Chapter 10. Concerning the Powers Invoked

Come, then, let us look over the opposing propositions in their order, what they are, and what reason there is for them. And if we let ourselves go on a little more at length in regard to some, as though speaking indeed by particular authority and at our own convenience, thou shouldst wait and bear with us patiently. For in regard to the Supreme Sciences, if thou wouldst know them perfectly, it is necessary that great diligence shall be observed and likewise that they shall be investigated for a long time with rigorous exactness. Thou wilt, therefore, according to the present plan, as thou hast begun, put forward the questions at issue which constitute the topics for discussion, and I in my turn will give thee an answer.

Accordingly, thou sayest: “It perplexes me greatly to form a conception how they who are invoked as superior beings are likewise commanded like inferiors.”

I will tell thee in reply the whole distinction in regard to the beings that are invoked that is worthy of a word; from which thou wilt have an intelligible explanation as to what may be and what may not be, in regard to the matters of which thou art asking. For the gods, the beings superior to us, by a purposing of the things that are beautiful, and likewise by an ungrudging affluence of benefits, bestow cordially the things that are suitable upon those who are worthy, compassionating the labors of the men in the Sacred office, but loving their children, their nurslings and pupils.

The intermediary races, <sup>1</sup> however, are the ephors or directors of decision. They likewise advise what it is necessary to do and what it is well to desist from. They also help to just actions, but hinder from those that are unjust, and they likewise cause many who are endeavoring to despoil others unjustly, or to ill-treat or destroy some one, to undergo the same things which they are designing to perform to others.

There is, moreover, a certain other race of daemons present, irrational and destitute of judgment, to which has been allotted only a single faculty in the series, by the distribution to each of the function which has been arranged among the several divisions. As, therefore, it is the function of the sword to cut and to do nothing else than this, so also of the spirits distributed everywhere according to the differentiating necessity of the realm of nature, one class divides and another collects the things that come into existence. This, however, is well known from the manifestations. For the Charoneian cavities, <sup>2</sup> as they are called, send forth a spirit or exhalation from their recesses, which is capable of destroying everything indiscriminately that happens to be there.

So, therefore, certain invisible spirits, each having by allotment a different function, are constituted to perform that office only as it has been arranged. If, then, any one shall undertake to celebrate the Perfective Rites in proper order,. and shall change them in another direction, and do something contrary to prescribed custom, there will be a particular injury for making use of the Sacred Rites in an unlawful manner. This is a topic, however, foreign to our discourse.

4.2. Cp. Luck 121-22.

What, however, it is now proposed to investigate we sometimes behold as it takes place. For it happens in regard to the spirits that do not make use of a rational faculty of their own and have no principle of judgment, that they are commanded; and this is not unreasonable. For our understanding, being naturally endowed to reason and decide, in the same way as it has charge of affairs, and likewise comprehending many of the forces of life in itself, is accustomed to dominate the most irrational and those that have only a single energy complete. Hence it calls upon them as superior beings, because it is endeavoring to draw from the whole cosmic world that encompasses us the things which perfect us entirely in respect to the matters that are held among divisible things. But it commands them imperatively as inferiors, <sup>3</sup> because certain parts (of our nature while) in the world frequently are more pure and more perfect than (faculties) that extend to the whole cosmos; as, for example, if one is spiritual and intellectible and the other is wholly non-spiritual or belonging to the sphere of nature; for then the one that is less extended and developed is superior in authority to the one that is developed more amply, although it may be surpassed by the latter in the magnitude and extent of dominion.

There is, however, also another reason to be applied to these things, namely: There is a twofold prelude to the whole theurgic performance. The former, which is introduced as by human beings, which conserves our rank in the universe as it exists in the sphere of nature; and the latter, which is confirmed by divine tokens, exalted on high through being allied to the superior beings, and likewise led harmoniously after their beautiful order, which may also in all likelihood be invested with the external form of the gods. In accordance, therefore, with the difference of such a kind, the officiator very properly invokes the powers from everywhere as superior beings, in so far as the invoker is a human being, and in turn commands them as subordinate; since through the arcane symbols he is in a manner encompassed with the sacred dignity of the gods.

