|T h e T h e o l o g
y o f P l a t o
b y P r o c l u s
T H E I N T E L L I G I B L E G O D S
Again therefore, the mystic doctrine
concerning The One must be resumed by us, in order that proceeding from
the first principle, we may celebrate the second and third principles of
the whole of things.
But let us survey with intellect the
biformed principles proceeding from and posterior to it. For what else
is it necessary to arrange after the union of the whole theory, than the
duad of principles? What the two principles therefore are of the divine
orders after the first principle, we shall in the next place survey.
If, therefore, all beings subsist
from these, it is evident that they themselves have a subsistence prior
to beings. And if secondary natures participate of these mingled together,
these will subsist unmingled prior to the whole of things. For the progression
of the divine orders originates, not from things co-ordinated and which
exist in others, but from things exempt, and which are established in themselves.
The first therefore and unical God,
is without any addition denominated by him God; because each of the second
Gods is participated by being, and has being suspended from its nature.
But the first indeed, as being exempt from the whole of beings, is God,
defined according to the ineffable itself, the unical alone, and superessential.
But the bound and the infinite of
beings, unfold into light that unknown and imparticipable cause; bound
indeed, being the cause of stable, uniform, and connective deity; but the
infinite being the cause of power proceeding to all things and capable
of being multiplied, and in short, being the leader of every generative
For all union and wholeness, and communion
of beings, and all the divine measures, are suspended from the first bound.
But all division, prolific production, and progression into multitude,
derive their subsistence from this most principal infinity.
Hence, when we say that each of the
divine orders abides and at the same time proceeds, we must confess that
it stably abides indeed, according to bound, but proceeds according to
infinity, and that at one and the same time it has unity and multitude,
and we must suspend the former from the principle of bound, but the latter
from that of infinity.
And in short, of all the opposition
in the divine genera, we must refer that which is the more excellent to
bound, but that which is subordinate to infinity.
For from these two principles all
things have their progression into being, even as far as to the last of
things. For eternity itself participates at once of bound and infinity;
so far indeed, as it is the intelligible measure, it participates of bound;
but so far as it is the cause of a never-failing power of existing, it
participates of infinity.
And intellect, so far indeed as it
is uniform, and whole, and so far as it is connective of paradigmatical
measures, so far it is the progeny of bound. But again, so far as it produces
all things eternally, and subsists conformably to the whole of eternity,
supplying all things with existence at once, and always possessing its
own power undiminished, so far it is the progeny of infinity.
And soul indeed, in consequence of
measuring its own life, by restitutions and periods, and introducing a
boundary to its own motions, is referred to the cause of bound; but in
consequence of having no cessation of motions, but making the end of one
period the beginning of the whole of a second vital circulation, it is
referred to the order of infinity.
The whole of this heaven also, according
to the wholeness of itself, its connexion, the order of its periods, and
the measures of its restitutions, is bounded. But according to its prolific
powers, its various evolutions, and the never-failing revolutions of its
orbs, it participates of infinity.
Moreover, the whole of generation,
in consequence of all its forms being bounded, and always permanent after
the same manner, and in consequence of its own circle which imitates the
celestial circulation, is similar to bound. But again, in consequence of
the variety of the particulars of which it consists, their unceasing mutation,
and the intervention of the more and the less in the participations of
forms, it is the image of infinity.
And in addition to these things, every
natural production, according to its form indeed, is similar to bound,
but according to its matter, resembles infinity.
For these are suspended in the last
place from the two principles posterior to The One, and as far as to these
the progression of their productive power extends. Each of these also is
one, but form is the measure and boundary of matter, and is in a greater
Matter however is all things in capacity,
so far as it derives its subsistence from the first power. There, however,
power is generative of all things. But the power of matter is imperfect,
and is indigent of the hypostasis which is generative of all things according
Very properly therefore is it said by Socrates that all beings are from bound and infinity, and that these two intelligible principles primarily derive their subsistence from God. For that which congregates both of them, and perfects them, and unfolds itself into light through all beings is The One prior to the duad. And union indeed is derived to all things through that which is first; but the division of the two orders of things is generated from these primary causes, and through these is extended to the unknown and ineffable principle. Let it therefore be manifest through these things, what the two principles of beings are, which become proximately apparent from The One, according to the theology of Plato.
In the next place let us show what
the third thing is which presents itself to the view from these principles.
It is every where therefore called that which is mixed, as deriving its
subsistence from bound and infinity. But if bound is the bound of beings,
and the infinite is the infinite of beings, and beings are the things which
have a subsistence from both these, as Socrates himself clearly teaches
us, it is evident that the first of things mingled, is the first of beings.
