“We have an entire sky within us, our fiery strength and heavenly origin: Luna which symbolizes the continuous motion of soul and body, Mars speed and Saturn  slowness, the Sun God, Jupiter law, Mercury reason, and Venus humanity.”  

 – Marsilio Ficino, letter to Lorenzo the Magnificent

Who was Marsilio Ficino?                                                                                                     

Father Ficino was a major figure in the Italian Renaissance, living during years 1433 and 1499.   He was a man of many talents and interests; a Dominican monk like Saint Thomas Aquinas, an Italian philosopher, theologian, and linguist whose translations and commentaries on the writings of Plato and other classical Greek authors generated the Florentine Platonist Renaissance that influenced European thought for two centuries. He is a most remarkable man.

Ficino was the son of a physician and trained in Latin language and literature, but also Aristotelian philosophy and medicine, probably at Florence and most likely in Latin translations, though he later learnt Classical Greek to read other philosophers. It was through reading Saint Augustine of Hippo (5th century) and the leading medieval scholastic Saint Thomas Aquinas that he studied the Classics, then a lost and forgotten education in the West; the Eastern Byzantine Empire, where those writers were still revered.

Portrait of Marsilo Ficino (in Latin) by unknown painter

Cosimo de’ Medici and his successors supported Ficino so he could devote the rest of his life to the translation and interpretation of Plato and the succeeding Neoplatonist, Plotinus and Porphyry, school, whose thought he attempted to integrate with Christian theology.

Natural Magic

He is most astounding theory, later taken up by many esoteric orders like the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, BOTA and the Church of Light, for the relationship between music and the celestial spheres that was discussed in his three volume work entitled Libri de Vita Tres – Three Books about Life. The last volume is especially interesting to astrologers for it in there he expounds his theories about natural magic 1 Natural Magic is a Renaissance term for magic that harnesses the forces of nature for good. It is not related to ceremonial magic like goetia and theurgy, that deals with the conjuring of spirits and demons. Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa popularized the term in his 1526 De Vanitate and William Lilly refers to Ars Goetia in his book on Horary Astrology.   An easily accessible book on Ficino,  is Thomas Moore’s, The Planets Within: the Astrological Psychology of Marsilio Ficino, published by Bucknell University Press, Lewiston, Pennsylvania, 1982.

One of his last works he translated the Corpus Hermeticum from Arabic into Latin, important because it represents a non-Christian lineage of Hellenistic Gnosticism and is seminal to Renaissance thought. Through Ficino’s translations, the Arabic polymath Averroes’s work in medicine and science became popular.

“The new inspiration of civilized life ( in Sumer) was based first on the discovery, through long and meticulous, carefully checked and rechecked observations, that there were, besides the sun and moon, five other visible or barely visible heavenly spheres ( Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn) which moved in established courses, according to established laws …and that those laws governing the seven heavenly spheres should in some mystical way be the same as those governing the life and thought of men on earth.”

Marsilio Ficino on the hermetic idea of So Above, As Below

The Ficino Chart

Marsilio Ficino was born October 19, 1433, Figline, the  republic of Florence and died October 1, 1499, Careggi, near Florence.  

Ficino is a Fanhandle temperament type, with Saturn and Mars dominating his mode of expression. His exterior may have been calm, but within the monk’s flashes of insight, and desire to learn all than mankind had penned kept him from sleep as he searched for the telltale signs of his King in His mighty fortress. His Sun straddles the ninth and tenth houses, highlighting his great desire to unite Christianity with pre-Christian writers by the Sumerian idea of how the stars interrelated with life. He has 19 Capricorn 31 as an ascendant with Mars nearby, perhaps curving his spine while giving him great mental acuity. It has the symbol of “there is no service in the Church but the voices of the choir are loud and strong.”

Neptune and Jupiter are conjunct in the intercepted seventh house of Leo, where the d’Medici’s his patrons reside, opposite Aquarius for their great mind and reason, which mimicked his own. Inconjunct to Saturn is Pluto, perhaps hinting at his own Aristotelian Lyceum that he held outside in Florence in Cariggio, for he filled it with musicians and artists, philosophers and poets duplicating the Academy of yore.

Ficino’s Mercury in Scorpio is in the eleventh house, fittingly as Ficino believed that the Greek god Mercury was the first theologian and here uniting Aquarius with its modern muse Hermes and removing it, almost instinctively from Saturn.

The fourth house opposite is empty, showing that he gave up his personal life, willingly, for his work and with Uranus in Taurus, his unique insight to the mechanics of time and space. His preponderance of squares, he has six, shows he enjoyed the philosophical quest and struggle to harmonise the strifes of life with a greater and more noble plan. His focal determinator is Saturn.

One of Ficino’s greatest belief’s was that the “soul” is more than a quality of human character and that an individual encounters things, he imbues them with his soul.  Hence Ficino would be comfortable with the idea of the “car” as a girlfriend, our pet dog as a “child” or “best friend” for he sees that as part of the nobility of the human spirit.

Footnotes:

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    Natural Magic is a Renaissance term for magic that harnesses the forces of nature for good. It is not related to ceremonial magic like goetia and theurgy, that deals with the conjuring of spirits and demons. Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa popularized the term in his 1526 De Vanitate and William Lilly refers to Ars Goetia in his book on Horary Astrology.
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