Twilit Grotto -- Esoteric Archives Contents Prev Iamblichus Next timeline

Theurgia or On the Mysteries of Egypt

By Iamblichus

Translated by Alexander Wilder, 1911.

This digital edition by Joseph H. Peterson, Copyright © 2000. All rights reserved.

Part V. Sacrifices and prayers

Chapter 11. The Question Stated

The subject, therefore, concerning which thou makest thy next enquiry, is a common theme of discussion with everybody, both those who are proficient in the sacred learning and those less skilled in such matters am speaking in regard to Sacrifices: "What utility or power they possess in the world and with the gods, and for what reason they are performed appropriate for the beings thus honored, and advantageously for the persons who present the gifts." NOTES:
There is also added in the same connection another opposing remark: "The gods also require that interpreters of the oracles observe strict abstinence from animal substances, in order that they may not be made impure by the fumes from the bodies, yet they themselves are allured most of all by the fumes of the sacrifices of animals."


It is easy enough, therefore, for any one to dispose of the conflict which thou suggestest. He has simply to point out the excellence of wholes as compared to the incomplete natures and to call attention to the absolute superiority of the gods to human beings. What I now affirm is the following theorem: That for the Universal Soul to preside over the world-body of the Universe and for the gods of the sky to take the celestial body (or sphere) for a vehicle, is neither injurious as a receptacle of passions nor an impediment to the conceptions of mind, but that for the imperfect soul to be in partnership with a body is unprofitable in both these respects.1 Suppose, then, this being perceived, some difficult problem is suggested, like this, for example: That if the body is a fetter to our soul, it will also be a fetter to the soul of the universe; and if the imperfect soul is turned to the body with reference to generation, so also the world-soul will be affected in like manner. Any one may reply to this by declaring that such an objection does not regard the superiority of the higher races to human beings and of the wholes to parts. As, therefore, the converse propositions relate to matters diverse from each other, they do not in any way constitute matters for dispute. 1. Stobaeos has preserved the following fragment by Iamblichus, setting forth the same concept: "All souls do not have the same common relation to bodies, but the Universal Soul, as it seemed to Plotinus, issues forth by itself and comprises the body in itself, but it does not couple with the body nor is it encompassed by it. Imperfect souls (such as human beings are endowed with), however, come to the bodies and are born with them."


Here, therefore, the same reasoning is enough. With us the enjoyment incident to bodies conjoined with the soul imparts dullness of mind and actual defilement, and likewise engenders voluptuousness and produces many different maladies of the soul.2 In the case, however, of the gods, and of the creators (causes) of the universe and all things, however, the exhalation from the victims going up in a manner proper in religious rites, and likewise encompassed and not encompassing, and itself joined to the all, but in no sense joining the universe and the gods with itself, is itself. adapted to the superior races and the universal causes, but never restrains them or adapts them to itself. 2. Androkydes, the Pythagorean, says: "Wine and the enjoyments of flesh make the body vigorous, but the soul more sluggish."


For if the matter is rightly understood, 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. For they who conduct 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. For what exhalation from the bodies will come near the beings who, before anything material reaches them by any possibility, put matter away from touching them? Not because their power removes everything that causes the bodies to disappear without coming near them; but on the contrary the celestial body (the planet) is unmingled with all material constituents.3 It does not receive anything into itself from without, and it does not give forth any particle from itself to things foreign to it. How, then, can any earthly vapor which does not rise five stadia (six hundred feet) from the earth, before it sinks down to it again, come near the sky, or nourish the revolving and non-material body, or, in short, produce in it any defilement or other condition? For it is acknowledged that the ætherial [etherial] body is outside of every contrary influence, and likewise that it is free from all change; that it is entirely pure from every possibility of being transformed into something else, and, besides this, is utterly without any impulse toward the center or from the center. Hence it is stationary in one place, or it revolves in an orbit. There is not, therefore, any common nature, or power, or exhalation of the bodies which consist of different forces and motions, that are variously modified, moving upward or downward, which may become mingled with the bodies in the sky. Because, therefore, these essences are entirely separate and diverse from them, they effect nothing in regard to them. These, being unbegotten, cannot undergo any change in themselves from those that are generated and subject to change. How, then, may the essence of the divine beings be defiled from such fumes when, as we may say, they put quickly away at a single impulse the vapors from all matter and bodies composed of matter? 3. Proclus describes a celestial body or planet as containing the highest principles of the elements and as characterized by vivific unburning fire; in other words, a vitalized principle extended.
It is not proper, therefore, to conjecture this; but rather to reflect that things which are distributed into parts can have a certain relation to each other, actively or passively, the material to the non-material, and, in short, like natures to like natures. Those, however, that are of another essence, and such as are entirely superior, and which likewise are endowed with other natures and faculties, are not capable of such things as acting upon others or receiving anything from others. The defilement proceeds, therefore, from material objects to those that are held by a material body. It is necessary, accordingly, for those to be purified from these things who are likely to be contaminated from matter. They, however, who are completely free from a divisible nature, who are entirely without the power of receiving conditions from matter into themselves, how can they become contaminated by material things? How can the divine nature, which is preexistent and superior to human infirmity, and has nothing in common with us, be affected from my emotions or those of any other human being?

Neither of these, accordingly, makes any difference to the gods. No matter is it that we are endowed with bodies from the sphere of matter, for there is nothing, in short, of this with them; and, as they are entirely pure and unmingled essences, they are not deified from our stains, nor is it of any consequence if material exhalations of bodies are given off around the earth, for these are the farthest remote from their essence and powers. Hence if there exists no part of it in respect to the gods, the whole hypothesis of contrariety (which has been put forth) is completely destroyed. For how may that which is absolutely non-existent (without an external substance) have any conflict in itself? By vainly conjecturing such things, so absurd and unworthy of gods, thou bringest up questions which may not reasonably be adduced in respect to good men. For no man possessing intelligence and undisturbed by passion -- much less one of the superior races-would ever be allured by the exhalations of vapors from a sacrifice.

These things, however, will be made the topic of discourse a little later. But for the present the notion of contrariety of nature, having been controverted by many refutations, we will leave off reasoning in respect to the first topic of discussion.


But the question is more important, and relates to things of greater consequence. How will I be able to answer thee briefly and fully what is difficult and requires a long explanation? I will attempt to reply, nevertheless, and will not be backward in zeal for promptness. I will also endeavor to follow the points which thou hast concisely indicated and go onward to some of special significance.

I will accordingly set forth to thee, so far as I may, the dogma Concerning Sacrifices; that it is by no means to offer them for the sake of honor along in the same way that we honor benefactors; nor for the sake of grateful acknowledging of benefits which the gods have bestowed upon us; nor yet as a first-fruit or gift by way of recompense for older gifts which the gods have made to us. For these are things common also to mankind, and are likewise received from the common administration; but they by no means establish beyond question the supremacy of the gods and their rank as specific causes.


That, however, which is of the greatest importance should now be considered. I mean, the efficacy of the Sacrifices, why they effect so much. But for them there would come neither cessations from pestilence, nor from famines, nor from unproductive seasons; neither would there be showers of rain, nor the things which are more precious than these, such as conduce to purification of the soul, or to perfection,4 or to liberation from the conditions of generated existence. Indeed, such modes of sacrificing do not exhibit these results at all. Hence, therefore, as they do not set forth properly in these rites the divine cause of the performances, we cannot justly approve of them. But if they are to be approved at all, it will be only after a secondary manner and as being dependent upon the primary and most ancient divine causes. 4. The Magians and Theurgic priests entertained 'the notion that it was not in reason for the soul to be made pure by corporeal sacrifices, but Porphyry is said to have conceded that the inferior part of the soul, the "mortal soul," might be thereby purified to a certain degree, though not sufficiently for it to attain immortality. The "teleôsis" here spoken of was understood by Proclus to consist in the union of the soul to the Divine Father, by means of the "perfective rite" or initiation: but Porphyry affirmed, as Augustine declared, that those who were thus purified, did not return to the Father or Supreme Divinity, but dwelt above the aerial region among the gods of the æther.


The matter under consideration requires, therefore, that we shall set forth the principle according to which the sacrifices are adapted to the events, and have relation to the gods that are the causes precedent to the things that take place. Suppose, then, we may say that by having one life everywhere, the same in the whole universe as in a single living being, there is a participation of similar forces, or a repulsion of opposing ones, or a certain affinity of the active to the passive, which moves the things that are similar and in affinity at the same time, operating in them in like manner by one common sympathy and existing in the most distant as in the nearest. There is then something thus stated of things that are true, and that of necessity belong with the sacrifices. Yet the true purpose of the sacrifices is not thereby shown. For the essence of the gods is in no way dependent upon the realm of nature and upon natural necessities, so as to be aroused by natural passions or by the forces which extend through all the realm of nature. On the other hand it is established by itself outside of these, having nothing in common with them-neither according to essence, nor according to power, nor according to any other thing whatever.

Chapter 12. Notions of the Egyptian Priests Criticized

The same absurdities occur, however, if any of these things are considered as causes of what is effected at the Sacred Rites, namely: Certain numbers that are still regarded among us, as in regard to the crocodile, sixty as akin to the Sun;1 or terms expressive of natural objects, as the powers and energies of animals, such as the dog, the baboon, the field-mouse, which are assigned to the Moon,2 or material forms, such as are beheld in the sacred animals, according to the colors and shapes of the body;3 or some other of the animals in relation to their bodies, or whatever else may be brought into notice; or an organ, like the heart of the cock,4 or other things of similar character, which are regarded in respect to the world of nature as causes of successful results in the Sacrifices. For not one of the gods is shown from these things to be the cause beyond the realm of nature; nor is he as such set in activity by the sacrifices. But as a natural cause held fast by matter and physically encompassed by the bodies it is aroused by them, and put to rest again. Indeed, these things are essentials in the region of nature. If, then, anything of such a character is at the Sacred Rites, it accompanies them as a joint cause and as having the consideration of being indispensable, and in this way it is allied to the anterior causes. NOTES:

1. The Pythagoreans, who are supposed to have adopted their principal philosophic notions from Egypt, attached special honor to certain numbers and geometric figures. Plutarch affirms that they designated these as divinities, calling the equilateral triangle Athena or Wisdom; the unit, Apollo, as denoting "not many" (a-pollôn); the duad or two, courage and conflict; the triad, justice; and the four, the universe; and also thirty-six as being the sum of the first four odd and the first four even numbers (36) The crocodile was described as producing sixty eggs and occupying sixty days in their hatching It was venerated anciently in the country of the Fayum in Middle Egypt, and was the Symbol of Ra, the Sun-God, and also of Osiris, as the Sun-God of Amenti, the region of the dead.

2. The goddess Isis, the sister and consort of Osiris, the Egyptian Bacchus, was sometimes considered to represent the Moon. When seeking for the body of her murdered husband, a dog was said to have accompanied her. A dog is also included in the Parsi ceremonies. Anubis, who was symbolized by the dog and the dog-headed baboon, was always commemorated in the Secret Rites. The male baboon is melancholy when the moon is hidden, and the female exhibits peculiarities common to women.

3. Sacred animals were numerous in Egypt, every nome or district having its own. The bulls Apis and Men were selected for their color and peculiarities of body. There were also the sacred bat, ram, cat, river-horse, wolf, serpent, hawk, ibis, etc. They were considered as representing qualities indicative of soul, emotion and moral sense, qualities produced by nature and Divinity. "We worship God through them," says Plutarch.

4. The cock was anciently venerated in many countries as sacred to the Sun and at the sacrifices it was customary for the divines to inspect his heart for auguries Porphyry has recorded similar facts in relation to the heart of the crow, the mole and the hawk. Indeed, every ancient people had its sacred bird. The eagle and the cock seem to have continued to modern time, and even with peoples where the primitive mystic purport is not known.


It is better, therefore, to assign as the cause of efficacy an attraction and affinity, and likewise an interrelation such as allies workmen to the things which they have wrought and parents to offspring. When, therefore, this common principle being the anterior cause, we take some animal or thing growing upon the earth that has preserved the purpose of the Creator intact and pure, then through such an object, we deal familiarly with the Demiurgic Cause which is over it unmingled with anything else.

These causes (or categories), however, are numerous. Some of them, as, for example, the daemonian, are closely joined together; and others, for instance the divine, are ranked after a manner higher than these; and then still beyond there is their Leader, the One Most Ancient Cause. All the categories act together at the perfect Sacrifice.5 Every one is adapted to it generally according to the rank which is possessed. 5. This appears to be a conceding that the Supreme Divinity is influenced by these sacrifices and similarly by the Magian Rites. This, however, many of the Platonists, as well as the Aristotelians, Stoics and Epicureans, strenuously denied.
If, however, any sacrifice chances to be defective, it goes forward to a certain extent, but it is not possible to go still further. Hence many think that sacrifices are to be presented to the beneficent daemons; many to the final powers of the gods; and many to the pericosmian or to the terrestrial6 powers of daemons or of divinities. These things, being a part in regard to the sacrifices, are not told guilefully, but they by no means afford us a view of the whole of the virtue of the rite and all the benefits and the divineness which extends through all. 6. The term "powers" is used by Abammon in the Aristotelian sense, denoting inherent faculties as prior to the exercise of force, and the producing of effects.


We admit, then, all these statements.7 We say that the beings that belong to the realm of nature act in concert together according to convenience, or sympathy, or antipathy; and in other respects are subject and follow and are subservient to the superior being, and cause of the efficacy of sacrifices. But the daemons, and also the terrestrial and pericosmian powers as being principals, are associated together according to rank as is the case with us. Nevertheless, the most effective highest-ranking of the causes of efficacy in the sacrifices are united with the Demiurgic and absolutely perfect powers. 7. Our author here refers, as will be observed, to the declarations of Porphyry, which are quoted in the First Chapter, but are not found in the present text of the Letter to the Expounder Anebo. Porphyry had questioned the utility and actual effect of the sacrificial rites upon the general order of the universe and the purposes of the gods, and likewise whether they were performed in a proper manner as related to the gods, or really procured any advantage to the worshipers themselves.
But since these comprehend themselves all the causes, however many they are, we affirm that all the active operators are moved together with these causes at the same moment; and that from them all there descends a common beneficial influence into the whole realm of generated existence. Sometimes this help is imparted according to cities and districts, or to various nations, or to greater or smaller divisions of these. At other times, the benefits are given with an ungrudging willingness to households, or to every individual, and the distribution of them is made freely and without feeling; and with an unimpassioned mind according to relationship and affiliation, as it is right and proper to give; one affection meanwhile holding all together and forming this bond through an unutterable communion.
These things are much more true, and happen to be more correct in relation to the essence and power of the gods, than what thou dost conjecture, namely: "that they themselves are allured most of all by the fumes of the sacrifices of animals." For if there is in any sense a body to the daemons which some imagine to be nourished from the sacrifices, this body must be unchangeable and impassive, and likewise luminous and in want of nothing. Hence there is neither need for anything to flow from it nor of an inflow from without. If, however, any one remains still of opinion that this is the case, yet the world and the atmosphere in it have an incessant exhalation from the region about the earth. What need, then, have they of the sacrifices?8 8. It was held that these sacrifices to the daemons were more acceptable than exhalations from other things, because that in the fumes there were more vivid traces of the living soul, and so a greater relationship. Hence in invocations to the daemons and to the manes or shades of the dead, victims were immolated in order that a nourishing exhalation might be obtained from the flowing blood. See Odyssey, Book XI.
On the other hand, the substances which are thus received do not supply to an equivalent amount in proportion to the deficiency created by what has been cast forth, so that neither an excess may predominate nor a deficiency occur, but that there shall exist in like manner in every way, equality and a uniform condition of the bodies of the daemons. For the Creator (Demiurgos) does not by any means set food abundant and in reach for all living things in the earth and sea, but has implanted want of the same in the races superior to us. Nor has he furnished to the other living things a natural abundance of the necessaries of life. But to the daemons he gives food of a quality adapted to their nature, which is contributed by us human beings. Hence, if we, through laziness or some other pretext, as is likely, should neglect such contributions, the bodies of the daemons will be in want of food, and will experience both privation and disorder.9 9. Plato, in the Timaeus, treats of junior divinities, whose bodies were derived from the elements, and were to be dissolved. Proclus also describes the gods of the cosmian universe as both of indissoluble nature and such as are to he dissolved. Plutarch and Hesiod describes daemons as a distant race from the gods, and as the inspirers of oracles, but as actually moral. If they commit any fault they are thrust down to earth, fall into the sphere of generated existence, and are fastened to human bodies.
Why, then, do not they who make these assertions overturn the whole order of things so as to establish us in a better and more powerful arrangement? For if they make us agents to supply nourishment to the daemons, we shall be of a category superior to the daemons. For every thing receives food and what it requires from the source by which it came into existence. This may be seen in the visible world of created beings, and it is also perceivable in the universal order. For they who are living upon the earth are nourished from the celestial regions. But it becomes more distinctly manifest with the invisible causes. For soul is sustained from mind, and physical nature from soul; and other things are also nourished in like manner from their originators.

