Neoplatonic Wonderings

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Neoplatonic Wonderings

Postby Aulus Flavius on Wed Aug 09, 2006 3:10 pm

Salve amici,

I’ve recently begun a study of Neoplatonism and have probably started in the proverbial deep end. To give you an indication I’m still reading the introduction section included by the translator J

But I do have a few questions that perhaps some of the more learned amongst us can answer.

1) The One

As one of its titles the One is called the First. However Stephen Mackenna (the gentleman who translated this copy I have) states, “It is not the Creator: it is scarcely even to be rightly called the First-Cause: its lowly majesty rejects all such predication of action: in this realm of the unknowable the First-Cause is, strictly speaking, a lower principal than the First, which is not to be spoken of in human terms.” (p. 32)

If this is the case, then there appears to be a clear distinction between the One and the First-Cause. Whilst the One itself appears to be by definitions unknowable, how is the One itself, by its very supra-existence (to quote a phrase from Mackenna) not the First-Cause? Should they not be one and the same?

2) If Intellectual-Principal is the first ‘thing’ of the One, and a mediation between us and the One, then wouldn’t the Intellectual-Principal be the result of the First-Cause?

3) Is the Intellectual-Principal the combined Minds of all Beings? Similar to All Soul in its collectivist nature? Or is Reality (in terms of Matter) a reflection of the Intellectual-Principal as in turn passed down from the One?

4) If the One is not the First Cause, then by Plotinus’ explanation of each Hypostases ‘generations’ and ‘reflections’ then logically shouldn’t the One itself be a reflection of something else?

5) Where do the Gods fit into all this?

Any help would be appreciated. Any advice on studying Neoplatonism would also help.

Vale,

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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Wed Aug 16, 2006 4:26 am

Salve mi amice

Aulus Flavius wrote:Salve amici,

I’ve recently begun a study of Neoplatonism and have probably started in the proverbial deep end. To give you an indication I’m still reading the introduction section included by the translator J

But I do have a few questions that perhaps some of the more learned amongst us can answer.

1) The One

As one of its titles the One is called the First. However Stephen Mackenna (the gentleman who translated this copy I have) states, “It is not the Creator: it is scarcely even to be rightly called the First-Cause: its lowly majesty rejects all such predication of action: in this realm of the unknowable the First-Cause is, strictly speaking, a lower principal than the First, which is not to be spoken of in human terms.” (p. 32)

If this is the case, then there appears to be a clear distinction between the One and the First-Cause. Whilst the One itself appears to be by definitions unknowable, how is the One itself, by its very supra-existence (to quote a phrase from Mackenna) not the First-Cause? Should they not be one and the same?


That's right, there is a distinction. Even in what Thomas Aquinus said of the Five Proofs of there being a (Christian creator) God, Anselm showed that all his ideas related to a first cause, the Primus Mobilie, which Plato identified as being within the World Soul, and did not actually rule out that there are in fact higher deities. Between the various Neoplatonist philosophers there are differences in how they describe the various levels of the Greater Universe, but essential it comes down to four levels of Being above the material universe, and The One then further above these. so...

The One, the Paternal Depth, the Sige (or Silence), is what Plato called the Good.

One day, so the story goes, the One was thinking, and since nothing else happened to exist then, all that the One had to think about was himself. And momemnt that He did so there came into being The One that IS. That is, the One that has both Oneness and Being, the Ennoia, the Voice, the Adytum, or Adiasma Theou (Sanctuary of God) who is Plato's Ho Epi Pasi Theos (The God over All).

Within the Adytum of God - or the womb of God as the Ennoia is generally posed as female, is born the First God, the First Mind. "Such is the Mind, which is energized before energy, while yet it had not gone forth, but abode in the Paternal Depth, and in the Adytum of God, nourished in Silence." ~ Proclus, Commentary on the Timaeus 167.

So already at this point there is a natural movement, not a creation, of a trinity of Being, Intellect, and Life that emmanates from a source called The One, although it is not necessarily a unity one; i.e. not necessarily a single One God, for transcendent of any being, Intellect, or Life are the Hypostases or henads who participate directly in the One. The rest of the Greater Universe comes into being as a natural flow of this divine movement. "The Mind of the Father said that all things should be cut into Three, whose Will assented, and immediately all things were so divided. The Mind of the eternal Father said into Three governing all things by Mind, and thense a fiery whirl wind drawing down the brilliance of flashing flame, penetrating the abysses of the Universe; for from thence downwards do extend their wondrous rays." ~Proclus, Platonis Theologium, 171-172

So then the second level is the Supramundane Light World in which exist the Intelligibles, and here too is the Second Mind. "All things subsist together in the Intelligible world" ~ Damascius, De Principiis. Everything that comes into being goes through a three stage process, the first being that of potentiality. This is where your Henads, or Hypostates exist in the Intellect as "the Intelligible Iunges comprehended in the Paternal mind, (who) instill(s) the Life Bearing fire into the Synoches, who comprehend the Teletarchs. By Intellect he contains the Intelligibles, and introduces the Soul into the Worlds." ~Proclus

The third level is then the Empyrean of the Intellectuals, in which the World Soul resides. "She glitters with Intellectual sections and has filled all things with Love." ~ Damascius. Plato explains the World as composed of three parts, the Same, the Other, and the Mixed. That is, The One, The One that Is, and the First Mind. And Plato also speaks of the World Soul as segmented into musical proporations.

