Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Iamblichus on Prayer

"Extended practice of prayer nurtures our intellect, enlarges very greatly our soul's receptivity to the gods, reveals to mean the life of the gods, accustoms their eyes to the brightness of the divine light, and gradually brings to perfection the capacity of our faculties for contact with the gods, until it leads us up to the highest level of consciousness (of which we are capable); also, it elevates gently the disposition of our minds, and communicates to us those of the gods, stimulates persuasion and communion and indissoluble friendship, augments divine love, kindles the divine element in the soul, scours away all contrary tendencies within it, casts out from the aetherial and luminous vehicle surrounding the soul everything that tends to generation, brings to perfection good hope and faith concerning the light; and, in a word, it renders those who employ prayers, if we may so express it, the familiar consorts of the gods." (De Mysteriis V.26)

Coughlin 164 Prayer is especially important in its relation to ritual, specifically the ritual of sacrifice. In this Iamblichus defines three types of prayer: the first he calls "introductory," the second "conjunctive," and the third "perfected." The third type, "the most perfect, has as its mark ineffable unification." Thus, prayer itself is for Iambilchus a way of attaining divine union. Moreover, Iamblichus insists that "...prayers serve to conger the highest degree of completeness upon sacrifices, ... as it is by means of them that the whole efficacy of sacrifices is reinforced and brought to perfection..." In conjunction with sacrifice, prayer provides the perfecting activity of the ritual. However, prayer also functions alone in the Iamblichean system.

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