If, then, it is impossible for us to be the ones who brought the daemons into existence, by the same reasoning it is demonstrated that we are not the sources from which they derive their support.


It seems to me, moreover, that the question now being considered goes astray in another particular. For it ignores the bringing of the sacrifices through fire, as it is rather a consuming and destroying of the matter of which they consist, and likewise an assimilating of it to itself, while in no sense does it become itself assimilated to the matter. It is also a bringing upward to the divine, celestial and non-material fire, but by no means a moving downward to the region of matter and generated existence. For if the enjoying of the fumes of matter in the sacrifices "allured" the Superior races, it is proper that the matter shall be pure from contamination, for in this way there will be a greater exhalation from it to those that partake. Now, however, all is burned and utterly consumed, and is changed into the pure and tenuous substance of fire, which is itself clear proof to the contrary to what thou affirmest. For the superior races are impassive and it is a delight to them to extirpate the matter by means of the fire and to render us impassive. The characteristics in us become like the gods in the same manner as fire transforms all hard and refractory materials to luminant and tenuous bodies.10 They likewise lead us upward, by the sacrifices and sacrificial fire to the fire of the gods in the same way that fire rises to fire, by leading and drawing upward those qualities which drag downward and are opposed to the divine and celestial essences. 10. Marsilio Ficino, the Italian Platonist, remarks that the fire which is kindled by us is more like heaven than like what is left behind. It is made participant of light, which is a something incorporeal, the most powerful of all things, and as if alive, perpetually moving, dividing everything, yet not itself divisible, absorbing all things into itself, yet evading every alien mixture; and suddenly, when it is fully set free, flying back to the celestial fire which is latent everywhere.


To speak without disguise, it is neither from the matter of which the sacrifices consist, nor from the elements, nor from any other of the bodies known to us, that the daemons have the vehicle serving as bodies and resembling them.11 What fruition, then, can ever take place from an essence of one kind to a different one, or what enjoyment can be imparted by alien natures to those that are alien to them? There is none, but rather it is far the other way. As the gods cut the matter away with the electric fire and separate from it whatever things are non-material in their essence, but yet are held firmly and fettered by it, and as they likewise evolve impassive natures from the impassible -- so also the fire that is with us, imitating the operation of the divine fire, destroys everything in the sacrifices that is constituted of matter. It purifies the things that are brought to the fire, releases them from their bonds in matter, and likewise renders them, through its purity of nature, fit for the commonalty of gods. It also, through these changes, releases us from the bonds of generated existence, makes us like the gods, and likewise renders us fit for their friendship, and our material nature near to the non-material essence.12 11. The daemons may be described as having vehicles of a substance different from that of bodies, and accorded to the different orders. The daemons of the sky are described as having such vehicles composed not of elementary and natural principles, but those of the water and earth were so endowed, and to these the sacrifices were offered. The former were of the number not nourished from the fumes of the sacrifices, but the latter acquire growth from external sources. Yet as the vehicles were not derived from the elements, nor from bodies known to us, our author would have done a favor by telling whence they came. This, however, was no easy thing to do, if modern "materialization" of spiritual beings seems not to have been imagined. Plato, in the Timaeus, seems to regard the vehicle as self-created, or the production of the "junior gods."

12. Proclus remarks of the Perfective Discipline, "that, as the Oracles teach, it obliterates, through the divine fire, all the stains derived from generated existence." The Chaldaean Oracle also says: "The mortal drawing near the sacrificial fire will have light from Divinity."


Having thus refuted the absurd opinions generally in regard to Sacred Rites, we will introduce in their place the true conceptions. As it belongs to another subject, we omit the explanation in detail in respect to each form of sacrifices which the peculiar reason in respect to the rites requires. Nevertheless, any person who is well endowed will be able, from what has been said, to extend his understanding from one subject to many, and cognize quickly from these the things which have been passed over in silence. I think, therefore, that these things have been sufficiently explained, in their different aspects, and because our explanation sets forth becomingly the pure essence and quality of the divine beings. This, however, may appear equally incredible and by no means clear, and likewise suspicious as not setting the reasoning faculty at work, but not extending to the discourses upon the Soul. I mean, therefore, to go over these things a little more fully, and likewise, if possible, to bring forward proofs more conclusive than those which have been already examined.


The best introduction of all shows plainly the institution of Sacred Rites as it relates to the ranking of the gods. At the outset, therefore, we may lay down that some of the gods belong to the realm of matter and others are beyond it; those of the sphere of matter encompassing the matter in themselves, and organizing it, and the non-material divinities being entirely separate from matter and superior to it.13 In the Sacerdotal Technic, it is necessary for the Sacred Rites to be begun from the divinities belonging to the realm of matter, for otherwise there would be no going upward to the gods who are aloof from matter. They have therefore a communion with the sphere of matter in so far as they are placed over it. Hence they have control of those affairs which are permitted in relation to the sphere of matter; as, for example, classification, active effort, repulsion, change, the generation and decay of all material bodies. 13. Proclus, in the Commentary upon the Alkibiades, sets forth this classification, calling the divinities, the absolute and the cosmian gods. The Chaldaean Oracles denominate the latter, the Synoches or Associated divinities. Plato has also called them Lesser or Junior Gods. Other writers declare that these divinities, whose ministry is about the earth and human affairs, actually belong to the order of daemons. The gods of the Mystic Rites are accordingly so included.
Suppose, then, any one should wish to worship divinities of this class according to Theurgic Rites, in a manner proper to them and as originally allotted. In such case, as they are of the realm of matter, the attention ought to be given to a form of service appropriate to that realm. For in this way we will be led wholly into familiar intimacy with them all, and will bring to them in worship what is appropriate to a kindred race. Hence dead bodies and creatures deprived of life, and likewise the slaughter of animals and consuming of the bodies,14 and also the manifold change, decay and vicissitude generally which befall to matter pertain to the gods; not to them through themselves, but through the realm of matter over which they are rulers. For although they are to the utmost separated from it they are nevertheless present with it; and although they encompass it by a power which is not of matter, they exist along with it. The things that are thus conducted are not alien to those who conduct them, nor are those that are put in order foreign to those who put them in order, and those likewise that are subservient are not unadapted to those that make use of them as instruments. 14. Porphyry and others of the philosophers of that period declared distinctly that the sacrifices of living creatures were not for the gods at all, but for daemons and the lower orders of spiritual essences. Indeed, their sentiments were considered as evidence of a hostility to Judaism. In archaic times, and even in many centuries of the historical period, human victims were immolated, and the Hebrew writings seem to recognize the custom (Leviticus xxvii, 28, 29; Judges xi, 30-40; Micah, vi, 7). Plutarch denounced this practice, and declared his belief that there was never a god that required it, but it was only intended to avert and appease the malice and rancor of evil spirits. The slaughter of hogs at the festivals of Adonis, Osiris and Demites seems to have been of the latter character, as swine were abhorred in Oriental countries.
Hence the offering of anything belonging to the realm of matter is alien and repugnant to the divinities of the supramaterial world, but it is perfectly proper for all those that are allied to matter.15 15. Here may be perceived the distinction between different teachers. One school adopted the notion that the body being constituted of matter, was to be macerated and held in low esteem. Plato, however, in Theaetetus, taught that we escaped from evil in the body by becoming as much as possible like a god. This was to be accomplished by a life of purity and justice, not by bodily worship, but by mental and moral excellence.


Let us next consider what is in harmony with the sentiments which have been. uttered, and with our twofold constitution. For when we become entirely soul and are outside of the body, and soaring on high with all the gods of the non-material realm, we occupy ourselves with sublime visions. Then again, we are bound in the oyster-like body and held fast under the dominion of matter, and are corporeal in feeling and aspiration.16 There comes, accordingly, therefore, a twofold form of worship. For the one which is for unstained souls will be simple, free of the body and pure from every condition of generated existence; but the other, which is accommodated to souls that are not pure and liberated from the conditions of generated existence, is filled with corporeal things and everything that relates to the world of matter.17 16. This figure is borrowed from Plato, and we find it eloquently depicted in the Phaedros.

17. This twofold phase of religions customs, the religion of the right hand and that of the left, still exists with the worshiper of Shiva and the Shakti in India It was exhibited in the Orphic and Dionysiac worships of Greece, and in several Oriental Rites. So the ascetic and the freer religionist were alike treated according to their respective dispositions.
I admit therefore that there are two forms of Sacred Rites. The one, those for individuals who are entirely purified. Such rarely happen, as Herakleitos affirms, beyond a single person at one time or a few that may be easily counted. The other class, such as are yet held by the body, consists of those who are of the realm of matter and of corporeal quality, sustaining themselves through change.18 18. In other words, holding to no stable purpose, and exhibiting some new energy at every new phase of opinion or experience.
Hence, unless such a form of worship shall be instituted for cities and peoples that are not relieved from the hereditary allotment, 19 and that hold tenaciously to the communion with the body, they will fail utterly of both kinds of good, that which is superior to the realm of matter, and that which is of the world of matter. For the former they are unable to receive, and to the latter they bring nothing of kindred nature. At the same time every one performs his service according to what he is, and certainly not with reference to what he is not. For it is not proper for it to exceed the worshipers' own condition. I have the same thing to say also in respect to the intimate union which joins together the men who are worshipping and the powers that are worshipped as members of a family. For I desire the same unity, that the usage of religious worship which is homogeneous with it shall be chosen, namely: not only that which is non-material being commingled in the manner accordant with itself, and joining the incorporeal natures in a pure manner with themselves, with pure incorporeal powers, but also uniting the corporeal natures after a corporeal manner with corporeal essences, commingling with the bodies the superior essences that pervade them. 19. They were considered as more or less infested by evil daemon whom it was necessary to placate.


We shall not, therefore, think it unworthy of us to treat also of matters of such a lower character. Thus in respect of the needs of the body, we often perform some office to the guardians of the corporeal nature, the gods and good daemons; such as purifying it from old stains, or freeing it of diseases, and making it abound with health, or taking away from it heaviness and torpor, and imparting to it lightness and activity instead -- or if nothing else, procuring for it all manner of benefits. We do not, therefore, in any way treat it as though it was of mental quality or even as though it was not corporeal. For the body is not constituted to participate in such modes of proceeding. But when it participates in modes of a nature corresponding to itself, a body is healed and purified by bodies. From necessity of such a kind, therefore, the institution of Sacred Rites will be of a corporeal ideal; on the one hand pruning away what is superfluous in us, and on the other supplying whatever in us is wanting, and also bringing into order and proportion in so far as it is disordered. We often make use of sacred ceremonies, beseeching from the superior races that they do for us many things of importance to the human life. These, doubtless, are the beings that take care of the body, or have charge of those things which we procure for the sake of our bodies.20 20. In the Egyptian System the human body was apportioned into thirty-six regions, each of which was supposed to be in charge of its own over-lord or presiding divinity, and had its class of physicians at the different temples.


What, then, it may be asked, will there be for us from the gods who are entirely exempt from all human conditioned existence in respect to unfruitfulness of the soil, or abundance, or other concern of life? Nothing whatever; for it is not the province of those beings who are free of all such things to touch gifts of this kind.

But suppose it is affirmed that the divinities who are entirely beyond the realm of matter encompass those of the other class, and when they encompass them, they also include their gifts in themselves, as being the One First Cause.21 21. This including of the Superior divinities under the designation of One First Cause, will seem to imply that they were considered as substantially one godhead. The late Prof. Taylor Lewis, of Union College, so viewed the matter. It will be observed that in the Hebrew text of the Bible, the Supreme Being is often designated by a plural term: "The Lord (Yava) our Eloim (Gods) is one." There is abundant evidence that the ancient religious systems generally recognized but one Supreme Divinity, in which all minor powers and essences were included as qualities or attributes. Yet they seem also to have been often regarded as distinct personalities.
It may also be asserted that abundance of the divine bounty comes down from them. But it must be allowed to no one to say that these superior divinities who perform these things come in close contact with the affairs of human life. For such an administration of things here is capable of division into departments, and is exercised with a certain degree of care; it is likewise by no means wholly separate from bodies, and it cannot be endowed with authority entirely untarnished. Does not the mode of religious worship best suit the case in performance of this kind, which is mingled with corporeal matters and allied to generated existence; and not that which is wholly apart from the realm of matter and from concerns of the body? For the mode that is thus pure is absolutely above us, and is wholly unsuitable; but the one that makes use of bodies and of the powers that operate by means of bodies is, in the completest sense of all, especially allied to us. It can not only effect successes in life, but it can also avert imminent misfortunes, and bring harmony and a just tempering of conditions to the mortal race.


According to another classification, the numerous throng of human beings is arranged under the head of "Nature." It is governed by the powers of the realm of Nature, looks down to the operations of Nature, and likewise in addition makes complete the jurisdiction of Fate, submits to the order of things to be accomplished in so far as it is fated, and also employs practical reasoning in regard to things that belong alone to the department of nature.

A certain few, however, who exercise a faculty of mind superior to nature, are exalted beyond that class and ranked in the order of separate and unalloyed intelligence as being those who have become altogether superior to the powers of the realm of nature.

Others, however, are placed between these as intermediaries between the department of nature and that of pure intelligence; some following after both classes, others pursuing a life commingled from the two, and others being set free from the inferior classes and placed with the more excellent.22 22. Plotinus has also described these classes with equal distinctness. All from their birth, he declares, make use of the senses before they have acquired any superior perception. He adds that, "Some proceed no further, but pass through life considering the things of sense to be the first and last of all; and as they apprehend that what is painful is evil, and that whatever is pleasant is good, they think it sufficient to pursue the one and to avoid the other. Others have a greater share of intelligence, but do not rise above the earth. Some of these exhibit greater perception, but not superior moral excellence. In the third class are the divine ones who acutely perceive supernal light, rise superior to sense, and live above the world.
These, then, having been thus defined, that which is to accompany them becomes especially plain. For they who are governed by the general condition of things, and they in particular who live according to their own peculiar natural disposition and make use of their natural powers, adopt the religious worship that is proper to nature and to bodies made active by nature;23 making choice of places, atmosphere, matter and powers of matter, bodies and habitudes of bodies, qualities, appropriate dances, changes incident to generated existence, and other things congruous with these, in other departments of religious worship, and in the department which is directly connected with sacrificing. 23. By "Nature" some understood the Great Goddess, others simply a daemon, others the Superior Mind.
But they who live with reference to mind alone, and the life which is of the mind, and who are free of the bonds of the realm of nature, exercise diligently in the spiritual and incorporeal law of the Sacred Art relating to the several departments of Theurgy.

