Marsilio Ficino: The Book of the Sun (1494)
Chapter II: How the Light of the Sun is Similar to Goodness Itself, Namely, God.
Above all the Sun is most able to signify to you God himself. The Sun offers you signs,
and who would dare to call the Sun false? Finally, the invisible things of God, that is
to say, the angelic spirits, can be most powerfully seen by the intellect through the stars,
and indeed even eternal things the virtue and divinity of God can be seen through the Sun.
Chapter III: The Sun, the Light-Giver
The Sun, in that it is clearly lord of the sky, rules and moderates all truly celestial things
(its enormous size around 160 times the earth)... Since time depends on motion, the Sun distinguishes
the four seasons of the year through the four cardinal signs
Chapter V: The Power of the Sun in Generating,
and in the Seasons, at the Time of Birth and in All Things.
The Sun in its motion distinguishes days from nights and hours and months and years. Likewise
by its light and warmth, it generates, quickens, moves, regenerates, fills with breath and cherishes
all things which had been hidden.
Chapter VI: Praises of the Ancients for the Sun,
and How Celestial Powers are all Found in the Sun
For these reasons Orpheus called Apollo the vivifying eye of heaven, and what I am about
to say is taken straight from the Hymns of Orpheus: "The Sun is the eternal eye seeing all things,
the pre-eminent celestial light, moderating heavenly and worldly things, leading or drawing the
harmonious course of the world, the Lord of the world... In Egypt, on the temples of Minerva,
this golden inscription could be read: "I am all those things which are, which will be and which
have been. No one has ever turned back my veil. The fruit I have borne is the Sun". Whence it appears
that this Sun born of Minerva that is, of divine intelligence is both flower and fruit...
Proclus stated that Justice, the queen of all things, proceeds from the middle of the Sun's throne
through everything, directing everything, as if the Sun itself could be the moderator of all things.
Iamblichus quotes the Egyptians: Whatever good we have we get from the Sun, that is, either from itself
alone, or from another agency as well, in other words either directly from the Sun, or from the Sun
through other things. Likewise the Sun is the lord of all elemental virtues... Heraclitus called it
the fountain of celestial light. Most Platonists located the world soul in the Sun, which, filling
the whole sphere of the Sun, poured out through that fiery-like globe just as it poured out spirit-like
rays through the heart, and from there through everything, to which it distributed life, feeling and
Chapter IX: The Sun is the Image of God. Comparison of the Sun to God
Our divine Plato named the Sun the visible son of Goodness itself. He also thought that the Sun
was the manifest symbol of God, placed by God himself in this worldly temple so that everyone everywhere
could admire it above all else. Plato and Plotinus said that the ancients venerated this Sun as God.
The ancient gentile theologians placed all their gods in the Sun, to which Iamblichus, Julian and Macrobius
testify. Certainly whoever does not view the Sun in the world as the image and minister of God, has certainly
never reflected upon the night, nor looked upon the rising Sun; nor has he thought how extraordinary this is,
nor how suddenly those things which were thought to be dead return to life...
In the same manner as the Sun generates both eyes and colours, giving the eyes the power by which
they may see, and colours the potency by which they are seen, and joining both of them together with
a uniting light, so God is thought to be with respect to all meanings and intelligible things. God in
fact created the intelligible species of things and intellects, giving them an appropriate natural power.
Moreover the Sun daily pours out a universal light through which it excites to mutual action the virtues
of both the intelligible and intellectual realms, and joins them together through action. Plato calls this
light truth with respect to intelligible things, and knowledge with respect to the mind of man. He thinks
moreover that the good itself, that is God, surpasses all these things, just as the Sun is superior to light,
eyes and colours. But when Plato says that the Sun prevails over the whole visible realm, doubtless he alludes
to an incorporeal Sun above the corporeal one that is, the divine intellect... This pure light exceeds
the intelligence just as in itself sunlight surpasses the acuity of the eyes. In this way, in proportion to
the strength you receive from the Sun, you will almost seem to have found God, who placed his tabernacle in
the Sun. And finally just as nothing is more alien to the divine light than utterly formless matter, so nothing
is more different from the light of the Sun than the earth... In this way the divine light also shines in
the darkness of the soul but the darkness comprehends it not. Is this not also similar to God, who first sows
knowledge of divine things in angelic and blessed minds, and then love? Indeed God kindles a love for us believers
here which purifies and converts, before it bestows the intelligence of divine things. Thus the Sun completely
fills with light clear and pure natures everywhere, as if they are now, for a moment, heavenly; while those
opaque and material natures it first warms and kindles with its light, then refines, and soon illuminates.
