Pradžia / Didysis Žaidimas

Voices of the fire: ancient theurgy and its tools

Algis Uždavinys (1962–2010) was a prolific Lithuanian philosopher and scholar. His work pioneered the hermeneutical comparative study of Egyptian and Greek religions, especially their esoteric relations to Semitic religions, and in particular the inner aspect of Islam (Sufism). His books have been published in Lithuanian, Russian, English and French, including translations of Plotinus, Frithjof Schuon and Ananda Coomaraswamy into Russian and Lithuanian. Upon graduation he came in contact with the writings and authors of the Traditionalist or Perennialist school, and this influenced his comparative exegesis, notably his studies on Sufism, the Ancient Egyptian religion, and his assertion of the substantial continuity of Greek philosophical tradition from Pythagoras down to the latest Neoplatonic authors. In 2008 he spent time as a research fellow at La Trobe University in Bendigo, Australia. He was a member of the International Society for Neoplatonic Studies and The Lithuanian Artists' Association, and a regular contributor to journals such as Sacred Web, Vancouver, and Sophia, Washington DC. []

Algis Uždavinys
2016 m. Vasario 09 d., 15:35
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Voices of the fire: ancient theurgy and its tools

“It is a sacrilege not to preserve the immortality of the soul, raising it to the level of the holy and uniting it to the divine with bonds which cannot be broken or loosened, but by contrast to pull and drag downwards the divine which is within us, confining it to the earthly, sinful and Giant- or Titan-like prison”

(Damascius Phil.Hist.19 Athanassiadi)

“Let us become fire, let us travel through fire. We have a free way to the ascent. The Father will guide us, unfolding the ways of fire; let us not flow with the lowly stream from forgetfulness”

(Proclus De philosophia Chaldaica, fr.2)

1. Definitions of theurgy in antiquity

Contemporary Western scholars are habitually repeating the standard  assumption that the term theourgia was coined in the exotic circles of those misguided semi-Oriental (and, therefore, “marginal”) miracle-workers who imagined that the road to salvation lies not in the bright palace of “reason” a la Sextus Empiricus, but in the pious hieratic rites. Consequently, on analogy with the term theologia, speaking of the divine things, they invented theourgia, namely, doing divine things, performing sacramental works.
The  modern scholars too straightforwardly affirm this rather artifical dichotomy. They are, perhaps, unaware that rites also “speak” and that they may include all kinds of logoi. For example, in ancient Egyptian ritual, speech not only makes the archetypal realm of noetic realities manifest in the liturgical realm of visible symbolic tokens and actions, but also performatively accomplishes theurgical transition and transposition of the cultic events into the divine realm, thereby establishing relationship between the domain of noetic (akhu) Forms and series  of manifestation (kheperu, bau). In this hieratic context, the term akhu means “radiant power”, “noetic light”, “solar intelligence”, and is closely related with the conception of eidetic and demiurgic name (ran, or ren). Only the gods (neteru) at the level of intelligible and intellective principles, iconographically depicted by the great Ennead (pesedjet), are able to use the “radiant power of words” (akhu typyw-ra) in their truly creative ontological sense. Therefore “Sacred, radiantly powerful words report an otherworldly, divine sphere of meaning that is imposed on the reality of this world in a manner that explains and thus makes sense of it. Instead of supplying definitions, Egyptians would state names, that is, the sacred and secret names of things and actions that the priests had to know to exercise the radiant power of the words”1

We should wonder if the Greek term theourgia is not simply a rendering of some now forgotten Egyptian, Akkadian, or Aramaic term related to the complicated vocabulary of temple rites, festivals, and hermeneutical performances  that follow the paradigms of cosmogony and serve as a vehicle of ascent conducted by the divine powers (sekhemu, bau) themselves.

Accordingly, it would be incorrect to think that the Chaldean Platonists of Roman Syria, those who allegedly created and promoted this term, theourgia, also invented the thing itself, that is, the tradition of hieratic arts and  of their secret,  theurgical understanding. Assuming the latter case, it would follow that this tradition, somewhat related with the solar metaphysics, royal cult, and reascension of the soul through the seven Babylonian planetary spheres (or through the branches and fruits of the Assyrian Sacred Tree) to the noetic Fire, is a dubious creation of those Chaldean philosophers who “forged” (as modern positivists regard) the so-called Chaldean Oracles, thereby forcing us to believe that the gods themselves, along with the luminous ghost of Plato, suddenly decided to reveal the final version of the Stoicized Middle Platonist metaphysics in the form of seductive “manifestos of irrationalism”.

This is the ideological dogma established by E.R.Dodds and his uncountable predecessors.  All of them feel an incredible pleasure in ridiculing the Ephesian theurgist Maximus and in mocking those who, instead of talking about the distant transcendent gods, allegedly “create” them, following “the superstitions of the time.”2 This almost scandalous “creation of gods” through the methods provided by certain telestic science (he telestike episteme) is often deliberately misunderstood. For E.R.Dodds, it is an “animation of magic statues in order to obtain oracles from them”.3 That sounds like a reinterpretation (employing “magic” in a derogatory sense) of Proclus, who says that the telestic art, by using certain symbols (dia tinon sumbolon), establishes on earth places fitted for oracles and statues of the gods (kai chresteria kai agalmata theon hidrusthai epi ges: In Tim.III.155.18).

Telestike (the term derived from the verb telein, to consecrate, to initiate, to make perfect) is not a kind of rustic sorcery (goeteia). Rather it is a means to share or participate in the creative energies of the gods by constructing and consecrating their material receptacles, their cultic vehicles, which then function as the anagogic tokens, as sumbola and sunthemata.

However, one should be careful for not plunging into the trap of an improper one-sidedness when one is approaching the realm of ancient metaphysical concepts and related terms. The word “theurgy” is not that which is most frequently used by the ancient Neoplatonists when they discuss cosmological, soteriological or liturgical issues. As A.Louth openly states: “In Iamblichus theourgia refers to the religious rituals - prayers, sacrifices, divinations – performed by the theurgist: it is one of a number of words – theourgia, mustagogia, hiera hagisteia, threskeia, hieratike techne, theosophia, he theia episteme – which have all more or less the same meaning and which are frequently simply translated theurgie by E.des Places…”4

Damascius often prefers the terms hiera hagisteia, hierourgia (hierurgy, holy work, cultic operation) instead, or speaks of “theosophy which comes from the gods” (Phil.Hist.46D) and of the ancient traditions (ta archaia nomina) which contain the rules of divine worship (ibid.42F). The Greek terms hieratike and hieratike techne (hieratic art, sacred method) are also rendered simply as “theurgy” by the modern scholars.

For Damascius, hieratike is “the worship of the gods” (theon therapeia) which “ties the ropes  of heavenbound salvation (Phil.Hist.4A), that is, raises the soul to the noetic cosmos by means of the ropes of worship, like in the Vedic and ancient Egyptian hieratic rites or like in the anagogic recitations of the Qur’an. This hieratike techne is designated as the “Egyptian philosophy” which deals with certain spiritual alchemy consisting in gnostic paideia as well as in transformation, elevation, and immortalization of the soul (the winged ba of the true philosopher or the initiate).

The return of our souls to God presupposes either the fusion with the divine (theokrasia), or perfect union (henosis panteles: ibid.4A-C).  This hieratic method of spiritual “homecoming”  is praised as the higher wisdom, namely, the Orphic and Chaldean lore which transcends philosophical common sense (ten orphiken te kai chaldaiken ten hupseloteran sophian: ibid.85A).

For the late Neoplatonists, theurgy (including all traditional liturgies, rites, and sacrifices which are ordained, revealed, and, in fact, performed by the gods themselves) is essential if the initiate priest is to attain the divine through the ineffable acts which transcend all intellection (he ton ergon ton arrheton kai huper pasan noesin: Iamblichus De mysteriis 96.43-14). Thus, a theurgic union with the gods is the accomplishment (telesiourgia) of the gods themselves acting through their sacramental tokens, ta sunthemata. The awakened divine symbols by themselves perform their holy work, thereby elevating the initiate to the gods whose ineffable power (dunamis) recognizes by itself its own images (eikones).

Dionysius the Areopagite borrows the term theourgia from Iamblichus and Proclus, but uses it not in the sense of religious rituals which have the purificatory, elevating, and unifying divine force. Now this term designates certain divine works or actions, such as the divine activity of Jesus Christ (andrikes tou Iesou theourgias: CH 181B).

Dionysius the Areopagite also speaks of one’s deification and koinonia (communion, participation) with God or an assimilation to God (CH 161 D 1-5) effected through participation in the sacraments. That means henosis (union) accomplished by partaking the most sacred symbols of the thearchic communion and of “divine birth” achieved through the hermeneutical anagoge (ascent) and epistrophe (return to the Cause of All). However, as P.E.Rorem remarks, “the uplifting does not occur by virtue of rites and symbols by themselves but rather by their interpretation, in the upward movement through the perceptible to the intelligible.”5

Arguing that theurgical action directed by the gods and aimed at theourgike henosis, theurgical union, has nothing to do with wonder working (thaumatourgia), Iamblichus regards theurgy as the cultic working of the gods (theon erga) or as divine acts (theia erga) in metaphysical and ontological sense, which reveal the hidden henadic foundation of all manifested series of being, thereby re-affirming or re-collecting the ultimate divine presence in everything. As G.Shaw observes: “That presence was ineffable, but what lay beyond man’s intellectual grasp could nevertheless be entered and achieved through ritual action, which is why Iamblichus argued that theurgy transcended all intellectual endeavors.”6

If regarded as a designation of divine actions performed at different levels  of manifested reality (which itself is nothing but the multi-dimensional fabric of theon erga, disclosed following the noetic paradigms of procession and reversion, proodos and epistrophe), then theurgy cannot be viewed simply as a ritualistic appendix of Platonism, but rather as its innermost core and its hidden essence.

Consequently, not only the Neoplatonic-Chaldean hieratic mystagogy may be designated as “theurgy”, but all hierurgical procedures (liturgies, invocations, visualizations, contemplations, prayers, sacramental actions, textual investigations, interpretations of symbols) which involve the direct assistance of the superior classes (angels and semi-mythic teachers) and which activate the self-revelatory illumination in one’s re-ascending from the inferior to the prior. All of them may be regarded as “theurgical”.

Hence, theurgical, as universal and divine, is opposite to anything particular and individualistic, anything based on one’s own subjective whims and egocentric drives. Without the fundamental realization of our own nothingnes (sunaisthesis ten peri heauton oudeneias: De myster.47.13-14), nobody can be saved, because in theurgical union gods are united with gods themselves or rather “the divine is literally united with itself” (auto to theion pros heauto sunesti: ibid.47.7-8). This is in no way communication between the mortal man and the immortal divinity (as one person addressing another), but rather communication of the divine in us with the divine in the universe. According to Iamblichus: “It is plain, inded, from the rites (ergon) themselves, that what we are speaking of just now is a method of salvation for the soul; for in the contemplation of the ‘blessed visions’ (ta makaria theamata) the soul exchanges one life for another and exerts a different activity, and considers itself then to be no longer human – and quite rightly so: for often, having abandoned its own life, it has gained in exchange the most blessed activity of the gods. If, then, it is purification from passions and freedom from the toils of generation and unification with the divine first principle that the ascent through invocations procures for the priests (henosin te pros ten theian archen he dia ton kleseon anodos parechei tois hiereusi), how on earth one can attach the notion of passions to this process?” (De myster.41.9-42.1).

2. Descending lights and animated cult images

The Egyptian temple rites, from which the Neoplatonic hieratike at least partly stems, may be called theurgical in etymological sense of this word, because the Egyptian cult activity (itself  staged as an interplay of divine masks) is based on a genuine encounter with the divine presence, with the immanent “indwelling” of God’s transcendent energies. The  gods (neteru) do not  literally dwell on earth in their cultic receptacles (statues, temples, human bodies, animals, plants), but rather install themselves there, thereby “animating” images and symbols. A deity’s ba (manifestation, noetic and life-giving power, descending “soul”) is somewhat united with the cult statues, processional barques, shrines, reliefs on the walls, sacred texts and the entire temple or the temple-like tomb.
The statue as a proper receptacle (hupodoche) for the divine irradiation is analogous to the purified human body of the royal person or of the “dead” initiate, and the descent of a deity’s ba resembles the approach of an active Platonic Form which informs the passive womb of matter and, consequently, establishes the manifested theatre of articulated and animated shapes. So the divine ba descends from the sky (or rather appears from the atemporal inwardness, since theophanies a priori constitute all manifested reality) onto his cult images (sekhemu) and god’s heart is united with his cult images.

Sekhem usually means “power”, but in this context  it designates sign or symbol of power, as well as image or sacred icon. As Iamblichus remarks, “the light of the gods illuminates its subject transcendently” (kai ton theon to phos ellampei choristos: De myster.31.4), since even visible light (or heliophany of Ra at the level of his shining Disk, Aten) proceeds throughout the visible cosmos: “On the same principle, then, the world as a whole, spatially divided as it is, brings about division throughout itself of the single, indivisible light of the gods (to hen kai ameriston ton theon phos). This light is one and the same in its entirety everywhere, is present indivisibly to all things that are capable of participating in it, an has filled everything with its perfect power; by virtue of its unlimited causal superiority it brings to completion all things within itself, and, while remaining everywhere united to itself, brings together extremities with starting points. It is, indeed, in imitation of it that the whole heaven and cosmos performs its circular revolution, is united with itself, and leads the elements round in their cyclic dance…” (De myster.31.9-32.2).

When the animating ba comes from the sky and descends (hai) on his image (sekhem), this metaphysical action (or divine work, ergon) simply means the special ritualistic re-actualization, re-affirmation, and re-petition of the cosmogonic scenario at the level of both cult images and purified human bodies who need to be re-assembled by the unifying divine spirit. This accomplishment (telesiourgia) is tantamount to the restoration of the Eye of Horus which is equated with “ofering” (hetep, or hotep), simultaneously meaning harmonious reintegration of parts (parts of the scattered Osirian eidos, restored in accordance to the whole truth, maat) and noetic satisfaction.

The cult statues presumably have two natures, one divine (when permeated by the bau of the gods, like the house of Ra is irradiated by his miraculous unifying rays) and one inanimate and material which must be consecrated in order to reveal the inner divine presence both in its perennial theophanic and specialized cultic sense. Therefore J.Assmann says:
“As creators of these statues, humans are reminded of their own divine origin, and by piously tending and worshiping them, they make the divine at home on earth.”7

However, the daily rituals which consist in awakening, greeting, purifying, anointing, dressing, feeding, and worshiping the cult statue as well as the process of sacrificial offerings (which are symbolically designated as the restored Eye of Horus and around which the ritual revolves) are not to be conceived “as a communication between the human and the divine, but rather as an interaction between deities”,8 that is, as a real divine ergon, the holy work performed by the gods and all superior classes.

