Proclus surnamed Διάδοχος, i.e. the Successor, because he replaced Syrianus (q.v.) as the head of that Athenian school of philosophers who were Neo- Platonists, has been called "the Scholastic among the Greek philosophers." Indeed, according to M. Cousin, Proclus is the Greek philosopher; the flower and crown of all its schools; in whom, says the learned Frenchman, "are combined, and from whom shine forth, in no irregular or uncertain rays, Orpheus, Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle, Zeno, Plotinus, Porphyry, and Jamblichus," and who "had so comprehended all religions in his mind, and paid them such equal reverence, that he was, as it were, the priest of the whole universe!" This is a compliment, but a compliment ill warranted and bestowed only because M. Cousin perceived in this Neo-Platonist more of kinship with that extravagant class of philosophizers, of whom Cousin himself is one, whose method consists in putting forth strings of brilliant propositions, careless about either their consistency or cohereuce. Indeed, Cousin's adoration for Proclus shows, if we may use the words of one of their own class, "what things men will worship in their extreme need!" (Thomas Carlyle).
With the beginning of Christianity in its aggressive movements, the heathen world saw itself faced with immediate danger of a prostration that could only end in death. Philo the Jew, anxious to revive the power of the old dispensation, rallied all extraneous forces, determined to build, by the aid of what antiquity had shaped, a structure that should rival, if not outshine, the simple edifice the Son of the Carpenter of Nazareth and the fishermen of Galilee had reared. What Philo failed to accomplish, Ammonius Saccas, also of Alexandria (near the beginning of the 3d century), and aided by Plotinus his pupil, attempted to effect. SEE PLOTINUS. But both master and pupil left their work ere it was fairly begun, and though Porphyry (q.v.) zealously applied himself to bring out the mystical rationalism of Plotinus, the six Enneades in which these teachings were set forth failed to show even a marked progress in the work so long attempted, and it remained for Jamblichus (q.v.) in the 4th and Proclus in the 5th century to give any appearance whatsoever to the edifice the Neo-Platonists had been so long in constructing. If we wish to see Neo-Platonism in its incipiency, we must go to Philo the Jew. But if we wish to see it in its ripest growth, we must study it in the writings of Proclus the Athenian. The Neo- Platonism he presents to us is no longer the outgrowth of Judaism intermixed with Hellenism, but paganism illumined by the spirit and light of the Gospel of Christ — that very religion with which it was struggling for the empire of the world (see Ullmann, Der Einfluss des Christenthums, in Studien u. Kritiken, 1832, No. 2).
The bewildering conflict of philosophical theories which these five centuries had been fostering had resulted in the growth of scepticism, and left no resting place for minds of a religious turn. The Neo-Platonists of the 4th and 5th centuries most naturally took their refuge in mysticism, where feeling and intuition supersede the slow and doubtful process of the intellect (comp. Fisher, Beginnings of Christianity, p. 178, 179). Plotinus was the first to take this refuge. So did from this time forth all the successors of the Platonists, of whom Gibbon sneeringly says that "Plato would have blushed to acknowledge them." They discarded philosophy, though they claimed to be philosophers. They played upon the superstitious tendencies of their age rather than upon the intellectual strength that still remained. They sought to persuade by the aid of magic rather than by the clear force of logic. They turned prophets and seers. Though they took part in the higher discussions and conclusions of philosophy, they nevertheless stood opposed to all philosophy, since they did not even profess to rest upon careful inquiries into eternal laws of the Spirit, but claimed to have a revelation from God. Thus exalted above all such investigations, Neo-Platonism became the poetry as well as the religion of philosophy. It was attached more especially to the system of Plato, and was professed to be an explanation and a development of his views, but it was aimed to bring together the fundamental principles of all philosophical schools, and the ideas which constitute the basis of all popular religions. It was the work of man, and, however ambitious the scheme, it failed absolutely in its mission. Superstition was the centre and support; magic and sorcery the basis and top-stone of the new structure. It had both philosophy and religion in its composition, and yet it was neither the one nor the other. "The divinity which it presents is exalted above all human apprehension, and was called simply the Self-sufficient One (τὸ ἕν). From his overflowing fulness proceeded the Divine Intelligence, and from this the World-soul, by which the material universe is pervaded with divine life. Evil is only that which is imperfect, and is the most distant reflection of Deity upon matter. The human soul which had been produced by the Divine Intelligence fell, in consequence of its longing after earthly things, from its original divine life to its present temporal existence. It therefore belongs to the sensual as well as to the intellectual world. But the souls of the good and wise, even in this world, are in their happiest moments reunited with the Deity, and death is to such a complete restoration to their home. From a pious veneration for an ancestry far back in antiquity, the Grecian gods especially were regarded as the personal manifestations of the divine life in nature. Some of them were celestial beings, and some ruled here on earth. These earthly powers were the national gods (μερικοί, ἐθνάρκαι), subordinate to the Deity, and exalted above all passion. The myths were therefore, of course, to be explained allegorically. The arts of divination and magic were justified on the ground of the necessary connection of all phenomena by virtue of the unity of the world-
principle" (Hase, Church Hist. § 50). While, then, Neo-Platonism was a new power, it was nevertheless a reformation of the old faith. Though it extended itself over the whole Roman empire, it embraced within itself contradictory elements, and could maintain its existence only long enough to witness and embellish the downfall of heathenism. The last school to minister to Neo-Platonism in these her last hours was that founded by Proclus.
