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Plato and the 22 Arcana

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Diogenes was apparently an ascetic who did crazy things to exhibit his principles. Plato called him "Socrates gone mad".

One story has him carrying a lantern in daylight, looking for an honest person. I thought of the Hermit.

But the earliest Hermits probably represented "Time" - they are carrying an hourglass, not a lantern. The Hermit of Ercole d'Este is lost - but if Diogenes references were in it, then maybe the Time of this deck was Diogenes with his lantern, which might be the first time the image was used. This then carried on in the printed series like the "Dick" sheet in the Met. Museum, dated by Dummett to the end of the 15th century in Ferrara, and as far as I know the earliest Hermit to show a lantern, instead of an hourglass.

Ross
Top   #21
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Alberti's take on Diogenes and Thales


At the request of Ross, here's the available Grafton note on how Leon B. Alberti might have taken information from Diogenes text and reworked it to make it interesting to readers...and also helped sell his tale:
Leon Battista Alberti took available Latin translations from Ambrogio Traversati's translation of Diogenes and his friend Lapo da Castilgioncho's Life of Thales to model his own Life biography. (1420s through 1430s).
Diogenes texts has a series of stories and witty sayings from various philosphers. Alberti's Life also is not chronological, but a series of stories and witty sayings. Diogenes presented Thales as someone 'taught by no one' except some mysterious priests from Egypt. Alberti claimed he was self-taught. Alberti, like Thales, predicted the future (a certain type of crop would grow well, etc.). Thales supposedly lived a life that would not produce children and changed interests frequently.
Alberti seemed to copy the model that Diogenes has attributed to Thales in reporting short, witty jokes and exchanges of question and answer...Grafton said this style teases and amazes the potential reader, draws them in to the masterly and rapid exchanges.
Alberti quotes Thales explicitly as well, but also changes some attributions...he uses quotes from Plutarch, but changes the answers one of the sages gives so it fits in with his own answers to a similar exchange.
The first example is the 'unsatisfactory example': what is the oldest thing among mortals? Time, The biggest? The universe, etc. The second example is that good, smart Thales answers The biggest: Space, The wisest: Time, the most common: Hope. Then our hero Leon Alberti answers best, "the biggest thing of all mortals: Hope; the sweetest; Time, which makes (all) free with bitterness..." etc.
Anthony Grafton notes the quotations came from Digenes Laertius, "Lives of the Philosophers, 1.27, 1.26, 1.23." Alberti information: R. Fubini and A. Menci Gallorini, "Lautobiografia di Leon Battista Albert: Studio e edizione," Rinascimento, 2d, 12 (1972), 21-78 at 76, 74 and 75. Also R. Neu Watkins, "L.B. Alberti in the Mirror: An Interpretaton of the Vita with a New Translation, Italian Quarterly 30 (1989) 5-30 at 15, 12 and 13

The link below will give you more information from Grafton, a bit of an excerpt. You will note that chapter 1--where my information was taken from-is not definitive in dates of when Alberti wrote Vita. I do not know if was an ongoing work that he continued to perfect, as authors such as Dante and Matteo Maria Boiardo were prone to do or completed through the 1430s. If I find out more, I will edit this note, rather than stringing the Alberti information further.

Best wishes,

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/IS...sim/aeclectic/
Top   #22
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Re: Alberti's take on Diogenes and Thales


Quote:
Originally posted by Mari_Hoshizaki
At the request of Ross, here's the available Grafton note on how Leon B. Alberti might have taken information from Diogenes text and reworked it to make it interesting to readers...and also helped sell his tale:
Leon Battista Alberti took available Latin translations from Ambrogio Traversati's translation of Diogenes and his friend Lapo da Castilgioncho's Life of Thales to model his own Life biography. (1420s through 1430s).
...Anthony Grafton notes the quotations came from Digenes Laertius, "Lives of the Philosophers, 1.27, 1.26, 1.23." Alberti information: R. Fubini and A. Menci Gallorini, "Lautobiografia di Leon Battista Albert: Studio e edizione," Rinascimento, 2d, 12 (1972), 21-78 at 76, 74 and 75. Also R. Neu Watkins, "L.B. Alberti in the Mirror: An Interpretaton of the Vita with a New Translation, Italian Quarterly 30 (1989) 5-30 at 15, 12 and 13
Thanks Mari!

