When it comes to philosophers of the ancient world, Plotinus is recognized as a major player. He has also earned the title as being the founder of Neoplatonism , an accolade that he shares with his teacher Ammonius Saccas. What we know about Plotinus today actually comes from to a preface found in an edition of Plotinus’ Enneads. Throughout the years, the man has influenced many with more information located in this article.
Plotinus (204 , 270 AD)
For centuries upon centuries, Plotinus has provided inspiration for many different mystics and metaphysicians who represent a variety of cultures and religions, including Christianity, Paganism, Islam, and the Jewish faith. Below, you will learn more about the various ways that Plotinus has influenced the masses, including the Eastern Orthodox Church and characters, such as St Augustine.
Christians: A great deal of Christians has been influenced by Neoplatonism. It has been cited that St Augustine had acquired his Platonist philosophy with the help of meditation with Plotinus’ teachings , all despite him being associated with being a “Platonist.”
Eastern Orthodox Church: The theology linked to Plotinus greatly shaped the theology of the Eastern Orthodox Church. For example, take the theories that surround the subject of ‘energy.’ It is known that there were differences between the way that the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church viewed this topic. Varying interpretations have surfaced as the source of early thinking, which have roots with Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, and Plotinus.
Islam: Medieval Islam also showcased some of the ideas attributed to Plotinus and Neo-Platonism. It was documented that by the time the 11th century rolled around, the Fatimid state of Egypt had adopted some of the concepts of Neo-Platonism, which was also taught in some circles. It was an Iraqi by the name of Hamid al-Din al-Kirrmani that introduced the Fatimid Court to such teachings. Other notables within the Islamic culture that followed the original teachings of Plotinus were Nasafi and Sijistani , Persioan philosophers during his time.
India: A handful of philosophers from India (like Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Ananda Coomaraswamy) amongst others would refer to Plotinus in their own writings. He was mentioned at times when one wanted to speak on Indian monism.
Italian: With the help of Cosimo de Medici in Florence allowing a philosopher by the name of Marsilio Ficino to work his magic in Florence during the Renaissance period, an Academy was established to mirror the teaching of Plato. All that was accomplished through Ficino was highly influential in linking the philosophy of Plato directly to Christianity. The term of ‘Neo Platonist’ actually originated in the Renaissance with others to follow as sudents, like Pico della Mirandola , who penned An Oration On the Dignity of Man.
England: Plotinus became an influence on the Cambridge Platonists, who served as teachers during the 17th century. An array of writers would also learn a great deal form Plotinus, such WB Yeats, Kathleen Raine, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Words of Wisdom
To learn a little more about Plotinus, allow his words to speak for themselves:
“Being is desirable because it is identical with Beauty, and Beauty is loved because it is Being. We ourselves possess Beauty when we are true to our own being; ugliness is in going over to another order; knowing ourselves, we are beautiful; in self-ignorance, we are ugly.”
“Withdraw into yourself and look. And if you do not fine 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 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 or beauty and never cease chiseling your statue, until there shall shine out on you from it the godlike splendor of virtue, until you see the perfect goodness surely established in the stainless shrine.”
“God is not external to anyone, but is present with all things, though they are ignorant that he is so.”