Iamblichus: Theurgia, or The Egyptian Mysteries

I’m not keen on the choice of the word “slime” for what equates with the Prima Materia, but then I’m not keen on many of his ideas.. anyway, here’s an excerpt from the chapter in which he concentrates on explaining the Egyptian Symbols:

“Listen, therefore, to the spiritual interpretation of the symbols, according to the conception of the Egyptian priests, dismissing from thy imagination and hearing the phantom-likeness of the symbols themselves, and bringing thyself upward to the spiritual reality.

By “ilus” or slime, then, recognize everything of a corporeal nature or belonging to the realm of matter, or that is nourishing and procreative, or such as is a material form belonging to the realm of nature and borne along with the never-still currents of the realm of matter, or such as the river of generative existence contains and which sinks with it, or the originating cause of the elements and of all the powers relating to the elements, which subsisted before in correspondence to a foundation.”


7 thoughts on “Iamblichus: Theurgia, or The Egyptian Mysteries

  1. Eek! I bet you usually win the old “What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?” game!
    I’m sure it is that connotation, the repugnant qualities, as much as anything else. In my mind I have the association with the ‘Black Land’ of Egypt, which is the fertile – rather than stagnant – stage of the soil, in which new life can grow. These comments have really got me thinking about why a certain word doesn’t resonate with me – I’m wondering if it’s because I see the putrefaction stage as just that: a necessary stage, albeit repugnant, and therefore it conjures up positive associations, so there’s some sort of psychic clash taking place within! The more I think about it, the more I’m starting to readjust my perception of the stage… This has been a very valuable exchange – thanks Kevin! 🙂


  2. Of course, word association is the key here, so many names for the prima materia which is sometimes likened as worthless or of little value. I’ve a funny feeling this word ‘ilus’ occurs in Paracelsus. Would still suggest any negativity associated with slime may be for its viscous, repugnant qualities as occurring in putrefaction. I thank heaven my 5 years working in a mortuary at night are now over.


  3. I think it’s probably all down to word association; the word slime for me is associated with the trail left by slugs and snails, whereas putrefaction is associated in my head with decomposing/decomposed matter/compost, and evokes much more appropriate imagery for the potency of said material than snail slime! 🙂


  4. This one in Sir T.B.’s library.

    If the word ‘slime’ which is presumably translated from Greek/Latin arouses repugnance, than surely it is the most suitable word as evocative of mortal decay. But putrefaction is perhaps equally emotive and the more standard word for decomposition. We just don’t like to dwell on these matters too closely ! A standard symbol in 17th iconography is rotting fruit, often with a worm crawling around.


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