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Neoplatonism


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#1
diplox

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For those who don't know Neoplatonism was a religion or a philosophy(depends on your definition I suppose) which was based around the Platonic dialogues as well as certain mystical practices. Neoplatonists believe there is some primeval source of being, called simply 'The One.' From this primeval source emanates the Nous, a perfect reflection of the One. This in turn produces the world-soul, which is not only a single entity, but also composed of many individual souls. Some of these souls, compelled to move, and compelled by sensuous desires, eventually find themselves in, and are lost in the phenomenal world, a world which unlike the previous states, is not harmonious in the least, namely the world of our existence.

The goal then is to essentially stop the souls constant return to this material world, and instead achieve a kind of unity with the one. This is done through a combination of actions, but the essential practice is based upon virtue, asceticism, and ecstatic contemplation.

From reading about it, it seems to actually encompass a number of ideas similar to Buddhism, the emphasis on meditative practice and achieving a kind of cessation of this material existence. However the ideas are founded largely in the Platonic dialogues. It's also been as of late been receiving something of a revival, with a lot more people being interested in it, so I was curious if you guys had any sort of opinion on it.

#2
Bloomatic

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I was unaware of the existence of a religion founded in Plato's thought. Philosophical ideas are often the foundation of many small religions but real confusion can occur between philosophical theory and religious doctrines. It's curious that you establish similarity with Buddhism, since at first glance seem thoughts that are far apart. It's always interesting to see new manifestations of human desire to seek answers in religion. Beyond that all religions share a common core of thought.

#3
Parker

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I have never heard of Neoplatonism. I think it's more of a philosophy than a religion. I wonder what would Plato think about a philosophy created around his writings/dialogues. Since joining this forum learning about non-traditional religions has become a hobby.

"When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be." --Lao Tzu


#4
JessiFox

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I haven't heard anything about Neoplatonism in ages. I can't say I really know much beyond a brief summation, and you've summed it up well enough. I don't see how it's any less relevant than any other religious belief....and it has a lot of the universal characteristics of religion in general.

#5
R. Zimm

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That is something a bit hard to wrap my head around. I had never heard of it but your explanation is a good one, thanks!

It does really sound like a combination of several very old concepts and it makes me wonder how many folks follow this and where are they located.

#6
diplox

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That is something a bit hard to wrap my head around. I had never heard of it but your explanation is a good one, thanks!

It does really sound like a combination of several very old concepts and it makes me wonder how many folks follow this and where are they located.

There definitely aren't a lot of contemporary followers, and most of the interest is rooted in academia, however there are some people I've met who claimed to be practitioners of the religion, and there's definitely been a resurgence of queries and discussions about it online. My main exposure to it came from some poster on a Buddhist discussion list who argued that modern Buddhism was filled with corrupted ideology, and Neoplatonism actually encompassed a lot of the same ideals while remaining purer, and in my reading on it, there does seem to be some validity to the idea as a lot of modern theory is based upon bizarre interpretations of the Pali canon, or upon post-canonical sources. The only issue with it, imho, is that the main source text 'The Enneads' is rather dense and difficult to read and interpret, compared to the texts for many other faiths/philosophies which are considerably more approachable. It took me awhile to understand why Plotinus(author of the 'Enneads') was trying to say, but I can see comparisons between it and the dharmic faiths easily enough.

Another important consideration as well is that it had an influential effect on other religions. Origen one of the early church fathers was very clearly influenced by it, as were the gnostics most likely. In addition many scholars believe that certain elements of Sufism, namely Islamic Mysticism, are drawn from Neoplatonism. So it's influence really goes beyond itself, and bleeds into other world religion.




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