As a follow-up to my most recent post on the divine series, I would like to share some Google Draw diagrams that I’ve made to use when explaining these things. I’m adding two quotations for reference to this post, but I think it’s a good idea to look at them while reading another thing I’ve posted about divine series, especially the comments about Isidore.
First, this is the basic diagram that describes how we relate to our leader-God. It’s styled similar to an “org chart” — you have the God at the top, followed by the rest of their divine series, progressing to the angels, daimones, and heroes (daimonic orders) and to the partial souls.
I’ve added, below “their partial souls” (us) the symbols, signs, and correspondences in nature. These operate at the behavioral level (cultural) and the material level, so they encompass things like the chants we might give a God, the way our cultures express seasonal connections and divide apart the year, how we culturally interpret reproductive functions and associations, and so on. These things are all highly variable between cultures. Materially, it encompasses things like the places that are sacred to a God at specific times or the trees, stones, &c. that are sacred to some God or other. Essentially, we are composing sympathetic connections with diverse potential and constrained actuality, much like how we compose sentences out of grammatical structures that are constrained by the sounds possible in human mouths, but each language does not use all of the sounds or possible grammatical features.
Who, then, are these people and what is the understanding (gnôsis) that belongs to them? Well, in the first place, they are “offspring of the gods” and “clearly know their own parents.” They are offspring and children of the gods in as much as they conserve the form of the god who presides over them through their current way of life, for Apollonian souls are called “offspring and children of Apollo” when they choose a life that is prophetic or dedicated to mystic rites (telestikos bios). These souls are called “children” of Apollo to the extent that they belong to this god in particular and are adapted to that series down here. By contrast, they are called offspring of Apollo because their present lifestyle displays them as such. All souls are therefore children of god, but not all of them have recognised the gods whose children they are. Those who recognise [their leading gods] and choose a similar life are called “children of gods.” This is why Plato added the words “as they say,” for these souls [sc. those of the people to whose authority Timaeus proposes to defer] reveal the order from which they come — as in the case of the Sibyl who delivered oracles from the moment of her birth or Heracles who appeared at his birth together with Demiurgic symbols. When souls of this sort revert upon their parents, they are filled by them with divinely inspired cognition (entheos noêsis). Their understanding (gnôsis) is a matter of divine possession since they are connected to the god through the divine light and [this sort of understanding] transcends all other [kinds of] understanding — both that achieved through [reasoning through] what is likely (di’ eikotôn), as well as that which is demonstrative (apodeiktikos). The former deals with nature and the universals that are in the particulars, while the latter deals with incorporeal essence (ousia) and things that are objects of knowledge. But divinely inspired understanding alone is connected to the gods themselves.Proclus, Commentary on Plato’s Timaeus, trans. Dirk Baltzly, vol. V, VI vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 159.14-160.12.
The image above is a visual representation of what Proclus is saying. We have a bunch of deities who are operating in the background and with whom we interact. (See the quotation from Damascius about Isidore in that other post I linked up top — he has signatures of Athene and Aphrodite within him that are evident to Damascius and that Damascius praises despite Isidore being in the series of Hermes.) Only four other Gods are shown here because the diagram gets too crowded otherwise.
Now [to live] “according to essence” is to choose the life that befits the chain from which one is suspended: for example, [to live] the military life, if [one is suspended] from the [chain] of Ares; or the life of words and ideas (logikos), if from that of Hermes; or the healing or prophetic life, if from that of Apollo; or quite simply, as was said earlier, to live just as one was born to live.But if someone sets before himself a life that is not according to his essence, but some other life that differs from this, and focuses in his undertakings on someone else’s work – they say that the intellective (noêros) [daimon] is allotted to this person, and for this reason, because he is doing someone else’s work, he fails to hit the mark in some [instances].Olympiodorus, Olympiodorus : Life of Plato and On Plato First Alcibiades 1-9, ed. Richard Sorabji and Michael Griffin, trans. Michael Griffin, Ancient Commentators on Aristotle (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015), https://doi.org/10.5040/9781474220286, Lecture 3, §20
When we live a life that is not aligning with our leader-God, the diagram looks like this:
The reason I liken this to an org chart is to make the following analogy. We all know of someone who has reported to two people — for example, in libraries and archives, it is not uncommon for regional collaborations between the Smithsonian and some Center or other to have the heads report both to the Smithsonian and to the hosting University. This is sometimes okay, but it often results in someone having to juggle two conflicting five-year strategies and cultures, not to mention the personality of two different bosses. Sometimes the situation calls for such divided loyalties, so it must be tolerated, and kudos to anyone who is in a job like that for dealing with a hard situation. Think of the friction in a life unlike your God in that way. In a life that is like your God, whatever happens in it, your God is clearly connected to you. So you might have periods where you’re “sent” to visit other Gods devotionally, and you may be connected to other Gods in various ways because devotional life tends to develop like that, but — to take after Proclus — you know who your parent/boss is, and your soul has that likeness awareness. But being split in two is like being whiplashed. Souls always choose what they believe is most good, though, so if you suspect you are in a life like that, do what you can to contemplate the positives and what the life is teaching you.
The best way to figure this stuff out is, incidentally, devotionally — which is why a regular prayer practice is so important. You cannot always guarantee that your professional life or interests are going to point to your actual leader-God. I am interested in conlanging and languages and am a librarian, which might make people assume (as I once did) that I am more akin to Hermes or Athene. There are a lot of things about my life that are congruent with those Gods, and I find Athene very relatable. (This, to clarify, is more about vibeing/”dancing” in rhythm with the Gods than about specific activities, even though the specifics are also part of this vibe, which I realized right after pressing “publish” that I have to add as a caveat because our culture tends to box Gods into correspondence lists.) I have also written poetry since a young age, and when I was a late teen, I started getting really into a Goddess I called the “Muse” — a sort of encore to my early-childhood fascination with Ourania and the other Muses and their Mother — and ultimately to Apollon. I remember listening to Vivaldi during the winter at home when the light through the windows was cutting and watching the light-patterns the music made in my head as a teen and feeling that perfect connection, and then forgetting it, and then remembering it again, because being a teen and then a young adult is an Experience. But it’s through prayer that such connections are most evident, and you have to follow your intuition to the steadfast, still heart beyond opinion and what is changeable. This is exoteric because it’s available to anyone, and it’s esoteric because the process of coming to know the self is always hidden within one’s subjective experience of the world, veiled to others, and often to the day-to-day self.
It’s also a huge trust fall.
Happy Tuesday, everyone, and as the alphabet oracle says, “Completing many contests, you will seize the crown.”