Clarke, Jackson P. Hershbell, John M. Iamblichus provides a unique insight into the mystical side of late Neoplatonism, arguing that the only good is union with the gods and that the only route to this divine union is theurgy religious ritual demonstrating supernatural power. The process of sacrifice, the activities of angels and demons, the meaning of divine possession, and the functioning of oracles are all examined in this extraordinary defense of theurgic mysticism against contemporary critics such as Porphyry. Clarke, Dillon, and Hershbell bring this famous and fascinating text to light through their introduction and extensive notes. Paperback edition is available from the Society of Biblical Literature www.
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The events of his life and his religious beliefs are not entirely known, but the main tenets of his beliefs can be worked out from his extant writings. According to the Suda , and his biographer Eunapius , he was born at Chalcis modern Qinnasrin in Syria. He was the son of a rich and illustrious family, and he is said to have been the descendant of several priest-kings of the Arab Royal family of Emesa.
He initially studied under Anatolius of Laodicea , and later went on to study under Porphyry , a pupil of Plotinus , the founder of Neoplatonism. Around , he returned to Syria to found his own school at Apamea near Antioch , a city famous for its Neoplatonic philosophers. Here he designed a curriculum for studying Plato and Aristotle, and he wrote commentaries on the two that survive only in fragments.
Still, for Iamblichus, Pythagoras was the supreme authority. He is known to have written the Collection of Pythagorean Doctrines, which, in ten books, comprised extracts from several ancient philosophers. Only the first four books, and fragments of the fifth, survive[ citation needed ]. Scholars noted that the Exhortation to Philosophy of Iamblichus was composed in Apamea in the early 4th c. He was also renowned for his charity and self-denial. Many students gathered around him, and he lived with them in genial friendship.
According to Fabricius , he died during the reign of Constantine , sometime before For our knowledge of his system, we are indebted partly to the fragments of writings preserved by Stobaeus and others. Besides these, Proclus seems to have ascribed to him the authorship of the celebrated treatise Theurgia, or On the Egyptian Mysteries.
Still, the treatise certainly originated from his school, and in its systematic attempt to give a speculative justification of the polytheistic cult practices of the day, it marks a turning-point in the history of thought where Iamblichus stood. As a speculative theory, Neoplatonism had received its highest development from Plotinus.
The modifications introduced by lamblichus were the detailed elaboration of its formal divisions, the more systematic application of the Pythagorean number-symbolism, and, under the influence of Oriental systems, a thoroughly mythical interpretation of what Neoplatonism had formerly regarded as notional.
Iamblichus was highly praised by those who followed his thought. By his contemporaries, Iamblichus was accredited with miraculous powers. During the revival of interest in his philosophy in the 15th and 16th centuries, the name of Iamblichus was scarcely mentioned without the epithet "divine" or "most divine". This is the initial dyad. The first and highest One nous , which Plotinus represented under the three stages of objective being, subjective life, and realized intellect, is distinguished by Iamblichus into spheres of intelligible and intellective, the latter sphere being the domain of thought, the former of the objects of thought.
These three entities, the psyche, and the nous split into the intelligible and the intellective, form a triad. Between the two worlds, at once separating and uniting them, some scholars think there was inserted by lamblichus, as was afterwards by Proclus , a third sphere partaking of the nature of both. But this supposition depends on a merely conjectural emendation of the text.
We read, however, that in the intellectual triad he assigned the third rank to the Demiurge. The identification of nous with the Demiurge is a significant moment in the Neoplatonic tradition and its adoption into and development within the Christian tradition. Augustine follows Plotinus by identifying nous, which bears the logos, with the creative principle.
Whereas the Hellenes call that principle the Demiurge, Augustine identifies the activity and content of that principle as belonging to one of the three aspects of the Divine Trinity —the Son, who is the Word logos. Iamblichus and Plotinus commonly assert that nous produced nature by mediation of the intellect, so here the intelligible gods are followed by a triad of psychic gods. The first of these "psychic gods" is incommunicable and supramundane, while the other two seem to be mundane, though rational.
