Porphyry of Tyre (Πορφύριος, Porphyrios) lived from 234 to 305 AD. He was a Neoplatonic philosopher who was born in Tyre, in the Roman Empire. He wrote many works on a wide variety of topics. Amongst his writing was a letter to his wife Marcella, concerning the life of Philosophy and the ascent to the Gods. It was intended to convince his wife to continue the study of philosophy while he travelled. In that letter, Porphyry talks about the Gods and having faith. He speaks of those who do not have faith and of what good comes to those who do. I would like to share that with you today.

A note: Porphyry talks about 'God', and Neoplatonism was inherently henotheistic, as the Neoplatonists considered the Gods and the material universe to be emanations from the One, which emanates first 'Nous' or consciousness and then the World Soul, followed by human souls and finally matter. It is important to understand that with 'God', Porphyry does not mean 'the Gods' and he also does not refer to the Abrahamic God. Henotheism is not identical with monism. Hentheism, essentially, is polytheistic monism and it was an accepted and valid form of the worship of the Theoi in ancient Hellas and Rome.

There are four first principles that must be upheld concerning God—faith, truth, love, hope. We must have faith that our only salvation is in turning to God. And having faith, we must strive with all our might to know the truth about God. And when we know this, we must love Him we do know. And when we love Him we must nourish our souls on good hopes for our life, for it is by their good hopes good men are superior to bad ones. Let then these four principles be firmly held.
Next let these three laws be distinguished. First, the law of God; second, the law of human nature; third, that which is laid down for nations and states. The law of nature fixes the limits of bodily needs, and shows what is necessary to these, and condemns all striving after what is needless and superfluous. That which is established and laid down for states regulates by fixed agreements the common relations of men, by their mutual observance of the covenants laid down. But the divine law is implanted by the supreme mind, for their salvation, in the thoughts of reasoning souls, and it is found truthfully inscribed therein. The law of nature is transgressed by him who through folly disregards it, owing to his excessive love for the |46 pleasures of the body. And it is broken and despised by those who, even for the body's sake, strive to master the body. The conventional law is subject to expediency, and is differently laid down at different times according to the arbitrary will of the prevailing government. It punishes him who transgresses it, but it cannot reach a man's secret thoughts and intentions.
The divine law is unknown to the soul that folly and intemperance have rendered impure, but it shines forth in self-control and wisdom. It is impossible to transgress this, for there is nothing in man that can transcend it. Nor can it be despised, for it cannot shine forth in a man who will despise it. Nor is it moved by chances of fortune, because it is always superior to chance and stronger than any form of violence. Mind alone knows it, and diligently pursues the search thereafter, and finds it imprinted in itself, and supplies from it food to the soul as to its own body. We must regard the rational soul as the body of the mind, which the mind nourishes by bringing into recognition, through the light that is in it, the thoughts within, which mind imprinted and engraved in the soul in accordance with the truth of the divine law. Thus mind is become teacher and saviour, nurse, guardian and leader, speaking the truth in silence, unfolding and giving forth the divine law; and looking on the impressions thereof in itself it beholds them implanted in the soul from all eternity.
Thou must therefore first understand the law of nature, and then proceed to the divine law, by which also the natural law hath been prescribed. And if thou make these thy starting-point thou shalt never fear the written law. For written laws are made for the benefit of good men, not that they may do no wrong, but that they may not suffer it. Natural wealth is limited, and it is easy to attain. But the wealth desired of vain opinions has no limits, and is hard to attain. The true philosopher therefore, following nature and not vain opinions, is self-sufficing in all things; for in the light of the requirements of nature every possession is some wealth, but in the light of unlimited desires even the greatest wealth is but poverty. It is no uncommon thing to find a man who is rich if tried by the standard at which nature aims, but poor by the standard of vain opinions. No fool is satisfied with what he possesses; he rather mourns for what he has not. Just as men in a fever are always thirsty through the grievous nature of their malady, and desire things quite opposed to one another, so men whose souls are ill-regulated are ever in want of all things, and experience ever-varying desires through their greed.
Wherefore the gods too have commanded us |48 to purify ourselves by abstaining from food and from love, bringing those who follow after piety within the law of that nature which they themselves have formed, since everything which transgresses this law is impure and deadly. The multitude, however, fearing simplicity in their mode of life, because of this fear, turn to the pursuits that can best procure riches. And many have attained wealth, and yet not found release from their troubles, but have exchanged them for greater ones. Wherefore philosophers say that nothing is so necessary as to know thoroughly what is unnecessary, and moreover that to be self-sufficing is the greatest of all wealth, and that it is honourable not to ask anything of any man. Wherefore too they exhort us to strive, not to acquire some necessary thing, but rather to remain of good cheer if we have not acquired it.
29. Neither let us accuse our flesh as the cause of great evils, nor attribute our troubles to outward things. Rather let us seek the cause of these things in our souls, and casting away every vain striving and hope for fleeting joys, become completely masters of ourselves. For a man is unhappy either through fear or through unlimited and empty desire. Yet if he bridle these, he can attain to a happy mind.