Sunday, January 16, 2011
snapshot of outline with quotes getting plugged in
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.
note on Dionysius and theurgy
Dionysius uses the term "theurgy" 48 times.
PD MT 1.1 "superessential light of the divine darkness"
we have plenty of examples of Pico using mystery language, negative theology from Dionysius but we don't see him using Dionysian theurgy language
does becoming theurgy in Dionysius help us understand becoming angelic in Pico (as nonmagical)?
PD+theurgy may help explain Pico's interest in magic+KBL but it also explains why Pico doesn't need magic+KBL for theology of Heptaplu+BU
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.
Dougherty p.136 Having contended that human beings have no intrinsic determining principle, Pico declares that human beings are free...
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."
12a. Pico's 900 Conclusions contain some of the most controversial magic and kabbalah material, but also some of the most interesting unexplored angelology.
12b. Interpretations that have sought to discover theurgic meaning or some kind of "Pico's magical system" in 900 Conclusions have problem that they are not intended to be understood as his final systematic views, but are meant as starting points for discussion.
12c. Pico raises many of the crucial problems in scholastic angelology, suggests he has ways to resolve disagreements between scholastic philosophers like Aquinas and Scotus using methods like "Philosophizing with Number" but we never find out how this resolution works.
12d. Pico's magic and Kabbalah have received a great deal of scrutiny--results inconclusive but theurgy downplayed, but his encounter with Neoplatonic angelology has not received same amount of treatment.
12e. I will focus on Proclan conclusions which reveal much more about Pico's motivations in looking at non-Christian philosophical angelology, although I admit Kabbalistic angel is interesting--see Copenhaver.
13a. Pico was accused for one conclusion having to do with angels, which involved Pico's attempt at speaking in Dionysian mode on "God is not Intellect" -- emphasizing distance between man and angel?
13b. Pico does not make much direct reference to Dionysius in his Proclan conclusions, but it is clear that he is exploring Dionysian themes. Magical implications less obvious.
13c. Syrianus conclusions are excellent examples of Neoplatonic system correlated with Dionysian mystical theology, celestial hierarchy.
13d. Iamblichus conclusions give interesting example of Kabbalistic Binah correlated with strange ontological insights into orders of intelligibles and intellectuals.
13e. Plotinus conclusion on intelligibles and intellectuals gives information about approach Pico takes to "Plotinian" Angel Mind in Commento.
most important Pico conclusion accused, from p.o.v. of angelology, compares distance between human+angel intellect to "God isn't Intellect"
Pico got in trouble for showing sympathy for Origen, but rather than defending Origen's views Pico was saying they're not so bad he deserves to be damned, but merely intellectual errors rather than wickedness of faith.
Copenhaver suggests (in "#/Shape") Pico meant 900 theses to be read as a structured talisman (72 KBL theses!)but new theory avoiding theurgy
Edgar Wind: The more fantastic parts of Origen's angelology Pico was prepared not to defend, but to excuse. http://bit.ly/hiCzVF
14a. Pico's approach to scholastic angelology problems gives us information about his interpretation of Aristotle and Plato differences and how to resolve.
14b. While Pico argues that he is free to disagree with Aquinas, he follows Aquinas on important points of metaphysics and angelology, explores concept of participation in Proclan conclusions. (Craven emphasizes participation in Being defending Pico from mistaken pantheist interpretation similar to what Aquinas defended Dionysius from)
14c. Method of philosophizing with numbers brings up neopythagorean mysteries that seem to bear on Kabbalistic number play, description of angel as Number in Heptaplus, all needs study--surprising how neglected.
14d. Pico turns to Kabbalah for confirmation of aspects of his Dionysian angel mysticism, does he see solution of scholastic angelology problems in Kabbalistic angel?
14e. Pico's Conclusions are misleadingly titled because they are only problem statements. We don't have his answers or explanations. But we might see later texts developing angelology problems he's exploring in 900 Conclusions.
15a. Pico's Proclus conclusions reveal a great deal about his philosophical motivations, and represent an important/impressive philosophical contribution.
15b. Pico digesting large amounts of difficult Proclan text, abstracted from mythic and polytheistic trappings into philosophical angelology.
15c. Farmer thought Pico was interested in sympathetic magic, but it seems clear that Pico is more interested in metaphysics of celestial hierarchy for his project of understanding angels so as to emulate and go mystically beyond their mode of life and state of being.
