Re: Cary Sheet

#21
mikeh wrote:But there's also the matter of the little circles. I had always assumed it was hail, as in Apocalypse 16:21:
And great hail, like a talent, came down from heaven upon men: and men blasphemed God for the plague of the hail: because it was exceeding great.
But the hail there is preceded by earthquakes, and this tower looks undamaged, as far as we can tell. One possibility: it refers to an earlier verse of that chapter, where angels pour their "vials" of fire, blood, etc. But there are no farm animals mentioned in this chapter, or towers.
Hello Mike, I do think that the Tower (Fire from Heaven) originally was meant to illustrate one of the many candidates from the Book of Revelation or other biblical descriptions of the End of Times.
mikeh wrote:The section of Job that has the destruction of the house (by wind, however, not lightning) also speaks of "fire of heaven" coming down on the sheep of one of Job's sons, as Andrea quotes (1:16):
And while he was yet speaking, another came, and said: The fire of God fell from heaven, and striking the sheep and the servants, hath consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell thee.
Such fire might be lightning but perhaps also meteors. It's like in the Lucas van Leyden painting of Lot and his Daughters, Andrea's fig. 5: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... A12932.jpg

The Vieville seems close to the scene of Job 1:16: a distraught man looks up at the sky, sheep grazing, lots of multicolored globes falling. No tower, just a tree; but there might be a tree in the Cary Sheet, on the left edge.
Image
The Vieville and the Cary Sheet possibly have turned fire into the trial of Job. As illustrated by Bartolo di Fredi's fresco, this also provides a clear connection with the Devil. The German Bible illustration seems to me a reasonably good match for the Cary Sheet card: the tower, fire, drops falling from the sky, the horned animal are all there.
mikeh wrote:So there's the assumption that the Vieville image is descended from the Cary Sheet image. But how does it fit into the sequence, allegorically? I have no problem with it. Allegorically, the theme is a this-worldly Purgatory, or upper part of Hades (in Plutarch's On the Face that Appears in the Moon, as I've said elsewhere), where materiality gets burned away from the soul so that it can be immortal (that point specifically is in Plutarch's On Isis and Osiris sect.16, on Isis's magic, http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/R ... is*/A.html). This fits in with what Andrea says about the card, too, in that it relates to the sphere of fire around the earth. That's the sphere I identify with Purgatory or Upper Hades; the sphere below it, that of air, would be the main part of Hades. In Plutarch one can still get dragged down to Hades proper from the higher part, if one is not steadfast.
If one wants to identify the card with the sphere of fire, I see no need for Plutarch. That interpretation is presented in a rather coherent way in Piscina's Discorso.

Re: Cary Sheet

#22
Marco wrote,
If one wants to identify the card with the sphere of fire, I see no need for Plutarch. That interpretation is presented in a rather coherent way in Piscina's Discorso.
Yes, I know; I quoted that part myself recently. I cite Plutarch for two reasons. First, he's a source that was prior to the Cary Sheet and also had all the other necessary ingredients for that section of the sequence, something that the designer might have had in mind. He couldn't have read Piscina.

Second, Piscina merely identifies the card with Fire as a natural phenomenon. I highlight the relevant parts:
Since the Author thought to have discussed enough images and examples of mortal things, he moves to place figures of more worthy things, that is to say, celestial. But since Nature does not allow changes that are too quick, nor that one moves from one extreme to the other without the due mean, before ascending to celestial things as the extreme end of earthly things he places examples of Demons: because, as Melito said answering Socrates' question, they are sons of the Gods but are neither earthly nor celestial. It has been the opinion of many, in particular the Platonists, that the Demons are Spirits that are in the air & that they are somehow in the middle between Gods and men. After the Demons, comes Fire, as the due mean between the stars, that are celestial, and mundane things: it is, as affirmed by Naturalists or Philosophers, the [20] element that is found before the Moon, the Sun and any other Star.
On Fire, that's not much, just what you could get from basic astronomy of the time. Nothing about it being used by God or Satan or any other spiritual power. In fact Piscina doesn't even say the Devil card is about devils:
It has been the opinion of many, in particular the Platonists, that the Demons are spirits that are in the air & that somehow they are in the middle between gods and men.
That's not much either. Demons are in the air and Fire is in the fire. Plutarch, however, has evil spirits in the air that want to keep the soul from rising; he even calls the upper part of the air Hades. And the part above that is full of purging fire. So the two realms have a moral purpose similar to what we see in the Book of Job: a Satan hoping Job will lose his faith, and fire from the sky, killing the sheep, as part of the process

But why did Piscina give just these interpretations, Platonists, air, fire, out of all he could have said? To that extent, he agrees with Plutarch. I suspect there was some sort of tradition he was drawing on that he or someone else made less sinister. I'm not wedded to Plutarch; he just has the necessary ingredients, not just here but also when one gets to the Cary Sheet Moon and Sun, and their Marseille images after that. The Moon and Sun, in that order, have prominent roles in Plutarch's allegory of the soul's ascent after death.

