On The Melancholy of Marsilio Ficino Part I

Ficino De Vita Bk 3 eObtaining life from the hEavens

A Copy of Ficino’s Liber Da Vita Triplici

It is always a daunting task to interpret the subtleties of Marsilo Ficino’s thought. Not only was he brilliant in an age of brilliance, his interests were as deep as they were impressive in their broad compass. He was ever attempting to reconcile different religions and philosophies in search of the Prisca  Theologia.  His massive translation projects put him at the vanguard of Italian Renaissance endeavours. His syncretic Ne0-Platanism was at the root of his intellectual pursuits, which gives us one key to systems. However, no matter how prepared, I shall no doubt raise more questions than provide solutions. If nothing else, it is my hope that this short study might lead to fruitful discussions.

His father was a well-respected physician in Florence. When Cosimo de Medici met Marsilio he said “Cosimo, perceiving the genius of the young man and recognizing in him the extraordinary desire for study which set him afire, re-joiced greatly as if he had now fully understood that, beyond any doubt, this would be the man whom he had long since chosen to shed light on the

Marsilio Ficino

Marsilio Ficino

philosophy of Plato. And presently summoning Ficino, he exhorted him to take especial care over Marsilio’s studies so that he should not go against his natural disposition. He said that there was no reason to take account of domestic hardship, for he would never neglect him in any matter but would supply everything most generously. ‘You, Ficino,’ he said, ‘have been sent to us to heal bodies, but your Marsilio here has been sent down from heaven to heal souls.’ The Life of Marsilio Ficino by Giovanni Corsi p.6

However, Marsilio was also a skilled physician. With the combined knowledge of medicine and astrology, he was also a magus, philosopher and musician. He certainly knew his way around the complexity of a human being from the points of view of body, mind and soul.

To know anything much about Ficino at all is to know of his life-long project of finding ways to minimise the deleterious effects of Saturn.  He was passionate about it. He refers to its influence on himself as the great burden of a Melancholy Humour, otherwise known as an excess of black bile. Ficino was certainly among the brilliant minds of his age and has a reputation of having been a competent astrologer. He certainly knew the humoral system, probably as well as any physician of the time. However, we have Ficino’s birth chart and his comments upon it and they may well give us pause,

He certainly knew the humoral system, probably as well as any physician of the time. However, we have Ficino’s birth chart as well as his comments upon it. Ficino makes numerous comments on his severe Melancholy, but the most succinct passage, dealing with both his chart and humours is as follows in a letter to Giovanni Cavalcanti he writes “Saturn seems to have impressed the seal of melancholy on me from the beginning; set, as he is, almost in the midst of my ascendant in Aquarius, he is influenced by Mars, also in Aquarius, and the ficinonatalchartMoon in Capricorn. He is in square aspect to the Sun and Mercury in Scorpio, which occupy the ninth house. But Venus in Libra and Jupiter in Cancer have, perhaps, offered some resistance to this melancholy nature.”Marsilio Ficino, Three  Books on Life, [Florence 1489] 1989, p. 20

Further in a letter to Rinaldo Orsini, archbishop on Florence, he wrote “Venus subdues Mars and Jupiter Saturn. Letters Vol II. p.15

It was an odd comment to make to Cavalacanti because Ficino didn’t have the salubrious Venus in Libra or Jupiter in Cancer in his horoscope. Venus is instead in Virgo and Jupiter in Leo. This isn’t a minor error. His horoscope would have to have been in the previous year to have the Jupiter he cites. Of course,  if Ficino had said or meant that his chart would be better with the impossible planets, we can write this off as an error in communication. No other plausible option occurs to me.

Plato's natal chart as described by Maternus

Plato’s natal chart as described by Maternus (Mathesis VI. XXX. 24)

I have no way of guaranteeing the provenance of the chart above but it does closely match his own comments on it. The green planets have been added by an astrologer, noting the disparities between the original, using modern software and Regiomontanus houses, If however we use Porphyry houses the resulting chart is almost identical to the one he describes, with the exception of the impossible positions of the greater and lesser Benefics.

We have seen that Ficino notes that Jupiter in Cancer would have helped the situation, but if Jupiter were at that degree in Cancer, it would set the chart back one year while leaving everything more or less as is..

