One of the most perplexing aspects of the Mithraic mysteries consists
in the fact that Mithraic iconography always portrays Mithras and the sun
god as separate beings, while--in stark contradiction to this absolutely
consistent iconographical distinction between Mithras and the sun--in Mithraic inscriptions
Mithras is often identified with the sun by being called "sol
invictus," the "unconquered sun." It thus appears that the
Mithraists somehow believed in the existence of two suns: one represented
by the figure of the sun god, and the other by Mithras himself as the "unconquered
sun." It is thus of great interest to note that the Mithraists were
not alone in believing in the existence of two suns, for we find in Platonic
circles the concept of the existence of two suns, one being the normal astronomical
sun and the other being a so-called "hypercosmic" sun located
beyond the sphere of the fixed stars.
In my book I have argued that the god Mithras originated as the personification of the force responsible for the newly discovered cosmic phenomenon of the precession of the equinoxes. Since from the geocentric perspective the precession appears to be a movement of the entire cosmic sphere, the force responsible for it most likely would have been understood as being "hypercosmic," beyond or outside of the cosmos. It will be my argument here that Mithras, as a result of his being imagined as a hypercosmic entity, became identified with the Platonic "hypercosmic sun," thus opening up the way for the puzzling existence of two "suns" in Mithraic ideology.
The most important source for our knowledge of the Platonic tradition of the existence of two suns is the Chaldaean Oracles, the collection of enigmatic sayings generated late in the second century C.E. by a father and son both named Julian. These oracular sayings were, as is well known, seized upon by Porphyry and later Neoplatonists as constituting a divine revelation. For our purposes, the most important element in the Chaldaean teachings is that of the existence of two suns. As Hans Lewy says.
The Chaldaeans distinguished between two fiery bodies: one possessed of a noetic nature and the visible sun. The former was said to conduct the latter. According to Proclus, the Chaldaeans call the "solar world" situated in the supramundane region "entire light." In another passage, this philosopher states that the supramundane sun was known to them as "time of time...."
For the souls that are called immortal, so soon as they are at the summit [of the heavens], come forth and stand upon the back of the world: and straightway the revolving heaven carries them round, and they look upon the regions without. Of that place beyond the heavens none of our earthly poets has yet sung, and none shall sing worthily. But this is the manner of it, for assuredly we must be bold to speak what is true, above all when our discourse is upon truth. It is there that true being dwells, without colour or shape, that cannot be touched; reason alone, the soul's pilot, can behold it, and all true knowledge is knowledge thereof. As R. Hackforth says,
No earlier myth has told of a hyperouranios topos [place beyond the heavens], but this is not the first occasion on which true Being, the ousia ontos ousa, has been given a local habitation. In the passage of Rep. VI which introduces the famous comparison of the Form of the Good to the sun we have a noetos topos contrasted with a horatos (508C): but a spatial metaphor is hardly felt there.... A truer approximation to the hyperouranios topos occurs in the simile of the cave in Rep. VII, where we are plainly told that the prisoners' ascent into the light of day symbolises ten eis ton noeton tes psyches anodon (517B); in fact, the noetos topos of the first simile has in the second developed into a real spatial symbol. 
The movement "upward"... had found its fullest expression in the allegory of the cave in the Republic. [Now in the Phaedrus]... the dimension of the "above" is stated according to the new cosmic co-ordinates. For the "intelligible place" (topos noetos) in the Republic (509D, 517B) now becomes "the place beyond the heavens" (topos hyperouranios)...
The intelligible as far surpasses the visible in the brilliancy of its radiance, as sunlight assuredly surpasses darkness.... Now that invisible light perceptible only by mind...is a supercelestial constellation [hyperouranios aster], fount of the constellations obvious to sense. It would not be amiss to term it "all-brightness," to signify that from which sun and moon as well as fixed stars and planets draw, in proportion to their several capactiy, the light befitting each of them...
...that sun in the divine realm is Intellect-- let this serve as an example for our discourse-- and next after it is soul, dependent upon it and abiding while Intellect abides. This soul gives the edge of itself which borders on this [visible] sun to this sun, and makes a connection of it to the divine realm through the medium of itself, and acts as an interpreter of what comes from this sun to the intelligible sun and from the intelligible sun to this sun... 
