Sunday, January 23, 2011

Neoplatonic Theurgy, Mysticism, Angelology--Collected Tweets

Butler Proclus dis141 The procession of the intellectual and subsequent orders od the Gods takes place under the imprimatur of the demiurge.

136 Plotinus + his followers err, according to Proclus, when they "ascribe a certain formless+indefinite nature to an intelligible essence."

Butler 135 Each henad possesses a divine mind or intellect, which is represented in particular by the third intelligible triad...

Butler dissertation 123 The demiurge is both henad and monad.

Pico thinks he shares with his Neoplatonic precursors an "angelic spirituality" that takes into account the influence of higher entities/God

Janowitz+Dillon respond to Dodds critics by emphasizing active component in[passive]theurgies of Dionysius/Iamblichus,say still "doer" magic

Every divine henad is participated w/o mediation by some 1 real-existent+whatever is divinized,linked by an upward tension to 1 divine henad

Pseudo-Dionysius and Henads Neoplatonism and Christian thought, Volume 2 By Dominic J. O'Meara

PD "angelic henads," thus identifying angels w/henads+ calls God: "the unifying Henad of all henads,"recalling Proclus "Henad of the henads"

Henads are the entities whose natures are participated in by anything that has a nature of any sort.

Remes: Neoplatonism intro on henads Proclus henads/One excerpt in Dillon, NP Intro Readings

Damascius on henads, the theurgists on triads in the intelligible

God as Monad and Henad

Proclus very rarely equates monad with henad+never does it in the case of his first principle, as Dionysius seems to

Siorvanes: "the henads constitute unity distributed to participants"

Triads are as fundamental for Dionysius as they are for Proclus. ibid

Vivian Boland on Dionysius applying term "henad" to God (7x)+Angel(only time used in plural)

it is knowable as henads from the things that participate in them

Whittaker on henads

Henad in Plotinus We are certainly not compelled to attach that one henad to some one thing and so deprive all the rest

Proclus: "Every particular soul participates the universal (Monadic) Intelligence both through the Universal Soul and its own particular intelligence; and every corporeal nature participates the universal Soul both through Universal Nature and through a particular soul."

@EPButler this is where I get confused by henad/angel comparison--PD,Aquinas,Pico all insist angels get mediated being, unlike henads.

Marion: we may read Thomas Aquinas without danger of ontotheology once the Dionysian strand is understood.

Sarah Coakley:The return to Dionysius could be seen as a recue from the rigidity of neo-scholastic readings of Aquinas.

Eric Perl: The foundational principle of Neoplatonic thought is the doctrine that to be is to be intelligible.

Perl: Neoplatonic+Dionysian "negative theology" and "mysticism" is an aspect of rational metaphysics,+must be interpreted+evaluated as such.

correction: quote below is from Maximus the Confessor in Re-Thinking Dionysius the Areopagite

Dionysius as "cosmic"--"The whole intelligible cosmos is imprinted in a hidden way on the whole sensible cosmos through the symbolic forms."

Wallis also wonders how often mystical union was attained in post-Porphyrian Neoplatonism ("The Spiritual Importance of Not Knowing," p476)

Chenu "St Thomas here sets himself in the tradition inaugurated by Maximus Confessor,which tried to make Dionysius intelligible to the West"

Smith: Thus for Proclus theurgy is not a way of bypassing noesis but rather the only means to attaining it.

Gildersleeve (1890) the system of Greek music was formed and in a way which renders the passage from Dionysius intelligible.

Mystical union with divinity transcends the dualistic limitations of discursive knowing

a participation in the One, which makes the mystical union with the One possible

Mystical union was approached through that "silence" which transcends all discursive reasoning+rational thought.Uzdavinys Golden Chain p.249

these divinities are according to union itself beyond all partible separation... they will have their progression from the One.

For union is thence derived to all things.

Majercik on Proclus - theurgy and ascent to the One

Rist on Dionysius - Experience of the divine leads to union and faith. As in Proclus, union and faith are ultimately identical

non pas la notion d'union pure, mais celle d'union et celle de difference

We endeavour to know the unknown nature of the first principle, through the things which proceed from, and are converted to it.Taylor TP 121

Timaeus' discourse on the construction the World Soul and its union with the body of the universe.

two higher forms of theurgy are distinguished from white magic because they are directed toward the ascent of the soul, + white magic is not about

"there is no suggestion that Proclus used these rites [of theurgic "white magic"] to induce mystical experience."

Van den Berg refers to "Iamblichus' efforts in the De Mysteriis to deny that theurgy had anything to do with magic."

Van den Berg summarizes Sheppard on "Three kinds of theurgy" in Proclus

Proclus and the theory behind theurgy/continuation of theurgy in late platonism in Proclus' Hymns

Perl on Dionysius' God "Beyond Being and Intelligibility"

Aquinas repeats as examples the instances noted by Dionysius: intelligible realities cannot be understood'perfectly'by means of the sensible

For Proclus, theurgy as a liberation of the soul is a "power higher than all human wisdom, embracing the blessings of divination, the purifying powers of initiation and, in one word, all the operations of divine possession." Platonic Theology 1.26.63

Siorvanes - Proclus on intelligible beings as "hidden"

"The intelligible divinities reveal the ineffable principle of all beings and that admirable superiority. " Proclus, Platonic Theology

Proclus' theurgy is important, but his henadology and angelology are more important influences on Pico (directly + via Dionysius/Aquinas)

Proclus is said to have brought about rain during a drought+produced means for earthquake prevention,both examples of his theurgic abilities

Van den Berg, Proclus' Hymns p. 75 Proclus' passion for theurgy is clear both from his own writings and his biography written by Marinus.

review - Aristotelian Aporetic Ontology in Islamic and Christian Thinkers

Angelomorphic Pneumatology : Clement of Alexandria and Other Early Christian Witnesses ... Bogdan Gabriel Bucur

Peter Struck: Iamblichus' De Mysteriis includes a sophisticated argument on the limits of human reason

Ruth Majercik on Theurgy in Proclus, Iamblichus + The Chaldaean Oracles

Rather than being magic... Iamblichus' theurgy was a subtle intellectual practice

John Bussanich: Philosophy, Theology and Magic: Gods and Forms in Iamblichus

Iamblichus carefully distinguishes theurgy from magic in De Mysteriis--like Pico he makes clear that he's not doing coercive power conjuring

(Iamblichus) 23.6. When the soul is assimilated to the intellect in an elevated fashion, motion in the vehicle becomes perfectly circular.

How much 'magic' actually went on under Iamblichus' own presidency is not know.n -John Dillon

When Iamblichus talks about mystical prayer in DM he talks up the benefits like people who talk about LSD.

@erik_davis Iamblichus is in many ways more attractive than Proclus for certain esoteric minds, Proclus is lovecraftian baroque systematics

Bussanich: Iamblichus still doing Plotinian mysticism. Mazur: Plotinian contemplation is interiorized theurgy. These interps show complexity

Bradshaw:Iamblichus is at pains to emphasize theurgic rite doesn't operate on gods but rather is means by which gods execute their own will.

Gregory Shaw: Iamblichus's distinction between theurgy and theology is crucial for understanding his Platonism.

Iamblichus gives a philosophical justification for "religious magic" if you want to describe it that way, better "theurgy" as mystic ascent.

Veenstra: "Iamblichus' theurgy gives philosophical justification for magic."

Iamblichus' theurgy, philosophy and theology each had proper object-gods seen by religious interaction, metaphysical entities, the One

vs BPC: Pico recognized in KBL an NP-powered metaphysics and theosophy, but not the theurgic as professed by Dionysius or even Iamblichus.

@cole_tucker here's a guy defending Goetia vs. criticism of Agrippa + Iamblichus

Like Iamblichus Dionysius emphasizes man's low/disconnected state-Angelic Hierarchy is needed to explain how man gets help from higher power

@erik_davis Late Neoplatonism is a disobedient reading of Aristotle. Plotinus+Iamblichus inverted him and invented theology as we know it.

@peterbebergal Gregory Shaw in his Iamblichus+Dionysius article says in a footnote that the Idel school of Kabbalah scholars misread theurgy
@peterbebergal E.R. Dodds thought that theurgy was a magical power grab, but his view doesn't jive with Iamblichus. See Gregory Shaw's work
The trend in Neoplatonic scholarship is moving toward understanding theurgy as religious ritual believing Iamblichus who said it's not magic

Theurgy is still controversial in Neoplatonic scholarship. John Dillon understands Iamblichus very well but still thinks magic not religion.

Theurgy was never ritual magic or angel/daimon conjuring. In Iamblichus it is religious ritual given by gods, powered by gods, unifying us.

Coughlin on Iamblichus: The object of prayer is to raise the supplicant up towards the gods through what he calls "harmonious persuasion."