Life. — Proclus was of Lycian origin, and was born in Constantinople in 412. He received his first instruction at Xanthus, in Lycia (whence his surname "Lycius"). His philosophic training he enjoyed at Alexandria, where he studied under Arion, Leonaras, Hero, and especially under Olympiodorus, with whom he applied himself chiefly to Aristotelian and Platonic philosophy. Thence he went to Athens, where a certain Plutarch, a philosopher, and his daughter, and later Syrianus, became his instructors. Asclepigieneia, a priestess of Eleusis, instructed him chiefly in theurgic mysteries. The vivid imagination and enthusiastic temperament which in his childhood had led him to believe in apparitions of Minerva and Apollo, naturally convinced him, when all the influences of the Mysteries (q.v.) were brought to bear upon him, still more of his immediate and direct intercommunication with the gods; and he distinctly believed himself to be one of those through whom divine revelation reaches mankind. His soul, he thought, had once lived in Nicomachus the Pythagorean, and, like him, he had the power to command the elements to a certain extent, to produce rain, to temper the sun's heat, etc. The Orphic poems, the writings of Hermes, and all that strangely mystical literature with which the age abounded, were to him the only source of true philosophy, and he considered them all more or less in the light of divine revelations. That same cosmopolitan spirit in religious matters which pervaded Rome towards her end had spread throughout all the civilized "pagan" world of those days, and Proclus distinctly laid it down as an axiom that a true philosopher must also be a hierophant of the whole world. Acquainted with all the creeds and rites of the ancient Pantheons of the different nations, he not only philosophized upon them in an allegorizing and symbolizing spirit, as many of his contemporaries did, but practiced all the ceremonies, however hard and painful. More especially the practice of fasting in honor of Egyptian deities, while on the one hand it fitted him more and more for his hallucinations and dreams of divine intercourse, on the other hand more than once endangered his life. Of an impulsive piety, and eager to win disciples from Christianity itself, he made himself obnoxious to the Christian authorities at Athens, who, in accordance with the spirit of religious intolerance and fanaticism which then began to animate the new and successful religion against which Proclus waged constant war, banished him from that city. On being permitted to return, he acted with somewhat more prudence and circumspection, and only allowed his most approved disciples to take part in the nightly assemblies in which he propounded his doctrines. He died in 485, in his full vigor, and in the entire possession of all his mental powers, for which he was no less remarkable than for his personal beauty and strength. As a philosopher he enjoyed the highest celebrity among his contemporaries and successors. Marinus does not scruple to call Proclus absolutely inspired, and to affirm that when he uttered his profound dogmas his countenance shone with a preternatural light. Besides his other philosophical attainments, he was a distinguished mathematician, astronomer, and grammarian. In style Proclus is much more perspicuous and intelligible than his predecessor Plotinus; indeed, he is on the whole a good writer, and occasionally is almost eloquent. But the matter of his works has not much to recommend it: his propensity to allegorize everything, even the plainest and simplest expressions in the authors on whom he comments, must deduct largely from his merits as an expounder of other men's thoughts; and but for the interest which attaches to him as the last of a school of philosophy, it is not much to be regretted that his works have slumbered so long in the dust of libraries, and have been either wholly neglected or imperfectly edited.
