de hominis dignitate
egi, Patres colendissimi, in Arabum monumentis, interrogatum Abdalam sarracenum, quid in hac quasi mundana scena admirandum maxime spectaretur, nihil spectari homine admirabilius respondisse. Cui sententiæ illud Mercurii adstipulatur: „Magnum, o Asclepi, miraculum est homo“.🞯Asclepius vi: „Propter hoc, o Asclepi, magnum miraculum est homo. O animal adorandum atque honorandum! Hoc enim in naturam Dei transit, quasi ipse sit Deus, hoc dæmonum genus novit, utpote qui cum iisdem ortum se esse cognoscat. Hoc humanæ naturæ partem in se ipso despicit, alterius partis divinitate confisus.“
Horum dictorum rationem cogitanti mihi non satis illa faciebant, quæ multa de humanæ naturæ præstantia afferuntur a multis: esse hominem creaturarum internuntium, superis familiarem, regem inferiorum; sensuum perspicacia, rationis indagine, intelligentiæ lumine, naturæ interpretem; stabilis evi et fluxi temporis interstitium, et (quod Persæ dicunt) mundi copulam, immo hymeneum, ab angelis, teste Davide, paulo deminutum.
Magna hæc quidem, sed non principalia, idest quæ summæ admirationis privilegium sibi iure vendicent. Cur enim non ipsos angelos et beatissimos cæli choros magis admiremur? Tandem intellexisse mihi sum visus, cur felicissimum proindeque dignum omni admiratione animal sit homo, et quæ sit demum illa conditio quam in universi serie sortitus sit, non brutis modo, sed astris, sed ultramundanis mentibus invidiosam. Res supra fidem et mira. Quidni? Nam et propterea magnum miraculum et admirandum profecto animal iure homo et dicitur et existimatur. Sed quæ nam ea sit audite, Patres, et benignis auribus pro vestra humanitate hanc mihi operam condonate.
Iam summus Pater architectus Deus hanc quam videmus mundanam domum, divinitatis templum augustissimum, archanæ legibus sapientiæ fabrefecerat. Supercelestem regionem mentibus decorarat; ethereos globos æternis animis vegetarat; excrementarias ac feculentas inferioris mundi partes omnigena animalium turba complerat. Sed, opere consumato, desiderabat artifex esse aliquem qui tanti operis rationem perpenderet, pulchritudinem amaret, magnitudinem admiraretur. Idcirco iam rebus omnibus (ut Moses Timeusque testantur) absolutis, de producendo homine postremo cogitavit. Verum nec erat in archetipis unde novam sobolem effingeret, nec in thesauris quod novo filio hereditarium largiretur, nec in subselliis totius orbis, ubi universi contemplator iste sederet. Iam plena omnia; omnia summis, mediis infimisque ordinibus fuerant distributa. Sed non erat paternæ potestatis in extrema fætura quasi effeta defecisse; non erat sapientiæ, consilii inopia in re necessaria fluctuasse; non erat benefici amoris, ut qui in aliis esset divinam liberalitatem laudaturus in se illam damnare cogeretur.
Statuit tandem optimus opifex, ut cui dari nihil proprium poterat commune esset quicquid privatum singulis fuerat. Igitur hominem accepit indiscretæ opus imaginis atque in mundi positum meditullio sic est alloquutus: „Nec certam sedem, nec propriam faciem, nec munus ullum peculiare tibi dedimus, o Adam, ut quam sedem, quam faciem, quæ munera tute optaveris, ea, pro voto, pro tua sententia, habeas et possideas. Definita cæteris natura intra præscriptas a nobis leges cohercetur. Tu, nullis angustiis cohercitus, pro tuo arbitrio, in cuius manu te posui, tibi illam prefinies. Medium te mundi posui, ut circumspiceres inde comodius quicquid est in mundo. Nec te celestem neque terrenum, neque mortalem neque immortalem fecimus, ut tui ipsius quasi arbitrarius honorariusque plastes et fictor, in quam malueris tute formam effingas. Poteris in inferiora quæ sunt bruta degenerare; poteris in superiora quæ sunt divina ex tui animi sententia regenerari“.
O summam Dei patris liberalitatem, summam et admirandam hominis foelicitatem! Cui datum id habere quod optat, id esse quod velit. Bruta simul atque nascuntur id secum afferunt (ut ait Lucilius) e bulga matris quod possessura sunt. Supremi spiritus aut ab initio aut paulo mox id fuerunt, quod sunt futuri in perpetuas æternitates. Nascenti homini omnifaria semina et omnigenæ vitæ germina indidit Pater. Quæ quisque excoluerit illa adolescent, et fructus suos ferent in illo. Si vegetalia planta fiet, si sensualia obrutescet, si rationalia cæleste evadet animal, si intellectualia angelus erit et Dei filius.🞯Jamblichos: Protreptikos: Αἰσϑήσεως μὲν οὖν ϰαὶ νοῡ ἀφαιϱεϑεὶς ἄνϑϱωπος φυτῷ γίγνεται παϱαπλήσιος, νοῦ δὲ πόνον ἀφῃϱημένος, ἐϰϑηϱιοῦται, ἀλογίας δε ἀφαιϱεϑεὶς μένων δ᾽ἐν τῷ νῷ ὁμοιοῦται ϑεῷ.
A man deprived of sense and intellect together is reduced to the condition of a plant; deprived of intellect alone he becomes a brute; deprived of immortality but yet remaining in the possession of intellect, he becomes similar to God. — Translated by T. Johnson, 1907. Et si nulla creaturarum sorte contentus in unitatis centrum suæ se receperit, unus cum Deo spiritus factus, in solitaria Patris caligine qui est super omnia constitutus omnibus antestabit.
Quis hunc nostrum chamæleonta non admiretur? Aut omnino quis aliud quicquam admiretur magis? Quem non immerito Asclepius Atheniensis versipellis huius et se ipsam transformantis naturæ argumento per Protheum in mysteriis significari dixit. Hinc illæ apud Hebræos et Pythagoricos methamorphoses celebratæ.
Nam et Hebræorum theologia secretior nunc Enoch sanctum in angelum divinitatis, quem vocant mālākh hashĕkhīnāh nunc in alia alios numina reformant. Et Pythagorici scelestos homines in bruta deformant et, si Empedocli creditur, etiam in plantas.🞯Cf. Empedokles, 117: ἤδη γάϱ ποτ’ ἐγὼ γενόμην ϰοῦϱός τε ϰόϱη τε, ϑάμνος τ᾿ οἰωνός τέ ϰαὶ ἔξαλος ἔλλοπος ἰχϑύς.
Ich war bereits einmal Knabe, Mädchen, Pflanze, Vogel und flutenttauchender, stummer Fisch. — Diels/Kranz I, p. 208. Quos imitatus Maumeth illud frequens habebat in ore, qui a divina lege recesserit brutum evadere, et merito quidem. Neque enim plantam cortex, sed stupida et nihil sentiens natura; neque iumenta corium, sed bruta anima et sensualis; nec cælum orbiculatum corpus, sed recta ratio; nec sequestratio corporis, sed spiritalis intelligentia angelum facit. Si quem enim videris deditum ventri, humi serpentem hominem, frutex est, non homo, quem vides; si quem in fantasiæ quasi Calipsus vanis præstigiis cecucientem et subscalpenti delinitum illecebra sensibus mancipatum, brutum est, non homo, quem vides. Si recta philosophum ratione omnia discernentem, hunc venereris; cæleste est animal, non terrenum. Si purum contemplatorem corporis nescium, in penetralia mentis relegatum, hic non terrenum, non cæleste animal: hic augustius est numen humana carne circumvestitum.
Ecquis hominem non admiretur? Qui non immerito in sacris litteris Mosaicis et Christianis, nunc omnis carnis, nunc omnis creaturæ appellatione designatur, quando se ipsum ipse in omnis carnis faciem, in omnis creaturæ ingenium effingit, fabricat et tansformat. Idcirco scribit Evantes Persa, ubi Chaldaicam theologiam enarrat, non esse homini suam ullam et nativam imaginem, extrarias multas et adventitias. Hinc illud Chaldæorum „Enōsh hu shınnūim vekammah těbhāoth baal haj idest“ homo variæ ac multiformis et desultoriæ naturæ animal.
Sed quorsum hæc? Ut intelligamus, postquam hac nati sumus conditione, ut id simus quod esse volumus, curare hoc potissimum debere nos, ut illud quidem in nos non dicatur, cum in honore essemus non cognovisse similes factos brutis et iumentis insipientibus. Sed illud potius Asaph prophetæ: „Dii estis et filii Excelsi omnes“, ne, abutentes indulgentissima Patris liberalitate, quam dedit ille liberam optionem, e salutari noxiam faciamus nobis. Invadat animum sacra quædam ambitio ut mediocribus non contenti anhelemus ad summa, adque illa (quando possumus si volumus) consequenda totis viribus enitamur. Dedignemur terrestria, cælestia contemnamus, et quicquid mundi est denique posthabentes, ultramundanam curiam eminentissimæ divinitati proximam advolemus. Ibi, ut sacra tradunt mysteria, Seraphin, Cherubin et Throni primas possident;🞯Cf. Dionysius Areopagita: De caelesti hierarchia, III, VI et VII. horum nos iam cedere nescii et secundarum impatientes et dignitatem et gloriam emulemur. Erimus illis, cum voluerimus, nihilo inferiores.
Sed qua ratione, aut quid tandem agentes? Videamus quid illi agant, quam vivant vitam. Eam si et nos vixerimus (possumus enim) illorum sortem iam equaverimus. Ardet Saraph charitatis igne; fulget Cherub intelligentiæ splendore; stat Thronus iudicii firmitate. Igitur si actuosæ addicti vitæ inferiorum curam recto examine susceperimus, Thronorum stata soliditate firmabimur. Si ab actionibus feriati, in opificio opificem, in opifice opificium meditantes, in contemplandi ocio negociabimur, luce Cherubica undique corruscabimus. Si charitate ipsum opificem solum ardebimus, illius igne, qui edax est, in Saraphicam effigiem repente flammabimur. Super Throno, idest iusto iudice, sedet Deus iudex seculorum. Super Cherub, idest contemplatore, volat atque eum quasi incubando fovet. Spiritus enim Domini fertur super aquas, has, inquam quæ super cælos sunt, quæ apud Iob Dominum laudant antelucanis hymnis. Qui Saraph, idest amator est, in Deo est, et Deus in eo, immo et Deus et ipse unum sunt. Magna Thronorum potestas, quam iudicando; summa Saraphinorum sublimitas, quam amando assequimur.
Sed quonam pacto vel iudicare quisquam vel amare potest incognita? Amavit Moses Deum quem vidit, et administravit iudex in populo quæ vidit prius contemplator in monte. Ergo medius Cherub sua luce et Saraphico igni nos præparat et ad Thronorum iudicium pariter illuminat. Hic est nodus primarum mentium, ordo palladicus,🞯Cicero: Somnium Scipionis 5: qui numerus rerum omnium fere nodus est.
Macrobius: Commentaria in somnium Scipionis 1,6,11: huic autem numero id est septenario adeo opinio virginitatis inolevit, ut Pallas quoque vocitetur. philosophiæ contemplativæ preses; hic nobis et emulandus primo et ambiendus, atque adeo comprehendendus est, unde et ad amoris rapiamur fastigia et ad munera actionum bene instructi paratique descendamus. At vero operæ precium, si ad exemplar vitæ Cherubicæ vita nostra formanda est, quæ illa et qualis sit, quæ actiones, quæ illorum opera, pre oculis et in numerato habere. Quod cum nobis per nos, qui caro sumus et quæ humi sunt sapimus, consequi non liceat, adeamus antiquos patres, qui de his rebus utpote sibi domesticis et cognatis locupletissimam nobis et certam fidem facere possunt. Consulamus Paulum apostolum vas electionis, quid ipse cum ad tertium sublimatus est cælum, agentes Cherubinorum exercitus viderit. Respondebit utique Dyonisio interprete: purgari illos, tum illuminari, postremo perfici.🞯Dionysius Areopagita: ϰαϑαίϱεσϑαι, φωτίζεσϑαι, τελεῖσϑαι. Πεϱὶ τῆς Οὐϱανίας Ἱεϱαϱχίας III, 165; VII, 208 sq.; VIII, 240.
Ergo et nos Cherubicam in terris vitam emulantes, per moralem scientiam affectuum impetus cohercentes, per dialecticam rationis caliginem discutientes, quasi ignorantiæ et vitiorum eluentes sordes animam purgemus, ne aut affectus temere debacchentur aut ratio imprudens quandoque deliret. Tum bene compositam ac expiatam animam naturalis philosophiæ lumine perfundamus, ut postremo divinarum rerum eam cognitione perficiamus.
Et ne nobis nostri sufficiant consulamus Iacob patriarcham cuius imago in sede gloriæ sculpta corruscat. Admonebit nos pater sapientissimus in inferno dormiens, mundo in superno vigilans. Sed admonebit per figuram (ita eis omnia contingebant) esse scalas ab imo solo ad cæli summa protensas multorum graduum serie distinctas; fastigio Dominum insidere, contemplatores angelos per eas vicibus alternantes ascendere et descendere.
Quod si hoc idem nobis angelicam affectantibus vitam factitandum est, queso, quis Domini scalas vel sordidato pede, vel male mundis manibus attinget? Impuro, ut habent mysteria, purum attingere nephas. Sed qui hi pedes? Quæ manus? Profecto pes animæ illa est portio despicatissima, qua ipsa materiæ tanquam terræ solo innititur, altrix inquam potestas et cibaria, fomes libidinis et voluptariæ mollitudinis magistra.🞯Philo of Alexandria: Πεϱι του ϑεοπεμπτους ειναι τους ονειϱους (De somniis) I, 146: ἡ μὲν οὖν ἐν ϰόσμῳ λεγομένη συμβολιϰῶς ϰλῖμαξ τοιαύτη ἐστί, τὴν δ´ ἐν ἀνϑϱώποις σϰοποῦντες εὑϱήσομεν τὴν ψυχήν, ἧς βάσις μὲν τὸ ὡσανεὶ γεῶδές ἐστιν, αἴσϑησις, ϰεφαλὴ δ´ ὡς ἂν τὸ οὐϱάνιον, ὁ ϰαϑαϱώτατος νοῦς.
The ladder therefore in the world which is here spoken of in this symbolical manner, was something of this sort. But if we carefully investigate the soul which exists in men, the foundation of which is something corporeal, and as it were earth-like, we shall find that the foundation to be the outward sense; and the head to be something heavenly, as it were the most pure mind. Manus animæ cur irascentiam non dixerimus, quæ appetentiæ propugnatrix pro ea decertat et sub pulvere ac sole predatrix rapit, quæ illa sub umbra dormitans helluetur? Has manus, hos pedes, idest totam sensualem partem in qua sedet corporis illecebra quæ animam obtorto (ut aiunt) detinet collo,🞯Asclepius xii: Res enim dulcis est in hac corporali vita, qui capitur de possessionibus fructus. Quare animam obtorto ut aiunt detinet collo, ut in parte sui, qua mortalis est, inhaereat, nec sinit partem divinitatis agnoscere, invidens immortalitati malignitas.
For in this life in body, it is a pleasant thing — the pleasure that one gets from one’s possessions. ’Tis for this cause that spite, in envy of its [hope of] immortality, doth clap the soul in prison, as they say, and keep it down, so that it stays in that part of itself in which it’s mortal, nor suffers it to know the part of its divinity. ne a scalis tamquam prophani pollutique reiciamur, morali philosophia quasi vivo flumine abluamus. At nec satis hoc erit, si per Iacob scalam discursantibus angelis comites esse volumus, nisi et a gradu in gradum rite promoveri, et a scalarum tramite deorbitare nusquam, et reciprocos obire excursus bene apti prius instructique fuerimus. Quod cum per artem sermocinalem sive rationariam erimus consequuti, iam Cherubico spiritu animati, per scalarum, idest naturæ gradus philosophantes, a centro ad centrum omnia pervadentes, nunc unum quasi Osyrim in multitudinem vi titanica discerpentes descendemus, nunc multitudinem quasi Osyridis membra in unum vi Phebea colligentes🞯Cf. Πλούταϱχος Πεϱί Ίσιδος ϰαι Οσίϱιδος (Moralia 23). ascendemus, donec in sinu Patris qui super scalas est tandem quiescentes, theologica foelicitate consumabimur.
Percontemur et iustum Iob, qui fedus iniit cum Deo vitæ prius quam ipse ederetur in vitam quid summus Deus in decem illis centenis millibus qui assistunt ei, potissimum desideret: pacem utique respondebit, iuxta id quod apud eum legitur: „Qui facit pacem in excelsis“. Et quoniam supremi ordinis monita medius ordo inferioribus interpretatur,🞯Cf. Dionysius Areopagita: Πεϱὶ τῆς οὐϱανίου ἱεϱαϱχίας VII, 209: Τοῦτο γοῦν οἱ ϑεολόγοι σαφῶς δηλοῦσι τὸ τὰς μὲν ὑφειμ ένας τῶν οὐϱανίων οὐσιῶν διαϰοσμήσεις πϱὸς τῶν ὑπεϱβεβηϰυιῶν εὐϰόσμως ἐϰδιδάσϰεσϑαι τὰς ϑεουϱγιϰὰς ἐπιστήμας, τὰς δὲ πασῶν ὑψηλοτέϱας ὑπ’ αὐτῆς ϑεαϱχίας ὡς ϑεμιτὸν τὰς μυήσεις ἐλλάμπεσϑαι.
This, then, the theologians distinctly shew that the subordinate Orders of the Heavenly Beings are taught by the superior, in due order, the deifying sciences; and that those who are higher than all are illuminated from Godhead itself, as far as permissible, in revelations of the Divine mysteries.
& IV, 181; VII, 240. interpretetur nobis Iob theologi verba Empedocles philosophus. Hic duplicem naturam in nostris animis sitam, quarum altera sursum tollimur ad celestia, altera deorsum trudimur ad inferna, per litem et amicitiam, sive bellum et pacem, ut sua testantur carmina,🞯Cf. Empedokles, fragmenta 17. 35. 115. nobis significat. In quibus se lite et discordia actum, furenti similem profugum a diis, in altum iactari conqueritur.🞯Cf. Empedokles, fragmentum 115: … τῶν ϰαὶ ἐγὼ νῦν εἰμὶ φυγὰς ϑεόϑεν ϰαὶ ἀλήτης, Νείϰει μαινομενῷ πίσυνος.
Zu diesen [Bestraften] gehöre jetzt auch ich, ein von Gott Gebannter und Irrender, da ich rasendem Streite vertraute. — Diels/Kranz I, p. 207.
Multiplex profecto, Patres, in nobis discordia; gravia et intestina domi habemus et plusquam civilia bella. Quæ si noluerimus, si illam affectaverimus pacem, quæ in sublime ita nos tollat ut inter excelsos Domini statuamur, sola in nobis compescet prorsus et sedabit philosophia: moralis primum, si noster homo ab hostibus indutias tantum quesierit, multiplicis bruti effrenes excursiones et leonis iurgia, iras animosque contundet. Tum si rectius consulentes nobis perpetuæ pacis securitatem desideraverimus, aderit illa et vota nostra liberaliter implebit, quippe quæ cesa utraque bestia, quasi icta porca, inviolabile inter carnem et spiritum foedus sanctissimæ pacis sanciet. Sedabit dyalectica rationis turbas inter orationum pugnantias et sillogismo captiones anxie tumultuantis. Sedabit naturalis philosophia opinionis lites et dissidia, quæ inquietam hinc inde animam vexant, distrahunt et lacerant. Sed ita sedabit, ut meminisse nos iubeat esse naturam iuxta Heraclytum ex bello genitam,🞯Cf. Heraklit fragmenta 10. 53. 80 (Diels/Kranz I, p. 63 sqq.). ob id ab Homero contentionem vocitatam. Idcirco in ea veram quietem et solidam pacem se nobis prestare non posse, esse hoc dominæ suæ, idest sanctissimæ theologiæ, munus et privilegium. Ad illam ipsa et viam monstrabit et comes ducet, quæ procul nos videns properantes: „Venite, inclamabit, ad me qui laborastis; venite et ego reficiam vos; venite ad me et dabo vobis pacem quam mundus et natura vobis dare non possunt“.
Tam blande vocati, tam benigniter invitati, alatis pedibus quasi terrestres Mercurii, in beatissimæ amplexus matris evolantes, optata pace perfruemur: pace sanctissima, individua copula, unianimi amicitia, qua omnes animi in una mente, quæ est super omnem mentem, non concordent adeo, sed ineffabili quodammodo unum penitus evadant. Hæc est illa amicitia quam totius philosophiæ finem esse Pythagorici dicunt,🞯Iamblichos, Ἰάμβλιχος: De vita Pythagorica, Πεϱὶ τοῦ Πυϑαγοϱιϰοῦ βίου 33 (240): οὐϰοῡν εἰς ϑεοϰϱασίαν τινὰ ϰαὶ τὴν πϱὸς τὸν ϑεὸν ἕνωσιν ϰαὶ τὴν τοῡ νοῦ ϰοινωνίαν ϰαὶ τὴς τῆς ϑείας ψυχῆς ἀπέβλεπεν αὐτοῖς ἡ πᾶσα τῆς φιλίας σπουδὴ δι᾿ ἔϱγων τε ϰαὶ λόγων
For them, all zeal for friendship in words and deeds was aimed at a kind of mingling with God, at a union with God, at a communion of the spirit with the divine soul. hæc illa pax quam facit Deus in excelsis suis, quam angeli in terram descendentes annuntiarunt hominibus bonæ voluntatis, ut per eam ipsi homines ascendentes in cælum angeli fierent. Hanc pacem amicis, hanc nostro optemus seculo, optemus unicuique domui quam ingredimur, optemus animæ nostræ, ut per eam ipsa Dei domus fiat; ut, postquam per moralem et dyalecticam suas sordes excusserit, multiplici philosophia quasi aulico apparatu se exornarit, portarum fastigia theologicis sertis coronarit, descendat Rex gloriæ et cum Patre veniens mansionem faciat apud eam. Quo tanto hospite si se dignam præstiterit, qua est illius immensa clementia, deaurato vestitu quasi toga nuptiali multiplici scientiarum circumdata varietate, speciosum hospitem, non ut hospitem iam, sed ut sponsum excipiet, a quo ne unquam dissolvatur dissolvi cupiet a populo suo et domum patris sui, immo se ipsam oblita, in se ipsa cupiet mori ut vivat in sponso, in cuius conspectu preciosa profecto mors sanctorum eius, mors, inquam, illa, si dici mors debet plenitudo vitæ cuius meditationem esse studium philosophiæ dixerunt sapientes.
Citemus et Mosem ipsum a sacrosanctæ et ineffabilis intelligentiæ fontana plenitudine, unde angeli suo nectare inebriantur, paulo deminutum. Audiemus venerandum iudicem nobis in deserta huius corporis solitudine habitantibus leges sic edicentem: „Qui polluti adhuc morali indigent, cum plebe habitent extra tabernaculum sub divo, quasi Thessali sacerdotes interim se expiantes. Qui mores iam composuerunt, in sanctuarium recepti, nondum quidem sacra attractent, sed prius dyaletico famulatu seduli levitæ philosophiæ sacris ministrent. Tum ad ea et ipsi admissi, nunc superioris Dei regiæ multicolorem, idest sydereum aulicum ornatum, nunc cæleste candelabrum septem luminibus distinctum, nunc pellicea elementa, in philosophiæ sacerdotio contemplentur, ut postremo per theologicæ sublimitatis merita in templi adita recepti, nullo imaginis intercedente velo, divinitatis gloria perfruantur“. Hæc nobis profecto Moses et imperat et imperando admonet, excitat, inhortatur, ut per philosophiam ad futuram cælestem gloriam, dum possumus iter paremus nobis.
Verum enimvero, nec Mosayca tantum aut Christiana mysteria, sed priscorum quoque theologia harum, de quibus disputaturus accessi, liberalium artium et emolumenta nobis et dignitatem ostendit. Quid enim aliud sibi volunt in Græcorum archanis observati initiatorum gradus, quibus primo per illas quas diximus quasi februales artes, moralem et dialeticam, purificatis, contingebat mysteriorum susceptio? Quæ quid aliud esse potest quam secretioris per philosophiam naturæ interpretatio? Tum demum ita dispositis illa adveniebat ἐποπτεία, idest rerum divinarum per theologiæ lumen inspectio. Quis talibus sacris initiari non appetat? Quis humana omnia posthabens, fortunæ contemnens bona, corporis negligens, deorum conviva adhuc degens in terris fieri non cupiat, et æternitatis nectare madidus mortale animal immortalitatis munere donari? Quis non Socraticis illis furoribus, a Platone in Fedro🞯Φαῖδϱος, Phaídros 244 sq. decantatis, sic afflari non velit ut alarum pedumque remigio hinc, idest ex mundo, qui est positus in maligno, propere aufugiens, ad cælestem Hierusalem concitatissimo cursu feratur? Agemur, Patres, agemur Socraticis furoribus, qui extra mentem ita nos ponant, ut mentem nostram et nos ponant in Deo. Agemur ab illis utique, si quid est in nobis ipsi prius egerimus; nam si et per moralem affectuum vires ita per debitas competentias ad modulos fuerint intentæ, ut immota invicem consonent concinentia, et per dyalecticam ratio ad numerum se progrediendo moverit, Musarum perciti furore celestem armoniam intimis auribus combibemus. Tum Musarum dux Bacchus in suis mysteriis, idest visibilius naturæ signis invisibilia Dei philosophantibus nobis ostendens, inebriabit nos ab ubertate domus Dei, in qua tota si uti Moses erimus fideles, accedens sacratissima theologia duplici furore nos animabit. Nam in illius eminentissimam sublimati speculam, inde et quæ sunt, quæ erunt quæque fuerint insectili metientes evo, et primevam pulchritudinem suspicientes, illorum Phebei vates, huius alati erimus amatores et ineffabili demum charitate, quasi æstro perciti, quasi Saraphini ardentes extra nos positi, numine pleni, iam non ipsi nos, sed ille erimus ipse qui fecit nos.
Sacra Apollinis nomina, si quis eorum significantias et latitantia perscrutetur misteria, satis ostendunt esse Deum illum non minus philosophum quam vatem. Quod cum Ammonius satis sit exequutus,🞯Πλούταϱχος, Plutarch: Πεϱὶ τοῦ εἶ τοῦ έν Δελφοῖς, De E apud Delphos, (Moralia 24), cap. 2: ὅτι μὲν γὰϱ οὐχ ἧττον ὁ ϑεὸς φιλόσοφος ἢ μάντις, ἐδόϰει 1 πᾶσιν ὀϱϑῶς πϱὸς τοῦτο τῶν ὀνομάτων ἕϰαστον Ἀμμώνιος τίϑεσϑαι ϰαὶ διδάσϰειν, ὡς Πύϑιος μέν ἐστι τοῖς ἀϱχομένοις μανϑάνειν ϰαὶ διαπυνϑάνεσϑαι: Δήλιος δὲ ϰαὶ Φαναῖος οἷς ἤδη τι δηλοῦται ϰαὶ ὑποφαίνεται τῆς ἀληϑείας
That the god is no less a philosopher than a prophet Ammonius seemed to all to postulate and prove correctly, with reference to this or to that one of his several titles1; that he is the ‘Pythian’ (Inquirer） for those that are beginning to learn and inquire ; the ‘Delian’ (Clear) and the ‘Phanaean’ (Disclosing) for those to whom some part of the truth is becoming clear and is being disclosed — Translated by Frank Cole Babbitt, 1936. non est cur ego nunc aliter pertractem; sed subeant animum, Patres, tria Delphica precepta oppido his necessaria, qui non ficti sed veri Apollinis, qui illuminat omnem animam venientem in hunc mundum, sacrosanctum et augustissimum templum ingressuri sunt; videbitis nihil aliud illa nos admonere, quam ut tripartitam hanc, de qua est presens disputatio, philosophiam totis viribus amplectamur. Illud enim μηδὲν ἄγαν, idest nequid nimis, virtutum omnium normam et regulam per mediocritatis rationem, de qua moralis agit, recte præscribit. Tum illud γνῶϑι σεαυτόν, idest cognosce te ipsum, ad totius naturæ nos cognitionem, cuius et interstitium et quasi cynnus natura est hominis, excitat et inhortatur. Qui enim se cognoscit, in se omnia cognoscit, ut Zoroaster prius, deinde Plato in Alcibiade scripserunt.🞯Ἀλϰιβιάδης αʹ, Alkibiades, 132d:
Σωϰϱάτης σϰόπει ϰαὶ σύ. εἰ ἡμῶν τῷ ὄμματι ὥσπεϱ ἀνϑϱώπῳ συμβουλεῦον εἶπεν ‘ἰδὲ σαυτόν,’ πῶς ἂν ὑπελάβομεν τί παϱαινεῖν; ἆϱα οὐχὶ εἰς τοῦτο βλέπειν, εἰς ὃ βλέπων ὁ ὀφϑαλμὸς ἔμελλεν αὑτὸν ἰδεῖν;
Socrates Consider in your turn: suppose that, instead of speaking to a man, it said to the eye of one of us, as a piece of advice “See thyself,” how should we apprehend the meaning of the admonition? Would it not be, that the eye should look at that by looking at which it would see itself?
