Neoplatonic Influence on D&D

gyor

Hero
I don't think a lot of people realize the Neoplatonist influences on D&D mythology and so I thought I'd point it out and start a thread on it.

To start off the Archon Celestials are clearly inspired by Neoplatonist sources, because in Gnostism Archons are seen as what can best described as Lawful Evil, while in Neoplatonism and Hermetism the Archons are Lawful Good.

Also in most forms of Gnostism and Heremetism there are only Seven Celestial Archons. In Neoplatonism you have the both the Seven Celestial Archons and the Hylic Archons (Archons of Matter), D&D Archons Paragons came in the form of God-like rulers of the seven levels of heaven, and then you have the rest of the Archon race.

Also in earlier editions that faithful eventually merged via Henosis into their God.

Any other insights?
 

Parmandur

Legend
As a Neo-Platonist myself, D&D is more remarkably not Platonist in major key points of metaphysics. Did Gygax read slot and crib some Platonist terminology, yes. Is something like the Great Wheel remotely metaphysically coherent form a Platonist viewpoint, not at all. 4E did abetter job with Alignment matching Platonist ideas about how words like "Law" and "Good" work, but only somewhat.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I use the concepts of the Platonic Solids, and Hermetic ideas about maths (especially geometry) and astrology in my explanations of dnd magic, but...idk I think DnD is a definite hodgepodge.
 

QuentinGeorge

Explorer
I'd say any influence is second-hand - Gygax and others most likely got inspired by a source that cribbed a lot from Neoplatonist ideas.

Look at this way - the Nine Hells draws a lot from Dante's Inferno - but do we think that Gygax (or Ward) ever read it?
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I'd say any influence is second-hand - Gygax and others most likely got inspired by a source that cribbed a lot from Neoplatonist ideas.

Look at this way - the Nine Hells draws a lot from Dante's Inferno - but do we think that Gygax (or Ward) ever read it?
I mean, Gygax was pretty well read, and most folks his age seem to have read it in school, so...yes.
 
I'd say any influence is second-hand - Gygax and others most likely got inspired by a source that cribbed a lot from Neoplatonist ideas.

Look at this way - the Nine Hells draws a lot from Dante's Inferno - but do we think that Gygax (or Ward) ever read it?
Yes to gygax and ward for the good dr's stated reasoning. Also it should be stated gygax was better read then most literary professors but he was honestly pretty modest about it considering just how well read he was. Incredibly smart dude.
 
Yes to gygax and ward for the good dr's stated reasoning. Also it should be stated gygax was better read then most literary professors but he was honestly pretty modest about it considering just how well read he was. Incredibly smart dude.
Academia encourages people to focus on a very narrow specialist field. That's one of reasons I quit.

So an intelligent person who like to read up on things for the fun of it is quite likely more broadly read than a professional.
 
Academia encourages people to focus on a very narrow specialist field. That's one of reasons I quit.

So an intelligent person who like to read up on things for the fun of it is quite likely more broadly read than a professional.
True.

Lotta educational professionals who get duped into thinking they are broadly knowledgeable while having unqittingly built their own blinders.

Still, a literary professor from a couple decades ago was far less narrowly read than they now are. So its less impressive if we are talking about modern ones. More if we are talking about ones from then. If only somewhat.

Good point.
 

Enrico Poli1

Explorer
I didn't study the subject, but some aspects of the game (for example the idea of soul and afterlife) seem drawn from a generic Neoplatonic/Hermetic tradition, yes.
For example, the propter names of fiends are drawn from actual daemonologies from the Hermetic tradition (warlocks and witches of the real, historical world).
Same can be said of many spells.
Anyhow, the game as devised by Gygax is so generic that can be played by a Christian and by people attracted by the occult.
 

Krachek

Adventurer
Cheer!
dnd is the only place where you can explore high philosophical concept while gaming and having fun.
i like personally the idea of a pantheon composed uniquely of former mortals who have raised their statue to god by slaying or dismissing former gods. a concept derived from Nietzsche uberman.
 

