PROCLUS THEOLOGY OF PLATO
[Extracted from Thos. Taylor’s Translation]
Of the Sitters in the Academical Chair of
the Neoplatonists who followed the Master Plotinus, undoubtedly the venerable
Proclus was the most original thinker as well as the ablest systematizer of the
Teachings of Plato.
He was born at
Of the Sitters in the Academical Chair of
the Neoplatonists who followed the Master Plotinus, undoubtedly the venerable
Proclus was the most original thinker as well as the ablest systematizer of the
Teachings of Plato.
these days, when the need for systematic training is perhaps becoming more than
ever universally recognized, there should be a goodly field of disciples to whom
Proclus particularly appeals. And
this in spite of the fact that according to some critics he is considered too
methodical. But, in justice, this
criticism is usually accompanied by the deepest admiration for the perfect order
and the finished logic which characterize his style. Moreover,
as soon as the student becomes accustomed to Proclus’ somewhat uncommon
composition, he begins to discover in it unsuspected charms, wondrous
profundities, and marvellous flashes of Truth, couched in the very simplest of
words. He is also impressed by the
fact that Proclus, like Plato, never loses touch with the Primal and Universal
Principle even when discussing the most multiplex and particularized aspects of
it, nor does he leave the track of direct deduction, but builds up his
conclusions, step by step, leaving nothing to supposition.
Students of Plotinus will find that Proclus is complementary to him in a wonderful manner.
Plotinus is the religious-philosophical mystic, par excellence.
Proclus is the philosophical theologian and metaphysician, for it has been affirmed with truth, that he set the philosophical and dialectical methods of the Schoolmen, and of all Christian Mystical Science.
He was an acute mathematician, too, as an
examination of his “Commentaries on
There is little doubt that the thoroughly mastered the Philosophy of Plato, and, after passing it through the splendour of his own illuminating Intellect, re-presented the Platonic Teachings for the benefit of all subsequent ages.
“The Theology of Plato,”—of which this series of articles will comprise a selection of choice passages with occasional comments—is a monumental work, of which the indefatigable English Platonist, Thos. Taylor, has left us an English Translation which preserves the spirit and style of the original, although, perhaps, it may not be perfect from a purely philological point of view.
In this work Proclus unfolds the Platonic doctrine of the Supreme God and of all the Sublime Hierarchies of Beings (i.e., The Gods) who eternally proceed from Him, manifest His Ineffable Nature, express His unfathomable Mystery, and interpret His Infinite Will; and rule over, preserve, and perpetually perfect the entire cosmos.
(2) Introductory. I. “I am of opinion,” says Proclus, “that the whole philosophy of Plato was at first unfolded into light through the beneficent will of Superior Natures, exhibiting the intellect (Comment 1,—see below) concealed in them, and the truth subsisting together with beings, to Souls conversant with generation (so far as it is lawful fro them to participate of such supernatural and mighty Good). And again, after having received its perfection, returning, as it were, into itself, it became unapparent to many who professed to philosophize, but once more advancing into light it became again effable to all who earnestly desired to engage in the investigation of true being. But I particularly think that the mystic doctrine respecting divine concerns, which is purely established on a sacred foundation, and which perpetually subsists with the Gods Themselves, became thence apparent to such as are capable of enjoying it for a time through one man (namely Plato), whom I should not err in calling the primary leader and hierophant of those true Mysteries, into which Souls, separated from terrestrial places, are initiated, and of those entire and stable visions, which those participate in who genuinely embrace a happy and blessed life. But this philosophy shone forth at first from him so venerably and arcanely, as if established in sacred temples, and within their adyta, and being unknown to many who have entered these holy places, in certain orderly periods of time, proceeded as much as was possible for it into light, through certain true priests, and who embraced a life corresponding to the tradition of such mystic concerns.
II. These interpreters of the epopteia (or mystical spectacles) of Plato, who have unfolded to us all-sacred narrations of divine concerns, and who were allotted a nature similar to their leader, I should determine to be the Egyptian Plotinus and those who received the theory from him, I mean Amelius and Porphyry, together with those in the third place who were produced like virile statues from these, namely, Iamblichus and Theodorus, and any others, who after these, following this divine choir, have energized about the doctrines of Plato with a divinely-inspired mind. From these Syrianus, who, after the Gods, has been our Leader to everything beautiful and good, receiving in an undefiled manner the most genuine and pure light of truth in the bosom of his Soul, made us a partaker of all the rest of Plato’s philosophy, communicating to us that arcane information which he had received from those more ancient than himself, and caused us, in conjunction with him, to be divinely enthusiastic about the mystic truth of divine concerns.
To this man, therefore, if we should undertake to return thanks adequate to the benefits which we have received from him, the whole of time would not be sufficient because they are eternal benefits.
III. But it is necessary, not only that we should have received from others the transcendent good of the Platonic Philosophy, but that we should leave to posterity monuments of those blessed spectacles of which we have been spectators, and emulators to the utmost of our ability, under a leader the most perfect of the present time, and who arrived at the summit of philosophy; perhaps we shall act properly in invoking the Gods, that They will enkindle the light of truth in our Soul, and, in supplicating the attendants and ministers of Better Natures to direct our Intellect, and lead it to the all-perfect divine, and elevated end of the Platonic Theology. For I think that everywhere he who participates in the least degree of intelligence, will begin his understandings from the
In Proclus, “Intellect” is the equivalent of the Greek “Nous.”
Its connotation is not what is modernly understood by intellect.
It is the principle above Soul, and therefore might be translated as
Spirit or Spiritual mind.
especially in explications respecting the Gods; for we can no otherwise be able
to understand a Divine Nature than by being perfected through the light of the
Gods; nor divulge it to others unless governed by Them, and exempt from
multiform opinions, and the variety which subsists in words, preserving at the
same time the interpretation of divine names.
Therefore, knowing this, and complying with the exhortation of the
Platonic Timaeus, we in the first place establish the Gods as Leaders of the
Doctrine respecting Themselves. But
may they, in consequence of hearing our prayers, be propitious to us, and
benignantly approaching, guide the Intellect of our Soul, and lead it about the
Vesta of Plato (Comment 2), and to the arduous sublimities of this speculation;
where, when arrived, we shall receive all the truth concerning Them, inquiring
about Them of others, and, at the same time, as far as we are able, exploring
Them ourselves.”—Book I,
(3) The ONE and the Many. “The most proper beginning of the thesis proposed by us is that from which we may be able to discover the First Cause of all beings.
“For being impelled from this in a becoming manner, and having our conceptions purified respecting it, we shall with greater facility be able to distinguish other things.” (Comment 3.)
“If many things have a subsistence, each of the many is something or a certain One. But if each of them is nothing, or not even one thing, neither is it possible for the many to exist; for the many are many so far as each individual of the multitude exists. If, therefore, the many alone have a subsistence, and the One in no respect is, neither will the many exist. For things which are in no respect one have not any existence whatever.
“There is no number of beings if the One in no respect is; but all things and each thing will not be one. For the principle of number, the monad is one, and every number itself is one.” (Comment 4.)
“But if the One, which is The One Itself, alone has a subsistence, and there is nothing else, there will be among all things neither a whole, nor that which has parts. For everything which has parts is many, and every whole has parts. But the One is in no respect the many.
“All things, however, are, and are generated what they are, through the One. And together with the One, indeed, every being is preserved; but separated from the One it proceeds to the corruption of itself.
2.—Vesta of Plato.
Vesta is the Goddess of the immutable centre and heart of all things; to
be led to the Vesta of Plato, therefore, is to approach the innermost
significance of his Philosophy.
Comment 3.—The Platonic Conception of the Supreme God is one of
the most profound and exalted to be found in any system of thought; hence, in
proportion as we are able to apprehend it, so our conceptions of the natures
that proceed from God are correspondingly elevated.
And since these natures, which immediately proceed from Him, are most
like unto God, they are appropriately denominated “The Gods,” by the
Platonists. Such conceptions,
however, are not in any sense idolatrous, or pagan, nor do they detract from the
glory of the One Supreme, but rather enhance It, because as we shall learn from
Proclus, “all the Gods are God.”