His Philosophical System. — In the writings of Proclus there is collated, arranged, and dialectically elaborated the whole body of transmitted philosophy, augmented by large additions, and the whole combined into a sort of system, to which he succeeded in giving the appearance of strict logical connection. He professed that his design was not to bring forward views of his own, but simply to expound Plato, in doing which he proceeded on the idea that everything in Plato must be brought into accordance with the mystical theology of Orpheus. He looked upon the Orphic poems and Chaldaean oracles, which he had diligently studied, as divine revelations, and capable of becoming instrumental to philosophy by means of an allegorical exposition. He therefore wrote a separate work on the coincidence of the doctrines of Orpheus, Pythagoras, and Plato. It was in much the same spirit that he attempted to blend together the logical method of Aristotle and the fanciful speculations of Neo-Platonic mysticism. He called himself, as we have already had occasion to say, the last link of the Hermaic chain, that is, the last of men consecrated by Hermes, in whom, by perpetual tradition, was preserved the occult knowledge of the Mysteries. Where reasoning fails him, he takes refuge in the πίστις of Plotinus, which is superior to knowledge. He conducts us to the operations of theurgy, which transcends all human wisdom, and comprises within itself all the advantages of divinations, purifications, initiations, and all the activities of divine inspiration. Through it we are united with the primeval unity, in which every motion and energy of our souls comes to rest. It is this principle which unites not only men with gods, but the gods with each other, and with the one — the good, which is of all things the most credible.
Proclus "held, in all its leading. features the doctrine of emanations from one ultimate, primeval principle of all things, the absolute unity, towards union with which again all things strive. This union he did not, like Plotinus, conceive to be effected by means of pure reason, as even things destitute of reason and energy participate in it, purely as the result of their subsistence (ὕπαρξις, Theol. Plat. i, 25; ii, 1, 4). In some unaccountable way, therefore, he must have conceived the πίστις, by which he represents this union as being effected, as something which did not involve rational or thinking activity. All inferior existences are connected with the highest only through the intermediate ones, and can return to the higher only through that which is intermediate. Every multitude, in a certain way, partakes of unity, and everything which becomes one, becomes so by partaking of the one (Inst. Theol.c. 3). Every object is a union of the one and the many: that which unites the one and the many is nothing else than the pure, absolute one — the essential one, which makes everything else partake of unity. Proclus argued that there is either one principium, or many principia. If the latter, the principia must be either finite or infinite in number. If infinite, what is derived from them must be infinite, so that we should have a double infinite, or else finite. But the finite can be derived only from the finite, so that the principia must be finite in number. There would then be a definite number of them. But number presupposes unity. Unity (ἑνάς) is consequently the principium of principia, and the cause of the finite multiplicity and of the being of all things (Theol. Plat. ii, 1). There is therefore one principium which is incorporeal, for the corporeal consists of parts. It is immovable and unchangeable, for everything that moves, moves towards some object or end, which it seeks after. If the principium were movable it must be in want of the good, and there must be something desirable outside of it. But this is impossible, for the principium has need of nothing, and is itself the end towards which everything else strives. The principium, or first cause of all things, is superior to all actual being (οὐσία), and separated from it, and cannot even have it as an attribute (l.c.). The absolutely one is not an object of cognition to any existing thing, nor can it be named (l.c. p. 95). But in contemplating the emanation of things from the one and their return into it we arrive at two words, the good, and the one, of which the first is analogical and positive, the latter negative only (l.c. p. 96). The absolutely one has produced not only earth and heaven, but all the gods which are above the world and in the world: it is the god of all gods, the unity of all unities (l.c. ii, 110). Everything which is perfect strives to produce something else; the full seeks to impart its fulness. Still more must this be the case with the absolute good, though in connection with that we must not conceive of any creative power or energy, for that would be to make the one imperfect and not simple, not fruitful through its very perfection (l.c. p. 101). Every emanation is less perfect than that from which it emanates (Inst. Theol. c. 7), but has a certain similarity with it, and, so far as this similarity goes, remains in it, departing from it so far as it is unlike, but as far as possible being one with it, and remaining in it (ibid. 31). What is produced from the absolutely one is produced as unity, or of the nature of unity. Thus the first produced things are independent unities (αὐτοτελεῖς ἑνάδες). Of these independent unities some are simple, others more composite. The nearer the unities are to the absolute unity the simpler they are, but the greater is the sphere of their operation and their productive power. Thus out of unity there arise a multitude of things which depart further and further from the simplicity of the absolute one; and as the producing power diminishes, it introduces more and more conditions into things, while it diminishes their universality and simplicity. His whole system of emanations seems, in fact, to be a realization of the logical subordination of ideas. The simplest ideas which are contained in those which are composite being regarded by him as the principles of things."
