INTRODUCTION TO THE PHILOSOPHY AND WRITINGS OF PLATO
"Philosophy," says Hierocles, "is the purification and perfection of human life. It is the purification, indeed, from material irrationality, and the mortal body; but the perfection, in consequence of being the resumption of our proper felicity, and a reascent to the divine likeness. To effect these two is the province of Virtue and Truth; the former exterminating the immoderation of the passions; and the latter introducing the divine form to those who are naturally adapted to its reception."
Of philosophy thus defined, which may be compared to a luminous pyramid, terminating in Deity, and having for its basis the rational soul of man and its spontaneous unperverted conceptions,—of this philosophy, August, magnificent, and divine, Plato may be justly called the primary leader and hierophant, through whom, like the mystic light in the inmost recesses of some sacred temple, it first shone forth with occult and venerable splendour. It may indeed be truly said of the whole of this philosophy, that it is the greatest good which man can participate: for if it purifies us from the defilements of the passions and assimilates us to Divinity, it confers on us the proper felicity of our nature. Hence it is easy to collect its pre-eminence to all other philosophies; to show that where they oppose it, they are erroneous; that so far as they contain any thing scientific they are allied to it; and that at best they are but rivulets derived from this vast ocean of truth.
—————————  In the mysteries a light of this kind shone forth from the adytum of the temple in which they were exhibited. —————————
To evince that the philosophy of Plato possesses this preeminence; that its dignity and sublimity are unrivaled; that it is the parent of all that ennobles man; and, that it is founded on principles, which neither time can obliterate, nor sophistry subvert, is the principal design of this Introduction.
To effect this design, I shall in the first place present the reader with the outlines of the principal dogmas of Plato's philosophy. The undertaking is indeed no less novel than arduous, since the author of it has to tread in paths which have been untrodden for upwards of a thousand years, and to bring to light truths which for that extended period have been concealed in Greek. Let not the reader, therefore, be surprised at the solitariness of the paths through which I shall attempt to conduct him, or at the novelty of the objects which will present themselves in the journey: for perhaps he may fortunately recollect that he has traveled the same road before, that the scenes were once familiar to him, and that the country through which he is passing is his native land. At, least, if his sight should be dim, and his memory oblivious, (for the objects which he will meet with can only be seen by the most piercing eyes,) and his absence from them has been lamentably long, let him implore the power of wisdom,
From mortal mists to purify his eyes, That God and man he may distinctly see.
Let us also, imploring the assistance of the same illuminating power, begin the solitary journey.
Of all the dogmas of Plato, that concerning the first principle of things as far transcends in sublimity the doctrine of other philosophers of a different sect, on this subject, as this supreme cause of all transcends other causes. For, according to Plato, the highest God, whom in the Republic he calls the good, and in the Parmenides the one, is not only above soul and intellect, but is even superior to being itself. Hence, since every thing which can in any respect be known, or of which any thing can be asserted, must be connected with the universality of things, but the first cause is above all things, it is very properly said by Plato to be perfectly ineffable. The first hypothesis therefore of his, Parmenides, in which all things are denied of this immense principle, concludes as follows: "The one therefore is in no respect. So it seems. Hence it is not in such a manner as to be one, for thus it would be being, and participate of essence; but as it appears, the one neither is one, nor is, if it be proper to believe in reasoning of this kind. It appears so. But can any thing either belong to, or be affirmed of that, which is not? How can it? Neither therefore does any name belong to it, nor discourse, nor any science, nor sense, nor opinion. It does not appear that there can. Hence it can neither be named, nor spoken of, nor conceived by opinion, nor be known, nor perceived by any being. So it seems." And here it must be observed that this conclusion respecting the highest principle of things, that he is perfectly ineffable and inconceivable, is the result of a most scientific series of negations, in which not only all sensible and intellectual beings are denied of him, but even natures the most transcendently allied to him, his first and most divine progeny. For that which so eminently distinguishes the philosophy of Plato from others is this, that every part of it is stamped with the character of science. The vulgar indeed proclaim the Deity to be ineffable; but as they have no scientific knowledge that he is so, this is nothing more than a confused and indistinct perception of the most sublime of all truths, like that of a thing seen between sleeping and waking, like Phaeacia to Ulysses when sailing to his native land,
That lay before him indistinct and vast, Like a broad shield amid the watr'y waste.
In short, an unscientific perception of the ineffable nature of the Divinity resembles that of a man, who on surveying the heavens, should assert of the altitude of its highest part, that it surpasses that of the loftiest tree, and is therefore immeasurable. But to see this scientifically, is like a survey of this highest part of the heavens by the astronomer; for he by knowing the height of the media between us and it, knows also scientifically that it transcends in altitude not only the loftiest tree; but the summits of air and aether, the moon, and even the sun itself.
Let us therefore investigate what is the ascent to the ineffably, and after what manner it is accomplished, according to Plato, from the last of things, following the profound and most inquisitive Damascius as our leader in this arduous investigation. Let our discourse also be common to other principles, and to things proceeding from them to that which is last, and let us, beginning from that which is perfectly effable and known to sense, ascend too the ineffable, and establish in silence, as in a port, the parturitions of truth concerning it. Let us then assume the following axiom, in which as in a secure vehicle we may safely pass from hence thither. I say, therefore, that the unindigent is naturally prior to the indigent. For that which is in want of another is naturally adapted from necessity to be subservient to that of which it is indigent. But if they are mutually in want of each other, each being indigent of the other in a different respect, neither of them will be the principle. For the unindigent is most adapted to that which is truly the principle. And if it is in want of any thing, according to this it will not be the principle. It is however necessary that the principles should be this very thing, the principle alone. The unindigent therefore pertains to this, nor must it by any means be acknowledged that there is any thing prior to it. This however, would be acknowledged if it had any connection with the indigent.
Let us then consider body, (that is, a triply extended substance,) endued with quality; for this is the first thing effable by us, and is, sensible. Is this then the principle of things? But it is two things, body, and quality which is in body as a subject. Which of these therefore is by nature prior? For both are indigent of their proper parts; and that also which is in a subject is indigent of the subject. Shall we say then that body itself is the principle of the first essence? But this is impossible. For, in the first place, the principle will not receive any thing from that which is posterior to itself. But body, we say is the recipient of quality. Hence quality, and a subsistence in conjunction with it, are not derived from body, since quality is present with body as something different. And, in the second place, body is every way, divisible; its several parts are indigent of each other, and the whole is indigent of all the parts. As it is indigent, therefore, and receives its completion from things which are indigent, it will not be entirely unindigent.
Further still, if it is not one but united, it will require, as Plato says, the connecting one. It is likewise something common and formless, being as it were a certain matter. It requires, therefore, ornament and the possession of form, that it may not be merely body, but a body with a certain particular quality; as for instance, a fiery, or earthly, body, and, in short, body adorned and invested with a particular quality. Hence the things which accede to it, finish and adorn it. Is then that which accedes the principle? But this is impossible. For it does not abide in itself, nor does it subsist alone, but is in a subject of which also it is indigent. If, however, some one should assert that body is not a subject, but one of the elements in each, as for instance, animal in horses and man, thus also each will be indigent of the other, viz. this subject, and that which is in the subject; or rather the common element, animal, and the peculiarities, as the rational and irrational, will be indigent. For elements are always, indigent of each other, and that which is composed from elements is indigent of the elements. In short, this sensible nature, and which is so manifest to us, is neither body, for this does not of itself move the senses, nor quality; for this does not possess an interval commensurate with sense. Hence, that which is the object of sight, is neither body nor color; but colored body, or color corporalized, is that which is motive of the sight. And universally, that which its sensible, which is body with a particular quality, is motive of sense. From hence it is evident that the thing which excites the sense is something incorporeal. For if it was body, it would not yet be the object of sense. Body therefore requires that which is incorporeal, and that which is incorporeal, body. For an incorporeal nature, is not of itself sensible. It is, however, different from body, because these two possess prerogatives different from each other, and neither of these subsists prior to the other; but being elements of one sensible thing, they are present with each other; the one imparting interval to that which is void of interval, but the other introducing to that which is formless, sensible variety invested with form. In the third place, neither are both these together the principles; since they are not unindigent. For they stand in need of their proper elements, and of that which conducts them to the generation of one form. For body cannot effect this, since it is of itself impotent; nor quality, since it is not able to subsist separate from the body in which it is, or together with which it has its being. The composite therefore either produces itself, which is impossible, for it does not converge to itself, but the whole of it is multifariously dispersed, or it is not produced by itself, and there is some other principle prior to it.
