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Dissertation: The Theurgy of Iamblichus
The Theurgy of Iamblichus
The concept of theurgy or “god-working” as described by Iamblichus was not a new concept to the ancient world, but was one that Iamblichus placed firmly at the centre of the Neoplatonic tradition of philosophical Greece. Theurgy, a system of ritualistic and, arguably “magical” practice, as described by Iamblichus, had the highest aims of uniting man with the very gods. I will show how theurgy did not stand in opposition to the more strictly rationalistic Platonic tradition, but was in fact, an extension and development of the tradition’s essential intelligible tenets. In the course of this essay, I will discuss some of the fundamental characteristics by which Iamblichus defined theurgy, looking specifically at the chief work where theurgy is discussed, De Mysteriis, a dialogue created by what is now generally believed to be Iamblichus, but under a pseudo-identity of an Egyptian priest answering questions raised against theurgy by Iamblichus’ fellow contemporary and Platonist, Porphyry. It is my aim not so much to attempt to say what has not been said before about Iamblichean theurgy, but, rather to look the past research as well as the De Mysteriis text itself and attempt to place Iamblichean theurgy into perspective as a respectable and sensible development of the Platonic and Neoplatonic world-view.
Theurgy, from the Greek theorgia, means literally “god-working” or “divine working”1 and was a ritualistic method advocated by Iamblichus for the purpose of invoking the gods with a view to attaining the power of a god and of harmonizing the soul to both the natural world and a higher spiritual order. Put another way, the goal of theurgy was self-salvation. Self-salvation in the sense that the theurgist would bring about his or her salvation by means of their own efforts, yet with the qualification that the gods themselves would very much assist in the process. Although there is no agreement among scholars as to who first used the term theurgy (or theorgia) it is generally consented that Iamblichus was not the first to use the term, but that he was the first to stress its importance as a systematic means of philosophical2 development and self-perfection. There is currently some disagreement on the exact origins of the term theurgy. Gregory Shaw points out in Theurgy and the Soul (p. 5):
theos = god, ergon = work That is: “philosophical” in the true etymological sense of the word, not as a mere exercise in discursive thought, but as pertaining to that which is conducive to the production of wisdom (including that kind of wisdom that lies beyond discursive thought).
Dissertation: The Theurgy of Iamblichus
Although the term theorgia originated with second century Platonists to describe the deifying power of Chaldean rituals…it was Iamblichus who provided a philosophical rationale for the performance of these rites and ensured that theurgy would become an integral part of Platonic vocabulary. Porphyry in the third century also recommended it, albeit only in certain circumstances, not as a practice for the philosopher.3 On the other hand, Neoplatonist scholar, R. T. Wallis also gives this description of the origin of theurgy: The term theurgy with its etymological connotation of “divine work” seems to have been coined by the younger Julian, in deliberate contrast to theology which only talks about the gods; by the Neoplatonists it is also contrasted with theoria, the philosophical contemplation advocated by Plotinus, whose deficiency the theurgists similarly stressed. The methods of theurgy were essentially those of ritual magic, its aim the incarnation of a divine force either in a material object, such as a statue, or in a human being, the result being a state of prophetic trance.4 The Emperor Julian, as a determined exponent of paganism, had wanted Iamblichus with his theurgy to offer some serious competition to the growing popularity of Christianity. 5
The Egyptian factor The main place where we find a discussion of Iamblichean theurgy is his De Mysteriis Aegyptiorum6, often referred to simply as De Mysteriis (the original title of this work being The Answer of master Abammon to a letter sent by Porphyry to Anebo and solution of the difficulties which can be found there). The stated author for this was an Egyptian Priest called Abammon. The text itself is presented by the author as an extended reply to the criticisms directed against theurgy by Porphyry to the Egyptian Theurgist Anebo; with Abammon, the Spiritual Teacher of Anebo, replying.
“Iamblichus had been led to the higher reaches of Platonism by Porphyry, and although Porphyry also introduced Iamblichus to theurgy it was Iamblichus who discovered its deeper significance. For Porphyry, theurgy functioned as a mere preparation for the philosophic life and was to be left on the periphery of the higher disciplines. Iamblichus, on the other hand, moved theurgy from the periphery to the centre, not only in the life of the philosopher, but for anyone who worshipped the gods.” (Shaw, p. 14). And Wallis, on p.108 (of Neoplatonism), says: “In his [Porphyry’s] view it [theurgy] was an easier first step for those unable to pursue philosophy directly; it was unnecessary to the philosopher and could not by itself lead the soul back to the Intelligible world” (see below for an account of the Intelligible world, the world of nous). 4 Wallis Neoplatonism 1972, p.107 5 Gillian Clark writes: “The emperor Maximin Daia, during the Great Persecution, had decided that what paganism lacked was a visible, integrated, spiritually authoritative priesthood. Julian, in his brief reign (361-3), went further, proposing basic religious teaching and a budget for charitable activities to make the pagan priesthoods an exact parallel to the Christian clergy. As Emperor he could supply the budget: it was the writings of Iamblichus which were to train the priests.” (Iamblichus: On the Pythagorean Life, pp. xii-xiii) 6 Thomas Taylor gave it the even longer title of On the Mysteries of the Egyptians, Chaldeans and Assyrians. We note, however, that, although the latter two systems are mentioned in the work, the primacy is given to the Egyptians.
