Dan Merkur, Stages of Hermetic Ascension
And it is necessary, says Proclus, that the soul thus becoming an Intellectual World, and being as much as possible assimilated to the whole intelligible universe, should introduce herself to the Maker of the Universe, and, from this introduction, should, in a certain respect, become familiar with Him, through a certain intellectual energy.
For uninterrupted energy about anything calls forth and resuscitates our dormant Ideas. But through this familiarity, it is necessary that we should become united to Him. For discovery is this, --- to meet with Him, to be united to Him, and to see Him Himself --- the Alone with the Alone; the soul hastily withdrawing herself from every other energy to Him; for then, being present with her father, she considers scientific discussions to be but words, banquets together with Him on the Truth of Real being, and in pure splendour is purely initiated in entire and stable vision.
Such, therefore, is the Discovery of the Father; not that which is doxastic, or pertaining to opinion; for that is dubious and not very remote from the irrational life; neither is it scientific; for this is syllogistic and composite, and does not come into contact with the intellectual essence of the Intellectual Demiurgus. But it is that which subsists according to Intellectual Vision itself: a contact with the Intelligible, and a union with the Demiurgic Intellect.
And this may properly be denominated difficult, as Plato alludes, either as how to obtain, presenting itself to souls, after every evolution of life, or as to the true labour of souls. For after wandering about generation, after the purification and the light of science; intellectual energy alone, by the Intellect that is in us, shines forth; locating the soul in the Father, as in a port, purely establishing her in fabricative intellections, and conjoining Light with Light. --- Not such as was with science, or that vision that was in Elysium, but more beautiful, more intellectual, and partaking more of the nature of the One than this. This, then, is the Paternal Port and the discovery of the Father, according to Proclus, viz., an undefiled union with him.
So that the most unical nature must be known by the one, and the ineffable by that which is ineffable. Indeed, Socrates in the [first] Alcibiades rightly observes, that the soul entering into herself will behold all other things, and deity itself. For verging to her own union, and to the center of all life, laying aside multitude, and the variety of all manifold powers which she contains, she ascends to the highest watchtower of beings.
And as in the most holy of the mysteries, they say, that the mystics at first meet with the multiform, and many-shaped genera, which are hurled forth before the Gods, but on entering the interior parts of the temple, unmoved, and guarded by the mystic rite, they genuinely receive in their bosom divine illumination, and divested of their garments, as they would say, participate of a divine nature; - the same mode, as it appears to me, takes place in the speculation of wholes.
For the soul when looking at things posterior to herself, beholds the shadows and images of beings, but when she converts herself to herself she evolves her own essence, and the reasons which she contains. And at first indeed, she only as it were beholds herself; but when she penetrates more profoundly into the knowledge of herself, she finds in herself both intellect, and the orders of beings.
When however, she proceeds into her interior recesses, and into the adytum [holy of holies, inner sanctum] as it were of the soul, she perceives with her eye closed, the genus of the Gods, and the unities of beings. For all things are in us psychically, and through this we are naturally capable of knowing all things, by exciting the powers and the images of wholes which we contain.
And this is the best employment of our energy, to be extended to divine nature itself, having our powers at rest, to revolve harmoniously round it, to excite all the multitude of the soul to this union, and laying aside all such things as are posterior to the one, to become seated and conjoined with that which is ineffable, and beyond all things.
For it is lawful for the soul to ascend, till she terminates her flight in the principle of things; but arriving thither, beholding the place which is there, descending thence, and directing her course through beings; likewise evolving the multitude of forms, exploring their monads and their numbers, and apprehending intellectually how each is suspended from its proper unity, we may consider her as possessing the most perfect science of divine natures, perceiving in a uniform manner the progressions of the Gods into beings, and the distinctions of beings about the Gods.
Such then according to Plato's decision is our theologist; and theology is a habit of this kind, which unfolds the hyparxis itself of the Gods, separates and speculates their unknown and unical light from the peculiarity of their participants, and announces it to such as are worthy of this energy, which is both blessed and comprehends all things at once.
The ascension or, as we should today say, transcendence, was accomplished through a philosophical ascesis. It consisted of a discarding of the influences of astral determinism on the body, its senses and passions, through the achievement, via ascesis, of an experiential sense of the mind's detachment from the body. For Hermetists, such an ascension constituted an ontological change in the status of the mind.