The Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy
First published 1988 Seventh printing 2007






Brian P. Copenhaver



When Henricus Cornelius Agrippa published an enlarged edition of his De occulta philosophia in Cologne in 1533, seven years after he had written his invective De incertitudine et vanitate scientiarum atque artium (1526), he appended to it a Censura sive retractio in which he reprinted the chapters on magic from De incertitudine. Since in these chapters Agrippa's ardour for occult wisdom had somewhat abated, we may take their definition of natural magic to be the tempered judgement of a man who was, in any event, sincere in his Christian piety and skilled as a vulgariser of other people's ideas. 'That magic is natural', he explained,

which, having observed the forces of all things natural and celestial and having examined by painstaking investigation the sympathy among those things, brings into the open powers hidden and stored away in nature; thus, magic links lower things (as if they were magical enticements) to the gifts of higher things... so that astonishing miracles thereby occur, not so much by art as by nature to which — as nature works these wonders - this art of magic offers herself as handmaid.

Agrippa recognised that magic was an art, a practical technique, but he also insisted on a theoretical content in magic, an analytic basis in the study of nature. Learned men had called magic 'the highest point of natural philosophy' because they saw in it speculative as well as pragmatic responses to the cosmos.1 The obverse of this learned natural magic, was sinful demonic

1. Agrippa 1533, pp. ccclii-iii: 'Naturalem magiam non aliud putant quam naturalium scientiarum summam potestatem, quam idcirco summum philosophiae naturalis apicem eiusque absolutissimam consummationem vocant . . . Magia itaque naturalis ea est, quae rerum omnium naturalium atque coelestium vires contemplata, earundemque sympathiam curiosa indagine scrutata, reconditas ac Iatentes in natura potestates ita in apertum producit: inferiora superiorum dotibus, tanquam quasdam illecebras, sic copulans . . . ut exinde stupenda saepe consurgant miracula, non tam arte quam natura cui se ars ista ministram exhibet haec operand'; see nn. 11, 22 below; Umanesimo e esoterismo i960, pp. 144—5 (Zambelli); Nauert 1965, pp. 32—3, 98, 106, 111—13, 192—3; Muller-Jahncke 1973. On Agrippa, as on Renaissance magic in general, the many articles of Paola Zambelli are fundamental; for Agrippa, see Zambelli i960, 1965, 1966, 1969, 1973b, 1976, 1985 and also her editions of Agrippa: Testi umanistici su I'ermetismo 1955, pp. 105—62 and Agrippa 1958.


magic. Warning that 'natural magic has sometimes relapsed into sorcery and theurgy (most often through strategems of evil demons)', Agrippa raised the spectre of demonology that haunted the Renaissance revival of ancient magic as it animated the concurrent witchcraft craze.2 When Agrippa described magic as a linking of inferior to superior entities, he alluded also to astrology as an ingredient of the magical worldview: 'magic is so connected and conjoined with astrology that anyone who professes magic without astrology accomplishes nothing'. But the magus who understands the powers of the stars can tap forces 'hidden and stored away in nature', secret or occult powers that produce the characteristically 'astonishing' effects of magic, the same powers that lent their name to Agrippa's most famous book, De occulta philosophia.3

Although one may speak retrospectively of an 'occultist tradition' in European culture, Renaissance philosophers would have found the term 'occultism' as strange as 'humanism'; both words have their uses, nonetheless, as historical categories. European occultism includes the concepts of magic, astrology, demonology and occult natural power to which Agrippa referred in the definition above; it also embraces the related notions of divination, illusion, witchcraft, numerology, cabala and theurgy that he treated elsewhere.4 Despite its having been obscured by polemics that began with the Greek philosophers and the Church Fathers and reverberate in the debates of modern anthropologists and students of religion, this complex of ideas constitutes a coherent tradition in western intellectual history. Variations in the tradition, such as the rise of witchcraft beliefs in the Middle Ages, left intact the kinship among these concepts, whose collective development saw its two strongest moments in late antiquity, in the centuries of Plotinus, Porphyry and Proclus, and again in the Renaissance, in the age of Agrippa, Ficino and Pico.5

In his Censura sive retractio, Agrippa named the inventors of magic and blamed them for their impious legacy. Some, like Zoroaster, Hermes Trismegistus and Kirannides, were mythical or semi-mythical progenitors

2 Agrippa 1533, p. ccclv: 'Hincpatethancnaturalemmagiamnonnunquamingoetiamettheurgiam reclinantem, saepissime malorum daemonum vaframentis erroribusque obretiri'; Nauert 1965, pp. 245—8; cf. Zambelli 1985, pp. 76—7.

3 Agrippa 1533, p. ccclii: 'Magia . . . cum astrologia sic coniuncta atque cognata est ut qui magiam sine astrologia profiteatur is nihil agat sed tota aberret via'; see n. 1 above.

4 Agrippa 1533, pp. cccliv-lxh; Copenhaver 1978a, pp. 31-42, 97-171; the eight volumes of Thorndike 1923-58 contain the most detailed description of occult beliefs from late antiquity to the seventeenth century.

5. Parinetto 1974, PP- 121-31, 165-76; Douglas 1975, pp. 29-40, 73-89,105-13; Sharpe 1975, pp. 72-96,149-51.190-4;Evans-Pritchard 1965,pp. 26-47, 56-7,78-9; Hull 1974, pp. 5-9; M. Smith 1978, pp. 1-7; Aune 1980, pp. 1507-16, 1536, 1557; Cohn 1975.

of a prisca sapientia; their chief service to the occultist tradition was to make it venerable by locating it in a distant and sacred past. Others were historical figures, and some of these were important in the history of philosophy: the Neoplatonists Iamblichus, Proclus and Synesius; the Arab sage Alkindi; and such heroes of medieval Christendom as Albertus Magnus, Roger Bacon and Ramon Lull.367

Some of the medieval works in which Agrippa sought his arcane wisdom had marginal, even scandalous reputations in the Renaissance. The most notorious was 'the book published under the name of Picatrix', the Latin title for the Arabicgrimoire only recently confirmed as a source for Marsilio Ficino's refined theorising on magic as well as Agrippa's more sensational compendium on the occult.368 Certain other medieval texts, like the Liber aggregations qr the Speculum astronomiae attributed to Albertus Magnus, have scarcely mattered to the history of philosophy because uncertain authorship or the certainty of false ascription protected the philosopher's good name by detaching it from books of such ill-repute. This apologetic strategy finally fails in the face of undoubtedly genuine works — the De mineralibus of Albertus, the De occultis operibus naturae of Thomas Aquinas, the De universo of William of Auvergne — in which prominent philosophers acknowledged and defended principles of occultism. As long as medieval thinkers shared the metaphysical, physical and cosmological premises of ancient philosophy, some concessions to magic were inevitable since the elements of the magical worldview were common ideas well respected by ancient philosophers. The revival of ancient learning in the Renaissance could only deepen the conviction — already familiar in the Middle Ages — that the magus and the philosopher used much the same conceptual lexicon. 'Natural magic they consider nothing less than the chief authority among the natural forms of knowledge', wrote Agrippa of his fifteenth-century predecessors, '[and] on that account . . . they call [it] the most perfect achievement of natural philosophy.'369


Given his own dispositions and those of his age, it is not surprising thatjacob Burckhardt saw the question of occultism differently. He relegated magic and astrology to the last pages of Die Cultur der Renaissance in Italien, where, in his final chapter on morality and religion, he claimed that the revival of antiquity affected Renaissance belief'most powerfully . . . not through any doctrines or philosophical system but through a general tendency' to admire classical culture above all others. Among the weapons of the 'army of superstition' against which 'the clear Italian spirit' fought the good fight of reason were magic, astrology and other delusions which, according to Burckhardt, appealed to the uncultured popular mind but also found support in the seductive dogmas of antiquity. Even Ficino, the 'distinguished' Platonist, fell prey to these errors. By contrast, Giovanni Pico's attack on astrological determinism 'made an epoch in the subject', and Burckhardt believed that its 'first result. . . was that the astrologers ceased to publish their doctrines'. This gross underestimate of the volume of astrological publication in early modern Italy can be attributed partially to the state of historical scholarship in i860 and partially to Burckhardt's mentality, which permitted him to fit the evidence to his hermeneutic strategies. Admiring the catholic syncretism of Giovanni Pico, 'the only man who . . . defended the truth ... of all ages against the one-sided worship of classical antiquity', Burckhardt reported the celebration of human freedom and dignity in Pico's Oratio without mentioning that for the young Count of Mirandola the supremely free man was the magus.9 Even if Burckhardt had given more weight to ancient philosophy as the vehicle of magical belief — or as its antidote — he might well have discounted the role of technical philosophical analysis in the aphoristic and rhetorical enthusiasms of Pico's early work. The Oratio and Conclusiones of i486 present a manifesto for magic, but they do not provide a theory of magic; even the more discursive but hastily written Apologia of 1487 falls short of the extensive and coherent theoretical statement that finally emerged in 1489 with the third book of Marsilio Ficino's De vita libri tres, titled De vita coelitus comparanda. Although the Pico of the Oratio and Conclusiones knew the Platonic, Neoplatonic and Hermetic sources revealed by Ficino since 1463, he had no occasion to apply his philosophical learning systematically to a specifically occultist problem before he began the Disputationes adversus astrologiam divinatricem in 1493.370

Pico knew that pagan and Christian philosophers had conceded the efficacy and legitimacy of a natural magic distinct from the demonic magic 'in use among the moderns, which the church rightly banishes. . . because it comes from the hand of the enemies of primal truth'. This licit magia naturalis is the 'practical part of natural knowledge' and 'nothing other than . . . the most perfect achievement of natural philosophy'. Its method of operation is to join powers naturally disjoined in the cosmos: 'the wonders of the art of magic do not exist except by unifying and activating those things sown and separated in nature'. Thus, the manipulation of natural, material objects becomes a magical technique, but on the basis of 'a more secret philosophy' Pico was forced to admit that certain artificial objects, 'characters and figures, have more power in an act of magic than any material quality'. Pico wished to enhance natural powers not only through human artifice but also through the verbal and angelic magic that he discovered in cabala. He asserted, in fact, that 'there can be no magical activity of any efficacy unless... it includes an act of cabala'. And since Pico understood cabala to be 'an exact metaphysics of intelligibles and angelic forms' as well as 'a very solid philosophy of natural things', it seems clear that his audacious programme for natural magic had celestial ambitions. The Oratio that introduced the Conclusiones launched this bold project in the full flush of humanist oratory, with all its erudite apparatus amplified by a syncretism that reached beyond Greek and Latin learning to the wisdom of the Arabs, Hebrews and Chaldaeans.11

So young, so learned, so sure of his powers — no wonder Pico represented even for Burckhardt 'the lofty flight which Italian philosophy would have taken had not the Counter-Reformation annihilated the higher spiritual life of the people'. Burckhardt knew that Pico's conception of human freedom in the cosmos empowered man 'to have what he chooses, to be what he wants', but he seems not to have realised that one dimension of this freedom was magical. Licit magic makes man 'prince and master' of creation, even of the wicked spirits who tempt him to forbidden demonic magic.371 Man is a 'lesser world': the structure of his being mirrors the greater world of the cosmos, and his understanding gives him access to the 'occult alliances and affinities of all of nature'. Many of the occult bonds that tie the human microcosm to the macrocosm of nature lie within the domain of astrology. Pico's astrology did not diminish man by determining his fate; it gave cosmic dimensions to human freedom by showing man 'the links of concord [by which] all these worlds bestow their natures ... on one another in mutual liberality'.

