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Proclus

6. Surnamed Διάδοχος (the successor), from his being regarded as the genuine successor of Plato in doctrine, was one of the most celebrated teachers of the Neoplatonic school. (Marin. 100.10. In some MSS. he is styled Διάδοχος Πλατωνικός.) He was of Lycian origin, the son of Patricius and Marcella, who belonged to the city of Xanthus, which Proclus himself regarded as his native place. According, however, to the distinct statement of Marinus (Vit. Procli, 100.6) he was born at Byzantium, on the 8th of February, A. D. 412, as is clear from the data furnished by his horoscope, which Marinus has preserved. The earlier period of his life was spent at Xanthus. When still very young, he was distinguished by his remarkable eagerness for study, to which Marinus believes him to have been urged by Athena herself, who appeared to him in a vision. Such watchful care, indeed, did the gods, according to that writer, take of Proclus, that he was preternaturally cured of a dangerous malady in his youth by Apollo, who appeared in his own person for the purpose. Statements like this indicate how large an abatement must be made in the extravagant account which Marinus gives of the precocity and progress of Proclus. From Xanthus he removed, while still young, to Alexandria, where his studies were conducted chiefly under the guidance of the rhetorician Leonas, who received him into his family, and treated him as though he had been his own son. Through him Proclus was introduced to the leading men and the most distinguished scholars of Alexandria, whose friendship he speedily secured by his abilities, character, and manners. He studied grammar under Orion. [ORION.] He also applied himself to learn the Latin language, purposing, after the example of his father, to devote himself to the study of jurisprudence. Leonas having occasion to make a journey to Byzantium, took young Proclus with him, who eagerly embraced the opportunity of continuing his studies. On his return to Alexandria, Proclus abandoned rhetoric and law for the study of philosophy, in which his instructor was Olympiodorus. He also learnt mathematics from Hero. Whether from the confusion of his doctrines, or the indistinctness of his mode of expounding them, Olymp-odorus was rarely understood by his disciples. Proclus, by his extraordinary powers of apprehension and memory, was able, after the lectures, to repeat them almost verbatim to his fellow-pupils. He also with great ease, according to Marinus, learnt by heart the philosophical treatises of Aristotle. Olympiodorus was so delighted with him, that he offered hint his daughter in marriage. Becoming at last dissatisfied with the instruction to be obtained at Alexandria, Proclus removed to Athens, where he was received by a fellow-countryman of the name of Nicolaus. By Syrianus, with whom he formed an acquaintance, he was introduced to Plutarchus, the son of Nestorius, who was charmed with the aptitude and zeal displayed by so young a man (he was at the time not 20 years of age), so that though very old, he addressed himself to the task of instructing the young aspirant, and read with him Aristotle's treatise de Anima and the Phaedo of Plato. He even took him to reside with him, and termed him his son. Plutarchus at his death commended Proclus to the care of his successor Syrianus, who in his turn regarded him rather as a helper and ally in his philosophical pursuits, than as a disciple, and took him to cultivate with him the ascetic system of life, which was becoming the practice of the school, and soon selected him as his future successor. After a sufficient foundation had been laid by the study of Aristotle, Proclus was initiated into the philosophy of Plato and the mystic theology of the school. By his intense application and unwearied diligence, he achieved such rapid progress, that by his 28th year he had written his commentary on the Timaeus of Plato, as well as many other treatises. On the death of Syrianus he succeeded him, and inherited from him the house in which he resided and taught. The income which he derived from his school seems to have been considerable. (Phot. p. 337b. ed. Bekk.) He also found time to take part in public affairs, giving his advice on important occasions, and, by precept and example, endeavouring to guide the conduct of the leading men. Whether it was that his interference in this way provoked hostility, or (as Ritter, vol. iv. p. 658 believes) that his eager attachment to, and diligent observance of heathen practices had drawn down upon him the suspicion of violating the laws of the Christian emperors, Proclus was compelled to quit Athens for a time; he went to Asia, where he had the opportunity of making himself better acquainted with the mystic rites of the East. He himself compiled a collection of the Chaldaean oracles, on which he laboured for five years. After a year's absence, he came back to Athens. After his return he proceeded more circumspectly in his religious observances, concealing them even from his disciples, for which purpose, Marinus tells us, his house was conveniently situated. The profounder secrets of his philosophy he proclaimed only to his most confidential disciples, in meetings with respect to which it appears secrecy was enjoined (ἅγραφοι συνούσιαι). Marinus records, with intense admiration, the perfection to which he attained in all virtues. His ascetic temper led him to decline the numerous advantageous matrimonial connections that were offered to him; but towards all his friends he exhibited the greatest urbanity, watching over their welfare with the most sedulous care; if any of them were ill, addressing the most fervent supplications to the gods for their recovery, and himself adopting all the means which he could to restore them. His friendship with Archiadas reached a perfectly Pythagorean perfection. But far beyond these mere social virtues was, in the estimation of Marinus, his devotion to the purifying virtues, that is, to every form of superstition and fanaticism. All the mystic rites of purification, Orphic and Chaldaean, he practised most assiduously. From animal food he almost totally abstained ; fasts and vigils, of which he prescribed to himself even more than were customary, he observed with scrupulous exactitude. The reverence with which he honoured the sun and moon would seem to have been unbounded. He celebrated all the important religious festivals of every nation, himself composing hymns in honour not only of Grecian deities, but of those of other nations also. Nor were departed heroes and philosophers excepted from this religious veneration; and he even performed sacred rites in honour of the departed spirits of the entire human race. Indeed, he held that the philosopher should be the hierophant of the whole world. His ordinary labours at the same time seem to have been very great. He delivered five lectures a day, besides holding a species of literary soirées. It was of course not surprising that such a man should be favoured with various apparitions and miraculous interpositions of the gods, in which he seems himself to have believed as devoutly as his encomiast Marinus. At least, he used to tell, with tears in his eyes, how a god had once appeared and proclaimed to him the glory of the city. But the still higher grade of what, in the language of the school, was termed the theurgic virtue, he attained by his profound meditations on the oracles, and the Orphic and Chaldaic mysteries, into the profound secrets of which he was initiated by Asclepigeneia, the daughter of Plutarchus, who alone was in complete possession of the theurgic knowledge and discipline, which had descended to her from the great Nestorius. He profited so much by her instructions, as to be able, if we may believe Marinus, to call down rain in a time of drought, to stop an earthquake, and to procure the immediate intervention of Aesculapius to cure the daughter of his friend Archiadas. It was supernaturally revealed to him in a dream, that he belonged to the Hermetic chain. (a species of heathen apostolical succession), and that the soul of the Pythagorean Nicomachus dwelt in him.

