This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
html Background for Ars Magica sagas Chaldaean Oracles and Theurgy A literature which, in contrast to the Hermetic Corpus, had nothing ecumenical about it, and whose esotericism enchanted the Neoplatonists, who made it their bible. It presented itself as a revelation of oriental origin. It has been thought possible to state that they were for Babylonia what the Hermetic Poimandres was for Egypt, 'that is to say, indigenous beliefs were highlighted, and seasoned with a heavy proportion of philosophical ingredients' (F. Cumont). Actually, these 'indigenous beliefs' remain very hard remain very hard to discern. It must be admitted, however, that the last pagans were receptive to the apocalyptic exoticism of these Logia, which were taken to contain the ultimate in wisdom attributed to the Mesopotamian Magi. At the end of his life, Porphyry took a passionate interest in them, notably in the means they offered for liberating a part of the soul that was likely to regain the astral light. Iamblichus makes reference to them in his Mysteries of Egypt, and is said to have devoted twenty-eight books to an in-depth commentary on the Logia. As for Proclus, of all the known great texts he claimed to want to remember only the Chaldaean Oracles and Plato's Timaeus. In both the West and the East we find them quoted directly or indirectly by Christians who had come from Neoplatonism, like Marius Victorinus, Synesius of Cyrene and the Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. The apologist Arnobius, who had sampled Hermetism before he was baptized, seems to have been curious enough to taste this other ambiguous source of theosophic paganism.
But the celebrated Logia seem to have been forgotten for a century. who lived in the reign of Marcus Aurelius (161-80). and above all of Byzantine scholar Michael Psellos which help us to reconstruct part of the system. The Suda made him the son of a 'Chaldaean philosopher' of the same name.These oracles were ascribed Julian. known as the 'Theurge'. like the stelae of Hermes Trismegistus. What the Byzantine reveals to us is not always . except perhaps by the Neopythagorean Numenius (although the connections of his doctrine with that of the Chaldaean Oracles remains suspect). was intent on sacralizing his philosophy. written and published before Porphyry's meeting with Plotinus. But many enigmas persist. he was credited with the 'miracle of the rain' which Cassius Dio attributes to the Magus Arnouphis. and who led Porphyry to take account of them. the Chaldaean Oracles served him as 'holy Scriptures'. It is the commentaries of the Neoplatonists. Apparently it was Iamblichus who inspired a major renewal of interest in them. Why this sudden passion for Chaldaeanism at the end of the third century? Iamblichus of Chalcis. he praises the virtues of theurgy and. He was said to have contributed by his occult talents to aiding the Roman army on the Danubian front. The Logia of Julian the Theurge involve a complex theology whose hierarchic structure is not limpidly clear. who was related to the ancient priestly dynasty of Emesa and willingly played the role of hierophant or thaumaturge. There is no evident trace of Julian's Logia to be detected in the Philosophy of Oracles. the author of a work on demons. especially Damascius. at least to judge by the fragments that have come down to us. legitimizing his system in the names of the gods. In his Mysteries of Egypt.
ascribable to Proclus and perhaps already reconstructed by Iamblichus. recurs frequently in the argumentation of the Neoplatonists. the alleged 'Chaldaeans' seem to have conceived a 'transcendental first Fire'. taking his inspiration from an infinitely more complex theology. like the God of the Christians. There is not even unanimity on the translation itself of the mysterious hapax and dis epekeina! After the first triad comes intelligible and intellectual triads. 'masters of consecration' or 'perfection'. This father 'has created all things in perfection': he has conceived them in the intelligible world. The 'Power' of Hecate both unites and dissociates the first and second Fires. he dominates the triad which he forms with a second Intellect and an intermediary 'Power'.obviously consistent with the letter of the Oracles. But this supreme God is a 'triadic monad'. At the summit of the divine hierarchy. The scheme of this 'Father-Power-Intellect' triad which is typically Chaldaean but of philosophical origin. They call this 'Fire' the 'Father' or 'Hypercosmic Paternal Abyss'. In fact. which the oracles seem to identify respectively with the 'transcendentally One' (hapax epekeina) and the 'transcendentally Two' (dis epekeina). He is simultaneously 'one and threefold'. a kind of demiurge of the Empyrean. that the Oracles call Hecate. The second Intellect is the 'craftsman of the igneous world'. the 'Assemblers' who unify 'the processions of the plurality of beings' (Psellos) and the Teletarchs. who apparently preside over the perfecting of creation. the Iynges or 'diviners'. although Psellos in his Summary Outline of the ancient beliefs accepted 'among the Chaldaeans' places this triad after many others. Psellos .