Yet in order to resolve the doubts of these things still more truly, we think it well, when making the invocations, to omit the supplications which appear to be directed to them as to human beings, and also the imperative expressions which are uttered with great force during the celebrating of the Rites. For if the communion of a harmonious friendship and an indissoluble combining together as being only one comprise the sacred work, nothing of achievements called human joins with it, to the end that it shall be truly of the gods and superior to human beings. Nor should the invocation be in such a manner as when we endeavor to bring distant objects to us, nor the supplication of the form addressed to beings separate and apart in such a manner as we pass something from one to another. But energy of the divine Fire itself shines forth spontaneously in all directions, and being both self-called and self-operating, is active in like manner through all things, those alike that impart and those that can receive it.

The explanation which is now made is far superior, which does not assume that divine operations are accomplished by means of contrary or different natures, as things of nature are wont to be effected; but, instead, that every work is rightly accomplished through sameness, oneness and conformity of nature. If, then, we should make a distinction between the invoker and the invoked, the commander and the one commanded, the superior and the inferior, we should in some way transfer the contrariety of sex that is peculiar to generated beings to the unbegotten blessed natures of the gods. If, then, as is right, we disregard all these matters as being earth-born, but assign as being more precious that which is common and simple to the beings that are superior to the diversified conditions existing here, the first thing assumed by these questions will be at once completely answered, so that there will not be a single reasonable point of controversy left in regard to them.

What shall we say, then, in regard to the question, after the one just answered: “Why do the divinities that are invoked require the worshiper to be just, although they themselves when entreated consent to perform unjust acts?”

In reply to this I am uncertain in respect to what is meant by “performing unjust acts,” as the same definition may not appear right both to us and to the gods. We, on the one hand, looking to that which is least significant, consider the things that are present, the momentary life, what it is and how it originates. The beings superior to us, let me say, know for certain the whole life of the soul and all its former lives; and if they bring on a retribution from the supplication of those who invoke them, they do not increase it beyond what is just. On the contrary, they aim at the sins impressed upon the soul in former lifetimes, which men, not perceiving, imagine that it is unjust that they shall fall into the misfortunes which they suffer.

The many are also generally accustomed to propose the same doubt in regard to Providence; that certain persons are suffering from wrong-doing, who had not wronged any one previously. For they are unable here to reason as to what the soul is, what its entire life has been, the magnitude of its great errors in former lives, and whether it is now suffering these things for what it did formerly. Then also there are many unjust acts which elude human cognizance, but which are well known to the gods, since the same view of justice is not maintained by mankind generally. On the contrary, men define justice as the independent action of the Soul and the assigning of merit according to the established laws and the ruling conditions of civic life. The gods, I assure you, give their judgment of whatever is just, looking to the whole orderly arrangement of the world, and to the joint relation of the souls with the gods. Hence the judgment of what actions are right is different with the gods from what it is with us. We cannot wonder at this, if we do not in most matters arrive at the high and absolutely perfect judgment which is exercised by the superior beings. But what hinders justice to every one individually and with the whole family of souls, especially in a much superior manner from being as would be approved of the gods? For if a sharing of the same nature by souls when they are in bodies and when they are apart from bodies effects an intimate alliance to the common life and order of the world, it is also necessary that the payment of the requirements of justice shall be demanded to the uttermost, and especially when the magnitude of the wrongs done by the one soul in former terms of existence exceeds the fullest extent of the single punishment following upon the offenses.

If, however, any one should add other explanations, by which he seeks to make plain in a different way the maintaining of justice by the gods, or as it is determined by us,. there may result from them a way for us in regard to the matters under consideration. But for me the rules alone which have been already laid down are sufficient for the purpose of manifesting generally the race of superior beings, and including everything in relation to the healing influence in the punishments.