According to the late Neoplatonists, the gods (like the Egyptian neteru) are present immaterially in the material things, therefore ta sunthemata (the theurgic seats of elevating power) are regarded as receptacles for the invisible divine irradiations (ellampseis) involved in the cosmic liturgy of descent and ascent. Since the body is an integral part os demiurgic work, in its perfect primordial form serving as an image (eikon) of divine self-disclosure, the condition and quality of embodied matter indicate the soul’s internal condition.

The human body as a fixed eidetic statue or as an iconographically established sequence of dynamic hieroglyphic script (analogous to a series of Tantric mudras) is an instrument of divine presence, because this presence may be either concealed, or revealed. Therefore telestike is not to be thought as inducing the presence of a god (or of his representative daimon) in the artificially constructed receptacle (hupodoche) only. The divine ba can permeat the human body as well, thereby confirming the latter’s ability to participate in the superior principles. When such “incarnation” becomes permanent, the human body itself is transformed and turned into the spiritual “golden statue”.

The incantations (epodai) are also to be viewed as the anagogic sunthemata which function as a means of maintaining the providential link between the ineffable henadic essences and their symbolic expressions, or between the noetic archetypes and their existential images, in order to complete the soul’s divine measures and reveal its re-assembled immortal body (sah, which is symbolized by the Egyptian royal mummy). Since the body is an index (deigma) of the soul’s capacity to receive a divine presence, separation from the lower somatic identifications and false identities requires, as G,Shaw constantly argues, “to determine the appropriate measures for that soul to engage the powers bestowed upon it by the Demiurge, and then to accelerate its growth into those measures by means of theurgic rites.”9

It seems that the above mentioned measures are the ratios of the soul described in Plato’s Timaeus (35b-36b; 43d-e), therefore through the correct performance of measured theurgic rites the initiate imitates the activity of the Demiurge, conjoining parts to wholes and integrating the psychosomatic multiplicity into the presiding noetic unity.

3. Figures, names, and tokens of the divine speech

Arguing that as the soul’s descent took place through many intermediary levels, so also its ascent, which includes dispensing with thinking through images and dissolving “the structure of life which it has compounded for itself”, Proclus compares phantasia (imagination) with “those Stymphalian birds which fly about within us, inasmuch as they present to us evils of form and shape, not being able at all to grasp the non-figurative and partless Form” (In Parm.1025).

The Platonic philosopher, like the bird-shaped ba of the Egyptian initiate, indeed must re-grow his wings in order to fly up to the stars (visible symbols of the eternal noetic archetypes) and, standing on the back of the ouroboric universe, like on the back of the Egyptian goddess Nut, to contemplate what lies beyond and what  is, therefore,  formless and colourless.

However, in spite of this deconstructive rhetoric which makes a sharp division between the things divine, directly perceived through intellection (noesis) and those  presented through verbally expressed imagination (lektike phantasia), Proclus recognizes a task for one living on the level of intellect (nous) to act by means of discoursive reason and imagination. This is so partly because all manifested realities, being just a plaything of the gods (as Plato explicitly states: Leg.VII.803) appear as the demiurgic dream of the Creator. The entire animated cosmos is like the miraculous ship constructed by the Egyptian initiate in the Duat, using the secret names and words of demiurgic (and, therefore, “magic”) power (hekau).

In this way both the Egyptian initiate, one who enters Duat before his physical death, and the Platonic philosopher follow the divine Intellect (the solar Atum-Ra) who produces all things and “in his bottomless thoughts” contains causally and in single simplicity the unified knowledge of all things and all divine works (theia erga) which are accomplished by the very fact of conceiving and noetically beholding them. It is, as Proclus says, “as if by the very fact of imagining all these things in this way, he were to produce the external existence of all the things which he possessed within himself in his imagination. It is obvious that he himself, then, would be the cause of all those things which would befall the ship by reason of the winds on the sea, and thus, by contemplating his own thoughts, he would both create and know what is external, not requiring any effort of attention towards them” (In Parm.959).

Though the gods are without any visible shape or figure, they may be viewed with a figure in the psychic realm of imagination (say, in the microcosmic Duat, the Hathorian or Osirian Netherworld of the soul), since each soul is the pleroma of reality (panton pleroma esti ton eidon: In Parm.896). So within the soul, like on the magic screen, all things are contained inwardly in a psychic mode. As S.Rappe reminds us: “At the borderland between the material world and the purely  immaterial world of intellect, this space of imagination offers a transitional domain that the mind can come to inhabit. This visionary space does not contain external objects nor illusions nor hallucinations. Rather, it is above all a realm of self-illumination…”10

Therefore the soul is capable to see and to know all things, including figures of the gods who essentially are without any shape and figure, in this “Osirian” mode by entering into itself and awakening the inner powers which reveal the images (eikones) and symbols of the universal reality. Neither the outward, nor the inward psychic seer is capable of seing without images. Thus, the nature of the things seen, in each  case, corresponds to the nature and preparedness of the seer himself, that is,  to the particular archetypal measures or configurations (those initially written on by Nous, the demiurgic Intellect) and to the actual contents of his existential and culturally shaped consciousness.

The Demiurge is the first and the only real seer and real speaker, whose “speech” is tantamount to the creative contemplation through the transcendent mirrors of imagination. Hence, his seeing and his speaking constitute the manifestation itself. Therefore creation of all things and the act of their naming are one and the same.

The theurgic ascent (the reversion of creation, now assuming the form of sacramental deconstruction) is also regarded as a rite of divine invocation. In certain sense, invocation, incantation, and psalmody show the sacred road (hodos) to the divine world, leading the initiate singer into the Netherworld. This knowledge of incantation constitutes the theurgic core of the Orphic way and provides the cosmological setting for the Egyptian temple liturgies, based on the luminous interplay of heka powers.

Likewise, in the context of ancient Greek epic poetry, the poet’s (who simultaneously is regarded as an inspired prophet-like theologos) song itself is “quite simply a journey into another world: a world where the past and future are as accessible and real as the present”.11 The journey of these divinely inspired poets is their song. As P.Kingsley says: “The poem they sing don’t only describe their journeys; they’re what makes the journey happen.”12

For the late Hellenic Neoplatonists, even to read the philosophical or hieratic text (somewhat analogous to the cosmic text of stars and celestial omens, regarded as a display of divine hieroglyphs) is to take part in a theurgic ritual. S.Rape explains this as follows:
“The soul, as the channel of cosmic manifestation, reads the world under one of two signs: the world is ‘other’ than or outside the soul when it is engaged in the process of descent, whereas it is ‘the same’ as and within the ascending or returning soul. Both of these great names are thus pronounced and understood by the soul, while in the moment of its pronouncement, the world itself is expressed. In fact, the world as a whole is just such a system of signs, due again to the activity of the Demiurge”.13

Hence, in the Neoplatonic view, all manifested reality consists of different modes of divine speech, or different levels of revelation which operates with a system of signs and symbols that simultaneously manifest and conceal the One: “Heaven and Earth are therefore signifiers, the one signifies the procession from there and other the return” (Proclus In Tim.I.273).

The name is an image (eikon) of a paradeigma, a copy of a model which is established at the noetic level. The Greek onomata means both “names” and “words”, and these onomata are viewed as agalmata by Proclus. The cosmos as an agalma, an image, shrine, or statue of the everlasting gods (ton aidion theon gigonos ahalma: Plato Tim.37c), consists in mysterious circularity of the great divine Name. Consequently, procession (proodos) and return (epistrophe) are the great names of the unspeakable Principle.

The ouroboric cosmos (ouroboric, because it resembles the circle-like body of the noetic Snake whose beginning and end are tied together) is to be viewed as the ontologically displayed divine text, the luminous golden globe full of animated hieroglyphs inside. The hieroglyphs are medu neter, “divine words” (or modes of divine speech), to say it in the Egyptian terms. This living agalma, or rather the entire constellation of onomata, agalmata, and sunthemata, is like a macrocosmic cult statue, a living embodiment of the divine Ideas, of the archetypal  contents which constitute the plenitude of Atum.

While maintaining that agalma contains no implication of likeness and, therefore, is not a synonim of eikon, F.M.Cornford describes Proclus’ attitude towards the cosmos as the holiest of shrines in following way. Plato, according to Proclus, “speaks of the cosmos as an agalma of the everlasting gods because it is filled with the divinity of the intelligible gods, although it does not receive those gods themselves into itself any more than cult images (agalmata) receive the transcendent essences of the gods. The gods in the cosmos (the heavenly bodies) are, as it were, channels conveying a radiance emanating from the intelligible gods. Proclus calls the Demiurge the agalmatopoios tou kosmou, who makes the cosmos as an agalma and sets up within it the agalmata of the individual gods.”14

The names of the gods are an objective eidetic expression of their henadic essence, therefore deity is actually present in its name. Likewise, the supreme Principle is in his great names which constitute the manifested cosmos, since the One is the name of procession of the universe, and the Good is the name of its reversion. This means that the universe, to pan, is a set of demiurgic and theurgic tokens, like a hieratic statue having its body animated by soul. For example, the stars are agalmata made by gods for their own habitation, and “the cosmos with its eight moving circles is thought of as an agalma which awaits the presence of the divine beings who are to possess the motion symbolized.”15

In Neoplatonism, names are likened to “divine images” that are essentially symbolic and theurgic. They function within the metaphysical triad of remaining, procession, and reversion (mone, proodos, epistrophe), leading to the first principles and causes through their effects and traces. In addition, the divine names are regarded as “vocal images” or “spoken statues” (agalmata phoneenta) of the gods, according to the otherwise unknown Democritus the Platonist (Damascius In Phileb.24.3).

Within the frame of the eternal demiurgic and theurgic work (ergon), there is no difference whether names are treated as being natural or conventional, phusei or thesei, because this opposition is too human, discursive, and partly illusory. For Proclus, at the level of human perception, things are “natural” in four senses: like animals and their parts, like faculties and activities of natural things, like shadows and reflections in mirrors, and like images fashioned by art (technetai eikones), those which resemble their archetypes. Names are regarded as being “natural” in the fourth sense. Therefore A.Sheppard says: “The view that names are naturally appropriate, like images fashioned by the painter’s art which reflect the form of the object, accords with the Neoplatonist view that artistic images reflect the Platonic Forms rather than objects of the sensible world. It is also quite consistent with the view that names are agalmata espoused by Proclus in the In Crat. and also in the Alexandrian Neoplatonist Hierocles.”16

4. The prophet Bitys and the overwhelming Name of God

The notion of theurgy as a divine work performed through the creative demiurgic Word and then through the ritual imitation of cosmogony is somewhat related with Bitys, the mysterious Egyptian prophet, sometimes described as the king Pitys. He is not attested, at least by this curious name, in the traditional Egyptian sources which, instead,  constantly praise Imhotep the Great. This divinized sage (sometimes forming a triad with Ptah and Hathor) is described as “the lector priest, the servant of Thoth… who fixes the plans of the god’s temples”, “by whom everyone lives” and “who revivifies people in the state of death, who brings up the egg in the belly”.17

Iamblichus in De mysteriis describes certain aspects of the late Egyptian metaphysics and theurgy, arguing that “Hermes also has set out this path (ten hodon); and the prophet Bitys (Bitus prophetes) has given an interpretation of it to King Ammon, having discovered it inscibed in hieroglyphic characters in a sanctuary in Sais in Egypt. He has handed down the Name of God, which extends throughout the whole cosmos (to te tou theou onoma paredoke to diekon di’ holou tou kosmou); and there are many other treatises on the same subject…” (De myster.267.11-268.4).

What sort of doctrine is attributed to Bitys by Iamblichus? This is a teaching about the supracosmic powers (huperkosmioi te dunameis), those which are worshiped by means of hieratic ritual (tes hieratikes hagisteias), thereby implying a clear distinction between the life of the soul and the intellective realm from one side, and that of nature from another. Hence, the Egyptians (the followers of Thoth and Bitys) postulate intellect and reason (noun te kai logon) as highest principles subsisting on their own and maintain that all things generated (in the sense of kheperu,  manifested by Atum, “lord of kheperu”) are created by their means.
Iamblichus affirms that the ancient Egyptians recognize the highest Demiurge as forefather of all manifestations, attributing he zotike dunamis, the animating power, not only in the heavens but also prior to the heavens, since above the generated cosmos they postulate a pure Intellect (katharon te noun huper ton kosmon protitheasi: De myster.267.4-5). This Intellect is indivisible in the universe as a whole, but divided about the heavenly spheres.

The theory of the noetic cosmos involves conversion to the ungenerated principles and ascent to the noetic gods in order to unite ourselves to them and thus, transcending the cosmic order, “partake in eternal life and in the activity of the supercelestial gods” (aidiou te zoes kai ton huperouranion theon ten energeias metechein: ibid.271.8-9). Therefore, for the Egyptian followers of Thoth and Bitys, this is not merely a matter of doctrinal exposition  of metaphysics, since “they recommended that we ascend (anabainein) through the practice of hieratic theurgy (dia tes hieratikes theourgias) to the regions that are higher, more universal and superior to fate, towards the God who is the Demiurge (pros ton theon kai demiourgon), without calling in the aid of matter…” (ibid.267.6-9).

The teaching of the legendary Bitys is ingeniously related with that of Plato by those Graeco-Egyptian alchemists who regarded philosophy as a way of inner transformation, speaking of the alchemical process as “Osirification”, as bringing Osiris back to life. Zosimus of Panopolis mentions the mysterious tablet (pinax), which presumably refers not so much to the concrete text, but rather represents the late Egyptian metaphysical tradition related to that proto-Hermetic cosmology, theology, and soteriology from which the Orphico-Platonic redemptive path of the immortal soul partly derives its initial patterns, namely, the paradigm of soul’s ascent to the huperouranios topos in order to be united with Atum-Ra.

The tablet “that Bitos (i.e., Bitys) wrote, and Plato the trice-great (trismegas) and Hermes the infinitely great (muriomegas)” allegedly contains the teaching about the inner man of light who is formed by the divine Intellect in its own image, like the Egyptian pharaoh who is the central image (tut) of God and, therefore, represents the theurgic axis of ascent. In this sense, the pharaoh, as a living Horus, is a son of Ra, of the solar demiurgic Intellect whose heliophanies constitute the agalma-like (or hieroglyph-like) cosmos. Consequently, J.Naydler regards Platonism as re-expression (in accordance with Greek cultural norms) of Egyptian spiritual perspective, and says: “It may be that Plato’s contribution to Western philosophy, like that of other early Greek philosophers, was that he put into terms understandable to his contemporaries, and thereby made accessible, teachings that were essentially esoteric and hitherto had been wrapped in secrecy, under the protection of the Egyptian priesthood.”18

The Byzantine scholars still maintained that Plato followed the teachings of Hermes and Bitys. In this context, Hermes is to be viewed as the Hellenistic mask of Thoth, or Djehuti, the “measurer” of all things, the god of wisdom, sacred rites, and hieroglyphic script (medu neter). The script itself, ontologically displayed, represents the Platonic Forms made visible by transferring the thoughts of Ra’s (or Ptah’s) heart into spoken and written language,  that is, the articulated and visible universe, understood as a beautiful (nefer) symbolic text to be read, interpreted, and contemplated. As the universal Demiurge, Djehuti in the form of sacred ibis hatched the world Egg at Hermopolis on the “first occasion”, tep sepi, that is, in illo tempore. This Egg is analogous to the noetic Egg of the Orphic myth.

