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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Neoplatonism is a philosophical and religious[1][2][3][4][5] system, beginning with the work of Plotinus in c. 245 AD,[6] that analyzes and teaches interpretations of the philosophy and theology[7][8] of Plato,[6] and which extended[9][10] the interpretations of Plato that middle Platonists developed from 80 BC to 220 AD.[11] The English term "neoplatonism",[12] or "Neo-Platonism",[13][note 1] or "Neoplatonism"[15] comes from 18th-[16] and 19th-century Germanic scholars (Germanic term: Neu-Platonische in the 18th century; Neuplatoniker in the 19th century)[17] who wanted to systematize history into nameable periods.[18]

Leading 21st-century scholarship understands neoplatonism to have begun when the Egyptian[19][20] philosopher Plotinus moved from Alexandria to Rome in c. 245 AD,[6] and there founded[18][21] the first neoplatonic school[22] where he taught an interpretation of Plato's philosophy until c. 270 AD.[23] Between c. 270 to 305 AD, the neoplatonic philosopher Porphyry continued the teaching of Plotinus in Rome,[24] as did the philosopher Iamblichus, who later in his life taught neoplatonic philosophy in Syria until c. 330 AD.[25] During the middle of the 4th century, neoplatonism rapidly became the religion of a well educated minority, and November 361 AD[26] saw the proclamation of the neoplatonist[27] Roman emperor Julian.[25]

By 415 AD, the brilliant[25] neoplatonist philosopher Hypatia had been the leading thinker in Alexandria for nearly 35 years,[28] and in Athens in the early 5th century, the neoplatonic philosopher Plutarch of Athens became head of the school of Plato in Athens, succeeding the orthodox Platonic Academy.[25] In 437 AD,[29] about five years after Plutarch had died,[30] his former student, the neoplatonist philosopher Proclus, became head of the neoplatonic school of Athens.[31] Proclus, a prolific[32] writer of ancient Greek philosophy and regarded by some 21st-century scholars as the greatest[33] neoplatonic philosopher of the 5th century, remained head of the neoplatonic school of Athens for nearly 50 years, until he died in 485 AD.[34]

The neoplatonism of late antiquity in Athens ended in 529 AD[35][36] after the Byzantine emperor Justinian I confirmed his Novum Justinianeum Codicem, or Codex Justinianus,[37] on the 7th of April 529 AD,[38] and administrators[39] enforcing the new laws, after they had legal force on the 16th of April 529 AD,[40] closed the last neoplatonic school in Athens,[6] probably between 529 and 531 AD,[41] where at the time it was headed by the Syrian philosopher Damascius.[42] Some 20th- and 21st-century scholars say Damascius then travelled east to establish a neoplatonic school in Charrae (present-day Harran,[43] Turkey) in the Persian Empire.[44] After the closure of the neoplatonic school in Athens in 529 AD, Alexandria became the leading neoplatonic school,[45] where Olympiodorus, the last[46] neoplatonic leader of the school, lectured until slightly after 565 AD.[47]

History

Portrait of the 18th-century German historian Johann Jakob Brucker, whose six-volume work Historia critica philosophiae (1742–1767) cemented the historiographical division of an early Platonic tradition into middle Platonism and neoplatonism.
Portrait of the 18th-century German historian Johann Jakob Brucker, whose six-volume work Historia critica philosophiae (1742–1767) cemented the historiographical division of an early Platonic tradition into middle Platonism and neoplatonism.

Neoplatonism synthesized ideas from earlier philosophical and religious traditions, namely Platonism, Aristotelianism and Stoicism, and it is that synthesis that explains the central difference between Plato and neoplatonism.[48] Because scholars believe that neoplatonism did not arise spontaneously from Platonism, they postulate an intermediate series of stages, called middle Platonism (German term: Vorneuplatonismus), that evolved Plato's doctrines into neoplatonic doctrines.[49] Middle Platonism is where historians see the first attempts to combine the earlier traditions of Platonism, Aristotelianism and Stoicism.[49]

There is a recent view, held by the 21st-century Irish professor Sarah Klitenic Wear, that three major periods in neoplatonism can be distinguished after Plotinus: the period of work by Plotinus' student Porphyry; the period of Iamblichus' school in Syria; and the period in the 5th and 6th centuries, when Platonic Academies in Athens and Alexandria flourished with the activities of the philosophers Syrianus, Proclus, Damascius and Olympiodorus.[50] According to Damascius, the main religious exponents of neoplatonism were Iamblichus, Syrianus and Proclus, whilst Plotinus and Porphyry were the main philosophical exponents of neoplatonism.[51]

The term "Neoplatonism"

"Neoplatonism" is a modern term that originated in Germanic scholarship of the 18th[16] and 19th centuries in an attempt to organize history into conspicuous periods.[18] 21st-century scholarship has revealed that the conceptual foundation that divided an early Platonic tradition into middle Platonism and neoplatonism was cemented by the six-volume work called Critical History of Philosophy (Latin: Historia critica philosophiae), published between 1742 and 1767 by the 18th-century German historian Johann Jakob Brucker.[16][52] Unfortunately, in the 18th century the usage of the term "neoplatonism" was mostly pejorative.[16] 21st-century scholarship still uses the term "neoplatonism" as it does not think that the originally pejorative term is predetermined to retain its pejorative associations through history, and regards other terms like "Platonism" and "late Platonism" as having too wide a scope, misleading and ambiguous.[53]

The term "neoplatonism" has a double function as a historical category, where on the one hand, it separates the developments of Platonic doctrines from the time of Plotinus onwards,[54] as it was once used to strongly contrast the neoplatonic period with middle Platonism,[53] and on the other hand, the prefix "neo" is now commonly used to suggest that there is something new in the interpretations of Plato by Plotinus, Porphyry, Iamblichus and Proclus.[18]

1st to 2nd century

Important forerunners of neoplatonism were the 1st-century Jewish-Greek[55] philosopher Philo of Alexandria, whose key theological doctrines approximate neoplatonic doctrines;[56] the 1st-century middle Platonist Plutarch of Chaeronea,[57] who was inspired by Plato, but was opposed to Stoic doctrines;[58] and the 2nd-century middle Platonist[59] Numenius of Apamea,[60] who was a significant influence on the neoplatonic philosophers Plotinus, Porphyry and Proclus, and also anticipated an important neoplatonic doctrine.[61][62]

Philo of Alexandria

The 1st-century philosopher Philo of Alexandria, who lived at the same time as Jesus of Nazareth and was the most distinguished scholar of Diaspora Judaism in Alexandria, was most likely born in Alexandria,[63] spoke Greek and was a Roman citizen.[64] He may have been born between c. 15 BC and c. 10 BC, the years corresponding approximately to the births of his elder and younger brothers, although he is often said to be born c. 20 BC and died when he was over 60 years old,[65] after 41 AD.[66] Philo was born into a very wealthy family that was related or had connections to the family of the Roman client king Herod the Great,[67] it is possible that he was in Jerusalem in 29 AD, as he went there to pray;[68] and he once led a Jewish delegation to the Roman emperor Gaius Caligula in 38 AD or 39 AD.[69] His family's status allowed Philo to receive a full education in philosophy where he studied Plato, as testified by his own writings in De Specialibus Legibus III 1–2 that is full of Platonic echoes.[70]

The writings of Philo reveal a conception of God that anticipates Plotinus' neoplatonic conception of the One, also his conceptions of the Logos as mediator between God and humans, and his conception of Powers, that very closely resemble the Platonic conception of Ideas; all anticipate neoplatonic doctrines.[71] For both Philo and Plotinus, the suggestion for a doctrine of "ecstasy" came from Platonic dialogues,[72] where Philo's doctrine distinguished four classes of "ecstasy": madness, sudden astonishment, deep sleep and inspiration.[73] Philo also accepted the cosmological teachings of Plato, but rejected key cosmological views held by Aristotle and the Stoics.[74]

Plutarch of Chaeronea

The 1st-century historian and philosopher Plutarch of Chaeronea, or Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus, known simply as Plutarch, was born in c. 45 AD and educated in a small Greek village in Chaeronea at a time when Rome controlled the Mediterranean world politically and militarily.[75] He travelled to Athens when he was 20 years old and studied at the Platonic Academy in Athens between 66 AD and 67 AD.[76] Plutarch was fascinated with history and studied many ancient historical works, with one of his greatest heroes being Alexander the Great, who was personally involved in the battle of Chaeronea.[77] He travelled extensively, visiting Italy, Greece, Macedonia, Crete, Northern Egypt, and parts of Asia Minor, was politically active in Chaeronea, and there taught philosophy and mathematics, and was a priest of the nearby temple of Apollo at Delphi.[78] Plutarch left an enormous literary and intellectual legacy; contemporary scholars say he died after c. 119 AD, probably c. 125 AD.[79]

Plutarch anticipated neoplatonic doctrines in his system that was less elaborate and less thorough than that of Plotinus.[58] In Plutarch's system, there are two first principles, God and Matter, between them, Platonic Ideas or patterns that formed the world, and another principle that he called the World-soul.[58] Plotinus borrowed from Plutarch the non-Platonic term 'hypostasis', a concept also used by the Aristotelian-Stoic philosophers Cornutus and Sextus of Chaeronea ('hexis'; in Stoic dialect) and also in Alexandria by Philo of Alexandria, the Septuagint and Lucian of Antioch.[80] Plutarch also wrote on the connection between prophecy and imagination.[81]

Numenius of Apamea

Roman ruins in the modern-day Hama Governorate of Syria, which was the location of the ancient city Apamea, where Numenius taught in the 2nd century AD.[82][83]
Roman ruins in the modern-day Hama Governorate of Syria, which was the location of the ancient city Apamea, where Numenius taught in the 2nd century AD.[82][83]

The Syrian philosopher Numenius of Apamea, whose activities, to the best of our knowledge,[84] flourished after the middle[82] of the 2nd century (probably during the reign of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius from 161 to 180 AD, and about 20 years after the birth of Saint Clement of Alexandria in c. 150 AD[83]), taught in Apamea,[85] where among his pupils or followers or friends were Kronius, Harpokration and Boethos.[83] He was very familiar with the teachings of Greek philosophers, what might have been the result of a visit to Athens,[86] and was familiar with the religious beliefs of the Jews, Persians, other theologies and Egyptians, which, due to his knowledge of the Serapistic mysteries,[87] might have been the result of a visit to Egypt.[88][89] His primary scholarly activities were dedicated to mediating those creeds with Plato's philosophy.[90] He greatly admired Philo of Alexandria and knew his works well; and saw that the Old Testament and Plato both taught the existence of One Supreme God.[90]

Numenius is seen as belonging to Platonism's Pythagorean wing, and was a source of the variety of Platonism that Plotinus promoted.[91] Because of that, Plotinus was seen as a kind of successor to Numenius.[92] Numenius preferred deep allegorical interpretations of Plato and Homer and hence was an important methodological influence on Proclus.[93] It was from Numenius that Porphyry derived the idea of his allegorizing work on Homer called Cave of the Nymphs.[94] Numenius' works were read in Plotinus' classrooms and he anticipated a fundamental neoplatonic doctrine that distinguished between the Demiurge, identified with Plotinus' conception of the intelligible realm of Intellect,[95] and the Supreme Unity, identified with Plotinus' conception of the One.[96] Numenius' chief work was On the Good, in six books, and his other works included About the Mystery-teachings of Plato, The Initiate, About the Indestructibility or Incorruptibility of the Soul, About Space, and About Numbers.[97]

Gnostic

The 2nd-century Alexandrian Christian Gnostic Valentinus used the technical Gnostic term 'plenitude' (plērōma)[98] to describe a multitude of higher beings in the spiritual cosmos.[98] The Gnostic conception of a 'plenitude' of higher beings in the spiritual cosmos, seen in Valentinus' conception of 30[98] or 33[99] Aeons;[98] and the 2nd century Christian Gnostic Basilides'[99] conception of seven Powers; was previously found in: Philo's conception of five Powers; in Hermetic writings, where there is a conception of a Demiurge and seven Governors; in Numenius' conception of triply divided First and Second gods; and in the 2nd century Christian Gnostic[100] Saturninus'[101] conception of seven creative spheres,[102] or Seven Angels.[99] The term 'plenitude' is an important neoplatonic term, however in Plotinus' neoplatonic doctrines, 'plenitude' was an activity in a hypostasis that retained its unity.[103]

Christian

A Renaissance icon of Saint Justin Martyr located in the Stavronikita Monastery. Saint Justin's conception of the Logos was also important in Plotinus' neoplatonic doctrines.[95]
A Renaissance icon of Saint Justin Martyr located in the Stavronikita Monastery. Saint Justin's conception of the Logos was also important in Plotinus' neoplatonic doctrines.[95]

The 2nd-century Christian apologist Saint Justin Martyr, who initially sought wisdom from the Stoics, Peripatetics and Platonists before converting to Christianity, alluded to a conception of the Logos as a means for transmitting the Good News of Christian Gospels.[104] Logos was also an important conception in Plotinus' neoplatonic doctrines.[95] Saint Justin Martyr also refers to the Second Epistle of Plato to explain the Christian Trinity platonically, and the same Epistle was used by Plotinus as an authority in his neoplatonic doctrines.[105] Similarly, the 2nd-century Christian[106] Saint Athenagoras of Athens,[107] the first master of the Catechetical School of Alexandria and who taught Saint Clement of Alexandria,[108] describes God as the Logos.[109]

3rd to 4th century

In the 3rd and 4th centuries, prominent members of the neoplatonic school in Rome and Alexandria were: the 3rd-century Egyptian[19] philosopher Plotinus,[110] the founder of neoplatonism;[6] the 3rd-century Alexandrian philosopher Ammonius Saccas, who taught Plotinus and the 3rd-century Christian middle Platonist[111] Origen in Alexandria;[112] the 3rd-century Etruscan-Roman philosopher Amelius,[113] who studied with Plotinus for over 20 years; the 3rd-century Tyrian philosopher Porphyry,[24] who first studied with the 3rd-century middle-Platonist philosopher Longinus in Athens and afterwards studied with Plotinus in Rome from 263 AD; the 3rd-century Syrian philosopher Iamblichus,[114] who studied with Porphyry in Rome or Sicily; and the 4th-century Roman emperor Julian, who as a philosopher, wrote simplified versions of the doctrines of Plotinus and Iamblichus.[115]

Ammonius Saccas

The 3rd-century philosopher Ammonius Saccas established a school in Alexandria in c. 200 AD where one of his students was Plotinus.[112] As Ammonius' instruction was purely oral,[35] he did not write philosophical works,[116][117] it is difficult to know what Plotinus learned from him; however, since Plotinus studied under him for 11 years,[35] his influence on Plotinus was significant.[112] The hypothesis that Ammonius was Indian is improbable[118] and any Indian influence on neoplatonism was thought unlikely in the mid-20th century;[119][120] however, notable late-20th century (R. Baine Harris ed. 1982)[121] and 21st-century scholarship has opened major areas of research in that field.[122] The early 4th-century Greek Christian historian Saint Eusebius, citing a work wrongly ascribed to Ammonius,[123][124][125] and the 4th-century Christian theologian Saint Jerome, who confused Ammonius Saccas with another Ammonius,[124] both claimed Ammonius Saccas was a Christian, whereas Porphyry claimed he was born a Christian but reverted to the Greek religion.[116] The 5th-century neoplatonist Hierocles and Porphyry, in his work On the Return of the Soul (fr. 302F[126]), both stated that Ammonius attempted to harmonize the conflicting doctrines of Plato and Aristotle.[127]

Origen

Origen, born in Alexandria in c. 186 AD and flourished in the 3rd century, is variously described by scholars as a hypothetical neoplatonist,[128] a neoplatonist,[129] a Christian neoplatonist,[130][131] a Christian middle Platonist,[111] a Christian and Platonist,[132] a Christian Platonist[133] or a Christian.[134] His father, the 2nd century Christian martyr Saint Leonides of Alexandria was a professor of literature and a Christian, and during Origen's youth, the late 2nd to early 3rd century Christian theologian Saint Clement of Alexandria had already served as a noted Christian professor and a member of the clergy in Alexandria.[135] Most of what is known about Origen's life comes to us from the late 3rd to early 4th century Greek historian of Christianity Saint Eusebius, in his work Ecclesiastical History.[136] During his twenties,[137] Origen was studying in Alexandria as a student of Ammonius Saccas, who later would also teach the 3rd century Egyptian[19] philosopher Plotinus, the founder of neoplatonism,[138] who was about 20 years younger than Origen.[137] During his time studying under Ammonius Saccas, Origen was also introduced to middle Platonists, whose doctrines were close to the doctrines of Christian intellectuals of the time.[137] In his travels, Origen visited Rome, where he may[139] have met Plotinus, he also travelled to Arabia Petraea, Antioch, Athens and studied in Palestine, where in Caesarea he was a priest and head of a Christian school from about the 230s AD[140] to c. 249 AD.[141] The city of Caesarea is where the 3rd century Tyrian[24] neoplatonist philosopher Porphyry is said to have heard his lectures.[142]

Apart from Christianity, the intellectual milieu surrounding Origen and other early Christian scholars in the Roman Empire in the early 3rd century included Stoic, Hermetic and middle Platonic philosophies.[143] Origen, a very influential Christian philosopher and theologian, was heavily influenced by Plato and Greek philosophy and tried to illuminate and define doctrines of Christianity over and above the doctrines of the Gnostics.[143] His work On First Principles (de Principiis) had a wide influence, as did his religious discourses and scriptural commentaries that were extensively circulated in the Middle Ages; however, he was condemned for his views on apocatastasis by the Fifth Ecumenical Council, and was treated with suspicion in the Latin West of the Middle Ages.[143] His Platonic interpretation of Christian scriptures may be seen in On First Principles 2.10.1–4.38, where basing his arguments on Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians 1 Cor. 15:44, he comments that after the resurrection of the dead, human bodies will not be flesh and blood, but will be changed and transformed.[144] Also in his work On First Principles 2.10.3, there is a discussion on an innate 'principle', or 'seminal reason' (logos spermatikos, ratio seminalis), which a body possesses that is not corrupted and survives the death of the body; and in general, Origen regards the body as a garment of the soul, a Platonic metaphor which is also in PlotinusEnneads 1.6.7.[145]

Plotinus

The 3rd-century Egyptian[146][19] neoplatonist philosopher Plotinus, born in 204 AD or 205 AD and died in 270 AD,[19] was the founder of neoplatonism,[138][147][148][149][150] which has had a profound influence on Middle Ages philosophy, and more broadly, on Western philosophy.[151] The principal source[152] of our biographical information about Plotinus comes from Porphyry's Life of Plotinus (Latin: Vita Plotini),[153] written in 301 AD[20] as a preface to his edition of Plotinus' works, called Enneads.[154] During the time Plotinus was a student of Ammonius Saccas in Alexandria, from 232 to 242 AD,[20] he became eager to learn about Persian and Indian philosophy.[155][156] To try to achieve that aim, in 242 AD Plotinus embarked on a military expedition with the Roman emperor Gordian III;[20] however, he did not venture very far east, as Gordian III was killed in Mesopotamia[157] in 244 AD,[158] and Plotinus escaped to the city Antioch.[155] In 244 AD[20] Plotinus settled in Rome, where he was to stay until the last year of his life,[155] and established a school there c. 245 AD marking the beginning of neoplatonism.[6]

Plotinus' school was open to all women and men, and attracted people who just wanted to hear his lectures or attend meetings or seminars or participate in open philosophical discussions, whilst others came to seek a philosophical way of life, and others attended because they wanted to become philosophers.[159] Subjects of study at the school included commentaries on Plato and Aristotle by the Middle Platonists, or Pythagoreans and Aristotelians.[160] Plotinus did not impose a rigid structured curriculum at his school, rather it was the thinking that one did for oneself that was important.[138] Plotinus remained head of his school in Rome until he moved to Campania for the last year of his life where he died in 270 AD at the age of 66.[155] Plotinus entrusted Porphyry with arranging his treatises, written in the last 17 years of his life, which Porphyry arranged according to subject matter into six sets of nine treatises, i.e. six enneads, where an "ennead" is a set of nine, and called the work Enneads.[161] Porphyry completed the arrangement, about 30 years after Plotinus died, and it comprises everything Plotinus wrote and also includes a preface written by Porphyry.[162] Of all the neoplatonic philosophers, Plotinus is regarded as particularly sympathetic to Christianity, an example of which is seen by the 4th-century Roman senator and Christian convert Marius Victorinus' translation of Plotinus' Enneads from Greek to Latin.[163]

An illustration in a Middle Ages manuscript depicting Plotinus and Porphyry disputing astrology. The 3rd-century philosopher Plotinus was the founder[138] of neoplatonism, and Porphyry was his student for six years and a prominent neoplatonist philosopher of the 3rd century.[164][165]
An illustration in a Middle Ages manuscript depicting Plotinus and Porphyry disputing astrology. The 3rd-century philosopher Plotinus was the founder[138] of neoplatonism, and Porphyry was his student for six years and a prominent neoplatonist philosopher of the 3rd century.[164][165]

The majority of scholars during the early to mid-20th century saw the relationship between Plotinus and the Gnostics as mainly antagonistic, due to the philosophical critiques by Plotinus himself, in Ennead 2.9 Against the Gnostics, 3.8, 5.8 and 5.5, and also those emerging in other doctrines in the Enneads.[166] However, notable works by the 20th-century scholars Hans Jonas, Gnosis und spätantiker Geist 1993 [1934];[167] Joseph Katz, Plotinus and the Gnostics 1954;[168] Cornelia de Vogel, On the Neoplatonic Character of Platonism and the Platonic Character of Neoplatonism 1953;[169] and Henri-Charles Puech, Plotin et les Gnostiques 1960,[170] highlighted crucial parallels between the doctrines of Plotinus and those of the Gnostics, that branched out from their common religious and philosophical environment of Alexandria in the 3rd century.[166] Similar views were held by the 20th-/21st-century American professor of religious studies John D. Turner and are held by the 21st-century Canadian professor of philosophy Jean-Marc Narbonne.[166] In those views, it is realized that during the entire period of Plotinus' school, from c. 245 AD to 269 AD, Plotinus had many quarrels and critical events with many issues, where "battles" with the Gnostics took on a priority; however, contemporary scholars are now interpreting the Gnostics as authentically inventive interpreters of the traditions of ancient philosophy, which was in direct competition to Plotinus' school, and that Plotinus was very conscious of that competition.[171]

Porphyry

The 3rd-century Tyrian[24] neoplatonist philosopher Porphyry, born in 234 AD and died in 305 AD,[24] flourished towards the end of the 3rd century amidst radical religious transformations that was to affect the entire Roman Empire, resulting in the Diocletianic Persecution of Christians in 303 AD, about two years before Porphyry died.[172] In his biography of Plotinus, Life of Plotinus, written in 301 AD,[20] Porphyry mentions meeting the early 3rd-century Christian theologian Origen;[172] later he studied literature, rhetoric and philology with the 3rd-century Syrian philosopher Longinus, and when he was 30, in c. 262 AD, went to Rome and studied philosophy with Plotinus[164] for six years, and in 268 AD left Rome for Sicily and married Marcella.[165]

Notable 21st-century scholarship by the American historian of Christianity Elizabeth DePalma Digeser[173][174] has revealed that the context of Porphyry's writings against the Christians was a lot more complex than the simple opposition of "pagans"[note 2] and Christians.[176] Porphyry was not only "at war" with the followers of the Christian theologian Origen over shaping religious law for the Roman Empire, but he was similarly "at war" with the school of Iamblichus, who was regarded by early Christians as a "pagan".[176] Further, Porphyry's work Against the Christians was only known as a single work several centuries after Porphyry's death.[177] The work Against the Christians cited by the Suda is likely a Byzantine summary of Porphyry's compositions that was circulated after the original compositions were burnt due to the edicts issued by the Eastern Roman emperor Theodosius II and the Roman emperor Valentinian III[178] in 448 AD.[177] Prior to those edicts, the Roman emperor Constantine had issued an edict in 325 AD, shortly after the First Council of Nicaea, that all of Porphyry's works be burnt and his reputation destroyed.[178]

Porphyry was amongst the first serious students of the Bible, and wrote on astrology;[179] religion, where he was an apologist for traditional Roman religion; and philosophy, where he was a critic of Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and the school of his student Iamblichus.[176] He also wrote on Homer's Odyssey in his work On the Cave of the Nymphs, and he wrote on musical theory.[180][138] He is relevant to the history of mathematics because of his work called Life of Pythagoras, that collects traditions of the Pythagoreans;[181] and his commentary on Euclid's Elements, that may have been used by the 4th-century Greek mathematician Pappus, when he wrote his own commentary on Euclid's Elements.[182] Porphyry's introduction to Aristotle's Categoriae, called Isagoge, was important as an introduction to the study of logical works of Aristotle in Plotinus' school in Rome.[183]

Iamblichus

The 3rd-century Syrian philosopher Iamblichus was born to a noble family in Chalcis ad Belum in c. 245 AD, and he may have studied with Porphyry in Rome.[184] He established a school in Syria that was an important link in the Platonic tradition.[184] We do not know much about Iamblichus' life; his date of birth is uncertain and much of our biographical information, that comes from the 4th-century Greek historian Eunapius of Sardis, lacks factual detail.[185] The 6th-century Syrian philosopher Damascius says, in his work Life of Isidore, that Iamblichus descended from the royal line of priest-kings of Emesa,[186] where among his ancestors were Sampsigeramos and Monimos, the founder of Iamblichus' native city.[187] Growing up in Syria during the mid-3rd century must have been confusing and disorienting, as during Iamblichus' early youth the Persian King Shapur I broke Roman Empire strongholds around the Kingdom of Chalcis and pillaged the whole of northern Syria, including Antioch.[186]

