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Ficino, Marsilio - Commentary on Plato’s Timaeus - On the intervals of the spheres



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These are not physical distances, they are the ratios of the levels and layers, which in turn impact celestial music and in turn impact our concept of harmony in music.

Geber was an alchemist as well as a mathemetician.

A description of the experience

Ficino, Marsilio - Commentary on Plato’s Timaeus

On the intervals of the spheres, Plato seeks the intervals of the ratios between the parts of the soul

JUST AS we often picture the features of a living shape from the out-lines of an image, so from that imaginary countenance of the heavenly soul which we glimpse in the mirror-substance of the world, let us strive to picture its real face.

For just as there are, within the enlivening power, seed-principles and many ratios pertaining to the limbs of the body, and just as there are five faculties within the common sense, so there is, within the soul of the world, an arrangement of the heavenly bodies that is in conformity with both consciousness and nature.

Plato, therefore, thinking that the double, the triple, and the other intervals described in the first number-figure are found within the spheres, took them back to the parts and powers of the soul, from where they were transferred to the spheres.

For he believed that the distance from the Earth to the Sun was twice that from the Earth to the Moon; that the distance from the Earth to Venus was three times that from the Earth to the Sun; that the distance from the Earth to Mercury was four times that from the Earth to Venus; that Mars was nine times farther from the Earth than the star of Mercury was; that Jupiter was eight times the distance of Mars from the Earth; and that the orb of Saturn was twenty-seven times farther from the Earth than Jupiter was. Here you see, among other things, that the heavier planets of Jupiter and Saturn are both designated by solid numbers.

And if elsewhere I have calculated other intervals based on the view of some Pythagoreans, I consider the Platonic measures more likely.

Through these measures those things can perhaps be understood which are rather mysteriously shrouded in the tenth book of the Republic about spheres. Again, through those things which we have dealt with concerning the power of numbers and ratios it is possible to conjecture those things which are implied in the eighth book of the Republic concerning the heavenly revolution, numbers, and ratios.

But when in our earlier words we place the Sun next to the Moon according to the Platonic and Aristotelian tradition, do not let the machinations of Ptolemy dissuade you from this view. For the supreme mathematician Geber has investigated all these things and has proved, by the most precise instruments and measurements, that the Sun is next to the Moon.

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Ficino, Marsilio

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