and I believe we can. and 2) the comparison between the language used in the De Mysteriis with other works by Iamblichus which authenticity is out of question. and also that Abammon and Anebo Teacher and student of Iamblichean theurgy . p.101. Only in the 19th century [the distinguished German philologist] Zeller. it has been taken even by those arguing thus that it was written by a member of Iamblichus’ school. and he blamed them for the loss of sanctity in his age. seems guaranteed by the testimony of Proclus” (Neoplatonism.E. goes as far as to say: Understand that the Egyptians were the first of mankind that were allotted to communion with the gods. especially in terms of his support of rational philosophy and choice of a contemplative approach to the divine. 7 3 . than to rational discourse and philosophical contemplation. further doubts are rare. and the gods that are invoked delight in the Egyptian customs. 9 Although some six centuries earlier (than Iamblichus).” . therefore. (VII. And by “religious”. that is.goddess-athena. After this demonstration. p.” 10 Shaw says: “Iamblichus was not a proponent of “Hellenic” culture in the manner of his enthusiastic student Julian. I believe it is significant that the Egyptians are mentioned before the Chaldeans and Assyrians in the title of the work. Aside from his birth. seeing in theurgy too much of a likeness to what they saw as the irrational and even superstitious bent of Christianity. but it should be borne in mind that Plotinus was not an exponent of Egyptian religion. I mean ritualistic and more inclined to ceremony.are themselves Egyptians. doubted during the nineteenth century.9) 8 It should be noted that although Plotinus. Lewelyn Dissertation: The Theurgy of Iamblichus It has been disputed by some7 whether this work was actually written by Iamblichus (using Abammon merely as a pseudonym) or literally by an Egyptian Priest called Abammon. who was an exponent of theurgy. prayer and invocation of deity. Harless. and was none the less rational for it. Indeed… Iamblichus claimed in the De Mysteriis that “Hellenes” had already abandoned their religious heritage. K. following others (Meiners. Some have argued that the literary style of De Mysteriis is not that of Iamblichus as he is known by his other works.3) 11 Neoplatonism. like that of no other race. Wallis says: “ [De Mysteriis] whose authenticity. (Theurgy and the Soul p. I would argue that it was this Egyptian influence that appeared so alien to the more typically rational-minded Greek Neoplatonists8. Plotinus was in every respect quite Hellenic in his outlook. Nevertheless. for it seems that the Egyptian influence was of central importance in the concept of theurgy. so far as can be established. By this I mean that the Egyptians were more religious9 than rational in their approach to understanding the universe. clearly by an advocate of theurgy. 1858) declared himself against the authenticity of the work and attributed it to a disciple of Iamblichus. take it that the views expressed in the work concord with what Iamblichus himself believed and taught as regards theurgy and the spiritual justification for its use.L. the founder of Neoplatonism was.htm Similarly. Rasche gave decisive arguments in favor of the attribution to Iamblichus: 1) the testimonies made by Proclus and Damascius.” And “Iamblichus similarly praised the Egyptians and explained the power of their hieratic rites”. Egyptian. and was not at all typically Egyptian. 15) This having been said it may also have been the anti-Christian bias of some of the Neoplatonic philosophers which caused them to view Theurgy with suspicion.org/Encyclopedia/Friends/Iamblichus/On_the_Mysteries_x. 10 And Iamblichus himself in the De Mysteriis. 1781. But in 1911. Wallis writes: “That Jews and Christians demanded belief in propositions for which they were unable to furnish proof was a commonplace of Platonic criticism…”11 Porphyry in particular had written a treatise called “Against As one website article put it: “The authenticity of the De Mysteriis was without question to the first translators and editors. it is interesting to note that Herodotus in his History (Book II) describes the Egyptians as being “religious to excess.from: http://www.
following as though it was not first in rank but accompanying in subservience to the good pleasure of the gods. 13 12 4 . Iamblichus goes on describing what he means by these differences: In regard to the extreme races (the gods and souls) the former is chief. before looking directly at the nature of Iamblichean theurgy.L. there is a definite hierarchy of divine beings. (DM I. and excels it in every good quality which is incident in souls. As he says in De Mysteriis: Such then being the case with the divine races. Lewelyn Dissertation: The Theurgy of Iamblichus the Christians” which was subsequently burned by the Church. which not only ranks higher than the order of souls in power and virtue. For Iamblichus.2) Although Iamblichus sees the main task of theurgy to ultimately involve assimilation to. the gods. Ibid.E. 15 “Superiors races” refers to the various races (groups) of divine beings. namely: 1. The former can do all things at once uniformly and now. another that of daemons. but the latter has a natural disposition to yield and to turn submissively toward what it generates and has under guardianship. The other. superior and perfect.3). Porphyry. the races of Superior beings are not in the bodies. moral beauty and greatness. The former generates all things and is guardian over them. let us consider the two races intermediate between these two extremes. the first and the last (the gods and souls). Human souls occupied the bottom rung and gods the upper rung of this divine hierarchical ladder.3) Ibid. and cooperation with. power over their environment and levels of perfection that define them. the race of dæmons. 14 At the very start of the Epistle (Ch. It is rather their functions. He says: “Further still. one being the race (or group) of gods. Daemons and Demigods Since theurgy consists of working with the divine. and souls by bodies pertaining to the earth. they are entirely incorporeal. in his letter to Anebo asks for a definition of the differences between gods and daemons. it would be useful to outline Iamblichus’ view of the divine in general and divine beings in particular. but govern them from outside. yet is in a certain sense inferior to them.” (DM I. as they do not possess bodies at all. which is closely allied to the gods. like the Chaldean and Assyrian Priests.1). this does not mean that theurgy did not also entail working with the daemons as well. etc. 2. (DM I.12 Plotinus before him had raised similar criticisms against the Gnostics13. demigods and human souls and if it is a "…a classification established by difference of bodies. the other is inferior and imperfect. with demigods (or “heroes”) and daemons in the intermediate area. the daemons by aerial bodies. but the other is neither able to do anything completely nor immediately. but is also closely joined to them by the kindred relationship of a similar form of life. the gods being distinguished by aetherial bodies. Gods."14 Iamblichus replies that it is not a difference of types of bodies that defines “superior races”15. neither speedily nor individually. That of heroes or half-gods.
require a “token of devotion”. we can certainly gain a clear insight into the general nature of the theurgy advocated by Iamblichus. the form of devotion yielded (or offering given) must be appropriate to the particular deity with whom one is working. in an ad loc. in the divine descents which are visible there occurs manifest injury to those who leave any of the superior beings unhonored… (Ibid. we can confine ourselves to gods and daemons. Iamblichus stresses the importance of being thorough in one’s theurgy. And. bringing to every one the gifts in his power that are most suitable and acceptable. the whole becomes out of tune and discordant… As therefore. Before outlining the important distinction between working with a daemon and working with a god. it was fabled. They were adopted evidently from Judaea or Assyria about the same time”. especially as regards the gods themselves: They are also aware that the omissions. including invocation of deity. and address every one according to the honour to which he is entitled. postulates the following example of what Iamblichus may mean: “Aeneus. therefore. who does not bestow on all of them what he should.L. always remains safe and without blame. Wilder.) Iamblichus does not state exactly what this “manifest injury” is. the king of Kalydon. Only then do they work as initiatory rites of passage into the mysteries of the divine. 16 Honouring the gods Iamblichus is nowhere specific in any of his extant writings as to what exact practices constitute his brand of theurgy. as it states in the text itself. is made to go away uninitiated and disappointed of the participation with the gods. once celebrated a sacrifice at which he omitted to honor the goddess 16 Wilder says in an ad loc. we will first look at what exactly theurgy involves. though few. that all who delight in the spectacle of Theurgic reality will acknowledge this: that it is not proper to render to the gods partially or imperfectly the devotion which is rendered to them…He. purificatory rites17 and sacrifice. note to DM V. although we cannot tie him down to specific details as to what these precise rituals might be. therefore. note to this section.e. 17 i. the two classes of beings that Iamblichus mentions in respect to the theurgist. just as when in a harmony a single chord is broken. Lewelyn Dissertation: The Theurgy of Iamblichus Iamblichus adds into his hierarchy other races of divine beings such as angels and archons.E. (DM V. therefore.13) The rites of theurgy. having well and most carefully accomplished the reception of the divine chorus. but for the sake of our discussion of theurgy. But he who propitiates them all. 5 . One most important aspect of theurgy is the honouring of the gods: I think. defeat the whole performance of the Sacred Rite. yet this may be simply because. rituals of spiritual purification. but it is obvious from a general reading of his works that he is always talking generally about some sort of ritualistic or ceremonial work.13: “The angels are not a common constituent in the Egyptian and Hellenic categories. What this token of devotion may be is never spelled out by Iamblichus. nor does he give any examples of it.
