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Meditations : Popular Penguins Popular Penguins. Beyond Good and Evil Penguin Classics. The Nicomachean Ethics Penguin Classics. Thus Spoke Zarathustra Penguin Classics. Discourses and Selected Writings Penguin Classics. Meditations Design by Coralie Bickford-Smith. The History of Philosophy.
Meditations Penguin Classics. The Republic Penguin Classics. On the Genealogy of Morals Penguin Classics. To man it is allowed to be whatever he chooses to be! Spiritual beings from the beginning become what they are to be for all eternity. Man, when he entered life, the Father gave the seeds of every kind and every way of life possible. Whatever seeds each man sows and cultivates will grow and bear him their proper fruit. If these seeds are vegetative, he will be like a plant.
Davenport - - Westport, Conn. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Be the first to ask a question about Oration on the Dignity of Man. George - - Ratio Juris 21 2 Pico, however, is arguing that the principle virtue of humanity is that they are always and ever will be free to be whatever they want and express the divine in whatever way they can. I come now to those matters which I have drawn from the ancient mysteries of the Hebrews and here adduce in confirmation of the inviolable Catholic faith.
If these seeds are sensitive, he will be like an animal. If these seeds are intellectual, he will be an angel and the son of God. And if, satisfied with no created thing, he removes himself to the center of his own unity, his spiritual soul, united with God, alone in the darkness of God, who is above all things, he will surpass every created thing.
Who could not help but admire this great shape-shifter? In fact, how could one admire anything else? The Pythagoreans abuse villainous men by having them reborn as animals and, according to Empedocles, even plants. The hide does not make an animal an animal, but rather its irrational but sensitive soul. The spherical form does not make the heavens the heavens, rather their unchanging order.
It is not a lack of body that makes an angel an angel, rather it is his spiritual intelligence. If you see a person totally subject to his appetites, crawling miserably on the ground, you are looking at a plant, not a man. If you see a person blinded by empty illusions and images, and made soft by their tender beguilements, completely subject to his senses, you are looking at an animal, not a man. If you see a philosopher judging things through his reason, admire and follow him: he is from heaven, not the earth.
They can give us the fullest and most reliable testimony concerning these matters because they had an almost domestic and connatural knowledge of them. Let us ask the Apostle Paul, that vessel of election, in what activity he saw the armies of the Cherubim engaged when he was rapt into the third heaven.
He will answer, according to the interpretation of Dionysius, that he saw them first being purified, then illuminated, and finally made perfect. We, therefore, imitating the life of the Cherubim here on earth, by refraining the impulses of our passions through moral science, by dissipating the darkness of reason by dialectic — thus washing away, so to speak, the filth of ignorance and vice — may likewise purify our souls, so that the passions may never run rampant, nor reason, lacking restraint, range beyond its natural limits.
Then may we suffuse our purified souls with the light of natural philosophy, bringing it to final perfection by the knowledge of divine things. Lest we be satisfied to consult only those of our own faith and tradition, let us also have recourse to the patriarch, Jacob, whose likeness, carved on the throne of glory, shines out before us. This wisest of the Fathers who though sleeping in the lower world, still has his eyes fixed on the world above, will admonish us.
He will admonish, however, in a figure, for all things appeared in figures to the men of those times: a ladder rises by many rungs from earth to the height of heaven and at its summit sits the Lord, while over its rungs the contemplative angels move, alternately ascending and descending. If this is what we, who wish to imitate the angelic life, must do in our turn, who, I ask, would dare set muddied feet or soiled hands to the ladder of the Lord?
It is forbidden, as the mysteries teach, for the impure to touch what is pure. But what are these hands, these feet, of which we speak? The feet, to be sure, of the soul: that is, its most despicable portion by which the soul is held fast to earth as a root to the ground; I mean to say, it alimentary and nutritive faculty where lust ferments and voluptuous softness is fostered.
Let us bathe in moral philosophy as in a living stream, these hands, that is, the whole sensual part in which the lusts of the body have their seat and which, as the saying is, holds the soul by the scruff of the neck, let us be flung back from that ladder as profane and polluted intruders. Even this, however, will not be enough, if we wish to be the companions of the angels who traverse the ladder of Jacob, unless we are first instructed and rendered able to advance on that ladder duly, step by step, at no point to stray from it and to complete the alternate ascensions and descents.
