|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 R U L I N G
G O D S
A N D
T H E L I B E R A
T E D G O D S
All the orders of the principles or rulers, are suspended from
The hebdomadic aion (eternity) therefore,
of the intellectual Gods has been through these things celebrated by us,
following the mystic conceptions of Plato.
But after this, let us in the next
place contemplate the multiform progressions of the ruling orders, and
refer the one union of them to the intellectual theory of Parmenides. For
this order is woven together in continuity with the demiurgus and father
of wholes, proceeds from, is perfected by, and converted to him, according
to his perfective power.
The ruling order of Gods
the ruling order of Gods
||is woven together in continuity with the demiurgus and father of wholes
|proceeds from the demiurgus and father of wholes
|is perfected by the demiurgus and father of wholes
|is converted to the demiurgus and father of wholes
Hence also, it is necessary to connect
the narration about the governors of the universe, with the discussion
concerning the demiurgus, and to assimilate words to the things of which
they are the interpreters. For all the series of the ruling Gods, are collected
into the intellectual fabrication as into a summit, and subsist about it.
And as all the fountains are the
progeny of the intelligible father, and are filled from him with intelligible
union, thus likewise, all the orders of the principles or rulers, are suspended
according to nature from the demiurgus, and participate from thence of
an intellectual life.
And let no one be offended with me
on hearing in this place the names of fountain and principle, nor accuse
these names, as not at all pertaining to Plato. For, as we have before
observed, Plato does not leave unnoticed any one of these mystic names.
But in his discussions about souls, when he denominates them the fountains
and principles of motion, he at the same time indicates the difference
between the peculiarity of fountain, and the peculiarity of principle,
and the inferiority of principle with respect to the exempt transcendency
The ruling Gods are perfectly exempt from generated natures
He likewise manifests that the self-vital
extends to all things as far as to soul, from fountain; but the unbegotten
from principle. And this is because the fontal genus indeed of the Gods
is self-begotten, and first-effective, and produces other things from itself;
but the ruling genus of the Gods, and which has the relation of a principle,
though it proceeds from the fountains, and is allotted a more partial order
among beings, yet it is expanded above every thing which is generated,
and neither is in a certain respect connected with generated natures, nor
communicates with a sensible nature.
For the mundane Gods, indeed, are
in a certain respect generated; whence also, they are denominated generated
by Timaeus, and this whole world is likewise called by him a generated
But the ruling Gods, and who have
the relation of principles, are perfectly exempt from generated natures,
and are not co-arranged with them. Hence also, the unbegotten is most particularly
adapted to them.
Those Gods, however, who preside
over the liberated dominion being the media between the unbegotten and
generated Gods, come into contact indeed with the latter, but do not give
completion to the choir of mundane Gods. Hence, they are in a certain respect
both generated and unbegotten.
= Mundane Gods
The Gods, therefore, who are the summits
of super-mundane natures, and the rulers of wholes, are alone allotted
an unbegotten subsistence in the orders that proceed from the demiurgus.
Hence, likewise, this peculiarity
is from thence derived to souls. For, as Plato says, principle is unbegotten.
For it is necessary that every thing which is generated should be generated
from a principle, but that the principle should not be generated from any
The ruling principles proceed from the Gods prior to them
At the same time, therefore, it is
manifest through these things, how the [ruling] principles proceed from
the Gods prior to them. For they are not allotted a progression from them
according to motion, nor in short, according to mutation; but the orders
of the ruling Gods subsist by their very being, according to their prolific
power, and unenvying and exuberant will; and the self-begotten power of
the intellectual Gods, gives to the principles also the first generation
Whether, therefore, some one is willing
to adopt these, or other names of the divine orders, we shall consider
it as a thing of no consequence. But receiving the peculiarity of them,
whatever it may be, according to the rumours of theologists, we shall transfer
their mystic tradition to the Platonic narration. For thus we shall make
the investigation of what follows conformable to what has been before said,
and what we assert will be adapted to the things themselves.
These Gods, shining forth the first of the intellectuals, express
the Gods from whom they derive their subsistence
Again therefore, let us assume the
principles of the science concerning these Gods, and demonstrate that the
theory pertaining to them is consequent to the first causes.
The intelligible Gods therefore,
surpass wholes according to supreme transcendency, and primarily participate
the union and divine light, in which all the Gods perfectly establish their
hypostases. They likewise unically produce all things from themselves,
according to the paternal and exuberant will of the communication of good,
and pre-establish in themselves occultly the first effective causes of
For the whole and common measures
of forms pre-subsist in them, and they comprehend according to one cause
the uniform genera of being, and prior to these, bound and infinity, from
which the superessential orders of the Gods generate all beings.