Let it then be supposed to be that which is called nature, being a principle of motion and rest, in that which is moved and at rest, essentially and not according to accident. For this is something more simple, and is fabricative of composite forms. If, however, it is in the things fabricated, and does not subsist separate from nor prior to them, but stands in need of them for its being, it will not be unindigent; though its possesses something transcendent with respect to them, viz. the power of fashioning and fabricating them. For it has its being together with them, and has in them an inseparable subsistence; so that, when they are it is, and is not when they are not, and this in consequence of perfectly verging to them, and not being able to sustain that which is appropriate. For the power of increasing, nourishing, and generating similars, and the one prior to these three, viz. nature, is not wholly incorporeal, but is nearly a certain quality of body, from which it alone differs, in that it imparts to the composite to be inwardly moved and at rest. For the quality of that which is sensible imparts that which is apparent in matter, and that which falls on sense. But body imparts interval every way extended; and nature, an inwardly proceeding natural energy, whether according to place only, or according to nourishing, increasing, and generating things similar. Nature, however, is inseparable from a subject, and is indigent, so that it will not be in short the principle, since it is indigent of that which is subordinate. For it will not be wonderful, if being a certain principle, it is indigent of the principle above it; but it would be wonderful if it were indigent of things posterior to itself, and of which it is supposed to be the principle.
By the like arguments we may show that the principle cannot be irrational soul, whether sensitive, or orectic. For if it appears that it has something separate, together with impulsive and Gnostic enemies, yet at the same time it is bound in body, and has something inseparable from it; since it is notable to convert itself to itself, but its enemy is mingled with its subject. For it is evident that its essence is something of this kind; since if it were liberated and in itself free, it would also evince a certain independent enemy, and would not always be converted to body; but sometimes it would be converted to itself; or though it were always converted to body, yet it would judge and explore itself. The energies, therefore, of the multitude of mankind, (though they are conversant with externals,) yet, at the same time they exhibit that which is separate about them. For they consult how they should engage in them, and observe that deliberation is necessary, in order to effect or be passive to apparent good, or to decline something of the contrary. But the impulses of other animals are uniform and spontaneous, are moved together with the sensible organs, and require the senses alone that they may obtain from sensibles the pleasurable, and avoid the painful. If, therefore, the body communicates in pleasure and pain, and is affected in a certain respect by them, it is evident that the psychical energies, (i.e. energies belonging to the soul) are exerted, mingled with bodies, and are not purely psychical, but are also corporeal; for perception is of the animated body, or of the soul corporalized, though in such perception the psychical idiom predominates over the corporeal; just as in bodies, the corporeal idiom has dominion according to interval and subsistence. As the irrational soul, therefore, has its being in something different from itself, so far it is indigent of the subordinate: but a thing of this kind will not be the principle.
Prior them to this essence, we see a certain form separate from a subject, and converted to itself, such as is the rational nature. Our soul, therefore, presides over its proper energies and corrects itself. This, however, would not be the case, unless it was converted to itself; and it would not be converted, to itself unless it had a separate essence. It is not therefore indigent of the subordinate. Shall we then say that it is the most perfect principle? But, it does not at once exert all its energies, but is always indigent of the greater part. The principle, however, wishes to have nothing indigent: but the rational nature is an essence in want of its own energies. Some one, however, may say that it is an eternal essence, and has never-failing essential energies, always concurring with its essence, according to the self-moved and ever vital, and that it is therefore unindigent; but the principle is perfectly unindigent. Soul therefore, and which exerts mutable energies, will not be the most proper principle. Hence it is necessary that there should be something prior to this, which is in every respect immutable, according to nature, life, and knowledge, and according to all powers and enemies, such as we assert an eternal and immutable essence to be, and such as is much honoured intellect, to which Aristotle having ascended, thought he had discovered the first principle. For what can be wanting to that which perfectly comprehends in itself its own plenitudes (oleromata), and of which neither addition nor ablation changes any thing belonging to it? Or is not this also, one and many, whole and parts, containing in itself, things first, middle, and last? The subordinate plenitudes also stand in need of the more excellent, and the more excellent of the subordinate, and the whole of the parts. For the things related are indigent of each other, and what are first of what are last, through the same cause; for it is not of itself that which is first. Besides, the one here is indigent of the many, because it has its subsistence in the many. Or it may be said, that this one is collective of the many, and this not by itself, but in conjunction with them. Hence there is much of the indigent in this principle. For since intellect generates in itself its proper plenitudes from which the whole at once receives its completion, it will be itself indigent of itself, not only that which is generated of that which generates, but also that which generates, of that which is generated, in order to the whole completion of that which wholly generates itself. Further still, intellect understands and is understood, is intellective of and intelligible to itself, and both these. Hence the intellectual is indigent of the intelligible, as of its proper object of desire; and the intelligible is in want of the intellectual, because it wishes to be the intelligible of it. Both also are indigent of either, since the possession is always accompanied with indigence, in the same manner as the world is always present with matter. Hence a certain indigence is naturally coessentiallized with intellect, so that it cannot be the most proper principle. Shall we, therefore, in the next place, direct our attention to the most simple of beings, which Plato calls the one being, [Greek: en on]? For as there is no separation there throughout the Whole, nor any multitude, or order, or duplicity, or conversion to itself, what indigence will there appear to me, in the perfectly united? And especially what indigence will there be of that which is subordinate? Hence the great Parmenides ascended to this most safe principle, as that which is most unindigent. Is it not, however, here necessary to attend to the conception of Plato, that the united is not the one itself, but that which is passive to it? And this being the case, it is evident that it ranks after the one; for it is supposed to be the united and not the one itself. If also being is composed from the elements bound and infinity, as appears from the Philebus of Plato, where he calls it that which is mixt, it will be indigent of its elements. Besides, if the conception of being is different from that of being united, and that which is a whole is both united and being, these will be indigent of each other, and the whole which is called one being is indigent of the two. And though the one in this is better than being, yet this is indigent of being, in order to the subsistence of one being. But if being here supervenes the one, as it were, form in that which is mixt and united, just as the idiom of man in that which is collectively rational-mortal-animal, thus also the one will be indigent of being. If, however, to speak more properly, the one is two-fold; this being the cause of the mixture, and subsisting prior to being, but that conferring rectitude, on being,—if this be the case, neither will the indigent perfectly desert this nature. After all these, it may be said that the one will be perfectly unindigent. For neither is it indigent of that which is posterior to itself for its subsistence, since the truly one is by itself separated from all things; nor is it indigent of that which is inferior or more excellent in itself; for there is nothing in it besides itself; nor is it in want of itself. But it is one, because neither has it any duplicity with respect to itself. For not even the relation of itself to itself must be asserted of the truly one; since it is perfectly simple. This, therefore, is the most unindigent of all things. Hence this is the principle and the cause of all; and this is at once the first of all things. If these qualities, however, are present with it, it will not be the one. Or may we not say that all things subsist in the one according to the one? And that both these subsist in it, and such other things as we predicate of it, as, for instance, the most simple, the most excellent, the most powerful, the preserver of all things, and the good itself? If these things, however, are thus true of the one, it will thus also be indigent of things posterior to itself, according to those very things which we add to it. For the principle is, and is said to be the principle of things proceeding from it, and the cause is the cause of things caused, and the first is the first of things arranged, posterior to it.