A 4th-century mosaic in the Apamea Museum in Qalaat al-Madiq, Syria. The mosaic was installed from 361 to 363 AD, during the reign of the Roman emperor Julian, to commemorate his favourite philosopher Iamblichus.[188] It depicts the schools of rhetoric and philosophy where the 3rd-century AD neoplatonist philosopher Iamblichus had earlier taught.[189][190] The mosaic was in a villa excavated by the French-Belgian archaeologists Janine Balty and Jean BaIty in the late 20th century.[191][190]
A 4th-century mosaic in the Apamea Museum in Qalaat al-Madiq, Syria. The mosaic was installed from 361 to 363 AD, during the reign of the Roman emperor Julian, to commemorate his favourite philosopher Iamblichus.[188] It depicts the schools of rhetoric and philosophy where the 3rd-century AD neoplatonist philosopher Iamblichus had earlier taught.[189][190] The mosaic was in a villa excavated by the French-Belgian archaeologists Janine Balty and Jean BaIty in the late 20th century.[191][190]

Scholars are unsure about who Iamblichus' teachers were, but think that he might have studied with Porphyry in Rome in the 280s AD; however, they know he was very critical of Porphyry's philosophical position,[192] and sought to reform the theological basis of neoplatonism.[57] It is not known when Iamblichus left Rome to set up his school in Apamea,[193][189][194] Syria, but the fact that he did make the move might indicate the tension that existed between him and Porphyry.[195] In the 3rd century AD, Apamea was a well-known centre of philosophy for over a century and was likely the base of the 2nd-century philosopher Numenius of Apamea.[193] Iamblichus' school seems to have shared many similarities with other Platonic schools, in that students lived with or near their teacher, met daily and studied the works of Plato and Aristotle, and held discussions on set topics. The school was supported by the 3rd-century sophist and neoplatonic philosopher Sopater, who was a distinguished citizen of Apamea.[193] Iamblichus is likely to have lived in Apamea in the 320s AD, and we say he died, or a terminus for his life can be found, before 326 or 327 AD, as that is when his supporter Sopater left Apamea for Constantinople.[196]

Iamblichus' works are complex and contentious and have attracted a lot of commentary by historians of philosophy and religion, and hold a noticeable place in contemporary scholarship.[184] He is hailed by some scholars as a superb and brilliant metaphysician, who further advanced Platonism, but discredited by other scholars for being obscure and introducing all sorts of superstitions into his texts.[184] One of Iamblichus' best known and most translated works is his treatise On the Pythagorean Way of Life, that is now a valuable and leading source of information on the Pythagorean tradition.[184] Another of his well known works, On the Mysteries of Egypt, is popular amongst students of Platonism and classical religion.[197] That work is a reply by Abamon to a letter Porphyry addressed to Anebo, where it is thought by scholars that Abamon is a pseudonym for Iamblichus, and Anebo might have been a member of Iamblichus' circle.[198] There has been much late 20th-century and 21st-century scholarship on Iamblichus' commentaries, treatises, letters and fragments that have overcome many old prejudices, and now his works are seen as an enticing field of study for students of late Platonism.[199] Late Platonism is a term used in 21st-century scholarship to describe a progression of ideas, including Stoic and Hermetic elements, found in both middle Platonism and neoplatonism.[143]

4th to 5th century

In the 4th and 5th centuries, prominent members of the neoplatonic school in Athens and Alexandria were: the late 4th-century Greek philosopher Plutarch of Athens,[200] who was head of the neoplatonic school in Athens until his death in c. 432 AD; the 5th-century Greek philosopher Syrianus,[200] who was head of the neoplatonic school in Athens for five years after Plutarch of Athens, until 437 AD;[201] and the 5th-century philosopher Proclus,[202] who was head of the neoplatonic school in Athens after Syrianus, for nearly 50 years, until 485 AD.[34] A prominent member of the neoplatonic school in Alexandria was the late 4th- to early 5th-century Egyptian philosopher Hypatia,[203] who taught mathematics, astronomy and philosophy.

Hypatia

The late 4th- to early 5th-century Alexandrian philosopher, mathematician and astronomer[204] Hypatia, who most[205] scholars say was born in Alexandria in c. 370 AD, but some 21st-century scholars put the year of her birth as early as c. 350 AD,[206][207][208] was the first distinctly neoplatonic philosopher that taught in one brilliant[209] period of neoplatonism in Alexandria.[203] It is clear that Hypatia had a comprehensive education,[210] and embraced neoplatonic philosophy;[211] however, apart from her father, the 4th-century Alexandrian mathematician Theon of Alexandria, nothing is known about her other teachers.[210]

An early 20th-century painting of Hypatia by Alfred Seifert. Hypatia was the first distinctly neoplatonic philosopher in Alexandria.[203]
An early 20th-century painting of Hypatia by Alfred Seifert. Hypatia was the first distinctly neoplatonic philosopher in Alexandria.[203]

Hypatia took over the position of head[212] of the neoplatonic[25] school in Alexandria from her father,[213] and there she taught mathematics,[213] astronomy[214] and a philosophy based on the ideas of Plotinus and Porphyry that emphasized contemplation over ritual.[215] One of Hypatia's students, from 390 to 395 AD,[216] was the 5th-century Greek bishop Synesius of Cyrene,[217] who wrote letters to Hypatia, seven of which survive to explain the workings of Hypatia's inner circle of students, and the rapport Hypatia shared with those students.[218] Other students of Hypatia included Synesius' brothers Eutropius and Alexander, the sophist Athanasius, and Synesius' friend Olympius.[219]

By 415 AD, Hypatia had been Alexandria's leading thinker for 35 years and was having regular audiences[220] with Orestes, the Roman governor of Alexandria.[28] Whilst Hypatia had no formal authority in the government of Alexandria, her presence at Orestes' side was very beneficial to Orestes and made him appear to be the reasonable party in any dispute, and so Hypatia was seen by Alexandrians as a tremendous symbolic power.[28] By March 415 AD[221] there had been three years[222] of confrontations, at times violent,[223] between supporters of the 5th-century bishop of Alexandria Saint Cyril of Alexandria, other Alexandrian groups and supporters of Orestes[28] that led to a fateful situation that quickly got out of control,[224] and tragically resulted in the murder of Hypatia by an angry mob.[225]

Hypatia's works include a commentary on the work Arithmetica by the 3rd-century mathematician Diophantus of Alexandria; a commentary on the work Conic Sections by the 3rd-century BC geometer Apollonius of Perga, both which are lost; an edited manuscript of astronomical tables, originally written by the 2nd-century Alexandrian mathematician Ptolemy, called Handy Tables; and a commentary on Book 3 and possibly also on Books 4–13 of Ptolemy's astronomical treatise called Almagest.[226]

Proclus

The 5th-century philosopher Proclus elaborated on Plotinus' neoplatonism with an intricate view of the unseen world[227] and also provided a systematic allegorization of the dialogues of Plato.[228] Proclus, born in Constantinople between 410[229]–412 AD,[230] received his early education in Xanthus[231] and then travelled to Alexandria, when he was about 15 or 16[232] years old, to study rhetoric, Roman law, mathematics and philosophy.[233][234] In Alexandria, he was taught by Leonas of Isauria;[235] the 5th-century grammarian Orion of Thebes;[232] the 5th-century neoplatonic philosopher Olympiodorus the Elder, with whom he studied works by Aristotle;[232] and the 5th-century Alexandrian mathematician Heron, with whom he studied mathematics.[236] Proclus was a brilliant[214] student with a remarkable memory[237] and quickly comprehended the logical works of Aristotle.[238]

From Alexandria, he sailed to Athens, where he lived in the Athenian neoplatonic school, and there studied the works of Plato and Aristotle with the late 4th- to early 5th-century Greek neoplatonic philosopher Plutarch of Athens, and the 5th-century Greek neoplatonic philosopher Syrianus.[239] At the school, Proclus was also instructed on Chaldaean[240] wisdom by the 5th-century Greek philosopher Asclepigenia, the daughter of Archiades[241] and Plutarch of Athens.[242] After Syrianus had died, in c. 437 AD, Proclus at the age of about 25 became the head of the neoplatonic school in Athens,[31] a position he held for nearly 50 years, until he died in 485 AD.[34]

Statue of Athena, in front of the Österreichisches Parlament in Vienna, Austria. Proclus had a great devotion to the goddess Athena, whom he believed guided him at key moments in his life.[243]
Statue of Athena, in front of the Österreichisches Parlament in Vienna, Austria. Proclus had a great devotion to the goddess Athena, whom he believed guided him at key moments in his life.[243]

During Proclus' time as the head of the neoplatonic school of Athens, he taught many students, some of the more prominent were:

Marinus of Neapolis, Proclus' biographer, reports Proclus lived in Athens as a predominantly vegetarian scholar, prosperous and generous to his friends, and that Proclus had a great devotion to the goddess Athena, whom he believed guided him in key moments of his life.[243] Proclus was a prominent member of Athenian society, remained unmarried, promoted literary studies, composed letters for noblemen and gave advice to magistrates.[261] He was also involved in public education and was under the protection of a distinguished member of Athenian society called Rufinus.[254] In his prime, Proclus would usually deliver five lectures a day, and at times hold informal evening discussions, write hymns at night, employ himself with his Orphic and Chaldaic devotions, and write or dictate to a scribe about 700 lines a day.[254][262] The 6th-century neoplatonist Simplicius called Proclus "the teacher of our teachers" and Proclus was referred to by the 6th-century neoplatonist Ammoniums Hermias as "the great Proclus".[263]

Proclus' major activity was writing commentaries on Plato's dialogues, but he also spent some time writing on mathematics, astronomy, treatises of philosophical expositions, and hymns to deities.[264] Of major importance are his lengthy commentaries on Plato's dialogues in: Commentary on First Alcibiades, Commentary on Cratylus, Commentary on Parmenides, Commentary on Republic, and Commentary on Timaeus.[265][266] Also of importance is his lengthy work Commentary on the First Book of Euclid's Elements, his systematic neoplatonic theological work Elements of Theology, and his lengthy neoplatonic theological work Platonic Theology.[265][266] Proclus is one of the most influential philosophical commentators of antiquity, and is regarded by some scholars as the greatest neoplatonic philosopher of the 5th century AD.[267]

5th to 6th century

In the 5th and 6th centuries, prominent members of the neoplatonic school in Athens and Alexandria were the 5th-century Alexandrian philosopher Ammonius,[268] who was a student of Proclus and afterwards was the head of the neoplatonic school in Alexandria; the 6th-century Greek philosopher Simplicius of Cilicia,[42] who was a student of Ammonius; the late 5th- to early 6th-century Syrian philosopher Damascius,[42] who was head of the neoplatonic school of Athens in 529 AD when it was closed by administrators due to laws confirmed by Justinian I;[269] and the 6th-century Alexandrian[270] philosopher Olympiodorus,[271] who was head of the Alexandrian neoplatonic school after Ammonius, and was still lecturing in Alexandria in 565 AD.[47]

Damascius

Much of what is known about the late 5th- to early 6th-century Syrian philosopher Damascius' life comes from his semi-autobiographical work called The Philosophical History, or Life of Isidore, and from a work called Vita Severi written by the 6th-century bishop and historian Zacharias Scholasticus.[272] Damascius, as his name suggests, was born in Damascus in c. 462 AD, and travelled to Alexandria in the 480s AD to study rhetoric at the coeducational school of the late 5th-century Alexandrian professor[273] Horapollo, where students of different religions and philosophies studied together.[274] Zacharias reports that there was a close relationship between the neoplatonic communities of Athens and Alexandria, as Agapius of Athens and Severianus of Damascus, students of Proclus' neoplatonic school in Athens, also studied in neoplatonic schools in Alexandria.[275] Damascius may have travelled to Athens shortly before Proclus died in 485 AD, to teach rhetoric, and travelled back to Alexandria before 488 AD.[253]

6th-century mosaic of Justinian I in the Basilique San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy. Damascius was head of the last neoplatonic school in Athens when the laws of Justinian I forced its closure.[276]
6th-century mosaic of Justinian I in the Basilique San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy. Damascius was head of the last neoplatonic school in Athens when the laws of Justinian I forced its closure.[276]

Late 5th-century Alexandria was a tumultuous place; there were conflicting factions of pro-Chalcedonian and Monophysite Christians, and a growing hostile sentiment towards neoplatonists and people of other non-Christian religions and philosophies that sometimes led to rioting and arrests of leaders of non-Christian schools, resulting in students having to flee and go into hiding.[276] Damascius' accounts of these times paints a picture of a circle of intellectuals that was under siege, arrested, interrogated and who were sometimes courageous, but at other times capitulated.[276] Horapollo, the head of the school at which Damascius had studied and taught rhetoric for nine years,[253] was arrested in 489 AD, causing Damascius and the neoplatonic philosopher Isidore of Alexandria to flee Alexandria and start on a journey to Athens with the aim of studying in the neoplatonic school in Athens.[276]

That journey took eight months, and during that time Damascius writes that he lost interest in pursuing a profession as a rhetorician.[276] When they finally arrived in Athens, Damascius and Isidore became students of the 5th-century neoplatonist Marinus of Neapolis, Proclus' successor, at the neoplatonic school of Athens.[276] By 515 AD, Damascius had become head of the neoplatonic school in Athens, succeeding Marinus of Neapolis successor Isidore,[277] and continued Isidore's path of steering the school back to the philosophical studies of Aristotle, Plato, Orphic theogony and the Chaldean Oracles, and away from theurgy and rituals, which were previously being favoured, most likely due to the increasing external pressure on the school's philosophical teachings.[278] Damascius was still the head of the school in 529 AD after the Byzantine emperor Justinian I confirmed his Novum Justinianeum Codicem, or Codex Justinianus,[37] on the 7th of April 529 AD;[40] and administrators[279] enforcing the new laws, after they had legal force on the 16th of April 529 AD,[40] closed the last neoplatonic school in Athens.[276]

According to the 6th-century historian Agathias, soon after the school closed in 529 AD, Damascius, Isidore and the 6th-century neoplatonic philosophers Simplicius of Cilicia, Eulamius of Phrygia, Priscianus of Lydia, Hermias and Diogenes of Phoenicia left Athens and travelled to Persia, where they had heard that the intellectual climate might be more suited to them,[280][281] under the refuge of the Persian King Chrosroes.[42] It is not known if Damascius and his retinue of philosophers arrived in Persia, although late 20th- and early 21st-century scholarship by the French historian and philosopher Pierre Hadot, French scholar Michel Tardieu and German historian and philosopher Ilsetraut Hadot advanced the establishment of a neoplatonic school in Charrae (present-day Harran,[43] Turkey) in the Persian Empire,[44] a view that is disputed by other 21st-century scholarship.[282] The last trace of Damascius we have is an epigram carved in stele in Emesa that confirms Damascius returned to Syria in 538 AD, and that is also the year we say he died.[283] Damascius composed a number of works, and fortunately we have a significant number of his works in fragments or derived from his writings, the more complete works being: the literary work Life of Isidore, or Philosophical History, preserved by Saint Photius the Great;[42] and the philosophical works: Problems and Solutions Concerning First Principles; Commentary on the Parmenides; Commentary on the Phaedo; and Lectures on the Philebus.[284]

The Alexandrian School

After the murder of Hypatia in 415 AD, the mediocre quality of teachers left in Alexandria during the 420s to the early 430s AD saw students, like Proclus, move to Athens to study.[45] However, as the 430s AD progressed, students from Plutarch of Athens' school returned to Alexandria where philosophical schools were set up by the neoplatonic philosophers Hierocles in the 430s, Hermeias in the 440s, Ammonius Hermiae and Asclepiodotus in the 460s and 470s, and Isidore in the 480s.[45] After the closure of the neoplatonic school in Athens in 529 AD, Alexandria became the leading neoplatonic school,[45] where Olympiodorus, the last[46] neoplatonic leader of the school, lectured until slightly after 565 AD.[47]

Ammonius Hermiae

A 4th- to 6th-century AD lecture hall in the archaeological site Kom El Deka in Alexandria. The neoplatonic school of Alexandria was active between the 4th and 6th centuries AD.
A 4th- to 6th-century AD lecture hall in the archaeological site Kom El Deka in Alexandria. The neoplatonic school of Alexandria was active between the 4th and 6th centuries AD.

In Alexandria in the late 5th and early 6th centuries, Ammonius Hermiae, the son of Hermeias and former pupil of Proclus, was faithful to both Hypatia's and Proclus' heritage.[268] Ammonius taught Asclepius of Tralles, Simplicius of Cilicia, and probably Olympiodorus, all of whom became exceptional neoplatonic philosophers.[247] Ammonius' teaching was predominantly of a verbal nature and his neoplatonic philosophy and theology comes to us by way of his students' lecture notes and works,[285] from where we learn that his theology seems to have been less neoplatonic than the neoplatonic school of Athens and more suitable for Christians.[285] Ammonius did not teach Damascius, who in the midst of studying rhetoric in Alexandria fled with Isadore to Athens due to violent persecutions during 488–489 AD,[247] and during their travels, Damascius' interests turned from rhetoric to philosophy.[276]

Simplicius

Simplicius studied under Ammonius in Alexandria and then travelled to Athens to study with Damascius,[286] and was one of the six neoplatonic philosophers who left Athens with Damascius soon after the neoplatonic school of Athens was closed in 529 AD.[280][281] Simplicius' best known work, written after he left Athens, is a commentary on Aristotle's Categories that preserves and blends 800 years of philosophical commentaries on Aristotle's work,[287] and it also includes comments critical of John Philoponus, a fellow student whilst studying under Ammonius in Alexandria.[288]

John Philoponus

The Christian philosopher John Philoponus was perhaps Ammonius' most brilliant[289] student.[290] Of particular interest is Philoponus' contribution to dynamics, where he can be regarded as the inventor of a force called impetus, he was also praised by the 17th-century polymath Galileo for his theory on motion in a vacuum and he also reported on experiments of falling bodies with different weights.[291] A major philosophical work by Philoponus' was his lengthy work Against Proclus on the Eternity of the World, where he used his intimate knowledge of neoplatonic doctrines to make a case for Christianity.[291] That work is dated 529 AD, the year of the closure of the neoplatonic school in Athens, was probably being written around the time[289] Olympiodorus became head of the Alexandrian school ahead of Philoponus.[47]

Olympiodorus

In c. 525 AD,[47] the neoplatonist philosopher Olympiodorus had only just succeeded the mathematician Eutocius of Ascalon as head of the Alexandrian school,[47] and is the best known of the leaders of the Alexandrian school after Ammonius[271] Olympiodorus remained head of the Alexandrian school for over 40 years and lectured until slightly after 565 AD.[47] Little is known about Eutocius, who succeeded Ammonius as the head of the Alexandrian School, as he left no philosophical works and he is not mentioned by Olympiodorus.[292] Scholars think that Ammonius had come to some kind of agreement with the Christian authorities in Alexandria because he was allowed to continue teaching, at public expense, after violent persecutions against neoplatonists during 488–489 AD,[247] and it is suspected that Olympiodorus followed in his footsteps by restricting the subjects taught, the manner of his teaching and his religious practices.[293][294] Olympiodorus' extant works are Prolegomena to Aristotle's Logic, commentaries on Aristotle's Categories and Meteorology, commentaries on Plato’s Alcibiades I, Gorgias and Phaedo as well as the work Life of Plato.[295] Known Christian students of Olympiodorus include Elias, David and Stephanus of Alexandria, where the Christian names "Elias" and "David" may have been given to possibly anonymous students' lecture notes to boost their credibility and status.[296] The neoplatonic school in Alexandria is seen to have ended after the teachings of Stephanus of Alexandria in the early 7th century,[297] although some teaching may have continued until the Muslim conquest of Egypt reached Alexandria in c. 642 AD.[298]

Doctrines

The Enneads of Plotinus are the first full expression of an interpretation of Plato that continued through the key neoplatonic philosophers, Porphyry, Iamblichus, Proclus and Damascius.[53] Plotinus' Enneads stand at the beginning of neoplatonism and the works of Proclus at its apex.[299] The neoplatonists, rather than saying they were pioneers or original thinkers, said they provided critical explanations or interpretations of previous ancient texts and doctrines, a famous example of that time-honoured claim to accepted practice amongst neoplatonists is found in Plotinus' Ennead 5.1.8.11–15: [300]

"This teaching, indeed, is not new; it has been taught from the most ancient times, but without being brought out in technical terms. We claim to be no more than the interpreters of the earlier philosophers, and to show by the very testimony of Plato that they held the same views as we do."—Plotinus, Ennead 5.1.8.11–15[301]

It is frequently said that Plotinus was a 'mystic' and hence the Enneads are a form of 'mysticism'; however, the type of 'mysticism' that can be correctly applied to the Enneads must avoid all connection with magic,[302] irrationality, emotional experience, trance-like states, or Dionysian experiences.[303][304] Plotinus only once, in Ennead 1.6.8.25, speaks explicitly of 'mysticism' (or 'myein', which means to close one's eyes) and there it means completely turning the mind away from all sensations and concentrating the mind entirely upon itself and what is internal, with the goal of achieving a clarity of intellect.[303] A more common mistake, and a 'capital error', is to label neoplatonists as 'mystics'.[302]

"We must close the eyes of the body, to open another vision, which indeed all possess, but very few employ."—Plotinus, Ennead 1.6.8.25–26[305]

Plotinus was the first neoplatonist to develop the hierarchy of the One, Intellect and Soul, but it was not a fixed doctrine of scholastic rigidity, rather it was a theoretical structure that enabled the exploration of Platonism.[306] In the Enneads, Plotinus employs the first three hypothesis of Parmenides by Plato to derive doctrines in which reality has three hypostases, the One, Intellect, and Soul.[300] For Plotinus, the first hypothesis of the Parmenides, at 137c4, is referred to as the One, and is the first hypostasis that is the transcendent source of all.[300] The second hypothesis of Plato's Parmenides is referred to by Plotinus as Intellect, or Nous, and is the second hypostasis that arises when the One comprehends itself giving rise to Being, which is an intelligible realm of eternal intellects each comprehending all the other intellects.[300] The third hypostasis is Soul, which is generated by Nous, and it is where temporal beings are generated and embodied, and whose ultimate destiny is a return to their source by recovering their unity with the One.[300]

The One

For Plotinus, the One (τὸ ἕν),[307] or the first principle, could be imagined as a spring of water from which all rivers have their source:[308]

"The first Principle may indeed be conceived of as a spring (of water) which is its own origin, and which pours its water into many streams without itself becoming exhausted by what it yields, or even without running low, because the streams that it forms, before flowing away each in its own direction, and while knowing which direction it is to follow, yet mingles its waters with the spring."—Plotinus, Ennead 3.8.10.4–9[309]

Plotinus' first principle, the One (or the Good), is among the most remarkable and most perplexing beliefs of ancient Greek philosophy.[310] His doctrine of the One builds on earlier doctrines, notably from Plato's Parmenides and Republic, but its depth transcends earlier endeavours to postulate a totally simple, ineffable first cause of everything.[310] His doctrines lead to the conclusion of a unique, absolutely simple first cause, having no division, that is beyond being and non-being, and there is nothing, after having named it, that needs to be said about the One, or the Good.[311]

"Other beings, indeed, aspire to the Good, as the goal of their activity; but the Good itself has need of nothing; and therefore possesses nothing but itself. After having named it, nothing should be added thereto by thought; for, to add some thing, is to suppose that [the One] needs this attribute."—Plotinus, Enneads 3.8.11.10–12[312]

Plotinus' argument that the One is beyond being[206] is derived from Book VI (509b) of the Republic,[313] when, in the course of his famous analogy of the sun, Plato says that the Good transcends being (ἐπέκεινα τῆς οὐσίας) in dignity and surpassing power.[314] Plotinus' doctrines led him to the conclusion that the One is beyond thought, knowledge and language, but can be known through its effects.[315] In Plotinus' neoplatonic doctrines, the One, by generating the second hypostasis Nous, or Intellect, implies that a unique mentality is present in the One; however, our concepts of mentality imply plurality and hence are unsuited to the comprehension of the mentality of the One.[315] Plotinus also explains that when the One generates something, which he calls emanation, it does so without losing anything of itself, which he calls a double activity, and that entire external act is called by Plotinus a potential intellect.[315] That potential intellect becomes actual when the potential intellect seeks to comprehend its source, the One, and in so doing, generates Platonic Ideas (or Forms).[315]

A crucial premise of neoplatonism, and why it constitutes a religion, is that all things progress from the One and all things, especially human souls, have a destiny to return to the One.[316][317][318]

Emanation and double activity

For Plotinus, his neoplatonic doctrines of emanation and double activity explain how things come to be from the One,[319] and hence they permeate through all his doctrines in his work Enneads.[320] Physical analogies or metaphors are often used by Plotinus to describe the generation of beings, and in his notable description of the emanation of the hypostasis of Soul from the hypostasis of Nous, in Ennead 5.1.3, he uses the analogy of 'fire':[321]

"just as the fire contains the latent heat which constitutes its essence (being), and also the heat that radiates from it outside. Nevertheless, the Soul does not entirely issue from within Intelligence [Nous]; [the Soul] does partly reside therein, but also forms (a nature) distinct therefrom."—Plotinus, Ennead 5.1.3.9–12[322]

