The Occult Knowledge of Michael Psellus

Historica. Journal of Historical Studies 06/2009; 26(50):157-184.


By examining Michael Psellos’ occult texts it becomes obvious that this Byzantine scholar possessed a comprehensive knowledge of most aspects of the occultism: divination, astrology, numerology, alchemy, magic, demonology, ancient religion, and mythology. Psellos’ occultism goes back to the Ancient Egypt, Palestine, Syria and Babylon. But mainly it is included in the Neo-platonic tradition of thought and its practical aspect of Theurgy. Nevertheless, Psellos’ main purpose was to unravel questions about the physical reality, the man and the God, by using the ancient Greek reason and the Christian faith. However, as he was very inquisitive, he dealt with various fields of knowledge such as the occult sciences, in order to create an overall composition that would lead to the miraculous. His work is characterized by a desire for the divine, which binds together all the manifestations of reality. Thus, even the material world in its mysterious and apocryphal nature, is not considered anymore to be a real hypostasis: matter is the cause of evil, but it is subjected to a monistic theism, which covers its deficiency and its deprivation of goodness.