According to the Hermopolitan theology, Djehuti (this time being tantamount to the Heliopolitan Atum) sends forth the primordial creative Sound still within the abyss of Nun (the ineffable One), thereby articulating the archetypal Ogdoad which is not manifested  and pre-noetic. In other versions of theological account, Shu or Heka assume the role of the creative Word, instead  of Thoth, who is depicted as being either the heart, or the tongue of Atum-Ra, that is, either the active demiurgic intelligence, or its power of expression, irradiation, manifestation, regulation, and ordering.

Since Thoth’s feminine counterpart (his shakti) is Maat (truth, order, justice, proper limit, right proportion, canon), Thoth himself is to be viewed as a mediator of the noetic lights, of the divine Ideas, directing their ordered manifestation and revelation. In this respect, as a principle of gnostic revelations, magic incantations, symbolic representations, and initiatory mystagogies, he may be thought, according to J.Naydler, as “the universal principle that the Greeks were to call the Logos.”19

Consequently, Bitys, who revealed the overwhelming Name of God, may be regarded as either Ra’s, or Thoth’s messenger or avatara. In Sanskrit, avatarana means a “descent” (katabasis) of the immortal soul or of the All-Worker, Viskvakarman. The Door of All Things, Vishvakarman, being the supreme monadic principle of all theurgies, gives names to the gods, thereby establishing their “individual” being, since all gods function merely as the names of the nameless Father who in his ineffable unity is “all things”. The countless names (which constitute the supreme Name revealed by Bitys) are given to God’s “presences” and “powers” which thereby order the chains (seirai in post-Iamblichean Neoplatonism), streams, breaths, or rivers of manifestation. The original and inexhaustible Name (like Vedic Omkara) is the noetic Sun which “proceeds” as ever sounding light.

According to one of the Amun-Ra hymns, whose late version survives in the Hibis temple:

“Hail, the One who makes himself into millions,
Whose length and breadth are limitless!
Power in readiness, who gave birth to himself,
Uraeus with great flame;
Great of magic (heka) with secret form,
Secret ba, to whom respect is shown.”20

The bau of God (Amun) are understood not as the visible cosmos in itself but as an archetypal decad of animating powers (among them – the royal ka as the divine institution of kingship, which is a sort of metaphysical power embodied by the Horus-like pharaoh) that animate, sustain, keep, and govern the world. God is both one and many, both transcendent and immanent: “There can scarcely be a clearer expression of the fact that the name too is only an aspect of the god which he uses when he exercises his rule over the world. As a nameless and secret ba the god is unlimited and omnipresent. The forms in which his power manifests itself are the millionfold totality.”21

The Thothian tradition of Bitys (be this royal hermeneus real or imagined person) surely is one maintained by scribes of the House of Life (per ankh). These Houses (depicted in the form of mandala with the figure of Osiris standing within a mummy case and gazing at the ankh hieroglyph, meaning both “life” and “mirror”) were the initiatory centers in which the rite of death and rebirth was conducted for those attuned to maat and endowed with heka. This tradition (partly described by Zosimus of Panopolis at the turn of the fourth century) speaks about the inner man, the man of light (presumably, analogous to the ancient Egyptian akh), whose Greek name Phos means both “light” and “man”. When this anthropos teleios is imprisoned in the body, like Prometheus, his name is changed into Epimetheus, or Adam. The imprisoned Epimetheus should be rescued by the Son of God, that is, the royal Falcon, the son of Ra, whose pure “rational” (or rather “solar” and “noetic”, akhu) state is achieved when one’s immortal eidos is germinated within the alchemical tomb. When the statue-like body is “mortified”, purified, and transformed by the descending divine rays, then the spiritual illumination takes place.

Arguing that Bitys and Iamblichus provide a vital link between the Egyptian Hermetic lore and late Platonism, G.Fowden says:
“To sum up, the pinax of Bitys, purportedly a translation of texts composed by Thoth-Hermes, and associated in some way with Plato too, discussed the theurgical ascent of the soul, and in doing so invoked two doctrines highly germane to theurgy, namely that of the Anthropos, which explains why Man can aspire to become – indeed already is – divine, and the theory of the two souls, which explains how the theurgist is purified from the taint of matter.”22

5. The descending and ascending paths of Heka

The so-called Greek Magical papyri from Egypt give us some scanty indications of priest’s Bitys realm of expertise, providing the spell of attraction over skull cups, attributed to the mythical king Pitys, and his prayer to Helios (Ra or Horus) to be delivered at sunset. The prayer contains the following cosmological and theological assertions:

“Borne on the breezes of the wand’ring winds,
Golden-haired Helios, who wield the flame’s
Unresting fire, who turn in lofty paths
Around the great pole,  who create all things
Yorself which you again reduce to nothing.
From you, indeed, come elements which are
Arranged to suit your laws which nourish all
The world with its for yearly turning points” (PGM IV.1955-1963)

“…Because I call upon your four-part name:
I call upon your name,  Horus, which is
In number equal to the Moirai’s names
IAO THOTHO PHIACHA  (36 letters).
Be gracious unto me, O primal God,
O father of the world, self-gendered one” (PGM IV.1981-1989).23

The spurious letter of Pitys to King Ostanes mentions “the holy god Osiris Kmephi Sro (“Osiris, Good Daimon, great prince”, according to R.K.Ritner24) and contains the instructions how the figure of Hekate is to be written, on a leaf of flax:
“Hekate with three heads and six hands, holding torches in her hands, on the right sides of her face having the head of a cow; and on the left sides the head of a dog; and in the middle the head of a maiden with sandals bound on her feet.”25

The name Bitys, Bitos, Bithus itself may be related (at least, as one of possible puns and associative word-plays) with the Greek buthos, “abyss”, meaning the ineffable Silence (sige) of Nun and Naunet, the supreme syzygy, from which Atum-Kheprer-Ra emerges. For the Indian sages, this emergence of the intelligible light is an act of primordial sacrifice in the sense of contemplative hieropoia, “making sacred”, that is, revealed, articulated, and divided in order to be re-integrated, re-united and “put together” (samdha). This act implies moving from darkness to light in both self-disclosure and self-sacrifice, a bringing to birth (or to death and rebirth) by means of the Word.

Thereby the lowr Maya is born from the intelligible Maya, since kha and purna, void and plenum, are identical, like nonbeing and plenitude of being in Atum’s self-disclosure within the blind darkness of Nun. In Sanskrit, the words maya (magical means, creative power, matrix), matr (mother) and matra (meter) are closely related, because the first constituent part of all these words, namely, ma, to “measure” (like the Egyptian maat) is constantly used in the contexts of creation, manifestation, giving birth to, giving form and definition.

In a sense, the “measured” birth is a sort of sacrifice (yajna), like Indra’s slaying of the dragon Vritra who lies in the long darkness beneath the Waters. The solar Indra here means “the most excellent incantation” (mantra) by which Prajapati, like the primordial Serpent, creeps forth from the darkness and becomes the Sun, the manifested and noetically articulated Logos. The Sun’s shining is as much an utterance as a raying, and this “shining sound” (the great and hidden Name, nama guhyam) sets in motion the rounded Wheel of the Year. As A.K. Coomaraswamy relates: “The Sacrifice is a spreading out, a making a tissue or web of the Truth (satyam tanavamaha: SB IX.5.1.18), a metaphor commonly employed elsewhere in connection with the raying of the fontal light, which forms the texture of the worlds. Just as the kindling of Agni is the making perceptible and evident of a hidden light, so the utterance of the chants is the making perceptible of a silent principle of sound. The spoken Word is a revelation of the Silence, that measures the trace of what is in itself immeasurable.”26

If we return to the Egyptian Heliopolitan cosmogony, displayed in the terms of kheper (“coming into being”, “making developments”), we should realize that Atum’s singularity is articulated before his emergence from the ineffable Waters and, simultaneously, established as a unity in diversity at the level of manifested kosmos noetos. In the form of the golden Scarab (Kheprer, Khepera), Atum appears as the “completed one”, “lord of totality” (neb tem).

There is a distinction made between  the primordial Monad and the noetic Creator who bore all through his own mouth. Atum’s self-disclosure begins as an Idea which is noetically expressed by means of Heka. The word Heka is usually translated as “Magic”, but, in fact, it is the all-sustaining noetic power that underlies all measured creation, that is, Atum’s proceeding in a plurality of aspects as many rays proceed from one Sun. Therefore Heka is intimately connected with Maat, truth, justice, and right order.
Since Heka constitutes the primeval creative utterance of Atum-Kheprer through which all gods (neteru), as luminous names, came into being (kheper), Heka is frequently viewed as Father of all the gods and of all subsequent manifestations (kheperu), both spiritual and material. As the demiurgic Word and Power, Heka serves as the connecting link between Atum (the pleroma of noetic archetypes) and all that proceeds from Atum. In the Coffin Texts, Heka describes himself as a principle by which Atum gives life to the intelligible Ennead and produces everything from the primordial Monad:

“I am he whom  the Sole Lord made
Before two things had developed in this world,
When he sent his Sole Eye,
When he was alone.
When something came from his mouth,
When his million of ka was in protection of his associates,
When he spoke with the One who developed with him,
Than whom he is mightier,
When he took Hu (Annunciation, Word) in his mouth.
Truly, I am that son of the One who bore all,
Being in protection of that which the Sole Lord commanded.
I am he who gave life to the Ennead.
I am Acts-As-He-Likes, Father of the gods” (CT 261.5-17).

Heka is subordinated to Atum, though Atum himself, when he “uses his own mouth” in Heliopolis, is Heka, both created and creator simultaneously. In short, Atum (or Ptah in other theological accounts) is the intelligible paradigm, the mediating power, and manifestation itself. When identified as Heka, “Ptah is the joint principle of creative thought and utterance through which the Creator first operated. This is the same principle that continues to operate in the created world, in the Lord to the Limit’s rule of nature and the pharaoh’s rule of humanity.”27

The king and the initiate themselfes must be united with Heka or “become” Heka in order to conduct the theurgic ascent, because the mortal human personality cannot command the gods or be united with them. Only Heka, as Father or the gods and all-pervasive power of manifested being (Maya as the principle of both demiurgy and theurgy, of procession and reversion) can command the gods as his own hypercosmic and cosmic limbs, or his own “words” (hekau).

Sometimes Heka is conflated with Shu, the primordial and infinite breath of life (ankh), analogous to the Pythagorean apeiron, whose counterpart Tefnut stands for peras, the “fiery” limit and order (maat). Shu and Tefnut are the primeval diad which emerges from the ithyphallic Atum in the eternal Heliopolis:

“O Atum-Kheprer, when you became high, as the high ground, when you rose up as the ben-ben Stone in the Enclosure of Bennu-bird (Phoenix) in On (Heliopolis), you sneezed Shu, you spat out Tefnut, and you set your arms about them as the arms of ka, that your ka might be in them. O Atum, set your arms about the Pharaoh, about his construction, and about this pyramid as the arms of ka, that the Pharaoh’s ka may be in it, enduring for ever” (Pyramid Texts 600).

In a sense, heka is a life-giving essence from the Isle of Fire, the archetypal topos – “the place of everlasting light beyond the limits of the world, where the gods were born or revived”28 -  whose chief messenger is the solar Bennu-bird (Phoenix), embodiment of the Word, or the son of Ra “in whom Atum appeared in the primeval nought, infinity, darkness and nowhere”.28

Accordingly, Heka may be viewed from many different sides and regarded as that “magic force” of Being itself which starts to operate when Atum “takes” Hu (the divine principle of creative speech, Logos, Annunciation, Utterance) in his mouth. Hu is conceived in a pair with Sia, the principle of noetic Perception, or Wisdom. Therefore Heka, as the creative power of Atum, may be equated with Wisdom, assuming the role of Thoth or Shu, and depicted as the mediating figure standing between Nut and Geb, between Heaven and Earth.

This mediating power, Heka, also represents the divine knowledge transmitted from the monadic plenitude “down” through the archetypal Ennead. Geb (Earth), the son of Shu and the father of Osiris, contains all “gnostic” heka power, legitimally received from the hands of Thoth. Geb’s royal regalia (and, consequently, all esoteric teachings and paths of liberation) are inherited by the human pharaoh, the perfect imago dei (tut neter). His theurgic ascent, meaning the re-integration of an image (tut) into its living noetic archetype, is accomplished assuming the form of all-embracing Heka.

Therefore the king on his ascending path eats the heka of the gods and of all things (putting their heka in his belly), and thereby becomes or rather is able to re-collect his initial noetic plenitude as pantheos, or neb tem (the Lord of All). Following this way of sacrificial or rather sacramental consumption (of collecting and eating heka of all beings), the metaphysical epistrophe is accomplished and all manifested universe is symbolically reduced to the noetic pleroma of the initial Monad. Hence, the initiate (one who is “dead” to all external multiplicity) may pronounce: “I am Heka”.

6.  Silence before the gods and its creative magic

For the modern commentators of dark ancient texts, to say that “I am Heka” means to be involved into hallucinations produced by the irrational and silly imagination of a sorcerer. A.H.Gardiner goes so far as to declare that there was no such thing as “religion” in Egypt, but only heka, understood by him as a “magic power”.30 However, it may be labelled as “magic” only when viewed from the presumably “demythologized” modern perspective (itself rooted in the Judaeo-Christian mythologies), a priori assuming the entirely different onto-cosmology and accepting “sound and sterile” puritanism of positivistic sciences, whose tacit premises (if revisited) are even more “fantastic” than those of sorcery.

