Splendor Solis VI: Oration to the Sovereign Sun

It appears to me that the present oration very properly belongs to all who breathe or creep on earth, who participate of being, of a rational soul, and of intellect; but I consider it as particularly belonging to myself; for I am an attendant of the sovereign Sun: and of the truth of this, indeed, I possess most accurate assurances, one of which it may be lawful for me, without envy, to relate.

A vehement love for the splendors of this god took possession of me from my youth; in consequence of which, while I was a boy, my rational part was ravished with astonishment as often as I surveyed his etherial light; nor was I alone desirous of stedfastly beholding his diurnal splendors, but likewise at night, when the heavens were clear and serene, I was accustomed to walk abroad, and, neglecting every other concern, to gaze on the beauty of the celestial regions with rapturous delight: indeed I was so lost in attentive vision, that I was equally unconscious of another’s discourse, and of my own conduct on such occasions.

Hence I appeared to be too studious of their contemplation, and too curious in such employments; and, in consequence of this, though I was yet short of the perfection of manhood, I was suspected by some to be skilled in astronimical divination; but, indeed, no book of this kind was as yet in my possession, and I was entirely ignorant of its meaning and use. But why do I relate such trifling particulars, when I have things of far greater moment to declare, if I should tell my conceptions of the gods at that period of life.

However, let the darkness of childhood be consigned to the shades of oblivion. But that the celestial light, with which I was every way environed, so excited and exalted me to its contemplation, that I observed by myself the contrary course of the moon to that of the universe, before I met with any who philosophized on these subjects, may easily be credited from the indications which I have previously related. Indeed I admire the felicity of the man on whom divinity bestows a body united from sacred and prophetic seed, that he may disclose the treasuries of wisdom; but, at the same time, I will not despise the condition allotted me by the benefit of this deity; I mean, that I rank among those to whom the dominion and empire of the earth at the present period belong.

It is, indeed, my opinion, that the sun (if we may credit the wise) is the common father of all mankind; for as it is very properly said, man and the sun generate man. But this deity disseminates souls into the earth not from himself alone, but from other divinities; and these evince by their lives the end of their propagation. And his destiny will indeed be most illustrious, who, prior to his third progeny, and from a long series of ancestors, has been addicted to the service of this deity: nor is this to be despised, if some one, knowing himself to be naturally a servant of this god, alone among all, or with a few of mankind, delivers himself to the cultivation of his lord.

Let us then, to the best of our ability, celebrate his festival, which the royal city renders illustrious by its annual sacrifices and solemn rites. But I am well aware how difficult it is to conceive the nature of the unapparent sun, if we may conjecture from the excellence of the apparent god; and to declare this to others, can perhaps be accomplished by no one without derrogating from the dignity of the subject; for I am fully convinced that no one can attain to, the dignity of his nature: however, to possess a mediocrity in celebrating his majesty, appears to be the summit of human attainments. But may Mercury, the ruling deity of discourse, together with the Muses, and their leader, Apollo, be present in this undertaking; for this oration pertains to Apollo; and may they enable me so to speak of the immortal gods, that the credibility of my narration may be grateful and acceptable to their divinities. What mode of celebration then shall we adopt? Shall we, if we speak of his nature and origin, of his power and energies, as well manifest as occult, and besides this, of the communication of good which he largely distributes to every world, shall we, I say, by this means, frame an encomium, not perfectly abhorrent from the god? Let us therefore begin our oration from hence.

That divine and all-beautiful world, then, which, from the supreme arch of the heavens, to the extremity of the earth, is contained by the immutable providence of the deity, existed from eternity without any generation, and will be eternal through all the following periods of time; nor is it guarded by any other substance, than by the proximate investiture of the fifth body, the summit of which is the solar ray, situated, as it were, in the second degree from the intelligible world: but it is more antiently comprehended by the king and moderator of all things, about whom the universe subsists. This cause therefore, whether it is lawful to call him that which is superior to intellect; or the idea of the things which are, (but whom I should call the intelligible whole;) or the one, since the one appears to be the most antient of all things; or that which Plato is accustomed to denominate the good; this uniform cause, then, of the universe, who is to all beings the. administrator of beauty, perfection, union, and immeasurable power, according to a primary nature abiding in himself, produced from himself as a medium between the middle intellectual and demiurgic causes, that mighty divinity the sun perfectly similar to himself.

And this was the opinion of the divine Plato, when he says:

This is what I called the son of the good, which the good generated analogous to itself: that as this in the intelligible place is to intellect and the objects of intelligence, so is that in the visible place to sight and the objects of sight

Hence it appears to me, that light has the same proportion to that which is visible, as truth to that which is intelligible, But this intelligible universe, as it, is the progeny of the idea of the first and greatest good, eternally abiding about his stable essence, obtains the supremacy among the intellectual gods; and is the, source of the same perfection to these, as the good to the intelligible gods. But according to my opinion, good is to intelligibles the cause of beauty, essence, perfection, and union; comprehending and illuminating their nature by its boniform power: the sun therefore distributes the same excellences to the intellectual gods, of whom he is appointed the sovereign ruler by the ordination of the good. At the same time, it must be observed, that these. gods are coexistent with this intellectual sun; by means of which, as it appears to me, from exerting a boniform cause among the intellectual gods, he administers all things according to the invariable rectitude of intellect.

But besides this, the third divine principle, I mean the apparent and splendid orbicular sun, is the cause of well-being to sensible natures; and whatever we have asserted as flowing from the mighty intellectual sun among the intellectual gods, the same perfections the apparent sun communicates to apparent forms; and the truth of this will be clearly evinced by contemplating invisible natures, from the objects of sensible inspection. Let us then begin the contemplation. And, in the first place, is not light the incorporeal and divine form of that which is diaphanous in energy? But whatever that which is diaphanous may be, which is subjected to all the elements, and is their proximate form, it is certain that it is neither corporeal nor mixt, nor does it display any of the peculiar qualities of body.

