Know Thyself: Marsilio Ficino on Revelation, Wisdom, and Reform
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Marsilio Ficino’s Latin writings contain within them a program of clerical, social, and political reform. The agent of such reform was a disciplinary apparatus called know thyself. Through know thyself, an ideal philosopher would emerge. This philosopher had the potential to become, in time, a prophet. Ficino built his apparatus out of parts borrowed from the writings of the Platonists, early Christian monastics, and Ciceronians. It amounted to a process of daemonic combat, fasting and prayer. Citizens, under the Ficinian prophet, would be made to practice these arts in order to convert themselves to the truth contained in God’s light. The prophet would reform society and the church in order to eliminate heresy and ward off the influence of evil daemons. Ficino, looking at an Italian intellectual culture that denied the immortality of the soul and encouraged children to seek the praise of glory, wished to return society to its humble, devoted roots. There had once been a Golden Age of man, a reign of Saturn prior to the Flood. Know thyself would return man to that age and that kingdom.