But in the second rank after these,
the intelligible and at the same time intellectual Gods subsist, being
divided indeed according to the same number, and preserving the measure
of the all-perfect triad in a second order, but producing into multitude
the unities of intelligibles, and transferring the unical boundaries of
those triads into essential hypostases, and which participate of The One.
Instead of powers however, which
are whole, without separation, and occult, they are transferred into divided
causes, and which proceed far from The One.
Again, in the third rank after the
intelligible Gods, those that are called intellectual are arranged at one
and the same time indeed, proceeding into an order diminished with respect
to that which is prior to it, and changing the number according to which
they subsist. For instead of the perfective triads, they are intellectually
divided according to hebdomads. And with respect to the hebdomads, the
division of them into two triads, is supernally derived from the first
triads; but the terminations of them into monads, express the ends of those
Intelligible and at the same time Intellectual
For every thing which is the peculiarity
of difference and multitude, proceeds from thence to all the genera.
Again therefore, from these, the
multiform orders of the ruling principles are generated, being divided
indeed, analogous to all the intelligible Gods, and to those that are prior
to these intellectual Gods, viz. to those that are called intelligible
and at the same time intellectual. They have however, their proximate and
peculiar hypostasis from the one fabrication; but their united generation
together with intellectuals, from the third triad of intelligibles. For
that all-perfect cause produces also from itself, the whole orders of the
Hence likewise Parmenides denominates
it infinite multitude, as unfolding into light all the genera of being,
and all the orders of divine natures, and as being sufficient through one
all-perfect power to the generation of wholes.
Farther still, we may also assert
this of these leading and ruling Gods, that the intellectual monads make
their progression according to imparticipable intellect, in the same manner
as the Gods prior to them illuminate imparticipable life, and prior to
all things, the intelligible Gods constitute about themselves truly existing
and intelligible essence.
For every God is participated indeed
by beings, and on this account falls short of the unity which is imparticipable
and exempt from all things.
But a different deity proceeds according
to a different peculiarity. And some of the Gods indeed, being defined
according to the ineffable good itself, comprehend the intelligible causes
But others produce the vivific powers,
and connectedly contain the first genera of the Gods.
Others again, unfold into light all
the intellectual involutions, and preside over the participants of the
unities that produce divided hypostases.
Since therefore, the intellectual
Gods primarily subsist according to imparticipable intellect, and on this
account are denominated intellectual, the orders that first proceed immediately
after them, illuminate the summit of participated intellect, and are intellectual
indeed, as with reference to the inferior orders, and which are now divided
according to providential energies about the world.
But they are secondary to the first
intellectuals, and are allotted a more partial government; just as the
first of intellectuals, are indeed intelligible with respect to the Gods
produced from them, but fall short of the union of first intelligibles.
As therefore, they unfold into light
the first and imparticipable life, which the intelligible monads pre-established
in themselves according to cause only, and occultly; (for all the causes
of wholes are pre-assumed there according to one ineffable union) after
the same manner also, these Gods, shining forth the first of the intellectuals,
express the Gods from whom they derive their subsistence, and are intellectual
indeed, but produce the pure, uniform, and total hyparxis of the fathers,
into a secondary, and multiplied progression, which is divided about themselves,
and into a diminution of essence.
By first emissions also from the
first-effective, and self-subsistent fountains, they shine forth similarly
to the intellectual Gods.
Hence also, they bind to themselves
the ruling and generative causes of all the partial orders, and which exist
prior to these orders both in dignity and power.
And in short, they have the same
transcendency with respect to the other Gods [subordinate to them], which
the intelligible Gods have to those that are produced from them.
For the intelligible Gods being expanded
above all the intellectual genera, have pre-established the intelligible
hyparxis, by itself, unmingled and pure; and these ruling Gods have also
established in themselves the supermundane union, and this peculiarity
perfectly exempt from mundane natures. And as in the imparticipable and
total hypostases, there is indeed, the intelligible genus, itself by itself;
there is also the intellectual which is foreign from this; and there is
that which is collective of both, which is celebrated as subsisting in
the middle, and is denominated intelligible and at the same time intellectual,
- thus also, in these partial orders, the peculiarity of the supermundane
Gods, pre-exists by itself exempt from the parts of the universe, unco-ordinated
with this world, and on all sides comprehending it according to cause.
