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Secretum secretorum

Secretum secretorum

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Secretum secretorum http://www.granta.demon.co.uk/arsm/jg/chaldaean-oracles.

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.

like the stelae of Hermes Trismegistus. and above all of Byzantine scholar Michael Psellos which help us to reconstruct part of the system. at least to judge by the fragments that have come down to us. In his Mysteries of Egypt. who lived in the reign of Marcus Aurelius (161-80). and who led Porphyry to take account of them. the Chaldaean Oracles served him as 'holy Scriptures'. except perhaps by the Neopythagorean Numenius (although the connections of his doctrine with that of the Chaldaean Oracles remains suspect). He was said to have contributed by his occult talents to aiding the Roman army on the Danubian front. But the celebrated Logia seem to have been forgotten for a century. he praises the virtues of theurgy and. Apparently it was Iamblichus who inspired a major renewal of interest in them. There is no evident trace of Julian's Logia to be detected in the Philosophy of Oracles. It is the commentaries of the Neoplatonists. who was related to the ancient priestly dynasty of Emesa and willingly played the role of hierophant or thaumaturge. he was credited with the 'miracle of the rain' which Cassius Dio attributes to the Magus Arnouphis. But many enigmas persist. was intent on sacralizing his philosophy. especially Damascius. The Logia of Julian the Theurge involve a complex theology whose hierarchic structure is not limpidly clear. legitimizing his system in the names of the gods. Why this sudden passion for Chaldaeanism at the end of the third century? Iamblichus of Chalcis. written and published before Porphyry's meeting with Plotinus. What the Byzantine reveals to us is not always . the author of a work on demons. known as the 'Theurge'. The Suda made him the son of a 'Chaldaean philosopher' of the same name.These oracles were ascribed Julian.

who apparently preside over the perfecting of creation. But this supreme God is a 'triadic monad'. the 'Assemblers' who unify 'the processions of the plurality of beings' (Psellos) and the Teletarchs. the Iynges or 'diviners'. He is simultaneously 'one and threefold'. 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. recurs frequently in the argumentation of the Neoplatonists. taking his inspiration from an infinitely more complex theology. The second Intellect is the 'craftsman of the igneous world'. ascribable to Proclus and perhaps already reconstructed by Iamblichus. a kind of demiurge of the Empyrean. the alleged 'Chaldaeans' seem to have conceived a 'transcendental first Fire'. At the summit of the divine hierarchy. They call this 'Fire' the 'Father' or 'Hypercosmic Paternal Abyss'. which the oracles seem to identify respectively with the 'transcendentally One' (hapax epekeina) and the 'transcendentally Two' (dis epekeina). although Psellos in his Summary Outline of the ancient beliefs accepted 'among the Chaldaeans' places this triad after many others. he dominates the triad which he forms with a second Intellect and an intermediary 'Power'. that the Oracles call Hecate. This father 'has created all things in perfection': he has conceived them in the intelligible world. 'masters of consecration' or 'perfection'. Psellos . The 'Power' of Hecate both unites and dissociates the first and second Fires. In fact.obviously consistent with the letter of the Oracles. The scheme of this 'Father-Power-Intellect' triad which is typically Chaldaean but of philosophical origin.

But Porphyry. angels. the 'azonal' gods established above the visible gods which are the stars. the archangels. demons. the Zônaioi or gods who control the celestial 'girdles' (zônai). St.subordinates to these triads the 'Source-Fathers' or Cosmagi ('guides' or 'conductors of the worlds'). 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. 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 . the 'demiurgic Sources'. 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. Theurgy precisely permits the purification of the 'pneumatic' part of the soul. then three 'Implacable ones' (Ameiliktoi) and a seventh god who is said to be 'girded below' (Hypezôkôs). who appears to have been somewhat reserved or skeptical about the effects of this theurgy. Man must be 'consecrated' body and soul in order to escape evil demons. they made it fit 'to welcome the angels and see the gods'. In Book X of his City of God. in which he speaks of the teletes or rites of consecration by the Sun and Moon. inclining towards the Intelligible by purifying its intellect or concentrating it towards the light. For the soul that has issued from the paternal Fire. 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. Next. the generating principles of life. salvation obviously lies in turning its gaze away from the tangible world.

