Theurgy and the Soul: The Neoplatonism of Iamblichus by Gregory Shaw

By Gregory Shaw

Theurgy and the Soul is a learn of Iamblichus of Syria (ca. 240-325), whose teachings set the ultimate kind of pagan spirituality sooner than the Christianization of the Roman Empire. Gregory Shaw makes a speciality of the speculation and perform of theurgy, a time period that means "divine action," the main arguable and demanding point of Iamblichus's Platonism. not like earlier Platonists, who under pressure the increased prestige of the human soul, Iamblichus taught that the soul descends thoroughly into the physique and calls for the functionality of theurgic rites--revealed by means of the gods--to unite the soul with the One.

Iamblichus was once a seminal Platonic thinker whose perspectives at the soul and the significance of formality profoundly inspired next thinkers equivalent to Proclus, Damascius, and Dionysius the Areopagite. Iamblichus's imaginative and prescient of a hierarchical cosmos united by means of divine ritual grew to become the dominant worldview for the complete medieval international, and performed a major function within the Renaissance Platonism of Marsilio Ficino. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that he anticipated a examining of Iamblichus to reason a "revival within the churches." but, until eventually lately, smooth students have brushed aside him, seeing theurgy as ritual magic or an try and control the gods. Shaw, although, indicates that theurgy used to be a refined and intellectually subtle try to practice Platonic and Pythagorean teachings to the whole expression of human lifestyles within the fabric international. This re-creation encompasses a foreword via John Milbank and Aaron Riches exhibiting the Christian sacramental implications of Iamblichean theurgy, and a brand new preface from the author.

"Theurgy and the Soul continues to be the only crucial paintings not just at the mysterious but influential determine of Iamblichus, but additionally at the emergence of spiritual or theurgical Neoplatonism. Shaw offers the reasoning and classical pedigree in the back of the occasionally vague doctrines and practices belonging to this frequently misunderstood institution of suggestion. His research finds it as a dynamic and targeted kind of philosophy in its personal correct, and never the final gasp of Hellenism ahead of the onset of the center Ages." --L. MICHAEL HARRINGTON, writer of Sacred position in Early Medieval Neoplatonism

"Gregory Shaw's Theurgy and the Soul is the basic advisor for these looking access to the experiential measurement of past due Neoplatonism. The ebook is additionally philosophically sound, yet its fundamental significance lies in bringing alive for sympathetic readers the symbolic and imaginal realities that lively the non secular practices of Iamblichus and his fans. It finds past due old Platonists sincerely as mystical existentialists whose teachings are only as very important now as they have been in antiquity." --JOHN BUSSANICH, writer of the single and Its Relation to mind in Plotinus

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Extra resources for Theurgy and the Soul: The Neoplatonism of Iamblichus

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My thanks also to Erma i Theurgy and the Soul Pounds of Tempe, Arizona, and Robert Johnson of Encinitas, Cali- fornia, who earlier helped me recognize such depth. Two Faculty Summer Grants from Stonehill College aided my research and provided time for revisions of the manuscript, which Thomas Hallinan graciously photocopied on several occasions. The constant support of my colleagues in the Department of Religious Studies at Stonehill has also been a great help. The late Helen Nes- bitt was kind enough to give the first four chapters of the manu- script hours of careful reading, which produced clearer and more economic prose.

The Enkyklios Paideia of the Middle Eastern seventh century context was one in which Hellenistic learning flourished. John is indeed well versed in Plato and Aristotle, and his writing evidences familiarity with Neoplatonic themes. All this seems to support the suggestion that he knew Iamblichus; that he deliberately and echoed Iamblichus would, however, require more scholarly substantiation than we are providing. 17. Cf. 28. 18. 23. 19. 12. 20 In this way the logic of Neoplatonic theurgy involves a kenosis of mind, a recollection that plunges downwards into matter, into the simplicity and non-reflexivity of material being.

Like the vision of Iambli- chean theurgy—and the theology of John of Damascus—Milbank and Riches extend the boundaries of the Incarnation to include the entire material world. And in this sense they rightly see a “conver- gence” between Neoplatonic theurgy and Incarnational theology. Yet, despite this convergence, Milbank and Riches also point to a difference, the key difference, between the theurgy of Iamblichus and Christian theurgy. It is this: in Neoplatonic theurgy the mate- rial cosmos is an agalma, a shrine of the Demiurge ( Timaeus 37c); the cosmos itself reveals the presence of gods.

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