Saturday, January 29, 2011

Angelology and Kabbalah in Pico's Heptaplus

Does Pico's Heptaplus represent an abrupt shift from the "Angel Comparison" of Oration, or a continuation of the same basic angelology? Scholars have remarked on the lack of magic, now-silent use of Kabbalah, and emphasis on the limitations of man present in the Heptaplus. Do these elements make it different from the "becoming angel" system of Oration? If we don't understand what Pico is doing in Oration and Conclusions as angel magic, then understanding Heptaplus as a consistent development of earlier angelology foundation is much easier, makes much more sense. Kabbalah is not being abandoned, but revealed for what Pico takes it as--an esoteric hermeneutics which teaches how to discover theology, cosmology, and angel metaphysics in the text of Moses. Looking at what Pico is doing with angel in Commento helps contextualize how angelology in 900 Conclusions leads to developments in Heptaplus. Pico is still working with a concept of Angelic Mind, drawing on Plotninian insights of Dionysius for this as well as Proclan ones he uses to discuss hierarchical cosmos.

Pico says he will not explore the Hebrew concept of angels, but rather spends his time remarking on how the Dionysian concept of angels can be found in the biblical text. It is when he links the Angel to the concept of Number that he gets into territory reminiscent of Proclan and Iamblichean theology of Number, although he's clearly making arguments in the light of Dionysian and Thomistic developments in order to defend and confirm Christian theology. Neoplatonic theories of Number are no longer being used to understand the radical individuality of gods, which would be a problematic approach to angels for Pico, but rather the unique ontological status of Number is used to build a concept of angel as having an exalted but ultimately imperfect ontological status. Angelic Mind is first created thing, but deficient to God like Number is to One.

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