Plutarch's essay wasn't then read by many, admittedly. But Robin in Filelfo in Milan (p. 124) says of Filelfo, "two of the books he most cherished in his own library were Plutarch's Moralia and the Lives of the Philosophers of Diogenes Laertius". He'd copied the Moralia out by hand himself; it's Laur. 80.20 (Robin p. 282). (If I ever get to Italy, one of my main goals will be to get access to it, to verify what's there and look for marginalia.)

I suspect that Filelfo would have identified with Job; by 1476 he had lost three wives, 17 children, and most of his friends (Robin p. 249); he had survived two knife attacks (Medici related) and been imprisoned for six months (on the demand of the Papacy), all for saying the wrong things, and lived through at least one major plague epidemic. He wrote some courageous and good books, too, from what I have read of them. He died in 1481, 2 weeks after taking up the position in Florence he had been after ever since Cosimo died. That of course was 20 years before the Cary Sheet. But he had pupils, including the Sforza children; and Giorgio Valla, a younger scholar at Pavia and a translator of Horapollo (as I have read somewhere), would have been of a similar mind.

I agree that the Roman Catholicism of the time, including especially the Book of Revelation, also fits, more or less, the PMB last section (in fact, I have been defending that position in discussion with Phaeded on the "theological virtues" thread), but Plutarch, supplemented by a few other Roman Empire Platonists, is a better fit for more of the details in this third section, for the C group cards, from the Cary Sheet on.

Re: Cary Sheet

#23
mikeh wrote:Marco wrote,
If one wants to identify the card with the sphere of fire, I see no need for Plutarch. That interpretation is presented in a rather coherent way in Piscina's Discorso.
Yes, I know; I quoted that part myself recently. I cite Plutarch for two reasons. First, he's a source that was prior to the Cary Sheet and also had all the other necessary ingredients for that section of the sequence, something that the designer might have had in mind. He couldn't have read Piscina.
I thought it was clear that Piscina is trying to interpret the intended meaning of the trump sequence. So I thought it was obvious that the designer could not have read Piscina, just like he cannot have read what you and I are writing here. Piscina is relevant because he is a XVI century source, so he is culturally closer to the designer than we are. As you noticed, his interpretation is based on "what you could get from basic astronomy of the time". I think this is what makes his interpretation interesting; a XVI century learned man interpreted the trump sequence as a Christian message on the basis of knowledge that was commonly available.
mikeh wrote: Second, Piscina merely identifies the card with Fire as a natural phenomenon. ... Nothing about it being used by God or Satan or any other spiritual power. In fact Piscina doesn't even say the Devil card is about devils:
It has been the opinion of many, in particular the Platonists, that the Demons are spirits that are in the air & that somehow they are in the middle between gods and men.
That's not much either. Demons are in the air and Fire is in the fire. Plutarch, however, has evil spirits in the air that want to keep the soul from rising; he even calls the upper part of the air Hades. And the part above that is full of purging fire. So the two realms have a moral purpose similar to what we see in the Book of Job: a Satan hoping Job will lose his faith, and fire from the sky, killing the sheep, as part of the process

But why did Piscina give just these interpretations, Platonists, air, fire, out of all he could have said?
Piscina tries to hammer the last trumps into a Christian cosmograph, interpreting the trumps as a scheme of the order of the universe. Of course, in doing so, he misinterprets most of the cards, in particular the Devil. Still his conclusion makes sense and is compatible with the overall meaning of the trump cycle:
Piscina wrote:Religion is the main foundation of the peace and conservation of the nations and of the happiness of the peoples: without it (as we have already said in many places) we could not save our soul, which was born only to serve the Greatest Lord Our God.
The fact that the order of the universe is a proof of the existence of God was commonplace at the time. The order of the universe was understood in terms of classical philosophy ("philosophia naturale"), including many aspects of Platonism that were incorporated into the Christian doctrine.

On the other end, the metempsychosis, reincarnation, the journey of the soul, were not compatible with Christian orthodoxy. Explaining en episode from the biblical book of Job in terms of Plutarch seems to me an unnecessary anachronistic syncretism.

Ignoring the details of the Tower card and taking it as generically "fire", as Piscina does (and as players did), makes sense, since secondary meanings usually are misleading or at least difficult to interpret. In this case, I think Piscina pushes his generalization too far, missing that the point here is "fire as divine punishment".

