This blog is brought to you today by the number 12

3 03 2009


Wherefore Plato judges twelve to be the governor of the universal world form, of the human form, and the form of the state. He judges it to accord most with the propagation or mutation of things, since, as we shall show later, it is the first of the increasing and abundant numbers. Twelve is made from the number six twinned, from six the perfect number as we call it. In other words, twelve is more than perfect… The Sun and Venus each complete their orbits in 12 months, Jupiter in 12 years. Daily the moon passes through twelve degrees “in middle motion”, and she has her [28] mansions of twelve degrees; and she enacts twelve months with the Sun. Not without weighty cause has this number been observed in the Prophets and in sacred writings.

-Marsilio Ficino, found in Nuptial Arithmetic: Marsilio Ficno’s Commentary in the Fatal Number in Book VIII of Plato’s Republic by Michael J.B. Allen

The Indefinite Dyad

10 02 2009


According to Pythagorean doctrine, the Essence of Kronos is to Remain (or Abide), but Rhea has the Power to cause Him to Proceed beyond Himself. However, He must eventually Revert to His Essence to preserve His Identity… In this way the determining, form-imparting power of the Monad emanates outward to inform Matter, but it preserves its form by looking back toward its origin. For if this Procession were to continue without Limit, all Form would be lost in the dark abyss of indefinite chaotic Matter.

Kronos’ essence is to remain Himself, but Rhea has the power to create another, and so from Them Zeus is born. Thus the three phases, Remaining, Proceeding, Reverting, create the Tridynamos, the Threefold Power of the Triune Godhead – Kronos, Rhea, and Zeus – and we read in the Chaldean Oracles:

The World, which saw Thee, Threefold Monad, worshipped Thee.
This means that the Monad contains the Triad of Father, Mother, and Son.

-John Opsopaus, from the Summary of Pythagorean Theology

On Initiation

9 02 2009


Or: Why the Church is the way it is right now

Recently I was reading neo-pagan John Opsopaus’ essay on Pythagorean theology, particularly the section on theurgy. Those who have been with me for several years know that I have written on theurgy before, and a lot of the content of Opsopaus’ essay was not new to me. However, it does gather a lot of ideas that would take some time to find in many other sources. I highly recommend it.

What I want to address this time is the idea of initiation that he describes in the last part of work. Opsopaus describes a series of initiations in the ancient world that a Christian cannnot help associate with our own rites of initiation. In these ceremonies, the initiate or desmos prepares himself for the entrance of a god into his soul. This includes ritual washing, the use of lights and smoke, and other material rites that prepare the soul with union with the Divine. After the service, the symbolic death and burial of the initiate, he “is transformed into a Theios Anêr (God-Man), one of the Perfected or Immaculate Beings (Akhrantoi), who by Their very presence on earth bring grace to humanity and to all of Nature”. Comparisons to baptism and Christian theosis here are not very far-fetched.
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Deus deorum

19 10 2008

Christ as the Fulfilment of Pagan Theology

In the past, I have criticized the “grand march of monotheism” view of history. In this view, people agonizingly climbed their way out of a mental cave that is haunted by spirits, ghosts, gods, and all of the other usual suspects in the polytheistic cosmos. Little by little, one small group of people, the Hebrews, grew out of this worldview to realize that their was only one God, and all of the other religions were either superstition or the manipulation of devils. Even from the founding of the Church, we are becoming more monothesitic, more Biblical, and more knowledgeable about the Christian religion as time passes. People feel, for example, that St. Anselm’s idea of the vicarious satisfaction of Christ on the Cross was a remnant of the pagan ethos: the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would never demand blood from His own Son in payment for the sins of the world. We know the Gospel better since we are farther away from the pagan past. We have cleaned the outside of our vessels. We have whitened our sepulchers. We have a better idea of God than our ancestors.