Instead, Jupiter is very much in Leo It isn’t easy to understand why Ficino would wish that Jupiter were in another sign, because Plato’s horoscope has the same first / seventh house axis in Aquarius and Leo. It is evident that Ficino admired Plato in the highest degree. I think at times the identity of Plato and Ficino got blurred. Further, we can argue that Ficino knew what he was doing, He certainly had extraordinarily wealthy and generous patrons and friends to remind him of the Royal throne of Jupiter.

Marsilio Ficino - 19 Oct 1433 - 1:42 pm - Figline Valdarno. Italy - Porphyry houses

Marsilio Ficino – 19 Oct 1433 – 1:42 pm – Figline Valdarno. Italy – Porphyry houses

In Book Six of his Mathesis, the fourth century CE Roman astrologer, Julius Firmicus Maternus, gives the following account of the natal chart of Plato, the fifth century BCE Athenian philosopher:

If the ascendant is in Aquarius, and Mars, Mercury, and Venus are in conjunction in that degree; Jupiter is on the descendant in Leo; the Sun is on the anafora of the ascendant in Pisces; the Moon is in the fifth house in Gemini, in trine to the ascendant; and Saturn is in the ninth house in Libra-this chart produces an interpreter of divine and celestial matters. He possesses a combination of learned speech and divine intelligence and is trained by some kind of heavenly power to give true expression to all secrets of divinity. This chart is said to have been that of Plato. (Mathesis VI.XXX.24)

Standard - Oriental - Occidental considered.

Standard – Oriental – Occidental considered.

2. Oriental and Occidental ignored

2. Oriental and Occidental ignored

Whether or not Plato shared what Ficino considered salient similarities with respect to his own horoscope, Ficino found his own to be problematic because as he stated “Saturn seems to have impressed the seal of melancholy on [him] from the beginning;” His references to this excess of black bile, which he sometimes refers to as scholarly melancholy are ubiquitous. It’s virtually impossible to think of Ficino without recalling his Melancholy humour.

In spite of the challenges in the horoscope, the philosopher has Sun and Mercury in the 9th House disposited by Mars in his sign of Exaltation.

However using traditional methods of determining  humor from the horoscope, we see immediately that he actually has more of the Sanguine and Choleric Humour. Sanguine is warm and wet, Melancholic is cold and dry.

So what happened? Did he perhaps feel the leaden weight of Saturn and conclude, considering also the exact Saturnine ascendant, the with the Moon and Mars disposited by Saturn.

At first glance, it appears that his humour is far more balanced than he suggests, with Melancholy taking no more than 16.67%  Sanguine shares dominance with Choleric and Phlegmatic takes the same as Melancholy. if we use the classical systems available to us, which take the sign. phase and many other elements into account.  If he ignored the Oriental or Occidental significators, he would deduce a Humour that is about 50%. of the Melancholy Humour. This still means the dominant Humour is Melancholy. However,  it matters how the black bile is produced. His biographer tells us:

His bodily constitution contained excessive blood which was mixed with a thin subtle red bile. His health was not at all settled, for he suffered very much from a weakness of the stomach, and although he always appeared cheerful and festive in company, yet it was thought that he sat long in solitude and became as if numb with melancholy. This came about either from black bile produced by the excessive burning of bile through continual night study, or, as he himself said, from Saturn, which at his birth was in the ascendant in Aquarius and nearly square to Mars in Scorpio. The Life of Marsilio Ficino by Giovanni Corsi p.46

If we take the considerations or Oriental and Occidental we would have the possibility of “excess blood with thin subtle red bile.” The other calculation renders no Choleric. This is a degree of sophistication that goes far beyond the usual calculations. What Ficino is saying is that how we live affects the expression of our humours. Humours can be altered in the process or their interaction with each other. His penchant for describing his own condition as scholarly melancholy takes on another level of meaning.

There will be a Part II, mostly to tie up one or two loose ends and to discuss his various remedies, including his use of sympathetic magic.

De Magnis Coniunctionibus – An Introduction

The  intent of this article is to introduce the phenomena of the De Magnis Coniunctionibus or Great Conjunctions and provide a general overview. A later article will approach the subject in more depthSaturn-Jupiter

The Great Conjunctions are those of Jupiter and Saturn.  The last Great Conjunction occurred in  May 31, 2000,. The next will be in late December 2020.  They take place approximately every twenty years.  Consideration of the  alignment of the two social planets is most widely used in Mundane astrology.