Chapter XI: The Two Lights of the Sun. The Gift of Apollo.
The Sun from the beginning appears to have brought with itself a certain similar light slightly greater
in proportion to its magnitude. Indeed the Sun offers that innate light which is somewhat obscure, then
immediately another light most evident to the eyes like a visible image of divine intelligence and infinite
goodness... God gave a double light to our minds. The first they consider to be natural. The second was added
freely from above according to merit through grace, and it renders minds blessed with a miraculous bountifulness.
Therefore since the stars are images of minds, it is fitting that these stars likewise carry two lights. In
whatever way God has wonderfully added this immense light to the first light of the Sun, so the Sun, at once
the representative of God in this office, adds this second light to the innate light of the stars. Indeed,
just as we are accustomed to call the light which appears in the Moon not the Moon's own, but the Sun's,
transmitted all the way down to us through the Moon, so with respect to the most secret doctrine of the
Platonists we shall say that such a great splendour revealed in the Sun proceeds not from itself, but from
God through the Sun to all things; just as light reaches our eyes not from the Sun's globe, but from God
himself. God, while he filled the solar globe, a tiny particle of heaven, with such great splendour that
brilliance flowed out into all things from it, without doubt made it clear both that the small body of
the Sun received such an incomparable gift not from itself, but from above, and that out of the one God,
the whole goodness of the Sun was propagated throughout everything. Indeed in the same way that this sensible
light is experienced by the senses, illuminating, invigorating and forming all sensible things and faculties
of sense and converting them to higher planes, so a certain intelligible light in the soul of the Sun illuminates,
kindles and recalls the inner spiritual eye... According to the Platonists there are three principles: the good
itself, the divine intellect and the world soul. Only light clearly contains all of them in itself. It reveals
the good itself, since while it surpasses wonderfully all things, it also spreads itself through all things,
and recalls them to sublime planes at the same time with its miraculously preserved excellence and purity.
It reveals the divine intellect because it declares, distinguishes and adorns everything, and the world soul,
because it generates, warms and moves everything with a vital heat. And in the same way that it descends into
heaven from the three supra-celestial principles and then manifests them under the heavens, the Sun in the
middle heaven represents the good itself, and the divine intellect, or rather the plenitude of ideas manifest
through the firmament full of stars, and finally the world soul through the mutable light of the Moon. Similarly
below the heavens the first principle is represented through fire, the second through air and the third through water.
Chapter XII: Similitude of the Sun to the Divine Trinity and the Nine Orders of Angels,
Likewise of the Nine Spirits in the Sun and of the Nine Muses around the Sun
There is nothing in the world more like the divine trinity than the Sun. For in the one substance of the Sun
a certain three-foldness exists, distinct in its parts yet united. Firstly a natural fecundity which is completely
hidden from our senses, secondly, a manifest light flowing out of this fecundity, ever equal to it, and thirdly
a heating virtue quite equal to both. The fecundity represents the Father; light, likened to intelligence,
represents the Son conceived of intelligence; heat stands for the loving spirit. Around this divine trinity our
theologians discovered three hierarchies of angels, each one containing three orders. The first consecrated to
the Father, the second to the Son, the third to the Spirit.
Indeed it is the sole image of pure intelligence, for just as pure intelligence pierces through instantly
and penetrates deeply, and reveals things, mixing with nothing in its sublime existence, so light itself radiates
through all things in a moment, and discloses particular things, whilst still remaining indivisible and whole,
mixed with nothing else... We may contemplate the substance or the powers of the Sun in its substance, essence,
life, intelligence. In the manner of the ancients, we identify essence in the heavens, life in Rhea, intelligence
in Saturn. If we contemplate the powers of the Sun after its substance, we will call its fecundity Jove and Juno,
its light Apollo and Minerva, and its heat Venus and Bacchus. Indeed the ancients always represented Phoebus and
Bacchus who reign more gloriously in the Sun than the others as youths, and if anyone were to experience
the light and heat of the Sun with the sincerity and appropriateness by which they exist there, to take it up for their
own use and to accommodate its properties, he would achieve eternal youth, or at least would live to be 120.
