Podcast episode

Episode 189: Danielle Layne on Proclus’ Religious Life and Thought

‘Our inspired reason, our mad reason, is what nourishes us. It’s like a mother.’

This one is absolute fire.

We discuss pistis, ‘faith’, and the rôle that this (on the face of it, rather un-philosophical) virtue plays in the thought of Proclus. We then move on to his theory of prayer to the gods, in its formal, causal function (how we explain how it works causally), in its higher analogue (that is, the Demiurge’s act of prayer to Night, through which he ingests the noetic paradigm and with it the wisdom of the higher divine causes), and in its phenomenological richness (how it really works for the practitioner). We then enter hermeneutically into the demiurgic activity at the heart of Proclean theurgy, exploring the nature of the Monad and Dyad in human and divine action. Finally, we discuss the piglet.

Interview Bio:

Danielle A. Layne, Professor of Philosophy at Gonzaga University, has published widely on Plato and the Platonic tradition, including the recent “Divine Names and the Mystery of Diotima” in the Routledge Companion to Women in Ancient Philosophy (2024). Founder of Palinode Productions, a Deep Learning Philosophy Platform (June 2024 release), Layne eagerly embraces novel approaches to the study of antiquity that reanimate and vivify the uniqueness of the Platonic tradition.

Works Cited in this Episode:


Plato’s Timæus introduces an unquantifiable something near the beginning of the Likely Story: a chaotic, disordered, visible `stuff’, 30a3-5. He later returns to (presumably) the same thing, now calling it ‘the receptacle, nurse of genesis’ (49a5-6) and ‘chōra’, acessible only through ‘Bastard reasoning’ (52a) [Incidentally, Plato’s ‘bastard reasoning’ is interpreted by Proclus to refer to a form of hypernoetic cognition, in the reading of Tuomo Lankila (Hypernoetic Cognition and the Scope of Theurgy in Proclus. Arctos. Acta Philologica Fennica, XLIV:147-70, 2010). Herein lie mysteries of deepest philosophy].

Plotinus, ‘I’m not going to the festival, the gods should come to me’: ap. Porph. Plot. 10. ἐκείνους δεῖ πρὸς ἐμὲ ἔρχεσθαι, οὐκ ἐμὲ πρὸς ἐκείνους.

Porphyry on why you shouldn’t sacrifice the pig: De abstinentia.


  • The hymns: see R.M. van den Berg. Proclus’ Hymns: Essays, Translations, Commentary. Brill, Leiden, 2001.
  • ‘The sunflower prays when it turns to the god’: a reference to On the Hieratic Art of the Hellenes, a short piece preserved by Psellos. Until Eleni Pachoumi’s upcoming volume appears with Brill your best bet still would seem to be Stephen Ronan’s able translation, first published in Stephen Ronan, editor. Iamblichus of Chalcis On the Mysteries (De mysteriis Ægyptiorum). Edited by Stephen Ronan with the Translations of Thomas Taylor and Alexander Wilder. Cthonios Books, Hastings, 1989, but widely available online. The Greek can be found (of all places) in De Sacrificio, 148.10–18, 149.12 in Catalogue des manuscrits alchimques grecs, vol. 6, ed. Joseph Bidez (Bruxelles: Lamertin, 1928) pp. 148–151.
  • ‘Glowing contact’ with the god through prayer: In Tim. 1.211.29–212.5: καὶ τοῦτο πέρας ἐστὶ τὸ ἄριστον τῆς ἀληθινῆς εὐχῆς, ἵνα ἐπισυν-άψῃ τὴν ἐπιστροφὴν τῇ μονῇ καὶ πᾶν τὸ προελθὸν ἀπὸ τοῦ τῶν θεῶν ἑνὸς αὖθις ἐνιδρύσῃ τῷ ἑνὶκαὶ τὸ ἐν ἡμῖν φῶς τῷ τῶν θεῶν φωτὶ περιλάβῃ. οὐκ ἄρα σμικρόν τι μόριόν ἐστιν ἡ εὐχὴ τῆς ὅληςἀνόδου τῶν ψυχῶν, οὐδὲ ὁ τὴν ἀρετὴν ἔχων ἀπροσδεής ἐστι τῶν ἀγαθῶν τῶν ἀπὸ τῆς εὐχῆς προσγινομένων ἀλλὰ πᾶν τοὐναντίον ἡ ἄνοδος δι’ αὐτῆς ἐπιτελεῖται καὶ μετὰ ταύτης καὶ τὸ κεφάλαιοντῆς ἀρετῆς ἡ περὶ θεούς ἐστιν ὁσιότης.
  • Chaldæan words which separate the body from the soul: I misspoke here; these are not ‘Chaldæan words’ but ‘priestly words’ (λόγοι ἱερατικοί), which Proclus cannot reveal for reasons of initiated silence (In R. II.119.5 Kroll).

Speusippus queries the existence of the Forms: Aristotle, Met. 7.2, 1.6, 13.8-9.

Xenophon on Socrates’ love of dancing: Symp. 2.16-19.


Luce Irigaray. Ce sexe qui n’en est pas un. Éditions de Minuit, Paris, 1977.

Recommended Reading:

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