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43). 39 firm” to mean that daemons do not assist humans. However, this is not the case. For Iamblichus, the way that daemons benefit humans is by providing them with divine knowledge; for this purpose, passivity or any instability of intent would be a liability. Daemons are perfect communicators of the divine—intermediary between gods and humans—precisely because of this firmness. 21 Not only are daemons firm in their essence, not bending to the appeasements and pleadings of others because of their nature, but they also possess no independent agency to be cultivated.

There are four classes of divine beings: gods, daemons, heroes, and pure souls. 18 There are multiple faults of human perception that can skew the ways in which the divine realm is understood. Iamblichus, as “Abamon,” warns against applying to divine beings the same categories that one might apply to animals, such as “rational” and “irrational,” because these dichotomies do not obtain among divine beings. Likewise the categories of “active” and “passive”: There arises at this point the question of active and passive motions, which involves a distinction most unsuitable for establishing the differentiating characteristic of superior classes of being.

Most of the phrases—“made to incline by pity,” “appeased by prayers”—describe both a stimulus and a resulting disposition. When a daemon hears prayers it is appeased; when a daemon receives honors, it is soothed. Apuleius’s portrait of daemonic subjectivity indeed fulfills the Stoic definition of passivity, that is, acceding to a stimulus received, but his description more richly paints the movements of the daemon. These examples provided by Apuleius suggest a particular kind of passivity: that of a powerful being whose will or intent can be directed by a lower being who pleads, appeases, honors, or soothes.

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Angels in the religious imagination of late antiquity by Ellen Muehlberger


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