was a major philosopher
of the ancient world who is widely considered the father of Neoplatonism.
Much of our biographical information about him comes from Porphyry's
preface to his edition of Plotinus' Enneads.
writings have inspired centuries of Pagan,
metaphysicians and mystics."
Plotinus was a Roman philosopher and the originator of
neoplatonism. Plotinus was born in Asyut, Egypt, though his education and
cultural background were completely Greek. In 232 he went to Alexandria and
studied with the philosopher Ammonius Saccas (who flourished in the 1st half of
3rd century) for ten years and in about 244 went to Rome, where he established a
school. Plotinus spoke on Pythagorean and Platonic wisdom and on asceticism;
such was the impression made upon his hearers that some of them gave their
fortunes to the poor, set their slaves free, and devoted themselves to lives of
study and ascetic piety. At the age of 60, with the permission of the Roman
emperor Gallienus, Plotinus planned to establish a communistic commonwealth on
the model of The Republic by Plato,
but the project failed because of the opposition of Gallienus's counselors.
Plotinus continued to teach and write until his death. His works comprise 54
treatises in Greek, called the Enneads, 6 groups of 9 books each, an
arrangement probably made by his student Porphyry (c.232-304), who edited his
Plotinus, Sixth Ennead, Ninth Tractate, Section 11
11. This is the purport of that rule of our Mysteries: Nothing Divulged to
the Uninitiate: the Supreme is not to be made a common story, the holy things
may not be uncovered to the stranger, to any that has not himself attained to
see. There were not two; beholder was one with beheld; it was not a vision
compassed but a unity apprehended. The man formed by this mingling with the
Supreme must- if he only remember- carry its image impressed upon him: he is
become the Unity, nothing within him or without inducing any diversity; no
movement now, no passion, no outlooking desire, once this ascent is achieved;
reasoning is in abeyance and all Intellection and even, to dare the word, the
very self; caught away, filled with God, he has in perfect stillness attained
isolation; all the being calmed, he turns neither to this side nor to that, not
even inwards to himself; utterly resting he has become very rest. He belongs no
longer to the order of the beautiful; he has risen beyond beauty; he has
overpassed even the choir of the virtues; he is like one who, having penetrated
the inner sanctuary, leaves the temple images behind him- though these become
once more first objects of regard when he leaves the holies; for There his
converse was not with image, not with trace, but with the very Truth in the view
of which all the rest is but of secondary concern.
There, indeed, it was scarcely vision, unless of a mode unknown; it was a
going forth from the self, a simplifying, a renunciation, a reach towards
contact and at the same time a repose, a meditation towards adjustment. This is
the only seeing of what lies within the holies: to look otherwise is to fail.
Things here are signs; they show therefore to the wiser teachers how the
supreme God is known; the instructed priest reading the sign may enter the holy
place and make real the vision of the inaccessible.
Even those that have never found entry must admit the existence of that
invisible; they will know their source and Principle since by principle they see
principle and are linked with it, by like they have contact with like and so
they grasp all of the divine that lies within the scope of mind. Until the
seeing comes they are still craving something, that which only the vision can
give; this Term, attained only by those that have overpassed all, is the
It is not in the soul's nature to touch utter nothingness; the lowest descent
is into evil and, so far, into non-being: but to utter nothing, never. When the
soul begins again to mount, it comes not to something alien but to its very
self; thus detached, it is not in nothingness but in itself; self-gathered it is
no longer in the order of being; it is in the Supreme.
There is thus a converse in virtue of which the essential man outgrows Being,
becomes identical with the Transcendent of Being. The self thus lifted, we are
in the likeness of the Supreme: if from that heightened self we pass still
higher- image to archetype- we have won the Term of all our journeying. Fallen
back again, we awaken the virtue within until we know ourselves all order once
more; once more we are lightened of the burden and move by virtue towards
Intellectual-Principle and through the Wisdom in That to the Supreme.
This is the life of gods and of the godlike and blessed among men, liberation
from the alien that besets us here, a life taking no pleasure in the things of
earth, the passing of solitary to solitary.