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2082Re: Iamblichus 'eye of wisdom' alleged reference

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  • Leonard George
    May 16, 2008
      Dear Sebastian ~

      Thanks for your note.

      Regarding spritual hearing and the 'ear of the soul', I don't know of
      an explicit reference to the latter. But (you may already be aware
      of this) there are some interesting passages in De Mysteriis on
      auditory phenomena. DM III.2 discusses various inspired states
      according to the degree of wakefulness, the degree of involvement of
      nous, and sensory modalities. There he refers to hearing voices that
      give guidance during transitions between waking and sleeping (what
      psychologists call hypnagogic / hypnopompic states). Even more
      intriguing is the reference to a pneuma that encircles a
      person 'lying down'; it enters with a rushing / whistling / whooshing
      sound (rhoizos). And in another state of divine illumination, one can
      hear what the gods say. How is one understood to be hearing all
      these things? This 'rhoizos' points to Iamblichus' theurgical
      interests, as it occurs many times in the Chaldean Oracles; Sarah
      Iles Johnston's 'Hekate Soteira' and Greg Shaw's 'Theurgy and the
      Soul' explore this, and there are further references in the notes to
      the chapter 'The Sound of Piping' in Peter Kingsley's 'In the Dark
      Places of Wisdom'.

      Compare DM III.2 with DM III.9, where music is discussed.
      Consecrated sounds can lead to divine possession, but this can't be
      explained in a reductive fashion simply by an interaction between
      body, soul and physical stimulus. Rather, it's good old anamnesis -
      the tones remind the soul of the divine harmony it heard (with what?)
      prior to its incarnation. 'Rhoizos' appears in this passage too,
      referring to the music of the spheres, not to the sounds of
      consecrated tunes that evoke its reminiscence. So perhaps DM refers
      to two kinds of spiritual auditory phenomena - one that involves
      direct perception of some pneumatic stimulus by the soul, and one
      that involves (but is not simply caused by) physical hearing.

      Cheers,

      Leonard
      --- In neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com, Sebastian Moro <sebfm2001@...>
      wrote:
      >
      > Dear Leonard,
      >
      > This is an interesting topic. You could check Proclus, In Remp. II,
      241.19 ff. about the myth of Er and how he and his companions can see
      and hear the Moirae. There are other references of this kind of inner
      sense in Proclus (In Alc., etc.) in Trouillard, La mystagogie de
      Proclos, chapter II (revised version of "Le merveilleux dans la vie
      et la pensée de Proclos", Revue Philosophique 163 (1973), 439-52.
      >
      > I am more interested in the auditory implications of this theory.
      It would be interesting to find Neoplatonic texts about the "ear of
      the soul". Has anybody found this expression?
      >
      > Besides Proclus references about hearing the voices of gods, etc.,
      there are references about Pythagoras hearing the music of the
      spheres, in Porphyry and Iamblichus, but I don't think they mention
      something like a counterpart of the eye of the soul in audition
      terms. I think that there is a reference in Ps.Dionysius about
      spiritual hearing, but I can't remember now where he says that.
      >
      > Best Regards,
      >
      > Sebastian
      >
      >
      > --- On Wed, 5/14/08, Leonard George <lgeorge@...> wrote:
      >
      > From: Leonard George <lgeorge@...>
      > Subject: [neoplatonism] Re: Iamblichus 'eye of wisdom' alleged
      reference
      > To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
      > Date: Wednesday, May 14, 2008, 5:58 PM
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      > Thanks to all for your very generous and valuable responses!
      >
      > I'm intrigued by the question of how various Platonists understood
      > the ontological status of this 'eye of the soul'. The esteemed Dr.
      > Dillon, in his paper "Aisthesis Noete: A Doctrine of Spiritual
      Senses
      > in Origen and in Plotinus" (in The Golden Chain: Studies in the
      > Development of Platonism and Christianity) noted passages by those
      > two that imply a belief in spiritual sense organs that are neither
      > metaphors for Nous nor references to the faculties of the soul, but
      > *literal* though non-material organs. With this in mind, I then
      look
      > at a passage in De Mysteriis that has long caught my
      attention: "the
      > advent of the gods... shows what is not body as body to the eyes of
      > the soul by means of those of the body" (DM II.6.81-82). A few
      > modern commentators have briefly glossed this passage with rather
      > general statements about the soul's vehicle, without discussing
      > precisely what role is played by the 'eyes of the body'. I infer
      > that these bodily eyes, being contrasted to the 'eyes of the soul',
      > are the physical sense organs. So then how exactly do these two
      sets
      > of organs interact to give rise to the mysterious experience of
      > perceiving 'what is not body as body'? As the physical eyes are
      > involved, I assume that the perception of physical objects is part
      of
      > the process - we're not just talking about visionary activity in
      the
      > phantastikon here. If anyone feels like offering further thoughts
      or
      > leads on this, I'd be glad.
      >
      > Cheers,
      > Leonard
      >
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