This, however, is nothing else than that which is highest in beings, which
is being itself, and nothing else than being.
My meaning is, that this is evident
through those things by which we demonstrate that what is primarily being,
is comprehensive of all things intelligibly, and of life and intellect.
For we say that life is triadic vitally, and intellect intellectually;
and also that these three things being life and intellect are every where.
But all things pre-subsist primarily and essentially in being. For there
essence, life and intellect subsist, and the summit of beings.
Life however is the middle centre of being, which is denominated and is intelligible life. But intellect is the boundary of being, and is intelligible intellect. For in the intelligible there is intellect, and in intellect the intelligible. There however intellect subsists intelligibly, but in intellect, the intelligible subsists intellectually.
And essence indeed is that which is
stable in being, and which is woven together with the first principles,
and does not depart from The One.
I mean however by the first of beings
essence. For essence itself is the summit of all beings, and is as it were
the monad of the whole of things. In all things therefore, essence is the
first. And in each thing that which is essential is the most ancient, as
deriving its subsistence from the Vesta of beings. For the intelligible
is especially this. Since intellect indeed is that which is gnostic, life
is intelligence, and being is intelligible.
If however every being is mingled, but essence is being itself, prior to all other things essence is that which subsists as mingled from the two principles proceeding from The One. Hence Socrates indicating how the mode of generation in the two principles differs from that of the mixture says, "that God has exhibited bound and infinity. " For they are unities deriving their subsistence from The One, and as it were luminous patefactions from the imparticipable and first union. But with respect to producing a mixture, and mingling through the first principles, by how much to make is subordinate to the unfolding into light, and generation to patefaction, by so much is that which is mixed allotted a progression from The One, inferior to that of the two principles.
That which is mixed therefore, is
intelligible essence, and subsists primarily from [the first] God, from
whom infinity also and bound are derived. But it subsists secondarily from
the principles posterior to the unical God, I mean from bound and infinity.
For the fourth cause which is effective of the mixture is again God himself;
since if any other cause should be admitted besides this, there will no
longer be a fourth cause, but a fifth will be introduced. For the first
cause was God, who unfolds into light the two principles. But after him
are the two principles bound and infinity. And the mixture is the fourth
If therefore the cause of the mixture
is different from the first divine cause, this cause will be the fifth
and not the fourth thing, as Socrates says it is. Farther still, in addition
to these things, if we say that God is especially the supplier of union
to beings, and the mixture itself of the principles is a union into the
hypostasis of being, God is also certainly the cause of this primarily.
For in short, since it is one and not one, the one is inherent in it according to bound, but the non-one according to infinity. The mixture however of both these, and its wholeness, are derived from the first God. That which is mixed therefore, is a monad, because its participates of The One; and it is biformed, so far as it proceeds from the two principles; but it is a triad, so far as in every mixture, these three things are necessary according to Socrates, viz. beauty, truth, and symmetry. Concerning these things however, we shall speak again. In what manner, however, essence is that which is first mixed, we shall now explain. For this is of all things the most difficult to discover, viz. what that is which is primarily being, as the Elean guest also somewhere says; for it is most dubious how being is not less than non-being.
In what manner therefore essence subsists
from bound and infinity must be shown. For if bound and infinity are superessential,
essence may appear to have its subsistence from non-essences. How therefore
can non-essences produce essence?
Or is not this the case in all other
things which subsist through the mixture of each other? For that which
is produced from things mingled together, is not the same with things that
are not mingled. For neither is soul the same with the genera, from which,
being mingled together, the father generated it, nor is a happy life the
same with the life which is according to intellect, or with the life which
is according to pleasure, nor is The One in bodies the same with its elements.
For it all things occultly, and on
this account, is the cause of all beings; which also the Elean guest, indicating
to us, calls being the first power, as subsisting according to the participation
of the first power, and participating of hyparxis from bound, and of power
from infinity. Afterwards however, the Elean guest defines being to be
power, as prolific and generative of all things, and as beings all things
uniformly. For power and every where the cause of prolific progressions,
and of all multitude; occult power indeed being the cause of occult multitude;
but the power which exists in energy, and which unfolds itself into light,
being the cause of all-perfect multitude. Through this cause therefore,
I think, that every being, and every essence has connascent powers. For
it participates of infinity, and derives its hyparxis indeed from bound,
but its power from infinity.
And being is nothing else than a monad
of many powers, and a multiplied hyparxis, and on this account being is
The many however subsist occultly
and without separation in the first natures; but with separation in secondary
natures. For by how much being is nearer to The One, by so much the more
does it conceal multitude, and is defined according to union alone.
The Theology of Plato
Copyright ©1999 Roy George