Those who are intermediary between the two classes, pursue assiduously the ways of holiness in different manner, according to the differences between them, either participating in both these modes of religious devotion, or standing aloof from one of them, or accepting them as a foundation of things more valuable. For without these they may never accomplish the higher attainments. In some other way perhaps they may take them in hand in a becoming manner.


In respect, however, to this very mode of distinction, there is brought to our attention the following classification of the divine Essences and powers:
  1. Some have a soul and nature subject and subservient to their creations, in whatever way they will.
  2. Others are entirely separate from soul and nature. I mean from the divine soul and nature and not from the cosmic and genetic soul and nature only.
  3. Some, however, are intermediaries between them, and preserve a communion from each to each other; either by an unsevered bond of union, or by a generous imparting of superior benefits or an unchecked reception of lesser ones, or by the harmony of mind which binds both together.24
24. Mr. Thomas Taylor classes the intermediary divinities as archai or rulers (principalities, Ephesians vi, 12), and apolutoi or liberated; the one being supercosmic and the other supercelestial, or superior to the visible gods in the sky.
When, therefore, we are worshipping the gods that are kings of the realms of soul and nature, it is not out of the way to present to them natural powers and bodies that are not controlled by nature, devoting to them what is not worthless. For all the operations of nature are subservient to them and associated with them in the administration of the world.

But when we are paying homage to these gods that are uniform in respect to themselves, it is proper to distinguish them with unlimited honors. Gifts of a spiritual character are suited to them, things of the incorporeal life, and likewise such as virtue and wisdom bestow, and whatever good things of the soul are perfect and entire.

And moreover, to the intermediary divinities, those who lead in benefits of the middle class, sometimes gifts of a twofold character will be suitable, and sometimes those common to both the classes, or those which are separate from the lower orders but belong to the higher; or to sum up the whole matter, those Which will in one of the modes be amply sufficient for the intermediate.


Setting out from another original principle: that of the world and the cosmian divinities, and likewise the distribution of the four elements in the world, the apportioning of the elements by allotment in due proportion, and their circling revolution in orderly arrangement in respect to centers, we have an easy path to the true conception of the holy rites in respect to sacrifices. Suppose we ourselves are in the world, and are included as parts in the whole universe, that we are likewise produced by it at first and brought to maturity by all the forces in it, and also that we are constituted from the elements in it, and receive from it a certain allotment of life and nature. We may not, on account of these things, pass over the world and the cosmian arrangements. We must grant accordingly that in every region about the world there is this body which we observe, and there are also the incorporeal classified powers around the bodies. Hence the law of religion, it is plain, assigns like things to like and extends in this manner through the universal spaces from on high to the last, assigning things incorporeal to the incorporeal, and things corporeal to the corporeal, each giving to the other in due accord with their peculiar nature.

But when one of the theurgists becomes participant with the supernal gods -- which is the rarest occurrence of any -- that individual, he, from whatever corner he may come, being united to the gods by a supernal power, is superior to corporeal things and the realm of matter, as respects the worship of the gods. This sublime attainment is made by a person with difficulty and at a late period at the end of the sacred experience. It is not proper, therefore, to set it forth as a matter common to everybody; and in particular it should not be made common to those who are beginners in the theurgic discipline, nor to those who are midway in it; for these, in some way or other, bestow attention upon sacred matters as if it were a matter of bodily concern.25 25. Iamblichus, in the "Life of Pythagoras," remarks that "He who pours clean water into a muddy well does but disturb the mud." In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus charges the disciples not to give the holy truth to dogs, nor cast pearls before the swine; for the latter will tread the jewels under their feet, and the dogs will rend the uncautious givers.

Chapter 13. Concerning the Mystic Rites

I think, therefore, that all who delight in the spectacle of Theurgic reality1 will acknowledge this: that it is not proper to render to the gods partially or imperfectly the devotion which is rendered to them. Thus, therefore, before the gods make their appearance at the Rites, all the powers (potestates or daemons) that are subject to them, are set in motion;2 and when the gods are about to move toward the earth, they come ahead and go before them in procession. He, therefore, who does not bestow on all of them what he should, and address every one according to the honor to which he is entitled, is made to go away uninitiated and disappointed of the participation with the gods. But he who propitiates them all, bringing to every one the gifts in his power that are most suitable and acceptable, always remains safe and without blame, having well and most carefully accomplished the reception of the divine chorus.3 NOTES:

1. The spectacular representations exhibited at the Sacred Rites to candidates for initiation and others participating in the worship.

2. The "powers" are here distinctly set forth as spiritual essences. Proclus recognizes them as belonging to the order of daemons, and informs us that there is an innumerable company of them about every god, and that they are named by his appellations, as though they were themselves the divinity. "In the most holy scenes of the Initiatory Rites," says he, "prior to the manifestations of the divinity as present, troops of chthonian daemons make their appearance, calling the attention of the candidates from things pure and good to the realm of Matter."
I am reminded of the "subject-spirits" described by Emanuel Swedenborg. If one of them is imagined by the individual with whom it is communicating, to he some particular person, then the spirit, as if mesmerized, immediately supposes itself to he that person. -A.W.

3. The primitive conception of sacrifices was that they afforded refreshment to spiritual beings; as for example, the deceased member of a family. Such offerings are made at stated periods in China and India and were once universal. Daemons and embodied souls were also considered as thus receiving service and delight, and it was to them that the sacrifices were actually devoted. (I Corinthians x, 20.) Hence, sacrifices became festivals to which friends were invited, and the principal viands were consecrated by invoking the divinities. See I Samuel ix, 12, 13-21, 23, and Malachi i, 12.
Since, therefore, this is the case, which of the two is proper: that the ceremonial of the Sacred Rite shall be simple and consisting of a few particulars, or elaborate and adapted to every move -- or, so to speak, as if from everything in the world mingled together? If, indeed, the power that is invoked and influenced by the Sacred Rite were simple and of one order alone, the ceremonial of the sacrifices would be of necessity also simple. But suppose the multitude of other powers (daemons and minor spiritual beings) that are aroused and set in motion at the descending of the gods can be included in no simple rite. The theurgists, from being experienced in the performances, are the only ones that know these things accurately, and they alone are able to cognize what constitutes the perfect celebration of the Sacred Ceremony. They are also aware that the omissions, though few, defeat the whole performance of the Sacred Rite, just as when in a harmony a single chord is broken, the whole becomes out of tune and discordant.4 4. "In the Divine Dramas or Discourses," says Simplikios, "if anything is omitted, or is displaced, or comes up afterward, the divine illumination does not take place, but the remissness of the one who is doing this makes vapid the power of what has been accomplished."
As therefore, in the divine descents which are visible there occurs manifest injury to those who leave any of the superior beings unhonored,5 so likewise when they are present at the sacrifices unseen it is not well to honor one and not another, but instead every one should be honored according to the order to which he is allotted. He who leaves any of them without a gift holds the whole thing fast and destroys the one and entire arrangement. He does not, as some may therefore imagine, make the reception an imperfect one, but, on the other hand, he absolutely overturns the whole purpose of the Sacred Rite. 5. Aeneus, the king of Kalydon, it was fabled, once celebrated a sacrifice at which he omitted to honor the goddess Artemis. She by way of punishment sent a boar to ravage his dominions.


What then? 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, I may be answered, but this takes place at a very late period, and only with the exceedingly few; and if it comes at the very sunset of life, they are content. Our present discussion, however, does not set forth the law for a man of such character, for he is superior to all law;6 but it establishes such a system of law for those who are in need of superior legislation.7 It says accordingly, that as the universe is a system from many orders combined into one, so it is proper that the complete ceremonial of the Sacred Rites, unceasing and entire, shall be joined with the whole category of the superior races. Certainly, indeed, if the cosmos is manifold and entire, and is constituted in many orders, it is proper accordingly that the Sacred Performance shall copy its various features, because of all the powers which they present to view.8 Hence, in relation to these and to the various kinds that are about us, it is not proper for us to be intimately connected with the divine causes (or beings) that are over them, from a part of the qualities in them. On the contrary, we should not aspire to be with their leaders, when anything on our part is omitted or incomplete. 6. This declaration is sustained by the Apostle Paul. "If you are led by the spirit of noetic faculty," says he, "you are not under law." The Greek term here used by both writers is nomos, an enactment, and not thesmos, a sacred decree. Plotinus has explained this mental exaltation here affirmed. "We receive the Infinite by a faculty superior to the understanding," he inculcates; "we enter into a condition of mind ill which we are no longer our own selves, but become partakers of the divine nature." The philosopher, it is recorded, has attained this mental and moral exaltation. Its similarity to the state of Yogi or consecration, described by Indian sages, is evident.

7. Syrianos, and Taylor following him, have substituted thesmos for thumos in the Greek text. The phrase otherwise would have read: "for those who are bound by passion."

8. "Religion is the imitating of what you worship."


The diversified mode of celebrating the Holy Rite in the Sacred Performances, therefore, not only purifies us, but it also makes perfect something of the defects in us or about us, establishes in harmony and order, and otherwise delivers us from faults of deadly character.9 It likewise brings all into familiar relations with the races superior to us. And, certainly, when the divine causes and the human adaptations closely resembling them meet together to the same end, the initiation or Perfective Rite assures every full and ample benefit of the sacrifice. 9. Expositors interpret these statements as setting forth that the Sacrifices were expiatory or purifying in the way of averting diseases and other impurities, as seems to be signified by the establishing in harmony and order. In the sixteenth chapter the benefits of the Initiatory Rites are substantially classed under three heads, which have been denominated astrologic, iatric or curative, and telestic or perfective. The initiatory or Perfect Rite, it was considered, exalted the candidate beyond the sphere of generated existence, as in the maksha or nirvana of the Buddhists.
It will not be amiss, however, to add such particulars as the following in order to give an accurate understanding in respect to these things. The divinities of the highest order have always a superabundance of power, and while it is superior to all it is at the same time present with them all equally without impediment. In conformity with this statement, therefore, the very first illuminate the last, and those who are superior to matter are present with those belonging with matter, but not after the manner of the world of matter.
Let no one be surprised even though we say that there is a certain matter that is pure and divine. For it originates from the Father and Demiurgos of the universe and possesses a completeness of its own suitable for a receptacle of gods. At the same time nothing obstructs the superior races from being able to illuminate the lower orders from their own substance. Nor does anything hold matter back from participating of the superior natures. So far as it is perfect, pure and evidently good it is not an unsuitable receptacle of the gods.10 For as it is necessary that the races in the earth shall be in no respect deprived of a divine participation, the earth also receives a divine portion from it, which is sufficient to admit the gods. 10. Plato in the Timaeus denominates matter, the materia or maternal principle of the universe, the tithoné or nurse, and the upodoché or receptacle, the womb of created things. Professor Butler remarks accordingly that "it is the transition-element between the real and the apparent, the eternal and the contingent."
The Theurgic discipline, therefore, recognizing these things and thus discovering in common with others the suitable receptacles of the gods according to the individual peculiarity of each, often joins together stones, plants, animals, and sacred aromatics, perfect and godlike, and afterward forms from all these a receptacle complete and pure. For it is not proper to be dissatisfied with everything material, but only with that which is repugnant to the gods. But that particular matter is to be chosen which is akin to them as capable of being in accord both in building the Houses of the gods, in the setting up of carved images, and, in fine, in the sacred ceremonial of sacrifices. For in no other manner can there be any participation in the receiving of the superior beings in places upon the earth or by human beings dwelling there unless such a beginning shall have been first established.

We ought; then, to confide in the arcane declarations, that by means of the holy spectacles, a certain principle of matter is transmitted from the gods. This matter without doubt is of the same nature with the very ones themselves by whom it is given. Hence, does not the sacrificing of such a kind of matter arouse the gods to the visible manifestation, invite them to come quickly to our perception, and likewise receive them when they are present and cause them to unfold them-selves perfectly to view?


The same things may also be learned from the assignment of the gods according to places, and from the division of authority over every particular thing, so far as they are assigned according to the different ranks, or the greater or lesser allotments. For this is certainly plain: that to the gods that are in large over particular places the things that are produced by them are the most, proper to be brought for sacrifice, and those that pertain to the governed are best suited for the divinities that govern. For to the makers their own works are most particularly gratifying, and to those who first of all introduce certain things such are acceptable above all else. If, on the other hand, certain animals, or plants, or other of the productions upon the earth, are under the rule of the superior races11 the divinities participate together in their superintendence and procure for us an inseparable union to themselves. Some of these things, therefore, being carefully saved and guarded, increase with the gods the intimate familiarity of those who hold them fast, inasmuch as by being kept inviolate they preserve in full force the communion of gods and men. 11. The ancient Egyptians were famed for their veneration of sacred animals, plants and other objects, and many absurd and ridiculous jests have been made on this account. Plutarch carefully explains the matter. "Nothing can be a god to men," says he, "that is either without soul or is under their power." But language is often mistaken in its purport, and symbolic language in particular. What the teacher utters as from his right hand, the hearer receives as with his left. "Those who have not learned the true sense of the words will also mistake in the things." In this way statues and emblems have been spoken of as actual objects of worship, and animals that were only symbolic personifications of divinity have been asserted to be the real divinities that were worshipped. The intelligent worshipper had no difficulty in perceiving the real truth.
Of such a character are some of the animals of Egypt, and in the same manner, the human being everywhere is sacred.12 Some of the consecrated victims, however, make the familiar relationship more conspicuous, so far as they affect the analysis in respect to the kindred and more sacred origin of the primitive elements with the Superior (divine) causes. This being accomplished, the benefits which are imparted from it are more perfect. 12. In other words, likely to be a victim at the altar. "As Manetho related, they were used in archaic times to burn living men in the city of Ilithyia, styling them Typhonian." Ashmes, who expelled the Hyk-sos rulers, put an end to the custom. It existed in Asiatic countries, where Semitic worships existed, and even the Hebrews seem not to have been an exception. As late as the period of the Persian wars with the Greeks, Themistokles is said to have sacrificed three Persian prisoners to the daemons or chthonian gods, and Amestris, the Queen of Xerxes, to have buried fourteen Persians alive. Even at a later period Caius Marius immolated his daughter to propitiate the gods; and some tribes still keep up the custom. There is a formula for human sacrifice among the Shiva-worshippers of India.. The putting of prisoners to death and cannibalism are vestiges of the same practice.


If, then, these were human customs alone and so derived their authority through our institutions, it might be asserted that the Holy Rites of the gods were inventions of our own devising. Now, however, God, who is thus invoked in the sacrifices, is their author, and the gods and angels13 around him constitute a numerous throng. Under him, likewise, there is a public Overlord assigned by allotment to each nation upon the earth, and to every sanctuary its own.14 Of the sacrifices made to the gods, a god is director; of those to the angels, it is an angel; of those to the daemons, a daemon; and in like manner in other cases a superintendent is appointed over each in the manner consonant with the particular race. When, therefore, we bring our sacrifices to the gods, in company with the gods that superintend and make complete the mystic rites, it is our duty at the same time to revere the institution of sacred divine worship in regard to the Sacrifices. At the same time, however, it becomes us to be of good courage as we celebrate the holy rites under the ruling gods, and like-wise to exercise suitable caution, that we may not bring some gift unworthy of the gods, or obnoxious to them. 13. The angels are not a common constituent in the Egyptian and Hellenic categories. They were adopted evidently from Judaea or Assyria about the same time.