In order, therefore, that we may from our abundance decide the contest against the assumption now under discussion, we will, if agreeable to thee, consider as granted the contrary of what we have argued, namely, that unjust things are performed in the proceedings, the invocations. It is evident at once, therefore, that the gods are not to be accused of these things. For they who are good are causes and authors of good things; and the gods are good in their very essence. They accordingly do nothing unjust; hence it is necessary to seek for other causes of the things which occur discordantly. But even though we are not able to find these, we ought not to throw away the true concept in relation to the gods (that they are the causes only of what is just); nor should we, because of controversy as to whether things occur and how they occur, reject notions in regard to the gods that are really clear. For it is much better to confess the feebleness of our powers that are unable to understand how unjust acts are perpetuated, than to concede an impossible falsehood in respect to the gods, concerning which all the Greek philosophers, and likewise the foreign peoples, rightly entertain the contrary opinion. So, then, this is the truth.

Nevertheless, it is necessary to add also the causes by which evils sometimes come into existence, and likewise how numerous and of what kind they are. For their form is not simple, <sup>4</sup> and being diversified it takes the lead in the bringing of a variety of evils into existence. For if we spoke truly just now in regard to the mystic figures and the evil daemons, that after the manner of actors in a play assume to be present in the character of gods and good daemons, there appears in some manner a malignant tribe rushing in a numerous body, and with these the discrepancy which thou hast described usually happens. For the daemons require the worshiper to be just, because they themselves as actors in the drama are assuming to be, as if of the race of the gods, whereas they are servants to injustice because they are in their nature evil.

Let there be, therefore, the same statement in regard to false and true, and of good and evil. In the divinations we attribute truth to the gods only, and when falsehood is detected impute it to another race as the cause, that of the daemons. So also in regard to matters just and unjust; that what is beautiful and right is to be ascribed only to the gods and good daemons, while the daemons who are evil by nature do the things that are unjust and dishonorable. That which is in all respects in harmony with itself, and is always in the same manner in itself and with itself, pertains to the superior beings; but that which is contradictory, discordant and never the same, is the peculiarity of the dissensions of the daemons. Hence it is no matter of wonder in regard to them if violent conflicts exist. Indeed, it would be more wonderful if this should not be the case.

Hurrying out from another line of argument, we assume that the several parts of the body of the universe are not inert or destitute of power. On the contrary, so far as they excel our conditions in perfection, beauty and magnitude by so much we insist that the greater power is present with them. They are themselves capable of different things individually by themselves, and they employ diverse energies; but they can accomplish much more in a certain degree acting with one another. Indeed, there is a certain creative activity of various kinds extending from the whole universe into the parts either from sympathy through similarity of powers, or from the adaptation of the active to the passive principle.

If, therefore, there happen by corporeal necessities, any mischievous and destructive results to parts, yet they are salutary and beneficial as regards the whole and the entire framework. But they bring on a necessary decay to the parts, either from not being able to conduct the operations of the whole; or secondly, from a commingling and combining of the infirmities existing from themselves; or thirdly, from the want of harmony of the parts with one another.

Next in course after the body of the Universe, there are many things coming into existence from its productive principle. <sup>5</sup> For the harmonious union of the things that are of like nature, and the repulsion of those that are unlike, produce not a few. Moreover, the joining of the many is one, the Living Principle of the Universe, <sup>6</sup> and the forces in the world, however many and of whatever kind they may be, bring to perfection, to speak in plain terms, one thing in respect to the whole, but another in respect to the parts, owing to the relative feebleness of the parts when they are separate; just as Attraction, Love, and Repulsion, <sup>7</sup> which are present in the universe as energy, become passive conditions in those that participate individually, taking the lead in ideals and pure principles in the nature of wholes, <sup>8</sup> they share in a certain deficiency and unshapeliness which are incident to matter in regard to things of a divisible quality. In respect to wholes, they are united, but in regard to parts they are at variance. Thus do differentiated natures that participate in these imperfections in conjunction with matter deteriorate in regard to everything that is good, perfect and universal. Sometimes they decay in parts in order that the entire natures which are compacted firmly together may be preserved. Sometimes, also, the parts are tormented and weighed down, while the natures that are entire remain insensible to such molestation.

