Neo-Platonism is a philosophical school, which gives a mystical turn to learning and understanding Plato’s work. Plotinus —the founder of the school— was a Greek-speaking Egyptian who began teaching in Rome about A.D. 244. His pupil Porphyry edited his work, packing them into six books of nine chapters each, which collectively are known as the Enneads.
Porphyry also wrote a biography of Plotinus, in which he says Plotinus was such a spiritual man that he felt not only uncomfortable, but also ashamed to occupy a body. Plotinus' philosophy discounts the physical and material world by organizing the phenomena of life in an ascending order of: Matter, soul, reason, culminating in God. God is pure existence. Neither form nor matter, nor time nor space touches this purity.
Plotinus offers an alternative to orthodox Christian creation ex nihilo (out of nothing), which attributes to God the deliberation of mind and action of a will, although Plotinus never mentions Christianity in any of his works. Emanation ex deo (out of God), confirms the absolute transcendence of the One, making the unfolding of the cosmos purely a consequence of its existence. Plotinus uses the analogy of the Sun which emanates light spontaneously without diminishing itself, or reflection in a mirror which in no way diminishes or otherwise alters the object being reflected.
The first emanation is Nous (Divine Mind, logos or order, Thought, Reason), identified metaphorically with the Demiurge in Plato's Timaeus. From Nous proceeds the World Soul, which Plotinus subdivides into upper and lower, identifying the lower aspect of Soul with nature. From the world soul follows individual human souls, and finally, matter, at the lowest level of being and thus the least perfected level of the cosmos.
Afterwards, Neo-Platonism degenerated when it major tenets were thinned out to catalogue an array of elaborate hierarchies: angels, principalities, domines and demons, and strange rituals and incantations.
Plotinus had great influence on Christianity, through Saint Augustine, Boethius, and through the medieval philosophers. Even the literary Platonists of the Renaissance acknowledged his influence.
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