Chapter 6. The Order Exhibited at the Rites

Besides, there takes place at the Autopsies an exhibition of the order which those that are beheld, carefully maintain, namely:

That of the gods, having gods or angels around them.

That of the archangels, having angels either that precede them, keep in line with them, or follow after; or else being accompanied by another company of angels acting as an escort.

That of the angels exhibiting the peculiar operations of the order to which they have attained.

That of the good demons presenting for contemplation their own works and the benefits which they bestow.

That of the avenging demons displaying the forms of vengeance.

That of other evil demons encompassed by hurtful, bloodsucking and fierce wild beasts. <sup>1</sup>

That of the archons (of the cosmos) exhibiting along with themselves certain regions of the universe.

That of the other class of archons attracting the disorder and discord of the realm of matter.

That of a soul that is entire and not held fast in a specific form; it is beheld around the whole cosmic region as a formless fire, indicative of the Soul of the World, entire, one, undivided and without form.

That of the purified soul; the glowing shape is seen, the fire pure and without mixture. Then are seen its innermost luminance, and the form pure and steady; and it follows after the upward leading guide rejoicing with hearty good will and itself by its operations showing its proper rank.

The soul, however, that bows, carries along with it the symbols of bonds and punishments, and is not only weighed down by groups of spirits belonging to the realm of matter, but it is also held fast by the anomalous disorders incident to that realm, and there are also seen demons of the generative order placing their authority directly before it.

In short all these races make their respective orders duly distinguishable, and they show at once the regions which have fallen to them, and the allotments in which they abide. Those that are of the air display aerial fire; the earthly ones a chthonian and darker light, and the celestials a more splendid luminance. All these races are distributed in these three regions (the earth, air, and superior heaven) in the threefold order of beginning, intermediary and last; those of the gods displaying the highest and purest causes pertaining to this threefold order; those of the angels being reckoned from the archangels; those of the demons being manifest as attendant upon these and those of the half-gods in like manner ministrant – not indeed after the same services as the demons, but after other and different ways of their own. Those of the archons have the allotment which is set apart to them; to one class the superintendence of the cosmic world and to the other that of the realm of matter. Those of the souls are classed as the last of the superior races.

Hence they all indicate their places by themselves; the first classes having the first; the second class the second, and the third class the third, and the others are arranged as belonging to some of these.

Meanwhile, the gods beam forth light to such a degree of thinness that the bodily eyes are not able to sustain it, but are affected in the same way that fishes are when they are drawn from a muddy and thick fluid into rare and transparent air. For the men, the Beholders of the Divine Fire not being able to breathe because of the thinness of the fire, become enfeebled as they come to the sight, and are excluded from natural respiration. Archangels also give forth a luminant atmosphere which is not endurable for breathing; yet they neither shine with the same pure light, nor are they as overpowering as the gods their superiors. The presence of the angels makes the temperature of the air endurable, so that it is possible for the theurgic priests to approach them. In the case of the demons there is nothing to affect the air, and in consequence the atmosphere around them does not become more tenuous; a luminosity does not precede them, in which their form might become visible from being taken and fixed by the air, and there occurs no radiation around them. In the case of the half-gods, certain parts of the earth are moved as by an earthquake, and noises echo around; but the air does not become at all thinner, or unsuitable for the theurgic priests, so as to render it impossible for them to endure it. In regard to the archons, whether those of the cosmic worlds or those that belong to the realm of matter, an assemblage of many luminous apparitions, hard to endure, surrounds them; but there occurs no attenuation of the air, such as is incident to the supramundane region, or to the Zodiacal signs on high. <sup>2</sup> But with the manifestations of the souls the air is evidently affiliated more closely, and being united to them receives in itself their limitations.

Accordingly, at the last stage, when the gods appear, the dispositions of soul of those who are invoking them, realize a thorough removing of passive conditions and the transcendent perfection, and not only the energy superior in every respect, but they also participate in divine love and a tranquillity of mind, almost beyond estimation. When the archangels are beheld, these dispositions acquire a pure constancy of condition, spiritual insight and stable power. At the coming of the angels into view, they receive an allotment of wisdom and truth, and likewise of pure excellence, sure knowledge and order in harmony with these bestowments. But when the demons are contemplated the tendencies take on eager desire incident to the sphere of generated nature, and likewise not only acquire zeal for the completing of the Performances according to allotment of such exercises. If there is a view of the half-gods, then they are not only borne away by other such impressions, but also share in many anxieties of a character relating to a communion of souls. But when the archons are brought within purview, then movements are set up in the soul, cosmic or such as pertain to the realm of matter, as the case may be. And with the visions of the souls, there are brought into activity the generative appetites and natural solicitude as regards the care of the bodies and such other matters as relate to these.

