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A Remembrance of Apollonius of Tyana – Triptych

Parc de Versailles, Rond-Point des Philosophes. Apollonios de Tyane par Barthélémy de Mélo (1685-1687), marbre.


A wandering philosopher, probably representing Apollonius of Tyana, who lived a part of his life in Crete and died there. Found in Gortyn (late 2nd century AD), now in Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Crete.

Part 1

About the Philosophical Life

– ‘‘ Egyptian Wise Men, he said to them, know that if I came until here, it is not to ask you advice upon the life style I should prefer; my choice was made a long time ago. I am by the way, Thespesion aside, much older than you all, and I would be more in a situation to give you advice on the choices to make between the wisdoms, if yours wouldn’t be made also. As for me, I only had to choose between two wisdoms. Philosophy enabled me to see through all the philosophical schools. All seemed to me beautiful, under a certain aspect, and all by highlighting their particular charms, were trying to lure me. But only one, the philosophy of the divine Pythagoras, motivated me in my choice. Modest, silent, she was standing aside discreetly.

– ‘Young man’, she said, ‘I am not ostentatious, I delight only in austerity. In fact, when an adept embraces my law, he withdraws from his table every food that had breath and life, relinquishes the wine that clouds the pure shine of the serene wisdom and rejects the clothes made with the hair and wool of animals. His shoes are made with tree bark, and he sleeps on spot where ever he finds himself. Finally, evaluate my severity by the fact that I am the only one of all the schools to condemn its student to silence. Do you want to know now what you will gain from chaining your tongue to follow me? You will gain to be just and temperate, to not find anybody worthy of envy, to be dreaded by the tyrants instead of fearing and being enslaved by them, being more pleasant to the gods in giving simple offerings than those who make the bulls’ blood flow. In purifying yourself I will give you the knowledge of the future, I will clear your eyes so that you could recognize a god, distinguish a demon and chase away easily the ghosts that trouble your imagination.’

This is, Wise Men of Egypt, the life that I have chosen.’’


Part 2

Apollonius Of Tyana, engraving from the Mary Evans  Library.


‘Apollonius says this: ‘The ancient wise men expressed themselves through symbols, and through these symbols they have suggested many meanings of which they gave the name of ‘revelations’, in the meaning that the Philosophers were ‘revealing’ them to their disciples; and therefore this is how one of them made to us this revelation. It is upon these many meanings that they based the configuration of their symbols. To this revelation belonged this creed they taught regarding the nature of the art that we are dealing with here.

Of course, God also made ‘revelations’ to some of his prophets and they also gave the name ‘revelations’ to the teaching they were providing to their disciples under the form of ‘symbols’.

The intention of the Philosophers acting in this manner was to maintain these hieratic sciences hidden from the unworthy layman, because if these teachings were to be disclosed publicly, a great disorder in the human affairs would follow from beginning to the end. The hieratic science that we are dealing with here deserves to be spared and that we look after it by preserving it through a strict discipline from the layman who is not worthy of the arcana. This is why the Philosophers said it was a knowledge provided through divine revelation.

Some of them composed books about this hieratic science, for their own use. The idea of Return and the knowledge of the place of the Return was, in fact, part of their revelations. Of course, they could not conceive an alteration of the world of above; because it was the world of above itself, because corruption could not happen but only by the permutation of the modalities of the world of below; and this because the world of below consisted as an impression regarding the very generation and corruption, becoming and dissolution, from the very source of its own genesis as such. It was a firm creed they taught in saying: ‘We will come back, we will start all over again, we will come back to life, but after a long period of an undisclosed time.’ This is why what they have written were books for their own use (because they would find them again one day), and these books containing the revelations were part of the esoteric secrets, preserved and hidden. They weren’t disclosing them and were only revealing them to the disciples they knew of the sincerity, the trustworthy loyalty and the religious spirit.

And in this corpus of creeds they were teaching there was this one: The seven wandering stars (the planets), considered in their aspects and the influence they exert, have an active participation into everything of this world. This is what shows us the clues, the remains or signatures. One has, at the exclusion of the others, a privileged influence upon certain things to which they impose their strength. This is how some correspondences were given as follows: To the Sun, gold; to the Moon, silver; to Saturn, lead; to Jupiter, tin; to Mars, iron; to Mercury, quicksilver; to Venus, copper.’


Part 3

Apollonius of Tyana. Engraving by Francis Cleyn. Wellcome Collection Gallery.

Aspects about the Creation of the World

‘…How many elements do you believe, Apollonius the world is composed of ? Of four?’

– ‘No. Of five. After water, air, earth and fire, ether exists as a fifth element. The gods were born of the ethereal light, as everything that is ether is immortal.’

– ‘And which is the oldest of the elements?’

– ‘They are all equally ancient, because no animal produces itself in fragments.’

– ‘Should I consider the world as an animal?’

– ‘Yes, because it is it that produces everything that has breath and life.’

– ‘Would we call it male or female, or should we say it has both in itself?’

– ‘We say it has both, because by impregnating itself, it is at the same time the father and mother of all animals. And, because every animal has its internal moving principle and life, the world also has a soul animating it and maintaining justice and harmony between the parts that are born and those that are decaying. How ever large it may be, this animal lets itself easily rule like a huge nave. God is the pilot, and all the other gods are mandated by him to rule the diversity of all its parts. Under the rule of one, there is in the world a multitude of gods, and these gods whom the poets place in the heavens, the earth, the sea, the rivers, the fountains, unite through their own action the great All to itself, guarding and maintaining it.’



Part 1:

From Mario Meunier’s ‘Apollonius of Tyana’, Grasset, Paris. 1936.

Part 2:

From Henri Corbin‘s ‘Alchemy as a Hieratic Art’. L’Herne.1986.

Opening of Apollonius of Tyana’s book, ‘The Book of the Seven Statues’

as preserved and commented by Aydamor Jaldaki (XIV century).

Part 3:

From Mario Meunier’s ‘Apollonius of Tyana’,

Grasset, Paris. 1936.


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Apollonios of Tyana


Parc de Versailles, Rond-Point des Philosophes. Apollonius de Tyane par Barthélémy de Mélo (1685-1687), marbre.
A Remembrance of Apollonius of Tyana – Triptych

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