The Moons of the Planets, the
Planets around Stars, and Revolutions and Rotations of Bodies in
Described by the Neoplatonic Philosopher Proclus
' . . In each of the planetary spheres there are invisible stars
which revolve together with their spheres . . .'
So said Proclus the
Platonic successor in
The non-specialist reader will never have heard of Proclus, one of
the greatest intellects in the history of philosophy, who lived from
a.d. 410 to 485. The only easily available English translation of
this Greek philosopher's gigantic output is his Elements of
Theology 1 (which is not relevant to what we are to consider here).
But the persistent inquirer may obtain his Commentary on Euclid2 and
his Commentary on the First Alcibiades of Plato3 in English (the
former from America, the latter from Holland).
Liechtenstein one may now obtain in English the end of the seventh
book of his Commentary on the Parmenides of Plato.4
What the persistent inquirer will likely not be told by any
compendium of information on the subject is that most of the works
of Proclus were translated into English by Thomas Taylor at the turn
of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in England and are to be
found in a handful of libraries (though even the British Museum has
a far from complete collection of Taylor's life's work).
Perhaps it would be as well to quote the view of Proclus held by
Thomas Taylor. One should bear in mind that Taylor was the first man
to translate all of Plato's works into English - a mammoth task
indeed, but not as wearying as translating most of Proclus! Here,
then, is what Taylor says of Proclus:
To the lovers of the wisdom of the Greeks, any remains of the
writings of Proclus will always be invaluable, as he was a man who,
for the variety of his powers, the beauty of his diction, the
magnificence of his conceptions, and his luminous development of the
abstruse dogmas of the ancients, is unrivalled among the disciples
There are many classical scholars who like to imply that the 'Golden
Age' of Greece was the only significant era in Greek philosophy.
Within this period one can conveniently place Socrates, Plato,
Aristotle, Euripides, Sophocles, Aeschylus, Demosthenes, and the
historians Herodotus, Thucydides, and Xenophon.
These brilliant names tend to blind one into accepting the false
notion that Greece at any other period in its history was merely
second rate in the intellects it produced. Many scholars arc
passionately dedicated to deriding any Greek
intellects either before or after this 'Golden Age'.
comments have been made about this by other scholars, and there is
no denying the tendency to ignore or belittle - even to suppress and
deny - Greeks who preceded or followed the glorious 'Golden Greeks'
who are most familiar to us. It certainly is an embarrassing fact,
then, for certain classical scholars to have to face, that the
Platonic Academy continued to function in Athens for over nine
Regarding the Academy, George Sarton says in A History of Science:
Ancient Science through the Golden Age of Greece:5
At the time when (the Emperor) Justinian closed its doors, (the
Academy) might have celebrated its 916th anniversary. . . . the
Academy changed considerably in the course of centuries; it is only
the Old Academy that may be considered as Plato's Academy, and it
lasted a century and a half or less.
To this one might reply that
every institution is bound to change with the vicissitudes of time
and that the longer it lives the more it must be expected to change.
Bearing these remarks in mind, we may put it this way: the Academy
of Athens, the Academy founded by Plato, lasted more than nine
Those who find chronology difficult to comprehend without analogies
might wish to ponder this: the duration of the Platonic Academy
(apparently on the same site) in Athens was equivalent to the
duration to date on English soil of Westminster Abbey; or, the 916
years of life of the Academy as a philosophical institution was
equal to the amount of time which will have elapsed from the Norman
Conquest of Britain in 1066 to the year 1982. (And even after the
dismemberment, the Academy continued 'in exile' in Persia, etc.)
thus see that Plato's Academy existed longer on one spot than
Britain has existed since William the Conqueror.
The Platonic tradition in the broader sense, with its gnostic and
heretical overtones and its myriad manifestations in later ages in
such bizarre and fascinating figures as Giordano Bruno, Marsilio
Ficino, John Dee, and even Sir Philip Sidney and the Earl of
Leicester - not to mention the troubadours of Provence, Dante in
Italy, and the massacred tens of thousands of Albigensians in
France, the Knights Templar, and an infinite range of hopeless
causes over two and a half millennia, is an agonizing and impossible
problem for the orthodox mind, whatever its creed.
For Platonism in
the general sense is a creed which denies creed, an
anti-institutional tradition known to those who adhere to it as the
'Great Tradition'. It resembles the Society of Friends (Quakers) in
insisting on nothing by way of doctrinal dogma. It is truly free, it
has no membership, no tithes, no rules which are enforced; it has no
Pope, no Caliph. It terrifies those weaker mentalities which crave a
structured belief-system; they always try to destroy it, but succeed
only in destroying individuals and individual 'movements' within the
How can any 'intellectual establishment' conceivably admit that this
undercurrent of spirituality has flowed outside the orthodox
boundaries of the official religion of Christianity since the third
century and the time of Origen? And how confess that Proclus, who
lived seven hundred years later than Plato, had a mind as luminous
in his own way us Plato's? What happens to the the 'hermetically
sealed Greek miracle' then ?
If Platonism is seen to continue as a
persecuted underground movement for two thousand years and more,
what conclusions must we draw about the supposed openness of
orthodox Western culture ? If our commonly accepted pattern of
civilization is seen to be based on a lie, based on the denial of
the non-orthodox, the implications are so immense that nothing short
of a total intellectual upheaval could result.
No person with a
vested interest, whether a chair at a university or a weekly
newspaper, a large corporation or a television station (or a
diocesan see) would be completely isolated from the results which
would follow. The results need not be destructive in the sense of a
political or social revolution, but they would be more fundamental,
and hence more far-reaching in the end. It is fear of constructive
change (which amounts to fear of the unknown) which is here
These indeed are problems. And they go some way to explain
why the reader hears nothing of a great many subjects which have a
direct relevance to the matter. One of the many such subjects is Proclus. No one dares to discuss what Proclus really stood for and
what he represents beyond his own specific ideas. Even to raise the
subject of a figure such as Proclus is to bring the skeleton from
the closet and rattle it with a vengeance.
Proclus does not even rate his own entry in the Penguin Companion to
Literature, vol. 4, which deals with classical literature. He is
mentioned under an entry for Neoplatonism by D. R. Dudley:
He was a strange combination - possible in that age - of
philosopher, logician, mathematician, and mystic. Neo-Platonism gave
to the intellectual of the last phase of paganism a metaphysical
religion. . . . The figure of the sage gazing upwards in
contemplation is often found on late imperial sarcophagi.
Notice the phrase 'possible in that age', implying as it does that
no person today would even consider trying to know something about
so many subjects in our age of perverse over-specialization.
Proclus, we are told, 'was a strange combination'. Dudley tells us
nothing of what Proclus wrote, nothing of his ideas, nothing of the
immense bulk of his writings, and in his bibliography refers us only
to the harmless and difficult Elements of Theology. We are left to
conclude that Proclus was an extinct species like the dodo,
interesting only because he was 'a strange combination possible in
There are very few historians dealing with the fifth
century a.d. We assume from what Dudley says that only they could be
interested in a 'strange combination possible in that age'. Surely
Proclus, of whom we are told nothing of importance, is totally
unimportant. Would the Penguin Companion mislead its readers? Such a
thing is unthinkable.
