Neoplatonism

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Neoplatonism , is the modern term for a school of religious and mystical philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

 that took shape in the 3rd century AD, based on the teachings of Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

 and earlier Platonists
Platonism
Platonism is the philosophy of Plato or the name of other philosophical systems considered closely derived from it. In a narrower sense the term might indicate the doctrine of Platonic realism...

, with its earliest contributor believed to be Plotinus
Plotinus
Plotinus was a major philosopher of the ancient world. In his system of theory there are the three principles: the One, the Intellect, and the Soul. His teacher was Ammonius Saccas and he is of the Platonic tradition...

, and his teacher Ammonius Saccas
Ammonius Saccas
Ammonius Saccas was a Greek philosopher from Alexandria who was often referred to as one of the founders of Neoplatonism. He is mainly known as the teacher of Plotinus, whom he taught for eleven years from 232 to 243. He was undoubtably the biggest influence on Plotinus in his development of...

. Neoplatonists would have considered themselves simply Platonists, and the modern distinction is due to the perception that their philosophy contained sufficiently unique interpretations of Plato to make it substantially different from what Plato wrote and believed.

The Neoplatonism of Plotinus and Porphyry
Porphyry (philosopher)
Porphyry of Tyre , Porphyrios, AD 234–c. 305) was a Neoplatonic philosopher who was born in Tyre. He edited and published the Enneads, the only collection of the work of his teacher Plotinus. He also wrote many works himself on a wide variety of topics...

 has been referred to as in fact being orthodox Platonic philosophy by scholars like John D. Turner. This distinction provides a contrast with later movements of Neoplatonism, such as those of Iamblichus and Proclus
Proclus
Proclus Lycaeus , called "The Successor" or "Diadochos" , was a Greek Neoplatonist philosopher, one of the last major Classical philosophers . He set forth one of the most elaborate and fully developed systems of Neoplatonism...

, which embraced magical practices or theurgy
Theurgy
Theurgy describes the practice of rituals, sometimes seen as magical in nature, performed with the intention of invoking the action or evoking the presence of one or more gods, especially with the goal of uniting with the divine, achieving henosis, and perfecting oneself.- Definitions :*Proclus...

 as part of the soul's development in the process
Henosis
Henosis is the word for "oneness," "union," or "unity" in classical Greek, and is spelled identically in modern Greek where "Enosis" is particulary connected with the modern political "Unity" movement to unify Greece and Cyprus....

 of the soul's return to the Source
Monad (Greek philosophy)
Monad , according to the Pythagoreans, was a term for Divinity or the first being, or the totality of all beings, Monad being the source or the One meaning without division....

. Possibly Plotinus was motivated to clarify some of the traditions in the teachings of Plato that had been misrepresented before Iamblichus (see Neoplatonism and Gnosticism
Neoplatonism and Gnosticism
Neoplatonism is the modern term for a school of Hellenistic philosophy that took shape in the 3rd century, based on the teachings of Plato and some of his early followers. Neoplatonism took definitive shape with the philosopher Plotinus, who claimed to have received his teachings from Ammonius...

).

Neoplatonism took definitive shape with the philosopher Plotinus, who claimed to have received his teachings from Ammonius Saccas
Ammonius Saccas
Ammonius Saccas was a Greek philosopher from Alexandria who was often referred to as one of the founders of Neoplatonism. He is mainly known as the teacher of Plotinus, whom he taught for eleven years from 232 to 243. He was undoubtably the biggest influence on Plotinus in his development of...

, a philosopher in Alexandria
Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

.
Plotinus was also influenced by Alexander of Aphrodisias
Alexander of Aphrodisias
Alexander of Aphrodisias was a Peripatetic philosopher and the most celebrated of the Ancient Greek commentators on the writings of Aristotle. He was a native of Aphrodisias in Caria, and lived and taught in Athens at the beginning of the 3rd century, where he held a position as head of the...

 and Numenius of Apamea
Numenius of Apamea
Numenius of Apamea was a Greek philosopher, who lived in Apamea in Syria and flourished during the latter half of the 2nd century AD. He was a Neopythagorean and forerunner of the Neoplatonists.- Philosophy :...

. Plotinus's student Porphyry
Porphyry (philosopher)
Porphyry of Tyre , Porphyrios, AD 234–c. 305) was a Neoplatonic philosopher who was born in Tyre. He edited and published the Enneads, the only collection of the work of his teacher Plotinus. He also wrote many works himself on a wide variety of topics...

 assembled his teachings into the six sets of nine tractates, or Enneads
Enneads
The Six Enneads, sometimes abbreviated to The Enneads or Enneads , is the collection of writings of Plotinus, edited and compiled by his student Porphyry . Plotinus was a student of Ammonius Saccas and they were founders of Neoplatonism...

. Subsequent Neoplatonic philosophers included Iamblichus, Hypatia of Alexandria
Hypatia of Alexandria
Hypatia was an Egyptian Neoplatonist philosopher who was the first notable woman in mathematics. As head of the Platonist school at Alexandria, she also taught philosophy and astronomy...

, Hierocles of Alexandria
Hierocles of Alexandria
Hierocles of Alexandria was a Greek Neoplatonist writer who was active around AD 430.He studied under Plutarch at Athens in the early 5th century, and taught for some years in his native city. He seems to have been banished from Alexandria and to have taken up his abode in Constantinople, where he...

, Proclus
Proclus
Proclus Lycaeus , called "The Successor" or "Diadochos" , was a Greek Neoplatonist philosopher, one of the last major Classical philosophers . He set forth one of the most elaborate and fully developed systems of Neoplatonism...

 (by far the most influential of later Neoplatonists), Damascius
Damascius
Damascius , known as "the last of the Neoplatonists," was the last scholarch of the School of Athens. He was one of the pagan philosophers persecuted by Justinian in the early 6th century, and was forced for a time to seek refuge in the Persian court, before being allowed back into the empire...

 (last head of Neoplatonist School at Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

), Olympiodorus the Younger
Olympiodorus the Younger
Olympiodorus the Younger was a Neoplatonist philosopher, astrologer and teacher who lived in the early years of the Byzantine Empire, after Justinian's Decree of 529 A.D. which closed Plato's Academy in Athens and other pagan schools...

, and Simplicius of Cilicia
Simplicius of Cilicia
Simplicius of Cilicia, was a disciple of Ammonius Hermiae and Damascius, and was one of the last of the Neoplatonists. He was among the pagan philosophers persecuted by Justinian in the early 6th century, and was forced for a time to seek refuge in the Persian court, before being allowed back into...

.

Thinkers from the Neoplatonic school cross-pollinated with the thinkers of other intellectual schools. For instance, certain strands of Neoplatonism influenced Christian thinkers (such as Augustine
Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo , also known as Augustine, St. Augustine, St. Austin, St. Augoustinos, Blessed Augustine, or St. Augustine the Blessed, was Bishop of Hippo Regius . He was a Latin-speaking philosopher and theologian who lived in the Roman Africa Province...

, Boethius, John Scotus Eriugena
Johannes Scotus Eriugena
Johannes Scotus Eriugena was an Irish theologian, Neoplatonist philosopher, and poet. He is known for having translated and made commentaries upon the work of Pseudo-Dionysius.-Name:...

, and Bonaventure
Bonaventure
Saint Bonaventure, O.F.M., , born John of Fidanza , was an Italian medieval scholastic theologian and philosopher. The seventh Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor, he was also a Cardinal Bishop of Albano. He was canonized on 14 April 1482 by Pope Sixtus IV and declared a Doctor of the...

), while Christian thought influenced (and sometimes converted) Neoplatonic philosophers (such as Dionysius the Areopagite).
In the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 Neoplatonistic arguments were taken seriously in the thought of medieval Islamic and Jewish thinkers such as al-Farabi
Al-Farabi
' known in the West as Alpharabius , was a scientist and philosopher of the Islamic world...

 and Moses Maimonides, and experienced a revival in the Renaissance with the acquisition and translation of Greek and Arabic Neoplatonic texts.

Origins


The most important forerunners of Neoplatonism are the Middle Platonists
Middle Platonism
Middle Platonism is the modern name given to a stage in the development of Plato's philosophy, lasting from about 90 BC, when Antiochus of Ascalon rejected the scepticism of the New Academy, until the development of Neoplatonism under Plotinus in the 3rd century. Middle Platonism absorbed many...

, such as Plutarch
Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

, and the Neopythagoreans, especially Numenius of Apamea
Numenius of Apamea
Numenius of Apamea was a Greek philosopher, who lived in Apamea in Syria and flourished during the latter half of the 2nd century AD. He was a Neopythagorean and forerunner of the Neoplatonists.- Philosophy :...