In the third class, or mundane gods, there is a still greater wealth of divinities, of various local position, function, and rank. Iamblichus wrote of gods, angels, demons and heroes, of twelve heavenly gods whose number is increased to thirty-six or three hundred and sixty, and of seventy-two other gods proceeding from them, of twenty-one chiefs and forty-two nature-gods, besides guardian divinities, of particular individuals and nations.
The realm of divinities stretched from the original One down to material nature itself, where soul in fact descended into matter and became "embodied" as human beings. Basically, Iamblichus greatly multiplied the ranks of being and divine entities in the universe, the number at each level relating to various mathematical proportions. The world is thus peopled by a crowd of superhuman beings influencing natural events and possessing and communicating knowledge of the future, and who are all accessible to prayers and offerings.
The theorems of mathematics, he says, apply absolutely to all things, from things divine to original matter. But though he subjects all things to number, he holds elsewhere that numbers are independent existences, and occupy a middle place between the limited and unlimited. Another difficulty of the system is the account given of nature. It is said to be bound by the indissoluble chains of necessity called fate , and is distinguished from divine things that are not subject to fate.
Yet, being itself the result of higher powers becoming corporeal, a continual stream of elevating influence flows from them to it, interfering with its necessary laws and turning to good ends the imperfect and evil. Of evil no satisfactory account is given; it is said to have been generated accidentally in the conflict between the finite and the infinite. Clarke, John M. Dillon , and Jackson P. August Nauck , St. Petersburg, ; ed. Ludwig Deubner, Teubner, rev. Ulrich Klein,
Iamblichus: De Mysteriis De Mysteriis
The seeming rivalry between Iamblichus and his former teacher may be due in part to their closeness in age. The break with earlier Platonism can be summarized in two statements: 1 Iamblichus was the first of the Neoplatonists to challenge the Plotinian doctrine of the undescended soul, and indeed all subsequent Neoplatonists would follow him in this. The Greeks and the Irrational , p. Rather, various ritual practices — the content of theurgy — become necessary.
The events of his life and his religious beliefs are not entirely known, but the main tenets of his beliefs can be worked out from his extant writings. According to the Suda , and his biographer Eunapius , he was born at Chalcis modern Qinnasrin in Syria. He was the son of a rich and illustrious family, and he is said to have been the descendant of several priest-kings of the Arab Royal family of Emesa. He initially studied under Anatolius of Laodicea , and later went on to study under Porphyry , a pupil of Plotinus , the founder of Neoplatonism. Around , he returned to Syria to found his own school at Apamea near Antioch , a city famous for its Neoplatonic philosophers.
Part I. The Gods and their peculiarities
Chapter 1. Very many things have been set forth concerning these subjects by the Grecian philosophers, but the for the most part have derived the substance of their belief from conjecture. The Gods and their peculiarities In the first place, therefore, it is to be taken for granted that there are gods. I ask then: what are the peculiarities of the superior races, by which they are differentiated from each other? As the gods dwell in heaven only, I ask therefore, why are invocations at the Theurgic Rites directed to them as being of the Earth and Underworld? How is it that although possessing power unlimited, undivided, and unrestricted, some of them are mentioned as being of the water and of the atmosphere, and that others are allotted by definite limitations to different places and to distinct parts of bodies?
Tauk On the contrary, also, there are other methods for obtaining premonitions of what will take place. If, however, we must speak truly, the conjoining to the divine nature is not knowing, for this is kept separate after a manner by an otherness. But in the case of those that are totally exempt from all iambilchus conditions, what opposing circumstance in respect to these things, or pathways through them all, or separate outline, or encompassing in some prescribed space, or anything of this kind, can be justly conceived? Even though in this case it may seem otherwise iablichus thee, the false assumption is not worthy of a word.