Proclus: On the Theology of Plato
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The present volume is a reprint of Thomas Taylor’s 1816 translation of Proclus’ "On the Theology of Plato", by far the most exhaustive and complete survey of the theological elements of Plato's teachings. In the original edition of this work, Taylor included additional materials, including Proclus’ "Elements of Theology", along with fragments from treatises on Providence, Fate and Evil. Of these, only the Elements of Theology have been included in the present volume, while the others await reprinting in a separate volume. The Elements of Theology and the Theology of Plato together allow the reader a greater possibility of grasping the overall scheme of Platonic theology. As Taylor notes in his Introduction, “the Elements of Theology . . . render[s] the treatise On the Theology of Plato more complete, and . . . assist[s] the reader who wishes to penetrate the depths of that most abstruse and sublime work; for the former elucidates, and is elucidated by the latter.”
Students wishing for an introduction to the theology described in this volume are encouraged to also read Taylor’s General Introduction to the Philosophy and Writings of Plato along with his translations of the complete Works of Plato.
“I rejoice in the opportunity which is afforded me of presenting the truly philosophic reader, in the present work, with a treasure of Grecian theology; of a theology, which was first mystically and symbolically promulgated by Orpheus, afterwards disseminated enigmatically through images by Pythagoras, and in the last place scientifically unfolded by Plato and his genuine disciples. The peculiarity indeed of this theology is that it is no less scientific than sublime; and that by a geometrical series of reasoning originating from the most self-evident truths, it develops all the deified progressions from the ineffable principle of things, and accurately exhibits to our view all the links of that golden chain of which deity is the one extreme, and body the other.”-Thomas Taylor, from the Introduction.
Proclus Lycius (412-485), was born in Constantinople to a family of high social status, and studied rhetoric, philosophy, and mathematics in Alexandria. As a gifted student having surpassed all philosophical instruction available in Alexandria, he went to Athens to study under Plutarch at the famous platonic academy there, and would later succeed Syranius and become head of the academy.
Like other neoplatonists before him, the crux of his work was focused on commentaries of Plato. He is reputed to have travelled widely to be initiated into the various mystery cults of his day. His work is considered to be the mature culmination of Neo-Platonism.