The Pre-Essential Demiurge: Aion

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The Supreme God of Hellenism is nameless and many-named. To the divine Iamblichus He is called Aion, meaning “Eternity.” To the blessed Julian He is called Hyperion, meaning “The High-One.” He is also variously called “the Father,” “King of the Universe,” “God of Gods,” “Cause of All,” “Idea of Being,” “Idea of the Good,” and “Supra-Intelligible.” Aion can be understood as the One-Being once it’s reflected into the Intelligible Realm (i.e., the first realm of Being which is immediately after the non-realm of the One), autonomously shining forth from it (Iamblichus De Mysteriis, VIII.2). For this Iamblichus calls Him “the self-sufficient God, for which reason He is termed “father of Himself” and “principle of Himself”; for He is first principle and “God of Gods” (Iamblichus De Mysteriis, VIII.2). Plato writes that “eternity [aion] remains in the One” (Plato Timaeus, 37d5), which tells us that Aion is a horizontal extension of the One, i.e., existing within the same level and occupying the same ontological place as the One-Being; however, as He exists at the top of the Intelligible Realm as its first principle and cause, rather than at the bottom of the non-realm of the One, He is functionally different, and acts as a medium between the two realms. He is called the “Monad from the One,” being pre-essential and the first principle of essence and source of essentiality and essence (i.e., ousia), for which reason he is termed “father of essence” (Iamblichus De Mysteriis, VIII.2). He is thus the supreme genus who allows for all levels of the ontological hierarchy to participate in His divine essence. As the Monad from the One who is the pre-essential first principle of the Intelligible Realm He is the “Principle of Intellection” (Iamblichus De Mysteriis, VIII.2), the source of that which is thought, who thinks the Gods under Him (out of the pre-essential henads He pluralizes from Himself as the One-Being, who are unfolded into His unity, monoeides), and Being itself, into existence, springing forth the entirety of the Intelligible Cosmos, the Intelligible Gods, and His vertical emanation the Celestial Demiurge (the Nous, i.e., Zeus-Helios). As the Good made manifest as a God, Aion is the source of Being, Life, and Intellect who unifies and rules over Them (Iamblichus In Timaeus, fr. 54). He also holds the role of organizing His domain, the Intelligible Realm, and all its inhabitants (i.e., the Gods) according to the impulses given by the One, bestowing upon the Intelligible Gods the life-light  which sustains and nourishes Them, granting Them their beauty, existence, perfection, and oneness (Flavius Claudius Iulianus Augustus, III 361) and allowing Them to think in a unitary mode.

As the One-Being, Aion’s existence is beyond all things and prior to the Gods under Him, being alone in the singularity of the highest divinity, governing apart over the universe. He is so sublime and transcendental that even the Gods under Him can’t know Him (Smith 1995, 98):

“There exists a fire (phlogmos) which has occupied a vessel above the heavens – a fire infinitely in motion, a boundless eternity. It is not within the grasp of the blessed Gods, unless the mighty Father should plan His purposes so that He Himself might be looked upon: in that place the ether does not bear the radiant stars; nor is the luminous moon raised up there. No God meets Him [the Father, who is fire] on His path, nor am I myself [solar Apollo] spread out so far as to reach Him, though I whirl through the ether in company with my light-rays. God is fire, a vast channel moving in a spinning motion with a whirring sound. But if someone touched that ethereal fire, he would not feel fear in his heart, for it has not power to burn. Through an unceasing care that derives from God Himself, eternity mingles with eternities. Self-begotten, untaught, without a mother, unshakeable, nameless, many-named, and dwelling in fire – that is God; we are messengers (angeloi), only a small part of God.”

Aion is the creative power the Celestial Demiurge draws from to craft the cosmos. Matter (hylē) is also created by Aion, and is thus eternal. Hylē is initially vacant though, being an empty receptive substance which forms into matter as we know it once the Celestial Demiurge directs the Logoi to give hylē shape. This informs matter and gives it shape, turning it from an empty substance into the matter we understand. Aion is also the model upon which the Cosmos are based on, for which reason He is called “the Paradigm.” Aion being the cosmic model is important, because it tells us that the cosmos and its nature are modelled by the Celestial Demiurge based upon something that is eternal, unchangeable, good, and beyond generation, as Plato writes: “Everyone will see that [the Celestial Demiurge] must have looked to the eternal, for the world is the fairest of creations, and He is the best of causes” (Plato Timaeus, 29a).

 

Worship

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Hermes presented as Harpocrates, the God of mystical silence, who guides the souls upon their return to the Monad or Oneness. The words inscribed on the circle above Hermes read: ‘Silentium Deum cole – monas manet in se,’ or “Worship God by being silent – the Oneness remains in itself”; an allusion to Iamblichus’ De Mysteriis. On the pedestal which Hermes stands upon is a saying attributed to the poet Simonides by Plutarch: “He had often repented of speaking, but never of holding His tongue.”

Because Aion comes into being before duality, which sprung when the Word (Logoi) of creation was spoken by the Celestial Demiurge, Iamblichus informs us the only appropriate way to worship Aion is through silence (Iamblichus De Mysteriis, VIII.3). This may fit with the first formula of Roman rites that is the “Favete Linguis,” or command of silence. As Seneca explains in “The Happy Life” (26, 7): “When you will hear the sacred texts mentioned, keep silent.” Seneca uses the world “favoriteci” which derives from another important Latin term, “favor.” In this case, the term favoriteci doesn’t mean favor or help, but rather an order that intimates silence. This silence is needed to perform the sacred rite without being disturbed by any profane voices. We can find variants of this formula in Virgil (Virgin Aeneid, V.71): “ore favete omnes,” meaning all have to observe silence, and in Tibullus, who writes that “the bystanders, men and women, have to observe a pious silence” (Tibullus Elegiarum, II.2.2) and “keep silent all the bystanders” (Tibullus Elegiarum, II.1.1).

 

Bibliography

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Ekklesia Neoplatonismos Theourgia. “Ekklesia Neoplatonismos Theourgia Catechism.” Ekklesia Neoplatonismos Theourgia. Accessed July 17, 2017. http://theourgia.org/catechism/.

Flavius Claudius Iulianus Augustus, and Wilmer Cave. Wright. The works of emperor Julian. London: Heinemann etc., 1962.

Hunter, Richard Lawrence. Hesiodic Voices: Studies in the Ancient Reception of Hesiod’s Works and Days. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Iamblichus. De Anima. Translated by John F. Finamore and John M. Dillon. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2002.

Iamblichus. De mysteriis. Translated by Emma C. Clarke, John M. Dillon and Jackson P. Hershbell. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003.

Kupperman, Jeffrey S. Living theurgy: a course in Iamblichus philosophy, theology and theurgy. London: Avalonia, 2014.

Sallustius, “On the Gods and the Cosmos”, 4th Century AD, accessed May 17, 2017, http://www.platonic-philosophy.org/files/Sallustius%20-%20On%20the%20Gods%20(Taylor).pdf

Shaw, Gregory. Theurgy and the soul: the Neoplatonism of Iamblichus. Second ed. Kettering, OH: Angelico Press, 2014.