PHILOSOPHICAL EXPERIENCES

What is a philosophical experience? It is an experience that touches us with a profound philosophical insight. It is, in other words, a moment that connects between the personal and the philosophical, between my particular life-story and a fundamental issue of life. It is a conversation between me and the greater horizons of reality, between the little wave and the big ocean.


Plotinus: The shock of returning to the material world  

 RousseauTreeA

Plotinus (about 204-270 AD), was a major ancient philosopher who operated in Rome. He was a central figure of Neoplatonism – a school of philosophy based on the thoughts of Plato, who had lived centuries earlier. According to his student Porphyry, Plotinus regarded the body (and the material world) as low and even despicable, and he yearned to rise to a higher level of reality and unify with the One. In his philosophical texts he discussed the levels of reality in a theoretical and rational way, but personally he also used meditative or contemplative techniques. Porphyry said about him: “The goal of his life was to unite, to approach the Divine above all. And four times during the period I was with him, he achieved this Union.”

The following text (Ennead 4, Tractate 8) is the only text in which Plotinus speaks about himself in the first person. Here he describes the shocking experience of falling down from the height of ecstasy to the material body.

 

"Often I rise from my body into myself, and I become external to all things, and inside myself. What an extraordinarily wonderful beauty I then see! It is especially then that I believe that I belong to the higher reality. I then achieve the noblest form of life: I unify with the divine, and I station myself in it. Once I reach this supreme activity, I place myself above any other spiritual entity.
       Yet, after this rest in the Supreme, when I come back down from intuitive understanding into rational thought, then I ask myself: How is it possible that I am going down now? And how could my soul possibly enter my body – the soul which, even when in the body, is such a high being, as it has just revealed itself to be when it appeared in itself?"

Posted in October 2017

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