In Ennead 5.1.3, Plotinus discusses his doctrine of emanation and double activity.[323] The pictorial language of emanation metaphors is used as an analogy in the explanation of the philosophical term double activity.[321] In each of the three neoplatonic hypostasis, the One, Nous and Soul, there is a characteristic activity that is internal, which can be regarded as a contemplation of the principle from which it came,[324] or a turning,[324] or conversion,[324] or a self-contained activity of the hypostasis, that Plotinus calls 'being', or 'essence' (ousia).[323] Accompanying each internal activity, or internal act, is an inferior[325] external act, or emanation,[325] that generates the next hypostasis, and both of those activities, internal and external, comprise what is known as a double activity.[321][326] The generated hypostasis is a diminished image of the generator and it acts according to the power it receives.[327] As to why there was a first emanation from the One, it is described metaphorically by Plotinus as due to the One having such an abundance that it overflowed, which Plotinus calls 'superabundance' in Ennead 5.2.1.7–9:[328]

"As the One is perfect, and acquires nothing, and has no need or desire, [the One] has, so to speak, superabounded, and this superabundance has produced a different nature."—Plotinus, Ennead 5.2.1.7–9[329]

Neoplatonists after Plotinus employed his doctrine of double activity to understand the relationship between Platonic Ideas, or Forms, and material bodies, where Forms are principles in the hypostasis of Nous.[330] They found the doctrine of double activity preserved the transcendence of Forms, and while remaining undiminished, Forms could generate likenesses of themselves in the hypostasis of Soul, which in the same way as Forms, could generate likenesses of themselves in material bodies.[330] Plotinus also discusses his doctrine of double activity in Ennead 2.9.8.16–26; 5.3.7.18–34; 5.4.1.21–41 and 5.4.2.19–33.[331]

Proclus formalizes and systematizes Plotinus' doctrine of double activity in Elements of Theology propositions 18[332] and 28,[333] elaborates on the doctrine in his Commentary on Parmenides IV 908.19–31, and applies the doctrine to explain the causal nature of the Demiurge in Platonic Theology V 18.64.25–65.7.[319] The roots of Plotinus' doctrine of emanation and double activity can be found in Plato's Republic Book VI 509e–509b and Book IV 443c–d, Timaeus 29e and 42e4–5, Symposium 212a–b, and Phaedrus 245c–d and also in Aristotle's On Generation and Corruption 336b ff.[334] The 20th century French philosopher Henri Bergson, who was influenced by Plotinus,[335] also employs the concept of double activity in his book Time and Free Will and includes a quote from Plotinus in the front matter of the book.[336]

Henads

The declaration of an absolutely transcendent One by Plotinus is one of his most remarkable philosophical innovations.[337] However, Plotinus left a yawning gulf[338] between the One and reality, in that he could not explain how to get plurality out of the absolutely transcendent One, without first putting plurality into the One, thereby contradicting his definition of the One.[338] Plotinus more or less confesses this in Ennead 6.8.9:[338]

"If then this Essence may justly be called one, if unity may be predicated of its being, it must, in a certain manner, seem to contain the nature opposed to its own; that is, the manifold [plurality]; it must not attract this manifoldness from without, but it must, from and by itself, possess this manifold; it must veritably be one, and by its own unity be infinite and manifold"—Plotinus, Ennead 6.8.9.31–35[339]

Porphyry struggled with the problem of generating multiplicity from the One whilst leaving the One absolutely transcendent, and Iamblichus posits two Ones in his solution to the problem,[337] which later neoplatonists did not accept.[340] The late neoplatonist Proclus explained his solution to this problem in his doctrine of henads, formalized and systematized in his Elements of Theology propositions 113–165,[341] which he attributes to his teacher Syrianus.[342] The complex theology[343] of henads, elaborated by Proclus, imports plurality into the first hypostasis while leaving intact the absolute unity of the One.[338] Proclus' neoplatonic doctrine of henads asserts that henads are: individual,[344] limited in number,[344] are more unified than the beings in the second hypostasis of Nous,[344] are transcendent sources of plurality without internal differentiation,[345] are unifying principles, heads of chains of causation at the summit of the second hypostasis of Nous and the third hypostasis of Soul,[346] and are allegorically represented by distinctive properties[347] of particular gods in Greek mythology, which are then reflected in different levels of reality. For example, the generic attributes[348] of the monad Helios, progresses (where progressions imply likeness)[349] into the material universe through a series of causation resulting in the Sun itself, people with a sun-like soul, sun-like animals, e.g. a rooster, sun-like plants, e.g. heliotropes and stones like sunstones.[350]

Nous

In the neoplatonism of Plotinus, the second hypostasis called Nous (νοῦς),[351] or Intellect, which emanates from the first hypostasis called the One, is a grade of reality, or level of existence that is different from the One because of its plurality.[352] For Plotinus, Nous is as unified as anything plural can be, as it is the first emanation from the One.[352] Nous is a locus of real beings; known as Platonic Ideas, or Forms; and simultaneously, a locus of perfect knowledge.[352] A fundamental aspect of Plotinus' doctrine of Nous is that being, or essence, and knowledge, coalesce in Nous.[352] Without the absolute simplicity of the One, three logically distinct things are evident in Nous: the subject of thought, or the thinker; the act of thought; and the object of thought; each requiring the others, and forming a unity.[353] Plotinus somewhat illuminates these conceptions in Ennead 5.3.13.16–21:[354]

"That which is supremely simple and supremely absolute [the One] stands in need of nothing. The absolute that occupies the second rank [Nous] needs itself, and, consequently, needs to think itself. Indeed, since Intelligence needs something relatively to itself, it succeeds in satisfying this need, and consequently, in being absolute, only by possessing itself entirely."—Plotinus, Ennead 5.3.13.16–21[355]

Plotinus explains the simultaneous plurality and unity of Nous using the five fundamental Platonic Ideas, or Forms: being, difference, sameness, motion and rest; from which are generated all other Forms; as described in Plato's Sophist 254d ff.[356] In Plotinus' doctrine of Nous, Nous is self-thinking, but because Nous is immaterial and the object of its thought, the One, is also immaterial, then: the act of thought, the subject of thought and the object of thought are the same, and hence form a unity.[357] For Plotinus, Nous is also non-temporal and therefore when it comprehends something, it does so instantaneously and as a whole.[357] Further, each of the Forms in Nous reflect that wholeness of Nous, which means if one Form comprehends another Form, it instantaneously comprehends all Forms in the hypostasis of Nous.[357]

The central question of where Platonic ideas, or Forms were located in the Platonic hypostases was not really answered by Plato in his dialogue Phaedrus 247c-e.[358] The middle Platonists combined theories of Aristotle and Plato and asserted Forms are in the divine mind, where Aristotle's First Intellect, or God, in contemplating itself, comprehends Forms.[358] That theme appeared in some doctrines of Philo's Logos theory and addressed the central Platonic question of where Forms are located; as did Plotinus' doctrine of Nous; however, unlike Aristotle's First Intellect and Plato's Form of the Good, Plotinus' doctrine on Nous asserted that Nous was the second hypostasis, subsequent to the One, or the Good, and is where Forms are located in the neoplatonic hypostases.[359] For Plotinus, Nous is an active non-temporal hypostasis that is generated by the One, usually described in metaphors,[359] while logos comprises all the generations from Forms in Nous into the third hypostasis, Soul, where individual generations from Forms in the hypostasis of Nous into the hypostasis of Soul are called logoi.[360]

Plotinus held a view that the highest part of a human soul is perpetual intuitive[361] and can attain unification with Nous, and hence unification with the major gods of Greek theology.[362] However, Iamblichus and later neoplatonists[363] downgraded Plotinus' position, as it would enable a theurgist to manipulate the major gods, and instead limited a human soul's contact to intermediate beings in the hypostasis of Soul, which in turn 'opened the door'[362] to a culture that Plotinus had condemned in his treatise Against the Gnostics.[364][362]

Soul

According to the doctrines of Plotinus, Soul (ψυχή);[365] the third and last immaterial hypostasis; is generated by Nous, the second hypostasis.[366] The hypostasis of Soul, due to its many aspects, and being the principle of life, is the most complex hypostasis in the doctrines of Plotinus and later neoplatonists.[367] For Plotinus, some aspects of Soul always remain in the immaterial realm and eternally aspire to comprehend beings in Nous, other aspects rule the motions of the universe and generate material qualities and quantities, including matter; and still other aspects generate and control activities in human beings such as reasoning, sense perception and digestion.[366] Further, for Plotinus, a human soul experiences a desire to comprehend those aspects in the hypostasis of Soul that in turn aspire to comprehend beings in the hypostasis of Nous.[366]

The many aspects of the hypostasis of Soul are derived from Plotinus' reading of Plato, where those aspects are the same as Plato's conception of soul, with perhaps the exception of the hypostasis of Soul generating matter.[366] In his conception of the hypostasis of Soul, Plotinus is also influenced by Aristotle's psychological terminology, that he largely adopts, but despite Plotinus' wholehearted attempts to clarify questions regarding the hypostasis of Soul, in Ennead 3.7 and 4.3–4.5, numerous questions remain unanswered,[366] or are left ambiguous, such as the relationship between soul, eternity and time, as discussed in Ennead 3.7.11–12 and 4.4–4.5.[368]

In Plotinus' doctrines, the hypostasis of Soul is similar to the hypostasis of Nous in that it is essentially a thinker; however, thoughts in Nous are non-discursive and intuitive, whereas in Soul they are discursive and only partially intuitive.[369] The relationship between the hypostasis of Soul and the hypostasis of Nous follows Plotinus' pattern of double activity, as expressed in Ennead 5.1.6.45–48:[370]

"The Soul, indeed, is the word [or logos] and actualization of Intelligence [or Nous], just as Intelligence is word and actualization of the One. But the Soul is an obscure word. Being an image of Intelligence, [Soul] must contemplate Intelligence, just as the latter, to subsist, must contemplate the One."—Plotinus, Ennead 5.1.6.45–48[371]

The comprehension between souls in the hypostasis of Soul is diminished when compared with the comprehension between Forms in the hypostasis of Nous, but is similar to Forms and their comprehension of the hypostasis of Nous, in that each soul comprehends the whole hypostasis of Soul in itself.[369] For Plotinus, the hypostasis of Soul has at least five aspects, the World-Soul, or the soul of the universe; souls of stars; the soul of the Earth; human souls; and the soul of the whole hypostasis of Soul.[372] With the exception of the soul of the hypostasis of Soul, all the other souls are individual souls, i.e. they are souls of particular material bodies.[370] Often in Plotinus' doctrines, the souls of stars and the soul of the Earth are seen as aspects of the World-Soul, whilst nature, or the vegetative soul, is a power that controls biological functions and is regarded as an immanent phase of the World-Soul.[369]

The neoplatonic doctrine on the immortality of the soul is discussed in Plotinus' Ennead 4.7.[373] Plotinus' doctrines on soul are substantially Platonic, as a soul does not need a material body to exist, and has activities of its own as well as having activities it employs through its material body.[369] His doctrines on soul convey that: a soul is not in a material body, rather a material body is in a soul; a soul animates, or gives life to a material body; and a material body does not affect its soul, just as light itself is unaffected by the air it illuminates.[369] Whilst the Stoics and Epicureans hold that a soul is some sort of body, and the Aristotelians hold that it is a form of matter, Plotinus has numerous objections about those conceptions, that he expounds in Ennead 3.7, 4.2–4.4, and 4.8–4.9.[374]

Late neoplatonists strongly held to a doctrine that a human soul had a rational aspect and an irrational aspect.[375] That view has its roots in Plato's Republic where he divided the soul into three aspects, rational, spirited and irrational.[376] For Plato, and the neoplatonists, the rational aspect was capable of thought, while the other two aspects linked the soul to the body and physical world.[376] Neoplatonists also embraced the Platonic and Aristotelian conceptions of an aspect in human and animal souls called phantasia (φαντασία), that governs the appearance of sensible objects as mental images,[377] and in human souls, also governs the appearance that something is the case,[377] like an opinion.[378] For Plotinus, in Ennead 4.3.30.2–11, and Proclus, in Commentary on the First book of Euclid's Elements 141.2–19 and 121.2–7, there is a crucial point in the human soul, between the rational and irrational aspects, called phantastikon (φανταστικόν) which acts like a mirror that imperfectly reflects the rational aspect of a human soul into the irrational aspect.[379]

Neoplatonism also adopted Aristotle's conception of eudaimonia, a reversion to the most excellent rational aspect of the human soul, the intellect.[380] In Aristotle's conception of eudaimonia, which is discussed in Nicomachean Ethics II–VI, intellectual virtues are the excellences of the rational aspect in a human soul, which are capable of persuading, by reason, the irrational aspect of a human soul to excellent moral values.[381]

Intermediate souls

The 3rd century Syrian neoplatonist philosopher Iamblichus, in his books I, II and III of de Mysteriis, discusses intermediate souls between planetary gods and human souls and especially angels, daemons (spirit, daimon, δαίμων)[382] and heroes, that exist in separate well-ordered ranks and that cannot change into each other.[383] For Iamblichus, a human soul could not change into another type of soul, but the antecedent ranks of souls, such as planetary gods, angels, daemons and heroes, were helpful for a human soul's ascent, even though they remained separate.[383] That ascent, for Iamblichus, required the mastery of our own souls through philosophic study and theurgic purification.[383] In Iamblichus' work de Mysteriis 100.2–5, Iamblichus objects to the 3rd century Tyrian neoplatonist philosopher Porphyry's request for a precise enunciation of the divination of the future, on the grounds that it cannot be understood as a natural phenomenon, nor is it a human technique capable of discursive analysis, and hence rules out the divination of the future by some kind of theurgic ritual designed to contact angels, daemons or other intermediate souls.[384]

However, well before the 3rd century AD neoplatonist philosopher Iamblichus, the 4th century BC Greek philosopher Plato, an authority for neoplatonists,[385] mentions daemons in his work Laws 713d, where the Athenian Stranger describing a most ancient tradition says, daemons are assigned by Cronos as 'kings and rulers' of cities as they are 'nobler and more divine' than humans,[386][387] and also in Laws 717b, Plato says, again through the Athenian Stranger, that a 'wise man' should offer worship to daemons and then heroes, both after the gods.[388] For the 1st century Jewish-Greek[55] philosopher Philo of Alexandria, an important forerunner of neoplatonism, angels take on a limited mediating role with little autonomy when compared to the logos, where they are regarded as the two principal powers, sovereignty and goodness, as explained in his work De cherubim 27–28 and 35; however, in his work De confusione linguarum 28, angels are regarded as nearly comprising the entirety of the logos.[389] Further, in Philo's other works, De gigantibus 12 and De plantatione 14, he regards angels as the equivalent of daemons (daimones), souls that are not embodied or as heroes, and where in his work De Abrahamo 115 and De somniis I.143, they are ministers and ambassadors of God that benefit humans, whilst not being directly connected with God.[389]

Baroque sculptures of angels, by Bernini,  Naldini, Cartari and Giorgetti, on the Ponte Sant'Angelo bridge that crosses the Tiber river, in Rome, Italy. The 6th century neoplatonist philosopher Olympiodorus, whose students were mostly Christians, taught that to accurately reflect neoplatonic doctrines, Christians should regard neoplatonic daemons as a Christian would regard angels.[390]
Baroque sculptures of angels, by Bernini, Naldini, Cartari and Giorgetti, on the Ponte Sant'Angelo bridge that crosses the Tiber river, in Rome, Italy. The 6th century neoplatonist philosopher Olympiodorus, whose students were mostly Christians, taught that to accurately reflect neoplatonic doctrines, Christians should regard neoplatonic daemons as a Christian would regard angels.[390]

The 2nd century Syrian philosopher Numenius of Apamea; whose thoughts on angels and daemons are said to be reflected in the work Commentary on the Timaeus (120 and 133) by the 4th century philosopher Calcidius; associated ether, air and humidity with angels and daemons, the highest rank being occupied by angels.[391] The 3rd century Christian theologian Saint Origen, in his work Against Celsus 5.4, and the late 4th century former neoplatonist and Christian theologian Saint Augustine, in his work City of God 9.23, both held the view that although neoplatonists postulated intermediate souls, they were not violating Christian doctrines, as those souls owed their divine characteristics to one God.[392] Saint Augustine, in his work City of God 9.19, treated all demons (different spelling) as bad, and regarded angels as good.[393]

The 3rd century neoplatonist philosopher Porphyry, in his works On Abstinence From Animal Food and Against the Christians, writes of a class of angels that live in an aetherial region and teach divine knowledge,[394] which he contrasts with a class of daemons that dwell below the moon.[395] Porphyry also writes, in his work On Abstinence From Animal Food, that daemons have vaporous bodies that can change shape according to their imaginings (phantasiai); however, their bodies are not eternal and depend on nourishment from sacrifices and cooking smoke; however, the nourishment arguments are rejected by Iamblichus.[393] Porphyry differentiates between good and bad demons, where the good daemons look after crops and animals, while bad demons harm humans, and sacrifices in no way persuade them to do good.[393] For the 5th century neoplatonist philosopher Proclus, angels, daemons and heroes are described, in his work Tria opuscula, as superior souls where all three are classed as a kind of daemon.[388] Proclus also cites Plato's comments in Laws 717b, in his Commentary on the Cratylus 68.25, with regard to the worshipping of the heroic class of Intermediate souls,[388] and in his work On the Existence of Evils writes that daemons are not evil.[396] The 6th century neoplatonist philosopher Olympiodorus, whose students were mostly Christians, taught that to accurately reflect neoplatonic doctrines, Christians should regard neoplatonic daemons as a Christian would regard angels.[390]

Evils

"...the form of the axe without iron does not cut."—Plotinus, Ennead 1.8.8.11[397]

So writes the 3rd century neoplatonist philosopher and founder of neoplatonism[138][149] Plotinus in his Enneads,[398] where he gives an example, as part of his famed central neoplatonic doctrine on evil (κακόν)[399] in Ennead 1.8,[400] that there can be no world without Form actioning Matter (ὕλη[401]).[402] For Plotinus, Form and Matter are 'one illuminated reality', and it is only when Matter is abstractly isolated, by an 'illegitimate' reasoning, that Matter appears to be evil by resisting the One and the Good.[402] Plotinian Matter is not the physical matter of 21st century physics, it is an immaterial absence of order,[403] a bare receptacle for Form which alone gives it essence and reality.[401] In Plotinus' doctrines, the half-blinded aspect of the human soul, a clouded perception, and the shapeless object called Matter, all belong together, and all desire to rise into a light were they will be renewed.[402] Plotinus had a faith that hierarchies of existence and ethical value must correspond, his entire philosophy is based on that assumption,[404] hence that which has the lowest degree of reality, Matter, must correspond to the lowest ethical value, evil.[404]

In his doctrine On the Existence of Evils, the 5th century neoplatonic philosopher Proclus advances a systematic development of the Platonic doctrine on evil.[405] In that doctrine, Proclus rejects Plotinus' identification of evil with matter in Ennead 1.8.[405] Proclus' most compelling argument uses Aristotle's definition of contraries, which asserts contraries belong to the same genus that is prior[406] to the contraries.[407] For Proclus, if evil exists in Plotinian Matter, then it is identical to Plotinian Matter and exists on its own, as Plotinian Matter exists on its own.[407] Now, by Proclus' argument, if the One, also known as the Good, and evil are contraries that both exist on their own, they must belong to the same genus that is prior to the contraries, according to Aristotle's definition of contraries.[407] But there is no genus antecedent to the Good and its contrary, as for Proclus the Good is the first principle.[407] Therefore, by Proclus' argument, evil is not contrary to the Good, and evil does not exist on its own, for if it did, evil and the Good would be contraries, which Proclus has shown leads to a contradiction, and hence evil is not Plotinian Matter, which according to both Plotinus and Proclus, does exist on its own.[407] Further, by Aristotle's definition of contraries, Proclus argues that nothing is contrary to the Good.[408]

For Proclus, it is better to speak of evils (κακά)[399] as a plural, as relative evils exist, but an independent principle of evil does not exist.[409] In his doctrine on evils, On the Existence of Evils, Proclus systematically examines the three neoplatonic hypostases, and their divisions, and finds that evils are not to be found in gods, divine souls, angels, daemons or heroes, but are only present in human souls, i.e. the rational aspect of human souls; and also images of souls, i.e. the irrational aspect of human souls, animal souls, and the governing principle of particular material bodies.[410] Further, in his doctrine On the Existence of Evils, Proclus argues that the evils in particular souls only affects powers and activities, but does not corrupt their essence; however, particular material bodies can have their essence corrupted by evils.[410] According to Proclus, those souls in which evils are present, where evils are produced out of the weakness in a soul, are souls that are capable of not acting according to their nature, and are capable of choosing that which is worse.[411]

According to Proclus' doctrine On the Existence of Evils, everything, including evils, needs some power of the good for its existence, which originates from the first principle of the Good, as all things after the first principle are at all times mixed with some form of good.[412] Towards the end of his doctrine On the Existence of Evils, Proclus speaks of evils as a privation of a good, a privation that is more than a reduction of order and function, like the privation of a form, but rather evils are a privation that can invade and subvert the order of a body, because evils derive their power from the good, and therefore evils maybe termed a 'subcontrary' to the good.[413] Proclus' concept of 'subcontrary' is derived from Plato's Theaetetus 176a, and is defined by Proclus as a special form of contrary where evils derive their essence and power from the good it opposes.[413]

Vehicles of soul

For late neoplatonists, the invariable essence of a soul was to animate a body, and because the soul has a perpetual existence, there is also a body that is animated perpetually and perpetually existent.[414] The 3rd to 6th century neoplatonists Plotinus, Porphyry, Macrobius, Plutarch of Athens, Syrianus, Proclus, Damascius, Simplicius and Olympiodorus gradually formalized into a neoplatonic doctrine a long held Greek theory about the perpetual body of a soul called 'ókhēma-pneûma' (ὂχημα-πνεῦμα) where 'ókhēma' means chariot, or vehicle, and 'pneûma' means spirit.[415][416]

The ókhēma-pneûma, or vehicles of a soul, has a transcendent aspect (ókhēma) that is immaterial, incapable of suffering, imperishable and is the perpetual source of irrationality in a human soul which survives every purgation of a soul; and an immanent aspect (pneûma) that is a temporary accumulation made of fire, water, air and earth that carries the irrational soul proper, survives bodily death, but is eventually purged.[417] In the late neoplatonic ókhēma-pneûma doctrine, a human soul is perpetually embodied by the transcendent vehicle of a soul in its cycle between its return to the hypostasis of Soul and its progression back to the material universe.[417][418]

The origins of the neoplatonic doctrine on vehicles of soul comes from Plato's: Phaedrus 247b, where gods use vehicles to circle the heavens; Phaedo 113d, where souls are taken in vessels, or vehicles, to Acheron; Timaeus 41e and 69c, where in Timaeus 41e the Demiurge uses stars as vehicles to sow rational souls, in Timaeus 69c where the body is called the soul's vehicle; and in Laws 898e, where the soul procures itself a body made of fire and air.[419][385][420]

In the neoplatonic doctrines on vehicles of soul:

  • the immanent vehicle of the soul (pneûma) feels desires and pain, which enables its punishment after the material body dies, in Olympiodorus' Commentary on Plato's Gorgias;[421]
  • vehicles of a soul recognize other vehicles of soul, which enable souls to communicate (by sunesis) after the material body dies, in Plotinus' Enneads and Proclus' Commentary on Plato's Republic;[422]
  • human desires and senses come from the immanent vehicle of the soul (pneûma), in Proclus Commentary on Plato's Timaeus where he paraphrases Syrianus;[423]
  • some humans can hear daemons through their immanent vehicle of their soul (pneûma), in Porphyry's Abstinence From Animal Food and Proclus' Commentary on Plato's Republic;[424]
  • the transcendent vehicle of the soul (ókhēma) is imperishable, whilst the immanent vehicle of the soul (pneûma) is temporary and survives bodily death, but is eventually purged after the end of one cycle of reincarnations, in Proclus' Commentary on Plato's Timaeus, Damascius' Commentary on Plato's Phaedo, and in Olympiodorus' Commentary on Plato's Alcibiades I paraphrasing Damascius.[425] There are 10 cycles of reincarnations in 10000 years according to Plato in Phaedrus 248e–249d;[426]
  • vehicles of a soul enable a soul to move, in Syrianus' Commentary on Aristotle's Metaphysics and Simplicius' Commentary on Aristotle's Physics.[427]

Periodicity of souls

For the 5th century Athenian neoplatonist Proclus, the periodicity of a human's soul is more than one human life, it is the entire time it takes from a soul's progression from the hypostasis of Soul into a human body, to the time of its return to its original purity in the hypostasis of Soul.[428] In Proclus' doctrines, there can be an infinite number of cycles, from the hypostasis of Soul into a material body and back to the hypostasis of Soul, before a soul returns to its original purity.[429] Proclus' doctrine on the periodicity of souls is derived by applying Aristotle's physical theory, in Physics 8.8 and 8.9, to immaterial individual souls, e.g. the World-Soul, planetary souls, and human souls, where Proclus' authority for the application of Aristotle's theory to immaterial individual souls is Plato, in Phaedrus 246b ff and Timaeus 36b ff.[430] In Aristotle's theory, in Physics 8.8 and 8.9, movement in a finite space must return to its starting point if the movement is continuous through an infinite time.[428]

