|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
All who in the least degree participate of temperance always
invoke divinity in the impulse to every undertaking, whether it be small
Timaeus: "But, O Socrates, all such as participate but in the
least degree of temperance, [i.e. wisdom] in the impulse to every undertaking,
whether small or great, always invoke divinity."
Do you see what kind of an hypothesis
Plato refers to the Timaeus; what kind of an auditor of it he introduces,
viz. Socrates; and what a beginning of the discussion he has described?
For the hypothesis indeed, refers to the whole fabrication of things; but
the auditor is prepared to be led to it conformably to the one intellect
and one theory of wholes. Hence also he excites Timaeus to prayer.
But the beginning of the discussion,
being impelled from the invocation of the Gods, thus imitates the progression
of beings, which first abiding in the Gods, are thus allotted a generation
Since however, it is said, that "all
who in the least degree participate of temperance always invoke divinity
in the impulse to every undertaking, whether it be small or great," let
us see from what kind of conception they make this invocation of the Gods
in every thing in which they engage.
For it is not probable that those
who are temperate will not make real being the scope to which they tend.
And those who establish a pure intellect
as the leader of their theory; who deposit the beautiful and the good in
the prerogatives of the soul, and not in human affairs, nor in external
fortunes; and who perceive the power of providence extending through all
beings, and harmonizing all things to the universe, so that both the whole
and the parts may subsist most beautifully, and that nothing may be destitute
of the providence which proceeds from deity to all things; these will genuinely
apprehend the science concerning the Gods.
these will genuinely apprehend the science concerning the Gods
||establish a pure intellect as the leader of their theory
|deposit the beautiful and the good in the prerogatives of the soul,
and not in human affairs, nor in external fortunes
|perceive the power of providence extending through all beings, and
harmonizing all things to the universe
But again, perceiving this to be the
case, they will very properly in each action, and according to each energy,
call on divinity as the co-adjutor of their impulse, introducing their
productions to the universe in conjunction with wholes, and establishing
themselves in the goodness of the Gods.
those who genuinely apprehend the science concerning the Gods will
in each action call on divinity as the co-adjutor of their impulse
||introducing their productions to the universe in conjunction with wholes
|establishing themselves in the goodness of the Gods
For things which appear to be small,
enjoy the providence of the Gods, and are great so far as they are suspended
from them; just again, as things which are great in their own nature, when
they separate themselves from divinity, are seen to be perfectly small,
and of no worth.
things which appear to be small, enjoy the
providence of the Gods
||are great so far as they are suspended from them
things which are great in their own nature,
when they separate themselves from divinity
||are seen to be perfectly small, and of no worth
These things therefore, temperance
imparts to souls, not being a certain human habit, nor approaching to what
is called continence, but a divinely inspired energy of the soul, converting
herself to herself and to divinity, perceiving the causes of all things
in the Gods, and from thence surveying both other things, and such as proceed
[into a visible subsistence], through which as auxiliaries, we also may
be able to recur to the Gods, by means of the gifts which they insert in
||is not a certain human habit
|does not approach to what is called continence
|is a divinely inspired energy of the soul
|converts herself to herself and to divinity
|perceives the causes of all things in the Gods
|allows us be able to recur to the Gods, by means of the gifts which
they insert in us
The soul also, when thus converted
to herself, finds symbols of the Gods in each even of the smallest things,
and through these renders every thing familiar and allied to the Gods.
the soul when converted to herself
||finds symbols of the Gods in each even of the smallest things
|through these symbols renders every thing familiar and allied to the
Since however, the Gods produced the
whole of our essence and gave us a self-motive nature in order to the choice
of good, their producing power is particularly manifested in our external
energies; though when we consult, we require their providential attention;
(which the Athenians manifest by honoring Jupiter the Counsellor) and when
we choose, we are in want of their assistance; in order that by consulting,
we may discover what is advantageous; and that in choosing, we may not
through passion verge to that which is worse; but rather, that both when
acting, and when impelled, we may perceive that the self-motive nature
possesses the smallest power, and that the whole of it is suspended from
the providence of the Gods.
when we consult
||we require the providential attention of the
Gods, and we discover what is advantageous
when we choose
||we are in want of the assistance of the Gods,
in order not through passion verge to that which is worse
Hence Timaeus also says, that those
who are temperate always invoke the Gods, in the impulse to every undertaking.
