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Proclus On the Sacred Art

On the Sacred Art is a beautiful piece of Pagan religious writing which elegantly explains the basis for a theurgic understanding of the ‘spiritual mechanics’ behind religious ritual. Theurgy has often —but mistakenly, in my opinion—been identified with magic. I plan to discuss this text in much more detail soon, and also clarify the relationship of theurgy to magic and religion on these pages. tay tuned! This work, like On the Signs of Divine Possession, is an extract from a lost work of Proclus "iadochus #$%&'$() *"+, which is almost certainly his compendious Commentary on the Chaldean Oracles. This text, On the Sacred Art #Peri tês hieratikês technês) has been translated from the edition of the ,reek text published by -oseph .ide/ in his Catalogue des manuscrits alchimiques recs !" #.russels0 1aurice 2ambertin %3&(+, pp %43'%)% #text pp %$('%)%+. 5ntil recently, the only 6nglish 7ersion of Proclus’ Sacred Art was Thomas Taylor’s translation of the 2atin paraphrase of 1arsilio 8icino De sacrificio et magia #O#era 9.asel %):;< pp. %,3&('&3+ in his edition of Iamblichus’ On the $ysteries #pp 4$4'4$: of the %(3) edition+. 8icino’s published edition was the only 7ersion generally known until .ide/ unearthed the ,reek original. =hen I published my translations of these pieces in the >hthonios edition of Iamblichus’ On the $ysteries #2ondon0 >hthonios .ooks %3(3 pp %$)'%)?+ — it’s out' of'print and no, sorry, I ha7en’t got any spare copies! — I was under the impression that I had done the first 6nglish translation from the ,reek of Proclus’ On the Sacred Art. .ut I had been preceded by .rian >openha7er who translated and commented on it in his %ermes &rismegistus, Proclus, and a Philoso#hy of $agic #pp :3'%%? of 1erkel and "ebus 9edd.< %ermeticism and the 'enaissance 9*ssociated 5ni7ersity Presses0 %3(( — now also o@p<+. >openha7er’s edition contains some interesting notes and background materials, but I do not agree with his assumption #shared by many+ that theurgy eAuals magic—though it certainly became an essential ingredient in the noble "i7ine 1agic pursued so eagerly by 8icino and many of his contemporaries in the Benaissance. In the translation which follows, sAuare brackets like this 9 < indicate editorial additions, which are there to clarify the meaning of the text. (.to d) atrekes en *athei esti. Stephen Ronan Castings 5D, eptember %3(( Chaldean Oracles %(4 #ed. "es Places+

Proclus Diadochus

if a wick which has been heated beforehand is placed under a lamp. starting with the ympathy connecting 7isible things both to one another and to the In7isible Powers.tên e#istêmên tên hieratikên). not far from the flame. ha7ing drawn them down through imilarity #homoiotêtos+0 for imilarity is powerful #%$3+ enough to attach beings to one another. each thing then mo7es towards that which remains on high 9i.ide/. and the lighting up of the wick is analogous to both the deification of mortals and to the illumination of material substances. naturally . and if one could hear how it makes the air 7ibrate . =hat then is the difference between the human manner of hymning the sun.-+nta noer+s). They mar7elled at seeing those things which come last in those which come first. and its being brought and placed below the flame to correspond to the acred *rt # hieratikês technês+ making use of material things at the right time and in the right way. the wise men of old # hoi #alai so#hoi+ brought together 7arious things down here with their hea7enly counterparts. and in the hea7ens all the plants.#husik+s) or in a sensory manner . Ca7ing contemplated these things.em#neontas) with the emanations of the . for the transmission of the flame takes place downwards. you may consider the heat already there in the wick to correspond to the ympathy between things.hêliotro#ia) mo7es in accordance with the sun and the moonflower . of the kind that a plant can sing. and 7ice'7ersaE earthly things in the hea7ens in a causal and celestial manner. ali7e in a spiritual way . %$(+ -ust as 9true< lo7ers mo7e on beyond the beauty percei7ed through the senses until they reach the ole >ause of all beauty and all perception #noêt+n+. and that of the lotus by opening and closing its petalsF 8or those are its lips and that is its natural hymn #humnos #husikos+. either spiritually #noer+s+. but it gradually opens them as the sun begins to rise. The transmission of the flame is like the presence of the "i7ine 2ight with those who are able to partake of it. stones and animals after a celestial manner. according to its ability. and brought down "i7ine Powers into this mortal place. so too. Its petals are closed before the appearance of the sun’s rays. . each. one would realise from the sound that it is making a hymn to its Ding.y analogy.selênotro#ia) with the moon. and ha7ing understood that all things are to be found in all things. the experts in sacred matters #hoi hieratikoi+. rationally.aisthêt+s) o the sunflower mo7es with what makes it open as much as it can. p. unfolding them as it reaches its /enith and curling them up again as it descends. Thus there are to be seen on the earth suns and moons in a terrestrial form. like the light of the wick once it has been lit. they established the acred cience . by opening and closing the mouth and lips. you will see it light up e7en though it has not touched the flame. 8or instance. its di7ine counterpart< according to its share of the "i7ine eed. and hea7enly things on the earth in a terrestrial way. turning around with the luminaries of the worldF 8or all things pray according to the rank they occupy and hymn the 2eaders who preside o7er the whole of their ‘chains’ # t+n seir+n+.ut why should we talk of plants where some trace of generati7e life still existsF 8or stones as well can be seen to be infused .ON THE SACRED ART #. Cow else could it be that the sunflower . The lotus also demonstrates the workings of ympathy. .#lêssontos) as it turns around.e.

