"For, when the more excellent parts of us become filled with energy, and the soul is exalted to communion with superior beings, then it becomes separate altogether from those conditions which keep it under the dominion of the present every-day life of the world, exchanges the present for another Divine Life, gives itself to a different order, and abandons the conventional habits belonging to the external order of things, to enter and mingle itself with the order which pertains to the higher life."|
In this essay we will explore the Divine Life, what is its nature, of what it consists, and how to live the Divine Life in the supersensible domain while living a mortal life in the terrestrial domain. We learn that there is this Divine Life from Plato, Iamblicus, and other Seer-Masters in the Platonic and Neo-Platonic traditions.
The ordinary, cultural dogma, which is inculcated with our mother's milk, is that there is only the physical life of the senses. We would not know that a higher life, a Divine Life, is possible were it not for Plato and the Platonic Philosophy. Plato tells us that "the end for which man was created was to achieve communion with Higher Beings above the terrestrial realm." So, not only is this stupendous Divine Life possible for us--it is the primary reason for our being created as mortal beings.
Iamblicus reveals to us that there is a supernatural power or potency in our soul which allows us to be "transported beyond the scenes and arrangements of this terrestrial world, and of partaking of the Life Eternal [Divine Life] and the higher powers of the heavenly ones."
Thus, from Plato and Iamblicus we learn that this Divine Life consists of communion (the fellowship of dialectical interchange) with higher beings and developing the "higher powers" of which these higher beings are capable. We also learn that the Divine life is Life Eternal.
From Iamblicus we learn that as our soul activates its special supernatural powers, our soul "becomes separate altogether from those [mortal] conditions which keep it under the dominion of the present every-day life of the world, exchanges the present for another Divine Life, gives itself to a different order, and abandons the conventional habits belonging to the external order of things, to enter and mingle itself with the order which pertains to the higher [supersensible] life."
The Divine Life is a realm or form of being which invisibly mingles with our mortal existence. 2 In this eternal Divine Life we give ourselves to a totally different order--a new, unique state of subsistence in which all elements (persons, objects, events) are organized logically, comprehensibly, naturally, and harmoniously.
"I shall go on into a further degree of consciousness, but I must graduate to it. Our resistances are for development, as are your obstructions. We grow by overcoming, just as you do. You have to overcome definite obstructions, physically, materially. And also you have to overcome mass psychology." (Anne: One of the Invisibles who communicated with and through Betty White)|
"As for me, when I shall go on into my next life, I do not know. They tell me it will be something comparable, but not quite as I know it here. I know there are future manifestations of consciousness, but I do not know their characteristics. I know I shall go on. I have had the experience of transition. You have not. When they say to me that I am going to experience further transitions, but that I am only going to experience something familiar to my being, I believe what I am told. There is an ultimate or supreme degree of consciousness." (Betty White, speaking from the afterlife, The Unobstructed Universe, 1940)
After our terrestrial life, when we resume our life in the supersensible realm, our Activity will be to consciously and deliberately evolve toward our highest potential: unity with the Divine One.
We will first be responsible for rectifying whatever defects in our character we've allowed to develop during our terrestrial existence. We'll need to re-form those negative aspects of our being that we've permitted to become a temporary part of us.
Whereas during our mortal life we could, if we chose, overlook, ignore, or be oblivious to our faults, in the after-life the Divine Laws and standards will be a part of the very essence of our mode of being. Divine principles will be patent (apparent, evident, manifest, plain, unmistakable) to everyone, and will be used as a basis for moral and intellectual judgment of who and what we are.
Humans must face in the afterlife what they've made of themselves and go through a period of self-assessment, remorse, and arduous self-correction. As Plato indicates, the only "salvation" (preservation or deliverance from destruction, difficulty, or evil) possible for those humans who have continually and deliberately committed evil acts in mortal life is the self-development of the highest virtue and wisdom.
| "Each one must struggle and free
himself; there is no escape; it is the law; and the longer you
procrastinate and delay, the harder that struggle is going to be and the
softer and more unfit for it you are going to be. It will be a terrible
state, suffering, discouragement, blackness if you delay. Delay bears too
heavy interest. That is why all this exhortation for this life, why they
don't wait until we go over there. This life is that tearing out of your
skeleton, and when we are not doing it here, now, we are making it so
much harder for ourselves later. This is our crucial moment of struggle
right now. How blind and stupid to say wait for such things until we get
over! That is what your incarnation here is, your test. |
Self-assessment and self-improvement must be a part of our mortal life as well as our subsistence in the Divine Life.
