fr>}Q)QEQE֒PEPEPEPEPEPYW4؇sҴi46}jjkc*(e=C_$|K|ց]zDu"OBFF;¾ѹ}2s$ඁG_`~h#HQEI>*aխ59h5Mw|H$;)TĊ@}HyFghan one: does art entertain, does it give us  o } Y)!s }zyi!x(vhu$tTL #LrL #Lr Ew@EB: E*.jPCtge, is it a supreme form of play or freedom that expresses the true potential of human beings? How does art relate most characteristically to PL #LrL #LrL #LrL #Lr El-@EB: rPڹ.J P=

A: There isn't a single cause. A bunch of different social and economic trends are all pushing us in this direction. Incomes are rising and households are getting smaller, which means more income per person. We can buy more aesthetic goods because we can buy more of everything. But, more important, aesthetics is also becoming more prominent relative to other goods. When we decide how next to spend our time or money, considering what we already have and the costs and benefits of various alternatives, "look and feel" is likely to top our list. We don't want more food, or even more restaurant meals--we're already maxed out. Instead, we want tastier, more interesting food in an span style="font-size:12.0pt;font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-fareast-font-family: "Times New Roman";mso-ansi-language:EN-US;mso-fareast-language:EN-US; mso-bidi-language:AR-SA">TJonathan Barnes presents a complete new English translation, preceded by a substantial introduction and followed by an invaluable commentary, the first to be published in English and the fullest for a century, whose primary aim is to analyze and assess the philosophical theses and arguments which the Introduction puts forward.

Reading Neoplatonism: Non-discursive Thinking in the Texts of Plotinus, Proclus, and Damascius by Sara Rappe (Cambridge University Press) In Reading Neoplatonism Rappe discuses the history and nature of Neoplatonic textuality, using a combination of literary and philosophical hermeneutics. Over many centuries, Neoplatonism, based now in Alexandria, now in Athens, associated itself with a fixed textual tradition - the corpus of Plato's dialogues and the exegetical tradition associated with it - despite or perhaps even because of this temporal and geographic breadth. And yet more than the adherents of any other ancient philosophical lineage the Neoplatonists insisted that wisdom could be located only outside all texts and outside all language.

Why were the Neoplatonists, who explored so intensively nondiscursive or non-propositional thinking, and who subjected formal dialectic to such criticism, exegetical beyond all other schools of ancient philosophy? And how does their suspicion of discursive thinking manifest itself in their texts? Working with the texts of Plotinus, Proclus, Damascius, and others, Rappe shows how lack of confidence in discursive argument shaped the textual strategies available to these authors. These texts often appropriate elements from ritual, repeatedly investigate the limits of discursive thinking, and try to illustrate how non-discursive thinking is supposed to work. Rappe explores texts that are at odds with their own textuality, discourses that deny that anything has been asserted, and discursive strategies that set themselves against their very discursivity. What are the issues that shaped the very distinctive textual practices reflected in the Neoplatonic tradition? She points to an on-the-surface, paradoxical procedure, a close and tight textuality and commentarial tradition which at the same time is suspicious of the ability of language to do justice to pure intellection.

The purpose of Reading Neoplatonism is to help us take on, insofar as possible, a view that is situated within or that provisionally accepts some of the fundamental principles of Neoplatonic philosophy. Rappe suggests that the identity theory of truth, the doctrine that intellect is identical with its objects, is perhaps the foundation of the philosophical enterprise we know as Neoplatonism. Without at least a notional confrontation with this theory, the texts that belong to this tradition are at risk of being completely opaque or uninteresting to the modern reader, for whom it is possibly almost axiomatic that truth is structured like or by language, that truth at any rate must always already be framed by the discourse that defines a certain epoch, and so forth. Rappe tries to show that this doctrine of intellectual, or unitive, knowing entails precisely that truth is not structured like language and is not a product of any discourse. Hence, intellectual knowing does not posit an intentional object that is directed toward some state of affairs in the world, nor does it admit of the subject-object dichotomy that lies at the heart of, for example, Western grammar. More than this, intellectual truth is not available for transmission in any discursive form. It is this last point that must now be expanded.

Already we have seen that the textual tradition forming our only record of Neoplatonism is incomplete in crucial ways. This incompleteness is not only owing to the frequent reticence evinced by Neoplatonists to transmit their teachings in a written form. If Porphyry's anecdote is credible, Plotinus himself continued to teach and committed nothing to writing until he was almost the age of fifty; instead, he concerned himself with the difficulties presented by individual students during the course of personal instruction. According to Longinus, the most esteemed members of the Platonic school engaged primarily in oral teaching, devoting themselves to refining their students' understanding; Plotinus' own teacher, Ammonius, wrote nothing and possibly enjoined his followers to maintain a similar practice. Emphasis on face-to-face teaching and personal transmission from master to student is altogether in keeping with the Neoplatonic contemplative praxis that purported to cultivate a wisdom existing outside the parameters of language as Rappe shows.