—————————  See the Sophista of Plato, where this is asserted.
 For a thing cannot be said to be a principle or cause without the subsistence of the things of which it is the principle or cause. Hence, so far as it is a principle or cause, it will be indigent of the subsistence of these. —————————
Further still, the simple subsists according to a transcendency of other things, the most powerful according to power with relation to the subjects of it; and the good, the desirable, and the preserving, are so called with reference to things benefitted, preserved, and desiring. And if it should be said to be all things according to the preassumption of all things in itself, it will indeed be said to be so according to the one alone, and will at the same time be the one cause of all things prior to all, and will be thus, and no other according to the one. So far, therefore, as it is the one alone, it will be unindigent; but so far as unindigent, it will be the first principle, and stable root of all principles. So far, however, as it is the principle and the first cause of all things, and is pre-established as the object of desire to all things, so far it appears to be in a certain respect indigent of the things to which it is related. It has therefore, if it be lawful so to speak, an ultimate vestige of indigence, just as on the contrary matter has an ultimate echo of the unindigent, or a most obscure and debile impression of the one. And language indeed appears to be here subverted. For so far as it is the one, it is also unindigent, since the principle has appeared to subsist according to the most unindigent and the one. At the same time, however, so far as it is the one, it is also the principle; and so far as it is the one it is unindigent, but so far as the principle, indigent. Hence so far as it is unindigent, it is also indigent, though not according to the same; but with respect to being that which it is, it is undigent; but as producing and comprehending other things in itself, it is indigent. This, however, is the peculiarity of the one; so that it is both unindigent and indigent according to the one. Not indeed than it is each of these, in such a manner as we divide it in speaking of it, but it is one alone; and according to this is both other things, and that which is indigent. For how is it possible, it should not be indigent also so far as it is the one? Just as it is all other things which proceed from it. For the indigent also is, something belonging to all things. Something else, therefore, must be investigated which in no respect has any kind of indigence. But of a thing of this kind it cannot with truth be asserted that it is the principle, nor can it even be said of it that it is most unindigent, though this appears to be the most venerable of all assertions.
———————-  See the extracts from Damascius in the additional notes to the third volume, which contain an inestimable treasury of the most profound conceptions concerning the ineffable. —————————
For this signifies transcendency, and an exemption from the indigent. We do not, however, think it proper to call this even the perfectly exempt; but that which is in every respect incapable of being apprehended, and about which we must be perfectly silent, will be the most, just axiom of our conception in the present investigation; nor yet this as uttering any thing, but as rejoicing in not uttering, and by this venerating that immense unknown. This then is the mode of ascent to that which is called the first, or rather to that which is beyond every thing which can be conceived, or become the subject of hypothesis.
There is also another mode, which does not place the unindigent before the indigent, but considers that which is indigent of a more excellent nature, as subsisting secondary to that which is more excellent. Every where then, that which is in capacity is secondary to that which is in energy. For that it may proceed into energy, and that it may not remain in capacity in vain, it requires that which is in energy. For the more excellent never blossoms from the subordinate nature. Let this then be defined by us according to common unperverted conceptions. Matter therefore has prior to itself material form; because all matter is form in capacity, whether it be the first matter which is perfectly formless, or the second which subsists according to body void of quality, or in other words mere triple extension, to which it is likely those directed their attention who first investigated sensibles, and which at first appeared to be the only thing that had a subsistence. For the existence of that which is common in the different elements, persuaded them that there is a certain body void of quality. But since, among bodies of this kind, some possess the governing principle inwardly, and others externally, such as things artificial, it is necessary besides quality to direct our attention to nature, as being something better than qualities, and which is prearranged in the order of cause, as art is, of things artificial. Of things, however, which are inwardly governed, some appear to possess being alone, but others to be nourished and increased, and to generate things similar to themselves. There is therefore another certain cause prior to the above-mentioned nature, viz. a vegetable power itself. But it is evident that all such things as are ingenerated in body as in a subject, are of themselves incorporeal, though they become corporeal by the participation of that in which they subsist, so that they are said to be and are material in consequence of what they suffer from matter. Qualities therefore, and still more natures, and in a still greater degree the vegetable life, preserve the incorporeal in themselves. Since however, sense exhibits another more conspicuous life, pertaining to beings which are moved according to impulse and place, this must be established prior to that, as being a more proper principle, and as the supplier of a certain better form, that of a self-moved animal, and which naturally precedes plants rooted in the earth. The animal however, is not accurately self-moved. For the whole is not such throughout they whole; but a part moves and a part is moved. This therefore is the apparent self-moved. Hence, prior to this it is necessary there should be that which is truly self-moved, and which according to the whole of itself moves ands is moved, that the apparently self-moved may be the image of this. And indeed the soul which moves the body must be considered as a more proper self-moved essence. This, however, is twofold, the one rational, the other irrational. For that there is a rational soul is evident: or has not every one a cosensation of himself, more clear or more obscure, when converted to himself in the attentions to and investigations of himself, and in the vital and Gnostic animadversions of himself? For the essence which is capable of this, and which can collect universals by reasoning, will very justly be rational. The irrational soul also, though it does not appear to investigate these things, and to reason with itself, yet at the same time it moves bodies from place to place, being itself previously moved from itself; for at different times it exerts a different impulse. Does it therefore move itself from one impulse to another? or it is moved by something else, as, for instance, by the whole rational soul in the universe? But it would be absurd to say that the energies of every irrational soul are not the energies of that soul, but of one more divine; since they are infinite, and mingled with much of the base and imperfect. For this would be just the same as to say that the irrational enemies are the energies of the rational soul. I omit to mention the absurdity of supposing that the whole essence is not generative of its proper energies. For if the irrational soul is a certain essence, it will have peculiar energies of its own, not imparted from something else, but proceeding from itself. This irrational soul, therefore, will also move itself at different times to different impulses. But if it moves itself, it will be converted to itself. If, however, this be the case, it will have a separate subsistence, and will not be in a subject. It is therefore rational, if it looks to itself: for in being converted to, it surveys itself. For when extended to things external, it looks to externals, or rather it looks to colored body, but does not see itself, because sight itself is neither body nor that which is colored. Hence it does not revert to itself. Neither therefore is this the case with any other irrational nature. For neither does the phantasy project a type of itself, but of that which is sensible, as for instance of colored body. Nor does irrational appetite desire itself, but aspires after a certain object of desire, such as honor, or pleasure, or riches. It does not therefore move itself.
But if some one, on seeing that brutes exert rational energies, should apprehend that these also participate of the first self-moved, and on this account possess a soul converted to itself, it may perhaps be granted to him that these also are rational natures, except that they are not so essentially, but according to participation, and this most obscure, just as the rational soul may be said to be intellectual according to participation, as always projecting common conceptions without distortion. It must however be observed, that the extreme are that which is capable of being perfectly separated, such as the rational form, and that which is perfectly inseparable, such as corporeal quality, and that in the middle of these nature subsists, which verges to the inseparable, having a small representation of the separable and the irrational soul, which verges to the separable; or it appears in a certain respect to subsist by itself, separate from a subject; so that it becomes doubtful whether it is self-motive, or alter-motive. For it contains an abundant vestige of self-motion, but not that which is true and converted to itself, and on this account perfectly separated from a subject. And the vegetable soul has in a certain respect a middle subsistence. On this account to some of the ancients it appeared to be a certain soul, but to others, nature.
