Plotinus

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1.  WHO WAS PLOTINUS?

Plotinus (204/5 – 270) was a major Hellenistic philosopher who lived in Roman Egypt. In his philosophy, described in the Enneads, there are three principles: the One, the Intellect, and the Soul.

Much of the biographical information about Plotinus comes from Porphyry’s preface to his edition of Plotinus’ Enneads. His metaphysical writings have inspired centuries of Pagan, Jewish, Christian, Gnostic, and Islamic metaphysicians and mystics, including developing precepts that influence mainstream theological concepts within religions, such as his work on duality of the One in two metaphysical states that laid the foundation for Christian notions of Jesus being both god and man, a foundational idea in Christian theology.

Plotinus had an inherent distrust of materiality (an attitude common to Platonism), holding to the view that phenomena were a poor image or mimicry (mimesis) of something “higher and intelligible” (VI.I) which was the “truer part of genuine Being”. This distrust extended to the body, including his own; it is reported by Porphyry that at one point he refused to have his portrait painted, presumably for much the same reasons of dislike. Likewise Plotinus never discussed his ancestry, childhood, or his place or date of birth. From all accounts his personal and social life exhibited the highest moral and spiritual standards.

Plotinus wrote the essays that became the Enneads (from Greek ennea, or group of nine) over a period of several years from ca. 253 until a few months before his death seventeen years later.  According to the account of Eustochius, who attended him at the end, Plotinus’ final words were: “Try to raise the divine in yourselves to the divine in the all.”

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2. WHAT IS THE ESSENTIAL DIALECTIC OF PLOTINIAN PHILOSOPHY?

The Essential Dialectic of Plotinian Philosophy is:

{Soul-One ⇆ One-Soul ⇅ Soul-Soul} ↻ One-One

The Essential Dialectic of Plotinian Philosophy is the Nous-One, World-Soul, True-Human, Henosis-Happiness Dialectic because …

Plotinus organized the world into four levels. First is the One or the Good, which is simple (i.e., without parts, division or boundary) and above all Forms, essence and intelligibilitylike the sun, too bright to see. Second is the divine Mind or intelligible world, which contains all the Forms as Ideas in the divine intellect. Third is the Soul, which includes both the World and human souls, differing from the Mind because it is changeable and involved with bodies. Last is the visible material world, which is the realm of change, division and death. Plotinus’ spirituality is based on the desire for ultimate unity, and the conviction that the Soul is already, at its highest point, unified with the One.

3. WHAT IS THE COMPLETE DIALECTIC OF PLOTINIAN PHILOSOPHY?

The Complete Dialectic of Plotinian Philosophy is:

{Intelligible-One ⇆ World-Soul ⇅ True-Human} ↻ Henosis-Happiness

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4. WHAT IS THE EQUIVALENCY DIALECTIC OF PLOTINIAN PHILOSOPHY?

The Equivalency Dialectic of Plotinian Philosophy is:

{Plotinus ⇆ Aristotle ⇅ Plato} ↻ Socrates

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Plotinus: “Now the Supreme, because within are no differences, is eternally present; but we achieve such presence only when our differences are lost. We have at all times our centre There, though we do not at all times look Thither. We are like a company of singing dancers, who may turn their gaze outward and away, notwithstanding they have the choirmaster for centre; but when they are turned towards him, then they sing true and are truly centred upon him. Even so we encircle the Supreme Being always, and when we break the circle, it shall be our utter dissolution and cessation of being; but our eyes are not at all times fixed upon the Centre. Yet in our vision thereof is our attainment and our repose and the end of all discord, God in his dancers, and God the true Centre of the dance.”

“Proceeding inductively from the plurality of forms of religious experience, accepted as variously cognitive (and miscognitive) of transcendent reality, we have to distinguish between that transcendent reality, an sich and as it is experienced by human beings. Let us call the former the Eternal One—a tern which draws ambivalently upon two different sets of associations: on the one hand the mystical One of Plotinus and the One without second of the Upanishads, and on the other hand the One who is the divine Thou of the biblical narratives. For the Eternal One, as the ultimate transcendent reality, both lies beyond human experience and conceptuality and, at the same time, is the ground of all dependent being, including personal beings. The Eternal One is thus the divine noumenon which is experienced and thought within the different religious traditions as the range of divine phenomena witnessed to by the religious history of mankind.

The philosophical framework here is Kantian, but the proviso that the phenomenal world is the noumenal world as humanly experienced.” – John Hick, God has Many Names, pg. 83.