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The Unparticipated-Participated-Participant Triad

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Iamblichus introduced the triad - taken up by later neoplatonists, especially Proclus - of Transcendent Form, immanent universal, and material particular, or Unparticipated, Participated, and Participant (ametekhomenon-metekhomenon-metekhon, from the Greek meteko, traditionally translated as "to participate").  This cmplex term  refers to the "informing" or radiating into the lower principle (the Participant) by the higher (the Participated).  So for example a body is informed by its soul, and the soul by its intelligence. There is also the distinction between the transcendent, universal, Unparticipated Soul which is not related to any particular body, and the individual souls in which bodies (the Participants) participated.  This same principle also applies as regards the relationship between the Nous or Intelligence and the Soul [13]

L. J. Rosen suggests that instead of "participate" it would be more philosophically accurate to say "possess", which gives the triad Unpossessed-Possessed-Possessor [14].  In any case the terminology is con-fusing for it refers to the Cause in the passive voice and the Effect in the active voice - e.g. Proclus statement that "Every possessor (or participant) is inferior to its possessed (or participated) characteristic" [15].  In view of this, Proclus sometimes "uses the opposite arrangement and calls the possessed characteristic "the giver" (khoregoun) since it gives itself to that which possesses (or participates in) it, whereas the possessor (or participant) is called "that to which the characteristic is given" (khoregounenon)."  Although this latter is preferable in explaining in terms of cause and effect, it is the former that is more usually used [15].  Moreover, the translation of "possession" is doubly bad, at least for modern readers, who .would tend to associate it with the more negative phenomenon of "spirit possession".  "Participation" is a more neutral term, and will therefore be used here.

Proclus' Unparticipated- Participated- Participant metaphysics


[13] R. T. Wallis, Neoplatonism, p.126

[14] Laurence Jay Rosen, The Philosophy of Proclus, (Cosmos, New York, 1949) p.81 n.54,

[15] Laurence Jay Rosen, The Philosophy of Proclus, p.81 n.56

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content by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 12 November 1998, last modified 27 April 2004