Apocatastasis

In Proclus' doctrine on the periodicity of souls, a period of the World-Soul ends in a universal apocatastasis (ἀποκατάστασις) and is known as 'the whole of time' or a cosmic cycle,[431] followed by an infinite number of similar periods.[432] Before Proclus, the 4th century Roman official and neoplatonist author Salutius also held to the doctrine of an infinite number of periods of the World-Soul.[431] That the World-Soul has an infinite number of periods is a major difference between the doctrines of the neoplatonists Salutius and Proclus and the doctrines and the 3rd and 4th century Christian neoplatonists[431] Saint Origen and Saint Gregory of Nyssa, whose doctrines argue for a finite number of aeons, where an aeon is the equivalent to a neoplatonic period of the World-Soul.[433] Both Syrianus and Proclus, in his Commentary on Timaeus III.278.10 ff., claim that a human soul will progress into the material universe at least once in every period of the World-Soul.[434] That claim by the late Athenian neoplatonists Syrianus and Proclus is a rejection of the Pythagorean, Gnostic and a doctrine of Plotinus, in Ennead 5.1.1, that claim the progression of a human soul into the material universe is sinful, rather, it is part of a soul's education.[434] Further, in his Commentary on Cratylus chapter 117, Proclus claims heroic souls, e.g. Heracles, could spend many periods of the World-Soul without progression into the material universe.[435][436] In the 2014 English translation of Commentary on Cratylus by Proclus, the translation of chapters 117–120 are between chapters 131 and 132.[437]

Reincarnation

In the neoplatonic doctrine of reincarnation, souls lose most or all memories and characteristics of those bodies that have incarnated in previous lives.[438] In one of Plotinus' neoplatonic doctrines of reincarnation, Ennead 3.4.2.16–30, those who have 'cherished the human in them' become humans again, whilst those who have lived 'purely by their senses' (αἴσθησις) are reincarnated as different kinds of animals or even plants, dependent on which character traits dominated their former incarnation, e.g. anger, appetite, sluggishness, irrationality, obsession with music or lack of civic virtues.[439] The neoplatonist Porphyry, in his Commentary on Timaeus, argues that Plato's doctrine of transmigration teaches that a human soul can be reincarnated into a more bestial person as a punishment for vice, but not the body of a beast.[440][441][442]

Similarly the neoplatonists Iamblichus, Hierocles of Alexandria and Proclus,[443] thought that Pythagorean and Platonic doctrines of transmigration, e.g. Phaedo 81d ff. and Timaeus 42b–d,[443] meant that humans could be reincarnated as beast-like people, but not beasts, which is a psychological, and not a biological, interpretation[444] of Timaeus 42b–d.[445] For Proclus, if the doctrine of reincarnation is true, then it was possible that human souls could be punished for vices or enjoy rewards for acts whilst in a previous incarnation, and in his treatise Ten Problems Concerning Providence, gives the example of the 1st century Neopythagorean philosopher Apollonius of Tyana enjoying the rewards of a previous incarnation.[446] Also in Proclus' interpretation of the neoplatonic doctrine of reincarnation, souls that incarnate into a family or town may be punished for the acts of that family or town, as souls do not incarnate into a specific family or town by coincidence.[447] For neoplatonists, providential punishment, that accompanies a soul in its infinite cycles of reincarnation, restores the moral order of the universe through a temporal existence, and its primary purpose is the harmony of the universe and its souls, not retribution.[448]

The Pythagorean doctrine of reincarnation, with its modifications by Platonic and neoplatonic philosophers, was taught in the 12th and 13th centuries by the Manicheans and the western European Christian sect the Cathari, in the 16th century by the Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno, in the 17th century by the Flemish alchemist and writer Franciscus Mercurius van Helmont, and by scholars around the 18th century Swiss philosopher Johann Kaspar Lavater, whilst he was in Copenhagen and Lavater himself.[449] Strong believers of the doctrine of reincarnation included the 18th century Swedish philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg, the 19th century French philosophers Pierre Leroux and Charles Fourier, who thought that the souls of planets will be reincarnated like those of individuals, and early 20th century English philosopher J. M. E. McTaggart.[450] Supporters of the doctrine of reincarnation include the 18th century Scottish philosopher David Hume, the 19th century Danish-Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, the early 19th century German philosopher Karl Christian Friedrich Krause and the early 20th century Belgian playwright Maurice Maeterlinck.[449] Those that took the doctrine of reincarnation more or less seriously in the 18th century were the German polymath Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the German physicist Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, whilst the German writer Gotthold Ephraim Lessing was respectful of the doctrine, without himself being a believer.[451]

Nature

For neoplatonists, nature (phusis, φύσις)[452] is the living principle of bodies, physically immersed in bodies, but being their principle, nature precedes bodies and hence is immaterial.[453] Nature gives structure and unity to bodies, it produces, conserves, regenerates and fills bodies with life, a life that flickers even in inanimate bodies, and is the cause of movement for animate bodies.[453] Neoplatonist doctrines regard nature as a transitional hypostasis between the hypostasis of Soul and body, that contains 'reason principles' (logoi) originating from the Demiurge, and is the last of the demiurgic causes proceeding from Rheia, the goddess that gives life and is nature's ultimate cause.[453] Things that are generated by nature and conform with nature are called natural, and are its products, not nature itself.[453] The formal principles, or 'reason principles', that are causally contained in the Demiurge, which impart shape, structure and order to the material universe and govern all biological and natural processes, become diverse and particular as they progress through the hypostasis of Soul, and then through the transitional hypostasis of nature into the material universe.[454]

The 3rd century neoplatonist Plotinus in Ennead 3.8.4.110 gives a voice to nature:

"If anybody were to ask nature why [it] produces, Nature, if at all willing to listen and answer would say, "You should not have questioned me; you should have tried to understand, keeping silence, as I do; for I am not in the habit of speaking. What were you to understand? Here it is. First, what is produced is the work of my silent speculation, a contemplation effected by my nature; for, myself being born of contemplation, mine is a contemplative nature. Besides, that which in me contemplates, produces a work of contemplation, like geometricians who, while contemplating, describe figures. For it is not in describing figures, but in contemplating, that I let drop from within me the lines which outline the forms of the bodies. I preserve within me the disposition of my mother [or Rheia] (the universal Soul), and that of the principles that beget me (the formal reasons) [or logoi]. The latter, indeed, are born of contemplation: I was begotten in the same way. These principles gave birth to me without any action, or the mere fact that they are more powerful reasons, and that they contemplate themselves." "—Plotinus, Ennead 3.8.4.114[455]

For Plotinus, nature was the productive principle, or an aspect, of the hypostasis of Soul, that generated and maintained immaterial Plotinian Matter and the physical universe.[456] In Ennead 3.8.4.114, part of the Plotinian doctrine on nature, Plotinus claims nature to be a thinking and contemplative principle, that contemplates the antecedent superior aspects of the hypostasis of Soul.[457] Just as aspects in the hypostasis of Soul cannot fully grasp antecedent aspects in the hypostasis of Nous, and so contemplates itself, so nature cannot fully grasp antecedent superior aspects of the hypostasis of Soul, and so contemplates itself, and the external act of that self contemplation is the generation of a 'brilliant object',[458] the material universe.[457]

Body

For Plato and the neoplatonists, there are four classical elements that are the building blocks of the material universe (kosmos, κόσμος):[459] fire, air, water and earth.[460] In the doctrines of the 5th century neoplatonist Proclus, these elements were generated in a definite order by the Demiurge, assisted by the demiurgic triad of Zeus, Poseidon and Pluto.[460] First in that order was fire, supervised by Zeus, then air, supervised in its higher aspect by Zeus and in its lower aspect by Poseidon, then water, supervised by Poseidon, and last was earth, supervised by Pluto.[460] The demiurgic triad concerned themselves with these elements as totalities, whilst the younger gods, following the instructions from the Demiurge, created geometric shapes in the material universe.[460]

Sculptures representing the five Platonic bodies in Bagno Steinfurt, a park in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. For Plato and the neoplatonists, the four elements that are the building blocks of the material universe are fire, air, water and earth.[460] Fire has the geometric form of the tetrahedron; earth, the hexahedron, or cube; air, the octahedron, and water the icosahedron.[461] Plato, an authority for neoplatonists,[385] allegorized the material universe as the geometric form of the dodecahedron,[462] maybe by symbolizing each of the 12 faces of the dodecahedron as each of the 12 constellations of the Zodiac.[463][464]
Sculptures representing the five Platonic bodies in Bagno Steinfurt, a park in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. For Plato and the neoplatonists, the four elements that are the building blocks of the material universe are fire, air, water and earth.[460] Fire has the geometric form of the tetrahedron; earth, the hexahedron, or cube; air, the octahedron, and water the icosahedron.[461] Plato, an authority for neoplatonists,[385] allegorized the material universe as the geometric form of the dodecahedron,[462] maybe by symbolizing each of the 12 faces of the dodecahedron as each of the 12 constellations of the Zodiac.[463][464]

For Plato, there was a two-fold aspect of the four classical elements, the first aspect was the body of the universe as a whole, and the second aspect was the necessary material conditions for the production of the elements.[460] Proclus interpreted Plato's first aspect as teleological, where the body (σῶμα)[465] of the universe needs visibility and tangibility, and hence he claimed fire as necessary for visibility, and earth for tangibility, with the other two elements acting as intermediaries.[460] How the four elements are used to construct physical matter is the second of Plato's aspects of the four classical elements, where in the Timaeus, he explains the elements are themselves composed of material elemental triangles, or material elementary corpuscles, where each elementary corpuscle consists of a principle called a Platonic Idea, or a Form, and the principle of physical matter, called Matter.[466]

For Plato and the neoplatonists, a material body, which is made up of material elementary corpuscles, is the combination of two principles, Form and Matter, and is known as a hylomorphic structure.[461] Each element (στοιχεῖον),[467] fire, air, water and earth, is made of material elementary corpuscles (material elemental triangles) that combine into four material geometric forms.[461] These four material geometric forms are known as Platonic bodies, where the fundamental geometric form for fire is the tetrahedron; the hexahedron or a cube for earth; the octahedron for air; and the icosahedron for water.[461] Plato, an authority for neoplatonists,[385] in his work Timaeus 55c, allegorized the entire body of the material universe as the geometric form of the dodecahedron,[462] maybe by symbolizing each of the 12 faces of the dodecahedron as each of the 12 constellations of the Zodiac;[468][463][469][470] as elsewhere he said the material universe had the geometric form of the sphere.[471][472] Whether Plato recognized the dodecahedron as the fifth element was a topic of much debate between the Platonists and Middle Platonists such as Plutarch of Chaeronea, e.g. in his work Moralia 422f–423a.[473] For the 5th century neoplatonist Proclus, there is an allegorical association between the shape of the universe and the geometric form of the dodecahedron.[474] The theory of Platonic bodies that was adopted by the neoplatonists is called 'geometric atomism'.[461]

Divisions within hypostases

Neoplatonists after Plotinus, especially the late Athenian neoplatonist Proclus formalized, systematized and elaborated Plotinus' theological system by introducing neoplatonic divisions into Plotinus' three hypostases of the One, Nous and Soul, as summarized in the list below, also given are the sources from Plato and the equivalent Chaldean Oracles and Orphic deities:[475]

In the list below there are three types of parentheses, {...}, [...] and (...). Citations immediately following a closing parenthesis support the entire text between the opening and closing parentheses of that type. Parentheses of the type {...} may include to two or more lines of text. Citations within parentheses support the word, phrase or sentence immediately to the left of that citation. Where a god is listed in more than one division, the first is the transcendent[476] aspect of the god (bold text), the others are subsequent inferior[476] aspects of the god (non-bold text). The transcendent aspect of a god is formatted in bold text for both Chaldean Oracles and Orphic deities and principles. All deities and principles in the list are immaterial.


The One

(τὸ ἕν):[307] (neoplatonic hypostasis)

{[neoplatonic divine reality: the One, source: 1st hypothesis of Plato's Parmenides] [Chaldean Oracles: Unique Principle] [Orphic: Chronos]}[477]

  • The Henads: {[neoplatonic divine reality: The First Henad,[478][479] the first Limit,[478] the first 'real One';[478] and other henads, source: doctrine of henads by Proclus and Syrianus in Elements of Theology[480]]}[477] [Chaldean Oracles: Good, Knowledge, Beautiful][481]
  • Dyad:[477] {[neoplatonic divine reality: Limit (The First Henad, the first Limit, the first 'real One')[478] and Unlimited (generative power of the henads),[478] source: Plato's Philebus and doctrine of henads by Proclus and Syrianus in Elements of Theology[480]] [Orphic: Ether, Chaos]}[477]


The Intelligible realm[477]

(νοητὸς τόπος)[351] (neoplatonic hypostasis)

Divisions[344] of the Plotinian hypostasis of Nous (νοῦς)[351]


Being (ὄν, κόσμος νοητος,[344] kosmos noêtos):[465]

{[neoplatonic divine reality: Intelligible gods, source: Plato's Philebus 23c]

[Chaldean Oracles: Paternal Abyss]

[Orphic: The Intelligible]}[477]

  • Intelligible Being, or One Being: {[neoplatonic divine reality: First Intelligible Triad, (1) Intelligible; (2) Intelligible-Intellective; (3) Intellective] [neoplatonic henad, source: doctrine of henads by Proclus in Elements of Theology][480] [Plato: 'Living Being in Itself', source: Plato's Timaeus] [Plato: 'Being', source: the 2nd hypothesis of Plato's Parmenides] [Chaldean Oracles: Faith,[482] Father] [Orphic: Primordial Egg]}[477]
    1. [remark: One Being is the paradigmatic cause of Divine Number][483]
  • Intelligible Life: {[neoplatonic divine reality: Second Intelligible Triad, (1) Intelligible; (2) Intelligible-Intellective; (3) Intellective] [neoplatonic henad, source: doctrine of henads by Proclus in Elements of Theology][480] [Plato: 'Wholeness', source: 2nd hypothesis of Plato's Parmenides] [Chaldean Oracles: Eternity,[399] Aiôn (αἰών),[399] Truth[481]] [Orphic: Conceived Egg]}[477]
    1. [remark: Eternity is the paradigmatic cause[484] of unparticipated Time,[485] where unparticipated Time is a monad that contains the whole of time; past, present and future, without temporal intervals between instances of time.[485]][486]
  • Intelligible Intellect or Intelligible Living Being:[483] (αὐτοζῷον)[487] {[neoplatonic divine reality: Third Intelligible Triad, (1) Intelligible (Plato: 'Paradigm', source: Plato's Timaeus); (2) Intelligible-Intellective; (3) Intellective] [neoplatonic henad, source: doctrine of henads by Proclus in Elements of Theology][480] [Plato: 'Plurality', source: 2nd hypothesis of Plato's Parmenides] [Chaldean Oracles: Total Living Being, or Love[481]] [Orphic: Phanes, or Metis,[481] or Eros[481]]}[488]
    1. [remark 1: Intelligible Living Being is the paradigmatic cause of the Universal soul[489] (World-Soul and other universal souls).][483][490]
    2. [remark 2: Intelligible Living Being contains a single form of all living beings immortal and mortal][491]


Life (ζωή, zôê):[492]

{[neoplatonic divine reality: Intelligible-Intellective gods (νοητος καὶ νοερός,[344] noêtos kai noeros)]

[Chaldean Oracles: Intelligible-Intellective gods]

[Orphic: Intelligible-Intellective]}[488]

  • Divine Number [488]
    • {[neoplatonic divine reality: First Intelligible-Intellective Triad] [neoplatonic henad, source: doctrine of henads by Proclus in Elements of Theology][480] [Plato: 'Many' (polla), source: 2nd hypothesis of Plato's Parmenides] [Plato: 'Supra-celestial Place', or 'Supercelestial Place',[493] or 'Kingdom of Adrastia',[493] source: Plato's Phaedrus] [Chaldean Oracles: Triad of Iynges or lynx[494]] [Orphic: Three Nights and Adrasteia[495]]}[488]
    • {[neoplatonic divine reality: Second Intelligible-Intellective Triad], [neoplatonic henad, source: doctrine of henads by Proclus in Elements of Theology][480] [Plato: 'Whole-Parts', source: 2nd hypothesis of Plato's Parmenides] [Plato: 'Heaven', source: Plato's Phaedrus] [Chaldean Oracles: Triad of Connectors or Synoches[496]] [Orphic: three parts of Ouranos, together with Gaia[497] (Gaiê, Gê, Gaea) who is the middle centre[497]]}[488]
    • {[neoplatonic divine reality: Third Intelligible-Intellective Triad], [neoplatonic henad, source: doctrine of henads by Proclus in Elements of Theology][480] [Plato: 'Shape', source: 2nd hypothesis of Plato's Parmenides] [Plato: 'Sub-celestial vault', or 'Vault of Heaven'[498] source: Plato's Phaedrus (247b)[498]] [Chaldean Oracles: Triad of Teletarchs] [Orphic: Three Hecatoncheirs,[481] or Triad of the Centimani (three Hundred-Handed Giants: Cottus, Gyges, and Briareus, guardians[499])[498] or Triad of Cyclopes (Brontes, Steropes, and Arges[500]),[498] or three gods of the perfective or guardian class]}[488]


Intellect (νοερός,[344] noeros):

{[neoplatonic divine reality: Intellective gods] [neoplatonic henad, source: doctrine of henads by Proclus in Elements of Theology][480]

[Plato: 'Zeus and other Olympians', source: Plato's Phaedrus] [Chaldean Oracles: Intellective gods]

[Orphic: Intellective]}[488] [remark: This division of the Plotinian hypostasis of Nous comprehends all things simultaneously][501]

  • Intellective Being: {[neoplatonic divine reality: First Intellective Triad (Triad of parents), (1) Intelligible; (2) Intelligible-Intellective; (3) Intellective] [neoplatonic henad, source: doctrine of henads by Proclus in Elements of Theology][480] [Plato: 'In itself-In another', source: 2nd hypothesis of Plato's Parmenides] [Plato: Demiurge, source: Plato's Timaeus] [Chaldean Oracles: three Paternal Sources, (1) Kronos (Once Beyond), (2) Hecate, (3) Zeus (Twice Beyond)][502] [Orphic: Triad of Parents, (1) Kronos, (2) Rhea, (3) Zeus]}[488]
    1. [remark 1: Proclus' explanation in Commentary on Timaeus III.19–28ff. of unparticipated[503] Time (i.e. a monad that contains whole of time, past, present and future, without temporal intervals between instances of time) can be identified with Kronos.[485] The Demiurge is the efficient cause of participated[504] time (empirical, or physical time with temporal sequences).[485]][486]
    2. [remark 2: The Demiurge contains divided forms of all mortal living beings, producing mortal natures from immortal natures.][505][491]
  • Intellective Life: {[neoplatonic divine reality: Second Intellective Triad (Triad of immaculate gods)] [neoplatonic henad, source: doctrine of henads by Proclus in Elements of Theology][480] [Plato: 'Moving and Resting', source: 2nd hypothesis of Plato's Parmenides] [Chaldean Oracles: Three Implacables (τρεῖς ἀμείλικτοι)][506] [Orphic: Three Immaculate gods: Kourets[481] or Couretes]}[488]
  • Intellective Intellect: {[neoplatonic divine reality: Seventh Divinity (monad)] [neoplatonic henad, source: doctrine of henads by Proclus in Elements of Theology][480] [Plato: 'Same and Different', source: 2nd hypothesis of Plato's Parmenides] [Chaldean Oracles: The diaphragm[481] (ὁ ὑπεζωκώς) or 'membrane', 'For like a diaphragm, a kind of noeric membrane that separates the first fire from other fire which hasten to mingle'][507] [Orphic: castration of Ouranos by Kronos,[508] The Titans:[509] Themis, Tethys, Mnemosyne, Theia, Dione, Phoebe, Rhea, Coeus, Crius, Phorcys, Kronos, Oceanus, Hyperion and Iapetus][510]}[508]


Soul[508]

(ψυχή)[365] (neoplatonic hypostasis)

Divisions of the hypostasis of Soul

Souls (universal or monadic):

{[neoplatonic divine reality: Hypercosmic gods] [neoplatonic henad, source: doctrine of henads by Proclus in Elements of Theology][480]}[508]

{[Plato: 'Like and Unlike', source: 2nd hypothesis of Plato's Parmenides]}[508]

{[Chaldean Oracles: Leading gods]}[508]

{[Orphic: 4 triads]}[508]

  1. [remark: This division of the hypostasis of Soul comprehends a plurality of things simultaneously][501]


Hypercosmic or Divine souls:

{[neoplatonic divine reality: 4 Triads:[481] (1) First Hypercosmic Triad, source: Plato's Gorgias 523a3–5; (2) Second Hypercosmic Triad; (3) Third Hypercosmic Triad; (4) Fourth Hypercosmic Triad]}[508]

{[Chaldean Oracles: (1) Paternal Triad: Zeus, Poseidon, Hades; (2) Coric Triad: Hecate, Soul, Virtue; (3) Apolloniac Triad: three Helioses or three Apollos[511] (4) Corybantic Triad]}[508]

{[Orphic: 4 Triads: (1) Paternal Triad: (Zeus, Poseidon, Hades)[481]; (2) Coric Triad: (Artemis, Kore (Persephone), Athena)[481] or (Hecate, Soul, Virtue);[508] (3) Apolloniac Triad: (three Helioses, or three Apollos),[511] (triple winged Apollo)[509] (4) three Kourets,[481] or three Couretes, or the Corybantes[509]]}[508]

  1. [remark: In this division of the hypostasis of Soul, time is the measure of the whole apocatastasis, or all the apocatastases][512]


Hypercosmic-Encosmic souls:

{[neoplatonic divine reality: Hypercosmic-Encosmic gods] [neoplatonic henad, source: doctrine of henads by Proclus in Elements of Theology][480]}[508]

{[Plato: 'Contiguous and Separate', source: 2nd hypothesis of Plato's Parmenides] [Plato: '12 gods' of Phaedrus myth, source: Plato's Phaedrus]}[508]

{[Chaldean Oracles and Orphic: demiurgic, or fabricative:[513] Zeus, Poseidon, Hephaestus; immaculate or defensive:[513] Hestia, Athena, Ares; life-giving or vivific:[513] Demeter (Cerealian),[514] Hera, Artemis; elevating and harmonic:[513] Hermes, Aphrodite, Apollo]}[508]


Encosmic souls:

{[neoplatonic divine reality: Encosmic gods] [neoplatonic henad, source: doctrine of henads by Proclus in Elements of Theology][480]}[489]

  1. [remark 1: This division of the hypostasis of Soul comprehends things one at a time].[501]

{[Proclus: 'fabricators of generation', source: Commentary on Timaeus][515]}[489]

{[Plato: 'Equal and Unequal', source: 2nd hypothesis of Plato's Parmenides] [Plato: 'young gods', source: in Plato's Timaeus 40e5–41a3]}[489]

  1. [remark 2: The 'young gods' made mortals by looking to the Demiurge, source: Plato's Timaeus 40e8][491]

{[Chaldean Oracles:

  • (a) 'non-wandering gods', or 'fixed stars';
  • (b) 'wanderings gods', or 'planets and nine sublunary gods'][516]}[489]

{[Orphic: (a) Dionysus as the circle of the Same; (b) Dionysus torn to pieces by the Titans as the circle of the Different (seven planets and nine sublunary gods):

  • (a) [seven planets: (1) Kronos (soul of Saturn), (2) Zeus (soul of Jupiter), (3) Ares (soul of Mars), (4) Helios (soul of the Sun), (5) Aphrodite (soul of Venus), (6) Hermes (soul of Mercury), (7) Selene (soul of the Moon)][517]
  • (b) [nine sublunary gods: (1) Ouranos; (2) Gaia (soul of the Earth);[497] (3) Oceanus; (4) Tethys; (5) Kronos; (6) Rhea; (7) Phorcys; (8) Zeus; (9) Hera][517]]}[489]
  1. [remark 3: Oceanus and Tethys are prior to the aspects of Kronos, Rhea, Zeus and Hera in this division of the hypostasis of Soul as all things in this division are in mutation and a flowing condition. Oceanus and Tethys are inferior to the aspects of Kronos, Rhea, Zeus and Hera in all divisions of hypostases prior to this division.][518]
  2. [remark 4: In this division, Ouranos terminates, Gaia strengthens; Oceanus moves all generation; Tethys establishes things in their proper motion (i.e. intellectual essences in intellectual, middle essences in psychical, and corporeal in physical motion); Kronos alone divides intellectually; Rhea vivifies; Phorcys distributes productive principles; Zeus perfects things apparent from the unapparent; and Hera evolves things according to the various mutations of visible natures.][519]
  • Universal soul: {[neoplatonic divine reality: World-Soul and other universal souls], [neoplatonic henad, source: doctrine of henads by Proclus in Elements of Theology][480]; [Plato: 'partaking in time': source: 2nd hypothesis of Plato's Parmenides] [Plato: 'World-Soul', source: Plato's Timaeus]; [Chaldean Oracles: Nature and Fatality]; [Orphic: gods linked to the celestial bodies]}[489]
  1. [remark 5: This division of the hypostasis of Soul measures one apocatastasis at a time (i.e. one period of the Universal soul), where time is measured empirically, or physically, with different temporal sequences like: a period for each of the stars, a solar period, a period for each of the planets, a lunar period, a period for meteors, a period for Angels, a period for Daemons, a period for Heroes and a period for Human souls.][512]
  • Intermediate souls: {[neoplatonic divine reality: Angels, Daemons, Heroes]; [neoplatonic henad, source: doctrine of henads by Proclus in Elements of Theology][480]; [Plato: 'partaking in the division of time', source: from 2nd hypothesis of Plato's Parmenides] [Plato: Angels, Daemons, Heroes, source: Plato's Phaedrus myth]; [Chaldean Oracles: Higher souls: Archangels; Angels; Daemons; Heroes]; [Orphic: Higher Souls]}[489]
  • Particular souls: {[neoplatonic divine reality: Human souls] [Plato: rational aspect of human souls, source: Plato's Phaedrus myth]; [Chaldean Oracles: rational aspect of human souls];[Orphic: rational aspect of human souls]}[489]


