Zambelli: White Magic, Black Magic
in the Italian Renaissance
From Ficino, Pico, Della Porta
to Trithemius, Agrippa, Bruno
Ficino and Pico
45 the concepts--Hermetic, no doubt--of these two scholars aimed at the establishment of a natural theory of magicl such a foundation appeared to be urgently needed in view of the first burning stakes. Only then could the continue to devote themselves--without incurring too much danger--to their readings and speculations, to their hymns and fumigations, which were fashionable already at the time when Gemistus Pletho was in Florence.
45 debate with historians who think "their conceptual framework is characterized mainly by Neoplatonism, not by Hermetism, the mystical texts of which were too vague and would not have provided sufficient breadth to inspire an entire movement.
"almost led to an inquisitorial process against the late Frances Yates"
46 this thesis is correct in the case of codification rather than invention of science... Undoubtedly Hermetism, because of the mystical and literary vagueness of its dialogues, must necessarily lost something to Neoplatonism... Not only that all these considerations would be null and void vis-a-vis Aristotelianism, if this criterion were univocal or, to be more realistic, if philosophy could always be so rigorous and pure. So far as theories dealing with religiosity and magic itself are concerned, formal chatacteristics of systematics and completeness are not of great importance; on the contrary, they may even produce opposite effects.
...In short, the unmistakably vague and mystical nature of Pimander and Asclepius only encouraged their literary success and their lasting influence on the piety of pre-Reformation times and of the radical Reformation itself. Finally, they accounted for the dominant presence in a debate that must be considered of great importance for the social problems of the Renaissance, the debate on the natural and demoniacal chatacer of magic--on the distinctive features of natural magic and witchcraft--if they exist at all.
47 not entirely their own achievement but... after Pico and Ficino there was much more emphasis on natural magic in all discussions since the threat of the approaching dark age became more and more evident and urgently called for the disavowal of any kind of ceremonial magic that might be denounced as witchcraft.
48 These works need not be analyzed in detail, but their fundamental idea influenced Pico, whose library included Bacon's works.
[Zambelli follows Yates in emphasizing these influences that are difficult to trace with scholarly precision yet seem to be an obvious influence]
49 Pico praises magic and turns it into the dynamic center of his world view. Thus a terminological turnaround has happened in between the two writers. However, is this a real or only a verbal revolution. An enlightening, clse relationship--though not exactly for continuity--which is stronger and of greater import than the lexical variants, can be found in this distinction between art and nature; it re-emerges in Pico and Ficino's works. Even if this distinction can be traced back to Plotinus, the enunciation that it undergoes in Florence is closer to that of Bacon, where this distinction is clearer and more articulate.
Trithemius, Agrippa, and many others will quote him while considering his magic unjustifiably much less natural than their own.
51 Even more complex are the circumstances under which Hermetism and the definition of natural magic reach Germany, where they are of even greater importance for the development of intellectual, religious, and social history. Johann Reuchlin's De verbo mirifico was saturated with Ficino's Hermetism, natural magic, and Pico's cabala.
54 no person who has read Pico's Apologia could be in doubt that "magic is twofold"
55 thus the existence of two forms of magic became a topos, albeit one that cannot be considered a new discovery.
Given the fact that Ficino's De vita coelitus comparanda and Pico's magical cabalistic theses did not exclude instances of spiritual magic such a definition is in reality more than a dichotomy; it can be misunderstood, it is ambiguous, and in those dark years when demonology was codified and the witch-hunts had their beginnings, this ambiguity afforded some aid and relief.
Pico - my first impression was not enough Pico coverage
30 Albertus was gretly impressed by that Asclepius passage, which later on was to inspire the most stirring and suggestive passages of Pico's Oratio de dignitate hominis.
[I'm not sure if I agree. I'm not sure if this is correct emphasis on "hermetic" element in Pico, who is jazzed about Thomas+Dionysius versions of Christianity as illuminated by neoplatonism.]
29 cites Jamblichus vs. bad magic which "stands merely upon fancies and imaginations"
32 mistakenly attributes Proclus De sacrificio et magia to Plotinus
"This is what happens when someone is copying!"
27 Agrippa's decision to publish his encyclopedia on magic reveals that he no longer believed in secret initiatic magic. If we recognize this important fact we can better understand why, at the same time, he published a critique of magic in his De incertitudine et vanitate omnium scientiarum atque artium.