Hence you cannot affirm that heat is one of its properties, nor its contrary cold; you can neither ascribe to it hardness nor softness, nor any other tangible difference; nor attribute taste or smell as peculiarities of its essence: for a nature of this kind, which is called forth into energy by the interposition of light, is alone subject to the power of sight. But light is the form of a diaphanous essence, which resembles that common matter, the subject of bodies, through which it is every where diffused; and rays are the summit, and as it were, flower of light, which is an incorporeal nature. But according to the opinion of the Phœnicians, who are skilled in divine science and wisdom, the universally-diffused splendor of light is the sincere energy of an intellect perfectly pure; and this doctrine will be found agreeable to reason, when we consider, that since light is incorporeal, its fountain cannot be body, but the sincere energy of intellect, illuminating in its proper habitation the middle region of the heavens: and from this exalted situation scattering its light, it fills all the celestial orbs with powerful vigor, and illuminates the universe with divine and incorruptible light.

But the operations of this pure intellect on the gods we have already briefly exhibited, and we shall shortly more largely discuss; for whatever we first perceive by the sight, is nothing but a mere name of honourable labour, unless it receives the ruling assistance of light: for how can any thing be visible unless, like matter, it is moved to the artificer that it may receive the supervening investments of form? Just as gold in a state of simple fusion is indeed gold, but is not a statue or an image till the artificer invests it with form: in a similar manner all naturally visible objects cease to be apparent unless light is present with the perceiver. Hence, since it confers vision on the perceiver, and visibility on the objects of perception, it perfects two natures in energy, sight and that which is visible; but perfections are form and essence; though perhaps an assertion of this kind is more subtle than is suited to our present purpose.

However, of this all men are persuaded, both the scientific and the illiterate, philosophers and the learned, that day and night are fabricated by the power of this rising and setting divinity; and that he manifestly changes and convolves the world. But to which of the other stars does a province of this kind belong? Do we not therefore derive conviction from hence, that the unapparent and divine race of intellectual gods, above the heavens, are replenished from the sun with boniform powers; to whose authority the whole choir of the stars submits; and whose nod generation, which he governs by his providence, attentively obeys? For the planets, indeed, dancing round him as their king, harmoniously revolve in a circle, with definite intervals, about his orb; producing certain stable energies, and advancing backwards and forwards: (terms by which the skilful in the spheric theory signify such like phænomena of the stars) to which we may add, as manifest to every one, that the light of the moon is augmented or diminished according to her distance from the sun.

Is it not then highly probable, that the ordination of the intellectual gods, which is more antient than that of bodies, is analogous to the mundane disposition? Hence we infer his perfective power from the whole phænomena, because he gives vision to visive natures; for he perfects these by his light. But we collect his demiurgic and prolific power from the mutation of the universe; and his capacity of connecting all things into one, from the properties of motion conspiring into union and consent; and middle position, from his own central situation. Lastly, we infer his royal establishment among the intellectual gods, from his middle order between the planets; for if we perceived these, or as many other properties, belonging to any other of the apparent gods, we should not ascribe the principality among the gods to the sun. But if he has nothing in common with the rest, except that benificent power which he imparts to all, we ought to rely on the testimony of the Cyprian priests, who raised common altars to Jupiter and the Sun; or, indeed, prior to these, we should confide in Apollo, who is the attendant of this god; for thus he speaks: Jupiter, Pluto, Serapis, and the Sun, are one. And thus we should consider that there is a common, or rather one and the same principality, among the intellectual gods, of Jupiter and the Sun; hence as it appears to me, Plato does not absurdly call Pluto a prudent god; whom we also denominate Serapis, as if he were ἄιδῆσ, i.e. invisible and intellectual; to whom, according to his relation, the souls of those are elevated who have lived most wisely and just. For we must not conceive a Pluto of that kind, such as fables describe, horrid to the view; but one benevolent and mild, who perfectly liberates souls from the bands of generation, and fixes such as are not liberated in other bodies, that he may punish them for their guilt, and absolve the decisions of justice. Add too, that he likewise leads souls on high, and elevates them to the intelligible world.

But that this is not a recent opinion, but embraced by the most antient of poets, Homer and Hesiod, whether this arose the conceptions of their minds, or whether from a divine afflatus, as is usual with poets, enthusiastically energizing about truth, is evident from hence: for the one describing the genealogy of the sun, says, that he descended from Hyperion and Thea, that he may by this means evince, that he is the legitimate progeny of the super-eminent god; for how can we otherwise interpret the epithet Hyperion? And as to what pertains to the apellation Thea, is he not, after another mode, denominated by this means the most divine of beings? Nor must we conceive, with respect to his nature, that there is any copulation of bodies, or intervention of nuptials, which are the incredible and paradoxical sports of the poetic muse; but we must believe that his father and generator is most divine and supreme: and such will he be, who is above all things, about whom all things are placed, and for whose sake all things subsist. But Homer denominates him Hyperion from his father, that he may evince his perfect freedom and his superiority over all necessity: for Jupiter, who, as he says, is the lord of all, compels others to his will; but to this divinity, who threatened, on account of the impiety of Ulysses’ companions, to forsake Olympus, he does not say:

I heave the gods, the ocean, and the land

nor does he menace chains or the exertion of force; but promises vengeance on the authors of this impiety, and entreats him to continue to illuminate the gods. What else then can he mean to insinuate by this narration, but that this deity, exclusive of his perfect freedom, is of a telesiurgic nature, or is endued with a perfective operative power? For why would the gods require his assistance, unless by occultly illuminating their essence and being, he obtained a power of accomplishing the goods we have previously described? For when Homer says:

Meantime, unweary’d with his heav’nly way,
In ocean’s waves th’ unwilling light of day
Quench’d his red orb, at Juno’s high command

He indicates nothing more than that a premature opinion of night arose, through the intervention of horrid darkness: for of this goddess the poet thus speaks in another place:

Illustrious Juno then before them spread.
A mist profound

But we shall take our leave of the poets, because they mingle much of human imperfection with the excellence of divinity; however, what this deity appears to have taught concerning himself and others, we shall now endeavour to unfold.