In connection with these things, the apparition of the gods imparts sincerity and power, and likewise success in undertakings, and also gifts the greatest benefits; and at the appearing of the others everything is bestowed abundantly as it may be consistent with the rank of the several orders. For example that of the archangels, gives the perception of what is true, not simply in regard to all things collectively but definitely in relation to specific matters, and this not at all times but occasionally – not indefinitely to all or everywhere, but singly in a particular manner or to some special purposes. In short it does not confer power in like manner neither upon all, nor at all times, nor everywhere, but only sometimes and in some particular way. At the appearing of the angels, there are still narrower limitations than these in the circuit in the bestowing of benefits. The coming of the demons into view does not impart gifts good to the soul but either those of the body or which relate to the body. These they dispense wherever the order of the universe permits. According to the same conditions, the presence of the half-gods imparts benefits of the second and third order, aiming to acquire supervision of the entire polity of souls, but those of the earth and those of the cosmic realm. At the manifestation of the archons, the cosmic and the other class, the former confer blessings of a cosmic nature and those of this life; but those of the inferior rank bring out not a few advantages incident to the realm of matter, they exhibit to the Beholders things which contribute to the welfare of human life.

Thus we have set forth particularly the boons received from these superior races according to the respective order of every one, and have likewise made a complete answer to what thou hast asked in regard to matters of importance in relation to their appearings to view. So much, then, let us set forth respecting these subjects.

The matter, however, which thou hast brought to us for a decisive solution respecting these superior races, whether as thy own opinion or whether as what thou hast heard from others, is neither correct nor rightly expressed. Thou sayest: “It is a common thing for the gods and demons alike, and with all the Superior races, to speak boastfully, and to project an unreal image into view.”

Such is not the fact as thou supposest. For a god, an angel, and a good demon (when they appear at the Rites) give instruction freely to human beings, in regard to their own essence, but never in addition, make use in their teachings, of any expression greater than their transcendent power or inherent good qualities. For truth is essentially coexistent with the gods as light is coexistent with the Sun. At the same time we affirm that a God is in no want of excellence or any virtue which can be added to him through words. Besides the angels and demons always receive truth beforehand from the gods; <sup>3</sup> hence they never say anything else than this. Being every one of them perfect in their essence, it is not possible to add anything more to it by praising.

When, therefore, does the untruthful act of “speaking boastfully” mentioned by thee, take place? When there occurs some errancy in the theurgic technique, and the images which ought to be at the Autopsia are not, but others of a different kind are encountered, then the inferior races assume the guise of the more venerable orders, and pretend to be the very ones which they are counterfeiting; <sup>4</sup> and in such cases they abandon themselves to boastful speeches and pretensions of power which they do not possess. For I think that if anything spurious grows out like an excrescence from the first beginning, there will a great mass of falsehood flow forth from the perversion. It is necessary, therefore, for the priests to learn this thoroughly from the entire arrangement among the apparitions, and being on their guard against this, they can detect and reject the misleading assumptions of these pretenders as not being spirits that are good and true.

It is not proper in the faithful judging of things to bring forward conspicuously the errors. In the case of other sciences or arts we do not pass judgment from the failures that may have occurred in them. Things, therefore, which through inexpertness in evocation are hardly ever performed quite successfully in ten thousand representations thou shouldst not characterize from the untoward incidents, but shouldest instead bring to notice something different in respect to them. For though the performances at the self-revealing display <sup>5</sup> are such failures as thou sayest, boastful and false, those of the true adepts around the Fire are both genuine and true. For as in regard to everything else, the ruling powers begin first by themselves and furnish to themselves that which they bestow to others – as for example, in essence, in life, in action – so also supplying the truth abundantly to all beings, they are true first of all in respect to themselves and at the very outset show their own essence to the Beholders. hence, likewise, they exhibit the Autoptic fire to the theurgic priests. For it is not the operation of heat to freeze, nor of light to make dark or to hide anything from view, nor in anything else the function of which is to accomplish a particular thing, is there the power to perform some contrary operation at the same time. But on the other hand those that are not of that nature and are contrary to them in essence are able to receive these contrary impulses, or are naturally disposed to fall into evil.

