According to the doctrine of Proclus, the uppermost regions from the zenith of the universe to the moon belonged to the gods or planetary
spirits, according to their hierarchies and classes. The highest among them were the twelve uper-ouranioi, or supercelestial gods, having whole legions of subordinate demons at their command. They are followed next in rank and power by the egkosmioi, the intercosmic gods, each of these presiding over a great number of demons, to whom they impart their power and change it from one to another at will. These are evidently the personified forces of nature in their mutual correlation, the latter being represented by the third class or the “elementals” we have just described.
Further on he shows, on the principle of the Hermetic axiom — of types, and prototypes — that the lower spheres have their subdivisions and classes of beings as well as the upper celestial ones, the former being always subordinate to the higher ones. He held that the four elements are all filled with demons, maintaining with Aristotle that the universe is full, and that there is no void in nature. The demons of the earth, air, fire, and water are of an elastic, ethereal, semi-corporeal essence. It is these classes which officiate as intermediate agents between the gods and men. Although lower in intelligence than the sixth order of the higher demons, these beings preside directly over the elements and organic life.
They direct the growth, the inflorescence, the properties, and various changes of plants. They are the personified ideas or virtues shed from the heavenly ule into the inorganic matter; and, as the vegetable kingdom is one remove higher than the mineral, these emanations from the celestial gods take form and being in the plant, they become its soul. It is that which Aristotle’s doctrine terms the form in the three principles of natural bodies, classified by him as privation, matter, and form. His philosophy teaches that besides the original matter, another principle is necessary to complete the triune nature of every particle, and this is form; an invisible, but still, in an ontological sense of the word, a substantial being, really distinct from matter proper. Thus, in an animal or a plant, besides the bones, the flesh, the nerves, the brains, and the blood, in the former, and besides the pulpy matter, tissues, fibres, and juice in the latter, which blood and juice, by circulating through the veins and fibres, nourishes all parts of both animal and plant; and besides the animal spirits, which are the principles of motion; and the chemical energy which is transformed into vital force in the green leaf, there must be a substantial form, which Aristotle called in the horse, the horse’s soul; Proclus, the demon of every mineral, plant, or animal, and the mediaeval philosophers, the elementary spirits of the four kingdoms.
All this is held in our century as metaphysics and gross superstition. Still, on strictly ontological principles, there is, in these old hypotheses, some shadow of probability, some clew to the perplexing “missing links”
of exact science. The latter has become so dogmatical of late, that all that lies beyond the ken of
inductive science is termed imaginary; and we find Professor Joseph Le Conte stating that some of the best scientists “ridicule the use of the term ‘vital force,’ or vitality, as a remnant of superstition.“ De Candolle suggests the term “vital movement,” instead of vital force; thus preparing for a final scientific leap which will transform the immortal, thinking man, into an automaton with a clock-work inside him. “But,” objects Le Conte, “can we conceive of movement without force? And if the movement is peculiar, so also is the form of force.”
In the Jewish Kabala, the nature-spirits were known under the general name of Shedim and divided into four classes. The Persians called them all devs; the Greeks, indistinctly designated them as demons; the Egyptians knew them as afrites. The ancient Mexicans, says Kaiser, believed in numerous spirit-abodes, into one of which the shades of innocent children were placed until final disposal; into another, situated in the sun, ascended the valiant souls of heroes; while the hideous spectres of incorrigible sinners were sentenced to wander and despair in subterranean caves, held in the bonds of the earth-atmosphere, unwilling and unable to liberate themselves. They passed their time in communicating with mortals, and frightening those who could see them. Some of the African tribes know them as Yowahoos. In the Indian Pantheon there are no less than 330,000,000 of various kinds of spirits, including elementals, which latter were termed by the Brahmans the Daityas. These beings are known by the adepts to be attracted toward certain quarters of the heavens by something of the same mysterious property which makes the magnetic needle turn toward the north, and certain plants to obey the same attraction. The various races are also believed to have a special sympathy with certain human temperaments, and to more readily exert power over such than others. Thus, a bilious, lymphatic, nervous, or sanguine person would be affected favorably or otherwise by conditions of the astral light, resulting from the different aspects of the planetary bodies.