Nature[489]

(φύσις, phusis,[452] or physis) 21st century scholars are unsure if Nature is a neoplatonic hypostasis or a division of the World-Soul.[520]

Divisions of Nature

Particular natures

  • Irrational souls: [neoplatonic reality (principle, immaterial): irrational aspect of human souls, animal souls][489]


Bodies

  • Universal bodies: {[neoplatonic reality (principle, immaterial): elements] [Plato: 'the four elements', source: Plato's Timaeus]}[520]
  • Formed matter: {[neoplatonic reality (principle, immaterial)][Chaldean Oracles: bodies] [Orphic: bodies]}[520]
  1. [remark: 4th substrate][520]
  • [Plato: 'traces of Forms', source: Plato's Timaeus][520]
  1. [remark: 3rd substrate][520]
  • First body: {[neoplatonic reality (principle, immaterial), source: Plato's Sophist 248–256]}[520]
  1. [remark: 2nd substrate][520]


Matter

{[neoplatonic reality (principle, immaterial)] [Plato: 'chôra', source: Plato's Timaeus and 5th hypothesis of Plato's Parmenides 159b2–160b4]}[520]

{[Chaldean Oracles: matter] [Orphic: matter]}[516]

  1. [remark: 1st or ultimate substrate][520]

Influence on religion and philosophy

The theology[521] and spirituality[521] of neoplatonism had a profound[151][521] influence on Christian religion and philosophy,[521][522] Middle Ages Islamic and Jewish religion and philosophy,[151] and more broadly, Western[151] philosophy, where specifically, it had a lasting[523] influence in Germany.[522] Both neoplatonism and Christianity are regarded as spiritual philosophies, as opposed to the materialism of the Stoics, where both spiritual philosophies support the view of a transcendent One, or God, argue for a divine origin of the human soul and its desire to return to the One, or God. and both have spiritual practices that purify the soul.[145]

In the middle of the 4th century, the future neoplatonic[27] Roman emperor Julian was deeply influenced during his studies at the neoplatonic school of Pergamon,[524] and very early in the 5th century, neoplatonism influenced Saint Augustine in his conversion to Christianity.[525] In the 6th century, Pseudo-Dionysius' weaving[526] of neoplatonic theology into Christian theology was to have a profound effect on Christian thought with commentaries[527] on his works written throughout the 7th to 13th centuries.[390] In Islamic religion and philosophy, neoplatonic texts were available in Arabic and Persian translations, and notable philosophers such as al-Farabi,[528] Solomon ibn Gabirol[529] (Avicebron), Avicenna,[530] and Maimonides[531] incorporated neoplatonic theology and philosophy into their works.[532]

During the 13th century, Thomas Aquinas had direct access to translations of works by Proclus,[533][534][535] Simplicius,[536] and Pseudo-Dionysius,[537] and he knew about the works of neoplatonists, such as Plotinus and Porphyry, through secondary sources.[538] During the 16th century, the Polish astronomer Nicholas Copernicus read neoplatonic theories of mathematics and incorporated neoplatonic astronomical theories by Proclus into his own works,[539] and in 19th century Germany, neoplatonism influenced[522] the philosopher Hegel, who regarded neoplatonism, and especially the neoplatonic philosopher Proclus, as the peak of Greek philosophy.[540]

4th century

Roman ruins of the ancient city of Pergamon, near the modern day city of Bergama, Turkey. During the middle of the 4th century, the future neoplatonic[27] Roman emperor Julian studied for four years in the neoplatonic school of Pergamon, headed by the neoplatonic philosophers Aedesius and Sosipatra.[541]
Roman ruins of the ancient city of Pergamon, near the modern day city of Bergama, Turkey. During the middle of the 4th century, the future neoplatonic[27] Roman emperor Julian studied for four years in the neoplatonic school of Pergamon, headed by the neoplatonic philosophers Aedesius and Sosipatra.[541]

After the neoplatonist philosopher Iamblichus died in c. 330 AD,[196] students of his school in Apamea dispersed.[203] The more well-known of Iamblichus' students were the neoplatonists Sopatros;[203] Eustathius;[196] Chrysanthius;[541] Theodore of Asine,[542][543] who may have also been a student of Porphyry;[203] and Aedesius,[544] who is regarded as Iamblichus' successor[196] and founded his own neoplatonic school in Pergamon.[203] It was during the middle of the 4th century in Pergamon, where Aedesius was teaching philosophy alongside the brilliant[545] female theurgical neoplatonic philosopher Sosipatra, that the future neoplatonic[27] Roman emperor Julian came to study.[541]

Julian had been brought up a Christian; however, because of his genius, he soon knew more than his Christian teachers and was allowed to attend lectures on philosophy, study Greek literature[546] and eventually allowed to travel to Pergamon.[524] During his time at the neoplatonic school of Pergamon, in the middle of the 4th century,[547] Julian was influenced by neoplatonic teachers and fellow students, Chrysanthius, Eusebius and especially by the more Iamblichan[548] Priscus and Maximus.[524] Neoplatonic theological and allegorical influences are strongly demonstrated in emperor Julian's work Hymn to King Helios, where Helios, the Sun, is the name of the first Plotinian hypostasis, the Good; it is also the intelligible good of the second hypostasis, that causes existence and beauty for thought; it is also the intellect of the second hypostasis, that is regarded as an act rather than an object of thought; and finally it is the material Sun in the sky.[549] Proclus has similar doctrines on light and fire, where he explains there is a divine light (a monad) from which is generated an intelligible or heavenly light and fire, which then produces physical light and fire.[550]

Also in the 4th century, a noticeably Christian form of neoplatonism can be seen in the works of the Greek Cappadocian Fathers: Saint Basil, Saint Gregory of Nyssa, and Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, and also in the works of the theologian Saint Ambrose of Milan, and the neoplatonic philosopher Marius Victorinus.[145]

5th century

A very early 5th century influence of neoplatonism can be seen in the conversion to Christianity by the late 4th to early 5th century Christian theologian Saint Augustine, where in his work Confessions 7.9, which he started writing in 397 AD,[551] he says he was influenced in that conversion by reading 'books of the Platonists'.[525] Although Saint Augustine does not say exactly what books he read, 21st century scholarship has the view that he read works by the 3rd century neoplatonists Plotinus and Porphyry that were translated into Latin by the 4th century Roman grammarian and neoplatonic philosopher Marius Victorinus,[525] who used neoplatonic insights and doctrines to analyze and describe Christian Trinitarian theology.[552]

In Confessions 5.10.19 and 7.1.1–2, Saint Augustine says that in his youth, he had difficulty believing how anything could exist without it being corporeal, and hence he found the dualistic materialism of Manichaeism unobjectionable;[553] however, the neoplatonic books by Plotinus and Porphyry convinced Saint Augustine that truth was incorporeal, and the One, or God, was the eternal, unchanging cause of all things,[525] and also that evil is a privation[554] of good.[555] Further, in his articulation of the Christian doctrine of Trinity, Saint Augustine liberally uses the conception of neoplatonic triads to explain the workings of the Christian Trinity.[145] Saint Augustine's unification of Christianity and Platonism into a neoplatonic Christianity with elements of Stoicism gives Christian belief its philosophical foundation.[552]

Middle Ages

In the Middle Ages, neoplatonic theological and philosophical doctrines were studied and incorporated into Christian,[556] Islamic[557] and Jewish[558] religion and philosophy.[559] For about 700 years in the Latin West, from Saint Augustine in the 5th century to Anselm of Canterbury in the 12th century, neoplatonic philosophy and theology was used as a sort of template by Christian philosophers, until the revival of Aristotle.[145] Important Christian neoplatonic influences throughout the Middle Ages were though the early 6th century works Corpus Dionysiacum Areopagiticum of Pseudo-Dionysius[560] and De consolatione philosophiae by Boethius.[561][562]

The two 9th century Arabic translations that are central to the influence of Greek neoplatonism into Islamic and Jewish contexts in the Middle Ages are:

  • the Theology of Aristotle, an edited Arabic translation of books 4–6 of PlotinusEnneads;
  • the Kalām fī mahd al-khair, or The Book of the Pure Good, or sometimes referred to as the Arabic Liber de causis[563], that is an edited Arabic translation of parts of ProclusElements of Theology.[564]

Another 9th century Arabic translation of Proclus' Elements of Theology called Kalām fī maḥḍ al-ḫayr, or Discourse on the Pure Good, that was translated into Latin by the 12th century Italian translator Gerard of Cremona, now known as the Latin Liber de causis, was to be a powerful transmission of neoplatonic doctrines into Christian Europe from the 13th century onwards.[565]

6th century Greek reception

The beginning of a Latin translation of Pseudo-Dionysius' work Ecclesiastical Hierarchy from a manuscript in the Vatican Library. The neoplatonic theology of Proclus is a foundation[562] to Pseudo-Dionysius' works on Christian theology written between 485 AD and 530 AD,[566][567] now called Corpus Dionysiacum Areopagiticum (CDA).[568]
The beginning of a Latin translation of Pseudo-Dionysius' work Ecclesiastical Hierarchy from a manuscript in the Vatican Library. The neoplatonic theology of Proclus is a foundation[562] to Pseudo-Dionysius' works on Christian theology written between 485 AD and 530 AD,[566][567] now called Corpus Dionysiacum Areopagiticum (CDA).[568]

The unknown[569] enigmatic 6th century[567] Christian monk,[570] who wrote under the pseudonym of Dionysius Areopagite,[206] now known as Pseudo-Dionysius, was most likely a student[570][571] of Proclus, a neoplatonist who converted to Christianity, a follower of Origen, an advocate of dyophysite Christology, and who issued his works, that conformed to a neoplatonic paradigm of thought, from the Syrian monastic world.[570] Pseudo-Dionysius, with little attempt at originality,[572] paraphrased[573] a lot[560] of the neoplatonic theology of Proclus, which served as a foundation[562] to his Christian works on theology written between 485 AD and 530 AD,[566][567] now called Corpus Dionysiacum Areopagiticum (CDA),[568] that until the late 19th century[567] was falsely claimed to be the works of Saint Paul’s 1st century disciple Saint Dionysius.[390] Even by the middle of the 7th century, 649 AD, the CDA, consisting of a Pseudo-Dionysian theology,[562] was of such importance that a Pope raised a question about a contentious reading of sections of it before the Lateran Council of 649.[527] The CDA, which incorporated and hence transmitted the neoplatonic theology within it, had a profound influence on Christian mystical thought,[390] as is borne out by the commentaries on sections of the corpus by: the 7th century Christian theologian Saint Maximus the Confessor; the 8th century Byzantine-Christian monk Saint John of Damascus; the 9th century Irish Catholic theologian John Scotus Eriugena; the 12th century Saxon theologian Hugh of St. Victor; the 13th century English theologian Robert Grosseteste; the 13th century German bishop Saint Albert the Great; the 13th century Italian philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas, and others.[527]

In 529 AD, the Byzantine emperor Justinian I issued a general law forbidding non-Christians in the Byzantine empire from teaching and to submit to baptism or be exiled and their property confiscated.[574] At the time the Byzantine empire included, amongst other cities, Alexandria, Athens, and Constantinople.[575] Justinian's general law seems to have been predominantly directed at the neoplatonic[576][577] school of Athens, where at the time Damascius was the head of the school, because the Athenian neoplatonic school was seen to be more of a threat to Christianity than other neoplatonic schools elsewhere in the empire, as the Athenian school did not rely on authorities for funding and thus could have far more independent views on theology.[578] The closure of the neoplatonic school of Athens and confiscations of property took place between 529 and 531 AD, and it was probably in 532 AD that Damascius, Simplicius, a former pupil of Ammonius in Alexandria, and their neoplatonic colleagues left Athens and travelled east to Persia.[579] Sometime after Justinian I issued his general law in 529 AD, he agreed to let certain philosophers return to the empire to live in peace; Damascius might have returned to Emesa in 538 AD, and Simplicius may have returned to Alexandria and Athens to study,[580] although the views on the return of those neoplatonic philosophers have been vigorously questioned.[581]

In Alexandria, the late Roman laws proved little more than notifications to the central government, and after a few months, nobody took much notice of the general law issued by Justinian I in 529 AD.[582] That is evidenced by the writings of the neoplatonic philosopher Olympiodorus that reveal he was still teaching in Alexandria in 565 AD, and lecture notes from students also reveal he did not hide his neoplatonism.[582] It seems that the authorities in Alexandria were not overly concerned with neoplatonic teachers as, unlike the teachers at the neoplatonic school in Athens, the neoplatonic teachers in Alexandria relied on the authorities for their salaries and largely, if not exclusively, concentrated their teachings on Aristotle, steering clear of neoplatonism, and hence were seen as far less anti-Christian than the teachers at the neoplatonic school of Athens.[582]

Byzantine reception

A characteristic trait of Middle Ages Byzantine philosophy is a tension between the Platonic foundations of neoplatonic doctrines and Christian doctrines.[583] Byzantine scholars attempted to harmonize neoplatonic doctrines with the doctrines of Christianity, however, they also opposed certain neoplatonic doctrines and thought others were heretical.[583] The many efforts by Byzantine scholars at assimilating certain neoplatonic doctrines with the doctrines of Christianity, and the critique, opposition and condemnation of other doctrines and their neoplatonic authors, plays a fundamental role in the reception of neoplatonism in the Byzantine Empire of the Middle Ages.[583]

Some of the major representatives of philosophy and theology in the Byzantine Empire that were influenced by neoplatonism during the Middle Ages were: the 6th century Byzantine-Greek Christian theologian John Philoponus;[290] the 7th century Christian theologian Saint Maximus the Confessor; the 8th century Christian monk Saint John of Damascus;[584] the late 9th to early 10th century Greek Orthodox Archbishop Arethas of Caesarea;[585] the 11th century Byzantine-Greek monk and polymath Michael Psellos;[585] the 12th century Byzantine theologian Nicholas of Methone;[586] the late 13th century Byzantine philosopher George Pachymeres;[587] the 14th century Byzantine-Greek theologian Gregory Palamas;[588] and the 15th century Byzantine philosopher Gemistos Plethon.[589]

6th century

In c. 529 AD in Alexandria, about forty-five years after Proclus died, the 6th century Byzantine-Greek Christian theologian John Philoponus; a former student[290] of Ammonius Hermiae (a leader[45] of the neoplatonic school in Alexandria), wrote a lengthy 18 book refutation, in Greek, of Proclus' treatise On the Eternity of the World (De Aeternitate Mundi), called Against Proclus On the Eternity of the World[291] (De Aeternitate Mundi Contra Proclum).[590] In the single surviving manuscript of Philoponus' work Against Proclus On the Eternity of the World, he opens each book by exactly quoting each of Proclus' 18 arguments that were in Proclus' treatise On the Eternity of the World and in so doing preserved Proclus' treatise On the Eternity of the World, as there are no surviving manuscripts of that treatise by Proclus.[591] The first argument of Proclus' treatise On the Eternity of the World quoted in Philoponus' work is lost; however, there is a surviving 9th century Arabic translation of the first argument, that was translated from Syriac translations of the Greek originals, by Syrian Christian translators headed by the 9th century Arabic translator Hunayn ibn Ishaq.[592]

Philoponus' work Against Proclus On the Eternity of the World is an important transmission of neoplatonic doctrines on the eternity, not only in 6th century Alexandria, but also during the Renaissance where they were translated into Latin at least three times by the 15th century Byzantine-Greek Catholic cardinal Bessarion, the 15th century Italian scholar and Catholic priest Marsilio Ficino, and the 15th century Italian philosopher Pico della Mirandola.[593] Further, 21st century scholarship by the French scholar Delphine Lauritzen has also shown the influence of Proclus in the poetry of the 6th century Christian poet John of Gaza.[594][595]

7th to 10th century

The late 6th to early 7th century[596] Byzantine philosopher Stephanus of Alexandria was a former student[297] of Olympiodorus (the last[46] neoplatonic leader of the neoplatonic school of Alexandria) and is regarded as the last known neoplatonic philosopher in Alexandria.[297] Stephanus lectured in Alexandria and Constantinople[597][596] and wrote on the ‘Canon(s) of Proclus'; which are logical relationships between propositions, in the context of Aristotelian logic by way of his commentary on Aristotle's work On Interpretation (De Interpretatione).[598] The ‘Canon(s) of Proclus' were later to be known in the field of logic as 'the rule of obversion' and is regarded as an impressive achievement in the field of formal logic.[598] The university school in Constantinople continued to teach a form of neoplatonism until the 8th century which marks the end of original neoplatonism and the end of the period known as late antiquity.[597]

In the 7th century, the Christian theologian Saint Maximus the Confessor developed a synthesis of theological and philosophical traditions that included central neoplatonic concepts, mostly from the paraphrasing[573] of neoplatonic philosophy by Pseudo-Dionysius, a neoplatonist[570] who converted to Christianity.[599] In the work of the 8th century Christian monk Saint John of Damascus, called Fountain of Knowledge, he draws on the neoplatonic paraphrasing in the works of Pseudo-Dionysius and demonstrates a characteristic trait of Byzantine philosophy that both assimilated and rejected neoplatonic doctrines into systematic Christian doctrines that formed a view of the world.[584] Further, the theological work Amphilochia by the 9th century ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople Saint Photios I, contains traces of the influence of neoplatonic commentaries on Aristotle and also contains receptions of the paraphrasing of neoplatonic philosophy by Pseudo-Dionysius.[600] Further still, in the late 9th and early 10th centuries, the works of the Greek Orthodox Archbishop Arethas of Caesarea, in his commentaries of Eisagoge by Porphyry and Categories by Aristotle, show clear influences of neoplatonic commentaries and in those works he mainly uses Aristotelian philosophy to present and explain neoplatonic philosophy.[585]

11th century
A 12th or 13th century depiction of Michael Psellos with his student, the Byzantine Emperor Michael VII Doukas, located in the Pantokratoros Monastery. Psellos is a key figure both in the history of Byzantine philosophy and in the reception of neoplatonic theology and philosophy in Constantinople.[585]
A 12th or 13th century depiction of Michael Psellos with his student, the Byzantine Emperor Michael VII Doukas, located in the Pantokratoros Monastery. Psellos is a key figure both in the history of Byzantine philosophy and in the reception of neoplatonic theology and philosophy in Constantinople.[585]

The 11th century Byzantine-Greek monk and polymath Michael Psellos is a key figure in the history of Byzantine philosophy and plays a large role in the reception of neoplatonic theology and philosophy in Constantinople.[585] During his early career, as a civil administrator of the Byzantine empire, he served under 11 emperors and empresses and was an important member of the courts of Constantine X, Romanos IV and Michael VII.[585] When he was about 29, in 1047 AD, the Byzantine emperor Constantine IX made him an overseer of philosophical education in Constantinople and later when he was about 36 years old, in 1054 AD, he became a monk, changed his name from Constantine to Michael, lived on Mount Olympus, and by the time he died, in c. 1076 AD, left to posterity over 1500 manuscripts on historiography, rhetoric, philosophy and law.[585]

Psellos was an ardent reader of the neoplatonic philosophers Plotinus, Porphyry, Iamblichus, Syrianus, Proclus, Simplicius, and Olympiodorus, and the Christian philosopher John Philoponus who was a student[290] of the neoplatonic school in Alexandria.[601] In Psellos' works there are lengthy quotes from Plotinus' Enneads and works by Proclus, in which he demonstrates a deep knowledge of neoplatonic theology and philosophy, and where at times he identifies doctrines unsuitable for Christians, at times uses neoplatonic doctrines to explain Christian text, and at other times explains that neoplatonic doctrines can improve the understanding of Christian truths, all the while stressing the absolute authority of Christian doctrines.[602] Psellos' complex relationship to neoplatonic theology and philosophy is seen by 21st century scholarship as a reflection of tension between Christian theology and neoplatonic theology and philosophy that was a characteristic of 11th century Constantinople.[603] Those tensions were exacerbated in the works of Psellos' student, the 11th century Byzantine philosopher John Italus, and Italus' student, the late 11th to early 12th century bishop Eustratius of Nicaea, whose neoplatonic ideologies led to both of them being tried for heresy.[604]

12th century

Neoplatonic influences of Plotinus, Proclus and Damascius are also clearly evident in the commentary of Nicomachean Ethics by the 12th century Byzantine philosopher Michael of Ephesus.[605] Similarly, neoplatonic influences can be seen in the work Epitome by the late 11th to early 12th century Byzantine philosopher Theodore of Smyrna.[605] Refutations of the widespread interest in neoplatonic doctrines, especially Proclus' work Elements of Theology, are prevalent in the work Refutatio by the 12th century Byzantine theologian Nicholas of Methone, who is seen by 21st century scholarship to be motivated by his fixation and fascination of the influence that neoplatonic theology and philosophy had over his contemporaries.[586] Further, neoplatonic influence is demonstrated in the work On providence by the 12th century Byzantine scholar Isaak Sebastokrator, where that work is a compilation of neoplatonic works by Proclus, the neoplatonic paraphrasing[573][572] of Pseudo-Dionysius and works by Saint Maximus the Confessor.[606]

13th century

Even after the sacking of Constantinople in the early 13th century, the influence of neoplatonism in Constantinople was significant, as is evidenced by the work Epitome Physica of the 13th century Byzantine author Nikephoros Blemmydes, who in that work copied and slightly modified large extracts from the work Commentary on the Physics by the 6th century neoplatonic philosopher Simplicius.[606] Further evidence of neoplatonic influence in 13th century Constantinople is in the form of an admission by the 13th century Byzantine historian George Akropolites, a student of Nikephoros Blemmydes, who wrote that only after reading Plato and the neoplatonic philosophy of Proclus, Iamblichus and Plotinus, was he able to grasp some of the writings of the 4th century Archbishop of Constantinople Saint Gregory of Nazianzos.[607] Perhaps the largest body of work that evidences the influence of neoplatonism in 13th century Constantinople is the work Commentary on the Parmenides by the late 13th century Byzantine philosopher George Pachymeres, who in that work made a copy of the massive work Commentary on the Parmenides by Proclus, with corrections and notes, and which is regarded by 21st century scholarship as an edition of Proclus' Commentary on the Parmenides.[587]

14th century

In the early 14th century, neoplatonism was received into the Byzantine empire by way of a refutation of Plotinus in the work Inter Alia by the 14th century Byzantine scholar Nikephoros Choumnos, where in that work he uses arguments from the 4th century Cappadocian Father Saint Gregory of Nyssa to refute some of Plotinus' doctrines on soul.[587] Those views of Choumnos were disputed by the 14th century Byzantine philosopher Theodore Metochites, in his works Logoi and Stoicheiosis Astronomike, where he bases his refutation of Choumnos on the neoplatonic doctrines of Proclus and of Iamblichus in De Communi Mathematica Scientia.[608] Also in the 14th century, Metochites' student, the 14th century Byzantine-Greek theologian Nikephoros Gregoras, evidences the influence of neoplatonism in his work Phlorentios or about Wisdom, where in that work he quotes Plotinian doctrines verbatim in his criticisms of certain aspects of Aristotelean philosophy.[609] Gregoras was also critical of the 14th century Byzantine-Greek theologian Gregory Palamas, writing that some of Palamas' theses simply paraphrased the doctrine on henads by Proclus.[588] 21st century scholarship thinks that those theses of Palamas' are both unconscious and conscious adoptions of neoplatonic doctrines by Proclus, and that Palamas was also certainly influenced by the paraphrasing[573] of a lot[560] of the neoplatonic theology of Proclus by Pseudo-Dionysius.[588]

15th century

Neoplatonic influence in the 15th and last century of the Byzantine empire is predominantly due to the 15th century Byzantine philosopher Gemistos Pletho (Plethon).[589] Plethon is regarded by late 20th and 21st century scholarship as the head of a neoplatonic revival in the 15th century.[589] His main philosophical work Laws is clearly influenced by many of Proclus' neoplatonic doctrines, although in that work he distances himself from other doctrines of Proclus.[610] Pletho's works demonstrate a complex relationship and tension between Christianity and neoplatonism, where he assimilates many neoplatonic doctrines in his theology, while rejecting other neoplatonic doctrines and adopting Christian doctrines in other parts of his theology.[611] Pletho also introduced his understanding and insight of neoplatonism during the failed attempt to reconcile the East–West Schism at the Council of Florence, and at that Council his theological ideas were often listened to by Cosimo de’ Medici, the first head of the House of Medici.[612] Neoplatonic influence in the 15th century is also evidenced by one of Pletho's most brilliant students, the 15th century Byzantine-Greek Catholic cardinal Bessarion, who in his work In Calumniatorem Platonis, argues that Platonic and Christian doctrines are similar by making extensive references to Simplicius’ work Commentary on the Physics and Proclus’ works Commentary on the Timaeus and Platonic Theology.[613]

Caucasus reception

The Caucasian tradition of philosophy and religion, that had its roots in the Byzantine tradition, grew into an independent tradition in which an important source of neoplatonic doctrines is Proclus' Elements of Theology.[614]

12th to 13th century
The Gelati monastery near Kutaisi in the Imereti region of western Georgia. The 12th century Georgian neoplatonic philosopher Ioane Petritsi  worked in the Gelati monastery.[614] and developed a constructive engagement between the neoplatonic doctrines of Proclus and the doctrines of Christianity.[615]
The Gelati monastery near Kutaisi in the Imereti region of western Georgia. The 12th century Georgian neoplatonic philosopher Ioane Petritsi worked in the Gelati monastery.[614] and developed a constructive engagement between the neoplatonic doctrines of Proclus and the doctrines of Christianity.[615]

