Plotinus: The Enneads

The Enneads - Plotinus, Stephen MacKenna A heavy reliance on Plato’s Timaeus and Parmenides results in Plotinus being classified as one of the first Neoplatonists by the many or an advocate of orthodox Platonism by the few. Either way, Plato had an impact.

Plotinus’ reliance on the more mystical, and perhaps the most ambiguous (Parmenides), Platonic works cues the reader to Plotinus’ style. Though this point is debatable, he strikes me much more of a mystic than a philosopher. To those who have given any thought to purpose in our being, it doesn’t take long to come to the realization that using solely rational thought fails to provide the longed for answers. Therefore there is always a leap to some value. To God, to gods, to truth, to experience. Plotinus at least doesn’t attempt to cloak his irrationality in the doublespeak endemic to philosophy. For Plotinus, the Sage finds answers through introspection after whittling away the illusions of life through the dialectic. This introspection yields a vision of the One from which Intelligence emanates and which thereby reflects upon the One through its own emanations which we view as the Soul. Or something close to this. The six Enneads take up just over 700 pages so I’m leaving a few things out.

At times, many times, a tedious read. Plotinus meanders, sometimes poetically but oftentimes randomly, as he constructs an internally consistent worldview that is reminiscent of Buddhism. Goodness is gauged by the distance one is from unity with the One. The One is beyond rational thought and is beyond Activity and Rest in its august Repose. Soul is not described as a personal attachment to the body, but an essence that surrounds us and fragments to the individual. Like a noise that is exists outside of ourselves but is heard by each or light that divides in a prism. In a rather intriguing sleight of hand to Aristotle’s prime mover hypothesis, Plotinus takes the One and its reflective emanation, Intelligence, and takes them outside of Time making Time a measurement for activity of the Soul. (III. 7, Time and Eternity) The One is beyond time and even Being, therefore to question who made the One is to miss the point that the unthinking, unbeing One is beyond creation. It is only through the unintended emanation of Intelligence that the question can even be posed by us.

The plethora of hyphenated proper nouns (i.e. the All-Soul, Real-Beings, Reason-Principle, etc) along with the infrequent definitions provided to terms gives the book an overall feel of a third century New Age cult handbook, but there are some good things buried within if you have the fortitude to dig them out.