SYLLABUS OF LECTURE I
sexta-feira 25 de março de 2022
LECTURE I INTRODUCTORY
Plotinus is generally regarded as the great philosopher of mysticism . The word is loosely used, and in many different senses. The psychical experiences which are often supposed to distinguish it are really a subsidiary and not indispensable part of the mystical quest, which is the journey of the soul , by an inner ascent, to immediate knowledge of God and communion with Him. The close agreement which we find between mystics of all ages and countries indicates that the mystical experience is a genuine part of human nature, and that it assumes the same general forms wherever it is earnestly cultivated.
Mysticism is now studied chiefly as a branch of the psychology of religion. But, valuable as these recent studies are, they remain outside the position of the mystics themselves, whose aim is the attainment of ultimate, objective truth. The mystic is not interested in the states of his consciousness ; he desires to unite himself with reality, to have a vision of the eternal Ideas, and perchance of the supreme Unity that lies behind them.
This kind of philosophy may not be in fashion just now; but when we see what havoc popular subjectivism has made of religious philosophy, and how it has encouraged a recrudescence of superstition, we may be glad to return to Plato and his successors. For them, mysticism involves and rests upon metaphysics .
Mysticism, thus understood, is a spiritual philosophy, which demands the concurrent activity of thought, will, and feeling, which in real life are never sundered from each other. By the proper discipline of these faculties a man becomes effectively what he is potentially, a partaker of the divine nature and a denizen of the spiritual world. We climb the pathway to reality by a power which all possess, though few use it. It is the amor intellectualis Dei which draws us upward, and not merely a susceptibility to passionate or rapturous emotion.
No other guide on this pathway equals Plotinus in power and insight and spiritual penetration. He leaves us. it is true, much to do ourselves ; but this is because the spiritual life cannot be described to those who are not living it. He demands of us a strict moral discipline as well as intellectual capacity for learning.
On the intellectual side, Neoplatonism sums up the results of 700 years of untrammelled thinking, the longest period of free speculation which the human race has enjoyed. The greater part of it passed over into Christian philosophy, which it shaped for all time. Neoplatonism is part of the vital structure of Christian theology, and it would be impossible to tear them apart.
The neglect of Plotinus, alike by students of Greek philosophy and of Christian dogma , is therefore much to be regretted. It makes a gap where no gap exists. Apart from prejudices, which have operated from the side of the theologians, the extreme difficulty of reading the Enneads in the original has contributed to this neglect. [An account follows of the literature of the subject, with a criticism of some of the chief modern books on Plotinus.]
The lecturer has found Plotinus a most inspiring and fortifying spiritual guide, as well as a great thinker. In times of trouble like the present he has much to teach us, lifting us up from the miseries of this world to the pure air and sunshine of eternal truth, beauty, and goodness.