ennui is for suckers (t3dy) wrote,
ennui is for suckers

Pico's Iamblichus -pious metaphysician or idolatrous sorceror?

Oration (project Pico translation)
201. And if you turn to the Platonists, to mention but a few, in Porphyry you will be pleased by the wealth of his topics and the complexity of his religion; in Iamblichus you will be awed by an occult philosophy and the mysteries of the barbarians; in Plotinus there is no one thing in particular for you to admire, for he offers himself to admiration in every part, as the Platonists themselves take pains even in understanding his wisely allusive discourse, when he speaks divinely of things divine and far aloof humanity of human things.

Heptaplus 143-144
Let us learn from this also what actions we need to be united to better natures, on which depends the whole and highest strength of our felicity. The first day teaches us that, after driving away the night, the light first arose over the waters when the Spirit of the Lord brooded over them. This foreshadows the statement from James that every perfect gift comes from above, from the father of lights. (James 1:17) Not to mention the Christians, Jamblichus confirms this view when he asserts that human nature can promise itself little or nothing unless aided by a greater power, a divine one.

On Being and the One Ch6 54
Iamblichus… calls prime matter duality. This is because duality is the first multitude and is the root of other multitudes. Prime matter… is not only not one but is a multitude, and is the root of all multitude that is in things… Further, prime matter is neither altogether without unity nor without being. Prime matter receives its precise unity from the same form from which it receives being.



23.1. The speculative intellect is a separated form in regard to substance and
mode [of operation]. The practical intellect is separated in regard to substance,
conjoined in regard to mode. The rational soul is conjoined according to sub-
stance, separated according to mode. The irrational soul is conjoined according
to substance and mode.

23.2. The demiurge of the sensible world is the seventh of the intellectual

23.3. Corporeal nature exists in the intellect immovably, in the first soul
through itself movably, in the animal soul through itself movably participa-
tively, in heaven through another movably in an orderly way, below the
moon through another movably in a disorderly way.

23.4. The elements are found in the eight heavenly bodies in two celestial
modes, which anyone will find if he proceeds in reverse order through that
numeration of Binah. (265)


23.2. Cf. Proclus In Timaeum (Diehl 1:308). Some related theses are listed in note 22.1—3.
"inteUectual hierarchy" = one of the henadic orders in Proclus (see opening note to next sec-
tion). Saf&ey and Westerink (1978: 3:ix ff.) claim that the henads originated with Proclus 's mas-
ter Syrianus, but cf. Dodds (1963: 346) and Dillon (1973: 412ff.), who trace them back much
earlier. Dillon, like Pico, finds evidence of the henads in Iamblichus.

23.3. Systematizes difHise material from De mysteriis 1; cf , e.g., chaps. 9, 17-18. The propor-
tional language is again Pico's and is not found in Iamblichus.

23.4. In the series on the caelum starting at 7.9. Apparently inspired by De mysteriis 1.17.
"Binah" = "inteUigence," the third of the kabbahstic sefirot or "numerations," which are of late-
medieval origins and are obviously not mentioned by Iamblichus. Pico evidendy meant to de-
rive the two "celestial modes" of the elements from Binah using his revolutio alphahetariae or
some form o( gematria. On these, see above, pp. 63-66. Hints as to Pico's sense here can be
gathered from 11>67 in his Cabalistic theses.


23.5. Over this world, which the theologians call < >, there is another
that they call < >, and over this another that they call < >.

23.6. When the soul is assimilated to the intellect in an elevated fashion,
motion in the vehicle becomes perfectly circular.

23.7. There is no force in the celestial stars that in itself is evil.

23.8. Whoever knows the final cause of deluges and conflagrations will call
these <katharseis>, that is, purifications, rather than destructions.

23.9. When Plato says that the soul is placed in the middle of the world, this
should be understood of the unparticipated soul, which he says is placed in the
middle, because fireed firom every relation and particular location, it equally
approaches all things. (270)


23.6. Drawn from Proclus In Timaeum (Diehl 2:72). On the "vehicle" or Neo-Platonic "body"
of the soul, see note 5>45. The thesis is evidently meant to clash with 20.11 from Plotinus.

23.7. Drawn from De mYsteriis 1.18, which pertains to astrology and magic. Cf. the theses listed
in note 22.4—8.

23.8. Quoting Proclus on the destruction of Atlantis from In Timaeum 1 (Diehl 1:119), whose
Greek 1 have inserted in the text. In Diehl's edition the Egyptian to whom these words are
ascribed is not lambhchus, whose interpreution of the destruction of Atlantis is given some
forty-five hnes earlier, but the Egyptian priest of Timaeus 22b ff.

23.9. Cf 5>7 from Pico's opinions.

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