Plato’s Alcibiades—the first Platonic dialogue that students in late antiquity, following the Iamblichean curriculum, would read—begins with Socrates speaking these words. From this manifest appearance of wonder comes the invitation to philosophy. Yet for Socrates, and for the Platonist following his example, philosophy never displaces wonder, never undermines the encounter with the cosmos which is philosophy’s own fons et origo, as we see throughout Plato’s portrayal of Socrates, and especially in the Parmenides and the Phaedo.
The entrance to Plato’s Academy was, somewhat famously, marked by a sign reading “Let no one ignorant of geometry enter here.” What’s so special about the study of geometry, that makes a student ready to approach philosophy?
Let us honor Athene this day Let us sing to the grey-eyed Goddess: Wise and cunning savior, Guide for those who call to you, Ever near to those who are dear to you And ever dear to those whom you are near.
This is the last of the three prayers that I wanted to write in 2021 — hopefully, a decent enough go at it. It’s the most Platonic of the three (but, let’s be blunt, that’s all of them), and it was a good exercise in hammering out where I solidly understand Proclus’ Platonic Theology and where confusion lingers. As with the other poems, some edits may be made as I use it.
Now for the accompaniment. I recommend a combination of frankincense and some kind of aromatic herbs — which, given incense blends, is easy to achieve in one type of stick when frankincense and aromatics are pressed together in it. The stanza breaks are good points at which one could offer libations.
Prayer to All of the Gods III
I pray to all of the Gods, welcome — accept this offering of incense and these libations given in adoration…
Early in book III of his Parmenides Commentary, Proclus distinguishes two kinds of creative activity (poiēsis): that which comes about from the very being of the cause, and that which results from some deliberate choice.
Beings in the middle of the metaphysical hierarchy do both. Our soul, for example, gives life to the body by its very being (provided that the material substratum is serviceable), while it does other things by choice. Lower down the hierarchy, though, we find fire heating by its very being, but not doing anything by deliberate choice. And so, in keeping with one of the basic principles of Platonic metaphysics, if creative activity by being alone extends farther down, it must also extend farther up.
Furthermore, creative activity that results from being alone is effortless, and is more suited to the Gods:
The creative activity of those beings that make what they do by their very being is effortless, and we must conclude that effortlessness belongs primarily to the divine, since we also live most easily and with least effort when our life and Godlike and in the path of virtue.
Proclus, in Parm. 787 Cousin; trans. Morrow & Dillon, p. 159.
And this seems to me an excellent, yet gentle, encouragement to virtue.
Just a beautful thought for the day. In his commentary on the Alcibiades, Proclus compares Socrates’ attentive care for Alcibiades with the attentive care of the Demiurge for the cosmos:
If what “was in discordant and disorderly movement” [Timaeus 30a] could say something to the Demiurge, it would have uttered these words: “In truth, I wonder at your beneficent will and power, that have reached as far as my level, are everywhere present to me, and from all sides arrange me in an orderly fashion.”