. We also see a forerunner of Neoplatonism in Philo
Philo
Philo , known also as Philo of Alexandria , Philo Judaeus, Philo Judaeus of Alexandria, Yedidia, "Philon", and Philo the Jew, was a Hellenistic Jewish Biblical philosopher born in Alexandria....

 who translated Judaism
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

 into the terms of Stoic
STOIC
STOIC was a variant of Forth.It started out at the MIT and Harvard Biomedical Engineering Centre in Boston, and was written in the mid 1970s by Jonathan Sachs...

, Platonic
Platonism
Platonism is the philosophy of Plato or the name of other philosophical systems considered closely derived from it. In a narrower sense the term might indicate the doctrine of Platonic realism...

 and Neopythagorean elements, and held that God is "supra rational," who can be reached only through "ecstasy", and that the oracles of God supply the material of moral and religious knowledge. The earliest Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 philosophers, such as Justin
Justin Martyr
Justin Martyr, also known as just Saint Justin , was an early Christian apologist. Most of his works are lost, but two apologies and a dialogue survive. He is considered a saint by the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church....

 and Athenagoras
Athenagoras of Athens
Athenagoras was a Father of the Church, a Proto-orthodox Christian apologist who lived during the second half of the 2nd century of whom little is known for certain, besides that he was Athenian , a philosopher, and a convert to Christianity. In his writings he styles himself as "Athenagoras, the...

, who attempted to connect Christianity with Platonism
Platonism
Platonism is the philosophy of Plato or the name of other philosophical systems considered closely derived from it. In a narrower sense the term might indicate the doctrine of Platonic realism...

, and the Christian Gnostics of Alexandria
Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

, especially Valentinus
Valentinus (Gnostic)
Valentinus was the best known and for a time most successful early Christian gnostic theologian. He founded his school in Rome...

 and the followers of Basilides
Basilides
Basilides was an early Gnostic religious teacher in Alexandria, Egypt who taught from 117–138 AD, notes that to prove that the heretical sects were "later than the catholic Church," Clement of Alexandria assigns Christ's own teaching to the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius; that of the apostles,...

, also mirrored elements of Neoplatonism, albeit without its rigorous self-consistency. There is, however, no evidence in Plotinus for any actual influence of Jewish and Christian philosophy, and undoubtedly, Alexandria, where Neoplatonism originated, was bathed in eastern methods of worship accessible to everyone. It is only the later Neoplatonism, from Iamblichus onwards, that offers striking and deep-rooted parallels to Philo and the Gnostics.

Platonism and Neoplatonism


The philosophers called Neoplatonists did not found a school as much as attempt to preserve the teachings of Plato. They regarded themselves as Platonists. The concept of the One was not as clearly defined in the Timaeus
Timaeus (dialogue)
Timaeus is one of Plato's dialogues, mostly in the form of a long monologue given by the title character, written circa 360 BC. The work puts forward speculation on the nature of the physical world and human beings. It is followed by the dialogue Critias.Speakers of the dialogue are Socrates,...

(the good above the demiurge
Demiurge
The demiurge is a concept from the Platonic, Neopythagorean, Middle Platonic, and Neoplatonic schools of philosophy for an artisan-like figure responsible for the fashioning and maintenance of the physical universe. The term was subsequently adopted by the Gnostics...

) as it later was by the Enneads
Enneads
The Six Enneads, sometimes abbreviated to The Enneads or Enneads , is the collection of writings of Plotinus, edited and compiled by his student Porphyry . Plotinus was a student of Ammonius Saccas and they were founders of Neoplatonism...

: however the passage in the Republic (509c) in which the Sun is said to symbolise The Good (or The One) can be seen as ample justification for the late Platonists view of The One—for here Plato calls The Good, "beyond essence," especially when this is placed alongside the range of attributes denied of The One in the Parmenides. The afterlife Socrates defines in the Phaedo
Phaedo
Plato's Phaedo is one of the great dialogues of his middle period, along with the Republic and the Symposium. The Phaedo, which depicts the death of Socrates, is also Plato's seventh and last dialogue to detail the philosopher's final days .In the dialogue, Socrates...

is also different from the afterlife of the person or soul in the Enneads
Enneads
The Six Enneads, sometimes abbreviated to The Enneads or Enneads , is the collection of writings of Plotinus, edited and compiled by his student Porphyry . Plotinus was a student of Ammonius Saccas and they were founders of Neoplatonism...

. The soul returns to the Monad
Monism
Monism is any philosophical view which holds that there is unity in a given field of inquiry. Accordingly, some philosophers may hold that the universe is one rather than dualistic or pluralistic...

 or One in Plotinus' works. This is the highest goal of existence, reflected in the process of henosis
Henosis
Henosis is the word for "oneness," "union," or "unity" in classical Greek, and is spelled identically in modern Greek where "Enosis" is particulary connected with the modern political "Unity" movement to unify Greece and Cyprus....

. In both the Enneads and Phaedo
Phaedo
Plato's Phaedo is one of the great dialogues of his middle period, along with the Republic and the Symposium. The Phaedo, which depicts the death of Socrates, is also Plato's seventh and last dialogue to detail the philosopher's final days .In the dialogue, Socrates...

there are different afterlives : one could be re-incarnated, one could receive punishment, or one could go to Hades to be with the heroes of old. This last one for Socrates was the highest ideal afterlife. This is in contrast to Neoplatonism's ideal afterlife of returning to the One or Monad. However, what is said in the Phaedrus (248c-249d) reconciles these two apparently conflicting views: for Socrates in this dialogue shows that a movement from life to life (including periods in Hades) is part of a much greater cycle that culminates in perfection and a divine life.

Teachings


Neoplatonism is generally a religious philosophy. Neoplatonism is a form of idealistic
Idealism
In philosophy, idealism is the family of views which assert that reality, or reality as we can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. Epistemologically, idealism manifests as a skepticism about the possibility of knowing any mind-independent thing...

 monism
Monism
Monism is any philosophical view which holds that there is unity in a given field of inquiry. Accordingly, some philosophers may hold that the universe is one rather than dualistic or pluralistic...

 (also called theistic monism) and combines elements of Polytheism
Polytheism
Polytheism is the belief of multiple deities also usually assembled into a pantheon of gods and goddesses, along with their own mythologies and rituals....

 (see Monistic-polytheism).

Although the founder of Neoplatonism is supposed to have been Ammonius Saccas
Ammonius Saccas
Ammonius Saccas was a Greek philosopher from Alexandria who was often referred to as one of the founders of Neoplatonism. He is mainly known as the teacher of Plotinus, whom he taught for eleven years from 232 to 243. He was undoubtably the biggest influence on Plotinus in his development of...

, the Enneads
Enneads
The Six Enneads, sometimes abbreviated to The Enneads or Enneads , is the collection of writings of Plotinus, edited and compiled by his student Porphyry . Plotinus was a student of Ammonius Saccas and they were founders of Neoplatonism...

of his pupil Plotinus
Plotinus
Plotinus was a major philosopher of the ancient world. In his system of theory there are the three principles: the One, the Intellect, and the Soul. His teacher was Ammonius Saccas and he is of the Platonic tradition...

 are the primary and classical document of Neoplatonism. As a form of mysticism, it contains theoretical and practical parts, the first dealing with the high origin of the human soul
Soul
A soul in certain spiritual, philosophical, and psychological traditions is the incorporeal essence of a person or living thing or object. Many philosophical and spiritual systems teach that humans have souls, and others teach that all living things and even inanimate objects have souls. The...

 showing how it has departed from its first estate, and the second showing the way by which the soul may again return to the Eternal and Supreme. The system can be divided between the invisible world and the phenomenal world, the former containing the transcendent
Transcendence (religion)
In religion transcendence refers to the aspect of God's nature which is wholly independent of the physical universe. This is contrasted with immanence where God is fully present in the physical world and thus accessible to creatures in various ways...

 One
Absolute (philosophy)
The Absolute is the concept of an unconditional reality which transcends limited, conditional, everyday existence. It is sometimes used as an alternate term for "God" or "the Divine", especially, but by no means exclusively, by those who feel that the term "God" lends itself too easily to...

 from which emanates
Emanationism
Emanationism is an idea in the cosmology or cosmogony of certain religious or philosophical systems. Emanation, from the Latin emanare meaning "to flow from" or "to pour forth or out of", is the mode by which all things are derived from the First Reality, or Principle...

 an eternal, perfect, essence (nous
Nous
Nous , also called intellect or intelligence, is a philosophical term for the faculty of the human mind which is described in classical philosophy as necessary for understanding what is true or real, very close in meaning to intuition...

