> Dear Mike, Many thanks for your clarification of Proclus' position on
human/animal souls and how geometrical justice is related to the choice
of lives. Does this animation of animal bodies and being "connected
relationally" to a an animal soul mean that according to the notion of
metempsychosis, the irrational or perishable elements of the human soul
(which are related to a human soul and its immortal "part") can be
transferred to an animal soul. If not in which sense do you think this
connection (*en skhesei*) could work?
M.C. This is a very tricky question. Theodoros of Asine, probably
following Porphyry, seems to have argued that when, for instance, Plato
talks about a human soul migrating into a kite, the kite has its own
(irrational) soul, but the rational human soul becomes bound to that
irrational animal soul and stays with it and flies along with it (Aen.
Gaz. Theophrastus p. 14, 12ff. Colonna). For Theodoros, to say that a
human soul enters into a *skhesis* with an animal seems to mean that it
enters a close but not irrevocable relationship with that soul (Deuse,
Theodoros von Asine 159). It's interesting to compare Iamblichus' view
(apud Sallustius De diis 20): if a soul's metempsychosis takes place into
an irrational being, it does not become part of that irrational being (as
it *would* become part of a rational being), but it merely follows that
being from outside, like the demon that has received us by lot [acc. to
the myth of Er in the Republic]. Thus human soul:animal = demon:human.
For example, the famous fragment about Pythagoras recognizing a friend in
a dog that was being beaten ("I knew him by his voice"). This can mean
that all life, human, animal, vegetal, is related, connected, and it is in
a sense sacred because it comes from the same divine source, Intelligible
Life. But, in Pythagoreanism and Neoplatonism, it seems problematic that
the divine part of the soul, the immortal soul that defines a person, can
pass from a human body to an animal body.
M.C. Yes. Porphyry - at least in some of his works - seems to have broken
with Plotinus on this point and insisted that Plato's talk of
reincarnations of human souls into animals must be understood
In relation to the journey of the soul through the Zodiacal cycle, in
Numenius, Plato, Porphyry, Proclus and Macrobius, and the gateways or
doors of the souls (in Capricorn and Cancer) of the souls, mentioned by
Marilynn, it could be added that the Platonic goal of assimilation to god
(Theaetetus) is associated to the aim of the souls when directing their
lives towards Capricorn, which is the divine door and "escape" of the
cycle of genesis. It might take many circuits or "laps", but it seems that
Capricorn is what counts (the ascent). This journey of the soul between
two poles might have been represented in the Roman chariot races, where
dolphins and eggs were used to count the laps. And the dolphin is an
astrological representation connected to Capricorn (or in India with the
Makara). Cancer on the other hand, was associated with the crab or the
Hydra killed by Hercules (or an octopus opposed to the Apollonian
dolphin). The choice between Capricorn and Cancer would be similar to the
Pythagorean choice (or the choice of Hercules) represented with the letter
M.C. I'm not sure the soul "chooses" between Cancer and Capricorn. Cancer
is the path by which the soul descends, Capricorn that by which it rises
up. The soul's initial choice is not whether or not to be incarnated -
although according to Porphyry in the De regressu a philosophical soul may
finally free itself from the cycle of reincarnations - but only what
*kind* of incarnate life it will lead.
However, if the soul needs to enter/descend to the world of genesis
through the door in Cancer, this could be the occasion of choosing a human
life that is conducive to the return from the world of genesis.
M.C. Perhaps. For Porphyry the only life that is conducive to the return
is that of the philosopher. From the extant fragments it's not clear
whether one can *choose*, before incarnation, the life of a philosopher.
One can choose, for instance, to be a human being (first choice), then to
be a pirate (second choice), and then one must live with the consequences.
However, Porphyry also says (On what depends on us in Stobaeus II, p. 166,
1 ff.) that the acquisition of skills and knowledge depends on us, at
least to some extent. Generally speaking, we're stuck with what we've got
(i.e. what we've chosen prior to incarnation) as far as "careers" are
concerned, but even if we're stuck with, say, the career of a pirate or a
tyrant, we can choose, during this life, to be a *philosophical* tyrant,
and hence, presumably, escape the cycle of reincarnations.
Or so it seems to me. These texts are hard to interpret, since the Greek
is difficult and the (fragmentary) text features lacunae and mistakes.
CNRS UPR 76