Again, therefore, that we may return to the proposed object of investigation, how can a self-motive nature of this kind, which is mingled with the alter-motive, be the first principle of things? For it neither subsists from itself, nor does it in reality perfect itself; but it requires a certain other nature, both for its subsistence and perfection: and prior to it is that which is truly self-moved. Is therefore that which is properly self-moved the principle, and is it indigent of no form more excellent than itself? Or is not that which moves always naturally prior to that which is moved; and in short does not every form which is pure from its contrary subsist by itself prior to that which is mingled with it? And is not the pure the cause of the commingled? For that which is coessentialized with another has also an energy mingled with that other. So that a self-moved nature will indeed, make itself; but thus subsisting it will be at the same time moving and moved, but will not be made a moving nature only. For neither is it this alone. Every form however is always alone according to its first subsistence; so that there will be that which moves only without being moved. And indeed it would be absurd that there should be that which is moved only such as body, but that prior both to that which is self-moved and that which is moved only, there should not be that which moves only. For it is evident that there must be, since this will be a more excellent nature, and that which is self-moved, so far as it moves itself, is more excellent than so far as it is moved. It is necessary therefore that the essence which moves unmoved, should be first, as that which is moved, not being motive, is the third, in the middle of which is the self-moved, which we say requires that which moves in order to its becoming motive. In short, if it is moved, it will not abide, so far as it is moved; and if it moves, it is necessary it should remain moving so far as it moves. Whence then does it derive the power of abiding? For from itself it derives the power either of being moved only, or of at the same time abiding and being moved wholly according to the same. Whence then does it simply obtain the power of abiding? Certainly from that which simply abides. But, this is an immovable cause. We must therefore admit that the immovable is prior to the self moved. Let us consider then if the immovable is the most proper principle? But how is this possible? For the immovable contains as numerous a multitude immovably; as the self-moved self-moveably. Besides an immovable separation must necessarily subsist prior to a self-moveable separation. The unmoved therefore is at the same time one and many, and is at the same time united and separated, and a nature of this kind is denominated intellect. But it is evident that the united in this is naturally prior to and more honorable than the separated. For separation is always indigent of union; but not, on the contrary, union of separation. Intellect, however, has not the united pure from its opposite. For intellectual form is coessentialized with the separated, through the whole of itself. Hence that which is in a certain respect united requires that which is simply united; and that which subsists with another is indigent of that which subsists by itself; and that which subsists according to participation, of that which subsists according to essence. For intellect being self-subsistent produces itself as united, and at the same time separated. Hence it subsists according to both these. It is produced therefore from that which is simply united and alone united. Prior therefore to that which is formal is the uncircumscribed, and undistributed into forms. And this is that which we call the united, and which the wise men of antiquity denominated being, possessing in one contraction multitude, subsisting prior to the many.
Having therefore arrived thus far, let us here rest for a while, and consider with ourselves, whether being is the investigated principle of all things. For what will there be which does not participate of being? May we not say, that this, if it is the united, will be secondary to the one, and that by participating of the one it becomes the united? But in short; if we conceive the one to be something different from being, if being is prior to the one, it will not participate of the one. It will therefore be many only, and these will be infinitely infinite. But if the one is with being, and being with the one, and they are either coordinate or divided from each other, there will be two principles, and the above-mentioned absurdity will happen. Or they will mutually participate of each other, and there will be two elements. Or they are parts of something else, consisting from both. And, if this be the case, what will that be which leads them to union with each other? For if the one unites being to itself (for this may be said), the one also will energize prior to being, that it may call forth and convert being to itself. The one, therefore, will subsist from itself self-perfect prior to being. Further still, the more simple is always prior to the more composite. If therefore they are similarly simple, there will either be two principles, or one from the two, and this will be a composite. Hence the simple and perfectly incomposite is prior to this, which must be either one, or not one; and if not one, it must either be many, or nothing. But with respect to nothing, if it signifies that which is perfectly void, it will signify something vain. But if it signifies the arcane, this will not even be that which is simple. In short, we cannot conceive any principle more simple than the one. The one therefore is in every respect prior to being. Hence this is the principle of all things, and Plato recurring to this, did not require any other principle in his reasonings. For the arcane in which this our ascent terminates is not the principle of reasoning, nor of knowledge, nor of animals, nor of beings, nor of unities, but simply of all things, being arranged above every conception and suspicion that we can frame. Hence Plato indicates nothing concerning it, but makes his negations of all other things except the one, from the one. For that the one is he denies in the last place, but he does not make a negation of the one. He also, besides this, even denies this negation, but not the one. He denies, too, name and conception, and all knowledge, and what can be said more, whole itself and every being. But let there be the united and the unical, and, if you will, the two principles bound and the infinite. Plato, however, never in any respect makes a negation of the one which is beyond all these. Hence in the Sophista he considers it as the one prior to being, and in the Republic as the good beyond every essence; but at the same time the one alone is left. Whether however is it known and effable, or unknown and ineffable? Or is it in a certain respect these, and in a certain respect not? For by a negation of this it may be said the ineffable is affirmed. And again, by the simplicity of knowledge it will be known or suspected, but by composition perfectly unknown. Hence neither will it be apprehended by negation. And in short, so far as it is admitted to be one, so far it will be coarranged with other things, which are the subject of position. For it is the summit of things, which subsist according to position. At the same time there is much in it of the ineffable and unknown, the uncoordinated, and that which is deprived of position, but these are accompanied with a representation of the Contraries: and the former are more excellent, than the latter. But every where things pure subsist prior to their contraries, and such as are unmingled to the commingled. For either things more excellent subsist in the one essentially, and in a certain respect the contraries of these also will be there at the same time; or they subsist according to participation, and are derived from that which is first a thing of this kind. Prior to the one, therefore, is that which is simply and perfectly ineffable, without position, uncoordinated, and incapable of being apprehended, to which also the ascent of the present discourse hastens through the clearest indications, omitting none of those natures between the first and the last of things.
Such then is the ascent to the highest God, according to the theology of Plato, venerably preserving his ineffable exemption from all things, and his transcendency, which cannot be circumscribed by any gnostic energy, and at the same time, unfolding the paths which lead upwards to him, and enkindling that luminous summit of the soul, by which she is conjoined with the incomprehensible one.
From this truly ineffable principle, exempt from all essence, power, and energy, a multitude of divine natures, according to Plato, immediately proceeds. That this must necessarily be the case, will be admitted by the reader who understands what has been already discussed, and is fully demonstrated by Plato in the Parmenides, as will be evident to the intelligent from the notes on that Dialogue. In addition therefore to what I have staid on this subject, I shall further observe at present that this doctrine, which is founded in the sublimest and most scientific conceptions of the human mind, may be clearly shown to be a legitimate dogma of Plato from what is asserted by him in the sixth book of his Republic. For he there affirms, in the most clear and unequivocal terms, that the good, or the ineffable principle of things is superessential, and shows by the analogy of the sun to the good, that what light and sight are in the visible, that truth and intelligence are in the intelligible world. As light therefore, immediately proceeds from the sun, and wholly subsists according to a solar idiom or property, so truth or the immediate progeny of the good, must subsist according to a superessential idiom. And as the good, according to Plato, is the same with the one, as is evident from the Parmenides, the immediate progeny of the one will be the same as that of the good. But, the immediate offspring of the one cannot be any thing else than unities. And, hence we necessarily infer that according to Plato, the immediate offspring of the ineffable principle of things are superessential unities. They differ however from their immense principle in this, that he is superessential and ineffable, without any addition; but this divine multitude is participated by the several orders of being, which are suspended from and produced by it. Hence, in consequence of being connected with multitude through this participation, they are necessarily subordinate to the one.
No less admirably, therefore, than Platonically does Simplicius, in his Commentary of Epictetus, observe on this subject as follows: "The fountain and principle of all things is the good: for that which all things desire, and to which all things are extended, is the principle and the end of all things. The good also produces from itself all things, first, middle, and last. But it produces such as are first and proximate to itself, similar to itself; one goodness, many goodnesses, one simplicity and unity which transcends all others, many, unities, and one principle many principles. For the one, the principle, the good, and deity, are the same: for deity is the first and the cause of all things. But it is necessary that the first should also be most simple; since whatever is a composite and has multitude is posterior to the one. And multitude and things, which are not good desire the good as being above them: and in short, that which is not itself the principle is from the principle.