Proclus died on the 17th of April, A. D. 485, the year after an eclipse of the sun mentioned by Marinus, and determined to have occurred Jan. 13. 484. The seventy-five years which Marinus assigns as the length of his life are of course lunar years. During the last five years of his life he had become superannuated, his strength having been exhausted by his fastings and other ascetic practices. According to Marinus he was endowed with the greatest bodily as well as mental advantages. His senses remained entire till his death. He was possessed of great strength and remarkable personal beauty. He was only twice or thrice in his life attacked with anything like severe illness, though it appears that he was somewhat liable to attacks of the gout. His powers of memory are described as prodigious. He was buried near Lycabettus. In his will he liberally remembered his slaves. As a philosopher he enjoyed the highest celebrity among his contemporaries and successors. Marinus does not scruple to call him absolutely inspired, and to affirm that when he uttered his profound dogmas his countenance shone with a preternatural light. Besides his other philosophical attainments he was a distinguished mathematician, astronomer and grammarian. Cousin considers that all the philosophic rays which ever emanated from the great thinkers of Greece, Orpheus, Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle, Zeno, Plotinus, &c. were concentrated in and re-emitted by Proclus (Praef. p. xxvi.). Such laudation is extravagant and absurd. Proclus was a fanciful speculator, but nothing more, though the vagueness and incomprehensibility of his system may have led some moderns to imagine that they were interpreting Proclus when they were only giving utterance to their own vague speculations. That Proclus, with all his profundity, was utterly destitute of good sense, may be gathered from what Marinus tells of him, that he used to say that, if he could have his way, he would destroy all the writings that were extant, except the oracles and the Timaeus of Plato; as indeed scarcely any other impression is left by the whole life which Marinus has written of him. That this want of good sense characterised the school generally is clear from the fact that as the successor of Proclus they could tolerate so very silly a person as Marinus.


Works

In the writings of Proclus there is a great effort to give an appearance (and it is nothing more) of strict logical connection to the system developed in them, that form being in his view superior to the methods of symbols and images. He professed that his design was not to bring forward views of his own, but simply to expound Plato, in doing which he proceeded on the idea that everything in Plato must be brought into accordance with the mystical theology of Orpheus. He wrote a separate work on the coincidence of the doctrines of Orpheus, Pythagoras, and Plato. It was in much the same spirit that he attempted to blend together the logical method of Aristotle and the fanciful speculations of Neoplatonic mysticism. Where reasoning fails him, he takes refuge in the πίστις of Plotinus, which is superior to knowledge, conducting us to the operations of theurgy, which transcends all human wisdom, and comprises within itself all the advantages of divinations, puritications, initiations, and all the activities of divine inspiration. Through it we are united with the primeval unity, in which every motion and energy of our souls comes to rest. It is this principle which unites not only men with gods, but the gods with each other, and with the one, -- the good, which is of all things the most credible.

