A Prayer for Aretē

O bright and holy Gods
Who are the source and fountain of all that is good,
Who fill the cosmos with your blessings,
I come to you in my need.

O providential Gods, mighty saviors,
Who know all things throughout the whole world,
Who care for all mortal creatures,
I entrust my cares to you.

Brilliant Apollon of the golden lyre,
Whose gifts bring balance, poise, harmony,
Set each part of my soul, my life, in due order.
In all things, grant perfect, proper measure.

Lord Dionysos, ever-future king,
Captivated by the mirror, torn apart yet reborn entire,
Direct my gaze toward what is good.
Bring me to unity: in my soul, in my life, in my devotion.

Mighty Zeus, father and creator,
Source of all life, ruler of all things,
Uphold and sustain me, in justice, truth, and piety.
Bring me through life’s storms, to your blessed harbor.

All you holy Gods whom I adore,
Who fill every cosmos – large and small – with your gifts,
Perfect my soul. Bring me to aretē.
I come to you in trust, and in supplication.

Wonder and Inquiry

“Son of Klinias, I think that you are wondering…”

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.

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Prayer to All of the Gods III

I haven’t the words to describe how powerful and magnificent this prayer is. Please, go check it out!

KALLISTI

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…

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Divine Poiēsis (an encouragement to virtue)

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.

Happy birthday, Proclus!

Today marks the 1,609th anniversary of the birth of that pious and brilliant philosopher, successor of Plato, Proclus.

A few fun things to honor the occasion:

“Truly, I am amazed…”

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.”

In Alc. 125,15–126,1; trans. O’Neill.

The Parts of Philosophy (in Alexandrian Platonism, and beyond)

Partly in preparation for an online workshop I’m leading this Saturday, I’ve been continuing to think about the ways that philosophers have conceived of, and divided, the parts of our discipline. I’ve written about this question from the perspective of the Stoics and other Hellenistic schools, and considered the ways that philosophers in India have conceived of the parts of a philosophical system (darśana).

In this post, I’ll turn to the Platonists of Alexandria, and specifically, to two texts entitled “Introduction to Philosophy.”

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