Plotinus (204/5 -270 CE), born in Lycopolis, Egypt, when it was part of the Roman Empire, was a major figure in the philosophical school later called Neoplatonism. Neoplatonists viewed reality as deriving from a single force or figure expressed as ‘the One’. Two further concepts from Plotinus, ‘the Intellect’ and ‘the Soul’, are also principal features of his philosophy. These proposals led to the work of Plotinus forming a bridge between Plato and the monotheistic religions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam as well as Gnosticism. Yet Plotinus, who spoke Greek, did not actually leave a written legacy of his ideas.
His work was written down and compiled by a pupil, Porphyry of Tyre (c234-c305 CE). Porphyry presented Plotinus’ work in six ‘Enneads’, each containing nine ‘Tractates’ – (ennea = ‘nine’ in Greek), amounting to 54 treatises in all. They were originally arranged into three volumes, but in this Ukemi recording they are divided into two equal parts. The first three Enneads contained in this recording are prefaced by the fascinating biography written by Porphyry, who describes Plotinus as a highly singular figure – he declined to sit for a painter or sculptor, he wouldn’t eat meat from animals reared for the table, and he ‘caught philosophy at the age of 20’.
The First Tractate of the First Ennead opens with ‘The Animate and the Man’; subjects of other tractates include ‘On Virtue’, ‘On True Happiness’, and ‘On the Primal Good and Secondary Forms of Good’. The Second Ennead opens with ‘On the Cosmos or the Heavenly System’ and continues with ‘The Heavenly Circuit’ and ‘Are the Stars Causes?’ The Third Ennead opens with ‘Fate’ and continues with two essays: ‘On Providence’ and then ‘Our Tutelary Spirit’. Peter Wickham, in this first audiobook recording of the Enneads, presents Plotinus in a clear and steady manner.