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Paganism and the Oneness of Prime Matter

The Spirit and Flesh World Religion and Spirituality Online Library: uniting seemingly opposed ideologies and vibrations into the true, pristine harmony of cosmic oneness.






excerpted from an article by Deborah Kest

The reason the Neoplatonists bother me so much is that they do have the different levels of reality schtick, with The One, aka "The Good" at the top of the ladder. Because the cause is greater than the effect, (the first premise which I don't accept), The One emanates from itself the next level of reality, Intellect. (I still don't understand how something which is in no way differentiated, entirely uniform, could cause anything. After all, isn't causation a process involving some sort of differentiation?) But, anyway, like the sun emanates the halos around it without diminishing itself, or without being anything other than what it is, so too does The One have great fecundity and emanates Intellect. Intellect is still unified, as a mind thinking upon itself. But insofar as it can have thoughts, it has differentiation within its unity. Intellect is the act of unifying. All of the things it thinks on are Platonic Forms, like Beauty, which unify all of the particular instances (of beauty) in our world, (and all other worlds which the World-Soul spins). But Intellect doesn't think of the particular, it thinks only of true Beauty, true Justice, etc. It is not separate from all of these forms, so the way it thinks is from the perspective of each form onto all of the other forms. So from Beauty it contemplates Justice and Equality, and from Justice it contemplates Beauty, etc.

Well, somehow in all of this pure thinking on itself, it too emanates another less perfect level of reality, which is Soul, explained as the higher Soul, or World-Soul, and the lower Soul, or our souls. The World-Soul is less fertile than the level before, so it can't manage to produce real babies, but "less real" babies, imitations of the Forms in the mind of Intellect. So it spins all of the myriad of combinations of Forms, aka our world.

This process of causality, where the effect is always inferior to that which causes it, continues down to the point where no causality is possible any more. This point is Prime Matter, which has no form left at all. As something approaches Prime Matter, it is less and less formed, less and less intelligible. Something is ugly not because it partakes in a form of ugliness, but because it does not partake in the form of beauty at all. This breakdown of order is responsible for what we call evil. According to Plotinus Prime Matter 'is' Evil.

This would suggest that either The Good is responsible for Evil, or there is more than one principle in the universe, which would deny the premise on which The One is based. The way they try to weasel out of this problem is by saying that Prime Matter is the least real of all, or that it isn't real. That doesn't mean that evil doesn't exist, but it exists because of holes, which are in themselves nothing-ness. It's like Swiss cheese. Swiss cheese has holes, but the holes are in themselves not anything. You wouldn't say that Swiss cheese is made up of cheese and holes, but that there are places in the cheese which simply lack cheese. Holes can't make up anything. So too Prime Matter can't cause anything.

Well, anyway, the reason I laid the skeleton of the system out is because Neoplatonism would seem to be a system whose first cause was The One, and who followed necessarily according to a single principle, to produce a manifold which is, in a sense, independent of its "creator." But though there is order, there isn't a divine plan, in that The One can't have any goals. It just emanates from itself, from which all else is derived. The manifold is independent of The One because it isn't itself The One. While there are unifying principles which can only be derived from Unity itself, because they are not perfectly uniform, they are not part of The One. The One can't have parts!!!

So, are they monotheists, (The One), duo-theists, (The One and Prime Matter), polytheists, (all of the levels of the hierarchy of reality, which includes levels of spirits which I didn't spell out), or all of the above? One could argue for all of the options, since The One is responsible for all, (but then where does matter, the building stuff of our world, come from, if by itself it is evil), and since the efficient causes of every phenomenon we experience comes from the lower deities, not The One itself.

If I had to accept such a system, (which I don't feel myself obliged to accept at all, since the arguments which Plotinus and Proclus give are terribly flawed), I would be inclined to favor polytheism, since even though The One is the first principle, not everything is incorporated into The One. In fact nothing is, since that would violate its Unity. So, The One is sort of off by itself, just emanating, while the efficient cause of our world is the World Soul, and all of the levels of spirits can have their hand in our pie. It's my understanding that the Neoplatonic hierarchy of spirits is what much of magic is still based on today. Their nature isn't determined by The One, except insofar as they are caused by The One and this process of diminishing causation, which makes them worse than that which caused them. They have more unity than we do, being higher up the chain, but less than The One. So while they couldn't do terribly disunified things, they can still do somewhat disunified things, and thus aren't determined. If they aren't determined by The One, then they are powers unto themselves, and the ones which actually do stuff which matters to us.


The Spirit and Flesh World Religion and Spirituality Online Library: uniting seemingly opposed ideologies and vibrations into the true, pristine harmony of cosmic oneness.






















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