Professor A. C. Lloyd of the University of Liverpool was given the
task of discussing Proclus as part of his contribution to the
Cambridge History of Later
Greek and Early Mediaeval Philosophy,6 a compendium which did not
exist before 1967 and which was reprinted with corrections in 1970.
The publication of this large volume of 715 pages marked the
attainment of a stage in classical scholarship where many scholars
were officially agreeing that they were running out of things to do
in the more usual areas and had better begin compiling guidelines
for a study of the long-neglected subject of the above-mentioned
Such lonely figures as Richard Walzer,
Philip Merlan, and the
I. P. Sheldon-Williams, long engaged in these arcane pursuits out of
pure interest, were summoned to help delineate the bounds within
which a new generation of students might have some new fields in
which to do their Ph.D. theses and where some original work remains
to be done by the professors who have now tidied up the Pre-Socratic
field rather well and need new ground for some genuine
But to return to Professor Lloyd, who has made an interesting
attempt to describe Proclus and some aspects of his thought and
writings. It is important for us to know more about Proclus the
Here is part of Lloyd's account:
Proclus was born at Constantinople in 410 or shortly afterwards. But
his parents, who were patricians from Lycia in south-west Asia
Minor, sent him to school in their country and then to Alexandria to
study literature and rhetoric. Instead of law, which was his
father's profession, philosophy attracted him, so he attended
lectures on mathematics and Aristotle. The next stage was Athens.
His studies at the Platonic Academy there are then described, and it
was this School of which he was to become the Head:
'It is not known
when he took over the School, but he remained at its head till he
died in 485. He never married and his only defects were a jealous
nature and a short temper.'
His short temper seems to have extended to impatience with those who
were slow to understand what he was saying or who made irritating
difficulties over petty details. For instance, he begins his mammoth
work Commentary on the Timaeus of Plato with this extraordinarily
'That the design of the Platonic Timaeus embraces
the whole of physiology and that it pertains to the theory of the
universe, discussing this from the beginning to the end, appears to
me to be clearly evident to those who are not entirely illiterate.'
It is now that we begin to consider the connection which
with the larger subject of our book. We will continue with Professor
Lloyd's description of Proclus:
Proclus moved in important political circles, but like other leading
he was a champion of pagan worship against imperial policy and found
himself more than once in trouble. There is no doubt of his personal
faith in religious practices. A vegetarian diet, prayers to the sun,
the rites of a Chaldaean initiate, even the observance of Egyptian
holy days were scrupulously practiced.
He is said to have got his
practical knowledge of theurgy from a daughter of Plutarch [the
Platonist, not the author of the Lives], and according to his own
claim he could conjure up luminous phantoms of Hecate. Nor is there
any doubt that he put theurgy, as liberation of the soul, above
philosophy. But while his philosophy is full of abstract processions
and reversions, philosophy was nothing for him if not itself a
reversion, a return to the One, though achieving only an incomplete
Its place can be seen in an almost fantastically elaborated
metaphysical system: but although this system would not have been
created had there not been a religion to justify, its validity does
not depend and was not thought by Proclus to depend on the religion.
The connection with the mysteries of Hecate as well as Proclus's
practicing Egyptian and Chaldaean mysteries immediately arouses in
the alert reader the suspicion that Proclus might just possibly have
known something of the Sirius mystery. Could this be the case ? In a
moment we will consider some amazing opinions of Proclus on the
heavenly bodies which no historian of science I have encountered has
ever taken into account (probably because no one ever actually reads
through that gigantic tome known as the Commentary on the Timaeus of
Plato which I mentioned a moment ago).
But first let us examine any
further evidence than this slim fact which might link Proclus with
the general milieu of our Sirius tradition. Professor Lloyd provides
further interesting remarks:
Proclus believed that his metaphysics was the true though hidden
meaning of Plato and that this like all Greek 'theology' derived
from the secret doctrines of Pythagoreans and Orphics. It can be
studied in two works, the Elements of Theology and the Theology of
Plato, with help here and there from the commentaries on the
Parmenides, Timaeus, and Alcibiades.
It must be emphasized that in the form of such commentaries, the
Neoplatonists produced much purely original and creative philosophy.
It is fashionable at the moment to ridicule their commentary format
as derivative and inferior. This is a pathetic attempt to deride
what cannot or will not be appreciated. An example may be seen in
the description by Professor Robert Browning of Birkbeck College,
University of London, in the Penguin Companion volume, of the
commentaries of Proclus's later successor Simplicius as
'misconceived and pedestrian textbooks'.
The word 'misconceived' is
loaded, and immediately lets us know that Professor Browning
disagrees with them in principle and therefore derides them.
However, in my own reading of Simplicius's Commentary on Epictetus, for instance, I was amazed to find a
luminous intellect behind the commentary, whose dissertations on
free will are so startlingly contemporary that I immediately thought
of comparing them with writings of our modern cybernetic age, such
as the fascinating books by Norbert Weiner.
In Chapter One Simplicius speaks of 'those who pretend that our opinions and
desires, and generally speaking, all of our choices and intentions,
are necessary and not at our own disposal, but come from exterior
causes outside ourselves, not coming from us of our own volition.'
He attacks the 'Behaviourists' of his day in clear and forceful
terms which are not restricted in relevance to his own times by any
Some of his reasoning is so acute and many of his insights
are so profound, that I can see no reason why not a single word of
his writings can be obtained in English from any publisher in the
Of the works of Proclus, it is really the Commentary on the Timaeus
of Plato (which I shall abbreviate from here on as In Tim.) which is
the source of Proclus's views on the cosmos and of his views of the
Platonic succession of an esoteric tradition from the ancient
mystery religions. Professor Lloyd, in a footnote to his passage
last quoted, does not give this reference on these points, but
instead refers to other works by Proclus.
In his entire treatment of Proclus, Lloyd gives only slight and cursory reference to the In
Tim. However, it is to the In Tim. which we must now turn. Since
page references to the Greek text of Lipsiae would be useless to
most readers, I give page references to Taylor's English
translation, vols. I and II.
At the end of Book IV of In Tim., Proclus says (II, 307):
'But it is Pythagoric to follow the Orphic genealogies. For the science
concerning the Gods proceeded from the Orphic tradition through
Pythagoras, to the Greeks, as Pythagoras himself says in the Sacred
The fact that he entertained this view in relation to the mystery
religions is shown in his remarks about Pythagoric principles in In
Tim., Book V (II, 312):
'But these are the Orphic traditions. For
what Orpheus delivered mystically through arcane narrations, this
Pythagoras learned, being initiated by Aglaophemus in the mystic
wisdom which Orpheus derived from his mother Calliope.'
He attaches this view to his discussion in In Tim. of celestial
phenomena. Not long after the above passage he says:
calls the moon celestial earth'.
And in Book III he says:
Pythagoreans say ... (that) the moon is ethereal earth'.
