Neo-Platonism an eclectic philosophy nearly coeval in origin with Christianity, but developed in an anti-Christian and pantheistic direction. The term, taken in the wider sense, may be defined as that form or method of philosophizing which, recognising or claiming Plato as leader, incorporated with his views other, especially Oriental, conceptions, and sought by means of such composite or eclectic philosophical results to harmonize or, at the least, to reconcile the teachings of the various ancient schools of philosophy; in the narrow, and perhaps the more common acceptation, it is applied to the doctrinal system of the philosophical school founded at Alexandria, in Egypt, by Ammonius Saccas, in the first half of the 3d century after Christ, and continued by his pupils and successors not only in the city of its origin, but also in other places. Plotinus, one of the earliest and most eminent of its disciples and masters, taught at Rome, and the term Romano- Alexandrian is sometimes applied to it.
Many of the early Christian writers advocated the employment of the philosophical methods to elucidate and establish the doctrines of the Gospel, and were, consequently, to a greater or less extent imbued with the spirit and favored the professed objects of the Neo-Platonists, i.e., the conciliation of philosophy and religion; but the pagan school, especially during its later history, was characterized by an intense hostility to Christianity, as well as by theosophical views and theurgic practices. The influence of this form of philosophy did not disappear entirely with the suppression of its schools by Theodosius in the 6th century, but traces of it may be seen even in the scholasticism of the Middle Ages (notably in the writings of Erigena, who flourished in the 9th century); and after the revival of literature, in what are styled the modern times, the impress of this type of Platonism appears with more or less distinctness in the philosophical systems of Pletho, Ficinus, Paracelsus, and others of the 15th and 16th centuries, as well as, subsequently, in those of Gale and Cudworth, and in the speculations of Schelling and his school in regard to the identity of subject and object. In fact. the spirit of Neo-Platonism has impregnated subsequent religious as well as philosophical thought in such a way and to such an extent as to make a careful examination of its history and doctrines an object worthy of the serious attention of those minds who are anxious to distinguish the truth which saves from the error which misleads and destroys.
I. History. — The rise and development of this philosophy may, for our present purpose, be sufficiently exhibited by, first, an outline of the causes tending to produce it, followed, secondly, by a brief sketch of the lives and opinions of only the most prominent characters who either, as precursors, prepared the way for its introduction and establishment, or, as founders and disciples of the school, expounded and defended its doctrines. To this we shall add a summary of its general principles (mainly abridged from Schwegler) and some observations on its relations to Christianity; and, lastly, such a list of works on the subject as will enable any one so desiring to inform himself more fully.
1. Subjective Causes. — Aside from the very great influence manifestly exerted by Oriental ideas in shaping the character and tendencies of the philosophy of the period in which Neo-Platonism had its birth, there were internal causes at work, growing out of the unsatisfactory results of the preceding pagan philosophies, and the want felt, especially by earnest and thoughtful spirits, of something different — something which gave better promise of satisfying the longings of the human race for a solution of the problem of its origin and destiny. Instead of giving clearer light and purer life to men groping after the knowledge of God and themselves, the development of the old philosophies had ended in scepticism and moral debasement. This result was disappointing and disheartening. Scepticism promised contentment of spirit, but, instead, produced only the opposite, viz. the necessity for an unceasing opposition to all positive assertions; and in place of the rest sought for, it gave only an unappeasable disquiet, which, in turn, begat a yearning for a condition absolutely satisfying and removed from all sceptical objections. This longing for something absolutely certain found historical expression in Neo-Platonism.
Zeller (as given in Ueberweg, page 222) says: "The feeling of alienation from God and the yearning after a higher revelation are universal characteristics of the last centuries of the ancient world. This yearning was, in the first place, but an expression of the consciousness of the decline of the classical nations and of their culture, the presentiment of the approach of a new sera; and it called into life not only Christianity, but also, before it, pagan and Jewish Alexandrianism, and other related developments."
2. Objective Causes. — The conquests of Alexander the Great, extending 'from the Mediterranean to the Indus, brought the Occidental and Oriental peoples and civilizations into nearer relations with each other, and thereby opened up new fields for philosophical research to the active and inquiring Hellenic race on one side, while, on the other side, the disciples of Zoroaster and the gymnosophists of India were, in like manner, made acquainted with the opinions and speculations of the Greek philosophers. The Hebrew, whose home lay between these extremes, contributed also his share to the common stock, and enlarged thereby the common fund of relatively new ideas. The succession of the Romans to the empire of the civilized world still further increased this fund, and enlarged the sphere of philosophical activities. The results of this mutual action and reaction of the East and the West upon each other were made more permanent by Alexander's policy of planting colonies and founding cities among the nations brought under his sway. The city in Lower Egypt founded 'by and named after him, and, with masterly foresight, located on the pathway of the commercial intercourse of nations for that and succeeding ages, became naturally also the great central point of philosophical intercourse and reciprocal culture. At this focus of the intellectual activity as well as emporium of the trade and commerce of the times the natives of various lands met together, and discussed and compared philosophies and faiths. Here was the soil where once flourished the ancient wisdom and learning of Egypt, the origin of whose civilization was referred by a proud priesthood far back into the shadows of unhistorical aeras. Here were found advocates of the Greek polytheism, with its poetic conceptions of divinities peopling mountain and dale, forest and stream, land and sea, and with a ctiltus adjusted to the mercurial temperament of that race. Here also were Roman representatives of the statelier and graver character