...Iamblichus identifies this harmonious persuasion with the source of the efficacy of all prayer and all ritual. “Theurgy, Prayer... "

@peterbebergal Iamblichus defined theurgy as aiming toward mystical union w/ the One. Crowley summoned spirits to become his own One.

@peterbebergal Iamblichus described theurgy as exchanging the mortal life for the divine: Did Crowley?or steal fire from gods for human life

Coughlin on Iamblichus: The object of prayer is to raise the supplicant up towards the gods through what he calls "harmonious persuasion."
...Iamblichus identifies this harmonious persuasion with the source of the efficacy of all prayer and all ritual. “Theurgy, Prayer... "

Iamblichus' De Mysteriis gives a theoretical justification for theurgy as religious practice but not goetia which must be otherwise defended
I'm not aware of any explicit Crowleyan uses of Iamblichus but he does use term "Augoeides" for HGA...does NP theurgy help explain thelema?
Jake Stratton-Kent pointed out that Crowley refers to spirits appropriately coerced due to their violent nature--Iamblichus parallel?
in his 900 theses on Syrianus, Proclus, Iamblichus, Pico rereads late Neoplatonic concept of participation in light of Aquinas' developments
Proclus appeals to Pico not only b/c late NP resonates w/ PD mysticism but also b/c constructed cathedral of theology like Aquinas
Plotinian mysticism can't be exalted as "more rational" than Iamblichean anymore: better to admit Iamblichus is just as religious
Bussanich: Iamblichus' differences from Plotinus have been misunderstood/exaggerated, he's still doing mystical union, Platonism
Iamblichus' theurgy isn't sorcery/coercive power grab although theurgist enjoys practical benefits above fate, among demiurgic intellections
Iamblichus' theurgy is better explained as a religious ritual with a mystical aim. I don't see where magic even comes in.
Iamblichus' theurgy takes into account influence of superior entities, but he's careful to distinguish from "magical" approaches he dislikes
Iamblichus' theurgy rests on NP high ontology, develops sophisticated angelology to explain mysticism of prayer, illumination, symbol
The theurgy of Iamblichus is at great remove from medieval and modern "theurgy," which is why I raise questions of definition, application
@peterbebergal this emphasis of mystical vs magical is a good place to start. Iamblichus said theurgy has ultimately mystical, not magic aim
Iamblichus is a wonderful model+inspiration for esotericists who want to do Magical Theology, but doesn't justify magic as power techniques.
Iamblichus has been misunderstood as an apologist for magic but his defense of theurgy is as a religious practice (not much modern magic is)

@arcanamanor best is reading Iamblichus himself His worldview could inspire many great games
@arcanamanor I'm interested in application of Iamblichean philosophical defense of ritual to video game studies,theurgy's close to "ergodic"

Iamblichus--Embodiment+Theurgy, "Shifting Selves in Late Antiquity" in Religion+the self in antiquity David Brakke+...
Valerie Flint: For both Porphyry and Iamblichus, the marks of the unacceptable in supernatural exercise, and of 'magic' and evil demons ...
Pico's Christian Cabala is a genre of Dionysian Mystical Theology but within the specific class of Aquinas-influenced Christian Platonism+MP

@tevet I asked about "Thomist Kabbalah" because Pico della Mirandola demonstrates acceptance of Aquinas' angelology-a constraint on his KBL?

Gregory Shaw on "The Platonizing of Popular Religion" in Theurgy and the Soul: The Neoplatonism of Iamblichus
ref for Greg Shaw quote below
Shaw: Iamblichus developed a soteriological practice that by its very name theourgia defines not what soul does but what gods do to the soul
Janowitz: Rituals Iamblichus rejects are labeled, as expected, magic, for these by definition cannot have any spiritual or pious aspect. p11
Naomi Janowitz: Iamblichus revealed his philosophical snobbery in his rejection of sympathy (covers Shaw vs. E.R.Dodds)
Gregory Shaw on Naming the Gods in Iamblichus in Theurgy and the Soul
[Theurgy / Iamblichus] Sarah Iles Johnston, "Fiat Lux, Fiat Ritus: Divine Light and the Late Antique Defense of Ritual"
Gregory Shaw on Ficino following Iamblichus
John Dillon, The Platonic Philosopher at Prayer
Subjugating the Divine: Iamblichus on Theurgic Evocation in The power of religion in late antiquity
Iamblichus in De Mysteriis: spectacles of the gods distinguished from "apparations of technical magic"
It was Iamblichus' determination to distinguish between worthless magic and divine theurgy

How does philosophy prepare the soul for mystical union? Copenhaver
draws analogy to NP theurgy, but need to take PD theurgy into account.

"Pico's Mystical Ontology": intellectual process of philosophizing
unity/perfection of angels/number/transcendentals prepares for mystic uni

footnotes on Dionysius and Neoplatonic/Iamblichean theurgy

The Theurgic Turn in Christian Thought: Iamblichus, Augustine, Origen, and the Eucharist by Jason Parnell

two recent great studies on Dionysian theurgy are on Dionysius+Proclus by Dylan Burns + on Dionysius+Iamblichus by Rebacca Coughlin

Shaw, Gregory, Neoplatonic Theurgy and Dionysius the Areopagite

Pico looked to Iamblichus for metaphysics not magic practices, recognizing a Neoplatonic "divine" philosopher analogous to "angelic" Aquinas

Pico's felicity via cognitive ascent -- his original take is we learn how to imitate angels/God by doing ontology at highest level
Does Pico advocate a mysticism of prayer?Although prayer is important to Iamblichus-Proclus-Dionysius Pico doesn't treat their prayer theory
Pico did not regard Iamblichus as a superstitious magician, but rather as a metaphysician and fellow theologian, although "occult"

Dionysian theurgy is part of the explanation of how humans can receive illumination from unparticipated God through material/sensible world.

Shaw argued Dionysian theurgy same as Iamblichan--not because PD is magical but b/c Iamblichus is religious--so is Pico correct to like NP?

Pico refers to Iamblichus as doing occult theology, but he doesn't take an interest in Iamblichean theory of theurgy (or Proclan theurgy)
I don't find any evidence that Pico thought of Iamblichus as a "magical source" in the way that some Renaissance historians have alleged.
When Pico discusses Iamblichus as revealing "occult theology" of the ancients, does he mean something like mystical theology of Dionysius?
Pico does not suspect Iamblichus as an idolatrous sorceror--he never read Dodds!--nor does he apologize for using Platonists, even "occult"
Does Pico understand Kabbalistic theurgy as non-magical because he already understands Dionysian theurgy as non-magical? Or not a problem?
Does Pico resonate with KBL theurgy because he recognizes something similar to his own PD/NP theurgy?Probably not but he saw something there
Does Pico resonate with NP theurgy because he has already absorbed the theurgy of Dionysius? Probably, but we need to be careful with terms

more senses of theurgy 7)E.R. Dodds vs. Iamblichus on theurgy 8)Dillon takes Iamblichus' protests into account but still finds him magical
Copenhaver: To make his case for natural magic, Pico cites Porphyry but not Iamblichus, and Plotinus gets most of his overt attention.

We need to be careful b/c Iamblichus was anti-[bad]magicWe do not have good enough reason to suspect angel magic because Pico comes close to theurgies of Iamblichus, Dionysius, KBL: none are magic

Neoplatonic theurgy is not inaccurately described as a method of transforming sensibles/matter into experience of divine, so is PD theurgy

Pico's magic a controversial topic/many interpretations--but his angel has not received a proportionate amount of attention, although needed

For Iamblichus and Theurgy Tweet collection see

Pico calling Kabbalah a "theology" already distorts its, linking it to the "ineffable" and "angelic metaphysics" spins it further Dionysian.
Judaism does not have the same relationship to theology as Christianity does. Pico misinterprets Kabbalah as if it were Christian style theo
Although medieval Jewish philosophy and religious thought was influenced by same philosophers, calling it "theology" reveals Christian bias

I think Copenhaver exaggerates newness of Pico's allegory+anagogy. He's doing Dionysius+Thomas with a twist, original style, but nothing new

Pico didn't change his angelology based on what he found in Kabbalah, but he did change Kabbalah to fit his angelology.

