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Proclus' Life and Teachings Proclean theurgy Proclus' Hymns Henads and the Unknowable Godhead Participated and Unparticipated realities Books on Proclus Proclus Links

Proclus' Life and Teachings Proclean theurgy Proclus' Hymns Henads and the Unknowable Godhead Participated and Unparticipated realities Books on Proclus Proclus Links

Participated  and Unparticipated realities

In Proclus's cosmology, the Unparticipated Monads of each plane is the "universal" aspect of that plane [Proclus, Elements of Theology, prop.108].  They are "Unparticipated" because they do not incarnate or manifest (participate) in any lower-hypostatic reality; and "Monad" because they are the fundamental unity, the Monad, from which all subsequent multiplicity on that plane originates.  Every multiplicity can be traced back to an original  unity, which is not the Absolute unity, but only the unity, the  Monad, of that particular plane [Elements of Theology, prop.21].   And from each Unparticipated Monad, the succession of particular Participated members (which emanate and manifest in lower  orders of being) emerge.  In addition, each of these emanations are in touch with a corresponding Universal - what Proclus calls henadic, i.e. "Unitary" - member.  In this way, all the manifest hypostases can be traced back to their origin.

So for example all individual souls are the joint result of the one Unparticipated or Universal Soul and their own transcendent and Participated Intelligence [Ibid, pp151-2].  So, by the law of effects reverting upon their causes, the soul may make contact with either of these higher principles to which it is connected [ET 108-9, Ibid p.152].   Proclus makes the curious assertion that because the members of the higher Hypostases, being closer to the One, must be fewer in number, not all souls would have their own transcendent Intelligence, and not all and Intelligences their own divine Henad [ET 110-11].  From this there is the division of souls into three classes:

[Elements of Theology 184-5, 202].

Because it is only through the intermediary of a superhuman soul or some other transcendent force that the human soul can make contact with the Intelligible world, let alone the Divine, the importance of theurgy, rather than philosophy, which is limited only to the soul-level, as a means of attaining illumination, becomes evident [R. T. Wallis, Neoplatonism, pp.152-3].  There is an increasing distance between the individual consciousness and the Absolute.  Proclus even states that terms like "Henad", "Intelligence", and "Soul" can be used to refer either to the self-subsistent gods the Unparticipated and Participated monads, which are complete in themselves; or to the "irradiations" or "images" of the former, which being incomplete require a substrate for their existence.  Thus whereas some souls belong to themselves, others are dependent on their bodies, and are mere phantasms of souls [ET 64].  Similarly, some Intelligence exist independently, but others exist only as an irradiation within a Soul.  A common objection against Proclus' theory is that beings cannot directly interact with the One; they can only interact with beings immediately above them on the hierarchy of reality.


The Knowable and the Unknowable Godhead
Iamblichus' Unparticipated- Participated- Participant metaphysics



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content by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 12 November 1998, last modified 14 July 2004