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The Soul as Sphere

14 09 2008

Christian Platonic Tiptoeing Around the Transmigration of Souls

One issue that most concerns any person who is both an advocate of Platonic doctrines and a Christian is the doctrine of the transmigration of souls. The most famous crystallization of this idea comes in the Phaedrus myth, where the soul falls into matter and takes 10,000 years to ascend back to the heavens. This doctrine, shared with the divines of the East, was first formulated explicitly in the West many years before Plato in the doctrine of the Pythagoreans. When the fullness of Platonic writings were recovered by many intellectuals in Renaissance Florence in the fifteenth century, these scholars had to invent ingenious if at times inaccurate explanations to reconcile this heretical doctrine with Christian cosmic principles. Their solutions, however, always affirmed the dignity of man as made in the image and likeness of God, having a nobility and mutability that can create, encompass, and rule all things.
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On the Triad

9 09 2008

The triad is the form of completion of all things, and is truly number, and gives all things equality and a certain lack of excess and deficiency, having defined and formed matter with the potential for all qualities…

Those who are requesting that their prayers be answered by God pour libations three times and perform sacrifices three times; and we say “thrice fortunate” and “thrice happy” and “thrice blessed” and qualify all of the opposite of these as “thrice”, in the case of those to whom each of these features is present in a perfect form, so to speak.

– from The Theology of Arithmetic, attributed to Iamblichus

Tenebrae Lucem praecedunt et illa est Mater

30 07 2008

Darkness precedes Light and She is Mother

-inscription in the Salerno cathedral at the altar of the Black Madonna

Daughter of great Protogonus, divine, illustrious Rhea, to my pray’r incline,
Who driv’st thy holy car with speed along, drawn by fierce lions, terrible and strong.
Mother of Jove, whose mighty arm can wield th’ avenging bolt, and shake the dreadful shield.
Drum-beating, frantic, of a splendid mien, brass-sounding, honor’d, Saturn’s blessed queen.
Thou joy’st in mountains and tumultuous fight, and mankind’s horrid howlings, thee delight.
War’s parent, mighty, of majestic frame, deceitful saviour, liberating dame.
Mother of Gods and men, from whom the earth and lofty heav’ns derive their glorious birth;
Th’ ætherial gales, the deeply spreading sea goddess ærial form’d, proceed from thee.
Come, pleas’d with wand’rings, blessed and divine, with peace attended on our labours shine;
Bring rich abundance, and wherever found drive dire disease, to earth’s remotest bound.

-Orphic Hymn to Rhea, translated by Thomas Taylor

The second deity is actually a Mother… She functions “according to life… proceeding and vivifying all things”. She represents the prolific diversity about to be unleashed in the creation of the world, the power which imparts movement to the world through the soul, the principle of motion most proximate to the body. Proclus identifies this powerful causal entity, who is superior to the Creator himself, with the female principle of the universe. She is the Mother of the Creator, out of whose womb were born both he and the world. She is the goddess Rhea as “flux”.

-Lucas Siorvanes, Proclus: Neo-Platonic Philosophy and Science

The dyad is clearly formless, because the infinite sequence of polygons arise in actuality from triagularity and the triad, while as a result of the monad everything is together in potential, and no rectilinear figure consists of two straight lines or two angles. So what is indefinite and formless falls under the dyad alone.

[The Pythagoreans name the dyad] “Rhea”, after its flux and extension, which are the properties both of the dyad and of Nature, which is in all respects coming into being.

-from The Theology of Arithmetic attributed to Iamblichus of Chalcis


There is no dyad then in the Trinitarian true God. God is One and Three, but He is not two. Therefore, He is not feminine. But still notice how the feminine is the thought that comes immediately after God, as the Ecclesia that is the oldest of all creatures, as the Shepherd of Hermas indicates. Could not the Virgin Mary, as icon of the Ecclesia, the first thought that comes after God, and the reason that all things come into being, be the mystical dyad for us? Are these not the waters over which the Spirit of God hovered?