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Neoplatonic Theories of Prayer

Chairs: John Dillon ( and Andrei Timotin (

Philosophy for the later Platonists is also a religious way of life, and an important aspect of their daily activity was the practice of prayer, sacrifice and meditation. The goal of this round table is to explore the role of prayer in the Platonic tradition (e.g., Plotinus, Porphyry, Iamblichus, Proclus, but also Pseudo-Dionysius and Psellos), also in relation with the religious practices of the Graeco-Roman world, a topic understudied in the field of Neoplatonic studies.The starting point of this reflection could be two passages of Plato’s work which will have a significant influence in the later period, that with which Timaeus begins his cosmological exposition in the Timaeus (27 c), and the prescriptions on prayer made by the Athenian Stranger in Laws VII, 801 a-b.We intend to analyze, for example, the Neoplatonic prayer as form of meditation/ contemplation (theôria) and as spiritual exercise. Papers on the relation between prayer and theurgy, possibly in relation with the formulae prescribed in the magical papyri, are equally welcome. Other suitable topics would be the Neoplatonic classifications of prayers or the relation between prayer and the mystic union (henôsis) with the divine. The final purpose of this reflection should be a better understanding of the spiritual life and religious experience of the later Platonists.