Who is Iamblikhos (Iamblichus)?

Who is Iamblikhos (Iamblichus)?

June 25, 2021 Off By Felso

Iamblikhos (Iamblichus) is a Syrian philosopher who lived between approximately 250 and 330 BC.

Iamblikhos (Iamblichus), also known as the founder of the Neo-Platonic Syrian school, was born into a wealthy family in Chalcis, Syria, and died in the same country.

Iamblikhos (Iamblichus) had the opportunity to meet with the student of Plotinos, one of the pioneers of Neo-Platonism, through the thinker named Anatolios, from whom he studied philosophy. He spent most of his life in Alexandria and, upon the death of Porphyrios in 305, became the head of the Neoplatonic school there. Iulianos Apostata, who became emperor in 361, is among the students of the philosopher who lived during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Constantine I, who recognized Christianity. This emperor, who was a Christian first, turned to polytheism under the influence of Iamblikhos (Iamblichus) and defended his teacher’s views against Christianity. Emperor Justinian I banned polytheism in 529 and closed the Neo-Platonist school. It is thought that most of the works remaining from Iamblikhos (Iamblichus) were burned during this period.

Neo-Platonism of Iamblikhos (Iamblichus) differs greatly from the views of Plotinus and Porphyrios. Neo-Platonism, which Pythagoreanism combined with some of its elements, became a polytheistic philosophy of religion and culture and confronted the rapidly developing Christianity. The theology of Iamblikhos (Iamblichus) aimed to systematize all polytheistic religions, based on Neo-Platonism.

His line of thought is based on the Trinity of Plotinus and divides it into several subsections. According to him, at the top is the “Supreme One”. The “Supreme One” is the principle of both unity and diversity. It is the cause of all that exists, encompasses the indefinable, indivisible and immovable, intelligible trinity. In the second stage, the first principle of the intelligible triad is found. This principle is rational, but cannot be grasped by mere thought. It is the most productive stage. The third stage is the Adjuster (Demiurgos) and includes the intelligible universe, the absolute mind. But its virtues already exist in the absolute mind. There is also a fourth stage descended from the visible universe.

According to Iamblikhos (Iamblichus), these last three stages, or divine domains, are arranged as a ring in the essence of the “Supreme One”, each forming separate triads. There are other stages under these successive stages. Iamblikhos (Iamblichus) lists them from One to Ten, in accordance with the number theory of Pythagoreanism. The gods are also divided into three as the intellectual gods (noeroi), the gods of the upper universe (hyperkosmoi), and the gods in the universe (eg kosmoi). Humans can only have intercourse with the gods in this last stage. It is impossible to reach the “Supreme One”, to grasp it. The universe acquires a multi-stage structure with the presence of superangels, angels, demons and heroes besides gods. This situation is the result of the necessary distance between man and the “Supreme One”. Thus, the universe resembles a state made up of various layers. According to Iamblikhos (Iamblichus), each divine layer corresponds to a god in mythology.

According to the thought of Iamblikhos (Iamblichus), destiny arises from divine perfection. The gods can soften the strict laws of destiny. The human soul is free to the extent that it acts in accordance with divine grace. Therefore, the hand of man has a place in the face of destiny. Evil does not come from gods, but from evil demons. As the universe descends to the lower stages, it begins to fill with more and more evils. A person who is ignorant and cannot use God’s gifts properly will succumb to them. God did not tell people how to please him. However, not being a slave to temporary passions and turning to God can be recommended both in terms of religion and morality.

Iamblikhos (Iamblichus) also dealt with problems of psychology. In De Anima (“On the Soul”), he opposes the definition of the soul as a being identical with the mind, as it appears in Plotinus. It not only separates the two, but also classifies spirits according to their activity and qualities. Accordingly, universal spirits are perfect, divine spirits are pure and immaterial. Human souls are not born with the body. Souls scattered across the heavens and stars are equal. However, when they fall into an earthly body, this primitive equality disappears. Death is the separation of soul and body.

Iamblikhos’ (Iamblichus) distinction between the mind and the soul is considered one of the first steps towards making psychology an independent science. After the Syrian School, Neo-Platonism, which maintained itself as the Athenian School with the efforts of Proklos, became a doctrine of theology rather than philosophy. This view, which was developed by the Plotinos-Iamblichus (Iamblichus)-Proklos trio, has undergone a new interpretation after the birth of Islam, and has influenced the Sufi movement, especially allowing the God-human-universe relationship to be considered as an independent problem. This epidemic, which first emerged in Syria, then spread to Iran and Anatolia.