Page images


national and exclusive form, it proved ineffective.

But when Philo of Alexandria l attempted to reconcile the teachings of Moses and Plato, and Jesus and his apostle, Paul of Tarsus, divested Judaism of its national garb, there was no further obstacle to its progress in the GræcoRoman world. Public opinion had long ago inclined towards monotheism. Peripateticism and Roman Stoicism boldly advanced it, but their teachings reached the educated classes alone. Christianity was a religion in the true sense of the term. Eminently popular, it showed a preference for the uncultured, the poor, and the lowly, for all such as desired the coming of a better world (BaolLeia toll 060ů). Hence it became a formidable adversary, before whom it was necessary to close the ranks and firmly reunite the disjecta membra of ancient philosophy.

Pythagoras and Plato were invoked against Biblical revelation; the God of Xenophanes, Socrates, and Aristotle, against the God of the Jews and the Christians. The Stoic example was followed, and the attempt made to reconcile traditional polycheism with monotheism by means of the pantheistic conception of a supreme and unique principio embodying itself in a number of secondary divinities. This conception passed into monotheism and found expression in the eons of the Christian Gnostics, the sephiroth of the Jewish cabalists, and the hypostases of Catholic theology. In conformity with the Greek spirit and in opposition to Christian tendencies, the times continued to identify the beautiful and the good, the ugly and the bad, metaphysical evil and moral evil. Good was ascribed to spirit, the formal or ideal principle, evil to matter struggling against the dominion of the Idea. Some conceived God as a neutral principle, superior both to mind and matter, and yet the cause of both ; others identified him with the spiritual or ideal principle, meaning thereby not the unity of contraries but the antithesis of matter. Henceforth matter is not his product or creation, but a rival principle co-eternal with him and equal in power. Here we have a more or less pronounced dualism, which exercises an influence on its adversaries and is reflected in the gnostic heresies. If God alone, it is held, is without sin, it is because he alone is without matter; and if matter is the source of evil, then every corporeal being is sinful. Hence follow the necessity of sin and the obligation on part of the sage to mortify the body by ascetic practices and abstinences. The Christian belief in the resurrection of the flesh is opposed by the Platonic dogma of the immortality of the soul apart from the body; creation ex nihilo, by the conception of the pre-existence of souls and the eternity of matter.

1 A Jewish theologian, a contemporary of Jesus. Many of his writings are still extant; the majority of them are commentaries on the Old Testament. In order to reconcile Scripture with the philosophy of his century he had recourse to allegory, like the Stoics. His theory of the Núyos (the Word, as the revelation of God, the Son of God, the second God) has passed into Christianity (The Gospel according to St. John, chap. I.). Philonis Judæi opera omnia, ed. Richter, 4 vols., Leipsic, 1828–30; [P. Wendland, Neuentdeckte Fragmente Philos, Berlin, 1891; Gfrörer, Philon und die alexandrinische Theosophie, Stuttgart, 1831, 2d ed., 1835; Dähne, Geschichtliche Darstellung der jüdisch-alexandrinischen Religionsphilosophie, Halle, 1834; Wolff, Die philonische Philosophie, 2d ed., Gothenburg, 1858; Réville, Le logos d'après Philon d'Alexandrie, Geneva, 1877; M. Heinze, Die Lehre vom Logos, etc., Oldenburg, 1872; James Drummond, Philo-Judæus, etc., London, 1888; Schürer, Geschichte des jüdischen Volks im Zeitalter Jesu Christi, 2d ed. ; Eng. trans. History of the Jewish People, etc., 5 rols., New York, 1891. - Tr.].

Nevertheless, the greatest concessions were made to the enemy. Provided he consented to place Orpheus, Pythagoras, and Plato in the same category with Moses, Isaiah, and St. Paul, and recognized the thinkers of ancient Greece as the organs of the eternal Móyos, he was offered the hand of friendship. All religions were held to be akin to each

other, and conceived as products of a primitive revelation modified in various ways by differences in nationality. The most liberal thinkers, men like Moderatus, Nicomachus, and Numenius, loved to call Moses the Jewish Plato, and Plato the Attic Moses (Mwvons áttuiçwv). But with the exception of a few Christian doctors, most of the adversaries rejected the compromise offered by eclecticism. Although disposed to recognize the scat tered truths in Plato, they called in question Plato's originality and alleged that he had drawt them from the Bible.