When we shall have been so prepared by the art of discourse or of reason, then, inspired by the spirit of the Cherubim, exercising philosophy through all the rungs of the ladder — that is, of nature — we shall penetrate being from its center to its surface and from its surface to its center.
Finally, in the bosom of the Father, who reigns above the ladder, we shall find perfection and peace in the felicity of theological knowledge. Let us also inquire of the just Job, who made his covenant with the God of life even before he entered into life, what, above all else, the supreme God desires of those tens of thousands of beings which surround Him. He will answer, without a doubt: peace, just as it is written in the pages of Job: He establishes peace in the high reaches of heaven.
And since the middle order interprets the admonitions of the higher to the lower orders, the words of Job the theologian may well be interpreted for us by Empedocles the philosopher. Empedocles teaches us that there is in our souls a dual nature; the one bears us upwards toward the heavenly regions; by the other we are dragged downward toward regions infernal, through friendship and discord, war and peace; so witness those verses in which he laments that, torn by strife and discord, like a madman, in flight from the gods, he is driven into the depths of the sea.
For it is a patent thing, O Fathers, that many forces strive within us, in grave, intestine warfare, worse than the civil wars of states. Equally clear is it that, if we are to overcome this warfare, if we are to establish that peace which must establish us finally among the exalted of God, philosophy alone can compose and allay that strife. In the first place, if our man seeks only truce with his enemies, moral philosophy will restrain the unreasoning drives of the protean brute, the passionate violence and wrath of the lion within us.
If, acting on wiser counsel, we should seek to secure an unbroken peace, moral philosophy will still be at hand to fulfill our desires abundantly; and having slain either beast, like sacrificed sows, it will establish an inviolable compact of peace between the flesh and the spirit. Dialectic will compose the disorders of reason torn by anxiety and uncertainty amid the conflicting hordes of words and captious reasonings.
Natural philosophy will reduce the conflict of opinions and the endless debates which from every side vex, distract and lacerate the disturbed mind. To bestow such peace is rather the privilege and office of the queen of the sciences, most holy theology. Summoned in such consoling tones and invited with such kindness, like earthly Mercuries, we shall fly on winged feet to embrace that most blessed mother and there enjoy the peace we have longed for: that most holy peace, that indivisible union, that seamless friendship through which all souls will not only be at one in that one mind which is above every mind, but, in a manner which passes expression, will really be one, in the most profound depths of being.
This is the friendship which the Pythagoreans say is the purpose of all philosophy. This is the peace which God established in the high places of the heaven and which the angels, descending to earth, announced to men of good will, so that men, ascending through this peace to heaven, might become angels.
The Oration on the Dignity of Man (De hominis dignitate) is a famous public discourse composed in by Pico della Mirandola, an Italian scholar and. Oration on the Dignity of Man. Giovanni Pico della Mirandola. Most esteemed Fathers, I have read in the ancient writings of the Arabians that Abdala the Saracen.
If she prove worthy of so great a guest, she will, through his boundless clemency, arrayed in the golden vesture of the many sciences as in a nuptial gown, receive him, not as a guest merely, but as a spouse. Forgetful of her very self she will desire to die to herself in order to live in her spouse, in whose eyes the death of his saints is infinitely precious: I mean that death — if the very plenitude of life can be called death — whose meditation wise men have always held to be the special study of philosophy.
Let us also cite Moses himself, who is but little removed from the living well-spring of the most holy and ineffable understanding by whose nectar the angels are inebriated. Those who have already brought order into their lives may be received into the tabernacle, but still may not touch the sacred vessels. Let them rather first, as zealous levites, in the service of dialectic, minister to the holy offices of philosophy. When they shall themselves be admitted to those offices, they may, as priests of philosophy, contemplate the many-colored throne of the higher God, that is the courtly palace of the star-hung heavens, the heavenly candelabrum aflame with seven lights and elements which are the furry veils of this tabernacle; so that, finally, having been permitted to enter, through the merit of sublime theology, into the innermost chambers of the temple, with no veil of images interposing itself, we may enjoy the glory of divinity.