Proclus held, in all its leading features, the doctrine of emanations from one ultimate, primeval principle of all things, the absolute unity, towards union with which again all things strive. This union he did not, like Plotinus, conceive to be effected by means of pure reason, as even things destitute of reason and energy participate in it, purely as the result of their subsistence (ὕπαρξις, Theol. Plat. 1.25, 2.1, 4). In some unaccountable way, therefore, he must have conceived the πίστις, by which he represents this union as being effected, as something which did not involve rational or thinking activity. All inferior existences are connected with the highest only through the intermediate ones, and can return to the higher only through that which is intermediate. Every multitude, in a certain way, partakes of unity, and everything which becomes one, becomes so by partaking of the one. (Inst. Theol. 3.) Every object is a union of the one and the many : that which unites the one and the many is nothing else than the pure, absolute one -- the essential one, which makes every thing else partake of unity.

Proclus argued that there is either one principium, or many principia. If the latter, the principia must be either finite or infinite in number. If infinite, what is derived from them must be infinite, so that we should have a double infinite, or else, finite. But the finite can be derived only from the finite, so that the principia must be finite in number. There would then be a definite number of them. But number presupposes unity. Unity is therefore the principium of principia, and the cause of the finite multiplicity and of the being of all things. (Theol. Plat. 2.1.) There is therefore one principium which is incorporeal, for the corporeal consists of parts. It is immoveable and unchangeable, for every thing that moves, moves towards some object or end, which it seeks after. If the principiuml were moveable it must be in want of the good, and there must be something desirable outside it. But this is impossible, for the principium has need of nothing, and is itself the end towards which everything else strives. The principium, or first cause of all things, is superior to all actual being (οὐσία), and separated from it. and cannot even have it as an attribute. (l.c.) The absolutely one is not an object of cognition to any existing thing, nor can it be named (l.c. p. 95). But in contemplating the emanation of things from the one and their return into it we arrive at two words, the good, and the one, of which the first is analogical and positive, the latter negative only (l.c. p. 96). The absolutely one has produced not only earth and heaven, but all the gods which are above the world and in the world : it is the god of all gods, the unity of all unities (l.c. ii. p. 110). Everything which is perfect strives to produce something else, the full seeks to impart its fulness. Still more must this be the case with the absolute good, though in connection with that we must not conceive of any creative power or energy, for that would be to make the One imperfect and not simple, not fruitful through its very perfection (l.c. p. 101). Every emanation is less perfect than that from which it emanates (Inst. Theol. 7), but has a certain similarity with it, and, so far as this similarity goes, remains in it, departing from it so far as it is unlike, but as far as possible being one with it, and remaining in it (Inst. Theol. 31). What is produced from the absolutely one is produced as unity, or of the nature of unity. Thus the first produced things are independent unities (αὐτοτελεῖς ἑνάδες). Of these independent unities some are simple, others more composite. The nearer the unities are to the absolute unity the simpler they are, but the greater is the sphere of their operation and their productive power. Thus out of unity there arises a multitude of things which depart farther and farther from the simplicity of the absolute one; and as the producing power diminishes, it introduces more and more conditions into things, while it diminishes their universality and simplicity. His whole system of emanations seems in fact to be a realization of the logical subordination of ideas. The simplest ideas which are contained in those which are composite being regarded by him as the principles of things.

The emanations of Proclus proceeded in a curious triadic manner. That which precedes all power, and emanates immediately from the primal cause of all things, is limit. The power or force which produces existence is infinitude (Theol. Plat. iii. p. 133). From these two principia arises a third, a compound of the two -- substance (as a sort of genus of all substances), that which in itself is absolutely an existing thing and nothing more (l.c. p. 135). Everything, according to Proclus, contains in itself being (οὐσία), life (ζωή), and intelligence (νοῦς). The life is the centre of the thing, for it is both an object of thought and exists. The intelligence is the limit of the thing, for the intellect (ϝοῦς) is in that which is the object of intellect (νοητόν), and the latter in the former; but the intellect or thought exists in the thing thought of objectively, and the thing thought of exists in the intellect productively (νοερῶς). This accordingly is the first triad, limit, infinitude, and the compound of the two. Of these the first -- the limit -- is the deity who advances to the extreme verge of the conceivable from the inconceivable, primal deity, measuring and defining all things, and establishes the paternal, concatenating and immaculate race of gods. The infinite is the inexhaustible power of this deity. The "mixed." is the first and highest world of gods, which in a concealed manner comprehends everything within itself.