Taking these views, as he does, and claiming to be a devotee of
Hecate specifically (a 'Hymn to Hecate' by Proclus survives in which
he calls her 'Guardian of the Gates' - an ancient Egyptian title of
Horus - and Mother of the Gods - an ancient title of Isis; see IV,
4, 6, of Grant's Hellenistic Religions),8 Proclus seems to stand in
the position as an initiate capable of knowing
something of the Sirius mystery.
I have found no references, and it
would have been considered impious by him to make any direct
references to such an esoteric doctrine. But I have found that many
theories of his clearly seem to reflect on it and be based on its
premise of an invisible star. These theories are so extraordinary
that I feel an account of them should be made. And the primary
importance of them to us is that in them Proclus speaks with full
authority in insisting that certain invisible heavenly bodies
These bodies are the moons of the planets and the
planets of other stars. Furthermore, Proclus seems to have an
incredibly enlightened view of celestial phenomena in many other
ways as well.
In Book III of In Tim. Proclus says (I, 425) that the Moon is made
celestial earth. Or why else does the moon, being illuminated,
produce a shadow, and why does not the solar light pervade through
the whole of it ? ... we shall find that fire and earth subsist also
analogously in the heavens; fire indeed, defining the essence of
them, but each of the other elements being consubsistent with it.
Shortly afterwards he says:
The elements being conceived in one way as unmingled, but in another
as mingled, the first mixture of them produces the heavens, which
things according to a fiery characteristic-----For all things are in
according to a fiery mode.
We know from other citations above that the theory of the moon being
celestial earth' is a 'Pythagoric-Orphic' one which Proclus has
adopted. The fact that he here extends the observation to the
remarks of the general nature of the celestial bodies implies that
those ideas conic from the same source. The heavens are indeed of a
'fiery mode', for we now know scientifically that stars
possess all the normal chemical elements in a fiery mode.
description of celestial bodies could be perfectly in harmony with
our present-day scientific knowledge. It is true, as Proclus says,
that the stars may be described with 'fire indeed, describing the
essence of them, but each of the other elements being consubsistent
with it'. For, though they are ablaze, stars are known to contain
Proclus makes absolutely clear that when he speaks of 'fire' in the
he is shaking figuratively. He says (page 280):
'Hence, the fire
which is there (in the heavenly bodies) is light; and it is not
proper to disturb the discussion of it, by directing our attention
to the gross and dark fire of the sublunary region [the
below-the-moon, or earthly region].'
And to make it beyond the
slightest possibility of misunderstanding, he adds (page 281) that
fire in the heavens is 'fire which is not perfectly fire' but,
rather, star-fire is more properly 'fire which is in energy'.
These conceptions are quite astounding in the light of modern
science. In fact, modern theories of there being in space an
interstellar medium which is of such a tenuous nature that it is
barely perceivable to us but nevertheless quite extensive (not the
old-fashioned 'Aether'!), find an uncanny forerunner in Proclus's
strange statement from Book III of In Tim. (I, 425):
It is also necessary that the middle elements should be in the
heavenly bodies, but that different elements should abound in
different parts of the celestial regions. And in some places indeed,
it is necessary that the fiery nature should widely scatter its
splendor, on account of solidity, as in the starry bodies; but in
others, that it should be concealed from us, as in the spheres that
carry the stars.
No matter what interpretation one may put on these remarks by
Proclus, the fact remains that he views the stars as congealed
bodies in a celestial medium and that between them lies 'fiery
matter' which is invisible to us. As for his references to the
spheres, these are hardly the glassy globules familiar to us from
more conventional ancient astronomy, as we shall see.
In Book IV of the In Tim. (II, 293), Proclus ridicules epicycles and
says they are valuable as 'an excellent contrivance' by which to
analyze and comprehend the true simple motions of the stars,
just as if someone, not being able to measure a spiral motion about
a cylinder, but afterwards assuming a right line moved about it, and
a point in the right line measuring its motions, should find what
the quantity is of the motion about the spiral in a given time. To
this therefore, the attention of those is directed, who employ
evolvents, epicycles, and eccentrics, through simple motions, from
which they discover a various motion.
We thus see that Proclus, despite his late date, is no prisoner of
the Ptolemaic theory of the universe. Ptolemy lived three hundred
years before him, but Proclus was a hold-out against his epicycles,
preferring the views expressed above.
In fact, Proclus views the
spheres in a way which is extremely surprising, for in Book IV of In
Tim. (p. 273) he says:
'Thus also the planets are moved with an
advancing motion, but not the spheres of the planets'.
This is quite a clear statement that the planets move while their
or - dare we say it ? - orbits are really the spaces in which this
movement takes place. However, we need not be too cautious here.
Benjamin Jowett uses the word 'orbit' in his translation of the text
of Plato (38-39) on which Proclus is here commenting. There is no
reason why we should refrain from doing the same.
We are thus confronted with a clear description by Proclus (less
obscure than Plato's own vague account) of the planets moving in
orbits which themselves are clearly conceived as trajectory spaces.
And this concept is so scientifically accurate and advanced, and so
contrary to the then fashionable view that the 'spheres' of the
planets moved and carried the planets along with them, that we must
appreciate the precocity of Proclus in putting the notion forward so
clearly and persistently.
Plato's text may be interpreted in the
same way, but it is not customary to do so, and it is too vague by
A typical example of the standard interpretation of the passage
in Plato's own Timaeus is that given by Professor A. C. Crombie in
vol. I of Augustine to Galileo (though he does on page 33 describe
the Timaeus quite starkly as a 'Pythagorean allegory', which is
presumably a daring way to put it) on page 49:
The different spheres in which the seven 'planets', Moon, Sun,
Venus, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, were set, revolved with
different uniform velocities such as would represent the observed
movements of those bodies.
This is purely an interpretation of a vague text. One could just as
well say that Plato maintained that the spheres did not move and the
planets in them were what moved, as Proclus specifically states (and
as he seems to think Plato believed).
Proclus goes out of his way to say (p. 279):
(Plato) is evidently of opinion, that the planets become through
themselves, more remote from, and nearer to the earth, and that
their revolutions according to breadth, are made by their own
progressions, and not through being carried by other things, such as
evolvents or epicycles.
This puts Proclus in a position diametrically opposite Professor
Crombie in interpreting the text of Plato. I am afraid that I, for
one, must come down on the side of Proclus in such a contest. In any
case, Professor Crombie has shown himself quick to alter a view if
presented with fresh evidence on the matter, as he has demonstrated
on an entirely different subject in correspondence with the author.
Near the very end of Book IV of In Tim. (pp. 293 ff.) Proclus says:
With respect to the stars, however, those that are fixed, revolve
about their own centers. . . . But the planets revolve in
conjunction with the inerratic sphere, and each is moved together
with its sphere to the east, and revolves
by itself according to breadth and depth, and about its proper
It is worth while for us to examine these remarks of his closely.
First of all, the 'in-erratic sphere' of the fixed stars revolves
around the Earth and the planets do the same in conjunction with it.
That is the simplest of the motions.