For in our elections indeed, we are more able to separate providence from
that which is in our power; but we are incapable of doing this in our impulses
because in these we have less of the self-motive energy.
in our elections
||we are more able to separate providence from
that which is in our power
in our impulses
||we are incapable of doing this in our impulses
because in these we have less of the self-motive energy
For that which is in our power is
not so extended as the providence of the Gods; but as we have frequently
said, superior energize prior to secondary natures, and together with and
posterior to them, and on all sides comprehend the energies of subordinate
||energize prior to secondary natures
|energize together with secondary natures and posterior to secondary
|on all sides comprehend the energies of subordinate beings
But, says the Epicurean Eurimachus,
how can we avoid proceeding to infinity, if in the impulse to every small
thing, we require prayer: for though we should pray, we shall be in want
of another prayer, and we shall no where stop? And Porphyry dissolves the
doubt as follows: that it is not said it is necessary to pray on account
of every thing, but in the impulse to everything. We are impelled therefore
to things, but we are not impelled to impulses, so that there is not a
progression to infinity. Or does not the doubt still remain? For we are
impelled to prayer, so that in this we shall again require prayer, and
an impulse to this again to infinity. Hence it is better to say, that he
who prays respecting any thing, prior to this, acknowledges to the Gods,
that he is allotted a power from them of conversion to them, and that to
other things indeed good is imparted through prayer, but to prayer through
itself. It does not therefore require another prayer, since it comprehends
good in itself, and procures communion with a divine nature.
he who prays respecting any thing, acknowledges to the Gods
||that he is allotted a power from them of conversion to them
|that to other things indeed good is imparted through prayer, but to
prayer through itself
Whether the universe was generated, or is without generation
Timaeus: "It is necessary therefore, that we should do this, who
are about to speak in a certain respect concerning the universe, whether
it was generated, or is without generation, unless we are perfectly unwise."
Timaeus evinces how very admirable
the hypothesis is, but elegantly preserves himself in the order of a prudent
man, pursuing the medium between irony and arrogance. For having before
said, that those who in the smallest degree participate of temperance,
invoke divinity in the impulse to every great or small undertaking, he
very much exalts his proposed subject of discussion by opposing a discourse
about the universe to a small thing.
But he cautiously says, not that
he himself arrived at the summit of temperance [i.e. of wisdom]; for this
is the contrary, to the participation of temperance in the smallest degree;
but that he is not perfectly unwise. And this he says from the hypothesis,
in order that he may have to show, that the power and science which he
possesses, are from the work itself, but not from his own discussions.
His theory therefore, will be concerning
the universe, so far as it is produced by the Gods. For the world may be
multifariously surveyed; either according to its corporeal-formed nature,
or so far as it is full of partial and total souls; or so far as it participates
Timaeus however, considers the nature
of the universe, not according to these modes only, but particularly according
to its progression from the Demiurgus; where also physiology appears to
be a certain theology; because things which have a natural subsistence,
have in a certain respect a divine hyparxis, so far as they are generated
from the Gods. And thus this must be determined.
It is usual however to doubt, why
Plato here adds in a certain respect: for he says, "Those who are about
to speak in a certain respect concerning the universe." And the more superficial
indeed of the interpreters say, that the universe is in a certain respect
unbegotten, and in a certain respect generated.
Hence the discussion of it is very
properly in a certain respect, as of that which is unbegotten, and in a
certain respect as of that which is generated. Though Plato does not co-arrange
`to pê' in a certain respect, with the words unbegotten and generated,
but with the words about to speak.
