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Jâmblico / Iamblichus / Ἰάμβλιχος / Iámblichos / Jámblico / Jamblique





Iamblichus was a reforming prophet. He seems to have attended Porphyry  ’s lectures, though he proved a disrespectful pupil, and certainly not a disciple. On the harmony of Plato and Aristotle  , if on little else, Porphyry and Iamblichus were allied. But they quarrelled on religion, even though Porphyry’s probing of religious practice and belief was extended against the Christian religion as well   as against the Egyptian religion which Iamblichus revered. Iamblichus’ most important religious work, On the Mysteries of the Egyptians, is a defence of pagan ritual and sacrifice in reply to Porphyry’s Letter to Anebo. It is written in a magisterial tone as coming from the Father   of God  , an Egyptian religious designation. Porphyry is addressed as ‘you’, and castigated as not even a good Platonist. Iamblichus thinks that Porphyry was looking for explanations of religious practice at too naturalistic a level beneath the divine.

Iamblichus set up his school at Apamea in modern Syria, in a beautiful site adorned later in the fourth century with mosaics by the Emperor Julian during his brief attempt to revive paganism. The mosaics, as I believe (Aristotle Transformed, ch. 1), represent the Rhetoric as well as the Philosophy faculty in the university where Iamblichus had earlier taught. Iamblichus died probably just before Constantine made the Empire Christian [7], founding Constantinople in 324, and summoning the Council of Nicaea in 325, which inter alia reaffirmed Christian opposition to animal   sacrifice. Against this, the Emperor Julian’s attempt at revival in 361-2 did not succeed.

As regards the harmonisation of Aristotle with Plato, Iamblichus went further than Porphyry, since he regarded Aristotle’s categories as fitting not only the sensible   world, but also the intelligible world of Platonic Forms. This required a higher interpretation, which he called ‘intellective’, of Aristotle’s Categories, in parallel with the higher interpretation of religious practice. Iamblichus’ pupil, Dexippus, however, reflects the Porphyrian, more than the Iamblichan, interpretation of Aristotle’s categories. Iamblichus also took harmonisation further through a thoroughgoing attempt to integrate Pythagoreanism with the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle. Iamblichus further established the standard curriculum of twelve dialogues of Plato, to be read by students after the selected treatises of Aristotle, in a sequence designed for religious purposes, to lead to union with God. [SorabjiPC3  :7-8]