of a nation notable for its deep religious sentiment. Here, too, the Jewish scribe, proud of the antiquity of his people and of their divinely-given law, upheld the doctrine of the unity of God taught in his sacred books, and pointed to their purer teachings and sublimer truths. The Persian discoursed of his master Zoroaster, of the two principles, the good and the evil one, struggling for the mastery of the world, and of the magical knowledge possessed by the priests and philosophers of his land. The Brahmin, wandering from the far Ganges, brought with him his ascetic mysticism and pride of caste, the doctrine of a quiescent supreme divinity, in whose repose purified souls found happiness, and of a trinity of active forces or emanations therefrom — the Creator, the preserver, the destroyer. Here too, in the appointed time, appeared the heralds of a new and diviner philosophy whose roots, planted in the soil of man's primeval home, and kept alive by Jehovah's care through all the mutations of history, were destined in the fulness of the times to grow up into that Apocalyptic tree of life whose "leaves were for the healing of the nations." In this, the cosmopolitan city of the world of that epoch, the philosophical conceptions of monism, of dualism, of monotheism, of polytheism, of magism, of mysticism, and of asceticism, found a common point of contact and a common field of combat. Out of their conflicts was evolved that type of eclectic philosophy which, under the name of Neo-Platonism, supplanted in the pagan world the classical philosophies, and, in its later periods, assuming an intensely hostile attitude to Christianity, became the representative and type of all heathen philosophy and religions, contesting with the new faith the dominion over the mind and conscience of man. With this end in view, it became a syncretism in object as well as form, and sought to array under its banners all the influences and forces of paganism to enable it to resist and turn back the aggressive movements of its despised but dreaded rival. But these supreme efforts of an effete philosophy and faith could not long withstand the onward sweep of the purer and soul-satisfying philosophy of the Gospel, and soon triumphant Christianity was relieved from this burden of conflict with the opposing powers of this world by the extinction of this last of the pagan schools. The triumph of Christianity was the triumph of the idea of monotheism, of the doctrine of the divine unity, over both dualism and polytheism and their allied conceptions and influences. Monotheism, as a world-religious idea, belonged to the Jews, to whom it was given by revelation; its triumph with Christianity was therefore the triumph "of the religious idea of the Jewish people, stripped of its national limitations, and softened and, spiritualized" (Ueberweg).
It may not be inappropriate even here to call attention to the fact that this revealed conception of God was lodged with a people whose home was near' the centre of the olden world — the pivot, so to speak, about which the movements of ancient social and religious life revolved.
3. Biographical History. —
(1.) The earliest in point of time, as well as one of the most important, of those philosophers whom we shall mention as among the precursors of Neo-Platonism was Philo (commonly surnamed Judzeus, to distinguish him from Greek writers of the same name), born about twenty or twenty-five years before Christ, at Alexandria, in Egypt. He belonged to an illustrious and, according to some authorities, to a priestly family of the Jewish race. Josephus (Ant. 18:8) speaks of him as "a man eminent on all accounts, brother to Alexander the Alabarch, and one not unskilful in philosophy." He was of the sect of the Pharisees, and, by reason of his learning and good repute, was placed by his co-religionists, when he was already advanced in life, at the head of an embassy sent A.D. 39-40 to Rome, to repel before Caligula the accusations of the Greeks of Alexandria against the loyalty of the Jews of that city, and to plead in behalf of his race for the uninterrupted exercise of their religion, and against the desecration of their holy places by setting up statues of the emperor therein. His embassy was fruitless so far as its immediate object was concerned, for the prejudiced and enraged Caligula refused to see them; but that emperor's death in the following year put a stop to the persecution he had ordered.
Philo's works are mainly commentaries, with separate titles, on the chief subjects of the Pentateuch. He employed the allegorizing method of interpreting the Scriptures which was in use by the cultivated Jews of his native city, and sought thereby to harmonize the philosophy of religion with that of Plato, Aristotle, and others. His theology, consequently, was a "blending of Platonism and Judaism." He taught that God should, be worshipped as a personal being, yet conceived of as the most general of existences: τὸ γενικώτατόν ἐστιν ὁ θεός (Legis Alleg. volume 2). He is τὸ ὄν, the existing; is above all human knowledge and virtue, and even "above the idea of the Good" (κρείττων τε ἢ ἀρετὴ καὶ κρείττων ἢ ἐπιστήμη, καὶ κρείττων ἢ ἀυτὸ τἀγαθόν καὶ αὐτὸ τὸ καλόν, De Mundi Opificio, 1:2); the absolute is reached not by demonstration (λόγων ἀποδείξει), but by clear insight (ἐναργείᾷ). Divinity and matter are the two first principles, existing from eternity: the Divinity is "being, real, infinite, immutable, incomprehensible to human understanding" (ὄν) ; matter is "non-existing (μἡ ὄν), having received from the Divinity a form and life." In creation, Deity, unwilling to come into contact with impure matter, employed as his instruments "incorporeal potencies or ideas," the highest of which, the creative one (ποιητική), is in Scripture named God (θεός); the second, the ruling one (βασιλικήl), is called Lord (κύριος '):
these potencies are conceived of as independent personal beings who have appeared to men. "The highest of all the divine forces is the Logos," in which the world of ideas finds its place. The Logos is the image of God, and the type after which the world is formed, and the manifestation of the Deity, making and ruling the world, and serving as the Mediator between God and man. The conception of an incarnate Logos was, however, impossible to Philo, who regarded matter as impure. This conception forms one of the fundamental doctrines which separate Christianity from the Alexandrian theosophy. Philo refers the doctrine of ideas to Moses (Μωϋσέως ἐστὶ τὸ δόγμα τοῦτο, οὐκ ἐμόν), and has given to it a character, arising from his own religious conceptions, which has so transformed the Platonic theory as to interfere "with the correct historical comprehension of Platonism even down to our own times" (Ueberweg). Sharpe (Hist. of Egypt, 2:111) thinks that the writings of Philo "explain how Platonism became united to Judaism, and again show us the point of agreement between the New Platonists and the Platonic Christians."
(2.) Of the Greeks who may be classed among the forerunners in the movement tending to harmonize the doctrines of Plato with the speculations of Oriental philosophy we can notice only (i) Thrasyllus of Mendes (died A.D. 36), who arranged all the works of Plato admitted by him to be genuine into nine tetralogies, and combined with Platonism certain mystical Neo-Pythagorean speculations founded on numbers and the Chaldaean astrology; and (ii) Plutarch of Chaeronea (born about A.D. 40, and died about A.D. 120), the author of the well-known biographies. He was a pupil of Ammonius of Alexandria (not Saccas), and taught at Athens during the reigns of Nero and Vespasian. Plutarch's doctrines deviate less from pure Platonism than those taught by the Neo-Platonists proper of the school of Alexandria, yet he is regarded by some as standing "next to Philo both in age and character as a representative of Oriental tendencies in Greek philosophy." So far as the Grecian systems are concerned, while holding mainly to Plato and controverting the views of the Stoics and Epicureans, he evinced little regard for the dialectics of Platonism, and was a strong believer in the Stoic doctrine of a Providence. In regard to Oriental doctrines, while profoundly reverent of the ancient cultus of his country, and opposed to the introduction of foreign superstitions and Jewish and Syrian rites, he, from the Greek point of view, sought to reconcile the philosophy of religion with the true interpretation of the worship of Isis and Osiris. He distinguished (as did Philo) between an absolute God whose essence is unknown to us and a creating power or energy which formed the world. Isis corresponds to the latter, and connects the creation with Osiris, the supreme and invisible one. The world is the offspring of two distinct principles, one inherently good, and the other inherently evil (the dualism of Zoroaster), whose battle-ground is the soul of man. Besides one supreme God, Plutarch recognised the divinities of the popular faiths as well as the existence of daemons, some good, some evil, as necessary mediators between the divine and human.
(3.) L. Apuleius (born about A.D. 130), a teacher of the Platonic and Aristotelian philosophies at Medaura, in Numidia, was a Latin representative of the then prevailing tendency to the assimilation of Oriental and Occidental philosophy. Holding that it was derogatory to the proper conception of God to have him burdened with the superintendence of things, he assigns to him, as the ministers who direct "mundane events," hosts of daemons, whose abode is in the air, and who are the objects of the religious ceremonies both of the Greeks and the barbarians, and also of the practice of magic. He speaks of a trinity of divine faculties, immutable, eternal, viz. God himself, the divine Reason, and the World-Soul.
(4.) Numenius of Apamea, in Syria, who flourished in the latter half of the second century after Christ, showed in his writings (of which fragments only have come down to us) even a stronger tendency towards Oriental ideas, and referred the origin of Greek philosophy to Jewish, Egyptian, Magian, and Brahminical sources. Suidas (s.v.) quotes him as styling Plato the Attic Moses (τὶ γάρ ἐστι, Πλάτων ἢ Μωσῆς Αττικίζων ;). So highly was he esteemed by the Neo-Platonists of the following periods that some authors regard him as the real founder of the Alexandrian school, an honor denied him by the Alexandrians themselves because of his Syrian origin and non-residence in their midst. He further developed the conception of a trinity in the divine Being, who was incorporeal, by distinguishing therein, 1st, a perfectly intelligent, immutable, eternal, supreme God; 2d, a world-maker, or demiurgos; and, 3d, the world. These he terms father, son, and grandson (πάππος, ἔκγονος, ἀπόγονος), and ascribes the doctrine to both Plato and his master, Socrates. Numenius also held that the soul is immortal and immaterial, and that its descent into the body from its former incorporeal state implies previous moral delinquency — a conception indicating an acquaintance with Jewish and Christian doctrines on the fall of man. Cronius, described by Porphyry as a friend of Numenius, and who shared his opinions, was, according to Suidas (s.v. ᾿Ωριγένης), the author of writings studied by the Christian Origen.
(5.) Some of the writings popularly attributed to the mythical Hermes Trismegistus treat of religious and philosophical subjects in the style and from the standpoint of Neo-Platonism, and are classed among the productions of the Egyptian Platonists. The reputed author was the Egyptian Thot or Theut, identified with the Greek Hermes, who, as the fabled author of all the discoveries and productions of the humans mind, the source of all knowledge and thought, the embodied Logos, was dignified with the title of Τρὶς Μέγιστος, thrice greatest (may there not be in this name a: reference to the Neo-Platonic trinity?). Some of these writings "belonged to the school of Philo, and, were known to Plutarch: others are of a much later date, and not unaffected by the influence of Christianity." The Poimander, one of the largest and most important of these works still extant, seems to have been composed in imitation of the Pastor of Hermas. It gives views of nature, the world, God, and the human soul quite in the spirit of Neo-Platonism, but with such occasional admixture of Oriental, Jewish, and Christian ideas as to show the syncretism peculiar to the philosophy of the time.
(6.) Ammonius, called: Saccas from his vocation of corn-porter (lived from about A.D. 175 to 250), is usually regarded as the founder of the Alexandrio-Roman school of Neo-Platonism. He was born of Christian parents, and by them trained in the principles of their faith, but probably apostatized when his mind became absorbed in the study of heathen philosophy. Though of humble origin, and destitute of the advantages of early culture, his enthusiastic love of knowledge and his great natural abilities enabled him to overcome the disadvantages surrounding him. and to found a school of philosophy, and to attract to it pupils whose subsequent fame as philosophers made the name of their master illustrious. Of these the most prominent were Plotinus, the two Origens, the philologist Longinus, and Herennius. Ammonius left no written record of his opinions, and we are indebted to his disciples, especially Plotinus, for what knowledge we possess of his doctrines. His aim in general was to show the agreement, if not substantial identity, of the systems of Plato' and Aristotle.
