18 Chapters
Medium 9780856831843

In Praise of the One – Marsilio Ficino and Advaita

Michael Shepherd Shepheard-Walwyn ePub

God is unchanging unity; a single stillness *

A Little About Advaita

Advaita is a simple and most profound philosophy. It is known as the philosophy of unity, for it affirms a single reality. Although this reality is beyond words, being itself the source of all words, the human desire to express the inexpressible furnishes a plethora of descriptions. Some of these, acknowledging the impossibility of the task they are attempting, are couched in apparently negative terms. Thus the one reality is presented as unknowable, unthinkable, and immeasurable. Other accounts are buoyantly positive and describe reality as truth, consciousness, bliss, and love.

A Little about Ficino

Marsilio Ficino is a simple and most profound philosopher. Indeed, we may apply to him the words with which he addressed Pietro Leone: vir omnium integerrime, imo et omnium simplicissimea – ‘a man more wholly himself than all others and, in fact, simpler than all others.’ His words transmit truth, consciousness, bliss, and love; and under his guidance people are led from the darkness of ignorance to the light of knowledge.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780856831843

Marsilio Ficino on Leadership

Michael Shepherd Shepheard-Walwyn ePub

Love of mankind alone is the food by which men are won, and only by the favour of men do human affairs prosper. *

THERE is a crisis in leadership in the world. Political and business leaders are suffering the burdens of office, facing turbulent changes in both social and economic systems, and all without an apparent reference to an unchanging authority, either in their own lives, or when taking decisions in public office.

Real leaders never move from the single authority of the will of God, which shows itself as both love and law. Lawful living is conducive to consciousness and wisdom, and such living is naturally full of love. Love and law are two forces generally absent from current considerations of public affairs, yet for Ficino they were the very essence of the matter.

As philosopher and priest Ficino was obviously well qualified to expound, through the beautiful poetry of his letters to many of the key decision-makers of the day, the reverence of God and its practical application in the meeting of secular and religious conspiracies and other events. As a consequence of his single focus on the divine, it would be all too easy in our modern world of tabloid newspaper headlines and media soundbites to discard his advice as irrelevant. Yet deeper penetration of his advice, along with a willingness to use human intelligence to discover universal principle and apply it to particular and current situations, would bring rich rewards to contemporary business and political leaders.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780856831843

Ficino on Law and Justice

Michael Shepherd Shepheard-Walwyn ePub

Affairs of state cannot be properly and successfully conducted without divine help *

THE TRANSLATORS of the recent series of books entitled The Letters of Marsilio Ficino say in their preface that Ficino ‘related all activities to the central aim of Man: to return to his divine source’.1 He wrote to men in many different professions; and certainly those letters directed to lawyers are meant to remind them of the divinity which informs and graces their vocation. In his eyes, ‘high also is the office of lawyer among men. He is the defender of the citizens as a whole, the general oracle of the state, and the interpreter of the divine mind and will’2

Writing in such terms may well have been intended to elevate the recipients’ own views of their profession. Praise, rather than criticism, was the method employed by Ficino to illuminate the virtues which might be practised by individual men, thus leading them back to their divine origin. In a letter entitled by Ficino himself in his collection, Legitimi iurisconsulti partes (the role of the true man of law), addressed to Pier Filippo Perugini, whom Ficino calls ‘the illustrious man of law’, the following passage appears:

See All Chapters
Medium 9780856831843

Ficino’s Influence in Europe

Michael Shepherd Shepheard-Walwyn ePub

Philosophy, to express it in a few words, is the ascent of the mind from the lower regions to the highest, and from darkness to light. *

TRACING the influence of a great teacher is no easy task. A single idea or image may be followed as a thread through texts and sources; memorable lines of a poet may echo through later prose and verse. But Ficino’s influence is harder to trace, for two reasons. Firstly, he was not the only translator of Plato in late 15th century Florence. Important groundwork had already been done by Coluccio Salutati, Leonardo Bruni and others. The revival of the wisdom of antiquity was already being taken up enthusiastically in every shape and form. Secondly, the rôle of a teacher is to foster and encourage the talents of his pupils to prepare for new challenges they will face and solve in their own way. How this may be measured is clearly a complex matter.

Faced with this two-fold difficulty, some have undervalued Ficino’s role as an educator of minds and a publicist of Platonic thought. Pasquale Villari, writing in 18881, paid lip service to Ficino’s importance, describing how Florence ‘became the resort of scholars from all parts of Italy and the studious youth of Germany, France and Spain came there on purpose to attend the lectures of Ficino; for his works were eagerly read throughout Europe...’

See All Chapters
Medium 9780856831843

Ficino’s Message to the Church Today

Michael Shepherd Shepheard-Walwyn ePub

Christ himself, giver of life, who entrusted the care of all sufferers to his disciples, enjoins his priests, if they are no longer able to cure with words as those of the past were, then at least to provide therapy with herbs and stones. *

THUS, on the 15 September 1489, in a letter of self-defence to three eminent friends, wrote the Very Reverend Father Marsilio Ficino, Canon of the Cathedral of Florence, in which high ecclesiastical post he had been installed two years previously.

Thus, he proved himself to be one of the few outstanding priests and prelates of the Catholic Church, except for missionaries in the field, to have taken very seriously and literally the words of Christ as transmitted in the Gospels, to the effect that the essential mission of His disciples – that is the essential ministry of the Church – consisted indissolubly of two things: to proclaim the good news and to cure the sick.

Ficino’s notion of the priesthood – with its focus on holistic curing of the human being, since body is related to soul, in the vision of this arch-Platonist, as shadow is to body – certainly deserves closer scrutiny from a theological point of view than it would be suitable to give it in the present context. It is only being cited here as a striking instance of his more general ‘missiologic’ concept of the Church in relation to the world.

See All Chapters

See All Chapters