Throughout the history of Neoplatonic textuality, it has been of primary importance to press language into the service of the Ineffable. At times this effort has meant the manifest invention of fictions of language, as when the Chaldean Oracles are written in an Imperial imitation of Homeric Greek and yet are purported to contain the secrets of Babylonian wisdom, or when Orpheus is represented as the preceptor of Pythagoras. At other times, this fictional aspect of the tradition seems to encroach on historical configurations, as, for example, the events reported in hagiographic narratives. An effective Neoplatonic hermeneutics would seek to understand Neoplatonic writings in terms of an ongoing invention of tradition in the very specific sense that the texts rely on the participation and willingness of the reader to enter into the practice of interpretation. Not only to take up the puzzles and enigmas offered by such fundamental principles as the three primary hypostases, the One, the Intellect, and the Soul, with the advice of Plotinus in mind to "make oneself the vision" or to "exchange the image for the reality" but also to ask oneself why these texts still speak to us, despite their difficulty and demands, is to enter into this practice. Thus whatever fictions are perpetrated within the confines of the text for the purpose of contriving a tradition, this invention is more accurately realized in the perpetuation of the tradition through an earnest confrontation with the very puzzles offered by these texts.

In Reading Neoplatonism Rappe considers a specific kinds of language - traditional narratives, mathematical symbolism, visionary exercises, divine names, and aporetic discourses - all of which are deployed to entice the reader, like the Dionysus of the fable whom the Titans captivated with their mirror, into the drama, or action, of the text. But this central drama implied by many Neoplatonic texts throughout the tradition is the anagoge, the soul's ascent and assimilation to reality, whether that effort is conceived as theurgy, contemplation, or gnosis. Hence philosophy can be articulated in the imperative mode: "First become godlike" (Enneads; "Retreat to yourself and see" (Enneads; "One must put aside everything else and abide in this alone and this alone become.. ." (Enneads VI.9.9.50). At the other end of the linguistic spectrum, this anagoge can be described in the form of a visionary geography that is also an exegetical device, as when Proclus reads the Phaedrus myth as a description of mystic ascent: Therefore the same method of anagoge is also [used by us], and on account of this the method employed by theurgy becomes more credible.

In the preceding sentence quoted from Proclus, anagoge is a concept explicated by an allusion to a myth recounted in one of Plato's dialogues. This reading backwards into the history of Platonism is again part of the invention of tradition that is so crucial to neoplatonist hermeneutics. But what is even more critical for this hermeneutics is the ability to read not into the past but into the present. This is where the Neoplatonic conception of symbolism become integral to the act of reading. In following Plotinus' exercises involving the visualization of the luminous sphere or Proclus' geometric imaginations, readers turn aside from the text to notice their own minds, now illuminated or highlighted under the influence of the text. Both of these authors use a dialectic sanctioned by tradition whether Pythagorean, Orphic, or Platonic, to present a new meaning to the reader. This meaning to which the symbol points is recovered through an extra-textual effort on the part of the reader or student although the directions offered by means of the symbol can facilitate this procedure.

Rappes Reading Neoplatonism provides a seriously refreshing reading of some of the more problematic and inspiring passages in the neoplatonic tradition. Her adroit use of literary theory in this hermeneutical endeavor makes this approach to Plotinus and his successors an important innovation in understanding this influential and vigorous philosophical style. Recommended for classicists and students of neoplationism, also theologians interested in patristic studies will find this style of interpretation suggestive.

JOHN PHILOPONUS’ NEW DEFINITION OF PRIME MATTER: Aspects of its Background in Neoplatonism & the Ancient Commentary Tradition by Frans A.J. de Haas (PHILOSOPHA ANTIQUA; a Series of Studies on Ancient Philosophy edited by J. Mansfeld, D.T. Runia and J.C.M. Van Winden: Brill Academic) De Haas argues that Philoponus’ definition was motivated primarily by philosophical problems in Neoplatonism. Philoponus employed the explanation of growth, the interpretation of Aristotle’s category theory and the notions of formlessness and potentiality to substantiate his definition. To conclude, the book offers an assessment of the significance of Philoponus’ innovation. It is demonstrated for the first time that Plotinus’ view of matter exerted considerable influence on both Philoponus and Simplicius. Moreover, the structure of Syrianus’ and Proclus’ metaphysics prepared the way for Philoponus’ account of prime matter. The work offers a number of close revisions to attempts to situate this philosopher in late antique philosophical debate and the influence of Christian dogma on philosophical reasoning.

Ch. 1. Proclus and Philoponus
Ch. 2. Three-dimensionality in the ancient philosophical tradition
Ch. 3. First objection: change of volume
Ch. 4. Second objection: a category mistake
Ch. 5. Third objection: matter is formless
Ch. 6. The significance of three-dimensional prime matter
List of translations and diagrams
Index locorum
General index


Puzzles concerning matter have exercised minds throughout the history of philosophy. Indeed, matter is a highly elusive notion. For ages it was considered devoid of any determination whatsoever, infinite, and hardly accessible to reason, and yet so fundamental to the understanding of the sensible world that continuously new attempts were made to comprehend the incomprehensible.