In fact, however, the dignity of the liberal arts, which I am about to discuss, and their value to us is attested not only by the Mosaic and Christian mysteries but also by the theologies of the most ancient times.
What else is to be understood by the stages through which the initiates must pass in the mysteries of the Greeks? These initiates, after being purified by the arts which we might call expiatory, moral philosophy and dialectic, were granted admission to the mysteries.
What could such admission mean but the interpretation of occult nature by means of philosophy? Who would not long to be admitted to such mysteries? Who would not desire, putting all human concerns behind him, holding the goods of fortune in contempt and little minding the goods of the body, thus to become, while still a denizen of earth, a guest at the table of the gods, and, drunk with the nectar of eternity, receive, while still a mortal, the gift of immortality?
Who would not wish to be so inspired by those Socratic frenzies which Plato sings in the Phaedrus that, swiftly fleeing this place, that is, this world fixed in evil, by the oars, so to say, both of feet and wings, he might reach the heavenly Jerusalem by the swiftest course? Let us be driven, O Fathers, by those Socratic frenzies which lift us to such ecstasy that our intellects and our very selves are united to God. And we shall be moved by them in this way as previously we have done all that it lies in us to do.
If, by moral philosophy, the power of our passions shall have been restrained by proper controls so that they achieve harmonious accord; and if, by dialectic, our reason shall have progressed by an ordered advance, then, smitten by the frenzy of the Muses, we shall hear the heavenly harmony with the inward ears of the spirit. Then the leader of the Muses, Bacchus, revealing to us in our moments of philosophy, through his mysteries, that is, the visible signs of nature, the invisible things of God, will make us drunk with the richness of the house of God; and there, if, like Moses, we shall prove entirely faithful, most sacred theology will supervene to inspire us with redoubled ecstasy.
For, raised to the most eminent height of theology, whence we shall be able to measure with the rod of indivisible eternity all things that are and that have been; and, grasping the primordial beauty of things, like the seers of Phoebus, we shall become the winged lovers of theology. And at last, smitten by the ineffable love as by a sting, and, like the Seraphim, filled with the godhead, we shall be, no longer ourselves, but the very One who made us.
The sacred names of Apollo, to anyone who penetrates their meanings and the mysteries they conceal, clearly show that God is a philosopher no less than a seer; but since Ammonius has amply treated this theme, there is no occasion for me to expound it anew. Nevertheless, O Fathers, we cannot fail to recall those three Delphic precepts which are so very necessary for everyone about to enter the most holy and august temple, not of the false, but of the true Apollo who illumines every soul as it enters this world.
You will see that they exhort us to nothing else but to embrace with all our powers this tripartite philosophy which we are now discussing. Let us also seek the opinion of Pythagoras, that wisest of men, known as a wise man precisely because he never thought himself worthy of that name. Next he will warn us of two things to be avoided at all costs: Neither to make water facing the sun, nor to cut our nails while offering sacrifice.
Only when, by moral philosophy, we shall have evacuated the weakening appetites of our too-abundant pleasures and pared away, like nail clippings, the sharp points of anger and wrath in our souls, shall we finally begin to take part in the sacred rites, that is, the mysteries of Bacchus of which we have spoken and to dedicate ourselves to that contemplation of which the Sun is rightly called the father and the guide.
This is the cock whose visage is the lion, that is, all earthly power, holds in fear and awe. This is the cock to whom, as we read in Job, all understanding was given. This is the cock which every day, in the morning twilight, with the stars of morning, raises a Te Deum to heaven.
This is the cock which Socrates, at the hour of his death, when he hoped he was about to join the divinity of his spirit to the divinity of the higher world and when he was already beyond danger of any bodily illness, said that he owed to Asclepius, that is, the healer of souls. Let us also pass in review the records of the Chaldeans; there we shall see if they are to be believed that the road to happiness, for mortals, lies through these same arts.
The Chaldean interpreters write that it was a saying of Zoroaster that the soul is a winged creature. When her wings fall from her, she is plunged into the body; but when they grow strong again, she flies back to the supernal regions.