The emanations proceeded in a curious triadic manner. That which precedes all power, and emanates immediately from the primal cause of all things, is limit. Unity, duality, he considered as identical with limitation (πέρας) and boundlessness (ἀπειρία), and from the mixed compound of these two principia arises a third, a compound of the two — substance (as a sort of genus of all substances), that which in itself is absolutely an existing thing and nothing more (Theol. Plat. 3, 133 sq.). Everything, according to Proclus, contains in itself being (οὑσία), life (ζωή), and intelligence (νοῦς). The life is the centre of the thing, for it is both an object of thought and exists. The intelligence is the limit of the thing, for the intellect (νοῦς) is in that which is the object of intellect (νοητόν), and the latter in the former; but the intellect or thought exists in the thing thought of objectively, and the thing thought of exists in the intellect productively (νοερῶς). This accordingly is the first triad-limit, infinitude, and the compound of the two. Proclus distinguished the divinities (making these also descend from unity and give birth to triads) into intelligible and intelligent, supernatural and natural; attributed a supernatural efficacy to the name of the Supreme Being, and, like his predecessors, exalted theurgy above philosophy. The first triad — viz. the limit — Proclus taught, is the deity who advances to the extreme verge of the conceivable from the inconceivable, primal deity, measuring and defining all things, and establishes the paternal, concatenating, and immaculate race of gods. The infinite is the inexhaustible power of this deity. The "mixed" is the first and highest world of gods, which in a concealed manner comprehends everything within itself. Out of this first triad springs the second. As the first of the unities produces the highest existing thing, the intermediate unity produces the intermediate existent thing, in which there is something first — unity, divinity, reality; something intermediate — power; and something last — the existence in the second grade, conceivable life (νοητὴ ζωή); for there is in everything which is the object of thought being (τὸ ειναι), life (τὸ ζῆν), and thought (τὸ νοεῖν). The third of the unities. the "mixed," produces the third triad, in which the intelligence or thinking power (νοῦς) attains to its subsistence. This thinking power is the limit and completion of everything which can be the object of thought. The first triad contains the principle of union; the second of multiplicity and increase by means of continuous motion or life, for motion is a species of life; the third, the principle of the separation of the manifold, and of formation by means of limit.
In his treatise on Providence and Fate, Proclus seeks to explain the difference between the two, and to show that the second is subordinate to the first in such a manner that freedom is consistent with it. Both providence and fate are causes — the first the cause of all good, the second the cause of all connection (and connection as cause and effect). There are three sorts of things — some whose operation is as eternal as their substance, others whose substance does not exist, but is perpetually coming into existence, and, between these, things whose substance is eternal, but whose operation takes place in time. Proclus names these three kinds intellectual, animal, and corporeal. The last alone are subjected to fate, which is identical with nature, and is itself subject to providence, which is nothing else than the deity himself. The corporeal part of man is entirely subject to fate. The soul, as regards its substance, is superior to fate; as regards its operation, sometimes (referring to those operations which require corporeal organs and motions) beneath, sometimes superior to fate, and so forms the bond of connection between intellectual and corporeal existence. The freedom of the soul consists in its living according to virtue, for this alone does not involve servitude. Wickedness, on the other hand, is want of power, and by it the soul is subjected to fate, and is compelled to serve all that ministers to or hinders the gratification of the desires. Proclus strongly distinguished the soul from that which is material, pointing out its reflective power as a mark of difference; the corporeal not being able to turn back in that way upon itself, owing to its consisting of separable parts. He founded on this also an argument for the immortality of the soul (Inst. Theol. c. 15). The human soul he considered wrapped up in various more or less dense veils, according to the degree of perfection attained; and he further assumed a certain sort of solidarity between the souls of those who naturally, or by certain immutable circumstances, were linked together, such as children and parents, rulers and subjects; and he carried this doctrine so far as to assert that the children must naturally participate in their parents' faults. Faith alone, he further held, was essential to the attainment of theurgy, which, comprising mantic and supernatural inspiration, is preferable to all human wisdom; and in this he chiefly differs from Plotinus (q.v.). Some of the topics touched upon in this treatise are carried out still further in the essay on Ten Questions about Providence. In the treatise on the Origin of Evil (Περὶ τῆς τῶν κακῶν ὑποστάσεως), Proclus endeavors to show that evil does not originate with God, or with the daemons, or with matter. Evil is the consequence of a weakness, the absence of some power. As with the total absence of all power activity would be annihilated, there cannot be any total, unmixed evil. The good has one definite, eternal, universally operating cause — namely, God. The causes of evil are manifold, indefinite, and not subject to rule. Evil has not an original, but only a derivative existence.
