From the Hermetic Golden Dawn to philosophical monism to Iamblichos

I am a philosophical monist. Most people are aware that they have no idea what monism might be, or what arguments it might advance, so if I call myself a “philosophical monist,” most people get uncomfortable and start rationalizing their ignorance. Thus I call myself a Neo-Platonist. Most people don’t know what Neo-Platonism might be, but they remember the name “Plato,” so they can tell themselves that there are no important issues, and go back to sleep.

It is convenient for me to call myself a Neo-Platonist. I did not always refer to myself thus. I found Iamblichos after combing through a great deal of mostly useless writing marketed to enthusiasts of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The Golden Dawn never accomplished a great deal of what I would call “natural philosophy” – they were a society of fine artists – poets, actors, painters, etc. – and I consider that most of their output could more usefully be classified as “fine art” rather than “natural philosophy.” But the Golden Dawn included Dion Fortune, and one of Dion Fortune’s students was W. E. Butler, and in a book by W. E. Butler I found a reference to Iamblichos.



Iamblichus (c. A.D. 250-325) is among the most important of the so-called Neoplatonic philosophers … His influential treatise Theurgia, or On the Mysteries of Egypt deals with a ‘higher magic’ which operates through the agency of the gods. Agrippa refers frequently to Iamblichus in his Occulta Philosophia. Iamblichus also had a strong influence on other Renaissance occultists like Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, and Giordano Bruno.

5 Responses to From the Hermetic Golden Dawn to philosophical monism to Iamblichos

  1. I haven’t read enough to be sure you’d be interested in the site in general, but one of the writers did a series of posts on Iamblichus recently. Check it out:


  2. AAB says:

    “I am a philosophical monist.”

    I must admit that I’m fairly ignorant of the writings of Plotinus, but I suppose that being a monist is kind of similar to being a pantheist inasmuch as you have a kind of kinship with all things in the cosmos, whether they are ideas, living organisms, or inorganic matter. Does this mean that you percieve inorganic things (be they mobile phones or pavements) as having parity with organic things? ie you’re equally as respectful towards all things, not just the things that are alive.


    • zhai2nan2 says:

      There are various monistic philosophies.

      The primary importance of monism in my way of thinking is that it rejects the dualistic philosophies that often bruited about by various demagogues – whether atheistic or conventionally religious.

      Many atheists will push a pseudo-dualism rooted in Descartes; many so-called Christians tout a more coherent dualism rooted in Aquinas. I reject both.

      As for pantheism, there are various ways to do it. You can believe that a rock is worthy of worship, and a dog is worthy of worship, and an angel is worthy of worship. But that’s just one approach.

      There is also panentheism – the aspiration to a God that is simultaneously transcendent and immanent.

      To make a long story short – religious experience has more varieties than even William James ever dreamed of!


      • AAB says:

        Thanks for the comments.

        It’s good to know that Monism rejects the idea that duality is the foundation stone of all being. The matter of duality crossed my mind a a while back – It seems like many dualistic belief systems result in negative consequences for it’s believers and it’s opponents. After which they end up destroying each other, almost like they were two sides of the same destructive vortex. cf the Cold War.


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