Ficino and the afterlife

1 07 2010

It is hard to tell sometimes if the Renaissance magus Marsilio Ficino was more Platonist than Catholic, or better yet, if such qualifications make any sense in his case. Having recently finished his commentary on Plato’s Republic, it is evident that he weaves Christian belief and Platonic doctrine unpretentiously into a single philosophical garment. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in his idea of the afterlife. Ficino speaks much of purification both in this life and the next. Whether he is pulling this entirely from Plato or from his supposed role as religious gatekeeper as an ordained priest is not clear. One thing that one gets from Ficino is a sense that all metaphysical thought can only obtain certain foreshadowings of what will happen in the next life. The idea of “purgatory” properly speaking does not even appear in these writings.
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