For Pico philosophy, magic, angelology, and heady metaphysics/ontology is all at service of religious inspiration, but not some radical way

Michael Allen "The Birth Day of Venus" Pico as Platonic Exegete in the Heptaplus and Commento

Pico isn't blind to the controversial possibilities of his bolder-sounding ideas. Indeed he attempts to explain why not problematic that way
Pico seems genuinely surprised some of his Conclusions misread as wrong/heretical, innocently and naively defends them in his Apology.
Pico gets himself in all kinds of trouble in 900 conclusions, but not because he imported magical practices. Rather contradicts, blurs lines
Pico was clearly not afraid to step on philosophical-theological toes, so no reason to assume he left out magical practices he liked.
Pico probably did not mean to imply most or all of the magical practices his interpreters have read into the 900 Conclusions. wasn't afraid?
Pico's Conclusions do demonstrate Pico's exploration of various issues, especially NP angel metaphysics, however he doesn't mix angels+magic

Sheila J. Rabin - Pico della Mirandola and Magic
Kabbalah and Modernity: Interpretations, Transformations, Adaptations - Boaz Huss, Marco Pasi, C. k. m Von Stuckrad
Richard Kiekhefer: The close connection between mysticism and magic is a well-known feature of Kabbalah.
If Pico's 900 Conclusions can't be read definitively as evidence of his own philosophical positions,even harder to say his magical practices
Pico and Reuchlin in Donald Tyson, Ritual Magic and how to do it
Reuchlin was committed to making the Kabbalah a Christian magic, thereby absorbing its occult potency into Christianity... -Donald Tyson

@eglinski compilation of Pico texts on angelology
@eglinsky Pico's Cabalistic Conclusions

@eglinski thanks for a good question been meaning to link those sources. do you know any Pico+theurgy interpretations/arguments I'm missing?
@eglinski "occult kabbalistic techniques...theurgical production of a spiritual descent of efflux from above" ??? p.952
Copenhaver on Pico's magic+theurgy or
@eglinski Copenhaver: the Cabala that Pico knew was a theurgy as well as a theosophy
Copenhaver on Pico :magic is preliminary to higher+supernatural magic of theurgy+Cabala
@eglinski Mebane is an example of the kind of "theurgic" interpretation of Pico I'm criticizing
@eglinski Craven on Pico: Hints of theurgy are not warranted.
@eglinski Copenhaver on Pico theorizing magic "without being guilty of theurgy"
@eglinski Moshe Idel argues that Pico wasn't interested in Kabbalistic theurgy. Craven's book on Pico argues "no hint of theurgy"
@eglinski I'm arguing that theurgy is a problematic term for understanding Pico. See Copenhaver's articles for a good use of theurgy re:Pico
@eglinski Pico himself mostly,here's selected Pico sources

Theurgy misleads if it emphasizes aspects of angels that involve summoning or communicating with them. Pico is clear why he doesn't want to.
theurgy as ritual power doesn't work for Pico because he's not charging it up, mystic ascent is standard xtian via PD, no communication w/an
theurgy is great term for armchair theorizing on kabbalistic angel magic implications Pico might have left open,bad for explaining his ideas
Theurgy might help to explain Pico's interest in Neoplatonic ontology, but he has better philosophical-theological reasons for this interest
Theurgy might help to explain Pico's ritual ascent, but he's a Dionysian and Thomist not interested in alternative magical worldview
Theurgy as a term might offer to help explain the "practical" Pico but by practical he doesn't mean taking on theurgic ritual power
Theurgy might have a great deal to offer in cases of ritual power to do ascent,but I don't see this as Pico's main problem.He was scholastic
theurgy as a special category between magic and religion is not what Iamblichus meant, not needed for PD+Pico
Pico has not received the attention he deserves as a philosopher of Angelic Being because of the mistaken reputation for magic+,yes, theurgy
magic is not a big interest from the point of view of Neoplatonic angel metaphysics Pico dabbled in. this is a problem for magic biased view Nectar in Renaissance Esotericism: Ficino, Pico, Agrippa, and Bruno (2003)

There is much to admire in Pico's philosophy of angels that we also see in comparatively original systems of Aquinas and Dionysius about

Pico anticipated the last thirty years of Renaissance in Late Neoplatonic and Thomistic scholarship, which finally admits the Platonic stuff

My point with Aquinas is that Pico was aware of the sublime heights of Neoplatonic-Thomistic philososophizing about Being, now fash research

Lehrich: Reuchlin's Kabbalah not greatly at odds with Scholem's

Iamblichus -- On the Mysteries V.26 -- prayer culminates in an "ineffable union (henosis)" (238.3)

Neoplatonists' mystical experiences? Greg Shaw answers

Moderatus on Number (part of a huge Pythagorean discussion on Neoplatonism elist)

Bryn Mawr review of "Syrianus et la métaphysique de l'antiquité..." funny fake dialogue between time traveler+Neoplatonist philosopher by Michael Chase

One of Pico's most powerful philosophical moves in his harmony of Plato+Aristotle is taken from Aquians' handling of Dionysian metaphysics
Accounts of Pico as Aristotelian fail to take into account doctrine of participation, as do accounts of Aquinas as anti-Platonic. Synthesis?
Michael Chase's article on Aquinas and Simplicius helps place Pico's platonism, understand his use of Simplicius
Pico's magic is operative at the natural level, as the practical part of natural philosophy. Even theology doesn't manipulate higher energy.
I don't think Pico is doing magical practices for theurgic or mystical purposes. He's not using them to interact with supernatural energies.
The Case for Pico's theurgy and why it doesn't work.

Frances Yates thought Pico was invoking angels. (for criticism of Yates on Pico see Craven, Copenhaver, Farmer)

Craven argued that "no hint of theurgy" was intended by Pico.

Occultist interpretation of Pico that follows Yates begins to use theurgy to describe Pico "angel magic."

Iamblichus defined theurgy in mystical terms, ultimate aim is union with the one.
Theurgist is not coercing, gods have the power which theurgist merely participates in.

Iamblichean theurgist is not a Magus in the sense Renaissance historians have mistakenly attributed to

Copenhaver has argued that Pico recognizes in Kabbalah a theurgy similar to the neoplatonic one. But Idel says it's not theurgy but theosophy.
I think the term theurgy is too problematic. It might be a good term for the kind of mystical ascent Pico is doing

Interpreting Pico's magic as "the theurgic" seems like a mistake to me. Practical engagement with natural forces is not theurgic.
If Kabbalah powers magic to do natural manipulations this is not theurgic. Pico is not interested in doing Kabbalistic theurgy in
the sense of making changes happen in divine world by doing Jewish rituals. He's not even much interested in Dionysian theurgic
explanation of Christian rituals. He is discussing mystical ascent which is accomplished in Dionysius by Jesus' theurgic acts, not
by magical practices. I don't see any reason to assume that Pico was suggesting these magical practices were for mystical ends. Pico
was interested in natural magic for theoretical and theological reasons, but not because he thought they could power mystical ascent.
He is not doing a "Magical Theology" or attempting to tap supercosmic forces in order to become a powerful Magus.

His celebration of the Dignity of Man is being misinterpreted by those who think he's trying to usurp powers not meant for man.
What he means is that man's place as defined by Christian anthropology deserves to be celebrated with such an Oration.

Instead I want to look at Pico's angelology as a philosophical theological subject, rather than an occult or magical discourse.

Pico's main angelology influence is Pseudo-Dionysius. Pico spends most of his time explaining Dionysius, or giving his original take on a Dionysian theme of angelology.
Pico also spends a lot of time looking at Neoplatonic metaphysics, again exploring these Dionysian themes.
The influence of Dionysius on Pico's mysticism and "angel regimen" has been explored in detail by Copenhaver in his articles.
Pico's angelology is based on Dionysius but it also shows the influence of the angel treatises of Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologiae.
Thomas Aquinas made important modifications to the metaphysics of Dionysius in order to develop his own view of God as absolute Being, ipsum esse subsistens.
Pico had included notions from Thomas' angelology in the 900 as up for debate, but in his more explicit angelological texts he uses these developments of Aquinas to explain angels. Substance and Potency. Abstract and Concrete being.
Pico reads Dionysius and the Late Neoplatonists in the light of Aquinas.

Craven says Heptaplus is not kabbalistic just allegorical, but Black argues Pico takes more jewish hermeneutic stance, shows influences
Craven vs. Frances Yates in Pico-Symbol of His Age: "No hint of theurgy" should be read into Pico, who's not gnostic pantheist or emanatist
Pico an interesting case study in occult psychology of motivation: exhortation to philosophy aims to inspire mystic/theurgic contemplations
Did Pico see theurgic/ecstatic uses of the sefirot in Abulafian or Zoharic mode? Did he see magical uses of Proclan hierarchy? Or just relig
Coughlin explains Dionysius on "becoming theurgic" which may be a good way to understand Pico's operative contemplation and transformation
Angel mention in Being -- gets more attention in Heptaplus. we have seen PD's theurgic angel, Pico not talking as much about illum. but MP

Idel argues that Christian users of the Kabbalah applied it toward speculation not theurgy or ecstasy
Dionysius uses the term "theurgy" 48 times.
PD+theurgy may help explain Pico's interest in magic+KBL but it also explains why Pico doesn't need magic+KBL for theology of Heptaplu+BU
Recent scholarship on theurgy has gone very far in explaining philosophical and religious content, debunking pejorative magical readings
theurgy of Kabbalists was once seen as a problematic magical/heretical/anti-philosophical and thus irrational/superstitious side of Judaism
Theurgy has been misread chiefly because metaphysics behind it have been disregarded. Pico should be rehabilitated like NP+KBList theurgists

