Bryant recognizes that there are multiple Gods worshiped by different bhakti sects, and that there is a reciprocity such that, e.g., not only is what is said about Kṛṣṇa by his bhaktas said (mutatis mutandis) about Śiva by Śiva's bhaktas—i.e., that he is the supreme being and contains all things, and even created the other Gods for his purposes, etc.—but also that what is said about Śiva, e.g., by Kṛṣṇa's bhaktas is structurally identical—objectification and subordination, on the one hand, but also, at other times, veneration—to what is said about Kṛṣṇa by Śiva's bhaktas. But he thinks that this very multiplicity is necessarily not polytheism, because he has a straw man of polytheism in mind. Ironically, however, the way in which he describes polytheism is that there would be multiple Gods "ontologically equal". And yet, what is the reciprocity between these sects but ontological equality? He has suppressed the ontological dimension of this reciprocal field, however, effectively downgrading it to the level of mere historical contingency, or psychological disposition (despite seemingly recognizing that there is a "divine relationship" in bhakti which is irreducible to psychology). Or, alternately, he reifies a supreme being over all of these objects of bhakti, using conceptual materials doubtless supplied to him by the texts, but put to an unfortunate use by him, because it subordinates everyone's actual Īśvara to this Other, thus putting the actual moment of devotion in bhakti under erasure, because now no deity is at the center, so to speak, but rather they are all at the periphery. This is the polar opposite of what I have termed "polycentric" polytheism. It is, instead, a kind of acentric monotheism that is I think very intellectually satisfying to a certain Western sensibility.
"The soul's mode of ascent is two-fold: one occurs by ascension to Being and by purification from the realm of generation—and this is the mode provided by the bonds of Ploutôn after death. The other is achieved by elevation prior [to death] through the purification of Hades and by the soul's abiding by the life there and traversing thoughts [tôn noêseôn peripolein]—and this is the way perfected by the bonds of Kronos through the connection of Zeus. Having left a trace [ichnos], as it were, in the intelligible realm, the soul there passes through the extent of the intelligible realm and observes there blessed sights, as Socrates teaches in the Phaedrus (247d)," (Proclus, In Cratylum §162, trans. Duvick, mod.).
A very interesting text. First, we see the rather inferior status of "ascension to Being"—it is what happens in any event. Second, there is the role of devotion to Hades during life, which is a way of life and of thought, and works together with Zeus and Kronos. Finally, there is the notion of the soul leaving a "trace" in the intelligible. We encounter this term ichnos occasionally in Proclus, where it seems to have the sense of a trace of the supra-essential in Being. This is perhaps something intelligible about the self grasped through theurgic reversion (see the passage I posted earlier from Proclus' commentary on the Chaldean Oracles), a kind of partial formalization of the psyche, somewhat akin to what happens to heroic souls, though in a weaker sense.
To the extent that he knows himself and all the other divine genera together, partakes of them all, and is distinguished according to
existential peculiarity [kata tên idian huparxin], each of the Gods supplies subsistence [hupostasin] to the divine names, which are incomprehensible and ineffable to us, inasmuch as all of the intellectual and divine entities exist in us psychically. Yet, if intellections exist in the soul not in a mode corresponding to the intellect, but like an image and in subordination, the soul will become all the dizzier by thinking purely [eilikrinôs] about the Gods, but it is only imagistically [eikonikôs] that it can entertain conceptions about the essence and about the nomenclature of God. (Proclus, In Crat. 135, trans. Duvick, modified).
This quote establishes that the very names of the Gods are not mere cultural constructs, but are themselves rooted in the Gods' supra-essential existential individuality—all of the names in each God, no less, the same as how the Gods themselves subsist—and have themselves an intellective reality beyond the imagistic conception of them, that is, the names are not of the status of mere images, but are themselves a Reality apprehended through images.
The presence of the names of all the Gods in each God is presupposed by the presence of all the Gods Themselves in each God. So the significance of the quoted passage is not to establish the latter point, which is at the foundations of the entire system. Rather, the quote's significance is for what it says about the ontology of divine names.
All the names exist in each God; therefore there is an adequate divine cognition of every name, which our souls approximate through letters and sounds, as well as through our etymological inquiries, which also share this imagistic status relative to the divine cognition of the Gods' names. This is in sharp contrast to an approach that states that the names of the Gods are like matter relative to the divine forms of the Gods, and it sets clear limits to translation. This is all of a piece with the rejection of any intellectualistic reduction of the Gods to forms.