But on top of that are several
more motions: first, the fixed stars rotate on their
axes in a spin rotation; second, the planets do the same; third, the
planets do more than that: each planet 'by itself (i.e. in separate
motion from all the other stars and planets as well as separate from
the 'spheres') 'revolves according to breadth and depth', which
obviously refers to 'becoming by itself more remote from and nearer
to the earth', as seen from the previous quote.
And this depth of
planetary motion, which Proclus here specifically calls 'according
to breadth and depth' literally adds a new dimension to any theory
of planetary motion. For whereas anyone who observes the sky over
long periods can see that the planets appear to get dimmer and
brighter as if they were 'becoming more remote from and nearer to
the earth', the formal description of planets operating in terms of
a dimension at right angles to their apparent revolutions comes very
close indeed to pointing to a central point of their revolutions
which is something other than the Earth.
There was a tradition that
Plato came to believe this, which was publicly proposed by Aristarchus of Samos and partially advocated by Plato's friend
Heraclides of Pontus.
We know that Proclus was aware of it:
'Let Heracleides Ponticus therefore, who was an auditor of Plato, be of
this opinion; for he ascribed a circular motion to the Earth' (In
Tim. II, 288).
In short - that the Earth revolves around some other
centre such as the sun.
'... But let it be admitted that Plato
established it immovable' (ibid.).
Thus does Proclus admit the
controversy and come down on the side of caution concerning
revolution about the sun.
It is phenomenal that Proclus, with an insight which is difficult
for us to comprehend, attributed to all celestial bodies a spin
rotation about their axes. And since the Earth is a celestial body,
it is to be wondered whether Proclus gathered the appropriate
conclusion - that the Earth rotates and that is what makes the sky
seem to revolve about us.
In considering this point we must realize that in the Timaeus,
mentions the rotations of the heavenly bodies on their axes (4oa-b):
'And (the Creator) gave to each of (the stars) two movements: the
first, a movement on the same spot after the same manner . . . the
second, a forward movement . . .'
This is an obscure way of saying the stars rotate and the sky
circles. (If Plato inserted someone else's treatise into his
dialogue without being fully au fait with the material - as has been
maintained - it may explain the vagueness, though Plato does no
better in the Laws and was a feeble astronomer.)
same passage as above, Plato also clearly describes the following:
'The earth, which is our nurse, circling around the pole which is
extended through the universe', which refers to the rotation of the
earth itself on its axis.
Proclus apparently adds of his own volition the other motions - for
Plato seems only to mention two. Furthermore, Plato's text is too
brief and foggy to make it clear exactly what he did mean. The one
thing of which we can be certain is that Proclus expended untold
tens of thousands of words expounding Plato's meanings in all fields
beyond the extent to which Plato himself managed or desired to do.
On some subjects this is not particularly gripping. But with this
particular subject, every scrap of evidence is essential to
unravelling the intended significance of Plato's statements.
In an essay of his entitled 'Platonic Questions' (not yet published
in the Loeb Library series - as the last remaining of fourteen
volumes, again we see Platonic studies enjoying the lowest priority
- but published in English in
1874)9, Plutarch provides us with essential evidence that Plato
definitely abandoned his earlier geocentric ideas, despite Proclus's
Plutarch says in Question VIII:
What means Timaeus [see Plato's Timaeus, 42D] when he says that
souls are dispersed into the earth, the moon, and into other
instruments of time ? Does the earth move like the sun, moon, and
five planets, which for their motions he calls organs or instruments
of time ? Or is the earth fixed to the axis of the universe; yet not
so built as to remain immovable, but to turn and wheel about, as
Aristarchus and Seleucus have shown since; Aristarchus only
supposing it, Seleucus positively asserting it ?
how that Plato, when he grew old repented him that he had placed the
earth in the middle of the universe, which was not its place.
(Plutarch then follows with his own opinion, which is that the earth
does not move.)
Theophrastus's testimony here is unimpeachable, but was probably
unknown to Proclus, by whose lifetime most of Theophrastus's works
would have been lost. Theophrastus was Aristotle's successor and
head of the Lyceum at Athens, and an unquestionably reliable source;
and Plutarch leaves us in no doubt (see 'Against Colotes the
Epicurean', 14, in Moralia) that he read Theophrastus's actual works
attentively, making a misquotation or secondhand report impossible
in this instance.
The Seleucus who is mentioned here was a mathematician and
astronomer described by George Sarton 10 as follows:
was a follower of
Aristarchus of Samos'.
Seleucus is described differently by
de Santillana, who gives him another nationality in The Origins of
Scientific Thought, page 250:
'We know of only one [astronomer] who
adopted the system [of Aristarchus] a century later, Seleucus of
Seleucia, an Oriental Greek from the Persian Gulf.'
However, Plato's views on the earth's position in space are less
interesting to us in themselves than as they relate to Proclus's
interpretation of them, and also as they relate to modern historians
of science, who tend to gloss over the possibility that Plato may
have adopted a heliocentric theory of a rotating earth moving round
the sun, which was obscurely expressed in the Timaeus and less
tentatively adhered to by Plato 'when he grew old', bearing in mind
that the Timaeus itself is no early work of Plato's.
In Plutarch's same essay, 29, we find evidence of a continuity from
Plato through his student Xenocrates of the belief that the heavens
contain more than one element. However, Proclus seems to transcend
by far the limited theory of Plato and Xenocrates as here presented.
The summary of theories of Xenocrates presumably is drawn from his
lost work in six books On Astronomy unless from his one lost book on
Things Pythagorean. Xenocrates was head of the Academy for
twenty-five years until his death at the age of eighty-two 'from the
effects of a fall over some utensil in the night', as Diogenes
Laertius tells us.11
There is clear proof that Proclus did not himself originate the
third motion at right angles to revolution which we have seen that
Plato does not mention. We actually find it referred to by Plutarch
in his dialogue 'Of the Face Appearing in the Orb of the Moon'.24
There he says:
Nor is the moon indeed moved by one motion only, but is, as they
were wont to call her, Trivia, or Three-Wayed - performing her
course together according to length, breadth, and depth in the
Zodiac; the first of which motions mathematicians call a direct
revolution, the second volutation, or an oblique winding and
wheeling in and out; and the third (I know not why) an inequality;
although they see that she has no motion uniform, settled, and
certain, in all her circuits and reversions.
Plutarch's expressions 'mathematicians call' and 'as they were wont
to call her' make clear that he is referring to some unidentified
and now lost astronomical works. Plutarch's exposition is not as
clear as we could wish, and in a succeeding passage is countered by
another speaker who espouses the more fashionable theory of spheres
which actually themselves move while, as for the moon: 'some
supposing that she herself stirs not'.
It is peripherally
interesting that in this retort the speaker also cites Aristarchus
of Samos as being involved in a controversy over a line from Homer's
Iliad which Plutarch gives and which is missing from our present
text of Homer, a line advocated by Crates- and
opposed by Aristarchus, which correctly describes the sea as
covering 'the most part of the earth'.