Thus. flows out like a fountain .while paradoxically still not “losing” any part of itself in the flowing or experiencing any diminution of substance . Intellect then. the moral life consists of what is conducive to a return to the One.seems obvious enough from his own writings. For Iamblichus. (DM VIII. as some may therefore imagine.16)18 18 MacKenna translation. unqualified. unity of the first level (the One). (Ibid. there was a supreme One (often described as a supreme deity) that resided over and above the many individual gods and goddesses. this same goal could be achieved via theurgy. of the theurgist who would otherwise benefit from it. but. it seems clear that what Iamblichus means is that. emanates yet another hypostasis. and. for Iamblichus. returning back to the Intelligible Principle within (which is independent of the body).) Perhaps the “manifest injury” that Iamblichus refers to is simply a destruction of the effectiveness of the theurgy. He does not. for the most favourable of consequences. still contains a measure of unity albeit of a secondary nature. and a return back to the One from the many. the theurgy should be performed with thoroughness.L. and then finally attaining unto union with the One itself. Intellect “thinks” the (Platonic) Forms and sustains them. but.E. extending from above to the farthest extremes. 6 . in pure thought. This level of reality although composite and not possessing the perfect. to sum up the overall process that Plotinus describes we might say that it is of two parts: the descent from the One to the many.and emanates out a somewhat lower level or hypostasis of being.” Iamblichus continues: He who leaves any of them [the gods] without a gift holds the whole thing fast and destroys the one and entire arrangement. For Plotinus. individual souls (of organic beings) are formed. The One and the many To understand Iamblichus’ general worldview. however. simply “God”). That this view influenced Iamblichus’ thinking – as it did the entire Neoplatonic movement . She by way of punishment sent a boar to ravage his dominions. called Intellect or Mind (nous). becoming again the true divine and perfected self. moral virtue. For. through its own natural superabundance. he absolutely overturns the whole purpose of the Sacred Rite. He puts it thus: The system of the Egyptian priests in relation to the First Principles. Plotinus. and the undefined realm of nature being placed under a defined measure of authority. on the other hand. begins from the One and passes on to the multitude: the many being guided and directed by the one. The One (the Good or. Lewelyn Dissertation: The Theurgy of Iamblichus Artemis. Either way. involving detaching from material preoccupations (the world of multiplicity). and within this level. it is perhaps best to look at one of Iamblichus’ great Neoplatonic predecessor Plotinus who spoke of the One over the many. even of the one Supreme Cause of all things. in a timeless. where Iamblichus differs most from Plotinus is in his adopted methodology as regards the process of returning to the One. called Soul (pusche). rational philosophy and pure contemplation were the means employed to attain union with the One. eternal state. make the reception an imperfect one. therefore. in turn.
they are content… (DM V. whose goal is union with the whole of the universe. indeed. and so. because of all the powers which they present to view. it is proper accordingly that the Sacred Performance shall copy its various features. the primary and secondary races. even the many that are self-existent with them. all things.13) The other reason Iamblichus gives for the multiplicity of rites and the worship of many gods is that the universe itself is multiform and varied in its manifestation and structure. as an alternative to invoking the many different aspects of the divine represented by many different gods. containing. and the first. and only with the exceedingly few. I may be answered. rather. Hence. the ultimate goal of theurgy was union with Unity. His answer is that this type of (what we might call) henotheistic approach. and is constituted in many orders. yet at the same time. everything in them is one. for the vast majority. if the cosmos is manifold and entire. having It for their source and origin. so it is proper that the complete ceremonial of the Sacred Rites. shall be joined with the whole category of the superior races. (DM V. it must be of such a nature that even the various manifest forms arising from It must partake of Its nature.L. a more indirect and dispersed form of theurgic beatific beholding of divinity . and so it is only natural that theurgy. and this reflects in Iamblichus’ view that all the gods were related to an underlying divinity common to all: Inasmuch as the gods are all arranged as absolutely one. but this takes place at a very late period. for the vast majority. the intermediate and lowest races coexist as the One itself.13) Nevertheless. transcending. for the self-same essence that is indeed in them is the one of their own substance (DM I. in respect to these. preside together over the universe as one.would be better adapted to their needs and level of attainment: Does not the highest part of the Sacred Technic recur of itself to the One Supreme above the whole multitude of divinities. and yet at the same time worship in him the many essences and principalities? Certainly. working directly and immediately with the divine in its totality and unity is “too much” to ask and that. is fine for those who are sufficiently spiritually advanced and mature enough to do so. The description here given by Iamblichus of the many gods partaking of the unified essence of the one supreme God (the One itself) is comparable to Plotinus’ 7 . Lewelyn Dissertation: The Theurgy of Iamblichus Iamblichus raises the question in De Mysteriis as to whether or not this supreme deity should not just be invoked directly. Certainly. 4) As the One is a totality and perfect cosmic unity. it is of no use to enquire whence the One is brought into reciprocal relations with them all. unceasing and entire. focussing on the supreme deity. since this one supreme god will contain all other principalities (including the various gods) within its all-pervading bosom. should also be of this multifarious nature: …as the universe is a system from many orders combined into one. but such people are few and far between.E.via the worship of several individual aspects of the supreme (gods) . and if it comes at the very sunset of life.