like cocks<.od. they made a likeness of that =hole which exists before e7ery thing else comes into being. the bigger and stronger fears the lesser and weaker. the presence of solar symbols is more effecti7e in the cock. 1oonstone #selênitên+ changes both its markings and their motions 9i. To put it all plainly. and the same Aualities which are present in all the members of a ‘chain’ are there in the 5nity preceding their manifestation. which in form resembles the pupil of the eye.ods. by following what lay in front of their eyes. but taken alone was not sufficient to in7oke them. some things mo7e in accordance with the course of a luminary. Thus we get the arrangement of 9human< souls.od. unmoonstone #hêlioselênon+ is Gust like an image of the conGunction #sunodou+ of these two luminaries. simply Gust by seeing the images of di7ine men. 6ach ‘chain’ increases in number #p. the differences lie in the >auses themsel7es.elos. It clearly show this by its sensiti7ity #sunaisthanomenos+ to the course of the sun. ome again ha7e an empyrean 9or fiery< essence. In the same way. The earth is full of celestial .ods and the hea7ens are full of supercelestial . like the palm tree. like the laurelE and others imitate some other Auality. Thus all things are full of . others around another. and making by art that which a . thus we see the rays of the sun reproduced in the golden rays of the sunstone .ods. mingling into one the di7ided "i7ine igils # sunthêmata+. the masters of the acred *rt #hoi tês hieatikês hêgemones+ found the way to pay di7ine honours 9or ser7ice< to the Cigher Powers.e. %)?+ as it proceeds to its final terms. The reason for this is not be found in their physical Aualities #aisthêse+s+. for it crows a hymn at sunrise and at the rest of the sun’s turning points. Hthers imitate the form of its rays. The stone called the 6ye of . Thus it is said that certain solar "aemons who appear with lion'faces. 9human< souls. for it is said that the lion shrinks back in fear at the sight of the cock. 8or the same reason. The remarkable thing is that in this particular case. *nd when they made use of a mixture of things it was because they had obser7ed that unmixed each thing has some Auality of the . *nd so they often constructed images # agalmata+ #p. like those plants we ha7e spoken of. who partake of the 9solar< . Thus they unified the . emits from the centre of its pupil a gleaming light which leads one to think that it ought to be called the 6ye of the un. plants and stones. they appear by concealing themsel7es in form to us who ha7e been endowed with form #memor#h+menoi+. *t any rate. each according to their rank.hêlitên). "aemons.od. disappear at once when shown the image of a cock.od contains essentially #ousian+. 8rom these facts.e. there happen to be a large number of solar animals. %)%+ and incenses from these mixtures. retreating in fear from the superior igils 9or "i7ine igns sunthêmata<. portraying the conGunctions and separations which take place in the hea7ens. &?< and by the production of one thing from many. o by mixing together many different things they unified the emanations #a#orrhoias+ referred to pre7iously 9%$3. 8rom these things one can see that the properties which are contained in the sun in a concentrated form #sunes#eiramenas+ are to be found in a di7ided'up state amongst those entities who partake of the sun’s Aualities0 *ngels. like the lion and the cock. and by mixing together some things and remo7ing others. many people are held back from doing something wrong. some grouped around #sustaseis+ one . animals. as appropriate. their patterns< along with the moon. 8or instance. but in spiritual #noeras+ considerations0 that is. for whilst these *ngels are formless in reality. certain solar *ngels are seen in forms of this kind 9i.luminaries.

sulphur and seawater. and one sprinkles seawater because it partakes of the empyrean #or fiery+ power *nd so in their Initiations 9or >onsecrations< and other "i7ine >eremonies # tais teletais de kai tais allais #eri tous theous thera#eias+ they would choose the appropriate animals and other materials. 2onging to go beyond these and similar things 9that is. the heart of a mole #hê tou as#lakos kardia+. *nd so. . and by this means they drew down #e#êgagonto+ these Powers in order to communicate # sunousian+ with them. instructed in some matters by the . and for purification.ods #autas(tas t+n the+n(#oiêseis+. 8or knowledge of the future. or coral #kouraliou+.ods themsel7es. they came to directly experience #echrêsanto+ the Primordial ##r+tourgois+ and "i7ine Powers. sulphur and bitumen #as#haltos+ purify through the sharpness of their smell.multiplicity of powers which when dispersed are weakened. but in others mo7ed by their own efforts to an accurate conception of the appropriate symbols. the masters of the acred *rt attracted some things through ympathy and repelled others through *ntipathy. or diamond #adamas+ or Gasper #ias#is+. lea7ing nature and physical operations below. they wanted to go beyond the powers inherent in physical obGects<. 8rom the "aemonic Powers they mo7ed straight up towards the actual "oings of the . laurel #da#hnê+ or a thorny shrub #rhamnos+. 8or instance 9as an example of antipathy<. ometimes it happens that Gust a single herb or stone is sufficient in a ritual operation. or the sAuill #skulla+. they came to know the "aemonic Powers which are essentially linked to the acti7ities of nature and physical bodies. but when combined lead back up to the essential 8orm of its *rchetype #tên tou #aradeigmatos idean+. =orking in this way. o kne+ron #flax'lea7ed daphne or spurge'flax+ is sufficient for a manifestation #auto#haneian+ 8or protection.