God the craftsman blended our souls in the same mixing bowl with the celestial souls and of the same elements; let us see that we do not wish to be the slaves of those whom nature wished us to have as brothers . . . We must beware ... of yielding more to heaven . . . than is necessary . . . The Chaldaeans warn about this, saying, 'Do not aggravate fate.'. . Let us not form images of the stars in metal but ... an image of the word of God in our souls.

These lines from the Heptaplus of 1489, in which Pico preserved the cosmological fundamentals of his natural magic, also foreshadow his forceful and detailed attack on astrological determinism in the Disputationes.13

This anti-determinist current was evident in Pico's thought from the beginning. And even at the end of his career, the enlargement of this polemic in the Disputationes entailed neither a complete disavowal of astrology nor a repudiation of natural magic. Admitting a general celestial influence on terrestrial phenomena, Pico denied that it could be resolved into discernible relations between particular heavenly causes and corresponding earthly effects; no one could know enough to cast a horoscope or tie a man's fate inexorably to one star or another. Pico limited astrological influence to material objects, which included man's body but not his mind or will; he also restricted the forms of celestial power to heat, light and motion. The rigour of this latter restriction weakened, however, in his description of calor and lux, which resemble Ficino's magical spiritus more than the heat or light of modern physics. If Pico's effort to reform astrology by naturalising it was incomplete, the strength and scope of his reasoning were sufficient to establish the framework of the debate on astrology through Kepler's time.372

Pico's warning in the Heptaplus against making 'images of the stars in metal' runs contrary to advice on characters and figures that he had given three years earlier in the Conclusiones. Innocent VIII's condemnation of his theses in 1487 had taught Pico prudence by 1489. The most notorious thesis claimed that 'there is no department of knowledge (scientia) that gives us more certainty of Christ's divinity than magic and cabala'. Since Pico denied in another thesis 'that Christ's deeds could have been done either by the method of magic or by the method of cabala', it seems likely that his intention was pious: to use his understanding of the merely natural powers of magic to illuminate the genuinely miraculous acts that testify to true divinity. To the church, however, Pico's brash thesis can only have seemed an affront to orthodox theology, as Pedro Garcia's Determinationes magistrates of 1489 made quite clear. Since Pico was never closer to Savonarola than when he began the Disputationes in 1493, it may be that the friar provoked him to the fuller expressions of piety that characterise this last, monumental work of his — which was only part of a larger project left unfinished at his death in 1494.373

Although Pico's learning was subtle and broad, the most consistent and most original element in his approach to magic and astrology was his abiding ethical interest: magic enlarges man's powers; astrology cannot limit man's freedom. A greater emphasis on natural philosophy in the analysis of magic and astrology characterised a number of his contemporaries and near-contemporaries associated with the University of Padua and other studia of northern Italy. By the early fifteenth century, a tradition of secular Aristotelianism stimulated more by medicine than theology had established in these universities a pattern of education in which astrology was a prominent ingredient in an arts curriculum strongly inclined towards natural philosophy. Graduates of these schools looked to the stars and planets as indices of regularity in physical causation. Their discussions of immutable astrological influence opened some of the same questions that were to be asked in Pico's Disputationes: How is human freedom preserved in a universe of natural causes? How does myth or revelation count as evidence bearing on astrological theory? Despite the subsidiary role of theology at Padua, the characteristic aporia in these fifteenth-century debates — as later in Pomponazzi's day — was a theological question motivated (paradoxically) by the desire to read Aristotle's science without extraneous theological commitments. Aristotelian cosmology allowed for intelligences guiding the stellar and planetary spheres, and to this extent a mitigated Christian demonology might be reconciled with Peripatetic natural philosophy. But a fully developed demonology, such as had become normal in orthodox Christianity, offended the naturalist sentiments of important Italian Aristotelians. Yet in other ways, especially in their attitudes toward astrology, Aristotelian thinkers who wished to rout the demons from philosophical discourse contributed to the growth of occultist belief in the Renaissance.374

In 1503, Alessandro Achillini prepared a Quaestio de subiecto physionomiae et chiromantiae whose publishing history suggests that it was the most popular of his works. Achillini's Quaestio was a methodological introduction to the more practical Chyromantiae et physionomiae anastasis (1504) of Bartolomeo Delia Rocca or Codes, a vagrant seer whose risky speciality was predicting misfortune for minor Italian princes by reading their faces or their palms. Until a client's relative had him murdered in 1504, Codes enjoyed Achillini's encouragement. The philosopher took the soothsayer seriously, establishing in Aristotelian terms that palmistry and physiognomy were valid forms of knowledge (scientiae speculative) based, like medicine or astronomy, on principles of natural philosophy. The attribution to Aristotle of nearly twenty treatises on chiromancy and physiognomy (one of them published by Achillini in his Opus septisegmentatum of 1501) doubtless encouraged a Peripatetic analysis of divination. Achillini found a place for fortune-telling in his hierarchy of sciences, but he balked at demonology. He could not reconcile Aristotelian and Averroist conceptions of form and matter, soul and body with Christian ideas about demons. Although faith required him to accept that demons existed, Achillini could not justify his assent in rational terms, and on this point he admitted a conflict between philosophy and theology. Having excluded demons as causes of events unexplainable in ordinary natural terms, he attributed them either to trickery or to poorly understood natural agencies such as imagination.17 This latter strategy gave ample room for occult explanation, i.e., the appeal to extraordinary phenomena (imagination, spiritus, various occult virtues and powers) that might be natural and non-demonic but were 'hidden' because they were less evident than the four elements and four qualities. A magic based on such natural effects and directed towards health or some other legitimate goal might be unobjectionable, but there is evidence that members of the north Italian universities also used riskier magical means for more questionable ends. In 1503, Agostino Nifo wrote that he had 'seen an infinity of books about images, and they all claim that this art is inherently true though difficult to discover, and no doubt they practise it to carry women away and to do many other things . . . Moreover, this is a subject of study in many universities; frightening things happen there, and it is hard to save such phenomena on Peripatetic principles.' Having witnessed the popularity of occultism in the universities and having weighed his own considerable experience with astrology and the other secret arts, Nifo was less inclined than Achillini to dismiss much of the problem as trickery, and, since he had more reason to worry about ecclesiastical opposition, his conviction that demons were superfluous in Aristotle's universe did not prevent him from resorting to the Platonic and Neoplatonic demonology that Ficino had made available. Nifo's sincerity is hard to evaluate. Although he eventually denounced the argument that demons were invented to terrify the simple-minded, he had been educated in the naturalist tradition that bred such cynicism. Shifts and inconsistencies in his works make it difficult to distinguish opportunist evasion from genuine compromise or to isolate his personal views.18

17. Zambelli 1978, pp. 59-86; Zanier 1975b, pp. 32-3; Schmitt and Knox 1985, pp. 21-4, 45-50; Thorndike 1923-58, v, pp. 39-47.

18. Nifo's commentary on the Destructio destructionum of Averroes, cited in Zambelli 1975, p. 142: 'Vidi tot libros de imaginibus quot sunt infmiti, et omnes testantur istam artem esse veram in se, licet difficilis inventionis, et sine dubi[o] faciunt rapere mulieres et multa . . . Praeterea in multis

Much clearer was Pietro Pomponazzi's position in his treatise De naturalium effectuum causis sive de incantationibus (1520), the culmination of the secular Aristotelian debate on occult phenomena. Pomponazzi felt that the philosopher must give a rational account of the many reports of extraordinary effects that cannot be attributed to fraud; because demons are excluded from such explanations on epistemological (demons cannot know singulars) and physical (demons are incapable of contact action) grounds, only astrological influences or other natural forms of occult causation remain. The De incantationibus, along with the Defato, also written around 1520, shows how Pomponazzi's desire to reduce all human experience to strictly natural causes gave enormous scope to astrology. Going beyond the condemned propositions of Siger of Brabant, Pomponazzi argued that the stars rule not only nature but also history, even sacred history; a horoscope can account for the rise of Christianity, as of any religion. In the third book of Defato, Pomponazzi presented alternatives to the rigid determinism that governed man as a merely natural being, but in the larger context of his work these attempts to repair the damage to free will ring hollow.19

If Pico's efforts to naturalise astrology had tended to limit the astrologer's pretensions, Pomponazzi's programme of naturalisation had the opposite effect. All terrestrial events had celestial causes; even God's effects on earthly affairs were mediated astrologically; consequent constraints on human freedom were no great concern.20 Tiberio Russiliano Sesto, a student of Nifo's who heard Pomponazzi lecture in Bologna in 1518, echoed these extreme positions in his Apologeticus of 1519. Like Pomponazzi, he criticised Pico's Disputationes, but in four hundred theses he tried to emulate the younger Pico of the Conclusiones. Tiberio's alteration of Pico's condemned thesis on magic, cabala and divinity shows how the secular Aristotelian embrace of a naturalised occultism could accommodate and transform other occultist traditions: 'Through no department of knowledge will we be able to gain more certainty of the coming of Christ than through magic, by which all things sublunar are recognised.' By retaining magia — defined as a means of distinguishing the sublunary from the celestial — but omitting cabala, Tiberio proclaimed his naturalism, and by specifying Christ's adventus rather than his divinitas, he alluded to that feature of a determinist

universitatibus legitur et ibidem apparent res terribiles, et difficile est salvare talia per fundamenta peripatetica'; ibid., pp. 129-^71; Scienze,credenze 1982, pp. 300—5, 313—17, 352-68 (Zambelli); Zanier 1975b, pp. 31-2; Thorndike 1923-58, v, pp. 75-84, 162-4, 182-8.

