The Ancient Library

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school that he ranked philosophy higher than the theurgic superstitions which were connected with the popular polytheism. With the latter, some features of his doctrines had considerable affinity. He insisted strongly on the contrast between the corporeal and the incorporeal, and the power of the latter over the former. The influence of the incor­poreal was, in his view, unrestricted by the limits of space, and independent of the accident of con­tiguity. When free from intermixture with matter, it is omnipresent, and its power unlimited. His doctrine with regard to daemons pointed in the same direction. Over both them and the souls of the dead power could be obtained by enchantments (de Abst. ii. 38, 39, 41, 43, .47). *Yet these no­tions seem to have been taken up by him rather in deference to the prevalent opinion of his times, than as forming an essential part of his philosophy. Though at first somewhat disposed to favour the­urgy, he still ranked philosophy above it, consider­ing, with Plotinus, that the true method of safety consisted in the purgation of the soul, and the contemplation of the eternal deity. The increasing value set upon theurgy, and the endeavours to raise it above philosophy itself, probably produced something like a reaction in his mind, and strength­ened the doubts which he entertained with regard to the popular superstition. These doubts he set forth in a letter to the Egyptian prophet Anebos, in a series of questions. The distrust there ex­pressed respecting the popular notions of the gods, divinations, incantations, and other theurgic arts, may have been, as Hitter believes (Gescfi. der Phil. vol. iv. p. 678), the modified opinion of his later years, provoked, perhaps, by the progress of that superstition to which at an earlier period he had been less opposed. The observation of Au­gustine is, doubtless, in the main correct: —" Ut videas eum inter vitium sacrilegae curiositatis et philosophiae professionem fluctuasse, et nunc hanc artem tamquam fallacem, et in ipsa actione pericu-losam, et legibus prohibitam, cavendam monere, nunc autem velut ejus laudatoribus cedentem, utilem dicere esse mundanae parti animae, non quidem intellectuali qua rerum intelligibilium per-cipiatur veritas, nullas habentium similitudines corporum, sed spiritual}, qua rerum corporalium capiantur imagines." The letter to Anebos called forth a reply, which is still extant, and known under the title Tlepl MuffTTipiwv, and is the pro­duction probably of lamblichus. The worship of the national gods seems to have been upheld by Porphyrius only on the consideration that respect should be shown to the ancient religious usages of the nation. He, however, set but small store by it. (Bw/uol 5e Seou iepovpyov/uevoi /uev ovdtv fi\&irTOvcriv, dlu.€\ov/j.€voi Se ouSsv catpeXovffiv, ad Marc.) He ackowledged one absolute, supreme deity, who is to be worshipped with pure words and thoughts (ad Marc. 18). He also, however, dis­tinguished two classes of visible and invisible gods, the former being composed of body and soul, and consequently neither eternal nor immutable (de Abst. ii. 34, 36, 37—39). He also distinguished between good and evil daemons, and held that the latter ought to be appeased, but that it should be the object of the philosopher to free himself as much as possible from everything placed under the power of evil daemons. For that reason, among others, he rejected all animal sacrifices (de Abst, ii. 38, 39, 43). The ascetic tendency of his philo-


sophy, as connected with his exalted ideas of the power of reason, which is superior to nature and the influence of daemons, conduced to raise him above the superstitious tendencies of his age ; the spirit of the philosopher being, in his view, su­perior to all impressions from without. The object of the philosopher should be to free himself as much as possible from all desires of, or dependence on, that which is external, such appetites being the most hate­ful tyrants, from which we should be glad to be set free, even with the loss of the whole body (aa Marc. 34). We should, therefore, restrain our sensual de­sires as much as possible. It was mainly in this point of view that he rejected all enjoyment of animal food. Though bad genii have some power over us, yet through abstinence and the steady resist­ance of all disturbing influences, we can pursue the good in spite of them. If we could abstain from vegetable as well as animal food, he thought we should become still more like the gods. (De Abst. iii. 27.) It is by means of reason only that we are exalted to the supreme God, to whom nothing material should be offered, for every thing material is unclean (de Abst. i. 39, 57, ii. 34, ad Marc. 15). He distinguishes four degrees of virtues, the lowest being political virtue, the virtue of a good man who moderates his passions. Su­perior to this is purifying virtue, which completely sets the soul free from affections. Its object is to make us resemble God, and bv it we become dae-

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monical men, or good daemons. In the higher gradf1, when entirely given up to knowledge and the soul, man becomes a god, till at last he lives only to reason, and so becomes the father of gods, one with the one supreme being. (Sent. 34.)

A great deal of discussion has taken place respecting the assertion of Socrates (H.E. iii. 23), that in his earlier years Porphyrius was a Christian, and that, having been treated with indignity by the Christians, lie apostatized, and revenged him­self by writing against them. The authority is so small, and the improbability of the story so great (for it does not appear that any of his antagonists charged him with apostac}7", unless it was Eusebius), while it may so easily have arisen from the fact that in his early youth Porphvrius was instructed by Origen, that it may confidently be rejected. An able summary of the arguments on both sides is given by Brucker (ii. p. 251, &c.) Of the nature and merits of the work of Porphyrius against the Christians we are not able to judge, as it has not come down to us. It was publicly destroyed b}'' order of the emperor Theodosius. The attack was, however, sufficiently vigorous to call down upon him the fiercest maledictions and most virulent abuse. His name was employed as synonymous with everything silly, blasphemous, impudent and calumnious. Socrates (i. 9. p. 32) even adduces an edict of Constantine the Great, ordaining that the Arians should be termed Porphyriani. A doubt has been raised as to the identitv of the assailant


of Christianity with the Neo-platonic philosopher ; but it is totally without foundation. The attack upon Christianity is said to have called forth replies from above thirty different antagonists, the most distinguished of whom were Methodius, Apollinaris, and Eusebius.

As a writer Porphyrius deserves considerable praise. His style is tolerably clear, and not unfrequently exhibits both imagination and vigour. His learning was most extensive. Fabricius (BibL

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