In fact they define what we have come to call generations or epochs. I have generated the Saturn Jupiter conjunctions from 5000 B.C. to 2500 AD in pdf format.

They have been used since earliest times. Combined with other phenomena such as Solar and Lunar Eclipses. Perhaps most important is their relationship to each other

.During the twenty year period  between Superior Conjunctions,  they will of course square, oppose, trine or sextile one another. This is were things become a great deal more complex and will be addressed in a second article on this subject.

kronos- kepler`

The great eighth-century Persian astrologer, Masha’allah Atharī (c.740–815 AD) became the leading astrologer of his age. Here’s what he has to say about the great conjunctions and their importance in Mundane divination.

“The principal things happen from the greater kind of conjunction, which is of the superior planets. But these superior planets have other conjunctions, even ones signifying great accidents. For the conjunction and it signifies accidents and sects.series of Great Conjunction from Kepler's book De Stella Nova (1606)

But the knowledge of the accidents from this is had by looking at the Ascendant, and  the planets at the hour of their conjunction, and which of them rules the figure. Which if it were a benefic, it will signify good and the fitness of the weather. And if it were a malefic [it will signify] detriment and dryness, and moreover the sterility of the earth, and wars.” (Works of Sahl and Masha’alla “- Trans Dyke. p. 306 )

One of the best ways to get comfortable with interpreting the Great Conjunctions is to study the tables, noting the elements. Invariably, the successive Conjunctions will remain in a given element for a long periods. You can see what happened and when it happened – seeing patterns that follow this phenomena.

Both the thumbnails on the left are the work of Johannes Kepler. If ever the principle of a picture being worth a thousand words were true, it’s right here.

Translation of Albumasar  (Venice_1515)  De Magnis Coniunctionibus

Translation of Albumasar (Venice_1515) De Magnis Coniunctionibus

Quest for the Age of Aquarius.


Astrological ages occur due to a phenomenon known as the precession of the equinoxes. One complete revolution of all twelve astrological signs is called a Great Year or Platonic Year. This takes about 25,920 years. Precession works in retrograde motion; so Pisces follows Aries, Aquarius follows Pisces which in turn is followed by Capricorn.

Would it were so simple : Nicholas deVore defines Astrological Ages in his Encylopedia of Astrology: “As anciently considered, a period of roughly 2150 years during which the point of the Spring Equinox recedes through one sign of the Zodiac of Constellations. Since the constellations have no precise boundaries, the points of beginning and ending are mere approximations.”

It should be noted that this concept has not been embraced universally by any means. Charles Carter wrote: “it is probable that there is no branch of Astrology upon which more nonsense has been poured forth than the doctrine of the precession of the equinoxes” (Campion 1999) Neil Spencer is of the opinion that the idea of astrological ages is “fuzzy”, “speculative” and [the] least defined area of astrological lore.[ (Spencer 2000) Others have simply given up on the whole idea.

Regarding the date marking the Age of Aquarius, there is no consensus among astrologers. Astronomers have no definitive date either. I’ve seen dates as early as the 15th Century and as late as the middle of the third millennium. Rudolph Steiner believed that the Age of Aquarius wouldn’t arrive until 3573.

David Williams claims that the Age of Aquarius arrived around 1844, with the harbinger of the Siyyid `Alí Muḥammad (1819–1850), who founded Bábism. You can see how many will stake a claim on the beginning of the age based on a singular event.

Courtesy University of British Columbia

Courtesy University of British Columbia

There are a number of reasons for this confusion: the constellations are not the same size. The Precession of the Equinox is not perfectly constant. There are dozens of other reasons as well.

I proceed with the tentative assumption that the Great Ages do exist and might be known, among other things, by considering the nature of the age in relation to the unique and agreed upon traits of the sign.

The passage of Regulus into Virgo, joining the other Royal Stars of Persia in mutable signs (2012) is highly significant; but I’d be reluctant to take that as the single defining event without substantial corroborative evidence.

Ultimately we have to ask ourselves what we mean by the Piscean or the Aquarian Age.  How are they most likely to manifest? How are they to be recognized?

I recently read an article by an astrologer who claimed that Aquarius will get rid of greed, selfishness, war and all kinds of blights. But what is particularly Piscean about this list? Another wrote “The more dominant core values of the Piscean Age of money, power and control must go to make room for the Aquarian Age values of love, unity, brotherhood and integrity.” Where do these attributes come from? Is the mere idea of the Age of Aquarius enough for us to deny everything we know about the signs?

