Sunday, February 16, 2014

Two Orations of the Emperor Julian

Two Orations of the Emperor Julian

One to the Sovereign Sun and the other to the Mother of the Gods;

translated by Thomas Taylor


Hence, in the ensuing orations, he has happily blended the majestic diction of a Roman Emperor with the gravity of sentiment peculiar to a Platonic philosopher, and with that scientific and manly piety which is so conspicuous in the writings of antient theologists. His language is, indeed, highly magnificent, and in every respect becoming the exalted rank which he sustained, and the great importance of the subjects of his discourse: in short, the grandeur of his soul is so visible in his composition, that we may safely credit what he asserted of himself, that he was formerly Alexander the Great. And if we consider the actions

p. 7

of Alexander and Julian, we shall easily be induced to believe, that it was one and the same person who, in different periods, induced the Indians, Bactrians, and inhabitants of Caucasus, to worship the Grecian deities: took down the contemptible ensign of his predecessor, and raised in its stead the majestic Roman eagles; and every where endeavoured to restore a religion which is coeval with the universe, by banishing gigantically-daring, and barbaric belief.
The first of these orations, which celebrates that glorious divinity, the Sun, is not only valuable for the piety and eloquence displayed in its composition, but for its containing much important information from a treatise of Jamblichus on the gods, which is unfortunately lost. The name of Jamblichus must, indeed, be dear to every genuine lover of Platonism, and any work replete with his doctrines may certainly, with justice, lay claim to immortality. However, as the theology of Orpheus, Pythagoras, and Plato, does not appear to have been unfolded in the most consummate perfection, even by Jamblichus himself, this great talk being reserved for the incomparable Proclus, we shall find in such books of Proclus as are fortunately
p. 8
preserved, a more accurate account in some particulars of the essence and powers of the Sun. This account I shall lay before the reader, (after I have premised a few particulars concerning the existence and nature of the gods), that he may see in what the Emperor's discourse is defective, and in what it is agreeable to the truth.
That after the first cause, then, who, from the transcendent excellence of his nature, was justly considered by all the, pious antients as superessential and ineffable, there should be a divine multitude, or, in other words, gods subordinate indeed to the first, but at the same time exquisitely allied to him, is a doctrine so congenial with the unperverted conceptions of the soul, that it can only be rejected during the most degraded generations of mankind: for if there be no such thing as a vacuum either in incorporeal or corporeal natures, and if in every well-ordered progression the similar precedes the dissimilar, and this, so as to cause the whole series to be united in the most perfect degree, it is necessary that the first progeny of the first god should be no other than gods. 1
Indeed, those who are skilled in the most scientific dialectic of Plato, know that a unity or monad is every where the leader of a kindred multitude; and that, in consequence of this, there is one first nature and many natures, one first soul and many souls, one first intellect and many intellects, and one first god and a kindred multitude of gods.
But as this highest god, from the transcendent simplicity of his nature, was profoundly called by the Platonic philosophers the one, hence all the gods, considered according to the characteristics or summits of their natures, will be unities; but they will differ from the first cause in this, that he is alone superessential without any addition, and is perfectly exempt from all habitude or alliance to any other nature, whereas each of the other gods is participated by something inferior to itself, viz. either by being, life, intellect, soul, or body, from which participations all the divine orders are produced, and through which they become subordinate to the highest god.
In addition, therefore, to what I have said concerning the first cause, and the gods, his
p. 10
immediate progeny, in my Introduction to Plato's Parmenides, the following observations, extracted from the 6th book of Proclus, on that most theological dialogue, will, I doubt not, be highly acceptable to the truly liberal reader. "The one, then, is the principle of all things, since to be united is to every thing good, and the greatest of goods; but that which is every way separated from unity is evil, and the greatest of evils; since it becomes the cause of dissimilitude, privation of sympathy, division, and a departure from a subsistence according to nature. The first cause, therefore, as supplying all things with the greatest good, unites all things, and is, on this account, called the one. And hence the gods, from their surpassing similitude to the first god, will be unities proceeding from this one principle, and yet ineffably absorbed in his nature. Thus, for instance, (that we may illustrate this doctrine by an example) we perceive many causes of light, some of which are celestial and others sublunary; for light proceeds to our terrestrial abode from material fire, from the moon, and from the other stars, and this, so as to be different according to the difference of its cause. But if we explore the one monad of all mundane light,
p. 11
from which other lucid natures and sources of light derive their subsistence, we shall find that it is no other, than the apparent orb of the Sun; for this orbicular body proceeds, as it is said, from. an occult and supermundane order, and disseminates in all mundane natures a light commensurate with each."
"Shall we say then that this apparent body is the principle of light? But this is endued with interval, and is divisible, and light proceeds from the different parts which it contains. But we are at present investigating the one principle of light: shall we say, therefore, that the ruling soul of this body generates mundane light? This indeed produces light, but not primarily, for it is itself multitude; and light contains a representation of a simple and uniform subsistence. May not intellect therefore, which is the cause of soul, be the fountain of this light! Intellect, indeed, is more united than soul, but is not that which is properly and primarily the principle of light. It remains, therefore, that the one of this intellect, its summit, and, as it were, flower, must be the first principle of mundane light. For this is properly the sun which reigns over the visible place, and, according