Re: Cary Sheet

#25
Your reconstruction is amusingly schizophrenic: one part nicely in order, the other part a mess. And structurally absurd, except as torn paper, the destruction of which you captured very well. I see a new interpretation of "rending the temple curtain" (Matt. 27: 51): it was made of paper.

Marco wrote
On the other end, the metempsychosis, reincarnation, the journey of the soul, were not compatible with Christian orthodoxy. Explaining en episode from the biblical book of Job in terms of Plutarch seems to me an unnecessary anachronistic syncretism.
Well, I wasn't using reincarnation as part of my application of Plutarch to the cards. It is enough that souls simply stay in the part of the air called Hades indefinitely, or until they are sufficiently light to move on. Among other things, they haunt places on earth. The reincarnation part of Middle Platonism (a very small part, in Plutarch), as far as I can tell, would not have been ascribed to by most Northern Italian humanists at the time, as far as I know. (I don't know what Malatesta believed in.)

Christian Neoplatonists adapted Neoplatonism to Christianity and vice versa, without necessarily meeting the strictures of post-Trentine orthodoxy. Pico's 900 Theses had been approved by the Pope, after all, by the time of the Cary Sheet (by a Pope who had himself depicted kneeling worshipfully in front of a bull, no less). These people--Filelfo, Pico, etc.--are not an anachronism, if you mean by that reading something from a later time into an earlier time. What is anachronistic is to read post-Trentine Christianity into the heads of late 15th century humanists. Filelfo was not very post-Trentine, judging from the summary of his theology in Diana Robin's Filelfo in Milan (p. 151):
In the De morali disciplina, God is conceptualized not as a personal being but as an abstraction. God is pure mind, light, and fire. This being is the light that illumines truth, the fire that kindles th love of virtue ("Deus omnipotens, qui et ignis et lux esse dicitur..., intelligentiam ad veritatis ad virtutis amorem virtutem accendit.") [footnote: bk. 2, p. 28]. Like the sun, which cannot be seen except by the light it produces, so the deity cannot be seen except by the light of truth itself. [footnote: Ibid.] The source of all being in the world, moreover, is to be found in eternal, nonmaterial forms that exist solely in the mind of the deity ('"ideam esse substantiam a materia separatam quae per sese in ipsius Dei intelligentia imaginationeque existeret"). [footnote: bk. 1, p. 11.] Nor does Filelfo bring into his discourse the figure of Christ, the trinity, divine foreknowledge, divine love, or the relationship between God and humans in his ethics.
In the text, Filelfo cites Plutarch among others. I have a hard time with Latin, but I would be happy to scan and post the pages that Robin transcribes. Filelfo wrote this in 1473-1475. The dedication is to Lorenzo de' Medici, from whom Filelfo was hoping to get an appointment in Florence. Also, Robin says he wrote it with the Pope in mind (pp. 150-151):
The De Morali disciplina stands out as an anomaly in the Quattrocento because of its decidedly non-Christian outlook. Certainly, in an ethics aimed at a broad range of readers, from students to theologians, it is surprising that Filelfo made no attempt to integrate doctrine that is recognizably Christian into his synthesis of Aristotelian and Platonist thought. It is also interesting that the work Filelfo wrote expressly with Pope Sixtus in mind, and perhaps as the basis of a syllabus for his new courses at the university in Rome, cannot have been exactly what the pope expected of his humanists.
He succeeded in getting appointments both places, although he didn't stay in Rome. Perhaps too many people there were theologically conservative. I am to be sure not saying that everyone was a Neoplatonist. But in the 1420s Filelfo's lectures in Florence had been immensely popular. It was his personality that got him in trouble, and even then the Medici had to arrange a knife attack to get him to leave. He most likely would have gotten a good reception in Florence of 1481, except that he died 2 weeks after he arrived

Filelfo didn't write much about the afterlife, so I don't know what his views were. It's not clear that he believed in personal immortality. Robin says:
While Filelfo believes with Plato in the immortality of certain immutable forms (Ideae), which are the underlying causes of the visible phenomena in the world, he asserts the immortality of neither individual souls nor a world soul (animus). His focus is rather the ethical functioning of the individual human soul--its service as a conduit for virtue.
For what it's worth, Plutarch's allegory didn't include personal immortality: what was immortal, and returned to earth, was, except in exceptional cases, soul and spirit substance, after the personality had been dissolved, analogous to how matter is reconstituted into new bodies from bodies that have decomposed.

