Podcast episode

Episode 136: The ‘Greater Kinds’, Souls, and Kosmos: Iamblichus’ Philosophy, Part II

Between the noetic triad and the triad of Soul, Iamblichus places the Greater Kinds, a hierarchy of archangels, angels, heroes, daimones, and several types of archōn. We explore this densely-populated divine bestiary – with discussion of what these entities look like when summoned to visible appearance – and discuss Iamblichus’ distinctive doctrines of the human soul and of matter.

Works Cited in this Episode:



  • On the various divine hierarchies: De myst. II.1-4.
  • The third hypothesis of the Parmenides refers to the ‘Greater Kinds’, not to soul: In Parm. fr. 2.
  • Three types of sublunary daimones: Lydus De mens. 83.13ff.
  • The Greater Kinds impassible: De myst. I.10. Cf. I.8: they rule their bodies from outside, rather than being enveloped in their bodies, as we humans are.
  • The archons as planetary κοσμοκρατορες: cf. De myst. IX.9.284.3-7; Damascius, In Parm. 131.9.15 ff.
    Evil daimones: II.7.84; cf. III.31.178; X.7.293.
  • The ochēma spherical, imitating the motion of Nous: In Tim. fr. 49, 11.13-15 Dillon = Proclus In Tim. 181b-e, II 72, 6, Dillon’s translation: ‘For which reason our vehicle also is made spherical, and is moved in a circle, whenever the Soul is especially assimilated to Mind; for the intellection of the soul and the circular motion of bodies imitates the activity of Mind, even as the ascents and descents of souls motion in a straight line, for these are motions of bodies which are not in their proper places.’ Cf. ibid. 27-29.
  • φωτὸς ἀγωγή or φωταγωγία: De myst. III.14 132.7-9, 133.13-134.7. Cf. Damascius Phil. Hist. fr. 75F for what seems to be a similar practice, in which a ‘severe but gentle’ face appears on a wall.
  • The pneumatic vehicles of demons and heroes (δαιμόνι α δὲ καὶ τὰ ἡρωϊκὰ αὐτοπτικὰ πνεύματα) appear in direct visions: De myst. II.3
  • The soul fully descended, Plotinus is wrong: De anima §§6–7.
  • Souls must remain not only souls, but their own kind of soul: In Phaed. fr. 5.
  • The ochēma immortal: Iambl. In Tim. fr. 81 = Proclus In Tim. 3.234, 32ff.


  • E.C. Clarke, J.M. Dillon, and J.P. Hershbell, editors. Iamblichus on The Mysteries. Society of Biblical Literature, Atlanta, GA, 2003.
  • O’Neill 2018 (see below), p. 161.

Recommended Reading:

  • Crystal Addey. Divination and Theurgy in Neoplatonism: Oracles of the Gods. Ashgate, Dorchester, 2014.
  • Friedrich W. Cremer. Die Chaldäischen Orakel und Iamblich de mysteriis. Anton Hain, Meisenheim am Glan, 1969.
  • John Finamore. Iamblichus on Light and the Transparent. In Henry J. Blumenthal and Gillian Clark, editors, The Divine Iamblichus: Philosopher and Man of Gods, pages 55–73. Bristol Classical Press, Bristol, 1993.
  • Seamus O’Neill. Evil Demons in the De Mysteriis: Assessing the Iamblichean Critique of Porphyry’s Demonology. In Luc Brisson, Seamus O’Neill, and Andrei Timotin, editors, Neoplatonic Demons and Angels, volume 20 of Studies in Platonism, Neopla- tonism, and the Platonic Tradition, pages 160–89. Brill, Leiden/Boston, MA, 2018.
  • Henri Dominique Saffrey and Alain-Philippe Segonds, editors. Jamblique: Réponse à Porphyre (De mysteriis). Les Belles Lettres, Paris, 2018.
  • Steel, Carlos G., 1978, The Changing Self, A Study on the Soul in later Neoplatonism: Iamblichus, Damascius and Priscianus (Verhandelingen van de Koninklijke Academie voor Wetenschappen, Letteren en Schone Kunsten van België. Klasse der Letteren 85), Brussel: Paleis der Academiën.
  • Andrei Timotin. La démonologie platonicienne. Histoire de la notion du daimōn de Platon aux derniers néoplatoniciens. Number 128 in Philosophia Antiqua. Brill, Leiden/Boston, MA, 2012.


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