As far as the development of the definition of matter in Late Antiquity is concerned, it is clear that Plato’s doctrine of the receptacle and Aristotle’s notion of the material cause proved the most seminal. The success of the Platonic and Aristotelian doctrines, however, was not due to their perspicacity; the notorious difficulties which plagued the Platonic and Aristotelian conceptions of matter in Antiquity are still with us today. On the contrary, it was their very opacity which prompted subsequent philosophers to rethink the notion of matter.

As is well-known, the doctrines of Plato and Aristotle differ in at least one important respect. Plato’s receptacle is the unique container of all images of the Forms, whereas Aristotle’s material cause is a principle which can only be understood in its relation to a particular form. In each case matter’s role of providing a well-defined principle for change is performed by a different aspect of reality, depending on the topic and the level of analysis. For instance, a combination of the four elements serves as matter for the constitution of flesh and blood. These in turn serve as matter for parts and organs of animals. In short, whatever something is in itself, from the perspective of its role as material principle it can be regarded as matter.

In Late Antiquity the name of ‘prime matter’ was attached to the unique, formless and (hence) incorporeal matter of the universe which most Neoplatonists regarded as the most basic level of the physical realm. Needless to say, this notion of prime matter, which I shall henceforth call "traditional", was much indebted to the receptacle of Plato’s Timaeus. As for Aristotle, it is still a matter of debate whether the notion of prime matter is present or at least required in his philosophy. However, judging from the Neoplatonic commentators, I consider it likely that the incorporation of Aristotelian texts at the beginning of the Neoplatonic philosophical curriculums to the result that Aristotle’s material cause was interpreted as the equivalent of the receptacle of Plato’s Timaeus which the students were to encounter later in their course. From that harmonizing perspective the traditional notion of a unique and formless prime matter is a feasible outcome.

In recent years the topic of prime matter in Neoplatonism has received considerable attention. The interpretation of Plotinus’ essay on matter and his doctrine of the generation of matters have been subjected to much debate. The revival of research on the ancient commentators has led to several treatments of the doctrine of matter in Simplicius and, especially, Philoponus. The interest in Philoponus can be explained from the fact that his doctrine may have prepared the ground for such thinkers as Aegidius Romanus, Descartes, and Newton.

It is important to note that Philoponus seems to have altered his view on the notion of prime matter. In his earlier work Philoponus employed the traditional notion of prime matter as an entirely formless substrate. However, in his polemic De aeternitate mundi contra Proclum, he clearly and wholeheartedly rejects the traditional notion of prime matter. In conscious opposition to the entire philosophical tradition he introduces a new definition of prime matter as three-dimensional extension which both ignores definite size and rejects the idea of the traditional incorporeal prime matter as its underlying substrate. Philoponus remained faithful to the new definition of prime matter throughout his later work.…

Again we should note that Simplicius arrives at the same notion of prime matter almost certainly without Christian inspiration. Each aspect of Philoponus’ theory of matter which has a parallel in Simplicius or Ammonius may well derive from the same sources and motivations as it does in their case: a proper understanding of and a response to Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy and the philosophical tradition, notably Plotinus. Hence the strong influence of the contemporary physical and philosophical problems which we have described in this study should make us wary of assuming Christianity as Philoponus’ sole or primary motivation.

Philoponus’ interest in physical problems and his agreement with developments in the philosophy of his day may also cast doubts on parts of the argumentation Verrycken used to support his two systems hypothesis. For if Philoponus could have arrived at his new view of matter within the framework of current philosophy and science, it is not at all likely that his aim in doing so was to develop a world view which was more in line with Christianity—at least not at first. We should allow for the possibility that Philoponus had developed his new view of matter before he saw reason to employ it in a wholesale attack on pagan philosophy and a defense of Creation. It may be that Justinian’s aggressive Christian politics and his closing of the Athenian Academy provided Philoponus with an occasion for attacking Proclus, Athens’ chief claim to fame. Or perhaps his fellow Christians made him aware of the significance of his research and urged him to write a defense of Creation; or maybe both. However, there is no need to assume that these developments in Philoponus’ thought were induced by the same motive that made him embark on a program of defense of creation, and therefore no need to date the new view of matter after

529 AD. So far as we can see, that date only marks the moment in which Philoponus mobilized his impressive knowledge of Neoplatonic physics and metaphysics in order to argue for the good cause. If I am right, and if a similar account could be given of Philoponus’ development with regard to topics other than matter, at least some of the so-called insertions in earlier commentaries might have been written before 529 AD, and perhaps even during the first redaction of these commentaries. Needless to say, this would call for a reconsideration of Verrycken’s chronology of Philoponus.