If “magic” is to be understood as denoting the driving force of anything “coming into being”, thereby producing harmonious and logically arranged (both suprarational and rational) web of inter-relations, when we should accept this term, because any intentional mental act which produce certain subsequent effects is “magical”, in a sense. But moderns, as C.R.Phillips pointed out, “have abstracted magic to cover all ancient religious phenomena that do not conform to their notions of ‘true’ religion and science.”31
Therefore this view of “magic”, based on the Christian tradition of anti-pagan campaigns as well as anticlerical heritage of the Enlightenment is “the labelling theorist’s dream”,32 tacitly shaped according to the Judaeo-Christian and modern scientific standards. If we still render the word heka by “magic”, we should remember that, ultimately, this Magic (like Hindu Maya) is Magic of a highest order, because it appears as a power (sekhem, dunamis, shakti) of Atum-Kheprer-Ra in the act of creating the cosmos and arranging its hierachies, as well as establishing the path of descent and the path of ascent.

Since Heka appears even before the first Utterance, the Egyptian Hu, he is equally related with the primordial Silence. Accordingly, Heka stands as the transcendent principle of any theurgy which operates through the creative divine speech, the irradiation of light-like names of power, themselves called hekau (in plural) and tantamount to Hindu mantras. Brahman is both silent and audible (mantram). It fills up everything, but as the supreme Source remains transcendent and unaffected by whatever is irradiated from it or returned to it. As Brhad Devata of Shaunaka relates: “Because of the magnitude of the Spirit (mahatmyat) a diversity of names is given (vidhiyate)… according to the distribution of their spheres (sthanavibhagena). It is inasmuch as they are ‘differentiations’, ‘presences’ (vibhuti), that the names are innumerable. But the shapers (kavayah) in their incantations (mantresu) say that the godhoods (devatas) have a common source; they are called by different names according to the spheres in which they established” (BD I.70-74).33    

Iamblichus discusses some aspects of the Egyptian Hermetic (Thothian) theology, arguing that prior to the true beings (ton ontos onton) and to the universal principles (ton holon archon), they place one God (theos heis). Iamblichus also describes five Egyptian gods in descending order: 1) Heikton (reading Heikton instead of Eikton), 2) Kmeph (tantamount to the noetic Serpent, manifestation of Atum as the Creator of multiplicity), 3) Amon, 4) Ptah, and 5) Osiris. Heikton is described as “the indivisible One” (to hen ameres) and as the “first operation of magic” (proton mageuma): “It is in him that there reides the primal intelligising element and the primal object of intellection (to proton noeton), which, it must be specified, is worshiped by means of silence alone” (De myster.263.4-5).

Now it is clear that the Iamblichean Heikton is the same as Heka. And the Egyptian Heka is viewed, we remember, both as a god, neter (iconographically depicted with a frog on the top of his head, holding crossed serpents in his hands) and as an intrinsic cosmogonic force, equated with the divine “magic”. Heka appeared within the totality of Atum before the initial duality, that is, before the emergence of Shu and Tefnut by means of Atum’s masturbation or by means of his dynamic self-contemplation – by sending forth his Eye, the supreme dunamis, or the primeval heka power which establishes certain proto-ontological “horizon” for the further creation. Within the ouroboric frame of this initial procession (proodos) and return (epistrophe), which the miraculous gaze of Atum’s Eye provides, all subsequent acts of creative “magic” take place. Heka power, here revealed as the initial ka power of Atum, establishes the first metaphysical triad of Atum-Shu-Tefnut. Consequently, Atum’s putting arms about Shu and Tefnut is regarded as a paradigm for the hieratic rite of “animating” a cult statue through the intimate embrace.

Atum, in his mythic role of “masturbator” (iusau) is sometimes regarded as androgynous Creator whose hand is personified as the goddess Nebet Hetepet. The Hand of Atum – also treated as Lady of the Vagina (Hetepet) or Lady of Offerings (Hetepet) – and another goddess, Iusaas (the force of growing and coming), are associated with Hathor. To certain extent, Hathor may be regarded as a counterpart of Heka at the level of Horus. But her “true” name, in this case, should be something like Hekat. Therefore we wonder if the goddess Hekate (viewed both as the supreme noetic Rhea and as the universal World Soul, Hathor proper) of the Neoplatonic-Chaldean metaphysics is not somewhat related with Heka. In spite of imagined or real Greek etymologies of the name Hekate, her role as the patroness of theurgy and magic fits well the theological horizon of Heka’s competences. It is wothy to mention that the frog goddess Heqet presides over birth and helps Khnum, her ram-headed divine husband, to shape the body of human being along with its ka.

In the theological system presented by Iamblichus, Heka is tantamount to the One-Existent (hen on) of the late Neoplatonic metaphysics. Being regarded as Silence before the gods, he is like a huparxis before the manifested noetic duality. J.Assmann maintains that the Heliopolitan theology which describes how Atum came into being (kheper) by himself and how everything else came into being (or assumed form) from him, is “less a mythology than a germ of a philosophy.”34

Thus, the first really manifested noetic triad (Atum-Shu-Tefnut) may be interpreted in many different ways. Mythologically, Atum himself emerges from the transcendent darkness of Nun. He appears (kheper) as the primeval mound (metaphysical city of Sun, Heliopolis) or as the lotus-like pillar of light. This vertical pillar, like the archetypal axis mundi, may be imagined as Atum’s lingam, simbolically combined with a naos sistrum, the theurgic musical instrument of the golden Hathor, curiously regarded as the Hand of Atum.

Therefore creation starts both as a sexual act and as divine music. At the level of noetic pleroma, the ejaculated semen of creation appears as a miraculous Stone of light, as a pyramid-like Temple of lux intelligibilis, the womb-like tomb of all things. This is the shining ben-ben Stone of Heliopolis – the ultimate prototype of all subsequent sacred stones (symbols of noetic immortality) and all animated hieratic statues. Like a golden Egg, the Stone of Atum contains all subsequent demiurgic seeds, all Platonic Ideas.
Since both Maat and Hathor are regarded as daughters of Ra and stand at the prow of the solar barque, they may be viewed together as a single figure of Hathor-Maat and equated to the noetic Eye of Ra. Now we remember that Heka is intimately related with Maat. Therefore Hathor, as the whole Uedjat-Eye, the Eye of Ra, initiates not only descent but also ascent to Heaven, to the realm of divine Intellect. In this respect, A.Roberts makes an aptly remark:

“But as the Iret-eye, she also acts as the agent of the god’s activity, since iret in Egyptian means ‘doer’. The solar gaze becomes an activity as the eye – the instrument of divine energy and power – is projected out into the world.”35

7. Hekate’s golden ball as a rotating “vocal image” of the Father

The holy teaching attributed to Bitys concerning “the Name of God, which extends throughout the whole cosmos” seems to be basic for the Iamblichean understanding of theurgic practices. The whole cosmos is permeated and constituted by this Name whose creative expansion and contraction is maintained through the supreme Heka  power, thereby establishing the revolving noetic sphere and, consequently, celestial and terrestrial spheres. These cosmic manifestations include the ritualized Sun’s course, the visible Sun being an image of the “Lord of maat”, Atum-Ra, or Amun-Ra.

In the hymn which discloses the Egyptian theological doctrines maintained during the reign of Hatshepsut and Tuthmosis III, Amun-Ra is described as one “who grants a clear road to every eye that was created in Nun.”36 Amun is simultaneously Lord of maat (truth) and Lord of the gods. He is identified as Atum, creator of both the gods and humankind, and as Ra-Kheprer, standing in his solar barque. He gives his bau (manifestations, souls) in million of forms: the light of the Sun is the ba of Ra, and the entire visible world may be called his ba.

Since Amun’s cosmic body is the universe itself, this heliophanic body is permeated by the life-giving forces or eidetic essences which are his bau. These bau are experienced in the ordered world as the manifold ways in which God works. However, though being rich in marvelous manifestations, Amun keeps himself concealed as the One whose true nature is not revealed:

“None of the gods knows his true form;
His image is not unfolded in books;
Nothing certain is testified about him” (Leiden Amun Hymn 200).37

In ancient civilizations, the One is symbolically imagined as the Centre or the invisible Pole of the sphere whose two points remain fixed. While discussing the meaning of swastika within the context of traditional Indoeuropean cosmologies, R.Guenon argues as follows: “The Centre imparts movement to all things; and as movement represents life, the swastika becomes thereby a symbol of life or, more precisely, the vivifying function of the Principle in relation to the cosmic order.”38

As a symbol of life, swastika is analogous to the ankh hieroglyph, or rather it depicts the descending and ascending streams of life, related to the southern celestial gates of Seth, leading to genesis, ontological differentiation, reincarnation, dispersion, and to the northern gates of Horus, leading to the Circumpolars. These stars never disappear below the horizon and therefore stand for the eternal archetypus mundus, immortality, and liberation. Ultimately, this is the descent and ascent of the all-embracing Name of God whose spiral paths (which constitute the universe as a sort of mahamantra, as a dynamic display of hekau) are imitated by various theurgic instruments or yantras, to say it in Sanskrit terms. One of such instruments is the Chaldean top of Hekate (Hekatikos strophalos), described by Psellus, the Byzantine writer, as follows: “Hekate’s top is a golden ball (Hekatikos strophalos sphaira esti chruse), formed around a sapphire (or with lapis lazuli enclosed at the sphere’s centre, according to S.Ronan39), whirled around by means of a rawhide thong, with characters [engraved] all over it. Whirling it, [the theurgist] used to make invocations (epikleseis). And they were accustomed to call these [tops] ‘iynges’, whether they were spherical or triangular or of some other shape. Whirling them, [the whirlers] gave forth indiscriminate sounds, or sounds like a beast, laughing and whipping the air. [The Oracle] teaches that the movement of the top, having an ineffable power (dunamin aporrheton), works the rite (ten teleten energein). It is called ‘Hekate’s top’ because it is consecrated to Hekate.”40

This Chaldean and Neoplatonic yantra, regarded as a vehicle for descending and ascending divine powers, is called Iynx (in standard Greek transliteration: sg. yunx, pl. iunges), that literally means the wryneck bird. The Egyptian term ba (pl.bau) fits well this cosmological schema, because ba, depicted as a human-headed bird, both descends and ascends. In the Ramesside theology, the ten bau of Amun constitutes something like the proto-Pythagorean decad of noetic archetypes. The five of these archetypal bau are related with the five life-giving cosmic elements and five classes of life-endowed creatures. According to J.Assmann: “This theology understands the bau of God not as the visible world itself, but as a decad of mediating powers that animate and sustain the wold.”41

The pharaoh belongs to the decad of bau and is tantamount to the central axis of the Chaldean strophalos (turbine), thereby mediating a divine energy of the kingship endowed with soteriological and theurgical functions. As regards the symbolic meaning of the Chaldean Iynges (equated with the Thoughts of God, Platonic Forms, themselves likened to a swarm of bees), Proclus describes them together with teletarchai (Masters of Initiation) and sunocheis (Connectors) as the gods that (at one particular level of manifestation) guard the poles assembling the separate and unfying the manifold members of the whole. Proclus says: “Other doctrines of a more secret kind assert that the Demiurge who presides over the cosmos rides upon the poles and through his divine love turns the whole towards himself. The Pythagoreans claimed that the pole should be called ‘the seal of Rhea’, as the place through which the life-giving goddess dispenses her mysterious and effective power to the All… And if I may add my own conceit, the centers and the poles of all the spheres symbolize the wry-necked gods (ton iungikon theon) by limitating the mysterious union and synthesis which they effect; the axes represent the mainstays of all the cosmic orders, since they hold together the unities and revolutions in the visible cosmos, as the intelligible centers hold tohether the cosmos of the intelligibles; and the very spheres are likenesses of the perfect divinities (autai de kai sphairai ton telesiourgon theon eikones eisin), joining end to beginning (archen telei sunaptousai) and  surpassing all other figures in simplicity, uniformity, and perfection” (In Euclid.II.90-91).42

Hence, the theurgic strophalos imitates the universe as a rotating vocal agalma of the Creator, by means of which the divine names, or powers, are both invoked and released, revealed and concealed. Strictly speaking, the work of this turbine represents the way which the Platonic Forms proceed down and the way all manifested realities return to their ultimate Source. Thereby end is joined to beginning “under the Tent-poles of the divine realm”, to say it in the Egyptian terms. S.Ronan provides the following commentary of these Neoplatonic doctrines, indicating the equivalence between the Chaldean Iynges, the Platonic Forms, and the unspeakable divine names or symbols (asema onomata, sumbola, sunthemata):

“Essentially, this teaching holds that each god or goddess has an expression at every level of creation so that there are, for instance, solar human souls, solar animals, plants and minerals, etc. Expressing this in terms of Iynx equivalences, the sacred names are verbal Iynges, the symbols and sigils are visual Iynges, and the turbine (strophalos) is the Iynx as a ritual instrument. In each case, the Iynx serves to ‘work the ritual’ as Psellus puts it. We can see from our survey that the Iynx works at the hub of theurgy; it is a turbine which both generates and bears the divine power which alone, as Iamblichus tells us, makes ritual effective. As a force which vivifies and empowers ritual, the Iynx is dedicated to Hekate who is preeminently the vivifying power of the Chaldean universe.”43

The Iynx was spun by means of cords passed through it, alternately pulling and relaxing the tension and thereby causing the Hekate’s turbine to spin alternately one way (setting into motion the demiurgic thoughts of the Father, the noetic realities which think by themselves) and then the other (speeding back to the Father). The ascending movement back to the One is tantamount to “prayer”, understood as reversion (epistrophe) to God at any ontological level of manifested reality. Hence, the movement of this turbine itself may be viewed as a sum of all prayers.

“All things pray except the First”, according to Theodorus of Asine (Proclus In Tim.I.213.2-3).

For R.T. Wallis, this means that everything reverts upon its cause, and thereby upon the One, the cause of all. Therefore “even inanimate objects aspire to imitate the Good… and it is the likeness to gods that they acquire by this reversion that for the later Neoplatonists justifies their use in theurgy.”44

8. Sounding breaths of the All-Working Fire

The noise of the spinning (when the Chaldean Iynx is moved) imitates the noise of the divine Utterance, the Light-like Name of God. This noise is described by using the Greek verb rhoizeo (“whirl or spin with a whistling noise”). It is attested in the Graeco-Egyptian Magical papyri as well. For example, the ritualist invites the Mistress of the entire world to heed her sacred symbols and give a whirring sound (rhoizon). In this case, whirring refers to the sistrum (sesheshet) of Hathor (PGM VII.883-884). The Mistress Selene the Egyptian, whose image is to be made in the form of the universe, is Hekate, lady of night, here described as Aphrodite Urania (Celestial Hathor). The spell itself belongs to certain rites of Heaven and the Northern Star.45

The Greek verb rhoizeo is frequently used to describe the cosmogonic noise of creation, imitated in the Oriental temple liturgies and festivals. In the Egyptian Sed-festival, aimed at the mystical rebirth of a pharaoh, the sacred music of Hathor (the Cow of Gold) was regarded as a means of cosmic decontruction and subsequent re-creation of all kheperu.

