Greek Philosopher: Plotinus
Roman philosopher of the Neoplatonic school, born in Asyut, Egypt. Plotinus lived from 205 to 270 AD in Alexandria.
He studied with the Alexandrian philosopher Ammonius Saccas at Alexandria for a period of ten years and about 244 went to Rome, where he established a school.
Plotinus spoke on Pythagorean and Platonic wisdom in Neoplatonic terms and on asceticism; such was the impression made upon his audience that some of them gave their fortunes to the poor, set their slaves free and devoted themselves to lives of study and ascetic piety.
At the age of sixty, with the permission of the Roman emperor Gallienus, Plotinus planned to establish a communistic commonwealth build on the model of The Republic by the Greek philosopher Plato, but the project failed because of the opposition of Gallienus' counselors.
Plotinus continued to teach and write until his death. His works comprise fifty-four treatises in Greek, called the Enneads, six groups of nine books each, an arrangement probably made by his student Porphyry (232 to 304 AD) who edited his writings.
Plotinus' system was based chiefly on Plato's theory of idea, but whereas Plato assumed archetypal ideas to be the link between the supreme deity and the world of matter, Plotinus accepted an Oriental doctrine of emanation, of the constant transmission of powers from the Absolute Being, or the One, to the creation through several agencies, the first of which is nous or pure intelligence, whence flows the soul of the world; from this, in turn, flow the souls of men and animals, and finally matter.
Man thus belongs to two worlds, that of the senses and that of pure intelligence. Inasmuch as matter is the cause of all evil, the object of life should be to escape the material world of the senses, and hence man should abandon all earthly interests for those of intellectual meditation; by purification and by the exercise of thought man can gradually lift himself to an intuition of the nous, and ultimately to the complete and ecstatic union with the One, that is God.
Plotinus claimed to have experienced this divine ecstasy several times in his lifetime.
- Library of Essential Knowledge, Volume 2, Readers Digest, 1980
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