The chapters are arranged as: The Oracles of Zoroaster, Ideas, Particular Souls, Matter, Magical and Philosophical Precepts, and Oracles From Porphyry.
The first oracle notes God as having the head of a hawk in both elder and younger forms. Westcott links this to the Egyptian Horus: there was both an elder Horus and a Horus the younger so two forms of Horus. Taylor linked this oracle with later Theurgists and the God with Kronos, or Saturn, though the Horus linkage is rather infallible one would think. This unbegotten God is said to emanate a spiral force. The Eternal Aeon is mentioned as a support for life. This is a bit similar to the Thelemic renderings of Pan-Aeonic forces – or the all-pervading Aeon that transcends time. As the first of rather obvious Hellenistic deity syncretism we see the oracle:
“6. The Chaldæans call the God Dionysos (or Bacchus), Iao in the Phœnician tongue (instead of the Intelligible Light), and he is also called Sabaoth, signifying that he is above the Seven poles, that is the Demiurgos.”
IAO is a magickal formula used extensively in Crowley’s Thelemic system.
The various levels of souls emanating from the Paternal Mind are said be feminine and fiery. The Three Supernals are even mentioned by name and one would have to assume that this refers to that World of the Qabala. There is recounted the unfolding of Monad, Dyad, and Triad in the manner of Neoplatonism and here Westcott makes a note:
“What the Pythagoreans signify by Monad, Duad and Triad, or Plato by Bound, Infinite and Mixed; that the Oracles of the Gods intend by Hyparxis, Power and Energy."
Regarding the section on Ideas we have notions of the soul, the senses, and symbols entering the world from the Paternal Intellect (guarded by the Three Supernals?). As in Platonism all emanates from the One, the Monad, so this all seems to follow the Platonic Monotheistic system. This descent seems to coincide with the breakup of the One into subject-object dualism, not unlike the Indian notions.
Concerning the Triad of the Second World Westcott offers the following commentary:
“The Second Order of the Platonist philosophy was the "Intelligible and Intellectual Triad." Among the Chaldæans this order includes the Iynges, Synoches and Teletarchs. The Intellectual Triad of the later Platonists corresponds to the Fountains, Fontal Fathers or Cosmagogi of the Chaldæans.”
Here are also introduced some curious Hellenic symbolatry of the bosoms of both Hecate and Rhea which carry the “Life Bearing Fire.” Hecate is mentioned several times in this regard. Also in the section explaining the world of the lower elementals we see from Greek mythology that Python, Typhon, and Echidna, being the children of Gaia and Tartaros, and being united by Uranos, are given guardianship of the disordered lower forces after a similar Chaldean Triad not mentioned. Irrational demons and Water elementals are also mentioned.
This God as Father is referred to as animator – placing Mind in the Soul and both of these in the human body. In the Soul he placed symbols. The “Divine Spark” is said to have been made from a mingling of Mind, Divine Spirit, and Holy Love.
Here is an Oracle given in the words of Proclus:
“98. The Oracles delivered by the Gods celebrate the essential fountain of every Soul; the Empyrean, the Ethereal and the Material. This fountain they separate from (Zoogonothea) the vivifying Goddess (Rhea), from whom (suspending the whole of Fate) they make two series or orders; the one animastic, or belonging to the Soul, and the other belonging to Fate. They assert that the Soul is derived front the animastic series, but that sometimes it becometh subservient to Fate, when passing into an irrational condition of being,. it becometh subject to Fate instead of to Providence.”
The section on Matter concerns the orders of the elements and the heavenly bodies. Nymphs and water are associated with the lunar and celestial, filling the abysses – as matter pervades the world. There is mention of ‘The Seven Firmaments of the Kosmos’ which we see in Hermetic/Neoplatonic/Alchemical diagrams. Kronos is given as the Sun Assessor and as the pole lord. The Goddess (I am assuming Rhea here) collects the cycles of the “chiefs of the air”: the Melody of the Ether, the Sun, and the Spirit of the Moon.
In the section on Precepts which is quite cryptic in parts we see that placing too much faith in divination is discouraged. We see the Gnostic style revulsion of the darkness:
“145. Stoop not down unto the Darkly-Splendid World; wherein continually lieth a faithless Depth, and Hades wrapped in clouds, delighting in unintellible images, precipitous, winding, a black ever-rolling Abyss; ever espousing a Body unluminous, formless and void.
146. Stoop not down, for a precipice lieth beneath the Earth, reached by a descending Ladder which hath Seven Steps, and therein is established the Throne of an evil and fatal force.”
Here we can perhaps see the earliest renderings that later became the Judeo-Christian-Islamic notions of Hell. These notions are well thought to have been derived from Persian dualism. The seven steps seem reminiscent of the Ziggurat in reverse or with Inanna’s descent.
There is mention of the barbarous Names of Evocation and the injunction not to change them – which securely places the Theurgists in the ceremonial magic tradition. Divinity (at least at the 3 lower souls level) in the form of fire or sacred fire emanating from Divinity rather squarely does associate the Oracles with Zoroastrian notions at least outwardly. That the father sent forth a soul full of mind in the form of feminine fire is a recurring theme.
There is much of the notion of descending flame-soul, perhaps similar to the descent of the Qabalistic lighning bolt, but there is also perhaps a notion of the path of returning to the subtle as the following adages suggest:
“170. Having put on the completely armed-vigour of resounding Light, with triple strength fortifying the Soul and the Mind, He must put into the Mind the various Symbols, and not walk dispersedly on the empyræan path, but with concentration.
171. For being furnished with every kind of Armour, and armed, he is similar to the Goddess.”
172. Explore the River of the Soul, whence, or in what order you have come: so that although you have become a servant to the body, you may again rise to the Order from which you descended, joining works to sacred reason.”
These notions would be akin to the Qabalistic Path of Return or perhaps the Egyptian and other Near Eastern cults of Ascension back to the Celestial Realms.
There is advice to bridle the soul but also to apply sacred fire to heal and purify the body. There is the suggestion that the work of the Theurgist is to transcend Fate (and the Furies) – presumably through Will and perhaps as well though the intelligence of proper method.
This whole section has no commentary. It contains cryptic ritual suggestions, visions, and curious lore about Hecate again.
The final section is Hymns from Porphyry which basically describe God. Here the Monotheistic nature of the cosmology is emphasized. This Monotheism current probably did much to permit Neoplatonic thought to permeate and influence Early Christianity and later Islam, especially Sufism.
“2. There is in God an Immense Profundity of Flame! Nevertheless, the Heart should not fear to approach this Adorable Fire, or to be touched by it; it will never be consumed by this sweet Fire, whose mild and Tranquil Heat maketh the Binding, the Harmony, and the Duration of the World. Nothing subsisteth but by this Fire, which is God Himself. No Person begat Him; He is without Mother; He knoweth all things, and can be taught nothing.
He is Infallible in His designs, and His name is unspeakable, Behold now, what God is! As for us who are His messengers, We are but a Little Part of God.”
This is a classic and very important text in the occultism of the western esoteric tradition. There may well be “initiated” commentaries on it in various fraternal orders and mystery schools – whether from Renaissance times or reintegrated more recently. It is now in public domain and free from – Sacred Texts – as well as free on Kindle.