The government of the liberated Gods is allotted the middle
bond of the extremes, possessing sovereign authority over all mundane natures
But the essence of all the mundane
Gods is allotted the third order, being proximately carried as in a vehicle
in the parts of the world, giving completion to this one and only begotten
God, and connectedly-containing the different progressions in it.
The government however of the liberated
Gods is allotted the middle bond of the extremes, possessing sovereign
authority over all [mundane] natures, and in a certain respect communicating
with the divisions about the world, but unitedly ascending at the same
time into many of its parts, and collecting the divided numbers of the
mundane Gods into unical bounds, and more simple causes.
The liberated order of Gods
the liberated order of Gods
||is allotted the middle bond of the extremes
|possess sovereign authority over all mundane natures
|communicate with the divisions about the world
|unitedly ascend into many of the world's parts
|collect the divided numbers of the mundane Gods into unical bounds
Every genus likewise, of the mundane
Gods is spread under this liberated order, being on all sides connected,
contained, and perfected by it, and filled with the first of goods.
If therefore, there is any thing
supermundane in the Gods, and if it imparts a certain definite hyparxis
of essence to them, and defines a certain peculiarity of powers and a transcendency
of order by itself, we must admit that it primarily subsists in the ruling
Gods, being derived to them from the intellectual fathers, unmingled with
a mundane nature.
And this supermundane order indeed
is universal, as with reference to all the partible rivers of the Gods,
but it is partial, as with reference to the all- perfect, one and whole
kingdom of the intellectual Gods. For it is every where necessary that
the leading causes of secondary orders, should be in a certain respect
assimilated to the terminations of the orders established above them.
The order of the ruling Gods is in continuity with the kingdom
of the intellectual Gods
And thus the progression of the Gods
is one and continued, originating supernally from the intelligible and
occult unities, and ending in the last division of a divine cause.
For, as in sensibles the most gross
and solid bodies, are not immediately connascent with the etherial expanse,
but those which are simple and more immaterial than others, are proximately
spread under the celestial periods, and of containing bodies, those which
are primarily contained, are allotted a greater communion than those which
are situated remotely, and are conjoined to them through other media; thus
also, in the divine essences prior to the world, the second orders are
in continuity with those prior to them.
The progressions of beings however,
are completed through similitude. But the terminations of the higher orders
are united to the beginnings of second orders. And one series and indissoluble
order, extends from on high, through the surpassing goodness of the first
cause, and his unical power. For because indeed, he is one, he is the supplier
of union; but because he is The Good, he constitutes things similar to
him, prior to such as are dissimilar. And thus all things are in continuity
with each other. For if this continuity were broken, there would not be
union. And things dissimilar to each other being placed in a consequent
order, that which is more similar to the principle, would not have a more
ancient and honourable progression into being.
If therefore, we assert these things
rightly, it is necessary that the first hypostases of the partial orders
should be total, according to an intellectual transcendency which they
are allotted in the divided genera of the Gods, and thus that they should
causally comprehend all secondary natures, and conjoin them to the Gods
prior to themselves. The order of the ruling Gods therefore, is in continuity
with the kingdom of the intellectual Gods. Hence also, Parmenides proximately
constitutes it from the demiurgic monad. These things however, will afterwards
The ruling Gods are allotted the first and highest rank among
the partial orders
Making, however, another beginning,
let us discuss the orders that follow successively.
Since the partial orders of the Gods,
therefore, are divided in a threefold manner, according to the all-perfect
measure of the triad, proceeding supernally from the first intelligibles,
as far as to the last of things, measuring and defining all things as the
Oracles say, - the ruling Gods, indeed, are allotted the first and highest
rank [among the partial orders,] making their progression proximately after
the intellectual order, elevating secondary natures and conjoining them
with the demiurgus of wholes, unfolding all impartible and united intellectual
goods to things subordinate, and connecting and containing exemptly, their
essence and perfection.
But the Gods who give completion
to the sensible world are allotted the last order, and close the end of
the divine progression.
These divide the universe, and obtain
perpetual allotments and receptacles in it, and through these weave one
and the best polity of the world.
Between these mundane Gods, however,
who are our rulers and saviours, and the supermundane leaders, those Gods
subsist who preside over the separable and at the same time inseparable
order of sensibles, and define according to this their proper progression,
being at one and the same time exempt from the Gods in the universe, and
co-arranged with them.
the mundane Gods
||are our rulers
|are our saviours
And they are expanded, indeed, above
the allotment which is adequate to the divided parts of the world, and
supernally ascend into many numbers of the mundane Gods; but they make
a progression sub-ordinate to the government which extends to all things
and to wholes.