Comment 4.—The Monad. In
divine natures, the Monad is that which contains a multiplicity of unities,
distinct and yet at the same time, profoundly united—and which produces a
multitude intimately allied to itself. It
is a particular wholeness, a plural-unity, which is one and yet comprehends and
produces all numbers. There could be
no Orders or particular causal chains if the Monad remained in itself
“From these things therefore it is necessary that the many should
participate of the One, that the One should be unmingled with multitude, and
that nothing should be better than the One, but that this should also be the
cause of being to the many.” (Comment
“For that which is deprived of the One is
nothing. Hence the One is prior to
(4) The Principle of all things. “But if that which is first is something which is not essence, it is absurd to assert that it is subordinate to essence. For the Principle of all things is that which has the greatest power and the most absolute authority, and is most sufficient to itself, and is not that which is most ignoble and indigent of the many. And, in short, it is necessary that no secondary nature should be better than the Principle.
“But the Principle is invariably principle (Comment 6), and other things proceed from it. If, however, that which is not essence is better than all essence, it will either be participated by it, or it will be entirely imparticipable. If, however, essence participates of the Principle, of what will it be the principle? And how will it be the principle of all beings? For it is necessary that the Principle of beings should be no one of beings; since if it were any one of them, it is necessarily not the principle of all beings. But everything which is participated by another thing is said to be that by which it is participated and in which it primarily is.
“The Principle, however, is separate, and
belongs in a greater degree to itself than to other things.
Besides, everything which is participated proceeds from another more
excellent cause; since that which is imparticipable is better than that which is
participable. (Comment 7.) It
is not possible, however, to conceive anything better than that which is most
excellent, and which we call the Principle.
For it is not lawful to assert that things secondary to the Principle,
and which proceed from it, are in any respect better than their principle.
The Cause, therefore, of all beings is above all essence, is separate
from every essence, and is neither essence, nor has essence as an addition to
its nature. For such an addition as
this is a diminution of simplicity, and of that which is one.”—Book II,
“That the One, therefore, is the Principle of all things, and the First Cause, and that all other things are posterior to the One, is, I think, evident from what has been said.”—ibid., Ch. 4.
5.—Cause of Being.
The first thing conceivable to the human mind is that which has being or
essence; for that which is without, or beyond, being, cannot be conceived.
Hence the cause of being, or of “be-ness,” is that initial act of
causation which can be attributed to the First Cause of all, Who, of necessity,
is beyond being or essence.
Comment 6.—Principle. The
Principle of any thing is its beginning, origin, arche, head, or idea;—e.g.,
the principle of being, or be-ness, is that according to which all beings are
produced, are able to subsist or exist, and by which they participate in
essence. And similarly with the
principles of life, intelligence, and anything else.
The Monad is the principle of numbers; but the ONE is the Principle of
principles,—or rather, Principle itself.
Comment 7.—The Imparticipable is that which is not consubsistent
with a subordinate nature. It has
the relation of a Monad; being exempt from subordinate nature.
It has the relation of a Monad; being exempt from participants and yet
producing things which may be participants.
Thus imparticipable Intellect is the intellect which is not consubsistent
with Soul, but is exempt from it; and imparticipable Soul is the Soul which is
not consubsistent with body,—and so in other things.—(T. Taylor).
(5) The One and the Good. “The mode of demonstration pertaining to the One is twofold. For Plato delivers to us two names of the Ineffable Cause. In the ‘Republic,’ indeed, he calls it ‘The Good,’ and demonstrates it to be the fountain of the Truth which unites intellects and intelligibles (Comment 8). But in the ‘Parmenides’ he denominates such a principle as this ‘The One,’ and shows that it gives subsistence to the divine unities.
“Again, therefore, of these names, the One is the principle of the progression of the whole of things, but the Good of their conversion. For because all things derived their subsistence and proceed from the First Principle, on this account referring the One to it, we demonstrate that it is the cause of all multitude and every progression. For whence is multitude unfolded into light except from the One? But, again, because the progressions from it are naturally converted to it, and desire the ineffable and incomprehensible hyparxis (Comment 9) we denominate it the Good. For what else is that which converts all things, and which is extended to all beings as the object of desire, but the Good? For all other things subsist distributedly, and are to some beings honourable, but to others not. And every thing which in any respect whatever is said to have a subsistence, aspires after some things and avoids others. But the Good is the common object of desire to all beings, and all things according to their nature verge and are extended to this. The tendency, however, of desiring natures is everywhere to the appropriate object of desire.
“The Good, therefore, converts; but the One gives subsistence to all secondary natures. Let not, however, any one suppose that the Ineffable can on this account be named, or that the cause of all union is doubled. For here, indeed, we transfer to it names, looking to that which is posterior to it, and to the progressions from it, or the circular conversions to it. Because, indeed, multitude subsists from it, we ascribe to it the appellation of the One; but because all things, even as far as to things that have the most obscure existence, are converted to it, we denominate it The Good.
“We endeavour, therefore, to know the unknown nature of the First Principle through the things which proceed from, and are converted to it; and we also attempt through the same means to give names to that which is ineffable.
“This Principle, however, is neither known
by beings, nor is effable by any one of all things; but being exempt from all
knowledge, and all language, and subsisting as incomprehensible, it produces
from itself, according to one cause, all knowledge, everything that is known,
all words, and whatever can be comprehended by speech.
But its unical nature, which transcends all division, shines forth to the
view triadically in the natures that posterior to it.
For all things abide in, proceed from, and are converted to the One.
For, at one and the same time they are united to it, are dependent on its
union, which is exempt from the whole of things, and desire the participation of
8.—Intelligibles and Intellects. In
the Platonic sense Intelligible natures are such as possess real permanent
being, and therefore are truly knowable or intelligible;—things which do not
possess real being, but subsist in a continual condition of change, are not
perceive Intelligibles by becoming united with them.
Comment 9.—Hyparxis. The
hyparxis is the first principle or the foundation of a thing. It
is the essential root and the innermost nature of a thing, as well as that
characteristic essence or summit of any nature through which it is what it is.
In the Gods it is analogous to the unity and deity of their natures.
(6) The Two Modes of Ascent. “We also define two modes of ascent to the First (Comment 10), conjoining that mode which is through analogy with the appellation of the Good, but that which is through negations with the appellation of the One; which Plato, also indicating, in the ‘Republic’ calls the first ‘The Good,’ and at the same time makes a regression to it through analogy; but in the ‘Parmenides’ establishing it as The One Itself, he unfolds the transcendency of it which is exempt from beings through negative conclusions. According to both these modes, therefore, the First Principle transcends all gnostic powers and is entirely exempt from definition, but all other things afford us the cause of knowledge and of appellation. And the First Principle, indeed, unically (Comment 11) gives subsistence to all the unions and hyparxes of secondary natures; but the things posterior to this Cause participate of it in a divided manner. These also become multiplied by abiding, proceeding, and returning; but The One is at once perfectly exempt from all the prolific progressions, convertive powers, and uniform hypostases in beings.”—Ibid.
First Principle and the Gods. “This,
therefore, is the one truth concerning the First Principle, and which possesses
one reason remarkably conformable to the Platonic hypothesis, namely, that this
Principle subsists prior to the whole orders in the Gods, that it gives
subsistence to the boniform essence of the Gods, that it is the fountain of
superessential Goodness, and that all things posterior to it, being extended
towards it, are filled with Good, are united to it, and after an ineffable
manner, subsist uniformly about it. For
its unical nature is not unprolific, but it is by so much the more generative of
other things which have a subsistence. Nor
does its fecundity tend to multitude and division; but it abides with undefiled
purity, concealed in inaccessible places. For
in the natures also which are posterior to it we everywhere see that which is
perfect desires to generate, and that which is full hastens to impart to other
things its plenitude. In a much
greater degree, therefore, it is necessary that the nature which contain in one,
all perfections, and which is not a certain good, but Good itself, and
super-full (if it be lawful so to speak) should be generative of the whole of
things, and give subsistence to them; producing all things by being exempt from
all things, and by being imparticipable, similarly generating the first and the
last of beings.
“The Good is the most final of all ends, and the centre of all
desirable natures. All desirable
natures, indeed, impart an end to secondary beings; but that which pre-subsists,
uncircumscribed by all things, is the First Good.”—Book II,
(8) The Apprehension of the Gods. “All who have ever touched upon Theology have called the first and the most self-sufficient principles of things, ‘Gods,’ and have said that the theological science is conversant about these.
