Gnostic Renaissance Pt 3/3

In the first two parts of this essay we have been looking at Eric Voegelin’s late claims concerning the influence exerted by Marsilio Ficino and the Hermetic tradition on the ideas of Hegel. Here we are going to talk about the role played by “magic” in the Hermetic tradition, Hegel and the ideas of Voegelin.

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Gnostic Renaissance Pt 2/3

Marsilio Ficino (1433-99) is perhaps the most well-known name associated with Italian Renaissance Platonism. Today, however, he is very rarely read. The last time an edition of his collected works was published was the 16th century and much of his writing is very hard to obtain. However, for the most part Ficino’s fame lies not with his own ideas, but with the effect on subsequent history of his translations into Latin of the works of Plato and Plotinus at the behest of the Medici.

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Gnostic Renaissance Pt 1/3

he time has come, I feel, for another essay on Eric Voegelin. Here we’ll be talking about the late modifications of his famous “Gnostic thesis” towards considerations of the role played by Renaissance Platonism and Hermeticism in the formation of modernity.

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Chameleons in the Archive Pt 2/3

In December 1486, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola published in Rome a list of nine hundred philosophical conclusiones (theses) and invited scholars from all over Christendom to come and debate them. The conclusiones contain just about every major idea one can possibly imagine from the period, including debate on our old pal the Averroist shared intellect.

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Chameleons in the Archive Pt 1/3

One of the recurrent preoccupations of this blog is Averroism. By Averroism we do not mean the famous gift of the great Ibn Rush of Cordoba known as the “double method” – the legitimacy of both faith and reason as ways to know God and his creation. No, we mean something far weirder. The idea is quite simple, and yet fundamentally ridiculous – that there is only a single shared intellect for all of mankind.

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Saving the City and Giving It Gods Pt 2/2

Plethon was not limited to merely the consideration of a revived pagan civic religion. In his two Prosphonematia (Memoranda) to the Despot Theodore II and the Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos, estimated to have been written around 1416 and 1418 respectively, Plethon attempts to turn the political philosophy of Plato to the practical matter of saving the Byzantines from the rapid decline and conquest by the Turks under which they had found themselves.

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Saving the City and Giving It Gods pt 1/2

Recently, while speaking with a friend about Renaissance Platonists, I decided to pop the ultimate question of quattropunk pretence: “What do you think of Plethon?” I asked. After a moment or two my friend responded: “Plethon represents the best and worst of the Hellenic tradition.” Now I do not think that my friend, a very erudite little fellow, was hedging his bets here. Plethon, once known, is not someone one can be tepid about. In his rejection of Neoplatonism, Christianity and the Byzantine Empire in favour of reviving a polytheistic pagan civic religion and pleas to rulers to build a Platonic society in the Peloponnese, it is hard not to think of him as either a genius or insane.

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