15d. Proclus Conclusion 24.3 shows Pico's understanding of application of divine name at different leves, 24.55 ascent through angels, a Dionysian cosmos finding confirmation in "ancient philosophy"
15e. Further study of Pico's encounter with Neoplatonic Angelology needs to better account for Pico's philosophical project in deciphering all this Neoplatonic angelology from a foreign Greek system.
15f Proclus conclusion on preserving hierarchy despite "all in all"
In 24.55 Pico suggests seeking "the true expression of the divine from the angelic choirs" imitating angels means being expression of divine
3>63 "in the soul there exists in act an intellectual nature, through which it convenes with the angel" but ..."there is nothing intrinsic in it through which it is able, without the appropriate image, to understand something distinct from itself."
16a. Pico's Conclusions on other neoplatonists like Syrianus and Iamblichus reveal more of the story
16b. Pico primarily turns to Neoplatonism for account Angel and Intelligible world.
16c. Pico seems to be attracted to Neoplatonist angelology because it resembles solutions Aquinas made trying to reconcile Christian angelology with Aristotle's critique of forms.
16d. Metaphysics of participation is important, has been mentioned in scholars like Craven but deserves its own study in Pico especially considering participation is key to Aquinas and Platonism scholarship these days.
16e. Pico demonstrates a sense of differences between Neoplatonic approaches in Commento. In 900 we see him trying to find what all these Platonic angelologies have in common that confirms his own Christian views.
17a. In addition to the Encounter with Neoplatonic Philosophical Angelology, we can see Pico's 900 Conclusions as anticipating treatments of angels in Commento, Heptaplus, De Ente.
17b. We find much more information about the Platonic angelologies he makes brief references to in Commento, as he proceeds to give his own original account of Angelic Mind taking these precursors for granted. 900 illuminates study of Commento but has hardly been touched for this purpose.
17c. In Heptaplus Pico claims to be discovering angel metaphysics of Genesis, but makes us of methods of discovering such metaphysics he learned from Dionysius, Proclus, and Kabbalah.
17d. In De Ente we find Pico's mature views on angelic perfection as the highest thing to be stripped away in negative theology, metaphysics of participation, Thomistic active potency as guide to understanding Angelic being as in Heptaplus.
17e. Pico's "translations" of Neoplatonic philosophical Angelology and other topics of "ineffable theology" into the 100 or so Proclan conclusions in 900 Conclusions reveal much about what use he plans to make of Platonic angel metaphysics.
18a. Encounter with Neoplatonic angel is a background to Pico's treatment of angels in Heptaplus, although he claims to be discussing Dionysian doctrine of angels which he is astonished to discover in the Biblical text using his allegorical methods.
18b. In Heptaplus Pico will develop his original take on Angelic Mind which is playing out in the Conclusions
18c. While we don't see Pico's final views or a systematic angelology in 900, we do see quite a good start.
18d. Rather than looking at Pico's angel conclusions as decisions we must look at them as starting points for his problems.
18e. Neoplatonic angelology isn't only angel material being discussed in 900 Conclusions but plays a bigger role than Kabbalistic or even scholastic angel.
19a. Before leaving 900 must treat Kabbalistic angels, which Pico twists to fit his own system, correlates with familiar philosophical ideas, but leaves open question as to magical implications.
19b. Copenhaver has taken this material as indicating that Pico has fully integrated Kabbalistic angel into his "angel regimen" but other scholars like Craven and Edelheit give us reason to pause.
19c. Copenhaver understands Kabbalistic angel in terms of Pico's mysticism, being associated with dangers (although not conjuring made safe as in Yates) but not associated with magical practices per se.
19d. Some treatments of Kabbalistic angel are brief and obscure. Six Wings deals with Isaiah angel which gets interpreted differently in KBL and PD.
19e. After discussing the arguments of Craven and Idel against taking Pico as a theurgist I will consider Copenhaver's "theurgic model" of Pico's "angel regimen" from Oration and 900 Conclusions.
20. Finishing with Kabbalah--what about Kabbalistic theurgy?
20b. Copenhaver has suggested that Pico found theurgy in Kabbalah--what does this mean?
20c. Moshe Idel and Craven have argued against seeing Pico as doing Kabbalistic theurgy.
20d. Copenhaver's discussion of Pico's angel shows that there are mystical models we can construct, but doesn't make airtight case for integrating 900+Oration into "Pico's mysticism."