His Works. — The following of Proclus's writings are still extant:
(1.) Εἰς τὴν Πλάτωνος θεολογίαν, in six books.
(2.) Στοιχείωσις θεολογική (Institutio Theologica). This treatise was first published in the Latin translation of Franciscus Patricius. The Greek text, with the translation of AEm. Portus, is appended to the edition of the last-mentioned work (Hamb. 1618).
(3.) A commentary on the First Alcibiades of Plato.
(4.) A commentary on the Tinceus of Plato. Of this commentary on the Timnaus five books remain, but they only treat of about a third of the dialogue. It is appended to the first Basle edition of Plato.
(5.) Various notes on the Πολιτεία of Plato, printed in the same edition of Plato as the last-mentioned work.
(6.) A commentary on the Πολιτεία of Plato, published in Stallbaum's edition of that dialogue.
(7.) Portions of a commentary on the Cratylus of Plato, edited by Boissonade (Leips. 1820).
(8.) A paraphrase of various difficult passages in the Τετράβιβλος σύνταξις of Ptolemaeus: first published, with a preface, by Melancthon (Basle. 1554).
(9.) A treatise on motion (Περὶ κινήσεως), a sort of compendium of the last five books of Aristotle's treatise Περὶ φυσικῆς ἀκροάσεως.
(10.) ῾Υποτύπωσις τῶν ἀστρονομικῶν ὑποθέσεων (ibid. 1520).
(11.) Σφαῖρα, frequently appended to the works of the ancient astronomers. There are also several separate editions of it.
(12.) A commentary on the first book of Euclid's Elenents (attached to various editions of the text of Euclid).
(13.) A commentary on the ῎Εργα καὶ ἡμέραι of Hesiod, in a somewhat mutilated form ( ῾Υπόμνημα εἰς τὰ ῾Ησιόδου ἔργα καὶ ἡμέρας) (first published at Venice in 1537). A better edition is that by Heinsius (Leyden, 1603).
(14.) Χρηστομάθεια γραμματική, or, rather, some portions of it preserved by Photius (cod. 239), treating of poetry and the lives of various celebrated poets. The short life of Homer which passes under the name of Proclus was probably taken from this work.
(15.) Ε᾿πιχειρήματα ιή κατὰ Χριστιανῶν. The object of this work was to maintain the eternity of the universe against the Christian doctrine on the subject. The work of Proclus has not come down to us in a separate form, but we still possess his arguments in the refutation of them by Joannes Philoponus (De Eternitate Mundi).
(16.) De Providentia et Fato, addressed to Theodorus, a mechanician.
(17.) Decemn Dubitationes circa Providentiam (Περὶ τῶν δέκα πρὸς τὴν Πρόνοιαν ἀπορημάτων).
(18.) De Malorum Subsistentia (Περὶ τῆς τῶν κακῶν ὑποστάσεως). This and the two preceding treatises only exist in the Latin translation of Gulielmus de Morbeka. They are printed entire by Fabricius in his Bibliotheca Graeca, 9:373, etc.