14. See Daniel x, 13, 21; xii, 1.
In conclusion, then, we admonish at all events that the endeavor be made in respect to those around us, gods, angels and daemons, that are distributed according to race, in every part of the universe; and that an acceptable sacrifice shall be presented alike to them all. For only so can the Holy Rites be celebrated in a manner worthy of the divine beings that preside over them.


A part of the Sacred Rites and not the least important is that of the prayers. They fill out the sacrifices to the fullest extent, and through these the entire performance becomes established and perfect. They likewise effect the general combined operation with the worship, and bring the Sacred Service into indissoluble copartnership with the gods. It will not be amiss to relate a few things in respect to this subject. For this very thing is of itself worthy to be learned, and it makes our superior perception in respect to the gods more perfect.15 15. "Prayer is by no means an insignificant part of the upward path of souls," says Proclus. Sacrifices and Holy Rites were considered as the body of the prayers, and prayer as the animating principle of sacrifices. The Chaldaean Oracle also declares: "The mortal approaching the fire will receive illumination from the divine ones."
I affirm, therefore, that the first ideal of prayer is a collecting (of our thoughts) and likewise a leading to contact and a genuine knowing of God. Next after this is the binding in communion with a single mind, and also the calling to us of the gifts which the gods have sent down, before the uttering of a word, completing the entire performances before it was perceived. But in the most perfect ideal which is the most perfect form of prayer, the occult union is sealed and its validity assured by the gods, procuring perfect repose in them for our souls. In these three limits in which everything divine is measured, prayer, making our friendship worthy of the gods, gives us the sacred aid from them three-fold.16 The first of these relates directly to illumination, the second to a general completion of effort, and the third to the complete fulfillment by means of the fire.17 At one time, prayer precedes the Sacred Rites; again it divides the Sacred Performance in the middle, and at another time, it further effects the purpose of the sacrifices. No sacred performance takes place properly, without the supplications in the prayers. But continual exercise in them nourishes our mind and spiritual nature, makes the reception-chambers of the soul vastly more spacious for the gods,18 opens the arcana of the gods to human beings, accustoms us to the irradiations of the Light,19 and by degrees perfects the qualities within us to a conjoining with the gods, bringing us back again to the very summit.20 It quietly draws upward our habits of thought and imparts to us the moral qualities of the gods. And besides this, persuasive discourse awakens a fellowship and affection that are indissoluble. It likewise augments the divine love and lights up the divine quality of the soul. It also cleanses away every-thing from the soul that is of a contrary character, and removes whatever about it is of æther-like and luminant spirit, so far as it is allied to the sphere of generated existence. It likewise makes perfect a good hope and confidence in respect to the Light, and, in short, brings to perfection those who are exercised in these disciplines, so that we may call them Companions of the gods. 16. The edition of Scutellius has this fuller reading: "Prayer not only assures to us the friendship of the gods, but brings to our hand three fruits, which are, so to speak, golden apples from the Hesperidean gardens."
Proclus designates these three stages of prayer sunafh, ekpelasis, and enwsis, the contact, the approach, the perfect union. These are preceded by two conditions: to know the different ranks of the divine beings to which they belong, and the oikeiwsis or family alliance by which we become adopted by the gods. We are then without contact or any thing of matter made ready for the illumination.

17. The Chaldaean Oracles describe the Supreme Divinity as Fire, creative-life-bringing and intellectible. "A whirlwind drew forth the bloom of the shadowy fire and impregnated the wombs of the universe." (Compare Genesis i, 2.) "She is the producer of the work, because she is the giver of life-bringing fire." The fire as a symbol in the shrine if the temple, and the employment of sacred fire to consume the consecrated parts of the sacrifices, thus represent the Supreme Fire by which all things subsist and are made complete.

18. Proclus adds the following in the way of comment: "It fills the entheast soul to its full measure."

19. The representation of the Divine essence as a supernal luminance is universal. The passage in the proem of the Johannean Gospel has been the philosophic dogma of all periods: "In the Logos or divine mason, was life, and the life was the light of mankind." The Chaldaean Oracle also says: "When thou shalt see a very holy fire without definable shape, leaping as it shines, hearken to the voice of the Fire." Moses and Zoroaster both professed to hear the words of the Deity spoken out of fire. (Deut. v.)
Pure fire unmingled with material particles is not visible to the human faculty of sight. This explains satisfactorily the apparent contradiction, in which the Supreme Being is depicted as light, and likewise as enveloped in clouds and thick darkness.

20. "Through Prayer," says Proclus, "the summit of moral excellence, the holiness which pertains to the gods, is attained."
If this is what may be said of prayer, that it effects in us benefits of such importance, and likewise that it has a close relation to the sacrifices which we have mentioned, does not the object of the Sacred Rites thereby become clear, that it is a participating in intimate relations with the Creator? As then through the celebrating of the Rites, the benefit from it is as much as is conferred by the demiurgic divinities upon human beings.21 Indeed, from that source the exalting, the perfecting and completing influence of the prayers becomes manifest, how it becomes active, how unifying, and it has a common bond which is given from the gods. In the' third place, therefore, any one may easily perceive from what has been said, that the two (prayer and sacrifice) are established through each other and impart to each other the sacred power of the holy perfective rite. 21. This is an allusion upon which Plato throws light in the Timaeus. He (the Demiurgos or Creator) charged the junior gods with the work of constructing mortal bodies, as well as everything additional that was required for the human soul. He gave them dominion over these and all things consequent thereto, and bade them rule over the mortal creation as nobly and honorably as they could, in order that it might not become the cause of evil to itself." The "Junior Gods" are those so generally mentioned by our author. They are also classed under the head of aitia -- causes or categories -- and as we here observe, are the demiurgic or organizing causes.
Hence there is manifest through all parts of the Sacerdotal System, the complete agreement and joint working with itself: the parts of it being more naturally connected than those of any animal, and joined together by one uninterrupted continuity of substance. Of this fact we ought never to be unmindful; nor should we accept half of it and reject the other half, but should be exercised in them all alike. It is necessary that they who desire genuinely to be conjoined with the gods should be initiated through the whole of them.

These things, therefore, may not be otherwise.

Part VI

Chapter 14. Conditions for Successful Results


In regard to what remains to be considered, it is high time for me to pass on to the difficulty which you next suggest. "It is also required," you say, "that the Beholder1 must be pure from the contact of anything dead, and yet of the rites employed to bring the gods hither, many are made effective through dead animals." In order to reconcile these apparent contradictions we will take a survey of the conflict that seems to exist. There is no opposition at all in the case, but it only appears to be a contradiction in terms. For, indeed, if the law of the Rites commanded both that the dead bodies of the sacrifices should not be touched, and also that they should be touched, this would be contradictory to itself. But if it enjoins to keep aloof from those bodies that have not been consecrated, but permits to touch those that are purified, this is no contradiction.2 1. The epoptes, ephoros, Theôros or candidate undergoing initiation, and so contemplating the views presented for his instruction.

2. Porphyry himself, and Plotinus before him, it may be remarked, did not approve of the killing of animals for food or sacrifice. They also regarded the touch of a dead body as polluting to the person touched.
Further still, it is not allowable to handle the bodies of human beings after the soul has left them. For there is a certain trace, an eidôlon, or reflection of divine life which has been extinguished in the body by death. But it is not an unholy act to touch other animals that are dead, since they do not share the diviner life. It is, therefore, in the case of the other divinities, such as are not separate from matter, that abstinence from touching is essential, but in that of the gods that preside over animals and are intimately united to them, the invocation through animals in sacrifice is conceded.

According to this view, therefore, there is no contradiction.


This matter may also be explained in another way. For bodies deprived of life do bring defilement to human beings who are held by matter, because that which is not alive places a stain upon the living individual, like filth upon the clean, and one in a state of privation upon one in possession of a sufficiency, and also because it produces a taint through the natural aptitude to a worse condition by there being the power of dying. But the body produces no defilement upon a daemon, he being entirely incorporeal, and not receiving corruption from anywhere. On the other hand, it is necessary, for him to be superior to the corruptible body, and not to receive from it into himself any reflection of corruption.

This much, therefore, I say in reference to the difficulty which you suggest in regard to the contradiction.


While explaining by itself how divination is performed by means of the sacred animals, as, for example, by hawks,3 we did not assert in any manner that by the employment of bodies thus brought into affinity, the gods were present. For they are not set over animals singly, either by assignment, or by any relation to the realm of matter. But to the daemons, and especially to those that are apportioned to the realm of matter, such dealing with the agencies of divination may be assigned, different animals being allotted to different ones, and such ascendancy having been established through contiguity, and they not having been assigned by lot to their respective dominion, by lot are entirely independent and clear of the realm of matter. Or, if any one desires it to be set forth, a seat or vehicle may be assigned to them of such a character by means of which they may be enabled to hold converse and give responses to human beings. We must think, then, that this vehicle is pure from contamination of bodies; for no communion whatever exists between that which is pure and the contrary, but there is a reason for it to be conjoined with human beings through the soul of animals.4 For this soul has a nature kindred to human beings, through a like vital principle; and likewise to daemons, because being free from bodies it after a manner exists separately. But as it is intermediate between both, it is subservient to the controlling daemon, yet it makes known to those who are still withheld in the body whatever the overlord directs. Thus a common bond of union is given between them, each to the other. 3. The hawk was held in special esteem in Ancient Egypt. Ra the Sun-God was represented in the hieroglyphics with a hawk's head holding the solar circle in its beak; and Thoth was also depicted having the same emblem, to show that he was the genius of intelligence. The bird was regarded as having the faculty of divining. Its body after death was embalmed and deposited in the shrine at Buto, and whoever killed one, even by accident, was punished by death. In Greece, likewise, the hawk was a symbol of the sun, and sacred to Apollo, the god of oracles.

4. It was held that souls, when separated from the bodies by violence, continue to abide around the bodies, and hence that the theurgic priests were able through their agency to draw the guardian daemons to them.


It ought to be borne in mind, however, that the soul that makes use of such methods of divination, not only becomes a hearer of the oracle, but it also contributes from itself, to no small degree, a certain fatality for the accomplishing of it in respect to the performances. For through a certain sympathy of necessity, they are moved together, and act and prognosticate together. Hence such a mode of divining as this is entirely different from the mode that is divine and genuine;5 being able to give oracles in relation to trivial and every-day matters -- such as pertain to the diversified realm of nature, and are now brought into relation to generated existence. They likewise, impart activities from themselves to those capable of receiving them and produce emotional conditions of many kinds in those who are naturally susceptible to being affected in concert.6 But the perfect faculty of foreknowing is never developed by emotional excitement. For that which is most of all the unchangeable, and likewise the exempt from matter and in every way pure, attains readily to a perception of the future; but that which is commingled with the irrationality and darkness of the corporeal and materialistic nature, is filled with dense ignorance. Hence, it is never well to receive any such ingenious procedure in divination. Nor ought we to make use of it with any considerable eagerness, nor to trust another person that does it, as though it possessed of itself any clear and well-known evidence of truth. This is enough for us to say in relation to this kind of divining. 5. Augustin of Hippo berated Porphyry in regard to this distinction between "divine" or "angelic" and the other communications. "Behold," says he, "Iamblichus, the patron of the Egyptian priests, deserts his clients."

6. This accounts also for the enthusiasm characteristic of the Bacchic festivals, and kindred exhibitions at public assemblies, where some powerful influence predominates. Such nervous affections as hysteria and epilepsy are sometimes occasioned in such ways. In the old languages the same terms are used to denote mental derangement and prophetic inspiration.


Come, then, let us discourse about difficulties of another class, that are in the category of occult things, and which contain, as you say, "threats of violence." In regard to the multitude of threats, the accusation is divided into many parts. For the actor threatens that he will either "assail the sky, reveal to view the arcana of Isis, expose to public gaze the ineffable symbol in Abydos,7 to stop the Baris, scatter the limbs of Osiris like Typhon, or do something else of a similar character." 7. In the Greek text of the Letter of Porphyry this term is "adyton," the inner shrine of the temple, but here it is Abydos, a city in Middle Egypt, where was the most ancient temple to Isis and Osiris, and also a "tomb." Some writers insist that only the adytum was meant; others that reference is made to the shrine at Abydos. This was the oldest metropolis in Egypt.
The theologic myths of Egypt contain an explanation of these expressions. Osiris and Isis, or Uasar and Uasi, were the two principal divinities commemorated in the Egyptian Sacred Rites. They were doubtless of Asiatic origin, and the legend seems to be a representation of the contest with the Shepards. Seth, Sutekh, or Typhon was the tutelary god of Northern Egypt of the Hyk-sos, and of the Kheti or Hittites of Asia. He is described as the brother of Osiris and as having treacherously murdered him, and afterward dismembering the body. The widowed Isis wanders over Egypt and to Phoenicia in quest of his remains. They are finally transported in the boat Bans to their final resting-place. The simulacrum of one part is placed in every shrine as a sacred relic. These things were commemorated in the Sacred Rites.
The men do not, as you imagine, hold out this form of words as a threat "to the Sun-god, or to the Moon, or any of the divine ones in the sky"; for then there would occur more fearful monstrosities than those of which you angrily complain. On the other hand, as I said before in these explanations, there is in the divisions of the world a class of powers, incapable of judgment, and unreasoning. It receives and obeys a word of command from another, but it neither makes use of intelligence of its own, nor distinguishes the true and the false, or the possible or impossible. Such a race of beings, when threats are held over them incessantly, are thrown into agitation and filled with amazement. Hence, I think that it is natural for this class to be led by forcible utterances, and to attract other things by means of senseless and unstable phantasy.


These things have also another explanation, as follows: The theurgic priest, through the power of the ineffable emblems, commands the cosmic spirits, not as a human being, nor as making use of a human soul.8 On the other hand, as one preexisting in the order of the gods, he makes use of threatenings more terrible than he could make from his own being alone. This is not as though he was about to do everything which he confidently affirms, but he teaches by such use of words how much, how great and what power he has through being at one with the gods. This power the knowledge of the ineffable symbols imparts to him. 8. See Part IV, Chapter 10. "In all theurgic rites there is a double character put forward: the one as a human being, the other as participating of a superior nature and exalted to the order of divinities. In the former the priest makes the invocation as a man and supplicates the superior beings; in the other, he commands the powers of the universe, because through the ineffable symbols, he is in some manner invested with the sacred character of the gods."
This also can be said: That the daemons who are distributed by departments, and who are guardians over the departments of the universe, have charge and superintendence individually of the departments to which they were allotted; so that they do not even admit a word to the contrary, but preserve the perpetual continuance of things in the world without change. They assume this unchangeableness, because the order of the gods remains immovably the same. Hence, they do not endure even to a hearing, that this shall be threatened in which the daemons of the atmosphere and those of the earth have their being.9 9. The powers having as their vahan or vehicle the sun, moon, and stars, were the daemons thus threatened.