), which, in turn, produces the world-soul
Anima Mundi
Anima mundī is Latin meaning "the soul of the world" which can refer to:*Anima mundi, the soul of the world*Anima Mundi , a 1991 documentary film directed by Godfrey Reggio*Anima Mundi , a Brazilian video and film festival...

.

The One


The primeval Source of Being is the One
Absolute (philosophy)
The Absolute is the concept of an unconditional reality which transcends limited, conditional, everyday existence. It is sometimes used as an alternate term for "God" or "the Divine", especially, but by no means exclusively, by those who feel that the term "God" lends itself too easily to...

 and the Infinite, as opposed to the many and the finite. It is the source of all life
Life
Life is a characteristic that distinguishes objects that have signaling and self-sustaining processes from those that do not, either because such functions have ceased , or else because they lack such functions and are classified as inanimate...

, and therefore absolute causality and the only real existence. However, the important feature of it is that it is beyond all Being, although the source of it. Therefore, it cannot be known through reasoning or understanding, since only what is part of Being can be thus known according to Plato. Being beyond existence, it is the most real reality, source of less real things. It is, moreover, the Good, insofar as all finite things have their purpose in it, and ought to flow back to it. But one cannot attach moral attributes to the original Source of Being itself, because these would imply limitation. It has no attributes of any kind; it is being without magnitude, without life, without thought; in strict propriety, indeed, we ought not to speak of it as existing; it is "above existence," "above goodness." It is also active force without a substratum; as active force the primeval Source of Being is perpetually producing something else, without alteration, or motion, or diminution of itself. This production is not a physical process, but an emission of force; and, since the product has real existence only in virtue of the original existence working in it, Neoplatonism may be described as a species of dynamic panentheism
Panentheism
Panentheism is a belief system which posits that God exists, interpenetrates every part of nature and timelessly extends beyond it...

. Directly or indirectly, everything is brought forth by the "One." In it all things, so far as they have being, are divine, and God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 is all in all. Derived existence, however, is not like the original Source of Being itself, but is subject to a law of diminishing completeness. It is indeed an image and reflection of the first Source of Being; but the further the line of successive projections is prolonged the smaller is its share in the true existence. The totality of being may thus be conceived as a series of concentric circles, fading away towards the verge of non-existence, the force of the original Being in the outermost circle being a vanishing quantity. Each lower stage of being is united with the "One" by all the higher stages, and receives its share of reality only by transmission through them. All derived existence, however, has a drift towards, a longing for, the higher, and bends towards it so far as its nature will permit. Plotinus' treatment of the substance or essence (ousia
Ousia
Ousia is the Ancient Greek noun formed on the feminine present participle of ; it is analogous to the English participle being, and the modern philosophy adjectival ontic...

) of the one was to reconcile Plato and Aristotle. Where Aristotle treated the monad as a single entity made up of one substance (here as energeia). Plotinus reconciled Aristotle with Plato's "the good" by expressing the substance or essence of the one as potential or force
Dunamis
In philosophy, Potentiality and Actuality are principles of a dichotomy which Aristotle used throughout his philosophical works to analyze motion, causality, ethics, and physiology in his Physics, Metaphysics, Ethics and De Anima .The concept of potentiality, in this context, generally refers to...

.

Demiurge or Nous


The original Being initially emanates
Emanationism
Emanationism is an idea in the cosmology or cosmogony of certain religious or philosophical systems. Emanation, from the Latin emanare meaning "to flow from" or "to pour forth or out of", is the mode by which all things are derived from the First Reality, or Principle...

, or throws out, the nous
Nous
Nous , also called intellect or intelligence, is a philosophical term for the faculty of the human mind which is described in classical philosophy as necessary for understanding what is true or real, very close in meaning to intuition...

, which is a perfect image of the One and the archetype of all existing things. It is simultaneously both being and thought, idea and ideal world. As image, the nous corresponds perfectly to the One, but as derivative, it is entirely different. What Plotinus understands by the nous is the highest sphere accessible to the human mind, while also being pure intellect itself. As nous is the most critical component of idealism
Idealism
In philosophy, idealism is the family of views which assert that reality, or reality as we can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. Epistemologically, idealism manifests as a skepticism about the possibility of knowing any mind-independent thing...

, Neoplatonism being a pure form of idealism. The demiurge
Demiurge
The demiurge is a concept from the Platonic, Neopythagorean, Middle Platonic, and Neoplatonic schools of philosophy for an artisan-like figure responsible for the fashioning and maintenance of the physical universe. The term was subsequently adopted by the Gnostics...

 (the nous) is the energy, or ergon (does the work), that manifests or organizes the material world into perceivability
Perception
Perception is the process of attaining awareness or understanding of the environment by organizing and interpreting sensory information. All perception involves signals in the nervous system, which in turn result from physical stimulation of the sense organs...

.

The world-soul


The image and product of the motionless nous is the world-soul
Anima Mundi
Anima mundī is Latin meaning "the soul of the world" which can refer to:*Anima mundi, the soul of the world*Anima Mundi , a 1991 documentary film directed by Godfrey Reggio*Anima Mundi , a Brazilian video and film festival...

, which, according to Plotinus, is immaterial like the nous. Its relation to the nous is the same as that of the nous to the One. It stands between the nous and the phenomenal world, is permeated and illuminated by the former, but is also in contact with the latter. The nous is indivisible; the world-soul may preserve its unity and remain in the nous, but at the same time it has the power of uniting with the corporeal world and thus being disintegrated. It therefore occupies an intermediate position. As a single world-soul it belongs in essence and destination to the intelligible world; but it also embraces innumerable individual souls; and these can either allow themselves to be informed by the nous, or turn aside from the nous and choose the phenomenal world and lose themselves in the realm of the senses and the finite.

The phenomenal world


The soul, as a moving essence, generates the corporeal or phenomenal world. This world ought to be so pervaded by the soul that its various parts should remain in perfect harmony. Plotinus is no dualist in the same sense as sects like the Gnostics; in contrast he admires the beauty and splendor of the world. So long as idea governs matter, or the soul governs the body, the world is fair and good. It is an image - though a shadowy image - of the upper world, and the degrees of better and worse in it are essential to the harmony of the whole. But in the actual phenomenal world unity and harmony are replaced by strife or discord; the result is a conflict, a becoming
Becoming (philosophy)
The concept of becoming was born in eastern ancient Greece by the philosopher Heraclitus of Hephesus, who in the Sixth century BC, said that nothing in this world is constant except change or becoming...

 and vanishing, an illusive existence. And the reason for this state of things is that bodies rest on a substratum
Substratum
In linguistics, a stratum or strate is a language that influences, or is influenced by another through contact. A substratum is a language which has lower power or prestige than another, while a superstratum is the language that has higher power or prestige. Both substratum and superstratum...

 of matter. Matter is the indeterminate: that with no qualities. If destitute of form and idea, it is evil; as capable of form it is neutral. Evil here is understood as a parasite, having no-existence of its own (parahypostasis), unavoidable outcome of the Universe, having an "other" necessity, as a harmonizing factor.

Practice


Here, then, we enter upon the practical philosophy. Along the same road by which it descended the soul must retrace its steps back to the supreme Good. It must first of all return to itself. This is accomplished by the practice of virtue
Virtue
Virtue is moral excellence. A virtue is a positive trait or quality subjectively deemed to be morally excellent and thus is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being....

, which aims at likeness to God, and leads up to God. In the ethics
Ethics
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, etc.Major branches of ethics include:...

 of Plotinus all the older schemes of virtue are taken over and arranged in a graduated series. The lowest stage is that of the civil virtues, then follow the purifying, and last of all the divine virtues. The civil virtues merely adorn the life, without elevating the soul. That is the office of the purifying virtues, by which the soul is freed from sensuality and led back to itself, and thence to the nous. By means of ascetic observances the human becomes once more a spiritual and enduring being, free from all sin. But there is still a higher attainment; it is not enough to be sinless, one must become "God", (henosis
Henosis
Henosis is the word for "oneness," "union," or "unity" in classical Greek, and is spelled identically in modern Greek where "Enosis" is particulary connected with the modern political "Unity" movement to unify Greece and Cyprus....