Re: Cary Sheet

#26
Looking at photos of illuminated manuscripts yesterday, I noticed something that may pertain to the Cary Sheet, an illumination from an edition of the Divine Comedy "once owned by Francesco Sassetti (1421-1490), a Florentine merchant who was the administrator of the Geneva branch of the Medici Bank," according to the blurb (p. 120 of Treasures from Italy's Great Libraries. The blurb adds:
On fol. 78v, shown here, at the beginning of Purgatory, the third watercolour shows the Mount of Purgatory guarded by an angel and the meeting of Virgil and Dante with Cato.
Image

The illumination does a good job showing Dante's journey of the soul, though Hell, Purgatory, and beyond. Above the earth is the air, with a kind of airboat of souls being ferried to Purgatory. Purgatory itself extends into that sphere (of air), although rather red, suggesting purgative fires, a kind of chthonic extension into the sphere of air. At the top is a ring of fire, with a nice park with trees inside. That's the Terrestrial Paradise. That's where Dante's two streams are, corresponding to the two jugs on the Cary Sheet Star card, or the two doorways in Porphyry's "Cave of the Nymphs". Above that, in the illumination, are sun, moon, planets, and stars, and a deep blue sky, which I interpret as the ether. It seems to me that we have the spheres of air and fire, just as in Plutarch. The main difference is that Plutarch puts Hell in the air, too.

Well, I wouldn't read Dante into the cards, even for the last 7 cards, without a late 15th century gloss. His text is almost 200 hundred years behind the times. But he's a start that the Renaissance built on.

What was the medieval view of the cosmos?

#27
Thinking about Marco's post, I have some new questions. Marco wrote,
The order of the universe was understood in terms of classical philosophy ("philosophia naturale"), including many aspects of Platonism that were incorporated into the Christian doctrine.
I may have misunderstood the medieval world-view. I had thought that it was just that there were these 8 or 10 or whatever spheres above the earth, starting with the Moon. But you say that classical philosophy, "philosophia naturale", natural philosophy, including aspects of Platonism (and Aristotelianism, I assume) was part of it. "Philosophia naturale" wasn't just one thing; there were several competing views in classical times. In Ch. XI of Commentary on the Dream of Scipio, which I think was a major influence in the Middle Ages, Macrobius lists three schools of thought among Platonists, just pertaining to the spheres in the descent of the soul, all of them very general, suggesting differences within each group. So I have questions:

(1) Was the doctrine that demons, meaning evil spirits, inhabited the sphere of air part of the "philosophia naturale" incorporated into Christian doctrine? I say that because of the medieval the frescoes showing devils flying about grabbing souls, i.e. in Pisa, with living people in contemporary dress underneath calmly living their lives. Also the doctrine that the daemones are in the air, "some as bringing prosperity and elevation, others as bringing adversity and affliction" is in Apuleius (On the God of Socrates 146), which was part of the medieval heritage from ancient Rome.

(2) Was the doctrine that lightning and fireballs came from the "sphere of fire" part of that "philosophia naturale"? I have not found this in classical philosophy, but perhaps it was advanced by medieval theologians as the natural correlate to actions of this nature from a divine source. Since lightning comes from the clouds, which are in the air, perhaps only fireballs were attributed to this source, I don't know. But that would be enough to account for the killing of Job's son's sheep.

If so, then what Piscina says about the tarot cards Demonio and Fuoco makes perfect sense and reflects a standard worldview; I did not need to appeal to Plutarch for those two cards. He does not mention that demons are evil because it is obvious from the card. He does not mention divine punishment/warning/testing because it is obvious from the card. Piscina is merely trying to explain why these two cards fit in the sequence at that particular point. If so, I think what he says is unobjectionable.

As I say, I just referred to Plutarch because he was being read at the time of the Cary Sheet and had all the necessary ingredients (also a few that could be ignored, such as reincarnation). If there are other texts with those ingredients, then to be sure Plutarch is unnecessary for those cards.

Finally, (3), was the "ascent of the soul" through these various spheres, including those of air and fire, part of the medieval world-view? This is something Piscina does not speak of. I don't know if he is assuming it or not. But when I look at pictures derived from medieval manuscripts, I see people going up and down through spheres. If so (and the other two), these two cards make perfect sense in traditional terms of the soul's ascent, without reference to Plutarch or any other ancient source.

Here are examples of the "ascent" from medieval manuscripts. I get them from Alchemy and Mysticism by Alexander Roob, pp. 43 and 283. He says on his credits page that the first one is in the Bibliotheque Nationale; I did not see the second one listed.

Image

Image


I count 32 circles in both, more than enough to include the elements as well as the pseudo-Dionysian hierarchies of angels. I can't read the printing for the lowest circles on the first one, just the planets; but the second one has the elements and the planets clearly written.

Re: Cary Sheet

#28
Hi Mike,

Both of these illustrations come from the same manuscript, BnF lat 3236a; they illustrate a text which talks about the ascent and descent of the soul through the spheres. I had a page on it up at an Angelfire page or Geocities ten years ago... maybe you can find it.