M.L. Martin

Adventurer
Is it possible to get a college education without reading Dante's Inferno?
Depends on the school and the curriculum. I suspect Gygax and Ward were familiar with it, if only because of mentions of Dis, Geryon and Malebolge in the MM; Greenwood (or whoever mapped out the 'official' Nine Hells) was either less so or took liberties, with misspelling Caina as "Cania" and placing it a level above where it should be, etc.
 

Sepulchrave II

Adventurer
To start off the Archon Celestials are clearly inspired by Neoplatonist sources
I imagine they were filtered through - in order - Early Christian polemics, Renaissance magic, Theosophy, the Western Occult Tradition and various pulps from the 20s to the 60s.

It's not as though the game designers were consulting Origen.

Gnosticism is a very fuzzy word.

Any other insights?
Nobody can agree about what was happening with religion in the first couple of centuries CE.
 

M.L. Martin

Adventurer
I don't think a lot of people realize the Neoplatonist influences on D&D mythology and so I thought I'd point it out and start a thread on it.

To start off the Archon Celestials are clearly inspired by Neoplatonist sources, because in Gnostism Archons are seen as what can best described as Lawful Evil, while in Neoplatonism and Hermetism the Archons are Lawful Good.

Also in most forms of Gnostism and Heremetism there are only Seven Celestial Archons. In Neoplatonism you have the both the Seven Celestial Archons and the Hylic Archons (Archons of Matter), D&D Archons Paragons came in the form of God-like rulers of the seven levels of heaven, and then you have the rest of the Archon race.

Also in earlier editions that faithful eventually merged via Henosis into their God.

Any other insights?
Thanks for the clarification. I've always wondered where the D&D archons came from, as they weren't from the hierarchy I know (Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominions, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels, Angels) or any other I've heard of. And while I have some knowledge of Neoplatonism, it's as it stands filtered and Christianized through [Psuedo-]Dionysius, Augustine and Aquinas.
 
Look at this way - the Nine Hells draws a lot from Dante's Inferno - but do we think that Gygax (or Ward) ever read it?
Gary says that was the derivation (which surprised me).
Col_Pladoh said:
As a Christian I stayed well away from basing any of the D&D game on scripture.

The Deva, Solarm and Planatar are benign and rather angelic in their purposes.

No Milton, but I did use a bit of Dante's Inferno is developing the denizens of the Nine Hells.
His claim that D&D isn't based on scripture doesn't seem quite right tho - the cleric spells Sticks to Snakes and Lower/Part Water frex.
 

Parmandur

Legend
Thanks for the clarification. I've always wondered where the D&D archons came from, as they weren't from the hierarchy I know (Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominions, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels, Angels) or any other I've heard of. And while I have some knowledge of Neoplatonism, it's as it stands filtered and Christianized through [Psuedo-]Dionysius, Augustine and Aquinas.
The latter are actually a very faithful rendition of the Tradition (Bonaventure more than Aquinas, but still).
 

gyor

Hero
Thanks for the clarification. I've always wondered where the D&D archons came from, as they weren't from the hierarchy I know (Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominions, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels, Angels) or any other I've heard of. And while I have some knowledge of Neoplatonism, it's as it stands filtered and Christianized through [Psuedo-]Dionysius, Augustine and Aquinas.
Iamblichus (Pagan system) = Dionysius (Christian system)

Hypercosmic Gods = Seraphim
Liberated Gods = Cherubim
Encosmic Gods/Celestial Archons = Thrones Sub-lunar Gods/Archons = Dominions Archangels = Powers
Angels = Authorities
Daimons = Principalities
Heroes = Archangels
Purified Souls = Angels

From the book Living Thuergy by Jeffery S. Kupperman.
 

gyor

Hero
I imagine they were filtered through - in order - Early Christian polemics, Renaissance magic, Theosophy, the Western Occult Tradition and various pulps from the 20s to the 60s.

It's not as though the game designers were consulting Origen.



Gnosticism is a very fuzzy word.



Nobody can agree about what was happening with religion in the first couple of centuries CE.
I wasn't thinking of Christian Saints like Origen, but rather polytheistic Neoplatonic Philosophiers like Iamblichus and Proclus.
 

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