Heliotropium arborescens – garden heliotrope. Picture at Pixabay.
Today’s sharing from the Blue House of HYGEIA is a short but essential text by Proclus, from his study, ‘About the Hellenic hieratic arts‘, about the heliotrope and its seeking of the light of the Sun. Here in a translation by Brian Copenhaver, “Hermes Trismegistus, Proclus, and the Question of a Philosophy of Magic in the Renaissance.” In Ingrid Merkel and Allen G. Debus, eds., Hermeticism and the Renaissance: Intellectual History and the Occult in Early Modern Europe, 79-110. London: Associated University Presses, 1988.
Just as lovers systematically leave behind what is fair to sensation and attain the one true source of all that is fair and intelligible, in the same way priests — observing how all things are in all from the sympathy that all visible things have for one another and for the invisible powers — have also framed their priestly knowledge. For they were amazed to see the last in the first and the very first in the last; in heaven they saw earthly things acting causally and in a heavenly manner, in the earth heavenly things in an earthly manner. Why do heliotropes move together with the sun, selenotropes with the moon, moving around to the extent of their ability with the luminaries of the cosmos? All things pray according to their own order and sing hymns, either intellectually or rationally or naturally or sensibly, to heads of entire chains. And since the heliotrope is also moved toward that to which it readily opens, if anyone hears it striking the air as it moves about, he perceives in the sound that it offers to the king the kind of hymn that a plant can sing.
In the earth, then, it is possible to see suns and moons terrestrially, but in heaven one can also see celestially all the heavenly plants and stones and animals living intellectually. So by observing such things and connecting them to the appropriate heavenly beings, the ancient wise men brought divine powers into the region of mortals, attracting them through likeness. For likeness is sufficient to join beings to one another. If, for example, one first heats up a wick and then holds it under the light of a lamp not far from the flame, he will see it lighted though it be untouched by the flame, and the lighting proceeds upward from below. By analogy, then, understand the preparatory heating as like the sympathy of lower things for those above; the bringing-near and the proper placement as like the use made in the priestly art of material things, at the right moment and in the appropriate manner; the communication of the fire as like the coming of the divine light to what is capable of sharing it; and the lighting as like the divinization of mortal entities and the illumination of what is implicated in matter, which things then are moved toward the others above insofar as they share in the divine seed. like the light of the wick when it is lit.
The lotus also shows that there is sympathy. Before the sun’s rays appear, it is closed, but as the sun first rises it is slowly unfolded, and the higher the light goes the more it is expanded, and then it is contracted again as the sun goes down. If men open and close mouths and lips to hymn the sun, how does this differ from the drawing-together and loosening of the lotus petals? For the petals of the lotus take the place of a mouth, and its hymn is a natural one. But why talk of plants, which have some trace of generative life? One can also see that stones inhale the influences of the luminaries, as we see the sunstone with its golden rays imitating the rays of the sun; and the stone called Bel’s eye (which should be called sun’s eye, they say) resembling the pupil of the eye and emitting a glittering light from the center of its pupil; and the Moonstone changing in figure and motion along with the moon; and the sun-moonstone, a sort of image of the conjunction of these luminaries, imitating their conjunctions and separations in the heavens.
Thus, all things are full of gods: Things on earth are full of heavenly gods; things in heaven are full of super-celestials; and each chain continues abounding up to its final members. For what is in the One-before-all makes its appearance in all, in which are also communications between souls set beneath one god or another. Thus, consider the multitude of solar animals, such as lions and cocks, which also share in the divine, following their own order. It is amazing how the lesser in might and size among these animals are regarded with fear by those greater in both respects. For they say the lion shrinks from the cock. The cause of this is not to be grasped from appearances but from intellectual vision and from differences among the causes. In fact, the presence of heliacal symbols is more effective for the cock: it is clear that he perceives the solar orbits and sings a hymn to the luminary as it rises and moves among the other cardinal points. Therefore, some solar angels seem to have forms of this same kind, and though they are formless they appear formed to us held fast in form. Now if one of the solar demons becomes manifest with the shape of a lion, as soon as a cock is presented he becomes invisible, so they say, shrinking away from the signs of greater beings, as many refrain from committing abominable acts when they see likenesses of divine men.