On methexis, I would say that treating it exclusively or even primarily as mimesis ("imitation", e.g., the relationship between an image and that which it portrays) is indeed shortsighted from a properly Platonic perspective.
In the first place, methexis has an almost heuristic value in Plato's work. It is essentially the "safe" approach to epistemic problems counseled by Socrates in the Phaedo, which is extensively problematized in the Parmenides, and in the Philebus is revealed to be supervenient upon a more ontologically primitive process of imposing limits upon continua.
We find that the theory of participation in forms is also supervenient upon two very important forms of experience. The first is the erotic relationship explicated in the Phaedrus and the Symposium (I've written about this in "Plato's Gods and the Way of Ideas"). Here, the primordial experience of divine beauty causes us, to varying degrees, to draw forth ideality from our experiences of mortal beauty and love, as a recollection, ultimately, of the Gods, and of the God whose beauty marked us before our incarnation, but expressed through the triangular relationship with other mortal beings through the ever-receding "form".
The other is presented in the Timaeus (I've discussed this in "Animal and Paradigm in Plato"; see also this piece I wrote for Polytheist.com). Here, we have the primal gaze of one God upon another (the same as in the symposium of the Gods discussed in the Phaedrus), from out of which arises the impulse to share the experience of beauty by giving order to other things, essentially by viewing everything through the lens, so to speak, of the God who is the object of the gaze. In this sense, the encounter between the Demiurge and the Paradigm is the divine equivalent of the erotic encounter between mortals in the Phaedrus and the Symposium—both are productive of "form" and of the "participation" relationship in the flux of time.
It is important as well to note that in the Timaeus, there is evidently only really one form, strictly speaking, namely "Animality". The other forms are ultimately dependent upon this root of all form and derive their sense from their relationship to the basic project of being animal. Every true form is ultimately a way of being alive, of being sentient in time.
Plotinus’ concern here is the cosmos as such, upon which he wants us to carry out a sort of structured meditation:
Let us then apprehend in our thought this cosmos, with each of its parts remaining what it is without confusion, gathering all of them together into one as far as we can, so that when any one part appears first, for instance the outside heavenly sphere, the imagination of the sun and, with it, the other heavenly bodies follows immediately, and the earth and sea and all the living creatures are seen, as they could in fact be seen inside a transparent sphere. (V.8.9.1-8)
By stressing this cosmos, Plotinus wants us to understand that he means the visible cosmos all around us. We want to arrive at a conception of the cosmos as one thing, while at the same time ensuring that each of its parts remain what they are without confusion [μη συγχεομενου]. This is an ancient principle in Hellenic thought, as we can see from Orphic frag. 165 (Kern), in which Zeus inquires of Night,
How shall by me all things be one as well as each distinct?Proclus expresses in almost the same terms as Plotinus this epistemic goal with respect to the manifold of the divine henads in his commentary on the Parmenides:
And yet, in spite of this degree of unity in that realm, how marvelous and unmixed is their purity, and the individuality of each of them [the henads or Gods] is a much more perfect thing than the difference of the forms, preserving as it does unconfused [ἀσυγχυτα] all the divine entities and their proper powers distinct, (In Parm. 1048.16-20).
Nihilistic appropriations of this principle during the era of monotheist hegemony have so distorted its significance that not only does the recognition of oneness alone remain as a goal, but the active repression of distinction and uniqueness is seen as a means to its realization. Returning, then, to this principle with eyes cleared, how, then, do we conceive the unity of the cosmos without ‘confusing’ or ‘mingling’ the units which compose it? Plotinus explains that we do so by making sure that when we think of one of these units ‘first’, we bring all the others in along with it. Here again, we see the fundamental structural characteristic of a polycentric manifold: all of its elements are present in each. This alone permits each element to be a perfect individual, as opposed to being mingled, confused, blurred into one thing. Plotinus is concerned here, not to extinguish the uniqueness and individuality of things, to drown them in an oceanic feeling of unity, but to unfold these unique beings all around us, to unpack the relations implicit in each one and bring them forth in our minds.
