On the dignity of the soul

9 12 2008


The Renaissance Florentine philosopher Marsilio Ficino tells two stories from his family’s history to define some philosophical principals. The first story is how his maternal grandmother appeared to her mother in a dream to bid her farewell, even though she lived in the town over. The next day, his grandmother was dead. Some years later, his mother had a child and entrusted him to a wet nurse. She then had another dream where her mother came to comfort her telling her not to grieve. When she awoke, someone told her that her child had died that night, having been smothered by the wet nurse. Then she dreamt that her husband would fall from a horse, and it happened just as she dreamt it.

We probably all have stories of these types of premonitions. We have been taught to dismiss them as coincidences or freak occurences. The mind of man now presumes that human beings exist in an anti-metaphysical bubble, that our animal sensory world is all there is and all that affects our regular lives.

Ficino has a different explanation for these occurences. He explains as follows:

…the souls of men that are almost separated from their bodies because of a temperate disposition and a pure life may in the abstraction of sleep divine many things, for they are divine by nature; and whenever they return to themselves, they realize this divinity. The second thing that these stories confirm is that the souls of the dead, freed from the chains of the body, can influence us, and care about human affairs.

-taken from Meditations on the Soul

For Ficino, the fact that the soul is immortal means that it has a potential to absorb and dominate all things. (It is Aristotle I believe who said that the soul is in a sense all things.) Because we are immortal, because there is the spark of the divine nature in us, the potential of human beings is almost infinite. It is no surprise then that people can have such dreams, or can heal people using only an egg, or can create works of genius that approach audaciously the throne of Divine Beauty. That is just who we are. There is in this sense no such thing as the “paranormal”; such frenzies are part of our everyday life. We have just become blind and deaf to them in our society full of artificial lights and noise.

Maya Plisetskaya as Odette in Swan Lake

(Appropriate since the Greeks thought that the swan was one of the sacred animals of Apollo since they could divine when they were going to die.)



One response

9 12 2008

I used to believe that the body contains the soul. I now understand that the soul contains the body. And several other kinds of phenomenal antennae that we cannot define nor explain with Newtonian physics.

Hopefully the church won’t leave this realm to be picked over and controlled by the New Age movement.

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