Theurgy & Philosophy
Frontispiece of Jules Ravier’s ‘Lueurs Spirituelles’, Volume III. Paris_1934.
Today’s sharing from the Blue House of HYGEIA is a quote in Chapter 6 from Tim Addey’s ‘The unfolding Wings’, pages 89, 90 and 91. Prometheus Press Trust.2011. Second Edition.
“He does not know God who does not worship him”.
Sextus the Pythagorean
Theurgy, literally ‘work of the Gods’, ‘working with the Gods’ or ‘divine work’ (θεος, theos, god and υργος, urgos, work), is an integral part of the Platonic tradition; but because our knowledge of it has passed down through both the Christian era and the more recent so-called ‘rational’ one-both of which are largely opposed to the idea of worshipping pagan gods-it is an aspect of our tradition which is little understood or studying. This is greatly to be regretted because in truth it holds the key to the full understanding of philosophy, and brings the student of the deepest mysteries to the very portal of perfection.
We have seen (in the chapter about ‘Arete’) that Damascius (Commentary on the ‘Phaedrus’, I,144) places a final level of virtue above the paradigmatic, which he calls the ‘hieretic’: this level is concerned with the soul in direct relationship with the Henads or Gods from which the whole universe, intellectual and material, is suspended, and through which we are converted back to The One. In the paradigmatic virtues the soul is immersed, as it were in the light of the intellect and is united with the intelligible; but the intelligible itself is converted to its source which is unity- and thus the soul, too, by the power of intellect follows the procession of the Gods through the arch of Heaven.
For in the ‘Phaedrus’, this is the attempt which the human soul makes before she has control of her vehicle, and in which her wings are damaged so she falls to earth: but by due exercise of her faculties and by intensity of her love for the beautiful which she saw in her first flight across the arch of Heaven she is restored to the divine procession with renewed wings. And as Plato says, this restoration is more readily obtained by “the soul of one who has philosophized sincerely, or together with philosophy has loved beautiful forms. These, indeed, in the third period of a thousand years, if they have thrice chosen this mode of life in succession and thus restored their wings to their natural vigour, shall in the three thousandth year, fly away to their pristine abode”. (‘Phaedrus’, 249a).
In this loving pursuit of Beauty, each soul, says Plato, “honours the God, round whom he harmoniously resolves, and imitates his life as much as possible, and as long as he remains free from corruption: and after this manner he lives here his first generation, and associates with, and conducts himself towards, his beloved and others. Everyone, therefore, chooses the love of beauty after his own fashion, and, as if he considered it with respect to himself a God, he fabricates and adorns it like a statue, and as that which is the object of his adoration and sacrifice.” This passage hints at two important truths:
Firstly, it suggests that every soul has a relationship with a particular god “around which he harmoniously resolves”. This idea is taken up in one of the fragments of the ‘Chaldean Oracles’ which says: “Inquire after the ray of the soul, wherefrom she descended in a certain order to serve the body and how thou, having combined the ritual act with the holy word, shalt lead her again upwards to her ordered place.” (Majercick, fragment 110, page 8). In other words, the soul is descended from a particular God, to whose order she belongs; that she descends to extend the characteristics of that God to the world of body; that by combining sacred act (through symbolic theurgy) with sacred word (through symbolic philosophy) the soul once again ascends to her ruling God.
Secondly, the honouring of a God is essentially a matter of our imitating as far as possible that divinity: this is the secret of both intelligent worship and the creative life. In worship. Whether it be in formal ritual, or in the greater worship in which all the actions, words and thoughts of our life become a harmoniously God-directed whole, the key is to remove that which prevents our perfect imitation of divinity, and to intensify that which manifests that divine power which we possess by virtue of our having sprung from the God. Most of all, the beauty of the God or Goddess from whom we are thrown into the myriad worlds of the universe like sparks from a fire must be loved in the way which is after the fashion of the divinity: only by this path of divine love are we able to give birth to the true virtue and, we will “become a favourite of the Gods and at length would be, if any man ever be, one of the immortals” in the words of Diotima (Socrates’ teacher).