I don't think we should apply theurgy to Pico without cautionary tour thru scholarly differences on NP+KBL-ist theurgy. so many options, mis
Theurgy is an important topic in the study of neoplatonism as well as kabbalah.Interest has increased recently,critical steps have been made
I worry that soon we'll need a theoretical movement against labeling things theurgy, just as the term gnosticism has be reconsidered
Pseudo-Dionysian as well as Iamblichean theology has contempt for the sort of magic scholars like Dodds+Dillon associate w/ "theurgy"
Idel seems to speak of "magic" as a distinguishable + acceptable religious modality present in KBL, rather than opposed to religion per se
If Pico understood the "theurgy" of PD, perhaps this led to him really recognizing something theologically essential in KBL+NP,etc. religion
Copenhaver underscores philosophical seriousness of Proclan magic theory to explain Pico's serious theological interest in magic+theurgy
Dodds thought Proclan hierarchical developments "unfortunate" + theurgy irrational magic, but since then "systematic considerations" emerged

Theurgy may help us understand the "operative" religious dynamics behind Pico's dry metaphysical texts as poetic theologizing
Apparently none of exciting discoveries made in spooky magic+theurgy are essential for Pico's high metaphysical theologizing. KBLreduced 2PD
Pico's reception of KBL deserves philosophical attention--encounter with strange theurgy +correlation with metaphysical science of theology.
study of PD advances our understanding of Pico's neoplatonism, which could use study sep. from magic, +probly deserves more phil. attention

Theurgy provides an excellent opportunity for discussing the themes of Dionysius that are relevant to Pico, particularly as KBL interpreter.
Angels are theurgic because they are the highest and most prolific players in CH, hierarchy does divine works of Christ, makes man theurgic.
Theurgy probably best term for finding solution to problem of Pico's magic but ironically understood as nonmagical Iamblichus to Dionysius
some scholars trace theurgy to sources of Plotinus' inner ritual important to understand antignostic context of his theoria mystery metaphor
Iamblichus according to Jan Assman really does report same Egyptian theological-theurgical wisdom that's also key to Christian mysteries.
Pico Reuchlin and Dee aren't interesting to me as bending philosophy to corrupt magical purposes but deep insightful readers of neoplatonism
P, R+D: theology/theurgy of # to new heights in renaissance+kblist modes innovating on xtianNPtradition, applied to religious needs/problems
important to emphasize that Pico applied myth+magic to renaissance religious practical devotional needs, to his mind sanitized as phil.theol

Any theurgy discovered by Pico should not be confused with something he doesn't base primarily on his own Dionysian pre-understanding.
Pico brings Thomas Aquinas' good attitude on philosophy, Aristotle to platonic theology of angel mind. this is more important than theurgy

Naomi Janowitz paper on Dionysius and Icons of Power on theurgy might be helpful place to look for theoretical models for Pico's magic if th

Copenhaver:Pico doesn't cite Iamblichus but his theurgy is like later NP. I think if this is true it is b/c Dionysius' theurgy's lateNPstyle
Iamblichus explicitly defined theurgy as a third religious modality alongside philosophy and theology, deserving its own kind of explanation
Dionysius' post-Proclan Neoplatonic Metaphysics have long been understood as an influence+terminological presence, but theurgy long misread.
does Pico's interest in alternative modes of signification from Kabbalah have some basis in semiotics of Dionysius? compatible?
Hard to tell if Pico leaves out parts of PD connection or just assuming they're understood already. not full CH as passing down illumination
To understand Dionysius' metaphor of becoming like angel we need to see what he thinks angels are. For Pico, Thomas on angel being/knowlegde
CH3 Pico uses metaphor of becoming like angels: we must understand what he thinks they are like. O+H do MP assuming kn. of Dionysius+Aquinas
I will focus on theurgy because it is the Dionysian theme that most impacts understanding of the function of angels who illuminate+theurgize
Dionysian themes in Pico I won't treat in detail: initiatory secrecy, hermeneutics, liturgical and symbol theory (may be influence on magic)
Iamblichean and Proclan "angels" do not play the same role in hierarchy of Dionysius--his henad-angels do theurgy for Christ--monotheistgods
Dionysian theurgy as "third option" for Pico theurgy if we can't decide between Iamblichean and Kabbalistic theurgy: his angel does, they no

Janowitz useful for semiotics of theurgic symbol as "icon of power," logic of "nonreferential" in PD, KBL+NP have mystic semiotics in common
PD+Theurgy: Wear Struck Burns Coughlin NP Theurgy: Dillon Shaw Majercik Sheppard Athanassiadi Janowitz van den Berg KBL: Idel Wolfson Brody

Pico's magic was victim to anti-naturaltheology stance of Church not anti-Dionysian theurgy views. He's not read correctly as shocking magus
Pico only needs magic as adjunct to natural philosophy and natural theology. Angelizing belongs to mysticism, based on MP/higher theology.
Yates thought Pico magic was "tapping" supercelestial powers, conjuring angels, but he builds off ways for T+PD already Tap/Conj no need4mag
Michael Allen has studied the Platonic Theology of Ficino, tracing Neoplatonic sources in many books, F's PD,reads Pico as still neoplatonic
In his many articles Copenhaver has made a case for philosophical seriousness of Renaissance magic by showing neoplatonic + scholastic roots
theurgy will be discussed as useful theme for approaching Pico in comparison to Neoplatonic, but I don't think it's an alt.religious mode 4P
Reading of Pico's magic and kabbalah as (NP or KBList) theurgy have been attempted, but none that approach from context of Dionysian theurgy
Pico emphasizes man's intellectual imperfection in BU carrying thread thru texts, for ex.uses Iamblichus in Heptaplus on need for divine aid
Pico argues based on relative simplicity and unity of angel: cognitions, firstness, hierarchy position, power, substance, vs. man's lim-imp.
Pico on Iamblichus in Being/One: duality of prime matter only due to imperfection of multiples solves Plotinian horror at matter's weirdness
Dionysius is seen by Pico as "glory of theology" so since Proclus close to PD, NP theology has serious philosophical appeal as well as force
If man is to become angel need to find out what it is about angels that we take on or emulate. CH2 will discuss Pico's MP angelology CH3 God
Pico doesn't use Iamblichus as a magical but rather as a theological authority citing him on difficult metaphysical points not theurgic ones
Pico not using Dionysius to respond to objections as in Thomas, but to show how Genesis, KBL or his own MP conforms to Christian truth
model of Thomas's angel treatises for Heptaplus should not be overlooked, as well as importation of content.
Heptaplus not just laying out cosmicMP but try at how to use allegory for living faith purposes. remaining exuberantly pious despite density
important to emphasize that Pico applied myth+magic to renaissance religious practical devotional needs, to his mind sanitized as phil.theol
P, R+D: theology/theurgy of # to new heights in renaissance+kblist modes innovating on xtianNPtradition, applied to religious needs/problems

Recent scholarship on Dionysius and Neoplatonic tradition/theurgy can illuminate philosophical reasons behind Pico's delving/dabbling in NP.
Rather than detail on late neoplatonic theurgy (Shaw, Sheppard) I will discuss recent studies on Dionysian theurgy (Burns, Coughlin, Struck)
Since Pico does not find any sorcery in Dionysian theurgy, if it is decided that Pico picks up magic, he doesn't get it from Dionysius
I'm looking at theurgy b/c Copenhaver and others recently used it to describe Pico, but also because activity of Dionysian angel is theurgic
If theurgy for Dionysius is imitating the angels and Pico wants to imitate the angels, seems like Pico is doing theurgy. (I was resisting)
Pico’s texts might be read as Dionysian style theurgic hymn/prayers rather than magical talismans
Pico shares with Aquinas Aristotelian reading of neoplatonic concepts like participation, angelic substance, emanation, diffusion of Good
Pico's grounding in Aquinas can help us understand how he does Aristotelian-Dionysian mysticism. Aquinas admits some theurgic PD elements?
Pico's understanding of theurgy is not as some magical modality different from theology. Cosmic sympathy, henosis, ascent, perfection, toGod
Pico recognizes what we'd call the "theurgic" aspect of kabbalah, something like what Idel and Wolfson characterize as theurgy, without term
Copenhaver emphasizes theurgy as explanatory term for Pico but does not go into theurgy of Dionysius. Pico may have known the greek term.
Pico is key to Christian Theurgy and Renaissance reading of greek+hebrew myths as theological-metaphysical allegory--last great Summa of it.
contemporary theurgy can appreciate Pico as theory of operative theurgic philosophizing, theologizing with numbers, weird cabalistangelmagic
Pico for contemporary theurgists: whatever Pico felt was safe magic, or scholars interpret as his correct mystic, we are free to use his CBL
I will not add to Pico’s magic or theurgy as rel.modes, but step back and examine Pico’s use of Dionysian metaphysics and theological style.
four stages of spiritual ascent correspond to four levels or functions of the soul
Pico was not satisfied with his own poetry, but wrote brilliant and beautiful poetic theology, managing to weave and synthesize MP+practical
I refer my readers needing further explanation to Copenhaver on Kabbalah, Allen on Platonism, Idel on Jewish sources, Black on hermeneutics.
Dionysian theurgy may help understand how Pico was neither disengenuous nor sorcerous: he saw in magic and kabbalah Dionysian mystical arts.
Dionysian sympathy builds on the Proclan henadic bridge between unity and multiplicity. This seems to be foundation of Pico's Number/Cabala.
Pico may or may not be doing theurgy but his angels do the same things that Pseudo-Dionysian angels do, and those activities are theurgic.
We might view the things that PD found "satisfying" about NP theurgy (per Dylan Burns) as keys to Pico's own Dionysian mysticism+angelology.