In the 12th[616] century, Georgian neoplatonic philosopher Ioane Petritsi, who worked out of the Gelati monastery;[614] and was possibly a student of the 11th century neoplatonic Byzantine philosopher John Italos in Constantinople, developed a philosophy that had an exceedingly favourable reaction to the neoplatonic doctrines of Proclus.[617] Petritsi translated Proclus' Elements of Theology into Georgian and wrote a commentary on each chapter together with an introduction and an epilogue, all of which are extant and can be reliably attributed to him.[618] He also translated a work of Numenius and a commentated translation of the Psalms.[619]

It is thought that Petritsi's purpose for his exact translation and his commentary was to familiarize[614] Georgian readers with Proclus' neoplatonic doctrines, to elaborate Georgian philosophical terminology and to teach[614] the neoplatonic doctrines of Proclus.[618] Petritsi was familiar with Proclus' works Platonic Theology, Commentary on Timaeus and Commentary on Parmenides, and regarded Proclus as a great philosopher who revealed the hidden truths that Plato abstrusely hinted at in his dialogues.[620] Notable 21st century scholarship by the Georgian professors Lela Alexidze[621] and Levan Gigeinishvili[622] has shown Petritsi's development of a constructive engagement between the doctrines of Proclus and Christianity, more so than John Italos, and totally opposite to the views held by the 12th century Byzantine theologian and philosopher Nicholas of Methone, a few decades after Petritsi.[615] In the middle of the 13th century, 1248, Petritsi's 12th century Georgian translation of Elements of Theology by Proclus was translated into Armenian by the monk Simeon of Garni[623] or Svimeon Petrizis.[624]

Islamic reception

In the heartlands of the Islamic world of the Middle Ages, as well as in Andalusia and the Maghreb, Muslim rulers sponsored scientific research, while philosophy and theology were taught privately in homes or places like bookstores.[625] There was an active development of Islamic philosophy and science between the 9th and 12th centuries, however, a decline was evident by the 13th century due to social, economic and military instabilities, such as the Crusades, the Mongol invasion of Iraq and plagues and famine in Egypt.[626] Islamic philosophers in the Middle Ages integrated doctrines of Athenian and Alexandrian neoplatonism with: Plato's political philosophy; Aristotle's logic, physics, and ethics; Euclidian geometry; and Galenic medicine, all into a comprehensive structure of neoplatonic Aristotelianism.[627] Islamic philosophers also used the framework of Islamic mysticism in their interpretation of neoplatonic writings and concepts.[note 3]

Some of the major Islamic neoplatonists[564] in the Middle Ages were: the 9th century philosopher al-Kindī,[564] the 9th century Syrian Christian translator Ibn Nāʽima al-Ḥimṣī,[629] the 10th century philosopher al-Fārābī,[564] the 11th century philosopher Ibn Sina (Avicenna),[564] the 12th century philosopher Ibn Ṭufayl,[630] the 12th century Persian historian Aḥmad Al-Šahrastānī,[631] and the late 12th century philosopher Suhrawardī.[632]

8th to 9th century

In the 8th century, the Islamic historian Muhammed ibn Ishaq knew of Proclus' work Elements of Theology.[633] In 9th century Baghdad,[634] a group of Christian translators convened by the Islamic philosopher al-Kindī (known as the al-Kindī circle)[635][636][637] translated into Arabic:

  • an edited version of books 4–6 of PlotinusEnneads that gave rise to three texts: Theology of Aristotle[638] (misattributed to Aristotle),[638] Epistle on the Divine Science,[638][639] and Sayings of the Greek Sage[639] (where the 'Greek Sage' was probably al-Shaykh al-Yūnānī).[638] The edited version of books 4–6 of Plotinus’ Enneads was translated into Arabic in c. 840 AD by the Christian translator Ibn Nāʽima al-Ḥimṣī and edited by al-Kindī,[640] and may contain traces of a commentary by Porphyry on those books from Plotinus' Enneads;[641]
  • parts of ProclusElements of Theology called the Kalām fī mahd al-khair, or The Book of the Pure Good, or sometimes referred as the Arabic[563] Liber de causis,[564] possibly translated by Ibn al-Bitrīq.[642]
  • three revised editions[642] of parts of Proclus' Elements of Theology, maybe translated by al-Kindī himself,[643] that had a vast historical influence as a diffusion of neoplatonic doctrines; are all called Kalām fī maḥḍ al-ḫayr, or Discourse on the Pure Good,[565] of which there are two complete extant Arabic manuscripts and evidence for a third[642] manuscript.[644] One of those revised editions of Discourse on the Pure Good was translated into Latin by the 12th century translator Gerard of Cremona, that is now known as the Latin Liber de causis, and was a powerful diffusion of neoplatonic doctrines in Christian Europe.[642][565]
  • nine of 18 arguments[631] from Proclus' treatise On the Eternity of the World, which was possibly translated by Ibn Nāʽima al-Ḥimṣī.[645] Another version of the treatise was translated by Ishaq ibn Hunayn in a work commissioned by the Persian scholar Muhammad of the Banū Mūsa.[646]
A 1975 Egyptian postage stamp depicting the Islamic philosopher al-Kindī who with a circle of scholars translated neoplatonic works by Plotinus and Proclus into Arabic.[638][642]
A 1975 Egyptian postage stamp depicting the Islamic philosopher al-Kindī who with a circle of scholars translated neoplatonic works by Plotinus and Proclus into Arabic.[638][642]

In the Arabic tradition, the Arabic translation and paraphrasing of Plotinus' Enneads books 4–6 into the three texts: Theology of Aristotle[638] (misattributed to Aristotle),[638] Epistle on the Divine Science,[638][639] and Sayings of the Greek Sage,[639] was a more influential source of neoplatonic doctrines than the Arabic translations of Proclus' Elements of Theology, i.e. The Book of the Pure Good and Discourse on the Pure Good.[565]

The translations of the Theology of Aristotle, possibly by Ibn Na'ima al-Himsi[647] or Ibn al-Bitṛ īq,[565] under the editorship of al-Kindī, faithfully reproduce Plotinus' doctrine that the One transcends all knowledge;[648] however, there are changes to Plotinian doctrines, e.g. locating the One at the peak of intelligibles[649] and claiming it is the 'First Knower',[650] thereby diminishing the Plotinian One by introducing multiplicity into it, as even the supremely simplest thought requires a thinking principle and an object which is thought.[651] That concept is repeated throughout the translation[647] where the Plotinian One is interpreted as the Aristotelian version of a divine Nous in Metaphysics Book Λ.[647] Another deviation from Plotinian doctrines by the Arabic translation is describing the One, or the First Principle, as God in terms of pure being,[652] as opposed to the Plotinian One that is beyond being.[652] It is thought that the 'Aristotelization'[653] of Plotinus is due to both the Christian translator, possibly Ibn Na'ima al-Himsi, and the Islamic editor al-Kindī, having a good acquaintance with Aristotle due to their prior translations of Aristotle's works.[654] Also, changes to Plotinian doctrines in the Arabic translation of Plotinus' Enneads books 4–6 by Christian translators are thought to be due to Christian and Islamic monotheism, where all effects, or the rational seeds of things, are eternally present in the Creator, thus transforming the Plotinian doctrine where all atemporal Forms, or the eternal reason of things, are not in the One (the neoplatonic equivalent of the Creator) but rather in the subsequent hypostasis of Nous.[655]

Also in the 9th century, the mathematician and translator Thābit ibn Qurra translated into Arabic part of a Syraic commentary on the Carmina Aurea of Pythagoras originally written by either the 5th century Greek neoplatonic philosopher Proclus or the late 4th[656] to early 5th century Syriac neoplatonic philosopher Proclus Procleius of Laodicea.[657] Another anonymous Arabic translation of the commentary on the Carmina Aurea of Pythagoras, which may have been originally written by the 3rd century neoplatonic philosopher Iamblichus, or by a neopythagorean, was incorporated into the work by the 9th century Nestorian Christian translator Ḥunayn ibn Isḥāq called Nawādir al-falāsifa, which is a collection of wise sayings that was frequently used by Muslim authors.[658]

10th century

In the 10th century, a reworking of the 9th century Arabic translation by the al-Kindī circle of Proclus' Elements of Theology, called Kalām fī maḥḍ al-ḫayr (Discourse on the Pure Good), was produced by Abū l-Ḥasan Yūsuf al-ʿĀmirī and is called Al-Fuṣūl fī l-maʿālim al-ilāhīya (The Book of Chapters on Divine Subjects).[636][659] Of the 31 chapters in The Book of Chapters on Divine Subjects, about 22 chapters are borrowed from Discourse on the Pure Good.[659] Also in the 10th century, the Arabic biographer Ibn al-Nadim in his encyclopedia, called K. al-Fihrist (or Fihrist),[660] wrote a section on Proclus,[661] and the 10th century Persian physician al-Razi wrote the work Concerning Doubt, in connexion with (or against) Proclus.[623]

Further, the 10th century philosopher al-Fārābī, one of the most influential Islamic philosophers,[662] who was active mostly in the first half of the 10th century in Baghdad, seems to have had access to bodies of neoplatonic works in the form of:[663]

  • Arabic translations that came from the al-Kindī circle;[663]
  • the Plotiniana Arabica (Arabic translations of certain works by or attributed to Plotinus);[663]
  • and the Proclus Arabus (Arabic translations of certain works by or attributed to Proclus).[663]

From Fārābī's works it can be determined that he read and was influenced by those bodies of neoplatonic works,[663] and he may also have been influenced to some extent by a work of the neoplatonic philosopher Ammonius Hermiae.[664]

Through the works of al-Fārābī, and the paraphrased Arabic translations of Plotinus (Theology of Aristotle) and Proclus (the Arabic Liber de Causis) by the al-Kindī circle, neoplatonic theology and philosophy was introduced into Ismāʿīlism, a major branch of Shīʿite Islam, in the early 10th century.[665] The other sources in Ismāʿīli philosophy are the Arabic texts of the neoplatonic works Doxography of Pseudo-Ammonius and Arabic texts of Empedocles (the Pseudo-Empedocles).[665] 10th century Ismāʿīli neoplatonism shows many similarities with the 10th century Jewish neoplatonism of Isaac Israeli, as both traditions use the same textual sources.[666] It is supposed by 21st century scholarship that neoplatonism was introduced into Ismāʿīlism by Muḥammad al-Nasafī (d. c. 943 AD) who with Abū Tammām, al-Rāzī (d. 934), and al-Sijistānī (d. c. 971), all working in Iran and Transoxiana, formed the 10th century 'Persian School'.[666] The foremost member of the 10th century Persian School was al-Sijistānī who built his theological system from the Plotinian hypostases, the One, Intellect and Soul (which includes Nature), and another important member of the Persian School during the Fatimid period was the 11th century philosopher al-Kirmānī, whose main work was Kitāb Rāḥat al-‘Aql (Book of the Repose of the Intellect), written in 1021.[666]

11th century

In the 11th century, polymath and Church of the East priest Ibn al-Ṭayyib wrote a commentary on the Pythagorean Golden Verses called Istithmār (Extracting the Fruit)[667] in which there is evidence that he consulted a Greek source of the commentary on the Golden Verses or either an Arabic or Syriac translation of the commentary.[668] That commentary on the Golden Verses was originally written in Greek by the 3rd century neoplatonic philosopher Iamblichus,[669] or either of the 5th century neoplatonic philosophers Proclus[670] or Hierocles,[661] or perhaps Ibn al-Tayyip consulted an original Syriac commentary on the Golden Verses by the late 4th[656] to early 5th century neoplatonic philosopher Proclus Procleius of Laodicea, who was from Syria.[671]

Further, it can be determined from the works of the 11th century Persian polymath Ibn Sina (Avicenna) that he read[672] a paraphrased version of books 4–6 of PlotinusEnneads that was translated into Arabic by the al-Kindī circle into three Arabic works referred to by scholars as Theology of Aristotle[638] (misattributed to Aristotle),[638] Epistle on the Divine Science[638][639] and Sayings of the Greek Sage.[639][638] Avicenna's knowledge of neoplatonism is demonstrated in his work Ḥayy Ibn Yaqẓān (Alive, Son of Awake) where he displays his familiarity with the neoplatonic metaphor of emanation, which is used as an analogy in the explanation of the neoplatonic philosophical term double activity.[673][321] The final result of emanation may be seen as the mixture of form and matter, where light can be a metaphor for form, and darkness can be a metaphor for matter, and those metaphors are used by Avicenna in his work Ḥayy Ibn Yaqẓān where he develops a strong connection between enlightenment, forms, intellect and light, and a darkness that is associated with bodies and matter.[673]

12th to 13th century

One source of the reception of neoplatonism by Islamic religion in the 12th century is by way of the work Kitāb al-milal wa l-niḥal (The Book of Religions and Sects) by the Persian historian Aḥmad Al-Šahrastānī (b. 1086–d. 1153 AD).[631] That work is a shortened version of Proclus' treatise On the Eternity of the World and is based on an older and more complete manuscript than the 9th century translation of part of Proclus' treatise by Ibn Nāʽima al-Ḥimṣī.[631] Šahrastānī's work includes preliminary remarks,[674] a paraphrase of eight of the 18 arguments (arguments 1, 3–6, 8, 10 and 13) from Proclus' treatise and also includes a final section, which 21st century scholarship attributes to an argument in Proclus' Commentary on Timaeus.[631] At the end of the eighth summary, Šahrastānī refers the reader to another book that he wrote, now lost, in which he refuted Proclus’ arguments.[674] It is possible that some of the arguments from Proclus' treatise On the Eternity of the World were sourced by Šahrastānī from a 9th century Arabic translation[675] of Philoponus' work Against Proclus On the Eternity of the World in 18 books, in which Philoponus opens each book by exactly quoting each of Proclus' 18 arguments that were in Proclus' treatise On the Eternity of the World.[591]

Also in the 12th century, the Islamic physician[676] ibn Ṭufayl (c. 1105–1185 AD). in his work Ḥayy Ibn Yaqẓān, expresses themes from neoplatonic doctrines on the 'return' or 'reversion' of the human soul to the hypostasis of Soul.[677] Specifically, neoplatonic doctrines in Plotinus' Enneads 4.8.1, that are paraphrased in the Arabic translation of that work in Theology of Aristotle chapter 1 (trans. Altmann & Stern 1958: 191) are paralleled in ibn Ṭufayl's work Ḥayy Ibn Yaqẓān 39-43 and 46 (trans. Kocache 1982).[678]

Further, the 12th century Persian philosopher Suhrawardī (b. 1155–d. 1191 AD)[679] shows his understanding of the neoplatonic doctrine of double activity in his work Philosophy of Illumination. In that work Suhrawardī displays knowledge of the neoplatonic metaphor of emanation, which is used as an analogy in the explanation of the neoplatonic philosophical term double activity.[321] In the neoplatonic doctrine of double activity for the hypostasis of Nous, there is a internal activity, or essence, which is a contemplation of the One, and an inferior[325] external activity, or emanation, which generates the subsequent hypostasis, Soul.[323] In Philosophy of Illumination part 2, discourse 2, section 4:142 (Walbridge & Ziai 1999: 95) Suhrawardī uses the metaphor of light to portray Intellect's (Nous in neoplatonic terms) internal activity, or contemplation of the One, and uses the metaphor of darkness to portray its inferior external activity, or emanation, as a downward proliferation of shadows.[673]

In the mid to late 12th century, the Andalusian philosopher Ibn Rushd (Averroes) demonstrated his intimate knowledge of neoplatonic doctrines by peeling[680] away those doctrines from his works that sought to restore Aristotelianism from Avicennan neoplatonism.[681] In the late 13th century, the Muslim philosopher al-Shahrazūrī (d. between 1288 and 1304 AD) of the Ishrāqī (‘Illuminationist’) was a biographer and commentator on Suhrawardī.[679] Al-Shahrazūrī was strongly influenced by neoplatonism and developed a new elaborated form of Suhrawardī's philosophical system.[679]

Jewish reception

Middle Ages Jewish philosophy and theology flourished with the support of the Islamic civilization between the 9th and 13th centuries and afterwards in the Christian west.[625] Most of Middle Ages Jewish neoplatonism is written in Arabic or Judeo-Arabic, with some classic works written in Hebrew.[564] The transmission of Greek neoplatonism into Jewish contexts is complicated, involving traces of Pythagorean, Platonic, Aristotelian, Stoic, Plotinian, Proclean, Pseudo-Empedoclean and other influences, with many details that were still uncertain in 2014.[564]

During the Middle Ages, some major representatives of Jewish neoplatonism[564] were: the late 9th century to mid-10th century[682] physician and philosopher Isaac Israeli,[564] the 11th century philosopher Ibn Gabirol,[564] the 12th century philosopher Abraham ibn Ezra,[564] the 12th century rabbi, physician and philosopher Moses Maimonides,[564] the 13th century French rabbi and Kabbalist Isaac the Blind,[683] a circle of Jewish neoplatonic philosophers in 14th century Castile,[684] and the 15th century Italian Jewish rabbi Yohanan Alemanno.[564]

9th to 10th century

In the late 9th century to mid-10th century,[682] the Egyptian philosopher Isaac Israeli, working in Qayrawān (in Tunisia) and who inspired a long line of Jewish neoplatonists,[685] combined some of the conceptions contained in Greek and Arabic sources into a form of Jewish neoplatonism.[686] It is certain that Israeli was influenced by 9th century Arabic translations, from al-Kindī's circle, of an edited version of books 4–6 of PlotinusEnneads, from which arose the work The Theology of Aristotle (misattributed to Aristotle).[682] It is also clear that Israeli was influenced, beyond doubt,[687] by Plotinus' neoplatonic doctrine of emanation in his conception of the emergence of things from 'Intellect' (Nous in Plotinian terms), including the emergence of the natural realm.[687]

The Plotinian metaphor of emanation is used as an analogy in the explanation of the neoplatonic philosophical term double activity, or an internal and external activity.[321] For the hypostasis of Nous, there is a internal activity, or essence, which is a contemplation of the One, and an inferior[325] external activity, or emanation, which generates the subsequent hypostasis, Soul; and similarly, for the hypostasis of Soul there is a internal activity, or essence, which is a contemplation of Nous, and a less unified[688] or inferior[325] external activity, or emanation, which generates Nature, or natural things.[689]

In Israeli's work The Book of Substances (trans. Altmann & Stern 1958/2009: 83–4), he uses the metaphor of rays (as in rays of light) to portray internal activity, and uses the metaphor of shade to portray the inferior external activity, or emanation, when describing progressions from 'intellect' to 'soul', to the 'rational soul', to the 'animal soul' and finally to the 'vegetative soul'.[690]

11th century

Notable late 20th century scholarship has revealed that Greek neoplatonism influenced the 11th century Jewish neoplatonic philosopher Ibn Gabirol (Avicebrol),[691] whose work Fons Vitae (Fountain of Life), the surviving Latin translation of the Arabic original, is almost purely neoplatonic, having no distinctive Jewish characteristics and the only Biblical allusion is in its title, which alludes to the lines from the book of Psalms: "For with Thee is the Fountain of Life; by Thy light do we see light."[691] The analogy between life and light, being and understanding, convinced many Jewish neoplatonists of a fundamental harmony between Biblical and neoplatonic theism.[691] Specifically, Ibn Gabirol's doctrine of intelligible matter very closely corresponds to Proclus' proposition 72 from his Elements of Theology, a proposition that is also found in the Arabic Liber de causis, which is an Arabic compilation of some of the 211 propositions from Proclus' Elements of Theology.[692] It is speculated that the neoplatonic influence on Ibn Gabirol's doctrine of intelligible matter was heavily influenced by Proclus' proposition 72 in the Arabic Liber de causis.[693]

12th century

Late 20th century and 21st century scholarship have differing views regarding the influence of neoplatonism on the very influential 12th century Jewish philosopher Maimonides.[694][695][696][564][697] Professor emeritus Alfred L. Ivry, in a late 20th century publication,[694] thinks that Maimonides was definitely influenced by neoplatonism, and before going on to discuss neoplatonic influences in parts of Maimonides’ philosophical-theological magnum opus[698] The Guide for the Perplexed, Ivry considers the intellectual environment in 12th century Egypt, where Maimonides’ lived and worked.[694] That environment was Fatimid and immediate post-Fatimid Egypt with its Shi'i theology, a theology that was influenced by neoplatonism and incorporated doctrines from neoplatonic theology.[694] Ivry then goes on to mention two philosophers whose works Maimonides probably read, those being the works of the 10th century Persian neoplatonic[699] philosopher al-Sijistānī and the 11th century neoplatonic[700] Persian Isma'ili philosopher al-Kirmānī,[694] and Ivry also mentions that Maimonides met al-Baghdādī,[701] whose work Book on the Science of Metaphysics quotes part of the Theology of Aristotle, a paraphrasing of books 4–6 of PlotinusEnneads.[694]

A statue of Maimonides in Córdoba, Spain. Maimonides’ philosophical-theological work The Guide for the Perplexed contains many neoplatonic influences.[702]
A statue of Maimonides in Córdoba, Spain. Maimonides’ philosophical-theological work The Guide for the Perplexed contains many neoplatonic influences.[702]

In discussing Maimonides’ philosophical-theological work The Guide for the Perplexed, Ivry reveals many neoplatonic influences, including Maimonides' view of God as the One, or the First Cause that is responsible for the emanation of the intelligible aspect of the world, that God has no direct relation to matter, that God relates to the world through universal forms, and that Providence is expressed generally and not specifically.[702] Ivry acknowledges that those neoplatonic influences of Maimonides are presented in a disguised manner in the work The Guide for the Perplexed, and that Maimonides appears to have struggled with those influences.[703] Those late 20th century views of Ivry are contrasted by some early 21st century scholarship, which hold the view that Maimonides influences are primarily Aristotelian;[695][696] however, the 21st century professor Pauliina Remes, who in a 2008 publication,[694] relates that although Maimonides was previously regarded as an Aristotelian thinker, new research reveals that Maimonides combines Platonic and neoplatonic doctrines,[694] and the 21st century professor Sarah Pessin, in a 2014 publication,[564] simply regards Maimonides as a Jewish Neoplatonist.[564] Further, professor Y. Tzvi Langermann, in a 2017 publication,[697] shows influences of Proclus' treatise On the Eternity of the World in the work The Guide for the Perplexed by Maimonides.[697]

Also in the 12th century, the Jewish neoplatonic philosopher Abraham ibn Ezra wrote incisive but abstruse commentaries on the Torah that were to become the subject of 30 commentaries by 14th century Jewish philosophers.[704] Abraham ibn Ezra was born in Tudela, but left Spain in 1140 AD when he was about 47; due to persecution by the Almohad Caliphate, and thereafter lived in numerous Christian European Jewish communities where he translated works into Hebrew and wrote works in Hebrew.[705] In his religious poems, and scattered amongst his scientific and in particular his systematical psychological works, he incorporated and reinterpreted neoplatonic doctrines on the soul; in particular, the essence of the soul, the destiny of the soul after death, the salvation of the soul, and the effects of celestial bodies on nature.[706]

13th to 14th century

The 13th century French rabbi and Kabbalist Isaac the Blind refers to the Ultimate as "that which is not conceivable by thinking", which seems to paraphrase a neoplatonic doctrine on the One,[707] and he seems also to be influenced by the neoplatonic doctrines of progressions through a hierarchy of beings, from the One through hypostases to the material world, in his first systematic use of the conception of 'Eyn Sof'.[683] From Provence in France, kabbalah spread to Spain during the 13th century where some of the kabbalists that were influenced by neoplatonism were: rabbi Ezra ben Solomon;[708] rabbi Azriel; and rabbi Jacob ben Sheshet;[709] all from Gerona, Spain.[710] Also in the 13th century, the Jewish philosopher Isaac ibn Latif combined the neoplatonic doctrines of the 11th century Jewish neoplatonic[691] philosopher Ibn Gabirol (Avicebrol) with the doctrine of sefirot advocated by the 13th century kabbalists of Gerona.[711]

During the 14th century, a circle of Jewish neoplatonic philosophers, influenced by Abraham ibn Ezra and Maimonides, were active in Castile.[684] That circle of philosophers included: Solomon ben Hankou al-Kostantini[712] (or Solomon Alcostantin),[713] Solomon Franco,[714] Ezra Gatino,[715] Samuel Sarsa, Shem Tov ibn Meir (or Shem Tov ibn Mayor),[716] Shem Tov ibn Shaprut,[717] Solomon ben Abraham ibn Yazh,[717] and Solomon ben Meir ibn Ya'ish.[684][718][719] The circle of 14th century Spanish Jewish neoplatonic philosophers integrated the rationalism of 14th century southern French Jewish philosophers with astrology and theurgy.[684]

15th century

In the 15th century, the early Renaissance Jewish philosopher Yohanan Alemanno was a representative of what at the time was a new trend in philosophy called neoplatonic kabbalah.[720] Alemanno was born in France in 1434, but lived in Italy for most of his life and was one of the Jewish teachers of the 15th century Italian Christian philosopher Pico della Mirandola,[720] who was one of the philosophers that contributed to the dissemination of Proclus' arguments from On the Eternity of the World during the Renaissance.[593] Alemanno was to a certain extent influenced by the neoplatonic philosophers Plotinus, Porphyry, and Proclus, but his neoplatonic influences were mostly from the Middle Ages Jewish neoplatonists[721] Abraham ibn Ezra, Ibn Zarza,[722] Ibn Motot[723] and the Muslim neoplatonist[721] Batalyawsi.[720] He integrated: Jewish and Muslim neoplatonism;[721] Middle Ages magical and astrological manuals;[721] parts of the Hermetic corpus;[721] and a variety of other sources, into works of philosophy, mysticism, and the occult.[720]