But the divine Iamblichus says that
the discussion is in a certain respect about the universe, and in a certain
respect not; for matter, as being indefinite in the world, may be variously
considered. To this interpretation however, it may be said, that `pê'
is co-arranged with something else, and not with the universe.
Will it not therefore, be better
to say with our preceptor, that words are multifariously enunciated. For
the demiurgic words proceeding from intellect are of one kind, such as
the Demiurgus utters to the junior Gods: for Plato says, "that the soul
speaks, being moved to itself." Those words which are surveyed in science,
are of another kind. And those are of another kind which are allotted the
third hypostasis from intellect, and which proceed externally for the sake
of discipline and communication with others.
Hence Timaeus knowing that those are
demiurgic words which the Demiurgus employs, but that those are scientific
which he is now about to generate, but which he pre-assumes in himself,
and that he makes use of external words for the sake of Socrates alone,
on this account he says that he shall employ words in a certain respect
about the universe. For it is one thing to use them intellectually, another
scientifically, and another, for the sake of discipline; and `pê'
indicates these differences of words.
The use of words
for the sake of discipline
Again therefore, with respect to the
words, "whether it was generated, or is without generation," those interpreters
read the former with an aspirate, but the latter with a soft breathing,
who say that Plato speaks about the universe, so far as it was generated
from a cause, or is unbegotten, in order that surveying it as generated,
we may perceive the nature which it contains.
And the Platonic Albinus thinks,
that according to Plato the world being perpetual, has a beginning of generation,
by which also it is more redundant than being; since this indeed always
is, but the world in addition to existing always, has a beginning of generation,
in order that it may exist always, and be generated. Not that it is generated
after such a manner as to be so according to time; for in this case it
would not always exist; but in short, it has the relation of generation,
on account of its composition from things many and dissimilar.
And it is necessary to refer its
hypostasis to another cause more ancient than itself, through which always
existing primarily, the world is in a certain respect, and always is, and
is not only generated, but is also unbegotten. [This therefore is asserted
by Albinus], though Plato no where in what follows says, that the universe
is in a certain respect generated, and in a certain respect unbegotten.
Others again, read both the
parts with an aspirate, in order that Timaeus may say, he is about to speak
concerning the universe so far as it is generated, and so far as it is
unbegotten; erring in the same way as those prior to them; unless indeed
they assert that the universe was generated according to form, but unbegotten
according to its nurse [matter].
For thus also Timaeus says, that
its nurse is unbegotten, but that the world was generated, as receiving
form from divinity.
But Porphyry and Iamblichus
read both the parts with a soft breathing, in order that what is said may
be whether the universe was generated or is unbegotten. For this is to
be considered, prior to all other things; since it contributes in the highest
degree to the consummation of the whole of physiology, rightly to admit
that the world was generated or is unbegotten. For from this hypothesis
we shall be able to see what the nature is of its essence and powers, as
will be manifest to us shortly after.
The discussion therefore, concerning
the universe, will be for the sake of discipline, and will proceed from
this principle, whether the world was generated, or is without generation;
and from this, other things must be woven together in a consequent order.
The division of male and female comprehends in itself all the
plenitudes of the divine orders
Timaeus: "It is necessary, therefore, that invoking all the Gods
and Goddesses, we should pray that what we assert may especially be agreeable
to their divinities, and that in the ensuing discourse we may be consistent
The division of male and female comprehends
in itself all the plenitudes of the divine orders. For the cause of stable
power and sameness, the supplier of being, and that which is the first
principle of conversion to all things, are comprehended in the male. But
that which emits from itself all-various progressions and separations,
measures of life and prolific powers, is contained in the female.
the cause of stable power and sameness
that which emits from itself all-various
progressions and separations
the supplier of being
measures of life
that which is the first principle of conversion
to all things
Hence, Timaeus, elevating himself
to all the Gods, very properly comprehends the whole orders of them, in
a division into these genera.
