Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Plotinus strives repeatedly to emphasize that the universe is created by a singular unit. His theory that “there must be one cause” echoes the teachings in Genesis of the creation of all matter. The spiritual being he labels the One is as much a creator-being as the God of the Bible, who is also described variously as the word and the light, just as Plotinus describes his supreme being.

This light, or knowledge, is passed on from the One to the Intellect, which, in turn, passes it to the Soul. This triune deity correlates with the Holy Trinity in its form, purpose, and philosophical conflict. While the One is certainly the Creator-God, the Intellect can be interpreted as a Holy Spirit figure who brings revelation to the Apostles and to the rest of humankind. The Soul is the only portion of Plotinus’s elements to unite with an actual body, as the Christ figure is the only godhead to become one with humanity. Also just as the purpose of Christ-as-man is salvation, so is the purpose of the Soul-and-body to return to the One through contemplation, which will lead to an ecstatic revelation. This spiritual awakening is necessary because Plotinus avers that the One is intellectually an unknowable being. In comparison, Matthew 11:27 says “no one knows the Father except the Son,” emphasizing the point that only through prayer and study will an understanding and eventual union with God be achieved.

Finally, Plotinus examines the consequences of the union of the Soul with a body, which unfortunately may lead to a manifestation of evil through evil deeds. The soul, he claims, “falls under the conditions of the entire living experience; this compound it is that sins; it is this, and not the other that pays penalty.” The remission of sin by acknowledgment and penance is universal to Christian philosophy. Plotinus consigns sin to the acts of the body only, and this can be traced to the story of Adam and Eve, who were the first embodied persons and the first to sin.