Comment 10.—The Two Modes of Ascent are called “Via
Affirmativa” and “Via Negativa,”
respectively. The “Affirmative
Way” is pursued by regarding God as Himself the superplenitude of every
conceivable virtue and power; but the “Negative Way” is followed by denying
that God can possibly be any of the things which He produces, but that He must
be entirely exempt form them and infinitely transcend them all.
Therefore, when, by negation, we have separated Him, in our
consciousness, from every conceivable attribute; He remains the Absolute,
Incomprehensible, mysteriously “Unknowing” and Unknowable ONE.
We cannot even say the ONE exists;
hence Plato’s paradox: “If the ONE is,
It is not.”
Comment 11.—Unical. That
which is characterized by unity.
“And some, indeed, have (erroneously) considered a corporeal essence as that alone which has any existence, and have placed in a secondary rank, with respect to essence, all the genera of incorporeal natures, considering the principles of things as having a corporeal form, and evincing that the habit in us by which we know these, is corporeal. (Comment 12.)
“The divine narration, however, of Plato despises all corporeal natures in the consideration of these principles. Because, indeed, everything divisible and endued with interval, is naturally unable either to produce or preserve itself, but possesses its being, energy, and passivity through Soul, and the motions which Soul contains.
“But Plato demonstrates that the psychical essence (i.e., the essence pertaining to Soul, see Comment 13) is more ancient than bodies, and is suspended from an Intellectual (Spiritual) hypostasis. He shows that Intellect is the father and cause of bodies and Souls, and that all things both subsist and energize about it, which are allotted a life conversant with transitions and evolutions.
Plato, however, proceeds to another principle entirely exempt from Intellect, more incorporeal and ineffable, and from which all things, even though you should speak of such as are last, have necessarily a subsistence. For all things are not naturally disposed to participate of Soul; nor are all things able to enjoy Intellect; but it is necessary that the Principle of all things should be participated by all things. Plato having divinely discovered this First Principle of wholes, which is more excellent than Intellect, and is concealed in inaccessible recesses; and having exhibited these three causes and monads, (Comment 14) denominated them as incorporeal and above bodies, produces from these monads their proper numbers; one multitude being indeed unific, but the second intellectual, and the third psychical. For every monad is the leader of a multitude co-ordinate with itself.
“But as Plato connects bodies with Souls, so likewise he connects Souls with Intellects, and these again with the unities of beings. But he converts all things to one imparticipable Unity. And having run back as far as to this Unity, he considers himself as having obtained the highest end of the theory of wholes; and that this is the truth respecting the Gods, which is conversant with the unities of beings, and which delivers their progressions and peculiarities, the contact of beings with them, and the orders of forms which are suspended from these unical hypostases.
“But he teaches us that the theory respecting Intellect, and the forms and the genera revolving about Intellect, are posterior to the science which is conversant with the Gods themselves. Likewise, that the intellectual theory apprehends intelligibles, and the forms which are capable of being known by the Soul through the projecting energy of Intellect (Comment 15); but that the theological science, transcending this, is conversant with arcane and ineffable hyparxes, and pursues their separation from each other, and
Comment 12.—Incorporeal Natures.
Since the Gods are God, they
are necessarily infinitely superior to all ideas of body or corporeality; hence
they can never be apprehended by corporeal faculties.
Comment 13.—Psychical is here used in its original and best sense;
it has nothing whatever to do with what is nowadays known as “Psychism” and
“the Psychic”, which refer to the astral world and not to the Soul itself.
Comment 14.—The ONE, Intellect, and Soul.
These Principles, considered as Monads, contain and produce an infinite
number of unities, intellects, and souls.
Comment 15.—Intellectual Projection.
The projecting energy of Intellect is intuitive perception, an immediate
darting forth, as it were, to its proper object, the Intelligible.
their unfolding into light from one cause of all; whence, I am of opinion, that the intellectual peculiarity of the Soul is capable of apprehending intellectual forms, and the difference which subsists in them, but that the summit, the flower of Intellect and hyparxis, is conjoined with the unities of beings, and through these, with the occult union of all the divine unities. (Comment 16.) For as we contain many gnostic powers, through these alone we are capable of being conjoined with and of participating in this occult union. For the Genus of the Gods cannot be apprehended by sense, because it is exempt from all bodies; nor by opinion and dianoia (Comment 17), for these are divisible and come into contact with multiform concerns; nor by intelligence in conjunction with reason, for knowledge of this kind belongs to true beings; but the hyparxis of the Gods rides on beings, and is defined according to the union itself of wholes.”
(9) The Soul’s Ascent to the Gods. It remains, therefore, if it be admitted that a divine nature can in any respect be known that it must be apprehended by the hyparxis of the Soul. For we say that everywhere things similar can be known by the similar; namely, the sensible by sense, the doxastic (Comment 18) by opinion, the dianoetic by dianoia, and the intelligible by Intellect. So that the most unical nature must be known by the ONE, and the Ineffable by that which is ineffable.
“Indeed, Socrates in the First Alcibiades rightly observes that the Soul, entering into herself, will behold all other things and Deity itself. For, verging to her own hyparxis and to the centre of all life, laying aside multitude and the variety of the all-manifold powers which she contains, she ascends to the highest watch-tower of being.
The Soul, then, when looking to things posterior to herself, beholds the shadows and images of beings, but when she converts herself to herself, she evolves her own essence and the reasons which she contains.* And at first indeed she, as it were, beholds herself alone; but when she penetrates more profoundly into the knowledge of herself, she finds in herself both Intellect and the orders of beings. When, however, she proceeds into her interior recesses and into the adytum, as it were, of the Soul, she perceives with her eye closed the Genus of the Gods, and the Unities of beings. For all things are in us psychically, and through this we are naturally capable of knowing all things, by exciting the powers and the images (ideas) of wholes which we contain.
And this is the best employment of our energy, to be extended to a divine nature itself, having our powers at rest, to revolve harmoniously round it, to excite all the multitude of the Soul to this union, and laying aside all such things as are posterior to the ONE, to become seated and conjoined with that which is ineffable and beyond all things. For it is lawful for the Soul to ascend till she terminates her flight in the Principle of things; but arriving thither, beholding the place which is there, descending thence, and directing her course through beings, likewise evolving the multitude of forms, and apprehending intellectually how each is suspended from its proper unity, then we may
This term is employed in its literal sense, meaning “hidden.”
It is applied to that which is above, or hidden from, intellectual
perception, and has nothing to do with “occultism”.
17.—Dianoia. This is the
discursive energy of reason; it is the power of the Soul which reasons
scientifically, or dialectically, deriving the principles of its reasoning from
Comment 18.—Doxastic; from doxa,
opinion. This is the lowers of the
gnostic powers of the rational soul. It
knows that a thing is, but not why
it is; i.e., it is ignorant of the cause.
* (It is interesting to note that this passage is identical with the very
foundation of Oriental Raja Yoga).
consider her as possessing the most perfect science of divine natures, perceiving in a uniform manner the progressions of the Gods into beings, and the distinctions of beings about the Gods.
“Such then, according to Plato’s
decision, is our theologist; and his theology is a science of this kind, which
unfolds the hyparxis itself of the Gods, separates their unknown and unical
light from the peculiarity of their participants, and announces it to such as
are worthy of this energy, which is both blessed and comprehends all things at
[Extracted from Thos. Taylor’s Translation.]
GOODNESS OF THE GODS
(1) The Power of the Gods. “Three things are asserted by Plato in the “Laws”:—(1) that there are Gods; (2) that Their Providence extends to all things; and (3) that they administer all things according to Justice, and suffer no perversion from inferior natures.
For what can be of a more leading nature
than the hyparxis of the Gods (Comment 1) or than boniform
Of all beings, however, it is necessary that some should move only; but that others should be moved only; and that the natures subsisting between these should both move and be moved. And with respect to these last, it is requisite, either that they should move others, being themselves in turn moved by others, or that they should be self-motive.
These four hypotheses, likewise, are necessarily placed in an orderly series, one after another; (a) that which is moved only,— depending on other primary causes; (b) that which moves others and is at the same time moved; (c) that which is self-motive, and which is beyond that which both moves and is moved, beginning from itself and through its own motion imparting the representation of being moved to other things; and (d) that which is immoveable, preceding whatever participates in either producing or passive motion. (Comment 2).
