Proclo: Teologia de Platão I-III

All, therefore, that have ever touched upon theology, have called things first, according to nature, Gods; and have said that the theological science is conversant about these. And some, indeed, have considered a corporeal essence, as that alone which has any existence, and have placed in a secondary rank with respect to essence, all the genera of incorporeal natures, considering the principles of things as having a corporeal form, and evincing that the habit in us by which we know these, is corporeal. But others, suspending indeed all bodies from incorporeal natures, and defining the first hyparxis1 to be in soul, and the powers of soul, call (as appears to me) the best of souls, Gods; and denominate the science which proceeds as far as to these, and which knows these, theology. But such as produce the multitude of souls from another more ancient principle, and establish intellect as the leader of wholes, these assert that the best end is a union of the soul with intellect, and consider the intellectual form of life as the most honorable of all things.

They doubtless too consider theology, and the discussion of intellectual essence, as one and the same. All these, therefore, as I have said, call the first and most self-sufficient principles of things, Gods, and the science respecting these, theology.

The divine narration, however, of Plato alone, despises all corporeal natures, with reference to principles. Because, indeed, everything divisible and endued with interval, is naturally unable either to produce or preserve itself, but possesses its being, energy, and passivity through soul, and the motions which soul contains. But Plato demonstrates that the psychical essence [i.e., the essence pertaining to soul] is more ancient than bodies, but is suspended from an intellectual hypostasis [foundation]. For everything which is moved according to time, though it may be self-moved, is indeed of a more ruling nature than things moved by others, but is posterior to an eternal motion. He shows, therefore, as we have said, that intellect is the father and cause of bodies and souls, and that all things both subsist and energize about it, which are allotted a life conversant with transitions and evolutions.

Plato, however, proceeds to another principle entirely exempt from intellect, more incorporeal and ineffable, and from which all things, even though you should speak of such as are last, have necessarily a subsistence. For all things are not naturally disposed to participate in soul, but such things only as are allotted in themselves a more clear or obscure life. Nor are all things able to enjoy intellect and being, but such only as subsist according to form. But it is necessary that the principle of all things should be participated by all things, if it does not desert anything, since it is the cause of all things which in any respect are said to have a subsistence.

Plato having divinely discovered this first principle of wholes, which is more excellent than intellect, and is concealed in inaccessible recesses; and having exhibited these three causes and monads, and evinced them to be above bodies, I mean soul the first intellect, and a union above intellect, produces from these as monads, their proper numbers; one multitude indeed being uniform2, but the second intellectual, and the third psychical.

For every monad [whole or unity] is the leader of a multitude coordinate to itself. But as Plato connects bodies with soul, so likewise he connects souls with intellectual forms, and these again with the unities of beings. But he converts all things to one imparticipable unity. And having run back as far as to this unity, he considers himself as having obtained the highest end of the theory of wholes; and that this is the truth respecting the Gods, which is conversant with the unities of beings, and which delivers their progressions and peculiarities, the contact of beings with them, and the orders of forms which are suspended from these unical3 hypostases.

But he teaches us that the theory respecting intellect, and the forms and the genera revolving about intellect, is posterior to the science which is conversant with the Gods themselves. Likewise that the intellectual theory apprehends intelligibles, and the forms which are capable of being known by the soul through the projecting energy of intellect; but that the theological science transcending this, is conversant with arcane and ineffable hyparxes, and pursues their separation from each other, and their unfolding into light from one cause of all: whence I am of opinion, that the intellectual peculiarity of the soul is capable of apprehending intellectual forms, and the difference which subsists in them, but that the summit, and, as they say, flower of intellect and hyparxis, is conjoined with the unities of beings, and through these, with the occult union of all the divine unities. For as we contain many gnostic powers, through this alone we are naturally capable of being with and participating this occult union. For the genus of the Gods cannot be apprehended by sense, because it is exempt from all bodies; nor by opinion and dianoia4, for these are divisible and come into contact with multiform concerns; nor by intelligence in conjunction with reason, for knowledge of this kind belongs to true beings; but the hyparxis of the Gods rides on beings, and is defined according to the union itself of wholes. It remains, therefore, if it be admitted that a divine nature can be in any respect known, that it must be apprehended by the hyparxis of the soul, and through this, as far as it is possible, be known.

For we say that everywhere things similar can be known by the similar; viz. the sensible by sense, the doxastic [the object of opinion] by opinion, the dianoetic by dianoia, and the intelligible by intellect. So that the most unical nature must be known by the one, and the ineffable by that which is ineffable.

Indeed, Socrates in the [First] Alcibiades rightly observes, that the soul entering into herself will behold all other things, and deity itself. For verging to her own union, and to the center of all life, laying aside multitude, and the variety of all manifold powers which she contains, she ascends to the highest watchtower of beings.

And as in the most holy of the mysteries, they say, that the mystics at first meet with the multiform, and many-shaped [i.e., evil daemons] genera, which are hurled forth before the Gods, but on entering the interior parts of the temple, unmoved, and guarded by the mystic rites, they genuinely receive in their bosom divine illumination, and divested of their garments, as they would say, participate of a divine nature; – the same mode, as it appears to me, takes place in the speculation of wholes.

For the soul when looking at things posterior to herself, beholds the shadows and images of beings, but when she converts herself to herself she evolves her own essence, and the reasons which she contains. And at first indeed, she only as it were beholds herself; but, when she penetrates more profoundly into the knowledge of herself, she finds in herself both intellect, and the orders of beings. When however, she proceeds into her interior recesses, and into the adytum [holy of holies, inner sanctum] as it were of the soul, she perceives with her eye closed, the genus of the Gods, and the unities of beings. For all things are in us psychically, and through this we are naturally capable of knowing all things, by exciting the powers and the images of wholes which we contain.

And this is the best employment of our energy, to be extended to divine nature itself, having our powers at rest, to revolve harmoniously round it, to excite all the multitude of the soul to this union, and laying aside all such things as are posterior to the one, to become seated and conjoined with that which is ineffable, and beyond all things.

For it is lawful for the soul to ascend, till she terminates her flight in the principle of things; but arriving thither, beholding the place which is there, descending thence, and directing her course through beings; likewise evolving the multitude of forms, exploring their monads and their numbers, and apprehending intellectually how each is suspended from its proper unity, we may consider her as possessing the most perfect science of divine natures, perceiving in a uniform manner the progressions of the Gods into beings, and the distinctions of beings about the Gods.

Such then according to Plato’s decision is our theologist; and theology is a habit of this kind, which unfolds the hyparxis itself of the Gods, separates and speculates their unknown and unical light from the peculiarity of their participants, and announces it to such as are worthy of this energy, which is both blessed and comprehends all things at once.

  1. Hyparxis, is the summit of any nature, or blossom, as it were, of its essence. 

  2. Wherever this word occurs in this translation, it signifies that which is characterized by unity. 

  3. i.e. Of the nature of the one. 

  4. i.e. The discursive energy of reason, or the power of the soul that reasons scientifically.