“Universality and Locality in Platonic Polytheism”
June 30, 2015
Vol. 1, No. 2 of Walking the Worlds: A Biannual Journal of Polytheism and Spiritwork is now available. This issue, with the theme of “Building Regional Cultus”, contains my article “Universality and Locality in Platonic Polytheism”. Here is the abstract:
In a famous quote reported by his biographer Marinus, Proclus says that a philosopher should be like a “priest of the whole world in common”. This essay examines what this universality of the philosopher’s religious practice entails, first with reference to Marinus’ testimony concerning Proclus’ own devotional life, and then with respect to the systematic Platonic understanding of divine ‘locality’. The result is, first, that the philosopher’s ‘universality’ is at once more humble than it sounds, and more far-reaching; and second, that the meaning of locality in the Platonic metaphysics is more flexible and dynamic than we might have expected. Particular attention is given to the relations of ‘universality’ and ‘particularity’ as they exist among the Gods, and to the account in Proclus’ Timaeus commentary concerning the places sacred to the Gods as immaterial intervals (diastêmata) not identical to physical places, and the consequences of this for understanding changes in the religious life of places and in the localization of cults.