PlotinusMyth, Metaphor, and Philosophical Practice

PlotinusMyth, Metaphor, and Philosophical Practice

Stephen R. L. Clark

Print publication date: 2019

ISBN: 9780226339672

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

Plotinus's images are not merely 'ornamental' but constitute spiritual exercises. We need to understand Plotinus's myths and metaphors in the cultural and philosophical context of his time if we are to understand what those exercises amount to, and so to understand, as it were from within, where his philosophy leads. What is it, for example, ‘to think away the spatiality’ (or the bulk) of material things? What state of consciousness is being recommended when Plotinus speaks of love, or drunkenness, or nakedness? What sort of stars or star-like consciousness is intended when he declares that we once were stars, or are eternally? What does it mean to say that the soul goes round God, like the stars, or that we should expect transformed ‘spherical’ bodies? In what sense can Plotinus hope to ask the Muses – or Time itself – how Time came to be? If we are to ‘bring the god in us back to the god in the all’ (as Plotinus’s deathbed instruction reads) how do we even get started without knowing what those gods may be? This is itself an exercise in what has recently become a theme even within mainstream philosophy - that Philosophy was always considered 'a way of life'. My aim is both scholarly - in checking his writings against other contemporary writings, so far as that is possible - and open to psychotherapeutic discussions from within other philosophical and psychiatric traditions.