Let us, therefore, bring together the results from these conclusions. For if some of those who make the invocations (at the Rites) employ the natural or corporeal powers of the universe, the gift comes of energy unpremeditated and without evil. Indeed, it is the one using the gift improperly who diverts it to contrary and useless purposes; and then it is joined in a contrary manner sympathetically to passive conditions through similarity of nature, but he draws the gift directly contrary to the right toward what is evil and base. He also makes the things that are farthest apart to operate together according to the one established order of the world. Yet if any one, perceiving this, should endeavor improperly to attract certain parts of the universe to other parts, they will not be the cause of that mischief; but, on the contrary, it will be the temerity of human beings, and the violation of order in the world, that pervert the things that are good and lawful.

Hence, therefore, the things that are considered to be wicked the gods do not perform, but, on the contrary, the natures that are beneath them are the causes of them, and likewise the bodies. Nor do these, as is supposed, impart from themselves anything of a faulty character; but they send down instead, for the safety of all, their own auras to those races that are allotted to the earth, <sup>9</sup> and those who receive these emanations change them by their own commingling and modifying and transfer what had been given for one purpose to others widely different.

From all these things, therefore, it is shown that the divinity is in no sense a source of evils and wrongs.

Moreover, thou askest, and at the same time hintest a doubt with this question: “They (the gods) will not hearken to the person who is invoking them, if he is not pure from sexual contamination. Yet they do not themselves hesitate to lead chance individuals into unlawful sexual relations.”

Whether there are occurrences that take place outside of human laws, but according to another and higher source and order than the laws; or whether occurrences of this kind happen, and according to an agreement and affection in the world, but yet in part through some commingling sympathy; or whether the gift of beauty which was graciously imparted is perverted by those who receive it to that which is the opposite, there is, nevertheless, a clear solution from the things that have been said before.

Of a truth it is not necessary to examine separately in regard to these same things and how they occur and what reason there is for them. We must bear in mind that “the whole universe is a single living being,” and the parts in it are separated by spaces, but with one nature, and are desirous to be with one another. <sup>10</sup> The whole impulse for coming together and the cause of commingling attract the parts spontaneously to an intimate union. It is also possible, however, for this to be excited by artificial means, and likewise to be increased beyond what is becoming.

The cause itself, therefore, considered by itself alone, extending from itself about the whole world, is both good and a source of completeness, and also of communion, conjunction and harmonious adaptation and with the union it also introduces the indissoluble principle of Love which retains and preserves both the things that are and the things that come into existence. But in the parts (the incomplete natures) it occurs that by reason of their separateness from each other and from the perfect natures, and likewise because they are incomplete, deficient and weak in their own nature, there is a connection effected through the passive condition. On this account there are innate desire and appetite inherent in the principal number of them.

In Art, therefore, observing that this innate desire is thus implanted by Nature and distributed through her domain, and being itself distributed over the realm of nature in many forms, attracts it and leads it on. That which in itself is arranged in order, it brings into disorder, and that which is beautiful it fills with ideals of corresponding disfigurement. The Sacred Purpose in them all which is by nature that on union it changes to an unseemly complement of a different character, a bringing together of diverse things in some way according to a common passive condition. It likewise gives forth a material from itself which is adverse to the entire creation of what is beautiful, either not receiving beauty at all, or changing it to something else. It likewise mingles with many different forces of the realm of nature, from which it directs as it pleases the comminglings incident to the sphere of creation. <sup>11</sup>

We show, therefore, from every side that such argument for sexual connections comes from a technique or art of human origin, but is never from any necessity daemonian or divine.