Try here for not very high-res photos -
http://mandragore.bnf.fr/jsp/rechercheExperte.jsp

Search "index" (under "manuscrits") for "latin" and then scroll down to 3236a and click it; then "chercher" on the bottom right. Four links to the images will come up (can't be linked directly)

Here are the best I can get without too much pixelisation:


http://www.rosscaldwell.com/images/visc ... 6af90r.jpg


http://www.rosscaldwell.com/images/visc ... 6af89r.jpg


http://www.rosscaldwell.com/images/visc ... 6af84r.jpg


http://www.rosscaldwell.com/images/visc ... 6af83v.jpg

The reason I put it in the "visconti" folder is because it was in the library at Pavia that Louis XII took to Blois (ended up in Paris of course...)

Addition - I found the old page at Angelfire -
http://www.angelfire.com/space/tarot/alverny.html

Note that Marie-Therèse Alverny (1903-1991), the editor of the text, also wrote a paper on the "goliardic" poem that accompanies the art and the soul text; it turns out to be a satire on Innocent III. The first stanza is:

Invocabo Dominum, et sic loquar ei:
Ego dixi: Domine, misere mei.
Recte reus visus est causam habens rei,
Ante cuius oculos non est timor Dei.
Image

Re: What was the medieval view of the cosmos?

#29
mikeh wrote:I have questions:

(1) Was the doctrine that demons, meaning evil spirits, inhabited the sphere of air part of the "philosophia naturale" incorporated into Christian doctrine? I say that because of the medieval the frescoes showing devils flying about grabbing souls, i.e. in Pisa, with living people in contemporary dress underneath calmly living their lives. Also the doctrine that the daemones are in the air, "some as bringing prosperity and elevation, others as bringing adversity and affliction" is in Apuleius (On the God of Socrates 146), which was part of the medieval heritage from ancient Rome.
Hello Mike,
I think the answer to question (1) is “yes”. At least, Augustine, in the City of God VIII writes:
Chapter 15.— That the Demons are Not Better Than Men Because of Their Aerial Bodies, or on Account of Their Superior Place of Abode.
...
But now, as regards loftiness of place, it is altogether ridiculous to be so influenced by the fact that the demons inhabit the air, and we the earth, as to think that on that account they are to be put before us; for in this way we put all the birds before ourselves.
He is discussing Apuleius, and he seems to agree with the fact that “the demons inhabit the air”.
mikeh wrote: (2) Was the doctrine that lightning and fireballs came from the "sphere of fire" part of that "philosophia naturale"? I have not found this in classical philosophy, but perhaps it was advanced by medieval theologians as the natural correlate to actions of this nature from a divine source. Since lightning comes from the clouds, which are in the air, perhaps only fireballs were attributed to this source, I don't know. But that would be enough to account for the killing of Job's son's sheep.

If so, then what Piscina says about the tarot cards Demonio and Fuoco makes perfect sense and reflects a standard worldview; I did not need to appeal to Plutarch for those two cards. He does not mention that demons are evil because it is obvious from the card. He does not mention divine punishment/warning/testing because it is obvious from the card. Piscina is merely trying to explain why these two cards fit in the sequence at that particular point. If so, I think what he says is unobjectionable.
I don't know the answer to question (2), but Piscina elegantly chooses to interpret the card just as “fire”, and the sphere of fire is above the sphere of air. I don't think his view reflects the standard worldview, because the Devil was not usually seen as a symbol of the sphere of air, but as the Enemy. But I agree that Piscina's interpretation is clever and coherent.
mikeh wrote: Finally, (3), was the "ascent of the soul" through these various spheres, including those of air and fire, part of the medieval world-view? This is something Piscina does not speak of. I don't know if he is assuming it or not.
It depends of what you mean by “ascent of the soul”. Actually Piscina explicitly describes the last trumps as “ascending to celestial things as the extreme end of earthly things” (ascendere alle cose celesti come termine estremo delle terrene).
mikeh wrote:But when I look at pictures derived from medieval manuscripts, I see people going up and down through spheres. If so (and the other two), these two cards make perfect sense in traditional terms of the soul's ascent, without reference to Plutarch or any other ancient source.

Here are examples of the "ascent" from medieval manuscripts. I get them from Alchemy and Mysticism by Alexander Roob, pp. 43 and 283. He says on his credits page that the first one is in the Bibliotheque Nationale; I did not see the second one listed.