But it is also necessary that the principle of all things should possess the highest, and all, power. For the amplitude of power consists in producing all things from itself, and in giving subsistence to similars, prior to things which are dissimilar. Hence the one principle produces many principles, many simplicities, and many goodnesses, proximately from itself. For since all things differ from each other, and are multiplied with their proper differences, each of these multitudes is suspended from its one proper principle. Thus, for instance, all beautiful things, whatever and wherever they may be, whether in souls or in bodies, are suspended from one fountain of beauty. Thus too, whatever possesses symmetry, and whatever is true, and all principles, are in a certain respect, connate with the first principle, so far as they are principles and fountains and goodnesses, with an appropriate subjection and analogy. For what the one principle is to all beings, that each of the other principles is to the multitude comprehended under the idiom of its principle. For it is impossible, since each multitude is characterized by a certain difference, that it should not be extended to its proper principle, which illuminates one and the same form to all the individuals of that multitude. For the one is the leader of every multitude; and every peculiarity or idiom in the many is derived to the many from the one. All partial principles therefore are established in that principle which ranks as a whole, and are comprehended in it, not with interval and multitude, but as parts in the whole, as multitude in the one, and number in the monad. For this first principle is all things prior to all: and many principles are multiplied about the one principle, and in the one goodness, many goodnesses are established. This too, is not a certain principle like each of the rest: for of these, one is the principle of beauty, another of symmetry, another of truth, and another of something else, but it is simply principle. Nor is it simply the principles of beings, but it is the principle of principles. For it is necessary that the idiom of principle, after the same manner as other things, should not begin from multitude, but should be collected into one monad as a summit, and which is the principle of principles.
Such things therefore as are first produced by the first good, in consequence of being connascent with it, do not recede from essential goodness, since they are immovable and unchanged, and are eternally established in the same blessedness. They are likewise not indigent of the good, because they are goodnesses themselves. All other natures however, being produced by the one good, and many goodnesses, since they fall off from essential goodness, and are not immovably established in the hyparxis of divine goodness, on this account they possess the good according to participation."
From this sublime theory the meaning of that ancient Egyptian dogma, that God is all things, is at once apparent. For the first principle, as Simplicius in the above passage justly observes, is all things prior to all; i.e. he comprehends all things causally, this being the most transcendent mode of comprehension. As all things therefore, considered as subsisting causally in deity, are transcendently more excellent than they are when considered as effects preceding from him, hence that mighty and all-comprehending whole, the first principle, is said to be all things prior to all; priority here denoting exempt transcendency. As the monad and the centre of a circle are images from their simplicity of this greatest of principles, so likewise do they perspicuously shadow forth to us its causal comprehension of all things. For all number may be considered as subsisting occultly in the monad, and the circle in the centre; this occult being the same in each with causal subsistence.
————————-  By the first principle here, the one is to be understood for that arcane nature which is beyond the one, since all language is subverted about it, can only, as we have already observed, be conceived and venerated in the most profound silence. ————————-
That this conception of causal subsistence is not an hypothesis devised by the latter Platonists, but a genuine dogma of Plato, is evident from what he says in the Philebus: for in that Dialogue he expressly asserts that in Jupiter a royal intellect, and a royal soul subsist according to cause. Pherecydes Syrus, too, in his Hymn to Jupiter, as cited by Kercher (in Oedip. Egyptiac.), has the following lines: [Greek: O theos esti kuklos, tetragonos ede trigonos, Keinos de gramme, kentron, kai panta pro panton.]
i.e. Jove is a circle, triangle and square, centre and line, and all things before all. From which testimonies the antiquity of this sublime doctrine is sufficiently apparent.
And here it is necessary to observe that nearly all philosophers: prior to Jamblichus (as we are informed by Damascius) asserted indeed, that there is one superessential God, but that the other gods had an essential subsistence, and were deified by illuminations from the one. They likewise said that there is a multitude of super-essential unities, who are not self-perfect subsistences, but illuminated unions with deity, imparted to essences by the highest Gods. That this hypothesis, however, is not conformable to the doctrine of Plato is evident from his Parmenides, in which he shows that the one does not subsist in itself. (See vol. iii, p. 133). For as we have observed from Proclus, in the notes on that Dialogue, every thing which is the cause of itself and is self-subsistent, is said to be in itself. Hence as producing power always comprehends, according to cause that which it produces, it is necessary that whatever produces itself should comprehend itself so far as it is a cause, and should be comprehended by itself so far as it is caused; and that it should be at once both cause and the thing caused, that which comprehends, and that which is comprehended. If therefore a subsistence in another signifies, according to Plato, the being produced by another more excellent cause (as we have shown in the note to p. 133, vol. iii), a subsistence in itself must signify that which is self- begotten, and produced by itself. If the one therefore is not self-sub- sistent as even transcending this mode of subsistence, and if it be necessary that there should be something self-subsistent, it follows that this must be the characteristic property of that which immediately proceeds from the ineffable. But that there must be something self- subsistent is evident, since unless this is admitted there will not be a true sufficiency in any thing.
Besides, as Damascius well observes, if that which is subordinate by nature is self-perfect, such as the human soul, much more will this be the case with a divine soul. But if with soul, this also will be true of intellect. And if it be true of intellect, it will also be true of life: if of life, of being likewise; and if of being, of the unities above being. For the self-perfect, the self-sufficient, and that which is established in itself, will much more subsist in superior than in subordinate natures. If therefore, these are in the latter, they will also be in the former. I mean the subsistence of a thing by itself, and essentialized in itself; and such are essence and life, intellect, soul, and body. For body, though it does not subsist from, yet subsists by itself; and through this belongs to the genus of substance, and is contra-distinguished from accident, which cannot exist independent of a subject.
Self-subsistent superessential natures therefore are the immediate progeny of the one, if it be lawful thus to denominate things, which ought rather to be called ineffable unfoldings into light from the ineffable; for progeny implies a producing cause, and the one must be conceived as something even more excellent than this. From this divine self-perfect and self-producing multitude, a series of self-perfect natures, viz. of beings, lives, intellects, and souls proceeds, according to Plato, in the last link of which luminous series he also classes the human soul; proximately suspended from the daemoniacal order: for this order, as he clearly asserts in the Banquet, "stands in the middle rank between the divine and human, fills up the vacant space, and links together all intelligent nature." And here to the reader, who has not penetrated the depths of Plato's philosophy, it will doubtless appear paradoxical in the extreme, that any being should be said to produce itself, and yet at the same time proceed from a superior cause. The solution of this difficulty is as follows:—Essential production, or that energy through which any nature produces something else by its very being, is the most perfect mode of production, because vestiges of it are seen in the last of things; thus fire imparts heat, by its very essence, and snow coldness. And in short, this is a producing of that kind, in which the effect is that secondarily which the cause is primarily. As this mode of production therefore, from its being the most perfect of all others, originates from the highest natures, it will consequently first belong to those self-subsistent powers, who immediately proceed from the ineffable, and will from them be derived to all the following orders of beings. But this energy, as being characterized by the essential, will necessarily be different in different producing causes. Hence, from that which subsists, at the summit of self subsistent natures, a series of self subsisting beings will indeed proceed, but then this series will be secondarily that which its cause is primarily, and the energy by which it produces itself will be secondary to that by which it is produced by its cause. Thus, for instance, the rational soul both produces itself (in consequence of being a self-motive nature), and is produced by intellect; but it is produced by intellect immutably, and by itself transitively; for all its energies subsist in time, and are accompanied with motion. So far therefore as soul contains intellect by participation, so far it is produced by intellect, but so far as it is self-motive it is produced by itself. In short, with respect to every thing self-subsistent, the summit of its nature is produced by a superior cause, but the evolution of that summit is its own spontaneous energy; and, through this it becomes self-subsistent, and self-perfect.