The region surrounding this earth has its being entirely in generation, or in an ever flowing subsistence (ἐν τω γίνεσθαι). Who is it then that confers perpetuity on its nature? Is it not he, who comprehends it in limited measures! For the nature of body cannot be infinite; since it is neither without generation nor self subsistent: but if any thing should be continually produced from an apparent existence, without being resolved into it again, the essence of things in generation would be no more. Hence the solar god, exciting a nature of this kind with a sure and measured motion, raises and invigorates it as he approaches, and diminishes and destroys it as he recedes; or rather he vivifies it by his progress, moving and pouring into generation the rivers of life. But when he deserts one hemisphere and is transferred into another, he brings destruction on corruptible natures.

And, indeed, the communication of good, originating from this divinity, equally diffuses itself on the earth: for it is participated by different regions at different periods; so that generation will never fail, nor will the god confer his beneficence on the passive world with any variations of good: for as there is a sameness of essence, so likewise of energy among the gods; especially in the sun, the king of the universe, whose motion is the most simple of all the natures, revolving contrary to the course of the world. And it is by this argument that the illustrious Aristotle proves his superiority to the rest: but a power by no means obscure is imparted to the world from the other intellectual gods. What then? Are we to exclude these while we confer sovereignty on the sun? By no means; for we endeavour to procure credibility, concerning unapparent essences, from such as are manifest and known. Hence, as he gives perfection, and harmonizes both to himself and to the universe, the power proceeding from the rest, and diffused on the earth, so it is proper to believe, that in the secret recesses of their natures they have a conjunction with each other; the sun, indeed, possessing the principality, while the rest conspire into union and consent with his divinity.

But as we have asserted that he is allotted a middle situation between the middle intellectual gods, what this middle station may be, in the midst of which he is established, may the sovereign sun enable me to explain. By a medium, therefore, in this place, we mean not that which is observed in contraries, and is equally distant from the extremes; as among colours, yellow, between white and black; or warmth, between heat and cold, and others of a similar nature; but that which unifies and copulates things divided and separate; such as is the harmony of Empedocles, from which he perfectly excluded strife and contention. What then are the natures which he connects, and of which he is said to be the medium? We reply, that he is the unifying medium of the apparent and mundane deities, and of the immaterial and intelligible gods, who surround the good; as he is an intelligible and divine essence multiplied without passivity, and augmented without addition. After this manner, then, the intellectual and all-beautiful essence of the royal sun, consists from no temperament of the extremes, but is perfect and free from all mixture, both of apparent and invisible, of sensible and intelligible gods. And thus we have declared the medium which it is proper to ascribe to his nature.

But if it be requisite to be more explicit, and to explain the medium of his essence, and how we may separately, and by species, understand his proportion to the first and last, though it is difficult to accomplish the whole of this arduous undertaking, yet we will attempt the explanation to the best of our ability. There is, then, an intelligible one perpetually pre-existent, who comprehends the universality of things in one. But what? Is not the whole world one animal, profoundly replenished with soul and intellect, and perfect from the conjunction of perfect parts? Hence, between this twofold unifying perfection, I mean that which in the intelligible place comprehends all things in one, and the other which is conversant about the world, and coalesces in one and the same perfect nature, the unifying perfection of the royal sun intervenes, seated in the midst of the intellectual gods. But, posterior to this, there is a certain connection of the gods in the intelligible world, harmonizing all things into one; for do not the heavens appear to revolve about the substance of the fifth body, which connects all their parts, and binds and establishes in itself their mutually dissoluble and flowing natures? Hence the royal sun so collects into one these two connecting essences, one of which is perceived in intelligibles, but the other in sensibles, that he perfectly imitates the connecting power in intellectuals, of which he is the source. But he presides and rules over that last unifying nature which is perceived about this apparent world. And I know not whether that which is called self-subsistent, which is first among intelligibles, but last in the celestial phænomena, possesses the middle, self-subsistent essence of the royal sun; from which first-operative’ substance that splendor emanates which illumines every thing in the apparent world.

Again, that we may consider this affair in a different mode, since there is one demiurgus of the universe, but many demiurgic gods, who revolve round the heavens, it is proper to place in the midst of these the mundane administration of the sun: besides, the fertile power of life is copious and redundant in intelligibles, and the world is full of the same prolific life. Hence it is evident that the fertile life of the sovereign sun is a medium between the two, as the mundane phænomena perpetually evince. For, with respect to forms, some he perfects, and others he fabricates; some he adorns, and others he excites; nor is any thing capable of advancing into light and generation without the demiurgic power of the sun. Besides this, if we attend to the sincere, pure, and immaterial essence of intelligibles, to which nothing extrinsical flows, and nothing foreign adheres, but which is full of its own domestic simplicity, and afterwards consider the defecated nature of that pure and divine body which is conversant with mundane bodies revolving in an orb, and which is free from all elementary mixture, we shall find that the splendid and incorruptible essence of the royal sun, is a medium between the immaterial purity of intelligibles and that which in sensibles is sincere and remote from generation and corruption. But the greatest argument for the truth of this is derived from hence, that the light which flows from the sun upon the earth will not suffer itself to be mingled with any thing; nor is it polluted by any sordid nature, or by any contagion; but it abides every where pure, undefiled, and impassive. Again, if we consider not only immaterial, and intelligible forms, but such as are sensible, subsisting in matter, the middle intellectual situation of forms about the mighty sun will be no less certain and clear: for these afford continual assistance to forms merged in matter; so that they could neither exist, nor preserve themselves in existence, unless this beneficent deity co-operated with their essence. In short, is he not the cause of the secretion of forms and the concretion of matter? from whom we not only possess the power of understanding his nature, but from whom our eyes are endued with the faculty of sight? for the distribution of rays throughout the world, and union of light, exhibit the demiurgic secretion of the artificer.