This interpretation of Philoponus’ work is not contradicted by the fact that Simplicius, in his attack on Philoponus’ Contra Aristotelem, makes several more or less oblique references to Christians and the Bible as the motivation of Philoponus’ argument. For instance, in the Prologue of the Contra Aristotelem Philoponus seems to imply that Genesis 1:14-18 and 26-30 might provide a motive for arguing that the heavenly and sublunary realms are equally perishable because they were both made merely to serve man. Such references suggest that Philoponus might have shown more awareness of Biblical arguments in parts of the Contra Aristotelem than he did in the Contra Proclum. This is confirmed by a Syrian fragment of book VIII of the Contra Aristotelem in which it is stated that the universe will not perish into non-being because God will establish a new heaven and a new earth. Apparently Simplicius, who preserved for us fragments from books I-VI only, was merely interested in the philosophical arguments and left out the more theological ones. In this context it should be remembered that the prologue and epilogue of the Contra Proclum, which seem to have contained interesting details on the program Philoponus had in mind, are now lost. Perhaps ‘philosophical scissors’ like those of Simplicius are responsible for the disappearance of Philoponus’ biblical justification for his writings. However that may be, we would of course expect a more explicit Christian justification from 529 AD onwards. This does not at all rule out the possibility that the (meta)physical doctrines contained in the polemics had been developed earlier from an entirely different perspective. The difference is that from 529 onwards, Philoponus’ aim is no longer to unveil the all too hidden agreement between Plato and Aristotle, which he now simply rejects, but to find his way to a true account of the creation of the world.

So far as I can see, Philoponus’ Christian faith may have to be invoked at one point only, a point in which he diverges widely from Simplicius, viz. his attitude towards the philosophical tradition. We have seen that Simplicius tried to convince his readers that his admittedly unorthodox view of prime matter is not only reconcilable with the tradition but in fact the proper interpretation of Egyptian, Pythagorean, Platonic and Aristotelian doctrine. Philoponus’ attitude is the very opposite: when we can be certain that he is speaking his own mind, he continuously points out minor and major mistakes and absurdities in traditional philosophical doctrine. He feels no obligation whatsoever to agree with the tradition, and when he does, for instance when adducing Platonic or Aristotelian texts in support of his own doctrine, it is in all likelihood merely a polemical strategy. Only behind his allusion to Plotinus we found a more serious, though certainly not servile, dependence in matters of doctrine…

I would like to suggest that Philoponus only felt secure enough to attempt to overthrow the doctrines of the main representatives of the ancient philosophical tradition (Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, and Proclus) because he possessed a fixed point of reference outside that tradition:

his Christian faith and the Word of God. That might also explain why his Alexandrian successors all preferred Ammonius’ doctrines, thus reinstating incorporeal prime matter below the level of unqualified body.

Archimedes, who had studied the mechanics of leverage, once said: ‘Give me a place to stand and I shall move the earth’ .It is no exaggeration to call John Philoponus a sixth century Archimedes in philosophy.

Frans A.J. de Haas, is currently a visiting scholar at the Institute of Classical Studies, London. He has published articles and reviews in the field of ancient philosophy, with special emphasis on the Neoplatonic commentaries on Aristotle.

THEURGY AND THE SOUL: The Neoplatonism of Iamblichus by Gregory Shaw (Pennsylvania University Press) This major study offer a understandable survey of the relations of late antique liturgy to the formation of Christian worship. The nature of pagan spirituality is well conceived and lucid. THEURGY AND THE SOUL: is a study of Iamblichus of Apamea, the fourth-century Platonist philosopher whose teachings set the final form of pagan spirituality prior to the Christianization of the Roman Empire. Gregory Shaw focuses on the theory and practice of theurgy, the most controversial and significant aspect of Iamblichus’s Platonism.

Iamblichus departed from previous Platonists who stressed the elevated status of the human soul. By contrast, he taught that the soul descended completely into the body and thereby required divine aid to return to the One. This divine aid was given to the soul in the form of rituals empowered by the gods. The performance of these rituals, known collectively as theurgy (lit. "divine action"), effected the salvation of the soul. According to Iamblichus, union with the One was impossible except through the performance of theurgic rites.

Iamblichus was once considered one of the great philosophers. The Emperor Julian followed Iamblichus’s teachings to guide the restoration of traditional pagan cults in his campaign against Christianity. Although Julian was unsuccessful, Iamblichus’s ideas persisted well into the Middle Ages and beyond. His vision of a hierarchical cosmos united by divine ritual became the dominant worldview for the entire medieval world. Even Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that he expected a reading of Iamblichus to cause a "revival in the churches." But modern scholars have dismissed him, seeing theurgy as ritual magic or "manipulation of the gods." Shaw, however, shows that theurgy was a subtle and intellectually sophisticated attempt to apply Platonic and Pythagorean teachings to the full expression of human existence in the material world.