This theology of fire. either as lightning. City of God. IV. 'flaring' torches or 'flowers of fire'. with Marcus Aurelius. so to speak. recalls that of the Stoics. 'implacable' thunderbolts. one glimpses nothing but flames. 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. lightning flashes. torrents. would seem to have made use of their talents in the Antonine era.have paralyzed the 'powers conjured up by the sacred prayers' (Augustine. This image of genital seed giving life to the world like the pneuma. and often burns the intervening air' (Plutarch. The paternal Intellect 'inseminates' in all its works 'the heavy bond of the fire of Love' and spreads it like a 'flower'. wild moving picture. sparks. However. like the theurges. or the creative and life-imparting breath. floods. 1). one thinks of the bees which. These visions have the contrasting bursts of light of a weird. 35. gushes and rumblings. omnipresent in the Oracles. in a passage heavily tinged with . that is. in Virgil (Georgics. blazes. 9). a kind of imperial blessing. or the dazzling or scintillating light in the multiplicity of souls and beings. Of course. Fire is. 220ff). and more precisely of fire as 'artist'. raging storms.fire of the Stoics is implied in several fragments. X. The two Julians. the 'Chaldaean' and the 'Theurge'. whirlwinds. the 'spiritually' and intellectually purified soul eludes sidereal destiny. The ideas that 'gush out humming' from the paternal source are compared to swarms which 'gather in abundance the flower of the fire'. Life of Alexander. Reading through the preserved fragments of the Logia. at a time when the ideas of the Stoa enjoyed their greatest success and even.

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). in any case. 18) who. . which matches an oracle quoted by Psellos. incorporates a multiple and very composite philosophical heritage. with a scholastic jargon enhanced by imagery that may have a religious origin. is 'girded below'. according to Numenius (?) Identifies the bees born of the bull . 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. which identifies it with Hecate. The 'Power of the Father'. Hecate. those souls who drink the nectar of the fire flower. are said to possess a particle of divine intelligence and an emanation from the Empyrean. A line in the Logia says precisely that 'the flower of the fire has donned a girdle'. Martianus Capella (Marriage of Mercury and Philology.with souls that have entered the world of creation. 554ff) . and which also has bees on it.Stoicism. This particular detail of clothing brings to mind the garment which tightly enwraps the Artemis of Ephesus. 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. But this oracular literature. This goddess. is the source of souls and virtues. One also remembers Porphyry (The Cavern of the Nymphs. Georgics. The Father has 'breathed into the seven firmaments of the world'.as in the bougonia of Aristaeus (Virgil. whose influence on the moderate Platonism of the Antonine period should not be underestimated. IV. II. whom another lne seems to confuse with Rhea.

The Hurrian-Hittite gods of the thunderbolt have nothing to do with the visions of lightning and storms that permeate them. 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. The iconography of the armed goddess Allat. It is true that the leonine symbolism of fire is not peculiar to Mithraism or Chaldaeanism. even the Heliopolitan triad. could not observe these idols without rethinking them . or on Kronos (?) from whom are launched the 'implacable thunderbolts'. perhaps symbolizing the luminous firmament of the heavens. the religious imagination of the Oracles has nothing specifically Babylonian or even oriental. The image of the lion is associated with the thunderbolt in Fragment 147. In any case. with its Father-God and Son-God separated by a girdled Atargatis. of the Artemis-Hecate of Ephesus. one is tempted to compare the oracles in the Aiôn. Now. drawing from the Father the fire and intelligence that give life to the worlds. But did he have it in mind when he was compiling the Logia? This cannot be stated with any certainty.But she also bears the warrior attributes of Athena. But intellectuals who were steeped and passionately interested in Greek philosophy. Martianus Capella mentions the gleaming veil woven by Pallas to envelop the head of Jupiter. Again. and Martianus Capella precisely gives Pallas the title 'flower of the fire' (flos ignis). was probably know to Julian the Theurge. on a first reading.

14): God has fastened beneath him all the things of becoming without being himself contained by any of them. even the demonology. which effect the theurgic union. a hundred years later. which I have compared to the girded idols. there is nothing in the Chaldaean system that cannot be explained according to Greek philosophy. By then.from the doctrinal and allegorical viewpoint. heard by the gods alone. So theurgy was contrasted with magic. But in the time of Marcus Aurelius Greek philosophy was no longer sufficient unto itself. in his treatise on images. is certainly of peripatetic origin. an initiation that would make them fit to enter into contact with those gods. Theurgy was a 'divine action'. So it is not our . following the approach of Porphyry. is to be found in Philo of Alexandria (The Descendants of Cain. 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. syncretic and theosophic constructions that had derived from it required a mysterious oracular consecration and a pseudo-oriental coloring like that of Chaldaean theurgy. as well as the power of mute symbols. In fact. of the Oracles have been laid at the door of Mazdaeism. with which certain apparent procedures might encourage a comparison. The worship of fire and the dualism. It therefore required on the part of those who practiced it consecration through piety and purification which brought them close to the gods. 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. which 'acted on the gods' because it was divine. Even the image of the deity girt about below its chest. in this sense.

