|P r o c l u s
C O M M E N T A R Y O N
T H E T I M A E U S
O F P L A T O
It is necessary, prior to all other things, that we should know
something manifest concerning prayer
It is necessary therefore, prior to
all other things, that we should know something manifest concerning prayer,
what its essence is, and what its perfection, and whence it is imparted
The sum of what is said by Porphyry on this subject
For the philosopher Porphyry indeed,
describing those among the ancients that admitted prayer, and those that
did not, leads us from one opinion to another, and says in short, that
neither those who are diseased according to the first kind of impiety,
derive any benefit from prayer, since they do not admit that there are
Gods, nor those who labour under the second kind, and entirely subvert
providence, granting indeed that there are Gods, but denying their providential
Nor are they benefited by it, who
admit indeed the providence of the Gods, but assert that all things are
produced by them from necessity.
For there is no longer any advantage
to be derived from prayer, if things of a contingent nature have not any
Those who don't admit prayer
don't admit prayer
||those who are diseased according to the first kind of impiety, since
they do not admit that there are Gods
|those who labour under the second kind of impiety, and entirely subvert
providence, granting indeed that there are Gods, but denying their providential
|those who admit the providence of the Gods, but assert that all things
are produced by them from necessity
But such as assert that the Gods providentially
attend to all things, and that many things that are generated are contingent
and may subsist otherwise, these very properly admit the necessity of prayers,
and acknowledge that they correct our life.
Porphyry also adds, that prayer especially
pertains to worthy men, because it is a contact with divinity.
But the similar loves to be conjoined
to the similar: and the worthy man is most similar to the Gods.
Because likewise those who embrace
virtue are in custody, and are inclosed in the body as in a prison, they
ought to request the Gods that they may migrate from hence.
Besides, since we are as children
torn from our parents, it is fit we should pray that we may return to our
true parents the Gods.
Those also resemble such as are deprived
of their fathers and mothers, who do not think it requisite to pray and
be converted to the Gods.
All nations likewise, that have excelled
in wisdom, have diligently applied themselves to prayer; among the Indians
the Brachmans, among the Persians the Magi, and of the Greeks the most
theological, who instituted initiatory rites and mysteries.
But the Chaldeans venerate every
other divinity, and likewise the virtue itself of the Gods, which they
denominate a Goddess; so far are they from despising sacred worship, on
account of the possession of virtue.
And in addition to all this, as we
are parts of the universe it is fit that we should be in want of the universe.
For a conversion to the whole imparts
salvation to every thing.
If therefore you possess virtue,
you should invoke that which antecedently comprehends all virtue.
For that which is all-good, will
also be the cause to you of appropriate good.
Or if you explore a certain corporeal
good, there is a power in the world which comprehends all body.
It is necessary therefore that perfection
should from thence be derived to the parts. And this is the sum of what
is said by Porphyry on this subject.
Those who admit the necessity of prayers
admit the necessity of prayers because
||the Gods providentially attend to all things
|many things that are generated are contingent and may subsist otherwise
|prayer especially pertains to worthy men, because it is a contact with
|those who embrace virtue are in custody, and they ought to request
the Gods that they may migrate from hence
|it is fit we should pray that we may return to our true parents the
|all nations that have excelled in wisdom, have diligently applied themselves
|a conversion to the whole imparts salvation to every thing
The divine Iamblichus
The divine Iamblichus however, does
not think that a history of this kind pertains to what is here proposed
to be considered.
Arguments concerning prayer which accord with the doctrine of
For Plato is not now speaking about
atheistical men, but about such as are wise, and able to converse with
Nor does he speak of such as are
dubious about the works of piety; but to such as wish to be saved by those
who are the saviours of wholes, he delivers the power of prayer, and its
admirable and supernatural perfection which transcends all expectation.
wise men and able to converse with the Gods
men dubious about the works of piety
men who wish to be saved by those who are the saviours of wholes
It is fit however, that transferring
what he says to what is more usual and more known to the reader, we should
render his meaning clear, and assign arguments concerning prayer which
accord with the doctrine of Plato. From hence therefore we must begin:
All beings are the progeny of the Gods, by whom they are produced without
a medium, and in whom they are firmly established.
||are the progeny of the Gods
|are produced by the Gods without a medium
|are firmly established in the Gods
For the progression of things which
perpetually subsist, and cohere from permanent causes, is not alone perfected
by a certain continuation, but immediately subsists from the Gods, from
whence all things are generated, however distant they may be from the divinities.
And this is no less true, even though asserted of matter itself.
For a divine nature is not absent
from any thing, but is equally present to all things. Hence though you
should assume the last of beings, in these also you will find divinity.
For The One is every where; and in consequence of its absolute dominion,
every thing receives its nature and coherence from the Gods.
As all things however proceed, so
likewise, they are not separated from the Gods, but radically abide in
them, as the causes and sustainers of their existence.
For where can they recede, since
the Gods primarily comprehend all things in their embrace?
For whatever is placed as separate
from the Gods has not any kind of subsistence.
But all beings are contained by the
Gods and reside in their natures, after the manner of a circular comprehension.
