Review of Proclus’ Commentary on Plato’s Timaeus

The Commentaries of Proclus on the Timaeus of Plato is an exegesis of a text and gives me for the first time an understanding of pagan religion through a theology of it because theology is what Proclus’ philosophy is.  In its light I can also make sense of John’s ‘In the beginning was the Word.’

My interest is in what he has to say about the soul.  ‘Every animal which is moved according to place has a self-motive soul.’  Plants don’t have this rational soul.  Since he’s laid will aside, apart from the soul, probably because by it he means conscious will, I find it hard to accept his soul can move anybody because in my experience, when the spirit leaves, one is barely able to move to the bottom of a mattress for god knows how many days.  My trouble with these religious people is that in their exegesis, or whatever, there is very little evidence any of them ever had any spiritual experience whatsoever though Augustine does know his spirit is sunk inside.  My resolution is to designate the will or spirit as the moving half of the psyche and the other half as soul, receptive to the spirit which I think most commonly comes into play in most people’s lives with sex which may induce the sunken spirit to levitate to the surface and leap beyond, the spirit symbolised by its corporeal manifestation, rather like energy turned into matter though spirit is less matter than even energy.  At any rate I’ve known people’s psyches to think of themselves as gods and goddesses, taking sex as due worship, or at the very least a king even though his father was still alive but, despite Proclus, when souls are engaged they’re little subject to reason.  One, because her spirit didn’t move much, thought of herself as the centre of the universe because everybody else revolved round her rather as in Proclus’ view everything revolved round an immobile earth.  I laughed and cut off spiritual communication.   Her soul had to move her body four hundred miles to tell me she didn’t think she was the centre of the universe but the centre of her universe.  When, however, I referred to this admission, she simply denied all knowledge of it and to all intents and purposes accused me of making that she had up, such is the use made by the unconscious of consciousness’ ignorance of it since sunk inside but it can come out when it wants without any conscious memory of its takeover – because where do you think consciousness is on such occasions?  Unconscious! – or she was lying, because, in my experience, you, therefore her, get the gist of what you do unconsciously.

But reason, logos, Proclus says, pertains to souls.  In the beginning was reason….  Uh-huh.  ‘The rational nature is different,’ he goes on.  ‘In our souls it is mingled with the irrational nature.’  He can say that again.  He puts rationality first but irrationality, such as I’ve delineated above, whenever engaged, puts itself first and will find its way round rational inhibition and, if we want emotional satisfaction, should.  Or maybe shouldn’t, depending what that satisfaction consists of.

A soul such as we have ‘has the same intellect as the daemon from which it is suspended.’  I can go along with that.  Call the spirit which informed her psyche she was centre of the universe, his he was king, theirs they were gods and goddesses, a daemon, and according to Proclus daemons are gods, and your unconsciouses are not being as irrational as your consciousness rationally supposes – and wants not to know of.  Maybe her soul was simply depraved.  Proclus says Plato says ‘the depraved soul should be changed into the nature of a woman.’  But he goes on for the only time to cast doubt on Plato by saying, ‘But how can we any longer say that the virtues of men and women are common? that Diotima who elevated  Socrates should not obtain the same form of life because she was invested with the body of a woman?’  Fair enough.  Your souls are all equally depraved.  He was writing in the fifth century.  ‘The mortal animal is the cause of evil to itself, the depravity of the soul, intemperance, timidity, every vice.’  Proclus was absolving his god of all responsibility for it though he had fabricated the universe.  There’s an easier way.  It’s in the genes.  Is there any reason the incorporeal spirit or soul shouldn’t be conveyed genetically along with the cast of the body or life which is in every cell and cloned makes for a sheep with a different soul from the sheep cloned from?  That’s not exactly absolving god if he started the process of life or the universe in which life has occurred on one planet in it….  And with that we’re back to geocentricity.  But why would you need a fabricating or creator god when that solves nothing?  To say that god or fabricator isn’t himself or itself fabricated solves nothing either.  The universe fabricated itself out of nothing and went on to generate life, on one planet.  It’s god.  We’re god and that’s why our unconsciouses think they are.  Self-projecting, we fabricated paganism, which does suit better.  Plato thought the soul was inserted at birth but that’s from outside.  We’d have to make that as from conception, and from inside, genetically.  Why not?  Gets rid of the middlemen.

‘The senses are externally borne along because they announce externals; and they fall upon the soul, because their annunciations are accompanied with passion.  They become leaders of the whole life of the soul, cause it to speak and think such things as they announce, and to fancy that which is apprehended by sense and which a man touches or eats or drinks has a true existence,’ but that which is spiritual to be a nonentity.  He doesn’t say spiritual.  He’s too conceited of consciousness to say that, too unaware of himself beyond the rational mind.  He says intelligible.  Maybe he didn’t have much of a daemon.  For me the spiritual, the daemonic was the greater reality though with age corporeal reality is beginning to figure more.  I tend to agree with Galen who says, according to Proclus, the powers of the soul follow the temperaments of the body, because spiritual power flags with illness I’ve noticed.  Proclus would rather say the body becomes at one time an impediment to the soul and at another disturbs it in a less degree.  What d’you think?

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About johnbrucecairns

I'm a retired history teacher who's written for most of his life with a book readied for publication.
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