Authors Eric Parker Nota Bene Reformed Irenicism

Religion and the Divinity of the Soul: Ficino’s De Christiana Religione (III)

In the second chapter of his De Christiana Religione Ficino continues his argument from the first chapter that religion cannot be vain or useless. In this chapter he argues, among other points, that the soul’s yearning for God must come from God since (a) the divine light cannot be known apart from the divine light and (b) the infinitely Good God cannot have made the human soul to yearn after Him without a purpose.

Translation: Chapter II

On the divinity of the soul with regard to religion.

Our Plato, in his Protagoras, determines that the greatest proof of our divinity is that we alone in the earth, as participants in a divine fate, recognize, desire, and call upon God as our author, on account of our likeness to him, and we love him as a father, we worship him as a king, and we fear him as Lord. For just as the Sun is not perceived without the Sun, and just as air is not heard without air, and the eye that is filled with light sees light, and the ear filled with air hears the resonation of air, so God is not known without God. But, the soul that has been filled with God is lifted up into God so much that it recognizes God when it is illuminated by the divine light and it thirsts after him when it has been set aflame by the divine heat. For nothing is lifted up to that which is superior and infinite unless by the power of a superior and infinite being, by which cause the soul is made into the Temple of God as Xystus the Pythagorean thinks. And he concludes that the eternal temple of God will never truly be destroyed. The human mind daily deliberates about God, the heart burns for God, the chest sighs for God, the tongue sings for him, the head, the hands, and the knees adore him, and the skillful works of man refer to him. If God does not hear them then he is ignorant. If he does not listen then he is ungrateful. He is utterly cruel to compel us to cry out to him daily if he does not listen to us. On the contrary, the God who is Infinite Wisdom, Goodness, and Brilliance cannot be ignorant, ungrateful, or cruel. Moreover, since the superior mind includes the inferior entirely within it rather than the converse, the human mind is necessarily included within and governed by the divine mind, if the human mind comes into contact with the divine mind.1

  1. Ficino, Opera, vol. 1, (Basil: 1561), 2-3; I consulted Edelheit’s translation of the last few lines in this paragraph in The Evolution of Humanist Theology, 227.

By Eric Parker

Eric Parker (PhD McGill University) is the editor of the Library of Early English Protestantism (LEEP) at the Davenant Institute. He lives in the deep South with his wife and two children, where he is currently preparing for ordination to the diaconate in the Reformed Episcopal Church.