Notes on historic Neoplatonism

29 07 2010

Just jotting some stuff down…

It seems to me that the birth of modern religiosity in the West was born out of two condemnations: one of Meister Eckhart’s mystical premises, and the other of Pico della Mirandola’s magical theses. In the former, we have various ideas that reflect the monistic mysticism of Plotinus, such as “one sees God with the same eye by which God sees him”, or something like that. In the condemnation of Pico della Mirandola, you have the condemnation of the last vestiges of theurgy in the West; the idea that supernatural intervention could penetrate the human reality outside of the direct supervision of the Church. This premise was particularly problematic for those pious ears:

There is no science that assures us more of the divinity of Christ than magic and Cabala.

Since then, we have had a particularly dualistic view of these phenomena. While it is true that such a purifying tendency has always existed in the Christian religious consciousness, it is in these two condemnations that one side of the argument got the upper hand. From there we are led to the Reformation, the Counter-Reformation, the birth of modern science, and the rest. The paranoia is that if Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular, look like anything else in the history of the world, they would be false and pagan. “Natural revelation”, “natural contemplation”, and “natural magic” were thus topics that had to be taken off the table.


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4 responses

26 12 2018
Iamblichus

Reblogged this on Reditus.

30 07 2010
Jared B.

A rehabilitation of Eckhart in the 21st century is conceivable — more contemporary Dominicans are citing him, and the even previous Pope quoted him a few times. I think the only thing holding Catholic officialdom back from embracing Eckhart more is that the blasted New Agers are too fond of him; their praise is his condemnation. I’ve only perused Pico’s 900 Thesis (and won’t claim to understand them that much), but my impression was that they as whole are more grounded in such a particular moment in philosophical thinking that they lack some timeless quality that Eckhart’s sermons and writings have, or at least that contemporaries see in Eckhart. I could imagine some upstart Dominican theologian thumping an Eckhart manuscript and asking anyone to demonstrate here and now that it deserves prohibition; I can’t visualize anyone (in the Church’s theological / philosophical circles anyway) ever getting that hyped up over Pico. But I could have him all wrong.

30 07 2010
Tancred

Heh, surprised Henry hasn’t faulted you for calling it “Neoplatonism”

29 07 2010
Henry Karlson

While I agree, for the most part, much of what was developing in the renaissance was destroyed by the reformation, there are vestiges of it in the reformation with groups like the rosacrucians (which might have been started by Bruno).

Did you know St Thomas More’s first work was on Pico, and he used Pico as his model example for how to be a pious layman? I think there is more undercurrents with More’s group than people realize in trying to preserve the legacy of the neoplatonists. Erasmus made it clear he prefered Plato to Aristotle (because of the dryness of the scholastics), and Reuchlin certainly was into the Cabala. Colet’s connection to Ficino is also important to this discussion.

Of course, none of this really would have happened without the aid of Bessarion. I’ve always seen him as my ideal Eastern Catholic.

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