Giovanni Pico della Mirandola  

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" and we created you as a being neither celestial nor earthly, neither mortal nor immortal alone, so that you as a free and sovereign artist can mold and model yourself in the form that you prefer; you can degenerate to animal, but you can also rise to the higher, divine kingdom ... You alone have the power to develop and grow according to free will." --Pico della Mirandola, Oration on the Dignity of Man, tr. JWG

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (February 24, 1463 -November 17, 1494) was an Italian Renaissance philosopher best-known for his Speech on the Dignity of Man and De Occulta Philosophia.

Cultural references

Of minor interest is a passing reference to Mirandola by H. P. Lovecraft, in the story The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (1927). Mirandola is given as the source of the fearsome incantation used by unknown evil entities as some sort of evocation. However, this "spell" was first depicted (as the key to a rather simple form of divination, not a great and terrible summoning) by, and in all likelihood created by, Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim in his De Occulta Philosophia. This was written several decades after Mirandola's death and was the first written example of that "spell", so it is almost impossible for Mirandola to have been the source of those "magic words". One has to wonder what error of research, or perhaps deliberate misquote, led to this attribution by Lovecraft.

Psychologist, Otto Rank, a rebellious disciple of Sigmund Freud, chose a substantial excerpt from Mirandola's Speech on the Dignity of Man as the motto for his book Art and Artist: Creative Urge and Personality Development, including: "...I created thee as a being neither celestial nor earthly... so that thou shouldst be thy own free moulder and overcomer...".

In Umberto Eco's novel Foucault's Pendulum the protagonist Casaubon claims that the idea that the Jews were privy to the enigma of the Templars was "a mistake of Pico Della Mirandola" caused by a spelling mistake he made between "Israelites" and "Ismaelites."

In July of 2007, his remains were exhumed, with plans to use the filming of the process as the central element in an upcoming television documentary.

Pico della Mirandola discusses the interrelations between sublunary world, celestial world and the supercelestial world in the introduction to his Heptaplus: 'For euen as the...three worlds being girt and buckled with the bands of concord doe by reciprocall libertie, interchange their natures; the like do they also by their appellations. And this is the principle from whence springeth & groweth the discipline of allegoricall sense' (translated by Pierre de la Primaudaye in The French Academie, London, 1618, p. 671).

In Roberto Bolaño's novel 2666, the philosophy professor Oscar Amalfitano begins his three-columned list of philosophers with Pico della Mirandola. Adjacent to Mirandola, Amalfitano writes Hobbes, while beneath him he writes Husserl (p. 207, 2008).




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Giovanni Pico della Mirandola" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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