Think Free


Plotinus – Is “The One” really God?


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


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

Plotinus – Wikipedia

Oct 6 2017  Highlights with LINER


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


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,


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


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


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


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.


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


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.”


Plotinus never mentions Christianity in any of his works.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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 (


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Sappho of Lesbos

English: Marble bust of the ancient Greek poet...

Marble bust of the ancient Greek poet Sappho. From Smyrna (Izmir), Turkey. Roman copy of a Hellenistic original. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sappho (610-580 BCE) was a Greek lyric poetess, born of a noble family on the island of Lesbos. She wrote within the context of the cult of Aphrodite and the veneration of the Muses. Because it was unusual for women to write, she is one of the few known women poets of the Greek archaic period.

Only 8th and 9th century copies and fragments or her work and one complete address to Aphrodite remain, along with more fragments obtained from papyrus discoveries since 1898 and as recent as 2004.¹

Sappho was married and wrote verse and songs for weddings, usually performed by young girls. She also arranged poetic gatherings where she and other women composed and read poetry, as was the custom of women of good standing in Lesbos. From this she developed several close relationships.

Hermaic pillar with a female portrait, so-call...

Hermaic pillar with a female portrait, so-called “Sappho”; inscription “Sappho Eresia” ie. Sappho from Eresos. Roman copy of a Greek Classical original. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Her extant work reveals no clear evidence of physical intimacy with these women. She was exalted in antiquity, appearing on a list of the 9 best lyric poets and often called “the 10th Muse.”

But politics changed, as they always do, and other ancient figures caricaturized her and the entire island of Lesbos as a center for lesbianism. As such, she went into temporary exile in Sicily, later returning to Mytilene, the place of her family home on Lesbos.

She is often cited today as an inspiration for lesbian love. Speaking about herself and her associates, she once wrote:

I think that someone will remember us in another time.

¹ See A Brief History of Ancient Greece, Oxford 2009, pp. 93-95.

Related » Goddess vs. goddess

On the Web:

  • “Sappho (Σαπφώ) was born in the seventh century BC, in the island of Lesbos. Her love of women reflects a deeper love for civilization.”

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A Sibyl

A Sibyl (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The term Sibyl represents alleged prophetesses who were consulted in ancient Greece and Rome. They apparently prophecized in ecstasy, under the temporary possession of Apollo. The Oxford Classical Dictionary notes that

Originally the Sibyl seems to have been a single prophetic woman, but by the time of Heraclides (1) Ponticus… a number of places claimed to be the birthplace of Sibylla, traditions concerning a number of different Sibyls began to circulate, and the word came to be a generic term rather than a name.¹

Ten Sibylline oracles have been recorded by history. The best known Sibyl is said to have resided in a cave at Cumea, near Naples—The Cumean Sibyl.

In Vergil‘s Aneid this Sibyl is visited by Aeneas before his descent to Hades. She is also believed to have composed the original Sibylline books.

Study for the Phrygian Sibyl fresco by Raphael...

Study for the Phrygian Sibyl fresco by Raphael for the Chigi Chapel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These prophetic works were taken to Rome, where they were guarded by two nobles. Extended volumes of Sibylline books survived into the 4th century CE.

M. C. Howatson and Ian Chilvers relate a story about the Cumaean Sibyl where the god Apollo asks what she would want in return if he were to make love with her. She asks for a lifespan equal in years to the number of grains in a heap of sand. It turns out there are 1,000 grains of sand. She forgot, however, to ask for youthfulness, so grew wickedly old and miserable, wishing only to die.²

Another famous Sibyl lived in Erythia in Asia, “The Erythian Sibyl.”

Sibyls appear in Christian art and literature. Early Christian interest in the Sibylline oracles raised them to a status comparable to the Old Testament Prophets. As Celia E. Schultz puts it:

The fact that many of the Sibylline oracles touch on Christian and Jewish themes is a reflection of the popularity of the Sibyl as a prophet of the Messiah for early Christian writers.³

Picture of Shirley Ardell Mason, aka Sybil Isa...