133b: Σωϰϱάτης ἆϱ᾽ οὖν, ὦ φίλε Ἀλϰιβιάδη, ϰαὶ ψυχὴ εἰ μέλλει γνώσεσϑαι αὑτήν, εἰς ψυχὴν αὐτῇ βλεπτέον, ϰαὶ μάλιστ᾽ εἰς τοῦτον αὐτῆς τὸν τόπον ἐν ᾧ ἐγγίγνεται ἡ ψυχῆς ἀϱετή, σοφία, ϰαὶ εἰς ἄλλο ᾧ τοῦτο τυγχάνει ὅμοιον ὄν;
Socrates And if the soul too, my dear Alcibiades, is to know herself, she must surely look at a soul, and especially at that region of it in which occurs the virtue of a soul — wisdom, and at any other part of a soul which resembles this? Postremo hac cognitione per naturalem philosophiam illuminati iam Deo proximi, EI, idest es dicentes, theologica salutatione verum Apollinem familiariter proindeque foeliciter appellabimus.
Consulamus et Pythagoram sapientissimum, ob id præcipue sapientem, quod sapientis se dignum nomine nunquam existimavit. Precipiet primo ne super modium sedeamus,🞯Iamblichos: Protreptikos 117: Ἐπὶ χοίνιϰι μὴ ϰαϑέζου Πυϑαγοϱιϰώτεϱον ἐϰδέξαιτ’ ἄν τις ἐϰ τῶν αὐτῶν τοῖς ἄνωϑεν ὁϱμώμενος. — ἐπεὶ γὰϱ σωματότητι ϰαὶ ζῳωδίᾳ ϰαὶ οὐ χοίνιϰι μετϱητή ἐστιν ἡ τϱοφή, μὴ ἠϱέμει μηδ’ ἀμύητος φιλοσοφίας διατέλει, ἀλλ’ εἰς ταύτην σαυτὸν δοὺς ἐϰείνου μᾶλλον πϱονοοῦ τοῦ ἐν σοὶ ϑεοειδεστέϱου, ὅ ἐστι ψυχή, ϰαὶ πολὺ πϱότεϱον τοῦ ἐν ταύτῃ νοῦ, ὧν τϱοφὴ οὐ χοίνιϰι ἀλλὰ ϑεωϱίᾳ ϰαὶ μαϑήσει μετϱεῖται.
Cf. Ficino: Commentariolus in symbola Pythagorae II: modium animae eam vim significare arbitre, qua metimur iiudicamusque universa. idest rationalem partem, qua anima omnia metitur, iudicat et examinat, ociosa desidia ne remitentes amittamus, sed dyaletica exercitatione ac regula et dirigamus assidue et excitemus. Tum cavenda in primis duo nobis significabit ne, aut adversus solem emingamus, aut inter sacrificandum ungues resecemus. Sed postquam per moralem et superfluentium voluptatum fluxas eminxerimus appetentias, et unguium presegmina, quasi acutas iræ prominentias et animorum aculeos resecuerimus, tum demum sacris, idest de quibus mentionem fecimus Bacchi mysteriis, interesse, et cuius pater ac dux merito sol dicitur nostræ contemplationi vacare incipiamus. Postremo ut gallum nutriamus nos admonebit, idest ut divinam animæ nostræ partem divinarum rerum cognitione quasi solido cibo et cælesti ambrosia pascamus. Hic est gallus cuius aspectum leo, idest omnis terrena potestas formidat et reveretur. Hic ille gallus, cui datam esse intelligentiam apud Iob legimus. Hoc gallo canente aberrans homo resipiscit. Hic gallus in matutino crepusculo, matutinis astris Deum laudantibus, quotidie commodulatur. Hunc gallum moriens Socrates, cum divinitatem animi sui divinitati maioris mundi copulaturum se speraret, Sculapio, idest animarum medico, iam extra omne morbi discrimen positus, debere se dixit.🞯Platon: Φαίδων, Phaidon 118a: Ὃ δὴ τελευταῖον ἐφϑέγξατο — ‘ὦ Κϱίτων, ἔφη, τῷ Ἀσϰληπιῷ ὀφείλομεν ἀλεϰτϱυόνα: ἀλλὰ ἀπόδοτε ϰαὶ μὴ ἀμελήσητε.’.
And these were his last words — “Crito, we owe a cock to Aesculapius. Pay it and do not neglect it.” — Translated by Harold North Fowler.
Recenseamus et Chaldæorum monumenta, videbimus (si illis creditur) per easdem artes patere viam mortalibus ad felicitatem. Scribunt interpretes Chaldæi verbum fuisse Zoroastris alatam esse animam, cumque alæ exciderent ferri illam præceps in corpus, tum illis subcrescentibus ad superos revolare.🞯Cf. Platon: Φαῖδϱος, Phaidros 246c: ... μὲν οὖν οὖσα ϰαὶ ἐπτεϱωμένη μετεωϱοποϱεῖ τε ϰαὶ πάντα τὸν ϰόσμον διοιϰεῖ, ἡ δὲ πτεϱοϱϱυήσασα φέϱεται ἕως ἂν στεϱεοῦ τινος ἀντιλάβηται, οὗ ϰατοιϰισϑεῖσα, σῶμα γήϊνον λαβοῦσα, αὐτὸ αὑτὸ δοϰοῦν ϰινεῖν διὰ τὴν ἐϰείνης δύναμιν, ζῷον τὸ σύμπαν ἐϰλήϑη, ψυχὴ ϰαὶ σῶμα παγέν, ϑνητόν τ᾽ ἔσχεν ἐπωνυμίαν
... and fully winged, it mounts upward and governs the whole world; but the soul which has lost its wings is borne along until it gets hold of something solid, when it settles down, taking upon itself an earthly body, which seems to be self-moving, because of the power of the soul within it; and the whole, compounded of soul and body, is called a living being, and is further designated as mortal. — Translated by Harold N. Fowler, 1925. Percunctantibus eum discipulis quo pacto alis bene plumantibus volucres animos sortirentur: „Irrigetis, dixit, alas aquis vitæ“. Iterum sciscitantibus unde has aquas peterent, sic per parabolam (qui erat hominis mos) illis respondit: „Quatuor amnibus paradisus Dei abluitur et irrigatur. Indidem vobis salutares aquas hauriatis. Nomen ei qui ab aquilone Pischon, quod rectum denotat, ei qui ab occasu Gichon, quod expiationem significat, ei qui ab ortu Chiddekel, quod lumen sonat, ei qui a meridie Perath, quod nos pietatem interpretari possumus“. Advertite animum et diligenter considerate, Patres, quid hæc sibi velint Zoroastris dogmata: profecto nihil aliud nisi ut morali scientia, quasi undis Hibericis, oculorum sordes expiemus; dialetica, quasi boreali amussi, illorum aciem lineemus ad rectum. Tum in naturali contemplatione debile adhuc veritatis lumen, quasi nascentis solis incunabula, pati assuescamus, ut tandem per theologicam pietatem et sacratissimum Dei cultum, quasi cælestes aquilæ, meridiantis solis fulgidissimum iubar fortiter perferamus. Hæ illæ forsan et a Davide decantatæ primum, et ab Augustino explicatæ latius, matutinæ, meridianæ et vespertinæ cognitiones. Hæc est illa lux meridialis, quæ Saraphinos ad lineam inflammat et Cherubinos pariter illuminat. Hæc illa regio, quam versus semper antiquus pater Abraam proficiscebatur. Hic ille locus, ubi immundis spiritibus locum non esse et Cabalistarum et Maurorum dogmata tradiderunt. Et si secretiorum aliquid misteriorum fas est vel sub enigmate in publicum proferre, postquam et repens e cælo casus nostri hominis caput vertigine damnavit et iuxta Hieremiam, ingressa per fenestras mors iecur pectusque male affecit, Raphælem coelestem medicum advocemus, qui nos morali et dialetica uti pharmacis salutaribus liberet. Tum ad valitudinem bonam restitutos, iam Dei robur Gabriel inhabitabit, qui nos per naturæ ducens miracula, ubique Dei virtutem potestatemque indicans, tandem sacerdoti summo Michæli nos tradet qui, sub stipendiis philosophiæ emeritos, theologiæ sacerdotio quasi corona preciosi lapidis insignet.
Hæc sunt, Patres colendissimi, quæ me ad philosophiæ studium non animarunt modo sed compulerunt. Quæ dicturus certe non eram, nisi his responderem qui philosophiæ studium in pricipibus præsertim viris, aut his omnino qui mediocri fortuna vivunt, damnare solent. Est enim iam hoc totum philosophari (quæ est nostræ etatis infoelicitas) in contemptum potius et contumeliam, quam in honorem et gloriam. Ita invasit fere omnium mentes exitialis hæc et monstrosa persuasio, aut nihil aut paucis philosophandum. Quasi rerum causas, naturæ vias, universi rationem, Dei consilia, cælorum, terræque mysteria, pre oculis, pre manibus exploratissima habere nihil sit prorsus, nisi vel gratiam inde aucupari aliquam, vel lucrum sibi quis comparare possit. Quin eo deventum est ut iam (proh dolor!) non existimentur sapientes nisi qui mercennarium faciunt studium sapientiæ, ut sit videre pudicam Palladem, deorum munere inter homines diversantem, eiici, explodi, exsibilari, non habere qui amet, qui faveat, nisi ipsa, quasi prostans et præfloratæ virginitatis accepta mercedula, male paratum æs in amatoris arculam referat.
Quæ omnia ego non sine summo dolore et indignatione in huius temporis, non principes, sed philosophos dico, qui ideo non esse philosophandum et credunt et prædicant, quod philosophis nulla merces, nulla sint præmia constituta, quasi non ostendant ipsi, hoc uno nomine, se non esse philosophos. Quod cum tota eorum vita sit vel in questu, vel in ambitione posita, ipsam per se veritatis cognitionem non amplectuntur. Dabo hoc mihi, et me ipsum hac ex parte laudare nihil erubescam, me numquam alia de causa philosophatum nisi ut philosopharer, nec ex studiis meis, ex meis lucubrationibus, mercedem ullam aut fructum vel sperasse alium vel quesiisse, quam animi cultum et a me semper plurimum desideratæ veritatis cognitionem. Cuius ita cupidus semper et amantissimus fui ut, relicta omni privatarum et publicarum rerum cura, contemplandi ocio totum me tradiderim; a quo nullæ invidiorum obtrectationes, nulla hostium sapientiæ maledicta, vel potuerunt ante hac, vel in posterum me deterrere poterunt. Docuit me ipsa philosophia a propria potius conscientia quam ab externis pendere iuditiis, cogitareque semper, non tam ne male audiam, quam ne quid male vel dicam ipse vel agam.
Equidem non eram nescius, Patres colendissimi, futuram hanc ipsam meam disputationem quam vobis omnibus qui bonis artibus favetis et augustissima vestra præsentia illam honestare voluistis, gratam atque iocundam, tam multis aliis gravem atque molestam; et scio non deesse qui inceptum meum et damnarint ante hac et in præsentia multis nominibus damnent. Ita consueverunt non pauciores, ne dicam plures, habere oblatratores quæ bene sancteque aguntur ad virtutem, quam quæ inique et perperam ad vitium. Sunt autem qui totum hoc disputandi genus et hanc de litteris publice disceptandi institutionem non approbent, ad pompam potius ingenii et doctrinæ, ostentationem quam ad comparandam eruditionem esse illam asseverantes. Sunt qui hoc quidem exercitationis genus non improbent, sed in me nullo modo probent, quod ego hac ætate, quartum scilicet et vigesimum modo natus annum, de sublimibus Christianæ theologiæ mysteriis, de altissimis philosophiæ locis, de incognitis disciplinis, in celebratissima urbe, in amplissimo doctissimorum hominum consessu, in apostolico senatu, disputationem proponere sim ausus. Alii, hoc mihi dantes quod disputem, id dare nolunt quod de nongentis disputem questionibus, tam superfluo et ambitiose quam supra vires id factum calumniantes. Horum ego obiectamentis et manus illico dedissem, si ita quam profiteor philosophia me edocuisset et nunc, illa ita me docente, non responderem, si rixandi iurgandique proposito constitutam hanc inter nos disceptationem crederem. Quare, obtrectandi omne lacessendique propositum, et quem scribit Plato a divino semper abesse choro,🞯Cf. Platon: Φαῖδϱος, Phaidros 247a: φϑόνος γὰϱ ἔξω ϑείου χοϱοῦ ἵσταται.
for jealousy is excluded from the celestial band. — Translated by Harold N. Fowler, 1925. a nostris quoque mentibus facessat livor, et an disputandum a me, an de tot etiam questionibus, amice incognoscamus.
Primum quidem ad eos, qui hunc publice disputandi morem calumniantur, multa non sum dicturus, quando hæc culpa, si culpa censetur, non solum vobis omnibus, doctores excellentissimi, qui sepius hoc munere, non sine summa et laude et gloria, functi estis, sed Platoni, sed Aristoteli, sed probatissimis omnium etatum philosophis mecum est communis. Quibus erat certissimum nihil ad consequendam quam querebant veritatis cognitionem sibi esse, potius quam ut essent in disputandi exercitatione frequentissimi. Sicut enim per gymnasticam corporis vires firmiores fiunt, ita dubio procul, in hac quasi litteraria palestra, animi vires et fortiores longe et vegetiores evadunt. Nec crediderim ego aut poetas aliud per decantata Palladis arma, aut Hebræos, cum barzel, ferrum, sapientum symbolum esse dicunt, significasse nobis quam honestissima hoc genus certamina, adipiscendæ sapientiæ oppido quam necessaria. Quo forte fit ut et Caldei in eius genesi qui philosophus sit futurus, illud desiderent, ut Mars et Mercurium triquetro aspectu conspiciat, quasi, si hos congressus, hæc bella substuleris, somniculosa et dormitans futura sit omnis philosophia.
At vero cum his qui me huic provintiæ imparem dicunt, difficilior est mihi ratio defensionis: nam si parem me dixero, forsitan inmodesti et de se nimia sentientis, si imparem fatebor, temerarii et inconsulti notam videor subiturus. Videte quas incidi angustias, quo loco sim constitutus, dum non possum sine culpa de me promittere quod non possum mox sine culpa non præstare. Forte et illud Iob afferre possem spiritum esse, spiritum esse in omnibus, et cum Timotheo audire: „Nemo contemnat adolescientiam tuam“. Sed ex mea verius hoc conscientia dixero, nihil esse in nobis magnum vel singulare; studiosum me forte et cupidum bonarum artium non inficiatus, docti tamen nomen mihi nec sumo nec arrogo. Quare et quod tam grande humeris onus imposuerim, non fuit propterea quod mihi conscius nostræ infirmitatis non essem, sed quod sciebam hoc genus pugnis, idest litterariis, esse peculiare quod in eis lucrum est vinci. Quo fit ut imbecillissimus quisque non detrectare modo, sed appetere ultro eas iure possit et debeat. Quandoquidem qui succumbit beneficium a victore accipit, non iniuriam, quippe qui per eum et locupletior domum, idest doctior et ad futuras pugnas redit instructior. Hac spe animatus, ego infirmus miles cum fortissimis omnium strenuisssimisque tam gravem pugnam decernere nihil sum veritus. Quod tamen temere sit factum nec ne, rectius utique de eventu pugnæ quam de nostra ætate potest quis iudicare.
Restat ut tertio loco his respondeam, qui numerosa propositarum rerum multitudine offenduntur, quasi hoc eorum humeris sederet onus, et non potius hic mihi soli quantuscumque est labor, esset exanclandus. Indecens profecto hoc et morosum nimis, velle alienæ industriæ modum ponere, et, ut inquit Cicero in ea re quæ eo melior quo maior, mediocritatem desiderare. Omnino tam grandibus ausis erat necesse me vel succumbere vel satisfacere; si satisfacerem, non video cur quod in decem præstare questionibus est laudabile, in nongentis etiam præstitisse culpabile existimetur. Si succumberem, habebunt ipsi, si me oderunt, unde accusarent, si amant unde excusent. Quoniam in re tam gravi, tam magna, tenui ingenio, exiguaque doctrina, adolescentem hominem defecisse, venia potius dignum erit quam accusatione. Quin et iuxta poetam:
„si deficiant vires, audacia certe
laus erit: in magnis et voluisse sat est“.🞯Sextus Propertius: Elegiarum liber secundus, x
Quod si nostra ætate multi, Gorgiam Leontinum🞯Γοϱγίας ο Λεοντίνος, 483–375 BC, with Protagoras the first generation of Sophists. Diels/Kranz: Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, 6th ed., vol. 2, Berlin: Weidmann, 1952. imitati, non modo de nongentis sed de omnibus etiam omnium artium questionibus soliti sunt, non sine laude, proponere disputationem, cur mihi non liceat, vel sine culpa, de multis quidem, sed tamen certis et determinatis disputare?
At superfluum inquiunt hoc et ambitiosum. Ego vero non superfluo modo, sed necessario factum hoc a me contendo, quod et si ipsi mecum philosophandi rationem considerarent, inviti etiam fateantur plane necesse est. Qui enim se cuipiam ex philosophorum familiis addixerunt, Thomæ videlicet aut Scoto, qui nunc plurimum in manibus, faventes, possunt illi quidem vel in paucarum questionum discussione suæ doctrinæ periculum facere. At ego ita me institui, ut in nullius verba iuratus,🞯Quintus Horatius Flaccus: Epistulae I, i, 14: nullius addictus iurare in verba magistri me per omnes philosophiæ magistros funderem, omnes scedas excuterem, omnes familias agnoscerem. Quare, cum mihi de illis omnibus esset dicendum, ne, si privati dogmatis defensor reliqua posthabuissem, illi viderer obstrictus, non potuerunt, etiam si pauca de singulis proponerentur, non esse plurima quæ simul de omnibus afferebantur. Nec id in me quisquam damnet, quod me quocumque ferat tempestas deferar hospes.🞯Quintus Horatius Flaccus: Epistulae I, i, 15: quo me cumque rapit tempestas, deferor hospes Fuit enim cum ab antiquis omnibus hoc observatum, ut omne scriptorum genus evolventes, nullas quas possent commentationes illectas preterirent, tum maxime ab Aristotele, qui eam ob causam ἀναγνώστης, idest lector, a Platone nuncupabatur, et profecto angustæ est mentis intra unam se Porticum aut Achademiam continuisse. Nec potest ex omnibus sibi recte propriam selegisse, qui omnes prius familiariter non agnoverit. Adde quod in una quaque familia est aliquid insigne, quod non sit ei commune cum cæteris.
Atque ut a nostris, ad quos postremo philosophia pervenit, nunc exordiar, est in Ioanne Scoto vegetum quiddam atque discussum, in Thoma solidum et equabile, in Egidio tersum et exactum, in Francisco acre et acutum, in Alberto priscum, amplum et grande, in Henrico, ut mihi visum est, semper sublime et venerandum.🞯Aegidius Romanus, ca. 1243 – 22 December 1316, Medieval philosopher and Scholastic theologian, famed as being a logician, producing a commentary on the Organon by Aristotle. Est apud Arabes, in Averroe firmum et inconcusum, in Avempace, in Alpharabio grave et meditatum, in Avicenna divinum atque Platonicum.🞯Averroes, Ibn Rushd, 14 April 1126 – 11 December 1198, a strong proponent of Aristotelianism. — Cf. J. L. Borges: La Busca de Averroes.
Alfarabi, Abu Nasr Muhammad Al-Farabi, ca. 872 – 950/951, wrote in the fields of political philosophy, metaphysics, ethics and logic.
Avicenna, Ibn Sina, 980-1037, one of the most significant physicians, astronomers, philosophers, and writers of the Islamic Golden Age. Est apud Græcos in universum quidem nitida, in primis et casta philosophia; apud Simplicium locuplex et copiosa, apud Themistium elegans et compendiaria, apud Alexandrum constans et docta, apud Theophrastum gravite elaborata, apud Ammonium enodis et gratiosa.🞯Simplicius of Cilicia, Σιμπλίϰιος ὁ Κίλιξ, ca. 490–560, a disciple of Ammonius Hermiae and Damascius, one of the last of the Neoplatonists.
Themistius, Θεμίστιος, 317–ca. 388, a statesman, rhetorician, and philosopher, orations, various commentaries and epitomes of the works of Aristotle.
Alexander of Aphrodisias, Ἀλέξανδϱος ὁ Ἀφϱοδισιεύς, fl. 200, a Peripatetic philosopher, the most celebrated of the ancient Greek commentators on the writings of Aristotle.
Theophrastus, Θεόφϱαστος, ca. 371 – ca. 287 BC, a Greek philosopher, the successor to Aristotle in the Peripatetic school.
Ammonius Hermiae, Ἀμμώνιος ὁ Ἑϱμείου, ca. 435 – 517/526, a pupil of Proclus in Roman Athens, taught at Alexandria. Et si ad Platonicos te converteris, ut paucos percenseam, in Porphirio rerum copia et multiiuga religione delectaberis, in Iamblico secretiorem philosophiam et barbarorum mysteria veneraberis, in Plotino privum quicquam non est quod admireris, qui se undique prebet admirandum, quem de divinis divine, de humanis longe supra hominem docta sermonis obliquitate loquentem, sudantes Platonici vix intelligunt. Pretereo magis novitios, Proculum Asiatica fertilitate luxuriantem et qui ab eo fluxerunt Hermiam, Damascum, Olympiodorum et complures alios,🞯Porphyry of Tyre, Ποϱφύϱιος, cc. 234–305, Neoplatonic philosopher, edited and published The Enneads, the only collection of the work of Plotinus, his teacher. His Isagoge, an introduction to logic and philosophy, was in its Latin translation the standard textbook on logic throughout the Middle Ages.
Proklos, Πϱόϰλος ὁ Διάδοχος, 412–485, Neoplatonist philosopher, wrote a commentary on the Enneads.
Hermias, Ἑϱμείας ἐϰ Φοινίϰης, ca. 410-450, Neoplatonist philosopher, born in Alexandria, wrote a commentary on the Phaedrus.
Damaskios, Δαμάσϰιος, ca. 458 – after 538, his surviving works consist of three commentaries on the Parmenides, Phaedo, Philebus,Timaeus, first Alcibiades, and a metaphysical text entitled Difficulties and Solutions of First Principles, ἀποϱίαι ϰαὶ λύσεις πεϱὶ τῶν πϱώτων ἀϱχῶν.
Olympiodoros, Ὀλυμπιόδωϱος ὁ Νεώτεϱος, ca. 495–570, a Neoplatonist philosopher, astrologer and teacher, works: Σχόλια εἰς τὸν Πλάτωνος Ἀλϰιβιάδην, Σχόλια σὺν ϑεῷ εἰς τὸν Γοϱγίαν, Σχόλια εἰς τὸν Πλάτωνος Φαίδωνα, Εἰς τὰ πϱολεγόμενα τῆς Λογιϰῆς, Εἰς τὸ πϱῶτον τῶν Μετεωϱολογιϰῶν Ἀϱιστοτέλους σχόλια, Σχόλια εἰς τὰς Ἀϱιστοτέλους Κατηγοϱίας, Σχόλια εἰς τὸ Ἀϱιστοτέλους Πεϱὶ Ἑϱμηνείας. in quibus omnibus illud τὸ ϑεῖον, idest divinum peculiare Platonicorum simbolum elucet semper.
Accedit quod, si qua est secta quæ veriora incessat dogmata et bonas causas ingenii calumnia ludificetur, ea veritatem firmat, non infirmat, et, velut motu quassatam flammam, excitat, non extinguit. Hac ego ratione motus, non unius modo (ut quibusdam placebat), sed omnigenæ doctrinæ placita in medium afferre volui, ut hac complurium sectarum collatione ac multifariæ discussione philosophiæ, ille veritatis fulgor, cuius Plato meminit in Epistolis,🞯Ἐπιστολαί, VII,341ξ-δ: ῥητὸν γὰϱ οὐδαμῶς ἐστιν ὡς ἄλλα μαϑήματα, ἀλλ᾽ ἐϰ πολλῆς συνουσίας γιγνομένης πεϱὶ τὸ πϱᾶγμα αὐτὸ ϰαὶ τοῦ συζῆν ἐξαίφνης, οἷον ἀπὸ πυϱὸς πηδήσαντος ἐξαφϑὲν φῶς, ἐν τῇ ψυχῇ γενόμενον αὐτὸ ἑαυτὸ ἤδη τϱέφει.
For it does not at all admit of verbal expression like other studies, but, as a result of continued application to the subject itself and communion therewith, it is brought to birth in the soul on a sudden, as light that is kindled by a leaping spark, and thereafter it nourishes itself. — Translated by R. G. Bury, 1966. animis nostris quasi sol oriens ex alto clarius illucesceret. Quid erat, si Latinorum tantum, Alberti scilicet, Thomæ, Scoti, Egidii, Francisci, Henricique philosophia, obmissis Græcorum Arabumque philosophis, tractabatur? Quando omnis sapientia a Barbaris ad Græcos, a Græcis ad nos manavit. Ita nostrates semper in philosophandi ratione peregrinis inventis stare, et aliena excoluisse sibi duxerunt satis. Quid erat cum Peripateticis egisse de naturalibus nisi et Platonicorum accersebatur Achademia, quorum doctrina et de divinis semper inter omnes philosophias, teste Augustino, habita est sancitissima et a me nunc primum, quod sciam, (verbo absit invidia) post multa secula sub disputandi examen est in publicum allata. Quid erat et aliorum quot quot erant tractasse opiniones, si quasi ad sapientum symposium asymboli accedentes, nihil nos quod esset nostrum, nostro partum et elaboratum ingenio, afferebamus? Profecto ingenerosum est, ut ait Seneca,🞯Seneca: Epistulae morales ad Lucilium IV,33,7: Ideo pueris et sententias ediscendas damus et has quas Graeci chrias vocant, quia complecti illas puerilis animus potest, qui plus adhuc non capit. Certi profectus viro captare flosculos turpe est et fulcire se notissimis ac paucissimis vocibus et memoria stare: sibi iam innitatur. Dicat ista, non teneat; turpe est enim seni aut prospicienti senectutem ex commentario sapere.
