We had a very good opening session last night to start the new semester.
We delved into Plotinus’ general philosophy and how it influenced Christian philosophy. We can see its legacy even to this day in Christian circles.
For instance, many Christians believe that this world is not their ‘true’ home and that the world we see isn’t the final destination or the end and be all. There is a higher spiritual reality above and beyond our material bodies and this world which most Christians call ‘heaven’. We must therefore focus on spiritual things rather than ‘fleshly’ things and set our eyes upon God and Jesus. The ‘spiritual’ is the true reality that we must seek. In order to become more and more Christlike (and therefore to become more real) we most concentrate on practices that develop our inner spiritual being within ourselves. We must take time to critically examine ourselves, confess our sins, and probe our inner thoughts through prayer, daily reading and studying of the Bible, singing of praise songs, and the like to become more and more like Christ.
All of these familiar Christian traditions and beliefs can find parallels within Plotinus’ philosophy. To him, ultimate reality is represented in ‘the One’, a unity that encompasses all of reality. The One emanates the Mind which contemplates Plato’s Forms, which gives rise to the Soul, which then generates the material world. The chief end of mankind is to go back to its source and get as close as possible to the One. A person does that by contemplating the Forms – the more he or she contemplates the Forms the more he or she becomes like the Mind, and hence draw closer to the One. A person must turn away from the external, material world that is impermanent and concentrate his mind upon the eternal realities of the Forms and the One. And this requires a turn ‘inward’ upon oneself.
As we read the Confessions, we will see Augustine use this principle toward an ‘inwardness’ to draw closer to reality or the truth, which for him was God.
You can read the outline I shared with the group last night on Plotinus here.
I’ve also updated the site to have a “Confessions” sub-menu under the “Theology” main menu tab above. On that page, I’ll place all of our writings there as we go through “Confessions.”
The video above is from Prof. Eric Steinhart, professor of Philosophy at William Paterson University. Here he gives a brief introduction on Plotinus’ philosophy and gives glimpses of how it affected certain Christian doctrines.
As a bonus, in this second video, Prof. Steinhart talks about Plotinus’ view of the ‘Fall of the Soul.’ This may have certain connections with Augustine’s concept of the “Fall of Man” that is still a prevalent belief in many Christian circles today – particularly when talking about Creation and Mankind.