). This is reached through contemplation of the primeval Being, the One — in other words, through an ecstatic approach to it. Thought cannot attain to this, for thought reaches only to the nous, and is itself a kind of motion
Motion (physics)
In physics, motion is a change in position of an object with respect to time. Change in action is the result of an unbalanced force. Motion is typically described in terms of velocity, acceleration, displacement and time . An object's velocity cannot change unless it is acted upon by a force, as...

. It is only in a state of perfect passivity and repose that the soul can recognize and touch the primeval Being. Hence the soul must first pass through a spiritual curriculum. Beginning with the contemplation of corporeal things in their multiplicity and harmony, it then retires upon itself and withdraws into the depths of its own being, rising thence to the nous, the world of ideas. But even there it does not find the Highest, the One; it still hears a voice saying, "not we have made ourselves." The last stage is reached when, in the highest tension and concentration, beholding in silence and utter forgetfulness of all things, it is able as it were to lose itself. Then it may see God, the foundation of life, the source of being, the origin of all good, the root of the soul. In that moment it enjoys the highest indescribable bliss; it is as it were swallowed up of divinity, bathed in the light of eternity. Porphyry tells us that on four occasions during the six years of their intercourse Plotinus attained to this ecstatic union with God.

Celestial hierarchy


The religious philosophy of Plotinus for himself personally sufficed, without the aid of the popular religion or worship. Nevertheless he sought for points of support in these. God is certainly in the truest sense nothing but the primeval Being who is revealed in a variety of emanations and manifestations. Plotinus taught the existence of an ineffable and transcendent
Transcendence (religion)
In religion transcendence refers to the aspect of God's nature which is wholly independent of the physical universe. This is contrasted with immanence where God is fully present in the physical world and thus accessible to creatures in various ways...

 One
Absolute (philosophy)
The Absolute is the concept of an unconditional reality which transcends limited, conditional, everyday existence. It is sometimes used as an alternate term for "God" or "the Divine", especially, but by no means exclusively, by those who feel that the term "God" lends itself too easily to...

, the All, from which emanated the rest of the universe as a sequence of lesser beings. Later Neoplatonic philosophers, especially Iamblichus, added hundreds of intermediate beings such as gods, angels and demons, and other beings as mediators between the One and humanity. The Neoplatonist gods are omni-perfect beings and do not display the usual amoral behaviour associated with their representations in the myths.

The One
God, The Good. Transcendent and ineffable.

The Hypercosmic Gods
Those that make Essence, Life, and Soul

The Demiurge
Demiurge
The demiurge is a concept from the Platonic, Neopythagorean, Middle Platonic, and Neoplatonic schools of philosophy for an artisan-like figure responsible for the fashioning and maintenance of the physical universe. The term was subsequently adopted by the Gnostics...

The creator

The Cosmic Gods
Those who make Being, Nature, and Matter—including the gods known to us from classical religion

Salvation


Neoplatonists believed human perfection and happiness were attainable in this world, without awaiting an afterlife
Afterlife
The afterlife is the belief that a part of, or essence of, or soul of an individual, which carries with it and confers personal identity, survives the death of the body of this world and this lifetime, by natural or supernatural means, in contrast to the belief in eternal...

. Perfection and happiness— seen as synonymous— could be achieved through philosophical contemplation
Contemplation
The word contemplation comes from the Latin word contemplatio. Its root is also that of the Latin word templum, a piece of ground consecrated for the taking of auspices, or a building for worship, derived either from Proto-Indo-European base *tem- "to cut", and so a "place reserved or cut out" or...

.

They did not believe in an independent existence of evil
Evil
Evil is the violation of, or intent to violate, some moral code. Evil is usually seen as the dualistic opposite of good. Definitions of evil vary along with analysis of its root motive causes, however general actions commonly considered evil include: conscious and deliberate wrongdoing,...

. They compared it to darkness, which does not exist in itself but only as the absence of light. So too, evil is simply the absence of good. Things are good insofar as they exist; they are evil only insofar as they are imperfect, lacking some good that they should have. It is also a cornerstone of Neoplatonism to teach that all people return to the Source. The Source, Absolute, or One is what all things spring from and, as a superconsciousness (nous), is where all things return. It can be said that all consciousness is wiped clean and returned to a blank slate
Blank Slate
Blank Slate is an initiative run by UK film production company B3 Media that seeks to develop and nurture film making talent from a minority background...

 when returning to the Source. All things have force or potential (dynamis) as their essence
Essence
In philosophy, essence is the attribute or set of attributes that make an object or substance what it fundamentally is, and which it has by necessity, and without which it loses its identity. Essence is contrasted with accident: a property that the object or substance has contingently, without...

. This dynamis begets energy (energeia). When people return to the Source, their energy returns to the One, Monad, or Source and is then recycled into the cosmos, where it can be broken up and then amalgamated into other things.

The Neoplatonists believed in the pre-existence, and immortality
Immortality
Immortality is the ability to live forever. It is unknown whether human physical immortality is an achievable condition. Biological forms have inherent limitations which may or may not be able to be overcome through medical interventions or engineering...

 of the soul. The human soul consists of a lower irrational soul and a higher rational soul (mind
Mind
The concept of mind is understood in many different ways by many different traditions, ranging from panpsychism and animism to traditional and organized religious views, as well as secular and materialist philosophies. Most agree that minds are constituted by conscious experience and intelligent...

), both of which can be regarded as different powers of the one soul. It was widely held that the soul possesses a "vehicle", accounting for the human soul's immortality and allowing for its return to the One after death. After bodily death, the soul takes up a level in the afterlife
Afterlife
The afterlife is the belief that a part of, or essence of, or soul of an individual, which carries with it and confers personal identity, survives the death of the body of this world and this lifetime, by natural or supernatural means, in contrast to the belief in eternal...

 corresponding with the level at which it lived during its earthly life. The Neoplatonists believed in the principle of reincarnation
Reincarnation
Reincarnation best describes the concept where the soul or spirit, after the death of the body, is believed to return to live in a new human body, or, in some traditions, either as a human being, animal or plant...

. Although the most pure and holy souls would dwell in the highest regions, the impure soul would undergo a purification, before descending again, to be reincarnated into a new body, perhaps into animal form. A soul that has returned to the One, achieves union with the cosmic universal soul, and does not descend again, at least, not in this world period.

Logos


The term "Logos" was interpreted variously in neoplatonism. Plotinus
Plotinus
Plotinus was a major philosopher of the ancient world. In his system of theory there are the three principles: the One, the Intellect, and the Soul. His teacher was Ammonius Saccas and he is of the Platonic tradition...

 refers to Thales
Thales
Thales of Miletus was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher from Miletus in Asia Minor, and one of the Seven Sages of Greece. Many, most notably Aristotle, regard him as the first philosopher in the Greek tradition...

 in interpreting Logos as the principle of meditation, the interrelationship between the Hypostases (Soul, Spirit (nous) and the 'One'). St. John
John the Evangelist
Saint John the Evangelist is the conventional name for the author of the Gospel of John...

 introduces a relation between 'Logos' and the Son, Christ
Christ
Christ is the English term for the Greek meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew , usually transliterated into English as Messiah or Mashiach...

, while St. Paul
Paul of Tarsus
Paul the Apostle , also known as Saul of Tarsus, is described in the Christian New Testament as one of the most influential early Christian missionaries, with the writings ascribed to him by the church forming a considerable portion of the New Testament...

 calls it 'Son', 'Image' and 'Form'. Victorinus
Victorinus
Marcus Piavonius Victorinus was emperor of the secessionist Gallic Empire from 269 to 271, following the brief reign of Marius. He was murdered by a jealous husband whose wife he tried to seduce.-Reign:...

 subsequently differentiated the Logos interior to God and the Logos related to the world by creation and salvation.

Augustine
Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo , also known as Augustine, St. Augustine, St. Austin, St. Augoustinos, Blessed Augustine, or St. Augustine the Blessed, was Bishop of Hippo Regius . He was a Latin-speaking philosopher and theologian who lived in the Roman Africa Province...

 re-interpreted Aristotle and Plato in the light of early Christian
Early Christianity
Early Christianity is generally considered as Christianity before 325. The New Testament's Book of Acts and Epistle to the Galatians records that the first Christian community was centered in Jerusalem and its leaders included James, Peter and John....

 thought. In his Confessions
Confessions (St. Augustine)
Confessions is the name of an autobiographical work, consisting of 13 books, by St. Augustine of Hippo, written between AD 397 and AD 398. Modern English translations of it are sometimes published under the title The Confessions of St...

he describes the Logos as the divine eternal Word. Augustine's Logos "took on flesh" in Christ, in whom the logos was present as in no other man. He influenced Christian thought throughout the Hellenistic
Hellenism
Hellenism may refer to:*Hellenic studies*Hellenistic civilization*Hellenistic period, in Greek antiquity*Hellenistic Greece*Hellenization, the spread of Greek culture over foreign peoples*Hellenistic philosophy in the Hellenistic period and late antiquity...

 world and strongly influenced Early Medieval Christian Philosophy. Perhaps the key subject in this was Logos.