” (V. some form or idea from the monad in each of the successive numbers.R. the conceptions and creative qualities of those powers. it is the complete fulfilling of the arcane performances. for instance cite the Enneads where it says: “And just as there is. which is not an enslaving God (as the Gnostics held). (DM X. but to something transcendent of and superior to it. who arranges all things in order. the carrying of them through in a manner worthy of the gods and surpassing all conception. though unequally. as E. is. we might. not to something inferior to reason.L. 8 .the later still participating. and with all the divine powers that pervade it. this is not the case.19 The (ultimate) goal of theurgy The Iamblichean theurgist seeks to unite with each of the individual deities and thus to gradually develop the powers of the soul through the ritualistic and ceremonial work. is the end of the "Return" as taught in the Sacred Records. to the absolute. as there was in the prevailing Gnostic sects of the day. the supreme divine force. and likewise the 19 Among many examples. places it in his charge. it aimed to take its practitioner beyond thought and discursive reasoning. Dodds implied. then it leads the soul to the creator of the world.8. in actual truth. spiritual. in my opinion. And it should be noted that there was no negative view of the creator of the world. The soul of the theurgist is to unite with this power. Then it inserts the soul in the entire Demiurgic God. however. in the unit.18) Here. the divine creator: After the theurgic discipline has conjoined the soul individually with the several departments of the universe.V. the efficient.E. and other creative powers of God: thus establishing the theurgic soul in the energies. but one that “frees the soul’. The theurgist does not dispense with rationality as such. It was not. He who sustains the universe. and frees it of everything pertaining to the realm of matter…What I am saying is this: That it unites the soul individually to the One. On the other hand. who leads it to the supreme truth. the demiurgos. with the Egyptian Sages. from having the theurgic union to the gods? Now. self-moving. as in Christianity. Lewelyn Dissertation: The Theurgy of Iamblichus description of the Forms in the intelligible world (nous) partaking of the essence of the One. but maintaining it as a practice it is simply that she goes beyond it: For it is not the concept that unites the theurgic priests to the gods: else what is there to hinder those who pursue philosophic speculation contemplatively. Here Iamblichus is in agreement with Plotinus who had argued that the Gnostics blamed the creator for the soul’s errors in becoming attached to the corporeal world20.5) 20 See: Plotinus Ennead V. but always with a view to attaining the ultimate goal of merging with the supreme power. compared to a divine “Father” and “Creator of the world”. This. Beyond discursive intellect Theurgy was not about attaining some sort of (merely) rational perfection. Father of himself. primarily or secondarily. “irrational” as much as trans-rational.
there can be no “one thing knowing another thing”. The guardian daemon is at a higher level than the as yet unperfected soul on the divine hierarchy and acts as a protective agent. 24 See also Plotinus. as we normally use the term. the intimate union as in a single concept is self-originated and indistinguishable. however. there is only union – that is. where a distinction was drawn between discursive reasoning (dianoia) and the dialectical mode of knowing (noesis). that of the Good (which in Plotinus becomes the One). we must speak truly. is an immediate beholding and intelligible grasp of the object of its thought. that establish the Theurgic Union.E.22 Abammon explains in his reply to Porphyry how “knowledge”. one is it! This is the goal of the practical philosophy of theurgy . not to assume it as a matter of uncertainty. Hence we do not effect these things by thinking. the former is a mode of reasoning involving a process of calculation or thinking occurring across time. leads to a direct. for we are ourselves encompassed in it. and direct towards. guide and role model: 21 22 The italics are mine.a beatific beholding of the divine.8. however. or if you like. is not the true goal of theurgy. 23 509d -510e. (DM II. however. it has to be practised. where the highest type of “knowing” is described in all its awe and beauty . and. Here. the conjoining to the divine nature is not knowing. with the gods. by itself achieve. for this is kept separate after a manner by an otherness. and the very selfhood which we are we possess in this knowing of the gods. there is only the ineffable and utterly consuming experience of one’s essential Godhood. whereas the goal of theurgy is ineffable union with the divine. (DM I. Lewelyn Dissertation: The Theurgy of Iamblichus power of the voiceless symbols which are perceived by the gods alone. the latter.2) In union with the divine.6)21 Theurgy is not the path of the purely intellectual or contemplative philosopher. Perhaps more gnosis (divine knowledge) than episteme (rational knowledge). The difference between different “kinds” or “levels” of knowledge and knowing was already in Plato. One no longer knows of it. unmitigated perception of reality. The former applies to. ultimately.L. Nor is it proper to put it to proof in this way as though we had authority to judge and reject. to union with deity or divinity. 9 . for knowledge implies duality – the knower and the thing known. which is as of one individual having knowledge of another. or rather we are filled by it. 24 The Guardian Daemon One important aspect of theurgy is the invocation of the guardian daemon.10-11. Enneads V. Prior to this knowing.what theoretical philosophy can point to. but can not actually. an experience not akin even to what can be termed “knowledge”(episteme) in any ordinary sense of the word. while the latter is the highest form of knowledge. a trans-rational union with the gods: If. Theurgy seeks to take us beyond this discursive knowledge to the true noetic experience. for example mathematical reasoning. and if so. for it always existed simply in energy. Hence we ought to concede the point as though possibly it might not be granted. a doctrine we see most famously and clearly expounded in the Simile of the Line of the Republic23.
and whatever the conclusions we may arrive at by inference and reasoning. I.32 and III. and the science of sacred things as it relates to sacrifices. therefore. when the theurgist progresses to a higher stage of assimilation to the divine. Lewelyn Dissertation: The Theurgy of Iamblichus This daemon. This was an important question for Porphyry. He likewise himself directs the private life of the soul. where abstinence from or restraining of the passions is inculcated as a means to attain a better grasp on the higher intellible principle. As soon as the soul chooses him for leader the daemon immediately comes into charge of the completing of its vital endowments. (DM IX.17) It should be noted that this is a temporary position for the theurgist. Porphyry wants to know why superior beings (gods) would be moved by the invocation (calling) of inferior beings (human theurgists). Quoted from Homer.E.26. as a tributary. and prophecy. and when it descends into the body. as though the gods were moved by passion?” Here. Although the theurgist. from Gods to men…Through him subsist all divination. and if they were not so moved. we se Iamblichus building on very firm Platonic foundations. or delivers over the superintendence. once again. in Plato. and communicating the commands and directions concerning the mode of worship most pleasing to them. regarding theurgic invocation: “why then. the dedicated disciple of Plotinus. should expect to work only with a guardian daemon. are many ceremonies performed histrionically in the Sacred Rites. who advocated not ritual invocation or 25 26 Shelley translation. and disenchantments. before Iamblichus. until very advanced in theurgy. “Even the gods are yielding”?26 Porphyry. asks the appropriate question. this idea is mentioned. in very similar terms to those later used by Iamblichus: A great Daemon …and every thing daemonical holds an intermediate place between what is divine and what is mortal…He interprets and makes a communication between divine and human things. by Porphyry in his epistle to Anebo in regard to theurgy. and expiations. For then he gives place to the superior. in his letter to Anebo. or becomes subject. is present as exemplar before the souls descend into the realm of generated existence. and magic. then what was the point of theurgy? It was also perhaps this passion-based nature of the invocation would also have made Porphyry suspicious27. the priestess Diotima describes the role of this daemon. (Ibid.) Again. the guardian daemon is exchanged for a guardian deity: He [the guardian daemon] guides human beings thus continually till through the sacred theurgic discipline we shall obtain a god to be guardian and leader of the soul. he himself imparts to us the principles. and becomes the guardian of its common living principle. (202e -203a)25 So. In the Symposium. converting the prayers and sacrifices of men to the Gods. or in some other way is servant to him as to an Overlord. eventually.L. unites it with the body. to him. 10 . The question Porphyry poses in a nutshell is: “Do you really think that the divine powers likely to yield to the whims of mere human beings?” 27 For example in De Abstinentia.
