Bibliotherapy

Proclus-The Ethymology of Athena

Two famous paintings by Gustav Klimt, Pallas Athena and Hygeia.

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Today’s sharing from the Blue House of HYGEIA, on the eve of our online Zoom ‘Seven Myths of the Soul’ program, is an excerpt from Proclus’ ‘Commentary on Platos’ ‘Cratylus’: The Etymology of ‘Athena’.

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184. ‘Plato has combined his treatment of Athena, Hephaistos and Ares (406D) because of their common relation to matters of war, because of the technical prowess of Athena which is common to both the others, and because both gods desire the same Aphrodite and both were born of Hera and Zeus.

185. The theologians praise two powers in particular of our lady Athena-the guardian, which keeps the order of the things as a whole untainted and unconquerable by matter, and the perfective, which fills all creatures with intellectual light and turns them back to their own cause. This is why in the ‘Timaeus’ (24C) Plato analogously praises Athena as both a ‘lover of war’ and a ‘lover of wisdom’.

Her orders are described as three: The first is fontal (pertaining to or coming from a fountain or spring) and intellectual, and by this she establishes herself in the Father and exists there without procession. The second is principal, and by this she exists Core, limits all her procession and turns her back to herself. The third is independent, and by this she perfects, guards and covers all the cosmos with her own powers, since she connects all the encosmic heights and, herself, institutes all the lots in heaven as well as those that have proceeded under the moon.

Here, then Socrates celebrates the guardian power with the name Pallas, and the perfective with that of Athena. She thus reveals rhythmic dance by the motion which she also shares first of all with the Curetic order, but secondly with the other gods as well. For by this power, says Orpheus, Athena is leader of the Curetes (fr.185). And for this reason, she is equipped with empyrean arms, just like the Curetes, by means of which she repels all disorder, keep the demiurgic order unmovable and reveals the dance through rhythmic motion. Yet, she also preserves the reason-principle that proceeds from Intellect and governs matter through her. For the ‘Universe’ says Timaeus (47E), is ‘mixed from Intellect and Necessity’, though Necessity obeys Intellect, and all material causes together are subject to the Will of the Father. It is therefore this same Goddess that subjects Necessity to the creative activity of the Intellect, raises the universe to participation in God, awakens and situates it in the ‘harbour’ of the Father and guards it eternally. And if the Universe is ever said to be ‘indissoluble’ (Tim. 41A), she is bestower of its permanence; and if it is said to dance for all time, she is leader of the chorus by a single reason-principle and a single order. She therefore watches over all the creation of her Father, holds it together and turns it back to him, and conquers all material indefiniteness.

This is why she is called both ‘Victory’ and ‘Health’-the former because she makes Intellect and Form govern Necessity and matter, respectively; the latter because she keeps the cosmos forever whole, perfect, ageless and incorruptible. It therefore is a property of this Goddess to elevate, divide and through intellectual dancing, join to the more divine realm, to establish and preserve in…’

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