We say the same things now in regard to phantasms, or apparitions. <sup>6</sup> For if these are not themselves genuine, but others of the kind are so, that really exist, they certainly will not be among the self-revealing spirits, but are of the kind that display themselves ostentatiously as genuine. These participate in deception and falsehood after the manner of the forms that appear in mirrors; and they thus attract the understanding to no good purpose, in regard to matters which never will be true of the superior races but will be among fraudulent deceptions. For the counterfeit of that which really is, and that also which resembles it faintly, as well as that which has become a source of deception, are characteristic of the races that are genuine and distinct to the view. On the other hand the gods and those that come after the gods reveal true likenesses of themselves, but never project apparitions such as are formed in water or in mirrors. Why should they exhibit these phantasms? Would it be to bring evidence of their own essence and power?

On the contrary these things are not at all necessary. They become a source of error and deception to those who believe, and they draw away the Beholders from the genuine knowledge of the gods. What useful thing do they bestow on those who are contemplating these things in the epoptic vision? What profit can be derived from that which is false? Yet unless divinity has this nature will it project a phantasm from itself? How possibly can a race that is stable and firmly established in itself and that is the source of essence and that which is genuine, create in an alien seat, a deceptive counterfeit from itself? By no means, certainly, does a god either transform himself into phantasms or project them from himself into other things, but he causes to shine forth from himself true intuitions in the true moral nature of the souls. According to these facts, they also who accompany the gods are zealous in regard to the genuineness of the gods that appear at the Autopsias.

Next, however, thou affirmest that it is “a common thing for the gods and demons and other races to make likenesses and speak boastfully of themselves.” Such a mode of speaking confounds all the races of superior beings with each other, and leaves no difference between one and another. For in this view of the matter all qualities will be common with them and nothing that is choice will be conceded to the exalted ones. It is more just, therefore, to ask by way of denial: “in what way, then, will the race of gods be superior to that of the demons?” But the fact is, that these races have no common plane: it is not imaginable, and it is not proper to argue from the last and lowest races and from the false steps among the last races, in regard to the first orders and the genuine impressions seen of them. Any one thus thinking in regard to these matters will come close to what is right, and will become acceptable to the gods.

Thou also affirmest that “ignorance and delusion in respect to the gods is irreligiousness and impiety,” and submittest the true doctrine in relation to these things. In all this there is no conflict of sentiment, but it is confessed by all alike. For who will not agree that the superior knowledge which is possessed of real being is most closely affiliated to the gods, but that the condition of not knowing falls infinitely far away from the divine causes of true ideals, sinking down to non-being? As, however, there has not enough been said upon this matter, I will add what is wanting; and because thy statement is made in a philosophic and logical manner rather than according to the working technique of the priests, I think it necessary to say something of a more theurgic character in regard to these matters.

Be it so that “not-knowing and delusion are discord and impiety.” It does not follow on this account that the offerings and invocations which are made particularly to the gods, and also the Divine Performances are thereby made fallacies. For it is not the concept that unites the theurgic priests to the gods: else what is there to hinder those who pursue philosophic speculation contemplatively, from having the theurgic union to the gods? Now, however, in actual truth, this is not the case. On the other hand, it is the complete fulfilling of the arcane performances, the carrying of them through in a manner worthy of the gods and surpassing all conception, and likewise the power of the voiceless symbols which are perceived by the gods alone, that establish the Theurgic Union. Hence we do not effect these things by thinking. <sup>7</sup>

For thus the spiritual energy will be of these things, and imparted from ourselves; neither of which suppositions is true. For even when we are not revolving these things in mind the sacred emblems themselves are accomplishing their own work, and the ineffable power of the gods to whom these emblems belong, recognizes of itself its own likenesses. This, however, is not from having been aroused by our intelligence; for it is not in the nature of things that those that encompass should be set in motion by those that are encompassed, nor things that are perfect by those that are imperfect, nor wholes by parts. Hence, the divine causes are not called forth beforehand into operation by our acts of thinking; nevertheless it is necessary to acknowledge these and also all the best conditions of the soul, and the purity pertaining to us as certain joint causes before existing. Yet the things which arouse the divine will as by authority are the divine countersigns themselves. Thus the activities of the gods are set in motion by themselves and do not receive into themselves from an inferior source any principle of their characteristic energy.

