here’s another page out of the neoplatonist playbook:

in the works of Proclus, and psuedo-Dionysus, who was evidently a student of proclus, (and did us all the favor of injecting platonism into early christianity, thus preventing the collapse of christian metaphysics into incoherent gibberish for about a thousand years) there’s a lot of concern with correct naming.

What kind of naming? Divine naming. The names one ascribes to god. Both proclus and dionysus give a tremendous amount of effort to making sure that people know how to correctly name and conceive of the creator.

Now, at first glance, it’s hard to imagine why this might be important. Especially for jaded post-moderns like us who instinctively recoil from arbitrary labeling and controlling of definitions on the part of ‘authorities’. But there’s more to this than one might realise.

Now let’s remember that in the platonic schema, intelligibility is the bridge between soul and god. That reason and intellect in the highest sense is how the individual personality can come to know true being. So having incorrect, incoherent, or contradictory ideas can be a real problem. And the higher the station that these incorrect ideas occupy, the worse the problem gets.

For that reason, according to plato, in the republic, the worst possible thing that a person can do is hold false ideas about god. Because when you’re talking about god, you’re talking about the nature of ultimate reality, and thus whatever ideas happen to occupy this position will influence all the others. If you have an idea of god as cruel, capricious, arbitrary, as having contradictory qualities, as embodying principles that diminish the good, or the one, this can only reverberate down through one’s whole being.

In a lesser way, having incomplete or inaccurate notions of the one ( the preferred platonic term for god) can also cause confusion. So proclus and dionsysus both describe a descending chain of titles and attributes, down from the most perfect one-in-itself, to the transcendent maker, the logos, the holy trinity and whatnot. Each of these has appropriate uses and implications that follow from those uses, and all subordinate in their correct order to the one-in-itself. Treating them as interchangeable, or worse, identical, is asking for trouble. Just like any other sophisiticated technical field, theology requires a precise language and terminology and that terminology has to be used in the correct way. Just as scientific jargon cannot be thrown around arbitrarily, so too with theology. If, that is, you want to get the correct result.

Not doing so can only result in the kind of muddled mess that we experience now where you have every kind of half baked theology and wrong headed conception of ultimate reality imaginable. What do you suppose the implications are for all these fundamentalist christians, who think of their god as an immanent, vengeful all knowing father figure who observes and judges them at all times, and is gearing up to scourge the world with fire? Or daft neo-pagans, who somehow equate spirit with nature, which even real old time ‘pagans’ didn’t do, so far as we know. If that’s your understanding of ultimate reality, or the highest creative principle, then how does that affect your self image, your sense or purpose or responsibility, your use of reason, your emotional and spiritual maturity? It’s serious. This is the kind of sickness proclus and dionysus in particular, saw latent in religion, and hoped to avert. Neo-platonic notions of god were adopted by the early christian church, judaism/ kabbalah, and down through islam, bahaism, and even the more exotic branches of esoterism like hermeticism, which all together spawned what we think of as the western occult traditions. In one form or another they’ve all adopted the idea of god as the infinite unmanifest principle that provides for all existence, in the same manner as the platonic good.

You can find the analogous theological principle in buddhism, which has the noble eightfold path, as the road to liberation. What’s the first one…? Skillful views. Holding correct beliefs, because what you believe will determine everything you do, or think that you can do. So again, what you believe are the highest truths of reality, or not, make all the difference.


Some times the structure of my ideas gets a bit stifling, which is usually a sign that I’m getting off track, so let’s just do a little bit of stream of consciousness kinda thing to loosen up a bit.

I’ve been enjoying the work of pierre grimes rather a lot lately, and one of the cornerstones of his method, derived, one presumes, from the platonists and neoplatonists, is an involved process of dream interpretation, ( also, likewise, of daydreams, with a similar method).