After Plotinus
Plotinus
Plotinus was a major philosopher of the ancient world. In his system of theory there are the three principles: the One, the Intellect, and the Soul. His teacher was Ammonius Saccas and he is of the Platonic tradition...

' (around 205–270 A.D.) and his student Porphyry
Porphyry (philosopher)
Porphyry of Tyre , Porphyrios, AD 234–c. 305) was a Neoplatonic philosopher who was born in Tyre. He edited and published the Enneads, the only collection of the work of his teacher Plotinus. He also wrote many works himself on a wide variety of topics...

 (around 232–309 A.D.) Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

's (non-biological) works entered the curriculum
Curriculum
See also Syllabus.In formal education, a curriculum is the set of courses, and their content, offered at a school or university. As an idea, curriculum stems from the Latin word for race course, referring to the course of deeds and experiences through which children grow to become mature adults...

 of Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

nic thought. Porphyry's introduction (Isagoge
Isagoge
The Isagoge or "Introduction" to Aristotle's "Categories", written by Porphyry in Greek and translated into Latin by Boethius, was the standard textbook on logic for at least a millennium after his death. It was composed by Porphyry in Sicily during the years 268-270, and sent to Chrysaorium,...

) to Aristotle's Categoria
Categories (Aristotle)
The Categories is a text from Aristotle's Organon that enumerates all the possible kinds of thing that can be the subject or the predicate of a proposition...

was important as an introduction to logic
Logic
In philosophy, Logic is the formal systematic study of the principles of valid inference and correct reasoning. Logic is used in most intellectual activities, but is studied primarily in the disciplines of philosophy, mathematics, semantics, and computer science...

 and the study of Aristotle, remarkably enough, became an introduction to the study of Plato in the late Platonism of Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

 and Alexandria
Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

. The commentaries of this group seek to harmonise Plato, Aristotle and, often, the Stoa
Stoa
Stoa in Ancient Greek architecture; covered walkways or porticos, commonly for public usage. Early stoae were open at the entrance with columns, usually of the Doric order, lining the side of the building; they created a safe, enveloping, protective atmosphere.Later examples were built as two...

. Some works of neoplatonism were attributed to Plato or Aristotle. De Mundo, for instance, is thought not to be the work of a 'pseudo-Aristotle' though this remains debatable.

Ammonius Saccas


Ammonius Saccas
Ammonius Saccas
Ammonius Saccas was a Greek philosopher from Alexandria who was often referred to as one of the founders of Neoplatonism. He is mainly known as the teacher of Plotinus, whom he taught for eleven years from 232 to 243. He was undoubtably the biggest influence on Plotinus in his development of...

 (birth unknown death ca. 265 CE, Greek: Ἀμμώνιος Σακκᾶς) is a founder of Neoplatonism and the teacher of Plotinus. Little is known of the teacher other than both Christians (see Eusebius, Jerome
Jerome
Saint Jerome was a Roman Christian priest, confessor, theologian and historian, and who became a Doctor of the Church. He was the son of Eusebius, of the city of Stridon, which was on the border of Dalmatia and Pannonia...

, and Origen
Origen
Origen , or Origen Adamantius, 184/5–253/4, was an early Christian Alexandrian scholar and theologian, and one of the most distinguished writers of the early Church. As early as the fourth century, his orthodoxy was suspect, in part because he believed in the pre-existence of souls...

) and pagans (see Porphyry
Porphyry (philosopher)
Porphyry of Tyre , Porphyrios, AD 234–c. 305) was a Neoplatonic philosopher who was born in Tyre. He edited and published the Enneads, the only collection of the work of his teacher Plotinus. He also wrote many works himself on a wide variety of topics...

 and Plotinus
Plotinus
Plotinus was a major philosopher of the ancient world. In his system of theory there are the three principles: the One, the Intellect, and the Soul. His teacher was Ammonius Saccas and he is of the Platonic tradition...

) claim him a teacher and founder of the Neoplatonic system. Porphyry stated in On the One School of Plato and Aristotle, that Ammonius' view was that the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle were in harmony. Eusebius and Jerome
Jerome
Saint Jerome was a Roman Christian priest, confessor, theologian and historian, and who became a Doctor of the Church. He was the son of Eusebius, of the city of Stridon, which was on the border of Dalmatia and Pannonia...

 claimed him as a Christian until his death, whereas Porphyry claimed he had renounced Christianity and embraced pagan philosophy.

Plotinus


Plotinus
Plotinus
Plotinus was a major philosopher of the ancient world. In his system of theory there are the three principles: the One, the Intellect, and the Soul. His teacher was Ammonius Saccas and he is of the Platonic tradition...

 (Greek: Πλωτῖνος) (ca. 205–270) was a major Greco - Egyptian philosopher of the ancient world who is widely considered the father of Neoplatonism. Much of our biographical information about him comes from Porphyry's preface to his edition of Plotinus' Enneads. While he was himself influenced by the teachings of classical Greek
Greek philosophy
Ancient Greek philosophy arose in the 6th century BCE and continued through the Hellenistic period, at which point Ancient Greece was incorporated in the Roman Empire...

, Persian
Iranian philosophy
Iranian philosophy or Persian philosophy can be traced back as far as to Old Iranian philosophical traditions and thoughts which originated in ancient Indo-Iranian roots and were considerably influenced by Zarathustra's teachings...

 and Indian philosophy
Indian philosophy
India has a rich and diverse philosophical tradition dating back to ancient times. According to Radhakrishnan, the earlier Upanisads constitute "...the earliest philosophical compositions of the world."...

 and Egyptian theology, his metaphysical writings later inspired numerous Christian
Christian philosophy
Christian philosophy may refer to any development in philosophy that is characterised by coming from a Christian tradition.- Origins of Christian philosophy :...

, Jewish
Jewish philosophy
Jewish philosophy , includes all philosophy carried out by Jews, or, in relation to the religion of Judaism. Jewish philosophy, until modern Enlightenment and Emancipation, was pre-occupied with attempts to reconcile coherent new ideas into the tradition of Rabbinic Judaism; thus organizing...

, Islamic
Early Islamic philosophy
Early Islamic philosophy or classical Islamic philosophy is a period of intense philosophical development beginning in the 2nd century AH of the Islamic calendar and lasting until the 6th century AH...

 and Gnostic
Gnosticism
Gnosticism is a scholarly term for a set of religious beliefs and spiritual practices common to early Christianity, Hellenistic Judaism, Greco-Roman mystery religions, Zoroastrianism , and Neoplatonism.A common characteristic of some of these groups was the teaching that the realisation of Gnosis...

 metaphysicians and mystics over the centuries.
Plotinus taught that there is a supreme, totally transcendent "One", containing no division, multiplicity or distinction; likewise it is beyond all categories of being and non-being. The concept of "being" is derived by us from the objects of human experience, and is an attribute of such objects, but the infinite, transcendent One is beyond all such objects, and therefore is beyond the concepts that we derive from them. The One "cannot be any existing thing", and cannot be merely the sum of all such things (compare the Stoic doctrine of disbelief in non-material existence), but "is prior to all existents".

Porphyry


Porphyry
Porphyry (philosopher)
Porphyry of Tyre , Porphyrios, AD 234–c. 305) was a Neoplatonic philosopher who was born in Tyre. He edited and published the Enneads, the only collection of the work of his teacher Plotinus. He also wrote many works himself on a wide variety of topics...

 (Greek: Πορφύριος, c. A.D. 233– c. 309) was a Syrian
Syria (Roman province)
Syria was a Roman province, annexed in 64 BC by Pompey, as a consequence of his military presence after pursuing victory in the Third Mithridatic War. It remained under Roman, and subsequently Byzantine, rule for seven centuries, until 637 when it fell to the Islamic conquests.- Principate :The...

 Neoplatonist philosopher. He wrote widely on astrology, religion, philosophy, and musical theory. He produced a biography of his teacher, Plotinus. He is important in the history of mathematics because of his Life of Pythagoras, and his commentary on Euclid's Elements, which Pappus used when he wrote his own commentary.[1]
Porphyry is also known as an opponent of Christianity and defender of Paganism; of his Adversus Christianos (Against the Christians) in 15 books, only fragments remain. He famously said, "The gods have proclaimed Christ to have been most pious, but the Christians are a confused and vicious sect."