We must not stray too far from Proclus. In pursuit of him, however,
I wish to mention his influence on Johannes Kepler, the
sixteenth-century discoverer of the three laws of planetary motion
(which are the only ones we possess even now). And in this I have
another complaint to make. For not one major work of Kepler's has
ever been translated into English.13
This fact is enough to send one
into despair. Who wants to plough through a lot of medieval Latin to
read Kepler - and who can ? But what has Kepler to do with Proclus ?
Well, Kepler was steeped - indeed, drenched - in Proclus. The
interested reader may turn to the closing pages of Harmonies of the
World in the Encyclopaedia Brittanica vol. 16, Ptolemy, Copernicus,
and Kepler 14, and read for himself.
He will find there remarks about Proclus, after which Kepler says:
'But also I have recently fallen
upon the hymn of Proclus the Platonic philosopher, of whom there has
been much mention in the preceding books, which was composed to the
Sun and filled full with venerable mysteries' in the context of
speculation about 'what did the ancient Pythagoreans in Aristotle
mean, who used to call the centre of the world (which they referred
to as the "fire" but understood by that the sun) "the watchtower of
Here we see that Kepler, the great forerunner of Newton, was
delighted with the 'venerable mysteries' of Proclus.
In the light of
what we know now and will shortly discover further, later in this
appendix, about Proclus's theories, what effect did they have on
Kepler's own thinking?
Was Proclus standing behind Kepler just as Aristarchus stood behind
When will Kepler and Proclus be fully available in
English so that any intelligent person can make up his own mind
without first becoming fluent in often highly technical medieval
But most important of all, were the greatest advances at the
commencement of modern cosmological speculation made by virtue of
their generation from suppressed and unorthodox ancient sources such
as Proclus and Aristarchus?
Did the 'secret' side of ancient
astronomy from the Pythagoreans to Proclus really engender the
origins of our
And the corollary of this is: If so, are the
possibilities of our making pertain breakthroughs being stymied by
the very suppression of the sources which may have engendered the
earliest breakthroughs ?
By cutting off the root of Kepler, can we
really expect the branch to continue to flower?
If the facts about Proclus's theories which are being presented in this appendix really
have gone unremarked by all the leading historians of science upon
whom we all usually rely to tell us at second hand all the facts
which we feel we have no time to discover at first hand, then
something is clearly wrong with the system. We have got to overhaul
the mechanics. Otherwise we shall continue to spiral downwards and
think we are rising.
I am referring to means
and sources of inspiration. I do not question for a moment that vast
progress is made in many areas. But I do maintain most strongly that
our system for deriving inspiration in theorizing about the cosmos
is demented because it is incomplete, therefore unbalanced. We
should by now have formulated more laws or principles of planetary
But it is fashionable for those who read second-hand cribs
of Kepler to deride him. He was a 'nut'. We do not attempt to study
his means and methods of thinking or even acknowledge the existence
of many of his most important sources. And one of those sources was
Proclus. The writings of Proclus are so voluminous that I have to
confess that I have not gleaned from them by any means an exhaustive
survey of his views.
This Appendix is merely a sampling.
course we have not yet come to the most surprising views of all,
which we must now consider:
(The planets') adumbrations are situations according to which they
darken us and other things. For the body which is arranged after
another body, becomes situated in the front of that which is
posterior to it. And . . . they run under each other.
Also there arc 'their occultations under the sun, and their
evolutions into light...'
Significantly he here turns to the
For it is necessary to recur from the phenomena to the reminiscences
of invisible natures. For as from these instruments and shadows, we
are enabled to commence the contemplation of the celestial bodies;
thus also from the latter, we recall to our recollection invisible
It is not an easy thing to know what Proclus is referring to. His
sudden dropping of this large but obscure hint cannot be meant to be
understood by everyone - not even those 'who are not entirely
illiterate', as he testily warned us in the very first sentence of
his huge tome. This particular work by Proclus is extremely
difficult to read, and the Thomas Taylor translation has neither any
index nor any form of table of contents by which to locate subjects,
names or references in the text.
The Lipsiae Greek text has an
index, but there is no means of correlating it with the Taylor
translation, which has no textual numbering.
Can this reference to 'invisible circulations' refer to the
invisible circulations of the companion of Sirius? The answer to
this question cannot be a final 'no', and the possibility must be
seriously considered when we read these next opinions of Proclus
from In Tim. Book IV (II, 281):
As Aristotle, however, inquires why the sphere of
the fixed stars, being
one, comprehends many stars, but in each of the planetary spheres,
which are many, there is only one star, the solution of this
conformably to his own opinion may be obtained from his writings.
But we have already said something concerning this, and now
agreeably to what has been before asserted, we say, that each of the
planets is a whole world, comprehending in itself many divine genera
invisible to us.
Of all these however, the visible star has the
government . . . in each of the (planetary spheres) there are
invisible stars, which revolve together with their spheres; so that
in each, there is both the wholeness, and a leader which is allotted
an exempt transcendency. . . . each of the spheres is a world;
theologists also teaching us these things when they say that there
are Gods in each prior to daemons, some of which are under the
government of other. . . . from all which it is evident that each of
the planets is truly said to be the leader of many Gods, who give
completion to its peculiar circulation.
Taylor, in a footnote,
rightly calls this an 'extraordinary passage' of the
treatise! Italics above are mine.
Elsewhere Proclus says (In Tim., II, 260):
'There are, however,
animals following the circulations of the planets, the leaders of
which are the
Taylor adds to this in a footnote:
'And these, as we
observed, are what the moderns call satellites'.
In another of his publications, Thomas Taylor writes, as
introduction to his
translation of Plato's Timaeus itself:15
(For) each of these spheres ... as we have already explained, it
follows that every planet has a number of satellites surrounding it,
analogous to the choir of fixed stars; and that every sphere is full
of gods, angels, and daemons, subsisting according to the properties
of the spheres in which they reside. This theory indeed is the grand
key to the theology of the ancients, as it shews us at one view why
the same god is so often celebrated with the names of other gods;
which led Macrobius formerly to think that all the gods were nothing
more than the different powers of the sun; and has induced the
superficial, index-groping moderns to frame hypotheses concerning
the ancient theology, so ridiculous that they deserve to be
considered in no other light than the ravings of a madman, or the
undisciplined conceptions of a child.
But that the reader may be
convinced of this, let him attend to the following extraordinary
passages from the divine commentaries of Proclus on the Timaeus. And
in the first place, that every planet is attended with a great
number of satellites, is evident from the following citation:
are other divine animals attending upon the circulations of the
planets, the leaders of which are the seven planets; and these
revolve and return in their circulations in conjunction with their
leaders, just as the fixed stars are governed by the circulation of
the inerratic sphere.' [p. 279] . . .
And in the same place he
informs us, that the revolution of these satellites is similar to
that of the planets which they attend; and this, he acquaints us a
little before, is according to Plato a spiral revolution . . . (and)
'about every planet there is a number (of satellites) . . . all of
them subsisting with proper circulations of their own' [p. 275].
