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Volume 13, Issue Supplement, 2015

Dualismes: Doctrines religieuses et traditions philosophiques

Helmut Seng
Pages 279-304

Πατρογενὴς ὕλη. Au sujet du dualisme dans les Oracles Chaldaiques

The Chaldaean Oracles are works of Middle Platonist poetry in Greek dating from the late 2nd century AD and attributed to Julian the Theurgist, who may have produced them together with his father Julian the Chaldaean. Only fragments survive, most via late antique Neoplatonists, whose many and varied individual interpretations often deviate from any meaning possibly deducible from the primary text. The question of dualism in the Chaldaean Oracles can be seen from two perspectives. From an ethical point of view, man stands in the middle between the intelligible and the material and has to choose his way. The material world is described in negative terms as a kind of netherworld and a most dangerous dwelling‑place for man who is exposed to seduction by material pleasure and attacked by demons personifying the passions ; he should turn his mind towards the intelligible. From an ontological point of view, however, matter is not an autonomous (and evil) principle, but originates from the highest entity, the intelligible Father ; for this reason, it is called πατρογενής (although this might be an inference by the interpreters of the Oracles). Ethical dualism is thus combined with ontological monism. The Chaldaean notion of not two, but three worlds, material, ethereal, and fiery (= intelligible), as well as the idea that in special cases a material body might be transformed into an ethereal one, could be interpreted as a kind of mediation of the two positions.

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