Iamblichus


Iamblichus, also known as Iamblichus Chalcidensis, (ca. 245 - ca. 325, Greek: Ἰάμβλιχος) was a Syrian
History of Syria
The history of Syria:*Prehistory and Ancient Near East: see Pre-history of the Southern Levant, Fertile Crescent, Ebla, Mitanni*Antiquity: see Syro-Hittite states, Greater Syria, Roman Syria...

 neoplatonist philosopher who determined the direction taken by later Neoplatonic philosophy, and perhaps western philosophical religions themselves. He is perhaps best known for his compendium on Pythagorean philosophy.
In Iamblichus' system the realm of divinities stretched from the original One down to material nature itself, where soul in fact descended into matter and became "embodied" as human beings. The world is thus peopled by a crowd of superhuman beings influencing natural events and possessing and communicating knowledge of the future, and who are all accessible to prayers and offerings.
Iamblichus had salvation as his final goal (see henosis
Henosis
Henosis is the word for "oneness," "union," or "unity" in classical Greek, and is spelled identically in modern Greek where "Enosis" is particulary connected with the modern political "Unity" movement to unify Greece and Cyprus....

). The embodied soul was to return to divinity by performing certain rites, or theurgy
Theurgy
Theurgy describes the practice of rituals, sometimes seen as magical in nature, performed with the intention of invoking the action or evoking the presence of one or more gods, especially with the goal of uniting with the divine, achieving henosis, and perfecting oneself.- Definitions :*Proclus...

, literally, 'divine-working', which is also translated as magic, by which is meant the kind of religious ritual common among many types of Paganism today..

Proclus


Proclus
Proclus
Proclus Lycaeus , called "The Successor" or "Diadochos" , was a Greek Neoplatonist philosopher, one of the last major Classical philosophers . He set forth one of the most elaborate and fully developed systems of Neoplatonism...

 Lycaeus (February 8, 412 – April 17, 485), surnamed "The Successor" or "diadochos" (Greek Πρόκλος ὁ Διάδοχος Próklos ho Diádokhos), was a Greek Neoplatonist philosopher, one of the last major Greek philosophers (see Damascius). He set forth one of the most elaborate, complex, and fully developed Neoplatonic systems.
The particular characteristic of Proclus' system is his insertion of a level of individual ones, called henads between the One itself and the divine Intellect, which is the second principle. The henads are beyond being, like the One itself, but they stand at the head of chains of causation (seirai or taxeis) and in some manner give to these chains their particular character. They are also identified with the traditional Greek gods, so one henad might be Apollo and be the cause of all things apollonian, while another might be Helios and be the cause of all sunny things. The henads serve both to protect the One itself from any hint of multiplicity, and to draw up the rest of the universe towards the One, by being a connecting, intermediate stage between absolute unity and determinate multiplicity.

Emperor Julian


Julian
Julian the Apostate
Julian "the Apostate" , commonly known as Julian, or also Julian the Philosopher, was Roman Emperor from 361 to 363 and a noted philosopher and Greek writer....

 (born c.331–died June 26, 363), was a Roman Emperor (361–363) of the Constantinian dynasty
Constantinian dynasty
The Constantinian dynasty is an informal name for the ruling family of the Roman Empire from Constantius Chlorus to the death of Julian in 363. It is named after its most famous member, Constantine the Great who became the sole ruler of the empire in 324...

. He was the last pagan Roman Emperor, and tried to reform traditional Pagan worship by unifying Hellenic worship in the Roman empire in the form of Neoplatonism developed by Iamblichus. Julian sought to do this after the legalization of Christianity and its widespread success within the Eastern Roman Empire and to a lesser extent, the Western Roman Empire.

Simplicius


Simplicius of Cilicia
Simplicius of Cilicia
Simplicius of Cilicia, was a disciple of Ammonius Hermiae and Damascius, and was one of the last of the Neoplatonists. He was among the pagan philosophers persecuted by Justinian in the early 6th century, and was forced for a time to seek refuge in the Persian court, before being allowed back into...

 (c. 530CE), a pupil of Damascius
Damascius
Damascius , known as "the last of the Neoplatonists," was the last scholarch of the School of Athens. He was one of the pagan philosophers persecuted by Justinian in the early 6th century, and was forced for a time to seek refuge in the Persian court, before being allowed back into the empire...

, is not known as an original thinker, but his remarks are thoughtful and intelligent and his learning is prodigious. To the student of Greek philosophy his commentaries are invaluable, as they contain many fragments of the older philosophers as well as of his immediate predecessors.

Gemistus Pletho


Gemistus Pletho
Gemistus Pletho
Georgius Gemistus — later called Plethon or Pletho — was a Greek scholar of Neoplatonic philosophy. He was one of the chief pioneers of the revival of Greek learning in Western Europe...

 (born c. 1355–died 1452, Greek: Πλήθων Γεμιστός) remained the preeminent scholar of Neoplatonic philosophy in the Eastern Roman Empire. He introduced his understanding and insight
into the works of Neoplatonism during the failed attempt to reconcile the East-West schism
East-West Schism
The East–West Schism of 1054, sometimes known as the Great Schism, formally divided the State church of the Roman Empire into Eastern and Western branches, which later became known as the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, respectively...

 at the council of Florence
Council of Florence
The Council of Florence was an Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church. It began in 1431 in Basel, Switzerland, and became known as the Council of Ferrara after its transfer to Ferrara was decreed by Pope Eugene IV, to convene in 1438...

. At Florence Pletho met Cosimo de' Medici
Cosimo de' Medici
Còsimo di Giovanni degli Mèdici was the first of the Medici political dynasty, de facto rulers of Florence during much of the Italian Renaissance; also known as "Cosimo 'the Elder'" and "Cosimo Pater Patriae" .-Biography:Born in Florence, Cosimo inherited both his wealth and his expertise in...

 and influenced the latter's decision to found a new Platonic Academy
Academy
An academy is an institution of higher learning, research, or honorary membership.The name traces back to Plato's school of philosophy, founded approximately 385 BC at Akademia, a sanctuary of Athena, the goddess of wisdom and skill, north of Athens, Greece. In the western world academia is the...

 there. Cosimo subsequently appointed as head Marsilio Ficino
Marsilio Ficino
Marsilio Ficino was one of the most influential humanist philosophers of the early Italian Renaissance, an astrologer, a reviver of Neoplatonism who was in touch with every major academic thinker and writer of his day, and the first translator of Plato's complete extant works into Latin...

, who proceeded to translate all Plato's works, the Enneads
Enneads
The Six Enneads, sometimes abbreviated to The Enneads or Enneads , is the collection of writings of Plotinus, edited and compiled by his student Porphyry . Plotinus was a student of Ammonius Saccas and they were founders of Neoplatonism...

 of Plotinus, and various other Neoplatonist works into Latin.

Early Christian and Medieval Neoplatonism



Central tenets of Neoplatonism, such as the absence of good being the source of evil, and that this absence of good comes from human sin, served as a philosophical interim for the Christian
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 theologian
Theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

 Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo , also known as Augustine, St. Augustine, St. Austin, St. Augoustinos, Blessed Augustine, or St. Augustine the Blessed, was Bishop of Hippo Regius . He was a Latin-speaking philosopher and theologian who lived in the Roman Africa Province...

 on his journey from dualistic
Dualism
Dualism denotes a state of two parts. The term 'dualism' was originally coined to denote co-eternal binary opposition, a meaning that is preserved in metaphysical and philosophical duality discourse but has been diluted in general or common usages. Dualism can refer to moral dualism, Dualism (from...

 Manichaeism
Manichaeism
Manichaeism in Modern Persian Āyin e Māni; ) was one of the major Iranian Gnostic religions, originating in Sassanid Persia.Although most of the original writings of the founding prophet Mani have been lost, numerous translations and fragmentary texts have survived...

 to Christianity. When writing his treatise 'On True Religion' several years after his 387 baptism, Augustine's Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 was still tempered by Neoplatonism, but he eventually decided to abandon Neoplatonism altogether in favor of a Christianity based on his own reading of Scripture.

Many other Christians were influenced by Neoplatonism, especially in their identifying the Neoplatonic One, or God, with Jehovah
Jehovah
Jehovah is an anglicized representation of Hebrew , a vocalization of the Tetragrammaton , the proper name of the God of Israel in the Hebrew Bible....

