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Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie, Introductory matter to his translations of Proclus (1925)

PROCLUS'S Life, Hymns & Works
Master-key Edition,
Putting the Reader in Full Command of the Whole Subject, and Giving the Full Englished Text of All Relevant Inaccessible Minor Works
A.M., Harvard, Sewanee; Ph.D., Columbia, Tulane; M.D., Phila.; Prof. in Extension, University of the South, Sewanee;



Dedicatory Desires of Mr Emil Verch,                       1
Thoughts on Prayer, by Proclus,                               2
Message of Proclus, to Men of Different Interests, 3 
Career of the Editor,                                                 4
How this Reissue of Proclus Started,                         5
Marinus's Biography of Proclus, or, On Happiness,
List of Proclus's Works,                                           7
Tentative Plan of Publication,                                   8
Significance of Issuance of Proclus's Biography, 9 
Condensed Life of Proclus,                                     10
Hymns of Proclus,                                                  11
Treatise on Motion,                                                 12
Oracles of Antiquity Still Unprinted,                         13
Surviving Fragments of Proclus's Chaldaic Oracles, 14 
Possible Reissue of Commentary by Michael Psellus, 15 
Treatise on Providence,                                          16
Treatise on Nature of Evil,                                      17
Treatise on World's Eternity,                                  18
Treatise on Free-Will,                                             19

International Copyright Secured by K.S.Guthrie, 1925

Of this Proclus Master-key Edition only 225 copies
have been printed, of which this is
and, at Teocalli, is respectfully autographed by


WHAT is it all about, this hubbub wild? 
What do they profit from their mad career? 
They'll celebrate the building of some sewer 
But, when they die, they'll have to leave it here.

They never glimpse God's program for their days, 
They glide, unconscious of a destiny; 
For toys they struggle, and for poisons fight; 
They hunt for traps, and study how to stray.

But I was born to find the secret path 
Unto the purlieus of the Invisible; 
E'en as a child I burned uneasily 
Mongst worldly satisfactions tangible.

Sealed are exterior symbols from on high, 
Hidden, interior messages from Heav'n; 
My initiation came by lingering long 
Near dewy roses, in the moon-lit even.

Yes, I have been surprised at hearing oft 
Sustained orations of some ancient Sage, 
For me did Proclus flaming symbols draw, 
And Paracelsus turn his magic page.

Yes, I must leave these pavements verdure-proof, 
These slums where wild illusions pullulate; 
I must unto my nature-shrine return, 
Where, I am told, I'll pass to higher state.


From pp 176, 178, 179 of Taylor's [translation of Proclus'] Commentary on the Timaeus.

For a true and perfect prayer, however, there is required that our life be conformed to the Divine; and this must be accompanied by all order, discipline, purity and chastity, through which our concerns may be introduced to the Gods in a manner such as to attract their beneficence, and to dispose our souls to suitable subjection to them.

Thirdly, there is need of a contact, by which our souls's summit touches the divine essence, and verges towards a union therewith, which must fructify into an adhesion, which is indeed indicated by the (Chaldean) Oracle, which says, "The mortal approximating to fire will, from the Gods, acquire a light;" for, according to them, the swifter Gods, when choosing whom they will perfect, prefer the mortals continuously engaged in prayer, which imparts to us a more manifest participation in the light of the Gods.

Lastly, union effects an establishment of the soul's one [apperception] into the Oneness of the Gods, thus identifying our energy with the divine Energy, whereby our selves become lost by so-to-speak absorption into the Gods, "abiding in divine light, and circularly comprehended by it.''

This indeed is true prayer's best end, to conjoin the soul's conversation to its permanency, so that whatever proceeds from the Gods' One may therein be reestablished, and that our interior light may be comprehended in the Gods'.

Prayer, therefore, is no inconsiderable part of the soul's whole ascent, nor is he who possesses virtue superior to the lack of the good which proceeds from prayer. Beginning from common goods, prayer, in the course of its perfection, results in divine union, gradually accustoming the soul to divine light; — and observe that all the nations that have excelled in wisdom had diligently applied themselves to prayer.


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The Message of Proclus

by Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie

How was I led to resurrect Proclus ?

On the 21st of May 1924 I was visited by a California miner, Mr Emil Verch, who though ignorant of Greek, and of even who Proclus was, had visions of a sage giving that name lecturing and demonstrating theorems in an unknown tongue. When I had explained who Proclus was he besought me to restore these inaccessible treasures to humanity by an English edition. I showed him the ponderousness of the undertaking; which indeed I was fortunately in a position to carry out so far as texts went; but as I have to earn my living would he supply the money? Willingly, if he had had the means; but he was working as a sailor just then. Still, wouldn't I do something for Proclus, anyway ? As my whole life has been devoted to just this, making accessible to the public the neglected treasures of Neo-platonism, I tightened my already tight belt by one notch and gathered in one volume everything that was not ponderous or already in print, so as to give the reader a master-key to the situation, adding, so far as I know for the first time in English, Marinus's priceless Biography of Proclus, thus hanging up in the world's biographical Gallery of Ideals, beside the pictures of the saints, some of whom are over-familiar, distorted and unhappy, the serene enhaloed wisdom-smile of the last and maturest bloom of Platonism, the sage Proclus; and this picture is not skyed, but hung where he who runs may read, where you, reader, can by mail order Proclus's Life, Hymns and Works.

