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Proclus - Elements of Theology - Dunamis and the Logos

Identifier

000771

Type of Spiritual Experience

Background

A number of names were used to describe spirit by different Greek philosophers and writers, but the concept they were trying to describe is identical.

Dunamis – One word used to describe spirit was dunamis.  Plotinus in his Enneads sought to reconcile the differences that arose between Aristotle on the one hand and  Plato and Socrates on the other by calling the underlying stuff of which everything is composed  energeia – from which we get the word energy. Once it has been acted on it becomes Dunamis.  Thus the Greeks actually had two words for energy.  Dunamis is energy which has been converted so that it has the potential to be used, so analogously like programmed software.

Logos -  The word Logos derives from the verb λέγω legō: [to tell, say, or speak], but its meaning in philosophical and religious contexts means the ‘master’ statements of reason and logic – the programming language of the universe.  So it doesn’t mean the animating principle – it is not the same as the spirit.

But in Stoic philosophy, which began with Zeno of Citium c. 300 BCE, the term  logos was extended to describe the active reason pervading the universe and animating it. The word logos for example was combined with  Godor - Nature.  Hence the Laws of Nature.

The Stoics also believed that humans, too, each possess a portion of the divine logos. In effect all animate matter posesses a part of the logos.  The Stoics also referred to the seminal logos, ("logos spermatikos") or the law of generation in the universe, which was the principle of the active reason working in inanimate matter. Thus there were rules which governed inanimate matter – for example the course of planets, or the way substances were formed. 

In effect, although Logos is not the correct term to describe the Greeks’ understanding of what the software is called, they used the word Logos to show that the laws of the universe were derived from the logos.  Thus in effect, the software that was developed from the Word.

Laws of universe - Pythagoras and his students believed that everything was related to mathematics,  that numbers were the ultimate reality and that, through mathematics, everything could be predicted and measured in rhythmic patterns or cycles. According to Iamblichus, Pythagoras once said that "number is the ruler of forms and ideas and the cause of gods and demons."

Although they had no specific name that related to the idea of an overall system for the universe, philosophically this is what they based all their studies on – the concept of a set of rules, which determined how the universe operated and which, with sufficient time, study and selfless devotion could be determined.

There is an odd irony in the Pythagorean concept of numbers and formula being capable of representing all rules of the universe.  Whenever a computer program is written we usually use a programming language but it is translated to numbers.  Indeed all software is numbers – all our computer systems are indeed number based.  So he was quite right in assuming systems could be entirely expressed using numbers.

A description of the experience

Proclus – Elements of Theology

The mighty heaven exhibits in its transfigurations, clear images of the splendour of intellectual perceptions, being moved in conjunction with the unapparent periods of intellectual natures.

The source of the experience

Proclus

Concepts, symbols and science items

Symbols

Science Items

Activities and commonsteps

Activities

Commonsteps

References