"A man should make all haste to escape from earth to attain unity with God. We escape by becoming as like God as possible. We attain unity with God by becoming holy, just, and wise. The man who desires assimilation in the divine must possess the wisdom of virtue (phronesis)." 3 |
One of the most destructive delusions humans become prey to is sacerdotal Christianity's dogma of "salvation." According to this deceit, a person need only "believe" in a supernatural "savior" to have his "sins" forgiven by a vindictive deity who demands "sacrifice" for human sins. This scam encourages a person to presume that he need "do" nothing to achieve "righteousness," that everything has already been done for him by a savior's murder on a cross; a barbarous human sacrifice placating an angry, revengeful god.
Completely contrary to this deception, the individual must be an active agent at every step of the way to realization of unity with the Divine Quintessence. The only things that can be done for the person are the provision of genuine teachings, straightforward diagnoses of the individual, and ongoing transformative prescriptions by a Perennialist teacher. The seeker's striving is the primary impetus.
| "For the life eternal, that which we call the one life, lies outside and beyond all personal aspirations, and hopes, and fears. It lives and moves in all, and has lived and will live from eternity to eternity, ever the great enigma to all that is personal and temporary. The personal devotee who loses his life for his faith, does so in the hope of a personal reward, it is still the personal 'I' who will meet in heaven with all 'I' hold blessed; 'my' friends, 'my' loved ones, 'my' ideal of a personal God and a personal Savior. This is not a renunciation, but an intensification of the personal, and therefore temporary and finite.|
"Far deeper than that lies the path to life eternal. It lies within, not without; in the innermost of our own Being, in that Life which is itself the One Life, the One Being. The life Eternal which we must find will never be found in a heaven of personal bliss, where we seem to approach 'God' as we would approach the throne of an earthly king.
"To know 'God' is to know our own life and Being as part of his Life and Being, and to merge all personal interests in that larger life which is 'no respecter of persons.' Let those who can do so, put away from themselves all that conceit which places them in some specially favoured relation to a 'God' who takes a personal interest in every little triviality of their life. For if we are to understand the term 'God' in any sense which is adequate to the conception of the universe in its totality, as the sum of all Being, all consciousness, and all manifestation, and not merely as an expression of one or other of those anthropomorphic conceptions which have gathered round special names of the deity in various ages: then we must recognize that that One Life, expressing itself in countless forms of manifestation, . . . lives and moves, and has its being in and through all."
or Theosophy and Christian Doctrine, 1891
A genuine human is in essence a manifestation of the Divine. Our purpose--both during mortal life and after--is to purify the channel of our being so that the Divine can express through us.
The goals of human evolution in the Divine Life are the complete development of individuals and the coordination of these individuals into a functioning unity. Developing ourselves as individuals is our initial responsibility, the construction of our channel-through from the Source. We cannot contribute to a larger purpose until we have gained necessary capabilities. Furthering the goals of the Comprehensive Unity is only constructively possible if it is an overflow from an integrated core within ourselves.
We must remember that we develop ourselves for the purpose of joining our capabilities and creations with the Greater Whole. But we must first have something worthwhile to give before we can be of any benefit to a larger, cooperative endeavor. We develop a worthwhile self through attaining self-knowledge and self-control.
We develop essential capabilities--understanding, creativity, magnanimity--through functioning: actively using whatever knowledge, ability, and power is ours at the moment. We grow in essence by making decisions, solving problems, and gaining understanding--functioning.