What was it about Iamblichus that attracted the respect and veneration of Platonic thinkers from the fourth century to the Renaissance? Why did the emperor Julian regard Iamblichus as the equal to Plato? And why did a student describe Iamblichus as the "great glory," "universal blessing," and ‘’savior’’ !of the Hellenic world? The slavish cheerleading of an enthusiast? Why then did later Platonists like Proclus and Damascius give Iamblichus’s teachings more authority than even the teachings of Plotinus? Was Iamblichus’s influence due simply to the "loss of nerve" among late antique intellectuals—as many would have us believe—or did he, perhaps, outline a compelling and comprehensive vision of a world that we no longer understand?

In light of the pressures confronting Platonists in the fourth century, Iamblichus’s unknown student may have been correct to see his teacher as the soter of the Hellenic world. Under the leadership of Plotinus and Porphyry, the influence of Platonism had receded to an intellectual elite that was becoming increasingly alienated from the common man. Following the social and economic changes of the third and fourth centuries, the loyalties of the latter were being drawn away from the traditional cults of old Hellenism, and increasing numbers of people were adopting new identities as participants in the musteria of Christ. This was certainly true in the Antioch of Iamblichus’s time, and although pagan philosophers were still respected, their authority was gradually being transferred to Christian bishops who offered salvation to all regardless of their social or intellectual class.

It would be tempting, but incorrect, to see Iamblichus’s soteriological praxis as a reaction to this state of affairs, as his attempt to accommodate Platonism to the changing times. It is tempting because Iamblichus’s theurgic reinterpretation of Platonism fulfilled the requirements of popular religion while preserving the esoteric disciplines of a privileged few. The former aspect has usually drawn attention, but it is the latter that is of greater importance. In one sense theurgy was the logical correlate to the law of arithmogonic procession; namely, that the higher and more unified a principle, the more extensive or more piercing (drimutera) its effects. Because theurgy provided a more direct and simplified participation in the One, it had a wider circle of application and was as available to the common man as to the intellectual. Rather than falling outside the circumference of Platonism—as many have suggested—theurgy penetrated to a deeper center, one that extended the boundaries of the Platonic world. To say that Iamblichus preserved the esoteric disciplines of the Platonic school, however, is not quite correct, for in his estimation those disciplines had already been lost or distorted by his predecessors.

Iamblichus broke away from the teachings of Porphyry and Plotinus in order to reestablish—in theurgical Platonism—what he believed to be the true teachings of Plato and Pythagoras. Iamblichus thought that he had inherited a kind of gnosticized Platonism from Porphyry, with its attendant consequences: (1) a cosmological dualism with matter viewed as evil; (2) the human soul equated with the World Soul and the Nous; and (3) a desacralized and demonic cosmos from which the soul, in Porphyry’s view, should seek its permanent escape. The impact of these views on popular audiences may or may not have been significant, but it was far more important to Iamblichus that they were mistaken and therefore incapable of leading souls to a genuine transformation and apotheosis.

In a manner that was traditionally Platonic, Iamblichus turned to the "Egyptians" and the "Chaldeans"—that is, to barbarian wisemen—for the authority to change the direction of his philosophical tradition. The degree to which theurgy reflects genuine Egyptian cult practices may be significant, but it is not the central issue. At issue is Iamblichus’s belief in a sacred tradition. Only a tradition received from the gods could play the role of authoritative "other" to the fallen soul and fallen society. Deference to Egyptian wisdom in this sense was already a topos in the Platonic dialogues where "Egypt" functioned as an ideal culture against which Plato measured his own. The role of Plato redivivus, as seen in the Chaldean Oracles, cannot be underestimated either as an important influence on Iamblichus’s development of theurgic Platonism. As divine logia, the Oracles also functioned as an authoritative "other" capable of saving the soul.

The influence of Pythagorean thought on Iamblichus was perhaps most critical, as it provided him with the conceptual framework and the theoretic justification for the practice of theurgy. Although Iamblichus was an advocate of conserving traditional pagan religions, he discovered in Pythagoreanism a revolutionary method to identify himself with the "old ways." Using Pythagorean cosmological principles as his standard, Iamblichus discovered theurgical dimensions in a variety of religious practices. While each cultural embodiment of the gods was unique in its myths and rituals—and therefore untranslatable by man—each possessed a common theurgic power. As a theurgist, and one who had coordinated himself with the numbers of creation, Iamblichus had the ability to become unified with the gods in a variety of cultural guises. The cult simply had to meet his Pythagorean standards, one being that the soul’s apotheosis was the result of its homologization to the arithmoi of the World Soul. These unchanging mathematical proportions were the constants in the shifting valencies of Iamblichean theurgy. Plato too had spoken of a "great power of geometric equality amongst gods and men" and for Iamblichus the arithmoi, in their theological, mathematical, or material expression were the invisible foundation of every theurgy.

The most distinctive cosmological feature in theurgy was the central position given to the sun. For Iamblichus, Helios played the key role in the apotheosis of the soul: first awakening it through the senses and then leading it poetically to the eternal arithmoi. As Plato says in the Timaeus: "God lit a fire which we now call the sun . . . that it might give light to the whole of heaven, and that animals, as many as nature intended, might participate in number" .And as choreographer of the heavens, the sun led souls into their mathematical bodies. The Epinomis says: "But this is the greatest boon of all, if a man will accept his gift of number and let his mind wander freely over the whole heavenly circuit".

