The Influence of Neoplatonism

Influence on Christian Mysticism

The influence of Neoplatonism upon the West and Middle East cannot be exaggerated.  Proclus' concept of Spiritual hierarchies was adopted and modified by his Syrian Christian student, "Pseudo"- Dionysius the Aerogatite (c. 500 C.E.), who could practically be considered the Father of Christian Mysticism.  Indeed, the term "mysticism" itself in its present usage derives from him.  Through Dionysius, the idea of Angelic hierarchies was established in Medieval and Renaissance Europe, and more recently in the teachings of the early 20th century esoteric philosopher and occultist, Rudolph Steiner.

But from the eleventh and twelfth centuries onwards it was Aristotle, not Plato or Plotinus, who shaped the understanding of Western man through religious philosophers such as the Jew Maimonides, the Moslem Averroes, and the Christian Thomas Aquinas.

Islamic Neoplatonism

But if the Neoplatonic influence upon the Medieval West was great, it was no less in the Islamic Middle East, mainly through the pseudononymus Theology of Aristotle (derived from Plotinus and Porphyry)

Islámic Neoplatonism  by Nima Hazini.  Page two of Neoplatonism: Framework for a Bahá'í Metaphysics.  A very good synopsis

Contemporary Neoplatonic Influences

Finally, in the late nineteenth century occult West, Platonic and Neoplatonic ideas figured strongly in the Theosophy of H.P. Blavatsky.

Such influence however did not continue in later Theosophical writers, and the pop-esoteric New Age metaphysics that appeared in the 70's is pretty much a synthesis of the post-Blavatsky Theosophy, Monistic Vedanta (brought to the West through the various pop-spiritual Gurus), watered down Taoist elements (especially the Yin-Yang theme), and a somewhat superficial mysticising of quantum physics (Fritjof Capra's Tao of Physics and it's innumerable spin-offs).

There was however something of a Neoplatonic influence in the early New Paradigm movement of the late 70's and 80's, due to the Islamic connection; specifically the writings of the Traditionalist and neo-Sufi Frithjof Schuon and others who have been influenced by him, such as the scholar of comparative religions Huston Smith and the Transpersonal Psychologist Ken Wilber, the latter still a foremost theorist in the New Paradigm and serious alternative spirituality movement.

Universalism and the Polytheistic Imagination: Religious Pluralism in Neoplatonism and Contemporary Thought, by David Fideler - abstract of a paper

Neoplatonism and Baha'ism

Neoplatonic Aspects of Bábi-Bahá'í Metaphysics: Some Basic Reflections by Nima Hazini.  The concluding (third) page of the excellent on-line essay  Neoplatonism: Framework for a Bahá'í Metaphysics. mirror

Neo-Platonism: Framework for a Baha'i Ontology by Mark A. Foster - rather theological - not as good as Hazini's material I felt.






Later  influences

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content by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 28 May 1998, last modified 27 April 2004