That is why we give to children a proverb, or that which the Greeks call Chreia, to be learned by heart; that sort of thing can be comprehended by the young mind, which cannot as yet hold more. For a man, however, whose progress is definite, to chase after choice extracts and to prop his weakness by the best known and the briefest sayings and to depend upon his memory, is disgraceful; it is time for him to lean on himself. He should make such maxims and not memorize them. For it is disgraceful even for an old man, or one who has sighted old age, to have a note-book knowledge. — Translated by Frank Justus Miller. sapere solum ex commentario et quasi maiorum inventa nostræ industriæ viam præcluserint, quasi in nobis effæta sit vis naturæ, nihil ex se parere, quod veritatem, si non demonstret, saltem innuat vel de longinquo. Quod si in agro colonus, in uxore maritus odit sterilitatem, certe tanto magis infecundam animam oderit illi complicita et associata divina mens, quanto inde nobilior longe proles desideratur.
Propterea non contentus ego, præter comunes doctrinas multa de Mercurii Trismegisti prisca theologia,🞯Ἑϱμῆς ὁ Τϱισμέγιστος, Hermes the Thrice-Greatest, Mercurius ter Maximus. The Hermetica encompasses a broad variety of treatises dealing with astrology, medicine and pharmacology, alchemy, and magic. The Greek Corpus Hermeticum was translated by Marsilio Ficino (1433–1499) and Lodovico Lazzarelli (1447–1500). Einiges unter Texte. multa de Caldeorum, de Pythagoræ disciplinis, multa de secretioribus Hebræorum addidisse mysteriis, plurima quoque per nos inventa et meditata, de naturalibus et divinis rebus disputanda proposuimus.
Proposuimus primo Platonis Aristotelisque concordiam a multis ante hac creditam, a nemine satis probatam. Boetius, apud Latinos id se facturum pollicitus, non invenitur fecisse unquam quod semper facere voluit.🞯Boethius: Commentarii in librum Aristotelis Πεϱὶ ἑϱμηνείας, Leipzig, 1880, p. 80: His peractis non equidem contempserim Aristotelis Platonisque sententias in unam quodammodo revocare concordiam eosque non ut plerique dissentire in omnibus, sed in plerisque et his in philosophia maximis consentire demonstrem. Simplicius, apud Græcos idem professus, utinam id tam præstaret quam pollicetur.🞯Simplikios: Commentaria in Aristotelis librum de caelo, J. L. Heiberg: Commentaria in Aristotelem Graeca VII, Berlin, 1894. 640, 27–31: ὅπεϱ δὲ πολλάϰις εἴωϑα, ϰαὶ νῦν εἰπεῖν ϰαιϱός, ὅτι οὐ πϱαγματιϰή τίς ἐστι τῶν φιλοσόφων ἡ διαφωνία, ἀλλὰ πϱὸς τὸ φαινόμενον τοῦ λόγου ϰαὶ δυνάμενον ϰαὶ χειϱόνως νοεῖσϑαι πολλάϰις ὑπαντῶν ὁ Ἀϱιστοτέλης φειδοῖ τῶν ἐπιπολαίως ἀϰουόντων τοῦ Πλάτωνος ἀντιλέγειν δοϰεῖ πϱὸς αὐτόν.
The disagreement between the [two] philosophers is in any way not substantial, but Aristotle frequently raises objections against the appearance of what Plato says, which can be also understood in a worse way, and he seems to be refuting Plato for the benefit of those who understand Plato superficially. — Translated by I. Mueller. Scribit et Augustinus in Achademicis🞯Augustinus: Contra Academicos, III,xix,42: non defuerunt acutissimi et sollertissimi viri, qui docerent disputationibus suis Aristotelem ac Platonem ita sibi concinere, ut imperitis minusque attentis dissentire videantur. non defuisse plures qui subtilissimis suis disputationibus idem probare conati sint, Platonis scilicet et Aristotelis eandem esse philosophiam. Ioannes item Grammaticus🞯Johannes de Garlandia, ca. 1190-1270, one of the first Masters of the new University of Toulouse, he describes the Albigensian Crusade in De Triumphis, grammatical works. cum dicat apud eos tantum dissidere Platonem ab Aristotele, qui Platonis dicta non intelligunt probandum tamen posteris hoc reliquit. Addidimus autem et plures locos in quibus Scoti et Thomæ, plures in quibus Averrois et Avicennæ sententias, quæ discordes existimantur, concordes esse nos asseveramus.
Secundo loco quæ in philosophia cum Aristotelica tum Platonica excogitavimus nos, tum duo et septuaginta nova dogmata physica et methaphisica collocavimus, quæ si quis teneat, poterit, nisi fallor, quod mihi erit mox manifestum, quamcumque de rebus naturalibus divinisque propositam questionem longe alia dissolvere ratione quam per eam edoceamur quæ et legitur in scolis et ab huius evi doctoribus colitur philosophiam. Nec tam admirari quis debet, Patres, me in primis annis, in tenera etate, per quam vix licuit (ut iactant quidam) aliorum legere commentationes, novam afferre velle philosophiam, quam vel laudare illam, si defenditur, vel damnare, si reprobatur et denique, cum nostra inventa hæc nostrasque sint litteras iudicaturi, non auctoris annos, sed illorum merita potius vel demerita numerare.
Est autem, et præter illam, alia, quam nos attulimus, nova per numeros philosophandi institutio antiqua, illa quidem et a priscis theologis, a Pythagora presertim, ab Aglaopheno,🞯
Aglaophamos, Αγλαόφαμος, “‘of brilliant reputation’ is attested only twice in all of Greek literature, as an epiclesis, said once of the Curetes [31.4] and again of the Muses [76.2] in the Orphic Hymns. 29 It can thus be assumed that the character of Aglaophamus is a pure invention: perhaps we even owe it to Iamblichus, who was anxious to prove the existence of an objective link between Orpheus and Pythagoras. Alternatively, Iamblichus may have been quoting a Neopythagorean pseudepigraphon, or perhaps he himself was responsible for the composition of that pseudepigraphon.” — Luc Brisson: The Making of Pythagoreanism: Orpheus, Aglaophamus, Pythagoras, Plato, in: Pythagorean Knowledge from the Ancient to the Modern World: Askesis, Religion, Science. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2016. p. 51. a Philolao,🞯Philolaos, Φιλόλαος, ca. 470-385, Pythagorean and pre-Socratic philosopher.
πεϱὶ δὲ φύσιος ϰαὶ ἁϱμονίας ὧδε ἔχει· ἁ μὲν ἐστὼ τῶν πϱαγμάτων ἀίδιος ἔσσα ϰαὶ αὐτὰ μὰν ἁ φύσις ϑείαν τε ϰαὶ οὐϰ ἀνϑϱωπίνην ἐνδέχεται γνῶσιν πλάν γα ἢ ὅτι οὐχ οἷόν τ’ ἦν οὐϑενὶ τῶν ἐόντων ϰαὶ γιγνωσϰομένων ὑφ’ ἁμῶν γα γεγενῆσϑαι μὴ ὑπαϱχούσας τᾶς ἐστοῦς τῶν πϱαγμάτων, ἐξ ὧν συνέστα ὁ ϰόσμος, ϰαὶ τῶν πεϱαινόντων ϰαὶ τῶν ἀπείϱων. ἐπεὶ δὲ ταὶ ἀϱχαὶ ὑπᾶϱχον οὐχ ὁμοῖαι οὐδ’ ὁμόφυλοι ἔσσαι, ἤδη ἀδύνατον ἦς ϰα αὐταῖς ϰοσμηϑῆναι, εἰ μὴ ἁϱμονία ἐπεγένετο ᾡτινιῶν ἂν τϱόπῳ ἐγένετο. τὰ μὲν ὦν ὁμοῖα ϰαὶ ὁμόφυλα ἁϱμονίας οὐδὲν ἐπεδέοντο, τὰ δὲ ἀνόμοια μηδὲ ὁμόφυλα μηδὲ ἰσοταχῆ, ἀνάγϰα τὰ τοιαῦτα ἁϱμονίᾳ συγϰεϰλεῖσϑαι, εἰ μέλλοντι ἐν ϰόσμῳ ϰατέχεσϑαι.
Mit Natur und Harmonie verhält es sich so : das Wesen der Dinge, das ewig ist, und die Natur gar selbst erfordert göttliche und nicht menschliche Einsicht, nur daß ja natürlich nichts von den vor handenen Dingen auch nur von uns erkannt werden könnte, wenn das Wesen der Dinge, aus denen die Weltordnung entstand, sowohl der begrenzten wie der unbegrenzten, nicht zugrunde läge. Da aber diese beiden Prinzipien (1 und 2) als ungleiche und unverwandte zugrunde lagen, so wäre es offenbar unmöglich gewesen mit ihnen eine Welt ordnung zu begründen, wenn nicht die Harmonie dazu gekommen wäre, wie diese auch immer zustande kam. Das Gleiche und Verwandte bedurfte ja doch nimmer der Harmonie, dagegen muß das Ungleiche und Unverwandte und ungleich Geordnete durch eine solche Harmonie zusammengeschlossen werden, durch die sie imstande sind in der Welt ordnung zusammengehalten zu werden. — Diels/Kranz I,pp. 310-311, 6a. a Platone prioribusque Platonicis observata.🞯Marsilio Ficino: Theologia Platonica xvii,1:
In rebus his quæ ad theologiam pertinent, sex olim summi theologi consenserunt: quorum primus fuisse traditur Zoroaster Magorum caput: sedes Mercurius trismegistus, princeps sacerdotum Ægyptiorum. Mercurio successit Orpheus. Orphei sacris initiatus fuit Aglaophemus. Aglaophemo successit in theologia Pythagoras: Pythagoræ Plato, qui uniuersam eorum sapientiam suis literis comprehendit, auxit, illustrauit. Quoniam verò ij omnes sacra diuinorum mysteria, ne prophanis communia fiereat; poëticis vmbraculis obtegebant: factum est vt successores eorum alij aliter theologiam interpretarentur. Hinc turba Platonicorum interpretum in sex Academias se diuisit quarum tres Atticæ fuerunt, reliquæ peregrinæ. Atticarum vetus sub Xenocrate floruit, media sub Archesila, sub Carneade noua, peregrinarum Ægyptia sub Ammonio, Romana sub Plotino, sub Proculo Lycia. Verum cum sex fuerint scholæ Platonicorum; tres illæ Atticæ simul atque Ægyptia, quæcunque de animarum circuitu scripta sunt à Platone, aliter quàm verba sonarent accipiebant: duæ veró sequentes ipsam verborum faciem curiosius obseruarunt. Quo autem modo hæ duæ Platonica exponant mysteria, diligenter recenseamus. Sed quæ hac tempestate, ut preclara alia, posteriorum incuria sic exolevit, ut vix vestigia ipsius ulla reperiantur. Scribit Plato in Epinomide,🞯Platon: Epinomis, Ἐπινομίς 976ε sq. inter omnes liberales artes et scientias contemplatrices præcipuam maximeque divinam esse scientiam numerandi. Querens item, cur homo animal sapientissimum? Respondet: „Quia numerare novit“. Cuius sententiæ et Aristoteles meminit in Problematis.🞯Aristoteles: Problemata, Πϱοβλήματα, xxx,6 (956a): Διὰ τί ἀνϑϱώπῳ πειστέον μᾶλλον ἢ ἄλλῳ ζῴῳ; πότεϱον ὥσπεϱ Πλάτων Νεοϰλεῖ ἀπεϰϱίνατο, ὅτι ἀϱιϑμεῖν μόνον ἐπίσταται τῶν ἄλλων ζῴων;
Cur homini potius quam cuiquam ex celeris animanlibus credendum est? Utrum, ut Plato Neocli respondit, quia solus inter reliquas animantes novit numerare? Scribit Abumasar🞯Abumasar, Abu Ma’shar al-Balkhi, 787–886, an early Persian Muslim astrologer. verbum fuisse Avenzoar Babilonii, eum omnia nosse qui noverat numerare. Quæ vera esse nullo modo possunt, si per numerandi artem eam artem intellexerunt cuius nunc mercatores in primis sunt peritissimi, quod et Plato testatur,🞯Platon: Politeia, Πολιτεία, VII,525c: ...ἐπὶ λογιστιϰὴν ἰέναι ϰαὶ ἀνϑάπτεσϑαι αὐτῆς μὴ ἰδιωτιϰῶς, ἀλλ᾽ ἕως ἂν ἐπὶ ϑέαν τῆς τῶν ἀϱιϑμῶν φύσεως ἀφίϰωνται τῇ νοήσει αὐτῇ, οὐϰ ὠνῆς οὐδὲ πϱάσεως χάϱιν ὡς ἐμπόϱους ἢ ϰαπήλους μελετῶντας, ἀλλ᾽ ἕνεϰα πολέμου τε ϰαὶ αὐτῆς τῆς ψυχῆς ῥᾳστώνης μεταστϱοφῆς ἀπὸ γενέσεως ἐπ᾽ ἀλήϑειάν τε ϰαὶ οὐσίαν.
...to enter upon that study of calculation and take hold of it, not as amateurs, but to follow it up until they attain to the contemplation of the nature of number,1 by pure thought, not for the purpose of buying and selling, as if they were preparing to be merchants or hucksters, but for the uses of war and for facilitating the conversion of the soul itself from the world of generation to essence and truth. — Translated by James Adam, 1902. exerta nos admonens voce ne divinam hanc arithmeticam mercatoriam esse arithmeticam intelligamus. Illam ergo arithmeticam, quæ ita extollitur, cum mihi videar post multas lucubrationes exploratam habere, huiusce rei periculum facturus, ad quator et LXX questiones, quæ inter physicas et divinas principales existimantur, responsurum per numeros publice me sum pollicitus.
Proposuimus et magica theoremata, in quibus duplicem esse magiam significavimus, quarum altera demonum tota opere et auctoritate constat, res medius fidius execranda et portentosa. Altera nihil est aliud, cum bene exploratur, quam naturalis philosophiæ absoluta consumatio. Utriusque cum meminerint Greci, illam magiæ nullo modo nomine dignantes γοητείαν nuncupant, hanc propria peculiarique appellatione μαγείαν, quasi perfectam summamque sapientiam vocant. Idem enim, ut ait Porphyrius,🞯Porphyrios, Ποϱφύϱιος: De abstinentia, Πεϱὶ ἀποχῆς ἐμψύχων IV,16: παϱά γε μὴν τοῖς Πέϱσαις οἱ πεϱὶ τὸ ϑεῖον σοφοὶ ϰαὶ τούτου ϑεϱάποντες μάγοι μὲν πϱοσαγοϱεύονται
Among the Persians, indeed, those who are wise in divine concerns, and worship divinity, are called Magi. — Translated by Thomas Taylor, 1823.
Cf. Apuleius: Apologia XXV,9-10: Nam si, quod ego apud plurimos lego, Persarum lingua magus est qui nostra sacerdos, quod tandem est crimen, sacerdotem esse et rite nosse atque scire atque callere leges cerimoniarum, fas sacrorum, ius religionum? Si quidem magia id est quod Plato interpretatur, cum commemorat, quibusnam disciplinis puerum regno adulescentem Persæ imbuant — uerba ipsa diuini uiri memini, quæ tu mecum, Maxime, recognosce
For if, as I read in so many authors, the magician in the language of the Persians is what the priest is in ours, what crime is there then in being a priest with solemn knowledge, skill and practice of the laws of the religious ceremonies, the dictates of the rites, and the order of the divine services, especially if magic is as Plato interprets it, when he recalls the education that the Persians provide for the youth among them destined to rule. I remember the exact words of the divine man; consider them, Maximus, along with me. Persarum lingua magus sonat quod apud nos divinorum interpres et cultor. Magna autem, immo maxima, Patres, inter has artes disparilitas et dissimilitudo. Illam non modo Christiana religio, sed omnes leges, omnis bene instituta respublica damnat et execratur. Hanc omnes sapientes, omnes cælestium et divinarum rerum studiosæ nationes, approbant et amplectuntur. Illa artium fraudulentissima, hæc altior sanctiorque philosophia, illa irrita et vana, hæc firma fidelis et solida. Illam quisquis coluit semper dissimulavit, quod in auctoris esset ignominiam et contumeliam, ex hac summa litterarum claritas gloriaque antiquitus et pene semper petita. Illius nemo unquam studiosus fuit vir philosophus et cupidus discendi bonas artes; ad hanc Pythagoras, Empedocles, Democritus, Plato, discendam navigavere, hanc predicarunt reversi, et in archanis precipuam habuerunt.🞯Plinius: Naturalis historia XXX,9: Certe Pythagoras, Empedocles, Democritus, Plato ad hanc discendam navigavere exiliis verius quam peregrinationibus susceptis, hanc reversi praedicavere, hanc in arcanis habuere.
Certainly Pythagoras, Empedocles, Democritus and Plato went overseas to learn it, going into exile rather than on a journey, taught it openly on their return, and considered it one of their most treasured secrets. — Translated by H. Rackham et al. Illa, ut nullis rationibus, ita nec certis probatur auctoribus; hæc, clarissimis quasi parentibus honestata, duos precipue habet auctores: Xamolsidem, quem imitatus est Abbaris Hyperboreus, et Zoroastrem, non quem forte creditis, sed illum Oromasi filium.🞯Cf. Apuleius: Apologia XXVI,1-2: Auditisne magiam, qui eam temere accusatis, artem esse dis immortalibus acceptam, colendi eos ac uenerandi pergnaram, piam scilicet et diuini scientem, iam inde a Zoroastre et Oromaze auctoribus suis nobilem, cælitum antistitam
Do you hear, you who so rashly accuse the art of magic? It is an art acceptable to the immortal gods, full of all knowledge of worship and of prayer, full of piety and wisdom in things divine, full of honour and glory since the day when Zoroaster and Oromazes established it, high-priestess of the powers of heaven. — Translated by H. E. Butler, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1909. Utriusque magia quid sit, Platonem si percontemur, respondebit in Alcibiade: Zoroastris magiam non esse aliud quam divinorum scientiam, qua filios Persarum reges erudiebant, ut ad exemplar mundanæ reipublicæ suam ipsi regere rempublicam edocerentur.🞯 Platon: Alkibiades, Ἀλϰιβιάδης 121e-122a: Δὶς ἑπτὰ δὲ γενόμενον ἐτῶν τὸν παῖδα παϱαλαμβάνουσιν οὓς ἐϰεῖνοι βασιλείους παιδαγωγοὺς ὀνομάζουσιν: εἰσὶ δὲ ἐξειλεγμένοι Πεϱσῶν οἱ ἄϱιστοι δόξαντες ἐν ἡλιϰίᾳ τέτταϱες, ὅ τε σοφώτατος ϰαὶ ὁ διϰαιότατος ϰαὶ ὁ σωφϱονέστατος ϰαὶ ὁ ἀνδϱειότατος. ὧν ὁ μὲν μαγείαν τε διδάσϰει τὴν Ζωϱοάστϱου τοῦ Ὡϱομάζου — ἔστι δὲ τοῦτο ϑεῶν ϑεϱαπεία — διδάσϰει δὲ ϰαὶ τὰ βασιλιϰά.
And when the boy reaches fourteen years he is taken over by the royal tutors, as they call them there: these are four men chosen as the most highly esteemed among the Persians of mature age, namely, the wisest one, the justest one, the most temperate one, and the bravest one. The first of these teaches him the magian lore of Zoroaster, son of Horomazes; and that is the worship of the gods: he teaches him also what pertains to a king. — Translated by W. R. M. Lamb. Respondebit in Carmide, magiam Xalmosidis esse animi medicinam, per quam scilicet animo temperantia, ut per illam corpori sanitas comparatur.🞯Platon: Charmides, Χαϱμίδης 156d–157a: ἔλεγεν δὲ ὁ Θϱᾲξ οὗτος ὅτι ταῦτα μὲν ἰατϱοὶ οἱ Ἕλληνες, ἃ νυνδὴ ἐγὼ ἔλεγον, ϰαλῶς λέγοιεν: ἀλλὰ Ζάλμοξις, ἔφη, λέγει ὁ ἡμέτεϱος βασιλεύς, ϑεὸς ὤν, ὅτι ὥσπεϱ ὀφϑαλμοὺς ἄνευ ϰεφαλῆς οὐ δεῖ ἐπιχειϱεῖν ἰᾶσϑαι οὐδὲ ϰεφαλὴν ἄνευ σώματος, οὕτως οὐδὲ σῶμα ἄνευ ψυχῆς, ἀλλὰ τοῦτο ϰαὶ αἴτιον εἴη τοῦ διαφεύγειν τοὺς παϱὰ τοῖς Ἕλλησιν ἰατϱοὺς τὰ πολλὰ νοσήματα, ὅτι τοῦ ὅλου ἀμελοῖεν οὗ δέοι τὴν ἐπιμέλειαν ποιεῖσϑαι, οὗ μὴ ϰαλῶς ἔχοντος ἀδύνατον εἴη τὸ μέϱος εὖ ἔχειν. πάντα γὰϱ ἔφη ἐϰ τῆς ψυχῆς ὡϱμῆσϑαι ϰαὶ τὰ ϰαϰὰ ϰαὶ τὰ ἀγαϑὰ τῷ σώματι ϰαὶ παντὶ τῷ ἀνϑϱώπῳ, ϰαὶ ἐϰεῖϑεν ἐπιϱϱεῖν ὥσπεϱ ἐϰ τῆς ϰεφαλῆς ἐπὶ τὰ ὄμματα: δεῖν οὖν ἐϰεῖνο ϰαὶ πϱῶτον ϰαὶ μάλιστα ϑεϱαπεύειν, εἰ μέλλει ϰαὶ τὰ τῆς ϰεφαλῆς ϰαὶ τὰ τοῦ ἄλλου σώματος ϰαλῶς ἔχειν. ϑεϱαπεύεσϑαι δὲ τὴν ψυχὴν ἔφη, ὦ μαϰάϱιε, ἐπῳδαῖς τισιν, τὰς δ᾽ ἐπῳδὰς ταύτας τοὺς λόγους εἶναι τοὺς ϰαλούς: ἐϰ δὲ τῶν τοιούτων λόγων ἐν ταῖς ψυχαῖς σωφϱοσύνην ἐγγίγνεσϑαι.
This Thracian said that the Greeks were right in advising as I told you just now: “but Zalmoxis,” he said, “our king, who is a god, says that as you ought not to attempt to cure eyes without head, or head without body, so you should not treat body without soul”; and this was the reason why most maladies evaded the physicians of Greece—that they neglected the whole, on which they ought to spend their pains, for if this were out of order it was impossible for the part to be in order. For all that was good and evil, he said, in the body and in man altogether was sprung from the soul, and flowed along from thence as it did from the head into the eyes. Wherefore that part was to be treated first and foremost, if all was to be well with the head and the rest of the body. And the treatment of the soul, so he said, my wonderful friend, is by means of certain charms, and these charms are words of the right sort: by the use of such words is temperance engendered in our souls. — Translated by W. R. M. Lamb.
Horum vestigiis postea perstiterunt Carondas, Damigeron, Apollonius, Hostanes et Dardanus.🞯Carondas = Carmendas (Plinius: Naturalis historia XXX,5), Tarmoendas, Zarmocenidas
Apollonios of Tyana, Ἀπολλώνιος ὁ Τυανεύς, ca. 3 BC – ca. 97, Greek Neopythagorean philosopher, cf. Philostratus, Φιλόστϱατος: Life of Apollonius of Tyana, Τὰ ἐς τὸν Τυανέα Ἀπολλώνιον.
Dardanus, Plinius: Naturalis historia XXX,9: certe Pythagoras, Empedocles, Democritus, Plato ad hanc discendam navigavere exiliis verius quam peregrinationibus susceptis, hanc reversi praedicavere, hanc in arcanis habuere. Democritus Apollobechen Coptiten et Dardanum e Phoenice inlustravit voluminibus Dardani in sepulchrum eius petitis, suis vero ex disciplina eorum editis. quae recepta ab ullis hominum atque transisse per memoriam aeque ac nihil in vita mirandum est
Certainly Pythagoras, Empedocles, Democritus and Plato went overseas to learn it, going into exile rather than on a journey, taught it openly on their return, and considered it one of their most treasured secrets. Democritus expounded Apollobex the Copt and Dardanus the Phoenician, entering the latter’s tomb to obtain his works and basing his own on their doctrines. That these were accepted by any human beings and transmitted by memory is the most extraordinary phenomenon in history. — Translated by H. Rackham et al. Perstitit Homerus, quem ut omnes alias sapientias, ita hanc quoque sub sui Ulixis erroribus dissimulasse in poetica nostra theologia aliquando probabimus.🞯Plinius: Naturalis historia XXX,5: Maxime tamen mirum est, in bello Troiano tantum de arte silentium fuisse Homero tantumque operis ex eadem in Ulixis erroribus, adeo ut vel totum opus non aliunde constet.
The most surprising thing, however, is the complete silence of Homer about magic in his poem on the Trojan War, and yet so much of his work in the wanderings of Ulysses is so occupied with it that it alone forms the backbone of the whole work. — Translated by H. Rackham et al. Perstiterunt Eudoxus et Hermippus.🞯Plinius: Naturalis historia XXX,3-4: Eudoxus, qui inter sapientiae sectas clarissimam utilissimamque eam intellegi voluit, Zoroastren hunc sex milibus annorum ante Platonis mortem fuisse prodidit; sic et Aristoteles. Hermippus, qui de tota ea arte diligentissime scripsit
Eudoxus, who wished magic to be acknowledged as the noblest and most useful of the schools of philosophy, declared that this Zoroaster lived six thousand years before Plato’s death, and Aristotle agrees with him. Hermippus, a most studious writer about every aspect of magic. — Translated by H. Rackham et al. Perstiterunt fere omnes qui Pythagorica Platonicaque mysteria sunt perscrutati. Ex iunioribus autem, qui eam olfecerint tres reperio, Alchindum Arabem, Rogerium Baconem🞯Alkindi, Abū Yaʿqūb ibn Ishāq al-Kindī, ca. 801–873, the father of Arab philosophy an Arab Muslim philosopher, polymath, mathematician, physician and music theorist.
Roger Bacon, ca. 1219/20–1292, Doctor Mirabilis, placed considerable emphasis on the study of nature through empiricism. et Guilielmum Parisiensem. Meminit et Plotinus,🞯Porphyrios, Ποϱφύϱιος: Vita Plotini, Πεϱί του Πλωτίνου βίου 10: ἦν γὰϱ ϰαὶ ϰατὰ γένεσιν πλέον τι ἔχων παϱὰ τοὺς ἄλλους ὁ Πλωτῖνος. Αἰγύπτιος γάϱ τις ἱεϱεὺς ἀνελϑὼν εἰς τὴν Ῥώμην ϰαὶ διά τινος φίλου αὐτῷ γνωϱισϑεὶς ϑέλων τε τῆς ἑαυτοῦ σοφίας ἀπόδειξιν δοῦναι ἠξίωσε τὸν Πλωτῖνον ἐπὶ ϑέαν ἀφιϰέσϑαι τοῦ συνόντος αὐτῷ οἰϰείου δαίμονος ϰαλουμένου. τοῦ δὲ ἑτοίμως ὑπαϰούσαντος γίνεται μὲν ἐν τῷ Ἰσίῳ ἡ ϰλῆσις· μόνον γὰϱ ἐϰεῖνον τὸν τόπον ϰαϑαϱὸν φῆσαι εὑϱεῖν ἐν τῇ Ῥώμῃ τὸν Αἰγύπτιον. ϰληϑέντα δὲ εἰς αὐτοψίαν τὸν δαίμονα ϑεὸν ἐλϑεῖν ϰαὶ μὴ τοῦ δαιμόνων εἶναι γένους· ὅϑεν τὸν Αἰγύπτιον εἰπεῖν· μαϰάϱιος εἶ ϑεὸν ἔχων τὸν δαίμονα ϰαὶ οὐ τοῦ ὑφειμένου γένους τὸν συνόντα. μήτε δὲ ἐϱέσϑαι τι ἐϰγενέσϑαι μήτε ἐπιπλέον ἰδεῖν παϱόντα τοῦ συνϑεωϱοῦντος φίλου τὰς ὄϱνεις, ἃς ϰατεῖχε φυλαϰῆς ἕνεϰα, πνίξαντος εἴτε διὰ φϑόνον εἴτε ϰαὶ διὰ φόβον τινά. τῶν οὖν ϑειοτέϱων δαιμόνων ἔχων τὸν συνόντα ϰαὶ αὐτὸς διετέλει ἀνάγων αὐτοῦ τὸ ϑεῖον ὄμμα πϱὸς ἐϰεῖνον. ἔστι γοῦν αὐτῷ ἀπὸ τῆς τοιαύτης αἰτίας ϰαὶ βιβλίον γϱαφὲν πεϱὶ τοῦ εἰληχότος ἡμᾶς δαίμονος, ὅπου πειϱᾶται αἰτίας φέϱειν πεϱὶ τῆς διαφοϱᾶς τῶν συνόντων.
