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times, Leonardo was the heir to the great magi of antiquity and the precursor of such modern imitators as Dr. Papus or the Sâr Péladan! So each generation finds the need of ancestors! As Da Vinci was not only the artist whom all admire, but also a savant of the first class, judge whether the point is worth discussion! It will be well, however, to see whether there is any truth in the assertion which has been made, that the manuscripts bear traces of magical researches, and whether there is any foundation, as Symonds 2 and D'Annunzio 3 assert, for calling Leonardo a Magian.
It is to be regretted that neither M. Gilbert-Augustin Thierry, the historian of demonography, nor M. Edouard Schuré, the student of the great masters of the occult arts, nor M. Jules Bois, who knows so much about satanism and magic, have turned their attention to the doings of Leonardo. Familiar as they are with Hermes Trismegistus and Pythagoras, they might unveil many of the secrets of our mysterious and shadowy genius. My knowledge is limited and my exegesis purely rationalist ; for this I hope to be forgiven, and must leave the task of clearing up the mystery which shrouds the Italian Faust to those who are better equipped than myself. Not that I wish to speak ill of the sciences we call occult, for again and again they have helped on the positive sciences, and shown that the mind excited by mystery has a strange acuteness, amounting almost to second sight.
From first to last our hero lived in a strange and compromising atmosphere, if ever there was one, but this fact has escaped those who have wished to turn him into a sort of Mahatma. Just as Christ frequented publicans, so did Da Vinci take pleasure in the society of mystics, astrologers, alchemists, and charlatans of every kind.
His baptism in all this he received at Florence from Marsilio Ficino, the favourite philosopher of the Medici, and the great propagandist of the Platonic philosophy. We know that in his little
i Revue Bleue, August 23, 1890.
3 “At a feast given by Lodovico il Moro, amid the marvels created by the occult arts of the Magian . ..." (Le Vergine delle Rocce.)