Father Time and Orpheus by Angela Voss
In The Imaginal Cosmos eds A.Voss & J. Hinson Lall, Canterbury: University of Kent: 139-156.
In September 1462, aged almost twenty-nine, Marsilio Ficino wrote to Cosimo de’ Medici in gratitude for his generous patronage:
A few days ago I was celebrating [the hymn to the Cosmos] in an Orphic ritual, when my father brought me some letters, in which the wise Cosimo de’ Medici, most health-giving doctor of my life, said he would reflect on my studies, kindly provide for me, generously favour me, and hospitably and piously welcome me into his sacred dwelling. So it happened that not only your magnificence, but also the ancient prophecy of Orpheus evoked in me the most immense wonder. For he seemed to be directing to you the hymn that he consecrated to the Cosmos, and indeed to be asking on my behalf that which he asked with the sure aim of the hymn. You, meanwhile, through a heavenly incitement seemed to have heard a certain divine breath at the very time that I was singing the hymn and asking for the same thing that the prayer earnestly requests.
A playful pun on the name Cosimo (Cosmus in Latin), but also an illustration of Ficino’s natural inclination to pay attention to, indeed emphasise, the meaningful coincidence of two orders of reality, the divine and the human. For it was through the simultaneous occurrence of singing the Orphic hymn and receiving the letter that Ficino understood, in practice, the Hermetic maxim ‘that which is above is like that which is below’ — that actions and events may be linked in a way which reveals a more subtle principle at work than material causality. In the name of Orpheus, he prayed to the Cosmos to grant “a quiet life to a pious young man”, and miraculously the heavens moved Cosimo, “through a certain heavenly instinct”, to respond.