But such a manifold, in which instead of all in one, all are in each, presents certain challenges to mundane, discursive thought. Here is where Plotinus stretches his descriptive powers to the limits in interesting and difficult ways, in his image of a transparent sphere. Now, we might at first be tempted to simply identify this sphere with the ‘heavenly sphere’ he has mentioned just above. But there is not just one such sphere, or a single hierarchy of spheres, as we are familiar with in astrological discussions of the planetary spheres. Rather,
when any one part appears first,we are to imagine it as such a transparent sphere, into which we may gaze and see all of the others, whether the part we take first is the outermost sphere of the fixed stars, or any of the living creatures within the cosmos. It is this characteristic of Being, indeed, that enables Parmenides to say
It is all one to me where I am to begin; for I shall return there again,(frag. 5).
Indeed, we can see that the spherical nature Parmenides attributes to that-which-is as such (frag. 8.43ff) is effortlessly applied by Plotinus here to any being to which we might turn our attention. Peering into a being, so to speak, with the mind’s eye, we are to discern in it, as though it were a transparent sphere, all other things. We obviously have here an image closely comparable to that of Indra’s Net, which I discussed in a recent essay. The reflectivity which permits each jewel in Indra’s Net to reflect all the others is replaced here by the transparency which allows all the other cosmic beings to be discerned in each one. The fact that each being is a sphere also suggests the image of the
sphere whose center is everywhere and its circumference nowhere,known from a medieval Hermetic apocryphon. Each being is the center of all things for itself,
equal to itself from every direction,(Parmenides, frag. 8.49). Where a being appears to be off-center in one respect, for example being dependent upon principles prior to it, the ‘sphericity’ of its being allows us to expect that this will be compensated in some other respect.
Hence, for example, Aristotle speaks of things which are not prior in a hierarchical ontological sense as being nevertheless prior for us, in the order of knowing:
Instruction is acquired by all in this manner: through the less known by nature to the more known by nature … the purpose is to start from what is more known to the individual and proceed to make known to the individual what is known by nature. Now what is known and first to each individual is often known slightly and has little or no being. Nevertheless, from what is poorly knowable but knowable to oneself one must make an effort to know what is generally knowable, proceeding, as we stated, from what is knowable to oneself. (Metaphysics 1029b, trans. Apostle)
Plotinus’ image, however, places this core Aristotelian doctrine in a wider context, because there is not merely the single center toward which Aristotle has beings, recognizing themselves as lying on the periphery, making a pilgrimage. (‘Theory’, theôria, we should recall, comes from a word that referred originally to making a pilgrimage to see a God at their temple or participate in their festival.) There is also the recognition that the starting-points of these pilgrimages are centers in their own right, just as starting-points. (The term archê, which we translate as ‘(causal) principle’ literally means a starting-point.) This is itself the pilgrimage from epistemology to ontology, from the theory of knowledge to the theory of being. Beings, in taking up for themselves the presuppositions of their being, redeem this centrality by affirming themselves as the presuppositions for Being to be known.
(It is in this light, as well, that we must understand a remark of Plotinus’, reported by Porphyry, and often mistaken as a manifestation of irreverence toward the Gods:
Amelius was scrupulous in observing the day of the New Moon and other festivals, and once asked Plotinus to come along, but Plotinus refused, saying ‘It is for Those to come to me, not for me to go to them’. What he meant by this exalted utterance we could not understand and did not dare to ask,(Porphyry, Vita Plotini 10.34-8).)
To continue with Plotinus’ meditation:
Let there be, then, in the soul a shining imagination of a sphere, having everything within it, either moving or standing still, or some things moving and others standing still. Keep this, and apprehend in your mind another, taking away the mass: take away also the places, and the mental picture of matter in yourself, and do not try to apprehend another sphere smaller in mass than the original one, but calling on the God who made that of which you have the mental picture, pray him to come. And may he come, bringing his own universe with him, and all the Gods within him, he who is one and all, and each God is all the Gods coming together into one […] (V.8.9.8-17)
Plotinus’ description gets fairly hard to follow here, but the way I read it is that he is trying to convey the idea of multiple spheres with different centers occupying the same space. This is why he stresses not imagining
another sphere smaller in mass than the original one, and indeed instructs us to
take away the mass [ὄγκον]altogether. It is at this point, notably, that Plotinus begins the transition to the following section, about the polycentric manifold of the Gods, as opposed to that of the cosmos, by urging one to call on the God whose causality is embodied in the polycentric sphere one is trying to envision. It is not a question here of some singular God who stands in opposition to the multiplicity of the cosmos, but rather of a polycentric manifold of Gods—
each God is all the Gods coming together into one—which grounds the polycentric manifold of cosmic beings.