Verttius Valens was less than charitable in his assessment of the sign :

Aquarius is the celestial sign which is masculine, solid, anthropomorphic, somewhat damp, single. It is mute, quite cold, free, upward-trending, feminizing, unchanging, base, with few offspring, the cause of troubles arising from athletic training, carrying burdens, or work in hard materials, an artisan, public. Men born under this sign are malicious, haters of their own families, incorrigible, self-willed, deceitful, tricky, concealing everything, misanthropic, godless, accusers, betrayers of reputations and the truth, envious, petty, occasionally generous (because of flow of water), uncontrollable. As a whole this sign is wet. (Anthologies Bk. 1 p. 5)

To be fair, he isn’t all that kind to Pisces either :

It’s the celestial sign which is feminine, moist, quite wet, bicorporeal, with many offspring, ossy, scaley, sinewy, humpbacked, leprous, two-formed, mute, motile, with rough skin, in conflict with itself because one Fish is northern, the other southern. It is moist, downward-trending, servile, changeable, with many offspring, bicorporeal, sociable/lewd, with some limbs missing, the cause of wandering, varied.Men born under this sign are unsteady, unreliable, changing from bad fortune to good, sexy, theivish, shameless, prolific, popular  (Anthologies Bk. 1 p. 6).

Personally I find both descriptions ludicrous in thier hyperbole, but in essence there is much to reflect upon, once you get past the leprous bit.

It is noteworthy that many cultures speak of a distant Golden Age, set far beyond the mists of time. Many predict a Golden Age in the future, often with no date to mark the ingress. In most cases, humanity has to make the right choices in order for it to occur.

Such is not the case with the “Dawning of the Age of Aquarius ” It’s portrayed as a more or less painless transition to Utopia. Can it be that all will be be sweetness and light because Saturn rules the Age ?  The influence of a very popular but astrologically ignorant song,cannot be ignored!

The Moon is in the 7th House for two hours every day. Jupiter and Mars alignments occur often (See this calculation for 1900 -2500) It is not a  rare event at all. In a lifetime of 80 years there would be 36 Jupiter / Mars conjunctions. Such is the power of popular culture if the timing is right: ‘ Perhaps this is a case of life imitating art;  but it’s complete fiction.  Perhaps its little more than a case of successful marketing.

Again It seems the only way we have of determining when the New Age begins or ends is by studying what happens and how people react to it. The 20th Century has often been referred to as the age of alienation and existential angst.

The  20th century saw the dominance of sea power replaced by air power. Revolutions were rife, toppling the Czar and the Emperor of China, both replaced by dictatorial Communism. Feudal Japan was overwhelmed by the country best known for its cult of rugged individualism. The two world wars seem far more Aquarian than Piscean.

The acceleration of technology is unprecedented  and few doubt its Aquarian nature. Is chemical warfare a Pisces thing or an Aquarian one? What about nuclear bombs?

Can anyone seriously deny that globalisation has a lot more to do with Saturnine Aquarius than Jupiterian Pisces, particularly when we consider the Aquarius / Leo axis.?

Most writers on the Age of Aquarius are very upbeat. The jargon is usually similar. Picses bad. Aquarius good. No more oppression. Love will guide the stars and so on.

I  find myself agreeing with most of what Robert Zoller has said nn the subject. Please excuse the lengthy quote; but we don’t know how long webpages will be maintained and Zoller speaks with considerable authority. You can read the whole article @ http://www.lunatica.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/SAA/Documents/Zoller/Archandpredabridged-2.htm

During the Piscean Age, the benefic Jupiter ruled the angles. Jupiter ruled both Pisces on the 1st and Sagittarius on the 10th, and thus, while there was confusion of hierarchical religious institutions and political institutions and while this inevitably led to hypocrisy, the Age was nevertheless one in which truth and philosophy mattered to men. The Piscean Age will, as this Aquarian Age unfolds, be seen as a halcyon period of semi-respite from the essentially malefic and spiritually destructive nature of life. In the Aquarian Age, the malefics once again rule the angles and with them returns the natural severity of worldly life.

