A famed platonic Renaissance thinker, Marsilio Ficino, thought that everything, whether body or soul, continuously receives the power to ‘operate’, little by little, but never possesses it entirely.
In particular, the soul, at all times, ‘generates herself’, that is, she continuously draws new strengths from herself, she endlessly unfolds intrinsically different forms, and she unceasingly varies (or adapts) her goals, her desires and her laws.
Our time is almost incapable of understanding and integrating these kinds of ideas, which were, by contrast, commonly accepted by the fine flower of philosophical intelligence of the early Renaissance.
It is a lesson in relativism.
Ironically, relativism is precisely what is at stake, here: the soul possesses an intrinsic, permanent, continuous, capacity of metamorphosis, of auto-transformation, – a permanent impermanence.
The soul has a metamorphic essence, and is made of constant transformation, unceasing mobility.
But our modernity does not really consider (and even less understand) the mobility of the “soul », it only knows the mobility of « matter ».
Matter, it is often said, is intrinsically mobile. Just look at the infinite movement of the quarks, the high pitch of the super-strings. By recognizing this intrinsic mobility, modern thinkers believe they understand the secret of all things, from the infinitely small to the ends of the stars.
‘Matter’ and ‘mobility’ together embody today the ancient role of ‘substance’ and ‘soul’.
Everything is still a « mixture », form and matter, mobility and rest.
Old categories, such as the soul and the body, are now confused, merged. No more discrimination, no more separation. Instead, there is now simply common matter, everywhere there is the ‘same’.
But matter, the ‘same’, the ‘common’, do not exhaust the mystery. The same and the common quickly run out of breath, and the mystery continues to grow everywhere, deeper and deeper.
Take a simple look at Euler’s circle. Nothing ‘modern’, nothing ‘material’ in this abstract circle, this mathematical representation taught in high school. But, who among modern thinkers can say why Euler line connects the orthocenter, the center of gravity, and the two centers of the circumscribed circle and of the Euler circle?
I am not talking about demonstrating this curious (and abstract) mathematical phenomenon.
I am saying that nobody, even today, can explain the essence of Euler line, and the reason of its properties…
The same could be said of all the laws of nature…
Modern people are unable to « see » these sorts of (relatively simple) objects of thought (of wonder) as worthy of metaphysical contemplation. They are unable to “penetrate” their nature, their essence.
For Pythagoras and Plato, it was the opposite. Geometric numbers and figures appeared to them as imaginary powers, and even as divine forcesi.
For Pythagoras or Plato, the power of mathematical forms was the best indication of the existence of an underlying mystery, far beyond matter, and far deeper than whichever heavens we were taught…
i Cf. Plato, Timaeus 31b-32c