In brief, then, such things as the plants mentioned above follow the orbits of the luminary; others imitate the appearance of its rays (e.g., the palm) or the empyrean substance (e.g., the laurel) or something else. So it seems that properties sown together in the sun are distributed among the angels, demons, souls, animals, plants, and stones that share them. From this evidence of the eyes, the authorities on the priestly art have thus discovered how to gain the favor of powers above, mixing some things together and setting others apart in due order. They used mixing because they saw that each unmixed thing possesses some property of the god but is not enough to call that god forth. Therefore, by mixing many things they unified the aforementioned influences and made a unity generated from all of them similar to the whole that is prior to them all. And they often devised composite statues and fumigations, having blended separate signs together into one and having made artificially something embraced essentially by the divine through unification of many powers, the dividing of which makes each one feeble, while mixing raises it up to the idea of the exemplar. But there are times when one plant or one stone suffices for the work. Flax-leaved daphne is enough for a manifestation: laurel, box-thorn, squill, coral, diamond, or jasper will do for a guardian spirit; but for foreknowledge one needs the heart of a mole and for purification sulfur and salt water. By means of sympathy, then, they draw them near, but by antipathy they drive them away, using sulfur and bitumen for purification, perhaps, or an aspersion of sea water. For sulfur purifies by the sharpness of its scent, sea water because it shares in the empyrean power. For consecrations and other divine services they search out appropriate animals as well as other things. Beginning with these things and others like them, they gained knowledge of the daemonic powers, how closely connected they are in substance to natural and corporeal energy, and through these very substances they achieved association with the [daemons], from whom they returned forthwith to actual works of the gods, learning some things from the [gods], for other things being moved by themselves toward accurate consideration of the appropriate symbols. Thence, leaving nature and natural energies below, they had dealings with the primary and divine powers.
<περὶ τῆς καθ’ Ἕλληνας ἱερατικῆς τέχνης.>
Ὥσπερ οἱ ἐρωτικοὶ ἀπὸ τῶν ἐν αἰσθήσει καλῶν ὁδῷ προϊόντες
ἐπ’ αὐτὴν καταντῶσι τὴν μίαν τῶν καλῶν πάντων καὶ νοητῶν ἀρχήν,
οὕτως καὶ οἱ ἱερατικοὶ ἀπὸ τῆς ἐν τοῖς φαινομένοις ἅπασι συμπα-
θείας πρός τε ἄλληλα καὶ πρὸς τὰς ἀφανεῖς δυνάμεις, πάντα ἐν πᾶσι