Why does Proclus interest the fortunate men of the world? 

Because he was one of them himself, ranking with Leonardo da Vinci and Goethe in having enjoyed wealth, station, freedom from accidents and disease, and satisfactory friendship. He became the foremost poet, scientist and philosopher of his day, 412-485, not because he was compelled to by poverty, but because he was unwilling to do anything else, because he was unwilling to disappoint the expectation of the Gods. He resided in the then intellectual centre, Athens, next to a temple of Healing, in sight of the Acropolis. He had as intimates and teachers the Nestorian Plutarch and Syrianus. He was favored with conscious intercourse with the Deities till his dying day, and was permitted to write out all his voluminous works in peace. He enjoyed perfect health in a handsome body, and he was so innately virtuous that he practised all the seven kinds of virtues without having to acquire them separately as most of us have to do, with so much effort. He was influential in local politics, and revered the world over as the wisest Platonist. Fortunate was he!

Why will the scientific world never forget Proclus? 

Because, next to Aristotle, he was the greatest scientist of ancient times. He had, by Syrianus, been selected as successor in the management of the Academy because, while achieving divine verities, he was capable of understanding the sciences both in their multiplicity and diversity, and he was known as the Prince of all sciences. Having from childhood burned with the unquenchable passion for truth, he showed a strongly critical bent, rejecting all foolish puerilities in the writings of even the greatest philosophers or the most revered oracles. It was he whose remorselessly logical grasp created the rigorous scholastic method made famous by Thomas Aquinas and Spinoza, and which resulted in the now universal sermonic skeleton outline. He wrote a monstrous commentary on Euclid, an astronomical description of the universe so condensed but comprehensive that it was used as a school text-book, and it was only in his paraphrase that survived the famous Ptotemy's Tetrabiblios. He is immortal in science.

Why is the medical world harking back to him?

Because it was he who planned and practised the ideally complete amalgamation of parallel physical, mental and spiritual remedies.

Why are Sociologists compelled to quote Proclus ?

Because, basing his life on Pythagorean friendship, and practising the daily visiting with his philosophic rivals, he taught that no one can be sanely religious without being a good, active citizen. First he subsidized the Pious Archiadas, as his deputy, to attend to the civic duties for which his lectures left him no time. Then for years he acted as voluntary inspector of office-holders and school-teachers,—an example that might well be followed by every clergyman. Then he promoted local reforms,—so vigorously indeed that he was banished for one year; out without such martyrs democracy can not survive. It was his distinctive doctrine that a philosopher whose activity was limited to class-room or study was incomplete; and that he must extend to city and state, and become the Universal high-priest of his race.

Why must Psychical Researchers study Proclus ?

His experiences demand record, classification and analysis, containing as they do interesting cases of premonition, foresight, prophecy, utterance of oracles, poetic inspiration, reincarnational memories, dream verifications, healing others, being cured himself, apparitions of the deceased, direct operations of the divinities, and an aureole that surrounded him. He was continually instructed, illuminated, protected and saved by divine interpositions, and achieved the ecstatic bliss of the Presence of True Being.

Why can Philosophy never get away from Proclus?

Because his ponderous surviving Commentaries on the Timaeus, Cratylus, and Parmenides (which I could permanently preserve in a modest edition if some Mecaenas devoted to it a relatively moderate amount) will ever remain essential to the correct understanding of Plato, of the Academic School; also because his immortal Treatises on Providence, Fate and Free-will, which I have rescued, must ever remain the bases of further speculation on these perennial topics.

Why are the Ethical Culturists unable to avoid him?

Because the logical development of their theories demands his completer classification of the virtues into physical, moral, political, purificatory, theoretic theurgic, and deifying. Also because his biography is perhaps the supreme demonstration of scientific holiness. The virtues which most of us have to learn piece-meal, and with so much discipline, he possessed innately. He considered the whole of life as a scientific process of the soul's emancipation from the body's trammels; his studies he utilized for their mentalizing influence, every drudgery he turned into a purificatory ritual. With him the ethical interest was so paramount that he considered it his mission to be his friends' savior. No decent man can be less than a missionary.

Why are Mystics fascinated with Proclus ?