Pico didn't imply angel magic when he referred to Cabalistic traditions concerning angels, but rather claimed correlations w/Dionysian myst.

Problem of angel magic in Pico: he claims to rule out "bad kind" of conjuring, yet associates Cabala with magic as well

Proclus and Dionysius

For Proclus, theurgy as a liberation of the soul is a "power higher than all human wisdom, embracing the blessings of divination, the purifying powers of initiation and, in one word, all the operations of divine possession." Platonic Theology 1.26.63

"The intelligible divinities reveal the ineffable principle of all beings and that admirable superiority... these divinities are according to union itself beyond all partible separation... they will have their progression from the One." Proclus, Platonic Theology

Rist: The Christian doctrine of the Incarnation frees Dionysius from a charge of imposing mere magic+theurgy upon his philosophical schema. For a Christian the gap between the immaterial and the material which Proclus has to fill by his own theurgical efforts has been filled by God in his Revelation.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

more on Proclus' Theurgy

Studies on the 5th [fifth] and 6th [sixth] essays of Proclus' Commentary on ...
By Anne D. R. Sheppard p161 Proclus saw the traditional mystery language of Greek philosophy with the eyes of one who believed in the practice of theurgy and in the possibility of mystical experience. The metaphor therefore had a precise meaning for him and he used it in a variety of ways. In Proclus's thought everything really does reflect everything else. Like a modern structuralist he finds the same underlying pattern in the mysteries, in theurgy, in philosophy, in language, in myth, and in the world as a whole. The principles behind the use of symbola in theurgy are also the principles behind Proclus' interpretation of poetic myths and so he can transfer language from the one sphere into the other and use mystery-language to provide a terminology for allegory.

What is not in us is not on the level of our knowledge; what is not on the level of our knowledge is unknowable by our faculty of knowledge; so then the transcendent Forms are unknowable by our faculty of knowledge. They may, then, be contemplated only by divine Nous. This is so for all Forms, but especially for those that are beyond the noeric gods; for neither sense-perception, nor cognition based on opinion, nor pure reason, nor noeric cognition of our type serves to connect the soul with those Forms, but only illumination from the noeric gods renders us capable of joining ourselves to those noetic-and-noeric Forms, as I recall someone saying under divine inspiration. The nature of those Forms is, then, unknowable to us, as being superior to our intellection and to the partial conceptions of our souls. And it is for this reason, indeed, that the Socrates of the Phaedrus, as we said before, compares the contemplation of them to mystic rites and initiations and visions. -Proclus In Parm. 949, 14ff., trans. Morrow/Dillon 1987: 300. (slightly adapted). (quoted in link below)

According to Proclus, only divine Nous is capable of contemplating the Forms. Since the divine Nous is identical with the Demiurge, i.e. the Father of the universe, and since every effect strives after reversion to its cause, the human soul can contemplate the Forms if it manages to return to the Demiurge, which may be referred to as reaching the paternal harbour. The leader-gods discussed in Theol. Plat. VI play an important role in the return of the human soul, because they are the intermediate causal principles between us and the Demiurge. They are characterized by likeness, which is mirrored in all their products. This likeness that causes and products share is the basis sympatheia, the driving force behind theurgy. Proclus uses theurgical ritual, based on this sympatheia, to attract the leader-gods in order to be elevated towards the divine Nous. At least some of Proclus' hymns were part of these rituals.

R. M. van den Berg, Towards the Paternal Harbor, Proclean Theurgy and the Contemplation of the Forms.

more Iamblichus and Theurgy, De Mysteriis quotes

Proclus' hymns 72
According to Iamblichus, theurgy brings about the elevation of the human soul to the gods and their subsequent union with them.

Iamblichus considered deification (henôsis) as involving a creative partnership with God, realized through theurgic rituals that raise the soul up to the level of divine demiurgic power.[3] In other words, the deified soul, for Iamblichus, is the soul that has come to experience the glorious satisfaction of maintaining the cosmic order - in other words, in sharing in the activity of the One. For the Orthodox Christian tradition, on the other hand, deification (theôsis) implies a state of being that was described, by the most gifted Church Fathers, as an endless, mystical yearning for divine fulfillment.

"Likeness to God as Far as Possible": Deification Doctrine in Iamblichus and Three Eastern Christian Fathers

Bradshaw:Iamblichus is at pains to emphasize theurgic rite doesn't
operate on gods but rather is means by which gods execute their own will.

Coughlin on Iamblichus: The object of prayer is to raise the supplicant up towards the gods through what he calls "harmonious persuasion."
...Iamblichus identifies this harmonious persuasion with the source of the efficacy of all prayer and all ritual. “Theurgy, Prayer... "

DM p11 We will provide, in an appropriate manner, explanations proper to each, dealing in a theological mode with theological questions and in theurgical terms with those concerning theurgy, while philosophical issues we will join with you in explaining in philosophical terms.

DM p23 These classes of being, then, bring to completion as intermediaries the common bond that connects gods with souls, and causes their linkage to be indissolube. They bind together a single continuity from top to bottom, and render the communion of all things indivisible. They constitute the best possible blending and proportionate mixture for everything, contriving in pretty well equal measure a progression from the superior to the lesser, and a re-ascent from the inferior to the prior. They implant order and measure into the participation descending from the better and the receptivity engendered in less perfect beings, and make all things amenable and concordant with all others, as they receive from the gods on high the causal principles of all these things.

DM p29 it belongs to the soul to participate continuously in intelligible order and divine beauty

DM p39 To all these problems... the single best solution is to examine closely the mode of allotment of roles among the gods

The power of religion in late antiquity
By Andrew Cain, Noel Emmanuel Lenski ... p95
"even the perfect soul is imperfect with respect to divine activity"
DM 149.11-17 DM 47.11-48.3
p99 Iamblichus' solution to the challenge of advocating the theurgic subjugation of higher powers while seeking to avoid charges of magic was to draw a distinction between the proper, theurgic use of symbols and an illegitimate use of the kind made by "those who stand on characters."

DM 184.9-10 through arcane symbols, he, in certain respects, is invested with the sacred form of the gods"

p100 The theurgic process of spiritual elevation depends, just like prayer, on the grace (Xaris) of the gods. Johnston: theurgy is to be translated not as "working upon the gods" but "being worked upon by gods"

p102 Iamblichus argues that the divine is not forced into service through the theurgic ritual, but that it responds to the practitioner out of overflowing benevolence.
[this overflow is still part of the explanation in Dionysius]

Shaw Theurgy and the Soul p14 With a more consistent metaphysics Iamblichus succeeded in restructuring Plato's teachings in a way that preserved the mystical elements of Plotinus's soteriology without losing contact with the physical cosmos or society.

p17 For Iamblichus, the cosmos itself was the paradigmatic theurgy: the act of the gods continually extending themselves into mortal expression.

Birger A. Pearson "Theurgic Tendencies in Gnosticism and Iamblichus's Conception of Theurgy"
Neoplatonism and gnosticism
By Richard T. Wallis, International Society for Neoplatonic Studies
p255 "theurgy" does not mean "acting upon" or "creating" the gods. Theurgy involves, rather, the works (erga) of the gods (theoi); the emphasis is on divine, rather than human, activity... the "work" done in theurgic ritual is the work of the gods, even though it is performed by human beings.

Moshe Idel on Kabbalistic Theurgy + Magic

Idel Man as Possible Entity 42 [nice Alemanno passage on philosopher vs. Kabbalist]
"Let us come to wisdom and union only by the way of intellectual speculation or by sudden intuition, but not by magical actions, buildings, vessels, prayers, vain things and many dreams, things which are unfounded in the eyes of the philosophers, the men of intellect and reason... all the things we said are the words of the ancients who knew the nature of the existing beings, the relations between them, the way in which they are linked with one another and how to prepare a receptacle for the reception of the influence of the superior bodies... just as it would be strange for someone who does not know the manner of cultivation and plowing and planting and grafting that produce things in such a manner, it will be strange in our eyes, if we did not see the light of those preparations of how the divine light and his goodness and mercy will be born in use by means of these preparations that the powers and sefirot will receive and emanate. And if you had studied or believed the preparations of the masters of the forms and secondary natures and the contrivances of nature, your spirit will not be confused by anything I told you because it is holy.