In fact Plotinus possessed by birth something more than is accorded to other men. An Egyptian priest who had arrived in Rome and, through some friend, had been presented to the philosopher, became desirous of displaying his powers to him, and he offered to evoke a visible manifestation of Plotinus’ presiding spirit. Plotinus readily consented and the evocation was made in the Temple of Isis, the only place, they say, which the Egyptian could find pure in Rome. At the summons a Divinity appeared, not a being of the spirit-ranks, and the Egyptian exclaimed: “You are singularly graced; the guiding-spirit within you is not of the lower degree but a God.” It was not possible, however, to interrogate or even to contemplate this God any further, for the priest’s assistant, who had been holding the birds to prevent them flying away, strangled them, whether through jealousy or in terror. Thus Plotinus had for indwelling spirit a Being of the more divine degree, and he kept his own divine spirit unceasingly intent upon that inner presence. It was this preoccupation that led him to write his treatise upon Our Tutelary Spirit, an essay in the explanation of the differences among spirit-guides. — Translated by Stephen MacKenna. ubi naturæ ministrum esse et non artificiem magum demonstrat: hanc magiam probat asseveratque vir sapientissimus, alteram ita abhorrens ut, cum ad malorum demonum sacra vocaretur, rectius esse, dixerit, ad se illos quam se ad illos accedere, et merito quidem. Ut enim illa obnoxium mancipatumque improbis potestantibus hominem reddit, ita hæc illarum principem et dominum. Illa denique nec artis nec scientiæ sibi potest nomen vendicare; hæc altissimis plena misteriis, profundissimam rerum secretissimarum contemplationem, et demum totius naturæ cognitionem complectitur. Hæc, inter sparsas Dei beneficio et inter seminatas mundo virtutes, quasi de latebris evocans in lucem, non tam facit miranda quam facienti naturæ sedula famulatur. Hæc universi consensum, quem significantius Græci συμπάϑειαν dicunt,🞯Plinius: Naturalis historia XX,1: Quod Graeci sympathiam et antipathiam appellavere, quibus cuncta constant, ignes aquis restinguentibus, aquas sole devorante, luna pariente, altero alterius iniuria deficiente sidere atque.
The Greeks have applied the terms 'sympathy' and 'antipathy' to this basic principle of all things: water putting out fire; the sun absorbing water while the moon gives it birth; each of these heavenly bodies suffering eclipse through the injustice of the other. — Translated by H. Rackham et al. introrsum perscrutatius rimata et mutuam naturarum cognitionem habens perspectatam, nativas adibens unicuique rei et suas illecebras, quæ magorum ἴυγγες nominantur,🞯Χαλδαϊϰὸν λόγιον.
Αἳ ἴυγγες νοούμεναι πατϱόϑεν νοέουσι ϰαὶ αὐταί,
βουλαῖς ἀφϑέγϰτοις ϰινούμεναι, ὥστε νοῆσαι.
The Jynxes are thought by the Father and also think in their own right,
moved by unutterable wills to think. in mundi recessibus, in naturæ gremio, in promptuariis arcanisque Dei latitantia miracula, quasi ipsa sit artifex, promit in publicum, et sicut agricola ulmos vitibus, ita magus terram cælo, idest inferiora superiorum dotibus virtutibusque maritat. Quo fit ut quam illa prodigiosa et noxia, tam hæc divina et salutaris appareat. Ob hoc præcipue quod illa hominem, Dei hostibus mancipans, avocat a Deo, hæc in eam operum Dei admirationem excitat, quam propensa charitas, fides ac spes, certissime consequuntur. Neque enim ad religionem, ad Dei cultum quicquam promovet magis quam assidua contemplatio mirabilium Dei, quæ ut per hanc de qua agimus naturalem magiam bene exploraverimus, in opificis cultum amoremque ardentius animati illud canere compellemur: „Pleni sunt cæli, plena est omnis terra maiestate gloriæ tuæ“. Et hæc satis de magia, de qua hæc diximus, quod scio esse plures qui, sicut canes ignotos semper adlatrant, ita et ipsi sæpe damnant oderuntque quæ non intelligunt.
Venio nunc ad ea quæ ex antiquis Hebræorum mysteriis eruta, ad sacrosantam et catholicam fidem confirmandam attuli, quæ ne forte ab his, quibus sunt ignota, commentitiæ nugæ aut fabulæ circumlatorum existimentur, volo intelligant omnes quæ et qualia sint, unde petita, quibus et quam claris auctoribus confirmata et quam reposita, quam divina, quam nostris hominibus ad propugnandam religionem contra Hebræorum importunas calumnias sint necessaria.
Scribunt non modo celebres Hebræorum doctores, sed ex nostris quoque Hesdras, Hilarius et Origenes, Mosen non legem modo, quam quinque exaratam libris posteris reliquit, sed secretionem quoque et veram legis enarrationem in monte divinitius accepisse; preceptum autem ei a Deo ut legem quidem populo publicaret, legis interpretationem nec traderet litteris, nec invulgaret, sed ipse Iesu Nave tantum, tum ille aliis deinceps succedentibus sacerdotum primoribus, magna silentii religione, revelaret. Satis erat per simplicem historiam nunc Dei potentiam, nunc in improbos iram, in bonos clementiam, in omnes iustitiam agnoscere, et per divina salutariaque precepta ad bene beateque vivendum et cultum veræ religionis institui. At mysteria secretiora et sub cortice legis rudique verborum pretestu latitantia, altissimæ divinitatis archana, plebi palam facere, quid erat aliud quam dare sanctum canibus et inter porcos spargere margaritas?
Ergo hæc clam vulgo habere, perfectis communicanda, inter quos tantum sapientiam loqui se ait Paulus, non humani consilii sed divini precepti fuit. Quem morem antiqui philosophi sanctissime observarunt. Pythagoras nihil scripsit nisi paucula quædam, quæ Damæ filiæ moriens commendavit.🞯Iamblichus, Ἰάμβλιχος: De vita Pythagorica, Πεϱί του Πυϑαγοϱιϰού βίου 146-147: Nor is it to be doubted, that Pythagoras receiving auxiliaries from Orpheus, composed his treatise Concerning the Gods, which on this account also he inscribed the Sacred Discourse, because it contains the flower of the most mystical place in Orpheus; whether this work was in reality written by Pythagoras, as by most authors it is said to have been, or as some of the Pythagoric school who are both learned and worthy of belief assert, was composed by Telauges; being taken by him from the commentaries which were left by Pythagoras himself to his daughter Damo, the sister of Telauges, and which it is said after her death were given to Bitale the daughter of Damo, and to Telauges the son of Pythagoras, and the husband of Bitale, when he was of a mature age. For when Pythagoras died, he was left very young with his mother Theano. In this Sacred Discourse also, or treatise concerning the Gods (for it has both these inscriptions), who it was that delivered to Pythagoras what is there said concerning the Gods, is rendered manifest. For it says: “that Pythagoras the son of Mnesarchus was instructed in what pertains to the Gods, when he celebrated orgies in the Thracian Libethra, being initiated in them by Aglaophemus; and that Orpheus the son of Calliope, having learnt wisdom from his mother in the mountain Pangæus, said, that the eternal essence of number is the most providential principle of the universe, of heaven and earth, and the intermediate nature; and farther still, that it is the root of the permanency of divine natures, of Gods and dæmons.” From these things, therefore, it is evident that he learnt from the Orphic writers that the essence of the Gods is defined by number. Through the same numbers also, he produced an admirable fore-knowledge and worship of the Gods, both which are especially most allied to numbers. — Translated by Thomas Taylor, London: Valpy, 1818. Egiptiorum templis insculptæ Sphinges, hoc admonebant ut mistica dogmata per enigmatum nodos a prophana multitudine inviolata custodirentur. Plato Dionisio quædam de supremis scribens substantiis: „Per enigmata, inquit, dicendum est, ne si epistola forte ad aliorum pervenerit manus, quæ tibi scribimus ab aliis intelligantur“.🞯Πλάτων Διονυσίῳ εὖ πϱάττειν Epistulae (II),3, 312d-e: Φϱαστέον δή σοι δι' αἰνιγμῶν, ἵν' ἄν τι ἡ δέλτος ἢ πόντου ἢ γῆς ἐν πτυχαῖς πάϑῃ, ὁ ἀναγνοὺς μὴ γνῷ.
Now I must expound it to you in a riddling way in order that, should the tablet come to any harm ‘in folds of ocean or of earth,’ he that readeth may not understand. — Translated by Yehuda Liebes. Aristoteles libros Methaphisicæ in quibus agit de divinis editos esse et non editos dicebat. Quid plura? Iesum Christum vitæ magistrum asserit Origenes multa revelasse discipulis, quæ illi, ne vulgo fierent comunia, scribere noluerunt. Quod maxime confirmat Dyonisius Areopagita, qui secretiora mysteria a nostræ religionis auctoribus ἐϰ νοῦ εἰς νοῦν διὰ μέσον λόγον, idest ex animo in animum, sine litteris, medio intercedente verbo, ait fuisse transfusa.🞯Πεϱί Έϰϰλησιαστιϰής ἹεϱαϱχίαςI,4: Σεπτότατα δὲ λόγια ταῦτά φαμεν, ὅσα πϱὸς τῶν ἐνϑέων ἡμῶν ἱεϱοτελεστῶν ἐν ἁγιογϱάφοις ἡμῖν ϰαὶ ϑεολογιϰαῖς δεδώϱηται δέλτοις ϰαὶ μὴν ὅσα πϱὸς τῶν αὐτῶν ἱεϱῶν ἀνδϱῶν ἀϋλοτέϱᾳ μυήσει ϰαὶ γείτονί πως ἤδη τῆς οὐϱανίας ἱεϱαϱχίας ἐϰ νοὸς εἰς νοῦν διὰ μέσου λόγου σωματιϰοῦ μὲν ἀϋλοτέϱου δὲ ὅμως, γϱαφῆς ἐϰτὸς οἱ ϰαϑηγεμόνες ἡμῶν ἐμυήϑησαν, οὐδὲ ταῦτα τῶν ἐνϑέων ἱεϱαϱχῶν εἰς τὸ τῆς ἱεϱουϱγίας ϰοινὸν ἀπαϱαϰαλύπτοις νοήσεσιν ἀλλ' ἐν συμβόλοις ἱεϱοῖς παϱαδεδωϰότων.
Und auf gleiche Stufe stellen wir die Geheimnisse, in welche von denselben heiligen Männern unsere geistlichen Führer eingeweiht wurden und zwar in einer weniger stofflichen, der himmlischen Hierarchie schon näher verwandten Unterweisung, nämlich von Geist zu Geist, durch das Mittel des mündlichen Wortes, das zwar noch etwas Materielles an sich hat, aber gleichwohl schon unstofflicher ist, ohne den Dienst der Buchstabenschrift. — Übersetzt von Josef Stiglmayr BKV. Hoc eodem penitus modo cum ex Dei præcepto vera illa legis interpretatio Moisi deitus tradita revelaretur, dicta est Cabala, quod idem est apud Hebræos quod apud nos „receptio“; ob id scilicet quod illam doctrinam, non per litterarum monumenta, sed ordinariis revelationum successionibus alter ab altero quasi Hereditario iure reciperet.
Verum postquam Hebræi a Babilonica captivitate restituti per Cyrum et sub Zorobabel instaurato templo ad reparandam legem animum appulerunt, Esdras, tunc ecclesiæ præfectus, post emendatum Moseos librum, cum plane cognosceret per exilia, cedes, fugas, captivitatem gentis Isræliticæ institutum a maioribus morem tradendæ per manus doctrinæ servari non posse, futurumque ut sibi divinitus indulta celestis doctrinæ arcana perirent, quorum commentariis non intercedentibus durare diu memoria non poterat, constituit ut, convocatis qui tunc supererant sapientibus, afferret unusquisque in medium quæ de mysteriis legis memoriter tenebat, adhibitisque notariis in LXX volumina (tot enim fere in sinedrio sapientes) redigerentur. Qua de re ne mihi soli credatis, Patres, audite Esdram ipsum sic loquentem: „Exactis XL diebus loquutus est Altissimus dicens. Priora quæ scripsisti in palam pone, legant digni et indigni, novissimos autem LXX libros conservabis ut tradas eos sapientibus de populo tuo. In his enim est vena intellectus et sapientiæ fons et scientiæ flumen. Atque ita feci“. Hæc Esdras ad verbum. Hi sunt libri scientiæ Cabalæ, in his libris merito Esdras venam intellectus, idest ineffabilem de supersubstantiali deitate theologiam, sapientiæ fontem, idest de intelligibilibus angelicisque formis exactam methaphisicam, et scientiæ flumen, idest de rebus naturalibus firmissimam philosophiam esse, clara in primis voce pronuntiavit.
Hi libri Sixtus quartus Pontifex Maximus, qui hunc sub quo vivimus foeliciter Innocentium VIII proxime antecessit, maxima cura studioque curavit ut in publicam fidei nostræ utilitatem Latinis litteris mandarentur. Iamque cum ille decessit, tres ex illis pervenerant ad Latinos. Hi libri apud Hebræos hac tempestate tanta religione coluntur, ut neminem liceat nisi annos XL natum illos attingere. Hos ego libros non mediocri impensa mihi cum comparassem, summa diligentia indefessis laboribus cum perlegissem, vidi in illis (testis est Deus) religionem non tam Mosaicam quam Christianam. Ibi Trinitatis mysterium, ibi Verbi incarnatio, ibi Messiæ divinitas, ibi de peccato originali, de illius per Christum expiatione, de cælesti Hyerusalem de casu demonum, de ordinibus angelorum, de purgatoriis, de inferorum pænis, eadem legi quæ apud Paulum et Dyonisium apud Hieronymum et Augustinum quotidie legimus. In his vero quæ spectant ad philosophiam, Pythagoram prorsus audias et Platonem, quorum decreta ita sunt fidei Christianæ affinia, ut Augustinus noster immensas Deo gratias agat quod ad eius manus pervenerint libri Platonicorum.🞯Aurelius Augustinus: Confessiones VII,9: Et primo volens ostendere mihi, quam resistas superbis, humilibus autem des gratiam, et quanta misericordia tua demonstrata sit hominibus via humilitatis, quod verbum caro factum est et habitavit inter homines: procurasti mihi per quendam hominem, inmanissimo typho turgidum, quosdam Platonicorum libros ex graeca lingua in latinum versos; et ibi legi non quidem his verbis, sed hoc idem omnino multis et multiplicibus suaderi rationibus, quod in principio erat verbum et verbum erat apud deum et deus erat verbum.
And Thou, willing first to show me how Thou resistest the proud, but givest grace unto the humble, and by how great an act of Thy mercy Thou hadst traced out to men the way of humility, in that Thy Word was made flesh, and dwelt among men:- Thou procuredst for me, by means of one puffed up with most unnatural pride, certain books of the Platonists, translated from Greek into Latin. And therein I read, not indeed in the very words, but to the very same purpose, enforced by many and divers reasons, that In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. — Translated by Edward Bouverie Pusey.
In plenum nulla est ferme de re nobis cum Hebræis controversia de qua ex libris Cabalistarum ita redargui convincique non possint, ut ne angulus quidem reliquus sit in quem se condant. Cuius rei testem gravissimum habeo Antonium Cronicum, virum eruditissimum, qui suis auribus cum apud eum essem in convivio, audivit Dactylum Hebræum peritum huius scientiæ in Christianorum prorsus de Trinitate sententiam pedibus manibusque descendere.
Sed ut ad meæ redeam disputationis capita percensenda, attulimus et nostram de interpretandis Orphei Zoroastrisque carminibus sententiam. Orpheus apud Græcos ferme integer;🞯Ὀϱφεύς, legendary musician and prophet in the ancient Greek religion, founder and prophet of the Orphic mysteries.
Κιϰλήσϰω Διόνυσον ἐϱίβϱομον, εὐαστῆϱα,
πϱωτόγονον, διφυῆ, τϱίγονον, Βαϰχεῖον ἄναϰτα,
ἄγϱιον, ἄϱϱητον, ϰϱύφιον, διϰέϱωτα, δίμοϱφον,
ϰισσόβϱυον, ταυϱωπόν, ἀϱήϊον, εὔϊον, ἁγνόν,
ὠμάδιον, τϱιετῆ, βοτϱυοτϱὸφον, ἐϱνεσίπεπλον.
Εὐβουλεῦ, πολύβουλε, Διὸς ϰαὶ Πεϱσεφονείης
ἀϱϱήτοις λέϰτϱοισι τεϰνωϑείς, ἄμβϱοτε δαῖμον·
ϰλῦϑι μάϰαϱ φωνῆς, ἡδὺς δ’ ἐπίπνευσον ἐνηής,
εὐμενὲς ἦτοϱ ἔχων, σὺν ἐυζώνοισι τιϑήναις.
I call Diónysos the loud-roarer! Who wails in revel!
First-Born, two-natured, thrice-born, Vakkhic king,
Wild, inscrutable, cryptic, two-horned, two-shaped,
Bedecked in ivy, bull-faced, war-like, howling, holy,
Divine victim, feasted every other year,
Adorned with grapes, bedecked in foliage.
Evvouléfs, counselor, Zefs and Kóri bore you...
On a secret bed, immortal Daimôn;
Listen happy one to my voice, sweet and gentle divine inspiration,
Having a kindly heart, with the aid of your chaste nurses! Zoroaster apud eos mancus, apud Caldeos absolutior legitur: ambo priscæ sapientiæ crediti patres et auctores. Nam ut taceam de Zoroastre, cuius frequens apud Platonicos non sine summa semper veneratione est mentio, scribit Iamblicus Calcideus habuisse Pythagoram Orphycam theologiam tamquam exemplar ad quam ipse suam fingeret formaretque philosophiam.🞯Iamblichos, Ἰάμβλιχος: De vita Pythagorica, Πεϱὶ τοῦ Πυϑαγοϱιϰοῦ βίου XXVIII,145-146: Πόϑεν δὴ οὖν τὴν τοσαύτην εὐσέβειαν παϱέλαβον οὗτοι οἱ ἄνδϱες, εἴ τις βούλοιτο μαϑεῖν, ῥητέον ὡς τῆς Πυϑαγοϱιϰῆς ϰατ' ἀϱιϑμὸν ϑεολογίας παϱάδειγμα ἐναϱγὲς ἔϰειτο παϱὰ Ὀϱφεῖ. οὐϰέτι δὴ οὖν ἀμφίβολον γέγονε τὸ τὰς ἀφοϱμὰς παϱὰ Ὀϱφέως λαβόντα Πυϑαγόϱαν συντάξαι τὸν πεϱὶ ϑεῶν λόγον, ὃν ϰαὶ Ἱεϱὸν διὰ τοῦτο ἐπέγϱαψεν, ὡς ἂν ἐϰ τοῦ μυστιϰωτάτου ἀπηνϑισμένον παϱὰ Ὀϱφεῖ τόπου ̶ εἴτε ὄντως τοῦ ἀνδϱός, ὡς οἱ πλεῖστοι λέγουσι, σύγγϱαμμά ἐστιν, εἴτε Τηλαύγους, ὡς ἔνιοι τοῦ διδασϰαλείου ἐλλόγιμοι ϰαὶ ἀξιόπιστοι διαβεβαιοῦνται ἐϰ τῶν ὑπομνημάτων τῶν Δαμοῖ τῆι ϑυγατϱί, ἀδελφῆι δὲ Τηλαύγους, ἀπολειφϑέντων ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ Πυϑαγόϱου, ἅπεϱ μετὰ ϑάνατον ἱστοϱοῦσι δοϑῆναι Βιτάληι τε τῆι Δαμοῦς ϑυγατϱὶ ϰαὶ Τηλαύγει ‹ἐν› ἡλιϰίαι γενομένωι, υἱῶι μὲν Πυϑαγόϱου, ἀνδϱὶ δὲ τῆς Βιτάλης· ϰομιδῆι γὰϱ νέος ὑπὸ τὸν Πυϑαγόϱου ϑάνατον ἀπολελειμμένος ἦν παϱὰ Θεανοῖ τῆι μητϱί ̶ δηλοῦται δὴ διὰ τοῦ Ἱεϱοῦ λόγου τούτου ἢ πεϱὶ Θεῶν λόγου, ἐπιγϱάφεται γὰϱ ἀμφότεϱον, ϰαὶ τίς ἦν ὁ παϱαδεδωϰὼς Πυϑαγόϱαι τὸν πεϱὶ Θεῶν λόγον. λέγει γάϱ·‘‹λόγος› ὅδε πεϱὶ ϑεῶν Πυϑαγόϱα τῶ Μνημάϱχω, τὸν ἐξέμαϑον, ὀϱγιασϑεὶς ἐν Λιβήϑϱοις τοῖς Θϱαιϰίοις, Ἀγλαοφάμω τελεστᾶ μεταδόντος, ὡς ἄϱα Ὀϱφεὺς ὁ Καλλιόπας ϰατὰ τὸ Πάγγαιον ὄϱος ὑπὸ τᾶς ματϱὸς πινυσϑεὶς ἔφα, τὰν ἀϱιϑμῶ οὐσίαν ἀΐδιον εἶναι μὲν ἀϱχὰν πϱομαϑεστάταν τῶ παντὸς ὠϱανῶ ϰαὶ γᾶς ϰαὶ τᾶς μεταξὺ φύσιος, ἔτι δὲ ϰαὶ ϑείων ϰαὶ ϑεῶν ϰαὶ δαιμόνων διαμονᾶς ῥίζαν.’ ἐϰ δὴ τούτων φανεϱὸν γέγονεν ὅτι τὴν ἀϱιϑμῶι ὡϱισμένην οὐσίαν τῶν ϑεῶν παϱὰ τῶν Ὀϱφιϰῶν παϱέλαβεν. ἐποιεῖτο δὲ διὰ τῶν αὐτῶν ἀϱιϑμῶν ϰαὶ ϑαυμαστὴν πϱόγνωσιν ϰαὶ ϑεϱαπείαν τῶν ϑεῶν ϰατὰ τοὺς ἀϱιϑμοὺς ὅτι μάλιστα συγγενεστάτην.
If, therefore, any one wishes to learn what were the sources whence these men derived so much piety, it must be said, that a perspicuous paradigm of the Pythagoric theology according to numbers, is in a certain respect to be found in the writings of Orpheus. Nor is it to be doubted, that Pythagoras receiving auxiliaries from Orpheus, composed his treatise Concerning the Gods, which on this account also he inscribed The Sacred Discourse, because it contains the flower of the most mystical place in Orpheus; whether this work was in reality written by Pythagoras, as by most authors it is said to have been, or as some of the Pythagoric school who are both learned and worthy of belief assert, was composed by Telauges; being taken by him from the commentaries which were left by Pythagoras himself to his daughter Damo, the sister of Telauges, and which it is said after her death were given to Bitale the daughter of Damo, and to Telauges the son of Pythagoras, and the husband of Bitale, when he was of a mature age. For when Pythagoras died, he was left very young with his mother Theano. In this Sacred Discourse also, or treatise Concerning the Gods (for it has both these inscriptions), who it was that delivered to Pythagoras what is there said concerning the Gods, is rendered manifest. For it says: ‘that Pythagoras the son of Mnesarchus was instructed in what pertains to the Gods, when he celebrated orgies in the Thracian Libethra, being initiated in them by Aglaophemus; and that Orpheus the son of Calliope, having learnt wisdom from his mother in the mountain Pangæus, said, that the eternal essence of number is the most providential principle of the universe, of heaven and earth, and the intermediate nature; and farther still, that it is the root of the permanency of divine natures, of Gods and dæmons.’ From these things, therefore, it is evident that he learnt from the Orphic writers that the essence of the Gods is defined by Number. Through the same numbers also, he produced an admirable fore-knowledge and worship of the Gods, both which are especially most allied to numbers. — Translated by Thomas Taylor, 1818. Quin idcirco tantum dicta Pythagoræ sacra nuncupari dicunt, quod ab Orphei fluxerint institutis; inde secreta de numeris doctrina et quicquid magnum sublimeque habuit Græca philosophia ut a primo fonte manavit. Sed (qui erat veterum mos theologorum) ita Orpheus suorum dogmatum mysteria fabularum intexit involucris et poetico velamento dissimulavit, ut si quis legat illius hymnos, nihil subesse credat præter fabellas nugasque meracissimas. Quod volui dixisse ut cognoscatur quis mihi labor quæ fuerit difficultas, ex affectatis enigmatum syrpis, ex fabularum latebris latitantes eruere secretæ philosophiæ sensus, nulla præsertim in re tam gravi tam abscondita inexplorataque adiuto aliorum interpretum opera et diligentia. Et tamen oblatrarunt canes mei minutula quædam et levia ad numeri ostentationem me accumulasse, quasi non omnes quæ ambiguæ maxime controversæque sunt questiones, in quibus principales digladiantur achademiæ, quasi non multa attulerim his ipsis, qui et mea carpunt et se credunt philosophorum principes, et incognita prorsus et intentata.
Quin ego tantum absum ab ea culpa, ut curaverim in quam paucissima potui capita cogere disputationem. Quam si (ut consueverunt alii) partiri ipse in sua membra et lancinare voluissem, in innumerum profecto numerum excrevisset. Et, ut taceam de cæteris, quis est qui nesciat unum dogma ex nongentis, quod scilicet de concilianda est Platonis Aristotelisque philosophia, potuisse me citra omnem affectatæ numerositatis suspitionem in sexcenta ne dicam plura capita deduxisse, locos scilicet omnes in quibus dissidere alii, convenire ego illos existimo particulatim enumerantem? Sed certe (dicam enim quamquam neque modeste neque ex ingenio meo) dicam tamen, quia dicere me invidi cogunt, cogunt obtrectatores, volui hoc meo congressu fidem facere non tam quod multa scirem, quam quod scirem quæ multi nesciunt.
Quod ut vobis re ipsa, Patres colendissimi, iam palam fiat, ut desiderium vestrum, doctores exce[l]lentissimi, quos paratos accintosque expectare pugnam non sine magna voluptate conspicio, mea longius oratio non remoretur, quod foelix faustumque sit quasi citante classico iam conseramus manus.
ost esteemed Fathers, I have read in the ancient writings of the Arabians that Abdala the Saracen on being asked what, on this stage, so to say, of the world, seemed to him most evocative of wonder. He replied that there was nothing to be seen more marvelous than man. And that celebrated exclamation of Hermes Trismegistus, “What a great miracle is man, Asclepius,” confirms this opinion.
And still, as I reflected upon the basis assigned for these estimations, I was not fully persuaded by the diverse reasons advanced for the pre-eminence of human nature; that man is the intermediary between creatures, that he is the familiar of the gods above him as he is the lord of the beings beneath him; that, by the acuteness of his senses, the inquiry of his reason and the light of his intelligence, he is the interpreter of nature, set midway between the timeless unchanging and the flux of time; the living union (as the Persians say), the very marriage hymn of the world, and, by David’s testimony but little lower than the angels. These reasons are all, without question, of great weight.
