Proclo: Teologia de Platão I-VI

Perhaps, however, someone may here object to us, that we do not in a proper manner exhibit the everywhere dispersed theology of Plato, and that we endeavor to heap together different particulars from different dialogues, as if we were studious of collecting together many things into one mixture, instead of deriving them all from one and the same fountain.

For if this were the case, we might refer different dogmas to different treatises of Plato, but we shall by no means have a precedaneous doctrine concerning the Gods, nor will there be any dialogue which presents us with an all-perfect and entire procession of the divine genera, and their coordination with each other.

But we shall be similar to those who endeavor to obtain a whole from parts, through the want of a whole prior to parts, and to weave together the perfect from things imperfect; when, on the contrary, the imperfect ought to have the first cause of its generation in the perfect. For the Timaeus, for instance, will teach us the theory of the intelligible genera; and the Phaedrus appears to present us with a methodical account of the first intellectual orders. But where will be the coordination of intellectuals to inteligibles? And what will be the generation of second from first natures? In short, after what manner the progression of the divine orders takes place from the one principle of all things, and how in the generations of the Gods, the orders between the one, and all-perfect number, are filled up, we shall be unable to evince.

Farther still, it may be said, where will be the venerableness of your boasted science about divine natures? For it is absurd to call these dogmas which are collected from many places Platonic; and which, as you acknowledge, are introduced from foreign names to the philosophy of Plato; nor are you able to evince one whole entire truth about divine natures. Perhaps, indeed, they will say, certain persons, junior to Plato, have delivered in their writings, and left to their disciples, one perfect form of theology.

You, therefore, are able to produce one entire theory about nature from the Timaeus; but from the Republic, or Laws, the most beautiful dogmas about manners, and which tend to one form of philosophy.

Alone, therefore, neglecting the treatise of Plato, which contains all the good of the first philosophy, and which may be called the summit of the whole theory, you will be deprived of the most perfect knowledge of beings, unless you are so much infatuated, as to boast on account of fabulous fictions, though an analysis of things of this kind abounds with much of the probable, but not of the demonstrative.

Besides, things of kind are only delivered adventitiously in the Platonic dialogues; as the fable in the Protagoras, which is inserted for the sake of the politic science, and the demonstrations respecting it. In like manner, the fable in the Republic is inserted for the sake of justice; but in the Gorgias, for the sake of temperance.

For Plato combines fabulous narrations with investigations of ethical dogmas, not for the sake of the fables, but for the sake of the leading design, that we may not only exercise the intellectual part of the soul, through contending reasons, but that the divine part of the soul may more perfectly receive the knowledge of beings, through its sympathy with more mystic concerns.

For, from other discourses, we appear similar to those who are compelled to the reception of truth; but from fables we suffer in an ineffable manner, and call forth our unperverted conceptions, venerating the mystic information which they contain.

Hence, as it appears to me, Timaeus with great propriety thinks it fit that we should produce the divine genera, following the inventors of fables as the sons of the Gods, and subscribe to their always generating secondary natures from such as are first, though they should speak without demonstration. For this kind of discourse is not demonstrative, but entheastic [enthusiastic] and was invented by the ancients, not through necessity, but for the sake of persuasion, not regarding mere discipline, but sympathy with things themselves.

But if you are willing to speculate not only the causes of fables, but of other theological dogmas, you will find that some of them are scattered in the Platonic dialogues for the sake of ethical, and others for the sake of physical considerations.

For in the Philebus, Plato discourses concerning bound and the infinite, for the sake of pleasure and life according to intellect. For I think the latter are species of the former. In the Timaeus, the discourse about the intelligible Gods, is assumed for the sake of the proposed physiology. On which account it is everywhere necessary that images should be known from paradigms; but that the paradigms of material things should be immaterial, of sensibles, intelligible, and that the paradigms of physical forms should be separate.

But again in the Phaedrus, Plato celebrates the supercelestial place, the subcelestial profundity, and every genus under this, for the sake of amatory mania: the manner in which the reminiscence of souls takes place, and the passage to these from hence.

But everywhere, as I may say, the leading end is either physical or political, while the conceptions about divine natures take place, either for the sake of invention or perfection. How, therefore, can such a theory as yours be any longer venerable and supernatural, and worthy to be studied beyond everything, when it is neither able to evince the whole in itself, nor the perfect, nor that which is precedaneous in the writings of Plato, but is destitute of all these, is violent and not spontaneous, and does not possess a genuine, but an adventitious order, as in a drama? And such are the objections which may be urged against our design.