Alberti wrote his own "Vita" rather young then (IIRC).

When you say "through the thirties", does this mean as late as 1438 or 39 i.e. when Alberti was in Ferrara? Which would suggest that Diogenes was with him then. Even if earlier, that would mean they could have had either or both of these translations. It will take some time to find out exactly what manuscripts were where.

It is interesting to speculate on Alberti's influence on the Ferrara trionfi, at least indirectly through his presence or "style" in the Estense court, since it is only that one deck (as far as I know) that has the Diogenes reference (and maybe had the first Hermit-with-lantern, another potential Diogenes reference). If he saw himself as another Diogenes, and itinerant cynic, perhaps he had his disciples in Ferrara also :-)

Ross
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Given the focus of this thread, it may be worth pointing out Plato's remarks in the Theaetetus 174-175 - which I quote in the thread on the Mat/Fov...

This may yet be a thread which slowly grows to completion
Top   #24
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Neo-platonism and neo-pythagorism


Hi,

I often debated along with Bob on many forums relatively to this focus.
Bob's position is explained in Tarot Symbolism and mine in "Origines et histoire du Tarot".
What is often underestimated is that the was a "weak"neo-platonism in the Middle Ages as well as a neo-pythagorism.
Renaissance will , with the rediscovery of the Greek manuscripts and the Byzantium scholars culminate with a stong neo-platonism.
When we refer to these neo-platonism, we shoudn't forgrt the underlying neo-pythagorism.
An geometrical essay of such a possible neo-pythagorean structure of the 78 cards as 22+16+40 is on :
http://tarots.free.fr/structure-en/cadre.htm


Alain
Top   #25
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Quote:
catboxer wrote:
I'm also convinced that Neoplatonism was THE philosophical engine that produced the esoteric content of the early tarot cards. I know some people here think that I believe tarot was originally "just a game," but that's not so. The trumps, at least, have esoteric content in abundance -- in spades, you might say.

I am equally convinced, however, that tarot was never the vehicle for the transmission of a secret doctrine of some sort. Neoplatonism was anything but secret, and the symbols it and the early trumps employed were part of a universal, pan-European vocabulary of images. It was the common currency of these images which, in part, lent the early tarot its spiritual power.
Hi catboxer,

I agree that the Tarot's meaning probably lies between the two extremes:

The trumps may not hide elaborate occult doctrine in the sense which occult Tarotists taught. At the same time, the images and sequence (and I'm referring here to early patterns such as the Marseilles) are of such clever complexity that their original design scheme remains elusive. Certainly, the early trumps employed previous imagery (even Neoplatonic imagery) from that time and place but this is only half the picture, since many aspects of the designs and sequence were innovations and cannot be traced to previous sources. This point sometimes seems to go unnoted or unemphasized in historical discussions of the cards (as, for example, in the recent thread on 'Trump XXI - Le Monde'). To uncover the full meaning behind designs such as those of the Marseilles it is necessary to note not only the similarities to previous iconography but also (and perhaps even more so) the departures from previous iconography.

The full meaning of the trumps--the "doctrine" or rationale originally behind them--is not explicit (If it were, card historians would have long ago solved the many puzzles we are here still debating). And, to the extent that we are uncertain as to that rationale, the trumps could indeed be said to be the vehicle of a "secret".

Quote:
catboxer wrote:
Anyway, why would someone use universally comprehensible symbols to transmit a secret doctrine? The idea is ridiculous.
I disagree; familiar images, symbols, and text were frequently used during this period to convey "hidden" or alternative meanings.