Latin West reception

6th century

An important influence of neoplatonism throughout the Middle Ages was through the Latin work De consolatione philosophiae (Consolation of Philosophy) by the early 6th century Roman Christian senator and philosopher Boethius.[724] In that work, many details of Boethius' discourse of providence and fate, in IV prose 6 and IV verse 6, seem to have been taken directly from Proclus' Tria opuscula, in particular, Ten Doubts Concerning Providence and On Providence and Fate.[725] Similarly, the summary of Plato's Timaeus in III verse 9 seems to have also included ideas contained within Proclus' Commentary on Timaeus,[726] that was understood by the German classical philologist Friedrich Klingner in 1921;[727] demonstrated by the German Professor Werner Beierwaltes in 1983;[728] detailed by the French Professor Jean-Luc Solère in 2003,[729] who argues that Boethius' De consolatione philosophiae is influenced throughout by Proclus' Commentary on Timaeus; and elaborated on by the American Professor Stephan Gersh[730] in 2012.[731] Further, the methodology in Boethius' theological work De consolatione philosophiae seems to have been influenced by Proclus' methodology in his work Elements of Theology.[732]

9th century

The extensive[560] paraphrasing[573] of neoplatonic philosophy and theology of Proclus by Pseudo-Dionysius; that was a foundation[562] to Pseudo-Dionysius' Christian theological works written between 485 AD and 530 AD,[566][567] now called Corpus Dionysiacum Areopagiticum (CDA),[568] were first translated into Latin in 827 AD by Hilduin, the abbot of Saint-Denis, Bishop of Paris and chaplain to Louis I.[733]

The neoplatonic and Christian doctrines in the CDA had a great influence on the 9th century Irish Catholic neoplatonist philosopher and theologian John Scotus Eriugena.[734] Eriugena, a leading philosopher in the Carolingian Renaissance, was a major translator of Pseudo-Dionysius, twice revising Hilduin's translations of the CDA[735] (one in 858 AD),[527] and shows a strong neoplatonic influence in his account of the divine nature of the One in his cosmological dialogue Periphyseon.[736] Another important example of the influence of neoplatonism on Eriugena is in Periphyseon III.693a–b, where he maintains that all effects depend on and return towards their causes.[737] Generally, in the dialogue Periphyseon, Eriugena very skillfully weaves a blend of neoplatonism and Christianity into a system that does not contrast or set into opposition the doctrines of Christianity and his diverse sources of neoplatonic doctrines, but rather he attempts to illuminate the Christian understanding of creation through neoplatonic doctrines.[738] Eriugena's neoplatonic influence does not come directly from the works of the neoplatonic philosophers Plotinus, Porphyry or Proclus, but rather he draws on the Christian neoplatonic tradition in the Latin works of Marius Victorinus, Saint Augustine, and Boethius, and the Greek works of Saint Gregory of Nyssa, Saint Basil, Dionysius the Areopagite and Saint Maximus the Confessor.[739] It was through the translations of the CDA by Hilduin, and Eriugena, that neoplatonic doctrines in Proclus' treatise On the Existence of Evils became known and studied in the Latin West.[740]

10th to 12th century

In the Latin West during the 10th and 11th centuries, Latin translations of neoplatonic works were rare, and hence in those centuries there is little textual evidence for the diffusion of neoplatonic philosophy and theology.[741] Importantly in the 12th century, between 1167 and 1187 AD,[742] the 9th century Arabic translation called Kalām fī maḥḍ al-ḫayr, or Discourse on the Pure Good; containing about 30 propositions[743] from Proclus' Elements of Theology, was translated into a very influential Latin work called Liber de causis by the 12th century Italian translator Gerard of Cremona, who was working as part of the Toledo translators[744] in Spain.[742]

Also in the 12th century, the writings of Pseudo-Dionysius, in his Corpus Dionysiacum Areopagiticum (CDA),[568] which contained fundamental ideas of neoplatonism originally written by Proclus, influenced the Latin West through translations, from Greek into Latin, by the 12th century scholar Johannes Saracenus (John Sarrazin),[745] and by the late 12th century to mid-13th century English philosopher, theologian and Bishop of Lincoln, Robert Grosseteste.[527]

13th century

From the 13th century, the 12th century translation by Gerard of Cremona of the Arabic work Kalām fī maḥḍ al-ḫayr, or Discourse on the Pure Good, into the Latin work Liber de causis was an important diffusion of neoplatonic doctrines, as is evidenced by the translation being copied about 237 times.[746] Between 1250 and 1260 AD, the 13th century English Franciscan theologian and philosopher Thomas of York, in his work Sapientiale, made 104 clear references to 22 out of the 31 or 32 propositions in the Liber de Causis, which contained neoplatonic doctrines from Proclus' Elements of Theology.[747] Due to the hierarchy of intermediary causes between the divine intellect and the material universe described by the propositions in the Liber de Causis, Thomas of York thought the propositions were from a Platonic tradition and did not attribute Liber de Causis to Aristotle, as Aristotle had rejected that kind of hierarchy of intermediary causes in his works.[747]

A very important and widespread diffusion of neoplatonic doctrines in the Middle Ages and onwards was due to literal[748] translations, from Greek manuscripts[749] into Latin, of Proclus' Elements of Theology,[750] Commentary on Parmenides,[751] parts of Commentary on Timaeus[751] and the treaties Tria Opuscula,[752] by the Flemish Catholic bishop (also Latin archbishop of Corinth and translator) William of Moerbeke, from 1268 AD[750] and through the 1280s AD.[752][751]

Modern day Viterbo, showing the 13th century Palazzo dei Papi (Palace of the Popes) which was completed in c. 1268 AD, the same year that both the Catholic bishop William of Moerbeke and the Dominican friar and priest Thomas Aquinas were working in that city.
Modern day Viterbo, showing the 13th century Palazzo dei Papi (Palace of the Popes) which was completed in c. 1268 AD, the same year that both the Catholic bishop William of Moerbeke and the Dominican friar and priest Thomas Aquinas were working in that city.

Both William of Moerbeke and the Dominican friar and priest Thomas Aquinas were working in Viterbo, Italy in 1268 AD, where William's translation of Proclus' Elements of Theology, which he completed on 12 May 1268 AD, was probably first read by Thomas Aquinas in that same year.[753] After Saint Thomas compared William's translation of Proclus' Elements of Theology to the Liber de Causis, in his commentary on the Liber de Causis early in 1272 AD, he was able to reveal that propositions from Proclus' Elements of Theology provided the background to the arguments in the Liber de Causis.[754] It was only widely known to scholars after 1272 AD that the work Liber de causis contained propositions from Proclus' Elements of Theology, when Saint Thomas recognized that it was based on Proclus' work,[742] and not the work of Aristotle to whom Liber de Causis is notoriously misattributed.[755] Saint Thomas was also engaged with neoplatonic philosophy and theology through his commentary on the work Divine Names by Pseudo-Dionysius, one of the most important works in the Corpus Dionysiacum Areopagiticum, a corpus that contains extensive[560][568] paraphrasing[573] of the neoplatonic theology of Proclus.[753]

The diffusion of neoplatonic doctrines in the Liber de Causis in Middle Ages Europe was driven by the 1255 AD statute of the University of Paris that prescribed it as a philosophical work to be studied,[756][757] and it was also read and cited at Oxford and Cambridge universities throughout the 13th century.[758] The translation of Proclus' Elements of Theology by William of Moerbeke and the Commentary on the Book of Causes (Liber de Causis) by Saint Thomas resulted in the attention and reception of neoplatonic doctrines by scholars in the University of Paris and farther, including the 13th century scholars James of Viterbo,[759] Matthew of Acquasparta, Henry of Ghent, Thomas of Sutton, Radulphus Brito, John Duns Scotus, and the 13th century Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Kilwardby,[760] who in his work De Ortu Scientiarum quoted Liber de Causis.[761]

13th century Germany continued the engagement with neoplatonic philosophy and theology through Latin translations of the Liber de Causis and Elements of Theology by Proclus.[762] The theologian Dietrich (Theodoric) of Freiberg, a pioneer of German mysticism[762] who had a high opinion of Proclus, frequently quotes Proclus' Elements of Theology by name[763] about 50 times in five of his works and in those works adopted Proclus' theological structure of reality.[764] Also in 13th century Germany, the Dominican friar Saint Albert the Great demonstrated a lengthy engagement with the neoplatonic doctrines in Liber de Causis, which had an extensive presence in most of his works, from his first work De Natura Boni written in c. 1232–1234 AD, to one of his last works Problemata Determinata, written in c. 1271 AD.[765]

Further, in the southern Low Countries of the 13th century, the philosopher Siger of Brabant demonstrates his engagement with neoplatonic doctrines in the Liber de Causis through his commentary on that work;[766] and the Flemish philosopher Heinrich Bate of Mechelen (Malines)[767] included many references to Proclus' Elements of Theology in his encyclopedic work Speculum Divinorum et Quorundam Naturalium Parts VII, XI–XII.[615] In Part VII of Speculum Bate uses propositions from Proclus' Elements of Theology to defend Plato's doctrine of Forms against Aristotelian critique, and in Parts XI–XII, he frequently cites Proclus' Elements of Theology in an attempt to harmonize Plato and Aristotle. Bate's work Speculum is the only known Middle Ages work to include three Latin extracts of Proclus' Commentary on Timaeus translated by William of Moerbeke.[767]

14th century

Early in 14th-century Germany, the Catholic theologian and mystic Meister Eckhart was influenced by Proclus' axiomatic method in his lengthy unfinished Work of Propositions.[768] In that work, Eckhart is further influenced by Proclus, through the works of Dietrich (Theodoric) of Freiberg, in his utilization of four levels of reality.[769] Later in the 14th century, there was a keen and extensive reception of neoplatonism into German mysticism through the integration of Proclus' treaties and his work Elements of Theology.[770] That reception was predominantly centered in the Bavarian city of Regensburg from 1327 to 1335 AD, and then in the German city of Cologne from 1335 to 1361 AD.[771]

The integration of neoplatonism into 14th-century German mysticism in Bavaria and Regensburg was led by the German Dominican theologian and neoplatonist Berthold of Moosburg through his interpretations of Proclus' treatises in Tria Opuscula and, more importantly, through his very lengthy commentary on Proclus' Elements of Theology, written between 1327 and 1361 AD, which was based on the 13th-century Latin translation of Proclus' Elements of Theology by William of Moerbeke.[772][771] In his commentary on Elements of Theology, Berthold defends Proclus and declares him superior to all other Platonists because of his rigorous expression of Platonism, which had been previously described only in figurative language.[773] Further, Berthold's commentary on Proclus' Elements of Theology, called Expositio super Elementationem theologicam Procli, contains the first documented use of Proclus' works Tria Opuscula and Elements of Physics in a Middle Ages philosophical work.[773]

In 14th-century England, the philosopher Walter Burley used the translation of Proclus' Elements of Theology by William of Moerbeke to defend Plato's theory of the universal Good against Aristotle's critique,[760] and the Elements of Theology and its simplification in Liber de Causis allowed the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Bradwardine, to understand the metaphysical claims of Proclus and Aristotle.[774][775]

Renaissance

15th century

During the 15th century in Italy, before and after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, there was a significant flow of Byzantine negotiators and emigrants that brought and diffused knowledge of Greek literature that was unknown in the Latin West, and by the latter part of the 15th century, book printing spread across Europe.[776] Central to the transmission of neoplatonism into Italy, and more generally into the Latin West, were 15th-century translations of works by Plato, Plotinus, Proclus[776] and other neoplatonists,[777] particularly in Florence, where there was an important collection of manuscripts by Byzantine scholars.[778] It is of historical significance that, from the 6th century to the early 15th century, the Enneads by Plotinus was unknown in Western Europe.[779]

In 15th-century Florence, the Byzantine philosopher Georgius Gemisthus Pletho (Plethon) was one of the delegates who travelled from Constantinople with the Byzantine emperor John VIII Palaiologos to negotiate the reunion of the Eastern and Western churches at the Council of Florence between 1438 and 1439.[780] Pletho brought to Florence a Byzantine trend of scholarship on neoplatonism and a model of a Platonic School.[780] In the Council of Florence, his ideas were often listened to by Cosimo de' Medici,[612] the first head of the House of Medici, and inspired Cosimo in his efforts to make Florence an academic centre.[780] Pletho's works, for example Laws,[781] show a characteristic tension in Middle Ages Byzantine philosophy which sought to harmonize certain neoplatonic and Christian doctrines, while rejecting certain other doctrines of neoplatonism.[782] Pletho's very important work De Differentiis, completed in 1439, which is a vigorous refutation of Aristotelianism in favour of Platonism, started a controversy over the respective merits of Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy that was to last for over 30 years in the Latin West and Byzantine East.[783]

Modern-day Villa Medici at Careggi, where the 15th-century Catholic priest Marsilio Ficino and his circle of scholars translated works by Plato and the neoplatonists Plotinus and Proclus between 1462 and 1499.[784][785]
Modern-day Villa Medici at Careggi, where the 15th-century Catholic priest Marsilio Ficino and his circle of scholars translated works by Plato and the neoplatonists Plotinus and Proclus between 1462 and 1499.[784][785]

In 1439, Cardinal Basilius Bessarion, a former student of Pletho, moved from Greece to Italy and brought with him numerous Greek manuscripts including Proclus' Elements of Theology,[786] Platonic Theology and Commentary on the Parmenides, the last two which contained emendations and annotations.[785] Bessarion was an active participant in the Plato–Aristotle controversy of the 15th century and drew heavily on neoplatonic explanations of Plato and Aristotle, arguing in favour of Plato against his detractors.[785] Bessarion paved the way for a Christianized renewal of neoplatonic theology and philosophy that began with Marsilio Ficino in the 1460s.[785]

During the late 1430s, the German philosopher, theologian and future Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa, in his role as a papal delegate, accompanied a group of Orthodox patriarchs from Constantinople to Italy for the projected Council of Florence.[787] Nicholas and Cardinal Bessarion had a close scholastic relationship in which there was an active exchange of the neoplatonic traditions of the Byzantine East and Latin West.[788] During the 1430s Nicholas is thought to have been a motivating force behind a translation into Latin of Proclus' Platonic Theology, that was begun but not completed by the Italian monk and theologian Ambrogio Traversari before 1439.[789]

In 1450, Nicholas of Cusa commissioned a translation of Proclus' Platonic Theology into Latin, which was completed in 1462[790] by the Italian translator Pietro Balbi.[789] In Nicholas' early studies at the University of Cologne in the 1420s, he most likely read Berthold of Moosburg's 14th-century Commentary on Proclus' Elements of Theology, a text that was widely circulating at that time.[791] Nicholas' familiarity with Proclus' Elements of Theology is further evidenced by his studies with the Albertist circle of Cologne, and in particular with the 15th-century Dutch theologian Heimeric de Campo, who used Proclus' Elements of Theology extensively in his works Compendium Divinum and the Theoremata Totius Universi.[792] Further evidence of the influence of neoplatonism on Nicholas is his notes in the margins of an extant Latin manuscript of William of Moerbeke's translation of Proclus' Elements of Theology, and his very lengthy annotations in extant Latin manuscripts of Proclus' Commentary on Plato's Parmenides and Proclus' Platonic Theology.[792]

From the 1440s[793] to around 1455,[794] the scholar and Catholic priest Lorenzo Valla was the first to begin doubting[793] the author of what is now called the Pseudo-Dionysian corpus, which was finally proved in the late 19th century to contain copious amounts of paraphrasing from Proclus' works,[795] and was shown not to be the work of Saint Paul's 1st-century disciple Saint Dionysius.[390]

In 1462, Cosimo de' Medici gave the Italian scholar and Catholic priest Marsilio Ficino and his circle of scholars a number of Greek manuscripts to translate, the use of the Villa Medici at Careggi, just outside Florence, and funds to aid Ficino's work.[796] During the years 1462 to the end of the 15th century, Ficino and his circle translated, from Greek into Latin:

The translation of works by Plotinus by Ficino and his circle of scholars made works by Plotinus more widely available throughout Europe, as is evidenced by the early 16th-century works of John Colet, Erasmus of Rotterdam (In Praise of Folly), and Thomas More (Utopia).[797] Ficino thought that the neoplatonic interpretation of Plato was an authentic and accurate representation of Plato's philosophy,[798] and his own works, Platonic Theology on the Immortality of the Soul (1474) and his commentary on Plato's Symposium (1469), demonstrate another transformation of the highly developed neoplatonic tradition.[797]

The flow of neoplatonic literature from the Byzantine East to Italy also had a significant influence on the 15th-century Renaissance philosopher Giovanni Pico della Mirandola.[777] Due to Pico's knowledge of Arabic, Greek, Latin and Hebrew, he was able to draw upon a wide range of source material such as the Pre-Socratics, Kabbalah, the Chaldean Oracles and neoplatonic philosophers.[799][800] Pico's own philosophy was based on Proclus' writings and Pico's most significant work, Conclusiones CM (900) Publicae Disputandae, incorporated nearly 100 theses and arguments from Proclus' neoplatonic philosophy.[800]

16th century

At the start of the 16th century, the Italian mathematician, philologist and translator Giorgio Valla incorporated neoplatonic treatises on mathematics and astronomy in his enormous encyclopedic work Seek and Shun (De Expetendis et Fugiendis Rebus).[801] Specifically, large extracts from Proclus' Commentary on the First Book of Euclid's Elements and Proclus' Outline of Astronomical Hypotheses were included in Valla's encyclopedic work Seek and Shun.[801] In that work, Valla also included what was to become a very popular and frequently printed pseudo-Proclus astronomical treatise called The Sphere, which was actually written by the 1st-century BC Greek astronomer Geminus of Rhodes and first printed in a Latin translation by the 15th-century English scholar Thomas Linacre in 1499.[801]

The reception and diffusion of neoplatonic doctrines in the Renaissance is also seen in the translation of parts of Proclus' Commentary on Timaeus in the 1520s by the Venetian professor of philosophy Nicholas Leonicus Thomaeus and an anonymous Northern Italian translation of the same work by Proclus, whose translator was still to be identified in 2017.[801][802] Also in the 1520s, the Italian Augustinian friar and Platonist Nicholas Scutelli translated the following works by Proclus: Platonic Theology, Commentary on Republic, Commentary on First Alcibiades and Commentary on Parmenides.[801]

The first Latin translation of Proclus' work Commentary on the First Book of Euclid's Elements was translated in 1505 by the Italian humanist and translator Bartolomeo Zamberti, however, it wasn't until 1539 that the work was first published in a printed book at Basel, Switzerland.[803][804] Important neoplatonic works on physics, astronomy, mathematics, philosophy and theology received their first printed editions (editio princeps) in Greek, executed by the German Protestant theologian and scholar Simon Grynaeus.[801] From 1531 to 1540, Grynaeus produced printed Greek editions of Proclus' Elements of Physics, Outline of Astronomical Hypotheses, Commentary on the First Book of Euclid's Elements,[805] Commentary on Republic and Commentary on Timaeus.[801]

A 19th-century oil painting of  Nicholas Copernicus by Jan Matejko in the collection of the Jagiellonian University Museum in Poland. Copernicus studied the neoplatonic philosopher Proclus and in his famous work On the Revolution of Celestial Spheres included information[803] from Proclus' Outline of Astronomical Hypotheses and also in the same work, cited[806] Proclus' Commentary on the First Book of Euclid's Elements.[807]
A 19th-century oil painting of  Nicholas Copernicus by Jan Matejko in the collection of the Jagiellonian University Museum in Poland. Copernicus studied the neoplatonic philosopher Proclus and in his famous work On the Revolution of Celestial Spheres included information[803] from Proclus' Outline of Astronomical Hypotheses and also in the same work, cited[806] Proclus' Commentary on the First Book of Euclid's Elements.[807]

In 1543, the Prussian-Polish mathematician and astronomer Nicholas Copernicus incorporated parts of Proclus' Outline of Astronomical Hypotheses, from Valla's encyclopedia Seek and Shun, in his famous astronomical work called On the Revolution of Celestial Spheres.[803] 20th- and 21st-century scholarship has also found that in Copernicus' work On the Revolution of Celestial Spheres (I 10, 64.11–16 Birkenmajer) there are four very specific pieces of information which are taken from Book VII of Proclus' Outline of Astronomical Hypotheses that are not contained in Valla's encyclopedia, thus indicating that Copernicus had access, at some point in his career, to a Greek manuscript of Proclus' Outline of Astronomical Hypotheses.[808] Also, 20th- and 21st-century scholarly analysis of Copernicus' famous astronomical work On the Revolution of Celestial Spheres has revealed that he had studied and in one place cites[806] a part of Proclus' work Commentary on the First Book of Euclid's Elements.[809] In Proclus' 5th-century work Commentary on Timaeus III.67.27–III.68.10, he describes a metaphysical and physical heliocentric solar system, and in the 16th century, Copernicus was the first astronomer to revive neoplatonic doctrines on a physical heliocentric solar system.[810]

By 1551, the mathematician, astronomer and teacher Georg Joachim Rheticus was recommending that Proclus' Outline of Astronomical Hypotheses be taught in schools to introduce the youth to sound fundamental theories of celestial motions.[803] 20th-century scholarship recognizes Proclus as a pioneer of dynamical geometry, or the geometry of the moving point, locus.[811] Neoplatonic influences can also be seen in the writings and lectures of the 16th-century Italian Dominican friar and philosopher Giordano Bruno whilst he was at Oxford.[812]

Two very important works on the philosophy of mathematics that have survived from antiquity are Iamblichus' On General Mathematical Science (De communi mathematica scientia) and Proclus' Commentary on the First Book of Euclid's Elements.[813] Of those two works, Proclus' first prologue in his work Commentary on the First Book of Euclid's Elements influenced mathematicians and philosophers during the Renaissance and further, after it was translated into Latin by both the Italian mathematician, astronomer and humanist Francesco Barozzi in 1560 and in 1570 by the Swiss mathematician Konrad Dasypodius (Konrad Rauchfuss).[803][813] The influence of Proclus' prologue in his work Commentary on the First Book of Euclid's Elements is evidenced by its use in a large debate amongst scholars on the classification of mathematical sciences during the mid-16th century to the early 17th century.[803] Major Renaissance scholars contributing to that debate were the Italian philosopher Jacopo Zabarella, the Italian mathematician Giuseppe Biancani, the Italian philosopher Alessandro Piccolomini, the French logician Pierre de la Ramée, the Swiss professor of mathematics Konrad Dasypodius, the Spanish philosopher Benito Pereira, the Belgian mathematician Adrian van Roomen, and the German Calvinist minister Johann Heinrich Alsted.[814]

By the late 16th century, the Italian philosopher Francesco Patrizi da Cherso had collected the following Greek manuscripts by Proclus in his library: Commentary on Cratylus, Elements of Theology, Elements of Physics, Commentary on Timaeus, Platonic Theology, Commentary on First Alcibiades, and Commentary on Parmenides.[815] Of those works by Proclus, Patrizi translated into Latin, Elements of Theology and Elements of Physics.[815] Further, Patrizi's own works contain a continual presence of fundamental neoplatonic doctrines interwoven with his own explanation, structure, and evaluation of reality.[816] The reception of Patrizi's philosophical works, laden with neoplatonic doctrines, had been little researched up to 2014, but it is known that the reception extends from Francis Bacon, Robert Fludd, Thomas Hobbes, Herbert of Cherbury, Athanasius Kircher, and Amos Comenius up to the Cambridge Platonists.[817]

Modern

17th century

In 17th-century England neoplatonism was important to the Cambridge Platonists, who expounded a synthesis of the new Anglican Christianity[818] with a Platonism imbued with neoplatonic insights.[819] Luminaries of the Cambridge Platonists included Henry More, Ralph Cudworth, Benjamin Whichcote, Peter Sterry, John Smith, Nathaniel Culverwell and John Worthington, who all studied at the University of Cambridge.[820][821] The grouping and identification of those scholars as "Cambridge Platonists", as the scholars themselves did not identify themselves as a group or as Platonists, came in the 18th century.[822] The Cambridge Platonists' acceptance of the authority of Plato and his disciples under the leadership of Plotinus, whom More called "Divine Plotinus!", was closely tied to their rejection of Christian theology from Saint Augustine through the Middle Ages scholars to Luther, Calvin and their followers in the 17th century; however, Saint Anselm and Saint Thomas Aquinas found favour with them.[823]

Early in the 17th century, the German astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler studied mathematical theories by Proclus, and in his 1619 work Harmony of the Worlds (Harmonice mundi)[813] quotes large extracts from Proclus' mathematical work Commentary on the First Book of Euclid's Elements.[824] Kepler also hailed Proclus' 5th-century doctrines on a heliocentric solar system, e.g. in Commentary on Timaeus III.67.27–III.68.10, as a very early anticipation to his own theories of a heliocentric solar system.[825]

The first prologue to Proclus' mathematical work Commentary on the First Book of Euclid's Elements also stimulated a debate amongst Renaissance scholars, which introduced the concept of mathesis universalis that was expanded upon by the French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes and the German polymath Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz.[803] Leibniz's work Monadology and the Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza's monism were both influenced by neoplatonic philosophy.[826] The views of Spinoza on two sorts of human lives echo Plotinus' doctrines; however, there is no direct evidence that Spinoza read Plotinus, and 21st-century scholarships suggests that the transmission of Plotinian doctrines to Spinoza are more likely to be indirect through Renaissance Platonists and the Jewish tradition.[827]