That the rational soul, indeed, so far as it is rational, produces itself, may be clearly demonstrated as follows:—That which is able to impart any thing superior and more excellent in any genus of things, can easily impart that which is subordinate and less excellent in the same genus; but well being confessedly ranks higher and is more excellent than mere being. The rational soul imparts well being to itself, when it cultivates and perfects itself, and recalls and withdraws itself from the contagion of the body. It will therefore also impart being to itself. And this with great propriety; for all divine natures, and such things as possess the ability of imparting any thing primarily to others, necessarily begin this energy from themselves. Of this mighty truth the sun himself is an illustrious example; for he illuminates all things with his light, and is himself light, and the fountain and origin of all splendour. Hence, since the souls imparts life and motion to other things, on which account Aristotle calls an animal antokincton, self- moved, it will much more, and by a much greater priority, impart life and motion to itself.
From this magnificent, sublime, and most scientific doctrine of Plato, respecting the arcane principle of things and his immediate progeny, it follows that this ineffable cause is not the immediate maker of the universe, and this, as I have observed in the Introduction to the Timaeus, not through any defect, but on the contrary through transcendency of power. All things indeed are ineffably unfolded from him at once, into light; but divine media are necessary to the fabrication of the world. For if the universe was immediately produced from the ineffable, it would, agreeably to what we have above observed, be ineffable also in a secondary degree. But as this is by no means the case, it principally derives its immediate subsistence from a deity of a fabricative characteristic, whom Plato calls Jupiter, conformably to the theology of Orpheus. The intelligent reader will readily admit that this dogmas is so far from being derogatory to the dignity of the Supreme, that on the contrary it exalts that dignity, and, preserves in a becoming manner the exempt transcendency of the ineffable. If therefore we presume to celebrate him, for as we have already observed, it is more becoming to establish in silence those parturitions of the soul which dare anxiously to explore him, we should celebrate him as the principle of principles, and the fountain of deity, or in the reverential language of the Egyptians, as a darkness thrice unknown. Highly laudable indeed, and worthy the imitation of all posterity, is the veneration which the great ancients paid to this immense principle. This I have already noticed in the Introduction to the Parmenides, and I shall only observe at present in addition, that in consequence of this profound and most pious reverence of the first God, they did not even venture to give a name to the summit of that highest order of divinities which is denominated intelligible. Hence, says Proclus, in his Mss. Scholia on the Cratylus, "Not every genus of the gods has an appellation; for with respect to the first Deity, who is beyond all things, Parmenides teaches us that he is ineffable; and the first genera of the intelligible gods, who are united to the one, and are called occult, have much of the unknown and ineffable. For that which is perfectly effable cannot be conjoined with the perfectly ineffable; but it is necessary that the progression of intelligibles should terminate in this order, in which the first effable subsists, and that which is called by proper names. For there the first intelligible forms, and the intellectual nature of intelligibles, are unfolded into light. But, the natures prior to this being silent and occult, are only known by intelligence. Hence the whole of the telestic science energizing theurgically ascends as far as to this order. Orpheus also says that this is first called by a name by the other gods; for the light proceeding from it is known to and denominated by the intellectual gods."
————————-  Psalm xviii:11; xcvii:2. ————————-
With no less magnificence therefore than piety, does Proclus thus speak concerning the ineffable principle of things. "Let us now if ever remove from ourselves multiform knowledge, exterminate all the variety of life, and in perfect quiet approach near to the cause of all things. For this purpose, let not only opinion and phantasy be at rest, nor the passions alone which impede our anagogic impulse to the first be at peace; but let the air, and the universe itself, be still. And let all things extend us with a tranquil power to communion with the ineffable. Let us also standing there, having transcended the intelligible (if we contain any thing of this kind), and with nearly closed eyes adoring as it were the rising sun, since it is not lawful for any being whatever intently to behold him,—let us survey the sun whence the light of the intelligible gods proceeds, emerging, as the poets say, from the bosom of the ocean; and again from this divine tranquillity descending into intellect, and from intellect employing the reasonings of the soul, let us relate to ourselves what the natures are from which in this progression we shall consider the first God as exempt. And let us as it were celebrate him, not as establishing the earth and the heavens, nor as giving subsistence to souls, and the generations of all animals; for he produced these indeed, but among the last of things. But prior to these, let us celebrate him as unfolding into light the whole intelligible and intellectual genus of gods, together with all the supermundane and mundane divinities as, the God of all gods, the Unity of all unities, and beyond the first adyta—as more ineffable than all silence, and more unknown than all essence,—as holy among the holies, and concealed in the intelligible gods." Such is the piety, such the sublimity, and magnificence of conception, with which the Platonic philosophers speak of that which is in reality in every respect ineffable, when they presume to speak about it, extending the ineffable parturitions of the soul to the ineffable cosensation of the incomprehensible one.
From this sublime veneration of this most awful nature, which, as is noticed in the extracts from Damascius, induced the most ancient theologists, philosophers, and poets, to be entirely silent concerning it, arose the great reverence which the ancients paid to the divinities even of a mundane characteristic, or from whom bodies are suspended, considering them also as partaking of the nature of the ineffable, and as so many links of the truly golden chain of deity. Hence we find in the Odyssey, when Ulysses and Telemachus are removing the arms from the walls of the palace of Ithaca, and Minerva going before them with her golden lamp fills all the place with a divine light, [Greek: . . . . . paroithe de pallas Athene Chryseon lychnon echrusa phars perikalles epoiei.]
Before thee Pallas Athene bore a golden cresset and cast a most lovely light. Telemachus having observed that certainly some one of the celestial gods was present, [Greek: Emala tis deos endon, of ouranon euryn echousi.]
Verily some God is within, of those that hold the wide heaven. Ulysses says in reply, "Be silent, restrain your intellect (i.e. even cease to energize intellectually), and speak not." [Greek: Siga, kai kata son noon ischana, med' ereeine.]
Hold thy peace and keep all this in thine heart and ask not hereof. —Book 19, Odyssey.
Lastly, from all that has been said, it must, I think, be immediately obvious to every one whose mental eye is not entirely blinded, that there can be no such thing as a trinity in the theology of Plato, in any respect analogous to the Christian Trinity. For the highest God, according to Plato, as we have largely shown from irresistible evidence, is so far from being a part of a consubsistent triad, that he is not to be connumerated with any thing; but is so perfectly exempt from all multitude, that he is even beyond being; and he so ineffably transcends all relation and habitude, that language is in reality subverted about him, and knowledge refunded into ignorance. What that trinity however is in the theology of Plato, which doubtless gave birth to the Christian, will be evident to the intelligent from the notes on the Parmenides, and the extracts, from Damascius. And thus much for the doctrine of Plato concerning the principle of things, and his immediate offspring, the great importance of which will, I doubt not, be a sufficient apology for the length of this discussion.
In the next place, following Proclus and Olympiodorus as our guides, let us consider the mode according to which Plato teaches us mystic conceptions of divine natures: for he appears not to have pursued every where the same mode of doctrine about these; but sometimes according to a divinely inspired energy, and at other times dialectically, he evolves the truth concerning them. And sometimes he symbolically announces their ineffable idioms, but at other times he recurs to them from images, and discovers in them the primary causes of wholes. For in the Phaedrus being evidently inspired, and having exchanged human intelligence for a better possession, divine mania, he unfolds many arcane dogmas concerning the intellectual, liberated, and mundane gods. But in the Sophista dialectically contending about being, and the subsistence of the one above beings, and doubting against philosophers more ancient than himself, he shows how all beings are suspended from their cause and the first being, but that being itself participates of that unity which is exempt from all things, that it is a passive, one, but not the one itself, being subject to and united to the one, but not being that which is primarily one. In a similar manner too, in the Parmenides, he unfolds dialectically the progressions of being from the one, through the first hypothesis of that dialogue, and this, as he there asserts, according to the most perfect division of this method. And again in the Gorgias, he relates the fable concerning the three fabricators, and their demiurgic allotment. But in the Banquet he speaks concerning the union of love; and in the Protagoras, about the distribution of mortal animals from the gods; in a symbolical manner concealing the truth concerning divine natures, and as far as to mere indication unfolding his mind to the most genuine of his readers.
