Book Of The Laws
Interesting author, a Greek 'pagan' and polytheist who helped along with the
Italian Humanists to start to break the shackles of medieval Christian thought,
but hard to come by in English translation. I wonder if Crowley knew about this
text when he named his "Book of the Law" 1904?
After his death, Plethon's Nomon singrafi or Nomoi (Nomoi "Book of Laws") was discovered.
He had been compiling it throughout most of his adult life, and
it became famous as the most heretical of his works, detailing his esoteric beliefs.
It came into the possession of Princess Theodora, wife of Demetrios, despot of
Morea. Theodora sent the manuscript to Scholarius, now Gennadius II, Patriarch
of Constantinople, asking for his advice on what to do with it; he returned it,
advising her to destroy it. Morea was under invasion from Sultan Mehmet II, and
Theodora escaped with Demetrios to Constantinople where she gave the manuscript
back to Gennadius, reluctant to destroy the only copy of such a distinguished
scholar's work herself. Gennadius burnt it in 1460, however in a letter to the
Exarch Joseph (which still survives) he details the book, providing chapter
headings and brief summaries of the contents.
It seemed to represent a merging of Stoic philosophy and Zoroastrian mysticism,
and discussed astrology, daemons and the migration of the soul. He recommended
religious rites and hymns to petition the classical gods, such as Zeus, whom he
saw as universal principles and planetary powers. Man, as relative of the gods,
should strive towards good. Plethon believed the universe has no beginning or
end in time, and being created perfect, nothing may be added to it. He rejected
the concept of a brief reign of evil followed by perpetual happiness, and held
that the human soul is reincarnated, directed by the gods into successive bodies
to fulfill divine order. This same divine order, he believed, governed the
organisation of bees, the foresight of ants and the dexterity of spiders, as
well as the growth of plants, magnetic attraction, and the amalgamation of
mercury and gold.
Plethon drew up plans in his Nomoi to radically change the structure and
philosophy of the Byzantine Empire in line with his interpretation of Platonism.
The new state religion was to be founded on a hierarchical pantheon of Pagan
Gods, based largely upon the ideas of Humanism prevalent at the time,
incorporating themes such as rationalism and logic. As an ad-hoc measure he also
supported the reconciliation of the two churches in order to secure Western
Europe support against the Ottomans. He also proposed more practical,
immediate measures, such as rebuilding the Hexamilion, the ancient defensive
wall across the Isthmus of Corinth, which had been breached by the Ottomans in
The political and social elements of his theories covered the creation of
communities, government (he promoted benevolent monarchy as the most stable
form), land ownership (land should be shared, rather than individually owned),
social organisation, families, and divisions of sex and class. He believed that
labourers should keep a third of their produce, and that soldiers should be
professional. He held that love should be private not because it is shameful,
but because it is sacred.
Plethon's own summary of the Nomoi also survived, amongst manuscripts held by
his former student Bessarion. This summary, titled Summary of the Doctrines of
Zoroaster and Plato, affirms the existence of a pantheon of gods, with Zeus as
supreme sovereign, containing within himself all being in an undivided state;
his eldest child, motherless, is Poseidon, who created the heavens and rules all
below, ordaining order in the universe. Zeus' other children include an array of
"supercelestial" gods, the Olympians and Tartareans, all motherless. Of these
Hera is third in command after Poseidon, creatress and ruler of indestructible
matter, and the mother by Zeus of the heavenly gods, demi-gods and spirits. The
Olympians rule immortal life in the heavens, the Tartareans mortal life below,
their leader Kronos ruling over mortality altogether. The eldest of the heavenly
gods is Helios, master of the heavens here and source of all mortal life on
earth. The gods are responsible for much good and no evil, and guide all life
towards divine order. Plethon describes the creation of the universe as being
perfect and outside of time, so that the universe remains eternal, without
beginning or end. The soul of man, like the gods is immortal and essentially
good, and is reincarnated in successive mortal bodies for eternity at the
direction of the Gods.
The Taro that Liberate on Seeing