Why does Plotinus just at this point, where the picture of the polycentric cosmos becomes especially difficult, urge us to call upon the God—any God, really? It is because the consciousness of things is essentially differential or diacritical. ‘Things’ qua things or in their bare ‘thingness’ just are the negative space carved out by difference or negation. A thing in this sense is just the negation of everything else. This is the negativity to which polycentric holism brings us in epistemology, as reflected in the doctrine attributed to Speusippus, Plato’s first successor as head of the Academy, for which, as Aristotle recounts, to know any one thing is
to know all the things that are. And yet some say that it is impossible to know the differences between something and each other thing while one does not know each other thing, and without the differences one cannot know each thing, for a thing is the same as that from which it does not differ, and it is other than that from which it differs. (Posterior Analytics 97a)
But then is the Academy under its first appointed head committed to skepticism? If not, it must be because there is some class of beings for which this circle of knowing a thing through all the other things is not vicious, but virtuous. And what else could this be, given the importance of dialogue in the Platonic enterprise, than the community of intelligences, or better yet, the community of living beings capable of recognizing one another and bearing ethical responsibility toward one another? For each member of a society presupposes the totality, a totality, however, which is nothing other than its members. This is not the totality of citizens occupying their differential functions, their classes or roles, but the totality of reciprocally recognizing ethical subjects, of partners in dialogue or simply in the enjoyment of one another’s presence, as at the divine symposium of the Olympians of which Socrates tells us in the Phaedrus.
Such is the sole kind of manifold which can support polycentricity without the paradoxes that afflict a polycentric manifold of mere things. For as I discussed above, with things qua things the hierarchy of being looms too large. Parts presuppose the whole, and it seems an extravagance to see the part at the center and the whole at its periphery, unless we have already anticipated Plotinus’ move, and supplied ourselves with the understanding that the parts in question are sentient, they are viewpoints for themselves. As viewpoints, the parts constitute the whole for themselves, and hence make the transition, at least nascently, from cosmic to divine multiplicity, that divine multiplicity that requires no unity other than the unity its members are capable in this fashion of constituting and experiencing within themselves and among one another—for
the One neither is, nor is one,(Plato, Parmenides 141e).
Julian's hymn needs to be understood within the framework of polycentric polytheism. Julian is attempting to articulate the ways in which the deity to whom he is devoted, Helios, is ultimate, even though he’s doing it within a conceptual structure (Iamblichean Platonism) in which Helios is actually situated quite far down in the hierarchy that expresses the procession of Being. Assuming that the hypostatic hierarchy in Iamblichus is the same as that which we see expressed more fully in Proclus, Helios is active on the hypercosmic plane, just below the intellective plane where, e.g., Zeus and Hera have their primary activity. As such, Julian has to think about ways in which an intermediate status—or even one somewhat lower—can be understood to actually be supreme. Another part of his strategy is also to elevate Helios' position as much as possible by having Helios displace Zeus to some extent as primary demiurge of the cosmos and focal point of the intellective order of Gods, effectively promoting Helios from his hypercosmic position. Julian does this very intelligently, however, by arguing not for a different role for Helios, but rather that if we properly understand the role Helios is presently understood to have, we will see that it is really the crucial role.
In this, Julian follows in the footsteps of earlier polytheistic theologians in Egypt and in India, to name two especially notable examples, who use hymns to a given deity to demonstrate how that deity's functions can be understood as the ultimate ground of reality. Hence, in a hymn to Ptah, Ptah's special province, the function of speech, is seen as the nature of reality, and Ptah thus as the ultimate God, while in a hymn to Khnum, Khnum's primary field of action, corporeal form, is argued to be the essence of things, in particular, of the statues of all the other Gods, and Khnum therefore as the supreme God. The Rig Veda speaks of Agni as supreme in the sense that the sacrifices to all the other Gods pass through the fire, which is his, while treating Vac as supreme in the sense that the hymns to all the other Gods depend upon voice, which is hers. The Bhagavadgītā sees in the nature of Kṛṣṇa the nature of reality, while the Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad sees reality in the nature of Śiva. The fact that such texts rarely affirm the reciprocal potential for affirming the ultimacy of the other Gods is a problem for modern polytheist polemics, but it was not a problem for ancient authors working within an environment in which this reciprocal polycentricity was natural and largely unthought.