As a fiery serpent goddess, Hathor is called Ueret-Hekau (the Great of Heka), sometimes depicted as a leonine-headed figure with a Sun disk and uraeus. Ueret-Hekau serves as an elevating force in the process of pharaoh’s deification, that is, his ascent and union with Amun-Ra. Her elevating whistling music may be regarded as analogous to the whirring sound (rhoizon) of the Hekate’s theurgic instrument which imitates both the harmony of the spheres and the rotation of the Platonic Ideas (the Chaldean Iynges, moving like the descending and ascending bau in the Egyptian Ramesside theology).

The word iunx (pl.iunges) presumably is derived from the verb iuzo, “shout, cry out”. The iunx-wheel (like the macrocosmic wheel of creation) is moved by the erotic heka power. The sound made by the whirling wheel should be accompanied by invocations. In the Hellenic milieu, these invocations are based on the correct pronunciation of the seven Greek vowels, related with the seven planetary spheres of Babylonian-Hellenic cosmology, themselves belonging to one or another chain (seira) of manifestation. As S.I.Johnston remarks:

“The invocations of deities by pronunciation of the seven vowels is akin to the use of ‘secret words’ (sumbola, sunthemata), with which… the iynges were connected or even identified.”46

Here we see an analogy (or even identity) between the fundamental noetic principles and the sounding elements (phoneenta stoicheia) of the theophanic universe: “The heavens sing, and the sound is that of the vowels.”47

This “singing” stems from the silent One and shows the way back to Him. The roaring “sounds” of divine irradiation (ellampsis) may be described as rays of light, as winds of spirit, or as the life-bringing breaths, rotating like the spokes of a wheel. According to the Vedic tradition, Vayu “puts the in and out breaths” (pranapanau dadhati) into man, like into the Egyptian statue-like body which receives the vital essence, ka.

The Sanskrit pranah (breath, vital spirit) is roughly equivalent to the Greek pneuma. A.K.Coomaraswamy argues that these vital breaths of Brahma, Agni, or Vishvakarman (All-Worker) are imagined of as streams or torrents of light, sound, and life: they are the very waters (comparable to the Osirian Nile) that are released when Vritra is slain by Indra (in illo tempore, where the beginning and the end meet). These streams “are called nadyah ‘because they sounded (anadata)’ as they went their way… and in the same way ‘the Breath is a noise (prano vai nadah)’, and when it sounds, all else resounds…”48

Agni, like the Chaldean noetic and paternal Fire, himself is the Breath, the ever-living Fire from which creative Speech is flowing down through the fiery channels, sometimes compared to the Seven Rays of the Sun. These Seven Rays may be identified to the Seven Rishis (rsis, divine seers, sages), or streams of wisdom, since the word rsi itself contains the root meaning “rush, flow, shine”. Hence, the solar Vishvakarman, the supreme Agni, is the principle which transcends the seven lights (or rays) of manifestation. He is comparable to Atum-Ra, or Amun-Ra, that is, the divine Intellect. Essentially, Agni is beyond the seven pneumata, the pneumatic threads or wind-cords (vata-rajjuh), tied with the hypercosmic Sun, namely, Agni himself, or with the supercelestial Pole Star.
The fiery breaths or channels of Agni (the All-Working Fire) are analogous to the ethereal rays (ochetai) in the Neoplatonic cosmology and related soteriological rites. The luminous solar vehicle (augoeides ochema) of the immortal soul was thought to be able to inhale the Sun’s rays and thereby return to the Sun, the visible agalma or sunthema of the Paternal Fire. The later Noplatonists “were firm believers in the theurgic rites of elevation”, as J.F.Finamore pointed out.49 They maintained that the soul (riding upon its purified solar vehicle) can be raised up by the rays of Helios, the noetic Sun shining through the visible Sun. The ascent of Heracles symbolized for them the soul’s homecoming to the noetic realm, therefore Julian the Emperor said that Zeus elevated Heracles to himself “through the thunderbolt (dia tou kerauniou), having ordered his son to come to his side by the divine sunthema of the ethereal ray” (hupo to theio sunthemati tes aitherias auges: Or.VII.220a).

9. Elevating rays of the resounding light

The Chaldean-Neoplatonic theurgist, “guiding the works of fire” (puros erga kubernon:, raises upwards his soul to the fiery noetic realm and even to the First Transcendent Fire (pur epekeina to proton) itself. He raises through the mediating solar rays (the bau of Amun-Ra), or through  the channels of fire equated to the ropes of worship.

All things are generated from One Fire (henos puros), or the Paternal Monad (patrike monas). From this monadic Fire, the Implacable Thunders (that is, Platonic Ideas) leap forth along with the lightning-receiving womb of the shining ray of Hekate, and “from there, all things begin to extend wonderful rays down below” (fr.35). According to the Chaldean Oracles, “from the gods themselves”, as Proclus emphasizes, “the Holy Name (onoma semnon) leaps with eternal circular motion into the kosmoi at the mighty order of the Father” (In Crat.20.26-30; fr.87).

The Holy Name which extends throughout the entire manifested universe and, in fact, creates or developes it, may be likened to the whole solar Eye constituted by many parts -  many “names”, “signs”, and “symbols”. All of them are the shining and whirring thunderbolts of the Father, that is, the intelligible archetypes irradiated and projected into the womb of the life-dispensing goddess, one who is an “image” of the All. Thus, the Chaldean Oracles argue as follows: “For the Paternal Intellect has sown the symbols throughout the cosmos, [the Paternal Intellect] which perceives the noetic relities. And [these noetic realities or their symbols] are called ineffable beauties” (sumbola gar patrikos noos espeiren kata kosmon, hos ta noeta noei; kai kalle aphrasta kaleitai: Proclus In Crat.20.31-21.2; fr.108).

The Chaldean Iynges, identified with the Platonic Ideas and mystic solar rays, function as binding wheels between the noetic realm (the Seven-Rayed God, ho heptaktis theos: fr.194) and the sensible world. R. Majercik maintains that they are not only mediators of messages, but the message itself (or revelation itself): “For example, as the ‘thoughts’ or Ideas of the Father, the Iynges are actually magical names (voces mysticae) sent forth by the Father as ‘couriers’ in order to communicate with the theurgist. At this end, the magic wheel spun by the theurgist attracts these celestial Iynges and enables the theurgist (who alone is privy to the divine language of the gods) to communicate with the Father. But the message communicated by the Iynges is none other than their own magical names which, when uttered, enabled the theurgist to acquire certain divine powers.”50

The cosmological extention of Iynges may be regarded as the sum of wheel-like limbs which constitute the Gnostic anthropos teleios (Perfect Man and Son of God) coming out of the heart of the primeval Sea, that is, Ninurta whose weapon is his “Word”. This Sumerian warlike god, whose principal cult center was the temple E-shu-mesha at Nippur, was especially worshipped by the Neo-Assyrian kings, and their particular devotion to Ninurta had an esoteric dimension, related with the long-standing tradition of Mesopotamian gnosis.

When the monstrous lion-like bird, Anzu (or Imdugud), steals the archetypal tablets of destinies from Enki or from Enlil, this bird is killed by Ninurta and eventually reintegrated into Ninurta’s own field of spiritual energeia. The Ninurta’s chariot is drawn by the spirit of the Thunderbird Anzu, Donkey of Heaven (imeru shami, like the Prophet’s Buraq in Islamic mythology). In the Akkadian Epic, the feathers of Anzu, carried by the wind, “convey the good news (like evangelium) to the father Enlil.”51

The four whirling winds of Heaven are four winds created by Anu, those which disturbed Tiamat (the innert primordial Sea) in the dramatic Babylonian cosmogony of Enuma elish. In certain respect, these winds are to be equated with Anzu, envisioned as a thunder cloud or as an enormous bird, sometimes depicted as a lion-headed bird, sometimes as a winged lion with bird’s tail. Ninurta (the divine archetype of the perfect warrior-king, the Messiah) is equated with the conquered Anzu. This rotating and whirring lion-headed bird becomes both his symbol and his loudly rumbling war chariot (the fiery, winged vehicle of the descending Ideas-Thunderbolts).

As A.Annus remarks, himself following S.Parpola’s suggestion: in Assyrian iconography “the thunderbird Anzu is represented as a winged horse, based on the ‘philological equaton ANSU.KUR.RA = ANZU.KUR.RA, donkey of the mountain/of the Netherworld =Anzu of the mountain/of the Netherworld.”52

The Chaldean Connectors (sunocheis), another class of entities that issue from the Father (like the expanding rays of the Holy Name, turned into the thunder lightnings and fiery channels), both establish true measure and harmony throughout the cosmos and function as the connective solar rays which conduct the initiate’s soul upward to the fiery noetic realm. The theurgist acts like the Ninurta’s or Ishtar’s warrior of light. As the Chaldean Oracles say:

“Being dressed in the full-armoured force of the resounding light (photos keladontos),
And equipping the soul and the intellect with the weaponry of three-barbed strength,
You must cast into your mind the complete sunthema of the Triad and wander
Amongst the fiery rays not in a scattered manner but with concentration” (Damascius De princip.I.155.11-14; fr.2 Johnston).

The elevating rays through which the soul (the holy warrior of Ninurta and of Ishtar-Hekate, guided by the Chaldean Teletarchs, “Masters of Initiation”) flies upward, carried by the re-collected paternal sunthema and the restored “wing of dire”, may be likened to the chains of mantric names, the anagogic sounds of sacred chants accompanied with inner visualizations and divine epiphanies. Thereby the soul moves back from images to their noetic archetypes. Therefore the Oracles say that the ascending souls “sing a hymn to Paean” (fr.131) and admonish us: “You must hasten toward the light (pros to phaos) and toward the rays of the Father (pros patros augas), from where the soul, clothed in the mighty intellect, has been sent to you” (fr.115).

The ascent may be conducted only by those who “listen to the voice of the Fire” (that is, those who accept the ineffable and intellective revelations from above) and travel the theurgic path of the noetic fire, represented by the upward movement of the Hekate’s (or Ishtar’s) strophalos.

The Iynges of the Chaldean-Neoplatonic cosmology are the Paternal Ideas dispensed throughout the cosmos and thereby constituting many different levels of sumbola and sunthemata: from the sunthema of the Sun (whose rays are to be inhaled with one’s augoeides soma, the luminous vehicle of the immortal soul) to various divine numbers and geometric shapes, secret names (arrheta onomata) and material objects, all of them serving as the theurgic tokens and means of elevation.

10. The rites of hieratic invocation and ascent

According to Demetrius, the Egyptian priests employed the seven vowels (phonetai), uttering them in due succession when singing hymns (On Style 71). These “words of power” (hekau) are uttered by the priest (playing the actual role of a god, neter) or by the maa-kheru, the “dead” and vindicated initiate, one who already reached “the nome of truth” or “the land of silence”, carried by a ferryman, and thereby equated to “a divine ba like the Ennead” (Pap.Leiden I.350b 9-10).

The Egyptian hieroglyphs (medu neter, “divine speech”) perfectly correspond with music and are not to be “read” but rather recited, sung, and contemplated. The sacred texts themselves have an anagogic function and are called bau Rau, “demonstrations of the power of Ra”, since by reciting them the elevating power of solar (that is, noetic) rays is re-actualized and brought into play.

To use an apt remark made by G.Shaw, in theurgy, the sacred names are “bodies” of the gods, because the names of the gods are “individual theophanies in the same way that the cosmos was the universal theophany”.53 The cosmos is a sounding agalma of Amun-Ra, echoed and imitated by all “vocal constellation” that constitute and keep up world in motion, both through the macrocosmic divine rites and microcosmic liturgies in the Egyptian temples. Within the cosmos, conceived as a sacred drama of the miraculous creative Utterance (Hu), as a play of Heka’s invisible rays, “Cult was thus not carried out in the sense of a communication between man and god but as the enacting of a drama in the divine world, between gods and gods. If we do not shy away from an anachronistic usage first coined in late classical antiquity, we can call this principle of enacting events in the divine realm through the medium of cultic action and recitation ‘theurgic’. What the most important advocate of theurgy, the Neoplatonic philosopher Iamblichus, wrote about these matters in his On the Egyptian Mysteries rests on deep insights into the meaning and function of cultic language, insights that are, mutatis mutandis, entirely appropriate to ancient Egypt.”54

The Chaldean Iynges may be regarded as ferrymen (diaporthmioi) in many different ways, including that which concerns the transformative and salvatory rites. The Mesopotamian incantation-priest (ashipu), for example, imagined himself able to journey to both the noetic realm and the netherworld in the guise of a star. While standing on a rooftoop of the temple, he invoked the gods of the night sky in order himself to be incorporated into the court of these gods, the heavenly retinue of Anu and Antu (like the divine retinue depicted in Plato’s Phaedrus), and afterwards serve as their messenger. T.Abush says: “The speaker invoked the stars and other heavenly bodies in order to identify himself with these inhabitants of the night sky… On a topographical level, this transformation is possible because he is in a locale that is not only terrestrial but also heavenly and that draws together the human and heavenly communities. … the identification allows him to become a messenger of the gods. He imagined himself to be one of the stars and ascends into the sky and journeys through it to the netherworld. The identification has other purposes as well. Most of all, it serves to allow the ritual actor to take on the quality of wakefulness or sleeplesness associated with the stars.”55

Damascius describes the Chaldean Iynges as “magical fathers” (mageion pateres: De princip.II.201.3-4). They have an ability to transmit all things from the noetic, demiurgical Monad to the material realm and back again (Proclus In Parm.1199.31-35). They are thought by the Father and also think themselves, like the intelligible lightnings turned into mysterious images, ineffable names, and world-ordering mantras. Thereby these Iynges lead “the invisible into visibility and the visible into invisibility, causing one to mimic the other.”56

Both in Vedic rituals and Tantric practices, mantra is regarded as a “tool for thought” by which the initiate is identified with various divine powers that reveal themselves through the primeval, cosmogonic vibration and lead to the conscious realization of one’s transcendent Self, that means identification and union, similar to the Egyptian immortalization and union with Atum-Ra, or with Amun-Ra. In Egypt, all temple rituals are based on the performative heka power, able to create divine presence and re-open the sound

Eye of Horus through liturgies and recitations.

According to the Trika-Kaula traditions of Kashmir Shaivism, the primordial Sound (nada) is arising eternally within the body of the initiate as a result of the movement of pranah in conjunction with the permanent vibration of the divine Shakti (the Serpent Powr of Hathor-Sekhmet, the Solar Eye of Ra, the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar, analogous to the Neoplatonic-Chaldean Hekate). The uncreated Sound (anahatadhvani) arises from within and reveals the unmanifest Absolute Reality (avyakta, the hidden Amun of the Ramesside theology) in the form of Sound. Therefore the ultimate Reality reveals itself in the form of ever-vibrating Maya-Shakti that is making the universe (vishva, the All) to appear as a mode of Parama Shiva’s self-revelation by the irradiated demiurgic sounds and sacred mantras.

