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Julian's Hymn to Helios

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  • vaeringjar
    Right after I was studying the allegory of the cave in the Republic and Plato s imagery about the sun there, I reread Julian s Hymn to the Sun, where early on
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 29, 2006
      Right after I was studying the allegory of the cave in the Republic
      and Plato's imagery about the sun there, I reread Julian's Hymn to the
      Sun, where early on he alludes, not surprisingly, to the same passage.

      I just wanted to share that part of the Hymn, since I was impressed
      with all the points Julian brings together here. There is no doubt he
      is drawing from Iamblichus, as in fact he says himself in this same
      text. I think then we can take this as a summary of Iamblichus'
      thought, and as such this passage is really rather significant,
      especially given the highly fragmentary state of Iamblichus' works. I
      will just reproduce Wright's translation from the Loeb edition:

      This divine and wholly beautiful universe, from the highest vault of
      heaven to the lowest limit of the earth, is held together by the
      continuous providence of the god, has existed from eternity
      ungenerated, is imperishable for all time to come, and is guarded
      immediately by nothing else than the Fifth Substance whose culmination
      is the beams of the sun; and in the second and higher degree, so to
      speak, by the intelligible world; but in a still loftier sense it is
      guarded by the King of the whole universe, who is the centre of all
      things that exist. He, therefore, whether it is right to call him the
      Supra-Intelligible, of the Idea of Being, and by Being I mean the
      whole intelligible region, or the One, since the One seems somehow to
      be prior to all the rest, or, to use Plato's name for him, the Good;
      at any rate this uncompounded cause of the whole reveals to all
      existence beauty, and perfection, and oneness, and irresistible power;
      and in virtue of the primal creative substance that abides in it,
      produced, as middle among the middle and intellectual, creative
      causes, Helios the most mighty god, proceeding from itself and in all
      things like unto itself. Even so the divine Plato believed, when he
      writes, "Therefore (said I) when I spoke of this understand that I
      meant the offspring of the Good which the Good begat in his own
      likeness, and that what the Good is in relation to pure reason and its
      objects in the intelligible world, such is the sun in the visible
      world in relation to sight and its objects." [Republic 508b]
      Accordingly his light has the same relation to the visible world as
      truth has to the intelligible world. And he himself as a whole, since
      he is the son of what is first and greatest, namely, the Idea of the
      Good, and subsists from eternity in the region of its abiding
      substance, has received also the dominion among the intellectual gods,
      and himself dispenses to the intellectual gods those things of which
      the Good is the cause for the intelligible gods. Now the Good is, I
      suppose, the perfection, and oneness, connecting these and
      illuminating them with a power that works for good. These accordingly
      Helios bestows on the intellectual gods also, since he has been
      appointed by the Good to rule and govern them, even though they came
      forth and came into being togther with him, and this was, I suppose,
      in order that the cause which resembles the Good may guide the
      intellectual gods to blessings for them all, and may regulate all
      things according to pure reason. But this visible disc also, third in
      rank, is clearly for the objects of sense-perception the cause of
      preservation and this visible Helios is the cause for the visible gods
      of just as many blessings as we said mighty Helios bestows on the
      intellectual gods. And of this there are clear proofs for one who
      studies the unseen world in the light of things seen. (pp359-363 in
      the Loeb Julian I)

      Quite a passage, a lot packed in there, drawn together in very summary
      form. Breathtaking, actually, or so it struck me.

      Dennis Clark
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