31 03 2009


The Prophet is not called ‘unlettered’ because he was unable to write. He was called that because his ‘letters’, his knowledge and wisdom were innate, not acquired. What can partial intellect have that universal intellect has not? The partial intellect is not capable of inventing anything it has not seen before. Recall the story of the raven: when Cain killed Abel and stood not knowing what to do with the body. One raven killed another, dug out the earth, buried the dead raven and scratched the earth over the body. From this Cain learned how to dig a grave and bury a body. All trades are like this. The possessor of partial intellect requires instruction while those who have united the partial with the universal intellect and become one are prophets and saints.

-Mevlana Jalalu’ddin Rumi

This blog is brought to you today by the number 12

3 03 2009


Wherefore Plato judges twelve to be the governor of the universal world form, of the human form, and the form of the state. He judges it to accord most with the propagation or mutation of things, since, as we shall show later, it is the first of the increasing and abundant numbers. Twelve is made from the number six twinned, from six the perfect number as we call it. In other words, twelve is more than perfect… The Sun and Venus each complete their orbits in 12 months, Jupiter in 12 years. Daily the moon passes through twelve degrees “in middle motion”, and she has her [28] mansions of twelve degrees; and she enacts twelve months with the Sun. Not without weighty cause has this number been observed in the Prophets and in sacred writings.

-Marsilio Ficino, found in Nuptial Arithmetic: Marsilio Ficno’s Commentary in the Fatal Number in Book VIII of Plato’s Republic by Michael J.B. Allen

Rejoice in the present

21 01 2009


You asked me yesterday to transcribe for you that maxim of mine that is inscribed around the walls of the Academy. Receive it: “All things are directed from goodness to goodness. Rejoice in the present; set no value on property, seek no honors. Avoid excess; avoid activity. Rejoice in the present.”

-Marsilio Ficino, found in Meditations on the Soul

On the Power of the Stars

15 12 2008


And some random reflections

[Image by Robert Place found on this site]

But what is remarkable about the Florentine cupolas is that they represent no merely random arrangement of the stars: the artist has preserved the aspect of the sky exactly as it appeared at a given day and hour. Why was this done? Without the slightest doubt, because some event of decisive importance for the Church had taken place at that very moment – an event over which the celestial powers then above the horizon had presided. Aby Warburg was able, in fact, to prove that the arrangement of the stars shown in the Old Sacristy of San Lorenzo corresponds exactly to their position in the sky above Florence on July 9, 1422, the date of the consecration of the main altar.

-taken from The Survival of the Pagan Gods by Jean Seznec
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The Divine Frenzies

25 11 2008


From all this it is now clear that there are four kinds of divine frenzy: love, poetry, the mysteries and prophecy. That common and insane love is a false copy of divine love; superficial music, of poetry; superstition, of the mysteries; and prediction, of prophecy. According to Plato, Socrates attributes the first kind of frenzy to Venus, the second to the Muses, the third to Dionysius, and the last to Apollo.

-Marsilio Ficino

On Certainty

20 11 2008


As for me, my gaze will always end up fixed on the history of human thinking itself, and even more on that of Christian theology. I will always find peace and joy in contemplating them. Amid so many riches that claim my attention, I will always act like a child of Plato, that is to say, every time that there is at least the possibility of so acting, I will not make a choice. A unity that is too quickly affirmed has no power to inspire, while eclecticism has no impact. But the methodical welcoming of contrasts, once understood, can be fruitful: not only does it guard against over-eager partiality; not only does it open up to our understanding a deep underlying unity; it is also the precondition that prepares us for new departures.

-Henri Cardinal de Lubac, Corpus Mysticum: The Eucharist and the Church in the Middle Ages pg.xxv

Life is not about creating certainties where there are none, but rather about clinging with all of our strength to the things we are certain about. For me, this does not establish a system, a list of doctrines that build on each other in an immaculate chain of syllogisms and ideas. It is rather a few rules of thumb that we follow when weaving our way through the elaborate cosmos that has been put in front of us: beautiful, broken, sinful, and redeemed. That is why I tend to be slow to argue with someone when it comes to what he really believes, even if that person is a worshipper of demons. There are indeed beacons of light in the night of human mortality, but even they do not make the light of day. For that, we must shed this body of death and be embraced by the immortal fire of divinity. We are so far away from that now.

On the Simplicity of Truth

11 11 2008


You often ask me, Antonio, to define the virtues for you, expecting from me perhaps those very detailed analyses of the Aristotelians and Stoics. Calderini, this is not the way of our school of Plato. Surely, the power of virtue lies in unity rather than in division. Hence, the Pythagoreans held that unity belonged to the good, diversity to evil. So I shall be very brief in my definition, especially as it is better to practice the virtues than to know about them.

-Marsilio Ficino, from the book, Meditations on the Soul

I really like reading Josh S.’ blog, not because of how much I agree with him, but rather because of how much I disagree with him. In a sense, the way he puts things is really the way most modern Western people would put them, just without the often hypocritical nuances. Those nuances only try to mask the real similarities between supposedly disparate worldviews. In reality, the modern Lutheran, the modern Roman Catholic, and the modern atheist inhabit the same moral and metaphysical universe. It is simply one that I personally refuse to live in.
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On Probability

24 10 2008

When it comes to action, we can never wait until we have an absolutely certain understanding of the entire situation. We only take the path down which we are led by probability. Every “duty” must follow this path; for this is how we sow, sail, make war, get married, and have children. In all these things, the result is uncertain, but we nevertheless decide to undertake those actions which we think have some hope of succeeding….. We go where reason- and not absolute truth- leads us.

– Seneca, On Benefits

I posted this over a couple of years ago now, and recently, I was contemplating it again. Man today seems to want to be like God, and not in a good way. He wants absolute moral certainty that a position or action is the right one when this is simply not possible. That nagging voice that points us in the right direction never provides us with this certainty. We must follow it nevertheless, since we are human beings and not angels.

Deus deorum

19 10 2008

Christ as the Fulfilment of Pagan Theology

In the past, I have criticized the “grand march of monotheism” view of history. In this view, people agonizingly climbed their way out of a mental cave that is haunted by spirits, ghosts, gods, and all of the other usual suspects in the polytheistic cosmos. Little by little, one small group of people, the Hebrews, grew out of this worldview to realize that their was only one God, and all of the other religions were either superstition or the manipulation of devils. Even from the founding of the Church, we are becoming more monothesitic, more Biblical, and more knowledgeable about the Christian religion as time passes. People feel, for example, that St. Anselm’s idea of the vicarious satisfaction of Christ on the Cross was a remnant of the pagan ethos: the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would never demand blood from His own Son in payment for the sins of the world. We know the Gospel better since we are farther away from the pagan past. We have cleaned the outside of our vessels. We have whitened our sepulchers. We have a better idea of God than our ancestors.

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14 10 2008

‘Perfection’ thus formulated extends beyond metaphysics into values, epistemology, and science. The good is the possession of pure wholeness, which keeps one integral and untroubled. Love is the desire to acheive this state of wholeness. The exercise of reason is superior to gathering incidental facts empirically. Intuitive or direct apprehension of reality is superior to discursive reasoning about it. Fundamental cosmic bodies have invariable and simple properties, but bodies in ordinary experience are transient and complex.

-Lucas Siorvanes, Proclus: Neo-Platonic Philosophy and Science