When the Parama Shiva reveals itself as the universe, he does not cease to have his integral self-experience as Aham (the supreme noetic self-identity). Therefore the initiate, in order to accomplish the rite of ascent and thereby to realize his integral nature (svarupa, like the re-collected and healed Eye of Horus), “should repeatedly utter and meditate on the significance of Aham, which is to be constituted by a combination of the seed varna (bija-varna) A, penultimate vowel AM, and the last vowel, HA (which is also a seed varna) in the order of A-HA-M. This Aham is not only a symbolic representation of the Supreme Self, it also represents the Essence of Paravak (Supreme Speech or Sound). The repeated japa (utterance) of Aham, followed by meditation on its significance, reveals to the sadhaka his integral svarupa, and also opens the path to its perfect realization.”57

In Egypt, the ascent conducted by the recited divine names (themselves tantamount to the pneumatic solar rays) implies a sort of an unio liturgica. Ra extends his luminous, noetic arms towards the initiate, one who already is “dead” before his physical death and who knows the liturgies of archetypus mundus, having the redemptive solar knowledge (rekh). Thus, it is said in the Book of the Dead (Papyrus Nu 133): “Ra has led (the initiate speaker, the purified and vindicated reciter) into his barque: he (the initiate) has seen the sacredness of He-in-his-ouroboros. He has beheld Ra, namely, the free forms he assumes in the extention of his blaze of light… How good is to gaze with the eyes, how good is to hear truth with the ears! … Osiris N. (the “dead” initiate turned into Osiris) has not told what he has heard in the House of the Mysteries: the jubilation of Ra and the divine body of Ra crossing Nun among those who satisfy the divine ka with what it desires.”

For Proclus, the theurgic ascent is also comparable to the rite of hieratic invocation, since, at the level of divine Intellect (to which the Neoplatonic philosopher aspires), creation and the act of naming are identical. Therefore the ascent to the noetic realm (and to the all-transcending Silence) is conducted by certain dialectical, contemplative, and theurgic use of names (onomata), appropriate for each level of theophany and equated to the divine images. There are many different levels and modes of theurgy. As L.Siorvanes observes: “Manipulating the ‘symbols’ gives way to working with the Real thing. Likewise, incantation gives way to pure invocation and ultimately to theurgic prayer. At the pinnacle of the operation, the priest- theurgist entrusts the soul’s ‘one’ to the One itself. Through  this leap of Faith, the ‘one’ unites cognitively with the One.”58

11. The Tantric alchemy and the Osirian mummification

All Tantric worship assumes an identification of self (ba, in the case of Egyptian cult) with the divine, therefore the imposition of mantras upon the initiate’s body effects its transformation, or “Osirification”, to say it in the Egyptian terms. Each mantra is identified with one or another deity and with the different parts of one’s body. The “acoustic images” (mantramurtim) of the Tantric gods are analogous to the Platonic agalmata phoneenta, the divine names regarded as “vocal images” or “vocal statues”.

Likewise, the different limbs of the Egyptian initiate’s body are identified with different deities, and the “cultic body” of the embalmed deceased (the term djet, in fact, erased the distinction between symbolic representation and body) is arranged not as a “corpse”, but as an agalma of a body or, to be more precise, an agalma of the constructed as an eidetic display of hieroglyphs (visible figures of divine speech), tantamount to the hieratic arrangement of Chaldean sunthemata.

Therefore the mummy (sah) symbolically represents one’s real djet-body, the body of light (sah). It is the Osirian cult image located inside the book-and-sanctuary-like tomb. Being comparable to the alchemical egg “that brought you forth”, the mummy is an eidetic mirror for the separate ba to gaze upon. Thereby the winged ba comes to realize it as a divine statue whose golden mask is viewed as a “head of a god”. Functioning as a sort of yantra, this head enables one to see and act as a god.

The initiate, turned into the form of sah-body, that is, the Osirian mummy (gathered together out of its dismemberment and then awakened) is divinized like a hieratic statue by means of sacramental rites, contemplative visualizations, and theological interpretations that imply knowledge (rekh, gnosis). The mummy is regarded as an animated statue and the statue is regarded as a mummy; both of them are transfigured “forms” and instruments of divine heka powers.

In a recitation for the “head of mystery” (Book of the Dead, 151), dedicated to the golden mummy mask, this “head” is described as beautiful “lord of vision” whom Ptah-Sokar has gathered and whom Shu has supported. The right eye of this head through which the dead initiate sees is identified with the solar night barque, the left eye with the solar day barque, the eyebrows with the divine Ennead, the crown with Anubis, the lock of hair with Ptah-Sokar and so on. Therefore J.Assmann rightly assumes that the mummy is not one’s real body of the noetic light, but only the cultic instrument. He says: “Cultic act and divine explanation are related to one another after the fashion of the sensus literalis and the sensus mysticus of medieval and early modern hermeneutics. Thus, an act such as purification (sensus literalis) is explained as rebirth (sensus mysticus), or provisioning (sensus literalis) as ascent to the sky (sensus mysticus). …It is not only a matter of explanation, however, but of a genuine transformation. …Transformation is achieved through the establishment of a relationship between the cultic realm and the realm of the gods: something that happens in the cult is transformed into an event in the divine realm. This transformative function of spells is expressed by the word sakh. The recitation of spells with their sacramental explanation has a transformative power that rests on the interlocking of the two spheres of meaning. What belongs to this realm is transparent to the realm of the gods, and what is in the realm of the gods is visible to what is in this realm.”59

In the Indian Tantric alchemy (rasayana) each part of the alchemist’s body (like each part of the sanctuary) is consecrated with a particular mantra. By rites of consecration, all cultic instruments (including certain minerals, herbs, symbolic tokens, analogous to the Neoplatonic sunthemata) are transformed into so many yantras with which the universal energy that permeats both the cosmos and the initiate’s body is awakened and re-activated. This re-activation is a part  of the alchemical rites (understood as theurgy in etimological sense, that is, as the real work of the gods) that will ultimately render the initiate a second Shiva.

To attain the state of Shiva (partly analogous to the state of Osiris-Ra) is to attain the state of gold reached through initiation (diksha) and alchemical transmutation (vedha). This path of one’s immortalization consists in generation of an immortal body, symbolized by the Osirian cultic body inside the mandala-like alchemical tomb which (being an icon of truth and righteousness, maat) served life, not death, and construction of which (both in architectural and inner spiritual sense) was a goal of one’s all life, regarded as the royal path of gold making.

The rites and techniques of this spiritual rasayana ultimately are based on the traditional metaphysical and cosmological doctrines. The Tantric universe, for example, is described as a rhythmical cosmic play between withdrawal (nivritti) and return (pravritti). This is like procession (proodos) and return (epistrophe) in Neoplatonism.

Therefore the yogic body (yoga meaning a binding connection or union) of the initiate is thought as a microcosmic stage for God’s (in the sense of Ishvara, like the personified Neoplatonic Nous) self-reversion and re-interiorization of all his external cosmic projections. This path of return leads the initiate from images to their noetic archetypes. To say it otherwise, this is the descending and ascending path of kundalini, the miraculous power of both imprisoning and liberating Maya. The Serpent Kundalini in the Tantric mythology is analogous to the Hathorian “serpent power”, the fiery dunamis of the Paternal Intellect.

12. Golden seeds of the noetic Fire

In the pharaonic Egypt, gold symbolizes bodies of the gods (neteru) and the immortal noetic substance. Gold (nebu) is regarded as a divine and imperishable metal related with the solar realm of Atum-Ra which includes the Golden Horus, that is, the official title of the pharaoh whose burial chamber is also described as the House of Gold. The gold sign nebu is used in the same contexts as the festival sign heb, therefore these “two images seem to be quite interchangeable, with deities and deceased persons being depicted on either sign.”60

Likewise, in the context of the Indian brahmanic sacrifice, the living substance of gold represents immortality and Vishvarupa’s eidos. Vishvarupa (“omniform”) is the name of Agni, the noetic Purusha: from his seed (like from Atum’s seed) all distributive “breaths” are emanating and one particular form (rupa) becomes gold.

The terrestrial gold germinates within the womb of the Earth: the gold mines are thought to be wombs of the Egyptian goddess Hathor. But the pure noetic gold constitutes the primeval Egg of Atum, or the Golden Egg (hiranyagarbha) of archetypes, viewed as a treasury of Agni’s seed. Like the winged Orphic Phanes, the Vedic Prajapati (Brahma) himself is born in illo tempore from a primeval union of ineffable waters and the seed of Agni, that is, the supreme noetic Fire, or lux intelligibilis which emerges from the unspeakable Darkness.

One sort of gold (prakrita-svarna), which belongs to the realm of phenomena, arose from that divine power which set the universe in motion. But another form of gold (svahaja-svarna) constitutes the noetic Egg at the top of Mount Meru (huperouranios topos), that is, the archetypal embryo from which the god Brahma emerges, like the Egyptian Atum-Kheprer-Ra is born in “the first occasion” (tep sepi), understood as an “interior time” of the spiritual archetypes, or as the “ageless age” of the gods. As D.Gordon White remarks: “Here, it is the emanatory dynamic of the proto-Vedanta metaphysics of the Upanishads – a system that is very similar to the emanation and participation of Neoplatonist thought – that facilitates such analogies between the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms. The universe in all its parts is a single organic entity, with all that exists on the great chain of being, the internal flux of a divinely constituted whole, to which all emanated form necessarily returns in the fulness of time. As such, all in the universe is shot through, ‘like the scent in a flower’, with the divine essence. Moreover, since all exists on the same continuum of this divine outpouring, all is comparable, even identifiable.”61

13. Theurgic speech of the birds and solar knowledge

From Philostratus’ passage about the golden Iynges in his Life of Apollonius of Tiana it is clear that these theurgic instruments (a sort of yantras, to say it in Indian Tantric terms) are compared to birds, and birds stand for angels, or divine messengers, in many of ancient traditions. The “language of the birds” (sometimes equated with the oracular utterances), which Apollonius, the Neopythagorean sage, allegedly learned traveling among the Arabs (Vita I.20), is called mantiq at-tayr or lughah suryaniyyah (“Syrian language”) by the Arabs themselves. According to R.Guenon, it is related to the “solar and angelic illumination”, achieved through the rhythmic sacred speech, the theurgic language of the gods: “The same idea is contained in the word dhikr which, in islamic esoterism, is used of rhythmic formulas that correspond exactly to Hindu mantras. The repetition of these formulas aims at producing a harmonisation of the different elements of the being, and at causing vibrations which, by their repercussions throughout the immense hierarchy of states, are capable of opening up a communication with the higher states, which in a general way is the essential and primordial purpose of all rites.”62

This rhythmic speech, in a sense, imitates the whirrring and whistling noise (rhoizon) of the demiurgic Word. To imitate the bird’s motions and sounds implies that one assumes inwardly the bird-like (or angelic-like) status. Philosophically speaking, he regrows the soul’s wings lost in the process of descent, thereby separating his soul from body before body has separated itself from soul.

This separation means “living the life of the inner man… vested in the higher or intellective part of soul and eventually in Nous”63, like the Horus Falcon in the paternal light of Ra. Proclus, for example, explains the myth of Plato’s Phaedrus as a journey upon which the soul encounters the divine sunthemata of the intelligible realm and accomplishes both the noetic union with the intelligible plenitude (or the Demiurge himself) and mystical union that occurs by unspeakable and unfinkable theurgic means.

Hence, the ascent (anabasis, anagoge) is conducted by initiation (muesis), contemplation (theoria), esoteric knowledge (gnosis), or by the erotically energized iunx-wheel accompanied by invocation of the Holy Name. By restoring one’s spiritual wings, the initiate is able to come back to the marvelous noetic womb of Rhea-Hekate, the font of all blessed substances that emanate from her with a whirling noise. For the Great Hekate, according to Damascius, “sends forth a lifegiving whir” (zoogonon rhoizema proiesi: De princip.II.154.18). She sends forth the life-giving and divine (or angelic) speech (constituted by the noetic Iynges, equated with mysterious divine names, onomata aporrheta), afterwards to be imitated by the theurgists. Damascius, to whom the Orphic and Chaldean lore transcends “philosophical common sense” (Phil.Hist.85), says: “Proclus was bemused by Isidore’s imitation of the cries and noises produced by birds. Sometimes during the Chaldean rituals (en tois Chaldaikois epitedeumasin) he gave a display of his imitation of sparrows and hens and other birds fluttering their wings as they rouse themselves for flight” (Phil.Hist.59F).

These cries are analogous to the cries of the Egyptian Eastern Bau, a sort of angelic beings who greet and worship the rising solar orb (aten). The Eastern Bau are depicted as  apes (manifestations and symbols of Thoth, the god of hieroglyphs, scribal wisdom, rituals, and magic), frequently shown as holding the restored Uedjat Eye or seated with Ra in his solar barque. Ra himself sometimes is represented as the Thothian  ape within the Sun disk or as a migratory bird that nters the Netherworld (Duat) every night. Therefore the initiate’s invocation to the nocturnal Sun is aimed at the direct equation of the “deceased” (his winged soul, ba) with the ba of Ra or with Amun-Ra himself.

In the so-called Litany of Ra, the “dead” initiate speaks “that he has a thorough knowledge of Ra’s nocturnal forms of manifestation and their names; he adds his hope that they will open the netherworld for him and his ba, since he is indeed the image of the sun god and his ba.  … ‘I am one of you’, he emphasizes, after which he again identifies himself with the sun god, with whom he shares the triumph ‘over all his enemies in the sky and on earth’, and thus in the afterlife as a whole.”64

The vindicated dead or the initiate becomes one with the Eastern Bau through the divine knowledge, gnosis: he knows those words that the Eastern Bau speak and therefore enters into the crew of Ra. As the Sun priest, he joins the solar apes and becomes one of them by means of the theurgic heka power of Isis, that is, by singing hymns to the Sun. To know the language of the gods means to be transfigured already during one’s lifetime, to join the Enneads and be united with Ra, the solar Nous. When this miraculous rebirths is accomplished,

“The god of Light-land extends his hands to you,
You receive offerings on the altar of Ra.
Your hands are grasped by the primeval ones.
The god conducts you to the barque.
You take your place in it, wherever you desire.
You sit down, your legs unhindered.

