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Iamblichus: On the Mysteries
Emma C. Clarke, John M. Dillon, Jackson P. Hershbell

ISBN 9781589830585
Status Available
Price: $52.00
Binding Paperback
Publication Date October 2003

This volume presents the first modern English translation of Iamblichus’s De mysteriis alongside the standard critical edition of the text by Édouard Des Places (Les Belles Lettres, 1966). This important work, which provides a unique insight into the mystical side of late Neoplatonism, has hitherto been neglected to an unfortunate degree, partly due to its inaccessibility. Iamblichus argues that the only true good is union with the gods and that the only route to this divine union is theurgy—religious ritual demonstrating supernatural power—which both symbolizes and encapsulates the extraordinary miracle of the soul’s conversion back to its divine origin. The process of sacrifice, the activities of angels and demons, the meaning of divine possession, and the functioning of oracles are all examined in this extraordinary defense of theurgic mysticism against contemporary critics such as Porphyry. Clarke, Dillon, and Hershbell bring this famous and fascinating text to light through their introduction and extensive notes.

Emma C. Clarke teaches at The Latymer School in North London, England. John M. Dillon is Regius Professor of Greek at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland. Jackson P. Hershbell is Emeritus Professor of Classics, University of Minnesota.

“The need for a new English version of Iamblichus’s De mysteriis, an important attempt to give Neoplatonic theurgy a philosophical basis, has been a pressing issue for many years. This distinguished and reliable new translation by the team of Clarke, Dillon, and Hershbell, based on the excellent Budé text of Des Places, is a very careful and idiomatic rendition of the original and will certainly remain the standard and authoritative edition for years to come. Each page of the translation faces the corresponding page of the critical Greek text of Des Places. The book includes an important introduction and many helpful textual annotations. Every student of late antiquity will want to have this significant volume in her or his library.”
—David E. Aune, Professor of New Testament, University of Notre Dame

“In this lucid translation of the De mysteriis, Emma Clarke, John Dillon, and Jackson Hershbell not only capture the subtleties of Iamblichus’s polemical reply to Porphyry on questions of ritual and divination, but their sensitivity to Iamblichus exposes us to an all-but-forgotten worldview. As challenging now as in the late third century, the Syrian Neoplatonist argues that no matter how extensive or subtle our explanations, no matter how brilliant our interpretations of the world, they are not enough. They will never allow us to enter the deep mystery of our existence. Indeed, according to Iamblichus, we are already enveloped in a divine presence and although our “reason” may try to co-opt this contact and represent it in abstract terms, such presence is “prior to knowledge” and may be engaged only in theurgic ritual. The introduction and notes discuss Iamblichus’s Platonism, his use of the Chaldean Oracles, and the relation of theurgy to hermetic and magical literature. With clarity and a great breadth of knowledge, the translators have made the De mysteriis accessible to contemporary readers.”
—Gregory Shaw, Professor of Religious Studies, Stonehill College

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