But as there are many apparent goods in the essence of this divinity which demonstrate his middle position between the intelligible and mundane gods, let us pass on to the last and apparent condition of the sun. His first condition then about the last world is, that of the solar angels, whose idea and hypostasis is situated in their paradigm or exemplar. But, posterior to this, his power generative of sensibles succeeds; whose more honourable part contains the cause of the heavens and the stars, and whose inferior part presides over generation, at the same time comprehending eternally in itself an essence invariably the same. But indeed no one can explain all that is contained in the essence of this god, though intelligence should be conferred on him by this divinity himself; since intellect appears to me incapable of comprehending the whole.

It will here however be proper to set a seal, as it were, to our much-extended oration, that we may pass on to other disquisitions, which require a contemplation by no means inferior to the former: but what this seal may be, and what the conception of his essence, who summarily comprehends the universality of things, may the god himself inform my understanding; as I am desirous of comprehending with brevity from what principle he proceeds, in what his nature consists, and with what goods he replenishes the apparent world. We must assert, therefore, that from one god, I mean from one intelligible world, one sovereign sun proceeds, constituted in the middle of the intellectual gods, according to an all-various mediocrity; who connecting concordant and friendly natures, and such as, though distant, conspire into friendship and consent, conciliates in unity first natures with the last; containing in himself the middle of perfection, and connection of prolific life and uniform essence: who, besides this, is the author of every good to the sensible world, not only illuminating and adorning it by his splendour, but giving the same subsistence with himself to the essence of solar angels, and comprehending an unbegotten cause of generated natures; and, prior to this, containing a cause of eternal bodies free from the depredations of age, and endued with stability of life.

And thus far our oration has extended concerning the essence of the god; in which, though we have omitted many things, we have delivered not a few. But because the copiousness of his powers, and the beauty of his energies, are so great, that the properties considered in his essence vehemently excel: (for such is the condition of divine natures, that when they proceed into apparent form, they are multiplied through a redundancy and fecundity of life,) consider what occasion there is, that we who are as yet scarcely refreshed from the preceding long oration, should venture on an immense ocean of enquiry. Let us, however, dare the investigation, trusting in the assistance of the god, and endeavour to accomplish our discourse.

In the first place, then, we must consider that whatever we have previously asserted concerning his essence, belongs in common to his powers; for the essence of the god is not one thing, his power another, and his energy a third; since all that he wishes, he both is, and can be, and produces in energy: for neither does he wish to be that which he is not, nor is he unable to become what he wishes, nor does he wish to energize what he cannot effect. The case indeed is very different with respect to mankind; for in man a twofold and discordant nature is discerned conciliated into one, i.e. the nature of soul and body; the former of which is divine, and the latter shadowy and dark, the source of contention and strife. Hence, as Aristotle observes, neither pleasures nor griefs are in amicable conjunction with our nature; for what is pleasant to the one procures molestation to its contrary, the other. But among the gods nothing of this kind subsists; for their essence supplies them with good, invariably, and in a perpetual series. Whatever therefore we have asserted for the purpose of explaining his essence, the same must be applied to his powers and energies. But since our oration appears to reciprocate in these, it follows that we must consider in our subsequent speculations about his powers and energies, that these are not his operations only, but his essence: for there are certain divinities allied to, and connate with, the sun, who augment the pure essence of the god, and who, though they are multiplied in the world, yet subsist uniformly about the sun.

But attend, in the first place, to their assertions who have not contemplated the heavens, like horses, or oxen, or other irrational and brutal animals, but have laboured to investigate an unapparent nature from sensible appearances. And prior to this, you may, if so inclined, speculate a little concerning his supermundane powers and energies. Of these powers, the first is that by which he causes the whole of an intellectual essence to appear profoundly one, by collecting extremes into one and the same; for as we clearly perceive in the sensible world that air and water are situated between fire and earth, for the purpose of connecting the extremes as by a bond, there is no reason why we should not admit a similar establishment in an essence prior to body and separate from its nature; which obtains the principle of generation, and is itself superior to origin. Hence, in an essence of this kind, as well as among elementary forms, the extreme principles which are separated from all corporeal commerce being through certain mediums collected into one by the royal sun, become united about his nature: and with this indeed the demiurgic power of Jupiter accords; to whom, as we have previously related, temples were dedicated in Cyprus in common with the sun. In the same place, too, we have brought the testimony of Apollo in confirmation of its truth, who doubtless understands his nature better than the wisest of mankind; for he is present and communicates with the sun, possessing the same simplicity of intellection, stability of essence, and sameness of energy. For Apollo appears by no means to separate from the sun the multiplied and partial operation of Bacchus, but rather, as he perpetually subjects him to the sun, and demonstrates him to be his attendant, he assists us in framing the most beautiful conceptions about the god. Besides, so far as the sun contains in himself the principles of the most beautiful intellectual temperament, he becomes Apollo, the leader of the Muses; but so far as he accomplishes the elegant order of the whole of life, he generates Esculapius in the world; whom at the same time he comprehended in himself prior to the world.