(7.) Plotinus was the first to develop and systematize in written form the Neo-Platonic doctrines. He was born at Lycopolis, a city of Upper Egypt, A.D. 205, and was so delicate and sickly as to prevent his early training; consequently he was twenty-eight years of age before he had so far completed his preparatory education as to be able to turn his attention to philosophy. After he had tried several teachers without satisfaction, a companion took him to hear Ammonius lecture, and so pleased was Plotinus that he exclaimed, "This is the man of whom I was in search!" He attended upon the teaching of Ammonius for eleven years, when, desirous of visiting the Brahmins and the Magi to learn their philosophy, he joined the ill-fated expedition of the emperor Gordian against the Persians. After the death of that emperor Plotinus with difficulty escaped to Antioch, and thence repaired to Rome, where at the age of forty years he established himself as a teacher of philosophy, and remained in Italy until his death, A.D. 270. According to the statement of Porphyry (Vita Plotini, chapter 2), he had agreed with his fellow-disciples, Herennius and Origen, not to divulge the doctrines of their master, Ammonius; but Herennius having broken this promise, and being followed by Origenr, Plotinus felt himself no longer bound to silence in this respect, and made public these doctrines, at first in oral lectures, which afterwards, by the solicitations of friends, he was induced to publish in written form for the use of a few select hearers. At various times he added to the number of his written compositions, until, at his death, the whole, as edited and published by his pupil, Porphyry, amounted to fifty-four books. In this number, fifty-four, Porphyry was delighted to have the multiple of the perfect mystic numbers, six and nine; and the whole were arranged in six enneads or groups of nine treatises each. The following summary of their contents is from Donaldson (in his continuation of Muller), viz.: "The first comprised the moral positions; the second, the physical discussions; the third, the theory of the world; the fourth treated of the soul; the fifth, of the intellect and ideas; the sixth, of entity, unity, and the good. Again, the first three enneads, the fourth and fifth, and the last, formed three separate bodies (σώματα)." Plotinus enjoyed in an extraordinary degree the esteem, or rather reverence, of his followers, upon whom his ascetic virtues, his mysticism and enthusiasm, made the impression of a divine inspiration and participation in divinity. These feelings were doubtless intensified by the display of energy and tireless activity of a spirit encased in so frail a body as his. For this body he felt a true ascetic's contempt, as was shown by his answer to Amelius's importunate request that he would sit for his likeness. Said he, "Is it not sufficient to carry about the image which nature has placed around us, and must one. leave behind a more lasting image of this image, as though it were something worth looking at?" (Donaldson). His asceticism and contempt for the body show the influence of Oriental ideas on his mind.
A fundamental principle of the philosophy of Plotinns is the identity of the subject and the object, of the cogniser and thing cognised. The office of philosophy should be to gain "a knowledge of the One... the essence and first principle of all things," not by a process of thought or reasoning, but by an immediate intuition. This One is variously styled by him the Being, the One, the Good (τὸ ὄν, τὸ ἀγαθόν). The three elements of being are Unity, or the One, described as original, pure light, pervading space; Intelligence, the νοῦς, emanating from the One, and contemplating it in order to comprehend it; the World-Soul, an emanation from the Nous. These constitute the Trinity of Plotinus. The One is exalted above the Nous, as that stands above the soul, which is immaterial and immortal. Plotinus teaches that the One "is elevated above the sphere of the Ideas;" which are emanations from the One, constituting in their unity the Nous, in which they are immanent and "substantially existent and essential parts." The Soul, being the image (εἴδωλον) and product of the Nous, "turns in a double direction towards the Nous, its producer, and towards the material, which is its own product." The souls of men, in consequence of their descent into bodies, have forgotten their divine origin, have become estranged from the Good, or One. Hence the true duty of man is to seek to return to God by means of virtue, philosophy, and especially by the ecstasy, or immediate intuition of the Deity and union with him. Porphyry states that Plotinus attained to this unification with God four times in the six years he spent with him. This Plotinian view reminds us of the Hindi philosophy. The most eminent of the disciples of Plotinus were Amelius and Porphyry.
(8.) Amelius (whose true name was Gentilianus) flourished in the latter half of the 3d century after Christ, and, according to Suidas (s.v.), was a native of Apamea, in Syria, but according to Porphyry (whose opinion is the more probable one), of Ameria or Amelia, in Umbria. Led by the study of the works of Numenius, whom he greatly admired, to embrace the principles of the Alexandrian Neo-Platonic school, he became a regular attendant on the lectures of Plotinus at Rome, and was the means of converting Porphyry to the doctrines of Plotinus, and afterwards, in conjunction with him, of inducing Plotinus to publish his writings. His principal work aimed to show the differences between Numenius and Plotinus, and that the latter could not justly be charged with plagiarism of the former's doctrines. If he did not himself eventually become a Christian, he appears to have highly approved of St. John's definition of the Logos, and is supposed to be the Platonist referred to by St. Augustine as having declared that the beginning of the Gospel by St. John ought to be written in letters of gold, and put in the most conspicuous place in every church. After the death of his master, Plotinus, he retired to Apamea, in Syria, and died there. According to Ueberweg, "he distinguished in the Nous three hypostases, which he styled three demiurges, or three kings: τὸν ὄντα, τὸν ἔχοντα, τὸν ὁρῶνταOf these, the second participated in the real being of the first, and the third in the being of the second, enjoying at the same time the vision of the first (Prod. in Plat. Tim. 93 d.). Amelius maintained the theory (opposed by Plotinus) of the unity of all souls in the World-Soul (Jamblichus, Ap. Stob. Ecl. pages 886, 888, 898)."
(9.) Porphyry, the greatest disciple of Plotinus, and the famous opponent of Christianity, was born, according to some accounts, at Batanaea (the Bashan of Scripture), in Syria, according to others, at Tyre, A.D. 233, and died about A.D. 304, probably at Rome. His proper name was Malchus (same as the Shemitic word Melek, a king), which his friend Amelius changed to the corresponding Greek form, Basileus, for which latter term his master, Longinus, substituted the adjective Porphyrius (Πορφύριος), "clad in purple." He was first a pupil of Origen at Caesarea, then of Longinus at Athens, and finally, at the age of thirty, he joined the school of Plotinus at Rome. He wrote a book in opposition to the doctrines of his teacher, to which Amelius replied, and, having convinced Porphyry of his errors, secured a formal recantation of them. Porphyry henceforth was an ardent supporter of Plotinus's views, and gained so fully his confidence and esteem that he was selected by him to execute the delicate and responsible task of arranging and publishing his writings. He also wrote a biography of Plotinus, which is the source of most of our knowledge of the life of that philosopher. His claims to consideration as a philosopher rest less on any originality of thought and research than on his ability and earnestness as an expounder and defender of Plotinian doctrines, on a perspicacity of style rare in that age, and also on the extent of his learning. His doctrine was in its character more practical and religious than that of Plotinus. The end of philosophizing, according to him, is the salvation of the soul. His Syrian origin and Oriental training, as well as his temperament, made him more inclined than Plotinus to the tenets of the Neo-Pythagoreans and to the advocacy of thaumaturgy, whether he sincerely believed in it or not. His views on these matters, however, appear to have been modified in his later years. While probably he had little faith in the old Greek polytheism, he bitterly opposed Christianity, and wrote a work in fifteen books against its doctrines, and especially against the divinity of Christ. This work, which excited vigorous opposition, and called forth numerous replies from Christian writers, was destroyed publicly by the order of the emperor Theodosius, A.D. 435. We are consequently indebted for our knowledge of its nature and merits to the notices and arguments of its opponents. From these we learn that in the first book Porphyry set forth what he deemed to be contradictions in the Scriptures, which he claimed were therefore not infallible; in the third he treated of the interpretation of Scripture, repudiating Origen's allegorical fancies; in the fourth he opposed the narrative of Sanchoniathon to the Mosaic history; and in the twelfth and thirteenth he maintained that the prophecies of Daniel were written after the events predicted, thus seeking to nullify their force as proofs of the inspiration of the Jewish Scriptures. It is much to be regretted by the Christian world that this work, written by one of the most learned and earnest opposers of Christianity in the age of the Council of Nice, has not been preserved. It would doubtless throw much light on the social and religious condition of the times, and give us a clearer insight into the causes then at work to promote the triumph of Christianity over paganism. Socrates (Hist. Eccles. 3:23) asserts that Porphyry was an apostate from the Christian faith, and wrote this work in revenge for indignities from Christians, but his statement is not generally accepted as correct.
(10.) Jamblichus (died about A.D. 330), a native of Chalcis, in Ccele-Syria, was a pupil of Porphyry, and the head of the Syrian school of Neo- Platonism, in which a fantastical theurgy was favored. He made ruse of philosophy merely to confirm polytheistic worship, and strove to justify superstition on speculative grounds. His system was elastic enough to include all the classical and Oriental divinities except the Christian, together with those of Plotinus, and many others created by his own fancy. Miracles were attributed to him by some of his disciples, who even spoke of him as "the divine," or "most divine." However, he was in fact far inferior to his master, Porphyry, and cannot be commended either for originality of thought or grace of style. The exaggerated estimate of him by the emperor Julian, viz. that he was inferior to Plato only in the age in which he lived, can be accounted for only on the ground of that emperor's partiality for those who advocated the principles of paganism. The theodicy of Jamblichus rests, as did that of Plotinus and Porphyry, upon the principle of the multiplicity of the hypostases in the unity of the divine nature (Simon), but he assumed an absolutely first One, above the One of Plotinus, and wholly without attributes-an ineffable first essence (ἡ πάντη ἄρρητος ἀρχή). Next to this stands the Plotinian One. From this latter is produced the intelligible world, consisting of three elements; and from this in turn emanates the intellectual world, consisting also of three members, the Nous. Power, and the Demiurge (subdivided into seven, a favorite Pythagorean number). This triadic arrangement extends also to the sphere of psychology. He carried to "a great length the mysticism and extravagances of his age," and determined and arranged, according to a fantastical numerical scheme, the number and order of the polytheistic gods, angels, demons, and heroes recognised by him. The sensible world occupies the last place. He maintained the doctrine of a union with God (δραστικὴ ἕνωσις), not through the ecstasy, as did the earlier NeoPlatonists, but by means of theurgic rites and ceremonies. Of his writings only a few are extant. The most important are  Περὶ Πυθαγόρου αἱρέσεως, On the Sect of Pythagoras; and  Περὶ μυστηρίων, On the Mysteries, where, in the character of an Egyptian priest named Abammon, he replies to Porphyry's letter to Anebo, and "endeavors to refute various doubts respecting the truth and purity of the Egyptian religion and worship, and to prove the divine origin of the Egyptian and Chaldaean theology, as well as that men, through theurgic rites, may commune with the Deity" (Smith, s.v.). Jamblichus had many followers, some of whom, however, rejected the belief in magic and theurgy. One of his immediate disciples, Theodorus of Asine, drew up a still more complicated triadic system, and thus assisted in the transition to the doctrines of Proclus.
(11.) The next important character whom we have space in this sketch to mention is the emperor Julian, commonly styled "the Apostate," because, having renounced the Christian faith, in which he had been trained, he became one of its most virulent and dangerous foes, and an earnest and influential friend and patron of Neo-Platonism and the old heathen cultus. Julian (born A.D. 331; died of a wound received in battle with the Persians, A.D. 363) was a nephew of Constantine the Great, and succeeded Constantius, A.D. 361. It appears that he had secretly apostatized from Christianity some years before ascending the throne; and after that event he publicly avowed himself a convert to paganism, and put forth his best efforts to re-establish its doctrines and worship throughout the empire over which he reigned. Aware, however, of the strong foothold which Christianity had obtained, and of the failure in the past of direct and open persecution to break its power over the minds of men or to stop its progress, he judged it prudent at first to adopt other methods, and to clothe his purpose in the garb of humanity and freedom of conscience. He accordingly proclaimed entire toleration for all parties, while he gave the whole influence of his position and patronage to the adherents of his own faith, conferring his favors equally on the old supporters of paganism and whatever proselytes he could attract to it. Without adopting fully either the unfavorable accounts of his conduct and motives given by Christian writers, or the fulsome laudations of him by heathen authors, it may justly be said that "his talents, his principles, and his deeds were alike extraordinary." Boasting of a philosophy which affected to look with complacent contempt upon Christians as ignorant worshippers of "a dead Jew," he was himself, in fact, so superstitious as to attach supreme importance to the mystic rites and juggleries of polytheistic worship. Scorning all evidence of the miracles of Christ, he lent a ready ear to the absurdest theurgic follies. How little of sincerity there was in his pretensions to impartial fairness towards all the subjects and faiths of his empire was shown by his treatment of the Christians, not stopping in the end even short of open persecution. How little reliance for success over the doctrines of the Galilaeans, as he contemptuously styled the Christians, he really placed upon the inherent superiority of his vaunted philosophy may be seen from the admissions of a modern writer, deemed to be a not unfriendly critic of his character and aims. Gibbon says: "A prince, who had studied human nature, and who possessed the treasures of the Roman empire, could adapt his arguments, his promises, and his rewards to every order of Christians, and the merit of a seasonable conversion was allowed to supply the defects of a candidate, or even to expiate the guilt of a criminal. As the army is the most forcible engine of absolute power, Julian applied himself with peculiar diligence to corrupt the religion of his troops... The holy name of Christ was erased from the Labarum; and the symbols of war, of majesty, and of pagan superstition were so dexterously blended that the faithful subject incurred the guilt of idolatry when he respectfully saluted the person or image of his sovereign. The soldiers passed successively in review; and each of them, before he received from the hand of Julian a liberal donation, proportioned to his rank and services, was required to cast a few grains of incense into the flame which burned upon the altar... By the frequent repetition of these arts, and at the expense of sums which would have purchased the service of half the nations of Scythia, Julian gradually acquired for his troops the imaginary protection of the gods, and for himself the firm and effectual support of the Roman legions" (Hist. of Decline, etc., 2:430, 431 [Harper's ed. N.Y. 1852]).
Julian's work against the Christians (Κατὰ Χριστιανῶν) shared the fate of the similar one by Porphyry, and we are indebted to the reply of Cyril for such extracts from it as are extant. The plans and purposes of Julian against the Christian faith were overruled by him who is Master alike of philosophers and kings, and later tradition reports of him that, gathering into his hand the blood flowing from his wound, he cast it into the air, with the words, Νενίκηκας Γαλιλαῖε, "Thou hast conquered, O Galileean." Julian's successor, Jovian, proclaimed emperor on the field, responded to the acclamations of the troops by declaring himself a Christian, and that he "could not hope for divine protection, or the success of their arms, were he to take the command of men trained up in the principles of the late emperor Julian." The soldiers replied, "You shall command Christians. The oldest of us were trained by Constantine, the next by Constantius, and the reign of Julian has been too short to bind any men among us to his persuasions." Jovian soon issued an edict which "placed the Christian religion on a legal basis," and put an end to the persecution of its followers. Thus imperial power, princely learning; philosophy falsely so called, and lavish prodigality of treasure had been employed in vain to overthrow the temples of God erected in the hearts of men.
(12.) "In practical life Neo-Platonic philosophy was unable to vie with Christianity; its mission was simply the preservation of the olden learning, science, and art." When, therefore, the political direction given to it during the reign of Julian had failed to renovate "the ancient cultus and the ancient faith," its representatives applied themselves anew to scientific pursuits, especially to the study and exegesis of Plato and Aristotle. The "philosophy became again a mere matter of the school," whose seat was transferred to Athens, where Plutarch, the son of Nestorius (born about A.D. 350, and died 433), taught. This Plutarch was styled by the later NeoPlatonists "the Great," to distinguish him from the historian and Platonist who lived in the reign of Trajan. He appears to have been a Syncretist, and to have maintained, after Jamblichus, the efficacy of theurgic rites for uniting man with God. According to Proclus, he " distinguished between the One, the Nous, the Soul, the forms immanent in material things and matter." Syrianus, his pupil and a teacher of Proclus, wrote a commentary on the metaphysics of Aristotle, whose philosophy he considered as a stepping- stone to that of Plato.
(13.) Proclus (A.D. 411-485), surnamed Διάδοχος, "the Successor," was by far the most celebrated of the later Neo-Platonists, "the Scholastic among the Greek philosophers." He was born at Byzantium, spent his youth at Xanthus, studied at Alexandria, and subsequently at Athens under Plutarch and his daughter, Asclepigenia, and Syrianus. During his travels he was initiated into the mysteries and arcana of theurgy, and was wont to say that it had been revealed to him in a dream that he was the last link of the Hermaic chain (σειρὰ ῾Ερμαϊκή), i.e., of the men consecrated by Hermes to preserve by perpetual tradition the esoteric doctrines of the mysteries. His biographer, Marinus, tells of his wonderful precocity, his quick comprehension, and extraordinary memory; of his ascetic virtues, his scrupulous observance of the mystic rites, his fastings, vigils, his profound knowledge of the Orphic and Chaldnean mysteries; and says that in several instances the gods appeared to him. In philosophy his aim was to combine, according to the principles of dialectics, the mass of transmitted philosophy, enlarged by additions of his own, into a rigidly scientific form. His theology rests on the same general principles as that of Plotinus, with the same hypostases in the same order, but differing in the particular that each hypostasis is divided into a new trinity. There is but one real principle of things, unity, from which all things emanate by triads — all reality being subject to this triadic development. That which is produced is at once like and unlike its cause; so far as it is like it is immanent in the cause, and so far as it is unlike, it is separated from it. The development is a descending one, from the higher to the lower. All things tend to return to their source, unity. Out of this first essence issue a plurality of unities, all " exalted above being, life, reason, and our power of knowledge, that operate in the world, and are the agents of Providence, the gods." After the unities follow "the triad of the intelligible, intelligible-intellectual, and intellectual essences," of which the second participates in the first, and the third in the second. The Intelligible or Being (oliata) includes three triads. The intelligible-intellectual sphere contains female divinities, and is subdivided into inferior triads. The intellectual essences "are arranged according to the number seven," by a sevenfold division of which Proclus makes up seven hebdomads of intellectual essences. Souls emanate from the intellectual. are by nature eternal, are divine, of daemons and of men. The human soul possesses freedom of will, and is therefore responsible. Matter is neither good nor evil, but is the source of natural necessity.
(14.) Among the adherents and teachers of Neo-Platonism in the early part of the 5th century was the celebrated female philosopher Hypatia, whose life, genius, learning, beauty, accomplishments, and untimely fate have been made, by a writer of distinction recently deceased, the groundwork of an interesting and vivid picture of the social condition, the philosophical conflicts, and the religious animosities of that age (Hypatia, or Old Foes with a New Face, by Charles Kingsley, Lond. 1872, cr. 8vo). She was the daughter of Theon. and by him was taught philosophy and mathematics. Her learning and eloquence were such as to entitle her to the honor of presiding over the Neo-Platonic school at Alexandria, where she lectured to large audiences. Having incurred the enmity of some ignorant bigots among the Christian populace of that city, she was one day seized in the street, dragged from her carriage into one of the churches, and most cruelly murdered by a mob of fanatics headed by one Peter, a reader of one of the churches. Her tragic death made her a martyr among the pagans, while the spirit and conduct of her murderers merit the execration of Christians, whose principles were thereby grossly violated.
(15.) Boethius, the author of the Consolation, a work which was the most influential medium for the transmission of Greek philosophy to the West during the early part of the Middle Ages, was one of the last NeoPlatonists of antiquity. Other less conspicuous names follow in the history of the school, whose doctrines continued to be taught publicly until, in the year A.D. 529, the emperor Justinian by an edict forbade the teaching of philosophy at Athens, and confiscated the property of the Platonic school. In consequence of this edict, Damascius, Simplicius, and other teachers of the heathen philosophy, fled to the protection of Chosroes, king of Persia; but, disappointed ill their hopes of gaining new life and honors for their philosophy, they were glad to avail themselves of the terms of peace between the Persians and the Romans to return to their country again in A.D. 533. Thus ended as an organized system of doctrines this type of Hellenic philosophy, which a recent author regards "as a progressive evolution out of the combined action of Platonism, Judaism, and mysticism before the Christian era, completed by the additional forces of Christianity and Aristotelianism in the 1st and 2d centuries of the Christian aera, and thus the result of seven centuries of growth and conflict in human thought" (American Cyclopaedia).
II. Resume of General Principles. —
1. Viewed from the stand-point of doctrine regarding the number of first principles, Neo-Platonism was a monism, as it traced all things back ultimately to the Absolute One, but its conceptions of the Deity as manifested were not monotheistic in the Jewish and Christian sense, but pantheistic. It rejected the Biblical idea of an objective revelation of man's relations to God, and of the means by which man could attain to a saving knowledge of him, and claimed to unite man with the Deity by a subjective intuition, called the ecstasy, wherein the subject, man's soul, and the object, the Absolute. or God, are so intimately united as to lose their separate identity. This unification with God is attainable by asceticism and profound contemplation, and, according to some later Neo-Platonists, by theurgic and magic rites. This conception of a mystic blending, so to speak, of the human with the divine gave to Neo-Platonism its peculiar character, in contrast with the purely Grecian systems of philosophy.
2. Closely connected with this theory of the ecstasy stands the doctrine of the three cosmical principles, the Neo-Platonic trinity. To the two hitherto admitted ones, viz. the reason and the soul, they added a third one, as the ultimate uniter of all distinctions, the primal One. This One is inexpressible and inconceivable. All things are derived from it not by division, which would diminish it, but by a radiation or flowing forth, as rays of light from the sun. This conception of the first as producer, in relation to the second, gives a basis for their doctrine of emanations.
3. The Neo-Platonic doctrine of emanations represents the world as outflowing from God in such a manner that each remoter emanation is possessed of a lower degree of perfection than its principle. Fire gives forth heat, snow causes coldness, odorous substances exhale odors, and every organism, so soon as it has reached its full development, begets something like itself. So the perfect and eternal One, in the overflow of his perfections, allows to proceed from himself (but without himself being weakened or diminished thereby) that which is also ever-enduring and, next to himself, the best, viz. the Reason or World-Intelligence, his own immediate reflection and image. The Reason is, next to the primal One, the most perfect, and contains in itself the world of ideas.
As the Reason emanates from the primal One, so the World-Soul flows forth from the Reason as its image, and in turn gives rise to sensible matter, the last and lowest of the emanations. In this way is the World Soul the plastic artist of the visible universe, which closes the series of emanations. The aim of the emanation theory is attained in a continuous process from God to the sensible world. Individual souls, like the World-Soul, partake of the life of the Reason and of the Sensible, just as a sun-ray touches alike the sun and the earth. From the world of reason, their original and proper home, they have descended, each in its allotted time, not voluntarily, but following an inherent necessity, into the corporeal world, yet without entirely forsaking the world of ideas. The soul's true vocation then, is to seek to regain its proper home, to free itself from participation in the corporeal, in order that it may ascend again into the world of ideas, and attain the ultimate aim of all its desires and efforts, immediate union with God through the ecstatic vision of the primal One, into whom it sinks unconscious and loses itself.
III. Concluding Observations. — Neo-Platonism and Christianity, though opposing forces in the religious movements of their age, mutually influenced the doctrinal developments of each other. This fact is apparent not only from an examination of individual writers, but much more from a comparison of the parallel history of each. The works of Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Augustine, and other Christian writers of the early ages of the Church, abound in evidences of the influence of the philosophic spirit. On the other hand, a glance at the historical development of Neo-Platonism reveals a corresponding action of Christian ideas on it. Their opposition to each other arose naturally from the relative positions occupied by each. Neo-Platonism was a merely human religio- philosophical eclecticism, seeking to found a universal religion under the form of a philosophy which readily accepted the religious conceptions of all nations, and claimed to select the wheat from the chaff of all previous systems. Christianity, as a system of revealed truth, was of necessity exclusive. It could accept no modification of its dogmas, could agree to no alliance with differing creeds. Neo-Platonism was the creed of philosophers lifted, in their conceit, above the vulgar crowd, and despising the illiterate. Christianity was open to all grades and conditions of men. In her fold the learned and the unlearned were alike welcomed as redeemed by the blood of her divine Master. The one made a fruitless effort to revive the life and vigor of the heathen past; the other labored, and not in vain, for the future, wherein Christ "shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied." The one seemed to hold itself aloof from contact with the suffering, and made no effort to elevate the lowly; the other sought alike the rich and the poor, relieved the suffering, comforted the sorrowing, and encouraged the weary by the hope of rest from their labors. From the fires of persecution the one came forth purified as gold tried in the furnace, the other vanished as the stubble. Neo-Platonism, though claiming to be eclectic, did nothing to unite men by means of its philosophy. Christianity, with its "mighty and all-embracing message," and its exhibition of love and self-sacrifice, welded together the hearts of men better than the force of power or the cold abstractions of the intellect, proving that the foolishness of the Gospel is wiser than the wisdom (philosophy) of men, and that the weak things of God are stronger than men.
IV. Literature. — The original sources of information embrace the works of Philo-Judeus, Plutarch, Apnleius, Plotinus, Porphyry, Jamblichus, Julian, Eunapius (Βίοι φιλοσόφων καὶ σοφιστῶν), Sallustius (Περὶ θεῶν καὶ κόσμου), Proclus, Suidas, the early Christian apologists and fathers, and the Church historians — Eusebius, Socrates, Sozomen, Theodoret, and Evagrius. To these may be added among modern or secondary sources, several of which have been freely used-in the preparation of this article, and often without special acknowledgment: Ritter, Hist. of Ancient Philosophy (Morrison's transl., Lond. 1846, 4 volumes, 8vo), see Index in volume 4; Muller, Hist. of the Literature of Ancient Greece (continued by Donaldson, Lond. 1858, 3 volumes, 8vo), see Index in volume 3; Ueberweg, Hist. of Philosophy from Thales to the Present Time (N.Y. 1872, 2 volumes, 8vo), see Index in volume 2; Tennemann, Manual of the Hist. of Philosophy (Bohn's ed., Lond. 1852, 8vo), see Index; Lewes, Hist. of Philosophy, volume 2; Butler, Hist. of Ancient Philosophy, volume 2; Hardwick, Christ and other Masters (3d ed. Lond. 1874, post 8vo), see Index; Schwegler, Gesch. der Philosophie im Umriss (3d ed. Stuttgard, 1857, 8vo; also Prof. Seelve's transl., N.Y. 1860, 12mo), pages 97-101; Fichte. De philosophie novae Platonicae origine (Berl. 1818); Vogt, Neu- Platonismus und Christenthum, part 1; Neu-platonische Lehre (nach Plotin) (1836); Kirchner, Die Philosophie des Plotin (Halle, 1832); Ullmann, Einfluss des Christenthums auf Porphyrius (in Stud. u. Krit. 1854); Simon, Hist. de l'Ecole d'Alexandrie (Paris, 1845, 2 volumes, 8vo); Kingsley, Alexandria and her Schools (1854); Barthelemy St. Hilaire, De l'Ecole d'Alexandrie (Paris, 1845); Vaclherot, Hist. critique de l'Ecole
d'Alexandrie (Paris, 1846-50, 3 volumes, 8vo); Ennemoser, Hist. of Magic (Bohn's ed., Lond. 1854, 2 volumes, cr. 8vo), 1:443-457; Ruffner, The Fathers of the Desert (N.Y. 1850, 2 volumes, 12mo), 1:180-188; Mosheim, Institutes of Eccles. Hist. (Murdock's transl., New Haven, 1832, 3 volumes, 8vo), see Index to volume 1, s.v. Plato; Neander, Lectures on the Hist. of Christian Dogmats (Lond. 1858, 2 vols. 16mo), see Index; id. Church Hist. (Bohn's ed., 10 volumes, post 8vo), see Index; id. Julian the Apostate and his Generations (transl. by Cox, Lond. 12mo); Townsend, Eccles. and Civil Hist. etc. (Lond. 1847, 2 volumes, 8vo), 1:412-419; Milman, Hist. of Christianity from the Birth of Christ to the Abolition of Paganism in the Roman Empire (Engl. and Amer. editions), see Index; Schaff, Hist. of the Apostolic Church (N.Y. 1874, 8vo), pages 154, 155; and Hist. of the Christian Church (N.Y. 1870, 2 volumes, 8vo), see Index. Consult also Smith, Dict. of Gr. and Rom. Biog. and Mythol.; Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Generale; the encyclopaedias under the appropriate names and titles; and the articles in the following periodicals: the London Quarterly, July 1857, page 308 sq.; Revue des deux Mondes, May 15, 1866, page 498 sq.; Biblical Repository, 1834. SEE ALEXANDRIAN SCHOOL. (J.W.M.)