inclining towards the Intelligible by purifying its intellect or concentrating it towards the light. quoted the instance of a 'Chaldaean' who was foiled by an envious colleague whose action was said to . In Book X of his City of God. who appears to have been somewhat reserved or skeptical about the effects of this theurgy. then three 'Implacable ones' (Ameiliktoi) and a seventh god who is said to be 'girded below' (Hypezôkôs).subordinates to these triads the 'Source-Fathers' or Cosmagi ('guides' or 'conductors of the worlds'). the 'demiurgic Sources'. Man must be 'consecrated' body and soul in order to escape evil demons. Augustine argues copiously about and against Porphyry's De regressu animae. the generating principles of life. they made it fit 'to welcome the angels and see the gods'. Theurgy precisely permits the purification of the 'pneumatic' part of the soul. But Porphyry. angels. St. demons. in which he speaks of the teletes or rites of consecration by the Sun and Moon. These kinds of Chaldaean sacraments insured the 'spiritual' ('pneumatic' in Greek) part of the soul against the demons lying in wait along the celestial route. the 'azonal' gods established above the visible gods which are the stars. the Zônaioi or gods who control the celestial 'girdles' (zônai). salvation obviously lies in turning its gaze away from the tangible world. the irrational breath which serves it as a luminous vehicle to transport it after death across the aerial space separating this lower world from the ethereal places where the angels reign. and heroes occupy different grades of this convoluted chain which fills the vast abyss separating the incarnate soul from the intelligible Father: a hierarchy that reminds us of the demonology set out by Iamblichus in his book of the Mysteries. For the soul that has issued from the paternal Fire. Next. the archangels.
This image of genital seed giving life to the world like the pneuma. Fire is. City of God.have paralyzed the 'powers conjured up by the sacred prayers' (Augustine.fire of the Stoics is implied in several fragments. so to speak. Life of Alexander. 220ff). 1). floods. the 'spiritually' and intellectually purified soul eludes sidereal destiny. a kind of imperial blessing. or the dazzling or scintillating light in the multiplicity of souls and beings. X. at a time when the ideas of the Stoa enjoyed their greatest success and even. whirlwinds. These visions have the contrasting bursts of light of a weird. and often burns the intervening air' (Plutarch. or the creative and life-imparting breath. This theology of fire. would seem to have made use of their talents in the Antonine era. 9). sparks. 'flaring' torches or 'flowers of fire'. lightning flashes. blazes. like the theurges. the 'Chaldaean' and the 'Theurge'. in Virgil (Georgics. and more precisely of fire as 'artist'. one thinks of the bees which. The allegedly Babylonian origin of the two Julians has suggested that their religious world of imagination might bear the stamp if a country where naphtha 'catches fire by the very radiation of light. with Marcus Aurelius. either as lightning. omnipresent in the Oracles. 35. raging storms. in a passage heavily tinged with . gushes and rumblings. one glimpses nothing but flames. that is. recalls that of the Stoics. wild moving picture. IV. Of course. 'implacable' thunderbolts. However. Reading through the preserved fragments of the Logia. The two Julians. The ideas that 'gush out humming' from the paternal source are compared to swarms which 'gather in abundance the flower of the fire'. torrents. The paternal Intellect 'inseminates' in all its works 'the heavy bond of the fire of Love' and spreads it like a 'flower'.
is 'girded below'.as in the bougonia of Aristaeus (Virgil. and which also has bees on it.Stoicism. incorporates a multiple and very composite philosophical heritage. The Father has 'breathed into the seven firmaments of the world'. with a scholastic jargon enhanced by imagery that may have a religious origin. One also remembers Porphyry (The Cavern of the Nymphs. whom another lne seems to confuse with Rhea. in any case. This particular detail of clothing brings to mind the garment which tightly enwraps the Artemis of Ephesus. II. Martianus Capella (Marriage of Mercury and Philology. is the source of souls and virtues. The 'Power of the Father'. which identifies it with Hecate. 205) calls her 'Spring-Virgin' (fontana virgo). The pneuma dear to the Stoic philosophers appears in the Oracles as the imparter of life to beings and the material world. as if they were so many balloons! The dualism of the Logia and their theology of the Ideas that emanated from the paternal Intellect would seem to refer us rather to Plato. 18) who. . This goddess. IV. according to Numenius (?) Identifies the bees born of the bull . A line in the Logia says precisely that 'the flower of the fire has donned a girdle'. This mixture of Stoicism and Platonism (in the same way as the application of universal sympathy in the hieratic art of the theurges) would steer us in the direction of Posidonius of Apamea. are said to possess a particle of divine intelligence and an emanation from the Empyrean. Georgics. those souls who drink the nectar of the fire flower. 554ff) . Hecate. whose influence on the moderate Platonism of the Antonine period should not be underestimated. which matches an oracle quoted by Psellos.with souls that have entered the world of creation. But this oracular literature.