Because Proclus's dominant note was religious, and his interest was riveted on the super-sensual world. His wakeful nocturnal hours were spent in prayer, treating disease and composing hymns. In Alexandria he had learned the Egyptian mysteries from Orion; and the Greek from Hero and Olympiodorus; he travelled around in Lydia studying and improving the local temple-worship. He was intoxicated with love for the Primary Beings, and had a regular nocturnal prayer-hour. He observed all kinds of worship, — of Nature, Funerary, of Philosophers, National, of Religions, Personal, Theurgic and Memnonic. What are these? Natural worship means prayer at dawn, noon and sunset, at the Full and New Moon, her rising and transits. Funerary Worship means giving funeral honors to the Dead, and observance of the Feast of All Souls. Religious Worship means libations, lustrations, liturgies, rites and sacrifices, all of which when performed prayerfully, become sacramental means of grace. Philosophical worship means commemoration of the birth-days of the great philosophers, poets or writers. National worship means partaking in the celebrations and rites of all different nations. Personal Worship means such prayer at dressing and undressing, washing, eating, leaving, traveling, arriving, working or marrying as to turn each one into a means of grace, or sacrament. Theurgic worship means operating immediate spiritual results by illumination, transfiguration, invocation, incantation, and evocation. Memnonic Worship means developing and fructifying memory until dawns the realization of past existences,—in the case of Proclus, who seemed never to have drunk the potion of forgetfulness, that of the Pythagorean Nichomacus. Not only was Proclus an expert in all these lines, but his distinctive message is that he held them all together, and fused them into the aureole that betokens a sage.

But what about literary men and poets,—have they anything to gain from Proclus?

Yes, he created several entirely original theories, such as the supreme fruitage of the individuality being known as the flower of the soul, a psychological faculty midway between manifold reason and unitary intuition. Proclus was a prolific poet, and of his surviving hymns here follow a few lines: Listen, ye Gods, ye great Saviors! From divine Books Grant me the blameless Intelligible Light that Dissipates our human clouds, so I may discover the Truth about Man and about the Immortal Divinities!

How fortunate the modern reader who has at his command this fresh portraiture of a serene Sage!

Career of Dr Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie

He was born in Scotland's 'Bonny Dundee' on July 22, 1871 of an interesting ancestry, whose spiritual heritage determined his career.

His maternal grandmother, Frances Wright of Dundee first achieved a literary prominence by writing a dozen dramas of which Altorf was produced in Philadelphia, and published. Then she felt the call to ascertain truth, and in 1802 visited the then young United States, recording her impressions in her Views of Manners and Society in America. In this investigation her conscience was outraged by two abuses which in characteristic fashion she immediately set out to rectify. As to slavery, she secured from the State of Tennessee a grant of 2400 acres, on the Wolf River, 18 miles E of Memphis, named Nashoba, on which she educated slaves, and freed them in Hayti. As to the subjection of Woman, she was the real pioneer of the Woman's Rights movement, and is so recognized in Appleton's Encyclopedia. This naturally led to her last phase, a sociologic one, which led her to visit the colony of Robert Dale Owen in New Harmony, Ind.

Here she met and married Casimir Silvain Phiquepal d'Arusmont, a noble French emigre from Agen, who brought over with him a number of French youths to educate, on the way stopping in Philadelphia with Col McClure. He was a philosopher and scientist, and invented the since then so popular tonic sol-fa system. The married pair then went to Paris where was born their daughter Frances Sylva. But Frances Wright returned to the United States to her lecturing, and published her still continually reprinted A Few Days in Athens. She then practised law in Cincinnati, where she died, resting in Spring Grove Cemetery.

To these five phases of thought was added the note of religious devotion by Frances Sylva, who was converted in Notre Dame by Lacordaire, and devoted her sons to the sacred ministry, and that in the Episcopal Church, as the only sufficiently liberal one.

Being born too late in his family's fortunes to be given an education, he earned one, taking his M. A. in 1890 and Theology at Sewanee; his Ph.D. in 1893 at Tulane; A.M. Harvard, 1894; M.D., with three gold medals, 1904; Marburg and Jena, 1911; Ph.D, Columbia, 1915; Professor in Extension, Sewanee, in 1912.

His mother's devotional interest fructified in his Communion with God, Presence of God, Ladder of God and Why You Want to Become a Churchman.

His grandfather's philosophical and educational interests resulted in his monumental opening to the world in translations of Plotinus, Numenius, Pythagoras and Zoroaster; Teachers' Problems and How to Solve Them.

A combination of both these interests resulted in Angels, Ancient & Modern; the Mithraic Mysteries, the Angelic Mysteries of the Nine Heavens, etc

His grandmother's literary taste produced the Spiritual Message of Literature, Collected Poems, Perronik.

Her quest for truth originated his Message of the Master, How the Master Saved the World, Studies in Comparative Religion, his New Testament Translation.

Her crusades against abuses continued in his Dawn of Liberty, A Bunch of Thistles.

Her sociologic ideals matured in his Complete Progressive Education, A Romance of Two Centuries, etc.

But the very unusual breadth of his conflicting interests checkmated his career, so far as worldly advancement. Little understood or recognized, he had to find consolation in earning his living honestly by teaching a language to children, by pouring out his religious experiences to the few who visited his semi-deserted East Side church, and in putting the accumulated results of his studies in such shape that, to the greater glory of God, they may be of service to humanity, if possible thro' his children (Sylvia Camilla, Sept. 1, 1916; and Kenneth Launfal, Jan 19, 1918).

His has been a drawn battle over-delayed by self-support.


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