19. Zanier 1975b, pp. 1-16; Pine 1973, pp. 4-6, 12, 33; Graiff 1976, pp. 331-2, 335, 344-50, 356; Garin 1976c, pp. 116-17; Thorndike 1923-58, v, p. 97; Shumaker 1982, pp. 59-63.

20. Garin 1976c, pp. 109—11; Cassirer 1927, pp. 85—7, 110-12.

naturalism that Pico most detested, the referring of the central events of sacred history to the agency of the stars. Since the uniqueness of Christianity could never be proved by horoscopic techniques that applied equally to other religions, astrological explanations of the facts of Christian history were cold comfort for the orthodox: no wonder that critics of Pomponazzi and his followers preferred the demons to the stars.21


To supplement their thorough knowledge of Peripatetic doctrine, Nifo, Pomponazzi, Russiliano and other Aristotelian philosophers could look not only to the later Neoplatonic sources which Ficino had translated and published in 1497 but also to Ficino's elaboration in 1489 of a comprehensive and philosophically grounded theory of magic in De vita coelitus comparanda. This work is the fullest Renaissance exposition of a theory of magic and the most influential such statement written in post-classical times. In its final chapter, Ficino explained how

nature is a magician, as Plotinus and Synesius say, everywhere baiting traps with particular foods for particular objects. . . The farmer prepares his field and seeds for gifts from heaven and uses various grafts to prolong life in his plant and change it to a new and better species. The physician, the scientist and the surgeon bring about similar effects in our bodies. . . The philosopher, who is learned in natural science and astronomy and whom we are wont rightly to call a magician, likewise implants heavenly things in earthly objects by means of certain alluring charms used at the right moment.22

Ficino took natural magic to be as much the province of the natural philosopher as cosmology, astronomy or matter-theory. The wisdom of the magus and the learning of the philosophus were distinguishable but interdependent parts of the same enterprise whose magical and philosophical content Ficino derived from the same sources in his prisca sapientia — including Plato himself, as comparison of the passage above with the

21. Tiberio's Apologeticus, cited in Zambelli 1977, p. 13:'Pernullam scientiam de adventu Christi magis certificari poterimus quam per magiam, per quam omnia sublunaria cognoscuntur'; ibid., pp. 9—21, 24-9, 48; Zanier 1975b, pp. 33-7, 42-3, 48-9, 80-4; 1979, pp. 211-25; see also n. 15 above.

22. Ficino 1576, 1, p. 570: 'Ubique igitur natura maga est, ut inquit Plotinus atque Synesius, videlicet certa quaedam pabulis ubique certis inescans . . . agricultura praeparat agrum seminaque ad coelestia dona et insitionibus quibusdam vitam plantae propagat et ad speciem alteram melioremque perducit. Similia quaedam efficit et medicus, physicus et chirurgus in corpore nostro . . . Idem quoque philosophus, naturalium rerum astrorumque peritus, quem proprie magum appellare solemus, certis quibusdam illecebris coelestia terrenis opportune quidem, nec aliter inserens quam . . . agricola'; Plotinus, Enneads iv.4.40, 43-4; Synesius, De insomniis 132D; a fuller bibliography for this section on Ficino may be seen in Copenhaver 1984, 1986, forthcoming a and b.

following text from his commentary on the Symposium will reveal. 'Why', asks Ficino,

do we think that Love is a magician? Because all the power of magic consists in love. An act of magic is the attraction of one thing by another in accordance with a certain natural kinship. The parts of this world, . . . the organs of this enormous living being . . . borrow and loan each other's natures. Common love grows out of common kinship, and common attraction is born of love. This is true magic . . . Acts of magic, therefore, are acts of nature, and art is her handmaid . . . Out of natural love all nature gets the name magician.

Although the idea of erotic magic as a cosmic force was already explicit in Diotima's conversation with Socrates, Ficino's analysis of the Symposium strengthened and extended it under the influence of Plotinus, Synesius and other Neoplatonists, whose contributions to Ficino's theory of magic are fundamental.375

De vita coelitus comparanda is an excursus from Ficino's commentary on Plotinus; he attached it as book 111 to a medical treatise whose first two sections were devoted to health and longevity. In the first chapter of De vita hi, which deals with celestial means for improving human life, Ficino wished to establish the basis of astrological causation — and thence of all natural magical action — in intermediation among terrestrial, celestial and supercelestial entities. His starting-point was Enneads iv.3.11, in which Plotinus had briefly mentioned the magical animation of cult-statues as a specific instance of soul's ability to affect body, the latter issue being Plotinus' subject in the ten preceding chapters of Enneads iv.3.376 Ficino, who misdated the Hermetica and considered Hermes Trismegistus the primeval source of Platonism, surely recalled the god-making passages of the Hermetic Asclepius when he read what Plotinus said about the statues. No doubt he realised that an ensouled statue posed threats and promised powers much as an astrological talisman, which for philosophical as well as religious reasons was a crux in Ficino's argument, a limiting case of natural magic. Whatever his interest in the statues when he encountered them in Plotinus, Ficino delayed mentioning their Hermetic avatars until the midpoint of De vita hi.377 In the beginning of this book, he concentrated instead on the metaphysics and psychology of Plotinus, particularly his notion of Xoyoi oTrepixaTiKOi.

Plotinus claimed that these seminal reasons, associated with Soul as intermediary between Mind and Body, linked species or forms in matter with ideas in Mind. Seminal reasons were the dynamic terms in a system of causation and communication joining material objects to immaterial ideas through the medium of Soul. 'The soul of the world', explained Ficino, 'possesses at least as many seminal reasons of things as there are ideas in the divine mind, and with these reasons [Soul] makes the same number of species in matter. Thus, each and every species corresponds through its own seminal reason to an idea, and often through this reason it can easily receive something of value from on high.' Equipped with this metaphysical information, the philosopher-magician had reason to manipulate species of material objects to attract the higher immaterial powers with which they are joined through Soul and its A oyoi.26 But because the Peripatetic concept of substantial form was the key to his theory of magic, it was also important to Ficino that the magical junction between matter and Mind should reach the form of things as well as their species; it was convenient, then, that the same word, eiSos, served Plotinus for both 'form' and 'species'. Ficino believed with Thomas Aquinas that the substantial form of a material object — the principle that makes the object what it is, a member of its species — is educed from the potency of its matter by the power of the heavenly bodies. Although the first eleven chapters of Enneads iv.3 established a connection between lower forms in matter and higher immaterial forms, Ficino also needed Neoplatonic support for his claim that these higher forms included figurae in the heavens, i.e., the zodiac, the decans, the planetary conjunctions and oppositions.378

Ficino found the necessary evidence in the last third of Enneads iv.4. In order to acquit the gods of complicity in the base affairs of mortals, Plotinus argued in these chapters (which contain a coherent theory of magic) that the efficacy of prayer and magic does not prove that the gods intend the effects of these human acts. The response to a magical charm comes not intentionally from heavenly will but spontaneously from the organic sympathies that bind the living cosmos together. Of the metaphors illustrating Plotinus' reasoning, the most intricate compares the cosmos to a dancer; changes in the cosmos to changes in a dancer's body; and configurations (ax^^aria/xoi) of parts of the cosmos (stars and planets) to a dancer's gestures. The stars in a celestial figure no more cause the events signified by the figure than the dancer's gesturing limb causes what the dancer's whole body communicates. The dancer and the cosmos are the true causes of meanings communicated and events signified, but as the dancer thinks beyond particular gestures to the whole performance, so the cosmos has no intention of forming the physical figures made up of stars, much less the terrestrial events influenced by the figures. Weaving an elaborate fabric of puns, Plotinus applied the word axfj^o- not only to the dancer's gestures but also to the stellar and planetary figures; more broadly, his ax^a referred to any figure, shape or form.28

Thus, the celestial axviJ-aTa of Plotinus are also eiS-q or forms; they participate as Xoyoi of soul in the system of psychic intermediation set forth in the first part of Enneads iv.3. Since lower forms celestially educed in matter also qualify as Xoyoi, the Plotinian apparatus of form, figure, Xoyos and species satisfied certain requirements that Ficino had established for a naturally efficacious talisman: 'A talisman (imago) will be more effective if the elementary power in its matter is well adapted to the specific power naturally implanted in the same matter and if this also adapts to the other specific power to be received through a figure from the action of the heavens.' A gem carved with a zodiacal figure meets the requirement for cosmic conformity if its substantial or specific form adapts, as a member of the same species, to a figure or form in the heavens. In Plotinian terms, the Xoyos that is the etbos of the gem is in the same order with the Xoyos that is a oCTfia made of stars.29 Ficino's other requirements, however, were for ontological conformity between the specific form educed in the gem and the elementary material constituents of the gem; and for taxonomic conformity between th efigura carved on the gem and a celestial figure of the same species.

The abject status of matter in the metaphysics of Plotinus ruled out a

28. Ficino 1576, 11, pp. 1745-6; Plotinus, Enneads iv.4.31^7; Sleeman and Pollet 1980, cols. 983-6; Umanesimo e esoterismo i960, p. 29 (Garin); Walker 1958, p. 3, n. 2; Copenhaver 1986.

29. Ficino 1576, 1, p. 554: 'Praeterea imaginem efficaciorem fore si virtus in materia eius elementaris conveniat cum speciali eiusdem virtute naturaliter insita, atque haec insuper cum virtute altera speciali per figuram coelitus capienda'; ibid., pp. 531-2, 542, 552, 558,11, p. 1746; Plotinus, Enneads iv.4.34.9-11, 33-8; 35.4-8, 12-22, 65-70; 40.14-19.

strong, active relationship between material qualities and substantial form, so Ficino had to seek his ontological conformity elsewhere, in the Peripatetic and scholastic conception of hylemorphic composition. And to give fuller meaning to the notion of taxonomic kinship between artificial and celestial figures of the same kind, he turned to Thomas Aquinas as well as Proclus, both of whom treated various aspects of this question in more detail than Plotinus.379 Before seeing how Proclus and Thomas Aquinas contributed to Ficino's magic, it will be useful first to examine the uses of Iamblichus, Synesius and the Chaldaean Oracles in De vita hi, for these later Neoplatonic texts also led Ficino in directions not set by the Enneads.

All magic for Plotinus was natural magic, nothing more nor less than the realisation of cosmic sympathies. Plotinus never mentioned theurgy, a magical approach to divinity introduced by Porphyry, so he had no reason to sort out good religious magic from bad demonic magic. Although magic is not a fit occupation for the sage because its concerns are merely material, it is not bad as such; any evil that comes of magic is human evil. In the first part of his treatise De insomniis (which Ficino translated and whose pneumatol-ogy he exploited), Synesius recapitulated the magic-theory of Enneads iv.4 but emphasised its moral dangers. He distinguished a good magic that freed man from matter from a bad magic that trapped him in it.31 Similarly, in De mysteriis (which Ficino also translated) Iamblichus described a lower theurgy and a higher theurgy. The mechanisms and objects of lower theurgy are material, while the higher theurgy to which it leads seeks to transcend matter. While acknowledging the continuity of the two theurgies, Iamblichus preferred the higher to the lower. Moreover, he distinguished theurgy, which aims at contemplating the true forms (eiSrj) of the gods, from thaumaturgy, which merely handles their images (ei'StoAa), and his leading example of false thaumaturgy is eiSojXonoua, or statue-making. Ficino knew that Iamblichus shunned statue-magic as dangerous demonolatry and that in condemning this form of thaumaturgy he had in mind the bad Egyptian magic of the Hermetica, as opposed to a more refined Chaldaean magic. Ficino cited the Chaldaean Oracles together with Synesius for their doctrine o fi'vyyes or illices, immaterial magical baits that paralleled the function of the Plotinian Xoyoi in bringing higher powers earthward.32

Ficino also called attention to Iamblichus' repudiation of the deceitful and demon-ridden Egyptians in the concluding chapter of De vita ill, but in the same place he associated the same Hermetic statue-magic with the Plotinian metaphysics that he so much admired. On the specific topic of the Hermetic statues as on the broader question of talismanic magic, Ficino ended his treatise ambiguously, and his ambiguity was probably a product of his having been the first Latin philosopher since antiquity to have read in Greek not just Plotinus but most of the surviving texts of Neoplatonism. Had a lesser erudition permitted him to base his theory of magic only on Plotinus, he might have avoided the temptation implicit in the higher theurgy of Iamblichus. This religiously motivated magic, which aimed loftily at contemplation and union with the divine, could only have been seductive for the Platonist in Ficino, but the Christian in him must have trembled to approach heaven on paths not blessed by the church. And as a reader of Iamblichus, Ficino must also have known that later Neoplatonism compromised the very idea of a natural magic immune to demonic influence. For Iamblichus natural objects have magical power precisely because they are tokens (avv&rjfj.aTa) or signs (au/xj8oAa) of demonic and divine presence whose activation is automatic, unconstrained by the magician's intentions.33 If all magic was natural magic for Plotinus, for his successors there could be no purely natural magic — a problem that Ficino must have understood better than any of his contemporaries.

Another Neoplatonist who treated natural objects as magical tokens of the divine was Proclus, whose Ilepl T-rjs kol&' "EXXijvas lepariK-qs rexv-qs Ficino translated under the title De sacrificio, imbedding it into his theory of magic in De vita 111. Proclus' point in De sacrificio was that magic had a metaphysical and cosmological basis in various interactions between heavenly and earthly entities. In the Platonic Theology, the Elements of Theology and other works known to Ficino, Proclus set forth more extensively the philosophical principles outlined in the brief De sacrificio.34 What Proclus wrote about oeipai (chains) or rd^eis (orders) was particularly useful to Ficino in filling out what Plotinus taught about communication between various entities (e.g., the animal lion, a lion carved on a gem,

frgs. 77, 150, 206; Psellus, Commentarius in Oracula Chaldaica Ii33a3-b4, 1 i49aio—bi 1; G. Pico 1942, p. 152; A. Smith 1974, pp. 90-9, 105-7, no. '49; Walker 1958, p. 42, n. 3.

33. Ficino 1576, 1, pp. 571, 11, pp. 1882, 1898-9; Iamblichus, De mysteriis 96.11-97.19, 232.5-234.4; Copenhaver forthcoming b; see n. 25 above.

34. Ficino 1576, 1, pp. 549-52, 570, 11, pp. 1928-9; Catalogue des manuscrits 1924-32, vi, pp. 139-51 (Proclus, De sacrificio); Proclus, Elements of Theology 28-9, 32, 103, 105 in 1963, pp. ix—xi, xx, xxii, 216-19, 222-3, 254; Zintzen 1965, pp. 77-9, 84, 91, 94-6; Rosan 1949, pp. 73, 104-5, 213, 245-54; Copenhaver forthcoming a.

the constellation Leo) within the same species or kind. In De sacrificio Proclus described a hierarchical taxonomy of things that make up the universe and a set of rules governing relations among them. The lion and the cock, for example, are in the same solar order whose chief or henad is Apollo. The cock crows at sunrise; Leo is a solar constellation. But the cock stands higher than the lion in the solar series because he is a creature of the air, nearer to the sun and clearly receptive to it in his waking behaviour. To ward off the lion-faced Apollonian demon who haunts the noon hour, it will therefore be effective to carve a cock on sunstone. Ficino described this and other instances of Proclus' chains or orders:

From each and every star . . . there depends a series of things proper to it, even to the very lowest. Under the heart of Scorpio, after its demons and its men and the animal scorpion, we can also locatc the plant aster . . . Under Sirius, the solar star, come first the Sun, then Phoebean demons as well, which sometimes appeared to men in the form of lions or cocks, as Proclus testifies. . . And there is no reason why the lion fears the cock except that in the Phoebean order the cock is higher than the lion. For the same reason, says Proclus, the Apollonian demon, who sometimes appeared in the shape of a lion, immediately disappeared when a cock was displayed.380

Ficino's magic, which may seem bizarre and idiosyncratic, is actually based on his original and subtle analysis of important philosophical positions from respected and authoritative thinkers such as Proclus and Plotinus.

Contrary to common opinion, however, Ficino's theory of magic in De vita hi cannot reasonably be called Hermetic any more than it can be called Galenic or Thomist, even though (as we shall see) these latter adjectives are less misplaced than the former. Although he had translated fourteen of the Hermetic discourses into Latin early in his career, his intimate knowledge of the Greek Hermetica led Ficino to cite them nowhere in his treatise on magic, where he seldom mentions the name of Hermes Trismegistus. None of the three passages (only two actually mention Hermes) that refer to the god-making texts of the Latin Asclepius is unambiguously favourable to the thrice-great Mercurius — and no wonder, since Ficino had doubts about talismans operating naturally, let alone idols working demonically.36 As for the other Greek treatises, anyone who reads them will understand why Ficino failed to cite them in a philosophical work devoted to the theory of magic. Ficino's Hermetica are not about magic, and what philosophy they contain is of small interest; they are banal expressions of a spirituality whose main concerns were theology, cosmogony, cosmology, anthropogony, anthropology, psychology, ethics, soteriology and eschatology. Although some of the treatises allude to ingredients of the magical worldview that was a given in the Hellenistic culture that produced them, these few astrological and magical commonplaces could be of little theoretical value to Ficino, especially when compared to the riches he found in Proclus or Plotinus. From a philosophical point of view, even the non-magical piety of the Hermetica is eclectic and incoherent: unlike the Neoplatonic systems with which it is often confused, the corpus Hermeticum has little to offer anyone who requires a consistent conceptual and terminological framework for analysis of the problems it presents. As far as Renaissance magic was concerned, the chief task of Hermes Trismegistus was genealogical or doxographic. Along with Zoroaster (to whom Ficino usually gives priority as an inventor of magic), Orpheus, Plato and other prisci sapientes, Hermes could lend eponymous authority to the practice of magic even if his contributions to its theory were slight.37

More significant were the two god-making passages that Ficino (like Augustine) found in the Latin Asclepius and described in the culminating chapter of De vita ill. His ambivalence about the Hermetic statues was ethical and religious, not physical or metaphysical; he doubted their legitimacy, but he did not seriously question their efficacy. To them as to astrological talismans he granted the power to attract celestial gifts. But because the statues were pagan idols inhabited by demons and constructed

36. Ficino 1576,1, pp. 548, 561, 571-2,11, pp. 1836-71; Marcel 1958, pp. 255-8, 487-96, 747-9; Ficino 1937,1, PP- cxxix—cxxxi; cf. Yates 1964, pp. 28-35; see also Kristeller 1956a, pp. 223—4, 233; i960, pp. 3-10; Catalogus translationum i960-, 1, pp. 137-56; Walker 1972, pp. 13-21; Lefevre d'Etaples 1972, pp. 134-7; Purnell 1976, pp. 155-8; Grafton 1983, pp. 88—92; see nn. 31—3 above; nn. 39-42 below.

37. Ficino 1576,1, pp. 25,156,268, 386,673,854, 871-2,11, pp. 1537,1836; Festugiere 1944-54,11, pp. 5, 7, 10, 44-^7, iv, pp. 54—78; 1967, pp. 34—40, 53-5, 66-7; Copenhaver forthcoming a and c. Other references in De vita coelitus comparanda (pp. 540-1, 550) are not to the Greek treatises that Ficino translated or to the Latin Asclepius but to works classified among the 'popular' - as opposed to 'philosophical' - Hermetica by Festugiere 1944—54,11, p. 1; 1967, pp. 30-2. Claims (to my mind dubious) for a stronger relation than Festugiere would allow between the popular and the philosophical treatises have been made by Yates 1964, p. 44, n. 2, and Garin 1977, pp. 342-4. For the debate on Hermeticism, see also Garin 1976b, pp. 462—6; 1976c, pp. 44, 52, 73-4, 81; Westman and McGuire 1977; Schmitt I98i,§iv; Copenhaver 1978b; Vickers 1979; Occult and Scientific Mentalities 1984, pp. 1-6 (Vickers).

as part of a religious fraud, it was difficult not to put them beyond the line that divides unarguably sinful demonic magic from conceivably licit natural magic. Talismans, if cleared of demonic influence, are the limiting case of natural magic that falls on the safer side of the line: to certify their legitimacy and his orthodoxy, Ficino called on Thomas Aquinas.38

Unlike Augustine, who objected even to undecorated amulets, Thomas in the Summa contra gentiles grudgingly and briefly admitted that certain decorated talismans might be permissible to Christians if they were not addressed to demons. If the marks on a talisman are signs — words, for example — that can only be directed to another personal intelligence, then the being addressed must be an evil spirit. But if the marks are pictures — zodiacal jigurae, for instance — their activity need not involve persons. The figure of a lion cut into a stone awakens the powers of the celestial Leo (another figura or ax^a in Plotinian terms) because the carving of the lion on the stone places the talisman in the same species with the heavenly lion. Ficino explains Thomas' position in this way: he thinks that a talisman gains celestial power through its figure

not so much because such a figure is in this matter as because such a composite object has now been situated in some particular species of the artificial such that it conforms to the heavens. [Thomas] says this in book hi of the Contra gentiles, where he ridiculcs characters and letters added to figures, but figures not so much unless in place of certain signs they are directed to demons.381

The 'composite object' of which Ficino writes is a substance, the hylemorphic union of matter and form. To say that substantial form makes the composite what it is, is, from another point of view, to say that this object belongs to a species of like objects; 'substantial form' and 'specific form' are names for different aspects of the same principle. But Thomas taught that figure is an accident, not a substance at all, yet it is like a substance because it locates the figured artificial composite in a species and because the figure (or shape) of a natural composite gives most information about its species. As Ficino put it,figura is quasi-substantialis. Thus, in addition to the well-known Thomist doctrine of celestially educed substantial forms, which reinforced the Plotinian principle of cosmic conformity between the eiS09 of the talisman and the ox^^a. in the heavens, Ficino also found in Thomas taxonomic and ontological conformities missing or indefinite in Plotinus. The engraving of the figure put the talisman in the species (the ranis' of Proclus) of its heavenly analogue, thus assuring their taxonomic kinship. And the truly expert magus, who had read his Aquinas, would also stimulate an ontological connection by matching a material quality of the talisman, such as its colour, taste or texture, to the series of forms, earthly and heavenly, with which the talisman was meant to communicate. Thomist hylemorphism encouraged the stronger interactivity between matter and form that was impeded by the poverty of matter in the metaphysics of Plotinus.40

Other properties of matter indispensable to the magus were called qualitates occultae or 'hidden qualities' to distinguish them from the 'manifest' features of matter perceptible through the primary (hot, cold, dry, moist) or secondary (soft, hard, sweet, sour, etc.) qualities arising from the four elements and their combinations. Ficino had read the work, De occultis operibus naturae, in which Thomas certified the existence and efficacy of occult qualities and associated them with the substantial forms educed in matter by stellar and planetary power. As a physician writing a book on astrological medicine, Ficino also knew that the topic of substantial forms and occult qualities was a favourite in medieval medical literature, where Taddeo Alderotti, Arnald of Villanova, Jacopo da Forli and many other eminent physicians debated the issue.41 Occult qualities had entered the medical tradition secondarily from Avicenna's Canon but originally from Galen, who called them tSid-njTes apprjroi or 'undescribable properties'.

40. Ficino 1576,1, p. 555: 'Sed ne figuris nimium forte diffidas, meminisse iubebunt, in regione hac sub luna elementari, elementarem quoque qualitatem posse quam plurimum in transmutatione videlicet ad aliquid elementare tendente, calorem scilicet et frigus et humorem atque siccitatem. Qualitas autem quae minus elementares materialesve sunt, scilicet lumina, id est colores, numeros quoque similiter et figuras, ad talia forsitan minus posse, sed ad coelestia munera, ut putant, valere permultum. Nam et in coelo lumina et numeri et figurae sunt ferme omnium potentissima . . . Sic enim figurae, numeri, radii, quum non alia sustineantur ibi materia, qua[s]i substantiales esse videntur'; Thomas Aquinas, Summa contra gentiles 11.58.92; iii. 104; Summa theologiae 1.3.7 resp.; 7.1 ad 2; 50.2 ad 1-2; 65.4 resp.; 76.3, resp.; 85.5 ad 3; 118.2 ad 2; Commentarium in Physica, lib. 7, lect. 5; Commentarium in Metaphysica, lib. 7, lect. 2; De occultis operibus naturae 7,9,11,14; Copenhaver 1984, PP- 539-46; see nn. 27, 29, 30 above.

41. Ficino 1576,1, pp. 558, 562, 573; Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae\.4$.% resp.; 65.4 resp.; 115.3 ad 2; Commentarium in De generatione, lib. 1, lect. 8; Commentarium in De anima, lib. 2, lect. 14; Siraisi 1981, pp. 64-6,141-2,146,150-61,179, 258; Zanier 1977, pp. 21,23,47; Hutchison 1982, pp. 23353; Copenhaver 1984, pp. 539, 542-9.

Galen believed that he could explain many medical phenomena by reducing them to the elements and manifest qualities of post-Aristotelian matter-theory. But because certain problems — various drugs, foods, poisons, antidotes and amulets, for example — resisted this reductive strategy, Galen reluctantly referred them to qualities that he could not describe, and he connected such qualities with action oXrjv rrjv ovaiav, 'from the whole substance'. The great Moslem physicians eventually (and reasonably) identified Galen's whole substance with Aristotle's substantial or specific form, thus opening another channel of magical activity for Ficino's astral medicine.382 Given the well-established medical teaching on occult qualities and substantial forms, which was respectable enough to convince even St Thomas, Ficino could confidently forge another link in his magical chain of causation binding earthly to heavenly objects.

To complete this review of magical principles that Ficino found in authoritative philosophical and medical texts, we may end with the topics of TTvevp,a or spiritus and imagination. The basic function of spiritus, conceived as tenuous matter or crass spirit or something in between, was to bridge the gap between man's material and immaterial components. Since Galen's time, the concept of medical spirits, based on Peripatetic and Stoic sources, had accounted for various physiological and psychological processes without obligatory reference to magical action, but Galen also knew that Plato's description of the oxqp.a or vehicle of the soul implied an astrological context for spirits. Since the Stoic -rrveufxa operated as a principle of coherence both in the cosmos and in the human microcosm, it was natural for the Neoplatonists to expand Plato's idea into the fully developed doctrine of the astral body of the soul, an aetheric or spiritual garment accreted by the soul as it descends through the stars and planets into an earthly body. The astral origins of this spiritual vehicle enhance magical capacities implicit even in the innocent medical spirits, which, because they unite things held separate under normal requirements for contact action, helped explain phenomena otherwise unexplainable. Thus, Ficino used medical spiritus to account naturalistically forfascinatio or the evil eye, but he also employed the magical consonance between cosmic and human spirits to show how music of proper astrological proportions acting through the medium of spiritus could awaken a beneficent resonance between a man and a planet, which always emits a music of its own.43 If spiritus is the basic medium for Ficino's magic, man's chief magical faculty is the imagination, which as the Peripatetic common sense or as fantasy links corporeal objects to the incorporeal subject, soul or mind. Since imagination, a faculty of the lower soul, transmits sense data from material objects to the immaterial mind, it is closer to matter than the higher faculties of will and intellect and hence more sensitive to astral influences that act directly on matter but not on soul. Thus, when Ficino read in Avicenna that imagination could act outside the body of the subject and in Synesius that an imaginative 7Tvev^a constitutes the soul's astral body, he had important confirmations for his theory of astrological magic.383


Given the propensity of Renaissance thinkers to infer the value of an idea from its age (a habit of mind whose strongest expression was the prisca sapientia that Ficino helped make famous), it is difficult to exaggerate the influence of the revival of ancient learning on the renaissance of occultism — in particular, the realisation that Greek and Latin philosophers gave serious consideration to magic, astrology and demonology and often admitted their reality. Although Ficino called on various scholastic and Moslem authorities — Thomas Aquinas, Albertus Magnus, Alkindi, the Picatrix — in composing De vita in, for a man of his humanist commitments the absence of classical testimony would have made a philosophical theory of magic unthinkable. The newest and most prominent witnesses were the Neoplatonists whom Ficino introduced to the Latin West, but the humanist impulse to return to the sources also stimulated a closer scrutiny of other texts, including some familiar to the Middle Ages, that nourished the debate on occultism. Through the medical writers and the Neoplatonists, fragmentary evidence of Stoic views on meo^a influenced Ficino's magical spiritus, and Pomponazzi cited 'the opinion that the Stoics held . . . that all things are subject to fate such that all are foreseen and preordained by God'. Telesio and his follower (see below) took inspiration from the Presocratics for a matter-theory which, by challenging Peripatetic hylemorphism, weakened one of the traditional foundations of magic but also engendered new reasons for belief in magical vitalism. Newly translated pseudo-Pythagorean texts like the De mundi anima attributed to Timaeus of Locri and the De universi natura assigned to Ocellus of Lucania, as well as the biographies of Pythagoras by Porphyry and Iamblichus, lent philosophical authority to geomancy, numerology, cabala and other occult sciences associated especially with Pythagoras. Astrology, by contrast, stood threatened when Giovanni Pico's nephew, Gianfrancesco, became the first Latin writer to take full advantage of the sceptical attack on astrology in the Adversus mathematicos of Sextus Empiricus. Although medieval scholars knew the philosophical medicine of Galen, the Renaissance knew more of it and knew it better in the original Greek. Medical and philosophical philology bore magical fruit in the work of Jean Fernel, whose De abditis rerum causis (i 548) is an apotheosis of occult qualities based on a close analysis of such key terms as iSiori/re? appr/roi and xad' oXrjv rrjv ova lav in Galen and Pseudo-Alexander of Aphrodisias.384