so too the gods design the theurgic rites as visible and corporeal signs of their invisible and incorporeal nature. and there is an aspect of that in the context of what is being said here in relation to theurgy. familial state with the gods. by working with these symbols via theurgy. The theurgist is someone who simply allows the divine to work through her/him. In other words. some have an ineffable cause and a divine principle. divinely ordained.but rather to make ourselves amenable to what is our true. here also viewed as a creator. in the gods themselves.as that would contradict his defence of theurgy against the charge levelled at it . but I also think Iamblichus gives an equally good answer. quite the contrary. 30 Thomas Taylor. as the cause of the rites. or some concept of a family relationship (Ibid.E. others preserve some other image. Presumably. The implication here is that when humans performed the true theurgic rites they are fulfilling the will of the gods. The reply given tells us much about the nature of theurgy: I think that this is said without an intelligent understanding in regard to the Sacerdotal technique of the Mysteries. Many such rites are “consecrated”28 by the gods of all eternity. The previous Neoplatonist attitude might be summed up thus: why try to make the gods do anything. Lewelyn Dissertation: The Theurgy of Iamblichus theurgy of any kind. a state which we merely need to consent to. or turn away some of the evils that may be impending over us. or they are endeavors at figurative representation. Participation in these theurgic rites is then not an attempt to change the will of the gods.L. The theurgist then is permitted to get closer to the gods. has it as “or have for their end some kind of similitude. just as Nature. forms the visible world out of the invisible world of Ideas. 11 . in his translation.)30. or in some way purify and free our human passions. (Ibid. or familiarity and alliance”. the workings are often devotional in nature. or a means to establish a relationship and connection with the divine. It has been said (I think in the Christian tradition) that ritual is but the outer expression of an inner grace. Just as Nature. not trying to manipulate it. and are designed by the gods themselves as symbols of their divinity. The theurgy can also be a form of ritual purification. originate in the “ineffable” and “divine principle” – that is. when you can unite with the very source of the power of all the gods? I think this is a very good question. Iamblichus does not mean to try and make the gods be filial with us . rather than being found in the theurgist. the opportunity to participate in that divine will with full permission. but a simple uniting with the One through philosophic contemplation.) 28 29 Literally “made sacred”.29 Iamblichus continues: [Other ceremonies] are brought forward from some motive of veneration.4) Here Iamblichus shows how ritual invocation does not have to be about humans trying to manipulate or move the gods. others are consecrated to the Superior beings from eternity as symbols are consecrated. (DM I. For of the ceremonies performed from time to time in the Sacred Rites. molds visible semblances. the Supreme Genetrix also from invisible concepts. but simply an acceptance of a divine gift – the gift of opportunity. as well as the banishing away of negative or destructive influences: Some [workings] prepare us for something that is useful.
and that we regard this practice as an invocation to the generative energy of the universe. For the essence which is subjectively everlasting and incorporeal is not of a nature to permit any change from the bodies (offered at the Rites. but instead is actually the invocation of that energy of nature already present in its substance into the operative sphere of the theurgist.)31 The gods are certainly not “impressionable” and there is no question of theurgy being an attempt of mortals to manipulate immortals. Iamblichus gives a fairly graphic example of what he means by referring to rites of phallic or generative adoration: Following every point in its turn.L. This cathartic and therapeutic method of dealing with potentially troublesome passions is both a practical and safe solution to what might otherwise be dealt with in a less controlled and more dangerous manner: There is. The cathartic element The theurgic or sacred rites can also be of the nature of dramatic ritual. we repress our own. Thus Iamblichus adds: Yet it may not be admitted that any part of the Holy Observance is performed to the gods or daemons as to impressionable beings. where one’s passions or impulses are purged. but simply allows the ritualist to “tune-in” to the procreative forces already manifest and operative there. they are sufficiently delighted and satisfied. The powers of the human passions that are in us. when we behold the emotions of others.E. by certain spectacles and relations of ugly things. we remark that the planting of "phallic images" is a special representing of the procreative power by conventional symbols. are won over and set at rest. also. when all the world is receiving from the gods the prolific force of the whole creation. On this account many of these images are consecrated in the spring. and becoming pure in consequence. delivered from the harm that is likely to befall through the events represented by them. become more vehement: but when they are brought into activity with moderation and reasonable measure. (Ibid. either (directly) by participation in the rites or (indirectly) by the observance of others doing so. make them more moderate and are purified from them.) It is highly likely that Iamblichus was influenced here in this view by Aristotle’s writings on catharsis. In the same way. however. The invocation is not that of the god’s energy into nature. in comedy and tragedy. not to affect the gods. we are. still another reason of analogous character for these customs. 12 . when they are barred on every side. In the Sacred Rites. Lewelyn Dissertation: The Theurgy of Iamblichus The intended purpose of the theurgy is to change us. (Ibid. likewise. since the Neoplatonists generally studied Aristotle 31 Ibid.) The use of phallic images in a spring ritual to celebrate procreation does not invoke the procreative force into the world.
the soul reciprocates another life. writes: Porphyry wrote a work (now lost) to demonstrate Aristotle’s agreement with Plato…Iamblichus’ attitude seems to have been even more accommodating.E. The rites of the theurgist “open the way for an indissoluble communion through the attraction which binds the universe together”34 The theurgist merely opens him or herself to the binding force of the universe that allows the gods to unite him or her to themselves. was of a level of reality much “less” than that of it’s own substance (psuche) or that of the Intelligible world above (nous)33. had left a part of itself in the upper Intelligible region of the pure incorporeal divine. although not an absolute illusion as such. to that which is susceptible and impure. rather.) So. the soul .24) 33 And certainly less than the One which is beyond all else and is itself the ultimate. Plotinus had maintained that the soul in “descending” into matter had not entirely descended. that what we are now discoursing about is the Safe Return of the Soul. but. or rather that part of each human (the divine within. Sunthemata Looking more specifically at what theurgic rites involved. p. the soul) that could allow each human to become more than human. theurgic invocation.fully and literally .Iamblichus here applies to specifically ritual drama. for while contemplating the Blessed Spectacles. pure and steadfast. is linked with another energy. 34 Ibid. Ultimately.descends into matter and required theurgy in order to return to its Source. is not so much men calling down the gods. for Iamblichus. that is. drama enacted as theurgy. (Ibid. On the contrary. 13 . the goal of theurgy is a return of the now human soul to its divine source above: From these Performances it is plain. it seems to be not even a human. and rightly viewing the matter. (Ibid. what we might call reality in the true sense of the word.32 What Aristotle had applied to drama generally in the Poetics – as regards its value as catharsis .” (Neoplatonism. For Plotinus (as for Porphyry) the soul “entering or descending into matter” was a case of the soul acquiring an attachment to something (matter) that. that is.) Soul as fully descended One main difference between Iamblichus and the Plotinian view before him was as regards the soul. or highest form. Lewelyn Dissertation: The Theurgy of Iamblichus alongside Plato. However. it is the gods calling men up. we immediately see the importance of tokens or symbols (sunthemata) in the workings: 32 Wallis. to re-ascend back to the One: For such invocation does not draw down beings that are impassive and pure. the cure for which was philosophy and contemplation. for the most blessed energy of the gods.L. as Iamblichus describes it. for example. however. of reality. it makes us who had become impressionable through the generated life.