Like Plato, Iamblichus attempted to uphold the "old ways" of traditional religions by reinterpreting them according to a cosmological and arithmetic schema. Yet, even more than Plato, Iamblichus preserved these schemes in their own cultural expressions, believing that the power of these rites could never be explained intellectually; they had to be enacted and embodied. In this, particularly, Iamblichus differed from his Platonic predecessors, especially where it concerned the capacity of the human intellect.

The role of the intellect in the soul’s salvation was a recurring motif within the De Mysteriis. While Plotinus allowed that each soul already contained the Nous but was "unconscious" of it, Iamblichus made the unconscious presence of the Nous and the One radically distinct, ontologically other, and therefore inaccessible despite all efforts of the soul. To reach the superior hypostases the soul needed the aid of superior entities and these were received from without (exothen).

One consequence of Iamblichus’s embodied psychology was that to reach the gods all the energies engaged in the soul’s descent had to be ritually reengaged and transformed into theurgic receptacles: a world ritualized into the energeiai of the gods. In one sense, the differences between Plotinus and Iamblichus might seem insignificant since the Iamblichean gods (like Plotinus’s undescended soul) were always present and available to any soul able to receive them. However, because the Iamblichean soul was anatropic it was unable to receive this aid, which is why the Egyptian/Chaldean element becomes important. For Iamblichus, the only way the soul could receive the gods was by preparing the proper receptacles, the knowledge of which was preserved by the priests of sacred races like the Egyptians and Chaldeans. According to Iamblichus, their mystagogy was a reflection of cosmogony, and their receptacles of the gods recapitulated the act of creation. Apotheosis was realized only through the soul’s mimesis of cosmogony, and therefore an "escape" from the cosmos apart from a more causal and responsible involvement in it not only was undesirable, it was impossible. Such a notion could arise only from an exaggerated sense of personal importance, and an escape of this kind did not result in freedom but in bondage to an anatropic fantasy.

Iamblichus argued that theurgy provided everyone, regardless of intellectual training, a way of returning to the gods by preparing their receptacles, however crude or subtle these needed to be. A soteriological cult of this kind might easily degenerate into a form of fetish worship if the ritual receptacles (the sunthemata) became objects of veneration in themselves. This may account for Iamblichus’s harsh condemnation of the "image makers" who attend to the dregs of matter rather than to divine causes. Iamblichus reserved some of his most severe criticism for these men, no doubt because the integrity of theurgy was vulnerable to the degenerative worship they encouraged. Conversely, a sterile intellectuality that abstracts itself from nature was the weakness to which Plotinus’s model was vulnerable, and Iamblichus criticizes this attitude throughout the De Mysteriis as a form of intellectual hubris.

At the conclusion of the De Mysteriis Iamblichus sums up the goals of Egyptian theurgy, claiming that "theurgists do not address the divine Nous over trifling matters but only concerning things that pertain to the purification, liberation, and salvation of the soul" .From the theurgies performed by "material" souls with heavier sunthemata to those performed by "noetic" souls in the more subtle vehicles of mathematic images, the purpose of every theurgic ritual was the purification, (catharsis), liberation (apolusis), and salvation (soteria) of the soul. Iamblichus’s complaint to Porphyry is as relevant today as it was when Iamblichus wrote his apology for theurgy. He says: "One should not introduce mistakes when making a true judgment of reality, for in the case of other sciences or arts we do not judge their works based on distortions that occur in them" .I believe that Iamblichean theurgy and the ritual practices of the later Neoplatonists have suffered from just this kind of misunderstanding. Because theurgy has erroneously been portrayed as an attempt to manipulate the gods it has been dismissed as a debased and superstitious form of Platonism. It was nothing of the kind. Rather, Iamblichus’s prestige in his own and subsequent eras was due to his success in creating—like his fictional Pythagoras—a synthesis of worship and divine philosophy. In theurgy the highest thought of Platonic philosophy was fully integrated with common religious practices, and the immaterial gods were connected to the lowest sublunary daimons: in sum, heaven was joined to earth through the common mathematical structures of Pythagorean science. The Pythagorean solutions that mediated the One and the Many were translated by Iamblichus to the tensions pulling at the fourth century; the result was a comprehensive vision of a cosmos connected everywhere by numbers and accessible to anyone who ritually embodied them. This theurgical vision shaped the thinking of later Platonists such as Syrianus, Proclus, and Damascius, and its influence also extended beyond Platonic circles and may well be reflected in the sacramental theology of Christian thinkers. Indeed, the Church, with its ecclesiastical embodiment of the divine hierarchy, its initiations, and its belief in salvation through sacramental acts, may have fulfilled the theurgical program of Iamblichus in a manner that was never concretely realized by Platonists. In a sense that has yet to be examined, the Church may well have become the reliquary of the hieratic vision and practices of the later Platonists.