Nevertheless, they do not touch the principal reasons, those, that is to say, which justify man’s unique right for such unbounded admiration. Why, I asked, should we not admire the angels themselves and the beatific choirs more? At long last, however, I feel that I have come to some understanding of why man is the most fortunate of living things and, consequently, deserving of all admiration; of what may be the condition in the hierarchy of beings assigned to him, which draws upon him the envy, not of the brutes alone, but of the astral beings and of the very intelligences which dwell beyond the confines of the world. A thing surpassing belief and smiting the soul with wonder. Still, how could it be otherwise? For it is on this ground that man is, with complete justice, considered and called a great miracle and a being worthy of all admiration. Hear then, oh Fathers, precisely what this condition of man is; and in the name of your humanity, grant me your benign audition as I pursue this theme.
God the Father, the Mightiest Architect, had already raised, according to the precepts of His hidden wisdom, this world we see, the cosmic dwelling of divinity, a temple most august. He had already adorned the supercelestial region with Intelligences, infused the heavenly globes with the life of immortal souls and set the fermenting dung-heap of the inferior world teeming with every form of animal life. But when this work was done, the Divine Artificer still longed for some creature which might comprehend the meaning of so vast an achievement, which might be moved with love at its beauty and smitten with awe at its grandeur. When, consequently, all else had been completed (as both Moses and Timaeus testify), in the very last place, He bethought Himself of bringing forth man. Truth was, however, that there remained no archetype according to which He might fashion a new offspring, nor in His treasure-houses the wherewithal to endow a new son with a fitting inheritance, nor any place, among the seats of the universe, where this new creature might dispose himself to contemplate the world. All space was already filled; all things had been distributed in the highest, the middle and the lowest orders. Still, it was not in the nature of the power of the Father to fail in this last creative élan; nor was it in the nature of that supreme Wisdom to hesitate through lack of counsel in so crucial a matter; nor, finally, in the nature of His beneficent love to compel the creature destined to praise the divine generosity in all other things to find it wanting in himself.
At last, the Supreme Maker decreed that this creature, to whom He could give nothing wholly his own, should have a share in the particular endowment of every other creature. Taking man, therefore, this creature of indeterminate image, He set him in the middle of the world and thus spoke to him:
“We have given you, O Adam, no visage proper to yourself, nor endowment properly your own, in order that whatever place, whatever form, whatever gifts you may, with premeditation, select, these same you may have and possess through your own judgement and decision. The nature of all other creatures is defined and restricted within laws which We have laid down; you, by contrast, impeded by no such restrictions, may, by your own free will, to whose custody We have assigned you, trace for yourself the lineaments of your own nature. I have placed you at the very center of the world, so that from that vantage point you may with greater ease glance round about you on all that the world contains. We have made you a creature neither of heaven nor of earth, neither mortal nor immortal, in order that you may, as the free and proud shaper of your own being, fashion yourself in the form you may prefer. It will be in your power to descend to the lower, brutish forms of life; you will be able, through your own decision, to rise again to the superior orders whose life is divine.”
Oh unsurpassed generosity of God the Father, Oh wondrous and unsurpassable felicity of man, to whom it is granted to have what he chooses, to be what he wills to be! The brutes, from the moment of their birth, bring with them, as Lucilius says, “from their mother’s womb” all that they will ever possess. The highest spiritual beings were, from the very moment of creation, or soon thereafter, fixed in the mode of being which would be theirs through measureless eternities. But upon man, at the moment of his creation, God bestowed seeds pregnant with all possibilities, the germs of every form of life. Whichever of these a man shall cultivate, the same will mature and bear fruit in him. If vegetative, he will become a plant; if sensual, he will become brutish; if rational, he will reveal himself a heavenly being; if intellectual, he will be an angel and the son of God. And if, dissatisfied with the lot of all creatures, he should recollect himself into the center of his own unity, he will there become one spirit with God, in the solitary darkness of the Father, Who is set above all things, himself transcend all creatures.
Who then will not look with awe upon this our chameleon, or who, at least, will look with greater admiration on any other being? This creature, man, whom Asclepius the Athenian, by reason of this very mutability, this nature capable of transforming itself, quite rightly said was symbolized in the mysteries by the figure of Proteus. This is the source of those metamorphoses, or transformations, so celebrated among the Hebræws and among the Pythagoreans;
for even the esoteric theology of the Hebræws at times transforms the holy Enoch into that angel of divinity which is sometimes called malakh-ha-shekhinah and at other times transforms other personages into divinities of other names; while the Pythagoreans transform men guilty of crimes into brutes or even, if we are to believe Empedocles, into plants; and Mohammed, imitating them, was known frequently to say that the man who deserts the divine law becomes a brute. And he was right; for it is not the bark that makes the tree, but its insensitive and unresponsive nature; nor the hide which makes the beast of burden, but its brute and sensual soul; nor the orbicular form which makes the heavens, but their harmonious order. Finally, it is not freedom from a body, but its spiritual intelligence, which makes the angel. If you see a man dedicated to his stomach, crawling on the ground, you see a plant and not a man; or if you see a man bedazzled by the empty forms of the imagination, as by the wiles of Calypso, and through their alluring solicitations made a slave to his own senses, you see a brute and not a man. If, however, you see a philosopher, judging and distinguishing all things according to the rule of reason, him shall you hold in veneration, for he is a creature of heaven and not of earth; if, finally, a pure contemplator, unmindful of the body, wholly withdrawn into the inner chambers of the mind, here indeed is neither a creature of earth nor a heavenly creature, but some higher divinity, clothed in human flesh.
Who then will not look with wonder upon man, upon man who, not without reason in the sacred Mosaic and Christian writings, is designated sometimes by the term “all flesh” and sometimes by the term “every creature,” because he molds, fashions and transforms himself into the likeness of all flesh and assumes the characteristic power of every form of life? This is why Evantes the Persian in his exposition of the Chaldæan theology, writes that man has no inborn and proper semblance, but many which are extraneous and adventitious: whence the Chaldæan saying: “Enosh hu shinnujim vekammah tebhaoth haj” — “man is a living creature of varied, multiform and ever-changing nature.”
But what is the purpose of all this? That we may understand — since we have been born into this condition of being what we choose to be — that we ought to be sure above all else that it may never be said against us that, born to a high position, we failed to appreciate it, but fell instead to the estate of brutes and uncomprehending beasts of burden; and that the saying of Aspah the Prophet, “You are all Gods and sons of the Most High,” might rather be true; and finally that we may not, through abuse of the generosity of a most indulgent Father, pervert the free option which he has given us from a saving to a damning gift. Let a certain saving ambition invade our souls so that, impatient of mediocrity, we pant after the highest things and (since, if we will, we can) bend all our efforts to their attainment. Let us disdain things of earth, hold as little worth even the astral orders and, putting behind us all the things of this world, hasten to that court beyond the world, closest to the most exalted Godhead. There, as the sacred mysteries tell us, the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones occupy the first places; but, unable to yield to them, and impatient of any second place, let us emulate their dignity and glory. And, if we will it, we shall be inferior to them in nothing.
How must we proceed and what must we do to realize this ambition? Let us observe what they do, what kind of life they lead. For if we lead this kind of life (and we can) we shall attain their same estate. The Seraphim burns with the fire of charity; from the Cherubim flashes forth the splendor of intelligence; the Thrones stand firm with the firmness of justice. If, consequently, in the pursuit of the active life we govern inferior things by just criteria, we shall be established in the firm position of the Thrones. If, freeing ourselves from active care, we devote our time to contemplation, meditating upon the Creator in His work, and the work in its Creator, we shall be resplendent with the light of the Cherubim. If we burn with love for the Creator only, his consuming fire will quickly transform us into the flaming likeness of the Seraphim. Above the Throne, that is, above the just judge, God sits, judge of the ages. Above the Cherub, that is, the contemplative spirit, He spreads His wings, nourishing him, as it were, with an enveloping warmth. For the spirit of the Lord moves upon the waters, those waters which are above the heavens and which, according to Job, praise the Lord in pre-aurorial hymns. Whoever is a Seraph, that is a lover, is in God and God is in him; even, it may be said, God and he are one. Great is the power of the Thrones, which we attain by right judgement, highest of all the sublimity of the Seraphim which we attain by loving.
But how can anyone judge or love what he does not know? Moses loved the God whom he had seen and as judge of his people he administered what he had previously seen in contemplation on the mountain. Therefore the Cherub is the intermediary and by his light equally prepares us for the fire of the Seraphim and the judgement of the Thrones. This is the bond which unites the highest minds, the Palladian order which presides over contemplative philosophy; this is then the bond which before all else we must emulate, embrace and comprehend, whence we may be rapt to the heights of love or descend, well instructed and prepared, to the duties of the practical life. But certainly it is worth the effort, if we are to form our life on the model of the Cherubim, to have familiarly before our eyes both its nature and its quality as well as the duties and the functions proper to it. Since it is not granted to us, flesh as we are and knowledgeable only the things of earth, to attain such knowledge by our own efforts, let us have recourse to the ancient Fathers. They can give us the fullest and most reliable testimony concerning these matters because they had an almost domestic and connatural knowledge of them. Let us ask the Apostle Paul, that vessel of election, in what activity he saw the armies of the Cherubim engaged when he was rapt into the third heaven. He will answer, according to the interpretation of Dionysius, that he saw them first being purified, then illuminated, and finally made perfect.
We, therefore, imitating the life of the Cherubim here on earth, by refraining the impulses of our passions through moral science, by dissipating the darkness of reason by dialectic — thus washing away, so to speak, the filth of ignorance and vice — may likewise purify our souls, so that the passions may never run rampant, nor reason, lacking restraint, range beyond its natural limits. Then may we suffuse our purified souls with the light of natural philosophy, bringing it to final perfection by the knowledge of divine things.
Lest we be satisfied to consult only those of our own faith and tradition, let us also have recourse to the patriarch, Jacob, whose likeness, carved on the throne of glory, shines out before us. This wisest of the Fathers who though sleeping in the lower world, still has his eyes fixed on the world above, will admonish us. He will admonish, however, in a figure, for all things appeared in figures to the men of those times: a ladder rises by many rungs from earth to the height of heaven and at its summit sits the Lord, while over its rungs the contemplative angels move, alternately ascending and descending.
If this is what we, who wish to imitate the angelic life, must do in our turn, who, I ask, would dare set muddied feet or soiled hands to the ladder of the Lord? It is forbidden, as the mysteries teach, for the impure to touch what is pure. But what are these hands, these feet, of which we speak? The feet, to be sure, of the soul: that is, its most despicable portion by which the soul is held fast to earth as a root to the ground; I mean to say, it alimentary and nutritive faculty where lust ferments and voluptuous softness is fostered. And why may we not call “the hand” that irascible power of the soul, which is the warrior of the appetitive faculty, fighting for it and foraging for it in the dust and the sun, seizing for it all things which, sleeping in the shade, it will devour? Let us bathe in moral philosophy as in a living stream, these hands, that is, the whole sensual part in which the lusts of the body have their seat and which, as the saying is, holds the soul by the scruff of the neck, let us be flung back from that ladder as profane and polluted intruders. Even this, however, will not be enough, if we wish to be the companions of the angels who traverse the ladder of Jacob, unless we are first instructed and rendered able to advance on that ladder duly, step by step, at no point to stray from it and to complete the alternate ascensions and descents. When we shall have been so prepared by the art of discourse or of reason, then, inspired by the spirit of the Cherubim, exercising philosophy through all the rungs of the ladder — that is, of nature — we shall penetrate being from its center to its surface and from its surface to its center. At one time we shall descend, dismembering with titanic force the “unity” of the “many,” like the members of Osiris; at another time, we shall ascend, recollecting those same members, by the power of Phoebus, into their original unity. Finally, in the bosom of the Father, who reigns above the ladder, we shall find perfection and peace in the felicity of theological knowledge.
Let us also inquire of the just Job, who made his covenant with the God of life even before he entered into life, what, above all else, the supreme God desires of those tens of thousands of beings which surround Him. He will answer, without a doubt: peace, just as it is written in the pages of Job: He establishes peace in the high reaches of heaven. And since the middle order interprets the admonitions of the higher to the lower orders, the words of Job the theologian may well be interpreted for us by Empedocles the philosopher. Empedocles teaches us that there is in our souls a dual nature; the one bears us upwards toward the heavenly regions; by the other we are dragged downward toward regions infernal, through friendship and discord, war and peace; so witness those verses in which he laments that, torn by strife and discord, like a madman, in flight from the gods, he is driven into the depths of the sea.
For it is a patent thing, O Fathers, that many forces strive within us, in grave, intestine warfare, worse than the civil wars of states. Equally clear is it that, if we are to overcome this warfare, if we are to establish that peace which must establish us finally among the exalted of God, philosophy alone can compose and allay that strife. In the first place, if our man seeks only truce with his enemies, moral philosophy will restrain the unreasoning drives of the protean brute, the passionate violence and wrath of the lion within us. If, acting on wiser counsel, we should seek to secure an unbroken peace, moral philosophy will still be at hand to fulfill our desires abundantly; and having slain either beast, like sacrificed sows, it will establish an inviolable compact of peace between the flesh and the spirit. Dialectic will compose the disorders of reason torn by anxiety and uncertainty amid the conflicting hordes of words and captious reasonings. Natural philosophy will reduce the conflict of opinions and the endless debates which from every side vex, distract and lacerate the disturbed mind. It will compose this conflict, however, in such a manner as to remind us that nature, as Heraclitus wrote, is generated by war and for this reason is called by Homer, “strife.” Natural philosophy, therefore, cannot assure us a true and unshakable peace. To bestow such peace is rather the privilege and office of the queen of the sciences, most holy theology. Natural philosophy will at best point out the way to theology and even accompany us along the path, while theology, seeing us from afar hastening to draw close to her, will call out: “Come unto me you who are spent in labor and I will restore you; come to me and I will give you the peace which the world and nature cannot give.”
Summoned in such consoling tones and invited with such kindness, like earthly Mercuries, we shall fly on winged feet to embrace that most blessed mother and there enjoy the peace we have longed for: that most holy peace, that indivisible union, that seamless friendship through which all souls will not only be at one in that one mind which is above every mind, but, in a manner which passes expression, will really be one, in the most profound depths of being. This is the friendship which the Pythagoreans say is the purpose of all philosophy. This is the peace which God established in the high places of the heaven and which the angels, descending to earth, announced to men of good will, so that men, ascending through this peace to heaven, might become angels. This is the peace which we would wish for our friends, for our age, for every house into which we enter and for our own soul, that through this peace it may become the dwelling of God; sop that, too, when the soul, by means of moral philosophy and dialectic shall have purged herself of her uncleanness, adorned herself with the disciplines of philosophy as with the raiment of a prince’s court and crowned the pediments of her doors with the garlands of theology, the King of Glory may descend and, coming with the Father, take up his abode with her. If she prove worthy of so great a guest, she will, through his boundless clemency, arrayed in the golden vesture of the many sciences as in a nuptial gown, receive him, not as a guest merely, but as a spouse. And rather than be parted from him, she will prefer to leave her own people and her father’s house. Forgetful of her very self she will desire to die to herself in order to live in her spouse, in whose eyes the death of his saints is infinitely precious: I mean that death — if the very plenitude of life can be called death — whose meditation wise men have always held to be the special study of philosophy.
Let us also cite Moses himself, who is but little removed from the living well-spring of the most holy and ineffable understanding by whose nectar the angels are inebriated. Let us listen to the venerable judge as he enunciates his laws to us who live in the desert solitude of the body: “Let those who, still unclean, have need of moral philosophy, dwell with the peoples outside the tabernacles, under the open sky, until, like the priests of Thessaly, they shall have cleansed themselves. Those who have already brought order into their lives may be received into the tabernacle, but still may not touch the sacred vessels. Let them rather first, as zealous levites, in the service of dialectic, minister to the holy offices of philosophy. When they shall themselves be admitted to those offices, they may, as priests of philosophy, contemplate the many-colored throne of the higher God, that is the courtly palace of the star-hung heavens, the heavenly candelabrum aflame with seven lights and elements which are the furry veils of this tabernacle; so that, finally, having been permitted to enter, through the merit of sublime theology, into the innermost chambers of the temple, with no veil of images interposing itself, we may enjoy the glory of divinity.” This is what Moses beyond a doubt commands us, admonishing, urging and exhorting us to prepare ourselves, while we may, by means of philosophy, a road to future heavenly glory.
In fact, however, the dignity of the liberal arts, which I am about to discuss, and their value to us is attested not only by the Mosaic and Christian mysteries but also by the theologies of the most ancient times. What else is to be understood by the stages through which the initiates must pass in the mysteries of the Greeks? These initiates, after being purified by the arts which we might call expiatory, moral philosophy and dialectic, were granted admission to the mysteries. What could such admission mean but the interpretation of occult nature by means of philosophy? Only after they had been prepared in this way did they receive “Epopteia,” that is, the immediate vision of divine things by the light of theology. Who would not long to be admitted to such mysteries? Who would not desire, putting all human concerns behind him, holding the goods of fortune in contempt and little minding the goods of the body, thus to become, while still a denizen of earth, a guest at the table of the gods, and, drunk with the nectar of eternity, receive, while still a mortal, the gift of immortality? Who would not wish to be so inspired by those Socratic frenzies which Plato sings in the Phaedrus that, swiftly fleeing this place, that is, this world fixed in evil, by the oars, so to say, both of feet and wings, he might reach the heavenly Jerusalem by the swiftest course? Let us be driven, O Fathers, by those Socratic frenzies which lift us to such ecstasy that our intellects and our very selves are united to God. And we shall be moved by them in this way as previously we have done all that it lies in us to do. If, by moral philosophy, the power of our passions shall have been restrained by proper controls so that they achieve harmonious accord; and if, by dialectic, our reason shall have progressed by an ordered advance, then, smitten by the frenzy of the Muses, we shall hear the heavenly harmony with the inward ears of the spirit. Then the leader of the Muses, Bacchus, revealing to us in our moments of philosophy, through his mysteries, that is, the visible signs of nature, the invisible things of God, will make us drunk with the richness of the house of God; and there, if, like Moses, we shall prove entirely faithful, most sacred theology will supervene to inspire us with redoubled ecstasy. For, raised to the most eminent height of theology, whence we shall be able to measure with the rod of indivisible eternity all things that are and that have been; and, grasping the primordial beauty of things, like the seers of Phoebus, we shall become the winged lovers of theology. And at last, smitten by the ineffable love as by a sting, and, like the Seraphim, filled with the godhead, we shall be, no longer ourselves, but the very One who made us.
The sacred names of Apollo, to anyone who penetrates their meanings and the mysteries they conceal, clearly show that God is a philosopher no less than a seer; but since Ammonius has amply treated this theme, there is no occasion for me to expound it anew. Nevertheless, O Fathers, we cannot fail to recall those three Delphic precepts which are so very necessary for everyone about to enter the most holy and august temple, not of the false, but of the true Apollo who illumines every soul as it enters this world. You will see that they exhort us to nothing else but to embrace with all our powers this tripartite philosophy which we are now discussing. As a matter of fact that aphorism: meden agan, this is: “Nothing in excess,” duly prescribes a measure and rule for all the virtues through the concept of the “Mean” of which moral philosophy treats. In like manner, that other aphorism gnothi seauton, that is, “Know thyself,” invites and exhorts us to the study of the whole nature of which the nature of man is the connecting link and the “mixed potion”; for he who knows himself knows all things in himself, as Zoroaster first and after him Plato, in the Alcibiades, wrote. Finally, enlightened by this knowledge, through the aid of natural philosophy, being already close to God, employing the theological salutation ei, that is “Thou art,” we shall blissfully address the true Apollo on intimate terms.
Let us also seek the opinion of Pythagoras, that wisest of men, known as a wise man precisely because he never thought himself worthy of that name. His first precept to us will be: “Never sit on a bushel”; never, that is, through slothful inaction to lose our power of reason, that faculty by which the mind examines, judges and measures all things; but rather unremittingly by the rule and exercise of dialectic, to direct it and keep it agile. Next he will warn us of two things to be avoided at all costs: Neither to make water facing the sun, nor to cut our nails while offering sacrifice. Only when, by moral philosophy, we shall have evacuated the weakening appetites of our too-abundant pleasures and pared away, like nail clippings, the sharp points of anger and wrath in our souls, shall we finally begin to take part in the sacred rites, that is, the mysteries of Bacchus of which we have spoken and to dedicate ourselves to that contemplation of which the Sun is rightly called the father and the guide. Finally, Pythagoras will command us to “Feed the cock”; that is, to nourish the divine part of our soul with the knowledge of divine things as with substantial food and heavenly ambrosia. This is the cock whose visage is the lion, that is, all earthly power, holds in fear and awe. This is the cock to whom, as we read in Job, all understanding was given. At this cock’s crowing, erring man returns to his senses. This is the cock which every day, in the morning twilight, with the stars of morning, raises a Te Deum to heaven. This is the cock which Socrates, at the hour of his death, when he hoped he was about to join the divinity of his spirit to the divinity of the higher world and when he was already beyond danger of any bodily illness, said that he owed to Asclepius, that is, the healer of souls.
Let us also pass in review the records of the Chaldæans; there we shall see (if they are to be believed) that the road to happiness, for mortals, lies through these same arts. The Chaldæan interpreters write that it was a saying of Zoroaster that the soul is a winged creature. When her wings fall from her, she is plunged into the body; but when they grow strong again, she flies back to the supernal regions. And when his disciples asked him how they might insure that their souls might be well plumed and hence swift in flight he replied: “Water them well with the waters of life.” And when they persisted, asking whence they might obtain these waters of life, he answered (as he was wont) in a parable: “The Paradise of God is bathed and watered by four rivers; from these same sources you may draw the waters which will save you. The name of the river which flows from the north is Pischon which means, `the Right.’ That which flows from the west is Gichon, that is, `Expiation.’ The river flowing from the east is named Chiddekel, that is, `Light,’ while that, finally, from the south is Perath, which may be understood as `Compassion.’”🞯Genesis II,10-14: “And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became four heads. The name of the first is Pishon; that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; and the gold of that land is good; there is bdellium and the onyx stone. And the name of the second river is Gihon; the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Cush. And the name of the third river is Tigris; that is it which goeth toward the east of Asshur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.” Consider carefully and with full attention, O Fathers, what these deliverances of Zoroaster might mean. Obviously, they can only mean that we should, by moral science, as by western waves, wash the uncleanness from our eyes; that, by dialectic, as by a reading taken by the northern star, our gaze must be aligned with the right. Then, that we should become accustomed to bear, in the contemplation of nature, the still feeble light of truth, like the first rays of the rising sun, so that finally we may, through theological piety and the most holy cult of God, become able, like the eagles of heaven, to bear the effulgent splendor of the noonday sun. These are, perhaps, those “morning, midday and evening thoughts” which David first celebrated and on which St. Augustine later expatiated. This is the noonday light which inflames the Seraphim toward their goal and equally illuminates the Cherubim. This is the promised land toward which our ancient father Abraham was ever advancing; this the region where, as the teachings of the Cabalists and the Moors tell us, there is no place for unclean spirits. And if we may be permitted, even in the form of a riddle, to say anything publicly about the deeper mysteries: since the precipitous fall of man has left his mind in a vertiginous whirl and and since according to Jeremiah death has come in through the windows to infect our hearts and bowels with evil, let us call upon Raphael, the heavenly healer that by moral philosophy and dialectic, as with healing drugs, he may release us. When we shall have been restored to health, Gabriel, the strength of God, will abide in us. Leading us through the marvels of nature and pointing out to us everywhere the power and the goodness of God, he will deliver us finally to the care of the High Priest Michael. He, in turn, will adorn those who have successfully completed their service to philosophy with the priesthood of theology as with a crown of precious stones.
These are the reasons, most reverend Fathers, which not only led, but even compelled me, to the study of philosophy. And I should not have undertaken to expound them, except to reply to those who are wont to condemn the study of philosophy, especially among men of high rank, but also among those of modest station. For the whole study of philosophy (such is the unhappy plight of our time) is occasion for contempt and contumely, rather than honor and glory. The deadly and monstrous persuasion has invaded practically all minds, that philosophy ought not to be studied at all or by very few people; as though it were a thing of little worth to have before our eyes and at our finger-tips, as matters we have searched out with greatest care, the causes of things, the ways of nature and the plan of the universe, God’s counsels and the mysteries of heaven and earth, unless by such knowledge on might procure some profit or favor for oneself. Thus we have reached the point, it is painful to recognize, where the only persons accounted wise are those who can reduce the pursuit of wisdom to a profitable traffic; and chaste Pallas, who dwells among men only by the generosity of the gods, is rejected, hooted, whistled at in scorn, with no one to love or befriend her unless, by prostituting herself, she is able to pay back into the strongbox of her lover the ill-procured price of her deflowered virginity.
I address all these complaints, with the greatest regret and indignation, not against the princes of our times, but against the philosophers who believe and assert that philosophy should not be pursued because no monetary value or reward is assigned it, unmindful that by this sign they disqualify themselves as philosophers. Since their whole life is concentrated on gain and ambition, they never embrace the knowledge of the truth for its own sake. This much will I say for myself — and on this point I do not blush for praising myself — that I have never philosophized save for the sake of philosophy, nor have I ever desired or hoped to secure from my studies and my laborious researches any profit or fruit save cultivation of mind and knowledge of the truth — things I esteem more and more with the passage of time. I have also been so avid for this knowledge and so enamored of it that I have set aside all private and public concerns to devote myself completely to contemplation; and from it no calumny of jealous persons, nor any invective from enemies of wisdom has ever been able to detach me. Philosophy has taught me to rely on my own convictions rather than on the judgements of others and to concern myself less with whether I am well thought of than whether what I do or say is evil.
I was not unaware, most revered Fathers, that this present disputation of mine would be as acceptable and as pleasing to you, who favor all the good arts and who have consented to grace it with your presence, as it would be irritating and offensive to many others. I am also aware that there is no dearth of those who have condemned my undertaking before this and continue to do so on a number of grounds. But this has always been the case: works which are well-intentioned and sincerely directed to virtue have always had no fewer — not to say more — detractors than those undertaken for questionable motives and for devious ends. Some persons disapprove the present type of disputation in general and this method of disputing in public about learned matters; they assert that they serve only the exhibition of talent and the display of opinion, rather than the increase of learning. Others do not disapprove this type of exercise, but resent the fact that at my age, a mere twenty-four years, I have dared to propose a disputation concerning the most subtle mysteries of Christian theology, the most debated points of philosophy and unfamiliar branches of learning; and that I have done so here, in this most renowned of cities, before a large assembly of very learned men, in the presence of the Apostolic Senate. Still others have ceded my right so to dispute, but have not conceded that I might dispute nine hundred theses, asserting that such a project is superfluous, over-ambitious and beyond my powers. I should have acceded to these objections willingly and immediately, if the philosophy which I profess had so counseled me. Nor should I now undertake to reply to them, as my philosophy urges me to do, if I believed that this disputation between us were undertaken for purposes of mere altercation and litigation. Therefore, let all intention of denigration and exasperation be purged from our minds and with it that malice which, as Plato writes, is never present in the angelic choirs. Let us amicably decide whether it be admissible for me to proceed with my disputation and whether I should venture so large a number of questions.
I shall not, in the first place, have much to say against those who disapprove this type of public disputation. It is a crime — if it be a crime — which I share with all you, most excellent doctors, who have engaged in such exercises on many occasions to the enhancement of your reputations, as well as with Plato and Aristotle and all the most esteemed philosophers of every age. These philosophers of the past all thought that nothing could profit them more in their search for wisdom than frequent participation in public disputation. Just as the powers of the body are made stronger through gymnastic, the powers of the mind grow in strength and vigor in this arena of learning. I am inclined to believe that the poets, when they sang of the arms of Pallas and the Hebræws, when they called the barzel, that is, the sword, the symbol of men of wisdom, could have meant nothing by these symbols but this type of contest, at once so necessary and so honorable for the acquisition of knowledge. This may also be the reason why the Chaldæans, at the birth of a man destined to be a philosopher, described a horoscope in which Mars confronted Mercury from three distinct angles. This is as much as to say that should these assemblies and these contests be abandoned, all philosophy would become sluggish and dormant.