and yet the rites employed to bring the gods hither. and are recognized by the gods alone. and have likewise after a certain manner the same power with the gods… (DM I. On reading Porphyry’s De Abstinentia. a treatise on vegetarianism 38 According to Professor Wilder. 39 This is Porphyry’s main method of attack also throughout De Abstinentia where he often draws attention to the many inconsistencies of those who kill animals for food or to please the gods. many of them. In his letter to Anebo. in his footnotes on his translation the Beholder here is one admitted to a higher degree of initiation of the Rite. 37 Abstinence from Animal Food. both the reverend names of the gods. in order that they may not be made impure by the fumes from the bodies.L. such as moonstone. to invoke Selene. are made effective through dead animals. presumably referring to a vegetarian requirement among such interpreters of the signs from the gods. and the other divine symbols. Shaw. p.39 Porphyry here draws the reader’s attention to a belief concerning the need for an interpreter of oracles and divine messages to be pure from contamination of animals. (DM I. being of an elevating tendency. for example. he was vehemently opposed to the killing of animals for food or in sacrificial rites.E. a lunar deity. that they are symbols or tokens of the very gods. he puts forward the opposite notion – that the sacrifice of animals is actually a good and most necessary practice for one who would open himself to the divine: For if the matter is rightly understood.167-168. The implication is that death or bloodshed would defile and muddy the clear divining eyes of the soul. As Porphyry clearly and unequivocally shows in his De Abstinentia37. It also surely means the one who beholds the message of the oracle. 14 . For they who conduct 35 36 Which may well be an esoteric one that was taught within the mystery schools. along with calling her “reverend name”35. you would.4) The question of sacrifice Iamblichus not only differs from Plotinus and Porphyry as regards his liking for ritual practices. In his reply to Porphyry. use a theurgical rite involving lunar sunthemata. silver and poppy36. however. It is also required that the Beholder38 must be pure from the contact of anything dead. but also as regards his views on animal sacrifice. Lewelyn Dissertation: The Theurgy of Iamblichus Hence. Iamblichus. yet they themselves are allured most of all by the fumes of the sacrifices of animals. he questions the whole idea of animal sacrifice: The gods also require that the interpreters of the oracles observe strict abstinence from animal substances. see. are able to connect the invocation with the gods. will have none of this. These would then create a vehicle for the theurgist to receive the divine impression of the god and awaken the corresponding sunthemata in the soul of the theurgist: …the sacerdotal supplications are inspired into human beings as from the gods themselves. For examples of sunthemata. moonwort.4) In other words. it is obvious this was certainly how Porphyry saw the matter. there is by no means any difficulty like that which suggests itself to thee and about which thou contendest in relation to Abstinence from Animal Food.
and in this way it is allied to the anterior causes. such as conduce to purification of the soul.12. But for them there would come neither cessations from pestilence. He speaks of fruits being offered to the gods in an “age of sanctity” (Ibid.L. II. that of one’s own better qualities: To the Gods. nor the things which are more precious than these. neither would there be showers of rain. and hence – by Iamblichus’ argument . Thus to “invoke” Ares. then those not involving blood are the best and most pleasing to the gods. nor from famines. For what exhalation from the bodies will come near the beings who. anything of such a character is at the Sacred Rites. why do we use them to appease the gods. however. I mean. but of all theurgic working that used material Sunthemata. nor from unproductive seasons. which is of the greatest importance should now be considered.26) Nevertheless. Lewelyn Dissertation: The Theurgy of Iamblichus the worship of the gods do not abstain from animal food in order that the gods may not be defiled by the fumes from the animals. He then says: That. not for that of the gods. first section) His answer is that this is the role of the Daemons – to occupy this middle ground between the gods and man: 15 .the appropriate sacrificial sunthema in this case.was both a sunthema and an offering to the gods. and advocated an offering of a very different nature. Yet. the most excellent offering is a pure intellect and an impassive soul (De Abstinentia II.4 or to liberation from the conditions of generated existence. or to perfection. he did not see the killing of animals as in any way of benefit to anyone. and put to rest again. whose energies one wished to unite oneself to. we might be tempted to argue. why they effect so much. Indeed. these things are essentials in the region of nature. Perhaps the answer has already been given where Iamblichus states that theurgy of any kind is for benefit of the theurgist. Porphyry also states that. (Ibid. But Iamblichus was aware of the problem also from another angle – if theurgic sacrifices are material and the gods immaterial. it accompanies them as a joint cause and as having the consideration of being indispensable. as we can see from Porphyry’s comments in De Abstinentia. be it dead animals and blood or incense and roses: But as a natural cause held fast by matter and physically encompassed by the bodies it is aroused by them. if material sacrifices are to be used. one would – on this theory – require a sacrifice of a ram. then how can the two in anyway connect? And how can it benefit the theurgist even if the theurgy employed has no connection with the gods? This is not just a question of sacrifice. then. so why should material fumes of animals (or anything else corporeal for that matter) possibly bother the gods? Of course. the efficacy of the Sacrifices. an animal sacred to that god.61) Although. If.11) Iamblichus thus suggests that Porphyry has misunderstood the nature of ritual sacrifice. indeed.) The gods are entirely incorporeal.E. (DM V. if such things do not affect the gods. put matter away from touching them? (DM V. before anything material reaches them by any possibility. Iamblichus’s argument in favour of animal sacrifice was essentially based on the idea that sacrifice – of any kind .