1.—The Hyparxis of the Gods is
“analogous to the unity and deity of Their natures.”
It is that which makes Them what They are.
Comment 2.—The Four Hypotheses of Motion.—From these Proclus
then proceeds to demonstrate how the ultimate cause of all motion (and therefore
also of life and activity of every kind) originates in the Power of the Gods,
which is all-pervading—from the first to the last of things.
He shows that in so far as secondary natures are able to participate in
this Power of the Gods so they preserve their own peculiar characteristics and
are able to energize according to their particular natures; but in so far as
they depart from the Power of the Gods, so they suffer a privation of life and
The series of arguments used by Proclus may
be summarized as follows:—
activities of Self-motive Natures must be according to Time, because the Eternal
is beyond motion. Therefore the
Self-motive is secondary to, and dependent upon, the Eternal which is
II. If all things should stand still, there
could be no further motion unless the Self-motive continued to subsist, because
the Immoveable does not itself impart motion.
Hence, the things moved,—i.e., the alter-motive, depend upon the
Self-motive which begins from itself.
III. Bodies or corporeal natures are not
adapted to move themselves, hence depend upon the Self-motive.
The Soul, which imparts motion to the body, is self-motive.
The Intellect, upon which the Soul depends, is immoveable, and gives to
the Soul its perpetual permanency and sameness of subsistence.
The Intellect, being Eternal, is deific and subsists in union with real
beings or Divine Unities. Hence,
when the Soul energizes according to Intellect it is conjoined to the Gods.
Therefore it necessarily follows that the
body is able to move because of the Soul; the Soul is able to impart motion
because of Intellect; Intellect is able to impart sameness to the Soul because
of the Divine Unities; and thus, the Ultimate and Final Causes of all these
Powers (and others analogous to them) reside in the Gods.
For that which is corporeal, being alter-motive, derives from Soul the representation of self-motive power and through it is an animal. But Soul, being self-motive, participates of a life according to Intellect, and energizing according to time, possesses a never-ceasing energy and an ever-vigilant life from its proximity to Intellect. And Intellect, possessing its life in Eternity, always subsisting essentially in energy, and fixing all its stable intellection at once in Intellect, is entirely deific, through the Cause prior to itself.
All things, therefore, as we have previously said, are suspended from the ONE through Intellect and Soul as media. And Intellect, indeed, has the form of unity; but Soul has the form of Intellect; and the Body of the world is vital (through Soul). But everything is conjoined with that which is prior to itself. And of the natures posterior to these, one in a more proximate but the other in a more remote degree, enjoys that which is divine. And divinity, indeed, is prior to Intellect, being primarily carried in an intellectual nature; but Intellect is most divine, as being deified prior to other things; and Soul is divine, so far as it acquires an intellectual medium. But the Body, which participates of a Soul of this kind, is also itself divine; for the illumination of divine Light pervades supernally as far as to the last dependencies, yet the body is not simply divine, but the Soul, by looking at Intellect, and living from itself, is primarily divine (Comment 3).
These is one corporeal-formed Wholeness of the Universe and many others under this depending on it; there is one Soul of the universe, and after this, other Souls together with it disposing in an orderly manner the whole parts of the universe; there is one Intellect, and an intellectual number under this participated by Souls; there is one God Who connectedly contains at once all Mundane and Supermundane Divine Natures and a multitude of other Gods, Who distribute intellectual essences (Comment4).—Book I., Ch. 13.
The Gods, therefore, are really the causes of all motion; some of them being essential and vital according to a self-motive, self-vital, and self-energetic power; but others of them being intellectual and exciting by Their very being all secondary natures to the perfection of life. And others, again, are unical or characterized by unity, deifying by participation all the whole genera of themselves according to a primary, all-perfect, and unknown power of energy. But others, again, supply motion to secondary natures according to place or quality, and are essentially the cause of motion to Themselves. For everything which is the cause of essence to other things is by much greater priority in possession of its own proper energies and perfection.
3.—The All-pervading Gods.—This
shows that nothing is destitute of the Gods, but that in so far as different
natures are adapted to participate in the Power of the Gods so in that degree
they are divine. The body is least
adapted, but Intellect most, while the Soul subsists midway between them.
“The body is not simply divine” because it has no real subsistence
without Soul; but the Soul is self-subsistent and when converted to its
Principle—Intellect—it acquires an intellectual medium through which “it
is primarily divine.”
Comment 4.—Processions from Deity.
Just as all the Genera of the Gods are processions from One First GOD, so
all Intellectual Numbers proceed from One Intellect; all Souls from One
Over-Soul; and all corporeal wholes are progressions of the One Corporeal-formed
Universal Wholeness which is the manifested Cosmos.
Motion, Being, and Life proceed from a unical hyparxis (Comment 5) which connectedly contains Intellect and Soul which is the source of total Good, and which proceeds as far as the last of things. For of Life, indeed, not all the parts of the world are capable of participating; but of the ONE all things participate, even as far as to Matter itself, both wholes and parts, things which subsist according to Nature and the contraries to these; and there is not anything which is deprived of a cause of this kind, nor can anything ever participate of Being if it is deprived of the ONE.—Book I, Ch. 14.
All things, therefore, are partakers of the providence of their preceding causes;—being purified by the Psychical Gods (Comment 6); participating of sameness and a stable condition of forms from the Intellectual Gods; but receiving into themselves the presence of union, of measure, and of the distribution of Good, from the First Gods (Comment 7).
For the very being of the Gods is defined by the Good, and in this They have Their subsistence. But to provide for things of a dependent nature is to confer on them a certain good. How, therefore, can we deprive the Gods of Providence without depriving them of Goodness? And how, if we subvert Their Goodness, is it possible that we should not also ignorantly subvert their hyparxis, which we established by former demonstrations?
Hence it is necessary to admit, as a thing consequent to the very being of the Gods, that They are Good according to every excellence. And again, it is consequent to this, that They do not withdraw Themselves from a providential attention to secondary natures; and that there is with Them the most excellent knowledge, unpolluted power, and unenvying and exuberant will. From which it follows that They provide for the whole of things and omit nothing which is requisite to the supply of Good.
Let it not be thought, however, that the
providence of the Gods about secondary natures is such that it is either a busy
or laborious one, for Their blessedness is not to be defiled by difficulty of
administration; since even the life of good men is accompanied with facility and
is void of molestation and pain. But
all labours and molestation arise from the impediments of matter.
If, therefore, it be requisite to define the mode of the
Comment 5.—Unical Hyparxis, or in other words, the root one-ness through which all things are connected to, and able to participate in, the ONE.
6.—The Psychical Gods, that is the
Choir of Gods Who rule over the World of the Soul, called also the Supermundane
World, animated by the Vivific Divinities.
Comment 7.—The Six Choirs of Gods,—according to Proclus the
names of these are:—
The Intelligible Gods.
The Intelligible-Intellectual Gods.
The Intellectual Gods.
The Supermundane Gods.
The Liberated Gods.
The Mundane Gods.
what is fit, or by exploring the good of everything by ambiguous reasonings, or by looking externally and following the effects as men do in the providence which they exert on their own affairs.
But the Gods, pre-assuming in Themselves the measures of the whole of things, and producing the essence of everything from Themselves, and also, looking to Themselves, They lead and perfect all things in a silent path, by Their very being, and fill them with Good (Comment 8).
Neither, likewise, do They produce in a manner similar to Nature,—energizing only by Their very being, unaccompanied by deliberate choice. Nor do They energize in a manner similar to partial Souls (Comment 9) in conjunction with will and deprived of production according to essence.
But They contract both these into one union, and They will such things as They are able to effect by Their very being; while, by Their very essence, They are capable of, and produce, all things, containing the cause of production in Their unenvying and exuberant Will.
So that, if indeed the communication of Good
by the Gods is according to nature,
That, however, which is especially the illustrious prerogative of the Platonic Theology I should say is this, that according to it, neither is the exempt essence of the Gods converted to secondary natures through a providential care of things subordinate, nor is Their providential presence with things diminished through Their transcending the whole of things with undefiled purity. But it assigns Them as separate subsistence, being unmingled with every subordinate nature, and yet being extended to all things, caring for and adorning Their progeny. For the manner in which They pervade all things is not corporeal, as is that of light through the air; nor is it divisible about bodies as in Nature; nor converted to subordinate natures as that of a partial Soul; but it is separate from body, without conversion to it, and is immaterial, unmingled, unrestrained, uniform, primary, and exempt.—Book I, Ch. 14.
