I am currently investigating Cardinal Bernardin for a newspaper article I am writing. Please comment below if you have any links or intel. CK
Aristotle is often considered the most level headed of the ancient philosophers and rightly so. While there is strong evidence that Plato is alluding to certain of Orphic or Pythagorean mysticism in dialogues such as the Phaedrus and Symposium, there is generally little reason to believe that the Macedonian philosopher was a hidden occultist.
However, there is a passage at the beginning of Plutarch’s Life of Alexander that always strikes me as odd:
It would appear, moreover, that Alexander not only received from his master his ethical and political doctrines, but also participated in those secret and more profound teachings which philosophers designate by the special terms “acroamatic” and “epoptic,”and do not impart to many. For after he had already crossed into Asia, and when he learned that certain treatises on these recondite matters had been published in books by Aristotle, he wrote him a letter on behalf of philosophy, and put it in plain language. And this is a copy of the letter. “Alexander, to Aristotle, greeting. Thou hast not done well to publish thy acroamatic doctrines; for in what shall I surpass other men if those doctrines wherein I have been trained are to be all men’s common property? But I had rather excel in my acquaintance with the best things than in my power. Farewell.” Accordingly, in defending himself, Aristotle encourages this ambition of Alexander by saying that the doctrines of which he spoke were both published and not published; for in truth his treatise on metaphysics is of no use for those who would either teach or learn the science, but is written as a memorandum for those already trained therein.
A couple of things to consider.
Aristotle and Alexander studied together at the precinct of the nymphs near Mieza.
Alexander learned medicine from Aristotle, which was often associated with natural magic.
While there is no known connection between Alexander’s mother Olympias and Aristotle, as far as I know, Olympias was a devotee of the Orphic cult and practiced some sort of serpent worship. This is not to say that Aristotle has necessarily had hidden Orphic teaching in his work.
But we are left with few interesting questions.
Did Alexander pick up Orphism from his mother?
Did Alexander and Aristotle worship together or practice and early form of theurgy at Mieza?
What is the hidden teaching of the Metaphysics?
I ran across an article linking the World Soul with “Mother Nature” and “Gaia” that was written by an ecocritic in a book on ecocritical approaches to the Early Modern period. The article traced the connection among the myths of Gaia, the Pythagorean-Platonic notion of the World Soul, the premodern notions of nature as physis or natura and modern ecological veneration of mother nature.
The Chaldeans and theurgists venerated this same deity as Hecate and Psyche.
Is there then a connection between modern Gaia worship and the worship of Hecate, the goddess of the underworld?
The sign of the cross was ubiquitous on MTV during the 80s and 90s. It was generally assumed that the artists were either trying to create a neo-Gothic aesthetic, or they were trying to make a sacrilegious statement and were mocking the cross.
However, I just came across something very interesting from a book on the Chaldean Oracles, which reveals that the cross is also an ancient symbol of the World or Cosmic Soul aka Hecate.
This passage reminded me of a comment I once heard that the Christ of the ressurecifix is not the crucified Christ but rather Zoroaster or even the anti-Christ healer who was not really crucified and does not ask for his followers to crucify their flesh.
Whether or not this latter assertion is true, it is important to note that Christian symbols can be utilized by the occult. Thus, just because a person sees a Christian image (in a suspicious situation especially), it does not mean that this image reflects a Christian idea.
This idea is especially interesting when applied to modernist (and even some medieval!) churches that contain a combination of both occult images and Christian. Perhaps the Christian images in these churches are not meant to be Christian at all.
Among the images that would appear when the goddess Hecate was conjured with theurgy were, as I have mentioned before, fire and light, but there also would be images of horses and boys.
The boys were supposedly the souls who had died in a nefarious manner and were forced to accompany Hecate.
But what of the horses?
Is there a connection with the story of Phaeton? With Eros? With the myth of the charioteer in the Phaedrus?
One of the Oracles from the Chaldean Oracles caught my eye. It reads: ‘Let the immortal depth of the soul be opened, strongly spread out all the eyes upwards.” The “immortal depths of the soul,” are also called the eye of the soul, which needs to be opened.
A recurring theme in many sci-fi and surrealist movies is the idea of “opening eyes” or awakening through which a character is radically changed.
This notion of awakening is called opening the “doors of perception” by Aldous Huxley, and, of course, the rock group, The Doors took their name from this expression. Huxley was talking about the use of LSD to unlock the minds powers, but it is very interesting that his comments sound a lot like the ideas found in ancient Chaldean texts and the writings of Neoplatonists.
Is it possible that rock concerts at which psychedelic drugs are taken to open the doors or eye of the soul and at which spirits are summoned and funneled into the open soul of youth via music and ritual are simply massive shamanistic festivals meant to induce mass possession?
While I have written on facets of this topic before, I just came across two more interesting quotes from Marsilio Ficino regarding music. Ficino had suggested in his De Vita that a demon could actually carry music into the ear. He also proposed that the musician could “make” demons with his music.
While the later idea is ridiculous, it nonetheless opens that idea that demons can be summoned via music and could enter into a person via the ear or perhaps by affecting the thamus or spirit.
This idea is especially pertinent to the notion of Orpheus as a mage-musician as well as the contemporary celebrity as a musician-mage able to mold and shape the audience through induced possession.
As a side note, the idea of an “alien” organism entering the ear is a common theme in science fiction present in Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan and Alien: Covenant.
I just ran across an interesting reference to the “epiclesis” or the coming down or summoning of the spirits in theurgic, Chaldean as well as other magic rituals.
I know that this “epiclesis” is common in the East was introduced into the Novus Ordo.
I am not implying that this is epiclesis is necessarily a magic ritual introduced into the Novus Ordo or present in the East via assimilation of magic ritual.
However, the parallel with magic ritual does intrigue me.
Does anyone know the origin of how the epiclesis entered the Novus Ordo and what the role of the epiclesis is in the Divine Liturgy in Orthdoxy?
If so, please respond in the comments.
Neoplatonism is a funny word. It generally refers to the writings of Plotinus, the third century AD Hellenistic philosophy who crafted a mystical Platonism. Neoplatonism via Marsilio Ficino and Pico della Mirandola also is known as the philosophical underpinning of Renaissance art and culture. This Renaissance Neoplatonism mutated later into German idealism and Romanticism and its bastard child Theosophy and Occultism of the early 20th century and finally into the New Age Movement of today.
As your humble author has been uncovering, Neoplatonism after Plotinus took a magical form when Iamblichus and Proclus introduced Orphic teaching (already latent in some of Plato’s writing) but more importantly Chaldean (or Babylonian) and Egyptian magic known as theurgy.
However, while I had known that magic was taught in the Platonic academy, I have just discovered that the (Neo?) Platonic academy in the fourth century had the teaching of Orpheus (magical chants, etc.) and the Chaldean Oracles (chanting, shamanism, possession, meditation, etc) as the culmination of the schools curriculum. That is to say, it was not that magic had infected the Academy; rather, magic became the highest art and teaching of the school that had birthed Western thought.
If magic continued as the culmination of or at least was a central aspect of NeoPlatonic teaching (and there is even some reason to believe that it was the culmination of earlier Platonic teaching), then all of the many references to magic in Renaissance thought and Romanticism (and they are many) are not simply literary allusions, but are indications of the direct and literal presence of magic in these works.
Thus Renaissance paganism and Romanticism (or at least certain currents in these schools of thought) acted as vessels for Egyptian and Babylonian magic, which were later opened and developed by occultists in the 19th and 20th centuries.