It is fundamentally understood that the entirety of reality emanates from the first God and principle, the One. This emanation from the One is caused by an overflow of its own superabundance (Uždavinys 2009, 27) through its reflection Aion, the “Essence of Being” and source from which all Being stems from. This emanation can be understood as a procession of Being that progressively grows further away from the One, with each level in this procession declining a little further from its perfect origin. This emanation “needs to continue until the potency coming out of the Good [the One] becomes completely empty and passive, reaching a bottom that is so weak as not to be able to produce anything further” (Chlup 2012, 204). However, before any of this was ordered, there was only Chaos. This chaos was a formless void. It had no order, the laws of nature weren’t fixed, and any proportion between things was purely accidental. Everything was jumbled together in a shapeless heap. The word chaos (χάος) itself indicates two things. It could relate to χέειν, “to pour,” which conveys a sense of watery chaos. Alternatively, it could relate to χαῦνος, meaning “spongy” or “porous,” which gives the sense of alternating fullness and void distributed throughout a substance. It is from this formless potential that the Celestial Demiurge, Zeus-Helios, shaped the universe in the ordering act of creation.
The Demiurge received from Aion both the creative power to craft and set in order the Kosmos and the model upon which the Kosmos would be based on. Aion being the cosmic model is important, because it tells us about the nature of the Kosmos: that the Kosmos are modeled by King Helios based upon something that is eternal, unchangeable, good, and beyond generation. As the blessed Plato writes in the Timaeus, “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). The Demiurge established the elements, such as fire, water, and so forth, and out of them, He created the World Soul. He established about the law of nature through the direction of His spoken word, the Logoi, which are His thoughts that are lower manifestations of the higher principles (such as the Forms). It is important to point out that the word Kosmos holds a meaning of arrangement, and thus suggests that the universe has a particular orderly arrangement to it.
There was no creatio ex nihilo (“creation from nothing”), because the universe would not come to be formed if there was nothing that could create it. Rather, the act of creation was creatio ex materia (“creation from [pre-existent] matter”). The creation of the kosmos was the ordering of pre-kosmic disorder, which is done through the Demiurge’s and other Gods’ direction of the logoi. This logoi then infuses into hylē, or “matter,” which is an empty receptive substance that comes from the One through Aion. Once the hylē is informed by the logoi, it is shaped by it and forms into matter as we know it, situated at the very bottom of the ladder of Being. In short, order rose out of chaos.
Though the universe is finite, the act of cosmogenesis isn’t something that happened at some arbitrary prior point in the chronological past, but it is rather a process that is eternal, being always present in illo tempore, and is therefore always accessible through theourgia (Butler 2010, 142). The Timaeus’ chronology merely portrays multiple ontological levels of being simultaneously present in the material world. The separation from materiality and its principles is, quite simply, impossible. The entire material world came to exist simultaneously as the Demiurge came to exist, meaning there isn’t any temporal or spatial separation between the eternal Forms and their material counterparts. And given the viable translation of logos as “word,” we can say poeticically that the Demiurge is continuously singing the Kosmos into creation.
Creation of Mankind
When the common father and King of all things, Zeus-Helios, was setting all things in order, there fell from Him drops of sacred blood, and from these drops of divine blood arose the race of man (Flavius Claudius Iulianus, II 307). It, therefore, follows that we are all kinsmen, as the Gods tell us through Plato, and as we ought to believe, that we are all descended from the Gods; all being members of the same family, which is ultimately that of Zeus (Flavius Claudius Iulianus, II 307). Therefore, His greatest concern is the love of mankind and the protection of His family.
It is detailed in the sacred Chaldean Oracles that Love (Eros) is the first creation of the divine Zeus (Chaldean Oracles, fr. 42). He then fills each soul with a “deep eros” to bring them back to the Gods (Chaldean Oracles, fr. 43). This indicates that what part of the soul the Demiurge creates is, truly, filled with Love.
We bear witness that at creation there was more than two people, for if there were merely two people our laws wouldn’t show such great divergence among peoples, the tongues of people wouldn’t be so vastly different, the forms of people wouldn’t take on such a wide array of beauty, nor would it be likely that the whole earth was filled with people by one man and woman; even if the woman bore many children at a time to their husband (Flavius Claudius Iulianus, II 305-307). Rather, it is to be understood that many peoples of a great diversity came into the world at once, which gave rise to the vast differences among the peoples of our world (Flavius Claudius Iulianus, II 307).
The Gods “all together had given birth” to humankind (Flavius Claudius Iulianus, II 307), with many humans coming forth who had been allotted to the Gods “who rule over births” (Flavius Claudius Iulianus, II 307); “and they brought them forth, receiving their souls from the Demiurge from eternity” (Flavius Claudius Iulianus, II 307). They then give their shape and culture appropriate to the climate and country they originated from (Flavius Claudius Iulianus, I 357).