20e. I will bracket these questions of theurgy and mysticism for the most part and look at philosophical angelology in Commento, Heptaplus, De Ente and Disputations in the second half of my paper.
21a. Does Pico abandon magic in later texts? Or was magic never as central to philosophical angelology as previously assumed?
21b. When Pico's magic is understood as being limited in application and not central as in misreadings, no need to see magic as something Pico leaves behind, but simply not needed in discussions of higher level angelology.
21c. Pico doesn't seem to have magic in mind when discussing angels in Commento, Heptaplus, De Ente,
21d. but project from Oration of comparing man to angels as part of contemplative project of imitating divine still holds.
21e. I will not seek to understand later texts as development of whatever angel magic implications may be present, but rather attempt to take Pico's philosophical angelology in its own philosophical terms.
22a. Commento and Heptaplus are unrecognized masterpieces of philosophical angelology, sophisticated efforts to make a contribution to problems of Christian Neoplatonism.
22b. Pico might be saying that Plotinian simple intelligible easier to talk about than Proclan-Dionysian multiplicity of angels, for purposes of his Aristotle and Plato harmonizing project.
22c. Plotinus vs. Dionysius
22d. Angelic Mind as highest, most perfect, single thing created by God
22e. Angelic mind and harmonizing Aristotle and Plato carries over from Commento into Heptaplus and De Ente
22f Angelic Mind and life of the angels (life of angels consistent theme from Oration to De Ente where it is crucially "not perfect", still important even in Disputations)
108 the ancients called the Angelic Mind, adorned with the Ideas, paradise… they referred to people as being “in Paradise” if they lived a completely non-physical intellectual life, and, having already risen above human nature and become like angels, lived in contemplation alone.
23a. Michael Allen and Crofton Black have studied Commento as precursor to Heptaplus, problems in Pico's unique interpretations of Neoplatonism.
23b. We see Angelic Mind of Commento in some form in Oration and Heptaplus.
23c. Angelic Mind philosophizing in Commento is not an effort to alter fundamentals of Christian angelology, but redescribing Platonic concepts to make them less difficult.
23d. Pico's main contribution is not in solving problems or changing things about Christian Neoplatonic angelology, but in his efforts to reconceive problems and apply other philosophical resources to them.
23e. Commento is a problem text, like all his little treatises not a systematic angelology, but nevertheless a brilliant contribution and worthy of study.
77-78 The Platonists hold as a fundamental postulate that every created thing has three kinds of being. The three are given different names by different Platonists, but they all mean the same thing. For present purposes we can use the following terms for them: causal being, formal being, and participated being.
...This distinction among three kinds of being should be noted carefully, for it sheds much light on the understanding of Platonic philosophy, and we shall refer to it often
23f Pico in Commento begins with explanation of same "God is not Intellect" problem as got him into trouble with the one accused angelology thesis in 900
77 Of these three kinds of being, the highest and most perfect causal being. Accordingly the Platonists believe that all of the powers which are commonly attributed to God exist in Him only in the causal mode of being. Thus they say that God is not Himself being but the cause of all being, and similarly that God is not Himself intellect. Statements such as these can give a modern Platonist a good deal of trouble if he does not understand the principle behind them. I remember that a great Platonist once told me that he was amazed by a passage in which Plotinus says that God understands nothing and knows nothing. It is perhaps even more amazing that my Platonist did not understand in what sense Plotinus means that God does not understand: Plotinus simply means that the attribute of understanding exists in God in its causal being rather than in its formal being. Plotinus is not denying that God understands; he is only attributing to him understanding of a higher and more perfect kind. That this is the case can be clearly understood from the following. Dionysius the Areopagite, the prince of the Christian theologians, says in one place that God knows not only Himself but also every smallest particular thing; but elsewhere Dionysius uses the same manner of speaking that Plotinus uses, saying that God is not an intellectual or intelligent creature, but is ineffably exalted above all intellect and cognition.