The liberated Gods are the media between the supermundane and
For in short, being the media between
the supermundane and mundane Gods, they in a certain respect communicate
with both, and have an indissoluble communion with both, being mundane,
and at the same time supermundane according to order.
And above indeed, they are united
by the ruling leaders, but beneath, they are produced into multitude by
the junior Gods, as Timaeus says.
= Junior Gods
For they ride on the mundane Gods,
and are in an undefiled manner established on their summits; but they are
suspended from the supermundane Gods, and subsist about them.
They are also more united than the
former; but are more multiplied than the latter. And they divide indeed,
the whole monads of the supermundane Gods, into perfect numbers; but they
collect the multitudes and the numbers of the mundane Gods into united
bounds, converting these Gods to their exempt principles, but calling forth
the Gods that are above the world into the generation and providential
care of sensible natures, and immutably preserving in themselves the middle
form of empire.
For the middle bonds give completion
to all the genera of the Gods.
Thus in intelligibles, between the
intelligible and occult order, and the paradigmatic triad, and all-perfect
multitude, the intelligible centre subsists, being parturient indeed, with
multitude and the first (forms,) but vanquished by the uniform comprehension
of the first order. Again, in intelligibles and intellectuals, the connective
genus extending from the middle to all the extremes, conjoins and binds
all their essences, powers and providential energies.
We are accustomed to celebrate the liberated genus of Gods as
After the same manner therefore, in
these orders also, viz. in the kings exempt from, and in those that are
co-arranged with the universe, those Gods that emit in themselves uniformly
the peculiarities of both these kings, afford a communication to them with
Whence also it belongs to them to
transport first to second natures, to convert second to first natures,
to unite both by an indissoluble connexion, and to guard the whole order
in the world. The immutable, therefore, the inflexible, the indissoluble
in providential energies, dominion over wholes, the administration of many
partible allotments of the Gods at once, and the elevating to supermundane
perfection many of their progressions and orders, pertain to these Gods.
Hence, we are accustomed to celebrate
this genus of Gods as liberated, in consequence of being freed from all
division according to parts; as supercelestial, in consequence of proximately
establishing itself above the Gods in the heavens; as undefiled, in consequence
of not verging to subordinate natures, nor dissolving its exempt transcendency
by a providential attention to the world; as elevating, in consequence
of extending the mundane Gods to the intellectual and intelligible place
of survey; and as perfect, in consequence of illuminating all the celestials
with the measures of perfection.
The supercelestial order of Gods
||in consequence of being freed from all division according to parts
||in consequence of proximately establishing itself above the Gods in
||in consequence of not verging to subordinate natures
||in consequence of extending the mundane Gods to the intellectual and
intelligible place of survey
||in consequence of illuminating all the celestials with the measures
Since therefore, this order is in
continuity with the assimilative rulers, but is arranged prior to the mundane
Gods, it is indeed proper to evince that the theology pertaining to it
is suspended from the doctrine concerning the ruling Gods, and at the same
time affords from itself the principles of the conceptions about the sensible
The demiurgus and father produces from himself three orders
The intelligible king [i. e. Phanes,
or in Platonic language animal itself, subsisting at the extremity of the
intelligible order] therefore, of all intellectuals, luminously emitting
from himself the first causes, and which measure wholes, according to the
all-perfect triad in himself, defines all wholes as far as to the last
of things, and triples the progressions of the Gods from himself, so as
to generate indeed three orders, but refer each of them to one monad, and
an intelligible transcendency.
On this account he constitutes three
collective, three connective, and three perfective causes of all intellectuals;
extending the triadic light to all things, and imparting by illumination
the perfect in the progressions of its proper offspring, to the beginnings,
middles, and ends of all separated natures.
But again, the demiurgus and father,
imitating his father and grandfather, to the latter of whom he extends
his total intelligence, being the same in intellectuals, as he is in intelligibles,
and terminating the genus of the intellectual fathers, in the same manner
as his grandfather closes the paternal profundity of intelligibles, produces
from himself three orders of Gods. And as the total progressions were divided
from his grandfather triadically, so the partial progressions are perfected
on account of him, according to the triad. Hence, there are also three
orders from the demiurgus; but they proceed according to the end adapted
to each. And one of them indeed, is supermundane alone; another is mundane;
and another is in a certain respect the middle of both.
The three orders of Gods
produced by the demiurgus and father
They are likewise allotted the triple
proximately from the paternal cause; but each derives the peculiarity of
hyparxis from definite principles, and a diminution proceeding according
to measures. For they have neither an hypostasis of equal dignity, as mathematical
monads have in the triad, nor a disorderly difference of dignity, but they
receive the difference of a subordinate essence, and arrangement in their
generation from the first causes.