Projecting from, or emmanating from the World Soul is then the fourth level of Being, the Ethereal World in which the Demiurge, or Creator God dwells within the World Soul as the Logos. All things of potentiality must pass through the World Soul, ordered by the Logos, so that She becomes the Matrix. "The Matrix contains all things. Wholly indivisible and yet divisible, from whence abundantly springs forth the generations of multifarious matter." ~ Proclus It is here that are Plato's Ideal Forms, and the Principles. "The Principles, which have understood the Intelligible works of the Father, He has clothed in sensible works and bodies, being intermediate links existing to connect the Father with Matter, rendering apparent the Images of unapparent Natures, and inscribing the Unapparent in the Apparent frame of the World." ~ Damascius

Ok, that last part of the Apparent and the unapparent does not at first make much sense, but it refers to the order of things, being the Unapparent something behind what we do see, as the Apparent and sensible, moverment of stars and planets. The World, as the ancients referred to it, is this sensible world of the stars and planets, and not simply the world as we think of it today as planet Earth.


Aulus Flavius wrote: 2) If Intellectual-Principal is the first ‘thing’ of the One, and a mediation between us and the One, then wouldn’t the Intellectual-Principal be the result of the First-Cause?


No, it is the other way around. The First Cause is associated with movement, thus with Life, and Life itself is an outgrowth of the World Soul. But, the Soul itself, "being moved by itself, has a rank (of reality) inferior to the unmoved principle which is unmoved even in its activity." And this unmoved principle is the Intellectual principle. "If therefore, Soul is a self-moved cause of motion, there must exist a prior cause of motion which is unmoved." Thus, says Proclus, Proposition 20 in the "Elements of Theology," "Beyond all bodies is the Soul's essences; beyond all souls is the Intellectual Principle; and beyond all intellective substances is the One." So Life, Light, and Love are projections from the World Soul, the Intellectual Principle, and the One, respectively, reflected then in an individual as soul, mind, and being, but the order in which they proceed from one another is first Authentic Being, Mind, and Soul imparted into a physical form.

Aulus Flavius wrote:3) Is the Intellectual-Principal the combined Minds of all Beings? Similar to All Soul in its collectivist nature? Or is Reality (in terms of Matter) a reflection of the Intellectual-Principal as in turn passed down from the One?


The Intellectual principle contains all things that are or that have a potential of coming into being. Participating in the oneness of the One, it is not a wholeness composed of minds, but a source from which minds in all things proceed. The Diastolic movement of the divine downward through the Universe, through the gradations of reality, is then imparted into chaotic matter, ordering it by the Intellectual Principle into formed Nature.

Aulus Flavius wrote:4) If the One is not the First Cause, then by Plotinus’ explanation of each Hypostases ‘generations’ and ‘reflections’ then logically shouldn’t the One itself be a reflection of something else?


Proclus, Elements of Theology, propositions 114-115: "Every God is a self-complete henad or unit, and every self complete henad is a God. Every God is above Being, above Life, above, Intelligence." The First Principle is unity, and as Proclus explains, unity and being are not the same thing. The First Principle therefore transcends Being, and since Being is before Intellect, and Intellect before Life, then the First Principle must preceed all three. The henads, or Hypostases participate in the First Principle in as much as They too possess Unity, as They also posses Being, Intellect, and Life within a Unity. The First Principle is a reflection of the One, and the henads reflect the First Principle.

Aulus Flavius wrote:5) Where do the Gods fit into all this?


The Henads are seven in number, each being at the head of an order of Gods, these being the generating Gods (Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune, and Hade), the order of perfecting Gods and Goddesses, the order of protecting Gods (Jupiter, Mars, Quirinus, Cerus, and Uranus), the life-giving Gods and Goddesses (apollo-Sol, Ceres, Juno, Mana Geneta, Rhea-Cybele), the purifying order of Gods and Goddesses (Aesculapius, Apollo, Minerva, and Kronos), the demiurge order of Gods and Goddesses (what are Aristotle's formal cause, like Minerva) and then the elevating order of Gods and Goddesses (Venus, Sol, and the Muses, Carmentis and the Carmenae).

