Open main menu

Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/814

This page needs to be proofread.


NEOPHYTE


742


NEO-PLATONISM


Sivas, with a Greek ami :ui Arinciiian ehurch, both of whicli are schismatic.

Smith, Diclionari/ of Greek and Roman Geography (London, 1S70). I, 462, II, 418, 8. v. Cabira el Neocasareia; Le Quien, OriVns chrisliaitus, I (Paris, 1741). 499-508; Cuinet, La Turquie d'Asie, I (Paris, 1892), 733-35; Ccmont, Studia Pontica (Brus- sels, 1906), 259-273.

S. Vailh£.

Neophyte (velxpvToi, the newly planted, i. e. incor- poniti'cl Willi the mystic. Body of Christ), a term ap- plied in theology to all those who have lately entered upon a new and higher state or condition of life, e. g. those who h;ive begun the ecclesiiistical life, or have joined a religious order. More particularly is it used of those who, lately convert ed from h(';ith('iiism, have, by the sacnimenl of Baptism, been transplanted into the higlier life of the Church. From very early times there have been prohibitions against neophytes in this last sense being promoted loo quickly to Holy Orders and to positions of rcsponsibihty in the Church. Thus the Council of NiciEa in its second canon lays down rules on this subject, on the ground that some time is nece.s.sary for the state of a Catechumen and for fuller probation after baptism; for the Apostolic decree is clear which says, "Not a neophyte, lest being puffed up with pride, he fall into the judgment of the devil" (I Tim., iii, 6). The period which should elapse after conversion before promotion is not fLxed but (Bened. XIV, "De syn.", vii, 65-6) is left to the dis- cretion of the bishop and will vary with the individual case. (See Divorce, sub-title Pauline Privilege.)

Bexedict XIV, De Syn. Dioc. Lib. XIII, cap. x\: Ferraris, Prompta Bibliotheca, s. v.; MiGNE, Diclionnaire de Discipline EccUsiastique, s. v.; Corpits Juris Canon., and in general the Manuals of Moral Theology.

Arthur S. Barnes.

Neo-Platonism, a system of idealistic, spiritual- istic philosophy, tending towards mysticism, which flourished in the pagan world of Greece and Rome during the first centuries of the Christian era. It is of interest and importance, not merely because it is the last attempt of Greek thought to rehabilitate itself and restore its exhausted vitality by recourse to Oriental religious ideas, but also because it definitely entered the service of pagan polytheism and was used as a weapon against Christianity. It derives its name from the fact that its first representatives drew their inspiration from Plato's doctrines, although it is well known that many of the treatises on which they re- lied are not genuine works of Plato. It originated in Egypt, a circumstance which would, of itself, indicate that while the system was a characteristic product of the Hellenic spirit, it was largely influenced by the re- ligious ideals and mystic tendencies of Oriental thought.

To vmderstand the neo-Platonic system in itself, as well as to appreciate the attitude of Christianity to- wards it, it is necessary to explain the two-fold purpose which actuated its founders. On the one hand, phil- oso|)hicul thought in the Hellenic world had proved it- self in.idcciuate to the task of moral and religious re- generation. SloicisMi, K|)icureanism, Eclecticism and even Scepl icism had e:ich been .set the ta.sk of " making men haiipy ", and each had in turn failed. Then came the thought that Plato's ideali.sm and the religious forces of the Orient might well be united in one philo- sophical movement which would give definiteness, homogeneity, and unity of purpose to all the efforts of the pagan world to rescue itself from impending ruin. On the other hand, the strength and, from the pagan point of view, the aggressiveness of Christianity began to be realized. It became necessary, in the in- tellectual world, to impose on the Christians by .show- ing that, Paganism w;is not entirely bankrupt, and, in the political world, to rehabilitate "the official polythe- i.sm of the State by furni.shing an interpretation of it, that should be acceptable in philosophy. Speculative Stoicism had reduced the gods to personifications of


natural forces; .Vristotle had dclinitely denied their existence; Plato had sneered at tliein. It was time, therefore, that the growing prestige of Christianity should be offset by a philosophy which, claiming the authority of Plato, whom the Christians revered, should not only retain the gods but make them an essential part of a philosophical system. Such was the origin of neo-Platonism. It should, however, be added that, while the philosophy which sprang from these sources wiis Platonic, it did not disdain to appropriate to itself elements of Aristoteleanism and even Epicu- reanism, which it articulated into a Syncretic system.

I. Forerunners of Neo-Platonism. — Among the more or less eclectic Platonists who are regarded as forerunners of the neo-Platonic school, the most im- portant are Plutarch, Maximus, Apuleius, iEneside- mus, Numenius. The last-mentioned, who flourished towards the end of the second century of the Christian era, had a direct and immediate influence on Plotinus, the first systematic neo-Platonist. He taught that there are three gods, the Father, the Maker (Demi- urgos), and the World. Philo the Jew (see Philo JuD.Eus), who flourished in the middle of the first cen- tury , was also a forerunner of neo-Platonism, although it is difficult to say whet her his doctrine of the mediation of the Logos had a direct influence on Plotinus.

II. Ammonins Saccas, a porter on the docks at Alex- andria, is regarded as the founder of the neo-Platonic school. Since he left no writings, it is impossible to say what his doctrines were. We know, however, that he had an extraordinary influence over men like Plotinus and Origen, who willingly abandoned the pro- fessional teachers of philosophy to listen to his dis- courses on wisdom. According to Eusebius, he was born of Christian parents, but reverted to paganism. The date of his birth is given as 242.

III. Plotinus, a native of Lycopolis in Egypt, who lived from 205 to 270 was the first systematic philoso- pher of the school. When he was twenty-eight years old he was taken by a friend to hear Ammonius, and thenceforth for eleven years he continued to profit by the lectures of the porter. At the end of the first dis- course which he heard, he exclaimed: "This man is the man of whom I was in search." In 242 he accompa- nied the Emperor Gordian to Mesopotamia, intending to go to Persia. In 244 he went to Rome, where, for ten years, he taught philosophy, counting among his hearers and admirers the Emperor Gallienus and his wife Salonina. In 263 he retired to Campania with some of his disciples, including Porphyry, and there he died in 270. His works, consisting of fifty-four treatises, were edited by Porphyry in six groups of nine. Hence they are known as the " Enneads " . The " En- neads" were first published in a Latin translation by Marsilius Ficinus (Florence, 1492); of recent editions the best are Breuzer and Moser's (Oxford, 1855), and Kirchoff's (Leipzig, 1856). Parts of the "Enneads" are translated into English by Taylor (London, 1787- 1817).

Plotinus' starting-point is that of the idealist. He meets what he considers the paradox of materialism, the a,ssertion, namely, that matter alone exists, by an emphatic assertion of the existence of spirit. If the soul is spirit, it follows that it cannot have originated from the body or an aggregation of bodies. The true source of reality is above us, not beneath us. It is the One, the Absolute, the Infinite. It is God. God ex- ceeds all the categories of finite thought. It is not correct to say that He is a Being, or a Mind. He is over-Being, over-Mind. The only attributes which may be appropriately applied to Him are Good and One. If God were only One, He should remain for- ever in His undifferentiated unity, and there should he nothing hut God. He is, however, good; and good- ness, like light, tends to diffu.se itself. Thus, from the One, there emanates in the first place Intellect CSoOs), which is t he image of the One, and at the same time a