Hence, by a wonderful mode of subsistence,
all things proceed, and yet are not, nor indeed can be separated from the
Gods; because all offspring when torn from their parents, immediately recur
to the immense vastness of non-entity.
But in a certain respect they are
established in them; and in short, proceed in themselves, but abide in
Since however, having proceeded,
it is requisite that they should be converted and return, imitating the
evolution into light, and conversion of the Gods to their cause, in order
that these being arranged conformably to the perfective triad, may again
be contained by the Gods and the first unities, - hence they receive from
them a certain secondary perfection, by which they may be able to convert
themselves to the goodness of the divinities, in order that being at first
rooted in, they may again through conversion be established in them, forming
a certain circle, which originates from and terminates in the Gods.
The circle which originates from the Gods and terminates in
All things therefore, both abide in,
and convert themselves to the Gods, receiving this power from the divinities,
together with twofold impressions according to essence; the one, that they
may abide there, but the other that, having proceeded, they may convert
themselves [to their causes].
||abide in the Gods
|convert themselves to the Gods
And these things we may survey not
only in souls, but also in inanimate natures.
For what else ingenerates in these
a sympathy with other powers, but the symbols which they
are allotted by nature, some of which are allied to this, but others to
that series of Gods? For nature being supernally suspended from the Gods,
and distributed from their orders, inserts also in bodies impressions
of their alliance to the divinities. In some indeed, inserting solar, but
in others lunar impressions, and in others again, the symbol of some other
God. And these indeed, convert themselves to the Gods; some, as to the
Gods simply, but others as to particular Gods; nature thus perfecting her
progeny according to different peculiarities of the divinities.
The Demiurgus of the universe therefore,
by a much greater priority, impressed these symbols in souls, by
which they might be able to abide in themselves, and again convert themselves
to the sources of their being.
symbols impressed in souls
||by which the souls may be able to abide in themselves
|by which the souls may convert themselves to the sources of their being
And through the symbol of unity indeed
he conferred on them stability; but through intellect, he imparted to them
the power of conversion.
the symbol of unity
||confers stability on the souls
||imparts to the souls the power of conversion
To the conversion to the Gods prayer is of the greatest utility
But to this conversion prayer is of
the greatest utility. For it attracts to itself the beneficence of the
Gods, through those ineffable symbols which the father of souls has disseminated
in them. It likewise unites those who pray with those to whom prayer is
addressed; conjoins the intellect of the Gods with the words of those who
pray; excites the will of those who perfectly comprehend good to the abundant
communication of it; is the fabricator of divine persuasion; and establishes
in the Gods all that we possess.
To conversion prayer is of the greatest utility
||attracts to itself the beneficence of the Gods
|unites those who pray with those to whom prayer is addressed
|conjoins the intellect of the Gods with the words of those who pray
|excites the will of those who perfectly comprehend good to the abundant
communication of it
|is the fabricator of divine persuasion
|establishes in the Gods all that we possess
Requirements to a perfect and true prayer
To a perfect and true prayer however,
there is required in the first place, a knowledge of all the divine orders
to which he who prays approaches. For no one will accede to the Gods in
a proper manner, unless he has a knowledge of their peculiarities. Hence
also the oracle admonishes, that a fire-heated conception has the first
order in sacred worship.
But in the second place, there is
required a conformation of our life with that which is divine; and this
accompanied with all purity, chastity, discipline, and order, through which
our concerns being introduced to the Gods, we shall attract their beneficence,
and our souls will become subject to them.
In the third place, contact is necessary,
according to which we touch the divine essence with the summit of our soul,
and verge to a union with it.
But there is yet farther required,
an approximating adhesion: for thus the oracle calls it, when he says,
the mortal approximating to fire will possess a light from the Gods. For
this imparts to us a greater communion with, and a more manifest participation
of the light of the Gods.
In the last place, union succeeds
establishing the one of the soul in The One of the Gods, and causing our
energy to become one with divine energy; according to which we are no longer
ourselves, but are absorbed as it were in the Gods, abiding in divine light,
and circularly comprehended by it.
And this is the best end of true
prayer, in order that the conversion of the soul may be conjoined with
its permanency, and that every thing which proceeds from The One of the
Gods, may again be established in The One, and the light which is in us
may be comprehended in the light of the Gods.
requirements to a perfect and true prayer
||a knowledge of all the divine orders to which he who prays approaches
|is required a conformation of our life with that which is divine
|contact is necessary to touch the divine essence with the summit of
|an approximating adhesion
|union succeeds establishing the one of the soul in The One of the Gods,
and causing our energy to become one with divine energy; according to which
we are no longer ourselves, but are absorbed as it were in the Gods
The particulars which ought first to be known concerning prayer
Prayer therefore, is no small part
of the whole ascent of souls. Nor is he who possesses virtue superior to
the want of the good which proceeds from prayer; but on the contrary the
ascent of the soul is effected through it, and together with this, piety
to the Gods, which is the summit of virtue.
The ascent of soul is effected through prayer
Piety to the Gods
Want of the good
Nor in short, ought any other to pray
than he who is transcendently good, as the Athenian guest [in Plato] says.