After these nine divinities inside the Sun let us move on to the nine Muses around the Sun. Now why
nine Muses around the Sun, unless they mean nine types of Apollonian godhead distributed through the nine spheres
of the cosmos? At first the ancients only recognised eight heavens. Later, under the celestial fire, they added
pure air as the ninth heaven, which was heavenly with respect to its quality and motion. Indeed in each sphere
they distributed divine spirits hidden from the eyes, each dedicated to a particular star, which Proclus called
angels and Iamblichus archangels and principalities. But whichever ones amongst them are especially solar, the more
ancient people called them Muses presiding over all knowledge, especially poetry, music, medicine, atonements,
oracles and prophecies. Now let us return to the Sun. We inept ones admire too much certain very insignificant things,
if only because they are very rare; but blind and ungrateful, we have long since stopped admiring the very great things
we used to respect. No one wonders at fire, burning just like the Sun of heaven, pure without being mixed, perpetually
in motion, most splendid, which makes a very great show out of nothing, reducing everything to itself. No one wonders
at the Sun to the extent that it is right to do so, ruling as it does over everything incomparably, the father and
moderator of all things, healing sadness, vivifying things not yet alive and reviving things now dead.
Chapter XIII: That the Sun is not to be worshipped as the Author of all Things
When he was in military service Socrates often used to stand in amazement watching the rising Sun, motionless,
his eyes fixed like a statue, to greet the return of the heavenly body. The Platonists, influenced by these and
similar signs, would perhaps say that Socrates, inspired since boyhood by a Phoeboean daemon, was accustomed to
venerate the Sun above all, and for the same reason was judged by the oracle of Apollo to be the wisest of all
the Greeks. I will omit at present a discussion about whether the daemon of Socrates was particularly a genius
or an angel but I certainly would dare to affirm that James the Apostle called this Father the
father of light; light, I say, more than celestial, in which there is no change or shadow. For he supposes that
these supercelestial things are naturally mutable, that the many celestial things are doubtless shadowed in some
fashion, and that sub-celestial things are shadowed daily. For which reason every very good thing naturally sown
in the mind, every perfect gift beyond natural gifts, does not come down from this Sun and from the mundane stars,
but from even higher, from the father of light. With the powers of the intelligence, as if by means of not celestial
but super celestial steps, we raise ourselves beyond the heavens, to the place where we know, love and venerate many
things superior to the heavens, and especially the Maker of heaven himself. In any case, with our intelligence we
would not be able to understand anything at all incorporeal, superior to the heavens, if our intelligence only came
to us from the heavens. However, lest anyone should admire and adore the Sun, Moon and stars too much and venerate
them as creators and fathers of intellectual gifts, James prudently reminded us that this Sun is not the beginning
of the universe. I will not explain now the reasons why, according to our theology, the origin of the universe cannot
be either body, soul or intellect, but something infinitely loftier from which indeed the heavenly Sun is most distant,
and of which the Sun seems more like a shadow than an image.
Since stillness, as the first principle and end of movement is the most perfect of all movements, God,
beginning and regulator of everything, cannot himself be in movement. The Sun is in motion every day. Moreover the
power of the first principle, being immense, touches everything with its power and it cannot be restrained in any way.
On the other hand, the force of the Sun, working through its rays, is variously impeded by the obstacle opposed to
its rays, diminishes through the opposition of the Moon, is often held back by clouds, is pushed back by the density
of the Earth, is weakened by spatial distance. The Sun itself is only a small part of the world; it is contained
within a narrow space, it is pulled around from its sphere, it is always carried backwards from the sphere above
against the motion of its own sphere, it is obstructed by contrary signs and adverse stars, and, if I may speak thus,
weakened by aspects of the malefics. Lastly the first principle of the universe operates everything always, everywhere
and in everything. The Sun on the other hand does not create the globes of the cosmos, nor can it affect whatever is
cold or moist or dense, or similar things its own power. Nor if there are similar powers in the heavens, do they derive
their origin from the Sun. Moreover although the Sun is exceedingly far removed from the Creator of the world, nevertheless
all celestial things appear by divine law to lead back to the one Sun, the Lord and regulator of the heavens. And we are made
fully aware from this that things which are in heaven, and under heaven, and above heaven, are similarly referred back
to the one beginning of all things. And finally considering that, let us worship this one first principle with that same
ritual observance that all celestial things give to the Sun.
Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499),
The Book of the Sun (1494)