(It should also be noted the degree to which this sort of effort of thinking about the ultimate nature of reality in diverse different ways fostered the development of philosophical thought in these cultures.)
The other major element that needs to be understood with respect to Julian’s work is his tendency, though not entirely consistently, to conflate the One with Being, which can make his thought appear somewhat more monotheistic to us than he, I think, intends. This may be due to shortcomings in Julian’s philosophical instruction, or because Platonic doctrine on the One was not so comprehensively articulated as it came to be in the subsequent generations, or Julian may have been attempting to make his pagan system look more like Christianity, or to streamline polytheism into a more top-down structure that could compete more effectively with Christianity on an institutional level.
I’ll proceed now to some comments on individual passages. (Translations by W.C. Wright.)
132d: "whether it is right to call him the supra-intelligible, or the Idea of Being … or the One, since the One seems somehow to be prior to all the rest"—we see here, as elsewhere in the piece, that Julian is uncertain of how to draw these philosophical distinctions, or finds them not too important.
135c: "the fact that he is established as king among the intellectual Gods, from his middle station among the planets"—here Julian seeks to use the centrality of the visible sun to argue for a higher position for Helios on the invisible plane of the higher principles than Helios has in the 'orthodox' Platonic system.
136a: Regarding the slogan Julian quotes about Zeus, Hades, Helios and Serapis, variations on this acclamation with one, two, and three members, or varying members, are well known and have been discussed especially by Versnel in Ter Unus. He argues that
"The essential meaning of the heis theos formula … is not a syncretistic confession of the unity or identity of the gods mentioned: on the contrary, it is an acclamation emphasizing the exceptional character and the greatness of the god or gods invoked. In other words, it represents the elative, not the unifying force of the word heis," (p. 235).
Given this, Wright's translation of "three gods in one godhead" is extremely misleading. At most, we could translate the slogan as "Sarapis is Zeus, Hades, and Helios in one," with no strong sense of identity at all, but the sense more that "Sarapis is as good as Zeus, Hades, and Helios put together." Julian uses the slogan for his own purposes, chief of which, again, is to elevate Helios however he can.
137a-c: Julian uses a subtle exegesis of the Odyssey and the Iliad to argue that Helios is not subordinate to Zeus or to Hera.
138d-139a: A lengthy discussion of "middleness", mesotês, in order to explain how a God who is "midway between the visible Gods who surround the universe and the immaterial and intelligible Gods who surround the Good" is nevertheless the supreme God. Again, at 141b, Helios is admitted to be "midway between the intelligible and the encosmic Gods," but this is, Julian has argued, actually the supreme position. At 156c, Helios is "midmost of the midmost intellectual Gods".
139c: Positing "a sort of binding force in the intelligible world of the Gods, which orders all things into one" permits Julian to see an analogy with what Helios does on the lower, cosmic plane, but also demonstrates that the unity of the intelligible Gods is not simply given for him.
141d: "King Helios is one and proceeds from one God, <that is,> from the intelligible cosmos, which is one"—Julian's awkward phrasing here seems like an attempt to convey that the unity of the Gods lies in their being all in each one; but all that matters for the purposes of this hymn, of course, is that they are all in Helios.
142c: "We must assume that what has just been said about his substance applies equally to his powers"—here and elsewhere in this piece (e.g., 145c) Julian seems to analyze a God into three phases of substance (ousia), power, and activity, unlike later Platonists like Proclus who speak instead of a God's existence (hyparxis), power, and activity, with ousia being on the level of the God's activity. This could help to explain Julian's tendency to conflate the One and Being, since ousia implies being. Julian never seems to use in this piece the terminology of supra-essentiality (hyperousiotês), which for Platonists like Proclus positions the Gods unambiguously prior to Being.
