49 min

17 - Renaissance Hermeticis‪m‬ Chasing Hermes

    • Society & Culture

It is hard to imagine that almost a thousand years went by during which virtually nobody in the West knew anything about the majority of Greek philosophy. In retrospect, this period has rightly been dubbed the Dark Ages. But all that was about to change when the East and the West met in Florence, Italy in an attempt to heal the rift between the Orthodox and the Catholic churches.

Florence at the dawn of the Renaissance was, much like Alexandria a thousand years earlier, a melting pot of cultures and religions. And once again this kind of multicultural environment was exactly what was necessary for the Hermetica to resurface in Western Europe. The Hermetic writings proved an invaluable treasure to the thinkers of the late 15th and early 16th century, providing them with the terminology and the symbols to clothe their inquisitive thoughts about Man, God and the Universe.

Two men in particular stand out as having had particular importance in this process; Marcilio Ficino and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola. Ficino was the intellectual central figure of the newly formed Academy, Pico his student. Both made significant contributions to the development of Western thought; Ficino with his brilliant orations and countless translations of lost works, Pico with his unwavering faith in the human pursuit of knowledge. Both were magi; Ficino invoked the seven Hermetic spheres and clothed their essence in music, Pico sought to prove the divinity of Christ through the Kabbala.

It is hard to imagine that almost a thousand years went by during which virtually nobody in the West knew anything about the majority of Greek philosophy. In retrospect, this period has rightly been dubbed the Dark Ages. But all that was about to change when the East and the West met in Florence, Italy in an attempt to heal the rift between the Orthodox and the Catholic churches.

Florence at the dawn of the Renaissance was, much like Alexandria a thousand years earlier, a melting pot of cultures and religions. And once again this kind of multicultural environment was exactly what was necessary for the Hermetica to resurface in Western Europe. The Hermetic writings proved an invaluable treasure to the thinkers of the late 15th and early 16th century, providing them with the terminology and the symbols to clothe their inquisitive thoughts about Man, God and the Universe.

Two men in particular stand out as having had particular importance in this process; Marcilio Ficino and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola. Ficino was the intellectual central figure of the newly formed Academy, Pico his student. Both made significant contributions to the development of Western thought; Ficino with his brilliant orations and countless translations of lost works, Pico with his unwavering faith in the human pursuit of knowledge. Both were magi; Ficino invoked the seven Hermetic spheres and clothed their essence in music, Pico sought to prove the divinity of Christ through the Kabbala.

49 min

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