Image

Image


I count 32 circles in both, more than enough to include the elements as well as the pseudo-Dionysian hierarchies of angels. I can't read the printing for the lowest circles on the first one, just the planets; but the second one has the elements and the planets clearly written.
Thank you very much for the illustrations, and many thanks to Ross for providing more information.
If I understand correctly, the illustrations are inspired to the Celestial (or Heavenly) Hierarchy.
I just went through the text without really reading much of it. I would say that the author is describing a spiritual ascent through meditation and contemplation: a mystical experience related to religious life in this world, not to the afterlife (emphasis mine):
Invoking then Jesus, the Paternal Light, the Real, the True, "which lighteth every man coming into |the world," "through  Whom we have access to the Father," Source of Light, let us aspire, as far as is attainable, to the illuminations handed down by our fathers in the most sacred Oracles, and let us gaze, as we may, upon the Hierarchies of the Heavenly Minds manifested by them symbolically for our instruction. And when we have received, with immaterial and unflinching mental  eyes, the gift of Light, primal and super-primal, of the supremely Divine Father, which manifests to us the most blessed Hierarchies of the Angels in types and symbols, let us then, from it, be elevated to its simple splendour .
...
Wherefore, the Divine Institution of sacred Rites, having deemed it worthy of the supermundane  imitation of the Heavenly Hierarchies, and having depicted the aforesaid immaterial Hierarchies in material figures and bodily compositions, in order that we might be borne, as far as our capacity permits, from the most sacred pictures to the instructions and similitudes without symbol and without type, transmitted to us our most Holy Hierarchy. For it is not possible for our mind to be raised to that immaterial representation and contemplation of the Heavenly Hierarchies, without using the material guidance suitable to itself [i.e. Christian sacred rites], accounting the visible beauties as reflections of the invisible comeliness; and the sweet  odours of the senses as emblems of the spiritual distribution; and the material  lights as a likeness of the gift of the immaterial enlightenment; and the detailed sacred instructions, of the feast of contemplation within the mind; and the ranks  of the orders here, of the harmonious and regulated habit, with regard to Divine things; and the reception of the most Divine Eucharist, of the partaking of Jesus, and whatever other things were transmitted to Heavenly Beings supermundanely, but to us symbolically.
The concept seems to me close not only to the “ascension” mentioned by Piscina, but also to the conclusion of the Anonymous Discourse, which explicitly mentions this kind of mystical ascent through the order of the universe:

La contemplation del quale ci dimostra per l’opere sue maravigliose, et belle dottamente l’Auttore nelle sette figure seguenti, acciocheconoscendolo l’amiamo. Onde egli per sua infinita bontà, et misericordia nel fine della vita nostra dalle mani del Diavolo ci sottragga, et ci faccia seco coheredi della vera sua gloria, et felicità del Cielo, et quindi accrescendo et con gli occhi et con l’intelletto ai Cieli, la Stella, la Luna, et il Sole, le sopranaturali fatture de Dio, cosi nello stellato, et fisso come nei mobili Pianeti il Mondo, de quali dalla propria di ciascuno intelligenza depende ch’è l’Angelo, il quale li governa, et muove in virtù del primo Motore, ch’ è il grande et immortale Iddio rappresentato per la Giustizia, percioche nel giorno del Guidicio si mostrera giustiss[im]o Giudice et severo retribuendo a ciascuno secondo l’opere sue.


The contemplation [of God] is wisely presented by the Author in the following seven figures by means of his marvelous and beautiful works, so that, knowing him, we love him. So that, for his infinite goodness and mercy, he delivers us from the Devil at the end of our lives, making us co-heirs with him of his true glory, and the happiness of Heaven. Therefore we rise with our eyes and intellects to the Heavens, the Star, the Moon and the Sun, the supernatural creatures of God, the World, so in the fixed stars as in the mobile Planets. Each of them depends on its own intelligence which is the Angel, who governs and moves them, in virtue of the first Mover, who is the great and immortal God. He is represented by Justice, because at Judgement day he will be a most righteous and severe Judge, repaying everyone according to their deeds.
PS: It is not clear to me what text contained in BnF Lat 3236a is illustrated by this illuminations. It seems to be an "Anonymous essay about the destiny of the soul". It would be interesting to be able to read some of it.

Ps.-Dionysius' "Celestial Hierarchy"

#30
Wonderful, guys. I especially like that the manuscript was in the Visconti Library (with a Wheel of Fortune, no less). And your link to Celestial Hierarchy, Marco, which I'd never looked at; also your quote from Augustine.