Idel Kabbalah and Hermeticism...Page 75
Pico did not intend to marry or conjoin the two (magic and kabbalah) but rather to subjugate both to Christianity... it is less the consonance between Cabala and Magia that counts, but their independent confirmations of Christianity I would caution against presenting Pico's main innovation as the yoking of Kabbalah and magic, but see this link as one of many others, which should not be privileged in the general economy of Pico's thought. 87 The Christian version of Kabbalah is, therefore, not so much a way of experiencing reality and explaining the meaning of human action (as, in my opinion, Jewish Kabbalah was), but much more a kind of gnosis -- a collection of concepts explaining the map of the divine world. Thus, according to the Christian Kabbalists, an accomplished Kabbalist may be considered as an arch-philosopher more important than Plato or Hermes; but in principle this knowledge does not provide a guide to mystical experience in the present. 88 The view of Pico as the instigator of another tradition, of the thinker who married mysticism and magic and created an alternative cultural trend, seems to me to be a misapprehension. Pico himself conceived his activity as consonant with Christianity... his writings contain sufficient statements to evoke a picture of Pico as rather critical toward Kabbalah, intolerant toward the Jews, and quite conservative toward magic. He brought about the marriage between Magic and Kabbalah not because he strongly believed that they constituted an alternative intellectual current to the Catholic faith, but precisely because he was certain that his intellectual enterprise did indeed strengthen the latter.

Moshe Idel "On the Theologization of Kabbalah in Modern Scholarship" in Religious Apologetics- Philosophical Argumentation: Philosophical Argumentation.‎ - Page 146 by Yossef Schwartz, Volkhard Krech 146 For a Christian Kabbalist, Jewish Kabbalah at its best reflects Christian theology. For Pico della Mirandola, the main criterion of judging a certain speculative corpus is not its correspondence with other lores, but solely with Christian theology. In his fifth Kabbalistic thesis he declares that: "Every Hebrew Cabalist, following the principles and sayings of the science of the Cabalah, is inevitably forced to concede, without addition, omission, or variation, precisely what the Catholic faith of Christians maintains concerning the Trinity and every divine Person, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." (n.95) Thus, if to be accepted and studied, as indeed Pico did, Kabbalah must coincide with the tenets of Christianity. Then it could serve also as a missionary tool.

Moshe Idel, Kabbalah: New Perspectives

264 When used by Christian intellectuals, both the symbolic and the combinatory hermeneutics were employed in order to extract speculative religious or philosophical statements from the Scriptures rather to endorse a theurgic dromenon or an ecstatic experience

267 The theurgist had to concentrate both on the punctilious performances of the commandments and on their theurgic significance, and, according to some views, he had also to propel his energy, as structured by the acts he exercised, into the divine realm. In contrast to the ecstatic mystic, the theurgical Kabbalist fully activated both the spiritual and the corporeal components of his human existence, his activity thus becomes more comprehensive. Whereas the ecstatic kabbalist reduced man to his highest capacity alone, the theurgical one required the cooperation of all the variegated aspects of man in order to attain its goal.

262-263 A disentanglement of theosophy from theurgy recurred in the Christian version of Kabbalah…. One of the crucial differences between the original Kabbalistic texts and their perception by the Christian Kabbalists was the neutralization of the theurgical aspect, so central for the Jewish Kabbalah. It is easy to understand why such a neutralization was necessary before Kabbalah could be accepted into the Platonic-Pythagorean-Hermetic Renaissance synthesis. The working hypothesis of Marsilio Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, and Johannes Reuchlin was that the appraisal and proof of Christian truths could transpire through the variegated garbs of the ancient theologies and philosophies. Since these truths had also to be corroborated by Kabbalah, its uniquely Jewish component, halakhic theurgy, had to be annulled in its Christian version on the ground of the Christian abrogation of the commandments. Thus, R. Menahem Recanati, a prominent representative of the theurgical understanding of the commandments and simultaneously one of the pillars of the Christian Kabbalah, was quoted selectively by the Christian Kabbalists so as to serve as a mine of theosophical teachings and hermeneutics but not as a theurgical author. Kabbalah was thereby transformed into a gnosis, including esoteric theosophy, comparable to other similar ancient lores. I want to emphasize the importance of this metamorphosis of Kabbalah: some precious tones of this lore were lost in the Christian key.

161-166 theurgy as continuation of rabbinic notion... not different from

263 Jewish Kabbalah not only found its way into the Christian world as a "philosophy"; it was highly appreciated both as a style of speculation and as a repository of extremely important hermeneutics.

269 two types of Kabbalistic magic... First, under the influence of Hermetic elements, a conception of the halakhah as a powerful organon by which to attract the supernal powerss on man and the Temple was gradually elaborated by Jewish authors, culminating in the thought of Yohanan Alemanno. According to this conception, if natural magic is connected with natural sciences, such as agriculture and astonomy, supermagic depends on the knowledge of the supernatural science--Kabbalah. The perfect way to combine this higher gnosis with practice is by the Kabbalistic performance of the precise prescriptions of the halakhah. Man, therefore, does not disrupt the processes of natural causation, but transcends it by his consciousness and by the skillful employment of a higher order of causation that depends on the Sefirot. Halakhic man, conscious of the deeper meaning of his deeds, is a Kabbalistic archmagician. This magical interpretation of Jewish ritual was similar to its theurgical conception in its all-comprehensive nature, which envisioned every human act as potentially fraught with occult meanings. Whereas the theurgists were mainly interested in the divine harmony and power, however, Alemanno focused on the human ability to use them for the welfare of the terrestrial world.

Do symbols perfect the cosmos or only enform it?

Gregory Shaw Theurgy and the Soul p.164
Posing the question of what relation theurgic sunthemata have to the Platonic Forms, Andrew Smith acknowledges their similarity but distinguishes the sunthemata and sumbola by noting that they "perfect the cosmos rather than simply enform it." Smith explains that for Proclus the sunthemata tend to express more the anagogic than emanative power of the Forms, and he says this distinction is also present in the De Mysteriis where Iamblichus asserts the "analogy" but not identity between the sunthemata and the Forms.
Andrew Smith, Porphyry's Place in the Neoplatonic Tradition: A Study in Post-Plotinian Neoplatonism (1974)

Coughlin on Dionysian Theurgy

157bot the term theurgia and its cognates appear some 48 times in the Dionysian corpus, including 31 times in the EH.

158 Dionysius predominantly reserves the word theurgy itself for his descriptions of the work of God in human salvation. Thus Dionysius apparently does not use the word theurgy to refer directly to ritual actions performed by the members of the ecclesiastical, or "our," hierarchy as he calls it, has led some to rigidly limit Dionysius' understanding of theurgy to a description of "the divine acts"...However, this account does not take into consideration the larger range of meanings that theurgy denotes both in the Dionysian corpus and in the Neoplatonic tradition more generally. For example, Dionysius frequently refers to divine illumination as "theurgic lights" "theurgic knowledge" or "theurgic understanding;" he also uses the phrases "theurgic communion" "theurgic participation" "theurgic likeness" "theurgic virtues" and he refers to the sacred oil used for consecrating as "the most theurgic myron."

159 as each level of the hierarchy takes on the roles of purified and purifying, illuminated and illuminating, and perfected and perfecting, within the hierarchy "each will actually imitate God according to its role." (CH III.2 165BC) Dionysius reiterates this at the beginning of the EH: he says that having imitated our angelic superiors as much as possible and "illuminated by the understanding of visions, we shall be able to become consecrated and consecrators of this mystical knowledge, images of light; theurgic: perfected and ones who perfect." (EH I.1 372B) In this way theosis, the goal of all hierarchy and of theurgy, is each member's proportionately full participation in the divine activity.

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.

Pseudo-Dionysius and Theurgy


When Iamblichean theurgy is properly understood, the Christian theurgy of Dionysius may be seen as an example of the same kind of theurgy that Iamblichus defined in the De mysteriis.