The subject may also be explained as follows: The daemons have the guardianship of the Ineffable Mysteries. Thus, therefore, I assure you they maintain to a superior degree the orderly arrangement everywhere. For through this the constituent parts of the universe remain in their order because the beneficent power of Osiris continues pure and immaculate, and is not at all commingled with the opposing vice and disorder. The life of all things also remains pure and uncorrupt because the occult life-producing beauties of the rational faculties of Isis do not descend into the body, which is manifest and visible to the senses. But all things remain immutable and ever-coming into existence,10 because the course of the sun is never stopped. All things likewise remain perfect and entire because the ineffable arcane in Abydos (or in the inner shrine) are never at any time revealed to profane contemplation. Hence in these conditions, in which consists the safety of all things, I say, in the ineffable symbols being preserved occult and in the unutterable essence of the gods never being repressed by the contrary allotment -- this is not endurable even by sound for the daemons to listen to that belong around the earth, namely: that they are diverse in quality, or are unhallowed beings, and that on this account such a style of [threatening] words has a certain appropriateness to them. No one, however, utters a threat to the gods, nor is any such mode of prayer addressed to them. 10. In the ancient philosophy, creation was identical with generation. Hence the universe is styled "seigenes" or ever generated, as being constantly replenished and renewed. Creation is a work always taking place.
Accordingly with the Chaldaeans, with whom there has been a pure language set apart for the gods alone, a threat is never uttered. The Egyptian priests, however, having intermingled at the same time the divine symbolic terms and the daemonian words, make use, when it is proper, of threats.

Thou hast now the answer in relation to these difficulties; concise, indeed, but I think sufficiently clearing away every one of them.

Part VII. Sacred names and symbolic expression

Chapter 15. Origin of Egyptian Symbolism

Those difficulties require for solution the same divinely wise Muse. I desire, beforehand, however, to interpret to thee the peculiar form of the theologic system of the Egyptians. For they, endeavoring to represent the productive principle of the universe and the creative function of the gods, exhibit certain images as symbols of mystic, occult and invisible conceptions, in a similar manner as of Nature (the productive principle), in her peculiar way, makes a likeness of invisible principles through symbols in visible forms.1 But the creative energy of the gods delineates the genuine reality of the forms through the visible images. The Egyptian priests, therefore, perceiving that all the superior races are gratified at the resemblances of the inferior tribes to themselves, and desiring to supply the latter with benefits through such representations, so far as possible, do themselves bring into use for them as may be expected, a mode of initiation into the mysteries which is appropriately concealed in the symbols. NOTES:

1. See Herodotus: II, 60. Plutarch, Isis and Osiris 18, and throughout.


Listen, therefore, to the spiritual interpretation of the symbols, according to the conception of the Egyptian priests, dismissing from thy imagination and hearing the phantom-likeness of the symbols themselves, and bringing thyself upward to the spiritual reality.

By "ilus" or slime, then, recognize everything of a corporeal nature or belonging to the realm of matter, or that is nourishing and procreative, or such as is a material form belonging to the realm of nature and borne along with the never-still currents of the realm of matter, or such as the river of generative existence contains and which sinks with it, or the originating cause of the elements and of all the powers relating to the elements, which subsisted before in correspondence to a foundation.2 2. This definition of ilus or slime applies also to hulê, the foundation-principle of everything denominated "material." It is a concept of the mind, and not a something that can be weighed, measured, or perceived by the senses: and if the term has any intelligible meaning, it may be designated as passive, negative or objectified force.
It being of such a quality, God, who is author of all generation and production, and of all elemental forces, as being superior to them, immaterial and incorporeal, exalted above the realm of nature and likewise begotten and undivided, entire of himself and concealed in himself, is supreme above all these and embraces them all in himself. And because he contains everything and gives himself to all the universe, he is made-manifest out from them. Because he is superior to the universe, he is spread out over it by himself, and is manifested as separate, removed, high in the air and unfolded by himself above the forces and elementary principles in the world.3 3. The representation of the winged disk, so common in Egyptian symbolism, is here denoted. The description also applies to the figures of Assur and Ahuramazda of the Assyrian and Persian temples floating in the air above the Sacred Tree and the adoring King and priests.
The following symbol likewise attests this: For the one "sitting above the lotus-blossom" expresses enigmatically an exaltation above the slime, and likewise denotes spiritual and empyrial supremacy.4 For everything pertaining to the lotos, both the forms in the leaves and the appearance of the seed, is observed to be circular. This very energy is akin to the unique circle-like motion of the mind, manifesting it in like manner according to the same forms, in a single arrangement, and according to one principle. 4. The lotos or Nymphæ was anciently esteemed as the queen of the world of blossoms. Each of its numerous species seems to have been regarded as sacred in some of the ancient nations, and the same veneration is still maintained in China and India. The American pond-lily is of the same family. It has been conjectured to have received its distinction from the analogy of its seeds, which sprout in the capsule of the plant and begin to grow till they burst the pericarp and float away to take root in the slime by themselves.
The Egyptian priests were accustomed to exhibit simulacra of the gods in circles and globes as symbols of the uniform principle of life. Hermes Trismegistus compared Divinity to a circle, and the sublime description will be remembered, that its centre is everywhere and the circumference nowhere. The Pythagoreans regarded the circle as sacred, and considered it as the symbol of the highest spiritual truth. It also represents very aptly all human progress, which is never in straight lines, but in circles returning on themselves as if advancing in ascending spirals or retrograding in vortexes tending downward.
The god himself, however, is seated alone, above any such dominion or energy, august and holy, filled abundantly, and remaining in himself without change, as the figure of one sitting is intended to signify.5 5. Horus as Harpocrates was depicted as sitting on the cup of the lotos-blossom, with a finger on his mouth, contemplating the circle, and was the divinity here signified.
The one "sailing in a Boat"6 sets before the mind the power that directs the world. As, therefore, the Pilot, being apart from the ship, has the control of its rudders, so the Sun subsisting separately has control of the helms of all the world. And as the pilot from above at the stern, giving forth from himself the first brief beginning of the course, directs everything, so by an infinite priority of rank, the God from above, imparts without division from the first principles of Nature, the first-operative causes of motions. These things, therefore, and still more than these, are denoted by One Sailing in a boat. 6. Porphyry: Cave of the Nymphs: "The Egyptians represented the Sun and all the daemons as not connected with anything solid or stable, but as elevated on a sailing vessel."


Every department of the sky, every sign of the zodiac, every celestial course, every period of time according to which the world is put in motion, and all perfect things receive the forces which go forth from the Sun. Some of these forces are closely interblended with these, but others are superior to any commingling with them. Accordingly, the symbolic mode of expression also suggests them: "Assuming a shape according to the Signs of the Zodiac and changing forms according to the Season." It likewise manifests his unchangeable, constant, unceasing and generally universal and abundant giving to the whole world.

The different receivers, however, are variously affected with regard to the indivisible boon of the divinity, and they receive from the Sun powers of many kinds according to their peculiar impulses. In this way the series of symbols coming in succession, is designed, through the multitude of gifts, to make manifest the One God [the Sun], and through the manifold powers exhibited, to cause his one power to appear. Hence, also, it sets forth that he is One and the Same, but that the changes of shape and the transformations are taken for granted among the recipients.7 7. In this way, the Sun and Moon, though always of the same dimension, vary in apparent size and color, owing to accidents of the position of the earth, and the conditions of the spectator's eyesight.
On this account it is affirmed that the Sun changes "according to the sign of the zodiac and according to the season," because these manifestations are diversified with respect to the god, according to the many forms of his reception.
The Egyptian priests make use of such prayers to the Sun, not only at the Autopsias, but also in the more public prayers which have an interior sense, and are offered to the divinity with reference to such a symbolic initiation into Mysteries.8 8. Porphyry in his letter to Anebo, interrogated him directly about these matters. "For this is said to be seen at the Autopsias," says he, "and they unwittingly attribute to that divinity a peculiar incident of their own imagination. If, however, these expressions are uttered figuratively, and are symbolic representations of his forces, let them tell the interpretation of the symbols. For it is plain that if they denote the condition of the Sun, as in eclipses, they would be seen by every one who looked toward it intently."
The Autopsia was the final experience at the Initiatory Rite, when the candidate became an epoptes or Beholder. It was at once a view of one's own interior self and a vision of the Divinity. "Such a one," says Pindar, "knows the end of life and its sources from God." Paul the apostle is a little more explicit. "Such a man," says he, "was rapt into Paradise and heard ineffable things which it is not permitted a man to repeat." Hence Abammon declines to grant Porphyry's demand.
Hence it is not permitted that anyone shall offer any explanation.


But the enquiries which follow, if we are to go through with them sufficiently in detail, require more information. Yet it is equally necessary in replying to bring out the truth in relation to them in few words. Thou demandest: "Why are terms preferred that are unintel1igible?"9 9. The terms to which this reference is supposed to be made, are such as were enumerated by Alexander Trallianus: "Men, Thren, Mor, Phor, Teux, Za, Zôn, The, Lou, Khri, Gr, Ze, On." By these words, Trallianus declared, the sun becomes fixed in the heavens. He adds also others: "Iax, Azuph, Zuôn, Threux, Ban, Khôk." Very likely these as well as the famous Ephesian "spells," belong to an archaic language, which remained as a dialect of priests after having passed out of common use. The Latin language used in the Roman worship, the Hebrew in the Jewish, and the Sanskrit in the Brahman are analogous examples. Diodoros affirms that a barbarous or foreign dialect was used in the Samothrakian arcane rites. The expression, "Konx om pax," at the Eleusinia has perplexed scholars for centuries. Mr. Robert Brown, Jr. however, has traced it to the Akkad origin, and shows it to be a profession of the Supreme Truth of existence.
There has always been a "language of priests:" the ancients called it "speech of the gods." Homer gives us names in that dialect as well as those given by "men." The monarchs of Egypt and Assyria took divine names in addition to their family designations, and the practice has been followed for many centuries by the Popes of Rome, when taking office, to adopt a saint's name for their official title.
The Mystic Rites were accompaniments of the Sacred language. They were observed in every ancient nation that had a literature, and seem to have been derived from the country of the Euphrates. It was esteemed sacrilegious to divulge them, and the holy name of a divinity was not permitted to be uttered outside the temple. See Exodus xx: 7.
They are not "unintelligible," however, as thou hast thought. Nevertheless, let them be unknown to us, or let some of them be known, with reference to which we receive solutions from the gods; they, certainly, are all of them significant to the gods in a manner not divulged. Nor can they be significant and also oracular with human beings through imaginings, but either spiritually by the mind which is at once divine and human,10 or in silence, or to express the conception in a better and simpler manner, by a mind united with the gods.11 10. In other words, we comprehend first principles by simple intuition.

11. This was called a visible manifestation of divinity. A philosopher remarks: "From the clearness of the mind and the refulgence of divine splendor, the presence of Divinity is perceived at once.
We should, therefore, set aside all conceits and logical quibbles in regard to the divine names, and should, likewise, pay no attention to natural resemblances of speech which are closely akin to objects in the realm of nature. In the same manner, then, as the symbolic token of the divine likeness is spiritual and divine, the same thing is to be taken for granted in the names. Indeed, although we may not know it, this very thing is the most august in the case, for it is too grand to be classified for the purpose of being made known. In regard to those, however, of which we have received the skill to interpret the meaning, we possess in the name, the knowledge of the divine essence, power and order. Moreover, we guard care-fully in the soul the mystic and ineffable image of the gods; and through this we lead the soul upward to the gods, and having exalted it as far as possible, we ally it with the gods.
But you ask, "Why of names that are significant, do we place foreign ones before those of our own language?"12 The reason for this, also, is connected with the Mystic Rites. For the gods have made known that of the Sacred Nations, like the Egyptians and likewise the Assyrians, the entire dialect is suitable for sacred places. Hence, we believe that we ought to address our communications in speech native to the gods; and because such a mode of speaking is primitive and ancient, and most of all, as those who learned the first terms relating to the gods, mingled them with their own language and transmitted it to us, as being proper and suitable for these things, we have always preserved the law of tradition till the present time inviolate. For whatever else pertains to the gods, plainly the everlasting and unchangeable is kindred to them. 12. As Assyria is the chief Semitic country, the languages of Chaldaea and the Israelites are included under the designation. But whatever his dialect Abammon declares that Man is sacred everywhere. V, xxiv. There is a change of terms, however, in the question from those found in the Letter of Porphyry to Anebo, as will he seen by comparing.


It is then objected: "If the one who hears the voice gives attention to the signification, it is enough that the concept remains the same, whatever the term may be." The fact, however, is not as thou imaginest. For if terms had been fixed by conventional agreement, it would make no difference if some should be used instead of others. But if they are closely allied together in the nature of the things that have being,13 those the more like it will be most assuredly the more agreeable to the gods. From this fact it appears agreeable to reason that the language of the sacred nations has been adopted in preference to that of the rest of mankind. For terms when they are translated do not always preserve their meaning the same as before; and besides, there are certain idioms with every nation that are impossible to express to another in intelligible speech. Accordingly, though, it may be possible to translate them; they no longer preserve the same force. "Foreign terms," likewise, have great emphasis and much conciseness, and contain less ambiguity, diversity and varied shades of meaning. For all these reasons they suit the Superior Races. 13. Proclus considered that there were three classes of divine terms: the principal of which was for the gods themselves: the second was devised for the daemons, and the third was employed by sagacious men in relation to matters of their own devising. The former of these were considered as possessing energy and power.
Away, then, with conjectures which deviate from the truth: such as this, whether "the divinity that is invoked is Egyptian in race or makes use of the Egyptian language." Understand instead that the Egyptians were the first of mankind that were allotted to communion with the gods;14 and the gods that are invoked delight in the Egyptian customs. 14. The extraordinary antiquity of the Egyptians and their modes of worship is everywhere recognized. They were an archaic people and were highly civilized when they first became known to other nations.
Suppose, then, "these are all of them artful contrivances of jugglers," how is it possible that these things without which no sacred performance takes place successfully, which in the highest degree conjoin us with the gods, and combine us with them, and which possess powers almost equal to those of the superior races, should be only figments of the imagination? On the other hand, is it not true that "these are disguises that have their origin in the passive conditions about us through being attributed to the divine agency?" For it is not from what we have experienced, but on the contrary, from what are peculiar attributes of the gods, that we are aroused and ad-dress to them naturally the expressions proper for them. Nor do we form "conceptions of the divine nature contrary to what it actually is." On the other hand, wherein it is natural, and as they who first established the laws of holy religious worship have come upon the truth respecting it, so we continue in them. For if anything of different customs of a religious character harmonizes with them, it is what does not change. And it is necessary with the ancient prayers as with the sacred places of asylum to preserve them inviolate and in the same manner, neither taking anything from them nor adding anything to them from any other source.15 For this is perhaps the reason why at the present time everything is going to decay, and both the occult terms and the prayers have become without efficiency. They are constantly undergoing changes through the innovating disposition and the lawlessness of the Greeks, and nothing remains as it was. For the Greeks are by nature fond of innovation, and they are carried onward rushing eagerly in every direction. They have no ballast in them and they do not preserve what they received from anybody; but letting it quickly go, they remodel everything according to a never-ceasing fluency of words. But the foreign priests are steadfast in their customs, and continue firmly with the same words; for which reason, making use of the words grateful to them, they are themselves beloved by the gods. Nevertheless, to change them in any way is not lawful for any human being. 15. Proclus speaks of these prayers as follows: "The purifying petition is the one which is offered for the purpose of averting diseases of the character of plague, and other contagious: we have such inscribed in the temples." Porphyry has preserved a petition somewhat like one in the Gospel according to Luke. "O Lord, the Sun and you other divinities, the dispensers of life to human beings, accept me and commend me to the immortal gods as your servant. So long as I have lived I have always worshipped the gods whom my parents taught me should be venerated."
After the adoption of the Bacchic rites from Asia into Greece, the prayers or hymns to the new divinity were as numerous and almost as diverse as the States. The worshippers were principally women and the Eleans had a shout of which this is a translation:
     "Come Lord Dionysos, Lord Most High,
     Into thy holy shrine, the shrine ready for thee
     Frenzied, and with feet of ox,
     Bull worthy of our praise, worthy Bull."
"Hero," here rendered Lord, and Alioun, Most High, are archaic terms.
This much we have answered thee in regard to the words which are called both unutterable and barbarous16 or foreign, and yet are becoming in holy rites. 16. The term barbarous, used in Greek for alien and foreign, seems to have been formed from the Egyptian term Barbara, the archaic designation of the Egyptian peasantry.


