Proclus Diadochus (410/412 - 485 c.e.) was the last of the great Platonic teachers. Born in Constantinople into a well-off family, he was sent to Alexandria for schooling and was taught philosophy by the Aristotlean philosopher Olympiodorus the Elder, and mathematics by Heron (not to be confused with a more famous mathematician of the same name). It seemed he was not satisfied there, for w hile still a teenager he moved from Alexandria to Athens where he studied at Plato's Academy under the philosophers Plutarch and Syrianus. He was soon teaching at the Academy, and succeeded Syrianus as administrator of the Athenian School, eventually becoming director, a position he held for the rest of his life. The title Diadochus was given to him at this time, the meaning of the word being successor.
As well as being a poet, philosopher, and scientist, Proclus was also an exponent of religious universalism. He believed the true philosopher should pay homage to the gods of all nations, becoming "a priest of the entire universe." He was initiated into a number of mystery schools, composed hymns to the gods, fasted in honor of the Egyptian divinities, practiced theurgy, and opposed Christianity with it's expectation of the end of the world. He was a vegetarian, never married, and was very highly regarded by his contemporaries. His student and biographer Marinus of Samaria stated that he was inspired, and that when philosophizing his countenance shone with preternatural light. Aside from his commentaries on the works of Plato, the most important of Proclus's surviving works are Elements of Theology, a systematic evaluation of Neoplatonic metaphysics, and the Platonic Theology.
As with his predecessors, Proclus taught the existence of an ultimate, indescribable reality, the One. The One is the originator of all things and is equivalent to the Good. The highest level of reality subsists in an objective mind of the One (compare this with Indian Vedanta). From the One all other realities, including gods, daimons, humanity and the material universe, are produced by a process of emanation. The further removed from the One something is, the less real it is.
Proclus took the complex metaphysics of Iamblichus to even greater lengths. He replaced Iamblichus' distinction of Noetic and Psychic worlds with a complex six-fold classification of One-Being-Life-Nous-Soul-Body. These various principles are described as the higher causes of the lower creation. According to Proclus, the higher in the scale of being a principle is, the further downwards its influence extends [Dodds, Iamblichus, p.236]. This can be represented diagrammatically as follows:
The One (Unity) ------------------------- | Being ----------------------------- | | | Life ------------------------ | | | | | Nous ------------------ | | | | | | | Soul (Reason) --------- | | | | | | | | Animals <---------------- | | | | | | Plants <---------------------- | | | | Inanimate bodies <------------------ | | Hyle (Formless Matter) <------------------
This idea of the lower principles as inverted reflection of the higher appears elsewhere; for example in the cosmology of Sri Aurobindo and (in non-inverted order) the sequence of planes and principles in Theosophy.
Proclus, like his teacher Syrianus, identifies the Demiurge (the Creator God,
the father and maker of the universe) with the divine Nous. He used
theurgical ritual, based on this sympatheia, to attract
intermediate beings known as leader-gods (
hoi hègemonikoi theoi).
Whereas the Demiurge who contains the causes in an unified manner, is
characterized by sameness (
tauton), the leader-gods are characterized by
homoiotès) which is a lesser degree of unity (i.e. similarity
rather than identity). These beings, as Proclus explains "fasten
themselves through likeness to their causes, which are contained in the
Demiurge, and lift up and unfold all things it in this demiurgical unity,"
including "the blessed souls among us, who are lifted up away from the
wanderings in the world of becoming towards their own source."
Proclus used theurgical hymns and ritual, based on
(equivalent to what in modern hermeticism
is called the law of
correspondence), to attract the leader-gods in order to be elevated towards
the Nous. See the The Proclus Home
Page for a more indepth coverage. It is fascinating to note the
similarities with the late 19th century Hermetic Order of
the Golden Dawn occult-magickal system, and in all subsequent Western
|Links - Proclus||
Proclus Page at the Shrine of the Goddess Athena - includes, biography, list of works, introduction to Elements of Theology. An introduction The Theology of Plato is in the works. Excellent
The Proclus Home Page at Leiden University - Towards the paternal Harbour - Proclean theurgy and the contemplation of the Forms - quite technical but rewarding ad worth the effort. An excellent rare source of information on Procline doctrine and theurgy.
Proclus Diadochus - a detailed and informative biography
Spira Solaris, The Chaldean Oracles, Proclus, and Johannes Kepler by John N. Harris - examines the role played by the Chaldean Oracles in influencing Proclus, and the connection between the latter, The Harmonies of the World, and the Harmonic Law "conceived on the eighth day of the third month in the year 1618" by Johannes Kepler [1571-1630 CE].
Proclus - a very short summary of life & teachings by Marda Kaiser, from the Ecole Initaive
Proclus Diadochus - Elements of Theology - short note on the history and translation of this important text
Proclus - short bio
The Life of Proclus or Concerning Happiness, by Marinus of Samaria - very short summary - giving useful biographical details. This book is currently out of print
Proclus Diadochus On the Sacred Art. with commentary by Stephen Ronan. A beautiful piece which explains the theurgic understanding of the "spiritual mechanics" behind religious ritual.
Proclus Diadochus On the Signs of Divine Possession. with commentary by Stephen Ronan A brief but essential extract from Proclus which illuminates how the ancients understood the phenomena of trance and possession.
Quotations by Proclus on geometry and mathematics
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