A Quotation of Interest from Proclus’ Timaeus Commentary

I’ve gotten out of the habit of posting things on the commonplace book tag, mostly because — just after embarking on my read through Book 2 of Proclus’ Timaeus commentary — I realized that the text was rapidly becoming so interconnected that posting things without people knowing the context could do more harm than good. I am now partway through Book 3.

Last night, I reached this passage about the differences between various types of souls. I found it interesting.

Since there are three of these intermediate genera, when Being predominates over Sameness and Difference, then the corresponding mixture of the intermediate forms of the genera brings about divine soul, and the greater or lesser amount in the mixing bowl determines the level of divine soul. But when Sameness and Being simultaneously predominate over the remaining [ingredient], then we get angelic soul. And when only the Same predominates [over Being and Difference], then the daemonic soul comes to be. When Sameness and Difference predominate over Being, then we get the heroic soul. But when Difference alone predominates, we have the human soul, for it is impossible for the extreme ends of the spectrum to dominate over the one in the middle because unless the extremes are connected through the middle ones, they would be separate from one another. So in accord with each of these mixtures, the greater and lesser in the mixture make the level of souls.

Proclus, Commentary on Plato’s Timaeus Book 3, Pt. II, 138.26-139.5, trans. Baltzly

Baltzly has a footnote about the ruled-out permutation being “the one in which Difference and Being together predominate over Sameness” due to Sameness being the glue term (p. 101). Difference and Being being equal reminds me, to be honest, of the natural world that is constantly in flux, with different properties and species and worlds evolving over time — the births and deaths of stars, the scattering of the elements, the differentiation of life across many evolutionary pathways in constant competition, the way that life on each world must arise (because what is potential must be actual, I think) and yet the ecosystems and forms of life are so, so variable and fleeting.

A few pages hence, Proclus writes (while discussing hypercosmic souls), “For hypercosmic souls transcend these encosmic souls proximately, just as encosmic souls proximately transcend the divisible Being which comes to be in the realm of bodies. For this reason, hypercosmic souls are the intermediaries between intellects and encosmic souls — on the one hand having the property of being unmixed in relation to bodies, but on the other hand having the property of being subject to change (to metabatikon) in their thought” (144.10-14, same translation). The part that is bolded is an emphasis that I added (the translators bold the lines of Plato that appear, which is why I’m adding this clarification) because the language here echoes what Proclus wrote several pages earlier and Baltzly’s footnote — while divisible Being is discussed elsewhere, this specific passage prompted me to recall my just-scribbled marginalia about the natural world and the [Being + Difference] > Sameness comments.

The passage at 138.26-139.5 is also interesting in that it brings to mind recent thoughts and ponderings about daimones and their role, as they can seem a bit like automata or the daemons of the software world — except we know that they’re not. Considering that the Same predominates in them makes me think, at first glance, predictable. The daimones assigned to specific lives will help the soul who chose it fulfill the telos of that life; the daimones of the material world that can be so problematic to encounter are not evil, but are performing their specific functions.

It also reminds me of a passage from Edward Butler’s article “Time and the Heroes” due to [Sameness + Difference] > Being. That pair taken together seems like it highlights the tumult of the heroic life as said tumult is described in this passage of his article below:

The lowest things, therefore, in important respects, express the action of the highest principles. Heroes, in their untimeliness and in their capacity for monstrous transgression or tragic suffering, exhibit something of what is metaphysically prior to mundane temporality and to law or custom, though it is no less privative for that. It is not that these acts are ennobled by heroes doing or suffering them; rather, as Nagy underscores, “whenever heroes commit deeds that violate moral codes, such deeds are not condoned by the heroic narrative.” Rather, the hero in spanning the heights and the depths of the human condition, transgressing boundaries of every kind, establishes a limit (peras) of the mortal as such, and as we have seen, it is essential to divine souls that each point of their circuit is both archê and peras, both principle (or ‘beginning’) and limit (or ‘end’). The hero is untimely and out of measure because they become themselves measures, ‘seasons’, and the measure cannot also be, in the same respect, the measured.

Edward Butler, “Time and the Heroes,” WtW 1(1), 2014

(I’ve thought about the above passage a lot, actually.)

Anyway, just a few quick thoughts this time, and I hope that everyone is safe and healthy.

📚

One thought on “A Quotation of Interest from Proclus’ Timaeus Commentary

  1. Since there are three of these intermediate genera, when Being predominates over Sameness and Difference, then the corresponding mixture of the intermediate forms of the genera brings about divine soul, and the greater or lesser amount in the mixing bowl determines the level of divine soul. But when Sameness and Being simultaneously predominate over the remaining [ingredient], then we get angelic soul. And when only the Same predominates [over Being and Difference], then the daemonic soul comes to be. When Sameness and Difference predominate over Being, then we get the heroic soul. But when Difference alone predominates, we have the human soul, for it is impossible for the extreme ends of the spectrum to dominate over the one in the middle because unless the extremes are connected through the middle ones, they would be separate from one another. So in accord with each of these mixtures, the greater and lesser in the mixture make the level of souls.

    The way I like to think about the composition of the soul out of Being, Sameness (or Identity) and Difference is that the Being of the soul is its peculiarity, what we might otherwise find termed the “One” or the “flower” of the soul, that is, its divinity or the proximate ontological expression of its divinity, if the latter can only be expressed in theurgical terms, while its Sameness/Identity and Difference are two dimensions of its relativity, Identity being that which is intellectively determined (i.e., some concept), while Difference is relativity with respect to some psychical or corporeal determination (e.g., psychological events or some material continuum).

    Liked by 2 people

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