But for Fernel, as for most proponents or opponents of magic, the most authoritative (if not the most abundant) texts were to be found in Aristotle or Plato. Fernel took a whole chapter of De abditis to argue 'out of Aristotle that the forms and first substances of all things are drawn from heaven'. Fernel's opponent, Thomas Erastus, who understood the importance to his rival of Aristotle's doctrine of forms, remarked that 'Aristotle would have left us a better philosophy if he had understood the true origin of forms. . . [which is] not from the heavens by the cycles of the stars . . . [but from] God's command.' While Erastus chose to refute the authorities with whom he disagreed — Aristotle, Plato, Galen, Avicenna, Thomas Aquinas — another tactic was to assert that occultism was simply beneath the philosopher's dignity.385 Giovanni Pico, who knew better, used this rhetorical ploy in the Disputationes, claiming that 'Plato and Aristotle . . .

thought it unbecoming ever to say a word about [astrology] in all their philosophy, damning it more by their silence than anyone else by speaking or writing.' Modern critics, lacking Pico's intimacy with the texts, have made similar if artless remarks, which are especially misleading in Aristotle's case. Certain methods or traits in Aristotle, particularly his empiricism, and some of his theories, such as the role of contact action in physics, seem to have convinced modern readers that Peripatetic philosophy and occultism are incompatible in principle, but this judgement can only rest on modern notions of magic and astrology that have little to do with the views of Thomas Aquinas, Pomponazzi or Fernel. These thinkers and many others knew the Aristotelian texts that were loci classici for the magical worldview of the Renaissance. Besides providing the basic physics and metaphysics for the key doctrines of occult quality and substantial form, Aristotle contributed to belief in astrological influence on earth and man, the life and divinity of the heavenly bodies, the relationship of microcosm to macrocosm, spiritus, imagination and the astral body, and the alchemical theory of transmutation. Quoting from the Meteorology and De generatione et corruptione, John Dee explained how

the most auncient and wise Philosophers . . . [have] left unto us sufficient proufe and witnesse . . . that mans body, and all other Elementall bodies, are altered, disposed, ordred, pleasured and displeasured by the Influentiall working of the Sunne, Mone and the other Starres and Planets . . . [Aristotle's] Meteorologicall bookes are full of. . . demonstrations of the vertue, operation and power of the heavenly bodies.

Aristotle, of course, could also be cited in opposition to occultism, as could Plato, who had combatted the sophists by comparing their deceits to magical tricks. Modern historiography, inspired by Anglo-American empiricism, has generally had less trouble associating the 'idealist' Plato with magic than admitting similar connections for the hard-headed Stagirite. It was clear to Ficino and his Renaissance readers, in any event, that Plato's eros was a powerful magic force.47

coelo astrorum conversionibus rebus singulis acquiritur . . . sed iussus Dei est ab initio rebus singulis inditus'; Aristotle, Meteorology 1.2 (339ai 1—32); De generatione animalium ill. 11 (762*18—20); Problems x.i s and 64; De caelo 1.9 (278 10-17); Metaphysics xii.6-8 (i07ib—74b); Walker 1958, pp. 156—7, 162; Thorndike 1923-58, v, pp. 653-63. 47. G. Pico 1946-52,1, p. 48: 'Plato et Aristoteles. . . indignam putaverunt de qua verbum aliquando facerent tota sua philosophia, plus earn silendo quam quisque voce scriptisve condemnantes'; Dee 1570, sig. b iiiv; Aristotle, Physics 11.2 and vin.2 (i94bi3-i4 and 252b25-3o); De caelo 1.3 (270bi—12); Meteorology 1.4 and 11.4 (34ib6-25 and 359b28-36oai7); Rattansi 1966, pp. 128, 131; cf. Zambelli 1972, p. 280; 1973a, PP- 121-3, 128-30, 135-6; Thorndike 1923-58,1, pp. 24-7,11, 249-54; see nn. 16—21,23,46 above; onJohnDee, see Clulee 1977 and Occult and Scientific Mentalities 1984, pp. 57-71 (Clulee).

If theoreticians of magic and their opponents found support in the philosophical remains of antiquity, the profession of philosophy in the Renaissance also organised its studies along lines that continued to stimulate interest in occultism. Topics well established in most of the standard divisions of philosophy encouraged speculation relevant to occultism. Metaphysicians and natural philosophers studied problems of cosmology, matter-theory, causality, substance, form and quality whose development and resolution shaped the discussion of such central occultist doctrines as astrological influence and occult properties. The freedom of man's will was as contentious for moral philosophy as for astrology. The antithesis between demonology and astrology asserted by Pomponazzi raised grave questions for the theologians. In psychology and philosophical medicine the imaginative faculty of the soul and its spiritual junction with the body were topics of long-standing importance.386 Gianfrancesco Pico published a treatise De imaginatione in 1501 along traditional philosophical lines. Although Gianfrancesco admitted that the fantasy was a target of demonic meddling, for the most part he passed over the magical imagination exploited by Ficino and limited himself to ethical analysis. Around the time when he published De imaginatione, Gianfrancesco was writing a more ambitious book that helps explain his reticence on magical imagination. The purpose of the Examen vanitatis doctrinae gentium, unpublished until 1520, was to protect Christian faith by destroying pagan philosophy. Continuing in the Examen and in De rerum praenotione (1506—7) the campaign motivated by Savonarola but interrupted by his uncle's death, Gianfrancesco saw astrology and natural magic as special threats to religion, yet his sceptical fideism did not produce a wholesale denial of occultism. In 1523 he published Strix sive de ludijicatione daemonum, a dialogue that attributed all magic to demonic deceits and put full credence in witchcraft.387

Thus, while Gianfrancesco's scepticism eroded the philosophical grounds for certain occultist beliefs, it posed little threat to occultism as such. In fact, his polemics foreshadowed a new period in the development of the occultist tradition. After (if not because of) the publication of the Examen, one sees less reliance on the usual philosophical arguments for magic and astrology, less confidence in their certainty, but more willingness to find new bases for occultist beliefs than to reject them. As in Gianfrancesco's case, disavowals of occultism in the later Renaissance were almost always partial; even Reginald Scot, who followed Pomponazzi in rejecting demons and then outdid him by dispensing with determinist astrology, repeated a litany on natural magic that can be traced back to Giovanni Pico.50 In De incertitudine et vanitate scientiarum (1526), Agrippa retracted the demonic magic of his earlier De occulta philosophia (1510), but in 1533 he published an expanded version of the same work, including the recanted demonology. Agrippa's scepticism about astrology, which predated the original De occulta philosophia, was epistemological uncertainty rather than thorough physical and metaphysical criticism. He always doubted astrology but never abandoned it, and his confidence in natural magic remained intact even in De incertitudine. A letter written around 1526 reveals the fideism and quietism that motivated De incertitudine, whose relation to the younger Pico's similar work remains unclear. 'If the life and fortune of mankind comes from the stars', asked Agrippa, 'why should we worry? Why should we not leave these things to God and the heavens, since they can neither err nor do evil? . . . Let us consign hours and times to God the Father, who established them by his power.' This damping of curiosity about messages from the stars offered no challenge to the theoretical basis of their influence.51

It has been argued that Agrippa's scepticism was of a piece with his occultism in that both were anti-rational and merely empirical. Although the latter charge has a basis in anti-magical polemic reaching back to Galen, the former misses a crucial point: that even Agrippa tried to provide a rational theoretical foundation for his magic, chiefly in the first book of De occulta philosophia, where most of the philosophical content is lifted from the eminently rational writings of Ficino and the Neoplatonists. Agrippa's demonic magic outreached its Renaissance predecessors in its boldness, but in philosophising about natural magic he merely copied ideas from Ficino and others without developing them. Furthermore, he overwhelmed his blatantly derivative theory with a tonnage of recipes and anecdotes that leave the impression of chaotic wonder-mongering, more in the spirit of Pliny than Plotinus.52 Paracelsus, whose death in 1541 preceded by a decade

50. Scot 1886, pp. 169-73,236-7; seen, n above; Damned Art 1977, p. 109-11, 126-9, 132-5 (Anglo).

51. From a Prognosticon of Agrippa's published in Umanesimo e esoterismo i960, p. 168 (Zambelli): 'Si ab astris est hominum vita atque fortuna, quid sollicitamur? Quin deo hec et celis (qui nec errare, nec malum agere possunt) relinquimus?. . . linquamus horas et momenta deo patri, qui ea posuit in sua potestate'; ibid., pp. 144-52, 155-6; Nauert 1965, pp. 154,199, 204-13,268; Walker 1958, p. 90; see n. 1 above.

52. Garin 1950b, pp. 661-2; Zambelli i960, pp. 171-2; Umanesimo e esoterismo i960, p. 144 (Zambelli); Nauert 1965, pp. 122-4, 134, 148-9, 200-2, 237-9, 245-8, 261.

the full burgeoning of his fame, followed and surpassed Agrippa in his admiration for German mysticism, his assimilation of Ficinian and Neoplatonic magic and, above all, his forsaking the logic and book learning of Plato, Aristotle and Galen for the sake of observation, experience and the mechanical arts. Paracelsus found the Greek and Latin classics remote in time and space from his own eschatological circumstances. As a German who witnessed the first decades of the Reformation, he wondered how the old books of the pagan South could speak to the New Hebron, the imminent golden age before the end of time in which the adept in medicine, magic and natural philosophy would follow the light of nature towards the perfection of the arts and sciences. When Paracelsus proclaimed that he had more to learn from travelling to observe (erfahren) nature and technique in action than from any library, he echoed the devaluation of traditional learning in Agrippa and Gianfrancesco Pico, but he also joined Agrippa in preserving certain elements of the occultist tradition, especially natural magic. From experientia, from reading the book of nature in preference to human books, comes scientia, a knowledge which is more than the subjective contents of the knower's mind. Scientia exists autonomously in the object of experience; much like the substantial form of Avicenna or Thomas Aquinas, it emanates from the stars and defines the object as one of its kind. The identification and manipulation of such terrestrial products of the heavens is natural magic. Just as the models for Paraclesus' magus were more scriptural (Moses, Solomon, the naym of Matthew's gospel) than classical, so the epistemology behind his magic had its roots more in the German mysticism of Sebastian Franck than in the pagan mysticism of Plotinus. By emphasising the immediacy of a scientia which is as real in the known object as in the knower, Paracelsus transferred to the plane of natural philosophy or natural magic the mystic's direct, inward vision of God's word. Likewise, faith more than learning became the basis of the Paracelsian magician's operation, as of the Christian mystic's union with God. In a later debate between Johannes Kepler and Robert Fludd, this Agrippan-Paracelsian-Teutonic anti-philosophy of magic, mediated by the alchemical spiritualism of Valentin Weigel and Jacob Boehme, earned the new title 'theosophy', a term which describes some of the features of Agrippa's occultism better than the word he chose, philosophia.388 The divergent attitudes of Agrippa, Gianfrancesco Pico and Paracelsus towards the legitimacy and efficacy of magic converged in a common distrust of traditional philosophical analysis that coloured subsequent explorations of occultism.

