Deities

gods-and-goddess1

“All Godhood is good, free from passion, free from change… Neither are they separate from the first cause nor from one another, just as thoughts are not separate from mind nor acts of knowledge from the soul. “
-Sallustius (On the Gods and the Cosmos, I-II)

Julian Hellenism is a polytheistic religion, meaning it has a belief in many Gods (Latin: Dii, Greek: Theoi). Iamblichus refers to the Gods as monoeides, meaning “in the form of singularity” (Clark 2010, 56-57), which tells us that the Gods exist as a single essence prior to becoming distinct, where they are unitary and emanatory as manifestations of their singular divine source, the One Supra-Essential Godhead, as unity precedes the existence of multiplicity (Sallustius, V). This makes the religion monolatrous, where a distinct inferior being emanates from a superior being and participates in its originator. This starts with the One, which subsequently spawns the many Gods through simple multiplication of itself into a multitude (and thus preserving most of its attributes, as everything is multiplied oneness) who functions as horizontal extensions of the same power, who ultimately leads back to that unity. This means that all of the Gods are infinite, unending, perfect and unborn, each with an infinity of attributes, as they are not “separate from the first cause nor from one another” (Sallustius, II). Following the Gods are the Greater Kinds, including human souls, who spawn from the Gods and participate in them. This plurality which derives from the One is made up of “different states or appearances of a single substance” (Urmson 1991, 259), or ousia, which makes up everything with the quality of Being, from the Gods to the Greater Kinds and ultimately us, making the religion a form of substance monism. Julian Hellenism is also a panentheistic religion, with the divine being concurrently both transcendent and immanent, looking over our universe from the outside while also animating it and manifesting throughout the cosmos through a divine illumination which fills all things eternally.

The Gods are eternal beings, their origins being prior to the creation of time. They are living immortals who surround and permeating unhindered the entire material universe and act on it. The Gods are not subject to Fate, but rather lay above it and overlook Providence (Sallustius, IX). Their wisdom sees the whole, and so their light puts us on the right path and brings to pass what is best (Flavius Claudius Iulianus, II 261-263). They are the causes of all that is now and all that shall be, and though they are not seen by us, they can direct their divine gaze, which is more powerful than any light, towards useven as far as our hidden thoughts (Flavius Claudius Iulianus, II 323). They are wholly beyond our physical universe and by directing Necessity they create the cosmos and produce its laws (Plato Timaeus, 48a).

The divine are Beings (Ontos), not persons (prosopon), as persons denotates human limits which the Gods lack because they are so beyond us. They do not intervene in the realms of actions of other Gods, cease to exist, or combine into one. The soul of a God can be understood in three parts: Essence, Powers, and Activity:

  • Their Essence/Substance (Ousia) is their inner-most and most fundamental independent self. Their essence is “at the summit [of existence], and transcendent and perfect” (Iamblichus De Mysteriis, I.6-7)Their essence is wholly intelligible and beyond our material realm, and their bodies present in the material cosmos, such as the stars and the planets, are merely ruled from the outside. They do not have either gender or any other characteristic of mortal beings, as their substance is entirely alien to us. Their movements are spherical, and thus perfect.
  • Their Power (Dunamis) is their potential expression of their essence. A God’s power “can achieve all things simultaneously, in the present instant, unitarily” (Iamblichus De Mysteriis, I.6-7).
  • Their Activity (Energeia) is their powers in action. A God’s activities “generates and governs all things without inclining towards them” (Iamblichus De Mysteriis, I.6-7). The Gods concern themselves with things of this world and perform activities, however they do not perform these activities out of need since they are perfect and thus without need. This nature links back to the One. Plotinus’ description of the activity of the One is that it overflows of its superabundance (Uždavinys 2009, 27). It gains nothing from this overflowing, nor has any need to overflow. Rather, it is simply its nature, and hence in turn it is also simply in the nature of the divine. The Gods are above Necessity (Plato Timaeus, 45a), which isn’t to be confused with want or nature.

