The Wisdom of Marcilio Ficino: Part Four
A Sample

Tom Morris

This continues some excerpts from a volume of writings by the Renaissance philosopher Marcilio Ficino (Pronounced "Ficheeno") that I began three weeks ago. I'm doing this little bit of excerpting because this is not a thinker, or a book, that you're likely to come upon, and you may find some of the insights interesting. Feel free to email me any reactions you have, and any thoughts they spark in you as you read them. The excerpts are taken from Meditations on the Soul: Selected Letters of Marcilio Ficino, edited by Clement Salaman. Numbers are page references. I hope you enjoy them.

The first cause of worldly evils for you is too great a hunger for worldly goods. (117)

Since in truth love is the beginning of all motion, whether of nature or soul, for this reason, while you love the body ardently, it is on account of the body that you strive after, or fear, all things. And, in pursuit of these things, you fill with troubles; and in fearing, you suffer pain. O mind out of mind, why do you love so hotly those things that can so easily be put beyond reach before you attain to them, and as easily taken away after you possess them? (120)

Do you want to get rich quickly? Study to withdraw from avarice as much as you have studied to add to your possessions up to the present. Live, I beg you, by the law of nature, which is content with very few and very small things, and not according to opinion, which always compels you to be poor. Assuredly, necessity is confined within narow limits, opinion within none. What is necessary is revealed and provided for us at every step; we labor for what is superfluous. (121)

If you desire to live wisely, remember there is this alternation of good and evil, so that good things ought not to be accepted without apprehension nor evil things endured without hope. Therefore we should rejoice in good things with moderation; and sorrow in evil things with even greater moderation. (121)

Come tell me, why do men boast of their reason yet live at the mercy of chance? They desire or fear any number of things before they really know whether such things should be either desired or feared, and they put the momentary and trivial before the eternal and immeasurable. (34)

TVM: Insight of the week

From the past learn the present. In the present, as far as you are able, look about you at individual things and discern their end. You ought never to launch upon anything that has to be said or done in the present until, as far as possible, you have discerned its future. Nor ought you to do or say anything for which you are unable to give a valid account. Finally, when in each action you have committed yourself humbly to God, and done everything in the light of reason and according to the counsel of the wise, live at peace; and whatever follows accept for the best. (121)

I want nothing more wholeheartedly than to know which way leads most surely to happiness. (122)

It is also said that they are happy who are endowed with many gifts. But they are not happy before those gifts benefit them, and they never benefit them unless they use them. Possession without use does not contribute to happiness. Nor is use alone enough; for one can use them badly, and thus be injured rather than helped. So as we have added use to possession, we must add rightfulness to use, for we must not only use our gifts, but use them rightly. Wisdom alone ensures that we do so. (123)

TVM: Consider this next one as a screen saver, or to tape on to the TV set -

Trifling amusements do not satisfy the soul, which by natural inclination seeks finer things. (126)

...the desire of the will cannot be satisfied by any good so long as we think that some other good remains beyond; therefore, it is only satisfied with that good beyond which there is no other. What else is this but God? (127)

Boys cannot understand the counsels of their elders, nor peasants the thoughts of the wise. (135)

Soul: Oh wonder, surpassing wonder itself! What strange fire consumes me now? What new sun is this, and whence does it shine upon me? What is this spirit, so powerful and so sweet, which at this moment pierces and soothes my inmost heart? Whence does it come? It bites and licks, goads and tickles. What bitter sweetness is this? Who could think of it? (52-53)

[Continuing] as far as you can to looking at the surface reveals only shadows and dreams. The center is the pivot and substance of things. (46)


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