Achieving the Divine Life
Living the Divine Life is a capability we must achieve through our own effort. During mortal life, most humans live nothing but ordinary, unremarkable, commonplace lives of quiet--or raucous--desperation. After death, we begin by living whatever life we have achieved during mortal existence. Death does not somehow magically make us exalted beings; we take with us to the life after death, as Plato made clear, only what we have achieved in mortal existence.
"O my friends, Socrates said, if the soul is really immortal, what care should be taken of her, not only in regard to the portion of time which is called mortal life, but of eternity! And the danger of neglecting the soul from this point of view does indeed appear to be awful.
If death were the end of being, the wicked would have a good bargain in dying, for they would be happily quit not only of their body but of their evil together with their souls. But since the soul unquestionably is immortal, there is no release or salvation from evil except the attainment of the highest virtue and wisdom. For when the soul progresses to the afterlife, it takes nothing with her but her strength of character, fortitude, and her own development of reason and morality; which are indeed said greatly to benefit or greatly to injure the departed, at the very beginning of its pilgrimage in the other world. "|
In explaining precisely how we achieve Divine Life, Iamblicus, in his On The Mysteries, emphasized that it is not just through knowledge or thought--though both of these are essential. "Effective union certainly never takes place without knowledge," Iamblicus understood, "but nevertheless it is not identical with it. Thus, divine purity does not come about through right knowledge...but divine union and purification actually go beyond knowledge."
| "It is not thought [alone] that links the theurgist to Higher spiritual beings:
else what is there to hinder those who pursue philosophic speculation contemplatively from enjoying theurgic union with them? The case is not so. Theurgic union is attained only by the perfective operation of ineffable rites correctly performed, rites which are beyond all ordinary understanding and by the power of unutterable symbols which are intelligible to Divinity." |
Beyond thought and knowledge, Iamblicus insisted that achieving the Divine Life requires action--theurgy. The Greek word theourgia is a composite of "divine" and "work," thus a divinely oriented operation; a ritual activity that unites the soul with the Divine, the soul changing its perceived ontological status from that of mortal to immortal, to divinity; a rite through which the embodied soul ascends to a point at which it becomes capable of engaging in a meaningful dialogue with spiritual beings, experiencing interchange instead of merely conceptualizing spiritual elements (persons, ideas, Forms, realms, events). Theurgy can be seen as dis-enchantment from the physical domain, allowing for entry into the realm of the spirit.
"It is through communicating with higher spiritual beings by means of Theurgical Dialectic that humans come to true realization of what they are in essence: eternal spiritual entities." Iamblicus, On the MysteriesTheurgy consists of ceremonial 4, sacramental 5, performatory 6 procedures bringing about the transmutation of the Soul and its progressive return to the Eternal World. The initiate, through performing these rituals achieves ascent from the conditions of worldly existence to realization of unity with the Divine One.
Some Neo-Platonic philosophers, such as Plotinus and Porphyry, criticized theurgy as an attempt to force lower forces to perform as required by the theurgist. Iamblichus claimed that the theurgist, by his rites and prayers, does not coerce the Gods to descend or perform; instead Higher Beings themselves elevate the theurgist to their level by virtue of the power inherent in the rites, through the principle of similarity.
"The gods being gracious and propitious, give forth light abundantly to the Theurgists, both calling their souls upward into themselves, providing for them union to themselves in the Chorus, and accustoming them, while they are still in the body, to hold themselves aloof from corporeal things, and likewise to be led up to their own eternal and noetic First Cause."Theurgy relates to the Greek word theagôgia which refers to a drawing in or drawing down of a divine Force. Theurgical dialectic is the drawing down of spiritual energy into the initiate in a divine influx. Ancient writings concerning theurgy refer to the spiritual power of Similarity (homoiotêtos): things similar to each other are attracted and form an attachment or unity.
Iamblicus, On the Mysteries
juxtaposition to the Divine Fire, the fire then being transmitted to those initiates who partake of its nature, resulting in the deification and illumination of the initiates and theurgists.
The image used to explain this was of a lamp without a cover and a warmed wick. The warmth of the wick draws down the flame from the lamp even though the wick does not touch the flame.
