Marsilio Ficino, the Second Orpheus by Angela Voss

In Music as Medicine ed. P. Horden, Farnham: Ashgate, 154-172.

Through his revival of Platonic thought, the Florentine philosopher Marsilio Ficino (1433-99) stands at the forefront of the great spiritual and cultural rebirth we call the Renaissance. Priest, theologian, astrologer, physician, musician and magician, his life was dedicated to the reconciliation of faith and reason in the quest for self-knowledge, and knowledge of God. On an intellectual level he sought to unite Platonism and Christianity, and on a practical level his holistic approach to healing revealed a new way of understanding and participating in the world: what he was to call natural magic. Ficino’s practice of magic was firm based on his reading of Hermetic, neo-Platonic and Arabic texts combined with his medical, astrological and musical skills. It was directed towards bringing the human soul – understood as the intermediary between mind and body – into harmony with the soul of the world, the mediator of heaven and earth. Ficino understood that the most powerful means of restoring such unity was through the careful preparation and performance of music. In short, music therapy.


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