The reader should note that Thomas Taylor describes this knowledge
as 'the grand key to the theology of the ancients'. We know from a
fragment of Damascius16 the Neoplatonist that,
philosophers, who are resident among us, have explained their occult
truth, having obtained it from certain Egyptian discourses.
According to them, then, it appears to be this. The One principle of
the Universe is celebrated as Unknown Darkness, and this three times
pronounced as such . . .'
But wherever the information came from,
the fact is that Proclus and his Neoplatonic colleagues believed the
ultimate secrets of religion concerned two things: the invisible
'Dark' and invisible circulations of certain heavenly bodies, some
of which were non-esoteric enough even to be specified, namely the
satellites of our planetary system. Proclus winds up a dissertation
on the source of this knowledge from 'sacred rumor' which concerns
'invisible circulations' also on page 247 of In Tim., II.
Since Proclus specifically describes here and in the passage from In
Tim. II, 281, the orbits of the heavenly bodies as their
'circulations' (Taylor's choice of English), the 'invisible
circulations' which he mentioned must be invisible orbits of
heavenly bodies, and he also tells us that there are invisible
heavenly bodies. So ... what invisible orbitings of invisible
heavenly bodies are so important that they can, as Proclus just told
us, 'enable us to commence the contemplation of celestial bodies'
and vice versa ?
Is that not a most curious thought? How can he
possibly mean that there are invisible orbitings so important that
they may be set against the visible orbitings for importance, the
one complementing the other even to the very base of our abilities
to contemplate the heavens ?
The key to the paragraph from Proclus II, 281, is the expression in
'theologists teaching us these things'.
For in those words Proclus firmly identifies these ideas with a theological as opposed
to philosophical tradition, and hence one connected with one or more
of his mystery religions. This is just the evidence we need. For it
is these mystery religions which we know contained the essence of
the Sirius mystery as their secret doctrine. And also, as we have
seen earlier, Proclus sought to interpret Plato in terms of an
esoteric tradition with which Proclus himself was connected
directly, as an initiate.
So we see that Proclus believed that invisible 'stars' existed which
accompanied the planets, and that each of the planets was a world.
And the visible star, that is the planet, 'has the government' over
the invisible satellites in each case. How very like the Sirius
tradition this is! And as we know from Chapter One of this book, the
Dogon also knew of the moons of at least one of
the planets, so that knowledge of them seems likely to have been
part and parcel of the Sirius mystery.
Can we then conclude that Proclus may be one further person with knowledge of the Sirius
Proclus is more specific about his planetary moons elsewhere. In his
work the Platonic Theology, Chapter XIV of Book VII (Vol. II, pages
140-1 of Taylor's translation), we read:
But the planets are called the Governors of the world
(cosmocrators), and are allotted a total power. As the inerratic
sphere too has a number of starry animals, so each of the planets is
the leader of a multitude of animals, or of certain other things of
this kind. In each of the planetary spheres,
therefore, there is a number of satellites analogous to the choir of
the fixed stars, subsisting with proper circulations of their own.
The revolution also of these satellites is similar to that of the
planets which they follow: and this according to Plato is a spiral
revolution. With respect, likewise, to these satellites, the first
in order about every planet are Gods; after these daemons revolve in
lucid orbicular bodies; and these are followed by partial souls such
Taylor comments in a footnote in In Tim. Book IV (II, 299):
"the natures successive" to the stars, are evidently their
satellites, which have more than once been mentioned by Proclus.' 5
the same page a second footnote adds:
'From what is here said by Proclus, it appears that the fixed stars, as well as the planets,
have satellites, and that the stars which sometimes are visible, and
at other times disappear, are of this description.'
This brings us extremely close to an outright statement of the
principles of the Sirius mystery - but without any names. These
footnotes are to the passage immediately following the one given a
moment ago where we first considered Proclus's cryptic reference to
the 'invisible circularities'.
It is interesting to note that the
passage is in the form of a commentary on a specific passage in
Plato's Timaeus (40-c), which is not only one of the most
maddeningly obscure passages in all of Plato ('Do not expect me to
explain these mysteries', bewails a baffled George Sarton, p. 451,
op. cit.) but a passage which Proclus quotes including missing words
not otherwise known from the official text of today!
And it is even more curious that the 'missing' words quoted by
Proclus are: kai ta toutois ephexes of which Taylor says:
words, however, are not to be found in the text of Plato, but form a
remarkable addition to it'.
Taylor should know, as he had previously
translated all of Plato's dialogues including this.
Since Proclus was head of the Academy, he may be assumed to have had
reliable copy of Plato's text in the Academy library. If he did not
have a reliable copy of Plato's text in Plato's own Academy, what
did he have a reliable text of? Hence these words must be
entertained as a possibly correct version and should probably be
added to the currently accepted text by classical scholars. The
meaning of the words is translated by Taylor as: 'the natures
successive' - that is successive to the stars.
And Taylor's comment
'For the natures successive to the stars, are evidently their
satellites, which have more than once been mentioned by Proclus'.
The fact that a reference to the satellites of stars was dropped
from the orthodox text of Plato should come as no real surprise to
us. What scribe could fathom the meaning? In copying the manuscripts
over the centuries, then creep in corruptions. A reference to
satellites of stars would have been too shocking, considered too
In transmission the words must have been dropped as an
incomprehensible aberration or an insertion. It was only in the
Academy's own library that the original words were preserved, safe
and musty, in the wrappings of some really old bookrolls with which
no one tampered textually. Only in the Academy would ravages against
the text of the Mantel
I do not believe it is a coincidence that our search through Proclus
lor material relevant to the Sirius mystery has led us to a lost
fragment of text of
Plato's dialogue Timaeus. The fact that these words have been
dropped from that dialogue - out of the entire body of Plato's work,
which is otherwise so well documented from the myriad commentaries
and citations over the centuries - illustrates the controversial
nature of our subject as strikingly as any of the 'accidents' we
have already encountered in our book.
Our Sirius mystery is not
letting us down. Every subject we have approached in connection with
it has been suddenly transformed as in a magic mirror in a fun
Nothing that seemed staid and settled has been able to remain
in its mould. Even Plato's solid text begins to quiver like a live
jelly. From out of so many ossified subjects have crept mysterious
little creatures, which have done disrespectful dances on their
premises, indicating that these subjects do not want to lie down and
be declared dead. They are living. Inside them glow sylphs and
secrets. We cannot force them to turn to stone.
It seems clear that the abandoned four words of text were probably
dropped in order to avoid the enormous consequences which must
follow upon their being retained: that Plato himself, though not
particularly well acquainted with astronomy in an active
professional sense, had apparently some links to a tradition which,
by being esoteric, seemed to make no sense at all outside a secret
'mystery' context. This is true whether Plato wrote the passages
or inserted the Pythagorean treatise which has been proposed (see
Plato's dialogue Timaeus is without doubt the most difficult and
bizarre of the unquestioned Platonic writings (the Epinomis is more
bizarre, but seems to have been written by Plato's disciple Philip
Let us examine a few remarks concerning this strange work,
taken from George Sarton (op. cit.):
'There is more Oriental lore in
the Timaios than Greek wisdom' (p. 423, note).
nonsense that has done so much harm in the Western world and is
still poisoning weak-minded people today was derived from the Timaios, and Plato's astrology was itself an offshoot of the
Babylonian one. In justice to Plato it must be added that his own
astrology remained serene and spiritual and did not degenerate into
petty fortune telling' (p. 421).