But though we may contemplate many powers of the god, yet we can never exhaust the whole. This, however, ought to suffice us, that in a nature separate from, and more antient than, body, and in a genus of causes abstracted from appearances, we may contemplate an equal, and the same principallity and power of Jupiter and the sun. We may likewise survey a simplicity of intelligence, together with perpetuity, and a stability of sameness, united with Apollo; but divisibility of operation, in conjunction with Bacchus, who presides over a partial essence. Add to, that we may perceive the power of beautiful symmetry and intellectual temperament in union with Musagetes. And lastly, we may conceive that power which fills up the elegant order of the whole of life as combined with Esculapius. And thus much concerning the supermundane powers of the god; whose correspondent operations above the apparent world consist in diffussing a perpetual plenitude of good; for as he is the genuine progeny of the good, from whom he receives a perfect and beneficent condition, he distributes this excellency of his nature to all the intellectual gods, assigning them an essence benignant and perfect. But another employment of the god consists in conferring an absolute distribution of intelligible beauty among intellectual and incorporeal forms; for as the generative essence apparent in nature desires to beget in the beautiful and to expose its progeny to the light, it is necessary that an essence should antecede and be the leader of this, which eternally generates in intelligible beauty: at the same time we must observe that it does not operate at one time and not at another; or beget at one period and become afterwards barren; for whatever is sometimes beautiful here, is perpetually fair among intelligible natures.

Hence we must assert, that an unbegotten progeny, subsisting in intellectual and eternal beauty, antecedes every prolific cause in the apparent world: and this progeny the sun contains, and establishes about his own essence; conferring on him a perfect intellect, and by this means giving sight, as it were, to his eyes by the benefit of his light. In a similar manner, in the intelligible world, by means of an intellectual paradigm, which scatters a light far brighter than ethereal splendor, he extends, as it appears to me, the power of intellection, and of being intelligible, to all intellectual natures. But, besides this, there is another admirable energy belonging to the sun, the king of the universe; I mean that better condition which he attributes to the more excellent genera of beings, such as angels, dæmons, heroes, and partial souls, who perpetually abide in the reason of their exemplar and idea without merging themselves in the darkness of body. And thus we have hastily explained, to the best of our ability, the supermundane essence of the god, by celebrating its powers and operations in that universal king the sun. But since the eyes (as it is said) are more worthy of belief than the ears, though they deserve less credibility, and are more imbecil than intelligence, let us now consider his apparent fabrication, having first intreated his pardon, for endeavouring, with moderate abilities, to celebrate his divinity.

The apparent world then, perpetually subsists about the sun; and his light, which surrounds the universe, obtains an eternal seat; so as not to be subject to any variations of place, since it is for ever the same. But if any one is willing to conceive by mere thought alone this eternal nature as temporal, he will easily know respecting the sun, the king of the universe, who immediately illuminates every thing with his light, what abundant goods he eternally confers on the world. I am not indeed ignorant that both the great Plato, and Jamblichus of Chalcis, who was posterior to Plato in time, though not in the powers of mind, and to whose books I am indebted for other philosophical information, as well as the present arcana, consider the sun as generated for hypothesis only; and establish a certain temporal production for the sake of disputation, that we may be able to comprehend the magnitude of his effects. But this is on no account to be attempted by me, who am inferior to them in all mental endowments; especially since the very hypothesis of his temporary production is not without danger, as was evident to that illustrious hero Jamblichus himself.

However, since this god proceeded from an eternal cause, or rather produced all things from eternity, generating such as are apparent at present from unapparent causes, by a divine will, an ineffable celerity, and an invincible power: hence he is allotted the middle region of the heavens, as more accommodated to his nature, that he may afford to the gods, produced from, and together with him, an equal distribution of good; and besides this, that he may preside over the eight spheres of the heavens; and may govern the ninth fabrication, which possesses an eternal vicissitude in generation and decay. For as to the planets, it is manifest, that, dancing, as it were, round the sun, their motions are measured by a certain symphony of figures with respect to the god; to which we may add, that the whole heavens harmonizing with him in all their parts, are replenished with gods from his divinity: for this god presides over the five celestial orbs, and by revolving round three of these, generates as many Graces, while the rest are called the balances of mighty Necessity. But these observations are perhaps more obscure to the Greeks, and on that account unacceptable; as if we should relate nothing but what is common and known.

But indeed they are by no means unusual and strange; for who (O ye most wise, and without inquiry assenting to a multitude of assertions) are the Dioscuri? Are they not said to live on alternate days, because it is not lawful for both of them to be apparent on the same day; as, for instance, that you may clearly understand me, yesterday and today? Then again, consider with respect to the same Dioscuri, endeavouring with me to adapt your conceptions to their nature, lest we should assert any thing new and unintelligible. But indeed we shall find nothing of this kind, though we scrutinize in the most accurate manner: for the assertion of some theologists that they are the two hemispheres of the world, by no means pertains to the present investigation; since it is not easy to conceive why each of these is called ετερημερος, or diurnally alternate, as their illustration is gradually augmented without any sensation of diurnal increment.

But we are now entering upon speculations, in the course of which we may possibly appear to make some innovations. In the first place then, those may be very properly said to participate the same day, to whom an equal time of the solar progression, in one and the same month, belongs. Let any one now consider how this diurnal alternation can be accommodated, as well with other, as the tropical circles. But a speculation of this kind is not indeed adapted to our present investigation; because these circles are always apparent, and are conspicuous to the inhabitants of regions situated in opposite shadows, each to each; yet he who perceives the one cannot by any means discover the other. However, that we may not dwell any longer in explaining the present affair, the sun, as we know by his annual revolutions, is the parent of the seasons; and considered as never receding from the poles, he is the Ocean, the ruler of a two-fold essence; nor is such an assertion by any means obscure, since Homer, so long before us, calls Ocean the generation of mortals, of the blessed divinities, and of all things: and this indeed with the greatest truth and propriety; for there is nothing in the universe which is not the natural progeny of the Ocean. But are you willing I should explain in what respect this concerns the vulgar? Though perhaps it might be better to be silent, I will speak on this occasion: I will speak, though my discourse will not be properly received by all.

