6951Re: Answer to Plotinus?
- Jan 7, 2003That is a really good subject Tony. Let me throw in my pennies here.
I see the attacks of Plotinus and Celsus as fundamentally different
from those of the Christian heresiologists. The attacks are better,
more valid, from the former group. Plotinus himself recognizes the
common origin in Platonism between himself and his Gnostic
aquaintences, and argues philosophically. Plotinus appears to have
had Gnostic friends, and there is an atmosphere of debate (except for
the anger at having been "misquoted" by these Gnosticsand for Plato
being misunderstood by them. However, on this point the Gnostics
appear to be right... they may have misunderstood Plotinus' intent,
but he seems to have forgotton some of his own statements by the time
the altercation exploded).
While Plotinus is the end of Middle Platonism, and the beginning of
Neo-Platonism, his essential argument is against Neo-Platonism, and
Gnostics as a FORM of Neo-Platonism. He is against the fact that
Gnostics deride the world, and more so, the creator. For Plotinus the
Demiurge is Holy and Good. At the same time, Plotinus hates the body
and accuses the Gnostics of being immoral. This seeming inconsistancy
may on the surface look very much like the heresiologists rhetoric,
but I believe it goes a little deeper. Plotinus does not accuse them
of terrible deeds though, just of not conforming to his exacting
standards by being too worldly. BTW, though I don't remember him
using it, this would be an excellent demonstration of Dr WIlliams'
point that Gnostics were in fact not the ascetic body-haters the
modern scholors USED to say they were. Plotinus believes the world is
eternal, he accuses the Gnostics of believeing the world had a
beginning and would have an end.
Plotinus also accuses Gnostics of being overly complex (and
exclusive) in saying the same things as he does, and so of
degenerating Philosophy into mere Mythology. In a way he is right of
course, but the seperation he draws is not one innate in Platonism
(and in fact Plato himself saw value in this kind of mythological
description, and even talks about how wonderful it would be to
syncratize the Mysteries with Philosophy.... something that I would
say is exactly what the Gnostics were attempting).
To boil that down, Plotinus and the Gnostics tend to be different in
that they chose a different lingo, and that Plotinus hated the body
in practice but not in theory, while Gnostics hated the body in
theory but not in practice. Otherwise it is nearly impossible to
conclusively draw a destinction between Plotinus and the Gnostics as
a whole, as they seem to have very directly influenced each other. It
does seem though in part that Plotinus may have not fully understood
the psychological aspects of the teachings that his Valintinian
counterparts were trying to outline. He doesn't in any case deal with
the notion of the creation and fall and salvation happening on an
individual basis instead of simply being a literal cosmic
explination. He never mentions the notion of identifying ones self
with the fall of Sophia, or the rise of Christ, etc.
I do have to disagree with Wilbro on something. I see no Gnostic
teachings that say evil comes from the earth, but only that evil is
in ignorance of ones self, and that ignorance was the cause of
creation. When the world is mentioned as a source of evil in Gnostic
writings, it is generally only on the personal level that this
holds... not empirically. In this one particular instance, Plotinus
seems to be argueing the same point as the Gnostics, and only
thinking he is against them. Perhaps though the fact that this
misunderstanding happens is a greater proof of the validity of his
point concerning the overcomplexity of Gnosticism for common
description. So, maybe he is right in some ways and wrong in others.
That's my opinion anyways
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, AJRoberti@a... wrote:
> Hello Everyone,
> Have been reading Plotinus' "Against the Gnostics." This treatise
> of a series of attacks on the logic of the Gnostic myth, many of
> Here's one example, from the MacKenna/Page translation:
> "The Soul that declined, they tell us, saw and illuminated the
> existent Darkness. Now whence came this Darkness?
> "If they tell us that the Soul created the Darkness by its Decline,
> obviously, there was nowhere for the Soul to decline to; the cause
> decline was not the Darkness but the very nature of the Soul. The
> therefore, refers the entire process to pre-existing compulsions:
> inheres in the Primal Beings."
> Here's another:
> "This All that has emerged into life is no amorphous structure --
> lesser forms within it which are born night and day out of the
> its vitality -- the Universe is a life organized, effective,
> all-comprehensive, displaying an unfathomable wisdom. How, then,
> deny that it is a clear image, beautifully formed, of the
> Divinities? No doubt it is a copy, not original; but that is its
> nature; it cannot be at once symbol and reality. But to say that
it is an
> inadequate copy is false; nothing has been left out which a
> representation within the physical order could include."
> I was wondering if there was an answer anywhere to the criticisms
> Plotinus? Or, can these criticisms be dismissed as archaic or
> In any case, while Plotinus, like Irenaeus and the Christian
> seems to be "besides the point" in attacking the myth while failing
> recognize the underlying purpose of Gnostic teaching (and that's
> notwithstanding the notion of hidden esoteric meanings) they still
> answer of some sort.
> Tony Roberti
> Renewal Gnosticism: http://members.aol.com/AJRoberti/rg/index.htm
> Gulf Coast Gnostics: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/GCGnostics/
> "To exercise no-thought and rest in nothing is the first step
> in Tao. To start from nowhere and follow no road is the first step
> attaining Tao."
> --Chuang Tzu
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