Consider, therefore, a class of causes of a different kind: that somehow a stone or plant has frequently a destroying quality derived from them, or one that collects together those which are productive. For it is not by any means in respect to these things alone, but also in respect to greater natures or in greater things that this natural superiority exists, which they who are unable to examine, reflect upon and determine, may easily attribute to the superior operations of nature. Already, moreover, it may be conceded that in the realm of generated existence, in respect to human affairs and in matters generally about the earth, the tribe of evil daemons is able to hold superior dominion. What wonder is it, then, if such a race performs such works? For every man may not be able to discriminate which is the good and which the evil selfhood, or by what tokens they may be distinguished from one another. Indeed, those who are not able to perceive the distinction come to conclusions absurdly concerning the inquiry in regard to the cause of these agencies and refer it to the races superior to the realm of nature and to the order of daemons. But even though powers of the particled <sup>12</sup> soul are comprehended in respect to these things as to their accomplishment, both while it holds to the body and when it has left the oyster-like and earthly corporeality, <sup>13</sup> but yet wanders below around the places of creation in a disturbed and melting spirit – nevertheless the same opinion would be true; but it places the cause far away from the superior beings. By no means, therefore, does the divine nature nor a good daemon minister to the unlawful desires of human beings in regard to sexual matters, since there are many other causes of these.



  • 1. Proklos enumerates three classes of the daemons: the more spiritual, the more rational, and the more unreasoning. The guides of Sokrates and Plotinus were of the second of these. They are here described.
  • 2. Charoneia is a district in Asia Minor, bordering on the river Meander. The name is from Charon, the supposed ferryman of disbodied souls across the river Styx in the Underworld. The caves, or, rather, little openings in the ground, emitted a sulfurous vapor, sometimes destructive to life. Pliny also mentions similar cavities at Italy, near Puteoli. They were supposed to lead to the realm of Hades.
  • 3. These irrational spirits, so far as they contribute to perfecting individuals, are superior to us, though because of their irrationality they are inferior.
  • 4. Real being, only is simple and unique: evil is always complex.
  • 5. The fusis (phusis), or nature, is here indicated as the maternal function of the world, by which the multiplicity of created things are brought forth into existence.
  • 6. The Anima Mundi, or Soul of the world.
  • 7. Greek, filia, efws, neikos. The ancient verse repeated this statement as follows:

“The race of Immortals was not till Eros mingled all together:
But when the elements were mixed with one another,
Heaven was produced, the ocean and earth and the imperishable race of the blessed gods.”

  • 8. “Wholes” being complete are undivided into parts, but complete in every respect.
  • 9. The “archons” of the lower earthly class.
  • 10. Plotinus: Ennead IV, iv, 32 “This all is one and as a single living being. Being a living being and completely one, there is nothing in it so distant in space as not to be near to the peculiar nature of the one living being through common sympathy.”
  • 11. “The Magic Art (white magic) is regarded by the Greeks as an agency of great power. They declare it to be actually the very extreme of the Sacred Knowledge. For it searches out everything under the moon, its nature, virtue and quality: I mean the elements and their component parts, being animals, plants of all kinds and their fruits, stones, and herbs: and in short, everything with its substance and power. Hence, therefore, it works out results of itself: it employs schemes of every kind, images promotive of health.”
  • 12. The human soul is particled, divided not only by qualities but also by being partly included in the category and influence of the body while the nobler part is still in a manner a denizen of the Eternal Region. Hence the declaration of Paul to the Corinthian believers “We know that though our earthly house of this tabernacle should be dissolved, we have a divine building, a house not made by hands, eternal in the heavens.”
  • 13. Plato: Phaedros – “This which we now carry with us and call 'the body,' fastened to it like an oyster to its shell.”