The solar orb, then, is moved in the starless, which is far higher then the inerratic sphere. Hence, he is not the middle of the planets, but of the three worlds, according to the mystic hypotheses; if it be proper to call them hypotheses, and not rather dogmata; confining the appellation of hypothesis to the doctrine of the sphere: for the truth of the former is testified by men who audibly received this information from gods, or mighty dæmons; but the latter is founded on the probability arising from the agreement of the phænomena. Hence, if any one should esteem it better both to praise and confide in the former, such a one, whether I am trifling or in earnest, will meet with my esteem and admiration.

But besides those which I have mentioned, there is an innumerable multitude of celestial gods, perceived by such as do not contemplate the heavens indolently and after the manner of brutes. As the sun quadruply divides these three worlds, on account of the communion of the zodiac with each, so he again divides the zodiac into twelve powers of gods, and each of these into three others, so that thirty-six are produced in the whole. Hence, as it appears to me, a triple benefit of the Graces proceeds to us from the heavens, I mean from those circles which the god quadruply dividing produces in consequence of this, a quadripartite beauty and elegance of seasons and times. But the Graces also imitate a circle in their resemblances on the earth. Add too, that Bacchus is the source of joy, who is said to obtain a common kingdom with the sun. But why should I here mention the epithet Horus, or other names of the gods, all of which correspond with the divinity of the sun? Mankind, indeed, may conceive the excellence of the god from his operations; since he perfects the heavens with intellectual goods, and renders them partakers of intelligible beauty. For as he originates from this beauty, he applies himself, both totally and by parts, to the distribution of good. These gods indeed preside over all motion, as far as to the utmost boundaries of the world; so that both nature and soul, and every thing that exists, is perfected by their beneficent communications. But the sun combining this abundant army of gods into one ruling unity, confers on it the providence of Minerva; who originated, according to fables, from the head of Jupiter; but who, according to our opinion, proceeded from the whole of the sovereign sun, and is wholly comprehended in his nature. Hence we differ from fables in this, that we do not consider her as springing from the summit, but as totally born from the whole of Jupiter; for by conceiving no difference between Jupiter and the sun, we shall think agreeable to the decisions of the antients. And, indeed, by calling the sun providential Minerva, we shall not assert any thing new, if we properly understand the following verse:

He came to Python, and to providential Minerva

For thus the antients seated Minerva with Apollo, who appears to differ in nothing from the sun. And I know not whether Homer, by a certain divine instinct, (for it is probable that he was seized with a divine fury,) prophesies this, when he sings:

So might my life, and glory know no bound,
Like Pallas worship’d, like the Sun renown’d

That is to say, like Jupiter, who is the same with the sun. And as the king Apollo, on account of his simplicity of intellection, communicates with the sun, so likewise it is proper to believe that Minerva, since she receives her essence from this deity, and is his perfect intellection, combines into union, without any confusion, the gods who surround the sovereign sun; and that the same goddess, from the summit of heaven, pours through the seven planetary orbs, as far as to the moon, the genuine and pure rivers of life; indeed she fills the moon, who is the last of the orbicular bodies, with intelligence; and thus causes her to contemplate the intelligibles above the heavens, to regard inferior natures, and to beautify matter with the investiture of forms, by removing from its shadowry essence whatever it contains, wild, turbulent, and destitute of order.

But the goods which Minerva confers on mankind are wisdom, intelligence, and operative arts: she is also said to obtain the towers of cities, because she establishes civil community by her wisdom. It is likewise proper to declare a few particulars respecting Venus, who, according to the learned among the Phœnicians, (which is likewise my opinion) has a demiurgic community with Minerva. Venus, then, is the temperament of the celestial gods, and the friendship and union, by which their harmony subsists; for as she is proximate to the sun, in conjunction with whom she revolves, she fills the heavens with the best temperament, gives fertility to the earth, and is the source of perpetuity to the generation of animals. And of all this the sovereign sun is the primary cause: but Venus concurs in her operations with this divinity; alluring our souls with pleasure, and diffusing from æther, delightful and incorruptible splendors on the earth, far superior to the brightest refulgence of gold. I am likewise desirous of disclosing a few arcana from the Phœnician theology; whether or not in vain, our oration will gradually disclose. Those, then, who inhabit Edessa, a region eternally dedicated to the sun, consider Monimus, and Azizus, as the attendants of this deity; Monimus, according to Jamblichus, (from whom we have received a few observations out of many,) being the same with Mercury and Azizus, the same as Mars; and each of them, in conjunction with the sun, diffusing a variety of goods on the earth.

Such, then, are the effects of this god in the heavens, and through these his perfections are propagated to the utmost boundaries of the earth: but as it would be arduous to enumerate all his operations beneath the moon, let us celebrate them by a compendious recital. I know, indeed, that I have already mentioned these, when I investigated the invisible properties of the god from the phænomena; but the order of my discourse requires that I should now resume the narration.

As therefore we have asserted that the sun obtains the principallity among the intellectual gods, whose impartible essence is surrounded with a great and uniform multitude of gods, as likewise that he is the leader and lord of the natures, which among sensibles revolve in an orb, with an eternal and blessed progression; and that as he fills the heavens with apparent splendor, so likewise with an infinite abundance of unapparent goods; from whose occult and divine energy too the goods derived from the other apparent gods receive their perfection; so likewise we must consider; that certain gods reside in the receptacle of generation, who are comprehended by the sovereign sun, and who governing the quadruple nature, are established about the souls of the elements, together with the three genera, more excellent than man. But consider what mighty goods he confers on partial souls! For to these he extends judgement, governs them by justice, and purifies them by his splendor. Besides this, does he not move and suscitate all nature, by imparting to it fecundity from on high? For he is the true cause of particular natures arriving at the destined end of their existence; since (as Aristotle observes) man and the sun generate man. Hence, we should form the same judgement, of the sovereign sun, in every other effect of particular natures: for does not the god fabricate for us rains and winds, and whatever else is produced in the aerial regions? Since, by giving heat to the earth he excites vapour and fume, by means of which, not only these sublime phænomena, but likewise subterranean events of greater or less importance, are produced.