Chapter 16. Questions Proposed

We will now pass over these matters, as thou sayest that thou desirest us "to declare plainly what the Egyptian Theosophers believe the First Cause to be: whether Mind or, above Mind: and whether one alone or subsisting with another or with several others: whether unbodied or embodied, and whether the very same as the Creator of the Universe (Demiurgos) or prior to the Creator: also whether all things have their origin out from one or out from many: whether they likewise have knowledge respecting Primal Matter, or of what nature the first bodies were: and whether the Primal Matter was unoriginated or was generated." NOTES:
First of all I will tell thee the reason why in the scrolls of the ancient Scribes of the Temple, many and various opinions are offered in regard to these things, and likewise why among those of the persons greatly skilled who are still living, the explanation is not given in simple terms. I say, then, that as there are many essences and these differing, the innumerably many principalities of these being in different orders, were handed down, different ones by different ancient priests.
Hence, as Seleukos1 describes, Hermes set forth the universal principles in two thousand scrolls, or as Manetho affirms, he explained them completely in thirty-six thousand five hundred and twenty-five treatises2. The different ancient writers, however, being in conflict with one another, have in many places given different interpretations in regard to the particular essence. It is necessary, however, to ascertain the truth in respect to them all, and then set it forth to thee concisely as we may be able. 1. Seleukos is mentioned by Porphyry as a theologist and by Suidas as having written two hundred books in relation to the gods. By "scrolls" it is probable that only single discourses were meant, such as would now be given in a pamphlet.

2. An Egyptian, Man-e-Thoth, or beloved Thoth. He was a priest at Sebennytus in the province of Sâis, in the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphos, and compiled a history of ancient Egypt. This Number 36,525 is enigmatic, as it indicates by its analogy to the 365.25 days in a year.
First, then, give me thy attention in regard to this matter about which thou didst first ask.


Before the things that really are, even the first principles of all things, is One Divine Being, prior even to the first God and King, abiding immovable in the aloneness of his own absolute unity. For neither is Intelligence nor any principle else intermingled with him, but he is established an exemplar of the God self-begotten, self-produced and only-begotten, the One truly Good. For he is the something Absolutely Great and Supreme, the Source of all things, and root of the first ideals subsisting in the Supreme Mind. Then from this One, the God sufficient in himself caused himself to shine forth:3 and hence he is self-engendered and self-sufficient. For he is the Beginning and God of Gods, a unity proceeding from the One, subsisting before essence, and the principle of essence. For from him are being and essence; and he is called accordingly Noëtarch, Chief of the realm of thought.4 3. The Hindu purana gives a similar statement: "He whom mind alone can perceive, whose essence eludes the external organs, who has no visible parts, who is of eternity, -- even He, the Soul of all beings, whom no being can comprehend, shone forth in personality. He willed to produce the various beings from his own divine substance."

4. "Under two Minds," says Damaskios, "the Life-imparting fountain of souls is comprehended." One, the Immovable First Cause, the Second, the Demiurgos or Creator.
These, then, are the oldest principles of all things. Hermes5 places them before the gods of the Æther, the Empyrean6 and the celestial regions. 5. See PART I, Chapter II. Hermes the superlatively Great, was the titular author of numerous philosophic treatises, from the forty-two mentioned by Clement to the innumerable multitude mentioned by others.

6. The Greek term empurion, signifies "the region of fire." In the ancient cosmology, there was a fifth element, the sether, more pure and divine than the common atmosphere. It was an akasha, a pure fire and diviner matter: and of it the celestial bodies were composed. In the Babylonian and other theories there were three heavens, as here designated: the æther-heaven, the Empyrial or fire-region, and the supracelestial above all. There were divinities of the second order peculiar to each.


According to another arrangement, however, Hermes places the God Emêph7 as leader of the celestial divinities, and declares that he is Mind itself, perceptive of itself and converting the perceptions into his own substance. But he places as prior to this divinity, the One without specific parts, whom he affirms to be the first exemplar8 and whom he names Eikton.9 In him are the First Mind and the First Intelligence, and he is worshipped by Silence alone.10 Besides these, however, there are other leaders that preside over the creation of visible things.11 For the Creative Mind, guardian of Truth and wisdom, coming to the realm of objective existence, and bringing the invisible power of occult words into light is called in the Egyptian language, AMON (the Arcane): but as completing everything in a genuine manner without deceit and with skill, Phtha. The Greeks, however, assume Phtha to be the same as Hephæstos, giving their attention to the Creative art alone.12 But as being a dispenser of benefits, he is called Osiris:13 and by reason of his other powers and energies, he has likewise other appellations. 7. Several have conjectured that this name should have been "Kneph" -- Neph or Num, the "Good Daemon." This was the name of the Creator in Nubia and also in Elephantina, and he was considered to be the same as Amun, the Supreme God at Thebes. The name Neph, almost identical with the Semitic term "nephesh" or soul, reminds us that this god was considered as the "Soul of the World." It should also be remembered, however, that the name "Emeph" seems to be the same as Imoph, Motph or Imhetep, which signifies the "son of Phtha." In fact, this divinity was one of the triad of tutelaries of Memphis, which consisted of Phtha, his consort Pakht, or Bast, and their son Imhetep. Marietta-Bey considered him as the same as Thoth or Hermes, the god of learning. The Greeks, however, identified him with Asclepius and the Orientals with Esmun, of the Kabeirian Rites.

8. Ficino substitutes the term paradeima, or exemplar in the text, for mageuma, or magic power.

9. This term is Greek, and its meaning is "the Likeness," and so the Ideal of the Universe.

10. Damaskios relates that the Babylonians recognized the one First Cause, passing it over in silence. But it is probable that instead of Sigé or Silence, the divine intermediary, Siku, was the being actually named.

11. Plato: Timaeus, XII, v, "The Deity himself formed the divine part in man, and delivered over to his celestial offspring the task of forming the mortal. These subordinate divinities, copying the example of their parent, and receiving from his hands the immortal principle of the human soul, fashioned subsequently to this the mortal body, which they consigned to the soul as a vehicle, and in which they placed another kind of soul, the seat of violent and fatal affections."

12. The Semitic name P'T'H, Phtha, signifies the opener, the revealer, the Creator. Perhaps Semitic influence in Northern Egypt, which was of remote antiquity, accounts for the selection of the designation. When the early sovereignty of Egypt was at Memphis, Pth'ch was the chief divinity. After the expulsion of the Hyksos dynasty, the seat of power was transferred to Thebes in the South, and Amun or Amur-Ra (the Mystic Sun) was exalted to the supremacy. He was often figured like Kneph, with the head of a ram, indicating that the two were the same. Indeed, the Egyptian religion was actually at its core monotheistic. The various divinities were only aspects or personifications of different attributes.

13. This name in the Egyptian dialect is variously spelled, as different readers supply the letters from the hieroglyphics. Plutarch states that the Egyptians pronounced it Husiris, and it is sometimes rendered Asar and Ussar. One Egyptian dogma makes it out Hes-iri, which would mean the Seat of Isis. It seems in its form to resemble Assur the God of Nineveh and Iswara, the Siva [Shiva] of India.
Accordingly there is also with the Egyptians another sovereignty of all the elementary principles in relation to the realm of generation, and of the forces in them. Four of them are reckoned as male and four as female. This sovereignty they assign to the Sun. There is also another empire of universal production around the dominion of objective existence, which they give to the Moon. Then marking off the sky into two parts, or four, or twelve, they place rulers over the parts in turn, more or fewer as the case may be, and over them all they set one who is the Overlord.14 Thus the system of the Egyptian priests in relation to the First Principles, extending from above to the farthest extremes, begins from the One and passes on to the multitude: the many being guided and directed by the one, and the undefined, realm of nature being placed under a defined measure of authority, even of the one Supreme Cause of all things. And the God produced Matter, rending materiality on the under side from essentiality; which being full of life,15 the Creator took it and fashioned from it the simple and impassive spheres. But the last of it he organized into bodies that are subject to generation and dissolution. 14. This, it will be noticed, relates directly to astrology and the casting of nativities, which was a constituent part of former sciences and religions, and is apparent in some of the modern customs.

15. "When we treat of matter," says Plutarch, "we need not conceive in our minds a body void of soul and of all quality and of itself wholly idle and inactive. We ought to conceive that this goddess (or divine entity) which always participates of the First God and is ever taken up with the love of those excellences and charms that are about him is not by nature opposite to him: that like a good-natured woman that is married to a man and constantly enjoys his embraces, yet hath a fond kind of longing after him, so hath she always a strong inclination to the God, though she he present and round about him, and though she be impregnated with his most prime and pure particles."


These subjects have now been thoroughly discussed, and in the books which thou mentionest as having met with by chance, the solution of thy doubts is clear. For those which have been brought forward as the Books of Hermes contain Hermetic doctrines, although they are often set forth in the manlier of speaking peculiar to the (Grecian) philosophers. For they were translated from the Egyptian language by men who were skilled in philosophy. But Chæremon16 and others, if there are any, who have treated of the primary causes in relation to the world, also explain the last principles.17 As many as hand down observations respecting the planets, the Zodiac, the decans, the horoscopes and the "Mighty Leaders,"18 so called, make known the distribution of the rulers to their respective domains. The particulars that are mentioned in the calendars comprise a very small part of the Hermaic arrangement, and those in relation to the stars (or asterisms) or the phases, or occultations, or the increase or decrease of the Moon, are among the last things in the delineations of causes by the Egyptian sages. 16. Chæremôn was the Scribe or literary man of a Temple. Suidas mentions him as belonging in Alexandria, and both Martial and Porphyry speak of him as a Stoic philosopher. He is quoted in Josephus, as giving the account of the Expulsion of the Lepers or alien people from Egypt, whom Manetho conjectured to have been the Israelites.

17. The twelve mouths were divided by astrologers into thirty-six decans, and over each was a decanus or episcopus, whose office was to protect against calamity. The "horoscopos" was the caster of a nativity, one who forecasted a career from the conditions of the planets and zodiacal constellations at the time of birth.

18. The Twelve Gods who preside over the months of the year are thus designated. "While," says S. F. Dunlap, "the Babylonians offered sacrifices to the spirits of the dead, and the Twelve Gods presided over the months, and the thirty-six gods over the decani of the calendar; while Gods innumerable, portents, prophets, soothsayers and astrologers perplexed the people, the Chaldaeans philosophized in their schools on the causes of things and the modus operandi of Nature and Creation."
The Egyptian priests do not "explain everything as relating to natural objects." On the contrary they distinguish the life of the soul, and also the spiritual principle, from Nature itself, not only in respect to the universe, but also in respect to ourselves. Regarding it as firmly established that the Mind, and likewise the reasoning faculty, have being by themselves, they affirm that the things that are born are created. They likewise place the Creator as First Ancestor of those in the realm of generated existence,19 and they acknowledge the life-imparting power prior to the heaven and subsisting in the heaven. They likewise set forth Pure Mind as above the world, and also the One without specific parts in the universal world, and another that is distributed among all the spheres.20 19. Chæremôn declared the Sun to be the Creator or Demiurgos. The vivific influences emanating from it, and the fact that the planetary world issued from it in the unknown periods of geologic antiquity, lend an air of plausibility to the hypothesis.

20. It was taught by Anaximander that the earth was in the centre of a series of concentric spheres in which the sun, moon and stars were placed. The Pythagoreans held that the heavenly bodies were in these spheres revolving round a central fire.
They do not by any means contemplate these things with the reasoning faculty alone, but they also teach that by means of the sacerdotal theurgy, the aspirant may mount up to the higher and more universal, and those conditions established superior to Fate, to God the Creator (Demiurgos): neither becoming attached to the realm of matter, nor taking hold of anything else besides only the observing of a proper time.21 21. In astrologic and other magic displays It is considered necessary to select carefully a proper time for consultation and ceremonies.


Hermes also points out the same path. Bitys, a prophet, explained it to King Amasis,22 having found it inscribed in hieroglyphics in the inmost shrine at Sâis in Egypt.23 He also divulged the name of the god that extends through the whole world.24 22. Amasis or Ashmes II, was the successor of Apries or Pharaoh-Hophra, of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty, whom he drove from power. He belonged at Sâis and bore the title of "Son of Neith." He obliged the priests of Egypt to admit Pythagoras and Solon to the temples to be instructed in the Egyptian learning. Bitys is conjectured to have been the priest Utaharpenses, who made public the names of the planets, which had been a sacerdotal secret, as was also the heliocentric theory.

23. Sâis was the metropolis of a nome or principality in Northern Egypt, and a rival of Memphis in wealth and importance. Its prince, Tafnekht, famous for having cursed the memory of Menes, raised the standard of revolt against the Ethiopian Overlord, and his lineal descendant Psametikhos finally succeeded in delivering Egypt from the Assyrians and establishing the Twenty-sixth Dynasty with Sâis as his capital. Neitha was the chief divinity, and in her temple were recorded many of the maxims of Bokkoris the Wise. Here was the inscription so commonly referred to Isis, -- doubtless the same goddess: "I am the All that was, that is and will be, and no mortal hath revealed me."

24. The tutelary gods had secret names which it was regarded as sacrilege to divulge. (See Exodus xx, 7; Judges xiii, 18.) "The arcane names fill the whole world" was a theurgic maxim. Proclus also remarks: "There is a sacred name which, with sleepless, dart-like motion, runs through the worlds, through the swift menace of the Father." Whether the name which Bitys revealed was occult like the mystic designation of Yava in the Semitic nations, is worth enquiry. The designation, Amun, for example, only means arcane or concealed, implying that it was not regarded as the real name of the divinity.
There are also, however, many other arrangements in relation to the same things. Hence thou dost not seem to me to be right in saying that with the Egyptian priests all things are carried back to physical categories. For in their system, principles are many and concern many essences. There are likewise supermundane potentates whom also they worshipped by the Sacerdotal rite. To me, therefore, these things appear to furnish common starting-points for the solution of all remaining enquiries. But since we ought to leave none of them without examination, we will add them to these problems, and likewise hammer round them on all sides in order that we may see where thou conjecturest that there is anything unsound.