The iconography of the armed goddess Allat. perhaps symbolizing the luminous firmament of the heavens. of the Artemis-Hecate of Ephesus. In any case. Now. The Hurrian-Hittite gods of the thunderbolt have nothing to do with the visions of lightning and storms that permeate them. even the Heliopolitan triad. But intellectuals who were steeped and passionately interested in Greek philosophy. on a first reading. as the Hellenized Orientals of the second century AD inevitably were. with its Father-God and Son-God separated by a girdled Atargatis. It is true that the leonine symbolism of fire is not peculiar to Mithraism or Chaldaeanism.But she also bears the warrior attributes of Athena. could not observe these idols without rethinking them . drawing from the Father the fire and intelligence that give life to the worlds. or on Kronos (?) from whom are launched the 'implacable thunderbolts'. and Martianus Capella precisely gives Pallas the title 'flower of the fire' (flos ignis). But did he have it in mind when he was compiling the Logia? This cannot be stated with any certainty. with the Mithraic representations of the Lion-head spitting flames. The image of the lion is associated with the thunderbolt in Fragment 147. Martianus Capella mentions the gleaming veil woven by Pallas to envelop the head of Jupiter. was probably know to Julian the Theurge. the Oracles speak of 'what the intellective light of the Father had woven': was this not the work of the armed Virgin whom Martianus extols as the 'source of ethereal light' (aetherius fomes)? Still in the field of pagan imagery. one is tempted to compare the oracles in the Aiôn. Again. the religious imagination of the Oracles has nothing specifically Babylonian or even oriental.
following the approach of Porphyry. as well as the power of mute symbols. Even the image of the deity girt about below its chest. It therefore required on the part of those who practiced it consecration through piety and purification which brought them close to the gods. in this sense. So theurgy was contrasted with magic. In the World of the Pseudo-Aristotle an antithesis appears between the essence and the power of God who gives life to all that emanates from him: the idea of power. 14): God has fastened beneath him all the things of becoming without being himself contained by any of them. For theurgy did not consist in pure thoughts or mystical prayers: It is the religious fulfillment of ineffable acts whose results outdo any effort of intellect. So it is not our . is certainly of peripatetic origin. of the Oracles have been laid at the door of Mazdaeism. which effect the theurgic union.from the doctrinal and allegorical viewpoint. syncretic and theosophic constructions that had derived from it required a mysterious oracular consecration and a pseudo-oriental coloring like that of Chaldaean theurgy. an initiation that would make them fit to enter into contact with those gods. in his treatise on images. with which certain apparent procedures might encourage a comparison. Theurgy was a 'divine action'. which 'acted on the gods' because it was divine. a hundred years later. In fact. The worship of fire and the dualism. there is nothing in the Chaldaean system that cannot be explained according to Greek philosophy. which I have compared to the girded idols. But in the time of Marcus Aurelius Greek philosophy was no longer sufficient unto itself. is to be found in Philo of Alexandria (The Descendants of Cain. heard by the gods alone. By then. even the demonology.
for then their effectiveness would be intellectual and would be dependent on us. and the ineffable power of the gods. effect their own work.thought which carries out these acts. indeed. as Iamblichus proceeds to explain to us (ibid. without being awoken by our thought. and takes its direction harmoniously following their command. the soul needs to be recognized by the gods. Theurgy. presents a double aspect: it is practiced by men. II. The theurgy 'in some way. like the mysta in his initiation. The Mysteries of Egypt. the signs (synthemata) themselves. of reaching and imitating God by the elevation of the mind to pure Ideas. theurgy was a ritual which caused a current to pass between the human and the divine. 2). by means of 'symbols'. whom these signs concern.(Iamblichus. by their means it rises to the superior beings with whom it unites. The synthemata are sacred phrases of recognition. First among the 'symbols' come the divine names. through the ineffable symbols. itself recognizes its own images by itself. by themselves. IV. This 'ceremonial robe-donning' also refers to mystery rituals. 11) In other words. After death. As for Sallustius the telete puts us in communion with the gods and the world they mysteriously fill with their power. It is no longer a matter. Without our thinking about it. dons the hieratic garb of the gods'. the theurgy makes himself known to and recognized by the gods. but 'with the support of divine signs [synthemata]. like those that had to be uttered in order to be consecrated in the initiatory cults or to identify oneself as a mysta among mystae. the used by Sallustius. it endowed man with something of the divine. signs or passwords (synthemata). whereupon it may rightfully assume the form of the gods'. as it was for Plato. Better still. A Logion makes allusion to this: The paternal Intellect does not receive the will of the soul unless .