For to such a one, converse with the Gods becomes most efficacious to the
attainment of a happy life. But the contrary is naturally adapted to befal
the vicious. For it is not lawful for the pure to be touched by the impure.
he who is transcendently good
||needs not to pray
|converse with the Gods becomes most efficacious to the attainment of
a happy life
Hence, it is necessary that he who
generously enters on the exercise of prayer, should render the Gods propitious
to him, and should excite in himself conceptions full of intellectual light.
For the favor and benignity of more exalted beings, is the most effectual
incentive to their communication with our natures. And it is requisite
to continue without intermission in the worship of divinity. For [according
to the oracle] the rapid Gods perfect the mortal constantly employed in
prayer. It is also necessary to observe a stable order in the performance
of divine works; to exert those virtues which purify and elevate the soul
from generation, together with faith, truth, and love; to preserve this
triad and hope of good, this immutable reception of divine light, and segregation
from every other pursuit, that thus becoming alone, we may associate with
solitary deity, and not endeavour to conjoin ourselves with multitude to
The One. For he who attempts this, effects the very contrary, and separates
himself from the Gods. For as it is not lawful in conjunction with non-entity
to associate with being; so neither is it possible with multitude to be
conjoined with The One.
he who generously enters on the exercise of prayer, should...
||render the Gods propitious to him
|excite in himself conceptions full of intellectual light
|continue without intermission in the worship of divinity
|observe a stable order in the performance of divine works
|exert those virtues which purify and elevate the soul from generation,
together with faith, truth, and love
|to preserve faith, truth, love and hope of good, and segregation from
every other pursuit
Such therefore are the particulars
which ought first to be known concerning prayer; viz. that the essence
of it congregates and binds souls to the Gods, or rather, that it unites
all secondary to primary natures. For as the great Theodorus says, all
things pray except the first.
The causes of prayer
The perfection however of prayer,
beginning from more common goods, ends in divine union, and gradually accustoms
the soul to divine light.
the perfection of prayer
||begins from more common goods
|gradually accustoms the soul to divine light
|ends in divine union
But its efficacious energy both replenishes
us with good, and causes our concerns to be common with those of the Gods.
the efficacious energy of prayer
||replenishes us with good
|causes our concerns to be common with those of the Gods
With respect to the causes of prayer
too, we may infer, that so far as they are effective, they are the efficacious
powers of the Gods, converting and calling upwards the soul to the Gods
themselves. But that so far as they are final or perfective, they are the
immaculate goods of the soul, which they derive as the fruits of being
established in the Gods. That so far also as they are paradigmatical, they
are the primordial causes of beings, which proceed from The Good, and are
united to it, according to one ineffable union. But that so far as they
are formal, they assimilate souls to the Gods, and give perfection to the
whole of their life. And that so far as they are material, they are the
impressions or symbols inserted by the Demiurgus in the essences of souls,
in order that they may be excited to a reminiscence of the Gods who produced
them, and whatever else exists.
The causes of prayer
so far as prayers are effective
||prayers are the efficacious powers of the Gods
so far as prayers are final or perfective
||prayers are the immaculate goods of the soul
so far as prayers are paradigmatical
||prayers are the primordial causes of beings
so far as prayers are formal
||prayers assimilate souls to the Gods
so far as prayers are material
||prayers are the impressions or symbols inserted by the Demiurgus in
the essences of souls
The modes of prayer
Moreover, we may likewise define the
modes of prayer which are various, according to the genera and species
of the Gods. For prayer is either demiurgic, or cathartic, or vivific.
And the demiurgic is such as that which is offered for the sake of showers
and winds. For the demiurgi are the causes of the generation of these.
And the prayers of the Athenians for winds procuring serenity of weather
are addressed to these Gods. But the cathartic prayer is that which is
offered for the purpose of averting diseases originating from pestilence,
and other contagious distempers; such as we have written in our temples.
And the vivific prayer is that with which we worship the Gods, who are
the causes of vivification, on account of the origin and maturity of fruits.
Hence prayers are of a perfective
nature, because they elevate us to these orders of the Gods. And he who
considers such prayers in a different manner, fails in properly apprehending
the nature and efficacy of prayer.
The modes of prayer
the demiurgic prayer
||is offered for the sake of showers and winds
the cathartic prayer
||is offered for the purpose of averting diseases
the vivific prayer
||is that with which we worship the Gods
But again, with reference to the things
for which we pray; those prayers, which regard the salvation of the soul;
obtain the first place; those which pertain to the good temperament of
the body, the second; and those rank in the third place, which are offered
for the sake of external concerns.
The place of prayers with reference to the things for which
||prayers which regard the salvation of the soul
||prayers which pertain to the good temperament of the body
||prayers which are offered for the sake of external concerns
And lastly, with respect to the division
of the times in which we offer up prayers, it is either according to the
seasons of the year, or the centers of the solar revolution; or we establish
multiform prayers according to other such-like conceptions.
The division of the times in which we offer up prayers
according to the seasons of the year
according to the centers of the solar revolution
we establish multiform prayers
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©1999 Roy George