Picture of Shirley Ardell Mason, aka Sybil Isabel Dorsett (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1973 a popular novel, Sibyl, was written by Flora Rheta Schreiber based on the life of Shirley Ardell Mason, a woman diagnosed with so-called multiple personality disorder (MPD). In 1976 the book was made into a film with Sally Field as Sibyl.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, at least two other novels have been entitled Sibyl.

¹ “Sibyl” in The Oxford Classical Dictionary: Oxford University Press 1996, 2000 CD ROM version.

² Concise Companion to Classical Literature, Oxford 1996, p. 493.

³ Schultz, Celia E. “Sibyls and the Sibylline Books.” The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome. : Oxford University Press, 2010. Oxford Reference. 2010. Date Accessed 16 Nov. 2015

The plethora of images listed below shows that, although closed down as an institution, the idea of the Sibyls continues to fascinate and inspire through the centuries.

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The Libyan Sibyl by Cliff

Michelangelo's rendering of the Erythraean Sibyl

Michelangelo’s rendering of the Erythraean Sibyl (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sibylla Palmifera

Sibylla Palmifera (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Michelangelo's Delphic Sibyl, Sistine Chapel

Michelangelo’s Delphic Sibyl, Sistine Chapel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sibyl seated among Classical ruins

Sibyl seated among Classical ruins (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Janssens, Abraham - The Agrippine Sibyl

Janssens, Abraham – The Agrippine Sibyl (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Guercino - Persian Sibyl

Guercino – Persian Sibyl (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Detail of the vault (one of the 4 sibyls : Sib...

Detail of the vault (one of the 4 sibyls : Sibyl of Delphi) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sibyl velasquez

Sibyl velasquez (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sistine Chapel ceiling, Michelangelo, The Liby...

Sistine Chapel ceiling, Michelangelo, The Libyan Sibyl, post restoration. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Cumaean Sibyl Deutsch: Cumäische Siby...

Cumaean Sibyl Deutsch: Cumäische Sibylle a Sibila de Cumas, por Michelangelo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Domenichino - Cumaean Sibyl

Domenichino – Cumaean Sibyl (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Image by John Leech, from: The Comic History o...

Image by John Leech, from: The Comic History of Rome by Gilbert Abbott A Beckett. Bradbury, Evans & Co, London, 1850s Tarquinius Superbus has the Sibylline Books valued (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Prophet Hosea and the Delphic Sibyl Fresco...

The Prophet Hosea and the Delphic Sibyl Fresco Borgia Apartments, Hall of the Sibyls (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Early Athenian Coin, an "owl"

Early Athenian Coin, an “owl” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Sophists were independent Greek public speakers of the 5th century BCE, teaching for a fee about politics, philosophy and rhetoric.

Protagoras is usually regarded as the first with Gorgias being another prominent sophist. Wikipedia also lists Prodicus, Hippias, Thrasymachus, Lycophron, Callicles, Antiphon, and Cratylus.

Plato portrays them in his dialogues as foils for the sober, sound argumentation of Socrates.

In the most general sense sophists are usually depicted as denying the existence of ultimate reality and morality in favor of worldly pleasures derived from the senses.

Likewise, they’re often said to reject the Greek gods and advocate the perfection of humanity.

English: The School of Athens (detail). Fresco...

The School of Athens (detail). Fresco, Stanza della Segnatura, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In actual fact, there is no single school of Sophist thought. Plato’s response to the leading Sophists is as complex as their various positions.

Generally slighted by Plato, the sophists were quick and intelligent, contributing to knowledge about linguistics, drama and a prototypical form of applied sociology. And they were instrumental in helping young men to “better” themselves in terms of learning how to win arguments—a skill set essential to upward mobility and entrance into political life not only in ancient Greece but also for men and women today.¹

¹ See, for instance, the excellent introductory discussion about ancient Greek philosophy in this DVD set:

On the Web:

  • Video touching on some of the topics that the ancient Greeks debated, topics that continued through the Middle Ages, right up to contemporary debates.

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Tai Chi Chuan

The Chinese martial arts Taijiquan being pract...

The Chinese martial arts Taijiquan being practiced on the Bund in Shanghai. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tai Chi Chuan is a defensive Chinese martial art said to be at least 2,000 years old, based on the principles of Tai Chi.