Thou also affirmest "that very many of the Egyptians attribute to the motion of the stars whatever may happen to us." But what the fact is must be explained to thee by many of the Hermaic concepts.25 25. These were the propositions and theories put forth by various authors whose writings were indicated in the collection known as "Books of Hermes," or Tablets of Thoth.
For man, as these writings affirm, has two souls. The one is from the First Intelligence and is participant of the power of the Creator, but the other is given from the revolutions of the worlds of the sky, to which the God-beholding soul returns.26 26. Plutarch says: "They who imagine the mind to be part of the soul err no less than they who make the soul a part of the body: for the mind is as far superior to the soul as the soul is better and diviner than the body. The combination of the soul with the mind makes the logos or reasoning faculty, and with the body, passion, of which the latter is the principle of pleasure and pain, and the former of virtue and vice. Of these three, the earth has given the body, the moon the Soul, and the Sun, the mind. Every one of us is neither courage, nor fear, nor desire, no more than flesh or fluids, but the part by which we think and perceive. The soul, being molded and formed by the mind and itself molding and forming the body, by encompassing it on every side, receives from it impression and form."
Plato in the Timaeus likewise treats of the two souls or parts of the soul, the one mortal and the other immortal.
These things being conditioned after this manner the soul that comes into us from the worlds follows (and is affected by) the periodic circuits of those worlds. But the soul that is in its higher mental quality from the world of Intelligence, is superior to the movement of the world of generated existence27 and through this there takes place both the unbinding of fate, and the upward progress to the gods of the World of Mind. The theurgic discipline (or initiation), so far as it conducts upward to the Unbegotten, is made complete by a life of this kind. 27. This phrase which translated literally would read "genesiurgic motion," relates to those matters of the world of sense, which are under control of fate and circumstance, and come within the province of chance and fortune.


That condition, therefore, about which thou utterest doubt, does not exist, namely: "That all things are bound fast in the indissoluble bonds of Necessity, which they term Fate." For the soul has a principle of its own leading around to the realm of Intelligence, and not only standing aloof from things of the world of generated existence, but also joining it to that which is,28 even to the divine nature. 28. This phrase, "that which is," is very significant. It transcends the concept of existing and denotes real being, eternity itself. This shows the true meaning of Pope's declaration: "Whatever IS is right." The Sanskrit term Satya, often rendered "truth," has exactly the sense of Being, that which is enduring and permanent, absolute fact. Hence the maxim: "There is no dharma or supreme law superior to that which is."
Nor do we "connect Fate with the gods whom we worship in temples and with carved images, as being unbinders of Fate. Yet the gods do "unbind Fate," but it is the last and lowest natures that descend from them and are in close alliance to the genesis of the world and to the body, that make Fate complete. With good reason, therefore, do we perform to the gods every holy rite in order that they may deliver us from the evils impending over us from destiny, as they alone, through the moral power of persuasion, have rule over necessity.

Nevertheless all things in the world of Nature are not controlled by Fate. On the contrary, there is another principle of the soul which is superior to the whole realm of nature and generated existence. By it we can be united to the gods, rise above the established order of the world, and likewise participate in the life eternal and in the energy of the gods of the highest heaven. Through this principle we are able to set ourselves free. For when the better qualities in us are in activity, and the soul is exalted to those beings superior to itself, then it becomes separate altogether from every thing which held it fast in the realm of generated existence, keeps itself aloof from inferior natures, exchanges one life for the other, and gives itself to a different order, entirely abandoning the former.


Why, then (it may be asked), is it not possible to liberate one's own self through the gods that revolve in the sky (the ruling planets), to consider them as Lords of Destiny, and also as binding our lives with bonds that are not to be dissolved?

Perhaps there is nothing to hinder this very thing. Although the gods possess numerous essences and powers in themselves, there are also inherent in them as many impracticable differences and contradictions. Nevertheless, it is lawful to affirm as much as this: that in every one of the gods, especially of those that are visible (in the sky), there are principles of essence which are of the world of Intelligence; and that through these, takes place the release for souls from generated existence in the world.

But although there were to be two classes of divine beings left, the gods that abide around the world, and those beyond, there will be liberty for souls through the gods above the world. These things are told more precisely in the "Treatise Concerning the Gods"29 -- as for example, who are the restorers, and what are their powers; and also how do they liberate from fate, and through what sacred paths upward; also of what quality is the arrangement of the mundane realm of nature, and how does the absolutely perfect moral energy rule over it?30 Hence the passage which thou hast repeated from the Homeric poem -- "even the gods themselves are yielding," it is a profanation to utter. For the performances at the Sacred Worship in ancient times were prescribed by laws that were both pure and spiritual. Those who are in inferior conditions are liberated by a superior order and power; and when we remove ourselves from conditions that are inferior we come into a better allotment. It is not effected, however contrary to any sacred ordinance that has existed from ancient times, in such a manner as to imply that the gods may be changed (in disposition or purpose) by sacred rites afterward performed. On the contrary, from their first descent till this present time God sent down the souls in order that they should return back again to him.31 Never, therefore, does there a change occur by such a progress upward, nor do the descents of the souls, and their ascending occasion violent conflict. For as generated existence and every thing here are joined together at every point by the spiritual essence, so also in the arrangement of souls, the liberation from the conditions of generated existence accords with the diligence of those around the realm of generated existence. 29. This work is lost. It was an explanation of the Pythagorean Symbology, and is quoted by Damaskios and Olympiodoros. Proclus restores some of the passages in his treatise upon the Platonic Theology, and also adopts the arguments. At the change of the Imperial Religion in the Fourth Century the books of the Philosophers were ordered to be destroyed on pain of death, and doubtless this work perished at that period.

30. In the divine world, nöesis is poiesis -- thinking is doing. What "God says" God is doing. All things are subject to mind, and to its behests. Mind, therefore, is the king of all things.
It was a theurgic saying, that by chants and sacrifices it was possible to revolutionize the realms of nature and generation.

31. There has been a great variety of opinion in regard to the descent of the soul. The book of Ecclesiastes has the sentence, "and the spirit to the God who gave it." Nobody has said that it had been sent into perpetual exile. The Chaldaean Oracle declared "The Father placed symbols in the souls," by which their identification is assured. When the Creator sends out a soul, he also calls it to himself again. The circle of necessity will return upon the Infinite. Such is the teaching of all philosophy.

Part IX. Nativities and guardian dæmons

Chapter 17. The Personal Dæmon

Come, then, let us now endeavor, so far as we are able, to straighten the complicated problem in respect to the personal daemon, which is likewise made the theme for various objections. So, therefore, to speak plainly, the treatment of the subject in respect to the personal daemon is twofold, theurgic and technic: the one evoking him from the categories above, and the other from the visible periods in the world of generated existence. The former makes no use of the art of casting nativities, but the latter is devoted to such pursuits. The former pays honor to the daemon more generally as superior to the province of nature, but the latter specifically as pertaining to the realm of nature altogether. Hence thou seemest to have brought down strangely the most perfect sacred performance to regard as a mere human affair, and to have put thy questions upon this subject as in a gymnastic exercise. NOTES:


So then, thou appearest to me to have cut off here only a very small part of the statement in relation to the personal daemon. For it is the custom of those who work by the rules of the art of vaticination in respect to the time of birth1 to summon him in a prescribed form from the decans and the risings of the constellations of the zodiac and likewise the stars; the sun also and the moon, and from the Bears2 and likewise from all the elements,3 and from the world. It is not fair for thee thus to parcel out one very small part of the subject, "the Lord of the House,"4 and put questions simply in regard to that. 1. Greek, phusis. This term has a wide signification. It strictly means the passive or material principle, the originating power of the universe: but from that it has been used to denote the constitution of things, the peculiarity of sex, the bent of disposition, etc. Our author here employs the term as the female agency in production, contrasting it with the genesis. It thus signifies "birth" and has been rendered accordingly.

2. It has been remarked as an argument against the genuineness of this sentence, if not of the entire book, that the Egyptian astrologists did not have the Great and Little Bear in their planisphere. Iamblichus, however, was a Syrian and conversant with Chaldaean and Grecian learning. Herodotus names the Bear as a northern constellation. See I, 148: V, 10.

3. This term has a somewhat indefinite signification. It is supposed accordingly by some to denote in this connection the planets, and by others, the signs in the zodiac.

4. Every sign of the zodiac was considered to have a "house" for its "lord," or ruling planet. In the Gospel according to Matthew a pun seems to he made on the term. "If they call the lord of the house Beel Zebul." This last name signifies "lord of the house."
Here, in turn, thou askest in relation to one single subject under consideration (the personal daemon), "how the Lord of the House assigns it: according to what purpose, or what quality of emanation, or life, or power, comes from it to us." Thou also puttest the question in regard to "the calculating of nativities, whether it (the daemon) actually exists, or not," and in regard to the finding of the Lord of the House, "whether it is impossible or possible." What importance have these questions about the domination, in relation to the daemon? For it is evident that our knowing as to how he exists makes no difference in regard to such matters as his essence and cause. For in respect to things having an origin in the realm of nature, even though we do not chance to know, it happens all the same, that all and each of them have their own stability of essence in the universe. Thus, therefore, we will meet thy difficulties generally; but we will direct our attention specifically to what thou askest and endeavor in respect to them to give thee the solutions.


Thou also declarest that "the person who has learned the scheme of his nativity, and so knowing his own daemon, is liberated from fate, is truly favored by divinity." Thou dost not seem to me, however, to be saying these things altogether in harmony, either with themselves or with the truth. For if the daemon has been assigned to us from the scheme of nativity, and we may find him from that, how are we released from fate through the knowledge that the daemon was given to us according to fate? But if, as thou dost declare, we are really set free from necessity through the daemon, how was it allotted to us by Fate?

Hence the things now uttered by thee not only conflict with themselves, but they are also at variance with the truth; seeing that the personal daemon does not by any means come to every one by the scheme of his peculiar nativity. On the other hand, its origin, which we will hereafter set forth, was older than this. If, therefore, the daemon that comes down should be contemplated alone from that source, the individual who attained a knowledge of the daemon of his nativity, would by no means be happy or fortunate. Who, indeed, if in this case it were permitted to him, in order that he might accomplish the allotments from fate, would consent to receive the daemon as a guide to liberation from fate? Yet this appears to me as a part of the theory respecting the daemon, and to be the last of the kind, but that the whole of his essence is passed over in silence by such a mode of investigation. Yet these things, although they are incorrectly stated, are, nevertheless, not utterly foreign to the subject.

The doubts, however, which thou bringest out in their order, in relation to "the enumeration of the Canons," and in relation to "skill in calculating nativities," that they are "beyond comprehension," do not involve us in any controversy in relation to the subjects before us. For whether these arts are knowable or beyond comprehension, yet the aura or emanation from the stars brings the daemon to us, whether we ourselves are cognizant of it or not. The divine oracular art,5 however, can teach us in relation to the stars as to that which is the truest, and, at any rate, we have no need of the enumeration of the canons, or of the art of divining. 5. Ficino renders this term "divine inspiration" in this place where it is contrasted with the art of casting nativities.


If, however, it is necessary, when dismissing these subjects, to say it, thou dost not seem to me right in what thou affirmest, namely: That it is impossible for expertness in astral observations6 to amount to any actual knowing, for there is great disagreement in relation to it, and because Chæremon or somebody else has spoken against it." Indeed, by this mode of argument reasoning will be beyond comprehension. For all the sciences7 have tens of thousands of persons disputing, and the matters of doubt in them have been innumerable. Hence, therefore, we are accustomed to say in opposition to those who are fond of disputing, that contradictory things create dissension even in things that are actually true, and that falsities are not alone in fighting one another. So, also, in regard to the mathematical science [astrology], we may not only affirm that it is true, but also that those who err in respect to it contradict, knowing nothing in respect to the things that are really true. This happens, however, not only in relation to this science, but also in relation to all the sciences which are delivered from the gods to human beings. For as time is always going on, they are often intermingled with much that is of mortal origin, and the divine character of the knowledge becomes greatly obliterated. It is truly within, however, and though scanty, this sure evidence of the truth is nevertheless effectual for its preservation. When the signs of the measurement of the revolutions of the divine ones are clearly evident before the eyes, when they indicate beforehand the eclipses of the sun and moon, the enterings of the sun into the signs of the zodiac, and departures out of them, and the concurrent risings and settings of the moon with those of the fixed stars, the proof of actual sight is manifested agreeing with the prediction. And what is more, the observations of the heavenly bodies which have been preserved through all the period, both by the Chaldaeans8 and by ourselves, bear witness together to the truth of this Science. 6. Greek, mathematical episteme, literally, skill in mathematics. But at the time when this work was written the term "mathematics" was employed to denote astrology, and accordingly it is so rendered.

7. Greek, epistemai. This term properly denotes knowledges of a superior character, which are comprehended by the noetic intelligence, instead of the dianoetic reasoning faculty. Hence it signifies what is above the common arts which are learned and classified, and so constitute what is in modern times designated "science" and "exact science."

8. The Aeon, or period, was reckoned as three hundred thousand years. Proclus, in his Commentary on the Timaeus, states that the Chaldaeans had records of observations of the stars which embraced entire cosmic cycles of time. Cicero, in his treatise on Divination, declares that they had records of the stars for the space of 370,000 years; and Diodoros the Sicilian asserts that their observation comprehended 470,000 years. As great antiquity was also claimed for the Egyptians. Kallisthenes when in Babylon sent the computations of the Chaldaeans to his uncle Aristotle.
Demonstrations better known than these might be exhibited, if the discourse had been primarily upon these subjects. Nevertheless, as they are superfluous, and do not pertain to the recognition of the daemon, it is proper that I leave them out, and pass on to matters more appropriate than these.


In thy epistle thou makest this statement "The assumption of the Lord of the House (or Lords of the House, if there are more than one) pertaining to a nativity, is almost confessed by astrologers themselves to be beyond absolute proving; and yet. it is from this assumption, they say, that the ascertaining of one's own personal daemon is possible." How is the knowing of the Lord of the House to be acknowledged by them to be beyond comprehending, when they deliver clear methods in relation to its discovery, and likewise teach thoroughly the elementary principles for the determining of the disputed matters; some five, others more, and others fewer?9 However, in order that we may get beyond this, let us proceed to examine a matter of more importance, the contingent attributes of both sides of the question. For, if it is possible to discover the Lord of the House pertaining to the nativity, the daemon that has been assigned from it is also knowable; and if the matter is out of reach, then, according to this hypothesis, we do not know him. Nevertheless, as there is a Lord of the House, there is also a daemon that has been assigned from him. What hinders, then, that while it may indeed be difficult to discover him through the calculating of the nativity, it may be easy to perceive him by means of sacred divination or theurgy? 9. "We say," says Hephæstion of Alexandria, "that a star which has five conditions anywhere in sight is a Lord of the House: in other words, if that star received the luminaries in their own boundaries, their own altitude, and their own triangle." He adds this condition: "if besides it has contiguity, emanation and configuration."
In short, the daemon is not assigned by the Lord of the House only, but, on the other hand, there are many origins for him more universal than by the Lord of the House.10 Still, however, such a method introduces an artificial and human procedure in regard to the personal daemon. Hence in these difficulties which thou hast suggested there is nothing wholesome. 10. According to the Egyptian notion, every person received his guardian daemon at the hour of birth, and they looked no further. They regarded only the horoscope.