Bradshaw "Aristotle East and West"

185 The theme of synergy with God appears repeatedly throughout these works. Because of its special closeness to God, the highest triad of angels "is especially worthy of communion and cooperation with God and of sharing the beauty of His condition and activities." CH VII.4 212A The activity of hierarchs is divinized by their leader, Christ, and the laying on of hands teaches clerics to perform their activities with God as their guide. (EH I.1 372B, V.3.3 512A) Such participation reaches even to the lowest rank, those being purified, for it is a general rule that every rank in a hierarchy is lifted up to synergy with God according to its proper degree. (CH III.3 168A see also the references to human synergy with th angels DN XI.5 953A and to that of the worshipping assembly with its hierarch EH II.2.4 393C) The most extended discussion of synergy is in Chapter 13 of the CH. There Dionysius asks why Scipture says that Isaiah was visited and puridied by a seraphim, whereas according to the order of the hierarchy the visitor ought to have been merely an angel. His answer is that the one who purified Isaiah actually was an angel, but that the angel properly and correctly attributed his work to "the highest rank of the hierarchy, since it is through the highest rank that the divine illumination is distributed to the lower. (CH XIII.3 301D-304B)" Dionysius goes on to point out that there is a similar causal dependence within the ecclesiastical hierarchy, in which priests and deacons correctly ascribe their own sacred activity to their hierarch. The seraphim is, as it were, the "primary hierarch" of the angel who purified Isaiah. (CH XIII.4 305C-D cf. EH V.1.7 508C)

103 the sacrament re-orders the soul disordered by embodiment and makes man a Christ.
(use with Pico on disordered soul/happiness)

110 With the sacramental system of Dionysius, we see a liturgy composed of the basic elements of the Eastern Church, described according to the phenomenology of theurgy. In the EH, Dionysius describes the progress from initiation to perfe tion most profoundly brough forth in the sacraments (teletai) of baptism and the eucharist. These particular sacraments each bring about a different level of participation, both of which are salvific, but only the perfecting sacrament of the eucharist completes man to make him a christ, or theorgos. As with theurgy according to Iamblichus and Proclus, Dionysian sacraments are efficacious only when they contain divine power - this power is harnessed by invoking the divine (in this case, the Holy Spirit), which comes down upon the matter of its own accord. The sacrament, moreover, works upon man once its materiality is re-ordered by divine power. This re-elementation, in turn, transfigures man when he had physically partaken of the material sacrament.

114 Sacraments work their power by re-arranging the soul's disorder and divinizing the human entity. This occurs because when the sacrament, which is truly God, is ingested or makes physical contact with man it intermingles with him. Dionysius explains that when the eucharist is consumed the disorder is ordered and the formless is enformed. With this, the soul is purufied and able to purify others, it is "formed of light', 'an initiate in God's works' (theourgikos). The divinized, perfect soul is a co-worker with God; it is a god itself. In 3seven2AB, Jesus uses theurgy to help us unify with the divine.

Theurgy, in the Dionysian sense as well as in the Neoplatonic, works by helping to assimilate those contemplating the divine with the divine. Here, the theurgy in question is Jesus' work as divinity, particularly his work in bestowing power appropriately so that we mimic the activity of the angels.

126 ...for even with this higher brand of theoria, ritual is still necessary for eliciting henosis. This is seen both in the angelic ranks, where primary contemplation is described as an 'initiation' by Jesus, and in the human realm, where the hierarch enters into mystical contemplation by the angels when he is fully initiated into the sacraments. Moral excellence is necessary for proper theoria--but this excellence is only part of the structure of initiation. The need to perform liturgies that are experienced is the mandate of henosis. This section will show that theoria as mystical contemplation is performative in function, very much as in the Neoplatonic theurgical tradition. Because the mystical contemplation of the hierarchs mimics angelic contemplation, this section will begin with an examination of angelic theoria. First and foremost, angelic ranks (the angelic hierachies) partake of a pure enlightenment because of their proximity to the One. Although all the angels are so called because they share a superior capacity to conform to the divine, ranks vary considerably in this power of divine conformity. This distinction in power means that those angels farther away from God rely on the first hierarchy of angelic beings for initiation into pure unification. We in the EH also receive light mediated through the connective angels. Our theoria, however, differs from that of lower angelic orders in that it begins with material symbols and has a limited performative function: primarily, theoria serves to purify us for higher unification which is hyper-noetic and non-discursive.

Based on the above-mentioned distinctions, angelic theoria is exhibited in nine different degrees according to the nine angelic orders. Although the ranks differ in degree of participation in the divine, generally the angelic orders are all characterized by a theomimetic thinking process (CH 180A). Just to expand on what was explained earlier, the three vertical ranks are divided again into three horizontal categories, equal in power. The ranks closer to God act as the initators of those less close and the last rank among the celestial beings are said to lack participation in the supreme powers.

Louth, Andrew. Denys the Areopagite
84 Denys' corrective to Neoplatonism

Denys, attracted by the subtlety of the Neoplatonic analysis of reality, must strive as a Christian to block off those aspects of the system that open the door to a doctrine of many gods. Denys does this in two ways... first, he qualifies the notion of emanation by insisting that being is derived from God alone; and secondly, he turns the doctrine of divine names into a doctrine of divine attributes (that is, attributes of God, the one God). Emanation, in a Neoplatonic sense, is a doctrine about the derivation of being; being derives from the One, but in the stream of emanated beings, each being receives from the one above it... creation is not restricted to the One, the whole realm of being that flows from the One is creative. Denys takes over the Neoplatonic idea of a scale of being, and also the idea that lower beings are dependent on higher beings, but he rejects any idea that being is passed down this scale of being: all beings are created immediately by God. The scale of being and the sense of dependence only has significance in the matter of illumination: light and knowledge flow from God down through the scale of being--each being becomes radiant with light and thus passes on light to beings lower down.

EH 429CD "[the theologians] teach that God himself thus gives substance and arrangement to everything that exists, including the legal hierarchy and society... they praise the divine works of Jesus the man ... and [they engage in] sacred writing about the divine songs, which have as an aim to praise all the divine words [theologiai] and divine works [theourgiai] and to celebrate the sacred words [hierologiai] and operations [hierourgiai] of sacred men, forms a universal song and exposition of divine things, granting to those chanting the sacred words sacredly the ability to receive and distribute the entire rite of the hierarchy."

Wear explains how this passage illuminates a difference between Iamblichan and Dionysian theurgy:
"This passage shows the difference between theourgia as the works of Jesus and hierourgia as the operations of sacred men, as well as the connection between the two: hierourgia is the ritual engagement and reproduction of theourgia. Iamblichus, in the De Mysteriis, on the other hand, presents theourgia as the work of men, albeit possibly only through the power of the gods, so that 'the theurgic priest, thorugh the power of ineffable emblems, commands the cosmic spirits, not as a human being (n.13) nor as one employing a human soul but existing above them in the order of the gods: but nonetheless, theurgic acts, according to Iamblichus, are performed by man, not God. Dionysian sacramental theology is thus fundamentally similar to Hellenic theourgia in that both use material symbola to harness divine energeia, but there is a subtle shift in terminology as between Dionysius and his Neoplatonic predecessors.

Naomi Janowitz
34 Dionysius the Areopagite, a fifth-century Christian theologian, offers a slightly modified theory of divine names; such names encode in themselves specific manifestations of the deity. He rejects the notion that divine names represent the deity iconically, which is familiar from Origen, but elaborates his own version of a special connection between a divine name and the deity. For him as well, divine names are far from arbitrary.

Theurgy and Renaissance Magic Bibliography (in progress)

Towards the paternal Harbour
Proclean theurgy and the contemplation of the Forms
Robert van den Berg

R. M. Van Den Berg
Proclus' hymns: essays, translations, commentary‎

"Proclus' Attitude to Theurgy"
Anne Sheppard
The Classical Quarterly, New Series, Vol. 32, No. 1 (1982), pp. 212-224

Iamblichus' De mysteriis: a manifesto of the miraculous‎
Emma C. Clarke

Theurgy and the Soul: The Neoplatonism of Iamblichus
by: Gregory Shaw

Iamblichus: De Mysteriis (Writings from the Greco-Roman World, V. 4.)
by: Iamblichus, Emma C. Clarke, John M. Dillon, Jackson P. Hershbell

J.dillon "Iamblichus' Defense of Theurgy: Some Reflections"
The International Journal of the Platonic Tradition 1 (2007) 30-41

The Greeks and the Irrational by: E. R. Dodds

Gregory Shaw "After Aporia: Theurgy in Later Platonism" in
Gnosticism and Later Platonism: Themes, Figures, and Texts (SBL Symposium Series, No. 12.)
by: John D. Turner, Ruth Dorothy Majercik

Offering to the Gods: a Neoplatonic perspective.(Critical essay)
Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft | June 22, 2007 | Butler, Edward P. |

Sarah Iles Johnston "Rising to the Occasion: Theurgic Ascent in its cultural mileu" in Envisioning Magic

ed. Schafer, Kippenberg

Riders in the Sky: Cavalier Gods and Theurgic Salvation in the Second Century A.D.
Sarah Iles Johnston
Classical Philology, Vol. 87, No. 4 (Oct., 1992), pp. 303-321

Witchcraft and magic in Europe: Ancient Greece and Rome
By Bengt Ankarloo, Stuart Clark

G. Luck, "Theurgy and Forms of Worship in Neo- platonism," in Religion, Science and Magic: In Concert and

in Conflict, ed. Jacob Neusner

Luck, G. (1985). Arcana Mundi: Magic and the Occult in the Greek and Roman Worlds.

