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Iamblichus-On Prayer

Arild Rosenkrantz_Divine Light


Today’s sharing from the Blue House of HYGEIA is a quote in chapter 6 from Tim Addey’s ‘The Unfolding Wings’, pages 97, 98,99 and 100. Prometheus Press Trust_2011. Second Edition.


Prayer is a badly misunderstood activity today. Properly speaking, it is simply the communion between beings of different levels of consciousness, and especially a movement of conversion towards those of a higher level of being. In this communion providential giving takes place from the higher to the lower; but this is not the primary object of communion, nor should it be the primary object of prayer. The childish habit of using prayers only to ask favours of the higher powers-let alone the ignorant attempt to bargain with them-reduces the essential element of communion and thus diminishes prayer to its least possible level of reality. But when the soul enters the true prayer state, she takes her place in the order of the Good. This is what Iamblichus writes concerning prayer:

“Since, however, prayers are not the smallest (but on the contrary a very great) part of sacrifices, especially give completion to them, and through these the whole operation of them affords a common utility to religion, and produce an indissoluble and sacred communion with the Gods, it will not be improper to discuss a few particulars concerning prayer. For this is of itself a thing worthy to be known, and renders more perfect the science concerning the Gods.

I say, therefore, that the first species of prayer is collective, and that it is also the leader of contact with, and a knowledge of, divinity.

The second species is the bond of concordant communion, calling forth, prior to the energy of speech, the gifts imparted by the Gods, and perfecting the whole of our operations prior to our intellectual conceptions.

And the third and most perfect species of prayer is the seal of ineffable union with the divinities, in whom it establishes all the power and authority of prayer; and thus, causes the soul to repose in the Gods, as in a never-failing port.

But from these three terms, in which all the divine measures are contained, suppliant, adoration not only conciliates to us the friendship of the Gods, but supernally extends to us three fruits, being as it were three Hesperian apples of gold. The first of these pertains to illumination, the second, to a communion of operation; but through the energy of the third, we receive a perfect plenitude of divine fire. And sometimes, indeed, supplication precedes, like a precursor preparing the way before the sacrifice appears. But some times it intercedes as a mediator, and sometimes accomplishes the end of sacrificing. No operations, however, in sacred concerns, can succeed without the intervention of prayer.

Lastly, the continual exercise of prayer nourishes the vigour of our intellect, and renders the receptacle of the soul far more capacious for the communication of the Gods. It likewise is the divine key, which opens to men the penetralia of the Gods; accustoms us to the splendid rivers of supernal light; in short time perfects our inmost recesses, and disposes them for the ineffable embrace and contact of the Gods; and does not desist till it raises us to the summit of all.

It also gradually and silently draws upward the manners of our soul, by divesting them of every thing foreign to a divine nature., and clothes us with the perfections of the Gods. Besides this, it produces an indissoluble communion and friendship with divinity, nourishes a divine love, and inflames the divine parts of the soul. Whatever is of an opposing and contrary nature in the soul, it expiates and purifies; expels whatever is prone to generation, and retains any thing of the dregs of mortality in the etherial and splendid spirit; perfects a good hope and faith concerning the reception of divine light; and, in one word, renders those by whom it is employed the familiars and domestics of the Gods.

If such, then, are the advantages of prayer, and such its connexion with sacrifice, does it not appear from hence that the end of sacrifice is a conjunction with the Demiurgus of the world? And the benefit of prayer is of the same extent with the good which is conferred by the demiurgic causes of the race of mortals.

Again, from hence the ‘anagogic’, perfective, and replenishing power of prayer appears; likewise, how it becomes efficacious and unific; and how it possesses a common bond imparted by the Gods.

And in the third and last place, it may easily be conceived from hence how prayer and sacrifice mutually corroborate and confer on each other a sacred and perfect power in divine concerns.

Hence, since it appears that there is a perfect conspiration and cooperation of the sacerdotal discipline with itself, and that the part of it are more connascent than those of any animal, being entirely conjoined through one connexion; this being the case, it is not by any means proper to neglect this concord, not to admit some of its parts and reject others; but it fit that all of them should be exercised in a similar manner, and that those should be perfected through all of them who wish to be genuinely conjoined to the Gods.”

(On the Mysteries, V,26)

Prayer moves us closer to deity, as Iamblichus thus shows us, and the divine depth of our being is awakened from its slumber caused by our oblivion in matter. As prayer move from the first illuminating kind which collects our previously scattered knowledge into one; through the second kind by which the providential energies of the Gods become a living power within us; to the third kind in which repose in union with the Gods; so is the image of the ever-bright Immortal born within the soul as a permanent possession.


Iamblichus-On Prayer

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