If, however, it is necessary to reveal to thee the true doctrine in relation to the personal daemon let me say this: It is not from one part in the sky, nor from any individual element of the objects that are visible,11 that he is assigned to us. But there is from the whole world and the various kinds of life in it, and the various kinds of body by which the soul comes down into the realm of generated existence, an allotted portion, all our own, divided among us to each of the distinctive qualities in us, which distribution is made according to the ruling disposition of each individual. 11. Greek, stoicheion. In later centuries of the Roman Empire, this term was used to signify planets and signs of the zodiac.
This daemon, therefore, is present as exemplar12 before the souls descend into the realm of generated existence. As soon as the soul chooses him for leader13 the daemon immediately comes into charge of the completing of its vital endowments, and when it descends into the body, unites it with the body, and becomes the guardian of its common living principle. He likewise himself directs the private life of the soul, and whatever the conclusions we may arrive at by inference and reasoning, he himself imparts to us the principles. We think and do just such things as he brings to us by way of thought. He guides human beings thus continually till through the sacred theurgic discipline we shall obtain a god to be guardian and leader of the soul. For then he gives place to the superior, or delivers over the superintendence, or becomes subject, as a tributary, to him, or in some other way is servant to him as to an Overlord. 14 12. In other words the ideal or divine model after which the soul takes earthly form.

13. PLATO: Republic, X. Plato has outlined no distinction beyond choosing a mode of living, but here it is affirmed that the soul chooses a daemon of a superior order by its own intelligent volition.

14. One writer remarks: "A daemon is placed with every human being to be his initiator into the mysteries of life."


From these facts I may easily reply to your next question. For the personal daemon does not "preside over specific regions in us," but simply over all at once. He pervades every principle about us, in the same manner as it was assigned from all the orders [of intelligence] in the universe. For it also seems proper to thee to remark as follows: "That there are daemons placed over specific departments of the body, one over health, one over the figure, and another over the bodily habits, forming a bond of union among them, and that one is placed as superior over all of them in common." This very thing thou shouldst consider as proof that the authority over everything in us is vested in one daemon alone. Accordingly it is not right to define "one daemon as guardian of the body, another of the soul, and another of the mind." For if the living person is one individual and the daemon manifold that is placed over him, the notion is absurd. Certainly the ruling powers everywhere are single rather than those that are ruled. But it is still more absurd if the many daemons ruling over special departments are not akin, but are to be classified apart from one another.

Thou also declarest that there are contradictory characters among them, saying that "some daemons are good and others bad." Evil daemons have no allotment whatever as guardians, and they are never classified in opposition to the good, like one party against another, as though having equal importance.


Having in succession abandoned these points, thou goest quickly over to the conjecture of the (Grecian) philosophy; yet in relation to the personal daemon thou overturnest the entire hypothesis. For if the daemon is "a part of the soul," as, for instance, the spiritual or intellectible,15 and "he who has a mind imbued with good sense is the truly favored one," there will be no other order of beings, divine or daemonian, assuming authority over the human soul as being superior to it. Instead, there will be special parts of the soul, or some power existing separately supreme over the many forms of the life within us; and these, not as allied by nature, but as having been set apart as superior in their nature to our entire substance. 15. Menander says: "The mind is our daemon." The term was used with a variety of meanings at different times.


After this thou callest to mind another statement in relation to the personal daemon, namely: that "some persons perform worship as to two, and others as to three of this class." This, however, is all erroneous. For the classifying of the superior causes that are placed over us instead of including them in one, is a fallacious way of proceeding, and it goes completely astray from the unity which holds dominion in every-thing. The doctrine which apportions the daemon into parts in the body, or in the governing of the body, drags down its leadership to a very small point. What necessity, in such case, for those who entertain such an opinion, to regard sacred rites, the first principle of them being unsound?

There is, accordingly, one personal guardian daemon for every one of us. It is not right to assume that it is common to everybody, or that it is common at all, but only that it is present with every individual as his own. For a distribution to every species, and the diversity existing in the realm of matter, do not admit of the union and identity of things essentially incorporeal.

Why is it, then, that the daemon "is invoked by all with a common form of invocation"? It is because their invocation is made through one divinity; the Lord of the daemons who from the beginning assigned to every one his personal daemon.16 Even now also at the sacred rites he makes known to all and each their personal daemons, according to his own purpose. For always in the theurgic arrangement, the secondary are invoked through the superior divinities. In respect to the demons, therefore, one common leader of the cosmocrators,17 in respect to the nativity, sends down to each and all, his personal daemon. Hence when the personal daemon is present he makes known his own proper worship and teaches the proper mode by which he is to be invoked. 16. This seems to be at variance with Plato, who says: "The daemon will not receive you as his allotment, but you shall choose the daemon: the cause is in him who makes the choice, and the Deity is blameless."

17. Rulers of the cosmic world: the daemons allotted to the several regions of the universe. The term occurs in the Pauline Epistle to the Ephesians, vi, 12.


This arrangement is also acceptable to the daemons. One part of it is akin to the daemons that are invoked: another comes down from the more ancient categories: and the third makes a joint action from both the others. Do not, therefore, liken the invocations of gods with those to men, nor things not to be uttered with those that may be told; and do not compare the things that are prior to every limitation and every undefined mode, to those that have been defined by men or with indefinite arrangements. For these things that belong with us have nothing in common with those who are wholly superior to us in their entire race and order and rule the whole of our essence and nature.

Nevertheless, right here especially, the greatest failures occur to men when from human weakness, they infer anything in relation to the guardianship of the daemons: and when with things that are trivial, worthy of nothing, and in parts, they form a judgment of beings that are great, noteworthy and perfect.

This much we answer you in respect to the personal daemon in addition to what was said before.

Part X. The First Cause

Chapter 18. Eudæmonia, or the True Success

The last subject remaining for discussion is in relation to true success.1 Thou hast put intricate problems with regard to it, namely: first, observations upon certain subjects: next, matters of doubt: and after these, questioning. We will accordingly place thy questions in their order, each and every one of them, and will answer these in due course in reference to them. NOTES:

1. Greek, eudaimonia. This term was employed by Plato and Aristotle to denote true and complete happiness. Its derivation from eu or well, and daimôn, a divinity, a good genius, good fortune, indicates its true signification, as the condition favored by the good genius; hence, it denotes felicity, good fortune, prosperity, success-as being in favor with God and man.
Thou askest "whether there is not some other path to true success apart from the gods."2 What different way upward can there be, "entirely apart from the gods" that is reasonable? For if the essence and perfection of every good are comprised in the gods, and their primary power and authority are with us (priests),3 and with those who are in like manner possessed by the superior divinities, and have come genuinely into union with them -- and in short, if the source and end of goodness are earnestly pursued: in such case, there are present accordingly, the Spectacle of Truth and the initiation into spiritual knowledge. And with the knowing of the gods, the turning around to our own selves and the knowing of ourselves. follow together. 2. Porphyry here refers to the gods that were invoked in the theurgic rites.

3. The Oracle had, before the time of Porphyry, assigned to the Egyptian priests the finding of the path to felicity. Hence Herodotus declared them the first to institute the Sacred Rites.


To no purpose, therefore, thou proposest the doubt "whether it is necessary to pay any regard to human opinions." For what leisure has the person whose mind and thought are with the gods to look down for approval from human beings? Nor in what follows dost thou speak to the purpose: "whether the Soul does not now and then form grand conceptions." For what principle of fanciful creations has a place in those who have real being? Is not the faculty of imagination in us the former of eidola? But when the spiritual life is perfectly active, there is nothing of the imagination awakened. Does not the truth in its essence coexist with the gods? At least, is it not established with rational principles harmoniously? It is in vain, then, that thou and others whisper such things.

Nevertheless, these things about which certain mountebank priests and fortune-tellers calumniate those who minister at the worship of the gods, and thou hast spoken in the same way -- are none of them at all connected with genuine theology and theurgy. Yet if, in some way, certain things of such a character shoot out as excrescences beside the knowledges of the things that are good, as evil arts sprout up with other arts, these very knowledges are actually more opposed by them than anything else. For that which is evil is more hostile to the good than to that which is not good.


I desire after this to go curiously over other remarks which misrepresent the divine foreknowledge. Thou comparest with it "other methods for obtaining premonitions of what will take place." For to me, although a certain aptitude of nature aids in the signifying of what is to occur, just as the foreknowing of earthquakes, or of winds, or of storms happens to animals, it does not seem worthy of our veneration. For such an inborn faculty of divining accompanies acuteness of sense -- or sympathy, or some other commotion of the natural faculties, and has nothing about it worshipful and supernatural. Nor if any one by human reasoning or systematic observation determines from symptoms those things of which the signs are indicative, as physicians from the systolê of the pulse prognosticate a coming fever, he by no means appears to me to possess anything honorable and good. For he likewise sets himself to it humanly, and infers logically by our reasoning faculty in relation to things which confessedly occur in the order of nature and he makes his diagnosis not very far away from the corporeal order of things. Accordingly, if there is in us any natural perception of the future, the faculty is clearly shown in activity as in everything else, but in having this nothing that is very happy is possessed. For what can there be of the qualities implanted in us by nature in the realm of generated existence that is a genuine, perfect and everlasting benefit?


The divine endowment of divination4 alone, therefore, being conjoined with the gods, imparts to us the divine life and likewise making us participants of the divine foreknowledge and the divine thoughts, renders us truly divine. It causes us to be genuinely the possessors of goodness, because the most blessed thought of the gods abounds with every good. Hence, "they who possess the endowment of divining," do not, as you surmise, "foresee and are not really successful," for all divine foreknowledge is seemingly good. Nor do they "foresee future events, and not know how to make use of the foresight properly for themselves." On the contrary, with the foreknowledge, they receive beauty itself and order that are at once true and becoming, and there is with it that which is profitable. For the gods give them also the power of protecting themselves against direful calamities from the realm of nature: and when it is necessary to exercise courage and the uncertainty of the future contributes to this, they keep the things hidden that are to be, in order to make the soul better. Yet when uncertainty does not bring any help for this purpose, and the foreknowledge is advantageous to souls, for the sake of saving them and leading them upward, then the gods implant in their inmost beings the foreknowledge inherent in the inspired communications. 4. Greek, mantike, the art of divining: prophecy, inspiration. This is the term which has been generally translated as divination. But divination as described by Grecian writers was the same as prophecy, and implied intimate communion with divinity.


But why am I prolonging these discourses? I have abundantly shown before by the many explanations which I have made in them, the superiority of the inspiration over human divination. Better, therefore, is what you ask from us: "To make plain to you the path to success, and in what the essence of it consists." For from this the truth is then to be found, and all the difficulties may thus be at once easily resolved. I say, therefore, that the divine person gifted with intuition, having, in a former condition of being, been participant of the oneness, by the spectacle of the gods, comes at a later period to another soul (or psychic condition) which is adjusted to the human ideal of figure, and through this becomes involved in the bond of Necessity and Fate.5 Now then it is necessary to consider how he may be unloosed and set free from his bonds. There is no other way except the knowing of the gods. For the ideal or success is the apperceiving of the Good, just as the ideal of badness happens to be forgetting of what is good and deceit in relation to what is bad. The former, therefore, joins with the Divine nature: but the latter, an inferior destiny, is inseparable from the mortal.6 The former seeks the intellectible essences by the sacred paths:7 but the latter, having swerved from the first principles, yields itself to the measuring out of the ideals of the corporeal environment. The former is the knowing of the Father:8 but the latter is the going aside from him and a forgetting of God, the Father, first in Essence and sufficient for himself. The former preserves the genuine life and brings it back to its Father, but the latter brings the man ruling in the realm of generated existence down to the world which is never permanent but always changing.9 5. This is a similar account of that given by Plato in the Phaedros. The souls while in the eternal region are described as beholding the thea or vision of the gods, and accompanying them in their journey in their planetary orbits in the sky, having been initiated and become epoptai or Beholders of the Mysteries of that world. This, the philosopher explains, was "while we possessed our nature in its entirety and did not suffer the molestations of evil which were awaiting us in the future time, when we were free and not invested with the body to which we are bound as an oyster to the shell." After this came the "descent into the realm of generated existence," and investiture with the "mortal soul" and its conditions. See Timaeus and Plutarch's treatise on The Face in the Orb of the Moon, 28.

6. PLATO: Theatetus 84, Socrates. "It is not possible that evil should be destroyed; for it is necessary that there should be always something contrary to good; nor can it be seated among the gods, but of necessity moves around this mortal nature and this region. Wherefore we ought to fly hence as quickly as possible; and this flight consists in being assimilated to God as much as possible, and this assimilating is the becoming just and holy with wisdom."

7. By the Sacred or hieratic paths, Abammon evidently means the theurgic discipline. The ancient Oriental faiths all made the service of the guru, or spiritual teacher, an essential in the matter of knowing the truth.

8. Compare Gospel according to John, xvii, 3: "This is the eternal life (the life of the eternal world), namely: that they know thee the God only true."

9. The philosopher Herakleitos held that "change" is the "only persisting" condition of things. He taught that the Supreme Being is fire -- not mere physical heat, but an aetherial principle; and that it acted on matter producing motion and creative activity.
Let, then, this superior path to true success, which is the spiritual completing of the union of souls to the divine nature, be cognized by thee. But the sacerdotal and theurgic gift of true success is called the Door10 to the Creator of the Universe, or Supreme Goodness. In the first place it possesses the power of chastity of soul which is far more perfect than chastity of the body: afterward, the preparing of the understanding for the participation and vision11 of the Good and its release from everything of a contrary character: and after these, oneness with the gods the givers of all things good. 10. In the former years of the nineteenth century there arose a teacher in Persia, who was designated the "Bab" -- gate or door. He promulgated a mystic doctrine somewhat in analogy to that of the Sufis, with many features of the later Platonism and Gnosticism and Parsism [Zoroastrianism]. He was afterward executed, but his disciples still constitute a numerous body.

11. Greek thea, a vision, contemplation. The term is used to signify the Spectacle exhibited at Initiatory Rites.


After the theurgic discipline has conjoined the soul individually with the several departments of the universe, and with all the divine powers that pervade it, then it leads the soul to the Creator of the world, places it in his charge, and frees it of everything pertaining to the realm of matter, uniting it with the Sole Eternal Reason (Logos).

What I am saying is this: That it unites the soul individually to the One, Father of himself, self-moving. He who sustains the universe, spiritual, who arranges all things in order, who leads it to the supreme truth, to the absolute, the efficient, and other creative powers of God: thus establishing the theurgic soul in the energies, the conceptions and creative qualities of those powers. Then it inserts the soul in the entire Demurgic God.

This, with the Egyptian Sages, is the end of the "Return" as taught in the Sacred Records.


The Good itself, they consider on the one side as absolute Divinity; the God subsisting before thought: but on the other as human, who is a unity with him. Bitys has explained this from the Hermaic Scrolls. This, therefore, is not "passed over" by the Egyptian priests, as thou dost suggest, but is handed down by them in a style worthy of the divine being. Nor do the Theurgists "call upon the Divine Mind" in relation to "trivial matters," but on the other hand it is in regard to matters appertaining to the purifying of the soul, its release and salvation. Nor do they "employ themselves diligently with things that are difficult: but of no use to human beings"; but on the contrary, such as are the most profitable of all to the soul. Nor are they imposed upon by a "vagabond" daemon, who have in every instance not only contended successfully with the deceitful daemonian nature, but have exalted themselves to the realm of mind and divinity.


These many things we have answered thee as we best were able in relation to the doubts and difficulties which thou hast discovered in relation to the divine art of divination and theurgy. It now remains with the end of these discourses that I pray the gods to bestow upon me and thee, the unchanging safeguard of true conceptions: and likewise to implant in us forever the everlasting truth, and to provide for us a participation of more perfect conceptions in relation to the divine beings: for in these the most blessed consummation of all things good is set before us, and the confirmation of the hearty friendship which now exists between us.  



Twilit Grotto -- Esoteric Archives Contents Prev Iamblichus Next timeline