p. 12
to Plato in the Republic, is the offspring of the good; since every unity proceeds from thence, and every deity is the progeny of the unity of unities, and the fountain of the gods. And as the good is the principle of light to intelligibles, in like manner the unity of the solar order is the principle of light to all visible natures, and is analogous to the good, in which it is occultly established, and from which it never departs."
"But this unity having an order prior to the solar intellect, there is also in intellect, so far as intellect, a unity participated from this unity, which is emitted into it like a seed, and through which intellect is united with the unity or deity of the sun. This, too, is the case with the soul of the sun; for this, through the one which she contains, is elevated through the one of intellect as a medium, to the deity of the sun. And we must understand the same with respect to the body of the sun, that there is in this a certain resounding echo, as it were, of the primary solar one: for it is necessary that the solar body should participate of things superior to itself; of soul, according to the life which is disseminated in it; of intellect, according to its form; and of unity, according to its one, since soul
p. 18
participates both of intellect and this one, and participations are different from the things which are participated. You may say, therefore, that the proximate cause of the solar light is this unity of the solar orb."
"In like manner, if we should investigate the root, as it were, of all bodies, from which celestial and sublunary bodies, wholes and parts, blossom into existence, we may not improperly say that this is Nature, which is the principle of motion and rest to all bodies, and which is established in them, whether they are in motion or at rest. But I mean by Nature, the one life of the world, which, being subordinate to intellect and soul, participates through these of generation. And this, indeed, is more a principle than many and partial natures, but is not that which is properly the principle of bodies; for this contains a multitude of powers, and through such as are different, governs different parts of the universe: but we are now investigating the one and common principle of all bodies, and not many and distributed principles. If, therefore, we wish to discover this one principle, we must raise ourselves to that which is most united in Nature to its flower, and that
p. 14
through which it is a deity, by which it is suspended from its proper fountain, connects, unites, and causes the universe to have a sympathetic consent with itself. Thisone, therefore, is the principle of all generation) and is that which reigns over the many powers of Nature, over partial natures, and universally over every thing subject to the dominion of Nature."
Thus far Proclus, from which admirable passage it is easy to infer that principles are every where unities, and that the highest principles are no other than gods or superessential blossoms, involved in unproceeding union with the first god, and absorbed in ineffable light. But the same incomparable man farther observes, "All these unities are in each other, and are profoundly united with each other, and their union is far greater than the communion and sameness which subsist in beings; for in these there is, indeed, a mutual mixture of forms, similitude and friendship, and a participation of each other; but the union of the gods, as being a union of unities, is much more uniform, ineffable, and transcendent: for here all are in all which does not take place in forms or ideas; 1 and their
p. 15
unmingled purity, and the characteristic of each, in a manner far surpassing the diversity in ideas, preserves their natures unconfused, and distinguishes their peculiar powers. Hence some of them are more universal, and others more particular; some of them are characterized according to abiding, others according to progression, and others according to conversion; some again are generative, others reductive, and others demiurgic; and universally there are different characteristics of different gods, viz. the connective, perfective, demiurgic assimilative, and such others as are celebrated posterior to these: so that all are in all, and yet each is, at the same time, separate and distinct."
"Indeed, we obtain this knowledge of their union and characteristics from the natures by which they are participated; for, with respect to the apparent gods, we say, that there is one soul of the sun and another of the earth directing our attention to the apparent bodies of these divinities, which possess much variety in their essence, powers, and dignity among wholes. As, therefore, we apprehend the difference of incorporeal essences from sensible inspection, in like manner from the variety of incorporeal essences we are enabled
p. 16
to know something of the unmingled distinction of the first and superessential unities, and of the characteristics of each; for each unity has a multitude suspended from its nature, which is either intelligible 1 alone, or, at the same time, intelligible and intellectual, or intellectual alone; and this last is either participated or not participated, and this again is either supermundane or mundane: and thus far does the progression of the unities extend." And, shortly after, he adds, "As trees by their extremities are rooted in the earth, and through this are earthly in every part, in the same manner divine natures are rooted by their summits in the one, and each is a unity andone, through its unconfused union with the one itself."
If the reader, therefore, unites these beautiful passages with what I have delivered concerning the gods, in my Introduction to the Parmenides, and has, at the same time, a genius adapted to such speculations, he will find that the observation of Jamblichus is no less admirable than true, "that a knowledge of the Gods is virtue, wisdom, and consummate felicity, and assimilates us to the Gods
p. 17