If the ascent through the spheres is in the course of meditation, the next question is: what would the realms before the pseudo-Dionysian angelic hierarchy be, in the spheres of the elements and planets? I looked in the early sections of "Celestial Hierarchy" in your link, Marco, and this is what I found (Ch. 2 sect. 5; my highlighting):
We shall find the Mystic Theologians enfolding these things not only around the illustrations of the Heavenly Orders, but also, sometimes, around the supremely Divine Revelations Themselves. At one time, indeed, they extol It under exalted imagery as Sun 39 of Righteousness, as Morning 40 Star rising divinely in the mind, and as Light 41 illuming without veil and for contemplation; and at other times, through things in our midst, as Fire 42, shedding its innocuous light; as Water 43, furnishing a fulness of life, and, to speak symbolically, flowing into a belly, and bubbling forth rivers flowing irresistibly; and at other times, from things most remote, as sweet-smelling ointment 44, as Head Corner-stone 45. But they also clothe It in forms of wild beasts, and attach to It identity with a Lion 46, and Panther 47, and say that it shall be a Leopard 48, and a rushing Bear 46.
It seems to me that we have here the Sun, the Star, the Fire, Temperance (Water), and Fortitude (Lion) at least. Sometimes in fact the Lion on the card looks like a bear, e.g. the Noblet. Perhaps the "Light illuming without veil" is the full moon, which otherwise appears as veiled. The related saying of the "Mystic Theologians", from Psellus' edition of the Chaldean Oracles, reads (I get this from Ruth Majercik, The Chaldean Oracles, logion 147)
If you speak to me often, you will perceive everything in lion-form. For neither does the curved mass of heaven appear then, nor do the stars shine. The light of the moon is hidden, and the earth is not firmly secured, but everything is seen by flashes of lightning.
For the Star, Sun, and Moon cards, pseudo-Dionysus is a better match; he doesn't have the negatives that attach here to the stars and moon. It is also better for that reason than the similar statement in Revelation. But notice the more specific reference to lightning, as opposed to the more general "fire". The Angel card would relate to the angels discussed elsewhere in the chapter. Psellus' edition would have been known by Ficino at least; he translated it into Latin, if it is contained in Psellus' De daemonibus (Sergius Kodera, "The Concept of Matter in Ficino", in Marsilio Ficino, his Theology, his Philosophy, his Legacy, p. 302; this page not in Google Books).

As to the availability of ps.-Dionysus at our time and place, according to Lackner, "The Camaldolese Academy", on p. 21 of the same book on Ficino, this page also not in Google Books:
Between 1436 and 1437 Traversari completed his translations of Ps.-Dionysius's Mystical Theology, Divine Names, Ecclesiastical Hierarchies and Celestial Hierarchies.
He cites Stinger, Humanism and the Church Fathers, p. 65. The autograph is Ms. Laur. Gaddiano LXXXV. Also his Epp. VIIII.36 to Niccoli: "Ego, Nicholae carissime, Dionysium in traducere instituerem plurimorum extorserunt preces."

It is clear that ps.-Dionysus is referring to the Chaldean Oracles. He uses the term "the Mystic Theologians" in the quote above and says specifically that he is citing "the Oracles" several times in the same section. Many of these Oracles were imbedded in the writings of Proclus, which were in the library of Filelfo as well as of a good many other humanists, such as Ficino and Pico. Other Oracles were in an an edition by Plethon that Ficino translated; it seems to have influenced Ficino by the time of the Commentary on the Philibus, which Allen in the preface to his translation (p. 56) says was written in 1469. Also, John Monfasani, on p. 186 of Marsilio Ficino: His Theology, His Philosophy, His Legacy, note 27, says,
Michael Allen suggests to me that...we might date Ficino's first serious encounter with Pletho's writings to the mid- or late 1460s.
See also Moshe Idel on p. 151 of the same book. For the details, both 186 and 151 are reproduced in Google Books: go to http://books.google.com/books?id=CX06ds ... 22&f=false and scroll down.

I would expect that Plethon would have drawn Filelfo's attention to the Oracles while he was still alive, and maybe even sent him a copy of his edition, although none is recorded in his library at his death.

In the edition by Plethon, lines 40-42, the text of the Oracle I quoted from Psellus reads, in Woodhouse's translation (Gemistos Plethon[/i] p. 52, reproduced by me at http://tarotandchaldean.blogspot.com/20 ... rumps.html)
If you speak to me often, you will see the word for ever
For then the curved mass of heaven is not visible
The stars do not shine, the light of the moon is veiled,
The earth stands not firm, all things appear as lightning.
Plethon took the Greek for "lion-formed" as the similar word for "word", Woodhouse explains in his comments on Plethon's edition. Ficino and probably others would have had Psellus' version for comparison.