143b: Gods who are "akin to Helios" and "of like substance" serve to "sum up the … nature of this God," in whom "they are one"—this is the basic procedure of the polycentric hymn, i.e., since all the Gods are in each one, one may take all the other Gods as unfolding or articulating the chosen deity's nature, especially ones whose activity is related to hers narratively or that is similar to hers.
144a-b: Apollo "is the interpreter for us of the fairest purposes that are to be found with our God," articulating the nature of Helios just as Helios, in a hymn to Apollo, could be understood to articulate the nature of Apollo. Note also the argument here: "Helios, since he comprehends in himself all the principles of the fairest intellectual synthesis, is himself Apollo the leader of the Muses"—because Helios does what Apollo is said to do, Helios is Apollo. This kind of reasoning only applies where we are from treating the nature of all the other Gods purely as intelligible contents within our chosen deity. We see the same thing in Egyptian hymns, when the names of other Gods are taken semantically in order to treat them as "names" of the God being hymned at the moment, e.g., "You [God X] are hidden in this your name of 'Amun'," where the name of the God Amun is being used for its meaning, which is 'hidden'. The sentence thus reads, literally, "You are hidden in this your name of Hidden." This would be a meaningless tautology unless the independent identity of Amun is in fact taken as given. Julian takes this exact approach at 148d, where he speaks of "the other names of the Gods, which all belong to Helios".
144b: "though one should survey many other powers that belong to this god, never could one investigate them all"—compare Proclus' statement in his commentary on Plato's Cratylus, speaking of Apollo, that "the entire multitude of Apollo's powers is incomprehensible to us and indescribable. Indeed, how could human reason ever become able to grasp all the properties together, not only of Apollo, but of any God at all?" (In Crat. 97, trans. Duvick).
144b-c: Helios has "an equal and identical dominion" as Zeus, "shares … imperishableness and abiding sameness with Apollo," "shares … the dividing function … with Dionysus"—we see that despite the ability to think of Helios, for the purposes of the hymn, as expanding to encompass all the other Gods, Helios is also for Julian still situated in an environment in which the Gods are irreducibly many.
145b: Helios "bestows … on all the intellectual Gods the faculty of thought and of being comprehended by thought"—Julian often in this piece seems to draw particularly on account in the Republic of the analogy between the sun, the cause both of the being of mundane things and of their knowability, and the Idea of the Good, in order to promote Helios to a higher position in the intellective order of Gods than do other Platonists, who place more emphasis on the account of the demiurge in the Timaeus, traditionally identified with Zeus.
147d: With respect to Okeanos, Julian does the same thing we have seen him do earlier with other Gods, namely, use a definition of the God's principal activity as a middle term to identify them with Helios. Here, because Helios girdles the poles, he does what, on one definition, Okeanos does, and therefore Helios can also receive the attribute Homer accords to Okeanos of "father of all things", even though this attribute is actually only related to pole-girdling if we presuppose the individual integrity of the God Okeanos.
149b-d: Julian's doctrine with respect to Athena is interesting and quite technical. She comes forth "whole from the whole of him, being contained within him," but seems more distinct from Helios than Zeus, who Julian says he believes to be "in no wise different from Helios," or Apollo, who "differs in no way from Helios", because Athena must "bind together the Gods who are assembled about Helios and bring them without confusion into unity with Helios." Note that "without confusion" (dicha synchuseôs), literally, "without mixture", entails that even in union with Helios, the other Gods remain distinct. Proclus uses almost the same language to speak of the unity of the henads with one another, in which they are "unmixed" (amigês, asynchuta; In Parm. 1048), because all are in each, rather than all in one. Hence what is said by Julian of Helios here could be said of any other God, in principle. The special role of Athena in bringing the Gods in this fashion into unity with Helios points again to the irreducible role of other Gods for Julian even in the midst of his monolatrous meditation upon Helios.
150b: Aphrodite, like Helios himself, is "a synthesis [synkrasis] of the heavenly Gods", and like Athena, an irreducible "joint cause [synaitios] with him".
151a: "Helios holds sway among the intellectual Gods in that he unites into one, about his own undivided substance, a great multitude of the Gods"—Julian's claim for Helios here is a bit less sweeping than at some other points in the piece.