————————-  It is necessary to observe, that, according to Plato, whatever participates of any thing is said to be passive to that which it participates, and the participations themselves are called by him passions. ————————-
Again, if it be necessary to mention the doctrine delivered through the mathematical disciplines, and the discussion of divine concerns from ethical or physical discourses, of which many may be contemplated in the Timaeus, many in the dialogue called Politicus, and many may be seen scattered in other dialogues; here likewise, to those who are desirous of knowing divine concerns through images, the method will be apparent. Thus, for instance, the Politicus shadows forth the fabrication in the heavens. But the figures of the five elements, delivered in geometrical proportions in the Timaeus, represent in images the idioms of the gods who preside over the parts of the universe. And the divisions of the essence of the soul in that dialogue shadow forth the total orders of the gods. To this we may also add that Plato composes politics, assimilating them to divine natures, and adorning them from the whole world and the powers which it contains. All these, therefore, through the similitude of mortal to divine concerns, exhibit to us in images the progressions, orders, and fabrications of the latter. And such are the modes of theologic doctrine employed by Plato.
"But those," says Proclus, "who treat of divine concerns in an indicative manner, either speak symbolically and fabulously, or through images. And of those who openly announce their conceptions, some frame their discourses according to science, but others according to inspiration from the gods. And he who desires to signify divine concerns through symbols is Orphic, and, in short, accords with those who write fables respecting the gods. But he who does this through images is Pythagoric. For the mathematical disciplines were invented by the Pythagorean in order to a reminiscence of divine concerns, to which through these as images, they endeavour to ascend. For they refer both numbers and figures to the gods, according to the testimony of their historians. But the enthusiastic character, or he who is divinely inspired, unfolding the truth itself concerning the gods essentially, perspicuously ranks among the highest initiators. For these do not think proper to unfold the divine orders, or their idioms, to their familiars through veils, but announce their powers and their numbers in consequence of being moved by the gods themselves. But the tradition of divine concerns according to science is the illustrious, prerogative of the Platonic philosophy. For Plato alone, as it appears to me of all those who are known to us, has attempted methodically to divide and reduce into order the regular progression of the divine genera, their mutual difference, the common idioms of the total orders, and the distributed idioms in each."
Again, since Plato employs fables, let us in the first place consider whence the ancients were induced to devise fables, and in the second place, what the difference is between the fables of philosophers and those of poets. In answer to the first question then, it is necessary to know that the ancients employed fables looking to two things, viz. nature, and our soul. They employed them by looking to nature, and the fabrication of things, as follows. Things unapparent are believed from things apparent, and incorporeal natures from bodies. For seeing the orderly arrangement of bodies, we understand that a certain incorporeal power presides over them; as with respect to the celestial bodies, they have a certain presiding motive power. As we therefore see that our body is moved, but is no longer so after death, we conceive that it was a certain incorporeal power which moved it. Hence, perceiving that we believe things incorporeal and unapparent from things apparent and corporeal, fables came to be adopted, that we might come from things apparent to certain unapparent natures; as, for instance, that on hearing the adulteries, bonds, and lacerations of the gods, castrations of heaven, and the like, we may not rest satisfied with the apparent meaning of such like particulars, but may proceed to the unapparent, and investigate the true signification. After this manner, therefore, looking to the nature of things, were fables employed.
But from looking to our souls, they originated as follows: While we are children we live according to the phantasy, but the phantastic part is conversant with figures, and types, and things of this kind. That the phantastic part in us therefore may be preserved, we employ fables in consequence of this part rejoicing in fables. It may also be said that a fable is nothing else than a false discourse shadowing forth the truth: for a fable is the image of truth. But the soul is the image of the natures prior to herself; and hence the soul very properly rejoices in fables, as an image in an image. As we are therefore from our childhood nourished in fables, it is necessary that they should be introduced. And thus much for the first problem, concerning the origin of fables.
In the next place let us consider what the difference is between the fables of philosophers and poets. Each therefore has something in which it abounds more than, and something in which it is deficient from the other. Thus, for instance, the poetic fable abounds in this, that we must not rest satisfied with the apparent meaning, but pass on to the occult truth. For who, endued with intellect, would believe that Jupiter was desirous of having connection with Juno, and on the ground, without waiting to go into the bed-chamber. So that the poetic fable abounds, in consequence of asserting such things as do not suffer us to stop at the apparent, but lead us to explore the occult truth. But it is defective in this, that it deceives those of a juvenile age. Plato therefore neglects fable of this kind, and banishes Homer from his Republic; because youth on hearing such fables, will not be able to distinguish what is allegorical from what is not.
Philosophical fables, on the contrary, do not injure those that go no further than the apparent meaning. Thus, for instance, they assert that there are punishments and rivers under the earth: and if we adhere to the literal meaning of these we shall not be injured. But they are deficient in this, that as their apparent signification does not injure, we often content ourselves with this, and do not explore the latent truth. We may also say that philosophic fables look to the enemies of the soul. For if we were entirely intellect alone, and had no connection with phantasy, we should not require fables, in consequence of always associating with intellectual natures. If again, we were entirely irrational, and lived according to the phantasy, and had no other energy than this, it would be requisite that the whole of our life should be fabulous. Since, however, we possess intellect, opinion, and phantasy, demonstrations are given with a view to intellect; and hence Plato says that if you are willing to energize according to intellect, you will have demonstrations bound with adamantine chains; if according to opinion, you will have the testimony of renowned persons; and if according to the phantasy, you have fables by which it is excited; so that from all these you will derive advantage.
Plato therefore rejects the more tragical mode of mythologizing of the ancient poets, who thought proper to establish an arcane theology respecting the gods, and on this account devised wanderings, castrations, battles and lacerations of the gods, and many other such symbols of the truth about divine natures which this theology conceals;—this mode he rejects, and asserts that it is in every respect most foreign from erudition. But he considers those mythological discourses about the gods as more persuasive and more adapted to truth, which assert that a divine nature is the cause of all good, but of no evil, and that it is void of all mutation, comprehending in itself the fountain of truth, but never becoming the cause of any deception to others. For such types of theology Socrates delivers in the Republic.
All the fables therefore of Plato guarding the truth in concealment, have not even their externally apparent apparatus discordant with our undisciplined and unperverted anticipations of divinity. But they bring with them an image of the mundane composition in which both the apparent beauty is worthy of divinity, and a beauty more divine than this is established in the unapparent lives and powers of its causes.
In the next place, that the reader may see whence and from what dialogues principally the theological dogmas of Plato may be collected, I shall present him with the following translation of what Proclus has admirably written on this subject.
"The truth (says he) concerning the gods pervades, as I may say, through all the Platonic dialogues, and in all of them conceptions of the first philosophy, venerable, clear, and supernatural, are disseminated, in some more obscurely, but in others more conspicuously;—conceptions which excite those that are in any respect able to partake of them, to the immaterial and separate essence of the gods. And as in each part of the universe and in nature itself, the demiurgus of all which the world contains established resemblances of the unknown essence of the gods, that all things might be converted to divinity through their alliance with it, in like manner I am of opinion, that the divine intellect of Plato weaves conceptions about the gods with all its progeny, and leaves nothing deprived of the mention of divinity, that from the whole of its offspring a reminiscence of total natures may be obtained, and imparted to the genuine lovers of divine concerns.