I have prolonged this discussion to this extent in order that thou mayst not be led to think that all command of the operation in the Theurgic Rites is from us, and that thou mayst not suppose that the genuineness of these performances is actually regulated by conditions in our acts of thinking, or that they are made false by deception. For although we may know the peculiarities which are incident to each race of the superior beings, we may fail to hit upon the truth in regard to their operations. Yet without this knowledge the mystic union never takes place; nevertheless the union and the knowledge are by no means the same thing. So, the divine purity is in no sense by means of the right knowledge, as that of the body is not through health; but on the other hand it is more completely one and more pure than knowledge. Nothing, therefore, of such qualities in us, or anything whatever that is human, helps in ally way to the accomplishment of the divine exercises.

Accept this accordingly which indeed is said in addition but is a sufficient reply to thy whole conception in regard to technique of Theurgy. But those statements of thine have the same force with these in which thou acknowledgest that “the superior knowledge in respect to the gods is holy and helpful,” and callest the not-knowing in respect to things revered and beautiful “Darkness,” but the knowing of them, “Light” – adding that “the former condition will cause human beings to be beset with every form of evil through ignorance and restlessness, and the other will be the source of everything beneficial.” For all these things tend in the same direction with those which have been mentioned, and obtain a fitting notice with them. It is necessary, therefore, to pass them by. and to proceed with the inquiries respecting the Oracular Art, in order to resolve them.


Chapter 6. The Order Exhibited at the Rites1. “Sometimes,” says Potter, “terrible apparitions astonished the trembling spectators” at the Perfective Rites. This was the case everywhere. In the Chaldaean Oracles mention is made of these direful creatures. They are called “dogs of the earth.” “Thy vessel (the body) the chthonian beasts shall make their home.” This implies obsession and evil influences from the spiritual world.

Chapter 6. The Order Exhibited at the Rites2. The Supreme elements, ákra stoixeía, are the signs of the Zodiac, which constituted an important feature in theurgy as allied to astrology.

Chapter 6. The Order Exhibited at the Rites3. Damaskios also declares that “a general distribution takes place from the One Origin of all things, and Plato calls this, the Truth.”

Chapter 6. The Order Exhibited at the Rites4. Emanuel Swedenborg, in his Memoirs and Spiritual Diary, describes spirits of this character.

Chapter 6. The Order Exhibited at the Rites5. Greek, antofanaus deixews. Perhaps this refers to the fact also that fit the final vision witnessed at the Perfective Rite, or Autopsia, the Beholder was revealed to himself in the impression which it gave him. Certainly Plato and Alkibiades regarded it with different sentiments.

Chapter 6. The Order Exhibited at the Rites6. Professor Taylor Lewis defines phantasma as signifying an apparition. Chrysippos, the philosopher, gives the following meanings: phantasia, imagination which leads to contemplation of the Cause or origin; phantaston, something to impress the imagination; phantastikon, a fancy or vain impulse from the mind proceeding from nothing truly imaginable; phantasma, a phantom to which we are drawn by fanciful attraction. Liddell and Scott would define a phantasia as an opinion presented from sensation; phantaston, as something leading to such opinion; phantastikon, as the faculty of such presentation; and phantasma, as an image presented to the mind by an object.

Chapter 6. The Order Exhibited at the Rites7. Here Abammon makes a new departure in the New Platonic philosophy. Plotinus and Porphyry had taught a system of doctrine analogous to the later Persian scheme, with the Absolute One at the summit from whom proceeded by emanation, the Over-Mind, the Universal Soul, and Nature. To this Absolute, there might, by philosophic discipline, contemplation and ecstasy, be attained for brief periods, the enosis or intimate union. Iamblichos, however, seems to discard this doctrine with its theory of impassiveness, and to make theurgic or sacerdotal virtues the condition of excellence by which the divine part of the Soul exalts itself even above the Over-Mind, and becomes at one with the Absolute. Hence he inculcated the utility of religious rites and initiations as explained in the reply of Abammon. He was followed in this path by Eunapios, Syrianos, and by Proklos, the great light of the later philosophy.