And thus, the ruling Gods indeed,
are allotted the highest order in the partial progressions, and the exempt
cause of the proceeding natures. But the liberated Gods are allotted the
second order, being arranged indeed under the ruling, but riding on the
mundane Gods. And the mundane Gods are allotted the third order, being
elevated through the liberated, but united by the ruling, to the intellectual
The partial progressions
In what manner however, the Gods in
the world and all the mundane genera participate of the ruling Gods, we
have already shown.
In the mundane Gods themselves, we may perceive a twofold energy
But each of the mundane genera enjoy
the energy of the liberated governors of the universe, according to a measure
adapted to each, and especially such as are able to follow the powers of
these Gods. For in the Gods themselves, we may perceive a twofold energy,
the one indeed, being co-arranged with the subjects of their providential
care, but the other being exempt and separate.
According therefore, to the first
of these energies, the mundane Gods govern sensibles, and convolve, and
convert them to themselves; but according to the other, they follow the
liberated Gods, and together with them are elevated to an intelligible
And on this account, the Elean guest,
makes the periods of the whole world, and of each of the Gods in it to
be twofold. For, he says, that the sun, and each of the heavenly bodies,
subsist according to both these circulations, viz. the intellectual and
the mundane; or, if you are willing so to speak, according to the power
which is motive of secondary natures, and the power which ascends in conjunction
with the liberated Gods.
Our souls, at one time live according to the elevating progression,
and at another according to the mundane
Moreover, he says, that our souls,
and all the natures that have a life separate from bodies, at one time
live according to that elevating progression, and at another according
to the mundane; and now indeed we proceed from youth to old age, since
we have departed from a flourishing and undefiled life, and are borne to
earth, and generation; but then on the contrary, we proceeded from old
age to youth.
On which account, we were led round
to a flourishing, intellectual, and liberated form of energy.
Hence also, the corporeal-formed
nature [with which we are connected,] was gradually obliterated, and whatever
causes us to tend downward, and renders us inseparable from the universe.
But an incorporeal, and immaterial nature shone forth, and was filled with
the Gods who are the leaders of a life of this kind.
The soul which is perfect and winged, revolves on high, and
obtains this end, and this true blessedness, through the Gods
If also, you are willing, we may collect
the same thing by a reasoning process, from what is written in the Phaedrus.
Socrates, therefore, says in that dialogue, that the soul which is perfect
and winged, revolves on high, and governs the whole world; and that this
will be the case with our soul, when it arrives at the summit of a happy
life. But this is in a much greater degree present with the genera superior
to us, and with the Gods themselves. For our souls obtain this end, and
this true blessedness, through the Gods.
The perfect and winged soul
the soul which is perfect and winged
||revolves on high
|governs the whole world
|this will be the case with our soul, when it arrives at the summit
of a happy life
|obtains this end, and this true blessedness, through the Gods
For whence do you think, and from
what other causes, is a disencumbered energy, and which has dominion over
wholes, imparted to us, and to the genera in the world more excellent than
us, but from the liberated Gods?
For each of the mundane Gods obtains
the administration of its allotment, and of the proper series over which
it rules, and which it constitutes about itself, according to the will
of the father. For the demiurgus arranges under the several mundane Gods,
the herds of daemons, and partial souls, as Timaeus says.
But to energize through the whole
world, is a supernatural good, and the peculiarity of the exempt government
of the supercelestial Gods. Hence, from these this good is imparted to
the mundane Gods, and to our souls.
Or how can that which is partial
extend its proper energy to the whole? And how departing from its own divided
peculiarity, can it change its life?
For that which directs its energy
to the universe, withdraws itself from an energy which is arranged in a
part. We must not therefore say, that this divine good is by any means
present to mundane natures from any other source than these Gods, who establish
their kingdom proximately above the world.
As, therefore, the progression to
all things through similitude, and the conversion according to similitude
to causes, are imparted from the assimilative rulers to the celestial Gods,
to the more excellent genera, and to us, thus also, that which is liberated
from partial natures, which is disencumbered and which tends spontaneously
to many energies, is an impression derived from the liberated rulers.
And thus much concerning the providence
of these rulers which pervades to all things, and the goods which they
impart to subordinate natures.
But we shall add to what has been
before said, the peculiarity of their essence, according to which they
are allotted this order.
The Theology of Plato
Excepts from Book VI, chapters I, II, XV and XVI
Translated by Thomas Taylor
isbn 1 898910 07 3
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©1999 Roy George