I have seen quoted in the name of Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499), also spelled Marcellus Ficin, that all nations of the world worship a God whose name is spelled with four letters. Does anybody know where this might occur in Ficino's writings and if there has been any discussion of Ficino's assertion? The source where I saw this quoted was in The Concilliator by Rabbi Manasseh ben Israel of Amsterdam (1604-1657), see here on Google Books.


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We find in Ficino's summary of Cratylus the following:

They therefore said that their forefathers had performed wonders through the power of these names and that they had put some of these names into their writings, but that these were, for the most part, scattered and obscure. If anyone can recognise and collect them and utter them perfectly and with the same purity of mind as that with which they were imparted to him, that man will likewise perform wonders, especially with the first name of God, which, being miraculously composed of only four letters, all vowels, can certainly not be rightly pronounced by anyone who is not divinely inspired.

I merely allude to the fact that all peoples and tongues pronounce the special name of God with four letters only; for this subject is dealt with at some length in our commentaries on the Philebus, where it is shown to have been impossible for all peoples to have concurred in this matter without being divinely inspired. Hence the Egyptians give the name ‘Theut’ to our ‘Deus’; the Persians use the name ‘Syre’; the Magi use the name ‘Orsi’, whence ‘Oromasis’. The Hebrews, on all occasions, express the ineffable name of four vowels by saying ‘Adonai’; the Greeks say ‘Theos’; the Arabs say ‘Alla’; Mahommed says ‘Abdi’. We have received the name ‘Jesus’ from an angel.
But why did God wish to be universally invoked by means of four letters? Perhaps because He Himself arranges all things on four levels: essence, being, power, and action. Again, the world of the heavens consists of the threefold nature of the four signs: fiery, airy, watery, earthy; and the world below the heavens consists likewise of these four elements.
Quoted from Arthur Farndell: "Gardens of Philosophy. Ficino On Plato", Shepheard-Walwyn: London, 2006, p95-96. (Review)

An original language version is found here: Platonis Omnia Opera, tr. Marsilio Ficino, (Lyons: 1588) and there: Cratylus (Latin, PDF, non-OCRed scan.)

  • Do you know of any later discussions concerning Ficino's assertion? Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 11:46
  • @RebChaimHaQoton I do not know what you need this for or what you are aiming at. But I think a look at Plato, neoplatonism and the concept of Tetractys might bear more fruit than following strictly Ficino? Is it really about Ficino's interpretation/addition? Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 11:59
  • I am specifically looking into Ficino's claims about the use of tetrgrammatical words for referring to God in different societies. Thanks for all the resources you provided so far. Commented Sep 8, 2018 at 18:51

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