'The influence of the Timaios upon
later times was enormous and essentially evil' (p. 423.).
scholars were deceived into accepting the fantasies of that book as
gospel truths. That delusion hindered the progress of science; and
the Timaios has remained to this day a source of obscurity and
superstition' (p. 430).
Those are strong words. The Timaeus (the more commonly used spelling
in English) obviously arouses violent reactions in some! Here we see
Sarton, one of the most distinguished and respected historians of
science who ever lived, raving hysterically that the 'evil' Timaeus
is responsible for 'hindering the progress of science'.
views of Plato in general are incredibly violent and hostile, though
many of his criticisms of Plato are quite valid and reasonable If it
were not for the purple prose. It is certainly true that there were
many faults to Plato's theories, particularly his political ones
which Aristotle rightly found so repulsive, and these rouse Sarton
to a fury surpassing his slurs on the poor Timaeus. But this is
common among expert scholars. They have to restrain themselves most
of the time for purposes of professional poise and 'objective
treatment'. But the mask can fracture and a raw nerve protrude.
But as for the perplexity or ire which the Timaeus seems
alternatively to arouse in so many of those who attempt to study it,
we should realize that the
tradition is probably true which says that the major portion of the
dialogue, which consists of a lengthy speech by the character named
Timaeus on the nature of the universe, is really not written by
Plato, but was inserted by him as the words of an apparently
imaginary character (or a disguised one).
For many ancient sources
maintained that this part of the dialogue was in reality a
Pythagorean treatise which Plato obtained during one of his visits
to Sicily. Rather than see the treatise disappear into obscurity,
Plato is said to have
entered it as the contribution of a character in a dialogue, using
the discussion of the other characters as a means of setting it off
to proper advantage. And it is this supposed Pythagorean treatise
which contains all the material of interest to us in connection with
the Sirius mystery.
And as for the Pythagoreans, they represented a
sacred community and a mystery tradition with roots in Egypt and
Babylon (of both of which countries Pythagoras himself was said to
be an initiate into the mysteries).
I owe it to the reader to display the evidence that the passage in
the Timaeus which is of such concern to us, and on which Proclus's
commentary is based as it concerns the heavenly bodies, was not even
written by Plato.
I therefore quote from Book VIII, 85, of the
of Eminent Philosophers by Diogenes Laertius (the Loeb Library
Philolaus of Groton was a Pythagorean, and it was from him that
Plato requests Dion to buy the Pythagorean treatises. . . . His
doctrine is that all things are brought about by necessity and in
harmonious inter-relation. He was the first to declare that the
earth moves in a circle (round the central fire), though some say it
was Hicetas of Syracuse.
He wrote one book, and it was this work which, according to
Hermippus, some writer said that Plato the philosopher, when he went
to Sicily to Dionysius's court, bought from Philolaus's relatives
for the sum of forty Alexandrine minas of silver [an 'equivalent
value', for this was before Alexander], from which also the Timaeus
was transcribed. Others say that Plato received it as a present for
having procured from Dionysius the release of a young disciple of
Philolaus who had been cast into prison.
According to Demetrius in his work on Men of the Same Name,
Philolaus was the first to publish the Pythagorean treatises, to
which he gave the title On Nature, beginning as follows:
the ordered universe was composed of unlimited elements, and so was
the whole universe and all that is therein.'
In line with this tradition that the treatise embodied into the
Platonic Timaeus was of Pythagorean origin - and presumably from
thence derived itself from Egypt and Chaldaea (Babylonia) - we may
read the following interesting remarks of Proclus from In Tim. Book
IV (II, 273):
The Egyptians prior to (Hipparchos and Ptolemy), employing
observations, and still prior to the Egyptians, the Ghaldaeans
(Babylonians), being taught by the gods, prior to observations, were
of a similar opinion to Plato, concerning the motion of the fixed
stars. For the Oracles not once only but frequently speak of the
advancing procession of the fixed stars.
Note the pointed expression 'taught by the gods, prior to
observations' This highlights the aspect of the tradition as one
imparted to men 'by the gods'
and then later carried on in concert with observations by the
ancient Egyptians. Without my going into a minute discussion of
Pythagoreanism, Orphism, and what Proclus calls 'the Oracles', I
hope the reader will have gathered sufficient idea of the gist of
We see that Proclus, using a slender but nevertheless substantial
basis of Plato's apparently ancient Pythagorean book On Nature, as
it is preserved in his Timaeus, insisted that the planets had moons,
that stars also had satellites, that there were invisible bodies in
space with invisible orbits which were somehow of immense importance
to us, that 'the gods' instructed the ancient peoples of the Middle
East in these astronomical facts which were preserved as
'Pythagorean and Orphic' traditions in the Greek world, that
epicycles and other fashionable devices to explain astronomical
motions were total nonsense, that the 'spheres' did not revolve but
only the planets in them, and hinted at the rotation of the Earth on
Proclus was, furthermore, a known initiate of the mystery cults of
the Egyptians and Babylonians and had a particular connection with
rites involving Hecate, the goddess whom we know to be a form of the
star Sirius. We may, therefore, conclude that Proclus is of possible
interest to us in our relentless pursuit of the Sirius mystery.
he may have known its secrets and made use of the principles of that
secret tradition through the indirect means of his more general
writings - by hinting broadly at 'invisible orbits' without
specifying all of them, and insisting on their importance without
giving any really satisfactory reasons. He seems to have been trying
to get the principles across without breaking sacred vows against
the revealing of the specifics of the case.
As he was extremely
religious, we know from his character that he would honor such
vows. But as he was passionately devoted to making known the general
principles of the universe, he would have done exactly what it seems
he did do - tell us the story without giving the names of the
A closer study of Proclus in the future would certainly be
rewarding. There are certainly other relevant passages in his works
which remain to be dealt with. But we have seen that we must now
re-examine Plato as well, for his Timaeus has been shown by Proclus
to be a more mysterious work than even the most exasperated scholars
had ever suspected.17 And the net of the Sirius mystery is meanwhile
seen to spread ever wider through the ancient traditions and
literature of all eras.
Two contemporaries of Proclus, named Macrobius and Martianus
Capella, also wrote advanced astronomical theories, and both were
also in the Neoplatonic tradition. They advocated the notion that
the Earth went around the sun. When three people in one tradition at
one time write and discuss such advanced material, then a milieu may
be said to exist.18
But, of course, the historians of science have
not yet got around to noticing this inconvenient little thing. Nor
have they bothered to let us know much about Johannes Scotus
Eriugena (otherwise known as John the Scot or Erigena, which is a
misspelling) of the ninth century a.d., who promulgated the theories
of Macrobius and Martianus Capella at the court of Charles the Bald,
and wrote a mammoth philosophical work titled Periphyseon of half a
The latter is now being published slowly in English
by the Irish Government, who have decided that Eriugena (which means
'Irish-born') was one of their great native sons
and they had better make the most of him. Alas. If only Proclus too
had been born in Ireland. Perhaps this is the only way to get these
things into print - or even into English. Can't someone invent some
more little countries looking for famous sons, and then allocate the
sons? That way we might have something of a cultural revival.
