- Paperback: 428 pages
- Publisher: Society of Biblical Literature; Bilingual edition (30 Oct. 2003)
- Language: English, Greek
- ISBN-10: 158983058X
- ISBN-13: 978-1589830585
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.4 x 22.9 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 664,428 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Iamblichus: On the Mysteries (Writings from the Greco-Roman World) Paperback – 30 Oct 2003
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It takes a whole team, and several years, to translate work by the Syrian native Iamblichus (250-330), because his writing is neither eloquent nor graceful. They use the Bud text of douard Des Place as a basis for facing pages of Greek and English. The work attempts to combine the teachings of revelation literature with those of Neoplatonism, and t
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Along with the works of Plato, Plotinus, and Proclus this work can easily be considered as a cornerstone of the great Pythagorean-Neoplatonic tradition. Unlike Plato Iamblichus is writing here on esoteric subjects without the usual veils that hide the Mysteries from the uninitiated public. This is probably due to the fact that he is writing in the form of letters to Porphyry, a highly developed student in his own right, and not to the general public.
Except for the distracting not very useful footnotes this translation along with its very informative Introduction is nearly perfect. I recommend it highly.
What Ms Clarke and her fellow translators either do not realise or have chosen to deliberately suppress is the fact that Iamblichus wrote in the enigmatical and allegorical manner employed by every Initiate of the Greek Mysteries, and as such, their 'contemporary', literal interpretation of his writings is utterly incapable of conveying the hidden meaning of his words.
Thomas Taylor laboured under so such restrictions. Not only was he one of the most accomplished scholars of his times, but he was thoroughly versed in the arcane science of symbolism and allegory which formed an important part of the secret teachings imparted to the pupils of the Eleusinian and other Greek Mystery Schools. The many errors of translation and interpretation in Ms Clarke's translation of Iamblichus' writings make it quite clear that this science is completely unknown to her and her co-translators. In short, they are like blind men searching for a black cat in a dark cellar that isn't there.
For the serious student of philosophy—that is to say those who are genuinely in search of Truth and regard the works of the Neoplatonists and Pythagoreans as part of the path to genuine spiritual enlightenment rather than a mere intellectual pastime—this new translation falls far short of Taylor's edition, first published in 1821. Contrary to the prevailing view of both public and scholars alike that there is nothing the ancients knew that we do not know better, and the smug assumption arising from it that a modern translation must always be superior to those which preceded it, Clarke and her colleagues prove the precise opposite.
But let Thomas Taylor speak for himself. He writes: "In order to apprehend the interior meaning of this book, which is replete with the profoundest insights, one must be emancipated from the thraldom of the senses—must use his spiritual eye alone. The moderns as a mass are ignorant of the nature of Gnostic principles."
That 'ignorance' is all too evident in this translation, which in substituting the intellectual 'letter that killeth' for the 'spirit that giveth life' has ably succeeded in distorting and destroying much of the value of this book. For these reasons I cannot recommend this translation to any reader genuinely in search of Truth and suggest they obtain Taylor's translation instead. This is readily available in both hardback from Wizards Bookshelf in the USA, and in paperback and hardback from the Prometheus Trust in the UK.