Theurgy and the Soul

The Neoplatonism of Iamblichus
by Gregory Shaw

The word ‘theurgy’ literally means ‘god-working’. It is an activity that aims at accessing divine action. It deals with divine powers, the uniting and healing powers of the Spirit. Theurgy in its original, historical sense, involved ritual and magic. Mystical magic, because it ultimately aimed at union with the Ineffable One. 

In Theurgy and the Soul, Gregory Shaw explains the original meaning and application of theurgy, based on the writings of Iamblichus of Syria (ca. 240-325). This philosopher and shaman-mystic tried to save the pagan wisdom of the Chaldean Oracles, and the theurgic practices he inherited as an initiate, from their decline in an age of rising Christianity and Reason. 

As a theurgist, Iamblichus wanted to bridge the gap between heaven and earth, by working with the correspondences within the universe, and with the power and intelligence within the divine hierarchies. This involved the soul’s intermediary realm of images and symbols, the ‘imaginal realm’ that connects the upperworld of intelligence and the Spirit with the netherworld of matter, life and Nature. Using the right symbols, and connecting with them ritually, was a way to let the divine power and intelligence flow through the worlds. 

Gregory Shaw is an academic philosopher, but he writes in a pleasant, accessible style. For those who want to know more about the historical roots of theurgy, and who can digest an academic study on the soul and its relation to the Divine, this book is warmly recommended.