In his autobiography, De vita propria (1575-6), Girolamo Cardano complained that 'by means of these [philosophical] doctrines. . . men strive . . . to discern the incorporeal form and separate . . . the souls of things from the physical structure; putting thereby experiments in casuistry . . . before true scientific knowledge, so that out of a limited field of experience they come to far-reaching conclusions'. A few pages later, the author of the encyclopaedic De subtilitate (1550) and De rerum varietate (1557), reckoning the tally of his life's work, revealed the nature of his 'true scientific knowledge' when he calculated that 'of problems solved or investigated I shall leave something like forty thousand, and of minutiae two hundred thousand'.389 An equal hunger for the minute, the particular and the manifold filled the twenty chapters of Giambattista Delia Porta's Magia naturalis (1558, 1589) with 'experiences' and 'experiments' but left little room for theory. In the English translation of 1658, Delia Porta's recapitulation of Ficinian and Neoplatonic philosophy occupies only about sixteen of 409 pages. In addition to the famous chapter on optics, Delia Porta gave directions for 'experiments' (a physical demonstration of magnetic polarity, a technique for assaying by displacement of water) that sometimes approach the modern sense of the word, but these appeared alongside recipes for preserving cherries and blanching lettuce leaves or advice on

how to procure a shag-hair'd Dog. In sawting time . . . strew their kennels. . . where they lie and couple . . . with the fleeces and hides of beasts; and so, while they continually look upon those sights, they will beget shag whelps like Lions.

Of Delia Porta, the organiser of scientific academies and the rival of Galileo, Cassirer wrote that such 'empiricism leads not to the refutation but the codification of magic'.390

Delia Porta, Cardano, Paracelsus, Fracastoro and other contributors to the sixteenth-century debate on occultism are often counted among the school of Renaissance nature philosophers. The most independent thinker of this group, Bernardino Telesio, taught that observation and sense perception are the only true foundations of philosophy, but his book De rerum natura iuxta propria principia (1565, 1586) is the work of a metaphysician, not an observer of Delia Porta's type. Expertly trained in the Aristotelianism of Padua, Telesio became disenchanted with the Peripatetic style as a priori verbalising, and he attempted to replace Aristotle with his own remarkably original system. Some of Telesio's novelties helped discredit ideas that had long been fundamental ingredients of magical thought; others worked to prolong the career of the occultist tradition by opening new explanatory options. Both these consequences of Telesio's revisionism, which was not primarily concerned with occultist issues, were more important for the future of the theory of magic than any of his specific views on astrology or occult qualities. Setting aside the whole armoury of Aristotle's metaphysics as unrelated to sensation, Telesio reduced the principles of his own system to two sensible, active forces, heat and cold, along with matter, a passive substrate. As opposites, heat and cold struggle perpetually for the sole possession of matter; each is equipped for this contest with a sense of self-preservation describable mechanically as an intrinsic impulse for existence and expansion (pleasure) and against contraction and annihilation (pain). Spiritus, the most powerful combination of heat and matter, became for Telesio a material soul that performs all man's necessary psychological functions. Since this soul is nothing but hot matter, it cannot have the formal, autonomous properties of the Aristotelian-scholastic soul.

Telesio's radical new philosophy encouraged magical thinking not so much because he, like many others, found a place in his system for the ubiquitous spiritus as because he provided a new theoretical basis (with precedents in Presocratic and Stoic thought) for the cosmic vitalism that had always been prominent in the occultist worldview. When Telesio said that matter was percipient and supported his claim in mechanical terms of expansion and contraction, his arguments were more like rational analysis than enthusiastic assertion, more like science than poetry. He thus established credible philosophical foundations for the magical 'pansensism' whose fullest expression was Tommaso Campanella's De sensu rerum et magia (1620). On the other hand, Telesio's critique of Peripatetic hylemorphism — a common exercise among the nature philosophers — nullified the doctrine of substantial forms and hence diminished the prospects for a coherent theory of occult qualities. Francesco Patrizi aimed another blow at Aristotle's doctrine of forms in his Discussiones peripateticae (1581), but the main motive for his anti-Aristotelianism was admiration for Platonism. Patrizi translated Proclus, Hermes Trismegistus and the

Chaldaean Oracles and developed a cosmic psychology reminiscent of the teachings on anima mundi to be found in those writings.391

Although Giordano Bruno echoed his Italian contemporaries in criticising Peripatetic hylemorphism and revived earlier arguments of Giovanni Pico in sometimes objecting to astrology, the general tenor of his work was strongly sympathetic to occultism, whether in later writings specifically addressed to magic (De magia; Theses de magia; De vinculis in genere, 1590—1) or in earlier books (De umbris idearum, 1582; Lo spaccio de la bestia trionfante, 1584; Lampas triginta statuarum, 1586—8) of broader content. In a decade of prolific writing, Bruno's ideas changed and sometimes conflicted as intellectual passions drove him from enthusiasm to enthusiasm. Inconsistency of thought and idiosyncrasy of form will make any catalogue of Bruno's mind disorderly. He preserved Aristotle's terminology of matter and form, for example, even though he gave matter a privileged, divinised status alien to Aristotelian philosophy. Bruno saw matter as a real substantial principle — stable, persistent, capable of receiving all forms and therefore nobler and more durable than any limited form that must eventually disappear. Disregarding individual species and genus as illusions of merely logical diversity, he concluded that the forms indicated by these notional distinctions lacked substantiality. From such a critique of substantial form to Moliere'sjokes about dormitive virtue it was a small step but a perilous one for the theory of magic.392 Yet Bruno's anti-Aristotelianism opened no breach with occultism.

On the contrary, his disenchantment with Aristotle made him receptive to Neoplatonic and Hermetic authorities even friendlier to a magical worldview. Thus, the same Bruno who discarded substantial form as an inefficacious accident of matter accepted Ficino's position on seminal reasons as the basis of occult virtues. The whole Ficinian theory reappeared in Bruno, who added his own touches (Lullism, the art of memory, a more extravagant Hermetism) and ignored the constraints of orthodoxy. He placed Ficino's seminal reasons among the links (vinculo) that bind man not only to the stars but also to astral demons attracted into the Hermetic statues standing in the temple of memory. Bruno's conception of memory and imagination, like the theurgy of Iamblichus, turned magic inwards toward the operator's soul and upwards to the One; the interiority of this contemplative impulse lends credence to the view that Bruno's magic underlay a larger project of cultural and religious reform. On the other hand, since spiritus can carry an astral image outside the operator and seal it in another's soul, the powers of Bruno's imagination are also external and practical.58

When he wrote in De magia that 'magus means a wise man who has the power to act', Bruno emphasised the operative character of magic, its motivation in man's will and its expression in concrete human action. Campanella, who became an advocate of the new Galilean science, also valued magic for its utility, although neither his theoretical nor his pragmatic interest in magic ripened until after he met Delia Porta (1589) and read Cardano. The young author of Philosophia sensibus demonstrata (1591), a Telesian apology, was a critic of astrology, but by 1626 he and Pope Urban VIII were practising a medical astrology defensible as natural magic yet vulnerable to the demonic dangers of Ficino's planetary music. The unauthorised publication in Defato siderali vitando (1626) of these papal adventures complicated Campanella's already troubled career. His most extensive treatment of magic, De sensu rerum et magia, was another product of his youth that appeared only in 1620.59 It brought Telesio's theory of sensate matter to one of its possible conclusions, 'that the world is a feeling animal. . . [whose] parts partake in one and the same kind of life'. Like any higher organism, the living cosmos possesses a 'spirit . . . both active and passive in nature . . . capable of suffering everything and of acting with everything. The soul in things both suffers and enjoys with the things themselves.' Imagination, a faculty of the soul, acts 'when the spirit takes in something and thinks of it'. The operations of soul, spirit and imagination in the cosmos account for its wonders:

What marvel is there in the fact that the rooster is feared by the lion? . . . The lion is a heavy-spirited beast. . .; the rooster is of subtle and sharp spirits; and when these rooster-spirits pass through the air, they penetrate those of the lion and render them fearful.

Although this passage recalls similar remarks on the cock and the lion in Proclus and Ficino, Campanella has removed the alleged fact of the cock's

58. Yates 1964, pp. 192-9. 211-16, 231-2, 262-7, 270, 307-11, 322-35; 1966, pp. 199-236, 243-59; cf. Ingegno 1978, pp. xii, 143; see n. 32 above.

