« If the soul were not immortal,
man would be the most unhappy of all creatures, » writes Marsile
Ficin in his Platonic Theology of the Immortality of the Soul.
In this treaty, which dates back to 1482, this argument is only
mentioned in passing, as a matter of course. No need to insist,
indeed: if one had absolute, irrefutable conviction, apodictic proof
of the mortality of the soul, then the feeling of unhappiness of
being nothing, the despair of a pitiful WTF, the assured evidence of
the absurd, would invade the soul and suffocate it.
Questions about the origin and the
end follow one another over the centuries, with strange resonances.
There is no need for fine hearing or sharp eyesight. It is enough to
visit the remains of sacred traditions, to connect them, and to place
them side by side, to consider them together, with sympathy, in what
they indicate in common, in what they reveal to be universal.
Marsile Ficin, a humanist and encyclopedic conscience, was interested in the beliefs of the Magi of Persia and Egyptian priests, the certainties of the Hebrew prophets, the visions of the Orphic, the truths of the Pythagorean and Platonician philosophers, the dogmas of the ancient Christian theologians and the revelations of the Brahmins of India.
Let’s look at the big picture, let’s
breathe wide. The feeling of mystery is a stronger, more established,
more significant anthropological constant than any of the truths
hardly conquered by Gnostic and schizophrenic modernity. Among all
peoples, the men most remarkable for their love of wisdom have
devoted themselves to prayer, notes Porphyry.
For his part, Ficin, probably one of
the remarkable men of his time, asked himself questions such as: « Why
are souls locked in earthly bodies? »
Ficin proposes six answers to that
To be able to know the singular
To unite the particular shapes with
the universal shapes.
For the divine ray to be reflected
To make the soul happier (the
descent of the soul into the body contributes to the happiness of the
For the powers of the soul to act.
So that the world may be embellished
and God may be honored.
These answers can be summarized as
follows: the soul unites what is a priori separate. The top
and bottom. The world and the divine. The same and the other. It
needs mediation, and it is itself mediation. It is in the process of
becoming, it must increase, grow, mature, rise, to act, even if to do
so it must first descend, to the point of becoming tiny like a germ
again, remain for a very short time, decrease as much as possible, in
order to observe better.
Why does such an infinite God bother
with all these little supernumerary souls? Mystery, tsimtsum.
There are some leads, however, some
indications, in the vast history of the world, that can be gleaned
from the dismemberment of the body of Osiris, the Orphic hymns, the
Book of the Dead, some verses from Homer, Virgil and Ovid, the
fragments of Nag Hammadi, the cries and songs of the Vedas, the
brevity of Heraclitus, the folds of Plato, the lengths of Kabbalah,
the words of Christ, the figures of the shamans, – and in many other