156d-157a: Helios "fills the whole heavens with the same number of Gods as he contains in himself in intellectual form"—that is, the presence of the other Gods in Helios enables him to bring them to visible form in their diverse ways, enabling him to express his own unique kind of ultimacy, which lies in the ubiquity of visible form through the solar agency.
158a: Julian explains here his task: "to compose a hymn to express my gratitude to the God … to tell, to the best of my power, of his essential nature [ousia]." The ousia or 'substance' of a God contains all things, and so what we can discern of that substance will encompass as many other Gods as the activities of whom we can grasp through that substance.
Noted an interesting ambiguity in Plato's use of the term hyponoia. On the one hand, there's its use in the Republic (378d) to refer to an "underlying meaning" of the myths. But a passage from the Laws (679c) refers again to myths, at least in part, but here the verb form is used. The Athenian is speaking of the more simple-minded, but also more righteous, people of antiquity. They did not "suspect" (hyponoein) falsehood in the things said about the Gods or other humans, "and ordered their lives by them". From what Plato says in the Republic, one would think this would have turned out badly for them, but not from what he says in the Laws. Is this because the ancients didn't have the sort of myths Plato finds problematic in the passage from the Republic? Unlikely, as the whole point of mentioning their lack of suspicion seems to be to allude to such matters. Rather, it seems that whereas *we* must be mindful of deeper or esoteric meanings in the myths, *they* did not have to. Perhaps this is because the ancients did not, like Euthyphro, try to infer general principles from the myths based on a surface reading. The ancients did not posit analogies between Gods and humans, as when Euthyphro says that he's just treating his father as Zeus did his. The ancients believed the myths, but also knew the Gods to be good. They didn't resolve the tension, but at least they didn't resolve it wrongly. The "ancients" of the Laws are therefore much like the citizens of the healthy "City of Pigs" in the Republic. The ancients did not "read under" the myths, but then they did not try to justify their actions with reference to them, either. This whole matter is a good example of how much more complex Plato's attitude toward myth is than generally recognized.
So, then, let's say that there are three positions relative to myth and hyponoia, according to Plato. First, there is the position of the Ancients. They don't "do" hyponoia or mythical exegesis; they accept the myths, but don't trouble themselves too much about what they mean, letting their approach to the Gods and to their fellow mortals be governed by their largely-accurate intuitions concerning virtue and right conduct. Their "acceptance" of the myths is presumably manifest primarily in ritual action.
Then there are the "moderns" of Plato's day, and ours. We can't really avoid doing hyponoia, and so we need to work on getting it right. It's basically the same story with virtue; we likely can't trust our intuitions very far, and even if we could, because we happened to live in a well-governed polis, this would secure our conduct, but not our souls.
Finally, there are the Guardians of the "fevered" city. They don't do hyponoia, but they aren't exposed to the myths. The inhabitants of the City of Pigs sing about the Gods around their campfires, but they know to experience the myths like music. That doesn't work in the Fevered City, because it's strung too tight. So the Guardians probably aren't exposed to any narrative about the Gods at all, just who They are and their supra-essential excellence. This fits as well the Proclean interpretation of the Guardians as a class of intellective daimons: the Guardians, in effect, know the Gods by acquaintance and do not need therefore to know Them by description.
I just came across an interesting tidbit from the Third Vatican Mythographer—which is stultifying for the most part, puts the "darkness" in the Dark Ages—but which occasionally preserves some valuable bit of lore that fell through the cracks. This is from 6.26, in the section on Pluto:
Thus the Egyptians, who are experienced in established wisdom, preserve bodies longer so that the soul might endure for a long time and be subject to the body, and that it might not pass over quickly to others.
Though one finds attestations in ancient authors of Egyptian belief in reincarnation, I don't recall another instance in which this is specifically connected with mummification, though I could be mistaken. This bit could also be an unacknowledged fragment of Seneca's lost book De situ et sacris Aegyptiorum, as the Third Mythographer quotes Seneca earlier (6.3).
Writers like Herodotus routinely claim that Egyptians believed in reincarnation. I see nothing wrong with the notion that Amenti is somewhat akin to the Tibetan Bardo, and that further births may well occur, that it's a matter in the operations of the resurrection literature of controlling the circumstances and ensuring the fullest faculties and resources for the resurrected self to choose their next life. Understand, however, that I can't support this with any evidence to speak of.
Anyhow, here's two threads I posted recently: