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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/816

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NEO-PLATOl^


742


NEO-PLATONISM


systcmutidlpfnu.M.f Polylhcisni.ii:in c-hurch, both of says, is the Alisolutcly I'irsl. !• .

is thus itst'ir a (iprivjitivc, (•ome^"^^'j,°'J!'., which, us the Intellectual and the Intelligible, • ci .sentially dual. Both the Intellectual and the Intell(('.blp are divided in to triads, which are t he superterrestri:.' gods. Beneath the.'^e and subordinate to them, are the terrestrial gods whom he subdivides into three hundrc,' and sixty celest ial beings, se vent y-t wo orders of sub- eel 'stial gods, and forty-two orders of natural gods. Nexttt these are the .semi-divine heroes of mythology and the philoso- pher-saints sui'h as I'yihagoras and Plotinus. I^rom this it is evident that neo-1'latonism had by this tune ce;ised to be a purely academic question. It had en tered very vigorovisly into the contest waged against Christianity. M the same time, it had not ceased to be the one force which could claim to unify the sur- viving remnants of pagan culture. As such, it ap- pealeti to the woman-pliilosopher Hypatia, whose fate at the hands of a Christian mob at Alexandria, in the year 422, was cast up as a reproach to the Christians (see Cykilof Alex.\ndri.\). Among the contempo- raries of Ilypatia at Alexandria was another Hierocles, author of a commentary on the Pythagorean "Golden Verses".

VI. Proclus, the most systematic of all the neo- Platonists, and for that reason known as "the scholas- tic of neo-Platonism," is the principal representative of a phase of philosophic thought which developed at Athens during the fifth century, and lasted down to the year .529, when, by an edict of Justinian, the pliilo- sophical schools at Athens were closed. The founder of the Athenian school was Plutarch, surnamed the Great (not Plutarch of Cha;ronea, author of the "Lives of Illustrious men"), who died in 431. His most distinguished scholar was Proclus, who was born at Constantinople in 410, studied Aristotelean logic at Alexandria, and about the year 430 became a pupil of Plutarch at Athens. He died at Athens in 485. He is the author of several Commentaries on Plato, of a collection of hymns to the gods, of many works on mathematics, and of philosophical treatises, the most important of which are: "Theological Ele- ments," ffToixefwcrij ffeoXoyiK^, printed in the Paris ed. of Plotinus's works); "Platonic Theology" (printed, 1618, in a Latin translation by yEmilius Portus); shorter treatises on Fate, on Evil, on Pro\ndence, etc., which exLst onlj' in a Latin translation made by Wil- liam of Moerbeka in the thirteenth century. These are collected in Cousin's edition, "Procli Opera", Paris, 1820-2.5. Proclus attempted to systematize and synthesize the various elements of neo-Platonism by means of Aristotelean logic. The cardinal principle on which hLs attempt rests is the doctrine, already foreshadowed by lamblichus and others, that in the process of emanation there are always three subordi- nate stages, or moments, namely the original (moktj), emergence from the original (jrp6o5os), and return to the original (^irio-Tpo^i;). Therea.son of this principle is enunciated as follows: the derived is at once unlike the original and like it; its unlikeness is the cause of its derivation, and its likeness is the cause, or reason, of the tendency to return. All emanation is, there- fore, .serial. It constitutes a "chain" from the One down to the antithesis of the One, which is matter. By the first emanation from the One come the "hena- des", the supreme gods who exercise providence over worldly affairs; from the henades comes the "triad", intelligible, intelligible-intellectual, and intellectual, corresponding to being, life, and thought; each of these is, in turn, the origin of a "hebdomad", a series corresponding to the chief divinities of the pagan pan- theon: from these are <lerivcd "forces", or "souls", which alone are operative in nature, although, since they are the lowest derivatives, their efficacy is least. Matter, the antithesis of the One, is inert, dead, and can bo the cause of nothing except imper-


natur.al forces; .\ristotle had definitely r'ei a human cxiii.'g IS iiu"a<;^ceni'oiie(soul i.* themiter. The soul, however, may ascend, and redescenn in another birth. The ascension of the soul is brought about, by asceti- cism, contemplation, and the invocation of the supe- rior powers by magic, divination, oracles, m'racles, etc.

\'1I. The Last Neo-Platonisls. — Prochij was the last great representative of neo-Platonisrr . His dis- ciple, Marinus, was the teacher of Damascius, who represented the school at the time of its suppression by .lustinian in ,529. Damascius was accompanied in his exile to Persia by Simplicius, celebrated as a neo- Platonic commentator. About the middle of the sixth century John Philoponus and Olympiodorus flour- •shed at Alexandria as exponents of neo-Platonism. L. ey were, like Simplicius, commentators. When they '^ecarae Christians, the career of the School of Plato came to an end. The name of Olympiodorus is the hist in the long line of scholarchs which began with Speusippus, the disciple and nephew of Plato.

VIII. Influence of A'co-Plalonistn. — Christian think- ers, almost from the beginning of Christian specula- tion, found in the spiritualism of Plato a powerful aid in defending and maintaining a conception of the human soul which pagan materialism rejected, but to which the Christian Church was irrevocably com- mitted. All the early refutations of psychological materialism are Platonic. So, too, when the ideas of Plotinus began to prevail, the Christian writers took advantage of the support thus lent to the doctrine that there is a spiritual world more real than the world of matter. Later, there were Christian phi- losophers, like Nemesius (flourished e. 450), who took over the entire system of neo-Platonism so far as it was considered consonant with Christian dogma. The same may be said of Synesius (Bishop of Ptolemais, c. 410), except that he, having been a pagan, did not, even after his conversion, give up the notion that neo- Platonism had value as a force which imified the va- rious factors in pagan culture. At the same time there were elements in neo-Platonism which appealed very strongly to the heretics, especially to the Gnostics, and these elements were more and more strongly ac- centuated in heretical systems; so that St. Augustine, who knew the writings of Plotinus in a Latin transla- tion, was obliged to exclude from his interpretation of Platonism many of the tenets which characterized the neo-Platonic school. In this way, he came to profess a Platonism which in many respects is nearer to the doctrine of Plato's " Dialogues" than is the philosophy of Plotinus and Proclus. The Christian writer who.se neo-Platonism had the widest influence in later times, and who also reproduced most faithfully the doctrines of the school, is the Pseudo-Dionysius (see Dionysius, THE Pseudo-Areopagite). The works "De Divinis Nominibus", "De hierarchia ccelesti", etc., are now admitted to have been written at the end of the fifth, or during the first decades of the sixth, century. They are from the pen of a Christian Platonist, a disciple of Proclus, probably an immediate pupil of that teacher, as is clear from the fact that they embody, not only Proclus's ideas, but even lengthy passages from his writings. The author, whether intentionally on his part, or by some mistake on the part of his readers, came to be identified with Dionysius who is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles as a convert of St. Paul. Later, especially in PVance, he was further identified with Dionysius the first Bishop of Paris. Thus it came about that the works of the Pseudo-Areopagite, after having been used in the East, first by the Mo- nophysites and later by the Catholics, becanu' known in the West and exerted a widespread iiillueiice all through llic Miildle .\ges. They were translated into Latin by John Scotus Eriugena about the middle of the ninth century, and in this form were studied and commented on, not only by my.stic writers, such as the Victorines, but also by the t3T3icaI representatives of