One could deduce from considerations like the following that the souls when they leave the intelligible first enter the space of heaven. For if heaven is the better part of the region perceived by the senses, it borders on the last and lowest parts of the intelligible. 
in the supermundane (worlds) [en tois hyperkosmiois]; for there exists the "solar world (and the) whole light..." as the Chaldaean Oracles say and which I believe.
 Hans Lewy, Chaldaean Oracles and Theurgy (Paris: Études
Augustiniennes, 1978) pp. 151-2.
 247B-C; trans. R. Hackforth, Plato's Phaedrus (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1952) pp. 71,78.
 Ibid., pp. 80-1.
 Paul Friedländer, Plato I: An Introduction (New York: Pantheon Books, 1958) p. 194.
 VIII.31; trans. F.H. Colson, Philo (London: William Heinemann, 1929) vol. 1, p. 25.
 Philo often speaks of God using expressions such as the "intelligible sun" (noetos helios [Quaest. in Gen. IV.1; see Ralph Marcus, trans., Philo Supplement 1: Questions and Answers on Genesis (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1953) p. 269, n.l]) or similar expressions involving light and illumination located in the intelligible realm; for references see Pierre Boyancé, Études sur le songe de Scipion (Paris: E. de Boccard, 1936) pp. 73-4; Lewy, Chaldaean Oracles, p. 151, n. 312; David Runia, Philo of Alexandria and the Timaeus of Plato (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1986) p. 435 and n. 143. Boyancé (p. 73-4) quite reasonably argues that such expressions were identical in Philo's mind with the hyperouranios aster ("hypercosmic star") of De Opificio Mundi VIII.31.
 For a superb discussion of the broader context in which the development of the concept of the "hypercosmic sun" most likely occured, see Boyancé, Études, pp. 65-77. Recently A.P. Bos has argued that the story of the ascent to the sunlit world outside of the cave in Plato's Republic was explicitly connected by Aristotle with Plato's image in the Phaedrus of the ascent of the soul to the "place beyond the heavens," and that this connection played a central role in one of Aristotle's lost dialogues whose major elements were then preserved and utilized by Plutarch in his De Facie. See A.P. Bos, Cosmic and Meta-Cosmic Theology in Aristotle's Lost Dialogues (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1989): the argument is complex and the book should be read as a whole, but see esp. pp. 67-8, 182. The development of the concept of the "hypercosmic sun" also must, of course, be seen in the context of the evolution of the "solar theology" described by Franz Cumont in his La théologie solaire du paganisme romain (Paris: Librairie Kliensieck, 1909). A very important and intriguing argument is made for the presence of a tradition of a "hypercosmic sun" in Orphic circles by Hans Leisegang, "The Mystery of the Serpent," in Joseph Campbell, ed., The Mysteries (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1955) pp. 194-261. The Greek magical papyri and the Hermetic corpus provide numerous examples of solar imagery in which the sun is in various ways symbolically elevated to at least the summit of the cosmos if not explicitly to a "hypercosmic" level. Finally, Hermetic, Gnostic, and Neoplatonic texts all betray an almost obsessive concern with enumerating and distinguishing the various cosmic spheres and levels, and especially with establishing where the boundary lies between the cosmic and the hypercosmic realms (the hypercosmic realm being identified by the Hermetists and Neoplatonists with the "intelligible world" and by the Gnostics with the "Pleroma"). This concern with establishing the boundary between the cosmic and the hypercosmic must have fed into speculations about the "hypercosmic sun," and--intriguingly--one of the clearest symbolic formulations of this boundary between the cosmic and the hypercosmic is found in the religious system of the Chaldaean Oracles (exactly, that is, in the system in which we find explicitly formulated the image of the "hypercosmic sun"), where the figure of Hecate is understood as the symbolic embodiment of precisely this boundary (on the image of Hecate in the Chaldaean Oracles see now Sarah Iles Johnston, Hekate Soteira [Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1990]).
