The Last Protest
By Sheik_Sebir

     Neo-Platonism was the Last Protest of Hellenism against the rising tide of Xianity. It had a large influence on the cultural history of Europe and the Near East, until the Renaissance, but that influence was indirect. All too soon the Xians had their own version, which tried to reconcile supernatural revelation with Greek rationalism. That School did all of the heavy thinking in Xian Theology, and influenced Augustine and Aquinas and other important and influencial Xians.

    Neo-Platonism (NPL) is a modern term that descibes the Platonism of Plotinus, whose last words were, "Try to bring back the god in you to the Divine in the Universe.", another way of saying "Thou Art God/dess"; to the 6th Century CE. The Epicurian, Stoic, and Peripetic Schools were all but mortibund by this time, so NPL was the only thread of Greek Rationalism left to counter Gnosticism - claims of privledged inside Knowledge of a Divine Savior or God-man through Revelation and anthromorphic Mythic Melodrama, and of course, Xianity.

    The problem was that NPL is a difficult philosophy to understand, mainly because it has so many point of view, often opposing one another. It was an intellectual pursuit as much as a Religion, it wasn't willing or able to demand that people obey simplistic doctrines that would define Certainty in an unsettling and uncertain Age. Reality for them begins with the Whole, and each succeeding Emanation proceeding from the Whole is less perfect, less complete, and more fragmented than its predecessor.

    From the First Cause, or THE ONE who surpasses All in Power, or THE GOOD emanates the Second and Third Causes or the Hypostasi. THE ONE is Beyond (or more perfect than) Intellect, Soul, or Being. From these, in turn, come the Logos, the World Soul, the Hypercosmic and Cosmic Gods, The Ideal Forms, and the Creation of the Material World, based on Plato's Ideal Forms by Divine Architect(s). From this basic structure comes the arguments on the Nature of the World and Humanity. The Soul is Eternal, as is the World. THE WORLD SHALL STAND FOREVER ! THE ONE is infinite and self contained, needing nothing of, or from, its Emanations [or humankind}. The Makers of this World are Below their MAKERS. who are in turn are below THE ONE. [Therefore the Creator isn't THE ONE].

    The Emperor Julian revived Paganism using NPL Theurgy as its Philosophical Base or underpinning, and when he died, State Paganism ended with him. So, a Rational Philosophy, whose main Work was to identify Plato's Ideal World (or Mystical States of Reality) with the corresponding States of Human Consciouness was drafted into becoming a Religion because of the needs of political necessity. Julian's Salvation was through Theurgy, a movement that attached itself to NeoPlatonism and was a system of ritual purification based on a Magickal view of the Universe, which lead to the Union with THE ONE. The method they used was to animate the Divine Force within a statue, or a human being, to induce a prophetic trance into the Seeker which lead to one's Enlightenment - Heaven on Earth, so to speak. These strange goings-on are the real Roots of Medieval and Modern Magick. For example, its the source of the Principle that each part of the Universe mirrors every other part (As it is Above, so it is Below). The material world then is a mirror of the Invisible Divine Powers, and the resulting network of Forces allowed the NPL Theurgists to link Image to Archtype by manipulating the appropriate material objects. The Theurgists made large correspondence tables to determine which elements were right at what times in their Magick and Modern tables of varions stones, plants, animals, and symbols, etc express the Powers of the Sun, Moon, Planets, Constellations, etc, are their direct descendants.

    Magick is effective on the Psychological Plane -- the Main Concern of the Neo-Platonists ! The Neoplatonist Iamblicus abandoned the Philosophic Self-Reflection of Plotinus for Theurgy as being the preferred method of NPL Salvation, which make NPL more known and accessible to scholars, nobles, and other knowlegable people. But, what were the poor, ignorant, ignoble plebs [the Masses] to believe that would be essentially different from what Gnosticism and Xianity touted ? NPL hadn't even begun to think about it, surely the Masses would believe what their Betters told them to. The sources of NPL and Xianity are different, but as time passes the NPLs grudgingly accepted the concept of Divine Grace, and the more intellectual Xians began to see Reason (or as much as their hunchbrained narrow minds could accept) in a new light. NPL's conflict with Gnosticism and Xianity were over the latter's elevation of Faith above Reason, their refusal to present their arguments rationally, and their intolerance of other or opposing opinions. The NPL's first premise was that the ONE didn't change and that the World was {poetically} Eternal. This didn't suit those who believed that the Earth would soon End at their Savior's Return. Arbitrary change without reason, uncritical acceptance of Miracles and intolerant attitudes towards other beliefs -- sound famiiar ?

    This Philosophy is one of the roots of Western Magickal Tradition, and it still provides a useful background to understand the modern Neo-Pagan and Magickal movements of today. It has been incorporated into most Western estoric spiritual Traditions, but its been hidden away because it was deemed to be too hard for the Masses to understand directly. Its time to recognize it as one of the main sources of Neo-Paganism and the Western Tradition - not to mention most of the New Age "theology" being distributed these days...

    How deep is NPL imbedded within Xian thought? St. Paul's first Athenian convert, Dionysius the Areopagite, wrote "Mystical Theology", (Negative Theology and practical discipline for Mystics); "Divine names",(affirmative Theology); "Celestial Hierarchy"; and "Theological Hierarchy" (meditations on divinity throughout the Heavenly Orders of Angels, through to the Terrestial Orders of Angels). These works were declared to be Orthodox, but his methods of Angelology are the methods of the NPL Athenian School used for declaring the "Orders of the Gods". God was simply made the supreme Term of the metaphysical Hierarchy. According to critics, old Dionysius didn't pay too much attention to the Incarnation, his Sacramentalism wasn't particularly Supernatural, and his ideas on Salvation were close to Pagan Theurgy ! Less "orthodox" was John Scotus Eriugena, his Latin translator, who wrote, "On the Division of Nature", which said that Creation is a Natural unfolding of Divine Unity, and that in the process of creating the Universe -- that God equally creates God -- a form of Pantheism that the Church condemned.

    Xian Theologians often walked a very thin line between Orthodoxy and Heresy, and getting caught off it could get them burned at the stake, as Bruno found out the hard way. NPL ideas were the Bridge to Plato and Aristotle in the Middle Ages, but it was a dangerous one to get caught on, as usual.

    This small essay can't really fully encompass the complex patterns and thoughts of the NPLs, but as the Hypostatsi are imperfect copies of the One, but I hope it may spark an interest for further study...



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