Naomi Janowitz
Icons of Power: Ritual Practices in Late Antiquity (University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2002)

The Chaldean oracles: text, translation, and commentary‎
Julianus (the Theurgist.), Ruth Dorothy Majercik - Philosophy - 1989

Hans Lewy The Chaldean Oracles and Theurgy

Garth Fowden The Egyptian Hermes

Pseudo-Dionysius and Theurgy
Shaw, Gregory, "Neoplatonic Theurgy and Dionysius the Areopagite"
Journal of Early Christian Studies - Volume 7, Number 4, Winter 1999, pp. 573-599

Dionysius the Areopagite and the Neoplatonist Tradition (Ashgate Studies in Philosophy & Theology in Late

Antiquity) by: Sarah Klitenic Wear and John Dillon

Coughlin, Rebecca. “Theurgy, Prayer, Participation, and Divinization in Dionysius the Areopagite.”

Dionysius 24 (2006): 149-174.

Burns 'Proclus and the Theurgic liturgy of Dionysius', Dionysius 22 (2004), 111–132.

The theurgical self: The theological anthropology of the Pseudo-Dionysius
by: Hotz, Kendra G., Ph.D.

Carine Van Liefferinge, La Théurgie des Oracles Chaldaïques à Proclus. Kernos Supplément 9. Liège: Centre International d'Étude de la Religion Grecque Antique, 199. Pp. 319. ISBN (ISSN) 0776-3824. EUR 40.00. reviewed here

Theurgy in Kabbalah

Kabbalah: New Perspectives by Moshe Idel

Bernd Roling "The Complete Nature of Christ: Sources and Structures of a Christological Theurgy in

the works of Johannes Reuchlin
in The metamorphosis of magic from late antiquity to the early modern
by Jan N. Bremmer, Jan R. Veenstra - 2002

Wolfson, Elliot R
Abraham Abulafia - Kabbalist & Prophet: Hermeneutics,Theosophy,Theurgy

Wolfson, Elliot R
"Language, Secrecy, and the Mysteries of Law: Theurgy and the Christian Kabbalah of Johannes Reuchlin,"

Kabbalah: A Journal for the Study of Jewish Mystical Texts 13 (2005): 7-41.

Seth Lance Brody, "Human hands dwell in heavenly heights: Worship and mystical experience in thirteenth century Kabbalah" (January 1, 1991). Dissertations available from ProQuest. Paper AAI9211913.

The Enlightened Will Shine: Symbolization and Theurgy in the Later Strata of the Zohar (S U N Y Series in

by: Pinchas Giller

Copenhaver, Brian P. “Number, Shape, and Meaning in Pico’s Christian Cabala: The Upright Tsade, The Closed Mem, and the Gaping Jaws of Azazel,” in Natural Particulars: Nature and Disciplines in Renaissance Europe, edited by Anthony Grafton and Nancy Siraisi (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1999), 25–76.

Peter Struck
"Pagan and Christian Theurgies: Iamblichus, Pseudo-Dionysius, Religion and Magic in Late
Antiquity," Ancient World 32.2 (2001): 25-38.
"Iamblichus, De Mysteriis, book 1," introduction, translation, and notes, in Religions of Late Antiquity
in Practice, ed. Richard Valantasis (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000), pp. 489-505.

also forgot to mention useful articles about John Dee and medieval theurgy in
John Dee: interdisciplinary studies in English Renaissance thought - Google Books Result
by Stephen Clucas - 2006

and there's also Deborah Harkness' book on Dee's angel magic (reviewed here)

Is theurgy religion or magic? Or both?

Majercik quotes Smith on theurgy
"Men are involved in the operation of ritual or divine action, but it is the Divine which achieves results"
Theurgy as praxis, then, can be distinguished from theology as speculation, but how are we to distinguish theurgy fro magic, which it more closely resembles? Is theurgy simply a form of "white" or "good" magic, in contrast to the "black" or "evil" magic associated with the name goeteia, as some scholars have suggested? Yes and no. Theurgy certainly appropriates many of the techniques familiar to the magician, but its purpose is quite different... theurgy has a specific religious or salvific end, namely, the purification and salvation of the soul. In addition, and most importantly, theurgy emphasizes a passive attitude towards the gods (with the gods taking the initiative), whereas magic involves coercing or forcing the gods against their will... If magic is to be defined essentially as coercion, then theurgy can no longer by confused with magic, as both its intent (the salvation of the soul) and effect (a passive relation with the gods) are counter to magical practice as it is commonly understood. Theurgy, therefore, should be regarded basically as a religious phenomenon, albeit one that is comfortable with the outward forms of magic.
22-23 The Chaldean Oracles: Text, Translation and Commentary

Gersh thought theurgy not different from magic
From Iamblichus to Eriugena p.293

Copenhaver on Iamblichus and Hermetic Theurgy
Hermetica: the Greek Corpus Hermeticum and the Latin Asclepius in a new ...‎ - Page 201
Brian P. Copenhaver - Fiction - 1995 Iamblichus writes about the "way" (hodon) revealed by Hermes, discovered by the "prophet" Bitys and interpreted for Kind Ammon, and he mentions this just after having asserted of Egyptian theology that "they certainly do not just speculate about these things; they recommend rising up toward the higher and more universal levels through priestly theurgy." What precedes Iamblichus' remark about the transmission of theurgy is a mixture of metaphysics, magic and theology; following it is a discussion of psychology and determinism. Given this remarkable transition, Fowden interprets the material from Iamblichus as "the crucial allusion to theurgical Hermetica" and concludes that "these texts were not dissimilar to the philosophical Hermetica known to us."


To Proclus, theurgy is not a short-cut to God. -Lucas Siorvanes

Brian Copenhaver:
Proclus... was no fatuous theosophist. His theory of magic was a serious philosophical undertaking. "Natural Magic, Hermeticism, and Science"

Proclus in PT V.34 p.101 explains that the divine monadic numbers, more simple than Forms, exist ontologically prior to intelligible entities. As with sacrament, these numbers are both one and many. Theurgy, when it employs these numbers, takes part in monadic sympathy to effect ineffable rites. Metaphysically, numbers exhibit a creative ability -- the monadic numbers create the universe when they emanate into infinit. Later in the same passage, Proclus shows that monadic numbers also have an anagogic power. Because the monadic number is beyond all intelligible number, it collects numbers into itself--it elevates souls from things 'apparent', i.e. intelligible number. "Pseudo-Dionysius and the Neoplatonic Tradition" p.105 n.21

Rebecca Coughlin (article on Dionysius and Iamblichean theurgy)
155 Proclus, Pl.Th. I 25 (113) "Through these [love, truth, and belief] all is saved and is joined together with the primary causes, that is through erotic madness, divine philosophy, and theurgic power. This last is more powerful than all human wisdom and knowledge, having gathered together the good of the prophetic and the purifying powers of the perfection of the rites, and equally all activities of divine possession.
155 For Proclus, theurgic activity consists in all aspects of human connection with the divine. It emcompasses prophecy, purification, ritual, and all things derived from contact with the divine. After enumerating the tasks and modes of theology Proclus says that "he who is revealing the same truth of the gods according to itself by divine inspiration is most clearly among the highest of the theurgists." (Pl.Th. I 4 (20)
157 Shaw maintains that both Smith and Sheppard reduce Neoplatonic theurgy "to a mysticism imagined as progressive mental abstraction, denying materiality and corporeality to advanced degrees of spiritual union." ("Theurgy" 10)...

Iamblichus' distinction between Theurgy and Theology

Iamblichus's distinction between theurgy and theology is crucial for understanding his Platonism. For theology was merely logos, a "discourse about the gods," and however exalted, it remained a human activity, as did philosophy. Theurgy, on the other hand, was a theion ergon, a "work of the gods" capable of transforming man to a divine status. Although the term theourgia originated with second-century Platonists to describe the deifying power of Chaldean rituals--some of which were believed to be transmitted by the soul of Plato himself--it was Iamblichus who provided a philosophic rationale for the performance of these rites and ensured that theurgy would become an integral part of the Platonic vocabulary. In Platonic terms, theurgy fulfilled the goal of philosophy understood as a homoiosis theo. The rituals themselves, Iamblichus explained, varied according to the capacities of its participants, and though he provided little information about particulars, it is clear that many "theurgic" rites were already well known to the Hellenic world. In the hands of Iamblichus, theurgy represented a revaluation of traditional cult practices. Iamblichus maintained that the divine principles invoked in these rites were exemplified abstractly and theoretically in the teachings of Pythagoras, Plato, and Aristotle, and that both cultic acts and philosophic paideia were rooted in one source: the ineffable power of the gods. In theurgy these divine principles were embodied and enacted, not merely contemplated, and in whatever context this occurred it was a "work of the gods," a theourgia in which the human soul participated both as recipient and beneficiary.
-Gregory Shaw, "Theurgy and the Soul"