As for Sallustius the telete puts us in communion with the gods and the world they mysteriously fill with their power. whom these signs concern. of reaching and imitating God by the elevation of the mind to pure Ideas. by means of 'symbols'. without being awoken by our thought. effect their own work. and the ineffable power of the gods. This 'ceremonial robe-donning' also refers to mystery rituals.thought which carries out these acts. 2). signs or passwords (synthemata). theurgy was a ritual which caused a current to pass between the human and the divine. but 'with the support of divine signs [synthemata]. itself recognizes its own images by itself. indeed. by themselves. II. The synthemata are sacred phrases of recognition. like the mysta in his initiation. First among the 'symbols' come the divine names. presents a double aspect: it is practiced by men. through the ineffable symbols. as it was for Plato. The Mysteries of Egypt. the signs (synthemata) themselves. as Iamblichus proceeds to explain to us (ibid. A Logion makes allusion to this: The paternal Intellect does not receive the will of the soul unless . dons the hieratic garb of the gods'. Theurgy. 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. After death. Without our thinking about it. for then their effectiveness would be intellectual and would be dependent on us. and takes its direction harmoniously following their command. whereupon it may rightfully assume the form of the gods'. by their means it rises to the superior beings with whom it unites. The theurgy 'in some way. the soul needs to be recognized by the gods.(Iamblichus. It is no longer a matter. Better still. IV. the theurgy makes himself known to and recognized by the gods. 11) In other words.

for the 'language of the sacred peoples' is secretly. images. 'Never change barbarian names'. keep solidly to their old ways of talking: so they are looked upon kindly by the gods. 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 harmony with 'the superior beings'. In this respect the Logia remained true to oriental traditions. . evidently. A whole system of 'channels' or connections was held to put men in communication with the . Unlike the Greeks. inexpressibly. herbs. pagans and Christians shared the same convictions.the latter has emerged from forgetfulness and proffered a word. I. for their part. In many respects. or others in the Persian dialect addressed to other powers. remembering the pure paternal symbol. On this point Iamblichus is echoing Origen (Against Celsus. Adonai and 'all the others held in great veneration among the Hebrews'. VII. in the same way as other names uttered in the Egyptian tongue and addressed to certain demons . who were fired by a taste for innovation the barbarians. Iamblichus (The Mysteries of Egypt. 5) justifies at length the advantage of 'barbarian' names which are in no way conventional. (Fr. The symbola also included animals. 24) who. says an Oracle. charakteres or sacred letters (the seven vowels. citing the names Sabaoth. and offer them speeches which please them. . being constant in their customs. stones. 109) These voces mysticae by themselves have a sovereign efficacy. talismans. plants. for example).

. An admirable page On the Hieratic Art by Proclus helps us to understand the enthusiasm that this alchemical theurgy could arouse: Why. . to the two luminaries of the world? For all beings pray according to the rank they occupy. theurgy at the time seemed like a kind of thanksgiving or act of pantheistic piety. Hence. and if one could but hear how it beats the air while twisting on its stem. . insofar as the plant can sing one . With its appearances of magic. 215. one would realize from the sound that it is offering a sort of hymn to the King. 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. Thus the heliotrope moves as much as it is capable of moving. indeed. a law of antipathies was supposed to be able to thwart a maleficent influence. This technique bore the name 'telestic'. such as the lion and the cock. . so that they were filled with the divine influx. p. It also consecrated statues. Theurgy consecrated men. both forming a retinue.gods. 173b). Do we not see the stones themselves breathe in time with the exhalations of the stars? . to use Iamblichus' expression (Photius. he who conceives the Intelligibles which are called inexpressible beauties. for example. It had long been known in Egypt. by enclosing in them some sacred . the earth with the heavens. Conversely. as far as they are able. they hymn the leaders who preside over their entire range . the large number of heliacal animals. It claimed to 'animate' idols and penetrate them with a 'divine presence'. The Chaldaean Oracles gave it their enigmatic backing: For the Intellect of the Father has sown the symbols throughout the world. the Selenotrope with the Moon. Bibliotheca. like that of the demons of the air who hindered the soul's return to God. and by the same processes. . and the magic papyri bear that out. . does the heliotrope move in accord with the Sun. .

