122. Thinking of Revenge? Consult Marsilio Ficino First!

The great Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499) was, among other things, an Italian renaissance scholar, Catholic priest, humanist philosopher, astrologer, doctor, musician, reviver of Platonism, and the first translator of Plato’s complete extant works into Latin. He was also the head of the Florentine Platonic Academy. His magnum opus is a six-volume work called Platonic Theology. But he was also a prolific letter writer who gave profound advice to many people from various walks of life – advice that still speaks to us today.

Many years ago I had some trouble with people that led me into some psychological trauma. I had been wronged and I wanted revenge. After many months of suffering, I concluded that I needed medication to help me break out of the loops that my mind was playing over and over and over. But then I read a passage from one of Ficino’s letters which helped cure me. I recently came across it again, and figured I would share it. I have no idea if it can help anyone else. But its particular combination of ideas and phrases worked for me and opened my mind to this truly noble soul.

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Marsilio Ficino to a man who cannot bear an injury:

You grieve, my friend, because you have received an injury; that I grant. But you appear to have been injured not so much because someone has done evil to you but because you thought what he did to be evil. To an evil man, indeed, all things, even the good, are turned into evil. To a good man, however, all things, even those which seem very bad, are finally turned into good.

Are you thinking of revenge? I earnestly warn you: have a care. For if you attempt to be avenged, you will suffer a second and a third injury, and through your desire to destroy the other man you will destroy yourself. Bees, provoked, sting with little injury, and in stinging give up life. Of course, I do not urge you to forget entirely. Perhaps it is worthwhile to remember, so that at least another time you may be wary of malignant men.

He is accustomed to forgive, who has once injured. Forgive freely, I beseech you, lest you bring trouble upon yourself, and he harm you again and again. Of necessity his evils await him. For fortune leaves nothing untouched, nature leaves nothing unharmed, nor does God leave anything unavenged.

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See Meditations on the Soul: Selected Letters of Marsilio Ficino (Rochester: Inner Traditions International, 1996), pp. 30-31.

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