κατανοήσαντες, τὴν ἐπιστήμην τὴν ἱερατικὴν συνεστήσαντο, θαυ-
μάσαντες τῷ βλέπειν ἔν τε τοῖς πρώτοις τὰ ἔσχατα καὶ ἐν τοῖς
ἐσχάτοις τὰ πρώτιστα, ἐν οὐρανῷ μὲν τὰ χθόνια κατ’ αἰτίαν καὶ
οὐρανίως, ἔν τε γῇ τὰ οὐράνια γηΐνως. Ἢ πόθεν ἡλιοτρόπια μὲν
ἡλίῳ, σεληνοτρόπια δὲ σελήνῃ συγκινεῖται συμπεριπολοῦντα ἐς
δύναμιν τοῖς τοῦ κόσμου φωστῆρσιν; Εὔχεται γὰρ πάντα κατὰ τὴν
οἰκείαν τάξιν καὶ ὑμνεῖ τοὺς ἡγεμόνας τῶν σειρῶν ὅλων ἢ νοερῶς ἢ
λογικῶς ἢ φυσικῶς ἢ αἰσθητῶς· ἐπεὶ καὶ τὸ ἡλιοτρόπιον ᾧ ἔστιν
εὔλυτον, τούτῳ κινεῖται καί, εἰ δή τις αὐτοῦ κατὰ τὴν περιστροφὴν
ἀκούειν τὸν ἀέρα πλήσσοντος οἷός τε ἦν, ὕμνον ἄν τινα διὰ τοῦ
ἤχου τούτου συνῄσθετο τῷ Βασιλεῖ προσάγοντος, ὃν δύναται
Ἐν μὲν οὖν τῇ γῇ χθονίως ἐστὶν ἡλίους καὶ σελήνας ὁρᾶν, ἐν
οὐρανῷ δὲ οὐρανίως τά τε φυτὰ πάντα καὶ λίθους καὶ ζῷα, ζῶντα
νοερῶς. Ἃ δὴ κατιδόντες οἱ πάλαι σοφοί, τὰ μὲν ἄλλοις, τὰ δὲ
ἄλλοις προσάγοντες τῶν οὐρανίων, ἐπήγοντο θείας δυνάμεις εἰς τὸν
θνητὸν τόπον καὶ διὰ τῆς ὁμοιότητος ἐφειλκύσαντο· ἱκανὴ γὰρ ἡ
ὁμοιότης συνάπτειν τὰ ὄντα ἀλλήλοις· ἐπεὶ καί, εἴ τις θρυαλλίδα
προθερμήνας ὑπόσχοι τῷ λυχναίῳ φωτὶ μὴ πόρρω τοῦ πυρός,
ἴδοι ἂν αὐτὴν ἐξαπτομένην μὴ ψαύουσαν τοῦ πυρός, καὶ τὴν ἔξαψιν
ἄνωθεν τοῦ κατωτέρω γινομένην. Ἀναλόγως οὖν ἡ μὲν προθέρμαν-
σις νοείσθω σοι τῇ συμπαθείᾳ τῶν τῇδε πρὸς ἐκεῖνα, ἡ δὲ προσα-
γωγὴ καὶ ἐν καλῷ θέσις τῇ τῆς ἱερατικῆς τέχνης κατά τε καιρὸν τὸν
πρέποντα καὶ τρόπον τὸν οἰκεῖον προσχρήσει τῶν ὑλῶν, ἡ δὲ τοῦ
πυρὸς διάδοσις τῇ παρουσίᾳ τοῦ θείου φωτὸς εἰς τὸ δυνάμενον
μετέχειν, ἡ δὲ ἔξαψις τῇ θειώσει τῶν θνητῶν καὶ τῇ περιλάμψει τῶν
ἐνύλων, ἃ δὴ κινεῖται πρὸς τὸ ἄνω λοιπὸν κατὰ τὸ μετασχεθὲν ὑπ’
αὐτῶν σπέρμα θεῖον, ὥσπερ τὸ τῆς ἐξαφθείσης θρυαλλίδος φῶς.
Καὶ ὁ λωτὸς δὲ παρίστησι τὴν συμπάθειαν, μεμυκὼς μὲν πρὸ τῶν
ἡλιακῶν αὐγῶν, διαπτυσσόμενος δέ πως ἠρέμα τοῦ ἡλίου πρῶτον
φανέντος, καὶ ὅσον ὑψοῦται τὸ φῶς, ἐξαπλούμενος, καὶ αὖθις συνα-
γόμενος, ἐπὶ δύσιν ἰόντος. Τί δὴ οὖν διαφέρει τοὺς ἀνθρώπους αἴρον-
τας ἢ τιθέντας <τὰς> γένυς ἢ τὰ χείλη ὑμνεῖν τὸν ἥλιον, ἢ τὸν λωτὸν
τὰ φύλλα συμπτύσσοντα καὶ ἀναπλοῦντα; Γίγνεται γὰρ ἀντὶ τῶν
γενύων ταῦτα τῷ λωτῷ, καὶ ὁ ὕμνος φυσικός. Καὶ τί δεῖ λέγειν περὶ
φυτῶν οἷς ὑπάρχει ζωῆς ἴχνος τι γεννητικῆς; Ἀλλὰ καὶ λίθους ἔστιν
ἰδεῖν ταῖς τῶν φωστήρων ἀπορροίαις ἐμπνέοντας, ὡς τὸν μὲν
ἡλίτην ταῖς χρυσοειδέσιν ἀκτῖσιν ὁρῶμεν τὰς ἡλιακὰς ἀκτῖνας
μιμούμενον, τὸν δὲ Βήλου προσαγορευόμενον ὀφθαλμὸν καὶ σχῆμα
παραπλήσιον ἔχοντα κόραις ὀφθαλμῶν καὶ ἐκ μέσης τῆς ἐν αὐτῷ
κόρης στιλπνὸν ἀφιέντα φῶς, ὅν φασιν ἡλίου χρῆναι καλεῖν ὀφθαλ-
μόν, τὸν δὲ σεληνίτην τύπῳ τε καὶ κινήσει σὺν τῇ σελήνῃ τρεπόμε-
νον, τὸν δὲ ἡλιοσέληνον τῆς συνόδου τῶν φωστήρων τούτων οἷον
ἄγαλμα ταῖς κατ’ οὐρανὸν συνόδοις τε καὶ διαστάσεσιν ἀφομοιωθέν.
