1 FEBRUARY 1919, Page 22

NEO-PLATONISM TO-DAY.* L*, the last of his stimulating lectures on

the philosophy of Plotinus,' Dean Inge takes a very gloomy view of the world situation which is confronting us to-day. " Civilization," he says, " lies prostrate, as a manias who after burning her house and murdering her children is bleeding to death from self- inflicted wounds, her wealth and credit destroyed, her hopes of reasonable and orderly progress shattered." Fiscal tyranny on the middle orders and bitter class conflicts he counts as inevitable, and the disintegration of the entire social system seems to him rather likely than otherwise. We confess we are hopeful enough to be, perhaps irrationally, more optimistic in our outlook ; but no one could contemplate without some mis- givings the problems which now await the solution of mankind, or deny that the coming years may present nearly as many obstacles to progress as those from which we have just emerged. We can agree easily therefore with the Dean in saying " It will be our wisdom to see what philosophy Gan do for us in helping us to bear the inevitable."

Face to face with the evils of life, the Stoic sought to make himself invulnerable by closing the pathways along which pain could penetrate to the soul. He taught us to regard the inevit- able afffictione of existence as 06K est.' inav--feelings from which the central core of being was isolated. It is not easy to speak disparagingly of the austere doctrine professed by some of the saints of the pagan world, and yet we cannot but feel that its ideal was not the highest. It was ultimately selfish ; it separated man from man by steeling the heart against human emotion. Plotinus appeals to a nobler instinct ; although, like all mystics, he held that the human soul must find its way by itself to the Divine, yet he insisted on the essential unity and brotherhood of humanity. In his system, the One projected 211ttittlra"—. By W. il."Na..°L1=11-PD:s.of tie Ethical Treatises. Translated trout the Greek by Stophenarackenne. Leacon Philip Lee Warner, roe the Medid Society. ilea net.] into the Many by a aeries of progressive emanations : the One, the Absolute, threw out its perfect image the Nous, the highest rank to which pure thought can attain, although vision can transcend it. The Nous in its turn generated the World-Soul which generated the corporeal phenomenal universe, and so on down through an infinite series. The first Being is attenuated but never lost. The world cannot be all bad because the spirit permeates it ; and it cannot be all good because phenomenon rests on matter, and matter is indeterminate ; so long as the soul is the governing factor the result is good. Since each stage on the downward path aspires to that above it, the way of descent suggests the true line of return ; by purification and enlightenment we can all attain to knowing God :— " There exists no single human being that does not either potentially or effectively possess this thing which we hold to constitute happiness. . . . Once the man is a Sage the men= of happmeas, the way to good, are within, for nothing is good that lies outside him. . . . Adverse fortune does not shake his felicity the life so founded is stable ever. Suppose death strikes at his household or at his friends ; he knows what death is, as the victims, if they are among the wise, know too. And if death taking from him his familiars and intimates does bring grief, it is not to him, not to the true man, but to that in him which stands apart from the Supreme, to that lower man in whose distress he takes no part. . . . Withdraw into yourself and look. And if you do not find yourself beautiful yet, act as does the creator of a statue that is to be made beau- tiful he cuts away here, he smoothes there, he makes this line lighter, this other purer, until a lovely face has grown upon his work. So do you also : out away all that is excessive, straighten all that is crooked, bring light to all that is overcast, labour to make all one glow of beauty and never cease obbodlieg your statue, until there shall shine out on you from it the god- like splendour of virtue, until yyoou shall see the perfect goodness surely established in the stainless shrine."

We have no space here to go into the Plotinian conceptions of space and time, or to dilate on the view of immortality which is implicit in his system ; for these and for much other wise appre- ciation and full knowledge of Neo.Platoniam we most refer our readers to Dean Inge's admirable lectures, where the whole subject is dealt with adequately in thought and finely in temper and exposition. We have said enough to indicate how nearly the philosophy of Plotinus is allied to Catholic theology, which, indeed, it subsequently influenced more perhaps than can now readily be traced. The doctrine of the Incarnation is, as the Dean points out, undoubtedly necessary to complete the logical adjustment of Neo-Platonism; and it was in search of this final link that St. Augustine found his way by the help of Plotinus from paganism to Chris' tianity.

The quotations we have made from Mr. Mackenna's, English version of the First Ennead will give the reader some inkling of its literary quality. He has treated his author as a philo- sopher and a human being who desired to express his meaning as lucidly and spiritedly as possible ; as he says in his appendix, " Readers who desire their translations to serve as an unfailing treasury of illustrations to X on Greek Idiom' are not asked to like this voodoo." It ranks aa an original contribution to English literature and thought.