European Philosophy – Ficino

Cosimo de Medici

Cosimo de Medici founded the Platonic Academy of Florence in 1462.  It was not a building but a regular meeting of scholars and Marsilio Ficino soon rose through the ranks to lead it, with Pico della Mirandola as student. Cosimo de Medici, when he knew he was dying, ordered Ficino to put aside translating Plato’s complete works and finish translating the Corpus Hermetica, the supposed secret wisdom of Egypt passed to the Hebrews and Greeks.  Plato was thought to be a follower of Hermes and Zarathustra, and this wisdom was one and the same as the teachings of Jesus.  Ficino translated ‘Maat’ as Logos, which is a bit of a confusion between balance and order, but it is similar to the Dao in China as the principle of balance and order of the cosmos.

Ficino

Ficino argued there was one unbroken tradition of wisdom which included the Egyptians, Persians, the Brahmans of India (who he doesn’t go into detail on) and the Greeks.  Ficino gave Europe the first Latin translations of Plato’s works, many derived from Arabic sources.  Ficino thought that Zarathustra was the first prophet of the one true philosophy, followed by Hermes from Egypt, then Moses, then Plato, then Jesus.

Pico di Mirandola

Pico di Mirandola, Ficino’s student, thought it was first Hermes of Egypt, then Zarathustra, then Abraham, then Plato, placing the Egyptians first, not the Persians.  These remained the debated opinions for centuries.  Bruno and Masons follow Pico in upholding Egypt as fountain of all the world’s wisdom.  Ficino repeatedly uses the Zoroastrian oracles to back up his points, and continuously mentions the three Persian Magi visiting Jesus as infant in the Bible.  Ficino writes that Plato had a third eye, which contemplated the union of being and nonbeing.  Pico was very big on Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism, saying it was based on earlier Egyptian sources.

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