Such a division, likewise, is most
adapted to the proposed theory. For this universe is full of these twofold
divine genera. For heaven has to earth (that we may assume the extremes)
the order of the male to the female; because the motion of heaven imparts
productive principles and powers to every thing [sublunary]; and earth
receiving the effluxions thence proceeding, is parturient with and generates
all-various animals and plants.
Of the Gods also in the heavens,
some are distinguished according to the male, but others according to the
female. And of those powers that govern generation in an unbegotten manner,
some are of the former, but others of the latter co-ordination.
In short, the demiurgic choir is
abundant in the universe, and there are many rivers of life, some of which
exhibit the form of the male, but others of the female characteristic.
And what occasion is there to say
much on this subject? For from the liberated unities, both masculine and
feminine, various orders proceed into the universe. Hence, he who is entering
on the discussion of the universe, very properly invokes the Gods and Goddesses,
from both which the universe receives its completion, and beseeches them
that what he asserts may be consistent, and particularly that it may be
agreeable to their divinities. For this is the sublimest end of theory,
to run upward to a divine intellect; and as all things are uniformly comprehended
in it, to arrange the discussion of things agreeably to this causal comprehension.
But that which is the second end, and is consequent to this is, for the
whole theory to receive its completion conformably to human intellect and
the light of science. For the whole, the perfect, and the uniform, pre-exist
in a divine intellect; but that which is partial and falls short of divine
simplicity, subsists about a mortal intellect.
Why however, does Timaeus say, that
it is necessary to pray, and magnificently proclaim that the Gods and Goddesses
should be invoked, yet does not pray, though an opportunity for so doing
presents itself, but immediately converts himself to the proposed discussion?
We reply, it is because some things have their end comprehended in the
very will itself; but others, distribute another energy after the will,
and through action accomplish that which was the object of the will.
And a life indeed, conformable to
philosophy, depends on our will, and a deficiency in it, is contrary to
[But the consequences resulting from
a life conversant with external actions, are not dependent on our will;]
for the end of them is not placed in us.
We may justly, therefore, rank prayer
among the number of things which have all their perfection in the will.
For the wish to pray, is a desire of conversion to the Gods. And this desire
itself conducts the desiring soul, and conjoins it to divinity, which is
the first work of prayer.
Hence it is not proper first to wish,
and afterwards to pray, but he that wishes to pray, will at the same time
have prayer as the measure of his wish, one person indeed in a greater,
but another in a less degree.
Farther still, this also is the work
of a true prayer, for those things for which we pray to be common to the
Gods, both according to powers and energies, and for us to effect them
in conjunction with the Gods.
- Thus if some one should pray to
the powers that amputate matter, and obliterate the stains arising from
generation, but should himself particularly endeavour to effect this, through
the cathartic virtues; such a one in conjunction with the Gods, would entirely
accomplish a dissolution of his material bonds. This therefore Timaeus
here effects. For those things which he prays to the Gods to accomplish,
he himself completes, disposing the whole discourse according to human
intellect, but so as to be in conformity to the intellect of the Gods.
The distinction between beings and things generated
Timaeus: "And such is my prayer to the Gods with reference to
myself; but as to what respects you, it is requisite to pray that you may
easily learn, and that I may be able to exhibit what I scientifically conceive,
in the clearest manner about the proposed subjects of discussion. [According
to my opinion therefore, the following division must first be made.]"
The exhortation of the auditors, is
a thing consequent to the prayers [of Timaeus]. For it is necessary that
the replenishing source being suspended from its proper causes, should
previously excite its recipients, and convert them to itself, prior to
the plenitude which it confers; in order that becoming more adapted, they
may happily receive the intellectual conceptions which it imparts. For
thus the participation will become more perfect to them, and the gift will
be rendered more easy to the giver.