Out of this first triad springs the second. As the first of the unities produces the highest existing thing, the intermediate unity produces the intermediate existent thing, in which there is something first -- unity, divinity, reality; something intermediate-power; and something last -- the existence in the second grade, conceivable life (νοητὴ ζωή); for there is in everything which is the object of thought, being (τὸ εἶναι), life (τὸ ζῆν), and thought (τὸ νοεῖν). The third of the unities, the "mixed," produces the third triad, in which the intelligence or thinking power (νοῦς) attains to its subsistence. This thinking power is the limit and completion of everything which can be the object of thought. The first triad contains the principle of union, -- the second of multiplicity and increase by means of continuous motion or life, for notion is a species of life, -- the third, the principle of the separation of the manifold, and of formation by means of limit.

In his treatise on Providence and Fate, Proclus seeks to explain the difference between the two, and to showthat the second is subordinate to the first in such.a manner that freedom is consistent with it. Both providence and fate are causes, the first the cause of all good, the second the cause of all connection (and connection as cause and effect). There are three sorts of things, some whose operation is as eternal as their substance, others whose substance does not exist, but is perpetually coming into existence, and, between these, things whose substance is eternal, but whose operation takes place in time. Proclus names these three kinds intellectual, animal and corporeal. The last alone are subjected to fate, which is identical with nature and is itself subject to providence which is nothing else than the deity himself. The corporeal part of man is entirely subject to fate. The soul, as regards its substance, is superior to fate ; as regards its operation, sometimes (referring to those operations which require corporeal organs and motions) beneath, sometimes superior to fate, and so forms the bond of connection between intellectual and corporeal existence. The freedom of the soul consists in its living according to virtue, for this alone does not involve servitude. Wickedness on the other hand is want of power, and by it the soul is subjected to fate, and is compelled to serve all that ministers to or hinders the gratification of the desires. Proclus strongly distinguished the soul from that which is material, pointing out its reflective power as a mark of difference; the corporeal not being able to turn back in that way upon itself, owing to its consisting of separable parts. He founded on this also an argument for the immortality of the soul. (Inst. Theol. 15.) Some of the topics touched upon in this treatise are carried out still further in the essay On Ten Questions about Providence.

In the treatise on the origin of evil (περὶ τῆς τῶν κακῶν ὑποστάσεως), Proclus endeavours to show that evil does not originate with God, or with the daemons, or with matter. Evil is the consequence of a weakness, the absence of some power. As with the total absence of all power activity would be annihilated, there cannot be any total, unmixed evil. The good has one definite, eternal, universally operating cause, namely God. The causes of evil are manifold, indefinite, and not subject to rule. Evil has not an original, but only a derivative existence.

The following works of Proclus are still extant:


1. Εἰς τὴν Πλάτωνος Θεολογίαν

in six books.


2. Στοιχείωσις Θεολογική (Institutio Theologica).

This treatise was first published in the Latin translation of Franciscus Patricius. The Greek text, with the translation of Aem. Portus, is appended to the edition of the last-mentioned work, published at Hamburgh in 1618.


3. A commentary on the First Alcibiades of Plato.


4. A commentary on the Timaeus of Plato.

Of this commentary on the Timaeus five books remain, but they only treat of about a third of the dialogue. It is appended to the first Basle edition of Plato.


5. Various notes on the Πολιτεία of Plato,

Printed in the same edition of Plato as the last-mentioned work.


6. A commentary on the Parmenides of Plato,

published in Stallbaum's edition of that dialogue.


7. Portions of a commentary on the Cratylus of Plato

Editions

edited by Boissonade, Lips. 1820.


8. A paraphrase of various difficult passages in the τετράβιβλος σύνταξις of Ptolemaeus

Edition

first published, with a preface, by Melanchthon, at Basle, 1554.


9. A treatise on motion (περὶ κινήσεως

a sort of compendinm of the last five books of Aristotle's treatise περὶ φυσικῆς ἀκροάσεως.


10. Ὑποτύπωσις τῶν ἀστρονομικῶν ὑποθέσεων

Editions

Basle, 1520.


11. Σφαῖρα

frequently appended to the works of the ancient astronomers. There are also several separate editions of it.


12. A commentary on the first book of Euclid's elements

(attached to various editions of the text of Euclid).


