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We now come to the last, and most advanced, theurgic operation, the Theourgikê Anagôgêor Theurgic Ascent (also known as the Hieratic Ascent). Althoughthe procedures are similar to the operations already discussed, inparticular Desmos kai Eklusis, thereis a crucial difference between Ascent and all the other operations,for in those operations the Divinity is always experienced as "other,"but by means of the Anagôgê you ascend so that your soul,so far as is possible for a mortal, unites with a God. In thisway you experience deification(theôsis).
Thus the goal of theurgic ascent is union (henôsis) with a God. This may be any God, including even the Demiurge and The Ineffable One (an especially difficult operation). By means of this union you may experience your own inherent divinity and your continuity with The One, and thus, by means of the union, come to be in better harmony with Providence. Consciously experiencing your participation in Providence gives meaning to life.
The stages of the Theurgic Ascent are essentially similar to those of the Contemplative and Erotic Ascents, but the Theurgic Ascent makes more use of ritual (material substances and actions). Therefore, it may be effective when the other, more interior, ascents are not.
By the principle of like knows like, it is the image of The One in your own soul (called the Flower of the Whole Soul, Anthos Pasês tês Psukhês) that is able to unite with The Inefffable One. (See "Personal Daimones" previous pages on the Flower of the Soul.) By means of this "knowledge through identification," your individual One comes to participate more perfectly in The One Itself. This is the turn back toward the One (the ultimate source), known as the Epistrophê(Return; recall "Triadic Structure" in Part I), by which your soul becomes the energeia actualizing the power (dunamis) of the One. This is our destiny.
To accomplish the ascent, the parts of your soul that are more like The One must be separated from those that are less like It. This separation is accomplished by a symbolic death: "dying before you die." Before describing the procedure it is necessary to explain that the ascent is a cooperative activity beween the Initiate (masc. Tetelesménos, femn. Tetelesménê), who makes the ascent, and an Initiator (Telesiourgós) or Theurgist (Theourgós), who usually has (human) assistants. (As for Desmos, it is possible, but difficult, for a Theurgist-Initiate to make the ascent on their own.)
Step 1: Purification and Protection
Preparatory to the ascent is the Purification (Kátharsis) of the Soul, its Vehicle (ókhêma), and the Body. The principal goal is to facilitate the ascent by making the initiate as similar to the Gods as possible. Purification of the body may include a ritual bath (as in Desmos), sexual abstinence, and dietary restrictions or prescriptions, as appropriate to the Deity. The bath corresponds to the washing of the corpse, and after it the initiate dresses in a khitôn termióeis (funeral robe), which is a loose ankle-length tunic, white or mostly white in color. In addition, the initiate is purified by Burning Brimstone and is annointed with olive oil and other perfumed unguents. These preparations also will facilitate purification of the soul's vehicle, the goal being to make it "well-wheeled" (eútrokhon) for the ascent. Purification of the soul is directed toward quieting the lower parts of the soul, which do not ascend. To this end, the techniques described under "Contemplative Ascent" are appropriate. Clearly, these skills are not developed overnight; some of them require a lifetime of practice.
While, on the one hand, purification is intended to eliminate those influences that may impede the ascent, on the other hand we aid the ascent by means of sumbola and sunthêmata appropriate to the Deity who is our goal. Physical sunthêmata may be worn, ingested, or placed in the ritual area. Nonphysical sunthêmata, such as hymns, prayers, and chants, will be recited out loud or in the initiate's mind as the ascent proceeds.
Intermediate between purfications and sumbola are the apotrópaia, or averting charms, whose purpose is to ward off the Material Daimones, known as the Dogs of Hekate, for She is
the Driver of the Dogs of Water, Earth, and Air. (C.O. fr. 91)
(For more on Hekate, see Pt. II, "Hekate" and "Mediating Spirits" above.) The Material Daimones are not hostile, as is sometimes supposed, but it is their function in the Cosmos to carry forth the Ideas into material embodiment. Thus, in the ascent we oppose Their natural activity, and therefore They must be placated.
While the Material Daimones are agents of Procession (Próödos), the Heroes are agents of the Return (Epistrophê). Therefore, the Heroes, especially Heracles (see "Examples of Heroization" in "Fire" in Opsopaus, AGEDE), may be invoked to keep the Material Daimones at bay and to facilitate the ascent. This will be more effective if, through a prior Sustasis, you have recruited the Hero as a Paredros.
An apotrópaion may be a physical charm hung or tied on the initiate (called a períapton, "tied-on thing"), or it may be less material: an apotropaic prayer, chant, or hymn. The principles of sumbola and sunthêmata apply. In this way the initiate is "well-equipped" for the ascent, "all-armored" (pánteukhos) in Plato's t