Evil Demons in the De Mysteriis: Assessing the Iamblichean Critique of Porphyry’s Demonology

In Seamus O'Neill, Luc Brisson & Andrei Timotin (eds.), Neoplatonic Demons and Angels. Leiden, Netherlands: pp. 160-189 (2018)

Seamus O'Neill
Memorial University of Newfoundland
This chapter describes Porphyry’s demonology, focusing specifically on the nature of the demonic body and Porphyry’s reliance upon it within his account in order to highlight certain difficulties in the demonology of Iamblichus, which, although denying the materiality of demons, nevertheless has to account for the very things that demonic bodies were understood to address. Through an examination of Porphyry’s demonology and his explanation of the classification of demons and their nature, this paper will raise questions needing to be answered within Iamblichean demonology. In fact, these questions are more important for Iamblichus than they are for Porphyry; given the state of the entirely descended Iamblichean soul and its need for material forms and avenues of mediation and purification, the function of demons is more essential for Iamblichus than it is for Porphyry. We cannot speak of ‘demons’ in Iamblichus without qualification, or without at least making the distinction between the good and the evil, recognizing that whatever one says about the former, the same might not apply to the latter.
Keywords demonology  demons  Iamblichus  Porphyry
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