We know of the Gods innately because in all people, whether in private or public, whether as individuals or as peoples, there exists a universal striving towards divinity, for we all believe, even without being taught, in the existence of something divine (Flavius Claudius Iulianus, I 321), for there is no one who does not raise their hands to heaven in prayer when they swear by the Gods; if they have any notion at all of the divine, they will turn heavenward, and it was very natural that people should feel thus (Flavius Claudius Iulianus, I 323). It in this innate understanding that we can find true knowledge of the divine, which is not easily comprehended, nor is it able to be easily communicated, for no one in the world can adequately describe the true greatness of the divine without failing to a certain extent in their attempt (Flavius Claudius Iulianis, III 357).

The Gods are beyond us and need nothing, and we worship them because they are beings worthy of worship, being so beyond us and responsible for all kinds of good and no evil. As a result of this it can be understood that worship, prayer, and sacrifice aren’t given to the Gods to “appease” them. The Gods are not angry with sinners, for to be angry would be to passion. The Gods do not rejoice- for what rejoices also grieves. Nor are they appeased by gifts – for if they were, they would also be conquered by pleasure. The Gods are always good, always do good and never do injustice, instead always being in the same state and like themselves. Rather, when we are good, we are joined and cling to the Gods when we show likeness to them by living according to virtue, and when we become evil we make the Gods our enemies – not because they are angered against us, but because our sins prevent the light of the Gods from shining upon us, and thus putting us in communion with spirits of punishment (Sallustius, XIV). If by prayers and sacrifices we find forgiveness of sins, we do not appease or change the Gods, but instead, by turning toward the divine, we heal our own badness and so again enjoy the eternal and infinite goodness of the Gods (Sallustius, XIV). To say that the Gods turn away from evil is like saying that the Sun hides Himself from the blind. Because of this, it is to be correctly understood that we provide the Gods with worship ultimately for our own benefit, since the Gods need nothing; and worship is done by exposing ourelves to their divine radiance (Sallustius, XIV).

 

The Demiourgoi

The Pre-Essential Demiurge

Aion

 

The Celestial Demiurge

Zeus-Helios

 

The Sub-Lunar Demiurge

Asklepios / Dionysos

 

Theological Encyclopedia of Hellenic Divinities

 

The Olympians

Greek_-_Procession_of_Twelve_Gods_and_Goddesses_-_Walters_2340

Fragment of a relief (1st century BCE – 1st century ACE) in the Walters Art Museum which depicts the Twelve Olympians carrying their attributes in procession; from left to right, Hestia (scepter), Hermes (winged cap and staff), Aphrodite (veiled), Ares (helmet and spear), Demeter (scepter and wheat sheaf), Hephaestus (staff), Hera (scepter), Poseidon (trident), Athena (owl and helmet), Zeus (thunderbolt and staff), Artemis (bow and quiver), and Apollo (lyre).

The Olympians, otherwise known as the Dii Consentes, are the 12 divinely revealed Hypercosmic powers of Hellenism. The Olympians are comprised of six Gods and six Goddesses. The concept of twelve Gods is ancient and sacred, being older than any extant Greek or Roman source, though truly coming to fruition in ancient Athens. It is understood to have been present among the Etruscans as well. In Rome, the statues of the Olympians stood in the Forum and later the Porticus Deorum Consentium, one of the last public Hellenic shrines that were still functional in Late Antiquity.

This pantheon of twelve divinities expresses the complete and perfect divine fifth element which fulfils and binds the Cosmos together, aether, which is symbolized by the dodecahedron.

The Twelve Olympians are:

 

Bibliography

Adluri, Vishwa. Philosophy and Salvation in Greek Religion. Boston: Walter de Gruyter, 2013.

Clark, Dennis. “The Gods as Henads in Iamblichus.” The International Journal of the Platonic Tradition 4, no. 1 (2010): 54-74. doi:10.1163/187254710×492901.

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 (France) Wright. The works of the Emperor Julian. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006.

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.

Rée, Jonathan, and J. O. Urmson. The Concise Encyclopedia of Western Philosophy. 3rd Edit. London: Routledge, 2004.

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. 2nd Ed. Kettering, OH: Angelico Press, 2014.