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Dialogue and Universalism

Volume 30, Issue 3, 2020

Comparative Culture Studies in Philosophy and Aesthetics

Rasius Makselis
Pages 141-156

A Comparative Analysis of Plotinus’ Conception of Eternity as the Life of Being and the Image of Aion in Chaldean Oracles

The article presents an interpretation of Plotinius’ concept of eternity, which is defined in his treatise On Eternity and Time III.7 [45] as the “life of being.” The textual and philosophical analysis of a number of related passages from Plotinus’ Enneads concludes that the description of eternity as the life of being is neither metaphorical nor analogical. It should be understood in a technical philosophical sense, which contains direct metaphysical and phenomenological implications. Life is not an effect of intelligible reality but an ontological condition, the limit, source of activity, background for the identity of Intellect. The life of being is not identical with partial aspects of the intelligible universe, but is implied and covered by them. In the context of the Plotinian noetics, the notion of life expresses the wholeness of being in its totality—this is applicable not only to the life of intelligible being, but also true for the life of Soul, which assumes the totality of Soul’s time. Life is recognizable and experienced by living and existing beings on the basis of common liveliness and their common ontological status, so life establishes, develops and intensifies the connection of our own being with eternity via eternal in us. There are notable functional similarities between the Plotinian concept of eternity as the life of being and the image of Aion as reconstructed from fragments of Chaldean oracles—a mystical philosophical text widely read by later Neoplatonic philosophers, albeit never openly referred to by Plotinus. The comparative analysis and philosophical interpretation of the Plotinian and Chaldean concepts and images related to eternity suggest that both the sources maintain similar metaphysical roles of mediation, the transfer of unifying and animating light, causing the motion of reality. It is also significant that the Plotinian parallelism of eternity and “eternal in us” is comparable to the Chaldean image of “flower of the mind,” which is described both as a metaphysical attribute of Aion and as a specific power of Soul, which could be used by a person to acquire knowledge of divine reality.

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