Even if theurgy were limited to Platonic circles, its significance would call for a more careful examination than it has received. It is my hope that this study has made some contribution to that end.

Introduction: To Preserve the Cosmos
1. Embodiment in the Platonic Tradition
2. Matter as Cosmic Instrument
3. Matter as Obstacle to the Embodied Soul
4. Theurgy as Demiurgy
5. The Descent of the Soul
6. Soul as Mediator
7. The Constraints of Embodiment
8. The Freedom of Immortal Bodies
9. The Paradox of Embodiment
10. Descending to Apotheosis
11. Eros and the One of the Soul
12. Cult and Cosmos
13. Ritual and the Human Hierarchy
14. Ritual as Cosmogony
15. Material Sunthemata
16. Intermediate Sunthemata: Seeing and Hearing the Gods
17. Intermediate Sunthemata: Naming the Gods
18. Noetic Sunthemata: Mathematics and the Soul
19. Noetic Sunthemata: The Theurgy of Numbers
20. The Sunthemata of the Sun
21. The Platonizing of Popular Religion
Select Bibliography

Gregory Shaw is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Stonehill College.

IAMBLICHUS AND THE THEORY OF THE VEHICLE OF THE SOUL by John F. Finamore (American Classical Studies No 14: Scholars Press) The idea that consciousness must have a container is very widespread among theosophers. Finamore examines the rational of such an idea in the writings of Iamblichus.

ARISTOTLE AND NEOPLATONISM IN LATE ANTIQUITY: Interpretations of the De anima by H.J. Blumenthal (Cornell University Press) This study is a major evaluation of the neoplatonic interpretation of Aristotle's psychology. It is a first rate study that should receive high marks in the journals.

This book is a major work of scholarship that concentrates on interpretations of the De anima in late antiquity, and what can be learned from them about the philosophical beliefs of its interpreters. The choice of treatments of the De anima to represent the exposition of Aristotle might seem to a modern reader to require justification. Why choose this one aspect of a philosophical output as wide ranging as Aristotle's? Blumenthal asks.

For ancient philosophers there were two clear answers. One was that the soul is the thing closest to us and therefore the most obvious candidate for study. This answer may be found, for example, right at the start of Ps-Simplicius' commentary: the truth about the soul is the thing closest of all to us, or in Philoponus' commentary, 'what is closer to us than the knowledge of ourselves?'

The other answer, more popular with the Plato commentators according to Blumenthal, was that one must follow the Delphic injunction to know oneself before one goes on to any other kind of inquiry, a point already made by the Socrates of Plato's Phaedrus in a passage where he refers to the words inscribed at Delphi and says that "it seems ridiculous to me to look at things outside when I do not yet know that." On this Hermias, like Proclus a pupil of the Aristotle commentator Syrianus, comments that it is clear that he who has come to know himself knows everything. Self-knowledge, Proclus tells us at the beginning of his commentary on the first Alcibiades, is the start of all philosophy, and of Plato's work as well. It is also the purpose of that dialogue. And like self-knowledge, Proclus tells us, the first Alcibiades is the beginning of philosophy. For that reason the Neoplatonic curriculum for the study of Plato, established by Iamblichus, began with it. Proclus suggests another reason too, in the same section of his commentary, namely that Iamblichus thought that the whole of Plato's philosophy was seminally contained in this dialogue.

Ps-Simplicius makes similar points but less strongly, for he refers the turning of soul to itself only to its investigation of soul, and takes its access to higher reality as being access to something other than itself, though not separate from it. Soul, he writes, is in a middle position between the truly intelligible and the physical existents, the indivisible and the divisible, and thus in investigating itself it is able to contribute to the knowledge of things on either side. That for him is how psychology contributes to metaphysics, as it does to other parts of philosophy. So he does not here see the subject area of metaphysics as something belonging to the soul in the way that Philoponus has claimed it to be, but nevertheless accepts that it is close to it. One reason for this more guarded position may have been the closer attention Ps-Simplicius pays to the agreed delimitation of the purpose of the treatise to the rational human soul.

For us today, Blumenthal contends, the justification might be different. Apart from the interest of the subject matter, the De anima is better provided with commentaries from late antiquity than any other Aristotelian works apart from the Categories. So its interpretation provides a wider conspectus of Neoplatonic thinking than what is available for other treatises. Moreover, just as the Neoplatonists saw reason as most characteristic of soul and central in it, they saw the operation of soul in general, characterized by the operations of reason, as itself central to their world: it occupies, as Ammonius puts it in his Categories commentary, a middle position in relation to things which totally transcend matter and to those which are entirely in it. Thus the subject of the soul is of particular interest in so far as it comes at the interface of the study of the natural world and the higher entities responsible for its existence and functioning, a view already to be found in Plotinus who described the soul as living on a boundary of the sensible world.