109) These voces mysticae by themselves have a sovereign efficacy. images. 'Never change barbarian names'. for their part. (Fr. VII. plants. charakteres or sacred letters (the seven vowels. 24) who. states that they proceed from a 'mysterious divine knowledge attributed to the Creator of the Universe' and that for the same reason These names are effective when they are spoken in a particular sequence which interweaves them. in the same way as other names uttered in the Egyptian tongue and addressed to certain demons .the latter has emerged from forgetfulness and proffered a word. pagans and Christians shared the same convictions. herbs. . remembering the pure paternal symbol. who were fired by a taste for innovation the barbarians. for the 'language of the sacred peoples' is secretly. Adonai and 'all the others held in great veneration among the Hebrews'. On this point Iamblichus is echoing Origen (Against Celsus. keep solidly to their old ways of talking: so they are looked upon kindly by the gods. inexpressibly. being constant in their customs. citing the names Sabaoth. for example). evidently. 5) justifies at length the advantage of 'barbarian' names which are in no way conventional. or others in the Persian dialect addressed to other powers. Unlike the Greeks. and offer them speeches which please them. talismans. . says an Oracle. In many respects. A whole system of 'channels' or connections was held to put men in communication with the . stones. Iamblichus (The Mysteries of Egypt. I. in harmony with 'the superior beings'. The symbola also included animals. In this respect the Logia remained true to oriental traditions.
215. Thus the heliotrope moves as much as it is capable of moving.gods. one would realize from the sound that it is offering a sort of hymn to the King. both forming a retinue. he who conceives the Intelligibles which are called inexpressible beauties. to use Iamblichus' expression (Photius. does the heliotrope move in accord with the Sun. they hymn the leaders who preside over their entire range . Bibliotheca. p. and by the same processes. It claimed to 'animate' idols and penetrate them with a 'divine presence'. the earth with the heavens. to the two luminaries of the world? For all beings pray according to the rank they occupy. and if one could but hear how it beats the air while twisting on its stem. Hence. . It also consecrated statues. such as the lion and the cock. The masters of the hieratic arts had thus discovered in this network of cosmic and hypercosmic sympathies 'the means of honoring the powers above' by the creation of 'symbols' that were acceptable to the divinity. . for example. The Chaldaean Oracles gave it their enigmatic backing: For the Intellect of the Father has sown the symbols throughout the world. the large number of heliacal animals. a law of antipathies was supposed to be able to thwart a maleficent influence. indeed. so that they were filled with the divine influx. Conversely. Do we not see the stones themselves breathe in time with the exhalations of the stars? . and the magic papyri bear that out. theurgy at the time seemed like a kind of thanksgiving or act of pantheistic piety. 173b). . Theurgy consecrated men. An admirable page On the Hieratic Art by Proclus helps us to understand the enthusiasm that this alchemical theurgy could arouse: Why. . This technique bore the name 'telestic'. With its appearances of magic. the Selenotrope with the Moon. . by enclosing in them some sacred . . . insofar as the plant can sing one . It had long been known in Egypt. like that of the demons of the air who hindered the soul's return to God. as far as they are able.
Their power resulted from a composition of herbs.name on a gold strip or the residue of a sacrifice. by virtue of the 'sympathy' which mystically linked them with this or that mineral or plant. in the Persian sanctuaries of Hierocaesarea and Hypaipa in Lydia. and predict it by means of spells. The Ascelpius (24) speaks of them as statues having a soul. songs of praise.(Ascelpius. it is so that the celestial element that has been introduced into the idol by the repeated practice of celestial rites may joyfully endure this long sojourn among men. full of the breath of life and which accomplish an infinity of marvels: they know the future. 27. conscious. Thus the theurgy Maximus of Ephesus was credited with making the statue of Hecate smile and it seems that her torches caught fire spontaneously. dreams and many other methods. And if one seeks to please them with numerous sacrifices. claimed to recognize immediately an idol that was 'animated'. But for a Hermetist. 38) The ingredients for the hollow idol had to be appropriate to the god or goddess it represented. 6) had witnessed Magi light altars from a distance by atoning 'barbarian' . according to the sensations he felt in its presence. following the 'channels' of connection joining the Earth to the Sky. Heraiscus. in keeping with the system explained by Proclus. Clever subterfuges could also impress the credulous. prophetic inspiration. Two centuries earlier. hymns. stones and spices which in themselves contain a power of divine efficacy. a Neoplatonist who remained faithful to the very end to his gods of Egypt. Pausanias (Description of Greece. 'sphragids' or magic intaglios of the kind I have mentioned. concerts of very sweet sounds that recall the harmony of the heavens. V. it was a matter if 'terrestrial gods'.