It is more difficult for me, however, to find a line of defense against those who tell me that I am unequal to the undertaking. If I say that I am equal to it, I shall appear to entertain an immodestly high opinion of myself. If I admit that I am unequal to it, while persisting in it, I shall certainly risk being called temerarious and imprudent. You see the difficulties into which I have fallen, the position in which I am placed. I cannot, without censure, promise something about myself, nor, without equal censure, fail in what I promise. Perhaps I can invoke that saying of Job: "the Spirit is in all men," or take consolation in what was said to Timothy: "Let no man despise your youth." But to speak from my own conscience, I might say with greater truth that there is nothing singular about me. I admit that I am devoted to study and eager in the pursuit of the good arts. Nevertheless, I do not assume nor arrogate to myself the title learned. If, consequently, I have taken such a great burden on my shoulders, it is not because I am ignorant of my own weaknesses. Rather, it is because I understand that in this kind of learned contest the real victory lies in being vanquished. Even the weakest, consequently, ought not to shun them, but should seek them out, as well they may. For the one who is bested receives from his conqueror, not an injury but a benefit; he returns to his house richer than he left, that is, more learned and better armed for future contests. Inspired by such hope, though myself but a weak soldier, I have not been afraid to enter so dangerous a contest even against the very strongest and vigorous opponents. Whether, in doing so, I have acted foolishly or not might better be judged from the outcome of the contest than from my age.
I must, in the third place, answer those who are scandalized by the large number of propositions and the variety of topics I have proposed for disputation, as though the burden, however great it may be, rested on their shoulders and not, as it does, on mine. Surely it is unbecoming and captious to want to set limits to another’s efforts and, as Cicero says, to desire mediocrity in those things in which the rule should be: the more the better. In undertaking so great a venture only one alternative confronted me: success or failure. If I should succeed, I do not see how it would be more praiseworthy to succeed in defending ten theses than in defending nine hundred. If I should fail, those who hate me will have grounds for disparagement, while those who love me will have an occasion to excuse me. In so large and important an undertaking it would seem that a young man who fails through weakness of talent or want of learning deserves indulgence rather than censure. For as the poet [Propertius] says,
if powers fail, there shall be praise for daring;
and in great undertaking, to have willed is enough.
In our own day, many scholars, imitating Gorgias of Leontini, have been accustomed to dispute, not nine hundred questions merely, but the whole range of questions concerning all the arts and have been praised for it. Why should not I, then, without incurring criticism, be permitted to discuss a large number of questions indeed, but questions which are clear and determined in their scope?
They reply, this is superfluous and ambitious. I protest that, in my case, no superfluity is involved, but that all is necessary. If they consider the method of my philosophy they will feel compelled, even against their inclinations, to recognize this necessity. All those who attach themselves to one or another of the philosophers, to Thomas, for instance or Scotus, who at present enjoy the widest following, can indeed test their doctrine in a discussion of a few questions. By contrast, I have so trained myself that, committed to the teachings of no one man, I have ranged through all the masters of philosophy, examined all their works, become acquainted with all schools. As a consequence, I have had to introduce all of them into the discussion lest, defending a doctrine peculiar to one, I might seem committed to it and thus to deprecate the rest. While a few of the theses proposed concern individual philosophers, it was inevitable that a great number should concern all of them together. Nor should anyone condemn me on the grounds that “wherever the storm blows me, there I remain as a guest.” For it was a rule among the ancients, in the case of all writers, never to leave unread any commentaries which might be available. Aristotle observed this rule so carefully that Plato called him: auagnooies, that is, “the reader.” It is certainly a mark of excessive narrowness of mind to enclose oneself within one Porch or Academy; nor can anyone reasonably attach himself to one school or philosopher, unless he has previously become familiar with them all. In addition, there is in each school some distinctive characteristic which it does not share with any other.
To begin with the men of our own faith to whom philosophy came last, there is in Duns Scotus both vigor and distinction, in Thomas solidity and sense of balance, in Egidius, lucidity and precision, in Francis, depth and acuteness, in Albertus [Magnus] a sense of ultimate issues, all-embracing and grand, in Henry, as it has seemed to me, always an element of sublimity which inspires reverence. Among the Arabians, there is in Averroës something solid and unshaken, in Avempace, as in Al-Farabi, something serious and deeply meditated; in Avicenna, something divine and platonic. Among the Greeks philosophy was always brilliant and, among the earliest, even chaste: in Simplicus it is rich and abundant, in Themistius elegant and compendious, in Alexander, learned and self-consistent, in Theophrastus, worked out with great reflection, in Ammonius, smooth and pleasing. If you turn to the Platonists, to mention but a few, you will, in Porphyry, be delighted by the wealth of matter and by his preoccupation with many aspects of religion; in Iamblichus, you will be awed by his knowledge of occult philosophy and the mysteries of the barbarian peoples; in Plotinus, you will find it impossible to single out one thing for admiration, because he is admirable under every aspect. Platonists themselves, sweating over his pages, understand him only with the greatest difficulty when, in his oblique style, he teaches divinely about divine things and far more than humanly about things human. I shall pass over the more recent figures, Proclus, and those others who derive from him, Damacius, Olympiodorus and many more in whom that to theion, that is, that divine something which is the special mark of the Platonists, always shines out.
It should be added that any school which attacks the more established truths and by clever slander ridicules the valid arguments of reason confirms, rather than weakens, the truth itself, which, like embers, is fanned to life, rather than extinguished by stirring. These considerations have motivated me in my determination to bring to men’s attention the opinions of all schools rather than the doctrine of some one or other (as some might have preferred), for it seems to me that by the confrontation of many schools and the discussion of many philosophical systems that “effulgence of truth” of which Plato writes in his letters might illuminate our minds more clearly, like the sun rising from the sea. What should have been our plight had only the philosophical thought of the Latin authors, that is, Albert, Thomas, Scotus, Egidius, Francis and Henry, been discussed, while that of the Greeks and the Arabs was passed over, since all the thought of the barbarian nations was inherited by the Greeks and from the Greeks came down to us? For this reason, our thinkers have always been satisfied, in the field of philosophy, to rest on the discoveries of foreigners and simply to perfect the work of others. What profit would have dervied from discussing natural philosophy with the Peripatetics [i.e, the Aristotelians] if the Academy of the Platonists had not also participated in the exchange, for the doctrine of the latter, even when it touched on divine matters, has always (as St. Augustine bears witness) been esteemed the most elevated of all philosophies? And this in turn has been the reason why I have, for the first time after many centuries of neglect (and there is nothing invidious in my saying so) brought it forth again for public examination and discussion. And what would it have profited us if, having discussed the opinions of innumerable others, like asymboli [guests who do not pay] at the banquet of wise men, we should contribute nothing of our own, nothing conceived and elaborated in our own mind? Indeed, it is the characteristic of the impotent (as Seneca writes) to have their knowledge all written down in their note-books, as though the discoveries of those who preceded us had closed the path to our own efforts, as though the power of nature had become effete in us and could bring forth nothing which, if it could not demonstrate the truth, might at least point to it from afar. The farmer hates sterility in his field and the husband deplores it in his wife; even more then must the divine mind hate the sterile mind with which it is joined and associated, because it hopes from that source to have offspring of such a high nature.
For these reasons, I have not been content to repeat well-worn doctrines, but have proposed for disputation many points of the early theology of Hermes Trismegistus, many theses drawn from the teachings of the Chaldæans and the Pythagoreans, from the occult mysteries of the Hebræws and, finally, a considerable number of propositions concerning both nature and God which we ourselves have discovered and worked out.
In the first place, we have proposed a harmony between Plato and Aristotle, such as many before this time indeed believed to exist but which no one has satisfactorily established. Boethius, among Latin writers, promised to compose such a harmony, but he never carried his proposal to completion. St. Augustine also writes, in his Contra Academicos, that many others tried to prove the same thing, that is, that the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle were identical, and by the most subtle arguments. For example, John the Grammarian held that Aristotle differed from Plato only for those who did not grasp Plato’s thought; but he left it to posterity to prove it. We have, in addition, adduced a great number of passages in which Scotus and Thomas, and others in which Averroës and Avicenna, have heretofore been thought to disagree, but which I assert are in harmony with one another.
In the second place, along with my own reflections on and developments of both the Aristotelian and the Platonic philosophies, I have adduced seventy-two theses in physics and metaphysics. If I am not mistaken (and this will become clearer in the course of the proposed disputation) anyone subscribing to these theses will be able to resolve any question proposed to him in natural philosophy or theology on a principle quite other than that taught us in the philosophy which is at present to be learned in the schools and is taught by the masters of the present generation. Nor ought anyone to be surprised, that in my early years, at a tender age at which I should hardly be permitted to read the writings of others (as some have insinuated) I should wish to propose a new philosophy. They ought rather to praise this new philosophy, if it is well defended, or reject it, if it is refuted. Finally, since it will be their task to judge my discoveries and my scholarship, they ought to look to the merit or demerit of these and not to the age of their author.
I have, in addition, introduced a new method of philosophizing on the basis of numbers. This method is, in fact, very old, for it was cultivated by the ancient theologians, by Pythagoras, in the first place, but also by Aglaophamos, Philolaus and Plato, as well as by the earliest Platonists; however, like other illustrious achievements of the past, it has through lack of interest on the part of succeeding generations, fallen into such desuetude, that hardly any vestiges of it are to be found. Plato writes in Epinomis that among all the liberal arts and contemplative sciences, the science of number is supreme and most divine. And in another place, asking why man is the wisest of animals, he replies, because he knows how to count. Similarly, Aristotle, in his Problems repeats this opinion. Abumasar writes that it was a favorite saying of Avenzoar of Babylon that the man who knows how to count, knows everything else as well. These opinions are certainly devoid of any truth if by the art of number they intend that art in which today merchants excel all other men; Plato adds his testimony to this view, admonishing us emphatically not to confuse this divine arithmetic with the arithmetic of the merchants. When, consequently, after long nights of study I seemed to myself to have thoroughly penetrated this Arithmetic, which is thus so highly extolled, I promised myself that in order to test the matter, I would try to solve by means of this method of number seventy-four questions which are considered, by common consent, among the most important in physics and divinity.
I have also proposed certain theses concerning magic, in which I have indicated that magic has two forms. One consists wholly in the operations and powers of demons, and consequently this appears to me, as God is my witness, an execrable and monstrous thing. The other proves, when thoroughly investigated, to be nothing else but the highest realization of natural philosophy. The Greeks noted both these forms. However, because they considered the first form wholly undeserving the name magic they called it goeteia, reserving the term mageia, to the second, and understanding by it the highest and most perfect wisdom. The term “magus” in the Persian tongue, according to Porphyry, means the same as “interpreter” and “worshipper of the divine” in our language. Moreover, Fathers, the disparity and dissimilarity between these arts is the greatest that can be imagined. Not the Christian religion alone, but all legal codes and every well-governed commonwealth execrates and condemns the first; the second, by contrast, is approved and embraced by all wise men and by all peoples solicitous of heavenly and divine things. The first is the most deceitful of arts; the second, a higher and holier philosophy. The former is vain and disappointing; the later, firm, solid and satisfying. The practitioner of the first always tries to conceal his addiction, because it always rebounds to shame and reproach, while the cultivation of the second, both in antiquity and at almost all periods, has been the source of the highest renown and glory in the field of learning. No philosopher of any worth, eager in pursuit of the good arts, was ever a student of the former, but to learn the latter, Pythagoras, Empedocles, Plato and Democritus crossed the seas. Returning to their homes, they, in turn, taught it to others and considered it a treasure to be closely guarded. The former, since it is supported by no true arguments, is defended by no writers of reputation; the latter, honored, as it were, in its illustrious progenitors, counts two principal authors: Zamolxis, who was imitated by Abaris the Hyperborean, and Zoroaster; not, indeed, the Zoroaster who may immediately come to your minds, but that other Zoroaster, the son of Oromasius. If we should ask Plato the nature of each of these forms of magic, he will respond in the Alcibiades that the magic of Zoroaster is nothing else than that science of divine things in which the kings of the Persians had their sons educated to that they might learn to rule their commonwealth on the pattern of the commonwealth of the universe. In the Charmides he will answer that the magic of Zamolxis is the medicine of the soul, because it brings temperance to the soul as medicine brings health to the body.
Later Charondas, Damigeron, Apollonius, Osthanes and Dardanus continued in their footsteps, as did Homer, of whom we shall sometime prove, in a “poetic theology” we propose to write, that he concealed this doctrine, symbolically, in the wanderings of his Ulysses, just as he did all other learned doctrines. They were also followed by Eudoxus and Hermippus, as well as by practically all those who studied the Pythagorean and Platonic mysteries. Of later philosophers, I find that three had ferreted it out: the Arabian, Al-Kindi, Roger Bacon, and William of Paris. Plotinus also gives signs that he was aware of it in the passage in which he shows that the magician is the minister of nature and not merely its artful imitator. This very wise man approves and maintains this magic, while so abhorring that other that once, when he was invited to to take part in rites of evil spirits, he said that they ought rather to come to him, than he to go to them; and he spoke well. Just as that first form of magic makes man a slave and pawn of evil powers, the latter makes him their lord and master. That first form of magic cannot justify any claim to being either an art or a science while the latter, filled as it is with mysteries, embraces the most profound contemplation of the deepest secrets of things and finally the knowledge of the whole of nature. This beneficent magic, in calling forth, as it were, from their hiding places into the light the powers which the largess of God has sown and planted in the world, does not itself work miracles, so much as sedulously serve nature as she works her wonders. Scrutinizing, with greater penetration, that harmony of the universe which the Greeks with greater aptness of terms called sympatheia and grasping the mutual affinity of things, she applies to each thing those inducements (called the iugges of the magicians), most suited to its nature. Thus it draws forth into public notice the miracles which lie hidden in the recesses of the world, in the womb of nature, in the storehouses and secret vaults of God, as though she herself were their artificer. As the farmer weds his elms to the vines, so the “magus” unites earth to heaven, that is, the lower orders to the endowments and powers of the higher. Hence it is that this latter magic appears the more divine and salutary, as the former presents a monstrous and destructive visage. But the deepest reason for the difference is the fact that that first magic, delivering man over to the enemies of God, alienates him from God, while the second, beneficent magic, excites in him an admiration for the works of God which flowers naturally into charity, faith, and hope. For nothing so surely impels us to the worship of God than the assiduous contemplation of His miracles and when, by means of this natural magic, we shall have examined these wonders more deeply, we shall more ardently be moved to love and worship Him in his works, until finally we shall be compelled to burst into song: “The heavens, all of the earth, is filled with the majesty of your glory.” But enough about magic. I have been led to say even this much because I know that there are many persons who condemn and hate it, because they do not understand it, just as dogs always bay at strangers.
I come now to those matters which I have drawn from the ancient mysteries of the Hebræws and here adduce in confirmation of the inviolable Catholic faith. Lest these matters be thought, by those to whom they are unfamiliar, bubbles of the imagination and tales of charlatans, I want everyone to understand what they are and what their true character is; whence they are drawn and who are the illustrious writers who testifying to them; how mysterious they are, and divine and necessary to men of our faith for the propagation of our religion in the face of the persistent calumnies of the Hebræws.
Not famous Hebræw teachers alone, but, from among those of our own persuasion, Esdras, Hilary and Origen all write that Moses, in addition to the law of the five books which he handed down to posterity, when on the mount, received from God a more secret and true explanation of the law. They also say that God commanded Moses to make the law known to the people, but not to write down its interpretation or to divulge it, but to communicate it only to Jesu Nave who, in turn, was to reveal it to succeeding high priests under a strict obligation of silence. It was enough to indicate, through simple historical narrative, the power of God, his wrath against the unjust, his mercy toward the good, his justice toward all and to educate the people, by divine and salutary commands, to live well and blessedly and to worship in the true religion. Openly to reveal to the people the hidden mysteries and the secret intentions of the highest divinity, which lay concealed under the hard shell of the law and the rough vesture of language, what else could this be but to throw holy things to dogs and to strew gems among swine?
The decision, consequently, to keep such things hidden from the vulgar and to communicate them only to the initiate, among whom alone, as Paul says, wisdom speaks, was not a counsel of human prudence but a divine command. And the philosophers of antiquity scrupulously observed this caution. Pythagoras wrote nothing but a few trifles which he confided to his daughter Dama, on his deathbed. The Sphinxes, which are carved on the temples of the Egyptians, warned that the mystic doctrines must be kept inviolate from the profane multitude by means of riddles. Plato, writing certain things to Dionysius concerning the highest substances, explained that he had to write in riddles “lest the letter fall into other hands and others come to know the things I have intended for you.” Aristotle used to say that the books of the Metaphysics in which he treats of divine matters were both published and unpublished. Is there any need for further instances? Origen asserts that Jesus Christ, the Teacher of Life, revealed many things to His disciples which they in turn were unwilling to commit to writing lest they become the common possession of the crowd. Dionysius the Areopagite gives powerful confirmation to this assertion when he writes that the more secret mysteries were transmitted by the founders of our religion ἐϰ νοῦ εἰς νοῦν διὰ μέσον λόγον, that is, from mind to mind, without commitment to writing, through the medium of of the spoken word alone. Because the true interpretation of the law given to Moses was, by God’s command, revealed in almost precisely this way, it was called “Cabala,” which in Hebræw means the same as our word “reception.” The precise point is, of course, that the doctrine was received by one man from another not through written documents but, as a hereditary right, through a regular succession of revelations.
After Cyrus had delivered the Hebræws from the Babylonian captivity, and the Temple had been restored under Zorobabel, the Hebræws bethought themselves of restoring the Law. Esdras, who was head of the church at the time, amended the book of Moses. He readily realized, moreover, that because of the exiles, the massacres, the flights and the captivity of the people of Israel, the practice established by the ancients of handing down the doctrines by word of mouth could not be maintained. Unless they were committed to writing, the heavenly teachings divinely handed down must inevitably perish, for the memory of them would not long endure. He decided, consequently, that all of the wise men still alive should be convened and that each should communicate to the convention all that he remembered about the mysteries of the Law. Their communications were then to be collected by scribes into seventy volumes (approximately the same number as there were members of the Sanhedrin). So that you need not accept my testimony alone, O Fathers, hear Esdras himself speaking: “After forty days had passed, the All-Highest spoke and said: The first things which you wrote publish openly so that the worthy and unworthy alike may read; but the last seventy books conserve so that you may hand them on to the wise men among your people, for in these reside the spring of understanding, the fountain of wisdom and the river of knowledge. And I did these things.” These are the very words of Esdras. These are the books of cabalistic wisdom. In these books, as Esdras unmistakably states, resides the springs of understanding, that is, the ineffable theology of the supersubstantial deity; the fountain of wisdom, that is, the precise metaphysical doctrine concerning intelligible and angelic forms; and the stream of wisdom, that is, the best established philosophy concerning nature.
Pope Sixtus the Fourth, the immediate predecessor of our present pope, Innocent the Eight, under whose happy reign we are living, took all possible measures to ensure that these books would be translated into Latin for the public benefit of our faith and at the time of his death, three of them had already appeared. The Hebræws hold these same books in such reverence that no one under forty years of age is permitted even to touch them. I acquired these books at considerable expense and, reading them from beginning to end with the greatest attention and with unrelenting toil, I discovered in them (as God is my witness) not so much the Mosaic as the Christian religion. There was to be found the mystery of the Trinity, the Incarnation of the Word, the divinity of the Messiah; there one might also read of original sin, of its expiation by the Christ, of the heavenly Jerusalem, of the fall of the demons, of the orders of the angels, of the pains of purgatory and of hell. There I read the same things which we read every day in the pages of Paul and of Dionysius, Jerome and Augustine. In philosophical matters, it were as though one were listening to Pythagoras and Plato, whose doctrines bear so close an affinity to the Christian faith that our Augustine offered endless thanks that the books of the Platonists had fallen into his hands.
In a word, there is no point of controversy between the Hebræws and ourselves on which the Hebræws cannot be confuted and convinced out the cabalistic writings, so that no corner is left for them to hide in. On this point I can cite a witness of the very greatest authority, the most learned Antonius Chronicus; on the occasion of a banquet in his house, at which I was also present, with his own ears he heard the Hebræw, Dactylus, a profound scholar of this lore, come round completely to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.
To return, however, to our review of the chief points of my disputation: I have also adduced my conception of the manner in which the poems of Orpheus and Zoroaster ought to be interpreted. Orpheus is read by the Greeks in a text which is practically complete; Zoroaster is known to them in a corrupt text, while in Chaldæa he is read in a form more nearly complete. Both are considered as the authors and fathers of ancient wisdom. I shall say nothing about Zoroaster who is mentioned so frequently by the Platonists and always with the greatest respect. Of Pythagoras, however, Iamblicus the Chaldæan writes that he took the Orphic theology as the model on which he shaped and formed his own philosophy. For this precise reason the sayings of Pythagoras are called sacred, because, and to the degree that, they derive from the Orphic teachings. For from this source that occult doctrine of numbers and everything else that was great and sublime in Greek philosophy flowed as from its primitive source. Orpheus, however (and this was the case with all the ancient theologians) so wove the mysteries of his doctrines into the fabric of myths and so wrapped them about in veils of poetry, that one reading his hymns might well believe that there was nothing in them but fables and the veriest commonplaces. I have said this so that it might be known what labor was mine, what difficulty was involved, in drawing out the secret meanings of the occult philosophy from the deliberate tangles of riddles and the recesses of fable in which they were hidden; difficulty made all the greater by the fact that in a matter so weighty, abstruse and unexplored, I could count on no help from the work and efforts of other interpreters. And still like dogs they have come barking after me, saying that I have brought together an accumulation of trifles in order to make a great display by their sheer number. As though all did not concern ambiguous questions, subjects of sharpest controversy, over which the most important schools confront each other like gladiators. As though I had not brought to light many things quite unknown and unsuspected by these very men who now carp at me while styling themselves the leaders of philosophy. As a matter of fact, I am so completely free of the fault they attribute to me that I have tried to confine the discussion to fewer points than I might have raised.
Had I wished, (as others are wont) to divide these questions into their constituent parts, and to dismember them, their number might well have increased to a point past counting. To say nothing of other matters, who is unaware that one of these nine hundred theses, that, namely, concerning the reconciliation of the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle might have been developed, without arousing any suspicion that I was affecting mere number, into six hundred or more by enumerating in due order those points on which others think that these philosophies differ and I, that they agree? For a certainty I shall speak out (though in a manner which is neither modest in itself nor conformable to my character), I shall speak out because those who envy me and detract me, force me to speak out. I have wanted to make clear in disputation, not only that I know a great many things, but also that I know a great many things which others do not know.
And now, reverend Fathers, in order that this claim may be vindicated by the fact, and in order that my address may no longer delay the satisfaction of your desire — for I see, reverend doctors, with the greatest pleasure that you are girded and ready for the contest — let us now, with the prayer that the outcome may be fortunate and favorable, as to the sound of trumpets, join battle.
— Translated by Elizabeth Livermore Forbes, in: The Renaissance Philosophy of Man. Chicago, 1948.
ico della Mirandola, Giovanni, Count (1463–1494). Italian philosopher and writer, the youngest son of Giovanni Francesco Pico, prince of Mirandola, a small territory about 30 Italian miles west of Ferrara, afterwards absorbed in the duchy of Modena, was born on the 24th of February 1463. The family was illustrious and wealthy, and claimed descent from Constantine. In his fourteenth year Pico went to Bologna, where he stud1ed for two years, and was much occupied with the Decretals. The traditional studies of the place, however, disgusted him; and he spent seven years wandering through all the schools of Italy and France and collecting a precious library. Besides Greek and Latin he knew Hebræw, Chaldæe and Arabic, and his Hebræw teachers (Eliah del Medigo Leo Abarbanel and Johanna Aleman—see L. Geiger Johann Reuchlin (1871), p. 167) introduced him to the Kabbalah, which had great fascinations for one who loved all mystic and theosophic speculation. His learned wanderings ended (1486) at Rome, where he set forth for public disputation a list of nine hundred questions and conclusions in all branches of philosophy and theology. He remained a year in Rome, but the disputation he proposed was never held. The pope prohibited the little book in which they were contained, and Pico had to defend the impugned theses (De omni re scibili) in an elaborate Apologia. His personal orthodoxy was, however, subsequently vindicated by a brief of Alexander VI., dated 18th June 1493. The suspected theses included such points as the following: that Christ descended ad inferos not in His real presence but quoad effectum; that no image or cross should receive latreia even in the sense allowed by Thomas, that it is more reasonable to regard Origen as saved than as damned; that it is not in a man’s free will to believe or disbelieve an article of faith as he pleases. But perhaps the most startling thesis was that no science gives surer conviction of the divinity of Christ than “magia” (i.e. the knowledge of the secrets of the heavenly bodies) and Kabbalah. Pico was the first to seek in the Kabbalah a proof of the Christian mysteries and it was by him that Reuchlin was led into the same delusive path.
Pico had been up to this time a gay Italian nobleman; he was tall, handsome, fair-complexioned, with keen grey eyes and yellow hair, and a great favourite with women. But his troubles led him to more serious thoughts, and he published, in his 28th year, the Heptaplus, a mystical exposition of the creation. Next he planned a great seven fold work against the enemies of the Church, of which only the section directed against astrology was completed. After leaving Rome he again lived a wandering life, often visiting Florence, to which he was drawn by his friends Politian and Marsilius Ficinus, and where also he came under the influence of Savonarola. It was at Florence that he died on the 17th of November 1494. Three years before his death he parted with his share of the ancestral principality, and designed, when certain literary plans were completed, to give an ay all he had and wander barefoot through the world preaching Christ. But these plans were cut short by a fever which carried him off just at the time when Charles VIII. was at Florence.
Pico’s works cannot now be read with much interest, but the man himself is still interesting, partly from his influence on Reuchlin and partly from the spectacle of a truly devout mind in the brilliant circle of half-pagan scholars of the Florentine renaissance.
His works were published at Bologna in 1496 by his nephew, Giov. Fran. Pico, with a biography, which was translated by Sir Thomas More as Life of John Picus, Earl of Mirandola, in 1510. See the essay in Walter Pater’s Renaissance (1878); and the study by J. Rigg, prefixed to the reprint of More’s Life in the “Tudor Library” (London, 1890).
— Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, Cambridge: University Press, 1911. Vol. XXI, p. 594.
o account of the Renaissance can be complete without some notice of the attempt made by certain Italian scholars of the fifteenth century to reconcile Christianity with the religion of ancient Greece. To reconcile forms of sentiment which at first sight seem incompatible, to adjust the various products of the human mind to each other in one many-sided type of intellectual culture, to give humanity, for heart and imagination to feed upon, as much as it could possibly receive, belonged to the generous instincts of that age. An earlier and simpler generation had seen in the gods of Greece so many malignant spirits, the defeated but still living centres of the religion of darkness, struggling, not always in vain, against the kingdom of light. Little by little, as the natural charm of pagan story reasserted itself over minds emerging out of barbarism, the religious significance which had once belonged to it was lost sight of, and it came to be regarded as the subject of a purely artistic or poetical treatment. But it was inevitable that from time to time minds should arise, deeply enough impressed by its beauty and power to ask themselves whether the religion of Greece was indeed a rival of the religion of Christ; for the older gods had rehabilitated themselves, and men’s allegiance was divided. And the fifteenth century was an impassioned age, so ardent and serious in its pursuit of art that it consecrated everything with which art had to do as a religious object. The restored Greek literature had made it familiar, at least in Plato, with a style of expression concerning the earlier gods, which had about it much of the warmth and unction of a Christian hymn. It was too familiar with such language to regard mythology as a mere story; and it was too serious to play with a religion.
