Saturday, January 15, 2011
outline up to Oration
1a. Pico della Mirandola (dates) left a brilliant but controversial philosophical legacy.
1b. His angelology is complex, serious, but misunderstood and neglected.
1c. Many of these misunderstandings have been cleared up in recent historiography, but theurgic interpretations remain.
1d. Pico's motivations were not magical but rather they were philosophical.
1e. Pico's angelology can best be understood as contribution to Christian Neoplatonism in angelology tradition of Pseudo-Dionysius and Thomas Aquinas.
2a. Angel plays a central role in Pico, who is famous for his views on magic and Kabbalah.
2b. Some interpretations, especially since Yates, have conflated angel mysticism with magic.
2c. Pico was not advocating any angel magic, having explicitly ruled out all conjuring.
2d. But Pico does deal with magical, theurgic, philosophical lore that seems to imply some kind of (licit?) angel magic?
2e. Whatever practices may be implied, Pico never makes clear. However, his philosophical angelology remains a consistent theme after he leaves magic behind in later texts.
3a. Theurgic interpretations have failed to take into account complexity of Pico's Christian angelology commitments.
3b. A better understanding of Pico's philosophical background and motivations is needed.
3c. Once Pico' Dionysian and Thomistic commitments are understood it becomes easier to understand what he is doing with Neoplatonic Angelology, Kabbalah, and others.
3d. We need to understand Pico's encounter with Neoplatonic Angelology, which has received little study, before moving on to Kabbalah and Magic as angel problems.
3e. In this paper I will do a survey of the philosophical territory Pico covers in articulating an original approach to angels, including a brief survey of problems concerning theurgy magic and kabbalah.
4a. An investigation of Pico's encounter with Neoplatonic angelology turns up mostly difficult metaphysics, a disappointment to those looking for magic so surprisingly not mentioned much in theurgic interpretations.
4b. Angel is relevant to cognitive ascent, problem for ontology because Pico wants to discuss angelic level of being, angel is to be emulated/rivalled/become/surpassed, but these should not be confused with magic.
4c. Pico means something different by magic. Magic is natural philosophy, employed for theological purpose, but doesn't deal with angels in ways suggested by mistaken theurgic interpretations.
4d. Pico's interest in Neoplatonic magic has been exaggerated. Only uses Plotinus in account of magic in Oration, skips theurgic Iamblichus and Proclus in favor of metaphysical.
4e. In this paper I will look at the Christian Angelological Themes Pico explores when he looks into Neoplatonic philosophical angeolology in his Proclan Conclusions, as well as the original use he makes of this material in Commento and Heptaplus.
5a. Theurgy remains a problem for Pico. I will be bracketing the problem of theurgy, but first I want to explain why.
5b. Many theurgic interpretations have not rested on a rigorous understanding of the many uses of the term, haven't held up, or it isn't clear what they mean.
5c. Even Copenhaver is unclear about what he means, when he makes the most sophisticated theurgic interpretation of Pico to date. (Kocku von Stuckrad...?)
5d. Craven and Idel have argued against understanding Pico as doing Theurgy in conjuring and kabbalistic senses.
5e. Does Pseudo-Dionysian theurgy help us understand Pico? Is "becoming theurgy" in Dionysius like "becoming angelic" in Pico?
6a. Pico's Kabbalah must similarly be bracketed, although it is a rich and well-studied area in Pico interpretation.
6b. Wirszubski worried that "mysticism of language shades into magic" and demonstrated that Pico Kabbalah study suffers from same problem as Kabbalah study dealing with magical elements.
6c. Wirszubski has detailed interpolations inserted into Pico's kabbalah by translator.
6d. Influence of his Jewish teachers and colleagues on Pico still open and very interesting question--Medigo on Averroes, Alemanno on Sefirot two interesting examples not strictly "Kabbalistic"
6e. Pico seems to follow Abulafia's understanding of Maimonides and differences between theosophical and ecstatic kabbalah.
7a. Does Dionysius on Divine Names determine Pico's reception of Kabbalistic names?
7b. Or does Pico leave door open to magical uses in later Christian Cabalists? (per Copenhaver)
7c. I will be bracketing and moving past problems in interpreting whatever magic Pico may have intended to imply in Oration and 900 Conclusions.
7d. In focusing on philosophical dimensions of Pico's angel--which I hope will inform the future study of whatever magical implications may be found in Pico's angelology--I am following trend in scholarship emphasizing Pico's philosophical seriousness.
7e. Whatever magical implications may turn out to be present, Pico's angel project was fundamentally philosophical, as a survey of angelology in his texts will show.
8a. I will begin my survey of Pico's angel with Oration, which has been misunderstood when explained as advocated "Man as Magus."
8b. Pico's comparison of Man with Angels has been misunderstood as an exhortation to angel conjuring or some kind of "angelization" or "infusing the philosopher with angelic being," but is better understood as a more down to earth rhetorical celebration of philosophy and mystical theology.
8c. In Oration Pico cites David on Man being "a little lower than the angels," discusses examples of men interacting with angels in Bible, Moses as transmitter of angelic lore, Enoch/Metatron as general example of men becoming angels.
8d. In later texts (where man is unambiguously lower in the hierarchy than angels, despite the rhetorical celebration of man's centrality in Oration) Pico will consistently develop this notion of angel comparison, men emulating angels and becoming angelic
8e. Emulating and Rivalling angels in Oration is still an interesting problem, but probably better understood as metaphor for mystical contemplation than some magical practice.
9a. Magic and Kabbalah in Oration happen after main angel comparison, philosophical celebration. Magic is not connected with angels. Kabbalah is not described as angel magic, but "exact metaphysics of angels" as well as "ineffable/supersubstantial theology" along Dionysian lines.
9b. Pico doesn't import any "Kabbalistic Angel Magic" into Oration.
9c. It is not really clear that his Kabbalistic sources included the kind of angel magic that theurgic interpretations have sought to find in Pico.
9d. Pico doesn't make clear that he understood what a successful magic and kabbalistic "operation" would involve, but he seems to think it safe and not sorcerous.
9e. In looking to Magic and Kabbalah Pico thinks he is just drawing on another theological resource, not playing some power game.
10a. Pico's concept of Magic is distilled from various philosophical authorities.
10b. Copenhaver points out that Pico uses Plotinus but not Iamblichus on magic.
10c. Pico's concept of magic does not seem to be the same thing as Neoplatonic theurgy.
10d. Pico refers to Iamblichus and Proclus later in the Oration as sources of Platonic philosophical theology but not as magical sources.
10e. Pico's magic is not theurgy, but he may have been influenced by Neoplatonic theurgy understood as a dimension of mystical theology.
11a. "Man as Magus" cannot be extracted from the Oration, but it is clear that any interpretation must take into account centrality of angel comparison.
11b. Pico will abandon magic and kabbalah (mostly) as topics in later texts, but centrality of angel will remain a consistent theme.
11c. Copenhaver has argued that Pico's freedom is not radical modern, but to choose unromantic life of angel. It is this angel that I will argue Pico explores in later texts, rather than the antinomian angelized sorcery of Pico's theurgic-occultist interpreters.
11d. Here it is interesting to compare Pico to Ficino, for whom angel is "absent" (Allen)
11e. We will see that Pico's treatment of Neoplatonic philosophical angelology makes more sense if disentangled from this alleged project of becoming "Man as Magus."