themselves." He will find that the theology of Plato is the progeny of the most consummate science and wisdom, and that it is as much superior to all other theological systems which oppose it, as reality to fiction, or intellect to irrational opinion.
Having premised thus much, I shall now present the reader with an account of the nature of the Sun, extracted from Proclus on Plato's Theology, from his Commentaries on the Timæus, and from his Scholia on the Cratylus, in which he will find the most arcane and perfect information concerning this mighty divinity which can perhaps at present be obtained. 1
The fontal sun, then, subsists in Jupiter, the perfect artificer of the world, who produced the hypostasis of, the sun from his own essence. Through the solar fountain contained in his essence, the Demiurgus generates solar powers in the principles of the universe, and a triad of solar gods, through which all things are unfolded into light, and are perfected and replenished with intellectual
p. 18
goods; through the first of these solar monads participating unpolluted light and intelligible harmony; but from the other two, efficacious power, vigour, and demiurgic perfection. The sun subsists in the most beautiful proportion to the good: for as the splendour proceeding from the good is the light of intelligible natures; so that proceeding from Apollo is the light of the intellectual world; and that which emanates from the apparent sun is the light of the sensible world. And both the sun and Apollo are analogous to the good; but sensible light and intellectual truth are analogous to superessential light. But though Apollo and the sun subsist in wonderful union with each other, yet they likewise inherit a proper distinction and diversity of nature. Hence, by poets inspired by Phœbus, the different generative causes of the two are celebrated, and the fountains are distinguished from which their hypostasis is derived. At the same time they are described as closely united with each other, and are celebrated with each other's mutual appellations: for the sun vehemently rejoices to be celebrated as Apollo; and Apollo, when he is invoked as the sun, benignantly imparts the splendid light of truth
It is the illustrious
p. 19
property of Apollo to collect multitude into one, to comprehend number in one, and from one to produce many natures; to convolve in himself, through intellectual simplicity, all the variety of secondary natures; and, through one hyparxis, to collect into one multiform essences and powers. This god, through a simplicity exempt from multitude, imparts to secondary natures prophetic truth; for that which is simple is the same with. that which is true: but through his liberated essence he impartsa purifying, unpolluted, and preserving power: and his emission of arrows is the symbol of his destroying every thing inordinate, wandering, and immoderate in the world. But his revolution is the symbol of the harmonic motion of the universe, collecting all things into union and consent. And these four powers of the god may be accommodated to the three solar monads, which he contains. The first monad 1, therefore, of this god is enunciative of truth, and of the intellectual light which subsists occultly in the gods. But the second 2 is destructive of every thing wandering and confused:
p. 20
but the third 1 causes all things to subsist in symmetry and familiarity with each other, through harmonic reasons. And the unpolluted and most pure cause, which he comprehends in himself, obtains the principality, illuminating all things with perfection and power, according to nature, and banishing every thing contrary to these.
Hence, of the solar triad, the first monad unfolds intellectual light, enunciates it to all secondary natures, fills all things with universal truth, and converts them to the intellect of the gods; which employment is ascribed to the prophetic power of Apollo, who produces into light the truth contained ill divine natures, and perfects that which is unknown in the secondary orders of things. But the second and third monads are the causes of efficacious vigour, demiurgic effection in the universe, and perfect energy, according to which these monads adorn every sensible nature, and exterminate every thing indefinite and inordinate in the world.
And one monad is analogous to musical fabrication, and to the harmonic providence of natures which are moved. But the second
p. 21
is analogous to that which is destructive of all confusion, and of that perturbation which is contrary to form, and the orderly disposition of the universe. But the third monad, which supplies all things with an abundant communion of beauty, and extends true beautitude to all things, bounds the solar principles, and guards its triple progression. In a similar manner, likewise, it illuminates progressions with a perfect and intellectual measure of a blessed life, by those purifying and pæonian powers of the king Apollo, which obtain an analogous principality in the sun.--The sun is allotted a supermundane 1 order
p. 22
in the world, an unbegotten supremacy among generated forms, and an intellectual dignity among sensible natures. Hence he
p. 23
has a twofold progression, one in conjunction with the other mundane gods, but the other exempt from them, supernatural and unknown. For the Demiurgus, according to Plato in the Timæus, enkindled in the solar sphere a light unlike the splendour of the other planets, producing it from his own essence, extending to mundane natures, as it were from certain secret recesses, a symbol of intellectual essences, and exhibiting to the universe the arcane nature of the supermundane gods. Hence, when the sun first arose, he astonished the mundane gods, all of whom were desirous of dancing round him, and of being replenished with his light. The sun, too, governs the twofold co-ordinations of the world, which co-ordinations are denominated hands, by those who are skilled in divine concerns, because they are effective, motive, and demiurgic of the universe. But they are considered as twofold; one the right hand, but the other the left.
And lastly, the sun being supermundane, emits the fountains of light; for among supermundane natures there is a solar world and total light; and this light is a monad prior to the empyrean, ætherial, and material
p. 24
worlds 1. And thus much for an account of the sun, from Proclus, On the Timæus and Theology of Plato: the following is from his Scholia on the Cratylus.

