The mystic philosopher Plotinus is considered the father of Neoplatonism. He believed that he had achieved union with the Supreme Principle, the One, several times in his life. According to his theory, all material beings and things emanated from the One, including the Intellect, the Soul, and humans. In his belief system, human beings were to work to escape material reality and achieve union (or reunion) with the One. A renowned teacher, Plotinus lectured on this philosophy; his lectures were later compiled by one of his students, Porphyry of Tyre, who edited them into six books of nine chapters each, which he titled Enneas. Porphyry also wrote a biography of Plotinus. Although neither Porphyry nor Plotinus was a Christian, this compilation proved to have a significant influence on later thinkers, both pagan and Christian.
Plotinus’s interpretation of Platonic philosophy centers on his conception of the One, the creator-being. The One engendered not only the universe but himself as well. Plotinus claims this is possible because the One is the penultimate element; it is made up of everything else, yet it remains in the purest form. Plotinus calls this state “the light before the light.” As this purest form, it cannot be described or discussed; living beings can only hope to realize that even with a sense of perfection in meditation, they must be aware that there is a greater perfection that exists. The One is known only by what it is not; it is not comprehensible. It is the paradoxical culmination of everything, and yet it is like nothing else. This creation of a complex universe from the final, most pure element can be compared to the creation of gold jewelry. It is created from parts of pure gold yet could not exist as pure gold jewelry. It needs an amalgam for strength. However, it could not call itself gold without the original gold, which remains in a pure, if almost untouchable, form.
All else emanates from the One “because [there] is nothing within the One that all things are from it.” Plotinus states that the first element to spring from the One is Intellect. The Intellect’s purpose is to discern the rest of the forms of the universe. There...
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