Greek philosophy found itself obliged to change its old methods of controversy in dealing with the arguments of Christianity. With the exception of a few Fathers of the Church, who were as tolerant as they were learned, the Christians, following the example of Judaism, recognized no other philosophy than' Biblical exegesis, no other criterion of the truth of a doctrine inan its agreement with revelation, as set forth in Scripture. Hence it was necessary to appeal to the texts or to lower one's colors to Christianity; arguments drawn from pure reason and discussions not based on the texts were no longer accepted. Hence also the unusual ardor with which the philosophers of the period studied the texts of their predecessors, particularly those of Plato and Aristotle. Indeed, their enthusiasm degenerated into a veritable fetichism of the letter, which proved to be no less extreme than the letterworship of their adversaries.1 The writings of the great Attic philosophers became a kind of Bible, a kind of supernatural revelation, in contents as well as in form. They were regarded as inimitable masterpieces and so greatly admired that every phrase and every word was considered inspired. The philologists, gram

i The genuine writings of the ancient philosophers did not suffice, hence the Orphics, the Books of Hermes, the Chaldean Oracles, etc., were manufactured. This is the golden age of apocryphal literature.


marians, and critics vied with each other in their efforts to analyze, purify, establish, and explain the texts. They loved to imitate not only the mode of thought but the style of Plato; indeed these form-loving Greeks valued the latter almost as highly as the contents. Alcinous and Atticus wrote commentaries on Plato; Alexander of Aphrodisias

to mention only the most distinguished among the commentators – devoted his learning and ingenuity to the interpretation of Aristotle.

Among some, literalism gave rise to the strangest superstitions. Plutarch 1 of Chæronea and Apuleius, mistaking the form for the contents, the allegorical meaning for the real meaning, looked upon Plato as an apostle of the most vulgar polytheism. But, on the other hand, Ammonius Saccas, the founder (though otherwise little known) of the Neo-Platonic school of Alexandria, Longinus, the supposed author of the treatise on the Sublime, Erennius, the successor of Ammonius, and above all Plotinus of Lycopolis, penetrated more deeply into the spirit of the illustrious Athenian and gave his conceptions the systematic and definitive form which they had hitherto lacked. In Neo-Platonism and particularly in the philosophy of Plotinus, the Greek mind seems to make a final serious attempt to formulate the result of ten centuries of reflection and to express its final convictions concerning God, the world, and the human soul.



[See p. 7, note; Ritter and Preller, pp. 507 ff.; transl. of Morals, ed. by Goodwin, 5 vols , Boston, 1870; R. Volkmann, Leben, Schriften und Philosophie des Plutarch, 2 pts., Berlin, 1872.] – Tr.

? [Works, ed. by Goldbacher, Vienna, 1876. See Prantl, Geschichte ·ler Logik, I., pp. 578–591. – Tr.]

3 [Ritter and Preller, pp. 517 ff.; Matter, Sur l'école d'Alexandrie, Paris, 1820, 2d ed., 1840-48); Jules Simon, Histoire de l'école d'Alerandrie, 2 vols., 1814–1815 ; Vacherot, Histoire critique de l'école d'Alex andrie, 3 vols. Paris, 1846-51.

$ 25. Plotinus and Neo-Platonism

PLOTINUS 1 of Lycopolis in Egypt, a disciple of Ammo nius Saccas of Alexandria, came to Rome about 241, and taught philosophy for twenty-five years. The school which he founded in that city included men from every country and every station in life : physicians, rhetoricians, poets, senators, nay, even an emperor and an empress, Gallienus and Salonina. It became the centre of what remained of Pagan philosophy, science, and literature. Countless commentaries were written on the Attic philosophers; they were even worshipped as Jesus, the apostles, and the martyrs were worshipped by the Christian community, which had in the meanwhile become large and influential. Plotinus, who wrote nothing until he was fifty years old, left fifty-four treatises at the time of his death (270). These his disciple Porphyry published in six Enneads or series of nine writings each.

The fundamental conception of this important work is emanatistic pantheism. It looks upon the world as an overflow, as a diffusion of the divine life, and upon its re-absorption in God as the final goal of existence. The stages in the overflow are: spirituality, animality, and corporeality; of re-absorption: sensible perception, reasoning, mystical intuition, Let us consider, with the author, (1) the principle, and (2) the three stages in the hierarchy of beings.

1 (Complete edition of the Works of Plotinus with the Latin translation of Marsilius Ficinus, published by Wyttenbach, Moser, and Creuzer, 3 quarto vols., Oxford, 1835; by Creuzer and Moser, Paris, 1855; by A. Kirchhoff, Leipsic, 1856. Ritter and Preller, pp. 517 ff. Engl. transl. of parts by Th. Taylor, London, 1787, 1794, 1817; French transl. and commentary by Bouillet, 3 vols., Paris, 1856-60. See C. H. Kirchner, Die Philosophie des Plotin, Halle, 1854; A. Richter, Neuplatonische Studien, 5 pts., Halle, 1864–67; Harnack, Article in Encyclopedia Britannica, on Neo-Platonism; Walter, Geschichte der Aes thetik in Alterthum, pp. 736-786.] – Tr.

« PreviousContinue »