From another point of view, we have in psychology a meeting point between Aristotelian hylomorphism and Platonic dualism, two ways of thinking which the Neoplatonists needed to reconcile if not assimilate. As we shall see over and over again, they most often did this by translating Aristotle into Plato as far as could be done, characteristically by dissolving the unity of matter and form into separate components which they held to exist at different ontological levels. In so far as they were assimilating different philosophies they were continuing along lines already laid down in the philosophical tradition but, as we shall see, the kind of assimilation which we find in any philosopher of the period preceding Plotinus and the beginnings of Neoplatonism was mere tinkering compared with what was to follow.

The history of the Aristotelian tradition between the period of Simplicius and Philoponus and the present century provides some curious examples of the shifts of fashion characteristic of any long and rich tradition. The purpose of the last chapter in the book is to look briefly at some aspects of this tradition, much of it even now still far from adequately studied, and in so doing to exemplify some of these many shifts. Since Blumenthal has concentrated so heavily on the Neoplatonization of Aristotle by those who wrote commentaries on him in late antiquity, one could easily rest under the impression that this was an irreversible process, leaving Aristotle with a Platonist veneer which was not to be stripped off till the twentieth century.

That impression is false, but not entirely so. It conveys a degree of truth that was not recognized in the days when little was known about the methods and philosophies of the later Greek commentators. Indeed they were largely ignored. More attention was paid to the Aristotelianism of the Middle Ages and, to a lesser extent, that of the Renaissance, both of which, in ignorance of the Neoplatonism by which they were influenced in varying degrees in different locations, were assumed to be basically Peripatetic if not always entirely faithful to the thought of Aristotle himself.

Direct Neoplatonic influence on literature, and art, came more often from the work of those who were not commentators, or the independent works of those who were. One might think here of the ideas taken from Ficino's Latin version of the Enneads in late fifteenth- and sixteenth century Italy, as well as his own heavily Neoplatonic works with their detectable influence on art as well as literature. One of the clearest cases is Botticelli's Primavera with its refined Venus, arguably traceable to Enneads 3.5, and its several triads which can be better understood by reference to Proclus, in both cases, it is usually thought, mediated by Ficino. The case would be clearer if the picture did not predate by five or six years the publication of Ficino's own Platonic Theology (1483) and by fourteen or fifteen years that of the publication of his translation of Plotinus, but we know that Ficino was working on that as early as 1484, and it has even been claimed that he was himself involved in the production of the Primavera. One might think too of Thomas Taylor, the Platonist’s translations of Plotinus and Proclus made in late eighteenth and nineteenth-century England. Interestingly Plotinus was generally more influential than the late Neoplatonists whose thought was more akin to that of Iamblichus and Proclus than to that of the founder of Neoplatonism himself: only Proclus could compete. The most striking symptom of the lack of interest in the commentators is the fact that though some of their works were translated into Latin, either again or for the first time, in the sixteenth century, many of their texts remained unedited till the great Berlin Academy corpus began to appear in the 1880s, and even those that were printed in the sixteenth century were, with very few exceptions, not reprinted in the interval. Notoriously even Proclus' Platonic Theology, badly edited in the early seventeenth century, remained in that condition for 350 years, until the first volume of Saffrey and Westerink's edition appeared in 1968, an edition that has still not been completed at the time of writing. Less well-known is Praechter's observation some twenty years after the time when he reviewed the corpus of commentators, completed in only 27 years after the publication of the first volume, that he had noticed its volumes still uncut in a major German university library. It is only in the last twenty years that philosophers and historians of philosophy have again begun to take a serious interest in works which many modern commentators on Aristotle had not even bothered to consult, and when they did, often failed to see that the commentators' expositions coincided with identifiable Neoplatonic doctrines. In so far as the most recent modern scholarship is concerned with stressing the differences between the thought of the commentators on the one hand and that of Plato and Aristotle on the other, the Neoplatonist scholars and philosophers of late antiquity would have regarded it as curious at best, and perhaps even thoroughly perverse.

(Adapted from the Introduction) Blumenthal’s study is a major contribution to the history of late antique philosophy and will be a major resource for both the history and interpretation of this theme.

SOUL AND INTELLECT: Studies in Plotinus and Later Neoplatonism by H. J. Blumenthal [Collected Studies Series: CS426: Variorum (Ashgate)] Contents: Preface; Platonism in late antiquity; Nous and soul in Plotinus; Soul, world-soul and individual soul in Plotinus; Did Plotinus believe in ideas of individuals?; Plotinus' psychology; Aristotle in the service of Platonism; Plotinus, Enneads V 3[49] 3-4; Plotinus' adaption of Aristotle's psychology; Some problems about body and soul in later pagan Neoplatonism; Plotinus and Proclus on the criterion of truth; Plotinus in Later Platonism; From ku-ru-so-wo-ko to theourgos: Plutarch's exposition of the De anima and the psychology of Proclus; Marinus' Life of Proclus Alexander of Aphrodisias in the later Greel commentaries on Aristotle's De anima; Jo Philoponus and Stephanus`of Alexandri Simplicius on the first book of Aristotle's anima; Soul vehicles in Simplicius; and sequel; what happened to the Academy?


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