You fly up as Horus falcon,
You roam (i.e., glide down) as a goose,
A star that cannot set.
Yours is neheh-eternity, your sustenance is djet-eternity.
A place has been granted you at the side of the Sole Lord,
You are his companion in the fields of Light-land”65

14. Tongues of the gods and their songs

According to Philostratus (Vita I.25), in a great judgement hall within the palace of the Babylonian king, the four golden Iynges hung suspended from the ceiling, thus reminding the king of Adrasteia, goddess of Justice (analogous to the Egyptian Maat, the feminine counterpart of Thoth). The palace itself, whose roof tiles are gemstones of celestial blue, imitates the entire manifested cosmos, thus serving as a sacred mandala and as a theurgic yantra.

The suspended figures of Iynges, called “the tongues of the gods” by Babylonian (Parthian) priests, are attuned in such way as to transmit the noetic energies up and down, carrying them between the divine realm and the king on his throne. The palace itself may be viewed as the royal theurgic instrument which unites political and spiritual power, both received from the gods like the shining melammu, the real noetic substance of the sacred kingship.

Likewise, in the Indian Tantric Buddhism, a king is thought as being magically emanated from the different limbs of the divinity and is re-divinized (or consecrated like a statue) by the coronation rites, those that become a paradigm to be imitated by all subsequent esoteric rites and initiations. The mandala-like palace (kutagara) is an articulation of a political horizon with the mantras appropriate to the eight cosmic directions. Therefore the construction details, symbols, and technical vocabulary of mandalas are related to the architectural arrangement of palaces and temples, directed by Vajrapani, the Lord of the Mysteries and the commander of mysterious (guhyaka) yakshas (yaksasenadhipati). These yakshas, in some respect, function like the Chaldean Iynges and Teletarchs. As R.M.Davidson observes: “Vajrapani is also the guardian of the vehicle of secret spells, so he protects possessing secret spells (mantrin). In this role, the yaksha general uses his secret spells as a king employs secret counsel (mantra), and it is noteworthy that the king’s counselors are identified as mantrins in Indian political nomenclature. Thus the secretaries associated with peace and war, the counselors of state, and many of the royal inner circle were designated mantrins.”66

S.I.Johnson supposes that the Babylonian Iynges, described by Philostratus as “tongues of the gods”, are transmitters of divine knowledge and oracles to men, at the same time harmonizing the immortal and mortal elements of the universe.67 The golden Iynges were hung up in one of the temples of Apollo at Delphi as well, being related with the hypercosmic and cosmic Sound of creation and revelation. They are described as “having some of the persuasiveness (peitho) of the Sirens (Vita 6.11), because the power of mantric sound is able to establish a theurgic bond between the invoker (or caller, kletor) and the attracted noetic fire.

However, the solar Apollo himself attracts the worshiper through “persuasion” and through his sounding rays of lux intelligibilis. Since the Apollonian Iynges have the Sirenic power to attract and bind various realities by they miraculous sound, S.I.Johnston assumes that these golden wheels were intended to control “individual celestial spheres by imitating not only the sphere’s motion but also the specific tones that they contributed to the music of the spheres.”68

In this particular context, it is useful to remember the Pythagorean dictum which includes the question “What is the Oracle of Delphi?” and the following answer:  “The Tetractys; that is, the harmony under which the Sirens sing” (Iamblichus Vita Pyth.85).
This is so because for the Pythagoreans the song of the Homeric Sirens is not destructive as for the later Platonists to whom to be attracted by the Sirens means to be bewitched (katakeloumenoi) and forget one’s fatherland and one’s ascent to the noetic realm (tes eis to noeton anagoges). Only after sailing past the Sirens, Odysseus is able to escape all the obstacles in the way of ascent of the soul, leaving them for his fatherland (Hermeias In Phaedr.259a).

But the Pythagoreans, as J.Pepin shows, regarded the song of the Homeric Sirens as representing the planetary music that not only enthralls souls after death but also in this life agitates to ascent, on the condition that their ears are not sealed by irrational passions as those of Odysseus’ companions, blocked by wax.69

15.  Back to the life-giving wombs and the ineffable Silence

If the Sirens are regarded as the evil daemons, those who hold back souls in the proximity of genesis, then Odysseus symbolizes one who passes through all stages of genesis and thereby “returns to those beyond every wave who have no knowledge of the sea” (Porphyry De antro nympharum 34). Here the Sirens represent the lures of pleasure and “sweet irrationality” related with the world of becoming.

Therefore Odysseus, tied to the mast of his ship, may be viewed as one who have for pilot the Word (Logos) of God. To follow Odysseus in this respect means to be aided by a heavenly wind, or spiritual breath (pneuma ouranion, the animating and elevating power of Shu). According to Clement of Alexandria, the Christian writer,  thereby one is initiated into the sacred mysteries and enjoy the hidden realities. For Clement, however, the wood to which Odysseus chains himself prefigures that of the Cross.  70

But to stand upright tied up to the ship’s mast, like the Osirian djed pillar or the cosmic axis mundi (depicted as the paradigmatic Sacred Tree by the Assyrian priests), is to be immobilized, to be turned into a mummy-like divine statue. This immobilization of body (like the Tantric asana) simultaneously presupposes the rise of one’s breath and one’s mind by the ropes of “magic sound” which produces cosmic harmony, closely related to the musical and mathematical function of the universal Soul (Hekate, Hathor, Neith, Nut, Ishtar).

The manifested Chaldean Iynges or sounding symbols are situated within this Anima Mundi. They are in the life-giving womb of the goddess (and this-womb is imitated by the chambers of initiation, burial places, tombs), thereby creating the revolving circuit or the rhytmically weaving net of  all-embracing sympathy, the interplay of miraculous voices in the cosmic shrine of the everlasting gods.
The universal Soul may be regarded as the mother goddess who is “pregnant” with the mummy, or the “dead” initiate, “nursuring his beauty” (nefer). Therefore the Egyptian coffin is tantamount to the alchemical body of the goddess Nut (Heaven), Neith, or Hathor, manifesting herself as a sycamore, the tree of life, who dispenses eternal noetic nourishment. In fact, this body encloses an entire divine realm (the womb of the noetic homeland) into whose “beauty” the initiate or the deceased returns for the mysterious transmutation, in order to be delivered as Ra. The great goddess, “the looser of bonds”,  whom no one knows and “whose mummy wrappings are not loosened”, says in the form of Neith:

“When you enter me, I embrace your image,
I am the coffin that shelters your mysterious form” (Sarcophagi of King Meneptah).

For the Platonists, the visible world is a shrine (hieron) or a statue (agalma), therefore the Demiurge is a telestic priest who breaths into this statue life and intelligence. Proclus compares the theurgic consecration of agalmata to the act of naming: the words themselves may be likened to hieratic statues, because “words”, as divine images (eikones) and reason principles (logoi), proceed from Nous “like statues of the Forms,  as if the names imitated the intellective Forms” (In Crat.6.13). According to S.I.Johnson:
“Proclus goes on to say that the Demiurge enveloped his statue (i.e., the visible cosmos) in the charakter (or visual symbol) of the Soul and its revolutions (periphorai). Within the Souls revolutions he placed names (onomata). He surrounded the Soul with phylacteries and in the middle of her womb inserted noetic entities that Proclus calls the sumbola of the iynges. Proclus suggests that those who find the name ‘iynges’ a little strange may think of them instead as divine causes.”71

Proclus compares theurgic ascent (anagoge) to the process of invocation, implying that each name recited or invoked is tantamount to the sounding statue or to the secret divine sunthema of the Father. Therefore the intellectual and theurgic hymns lead the initiate to the huperouranios topos (supercelestial place), described in Plato’s Phaedrus, and even to the ineffable One, because the working of theurgy in Proclus is based on the theory of henads (divine unities) by which the omnipresence of the One is established and affirmed at all levels of manifested reality.

As R.M.Van Den Berg pointed out, Proclus maintains that “Nous in us ‘moors’ (hormizon) the soul in the Demiurge, the Maker and Father of the universe.”72 This Father of the universe is divine Nous, capable to contemplate Forms ourselves, and he is described as the Paternal Fire and the Paternal Harbour (ho patrikos hormos). Proclus says: “For after the wanderings in the world of becoming and the purification and the light of knowledge, the noetic activity (to noeron energema) finally shines out and so does nous in us, which moors the soul in the Father and establishes it in a pure way in the demiurgical intellections and links light with light (phos photi sunapton), not something like the light of knowledge but an even more beautiful, more noeric and simpler light than that. For this is the paternal harbout, finding the Father, the pure unification (henosis) with him” (In Tim.I.302.17-25).

The anagogic invocations are inseparable from those mystic numbers and proportions that constitute the important part of theurgical paideia. G.Shaw says: “By coordinating his soul with the divine numbers revealed in nature the theurgist recovers the soul’s original immortal body, shaped by the Demiurge according to the proportions of the celestial gods.”73

What the soul encounters in the hypercelestial realm are the noetic sunthemata which stand as the henadic symbols of the primordial Silence, of Atum’s Heka that is established before the first duality (Shu and Tefnut) comes into being. The ascent to the ultimate source of all heka powers, of all kheperu-rays is tantamount to the divine initiation which takes place not by means of intellection but by means of the holy silence that surpasses all gnostic (epistemic, magic, demiurgic) enterprises: only faith (understood in the Chaldean sense) “seats us in the inefffable class of gods” (Proclus Plat.Theol.IV.9.193). S.Rappe provides the following comment on Damascius’ non-dual approach to metaphysics: “As a consequence, all statements about lower hypostases or about an ontology situated outside of the first principle are subject to the caveat that ‘the One dissolves all things by means of its own simplicity’. All things, including Being itself, falls short of  the One; their reality is merely provisional. …Damascius recognices that the language of metaphysics functions to signify something beyond itself. It is best thought of as a mnemonic device; its purpose is to deliver human beings from their own ignorant determinations about the nature of reality, without thereby imprisoning them in a metaphysical system that displaces reality itself.”74

16. Chanting out the universe by the Name of everything

One may be a “theurgist” in the true sense of this word even without knowing the Greek term theourgia, preumably coined by the father and son Juliani, the legendary “Chaldeans” of the second century. All servants of God (hemu neter) in the Egyptian temple are involved into that the Neoplatonists would call “holy work”, hierourgia. The High Priest of Karnak, whose distinctive title is the “Opener of the Gate of Heaven”, opens not only the doors of the holy shrine (where the animated divine statue is seated) but also the  invisible doors of spiritual akhet. It seems that those persons who may be regarded as an Egyptian equivalent of the Neoplatonic-Chaldean theourgoi are  also called hekau. Ch.Zivie-Coche says: “These were the hekau, those who were guardians of heka, and sau, dispensers of sa, magical protection. … Rather often, we find mention of ‘lector priests’, ritualists with their rolls of papyrus, who staffed the ‘houses of life’ attached to temples, where contemporary knowledge was elaborated in all its forms, knowledge that could be used outside as well as inside the sacred enclosure.”75

Be realizing their essential identity with Heka or with Thoth, these priests were able to ascend into the archetypal realm of Ennead (pesedjet). The Enneadic paradigms (like those of the Assyrian Sacred Tree, later turned into the Sephirot Tree of Jewish mysticism) are symbolically depicted as the noetic plenitude and interplay between the different members of divine family. They stand behind every cosmic event and every human action, thereby establishing a link between various demiurgic and theurgic heka powers, between the paths of descent (katabasis) and ascent (anabasis).

In the Memphite theology, centered on the god Ptah, “he who manifested himself as heart, he who manifested himself as tongue, under the appearance of Atum”, the Ennead is described as follows: “His Ennead was before him like teeth and lips, that is, this semen and these hands of Atum, for the Ennead of Atum issued from his seed and his fingers, but the Ennead was also the teth and the lips in his mouth that conceived the name of everything, from which Shu and Tefnut issued, and which gave birth to the Ennead.”76

The “name of everything” is the Holy Word which transmits the light from the One. But Heka, like the One-Existent (hen on) of Iamblichus, though manifesting, revealing, and transforming all things, essentially is beyond (epekeina) all being. At the microcosmic level, this Logos-transmitting Heka is analogous to the “one” which gathers together all the soul’s faculties. The “flower of intellect” (anthos nou) unites the transformed and elevated soul with the divine Nous and ta noeta, the intelligible realities (the Ennead of Atum, or the realm of akhu). Likewise, the ba of Osiris is united with the ba of Ra. But the “flower of the whole soul” (analogous to the whole Eye) unites the whole human being (as a pure eidetic imago dei) to the ineffable One. A.Smith observes that Proclus likes to talk about the immanence of the henads as sunthemata: “Thus it is likely that at the higher level of theurgy the sunthema concerned with ascent will be that token of the One’s presence in us which is itself an ellampsis of a henad.  …Of vital importance in Proclus’ philosophical exposition of theurgy is its connection with unity. Theurgy depends ultimately on the One through the henads represented at different levels by sunthemata”.77

In the Neoplatonic-Chaldean theurgy, the important means of conducting the initiate’s (whose ultimate prototype is the Horus-falcon-like pharaoh) ascent and of effecting conjunction (sustasis) with the gods are the rites of invocation. They include the special  “calls” (kleseis) that re-sound the initial creative Word and thereby are integrated into its descending and ascending rhythms. The ascent of the soul is inseparable from the demiurgic descent of divine powers (sounds, breaths, fires, rays, bau). Therefore G.Shaw argues: “Because the names were divinizing the soul ascended, yet insofar as the soul chanted the names, it descended with them into the sensible world. Since these sounds were the agalmata of the gods, when the soul chanted them, it imitated the activity and the will of the Demiurge in creation.  …Since the soul itself could never grasp or initiate theurgy, the incantation, strictly speaking, was accomplished by the god, yet it freed the soul by allowing it to actively experience what it could never conceptually understand.”78
Therefore by chanting these mysterious sounds which are tokens (sunthemata) and symbols (sumbola) of the gods, the caller (kletor) himself is turned into the perfect (teleia) and godlike (theoeide) receptacle for the god’s ba, like the hieratic statue (agalma, sekhem), which is to be permeated by the divine rays. Proclus argues that “if the Word (Logos) which comes-unto-light is named [by the Chaldean Oracle] as more ineffable, it is necessary that prior to the Word there should be Silence (sigen) which substantiates the Word, and prior to everything holy comes the cause which makes them divine… As the beings posterior to the intelligibles are the words of the intelligibles, so the Word which is in them, hypostasised from another more ineffable unity, is the Word prior to the silence of the intelligibles, that is, the silence of the silent intelligibles” (De philosophia Chaldaica, fr.4).79

The illumination from the invoked deity, whose energies are necessary in order to accomplish all “theurgic labours” (theourgika energemata), purifies the soul and its luminous vehicle (ochema), thereby elevating the soul on the rays of the noetic Sun. This way of ascent by invocations and hieratic rites is inseparable from contemplation (theoria) of the noetic lights (the Platonic Forms)  that reveal themselves to the initiate’s eye. “All things are revealed in lightning” (blepetai de [te]panta keraunois), as the Oracle says ( The epiphanies that accompany the gods are manifested in such a way that the sacred fire (whirring around in a spiral, flashing more brightly than physical light or appearing without any form) seems to cover the whole horizon of one’s consciousness and consume everything.