59. Bruno 1879-91, 111, p. 400: 'A philosophis ut sumitur inter philosophos, tunc magus significat hominem sapicntem cum virtute agendi'; Garin 1950b, pp. 657-8; Vedrine 1967, p. 354; Di Napoli T947, PP- 338, 356, 359, 361; Walker 1958, pp. 203, 207-17.

superiority from the theoretical context in which Ficino and Proclus had explained it, i.e., a metaphysical context. Campanella's analysis of the cock's dominance is wrong and perhaps arbitrary, but it is nonetheless physical, which accounts for the popularity of this and similar appeals to fluids, vapours, effluences and other progeny of spiritus long after the scientific revolution and the rise of the mechanical philosophy.393

Campanella's wish to reduce occult phenomena to mechanical contact, material force or physical structure emerged again in the fourteenth book of his monumental Theologia (begun in 1613), where he discussed the passage from Thomas Aquinas on which Ficino had based his claim that an astrological figura is like a substantial form. 'Images and characters are controversial', wrote Campanella:

St Thomas . . . seems to attribute to them, from the influence of the heavens, some virtue ... so that if one makes a lion in gold under the sign of Leo, it acquires a power . . . leonine in nature . . . beyond what virtue the gold possesses. . . These [zodiacal] images do not actually exist in heaven, but heat sent from the constellation Leo to a climate and region of our Earth is or becomes similar ... to leonine heat. . . Wherefore, although the image and the figure as such . . . are not active, yet inasmuch as the figure is placed in an artificial species connected with a natural species produced by the heavens, St Thomas said that it can receive influence . . . Although the figure is artificial, a work of design, its execution in a physical body comes under the heavens, as do other motions. . . Clearly, no action comes from an artificial or a natural body unless the figure suits that action . . . [And] local motion [is necessary] in an astrological figure if it is to receive influence and to act. . . This action occurs through a quality of sympathy, like that between iron and a magnet, whose mode of action they avow to be occult.

In this remarkable passage, the Dominican Campanella preserves the Thomist approval of figurate talismans, but he does not depend on the metaphysical basis of that approval, the doctrine of substantial forms. In place of Peripatetic hylemorphism, against which he had raised objections like Telesio's and Bruno's as early as the Philosophia sensibus demonstrata, Campanella proposed notions of structural resonance and physical force that were only distantly related to Ficino's metaphysical figurae yet served as well as them to uphold a theory of magic.394


Francis Bacon knew the Renaissance philosophers who had nourished Campanella's magic — Ficino, Cardano, Delia Porta, Telesio — and he also understood the anti-philosophical and occultist impulses expressed by Agrippa and Paracelsus. At times he had harsh words for all of them as complicit in the moral and intellectual scandal begun by the Greek philosophers, continued by the scholastics and to be ended by himself. But Bacon's vision of the history of philosophy as a chronicle of degeneracy left him in many respects an heir of that history, and nowhere more than in his attitudes towards occultism.62 In De augmentis, for example, he described an astrologia sana similar in many ways to the iatromathematics of Ficino's De vita hi. Though he denied the existence of a spiritus mundi, he conceded the influence of the heavens on human spirits and he granted that the imagination could affect the transmission of spirits, even their communication to other persons, as in fascinatio. He worried that 'the inquiry how to raise and fortify the imagination' might constitute 'a palliation and defence of a great part of ceremonial magic' if it convinced people that natural rather than demonic powers were at work in 'ceremonies, characters, charms, gesticulations [and] amulets'. Indeed, this was his own conviction; he affirmed 'that imagination has power, . . . that ceremonies. . . strengthen that power, and that they be used sincerely and intentionally for that purpose, and as a physical remedy, without any the least thought of inviting thereby the aid of [demonic] spirits'. The admission that 'many things . . . work upon the spirits of man by secret sympathy and antipathy ... [as in] the virtues of precious stones . . . [that] have in them fine spirits' takes on new meaning in light of a recent discovery: that, in addition to his methodological reforms, Bacon also intended to formulate a substantive natural philosophy, a physical system one of whose chief ingredients was a

quantum figura non habeat activitatem, tamen prout reponitur in specie artificial per ordinem ad naturalem, quae a coelo fit, dixit Divus Thomas quod potest recipere influxum . . . Et quidem licet sit opus arbitrarium figuratio et artificiosa, eius tamen exequutio in corpore physico subiicitur coelo, sicut ceteri motus. . . Palam enim est quod neque artificialia neque naturalia corpora, quibus actio aliqua fit, absque figura commoda illi actioni non sunt . . . [Et] motus localis in figura astrologica [necessarius est] ut influxum recipiat et agat. . .; actio enim ista fit per qualitatem sympathiae, sicut magnetis in ferrum, cuius agendi modum profitentur occultum'; Di Napoli 1947, pp. 331-40; see nn. 39—40 above.

62. P. Rossi 1974, pp. 3-129; Anderson 1948, p. 136; Walker 1958, pp. 189-91, 199; 1985, § x, p. 121; Rees 197s, pp. 81-92, 101; unless otherwise indicated, translations from Bacon's Latin works are those in F. Bacon 1857-74, iv and v.

pneumatic (spiritual) theory of matter expressed in the context of a 'semi-Paracelsian' cosmology.395

Despite his belief in the astrological and magical efficacy of spiritus and imagination, Bacon concluded that ceremonies invoking these natural powers are unlawful because they enable man to achieve his material ends without labour. Bacon's strongest objections to magic were ethical; in this respect, they reflected his views on the failings of philosophy, which in the past had seduced man from truly useful learning. Plato had tempted philosophy to its original sin of abstract, sterile contemplation, and then he compounded the error by confusing philosophy with religion. Aristotle, whose faults were fewer, turned philosophy toward verbalism, dogmatism and sophistry. 'Plato made over the world to thoughts', wrote Bacon, 'and Aristotle made over thoughts to words.' As mere speculation detracts from the crucial work of observation, so magic aims 'by a few easy and slothful observances' to pluck the fruit that God commanded man to seek in the sweat of his brow. Bacon preferred the mechanical arts to the magical because they were collective, collaborative and institutional, whereas magic isolated the individual in selfish quests that 'aim rather at admiration . . . than at utility'.396Joined to this moral indictment were certain physical and metaphysical departures from the post-Ficinian theory of magic, derived for the most part from Paracelsus, Telesio and the other nature philosophers. Most important was Bacon's rejection of metaphysical hyle-morphism and his reformulation on physical grounds of a magical theory of forms and occult qualities.

Bacon conceived of magical phenomena as those 'wherein the . . . cause is . . . small as compared with the . . . effect'. From this disproportion of cause and effect follow amazement and difficulty of explanation.

Those arts . . . that take more from fancy and faith than from reason and demonstrations are three in particular: astrology, natural magic and alchemy, whose ends, however, are not ignoble . . . Magic proposes to recall natural philosophy from a miscellany of speculations to a magnitude of works. . . But the methods thought to lead to these ends are full of errors and nonsense, both in theory . . . and in practice.

Because the utilitarian promise of the magical arts could rescue philosophy from its moral doldrums, Bacon said he 'would rather have [them] . . . purified than altogether rejected', and he suggested programmes for the reform of natural magic and astrology. Even 'superstitious narratives of sorceries, witchcrafts [and] charms' became legitimate objects of enquiry. Bacon urged that the word 'magic', 'which has long been used in a bad sense, be again restored to its ancient and honorable meaning . . . I . . . understand it as the science which applies the knowledge of hidden forms (formae abditae) to the production of wonderful operations; and by uniting . . . actives with passives, displays the wonderful works of nature.' In the absence of this reform, a 'popular and degenerate natural magic . . . lays the understanding asleep by singing of specific properties and hidden virtues, sent as from heaven and . . . learned from the whispers of tradition'. This is the otiose magic that 'makes man no longer alive and awake for the pursuit and enquiry of real causes'.397

The new magic that Bacon advocated was the operative manifestation of his metaphysics, as mechanics was the practical expression of his physics. Metaphysics for Bacon was 'the investigation of forms', but the forms he had in mind were not the 'toys of logic' that he and the nature philosophers scorned in Aristotle. 'Of a given nature to discover the form or true specific difference or nature-engendering nature or source of emanation', Bacon explained,

is the work and aim of human knowledge ... In nature nothing really exists beyond individual bodies performing pure individual acts according to a fixed law . . . And it is this law . . . that I mean when I speak of forms . . . The form of a nature is such that given the form the nature infallibly follows. . . [Form] deduces the given nature from some source of being which is inherent in more natures . . . He who knows the forms of yellow, weight, ductility, fixity, fluidity . . . and so on and the methods for superinducing them ... in some body . . . [may achieve] the transformation of that body into gold.

Obviously, the Baconian form is not the Peripatetic abstraction, but its exact contours are obscure - a generative force, a defining essence, a taxonomic distinction, a natural law, a material quality, an alchemical additive, any of these will answer to Bacon's description which, however, seems most akin to the fixed and distinguishing material properties of an object.398 This becomes clearer as one leafs through Bacon's illustration of his method for the investigation of forms, a long list of 'instances' that gradually isolate the nature of heat, the particular material quality that Bacon chose as the first exemplary object of his technique. To organise his inductive method, Bacon outlined twenty-seven categories of'prerogative instances', the last of which are 'instances of magic' marked by that imbalance of cause and effect that makes them 'seem like miracles'.399

Bacon regarded this feeling of mystery as an obstacle to learning. He condemned 'the easy passing over of the causes of things by ascribing them to secret and hidden virtues and properties (for this hath arrested . . . inquiry)'. He did not deny the existence of occult virtues and sympathies, but he traced them to imperceptible physical structures in bodies called 'latent configurations' (latentes schematismi).

What are called occult and specific properties or sympathies and antipathies are in great part corruptions of philosophy . . . Inner consents and aversions (consensus et fugae) or friendships and enmities (for I am . . . weary of the words sympathy and antipathy . . . [because of the] superstitions and vanities associated with them) are either falsely ascribed or mixed with fables or from want of observation very rarely met with . . . [Genuine] consents . . . are found in greatest abundance ... in certain medicines, which by their occult . . . and specific properties have relation ... to limbs or humours or diseases.

Having thus confirmed a tradition of pharmaceutical magic reaching back two millennia and more, Bacon explained that the genuine but occult phenomenon of consent 'is nothing else than the adaptation of forms and configurations (symmetria formarum et schematismorum) to each other'. In adopting the term schematismus, Bacon may not have known the kindred language in Plotinus, and in listing a series of consents in 'sulphur, oil . . . greasy exhalation, flame, and perhaps the body of a star' he may not have had in mind the ragis of Proclus that it resembles.400 He had, however, read Ficino's De vita in, the Renaissance treatise on magic that first fully exploited the philosophies of Proclus and Plotinus, and in any event, whatever the manner of their mediation, the resemblance of Bacon's magical ideas to their Neoplatonic ancestors is apparent - as are the differences. In the case of occult phenomena, Bacon's investigation of forms ended in the discovery of forms, configurations and symmetries more physical than their Greek analogues but still more magical than the quantitative conceptions of force and structure that were to emerge in the new science and philosophy of which Bacon is considered a prophet.

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