The natural, diastolic movement of divinty throughout the various levels of the Universe means that Gods and Goddesses form at each level of Being. Thus, there is an earthly form of Jupiter in the sensible World, seen in the image of the planet Jupiter and in the power that fructifies the earth with rain, but there are also other Jupiters at higher levels of Being, as the Celestial Jupiter in the Ethereal realm, who is Himself a projection of a still higher Jupiter among the Involuti of the Intellectuals of the Empyrean realm. And there are also the lower Jupiters, in a sense, as each of the henads are projected downward through the Matrix of the World Soul into all things, and thus into ourselves as well, as part of our individual geniuses and junones.

This, of course is only half of the story, for there is then also the diastolic movement of the divine back into the One, as all things have an existential being, moving from potentiality into being and then perfected by returning into its source. That happens on an individual basis, with one's soul returning into the World Soul, and one's mind returning into the Mind as its source, but also, eventually, All Things returning upward so that all levels of being eventually withdraws back up into the One. And in the real scheme of things, the beginning and the end are one and the same, the Alpha and the Omega, transcending time itself, so that Origin, the wholeness of all things in unity within the One, exists as a space-time continum, simultaneously proceeding from the One, existing in the One, and returning into the One.

The symbol for the Universe, the Abode of God, the God over All, is the circle for at the same time that it proceeds equally in all directions from the center, there is always the tension of the circle collapsing upon itself in a desire to become the center point. Drop a pebble in a pond, reflecting as the Neoplatonists did upon it, and you will see the emmanation from the One through the Universe, returning to the Silence.

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Postby Quintus Aurelius Orcus on Sun Aug 20, 2006 7:44 pm

Salve Piscine

Damn, that is allot to process. Besides Plotinus en Proclus, are there any other material suitable to study neoplatonism?
vale

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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Mon Aug 21, 2006 3:04 am

Salve Orce

Try these sites for a history of Neoplatonism and some other Neoplatonist authors

http://www.kheper.net/topics/Neoplatonism/

http://www.iep.utm.edu/n/neoplato.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoplatonism

besides Plotinus and Proclus, you could look at Porphyry, who put together Plotinus' lectures into order as the Enneads, wrote the life of Plotinus, and also wrote some other things. {Do we still have those links up} Saullustius who influenced Julian the Blessed. The writings of Julian as well. Aemilius, a student of Porphyry. You might want to look at the Chaldean Oracles, as those influenced Neoplatonists after Plotinus, beginning with Porphyry. And you might want to read the Corpus Hermeticum which texts were greatly influenced by Neoplatonism. There were Christian schools of Neoplatonism, Islamic schools. Neoplatonism reentered Christian and Islamic thought in later periods, especially in Christian mysticism, Sufiism and Baha'ism. There is also Iamblichus, On the Mysteries. It depends who you read as to whether he is thought a Neoplatonist or an off-branch from Neoplatonism. Each author, and there are others, introduced something else into Neoplatonism. Plotinus is my favorite of all the Neoplatonists, and his is a purer form and mystical form of Neoplatonism. Proclus tried to organize later Neoplatonism in a way that might be easier for some to read. But you should also read something like the poems of Jelaluddin Rumi, a Sufi of the 13th century who takes you into Neoplatonism, in the discourses with his soul, rather than just talk about Neoplatonism.

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Neoplatonism links

Postby Aldus Marius on Mon Aug 21, 2006 6:40 am

Salvete philosophi...

> besides Plotinus and Proclus, you could look at Porphyry...{Do we still have those links up}

Kheper Topics: Neoplatonism is still there, as well as the articles about Proclus and Iamblicus to be found in the same place. Plotinus and Porphyry may also be reached there. The other two I did not have in your original article; send me a boldly-marked copy of the relevant paragraphs and I'll put them in.

("Boldly-marked":

Rumblerumblemurmurrumble [description of link] [name of link] ***Marius!! Put it right here!!!*** --->[URL]<--- mumblemumblerumblerumblegrr. )

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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Wed Aug 23, 2006 4:19 pm

Salve Mari

In the web pages for the former Collegium Philosophium, under articles and essays, there is my earlier article on links related to Neoplatonism. But the page for "links," organized differently from the other collegia, does not have working links on Neoplatonism, and none of the links given for Stoicism work any longer. I did not go through all the others.

Apparently we need a new page, or a radically updated page, for links on philosophy. We can start a new topic where sodales may post links that can then be incorporated into the website. It seems we need to collect links once more before we begin updating the pages.

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Philosophy links

Postby Aldus Marius on Thu Aug 24, 2006 4:43 am

Salve, mi Horati,

I confess I haven't really looked at the Links pages for the various Collegia; I've been seeing to the articles first, as that is where lies the backlog. But I will have a look at the CollPhil selection; at the very least, I can add all the new links you sent me that weren't in your essay, and delete any dead ones from the existing list.

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