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