But to return to the trumps, while there may not be an elaborate secret doctrine there, I think you overstate the case by characterizing the imagery such as we see in the Marseilles as "universally comprehensible symbols". Aside from the fact that the trump imagery is period/place-specific and so would not be understood as accurately by those outside of that period/place, it is doubtful that even early players--those closer than we to the cultural milieu in which the designs arose--understood its design scheme fully. In either case, noting the iconographic innovations is necessary to the puzzling out of the Tarot's intended meaning. In my opinion, to argue too strongly that the trumps are relatively explicit images to those who are iconographically educated is to becloud the fact that numerous and serious design enigmas remain.

Quote:
catboxer wrote:
It's a secret doctrine only in the same way that Einstein's theory of relativity is a secret: even though it's widely published, it's not easy to understand or communicate, and thus will always remain an enigma to the uneducated, the literal-minded, and those who possess only a limited capacity for insight.
But there is a difference between even the most arcane publication--such as Einstein's theory--and the Tarot, the difference being that the actual rationale behind the trumps has not been elucidated! So the analogy is misleading. We cannot say that the Tarot's doctrine is "not easy to understand or communicate, and thus will always remain an enigma to the uneducated" since that doctrine is in fact not yet known. This, I suspect, is what keeps so many of us fascinated.

Thanks,

- Mark
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In relation to Plato I think the fact 'judgement' is the only card in the early painted decks of the Milanese court to contain reference to an actual religious tenet of belief is perhaps relevant.

The closer you could show an ancient author was to orthodox beliefs the more 'authority' they were deemed to have. In virtually all polemics of the time in which Plato was called in as an authority what they termed his belief
in judgement after death was mentioned to bolster his authority and thus their
position. 'Judgement after death' was standard to the apologetics of Platonic narrative among humanists of the period.

The propagandist claims of the Milanese Platonists against the Florentine state was that their own [Milanese] state was closer to the Platonic ideal, and thus the 'better' of the two. That a picture of an ideal city [as depicted in the early painted cards] should follow that of judgement is in keeping with the Platonic narratives of the time
which were essentially propagandist. In this respect the 'world' was
not only a depiction of the new jerusalem of the world to come, but
the ideal archtypal world to which the Milanese court most closely
corresponded in comparison to all the other princely states thus
making it the most superior.

Humanists main concern at the time was with a curriculum of secular
education thought best suited to prepare a person for a life of civic
duty; their interest in Plato was not with neo-platonic metaphysics,
of which there is little evidence they had any awareness off let
alone understanding, but as a philosopher of morals and exponent of
the virtues necessary for the happiness of the individual and the
good of the state; 'moral philosophy' as such being little more than
an exposition upon the virues, with the addition of the theological
virtues faith [Pope?], Hope [Star?] and Love to the classical
cardinal virtues prudence/wisdom [Popesse?], temperance,
fortitude/courage and justice.

Thus in the early painted decks of the Milanese court I see
a 'serious' [morally instructive] game reflecting an essentially
secular mindset which in design is conventional to the milieu in
which it appears, conservative and supportive of the status quo and
reflecting self-promoting Milanese propaganda. This in contrast to
the later printed decks such as the TdM which to me appear to reflect
a type of religious mindset with reformist tendencies informed by neo-
platonism. A development that parallels the development of Humanist
Platonism.

Kwaw
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Neo-platonism and Tarot


Hi

Bob O'Neill has written a pertinent essay on this topic :

http://www.tarot.com/about-tarot/lib...l/neoplatonism


Regards


Alain Bougearel
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Quote:
Originally Posted by firemaiden
Having read Catboxer in our Tarot origins thread, I learned that the 22 trionfi are thought to have originally illustrated neo-platonic ideas.