Οὕτω μεστὰ πάντα θεῶν, τὰ μὲν ἐν γῇ τῶν οὐρανίων, τὰ δὲ ἐν
οὐρανῷ τῶν ὑπὲρ τὸν οὐρανόν, καὶ πρόεισιν ἑκάστη πληθυομένη
σειρὰ μέχρι τῶν ἐσχάτων· τὰ γὰρ ἐν ἑνὶ πρὸ τῶν πάντων, ταῦτα ἐν
πᾶσιν ἐξεφάνη, ἐν οἷς καὶ ψυχῶν συστάσεις ἄλλων ὑπ’ ἄλλοις
ταττομένων θεοῖς, ἔπειτα ζῴων ἡλιακῶν εἰ τύχοι πλῆθος, οἷον λέον-
τες καὶ ἀλεκτρυόνες, μετέχοντες καὶ αὐτοὶ τοῦ θείου κατὰ τὴν
ἑαυτῶν τάξιν. Καὶ τὸ θαυμαστὸν ὅπως ἐν τούτοις τὰ ἐλάττονα
δυνάμει τε καὶ μεγέθει τοῖς κατ’ ἄμφω κρείττοσίν ἐστι φοβερά·
ὑποστέλλεται γὰρ ὁ λέων, φασί, τὸν ἀλεκτρυόνα. Τὸ δὲ αἴτιον ἀπὸ
μὲν τῆς αἰσθήσεως οὐκ ἔστι λαβεῖν, ἀπὸ δὲ τῆς νοερᾶς ἐπιβλέψεως
καὶ τῆς ἐν τοῖς αἰτίοις διαφορᾶς. Ἐνεργεστέρα γοῦν ἐστιν ἡ τῶν
ἡλιακῶν συμβόλων εἰς τὸν ἀλεκτρυόνα παρουσία· δηλοῖ δὲ τῶν
ἡλιακῶν περιόδων συναισθανόμενος καὶ ᾄδων ὕμνον τῷ φωστῆρι
προσιόντι τε καὶ ἐπὶ τὰ λοιπὰ κέντρα τρεπομένῳ· διὸ καὶ ἄγγελοί
τινες ἡλιακοὶ ὤφθησαν τοιαύτας ἔχοντες μορφάς, καὶ ὄντες ἀμόρ-
φωτοι, φαίνονται τοῖς ἐν μορφῇ κατεχομένοις ἡμῖν μεμορφωμένοι.
Ἤδη δέ τινα τῶν ἡλιακῶν δαιμόνων λεοντοπρόσωπον φαινόμενον,
ἀλεκτρυόνος δειχθέντος, ἀφανῆ γενέσθαι φασὶν ὑποστελλόμενον τὰ
τῶν κρειττόνων συνθήματα· ἐπεὶ καὶ θείων ἀνδρῶν εἰκόνας ὁρῶν-
τες πολλοὶ ἀνεστάλησαν ὑπ’ αὐταῖς τι τῶν μιαρῶν ἐνεργεῖν.
Ἁπλῶς δὲ τὰ μὲν ταῖς περιόδοις τοῦ φωστῆρος συγκινεῖται, ὡς
τὰ εἰρημένα φυτά, τὰ δὲ τὸ σχῆμα μιμεῖται τῶν ἀκτίνων, ὥσπερ ὁ
φοῖνιξ, τὰ δὲ τὴν ἐμπύριον οὐσίαν, ὥσπερ ἡ δάφνη, τὰ δὲ ἄλλο τι.
Ἴδοις ἂν οὖν τὰς συνεσπειραμένας ἰδιότητας ἐν ἡλίῳ μεριζομένας
ἐν τοῖς μετέχουσιν ἀγγέλοις, δαίμοσι, ψυχαῖς, ζῴοις, φυτοῖς, λίθοις.
