Monday, 23 April 2012

Marsilio Ficino on Eros and Magic

Domenico Ghirlandaio, Zachariah in the Temple, 1486-1490.

Eros and magic operate through the all-permeating pneuma that flows through each and every part of the cosmos, just as the human soul flows through each and every part of the human body. Eros is the almighty attractive power that holds all things as one, from the stars of the Heavens above through to the Earth below; and magic is the philosophy and gesture of understanding and manipulating these attractive relationships between the parts of the cosmos, between the parts of the human soul and body. Take for instance the ritual employment of talismans inscribed with images of the stars drawing down the life of the particular stars. Ultimately, the Magos is able to know and control these attractive forces through the cosmos as power, with the Magos being the male principle and power the female principle responding to his virility and charm, or neglecting him if he finally reveals himself as being impotent. The Magos is the lover, and power is the beloved, for “the lover and the magician both do the same thing: they cast their ‘nets’ to capture certain objects, to attract and draw them to them.”[1] According to Marsilio Ficino, the powers of eros and magic are entwined beyond belief, for both eros and magic work by the principle of attraction, which is the very force that holds the cosmos together,

The whole power of Magic is found on Eros. The way Magic works is to bring things together through their inherent similarity… In our body, the brain, the lungs, the heart, liver and other organs interact, favour each other, intercommunicate and feel reciprocal pain. From this relationship is born Eros, which is common to them all; from this Eros is born their mutual rapprochement, wherein resides true Magic.[2]

[1] Marsilio Ficino, Commentary on Plato’s Symposium, 128.
[2] Marsilio Ficino, De Amore, VI, 10, 87.

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