Moreover, this very circumstance
of facility, is adapted to those that imitate the whole fabrication; from
which abiding and rejoicing in itself, all things proceed to the effects
which it excites.
Farther still, to produce one series,
through the contact of secondary with prior natures, adumbrates the demiurgic
series, which proceeds as far as to the last of things.
For if the auditors receive what
is said conformably to the intellect of the Gods, it will happen that the
whole conference will in reality be referred to one intellect, and one
Besides this also, the self-motive
nature of souls is sufficiently indicated, that being moved by the Gods,
they also move themselves, and produce from themselves sciences. For the
words, "what I scientifically conceive," exhibit the energy which is impelled
from a life whose power is free.
According to my opinion therefore,
these things are first to be considered; that Timaeus being a Pythagorean,
and preserving the form of Pythagoric discussions, is immediately exhibited
to us as such, from the very beginning.
The whole rational soul
For Socrates does not enunciatively
declare his opinions to others, but having dialectically purified their
conceptions, unfolds truth into light; who also said to them, that he knew
nothing except to make an assertion [or give a reason] and receive one.
But Timaeus, as also addressing his
discourse to men, says that he shall enunciate his own dogmas, not at all
busying himself with foreign opinions, but pursuing one path of science.
Moreover, the word îëþþà,
i.e. I am of opinion, is assumed here very aptly, and appropriately to
what has been before said. For of the whole rational soul, one part is
intellect, another is dianoia, and a third is opinion.
And the first of these indeed, is
conjoined to the Gods, the second produces the sciences, and the third
imparts them to others.
||is conjoined to the Gods
||produces the sciences
||imparts them to others
This man therefore, knowing these
things, through prayer adapts his own intellect to the intellect of the
Gods. For this is manifested by the words, "that what we assert may especially
be agreeable to their divinities, and that in the ensuing discourse we
may be consistent with ourselves."
But through exhortations, he excites
the dianoetic part of the souls of his auditors. For the words, "what I
scientifically conceive," have an indication of this kind. The doxastic
part therefore remains, which receiving a scientific division from dianoia,
delivers the streams of it to others. This however is not ambiguous, nor
divided about sensibles, nor does the formal distinction of it consist
in hypolepsis alone; but it is filled from intellect and dianoia, surveys
the demiurgic reason, and distinguishes the nature of things.
These particulars also, are sufficiently
assimilated to the paradigm of the speaker. For there, a royal intellect
precedes, according to which the paradigm is united to intelligibles; a
dianoia, containing in itself the plenitudes of forms; and the first and
uniform cause of opinion. Hence, the paradigm contains intelligibles in
intellect, but introduces sense to the worlds, as the Oracle says; or as
Plato, "such ideas therefore, as intellect perceived to be inherent in
animal itself, so many he dianoetically saw this universe ought to possess."
Moreover, the distinction between
beings and things generated, is consentaneous to what has been before said.
For after the Gods and Goddesses, and the ineffable peculiarity which is
in them, the separation of these two genera, i.e. of being and generation,
For being is allied to the more excellent
order of divine natures, which is always established in invariable sameness,
and is intelligible.
But generation is allied to the inferior
order, from which, infinite progression, and all-various mutation, derive
||is allied to the more excellent order of divine
||is allied to the inferior order
What then is this division, and after
what manner was it produced? Was it made as if it were the section of a
certain whole into parts, or as genus is divided into species, or as the
division of one word into many significations, or as that of essence into
accidents, or vice versa, that of accident into essences; for these are
the species of division which some persons are accustomed to applaud.
It is ridiculous therefore, to divide
being and generation, either as accident into essences, or as essence into
accidents. For accident by no means pertains to perpetual being. Nor again
must they be divided as a word into its significations. For what word is
there which Plato assuming as common, divides into perpetual being, and
that which is generated; unless some one should say that `ti', i.e. a certain
thing, is thus divided by him? This division however, is not Platonic,
but is derived from the Stoic custom.
