Hierocles of Alexandria-About Purification
Das Klingende Licht-Bo Yin Ra
Today’s sharing from the Blue House of HYGEIA is about ‘Purification according to Hierocles’- Introduction, part I-Page 114-115-116, from Hermann Schibli’s translation, study and publication of Hierocles the philosopher’s extant works (the Commentaries on the Golden Verses and the ‘On Providence’, Oxford University Press_2002.
From the Introduction, Part I-Page 114-115-116.
‘…’The Golden Verses instruct the ‘cosgnoscenti’ of Pythagorean symbols not only about the practice of virtue and truth but also about the purification of the luminous body, the ‘fine vehicle’ spoken of in the ‘Chaldean Oracles’, Hierocles indicates that the symbols point beyond the ethical, dietary, and philosophical maxims of ancient Pythagoreanism to embrace the variety of material things (υλων παντοδαπων, ylon pantodapon) used sacramentally in the Chaldean rites. The end in view was clearly enunciated by Iamblichus:
“Symbolic instruction (συμβολικη διδαχη, symvoliki didachi) through the fullness of its gifts wishes to reveal the one God, and through its manifold powers to present his unique power.”
To cleanse our luminous body Hierocles prescribes that we put off the pollution arising from matter, take up sacred purifications and ‘the strength that binds to god, which rouses us to soar aloft from here’. ‘The strength that binds to god’ (θεοσυνδετος αλκη, theosyndetos alki) is cited again a few lines further on together with sacred purification as factors that lead to the ‘deliverance of the soul’ (λυσις ψυχης, lysis psychis) spoken of in the ‘Golden Verses’ (XXVI 3 _17-25)). The expression: θεοσυνδετος αλκη appears to be borrowed from the ‘Chaldean Oracles’, where ‘strength’ (αλκη) occurs frequently, as a quasi-technical term. There it is also called a ‘triple-barbed strength’ (αλκη τριγλωχις, alki triglochis) which armours intellect and soul, ‘the entire token of the triad’ (παν τριαδος συνθημα, pan triados synthima) that the theurgist receives in his mind as focusing device for his ascent to the empyrean.
Like the ‘symbola’ sown by the paternal intellect in the cosmos, αλκη signifies a divinely given, elevating power of which the soul may avail itself after having submitted to the theurgic lustrations of its vehicle. In this connection, by the Byzantine philosopher Psellus is worth quoting:
“The Chaldean says that we cannot be borne up to god, unless we strengthen the vehicle of the soul through material rites (δια των υλικων τελετων, dia ton ylikon teleton). For he belives that tnhe soul is purified by stones, herbs, and conjurations in order to become well wheeled (ευτροχον, eftrochon) for the ascent.”
The Chaldean system here outlined corresponds to that of Hierocles, for whom the ‘strength that binds to god’ follows similarly upon the sacred purifications that are accomplished through all sorts of material rites.
There are, strictly speaking, two methods of purification in Hierocles’ system, one proper for the rational soul, one for its luminous body, though both methods, as we will see, are mutually dependent:
“The purification of the rational soul are the mathematical sciences, and elevating deliverance (αναγωγος λυσις, anagogos lysis) is the dialectical revelation of being (διαλεκτικοη των οντων εποπτεια, dialektiki ton onton epopteia).
Hierocles adopts the Platonic program, followed also by Plotinus, that recommends mathematics and dialectics for elevating the soul from the sensible world to the realm of Ideas. But in a signal, Iamblichean-inspired revision of Plato and Plotinus he declares that mathematical and dialectical purifications alone do not suffice, since prescriptions must also be made for the vehicle of the soul:
“Therefore, upon the received precepts for the soul in regard to its purification and deliverance, must be imposed analogous one for the luminous body as well. Surely then it is necessary that telestic rites go along with mathematical purifications and that ‘hieratic elevation’ accompany the deliverance wrought by dialectics.”
Hierocles in effect puts the whole process of the vehicle’s purification and the telestic rites applied to it under the heading of ‘hieratic elevation’- ιερατικοη αναγωγη, ieratikoi anagogi. This term, significantly, may be said to summarize the Chaldean tradition of theurgy as well. It entails all the theurgic operations, some of which we have described, that served the soul in its ascent and helped to secure its immortality. This leaves no doubts that Hierocles fully subscribed to the Chaldean doctrines of theugic elevation.’