The many deities are ethnarch Gods and protectors of cities whose own functions had been assigned by Zeus-Helios (Flavius Claudius Iulianus, I 345). Each people have ethnarch Gods, who are subservient to Zeus-Helios as viceroys are to a King (Flavius Claudius Iulianus, I 359). These national Gods watch over their people, with their own order of Angels, Daimons, Heroes, and a particular order of spirits which obey and work for the higher powers. All other creator Gods are not competitors of Zeus-Helios, but rather they are His children and helpers (Flavius Claudius Iulianus, I 345) (Flavius Claudius Iulianus, I 359).
We, therefore, garner that though the world has an array of diversity, our diversity are all ultimately many great paths that lead to one divine truth, for uniformity precedes multiplicity. For this, we are all ultimately kinsmen, as all of humanity is derived from the blood of Zeus-Helios. The great diversity of the world is not an accident, but rather it was divinely fashioned on purpose.
Gods Concern Themselves with Creation
Plato writes that it is obvious that the Gods care immensely for all things in creation, whether these things big or small, including ourselves. After all, if the Gods are capable of taking care of the entire order of the Kosmos, then there is no reason that They cannot take care of creation’s smaller pieces (Plato Laws, X 902e-903b, tr. T.J. Saunders):
“We must not suppose that God, who is supremely wise, and willing and able to superintend the world, looks to major matters but – like a faint-hearted lazybones who throws up his hands at hard work – neglects the minor, which we established were in fact easier to look after. The supervisor of the universe has arranged everything with an eye to its preservation and excellence, and its individual parts play appropriate active or passive roles according to their various capacities. These parts, down to the smallest details of their active and passive functions, have each been put under the control of ruling powers that have perfected the minutest constituents of the universe.”
This tells us that the divine care supervise the entirety of the Kosmos, even the smallest of things, including individual creatures such as ourselves. Even those who fail to recognize this divine care, who are addressed by Plato in the following way (Laws X, 903c, tr. T.J. Saunders):
“Now then, you . . . , one such part – a mere speck that nevertheless constantly contributes to the whole – [it] is you, you who have forgotten that nothing is created except to provide the entire universe with a life of prosperity. You forget that creation is not for your benefit: you exist for the sake of the universe.”
Thus even the most minor of things, including individual creatures, thus contributes to the order of the world, whether or not it is aware of its role. This idea is then further developed by reference to a checkers-player whose task it is to promote or demote our souls according to its we make (or fail to make) (Plato Laws, X 904 b-c, tr. T.J. Saunders):
“With this grand purpose in view he has worked out what sort of position, in what regions, should be assigned to a soul to match its changes of character; but he left it to the individual’s act of will to determine the direction of these changes. You see, the way we react to particular circumstances is almost invariably determined by our desires and our psychological state.”
Creation and Theodicy
The creation of the universe has various implications for the Problem of Evil. As Steven Dillon writes (Dillon Friday, 3 February 2017 9:36 AM):
“The Gods do not “choose” to create reality, as if there were a duality of options before them: it flows forth from them, and out of their superabundant goodness. As such, evil is not something the Gods simply choose not to prevent: it somehow arises out of the reality that emanates from them. But, why?
Ultimately, there is no single cause of evil, but evil inevitably arises because beings fall short of their natures. This failure is in turn inevitable because they are toward the end of the procession of being, and therefore among the most complex of entities, thus unifying within themselves a number of parts which strive for different ends. Pursuing these different ends just is conflict, and unfurls physical and moral evils.”
Chlup, Radek. Proclus: An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.
Clark, Dennis. “Iamblichus Egyptian Neoplatonic Theology in De Mysteriis.” The International Journal of the Platonic Tradition 2, no. 2 (2008): 164-205. doi:10.1163/187254708×282358.
Dillon, Steven. Disqus Post. February 3 2017, 9:36 AM. https://disqus.com/home/discussion/strangenotions/do_extraordinary_claims_require_extraordinary_evidence/#comment-3135754369
Flavius Claudius Iulianus Augustus, and Wilmer Cave. Wright. The works of emperor Julian. London: Heinemann etc., 1962.
Kupperman, Jeffrey S. Living Theurgy: A Course in Iamblichus’ Philosophy, Theology and Theurgy. London: Avalonia, 2014.
Majercik, Ruth. The Chaldean Oracles: Text, Translation and Commentary. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1989.
McDonough, Richard. “Plato: Organicism.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Accessed August 28, 2017. http://www.iep.utm.edu/platoorg/.
Plato, and Benjamin Jowett. The Complete works of Plato. United States?: Akasha Pub., 2008.
Shaw, Gregory. Theurgy and the Soul: The Neoplatonism of Iamblichus. 2nd Edition. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2014.