Plotinus

Plotinus

Born: 204. Died: 270.

Ideas

- The soul is more important and real than the body or any other material object.

- In its pure state, the World-Soul is the same as the Intellect (or Mind).

- The Intellect is a system of Platonic ideas that exists simultaneously in all individual souls.

- Above the Intellect is the One, the absolute unity from which all things come.

- The One is beyond being and is indescribable.

- The three principal levels of reality, in descending order, are the One, the Intellect, and the Soul.

- The goal of human life is to return to the One through developing a good moral character, cultivating reason, and experiencing, a mystical unity in which body, soul and intellect are left behind.

Biography

Plotinus, born in Lykopolis, Egypt.

In his late twenties, Plotinus began to study in Alexandria with Ammonius Saccas, a shadowy figure who was also the teacher of the theologian Origen.

After eleven years with Ammonius, Plotinus joined an expedition to Persia to learn Persian and Indian wisdom. The trek proved unsuccessful and Plotinus moved to Rome. There he established a school of philosophy and a friendship with the emperor Gallenius.

At one point he sought permission to found a city based on Plato's Republic, but the plan came to naught. He stayed in Rome, teaching and writing, until the death of the emperor in 268. He then moved to the home of a friend where he died in 270, apparently from leprosy.

The Work of Plotinus

- The Enneads

Quotes from Plotinus

- "All things and events are foreshown and brought into being by causes; but the causation is of two Kinds; there are results originating from the Soul and results due to ... the environment." (from "The Enneads")

- "Beauty addresses itself chiefly to sight; but there is a beauty for the hearing too, as in certain combinations of words and in all kinds of music, for melodies and cadences are beautiful; and minds that lift themselves above the realm of sense to a higher order are aware of beauty in the -conduct of life, in actions, in character, in the pursuits of the intellect; and there is the beauty of the virtues." (from "The Enneads")

- "Evil by definition is a falling short in good." (from "The Enneads")

- "Flight of the alone to the Alone." (from "The Enneads")

- "The harvest comes home not for praying but for tilling." (from "The Enneads")

- "The man is changed, no longer himself nor self-belonging; he is merged with the Supreme, sunken into it, one with it: center coincides with center, for on this higher plane things that touch at all are one." (from "The Enneads")

- "To deny Evil a place among realities is necessarily to do away with the Good as well." (from "The Enneads")

- "To model ourselves upon good men is to produce an image of an image: we have to fix our gaze above the image and attain Likeness to the Supreme Exemplar." (from "The Enneads")

- "To the possession of the self the way is inward." (from "The Enneads")

- "We ought not to question whence; there is no whence, no coming or going in place; now it is seen and now not seen. We must not run after it, but fit ourselves for the vision and then wait tranquilly for its appearance, as the eye waits on the rising of the sun, which in its own time appears above the horizon-out of the ocean, as the poets say-and gives itself to our sight." (from "The Enneads")

- "We, undisciplined in discernment of the inward, knowing nothing of it, run after the outer, never understanding that it is the inner which stirs us; we are [like] one who sees his own reflection but not realizing whence it comes goes in pursuit of it." (from "The Enneads")

- "What can there be higher than that which is its own master?" (from "The Enneads")

- "Withdraw into yourself and look. And if you do not find yourself beautiful yet, act as does the creator of a statue that is to be made beautiful: he cuts away here, he smoothes there, he makes this line lighter, this other purer, until a lovely face has grown upon his work. So do you also: cut away all that is excessive, straighten all that is crooked, bring light to all that is overcast, labor to make all one glow of beauty and never cease chiseling your statue, until there shall shine out on you from it the godlike splendor of virtue, until you shall see the perfect goodness surely established in the stainless shrine." (from "The Enneads")

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