dreams and many other methods. The Ascelpius (24) speaks of them as statues having a soul. 27. 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. V. in the Persian sanctuaries of Hierocaesarea and Hypaipa in Lydia. full of the breath of life and which accomplish an infinity of marvels: they know the future.name on a gold strip or the residue of a sacrifice. prophetic inspiration. 6) had witnessed Magi light altars from a distance by atoning 'barbarian' . in keeping with the system explained by Proclus. 38) The ingredients for the hollow idol had to be appropriate to the god or goddess it represented. But for a Hermetist. songs of praise. claimed to recognize immediately an idol that was 'animated'. stones and spices which in themselves contain a power of divine efficacy. Their power resulted from a composition of herbs. it was a matter if 'terrestrial gods'. Clever subterfuges could also impress the credulous. 'sphragids' or magic intaglios of the kind I have mentioned.(Ascelpius. following the 'channels' of connection joining the Earth to the Sky. concerts of very sweet sounds that recall the harmony of the heavens. by virtue of the 'sympathy' which mystically linked them with this or that mineral or plant. And if one seeks to please them with numerous sacrifices. a Neoplatonist who remained faithful to the very end to his gods of Egypt. and predict it by means of spells. hymns. according to the sensations he felt in its presence. Two centuries earlier. Pausanias (Description of Greece. Thus the theurgy Maximus of Ephesus was credited with making the statue of Hecate smile and it seems that her torches caught fire spontaneously. conscious. Heraiscus.

was an avid reader of the Oracles. 58a). 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. greatly enthused by the prestidigitatory talents of Maximus of Ephesus. in Photius. to a degree that is hard to conceive and whose importance is difficult to measure. dominated Neoplatonism. 26). Bibliotheca. which seems to have had a liking for light-connected rites. But the example of Maximus (who was from Ephesus) . The Chaldaean Oracles left a profound mark on the great intellects of latter Neoplatonism.chants. Life of Proclus. 80. starting with Iamblichus. to discover that these Logia rubbed off strongly on Marius Victorinus . wrote St. On the other hand. The last pagans made much ado of this hieratic art. It is no surprise to learn that the emperor Julian. 9). On this point. 28) .and on the bishop of Cyrene. it is true . In vain Nicomachus Flavianus had statues of Jupiter erected on the Alps. 6.a converted Neoplatonist. 'consecrated by who knows what rites'. p. . it is not inconceivable that the Chaldaean theurges made use of a secret from an ancient oriental tradition. I. Telestics had the prestige of a science that put the crown on philosophy. though perhaps wrongly so.confirms fr us the preponderance of Artemis-Hecate in these 'mysteries' of Chaldaean Neoplatonism.just life the 'Hecatic' fantasies of Proclus (Marinus. V. It is even more surprising. to halt the offensive of the Christian Theodosius. When Plotinus taught that one must 'sculpt one's own statue' by purifying the soul (Enneads. he was already evoking something of the theurgy which. Augustine (City of God.

Proclus was deemed to have benefitted from the luminous epiphanies of Hecate. Using a strap cut from the hide of a sacrificed bull. These prayers are uttered. made sacred by magic inscriptions. At the close of the fifth century. he builds his theory of the glorious body on the basis of a Chaldaean doctrine. She invokes the divine traids. the 'transcendentally One' and the 'transcendentally Two'. Philology submits to the immortalizing rites of theurgy. the Spring-Virgin and the 'Flower of the Fire'. thanks to whom we know a little more than through scattered quotations and allusions. he shaped a gold rhombus containing a sapphire. The Chaldaean writings. Synesius quotes them in his Treatise on Dreams. In the West. another Christianized Neoplatonist. w as absolutely filled with the doctrine and vocabulary of the Oracles. secundum Platonis mysteria. writes Martianus. This Hecate sphere or top had the name iunx. in order to cause rain to fall on the soil of Attica. before reaching the Empyrean by traversing the seven planetary spheres. author of an encyclopedia of the seven liberal arts which enjoyed a prodigious success throughout the Middle Ages.Synesius. the African rhetor Martinus Capella. survived Justinian's prohibitions. and in his reasoning on the luminous spectre of the 'pneumatic' soul. The whole literature was kept secretly and passionately devoured by good Christians such as Michael Psellos. or those with Chaldaean leanings. In the . To marry Mercury. The Chaldaean Oracles thus served as the hieros logos for these 'mysteries of Plato' which theurgy had become.He sings to God sublime hymns whose mystic esotericism is studded with Chaldaean expressions.

than from Marcus Aurelius to Iamblichus.eleventh century. the religious distance was less. 2002 / Jeremiah Genest . With an interval of some six centuries.publishers of Ars Magica          Redcap . all in all.Ars Magica portal Last modified: Mon Mar 04. from Proclus to the archbishop. keeping to the rules of Chaldaean theurgy: a singular homage of Byzantium to the 'barbarian' wisdom. an archbishop is even said to have carried out a 'theagogy' or summoning of the gods (or 'demons' for a Christian). Secretum secretorum index Atlas Games .

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