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How did lamblichus practice Neoplatonism?

Iamblichus of Syria (c. 245-325) was a student of Porphyry's (233-309) who set up his own school in Apamea (in what is modern Syria). Porphyry had practiced theurgy—or magic—based on vegetarianism and other physical restrictions, but he thought the effectiveness of theurgy was limited to lower levels of spiritual ascent. Iamblichus developed a more elaborate system of theurgy for every stage of salvation, which was similar to Christian sacramental theology and became an integral part of Neoplatonism from then on. Iamblichus also embellished Plotinus' system, dividing the One into two: one responsible for the creation and the other transcending it. The Roman Emperor Julian (c. 331-363) became interested in Iamblichus' system after Iamblichus incorporated many of the Greek gods into Plotinian descriptions of creation and salvation.

What was Plotinus' association with demonology?

In his biography of Plotinus (205-270), Porphyry (233-309) wrote the following:

An Egyptian priest came to Rome once and made acquaintance with Plotinus through a friend; the priest wanted to test his powers and suggested Plotinus to make the daimon that was born with him visible by conjuring. Plotinus gave a ready assent and conjuration took place in the Temple of Isis, because it was, as it is told, the only "pure" place the Egyptian could find in Rome. When the daimon was conjured to reveal itself, a god appeared who was not one of the daimons. And the Egyptian is said to have called out: "Blessed are you, because a god is by you as your daimon and not some low class daimon!" But there was no opportunity to ask anything from the apparition or look at it longer; because a friend who was watching and holding birds in his hands to keep the purity of the place, squeezed them to death, be it out of envy or vague fear.

Scholars have found this passage interesting because it introduces two new elements to ideas about demons in the ancient world: first, that demons could change into benevolent gods or angels; and second, that birds could be used to protect the purity of the soul. Socrates had a "daimon" who would counsel him in times of stress or alert him to what was important. However, Plotinus' interactions with demons more resembles later ideas of magic and sorcery than simply listening to a voice, as Socrates did.

What was the Athenian school of Neoplatonism?

The Athenian school was founded by Plutarch of Athens (350-433) and carried on by Syrianus (c. 370-437) whose most important student was Proclus (412-485). This school was actually the same institution that had been Plato's academy. The Athenians added new levels to Iamblichus' system in the form of gods who were interested in philosophical matters and whose thought could be understood by mortals, although they did not accept Iamblichus' notion of two Ones.

What did Proclus contribute to Neoplatonism?

Proclus (412-485) wrote Elements of Theology and Plato's Theology, which had a lasting effect on subsequent philosophy, particularly that of Hegel (1770-1831) 13 centuries later. He added to the idea of emanations by adding to their downward movements, horizontal movements at different stages of their descent. That resulted

A twelfth-century illuminated manuscript depicts Philosophy visiting Boethius. The Christian Neoplatonist wrote extensively on the Trinity and famously posed the

A twelfth-century illuminated manuscript depicts Philosophy visiting Boethius. The Christian Neoplatonist wrote extensively on the Trinity and famously posed the "problem of universals" (Art Archive).

in a great multiplication of divine entities, or "henads," with which Proclus associated Greek deities. He also developed the triadic ruling principle of "remaining-proceeding-returning. That is, the deity remained what it was while its emanations proceeded downward to ordinary existence, and human understanding of this process and communion with the deity constituted returning. Aside from his spiritual work, Proclus wrote on mathematics, astronomy, physics, and literary criticism.

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