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Drawing Down the MoonMagic in the Ancient Greco-Roman World$
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Radcliffe G. Edmonds III

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691156934

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691156934.001.0001

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The Illuminations of Theurgy: Philosophy and Magic

The Illuminations of Theurgy: Philosophy and Magic

(p.314) 10 The Illuminations of Theurgy: Philosophy and Magic
Drawing Down the Moon

Radcliffe G. Edmonds III

Princeton University Press

This chapter focuses on ancient ideas of theurgy. From the uses of the term in the ancient evidence, “theurgy” may be defined as the art or practice of ritually creating a connection between the mortal, material world that is before one's eyes and the unseen, immortal world of the gods. Such a practice may be a lifelong assimilation of the individual soul to the divine, or it may be a momentary activation of the connection with divine power to achieve some more immediate end on earth. Whereas normative religious action in the Greco-Roman world tends to involve just the human worshipper and the divine god in a sequence of reciprocal responses, theurgy, as it appears in the ancient evidence, attempts to bring the divine and mortal together, uniting the divine power with the human worshipper. This process of unification involves connecting elements of the cosmos at every level of being, from the lowest dregs of inanimate matter through the animal and human living creatures and up to the various kinds of divinities, including the very highest. Ultimately, theurgy appears as magic, labeled as an “extraordinary ritual practice,” whether in a positive or negative sense.

Keywords:   theurgy, divine power, immortal world, normative religious action, Greco-Roman world, human worshipper, divine god, divinities, magic, ritual practice

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