In the first place, then, Proclus informs us, that there is a great correspondence between the Coric series, or the order belonging to Proserpine, and the Apolloniacal; for the former is the unity of the middle triad of Rulers, (meaning of the supermundane gods) and emits from herself vivific powers; but the latter converts the solar principles to one union: and the solar principles are allotted a subsistence immediately after the vivific. Hence (says he) according to Orpheus, when Ceres delivered up the government to Proserpine, she thus admonished her:
Αυταρ Απολλωνος θαλερον λεχος εισαναβασα,
Τεξεται αγλαα τεκνα πυριφλεγεθοντα προσωποις.
That is,
But next Apollo's florid bed ascend;
For thus the god fam'd offspring shall beget,
Refulgent with the beams of glowing fire.
p. 25
But how could this be the case, unless there was a considerable degree of communion between these divinities.
But it is requisite to know thus much concerning Apollo, that, according to the first and most natural conception, his name signifies the cause of union, and that power which collects multitude into one; and this mode of speculation concerning his name harmonizes with all the orders of the god. After this, he observes, in answer to the question why Socrates, in the Cratylus, begins from the medicinal power of the gods, proceeds through his prophetic and arrow-darting powers, and lastly ends in his harmonic power, that all the energies of this divinity subsist in all the orders of beings, but that different energies appear to have more or less dominion in different orders: thus, for instance, the medicinal power of Apollo is most apparent in the sublunary region, for
There slaughter, rage, and countless Ills beside,
Disease, decay, and rottenness reside. 1
And as these are moved in an inordinate
p. 26

manner, they require to be restored from a condition contrary, into one agreeable to nature, and from incommensuration and manifold division, into symmetry and union.