 IV, 3.11.14-22; trans. A.H. Armstrong, Plotinus (Cambridge, Mass., 1984) vol. 4, pp. 71-73.
 IV.3.17.1-6; ibid, pp. 87-89.
 Ibid., p. 88, n. 1.
 Or. 4.148A; trans. W. C. Wright, Julian (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1962) p. 405.
 Robert Turcan, Mithras Platonicus (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1975) p. 124. Julian was well acquainted with the Chaldaean Oracles: see Polymnia Athanassiadi-Fowden, Julian and Hellenism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981) pp. 143-53. Roger Beck has recently suggested that Julian is referring here to the Iranian cosmology in which the sun and moon are located beyond the stars (Planetary Gods and Planetary Orders in the Mysteries of Mithras [Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1988], pp. 2-3, n.2). However, Julian's intimate association with Iamblichus and the Chaldaean Oracles, in which the doctrine of the "hypercosmic sun" is well established, renders the possibility that Julian is referring to the Iranian tradition highly unlikely. As Hans Lewy says, "There seems to be no connection between [Julian's teaching] and Zoroaster's doctrine according to which the sun is situated above the fixed stars" (Chaldaean Oracles, p. 153, n. 317). However, it is certainly true that the existence of the Iranian cosmology placing the sun beyond the stars could easily have provided some additional motivation for the emergence of the identification between the "Persian" Mithras and the Platonic "hypercosmic sun" for which I have argued here. On the Iranian cosmology see M.L. West, Early Greek Philosophy and the Orient (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971), pp. 89-91; Walter Burkert, "Iranisches bei Anaximandros," Rheinisches Museum 106 (1963) pp. 97-134.
 It should be noted that the fact that the bull in the tauroctony faces to the right renders untenable Roger Beck's suggestion that the tauroctony is a picture of the night sky as seen by an observer on earth at the time of the setting of the constellation Taurus ("Cautes and Cautopates: Some Astronomical Considerations," Journal of Mithraic Studies 2.1  p. 10; Planetary Gods and Planetary Orders in the Mysteries of Mithras [Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1988] p. 20), since such an observer would see Taurus facing to the left. The fact that the bull in the tauroctony faces right is explicable only if we understand the tauroctony as the creation of someone who had in mind an astronomical star-globe showing the cosmic sphere as seen from the outside, and not-- as Beck argues-- an image of the sky as seen from the earth.
 That the rock from which Mithras is born was identified with the Orphic cosmic egg is in fact proven beyond doubt, as is well known, by the striking similarity between the Mithraic Housesteads monument (CIMRM 860), which shows Mithras being born out of an egg (which is thus identified with the rock from which he is usually born), and the famous Orphic Modena relief showing Phanes breaking out of the cosmic egg (CIMRM 695). In connection with this Orphic-Mithraic syncretism, Hans Leisegang, "Mystery of the Serpent" (above, n. 8), esp. pp. 201-215, has collected a fascinating body of material--including among other things the Modena relief and the passage from Julian which I have discussed above--supporting the contention that the breaking of the Orphic cosmic egg is linked directly with the concept of the "hypercosmic." Leisegang's discussion as a whole provides strong support for my general argument in this paper.
 Chaldaean Oracles Frag. 59 (= Proclus, In Tim. III.83.13-16); trans. Ruth Majercik, The Chaldaean Oracles (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1989) p. 73. The sun was often imagined in antiquity as a torchbearer, as for example in SVF 1:538: "Cleanthes... used to say... that the sun is a torchbearer" (cited in Jean Pépin, "Cosmic Piety," in Classical Mediterranean Spirituality [New York: Crossroad, 1986] p. 425); a fragment from Porphyry: "In the mysteries of Eleusis, the hierophant is dressed as demiurge, the torchbearer as the sun..." (also cited in Pepin, "Piety," p. 429); and of course Lucius in Apuleius' Golden Ass XI.24: "In my right hand I carried a lighted torch... thus I was adorned like unto the sun...." (trans. W. Adlington, Apuleius The Golden Ass [London: William Heinemann, 1928] p. 583).
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