Is the division therefore, as that
of a whole into parts? But what is that whole which consists of perpetual
being, and that which is generated? Or how can paradigm and image give
completion to one composition? How likewise can perpetual being be a part
of a certain thing, since it is impartible, united, and simple? For the
impartible is not a part of any thing which does not consist of all impartibles.
But that which is generated is not impartible.
Hence there is not a common genus
of perpetual being, and that which is generated. For perpetual being precedes
according to cause that which is generated; and the former is when the
latter is not. But perpetual being not existing, which it is not lawful
to suppose, generation also would vanish.
How likewise, is there one genus
of the first, and the last of things? For the division of genera into species,
takes place in the middle psychical reasons [i.e. productive powers]. But
things prior to soul, subsist in more excellent genera; and things posterior
to soul, have their essence in co-ordinate natures.
How therefore, can being itself and
that which is generated, be arranged under one genus? What also will this
genus be? For it is not being, lest that which is generated, and which
never [truly] is, should be arranged in being. Nor will being itself be
The One. Because every genus is divided by its proper differences, and
antecedently assumes the differences, either in capacity, or in energy.
But it is not lawful that The One should have differences either in capacity,
lest it should be more imperfect than secondary natures; or in energy,
lest it should have multitude. But as it is in short demonstrated to be
superior both to power and energy, it cannot in any way whatever have differences;
so that neither will there in short, be a division of The One.
What then shall we say? Must it not
be this, that Plato does not now make any division whatever, but that he
proposes to define separately what each of these two, perpetual being,
and that which is generated, is? For it appears to me that the word `diaireteon'
has the same signification with `diakrineteon'.
For since he discourses about the
world, the Demiurgus, and the paradigm of the world, he wishes separately
to define perpetual being, and separately that which is generated, in order
that through the given definitions we may know where the world, where the
Demiurgus, and where the paradigm are to be arranged; and that we may not
confound the orders of things, but may separate them from each other, so
far as they are severally adapted to be separated.
He likewise does the very same thing
in the Philebus. For inquiring concerning intellect, pleasure and the mixed
life, which is the best of these, he assumes the genera of them, viz. bound,
infinity, and that which is mingled from bound and the infinite. For thus
the order of each will become apparent, and he will manifest the peculiarity
of them from their genera.
There however, bound and infinity
beginning from the Gods, proceed through all beings of whatever kind they
may be. For these also were in intelligibles according to the stable and
generative cause of intelligibles. They were likewise in the intellectual
order according to the paternal and material principle of the intellectual
Gods. And they were in the supermundane order, according to the demiurgic
monad and vivific duad, and in the last place, according to effective and
Here however, being and that which
is generated, do not begin from the Gods; for the unities of the Gods are
superior to being, and prior to these The One Itself is exempt from all
beings, because the first God is one, but the other Gods are unities.
Nor are being and that which is generated
things which are participated by the Gods, in the same manner as the unities
which are posterior to the Gods, are said to be and are participated by
being. Nor do they extend as far as to the last of things. For neither
is it possible to say that matter is perpetual being, since we are accustomed
to call it non-being; nor that which is generated, which is not able to
suffer being, lest perishing by so doing, it should entirely vanish. This
therefore, will again be asserted by us.
It is however, [evident] that the
division is no of one certain thing, and that the proposed theory has necessarily,
prior to other things, the definition of these twofold genera, in order
that the discussion proceeding as if from geometrical hypotheses to the
investigation of things consequent, may discover the nature of the universe,
and the paternal and paradigmatic cause of it.
For if the universe was generated,
it was generated by a cause. There is therefore a demiurgic cause of the
universe. If there is a Demiurgus, there is also a paradigm of the world,
with reference to which he who constituted the universe fabricated. And
thus in a consequent order the discussion about these things is introduced,
and the physical theory beautifully terminates for us in theology.
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©1999 Roy George