“Let me briefly remind the reader” — says Heine, in the Gods in Exile, an essay full of that strange blending of sentiment which is characteristic of the traditions of the middle age concerning the pagan religions — “how the gods of the older world, at the time of the definite triumph of Christianity, that is, in the third century, fell into painful embarrassments, which greatly resembled certain tragical situations of their earlier life. They now found themselves beset by the same troublesome necessities to which they had once before been exposed during the primitive ages, in that revolutionary epoch when the Titans broke out of the custody of Orcus, and, piling Pelion on Ossa, scaled Olympus. Unfortunate Gods! They had then to take flight ignominiously, and hide themselves among us here on earth, under all sorts of disguises. The larger number betook themselves to Egypt, where for greater security they assumed the forms of animals, as is generally known. Just in the same way, they had to take flight again, and seek entertainment in remote hiding-places, when those iconoclastic zealots, the black brood of monks, broke down all the temples, and pursued the gods with fire and curses. Many of these unfortunate emigrants, now entirely deprived of shelter and ambrosia, must needs take to vulgar handicrafts, as a means of earning their bread. Under these circumstances, many whose sacred groves had been confiscated, let themselves out for hire as wood-cutters in Germany, and were forced to drink beer instead of nectar. Apollo seems to have been content to take service under graziers, and as he had once kept the cows of Admetus, so he lived now as a shepherd in Lower Austria. Here, however, having become suspected on account of his beautiful singing, he was recognised by a learned monk as one of the old pagan gods, and handed over to the spiritual tribunal. On the rack he confessed that he was the god Apollo; and before his execution he begged that he might be suffered to play once more upon the lyre, and to sing a song. And he played so touchingly, and sang with such magic, and was withal so beautiful in form and feature, that all the women wept, and many of them were so deeply impressed that they shortly afterwards fell sick. And some time afterwards the people wished to drag him from the grave again, so that a stake might be driven through his body, in the belief that he had been a vampire, and that the sick women would by this means recover. But they found the grave empty.”
The Renaissance of the fifteenth century was, in many things, great rather by what it designed than by what it achieved. Much which it aspired to do, and did but imperfectly or mistakenly, was accomplished in what is called the eclaircissement of the eighteenth century, or in our own generation; and what really belongs to the rival of the fifteenth century is but the leading instinct, the curiosity, the initiatory idea. It is so with this very question of the reconciliation of the religion of antiquity with the religion of Christ. A modern scholar occupied by this problem might observe that all religions may be regarded as natural products; that, at least in their origin, their growth, and decay, they have common laws, and are not to be isolated from the other movements of the human mind in the periods in which they respectively prevailed; that they arise spontaneously out of the human mind, as expressions of the varying phases of its sentiment concerning the unseen world; that every intellectual product must be judged from the point of view of the age and the people in which it was produced. He might go on to observe that each has contributed something to the development of the religious sense, and ranging them as so many stages in the gradual education of the human mind, justify the existence of each. The basis of the reconciliation of the religions of the world would thus be the inexhaustible activity and creativeness of the human mind itself, in which all religions alike have their root, and in which all alike are reconciled; just as the fancies of childhood and the thoughts of old age meet and are laid to rest, in the experience of the individual. Far different was the method followed by the scholars of the fifteenth century. They lacked the very rudiments of the historic sense, which, by an imaginative act, throws itself back into a world unlike one’s own, and estimates every intellectual creation in its connexion with the age from which it proceeded; they had no idea of development, of the differences of ages, of the gradual education of the human race. In their attempts to reconcile the religions of the world, they were thus thrown back upon the quicksand of allegorical interpretation. The religions of the world were to be reconciled, not as successive stages, in a gradual development of the religious sense, but as subsisting side by side, and substantially in agreement with each other. And here the first necessity was to misrepresent the language, the conceptions, the sentiments, it was proposed to compare and reconcile. Plato and Homer must be made to speak agreeably to Moses. Set side by side, the mere surfaces could never unite in any harmony of design. Therefore one must go below the surface, and bring up the supposed secondary, or still more remote meaning, that diviner signification held in reserve, in recessu divinius aliquid, latent in some stray touch of Homer, or figure of speech in the books of Moses.
And yet as a curiosity of the human mind, a “madhouse-cell,” if you will, into which we peep for a moment, and see it at work weaving strange fancies, the allegorical interpretation of the fifteenth century has its interest. With its strange web of imagery, its quaint conceits, its unexpected combinations and subtle moralising, it is an element in the local colour of a great age. It illustrates also the faith of that age in all oracles, its desire to hear all voices, its generous belief that nothing which had ever interested the human mind could wholly lose its vitality. It is the counterpart, though certainly the feebler counterpart, of that practical truce and reconciliation of the gods of Greece with the Christian religion, which is seen in the art of the time; and it is for his share in this work, and because his own story is a sort of analogue or visible equivalent to the expression of this purpose in his writings, that something of a general interest still belongs to the name of Pico della Mirandola, whose life, written by his nephew Francis, seemed worthy, for some touch of sweetness in it, to be translated out of the original Latin by Sir Thomas More, that great lover of Italian culture, among whose works this life of Pico, Earl of Mirandola, and a great lord of Italy, as he calls him, may still be read, in its quaint, antiquated English.
Marsilio Ficino has told us how Pico came to Florence. It was the very day — some day probably in the year 1482 — on which Ficino had finished his famous translation of Plato into Latin, the work to which he had been dedicated from childhood by Cosmo de’ Medici, in furtherance of his desire to resuscitate the knowledge of Plato among his fellow-citizens. Florence indeed, as M. Renan has pointed out, had always had an affinity for the mystic and dreamy philosophy of Plato, while the colder and more practical philosophy of Aristotle had flourished in Padua, and other cities of the north; and the Florentines, though they knew perhaps very little about him, had had the name of the great idealist often on their lips. To increase this knowledge, Cosmo had founded the Platonic academy, with periodical discussions at the villa of Careggi. The fall of Constantinople in 1453, and the council in 1438 for the reconciliation of the Greek and Latin Churches, had brought to Florence many a needy Greek scholar. And now the work was completed, the door of the mystical temple lay open to all who could construe Latin, and the scholar rested from his labour; when there was introduced into his study, where a lamp burned continually before the bust of Plato, as other men burned lamps before their favourite saints, a young man fresh from a journey, “of feature and shape seemly and beauteous, of stature goodly and high, of flesh tender and soft, his visage lovely and fair, his colour white, intermingled with comely reds, his eyes grey, and quick of look, his teeth white and even, his hair yellow and abundant,” and trimmed with more than the usual artifice of the time. It is thus that Sir Thomas More translates the words of the biographer of Pico, who, even in outward form and appearance, seems an image of that inward harmony and completeness, of which he is so perfect an example. The word mystic has been usually derived from a Greek word which signifies to shut, as if one shut one’s lips, brooding on what cannot be uttered; but the Platonists themselves derive it rather from the act of shutting the eyes, that one may see the more, inwardly. Perhaps the eyes of the mystic Ficino, now long past the midway of life, had come to be thus half-closed; but when a young man, not unlike the archangel Raphael, as the Florentines of that age depicted him in his wonderful walk with Tobit, or Mercury, as he might have appeared in a painting by Sandro Botticelli or Piero di Cosimo, entered his chamber, he seems to have thought there was something not wholly earthly about him; at least, he ever afterwards believed that it was not without the co-operation of the stars that the stranger had arrived on that day. For it happened that they fell into a conversation, deeper and more intimate than men usually fall into at first sight. During this conversation Ficino formed the design of devoting his remaining years to the translation of Plotinus, that new Plato, in whom the mystical element in the Platonic philosophy had been worked out to the utmost limit of vision and ecstasy; and it is in dedicating this translation to Lorenzo de’ Medici that Ficino has recorded these incidents.
It was after many wanderings, wanderings of the intellect as well as physical journeys, that Pico came to rest at Florence. He was then about twenty years old, having been born in 1463. He was called Giovanni at baptism; Pico, like all his ancestors, from Picus, nephew of the Emperor Constantine, from whom they claimed to be descended; and Mirandola, from the place of his birth, a little town afterwards part of the duchy of Modena, of which small territory his family had long been the feudal lords. Pico was the youngest of the family, and his mother, delighting in his wonderful memory, sent him at the age of fourteen to the famous school of law at Bologna. From the first, indeed, she seems to have had some presentiment of his future fame, for, with a faith in omens characteristic of her time, she believed that a strange circumstance had happened at the time of Pico’s birth — the appearance of a circular flame which suddenly vanished away, on the wall of the chamber where she lay. He remained two years at Bologna; and then, with an inexhaustible, unrivalled thirst for knowledge, the strange, confused, uncritical learning of that age, passed through the principal schools of Italy and France, penetrating, as he thought, into the secrets of all ancient philosophies, and many eastern languages. And with this flood of erudition came the generous hope, so often disabused, of reconciling the philosophers with each other, and all alike with the Church. At last he came to Rome. There, like some knight-errant of philosophy, he offered to defend nine hundred bold paradoxes, drawn from the most opposite sources, against all comers. But the pontifical court was led to suspect the orthodoxy of some of these propositions, and even the reading of the book which contained them was forbidden by the Pope. It was not until 1493 that Pico was finally absolved, by a brief of Alexander the Sixth. Ten years before that date he had arrived at Florence; an early instance of those who, after following the vain hope of an impossible reconciliation from system to system, have at last fallen back unsatisfied on the simplicities of their childhood’s belief.
The oration which Pico composed for the opening of this philosophical tournament still remains; its subject is the dignity of human nature, the greatness of man. In common with nearly all medieval speculation, much of Pico’s writing has this for its drift; and in common also with it, Pico’s theory of that dignity is founded on a misconception of the place in nature both of the earth and of man. For Pico the earth is the centre of the universe: and around it, as a fixed and motionless point, the sun and moon and stars revolve, like diligent servants or ministers. And in the midst of all is placed man, nodus et vinculum mundi, the bond or copula of the world, and the “interpreter of nature”: that famous expression of Bacon’s really belongs to Pico. Tritum est in scholis, he says, esse hominem minorem mundum, in quo mixtum ex elementis corpus et spiritus coelestis et plantarum anima vegetalis et brutorum sensus et ratio et angelica mens et Dei similitudo conspicitur. — “It is a commonplace of the schools that man is a little world, in which we may discern a body mingled of earthy elements, and ethereal breath, and the vegetable life of plants, and the senses of the lower animals, and reason, and the intelligence of angels, and a likeness to God.” — A commonplace of the schools! But perhaps it had some new significance and authority, when men heard one like Pico reiterate it; and, false as its basis was, the theory had its use. For this high dignity of man, thus bringing the dust under his feet into sensible communion with the thoughts and affections of the angels, was supposed to belong to him, not as renewed by a religious system, but by his own natural right. The proclamation of it was a counterpoise to the increasing tendency of medieval religion to depreciate man’s nature, to sacrifice this or that element in it, to make it ashamed of itself, to keep the degrading or painful accidents of it always in view. It helped man onward to that reassertion of himself, that rehabilitation of human nature, the body, the senses, the heart, the intelligence, which the Renaissance fulfils. And yet to read a page of one of Pico’s forgotten books is like a glance into one of those ancient sepulchres, upon which the wanderer in classical lands has sometimes stumbled, with the old disused ornaments and furniture of a world wholly unlike ours still fresh in them. That whole conception of nature is so different from our own. For Pico the world is a limited place, bounded by actual crystal walls, and a material firmament; it is like a painted toy, like that map or system of the world, held, as a great target or shield, in the hands of the grey-headed father of all things, in one of the earlier frescoes of the Campo Santo at Pisa. How different from this childish dream is our own conception of nature, with its unlimited space, its innumerable suns, and the earth but a mote in the beam; how different the strange new awe, or superstition, with which it fills our minds! “The silence of those infinite spaces,” says Pascal, contemplating a starlight night, “the silence of those infinite spaces terrifies me” — Le silence eternel de ces espaces infinis m’effraie.
He was already almost wearied out when he came to Florence. He had loved much and been beloved by women, “wandering over the crooked hills of delicious pleasure”; but their reign over him was over, and long before Savonarola’s famous “bonfire of vanities,” he had destroyed those love-songs in the vulgar tongue, which would have been such a relief to us, after the scholastic prolixity of his Latin writings. It was in another spirit that he composed a Platonic commentary, the only work of his in Italian which has come down to us, on the “Song of Divine Love” — secondo la mente ed opinione dei Platonici — “according to the mind and opinion of the Platonists,” by his friend Hieronymo Beniveni, in which, with an ambitious array of every sort of learning, and a profusion of imagery borrowed indifferently from the astrologers, the Cabala, and Homer, and Scripture, and Dionysius the Areopagite, he attempts to define the stages by which the soul passes from the earthly to the unseen beauty. A change indeed had passed over him, as if the chilling touch of the abstract and disembodied beauty Platonists profess to long for was already upon him; and perhaps it was a sense of this, coupled with that over-brightness which in the popular imagination always betokens an early death, that made Camilla Rucellai, one of those prophetic women whom the preaching of Savonarola had raised up in Florence, declare, seeing him for the first time, that he would depart in the time of lilies — prematurely, that is, like the field-flowers which are withered by the scorching sun almost as soon as they are sprung up. It was now that he wrote down those thoughts on the religious life which Sir Thomas More turned into English, and which another English translator thought worthy to be added to the books of the Imitation. “It is not hard to know God, provided one will not force oneself to define Him”: — has been thought a great saying of Joubert’s. “Love God,” Pico writes to Angelo Politian, “we rather may, than either know Him, or by speech utter Him. And yet had men liefer by knowledge never find that which they seek, than by love possess that thing, which also without love were in vain found.”
Yet he who had this fine touch for spiritual things did not — and in this is the enduring interest of his story — even after his conversion, forget the old gods. He is one of the last who seriously and sincerely entertained the claims on men’s faith of the pagan religions; he is anxious to ascertain the true significance of the obscurest legend, the lightest tradition concerning them. With many thoughts and many influences which led him in that direction, he did not become a monk; only he became gentle and patient in disputation; retaining “somewhat of the old plenty, in dainty viand and silver vessel,” he gave over the greater part of his property to his friend, the mystical poet Beniveni, to be spent by him in works of charity, chiefly in the sweet charity of providing marriage-dowries for the peasant girls of Florence. His end came in 1494, when, amid the prayers and sacraments of Savonarola, he died of fever, on the very day on which Charles the Eighth entered Florence, the seventeenth of November, yet in the time of lilies — the lilies of the shield of France, as the people now said, remembering Camilla’s prophecy. He was buried in the cloister at Saint Mark’s, in the hood and white frock of the Dominican order.
It is because the life of Pico, thus lying down to rest in the Dominican habit, yet amid thoughts of the older gods, himself like one of those comely divinities, reconciled indeed to the new religion, but still with a tenderness for the earlier life, and desirous literally to “bind the ages each to each by natural piety” — it is because this life is so perfect a parallel to the attempt made in his writings to reconcile Christianity with the ideas of paganism, that Pico, in spite of the scholastic character of those writings, is really interesting. Thus, in the Heptaplus, or Discourse on the Seven Days of the Creation, he endeavours to reconcile the accounts which pagan philosophy had given of the origin of the world with the account given in the books of Moses — the Timaeus of Plato with the book of Genesis. The Heptaplus is dedicated to Lorenzo the Magnificent, whose interest, the preface tells us, in the secret wisdom of Moses is well known. If Moses seems in his writings simple and even popular, rather than either a philosopher or a theologian, that is because it was an institution with the ancient philosophers, either not to speak of divine things at all, or to speak of them dissemblingly: hence their doctrines were called mysteries. Taught by them, Pythagoras became so great a “master of silence,” and wrote almost nothing, thus hiding the words of God in his heart, and speaking wisdom only among the perfect. In explaining the harmony between Plato and Moses, Pico lays hold on every sort of figure and analogy, on the double meanings of words, the symbols of the Jewish ritual, the secondary meanings of obscure stories in the later Greek mythologists. Everywhere there is an unbroken system of correspondences. Every object in the terrestrial world is an analogue, a symbol or counterpart, of some higher reality in the starry heavens, and this again of some law of the angelic life in the world beyond the stars. There is the element of fire in the material world; the sun is the fire of heaven; and in the super-celestial world there is the fire of the seraphic intelligence. “But behold how they differ! The elementary fire burns, the heavenly fire vivifies, the super-celestial fire loves.” In this way, every natural object, every combination of natural forces, every accident in the lives of men, is filled with higher meanings. Omens, prophecies, supernatural coincidences, accompany Pico himself all through life. There are oracles in every tree and mountain-top, and a significance in every accidental combination of the events of life.
This constant tendency to symbolism and imagery gives Pico’s work a figured style, by which it has some real resemblance to Plato’s, and he differs from other mystical writers of his time by a real desire to know his authorities at first hand. He reads Plato in Greek, Moses in Hebræw, and by this his work really belongs to the higher culture. Above all, we have a constant sense in reading him, that his thoughts, however little their positive value may be, are connected with springs beneath them of deep and passionate emotion; and when he explains the grades or steps by which the soul passes from the love of a physical object to the love of unseen beauty, and unfolds the analogies between this process and other movements upward of human thought, there is a glow and vehemence in his words which remind one of the manner in which his own brief existence flamed itself away.
I said that the Renaissance of the fifteenth century was in many things great, rather by what it designed or aspired to do, than by what it actually achieved. It remained for a later age to conceive the true method of effecting a scientific reconciliation of Christian sentiment with the imagery, the legends, the theories about the world, of pagan poetry and philosophy. For that age the only possible reconciliation was an imaginative one, and resulted from the efforts of artists, trained in Christian schools, to handle pagan subjects; and of this artistic reconciliation work like Pico’s was but the feebler counterpart. Whatever philosophers had to say on one side or the other, whether they were successful or not in their attempts to reconcile the old to the new, and to justify the expenditure of so much care and thought on the dreams of a dead faith, the imagery of the Greek religion, the direct charm of its story, were by artists valued and cultivated for their own sake. Hence a new sort of mythology, with a tone and qualities of its own. When the ship-load of sacred earth from the soil of Jerusalem was mingled with the common clay in the Campo Santo at Pisa, a new flower grew up from it, unlike any flower men had seen before, the anemone with its concentric rings of strangely blended colour, still to be found by those who search long enough for it, in the long grass of the Maremma. Just such a strange flower was that mythology of the Italian Renaissance, which grew up from the mixture of two traditions, two sentiments, the sacred and the profane. Classical story was regarded as so much imaginative material to be received and assimilated. It did not come into men’s minds to ask curiously of science concerning its origin, its primary form and import, its meaning for those who projected it. It sank into their minds, to issue forth again with all the tangle about it of medieval sentiment and ideas. In the Doni Madonna in the Tribune of the Uffizii, Michelangelo actually brings the pagan religion, and with it the unveiled human form, the sleepy-looking fauns of a Dionysiac revel, into the presence of the Madonna, as simpler painters had introduced there other products of the earth, birds or flowers; and he has given to that Madonna herself much of the uncouth energy of the older and more primitive “Mighty Mother.”
It is because this picturesque union of contrasts, belonging properly to the art of the close of the fifteenth century, pervades, in Pico della Mirandola, an actual person, that the figure of Pico is so attractive. He will not let one go; he wins one on, in spite of oneself, to turn again to the pages of his forgotten books, although we know already that the actual solution proposed in them will satisfy us as little as perhaps it satisfied him. It is said that in his eagerness for mysterious learning he once paid a great sum for a collection of cabalistic manuscripts, which turned out to be forgeries; and the story might well stand as a parable of all he ever seemed to gain in the way of actual knowledge. He had sought knowledge, and passed from system to system, and hazarded much; but less for the sake of positive knowledge than because he believed there was a spirit of order and beauty in knowledge, which would come down and unite what men’s ignorance had divided, and renew what time had made dim. And so, while his actual work has passed away, yet his own qualities are still active, and he himself remains, as one alive in the grave, caesiis et vigilibus oculis, as his biographer describes him, and with that sanguine, clear skin, decenti rubore interspersa, as with the light of morning upon it; and he has a true place in that group of great Italians who fill the end of the fifteenth century with their names, he is a true Humanist. For the essence of humanism is that belief of which he seems never to have doubted, that nothing which has ever interested living men and women can wholly lose its vitality — no language they have spoken, nor oracle beside which they have hushed their voices, no dream which has once been entertained by actual human minds, nothing about which they have ever been passionate, or expended time and zeal.
— 1871. In: The Renaissance Studies in Art and Poetry.
eine Betrachtung über die Renaissance kann erschöpfend sein, ohne das Streben gewisser italienischer Gelehrter des fünfzehnten Jahrhunderts gebührend zu berücksichtigen, welche das Christentum mit den religiösen Vorstellungen des alten Hellas zu versöhnen versuchten. Gedanken und Gefühlskreise zu versöhnen, die beim ersten Blick unvereinbar erscheinen, die verschiedensten Äußerungen des Menschengemüts in ein vielseitiges Rundbild geistiger Kultur zusammenzufassen, der Menschheit so viel Nahrungsstoff für Herz und Geist zu geben, wie sie irgend aufnehmen konnte, dies gehörte zu den großmütigen Anschauungen jenes Zeitalters. Ein früheres, und einfacheres Geschlecht hatte in den Göttern Griechenlands ebenso viele Dämonen gesehen, zwar überwundene aber noch immer lebende Verkörperungen einer Religion der Finsternis, im Kampfe gegen das Reich des Lichtes.
Ganz allmählich, indem der natürliche Zauber der heidnischen Erzählungen auf die Gemüter, die aus dem Zustand der Barbarei auftauchten, wieder einzuwirken begann, trat ihre ursprüngliche religiöse Bedeutung in den Hintergrund und sie wurden zum Gegenstand rein künstlerischer oder poetischer Behandlung. In dieser Zeit war es unvermeidlich, daß einzelne Geister auftraten, welche von der Schönheit und Macht des Heidentums so tief ergriffen waren, daß sie sich fragten, ob denn die Religion der Griechen wirklich eine Feindin der Religion Jesu Christi sei? Die älteren Götter waren inzwischen wieder eingesetzt und der Menschen Huldigung war geteilt. Denn das fünfzehnte Jahrhundert war ein leidenschaftlich begeistertes, so ernst und feurig in seiner Sehnsucht nach Kunst, daß es alles, was sich auf Kunst bezog, religiös heiligte. Durch die wiedergefundene griechische Literatur hatte man wenigstens in Plato sich mit einer Ausdrucksweise vertraut gemacht, welche in bezug auf die älteren Götter eine Sprache offenbarte, die viel von der Wärme und Würde einer christlichen Hymne zeigte. Man war zu sehr vertraut mit einer solchen Sprache, um die Mythologie als eine bloße Fabel anzusehen, und man war auch zu ernsthaft, um mit einer Religion zu spielen.
„Nur mit wenigen Worten will ich den Leser darauf aufmerksam machen“, schreibt Heine in seinen „Göttern im Exil“, — einer Abhandlung, welche von jener merkwürdigen Mischung der Empfindung erfüllt ist, die für die Anschauungen des Mittelalters in Hinsicht auf die heidnischen Religionen so bezeichnend war — „wie die armen alten Götter zur Zeit des definitiven Sieges des Christentums, also im dritten Jahrhundert, in Verlegenheiten gerieten, die mit älteren traurigen Zuständen ihres Götterlebens die größte Analogie boten. Sie befanden sich nämlich jetzt in dieselben betrübsamen Notwendigkeiten versetzt, worin sie sich schon weiland befanden, in jener uralten Zeit, in jener revolutionären Epoche, als die Titanen aus dem Gewahrsam des Orkus heraufbrachen und, den Pelion auf den Ossa türmend, den Olymp erkletterten. Sie mußten damals schmählich flüchten, die armen Götter, und unter allerlei Vermummungen verbargen sie sich bei uns auf Erden. Die meisten begaben sich nach Egypten, wo sie zu größerer Sicherheit Tiergestalt annahmen, wie männiglich bekannt. In derselben Weise mußten die armen Heidengötter wieder die Flucht ergreifen und unter allerlei Vermummungen in abgelegenen Verstecken ein Unterkommen suchen, als der wahre Herr der Welt sein Kreuzbanner auf die Himmelsburg pflanzte, und die ikonoldastischen Zeloten, die schwarze Bande der Mönche, alle Tempel brachen und die verjagten Götter mit Feuer und Fluch verfolgten. Viele dieser armen Emigranten, die ganz ohne Obdach und Ambrosai waren, mußten jetzt zu einem bürgerlichen Handwerke greifen, um wenigstens das liebe Brot zu erwerben. Unter solchen Umständen mußte mancher, dessen heilige Haine konfisziert waren, bei uns in Deutschland als Holzhacker taglöhnern und Bier trinken statt Nektar. Apollo scheint sich in dieser Not dazu bequemt zu haben, bei Viehzüchtern Dienste zu nehmen, und wie er einst die Kühe des Admetos weidete, so lebte er jetzt als Hirt in Niederösterreich, wo er aber, verdächtig geworden durch sein schönes Singen, von einem gelehrten Mönch als ein alter zauberischer Heidengott erkannt, den geistlichen Gerichten überliefert wurde. Auf der Folter gestand er, daß er der Gott Apollo sei. Vor seiner Hinrichtung bat er auch, man möchte ihm nur noch einmal erlauben, auf der Zither zu spielen und ein Lied zu singen. Er spielte aber so herzrührend und sang so bezaubernd, und war dabei so schön von Angesicht und Leibesgestalt, daß alle Frauen weinten, ja viele durch solche Rührung später erkrankten. Nach einiger Zeit wollte man ihn aus seiner Gruft wieder hervorziehen, um ihm einen Pfahl durch den Leib zu stoßen, in der Meinung, er müsse ein Vampyr gewesen sein, und die erkrankten Frauen würden durch solches probates Hausmittel genesen; aber man fand das Grab leer.“
Die Renaissance des fünfzehnten Jahrhunderts war in manchen Dingen mehr durch das groß, was sie entwarf, als durch das, was sie durchführte. Sehr vieles, was sie anstrebte, aber nur unvollständig oder mißverstanden ausführte, wurde in der sogenannten Aufklärung des achtzehnten Jahrhunderts, oder in unserer eigenen Generation erst ganz vollendet; was wirklich der Neugeburt des fünfzehnten Jahrhunderts angehörte, war nur der leitende Instinkt, die Neugierde, die treibende Kraft. So war es auch in dieser Frage der Aussöhnung der antiken Religion mit der christlichen. Ein mit diesem Problem beschäftigter moderner Forscher würde betonen und feststellen, daß alle Religionen als natürliche Entwicklungsstufen zu betrachten sind, daß sie wenigstens im Ursprung, Wachstum und Verfall gemeinsamen Gesetzen unterworfen sind und nicht von anderen geistigen Bewegungen in den Zeitepochen, wo sie vorherrschen, getrennt werden können; daß sie spontan hervorbrechen, als Ausdrucksformen der verschiedenen Gefühlszustände des Menschengeistes gegenüber der unsichtbaren Welt; daß jedes geistige Erzeugnis vom Standpunkt des Zeitalters und Volkes, das es erzeugte, beurteilt werden muß. Er möchte weiterhin erkennen, daß ein jedes zur Fortentwicklung des religiösen Sinnes etwas beigetragen hat, und alle zusammen die Stufen der allmählichen Erziehung des Menschengeistes bilden, alle also die gleiche Daseinsberechtigung haben. Die Grundlage der Versöhnung aller Religionen der Welt würde also die unerschöpfliche Tätigkeit und Zeugungskraft des menschlichen Geistes selbst sein, in dem alle Religionen ihre gemeinsame Wurzel haben und alle zugleich ausgeglichen und vereinigt werden; ähnlich wie die Träume der Kindheit und die Gedanken des Greisenalters in den Erfahrungen des Einzelwesens sich ausgleichen und zur Ruhe gebettet werden. Ganz anders war die Methode der Gelehrten im fünfzehnten Jahrhundert. Ihnen fehlten selbst die Anfangsgründe des historischen Denkens, welches durch einen Willensakt der Vorstellung sich zurückversetzt in eine andere Welt und jede Geistesschöpfung in ihrer Verbindung mit der Zeit, aus der sie hervorging, mißt und wertet; sie hatten keinen Begriff von der Entwicklung, von den Unterschieden der Zeitepochen, von der stufenweisen Erziehung des Menschengeschlechts. In ihrem Bemühen, die Religionen der Welt miteinander zu versöhnen, wurden sie auf den Flugsand allegorischer Auslegung getrieben. Die Religionen der Welt sollten ausgeglichen werden, aber nicht als aufeinanderfolgende Stufen allmählicher Entwicklung des religiösen Sinnes, sondern als nebeneinander bestehend und in wesentlicher Übereinstimmung miteinander. Hieraus entsprang die Notwendigkeit die Sprache zu verdrehen und zu verdunkeln, die Auffassungen, die Gefühle, welche man vergleichen und ausgleichen wollte. Plato und Homer mußten so behandelt werden, daß sie zu Moses freundlich und verständnisinnig reden konnten. Genau neben- oder aufeinander gelegt, konnten die ungleichen Berührungsflächen sich niemals decken. Darum mußte man unter die Oberfläche tauchen und die vermeintliche zweite oder gar noch tiefere Nebenbedeutung hervorholen, die zurückgehaltene göttliche Zweideutigkeit „in recessu divinius aliqaidu, verborgen in irgend einer zufälligen Wendung bei Homer, oder einer Redefigur in den Büchern Mose.
