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Marsilio Ficino: From The ‘Three books on Life’ – Plotinus & The Anima Mundi

‘Interior of the Temple of Abou Simbel in Nubia’,

illustration by David Roberts (1796-1864).


Another sharing for the day from the Blue House of Via-HYGEIA, from Marsilio Ficino’s ‘Three books on Life’. Book 3, Chapter XXVI. The Renaissance Society of America, Arizona State University- 1998. Pages 389 and 391. English translation from the original Latin by  Carol V. Kaske and John C. Clark. More to come !


…/…’Plotinus uses almost the same examples in that place where, paraphrasing Hermes Trismegistus, he says that the ancient priests or Magi used to capture in statues and material sacrifices something divine and wonderful. He holds moreover, with Hermes Trismegistus that through these material they did not, properly speaking, capture divinities wholly separate from matter but deities who are merely cosmic (Enn. 13.38), as I said from the beginning and as Synesius demonstrates (De Insomniis, 133 A6-c2)-cosmic, I say, that is, a life or something vital from the Anima Mundi and the souls of the spheres and of the stars or even a motion and, as it were, a vital presence from the daemons (Enn 8.24, 13.37). Indeed, the same Hermes, whom Plotinus follows, holds that daemons of this kind- airy ones, not celestial, let alone any higher- are themselves present all along in the materials and that Hermes himself put together statues from herbs, trees, stones, and spices, which had within themselves, as he says, a natural force of divinity (Enn 13.38). He added songs resembling heavenly bodies (as in Enn 3.21); he says that divinities take delight in such songs and so stay a longer time in the statue…/…’


…/…’Hermes says that the priest received an appropriate power of the nature of the cosmos and mixed it (i.e. its materials in the statues, Enn 13.37). Plotinus follows him and thinks that everything can be easily accomplished by the intermediation of the Anima Mundi, since the Anima Mundi generates and moves forms of natural things through certain seminal reasons implanted in her by the divine. These reasons he even calls gods, since they are never cut off from the Ideas of the Supreme Mind. He thinks, therefore, that through such seminal reasons the Anima Mundi can easily apply herself to materials since she has formed them to begin with through these same seminal reasons, when a Magus or a priest brings to bear at the right time rightly grouped forms of things- forms which properly aim towards one reason or another, as the loadstone towards iron, rhubarb towards choler, saffron towards the heart, agrimony and spodium towards the liver, spikenard and musk towards the brain. Sometimes it can happen that when you bring seminal reasons to bear on forms, higher gifts too may descend, since reasons in the Anima Mundi are conjoined to the intellectual forms in her and through these to the Ideas of the Divine Mind.’



About Ficino’s ‘Three Books of Life’:
Marsilio Ficino: From The ‘Three books on Life’ – Plotinus & The Anima Mundi

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