Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Weekly Geek! 'The Book of Life'

This installment of the Weekly Geek  is the finale of our exploration of titles. This week - you guessed it!  It's none other than The Book of Life.  It doesn't take its name from God's book mentioned in the Talmud.  According to Jewish belief, The Book of Life contains the name of every person going to heaven - those who are considered righteous before God.  While there are some parallels to the creature's Book of Life, it doesn't really fit the requirement of being a renaissance work. Those parallels between the Jewish and the creatures will be the subject of their very own 'geek' - we promise!

The inspiration for the title of the AST The Book of Life is actually a 15th century work by a Florentine philosopher/theologian/physician, Marsilio Ficino.  Among other things, Ficino served three generations of the Medici and  was chosen by  Cosimo de Medici to run Plato's Academy in Florence - in large part due to Ficino's status as the driving force behind the resurgence of Platonism during the Renaissance.

Villa Medici Careggi - site of the Academy

By virtue of his status in Florence, Ficino influenced Botticelli, Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, Durer, and Pico della Mirandola, among others! Ficino was also a leading defender of the concept of the immortality of the soul.  His interest in astrology also got him into some hot water with the Church! (Whoops.)

Our AST namesake, also referred to as De Vita, was published in 1489 and contained a great deal of medical and astrological advice for maintaining health and vigor, as well as espousing the Neoplatonist view of the world's ensoulment and its integration with the human soul.  In short, Ficino was a 'big picture' kind of guy.

First page of a Ficino codex
"There will be some men or other, superstitious and blind, who see life plain in even the lowest animals and the meanest plants, but do not see life in the heavens or the world ... Now if those little men grant life to the smallest particles of the world, what folly! what envy! neither to know that the Whole, in which 'we live and move and have our being,' is itself alive, nor to wish this to be so." ~ from the Book of Life

In a way, Ficino and his philosophy conjures up a real life version of Edward Kelly and the creature's Book of Life in Shadow of Night.  There are threads from Ficino to many of the historical figures who make an appearance in our beloved trilogy!  Ficino especially influences George Chapman's imagination in his discussion of Homeric poetic inspiration. Giordano Bruno, Symphorian Champier and Athanasius Kircher were all devoted students of his work.  Emperor Rudolf's library contained many of Ficino's works.  And it probably comes as absolutely no surprise that John Dee actually owned a copy of Ficino's Book of Life!1

Our final connection is entirely speculative on our parts, but based on Daemon detection, there is a very good chance that Matthew may have met and had an opportunity to learn under Ficino prior to wearing out his welcome in Florence.Matthew at the Academy paints a delicious picture in our Daemon brains!

Feed your own daemons with these delicacies:

Excerpts: http://people.bu.edu/dklepper/RN242/marsilio.html
Codex of De Vitahttp://www.wdl.org/en/item/11614/

1. Westman, Robert. The Copernican Question: Prognostication, Skepticism and Celestial Order, p.191
2. Matthew's Florence adventures are mentioned briefly in Chapter 28, A Discovery of Witches and Chapter 9, Shadow of Night

You can see our other Weekly Geeks concerning All Souls Trilogy titles here:
The Discovery of Witches
Shadow of Night

P.S. If you have something you'd like us to explore on Weekly Geek, contact us! You may find your curiosities addressed on one of our future geekly posts! If you enjoy our Weekly Geeks and/or our other regular features, you can subscribe and have our posts come straight to your inbox.