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Plotinus – Is “The One” really God?

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Plotinus

Plotinus – Wikipedia

Plotinus (205-70 CE) was an ancient Greek speaking philosopher thought to have been born in Egypt. He established a branch of philosophy that, since the Renaissance, has been called Neoplatonism.

At Rome in 244 CE he became a prominent teacher of asceticism, encouraging the introspective life. Later, he founded a short-lived community in Campania, based on an ideal society outlined in Plato‘s Republic.

Plotinus’ works were edited by his disciple Porphyry and put into six groups of nine, called the “Enneads.”

Perhaps Plotinus’ most important contribution to the history of ideas is his notion of the One. For Plotinus, the One is Goodness and Beauty existing before, and the ultimate source of all observable differences found in, our world of becoming. Our world emanates from the One, this process setting up a complicated and hierarchical series of arrangements, or dyads, all leading back up to the One.

Psycho-spiritual liberation is best found in personal union with the One, described as an ephemeral experience of pure, insurmountable delight. According to Porphyry, Plotinus had four of these ecstatic experiences during the time these two men knew each other.

Plontinus’ work has been widely influential. The Swiss psychologist Carl Jung mentions the term “Word Soul” (anima mundi) when speaking of the archetype of the self. And New Age and Gnostic circles have adapted his legacy in countless ways. Artists, musicians and poets have also tried to capture or develop the essence of his thought.¹

Plotinus

An anachronistic portrait of Plotinus – Wikipedia

Basically, Plontinus believes we can become one with God. By way of contrast, most monotheistic religions believe that we can have a relationship with God but never actually be the same as God.

This difference is key and, I think, could influence how we understand and experience our world.

Consider an analogy: If an ant falls into a sugar jar it might eat tons of sugar and become totally absorbed with the sweet substance. For the ant, this is Heaven on Earth and nothing is greater.

Likewise with some people. One experience of extreme absorption and they assume they have found the ultimate. This could be unfortunate because that presumption might prevent them from encountering even greater perspectives and experiences.

¹ Although Elton John’s 1992 song “The One” is really about meeting a soulmate, I think one could argue that Plotinus’ ideas, along with the notion of chakras, have an indirect influence. See https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/eltonjohn/theone.html

Plotinus – Wikipedia

Oct 6 2017  Highlights with LINER

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His metaphysical writings have inspired centuries of Pagan, Islamic, Jewish, Christian, and Gnostic metaphysicians and mystics

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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,

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From all accounts his personal and social life exhibited the highest moral and spiritual standards.

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Plotinus taught that there is a supreme, totally transcendent “One”, containing no division, multiplicity or distinction;

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Plotinus identified his “One” with the concept of ‘Good’ and the principle of ‘Beauty’.

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The “less perfect” must, of necessity, “emanate”, or issue forth, from the “perfect” or “more perfect”. Thus, all of “creation” emanates from the One in succeeding stages of lesser and lesser perfection. These stages are not temporally isolated, but occur throughout time as a constant process.

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The One is not just an intellectual concept but something that can be experienced, an experience where one goes beyond all multiplicity.

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Plotinus writes, “We ought not even to say that he will see, but he will be that which he sees, if indeed it is possible any longer to distinguish between seer and seen, and not boldly to affirm that the two are one.”

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Plotinus never mentions Christianity in any of his works.

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Henosis is the word for mystical “oneness”, “union”, or “unity” in classical Greek. In Platonism, and especially Neoplatonism, the goal of henosis is union with what is fundamental in reality: the One (Τὸ Ἕν), the Source, or Monad.

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As is specified in the writings of Plotinus on Henology,[note 1] one can reach a state of tabula rasa, a blank state where the individual may grasp or merge with The One.

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For several centuries after the Protestant Reformation, Neo-Platonism was condemned as a decadent and ‘oriental’ distortion of Platonism.

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Plotinus seems to be one of the first to argue against the still popular notion of causal astrology. In the late tractate 2.3, “Are the stars causes?”, Plotinus makes the argument that specific stars influencing one’s fortune (a common Hellenistic theme) attributes irrationality to a perfect universe, and invites moral turpitude.[clarification needed] He does, however, claim the stars and planets are ensouled, as witnessed by their movement.

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One of his most distinguished pupils was Pico della Mirandola, author of An Oration On the Dignity of Man. Our term ‘Neo Platonist’ has its origins in the Renaissance.

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Plotinus was the cardinal influence on the 17th-century school of the Cambridge Platonists, and on numerous writers from Samuel Taylor Coleridge to W. B. Yeats and Kathleen Raine.

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Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Ananda Coomaraswamy used the writing of Plotinus in their own texts as a superlative elaboration upon Indian monism, specifically Upanishadic and Advaita Vedantic thought.

 Elton John is the muse for Gucci’s latest maximalist mille-feuille collection (telegraph.co.uk)

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6 thoughts on “Plotinus – Is “The One” really God?

  1. Pingback: Neoplatonism « Earthpages.ca – Think Free

  2. Great post! I love to learn!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for taking the time to let me know!

    Like

  4. Slight edit

    Plotinus’ works were edited by his disciple Porphyry and put into six groups of nine, called the “Enneads.”

    Like

  5. Excellent! It amazes me how few people know about Plotinus. He is essential, imho. I was introduced to him by a professor in college while taking a class on Yeats. We read excerpts from Plotinus, Blavatsky, etc., to get a background on the occult philosophies that influenced Yeats. Thanks for the post. Cheers!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Must have been an interesting professor!

    Like

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