21st-century scholarship has found evidence that the 17th-century Italian polymath Galileo Galilei's circle of scholars studied Proclus' mathematical work Commentary on the First Book of Euclid's Elements,[824] and also that the 17th-century rabbi, physician and mathematician Joseph Solomon del Medigo ("Yashar"), who studied with Galileo at the Italian University of Padua, incorporated neoplatonic and kabbalistic arguments and doctrines into his scientific approach to philosophy.[828]

In the mid-17th-century Caucasian tradition of philosophy and religion, in 1651, Svimeon Dshughaezi wrote a commentary in Armenian on Elements of Theology by Proclus.[624]

18th century

The 18th-century Irish philosopher George Berkeley's idealism is seen by 21st-century scholarship as a particular interpretation of neoplatonic ontology and contemplation, following along the lines of the 4th-century bishop Gregory of Nyssa, who regarded objects as bundles of God's ideas.[826] In his work Siris, Berkeley comments on Ancient Greek philosophy and especially on neoplatonism,[797] and refers to Plotinus a number of times; however, up to 2017, many details of the intricate connection between Plotinus and Berkeley were still being researched.[827]

From 1742 to 1767, the German historian of philosophy Johann Jakob Brucker, the father of the Hegelian notion of a "philosophical system",[829] published his six-volume[830] work Historia Critica Philosophiae, which firmly established the division between Middle Platonism and neoplatonism.[16][831] From the middle of the 18th century, the German scholars Anton Friedrich Büsching,[832] Georg Gustav Fülleborn, Christoph Meiners and Wilhelm Gottlieb Tennemann first started to use the term neoplatonism (German: Neuplatoniker, or Neu-Platonische).[833][17]

In the 18th-century Caucasian tradition of philosophy and religion there were at least two Georgian translations available of commentaries on Elements of Theology by Proclus, one that was a 1757 translation of the 1651 Armenian commentary by Svimeon Dshughaezi.[834] The 18th-century Caucasian tradition also saw the Georgian writer Sulchan-Saba Orbeliani incorporating propositions and references to Proclus in his Georgian Dictionary, and the 18th-century Catholicos–Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Anton I of Georgia, in his work Spekali, commenting on the 12th-century Georgian neoplatonic philosopher Ioane Petritsi's commentary and translation of Proclus' Elements of Theology.[834]

19th century

From the late 18th century to the early 19th century, the English neoplatonist Thomas Taylor translated major neoplatonic works into English.[835][836] Taylor wrote extensively on Platonism, Aristotelianism, and neoplatonism and translated into English:[837]

  • most of the Plotinian corpus[835][838] and was the first to translate Plotinus' works into English (1794),[839][840]
  • the only extant work by the neoplatonic mathematician Marinus [Life of Proclus, or Concerning Felicity (1794)],[835][838]
  • 46 dialogues and 12 Epistles by Plato in five volumes (1804),[835][838]
  • the complete works of Aristotle in nine volumes (1806), with elucidations from the Greek commentator Alexander of Aphrodisiensis, and elucidations from the neoplatonic commentators Syrianus, Ammonius Hermiae, Priscianus, Olympiodorus, and Simplicius,[835][838]
  • major neoplatonic works by Proclus [including the entire Commentary on Timaeus in two volumes (1820), The Six Books of Proclus on the Theology of Plato (1816) in two volumes, and the entire Commentary on the First Book of Euclid’s Elements in two volumes (1792)],[835][838] some of which remain the only English version of them (e.g. The Six Books of Proclus on the Theology of Plato),[837]
  • major neoplatonic works by Iamblichus [including Life of Pythagoras (1818) and Mysteries of the Egyptians, Chaldeans, and Abyssinians (1821)],[835][838]
  • major neoplatonic works by Porphyry [including Life of Plotinus and Cave of the Nymphs (1823)],[835][838]
  • various Pythagorean fragments (1822), Orphic hymns (1824) and Chaldean Oracles literature (1806).[835][838]

Further, Taylor translated into English the entire work The Description of Greece by Pausanias (1794), and extracts from the works of Apuleius (1795), Celsus (1830), Diodorus Siculus (1830), Julius Firmicus (1831), Josephus (1830), the neoplatonic Emperor Julian (1793, 1809), Ocellus Lucanus (1831), the neoplatonic philosopher Sallust (1793), Tacitus (1830), and the Platonic philosopher Taurus (1831).[835][838]

In 19th-century America, Plotinus' conceptions of the soul and of intelligible beauty are seen as influences in the philosophy called transcendentalism, developed by the philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson.[841] Thomas Taylor's translations of Proclus inspired[842] Emerson, who declared in 1847:

"When I read Proclus, I am astonished at the vigor and breadth of his performance. Here is no...modern muse with short breath and short flight, but Atlantic strength, every where equal to itself, and dares great attempts because of the life with which it is filled."—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals[843]

In 19th-century Germany, the philosophers Arthur Schopenhauer and Ludwig Noiré both stated that Plotinus' Enneads was the first appearance of idealism in Western Philosophy,[note 4] and also the century saw the German idealists Friedrich Schelling studying Plotinus and G. W. F. Hegel studying Proclus.[826] Schelling's and Hegel's perspectives on consciousness of the "I" and the self-consciousness of the spirit, whilst having a new context and interpretation, parallel neoplatonic discourses.[826] The availability of the neoplatonic doctrines of Plotinus significantly increased in the 1835 when the German philologists Georg Friedrich Creuzer (a colleague of Hegel) and Georg Heinrich Moser published a new standard Greek edition of Plotinus' Enneads in their work Plotini opera omnia.[841]

in 1895, the extent that Pseudo-Dionysius' Christian doctrines in his Corpus Dionysiacum Areopagiticum (CDA) depended on Proclus' neoplatonic doctrines were independently revealed in the late 19th century by the German church historian and Jesuit Joseph Stiglmayr, in his work Dionysius Areopagita in der Lehre vom Uebel,[846] and especially in an elaborate[527] study by the German Catholic theologian and church historian Hugo Koch in is detailed work Pseudo-Dionysius Areopagita.[795][847][848] Further proof of the close textual links between the CDA and the neoplatonic school of Athens were demonstrated by the Italian philologist Eugenio Corsini in 1962, the French philosopher Henri-Dominique Saffrey in 1966, 1979 and 1998, and by a large and systematic study[849] by Salvatore Romano Clemente Lilla in 1997.[847]

In the 19th-century Caucasian tradition of philosophy and religion, Prince Ioane Bagrationi of Georgia referred to Armenian commentaries of Proclus' Elements of Theology in his work Kalmasoba, which is an explanation of 86 of the 211 propositions from Elements of Theology.[834]

Contemporary

Impetus to the study of Plotinus was provided in the early 20th century by two courses of Gifford lectures delivered by Professor William Ralph Inge in 1917 and 1918,[850][851] and also in 1918 the first translation of Plotinus' complete works into English was produced by the Scottish-American philosopher Dr. Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie,[852] which was followed by a more widely accepted translation of the complete works of Plotinus by the Irish writer Stephen MacKenna in 1928.[850] The monumental work of the English Professor A. H. Armstrong on Plotinus spanned 60 years, and includes a translation into English and a standard Greek edition of Plotinus' Enneads (1966–1988), which is the basis for all contemporary translations of the Enneads.[853][854]

Although there has been no complete edition of all of Proclus' works, the translation of Elements of Theology into English in 1963 with a standard edition of the Greek text, introduction, and comprehensive commentary that was produced by the Irish Professor E. R. Dodds, is regarded as a masterpiece of Classical scholarship.[853][855] Other major Irish scholars that have greatly contributed to neoplatonic scholarship in the 20th and 21st centuries are the Professors John O’Meara, Dominic O’Meara, Denis O’Brien, John M. Dillon, Andrew Smith and Kevin Corrigan.[853]

Important North American contemporary neoplatonic scholarship comes to us by way of the Professors John Whittaker, Frederick Schroeder, Lloyd P. Gerson, Gregory Shaw and John Finamore.[853] The English-based Professors Richard Sorabji and Lucas Siorvanes[856] have revealed the importance of Proclus in the history of science, and the English Professor Anne Sheppard has also made important contributions to Proclean scholarship, as has Professor John Rist through his many books and articles.[853] During the 1980s in Italy, Professor Giacomo Leopardi made an important translation of the life of Plotinus by Porphyry (Porphyrii De vita Plotini et ordine librorum eius), and Professor R. Masullo produced a new standard edition of the Greek text and an Italian translation of the life of Proclus by Marinus (Vita di Proclo).[853][857]

From 1968 to 1997, the French Professor H. D. Saffrey and Dutch Professor L. G. Westerink completed a six volume French translation on Proclus' Platonic Theology, and a standard edition of the Greek text with comprehensive introductions, and notes, which is regarded by scholars as one of the most momentous editorial accomplishments in modern Proclean scholarship.[858][857] In 1999, an important translation of Damascius' Life of Isidore into English was produced by the Athenian Professor Polymnia Athanassiadi.[853] Also from 2004 to 2010, the Canadian-French Professor Luc Brisson, the French Professor Jean-François Pradeau, and a team of French scholars have produced a nine volume French translation of Plotinus' works including the life of Plotinus by Porphyry with commentary and notes (Plotin. Traités and Porphyre. Vie de Plotin).[859] Further, from 2007 to 2017, scholars have welcomed the six volume translation of Proclus' large work Commentary on Timaeus by the Australian Professors Dirk Baltzly, Harold Tarrant, David Runia, and Michael Share.[860]

Platonisms

During the late 19th and early 20th century, scholars generally accepted that Plato's doctrines and neoplatonic doctrines were two different things, and that it was the doctrines of neoplatonism that were transmitted into the Middle Ages and not Plato's.[861] This was the view of the early 20th century German historian Ernst Hoffmann, that relied on the assumption that there is a significant difference between Platonic and neoplatonic doctrines.[862] However, later 20th scholarship has shown significant similarity between the aims and content of Platonism, middle Platonism and neoplatonism, and that has the effect of blurring the lines of distinction between these phases in the history of philosophy.[49][863][864]

A 1939 photo of the Dutch philosopher Cornelia de Vogel, whose significant interpretation of Plato's dialogue The Sophist, showed the close connection between fundamental doctrines of Plato and neoplatonism.
A 1939 photo of the Dutch philosopher Cornelia de Vogel, whose significant interpretation of Plato's dialogue The Sophist, showed the close connection between fundamental doctrines of Plato and neoplatonism.

Late 20th century scholarship showed there is ample evidence in Plato's dialogues that indicate Plato's thought was very close to neoplatonism, much closer than that conceived by 19th century scholarship.[865] This evidence is further corroborated by reports of Plato's oral teachings in the Platonic Academy by later writers from Aristotle onwards.[865] These reports, now known as 'Plato's unwritten doctrines', detail Plato's later doctrines that were not reflected in his dialogues and show that Plato's oral teachings, late in his career when he was not writing regularly, have much in common with Neoplatonic doctrines, especially those of Plotinus.[866] Pioneering scholars in this field of research were the 19th century German philosopher Eduard Zeller and the 20th century French philosopher Léon Robin.[867]

Significant recent scholarship that advanced tenets of similarity between Platonism, middle Platonism and neoplatonism were authored by the 20th century French philosopher André-Jean Festugiere,[868] the 20th century Dutch philosopher Cornelia de Vogel,[865] the 20th century American historian Harold F. Cherniss,[869] the 20th century Irish scholar E. R. Dodds,[870] the 20th century German philosopher Philip Merlan and the 20th and 21st century Irish philosopher John M. Dillon.[871]

Philosophy

In 20th century England, Plotinus' view of the intelligible universe is seen as an influence on the process philosophy of the mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, co-author of Principia Mathematica with the philosopher Bertrand Russell, where Whitehead adopts Plotinus' conception of matter in his examination of decay and privation.[841]

In 20th century France, neoplatonic influences can also be seen In the teachings and writings of the early 20th century French philosopher Henri Bergson, who lectured on Plotinus and whose specification of two kinds of time, one episodic and spatial and the other a duration, or a lived time, parallel neoplatonic doctrines of time.[826] Because French universities have included neoplatonism in their curriculum for a long time, 20th century French philosophers such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Michel Foucault demonstrate a good awareness of central neoplatonic doctrines.[872]

In 20th century Germany, in the field philosophy of mathematics, Proclus' first prologue in his work Commentary on the First Book of Euclid’s Elements influenced the works of the early to mid-20th century German philosopher Nicolai Hartmann.[873] Neoplatonic and especially Plotinian influences may also be seen in the early 20th century work Ideas (1913) by the German philosophers Edmund Husserl and in later works by the German philosopher Martin Heidegger, in his main idea of the lighting up (die Lichtung) of being.[797]

Books

The 20th century science fiction writer Philip K. Dick identified as a neoplatonist and explores related mystical experiences and religious concepts in his theoretical work, compiled in The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick.[874]

Influence on literature and aesthetics

There has been a vast influence of neoplatonism on the appreciation of European arts, and neoplatonist aesthetics has earned recognition from philosophers and literary theorists who have little interest in neoplatonic religious doctrines or other aspects of neoplatonism.[875] In the case of the 5th century neoplatonist philosopher Proclus, his notable theory of inspired poetry has engaged significant attention, but not always in the context of Greek literary culture or his general philosophy.[875]

The literary theory of the 5th century neoplatonist philosopher Proclus and his use of allegorical interpretation has been received into the wider study of literature in late antiquity, where his theories diffuse into neoplatonist aesthetics by way of his views on visual art and music.[876] Proclus had a Platonic view on the beauty of the universe, which led him to theology, and for him and other neoplatonists there was no distinction between aesthetic theory and theology, where in that theology, there is a fundamental role played by analogies drawn from literary theory and aesthetics.[877]

Literary culture

A standard part of Proclus' education and the education of other neoplatonists was rhetoric, and his and other neoplatonists' allegorical interpretations of Homer and Hesiod draw on a large amount of earlier commentaries on those poets.[877] Proclus' commentaries on Platonic dialogues include many passages that comment on Plato's literary style and skill using words common to rhetorical traditions from the 1st century AD onwards, words such as 'mimesis' (mimêsis), 'vividness' (by way of the word enargeia) and 'visualization' (by way of the word phantasia).[878] Proclus also uses standard terms of Greek literary criticism like 'style' (charaktêr), 'lofty' (semnos), 'different' (exêllagmenos), 'powerful' (hadros), and 'concise' (suntomos) and words from the Platonic corpus like 'inspired' (enthousiastikos) and 'finished' (apêkribômenos).[879]

In well known literary works of the early 14th century, Proclus' neoplatonic doctrines found in the Liber de Causis are integrated in several of the Italian poet, writer and philosopher Dante Alighieri's works, notably in the Convivio (III.6.11), written between 1304 and 1307, when describing Beatrice's physical beauty as caused by her soul,[752] and in his works De Monarchia,[880] Divine Comedy, and Epistle to Cangrande.[881] Also, to provide a metaphysical basis of a political order between princes and the people and as a basis for his defence of papal supremacy over government, Dante uses Proclus' neoplatonic doctrines of causes and effects, found in Liber de Causis proposition 1, in his work De Monarchia (I.11 and III), written between 1312 and 1313.[882]

In the late 16th century, although much debated, neoplatonism is seen to have a significant impact on the 16th century playwright and poet Shakespeare, and definitely influenced the English poet Edmund Spenser, who in his Fowre Hymns: Of Beautie adapts the opening of Plotinus' Ennead 1.6,[883] and further, the poet the 1st Baron Herbert of Cherbury was a supporter of Porphyry's neoplatonic doctrines and defended them in his work Dialogue between a Teacher and a Pupil.[820] Neoplatonic influences can also be seen in the poetry of the 17th century English poets John Milton and Thomas Traherne and the 17th century Welsh poet Henry Vaughan.[884]

In the early 19th century, in part through the translations of major neoplatonic works by Thomas Taylor and the Hegelian movement of that century, neoplatonic influences can be found in the poetry of the English poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Percy Bysshe Shelley and William Blake, as well as in works by the early 20th century English poet William Wordsworth and the early 20th century English writers Charles Williams and C. S. Lewis.[826][841] Further, Taylor's translation of Porphyry's Life of Plotinus was paid the tribute of allusion in the works of the early 20th century Irish poet W. B. Yeats and the early 20th century English novelist John Meade Falkner.[885] Yeats also cited Taylor's translation of Porphyry's Cave of the Nymphs in his essay The Philosophy of Shelley’s Poetry.[886]

Literary theory

Part of the Latin translation of Pseudo-Dionysius' De coelesti hierarchia from a manuscript in the Vatican Library. Neoplatonic influences can be seen in De coelesti hierarchia 2.2.[887]
Part of the Latin translation of Pseudo-Dionysius' De coelesti hierarchia from a manuscript in the Vatican Library. Neoplatonic influences can be seen in De coelesti hierarchia 2.2.[887]

Proclus' name is frequently used in discussions of ancient literary theory and criticism because of his theories of inspired poetry in his works Commentary on Republic and Commentary on Timaeus.[879] In his work Commentary on Republic, the inspired poetry of heroic deeds is described as having an educational function and sets fine examples for the youth, whilst in his work Commentary on Timaeus, he discusses the difference between inspired poetry, that is drawn from the gods, and poetry that is a product of technical human skill.[879] Further, in his work Commentary on Republic, Proclus explains Plato's censorship of Homer's work from Plato's theoretical 'Republic', where the main thrust of the explanation is that complex allegorical interpretations of Homer, where things are sometimes represented by their opposites, are only understood by very few people.[888]

Neoplatonic influences on Pseudo-Dionysius are seen in his work De coelesti hierarchia 2.2, where he repeats Proclus' argument in Commentary on Republic Essay 6, Book 2 (and also in Commentary on Timaeus 1.30 and Platonic Theology 1.4)  that in complex allegorical interpretations of Homer, things are sometimes represented by their opposites.[887] De coelesti hierarchia is part of Pseudo-Dionysius' Corpus Dionysiacum Areopagiticum (CDA), in which the extent that the corpus depended on Proclus' neoplatonic doctrines was first fully[527] revealed in the late 19th century by the German church historian and Jesuit Joseph Stiglmayr.[846]

For Proclus, there are three kinds of inspired poetry, one that comes from the part of the soul that is more closely associated with the gods, which is explained in Plato's Ion and Phaedrus; another, mimetic poetry, that uses irrational images and perceptions and comes from the irrational aspect of the soul, which is explained in Plato's Republic Book X; and the third is an educational poetry that is a mixture of the two, which offers moral advice and comes from both intellect and knowledge, like that in Plato's Laws Book I.[888]

Music

Proclus' views of musical theory parallel his views on poetry and play a fundamental role in his theology, and here the line between aesthetics and theology is even harder to define. For Proclus, the word 'music' (mousikê, μουσική) does not always mean what we mean by music, sometimes it means philosophy, or harmonics which is a purely mathematical form of music;[889] and at other times it is heard music; where both types are discussed in his work Commentary on Republic 1.56.20–60.13.[890] Just as there are three kinds of inspired poetry for Proclus, there are three kinds of music, one kind that comes from the part of the soul that is more closely associated with the gods: harmonics;[889] another that comes from irrational images and perceptions: music that educates the passions; and the third which is a mixture of the two: a more lovely music than the previous, that goes from perceptible to imperceptible harmonies.[890] In his work Commentary on Timaeus there is an involved discussion about a Pythagorean kind of musical scale that symbolizes the divisions of the World-Soul, and leads to an understanding of the objective structure of reality;[890] and in his work Commentary on Cratylus the allegorical interpretation for the songs of the mythological Sirens are harmonies that produce the structure of the heavenly spheres.[891]

Visual arts

In Proclus' work Commentary on Timaeus, he shares Plotinus' view, in Ennead 5.8.1.31–40,[892] that sometimes visual art, like Phidias’ statue of Zeus, does not imitate things, but rather are created by the artist[892] from rational principles (logoi) of the World-Soul,[892] which generated the transitional hypostasis of Nature.[893] A clear example of that neoplatonic influence in art is icons, where the depiction is understood as an instance of participation, thus an icon of Christ partakes in Christ.[826] The views of Plotinus and Proclus on visual art were built on the earlier views of the 1st century BC philosophers Antiochus of Ascalon and Cicero and the 1st century AD philosopher Seneca, which led to a re-evaluation of visual art within the Platonist tradition.[893]

For Proclus, to grasp the intellectual god, you need to understand symbolic descriptions, for example, in his work Commentary on Parmenides, Proclus declares that those who have 'seen' the goddess Athena as described in Homer's Iliad 5.734-748, will paint a better picture of her than those who copy a statue of the goddess.[893] Below is an English translation of that description of Athena from Homer's Iliad:

"But Athene, daughter of Zeus that beareth the aegis, let fall upon her father's floor her soft robe, richly broidered, that herself had wrought and her hands had fashioned, and put on her the tunic of Zeus, the cloud-gatherer, and arrayed her in armour for tearful war. About her shoulders she flung the tasselled aegis, fraught with terror, all about which Rout is set as a crown, and therein is Strife, therein Valour, and therein Onset, that maketh the blood run cold, and therein is the head of the dread monster, the Gorgon, dread and awful, a portent of Zeus that beareth the aegis. And upon her head she set the helmet with two horns and with bosses four, wrought of gold, and fitted with the men-at-arms of an hundred cities. Then she stepped upon the flaming car and grasped her spear, heavy and huge and strong, wherewith she vanquisheth the ranks of men of warriors with whom she is wroth, she, the daughter of the mighty sire."—Homer, Iliad 5.734-748[894]

Florentine neoplatonism

The late 15th-century painting Primavera by Italian Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli, now located in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy. The painting is an example of Florentine neoplatonism[895] whose primary scholar was the neoplatonist Marsilio Ficino.
The late 15th-century painting Primavera by Italian Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli, now located in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy. The painting is an example of Florentine neoplatonism[895] whose primary scholar was the neoplatonist Marsilio Ficino.

According to the 20th century German-Jewish art historian Erwin Panofsky, neoplatonic doctrines influenced the Italian High Renaissance artist Michelangelo,[896] whose contact with Florentine neoplatonism[897] and his understanding of neoplatonism, demonstrated in his lyrical poetry,[898] was intentionally expressed in his visual representations[899] of human life and destiny.[900] However, the conclusions drawn by Panofsky have been vigorously challenged by the 20th century Swiss art and architectural historian Kurt W. Forster;[901] the 20th century Austrian art historian Otto Pächt; [901] and 20th–21st century American art historian Michael Ann Holly.[902]

The painting Primavera by Italian Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli belongs to the milieu of Florentine neoplatonism according to: the 20th century German-born British art historian Edgar Wind, the Austrian-born British art historian Ernst Gombrich, the late 19th–20th century German art historian Aby Warburg, and 'many others.[903] Edgar Wind gives an extended neoplatonic interpretation of the painting Primavera in his mid-20th century work Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance.[904]

Contemporary painting and sculpture

Neoplatonic influences can be seen in the paintings of the early 19th century poet and painter William Blake.[826] The sculpture The Large Glass by the 20th century French painter and sculptor Marcel Duchamp is regarded by the 20th century Mexican Nobel laureate in Literature Octavio Paz as a new reflexive or voluntary appearance of neoplatonism.[905] Duchamp's works are often described by scholars with images taken from neoplatonism.[906]

Film

The 2009 film Agora directed by the Spanish-Chilean film director Alejandro Amenábar is a historical drama about the life of the late 4th to early 5th century neoplatonist philosopher, mathematician and astronomer Hypatia.[907] It is a historically dubious reconstruction of late 4th to early 5th century Alexandria, its intellectual accomplishments, the public responsibilities of women, the erosion of authority of female intellectuals, and its religious conflicts.[908] The film is notable for its fictional portrayal of Hypatia as the first astronomer to model the solar system as heliocentric, where the planets move around the Sun in elliptical orbits.[907]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ A very early appearance of the term 'Neo-Platonism' is in 1775 in "Pamphlets, Religious: Miscellaneous", Volume 8, p. 6. published by the University of Michigan Library[14]
  2. ^ Ariane Magny (2014): "The term 'pagan', used solely by Christians to identify 'the Other', has been challenged. A consensus has yet to be reached among scholars as to what term(s) would best suit the other religious affiliations."[175]
  3. ^ Morewedge: "The greatest cluster of neoplatonic themes is found in religious mystical writings, which in fact transform purely orthodox doctrines such as creation into doctrines such as emanationism, which allow for a better framework for the expression of neoplatonic themes and the emergence of the mystical themes of the ascent and mystical union."[628]
  4. ^ Schopenhauer wrote of this neoplatonist philosopher: "With Plotinus there even appears, probably for the first time in Western philosophy, idealism that had long been current in the East even at that time, for it taught (Enneads, iii, lib. vii, c.10) that the soul has made the world by stepping from eternity into time, with the explanation: 'For there is for this universe no other place than the soul or mind' (neque est alter hujus universi locus quam anima), indeed the ideality of time is expressed in the words: 'We should not accept time outside the soul or mind' (oportet autem nequaquam extra animam tempus accipere)."[844]

    Similarly, professor Ludwig Noiré wrote: "For the first time in Western philosophy we find idealism proper in Plotinus (Enneads, iii, 7, 10), where he says, "The only space or place of the world is the soul," and "Time must not be assumed to exist outside the soul."[845] It is worth noting, however, that, like Plato, but unlike Schopenhauer and other modern philosophers, Plotinus does not worry about whether or how we can get beyond our ideas in order to know external objects.

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