Ὅθεν οἱ τῆς ἱερατικῆς ἡγεμόνες ἀπὸ τῶν ἐν ὀφθαλμοῖς κειμένων τὴν
τῶν ἀνωτέρω δυνάμεων θεραπείαν εὑρήκασι, τὰ μὲν μίξαντες, τὰ δὲ
οἰκείως ἀναιρούμενοι· ἡ δὲ μῖξις διὰ τὸ βλέπειν τῶν ἀμίκτων ἕκα-
στόν τινα ἔχον ἰδιότητα τοῦ θεοῦ, οὐ μὴν ἐξαρκοῦν πρὸς τὴν ἐκείνου
πρόκλησιν· διὸ τῇ μίξει τῶν πολλῶν ἑνίζουσι τὰς προειρημένας
ἀπορροίας καὶ ἐξομοιοῦσι τὸ ἐκ πάντων ἓν γενόμενον πρὸς ἐκεῖνο
τὸ πρὸ τῶν πάντων ὅλον· καὶ ἀγάλματα πολλάκις κατασκευάζουσι
σύμμικτα καὶ θυμιάματα, φυράσαντες εἰς ἓν τὰ μερισθέντα συνθή-
ματα καὶ ποιήσαντες τέχνῃ ὁποῖον κατ’ οὐσίαν τὸ θεῖον περιληπτικὸν
καθ’ ἕνωσιν τῶν πλειόνων δυνάμεων, ὧν ὁ μὲν μερισμὸς ἠμύδρω-
σεν ἑκάστην, ἡ δὲ μῖξις ἐπανήγαγεν εἰς τὴν τοῦ παραδείγματος
ἰδέαν. Ἔστι δὲ ὅτε καὶ μία πόα καὶ λίθος εἷς ἀρκεῖ πρὸς τὸ ἔργον·
ἀπόχρη γὰρ πρὸς μὲν αὐτοφάνειαν τὸ κνέωρον, πρὸς δὲ φυλακὴν
δάφνη, ῥάμνος, σκύλλα, κουράλιον, ἀδάμας καὶ ἴασπις, πρὸς δὲ
πρόγνωσιν ἡ τοῦ ἀσπάλακος καρδία, πρὸς δὲ καθάρσεις τὸ θεῖον
καὶ τὸ θαλάττιον ὕδωρ.
Διὰ μὲν οὖν τῆς συμπαθείας προσήγοντο, διὰ δὲ τῆς ἀντιπαθείας
ἀπήλαυνον, καθαίροντες εἰ τύχοι θείῳ καὶ ἀσφάλτῳ καὶ περιρραίνον-
τες θαλάττῃ· καθαίρει γὰρ τὸ μὲν θεῖον διὰ τὸ δριμὺ τῆς ὀσμῆς, ἡ
δὲ θάλαττα διὰ τὸ μετέχειν ἐμπυρίου δυνάμεως.
Καὶ ἐν ταῖς τελεταῖς δὲ καὶ ταῖς ἄλλαις περὶ τοὺς θεοὺς θεραπείαις
ζῷά τε προσήκοντα ἐξελέγοντο καὶ ἕτερ’ ἄττα. Ἀπὸ δὴ τούτων καὶ
τῶν τοιούτων ὁρμηθέντες, τὰς δαιμονίους δυνάμεις ἔγνωσαν, ὡς
προσεχεῖς εἰσιν οὐσίαι τῆς ἐν τῇ φύσει καὶ τοῖς σώμασιν ἐνεργείας,
καὶ ἐπηγάγοντο δι’ αὐτῶν τούτων εἰς συνουσίαν· ἀπὸ δὲ τούτων
ἐπ’ αὐτὰς ἤδη τὰς τῶν θεῶν ἀνέδραμον ποιήσεις, τὰ μὲν ἀπ’ αὐτῶν
διδασκόμενοι, τὰ δὲ καὶ αὐτοὶ κινούμενοι παρ’ ἑαυτῶν εὐστόχως εἰς
τὴν τῶν οἰκείων συμβόλων ἐπίνοιαν· καὶ οὕτω λοιπόν, τὴν φύσιν
καὶ τὰς φυσικὰς ἐνεργείας κάτω καταλιπόντες, ταῖς πρωτουργοῖς
καὶ θείαις ἐχρήσαντο δυνάμεσι.