23g.(footnote) for the Neoplatonic theory of forms see Syrianus' commentary on Aristotle's Metaphysics 103-120 + Proclus' commentary on Parmenides ch.3-4
Above these three hypostases is God Himself, the author and cause of every creature. The Attribute of divinity has its causal being in God, its original source. Proceeding directly from Him, divinity has its second or formal being in the Angelic hypostasis
Noblest angel and "Son of God" gives Pico a way in to discover Christology in ancient theologies
(edgar wind discussed this in his note)
81 The Platonists and the ancient philosophers Hermes Trismegistus and Zoroaster call this first creature sometimes “son of God,” sometimes “Wisdom,” sometimes “Mind,” and sometimes “Divine Reason,” which some even interpret as “the word.” But everyone should be careful not to suppose that this “word” is the “Word” that our theologians call the “Son of God.” For what we mean by “the Son” is of one and the same essence as the Father, is equal to him in everything, and, lastly, is a creator and a creature; whereas what the Platonists call “the son of God” must be identified with the first and noblest angel created by God.
24a. Need to sidetrack into Aquinas and Dionysius to help put Pico's angelology in Heptaplus and De Ente in context.
24b. Before Heptaplus and De Ente Pico has complex critical relationship to Aquinas, but here demonstrates his commitment to Thomistic metaphysics.
24c. O'Rourke and Boland on Aquinas and Dionysius metaphysics and Divine Mind we see many familiar problems in Pico
24d. Pico on Angelic mind recalls Aquinas' caution on Dionysius' translation of Neoplatonism--immediate vertical causation all the way down, God is present to the lowest worm although as Pico says God creates Angel Mind first and only creation. Not wanting to give creative power of God to intermediaries.
24e. Pico's interest in Kabbalah and Neoplatonism is not as exotic as has been advertised when we understand how he sees in them something very similar to Dionysian and Thomistic angelology and negative theology.
25a. Pico's Heptaplus
25b. Crofton Black's study is first book to take influence of Dionysius on Heptaplus seriously, finds similarities and differences.
25c. Black has illuminated Pico's theory of allegory, which relies on Dionysius and Proclus primarily, as well as Pico's more silent uses of Jewish sources.
25d. Black identifies cognitive or Intellectual ascent leading to felicity as consistent philosophical themes running through Pico's works.
26a. Aquinas in Heptaplus -- Pico uses Aristotelian act/potency application to angels pioneered by Aquinas.
26b. Pico claims to be exploring Dionysian angel but is silent about Aquinas debt
26c. We don't see Kabbalist angel - pico claims no space
26d. We see Pico treatment of Moses similar to Oration, Kabbalistic but also Dionysian treatment of angelized Moses
26e. Pico's scriptural reading method is Dionysian but he finds Thomistic version of Dionysian metaphysics
Edelheit 309 Pico is using Thomas only as an example for determining the nature of theological opinion in itself,+ its relation to the faith
Edelheit 295 Di Napoli is interested only in proving Pico’s good faith+doctrine, orthodoxy...not a heretic...neglects Pico’s inventiveness
(must be careful to account for Pico's debt to scholastics without losing sight of his originality.)
27a. In Heptaplus Pico still treating angel as Biblical problem -- why represented by Man
29a. In De Ente Pico
29b. Pico is discussing divine attributes as "participated" These terms: being (ens), true, one, good, signify something concrete and as it were participated
29d. Aquinas had said that "Dionysius everywhere follows Aristotle," and Pico follows this Aristotelian vision of Dionysius, but also brings texts of Plato to the discussion in arguing against Neoplatonic Unity/Being.
29e. Pico can be seen in De Ente to be developing the angelology of Aquinas, which uses Aristotelian terminology as well as Platonic.
On Being and the One 47-48 "But the life of the angels is not perfect." This is part of explanation of Dionysian mode of speaking in Ch.5
For Pico as in Aquinas beings after God only have being by participation (Ch8 of Being, Heptaplus...)
Ch10 Pico applies this view of metaphysically-assured Goodness of God to practical ethical considerations: how to get mystically happy
In Ch9 of Being Pico follows Aquinas in explaining why unity is "first" in priority but nevertheless still convertible with being. (Fran:PD)
Chapter 8 of On Being and Unity is about modes of being, all below God: being unity, truth, goodness four highest attributes of but not=God
In chapter 7 of On Being + Unity Pico points to places in Aristotles (Metaphysics X) and Plato (Sophist) where unity can't transcend being
Ch9 We conceive God, then, first of all as the perfect totality of act, the plenitude of being itself
30a. De Ente uses angel to talk about God, distance from or comparison with humans no longer
30b. God is not intellect for the last time. Pico is still explaining what he meant by accused angel thesis, although he knows he shouldn't discuss magic and kabbalah
Ch5PDalso, though he talks like Plato, is nevertheless obliged to affirm with Ar that God is ignorant neither of Himself nor of other beings