It’s hard to distinguish too clearly between what he does and how, and what someone like like jung or freud was doing, except maybe that grimes is resolute in the conviction that the working of the mind are intelligible, and that there is an intelligible order to everything the mind does. The themes and motifs of the dream are always relevant to one’s present circumstances, and indicate where one might be blocked. Identifying these blockages, and the false beliefs that underpin them, are the ideal goal of the practice.

I know for myself that I’ve had several themes reoccur in my dreams for quite a few years now.  Some of them quite insistant, such as finding myself back in high school, while knowing full well that I had graduated. I had mostly presumed that these dreams reflected the resentment I had towards high school and the people in it ( especially the teachers), but I now find myself making plans to go to college, and needing to actually take some high school courses I didn’t bother with at the time to meet the entrance requirements. I could theoretically take them for free at the college itself, but it would conflict with my work schedule, so it seems I’ll be taking them in the evening at an actual local high school…and wouldn’t you know it, but the dream hasn’t reoccurred since then.

It’s odd to imagine that there’s a part of your mind that is constantly trying to feed you personally relevant information, and yet you keep ignoring it, for the most part, all of the time. This is no secret to hypnotists, occultists, or psychotherapists, but to actually realise that on some level you’re making plans, formulating goals, and steering yourself towards them, in a state of ignorance is a pretty amazing thing to experience, and not just think about.

It makes me wonder how far that principle can be extended. alchemy is really about the reconciliation of opposites, with various symbols standing in for mind, soul, god, male, female, living and dead, past and future etc etc… and really that reconciliation is just a recognition that the barriers you put up between those things were provisional constructions that you were always meant to grow out of.  And that all the pain and suffering of life is your unwillingness to endure a natural growth process.

But it’s not really surprising that so few people endure a healthy natural ongoing growth process, because there are rather few examples of it actually happening in the world today. Our fantasy lives are telling: they oscillate between the infantile and the adolescent for the most part: power, sex, self importance, oral gratification, comfort and nesting, dominance, rampant egotism. These are natural at certain stages, for the child, for the young  adult, but after awhile it mutates into pathology.

For instance, the ever growing sexual obsession with barely pubescent girls? It’s not an explosive growth of predatory paedophilia; it’s more likely a sign of more and more people failing to achieve a sexual maturity beyond an early adolescent stage. Prolonged long enough, that could certainly mature into a predatory pathology, which I suppose expresses in our proxy sacrifice of the likes of Brittany Spears.

And why the failure to mature? As we said, a lack of role models, and a lack of clear transitional events. If society lacks the pressure to cross the death-rebirth threshold of initiation ( of any kind ), then the only possible outcome is eventually there are too many children and not enough adults. The children will, by nature, thrust all the responsibility on to those they perceive to be adults, or at least, a passable facsimile.

So naturally the power in such a society devolves to those who can best imitate adults without  actually being one themselves, in whatever context. So the whole thing turns into a stasis. The correct word is neotany. A bunch of emotional and intellectual children ruled by faux adults, all trying desperately to avoid a real test that would necessitate real growth. The epidemic of cynicism, disaffection, fantasy projection, escapism, drug use…mostly just a way to avoid a real ego death that would cause you to grow as a person. Also it makes sense that such a society would be heavily controlled, manipulated and rigged from every angle. That’s the only way to make sure nothing shows up to challenge the false ideas of psychologically stunted  people: stage manage the so-called challenges as best as possible or make sure they are so trivial that there’s no chance of failure.

Of course, when you’re talking about people whose picture of reality is severely stunted, their ability to recognize reality well enough to even avoid it is doubtful. Rather than a life full of minor experiences of ego death that would naturally lead to a full shedding of the ego -identification, you get a persistent pattern of completely avoiding it in any way whatsoever.  So it’s pretty likely the apparent situation will oscillate wildly from stage managed absurdity to abject horror with little rhyme or reason. The whole thing would be colored by an exaggerated shadow projection of the ego death experience, to the point of paralysis and abject infantilism.

Does any of this sound familiar?