Marsilio Ficino on Saturn, the Plotinian Mind, and the Monster of Averroes
This chapter explores some striking aspects of Marsilio Ficino’s many-sided engagement with Saturn. It focuses, however, not so much on the old god’s traditional mythological and astrological associations, though these played important roles for Ficino for both personal and medical reasons, as on Ficino’s deployment of Saturn in his exploration of Platonic metaphysics. In particular I am concerned with two interrelated problems: 1) with Ficino’s analysis of the theology of the Phaedrus’s mythical hymn with its cavalcade of gods under Zeus as the World-Soul traversing the intellectual heaven, the realm of Saturn as Mind; and 2), more startingly, with Saturn in the context of the long and intricate rejection of Averroism in Ficino’s magnus opus, the Platonic Theology, and notably in the fifteenth book which has hitherto received little scholarly attention. His goal there was to reject what he saw as the capstone of Averroes’s metaphysics and psychology as articulated in the commentary on the De anima (which he only knew in Michael Scot’s Latin version): namely the theory of the unity (unicity) of the agent Intellect, even as he identified this Intellect too with Saturn. Combined with other Saturnian motifs and interpretations, we can now see that Saturn played a signal role in Ficino’s account of ancient Neoplatonism, in his own Christian transformation of it, and in its polemical attack on the great Muslim commentator on Aristotle.