(3) The Justice of the Gods. The third problem we are to survey is the unpervertible in the Gods, Who perform all things according to Justice, and Who do not in the smallest degree subvert its boundary, or its undeviating rectitude, in Their providential attention to all other things and in the mutations of human affairs.
I think, therefore, it is apparent that everywhere that which governs according to nature, and pays all possible attention to the felicity of the governed, after this manner becomes the Leader of that which it governs, and directs it to that which is best.
If, therefore, we grant that the Gods are the Leaders of the whole of things, and that They possess every virtue, how is it possible that They should neglect the felicity of the objects of Their providential care? Or, how can They be inferior to other leaders in the providence of subordinate natures; since the Gods, indeed, always look to that which is better, and establish this as the end of all Their government?
8.—The Silent Path of the Gods.
The truth of this sublime passage is to realized the more we contemplate
the Infinite Grace of GOD and the Goodness of His Hosts of Great Gods.
Comment 9.—The Partial Soul according to Proclus, is the Soul
limited by bondage to generation and inferior natures, and thus unable to
energize its integrality.
And universally, whether you are willing or not to call the Gods Leaders, or Rulers, or Guardians, or Fathers, a Divine Nature will appear to be in want of no one of such names. For all things that are venerable and honourable subsist in Them primarily.—Book I, Ch. 15.
That which has the hyparxis of itself and the whole of its essence defined in the Good and which by its very being produces all things, must necessarily be productive of every good, but of no evil. For if there was anything primarily Good which is not God, perhaps some one might say that divinity is indeed a cause of good but that it does not impart to beings every good. If, however, not only every God is Good, but that which is primarily boniform and beneficent is God, then it is perfectly necessary that Divinity should be the cause of Good, and of all such Goods as proceed into secondary descents, as far as to the last of things.
For as the power which is the cause of life gives subsistence to all life; as the power which is the cause of knowledge, produces all knowledge; as the power which is the cause of beauty, produces everything beautiful; and as every primary cause produces all similars from itself and binds to itself the one hypostasis of things which subsist according to one form, so, after the same manner, the First and most principal Good and uniform Hyparxis, establishes simultaneously in and about Itself, the Causes and Comprehensions of all Goods. For all Goods are from thence produced, perfected, and preserved; and the one series and order of universal Good depends on that Fountain. Through the same cause of hyparxis, therefore, the Gods are the suppliers of all Good, but of no evil. For that which is primarily Good gives subsistence to every good from Itself, and is not the cause of an allotment contrary to itself; since that which is productive of life is not he cause of the privation of life; and that which is the source of beauty is exempt from the nature of that which is void of beauty and is deformed. Hence, of that which primarily constitutes Good, it is not lawful to assert that it is the cause of contrary progeny.
The Divine Cause of Good is established eternally in itself, extending to all secondary natures an unenvying and exuberant participation of Good. Of its participants, however, some preserve the participation with incorruptible purity, receiving their proper Good in undefiled bosoms and thus, through an abundance of power, possess inevitably an allotment of Good adapted to them.
But although those natures which are arranged in the last of the whole of things enjoy, according to their, nature, the Goodness of the Gods (for it is not possible that things entirely destitute of Good could either have any being or subsistence), yet, receiving an efflux of this kind, they neither preserve the Gift, which pervades them, pure and unmingled, nor do they retain their own proper Good stably, but, becoming partial and material, they exhibit to Order, the privation of Order; to Reason, irrationality; and to Virtue the contrary of it, vice (Comment 10).
Proclus has much to say concerning the non-existence of Evil, which is
defined as the privation of Good. Evil
is self-destructive. Things only
subsist in so far as they contain some
good; hence, Evil, as an ultimate and real principle, is non-existent; yet, from
the human standpoint, “Evil” certainly needs transmutation, or
rearrangement, before man can recognize it as Good.
But with respect to the natures which rank as wholes, each of these is exempt from a perversion of this kind, the things more perfect in them always having dominion according to nature. For the universe is always happy, and always consists of perfect parts, which subsist according to Nature (Comment 11).
Divinity, therefore, as we have said, is the Cause of Good; but the shadowy subsistence of evil does not subsist from power, but from the imbecility of natures which receive the Illuminations of the Gods. Nor is evil in wholes, but in partial natures, nor yet in all these (Comment 12). For the first of partial natures and partial intellectual genera are eternally boniform. But the media among these, and which energize according to Time, connecting the participation of the Good with temporal mutation and motion, are incapable of preserving the Gift of the Gods immoveable, uniform, and simple; obscuring, by the variety, the simplicity of this Gift; by their multiform its uniform nature; and by their commixture its purity and incorruptibility.
All things, however, are converted as much as possible to the Goodness of the Gods. And wholes, indeed, remain in their proper boundaries and also the perfect and beneficent genera of beings; but more partial and imperfect natures are adorned and arranged in a becoming manner; become subservient to the completion of wholes; are called upward to the beautiful; are changed; and in every way enjoy the participation of the Good, as far as this can be accomplished by them.
For there cannot be a greater Good to each of these than what the Gods impart according to measures to Their progeny; but all things, each separately and all in common, receive such a portion of Good as it is possible for them to participate. But if some things are filled with greater and others with less Good, the power of the recipient and the measures of the distribution must be assigned as the cause of this. For different things are adapted to different beings according to their nature. But the Gods always extend Good in the same manner as the sun always emits light; for different things receive this light differently and yet to the greatest extent of which they are capable. For all things are led according to the Justice of the Gods, and Good is not absent from anything, but is present to all according to an appropriate boundary of participation.
And as Plato truly says: “All things are
in a Good condition and are arranged by the Gods.”—Book I,
11.—“The Universe is always happy.”
This reminds us of Plotinus when he affirms that: “The World is worthy
of its Author,—complete, beautiful, and harmonious.
Those who find fault with it, make the mistake of considering it in
part.”—En. III. 2-3. This truth
cannot be over-emphasized. It is a
joy-giving truth, for in the contemplation of the grandeur and magnificence of
the Works of the Gods in the Great Cosmos, man must necessarily draw near to
Them in consciousness.
Comment 12.—Partial Natures are particular Natures.
Thus; “Every partial or particular intellect participates of the Primal
Unity which is above intellect, both through the universal Intellect and through
the partial unity which is co-ordinate with it.
And every partial Soul participates of universal Intellect through
universal Soul and through a partial Intellect.
And every partial nature of Body participates of universal Soul through
universal Nature and a partial Soul.”—(Proposition cix,).
THEOLOGY OF PLATO
BEAUTY OF THE GODS*
(1) The Immutability of the Gods. All the things demonstrated, so far, depend upon three common conceptions of a divine nature, namely, on conceptions concerning Its Goodness, Its Immutability, and its Truth.
For the first and ineffable Fountain of Good is with the Gods, from all Eternity, which is itself the cause of a Power that has an invariable sameness of subsistence, and of the first Intellect, which is real being, and the Truth which is in real beings.—Book I., Ch. 16.
Let us survey the Immutability and Simplicity of the Gods; what the nature of each is, and how both of them are adapted to the hyparxis of the Gods, according to the narration of Plato.
The Gods are exempt from the whole of things; but, filling them with Good, They are Themselves perfectly Good, each according to his own proper order possessing that which is most excellent, and the entire Race of Gods being at once allotted a predominance according to an exuberance of Good.
But if the First Cause is most excellent, that which is posterior to the First is not so; for that which is produced is inferior to that by which it is produced (Comment 1).
But it is necessary in the Gods to preserve the order of causes unconfused, and to define separably their progressions; for with the unfolding into light of things secondary from those which are first, that which is most excellent must also be surveyed in each of the Gods. Because each of the Gods, in his own characteristic peculiarity, is primarily and perfectly Good.
For example, one is allotted this transcendency and is most excellent as possessing a prophetic power; another as demiurgic; and another as perfecter of works.
Moreover, in the Republic, Socrates very properly observes, when speaking of the Gods, that each of them is most beautiful and most excellent, and for ever retains a simplicity of subsistence in his own form. For each of the Gods being allotted that which is first and which is the summit in his own particular Series, does not depart from his own proper Order, but contains the blessedness and felicity of his own proper power. Neither does he exchange his order for an inferior one, for it is not lawful for that which possesses all virtue to be changed into an inferior condition. Nor does he pass into a better order; for where can there be anything better than that which is most excellent?
