Podcast episode

Episode 135: Esoteric Hermeneutics, Divine Hierarchy, and the Ineffable: The Philosophy of Iamblichus, Part I

In this episode, part one of two, we begin to explore the philosophy of Iamblichus. We begin with an account of his influential formation of an Aristotelean/Platonic curriculum and his theory of a ‘target’ (skopos) of each Platonic dialogue. We then give our ‘four pillars of Iamblichean interpretation, namely:

  1. Non-transformational hierarchy
  2. Interlocking hypostases
  3. ‘Downward’ extent of hypostases, and
  4. Hypostatic mirroring and proto-‘chains’

We then approach the higher reaches of his metaphysics, addressing the triads of the One, the noetic, and the noeric worlds.

Works Cited in this Episode:


  • Damascius on the various Ones which might (not)exist before the noetic triad: De principiis §43, 2.1.1ff. Westerink/Combés.
  • Iamblichus’ canon: Anonymous Prolegomena to Platonic Philosophy 26.10–34. The One-Being (Greek) as unknowable, even to the Flower of Nous: In Parm. fr. 2A Dillon.
  • Proclus cites the complex metaphysics of On the Speech of Zeus in Plato’s Timæus at In Tim. I 308, 18 ff.


  • Dillon on the text On the Speech of Zeus in Plato’s Timæus: Dillon 2009 (see below), Appendix C.
  • Dillon 2010 (see below), p. 362: ‘The curious circumstance that the intellective divinities constitute not three triads, but a hebdomad, may have something to do with the fact that these gods constitute a paradigm for the heavenly gods, who form a hebdomad, the hupezōkōs performing a similar role to that of the Moon.’

Recommended Reading:

The Stanford Online Encyclopædia of Philosophy’s article on Iamblichus is a great place to start.

Also useful:

  • Eugene Afonasin, John M. Dillon, and John Finamore, editors. Iamblichus and the Foundations of Late Platonism. Number 13 in Studies in Platonism, Neoplatonism, and the Platonic Tradition. Brill, Leiden/Boston, MA, 2012.
  • Gerald Bechtle. Iamblichus: Aspekte seiner Philosophie und Wissenschaftskonzeption. Studien zum späteren Platonismus. Academia Verlag, Sankt Augustin, 2006.
  • Henry J. Blumenthal and E. Gillian Clark, editors. The Divine Iamblichus, Philosopher and Man of Gods. Bristol Classical Press, Bristol, 1993.
  • James A. Coulter. The Literary Microcosm: Theories of Interpretation of the Later Neoplatonists. Brill, Leiden, 1976.
  • J. Dillon. Iamblichus of Chalcis. In Lloyd P. Gerson, editor, The Cambridge History of Philosophy in Late Antiquity, Vol. 1, pages 358–74. The University Press, Cambridge, 2010.
  • John Dillon, editor. Iamblichi Chalcidensis in Platonis dialogos commentariorum fragmenta. Prometheus Trust, Westbury, 2nd edition, 2009.
  • Jens Halfwassen. Das Eine als Einheit und Dreiheit: Zur Prinzipienlehre Jamblichs. Rheinisches Museum für Philologie, 139(1):52–83, 1996.
  • Jan Opsomer, B. Bohle, and Christoph Horn. Iamblichos und seine Schule. In Christoph Riedweg, Christoph Horn, and Dietmar Wyrwa, editors, Grundriss der Geschichte der Philosophie. Die Philosophie der Antike, 5/2: Philosophie der Kaiserzeit und der Spätantike, page 1349–83. Schwabe, Basel, 2018.
  • Henri-Dominique Saffrey. Neoplatonic Spirituality: from Iamblichus to Proclus and Damascius. In A. H. Armstrong, editor, Classical Mediterranean Spirituality, pages 250–266. SCM Press, 1986.
  • Idem. Recherches sur le néoplatonisme après Plotin. Number 14 in Histoire des doctrines de l’Antiquité classique. Vrin, Paris, 1990.
  • L.G. Westerink, editor. Anonymous Prolegomena to Platonic Philosophy. Number 5 in Platonic Texts and Translations. The Prometheus Trust, King’s Lynn, 2011.
  • L.G. Westerink and J. Combès, editors. Damascius: Traité des Premiers Principes. Les Belles Lettres, Paris, 2002. 3 vols.



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