Dessenungeachtet enthält diese allegorische Auslegung im fünfzehnten Jahrhundert als geistige Kuriosität ihre Bedeutung, wie eine „Tollhauskammer“ wenn man will, oder bloßgelegte Gehirnzelle, deren seltsames Gewebe von Vorstellungen man an der Arbeit beobachten kann. Mit ihrem Netz von Hirngespinsten und seltsamen Einfällen, überraschenden Verbindungen und spitzfindigen Moraldeutungen bleibt sie ein Bestandteil des Lokalkolorits eines großen Zeitalters. Sie bezeichnet auch den Glauben an alles Orakelhafte, den Wunsch, alle Stimmen zu hören, die großmütige Überzeugung, daß nichts seine Lebenskraft ganz verlieren könnte, was jemals den menschlichen Geist beschäftigt hat. Sie ist das Gegenstück, wenn auch gewiß das schwächere Gegenstück jenes praktischen Friedensschlusses und Ausgleichs zwischen den griechischen Gottheiten und dem christlichen Glauben, welcher in der Kunst der Zeit zum Ausdruck gelangt. Auf Grund seiner Mitarbeit hieran, und weil seine eigene Lebensgeschichte eine Art Analogon und eine sichtbare Kraftumwertung im Sinne seiner eigenen Schriften darstellt, knüpft sich noch ein allgemeines Interresse an den Namen Pico della Mirandola. Sein Leben, von seinem Neffen Franz geschrieben, erschien wegen seines eigenartigen Reizes keinem Geringeren als Sir Thomas More wert, aus dem ursprünglichen Latein übertragen zu werden. Das Leben des Pico Earl of Mirandola, and a great lord of Italy wie er ihn nennt, ist noch in seinem seltsam veralteten Englisch sehr lesenswert. Marsilio Ficino hat uns berichtet wie Pico nach Florenz kam. Es war an dem nämlichen Tage — vermutlich im Jahre 1482 —, an welchem Ficino seine berühmte Übersetzung des Plato ins Lateinische vollendet hatte, das Werk, dem er von Kindheit an auf Veranlassung des Cosmo de’ Medici sich gewidmet hatte. Der Herzog wünschte die Kenntnis der platonischen Lehre unter seinen Mitbürgern wieder zu erwecken. Florenz pflegte in der Tat, wie Renan nachweist, von jeher eine Seelenverwandtschaft mit der mystischen und träumerischen Philosophie des Plato, wogegen die kühlere und praktischere Lehre des Aristoteles in Padua und andern Städten Norditaliens blühte; obwohl die Florentiner kaum viel von Plato wußten, führten sie den Namen des großen Idealisten häufig auf den Lippen. Um diese Vertrautheit noch zu fördern, hatte Herzog Cosimo die Platonische Akademie gegründet, die mit regelmäßigen Disputationen in der Villa Careggi verbunden war. Der Fall von Konstantinopel (1453) und das Konzil zur Aussöhnung der griechischen und lateinischen Kirche (1438) hatten manchen hülfsbedürftigen griechischen Gelehrten nach Florenz gebracht.
Nun war das große Werk gerade vollendet, das Tor des Tempels der Geheimnisse stand allen offen, die Lateinisch verstehen konnten. Der gelehrte Übersetzer ruhte von seiner Arbeit aus und saß in seiner Studierstube. Eine ewige Lampe brannte vor der Büste Platos, wie es sonst nur vor einem Lieblingsheiligen üblich war, als sich ein junger Mann frisch von einer Reise anmelden ließ, „ansehnlich und schön von Zügen und Gestalt, hoch von Wuchs, Haut und Fleisch zart und weich, und weiß von Farbe, von feinem Rot belebt, sein Antlitz hell und lieblich, die Augen grau und lebhaft der Blick, die Zähne weiß und ebenmäßig, das volle Haar hellgolden flutend“, und dabei mit mehr als dazumal üblicher Sorgfalt gekleidet. Mit diesen Worten übersetzt Sir Thomas More den Biographen des Pico, der in seiner äußern Erscheinung schon das Abbild jener innern Harmonie und Abrundung gewesen zu sein scheint, dessen vollkommenes Beispiel er ist. Das Wort „Mystik“ wird gewöhnlich von einem griechischen Wort abgeleitet, das so viel wie „schließen“ bedeutet, als ob jemand die Lippen schließe, um über etwas zu grübeln, das nicht ausgesprochen werden könne; doch die Platoniker selbst leiten es lieber von dem Schließen der Augen ab, damit man innerlich um so besser schauen möge. Vielleicht waren die Augen des Mystikers Ficino, der das mittlere Lebensalter bereits weit überschritten, auch so halbgeschlossen; doch als ein junger Mann nicht unähnlich dem Erzengel Raphael (wie die damaligen Florentiner ihn schildern und wie er auf einem Gemälde Sandro Botticellis oder Piero di Cosimos, „wunderbar wandelnd“ mit Tobias oder Merkur, hätte erscheinen können) in sein Zimmer trat, mag er gedacht haben, es sei etwas Überirdisches an ihm; wenigstens hat er später stets geglaubt, der Fremde sei nicht ohne Einwirkung der Sterne gerade an dem Tage bei ihm eingetroffen. Denn es begab sich, daß sie in ein Gespräch kamen, eingehender und tiefer als es meistens bei erster Begegnung zwischen Männern üblich ist. Während dieser Unterhaltung faßte Ficino den Plan, die übrigen Jahre seines Lebens der Übersetzung des Plotin zu widmen, jenes neuen Plato, in welchem das mystische Element bis zur äußersten Grenze der Schwärmerei und Verzückung durchgeführt ist. In seiner Widmung dieser Übersetzung an Lorenzo de’ Medici hat Ficino diese Begegnung erwähnt. Erst nach vielen Wanderungen, geistigen sowohl wie körperlichen, kam Pico in Florenz zur Ruhe. Er war dazumal zwanzig Jahre alt, da er 1463 geboren war. Bei der Taufe erhielt er (wie seine sämtlichen Vorfahren) den Namen Giovanni Pico von Picus, dem Neffen des Kaisers Konstantin, auf dessen Abstammung sie sich beriefen, und Mirandola von dem Ort seiner Geburt, einem kleinen Städtchen, das später zum Herzogtum Modena gehörte, über dessen kleines Gebiet seine Ahnen seit langem die Feudalherren gewesen waren.
Pico war der jüngste der Familie, und seine Mutter, stolz auf sein wunderbares Gedächtnis, schickte ihn im Alter von vierzehn Jahren an die berühmte Hochschule der Rechtsgelehrsamkeit zu Bologna. Die Mutter scheint von Anfang an wirklich eine Vorahnung seiner künftigen Berühmtheit gehabt zu haben, denn mit einem festen Glauben an Vorbedeutungen, welcher für ihre Zeit charakteristisch ist, glaubte sie sich eines geheimnisvollen Zeichens erinnern zu können, das bei seiner Geburt in Gestalt einer kreisrunden Flamme an der Wand der Stube, wo sie lag, erschienen und ebenso plötzlich wieder verschwunden war. Pico blieb zwei Jahre in Bologna; dann machte er, mit einem unstillbaren Durst nach Wissen, dem seltsam verwirrten, unkritischen Wissen jener Zeit, alle Hauptschulen von Italien und Frankreich durch. In alle Geheimnisse der alten Philosophie und vieler orientalischer Sprachen meinte er eingedrungen zu sein. Und mit dieser Hochflut gelehrter Bildung wuchs die hochherzige Hoffnung, — die so häufig enttäuschte —, alle Philosophen miteinander und zugleich auch mit der Kirche zu versöhnen.
Zuletzt kam er nach Rom. Dort erklärte er sich bereit, gleich einem fahrenden Ritter der Philosophie, neunhundert der kühnsten Paradoxe, aus den widerspruchsvollsten Quellen geschöpft, gegen alle Widersacher zu verteidigen. Doch der päpstliche Hof hatte geheimen Verdacht gegen die Orthodoxie einiger dieser Thesen, und der Papst verbot sogar das Lesen des Buches, worin sie zusammengestellt waren. Erst im Jahre 1493 wurde Pico endgültig durch ein päpstliches Breve Alexanders des Sechsten losgesprochen. Zehn Jahre vorher war er in Florenz angekommen: ein frühes Beispiel für jene, welche, nachdem sie vergeblich die unmögliche Übereinstimmung und Versöhnung von System zu System erhofft und versucht haben, schließlich unbefriedigt in die Einfalt ihres Kinderglaubens zurückgefallen sind.
Die Weiherede, welche Pico für die Eröffnung dieses philosophischen Turniers geschrieben hatte, ist noch erhalten; ihr Gegenstand ist die Würde der Natur, die Größe des Menschen. In Übereinstimmung mit fast allen mittelalterlichen Spekulationen behandeln die meisten Schriften Picos diesen Gedanken; und gleichfalls im Einklang damit begründet Pico diese Würde des Menschen auf der irrigen Annahme von der Stellung des Menschen und der Lage des Erdballs im Weltall. Für Pico bildet die Erde den Mittelpunkt der Welt: rund herum wie um einen festen, unbeweglichen Punkt kreisen Sonne, Mond und Sterne gleich fleißigen Dienern und Gehülfen. Und in die Mitte des Ganzen ist der Mensch gestellt, nodiis et vinculum mundi, das Band und Bindeglied der Welt und der Dolmetscher der Natur: der berühmte Ausdruck Bacons stammt in Wahrheit von Pico. „Tritum est in scholis“, sagt er, „esse hominem minorem mundum, in quo mixtum ex elementis corpus et Spiritus coelestis et plantarum anima vegetalis et brutorum sensus et ratio et angelica mens et Dei similitudo conspicitur.“ „Es wird in den Schulen der Gemeinplatz gelehrt, daß der Mensch eine Welt im Kleinen sei, in welcher wir einen Körper finden, der gemischt ist aus irdischen Stoffen und himmlischem Geist, dem pflanzlichen Leben und den Sinnen der niederen Tiere, der Vernunft, der Seele der Engel und einem Ebenbilde Gottes.“ — Ein Gemeinplatz der Schulen! Doch hatte er am Ende eine neue Bedeutsamkeit, wenn Männer wie Pico ihn wiederholten; falsch, wie die Grundlage war, hatte die Theorie doch ihren Nutzen. Denn diese Hoheit des Menschen, die so den Staub unter seinen Füßen mit den Gedanken und Gefühlen der Engel in bewußte Berührung brachte, galt eben als sein Vorrecht, nicht erneut durch ein religiöses System, sondern aus eigenem Geburtsrecht. Die Verkündigung desselben galt als Gegengewicht gegen die zunehmende Neigung mittelalterlicher Religionsauffassung, die menschliche Natur herabzusetzen, diesen oder jenen Bestandteil derselben aufzuopfern, sich ihrer zu schämen, ihre erniedrigenden und peinlichen Zufälligkeiten und Heimsuchungen sich stets vor Augen zu halten. Dem Menschen wurde jetzt erst zu jener Behauptung seines Selbst verholfen, zur Wiedereinsetzung der Menschennatur, des Körpers, der Sinne, des Herzens, welche durch die Renaissance ihre Erfüllung finden sollte. Und dennoch: liest man eine Seite von Picos vergessenen Büchern, so ist’s als blicke man in eines der alten Grabgewölbe hinein, über welche die Wanderer auf klassischem Boden manchmal stolpern, mit dem alten unberührten Gerät und Werkzeug einer frühen, fernen Welt darin. Die ganze Naturauffassung ist so verschieden von der unsern. Für Pico ist die Welt ein beschränkter Raum, umschlossen von kristallenen Wänden und einem festen Firmament; sie ist wie ein bemaltes Spielzeug, wie die Landkarte des Weltsystems, die gleich einer großen Scheibe oder Schildfläche von der Hand des grauhaarigen Vaters aller Dinge gehalten wird, wie wir sie auf einem der frühen Fresken des Campo Santo zu Pisa gemalt sehen. Wie weitab ist dieser kindliche Traum von unserer heutigen Anschauung mit ihrem unbegrenzten Raum, ihren ungezählten Sonnensystemen, und die Erde nur ein Stäubchen im Sonnenstrahl! Wie verschieden die ahnungsvolle Angst, oder der Aberglaube unserer Zeit. „Das Schweigen dieser unendlichen Räume“, sagt Pascal im Anschauen einer Sternennacht, „erschreckt und erschüttert mich“: — Le silence eternel de ces espaces infinis m’effraie.
Fast erschöpft war Pico schon als er nach Florenz kam. Er hatte viel geliebt und war viel geliebt worden von Frauen, „über die gewundenen Hügel des Hochgenusses wandernd“; doch ihre Herrschaft über ihn war dahin, und lange bevor Savonarola seinen berühmten „Scheiterhaufen der Eitelkeiten“ anzündete, hatte schon Pico alle seine Liebeslieder in der Volkssprache zerstört, die für uns eine solche Erquickung gewesen wären, nach der scholastischen Weitschweifigkeit seiner lateinischen Schriften.
In einem ganz anderen Geiste verfaßte er einen platonischen Kommentar (das einzige seiner Werke in italienischer Sprache, das auf uns gekommen ist durch seinen Freund Hieronimo Beniveni) zu einem „Sang der Göttlichen Liebe“ — secondo la mente ed opinione dei Platonici — „nach dem Sinn und der Ansicht der Platoniker“, worin er mit einem aufdringlichen Prachtaufzug von Gelehrsamkeit und einem Übermaß von Sinnbildern (welche wahllos aus der Kabbala, den Astrologen, Homer, der Heiligen Schrift und Dionysius dem Areopagiten entlehnt sind) die verschiedenen Stufen zu schildern versucht, durch welche die Seele von der irdischen bis zur unsichtbaren Schönheit hindurchgeht. Es war in der Tat ein Wandel über ihn gekommen, als ob der kühle Schauer der abstrakten und körperlosen Schönheit, wonach die Platoniker sich sehnen, ihn schon ergriffen hätte; und möglicherweise war es dies und eine gewisse Öberklarheit seines Wesens, welche nach volkstümlicher Auffassung immer einen frühen Tod vorauskündet, weshalb Camilla Rucellai (eine jener seherischen Frauen, welche Savonarolas Büßpredigten in Florenz aufgerüttelt hatten) erklärte, als sie ihn zum ersten Male sah, er würde „in der Zeit der Lilien scheiden“, frühzeitig wie die Blumen des Feldes, die, kaum aufgebrochen, schon welken unter den sengenden Strahlen der Sonne. In dieser Zeit war es, wo er jene Gedanken über das religiöse Leben niederschrieb, welche Sir Thomas More ins Englische übertrug und die ein anderer englischer Übersetzer für würdig hielt, den Büchern der Imitation* zugezählt zu werden. „Es ist nicht schwer Gott zu kennen, wenn man sich nicht zwingen will, ihn zu beschreiben“, gilt als ein großes Wort Jouberts. „Gott lieben“, schreibt Pico an Angelo Politian, „können wir eher als ihn erkennen oder durch die Sprache ausdrücken. Und doch hätte man lieber niemals durch Wissen gefunden, was man suchte, als durch Liebe das besitzen, was ohne Liebe doch vergebens gefunden wäre“ ...
Doch der, welcher ein so feines Gefühl für geistige Dinge besaß, vergaß selbst nach seiner Bekehrung — und darin liegt die dauernde Bedeutung seiner Geschichte —nicht die alten Heidengötter. Er bleibt einer der letzten, welche ernsthaft und redlich an den berechtigten Ansprüchen der heidnischen Religionen auf den Glauben der Menschen festhielten; er ist immer bemüht, die genaue Bedeutung der dunkelsten Legenden festzustellen, die leiseste Überlieferung zu buchen. Bei all den Gedanken und Einwirkungen nach dieser Richtung wurde er doch kein Mönch; er wurde nur geduldig und gelinde in der Disputation. Während er einiges von dem „alten Überfluß in köstlichen Speisen und Silberschüsseln“ behielt, gab er den größeren Teil seines Besitzes an seinen Freund, den mystischen Poeten Beniveni, damit dieser ihn in Werken der Liebe ausgeben solle, vornehmlich aber in der süßen Wohltätigkeit, die Bauern- und Hirtenmädchen von Florenz mit Hochzeitsangebinde und Mitgift zu versorgen!
Sein Ende kam 1494, als er einem Fieber erlag, während die Gebete und Sakramente Savonarolas ihm das Geleit gaben, am selben Tage als Karl der Achte in Florenz einzog, am siebzehnten November, noch in der „Zeit der Lilien“ — der Lilien von Frankreich, wie das Volk jetzt sagte, die Prophezeiung Camillas umdeutend. Er wurde begraben im Kloster zu Sankt Markus, in der Kapuze und dem weißen Mantel des Dominikanerordens.
So wurde unser Pico zwar zur Ruhe gebettet im Dominikanergewande, doch voll zärtlicher Gedanken an die alten Götter, selbst wie ein Nachzügler aus ihrem schönen Kreise aufgenommen in die neue Religion, aber noch sehnsüchtig der alten Heimatherrlichkeit gedenkend. In kindlicher Frömmigkeit wollte er beide verbinden. Sein Leben stimmt vollkommen überein mit seinen Schriften, in denen er das Christentum mit dem Heidentum zu verknüpfen suchte, und eben darum ist es, trotz des scholastischen Charakters dieser Schriften, so anziehend. So versucht er im „Heptaplus, oder Diskurs über die Sieben Tage der Schöpfung“ die Überlieferungen der heidnischen Philosophie über den Ursprung der Welt mit der Darstellung in den Büchern Mose zu verbinden, den Timaeus Platos mit dem Buch der Genesis. Dieser Heptaplus ist Lorenzo il Magnifico gewidmet, dessen Interesse für die geheime Weisheit Mose, wie das Vorwort uns mitteilt, wohlbekannt sei. Wenn Moses in seinen Schriften uns so einfach und eher volkstümlich als philosophisch oder theologisch erscheint, so rührt dies daher, daß es bei den alten Philosophen der Brauch war, entweder gar nicht oder nur in verstellter bildlicher Form von göttlichen Dingen zu reden: darum nannte man ihre Lehren Mysterien. In ihrer Schulung wurde Pythagoras ein so großer Meister des Schweigens und schrieb fast nichts, weil er die Worte Gottes bei sich behielt und Weisheit nur unter den Eingeweihten redete. In der Erklärung der Harmonie zwischen Plato und Moses benutzt Pico jede mögliche Analogie und Redewendung, die Doppelbedeutung von Wörtern, die Sinnbilder des jüdischen Ritus, die Nebenbedeutung von dunklen Erzählungen bei den späteren griechischen Mythologen. Überall ein ununterbrochenes Netz von Beziehungen. Jedes Ding der irdischen Welt ist ein Analogon, ein Symbol oder Gegenstück von einer höheren Wirklichkeit im Sternenhimmel, und diese wiederum von einem noch erhabeneren Gesetz englischen Lebens jenseits der Sterne. Da ist das Element des Feuers in der materiellen Welt; die Sonne ist das Feuer des Himmels; und in der überhimmlischen Welt ist das Feuer der seraphischen Klarheit. „Doch sieh, wie verschieden sie sind! Das irdische Feuer brennt, das himmlische Feuer belebt, das überhimmlische Feuer liebt!“ Auf diese Weise wird jede Naturerscheinung, jedes Zusammenwirken natürlicher Kräfte, jede Zufälligkeit des Menschenlebens mit höherem Sinn erfüllt. Vorbedeutungen, Wahrträume und seltsame Übereinstimmungen begleiteten Pico selbst durchs ganze Leben. Er sieht Orakel in jedem Baum und Berggipfel, einen tieferen Sinn in allen zufälligen Lebensereignissen und Beziehungen.
Diese fortwährende Neigung zum Deuten und Versinnbildlichen verleiht Picos Arbeiten einen Stil, wodurch sie sehr an Plato erinnern, und er unterscheidet sich von anderen mystischen Schriftgelehrten seiner Zeit durch das aufrichtige Bestreben, seine Gewährsmänner aus erster Hand zu kennen. Er liest Platon im griechischen, Moses im hebräischen Original und gehört durch dieses Streben immerhin zur höheren Kultur. Vor allem haben wir beim Lesen das stete Bewußtsein, daß seine Gedanken, so gering ihr wirklicher Wert auch sein mag, mit Quellen in Verbindung stehen, welche unter der Oberfläche eine tiefe und leidenschaftliche Bewegung verraten. Wenn er die Grade oder Stufen erklärt, durch welche die Seele von der Liebe eines körperlichen Gegenstandes bis zur Liebe unsichtbarer Schönheit emporsteigt, und die Übereinstimmung nachweist zwischen diesem Vorgang und anderen Aufwärtsbewegungen des Menschengemüts, so ist eine Glut und Gewalt in seinen Worten, welche uns an die Art erinnert, wie sein kurzes Dasein auf Erden verglühte.
Ich sagte schon, daß das fünfzehnte Jahrhundert in manchen Dingen durch das, was es entwarf oder anstrebte, eher als durch das, was es erreichte, groß erscheint. Einem reiferen Zeitalter blieb es Vorbehalten, eine richtige Methode wissenschaftlicher Aussöhnung zwischen dem christlichen Empfinden und der Vorstellungsweise, den Legenden, der ganzen Anschauungswelt heidnischer Dichtungs- und Denkungsart herbeizuführen. Für jenes Zeitalter bestand die einzig mögliche Annäherung in einer eingebildeten, und sie entstand aus dem Bestreben der in christliehen Schulen erzogenen Künstlernaturen, heidnische Gegenstände zu behandeln. Von solchen künstlerischen Lösungen war Picos schriftstellerische Arbeit nur ein schwacher Abglanz. Denn was immer die Philosophen und Gelehrten nach der einen oder anderen Seite zu sagen hatten, ob sie erfolgreich in der Verbrüderung des Alten mit dem Neuen waren oder nicht, ob sie den unverhältnismäßigen Aufwand an Sorgfalt und Gedanken um die Träume eines toten Glaubens zu rechtfertigen vermochten: — von den Künstlern wurde die Vorstellungswelt der griechischen Religion, der unmittelbare Zauber der Mythe geschätzt und gepflegt um ihrer selbst willen. Daher eine neue Art Mythologie, mit eigenem Ton und Temperament. Wenn die Schiffsladung geweihter Erde aus dem Boden von Jerusalem mit dem gewöhnlichen Ton im Campo Santo zu Pisa gemischt ward, so sproß eine neue Blume daraus hervor, ungleich jeder anderen, die man vorher gesehen, jene Anemone mit ihren konzentrischen Ringen seltsam abschattierter Farben, wie sie noch von den aufmerksam Suchenden gefunden werden kann unter dem hohen Grase der Maremma. Solch eine merkwürdige Blume war diese Mythologie der italienischen Renaissance, welche aufwuchs aus der Mischung zweier Traditionen, zweier Gefühlskreise: der heiligen und der weltlichen. Die klassische Mythe galt als ein Vorstellungsstoff, den man aufnehmen und anpassen sollte. Es kam den Leuten gar nicht in den Sinn, wißbegierig die Wissenschaft nach ihrem mythischen Ursprung zu befragen, nach ihrer Urform, Tragweite und Bedeutung für diejenigen, welche sie zuerst ersannen. Sie kam ihnen in den Sinn und trat wieder daraus hervor, umkleidet mit dem ganzen Schling- und Rankenwerk mittelalterlicher Vorstellungsformen. Bei der Darstellung der Doni-Madonna in der Tribuna der Uffizien bringt Michelangelo tatsächlich die heidnische Religion und mit ihr auch die entschleierte menschliche Gestalt, die schlaftrunkenen Faune eines dionysischen Gelages in die heilige Gegenwart der Madonna, wie kindlichere Künstler früher anderes irdisches Beiwerk, Blumen und Vögel, dort eingeführt hatten; und er hat dieser Madonna selbst viel von der rauhen Urkraft der älteren „Mächtigen Mutter“ gegeben.
In dieser malerischen Einheit der Gegensätze, die eigentlich dem Ende des fünfzehnten Jahrhunderts angehört, im lebendigen Wesen des Menschen Pico della Mirandola, liegt seine geheime Anziehungskraft für uns. Er läßt uns nicht los; er hält uns fest, so daß wir die vergessenen Seiten seiner Werke wieder und wieder nachschlagen möchten, obwohl wir wissen, daß die Lösung, die er versuchte, uns ebensowenig befriedigen kann, wie vielleicht ihn. Es wird erzählt, er habe in seinem Eifer nach dem Besitz geheimer Gelehrsamkeit einst eine große Summe ausgegeben für eine Sammlung kabbalistischer Manuskripte, die sich nachher als eine Fälschung herausstellte; diese Geschichte kann als sinnbildlich gelten für alles, was er an scheinbarem Wissen jemals erlangt hat. Er suchte Kenntnis und ging von System zu System und wagte viel, aber weniger weil er wirkliches Wissen wollte, als weil er an eine Welt der Ordnung und Schönheit im Wissen glaubte, welche herniederschweben und vereinigen würde, was menschliche Unwissenheit geteilt und getrennt, welche aufhellen würde, was die Zeit getrübt hatte. So bleiben seine Eigenschaften noch lebendig, während seine Werke längst tot sind, und er selbst erscheint wie ein lebendig Begrabener, caesiis et vigilibus oculis wie sein Biograph ihn schilderte, mit jener lebhaft geröteten durchsichtigen Haut, decenti rubore interspersa wie vom Morgenlicht übergossen; ihm gebührt ein Sitz unter der Gruppe von großen Italienern, deren Namen das Ende des fünfzehnten Jahrhunderts mit ihrem Klang erfüllen: er ist ein echter Humanist. Denn das Wesen des Humanismus liegt in jener Glaubenskraft, an der er niemals irre wurde oder gezweifelt hat, daß nichts, was jemals lebendige Männer und Frauen ernstlich beschäftigt hat, seine Lebenskraft gänzlich verlieren kann — keine Sprache, die sie gesprochen, kein Götterspruch, bei dessen Verkündigung sie ihre eigene Stimme gedämpft haben, kein Traum, den der Menschengeist je geträumt: Nichts, wobei die Menschen jemals wirklich leidenschaftlich ernst und hingebend gewesen sind.
— Übersetzt von Wilhelm Schölermann: Die Renaisssance. Jena: Diederichs, 1910. pp. 44-65.