"But if it be requisite to lay before the reader those dialogues out of many which principally unfold to us the mystic discipline about the gods, I shall not err in ranking among this number the Phaedo and Phaedrus, the Banquet and the Philebus, and together with these the Sophista and Politicus, the Cratylus and the Timaeus. For all these are full through the whole of themselves, as I may say, of the divine science of Plato. But I should place in the second rank after these, the fable in the Gorgias, and that in the Protagoras, likewise the assertions about the providence of the gods in the Laws, and such things as are delivered about the Fates, or the mother of the Fates, or the circulations of the universe, in the tenth book of the Republic. Again you may, if you please, place in the third rank those Epistles through which we may be able to arrive at the science about divine natures. For in these, mention is made of the three kings; and many other divine dogmas worthy the Platonic theory are delivered. It is necessary therefore, regarding these, to explore in them each order of the gods.
Thus from the Philebus, we may receive the science respecting the one good, and the two first principles of things (bound and infinity) together with the triad subsisting from these. For you will find all these distinctly delivered to us by Plato in that dialogue. But from the Timaeus you may obtain the theory about intelligibles, a divine narration about the demiurgic monad, and the most full truth about the mundane gods. From the Phaedrus you may learn all the intelligible and intellectual genera, and the liberated orders of the gods, which are proximately established above the celestial circulations. From the Politicus you may obtain the theory of the fabrication in the heavens, of the periods of the universe, and of the intellectual causes of those periods. But from the Sophista you may learn the whole sublunary generation, and the idiom of the gods who are allotted the sublunary region, and preside over its generations and corruptions. And with respect to each of the gods, we may obtain many sacred conceptions from the Banquet, many from the Cratylus, and many from the Phaedo. For in each of these dialogues more or less mention is made of divine names, from which it is easy for those who are exorcised in divine concerns to discover by a reasoning process the idioms of each.
"It is necessary, however, to evince that each of the dogmas accords with Platonic principles and the mystic traditions of theologists. For all the Grecian theology is the progeny of the mystic doctrine of Orpheus; Pythagoras first of all learning from Aglaophemus the origins of the gods, but Plato in the second place receiving an all-perfect science of the divinities from the Pythagoric and Orphic writings. For in the Philebus, referring the theory about the two forms of principles (bound and infinity) to the Pythagoreans, he calls them men dwelling with the gods, and truly blessed. Philolaus, therefore, the Pythagorean, has left for us in writing admirable conceptions about these principles, celebrating their common progression into beings, and their separate fabrication. Again, in the Timaeus, endeavouring to teach us about the sublunary gods and their order, Plato flies to theologists, calls them the sons of the gods, and makes them the fathers of the truth about these divinities. And lastly, he delivers the orders of the sublunary gods proceeding from wholes, according to the progression delivered by theologists of the intellectual kings. Further still, in the Cratylus he follows the traditions of theologists respecting the order of the divine processions. But in the Gorgias he adopts the Homeric dogma, respecting the triadic hypostases of the demiurgi. And, in short, he every where discourses concerning the gods agreeably to the principles of theologists; rejecting indeed the tragical part of mythological fiction, but establishing first hypotheses in common with the authors of fables.
"Perhaps, however, some one may here object to us, that we do not in a proper manner exhibit the every where dispersed theology of Plato, and that we endeavour to heap together different particulars from different dialogues, as if we were studious of collecting many things into one mixture, instead of deriving them all from one and the same fountain. For if this were our intention, we might indeed refer different dogmas to different treatises of Plato, but we shall by no means have a precedaneous doctrine concerning the gods, nor will there be any dialogue which presents us with an all-perfect and entire procession of the divine genera, and their coordination with each other. But we shall be similar to those who endeavor to obtain a whole from parts, through the want of a whole prior to parts, and to weave together the perfect, from things imperfect, when, on the contrary, the imperfect ought to have the first cause of its generation in the perfect. For the Timaeus, for instance, will teach us the theory of the intelligible genera, and the Phaedrus appears to present us with a regular account of the first intellectual orders. But where will be the coordination of intellectuals to intelligibles? And what will be the generation of second from first natures? In short, after what manner the progression of the divine orders takes place from the one principle of all things, and how in the generations of the gods, the orders between the one, and all-perfect number, are filled up, we shall be unable to evince.
————————-  A whole prior to parts is that which causally contains parts in itself. Such parts too, when they proceed from their occult causal subsistence, and have a distinct being of their own, are nevertheless comprehended, though in a different manner, in their producing whole. ————————-
"Further still, it may be said, where will be the venerableness of your boasted science about divine natures? For it is absurd to call these dogmas, which are collected from many places, Platonic, and which, as you acknowledge, are reduced from foreign names to the philosophy of Plato; nor are you able to evince the whole entire truth about divine natures. Perhaps, indeed, they will say that certain persons, junior to Plato, have delivered in their writings, and left to their disciples, one perfect form of philosophy. You, therefore, are able to produce one entire theory about nature from the Timaeus; but from the Republic, or Laws, the most beautiful dogmas about morals, and which tend to one form of philosophy. Alone, therefore, neglecting the treatise of Plato, which contains all the good of the first philosophy, and which may be called the summit of the whole theory, you will be deprived of the most perfect knowledge of beings, unless you are so much infatuated as to boast on account of fabulous fictions, though an analysis of things of this kind abounds with much of the probable, but not of the demonstrative. Besides, things of this kind are only delivered adventitiously in the Platonic dialogues; as the fable in the Protagoras, which is inserted for the sake of the political science, and the demonstrations respecting it. In like manner the fable in the Republic is inserted for the sake of justice; and in the Gorgias for the sake of temperance. For Plato combines fabulous narrations with investigations of ethical dogmas, not for the sake of the fables, but for the sake of the leading design, that we may not only exercise the intellectual part of the soul, through contending reasons, but that the divine part of the soul may more perfectly receive the knowledge of beings, through its sympathy with more mystic concerns. For from other discourses we resemble those who are compelled to the reception of truth; but from fables we are affected in an ineffable manner, and call forth our unperverted conceptions, venerating the mystic information which they contain.
"Hence, as it appears to me, Timaeus with great propriety thinks it fit that we should produce the divine genera, following the inventors of fables as sons of the gods, and subscribe to their always generating secondary natures from such as are first, though they should speak without demonstration. For this kind of discourse is not demonstrative, but entheastic, or the progeny of divine inspiration; and was invented by the ancients, not through necessity, but for the sake of persuasion, not regarding naked discipline, but sympathy with things themselves. But if you are willing to speculate not only the causes of fables, but of other theological dogmas, you will find that some of them are scattered in the Platonic dialogues for the sake of ethical, and others for the sake of physical considerations. For in the Philebus, Plato discourses concerning bound and infinity, for the sake of pleasure, and a life according to intellect. For I think the latter are species of the former. In the Timaeus the discourse about the intelligible gods is assumed for the sake of the proposed physiology. On which account, it is every where necessary that images should be known from paradigms, but that the paradigms of material things should be immaterial, of sensibles, intelligible, and of physical forms, separate from nature. But in the Phaedrus, Plato celebrates the supercelestial place, the subcelestial profundity, and every genus under this for the sake of amatory mania; the manner in which the reminiscence of souls takes place; and the passage to these from hence. Every where, however, the leading end, as I may say, is either physical or political, while the conceptions about divine natures are introduced either for the sake of invention or perfection. How, therefore, can such a theory as yours be any longer venerable and supernatural, and worthy to be studied beyond every thing, when it is neither able to evince the whole in itself, nor the perfect, nor that which is precedaneous in the writings of Plato, but is destitute of all these, is violent and not spontaneous, and does not possess a genuine, but an adventitious order, as in a drama? And such are the particulars which may be urged against our design.
"To this objection I shall make a just and perspicuous reply. I say then that Plato every where discourses about the gods agreeably to ancient opinions and the nature of things. And sometimes indeed, for the sake of the cause of the things proposed, he reduces them to the principles of the dogmas, and thence, as from an exalted place of survey, contemplates the nature of the thing proposed. But some times he establishes the theological science as the leading end. For in the Phaedrus, his subject respects intelligible beauty, and the participation of beauty pervading thence through all things; and in the Banquet it respects the amatory order.