The Hierarchical Cosmos

Occult Theology as a Direct Continuation of Neoplatonism

Bibliographic Entry

Plaisance, Christopher A. "The Hierarchical Cosmos: Occult Theology as a Direct Continuation of Neoplatonism." In Occult Traditions, 79–92, ed. Damon Zacharias Lycourinos. Melbourne: Numen Books, 2012.


This is a paper in the history of philosophy. Its goal is to explore the thesis that Neoplatonism acted as the source for both the emanation cosmology and the rigidly hierarchical angelologies and demonologies that pervade late Medieval and early Renaissance works on theurgy and goëtia. As such, the paper begins by examining the Platonic roots of Neoplatonism, paying special attention to theory of Forms espoused in the Republic and that of the demiurge found in Critas and Timaeus. Following this, the paper delves into Neoplatonism proper, beginning with an analysis of Plotinus' four-tiered emanative cosmos, and then heading forward in time to Iamblichus' praxes that developed in response to Plotinus' metaphysics — particularly the practice of theurgy and the end goal of henōsis. The paper then makes a brief foray into the Judaic infusions that Neoplatonic metaphysics were met with in their transmission from the Mediterranean coasts to Western Europe; the primary form of influence in this case is one of nomenclature, with the hierarchical cosmos conceived by the Neoplatonists being given Hebrew names stemming from the Bible and the myths surrounding King Solomon. Following this, the paper looks at the theologies presented in Medieval occult philosophies as exemplified by two texts — The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage and The Lesser Key of Solomon — and correlates this with the previously examined Neoplatonic doxa and praxes.


history of philosophy, doxography, Neoplatonism, cosmology, angelology, demonology, theurgy


Lycourinos, Damon Zacharias. Ritual Embodiment in Modern Western Magic: Becoming the Magician. Gnostica. London: Routledge, 2017.
Snijders, L. "The Mesoamerican Codex Re-Entangled: Production, Use, and Re-Use of Precolonial Documents." PhD dissertation, Leiden University, 2016.