As regards the former point. and what had come of it? Only a visibly declining culture. through these changes.) Before we leave the discussion of sacrifice. on one hand that theurgy was an irrational attempt to escape the failings of Greek philosophy to solve the problems of life. releases us from the bonds of generated existence. releases them from their bonds in matter.287-288. It also. p. that the sacrificial rite involving a burnt offering. so necessary for the theurgists own purification. The Greeks and the Irrational. had the added advantage of …imitating the operation of the divine fire. Theurgy criticized and defended So what are we as students of philosophy to make of theurgy? Dodds claims that in an age when Christianity was taking over: To the discouraged minds of fourth-century pagans such a message offered a seductive comfort. The theoretical philosophers had now been arguing for some nine centuries. (Ibid. on the other. and cause of the efficacy of sacrifices.E. and the creeping growth of that Christian atheotes40 which was plainly sucking the lifeblood of Hellenism. through its purity of nature. The emperor Julian was the classic example of this. 16 . In both cases there is an implication that theurgy was a crude form of blind ritualism.41 There are two claims being made here. or antipathy. It purifies the things that are brought to the fire. Shaw also points out that many Greeks of the time saw Christianity’s growing popularity threatening to their own pagan religious beliefs42. so theurgy became the refuge of a despairing intelligentsia which already felt la fascination de l’abime. and likewise renders us fit for their friendship. 1. and likewise renders them. and in Iamblichus himself something of a saviour figure for pagan Greece: 40 41 I have transliterated the Greek term used by Dodds. of those whom man and god alike have failed. and in other respects are subject and follow and are subservient to the superior being. Lewelyn Dissertation: The Theurgy of Iamblichus We say that the beings that belong to the realm of nature act in concert together according to convenience. and our material nature near to the non-material essence. we must mention Iamblichus’ view that Sacrifice made use –in its symbolism (or sunthemata) of the all-important aspect of fire. 42 See Shaw p. consecration or “burning away” of obstacles to intelligible progress and ascent to the One. He saw in Iamblichus’ theurgy a solution to the problem. makes us like the gods. or sympathy. and destroys everything in the sacrifices that is constituted of matter. fit for the commonalty of gods. and. (Ibid) Fire was by its appearance and non-substantial nature very suitable symbol for the incorporeal essence of the divine itself and hence could also awaken that corresponding sunthema in the soul. As vulgar magic is commonly the last resort of the personally desperate. that it was a means to desperately thwart the onrush of a foreign religion (Christianity).L.
It is something other than this and cannot. p. Nor do his writings reflect any reaction to 900 years of reason-based Greek philosophy. for Iamblichus was not at all about manipulation of the gods.38 Heka is an Egyptian term. like the Persian Magi. between the ancient traditions inspired by the gods and those recently invented by man” (p. 45 Iamblichus was the exponent of the Egyptian religious system. (Shaw. We have already seen how theurgy. one strong argument that we see 43 44 See Shaw. arguably just as foreign to Hellenic society as Christianity. but of the non-rational or trans-rational (what Dodds calls “irrational”) well-established religious and ritualistic practices in the most ancient of religious cultures such as the Assyrian and Egyptian.43 To call theurgy simply “magic” (i. but is rather more inclined to attempt to see in them a compatibility with the theory that lies behind the religious and ritualistic. firstly. without prefix “vulgar”) may not be incorrect. but was instead an alignment of the theurgist with their divine will. of aligning oneself to the will of the gods. In “the divine Iamblichus” Julian saw a philosopher equal to Plato. I believe. is not critical of Plotinus or any of the previous more purely rationalistic philosophers. On the contrary. for Iamblichus’s teachings had led Julian and other pagans to a deeper understanding of their traditional religious practices. Christianity. of course.3). rather than replacement or outright rejection of any. I feel that to use the phrase “vulgar magic” is surely misleading and does not do justice to the true spirit of theurgy. as we have seen. not so much of rationalism. although this may apply to the Emperor Julian and others. Lewelyn Dissertation: The Theurgy of Iamblichus The Emperor Julian employed the Platonic and theurgic doctrines of Iamblichus in an attempt to wrest control of the empire away from the “Galileans” and return it to the ancestral practices of the “Hellenes”. normally translated as “magic”. Like Proclus. He.L. which was itself. was actually looking to the past traditions. or even mentions. Shaw continues: …there is no extant writing of Iamblichus in which he criticizes. with the implication that theurgy can be compared to vulgar magic. Assuming that the Neoplatonists are right in saying that the highest goal for the human being is the return to the divine or “One”. For Iamblichus the central issue of his age was not the polemic between pagans and Christians but the far more serious conflict between “old ways” and “new ways”. Iamblichus’s approach always seems to be one more of synthesizing existing traditions.2) Yet. as to Dodd’s implication that theurgy was a reaction to Christianity. Iamblichus was not just “reacting” to Christianity in advocating theurgy. and the theory that would indicate the usefulness of theurgy for the philosopher. Certainly. p.E. Iamblichus. So. be so easily dismissed. he does not define what for him constitutes “vulgar magic”. As to Dodd’s view that “vulgar magic is commonly the last resort of the personally desperate”. Theurgy then is not vulgar magic and is not a mere reaction to Christianity or any other foreign religion45. 17 . and the Egyptians (with their “heka44”) view Magic as a Sacerdotal and Hieratic Art. Shaw and others have drawn our attention to how Iamblichus criticised mere idol worship and makers of talismans on the ground that their work was artificial unlike the creations of the divine artificer of the natural world. who came after him (another exponent of theurgy).e. as we might. this does not seem apply to Iamblichus himself.
In the tradition of alchemy. it appears that theurgy with its underlying ritualistic and trans-rational nature was deemed right. is it not fitting that we make use of that materiality.the rarefied reflection of the incorporeal divine. The theurgist does not attempt to banish matter. If the problem lies with matter. We may concede at last that Porphyry was right in regarding such methods as more immediately helpful to the average man. rather than try to dismiss it? Perhaps philosophical contemplation can liberate man from physical needs in time. that in this sense it appears to have not even come close. might have produced firmer results. but takes matter and transmutes it into what it already in essence is . This is a way to understand Iamblichus’ more positive view of matter. that over and above all other pro-theurgy arguments. as Christianity was itself guilty of the same “charges”. Lewelyn Dissertation: The Theurgy of Iamblichus in favour of theurgy as a means to attain this (over and above that of Plotinian contemplation alone) is that. and began to hunger for the simplification of worship they saw presenting itself in the relatively neat and novel monotheistic saviour cult of Christianity. by mankind at large. 46 47 De Mysteriis. needs a form of worship involving body as well as soul (Myst46 1517)47 So. 108 18 . This seems to be the theurgist’s view. yet we should remember that Catholics are advised to attend Mass in preference to studying theology. in the mean time. the strongest is perhaps this: the belief that we can use fire to fight fire. such as that of Isis or Mithras. We may be less inclined to grant Iamblichus’ claim that they have higher value even for the philosopher. Understanding Iamblichus and his more positive view of matter like this is. As regards the fact that theurgy did not realize Julian’s hope of offering serious competition to Christianity. since we are now currently in a material body in a material world. I believe. underlying elements being the very things welcomed and fully embraced by mainstream Christians the world throughout. as a composite being. but surely this is not likely to happen other than over a considerably extended period of time. would it not be wise to make use of our physicality and material predicament. by using material sunthemata and theurgy? It seems to me. Perhaps it was simply the case that mankind had at last wearied of efforts to appease the many gods of the ancient polytheistic pagan world. Alliance with one of the new saviour cults. we must note that it was not the ritualistic or trans-rational nature of theurgy that caused this disappointment. we have a perfect analogy for this in the conceptual symbolism of lead (base or primal matter) being transmuted into the spiritual gold. on principle at least. Wallis writes: The later Neoplatonists’ failure in competition with Christianity may in fact have been due less to any capitulation to ‘superstition’ on their part than to the fact that too many of the rites were no longer of more than antiquarian interest. In this connection we may recall Iamblichus’ argument that man. therefore. involving much practice – as anyone who either practises a form of meditation or asks those who have done so will confirm – and.L. It was only the form of the rites that was rejected. but as the emanation and expression. matter not as the enemy of the divine. the same essential. the key to understanding theurgy. Wallis Neoplatonism p.E. then the problem must be solved with matter.