13. A commentary on the Ἔργα καὶ ἡμέραι of Hesiod

in a somewhat mutilated form (Ὑπόμνημα εἰς τὰ Ἡσιόδου ἔργα καὶ ἡμέρας

Editions

First published at Venice in 1537. A better edition is that by Heinsius (Leyden, 1603).


14. Χρηστομάθεια γραμματική

or rather some portions of it preserved by Photius (cod. 239), treating of poetry and the lives of various celebrated poets. The short life of Homer which passes under the name of Proclus, was probably taken from this work.


15. Ἐπιχειρήματα ιη# κατὰ Χριστιανῶν.

The object of this work was to maintain the eternity of the universe against the Christian doctrine on the subject. The work of Proclus has not come down to us in a separate form, but we still possess his arguments in the refutation of them by Joannes Philoponus (de Aeternitate Mundi).


16.

addressed to Theodorus, a mechanician.


17. Decem Dubitationes circa Providentiam (περὶ τῶν δέκα πρὸς τὴν Πρόνοιαν ἀπορημάτων).


18. De Malorum Subsistentia (Περὶ τῆς τῶν κακῶν ὑποστάσεω

This and the two preceding treatises only exist in the Latin translation of Gulielmus de Morbeka.

Editions

They are printed entire by Fabricius, in his Bibliotheca Graeca, vol. ix. p. 373, &c.


19. A little astrological treatise on the effect of eclipses

in a Latin translation.


20. A treatise on poetry

Editions

also in a Latin translation, printed, together with a treatise by Choeroboscus (Paris, 1615).


21. Five hymns.


22. Some scholia on Homer.


Editions

There is no complete edition of the extant works of Proclus. The edition of Cousin (Paris, 6 vols. 8vo., 1820-1827) contains the treatises on Providence and Fate, on the Ten Doubts about Providence, and on the Nature of Evil, the commentary on the Alcibiades, and the commentary on the Parmenides. There are English translations of the commentaries on the Timaeus, the six books on the Theology of Plato, the commentaries on the first book of Euclid, and the Theological Elements, and the five Hymns, by Thomas Taylor.


Lost Works

Besides the treatises already mentioned, the following have perished :--

1. A commentary on the Philebus of Plato

Procl. in Tim. p. 53, 222.

2. A commentary on the Phaedrus of Plato

Procl. in Tim. p. 329.

3. A defence of the Timaeus of Plato against the ἀντιρρήσεις of Aristotle

Procl. in Tim. p. 226. βιβλίον ἰδίᾳ ἐκδεδωκὼς οἶδα τῶν πρὸς τὸν Τίμαιον Ἀριστοτέλους ἀντιρρήσεων, ἐπισκέψεις ποιουμένων).

4. Καθαρτικὸς τῶν δογμάτων τοῦ Πλάτωνος

against Domninus. (Suid, s. v. Δομνῖνος.)

5. A commentary on the Theaetetus of Plato.

Marinus, l.c. cap. ult.

6. Νόμοι

a commentary apparently on the Laws of Plato. (Procl. in Tim. p. 178).

7. Notes on the Ἐννεάδες of Plotinus.

8. Μητρωακὴ βίβλος

on the mother of the gods. (Suid. s. v. Προκλ.

9. Εἰς τὴν Ὀρφέως θεολογίαν.

(Suid. l.c. ; Marinus, 100.27.)

10. Περὶ τὰ λόγια

in ten books. (Suid. Marin. 100.26.)

11. A commentary on Homer.

(Suid.)

12. Περὶ τῶν παρ᾽ Ὁμήρῳ θεῶν.

(Suid.)

13. Συμφωνία Ὀρφέως, Πυθαγόρου καὶ Πλάτωνος.

(Suid. Marin. 100.22.)

14. On the three ἑνάδες νοηταί, namely, ἀλήθεια, καλλονή, and συμμετρία.

(Procl. in Polit. p. 433.)

15. Εἰς τὸν λόγον τῆς Διοτίμας περὶ τῆς τῶν κακῶν ὑποστάσεως.

16. Περὶ ἀγωγῆς

on the theurgic discipline, in two books. (Suid.)

17. Various hymns and epigrams.


Further Information

Fabric. Bibl. Graec. vol. ix. pp. 363-445; Brucker, Historia Critica Philosophiae, vol. ii. pp. 319-336 ; Tennemann, Geschichte der Philosophie, vol. vi. ; Ritter, Geschichte der Philosophie, bk. 13.100.3. vol. iv. p. 699, &c.

[C.P.M]

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