. The most influential of these would be Origen
Origen
Origen , or Origen Adamantius, 184/5–253/4, was an early Christian Alexandrian scholar and theologian, and one of the most distinguished writers of the early Church. As early as the fourth century, his orthodoxy was suspect, in part because he believed in the pre-existence of souls...

, the pupil of Ammonius Saccas
Ammonius Saccas
Ammonius Saccas was a Greek philosopher from Alexandria who was often referred to as one of the founders of Neoplatonism. He is mainly known as the teacher of Plotinus, whom he taught for eleven years from 232 to 243. He was undoubtably the biggest influence on Plotinus in his development of...

 and the fifth-century author known as Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite
Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite
Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, also known as Pseudo-Denys, was a Christian theologian and philosopher of the late 5th to early 6th century, the author of the Corpus Areopagiticum . The author is identified as "Dionysos" in the corpus, which later incorrectly came to be attributed to Dionysius...

, (whose works were translated by John Scotus in the 9th century for the west) and proved significant for both the Eastern Orthodox and Western branches of Christianity. Neoplatonism also had links with Gnosticism
Gnosticism
Gnosticism is a scholarly term for a set of religious beliefs and spiritual practices common to early Christianity, Hellenistic Judaism, Greco-Roman mystery religions, Zoroastrianism , and Neoplatonism.A common characteristic of some of these groups was the teaching that the realisation of Gnosis...

, which Plotinus rebuked in his ninth tractate of the second Enneads
Enneads
The Six Enneads, sometimes abbreviated to The Enneads or Enneads , is the collection of writings of Plotinus, edited and compiled by his student Porphyry . Plotinus was a student of Ammonius Saccas and they were founders of Neoplatonism...

: "Against Those That Affirm The Creator of The Kosmos and The Kosmos Itself to Be Evil" (generally known as "Against The Gnostics").

Due to their belief being grounded in Platonic thought, the Neoplatonists rejected gnosticism's vilification of Plato's demiurge
Demiurge
The demiurge is a concept from the Platonic, Neopythagorean, Middle Platonic, and Neoplatonic schools of philosophy for an artisan-like figure responsible for the fashioning and maintenance of the physical universe. The term was subsequently adopted by the Gnostics...

, the creator of the material world or cosmos discussed in the Timaeus
Timaeus (dialogue)
Timaeus is one of Plato's dialogues, mostly in the form of a long monologue given by the title character, written circa 360 BC. The work puts forward speculation on the nature of the physical world and human beings. It is followed by the dialogue Critias.Speakers of the dialogue are Socrates,...

. Neoplatonism has been referred to as orthodox Platonic philosophy by scholars like Professor John D. Turner; this reference may be due in part to Plotinus' attempt to refute certain interpretations of Platonic philosophy, through his Enneads
Enneads
The Six Enneads, sometimes abbreviated to The Enneads or Enneads , is the collection of writings of Plotinus, edited and compiled by his student Porphyry . Plotinus was a student of Ammonius Saccas and they were founders of Neoplatonism...

. Plotinus believed the followers of gnosticism had corrupted the original teachings of Plato.

Despite the influence this pagan philosophy had on Christianity, Justinian I
Justinian I
Justinian I ; , ; 483– 13 or 14 November 565), commonly known as Justinian the Great, was Byzantine Emperor from 527 to 565. During his reign, Justinian sought to revive the Empire's greatness and reconquer the lost western half of the classical Roman Empire.One of the most important figures of...

 would hurt later Neoplatonism by ordering the closure of the refounded School of Athens. After the closure, Neoplatonic and or secular philosophical studies continued in publicly funded schools in Alexandria. In the early seventh century, the Neoplatonist Stephanus brought this Alexandrian tradition to Constantinople, where it would remain influential, albeit as a form of secular education. The university maintained an active philosophical tradition of Platonism
Platonism
Platonism is the philosophy of Plato or the name of other philosophical systems considered closely derived from it. In a narrower sense the term might indicate the doctrine of Platonic realism...

 and Aristotelianism
Aristotelianism
Aristotelianism is a tradition of philosophy that takes its defining inspiration from the work of Aristotle. The works of Aristotle were initially defended by the members of the Peripatetic school, and, later on, by the Neoplatonists, who produced many commentaries on Aristotle's writings...

, with the former being the longest unbroken Platonic school, running for close to two millennia until the 15th century In the Middle Ages, Neoplatonist ideas influenced Jewish thinkers, such as the Kabbalist Isaac the Blind
Isaac the Blind
Rabbi Yitzhak Saggi Nehor רַבִּי יִצְחַק סַגִּי נְהוֹר, also known as Isaac the Blind, has the Aramaic epithet "Saggi Nehor" meaning "of Much Light" in the sense of having excellent eyesight, an ironic euphemism for being blind. He was a famous writer on Kabbalah...

, and the Jewish Neoplatonic philosopher Solomon ibn Gabirol
Solomon ibn Gabirol
Solomon ibn Gabirol, also Solomon ben Judah , was an Andalucian Hebrew poet and Jewish philosopher with a Neoplatonic bent. He was born in Málaga about 1021; died about 1058 in Valencia.-Biography:...

, who modified it in the light of their own monotheism. Neoplatonist ideas also influenced Islamic and Sufi thinkers such as al Farabi and Avicenna
Avicenna
Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥusayn ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn Sīnā , commonly known as Ibn Sīnā or by his Latinized name Avicenna, was a Persian polymath, who wrote almost 450 treatises on a wide range of subjects, of which around 240 have survived...

.
Neoplatonism survived in the Eastern Christian Church as an independent tradition and was reintroduced to the west by Plethon.

Renaissance Neoplatonism



"Of all the students of Greek in Renaissance Italy, the best-known are the Neoplatonists who studied in and around Florence" (Hole). Neoplatonism was not just a revival of Plato's ideas, it is all based on Plotinus' created synthesis, which incorporated the works and teachings of Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras and other Greek philosophers.
The Renaissance in Italy was the revival of classic antiquity, and this started at the fall of the Byzantine empire, who were considered the "librarians of the world," because of their great collection of classical manuscripts, and the number of humanist scholars that resided in Constantinople (Hole).

Neoplatonism in the Renaissance combined the ideas of Christianity and a new awareness of the writings of Plato.

Marsilio Ficino
Marsilio Ficino
Marsilio Ficino was one of the most influential humanist philosophers of the early Italian Renaissance, an astrologer, a reviver of Neoplatonism who was in touch with every major academic thinker and writer of his day, and the first translator of Plato's complete extant works into Latin...

 (1433–99) was "chiefly responsible for packaging and presenting Plato to the Renaissance" (Hole). In 1462, Cosimo I de' Medici, patron of arts, who had an interest in humanism and Platonism, provided Ficino with all 36 of Plato's dialogues in Greek for him to translate. Between 1462 and 1469, Ficino translated these works into Latin, making them widely accessible, as only a minority of people could read Greek. And between 1484 and 1492, he translated the works of Plotinus, making them available for the first time to the West.

Giovanni Pico della Mirandola
Giovanni Pico della Mirandola
Count Giovanni Pico della Mirandola was an Italian Renaissance philosopher. He is famed for the events of 1486, when at the age of 23, he proposed to defend 900 theses on religion, philosophy, natural philosophy and magic against all comers, for which he wrote the famous Oration on the Dignity of...

 (1463–94) was another excelling Neoplatonist during the Italian Renaissance. He could not only speak and write in Latin and Greek, but he also had immense knowledge on the Hebrew and Arabic languages. He published 900 theses by the age of 20, but the pope banned his works because they were viewed as heretical - unlike Ficino, who managed to stay on the right side of the church.

The efforts of Ficino and Pico to introduce Neoplatonic and Hermetic doctrines into the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church has recently been evaluated in terms of an attempted "Hermetic Reformation."

Cambridge Platonists



In the seventeenth century in England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, Neoplatonism was fundamental to the school of the Cambridge Platonists
Cambridge Platonists
The Cambridge Platonists were a group of philosophers at Cambridge University in the middle of the 17th century .- Programme :...

, whose luminaries included Henry More
Henry More
Henry More FRS was an English philosopher of the Cambridge Platonist school.-Biography:Henry was born at Grantham and was schooled at The King's School, Grantham and at Eton College...

, Ralph Cudworth
Ralph Cudworth
Ralph Cudworth was an English philosopher, the leader of the Cambridge Platonists.-Life:Born at Aller, Somerset, he was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, gaining his MA and becoming a Fellow of Emmanuel in 1639. In 1645, he became master of Clare Hall and professor of Hebrew...

