Plotinus (c.205-70), Neoplatonist philosopher and mystic. In 244 he established a school at Rome. His writings were published after his death by Porphyry.

   The main concern of Plotinus' thought is with the relations between unity and multiplicity. At the summit of the hierarchy of beings is the One or the Good, the first principle. Beneath it is the divine Mind, which is the world of ideas. Next comes Soul, the third member of the Plotinian Triad, and the intermediary between the intelligible and the material world. The World Soul is a particular soul, part of the hypostasis Soul on the same level as individual souls. It creates and orders the universe which other souls share in animating. All souls share in the unity of Soul and its capacity for contemplation. This is the most perfect activity, for by it souls can attain union with God. To reach this end the soul must pass not only beyond attachment to sensible things and discursive reasoning but beyond the highest intellectual contemplation.

In Plotinus' system, union is reached by the natural power of reason which the soul receives in its creation, whereas in Catholic teaching it is the work of Divine grace; Plotinus nevertheless indirectly influenced Christian thought. [In the 3rd cent. AD a recasting of Plato's system by Plotinus (Neoplatonism) was developed by Porphyry in conscious opposition to Christianity.] (Adapted from E.A. Livingstone, Concise Dictionary of the Christian Church, Oxford, 2000, p. 456-457)

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