Aside from the obvious -- Plato's Allegory of the Chariot for the Chariot, has anyone ever gone through the major Arcana and related them to Platos ideas, or Renaissance Neo-Platonic ideas?
Well Plato was a favourite among early Christians as he expressed belief in the immortality of the soul, of hell, purgatory and heaven and of Judgement of the soul after death. Christian platonic apologists frequently made a point of the concept of judgement to be found in Plato so the card is fitting in a christian platonic setting. Antiplatonist objected he also described the soul as reincarnated as animals, Christian Platonic apologists replied by treating it as an allegory of those who were attached to the mutable and temporal rahter than the eternal were as like animals, which gives rise to the theriomorphic characters on the wheel of fortune, which we first meet in the neoplatonist christian Boethius and which was later taken up by the platonic aplogists of the renaissance. The increase in light from star to sun could also be realted to the allegory of the cave. In the hanged man we may reference the descent of the wise, the self sacrifice in returning to the cave and potential martyrdom, interpreted by Christian Platonists as the incarnation of the logoi, christ [ see post 55 in thread on hanged man http://www.tarotforum.net/showthread...959#post517959]. The last seven cards are in keeping with the neoplatonic salvation cycle rooted in Orphism.

Early painted decks show a city on the world card, and the Decembrio [a humanit platonist of the Milanese court] describes plato's 'ideal city' in a manner consistent with the idea of the city of god. Bagatto, Emperor and Pope as three estates of man can be equated with the three estates of man to be found in Plato. The possible inclusion of the citizens of Jerusalem and Babyon/Rome and of Love and Will in this first rank of seven cards perhaps indicating the christian neoplatonism of Augustine [the tower could then be interpreted as the city of the damned]. The second rank of seven cards defined by the virtues [justice, fortitude and temperance being beginning, middle and end of sequence in the TdM pattern] with consideration of time, mutablilty and mortality in between can be found in several platonic texts; but the presence of just these group of three is perhaps also suggestive of a pythagorean influence; the TdM world as anima mundi I think more neoplatonic than platonic; or if we consider the female image as eve then we also have the influence of hermeticism [il mondo, 'cosmos' considered as the 'mother of mankind' in hermetic texts, with eve, the mother of mankind modeled upon an orphic 'dancing maenad' similar the to eve of Ghilberti].

The ideal city [world card], estates of man [cards 1-7], the meaning of virtue and the rewards of virtue after death are all to be found in the 'Republic', which was translated not once but twice between 1400 and 1450, by the decembrio's, father and son; Humanist Platonists at the court of Milan.

While we may consider much of the imagery as medieval, but medieval christianity was essentially neo-platonic; and the humanist movement from Petrarch on, with their rallying cry 'Ad Fonte' [to the source] undoubtedy came to recognise the source behind much of the imagery which had been imbued indirectly into Christianity through the likes of Augustine, Boethius and the pseudo Dionysus.

Kwaw
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There is also the very strong possibility that the early Tarot - 15th-16th century - was directly infused with Platonic ideas, Plato having been made widely available in translation in the mid 15th century. The Italian courts - and by imitation, the French - were enamoured of Plato. So, on top of the older influence of neoplatonic Christian commentators of the 1000 or so years before Tarot (Augustine, Boethius, Aquinas et al.), and the neoplatonic influenced artists or the 13th-14th centuries (Dante, Giotto, Petrarch, Jean de Meun), Plato himself was all the craze during the period of Tarot's development, and his dialogues influenced court life to the point of creating a literary genre - the court dialogue around such subjects as love and the progress of virtue (e.g. Castiglione, Tullia d'Aragona, etc.).

One of the interesting questions when looking at the Tarot de Marseille sequence - the one that caught on - is not only the missing virtue of Prudence/Wisdom (Robert Place ascribes her absence to the fact she is implicit in the other three, in a way neoplatonists would have understood); but also that the virtues represented are back to front from the order Plato wrote about when describing the progression of the soul. Why?
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