The Novus Ordo Saeculorum, the New Order of the Ages, will rule through the power of life and death (Scorpio, which is on the 10th), through behaviour modification, cloning, genetic engineering, mind control and the occult. Might makes right in this New Age. If the preceding Age produced metaphysical materialists, who duped the people through the opiate of religion, the New Age will produce materialist metaphysicians who will make the preceding political power elites look like inept apprentices.

In the Age of Aquarius, religion will be humanistic love of fairness and justice. While feeding the people with Libran platitudes, the Scorpionic rulers will work tirelessly toward the realization of their goal – absolute power over others, as Leo is seen in position on the 7th house. The will of the people will be towards freedom of expression (Aquarius), and they will be encouraged to do their own thing so that they keep their minds off what their rulers do.

Most of what Zoller mentions has already materialized. These trends have all accelerated enormously since 2000. The New Age is synonymous with the New World Order in many respects.  The marketing of greed and unprecedented ecological destruction is somehow “serving our best interests.” So are genetically modified foods. The World Bank masquerades as as benevolent force in developing countries. Invariably the nations cannot repay the debt and the bank takes control of the resources. Theses are all globalist endeavours resulting in personal profits. Technology is touted as the saviour while a third of the world goes hungry.

A Nobel Peace prize was given to a killer of children via that most Aquarian of weapons, the killer drone and, to quote Zoller, “rule through the power of life and death (Scorpio, which is on the 10th)”. There are few things more impersonal than unmanned stealth weapons controlled by a secret agency from across the world.  They are so *impersonal* that they kill ten times as many men, women and children as the intended target. None of this seems piscean to me I  don’t see peace and understanding heading the list at this point, but our survival will depend on it.

We are in an age of religious wars. Neither secularism nor fundamentalism will budge. The world is on fire with this conflict, with no easy end in sight. They’re ultimately incompatible and it’s easy to see this as a final conflict between the ages of Pisces and Aquarius.

Alternatively, one might argue that the religious element in not much more than a pretext for the complete control of people and global resources by the greatest plutocracy the world has even seen. This brings us back to the Leo / Aquarian axis once again.Bonatti-Aquarius

Ultimately we have to look at the thorny question of cusps. I’m not big on them myself. But even if you were to apply even a very modest orb, it’s fair to say the age probably started around the beginning of the 20 th Century.

I don’t entirely concur with Zoller’s dystopian vision for the Age of Aquarius; but his observations have enormous  merit.  I believe our technology and globalization are a double edged sword. Just as the invention of the crossbow meant that a peasant could unhorse a knight, powerful computers and other technologies make it harder for tyrants to hide and easier for us to communicate with each other, albeit in  a far less intimate manner.

Some afterthoughts


In 1927 the British philosopher Bertrand Russell delivered as a lecture and then published Why I Am Not a Christian. It was shocking at the time and no doubt still shocks many people. It was supposed to. However it’s listed in the New York Public Library’s list of the most influential books of the 20th century.

It isn’t just atheism. It’s a militant atheism. Richard Dawkins et al have become very aggressive, even confrontational, referring to religion, or anything else that’s non quantifiable material as a particularly pernicous virus or mental illness. Anything not material, such as prayer or any form of divination is forbidden.

As noted the Russian and Chinese revolutions were also militantly atheist. This spread though much of the world. It’s really very Aquarian A fixed air sign ruled by Saturn wail expect and desire uniformity of thought and the individual ultimately sacrificed for the collective. This is the essence of globalism. Secularism has become a religion itself: we are asked to accept on blind faith that which is often patently absurd.
Having considered all these things as relating to Saturn, I think a good estimate for the beginning of the Age of Aquarius would be around 1901 and not later than 1918. That is a Superior Conjunction (of Jupiter and Saturn) in Capricorn late 1901. 1918 is another date to consider.

I have no desire to spread negativity. It’s the opposite. By recognizing what we’ re facing we have some choices. If we remain in the illusion that all is sweetness and light, as much of the New Age Movement ironically claims, we are most likely to get blindsidedman-head-in-sand

Part of the confusion, in fact almost all of it, lies with the false connection of Aquarius with Uranus. It’s touted as the revolutionary planet. If we seriously consider the attributes of Uranus, we find a blend of qualities that previously belonged primarily to Mars and Mercury but this has been almost completely ignored. Many of the attributes that actually belong to Aquarius have been pushed aside and something altogether different put in its place and given the same name.

See Part Two