As for the Death card, Death was a standard symbol for the "extinction of a passion" according to Murrin in "Renaissance Allegory from Petrarch to Spencer", (Cambridge Companion to Allegory p. 165) for example in Petrarch's analysis of the Aeneid. An instance is Dido's suicide: "shameful pleasure perishes by itself". Murrin continues:
Petrarch's reading of these figures is traditional. Earlier commentators had read Dido's self-cremation in similar fashion. And like his predecessors Petrarch tends to systematize these figures. Both he and Boccaccio are close to a grammar of symbols. High places signify reason: the citadal of Aeolus, Limbo in the Commedia, Reason's tower in the Romance of the Rose. Darkness indicates mental and moral ignorance, and death signifies the extinction of a passion in the soul.
"Extinction of a passion" might also have been symbolized by the Temperance card, especially if Phaeded's analysis of the Alessandro Sforza card, which I agree with, is correct (viewtopic.php?f=23&t=392&start=30#p14581). It seems to me likely that Death could also symbolize extinction of all the lower passions. So taking the sequence as mystical ascent, we have a good many tarot cards here.

The influence of ps.-Dionysius in the Renaissance was large. I have mentioned Traversari. I don't know if Filelfo had his works; I find nothing either way in Robin or Hankins. If someone can get me a copy of A. Calderini, "Richerche intorno alla biblioteca e cultura greca di Francesco Filelfo," in Studi italiani di filologia classica 20 (1913), Hankins' source, I'd be eternally in their debt. Hankins says that ps.-Dionysius also influenced Bessarion.

As for Ficino, in his early days he relied on Traversari's translations, Lackner says; later he wrote a commentary on ps.-Dionysius and translated two of his works. And there is my favorite quote from Ficino, from the preface to Platonic Theology, which invokes ps.-Dionysus, as translated by Wind (Pagan Mysteries of the Renaissance p. 62; my highlighting):
The spirit of the god Dionysus,' Ficino explained, 'was believed the ancient theologians and Platonists to be the ecstasy and abandon of disencumbered minds, when partly by innate love, partly at the instigation of the god, they transgress the natural limits of intelligence and are miraculously transformed into the beloved god himself: where, inebriated by a certain new draft of nectar and by an immeasurable joy, they rage, as it were, in a bacchic frenzy (ubi novo quodam nectaris haustu, et inexistimabili gaudio velut ebrie, ut ita dixerim, debacchantur). In the drunkenness of this Dionysiac wine our Dionysius expresses his exultation. He pours forth enigmas, he sings in dithyrambs...To penetrate the profundity of his meanings...to imitate his quasi-Orphic manner of speech (quasi Orphicum dicendi characterem)..., we too require the divine fury. And by the same prayer let us implore the Trinity that the light which God infused into Dionysius, in answer to his pious wish that he might penetrate the mysteries of the prophets and the apostles, that the same may also be infused into us, who make a similar supplication.'
I like how he cites Bacchus and the Trinity in almost the same breath. As I say, Ficino also translated Plethon's edition of the Oracles, his commentaries on it, and Psellus.

As it happens, I have recently been correlating Oracles with cards, just to see if it could be done, and also checking to see if those particular Oracles were imbedded in works that were known in the 15th century. You can read my results at http://tarotandchaldean.blogspot.com/, the first part of chapter 1 (to my prompt in bold) and all of chapter 3. The best matches are indeed for the cards I have just indicated (Fortitude, Death, Temperance, Devil, Fire, Star, Moon, Sun, Angel; interestingly, these include 5 of the 6 second artist cards of the PMB.) For the sources for the Oracles, go to the Appendix at my site; but the ones in Plethon are at the beginning of chapter 2. All of the ones I used would have been known then except perhaps the one for the Chariot card. There were other Platonic sources for that.

But as I say, the matches to pseudo-Dionysus for some of these cards are closer. A card-designer might have correlated Pseudo-Dionysius with Plethon, Psellus, and Proclus, just as I have done, and surely would have noticed the similarity to Revelation.

The rest of that paragraph that I quoted from ps.-Dionysius is also relevant to the tarot, I think. The next sentence gives what I think is a good justification for non-obvious meanings in its images.
Thus do all the godly-wise, and interpreters of the secret inspiration, separate the holy of holies 51 from the uninitiated and the unholy, to keep them undefined, and prefer the dissimilar description of holy things, so that Divine things should neither be easily reached by the profane, nor those who diligently contemplate the Divine imagery rest in the types as though they were true; and so Divine things should be honoured by the true negations, and by comparisons with the lowest things, which are diverse from their proper resemblance.
By "true negations" I don't think he just means negative theology (which could also be called the method of trumping), but also ascent by means of grasping both sides of a contradiction, Cusa's coincidentia oppositorum. It is the mystical approach to the divine, to get beyond language. So I look for contradictory interpretations of the same image, e.g. the Bagat as one of "the lowest things" and also the highest.

Chapter 15 also has a lot of stuff relevant to the tarot, I think: more on the lion-form, and material on the eagle, the horse (of the Vieville Sun card and of course the Chariot card), chariots, wheels, and the sun-burst on the Love card (seen as early as the Rosenwald). I am certainly sold on this text as a probable source for the early tarot, at least by the time of the Cary Sheet.

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