* The Articles of this Series in previous Issues were:
It is necessary, therefore, that every Divine Nature should be established immutably, abiding in its own accustomed manner. Hence, from these premises, the self-sufficiency, the undefiled purity, and the invariable sameness of subsistence of the Gods, is apparent. For if they are not changed to an more excellent condition of being, as possessing that which is best in their own nature, they are sufficient to themselves and are not in want of any good.
And if they are not at any time changed into an inferior condition, they remain undefiled, established in their own trancendencies. And, again, if they guard the perfection of themselves immutably, they subsist always with invariable sameness.
We shall next consider, therefore, what is the self-sufficiency of the Gods, what is their immutability, and what their sameness of subsistence (Comment 2).
I. The world is said to be self-sufficient, because its subsistence is perfect, proceeding from principles that are perfect; because it is a whole, coming from perfect wholes; and because it is filled with an appropriate good from its generating Father. But a perfection and self-sufficiency of this kind is partible and is said to consist of many things coalescing in one, and to be filled from separate causes according to participation.
The order of divine Souls also is said to be self-sufficient, as being full of appropriate virtues and as always preserving the measure of its own blessedness without indigence. But here likewise the self-sufficiency is in want of powers, for these Souls have not their intellections directed to the same Intelligibles, but they energize according to Time and obtain the complete perfection of their contemplation in whole periods of time. The self-sufficiency, therefore, of Divine Souls, and the whole perfection of their life, is not at once present (Comment 3).
Again, the Intellectual World is said to be self-sufficient, as having its whole Good established in Eternity, comprehending at once its whole blessedness and being indigent of nothing, because all life and all intelligence are present with it, and nothing is deficient, nor does it desire anything as absent. But Intellect is, indeed, sufficient to itself in its own Order, yet it falls short of the self-sufficiency of the Gods, because, although every Intellect is boniform, yet it is not Goodness itself nor primarily Good, but each of the Gods is a unity, hyparxis, and goodness.
The nature of the hyparxis of each divine unity determines its progression of Goodness; for one divinity is a perfective Goodness, another is a Goodness connective of the whole of things; and another is a collective Goodness. But, nevertheless, each is simply a Goodness sufficient to itself. Or, it may be said, that each is a Goodness possessing the self-sufficient and the all-perfect, but not according to participation or illumination, but by being that very thing which it is.
For Intellect is self-sufficient to itself by participation; the Soul is self-sufficient according to a similitude to a divine nature. But the Gods themselves are self-sufficient through and by themselves, filling themselves, or rather, subsisting eternally as the plenitudes of all Good.
2.—In order to emphasize the
completeness of these three attributes in the Gods, Proclus proceeds to consider
what degree of self-sufficiency, immutability, and sameness of subsistence is
possessed by the World, by the Soul, and by Intellect, or the Intellectual
(Spiritual) World, in comparison with that in the Gods.
Comment 3.—Real self-sufficiency cannot be possessed by any nature
which has its activity in Time, because it is perpetually in a process of
becoming. But the eternal for ever is,
and always possesses its fullest possible being: it neither becomes more nor
II. With respect to the Immutability of the Gods: of what kind is it?
Is it such as that of a naturally circulating body? For the celestial bodies are, in a certain respect, immutable, and not adapted to receive anything from inferior natures, nor to be affected by the mutation arising from generation, and the disorder which occurs in the sublunary regions. Their immutability is great and venerable, but it is inferior to that of the Gods. For every body possesses both its being and its perpetual sameness from other precedaneous causes.
Neither is the impassive and the immutable in the Gods such as the immutability of Souls; for Souls communicate in a certain respect with bodies and are the media of an impartible essence, and of an essence divided about bodies.
Nor, again, is the immutability of intellectual essences equivalent to that of the Gods; for Intellect is, indeed, immutable, impassive, and unmingled with secondary natures, but only on account of its union with the Gods. And in so far as Intellect is uniform it is immutable, but so far as it is manifold it has something which is more excellent and something which is subordinate, in itself.
But the Gods, alone, having established their unions according to this transcendency of being, are immutable dominations, are primary, and are impassive. For there is nothing in them which is not hyparxis and one. The unities of the Gods unite all multitudes; they deify everything which participates of them, receive nothing from their participants, and do not diminish their own proper union because of the participation. Hence, also, the Gods being everywhere, are similarly exempt from all things, contain all things, and are vanquished by none.
III. In the third place, the universe is said to subsist in a state of invariable sameness, so far as it is allotted an order in itself which is always preserved indissoluble; but, at the same time, it possesses a corporeal form and therefore is not destitute of mutation.
The order of the Soul, likewise, is rightly said to have an essence perpetually established in sameness; for it is entirely impassive in its essence, but it has its energies extended into time, and at different times it understands different Intelligibles.
Intellect is said both to subsist and to understand with invariable and perpetual sameness, establishing, at once, in Eternity, its essence, powers, and energies. However, through the multitude of its intellections, and through the variety of intelligible species and genera, there is not only a sameness but also a difference of subsistence in Intellect (Comment 4).
Hence a perpetual sameness of subsistence is primarily in the Gods alone, and is especially inherent in them.
The Gods, therefore, possess in themselves
the causes of an eternally invariable sameness of subsistence, and guard with
immutable sameness their own proper hyparxis.—
Comment 4.—For, “every Intellect being a plenitude of forms, one
Intellect contains more universal, but another more partial forms; and the
superior Intellect contains more universally the things which those posterior to
them contain more partially. But the
inferior Intellects contain more partially the things which those that are prior
to them more universally.”—Proposition CLXXVII, “Proclus’ Metaphysical
(2) The Simplicity of the Gods. In the next place let us consider what power the Simplicity of the Gods possesses; for, Socrates observes, a Divine Nature does not admit of that which is various and multiform and which appears different at different times, but the uniform and the simple are to be referred to Divinity. Each of the Gods, therefore, remains simply in his own form.
What then shall we conclude concerning this simplicity? It is not such as may be defined as one in number. Nor is it such as that simplicity which is in many things according to an arranged species or genus; for these, indeed, are more simple than the individuals in which they are inherent, but are replete with variety, communicating with Matter and receiving the diversities of material natures.
Nor is it such as the form of Nature; for Nature is divided about bodies, verges to corporeal masses, emits many powers about the composition which is subject to it; and, indeed, although more simple than bodies, has an essence mingled with their variety.
Nor is it such as the simplicity of the Soul; for the Soul, subsisting as a medium between an impartible essence and an essence which is divided about bodies, communicates with both extremes, and by reason of that is multiform in its nature when conjoined with things subordinate, but its head is established on high, and according to this it is allied to Intellect and participates in the Divine.
Nor, again, is the Simplicity of the Gods such as that of Intellect. For every Intellect, although impartible and uniform, yet, at the same time, possesses multitude and progression; by which it is evident that it has a habitude to secondary natures, to itself, and about itself. Intellect is also in itself, and is not only uniform, but also multiform, and, as it is said, a one-manyness.
But the Gods have their hyparxis defined in one Simplicity alone, being exempt from all multitude and transcending all division and interval, or habitude to secondary natures, and all composition. They are, indeed, in inaccessible places, extended above the whole of things, and eternally abiding beyond all beings; but the illuminations proceeding from them to secondary natures, being mingled in many places with the participants, which are composite and various, are received according to the peculiarity of each.
But it is necessary that the nature of that Principle which generates things that are multiform should be simple and should precede what is generated in the same manner as the uniform and single precedes the multiform and many.
If, therefore, the Gods are the cause of all composition, and produce from themselves the variety of beings, it is certainly necessary that the unity of their nature, which is generative of the whole of things, should have its subsistence in perfect simplicity. For as incorporeal causes precede bodies; as immoveable causes precede things that are moved; and as impartible causes precede all partible natures; so, after the same manner, uniform intellectual powers precede multiform natures, unmingled powers precede things that are mingled together, and simple powers precede things of a variegated nature.—Book I., Ch. 19.
(3) The Love of the Gods. In the next place let us consider the Beautiful; what it is, and how it primarily subsists in the Gods. It is rightly said to be boniform beauty, intelligible beauty, and to be more ancient than intellectual beauty; to be Beauty itself, and the cause of beauty to all beings.