which seems to have had a liking for light-connected rites. to halt the offensive of the Christian Theodosius. it is not inconceivable that the Chaldaean theurges made use of a secret from an ancient oriental tradition. On this point. greatly enthused by the prestidigitatory talents of Maximus of Ephesus. Bibliotheca. The last pagans made much ado of this hieratic art. In vain Nicomachus Flavianus had statues of Jupiter erected on the Alps. It is even more surprising. 6. to discover that these Logia rubbed off strongly on Marius Victorinus .a converted Neoplatonist. was an avid reader of the Oracles. The Chaldaean Oracles left a profound mark on the great intellects of latter Neoplatonism.and on the bishop of Cyrene.confirms fr us the preponderance of Artemis-Hecate in these 'mysteries' of Chaldaean Neoplatonism. It consecrated idols and men. 26). wrote St. an idol consecrated at Rhegium (Reggio di Calabria) to divert Etna's lava flows was said to have prevented the Visigoth Alaric from getting into Sicily to ravage it (Olympiodorus. dominated Neoplatonism. 28) . though perhaps wrongly so. Life of Proclus.just life the 'Hecatic' fantasies of Proclus (Marinus. 80. 'consecrated by who knows what rites'. he was already evoking something of the theurgy which. When Plotinus taught that one must 'sculpt one's own statue' by purifying the soul (Enneads. Augustine (City of God. It is no surprise to learn that the emperor Julian. I. in Photius.chants. p. V. Telestics had the prestige of a science that put the crown on philosophy. 58a). . starting with Iamblichus. On the other hand. to a degree that is hard to conceive and whose importance is difficult to measure. it is true . 9). But the example of Maximus (who was from Ephesus) .
and in his reasoning on the luminous spectre of the 'pneumatic' soul. survived Justinian's prohibitions. thanks to whom we know a little more than through scattered quotations and allusions. Proclus was deemed to have benefitted from the luminous epiphanies of Hecate. To marry Mercury. or those with Chaldaean leanings. he shaped a gold rhombus containing a sapphire. This Hecate sphere or top had the name iunx. the Spring-Virgin and the 'Flower of the Fire'. in order to cause rain to fall on the soil of Attica. before reaching the Empyrean by traversing the seven planetary spheres. At the close of the fifth century. Philology submits to the immortalizing rites of theurgy. he builds his theory of the glorious body on the basis of a Chaldaean doctrine. author of an encyclopedia of the seven liberal arts which enjoyed a prodigious success throughout the Middle Ages. The whole literature was kept secretly and passionately devoured by good Christians such as Michael Psellos.Synesius. Using a strap cut from the hide of a sacrificed bull. She invokes the divine traids. secundum Platonis mysteria. These prayers are uttered. In the . The Chaldaean Oracles thus served as the hieros logos for these 'mysteries of Plato' which theurgy had become. In the West. The Chaldaean writings.He sings to God sublime hymns whose mystic esotericism is studded with Chaldaean expressions. w as absolutely filled with the doctrine and vocabulary of the Oracles. Synesius quotes them in his Treatise on Dreams. writes Martianus. made sacred by magic inscriptions. another Christianized Neoplatonist. the 'transcendentally One' and the 'transcendentally Two'. the African rhetor Martinus Capella.
keeping to the rules of Chaldaean theurgy: a singular homage of Byzantium to the 'barbarian' wisdom. Secretum secretorum index Atlas Games . an archbishop is even said to have carried out a 'theagogy' or summoning of the gods (or 'demons' for a Christian).publishers of Ars Magica Redcap . the religious distance was less. all in all. 2002 / Jeremiah Genest .Ars Magica portal Last modified: Mon Mar 04. from Proclus to the archbishop. With an interval of some six centuries. than from Marcus Aurelius to Iamblichus.eleventh century.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?