Tai Chi Chuan is a graceful, slow-moving series of 108 so-called archetypal positions relating to nature (“grasp bird’s tail”) and human situations (“fair maiden works at shuttles”) that flow into one another in a linear series.

The practice has spread throughout the world via Taoist masters and missionaries. In Canada, almost every small city has a Tai Chi center, where classed are taken for an affordable fee. I’m not sure about the US, Europe and other regions, but I imagine it’s much the same.

Tai chi chuan or Jedi? by Womby

Tai chi chuan or Jedi? by Womby via Flickr

Enthusiasts say Tai Chi Chuan has notable health benefits in the areas of digestion, general flexibility, arthritis and the cultivation of serenity.

Critics, who usually aren’t too visible, say that the organizational aspect might exhibit cultish qualities. And some feel that the numinosity associated with or generated by the practice of Tai Chi is unclear or spacey.

To this effect Robert Thoor cautions: “Avoid strict or spacey teachers.”¹

Related Posts » Anthroposophy, Yin-Yang


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English: A view of Alexandria harbour in Egypt...

A view of Alexandria harbour in Egypt during February 2007. The new Alexandria library can be seen in the background. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Alexandria was a major port in Lower Egypt by the Mediterranean, founded by Alexander the Great (331 BCE). Alexander wanted to combine the best of ancient Egypt with his vision for a new Hellenistic empire. His new city became the second largest in the Roman Empire, with a primary language of Greek.

The city was of mixed population (Greek, Egyptian, Roman, Jewish) and an exporter of foods, tapestries, metal products and books. It imported wine, silk and horses. Many Jews came to the city as slaves or settled there as free men. When pressured to set up pagan deities in their monotheistic temples, the Jews held fast to their beliefs and protested to the Emperor Caligula.¹

Lighthouse on the small island of Pharos, just opposite Alexandria at the Nile Delta.

Alexandria was home to several famous scholars, philosophers and scientists (like Ptolemy, Euclid and Archimedes), and had a university modeled after that of Athens. In its heyday the Alexandrian library contained some 400,000 to 900,000 books and scrolls. And the lighthouse on Pharos was one of the seven wonders of the world.

For Christianity, the city is especially important because it’s where the apostle Mark is said to have founded the first Christian Church, which then spread outward.

¹ Eerdmans Bible Dictionary, ed. Allen C. Myers, 1987, p. 38-39.

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Crying Heraclitus and laughing Democritus

Crying Heraclitus and laughing Democritus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Democritus (460-370 BCE) was a Greek Presocratic philosopher born in Thrace whose surviving fragments reveal that he wrote on physics, math, ethics and music.

His atomic theory, coming to us through Aristotle, posits an infinite number of differently shaped and everlasting atoms(tiny indivisible particles) that randomly combine to create an infinite number of worlds throughout time. Each world displays natural laws but since randomly generated, they are not intelligently directed by a creator.

Democritus was keenly aware of the now common distinction between macroscopic and microscopic reality. This is quite remarkable considering he lived over 1,900 years before the first primitive microscope was invented in 1590 CE. As he writes in Fragment 9:

Conventionally sweet, conventionally bitter, conventionally hot, conventionally cold, conventionally color, but really atoms and void.¹

He was also aware of the need for some kind or locus of consciousness (i.e. the soul) which he sees as the underlying cause of life as perceived through the five senses. For Democritus the soul is composed of tiny round atoms, and instead of being eternal, is subject to death. And again, remarkably, Democritus believed that the soul perceives things when its atoms are impacted by the atoms of worldly objects.²

David John Furley notes that Democritus’ theories met with significant opposition. With the exception of Epicurus and Lucretius, the leading figures of the ancient world preferred the ideas of Plato, Aristotle and the Stoics over his own. And by the time of the scientific revolution, when the importance of his ideas became clear, almost all of his complete works were lost.³

¹ John Palmer ” Democritus of Abdera ” The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome. Ed. Michael Gagarin. © Oxford University Press 2010. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome: (e-reference edition). Oxford University Press. Toronto Public Library. 5 July 2012

² David John Furley, The Oxford Classical Dictionary Oxford University Press 1996, 2000.

³ Ibid.