The Beauty of the Gods is separate from
the beauty which is apparent in corporeal masses; from the symmetry which is in
these; from the elegance of Soul; and from Intellectual splendour.
It subsists in the
As, therefore, through the first Goodness, all the Gods are boniform; and through Intelligible Wisdom They have an ineffable knowledge established above Intellect, thus also, through the Summit of Beauty, everything Divine is lovely.
For from thence all the Gods derive beauty, and, being filled with it, They fill the natures posterior to themselves, inspiring them with love for the divine, and pouring supernally on all things the divine effluxion of beauty.
Such, therefore, is Divine Beauty, the supplier of divine hilarity, familiarity, and friendship. Through this the very Gods are united to and rejoice in each other, in their communications and in their mutual replenishings.
Plato delivers three indications of this Beauty:—in the Banquet, indeed, denominating it the “Delicate”; for the Perfect and that which is most blessed accedes to the Beautiful through the participation of Goodness. He says, in that dialogue: “That which is truly beautiful is delicate, perfect, and most blessed.” One of the indications of the Beautiful, therefore, is the Delicate. But another indication may be assumed from the Phaedrus, namely, the “Splendid”; for attributing this to the Beautiful, Plato says: “It was then we were permitted to behold the Splendid Beauty shining upon us”; adding afterwards “Beauty alone has this allotment, to be most splendid and most lovely.”
Another indication of Beauty is that it is the “Object of Love.” In many other places Plato shows that the Inspiration of Love is conversant with the Beautiful, defining and suspending love from the Monad of Beauty (Comment 5).
Because Beauty converts and moves all things to itself, causes them to energize enthusiastically, and recalls them through love, it is the Object of Love, being the leader of the whole amatory series, exciting all things to itself through desire and wonder.
Again, because it extends to secondary natures, plenitudes from itself, in conjunction with joy and divine felicity, enflaming and elevating all things, and pouring on them illuminations from on high, it is the Delicate.
And because it bounds this triad of indications, and covers as with a veil the ineffable union of the Gods, bathes, as it were, in the light of forms, causes Intelligible Light to shine forth, and announces the occult nature of Goodness, it is denominated the Splendid, lucid and manifest.
The Goodness of the Gods is supreme and most united; their Wisdom is parturient with Intelligible Light and the prototypes; but their Beauty is established in the highest archetypes, is the luminous precursor of Divine Light, and is the more splendid and more lively to contemplate and to embrace than every luciferous essence, and when it is approached it inspires divine awe and wonder.
As a result of these three indications of the Beauty of the Gods it follows that the natures which are filled with their effects should necessarily be converted to and conjoined with each of the three through kindred media. For different things are filled by this triad through different media, and different powers are converted to different perfections of the Gods. Abut, as Plato frequently asserts, it is manifest that the cause which congregates all secondary nature to Divine Beauty, which familiarizes them with it, is the cause of their being filled with it and of their derivation from thence, is nothing else than Love, which eternally unites all according to the Supernal Beauty of the Gods.—Book I., Ch. 24.
Comment 5.—The Beauty of the Gods is that which “delights the Soul.” As the Delicate it delights the Soul’s spiritual taste; as the Splendid, it delights the Soul’s spiritual vision; and as the Lovely it delights the Soul’s spiritual touch, even as the touch of the lover thrills the being of the loved one.
THE THEOLOGY OF
THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE GODS.*
(1) The Truth of the Gods. The next consideration is that concerning the Truth which is in the Gods, and the fact that a Divine Nature is without error, and is neither the cause of deception nor ignorance in man or in any other being.
The Truth of the Gods is exempt from that truth which consists in words, for so far as this truth is composite, it is in a certain respect mingled with its contrary (Comment 1).
The Truth of the Gods also is exempt from the Truth of the Soul, whether the latter is surveyed in opinions or in sciences, so far as it is in a certain respect divisible and is not in real being itself, but is assimilated to, and co-harmonized with reality; and so far as it requires processes for its perfection, it falls short of that Truth, which is eternally stable, immutable, and of a primary characteristic (Comment 2).
The Truth of the Gods likewise is exempt from the Truth of Intellect, because, although this subsists according to essence (that is essentially) and is said to be, and is, in real being through the power of sameness, yet again, through difference, it is separated from the essence of the Gods, and preserves its own peculiar hypostasis (Comment 3).
The Truth of the Gods consists in their indivisible union and all-perfect communion; and through this, their ineffable knowledge surpasses all other knowledge; indeed, all secondary species of knowledge depends upon them for an appropriate perfection. This Divine Knowledge comprehends all beings, and all knowable things, according to an ineffable union. And through this the Gods know all things at once,—wholes and parts, being and non-being, things eternal and things temporal; not after the same manner as Intellect, which knows parts by universals, and non-being by being; but they know all things immediately, in general and in particular, necessary and contingent, even to an infinity of contingencies.
The Truth of the Gods, and the mode of their knowledge concerning all things that have a subsistence in any respect whatsoever, is quite ineffable and incomprehensible to the projected energies of the human Intellect; this mode is known to the Gods themselves alone (Comment 4).
1.—Divine Truth is essentially
unitive and infinite, but when expressed by words it is multiplex and finite.
All errors are partitive truths taken out of their proper relation with
Integral Truth. Finite words cannot
represent infinite truths; hence, in this sense, they are mingled with error.
Comment 2.—The Dianoetic Mind, whereby the Soul surveys Truth,
whether in science, philosophy, or otherwise, in so far as it proceeds through
successive stages of reasoning processes, is not stable, but is perpetually
passing on to more and more comprehensive conceptions.
Comment 3.—Intellect, in the Proclian sense, is that which knows
Truth by Spiritual Intuition both in its sameness and in its difference, or, in
other words, both in its universal and its particular aspects; but it knows the
latter through the former.
is possible for the finite to
attain to an ever increasing (continued
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* The previous articles of this Series were:—I. The First Principle and
the Gods; II. The Goodness of the Gods; and III. The Beauty of the Gods.
The excellence of Intellect is to be admired, and its knowledge of all things, of individuals, of things supra-natural, and of intellectual paradigms; but infinitely more admirable is the knowledge of the Gods. For Intellect itself is produced by them (Comment 5).
All things depend upon the Gods alone; and real Truth is with Them, Who know all things unically. On this account by supernal inspiration the Gods teach all beings who are able to receive Their illuminations. For since They Themselves are transcendently exempt from all beings—whether eternal or temporal in nature—They possess a transcendent knowledge of each and all things, according to one united truth.
If there is any error in what Plato describes as “divine inspirations or revelations,” this does not originate in the Gods, but is a consequence of the disposition of the recipients, of the nature of the vehicles, or the places, or the times, of the revelations (Comment 6). For all these contribute to a participation of divine knowledge, and when they are appropriately co-adapted to the Gods, they receive a pure illumination of the Truth which is established in Them. But when they are separated from the Gods through inaptitude, and become discordant, then they obscure the divine Truth which proceeds from Them. The Gods are always the suppliers of Truth, and those natures who are illuminated by Them, are necessarily their lawful participants. But the Eye of the Soul is not at first strong enough to behold the full radiance of Truth.
Plato also celebrates this Truth, which
subsists primarily in the Gods, as the Leader to Them of every Good, and
likewise of every Good to men. For
even as the Truth which is in Soul conjoins it to Intellect (Spirit), and as
Intellectual (spiritual) Truth conducts all the intellectual or spiritual Orders
to the ONE; thus also, the Truth of the Gods unites the Divine Unities to the
Fountain of all Good, with which, being conjoined, They are filled with all
boniform Power. For everywhere the
hyparxis of Truth has a cause which is collective of multitude into unity
(Comment 7); and for this reason the Light proceeding from the Good, which
conjoins Intellect with the Intelligible, is denominated Truth, by Plato.
This characteristic property, therefore, which unites and binds together
the natures that fill, and the natures that are filled, according to all the
Orders of the Gods, must originate supernally and proceed as far as the last of
things.—Book I., Ch. 20.
of the nature of the Infinite, but it
is impossible for the finite to become the Infinite; hence the mode
by which the Infinite operates is for ever incomprehensible.
