Philosophy and Theurgy in Late Antiquity
Publication Date: March 10, 2010
The ancient philosophy, in its original Orphico-Pythagorean and Platonic form, is not simply a way of life in accordance with the divine or human intellect (nous), but also the way of alchemical transformation and mystical illumination achieved through initiatic 'death' and subsequent restoration at the level of divine light. To use another mythical image, philosophy restores the soul's wings and leads the purified lover of wisdom to Heaven.
As a means of spiritual reintegration and unification, ancient philosophy is inseparable from the hieratic rites. Therefore those scholars who themselves follow the anagogic path of Platonic tradition are more or less firmly convinced that their philosophy ultimately derives from the Egyptian and Mesopotamian temple liturgies and rituals, reinterpreted and revived by the Neoplatonists under the name of 'theurgy' in late antiquity. The theurgic 'animation' of statues appears to be among the main keys for understanding how various royal and priestly practices, related to the daily ritual service and encounter with the divine presence in the temples, developed into the Neoplatonic mysticism of late antiquity. The traditional theory of symbolism still stands on the Neoplatonic foundation established by Iamblichus, Proclus, and Damascius.