But why should we protract this enumeration any farther, since it is now proper to hasten to the conclusion; first of all celebrating the goods which the sun bestows on mankind? For as he is the source of our existence, so likewise of the aliment by which that existence is supported. And indeed he confers on us more divine advantages peculiar to souls; for he loosens these from the bands of a corporeal nature, reduces them to the kindred essence of divinity, and assigns them the subtile and firm texture of divine splendor, as a vehicle in which they may safely descend to the realms of generation. And these benefits of the god have been celebrated by others according to their desert, and require the assent of faith more than the evidence of demonstration.

But we ought not to fear attempting the relation of such things as are naturally the objects of knowledge to all men. Plato, then, asserts that the heavens are the masters of wisdom to mankind, since it is from these that we learn the nature of number; and our knowledge of its diversity is solely derived from the revolution of the sun. To which Plato also adds, that the heavens, by the succession of many days and nights, never cease to instruct the dullest apprehensions in the art of numbering; and that this is also effected by the varying light of the moon, which is solely imparted to this goddess from the sun; indeed the farther we advance in our researches into wisdom of this kind, the more shall we every where perceive the symphony and consent of other deities with the sun. And this Plato himself evinces when he says, that the gods pitying the human race, which is naturally laborious and afflicted, gave to us Bacchus and the Muses, who perpetually combine in one harmonious choir.

But the sun appears to be the common ruler of these, since he is celebrated as the father of Bacchus, and the leader of the Muses; for does not Apollo, whose government is united in amicable conjunction with these divinities, diffuse his oracles over all the earth? Does he not extend divinely-inspired wisdom to mankind, and adorn cities with sacred and political institutions? It is this divinity who, through the colonies of the Greeks, has civilized the greatest part of the globe, and disposed it to receive with less refluctance the authority of the Romans; who indeed are not only descended from a Grecian origin, but have adopted, and perpetually preserved, from the beginning to the end, the sacred rites of the Greeks, and their piety towards the gods. To which we may add, that the Romans have established a form of government by no means inferior to that of any of the cities which have enjoyed the best constitutions, but rather one excelling all the modes of political administration which have ever been adopted. And through these considerations, I consider the city of Rome as Grecian, both on account of its origin, and political institutions. But why, besides this, should I assert to you, how the sun, by generating Esculapius, has provided for the health and safety of all things? And how he imparts all-various virtue, while he sends to mankind Venus and Minerva in amicable conjunction? Like a provident guardian appointing, by immutable law, that the mixt nature of bodies should pursue no other end than the generation of its like. Hence, by the constant revolutions of this deity, all vegetable and animal tribes are excited to the propagation of natures similar to their own. Why again is it necessary, to celebrate the rays and light of the sun?

For who does not perceive the dreadful aspect of the night, which is not illustrated either by the splendor of the moon or stars? So that from this circumstance alone, we may conjecture how great a good we obtain through the light derived from this resplendent god. But this light indeed he imparts perpetually, and without being interrupted by the intervening shades of night, to places where it is necessary, or the regions above the moon; but to us he benignantly affords a cessation from labour, through the friendly interposition of the night. Indeed there would be no bound to our oration if we should pursue every particular of this kind, since there is no good belonging to our existence which we do not receive as the gift of this divinity; whether it is perfectly imparted from him alone, or receives its consummation from him, through the ministry of other gods.

But this deity presides over the city of Rome, and on this account Jupiter, the celebrated father of all things, not only resides in its tower, together with Minerva, and Venus, but Apollo also resides on the Palatine hill, together with the sun himself, who is universally known to be the same with Apollo. But I will mention a few things out of a many, principally pertaining to the sun, and to us who are the descendants of Romulus, and Æneas. For Æneas, according to tradition, descended from Venus, who assists the operations of the sun, and is allied to his nature: and the son of Mars is reported to have been the founder of our city; which, however paradoxical and incredible, was abundantly confirmed by succeeding prodigies. However, as I am well aware, and have already mentioned, that Mars, who is called by the Edessenian Syrians, Azizus, is the forerunner of the sun, I shall not insist on this particular at present. But it may be asked, why is a wolf consecrated to Mars rather than to the sun? For they denominate from hence the space of a year Lycabas. Nor is this appellation assumed by Homer only, and the more illustrious Greeks, but by a god himself; for thus he speaks:

Accomplishing, by a leaping progression, Lycabas, the path of twelve months

Are you willing therefore that I should demonstrate by a more powerful argument, that the founder of our city not only descended from Mars, but that however the martial, and noble dæmon, who is said to have met with Silvia carrying the bath of the goddess, might contribute to the fabrication of his body, yet the soul of the god Quirinus wholly proceeded from the sun? For we ought, I think, to believe in general report. As therefore the conjunction of the sun and moon, who distribute in common the principallity of apparent natures, sent his soul on the earth, so likewise this conjunction received it back again from earth into the heavens, after it had consumed by the fire of thunder whatever was mortal in his corporeal frame. And from hence it is evident that the demiurgic goddess of terrene concerns, who is in a most perfect manner subjected to the sun, received our Quirinus, when he was sent by providential Minerva on the earth; and afterwards brought him back, when flying from. this terrene abode, to the sun, the sovereign of the world. But if you are desirous, besides this, that I should employ another argument on the same subject, derived from the works of King Numa, behold the unextinguished fire, enkindled from the sun which is preserved among us by sacred virgins according to the different seasons of the year; and which, by this means, imitates the beneficent energy of the moon in her revolution round the earth.

But I am able to produce another, and a much more indubitable argument, concerning this god, from the institutions of that most divine king. For while all other nations number their months from the course of the moon, we alone, together with the Egyptians, measure the days of our year from the revolutions of the sun. To all which, if I should add that we celebrate Mithras, and institute quadrennial contests in honour of the sun, I should speak of things more recent and known: but it will be better perhaps to adduce one testimony from more antient traditions.

