Epiphanies in Iamblichus

(from my doctoral thesis on the history of theurgy)

When we successfully invoke, the Being who we call comes. Sometimes it is very internal, sometimes we go the distance and work for an very dual and/or external manifestation. The result, whether mental, ‘astral’, or (near-)physical, is traditionally called an epiphany, a ‘showing up’. We are taught to be be cautious and test what arrives. When we are properly skillful we can take advantage of the test-tools the Golden Dawn system supplies to determine if we have called the correct Being.

Besides testing to determine if we have called the right class of Being, we also need to determine which level of the Being has answered our call. In the Second Book of his De Mysteriis, much dedicated to epiphanies and distinguishing the benefits of different classes of Divine Beings, Iamblichus outlines what happens to those experiencing epiphanies as a result of invocation (DM 2.9, p. 105-107).

This is presented in tabulated form to make the benefits clear for the epiphanies of each class of Being:

Gods: a perfection freed from and superior to passions,
an activity entirely better (those invoking),
participate in a love divine
and [have] an enormous gladness of mind;
Archangels: a pure settled state, intellectual contemplation and stable power;
Angels: rational wisdom, truth, pure virtue, a firm knowledge,
and a proportional order;
Daemons: receive a desire for the realm of generation,
longing for nature and for the fulfillment of the works of necessity,
and a power for completing such activities;
Heroes: [Very similar to those with Daemons], and
participate in zealous pursuits relating to the commitments of souls;
Archons: moved in soul, either in line with the cosmos
or with the material realm;
Souls: arrive at generative desires and congenital solicitude
for the care of bodies and such other matters as depend on these.

As we move down the scale from Divinities to Souls we see a spectrum of benefit (or perhaps by the end we should say ‘impact’) caused by the presence of the Divine Being during and resulting from an epiphany. At the top is pure liberation, success, love, and happiness. This diminishes steadily as the rank decreases, until with Souls, there is a desire to procreate and have care for the body, and generally fulfill necessity, rather than be liberated from it. Clearly, per this scheme, the theurgist has little reason to invoke anyone other than the Gods. The schema presented by Iamblichus will also tell the theurgist what rank of being came in response to invocation, as measured against the benefit. But, for the purposes of this brief post, it is the simple list of benefits and impacts that concerns us.

Iamblichus tells us: Great are the gifts of the Gods.

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