(19.) A little astrological treatise on the effect of eclipses, in a Latin translation.
(20.) A treatise on poetry, also in a Latin translation, printed together with a treatise by Choeroboscus (Paris, 1615).
(21.) Five hymns.
(22.) Some scholia on Homer. The following works have perished: (1.) A commentary on the Philebus of Plato (Procl. in Tim. p. 53,222).
(2.) A commentary on the Phoedrus of Plato (Procl. l.c. p. 329).
(3.) A defence of the Timoeus of Plato against the Α᾿ντιῤῥήσεις of Aristotle (ibid. p. 226: Βιβλίον ἰδιᾷ ἐκδεδωκὼς οιδα τῶν πρὸς τὸν Τίμαιον Α᾿ριστοτέλους ἀντιῤῥήσεων ἐπισκέψεις ποιουμένων).
(4.) Καθαρτικὸς τῶν δογμάτων τοῦ Πλάτωνος, against Domninus (Suid. s.v. Δομνῖνος).
(5.) A commentary on the Thecetetus of Plato (Marinus, l.c. cap. ult.).
(6.) Νόμοι, a commentary apparently on the Laws of Plato (Procl. in Tim. p. 178).
(7.) Notes on the Ε᾿ννεάδες of Plotinus.
(8.) Μητρωακὴ βίβλος, on the mother of the gods (Suid. s.v. HpocX.).
(9.) Εἰς τὴν Ο᾿ρφέως θεολογίαν (Suid. l.c.; Marin. c. 27). (10.) περὶ τὰ λόγια, in ten books (Suid. Marin. c. 26). (11.) A commentary on Homer (Suid.). (12.) Περὶ τῶν παῤ ῾Ομήρῳ θεῶν (ibid.).
(13.) Συμφωνία Ο᾿ρφέως, Πυθαγόρου καὶ Πλάτωνος (Suid. Marin. c. 22).
(14.) On the three ἑνάδες νοηταί — namely, ἀλήθεια, καλλονή, and συμμετρία (Procl. in Polit. p. 433).
(15.) Εἰς τὸν λόγον τῆς Διοτίμας περὶ τῆς τῶν κακῶν ὑποστάσεως.
(16.) Περὶ ἀγωγῆς, on the theurgic discipline, in two books (Suid.).
(17.) Various hymns and epigrams.
There is no complete edition of the extant works of Proclus. The edition of Cousin (Paris, 1820-27, 6 vols. 8vo) contains the treatises on Providence and Fate, on the Ten Doubts about Providence, and on the Nature of Evil, the commentary on the Alcibiades, and the commentary on the Parmnenides. This learned Frenchman has since brought out Procli Philos. Platonici opera inedita (Paris, 1864). There are English translations of the commentaries on the Tiinceus, the six books on the Theology of Plato, the commentaries on the first book of Euclid, and the Theological Elements, and the five Hymns, by Thomas Taylor. See Fabricius, Bibl. Graec. 9:363- 445; Brucker, Historia Critica Philosophice, ii, 319-336; Tennemann, Geschichte der Philosophie, vol. 6; Ritter, Geschichte der Philosophie, bk. 13, c. 3, vol. 4:699, etc.; Dr. Burigny, Life of Proclus, in Memoirs of the Academy of Inscriptions, vol. 31; Marinus, Vita Procli (Gr. and Lat. ed. by Fabricius [Hamb. 1740, 4to]; ed. by Boissonade [Leips. 1814, 8vo]); Baur, Christl. Jahrbiicher (Tubing. 1846, p. 29-72); Cudworth, Intell. Universe (see Index); Hunt, Pantheism, p. 117 sq.; Lewes, Hist. of Philos. vol. ii; Simon, Ecole Alex. vol. ii; Tennemann, Man. of Philos. p. 190 sq.; Gibbon, Decline and Fall, c. 20:§ 12; Hase, Ch. Hist. p. 48 etc.; Ueberweg, Hist. of Philos. i, 255-258; Smith, Dict. of Greek and Roman Biog. cand Mythol. s.v. (from which a part of the above has been taken); Kingsley, Alexandria, p. 116-124, 128; Alzog, Patrol. § 57; Nourisson, Pensees Humaines, p. 161 sq.