Different nations then differently determine the commencement of the annual circuit; for some reckon from the vernal equinox; some from the middle of summer; most from autumn in its decline: yet all these celebrate the most apparent gifts of the sun. For some with grateful recollection honour the god for the opportunity afforded them in autumn for rustic labour; when the earth, pouring from her kindly womb all-various fruits, is cloathed with fertility, and every where exhibits the appearance of splendid hilarity; when the sea smooths its waters for the convenience of navigation; and the stormy brow of winter is changed into festive serenity.

But others derive the origin of their year from the summer day; because at that time they have greater security with respect to the success of fruits; since the various seeds deposited in the earth are at that period collected together; apples are in their most flourishing state; and the depending fruit of trees has acquired maturity through the benevolent heat of the solar fire. But others more elegant than these, establish the end of the year, when every fruit has acquired its most perfect vigor, and is tending to decay; and on this account, when autumn is in its decline, they date the commencement of their year. But our ancestors having learned from that most divine King Numa, to be more studious in venerating this divinity than other nations, without paying so much attention to what is useful, (acting in this respect in a manner becoming men of a divine nature and excellent understanding) directed their attention rather to the cause of these effects, and commanded the people to bind their heads at that period of the year, when the sun, having left the last meridian limit, returns to us again, and bending his course towards Capricorn, as to his destined goal, proceeds from the south to the north, that he may impart, by such a progression, his annual benefits to mankind.

And from hence we may conjecture, that an attentive consideration of this particular induced our ancestors to establish this period as the beginning of the year; for they do not perform this annual ceremony on the day in which the sun commences his revolution, but when his progression from the meridian to the north is universally apparent: for as yet the subtility of those canons was not sufficiently known, which were discovered by the Chaldeans and Egyptians, and perfected by Hipparchus and Ptolomy. But forming their judgment solely from the testimony of the senses, they pursued the celestial phænomena: those of a more modern period, perceiving at the same time the rectitude of their observations. Hence, immediately on the close of the last month, which is dedicated to Saturn, and prior to the beginning of the new year, we celebrate most magnificent games in honour of the sun, whom we denominate unconquered; and, in conjunction with these games, it is unlawful to exhibit any of those sorrowful spectacles which necessarily pertain to the last month of the year.

But after the Saturnalia, which are the last of all, the Helian ceremonies return with the revolving year. And I sincerely wish that the sovereign gods would frequently permit me to celebrate and engage in these sacred festivals, and particularly that the sun, the king of the universe, would grant me permission, who from eternity is produced about the prolific essence of the good, as a harmonizing medium, between the middle intellectual gods; on whom he confers indissoluble connection, infinite beauty, affluent fecundity, perfect intellect, and an eternal accumulation of every good: who, in an indivisible moment, illuminates his conspicuous seat, which he eternally obtains in the middle region of the heavens: who imparts his intellectual beauty to this visible universe, and fills all the celestial regions with as many gods as he comprehends intellectually in himself, multiplied indivisibly about him, and uniformly conjoined with his essence. Nor does he less comprehend in his divinity the sublunary region, through a perpetuity of generation, and a communication of goods derived through a circular body; at the same time extending his providential care to the whole human race, and privately protecting the city of Rome. To which I may add, that he has generated my soul from eternity, and rendered it an attendant on his divinity. May he, therefore, communicate these gifts, and such others as we have already earnestly implored him to impart. But may he bestow on our city in common a perpetual duration, and benevolently preserve it from hostile devastation. And lastly, may he confer upon me, so long as he shall supply the streams of life, felicity and prosperity in whatever pertains to human and divine concerns: but may I live, and administer public affairs, as long as shall be pleasing to his divinity, useful to myself, and advantageous to the common affairs of the Romans.

And such, dear Sallust, is the oration, which, being mostly composed in the space of three nights, according to the triple administration of the god, and from the suggestions of memory at the time, I have dared to submit to your inspection; since a former piece of my composition on the Saturnalia, did not appear to you entirely foreign from the purpose, and undeserving your esteem. But if you are desirous of more perfect, and mystic discourses on this subject, by revolving the books of the divine Jamblichus, composed with the same design as the present oration, you will find the perfect consummation of human wisdom. But may the mighty sun, nevertheless, enable me to understand whatever pertains to his divinity; and to impart my information to all men in common, and privately to those who are worthy of such instruction. In the mean time, till the god shall crown my desires in this respect with success, let us both venerate Jamblichus, the friend of this divinity, from whom we have committed to writing a few particulars out of many which occurred to our recollection at the time: for I well know that no one can speak more perfectly on this subject than Jamblichus; though by the most vigorous contention, he should endeavour to add something of novelty to his discourse; for by such an attempt, as it is reasonable to suppose, he would deviate from true conceptions of the god.

Indeed if I had composed the present oration merely for the sake of instructing others, the labour of writing on such a theme after Jamblichus would perhaps have been in vain: but since I had no other intention than to render thanks to this divinity by a hymn, and considered my end accomplished in speaking of his essence to the utmost of my ability, I do not think that I have misspent my time by the present composition. For the admonition of Hesiod:

Perform, according to your utmost power,
Pure, sacred rites, to the immortal gods

is not only to be understood as necessary in sacrifices, but likewise in the praises of the gods. In the third place, therefore, I earnestly entreat the sun, the king of the universe, that he will be propitious to me for my affection to his divinity; that he will impart to me a good life; more perfect wisdom; a divine intellect; and a gentle departure from the present state in a convenient time, that I may ascend to his divinity, and abide with him, if possible, in perpetual conjunction. But if this be a reward too great for my conduct on this terrene abode, may I at least be united with him for many, and long-extended periods of time.

– Emperor Julian


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