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Composing the Present Moment: celebrating the insights of Marsilio Ficino


Composing the Present Moment
Towards a healthy life in the moment
Reimagining the world
Well-tempered life

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In a period when people are struggling with new approaches to sustainable community and alternative patterns of consumption, the name of Marsilio Ficino is not well-known by contemporary standards. And yet half a millennium ago he wrote a treatise on what amounts to the imaginative reframing of everyday life: De Vita Coelitus Comparanda. At that time he was the presiding genius of the influential Florentine Academy whose motto was Laetus in Praesens (Joy in the Present), tutor to Lorenzo di Medici, and a focus for artists of fame.

It has been pointed out by James Hillman (1975) that there is no doubt that Ficino was the formulator of the central idea of the western Renaissance. This point has perhaps even be overemphasized by Eugenio Garin's claim concerning the Renaissance that 'after Ficino, there is no writing, no thought, in which a direct or indirect trace of his activity may not be found'.

Ficino's thinking on creatively living the present moment has been made accessible in a remarkable book by Thomas Moore (The Planets Within: the astrological psychology of Marsilio Ficino, revised edition, 1990). Moore's enterprise is not a translation. It is an interpretative revival transforming Ficino's astro-musicology into a musical therapy relevant to a contemporary society suffering from a surfeit of explanations. It seeks to explore and unveil significance in selected images found in Ficino's work about healthy living in daily life and specifically in De Vita Coelitus Comparanda, namely on 'how life should be arranged according to the heavens'. The concern is with imaginative practice open to everyone as promoted by the Institute for the Study of Imagination co-founded by Moore in 1987. For a contemporary translation of Ficino's original work, Moore refers readers to Charles Boer (1980).

The purpose of the following notes is to glean from Moore's study of Ficino's work insights into recreating the present moment. Hopefully these may be of wider relevance than might be immediately suggested by the more prominent terms used by Ficino (or by Moore in interpreting him), namely 'planets', 'astrology', and 'soul' -- all of which require the careful explanations provided in the light of contemporary insights from depth psychology.