Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hymn-Singing from Plethon to Ficino (subjective to theurgic?)

“Gemisto Pletho recurs as an important but shadowy figure in the handing down of this tradition. He does not in his surviving works mention either Orpheus or the Orphic writings. But we know that hymn-singing played a large part in his reconstructed paganism, and that he devoted a chapter of his Nomoi to ‘Hymns to the Gods’ and another to ‘The Arrangement of the Hymns.’ We have evidence also that he copied out fourteen of the Orphic Hymns. It may be that it was Pletho's appearance at the Council of Florence in 1438 that awakened in the West an interest in this ritual practice. There are, however, significant differences in the motives underlying the hymn-singing of Pletho and that of Ficino. As Walker tells us Pletho saw the effect of the hymn-singing as subjective rather than objective. It did not actually reach the gods, but prepared or ‘moulded’ our imaginations. Ficino's motives are more direct and straightforward, and closer to the theurgic tradition of Iamblichus and Proclus. The singing of hymns can prepare man's spiritus to receive the influx of spiritus from a particular astral body. Music recovers its powers of magic, its ability to exploit and turn to advantage the forces of the phenomenal world. ‘Nothing is more effective in natural magic,’ says Pico, ‘than the hymns of Orpheus, if the proper music, mental concentration and other circumstances which the wise are aware of be applied.’ “
John Warden: from Orpheus, the Metamorphosis of a Myth, University of Toronto Press, 1985.

thanks to Lily Beard for dropping this excerpt on the Phoenix Rising Facebook forum


  1. Would you tell me about the Phoenix Rising FB forum?

  2. sure, try http://www.facebook.com/groups/phoenixrediviva/