, Benjamin Whichcote
Benjamin Whichcote
Benjamin Whichcote was a British Establishment and Puritan divine, Provost of King's College, Cambridge, and leader of the Cambridge Platonists.-Life:...

 and John Smith
John Smith (Platonist)
John Smith was an English philosopher, theologian, and educator.-Life:...

, all graduates of Cambridge University. Coleridge
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Samuel Taylor Coleridge was an English poet, Romantic, literary critic and philosopher who, with his friend William Wordsworth, was a founder of the Romantic Movement in England and a member of the Lake Poets. He is probably best known for his poems The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla...

 claimed that they were not really Platonists, but "more truly Plotinists": "divine Plotinus", as More called him.

Later, Thomas Taylor (not a Cambridge Platonist) was the first to translate Plotinus' works into English.

Modern Neoplatonism


In the essay "Inner and Outer Realities: Jean Gebser in a Cultural/Historical Perspective", Integral philosopher
Integral Theory
Integral Theory is a philosophy posited by Ken Wilber that seeks a synthesis of the best of pre-modern, modern, and postmodern reality. It claims to be a "theory of everything," and offers an approach "to draw together an already existing number of separate paradigms into an interrelated network of...

 Allan Combs
Allan Combs
Allan Combs is a consciousness researcher, neuropsychologist, and systems theorist. He considers his most significant work to be the development of a developmental/evolutionary model of the mind using concepts from systems science. Much of this was accomplished in collaboration with his friend and...

 claims that ten modern thinkers can be called Neo-Platonists: Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German writer, pictorial artist, biologist, theoretical physicist, and polymath. He is considered the supreme genius of modern German literature. His works span the fields of poetry, drama, prose, philosophy, and science. His Faust has been called the greatest long...

, Schiller
Friedrich Schiller
Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller was a German poet, philosopher, historian, and playwright. During the last seventeen years of his life , Schiller struck up a productive, if complicated, friendship with already famous and influential Johann Wolfgang von Goethe...

, Schelling
Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling
Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling , later von Schelling, was a German philosopher. Standard histories of philosophy make him the midpoint in the development of German idealism, situating him between Fichte, his mentor prior to 1800, and Hegel, his former university roommate and erstwhile friend...

, Hegel
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a German philosopher, one of the creators of German Idealism. His historicist and idealist account of reality as a whole revolutionized European philosophy and was an important precursor to Continental philosophy and Marxism.Hegel developed a comprehensive...

, Coleridge
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Samuel Taylor Coleridge was an English poet, Romantic, literary critic and philosopher who, with his friend William Wordsworth, was a founder of the Romantic Movement in England and a member of the Lake Poets. He is probably best known for his poems The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla...

, Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet, who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century...

, Rudolf Steiner
Rudolf Steiner
Rudolf Joseph Lorenz Steiner was an Austrian philosopher, social reformer, architect, and esotericist. He gained initial recognition as a literary critic and cultural philosopher...

, Carl Jung
Carl Jung
Carl Gustav Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist and the founder of Analytical Psychology. Jung is considered the first modern psychiatrist to view the human psyche as "by nature religious" and make it the focus of exploration. Jung is one of the best known researchers in the field of dream analysis and...

, Jean Gebser
Jean Gebser
Jean Gebser was a philosopher who described the structures of human consciousness, a linguist, and a poet.-Biography:...

 and the modern theorist Brian Goodwin
Brian Goodwin
Brian Carey Goodwin was a Canadian mathematician and biologist, a Professor Emeritus at the Open University and a key founder of the field of theoretical biology.He made key contributions to the foundations of biomathematics, complex systems and generative models in developmental biology...

. He sees these thinkers as participating in a tradition that can be distinguished from the empiricist, rationalist, dualist and materialist Western philosophical traditions
Western philosophy
Western philosophy is the philosophical thought and work of the Western or Occidental world, as distinct from Eastern or Oriental philosophies and the varieties of indigenous philosophies....

.

In the philosophy of mathematics
Philosophy of mathematics
The philosophy of mathematics is the branch of philosophy that studies the philosophical assumptions, foundations, and implications of mathematics. The aim of the philosophy of mathematics is to provide an account of the nature and methodology of mathematics and to understand the place of...

, in the early 20th century, the German philosopher, Gottlob Frege
Gottlob Frege
Friedrich Ludwig Gottlob Frege was a German mathematician, logician and philosopher. He is considered to be one of the founders of modern logic, and made major contributions to the foundations of mathematics. He is generally considered to be the father of analytic philosophy, for his writings on...

, renewed the interest in Plato's theory of mathematical objects (and other abstract objects, in general). Since then, a number of philosophers, such as Crispin Wright
Crispin Wright
Crispin Wright is a British philosopher, who has written on neo-Fregean philosophy of mathematics, Wittgenstein's later philosophy, and on issues related to truth, realism, cognitivism, skepticism, knowledge, and objectivity....

 and Bob Hale
Bob Hale (philosopher)
Robert Hale FBA, FRSE is a British philosopher, who is well-known for his contributions to the development of the neo-Fregean philosophy of mathematics in collaboration with Crispin Wright, and for his works in modality and philosophy of language....

 have defended and developed this neo-platonist account of mathematics.

Some cite American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 poet Ezra Pound
Ezra Pound
Ezra Weston Loomis Pound was an American expatriate poet and critic and a major figure in the early modernist movement in poetry...

 as a Neo-platonist, albeit from a rather Confucian perspective due to his great admiration for Plotinus and his writings on philosophy and religion. Religiously he described himself in public as a Hellenistic Pagan.

Other notable modern Neoplatonists include Thomas Taylor, "the English Platonist," who wrote extensively on Platonism and translated almost the entire Platonic and Plotinian corpora into English, and the Belgian writer Suzanne Lilar
Suzanne Lilar
Suzanne, Baroness Lilar was a Flemish Belgian essayist, novelist, and playwright writing in French...

.

See also


  • Antiochus of Ascalon
    Antiochus of Ascalon
    Antiochus , of Ascalon, , was an Academic philosopher. He was a pupil of Philo of Larissa at the Academy, but he diverged from the Academic skepticism of Philo and his predecessors...

  • Asclepigenia
    Asclepigenia
    Asclepigenia was an Athenian philosopher and mystic whose life is known from an account in Marinus' Life of Proclus. Her father, Plutarch of Athens was head of the Neoplatonist school at Athens, and instructed Asclepigenia and her brother Hierius in the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle...

  • Atticus (philosopher)
  • Brethren of Purity
    Brethren of Purity
    The Brethren of Purity were a secret society of Muslim philosophers in Basra, Iraq, in the 10th century CE....

  • Cambridge Platonists
    Cambridge Platonists
    The Cambridge Platonists were a group of philosophers at Cambridge University in the middle of the 17th century .- Programme :...

  • Henology
    Henology
    Henology is the philosophical account or discourse on "The One" that appears most notably in the philosophy of Plotinus. Reiner Schürmann describes it as a "metaphysics of radical transcendence" that extends beyond being and intellection...

  • List of ancient Greek philosophers
  • Peripatetic school
  • Plutarch
    Plutarch
    Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

  • Syrianus
    Syrianus
    Syrianus ; died c. 437) was a Greek Neoplatonist philosopher, and head of Plato's Academy in Athens, succeeding his teacher Plutarch of Athens in 431/432. He is important as the teacher of Proclus, and, like Plutarch and Proclus, as a commentator on Plato and Aristotle. His best-known extant work...



Further reading

  • The London Philosophy Study Guide offers many suggestions on what to read, depending on the student's familiarity with the subject: Post-Aristotelian philosophy
  • Ruelle, an edition of On First Principles, (Paris, 1889)
  • Whittaker, The Neo-Platonists, (Cambridge, 1901)
  • Cambridge Companion to Plotinus. Ed. L.P. Gerson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996)
  • Neoplatonic Philosophy. Introductory Readings. Trans. and ed. by John M. Dillon
    John M. Dillon
    John Myles Dillon is an Irish classicist and philosopher who was Regius Professor of Greek in Trinity College, Dublin between 1980 and 2006. Prior to that he taught at the University of California, Berkeley. He was elected a corresponding member of the Academy of Athens on 15 June 2010...

    and Lloyd P. Gerson, (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Co., 2004).
  • Chiaradonna, Riccardo and Franco Trabattoni (edd.), Physics and Philosophy of Nature in Greek Neoplatonism: Proceedings of the European Science Foundation Exploratory Workshop (il Ciocco,Castelvecchio Pascoli, june 22-24, 2006) (Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2009) (Philosophia antiqua, 115).

External links