‘God or the Daemon: Platonic Astrology in a Christian Cosmos’, by Angela Voss
Temenos Review, vol. 14, 96-116.
The Renaissance has been described as a time when the sleeping beauty of Platonic philosophy was awakened in the West after her thousand-year slumber; this rebirth of pagan wisdom, particularly in its magical aspects, posed a great intellectual challenge to the prevailing Christian orthodoxy. In this paper I want to look at some of the issues arising from the revival of what was perhaps the most contentious dimension of Neoplatonism —astrological theurgy—in a society that officially condemned it as illicit. The man who negotiated the dangerous path between the two worlds most successfully (although himself only narrowly escaping censure) was Marsilio Ficino in fifteenth-century Florence: a philosopher, priest, astrologer and magus whose life and work were dedicated to re-integrating not only Platonic thinking but also ritual practice into what he saw as the rather sterile and lifeless Christian scholasticism of the medieval followers of Aristotle.