Renaissance was due to the rediscovery of the Platonic tradition by
the Florentines. When will we discover it?
This Appendix was conceived, researched, and written after the
manuscript of the book had already been accepted for publication. It
therefore suffers from tenuous treatment and scanty attire. But
perhaps a little Proclus is better than none at all.
In a desert no
one gainsays a drop of water.
WHAT PROCLUS KNEW
The Ptolemaic theory of the heavens is totally wrong.
The moon is made of 'earth' which is placed in a celestial
situation, hence 'celestial earth'.
The planets themselves revolve, rather than their 'spheres'. They do
so 'within their spheres (or orbits)'.
The stars all rotate on their own axes.
The planets all rotate on their own axes.
The planets become 'more remote from and nearer to the earth' in
The heavens contain all the four elements in varying proportions but
tend to do so according to a 'fiery mode'. The 'fire' in the stars
is different from earthly fire and is more properly 'energy'.
(Earthly fire is a dark and debased form of true fire, or as Proclus
expresses it: 'the dregs and sediment of fire'.)
The heliocentric theory of Heracleides Ponticus is mentioned by
Proclus, but rejected by him on the grounds that Plato rejected it.
(Although we know from Theophrastus that Plato did accept it when
old, Proclus did not know this.)
The planets have invisible satellites which revolve around them.
Certain fixed stars have invisible satellites too.
These invisible orbitings are as important as the visible ones to
us, and can 'enable us to commence the contemplation of celestial
Each planet or star is 'a world'.
Proclus was initiated into the Egyptian and Babylonian mysteries and
would thus have known about the Sirius mystery.
Back to Contents
Elements of Theology, ed. and trans, by E. R. Dodds, Oxford, 1963.
Commentary on the First Book of Euclid's Elements, trans, by
Professor Glenn Morrow, Princeton University Press, 1970.
Commentary on the First Alcibiades of Plato, trans, by W. O'Neill,
The Hague, 1965.
Corpus Platonicum Medii Aevi Series, ed. by R. Klibansky; Vol. Ill
of Plato Latinus (Parmenides, Proclus in Parmenidem). Includes
English translation by G. E. M. Anscombe and L. Labowsky. Warburg
Institute, London, 1953. Obtainable: as Kraus Reprint, Nendeln,
See Bibliography. Ref. page 400.
The Cambridge History of Later Greek & Early Mediaeval Philosophy,
ed. by A. H. Armstrong, Cambridge, 1970.
There is a Life of Proclus written by his student and successor
Marinus. It was translated by Thomas Taylor and appears in Volume I
of The Philosophical and Mathematical Commentaries of Proclus on the
First Book of Euclid's Elements, London, 1792. A more recent
publication of it in English may be found in The Philosophy of
Proclus by L. J. Rosan, Cosmos, New York, 1949.
Hellenistic Religions ed. by F. C. Grant, in Library of Liberal Arts
series, Bobbs-Merrill, Indianapolis and New York, 1953. English
translations of four hymns by Proclus are found on pp. 170-2. (In
all, seven hymns and a fragment of an eighth by Proclus survive
In vol. V of Plutarch's Morals, ed. by W. W. Goodwin, Boston, 1874.
The translation of 'Platonic Questions' is by R. Brown and on pp.
History of Science, see note 16, page 159.
See Life of Xenocrates in Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent
Philosophers, 2 vols., trans, by
R. D. Hicks, Loeb Library series; Heinemann, London; Harvard
University Press, U.S.A., 1966.
Translation included in the same volume as in note 9 above. Also in
Three short complete works of Kepler are in English: Kepler's Dream,
trans, with full text and notes, of Somnium, Sive Astronomia
Lunaris, by John Lear and P. F. Kirkwood, University of California
Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1965. Kepler's Conversation with
Galileo's Sidereal Messenger, trans, by Edward Rosen, no. 5 of
'Sources of Science' series, Johnson Reprint Corp., London and New
York, 1965. Also there is a brief treatise by Kepler on the Six-
Cornered Snowflake, trans, by Colin Hardie and L. L. Whyte, Oxford
University Press, 1965. Two chapters (IV and V) of Kepler's Epitome
of Copernican Astronomy and one chapter (V) of his Harmonies of the
World are in English, trans, by C. G. Wallis in vol. 16, Ptolemy,
Copernicus, Kepler, of the 'Great Books of the Western World'
series, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., Chicago, London, Toronto,
1952. A second translation of Kepler's Dream has appeared: Kepler's
Somnium, trans, and commentary by Edward Rosen, University of
Wisconsin Press, 1967.
See previous note.
The Cratylus, Phaedo, Parmenides and Timaeus with notes on the
Cratylus, English trans, of Plato by Thomas Taylor with notes,
London, 1793. The quotation is from p. 388, in Taylor's
Introduction to the Timaeus. The copy of this book which I consulted
once belonged to the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and may be found in
the Shelley collection at the Bodleian Library in Oxford.
Preserved and trans, in Cory, Ancient Fragments, 2nd ed., p. 320.
Marinus, in his Life of Proclus, tells us that Proclus was
twenty-eight years old when he wrote In Tim., which gives the date
a.d. 438 at beginning of appendix.
I did not think it right to take space here to enter into a full
discussion of the generally ignored ancient heliocentric theories of
Macrobius, Martianus Capella, Julian the Emperor (Apostate),
Nicholas of Cusa, and so on. As an example of this tradition (which
mentioned and rejected, mistakenly thinking that Plato had done so),
I quote a passage from the Fourth Oration (to Helios) of the Emperor
Julian the Apostate, 146 C-D, which may be found in the Loeb Library
series, which publishes the works of Julian in three vols: 'For it
is evident that the planets, as they dance in a circle about (the
Sun), preserve as the measure of their motion a harmony between this
god and their own movements. ... To the Greeks what I say is perhaps
incomprehensible - as though one were obliged to say to them only
what is known and familiar.' This indicates a distinctly esoteric
tradition which was imbibed from Julian's friend and teacher the
Neoplatonist Iamblichus, a predecessor of Proclus. For just before
this passage, Julian had said: 'Iamblichus of Chalcis, who through
his writings initiated me not only into other philosophic doctrines
but these also . . . (he is) by no means inferior to (Plato) in
genius . . .' I also refer the reader to 135 B of the same oration
by Julian for further exposition of Julian's heliocentric ideas, all
of which we may treat as fragments of lost writings of Iamblichus. I
also suggest consulting Thomas Whittaker's Macrobius, Cambridge,
1923. On page 75 we find him summarizing Macrobius's beliefs:
'Mercury and Venus (have) orbits ... in which they follow the sun as
satellites'. Unfortunately, no works of Martianus Capella exist in