Neoplatonist Corpus Dionysiacum as thework of St Paul's first convert at Athens. He was thereby helped bybeing able to affirm the hom*ogeneity of the Mosaic revelation, theTimaeus, and the world-view of Plotinus.

He eagerly sheltered under the unassailable authority of Augustine,particularly the early Augustine, and found ingenious ways of re-affirming a pre-Christian historical tradition which allowed him toenvisage the authenticity of pagan virtue. He expanded Christianorthodoxy, but was more in danger for his views on astral influencesover human behaviour than for his obvious distaste for the doctrineof original sin. In the end, Ficino's great contribution to the historyof Western culture is the view of human nature's potential tenta-tively implied throughout De amore.

Once the synthesis of the Mosaic revelation, the Timaeus andPlotinus had been achieved, the expansion of Christian orthodoxycould be promoted through the successful importation into Christianapologetic of an upgraded view of human moral and spiritual poten-tial. Instinct might serve as a guide to virtue, and purely humanlove might lead human beings back towards the God who createdthem, loved them, and love of whom would finally fulfil them. If aneed to revalue the moral dignity of human nature lies at the heartof the European Renaissance, Ficino is undoubtedly its greatestphilosopher, the author of a blueprint for a Christian anthropologywhich, in addition to its overwhelming immediate success, wouldcontinue to dominate western European culture for three centuries.

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Clement Salaman

Ficino writes in his book On the Christian Religion'. 'Divine Providencenever allows any part of the world to be completely devoid ofreligion',1 affirming that some knowledge of God and the desire toworship Him were with all peoples and in all places from the verybeginning. He originally thought that sacred knowledge had beenmost fully developed in Egypt where it had been passed down frommaster to disciple as a holy tradition. He writes that Hermes Tris-megistus (Hermes the thrice greatest) was 'the first father of Theology'and was

followed by Orpheus, who occupied the second place in the ancienttheology. Aglaophemus was initiated into the sacred mysteries byOrpheus, to be succeeded in theology by Pythagoras, who in turn wasfollowed by Philolaus, the teacher of our divine Plato.2

Hermes had been identified by the ancient Greeks with the ibis-headed Egyptian god Thoth and is mentioned by classical, earlyJewish and early Christian authors. The most important works attrib-uted to him were the Asclepius and the Poimandres (or Pimander), thelatter a collection of treatises now known as the Corpus Hermeticum.In the Renaissance, the Asclepius was available in the fourth-centuryLatin translation attributed to Apuleius, but the Poimandres, the con-tents of which were known to the third-century Church FatherLactantius, had disappeared.3 Interest in Florence was therefore intensewhen a copy in Greek of fourteen books of this collection was dis-covered around 1460 in Macedonia by Leonardo of Pistoia,4 and

1 Marsilio Ficino, Opera omnia, 2 vols, continuously paginated, Basle, 1576; repr.Turin, 1959 etc., p. 4.

2 Preface to Ficino's Latin translation of Pimander, Opera omnia, p. 1836.3 For references to the Corpus Hermeticum in Lactantius, see Frances Yates, Giordano

Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, Chicago and London, 1964, p. 7.4 Leonardo of Pistoia was a monk who acted as one of many agents employed

by Cosimo de' Medici to collect manuscripts for him. For further discussion of thisMS, see Yates, Giordano Bruno, p. 12, and P. O. Kristeller, Studies in RenaissanceThought and Letters, 4 vols, Rome, 1956^96, I, p. 223.

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acquired by Cosimo de' Medici, who in 1463 had installed the youngMarsilio Ficino in a house near his own villa in Careggi to trans-late all the works of Plato. But now something had appeared thatwas even more important than Plato,5 indeed, was the source, appar-ently, for much of the wisdom of Plato: the supremacy of to agathon(the good), the divinity of the human soul, the power of the word,and much more. Had not Plato, according to Diogenes Laertius,spent five years in Egypt studying this wisdom?6 In 1463 Ficinocompleted the translation of the Poimandres, a title which he gave tothe whole work, although in the original it is the title only of thefirst book. It was to become a major source in Ficino's own writ-ings, for he believed that Hermes was not only the spring of Greekphilosophy but also shared the Egypto-Judaic knowledge of Moses.

According to St Augustine there were two Hermes, the youngera grandson of an earlier Hermes who was a contemporary of Moses.This elder Hermes had become a god and was supposed to havebeen the real author of the Hermetic works, of which the youngerHermes was the translator.7 The second-century BC writer Artapanushad considered Hermes and Moses to be one and the same person;a view which Ficino almost seems to countenance.8 For a time, afterthe publication of Ficino's translation in 1471, Ficino's view of Hermes'sauthority became generally accepted.

By 1469 Ficino had substituted Zoroaster as the first source of the

5 Ficino, preface to his translation of Plotinus, Opera omnia, p. 1537.6 Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, ed. and tr. by R. D. Hicks, 2

vols, London, 1972, III.6 (Life of Plato), I, pp. 281-83.7 Augustine, City of God, VIII.26 and XVIII.8. Although Augustine discusses the

writings of Hermes in some detail, he cautions his reader against Hermes's views.Brian Copenhaver quotes a letter wrongly attributed to Manetho by the ByzantineGeorge Syncellus. The letter is addressed to Ptolemy II Philadelphus (282-229 BC).The quotation concludes, 'I shall present to you the sacred books that I have learntabout, written by your ancestor, Hermes Trismegistus . . .' Syncellus adds, 'This iswhat he says about the translation of the books written by the second Hermes.'See Brian Copenhaver, Hermetica: The Greek 'Corpus Hermeticum' and the Latin 'Asclepius'in a New English Translation, Cambridge, 1992, p. xv.

8 Sebastiano Gentile in Marsilio Ficino e il ritorno di Ermete Trismegisto. Marsilio Ficinoand the Return of Hermes Trismegistus, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana exhibition cat-alogue, Florence, 1999, p. 31. Gentile quotes Ficino, Theologia Platonica, XV. 10, inOpera omnia, p. 400. See also M. J. B. Allen, 'Marsilio Ficino, Hermes Trismegistusand the Corpus Hermeticum'', in New Perspectives on Renaissance Thought. Essays in theHistory of Science, Education and Philosophy in Memory of C. B. Schmitt, ed. by John Henryand Sarah Hutton, London, 1990, pp. 38-47, repr. in idem, Plato's Third Eye,Aldershot, 1995, art. XII.

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philosophic tradition but in a letter of 1485 to Janus Pannonius inHungary, Hermes is apparently accorded equal antiquity and thisprecedence is repeated in Ficino's preface to his Plotinus in 1492.9

But this view of Ficino's was attacked by the Calvinist Isaac Casaubonin the late sixteenth century.10 Mainly by examining the languageused, he showed that the Hermetic texts were composed after thebeginning of the Christian era. The boot was now on the other foot.Instead of Hermes being the source of Plato, it now appeared thatPlato, along with other Greek, Jewish and Christian writings, wasthe source of the Hermetic texts.

In fact, it is now generally agreed that the Greek text of the CorpusHermeticum was written during the first two or three centuries of theChristian era in Alexandria. The views of scholars and editors, bothbefore and after Casaubon, on the provenance of the influences onthe philosophic Hermetic literature are admirably summarized byBrian Copenhaver in the introduction to his translation of the CorpusHermeticum and Asclepius.11 In 1904, Richard Reitzenstein publishedPoimandres: Studien zur griechisch-dgyptischen und fruhchristlichen Literatur, inwhich he maintained that the fundamental religious influence wasEgyptian and that the Hermetica were used as texts in religious com-munities in Egypt. In 1921, Reitzenstein substituted an Iranian foran Egyptian basis for the Hermetica. However, Walter Scott, in hisEnglish edition first published in 1924, reaffirms the fundamentallyGreek origin of the Hermetica, although he rejects Casaubon's asser-tion that there was any significant Christian or Jewish input.12 Scottallows a possible exception in Book XIII of the Corpus, which dealswith the subject of rebirth. Scott's view is that the preponderantinfluence on the Hermetica is Plato, above all in the Timaeus, wherehe presumably has in mind especially the account of Creation in

9 Ficino writes in the preface to his translation of Plotinus, Tactum est, ut piaquaedam philosophia quondam et apud Persas sub Zoroastre et apud Aegyptiossub Mercurio nasceretur', Opera omnia, p. 1537. Michael Allen argues powerfullythat Ficino still intended a primacy for Zoroaster and this is illustrated by the factthat Zoroaster is mentioned first in the passage quoted above; see M. J. B. Allen,Synoptic Art: Marsilio Ficino on the History of Platonic Interpretation, Florence, 1998, pp.26-31.

10 For a brief discussion of Casaubon's work, De rebus sacris et ecclesiasticis exercita-tiones XVI, see Yates, Giordano Bruno, pp. 398-403.

11 Copenhaver, Hermetica, pp. xlv~lix.12 Hermetica, ed. by Walter Scott, 4 vols, Oxford, 1924-36; repr. Boston, 1993,

I, pp. 8~15.

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Book I of the Corpus Hermeticum. He goes so far as to say that theinfluence of Plato 'is manifest in almost every page'.13 Scott also con-sidered that the influence of Plato was felt indirectly through Posidonius,the Stoic philosopher writing between 100 and 50 BC. Stoic influenceon the Corpus through Posidonius is also noticed by Gilles Quispel.14

Although Scott thought that there was very little Egyptian influenceon the content of the Hermetica, 'it may have affected the spirit ortemper of the writers', of whom he thought some, certainly, 'andprobably almost all, [were] Egyptians by race, though Greek byeducation; and there is in some of their writings a fervour andintensity of religious emotion, culminating in a sense of completeunion with God, or absorption in God, such as is hardly to be foundin Greek philosophic writings, until we come down to Plotinus, whowas himself an Egyptian by birth and bringing up'.15 The most com-prehensive critical edition of the Corpus and Asclepius was that pub-lished by A. D. Nock and A.-J. Festugiere in 1945 onwards. In hispreface, Nock broadly echoes the views of Scott on the main sourcesof the Hermetica:

Sauf le cadre, ils contiennent extremement peu d'elements egyptiens.Les idees sont celles de la pensee philosophique grecque populaire,sous une forme tres eclectique, avec ce melange de platonisme, d'aris-totelisme et de stoicisme alors si repandu. Qa et la paraissent des tracesde judai'sme et, probablement aussi, d'une litterature religieuse dont lasource ultime est 1'Iran: par centre, nulle marque evident ni de christ-ianisme ni de neoplatonisme.16

However, in the second part of the twentieth century considerablymore importance has been attributed to other sources for the con-tent of the Hermetica. As Copenhaver mentions, even as early as 1935,C. H. Dodd's work, The Bible and the Greeks, devoted much time tofinding traces of the Septuagint in the Hermetica.11 Much more recently,speaking of the time when the Corpus Hermeticum was written downin Greek, Gilles Quispel writes in his preface to The Way of Hermes:

13 Ibid., pp. 9-10.14 Gilles Quispel, preface to Corpus Hermeticum, tr. by C. Salaman, D. Van Oyen,

W. Wharton in The Way of Hermes, London, 1999, p. 10. All quotations from theCorpus Hermeticum hereafter are taken from this translation.

lD Hermetica, ed. Scott, p. 11.16 Corpus Hermeticum, ed. by A. D. Nock, French tr. by A.-J. Festugiere, 4 vols,

Paris, 1945-54; repr. Paris, 1991, I, p. v.17 Copenhaver, Hermetica, p. vii.

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There existed at that time in Alexandria and Palestine a 'ThroneMysticism' in which the initiated rose through the seven palaces ofHeaven to behold the Kabod, the luminous glory of God in the shapeof a Man. This mysticism was inspired by the vision of Ezekiel I . . .In the Poimandres, God brings forth the Anthropos, Man, who descendsto create and falls into matter. That echoes the main theme of eso-teric Judaism.18

Copenhaver draws attention to the work done since the discoveryof the Nag Hammadi codices in 1945 to 'reassert an Egyptian ances-try' for the Hermetica, and mentions the work of Doresse, Krause,Daumas, Derchain, Sauneron, Ray and Rees. He also gives specialemphasis to the work of J.-P. Mahe.19 Mahe himself points out thatthe Definitions of Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepius, mainly preserved inan Armenian translation, antedate most of the Hermetic philosoph-ical writings and that some of the aphorisms in the Definitions seemto have been known to the author of Poimandres. He considers thatthe Definitions were a collection of spiritual exercises which were laterworked into more literary form in subsequent Hermetic philosoph-ical literature.20 Mahe considered this aphoristic form of spiritualinstruction to be a tradition from Pharaonic Egypt. He writes,

Les traditions scolaires de 1'Egypte pharaonique avaient en effet donnelieu a un genre litteraire tres comparable, celui de la sagesse, collec-tion de brefs enseignements addresses, comme nos sentences herme-tiques, parfois avec 1'ebauche d'un dialogue, par un pere a son fils.21

The main purpose of this article is to identify some concepts inEgyptian sources which reappear in the Corpus Hermeticum and thenagain in the works of Ficino, especially in his correspondence, in hiscommentary on Plato's Symposium (De amore] and in his Three Bookson Life (De vita libri tres}. Such reappearances do not prove a directconnection but they suggest that the author(s) of the Corpus wereaware of at least some of these strands in Egyptian thought, andmore importantly for us here, they do show how much Ficino wasindebted to the Corpus.

Peter Kingsley has drawn attention to the etymology of the title

18 G. Quispel, in TTie Way of Hermes, p. 10.19 Copenhaver, Hermetica, pp. Ivi-lviii.20 Jean-Pierre Mahe, introduction to The Definitions of Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepius,

in The Way of Hermes, pp. 101-06.21 Jean-Pierre Mahe, Hermes en Haute-Egypte: les textes hermetiques de Mag Hammadi et

leurs paralleles grecs et latins, 2 vols, Quebec, 1978-82, II, pp. 38-39.

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of the first book in the Corpus, the Poimandres: p-eime nte-re, which inEgyptian means 'the understanding of Re', that is, of the Supreme.As Kingsley points out, that is exactly how Poimandres, the teacherof Hermes, describes himself in Book I. 'I am the Nous (understanding)of the Supreme.'22 If this is so, we need to ask what concept theEgyptians had of the Supreme. Jeremy Naydler writes in his bookTemple of the Cosmos: 'There can be no question of the ultimatesupremacy of the sun. It is the sun that is the source of life andemblem of the creative spirit that permeates the whole world. Fromthe earliest times hymns were addressed to the sun god Ra.' Naydlerthen quotes from the 18th-Dynasty Short Hymn to Aten:

Splendid you rise, O living sun, eternal Lord!You are radiant, beauteous, mighty,Your love is great, immense.Your rays light up all faces.Your bright hue gives life to hearts,When you fill the two lands with your love.

Mighty God, who created himself,Who made every land, created what is in it,All peoples, herds and flocks,All trees that grow from the soil,They live when you dawn for them,You are mother and father of all you made.

When you dawn, their eyes observe you,As your rays light the whole earth;Every heart acclaims your sight,When you are risen as their lord.23

Spell 15 from The Book of the Dead is in places very similar in tone.It opens with these words:

Hail to you, O Re, at your rising, O Atum-Horakhty!Your beauty is worshipped in my eyes when the sunshine comes

into being over my breast. . .All your foes are overthrown, the Unwearying Stars acclaim you,

the Imperishable Stars worship you when you set in the horizon ofManu, being happy at all times, and living and enduring as my lord.

22 Peter Kingsley, 'Poimandres: The Etymology of the Name and the Origins ofthe Hermetica', Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 56 (1993), pp. 1-24.See also Corpus Hermeticum, 1.2.

23 Jeremy Naydler, Temple of the Cosmos: The Ancient Egyptian Experience of the Sacred,Rochester, Vt, 1995, p. 2.

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Hail to you, O Re, when you rise and Atum when you set. Howbeautiful are your rising and your shining on the back of your motherNut, you having appeared as King of the Gods. The Lower Sky hasgreeted you, Justice embraces you at all times. . . .

The voice goes forth, and the earth is inundated with silence, forthe Sole One came into existence in the sky before the plains and themountains existed. The Herdsman, the Sole Lord, who made what-ever exists, he has fashioned the tongue of the Ennead. O you whotook what is in the waters, you issue thence on to the bank of theLake of Horus. I breathe the air which comes out of your nose . . .24

The author of the first hymn seems to be referring not only to thelight of the visible sun, but to its emanation from Atum, the cre-ative principle, for the sun fills the two lands with his love. The sunin this sense is the

Mighty God, who created Himself,Who made every land, created what is in it.23

This dual nature of the sun is also implied in Spell 15, 'Hail to you,O Re, when you rise and Atum when you set.' It is Re/Atum bywhom the earth is 'inundated with silence'. He is 'the Sole Onewho came into existence in the sky before the plains and mountainsexisted . . .'

In Plato, Socrates gives the visible sun only as an analogy of theintelligible sun.26 But the dual nature of the actual sun appears againmore distinctly in Hermes:

The sun bestows on the immortals their everlasting life and he nour-ishes the eternal regions of the cosmos with the ascending light sentforth from the side that faces heaven; with the descending light thatillumines the entire hollow realm of water, earth and air, he enlivensand sets in motion birth and death.27

This is difficult ground for Ficino to follow in a fifteenth-centuryChristian context, but with suitable disclaimers he comes quite closeto doing so. He ends a letter on The Orphic Comparison of the Sun toGod in these terms:

For this reason, even if we are not prepared to admit the OrphicMystery as true let us at least for now pretend that it is true, so that

The Book of the Dead, tr. by R. D. Faulkner, Warminster, Wilts., 1973, p. 40.See the Short Hymn to Aten above.Plato, Republic, VI, 504o-505A, tr. by Desmond Lee, London, 1955.Corpus Hermeticum, XVI.8.

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by looking up at the celestial Sun in this way we may descry in it,as in a mirror, that super-celestial One who has set His tabernacle inthe Sun.28

In this spiritual aspect, the sun is unique, and this is emphasized inthe spell as the 'Sole One who came into existence in the sky beforethe plains and mountains existed. The Herdsman, the Sole Lord . . .'Echoing this uniqueness, Hermes tells Tat that those who partookin the gift of God regard time spent here as a misfortune. 'Disregardingthe gross and the subtle, they hasten to the One alone.'29 This expres-sion 'to the One alone' was of particular interest to Jan Zandee,who pointed out that a very similar epithet in Egyptian is appliedto Ammon-Re, which translates literally as 'The Only of the OnlyOne'.30 Ficino writes to Amerigo Corsini about this aspect of 'theOne': 'Let us love the Good alone for its own sake, which alone isgood of itself since by its infinite nature and power it is everywhere,it cannot be divided.'31

In the Hymn to Aten the Sun is regarded as having 'made everyland, created what is in it'. In the Spell he has 'made whateverexists'. Yet there is another tradition in Egyptian thought going backto the Middle Kingdom in which the function of creation is not per-formed by the Supreme directly. Coffin Text 714 says: 'I was [thespirit in] the Primeval Waters, he who had no companion when myname came into existence.'32 Another version says,

I am he ... whose speech was what had come forth from his heart,his cycle with Shu was the circling of Command and Intelligence, ask-ing his advice; and Command and Intelligence said to him: 'Come,then, let us go and create the names of this coil according to whathas come forth from his heart.'33

28 The Letters of Marsilio Ficino, tr. by members of the Language Department ofthe School of Economic Science, 6 vols to date, London, 1975—, V, p. 44. In thefinal phrase, Ficino is uniting Hermetic and Christian doctrine by quoting fromPsalm 19:4.

29 Corpus Hermeticum, TV.5.30 Jan Zandee, 'Het Hermetisme en het Oude Egypte', in De Hermetische Gnosis

in de loop der eeuwen, ed. by G. Quispel, Baarn, 1994, pp. 96-174, at p. 126, quotedin The Way of Hermes, p. 83.

31 Letters, VI, p. 51.32 R. T. Rundle Clark, Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt, London, 1959, pp. 74-75.

Coffin Texts 714 and IV, 147 are quoted.33 Ibid. Coffin Text, III, 334j.

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In these texts, the Supreme Spirit latent in the Primeval Waters isdistinguished from his cycle with Shu, the 'circling of Command andIntelligence' which creates the names that bring what is named intodifferentiated existence. The term 'coil' is a reference to the fact thatthe primordial waters are sometimes represented as a serpent.

The separation of the function of creation from the Supreme Godis not part of mainstream Judaeo-Christian theology. However, it isfound in Plato and Plotinus. In Plato's Timaeus the Father leaves thecreation of living things to the Gods.34 In Plotinus 'the Intelligenceproceeds from the Good and the Soul proceeds from the Intelligence';33

but 'the Soul is the author of all living things'.36 In Hermes, the dis-tinction between the Creator and the One is far more pronounced:

I do not therefore say, Tat, that the One creates; for over a long timethe creator is defective, in that sometimes he creates and sometimeshe does not. Sometimes he is defective in quality and at other times inquantity. Sometimes he creates many different things of a particularkind and sometimes their opposite. But God, Father and the SupremeGood are there for the existence of all.37

In his role as creator God possesses the features of both sexes.According to Zandee this aspect of God receives particular emphasisin Egyptian religion.38 Some of the depictions of the Pharaoh Akhenaten(1350—1334 EC), the Son of Aten ('The Supreme'), seem deliberatelyto emphasize the androgynous quality of his 'father'.39 The CorpusHermeticum also is emphatic about this aspect of God. 'Nous, God,being male and female, beginning as life and light, gave birth, bythe word, to another Nous, the creator of the world.'40

Ficino is not able to describe God in this way. However, whenhe resorts to mythology he comes quite close to it. In his De amorehe writes that:

34 Plato, Timaeus, 41.35 Plotinus, Enneads, V.8, tr. by Elmer O'Brien in The Essential Plotinus, Indianapolis,

1964, p. 100.3(i Enneads, V.2, ibid., p. 92.37 Corpus Hermeticum, X.3.38 Papyrus Leiden, I, 344, verso 11,1, cited in Zandee, 'Het Hermetisme', p. 120,

quoted in The Way of Hermes, pp. 83-84.39 For a discussion of Akhenaten's curious shape and his quasi-divine status, see

Peter A. Clayton, Chronicle of the Pharaohs, London, 1994, pp. 120-23.40 Corpus Hermeticum, 1.9.

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Platonists call the supreme God Uranus because just as heaven, thatsublime body, rules over and contains all bodies, so that supreme Godis exalted over all spirits. But the mind they call by several names.For they sometimes call it Saturn, sometimes Jupiter, sometimes Venus...Its being they were accustomed to call Saturn; its life, Jupiter; its intel-ligence, Venus. The World Soul also we call, in the same way, Saturn,Jupiter and Venus: insofar as it understands the celestial things, Saturn;insofar as it moves the heavenly things, Jupiter; insofar as it procre-ates lower things, Venus . . .

Finally, to speak briefly, Venus is twofold. One is certainly that intel-ligence which we have located in the Angelic Mind. The other is thepower of procreation attributed to the World Soul. . . The formerVenus first embraces the splendor of divinity (Uranus) in herself; thenshe transfers it to the second Venus. The latter Venus transfers sparksof that splendor into the Matter of the World.41

Before creation can begin, the first Venus (the intelligence in theAngelic Mind) has to embrace Uranus (the Supreme God) in herself.Thus the male and female principles come or rather are together inthe Angelic Mind before movement and life can be imparted to theCosmos, in other words, before creation can start.

Although in other passages of De amore Ficino seems to empha-size the orthodox Catholic view that God creates every part of hiscreation, the passage quoted above does seem to introduce anotherway of looking at this cosmogenesis. For the first Venus has to takethe active step of embracing the splendour of divinity in herself, thenshe has to transfer it to the second Venus, which is 'the power ofprocreation in the world soul'. This apparently refers to the pro-creation of beauty since the second Venus then transfers 'sparks ofthat splendour' into the 'matter of the world'. But there are somedifficulties in postulating the transference of beauty as distinct fromthe creation of form. It may be that Ficino meant that God's pres-ence was an essential prerequisite for each step in creation but thatcreation took place by virtue of the presence of the ideal forms (anaspect of the Angelic World) at each step.

If God the Creator is the Universal Mind in which all things arebrought into being, God is also the Universal Soul which inspiresall living creatures with breath and life. This power is especially asso-

41 Ficino, Commentary on Plato's Symposium on Love, tr. by Sears Jayne, 2nd edn,Dallas, Tex., 1985, pp. 53-54. See M. J. B. Allen, The Platonism of Marsilio Ficino:A Study of his 'Phaedrus' Commentary, its Sources and Genesis, Berkeley etc., 1984, ch. 5,esp. pp. 115-21, 130-32.

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elated with the sun. The Hymn to Aten reads, 'All peoples, herds andflocks, All trees that grow from the soil, They live when you dawnfor them'. 'I breathe the air which comes out of your nose', saysSpell 15. In De vita Ficino says that 'the World Soul which is activeeverywhere, unfolds in every place its power of universal life prin-cipally through the sun'.42 The word anima in Latin signifies breathas well as soul.43 Hermes states that 'when the soul returns to itself,the breath withdraws into the blood and the soul into the breath'.44

He again connects the sun with the soul and breath in Book XVIwhere he likens the sun to a charioteer: 'wearing the Cosmos asa crown he sits at the centre. Like a skilled driver he safely guidesthe chariot of the cosmos, binding the reins to himself, so that itdoes not run amok. His reins are life, soul, breath, immortality andgeneration.'45

The One includes both the manifest and the unmanifest. God isunmanifest, but so also are the first mysterious steps of the creativeprocess. For the enlightened man the unmanifest is manifest. Hermessays to Tat, 'Understand that what appears unmanifest to many willbecome most evident to you, for it would not exist if it were notmanifest to you.' He goes on to say,

The unmanifest exists always. It does not need to appear for it existsalways and it makes everything else manifest. . . It brings all imagesto the mind in imagination. Things that are begotten belong only toimagination. For imagination is nothing but begetting.46

The connections between these passages and Neoplatonic teachingare clear. We have already seen that it is the Angelic Mind (theNous in Plotinus) in which the archetypes or ideas of everything arecreated, though they themselves are unmanifest. Socrates and Ficinoinsist that sensory objects in the material world are but shadows orreflections of these archetypes, which alone are real. In a letter toAntonio Canigiani on music Ficino describes the steps by whichmusic becomes fully manifest:

42 Marsilio Ficino, Three Books of Life (De Vita), ed. and tr. by Carol V. Kaskeand John R. Clark, Binghamton, NY, 1989, pp. 246-47. See also Ficino, The Bookof Life, tr. by Charles Boer, Dallas, Tex., 1980, p. 89.

43 Lewis and Short, A Latin Dictionary, Oxford, 1969, p. 123.44 Corpus Hermeticum, X. 16.45 Ibid., XVI.7.46 Ibid., V.I.

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The first music takes place in reason, the second in fantasy, the thirdin words; thence follows song and after that the movement of thefingers in sound; lastly the movement of the whole body in gymnasticsor dancing. Thus we may see that the music of the soul is led by stepsto all the limbs of the body.47

The Egyptians too had some conception of an Unmanifest fromwhich the manifest arises. Erik Iversen quotes the Papyrus BremmenRhind, where Re is described as being in the primeval ocean 'beforethe existence of heaven and earth' and 'before he had found a fixedplace to stand' (i.e., for the act of creation). 'Numerous beings issuedfrom his mouth' and he 'joined them in a state of inertia'.48 JanZandee has noted that the sun god Ammon-Re remains hiddenbehind his physical appearance.49 A New Kingdom (second millen-nium BC) hymn to the sun reads, 'Thou art higher than gods andmen, thou shinest before us, but we do not know thy image. Thoushowest thy face, but we do not know thy real being.' A number ofother pertinent references to Egyptian concepts of the Unmanifestare given by Jeremy Naydler.50

The beauty of the manifest is a direct link to the Unmanifest andattracts the individual back to God, source of all beauty. Both theHymn to Aten and Spell 15 draw attention to this. The Hymn says tothe Sun, 'As your rays light the whole earth; Every heart acclaimsyour sight.' The spell proclaims, 'Your beauty is worshipped in myeyes when the sunshine comes into being over my breast.' Hermesadvocates the contemplation of the physical beauty of the cosmos asa means of coming to apprehend the unmanifest beauty of the divine.He exclaims:

O that you could grow wings and fly up into the air, and that, poisedbetween earth and heaven, you might see the firmness of earth, theliquidity of the sea, the course of the rivers and the free flow of the air,the piercing fire, the revolution of the stars, the swiftness of the heavenlymovement encircling all these things. What most blessed vision, O son,to behold all that in one moment; the unmoving being moved, theunmanifest being made manifest through what it creates! This is thevery order of the universe and this is the beauty of the order.51

47 Letters, I, p. 143.48 Erik Iversen, Egyptian and Hermetic Doctrine, Copenhagen, 1984, p. 17.49 Papyrus Berlin 3050, VIII, I, cited in Zandee, 'Het Hermetisme', p. 131, and

quoted in The Way of Hermes, p. 82.50 Naydler, Temple of the Cosmos, pp. 24—39.51 Corpus Hermeticum, V.5.

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The sparks of beauty in the material world serve to remind the humanbeing of his own origin. Ficino writes in a letter to Pellegrino degliAgH,

But we do indeed perceive the reflection of divine beauty with oureyes and mark the resonance of divine harmony with our ears—thosebodily senses which Plato considers the most perceptive of all. Thuswhen the soul has received through the physical senses those imageswhich are within material objects, we remember what we knew before,when we existed outside the prison of the body.

In the next paragraph he continues that those who 'first see formand grace in anyone' should 'rejoice, as at the reflection of divinebeauty', for 'it is by a burning desire for this beauty that they maybe drawn to the heavens'.02

The virtues of the higher worlds could also be summoned to operatein the lower. In Egypt the powers of the god Osiris were in a sensewithdrawn into the unmanifest with his departure from the earth.But these powers were made manifest again through the 'openingof his mouth' by his son Horus. Osiris once more became 'alive'and 'could send out his soul' for the good of Egypt. The 'openingof the mouth' either of a statue or of a mummy became part ofregular funerary practice for the rich by which the heir establishedhis claim to the inheritance of the deceased, and in some way restoredhis living presence and his powers to earth.53

The importance of worshipping living statues and the powers whichthey exercise are dealt with in the Asclepius.54 But the subject is alsotouched on in the Corpus Hermeticum. Tat tells the king

The bodiless are reflected in bodies, and bodies in the bodiless, thatis to say, the physical world is reflected in the mental and the men-tal in the physical. That is why you should worship the statues, becausethey contain the forms of the mind of the cosmos.55

Worship of pagan statues was clearly not an occupation which aChristian priest could pursue in the fifteenth century, or indeed atany time. But practices which Ficino recommends in De vita for safe-guarding health and prolonging life are based on a similar principle:

52 Letters, I, pp. 44-45.53 See Rundle Clark, Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt, p. 122, and A. J. Spencer,

Death in Ancient Egypt, Harmondsworth, 1982, pp. 52^54.54 Copenhaver, Hermetica, pp. 80-81.)5 Corpus Hermeticum, XVII.

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the attraction of divine powers into objects or substances with whichthose powers are associated, with a view to obtaining a physicalresult. In Book III, Ficino quotes with apparent approval variousancient authors who recommended these practices.

Ptolemy said in the Centiloquium that the images of things here beloware subject to the celestial images and that the ancient wise men usedto manufacture certain images, when the planets were entering simi-lar faces of the heavens, the faces being as it were exemplars of thingsbelow.

Then Ficino proceeds to quote Hermes himself, 'Trismegistus says theEgyptians also used to make such images of specific cosmic materialsand used to insert into them at the right time the souls of daemonsand the soul of his ancestor Mercury.'56

A little later Ficino gives his own advice, having already estab-lished such authoritative precedents:

If you obtain these Phoebean stones which we have been talking about,you will have no need to impress images on them. You should hangthem, encased in gold, around your neck, on a yellow silk cord, whenthe Sun passes through Aries or Leo and is ascendant, or when it ismid-sky and facing the Moon.57

The use of the right words to effect the operation of divine powersin a lower realm was important. The mere utterance of these couldproduce the desired result. This perhaps distinguishes a spell froma prayer which asks a boon from a god. A spell may take the formof a command or simply a statement of fact. There are many exam-ples of both in the Book of the Dead. J. P. Serensen has examined anumber of New Kingdom papyri in which a hymn recited by thedeparting soul seems to cause the event of which the hymn sings.He writes, for example, of the Hymn of Khonsu-renep (c. 1085-945 BC),which is addressed to Re-Harakhty as the Sun, 'O Thou shiningone in the sky, who illumine the Two Lands. . .' Serensen contin-ues by saying that the scene shown in the papyrus depicting therising sun and Re-Harakhty in his boat illustrates or reproducesKhonsu-renep's hymn. Serensen concludes, 'the hymn is instrumen-

De vita, III. 13, tr. Kaske and Clark, pp. 304-307.De vita, III. 15, tr. Boer, p. 132, and Kaske and Clark, p. 315.

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tal in making the sun rise; in a certain sense we might therefore saythat the sunrise shown is produced or caused by the hymn'.08

There are passages in the Corpus Hermeticum which seem to involvethe same principle. In Book 13 Hermes appears to be testing thestrength of his disciple Tat's desire for 'rebirth'. Tat is dissatisfiedwith the first responses Hermes gives to his question as to how rebirthis bestowed. Finally Hermes says 'Withdraw into yourself and it shallcome. Will and it is so. Make idle the senses of the body and thespirit will be born. Cleanse yourself from the torments of the mate-rial world which arise from lack of reason.' Tat replies that he isunaware that he has tormentors, whereupon Hermes mentions twelvevices: ignorance, intemperance, lust, etc. After this he continues 'Bestill, O son, and keep silence; thus God's mercy for us shall notcease. Rejoice now, O son, being thoroughly cleansed by the pow-ers of God, you are thus united with the Word. Knowledge of Godhas come to us, and therefore ignorance has been banished.' Thenhe summons the ten opposing 'powers of God' upon which the vices'all fly off with a great rush of wings'. Finally Tat exclaims, 'O father,I see the All and I see myself in Nous.' He has been reborn. Thishas come about owing to the expulsion of the twelve tormentors bythe ten 'powers of God'. But Tat was not even aware that he hadthese tormentors. Thus the immediate cause of his rebirth was thewords just recited by Hermes.59

There are curious echoes of this style in Ficino. One such occursin a letter which he addresses to Pope Sixtus IV after the latter hadattacked Florence with his armies in alliance with King Ferrante ofNaples. Ficino writes that the dire events now battering the 'ChristianShip' are taking place:

so that Sixtus, like Neptune rising in the midst of the storm with thetrident of power, wisdom and benevolence, may soothe angry Aeolus,still the raging winds, calm the tumultuous sea and govern by divinevirtue.

Soon it all begins to happen. Ficino writes:

58 J. P. Serensen, 'Ancient Egyptian Religious Thought and the XVIth HermeticTractate', in The Religion of the Ancient Egyptians: Cognitive Structures and Popular Expressions,ed. by Gertie Englund, Uppsala, 1989, pp. 41-57, at pp. 49-50.

59 Corpus Hermeticum, XIII. 7-13.

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Now, everyone, hear! Hear the gracious voice of our shepherd.Look more closely at his joyful countenance which brings all things

to peace by its blessing. Surely you see it? Even now he is openinghis mouth to cry out to his flock, with his Lord: 'Peace be with youmy children . . . Be not afraid: I am no wolf, but a guardian, no hirelingbut a shepherd.'60

This could be read as a lively piece of irony, but on a more profoundlevel Ficino is envisaging that the Pope's attitude to Florence is actu-ally changing as he reads the words of his letter. The emphasis isless on the appeal to reason than on the statement of fact.

In invoking the divine powers, Ficino attaches great importanceto music, and in particular to finding the correct mode for eachpower. In De vita he writes 'It would be an extremely difficult taskto decide which tones go with which stars, or which composition oftones goes with which stars and agrees with which aspects.'61 Laterhe writes 'We divide up this vast harmony of higher things intoseven grades of things: images that are harmonically constituted,medicines tempered with a certain consonance, vapours and odoursthat are made with similar concinnity, and musical songs and sounds.'62

In the Corpus, Poimandres gives an account of how a man findshis way back to God. He 'starts to rise up through the harmony ofthe cosmos'. Poimandres then explains how he rises up through eachof the seven planes. 'Then stripped of the activities of the Cosmos,he enters the substance of the eighth plane with his own power andhe sings praises to the Father with those who are present.'63 Theimplication is that each of the planes is associated with a particularactivity and has a particular 'music' associated with it.

Gilles Quispel has pointed out connections between Egyptian tem-ple music and the Corpus. He quotes Demetrius of Alexandria (firstcentury AD): 'When the priests of Egypt sing their hymns to praisetheir gods, they utter the seven vowels in the prescribed order, thesound of these seven vowels is so beautiful that people prefer it toflute or lyre.' Quispel continues, 'The seven vowels correspond tothe seven notes of the octave, which were related to the seven plan-

Letters, V, pp. 16-17.De vita, 111.21, tr. Boer, p. 160, and Kaske and Clark, p. 357.Ibid., 111.22, tr. Boer, p. 164, and Kaske and Clark, p. 363.Corpus Hermeticum, 1.25—26.

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ets.'64The prime object of hymns is praise, and hymns of praise seemto have a special function in the Hermetic system. They seem tolead directly to the 'second birth', that moment of gnosis, the imme-diate realization of the reality of spirit: that is, of man's divine andunlimited nature, his identity with God.

In Book 5, Hermes begins a hymn of praise to God:

How can you be praised to others or to yourself? And where shall Ilook to praise you: above, below, inside or outside? For you there isno direction, no place, nor any other being. All is within you, allcomes from you. You give everything and take nothing. For you haveeverything and there is nothing you do not have. When shall I singyour praises? For it is not possible to find your hour or your season.For what shall I praise you? For what you have created or what youhave not created? For what you have revealed or for what you havehidden? And why shall I praise you? Because you are of my ownnature? Because you have what is your own? Because you are other?But you are whatever I am; you are whatever I do; you are whateverI speak. You are all things and there is nothing else.65

The most striking feature of this passage is the recognition by Hermesof his absolute identity with God. It almost seems to take place ashe is singing the hymn.

At the end of the thirteenth book of the Corpus, when Tat isreborn, he explains to Hermes, 'O Father, I see the All and I seemyself in Nous.' Hermes replies, 'This is rebirth, O son, no longerto picture oneself with regard to the three-dimensional body.' ThenTat tells Hermes that he wishes to hear the hymn of praise 'whichwas there to be heard from the powers, on my birth into the eighthsphere'. Hermes then sings The Secret Hymn to him, after which Tatexpresses the wish to sing his own hymn of praise, which is granted.66

Thus hymns of praise are to be sung even after realization of thedivine nature.

In the papyri of the Egyptian New Kingdom, praise, followed bya statement of the divinity of him who is offering the praise, is notuncommon. For examples Spell 8 in the Book of the Dead (c. 1250BC) reads:

M Asclepius, ed. and tr. by Gilles Quispel, Amsterdam, 1996, quoted in The Wayof Hermes, p. 84. Cf. Ficino, The 'Philebus' Commentary, ed. and tr. by M. J. B. Allen,Berkeley etc., 1975, pp. 270-72.

63 Corpus Hermeticum, V.I0—11.66 Ibid., XIII. 13-22.

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Hermopolis is opened and my head is sealed: O Thoth, the eye ofHorus is unblemished, the eye of Horus saves me and splendid aremy ornaments from the brow of Re, father of the gods; I am thisOsiris here in the west. Osiris knows his day and if he does not existin it, I will not exist in it. I am Re who is with the gods and I willnot perish; stand up, Horus, that I may number you among the gods.67

It is significant that Ficino's long epistle to Bernardo Bembo in Book

I of the Letters, is entided Oratorical, moral, dialectical and theological

praise of philosophy. It is a letter of praise and the praise of Philosophy

culminates when through Philosophy the individual arrives at union

with God. Ficino writes:

At length, what is more wonderful than words can tell. . . [the soul]soars beyond the vault of heaven to the creator of heaven and earthHimself. There through the gift of Philosophy, not only is the soulfilled with happiness, but since in a sense it becomes God, it alsobecomes that very happiness.

The letter ends in the Hermetic tradition with a hymn of ecstaticpraise.

O most wonderful intelligence of the heavenly architect! O eternal wis-dom born only from the head of highest Jove! O infinite truth andgoodness of creation, sole queen of the Universe! O true and bounti-ful light of intelligence! O healing warmth of the will! O generousflame of our heart! Illumine us, we beg, shed your light on us andfire us, so that we inwardly blaze with the love of your light, that isof truth and wisdom.68

A note of ecstatic praise with a simultaneous realization of unity is

also given in Ficino's Theological dialogue between God and the Soul.

My God has come to me, the God of the universe has embraced me.The God of Gods even now enters my inmost being. Now indeed Godhimself nourishes me wholly, and he who created me recreates me.He who brought forth the soul, transforms it into angel, turns it intoGod. How shall I give thanks to you, O grace of graces?69

In Hermes the realization of this divine state was the supreme goal

of human life. In Book IV, those who have raised themselves andseen the Supreme Good and realized it in themselves 'regard time

67 The Book of the Dead, tr. Faulkner, p. 36.68 Letters, I, pp. 190-91.69 Ibid., I, p. 39.

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spent here as a misfortune. Disregarding the gross and subtle theyhasten to the One alone.'70 Earlier in the Corpus, Poimandres tellsHermes, 'This is the end, the Supreme Good, for those who havehad the higher knowledge: to become God.'71 Francois Daumas con-sidered that the ancient Egyptian sages held a similar view. He writes,'This remedy of immortality, which Diodorus said had been foundby Isis, the sages of Egypt had known for a long time to consist inacquiring the divine state.'72

Having realized the truth about his nature it is the duty of the wiseto teach others, and to propagate 'children'. 'Children' in this con-text, of course, means disciples who will attain wisdom themselves.This is the meaning of the last paragraph in Book II of the Corpus,where Hermes states, 'The Father's nature is to create. Therefore,the raising of children is held in the greatest esteem in life and mostblessed by right-thinking people.'73 When Hermes himself becomesillumined in Book 1, Poimandres says to him, 'Why do you delay?Should you not, having received all, become the guide to those whoare worthy, so that the human race may be saved by God throughyou?'74 Daumas quotes a passage from the tomb of Petosiris atHermopolis which indicates that Petosiris continues to instruct, evenafter death!

Whoever comes to this mountain and sees this tomb I will see thatyou are instructed in the wishes of God. I will guide you towards theway of life . . . If you listen to my words and apply yourself to them,you will prove their usefulness. The road of him who is faithful toGod is a good one.75

Ficino in his letter to Lorenzo Lippi also encourages teachers to givespiritual instruction:

What you have freely learned from God, the master of all truth, freelyteach. It is utterly wrong that knowledge, which is by nature free,should bear a price. All praise to him who has learned without reserve

70 Corpus Hermeticum, IV.5 (also quoted at note 29 above).71 Ibid., 1.26.72 Frangois Daumas, 'Le fonds egyptien de I'hermetisme', in Gnosticisms et monde

hellenistique: Actes du collogue de Louvain-la-Neuve (11~14 mars 1980), ed. by J. Ries,Louvain-la-Neuve, 1982, pp. 3-25, at p. 14.

73 Corpus Hermeticum, 11.17.74 Ibid., 1.26./D Daumas, 'Le fonds egyptien', p. 17.

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and who teaches without jealousy . . . We may count our pupils as ourspiritual sons. And if fathers beget bodily children with pleasure, whyshould not teachers beget spiritual offspring with joy?76

By the second and third centuries AD, when the Greek texts of theHermetica were written down in Alexandria, Egypt had long been acentre for many peoples and races. Garth Fowden considers that ingeneral people from these different nations within Egypt did not atfirst mingle very much culturally and socially. But by the beginningof the Christian era, especially in those areas intensively settled byGreeks, such as Alexandria, a mixed race had come into existence.77

Here the schools which grew up reflected and fused teachings fromdifferent traditions. The possible influences of Platonic, Stoic, Jewish,Egyptian and Iranian sources on the Corpus has already been referredto. The purpose of this paper has been to focus on some Egyptianparallels without postulating any unmediated debts or connections.The connection between the Corpus and Ficino, however, is less opento doubt. That both he and his patron Cosimo regarded the workas of supreme importance is witnessed by the fact that at Cosimo'sbehest Ficino suspended his work on Plato to undertake and com-plete the translation of the Corpus. At this stage Ficino regardedHermes as the original priscus theologus, and he continued throughouthis life to hold him in high regard. He refers to him on many occa-sions with obvious approbation.

The main concepts which seem to have counterparts in ancientEgyptian thought which have been discussed here may thus be sum-marized briefly. First there is the paramount concept of the Oneitself which nourishes the whole Cosmos and mysteriously is every-thing within the cosmos while not departing from its unity. This'One' is likened to the Sun, which has two aspects: it is the bestowerof physical life on the one hand and on the other it is the outwardform of the supreme power. As the Creator it contains the proper-ties of both sexes within itself. As the Supreme, having given birthto the first Intelligence, which like the Supreme is unmanifest, it thenassigns the creation of lower beings to that Intelligence.

There are many connections also with regard to the relationshipbetween man and God. In the first place divine powers may be

76 Letters, I, p. 164.11 Garth Fowden, The Egyptian Hermes, rev. edn, Princeton, 1993, pp. 17-18.

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attracted into particular objects or materials and used for humanpurposes. But above all, the true nature of man is divine and throughwisdom and purity of living he has the possibility of rediscoveringhis divine nature and eventually merging with God. Moved by thebeauty of the creation, he may approach Him through love andfinally unite with Him in praise. Such is his supreme goal.

Up to the middle of the twentieth century it appeared that IsaacCasaubon had done an extremely successful job in burning downthe Egyptian edifice upon which Ficino's Hermes stood. But like thephoenix to which Ficino sometimes refers, his ancient theology hasin some respects risen from its own ashes. The substantial influencesupon the Corpus of other, non-Egyptian sources have been discussedand acknowledged earlier in this paper, yet from the further evi-dence adduced by scholars in recent years it would seem that Ficino'sinsistence upon the existence of a prisca theologia going back into theremote Egyptian past may not have been so totally wide of the mark.

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Moshe Idel

1. Unilinear and Multilinear Theories of Prisca Theologia

Those aspects of Renaissance thought which constitute 'occult phi-losophy' operated with two basic forms of religious lore both claim-ing, or at least attributed to, hoary antiquity: the Greek and Hellenisticcorpora translated by Marsilio Ficino into Latin, and the Kabbalisticl*terature, studied in Hebrew or in Latin translation. This double,coincident and sudden encounter invited the emergence of strategiesof validation and legitimation to appropriate them in an intellectualand religious atmosphere dominated by Christian dogmatics. Indeed,Christian intellectuals in the West encountered, for the first time,fully-fledged treatises which included doctrines that proposed Platonismand the various versions of Neoplatonism not only as authoritativephilosophical sources but also as transmitters of religious doctrines,which were expounded in an esoteric manner. This theory is knownas prisca theologia. In the last generation scholarship has paid dueattention to this theory in the Christian Renaissance, contributingseminal studies to the topic.1

1 See D. P. Walker, The Ancient Theology, London, 1972; Charles Schmitt, 'PerennialPhilosophy from Agostino Steuco to Leibniz', Journal of the History of Ideas, 27 (1966),pp. 505^32; idem, '"Prisca Theologia" e "Philosophia Perennis": Due temi delRinascimento italiano e loro fortuna', in // pensiero italiano del Rinascimento e il temponostro, ed. by G. Tarugi, Florence, 1970, pp. 211-36; Paul O. Kristeller, RenaissanceThought and its Sources, ed. by Michael Mooney, New York, 1979, pp. 196-210;Charles Trinkaus, In Our Image and Likeness. Humanity and Divinity in Italian HumanistThought, 2 vols, Chicago and London, 1970; repr. Notre Dame, Ind., 1995, II, pp.726-42, 754-56; James Hankins, Plato in the Italian Renaissance, 2 vols, continuouslypaginated, Leiden etc., 1990, pp. 459-63; Chaim Wirszubski, Pico della Mirandola'sEncounter with Jewish Mysticism, Cambridge, Mass., etc., 1989, p. 198, n. 41; MichaelJ. B. Allen, Synoptic Art: Marsilio Ficino on the History of Platonic Interpretation, Florence,1998, pp. 1-49; liana Klutstein, Marsilio Ficino et la theologie ancienne: Oracles chal-daiques, Hymnes orphiques, Hymnes de Proclus, Florence, 1987; Brigitte Tambrun, 'MarsileFicin et le Commentaire de Plethon sur les Oracles chaldaiques1', Accademia. Revue de laSociete Marsile Ficin, 1 (1999), pp. 9-48.

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Ficino's contribution to this theological strategy was decisive, andmuch of what happened after his translations and commentaries wasthe reiteration of his ideas about chains of transmission of the ancientlore. In the following essay, an attempt will be made to accentuatesome aspects of Ficino's historiography of knowledge which have notyet been highlighted. The brief discussions of the Jewish materialwill not only add points of comparison but, in the case of Ficino,may throw light on nuances in his fluctuating view of prisca theologia,which was also shaped by his debate with Judaism.2 In any case, itis clear from some of the discussions below, as well as some thatcannot be addressed in this framework, that Kabbalistic contents,some of which are not to be found in other forms of Judaism, helpedin the adoption and adaptation by some Jewish intellectuals of themesthat permeate the corpus translated by Ficino. I would say that theprivileged status enjoyed by Kabbalah, conceived of as an ancientJewish mystical theology, in Ficino's circle should be taken into con-sideration when dealing with his views of prisca theologia, as is thecase with other Renaissance instances, most remarkably Leone Ebreo'sDialoghi d'amore*

There were two main theories that allowed the adoption of thosedoctrines into a Christian monotheistic framework: the first contendsthat they agree with Christian theology because they were influencedby a primeval tradition which included or at least adumbrated thetenets of Christianity; the alternative argues that the affinity betweenthese two bodies of thought has no historical explanation but is theresult of a revelation or a series of revelations imparted separately

2 See Armando F. Verde, Lo studio fiorentino, 1473—1503, Ricerche e documenti, 5 vols,Florence, 1973-94, IV. 1 (1985), pp. 126-27; Cf. Hankins, Plato in the Italian Renaissance,p. 464. For Jewish theories of prisca theologia in the Renaissance period, see DavidB. Ruderman, Kabbalah, Magic, and Science, The Cultural Universe of a Sixteenth-CenturyJewish Physician, Cambridge, Mass., 1988, pp. 139-60; Moshe Idel, 'Kabbalah andAncient Philosophy in R. Isaac and Yehudah AbravaneP, in The Philosophy of LeoneEbreo, ed. by M. Dorman and Z. Lev, Tel Aviv, 1985, pp. 73-112 (in Hebrew);idem, 'Kabbalah, Platonism, and "Prisca Theologia": The Case of Menasseh benIsrael', in Menasseh Ben Israel and His World, ed. by Y. Kaplan, H. Mechoulan andR. H. Popkin, Leiden, 1989, pp. 207-19.

3 See Idel, 'Kabbalah and Ancient Philosophy'. In general I would say that thediscussions of prisca theologia in the studies mentioned in n. 1 above have neglectedboth Kabbalah and Leone Ebreo's views. See, however, the important study ofBernard McGinn, 'Cabalists and Christians: Reflections on Cabala in Medieval andRenaissance Thought', in Jewish Christians and Christian Jews: From the Renaissance tothe Enlightenment, ed. by R. H. Popkin and G. M. Weiner, Dordrecht and London,1994, pp. 11-34.

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to both pagan and monotheistic spiritual leaders. The two solutionsrepresent different approaches to the historiography of religion, andtheir underlying assumptions are worth more detailed analysis.

The first theory implies that there was one single revelation ofreligious truth, though more than one single line of transmitting thevalid religious doctrines may be assumed. The source is the Mosaictradition—sometimes related to an Adamic or Abrahamic tradition—which was handed down to pagan philosophers such as Plato andPythagoras. Sometimes Hermes, the focal figure of some lists of priscitheologi, was even appropriated by Jewish writers in the Renaissance,such as Yohanan Alemanno and Isaac Abravanel, as being identicalto the biblical Enoch.4 This approach will be designated in what fol-lows as the unilinear theory. It was espoused by what can be called'orthodox syncretism' in late antiquity, among Jewish Alexandrianauthors, in Flavius Josephus, in some Fathers of the Church, by somefigures during the Middle Ages, and also by some scholars in theRenaissance.5 A major example of the assumption that the priscatheologia consists of a unilinear theory can be found in a statementof Charles Schmitt, an eminent scholar and major investigator ofthis topic:

At the root of Ficino's concept [of the prisca theologia] lie several writ-ings attributed to pre-Greek authors, especially Zoroaster, HermesTrismegistus, and Orpheus, which according to his interpretation weretransmitted to Plato by Pythagoras and Aglaophemus. These writingswere also considered to be connected at the root with Hebrew Scriptures,thus making Greek philosophy have a very close relation indeed withthe Judaeo-Christian tradition.6

The unilinear theory draws its inspiration from Jewish and patristicsources of late antiquity. The most important names are Artapanus,Alexander Polyhistor, Flavius Josephus, Lactantius, Eusebius, Augustineand Clement of Alexandria.7 The unilinear theory was developedalso in the Renaissance, mostly by Jewish authors. The most famous

+ See Idel, 'Kabbalah and Ancient Philosophy', pp. 75~76.3 See Norman Roth, 'The "Theft of Philosophy" by the Greeks from the Jews',

Classical Folia, 32 (1978), pp. 53-67.b From Schmitt's introduction to the reprint of Augustinus Steuchus, De perenni

philosophia, New York and London, 1972, p. ix. See also Trinkaus, In Our Image andLikeness, pp. 739-42.

' See the early sources enumerated by Roth, 'The "Theft of Philosophy'", andRaymond Marcel, Marsile Finn (1433-1499), Paris, 1958, pp. 612~22.

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pagan figure who was described as learning from the ancient Jewswas Plato, mentioned in a variety of Jewish and Christian sourcesas having been the student of a prophet, sometimes identified withJeremiah, in Egypt. Let me mention two more of several Renaissanceexamples which portray the high status of Plato and the consonanceof his teaching with Judaism. The first is R. Yohanan Alemanno, acontemporary of Ficino and a companion of Pico who lived for sev-eral years in Florence. He regarded Plato as having been in alignmentwith Jewish culture. In his commentary on the Song of Songs he dis-tinguishes between two ancient types of philosophers. The first is:

the sect of the ancient ones, from venerable antiquity up to the generationwhen prophecy disappeared. They and their sons and disciples thirstilydrank their [the prophets'] words up to Plato who was in their [theprophets'] days and in their times. The second sect commenced whenprophecy ceased and the days of evil came, from the time of Aristotleand later, up to our days.8

Clearly Platonic lore is described as being the result of the influenceof the Hebrew prophets. In fact, valid philosophy is considered tobe contemporary with ancient Israelite prophecy and as having ceasedtogether with it.

A similar approach is found in the work of a seventeenth-centuryKabbalistic figure, R. Joseph Shelomo Delmedigo. In his Mature/ le-Hokhmah he says:

The ancient philosophers spoke more virtuously than Aristotle, to thosewho understood them correctly, not as Aristotle interpreted them, forhis intentions were solely to reproach them so he himself would bepraised. This becomes clear to anyone who reads what has been writ-ten on the wisdom of Democritus and its foundations, especially byPlato, the master of Aristotle. Plato's opinions are similar to the opin-ions of the Sages of Israel and in a few instances it appears that hespoke as a Kabbalist. No fault can be found in his words, and whyshould we not accept them, for they belong to us, and were inheritedby the Greeks from our ancient fathers? Even until this day many ofthe great sages accept Plato's ideas, and there are large circles of stu-dents who have continued in his footsteps.9

8 Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Or. 1535, fol. 162v.9 Jerusalem, 1944, fol. 54a. On Delmedigo's different attitudes to the Presocratics

and to Aristotle see my 'Differing Conceptions of Kabbalah in the Early SeventeenthCentury', in Jewish Thought in the Seventeenth Century, ed. by Isadore Twersky andBernard D. Septimus, Cambridge, Mass., 1987, pp. 185-96.

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However, while those two authors belong to what can be describedas a more universalistic approach to Kabbalah, which saw paganphilosophy in positive terms, there were also other, less positivedescriptions of the same type of affinities. In more extreme and gen-eral terms, R. Elijah Hayyim ben Benjamin of Genazzano, a latefifteenth-century Italian Kabbalist, explicitly refers to philosophers asthieves of the ancient Jewish wisdom, Kabbalah.10 It is from the tra-dition stemming from Abraham the patriarch, the alleged author ofthe cosmological treatise Sefer Tetzirah, that philosophers adopted theidea of the ten supernal entities, known as 'ten separate intellects'.These entities are no more than a misunderstanding of the Kabbalisticinterpretation of the ten Sefirot, a key notion in the ancient Jewishtreatise. Incapable of comprehending the secret of the dynamic unityof the ten divine powers, the philosophers, 'who are in any case thethieves of wisdom',11 introduced division into the divine realm.12

The Christian Renaissance thinkers seem, however, to have beenfascinated more by another theory, which I should like to designate'multilinear'. This latter theory seems to have been influenced inpart by the views of a mid fifteenth-century Byzantine author whohad strong pagan proclivities, George Gemistos Plethon. It was hewho was instrumental in introducing into western Renaissance thoughtthe name of Zoroaster as a reliable religious source and it seemsvery plausible that it was also Plethon who inspired those of Ficino'sgenealogies in which Zoroaster has a place of honour. Ficino embracedsome views of Plethon, and apparently also of Diogenes Laertius andPlutarch, which contributed to the turning away in the West fromthe earlier traditions concerning a unilinear theory to embrace thehypothesis of two or more lines of transmission.13 The multilinearversion of prisca theologia assumes the possibility of more than onesource of valid religious knowledge and more than one line of trans-mission. Though the contents of this knowledge are identical in the

10 See his 'Iggeret Hamudot, ed. by A. W. Greenup, London, 1912, pp. 32-33.1' eal hoi panim gonvei ha-hokhmah.12 On this Kabbalist see Roland Goetschel, 'Elie Hayyim de Genazzano et la

Kabbale', Revue des etudes juives, 142 (1983), pp. 91-108; Alexander Altmann, 'Beyondthe Realm of Philosophy: R. Elijah ben Benjamin of Genazzano', in Shlomo PinesJubilee Volume, ed. by M. Idel, W. Z. Harvey and E. Schweid, Jerusalem, 1988, partI, pp. 61-101 (in Hebrew).

13 For a cautious evaluation of Plethon's impact on the Renaissance, includingFicino, see Hankins, Plata in the Italian Renaissance, II, pp. 436-40; Allen, Synoptic Art,pp. 1-2 and the relevant bibliography cited there.

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two or more lines of transmission, their literary or terminological ex-pressions differ from one case to another. It is this second theorythat deserves more attention in the framework of the specificity ofChristian Renaissance thought, because it is more problematic froma strictly monotheistic point of view; equally it is more innovativein comparison to the late ancient and medieval endeavours to pointout the concordance between Greek thought and monotheistic reli-gion. Let me quote one expression of this view, as formulated byPico della Mirandola:

lamblichus of Ghalcis writes that Pythagoras followed the Orphic the-ology as the model on which he fashioned and built his own philos-ophy. Nay furthermore, they say that the maxims of Pythagoras arealone called holy, because he proceeded from the principles of Orpheus;and that the secret doctrine of numbers and whatever Greek philoso-phy has of the great or the sublime has flowed from thence as its firstfount.14

From our point of view the occurrence of the term 'first fount' shouldbe highlighted. Orpheus is regarded as the source of the most sublimefacets of Greek philosophy and I see no way of contending that Picolinked this mythical figure, or others mentioned in this quotation,with a Mosaic tradition. His views, as he mentions several times, canbe interpreted in accordance with the Kabbalistic traditions, but itis the mythical poet and theologian who is responsible for the formula-tion of the concepts which will later be expounded by Pythagoras too.

Last but not least: the prisci theologi are mentioned in one of thereports relating to Pico's reactions to Savonarola's confrontations withthe Florentine Platonists, as recounted by Piero Crinito:

In every age there have been a few predominant thinkers, supremeboth in judgement and knowledge, such as Moses, Pythagoras, Hermes,Zoroaster, and Solon who, all agree together, not only believed thesethings, but also powerfully proclaimed them.15

Though occupying a place of honour immediately next to Moses,the pagan thinkers are independent ancient theologians. Later on inthe same context, Pico is reported to have embraced a view whichcombines both a unilinear and a multilinear attitude:

14 Oratio de dignitate hominis, translated by Trinkaus, In Our Image and Likeness, II,p. 758.

13 Quoted in the translation of Walker, Ancient Theology, p. 49.

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That divine philosophy of Pythagoras, which they call Magic, belongsto a great extent to the Mosaic tradition; since Pythagoras had man-aged to reach the Jews and their doctrine in Egypt, and knowledgeof many of their sacred mysteries. . . Zoroaster, the son of Oromasius,in practising magic, took that to be the cult of God and the study ofdivinity; while engaged in this in Persia he most successfully investi-gated every virtue and power of nature, in order to know those sacredand sublime secrets of the divine intellect; which subject many peoplecalled theurgy, others Cabala or magic.16

While Pythagoras is now described as dependent on Mosaic tradi-tion, this is not the case with Zoroaster, whose views indeed corre-spond to Kabbalah but are not influenced by it.

It should be clear that the multilinear theory is not in itself iden-tical with the double faith theory, or with what was understood asAverroism in Latin in the medieval and Renaissance periods. Thoughhere also the assumption is that there are two different sources ofthe truth, but according to the multilinear theory the nature of thetruth is similar in each case, though perhaps not totally identical.Unlike Averroism, which professed the co-existence of two differenttruths, something which will be addressed again below, the multi-linear theory assumes a variety of sources but a unity of the truthsconveyed by the various religious and philosophical traditions.

Interestingly enough, some evidence points to the possibility thatone of Plethon's teachers in Byzantium was a Jew, a certain Elisha,who was acquainted with Averroistic philosophy and medicine, andwith Zoroastrian thought.17 Was he the source of Plethon's concep-tion of Zoroaster as an independent and reliable religious source?

16 Quoted in the translation of Walker, Ancient Theology, p. 50.'' See C. M. Woodhouse, George Gemistos Plethon: The Last of the Hellenes, Oxford,

1986, pp. 23-28; Marcel, Marsile Ficin, pp. 133-34, 612; Efraim Wust, 'Elisha theGreek: A Physician and Philosopher at the Beginning of the Ottoman Period',Pe'amim, 41 (1989), pp. 49~57 (in Hebrew). Fra^ois Masai, Plethon et le platonisme deMistra, Paris, 1956, p. 57, aired the possibility that Elisha was a Kabbalist, whileMichel Tardieu, 'Plethon lecteur des Oracles', Metis, 2 (1987), pp. 141-64, atp. 144, n. 7, rejected this possibility, implying (see especially p. 141) that he was aSpanish Jewish thinker acquainted with Averroes's thought who arrived in Adrianople.Though there is indeed no evidence that Elisha was a Kabbalist, an interest inAverroes does not in principle exclude an interest in Kabbalah, as can be seen inthe case of Abraham Abulafia, the figure who introduced Kabbalah in the Byzantineempire in the seventies of the thirteenth century. Also later, in the middle of thefourteenth century in Constantinople, a combination of interest in both Kabbalahand medieval philosophy is evident in R. Elnathan ben Moshe Kalkish's 'Even Sappir,a huge manuscript treatise extant in Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France, MSSor. 727-728.

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To believe George Scholarios, Plethon's critic who is our only witnessto the relationship between Elisha and Plethon, this seems to be thecase, though it is hard to argue with him for lack of alternativesources. Besides, Scholarios was so preoccupied with denigratingPlethon and pointing to the sources of his heresies that he mighthave been exaggerating. He might have lumped together Zoroastrianismand Averroism as erroneous types of thought and imputed them bothto the teaching of Elisha. According to Scholarios, Elisha himself,though a Jew, was not too much concerned with the Mosaic tradi-tion.18 Scholarios may have been right, and if so, Elisha made amodest contribution to the subsequent infiltration of the pagan theurgyfound in the Chaldaean Oracles (a book allegedly authored by Zoroaster)into the Renaissance via Plethon and Ficino.

Nevertheless it is still possible that this Elisha was not as pagan aHellene as Scholarios makes out, since syntheses between Greekphilosophies of pagan extraction and Judaism were already wellknown beforehand. There was also a Persian-Arab tradition to theeffect that Zoroaster was a pupil of Jeremiah,19 while according toother Jewish sources Zoroaster studied with Abraham.20 Thus, resort-ing to the name of Zoroaster in the Hebrew sources would not,automatically, invite a multilinear vision of knowledge. Following theview of some scholars, it is plausible to assume that Elisha couldhave been part of a school of mystics starting with the twelfth-centuryMuslim Sufi master, Suhrawardi al-Maqtul, called Ishraqi (the illu-minated), or the oriental scholars who conceived of Zoroaster as animportant religious thinker.21 The multilinear theory is, in comparison

18 See Woodhouse, George Gemistos Plethon, pp. 24-25; Tardieu, 'Plethon lecteurdes Oracles', pp. 144-46.

19 See James Darmesteter, 'Textes Pehlvis relatifs au Judaisme', Revue des etudesjuives, 19 (1889), p. 56. It may well be that this is an elaboration of the earlier viewthat Plato studied with the prophet, an issue which lies outside the scope of thisarticle.

20 For a possible source of this view, see J. Bidez and F. Cumont, Les Mages hel-lenises: ^proastre, Ostanes et Hystaspe d'apres la tradition grecque, 2 vols, Paris, 1938; repr.New York, 1975, II, p. 21. On Zoroaster as Abraham's student see ibid., I, p. 41and II, p. 48. As to the Hebrew sources for such a position, see M. J. bin Gorion,Die Sagen der Juden, Berlin, 1935, p. 219.

21 See Henry Corbin, Histoire de la philosophic islamique, Paris, 1964, pp. 285-86;Tardieu, 'Plethon lecteur des Oracles', pp. 144-46, Tambrun, 'Marsile Ficin', pp.20-22, and Shlomo Pines's remarks in the discussion following the lecture of FrancoisMasai, 'Plethon, rAverroi'sme et le probleme religieux', in Le Moplatonisme. Actes duCollogue international, Royaumont, 9~13 juin 1969, ed. by P. M. Schuhl and P. Hadot,Paris, 1971, p. 445; Wust, 'Elisha the Greek', p. 56. For other, more direct influences

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to the unilinear one, much more problematic from a monotheisticreligious point of view. It assumes the dominant role of pagan figureswho are presented as possessors of religious truth which are, at leastpotentially, identical with the tenets of the 'advanced' form of religion.The danger of criticism stemming from orthodox circles was obvi-ous and this seems to be one of the reasons why the theory was notexpounded in a more elaborate manner in the writings of the firstRenaissance authors dealing with this subject. Inconsistency also com-plicates a clear-cut formulation of where the unilinear theory stands.

Marsilio Ficino took different attitudes in different books. Eventhe leading scholars who have analyzed the matter have accordinglycome to different evaluations. Charles Schmitt, whose view has beenquoted above, represented Ficino as closer to the unilinear theory.In his reading, ultimately, the pagan philosophy was conceived of asderived from the Mosaic tradition, and thus Ficino was a classic rep-resentative of the unilinear theory. However, another leading author-ity on Ficino, the late Paul O. Kristeller (who was Schmitt's teacher),expressed another view: the Florentine thinker surmised that thepagan writings

form an ancient tradition of pagan theology and philosophy that is asold as that of the Hebrew and Christian religion, going back toMercurius Trismegistus, a contemporary of Moses. Thus there arisesin his view a more or less continuous tradition in two different butparallel branches, philosophical or pagan, and religious or Hebrew andChristian that extends in a nearly continuous line from the early daysof Moses and Trismegistus down to his own day.22

The quandary is indeed a real one and can be explained quite simply:the two eminent scholars were, I assume, paying attention to some

of Muslim sources on Florentine Renaisance thought see Shlomo Pines, 'MedievalDoctrines in Renaissance Garb? Some Jewish and Arabic Sources of Leone Ebreo'sDoctrines', in Jewish Thought in the Sixteenth Century, ed. by B. D. Cooperman,Cambridge, Mass., 1983, pp. 390-91; M. Idel, 'The Anthropology of YohananAlemanno: Sources and Influences', Annali di storia dell'esegesi, 7 (1990), pp. 93-112;idem, 'The Ladder of Ascension: The Reverberations of a Medieval Motif in theRenaissance', Studies in Medieval Jewish History and Literature, II, ed. by Isadore Twersky,Cambridge, Mass., 1984, pp. 83-93; idem, 'Magic Temples and Cities in the MiddleAges and the Renaissance', Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam, 3 (1981-82), pp.185-89; idem, 'The Sources of the Circle Images in Dialoghi d'Amore', lyyun, 28(1978), pp. 162-66 (in Hebrew), and the study referred to in note 26 below.

22 Kristeller, Renaissance Thought and Its Sources, p. 205; in his Philosophy of MarsilioFicino, tr. by V. Conant, New York, 1943; repr. Gloucester, Mass., 1964, pp. 27-29,Kristeller's formulations are less sharp.

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specific texts instead of others and so the two different evaluationsof Ficino's view emerged. In Ficino's commentaries on Plato, andalready in his Proemium to the translation of the Hermetic corpus,the independence of the pagan line, or lines, from a Mosaic fountis clear. No intersection between the ancient sources of the priscitheologi and the Hebrew Scriptures was allowed. On the basis of thesewritings, which draw their inspiration from pagan sources, Kristelleris clearly correct. However, in his De Christiana religione, ch. 25~26,Ficino collected several traditions related to the legendary encountersbetween the mythical pagan figures and the Jews. In the case of thischapter, it is obvious that Schmitt is right, and we shall return tothis point later on. Thus it seems that Ficino made different pro-nouncements in different books, apparently for different intellectualpurposes. Books or commentaries on philosophy will allow separatesources for a prisca theologia, whereas a definitely religious work, suchas De Christiana religione, governed by the need to subject philosophyto revelation, provoked a different attitude.

Recently, a third suggestion has been advanced in order to makesense of the two different positions taken by Ficino which I desig-nated above as unilinear and multilinear. In his study of Platonismin Italy, James Hankins presents a developmental approach to Ficino'sconcept of prisca theologia as a transition from a radical 'youthful' posi-tion—what I call a multilinear stand—to a more 'mature' attitudethat attenuates the independence of the pagan line of descent fromthe Mosaic tradition.23 While Kristeller's and Schmitt's descriptionsof Ficino are general, addressing different books without taking intoconsideration the divergences between them, Hankins's explanationrecognizes the difference between them and strives to mitigate thetension by a developmental approach. The problem I find with thisexplanation is that Ficino preserved the multilinear theory late in hislife, in the 1491 edition of his Platonic Theology and even in the thirdversion of his commentary on Plato's Philebus, finished in 1496—years after he presented his version of the unilinear theory in his DeChristiana religione in a passage to be adduced below. Moreover, adevelopmental theory does not easily fit the claim of a rupture withthe past, hardly in my opinion a complete one, represented by the

23 Hankins, Plato in the Italian Renaissance, II, p. 460 ff.

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way Ficino's 'conversion' to Christianity was presented on his becom-ing a priest: ex pagano Christi miles. Did indeed Ficino stop his inter-est in the pagans while (or after) writing his apologetic treatise?

However, there is perhaps a fourth way to describe the relation-ship between the diverging presentations of prisca theologia in Ficino.I am inclined to attribute to him an Averroistic approach, close tothe theory known as double truth. This does not mean, however,that Ficino assumed the superiority of the pagan philosophy overthe Christian faith, merely its independence. Interestingly enough,this approach has also been suggested to be characteristic of Plethon,24

and of Pico della Mirandola's prisca theologia,23 and I have alreadyinterpreted some comments of R. Elijah del Medigo concerningKabbalah and Platonism as reflecting this Averroistic approach.26

From this perspective, it seems curious that in the hundreds of foliosof Ficino's commentaries on Plato the name of Moses is so rarelymentioned. However, it seems that Ficino's real views can be deducedfrom the fact that the multilinear theory was expressed both beforeand after the composition and printing of De Christiana religione.Moreover, it is apparently significant that whereas in religious com-positions like this apologetic treatise and in letters concerning Christiantopics, Ficino brought together views from the patristic literaturewithout always claiming explicitly that they were his, in the philo-sophical writings he presents the lists of the ancient philosopherswithout referring to any authority, implying that these represent hisown views. Let me give one important example of this multilineartheory as presented by Ficino:

Why does everybody call God by four letters? The Hebrews by thefour vowels he ho ha hi; the Egyptians by TTieuth; the Persians by Syre;the Magi by Orsi whence Oromasis27 the Greeks by Theos; ourselves by

24 See Masai's study mentioned in n. 21 above. Compare also Maurice deGandillac, 'Neoplatonism and Christian Thought in the Fifteenth Century: Nicholasof Cusa and Marsilio Ficino', in Neoplatonism and Christian Thought, ed. by D. J.O'Meara, Albany, NY, 1982, pp. 143-68, at p. 158. De Gandillac does not posi-tively declare that Ficino used different approaches in books of different characters,though his formulation is close to such a statement.

25 See Trinkaus, In Our Image and Likeness, pp. 759-60; S. A. Farmer, Syncretismin the West: Pico's 900 Theses (I486), Tempe, Ariz., 1998, pp. 61-62.

26 M. Idel, 'Jewish Mystical Thought in the Florence of Lorenzo il Magnifico',in La cultura ebraica all'epoca di Lorenzo il Magnifico, ed. by Dora Liscia Bemporad andIda Zatelli, Florence, 1998, pp. 17-42, at pp. 31-32.

2 / Namely Ormuzd or Ahura Mazda. See also Allen, Synoptic Art, p. 35 note 67.

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Deus; the Arab by Alia; Mahomed by Abgdi. Again, we accepted Jesufrom Gabriel. . . Surely such diverse races would not otherwise haveagreed on the one name of the unknown God, unless they were divinelyinspired? And if they received it from Adam, it was by divine inspir-ation they received that name rather than others.28

Two theoretically different explanations were proposed for the allegedlyuniversal occurrence of the fourfold divine names: either all thesenations received the various names separately, a clear multilineartheory, or they received them from Adam, which would imply anunilinear theory. However, even according to the second explana-tion each nation selected the characteristic divine name by meansof an individual divine inspiration. Thus, a special revelation hasbeen bestowed on each and every nation. Moreover, even if weaccept the second explanation, the Jews have no priority as they alsowere conceived as having received their revelation later on. Thus,the basic structural similarity between the divine names, on whosesource we shall have something to say presently, does not reflect theinfluence of the Mosaic tradition, but a common denominator whichtranscends the particular forms of the names in each and everynation. The very idea that the divine name constituted the contentof an Adamic tradition was already known among the Jews in Spainand Italy, and I am not aware of a similar earlier Christian view.Hence it is possible that Ficino was influenced by a Jewish, or moreexactly, a Kabbalistic tradition, but took it in a new direction. Thoughunilinear in its supposed origin, it was qualified so as to point to apossible multilinear theory. Also the curious manner in which Ficinovocalizes the Tetragrammaton—he ho ha hi—may point to a Kabbalisticsource belonging to the school of ecstatic Kabbalah, where there aremany cases of vocalizing the letters of the Tetragrammaton and pro-nouncing them. This Kabbalistic school sometimes embraced thetheory of the Adamic extraction of Kabbalah. Abraham Abulafiacontends, in a book written in 1289 in Messina, that the Kabbalistictradition itself

extends from Adam to Abraham our forefather, and from him toMoses our master, and from him it comes to us in writing and orallyand what comes to us in writing is divided into two types . . . the

28 Marsilio Ficino, The 'Philebus' Commentary, ed. and tr. by M. J. B. Allen, Berkeleyetc., 1975; repr. Tempe, Ariz., 2000, pp. 142-44; see also pp. 270-72.

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matter of the names that are in the Torah . . . and those names thatare derived from the essential name.29

According to such a view, Adam was especially concerned with divinenames, which means in this specific context that he was an ecstaticKabbalist.30

However, though I indeed assume such a Jewish source for someof the aspects of Ficino's passage, I assume that his emphasis on thefour letters stems from a Pythagorean source, and I suspect that ithas something to do with the Pythagorean tetraktys as discussed inlamblichus's De vita Pythagorica.^ There the divinity of the tetrad isexpressed in an explicit manner. It is, therefore, quite possible thatthe Pythagorean secret of the tetrad was the leading idea for Ficino'swhole discussion. However, he does not mention Pythagoras in thiscontext, and it seems that the first thinker to offer a more explicitcomparison between the Tetragrammaton and the tetraktys was Ficino'syounger contemporary Johann Reuchlin.

It would be instructive to compare Ficino's passage from his com-mentary on Philebus on the divine names, informed by a multilineartheory, to its elaboration in a work by a Jewish writer, R. Menassehben Israel. In his Conciliator R. Menasseh gives the above list of divinenames, to which he adds some other examples, and then states,

From which it is inferred that except by some divine inspiration, orfrom the knowledge of the Tetragrammaton of four letters, so manydifferent nations could not agree: which is most probable. Besides,among Europeans they corrupted the Tetragrammaton; they called thehighest of the Gods Jove, and Jupiter is no more than Jovispater, FatherGod, the origin of all the other gods. The name of lah also seems tohave been known among them, whence Macrobius says, consulting theoracle of Apollo as to who was the supreme of all the gods, it answered

29 Mafteah ha-Shemot, New York, Jewish Theological Seminary, MS 1879, fol. 55v;E. R. Wolfson, 'The Doctrine of Sefirot in the Prophetic Kabbalah of AbrahamAbulafia', Jewish Studies Quarterly, 2 (1995), pp. 336-71 and 3 (1996), pp. 47-84 at

P- 73'30 For more on this issue, see M. Idel, 'Transmission in the Thirteenth-CenturyKabbalah', in Transmitting Jewish Traditions: Orality, Textuality, and Cultural Diffusion, Y. Elman and I. Gershoni, New Haven, Conn., and London, 2000, pp. 138-64.

31 lamblichus, On the Pythagorean Way of Life, ed. and tr. by John Dillon andJackson Hershbell, Atlanta, Ga., 1991, p. 167, ch. 150; p. 177, ch. 162. On thetetrad as divine in late antiquity, see Walter Burkert, Lore and Science in AncientPythagoreanism, Cambridge, Mass., 1972, p. 72 ff. On this term see Johan C. Thom,The Pythagorean Golden Verses, Leiden, 1995, pp. 174-76.

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lao; and Diodorus Siculus says, the Jews attribute the laws they receivedfrom Moses to a God they called Jao; which name is that of Jah, pro-nounced differently by the heathen, from their ignorance of ourlanguage.32

Elsewhere in the same book, this master proclaimed that

although some of the learned heathens, from the Hebrews, wereacquainted with the quadri-letter name, they knew not the true pro-nunciation, which was privately communicated only to a few even ofthe Hebrew nation; nor did they invoke him in their orisons, but calledon Jupiter, Mars, Apollo, and such like gods.33

It is plausible that in this passage the corruption of the Tetragram-maton, mentioned in the first text, is the cause of the use of thenames of the pagan divinities. Whereas Ficino does not mention theTetragrammaton as the original divine name which was subsequentlydistorted by the gentiles, R. Menasseh does emphasize the priorityof the Hebrew divine names, which were acknowledged even by theoracle of Apollo. If the Christian thinker expounded a multilineartheory, the Jewish author construed the same material into a uni-linear theory.34

2. ^proaster as a Priscus Theologus

Our first example for describing the unilinear penchant of some earlyJewish Renaissance authors is the 'earliest' mythical figure in somelines of prisci theologi: Zoroaster.35 Ficino portrayed the theologicalknowledge of Zoroaster, a prominent figure in his list of the ancienttheologians (and Pico, as we saw above, followed his path), withoutincluding a Mosaic source for his 'philosophy'. In doing so he wasinfluenced by Plethon who identified Zoroaster as the author of theChaldaean Oracles.36 Ficino's list appears several times in his works and

32 Menasseh ben Israel, Conciliator, ed. and tr. by E. H. Lindo, 2 vols, London,1842, II, p. 194.

33 Ibid., p. 197.34 For more on this issue see Idel, 'Kabbalah, Platonism', pp. 210-14, 216-19.35 On Zoroaster in the Renaissance see the survey of Karl H. Dannenfeldt, 'The

Pseudo-Zoroastrian Oracles in the Renaissance', Studies in the Renaissance, 4 (1957),pp. 7-30, and Wirszubski, Pico della Mirandola's Encounter, esp. p. 244. On Zoroasterin Hellenistic thought, see Arnaldo Momigliano, Alien Wisdom, Cambridge, 1975,pp. 2-3 and 142-43.

36 See Woodhouse, George Gemistos Plethon, pp. 48-61.

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the most common later sequence of the pagan sages is: Zoroaster,Hermes Trismegistus, Orpheus, Aglaophemus, Pythagoras, culmi-nating with Plato.37 In at least one instance in Ficino it seems thatthis legendary figure was portrayed as acquiring his religious knowl-edge by himself. After enumerating the names of the sages men-tioned Ficino maintains that:

they brought themselves as near as possible to God's ray by releasingtheir souls,38 and since they examined by the light of that ray39 allthings by uniting and dividing through the one and the many, theytoo were made to participate in the truth.40

This assessment is of paramount importance for the proper under-standing of the nature of the ancient theology as envisioned by bothFicino and Pico. By a purifying way, or a mystical technique, theancient pagan theologians brought themselves into contact with thedivine light. It is quite possible that the passage betrays the influenceof the Chaldaean Oracles, which were attributed in the Renaissance toZoroaster; using theurgic methods, the ancient figures were able torelease their souls in order to attain communion with the divine ray.Participation in the truth is not the result of a revelation but of theascent of the theurgist's soul to the source of the Truth. Importantly,Ficino traces the earliest expression of the prisca theologia to Zoroaster.The last in this line is none other than Plato. It is this attributionof the ultimate origin of philosophy to Zoroaster that is character-istic of many of the Christian Renaissance syntheses, by contrast withcontemporary Jewish insistence on the ancient Mosaic origin of Greekand pagan thought. In this context, it should be mentioned that

37 See, e.g., Frances A. Yates, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, London,1964, pp. 14-15; Ficino, The 'Philebus' Commentary, pp. 181, 271, 357, 403, andMomigliano, Alien Wisdom, pp. 142-44. Allen underscores the priority of Zoroasterfor Ficino and the link between Zoroaster and the Magi of the Gospels; see hisSynoptic Art, p. 31 ff.

38 On the separation of the soul from the body as part of the teaching of theChaldaeans see Hans Lewy, Chaldaean Oracles and Theurgy, rev. edn, Paris, 1978, pp.186-88.

39 On the central!ty of the ray and light in the Chaldaean Oracles see Lewy, ibid.,pp. 60-61, 149-55, 185-200. See also Ficino's Theologia Platonica, X.8, which cor-responds to the Chaldaean Oracles, verses 13—14; cf. liana Klutstein-Roitman, LesTraductions latines des Oracles chaldaiques et des Hymnes Orphiques, Ph.D. Thesis, HebrewUniversity, Jerusalem, 1981, pp. 22~23.

40 Ficino, The 'Philebus' Commentary, p. 246. On Truth as a cosmic entity in theChaldaean Oracles, see Lewy, Chaldaean Oracles, pp. 144-48.

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several of Pico's Conclusiones where Zoroaster is mentioned have beeninterpreted according to Kabbalistic notions.41 Prima facie, this factmay be understood as acknowledging a certain type of historicalaffinity between Zoroaster and Kabbalah. Indeed, there is no doubtthat in Pico's eyes a phenomenological affinity existed. However, itseems that it remained an affinity rather than an historical filiationin any sense. This absence of an historical linkage of Zoroaster tothe Mosaic tradition, or even to the Bible, or vice versa, in most ofthe instances discussed, is conspicuous. Pico does not even care toaccount for his Kabbalistic interpretation of the sentences attributedby him to Zoroaster, namely the Chaldaean Oracles., and no explana-tion why Kabbalistic interpretations fit these statements is availablein the Conclusiones.*2 Interestingly enough, in his later Heptaplus, uni-linear theories are nevertheless evident. In contrast to Ficino andPico's reluctance to enroll Zoroaster in the line of the unilinear tra-dition of transmission, a more 'orthodox' approach was in existencein Ficino's lifetime in Italy. R. Elijah Hayyim ben Benjamin ofGenazzano wrote, apparently as late as the last decade of the fifteenthcentury, as follows:

Behold, I have found in an ancient book attributed to a wise mancalled Zoroaster the following statement: metempsychosis was receivedby the Hindus from the Persians, and by the Persians from the Egyptians;by the Egyptians from the Chaldaeans, and by the Chaldaeans fromAbraham. They expelled him from their land, since they hated himbecause he was saying that the soul is the source of movement andcauses the movement of matter and there are many souls.43

It is notable that the source of this Jewish Italian Kabbalist attemptedto build up a unilinear tradition on the theory of metempsychosiswhich originates with Abraham; Zoroaster had only inherited it fromthe patriarch. The source for this tradition was, as the Kabbalistindicates, an 'old book'. Thus we may assume that a pre-Renaissancesource proposed a unilinear tradition wherein Zoroaster was not theprogenitor of the ancient wisdom but a disciple of the Mosaic lore.Indeed Abraham and Moses were mentioned here and the attribution

41 See Wirszubski, Pico della Mirandola's Encounter, pp. 192-94, 198-99 and 241-44.42 See Farmer, Syncretism in the West, pp. 487-93.43 'Iggeret Hamudot, ed. A. W. Greenup, London, 1912, p. 13. On this passage,

see Idel, 'Differing Conceptions of Kabbalah', pp. 158—59; Altmann, 'Beyond theRealm', pp. 80-81, and Goetschel, 'Elie Hayyim de Genazzano', p. 98, esp. n. 28.

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of the Kabbalistic theory of metempsychosis to Abraham assumes thatKabbalah, which constitutes in the eyes of the Kabbalists the esotericinterpretation of Judaism, was already cultivated by the patriarch.44

Such an assessment is corroborated by the image of Zoroaster asthe student of Abraham already current in the Middle Ages as wellas by another passage referring to Zoroaster in the same book ofR. Elijah of Genazzano:

It is known that Abraham our forefather, blessed be his memory, wasa great sage, even before the King of the kings of kings revealed tohim limitless knowledge of astrology45 and the natural sciences, as isfound in the ancient books such as the Book of Worship [Sefer ha-'Avodah] and the Book of Zoroaster, which I have mentioned above,dealing with the debates he [Abraham] had with the Chaldaeans, evenbefore the Divine Presence revealed itself to him.46

Thus we learn again that Genazzano was acquainted with a bookattributed to Zoroaster, where Abraham was mentioned. It seemsthat the underlying assumption must have been that Zoroaster learnedsomething from Abraham about the natural sciences, a view thatcorroborates the conception that Zoroaster was well acquainted withthe seven arts. The source of the Jewish Kabbalist was apparentlyknown also to Ficino. In his De Christiana religione ch. 26, he quotesAlexander and Eupolemus, who both suppose that Abraham taughtZoroaster the astrology which he had learnt from the successors ofEnoch.47 This suggests that the Christian author, Ficino, was in pos-session of a tradition which placed Zoroaster in a unilinear tradi-tion starting with Enoch and having Abraham as his direct mentor.Therefore, the portrayal of Zoroaster in Ficino's other 'pagan' listsof the genealogy of religious knowledge and philosophy may repre-sent a deliberate choice not to include this figure in a continuousline with the Jewish tradition, but to allow, at least in most of hisdiscussions, the existence of a separate, independent pagan line oftransmission.

44 'Iggeret Hamudot, p. 12.45 Or astronomy, in Hebrew cl^tageninut. On Abraham as the inventor of astron-

omy in a context where Zoroaster is also mentioned as living immediately after thepatriarch, see Bidez and Cumont, Les Mages hellenises, II, p. 48.

46 'Iggeret Hamudot, pp. 53-54.47 Ficino, De Christiana religione, Opera omnia, p. 29. See Allen, Synoptic Art, p. 39,

n. 81.

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In the same chapter, just three lines earlier, in what is so far asI know the only other instance where a definite relationship betweenZoroaster and the biblical tradition is mentioned, Ficino identifiesZoroaster, following Didymus's Commentary on Genesis, with Ham, theson of Noah, and notes that he is also called by the HebrewsChanaan.48 However, it should be emphasized that not only are thesetwo references exceptional in Ficino's voluminous work; they aresharply distinguished from the numerous instances in his later writ-ings, where he presents Zoroaster as the first in the chain of paganphilosophy. In the above two texts, he is only quoting the views ofother authors.

Let me ponder the implication of the above analysis: the sametradition that connected Zoroaster with Abraham was in the pos-session of both Jews and Christians in the Renaissance period, asFicino and Pico testify. However, Jewish authors were reticent aboutthe figure of Zoroaster and did not allow him an independent sta-tus in relation to the Jewish tradition. Ficino and Pico did, in myopinion deliberately, take another position which is substantiallydifferent, thus allowing the emergence of the multilinear theory ofthe prisca theologia. The change of mind is conspicuous in the case ofFicino: whereas in his treatise De Christiana religione he was ready toheap up a variety of quotations from the Christian sources aboutthe influence of biblical figures on the prisci theologi, in later com-mentaries on Plato he presented the ancient theologians as totallyindependent of biblical influence. It is possible that the reason forthis change of mind is related to the subject matter of the differentbooks; whereas De Christiana religione is much closer to the more com-mon understanding of Christianity as based upon the classical patris-tic sources, the commentaries on Plato's dialogues and the TheologiaPlatonica are based more on pagan traditions, and accordingly theyuse the concepts related to the origins of the prisca theologia currentamong pagan philosophers. De Christiana religione marks Ficino's trans-formation from a pagan into a soldier of Christ.49 It was certainlya temporary or superficial one, since in the very same years whenhe was working on this apology he wrote his other major treatise,the Platonic Theology, where he continues to subscribe to the impor-

Ibid., pp. 31, n. 56, and 33-34.See Marcel, Marsile Ficin, pp. 325-71.

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tance of the pagan ancient theology.50 Zoroaster is a figure who wasrarely mentioned by later Jewish authors. The only Renaissance writ-ers who seem to be concerned with him were an historian, Gedalyahibn Yehiya, and a physician, Abraham Yagel; these late sixteenth-century authors quoted a similar passage, where Zoroaster was describedas follows:

Ancient Zoroaster was the father of all the magicians, the first of themall to write and compose books on this craft. He was Ham, the sonof Noah . . . in his wisdom he discovered the seven disciplines, wrotethem on seven pillars of metal and on seven pillars of charred stone3'so that it would be a memorial of his great wisdom and understand-ing for the generations to come.52

Most of the details of this text can be found in earlier sources; Ficinowas, presumably, the source of the identification of Zoroaster as Hamand as the master of the magicians.03 Thus both ibn Yehiya andYagel reveal themselves as followers of a Christian tradition knownin the Christian Renaissance and dealing with a unilinear theory.However, elsewhere it becomes obvious from the way Yagel describedthe ancient theologians, including Zoroaster, that a multilinear theorywas also known and accepted by him:

For also the important sages among the gentiles never saw the lightsof the Torah, nor of worship, prophecy, wonders and miracles . . .Listen to what these sages spoke about the creator. For the ancientsages saw the light of life.54

This modest shift toward a multilinear theory among some ItalianJews is indeed symptomatic of spreading Christian influence at the

50 See Marsilio Ficino, Theologie platonicienne de I'immortalite des dmes, VI. 1, ed. andtr. by Raymond Marcel, 3 vols, Paris, 1964-70, I, p. 224.

31 The two pillars are related to the fact that there was a tradition about twokinds of flood, one of water and one of fire, and the sciences were engraved onthe different materials in order to prevail during the two floods. On this theme seeM. Idel, 'Hermeticism and Judaism', in Hermeticism in the Renaissance, ed. by I. Merkeland A. G. Debus, Washington, DC, and London, 1988, pp. 19-44, at p. 71,n. 13, and John Scarborough, 'Hermetic and Related Texts in Classical Antiquity',ibid., p. 23.

32 See Yagel's Beit Ya'ar ha-Levanon, translated and discussed by Ruderman, Kabbalah,Magic, and Science, pp. 143, 146-47, and R. Gedalyah ibn Yehiya's Shalshelet ha-Qabbalah, Jerusalem, 1962, p. 218.

33 See a further passage from De Christiana religione, quoted and discussed byTrinkaus, In Our Image and Likeness, pp. 741-42. On Zoroaster as Ham see Bidezand Cumont, Les Mages hellenises, II, pp. 49-50 and 54-55.

04 Beit Ta'ar ha-Levanon, in Ruderman, Kabbalah, Magic, and Science, p. 146.

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end of the sixteenth century and the beginning of the seventeenthcentury. The thriving Christian Renaissance culture impinged muchmore strongly on the Jews in this period than it had a century ear-lier.53 The shift in Christian Renaissance writings from the patristicunilinear to the multilinear theory, as exemplified above in Ficino'sthought, reverberated some hundred years later in the scattered state-ments of Jewish intellectuals.

3. Conclusions

It should be mentioned that only the increasing status of Kabbalahin Italy, with its views similar to ancient Hellenistic modes of thought,made it possible for the two types of lore to be compared. Thestrengthening of the status of a substantial corpus of allegedly ancientJewish mystical theology, and of the Jews themselves in Italy at theend of the fifteenth century, created a common phenomenologicalground that allowed pagan views to be seen in a favourable light.Neoplatonic, Pythagorean and Hermetic material which was adoptedby early and later Kabbalists, could create the assumption that thecorpus newly translated by Ficino reflected themes already found inthe ancient Jewish theology called Kabbalah.

What are the possible implications of the difference between theversions of the prisca theologia theory as adopted by some Jews in theRenaissance period in comparison to that of the Christians? Obviously,on the side of the Jewish authors it betrays a reticence about usingthe abundant literature translated by Ficino: the pagan philosopherscannot be considered as reliable sources in their works. The figuresof Zoroaster, Orpheus and Hermes Trismegistus are only very rarelycited in the fifteenth and sixteenth-century Jewish works. It is onlyat the beginning of the seventeenth century that the influence ofFicino's translations become somewhat more visible in the writingsof Abraham Yagel, Azariah de' Rossi, and Menasseh ben Israel; theyalone were more comfortable quoting the names of the above myth-ical figures as theologians. To the extent that Ficino's translationsinfluenced Jewish Renaissance thought, it was mainly via the intro-

50 See Idel, 'Differing Conceptions of Kabbalah', pp. 140-41; Ruderman, Kabbalah,Magic, and Science, pp. 159-60.

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duction of the Platonic and Neoplatonic corpora. We may betterunderstand Jewish reticence on the syncretistic achievements of theirChristian contemporaries if the non-conformist attitudes of Ficino,Pico or Bruno are put in relief. Indubitably, it was a matter of reluc-tance to embrace what was felt to be paganism that motivated theJewish writers' reticence; this conclusion is corroborated by their sim-ilar reticence about pagan mythology which had become fashionablein the Christian Renaissance. As with Zoroaster, Orpheus or Hermes,there were some exceptions to this, but by and large they are thesame persons who quoted the above figures. The only significantauthor who indulged in an allegorical interpretation of mythology,Leone Ebreo, offered his mythological allegories in a book writtenfor a Christian audience, not in Hebrew. It may well be that hisconcern with mythology was one of the reasons why his famous bookdid not have the same resonance among Jews as it had amongChristians.

Thus, the scarcity of the occurrence of pagan elements in Jewishliterature in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries is not to be attrib-uted to the fact that they were unaware of Renaissance thought orto a basic limitation of their intellectual horizons. I assume that itwas a protest, generally silent but sometimes explicit, stemming fromthe feeling that a surge of paganism was permeating the thought oftheir contemporary Christian compatriots. If we remember that someof the Renaissance authors, starting with Pico, coupled their inter-est in the pagan thought and literature with a missionary attitudetowards the Jews, it becomes easier to understand why the appealof some intellectual aspects of the Italian Renaissance was so smallin the eyes of many of the Jewish authors, including Jews living inItaly. The different attitudes of Jews and Christians in general towardthe past are partly due to the divergences between the Christian andJewish Renaissance conceptions of the prisca theologia. The later appear-ance of the Christian saviour induced the search for prefigurationof his advent and deeds by way of decoding the Hebrew Bible.Such an attitude is absent in Judaism; this religion is, rhetorically atleast, a relatively more self-contained culture from the very beginning.By contrast Christian theology was already accustomed to reinter-preting another sacred corpus, and the assumption of correspond-ences between the Old and New Testaments underpins both theancient and the medieval Christian hermeneutic traditions. TheRenaissance hypothesis that there are also other types of literature

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which adumbrated some of the tenets of Christianity was importantin order to accommodate the translation of pagan philosophical andreligious texts and their commentaries by Ficino. These texts weregiven a status similar to that of the Jewish Scriptures as they toowere envisioned as concurring in the same religious thought andconstituting a prisca religio Christiana. The attribution of a certain sta-tus to pagan traditions was not totally absent in patristic literature,but the emphasis in the Renaissance was a new one. By separatingthe testimony of the pagans from that of the ancient Hebrews, theChristian principles of faith could only gain in authority by point-ing to universal recognition. It is the culmination of events adum-brated not only by certain Hebrew prophecies, but by all ancientprophecies and philosophies in general. Jewish authors in the Renais-sance integrated another corpus, the Kabbalistic literature, with itsemphasis on its unique status as a source of esoteric knowledge. Byopening the channels of information to a wider variety of sources,however, some exponents of the Christian Renaissance facilitated theemergence of unconventional manners of thought, and this promoteda certain amount of intellectual freedom. Within a few generations,this in turn facilitated the beginnings of modern science, while Jewishthinkers were still adhering to a unilinear theory of knowledge.

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Michael J. B. Allen

Sic rerum series mundique revertitur aetasStatius, Silvae, 1.2.187

It is a learned commonplace that the Renaissance humanists, inspiredby poets, by the Stoics, by Cicero, by Polybius and other classicalhistorians, and by Ecclesiastes 1:9, revived, or at least toyed with, thenotion of a cyclical or repetitive time. The theme may speak vari-ously: to our occasional uncanny sense of deja vu; to the more famil-iar sense as we grow older that we have seen much if not all of itbefore (the consequence of our stock of memories increasing); to ourhistorical sense of connectedness to the past, of being subject to itsconsequences; or to the philosophical supposition, deriving surelyfrom our perceptions, true or false, of repetitions of various kinds,that time manifests patterns and configurations. For Ficino the mostpregnant and familiar verses on the notion of repeated time wereundoubtedly those of Virgil's fourth eclogue prophesying the great-ness of the mysterious child, 'noble increment of Jove', and with himthe rebirth of the golden age:

Ultima Cumaei venit iam carminis aetas,magnus ab integro saeclorum nascitur ordo.iam redit et Virgo, redeunt Saturnia regna;iam nova progenies caelo demittitur alto.1

Traditionally taken as a pagan prophecy of the coming of Christ,like Isaiah's famous verses in ch. 11:1-9, the eclogue also containsone of the most memorable formulations of the doctrine of eternalrecurrence: 'With a new Tiphys at the helm, a second Argo will setout. . . even wars will repeat themselves, and the mighty Achilles be

1 Eclogues, IV.4-7. For a survey and bibliography of Christian interpretations ofthis prophecy, see Pierre Courcelle, 'Les exegeses chretiennes de la QuatriemeEclogue', Revue des etudes anciennes, 59 (1957), pp. 294-319. For the Renaissance, seealso Vladimir Zabughin's older study, Vergilio nel Rinascimento italiano da Dante a TorquatoTasso, 2 vols, Bologna, 1921-23.

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despatched to Troy once more.' Behind Virgil, however, loomed thegreat myths of time in Plato, surely Pythagorean in origin, and oftenironically set apart from or juxtaposed with the philosophical con-cerns of their respective dialogues. One such myth Ficino found inthe Timaeus, where time is described as the moving image of eter-nity (37o) and where the markers of time are the sun, moon andstars in their eternal dance (40c). He encountered another such mythin the Statesman, 268E-274D, where Plato presents us with a complexpicture, not of repetition but of alternating times. The time of Saturn,the golden providential time when the motion of the heavens is fromwest to east, is succeeded by that of Jove, the fallen fatal time whenthe heavens move from east to west. Since the course of time is thusreversed, old men—and more generally the old world—return totheir youth and pass from hoary age to babbling infancy. On thebasis of passages in Proclus,2 Ficino arrestingly argues that Jove isthe cause of both the reversals in the myth and not just of the rever-sal that has produced the present fatal age. When the Saturnian'shepherds' of time are born again, then 'the ends of the ages' willdawn with them, the dies novissimi. And yet these shepherds will comeand transform the Jovian world—guide idyll into epic and epic intoidyll—only at Jove's command. This command will coincide withJove's decision to begin the cosmic cavalcade, in the Phaedrus's mythof the charioteer, back towards Saturnian contemplation: to release,if you will, Saturn from his captivity within the active Jovian soul.For Jove, not Saturn, holds the key to the inauguration of the goldenage: from him comes the divine decision to reverse the disorder ofan iron time, to spin the rotation of the world towards the east.3

For Jove, as an Orphic fragment declares, is the first, the last, the

2 Proclus, Theologie platonicienne, V.6—7 and 25, ed. and tr. by H. D. Saffrey andL. G. Westerink, 6 vols, Paris, 1968-97, V, pp. 24.22~26.20, 91.9-96.24.

3 See Ficino's epitome, Opera omnia, 2 vols, continuously paginated, Basel, 1576;repr. Turin, 1959 etc., pp. 1294-96; see also the analysis in my Nuptial Arithmetic:Marsilio Ficino's Commentary on the Fatal Number in Book VIII of Plato's 'Republic', Berkeleyetc., 1994, pp. 126-29. A comment in his In Sophistam, summa 22 (Opera omnia,p. 1287), glossing the Sophist, 242c4, suggests that Ficino associated the theory ofalternating cycles with Empedocles. This notion awaits investigation. In his PlatonicTheology, IV.2 (Ficino, Platonic Theology, Volume I, Books I IV, English translation byM. J. B. Allen with J. Warden, Latin text edited by J. Hankins with W. Bowen,Cambridge, Mass., 2001, pp. 302-05), Ficino identifies these cycles with the PlatonicGreat Year, which he supposed to be 36,000 solar years.

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head and the centre,4 and all things are created and provided forby him, including the intelligible time that is the image of eternity,even of Saturn's eternity.

Let us, however, turn to perhaps the greatest of all Platonic mythsand one that haunted Ficino as it had haunted Plotinus and his fol-lowers. For it focuses our attention on the notion of man's descentinto earthly time, into a momentary space, and it anticipates variousthemes expounded later in the Timaeus and notably the descriptionat 4ID ff. of the soul's descent and reascent. At the end of the tenthbook of Plato's Republic at 614B ff., Socrates recounts to Glaucon thestory of Er, the Pamphylian who had been slain in battle, returningtwelve days later at the moment of his funeral to revivify his as yetundecayed corpse and with a story to tell. He had undergone avisionary journey into the beyond and seen the mysterious regionwhere four paths or openings converged, ascending to and descend-ing from heaven, and likewise to and from earth. This meadow (com-pare the reference at Gorgias 523E ff. to the meadow of judgement)was the concourse where the three great judges passed judgementon those ascending from earth 'full of squalor and dust', and assignedthem either to Tartarus on the downward left-hand path or upwardto heaven on the right. They also presided over 'the second pro-cession of souls clean and pure' who appeared to have arrived aftera long journey and gladly thronged to the meadow 'as at a festival'(614D-E). The two processions intermingled, acquaintances greetingand questioning one another and telling their stories, some lament-ing and bewailing their dreadful sufferings which had lasted beneaththe earth a thousand years (their tenfold penalty), others recountingthe 'delights and visions of ineffable beauty' of their stay in heaven.On the eighth day, the two companies arose and journeyed for fourmore days to a spot where they saw a straight pillar of light, 'thegirdle of the heavens' like a trireme's keel or 'swifter' (616B^c). Fromthe extremities of this light stretched the spindle of Necessity andthrough it turned the orbits of the eight celestial spheres forming anest of whorls upon each of whose rims sang a Siren uttering a sin-gle note, the notes of all eight constituting 'the concord of a single

4 Frag. 21/2la (ed. Kern). Ficino found it in Plato's Laws, IV, 715E, Ps.-Aristotle,De mundo, VII, 401a28-29, and Eusebius, Praeparatio evangelica, III.9.

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harmony'. On attendant thrones sat Necessity's daughters, the threeFates, Lachesis singing of the past, Clotho of the present, and Atroposof things to come, each helping to spin the various whorls of thespindle.5

It is from the lap of Lachesis that the lots and patterns of par-ticular lives are taken up by a prophet with the words: 'Now is thebeginning of another cycle of mortal generation where birth is thebeacon of death. No divinity shall cast lots for you, but you shallchoose your own deity.' The patterns are far greater in number thanthe assembly and of every variety; and each soul selects a patternwhen his allotted turn comes. The former soul of Orpheus, forinstance, chooses the life of a swan, having been murdered by womenand thus 'unwilling to be conceived and born of a woman'; whileThamyras's soul selects the life of a nightingale, Ajax's soul the lifeof a lion, Agamemnon's soul the life of an eagle, Atalanta's soul thelife of an athlete, the soul of the buffoon Thersites the life of anape, and the soul of the circ*mspect Odysseus, who had the last lotof all, the life of an ordinary citizen. Having selected their lives theywere all marshalled before Lachesis who despatched each soul witha demon-genius, 'the guardian of his life and the fulfiller of his choice'(620D-E). Clotho then ratified the choice and thus the destiny ofeach soul, before Atropos made the web of this destiny irreversible.

Thence the soul and its genius with all the other souls journeyedacross the treeless Plain of Oblivion in a terrible and stifling heatuntil they camped at eventide beside Lethe, the River of Forgetfulness,'whose waters no vessel can contain'. They were then required todrink a measure of its water, though some wisely drank more spar-ingly than others. Directly they had drunk, 'they forgot all things'and fell asleep. In the middle of the night there was a peal of thun-der and an earthquake and the souls 'were suddenly wafted thence,one this way, one that, upward to their birth like shooting stars'(62IB). Er was forbidden to drink of the Lethean waters, yet couldnot recall how he had returned to his body, merely that he hadseen himself at dawn lying on the funeral pyre.

In this famous dream story (echoed in part by the equally famouspassage towards the end of the sixth book of the Aeneid when Aeneas

5 Cf. Plato, Laws, XII, 960c, with Ficino's commentary, Opera omnia, pp. 1524-25;cf. pp. 1636 (on Plotinus, Enneads, II.3.15), and 1705 (on Enneads, III.3.5). See alsoPlutarch, De facie quae in orbe lunae apparet, 945c-o.

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encounters his father Anchises), Lethe and the subsequent sleep isthe barrier between us and our antenatal existence which, givenPlato's Pythagorean fascination with reincarnation and even with itsmost radical form metempsychosis, consists of countless previous livesin other 'cycles' and of the thousand-year penitential time atoningfor sins committed during a cycle. Our little life, as Prospero saysso memorably, 'is rounded with a sleep', not simply at the end ofthis life as the sleep of death, Hamlet's shuffling off 'this mortal coil',but even more mysteriously at the beginning of our life, the pre-birth sleep which cuts us off from the memory of our lives and ofour choices before we are shot into this life like a meteor from thebeyond.

Ficino followed the Neopythagoreans and Neoplatonists in sup-posing that this meteoric descent to earth took place in the con-stellation of Cancer, 'the portal of men'. Numenius, Porphyry andMacrobius,6 for instance, had described the soul's journey downthrough the eight celestial spheres and our acquisition of various giftsor attributes from the planets as we fell. In the descent and as aresult of the choice we have made in the 'meadow' of the judges,we become especially subject to and therefore influenced by one ofthe planets and are born, as it were, its child, though every one ofthe planets influences us in varying degrees and ways. This is madepossible because the soul is riding what Plato had imagined as achariot or vehicle and what the ancients had identified as the spiritor pneuma, an envelope of originally aetherial, in the sense of fiery,material; a body, but as far removed as possible from our grossbodies of water and earth.7 As the soul descends, the spirit graduallybecomes thicker and more water-laden until at last it loses its naturalsphericity and is elongated and contorted to fit inside the body weinhabit here, imprisoned in the extended tomb of the flesh. In sleepthis pneuma-vehicle can be released if we are sufficiently purged ofpassion and inwardly ready. Then we are able in dream-time to ride

6 Numenius apud Porphyrium, De antro nympkarum, 10-11; Porphyry, Sententiae,ed. Lamberz, 29; Macrobius, In Somnium Scipionis, 1.11—12; cf. Plotinus, Enneads,IV.3.12 & 15. See Ficino's 1490 letter to Lorenzo de' Medici, later collected in histenth book of Letters (Opera omnia, p. 917), his De amore, VI.4 (Ficino, Commentaire surle Banquet de Platon, ed. and tr. by R. Marcel, Paris, 1956, p. 204), and his PlatonicTheology, XVIII.5 (Ficino, Theologie platonicienne de I'immortalite des dmes, ed. and tr. byR. Marcel, 3 vols, Paris, 1964-70, III, p. 196).

7 Enneads, IV.3.15.

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again on the journey through the spheres, this time in reverse, ourchariot becoming lighter and more fiery the higher it ascends. If weare truly blessed, we eventually reach the rim of the celestial heav-ens and the outermost circumference of the sphere of the fixed stars,thence to gaze up at the intelligible Ideas, at the world we hadknown before this birth.8

But this entails somehow unsipping the cup of Lethean waters andentering into the past: leaving our waking world and falling into thesleep that takes us through sleep back into another waking world,the knowledge of which apprises us that our world here is truly therealm of sleep. These pregnant paradoxes necessarily attend thePlatonic inversion of so-called normal values. That we can return toan earlier waking world is the corollary implied by Meno, 81fi-85D,with its curious story of the boy who demonstrated some flair ingeometry and which leads Socrates to define recollection as 'thespontaneous recovery of knowledge' (85D).9 It involves, obviously, thenotion of entry into life here as into a sleep in which occasionallywe have intimately dreams, dreams that contain memories of thelife there. In the Phaedo, 70c ff., Socrates gets Cebes to admit thatwe come into this world and its life from the world of the dead, theother world, and that 'the souls of the dead must exist in some placefrom which they are reborn' (72A), going around 'in a sort of cycle'that has birth and death alike function as the twin doors of gener-ation in 'constant correspondence' with each other.10 Thus wakingup is balanced by falling asleep even as the two conditions are equiv-ocally defined like objects seen in parallax. Hence, argues Socrates,learning is really recollection (72E), and such recollected learningtestifies that we are immortal. Moreover, as we rediscover our ownformer knowledge of the absolute realities such as Beauty andGoodness, we can refer objects we perceive in the physical world tothem as to 'their patterns' (76D-E). At this point both Simmias andCebes are convinced that Socrates has proved that our antenatalexistence stands or falls on the reality of the absolute Ideas as exist-

8 Cf. Phaedrus, 24:7A—c, with Ficino's commentary In Phaedrum, 11 (ed. and M. J. B. Allen, Marsilio Ficino and the Phaedran Charioteer, Berkeley etc., 1981, pp.126-29, with analysis in The Platonism of Marsilio Ficino: A Study of his 'Phaedrus'Commentary, its Sources and Genesis, Berkeley etc., 1984, pp. 151^56).

9 Cf. Ficino's Meno epitome, Opera, pp. 1132-33.10 Cf. Plato, Phaedrus, 248c ff., Timaeus, 41E ff., 90E ff., Laws, X, 903o-905A. See

A. N. M. Rich, 'Reincarnation in Plotinus', Mnemosyne, ser. 4, 10 (1957), pp. 232-38.

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ing 'in the fullest possible sense', though Cebes remains to be con-vinced that such reasoning can prove our existence after death (7?E).By combining the Phaedo's arguments with the Republic's myth of Er,Ficino arrived at Plato's visionary sense of the sleep encompassingour earthly lives and of those moments of recollection—so poignantlycentral to the autobiographical poetry of Wordsworth—which giveus intimations of the immortality which is ours.11

The Er myth took him further than the Phaedo, however, in itscritique of life as a sleep shot through with the occasional dream.For it depicts the good souls arriving at the meadow where theirfates are woven into the world-spindle by Necessity and presentsthem as eager to descend into the earthly life and thus to enter therealm of sleep, forgetfulness and sorrow, even if redeemed at timesby transient truth-telling dreams. Plato never explains the groundsof their eagerness to descend (in Aeneid, VI.749 IT., similarly, Anchisesmerely remarks that, having drunk of Lethe, the purged Elysian souls'begin to want to be returned to bodies'); but in the Phaedo he hasemphasized, as we have seen, the notion of cyclicality, of a kind ofneed to balance life and death.12 It is as if the souls descended fromheaven to earth because it is their time to offset the return of theearth-worn souls. The heaven-nurtured souls long to sleep, the earth-worn to awake. Here the emphasis is not on the ethical issue as itaffects the individual soul, where clearly, given other Platonic crite-ria, our duty and our bliss is always to return home, to fly backtowards Capricorn, 'the portal of the gods', in the moment of lib-eration from earthly desire, from the prison-house of the body andits passions.13 Rather, Plato seems to be for a time abandoning theSocratic goal of enlightenment and purgation for an epic mythologicalvision of the process of cosmic change and renewal, for the alternatingcycles of gain and loss, of emanation and return, of life into deathand death into life, of God-desire and world-desire that is almostHindu in its sweep and starkly opposed to the world-denying ethoswe associate not only with medieval Christianity but with a numberof classical philosophies that emphasize life as illusory or unreal:Buddhism, Pythagoreanism, Mithraism.

In this myth, as in the Aeneid's echo of it, the mystery attends

11 Cf. Ficino's Phaedo epitome, Opera omnia, pp. 1390-95.12 Cf. Plotinus, Enneads, IV.3.27.13 Platonic Theology, XVIII.5 (ed. Marcel, III, pp. 196-97); see n. 5 above.

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upon those who descend from heaven. It is obvious why we shouldwish to escape from a 'muddy vesture of decay', from the 'mortalcoil' of Hamlet's great meditation. But why are the heaven-bathedsouls consumed by the yearning to sleep, to embrace the narcotic,papaverous hymns of Orpheus to Night and Sleep, to leave beingfor becoming? It is in a way a yearning not so much for death asfor otherness, for the other kind of life, the other kind of wakeful-ness that is ours, the dream life that renders our waking lives beforeLethe a fitful dream, an occasional intimation of our being beforewe sipped from the bowl of becoming. Plato, of course, finds itdifficult to abandon the traditional strictures, but the orientation ofhis great myth is validating what he had elsewhere condemned asthe shadows on the walls of the cave. It is compelling us to acceptour illusions in the life here as necessarily part of the cosmic bal-ance, as the counterpart of the life there, and thus as intrinsic tothe succession of cycles. It speaks to the necessity of falling into sleepand dream, of entering into a realm other than the waking one; butwhere waking and sleeping are in a kind of dialectical exchange.Wherever we are seems for the moment to be the waking life, else-where the life of dream; but every so often we have intimations,Wordsworth's 'fallings from us, vanishings', that the opposite is true.As amphibians we thus dwell in two realms; and we do not escapethe one when we pass to the other, since ours is a twofold destinywhile the succession of the ages endures. The result is the con-founding, or at least the complicating, of the opposition betweenbeing and becoming which Ficino was to engage in his analysis ofthe Sophist.1*

In his influential dialogue De facie quae in orbe lunae apparel, 28, 943Aff., Plutarch maintains that man is composed of three elements: intel-lect, soul and body, the intellect being superior to the soul to thedegree that the soul is superior to the body. In the formation ofman, the Earth supplies the body, the Moon the soul, and the Sunthe intellect. Correspondingly, in man's dissolution—of which sleepis a premonition—we undergo two successive 'deaths', the first onEarth when Demeter violently unlooses the soul and intellect from

14 In Sophistam, summae 16-40 (ed. and tr. by M. J. B. Allen, hastes: MarsilioFicino's Interpretation of Plato's 'Sophist', Berkeley etc., 1989, pp. 228-67, with analy-sis, pp. 49-82).

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the body, the second on the Moon when Persephone 'gently and byslow degrees' unlooses the intellect from the soul. Plutarch thendescribes the nature of the Moon, its eclipses and their effect on dis-embodied souls and outlines his eschatology (30, 943c ff.), situating'the meadows of Hades' between the Earth and the Moon.15 Thesoul having left its body comes to wander for a while in these mead-ows like an exile returning to its homeland: it is purged of any stainderived from the body's pollution until it savors the 'confused' joyof an initiate (ibid.). Attracted by the Sun, the sun-like intellect thenhurries to separate itself from the moon-like soul, abandons it, andhastens along the deep passage right through to the other, heaven-ward side of the Moon, to the 'Elysian plain' (944c-E), thence todepart for the Sun. Left on the Moon meanwhile, deserted andalone, the soul, like a wraith or shade, retains for a time 'the tracesand dreams of life'.16 Plutarch then cites from Book XI of the Odyssey,both line 222, 'Soul like a dream has taken wing and sped', andlines 601-02, 'Thereafter marked I mighty Heracles | His shade;but he is with the deathless gods' (944p).17 Eventually, the souls ofthe temperate who were devoted to the philosophical life blanch forlack of interest in anything on the Moon and 'wither quietly away',while the souls of the ambitious, striving and irascible either 'as ina sleep full of dreams pass the time in reliving the memories of theirlife', like Endymion (945A—B)—a memory surely of the Phaedo\ ref-erence to Endymion at 72c—or they try to descend again to Earth,apparently from the earthward-facing side known as 'the house ofcounter-terrestrial Persephone', the departure point for souls on theirway to rebirth in bodies (944c).18

In many obvious ways unorthodox, for Ficino Plutarch's escha-tology is nevertheless Platonic and based fleetingly on the referencesin the Timaeus 42o, 61 c and 69c~D to the soul's 'mortal part', andmore sustainedly on the Republic's myth of Er, even if it introduced

15 On these 'meadows', cf. Hermias Alexandrinus, In Phaedrum, ed. Couvreur,p. 161.3-9, a commentary Ficino had worked through and translated early in hiscareer. Proclus's comments in his In Rempublicam, ed. Kroll, 11.132.20-133.15, wereunknown to Ficino, however, since he and his contemporaries did not possessProclus's last five treatises (the texts in Kroll's second volume). In his De hide, 382E,Plutarch identifies Hades himself with Osiris.

lb 'oiov i'xvr| iwa (Mot) KOU ovefpata SiacpuXdcTiouaa' (944r).17 Cf. Plotinus, Enneads, IV.3.27; see below.18 Cf. Plato, Phaedo, Sla-E, 108A-B. The notes of Harold Cherniss to his Loeb

edition and translation of De facie are invaluable (Moralia, vol. 12).

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additional problems into oneirology.19 Even Plutarch's tripartition ofman he deemed an authentic Platonic theme, given that the ulti-mate bliss for man is to become a pure intellect (the definition fora Christian Platonist of an angel) and more particularly given that,following Plotinus and Origen, he thinks of human souls as minds'that have somehow lapsed from their purity' and whose aetherealbodies 'are adapted to the different figures and constellations of thesky'.20 More problematic is the notion of the soul's 'death' on the Moon,its becoming a wraith without its intellect, a dreaming Endymion,its sleep full of fleeting memories and dreams. Ficino followed thelater Platonists in interpreting this Plutarchan death as signifying theseparation of the pneuma from the soul, which he saw as essentiallyintellectual. That the soul's spiritous vehicle is abandoned on theMoon was a view opposed, however, by those who argued thatthe soul takes its vehicle, its aethereal envelope, to the very rim ofthe intellectual heaven and even beyond.21

If the myth of the cave articulates Plato's ethical disapproval ofsleep and dreams as the condition of our fallen, fleeting, corporeallife, the myth of Er points to sleep and the dream as somethingmore refined, as the point of entry into our other life, as the con-dition of our material-intelligible, our amphibian state; to our beingthe children of the cycle presided over by Necessity, mother of theFates. And this leads us to the familiar notion of a great myth assomething which escapes the control, certainly the intentions, of itsauthor, like Mercutio or Sancho Panza or Falstaff or Frankensteinor King Kong. In Plato's case it presented Ficino with an alterna-tive vision to the customary one. For the entry into becoming becomes(if we may phrase it paradoxically) the balancing counterpart to theentry into being, as sleep to waking. Viewed together the two con-stitute the being of becoming, the becoming of being, the motionand the stillness of Donatello's dancing rioters in his Cantoria.Michelangelo's Night may defy our sense of the female bust and its

19 See F. Cumont's comments in his Lux Perpetua, Paris, 1949, pp. 189-91. Thejournal Accademia. Revue de la Socwte Marsile Ficin, 1 (1999), includes some interestingarticles on Ficino and dream theory.

20 Platonic Theology, IX.5 (ed. Marcel, II, p. 41).21 Pertinent here is a verse Ficino often adduces from the Chaldaean Oracles, for

instance, in the Platonic Theology, XVIII.4 (ed. Marcel, III, p. 194): 'there is a placetoo for the idol in the clear region' (ed. des Places, frag. 158). Like others heassumed these Oracles were Zoroaster's.

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date is too late for Ficino, but it is nonetheless an extraordinarilypowerful Ficinian depiction of a mighty goddess, the sister of Day,lying with her owl, her cushion of poppies, her mask of the sculp-tor himself, in the meditation of sleep and dream. For she is thePlatonic intellect in soul; and as such she is oblivious of this worldof tombs, however Medicean, draped on a sarcophagus of the deadman, the physical man, and locked into the visions within. ForPlatonism, like Christianity, is centred on paradoxes, on a sense ofthis life and our condition in it as fundamentally paradoxical, as aHerculean struggle for tranquillity. At the same time the way throughthe paradoxes is set out in the Er myth in terms of our submissionto, even our eager participation in, alternation. Commitment to suchalternation, to a theory of returns, cycles, re-enactments, necessarilytransforms the ethical valencies of such core notions as death, night,sleep, descent, incorporation into matter, being timebound and limitedin space. For they become markers only for the circling chariots;stages in the cycle of reincarnation; diastolic states that correspondto the systolic ones of life, day, wakefulness, ascent, liberation frommatter, from time, from space; the house of Cancer at the otherend of the zodiac from the house of Capricorn; the Heracl*tanmoment that balances the laughing Democritus.

What then of the Plutarchan reference to the 'shade' or image (eidolon)of the Homeric Heracles, the active man for Ficino par excellence?"2*1

The famous lines occur in the Nekyia, the descent into hell, in theOdyssey, XI.601-04: 'After Sisyphus I saw the Heraclean might, itsidol or reflection; for as to Heracles himself, in the midst of theimmortal gods, he rejoices at their feasts and possesses the beauti-ful ankle-slim Hebe, a child of great Zeus and of Hera of the goldensandals.' Why would the ghost or idol of Heracles haunt the abodeof the dead when the real hero was on Olympus? For Plutarch theidol was the abandoned soul, while the feasting Hebe-accompaniedHeracles was the intellect. And yet to Ficino, the Plotinian, the

22 For the Neoplatonic Heracles in general, see J. Pepin, 'Heracles et son refletdans le Neoplatonisme', in Le Neoplatonisme. Actes du Collogue international, Rqyaumont,9-13 juin 1969, ed. by P. M. Schuhl and P. Hadot, Paris, 1971, pp. 167-99. ForFicino's Hercules, see M. J. B. Allen, 'hom*o ad Zodiacum: Marsilio Ficino andthe Boethian Hercules', in Forma e parola. Studi in memoria di Fredi Chiappelli, ed. byD. J. Dutschke et al., Rome, 1992, pp. 205-21, repr. in my Plato's Third Eye: Studiesin Marsilio Ficino's Metaphysics and its Sources, Aldershot, 1995.

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mystery was more subtle still, given that the Moon itself is an idolor image of the Sun and also, as Plutarch had suggested at 945A,the 'stuff' or 'element' of the soul as an image or shade, and giventoo that Clotho is the Fate associated with the Moon. Plotinus refersto the Odyssey's lines, albeit mostly indirectly, in three passages. InVI.4.16 he is attempting to retain what he can of the traditionaleschatological myths. If the soul is not bad, then why punishmentin Hades? The soul never descends into the body but projects ontoit its reflection. Thus for Plotinus 'to go down into Hades' signifiestwo distinct things. If Hades signifies the invisible, it means that thesoul separates itself from the body. If Hades is a place below, itmeans that she is either with the body or if the body is no more,then the soul's reflection is in Hades, while the soul itself remainsin the intelligible world.23 The same line of argument appears in1.1.12 where the eidolon is called a second soul and we are told addi-tionally that since the hero lived the life of action, 'something ofhim remained below', whereas if he had been a contemplative hiswhole soul would have been in the intelligible world.24

In IV.3.27, however, Plotinus turns to the problem of memory.To which, soul or soul-image, does memory belong? To both is theanswer, though some memories they share. The shade of Heraclesremembers all the actions accomplished in life. The soul liberatedfrom the body, the true Heracles, remembers the memories it hadforgotten of its former lives (IV.3.27.14-24) even as it progressivelyforgets its life here below (IV.3.32.13). Plotinus thus makes Heraclesthe symbol of the soul's deliverance,25 the eidolon being the imprinton the pneuma projected by the imagination, an umbra, simulacrum orimago.,26 For even gods by apotheosis have such simulacra; and for

23 See Ficino's interesting comments ad loc. in his In Platinum, Opera omnia,p. 1782: 'Idolum animae intellige vitale spiraculum animae circa corpus quod innobis est geminum: alterum quidem ab anima nostra, alterum ab anima mundi.Nostrum quidem ab anima nostra separari non potest, sed ab affectu vacare; mun-danum vero ab anima nostra segregari potest.'

24 Ibid., p. 1554: Vitam hanc, quae est et actus et imago quaedam animae,quando hinc abit anima, non perire quantum est actus animae, sed desinere ulteriusimaginem esse, perinde ac si a vultu imago fiat in speculo atque discedente vulturestet quidem actus quidam in vultu vigorque emicans imaginis efficax sed nonrestat imago.'

20 Cf. Synesius, De somniis, 8; Olympiodorus, In Phaedonem, ed. Norvin, p. 111.22~23.Ficino's comments here at Opera omnia,, p. 1740, are minimal.

2<) The imago is 'a corporeal but intangible form like the wind', writes Servius,

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Plotinus and then Proclus, Heracles's infernal eidolon is to Heracleshimself in heaven as appearance is to reality.27

If we return to the contradiction between the philosophy of ascentinto the eternal world of the Ideas and escape on the one hand,and to the imaginative, mytho-poetic recognition of alternation andcycle on the other, then the heavenly Heracles emerges as the Platonicsymbol of the ascended hero, and his stellification as the symbol ofhis attainment of intelligible changelessness, eternal identity; as histranslation even into the Platonic Idea of man. But his shade or idolin Hades points to an alternative vision where there are two Heracles,two kinds of man, the waking man and the dream man, the one on hisOlympian couch, the other a simulacrum. But each can substitutefor the other. For our realm is the realm of duplication, of alternatingwaking and sleep. If Plotinus's story implies that after apotheosisHeracles's idol was rendered vain, it is because it is the story of agod. But for us who are not yet gods and remain subject to Clothoand the Moon, who have not yet summoned up the strength ofHeracles to merit the reward of apotheosis and who are tied to therecurrent deaths that attend becoming in the cycles of time, the storysuggests something different. Heracles escaped his idol, but we arein perpetual danger of returning to our idols, becoming our dreamsagain. For the sleep life in the meadows of Hades is necessarily ours, anecessary chapter in the story of our millennial travelling between Cancerand Capricorn. Moreover, whereas the Homeric vision suggests thatHades is the place of unreal shades, Plato's own philosophy com-plicates the vision by underscoring the shadowy nature of this lifebefore Hades. We are all still idols, images of images, somnia somniorum,caught in the web of appearance, discovering that even death isunreal and longing as babes to return to the unreality of life, wakingto sleep, sleeping to wake, and crying like Caliban to sleep again, athousand twangling instruments about our ears.

glossing the famous line 'et nunc magna mei sub terras ibit imago' (Aeneid, IV.654).Cf. Porphyry, Sententiae, ed. Lamberz, 29.1-3.

27 Proclus, In Rempublicam, ed. Kroll, I.I 19.23-120.12, presents us with a quater-nary: body-eidolon-soul-intellect, while 1.120.22 ff. and 172.9 ff. deal with the shadeof Heracles. Ficino certainly knew these passages, but only in 1492 after JanusLascaris had purchased a manuscript of the first twelve treatises of Proclus's InRempublicam in Greece for Lorenzo de' Medici's library (now Florence, MS Laur.80, 9). See Sebastiano Gentile's entry in Marsilio Ficino e il ritorno di Platone: Mostradi manoscritti, stampe e documenti, 17 maggio-16 giugno 1984, Florence, 1984, pp. 151-52.

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And one final Neoplatonic chord. The World-Soul of the Timaeus,which Ficino and the Neoplatonists interpreted as the soul of theall, was also attributed an idol.28 This image it projected onto theWorld-Body as onto a mirror29 and the resulting reflection wasDionysus30 with his train of drunken Sileni and satyrs and circlingleopards and the wild maenads who troubled Euripides. This is notthe occasion to explore this orgiastic topic, but it does point to theidea that the world itself is projected as onto a dream, that there isan idol of the soul of the all. That this idol is not the god Hadesbut the god of ecstasy and rebirth, the twice-born, the lover ofAriadne, mistress of the thread that unlocked the secrets of theMinoan labyrinth, again points to a more festive, a more celebra-tory vision of the earth and of our dreams upon it than Plato's ini-tially dualistic system might seem to allow. For haunting this foundingfather of Greek rationalism, and haunting I believe his great Florentinedisciple, is a bacchanalian yet monistic vision of the oneness of anintricate, perpetually varying dance, like the dance of the stars them-selves in the Timaeus, 40c and the Epinomis, 982E.31 For the worlditself we inhabit is the twice-born Dionysus, is a divine soul and thedrunken idol of that soul, a dream and a dream within the dream,a god as powerful as Apollo, lord of wakefulness, an Endymion whomSelene keeps for her own. The whole notion of philosophy as anawakening is an integral part of the Platonic ethos, as is the imageof Socrates as the exemplary questioner who continues the debatethroughout the night of the Symposium while all the others nod offin various degrees of drunkenness and who emerges alone to do dutyto the morning. But it is only half the story. For Plato had othergods to honor besides the Apollo of the day: Hermes the winged

28 See Ficino's commentary in n. 23 above.29 The Neoplatonists were intrigued by the Republic'?, allusion at 596D-E to a mir-

ror's recreation of the world, and Ficino took up the notion of a mirror magic inhis commentary on the Sophist, see my Icastes, chap. 5, and Kodera's article in thiscollection.

30 Ficino has an important analysis of the nine Orphic Bacchoi and their accom-panying Muses in his Platonic Theology, IV. 1 (ed. Allen and Hankins, pp. 294-95);see also his dedicatory epistle of the De vita (Opera omnia, p. 493). See Luc Brisson'sfascinating exploration of the Orphic-Proclan Dionysus in his 'Proclus et I'Orphisme',in Proclus: Lecteur et interprete des anciens. Actes du Colloque International du CNRS Paris,2~4 octobre, 1985, ed. by Jean Pepin and H. D. Saffrey, Paris, 1987, pp. 43-104,at pp. 66-69, 84.

31 James Miller, Measures of Wisdom: The Cosmic Dance in Classical and ChristianAntiquity, Toronto, 1986, is especially insightful.

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interpreter and psychopomp, Dionysus lord of the nocturnal dance,Cronos dethroned king of melancholy, papaverous Hypnos brotherof Thanatos. And he had another vision to convey that was lessSocratic, more Orphic in that it recalls the enchantment of beastand tree, more Pythagorean assuredly in that it recalls our manyreincarnations as a swan, a co*ck, Agamemnon's lion, Thersites's ape,the successive moulds of our lives as sleeping animals-men-spirits-intellects. For even in death we struggle in the hypnomachia which isthe condition of all things wrought by the Platonic demiurge as hemixed soul and body in the krater, the cup of creation from whosebrim it almost seems we sipped of Lethe, of the lotus, of the hem-lock even, from the very beginning.

But these Platonic notions of the soul's pre-existence, of palingene-sis, of recollection, of cyclical time, have always provoked Christianopposition, in Ficino's day from George of Trebizond and evenBessarion.32 In antiquity, however, it had been Augustine, one ofFicino's most revered authorities. In Confessions, Book XI the saintdenies the objective nature of time (§27), affirming the past is com-posed of human memories, the future of human expectations (§28),his stated aim being to demonstrate that it is meaningless to inquireinto what God was doing prior to the creation (§§10-13, 30). In theCity of God, XII. 12, 14, 18, 20-21, however, he launches into a sus-tained attack on the idea that the world is subject to 'an infiniteseries of dissolutions and restorations at fixed periods in the courseof ages' (XII. 12) and thus to 'periodic cycles . . . [which] may takeplace in one continuing world, or it may be that at certain periodsthe world disappears and reappears, showing the same features, whichappear as new, but which in fact have been in the past and willreturn in the future. And the proponents of this theory are utterlyunable to rescue the immortal soul from this merry-go-round, whenit has attained wisdom; it must proceed on an unremitting alterna-tion between false bliss and genuine misery' (XII. 14). 'Heaven for-bid', he continues, having cited as an example of such recurrence'the same Plato, the same city, the same school, the same disciples

32 Bessarion, In Calumniatorem Platonis, II.3 and 8, in L. Mohler, Kardinal Bessarionah Theologe, Humanist und Staatsmann, 3 vols, Paderborn, 1923-42, II, pp. 83 ff., 147,151-53. See James Hankins, Plato in the Italian Renaissance, 2 vols, continuously pag-inated, Leiden, 1990, pp. 235, 257-59.

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having appeared time after time', 'that we should believe this. ForChrist died once for our sins and "being raised from the dead diesno more . . ." [Romans 6:9]'. Sardonically Augustine then cites theSeptuagint version of Psalm 12:9 that 'The ungodly walk in a cir-cle', glossing 'in a circle' to signify 'not because their life is going tocome round again in the course of those revolutions which theybelieve in, but because the way of their error, the way of false doc-trine, goes round in circles' (XII. 14). He pours scorn on the ideathat 'God may be able to know his own works by means of thosefinite cycles with their continual departure and return' (XII.21), andhe is troubled by what he sees as the psychological consequences ofholding such an idea: namely, that 'our bliss will always be blightedby the knowledge that we have to return to misery and that thisalternation is endless'. Interestingly, he lauds Porphyry the Platonistfor refusing to follow Platonic orthodoxy in this matter and for reject-ing 'the incessant and alternate comings and goings of souls' (XII.21).33

Augustine was confronting the widespread and deeply held beliefof the natural scientists, the Stoics, and even more importantly thePlatonists, about the cyclical nature of time. If he found this theoryrepellent for psychological reasons and absurd in its consequences iftaken literally—the same Plato, the same students, the same Argo,the same Achilles—he found it totally unacceptable on intellectualgrounds as contrary to what he believed was the linearity and unique-ness of history and of Christ's incarnation in that history. On thisfundamental issue Ficino differed from Augustine, though indebtedto him in so many other ways.34 One reason for this must have been

33 See Jaroslav Pelikan, The Mystery of Continuity: Time and History, Memory and Eternityin the Thought of Saint Augustine, Charlottesville, Va., 1986; also J. G. Christo, Looking

for God in Time and Memory: Psychology, Theology, and Spirituality in Augustine's Confessions,Lanham, Md., 1991; Richard James Severson, Time, Death, and Eternity: Reflecting onAugustine's Confessions in Light of Heidegger's 'Being and Time', Lanham, Md., 1995; andRoland J. Teske, Paradoxes of Time in Saint Augustine, Milwaukee, Wis., 1996. Of espe-cial interest for the Renaissance are Ricardo J. Quinones, The Renaissance Discoveryof Time, Cambridge, Mass., 1972, and the papers in Time: The Greatest Innovator.Timekeeping and Time Consciousness in Early Modern Europe, ed. by Rachel Doggettet al., Washington, DC, 1986.

34 He used the title of one of Augustine's early Platonizing treatises, De immortal-itate animae, as the subtitle of his Platonic Theology and quoted from it extensively atthe end of his fifth book. Elsewhere he quoted from other works. A full-scale studyof his debts to Augustine has yet to be written, but see Raymond Marcel, MarsileFicin (1433-1499), Paris, 1958, pp. 645, 674-75, and A. Tarabochia Canavero, 'S.Agostino nella Teologia Platonica di Marsilio Ficino', Rivista di filosofia neo-scolastica, 70(1978), pp. 626-46, with further references.

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his commitment to the truth of the myths, when rightly interpreted,in Plato's dialogues—pre-eminently the two we have just consideredwhich propound the theory of world cycles. Moreover, as a human-ist, whose studies had been nurtured on Virgil and Ovid, Livy andPolybius, he must have been attracted like many of his peers to thetheory of repetitive time while still committed to the notion of theend of time and the Last Judgement. For the theory of world cyclesis not in itself unreconcilable with the theory that some virtuous soulsinflamed by love of the divine can escape from the world and thusfrom cyclical return into the body, manumitted at last from the peri-odic concourse in the 'meadows' witnessed by the Pamphylian seer.For Platonism, like Buddhism, posits a liberation for the enlightenedone from the revolving wheel of becoming; and so does its parentPythagoreanism, mutatis mutandis. The philosopher sage leaves behindthe shadowy illusions of becoming and steps forward into the blindingsunlight of being, even if the world itself is forever tied to becoming.

Augustine's account, however, is almost a caricature. It suggests,mockingly, a brief periodic cycle—perhaps even just a few hundredyears—when events actually recorded in history will return and berecognized: the same Plato, the same city. By contrast, Ficino rec-ognized that Plato had in mind a much vaster time scale that pre-cluded anyone knowing, except possibly a divinely inspired prophet,that repetition has begun. Even if there is a finite number of cycles,that finitude is immense in the literal sense of immeasurable, andPlato, he believed, had pointed to the mystery of that vast finitudein his enigmatic reference to the fatal number in Book VIII of theRepublic.^ On the brink of the cosmological revolution and the dis-covery of the New World, Ficino's Platonic revival had as one of itsresults, therefore, the effect of rendering Augustine's time too con-strictively, because too humanly and historically, conceived. It is not,incidentally, that he is siding with Augustine's foes or with any ofthe ancient proponents of temporal cycles, but rather that he is reviv-ing Plato as the philosopher of cosmic and not merely of earthly oranthropocentric time, and thus as the architect of a qualitativelydifferent order of thinking about time, duration and change. Eventhough the ancient theory of cycles is reconcilable in Ficino's mindwith a linear universal chronology which will ultimately end, alongwith temporality itself, with the Day of Judgement, as Augustine had

See my Nuptial Arithmetic, ch. 4.

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so fervently argued—and one thinks of Ptolemy's epicyclical model—nonetheless that day is immeasurably far away, beyond human com-putation, if not comprehension. From our confined historical perspectivewe can only see alternation and recurrence stretching endlessly awayin front of us and behind us. But God's time is itself an image ofHis eternity, a thousand years are but as yesterday when it is past.

The situation is, in sum, complex. Ficino's revival of Platonic cycli-calism ran intellectually counter to, but did not in reality confront,let alone mitigate, the revivalist, millenarian fervor which gave birthto Savonarola, a medieval man trapped in the narrow confines ofmedieval time and under his Dominican habit an Augustinian friar,whom even Ficino had listened to for a few seasons in the early1490s. But it was the humanists' toying with the antique belief incycles and even more his own encounter with Plato's sense of time'svastness and near eternity which enabled Ficino, and after him Bruno,Patrizi, and others, to leap-frog over Augustine's portrait of a dra-matically foreshortened man-centered time focused on the vanishingpoint of imminent conversion. On the threshold of the modern world,he was propelled by his study of Plato and the Platonists to cometo terms with a new if not yet a modern order of temporality.

Although the astrophysicists have now established with remarkabledetail and assurance the life cycles of various orders of stars, starclusters and galaxies, we still subscribe, perhaps atavistically, to thesecond law of thermodynamics and to the notion that our space andhence our time will eventually end. Augustine argued that to acknowl-edge and thus to recognize temporal cycles would make us unhappy,indeed lead us to despair of ever attaining redemption. But the inap-prehensible magnitude of the space and time of the universe we nowperceive also daunts us, mathematically, ethically, psychologically. Inthis regard we are living in a very different universe from that ofthe late ancient or medieval Christian, for whom the stars were ever-guiding, ever-influencing presences (whether benevolently or malev-olently), and for whom both heaven and hell, Elysium and Hades,were comparatively near and imminent, apprehensible in time andspace, visible even to those who were enraptured in dream andtrance. The macrocosm no longer corresponds to, and therefore isno longer proportionable to or interpretable by, our microcosmicselves.36

Even so, Ficino was still drawn to the notion, much discussed by the scholastics,

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For all his many debts to scholasticism, Ficino emerges as an earlymodern thinker. Though steeped in Augustine's works, he was ableto draw on Plato, Plotinus, and even Proclus to liberate himself fromsome of the confines of Augustine's cosmology and history, and thusfrom the constrictions of an ancient Christian world chronology thatwas receding into the past as the desire for other orders of magnitudeintensified. If the telescope and microscope alike aimed to satisfy thisdesire at the observational level, the new paradigms voiced by Ficino,and after him by Bruno and others, spoke to a new metaphysicalpathos that accompanied the gradual turning away from the medievalsense of scale towards the recognition of the vastness of time andspace and thus eventually of an infinitistic cosmology. Ironically, thisemerging 'infinitism' was to destroy the anthropocentric values ofthe humanistic world from which it had arisen and to posit a quitedifferent sense of the human condition in an immeasurably vastspace-time continuum. Ironically, too, it was to postpone indefinitelythe millenarian expectations of Renaissance and Reforma-tion Christiansand make the Savonarolan notion of Christ's Second Coming curi-ously dated, the product of a naive sense of time's imminence, ofits being chopped up and calibrated, as it were, to the length of ahuman life, to the duration of man's institutions, to the rise and falland destiny of a limited succession of peoples, the Egyptians, theAssyrians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Goths, the Franks, and forus now the Texans.

Wedded though he inevitably was to many of the old ways ofthinking about time, is it too much to suggest that Ficino's medita-tion on Plato and the 'last age of the Cumaean song' was a reach-ing out, however somnambulistically, for the light-years, with theirnanoseconds, of the sibylline visions of modern astronomers? In anyevent, I would argue that Ficino's re-engagement with Plato's notionsof cyclical time, and especially those in the last book of the Republic,have important cosmological implications. Simultaneously it was alsoa re-engagement with the ancient if heretical suspicion that we arenot simply creatures who must be born again, but that we have beenand are still unfolding as Platonic men and women, continually liv-ing in the Ideas and reliving in their images in a kind of Heraclean

of adaequatio, of there being a matching, even an equating, of man and cosmos; seehis Platonic Theology, VIII.4.

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life in death. Even as he set against this the Christian hope of finalredemption, the shade of this ever-during Plotinian Heracles is inmany ways an unquiet shade, like the lost Creusa, an infelix simu-lacrum.37 It certainly underscores some of the problematic aspects,perhaps inevitably so, of Ficino's attempt to reconcile Platonism andChristianity.

Aeneid, 11.772.

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John Monfasani

The Plato-Aristotle Controversy of the Renaissance was a uniquemoment in the history of philosophy.1 At no time before or sincehas philosophy been seen as a bipolar world split between Plato andAristotle. For many in the Renaissance, to compare Plato and Aristotlewas to enter into, indeed, to settle the major issues of philosophy.From George Gemistus Pletho's Treatise on the Differences between Platoand Aristotle in 1439 to Jacopo Mazzoni's Comparison of Plato and Aristotlein 1597, Renaissance Europe produced a whole series of comparisonsbased on the assumption that Plato and Aristotle in some way encom-passed the whole philosophical universe.2

One might be tempted to retort that it was not the Renaissancebut Aristotle himself who began the Plato-Aristotle controversy. Afterall, in the Metaphysics Aristotle attacked Plato's theory of Forms, inthe Politics he criticized Plato's Republic and Laws, in De anima herefuted Plato's conception of the soul, in the Physics and De caelo hedebunked Plato's notion of time and infinity, and in the Prior Analyticshe had harsh things to say about Plato's theory of division. Onecan write a great deal about Aristotle's criticisms of Plato, and, infact, modern scholars have.3 Nonetheless, Aristotle did not start the

1 On the controversy in the Renaissance the best overview remains F. Purnell,Jr., 'Jacopo Mazzoni and his Comparison of Plato and Aristotle', PhD dissertation,Columbia University, 1971; for the mid-fifteenth-century stage, see L. Mohler,Kardinal Bessarion als Theologe, Humanist und Staatsmann, 3 vols, Paderborn, 1923-42;repr. Aalen, 1967, I, pp. 346-98; P. O. Kristeller, 'Byzantine and Western Platonismin the Fifteenth Century', in idem, Renaissance Concepts of Man and Other Essays, NewYork, 1972, pp. 86-109; J. Monfasani, George of Trebizond: A Biography and a Study ofhis Rhetoric and Logic, Leiden, 1976, pp. 201-29; articles I, II, III, VII, X, and XIIIin idem, Byzantine Scholars in Renaissance Italy: Cardinal Bessarion and Other Emigres,Aldershot, 1995; and J. Hankins, Plato in the Italian Renaissance, 2 vols, continuouslypaginated, Leiden etc., 1990, pp. 165-263.

2 The only sizeable survey is Purnell, Jacopo Mazzoni', pp. 64-92.3 See H. Cherniss, Aristotle's Criticism of Plato and the Academy, Baltimore, 1944;

repr. New York, 1962; G. S. Claghorn, Aristotle's Criticism of Plato's 'Timaeus', TheHague, 1954; I. During, Aristotle in the Ancient Biographical Tradition, Goteborg, 1957,

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Plato-Aristotle controversy. He criticized the Presocratics just as ener-getically as he criticized Plato;4 and though his largely lost opusculeDe ideis seems to have been in the main a critique of Plato's theo-ries,3 he wrote no major extant work the chief intent of which wasto attack Plato or to compare himself with Plato.

Some Platonists in antiquity did not take kindly to Aristotle'scriticisms of their master. So they served Aristotle some of his ownmedicine. In the mid-second century AD, Calvenus Taurus publisheda now lost critique of Aristotle's Categories.6 A generation later, anotherPlatonist, Atticus, attacked Aristotle on a whole range of issues.7 TheChurch Father Eusebius of Caesarea preserved extensive fragmentsof Atticus's critique, which became well known in the later Renais-sance.8 But in fact Taurus and Atticus were swimming against thetide. First of all, philosophical debate in antiquity was not bipolar.

pp. 318-32; G. R. Morrow, 'Aristotle's Comments on Plato's Laws', in Aristotle andPlato in the Mid-Fourth Century, ed. by I. During and G. E. L. Owen, Goteborg, 1960,pp. 145-62; C. J. De Vogel, 'Aristotle's Attitude to Plato and the Theory of Ideasaccording to the Topics', in Aristotle on Dialectic: Proceedings of the Third SymposiumAristotelicum, ed. by G. E. L. Owen, Oxford, 1968, pp. 91-102; W. Weszl, // 'Deideis' di Aristotele e la teoria platonica delle idee, with a critical edition of De ideis byD. Harlfinger, Florence, 1975; and G. E. L. Owen, 'The Platonism of Aristotle'and 'Dialectic and Eristic in the Treatment of Forms', in his Logic, Science, andDialectic, ed. by M. Nussbaum, Ithaca, NY, 1986, pp. 200-20 and 221-38.

4 See H. Cherniss, Aristotle's Criticism of Presocratic Philosophy, Baltimore, 1935; repr.New York, 1964.

5 See G. Fine, On Ideas: Aristotle's Criticism of Plato's Theory of Forms, Oxford, 1993.6 See K. Praechter, 'Tauros', in Paulys Real-Encyclopddie der classischen Altertumswissenschqft,

ed. by G. Wissowa et al., 34 vols, 15 suppl. vols, Stuttgart, Munich, 1894-1980,IV, pt A2 (1932), cols 1728-75; J. Dillon, The Middle Platonists, 80 B.C. to A.D. 220,Ithaca, NY, 1977, pp. 237-47; H. Dorrie, 'Kalbenos Tauros. Das Personlichkeitsbildeines platonischen Philosophen um der Mitte des 2. Jahrh. n. Chr.', in his PlatonicaMinora, Munich, 1976, pp. 31-53.

7 See Dillon, Middle Platonists, pp. 247-58; P. Merlan, 'Greek Philosophy fromPlato to Plotinus', in The Cambridge History of Later Greek and Early Medieval Philosophy,ed. by A. H. Armstrong, Cambridge, 1967, pp. 14-132, at pp. 73-77; P. Moraux,Der Aristotelismus bei den Griechen von Andronikos bis Alexander von Aphrodisias, 2 vols,Berlin, 1984, II, pp. 564-82; and C. Moreschini, 'Attico: una figura singolare delmedioplatonismo', in Aufstieg und Niedergang der romischen Welt, ed. by W. Haase, Berlinand New York, II.36.1 (1988), pp. 477-91.

8 The excerpts are found in Eusebius of Caesarea, De evangelica praeparatione,XV.5-9. In his translation of 1448, George of Trebizond omitted Bk XV, and itwas not until Robert Estienne's edition of the full Greek text in 1549 and his Latintranslation of 1555 that it became easily available; see J. Monfasani, CollectaneaTrape^untiana: Texts, Documents, and Bibliographies of George of Trebizond, Binghamton,NY, 1984, pp. 725-26. Atticus's fragments have been gathered by E. des Places,Atticus. Fragments, Paris, 1977.

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The Sceptics captured the Platonic Academy when Arcesilaus tookover the headship of the Academy in 270 BC. At the same time theStoics and the Epicureans were fast becoming the two other leadingphilosophical schools of the day. For much of antiquity philosophicaldiscourse was very much a debate between Stoics, Epicureans, andSceptics.9 Platonists and Aristotelians had to answer the challenge ofthe new Hellenistic philosophies even more than they had to respondto each other. Second, Platonists were assimilating Aristotelian doc-trines to Platonism. Already in the first century BC, Antiochus ofAscalon, the pivotal figure in Middle Platonism, had rejected theScepticism of the New Academy and led the return to the dogmaticorthodoxy of the Old Academy of Plato. But for Antiochus that old-time Platonism unequivocally included Aristotle.10 The founder ofNeoplatonism in the third century AD, Plotinus, criticized someAristotelian doctrines, but he had clearly studied Aristotle and wassignificantly influenced by the Aristotelian commentator Alexanderof Aphrodisias." No less importantly, Plotinus's protege Porphyryembraced Aristotle, writing an introduction to Aristotle's Categories, thefamous Isagoge, and a commentary on the same.12 Neoplatonism becamethe dominant philosophical school of late antiquity at the same timethat Aristotle became an integral part of the Neoplatonic curriculum.Neoplatonists dominated the commentary tradition on Aristotle justas they dominated philosophy at the end of antiquity. Indeed, the lastmajor late-antique Aristotelian commentator who was unquestionably

9 A handy introduction is P. O. Kristeller, Greek Philosophers of the Hellenistic Age,tr. by G. Woods, New York, 1993.

10 See G. Luck, Der Akademiker Antiochos, Berne, 1953; Dillon, Middle Platonists, pp.52-106; Kristeller, Greek Philosophers, pp. 140-57.

11 See R. T. Wallis, Neoplatonism, London, 1972, pp. 23-24, 28-29; R. W. Sharpies,'Alexander of Aphrodisias: Scholasticism and Innovation', in Aufstieg und Niedergang,II.36.2 (1987), pp. 1176-1243, at pp. 1220-23; S. K. Strange, 'Plotinus, Porphyry,and the Neoplatonic Interpretation of the Categories', ibid., pp. 955-74; A. H.Armstrong, 'The Background of the Doctrine "That the Intelligibles are not Outsidethe Intellect'", in Les Sources de Plotin, Geneva, 1960, pp. 393-413; and P. Henry,'Un comparaison chez Aristote, Alexandre et Plotin', ibid., pp. 429-44. Also ofinterest is P. Hadot, 'The Harmony of Plotinus and Aristotle according to Porphyry',in Aristotle Transformed: The Ancient Commentators and their Influence, ed. by RichardSorabji, Ithaca, NY, 1990, pp. 125-40.

12 See the articles of Strange and Hadot cited in the previous note and A. Smith,'Porphyrian Studies since 1913', in Aufstieg und Niedergang, II.36.2, pp. 717-73, atpp. 754-55; and S. Ebbesen, 'Porphyry's Legacy to Logic: A Reconstruction', inAristotle Transformed, pp. 141-71.

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not a Neoplatonist was Alexander of Aphrodisias in the early thirdcentury AD.13

The end of antiquity did not produce a bipolar philosophicalworld. Having appropriated Aristotle, the Neoplatonist harmonizersexplained away his criticisms of Plato as differences of words, notsubstance, as misconceptions of Plato's doctrines, and as relevantonly to the physical realm. Aristotle taught logic and physics. Platoreigned supreme as the master metaphysician and theologian.14

The Neoplatonic dominance carried over into the Middle Ages.In twelfth-century Byzantium Nicholas, the bishop of Methone, becameso concerned by the popularity of the late antique pagan NeoplatonistProclus that he published a detailed refutation of Proclus's Elementsof TTieology.^ We shall have more to say on Nicholas of Methonelater, but for the moment what we need to point out is that in crit-icizing Proclus, Nicholas acted as a defender of Christian orthodoxyand not in any way as an Aristotelian. In the Latin West, theNeoplatonism of St Augustine and other late antique sources set thetone of philosophical discourse early on,16 but in the late twelfth cen-tury this Platonism started to give way to the overwhelming success

13 See the article of Sharpies cited in n. 11 above. There is a debate betweenH. J. Blumenthal and E. P. Mahoney on whether Themistius (fl. 340s-385) wasan Aristotelian or a Neoplatonist. Blumenthal says he was an Aristotelian; see his'Themistius: The Last Peripatetic Commentator on Aristotle?', in Aristotle Transformed,pp. 113—24, and Aristotle and Neoplatonism in Late Antiquity: Interpretations of the 'De anima',Ithaca, NY, 1996, pp. 23-24. Mahoney argues for a Neoplatonic Themistius in'Themistius and the Agent Intellect in James of Viterbo and Other Thirteenth-Century Philosophers', Augustiniana, 23 (1973), pp. 422~67, at pp. 428-31; and'Neoplatonism, the Greek Commentators, and Renaissance Aristotelianism', inNeoplatonism and Christian Thought, ed. by D. J. O'Meara, Albany, NY, 1982, pp.169-77, at n. 1 on pp. 264-66.

14 On the late antique commentators and the harmonization of Plato and Aristotle,see Wallis, Neoplatonism, pp. 24-25, and the various authors in Aristotle Transformed,pp. 3-6, 13, 145-46, 175, 181-83, 202, 216-17, 220, 229, 231, especially H. J.Blumenthal, 'Neoplatonic Elements in the De anima Commentaries', pp. 305-24; seealso idem, Aristotle and Neoplatonism, esp. pp. 23~24, 26-27, 33, 36-37, 82~83, andF. Purnell, Jr., 'The Theme of Philosophic Concord and the Sources of Ficino'sPlatonism', in Marsilio Ficino e il ritorno di Platone. Studi e documenti, ed. by G. C.Garfa*gnini, 2 vols, Florence, 1986, I, pp. 397-415.

15 Now available in a critical edition by A. D. Angelou: Nicholas of Methone,'AvaTcrv^iq Trjg OeoAoyiKTyg ZroixsKoasax; UpoK^ov nkarcoviKov <pikoa6(pov. Refutation

of Proclus' Elements of Theology, Athens and Leiden, 1984. See also G. Podskalsky,'Nikolaos von Methone und die Proklosrenaissance in Byzanz (11./12. Jh.)', OrientaliaChristiana Periodica, 42 (1976), pp. 509-23.

16 See E. Gilson, History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages, New York, 1955,pp. 113-50.

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of the newly translated Aristotelian texts; and by the thirteenth cen-tury, Aristotelianism had found a rock-solid and permanent institu-tional base in the newly created universities. Platonism, or moreprecisely, Neoplatonism, continued to exercise a significant influenceand some Latin intellectuals were overtly hostile to Aristotle,17 butoverall Aristotelianism became as dominant in medieval Latin Europeas Neoplatonism had once been in late antiquity.

Consequently, the Renaissance's great interest in, and wholesaletranslation of, Plato's dialogues and various Neoplatonic texts, includ-ing Plotinus's Enneads,18 made possible what had never existed before,namely, a bipolar philosophical world. However, the fact that theByzantine Platonist George Gemistus Pletho was the person who ini-tiated the philosophical debate over the relative merits of Plato andAristotle created difficulties for Christian Platonists. The problem wasnot so much that Pletho vigorously attacked Aristotle as that in theeyes of many contemporaries in the Greek East as well as in theLatin West he was a neopagan Platonist critic of Aristotle. I myselfthink that they were right.19 But the key question for us here is,what did Marsilio Ficino think?

17 See R. Klibansky, The Continuity of the Platonic Tradition during the Middle Ages,rev. edn, Munich, 1981; P. O. Kristeller, 'Proclus as a Reader of Plato and Plotinus,and his Influence in the Middle Ages', in his Studies in Renaissance Thought and Letters,4 vols, Rome, 1956-96, IV, pp. 115-37; J. Hankins, 'Plato in the Middle Ages',in Dictionary of the Middle Ages, ed. by J. R. Strayer, 13 vols, New York, 1982-89,IX, cols 694-704; E. P. Mahoney, 'Aristotle as "The Worst Natural Philosopher"(pessimus naturalis) and "The Worst Metaphysician" (pessimus metaphyswus)'. His Reputationamong some Franciscan Philosophers (Bonaventure, Francis of Meyronnes, AntoniusAndreae, and Joannes Canonicus) and Later Reactions', in Die Philosophic im 14. und15. Jahrhundert. In Memoriam Konstanty Michalski (1879—1947), ed. by O. Pluta,Amsterdam, 1988, pp. 261-73.

18 In general see Hankins, Plato in the Italian Renaissance; for Plotinus see D. J.O'Meara, 'Plotinus', in Catalogus Translationum et Commentariorum, Mediaeval and RenaissanceLatin Translations and Commentaries, ed. by P. O. Kristeller et al., I-, Washington,DC, I960-, VII (1992), pp. 55-73. Classic statements are P. O. Kristeller's essays,'Renaissance Platonism', in his Renaissance Thought and its Sources, ed. by M. Mooney,New York, 1979, pp. 50-65; and 'Renaissance Platonism', in his Studies, III, pp.3-19.

19 See J. Monfasani, 'Platonic Paganism in the Fifteenth Century', in idem,Byzantine Scholars in Renaissance Italy, art. X (first published in Reconsidering the Renaissance,ed. by M. A. Di Cesare, Binghamton, NY, 1992, pp. 45-61), which collects theliterature on this issue. Hankins, Plato in the Italian Renaissance, pp. 197—205, viewsPletho as essentially an unconventional Christian, which is the position of P. O.Kristeller, but he brings no new evidence to bear and undercuts his own positionby presupposing that Pletho saw Christianity as one manifestation of a better, moreuniversal religion.

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Pletho wrote his comparison, De differentiis Platonis et Aristotelis, inGreek in 1439 while a member of the Greek delegation to theCouncil of Florence.20 Ficino was not even six years old at the time.But years later, once he had dedicated his life to Platonism andlearned Greek, Ficino certainly did read Pletho. How could he not?Pletho was the leading Platonic authority of the first half of thefifteenth century. But what did Ficino read? And what did he takefrom that reading?

Ficino cited Pletho only five times in his published writings.21 Thefirst time was in the Platonic TTieology in a passage written at the ear-liest in the 1470s or at the latest in 1482. At the start of De differentiis,Pletho condemned Averroes for saying that Aristotle denied theimmortality of the human soul when in fact the opposite was true.Since Ficino gave the Platonic Theology the subtitle On the Immortalityof the Soul, this assertion of Pletho was a useful bit of ammunitionin arguing that Aristotle agreed with Plato on the immortality of thesoul. Ficino next cited Pletho three times in his commentary onPlotinus, written in the late 1480s, and most famously in the pref-ace to Lorenzo the Magnificent where he recalled that Lorenzo'sgrandfather Cosimo de' Medici had been inspired to bring the PlatonicAcademy to Florence after listening frequently to Pletho disputingat the Council of Florence. Further on in the preface, in an obvi-ous reference to the passage in Pletho's De differentiis already cited inthe Platonic Theology ten years earlier, Ficino remarked that in con-trast with modern Aristotelians the classical commentators and 'oflate, Pletho' interpreted Aristotle more piously as believing in theimmortality of the soul. Ficino cited Pletho two more times in thecommentary on Plotinus, once in respect to the distinction betweentemporal and non-temporal causation and then again concerning thesoul of the earth encompassing the human soul. The former refer-ence might reflect passages in De differentiis and Pletho's Reply toGeorge Scholarius,22 but the latter conforms to nothing we have from

20 For the dating, see F. Masai, Plethon et le platonisme de Mistra, Paris, 1956, p. 329,and B. Lagarde, 'Georges Gemiste Plethon: "Centre les objections de Scholarios enfaveur d'Aristote"', Byzantion, 59 (1989), pp. 354-507, at p. 438. For the text, seeB. Lagarde, 'Le De differentiis de Plethon d'apres 1'autographe de la Marcienne',Byzantion, 43 (1973), pp. 312-43. An English translation is available in C. M. Wood-house, George Gemistos Plethon: The Last of the Hellenes, Oxford, 1986, pp. 191-214.

21 For what follows see Appendix 1 below.22 Cf. Lagarde, 'Le De differentiis\ p. 322.12-19 (Woodhouse, p. 193), and Lagarde,

'Georges Gemiste Plethon', pp. 390-92.

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Pletho. Ficino simply misremembered Pletho. His last reference toPletho occurs in the commentary on ps.-Dionysius the Areopagiteand amounts to nothing more than a citation of Pletho as a Neoplatonicmetaphysician. In short, Ficino cited Pletho only late in his career,and then hardly at all and in a trivial way.

Worse, we know from Ficino's autograph marginal notes in MSRiccardianus 76,23 which contains Pletho's De differentiis, Pletho's Replyto Scholarius defending De differentiis, and Pletho's De fato, that pri-vately Ficino was harshly critical of Pletho. De fato lays out Pletho'sdoctrine of absolute, universal determinism and constitutes a chap-ter in Pletho's Laws.,24 which in turn was Pletho's blueprint for arevived paganism. Ficino wrote five comments in the margins of De

fato, every one of which was strongly hostile to Pletho, differing onlyin degree of sarcasm and amount of contrary argument.20

Whatever the truth of Ficino's story about Pletho inspiring Cosimode' Medici, it tells us nothing about the intellectual debt Ficino owedPletho. Indeed, the only aspect of Ficinian Platonism we can attributeto Pletho with confidence is the belief that Zoroaster was the firstof the ancient theologians. We can make this attribution for two rea-sons: first, because early in his career Ficino viewed Hermes Trismeg-istus as the first of the ancient theologians and ignored Zoroaster;26

and second, because Pletho was the only one who could have per-suaded Ficino to displace Hermes with Zoroaster as the first of the

23 For literature on and a description of this MS see Marsilio Ficino e il ritorno diPlatone. Mostra di manoscritti, stampe e documenti, 17 maggia~16 giugno 1984, ed. byS. Gentile, S. Niccoli and P. Viti, Florence, 1984, pp. 55-57, and taw. XIIIa-b;and P. O. Kristeller, Marsilio Ficino and his Work after Five Hundred Tears, Florence,1987, p. 83.

24 Defato is Book II, ch. 6 of the Laws; see Pletho, Traite des Lois, ed. by C. Alexandreand tr. by A. Pellissier, Paris, 1858; repr. Amsterdam, 1966, pp. 64-78.

2-' See Appendix 2 below. These marginal notes have been published by A. Keller,'Two Byzantine Scholars and Their Reception in Italy. 1. Marsiglio Ficino andGemistos Pletho on Fate and Free Will. 2. Demetrios Raoul Kavakes on the Natureof the Sun', Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 20 (1957), pp. 363-70, atp. 365, but with so many mistakes that it is best to give a new transcription. Ficinoalso wrote occasional Greek and Latin comments in the margins of De differentiisand the Reply to Scholarius, but these were notabilia, paraphrases, or references toother sources.

26 See P. O. Kristeller, // pensiero filosofico di Marsilio Ficino, rev. edn, Florence,1988, pp. 16-17; Marsilio Ficino, Lettere, ed. by S. Gentile, Florence, 1990, I,p. xxi; Hankins, Plato in the Italian Renaissance, pp. 460-64; and M. J. B. Allen,Synoptic Art: Marsilio Ficino on the History of Platonic Interpretation, Florence, 1998, pp.31-49.

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ancient theologians. Pletho was the first person to treat Zoroaster asthe fountainhead of the ancient theologians and he was the first toattribute to Zoroaster the so-called Chaldean Oracles, over which theNeoplatonists, starting with Porphyry, had made such a fuss.27

Given Pletho's importance, Ficino was in something of a bind.On the one hand, he demonstrably mistrusted and even dislikedPletho; on the other, to attack and call into question the greatestPlatonist of the previous generation would jeopardize his own brandof pious Platonism. Moreover, he owed an unacknowledged debt toPletho for a key element in the doctrine of the theologia prisca thatlegitimized his claim for the piety of Platonism. Ficino's solutioninitially was to ignore Pletho, but eventually, when fear of Pletho'spaganism waned, he cited Pletho briefly to serve his own purposes,be it to remind Lorenzo the Magnificent of his grandfather's com-mitment to supporting Platonic studies, or to quote Pletho in orderto separate Aristotle from Averroes. What is certain is that Ficinosteered clear of Pletho's anti-Aristotelianism. And not for lack ofknowledge of the history of the controversy. For in addition toPletho's De differentiis and Reply to Scholarius, MS Riccardianus 76also contains Atticus's critique of Aristotle taken from Eusebius's Deevangelica praeparatione. So Ficino had at his disposal the classical aswell as the Renaissance Platonist counterattack against Aristotle.

Ficino even had access to Nicholas of Methone's twelfth-centuryRefutation of Proclus's Elements of Theology. Indeed, in his commentaryon Plato's Parmenides, Ficino refers to the annotations he composedon Nicholas's Refutation and remarks that Nicholas shows how Platonicrationes., or arguments, do not threaten the Christian Trinity.28 This

27 J. Bidez and F. Cumont, Les Mages hellenises. ^proastre, Ostanes et Hystaspe d'apresla tradition grecque, 2 vols, Paris, 1938; repr. New York, 1975, I, pp. 158-63; II, pp.251-62. Michael Allen suggests to me that since Ficino began the list of theologiprisci: with Hermes Trismegistus in the 1463 preface to his translation of the Pimander,but with Zoroaster from 1469 onwards (see Allen, Synoptic Art, p. 31), we mightdate Ficino's first serious encounter with Pletho's writings to the mid- or late 1460s;see also Hankins, Plato in the Italian Renaissance, pp. 459-64.

28 See Appendix 3 below. Ficino referred to Nicholas again a little further on inthe commentary on Parmenides, in his Opera omnia, 2 vols, continuously paginated,Basel, 1576; repr. Turin, 1959 etc., p. 1172: 'Ipsum igitur unum multitudinis omniscompositionisque et ordinis principium est et servatur et finis. Gregorius NazianzenusNicolausque theologi divinam trinitatem ab eiusmodi conditionibus exceptam vol-unt. Multitudinem enim illam esse participem unitatis et post unitatem, quae numerusquidam est, partium quarundam aliquid componentium.' Ficino also referred to

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is an absurd statement because Nicholas wrote his Refutation preciselybecause he felt that the contemporary fad for Proclus and Proclus'sPlatonic rationes did threaten the Trinity.29 We have Ficino's auto-graph annotations in MS grec 1256 of the Bibliotheque nationalede France, Paris. They are in fact brief and only cover the begin-ning of Nicholas's Refutation, stopping on fol. 5r.30 Nicholas had nicethings to say about Gregory Nazianzenus and Ps.-Dionysius theAreopagite, which Ficino notes; but Ficino could not but observethat Nicholas was at the same time quite critical of Proclus. If Ficinohad continued his annotations, either he would have had to startrefuting the good Byzantine bishop or he would have had to turnhis back on his lifelong attempt to create a pia philosophia out ofPlatonism. He, of course, did neither. Instead, he avoided contro-versy by stopping the annotations. His premature remark in theParmenides commentary remains as an unedited residue of his naiveattempt to enlist Nicholas of Methone in his enterprise to blendPlatonism and Christianity.

But this does not mean that Ficino could avoid the Plato-Aristotlecontroversy altogether. The Greek emigre George of Trebizond hadpublished in 1458 at Rome a violent attack on Plato and Pletho,the Comparatio Aristotelis et Platonis, the main thrust of which was towarn the Latin West of the pagan contagion contained in the Platonictradition and embodied most recently in Pletho.31 When Pletho's stu-dent Cardinal Bessarion published a refutation of Trebizond, the Incalumniatorem Platonis, in Rome in 1469, he distributed copies far and

Nicholas in his commentary on Plotinus; see Opera omnia, p. 1176 (on Enneads,V.3.12): 'qui dixerit absolute differre [sc. personas trinitatis Christianae], id definireverebitur mysterium; denique divinitati credendum, quod Nicolaus Graecus philoso-phus defensit strenue contra Proculum'. Christian Forstel has discovered that Ficinocited Nicholas of Methone yet again in his copy of Plotinus in Paris, BNF, MS gr.1816, at V.3.12, with the marginal note, 'Lege Methodium contra Proculum.' Seehis article in the forthcoming proceedings of the conference Marsilio Ficino. Fonti,testi, fortuna, Atti del Convegno Internazionale di Studi, Istituto Nazionale di Studisul Rinascimento, Firenze, 1—3 octobre 1999. See also M. J. B. Allen, 'MarsilioFicino on Plato, the Neoplatonists, and the Christian Doctrine of the Trinity',Renaissance Quarterly, 37 (1984), pp. 555—84 (repr. in his Plato's Third Eye: Studies inMarsilio Ficino's Metaphysics and its Sources, Aldershot, 1995, art. DC), for a demonstrationthat Ficino was careful not to confuse Christian Trinitarianism and Neoplatonicdoctrine.

29 See Angelou's introduction to Nicholas of Methone, Refutation, ch. IV, pp.liii-lxiv.

30 See Appendix 3 below.31 See Monfasani, George of Trebizond, pp. 156—70.

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wide in what must have been one of the first, if not the first, pro-paganda campaigns to use the printing press.32 Bessarion sent a copyto the still relatively young and unknown Ficino preceded by a let-ter which referred to his earlier correspondence with Ficino.33 Bessariondoubtless saw Ficino as a useful ally in Florence. Ficino, for his part,seems to have been quite deliberately cultivating the Greek cardinaland other Roman dignitaries as insurance in the event that Medicipatronage dried up and he had to find support elsewhere.34 However,in his response, despite his desire to please and their common devo-tion to Plato, while Ficino praised Bessarion and complained of thosewho had contempt for the secret treasures of Plato, he studiouslyavoided attacking Trebizond or any other Aristotelian.35 He was justnot going to be dragged into the Plato-Aristotle controversy startedby the Greeks.

Nonetheless, Ficino did catch a glancing blow in the controversy,not, however, from George of Trebizond, but from George's sonAndreas, and not concerning Plato and Aristotle, but concerningastrology and astronomy. Andreas had become one of Pope SixtusIV's two private secretaries.36 In the spring of 1482 he dedicated toSixtus his father's commentary on Ptolemy's Almagest. Part way throughthe preface he suddenly launched into an attack upon some unnamedignoramus (sciolus) who had dedicated his life to Plato and who,Andreas heard, was deprecating what Andreas called 'the wondrousorder and incredible regularity of the stars'.37 This Platonist couldonly have been Ficino. Andreas must have gotten wind of Ficino'sDisputation against the Judgment of Astrologers, written but not publishedfive years earlier. Perhaps Andreas thought its publication was immi-nent, although in fact the text Ficino was preparing to publish that

32 Ibid., pp. 219-21; Mohler, Kardinal Bessarion, I, pp. 364-83.33 Mohler, Kardinal Bessarion, III, pp. 543-44; Ficino, Lettere, ed. Gentile, I, p. 34.34 See P. O. Kristeller, 'Marsilio Ficino and the Roman Curia', in his Studies,

IV, pp. 265^80. Ficino even paid a visit to Rome in this period.35 See Ficino, Lettere, ed. Gentile, I, pp. 35-36 and 246-47 (an earlier draft).

Ficino's letter is also edited in Mohler, Kardinal Bessarion, III, pp. 544-45.36 See W. von Hofmann, Forschungen zur Geschichte der kurialen Behdrden vom Schisma

bis zur Reformation, 2 vols, Rome, 1914, II, p. 123; and Monfasani, George of Trebizond,p. 237.

37 For Andreas's preface see Monfasani, George of Trebizond, p. 233, idem, CollectaneaTrapezuntiana, pp. 787-88, and idem, 'A Description of the Sistine Chapel underPope Sixtus IV, Artibus et Historiae, 7 (1983), pp. 9-18 (reprinted as Art. VIII inmy Language and Learning in Renaissance Italy, Aldershot, 1994). For the relevant por-tion of the preface, see Collectanea Trapezuntiana, p. 798, §§ 10-12.

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year was not the Disputation against the astrologers but the PlatonicTheology, which came off the press at the end of 1482.38 In a way,Andreas was off target since, as De vita shows, Ficino later repentedof his anti-astrological views and very much believed in celestialinfluences.39 De vita also shows that Ficino embraced white magic aswell.40 This is especially interesting since at the end of his screed inthe preface to the Almagest, Andreas mocked the unnamed Platonistfor his pretensions of being a magus and for the magical incantationsdirected toward the heavens that the impurissima familia of Plato prac-ticed.41 Although he did not quite get the particulars right, Andreasunderstood that the Florentine Platonism he was attacking was differentfrom the quite unmagical Platonism of Gemistus Pletho which hisfather George had opposed.

This leaves us with one last question, but it is the most impor-tant one. What was Ficino's attitude toward Aristotle? The answerdepends on what period of Ficino's life we are talking about. In hisstudent days, Ficino trained in Aristotelianism; and as a young intel-lectual he taught Aristotelian philosophy at the university of Florenceand gave private lessons on Aristotelian logic.42 In this early periodand even for a while after 1456, when he started to learn Greekand dedicated his life to Platonism, he assumed concordance betweenPlato and Aristotle. In his youthful Tractatus de anima, he had Plato

38 M. Fuiano, 'Astrologia ed umanesimo in due prefazioni di Andrea di Trebisonda',Atti dell'Accademia Pontaniana, n.s., 17 (1967-68), pp. 385-405, mistakenly thoughtAndreas was attacking Giovanni Pico della Mirandola; E. Garin, 'II platonismocome ideologia della sowersione europea: La polemica antiplatonica di GiorgioTrapezunzio', in Studia humanitatis: Ernesto Grassi zum 70. Geburtstag, ed. by E. Horaand E. Kessler, Munich, 1973, pp. 113-20, at p. 120, and P. Zambelli, 'Platone,Ficino e la magia', ibid., pp. 121-42, at pp. 133-34, correct the error.

39 See M. Ficino, Three Books on Life. A Critical Edition and Translation, ed. and C. V. Kaske and J. R. Clark, Binghamton, NY, 1989, Introduction, pp. 18-22,32-38, and Bks II and III passim of De vita; see also D. P. Walker, Spiritual andDemonic Magic from Ficino to Campanella, London, 1958; repr. Notre Dame, Ind., 1975,Stroud, Glos., 2000, pp. 3-24.

40 Ficino, Three Books on Life, ed. Kaske and Clark, pp. 45-55, and Bk III of Devita, passim; Walker, Spiritual and Demonic Magic, pp. 30-53.

41 Monfasani, Collectanea Trape&mtiana, p. 798, §12: 'Quis enim ignorat impurissi-mam sui Platonis familiam profited magica incantamina celo pendere et ex astrisinitia ducere? An fortasse, ut magum se neget, magie principia negat? Sed ait annegat, non euro.'

42 See P. O. Kristeller, 'The Scholastic Background of Marsilio Ficino', in hisStudies, I, pp. 35—97, S. J. Hough, 'An Early Record of Marsilio Ficino', RenaissanceQuarterly, 30 (1977), pp. 301-04, and J. Davies, 'Marsilio Ficino: Lecturer at theStudio fiorentino', Renaissance Quarterly, 45 (1992), pp. 785-90.

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and Aristotle agreeing on definition although one proceeded by divi-sion and the other by composition;43 and in De virtutibus moralibus of1457 he asserts a commimality of origin from Socrates betweenPlatonists, Aristotelians, and Stoics.44 No one knows exactly whenFicino decided that Hermes Trismegistus was the first of the ancienttheologians leading to Plato, but a doxographical list he wrote inthis period is significant here. In the margin of his copy of Chalcidius'scommentary on the Timaeus, Ficino wrote: 'Trismegistus, Pythagoras,Philolaus, Numenius, Plato and Aristotle, the Stoics held the sameopinion concerning matter.'45 Not only did Ficino include Aristotleand the Stoics in the sequence, but he also paired Aristotle withPlato before the Stoics. All the names in the chronological list arewritten in sequence on separate lines save for the names of Platoand Aristotle, which are written on the same line and joined togetherwith an 'et'.46 In the opuscule On the Four Sects of Philosophers of 1457,Ficino noted that Aristotle was unclear about the immortality of thesoul and that he had denied against Plato that the world had abeginning. Yet, Ficino immediately went out of his way to show thatin ethics Aristotle and Plato agreed.47 Similarly, in the treatise Devoluptate of 1458, after having initially suggested that Aristotelians dis-agree with Plato, Ficino concluded that Aristotle in fact really agreedwith Plato.48

But once we leave this early period, it is easy to find instanceswhere Ficino either notes differences between Plato and Aristotle oreven chides Aristotle for turning on his teacher. In 1476, Ficinoasserted the superiority of Plato's ethics over Aristotle's;49 in 1477,

43 Kristeller, 'Scholastic Background', p. 67.44 P. O. Kristeller, Supplementum Ficinianum, 2 vols, Florence, 1937; repr. Florence,

1973, II, pp. 1-3.4D See Appendix 4 below.46 See also Marsilio Ficino, Theologie platonicienne de I'immortalite des dmes, ed. and

tr. by R. Marcel, 3 vols, Paris, 1964-70, I, p. 224: 'Zoroaster, Mercurius, Orpheus,Aglaophemus, Pythagoras, Plato, quorum vestigia sequitur plurimum physicusAristoteles.'

47 Kristeller, Supplementum Ficinianum, II, pp. 8-9; for the date see ibid., I, p. cxxxix.48 Ficino, Opera omnia, pp. 991-92, 997-98. The work has a colophon dating it

1457 in Florentine style.49 Ibid., p. 735: 'Aut si forte ocius succurrere res urgebat, saltern Aristotelis more

non huic homini dare, sed homini, imo Platonis more non huic homini dare, sedDeo.' The letter is dated 2 December 1476, amended to 10 December 1476 in TheLetters of Marsilio Ficino, tr. by members of the Language Department of the Schoolof Economic Science, 6 vols to date, London, 1975-, II, p. 41.

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he accused Aristotle of kicking his teacher Plato;"0 and in anotherletter that same year, he remarked that even Aristotle could not tol-erate the false calumnies uttered against Plato, a comment that onlymade sense if one presumed that Aristotle was normally critical ofPlato.51 Even earlier, in his commentary on the Philebus of 1469,Ficino bragged of destroying the pettifogging criticisms of the Aristo-telians against Plato concerning the highest good02 and accusedAristotle of slandering Plato.03 About the same time, in his com-mentary on the Symposium, he also made sure to correct deceptiveAristotelian interpretations of Plato concerning the soul.04

But how does this evidence of hostility toward Aristotle square withthe numerous times Ficino cited or spoke well of Aristotle, especiallyin the Platonic Theology?^ Indeed, how could this hostility coexist withFicino's numerous and emphatic assertions of concord betweenPlato and Aristotle?56 The answer, I believe, can be found in thefamous preface to his translation of Plotinus where Ficino condemnscontemporary Aristotelians, misled by Averroes and Alexander ofAphrodisias, for diverging from the Aristotle whom classical as wellas modern commentators such as Giovanni Pico and George Gemistus

50 Opera omnia, p. 744: 'Cupio, si liceret, monere magistros ne obliviscantur,Aristotelem in divinum Platonem recalcitrasse.' (Letters, II, p. 66).

51 Ibid., p. 770: 'Verum Aristoteles, cui veritas magis quam Plato fuit arnica, tarnfalsas in virum sanctum calumnias sustinere non potuit.' (Letters, III, p. 47).

52 Marsilio Ficino, The 'Philebus' Commentary, ed. and tr. by M. J. B. Allen, Berkeleyetc., 1975, p. 113: 'Ex quo Peripateticorum contra divum Platonem cavillationesexplosae iam sunt.'

33 Ibid., p. 177: 'In quo et Aristoteles haud veritus est divum Platonem calumniari.'34 Marsilio Ficino, Commentaire sur le Banquet de Platon, ed. and tr. by R. Marcel,

Paris, 1956, p. 231; Ficino's volgare version of this passage gives a better sense ofhis annoyance with Aristotle (ibid., n. 1): 'non 1'intendiamo in quel modo corpo-rale, il quale Aristotile, cavillando, appose al gran Platone . . .'

55 See Theologia Platonica, ed. Marcel, I, pp. 53, 64, 102, 120, 122, 163, 224, 270,282, 318; II, pp. 11, 38, 59, 65, 68, 81, 94, 107, 141, 202, 227, 252, 279, 286;III, 9, 17, 40, 45-47, 64-66, 77, 87, 97-101, 104, 170, 192-93, 267-68, 282 (Trescontemplationis Platonicae gradus), and 333 (Quinque Platonicae sapientiae claves); see alsoKristeller, Supplementum Ficinianum, II, pp. 4, 8, 32, 61, 63, 67, 74, 132; Ficino, Lettere,ed. Gentile, I, p. 203 (Letters, I, p. 173); Ficino, Commentaire sur le Banquet, ed. Marcel,pp. 215 and 247; M. J. B. Allen, Marsilio Ficino and the Phaedran Charioteer, Berkeleyetc., 1981, p. 113 (= In Phaedmm); and Opera omnia, pp. 1395, 1488, 1537, 1544,1553, 1570, 1596, 1602, 1654, 1770, 1786, 1920.

Jb In general see Purnell, 'The Theme of Philosophic Concord'. For passagesbased on Themistius see n. 63 below; see also Opera omnia, pp. 869-70 (letter of1485 to Ermolao Barbaro, in the forthcoming vol. VII of Letters), pp. 952~53 (let-ter of 1493 to Francesco da Diacceto); p. 1438 (In Timaeum). See also R. Marcel,Marsile Ficin (1433-1499), Paris, 1958, pp. 639-40.

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Pletho have piously interpreted as agreeing with Plato on the immor-tality of the soul.57 From the 1460s on, Ficino practiced not a philo-sophical but a rhetorical strategy in respect to Aristode. Well awareof the differences between Plato and Aristotle, Ficino chose to ignorethem in order to win the contemporary philosophical world over toPlato. Perforce, Averroes, not Aristotle, became Ficino's bete noire.58

To demonstrate the concordance between Plato and Aristotle,Ficino never wrote a commentary on Aristotle or a comparison ofthe two philosophers. Instead, he cited Aristotle wherever it was con-venient to do so as he commented on Plato or argued what he con-ceived to be Platonic philosophy.

How artificial this exercise was can be seen from Ficino's com-mentary on Plato's Parmenides. For the Neoplatonists the Parmenideswas the metaphysical dialogue par excellence, providing the authorita-tive text for their doctrine of the three divine hypostases, i.e., thefirst hypostasis, the One, which transcends being, the second hyposta-sis, the Intellect, where being begins and the Ideas reside, and thethird hypostasis, the World Soul. This metaphysical structure, ofcourse, runs completely contrary to Aristotle's conception of Beingas the highest principle of reality and his belief that Being and theOne are coterminous. The brilliant young Giovanni Pico dellaMirandola had faced this contradiction in his treatise On Being andthe One and had resolved it by separating Plato from the Neoplatonistsand making him an Aristotelian on the issue of the One.09 In hiscommentary on Plato's Parmenides, Ficino chided Pico for harmonizingPlato and Aristode in this fashion.60 Yet Ficino never criticized Aristodein the commentary. He did acknowledge in passing that Platonists(we would say Neoplatonists) reject the Aristotelian position that unity

57 The preface can now be read in O'Meara, 'Plotinus', pp. 69-70.38 Cf. J. Hankins, 'Marsilio Ficino as a Critic of Scholasticism', Vivens hom*o, 5

(1994), pp. 325-34.39 See M. J. B. Allen, 'The Second Ficino-Pico Controversy: Parmenidean Poetry,

Eristic and the One', in Marsilio Ficino e il ritorno di Platone, ed. Garfa*gnini, pp.417-55 (repr. in Plato's Third Eye, art. X), esp. pp. 429-31; and S. Toussaint, L'Espritdu Quattrocento: Le 'De Ente et Uno' de Pic de la Mirandole, Paris, 1995.

60 See Allen, 'Second Ficino-Pico Controversy', pp. 430-31, who quotes from theeditio princeps, the Commentaria in Platonem, Florence, 1496, fol. 20v, and the 1576Opera omnia, p. 1164: 'Utinam mirandus ille iuvenis disputationes discussionesquesuperiores diligenter consideravisset antequam tarn confidenter tangeret praecep-torem ac tarn secure contra Platonicorum omnium sententiam divulgaret et div-inum Parmenidem simpliciter esse logicum et Platonem una cum Aristotele ipsumcum ente unum et bonum adaequavisse.'

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and multitude are conditions of being.61 But a few pages further onin the commentary, Ficino himself made a stab at harmonizing.Aristotle with Plato. He argued that Aristotle preferred to call theFirst a final cause in order to avoid any division or motion in theFirst. By this argument Ficino had neatly explained away Aristotle'srejection of Plato's Demiurge as the efficient cause of the world. Atthe same time, he had insinuated rather than asserted against Picothat the Neoplatonic notion of the One could be reconciled withAristotle.62

No less strange was Ficino's proof text for the harmony of Platoand Aristotle. It is a passage in Themistius's commentary on Aristotle'sDe anima. Themistius says that from the material that he, Themistius,has provided one has the resources to understand the thought ofAristotle, Theophrastus, and Plato.63 Ficino read this passage as anassertion that the three philosophers agreed about the soul. Ficinocited it three times: first, in the Platonic Theology of the 1470s64 andthen in the prefaces he wrote to King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary65

and to Filippo Valori in 149066 of his translation of Priscian theLydian's Paraphrase of Theophrastus's psychology. What is odd aboutthis proof text is its isolation in Ficino. Of the extant late antiquecommentators on Aristotle, the great harmonizer was Simplicius, notThemistius. One finds assertions and explications of the harmonybetween Plato and Aristotle in Simplicius's commentaries on the

61 Opera omnia, p. 1172: 'Non recipient ergo Platonici Peripateticum illud, uni-tatem multitudinemve ad ens ipsum quasi conditiones quasdam eius quodammodosequi . . .'

62 Ibid., p. 1178: Torsan vero et Aristoteles, ut divisionem atque motum evitaretin primo, causam finalem manifestius quarn efficientem censuit nominandam.'

63 Themistius, In libros Aristotelis De anima paraphrasis, ed. by R. Heinze, in Commentariain Aristotelem Graeca, V.3, Berlin, 1899, pp. 108.35-109.3. This is how R. B. Toddtranslates the passage in Themistius, On Aristotle on the Soul, Ithaca, NY, 1996, p. 134:'But, as I have said, making claims about what philosophers believe involves spe-cial study (a^o^fi) and reflection. Still, it does seem perhaps relevant to insist thatsomeone could best understand the insight of Aristotle and Theophrastus on these[matters], indeed perhaps also that of Plato himself, from the passages that we havegathered.' Todd notes that axoXf| might also mean 'lecture'.

64 Theologia Platonica, ed. Marcel, III, p. 104; see also III, p. 17.65 Opera omnia, p. 896.66 Ibid., pp. 896-97, and p. 1801; he hailed here Pico's project of demonstrat-

ing the concord of the philosophers, playing on the same pun (vir mirandus) that heused in referring to Pico in the commentary on the Parmenides (see n. 60 above).Cf. Ficino's letter of 1488 (Opera omnia, p. 890; in Letters, VII, forthcoming) prais-ing Pico as the literal and figurative prince of Concordia.

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Categories., on the Physics., on De anima and De caelo.67 Yet Ficinonever cites them. The reason, I believe, is simple. Ficino never readThemistius's relatively short commentary on Aristotle's De anima, letalone Simplicity's many times larger commentary on the same.68

Ficino could, of course, read Themistius in the Greek. However, inthe thirteenth century William of Moerbeke made a Latin transla-tion.69 There are only eight manuscripts of this translation extant,and none of them, as far as I can tell, would have been availableto Ficino.70 Rather, I would contend, he lifted this Themistian pas-sage straight out of one of his favorite sources, Thomas Aquinas,who quotes it in his treatise De unitate intellectus.11 Ficino read neitherThemistius nor Simplicius because he had no real interest in estab-lishing philosophically the concord between Plato and Aristotle. The

67 Cf. for example his prescription in the Categories commentary on how anAristotelian exegete should approach the text (Simplicius, Commentaire sur les Categories,tr. and comm. by Ilsetraut Hadot, fasc. 1, Leiden, 1990, p. 9.28^32): 'II faut aussi,a mon avis, qu'il ne regarde pas seulement la lettre de ce qu'Aristote dit contrePlaton, pour condamner le disaccord de ces philosophies, mais qu'il considere lesens e suive a la trace 1'accord qui, sur la plupart des points, existe entre eux.' Forthe commentary on De anima (viewed by some scholars since 1972 as the work ofPs.-Simplicius), see Blumenthal, 'Neoplatonic Elements', pp. 307-09, 316-18, 321,322, and idem, Aristotle and Neoplatonism, pp. 83—84, 88-89, 142; for the commen-taries on the Physics and De caelo, see his 'Neoplatonic Elements', p. 306, and Aristotleand Neoplatonism, pp. 26—27.

68 As Michael Allen has pointed out to me, Ficino did mention the commenta-tors Simplicius, Themistius, and Eustratius in the same passage in his commentaryon the Philebus (ed. Allen, p. 183); but as Allen also notes, p. 542, n. 92, the 'pas-sage in question is [Aristotle] Metaphysics XII, 1072b-1074a'. No commentary onthe Metaphysics, however, by Simplicius or Eustratius is extant. We have Themistius'sparaphrase of the Metaphysics, but it first became available in 1558 in a translationfrom the Hebrew by Moses Finzius (Venice: Hieronymus Scotus; see Themistius,In Aristotelis Metaphysicorum librum A paraphrasis, ed. by S. Landauer, Commentaria inAristotelem Graeca, Berlin, 1902, p. vii). Ficino must have had these references sec-ond-hand, though I have not been able to identify the source.

69 See M. Grabmann, Guglielmo di Moerbeke O.P., il traduttore delle opere di Aristotele,Rome, 1946; repr. Rome, 1970, pp. 135-40, and the edition by G. Verbeke,Themistius, Commentaire sur le traite de I'dme d'Aristote. Traduction de Guillaume de Moerbeke.Edition critique et etude sur ['utilisation du Commentaire dans Volume de Saint Thomas, Leiden,1973.

70 See Themistius, Commentaire sur le traite de I'dme, ed. Verbeke, pp. Ixxxii-xcvii.The eight manuscripts are Erfurt, Amplon., Fol. 40 and Fol. 363, Munich, BSB,elm 317, Oxford, Balliol 105, Paris, BNF, lat. 14698 and 16133, Toledo, Bibl.Capit. 47-12 and Venice, Bibl. Marc., lat. VI.21.

" Themistius, Commentaire sur le traite de I'dme, ed. Verbeke, p. 244.3-6 = ThomasAquinas, De unitate intellectus, V. 121. Cf. Verbeke, p. xl. Moerbeke's translation runs:'Quod autem maxime aliquis utique ex verbis quae collegimus accipiat de his sen-tentiam Aristotelis et Theophrasti, magis autem forte et ipsius Platonis; hoc enimpromptum forte propalare.'

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isolated quotation from Themistius came to him on the cheap andwas adequate for his purposes—even if he had to read into it morethat it actually said. Late in life, as a gesture toward providing evi-dence for his thesis of concord, Ficino translated and commentedon Priscian the Lydian's relatively short Paraphrase of Theophrastus(Metaphrasis in Theophrastum),1'1 which, incidentally, does not clearly assertconcord between Plato and Aristotle.

In sum, Ficino did enter into the Plato-Aristotle controversy, buton his own terms and with a minimum of effort. Irenic by tempera-ment and appreciative of Aristotle because of his early philosophi-cal education, he wanted no part of the debate started by Plethoand continued by the Greeks in Renaissance Italy. Nor was he will-ing to spend any serious amount of time or labor demonstratingAristotle's harmony with Plato. I suspect that in his heart of heartshe doubted that such an enterprise could have succeeded. Instead,to win the goodwill of contemporary Aristotelians, he decided onessentially a rhetorical policy. He insinuated and on occasion baldlyasserted harmony between Plato and Aristotle. He called on con-temporary Aristotelians to follow the old Aristotelians. By 'old Aristo-telians' he meant specfically, the ancient Neoplatonist commentatorson Aristotle and on Theophrastus, Aristotle's successor in the Lyceum.On the basis of his forced interpretation of the Themistian quota-tion lifted from St Thomas, Ficino believed that Theophrastus, andtherefore Aristotle, could be shown to have agreed with Plato.73

Concomitantly, Ficino refuted in detail Aristotle's medieval Arabinterpreter Averroes for impiously denying the immortality of thehuman soul.74 But apart from the issue of the immortality of thesoul, Ficino spoke well of or cited favorably Averroes several timeseven in the Platonic Theology and the commentary on Plotinus.75 Ficino

72 Opera omnia, pp. 1801-35; see M. J. B. Allen, hastes: Marsilio Ficino's Interpretationof Plato's 'Sophist', Berkeley etc., 1989, p. 187.

73 In addition to the preface to the commentary on Plotinus, see also TheologiaPlatonica, ed. Marcel, III, p. 104.

74 For Ficino labelling Latin Averroists 'sophists', see Allen, Icastes, pp. 22~23, n. 22;for his viewing them (and the adherents of Alexander of Aphrodisias) as threats toreligion because of their denial of providence, see Allen, Synoptic Art, pp. 14-15.

75 Theologia Platonica, ed. Marcel, I, p. 53; II, pp. 257, 286; III, pp. 267-68 (Trescontemplationis Platonicae gradus}; Opera omnia, pp. 1553, 1570, 1593 (In Platinum}; InPhilebum, ed. Allen, p. 183. As Gentile, Lettere, I, p. xxxi, n. 48, points out, in hisyouthful De voluptate of 1458, Ficino called Averroes 'Peripateticorurn interpretumacutissimus' (Opera omnia, p.

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wished to incorporate as much as he could even of the medievalAristotle into his harmony of Plato and Aristotle. In other words,Ficino shared Pico's desire for a concordia philosophical The differencewas that Ficino saw concord as a rhetorical strategy to convince theworld of his Neoplatonic Plato by glossing over as much as possiblereal differences between Plato and Aristotle and by calling upon aNeoplatonic Aristotle whenever possible and even on occasion uponAverroes. Giovanni Pico, on the other hand, proposed a principledand methodical synthesis which would have transcended Plato, Aristotle,and all other philosophers. Furthermore, Ficino absolutely had toreject Pico's concord when, as was the case in Pico's On Being andthe One, it resulted in the subordination of Plato to Aristotle. ForFicino, concordia philosophica was never a goal in itself; it was only aninstrument in achieving his real goal, which was the victory of theone true and pious philosophy, the Theologia Platonica.


As Kristeller, Supplementum Ficinianum, II, p. 361, and Marcel, Marsile Ficin,p. 610, n. 2, record, Ficino cited Pletho on only five occasions in his pub-lished works.


The first time was in Theologia Platonica, XV. 1 (ed. Marcel, III, pp. 8-9).We have no way of dating exactly when Ficino wrote this passage. TheTheologia Platonica itself was composed in 1469-74 and demonstrably revisedto some extent from that time up to its printing in late 1482 (the printer'scolophon is dated 7 November 1482; Kristeller, Supplementum Ficinianum, I,pp. Ixxix—Ixxxiii; Marcel, 'Introduction' to his edition, I, p. 19). So the pas-sage could be as late as 1482 and, given its location (the Theologia Platonicahas only 18 books), certainly no earlier than the early 1470s.

Ficino says that Averroes, working from wretched Arabic translations('Aristotelicos libros in linguam barbaram e Graeca perversos potiusquamconverses legisse traditur'), in some obscure matters failed to grasp themeaning of Aristotle's hyper-condensed prose ('in quibusdam rebus recon-ditis brevissimi scriptoris mens eum latuerit.'). Then Ficino continues (I haveslightly altered Marcel's text): 'Quod illi contigisse Platonicus Pletho tes-

76 Cf. in this regard Ficino's letter to Ermolao Barbaro encouraging his work onAristotle, Opera omnia, p. 869 (in Letters, VII, forthcoming).

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tatur ac peritissimi quique Graecorum. Et quod maximum est, adversusAverroim Graeca Aristotelis verba reclamant. Ait ipse Plethon Aristotelemsine controversia censuisse hominum animos esse multos et sempiternos.Subiungit nolle se Aristotelis verba pervertere, etsi Aristoteles Platonis cetero-rumque philosophorum verba pervertit. Haec ille.'

Pletho referred to Averroes in his reply to Scholarius (ed. Lagarde,p. 374.15-24), but to compliment his subtlety as opposed to Scholarius'sobtuseness and to say he wished to save the Latins from being fooled byAverroes into thinking Aristotle perfect (ed. Lagarde, p. 489.26-31). Ficinois clearly citing the beginning of Pletho's De differentiis, where Pletho blamesAverroes for upholding the abhorrent view that the soul is mortal althoughAristotle himself does not seem to make this ignorant mistake ('o{>5' 'Apiaio-TeAxnx; Tatmyv SOKOUVTCX; Tpv djiaOiav d|axx0aivew'; ed. Lagarde, p. 321.7—14;tr. Woodhouse, p. 192, § 1). Pletho goes on immediately to say that onemust be honest and not slander Aristotle though Aristotle himself slanderedmost of his predecessors. Ficino may also be thinking of the end of Dedifferentiis, where Pletho criticizes Aristotle for attacking all his predecessors(ed. Lagarde, pp. 342.26 and 36-37; tr. Woodhouse, p. 213, § 55). Theelement not found in Pletho is the gloss added by Ficino that Averroesrelied on faulty translations.


The next three citations are to be found in Ficino's commentary on Plotinus'sEnneads. Ficino began the commentary in 1486 and continued to work onit at least until 1490. The first printed edition is dated 5 November 1492(Kristeller, Supplementum Ficinianum, I, pp. Ixvi, cxxvi—cxxviii). In the prefaceto Lorenzo de' Medici, Ficino describes how Lorenzo's grandfather Cosimowas inspired to bring the Platonic Academy to Florence after listening fre-quently to Pletho disputing at the Council of Florence: 'philosophum Graecumnomine Gemistum, cognomine Plethonem, quasi Platonem alterum de mys-teriis Platonicis disputantem frequenter audivit'. Further on in the preface,he lamented the fact that modern Aristotelians, one party following Averroesand another Alexander of Aphrodisias, believe the human soul to be mor-tal. Both groups have deserted Aristotle, whose mind few today exceptFicino's co-Platonist Giovanni Pico della Mirandola interpret 'with the samefaithful piety as did once Theophrastus, Themistius, Porphyry, Simplicius,Avicenna, and, of late, Pletho.' ('a suo etiam Aristotele defecisse. Guiusmentem hodie pauci praeter sublimem Picum complatonicum nostrum eapietate qua Theophrastus olim et Themistius, Porphyrius, Simplicius, Avicenna,et nuper Plethon interpretantur'; see Opera omnia, p. 1537; O'Meara, 'Plotinus',pp. 69-70).


On Enneads, II. 1.1 Ficino asserts that in Timaeus, 30-31 Plato posited the worldsoul as created prior to its body both in its power and in its coming-to-be

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(corpore suo priorem turn virtute turn generatione creatam). Plotinus, Porphyry andProclus explain that priority here does not mean an actual interval of timebut the precedence assumed by the soul because the succession within thesoul of the 'scattering of forms' (in ipsa formarum discursione) precedes in ori-gin the motion of the world. Then he remarks that Heracl*tus's notion ofan eternal flux is not inconsistent with this doctrine and cites, among otherauthorities, Pletho as 'not denying that it is probable': 'Mitto nunc opin-ionem Heracl*ti quodlibet mundi corpus etiam sphaerarum stellarumqueeffluere semper atque refluere ideoque vel desinere vel perpetuo renovari,quod et Plato tetigit, ubi mundum ait fieri quidem semper, esse nunquam\Theaetetus, 152E1], et Plotinus hie et Proculus in Timaeo, quod et Plethonon negat esse probabile, nosque idem in Theologia fieri posse probamus[XI.6; ed. Marcel, II, p. 136].' (Opera omnia, II, p. 1594). I could not trackdown a passage that corresponds exactly to Ficino's reference, but on thedistinction between temporal and non-temporal causation, see De differentiis,ed. Lagarde, p. 322.12-20 (tr. Woodhouse, p. 193, § 4) and the Reply toScholarius, ed. Lagarde, pp. 388.18-390.2, 394.26-398.15, and 426.29-430.1).Cf. Woodhouse, p. 374, who also cites this passage but gives no referenceto any writing of Pletho's.


A little further along in the commentary, concerning Enneads, II. 1.3, Ficinocites Pletho as one of the witnesses to the fact that Aristotle thought ourhuman souls are encompassed by or enclosed in the soul of the earth (Operaomnia, p. 1596): 'Sed animae particulars spiritum hunc, qui vapor sangui-nis est, quo regunt corpus, ex sanguine calefacto produc*nt, spiritum verocoelestem rationalis animae, quo quasi proxime se involvunt, ab ipsa coelisubstantia ubique praesente suscipiunt, quern Plotinus alibi confitetur accipi,etiam ab anima terrae, quo et hie nostras involvi Aristotelem etiam putassetestis est Plutarchus, loannes Grammaticus et Proclus atque Plethon.' Plethospeaks substantively about the soul in two places, De differentiis, ed. Lagarde,pp. 326.30-328.4 (tr. Woodhouse, pp. 197-99, §§ 17-20) and his Reply toScholarius, ed. Lagarde, pp. 438.20-444.27 and 448.4-452.5; and nowherein these pages does he remotely suggest the opinion that Ficino says heattributed to Aristotle.


Ficino cited Pletho for the last time in his commentary on Pseudo-Dionysiusthe Areopagite's De divinis nominibus, which he began to work on in 1491after finishing Pseudo-Dionysius's De mystica theologia (Kristeller, SupplementumFicinianum, I, p. cxv). The first edition is to be dated either 1496 or 1497(ibid., I, pp. Ixviii and cxvi). Commenting on the supereminence of thesuperessential God in the order of being in De divinis nominibus, 11.10, Ficinocalls Pletho as a witness in the company of distinguished metaphysicians:Opera omnia, p. 1047: 'Dicitur autem Deus ens, ut ita dixerim, superenter,

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quod videlicet entia procreat. Dicitur et entia superenter excedere, quo-niam natura in summo grado entium collocatur, reliqua in secundo vel ter-tio. Alioquin partim cum ceteris conveniret quidem, partim vero differret,foretque ita compositus. Praesertim sic una sit entis ipsius univoca ratioentibus quibuscunque communis. Quod illustres metaphysici nonnulli unacum Platonico Plethone senserunt. Deus itaque et extra et supra totamentium latitudinem excellenter existit.' Pletho calls God superessential anddescribes how He transcends all multiplicity in De differentiis, ed. Lagarde,p. 337.7-28 (tr. Woodhouse, pp. 207-08, § 43). But the place where Plethotalks about a second and third order of being after the One is in the Laws,ed. Alexandre, pp. 44-46 and 94-118, where he explains the generationof the gods below Jupiter.



Fols 96r-98v, Pletho, De fata[1] fol. 96v: Boetius et Tommas contra hoc; probant deum certo scire

que per causas indeterminatas eveniunt.[2] fol. 97r: Proprium deorum est prescire futura. Homines autem pre-

vident inde, scilicet, et illi, quibus et quatenus dii volunt significare. Undesi devitant presciendo que alioquin futura forent, hoc quoque ipsum estfatale. Similiter, si non devitant. Verum, o Plethon, frustra significant quandosic declinare non possunt. [que ante Homines del. Ficinus.]

[3] fol. 97v: Intellectus est dominus non simpliciter sed suorum, id est,interni populi sibi subditi. Ipse vero est domino subditus altiori. Item invita voluptuosa vel practica sequitur externa, scilicet, pro modo natureexercitationisque sue, que duo sunt a deo. Ergo ductus agit.

[4] fol. 98r: Libertas tibi non difnnitur non necessitas quia divina neces-sitas foret servitus. Neque diffinitur nulli subici quia sic solus princeps foretliber. Sed diffinitur vivere ut vis, sive subiectus alicui sive non. Ergo quibene, ut optat, vivit, vivit liber, etiam si pareat. [vivit ante optat del. Ficinus.]

[5] fol. 98v: Responde, o Plethon. Quo modo dii non sint cause pecca-torum si, ut dicis, dii presciunt omnes futures eventus certe quia per causascertas quas ipsi habent in seipsis, dum ipsi, videlicet, illorum sunt causeeosque disponunt in seipsis atque rebus? Item, si, ut dicis, animum aber-rare quia sic et natura et consuetudine sit institutus, deos autem etnaturam talem dedisse et opinionem sic exercitandi infudisse. Ergo, o Plethon,tibi ipsi repugnas.

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In his commentary on Plato's Parmenides, Ficino remarked (Opera omnia,p. 1171): 'Quomodo vero Platonicae rationes multitudinem primo tollentes,Christianae trinitati non detrahant, in qua, servata penitus simplicitate etunitate naturae, relatio quaedam sola quandam distinctionem facit, com-positionem vero nullam, Nicolaus theologus Graecus Methones episcopusevidenter ostendit, at nos in annotationibus quibusdam in eum breviter de-signamus.' Kristeller, Supplementum Ficinianum, I, p. clxiv, dates the annota-tions to 1490-92. Christian Forstel tells me that he would date the Annotationesto a time before 1490 (see his article in the forthcoming proceedings of theconference Marsilio Ficino. Fonti, testi, fortuna, Atti del Convegno Internazionaledi Studi, Istituto Nazionale di Studi sul Rinascimento, Firenze, 1—3 otto-bre 1999). Ficino wrote his Parmenides commentary in the period 1490-96(Kristeller, Supplementum Ficinianum, I, p. cxix).

R = Nicholas of Methone, Refutation of Proclus' 'Elements of Theology'. ACritical Edition with an Introduction on Nicholas' Life and Works, ed. by AthanasiosD. Angelou, Athens and Leiden, 1984.

P = Paris, BN, gr. 1256. According to Angelou, pp. xl and xlvii-li, P isa fourteenth-century manuscript and one of the three extant independentwitnesses to Nicolaus's text. All the other manuscripts derive from one orother of these three. P and the other two independent witnesses (both alsofourteenth-century manuscripts) constitute the basis of Angelou's edition. Inaddition to the marginal annotations, Ficino also added in the margins thearabic numerals 2, 4, 5-8 next to the start of the corresponding proposi-tion of Proclus quoted by Nicholas. On this manuscript, see Kristeller,Marsilio Ficino and His Work, p. 98; Martin Sicherl, 'Neuentdeckte Handschriftenvon Marsilio Ficino und Johannes Reuchlin', Scriptorium, 16 (1962), pp.50-61, at p. 61, no. 22; and H. Omont, Inventaire sommaire des manuscritsgrecs de la Bibliotheque Rationale, 4 vols, Paris, 1886—98, I, p. 277.

[1] P 2r, at R 4.3—18 (Preface), 'Apx6|i£vo<;.. . dvccKaOoupoiKnv: DicitProculum eravisse quia contradixerit sibi ipso, dicens omnem multitudinemparticipare omnino unitatem, deinde unitatem esse imparticipabilem. Itemquia dixerit Unum ipsum extra omnem numerum esse; tamen dixerit pri-mum Unum. Primum enim referri ad sequentia et cum illis coordinari.

[2] P 2r, at R 4.21 (Preface), AIOVTJOIOV: Dionysius.[3] P 2r, at R 4.21-30 (Preface): Dionysius dicit divinitas et unum est

et tria; rursus quod neque unum neque tria numeralia, sed super hec ethorum causa et mensura. [trinita ante divinitas del, Ficinus.]

[4] P 2r, at R 4.31—5.3: Trinitas divina non mensuratur numero nequeparticipat unum. Hoc enim esse proprium numeri. Hec vero non est numerus.

[5] P 2r, at R 5.5-15 : Nazanzenus dicit divinitas ex eo quod est uni-tas est et trinitas, et econtra, cum enim non caveat bonis, que ab ipsa fiunt,et fecunditas et per se mobile sint bona. Hec sunt in deo, id est. Si enim

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deus infecundus sit, undenam fecunditas? Si immobilis, unde motus? Nonenim ab alio principle cum non sint duo principii. Ergo in deo. Motusautem in deo dicit actualem efficaciam. Dicit ergo Nazanzenus: unitas abinitio in duitatem mota usque ad trinitatem extitit. Quia ergo unitas—ethec quidem fecunda et mobilis ex se—ideo trinitas; et quia trinitas nonnumeralis sed numeri causa et mensura, ideo est ipsum Unum supernumerum et essentiam et intellectual, [substitit [sic] ante extitit del. Ficinus.]

[6] P 2r, at R 5.10-11: Nazanzenus.[7] P 2v, at R 5.20-6.6: Trinitas divina est super omnem multitudinem,

etiam que possit effingi. Ideo non includitur in ea propositione que dicitomnis multitudo etc. [sc., prop. 1 Prodi Elementorum] et non participat uniussed est ipsum unum, immo super unum in quantum quod contradividitur[sc., dvTi8iaip£Tcu] multitudini. Propositio Proculi sequitur de multitudine[sc., prop. 5], que opponitur uni, et de uno, quod opponitur multitudini.Talia enim coordinantur; deus vero non coordinatur. [m ante multitudinedel. Ficinus', contradi ante que del. Ficinus.]

[8] P 3r, at R 6.17-21: Dionysius dicit animam habere intellectum, quopercipiat intelligibilia, et unitatem intellectu superiorem, qua ineffabili modouniatur divine unitati, que est super intellectum et super intelligibilia.

[9] P 3r, at R 7.6-8: Divina trinitas non participat unitatem. Ipsa enimest et ipsa unitas; et ipsa trinitas formaliter principium omnis unionis etnumeri in rebus.

[10] P 3v, at R 7.23-24: In trinitate divina et qualibet persona est ipsumunum; et trinitas est ipsum unum.

[11] P 3v, at R 8.4-16: In trinitate unio non facit confusionem person-arum nee harum differentia facit separationem. Neque dicendum est trini-tatem esse aliquid unitum, sed esse et ipsum unum et ipsam trinitatemsuper essentiam, non solum super numerum quantitativum et super com-positionem essentialem, et esse super omnem unionem et divisionem inrebus excogitabilem. Et cum causa omnium existens super omnia, nulliscoordinetur. Non cadit in hanc propositionem connumeranda inter omniaunita, id est, quando dicitur omne quod est unitum etc. [sc., prop. 4 Prodi].[personarum ante facit del. Ficinus]

[12] P 4r, at R 8.23-27: Dicimus ipsam unitatem in deo esse ipsam trini-tatem, non dividentes ipsum unum propter trinitatem neque confundentestrinitatem propter unitatem essentialem, immo superessentialem.

[13] P 4v, at R 9.17-29: Quod omnis multitudo sit post unum sequiturde multitudine que distincta est ab uno et illius particeps et coordinaturvel comparatur aliquo modo cum uno. Sed in deo ipsa trinitas est ipsa uni-tas, atque id ipsum est super omnem unitatem et multitudinem coordinabilemet econtra distinctam.

[14] P 4v at R 10.3-4: Unitatum multitudinem Proculus intelligit deo-rum numerum.

[15] P 5r at R 10.8-17: Ubi multitudo est, res separata ab ipsa unitate;verum est quod componitur ex unitatibus vel unitis. Sed divinitas eademest turn unitas, turn trinitas. In qua trinitate est una essentia, potentia, actus,voluntas, sed per solas proprietates hypostaticas est distinctio.

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This manuscript carries on fol. 172r the colophon: 'Hie liber est Marsiliimagistri Fecini, et ipse Marsilius eum scripsit mense Februarii et Martiianno 1454' (Florentine style; therefore 1455), under which Ficino inscribedhis coat of arms (an upside-down sword with a star on either side). SeeKristeller, Marsilio Ficino and his Work after Five Hundred Tears, pp. 93-94, andMarsilio Ficino e il ritomo di Platone. Mostra, pp. 7—8, no. 6, for literature.

Fol. 91r, at the end of a long doxographical note which begins in themargin of fol. 90v, next to p. 287.4 of Chalcidius, ed. Waszink (in the sec-tion which comments on Timaeus, 47E3-5, translated at 273.7-9, and towhich Waszink gives the title '<De Silva>'):

Opiniones de materia.

Ignis: Eracl*tus et Timaeus. Aera [sic] Anaximenes, et Anaximander: terra.Aqua: Tales . . . Democritus: infinita corpora individua. Trismegistus, Pittagoras,Philolaus, Numenius, Plato et Aristoteles, Stoici de materia idem duxerunt.

One finds a similar sort of list in the fourteenth-century MS 581 of theBiblioteca Riccardiana, Florence, where on the lower margin of fol. 62r inMacrobius's commentary on Cicero's Somnium Scipionis, Ficino wrote atroughly the same time (mid-1450s): 'Trismegistus, Pittagoras, Xenophanes,Anaxagoras, Empedocles, Parmenides, Mellisus, Virgilius aiunt nihil inmundo interire sed variari' (reproduced in Marsilio Ficino e il ritorno di Platone.Mostra, tav. II/a-3). On fol. Iv, MS 581 bears Ficino's autograph ex-libris:'Hie liber est Marsilii Ficini (ex Fecini mutavit Marsilius)', followed by hiscoat of arms. See Kristeller, Ficino after Five Hundred Tears, p. 85; MarsilioFicino e il ritorno di Platone. Mostra, pp. 3-4, no. 3; and esp. G. B. Alberti,'Marsilio Ficino e il codice Riccardiano 581', Rinascimento, 2a ser., 10 (1970),pp. 187-93.

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Tamara Albertini

In paintings and buildings . . . there shines the plan and the wisdomof the artist. Furthermore, one sees therein the disposition and some-how the shape of the soul itself. Thus the soul expresses and picturesitself in these works the way the face of a man contemplating himselfin a mirror pictures itself in the mirror. However, the artist's soulcomes to light most clearly in speech, songs, and sounds. In these theentire disposition of the mind and the will are clearly outlined.2

Marsilio Ficino states in quite unambiguous terms that the harmo-nious 'disposition' which the artist's soul introduces into paintings,buildings, and music is not solely a rationally or intellectually definedcomponent that could be reduced to mere numbers and proportions.In the soul's self-expression as found in works of art one also dis-cerns a manifestation of the will.3 Knowing the aesthetics of theFlorentine philosopher—who traces the artist's creation to a processoriginating in the mind (mensf—one can then infer that all 'products'of the mind, whether artistic or solely cognitive in nature, also bear

1 The present article is a revised English version of the last sections in my bookMarsilio Ficino. Das Problem der Vermittlung von Denken und Welt in einer Metaphysik derEmfachheit, Munich, 1997, pp. 231-50.

2 Marsilio Ficino, Theologie platonicienne de I'immortalite des dmes, ed. and tr. byRaymond Marcel, 3 vols, Paris, 1964-70, X.4 (II, pp. 69-70): 'In picturis . . .aedificiisque consilium et prudentia lucet artificis. Dispositio praeterea et quasi figuraquaedam animi ipsius inspicitur. Ita enim seipsum animus in operibus istis exprimitet figurat, ut vultus hominis intuentis in speculum seipsum figurat in speculo. Maximevero in sermonibus, cantibus atque sonis artificiosus animus se depromit in lucem.In his enim tota mentis dispositio et voluntas planissime designatur.'

3 On the origin of the concept of will see E. Benz, Die Entwicklung des abend-Idndischen Willensbegriffes von Plotin bis Augustin, Stuttgart, 1931; Neal W. Gilbert, 'TheConcept of Will in Early Latin Philosophy', Journal of the History of Philosophy, 1(1963), pp. 17-35.

4 For Ficino's aesthetics see Giovanni Solinas, 'SulPestetica di M. Ficino', Annalidella Facoltd di Lettere, Filosofia e Magistero dell'Unwersita di Cagliari, 18 (1957), pp. 365-80;

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the imprint of the soul's voluntative power. Does this make the willan epistemic faculty? How could it then be distinguished from theintellect, or, what function(s) does it serve that the intellect could notassume? And, finally, how is one to conceive of the relationshipbetween intellect and will?

1. The Medieval Debate Utrum intellectus sitnobilior quam voluntas

The first to give serious thought to the difficulty of this relationshipin the work of the Florentine philosopher and also to connect it tothe medieval debate utrum intellectus sit nobilior quam voluntas was PaulOskar Kristeller. His Philosophy of Marsilio Ficino (1943) discusses theproblem at length.5 Later on, he took up the same problem againin 'A Thomist Critique of Marsilio Ficino's Theory of Will andIntellect' (1965) and in Le Thomisme et la pensee italienne de la Renaissance(1967).6 Both publications shed light on the original medieval settingof the intelkctus-voluntas controversy and how it was passed on to theRenaissance, partly through the writings of early humanists such asPetrarch and Salutati. The article 'A Thomist Critique' offers inaddition a nearly complete listing of all textual evidence on theproblem in Ficino's work. One important text, however, was omit-ted, Ficino's commentary on the Timaeus. This is an unfortunateomission since that commentary presents Ficino's resolution of themedieval dilemma.

Andre Chastel, Marsile Ficin et I'art, Geneva and Lille, 1954; repr. Geneva 1975 and1996; the chapter on 'The Idea of Beauty' in Michael J. B. Allen, The Platonism ofMarsilio Ficino: A Study of his 'Phaedrus' Commentary, its Sources and Genesis, Berkeley etc.,1984, pp. 185-203; and the chapter on 'Icastic Art' in Michael J. B. Allen, Icastes:Marsilio Ficino's Interpretation of Plato's 'Sophist', Berkeley etc., 1989, pp. 117-67; Albertini,Marsilio Ficino, p. 85 ff.; and Tamara Albertini, 'Marsilio Ficino', in Asthetik undKunstphilosophie von der Antike bis z.ur Gegenwart, ed. by Julian Nida-Riimelin and MonikaBetzler, Stuttgart, 1998, pp. 269-74.

5 Paul O. Kristeller, The Philosophy of Marsilio Ficino, tr. by Virginia Conant, NewYork, 1943; repr. Gloucester, Mass., 1964, pp. 256-88. This work, originally writ-ten in German, was planned as a Habilitation to be submitted under the academicpatronage of Martin Heidegger in Freiburg i. Br. in the late 1930s.

6 Paul O. Kristeller, 'A Thomist Critique of Marsilio Ficino's Theory of Will andIntellect', in Harry Austryn Wolfson Jubilee Volume, English Section, 2, Jerusalem, 1965,pp. 463—94, and Kristeller, Le Thomisme et la pensee italienne de la Renaissance, Montrealand Paris, 1967, pp. 93-125.

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Before discussing how Ficino resolved that dilemma—mainly byembedding it in a new epistemological context and thereby essen-tially transforming the original inquiry—one should be aware of whatwas at stake in the medieval debate. Connected with the controversywhether the intellect or the will is superior was the issue of happi-ness (beatitudo or felicitas). The underlying question was whether hap-piness is to be gained through the intellectual or the voluntativefaculty. Far-reaching consequences ensue depending on which of thetwo positions is taken. If intellectual contemplation is the answer,then divine guidance (lumen gloriae) is needed to make up for theweakness of the human mind. In this scenario human autonomyappears diminished, since the mind is ultimately helpless withoutGod's epistemic intervention. If, on the contrary, an innate inclina-tion, i.e., the will, is to be entrusted with reaching happiness, thenthe attainment of it is within everyone's reach, provided the will'sstriving is not deficient and that the will is not misled in its choiceof the ultimate aim of its desire.7 These are roughly the two chiefpositions in respect of the intellectus-voluntas debate. The first position,the 'intellectualistic' one, was represented by Thomas Aquinas andthe Dominican school, the second, 'voluntaristic' in nature, found itsdefenders in Duns Scotus and the Franciscan order. A more detaileddiscussion of the arguments involved on both sides would doubtlessbring to light many more aspects requiring consideration. It wouldemerge that Thomas Aquinas (unlike later Dominicans) did concedethe will a limited superiority depending on the object of its striving.For instance, since loving God is worthier than knowing him (andif God is the ultimate end of one's desire), the will is to be consid-ered the nobler faculty.8 Further analysis would also have to estab-lish whether the two religious orders were dealing with precisely thesame notion of will and thus whether an appropriate basis of com-parison is in fact possible.9 For the present discussion, it will suffice

7 An interesting side issue to be examined in this context is whether the will pos-sesses pre-knowledge of the objects of its striving.

8 Cf. Kristeller, 'Thomist Critique', p. 479. William of Thierry, with his equalappreciation for intellect and will, seems to have been the exception in the medievalphilosophical landscape: 'hoc enim idem est habere vel frui, quod intelligere velamare'; 'Amor quippe Dei ipse intellectus eius est; qui non nisi amatus intelligitur,nee nisi intellectus amatur, et utique tantum intelligitur quantum amatur, tantumqueamatur, quantum intelligitur' (quoted from Pierre Rousselot, Pour I'histoire du problemede I'amour au Moyen Age, Miinster, 1908, pp. 96, 98).

9 See Johannes Auer, Die menschliche Willensfreiheit im Lehrsystem des Thomas von Aquin

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to keep in mind the basic doctrinal differences between the Dominicanand the Franciscan positions, since both lines of arguments appearin several of Ficino's works, where he sometimes insists on the supe-riority of the intellect and at other times pronounces himself in favorof the supremacy of the will.

That Ficino was well aware of the debate emerges as early as theDe voluptate of 1457. Although the actual notion of the will is onlyvaguely outlined, one finds here a correlation between happiness andwhat can be generally rendered as 'rational desire'. For instance, thedescription of the pleasure of the mind (voluptas mentis) invoked thereanticipates the later definition of the function of the will as thatwhich finds its fulfilment in uniting itself with the object of its striv-ing.10 In Ficino's mature period there is hardly a work of his thatdoes not address the issue of the superiority of the intellect and thewill in one way or another—at times defending the latter, at othersthe former. Besides, one knows how intensively the intellectus-voluntascontroversy was discussed in his immediate circle of friends andpatrons. For instance, Alamanno Donati, a disciple of Ficino's, com-piled a treatise in which he assembled the major arguments used bythe two opposing positions without opting for either.11 Then thereis the great Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, who belonged to theconfabulatores in Ficino's academy: unlike the Florentine philosopher,he unequivocally agreed with the Thomist stand.12 Furthermore, it

und Johannes Duns Scotus, Munich, 1938, p. 108, and Walter ho*res, Der Wille alsreine Vollkommenheit nach Duns Scotus, Munich, 1962, pp. 222^23.

10 De voluptate, XIII, in Opera omnia, 2 vols, continuously paginated, Basel, 1576;repr. Turin, 1959 etc., p. 1005 f.: '. . . eius, autem, quo animus fruitur, gaudii subiec-tum quidem mens, obiectum, res incorporea, simplex, absoluta, aeterna, veritasqueexistit, quo igitur huius, quam superioris illius voluptatis principia diviniora sunt, eohaec est, quam ilia perfectior . . . mens autem intimam atque absolutam naturameius, quod obiectum est, inspicit, atque ita cum eo, quod considerat copulatur, utvel e duobus unum . . . fiat, vel . . . indissolubili connexione cohaereant, qua com-prehensione, coniunctioneque maior admodum menti, quam sensibus, qui id asse-qui nequeunt, voluptas contingit.' In Ficino's major work, the Theologia Platonica,there is a passage that explicitly links will and pleasure of the mind. The latter isconsidered the result of the will's expansion into the Good: 'Ubi non est voluntas,quae est inclinatio mentis ad bonum, ibi non est mentis voluptas, quae est dilatatiovoluntatis in bonum et quies voluntatis in bono' (Ficino, Theologie platonidenne, II. 11[ed. Marcel, I, p. 111]).

11 Alamanno Donati, 'De intellectus voluntatisque excellentia', ed. by LambertoBorghi, La Bibliqfilia, 42 (1940), pp. 108-15.

12 'Beatitudo est essentialiter in actu intellectus. Correlarium. Nee fruitio, neealiquis actus voluntatis, est essentialiter beatitude' ('Conclusiones secundum Thomam

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is well documented that Ficino and his patron Lorenzo de' Medicidiscussed this problem somewhere between 1473 and 1474 and thatthey both at that time favored the will over the intellect. The philoso-pher expressed his views on the matter in the Epistola de felicitate, thepatron in his poem L'Altercazione. Both their positions provoked inturn the reaction of Vincenzo Bandello, the later general of theDominican order, who gathered his arguments in defense of theThomist position in the treatise Quod beatitudo hominis in actu intellec-tus et non voluntatis essentialiter consistit.n Finally, one needs to considerFicino's many correspondents who asked him to clarify his positionin respect to the superiority of the intellect and the will—since itseems to have changed several times over the years. It is beyonddoubt that the dilemma intelkctus versus voluntas was of great impor-tance to Ficino and his circle, but it remains to be shown whetherhe addressed it in the terms defined by his medieval predecessors.

Regarding Ficino's shifting attitude in deciding the supremacy ques-tion, Kristeller distinguished three different periods: An early phasein which the philosopher gives his preference to the intellect, towhich the first version of the Philebus commentary bears testimony;a middle phase that witnesses the privileging of the will as expressedin the Epistola de felicitate and to a great extent in the Theologia Platonica;and finally a late phase that leads to a conciliatory position in whichthe two powers are seen as equivalent faculties. This view can befound in the late version of the Philebus commentary, in the famousletter to Paolo Orlandini, and in the commentary on the Timaeus.14

The following analysis draws on this tripartite division, except forthe addition of Ficino's Timaeus commentary.

no. 12', in Pico's Conclusiones sive theses DCCCC Romae anno 1486 publice disputandae,sed non admissae, ed. by B. Kieszkowski, Geneva, 1973, p. 29). One must also con-sider the Scotist theses, particularly the following: 'Actus intelligendi nobiliori modocausatur ab intellectu quam ab obiecto, quodcumque sit obiectum, modo non sitbeatificum' ('Conclusiones secundum loannem Scotum no. 20', ibid., p. 32).

13 Published in Kristeller, 'Thomist Critique', pp. 487-94. As Kristeller pointsout, Bandello argues in his treatise as if Ficino had defended the primacy of thewill alone.

14 Ibid., pp. 474-76.

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2. The Early Philebus Commentary: The Intellect as thePerfecter of All Tilings

One of the earliest documents in which Ficino explicitly discussesthe relationship of intellect and will is his first version of the Philebuscommentary, where he explores the basis of the ethical life. Theposition outlined in this work is unmistakably one that privileges theintellect.lo In the introduction to his critical edition and translationof the text, Michael J. B. Allen points out that this is in harmonywith the Thomist position according to which the 'truly ethical lifeis intellectual'.16 Of several arguments in Ficino's Philebus commen-tary the systematically most striking is that:

the intellect draws things towards itself. The will is drawn away bythings. For the intellect doesn't conceive of things as they are in them-selves, rather it conceives of things in its own way, the many in termsof the one species, changing things in terms of stability, single thingsin terms of the universal and so on. With its own formulae17 it rectifieswhat is defective in things. But the will is drawn towards possessingthings as they are in themselves. It is swept towards them by a notionwhich has been conceived of them. It doesn't alter them; but it is itselfaltered from a state of rest to one of motion.18

Given Ficino's epistemology, which emphasizes the human ability to'restore' reality,19 as it were, to a more 'mindlike', i.e., generic, motion-less, and, therefore, more perfect condition, it becomes clear thatthe explanation offered above is one that introduces the intellect asthe superior faculty. Whereas the will appears dependent and at themercy of things that continuously affect it, the intellect is endowedwith transformative powers ensuring its dominion over things: it

15 This was categorically denied by Giuseppe Saitta, who maintains that in thePhilebus commentary Ficino privileges the will at the expense of rationality (MarsilioFicino e lajilosofia dell'Umanesimo, 3rd edn, Bologna, 1954, p. 50).

16 Marsilio Ficino, The 'Philebus' Commentary, ed. and tr. by Michael J. B. Allen,Berkeley etc., 1975, p. 37.

17 For these innate formulae (or sigilla) as the reflection of divine ideas, see Ficino,The 'Philebus' Commentary, ed. Allen, p. 33 ff., and Albertini, Marsilio Ficino, pp. 141-45.

18 Ficino, The 'Philebus' Commentary, ch. 37, p. 370 f.: 'ille [intellectus] res ad setrahit; ista [voluntas] a rebus trahitur. Nam ille non ut res in seipsis sunt eas con-cipit, sed modo suo multa in una specie, mobilia stabiliter, singula universaliter, etcetera, et quae claudicant in rebus, formulis suis dirigit. Haec autem inclinatur adres ita possidendas ut in seipsis sunt, rapiturque ad eas notione concepta, nee mutateas, sed mutatur e statu in motum.'

19 Cf. Ficino, Theologie platonicienne, XVI.3 (ed. Marcel, III, p. 118).

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unifies, universalizes and corrects things to match its inborn formu-lae. As Kristeller phrased it, 'the intellect assimilates the objects toitself; the will assimilates itself to the objects'.20 Nevertheless, eventhough the description of the will in the Philebus commentary is aimedat diminishing its epistemic value vis-a-vis the intellect's performance,an important voluntative function emerges, namely, the will's mov-ing toward external objects. This is a function that Ficino uses inhis later works in order to reassess the will's position.

Among the other arguments adduced in the Philebus commentaryone finds that the will is subordinate to the intellect, since the lat-ter possesses judgement. Next, not only does the will not distinguishbetween true and alleged happiness, but it is not even able to assertit* own striving. Further, the intellect's activity is always beneficial,whether it knows good or evil, whereas desiring evil is an evil initself. Besides, the ultimate end is not to love and desire per se, 'butthe end of a rational substance is God',21 and God is reached byvirtue of the soul's capacity for intellectual contemplation. Finally,the will alone is blind and without orientation: 'For we are unableto want something until we understand what we want.'22

3. The Epistola de felicitate and the Theologia Platonica:The Triumph of the Will

The Epistola de felicitate addressed to Lorenzo de' Medici takes a viewdiametrically opposed to the one Ficino had developed in the Philebuscommentary. He reminds his patron of a conversation held in Careggiduring which they had both defended the supremacy of the will (andpraises him for having proposed new arguments, without, however,specifying what these were). Surprisingly, one finds the same state-ments as in the earlier Philebus commentary, except that the evalua-tions are reversed. Intellect and will are still performing the samefunctions (one operates inwardly, the other outwardly); however, thewill is now the leading power:

20 Kristeller, The Philosophy of Marsilio Ficino, p. 272.21 Ficino, The 'Philebus' Commentary, ed. Allen, ch. 37, p. 378 f.: 'Finis autem sub-

stantiae rationalis est Deus.'22 Ibid.: 'Nam velle non possumus, nisi est quod intelligimus.'

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It follows that a turn of the will . . . is more truly based on goodnessitself than an intellectual concept which remains something purely inter-nal. For the intellect grasps the object by a kind of imagery, but willstrives to transfer itself to its object by natural impulse.23

In addition, the letter nowhere mentions that the intellect transformsthe world according to its own terms and is, therefore, to be con-sidered the nobler faculty. Instead, Ficino emphasizes the fact thatthe striving of the will is all directed towards the external world. Itis accordingly better equipped to reach the Good (which by definitionlies outside itself) than the intellect, which just recreates the worldin its own image. As a result, Ficino shifts his attention from thecontemplation of knowledge to the joy {gaudium) attainable throughthe will:

we desire to see [i.e., to know] in order to rejoice; we do not seek torejoice in order to see . . . We do not desire simply to see, but to seethose things that make us rejoice, in a way that makes us rejoice;


Joy is richer than cognition, for not every man that knows rejoices,but those who rejoice necessarily know.24

These statements embrace an idea that could have been used in sup-port of the intellect's superiority, since it is capable of cognizancewithout the participation of the will (even though it would then belike a living being deprived of the sense of taste, says Ficino),25

whereas the joy experienced by the will necessarily implies intellec-tual activity. Yet this is to neglect the actual argument being made,which aims at an integral understanding of the two powers. Theintellect allows for cognition only. The will, however, rewards onewith cognition and joy and so reveals itself as the more formidable

23 Ficino, Opera omnia, p. 663 f.: 'conversio voluntatis . . . verius ipso bono statua-tur, quam notio intellectus quae manet intus. Intellectus enim modo quodam irnag-inario obiectum capit. Voluntas essentiali instinctu transferre se nititur in obiectum.'English text from The Letters of Marsilio Ficino, tr. by members of the LanguageDepartment of the School of Economic Science, 6 vols to date, London, 1975—, I,p. 175.

24 Ficino, Opera omnia, p. 663: 'Non cupimus ipsum videre simpliciter, sed taliaet tali quodam pacto videre ut gaudemus;' and 'Plenius est gaudium, quam cogni-tio, non enim quisquis cognoscit, idem simul et gaudet, quisquis autem gaudet,necessario et cognoscit.' English translation from Ficino, Letters, I, p. 174.

25 Opera omnia, p. 664.

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force. Most obviously, that faculty is to be preferred which includesin its own operations the workings of the other faculty as well.

Among the numerous other arguments made in the Epistola, twoemerge as being of particular interest. They are both related to thejoy derived from the possession of God. This takes us back to thecentral issue of happiness, which Ficino (following the traditionalidentification of God and the Good) defines in the Epistola as 'thehighest act of the highest faculty in respect to the highest Good'.26

The question turns on knowing by what faculty the highest Goodcan be reached. If it is indeed the will, then its ultimate supremacyis ensured. Here is Ficino's argument:

in investigating God, we take a long time to make very little progress,but by loving Him we make much progress in a very short time. Thereason love unites the mind with God more swiftly, closely and firmlythan cognition is that the power of cognition lies mainly in makingdistinctions but the power of love lies in union.27

The will's superiority manifests itself precisely when God is the objectof understanding. Whereas the intellect's acuity allows for separation(between itself and the object of its cognizance), the will succeeds inattaining God by virtue of its desire for union with the object of itslonging. Besides, continues Ficino, contemplating the Good does notmake one good per se; to love the Good, however, compels the soulto become good itself.28

The second argument demonstrating the will's superiority in thecontext of the cognition of God rests on the notion of infinity:

26 Ibid., p. 662: 'beatitude sit summus actus summae potentiae circa obiectumsummum'.

27 Ibid., p. 663: 'perscrutando Deum paulum longo vix tandem tempore proficimus,amando brevissimo plurimum, ob id enim citius propinquiusque et firmius amor,quam cognitio mentem cum divinitate coniungit, quia vis cognitionis in discretione[indiscretione edn\ consistit magis amoris autem vis magis in unione1 (italics mine;English translation from Ficino, Letters, I, p. 174). Ficino repeats shortly thereafterthe same idea: 'Cum vis cognitionis, ut supra diximus, in quadam discretione consis-tat, vis autem amoris in unione, propius unimur Deo per amatorium gaudium quodnos transformat in amatum Deum, quam per cognitionem' (Opera omnia, p. 663 f.;italics mine). One also finds him applying the terms discretio and unio to intellectand will in Theologie platonicienne, XIV. 10 (ed. Marcel, II, p. 291). A similar idea isexpressed in Ficino's Symposium commentary: 'Quod ergo nos celo restituit non deicognitio est, sed amor', Commentaire sur le Banquet de Platon, ed. and tr. by RaymondMarcel, Paris, 1956, IV.6, p. 176.

28 Cf. Opera omnia, p. 663.

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by cognizing God, we reduce His size to the capacity and under-standing of our mind; but by loving Him we enlarge our mind to theimmeasurable breadth of divine goodness. By the first we bring Goddown to our own scale, by the second we raise ourselves to God.29

This statement clarifies from another angle why intellectual poweralone necessarily fails in its attempt to understand God (or the Good).The intellect is a faculty that transforms its objects. It does not cog-nize them the way they are in themselves, but according to its ownmode.30 The otherwise impressive epistemic subjectivity that arisesfrom this ability becomes counterproductive if the object of cog-nizance is God: it reverts to its opposite. This is not to say that theintellect's contemplation is then obscured. Quite to the contrary, itsgreatest obstacle comes precisely from its 'clarity',31 which contractsany of its objects to its own finite dimensions. Therefore, the infiniteobject 'God' cannot be reached through an act of the intellect butthrough the will's loving striving, which expands the mind to receivethe divine in its immeasurability. Only that faculty that assimilatesitself to the object of its desire is in a position to open up to God'sinfinity and shape itself accordingly as an infinite entity itself. Ficinocalls this act conversio, a turning by which the entire soul transformsitself into the object of the will's desire.

For this reason an act of the will, which is the turning towards anddiffusion of the substantial into the infinite God, partakes more of theinfinite than an act of the intellect, which is conception of God accord-ing to the mind's capacity. Therefore God is the greatest Good. Blissis the enjoyment of God and we enjoy God through will. Throughwill we move towards God by loving Him, and by being joyful weare enlarged and turned towards Him.32

29 Ibid., p. 664: 'cognoscendo Deum, eius amplitudinem contrahimus ad mentisnostrae capacitatem atque conceptum: amando vero mentem amplificamus ad lati-tudinem divinae bonitatis immensam. Illic in nos Deum quasi deiicimus, hie veroattollimus nos ad Deum.' English translation from Ficino, Letters, I, p. 176. For asimilar explanation in Ficino's major work, see Theologie platonicienne, XIV. 10 (ed.Marcel, II, p. 292), and 'De raptu Pauli', in Prosatori latini del Quattrocento, ed. byEugenio Garin, Milan and Naples, 1952, pp. 932-69 at p. 958 f.

30 For a comparison with Kantian philosophy, see Albertini, Marsilio Ficino, pp.134-47 and 173-76.

31 For the notion of claritas intellectus, see Ficino, Theologie platonicienne, VII.3 (ed.Marcel, I, p. 297).

32 Opera omnia, p. 664 f.: 'Quocirca voluntatis actus, qui est in Deum infinitumconversio substantialisque diffusio, rationem infinitatis magis habet, quam actus intel-ligendi qui est Dei notio quaedam pro mentis capacitate. Summum igitur bonum

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Clearly, the will emerges as the victorious faculty in the Epistola.However, since both faculties are instrumental in reaching the Good,Ficino—borrowing a motif from the Phaedrus—calls them the 'wingsof the soul',33 thereby suggesting a somehow equivalent relationshipbetween the two.

Criteria for establishing the will's superiority, independently ofwhether God or things are the object of cognition, can also be tracedin Ficino's major work, the Theologia Platonica, written between 1469and 1474. How far he had moved away from his earliest positionbecomes particularly apparent from the way he turns an argumentoriginally (in the first version of the Philebus commentary) made infavor of the intellect to serve now to privilege the will. Accordingto a chapter in the fourteenth book of the Theologia Platonica, bothintellect and will strive to become everything, though they do notperform the same operations. The difference is by now familiar: theintellect applies its universalizing mode, which internalizes all cog-nitive objects, whereas the will is entirely drawn towards the par-ticularity of things outside itself.34 Despite the neutral language used

Deus est. Beatitude autem fruitio Dei, fruimur ideo per voluntatem. Quoniam perearn amando quidem movemur ad Deum, gaudendo vero dilatamur convertimurquein Deum.' English translation from Ficino, Letters, I, p. 177. Conversio and its cog-nates appear several times in an earlier paragraph: 'Fruitio boni in sensu, non ineo consistit proprie quod bonum moveat sensum, sed in eo quod sensus in bonumillud quod oblatum est sese reflectat, convertatur et diffundatur. Quae quidem spiri-talis conversio diffusioque nihil est aliud quam voluptas, ut in libro De voluptate dis-seruimus. Sic in separata mente ipsa, ut ita loquar, fruitio Dei non in eo propriequod Deus se monstrat menti consistit, hie etiam Dei potius, quam noster actus est,sed in eo quod mens se convertit in Deum, quod est gaudium. Neque putandum est,animam in Dei visionem sese convertere ut quiescat in ipsa, sed in Deum visum, vultenim visionem propter visum, quod etiam ipsi tanquam forma coniungitur' (ibid.).See also the quotation in note 23, and Ficino, Commentaire sur le Banquet, IV, 2,p. 169 and IV, 4, p. 172. It would be worth examining whether Ficino's notion ofconversio influenced Campanella's immutatio, which is discussed, for instance, in hisMetafisica (Unwersalis Philosophiae seu metaphysicarum rerum iuxta propria dogmata libri xxx),lib. VI, cap. VIII, art. IV, tr. by Giovanni di Napoli, Bologna, 1967, II, p. 124 f.

33 Opera omnia, p. 663. See the beginning of De Christiana religione, which also speaksof intellect and will as the wings of the soul (ibid., p. 1). For the theme of thewings, see also the letter to Giovanni Nesi, ibid., p. 775, and Ficino, Theologie pla-tonicienne, XIV.3 (ed. Marcel, II, p. 259). For a discussion of Ficino's various 'alle-gorizations' of the Platonic wings, see Allen, Platonism of Marsilio Ficino, pp. 210-12,217, 223 f.

34 Ficino, Theologie platonicienne, XIV.3 (ed. Marcel, II, p. 258 f): 'Utraque [enim]fiunt [quidem] omnia, intellectus omnia vera, voluntas omnia bona, sed intellectusres in seipsum transferendo illis unitur, voluntas contra in res transferendo seipsam.Quonam pacto? Sane noster intellectus modo suo potius res intelligit quam pro

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in describing the distinctive features of the two faculties, Ficino doesend up expressing his preference for the will, but this only becomesclear if one pays attention to the example he introduces to illustratehis point. The intellect, says Ficino, is content with the universal andincorporeal notion of gold, while the will 'wants this particular andcorporeal gold, as it is in itself'.35 To make it clearer: who in hisright mind would prefer the idea of gold to gold itself? The willwith its emphasis on things as they are in themselves is clearly moreprecious.

A similar conclusion emerges from another passage in the TheologiaPlatonica, in which the superiority of the will becomes apparent onlytowards the end. Ficino maintains in that passage that both facul-ties deal with Being as such, except that the intellect examines itunder the aspect of Truth and the will under the aspect of theGood.36 Despite their different angles there emerges a similaritybetween the two powers in that they both have a predisposition touniversality. Whereas there is 'universal Truth' in the intellect, thewill is characterized by 'an inclination towards the universal Good'.37

So far, neither of the two faculties appears to be superior, until onefinds the following statement:

natura rerum. Formas utique corporum, quae sunt particulares, materiae immer-sae, divisae, confusae, infectae ac mobiles intelligit modo quodam universali, abso-lute, simplici, distincto, puro et stabili. Deum vero et angelos, qui stabiles sunt etsimplices, mobili ut plurimum et multiplied discursione. Ita intellectus noster tarnilia quae infra se, quam quae supra existunt, modo quodam percipit suo. Quamob causam dicitur omnia in suam transferre naturam . . . Voluntas autem primoquidem non sicut intellectus in se permanet, sed animam et corpus movet ad operan-dum, ut ad res desideratas accedant, deinde non eo proprie modo quo res in animainsunt affectat, sed quo potius in seipsis.' This quotation seems at first to be in con-tradiction with an earlier passage in TTieologie platonicienne, X.8 (ed. Marcel, II, p.87): 'legitimus intellectus est ille qui res intelligit sicuti sunt, legitima voluntas iliaquae res appetit sicuti sunt appetibiles. Sunt autem res ut ordinantur a Deo, appetibilesvero sunt ut ordinantur ad Deum. Ergo neque intellectus, neque voluntas in rebusipsis quiescere potest. Sed ille resolvit in Deum, haec refert ad Deum.' However,the meaning of the passage above is that the intellect deals with the ontologicalorder of things, an order which it traces back to God. The will follows the orderof things inasmuch as they are desirable and, like the intellect, ends up referringthings to God as the one who has ordered them.

30 Ibid., XIV.3 (ed. Marcel, II, p. 259): 'Intellectui aurum cognituro species auriilia universalis et incorporea sufficit, voluntati vero non sufficit. Nam quantum adhumanam vitam spectat, aurum vult particulare istud et corporale, quale est in seipso.'

36 Ibid., X.8 (ed. Marcel, II, p. 86): 'sicut obiectum intellectus est ens ipsum subratione veri, ita voluntatis obiectum ens ipsum sub ratione boni'. In the Opusculatheologica, the intellect assumes both functions: ibid., Ill, p. 332.

37 Ibid., X.8 (ed. Marcel, II, p. 87).

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Understanding and loving you rise above any intellect to life itself, theessence itself, the absolute being itself, and understanding suffices youonly if you understand the Good well.38

The 'ascent' of the soul is rendered possible through the participa-tion of both intellect and will. There is, however, no full cognizancewithout cognizance of the Good, which lies within the authority ofthe voluntative power. As in the Epistola, the loving union with theGood entails assimilation with God's infinity. This idea is expressedin strong terms in the Theologia Platonica where the Good is calledthe 'creator', that is, the shaper of the soul.39

Passages in Ficino's major work that describe the acts of intellectand will in the context of the love of God do not require furtherinterpretation: they all clearly give precedence to the will.40 The argu-ments proposed are basically the same as those found in the Epistola.The main difference between the letter to Lorenzo and the TheologiaPlatonica is that the latter work does not explicitly bring up the ques-tion of superiority, and the issue of happiness is hardly mentionedin it. Clearly, rather than establishing an opposition between intellectand will themselves in his major work (which would bring up theproblem of the possible dominion of one faculty over the other),Ficino is more interested in how their respective operations com-plement each other despite their opposition.

38 Ibid., p. 89: 'ad ipsam vitam, ad ipsam essentiam, ad ipsum esse absolutumintelligendo amandoque ascendis super quemlibet intellectum, neque satis tibi intel-ligentia est, nisi et bene et bonum intelligas'.

39 Ibid.: 'Bonum igitur ipsum procreator tuus est, anima, non bonum corpus, nonbonus animus, non bonus intellectus, sed bonum ipsum, bonum inquam, quod inseipso consistit extra subiecti cuiusque limites infinitum, infinitamque tibi tribuitvitam, vel ab aevo in aevum, vel saltern ab initio quodam in sempiternum.'

40 Cf. ibid., XIV. 10 (ed. Marcel, II, p. 291). One occasionally finds a few linesseemingly in support of the intellect: 'Non possumus autem Deo per intellectumsimiles effici, nisi Deum intelligendo, quippe cum quibuslibet aliis rebus intellectustune fiat similis, quando eas intelligendo se in earum imagines transfigurat' (ibid.,XIV.2 [ed. Marcel, II, p. 250]). These, however, are usually followed by a state-ment restoring the will's precedence: 'Finis ergo noster est per intellectum Deumvidere, per voluntatem viso Deo frui, quia summum bonum nostrum est summaepotentiae nostrae obiectum summum sive actus perfectissimus circa ipsum' (ibid.).

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4. The Later Works: The Resolution of the Dilemma

The turn taken in the Theologia Platonica, in considering intellect andwill as two parallel rather than antagonistic forces, is further strength-ened in Ficino's later works. It now becomes manifest that thevoluntative faculty is not just a higher type of 'natural appetite' or'instinct'41 somehow contributing to cognizance. It is rather an epistemicforce in its own right. According to Kristeller, for the publication ofthe Philebus commentary in 1496, Ficino actually toned down hisintellectualist position in an insertion made towards the end of thefirst book:42

The reasons expounded above have put the act of intellect in thehappy man before the act of will. In an epistle on felicity I have triedto deal with the reasons that make the opposite view the more prob-able. Ultimately, perhaps the safer approach is not to think of the willas [something] cut off from the intellect, but to think of it and plea-sure as though they were in the intellect itself.43

In this passage Ficino also takes back the assurance expressed in theEpistola by describing his former defense of the will as a merely 'prob-able' opinion. The new position wishes to understand the will andthe pleasure it dispenses as co-essential with the intellect.

An attempt to conceive of intellect and will along these lines canbe seen in Ficino's letter of 13 November 1496 to his friend PaoloOrlandini, which was inserted among the chapters of his commen-tary on Plato's Republic.^ Ficino first addresses Orlandini's concernabout the flagrant contradiction between the positions developed inthe early Philebus commentary and the Epistola. He could resolve thematter easily by stating that he was rendering Plato's position in thecommentary, while he had felt free to express his own views in

41 On the appetitus naturalis as natural desire see Kristeller, The Philosophy of MarsilioFicino, pp. 171—99, and Albertini, Marsilio Ficino, pp. 103-21. According to Allen,Ficino speaks more often of natural appetite than of will in the Philebus commentaryin order to enhance the intellect's position (The 'Philebus' Commentary, p. 29).

42 Kristeller, The Philosophy of Marsilio Ficino, p. 274.43 Ficino, The 'Philebus' Commentary, ch. 37, p. 380 f.: 'Superiores quidem rationes

intellectus actum actui voluntatis in beato praeposuerunt. Quibus vero rationibusoppositum probabiliter existimari possit in epistola quadam de foelicitate tractavi-mus. Denique si consideretur non tarn voluntas ab intellectu discreta, quam quodin ipso intellectu est, quasi voluntas et voluptas, erit forte tentatio tutior.'

44 The letter is edited and translated by Allen in Ficino, The 'Philebus' Commentary,pp. 486-88.

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the epistle to Lorenzo; but then 'the Marsilian view' would differfrom Plato's. . ,45 Ultimately, however, the goal is to understand intel-lect and will as both equally originating in the mind:

So briefly I will reply that our intelligence proceeds in two ways: onenatural, but the other supernatural, which might be referred to as theway of ecstasy. In the first case the intellect guides the will as a com-panion because of some naturally innate light. Eventually, when it hasguided the will correctly, it satisfies it, and is therefore superior to it.In the second case, the case of ecstasy, however, a new light and powerpoured in by God doesn't fill the intellect with divine splendor untilit has kindled the will with a wonderful love.46

Ficino refers here to his theory of a double light (lumen geminum), onenatural and innate, the other divine and infused.47 The language heuses in the above passage appears mystical. The description suggestsa veritable rapture of the mind as soon as it is touched by divinelight. One wonders, however, whether one should think of a super-natural event, as if every cognitive act were accompanied by anecstatic experience. As a matter of fact, a more careful reading ofthe Latin allows for a somewhat different interpretation. The cog-nitive movements of the intellect and the will are described as partof a double process ('duplex j&rocessus') of the mind, one of which isthe 'm:essus' of the will (the word translated above as 'ecstasy').48 Inorder to gain a clearer understanding of the precise nature of the'excessus', one ought also to consider the term used for the work-ings of the intellect. This term is provided in a further explanatorynote of the same letter to Orlandini where Ficino states:

We have discussed the intelligence's natural process (mcessus) in accor-dance with Plato in the Philebus; but we touch on the ecstasy which

45 Ibid., p. 486 f.46 Ibid., p. 486 f.: 'Itaque respondebo summatim duplicem esse mentis nostrae

processum: alterum quidern naturalem, alterum vero supra naturam, quern proprienominamus excessum. In illo quidem processu intellectus luce quadam naturaliterinsita voluntatem ducit quasi comitem; ac denique recte ductam implet, ideoquepraefertur. In hoc autem excessu nova lux virtusque infusa divinitus non prius in-tellectum divino splendore complet quam amore mirifico accenderit voluntatem'(italics mine).

47 Cf. Ficino, Commentaire sur le Banquet, IV.4, p. 172. See also Ficino's treatise'De raptu Pauli', p. 962.

48 Kristeller also translates 'ecstasy'. Cf. Kristeller, The Philosophy of Marsilio Ficino,p. 276, and also the original German version, Die Philosophic des Marsilio Ficino,Frankfurt a. M., 1972, p. 258.

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is higher than the natural motion in the letter, and we have treatedit in accordance with Plato in the Phaedrus and Symposium.^

The 'natural' proceeding of the intelligence (i.e. of the mind) alludedto in the passage quoted can only mean the workings of the intel-lect. Its function is indeed to enfold cognitions into the depths ofthe mind, which is indicated by the prefix of the term 'mcessus'. Itis obvious then that the excessus of the will acts as a movement thatis complementary to the intellect's incessus. Technically speaking, itis the mind's outwardly operating cognitive ability that one knowsalready from the early Philebus commentary. The translation 'ecstasy'unnecessarily clouds Ficino's quite precise description of the mind'sexternal proceeding. Rather than correlating this external proceed-ing with a mystical experience, it is more appropriate to think of apassion of the mind, a passion that Ficino attempted to rationalizeby defining the will as its main carrier.50 This passion does not onlyarise when the mind rushes to conjoin itself with the Good itself, italso occurs when Goodness is detected in things,01 which explainswhy for Ficino the acquisition of knowledge gives pleasure. It is hisdeep fascination with passion in an epistemological context that alsoaccounts for his continuous use of love metaphors in describing theworkings of the will.

The question of the relative precedence of will and intellect isentirely absent from a chapter of Ficino's commentary on the Timaeus,a work to which he gave special attention.52 The solution offeredthere as to how to conceptualize appropriately the relationship between

49 Ficino, The 'Philebus' Commentary, ed. Allen, p. 488 f.: 'Naturalem quidem men-tis incessum una cum Platone tractavimus in Philebo, excessum vero naturali motusuperiorem attingimus in epistola atque una cum Platone in Phaedro Symposioquetetigimus' (italics mine).

50 Sears R. Jayne also acknowledges the intellectual component of the will. Tohim, however, this has to do with Ficino's endeavor to rationalize tradition: 'Ficino'sLatin term, amor, cleverly keeps the Christian flavor of caritas, but it is for him essen-tially an epistemological term meaning desire for truth; thus love, even when oneidentifies the Platonic Good with God, remains for Ficino essentially an intellectualrather than an emotional process. It is only by keeping everything on a purely intel-lectual level that Ficino succeeds in harmonizing so many different religious andphilosophical points of view; the triumph of holding in the mind all at once theviews of Plato, Christ, Plotinus, the Cabala, Zoroaster . . . is primarily an intellec-tual achievement', John Colet and Marsilio Ficino, Oxford, 1963, p. 59.

51 Cf. the second quotation in n. 34 above.52 The early version of 1457 is lost. There followed, however, a second version

in 1483 which Ficino revised in 1492. See Paul O. Kristeller, Supplementum Ficinianum,2 vols, Florence, 1937, I, pp. cxx—cxxi.

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the two cognitive powers is set out in the context of Plato's har-monic triangle, also called the lambda figure after the triangular-shaped Greek letter. With the numbers used in that figure Ficinoforms the following consonances (and assigns them to various deities):

9:8 sesquioctava (tone) Muses

3:2 sesquialtera (diapente/fifth) Venus

4:3 sesquitertia (diatesseron/fourth) Mercury

2:1; 4:2; 8:4 dupla (diapason/octave) Apollo

3:1; 9:3; 27:9 tripla (diapason diapente/octave and fifth) Jupiter

4:1; 8:2 quadrupla (disdiapason/double octave) Apollo03

From these proportions Ficino chooses four consonances: the tone(9:8), the octave (2:1), the fifth (3:2), and the fourth (4:3) in orderto construct yet another harmonic triangle. This selection seems atfirst to contradict Ficino's list of preferred consonances as developedin one of his earlier writings, the Epistola de rationibus musicae. In thatEpistola the octave (2:1), the fifth (3:2) and the third (5:4) play a dom-inant role as constitutive intervals: the octave is considered a 'per-fect', the fifth an 'almost perfect' and the third a 'soft harmony'.54

It is, however, quite clear why the third could not be included inFicino's harmonic triangle despite its high quality of consonance: thenumber 5 does not appear in the Platonic lambda. On the otherhand, he could use the fourth (4:3), even though or rather becauseit is a lesser harmony. As the following will show, the fourth beingpartly consonant (in the tonal system) and partly dissonant (in the

53 Ch. XXXIII, Opera omnia, p. 1459. See also Ficino, Theologie platonicienne, XVII.2(ed. Marcel, III, p. 156), and Ficino's unpublished translation of Theon of Smyrna'sExpositio rerum mathematicarum ad legendum Platonem utilium, Vatican City, MS Vat. lat.4530, fol. 134r.

D4 'Epistola de rationibus musicae', in Kristeller, Supplementum Ficinianum, I, p. 51:'Precipua . . . apud musicos est proportio dupla, que diapason scilicet octave vocisperfectam procreat consonantiam Calliopeo apud poetas nomine designatam. Secundohabetur loco proportio sexquialtera que diapente ipsam scilicet quinte vocis prope-modum perfectam efficit harmoniam, cui quidem numero poeta lyricus Venereumtribuit nectar. Tertio sexquiquarta, ex qua vocis tertie lenis nascitur harmoniaCupidinem referens et Adonem, quarto sexquitertia per quam vox iam quarta resul-tat quasi inter consonantem dissonantemque media nescio quid Martii Venereo mis-cens. Precipue vero tertia, quinta, octava ceteris gratiores tris nobis Gratias referent.'

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composition) fits perfectly in a scheme of gradually diminishing har-monic ratios.50

This is how Ficino then orders his consonances along the sides ofa new lambda figure; the first step has him correlate these with Plato'shighest genera:

(after the Timaeus commentary, ch. XXXIV, Opera omnia, p. 1460)

The tone (9:8) represents the essence, the octave (2:1) the ratio betweenlimit and infinity (limitlessness), the fifth (3:2) the ratio between identityand difference, and the fourth (4:3) the ratio between rest and motion.The pattern is easily understood: the strongest harmony is placeddirectly under the triangle's apex, the least harmonious consonanceis located at the base. One also notes that the simpler the numericratio, the purer the consonance. With this arrangement Ficino findsan ingenious way of signaling differences without having to give pref-erence to any of the triangle's sides. Prioritizing would anyhow makelittle sense, since limit, identity and rest would be inoperative with-out their counterparts infinity, difference and motion. Moreover, theyshare one and the same origin, the essence, from which they all pro-ceed equally.

A similar strategy is pursued in Ficino's second step, where he

50 See Ute Oehlig, Die philosophische Begriindung der Kunst bei Ficino, Stuttgart, 1992,p. 113.

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correlates the same harmonic ratios with the faculties of the soul.Intellect and will are bound together by the octave, reason and imagi-nation by the fifth, and the (vegetative) soul's binding and generative pow-ers by the fourth:

ot surprisingly, intellect and will as the soul's highest powers formtogether the most perfect consonance in Ficino's harmonic triangle—neither predominates over the other. As he points out in the Timaeuscommentary: 'But if we spoke elsewhere of the equal ratios of thingsin the soul, we did not mean arithmetic parity, but harmonic equality.'56

The specific answer of the Timaeus commentary to the intellectus-voluntas dilemma has the two powers of the mind being at the sametime the components and the co-creators of a strong harmony. Inthis respect intellect and will can only be understood as equalelements, without, however, being identical entities. After all, therelationship of the intellect and the will is not defined by a 1:1 ratio,but by the octave's 2:1 proportion. By translating these harmonicterms back into their original epistemological content, one under-stands that the two cognitive faculties are equally indispensable tothe acquisition of knowledge. As harmony is the expression of a

06 Ch. XXXIV, Opera omnia, p. 1460: 'At si aequales in anima proportiones rerumalibi esse diximus, non arithmeticam paritatem, sed aequalitatem harmonicam intel-ligi volebamus.'

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numeric ratio, every cognition represents the inseparable unity ofintellect and will that is formed through the cognitive act.

In Ficino's last reference to the intellectus-voluntas dilemma, a letterto John Colet of July 1499, there seems to be a return to the intel-lectualistic position of the early Philebus commentary. This is howSears R. Jayne (who edited the letter in question) and Michael Allenhave interpreted the work.07 Does this mean that Ficino's handlingof the controversy ends on a note of discord? Not necessarily, sinceone needs to take into account that his letter was a response to aninquiry of the English correspondent. The letter of inquiry is unfor-tunately lost, but Jayne convincingly shows that Colet was interestedin correlating the Pauline triad faith, hope and charity with thefaculties of the intellect, will and love (if will and love coincide, asthey do in Ficino's philosophy).58 In the face of this constellation thetheologically well-trained Ficino could never give equal considera-tion to intellect and will, let alone favor the will. That would be thesame as giving hope the same status as or a higher status than faith,which would run counter to the entire tradition. In this context thewill as the faculty correlated with hope—which is itself a moralvirtue—ceases to represent a cognitive power. On the other hand,faith, being the central element of the Pauline triad, does indeed callfor its correlative, the intellect, as the primary faculty. Yet Ficino'sletter finds a way to give the will some weight, by stating that noth-ing can be cognized unless it is first loved. In this way the will hasits own type of precedence over the intellect: before there can beactual knowledge, there is the desire to know. Ficino's letter to Coletis also valuable in the way it crafts the relationship between the twopowers of the mind. It asserts that the intellect is a 'refined' will,whereas the will is a 'cruder' intellect.39 What this means is that thetwo faculties mutually represent each other: 'Thus the will appre-hends and the intellect wills.'60 The interdependence of the two pow-ers could hardly be better expressed. Not only are they co-essential,but they are also correlatives. They are conceptualized in such away that it is impossible to think of either the intellect or the will

57 Jayne, John Colet, p. 67, and Ficino, The 'Philebus' Commentary, ed. Allen, p. 44.58 Jayne, John Colet, pp. 60-68.59 Ibid., p. 83.60 Ibid.

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without necessarily invoking its counterpart. Moreover, they bothmirror each other's functions to the extent that one is the other.

5. Conclusion: Ficino's True Epistemic Drama

What caused Ficino to concern himself with the epistemic functionsof intellect and will for more than thirty years, looking time aftertime for new ways of conceptualizing their relationship? Little isgained by saying that Ficino accepted the authority of ThomasAquinas in one period and of Duns Scotus in another. One wouldstill have to ask what induced him first to agree with Dominicanand then with Franciscan doctrine, before finally choosing to har-monize them. One has also to realize that the issue of happiness,which was central to the medieval debate, had already lost its impor-tance for Ficino by the time of the Theologia Platonica. His quest wasof a different nature. The dilemma became a purely epistemologicalone: whether primacy should be given to the world of thought (rep-resented by the inwardly operating intellect) over the world of objects(the concern of the outwardly rushing will), or vice versa whetherobjects should be given preference over the mind's innate ideas.61

A diagram listing the functions assumed by intellect and will mayhelp to clarify their role in Ficino's thought:

Intellect Truth universal separation inner (enfolding) seeing visualfrom motion metaphors


Will Good particular union outer (unfolding) desiring lovewith motion metaphors


To mark the sharp difference between the two faculties Ficino evencoined distinctive metaphors to describe their respective epistemicfunctions. The intellect is predisposed towards the Truth and graspswhat is universal in objects, which is why its inward and enfoldingmotion separates it from things. The language used to describe its

61 Allen who focuses more on the cognition of God than on the epistemologicalact as such offers a different explanation by stating that 'Ficino's indecision becomesnot a matter of being unable to make up his own mind, but the inevitable conse-quence of a fundamental circularity in his thinking which is monistic and ultimatelyperhaps mystical' (Ficino, The 'Philebus' Commentary, ed. Allen, p. 43).

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epistemic performance is mostly drawn from visual experience (clari-tas, perscrutare, respicere, videre, visio). The will, on the other hand, isinclined towards the Good and conjoins itself with particular objectsin its effort to understand them. The metaphors employed to explainits cognitive functioning are inspired by the language of love anddesire (amor, fruitio, gaudium, raptus, unio). A question that arises fromthis comparison of intellect and will is how such divergent forces canbe combined to benefit cognition.

Three options come to mind as to how to conceptualize the col-laborative workings of intellect and will. One theoretical possibilityis that they do not collaborate at all, either the intellect or the willbeing the exclusive epistemic force of the mind. This, of course,would have absurd consequences, such as sacrificing the Good forTruth or universality for particularity. Moreover, if the intellect werethe sole carrier of epistemic acts, it would shape the world in itsown image. The single objects in their particularity would event-ually be lost to the mind. Selecting the will over the intellect wouldhave the mind precipitate itself into the midst of things. The worldin its particularity would be gained, but there would be no mind tointerpret it in its entirety. A second possibility is that one facultydominates at the expense of the other, which is the option envis-aged by Ficino in his early and middle phases. Except in the Philebuscommentary, the preferred cognitive power was the will. At timesthis preference is expressed very cautiously, as in the following pas-sage of the Theologia Platonica:

Every mind operates rather by willing than by seeing. In seeing, itenfolds the forms inwardly, in willing, it unfolds them outwardly; inseeing, it catches sight of Truth, the trait of which is purity, in will-ing, it reaches the Good, the trait of which is diffusion.62

The fascination with the will and the recurring passionate descrip-tions of its workings clearly suggests that closeness to objects is highlyvalued by Ficino. Despite his emphasis on the mind's ability to restorereality to greater perfection, that is, to a literally more ideal form,

62 Ficino, Theologie platonicienne, 11.11 (ed. Marcel, I, p. 110 f.): 'Mens autem quae-libet volendo facit opera potius quam videndo. Videndo enim replicat formas intus,volendo eas explicat extra, videndo respicit verum, cui propria puritas est, volendoattingit bonum cui propria est diffusio' (italics mine). For the terms replicare andexplicare and their apparent similarity to Nicholas of Cusa's complicatio-explicatio spec-ulation, see Albertini, Marsilio Ficino, pp. 84, 255.

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his metaphysics does not neglect the world of experience. This bringsinto play the third possibility, the one Ficino developed in his lateryears. Even though the relationship of intellect and will remainsasymmetric, the two powers of the mind are nevertheless describedas parallel and complementary epistemic forces. For instance, theintellect's universality and the will's particularity are opposed to eachother. In view of the cognitive act the universal and the particularare, however, needed to the same degree for anything to be cognized.The possible superiority of one faculty over the other does not addanything to the resulting cognition. The cognitive act harmonizesboth intellect and will and their opposed features. One can go astep further and state that in harmonizing the intellect's subjective cat-egories with the will's objectivity, that is, its inclination towards objects,an even more powerful mediation takes place, the mediation betweenmind and world.

What does the intellect ask for, except to transform itself into every-thing by drawing everything into itself? What does the will attempt toachieve, except to transform itself into everything by enjoying every-thing? The former strives that the universe should become the intel-lect, the latter that the will should be the universe.63

The intellect makes the world 'mindlike', whereas the will ensuresthat the mind become 'worldlike'. Mind and world thus keepmoving towards each other without ever coinciding. The brilliantmetaphysician Ficino prevented this by inscribing a tension into therelationship between intellect and will, a tension that arises preciselyfrom their complementary opposition. A subject aware of an exter-nal world will always exist, and there will always be a world ofobjects awaiting its interpretation.

This is the kind of philosophical achievement that reveals Ficinoas indeed 'an important member and link (not always recognized) inthat golden chain which is the tradition of rational metaphysics thatleads from the Presocratics and Plato to Kant, Hegel and beyond'.64

53 Opuscula theologica, in Ficino, Theologie platonicienne, ed. Marcel, III, p. 333:'Quidnam intellectus inquirit, nisi cuncta in se suo modo pingendo transformareomnia in seipsum? Quid rursus voluntas annititur, nisi omnibus omnium modo fru-endo seipsam in omnia transformare? Ille ergo conatur ut universum fiat quodam-modo intellectus, haec autem ut voluntas sit universum.'

64 Paul O. Kristeller, Marsilio Ficino and his Work after Five Hundred Years, Florence,1987, p. 16.

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Angela Voss

In a letter to Paul of Middelburg, written when he was nearly sixty,Marsilio Ficino looks back over a lifetime of cultural achievementsin his native city: 'This age, like a golden age, has brought back tolight those liberal disciplines that were practically extinguished: gram-mar, poetry, oratory, painting, sculpture, architecture, music and theancient singing of songs to the Orphic lyre.'1 He is referring to bothhis own and his friends' well-attested skill at improvising or com-posing musical settings for the hymns of Orpheus, which he himselfhad translated from the Greek, but which he had not published forfear that his readers would suspect him of reinstating the cults ofancient gods and daemons.2 Despite Ficino's initial caution, however,we have ample evidence that their use, primarily as part of a ritualactivity in the practice of natural magic, lay at the very heart of hiswork.3 'Nothing', suggests Ficino's friend Pico della Mirandola, 'is

1 M. Ficino, Opera omnia, 2 vols, continuously paginated, Basle, 1576, repr. Turin,1959 etc., p. 944: 'Hoc enim seculum tanquam aureum, liberales disciplinas fermeiam extinctas reduxit in lucem, grammaticam, poesim, oratoriam, picturam, sculp-turam, architecturam, musicam, antiquum ad Orphicam lyram carminum cantum.'

2 Ficino, Opera, p. 933. Ficino translated the hymns in 1462 but his translationdoes not survive. Excerpts may be found in other works, primarily the TheologiaPlatonica (Theologie platonicienne de I'immortalite des dmes, ed. by R. Marcel, 3 vols, Paris,1964-70). The hymns probably date from the early centuries AD; the first MS wasbrought to Italy from Constantinople in 1424. See liana Klutstein, Marsilio Ficino etla theologie ancienne: Oracles chaldaiques, Hymnes orphiques, Hymnes de Proclus, Florence,1987; Thomas Taylor, The Mystical Hymns of Orpheus, London, 1896; D. P. Walker,'Orpheus the Theologian and Renaissance Platonists', Journal of the Warburg andCourtauld Institutes, 16 (1953), pp. 100-20; Martin West, The Orphic Poems, Oxford,1983, pp. 26-29.

3 Giovanni Corsi wrote in his biography '[Ficino] expounded the hymns ofOrpheus and it is said that he sang them to the lyre in the ancient style withremarkable sweetness'; see 'The Life of Marsilio Ficino', in The Letters of MarsilioFicino, tr. by members of the Language Department of the School of EconomicScience, 6 vols to date, London, 1975-, III, p. 138. Other references to Orpheusor the lyre include Letters, I, pp. 32, 141-44, 198; II, pp. 14, 33; IV, pp. 16-17;V, pp. 37-38; Ficino, Opera omnia, pp. 608-09, 822-23, 871, 934-35; Lorenzo de'Medici, Opere, ed. by A. Simioni, 2 vols, Bari, 1914, II, p. 41; P. O. Kristeller,Supplementum Ficinianum, 2 vols, Florence, 1937, II, pp. 87-88, 225.

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more effective in natural magic than the hymns of Orpheus, if theright kind of music, intention of the mind, and other circ*mstancesare applied which are only known to the wise.'4

Many of Ficino's friends recognized a particular quality in hismusic-making, a gift that led them to name him Orpheus, the myth-ical musician who was said to charm men, animals and even stoneswith his lyre-playing. The poet Naldo Naldi suggested that in Ficino thevery soul of Orpheus had been reincarnated: 'Hence he soothes theunyielding oaks with his lyre and his song and softens once morethe hearts of wild beasts.'3 However, it is in the words of his friendPoliziano that we begin to glimpse a greater significance in Ficino'sassociation with Orpheus. The poet was accustomed to hear Marsiliodiscourse on the secrets of the heavens, on healing, on metaphysics;'Often', he says, 'his wise lyre chases out these grave thoughts andhis voice follows the song springing up from under his expressivefingers, like Orpheus, interpreter of Apollo's songs . . . Then whenhe has finished, drawn on by the Muses' furore I return home, returnto the composition of verses, and inspired, I invoke Phoebus, touch-ing the divine lyre with my plectrum.'6 Elsewhere the poet concludeswith an etymological pun that '[Marsilio's lyre], far more successfulthan the lyre of Thracian Orpheus, has brought back from the under-world what is, if I am not mistaken, the true Eurydice, that is,Platonic wisdom with its all-embracing understanding.'7

4 'Nihil efficientius hymnis Orphei in naturali magia, si debita musica, animiintentio, et ceterae circ*mstantiae, quas norunt sapientes, fuerint adhibitae', G. Picodella Mirandola, 'Conclusiones nurnero XXXI secundum propriam opinionem demodo intelligendi hymnos Orphei secundum magiam . . .', no. 2, in his Conclusionesnongentae: le novecento tesi dell'anno 1486, ed. by Albano Biondi, Florence, 1995, p. 120.

5 'Hinc rigidas cythara quercus et carmine mulcet | Atque feris iterum molliacorda facit', Naldo Naldi, 'Carmen ad Ficinum', in Kristeller, Supplementum Ficinianum,II, p. 262; tr. by John Warden in his 'Orpheus and Ficino', in Orpheus: TheMetamorphoses of a Myth, ed. by J. Warden, Toronto, 1982, pp. 85-110, at p. 86.

6 'saepe graves pellit docta testudine curas, | Et vocem argutis suggerit articulis,| Qualis Apollinei modulator carminis Orpheus | . . . Hinc, ubi conticuit, Musarumconcitus oestro | Deferor ad solitos protinus ipse Lares | Atque iterum meditornumeros Phoebumque lacesso | Attonitusque sacram pectine plango chelym', AngeloPoliziano, poem to Bartolomeo Fonzio in B. Fontius, Carmina, ed. by L. Juhasz,Leipzig, 1932, pp. 24-28 (p. 27), repr. in A. Poliziano, Opera omnia, ed. by IdaMaier, 3 vols, Turin, 1970-71, III, pp. 169-73 (p. 172). See also Ida Maier, AngePolitien. La formation d'un poete humaniste (1469-1480), Geneva, 1966, pp. 30, n. 51,35^36 and 78-82 (p. 81 for this passage in French translation); Kristeller, SupplementumFicinianum, II, pp. 277-83.

7 Poliziano, Opera omnia, I, p. 310: 'Longe felicior quam Thraciensis Orphei citharaveram (ni fallor) Eurydicen hoc est amplissimi iudicii Platonicam sapientiam revo-

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In early versions of the myth, Orpheus led Eurydice up out ofthe underworld and united with her. 'I walked the dark road ofHades trusting my cithara', says the Orpheus of the Argonautica, 'forlove of my wife'.8 But by the time of Virgil's classic account, Eurydicehas been lost.9 Orpheus fails to obey the injunction of Pluto not tolook back, and she returns to the shadows. But not for ever, for shecan be rescued and brought back to enlighten a world arid withsterile theological debate and 'abominable ignorance' of the divine,as Ficino puts it.10 And so, like Orpheus, Ficino rescues her—butnot from Hades. His is a new Eurydice, a Eurydice who shines withthe clear light of divine knowledge, who brings Goodness, Truth andBeauty to draw the minds of men away from their secular con-cerns. 'I have not, in company with Claudian, impiously sung of. . .Proserpine, snatched, as the story goes, into the underworld', exclaimsFicino, 'but, as is the way of the Platonists, I have depicted the sub-lime upward soaring of the heavenly mind'.11 His Eurydice, Philosophy,has not sojourned in the realm of darkness: 'a treasure more pre-cious than all others, no offspring of the bowels of earth and Hadesbut descending from Jove's head and the very top of heaven!'12

For Ficino, Orpheus was a venerable ancient theologian wholearned the secrets of immortality from the Egyptian sage HermesTrismegistus and passed them on to Pythagoras, and so to Plato andhis Neoplatonic interpreters.13 Most importantly, Orpheus played a

cavit ab inferis.' See M. J. B. Allen, Synoptic Art: Marsilio Ficino on the History of PlatonicInterpretation, Florence, 1998, pp. 120—23 on Orpheus, Eurydice, and the pun.

8 Quoted in West, The Orphic Poems, pp. 37-38. The Orphic Argonautica is anepic poem of about the fourth century AD in which 'Orpheus' narrates the storyof his participation in Jason's Argonaut expedition.

9 Virgil, Georgics, IV.494-98. For an examination of the Latin poets' handling ofOrpheus, see W. S. Anderson, 'The Orpheus of Virgil and Ovid: flebile nescio quid',in Orpheus: The Metamorphoses of a Myth, pp. 25-50. Anderson suggests that the storyof Orpheus's failure to rescue Eurydice may have originated as early as the fifthcentury BC, but that is a point of contention.

10 'Religionem sanctam pro viribus ab execrabili inscitia redimamus', Ficino, DeChristiana religione, in Opera omnia, p. 1; see J. Hankins, Plato in the Italian Renaissance,2 vols, Leiden etc., 1991, p. 289.

11 'Neque chararn, ut aiunt, sororem tuam una cum Claudiano Proserpinam rap-tarn ad inferos impie cecini . . . sed ut veri Platonici solent beatissimum depinxicoelestis mentis ascensum', Opera omnia; p. 756; Letters, III, p. 15.

12 'O thesaurum omnium pretiosissimum, haudquaquam terrae Plutonisque vis-ceribus editum, sed summo coeli vertice lovisque capite descendentem', Opera omnia,p. 758; Letters, III, p. 21.

13 The idea that profound truth, understood by the ancient Egyptian sages, wastransmitted through a succession of interpreters to the Christian era was central to

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central role in the transmission of a perennial wisdom which Ficinounderstood to be fully unfolded in the Christian revelation—a philo-sophical confirmation of religious truth necessary for the salvation ofmankind; and in Orpheus, indeed, he found a model for his ownaspiration to lead his fellow man towards a more enlightened stateof being. The Orpheus of the hymns and of the Orphic epic Argonauticawas revered by Ficino precisely for giving voice to the divine truthof theology through a poetic mythology and the singing of hymns.In this Orpheus provided the key to Ficino's Christian Platonism.In naming Jupiter as the supreme creative principle, the 'beginning,middle and end of the universe', Orpheus demonstrated his under-standing of one of the fundamental assertions of the ancient theol-ogy, that the whole of creation is constantly being regenerated in anever-ending movement towards unity: 'all things first flow from thateternal source when they are born; then they flow back again to it,when they seek their own origin; and finally, they are perfected, afterthey have returned to their source.'14

As poet, priest, prophet and lover, Orpheus embodied the fourconditions on which knowledge of God depended, the four frenziesor madnesses in which the human soul was lifted beyond its earthlycondition and achieved spiritual possession.15 In Ficino's understanding,

Ficino's understanding of his own destiny: to interpret and communicate this truthin a manner appropriate for his own age. In the preface to his translation of theCorpus Hermeticum (Opera omnia, p. 1836), Ficino gives the genealogy of sages asHermes Trismegistus, Orpheus, Aglaophemus, Pythagoras, Philolaus and Plato (seeBrian Copenhaver, Hermetica: The Greek 'Corpus Hermeticum' and the Latin 'Asclepius',Cambridge, 1992, p. xlviii), but in his Theologia Platonica, XVIII. 1 (Opera omnia,p. 386; ed. Marcel, III, p. 148), Ficino extended the list backwards to place Zoroasterat the head and forwards to the schools of Plotinus and Proclus. See Allen, SynopticArt, ch. 1.

14 'Singula quoque imprimis ab illo perenni fonte effluunt, dum nasc*ntur, deindein eundem refluunt, dum suam illam originem repetunt, postremo perficiuntur,postquam in suum principium redierunt. Hoc vaticinatus Orpheus; lovem principiummediumque et finem universi vocavit', Ficino, De amore, II. 1 (Opera omnia, p. 1323);in English in Ficino, Commentary on Plato's Symposium on Love, tr. by Sears Jayne, 2ndedn, Dallas, Tex., 1985, p. 45.

15 Ficino, De amore VII. 14 (Opera omnia, p. 1361); in English in Commentary on Plato'sSymposium, tr. Jayne, p. 171. Platonic sources for divine frenzy: Ion, 533D; Phaedrus,244, 265A-B, 249o. See M. J. B. Allen, Marsilio Ficino and the Phaedran Charioteer,Berkeley etc., 1981, pp. 82-86, 220-25; idem, The Platonism of Marsilio Ficino: A Studyof his 'Phaedrus' Commentary, its Sources and Genesis, Berkeley etc., 1984, ch. 2; idem,'The Soul as Rhapsode: Marsilio Ficino's Interpretation of Plato's Ion', in Humanityand Divinity in Renaissance and Reformation: Essays in Honor of Charles Trinkaus, ed. byJ. W. O'Malley et al. Leiden etc., 1993, pp. 125-48, repr. in his Plato's Third Eye:

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the frenzy of the poet or musician was the beginning of the initia-tory process, the awakening of that dormant memory of divinitywhich came to fruition in the final rapture of love.16 But 'any mad-ness', says Ficino, 'whether the prophetic, hieratic or amatory, justlyseems to be released as poetic madness when it proceeds to songsand poems."7 What do we see in Orpheus's madnesses other thana transformation of Bacchic frenzy? The maenads of Dionysus havebecome the Muses of Apollo, the initiation takes place not throughthe intoxication of the senses but through the fire of the imagina-tion. For Orpheus, and for Ficino, the function of the priest in lead-ing people to recognize their own divinity was precisely the functionof the musician, for music, in imitating or reproducing the laws ofthe cosmos in sound, may reveal the true nature of the soul to itself:namely, that it partakes of the soul of the world. That is, as Ficinointerprets Plotinus, all created things contain within themselves aspark of divinity, sown by the power of the world soul, which itselfembraces the eternal realm of Ideas.18 It is in the Pythagorean cre-ation myth of Plato's Timaeus that we are given an account of thisprocess, for the creator fashions human souls from the same sub-stance as the universal soul, with its inherent harmonic structure.But due to the necessity of embodiment, the soul becomes twisted,distorted, stirred up, and needs to be reminded, through audible andvisible images, of its pristine perfection.19 The Platonist would appealto the harmonies of the incorruptible heavens as a model whencomposing his earthly music, using the resonances of the 'perfect'Pythagorean intervals as its essence.20 Through sympathetic vibra-tion—like strings on a cithara, says Ficino—the human soul would

Studies in Marsilio Ficino's Metaphysics and its Sources, Aldershot, 1995; G. Tomlinson,Music in Renaissance Magic: Towards a Historiography of Others, Chicago, 1993, pp.172-83.

16 See Ficino, 'On divine frenzy' in Letters, I, pp. 42-48.17 'Quamobrem furor quilibet, sive fatidicus sive mysterialis seu amatorius, dum

in cantus procedit et carmina, merito in furorem poeticum videtur absolvi', Ficino,Commentary on Phaedrus, IV.3, in Allen, Marsilio Ficino and the Phaedran Charioteer,pp. 84 85.

18 De vita, III.l, in Ficino, Three Books on Life, ed. and tr. by Carol V. Kaske andJohn R. Clark, Binghamton, NY, 1989, pp. 242-47.

19 Plato, Timaeus, 4ID—44A. Ficino's commentary is on pp. 1438-84 of the Operaomnia.

20 As described in Timaeus, 35A~37c. See M. J. B. Allen, Nuptial Arithmetic: MarsilioFicino's Commentary on the Fatal Number in Book VIII of Plato's 'Republic', Berkeley etc.,1994, chs 1 and 2.

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then be restored to its natural congruence with the cosmos.21 SoFicino's music was not for the ears of the rulers of Hades, it wasfor the divinities of the celestial sphere, and in particular those divini-ties addressed by Orpheus in his hymns.

In the Orphic hymns Ficino found perfect vehicles for what hetermed natural magic, a process of bringing the human soul intoalignment with the harmonies of the heavens, and ultimately, withGod Himself, although he could hardly make this explicit.22 Composedin the Hellenistic era and attributed to Orpheus, the hymns praisethe powers in the cosmos, with instructions for burning appropriateincense, in a sequence of addresses to individual deities.23 Very earlyin his career, Ficino had discovered a magic in singing Orphic hymns:shortly after singing a hymn to the Cosmos, Cosmus himself, aliasCosimo de' Medici, had granted him patronage and a villa in whichto work.24 A delightful pun, but it seemed that something more seri-ous was brought about when the hymns were performed in a particularcontext, when the internal emotion and external ritual were perfectlyaligned. 'Our spirit', Ficino says, 'is in conformity with the rays ofthe heavenly spirit, which penetrates everything either secretly orobviously. It shows a far greater kinship when we have a vehement

21 'adeo ut cum eorum more opportune canendo et sonando clamaveris, respon-suri protinus videantur vel instar echo, vel sicut corda quaedam in cithara tremens,quotiens vibratur altera temperata similiter', Ficino, De vita, 111.21, ed. Kaske andClark, pp. 360-61.

22 In the Apology of De vita, Ficino describes natural magic as that which 'bynatural things, seeks to obtain the services of the celestials for the prosperous healthof our bodies . . . [it is] practiced by those who seasonably subject natural materi-als to natural causes to be formed in a wondrous way' ('quae rebus naturalibus adprosperam corporum valetudinem coelestium beneficia captat . . . qui naturales mate-rias opportune causis subiciunt naturalibus mira quadam ratione formandas'), ed.Kaske and Clark, pp. 396-99. However in the final chapter of the De vita Ficinohints that 'sometimes it can happen that when you bring seminal reasons to bearon forms, higher gifts too may descend, since reasons in the Anima Mundi are con-joined to the intellectual forms in her and through these to the Ideas of the DivineMind' ('Fieri vero posse quandoque, ut rationibus ad formas sic adhibitis sublimioraquoque dona descendant, quatenus rationes in anima mundi coniunctae sunt intel-lectualibus eiusdem animae formis, atque per illas divinae mentis ideis'), De vita,111.26, ed. Kaske and Clark, pp. 390-91.

23 See n. 2, above; also M. J. B. Allen, 'Summoning Plotinus: Ficino, Smoke,and the Strangled Chickens', in Plato's Third Eye, art. XIV, on fumigations and theOrphic hymns. With Mark Rylance, Catherine King, Mark Tucker and the MariniConsort, I have made a recording of Orphic music based on Orphic hymns andFicino's words: 'The Secrets of the Heavens', RVRCD53, Riverrun Records, Potton,Cambs, 2000.

24 See Kristeller, Supplementum Fidnianum, II, pp. 87-88.

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desire for that life and are seeking a benefit that is consistent withit, and thus transfer our own spirit into its rays by means of love,particularly if we make use of song and light and the perfume appro-priate to the deity, like the hymns that Orpheus consecrated to thecosmic deities.'23 And why are the hymns so powerful? Because, Picosays, in them Orpheus 'interwove the mysteries of his doctrines withthe texture of fables, covering them with a poetic veil', so that tothe uninitiated they would appear to be the 'sheerest tales and trifles'.26

What did Orpheus know about music and poetry, what was thesecret preserved in his hymns? For Ficino and Pico, to perform thehymns was to move from everyday consciousness to a spiritual per-ception of reality. You will not understand the essence of the hymns,insists Pico, unless you know how to comprehend sensible proper-ties by way of secret analogy.27 Plotinus tells us to 'shut your eyes,and change to and wake another way of seeing, which everyone hasbut few use'.28 lamblichus assures us that conceptual thought or the-oretical philosophizing will not lead to knowledge of the gods; rather,'the perfect efficacy of ineffable works, which are divinely performedin a way surpassing all intelligence, and the power of inexplicablesymbols, which are known only to the Gods, impart theurgic union'.29

As Ficino describes it in his letter on divine frenzy: 'the soul receivesthe sweetest harmonies and numbers through the ears, and by these

23 'similiter spiritus noster radiis illius tarn occultis, quam manifestis omnia pen-etrantibus. Evadit etiam longe cognatior, quando erga vitam illam vehementerafficimur consentaneum illi beneficium exoptantes, atque ita spiritum nostrum inillius radios transferentes amore praesertim si cantum et lumen adhibemus, odo-remque numini consentaneum, quales Orpheus hymnos mundanis numinibus con-secravit', Ficino, Commentary on Plotinus, Opera omnia, p. 1747; tr. by Warden,'Orpheus and Ficino', p. 95.

26 'ita Orpheus suorum dogmatum mysteria fabularum intexit involucris et poe-tico velamento dissimulavit, ut si quis legat illius hymnos, nihil subesse credat praeterfabellas nugasque meracissimas', G. Pico della Mirandola, De hominis dignitate, E. Garin, Florence, 1942, p. 162; quoted in E. Wind, Pagan Mysteries in theRenaissance, Oxford, 1980, p. 18.

27 'Qui nescierit perfecte sensibiles proprietates per viam secretae analogiae intel-lectualizare, nichil ex hymnis Orphei sanum intelliget', G. Pico della Mirandola,Orphic Conclusion no. 7, Conclusiones nongentae, p. 122.

28 Plotinus, Ennead, 1.6.8., tr. by A. H. Armstrong, Plotinus, 7 vols, Cambridge,Mass., and London, 1966-88, I, p. 259.

29 lamblichus, De mysteriis, II. 11.96, tr. by Thomas Taylor, lamblichus on the Mysteriesof the Egyptians, Chaldeans and Assyrians, 2nd edn, London, 1895; repr. Frome, Somerset,1999, p. 62. For a thorough study of lamblichan theurgy, see G. Shaw, Theurgy andthe Soul: The Neoplatonism of lamblichus, University Park, Pa., 1995.

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echoes is reminded and aroused to the divine music which may beheard by the more penetrating sense of mind.'30 On hearing earthlymusic, the soul is reminded of the music of God and the heavensthat it once enjoyed, and 'burns with desire' to return to its divinesource.31 The inspired musician, thus enraptured, conveys the 'innerreason' (intima ratio] of divine harmony to the listener, who is movedin sympathetic resonance with the performer.32 So when Ficino sanghymns to the cosmic deities, there was no question of intentionallyinvoking a spirit or god. The object was rather to tune oneself, likea string on a lyre, until one's spirit resonated in unison with thedesired archetypal principle.33 In playing music which specifically cor-responded in quality to Venus, Jupiter or the Sun—and Ficinodescribes such qualities in his Book of Life^—the magician was thustransforming himself into the perfect medium for a divine presence,and he perceived that presence through an immediate intuitive sense,a sense innate to the soul like a light infused by God.33 Likewise ona more lofty plane, it would follow that the more profoundly one'scontemplation of God allowed one's soul to recognize its own divin-ity, the more profoundly one might come to know God. 'I oftenresort to the solemn sound of the lyre and to singing', Ficino tellsus, 'to raise the mind to the highest considerations and to God asmuch as I may.'36

30 'per aures vero concentus quosdam numerosque suavissimos animus haurit,bisque imaginibus admonetur, atque excitatur ad divinam musicam, acriori quo-dam mentis et intimo sensu considerandam', Opera omnia, p. 614; Letters, I, p. 45.

31 'totusque desiderio fervet, cupitque ut vera musica rursus fruatur', ibid.32 'graviori quodam firmiorique iudicio divinam ac coelestem harmoniam imitantes,

intimae rationis sensum notionesque inversum, pedes ac numeros digerunt', ibid.33 We have one eye-witness account of Ficino himself in performance, by Bishop

Campano: 'If curly-haired Apollo should play upon Marsilio's cithara, Apollo wouldfall defeated in both dexterity of hand and singing. There is frenzy; when he sings,as a lover to the singing of his beloved, he plucks his lyre in harmony with themelody and rhythm of the song. Then his eyes burn, he leaps to his feet, and hediscovers music which he never learnt by rote.' ('Marsilii citharam crispus si tentetApollo | Et dextra et cantu victus Apollo cadet | Et furor est, cum cantat amanscantante puella Ad flexum, ad nutum percutit ille lyram | Tune ardent oculi,tune planta exsurgit utraque Et quos non didicit, comperit ille modos.') Kristeller,Supplementum Ficinianum, II, p. 230; quoted in A. Delia Torre, Storia dell'Accademia pla-tonica di Firenze, Florence, 1902; repr. Turin, 1968, p. 791.

34 Ficino, De vita, 111.21, ed. Kaske and Clark, pp. 360-61.33 On Ficino's distinction between 'natural' and 'infused' light of knowledge, see

De amore, IV.4-5; in English in Ficino, Commentary on Plato's Symposium, tr. Jayne, pp.75-79.

36 'gravioribus fidibus cantibusque frequenter incumbo, ut caetera sensuum oblec-

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At the shrines of Apollo, a healing took place. In a state of tranceit is said that the initiate heard the music of the spheres and wasmade whole.37 'It is hardly surprising', says Ficino, 'that both musicand medicine are often practised by the same men', since they areunited in the power of the one god.38 Ficino found his own voca-tion as a healer confirmed in the words of Orpheus. 'Orpheus, inhis book of hymns', he tells us, 'asserts that Apollo, by his vital rays,bestows health and life on all and drives away disease. By the sound-ing strings, that is, by their vibrations and power, he regulates every-thing; by the lowest string, winter; by the highest string, summer;and by the middle strings, he brings in spring and autumn.'39 Apollo'slyre thus becomes a model for the harmony of the whole cosmos,uniting the physical order with the spiritual, the body with the soul.In revealing to the listener or player the harmonic proportions inhis own soul, through number and pitch, the lyre is both a visualand audible image of a secret order to be found beyond the level ofsense-perception, an articulation of the hidden relationships betweendifferent levels of reality. In a fragment from a scholiast on Virgilwe find the following provocative statement: 'some say that Orpheus'slyre had seven strings corresponding to the seven circles of heaven.Varro says there was an Orphic book about summoning the soul,called the Lyre. It is said that the souls need the cithara in orderto ascend.'40 For Ficino the musical magic of Orpheus was concernedwith nothing less than the redemption of the soul, and the key toits effective operation was the desire and intention of Love.

tamenta penitus negligam, molestias animae, corporisque expellam, mentem ad sub-limia Deumque pro viribus erigam', Opera omnia, p. 651; Letters, I, p. 143.

3/ For speculation on the nature of initiation rituals in Presocratic times, I relyon P. Kingsley, In the Dark Places of Wisdom, Shaftesbury, Dorset, and Inverness,Calif, 1999, pp. 129-30. See also idem, Ancient Philosophy, Mystery and Magic: Empedoclesand Pythagorean Tradition, Oxford, 1995, pp. 284-88.

38 'Quum ergo idem sit Musicae dux, medicinaeque repertor, quid mirum utramqueartem saepe ab iisdem hominibus exerceri', Opera omnia, p. 652; Letters, I, p. 142.

39 'Hunc in libro hymnorum Orpheus vitalibus radiis sanitatem vitamque largiricunctis arbitratur morbosque propellere. Praeterea fidibus canoris, id est, motibusviribusque suis omnia temperare, hypate, id est, gravi voce, hieniem. Neate, id est,acuta aestatem. Dorionibus, id est, vocibus mediis, ver autumnumque producere',ibid.

40 'Dic*nt tamen quidam liram Orphei cum vii cordis fuisse, et celum habet viizonas, unde teologia assignatur. Varro autem dicit librum Orfei de vocanda animaLiram nominari, et negantur animae sine cithara posse ascendere.' See West, TheOrphic Poems, pp. 29-30.

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In the preface to his commentary on Plato's Symposium, Ficino tellshis beloved Giovanni Cavalcanti: 'A long time ago, dear Giovanni,I learned from Orpheus that love existed, and that it held the keysto the whole world . . .'41 It was the key of Love that unlocked, forFicino, the gates to unity; a unity of perception in which there couldbe no opposition of philosophy and religion, knowledge and piety,or, more particularly, Platonic thought and Christian faith. In thismode of apprehension, which preceded any 'intellectual energizing',as lamblichus puts it, mind and soul were one, and knowledge wasgained through an all-embracing intuitive insight into the nature ofreality.42 In this way Ficino saw Orpheus in his hymns addressingthe gods as multi-faceted, multi-layered cosmic principles, each onemirroring the diversity of creation yet representing aspects of asingle unified power, all the gods in each god and each in all. Oras Pico put it, 'He who understands profoundly and deeply how theunity of Venus is unfolded in the trinity of the Graces, the unity ofDestiny in the trinity of the Fates, and the unity of Saturn in thetrinity of Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto, knows the proper way of pro-ceeding in Orphic theology.'43 Thus 'to proceed Orphically' meantadopting a poetic vision, a vision rich in mythology, symbol, alle-gory, metaphor. Indeed, Michael Allen has pointed out that 'to pro-ceed Orphically was the only way of accommodating polytheisticstructures to the deep grammar of monotheism.'44 And the only wayto 'proceed Orphically' was to transcend logical thinking and aban-don oneself to Eros, to the god who is the desire to reconnect withone's source, and who leads the mind to abandon its habitual dis-cursive thought. Love is a magician, says Ficino, 'because the wholepower of magic consists in love. The work of magic is the attraction

41 'lamdiu, suavissime mi loannes, esse amorem ac mundi totius habere clavesab Orpheo . . . didiceram', quoted in R. Marcel, Marsile Ficin, Paris, 1958, p. 341,n. 1; in English in Ficino, Commentary on Plato's Symposium, tr. Jayne, p. 179.

42 See lamblichus, De mysteriis, 11.11.97, tr. Taylor, p. 62; Ficino dwells at somelength on this intuitive mode of knowing in his translation of lamblichus's De mys-teriis, Opera omnia, p. 1874; see A. Voss, 'On the Knowledge of Divine Things',Sphinx. Journal of the London Convivium for Archetypal Studies, 6 (1994), pp. 149—72.

43 'Qui profunde et intellectualiter divisionem unitatis Veneris in trinitatemGratiarum, et unitatis fatalis, in trinitatem Parcarum, et unitatis Saturni in trini-tatem lovis, Neptuni et Plutonis intellexerit, videbit modum debite procedendi inOrphica theologia', G. Pico della Mirandola, Orphic conclusion no. 8, Conclusionsnongentae, p. 122.

44 Allen, The Platonism of Marsilio Ficino, p. 115.

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of one thing by another by way of a certain affinity of nature.'45

Ficino's Orphic insight was to reach its metaphysical culminationin his anagogical meditations on the Sun and Light,46 short treatiseswhich draw the reader from episteme to gnosis, to the realization thatthe source of knowledge and the knower are one and the same. Inhis letter The Orphic comparison of the sun to God, Ficino explains, 'It iscertainly in the Sun that visible light is created from the intelligiblelight, and there also sight is created from understanding. For thereunderstanding is no different from the same intelligible light nor sightfrom visible light itself.'47 Using the analogy of many colours emanatingfrom the source of pure light, Ficino elaborates on what he calls theOrphic mystery: colours unite sense-perception with their ultimateessence through the mediating function of sight's influence [affectus]and will [voluntas]. 'They are in no way differentiated through theabsolute essence', says Ficino, 'for there all colours are a single, purelight; but they are distinguished through the power of seeing andthrough the will, for the light sees and wills the one light diffusedin many ways through many objects.'48 So also the gods play anddance in an eternal outflow of divine energy, and just as colours areperceived through the sight of the eyes, they are glimpsed throughthe desire of the soul. The supreme Orphic insight—that the manyare in the one—can be most powerfully demonstrated by the unityof the literal, symbolic and anagogic levels of perception in relationto the one Sun.

This is the basis of Ficino's understanding of astrology, which playsan integral part in his Orphic singing. For him, the stars and plan-ets are not seen by the objective mind as causal agents, but througha different kind of knowing as symbols. In performing an invocation

43 'quia tota vis magicae in amore consistit. Magicae opus est, attractio rei uniusab alia, ex quadam cognatione naturae', Ficino, De amore, VI. 10 (Opera omnia,p. 1348); in English in Ficino, Commentary on Plato's Symposium, tr. Jayne, p. 127.

46 Ficino, Liber de sole, in Opera omnia, pp. 965-75, tr. G. Cornelius, D. Costello,G. Tobyn, A. Voss and V. Wells in Sphinx, 6 (1994), pp. 123-48; Liber de famine inOpera omnia, pp. 976-86. The two books were published together in 1493 (Gesamtkatalogder Wiegendmcke, 9880).

47 'Illic utique ex intelligibili luce fit visibilis. Et intellectu quoque fit visus. Nihilenim ibi aliud intellectus est quam lux intelligibilis eadem. Nihil aliud visus quarnlux ipsa visibilis', Opera omnia, p. 825; Letters, V, p. 44.

48 'Per absolutam essentiam minime dividuntur, una enim lux pura ibi sunt cuncticolores. Per visionem voluntatemque invicem distinguuntur. Quoniam et videt etvult multis lucem unam modis permulta subiecta diffundi', Opera omnia, p. 826;Letters, V, p. 46.

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to Venus, for example, at 'a suitable astrological hour',49 when sheherself is visible in the heavens, or joining the Sun or Jupiter, thesinger is consciously uniting the inner and outer dimensions of expe-rience. Moreover, if the singer himself is full of intent, emotion, andlonging, he is making himself receptive to the influence he desires.'If anyone . . . wears an image which has been properly fashioned,or certainly if anyone uses a rightly made medicine, and yearns vehe-mently to get help from it and believes with all his heart and hopeswith all his strength', says Ficino in his Book of Life, 'he will surelyget a great deal more help from it.'50 'The Arabs say', he contin-ues, 'that when we fashion images rightly our spirit, if it has beenintent upon the work and upon the stars through imagination andemotion, is joined together with the very spirit of the world and withthe rays of the stars'51 (which would equally apply to music-making)and moreover, 'they hold that certain words pronounced with astrong emotion have great force to aim the effect of images preciselywhere the emotions and words are directed.'02 There can be littledoubt that Ficino too believed this, and he gives specific rules forcomposing songs according to the 'rule of the stars' (stellamm norma).53

A song that corresponds to the heavens, both in its imitation of plan-etary configurations and through the 'disposition of the imagination'of the singer, will powerfully affect both performer and listener.54

Ficino concedes that it is very difficult to know what kinds of tones

49 'ex electa temporis opportunitate', Ficino, De vita, 111.21, ed. Kaske and Clark,pp. 358~59.

50 'ut si quis imaginem . . . gestans rite factarn, vel certe medicina similiter utens,opem ab ea vehementer afTectet, et proculdubio credat speretque firmissime, hinccerte quam plurimus sit adiumento cumulus accessurus', ibid., 111.20, ed. Kaske andClark, pp. 352-53.

51 'Tradunt Arabes spiritum nostrum quando rite fabricamus imagines, si perimaginationem et affectum ad opus attentissimus fuerit et ad Stellas, coniungi cumipso mundi spiritu atque cum stellarum radiis', ibid.

52 'Verba praeterea quaedam acriore quodam affectu pronuntiata vim circa imag-ines magnam habere censent ad effectum earum illuc proprie dirigendum, quorsumaffectus intenduntur et verba', ibid., 111.21, ed. Kaske and Clark, pp. 354-55.

°3 'sic ex tonis primo quidem ad stellarum normam electis, deinde ad earundemcongruitatem inter se compositis, communem quasi formam fieri, atque in eacoelestem aliquam suboriri virtutem', ibid., ed. Kaske and Clark, pp. 356-57.

54 'Concentus igitur spiritu sensuque plenus, si forte turn secundum eius significata,turn secundum eius articulos atque formam ex articulis resultantem, turn etiamsecundum imaginationis affectum huic sideri respondeat aut illi, non minorem indevirtutem quam quaelibet alia compositio traiicit in cantantem, atque ex hoc in proxi-mum auditorem', ibid., ed. Kaske and Clark, pp. 358-59.

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are suitable for what sorts of stars, but he supposes that such knowl-edge comes about through a combination of our own efforts and'divine chance'.55 When the ritual is perfected, the god appears.

The intent behind Ficino's Orphic singing is clear: the stars arenot being worshipped; they do not choose to act in any way; deitiesare not being invoked. Rather, the singer is refining and perfectinghis own spirit so that it may reach a condition in which it naturallyreceives the gifts of the heavens, freely offered, and he does thisthrough imitating them. The theurgic implications of raising one'sspirit beyond the celestial realm to the condition of divinity—ofbecoming God—are not dwelt on by Ficino in the Book of Life', hehad enough trouble justifying his natural magic to the papal author-ities.56 But he does suggest that, in the same way as song, the powerof prayer derives not from the human act alone of worshipping adivinity or a star, but from the wholly natural power that speech,song and words have in themselves to connect with the spiritualrealm. The Pythagoreans, says Ficino, 'used to perform certainwonders by words, songs, and sounds in the Apollonian and Orphicmanner';57 it seems that they knew how music healed, and they knewthat the more clearly the laws governing the cosmos could be re-produced in sound, the more effective the healing. As I suggestedearlier, this would have involved the reproduction of the intervals ofthe Pythagorean scale, with its perfect octave, fourth and fifth, whichwere understood to govern the very fabric of the cosmos; but also,perhaps, the sounding of the overtones, or harmonics, which arosefrom these intervals. It is evident that this 'occult' dimension of soundwas known to the Greeks through the laws of mathematics.58 Inmanifesting these laws, they brought to the ears a hidden or secret

55 'sed partim diligentia nostra, partim divina quadam sorte non aliter id asse-qui possumus', ibid., ed. Kaske and Clark, pp. 356-57.

56 Ficino anticipated trouble from the Church authorities and included an Apologiaat the end of De vita. He was nevertheless accused of an offence against religionbefore the Roman Curia and was only saved from the 'voracious jaws of the wolves'by his friend Bishop Orsini of Florence, who intervened with the Pope on his behalf.See Ficino, De vita, ed. Kaske and Clark, pp. 5-7, 395-401.

)7 'Item Pythagorici verbis et cantibus atque sonis mirabilia quaedam Phoebi etOrphei more facere consueti', De vita, 111.21, ed. Kaske and Clark, pp. 354—55.

08 See J. Godwin, Harmonies of Heaven and Earth, London, 1987, pp. 184-93, fora comprehensive explanation of the symbolism of the harmonic series. Godwin refersto lamblichus's commentary on the Arithmetic of Nicomachus as a source for theGreek familiarity with both the overtone and undertone series (p. 190).

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dimension of reality which spoke with a divine, not a human voice.Indeed Ficino talks of the very nature of song as akin to the heav-ens, 'For this too is air, hot or warm, still breathing and somehowliving . . .'°9 The healing effect of music on our souls, he continues,is due to this spiritual property, which arises from a combination ofthree things: its vital power, the choice of a suitable astrological hour,and the intention of the singer himself, whose 'vital and animalpower, when it is most efficacious, not only acts powerfully on itsown body when its spirit undergoes a very intense conception andagitation through song but soon also moves a neighbouring body byemanation'.60 So healing occurs through the action of the music-spirit, as it connects with the human spirit, which is itself the medi-ator between body and soul. 'You will allow that there is a wondrouspower in an aroused and singing spirit, if you allow to the Pythagoreansand Platonists that the heavens are a spirit and that they order allthings through their motions and tones.'61 For Ficino, all musicaltheory and technique must be in the service of this end, for it isonly through a knowledge of harmonia that the musician can under-stand the equivalence of musical tone and interval to the ratios inher-ent in the hidden structure of the cosmos. Ficino lays out the rulesof consonance in a letter to his fellow musician, Domenico Benivieni,on the principles of music.62 In his letter, Ficino not only describesthe particular qualities of the consonances and dissonances that makeup a musical scale, but finds the same qualities in the interrelation-ships of the zodiacal signs, thus applying the Pythagorean notion ofharmonious ratios governing the movements and distances of theplanets to the divisions of the tropical zodiac used in traditionalastrology. For instance, Ficino begins 'just as with notes we find thesecond dissonant from the first, so here we find that the second sign

59 'Est enim aer et hie quidem calens sive tepens, spirans adhuc et quodammodovivens', Ficino, De vita, 111.21, ed. Kaske and Clark, pp. 358-59.

60 'sic vitalis animalisque virtus ubi efficacissima fuerit, ibi intentissima quadamsui spiritus per cantum turn conceptione agitationeque in corpus proprium poten-ter agit, turn effusione movet subinde propinquum', ibid.

61 'Mirabilem vero in concitato canenteque spiritu vim esse concedes, si PythagoricisPlatonicisque concesseris coelum esse spiritum motibus tonisque suis omnia dispo-nentem', ibid., ed. Kaske and Clark, pp. 360-61.

62 Ficino, 'The Principles of Music', in Kristeller, Supplementum Ficinianum, I, pp.51-56. I am grateful for the use of an early draft of the translation of this letterto the members of the Language Department of the School of Economic Science,to be published in a forthcoming volume of the Letters.

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is in some way dissonant from the first. But then the third sign, asthough it were the model of the third note, looks upon the first con-stellation with that friendly aspect called sextile by astronomers.'63

He is suggesting, I conclude, that the way we listen to musicalharmony is analogous to the way we perceive symbolic meaning inthe heavens; that the two are manifestations of the same underlyingcosmic law; and thus that the combination of musical and astrolog-ical expertise enables the listener to move beyond conceptual thoughtand differentiation to that level of perception where a congruencebetween outer and inner dimensions of experience can lead to heal-ing, to a re-alignment of the fragmented soul.

For Ficino and his friends, this was the gift of Orpheus: that musicand song could directly lead both player and listener to the mar-riage of philosophy and poetry, the uniting of mind and soul.

63 'invenies secundum ibi signum a primo quodammodo cadere, atque non aliterquam in vocibus secundam a prima vocem percipimus dissonantem ibi quoquesecundum illud primo quodammodo dissonare; sed tertium deinde signum quasi ter-tiae vocis exemplar aspectu iam amico quern sextilem astronomi nominant primumsydus aspicere', ibid., p. 55.

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Donald Beecher

The references to theriaca in Ficino's Three Books on Life (De vita) maybe taken as a simple acknowledgment that this ancient pharmaceu-tical preparation retained its authority and its presumed efficacy asa general tonic and antidote down through the fifteenth century. Infact, it had stood the test of time, was sold widely, and prescribedfor a host of maladies; hence it might well figure prominently in atreatise on health and good living—Ficino's was designed especiallyfor those inclined to the melancholy of the sedentary and reflectivelife. But theriaca in any considered or analytical medical context wasanything but a tried and proven remedy for simple maladies, likesenna for a bound gut. It was and would remain throughout the fol-lowing century-and-a-half not only a pharmaceutical icon, but a drugunder empirical siege, and a site for philosophical debate over thenature of occult or unexplained pharmaceutical actions, as opposedto those deemed mechanical in accordance with the received doc-trines concerning the humors. Even the simplest endorsem*nt was,in effect, a statement in the phenomenology of occult medications.Ficino, in the first instance, may have intended nothing more thana frequent use of the drug in order to cleanse and prepare the bodyfor the reception of astral virtues from the spiritus mundi through thehumors and vital spirits of the body described by traditional medi-cine. But theriaca, itself, was composed of ingredients, each of whichcarried its own potential for astral fortification, and so might verywell perform in the same talismanic way as the words, music, stones,jewelry, amulets, medals, and the multitude of other magically iconicobjects which the gens de bien right up to the Medici kept aroundthem in fifteenth-century Florence.1

Theriaca was based on one of the most complex and exotic ofall pharmaceutical formulae, and by dint of its ritualistic and often

1 Paolo L. Rossi, 'Society, Culture and the Dissemination of Learning', in Science,Culture and Popular Belief in Renaissance Europe, ed. by Stephen Pumfrey, Paolo L. Rossiand Maurice Slawinski, Manchester, 1991, p. 157.

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public preparation in Renaissance Europe was one of the most arcane,hence most potent, most costly, and most sought-after drugs of theera. Its history and traditions would fill a book, but in briefest resume,its origins are to be traced to the Middle East, at least as far backas several centuries before the Christian era. Originally it was con-ceived as an alexitere or antidote to poisons and venoms, especiallythose caused by vipers and scorpions. Perhaps the earliest explana-tion of its powers was in isopathic terms, namely that elements thatare pathogenic can also be used as counter agents. We call it immu-nization. Every theriaca of the ancients so conceived included amongits ingredients elements of the agent which had caused the malady.The theriaca of Andromachus, for example, featured the flesh of theviper whose bite had injected the poison. Clifford Allbutt in his GreekMedicine in Rome explains that the snake was 'taken in the spring,was skinned, the head and tail were cut off, and the flesh was boiledwith dill and salt; this product was kneaded up with toasted breadand served in boluses'.2 Informing this confection was the principlethat vipers were immune to their own venom, and that by causalextension, the flesh of such an animal, if consumed, would pass onthose properties to the consumer. They believed, erroneously, how-ever, that the venom of the viper was suffused throughout its flesh,and not contained in small sacs near the fangs. Had the former beenthe case, the poisoning would merely have been increased by afortified dose of the same venom in the medication. It is a questionof logic that hovers between occult and material causes. The ques-tion is whether the flesh of the viper must first become a symbol ofitself before it assumes efficacy as a medical simple. The fifteenth-century thinkers were cognizant of the dilemma.

Mithridates VI Eupator, King of Pontus of legendary fame (120—63BC), has been credited with launching theriaca on its long history asa polypharmaceutical. He was terrified by the prospect of his owndeath at the hands of the Romans by poisoning, and thus experi-mented over many years with toxins and their antidotes, many ofwhich he took himself in small immunizing doses. His preferred pro-cedure was to feed the royal ducks with a variety of poisons andthen drink their blood.3 In his memory, the new and improved

T. Clifford Allbutt, Greek Medicine in Rome, New York, 1970, p. 354.Jacalyn Duffin, History of Medicine, Toronto, 1999, p. 95.

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theriaca which he pioneered, with its 37 to 54 ingredients, was calledMithridaticum. Initially, its compound nature was merely an effort tocombine all known antitoxins into one preparation so that a singlemedication would serve for all toxic substances. The recipe by Andro-machus, still in use in the Renaissance, called for 64 ingredients,and Galen's version rose to 77.4

Theriaca survived the Middle Ages to become the prima donna ofRenaissance pharmaceuticals. The Venetian productions of the 1540scalled for 81 ingredients, only 61 of which were available to Europeanapothecaries. The recipe thus required 20 substitutions, somethingthat offered itself as a perpetual explanation for past failures. TheVenetian Republic therefore financed one of the costliest of all human-ist research projects of the era, the drive to recover, by botanicalresearch throughout the Levant, all the missing ingredients of theriaca.By 1568, the number of missing simples had been reduced to onlythree.5 In effect, travelers, botanists, physicians, and diplomats hadcollaborated in restoring to first-hand knowledge nearly all of thethousand ingredients described in the pharmacopeia of Dioscorides.It was the Venetians' bid to remain at the forefront of suppliers tothe European drug market, in competition with the Portuguese inthe Far East and the Spanish in the New World, both returning toEurope with a vast number of new medical simples. The politics oftheriaca in the sixteenth century witnessed a bitter dispute betweenthe apothecaries and the medical faculties over who was to controlthe definition and production of the drug; the dispute was settledonly after the matter had been submitted to the authority of thepope and the great Ulisse Aldrovandi had been dismissed from hisuniversity post.6

Theriaca, particularly of Venetian origin, was known throughoutEurope, its value based on its quasi-mythic status and its mysticalcomplexity. In fact its appeal was lasting, for not only had theriacawithstood attacks throughout the centuries beginning with Erasistratusof Alexandria who, at the beginning of the third century beforeChrist, scoffed at physicians who mixed metals, plants, and ingredients

4 Vivian Nutton, 'Roman Medicine 250 BC to AD 200', in The Western MedicalTradition 800 BC to AD 1800, ed. by Lawrence I. Conrad, Michael Neve, VivianNutton, Roy Porter, Andrew Wear, Cambridge, 1995, p. 56.

5 Andrew Wear, 'Medicine in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1700', in The WesternMedical Tradition, p. 305.

b W. P. D. Wrightman, Science and the Renaissance, Edinburgh, 1962, p. 239.

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of poisonous animals into preposterous medications, but it had sur-vived the fourteenth century during which it had established a recordof dismal failure as the preferred antidote to the plague, the causesof which were treated as toxins. It was the Galenic use of the prepa-ration not only as an antidote but as a prophylactic against diseasesin general, as a tonic and catholicon, that saved its credit.7 The drugwas given a new lease on life in the sixteenth century, not only bythe Venetian theriaca vendors, but also by the promotion of Galenicwritings, among which there was a substantial treatise on theriaca.8

Moreover, there was a translation by Jacques Grevin into French ofthe treatise on theriaca by Nicander of Colophon, who was activein the second century BG. This publication, printed by Plan tin in1567, provided a full commentary and brought the constituents ofthe drug to a vernacular-reading public, much as Monardes wasdoing concurrently for drugs imported from the New World.9 Andfor the record, it was theriaca that declined into treacle in the nine-teenth century, a general tonic based on molasses which, even inmy youth, was still being administered under the name 'black strap'as a necessary accoutrement to growth, strength, and well-being, inthe same category as cod-liver oil.

As a man who was the son of a surgeon, and who had studiedmedicine (though no record has been found of his ever having takena degree), Ficino was well positioned to write on medical topics. Andfor all his interest in occult matter, properties, and functions, theri-aca might well prove to be his drug of choice as a catholicon forthose suffering from the diseases accompanying the intellectual life.In De vita he declares that 'theriac should never take second placeto any remedy'.10 He pronounced it sovereign for building up par-ticular parts of the body, the spirits, and the intelligence. Moreover,it was for him a tonic, a half dram of which should be taken twiceweekly during the fall and winter, and once weekly during spring

7 Alain Touwaide, 'Therapeutic Strategies: Drugs', in Western Medical Thought fromAntiquity to the Middle Ages, ed. by Mirko D. Grmek, Cambridge, Mass., and London,1998, p. 268.

8 Galen, De theriaca ad Pisonem liber, in Opera quae extant, ed. by C. G. Kiihn, 20vols, Leipzig, 1821-33, XIV, pp. 210-310.

9 Nicholas Monardes, Joyfull Newes out of the Newe Founde IVorlde, tr. by JohnFrampton (1580), introduced by Stephen Gaselee, London, 1925.

10 Marsilio Ficino, Three Books on Life, ed. and tr. by Carol V. Kaske and JohnR. Clark, Binghamton, NY, 1989, 1.24, p. 159.

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and summer, six or seven hours before eating, and with two or threeounces of rose water or wine." His reasoning was that all thingsantidotal to poison are good for health in general. Even their smellsare salubrious, including that of theriaca, which he mentions in hischapter on smells.12 Ambroise Pare, working in the mid-sixteenthcentury, corroborates this notion by urging that good theriaca shouldtaste long and distinctly in the mouth, and should serve as protec-tion from the plague much as posies of angelica were alleged to do.13

Ficino, likewise, in his chapter on the diet and mode of life for theelderly urges its use in the form of an electuary.14

Behind these recommendations is Ficino the medical philosopher.As with all other medical thinkers of the age, he was compelled todeal with the occult nature of drugs. Occult, in this case, designatessimply that which produces palpable and predictable results for rea-sons that cannot be empirically explained. That fact has rarely stoppedphilosophers from hypothesizing causal explanations, however, andFicino was no exception. Ambroise Pare in his carefully reasonedaccount of the coercive powers of theriaca paid close attention toquestions of reason and the occult. He concluded that venoms workby occult means in accordance with a specific property. The onlyhope for victims was to be treated by an equally occult counter-agent that rendered the toxin benign, or the body immune, or whichsought out the toxin as a substance and destroyed it, or which pro-voked the body itself to expel the toxin before it took hold. Non-occult cures called merely for bleeding, or for altering the constitutionof the body by fortifying it to resist on its own, or by provokingsuch evacuations as sweating or through upward and downwardpurges. Their lack of specificity and focus, however, caused Pare,too, to prefer the occult antidotes. He turned to the compounds suchas theriaca which combined the antidote with a vast number of con-ventional alteratives, conditioners, and conductors. The roles of the80 collaborating ingredients of theriaca were simultaneously rational-ized on the basis of operations necessary for the expelling of poison.

Those medications prepared according to the Galenic system were

11 Ibid, 1.12, pp. 139-41.12 Ibid., 11.18, p. 229.13 Odet de Turnebe, Satisfaction All Around, ed. by D. A. Beecher, Ottawa, 1979,

p. 5.14 Ficino, Three Books on Life, II.8, p. 189.

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based fundamentally on the principle of opposites in relation to thehumors; they were not considered occult. Where the body sufferedfrom heat, the consumption of cold ingredients or the application ofcold topicals was prescribed. Galen had begun the classification ofsimples according to the twelve degrees of intensity applicable tocold, hot, moist and dry substances, and the process was carried onthroughout the Renaissance period with the discovery of each newsimple. Lettuce was considered so cold an agent that it was heldthat inordinate consumption could cause sterility, for example, andmint generated an extensive literature over its degrees of heat orcold.15 Theriaca, as a compound, incorporated the reasonings of bothsystems, that of the occult drug targeting an occult pathogen, andof the counter-conditioners to bodily states profiled in Galenic terms,the most obvious being fevers and chills. With the system in place,controversies could follow. Grevin in his book Des Venins speaks oftheriaca as resisting toxins not only by changing the condition of thebody to resist, but by circulating its particular properties to all partsof the body. Pare would not go so far.16

Whenever Pare spoke of the attraction of venoms to venoms, hespoke only by analogy with such phenomena as straw to amber oriron flakes to the lodestone through their occult properties of attrac-tion. That like would annul rather than compound the effect of likewas entirely beyond explanation. Pare, for all his empirical care, wasforced back upon the language of qualities, virtues, and metaphoricaloperations. By the homeopathic logic of pathogens in large amountsbeing controlled by the same agents in smaller amounts, minutedoses of the venom of the scorpion could be counted on to spreadthrough the body to encounter the foreign agents deposited by thescorpion's sting. To this end, the many additional simples in therecipe for theriaca served not only as conducting agents enablingthe antidote to reach its target, but as alteratives, refrigerants, humec-tants, purgatives or any of a number of contributing operations use-ful in the purging of poison. This was the best that Renaissancemedical logic could do, and we know, in retrospect, that the forceof medications was largely in terms of what they 'must' do in accor-

10 Jacques Ferrand, A Treatise on Lovesickness, ed. by Donald Beecher and MassimoCiavolella, Syracuse, NY, 1990, pp. 539-41.

16 Ambroise Pare, Oeuvres completes, ed. by J.-F. Malgaigne, Geneva, 1970.

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dance with the system of beliefs, rather than with what they actu-ally did perform as efficient pharmaceuticals.

Yet there was one further dimension. In the background of thatbelief system based on counter-agencies and the occult properties ofthe magnet was the logic of magic—magic invested in the traditionof the recipes themselves, in the philosophical alignment of ingredi-ents, in the notion of a symmetrical universe in which God providedfor man through the medical simples in nature, all of which manwas granted the intellectual gifts to discover. Drugs had always beenoccult in the properties of the medical simples themselves and theircoercive forces, and in their capacities to target specific pathogensor produce specific reactions in the body. The effect of bringing theoccult properties of medications into the sphere of Neoplatonic nat-ural magic was to reread their secret properties as natural extensionsof the macrocosmic and divine powers that suffuse the material worldand that establish the relationships among things.

Ficino extends and interprets this tradition largely through hisinclination to attribute the powers of medical simples and compoundsto astral bodies, in the light of their presumed influences upon allaspects of human life. How immediate is the causation, how efficient,how much is theologically permitted, even necessitated, and howmuch forbidden? Ficino, like Bruno after him, was a brilliant makerof systems compounded out of ancient lore, the operations of themind, the likenesses among things, and the belief in mystical prop-erties—systems which he wielded as fictions, then as paradigms, andultimately as operative powers. That he should extend the activityof celestial powers to the operations of pharmaceutical compoundsis merely another dimension of his thought projected upon the con-crete world of medical simples and their relationship to the body.

Ficino was in full agreement with those who prioritized naturallaws in describing and diagnosing diseases. Nevertheless, he also feltcompelled, as others were, to accede to the probable existence ofremoter forces, namely the stars, demons, and practitioners of nat-ural magic who employed the occult to effect their goals throughnatural law, the bodily spirits, the balance of humors, or the organsthemselves. Causation was subdivided into material, efficient, andremote operations, so that multiple causes could be assigned to thesame phenomenon; this was convenient indeed. The stars were atthe dividing line between the material and spiritual worlds—an ideawhich the Renaissance mind could hardly leave alone. It was only

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too reasonable to believe that the stars must have their indirectinfluences upon the earth according to the principle of correspon-dences and sympathetic alignments. By analogy with the plant world,the material heavens also required classification according to theirproperties of heat and cold: hence the heat of Mars, the sun andJupiter, the cold moistness of Venus and the moon, and the extremefrigidity of Saturn—that great agent of the cold, dry disease of melan-choly. Thus the healthy body will be 'tempered into harmony withthe heavens',17 he declares, and will favor heat and moisture. Thenthe heart will be warm and dry, the brain cold and moist, the liverhot and humid.

Because of such systemic coordinates, the path lay open to speakof accommodating the body to the celestial, so that the body couldreciprocally appropriate their powers. This, for Ficino, is a materialand causal operation, through the simple isonometric principle ofthe balance of opposites. It was hardly occult as an operation. Buthe continues by stating that there are 'properties engrafted in thingsfrom the heavens and hidden from our senses'.18 Such properties,attributed to the cosmos, to the rays of stars, beyond our powers ofrational explanation, affect the human spirits through celestial influences,as well as stones, minerals, the bezoar and unicorn's horn, whichreceive their occult properties through the mediation of the Graces.Thus, in penetrating even into such antidotal elements as the bezoarstone, Ficino relegates the occult properties of the celestial powersto the occult simples and alexiteres—those medications specificallyintended to counteract poisons.

At that juncture, he begins to study all of the occult medications.Peony strengthens spirits against epilepsy by infusing a vapor. Coraland chalcedony, imbued with powers from Jupiter and Venus, aregood against the 'delusions of black bile'. Myrobolans sharpen mem-ory and intelligence. Ginger in foods prevents fainting because it isaligned through its heat with the powers of the sun. By Jupiter'spower sage drives out paralysis.19 In this way, natural and elemen-tary properties gain celestial reinforcement so that even the force ofsoporifics, humectants, and astringents are reified by the stars. Imaginethen how theriaca, with its 70 to 80 ingredients becomes a celestial

17 Ficino, Three Books on Life, III. 12, p. 299.18 Ibid., p. 301.19 Ibid.

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symphony, or perhaps cacophony, insofar as each contributing oper-ation of the whole must find its rationale in harmony with its efficientcauses up and down the grand system of correspondences.

Through his doctrines of astral correspondences, Ficino positedthe great force of the world soul in the bodies of the heavens. Devita could thus be read as a handbook for living one's life in har-mony with the cosmic forces in all the practical ways imaginable.Ficino's challenge was to find forms of human agency to bring thisto pass without entering into the realms of forbidden magic whereinthe actual manipulation of occult words, emblems, and objects resultsin making contact with malign forces. Ficino's astral medicine isbased on a remote sympathetic magic that naturally inheres in thingsbecause they share the same properties or consonances. The apothe-cary like the philosopher 'reads' these symmetries in the naturalworld, and between worlds, seeing in the macrocosm the signs andproperties that link those forces to elements in the microcosm. Inthese terms, the compounding of theriaca was an operation in theappropriation of magical forces through a strategic association ofingredients fortified by their peculiar celestial properties. The recipefor theriaca was a calibration of complementary ingredients predi-cated upon astral symmetries and properties, confirmed in their har-mony through their beneficial effects upon the human body. Itscomposition was a concentration of astral powers, its force talismanic,its confectioner the mere servant of nature itself, its essence cosmicand harmonious.

As a result of Ficino's alignment of material and celestial systems,their presumed correspondences, and imputed causes, the Three Bookson Life, as Nancy Siraisi points out, became 'one of the most famousand influential Renaissance accounts of astral magic',20 and by exten-sion one of the most sustained treatments of astrological medicine.The paradox here lies in the fact that the foundational notions areentirely traditional, harking back to Dioscorides's theories concern-ing the divine origins of all pharmaka by which they are all perceivedas having certain spiritual powers.21 Moreover, that the very com-pounding of medical simples into complex recipes required the care-ful skills of specialists and was hence tantamount to a form of ritual

20 Nancy Siraisi, Medieval and Early Renaissance Medicine: An Introduction to Knowledgeand Practice, Chicago, 1990, p. 152.

21 Touwaide, 'Therapeutic Strategies', p. 265.

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magic was recognized by Herophilus as early as the post-Alexandrineperiod in ancient Greece. Yet there is a quality of brinkmanship inFicino's investment of materia medica with celestial powers simplybecause the natural magic of their innate properties takes on over-tones of manipulative magic once they are philosophically conceivedto achieve occult ends through composition. Nevertheless, the essenceof theriaca as an 'idea' would have been irresistible to the philo-sophical syncretist in Ficino whose interests covered natural philo-sophy, medicine, astrology and magic. Theriaca is a nexus for allthese interests superimposed in a single compound, one which, forits presumed perfection as a catholicon, was to pharmacology, bythe logic of celestial harmony, what the elixir was to an alchemist;it was materialized philosophy. Even if Arnald of Villanova hadalready given up by the 1290s rationalizing the mechanical rela-tionships of simples within compound drugs,22 the physician in Ficinocould still, in keeping with his own age, endorse theriaca with thepower of faith.

Bono has shown in other ways that astrological theology incor-porates a form of astrological medicine.23 It comes about through areading of the operations of traditional medicine in the terms of theNeoplatonic world-soul and the powers invested in the celestial macro-cosm vis-a-vis the material world. Because of the fundamental sym-metry in the world system, such philosophically designed compoundsas theriaca take on talismanic properties through the natural magicwhereby things analogous assume reciprocal powers. The apothecaryis both magus and natural philosopher in his capacity to 'read' thesymmetries that exist between the upper and lower worlds. His com-pounds embody a concentration of astral powers, while the confec-tioner remains merely ancillary to nature itself. The theriaca of theancients began as a panoply of antidotes. Without changing the fun-damental design of the recipe, Ficinian logic endows theriaca withthe powers of astral reinforcement, so accounting for its occult prop-erties in general. While the alexitere of Mithridates had become withGalen a general catholicon, with Ficino it acquires the potency of atalisman capable of inducing the stars to send down their beneficentpowers. This electuary gains thereby its own microcosmic status and

22 Siraisi, Medieval and Early Renaissance Medicine, p. 146.23 James Bono, The Word of God and the Languages of Man: Interpreting Nature in Early

Modern Science and Medicine, Madison, Wis., 1995-, vol. I, 'Ficino to Descartes', p. 34.

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its place as one of the meraviglie of the age. It was a mythic statusthat was not ultimately dismantled until William Heberden, in hisessay of 1745 on Mithridaticum and theriaca, had it expelled from theofficial pharmacopoeia.

Common sense, at this point, would seem to call for yet anotherattack upon Renaissance scientific methodology, or another qualifieddefence of 'the best they could do' in relation to their philosophicalsystems and the current state of scientific knowledge. There are noother alternatives, short of endorsing Ficino's concept of the world-soul. In 'Some Sources of Herman Boerhave's Concept of Fire',Rosaleen Love says of Ficino that he led the way in setting up amethod of analysis in search of a philosophy of unity that could beachieved only by assuming 'an internal unity between the object andits symbol such that the word and the thing, merging together,become interchangeable in argument'.24 Ficino had an instinctive ten-dency to work by analogies, developing relationships between thingsthat are then taken as fact. His cognitive processes are conditionedby notions of forces, rays, mutual vapors, meaningful motions, sym-metries, and symbols. Where they share characteristics they sharecauses. There are no symbolic irrelevancies, only reconfigurations.Words take on talismanic powers. He had not only read the physi-cians, but also writers like lamblichus who said that materials alignedto celestial powers can be collected, compounded at propitious times,and by the use of set formulae can receive forces 'not only celestial,but even daemonic and divine'.25 Serapion, Haly Abbas, Porphyry,and Philo of Alexandria were sources of similar notions. Brian Vickers,in a full study of such methodologies, concludes that the entire age,by habit and authority, was uncritical of its use of metaphorical lan-guage in the description of things, and in their capacity to confusethose words for the things themselves; it was a 'cognitive process',in his words, a way of seeing the world.26

E. H. Gombrich explains the slippage as a transference of mean-ing from sign to substance, 'for if the usual symbol is not a con-ventional sign but linked through the network of correspondence and

24 Rosaleen Love, 'Some Sources of Herman Boerhave's Concept of Fire', Ambix,19 (1972), pp. 157-74, esp. p. 161.

25 Ficino, Three Books on Life, III. 13, pp. 307 and 441, n. 10.26 Introduction to Occult and Scientific Mentalities in the Renaissance, ed. by B. Vickers,

Cambridge, 1984, pp. 1-55, and his article 'Analogy Versus Identity: The Rejectionof Occult Symbolism, 1580-1680', pp. 95-163, at p. 95.

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sympathies with the supracelestial essence which it embodies, it isonly consistent to expect it to partake not only of the "meaning"and "effect" of what it represents but to become interchangeablewith it'.27 Ficino could have disciplined himself by rereading theTheaetetus where Plato cautions against the unguarded use of anal-ogy or resemblances, calling them very slippery elements,28 or hecould have consulted Aristotle's Metaphysics where the coryphaeus ofwestern philosophy says that to convert forms into models and thenderive particulars from them is senseless and illogical.29 But thisbroadside is now old news and need not detain us. The fact remainedfor Ficino that medications had to be efficient if the medical pro-fession was to preserve its credibility, and a few had proven to beso—particularly the laxatives, soporifics, vomitives, and diuretics.Because of perceived likenesses in things, and through their habitsof grouping, causal relationships became the subject of testing andobservation, as well as of philosophical assertions whereby the thinkerengages in the 'materialization of spirit'.30 That Ficino's planetarygods, anthropomorphic virtues, and animistic presences could becomecausal forces in medications was one of his more ingenious inven-tions, extending into the new occult vocabularies the whole discus-sion of the occult powers of medications.

What can be said that is neither an assault upon Ficino nor aquaint rationalization of his methods on historical grounds? Alas, Ihave been unable to find it. There is only the observation for itsown sake that Ficino's categories of analysis led him to grant fullcausal efficiency to the spiritual powers that inform occult medicalsimples, and so to draw the materials of medicine into his encyclo-pedic and unified cosmos. It was his bid to do for science what wecredit to Newton or to Einstein, namely to anatomize the laws thathold the secret to the organization of the universe. Just as Newtonwas said to have brought a kind of harmony through laws to ourunderstanding of nature, Ficino sought, in true medieval fashion, theharmony in things that linked the highest to the lowest. In the specificcase of theriaca he declared that 'Andromachus wore himself out

27 E. H. Gombrich, 'Icones Symbolicae', in his Symbolic Images: Studies in the Artof the Renaissance, London, 1972, pp. 123-95, 228-35 (p. 172).

28 Plato, Theaetetus, 231 A.29 Aristotle, Metaphysics, 1079b.30 Vickers, Occult and Scientific Mentalities, p. 17.

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for ages compounding theriac, and finally, after all that effort, hefound the power of theriac by divine destiny',31 and in the processhe makes of the treaclesmith a magus and prophet. Theriaca, bythe laws of its composition, was a performing entity of cosmic phi-losophy. The mind set which endorses these relations between spiritand matter signals a phase in the history of human cognition pred-icated perhaps on a need for security in a world deemed hostile forhaving so much unrelated diversity. By inference drawn from sym-bols and categories, Ficino helped to soothe anxieties about theunknown.

Or, for the sake of play, we can restate the operation performedby Ficino in accommodating the occult properties attributed to drugsto celestial powers in a different vocabulary. One of the capacitiesof human cognition is to dwell upon the causal relations amongthings. Quite simply, the brain, on a day to day basis, finds itselfstressed by data that cannot be reconciled to expectations based onmemory and experience. If that data in any way relates to proba-bilities concerning well-being or survival, including perceived threatsfrom other persons, whole neural networks are set in motion to alertthe cerebral cortex to scan the horizons more intently for informa-tion that will resolve the incomplete, the equivocal, or the contra-dictory. We are speaking in the broadest of terms about primarycognition, the simple identification of things in ways necessary tobasic orientation and survival. All other forms of cognition are derivedfrom and conditioned by those same operations and the comple-mentary mental properties and circuitry that give to consciousnessits urgency and focus. Through intensified attention, the brain setsup its own hyperactive process of identification, analysis, catego-rization, and inference. These are philosophical metaphors for pat-terns of neural firings. We speak of neuro-phenomenological statesof anxiety as a by-product of disorientation and reorientation causedby environmental stressors.

In the realm of speculative thought, the occult properties of med-ications are one such cognitive stressor. There is even a direct sur-vival factor in explaining the inherent properties of medications; itis for some in the profession a matter of philosophical imperative.As with much such data that will not yield to empirical explanation,

Ficino, Three Books on Life, 111.21, p. 357.

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the mind seeks what comfort it can find in the truth of categoriesin which these things can be positioned through a process of anal-ogy, and from which inferences can then be drawn. Steven Pinkerin How the Mind Works calls this patterning impulse 'pattern-associa-tor neural networks'.32 That is to say, the brain conveniently makesmental boxes as comparative reference points for all incoming stim-uli. They are useful because some of the world's stimuli fit the boxesnicely. As he says, 'real science is famous for transcending fuzzy feel-ings of similarity and getting at underlying laws',33 and yet he is thefirst to admit that even modern science carries with it a number offuzzy boxes. Intuitive theory is a way of handling the discrepanciesbetween data and boxes. The question of materia medico, and efficientcausation is one compelling area of fuzziness. It is a site for thedemonstration of the messiness of reality, alien to the mind groundedin the manufacturing of systems. Theriaca, by its very existence,turns natural philosophers into whistlers in the dark. Ficino, givenhis categorizing habits, was prepared, in the case of theriaca, to easehis cognitive stress by drawing upon a whole system of Neoplatonicanalogies by which things are related to things by reducing them tosymbols of themselves within boxes. Clearly what is known is nothard-wired in the brain, but the ways of knowing more than likelyare. What we are seeing in Ficino's performance is evidence of thelatter: when the would-be scientific mind is confronted by threateninglyintransigent data, that state of mind we call suspense (as a thresh-old emotion seeking resolution) will force the cerebral cortex to seekcomfort in the reassurances of myth; hence theriaca and the stars.

32 Steven Pinker, How the Mind Works, New York, 1997, p. 308.33 Ibid., p. 309.

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Hiroshi Hirai*(translated by Valery Rees)

1. Introduction

Marsilio Ficino of Florence (1433-99), the eminent translator of andcommentator on Plato and Plotinus, was himself a Platonic philoso-pher who exercised an immense influence on western thought of thesixteenth century and later.1 As recent studies by M. J. B. Allen haveshown, the Florentine was following the Neoplatonists, most notablyPlotinus and Proclus, in his interpretation of the work of Plato.2 Thestudies of B. P. Copenhaver have demonstrated that the same is truefor his occult doctrines.3 As far as his metaphysics and cosmologyare concerned, in comparison to notions such as Ideas, 'reasons' andforms, it seems that his concept of seeds has not yet been system-atically explored. However, while Kristeller's ground-breaking study

* I should like to thank Professor Robert Halleux (University of Liege) andProfessor Bernard Joly (University of Lille 3) for their comments on early versionsof this article, Professor Michael J. B. Allen (UCLA) for his comments and helptowards the realization of it in the present volume, and Valery Rees (School ofEconomic Science, London) for her comments and for the English translation.

1 See R. Marcel, Marsile Ficin, Paris, 1958; P. O. Kristeller, The Philosophy ofMarsilio Ficino, tr. by V. Conant, New York, 1943; repr. Gloucester, Mass., 1964;idem, 'Marsilio Ficino and his Work after Five Hundred Years', in Marsilio Ficinoe il ritorno di Platone. Studi e documenti, ed. by G. C. Garfa*gnini, 2 vols, Florence,1986, I, pp. 15-196 (a second enlarged edition of this article was published sepa-rately in Florence, 1987).

2 See the articles collected in his Plato's Third Eye: Studies in Marsilio Ficino'sMetaphysics and its Sources, Aldershot, 1995; also his studies in Marsilio Ficino and thePhaedran Charioteer, Berkeley etc., 1981; The Platonism of Marsilio Ficino: A Study of his'Phaedrus' Commentary, its Sources and Genesis, Berkeley etc., 1984; hastes: Marsilio Ficino'sInterpretation of Plato's 'Sophist', Berkeley etc., 1989; Nuptial Arithmetic: Ficino's Commentaryon the Fatal Number in Book VIII of Plato's 'Republic', Berkeley etc., 1994; and SynopticArt: Marsilio Ficino on the History of Platonic Interpretation, Florence, 1998.

3 B. P. Copenhaver, 'Natural Magic, Hermetism, and Occultism in Early ModernScience', in Reappraisals of the Scientific Revolution, ed. by D. C. Lindberg and R. S.Westman, Cambridge, 1990, pp. 261-301. For his other works, see n. 44 below.

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of Ficino's philosophy, which is focused mainly on his metaphysics,barely treats of it, F. A. Yates's analysis of De vita coelitus compamndaclearly shows the presence of the concept of seeds in Ficino, as doesa chapter in M. C. Horowitz's recent Seeds of Virtue and Knowledge?

One might suppose that Ficino's revival of the doctrine of logoispermatikoi dates from the time of his translation of Plotinus. In factFicino used several terms to designate the 'seminal principles' in hisphilosophical works: terms such as 'seeds of things' (semina rerum),'seeds of forms' (semina formarum), 'seminal reasons' or 'seminal rea-son-principles' (rationes seminales), 'seminary of the world' (seminariummundi) and 'seminal reason of the world' (ratio seminaria mundi}.5 Thismultiplication of terms derived from 'seed' is unparalleled in his Latinpredecessors after St Augustine. Given the paucity of work devotedto this topic, we cannot attempt an exhaustive evaluation here. Butto sketch the broad outlines, we shall examine some of his key philo-sophical texts: the commentary on Plato's Symposium, one of his mostpopular writings; the commentary on Plato's Timaeus, important forits cosmology and its philosophy of nature; the Platonic Theology onthe immortality of souls, his major work; the De vita coelitus comparanda(Book III of De vita libri tres), which was a highly influential com-pendium of magical medicine; and finally the commentary on theEnneads of Plotinus, one of his later works.6

2. The Commentary on Plato's Symposium

In the commentary on Plato's Symposium, otherwise called De amore,Ficino touches on the problem of Platonic cosmogony.7 According

4 F. A. Yates, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, London, 1964, pp. 64-67;W. D. Muller-Jahncke, Astrologische-magische Theorie und Praxis in der Heilkunde der friihenNeuzeit, Stuttgart, 1985, pp. 47-48; M. C. Horowitz, Seeds of Virtue and Knowledge,Princeton, 1998, pp. 81-95.

5 The Latin term seminarium, which means 'seedbed', has a modern equivalent'seminary' that no longer corresponds to the original sense. But I respect the ter-minology of Ficino in using 'seminary' instead of 'seedbed'. As for the term ratio,I use both 'reason' and 'reason-principle' interchangeably.

6 The original version of the present article is to be found in my doctoral the-sis, Le concept de sentence dans les theories de la matiere a la Renaissance: de Marsile Ficin aPierre Gassendi, Universite de Lille 3, 1999, pp. 23-41. This thesis, for which I wasawarded the prix des jeunes historiens of the Academic Internationale d'Histoire desSciences, will be published in the Academic's Collection of Studies series by Brepols.

7 See M. J. B. Allen, 'Cosmogony and Love: The Role of Phaedrus in Ficino's

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to his modern biographer, Raymond Marcel, he composed the workbetween November 1468 and July 1469, then revised it from 1469until (at the latest) 1482 and finally published it with his translationsof Plato in Florence in 1484. The commentary was widely read andvery influential among humanists and men of letters in the sixteenthcentury, particularly for its doctrine of Platonic love.8 Taking hisworks as a whole, this book may be said to mark the first stage ofFicino's career.

In his discussion of cosmogony, Ficino explicitly invokes the con-cept of seeds:

From this it is clearly apparent to us why the theologians place theGood in the centre and Beauty on the circumference. It is plain that,on the one hand, the Good that is in all things is God Himself, throughwhom all things are good, and that Beauty is the ray of God, spread-ing through those four circles that somehow rotate about him. Sucha ray forms in those four circles all the species of all things that weare accustomed to call 'Ideas' when they are in angelic Mind, 'rea-sons' when they are in the soul, 'seeds' when they are in nature, and'forms' when they are in matter. That is why four expressions of beautyare manifested in the four circles, the splendour of Ideas in the firstcircle, that of reasons in the second, that of seeds in the third, andthat of forms in the last.9

We can readily understand these four circles in the light of threeof the hypostases (divine Mind, Soul and Body). In effect, the first

Symposium Commentary', Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 10 (1980), pp.131-53 (reprinted in Plato's Third Eye}. I used the text in M. Ficino, Commentairesur le Banquet de Platan, ed. and tr. by R. Marcel, Paris, 1956. See also Ficino,Commentary on Plato's Symposium on Love, tr. by Sears Jayne, 2nd edn, Dallas, Tex.,1985; and Ficino, Opera omnia, 2 vols, continuously paginated, Basel, 1576, pp.1320-63. The Basel edition is by no means free from mistakes but is the mostreadily available, being reprinted in Turin, 1959, 1962, 1979, 1983, and, with apreface by S. Toussaint, Paris, 2000.

8 For its influence, see, for example, A.-J. Festugiere, La philosophie de I'amour deMarsile Ficin et son influence sur la litterature franfaise du XVF siecle, Paris, 1941.

9 'lam igitur quam ob causam bonitatem in centre, in circulo pulchritudinemtheologi collocent, aperte intelligere possumus. Bonitas siquidem rerum omniumunus ipse est deus, per quern cuncta sunt bona; pulchritude autem, dei radiusquatuor illis insitus circulis circa deum quodammodo revolutis. Huiusmodi radiusomnes rerum omnium speties in quatuor illis efHngit. Speties illas in mente ideas,in anima rationes, in natura semina, in materia formas appellare solemus. Idcircoquatuor in circulis, quatuor splendores esse videntur. Idearum splendor in primo,Rationum in secundo, in tertio seminum, formarum in ultimo.' Commentarium inConvivium Platonis, II.3 (ed. Marcel, p. 149). See also M. J. B. Allen, 'Marsilio Ficinoon Plato, the Neoplatonists and the Christian Doctrine of the Trinity', RenaissanceQuarterly, 37 (1984), pp. 555-84, esp. pp. 572-73 (reprinted in Plato's Third Eye}.

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circle signifies the intelligible world, which contains the Ideas. Thesecond is the soul (more particularly, the World-Soul) which com-prises the reasons (or reason-principles) of things. The last corre-sponds to the body, that is to the body of the world, or the machinamundi., which holds the elemental forms. Between the soul and thebody (or matter) Ficino introduces an intermediate stage. This is'nature'. For him, it is to nature that the 'seeds of things' must beattributed. Beginning with the One or God in His transcendence,there are thus five hypostases in his system.10 Nevertheless, through-out his career, Ficino was hesitant with regard to the nature of thisfourth stage, calling it sometimes 'quality', sometimes 'nature'.11 Heexplains the relationship of these notions as follows:

The forms of the body are in fact brought back to God through theseeds, the seeds by the reasons, the reasons by the Ideas and they arebrought forth by God in this same order. . . . Zoroaster says that thereare three princes in this world, masters of the three orders. . . Platocalls them: God, Mind, Soul. Further, he establishes three orders inthe divine species, that is to say Ideas, reasons and seeds. Consequently,the 'first', that is, the Ideas, 'rotate about the first', that is, about Godbecause they were given by God to the mind and they lead back toGod the mind to which they were given.12

In Ficino, Ideas, reasons, seeds and forms are all 'species'. The Ideasare the intermediary between God and the mind, and they allowcommunication between these two hypostases. In the same manner,the reasons have their existence between the mind and the soul,

10 On the doctrine of five hypostases, see Kristeller, The Philosophy of Marsilio Ficino,pp. 106-08, 167-69, 266, 370, 384 and 400-01. His views have been correctedby M. J. B. Allen, 'Ficino's Theory of the Five Substances and the Neoplatonists'Parmenides', Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 12 (1982), pp. 19-44 (reprintedin Plato's Third Eye}. See also T. Albertini, Marsilio Ficino. Das Problem der Vermittlungvon Denken und Welt in einer Metaphysik der Einfachheit, Munich, 1997.

11 On 'quality' in Ficino, see Kristeller, The Philosophy of Marsilio Ficino, pp. 107-08;idem, Marsilio Ficino and his Work after Five Hundred Years, p. 27, n. 29; M. J. B. Allen,'The Absent Angel in Ficino's Philosophy', Journal of the History of Ideas, 36 (1975),pp. 219-40, esp. pp. 225-26 (reprinted in Plato's Third Eye].

12 'Formae enim corporum per semina, haec per rationes, hae per ideas redu-c*ntur in deum et iisdem a deo gradibus produc*ntur . . . Tres mundi principesposuit Zoroaster, trium ordinum dominos . . . Hos Plato deum, mentem, animamnuncupat. Tres autem ordines in divinis posuit spetiebus: ideas, rationes et semina.Prima igitur, id est ideae, circa primum, id est circa deum, quoniam a deo mentitributae sunt et in eundem mentem cui sunt datae reduc*nt.' Commentarium in ConvwiumPlatonis, II.4 (ed. Marcel, pp. 150-51). Cf. Plato, Second Letter, 312E; M. J. B. Allen,'Marsilio Ficino on Plato', pp. 571-80.

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seeds between the soul and nature, and forms between nature andmatter. We also observe that 'nature' is identified with the 'powerof generation' (potentia generandi] and the seeds pass into it throughthe soul (per animam transeunt in naturam). According to Ficino, the cor-poreal forms do not, however, disclose the divine. 'The Ideas, thereasons and the seeds are the realities, while the corporeal forms arerather the shadows of these real things.' Thus the shadows do notmanifest the actual nature of divine things.13 For him, in compari-son to the Good, which is pre-eminently God's being, beauty is an'act', and is identified with the ray of emanation from the Good,which penetrates everything. This ray first penetrates the angelicmind, then the soul, nature and finally corporeal matter. On this,Ficino says, 'This ray embellishes the mind with the hierarchy ofIdeas, it fills the soul with the series of reasons, it fertilizes naturewith seeds, and it embellishes matter with forms."4 For him, just asa single ray of the Sun gives light to the four elements, so does theray of God illumine the four lower hypostases. Thus whoever con-templates beauty in these four circles sees in them the splendour ofGod. This ray contains the reason-principles of all things in the formof seeds.15 God, the architect of the world, can only touch the 'worldmachine' through His divine light.16

For Ficino, love, which creates and sustains all things, commu-nicates to all beings the 'desire to multiply'. On account of thatdesire, divine spirits move the heavens and pour out their gifts uponthe creatures. By its grace, the stars spread their light among theelements. Plants and animals 'desire' to pour out their seeds to begettheir own kind. This desire, innate in all things, to propagate theirown perfection accounts for the implicit fecundity concealed in allbeings. It compels the seeds to germinate and draws out the pow-ers of each from within itself. It initiates the conception of a foetusand brings it into the light.17 This is how in the human body loveexcites the seed and gives birth to the 'desire for procreation'.18 Ficinothinks that if the seeds of all things proper to a body are sown init from the beginning, the soul, which is superior to the body, should

Commentarium in Convivium Platonis, II.4 (ed. Marcel, p. 151).Ibid. II.5 (ed. Marcel, p. 152).Ibid.Ibid.Ibid.Ibid.

and VI.7 (ed. Marcel, p. 209).IV.5 (ed. Marcel, p. 173).III.2 (ed. Marcel, p. 161).VI. 11 (ed. Marcel, p. 225).

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be much richer and must possess from the beginning the seeds ofall that is proper to it. For this reason, the human soul has in equalmeasure the reason-principles of morality, the arts and the sciences.If these reasons are well 'cultivated', they bear their fruits.19

In our view of his theories, for Ficino the forms are enclosed ina sphere between the corporeal world and the incorporeal, that isto say between matter and nature. Nature is identified as the 'powerof generation'. The seeds of nature, on the other hand, are assignedto a sphere located between the soul and nature. It would thereforebe reasonable to suppose that Ficino's seeds are incorporeal. Theyissue from the reasons which reside in the soul and bind the Mindto the soul. The reasons of things are derived from Ideas which arewithin the divine Mind. Thus the seeds of things share the samedivine source as the reasons and the Ideas which are above them,and the forms which are below them. These 'divine species' are car-ried by the divine light that emanates from a transcendent God.

3. The Commentary on Plato's Timaeus

Ficino also published the first version of his commentary on Plato'sTimaeus in the Latin Plato of 1484.20 This treatise is one of his ear-liest commentaries on the dialogues of Plato. As M. J. B. Allen hasshown, although Ficino knew the ancient commentaries of Chalcidiusand the School of Chartres on this dialogue, especially that of Williamof Conches, he preferred to follow Plotinus and Proclus in expound-ing its main topic. The essential theme of this dialogue is 'nature'(physis). We should recall that Proclus explains this notion at thebeginning of his commentary on the Timaeus. In his opinion, Platorefused to give the name of 'nature' to matter, to form embodiedin matter, to body or to natural qualities; at the same time he hes-itated to call it 'soul'. He explains Plato's views on physis thus:

19 Ibid., VI. 12 (ed. Marcel, p. 226).20 See M. J. B. Allen's searching discussion in 'Marsilio Ficino's Interpretation of

Plato's Timaeus and its Myth of the Demiurge', in Supplementum Festivum: Studies inHonor of Paul Oskar Kristeller, ed. by J. Hankins, J. Monfasani and F. Purnell, Jr.,Binghamton, NY, 1987, pp. 399-439 (reprinted in Plato's Third Eye). See alsoJ. Hankins, 'The Study of the Timaeus in Early Renaissance Italy', in Natural Particulars:Nature and the Disciplines in Renaissance Europe, ed. by A. Grafton and N. Siraisi,Cambridge, Mass., 1999, pp. 77-119. For lack of a modern critical edition, thetext used here is the version published in the Basel Opera omnia.

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[Plato] has provided us with the most accurate theory of nature byplacing the essence of nature between these two, I mean, between thesoul and the corporeal properties, since it is, on the one hand, lowerthan the soul, by virtue of the fact that it is split up within the bodyand does not return to itself; but it is on the other hand, higher thanwhat comes after it, by virtue of the fact that it contains the logoi ofall beings and it begets them all and gives them life.21

In fact, for him, the soul is separate from the body, whereas natureis immersed in the body and is inseparable. The soul spreads thelight of life over nature. Thus he says, 'Nature comes last of allamong the causes that produce the corporeal and the sensible worldhere below; she marks the boundary of the scheme of incorporealessences, and is filled with logoi and dynameis by means of which shedirects encosmic beings . . . and guides the whole world with herpowers'.22 Moreover, Proclus believes that Plato's nature sustains theharmony of the heavens, and, by this means, governs the sublunaryworld and weaves together all the individual beings with the whole.Thus nature pervades all without any obstacle, and gives life to allthings with her 'breath' (pneuma). For Proclus, even the most inani-mate beings share in a sort of soul or life and remain in the worldeternally, since they are preserved by the causes belonging to thespecies that nature keeps within herself.23

After this exposition of Proclus, Ficino defines nature, the subjectof the Timaeus. He finds within nature the causes of the species thatshe holds within herself in the form of seeds. He speaks of this inthe following terms:

The subject of the book, then, is to be universal nature itself, that isto say, a seminal, life-giving [power], infused through the whole world,subject to the World-Soul, presiding over matter and giving birth tothings in the same order as the soul itself conceives them, while it isboth receiving the divine Mind and desiring the Good.24

21 Proclus, Commentaire sur le Timee, I, Prologue (ed. Festugiere, Paris, 1966-69, I,p. 36).

22 Ibid., pp. 37-38.23 Ibid., p. 38.24 'Sit ergo huius libri subiectum ipsa universa natura, id est, seminaria quaedam

& vivifica virtus tod infusa mundo, animo quidern mundanae subdita, materiae veropraesidens eodemque ordine singula pariens, quo & anima ipsa concepit, tarn divi-nam suscipiens mentem, quam appetens bonum.' In Timaeum commentarium, ch. 1,Opera omnia, p. 1438. On the idea of 'nature' in Ficino, see P. O. Kristeller, ThePhilosophy of Marsilio Ficino, pp. 67-70.

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Here the position of nature is held to be between the soul andmatter, as had already been shown in the commentary on theSymposium. What is important is that Ficino characterizes nature aslife-giving, 'seminal' (seminaria), and diffused throughout the wholeuniverse. He is surely speaking of a 'universal seedbed' (panspermia).

The purpose of Ficino's exposition is to show that the Christiandoctrine of the book of Genesis can be reconciled with the Platonicor Pythagorean doctrine of the Timaeus. He affirms that the intelli-gible world exists between the corporeal world and the exemplar (thedivine Idea) of the Good. He then establishes six stages of emana-tion from the One, leading to the generation of multiplicity in ter-restrial things, and he takes the Sun as an example. As the six stagesof the Sun, he enumerates: 1) the substance of the Sun; 2) the bril-liance (lux) of its substance; 3) the light (lumen) which emanates fromit; 4) its splendour (splendor); 5) its heat (calor); and 6) generation (gene-ratio). For the universe, his list is, first, the divine One, then in sec-ond place the Good.25 The third stage is the divine Mind emanatinglike the light from the brilliance. This contains within itself the multi-form Ideas issuing from a double store, from the brilliance and fromthe supreme Idea of the One;26 and it forms the archetypal universe.Ficino's argument continues:

After this archetypal world, in the fourth stage, follows the soul of thecorporeal world. The rational world is generated from the intellectualworld as splendour is generated by light. And as splendour is mingledwith movement, the soul, coming from the unmoving Ideas, reachesand pervades the reasons where it conforms to a moving order. Thefifth stage follows this, that is, the very nature of things. Now the 'sem-inal world' results from the rational world of the soul, just as heat fol-lows splendour. In the sixth stage, this corporeal world is established,being the last thing to be drawn from the 'seminal [world]', just asgeneration is the last to be drawn from heat.27

25 In Timaeum commentarium, ch. 10, Opera omnia, p. 1442.26 Ibid.27 'Post archetypum hunc mundum quarto gradu sequatur corporei mundi anima:

Mundus iam rationalis ex intellectual! mundo progenitus, quasi splendor ex lumine.Et sicut splendor iam motui permiscetur, sic anima immobilium idearum rationesmobili quodam pacto attingit atque percurrit. Quintus huic succedat gradus, ipsavidelicet natura rerum, mundus iam seminarius ex rationali animae mundo, quasicalor splendore resultans. Sexto tandem gradu mundus hie corporeus collocetur, exseminario ita proxime ductus, sicut rerum generatio ex calore.' Ibid.

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In this scheme of things, nature is placed in the fifth stage. Herenature is called the 'seminal world' (mundus seminarius), mirroring thesupposition that the divine Mind is the 'intellectual' or 'intelligibleworld' and that the World-Soul is the 'rational world'. If the Soulis seen as the splendour of the Sun that emanates from the Mind(as light), then nature corresponds to heat. We observe that genera-tion requires heat because it is strongly bound to a biological andembryological interpretation in Ficino, especially to the notion offecundity. Thus, from the same perspective, nature, where so muchgeneration takes place, is quite naturally conceived of as 'very fecund'.This fecundity is spread throughout nature by way of the 'seeds offorms' which come from the reason-principles in the World-Soul.

Ficino then explains the number of elements in the universe. Hesays that there are four: for metaphysicians these are essence, being,power and action; for mathematicians, point, line, plane and vol-ume; and for natural philosophers, nature's 'seminal power', naturalmultiplication, mature form and arrangement (compositwri).28 Ficinoparallels 'essence' with both the geometric point and the 'seminalpower', 'being' with the line and multiplication, 'power' with theplane and form, and finally 'action' with volume and arrangement.29

Thus we find that his concept of seeds also reflects the idea of thePythagorean 'primordial seminal point', which would confirm an ideasuggested in his treatise on the Fatal Number.30 Then he explainsthe four elements from the point of view of Pythagorean and Platonicgeometry and music theory. He tries to supersede Aristotle's theoryon the substance of the heavens (which has no place for the fourelements), declaring:

No one can deny that these elements exist, at least beneath the Moon.Some natural philosophers will deny that they exist in the heavens.But I would ask them to listen to the metaphysicians proving that theelements are in the Artificer of the universe himself as Ideas, andthence in the World-Soul as reasons, and in nature as seeds. So theyare in the heavens as powers and in the sublunary world as forms.31

28 Ibid., ch. 21, Opera omnia, p. 1447.29 Ibid., ch. 22, Opera omnia, p. 1447.30 See M. J. B. Allen, Nuptial Arithmetic, pp. 48 and 54.31 'Esse utique elementa haec sub luna, nemo negabit. Esse vero in coelo, physici

nonnulli negabunt. Sed isti audiant metaphysicos precor, probantes elementa perideas suas esse in ipso mundi opifice: esse inde in anima mundi per rationes suas,esse in natura per semina. Ergo & in coelo per virtutes: sub coelo per formas.' InTimaeum commentarium, ch. 24, Opera omnia, p. 1448.

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Ficino is here maintaining five orders of divine species (ideas, rea-sons, seeds, powers and forms) in the five substances under God,(Mind, Soul, Nature, Heaven and Matter).

By contrast, in the appendix to the commentary on the TimaeusFicino seems to prefer to use the term 'seminal reasons' (rationes semi-nales) rather than 'seeds' (semind) or 'seminary' (seminarium). He arguesthat the four elements are not the 'principles', both because matterand form are prior to them and because the four causes (divine,efficient, 'exemplary' and final) as well as the seminal reasons areprior to all of them.32 For Ficino, many different sorts of seminalreasons are divinely implanted within the four elements. By these,the diverse forms of things are engendered in all the elements andtheir various combinations, with the movement of the heavens assist-ing these reasons.33

4. The Platonic Theology

Soon after the commentary on the Symposium, Ficino composed thePlatonic Theology on the immortality of souls (1469-74), which was pub-lished in Florence in 1482.34 In this major philosophical work henaturally stresses the third hypostasis, for it is about the soul. Butwe can also find there further treatment of the topic of nature andher seeds.

First, Ficino explains that the work of the soul is to provide 'vitalmovement' and that of the mind is to organize 'by forms'. In hisview, the mind surpasses the soul to the degree that the order offorms extends further than life. Then he introduces the concept ofseeds as 'rudiments of forms' (formarum inchoationes):

But because beyond the order of forms is the universe's formless primematter—where certain seeds of forms lie hidden and ferment, if I mayput it like that—the office of mind, which is bounded by forms, doesnot embrace these formless seeds. Yet matter is in a way good becauseit is desirous of the good, namely of form, and because it is open toreceiving the good, and because it is necessary for a good world.Seeds also are good as they are the rudiments of good forms. Goodness

32 Ibid., appendix, ch. 33, Opera omnia, p. 1474.33 Ibid., appendix, ch. 45, Opera omnia, p. 1475.34 The text used here is Ficino, Theologie platonicienne de I'immortalite des dmes, ed.

and tr. by R. Marcel, 3 vols, Paris, 1964-70.

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exceeds mind to the same degree that the distribution of the Goodextends further than the distribution of the species. The more power-ful each thing is, the more far-reaching its activity.33

Thus for Ficino 'primary matter' (materia prima} is formless and con-tains within itself the 'seeds of forms' which have the power to mul-tiply. Although the mind is only concerned with the class of formsand not matter, matter is good because it desires form, which ishigher than itself. It can receive form and thus contribute to therealization of a beautiful universe. For the same reason, the seedsof forms in matter are good because they are the 'rudiments' of theforms. Ficino then explains the function of the seeds:

all the parts of the universe contribute so harmoniously to its singu-lar beauty that one cannot subtract or add anything. . . . But in fact,because all the parts of the universe, which have issued from fixedseeds and are endowed with distinct shapes, attain beautifully and eas-ily, by a direct path, and in a fitting time and order, the aims whichhave been allotted to them, the result is that they are all moved inthe same manner as what is moved by the skill and counsel of man.36

We may therefore understand that specific seeds bring into mani-festation all the parts of the beautiful and harmonious universe accord-ing to laws that are already established.

In discussing the World-Soul, Ficino returns to this problem. Forhim, generation is the principle of nutrition and growth. No beingcan be nourished or grow without the generation of certain parts.He tries to establish the idea that where nourishment and growthfollow generation, there is life and a soul. Speaking of the existenceof the soul in earth and in water, he introduces the concept of seeds:

We see the earth begetting a multitude of trees and animals, thanksto specific seeds, nourishing them and making them grow. We see

35 'Quoniam vero ultra formarum ordinem est prima ilia informis rerum mate-ria, in qua latent quaedam, ut ita loquar, formarum pullulantium semina, mentismunus quod terminatur formis, haec informia non complectitur. Ipsa tamen mate-ria bona est quodammodo, quia boni, id est formae appetens, quia ab bonum sus-cipiendum exposita, quia bono necessaria mundo. Semina quoque sunt bona, quiasunt formarum bonarum inchoationes. Tanto saltern intervallo bonitas mentemsuperat quanto longius boni quam speciei tendit largitio. Quo enim res quaequepotentior est eo longius operatur.' Theologia Platonica, 1.6 (ed. Marcel, I, p. 71). Ialso used a typescript kindly supplied by Prof. Allen prior to the publication ofMarsilio Ficino, Platonic Theology, Volume I, Books I~IV, English translation by M. J.B. Allen with J. Warden, Latin text edited byj. Hankins with W. Bowen, Cambridge,Mass., 2001; this passage on pp. 86-87.

% Ibid., 11.13 (ed. Marcel, I, p. 123).

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earth making even stones grow, like teeth . . . as long as they cling totheir roots, whereas if they are pulled up or pulled out, they do notgrow any more. Could one say that the bosom of this female beinglacks life, she who spontaneously brings forth and sustains so manyshoots . . .? Similarly with the body of water. Water and earth there-fore have a soul, unless we dare claim that these living beings, whichwe say are produced by the soul of earth or water because they seemto lack individual seeds, are not born of such a soul but of the influxof celestial souls.37

From this Ficino allows growth of stones like that of plants and ani-mals. However, he finds no visible seeds to compare with those ofplants or animals. Yet we must not think that specific beings areborn only from definite seeds nor that a distant and universal causeis alone enough. Ficino proposes a different idea:

All these points signify that present everywhere through earth andwater in an artful and vital nature are the spiritual and life-givingseeds of everything. These seeds can generate of themselves wherevercorporeal seeds are missing; they can nourish seeds that have been leftbehind by animals; and from one withered grape pip, whose natureis single and lowly, they can bring forth the vine in all its variety,order, and value to man, that is to say, with its varied, rational andvaluable powers. The same vital nature draws out from the depths ofmatter, where corporeal substances do not penetrate, the substantialforms of the elements. Moreover, it takes the elemental qualities, whichof themselves can only burn and freeze and so on, and adds to themthe precious variety of colours and shapes and the vigour of life.38

We see that it is the 'life-giving and spiritual seeds of all things'(omnium semina vivifica et spiritualia}, probably invisible, that make goodthe lack among the corporeal seeds. For Ficino, they nourish andfoster the seeds that have been abandoned. They possess variousrational powers that give birth to a multitude of varied, well-orderedand valued individuals. Nature, ever industrious and full of vitality,

37 Ibid., IV. 1 (ed. Marcel, I, p. 144).38 'Haec omnia significant adesse ubique per terram et aquam in natura quadam

artificiosa vitalique spiritualia et vivifica semina omnium, quae ipsa per se gignantubicumque semina corporalia desunt, semina rursus derelicta ab animalibus foveant,atque ex putrido vinaceo semine, cuius et una et vilis natura est, variam ordinatampretiosamque generent vitem, viribus videlicet suis variis, rationalibus, pretiosis.Eadem natura vitalis substantiales elementorum formas e fundo materiae ipsiuseducit, quo non penetrant substantiae corporales; elementales insuper qualitates,quae per se urerent solum frigefacerentque et similia, ad colorum figurarumque spe-ciossimam ducit varietatem vitaeque vigorem.' Ibid. (ed. Marcel, I, pp. 147-48).

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encloses these invisible seeds which have the power to extract 'sub-stantial forms' of the elements from the depths of matter. By thisprocess, Ficino links the Thomist doctrine of 'substantial form' to histheory of seeds. We notice that these seeds are superior to the ele-mental forms of things. They arrange things in such a way as toutilize Aristotle's qualities of the elements to bring about propertiessuch as colour and shape. Ficino's seeds are thus able to makeAristotelian physics subordinate. These spiritual seeds are also foundwithin the corporeal ones.39

Further on, in a section of recapitulation, Ficino deploys a remark-able argument on the relationship between seeds and nature. Hesays that the seed of a living being has within itself the reason-prin-ciples of the being and as a consequence, that being is then broughtforth 'rationally'. Within the corporeal seed, which is uniform andalmost formless, these rational principles are only found 'in poten-tial'. Even if we make a division of the corporeal seed of a livingbeing, each portion will carry the whole fruit:

This shows that the 'seminal force' (vim seminariam) latent within theseed and within which resides the principle of this movement and gen-eration is in a way incorporeal. But the 'seminal power' (virtus semi-naria) that we call 'nature' must hold within itself multiple reasons ofa living being. For the same, in so far as it is the same, cannot engen-der directly such great diversity . . . But are the 'seminal forces' (viresseminariae) the principal and causative factors in the seeds of livingbeings? Not at all. Indeed, it is not a species that comes forth fromone of these 'seminal powers' but rather an individual of the species,and each of them draws its origin from something else in the samespecies. We must therefore go back to Universal Nature which includesthe universal reasons of all species. Yes, to Nature, mother of all thatexists on the earth, especially as corporeal seeds are often wanting forplants and animals that appear here and there spontaneously. Theirproduction therefore requires incorporeal seeds.40

39 Ibid., VI. 10 (ed. Marcel, I, p. 249). For the connection of the concept of seedswith the Thomist doctrine of 'substantial forms' in Ficino, see below.

40 'Hinc patet vim seminariam in semine ipso latentem esse quodammodo incor-poream in qua sit huius motus generationisque principium. Oportet autem multi-plicis animantis rationes multiplices seminariae inesse virtuti quam vocamus naturam.Idem enim. prout idem est, diversitatem tantam proxime generare non posset. . . .Sed numquid seminariae vires in seminibus animantium summae causae sunt?Nequaquam. Non enim ab ulla illarum fit species ipsa, sed quiddam potius parti-culare sub specie, et quaelibet illarum ab alio sub eadem specie ducit originem.Ideo ad universalem naturam confugiendum est, in qua universales sint suarum

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For Ficino, the 'seminal power', identified with nature that containswithin herself the reason-principles of what will be born, is only theformative principle of the individual, not of the species. All the speciesand their entire reasons need a more universal source. This is'Universal Nature'. Ficino says that the natures of the four elementsare related directly to the nature of the moon which contains thereasons of all the elements. The nature of the moon is related tothat of the sphere above, and so on, so that all particular naturesare related to Universal Nature. This latter contains the reasons ofall natural things, as well as those of the particular natures. Thesereasons are the 'exemplary' and the efficient causes. And they makeUniversal Nature direct and lead all the particular natures to thegoals determined by fixed laws.41 What is important here is thatFicino identifies nature with the 'seminal power'. It is incorporeal,often enclosed within the corporeal seed, and contains the principleof movement and generation. And the total sum of these 'seminalpowers', which are the particular natures, is Universal Mother Nature.We may note that the relationship between the particular naturesand Universal Nature perhaps parallels the connection that existsbetween individual souls and the World-Soul.

Finally, Ficino reaches his own synthesis, as follows: The highestand most fecund divine life generates as her 'lineage' (called byOrpheus Pallas) this whole machine of the world, before giving birthto it externally. This 'lineage', necessarily very close to God, is the'universal seed of the world' (universale sem*n mundi] and contains theparticular seeds of all the parts to be begotten externally within thisworld. These seeds harmonize with one another through their essenceso that God is simple, and they differ from each other through theirreason-principles so that the diversity of individuals may be realizedin the world.42 Thus we observe that the Son of God is conceivedhere as the 'universal seed of the world'.

specierum omnium rationes. Ad naturam, inquam, terrae terrenorum procreatricem,praesertim cum saepe plantis et animalibus passim sponte nascentibus semina cor-poralia desint, quo fit ut ad eorum productionem seminibus incorporeis opus sit.'Ibid., XI.4 (ed. Marcel, II, p. 117).

41 Ibid. (ed. Marcel, II, p. 117).42 Ibid. (ed. Marcel, II, pp. 119-20).

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5. The De vita coelitus comparanda

If Ficino exercised a great influence on humanists through his com-mentaries on the dialogues of Plato and through his Platonic Theology,physicians, as natural philosophers, were doubtless more interestedin his work on longevity entitled De vita libri tres (Florence, 1489).43

References to Neoplatonic natural magic are mainly concentrated inthe third book, De vita coelitus comparanda, a treatise originally intendedas a commentary on Plotinus, Enneads, IV.3.11. As Copenhaver hasshown, Ficino modified the ideas of Plotinus by following the laterNeoplatonists.44 For him, the magus, having acquired these teachings,can manipulate material objects to draw down higher immaterialforces through which he is united with the World-Soul and its logoi.In this work, he explicitly advances the notion of the seminal prin-ciple, in the form of 'seminal reasons' (rationes seminales).

Ficino first explains what is, to Plotinus, the power which attractsthe favour of the heavens, and how to win with ease the powers ofthe soul of the world, the stars and the daemones by way of objectsof suitable form. According to him, the soul, the principle of move-ment, is the prime mover and moves of itself. If it is introducedbetween the body and the mind, which do not have movement ofthemselves, mutual attraction is established between them. The divineand omnipresent World-Soul is the intermediary of all natural things.It contains within itself all the things to which it is united. Ficinogoes on to explain why one must use such things to attract heav-enly power through the seminal reasons, arguing that the seminal

43 On the De vita, see the introduction to Marsilio Ficino, Three Books on Life, ed.and tr. by C. V. Kaske and J. R. Clark, Binghamton, NY, 1989, pp. 1-90. Seealso D. P. Walker, Spiritual and Demonic Magic from Ficino to Campanella, London, 1958;repr. Notre Dame, Ind., 1975, Stroud, Glos., 2000; F. A. Yates, Giordano Bruno;G. Zanier, La medicina astrologica e la sua teoria: Marsilio Ficino e i suoi critici contempo-ranei, Rome, 1977; Miiller-Jahncke, Astrologische-magische Theorie, pp. 33-56; P. Zambelli,L'ambigua natura della magia: jilosofi, streghe, riti nel Rinascimento, Milan, 1991.

44 B. P. Copenhaver, 'Scholastic Philosophy and Renaissance Magic in the DeVita of Marsilio Ficino', Renaissance Quarterly, 37 (1984), pp. 523-54; idem, 'RenaissanceMagic and Neoplatonic Philosophy: Ennead 4, 3-5 in Ficino's De vita coelitus com-parand^, in Marsilio Ficino e il ritorno di Platone, II, pp. 351-69; idem, 'lamblichus,Synesius and the Chaldaean Oracles in Marsilio Ficino's De Vita Libri Tres: HermeticMagic or Neoplatonic Magic?', in Supplementum Festivum, pp. 441-55; idem, "HermesTrismegistus, Proclus and the Question of a Philosophy of Magic in the Renaissance',in Hermeticism and the Renaissance, ed. by I. Merkel and A. G. Debus, Washington,DC, and London, 1988, pp. 79-110. See also the introduction to Ficino, Three Bookson Life, and M. J. B. Allen, hastes, chs 3 and 5.

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reasons through the heavenly constellations give form to species andindividuals and impress on them their characters:

In addition, the World-Soul possesses by divine power precisely asmany seminal reasons of things as there are Ideas in the divine Mind.By these seminal reasons she fashions the same number of species inmatter. That is why every single species corresponds through its ownseminal reason to its own Idea and through this reason it can ofteneasily receive something from the Idea—since indeed it was madethrough the reason from the Idea. This is why, if at any time thespecies degenerates from its proper form, it can be formed again withthe reason as the proximate intermediary and, through the Idea asintermediary, can then be easily re-formed.40

According to Ficino, when a magus suitably applies to an individ-ual many things, dispersed in the world but conforming to the sameIdea, he can easily draw down a gift from the Idea through theseminal reasons. However, he does not attract divinities wholly sep-arated from matter but attracts gifts derived from the World-Soul orthe stars.46 Each species of natural objects corresponds to its reason-principle derived from the World-Soul. The magus must also knowthe right moment for this operation because the World-Soul grantsits gifts to a particular species at a specific time. He then receivesnot only the influence of the rays of the star and the demon butalso that of the World-Soul. For the reason-principle of any star ordemon flourishes in the World-Soul, by way of a seminal reason forit to generate and by way of an exemplary reason for it to know.47

Indeed these reason-principles construct celestial figures and con-stellations, and impress properties on them. The stars contain all thespecies of sublunary things and their properties. The forms of thingson earth depend in this way on the forms of the stars.48

Ficino then explains the relationship between the heavenly con-stellations and the seminal reasons in forming sublunary things. For

45 'Accedit ad haec quod anima mundi totidem saltern rationes rerum seminalesdivinitus habet, quot ideae sunt in mente divina, quibus ipsa rationibus totidem fab-ricat species in materia. Unde unaquaeque species per propriam rationem semi-nalem propriae respondet ideae, facileque potest per hanc saepe aliquid illinc accipere,quandoquidem per hanc illinc est effecta. Ideoque si quando a propria formadegeneret, potest hoc medio sibi proximo fbrmari rursum perque id medium indefacile reformari.' De vita, III. 1 (ed. Kaske & Clark, p. 243; Opera omnia, p. 531).

46 Ibid. (ed. Kaske & Clark, pp. 242-45; Opera omnia, p. 531).47 Ibid. (ed. Kaske & Clark, p. 245 and p. 430, n. 7; Opera omnia, p. 531).48 Ibid. (ed. Kaske & Clark, p. 245; Opera omnia, pp. 531-32).

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him, the World-Soul generates their forms and specific powers bythe appropriate reason-principles with the help of the stars and thecelestial forms. The properties peculiar to individuals are producedthrough the seminal reasons:

When, therefore, the Soul gives birth to the specific forms and thepowers pertaining to the species of things below, she makes themthrough their respective reasons with the aid of the stars and thecelestial forms. But she produces the endowments peculiar to individ-uals . . . likewise through the seminal reasons . . ,49

Following this, Ficino uses analogy to compare the World-Soul, whichis active everywhere through the body of the world, with the centreof the macrocosm, the Sun, and the centre of the microcosm, theheart. By way of this analogy, he develops an important theory ofthe universal 'Spirit of the world' (spiritus mundi).50 In addition heidentifies it with the alchemical 'quintessence' (quinta essentia).31 Hesays that just as the power of the human body is distributed to thelimbs by physiological spirits, that of the World-Soul is carried abroadby its 'quintessence' which is active everywhere in the body of theworld as spirits. This 'quintessence' of the world is contained in

49 'Quando igitur anima gignit speciales inferiorum formas viresque, eas perrationes efficit proprias sub stellarum formarumque coelestium adminiculo. Singularesvero individuorum dotes . . . exhibet per seminales similiter rationes. . .', ibid. (ed.Kaske & Clark, p. 247; Opera omnia, p. 532).

50 D. P. Walker, Spiritual and Demonic Magic; idem, 'The Astral Body in RenaissanceMedicine', Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 21 (1958), pp. 119-33; idem,Music, Spirit and Language in the Renaissance, ed. by P. Gouk, London, 1985. On thedoctrine of spirit before Ficino, see G. Verbeke, L'evolution de la doctrine du Pneumadu stoicisme a S. Augustin, Louvain, 1945; O. Temkin, 'On Galen's Pneumatology',Gesnerus, 8 (1951), pp. 80-88; A. L. Peck, 'The Connate Pneuma: An EssentialFactor in Aristotle's Solutions to the Problems of Reproduction and Sensation', inScience, Medicine and History, ed. by E. A. Underwood, 2 vols, London, 1953, I, pp.111-21; Spiritus. IV" Colloquio intemazionale, Roma, 7~9 gennaio 1983, ed. by M. Fattoriand M. Bianchi, Rome, 1984;J.J. Bono, 'Medical Spirits and the Medieval Languageof Life', Traditio, 40 (1984), pp. 91-130; G. Freudenthal, Aristotle's Theory of MaterialSubstance: Heat and Pneuma, Form and Soul, Oxford, 1995.

51 See S. Matton, 'Marsile Ficin et I'alchimie, sa position, son influence', in Alchimieet Philosophic, ed. by J.-C. Margolin and S. Matton, Paris, 1993, pp. 123-92. Onthe 'fifth essence', see F. S. Taylor, 'The Idea of the Quintessence', in Science, Medicineand History, I, pp. 247-65; P. Moraux, 'Quinta essentia', in Pauly-Wissowa, Real-encyclopddie, XXIV/1, Stuttgart, 1963, cols 1171-1263; R. Halleux, 'Les ouvrages alchi-miques de Jean de Rupescissa', Histoire litteraire de la France, 41 (1981), pp. 241-77;M. Pereira, 'Quintessenza alchemica', Kos, 1 (1984), pp. 33—54; Alchemie: Lexikon einerhermetischen Wissenschaft, ed. by C. Priesner and K. Figala, Munich, 1998, pp. 300-02.S. Colnort-Bodet, Le code alchimique devoile, Paris, 1989, is insufficiently critical.

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all natural things, but in varying amounts. Thus those things whichcontain more spiritus have more of the power of the World-Soul.52

The magus who best knows how to extract this essence from things,or to use those things which contain this essence, especially in itspure state, can draw down propitiously the heavenly gifts. This isreally what Ficino's natural and astrological magic consists of. Heconsiders that this essence is to be found in things which shine, whichsmell sweet or which have heat and moisture in their 'subtle sub-stance' (e.g., gold, wine, gemstones). As food is converted to lifewithin man by the human spirits, these things that abound in spiritushelp to make us more akin to the spiritus of the world.

Ficino states that the world has life through all its parts, as is evi-dent through the generation and movement manifested throughout.The universe is the most perfect animal.33 Then he returns to thespiritus mundi as follows:

Therefore, between the tangible and partly transient body of the worldand its very soul, whose nature is very far from its body, there existseverywhere a spiritus, just as there is between the soul and body in us,assuming that life everywhere is always communicated by a soul to agrosser body. For such a spiritus is necessarily required as a mediumby which the divine Soul may both be present to the grosser bodyand bestow life throughout it. ... Therefore the aid of a more excel-lent body—a body not a body, as it were—is needed. We know thatjust as all living things, plants as well as animals, live and generatethrough a spirit like this, so among the elements, those which are mostfull of spiritus generate very quickly and move perpetually as if alive.54

But, he continues, 'if the elements and living beings generate some-thing like themselves by means of their spiritus, why do they notgenerate minerals and metals, which are intermediate between the

52 De vita, III.l (ed. Kaske & Clark, p. 247; Opera omnia, p. 532).53 Ibid., III.2 (ed. Kaske & Clark, p. 251, and notes thereon; Opera omnia,

p. 533). Cf. Plato, Timaeus, 30c~3lA; Plotinus, Enneads, 11.9.5, III.2.3, IV.3.7, IV.4.32.54 'Igitur inter mundi corpus tractabile et ex parte caducum atque ipsam eius

animam, cuius natura nimium ab eiusmodi corpore distat, inest ubique spiritus,sicut inter animam et corpus in nobis, si modo ubique vita est communicatasemper ab anima corpori crassiori. Talis namque spiritus necessario requiritur tan-quam medium, quo anima divina et adsit corpori crassiori et vitam eidem penituslargiatur . . . Opus est igitur excellentioris corporis adminiculo, quasi non corporis.Proinde scimus viventia omnia, tam plantas quam animalia, per quendam spiritumhuic similem vivere atque generare, atque inter elementa, quod maxime spiritualeest, velocissime generare perpetuoque moveri quasi vivens.' De vita, III.3 (ed. Kaske& Clark, pp. 255-57; Opera omnia, pp. 534-35).

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elements and living beings?' The answer is that the spiritus in min-erals is confined in their body by gross matter. Ficino then connectsthis idea of the spiritus mundi extracted from natural things to thealchemical concept of 'elixir', since the spiritus is able to take theplace of the 'seminal power' (seminaria virtus}:

When this spiritus is rightly separated and, once separated, is conserved,it is able as 'seminal power' to generate a thing like itself, if only it isemployed on material of the same kind. Diligent natural philosophers,when they separate this sort of spiritus from gold by sublimationover fire, will employ it on any of the metals and will make it gold.This spiritus rightly drawn from gold or something else and preserved,the Arab astrologers call 'elixir'.05

According to Ficino, the sensible world generates all things throughthe spiritus mundi which is identified with the 'quintessence' (quintaessentid) and then with the 'heavens' (coelum). The only differencebetween the spiritus mundi and the human spirit lies in the fact thatthe World-Soul does not draw its spiritus from the four elements act-ing as humours, whereas our human soul does draw its spirit fromthe bodily humours. Ficino then reveals the origin of this spiritus orthe manner of its birth in these terms: '[The World-Soul] procreatesthis spiritus in the first instance (to speak Platonically, or rather Plotini-cally) as if pregnant by her own generative power, and the starsalong with it. Immediately through the spiritus the World-Soul givesbirth to the four elements, as though everything were containedin the power of that spiritus.'^ Then he defines its nature: 'the spiritusis the most tenuous body, as if it were now soul and not body, andnow body and not soul.' Its nature reflects that of the heavenlybodies. Thus it has the nature of the aether, the fifth element uniquelykept in the heavens by Aristotle. For Ficino, spiritus lives in allthings as 'the proximate maker (auctor) of all generation and motion',being fully hot and clear, moist and life-giving by its own nature. Ithas acquired these gifts from the superior gifts of the World-

33 'Qui si quando rite secernatur secretusque conservetur, tanquam seminaria vir-tus poterit sibi simile generare, si modo materiae cuidam adhibeatur generis eius-dem. Qualem spiritum physici diligentes sublimatione quadam ad ignem ex aurosecernentes, cuivis metallorum adhibebunt aurumque efficient. Talem utique spiri-tum ex auro vel ex alio rite tractatum atque servatum, elixir Arabes astrologi nomi-nant.' Ibid. (ed. Kaske & Clark, p. 257; Opera omnia, p. 535). Cf. S. Matton, 'MarsileFicin et 1'alchimie', p. 145.

56 De vita, III.3 (ed. Kaske & Clark, p. 257; Opera omnia, p. 535).

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Soul.07 The stars and the demons residing in this spiritus owe theirexistence to it. Further, the spiritus of the world may be absorbed inman by his own human spirit which is similar in nature, most notablyin the case where the human spirit has been rendered more akin toit (cognatior) by 'art', that is to say if it attains 'the highest heavenlydegree'. He who knows this art is the Ficinian magus. He can winadvantages from the World-Soul, from the stars and even from thedemons by contact with the spiritus absorbed in his body, since thestars and demons exist in it.38

Finally, in the last chapter of the third book, Ficino sums up hisdiscussion. Explicitly following Plotinus, he avers that the seminalreasons are within the World-Soul:

Plotinus follows him [Hermes] and thinks that everything can be eas-ily accomplished by the intermediation of the World-Soul, since theWorld-Soul generates and moves the forms of natural things throughcertain seminal reasons divinely implanted in her. These reasons heeven calls gods, since they are never cut off from the Ideas of thesupreme Mind. He thinks, therefore, that through such seminal rea-sons the World-Soul can easily apply herself to materials since she hasformed them to begin with through these same seminal reasons, whena magus or a priest brings to bear at the right time rightly groupedforms of things—forms which properly aim towards one reason oranother, as the lodestone toward iron . . . Sometimes it can happenthat when you bring seminal reasons to bear on forms, higher giftstoo may descend, since reasons in the World-Soul are conjoined tothe intellectual forms in her and through these to the Ideas of thedivine Mind.59

57 Ibid.58 Ibid., III.4 (ed. Kaske & Clark, p. 259; Opera omnia, p. 536).59 'Secutus hunc Plotinus putat totum id anima mundi conciliante confici posse,

quatenus ilia naturalium rerum formas per seminales quasdam rationes sibi divini-tus insitas general atque movet. Quas quidem rationes appellat etiam deos, quo-niam ab ideis supremae mentis numquam destituuntur. Itaque per rationes eiusmodianimam mundi facile se applicare materiis, quas formavit ab initio per easdem,quando magus vel sacerdos opportunis temporibus adhibuerit formas rerum ritecollectas, quae rationem hanc aut illam proprie spectant, sicut magnes ferrum . . .Fieri vero posse quandoque ut rationibus ad formas sic adhibitis sublimiora quoquedona descendant, quatenus rationes in anima mundi coniunctae sunt intellectual-ibus eiusdem animae formis, atque per illas divinae mentis ideis.' Ibid., 111.26 (ed.Kaske & Clark, p. 391; Opera omnia, pp. 571-72).

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6. The Commentary on the Enneads of Plotinus

Having finished the entire translation of the 54 treatises of the Enneadsof Plotinus between 1484 and January 1486, Ficino immediatelybegan to write a commentary on the work. After a long interval,and having taken out the part which became the De vita coelituscomparanda, he finished the commentary in 1490, and publishedit with the translation of the Enneads in Florence in 1492. In thecommentary Ficino made full application of Plotinian 'seminal prin-ciples' (logoi spermatikoi) to his cosmology. Unfortunately there are fewstudies of this field on which to base our discussion. Moreover, thevast scale of the work and the lack of a critical edition render thetask all the more difficult.60 In these circ*mstances we shall limitourselves to focusing briefly on some important features in Ficino'sdevelopment of the concept of seeds.

According to Ficino, Plotinus shows that all things generated andmoved by nature are directed by the 'seminal reasons' of UniversalNature, and notably more by the particular reasons and seeds thanby the less differentiated reason-principles themselves. Ficino asserts,by analogy with the animal world, that all the bodies produced inthe world are formed by the spiritus as well as by the seminal rea-sons in the vegetative power of the World-Soul. Before the forms ofthings exist in the world, they must be born from this generativepower acting through the seminal reasons. By these reason-principles,the Soul forms things 'naturally', that is to say, 'the Soul producesthe seminal reasons in nature and through these reasons naturereproduces the forms in matter'.61 The seminal reasons by their inex-haustible potency multiply the seeds of nature and then natural things.He also adds that the irrational part of the World-Soul holds theseeds as if they were the last traces of Ideas. And the 'seminal rea-son of the world' (ratio seminaria mundi) is itself, so to speak, the 'Word'

60 See however M. Heitzman, 'La liberta e il fato nella filosofia di Marsilio Ficino',Rivista di filosofia neo-scolastica, 28 (1936), pp. 350-71, and 29 (1937), pp. 59-82;A. M. Wolters, 'The First Draft of Ficino's Translation of Plotinus', in Marsilio Ficinoe il ritomo di Platone, I, pp. 305-29; M. J. B. Allen, 'Summoning Plotinus: Ficino,Smoke, and the Strangled Chickens', in Reconsidering the Renaissance, ed. by M. DiCesare, Binghamton, NY, 1992, pp. 63-88 (reprinted in Plato's Third Eye}; H. D.Saffrey, 'Florence, 1492: The Reappearance of Plotinus', Renaissance Quarterly, 49(1996), pp. 488-508.

61 In Plotini librum De coelo, ch. 17, Opera omnia, p. 1640.

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of the divine Mind through which matter receives its worldly embell-ishment.62 We note here that the seeds are made by the seminal rea-sons and are therefore not ontologically identical with the seminalreasons.

For Ficino, since a whole animal, composed of diverse parts, mul-tiplies from a tiny seed, the seminal reason in this seed does notlack strength. The seminal reason can remain in any portion of thebodily seed since it is free from matter and therefore from spatialdimension. This divine reason-principle, that brings everything forth,lacks nothing, for nature pervades and moves all.63 With regard tothe seminal reason, Ficino puts forward four major features: 1) sem-inal reason is the efficient 'principle' of all things that are broughtforth; 2) it includes in itself all these things; 3) all natural things thatare born through seminal reason are made in the manner of a seal,according to their own efficient and exemplary power; 4) the entirearrangement and variability of things is prescribed within the semi-nal reason which expresses them outwardly as they have been imprintedinwardly, so that nothing escapes divine providence.64 At the heartof these arguments we note that there is an underlying analogybetween the concept of seminal reasons and that of the vegetablekingdom:

this reason seems to spread just like the root of a plant, which pro-pagates itself into stem, branches and so on. ... Thus one sees thatthe 'seminal reason of the world' . . . diffuses itself through differentthings, even through opposites, under the very Idea of diversity.63

Universal Nature contains within herself more seeds of things thanMind contains Ideas. The power of a seed is weak. One seed can-not contain, nor accomplish, what one Idea can have and do.Therefore the power of a single Idea is distributed among manyseeds to compensate for their weakness by numbers. And matter ismade into many forms under one seed.66 Even if visible corporeal

b2 In Plotini libmm De providentia, ch. 2, Opera omnia, p. 1687.63 Ibid., ch. 3, Opera omnia, p. 1688.64 Ibid., ch. 15, Opera omnia, p. 1695.65 'videtur haec ipsa ratio non aliter propagare seipsam, quam plantae radix in

stipitem atque ramos & reliqua . . . Atque ita ratio seminaria mundi, vita quidem,sed divinorum universaliumque ultima, videtur sub ipsa videlicet diversitatis ideaseipsam in se per diversa articulatim contrariaque diffundere.' Ibid., ch. 16, Operaomnia, p. 1697.

66 'Natura plura continet in se rerum semina quam mens ideas. Quum enim naturae

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seeds are not found everywhere throughout the mass of the world,there are assuredly innumerable invisible seeds and seminal reasonswhich are manifest to the senses through their operations. And naturehas no choice but to make the forms determined by the seminal rea-sons. By these, acting as principles and rules, nature has completedetermination over motion. The qualities springing up are naturallygathered into a confined space, and are led to a single productionby balanced moderation. This production is multiform but respectsuniform harmonious order.67

Nature gives birth to living beings without visible seeds but withseminal reasons, and procreates the qualities of the elements throughincorporeal seeds without the help of the elements. Whatever itspower is, the seminal reason possesses it from the beginning. Thereason 'does not know what it is making' but produces it withoutknowing.68 The world multiplies through the 'seminal power' of theWorld-Soul, just as any living being does from its own seed, whichpossesses such a power. The World-Soul acts with supreme powerto the extent that its intellect forms its reason-principle and henceits nature. The reason-principle, which naturally runs in differentdirections, is made pregnant with the seeds of everything. Thus therational form of the world is born from an intimate rational motionthrough the seminal reasons of things.69

7. The sources for his concept of seeds

We hope to have shown the principal features of the Florentinemetaphysician's concept of seeds. On the one hand, he faithfully fol-lowed Plotinian doctrine of the logoi spermatikoi using the term 'rationesseminales', notably in the De vita coelitus comparanda and the com-mentary on Plotinus, that is, in his mature thought. He discoveredthe theory of logoi spermatikoi in Plotinus and united it with Thomas

seminisque virtus sit debilior, non potest in uno semine comprehendere, perqueunum facere quaecumque idea possidet potestque una. Ergo per plura semina dis-tribuitur ideae unicae vigor virtutisque debilitas numero compensatur. Eadem rationemateria in plures perducitur sub unoquoque semine formas.' Ibid., ch. 17, Operaomnia, p. 1697.

b/ In Plotini librum De natura et contemplatione et uno. Opera omnia, p. 1723.68 Ibid., Opera omnia, p. 1724.69 In Plotini librum primum De dubiis animae, Opera omnia, p. 1737.

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Aquinas's doctrine of 'substantial form'.70 For this reason, we canperhaps say that the Ficinian system subordinated Peripatetic physics(or hylomorphism) to Neoplatonic metaphysics. On the other hand,at the beginning of his career, Ficino already broached the conceptof seeds in identifying nature with the 'seminal power' that germi-nates and generates. The total sum of particular natures is for himUniversal Mother Nature, the 'seminary of the world', or the 'World-Seedbed'. It seems then that these two conceptions are not com-pletely identical, although they are used in a way that is sometimesvery close.71 In any event, we can say that in the universe of Ficinothere are, below the seminal reasons of the World-Soul, the multi-ple seeds of Universal Nature which determine the destiny of eachbeing. What are the possible sources for his notion of seeds?

Ficino doubtless drew the notion of seeds principally from Neo-platonic writings. It is natural to suppose that he found the key inhis chief guides to Platonism, Plotinus and Proclus.72 Besides theNeoplatonists, can we find any indication in the dialogues of Platohimself? Plato speaks of seeds in the Timaeus, probably underPythagorean influence. The subjects are the seed of the Athenianpeople (23c), the oracle of God the Sower (41c-D), the seed whichis identified with the element of fire (56B), and is in the panspermiamade from primary triangles and identified with human marrow(73c).73 Against such Presocratic notions, Aristotle set out refutationsin his Metaphysics which is likewise a rich source for Presocratic con-cepts of cosmogonic seed.74

70 See B. P. Copenhaver, 'Renaissance Magic and Neoplatonic Philosophy', esp.pp. 355 and 368-69.

71 M. J. B. Allen remarks that, in his commentary on Plato's Second Letter, Ficinowould later reduce the number of orders of divine species from four to three: forms,reasons and Ideas, which relate to matter, the soul and the divine Mind respec-tively. By this, Ficino links, but does not identify, forms with seeds, and he distin-guishes seminal reasons from higher reasons. Therefore forms, seeds and seminalreasons return to the World-Soul, while higher reasons go to the divine Mind, andthe Ideas to the One. The hypostasis of 'nature' is suppressed. See Allen, 'MarsilioFicino on Plato', pp. 573-74.

72 See Plotinus, Enneads, III.1.7, III.2.2, III.7.11, IV.3.10, IV.4.29 and 39, V.1.5,V.3.8, V.7.3, V.9.6, VI.3.16, VI.7.5; Proclus, Commentary on the Timaeus, 1.51.31,1.99.17, 1.143.18 and 30, 1.300.13, 1.430.5-8, 1.449.14, 11.66.20; 11.73.17-18, 11.131.22,II.146.5, 11.193.27, III.188.7-9, III.191.7, 111.192.22, III.233.4-25, III.248.10,111.296.12.

73 He had no further recourse to Chalcidius on this subject, despite the latter'suse of seeds.

74 Aristotle, Metaphysics, I.3.983b, VIII.4.1043a, XII.8.1072b, XIV.3.1091a,XIV.5.1092a.

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Now Ficino established his version of the chain of ancient the-ologians based on the belief that a single truth was transmitted fromthe time of Moses and Hermes-Mercury Trismegistus until the timeof Plato, and was finally revealed by Jesus Christ. This late Hellenisticvision, elaborated in the Renaissance, has been studied particularlyby D. P. Walker.75 This is the 'ancient theology' (prisca theologia).Among the ancient theologians, Ficino venerated especially Zoroaster,Hermes, Orpheus, Pythagoras and Plato. Even if the Chaldean Oracleswrongly attributed to Zoroaster do not speak of seeds,76 we can findan allusion to the seeds t