The initiate must possess Similarity with the spiritual entity to draw this down into herself. The analogy depicts the placing of the warmed wick below the flame as corresponding to the theurgical placing of prepared initiates in
Iamblicus believed that theurgical dialectic produced henosis, a creative partnership with the Divine, sharing in the Transcendent Activity of maintaining and developing the cosmic order.
From a careful study of Plato's writings it's clear that he participated in and recommended both customary dialectic and theurgical dialectic, neither to the exclusion of the other. Theurgical dialectic can be as simple as repeating phrases while meditating, such as: "Thank you Lord God," or "I surrender my life to you, Oh Lord God," or keeping a statue of Plato on your desk, next to which you often place beautiful flowers.
Serious, philosophical contemplation of God's gift to humans of eternal being produces in a sensitive person with genuine integrity and reverence a stupendous, overwhelming sense of profound awe and heart-felt gratitude. 7
Theurgy, like all procedures, can become mere routinized clap-trap or mumbo-jumbo--a person mindlessly repeating a verbal or ceremonial action--unless the person works to retain genuine self-awareness and integrity of effort. The first two examples of theurgy above are deliberately crafted to involve the person speaking in the first person to divinity, to remind her that she is present in the action and is, by speaking to divinity, placing herself in the presence of the divine. The keynotes of authentic theurgy are self-awareness, genuineness, and integrity--Stay Awake!.
When we achieve entry into the Divine Life, we come to understand human life from the perspective of the Divine:
- The physical world is itself a divulgence of the higher world of Forms (Ideal Archetypes).
- The Divine has the power to make use of all human actions, both positive and negative, to assist us in our personal and collective evolution.
- Who we are--at the highest level--is conduits of spiritual purposes which transcend any single person, group of persons, or any specific time period.
- The Divine manifests through everyone and everything.
- Each person receives exactly the experiences from which they can best learn what they need for their personal evolution--and at the same time for the evolution of all humankind.
- The Divine creates a Divine Life which provides precisely coordinated learning experiences transcendentally matched to our current needs and capabilities.
1 All quotations from Plato or Iamblicus are the author's translations from the original Greek.
2 We use the word "existence" to refer to our mortal life, and "being" to refer to our eternal life in the supersensible realm.
3 In Plato, phronesis describes virtue which is dependent upon reason. A given act was viewed as the result of both an intellectual and a moral decision-making process. Phronesis is the virtue that results from wisdom.
4 Ceremony: An expression of shared feelings and attitudes through more or less formally ordered actions of an essentially symbolic nature performed on appropriate occasions. A ceremony involves stereotyped bodily movements, often in relation to objects (words, images, music) possessing symbolic meaning. For example, people bow or genuflect, tip hats, present arms, slaughter cattle, salute flags, and perform a myriad of other ceremonial actions. Ceremonies express, perpetuate, and transmit elements of the societal value and sentiment system and aim at preserving such values and sentiments from doubt and opposition; moreover, they intensify the solidarity of the participants. Ceremonies are found in all societies.
5 Sacrament: An outward sign of something sacred. In Christianity, a sacrament is commonly defined as having been instituted by Jesus and consisting of a visible sign of invisible grace. Christianity is divided as to the number and operation of sacraments. The traditional view held by Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and certain Anglicans counts the sacraments as seven--Eucharist, baptism, confirmation, penance, anointing of the sick, matrimony, and holy orders. These are held to produce grace in the soul of the recipient by the very performance of the sacramental act (ex opere operato); the recipient need only have the right intention. Most Protestant denominations recognize two sacraments--baptism and communion, or the Lord's Supper. Protestants hold generally that it is the faith of the participant, itself a gift of God, rather than the power of the sacramental act that produces grace.
6 Performatory: The act of making statements of the form "I hereby . . ." or "I pronounce . . ." in which the speaker is declaring that the utterance itself has accomplished the act it describes. "I now pronounce you man and wife." "I hereby sentence you to life in prison."
7 The words of the sentence, ending in the footnote, spoken to yourself in a meditative, reverent, venerative frame of mind, while viewing the animated image immediately below, can constitute an effective theurgical act.