As R.Majercik observes, the theurgist is advised by the gods to “extend an empty intellect” (teinai keneon noon) towards the Highest God in order to “perceive” (noein) him. This intuitive perception is achieved through that part of one’s intellect or thoroughly integrated soul (called the “flower”, anthos) which is akin to the fiery, noetic (or even supra-noetic) essence of the Father. And “this kind of language is strikingly reminiscent of Plotinus’ via negativa approach to the One.”80 According to Proclus, the “flower” of the soul unifies all that is in us and takes us to that which is beyond (epekeina) all being. Therefore Plato’s Parmenides (the character of the Parmenides dialogue symbolizing a henad presiding over a chain of causes)  brings to completion the study of the One “with silence” (In Parm.76 Klibansky).

To say it in the terms of Heliopolitan theology, the realization of one’s identity with Heka, the silent source and power of all theourgika energemata, means realization of nonduality at the level of Atum (or at the level of the Being-transcending Nun), before the appearance of Shu and Tefnut.  The Twin Children of Atum (Shu and Tefnut, the first intelligible diad) say to the “ontologically deconstructed” pharaoh (the sacred image of the Great One, the solar son of Atum-Ra, the paradigm of every ascending royal official, later re-named as a “theurgist” or as a “mystic”):

“Rise yourself… in your name of God, and come into being, an Atum to every god” (PT 215).
As R.O.Faulkner  interprets this utterance from the Pyramid Texts:
“the king assumes the rank of the supreme deity and is not like Atum but is Atum.”81
Therefore the pharaoh who accomplished his home coming rites (not as an individual person, but as the re-collected and re-affirmed pantheos) says: “I was conceived in the night, I was born in the night, I belong to those who are in the suite of Ra, who are before the Morning Star. I was conceived in the Abyss, I was born in the Abyss; I have come and I have brought to you the bread which I found there” (PT 211). And the king’s (restored as pantheos) “bread” is due every day of which he says: “Be!” (unun; PT 663), this imperative being like the Biblical fiat and the Quranic kun. It means that the liberated souls (“annihilated” as separate, individual entities and restored in the form of the whole solar Eye) participate in the activity (energeia) of the Demiurge. They “chant out the universe”, participating in the demiurgy, the eternal play  of procession and return that completes the All-plenitude, namely, Atum himself. As G.Shaw explains: “In Platonic terms this meant taking an active part in the demiurgy of the cosmos and becoming a co-creator with the god of creation. The power and authority of Egyptian rites derived from the cooperative mimesis: according to Iamblichus they embodied the eternal ratios (metra aidia: De myster.65.6) which were the guiding powers of the cosmos.”82

17. When Orontes flowed into Tiber: the revived tradition

All these theurgic techniques of recollection, reintegration, purification, ascent, assimilation, unification, and union are based on various metaphysical and cosmological teachings of the ancients. These archaic teological doctrines are dressed into the mythical garbs of  those countless cosmogonies and sacred tales that emphasize the descent of the soul from its true noetic home and its subsequent return (in the form of royal anthropos teleios, the re-collected and re-affirmed hypostasis of Purusha) to the divine Intellect or to the ineffable Abyss, the One which is Beyond-Being. Therefore the ritual practices and invocations, allegedly revealed by the gods themselves, are intended to effect transformation of one’s body and soul (to use these quite ambivalent and rather incorrect terms) by showing the immanent presence of divine powers that lead, ultimatelly, to the highest realization of the noetic unity and transcendent nonduality.

The Platonic-Chaldean (that is, the Hellenized Neo-Assyrian) system of theurgy in its Graeco-Roman and Middle-Platonic philosophical form appeared, presumably, only at the reign of Marcus Aurelius. Likewise, the first Indian Tantric texts are currently being dated to the third-sixth centuries. However, both the Platonic theourgia and Hindu tantra represent merely a revival and reinterpretation of those ancient practices which already existed (in one form or another) and were employed from the pharaonic Egypt to Mesopotamia and India.  As T. McEvilley suggests: “But it is not necessary to posit influence. It is possible that there were such deep inherent linkages between Greek and Indian thought from an early date that the two traditions went on producing like forms to the end of antiquity. …The survival of this earlier (pre-Indo-European?) substrate in Greece as in India, and its revival under the impact of similarly ancient Near Eastern practices at the time when, as Juvenal said, ‘Orontes flowed into Tiber’, seems more than likely.

[Theurgy] involves the devotional worship of a chosen deity which the worshiper is in a sense to become. In tantric practice also an ishtadevata, or personal deity, is the center of each worshipper’s devotional practice. In both cases the goal is to incorporate the personal deity, to become it in some sense.”83

The Platonic philosophy itself is rooted in the ancient Egyptian metaphysical and cultic patterns, partly veiled by a new type of dialectical reasoning which, nevertheless, tacitly imitates the hieratic rites of Osiris’ dismembering and restoration, dispersion and reintegration, aimed at the initiate’s (the philosopher’s) ascent and entering into the solar barque of Ra.

In is not necessary to think that “Iamblichus revolutionized Neoplatonic methods of exegesis through his assimilation of Plato to the Orphic/Chaldean traditions,” as S.Rappe argues,84 because this assimilation (or affinity) has much deeper historical and metaphysical roots.

1 Jan Assmann The Search for God in Ancient Egypt, tr. By David Lorton, Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2001, p.92
2 E.R.Dodds The Greeks and the Irrational, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984, p.286
3 Ibid., p.292
4 Andrew Louth Pagan Theurgy and Christian Sacramentalism in Denys the Areopagite.- The Journal of Theological Studies, vol.37, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986, p.434
5 P.E.Rorem Biblical and Liturgical Symbolism within the Ps-Dionysian Synthesis, Toronto:  Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1984, p.116
6 Gregory Shaw Theurgy: Rituals of Unification in the Neoplatonism of Iamblichus.- Traditio. Studies in Ancient and Medieval History, Thought, and Religion, vol.XLI, New York: Fordham University Press, 1985, p.1
7 Jan Assmann, ibid., p.41
8 Ibid., p.49
9 Gregory Shaw Theurgy as Demiurgy: Iamblichus’ Solution to the Problem of Embodiment.- Dionysius, vol.XII, Halifax: Dalhouse University Press, 1988, p.51
10 Sara Rappe Reading Neoplatonism. Non-discursive Thinking in the Texts of Plotinus, Proclus, and Damascius, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000, p.173
11 Peter Kingsley In the Dark Places of Wisdom, Inverness, CA: The  Golden Sufi Center, 1999, p.122
12 Ibid., p.123
13 Sara Rappe, ibid., p.181
14 Francis MacDonald Cornford Plato’s Cosmology. The Timaeus of Plato, Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1997, p.101
15 Ibid., p.102
16 Anne Sheppard Proclus’ Philosophical Method of Exegesis: The Use of Aristotle and the Stoics in the Commentary on the Cratylus.- Proclus lecteur et interprete des anciens, ed.Jean Pepin and H.D.Saffrey, Paris: CNRS, 1987, p.149
17 Dietrich Wildung Egyptian Saints. Deification in Pharaonic Egypt, New York: New York University Press, 1977, p.63 and p.72
18 Jeremy Naydler Plato, Shamanism and Ancient Egypt.- Temenos Academy Review, vol.9, London, 2006, p.91
19 Jeremy Naydler Temple of the Cosmos. The Ancient Egyptian Experience of  the Sacred, Rochester: Inner Traditions, 1996, p.46
20 Jan Assmann Moses the Egyptian. The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988, p.204
21 Ibid., p.205
22 Garth Fowden The Egyptian Hermes. A Historical Approach to the Late Pagan Mind, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993, p.153
23 The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation Including the Demotic Spells, ed. Hans Pieter Betz, Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1996, pp.72-73
24 Ibid., p.72
25 Ibid., p.75
26 Ananda K.Coomaraswamy The Vedic Doctrine of “Silence”. – 2. Selected Papers. Metaphysics, ed.Roger Lipsey, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987, p.207
27 James P.Allen Genesis in Egypt. The Philosophy of Ancient Egyptian Creation Accounts, New Haven: Yale University, 1988, p.41
28 R.T. Rundle  Clark Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt, London: Thames and Hudson, 1991, p.247
29 Ibid., p.246
30 Jeremy Naydler Temple of the Cosmos. The Ancient Egyptian Experience of the Sacred, p.124
31 C.R. Phillips III Nullum Crimen sine Lege: Socioreligious Sanctions on Magic.- Magika Hiera. Ancient Greek  Magic and Religion, New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991, p.262
32 Christina Larner’s dictum quoted by C.R.Phillips III, p.260
33 Ananda K.Coomaraswamy Vedic “Monotheism”.- 2. Selected Papers. Metaphysics, ed. Roger Lipsey, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987, pp.166-167
34 Jan Assmann The Search for God in Ancient Egypt, p.120
35 Alison Roberts Hathor Rising. The Serpent Power of Ancient Egypt, Rottingdean: Northgate Publishers, 1995, p.9
36 Jan Assmann The Search for God in Ancient Egypt, p.196
37 Jan Assmann Moses the Egyptian, p.196
38 Rene Guenon Fundamental Symbols. The Universal Language of Sacred Science, ed.Michel Valsan, revised and ed.Martin Lings, Cambridge: Quinta Essentia, 1995, p.51
39 Stephen Ronan Hekate’s Iynx: An Ancient Theurgical Tool.- Alexandria, vol.1, Grand Rapids: Phanes Press, 1991, p.322
40 Sarah Iles Johnston Hekate Soteira. A Study of Hekate’s Role in the Chaldean Oracles and Related Literature, Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1990, p.90
41 Jan Assmann Moses the Egyptian, p.201
42 Proclus A Commentary on the First Book of Euclid’s Elements, tr.Glenn R.Morrow, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992, pp.74-75
43 Stephen Ronan, ibid., p.329
44 R.T.Wallis Neoplatonism, second ed.with a Foreword and Bibliography by Lloyd P.Gerson, London: Gerald Duckworth, 1995, p.155
45 The Greek Magical Papyri, ed.H.D.Betz, p.141
46 Sarah Iles Johnston Hekate Soteira, p.98
47 Patricia Cox Miller In Praise of Nonsence.- Classical Mediterranean Spirituality. Egyptian, Greek, Roman, ed.A.H.Armstrong, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986, p.498
48 Ananda K.Coomaraswamy On the Indian and Traditional Psychology, or Rather Pneumatology.- 2: Selected Papers. Metaphysics, ed.Roger Lipsey, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987, p.353
49 John F.Finamore Julian and the Descent of Asclepius.- The Journal of Neoplatonic Studies, vol.7, no.2
50 Ruth Majercik The Chaldean Oracles. Text, Translation, and Commentary, Leiden: E.J.Brill, 1989, p.9
51 Amar Annus Ninurta and the Son of Man.- Melammu Symposia II. Mythology and Mythologies. Methodological Approaches to Intercultural Influences, ed.R.M. Whiting, Helsinki: The Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project, 2001, p.10
52 Ibid., p.15
53 Gregory Shaw Theurgy and the Soul. The Neoplatonism of Iamblichus, University Park: The Pennsylvania University Press, 1995, p.182
54 Jan Assmann Death and Salvation in Ancient Egypt, tr. David Lorton, Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2005, p.245
55 Tzvi Abusch Ascent to the Stars in a Mesopotamian Ritual: Social Metaphor and Religious Experience.- Death, Ecstasy, and Other Worldly Journeys, ed.J.J.Collins and M.Fishbane, Albany: SUNY Press, 1995, p.25
56 Sarah Iles Johnston Hekate Soteira, p.92
57 Deba Brata SenSharma The Philosophy of Sadhana. With Special Reference to the Trika Philosophy of Kashmir, Albany: SUNY Press, 1990, p.149
58 Lucas Siorvanes Proclus. Neo-Platonic Philosophy and Science, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1996, p.197
59 Jan Assmann Death and Salvation in Ancient Egypt, pp.351-352
60 Richard H.Wilkinson Reading Egyptian Art. A Hieroglyphic Guide to Ancient Egyptian Painting and Sculpture, London: Thames and Hudson, 1994, p.171
61 David Gordon White The Alchemical Body. Siddha Traditions in Medieval India, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1996, pp.189-190
62 Rene Guenon Fundamental Symbols. The Universal Language of Sacred Science, p.40
63 Andrew Smith Porphyry’s Place in the Neoplatonic Tradition. A Study in Post-Plotinian Neoplatonism, The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1974, p.23
64 Erik Hornung The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife, tr. David Lorton, Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1999, pp.143-144
65 Jan Assmann Death and Salvation in Ancient Egypt, pp.62-63
66 Ronald M.Davidson Indian Esoteric Buddhism. Social History of the Tantric Movement, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas Publishers, 2004, p.141
67 Sarah Iles Johnston Hekate Soteira, p.97
68 Ibid., p.101
69 Jean Pepin The Platonic and Christian Ulysses.- Neoplatonism and Christian Thought, ed.Dominic J.O’Meara, Norfolk: ISNS, 1982, p.4
70 Ibid., p.11
71 Sarah Iles Johnston Hekate Soteira, p.109
72 Robert M.Van Den Berg Toward the Paternal Harbour. Proclean Theurgy and the Contemplation of the Forms.- Proclus et la Theologie Platonicienne, ed.A.Ph.Segonds and C.Steel, Leuven: University Press; Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2000, p.428
73 Gregory Shaw Embodiying the Stars: Iamblichus and the Transformation of Platonic Paideia.- Alexandria, vol.1, Grand Rapids: Phanes Press, 1991, p.101
74 Sara Rappe Reading Neoplatonism, p.203 and p.208
75 Francoise Dunand and Christiane Zivie-Coche Gods and Men in Egypt 3000 BCE to 395 CE, tr. David Lorton, Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2002, p.127
76 Ibid., p.57
77 Andrew Smith Porphyry’s Place in the Neoplatonic Tradition, p.120 and p.121
78 Gregory Shaw Theurgy and the Soul. The Neoplatonism of Iamblichus, p.187
79 Lucas Siorvanes Proclus. Neo-Platonic Philosophy and Science, p.198
80 Ruth Majercik The Chaldean Oracles, p.33
81 R.O.Faulkner The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969, p.43
82 Gregory Shaw Theurgy and the Soul. The Neoplatonism of Iamblichus, p.22
83 Thomas McEvilley The Shape of Ancient Thought: Comparative Studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies, New York: Allworth Press, 2002, p.592 and p.591
84 Sara Rappe Reading Neoplatonism, p.171

Eye of the Heart, Vol 1, 2008.