In like manner, the Soul may realize more and more the nature of the Truth of the Gods—Who are Infinite—but the mode by
which they know all things simultaneously in all their possible and imaginable
aspects, is necessarily beyond the Soul’s highest attainments.
Comment 5.—Intellectual Paradigms are subjective and spiritual
Ideas or universal principles; they constitute the highest mode of comprehending
truth. But the Gods contain the One
Idea which is Absolute Truth Itself. In
them the Knower—Intellect—and the Known—the Intelligible are one.
Therefore, Intellect is said to be produced by them.
Comment 6.—According to Plato, there are four kinds of divine
Inspiration or Revelation, any one of which may be the means of uniting the Soul
with the Gods, namely:— the Inspiration of Love; of Prophecy or Knowledge; of
Theurgy or Sacred Telestic Concerns; and of Music or harmony in its widest
Comment 7.—The Hyparxis of Truth is the very principle of Truth
Itself, by which Truth is what it is.
By the application of this principle, partitive expressions of truth are
brought into their right relationships with Integral and Universal Truth.
(2) The Wisdom of the Gods. But again, Truth is certainly the Leader to, and that which establishes beings in, divine Wisdom; with which Intellect being filled, possesses a knowledge of real being, and by which Soul, through participation, energizes intellectually.
For the full participation of true Wisdom is effected through Divine Truth, since this everywhere illuminates intellective natures and conjoins them with the objects of intellection, even also, as Truth is that which primarily unites Intellect with the Intelligible.—Book I., Ch. 24.
Wisdom is allotted a second order, being the Intelligence of the Gods, or rather the hyparxis of Their Intelligence (Comment 8). For Intelligence, indeed, is intellectual knowledge which is united to the object of knowledge and the intelligible union of the Gods.
Plato especially surveys this in the triad of the Beautiful, the Wise, and the Good, affirming that Wisdom is the plenitude of that which is known, and that it neither seeks, nor investigates, but possesses the Intelligible. Hence the Gods do not philosophize, nor desire to become Wise, for they are eternally Wise. Therefore, that which philosophizes is imperfect and indigent of Truth; but that which is divinely Wise is full and not indigent, having eternally everything present to it, and therefore having no unfulfilled desires. But Divine Plenitude and Goodness are pursued by the philosopher. In the Republic, Plato considers Wisdom as that which is generative of Truth and of Intellect; to the Soul, indeed, the ascent to divine Plenitude is accomplished through Knowledge, but to Gods, Intellect is present because of the fullness of their Knowledge. For the progressions of the Gods do not proceed as from an imperfect nature to the perfect, but as from a self-perfect hyparxis, power proceeds which is prolific of inferior natures.
In the Theaetetus, Plato indicates that Wisdom is perfective of things imperfect, and that it calls forth the latent and concealed intelligence in the Soul (Comment 9).
It is evident, therefore, that Wisdom is triadic; it is the fullness of being and of truth; it is generative of intellectual truth; and it is perfective of intellectual natures that are in energy.
Hence, in like manner, the Wisdom of the
Gods is indeed full of divine Goodness; it generates divine Truth; and it
perfects all things posterior to itself.—
(3) The Faith of the Gods. But what is it that unites the Soul to the GOOD?
What is it that causes a cessation of all-various energy and motion?
What is it that establishes all divine natures in the first and ineffable Unity of Goodness?
And how does it come to pass that every nature when established in that which is prior to itself, according to the Good which is in it, again establishes things posterior to itself according to the same cause?
It is, in short, the Faith of the Gods, which ineffably unites all the genera of the Gods, and of Angels, and of happy Souls to the GOOD.
8.—If Truth is that which is
primarily knowable, then Wisdom may be considered as that which is the primary
power of knowing, hence it is here called the Intelligence of the Gods.
But in another sense, Wisdom is before Truth, since it knows that which
is knowable; thus Plato speaks of Wisdom as generative of Truth.
Philosopher, therefore, who pursues Truth for the sake of Truth and as a means
of purification, is truly a lover of wisdom, as the name denotes.
For it is necessary to approach the Good, neither gnostically, nor imperfectly, but by giving ourselves up to the Divine Light, closing the eyes of the Soul, and after this manner, becoming established in the unknown and occult Unity of Real Being (Comment 10).
For such a kind of Faith as this is more ancient than the gnostic energy, not only in the Soul, but with the Gods themselves, since according to this Faith all the Gods are united, and all their powers and progressions are uniformly collected about one centre.
If, however, it be requisite to give a definition of this faith, let it not be supposed that it is such a kind as that which is concerned with the wandering about sensible natures, for this falls short of knowledge and much more of the truth of real being.
But the Faith of the Gods surpasses all knowledge, and, according to the highest union, conjoins secondary natures with those that are primary.
Neither is this faith of a similar species with the belief in common conceptions, for these are accepted prior to all reasoning; and the knowledge of them is divisible, therefore by no means equivalent to divine union. Neither should it be affirmed that the energy of Intellect is the same as the Faith of the Gods. For intellectual energy is multiform, and is separated from the objects of intellection through difference; and, in short, it is intellectual activity about the Intelligible. But it is necessary that Divine Faith, by its very nature, should be uniform and quiescent, being perfectly established in the haven of Goodness. For neither is anything else among beings so credible and stable, and so exempt from all ambiguity, divisible apprehension, and motion, as the GOOD. For through this, Intellect embraces another union more ancient than intellectual energy, and, in like manner, Soul considers the variety and splendour of intellectual forms as noting in comparison with that transcendency of the GOOD by which it surpasses the whole of things.
This Faith, in fact, dismisses intellectual perception, running back, as it were, to its own hyparxis; but it always pursues, tends to, and aspires after the GOOD, hastening to embosom It, and to give itself to This alone, among all things, without hesitation.
All things, indeed, possess, innately, this
one inflexible and ineffable tendency to the GOOD, which is the one sure Goal of
all beings (Comment 11).
This, also, is especially the object of belief to all beings, and, because of the union it effects with the divine, it is denominated Faith by theologists; and not by them only, but likewise by Plato, who proclaims, in the Laws, the alliance of this Faith with Truth and Love. He asserts that the lover of falsehood is not to be believed, and that he who is not to be believed is void of friendship and love. Hence, it follows that the lover of Truth is worthy of belief, and he who is worthy of belief is well adapted to friendship and love. From these things, by analogy, divine Truth, Faith, and Love may be surveyed, and by a reasoning process, their stable communion with each other may be comprehended. Plato
Comment 10.—At first it may appear rather singular to speak of
Faith as an attribute of the Gods, but inasmuch as God is giving Himself
unceasingly to His Creatures, through His Eternal Emanations—the Gods—and
since Faith is that attribute which gives without question or consideration of
recompense, for this reason Faith may be predicated of Deity; and in so far as
man energizes according to this divine Faith, he follows, or imitates, the
divine mode of activity instead of the human.
Faith, for Proclus, is an ineffable state which opens the Soul directly
to beatific vision.
Comment 11.—For, without exception, all things perpetually and
without ceasing, pursue that which is good according to their own prevailing
tendencies and conceptions, even although the species of goodness, which is good
to them, is relatively evil in comparison with the Absolute GOOD.
affirms that the virtue of Fidelity conciliates all disagreements.
Hence, Faith is the cause of union, communion, and quietude or repose.
And if there is such a power as this in the Soul, it is by a much greater priority in the Gods Themselves. For as Plato speaks of a certain divine temperance, justice, and wisdom, how is it possible that Faith, which connectedly comprehends the whole order of virtues, should not also subsist with the Gods?
Briefly, there are three things which replenish Divine Natures and which are the sources of plenitude to all the superior choirs of Being, namely, Goodness, Wisdom, and Beauty. And, again, there are three things, secondary to the above, but pervading all the divine orders, which collect together the Natures that are filled, and these are Faith, Truth, and Love (Comment 12).
All things are redeemed through these and are conjoined with their primary principles; some, indeed, through the inspiration of Love; others through divine philosophy; and others through theurgic power, which is more excellent than all human wisdom, and which comprehends prophetic Good, the purifying power of perfect Good, and summarily, all such things as are the effects of divine possession.—Book I., Ch. 25.
12.—In his commentaries on the
Alcibiades I, Proclus says: “Faith gives all things a solid foundation in the
Good. Truth reveals knowledge in all
real existences. Love leads all
things to the nature of the Beautiful.”