However. so another prefers theurgy. Proclus. I agree with Porphyry that the way of philosophy. Iamblichean theurgy could perhaps benefit from adopting some of Porphyry’s approach to animal sacrifice. in this day and age. there is a sense that we need to do something very definite. that is. some sort of physical action. in my experience. How many people do we know in our lives who express an interest in working hard to attain any kind of absolute reality or who even feel any attraction to a concept such as the Plotinian One (even if it was explained to them)? However. not because some are not capable of it – for I see no reason why even the least intelligent among us could make a start and develop themselves gradually through the various stages. Perhaps. I can see no logical reason why theurgy would necessarily be a better option over a purely contemplative approach. pp. too. for. in itself. 115 19 . I would agree very strongly with Porphyry and against Iamblichus.189-199 See. or Baigent & Leigh The Elixir and the Stone 1997. I am drawn to theurgy. mental purification and contemplation) is not for everyone. or as a practical way to invoke the divine. p. but I would never deem it anything but entirely unethical and unspiritual to take the life of an animal. Do we have the right to take the life of another living. even if it took them longer than most others – but because most people simply do not have the interest. So. I would argue that if the ceremony is intended as a pure and divine act. Perhaps it is natural for some of us to feel that to contemplate the mysteries of the divine. and later Marsilio Ficino in the 15th century Florentine Platonic Academy49 is some testimony to its philosophical attraction. The sacrifice of animals raises a lot of moral issues. for those who are interested in some sort of spiritual attainment.E. Wallis. some of us are never quite content with a purely contemplative approach. sentient being. in fact especially as part of a sacred ceremony. is. Lewelyn Philosophical merits of theurgy Dissertation: The Theurgy of Iamblichus That the spirit of theurgy lived on amongst such philosophers as Proclus48 in the 5 century. or to attempt to “approach” them by means of theoretical philosophy. dedication or even devotion to this divine aspect of life. if we believe in the existence of a divine power or powers. but not for the same reason. 171. not enough. as a token of our aspiration. on the subject of animal sacrifice. p. on the subject of the general idea of theurgy as a practical and th 48 49 See. may still feel uncomfortable with sacrificing an animal a s a form of ritual worship. then the last thing it should involve is bloodshed and the taking of a life. It seems to me that both Porphyry’s and Iamblichus’ arguments in favour of the contemplative approach and the theurgical approach respectively are both of equal strength and it seems that both approaches therefore possess equal overall merit. But why should Porphyry and Plotinus not be right in their view that the contemplative life of the philosopher is the only means to attain the highest divine of the One? Personally. in the Plotinian sense of the word (as a means to attain onto the One through various stages of intellectual development. even as part of a sacred ceremony.L. As one prefers the contemplative approach. Porphyry and Plotinus (among others) said no. for any reason whatsoever? Many today would say no. Personally. Neo-Platonic Philosophy and Science (1996). animal or otherwise. there is something inherent in human nature that. But what was the main attraction to theurgy for the philosopher? Perhaps. for instance. even as philosophers. in the general sense of a ritual drama or physical form of worship. Even those who today are not vegetarian. Perhaps both are equally valid options and paths to ultimate reality and the attainment of the One. for instance. What I believe is most likely to be the deciding factor in any philosopher in deciding between the two is personal temperament.
Whittingham for the translator. Lewelyn Dissertation: The Theurgy of Iamblichus varied ritualistic divine method and means of self-development and spiritual exaltation. E..rather than heading straight to some form of oriental contemplative yoga or meditation. here in the disenchanted modern western world the vehicle of theurgy will finally arrive. Buddhism or Taoism. R. of which the main translation used throughout was: Theurgia or the Egyptian Mysteries (translation by Alexander Wilder) London: William Rider & Son Ltd. Secondary literature Blumenthal. Also consulted was: Iamblichus on the Mysteries of the Egyptians. J. H. I would finish by saying that in this current age where existing religions are now being more and more questioned and many are looking at alternative forms of spirituality. in theurgy. Baigent. Perhaps. as the Neoplatonists understood it. 1997 Clark. Chaldeans and Assyrians (translation by Thomas Taylor) Chiswick: Printed by C.. I would think many here in the West who have given up mainstream orthodox religion . been able to find. -------------------------------------------Bibliography Main texts Iamblichus De Mysteriis. & Clark. had they discovered a modern-day Iamblichus or Proclus.G. Gillian On the Pythagorean life Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.due. I am full agreement with Iamblichus as to its basic merits. perhaps the concept of theurgy. The Elixir and the Stone London: Viking (Penguin). The Divine Iamblichus Bristol: Bristol Classical P. will finally find its true place. to disillusionment in the larger religious establishments and wish for a more individualistic path . 1989. might. In particular. M.E. 20 . for example. & Leigh.L. There is something inherently Western about a more active form of worship than that very often practiced in the East such as that of certain schools of Vedanta. 1911. 1821. a spiritual path much more suited to their needs. 1993.
Lewelyn Dissertation: The Theurgy of Iamblichus Dodds. 1996. T. Gregory Theurgy and the Soul University Park. E. Plato Symposium (trans. Wallis. R. O’Meara. Shelley) Indiana: St. 1952. Pa: Pennsylvania State University Press. Neoplatonism London: Duckworth. 1987. 1951.E. Porphyry On Abstinence from Animal Food (trans. 21 . R. Siorvanes. Augustine Press. 1995. 1972. The Greeks and the Irrational London: University of California Press. 2002. Shaw. Plotinus Enneads (trans. Plato Republic Middlesex: Penguin. 1995. Lucas Proclus Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Stephen MacKenna) London: Encyclopaedia Britannica.L. Dominic J. 1965. Thomas Taylor) London: Centaur Press. Plotinus: an introduction to the Enneads Oxford: Clarendon Press.
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